Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Stolen Poem"

You are my working week
My Sunday rest
The garden gate leading not to Golgothas
But to our beginings
Gifting with wisdom of tears
Friendship of winter warm thighs
Shared siliences worth more than golden treasure
We are each other's Sea Folk stone anchors
I would rather a bullet in the head
Than spend one minute more
In nicotiene polished
Bus Station contemplating leaving
Where thou pitches thou'st tent so shall I...
For you
I swore before white doves with halos about their heads
We lead and are led through wastelands of endings
But you are my backyard garden paradise
My shared Coke in 100 degree shade
I would steal for you
Just as I have stolen most of the lines in this poem
For you
I am your stolen love
Gifted to you from Fate's whimsical lines
Binary computer code
Of the heart
Allowing me to read
Your operating systems
I get you
For you.
DS Baker

Friday, July 29, 2011

"The First She"

You I remember still
That first day
In a video store

Odyssey Records
Grand Dame of
Le Boulevard

Wearing chestnut hair
Round rimmed glasses

Big eyes
Prominent features not harsh
Like Mont Blanc

Wearing your fathers
White t-shirt underneath
Black/White summer dress

High top Keds
Hand laced red shoes
Your rubber ballet slippers

Black ceramic skull
Hung from swan neck
Grinning between your breasts

I carried with
Me for days
Your perfume

A week of your eyes
In three hours
Kept me thinking

I blushed
Enjoying your mind
Talking all afternoon

As hard as any I suppose
Falling into you
I did

Fortune favors the bold
As your graceful hands
caught me

Keeping me from
Dashing myself to a
Thousand tiny mirrors

For the better part of
Three years I loved
and was loved

Thank You


Thursday, July 28, 2011

STORY-"The Crossing"

I drank some whiskey last night. I walked slowly to my bed and I crawled into a dream. I began chasing you across rolling hills leading down to brushy river bottoms. You changed into a wild Mustang with a mane seemingly made of fire and I became a cowboy riding a white cow pony.
We ran you and I... all night long. We ran until the shadows went from black to blue. I knew with the rising sun, our chase would end.

I remembered you laying in my bed. You said, “I can sleep forever, while you hold me in your arms.”

Your scent fills my memory and perfumes the sheets where we once lay. But holding and keeping are mortal enemies warring in my breast and I can’t hold you and you won’t take my hand.We raced across rolling hills toward brushy river bottoms, your mane fire in the air.

If you love me say, “I love you.” If you love me say, “I do.” But you can’t say “I love you.” And you can’t say, “I do.” And you won’t take my hand…

I rode across the border, looking to learn the face of love.

I remember you laying in bed with your arms around my head, you said, “I can sleep forever.”

I still hold you there in memory’s morning light. But the weather is getting cold, it’s even getting cold down here. The words you told me hang frozen in the air…

I rode a white cow pony chasing you to brushy river bottom land. You splashed across the river and up the far side as the sun stepped over green hills. I rode down to the border to learn the face of love, but you never looked my way. I woke with ice rimmed windows and frost silver hills shinning cold in setting moonlight. I got up and saddled my truck and drove down to the border; to watch sun light dance above the water.

You can’t make someone say I love you and you can’t make them take your hand. The energy to do, to chase, explain or plead, doesn’t do a thing, if the face of your love has crossed the border. I drank some whiskey last night, and crawled into a dream. This morning I drove home and signed the papers. Maybe I will see your face from across the river.

The End

DS Baker

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

STORY-"Fiddlers Green"

One of the things I do to keep myself in some semblance of physical shape, I walk. Seeing the same set of house numbers over and over again has a way making what should be a natural effort can in effect make a morning’s walk boring as hell. So in the interest of mental self preservation I have taken to walking in the Congaree National Park.

It is in my walks through the swamp I often deal with issues which have been bothering me but until such time my sub-conscious deems I am ready, they have lain fallow in the back of my mind.

I have something to say and I am going to state it and move one. I can talk to the dead. Or rather they choose to talk to me. It is not some scary or bloody affair and it is only people who have been my friends or family. I have no control over it either, they-(the dead) choose when to show up and for anyone wondering I can’t summon them from the beyond like a fantasy Necromancer.

A friend of mine once described a person’s death as nothing more than their having moved away to a distant land, with a really obscure postal code; which in turn just seems to take forever for a letter to be delivered and even longer for a reply. It was as good of an explanation I have heard and it has given me some semblance of comfort over the years.

One of the biggest surprises I have had while traveling through the Congaree swamp was coming across my Army buddy Rich. We had both been reservists and ROTC cadets together. Rich was a tall beanpole of a kid, with a goofy endearing smile, which got him into more trouble, than his mouth could often get him out of. Yet he was one of those charismatic individuals, with whom you were ready to forgive their transgressions, as soon as you realized you were mad at them.

Rich and I weren’t terribly close, in the sense we hung out together all the time, or were considered to be best friends; but we were close in what I call a military sense. We were in the same unit, had the same college and ROTC classes together, studied together, and even ate the odd meal together and occasionally chased after the same girls. Yet there was separation between us… which I have allowed to haunt myself with through the years. On a complete and honest assessment after lots of introspection, at some level I believed I was jealous of Rich and his easy charisma.

One Thursday in 1990, after an all afternoon study session at a local Pizza parlor, Rich was headed for home and before he left, he told me, “Troop I will see you tomorrow night at the armory. I need help on my history paper.”

I was shaky in my hard science and math courses, while Rich could barely stay awake during a history course. We often traded history papers for tutoring.

“Sure Rich. Don’t forget this weekend we are going to the NTC-(National Training Center-Ft. Irwin, California) so don’t leave your field gear behind or you will be sleeping under a poncho liner like you did the last time.”

He gave me his patented goofy grin, got on his motorcycle and headed for home. 15 minutes later Rich was dead. A dump truck driver didn’t see the red motorcycle heading his way and made a left hand turn. And just like someone flipping a switch he was gone. Later that night after identifying his body, Rich's mother made the phone calls to the cadets listed on our ROTC phone tree. With my last name I was second on the list.

I can remember walking into the old Armory on Eastern Blvd in Las Vegas. I went to find one of my senior NCO’s a former 11th Cavalry Veteran.

“ First Sergeant Anderson?” I asked as I walked unannounced into his office.

“Yeah Bake. What’s up?”

“Cadet Rich was killed yesterday afternoon coming home from UNLV.”

“Oh shit! Damn and blast! I’m sorry hear that.”

From then on every time someone was informed of Rich’s death the “Oh Shit!” in quotations was uttered. Rich’s death hit us all pretty hard, I didn’t go to the field that weekend. I and several ROTC cadets stayed behind to bury our friend. He was the first of my friends and class mates to die. I saw his face in crowds for years afterwards. I would hear what I thought was his laugh and spin around and it would of course, be somebody else altogether.

As with all things, Rich’s death and its associated pain faded with the passage of time, but I never forgot Rich. In those sleepy hours of early morning where I would often find myself contemplating life, memories of Rich still strode boldly through my thoughts.

It is October now and the heat from the summer months has begun to fade. I went for my customary pre-dawn walk yesterday and the woods were unusually silent. As normally a concert of songs from Crickets and Frogs singing in the darkness would serenade your every step. At first I was just too wrapped up in my own thoughts to notice the absence of sound. I stepped off the Norfolk Southern rail bed which bisects the Congaree park and followed a game trail running through a grove of Catawba Trees, which eventually lead to the east bank of the Congaree River.

As I walked into those silent woods, a darker shadow dressed in a camouflage pattern two decades old, detached itself from a tree trunk and spoke.

“Hey troop. How’s it going?”

To say I was gob smacked and stunned would be an understatement of epic proportions. I instantly knew who he was but had to ask, “Rich is that you?” I stammered out.

“Well who else am I supposed to be dummy? Of course it’s me. I’m too handsome to be anybody else.” Rich looked at me with a grin wrapped from ear to ear and said, “Hey! When did you get fat and gray?”

I stuck my hand out for a shake and pulled him into a bear hug as I did. I then held him by both arms and looked at him. He was frozen at 22 years old. I had forgotten how young that age is. Youthful energy radiated from him like a blast furnace.

“I brought my climbing stove with me. Want to have a cup of coffee? I promise to make it as dark and bitter as only instant coffee can be when made by an Army tanker!”

How could I refuse? I let go of him and watched Rich get down to his ritual of making field coffee. He pulled out the collapsible pot, filled it with water from his canteen and pulled out two mess cups. He lit the butane burner and three minutes later we were sipping coffee. It was just as horrible tasting as I remembered it.

We sat their in silence looking at each other over the rims of our mess cups, grinning like a couple of idiots. Finally, I broke the silence.

“What brings you to these here parts cowboy?”

“Dave to tell you the absolute truth, I am going home. Been hanging around the living far too long and it’s time for me to see what is over the next hill. I have been traveling around the entire world if you can believe that shit! Collecting tiny bits of pain from those who remember me and once loved me.”

He paused for a second and then continued on, “See it’s like this, I don’t mind folks remembering me how I was. But I set myself a little goal to collect all the bits of pain that went with those memories. I just hated the thought friends and family would remember me, and be in pain or feel hurt. I have spent the vast majority of the past twenty years working on my mother and father. When I finally got them to the point of a dull throb, I figured it was about as good as I was going to get. I then decided I needed to hit the bricks and find all the other places and friends who had little memories of me stashed away.”

I just sat there and cried as I listened to him.

