Saddled with an allergy
|"But – but, Doctor ..."|
"There's no 'but' about it, I'm afraid."
"Listen. The only 'but' is the one spelt with a double-t. Butt. Yours. Which you'll henceforth keep OFF a horse."
"But I'm a cowboy!"
"A cowboy who is allergic to horses."
Luke gazed at the Doctor. "Are – are –"
"You're going to ask me if I'm sure. Yes, I am. I have examined you thoroughly. We've done all the tests. There is no doubt about it."
The Doctor left the room. The nurse walked in. It was obvious she had been standing just outside the door, and that she had heard the conversation. She looked pityingly at Luke.
The look changed to one of admiration as Luke tossed the bedsheet aside and stepped off the examining table. The Doctor hadn't been kidding, he had examined Luke thoroughly. And the nurse, though she was used to looking at men who had just been examined, had to admit that Luke was special. She watched unabashedly as he dressed.
Luke, still in shock at the news he had just heard, didn't notice her gaze on him till he was fully dressed. Then, he met her eyes and said, "Don't get your hopes up. A cowboy who isn't allowed on a horse isn't much use."
She smiled. Being a nurse, she didn't blush.
"There's a lot a cowboy can still do, off the horse," she replied.
Luke looked at her. She sure was pretty. And her eyes were sparkling naughtily. So he couldn't ride a horse any more, but here was a pretty woman who had just seen everything he had to offer and obviously wanted a share of it.
"Why don't you take me to the saloon tonight, and we'll talk about it?" he asked, with a slight grin.
"Done. I get off work at eight."
With that, Luke broke the Cowboy Code Rule #1.
Cowboys never let their date pay for their drink. They're far too chivalrous for that. But Luke let her pay. Not only that, he let her order soft-crust pizza afterwards. Cowboys scoff at soft-crust, but Luke enjoyed it. He enjoyed the after-pizza pajama party they had in her apartment, too, though cowboys don't usually borrow bunny pajamas from a girl and then let her grab them off him.
The real test of the strength of their relationship came the next day.
All the cowboys in the town were saddling their horses in readiness for a ride across the desert to the Cowboy Olympics. They expected, of course, that Luke would be among them. He was expected to represent their town in the horseshoe throw.
Luke wondered whether to hide at home, but she persuaded him not to. "You'll have to face them some time, just do it," she said.
So he turned up near the sheriff's office where they were all meeting. And he announced that due to personal reasons, he wasn't going to saddle up and accompany them to the Cowboy Olympics this time.
They looked at him. They looked at her. They assumed she was the personal reason, and they grinned. All they said was, "Right then, boy, we'll miss you, but you got to do what you got to do."
They rode off with shouts of excitement and much laughter.
Now there were no young men in the town except Luke. There were kids, there were old people, there were women (Cowgirl Olympics being a separate event) – but there were no young men.
You guessed it.
There being no young men to speak of, the bandits decided to attack.
The crept in to the town at ten minutes to midnight. They hoped to finish their dirty work and be at the railway station in time to catch the 1 AM train.
Luke and Martha were in her apartment. Luke was breaking another Cowboy Code Rule. Usually, cowboys trust their Doctors. But Luke was wondering whether his Doctor was right, and was lying on Martha's sofa, getting her to examine him closely and give a second opinion.
"Listen," Martha said, suddenly. "Did you hear something?"
"You mean like a 'bump'?"
"Yes. And like a voice saying 'TO THE BANK, BOYS' ... ?"
"Yes, I did."
"You think it's the bandits, come to this town now that all the young men except you are gone?"
"Yes, I do think it's the bandits, come to this town because all the young men but me are gone."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"You're in the middle of examining me. I can't interrupt you."
"It would sure be bad manners."
"And a cowboy has to have impeccable manners."
So, in keeping with the cowboy's characteristic of having impeccable manners, Luke let Martha go on with her examination. In the process, he was breaking the code that a true cowboy never let a woman fight his battles.
The women heard the bandits, too. They got out of bed, all of them. Some were in flowery nighties, some in long T-shirts, some in pink pajamas. It didn't matter what they were wearing, they all got out of bed.
The bandits didn't catch the 1 AM train. They got to the station earlier than that, for the 12.45 express.
They travelled, all trussed up, in the luggage compartment.