Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN (04/13/17)
- TITLE: A Tale of Three
By Ann Grover
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Fer gosh sakes, who would saddle someone with a name like that three times in a row?
So, that there’s Three.
Right after I fixed his name, I got him outfitted properly. Got rid of his fancy shoes, necktie, and cufflinks.
First morning, Three weren’t too bad. He rode behind the herd, eating dust. Ain’t much can go wrong if you’re just riding drag on a trail the cows know well. Them girls get a whiff of the green grass ahead and they’s like ladies going to a sugar sale at the general store.
At the end of the day, my belt buckle was scraping my backbone, so I left Three to handle his rigging by himself, while I got my own horse turned out. Before I knew it, there was a ruckus, and Three’s horse -- I’d give him a dead-broke cayuse named Brownie -- were doing a two-step through the barn, his saddle swinging under his belly.
Brownie bucked and jostled against the other horses, which set Shorty and Eyebrow to cursing and hollering. At the end of the to-do, the oat barrel was stove in, Shorty’s hat was mashed flat, and the barn door had a hole in it.
A greenhorn mistake, it was. Three had forgotten to undo the rear cinch before lifting off the saddle, and Brownie didn’t take very kindly to the strap clamping down around his flank.
I said to Three, “It’s an honest mistake. Patch the door and scoop up the oats.” Ain’t nothing could be done for Shorty’s hat.
The next day, I sent Three out to check the fence around the eastern section. About two o’clock in the afternoon Brownie jogged into the yard, riderless. ‘Round about suppertime, when I were getting anxious about Three’s well-being, Three stumbled into the yard, his eye the colour of a squashed huckleberry.
“There was a tree, sir,” he said, “A populus hastata. I was swept off abruptly by a low branch. I told Brownie to stay, but he didn’t heed me.”
Well, how do we learn, except by bumps and scrapes?
“Happens to the best of us, Three,” I said. “Now get yourself some grub.”
I decided to take Three up to the cow camp, where we’d hunker down for a few days of one-on-one cowboy instruction. Shorty and Eyebrow weren’t no help getting Three educated, what with their eye-rolling and smirking.
It were a lovely ride up the mountain, with the grass freshly sprouted and the leaves all nicely unfurled. See, I can be a poet when I feels like it. When we got to the cabin, I told Three I’d light a fire and told him to unsaddle his horse, tie him up, then go fetch some more firewood. With a hitching post and forest all around, I reckoned it was purty obvious there were plenty of places for securing a horse.
We were just turning in after eating the bacon and beans I’d rustled up, when there was an almighty crack and a crash. It were the apocalypse, I figured, and I expected to hear the Lord’s trump any second. Instead, the wall of the cabin tilted inward and the roof slumped. We ran outside in our long johns, just in time to see Brownie heading down the darkening trail, dragging a log from the cabin.
I heard snuffling in the brush. Must’ve been a bear upset Brownie.
“Fer gosh sakes, Three, what in tarnation did you do? Tie your horse to the cabin?”
“I did, sir.”
“Why’d you do a thing like that?”
“It was a firm place, sir.”
I didn’t dare even smile, or Three’d think it were all fine and dandy.
Brownie didn’t go far, dragging that timber. The wall were done for, though. It were gonna be a mite drafty sleeping that night.
Could’ve been the end of Three, then and there. Three strikes, yer out, so to speak. He might make a good hand yet. Or he might not. But even the most flea-bitten of us were unbroke once upon a time, so I said to Lesley Terrance Harrington the Third, “We all gotta start somewheres, Three. And quit calling me ‘sir,’ eh? Name’s Gus.”
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