“See your crying is what I am talking about. I know what you’re thinking. Some part of you is still hurting with the whole idea of my passing. You think we were friends but you weren’t a good enough friend or some silly stuff like that. It’s just not true. You were and are a good friend. You have carried me around in the back of your heart for the past twenty years. It’s ok troop. Time to let me go see what is on the other side the veil.”

I dried my eyes and just for old time’s sake, I accepted pinch of dip Rich held out to me. He always had at least one can on him at all times. We weren’t supposed to smoke while in a tank and had developed a taste for canned tobacco. We sat there for the next hour or so catching up on where Rich had found our friends. Some were still in the military, one was in prison, the vast majority were married and there was even one who was expecting his first grandchild.

I remembered I laughed a lot. It had been a good long while since I had, had an old fashioned belly laugh. We both had our eyes set on a female cadet named “Julie” we had a field exercise out in the middle of an adjacent Marine Corp base in the Mojave. Rich weaseled a slot as “Julie’s” battle buddy. Decorum and the fear “Julie” might locate me and hurt me keeps me from telling anymore of that story.

However it was the remembrance of the field exercise and Rich’s shenanigans which left me weak from laughing. It was at this point Rich got up and pulled an old faded butt pack out of his military Ruck Sack. He carefully disassembled his stove and placed it in the fanny pack.

Holding it out towards me, he said, “Troop… Dave, you were the last, but not least of my appointments. You are a good friend. You were a good friend to me when I was alive. Been twenty years of whipping on yourself you weren’t a better one. I just wanted to tell you, you’re done with that horse shit. I also want you to take my stove. You were the only person besides me who could stomach my coffee.”

I reached out and took the pack from his hands, and he pulled me into a hug.

We broke from our embrace and he looked east through the trees and then up into the sky saying, “Suns quartering and the moon is still hanging, clouds are running red and it’s time for me to go and more importantly, you have a little girl to get to school on time. Love ya buddy. I’ll be seeing you.”

We walked to the tree line with me crying like a little kid. Rich stayed in the shadows and watched me go. But for all of the emotions running from my face, it wasn’t sadness. I was happy. I finally got a chance to say good-bye to my friend.

As I walked away, Rich’s voice belled out like a hunting dog as he began calling a favorite cadence of ours…

“I don’t know but I been told, -Eskimo women are mighty cold…”

The End

DS Baker

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Many Rivers"

                                                                                                         I wonder what
                                                                        My twenty times removed
                                       Grandmother thought
             When she stepped
Ashore in 1620
          Did she know
                              She would be the one
                                                              Giving birth to a nation
                                                                                      Her menstrual flow
                                                                  Would join with
                                            So many others
Bubbling westward with
                                       A nation’s manifest
                                                                                      Shouldering aside those
                                                                                                                             Arrows of outrageous
                                                                              Making an Ox-Bow
                                   Across an entire continent
Bringing me back
                             To the same Atlantic
                                                               Shore that
                                                                               Saw her
                                                                          It matters not
                                                                                     My family came
                                                                    From there
                                                                                     To here
                                                                           Yours were
                                                                           Forced into a
                                                                         Middle passage
                                                                                 Of Hell
                                                                                              All that matters
                                                                                                                       Is we precious people
                                                                                                          Are here
                                                                             Our blood streams
                                               Joining mixing with
                  Those native waters
Here before us
                          We have populated
                                                        An entire continent
                                                                                   Instead of
                                                    These United States
                                                                             It should have
                                                            Been called
                                                                                    The land of many Rivers.

                                                                          -The End-


Stroked out
My mind wants to
Start every poem  or sentence
With the
Word dancing

Dancing away from or
To something either case
Sensitive illusive

Illusive my impression of Christopher Walken
Slipping past my inner monologue
Replaced by his voice inside
My head

Head waters of thought rush past lips
Now I issue his utterances with atonal
Notes staggered

Constipated-"I wore this... Damned uncomfortable
Watch! Up my ass...! For three years, so that... Those
Damned Gooks! wouldn't get... Their filthy hands! On it..."

It staggers me this patter of Tarantino dialogue
Blackest Anti-PC humor

Humour at another's expense
Separating men from beasts

Beasts who write
No poetry except...
Artistry in
Their many ways
Of killing

Killing is one thing our furry brethren
Still share with us but they lack
Healing compassion

Medicine which keeps my mind
Alive with ground faults snapping
Black snake moaning

Biting at barbwire wrapped inside
Cerebral cortex  twisting trapped
Inside moebius strip

Panting like dogs shedding heat
Mind locked into deliberate steps
Escaping my
Dislocation by


DS Baker

Friday, July 22, 2011

STORY-"Weather Change"

Out here where the foothills of the Rockies meet the rolling prairie of the heartland, there is an old saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes, it will change."

My best friend and I were familial oddities in our growing up. We were both single children, when at the times six was not an unheard of number of siblings to have roaming around a farm.
Jess Christensen was and continues to this day to be my best friend. We came of age right after WWII. Back when Poodle Skirts were all the rage. For some it was a golden age of knowing your place in life. Men did this, women did that. There weren't a lot of uncertainty, you either went to college or got a job. Eventually you got married and had a family. Pretty clear cut rules to live with or guide your life by.

My friend Jess had a secret. He had the worst case of wonder lust any two human beings could ever posses eating away inside one huamn being. I can remember hanging out at our Secret Ranger Head Quarters in the hay loft of his father's barn. There we would listen to short wave radio reports on the war in Europe. Or plan a daring raid across the border to steal back our stolen horse herds from a band of marauding horse thieves. Along one wall Jess had a map of the world with red pins stuck at various locations.
I can remember asking him about them."Pretty simple Buddy, I plan on seeing all of those places before I die." He replied in an off handed remark.

The first weekend after graduation, from high school I had planned on surprising my best friend with a fishing trip. I drove over to his house to see him. I was greeted at the door by his mother.

She said,"Buddy, you just missed him. He and his father have just driven over to Albuquerque."

"Well I guess that blows that surprise out of the water," I replied. "Do you know when they will get back?"

Mrs. Christensen gave me a funny look, paused for a second and then replied, "Well Mr. Christensen will be back early tomorrow. But I thought you knew, Jess has gone off to join the Merchant Marine."

You could have knocked me over with a feather. My best friend was just up and gone. As it turned out, it was almost twenty years to the day when I saw him next. His father had suffered a massive heart attack while on a stock buying trip and was in the hospital down in Rosewell.

My family and I were at Our Lady of Lourdes praying for him. When I noticed a slim middle aged man slide into one of the back pews. He looked familiar but I couldn't quite place where I had seen his face before...

I walked down to the pew and slid in next to the man sitting there.

He glanced over and said to me, "Hey Buddy. How are you doing hoss?"

Damn and blast! there sat Jess Christensen bold as brass! As if we had just parted company mere moments before, we began talking. Pretending  there was 20 years of not seeing each other laying between us like a dead steer floating in the proverbial stocktank.

I was sort of taken back and finally said,"Well my wife and I are praying for your daddy Jess."

With a moist eye he told me, "Buddy, better change those prayers. I just got word from Momma. Daddy didn't make it. I hope Our Father up in heaven will take him as kindly as my old man took everything and everyone else in his life."

Jess and I sat there and looked at each other. I gave what comfort and compassion I could without ever saying anything. We came from a time where men didn't "Get in touch with our feelings." If you loved your wife, you told her and saved the mushy stuff  later on behind closed doors.
Three weeks later, after settling his father's estate, Jess and his mother left our small community. I didn't see him again for another ten years. Bright and early one very cold and crisp Autumn morning, as I was making coffee for my wife and I.  looking out my kitchen sink window I spied what looked to be an older looking cowboy riding up my gravel drive way on the back of a sorrel mare.

After the cowboy got off his horse, he looped the reins over the rails on my pickup truck's bed, turned and yelled,"Hello the house! Can I bother you for a cup of that coffee I have been smelling all the way up your drive?"

There he stood. Jess Christensen. Older, skinnier, missing most of the hair he had when we fought off horse rustlers. But there behind the wrinkles there was the boy, the young man, and now the older adult. Each age superimposed on top of the other as if, in some strange photomontage. I stood there shaking my head. He walked up to me and we hugged like the long lost best friends we were.

"Have you seen enough of those wild far off places yet?" I asked him, after we had come inside the house and were sitting at my wife's kitchen table.

"The short reply is yes."
We sat there like we used to do when we were teenagers in the cold mornings light, hunched over our cups savoring silence as only very good friends share. I knew when he had found his thoughts he would begin his story. After while when he had come back from some distant shoreline Jess started talking,

"After momma passed away last year. I was out bound from Singapore when I got the news. I had a hold full of computer chips and a deadline to make in Shanghai." He paused for a moment, then slowly continued on, " Somewhere in the Formosa straits I told my number one to take the wheel and I went out for smoke. The waves that night were just rolling along, with a three foot swell. Other than my ship passing across the water there wasn't a sound to be heard. That old ocean just got to looking like the prairie does in the spring time. It struck me real hard I had done what I had set out to do. It was time to come home. Then sitting in the Freighter Embarkation Depot in Long Beach I saw a part of a poem written on a wall next to a phone. When I read it, I realize I had made the right decision."

He reached behind his back and pulled out his wallet. Inside was a many folded, dog eared piece of yellow paper. He unfolded it and pulled a pair of reading glasses out of his shirt pocket.

He began softly reading to me, " We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all of our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, remembered gate When the last of earth to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree Not known because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. Quick now, here, now, always- A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flame are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one." He paused for a second letting those words impact me. "I found out later it was T. S. Elliot."

