A Tale from the Wild West; Part 3 Tanner and the Mare
Tanner and the Mare
Tanner led his small party off the hilltop. The roan Mare, much more skittish in the morning, was content to shyly follow behind. Tanner at first kept stiffly turning around to keep an eye on her, but after a bit, he thought “Well after all, she is a volunteer and not a conscript. If she wants to play shy that’s her own prerogative.” He shrugged and looked back no more.
Soon, the three horses and Tanner were in the open plain. The sky was a robin egg blue now and a cool breeze blew low to the ground. The promise of heat to come was guaranteed, but the moment was pleasant. Tanner nudged Moonstar into a trot, his other horse followed dutifully behind and then the Mare caught on. She ran up alongside side Moonstar and kept pace, gradually joining with Tanner until they were almost touching. Tanner reached over and stroked her mane. The Mare’s eyes flickered, but she remained alongside. Tanner thought what the hell and pulled his foot out of it’s stirrup and gently threw his leg over the mare, at first not touching then slowly letting his boot down. The Mare’s eyes rolled back when she realized the weight on her flank. She snorted, accelerated and was soon far ahead. Tanner slowed his two horses and proceeded at a walk. The mare waited at a rise until Tanner approached, snorted again, then continued forward.
Tanner eased back and thought to himself “First things first. I have gotta cut this ‘caravan’ down some. I wonder if that ranch we passed the day before is looking to buy some horses.” Tanner scouted the area, trying to recall just where he had seen the ranch that had struck his fancy as a good working spread.
One man in control of his destiny can move a lot faster than a mess of ornery horses, so by midday Tanner saw signs that he was getting close. Sensing other animals near, the roan mare laid back as Tanner approached the ranch.
Tanner saw a man working a young horse in the corral. As he came nearer the man walked over to the fence. “Howdy,” he said “What can I do you for?” he asked. “I got a couple head too many “Tanner replied “You interested?” As he spoke, the mare came up to the fence bobbing her head. The young horse the man had been working became rigidly alert then bolted away, slipping his reins thru the man’s fingers. The man watched the horse pound away and shook his head. “Nice colt” said Tanner. “He IS a special one alright” said the man, returning his attention to Tanner. Looking over the horses he said “Which one ya gonna keep? He asked. Tanner eyed the mare “This one I reckon, but I don’t think she is broke hardly at all.” The man looked at the roan mare more closely “Beautiful animal” he said, then directed his gaze on the other horses.”Are these both saddlebroke?” He asked. Tanner nodded “Trailbroke as well, horses and beef” he said. The man considered that a moment and said “I could use em both. Set yourself down and we’ll settle it.”
The man introduced himself as Matt Prior owner of the Bar S ranch. Matt made a quick inspection of Tanners horses and soon he and Tanner had made a deal that was fair to both. Tanner happily surprised at the going rate. “Most of them army fellas hardly know how to ride” Matt said after the deal was done “I get a premium for properly broke horses.” “That reminds me” said Tanner “Would it be alright if I use your corral to get my Mare used to reins? Matt glanced out thru his small office’s only window “Sure” he said “I ‘m done playing with that fool colt for today.
After releasing the colt from the corral Matt decided to stay for a while and see how Tanner did with the Mare. What he observed made him question the way he had been dealing with animals for the past 45 years.
Damnedest thing I ever saw” he swore later “It was like a dance, like a courtship, like one of them fancy co-til-yun balls. That Tanner feller would politely offer something, like the saddleblanket, and that Mare of his would ever so politely decline. Tanner would politely insist and the Mare would allow it just out of shear manners, seemed like. Nothing like the ball o dust and use of the Lords name in vain that is usually involved. And alla that time Tannered be whispering in that Mares ear. Not biting it, whispering. One time, as he and the horse walked by me I heard a little of it. Sounded like hu-hu-hu or something like that, real low, real soothing. Whatever it was, that roan Mare was listening!”
