This story is mostly true, but names have been changed to protect the innocent. Also, I was not there for all of the scenes, so I had to improvise. Let’s just call it a fictional short story, but I came by my information on good authority.
Calvin, an old high school buddy and captain of the Quien Sabe Ranch rodeo team, gained me entry to the back chutes and inner sanctum of working ranch cowboys outside the Taylor Expo Center in Abilene. Hoping to see or hear something different than a normal spectator would, I walked among real working ranch cowboys, my heroes, as they prepared for the Ranch Rodeo part of the Western Heritage Classic.
Near the Pitchfork Ranch team, I stopped at the sound of cursing and laughter. A big cowboy was trying to reset a loose shoe on a palomino mare.
I was dressed in my best ostrich boots and my wildest wild rag. But the big, muscular, flat-bellied stranger beside me had me more than one-upped with handmade crocodile boots, matching belt, silver buckle with two keepers and tip, custom shirt and designer jeans.
We both laughed when the yellow mare struck out with a back hoof and slapped the big farrier away from her front hoof like she was swatting a horsefly with her tail. The farrier looked at the blood oozing from both of his shoulders. The hand on the side of his neck came back bloody, too.
“Crazy bitch. That’s it for me, boys.” He picked up his farrier box and walked away.
I laughed with the cowboys, but felt sympathy for the farrier. I spoke more to myself than the man standing beside me. “Heard about a yellow horse that looked like that mare a few years ago. They called her Sunfish. Best horse on the ranch, but wouldn’t let anybody near her feet. Farriers all said her hooves should be registered as lethal weapons.”
The well-dressed fella bit. “So what happened to her?”
“They hauled her about four hours up to Northeast Texas. A friend of mine got her shod. He’s the only man in Texas can shoe her to this day.”
“Where’s this feller at?”
“Delta County. Name’s Burl Branchwater.”
“Burl Branchwater? Hell, I know him. Took two horses to him once. Never saw em again.” I felt my temperature rising a little at the suggestion that Burl was a horse thief, but I was too small and too late to do anything about the insult. The stranger was gone before I could challenge him.
He didn’t really need it, but I took my horse to be shod the next week. I was curious. Burl had just begun breaking nails on the old shoes when I mentioned what happened in Abilene. He dropped the hoof and straightened and I knew I should have waited till he finished before mentioning it. “Big feller, you say?”
“Almost as big as you. Well-dressed. I mean expensive stuff. A man that women look at twice.”
“You get his name?”
“Nope.” I grinned. “Walked off or I woulda just whipped his ass for you. That and the hundred pounds he had on me.””
“No need. I know who the sumbitch is. Called me a horse thief, did he? Want to know what really happened?”
I pulled up a seatless metal chair with a board across it and sat down.
Burl pulled a cigarette out of his pocket and struck a match on his thumbnail. “That low-life bastard called Lillie (Lillie is Burl’s wife) one Wednesday night about a year ago. Wanted two horses shod before the weekend. She told him I was booked the rest of the week, but he could come on Saturday.”
I knew the routine. Lillie sets appointments for his farrier work on weekday afternoons, but Saturday is like an old-time barbershop – first come-first served. Burl told the rest of the story and it was way past dark before he finished shoeing my horse.
I’m not as good a storyteller as Burl is, but I will try to do him justice next week. You’ll need to pay close attention, but it will be worth it. It is a very unusual story. You know what they say about truth being stranger than fiction.
June 20, 2012
This review is from: Go Down Looking (Perfect Paperback)I had been looking forward the the next book in the Rivers saga and was not disappointed. Jim has a unique way of portraying his characters. Being from the area where the book is set, I could really identify with the setting and also with the time frame in the novel. The book shows just how different siblings can be, along with the many emotions that are involved in families. It does help you enjoy this book more if you have read the previous ones. All of them were very good. Start writing the next one Jim!