I sat there for a really long time, running those words back and forth in my mind. I don't know how long we sat there. Finally I looked up at him and asked, "Guess the weather changed eh?"
-The End-
DS Baker

"Minstrels Dream"

Suspended in surrealistic paintings
Cobalt blue sphere surrounds me

Geo-synchronous orbiting goats, play instruments
As love songs are sung by penciled mermaids

Peripheral hints of maternal kindness, baby being washed
Gypsies clapping time to twelve string guitars

Sanguineous burgundy wines, flow in torpid torrents
Crucifixion photographed in silver, green-black tones

Faces of love lift up my soul
My hand stretching toward god's countenance.

St. Michael's fiery sword lights blue heavens
Searing my eyes with his passion

Time melts, begins to twist back upon itself
Stallions chase doves across sunlit plains

Water Lilies on a French stream soften, dots of light
Pigments, creating worlds of color

Indistinct images flow across my vision
Details filled by cerebral camera obscura

Puppy breath in the harvest time of leaves
Backward rivers now flow through memory

Snow swirls around street light halos
Cedar smoke gives depth to blizzard

Once more muscle tremors of love, call my name
Tunnel lighting illuminates cavernous green rooms

Pulled through canvas of experience, of life, captured in paint...
I am born anew... wet...dripping in anticipation of my history to come.


DS Baker

"Workingman's Blues"

I rise before dawn
My boots have steel toes
With sore feet
At the end of the day
Working in all kinds of weather
Permanent tan
Scarred hands
Making things people need
I rise before dawn
Noble of purpose
Yet badly paid
Filth beneath most heels
Heels crossing the thresholds
Of something I created
Coffee mornings
Gatorade afternoons
Mark my passage
Through a day's labors
Worlds made manifest by
My Sweat & Blood
Worlds that are shut to
Those who built them
I rise before dawn
Lacking in social graces
Ill educated
Building cathederals of steel
I create buildings
Where you go at night to hide
I slay wizards of entropy
Bend steel
Create living rock
Make light shine in the dark
I rise before dawn
Wearing steel toed boots
With sore feet inside.
DS Baker

Thursday, July 21, 2011

STORY-"Desert Truth"

The street corner was hot with the stench of diesel fumes from the city busses and that oily sand smell that blanketed downtown Las Vegas in an invisible fog. The afternoon sun had bleached all the color from the land leaving it faded and used. $40 whores who normally haunted the plastic bus benches had retreated back to their cheap hotel flops seeking relief from 110 plus degree heat.

Two men sat in a booth at the White Cross Drug Store Diner. It was the one dark corner in a landscape of what Californians would call retro Fifties diner style, except it wasn’t retro anything. The owners had never gotten around to modernizing the place.

White Formica table tops reflected the flickering light of fluorescent lamps in need of a ballast change. One man was short and dark. He had the build of a bullfrog. He was picking his teeth in the reflection of a spoon that was still grimy from some previous meal. The other individual was a little bit taller but skinny in an un-healthy way. His skin was blotchy with vivid red patches and he was sweating even sitting under the air conditioning vent that pumped chilled nicotine laden air onto his head.

The skinny one named Benny sat and scratched at the eczema that had flared up just inside the hair line of his goatee beard.

One of these days I am going to turn into a giant flake.-He thought.

Mick the shorter of the two said, “Jesus I hate it when you do that Benny. Makes me want to go wash myself. Besides your getting your DNA all over the table top.” A whining note entered his voice, “C’mon man…stop that shit. We are going to be eating here in just a minute.”

“Fuck off.” Benny said with half inflated tone of resignation. “Just be glad Mick, you aint got the itch.”

“Yeah well what causes that shit?”

“Stress the doctors told me. When ever I get stressed out this, this crap starts to burning on my face and then the skin sort of blisters up and flakes off. It’s a real turn on to the ladies…nothing like having biblical leprosy when your trying to get busy with a lady and your face is broken out.”

“So how come we are meeting in this hole. Of all the damn places we have to meet at, why did you pick this one.”

“Cause The Bottle Collectors Lounge has been shut down by the city health department.”

“God I hated that freaking place. Man even the ice cubes tasted of cigarette smoke. Did I ever tell you about the knife fight I saw there between an old Cherokee whore named Rachel and some damn rummy? What…? What the hell did I say?”

“If you keep your pie hole closed for a second I will tell you what is so important about us meeting here and why I picked this place.” Benny said with a peevish look on his face.

Mick started laughing.

“Jesus this is going to take forever. Are you high?”

“Naaw I aint high, just maintaining. Sides your face got that puckered look. Your mouth went as tight as a Tom Cat ass that just took a shit.”

Slamming his hand down on the table top Benny said, “Damn it to hell! As I was saying, this is as close as I can get to the actual location, of a story that happened about a hundred and sixty years ago.”

“What the Fuck are you talking about?”

“If you shut up and listen ya toad, I will get to the nut cutting and you will understand… Ok?”

Waving his left hand in a dismissive movement Mick said, “Whatever…go on with your damn story. Besides who the hell do you have to screw around here to get a Coke?”

As if summoned by increasing negative vibes emanating from the best seat in the diner, a tired dishwater blonde waitress with limp hair, wearing a push up bra that did nothing for her tattooed breasts, came sauntering over with her large ass swinging back and forth like a metronome.

“Benny… look, look at this old hide coming our way. God Damn I love to see a professional at work.”

“Shit! Screw this! I can tell I aint going to be able to tell this damn story to you until we eat.”

“Whatever dude.”

The waitress who had a brass name plate that said, “My name is Connie and I am from Bismarck, North Dakota.” Stood in front of their booth with an expectant look on her tired face.

“Hola Bonita! Mi Corazon esta Deseando La Casa…” Mick smiled up at the waitress.

She looked down at the dark haired man who for some reason reminder her of a frog, asked, “What the heck does that mean?”

Mick smiled as he glanced at her tattooed chest, coolly considering whether or not, she might have other tattoos under her clothing. “It translates as, My heart is longing for home.”

“Uh huh. Well I got to give you points for that line.” She said with a smile that never reached her crow’s feet.

Shaking his head, Benny ordered the cheese burger plate and Mick wanted the tacos and fries. Connie dismissed the men from her world as she walked away.

“I tell ya Benny, an eight ball and the High Hat… She and I could fuck like porn stars. That girls still got talent in her ass.”

“God I don’t know who would have more cooties. You or her. You could swap Free Clinic Stories, and how you almost got the Hep at that ink joint down on Carson. She looks as rough as an old road.” Benny stated in a flat almost monotone, while staring at the waitress and her shanky reciprocating butt heading away to give the short order cook with the prison haircut and listless eyes, their order.

Having given up the ghost on his efforts to tell his story, Benny and Mick sat and drank their Cokes. Each large plastic red glass, had been delivered full of crushed ice and watered down soda syrup. Reflexively the men pulled a mash of ice and Coke into their mouths. They sat there and sucked on the ice until it had melted in their mouths. It was as an unconscious behavior in the desert confines of the Mojave, as breathing is for everyone else on the planet.

They caught up with each other’s stories and their adventures in the shadow lands of the greater Las Vegas pseudo criminal culture, until at such time their food order arrived.

“Piensa en mi, Cuando las palomas canten, En la torre de campana de la catedral. Mi torque sera la luz de la Luna

Basando te mejilla.-Or think of me, when the doves sing in the Cathedral bell tower. My touch will be moonlight kissing your cheek.” Mick said to Connie, their waitress, as she sat the food on the table top.

“Why are you reciting poetry to me?”

Mick looked her in the eye and said, “Didn’t you know that all Mexican men are Romantics and don’t you deserve to have poetry spoken to you?”

Connie blushed, “You sure don’t look Mexican.”

“Not all Mexicans have black hair and brown eyes…”

“Especially those that have a down home bog monkey from County Sligo, Ireland as a father.” Benny interjected.

Connie, spared a quick glare of annoyance towards Benny. She just stared at Mick looking for some sort of answer to an unspoken question and then not knowing what else to do, began to walk away.

Mick sensing an opportunity, slid a used business card with his digits written on the back of the card her way.

“Here is my mobile number. Call me. Maybe we can catch a bite to eat or something…” A pregnant pause hung between them

She hung back for a moment, a very small moment, from walking away “Or something… right?” Connie turned on her heel and marched back into the safety of the kitchen.

Mick reached over the table and gently slapped Benny on his shoulder and said, “Damn it Pendejo! Quit being such a cock blocker, geez!”

“Why would you, want to go out with a hide like that in the first place? I mean hell, she looks like she is pushing fifty.”

“Aww she’s just been rode hard and put up wet too many times. She is probably only thirty five, but I can tell, she’s still has some magic left in those hips. Besides dundito, you got look for the inner beauty in a woman.”

“You know what they say don’t you Mick?”

“What asshole?”

“Beauty is only skin deep but ugly goes clean to the bone!” Benny began laughing in a high pitched nasally sort of way that made Mick think of Hyenas.

The two men sat and ate their lunch. There was not a lot of conversation. Doing time in the Clark County Lock-Down had taught them both, when food is on the plate, it is time to eat. Grab-assing and talking is for afterwards.

Later when the plain, thick white plates were littered with the remains of their meal, Mick looked over at his companion and said, “Ok Benny you dragged me down to this hole in order to tell me some damn story. So shoot. Lets get this shit over and done with.”