Tanner was soon atop the Mare and circling inside the corral. Matt walked over to the gate, caught Tanner’s eye and raised his eyebrows. Tanner slowly nodded his head. Matt unlatched the gate and pulled it open.” You made it look easy” he said. “It ain’t over ye “ Tanner started to reply. The Mare had bolted, as low as she could get and as fast as she could run. Even though he had been expecting something like this Tanner was almost thrown off the back of his horse. Recovering, he positioned himself high over her shoulders, put his head low into her mane and prepared to ride fast. He pushed the Mare all out, letting her get used to his weight.
They rode that way for quite some time. Finally Tanner eased back on the reins and patted the roan Mare’s neck, eventually bringing them to a stop. He wanted her tired, not injured. Tanner eased off the saddle and walked with the Mare a while, speaking low and patting her. In time he swung himself back aboard her and headed back to the ranch at a brisk walking pace. The shadows were long when they made it back to the ranch.
Tanner was somewhat surprised to see Matt still there, with 4 men sitting on the rail of the corral. As Tanner approached he heard Matt say, “Newt, Cipher, see to the man’s horse.” Two young men, boys really, jumped down off the rail. Tanner slid off his saddle and settled the Mare, handed over the reins to the young men and settled the Mare again. “Thanks” Tanner said as they led the horse away. “Them boys will put yer stuff in the bunkhouse” Matt said, “I’d consider it an honor if you would sup with me and my misses tonight Tanner.” Matt looked stern then said “In fact, I won’t take no for an answer.” Tanner , smiling, looked at the other men. The lanky one said “Go ahead mister, you won’t regret it.” The more portly one nodded “Miss Jessie’s pies are famous around these parts.” Tanner turned to Matt “I’d be happy to.” He said. “Good, it’s settled then, lets head on up” Matt enthused. Tanner hesitated now,”I been on the trail a while and most likely don smell too fine.” he said. “No worry” said Matt “ There’s a basin by the house, good enough for me, will be for you too. My misses ain’t no delicate flower.” He said. This comment got a chuckle from the men on the rail, which earned them a dark look from Matt. “Times a wasting” he said and led the way up to the main house.
Tanner ate well that night. Miss Jessie did not disappoint and kept Tanner’s plate full. Matt went on and on about Tanner’s, breaking? Seduction? of the roan Mare. Tanner just shoveled. Eventually Miss Jessie excused herself and Matt invited Tanner onto his porch to enjoy some manly libations. Ensconced on the porch swing, a whiskey in one hand and a cheroot in the other, with as full a belly as he had had for some time, Tanner was content and relaxed.
Matt had a proposition, “I’ve got two rough horses that need some breaking. I’ll pay you a days wage to handle the job.” “What if it takes two days” said a grinning Tanner. Matt just laughed. “I admit, I would like to see that little trick again. Seriously though, I have need of a man who knows his way around the ponies, so tell me, what are your prospects.”
Whether it was the good food, the good company or just the need to get it off his chest, Tanner again told the tale that he had kept buried for so long. Undoubtedly the good whiskey had something to do with it. Matt listened to it all, commenting little. Afterwards he topped off their drinks yet again and said “A good friend of mine is from Pima, I’ve heard him talk of that town often, he runs a saloon over in Tanque Verde” Matt settled back, but looked closely into Tanners face “Maybe you should meet up with him.” “The Tanks not too far out of my way.” Tanner responded and then asked,” Think he might know something?” “He might” Matt stated, ”Seeing as he once told me the same damn story you just told, cep’t he wern’t there his self! Matt slapped his knee and violently shook his head “I knew there was something that didn’ set right bout that story. It was true. That dam yankee sneaks in a true one, now and then.”Matt rumbled on for a moment.
Then he settled down and looked across at Tanner with a sober gaze “Yep, I’m purty sure he just might know something, otherwise that is some strange cohinkydinky” slurred Matt. “Bill Turner will have sumpthing to say on the matter, you betcha.” Matt hiccupped, looked around and stood up, Tanner joined him. The men smiled and shook hands then wandered off to their respective quarters.
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