A packet of Reds lay on the table between them. They both reached over and snagged a smoke. Benny lit his, while gathering his thoughts.

“Ok so it’s like this. About one hundred and sixty years ago a bunch of the local Paiute Indians had come back from a trading mission with the Navajo on the Colorado River. The Mormons had their “Mission aka Fort” already down there at what is now known as Washington and Las Vegas Boulevard.”

“Great… your giving me Nevada History 101.”

Benny continued with growing tone of annoyance and impatient, “Anyways Mick, them damned Mormons had their eyeballs on the land that the Paiutes were living on. So while the men in the tribe were out trading, the Mormons and a bunch of Cavalry from some place over in California, did a little raiding and killing. They scrubbed out almost all the women and children and were waiting on the local talent to come home.”

Hate flittered across Mick‘s face, “There is your Later Day Saints for ya. Never get between those assholes and something that is worth money. I hate those-blue eyed, tombstone toothed, Aryan Race looking mother fuckers.”

“So anyways get this, Mick; your just gonna love this part of the story. When the braves showed up, the cavalry and the Mormon good ole boys, turned their guns and knives on them too. But they didn’t kill all the men. One old dried up buzzard named Cloud something… he killed one of those cavalry dudes and took his rifle and ammunition. They chased that old tough bastard up into Red Rock Canyon. Somewhere along the way, he got shot. He holed up in a cave and spent three days killing troopers and those Mormon redneck bastards.”

“No shit?”

“Yes siree Bob! He never surrendered to them and only died cause he didn’t have any water. But you got to hand it to him though… They had to work for it.”

“Ok, that was a pretty effed up story. Why did you have to tell to me and why did you have to tell it to me here of all places?”

“Because that Paiute village stretched from just across the street from us, right where Odyssey Records is, north all the way down to where the High Hat Hotel where we took those two cowgirls that were in town for the National Finals Rodeo. So roughly, North from Oakey Avenue to Charleston Boulevard and East to West from Main down to Sixth Street.”

“Wow that’s big stretch of Las Vegas Blvd.”

“Know what else is important about their village Mick?

“No what”

“It sat upstream of the Mormon Fort. Those damned Mormons realized that they couldn’t get a bucket full of water that didn’t have Indian piss in it.”

The two men sat there laughing at the idea of the so called morally and up right members of the Church of Later Day Saints drinking their morning cup of “Mormon Tea” with a nice leavening of urine.

Shaking his head Mick looked sideways out of the corner of his eyes that were wet from laughing and said, “Benny I got to tell you something, you come up with some of the damndest stories. Now tell me why this is important to you or me?”

“Guess who was the leader of the Mormons during the raid?”

“I have absolutely zero fucking idea. I don’t know… I ugh… guess I give up. Who was it?”

With a predatory gleam in his eye Benny leaned over the table and said in a stage whisper, “I will give you a couple of hints. Who is the biggest real estate grabbing, money grubbing, steal the silver dimes off your eyes before they plant you in the ground, asshole? Who just so happens to have designs on the Governors mansion? Ring any bells yet?”

Benny could see a dawning light of comprehension come into his friend’s eyes.

“You don’t mean C.Y.A. (Cover Your Ass) Smith do you?” Benny asked Mick.

“Got it in one! The very venerable Smith Clan of Southern Utah and Nevada. The clan that owns most of the land in Mesquite and by the way your dad’s former alfalfa farm.-What did they put on it again?” Benny said, with a knife twisting tone in his voice. “A parking lot wasn’t it? Didn’t they just pave over everything your dad worked for, just so they could have one more parking lot for their silent partnership casino?”

Mick’s two hands clenched into fists under the table. He squeezed his hands so tightly that his knuckles went white.-Memories of loosing everything flooded his head. His dad unable to find work because all the non-union and most of the union construction firms were owned or operated by the local Mormon mafia. His dad Patrick had fought the seizure of his property and in doing so had alienated the biggest and wealthiest clan in Nevada. Mick remembered having to live behind Joe Mackey Sixth Grade Center in the black slums of the West Side. His dad lasted three years before his drinking took him to the grave. At 17 years old, his mom finally gave up the fight and moved in with her sister down in Eagle Pass, Texas. Mick had been on his own ever since.

“So Compa, how did you come across this information? ’Cause as far as I know, I never have heard about this little massacre, let alone read about it?”

“Mick, you and I both have been jumping back and forth across the rail road tracks since we were kids-legally speaking. I love history and I am good at finding things. About a year ago I decided to combine the two together. Because Sheriff Lamb told me that if, he caught me fencing any more stolen goods, I was bound for a one way ticket to Sparks, Nevada and the loony bin. He said, “They don’t have to let you out, just because you have served your time. If they think that you are a threat to society, they can keep you up there as long as they think necessary. Especially if I just happen to send a little note their way.” -Benny shivered at the memory of Sheriff Lamb talking to him with his dead baby doll eyes. While trying to keep control of his bladder after the Deputy known as “Tex” held his head upright over that old metal desk, where Benny moment’s before had been held prostate over, as Tex beat the ever loving hell out of him with a nightstick.

“Ok so you’re a locator now. That still doesn’t tell me how you came across this information.” Mick said with growing clouds of frustration crossing his broad forehead.

“One of my “clients” loves western history. You know Cowboy and Indian shit. He heard that The Gene Autry Western Museum over in LA, was going to hold a fund raising auction of unique and special material. One of the items was a diary of a then, very young second lieutenant named: Ralph Jones. Who just so happen to be commanding a squadron of troopers out of an Army base in California. On the surface of it all the diary didn’t seem to be too unique except for its age. I slipped the assistant curator 200 dollars and got a first hand look at the diary.”

Benny paused for a moment and then lit another cigarette before continuing on, “Halfway through his diary, this Lt. Jones talks about coming to the aid of Mormon settlers in Southern Nevada. Where he writes in great detail about the ring leaders of this… how did he put it? “Punitive Expedition against the savage Pa-Ute Indians.” Furthermore he goes on to tell all about doing their best to wipe out the tribe and the difficulty they experienced in killing one old Indian brave.”

“Benny this is terribly fascinating and I am doing my best to keep my eyes open. How does this relate to me and mine?”

“How much do you think a mile and a quarter of Las Vegas Blvd. is worth nowadays?”

“Millions I guess. Maybe hundreds of millions. It would all depend on where it is… Aaaw No Shit! You mean the area you told me about earlier?” Excitement sent sparks flying from Mick’s blue eyes.

“Yeppers! Right here in River City! The land was stolen from the Paiutes. They never had a “reservation” of their own. Helen C. Cannon gave them ten acres off of main street. Incidentally which is right around the corner from that damned Mormon Fort. They have never been paid for the land that was stolen from them. There is no, and I repeat no record of this massacre happening anywhere in the county or state records.”

With a grimace of disgust sliding across his face, Mick said, “Can you say cover up?”

“Exactly Mick. So who’s family made the most money off of selling those parcels? Hmmm I will give you one guess.”

With a low growl, Mick replied, “The ancestors of the bastard that stole my dad’s place.”

“Oh and before I forget it. Those troopers who came over from California, they were paid in gold not to tell anyone. The Lt.’s commanding officer told his lieutenant’s an sergeant’s that any casualties were because of a training exercise. The Paiutes tell about the massacre to their children and their grandchildren. But as far as the outside world goes, this “event” never happened. Because who are you going to believe; the US Army, backed by upright and morally clean white men or a bunch of illiterate Indians living in huts made out of sticks and mud?”

“No shit huh?”-Mick mused darkly.

The two men sat there in the booth exploring in each of their minds, the implied implications and ramifications of the story Benny had just related. Both men stared at some distant point or destination that only they could see. Finally Benny spoke up.

“When I first met you in county. I was strung out on speed and had the shakes so bad, that I couldn’t hardly see straight. You kept the creeps off my back until that shit flushed out of my system. That was ten years ago. I’ve been doing my best to stay clean and sober ever since… Well clean anyways. If I hadn’t gotten clean, one way or another it probably wouldn’t have been no more than six months and I would have been found dead down somewhere around D street.”

“What are you trying to say to me Benny?” Mick asked with a flat tone in his voice.

“I may have been a petty criminal most of my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know who is carrying my markers. You may or may not think it, but I am trying to pay off a debt. I owe you big time.”

A softness that was unfamiliar to Mick’s face came to life. “Benny man… you don’t owe me anything. I think we both helped save each other, or least found someone to watch each other’s back.”

Stretching his hands out flat on the table and pushing his back into the upholstered padded booth, Benny said, “It’s ok Mick, whatever you say. I just wanted my cards out on the table. You can take it for what’s worth.”

“Benny you got some sort of plan. Because if it is about getting a little back that belongs to us, from those A-hole, good ole boys, that have run this sand box like it is their very own, well I’m down with that.”

“See Mick I got this crazy idea…”

Twenty minutes later, Connie walked over to the booth and dropped off their check. As she leaned over to pick up their plates, Mick could see the business card sticking out of the top of her lacy purple bra.

-Opportunities indeed.-Mick thought with a mental laugh that would have made the Grinch proud.

An hour later both men shook hands and walked away. Each smiling with wolves in their mouths.

DS Baker

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

STORY-"Bull Rider"

     The cowboy limped behind the bucking chutes. His nose itched from the dust, rich with powdered manure, it hung in the air like brown fog. His own sweat ran down his back and his armpits, staining his clothes, competing with the smell of horses and bulls.

     He carried his bull rope in his right hand, slapping it up against his work-a-day chaps, unconsciously marking a beat with his limping gait. Not for the first time this night did he questioned his sanity with his presence at the annual Labor Day Rodeo, in lovely scenic Guymon Oklahoma.

     Why in the hell am I doing this?-He thought for the millionth time in the last twenty minutes; his left hand shaking with anxiety and pent up adrenaline as it unconsciously clenched and released in a pantomime of nervous movement.

     A voice in the back of his head replied-‘Cause girls think it’s sexy as hell… Besides pain has a way of letting you know your still alive.

     Shrugging off those errant thoughts, he handed up his rigging to the Chute Crew and climbed up on the elevated walkway behind the bucking chutes. The cowboy’s grim visage went even grimmer, if that was humanly possible, as he cribbed his way sideways along the walkway, next to chute #3. He saw what two go-around’s of effort lay-in-wait for him.

     There inside, was 1,900lbs of romping, stomping bovine flesh, a Brahma bull named China Blue. He could feel the bull’s hot alfalfa scented breath on his legs. Looking down he saw China Blue’s horns; in the intensity of the moment, to the cowboy those horns looked like telephone poles.

     The bull saw rider and rigging crew approach. With a gimlet cynical eye, the bull began slapping his head and horns up against the sides of the chute, warning any mere mortal foolish enough to try to get too close, he would hurt them. With the whites of his eyes rolling this way and that, the bull’s coal black cornea scanned to see where the next threat was coming from…

     -Luck of the draw!-The cowboy said to himself as he glared down at his blue black nemeses. -Two times I have drawn you, you ornery piece of shit! Two times you have done your level best to stomp the piss out of me and then drown me in my own mud puddle. I am going to ride the hair off of you, even if it harelips the governor! Third times a charm…-He declared to himself.

     Then a sly, sneaky voice began whispering to him, -Yeah tell us another one boy! Who you trying to convince? Yourself or the beast? Just look at him. He’s eyeballing you boy! That bull knows who is-a-crawling on his back. He done smelled your fear before. You gonna let this side of beef get the better of you? Cause these boys and girls around here aint seen you whup him yet I don’t know as if you got it in you to…-The cowboy crushed silent those fears.

     But what has been thought, is often times the hardest to ignore, the cowboy thought back, to Sunday morning’s draw where he heard they had pulled this particular bull out of the hat for him. Billy Calvin his best friend, came up to him and slapped him on his shoulder and said, “Hoss somebody up there don’t like you! Did you piss God off or something? I want you to know right here, right now, you don’t have to worry about your barrel rider. I promise I will comfort and console her, after they get done burying you tonight.”

     Gallows humor from his best friend. All he could do in response was just shake his head.-Great! Who needs enemies when you got friends like this…

    An hour later he began his ritual. Inside the change house, he stripped himself out of his dress jeans and got into his cowboy gear. He taped his left ankle, which was still weak and floppy after that ride down in Amarillo three weeks ago. He then rubbed Tiger Balm into his knees, and pulled on supports for both knees. He walked over to where Doc Kieffer had his aid station and asked him re-tape his ribs.

     As the good doctor applied new rolls of fabric backed tape, the cowboy thought to himself,-I wonder how many miles of this stuff, I have used up riding these damn bulls? On the heels of that thought, he saw in his mind’s eye the last time he had a go-around with China Blue…

     Three weeks earlier-Amarillo’s fairgrounds, on a hot July Friday night. The wind had been blowing all live day long off the Caprock and with the setting sun, instead of cooling off the arena; the wind just seemed to make it hotter somehow. Dusty gusts, kept half of those in attendance holding on to their beers in one hand, their hats in the other.

     He sat down on China Blue with the bull snorting and slinging frothy snot and slobber all over the chute. The bull felt the cowboy’s weight settle down just behind his hump and began twisting and rubbing up against the walls of the chute. One of the rigging boys grabbed the bull’s tail and twisted it up behind him, pulling the tail between the boards of the chute.

     The hand began yelling at the bull, “Now jess you settle down damn you!”

     In response China Blue tried to crawl his way out of the bucking chute. One of the riggers yelled over to a rough stock hand and said, “Damnittohell! Give me a cribbin’ stick, we gonna settle this ’Ol boy down right quick!”

     When the cribbing stick hit the bull in the ribs, he slammed his left side up against the gate side of the chute. The cowboy’s left foot was just an inch or so out of position and he felt something in his ankle pop. He knew his foot was injured and probably pretty bad.

     -Oh shit! This aint good!-

     Just as the cowboy was figuring out how his foot was doing, the Chute Boss yelled over to him, “He aint gonna get no readier than this hoss!”

     It wasn’t like he had never ridden injured before, so he did what he always did, He looked the Chute Boss in the eye and said, “Yeah! Lets Dance Boys!”

     His world then went sideways…

     To some combat vets and rodeo cowboys, time can slow to a crawl and sounds disappear as their powers of concentration narrow. A perfect sphere of living in the moment, in their shared bubble, it was just the two of them competing against each other.

     He felt gravity change its grip on his body as China Blue launched like a broken, spinning bottle rocket to the right. Applied inertia and 1,900lbs of bull pulled on his legs and his straining right hand.

     He hung with the bull through the first two clockwise revolutions. At the end of the second, China Blue exploded straight up in the air. When he and the cowboy hit the dirt of the arena, he spun counter-clockwise one full revolution and then stopped stock still.

     It was the cessation of movement from the bull beneath him and the forces of inertia which caught the cowboy out of rhythm with the bull. More importantly the bull could feel the cowboy’s weight shifting off-center… The cowboy tried to “Grip and Rip” as they say, with his legs, his left foot just flopped uselessly on the bull’s flank and he began to slide.

     -Damn and blast! I aint got a left spur to hold with!-

     China Blue in an instantaneous moment of bovine judgment, spun once more to the left, with an added elegant flourish of a hopping jump thrown in. When they once more made landfall, the cowboy was sliding forward and to the right. His upper torso slid over the top of his right hand and with momentum carrying him forward, he slapped his face into the large hump of fat, just behind China Blue’s head.

     The bull with malice of forethought, jerked his head up and to the right. His horn missed goring the cowboy’s right eye by a distance that was almost too small to measure; but the bull’s horn continued up and to the back and smacked the cowboy across the forehead.

     He woke up in the ambulance as they hauled him to the emergency room at Baptist Saint Anthony Hospital on Amarillo Boulevard. His right arm was out of socket, his left side had two cracked ribs and his left foot although not broken, the ligaments and tendons on the outside of the foot had hyper extended to the point where it felt like it was just hanging on by the skin covering his foot.

     He had the mother of all headaches and what felt like crowbar of a contusion standing out from his forehead. It was the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association’s-Doc Kieffer, shinning a light into his eyes that woke him up.

     One of the ambulance’s attendants looked at the cowboy from where he was recording his vitals and said, “Check your wallet. I think the bull that mugged you, had a credit card in his mouth when they let him back into his pen.”

     Doc Kieffer looked at him and said grimly, “Yep you guessed it boy, you‘ve got a concussion and you might just want to think about taking the next couple of days off.”

     He spent the night in the hospital, with a pounding head, trying to throw up every meal he had ever eaten. It had been three weeks since he got banged up by one Mr. China Blue.

     Tonight, the creeping sensation of loosing which always hovered in the shadows of the arena, hiding beneath the announcer’s booth, watching through the rough stock fencing, lurking in the upper corners of the change house, seemed to have fled those shadow lands and taken up residency on his back. He could feel defeat breathing its stinky fear stench breath on the hairs on his neck.

     He checked each piece of latigo leather, his tooled grip and then his cinch strap. He grabbed his rosin bag and tied off the cinch strap to a pipe hitchin’ rail on the back of the change house. He stropped the leather with the powdery rosin bag.

     Each stroke he worked the bag harder and harder, trying to permeate the leather with enough rosin, so when the bull flexed his enormous ribs, there would be enough sticky stuff in the leather rope, he wouldn’t slide off. It was a quiet ritual every bull rider went through. He looked to his right and he saw his friend Billy working his cinch the same way, with his eyes gone blank, viewing his own up and coming ride. So much of the cowboy’s sport was mental. As he worked his rosin bag, he reviewed each bull he had rode to get to Sunday.

     -There was Buffer the cowboys first go-around. Buffer was an Angus-out of the Diamond Bar Ranch in Ardmore, OK. Buffer farted a lot and like to hook to the right. He was also an old hand at the circuit, eight seconds he was done. When the buzzer rang, he would turn to the gate leading back to the pens looking for something to munch on. There were times when it was really hard to get him excited enough to give a ride worthy of a good score.  

     Then next go-around on Saturday came Governor. One of the few Hereford bulls in the circuit-out of The Bell Bennett Ranch from Green Forrest, AK. Governor was a leaper. There wasn’t much of left or right in him; he was the kind of bull who tried to fly. He wasn’t for the novice though, get out of sync with him and next thing you know, your down in the mud with him kicking at the clowns, trying to grind you into meat paste; Governor would get a serious hate going for anything laying in front of him.

     Then and only then on Sunday, after he had survived riding four plus tons of spinning, jumping, snot slinging, mean as hell bulls, would he get the chance to ride the one bull who hurt him and more importantly who Beat him.

     Friday night Guymon Oklahoma. Just outside of a prairie town, with the tallest structure being the local Co-Op granary, squatted the rodeo arena. In front of and to the right sat, a prefabricated indoor roping arena, which during the rodeo would be turned into a dance hall. It had change facilities inside.

     The hottest thing going in Guymon was ordinarily the cars full of young teen some-things headed for Amarillo, Texas-125 miles to the south-west; but this wasn‘t an ordinary weekend, The PRCA Rodeo full of cowboys, horses, barrel riders, clowns and danger had come to town.

     The Cowboy came to Guymon riding in his father’s beat up Ford. He had paused at the Sale-Barn Café in Texhoma, Oklahoma earlier in the afternoon filling the truck up with gas and grilled cheese sandwiches for himself. From his booth the cowboy could see the cribbed wooden stockyard, where a motley collection of mostly Herefords were being off loaded for sale on Saturday. He ate his food and crunched his way through a coke full of crushed ice, as he listened to local men eating and chatting about the holiday rodeo.

     He drove the twenty five plus miles to Guymon with enough time to find a place to dash his dad’s truck and pay his entry fees. He and Billy stood around as they made the draw for the night’s ride.

     As they were headed to the changing rooms, Billy said, “Don’t worry son, I’ll garun-damn-tee you, you’ll get a decent run off Old Buffer tonight.”

     “Thanks Billy, you aint too bad a stepper yourself.” The cowboy said.

      “Naaw no worries there hoss. I got five bucks saying you aint going to make it 6 seconds.”

     “Shit! Thanks a lot.”

     “Yeah you know me, always willing to help a friend out. Try to make it at least five seconds, so the crowd won’t think your taking a dive will ya. I need the money to buy your girlfriend a beer.”

     “Speaking of, have you seen Arlene?”

     “What you two didn’t come up together? Hoss, if I had a knowed that, by golly I would be laid up sorry and sore in some flea bag hotel back in Canyon.”

     “Hey now, keep your grubby paws off her. I don’t want you confusing her with your big Lubbock city ways. She’s a good hide, and would hate to think you could just plain ruin her.”

     Billy stopped in front of the change room door and looked at the cowboy with a humorous glint in his eye and asked, “What the hell have you got, I aint got?”

     “Six sections of Sugar Beets and five hundred head of Brangus.”

     “Oh so what your saying is, she’s one of them material girls?”

     “Nope, you just asked what I had and you didn’t.”

     “Well I don’t know about you having six sections of Sugar Beets and five hundred head of Brangus… I do know your daddy might be surprised about the actual ownership of such a spread.”

     “Ok you got me there.”-The Cowboy said whith a sly grin.

     As the two men walked down the corridor to where they could begin their preparations for the nights rodeo, Billy’s voiced faded around the corner with, “Seems what you got aint much more than me. Too bad your little feet aren’t bigger; I really like those new Tony Lama boots you’re a wearing. Be a real shame to bury them with you.”

     Later at the back of the arena, where the rough stock were kept, the cowboy stood looking at the bulls in their pens. Billy Calvin walked up next to him and stood silently for while before speaking

     Billy said, “Well there he is… Buffer! Big Ugly Fat Fucker-The lazy bastard. I caint for no good reason understand why they keep that piece of walking BBQ on the circuit.”

     “Cause Bobby Burke is tight with the circuit. He’s got dirt on everybody and been in the rough stock trade for forty years. That’s why, dummy.”

     “Oh! Well thank you for filling that particular hole in my education.”

     “Por Nada.”

     “Like I said, don’t you worry yourself none. I got a special treat in store for him.”

     “What the hell are you going to do?”

     “That aint your concern. All you got to do is jump off him before six seconds!”

     The two of them stood there laughing for a moment, then the cowboy said, “Right hoss, I got to motivate. I saw one of those damned Goat ropers sniffing around Arlene just a while ago. Got to make sure nobody messes with my in-home nursing staff.”

     “That’s ok. I got my eye on Bridget Thrasher.”

     “Son! You've been too long without a girlfriend. Bridget’s got thighs bigger than you. She’s corn fed.”

     “Yes sir she is. But you know what they say about big legged women…”

     “You’re a freak.”

     “Probably so…” As Billy walked away, he looked back at his friend and said, “Remember six seconds!”

     Laughing, the cowboy shook his head.

     The rodeo like any cultural event has its own rhythms and tempo. There is the opening Gymkhana show, where local boys and girls, ride in a figure eight, showing state and regional flags. At the conclusion usually a rodeo beauty contestant comes out holding the American flag and the national anthem is sung, while everyone in attendance holds their hands over their breast and the cowboys take off their hats.

     The first event is usually Bareback Riders. Then followed by a timed event usually Team Roping or Bull Dogging. Followed by either the first half of the Saddle Bronc competition or Barrel Riders.
You could always spot the barrel racers who were true dedicated competitors. They were the women, who when getting ready to race, would pull up their pants legs so they could strap on plastic and metal shin guards. Those were the women who where going to shave the top of the barrels at the expense of their shins and knees.

     Arlene was such a woman. Her personal philosophy in regards to life and relationships was, ”Lead, Follow, Or Get The Hell Out Of The Way!” However, she was not so self centered as to not know her boyfriend was going through a rough time. China Blue had cast a specter of self doubt into his eyes she had never seen before.

     They had spent two weeks together at her folks place with him limping around. It was as if the bull had taken his self-assured preconceived notions of how the universe was ordered from him.

     She thought to herself, “It’s always hard on bull riders when they find the one bull who really gives ‘em a fight. Especially if the bull gets in the first punch.”

     They spent the last day sniping and biting at each other. Finally he got up said he had business to attend to and told her he would call her in a couple of days. That had been a week ago. She saw him walk out to the rough stock pens and begin looking over the bulls.

     She pretended not to notice her cowboy, as a steer-roper, whom her mother would describe as “skinning and grinning” tried to convince her to shuck off her flour-sack drawers and go for a tumble. She was only half paying attention to what the roper was saying, when she saw Billy Calvin, look her in the eyes and nod his head and give her a wink as he walked pass. Arlene couldn’t say exactly why, but for some reason she took great comfort from those subtle gestures.

     Then the next thing she knew her cowboy had slid up next to her and kissed the back of her neck, then looked the roper dead in the eye and said, “Howdy…” With the unspoken question of: Why are you talking to my girlfriend? Hanging like a pregnant heifer in the air.

     She turned to her cowboy and looked deep into his eyes. She didn’t say a word to him, she just leaned in close and gave him a kiss.

     “There is more of that, when you win your go-around tonight.” She said.

     He grunted, and just smiled. She could still detect a faint ghost of doubt in the back of his eyes.

     “you going to cowboy up for this or what?” She asked him, in a light but challenging tone.

     “I reckon. Don’t want to pass up a chance to get some more of those kisses.”

     “See that you do. Cause, that goat roper from Childress was starting to look pretty good.”

     “Well, I guess if you want someone from Childress keeping you company, I aint sure I want to know you…”

     He took the sting out of her barb and his sharp reply, with a kiss which took her breath away. The cowboy then turned on his heels and limped away into the confusion of the riders and chute crews as they prepared for the next evolution of the rodeo.

     She was still thinking and worrying about him as she prepared for her own run. When she was done with it and had finally caught her breath, she had to apologize to her mare Dusty. On the final lag of the run she had ridden harder than she had ever done previous.

     The fact that she was still thinking about her cowboy made her mad and then even madder when she realized she had flogged her beautiful girl.-It came as a real surprise when she heard she had won her event.

     The cowboy limped off to a quiet spot up in the bleachers as far away from the announcers booth as he could find. He saw Arlene ride the hair off Dusty. When they crossed the finish line, both his girlfriend and her mare had their ears laid back and their teeth bared. It was the angriest he had ever seen her ride.

     -Whoa! Shit I am in some kind of trouble.- He knew she was a tough competitor, but he had never seen her ride that angry before.

     Even before the thought had really registered, he began shutting down from the outside world as he thought his ride through from beginning to end. He sat silent and closed to the world, as life and the rodeo ran away from him. The Steer Ropers had their turn, then came the second half of the Bareback riding. Halfway through the Saddle-Broncs, an empty Colorado Kool-Aid can came sailing from out of the announcer’s booth and hit his Resistol hat.

    He spun in his seat, with a look which would have caused instant rigor mortis if it had fallen on a person he didn’t like.James Timmons one of the PRCA’s officials, was standing in the doorway to the announcers booth. He caught the cowboy’s attention and simply pointed down and behind the stands, where Billy Calvin stood.

     Billy shouted up, “Hey hoss! You going to sit there and watch the whole damned rodeo or are you going to compete?”

     Time and concentration had caught the cowboy unawares. With a muffled oath, he climbed down the bleachers and went to get his bull rope.

     Billy handed him two sets of numbers, with their name written in black magic marker along the top. The cowboy took two safety pins and pinned Billy’s on his back. He then turned around and Billy did the same for him.

     Neither said much more to each other as they grabbed up their gear and did one more final inspection. The specter of failure had by this time regained its perch on his shoulder. Uncertainty was insidiously spreading creeping tendrils through his chest muscles and down into the pit of his belly, making his testicles ache, with phantom ghost pain shooting into the backside of each of his knees.

     Behind the chutes, the cowboy obsessively checked each strap, buckle, notched his spurs one more time. Ran his fingers over his rope, making sure his bell was secured.

     Billy stood off to one side with a paper grocery bag. He leaned over to Jake Thompson, a rider out of Cimarron, Kansas and said, “Damn! Hoss there, is acting like this is his first go-around.”

     “Yeah, he’s got a bad case of the shakes. But hell, I think I would too if, I got hit in the head with a baseball bat.”

     “Well, I got the cure right here.”-Billy opened up the paper bag and half pulled out a short hafted hot shot.

     “Jake, Hoss drew out Buffer for his go-around. I aim to make that lazy SOB get up and dance his way out that effing chute!”

     “I tell you what Billy, when our boy gets ready to ride, I’ll help you rig him. Keep his attention on me while you work your magic.”

     The two men shook hands, and then climbed up on top of the arena fence and watched the last of the Saddle-Bronc riders get bucked off. They each parted to round up their personal gear, as the announcer introduced each of the clowns who would be running interference for the bull riders in that nights go-around.

     One of the rough stock contractors Johnny Warken, kept a short black Mexican fighting bull for the clown segment of the rodeo. They turned it loose and in a choreographed routine, the bull would charge the clowns, who would jump inside specially padded empty barrels. The bull in turn would run up and try to knock the barrel into the next county.

     Behind the scenes, back where the real work of the rodeo went on, this was the premier event of the evening. The bulls who had been placid at the start of the night’s events, were now shifting around in their pens. The more aggressive of the bulls had quit munching on their alfalfa and had their ears twitching back and forth. They knew what was coming. Bulls such as China Blue looked forward to having their chance of stomping some unfortunate cowboy.

     The rough stock crew got busy and began running the bulls through a series of gates to move them to each of the bucking chutes. Bobby Burkes’ hired hands, got Buffer into motion and herded him into chute number two. The chute boss nodded to his crew and they locked Buffer in. Billy Calvin helped the cowboy get up on the cat walk and started laying out the cowboy’s bull rope.

     The chute boss said, “Hey there cowboy! Ya got your rope on backwards. That there strap needs to go around on the right side.”

     The cowboy laughed and said, “Naaw, I don’t always have such fine hands like yourself to help me rig. I ride with it coming up on the left side. That way I can do most of the tightening myself.”

     “Oh ok, like that Brazilian cowboy I saw down in Houston couple of months back.”

     “Yeah, I heard that’s how they rig down south.”

     Buffer meanwhile was placidly sitting in the chute letting the hands, run the girth strap around his belly. This was just another night in the life, as far as he was concerned.

     That was, until Jake Thompson, came up level with chute number two and looked over to where Billy was helping the cowboy pull his strap up and tight. Jake winked his eye to Billy. Who in turn looked to one of the rigging crew down on the ground and gave a quick nod of his head.

     The man reached into Billy’s grocery bag and pulled out the hot-shot. Just as the cowboy had settled on Buffer’s back and was adjusting his seat, the man stuck the cattle prod into the junction of Buffer’s cantaloupe sized testicles and pressed the trigger.

     With a bellow of rage, Buffer tried to jump right out of the bucking chute. Jake Thompson, grabbed the cowboy and kept him from falling off. Buffer meanwhile was about as mad as one full grown adult male bovine could get. He was throwing his legs around, kicking the sides of the chute. The man with the hot-shot, kept stabbing him in the balls with the electric cattle prod. Buffer was going bezerk slapping his horns, bellowing, throwing snot and snorting. His front hooves were digging into the dirt of the chute.

     Billy finally waved the hand off with the hot-shot. He turned to his buddy and said, “Shit Hoss! Looks like Old Buffer here might just want to dance tonight!”

     Jake Thompson still holding onto the cowboys shirt said, “Whooeeee! Billy boy! You want to change that bet to from five dollars to 20 bucks? I say he won’t make it four seconds!”

     “All righty! I reckon Buffers going to put our boy in the hurt locker fer sure! Twenty bucks it is!”

     Hearing the exchange between his friends. The cowboy knew they were pulling his leg, but the longer this shit went on, about him not making the ride got him mad, got him mad as hell.

     “Quit yer screwing around Billy. Tighten him up.”

     Billy took another grip on the cinch strap and pulled it as tight as he possibly could. He passed the strap over the cowboy’s hand and double weaved it back onto itself in his leather grip. Then passed the remainder behind the cowboys hand so it made a loose noose of leather. It was a dangerous type of rig. It meant when the bull began to buck, the excess slack in the strap would instantaneously suck up tight. If Billy or the cowboy got it wrong, it would trap the cowboy’s hand against his rigging and he wouldn’t be able to kick free.

     The chute boss said, “You ready? Cause I think Buffer’s leaving this station, whether your on him or not.”

     The cowboy, his body absolutely filled with adrenaline and flight or fight hormones, with his breath high and ringing in his ears, just nodded his head. Buffer got one more shot in the testicles, just as the gate began to open.

     In one corner of his mind he could hear, Jimmy Timmons saying, “Coming out Chute Number Two, Riding Buffer Is a Cowboy From Canyon, Texas Give a Hand For…”

     As Jimmy Timmons called out his name, his world and everything in it exploded. Buffer farted as the gate swung open and shot out of the chute. Tonight he was rolling his shoulders left and right as he bucked. The cowboy rode each roll and buck like a boat on the ocean, then he felt something sliding up and out of his left shirt pocket.

     His hyper aware senses realized it was his little black book, where he kept all of his rodeo contact numbers and addresses. On Buffer’s second bounce out of the chute his book shot out of his pocket and hung in the air. It seemed to the cowboy time and motion were incased in a warm flowing syrup. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his notebook just hanging there. If he wanted it, he could reach out and grab it with his left hand. So he did.

     Behind him he could just barely make out one of the clowns shouting, “Holy Shit! Ride Him Cowboy! Ride Him! You Got This SOB Rode!”

     Just before the buzzer went off, with a crumpled note book in his hand, he reached up and grabbed his hat brim and took off his hat and began fanning it back and forth over Buffer’s head.-The crowd went wild. The buzzer went off. The cowboy kept riding Buffer as he bucked and stomped himself to a shuffling halt. The cowboy kicked himself free and landed on his feet like he had just stepped down from a bus. Buffer still angry and pissed off, ran kicking and farting back to his pen.

     The cowboy took it all in. In the moment, his ankle didn’t hurt. His ribs didn’t ache, in fact he was riding such an emotional adrenaline laced high he couldn’t feel any pain. He bowed to the crowd. He could hear their response, their clapping and stomping their boots on the bleachers as he walked back to the bucking chutes and climbed over the fence.

     Later that night sitting at a table in the roping arena which had been converted to a dance hall, with a local band doing cover versions of Straight and Garth playing in the background, the cowboy, Arlene and Billy Calvin, were hashing over the day’s rodeo.
Eventually the conversation came back to his ride.

     “I got to tell you something hoss. That was the God damnedest ride I think I have ever seen.” Billy Calvin said while grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

     “What the heck was that thing, you grabbed honey?” His girlfriend asked.

     “It was my address book. It had your telephone number in it. I couldn’t run the risk of some asshole like Billy getting his hands on it.”

     She laughed and reached over and grabbed his hand. “You’re sweet.”

     “I just wanted to know what the hell got into Buffer tonight? I can’t remember ever seeing him buck like that. He never just shoots out and jumps straight up. He always bounces once and then begins to hook to the right.”

     Billy and Arlene looked at each other and then looked over to the cowboy and practically fell out of their chairs laughing.

     “What the F…?”

     Holding up a hand, Billy said, “You remember I told you I would guarantee you got a good ride out of Buffer? Well while Jake and I were helping you get rigged, I gave Sam Leonard a hot-shot. He apparently went a little overboard and practically burned Buffer’s balls off him.”

     The three of them simultaneously burst out laughing. They laughed until tears were running down their eyes.

     When they calmed down the cowboy said, “Remind me to buy him a bag of carrots before this rodeos over. He earned it.”

     Just then Bridget Thrasher sauntered up and grabbed Billy’s arm and said, “Are y’all done with him? Cause this boy and I have a dance or two to do.” She all but dragged him out his chair.

     Billy looked like a condemned man heading for his execution.
Arlene smiled sweetly and held up her right hand and made tiny waving gestures toward the duo.

     The cowboy laughed and then silently mouthed the words, “Your fucked…”

     Arlene and the cowboy sat in rapt fascination watching Billy two step Bridget around the dance floor. All the while giggling at the look on Billy’s face. He kept running through a gauntlet of emotions ranging from perverted fascination to outright desperation.

     Finally Arlene leaned over and whispered into her cowboy‘s ear and said, “I know you can’t do the two step very well tonight. But I thought if, your not doing anything else I could teach you the horizontal waltz…”

     Friday night faded like a warm happy dream as moths immolated themselves in the empty rodeo arena’s floodlights.

     The cowboy and Arlene got up before the Sun came up and drove the fifty plus miles down State-54 to Dalhart, Texas. Two blocks off the interstate sat a little red painted café with a two pump gas station attached. It wasn’t much the XIT Café, but it did serve a real Texas style chicken fried steak. They prided themselves on not serving some sort of pseudo frozen steak like substance, which usually was deep fried with the French fries. They served honest to goodness steak, pan fried in a cast iron skillet.

     Arlene didn’t know it but her cowboy had called his folks Friday night before he left the change house, and asked them to come up and have breakfast with them. He also asked them if, his grandparents could come as well. Since his grandparents lived just outside of Dalhart across the border in New Mexico, it wouldn’t be an overly big deal for them to show.

     At the un-Godly hour of five AM, Arlene and her cowboy found themselves eating breakfast with his family. Introductions were made, even though Arlene knew his mom and dad.

     His grandfather asked, “Son we love ya and it sounded like you had a heck of ride last night.”

     -Arlene blushed to the tips of her ears.-

     “But your grandma and I were planning on coming over to Guymon to see you ride this afternoon. So why did you roust us out of the house at the crack of dawn?”

     The cowboy stammered a reply for a moment, then turning three shades of pink, pulled a small box from his pocket and placed it on the table in front of Arlene.

     “This is the reason Daddy let me drive his truck up to the rodeo.-The cowboy had sold his truck.- I thought you might like to make an honest man out of me.”

     With eyes round and her cheeks running with tears, Arlene opened the small box to find a diamond engagement ring.

     There wasn’t a lot of talking for a few moments as the cowboy’s mother and grandmother watched the young vibrant barrel rider place the ring on the third finger of her left hand. Then it was Katy bar the door, a full on flood of tears and happy repeating of one word-yes.

     “Last week, I called your parents while you were out exercising Dusty and met them at the steakhouse outside of Borger. I asked your Daddy for your hand and he gave his go ahead. I bet it has just been killing your mom, her not being able to tell you. If you didn’t know it, your folks are going to meet us for lunch this afternoon.”

     Laughing and wiping tears from the corners of her eyes, Arlene said, “Well it’s a good thing I don’t like Goat Ropers from Childress.”

     “Nope guess not.”

     The couple snuggled and exchanged deep meaningful looks all the way back to Guymon. Arlene decided she didn’t want to just blurt out their engagement but short of an emergency operation, there was no way in hell she was going to remove her bright shiny new ring.

     The cowboy was feeling… well he really didn’t know how to explain how he was feeling. It wasn’t a confused or scared emotion. It was if someone had combined a sense of rightness with eager anticipation. He was so happy he had a humming sound ringing in his ears. It was very similar to how he felt after he got off Buffer.

     To the young couple it seemed like they were in Guymon in no time. One minute they were in Dalhart, the next they were pulling into the arena.

     Dusty- Arlene’s horse, was expressing her displeasure at being locked overnight in her horse trailer by repeatedly kicking the back ramp of her trailer and the cowboy had to gather up his gear and hurry over and receive his draw for the Saturday afternoon go-around.

     The cowboy walked up to the base of the bleachers directly under the announcers booth where the rest of the saddle bronc riders, bareback boys and the bull riders were gathered for their draw. He saw Jake Thompson talking to a couple of Oklahoma hands and limped over to him.

     Before the cowboy could say anything, Jake began to laugh and point to a picnic table sitting off to one side of the crowd. There holding his head in his hands, minus his Resistol hat, sat Billy Calvin. He was still wearing the same clothes he had worn the previous evening. There were deep dark circles under his eye and what appeared to be the outline of a woman’s hand on his face.

     “What in the hell happened to Billy?”

     Jake tried to reply but every time he would settle down and try to explain, he would begin laughing again.

     Seeing Jake was no help, the cowboy limped over to Billy and asked, “Hoss your wearing the same getup you went out in last night. And why in the hell do you have a hand print on your face?”

     Billy just sat there and groaned… Finally seeing how his friend was not going to walk away, Billy finally spoke up and said, “Well Bridget Thrasher is what happened to my face! Damn yer eyes! We went back to her hotel room and got to fooling around. Lord that woman is… well she made me do things no Christian man is supposed to even know about.”

     Billy half laughed or sobbed, the cowboy couldn’t tell which.
Gamely Billy continued on, “At one point I was behind her and going at it pretty good if I don’t say so myself. Then she looks back over her shoulders and begins to holler at me-Hit me! Hit me ya big pussy boy! Hit ME! So I hauled off and socked her in her eye.”

     “Oh shit.”

     “Exactly. We were off to the races after that. She came out of the bed cussing and swearing, telling me she was going to beat the ever loving shit out of me. A woman that big, is a force of nature I tell ya! She chased me up and down the corridors of the hotel screaming and yelling. Both of us not wearing a stitch of clothing. Finally, she chased me back into her bedroom.-I want to state right here, I was hoping to make it to the bathroom, so I could lock myself in. But Bridget body tackled me and hit me in my bum left knee.”

     By this time the cowboy was laughing so hard he thought his ribs were going to need taping all over again.

     “Next thing I know, she’s got me hog tied to the bed post and doing things I didn’t even know a woman could do, all the while slapping the shit out of me.”

     Holding his side, the cowboy asked the sixty four thousand dollar question, “So how did you escape?”

     “I promised I would marry her.”

     At that point the cowboy just started laughing so hard he had to sit down in the dirt.With a timing only a Catskill vaudevillian could even hope to attempt, Bridget Thrasher and Arlene walked around the corner. The cowboy was laying on the ground laughing, when he spied the two women through the legs of the gathered riders. He could see Bridget’s face and her left eye was all but swollen shut. She also had a predatory grin spread from one ear to the next.

     “Our fiancés are here.”


     “Yep about two hours ago, I proposed to Arlene.”

     “Oh Shit.”

     “Hahahahahaha your fucked” The cowboy had tears running down the side of his face.

     Bridget and Arlene came to where the cowboy was laughing and holding his healing ribs.

     “I guess we aren’t the only ones with good news this morning?” Arlene said.

     Bridget still smiling reached down and pulled the cowboy to his feet, without even so much as a grunt. “Quit laughing. Your making a spectacle of yourself.” She said with a grin.

     Bridget Thrasher was not a fat woman, just big. She stood six feet tall in her stocking feet and probably had the largest non-augmented chest in Christendom. She had a flat washboard of a stomach and a large heart shaped hind end which flared out to nicely rounded hips. Bridget could have been a centerfold material if, everything she had just wasn’t so damned big.

     The cowboy dusted his pants off and looked Bridget into her good eye. “I hear congratulations are in order.”

     “Yep, I won him fair and square.”

     Laughing the cowboy replied, “Looks like you got a ring of a different sort.”

     She grinned and ducked her head.

     “So when is the big day?” the cowboy asked.

     Bridget’s head snapped up and the predator was back in her face, “Day after tomorrow. The Texas County Recorder’s office and the County Judge won’t be open or back until Tuesday morning.”

     Billy Calvin just sat there and made a sort of moaning noise in the back of his throat.

     “And when are you and Arlene going to get hitched?”

     The cowboy looked over to his fiancé and said, “Well we haven’t talked about it but, I was thinking the NFR will be over around Christmas. Thought maybe we might use one of those Marrying-Sams out in Vegas and get a quickie and then have a formal wedding when all of our people can show.”

     Bridget looked over to Arlene and said, “If your smart, girlfriend, you come with me Tuesday morning and we can make it a double wedding.”

     Arlene gave Bridget a weak smile as Bridget turned to face Billy Calvin and asked him, “You draw out yet?”


     Bridget turned around and yelled up at the announcer’s booth, “Hey now, when the hell are y’all going to start this draw, cause some of us have bidness to attend to damn it!”

     To his amazement, the cowboy looked down at Billy Calvin and saw his friend was smiling from ear to ear. He leaned in close where Arlene and Bridget couldn’t hear and listened to what Billy had to say.

     “She thinks she is running a bulge on me. I got news for the heifer. Come Tuesday morning, I actually plan on marrying that woman. Just made my mind up about it. That is… if she wants me.”

     “Son are you sure. I mean a little slap and tickle is all well and good. This is serious stuff here.”

     “You know what they say about big legged women.”

     “You’re a freak.”

     “Yes! Yes I am and more importantly so is Bridget.”

     Seeing the officials from the PRCA were coming out with the draw slips, Bridget turned around and asked, “What the heck are you two a doing?”

     Billy said with a serious look to his eye, “Talking about getting married.”

     Like a lot of women of size, Bridget had a weakness. She never actually thought someone would love her for her. The predator in her face fled, when she saw Billy was actually meaning to keep the promise she extracted from him the night before. A fleeting look of fear and pure panic ran across her face.

     “Hey partner, would you mind doing your Ol’ Billy a solid? Get my draw for me will ya. This lovely woman and I have some things to talk about.”

     Just behind the cowboy he heard his fiancé Arlene say, “Shoot! I guess it happens like that sometimes.” Tears were leaking from the corner of her eyes.

     “Damn and blast! Everyone around here is going to think we have all gone soft in the head.” The cowboy said as he limped over to his future wife and kissed her on the lips.

     The rest of the morning and afternoon passed pretty much in a blur. Arlene and Bridget both placed in a tie for second. Arlene’s folks and the cowboy’s family ate lunch in the stands of the arena. There was a lot of handshaking between families and hugs. There were lots of hugs going around between the women folk.

      Later after the opening ceremonies James Thompson, on his way to the hamburger stand came by and offered his congratulations and reminded the cowboy he only had an hour to go before he had to ride.

     He stood up looked at his girl and their families and Arlene just said, “Go on cowboy win another go around and we will see what dance lesson we can learn tonight.”

     The cowboy found Billy and Bridget tied up in a tight cinch just outside the changing room.

     “Ok you two break it up. Your going to scare the little kids and make the horses want to bolt.”

     Before either one of them could say anything, the cowboy grabbed Billy Calvin by his ear and dragged him into the changing room.

     “Son! Get yer head on straight. I am happy for ya. Hell it looks like against all odds, it might just be a good match up. But let me tell you this-We do not think about the heifers before we go-a-riding the bulls! Son! Get yer damned game face on.” The cowboy said, letting go of Billy’s ear.

     The cowboy limped into the change house and got ready for his date with China Blue. Everything else would sort itself out after that. Purple lions raced the setting sun as a rain front blew across the prairie as the rough stock grew restless with anticipation.