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A Tale from the Wild West Part 6 A Wild Ride
A Tale from the Wild West Part 6
Tanner was holding on for his life and loving every second of it. He was totally focused on staying atop the Mare and pressing her to her upmost speed. The man and beast slid into the cool Arizona desert night. There was enough light that Tanner could make out general directions and the outlines of the trail, but that was all. He was totally dependent on the horse to see and adjust for the terrain. He rode as he had never ridden before, day or night. “My God” he bellowed into the night air “So this is what it’s like.”
The Mare ran hard. She ran as she had never run before, mounted or not. Every muscle, every sinew of her being were focused on propelling her self forward. She was made for this and she reveled in the experience. Her heart beat strong, not wildly. Her lungs filled deeply with life. Her hooves pounded the desert floor, yet hardly touched.
Tanner knew this was stupid. Plum loco more like it. This close to town, no telling who he might run across. One misstep and him and the Mare would be in a world of hurt. If he lost this horse he would be hard-pressed to find another half as good.
“She needs this, towns ain’t for the likes of her,” He thought. “Or me neither” he considered further.
The night sky in the desert is often clear, but tonight seemed exceptionally so, Tanner thought. Able to look from horizon to horizon he could imagine, that just for a moment, he was riding into the stars.
Tanner’s usually quiet conscience spoke up, maybe it was the Tequila.
“what about the Mare’s eye?
“The eye is ok, obviously, otherwise we would not be having this conversation” Tanner taunted at his conscience. “There will definitely be a scar though.”
“what about your shoulder, that is, what’s left of it?
“It’s there, oh I feel it alright, but it is not a consideration.”
“just wait till tomorrow” Tanner’s conscience berated “what about the mares hooves, she gave all she could on those livery walls?”
“She’s just getting used to those new shoes I gave her over at Matts, just breaking them in, they looked fine”
“speaking of which, the Mare ain’t hardly broke in herself. Those hooves ain’t really used to dragging a man about neither.
Tanner’s thighs were soaked from the Mare’s sweat. The heat rising from her was like a living thing. Tanner gave a last look at the sky and began, ever so slowly, to ease the Mare back, letting her run down easy.
Tanner’s conscience was not done with him.
“what about that boy you beat?”
The Mare was trotting . Sweat was running in rivulets down her neck.
“The boy done wrong and paid his price” Tanner thought
The Mare was just walking now and Tanner patted her neck making a slapping sound.
“how does any of this help Jose Guerena?” his conscience got in the final shot.
Tanner pulled the Mare to a stop, sat up in his saddle and said “How?” aloud “How, indeed.” He dismounted and went to look into the Mares face. Her eyes were alert but settled. The skittish look he had seen at the cantina was gone. He looked over the ground and found a short stick, fairly smooth and used it and his hands to wick some of the sweat from the Mare’s coat. Her roan hide shimmered in the starlight.
Tanner pulled his sidearm, checked it carefully in the light provided and set it lightly back in its holster. He spotted rock formations that for some reason looked interesting to him set back a ways off the main trail. He stayed on foot and led the Mare to this Spot.
He was not the first. A large, flat, almost round boulder dominated the area. White gold in its blazing appearance, it seemed to give off its own light and heat. Tanner could make out the logical place for a fire and sure enough rocks were still in place and someone had even left a bit of kindling. Tanner quickly set to gathering firewood and soon had a good fire going. He brought the Mare close in and commenced to stripping and rubbing her down. The Mare shivered once or twice in the desert air. Tanner decided some coffee might do him good and set about that set up. He changed his pants then broke out his bottle, supposedly good whiskey according to the bartender . Now some men do not like their coffee with a bite to it, but Tanner had acquired a taste for it. Sipping his beverage, he set to work on grooming his horse. Meticuously. All four hooves were carefully inspected in the firelight, he reapplied salve over the stitches he had used to close her wound and even looked into her mouth but the Mare had had enough of this by now and pulled away. Tanner agreed. He rolled a couple of smokes, grabbed his bottle and went on up to what he thought of as the dome rock.
Vertical boulders surrounded the dome rock as if guarding it. The view from here was even better than Tanner had hoped. He could see clear across the desert and parts of the main trail even at night. He settled back on the massive stone and felt the heat still emanating from the suns earlier passage. Tanner drank and smoked, tried to relax but his conscience would not let him be.
“sure, the Boy did wrong, cutting the Mare, but did he deserve what he got? Folks in that town might have a problem with what you did.
Tanner got up and paced around the rock.
“I’ll see the Boy’s parents” he thought “I’ll make it square”
Tanner drank and stared into the prairie distance.
He thought “I have to go back, I told Matt I would meet him there. This thing has to be done proper. If I say I’m gonna do something I gotta do it. Whats that word? int, integreedy something like that. Whatever it is, I’ve gotta show it”
Tanner pulled another long swallow from the bottle.
“what is this thing? What is the goal here?” his conscience prodded.
Tanner was still a long time.
“My goal is to find a goal” he resolved. Then he drank deeply. His conscience was merciless.
“how do you find a goal?”
“how will you support us?”
“how does any of this help a dead man?”
“how, How, HOW” Tanner screamed into the night. He drained the bottle and hurled it at a vertical boulder close by. The bottle shattered into myriad fragments. Some of the pieces flew off into the sky and reflected starlight. For the briefest of moments it appeared to Tanner that the glass fragments had joined the sky.
Suddenly coyotes far to the North began their yipping. This is what Tanner’s father had called a mad moment. Sometimes for no apparent reason, coyote packs would yip like crazy, might not do it for days or might do four or five times a night. Sometimes other packs would join in.
Tanner was still considering the glass shards becoming one with the sky “Beautiful”, he thought.
A second pack to the South joined into the mad moment “Interesting” Tanner considered.
When a third, much closer pack to the East joined into the din, Tanner said “Whoa!” aloud.
Tanner was sure he heard coyotes right by him then, he pulled his gun. He scanned the rocks around him, he looked over the ground. The whole desert sounded covered with coyotes and he saw nothing. He scrambled down the dome rock and went to the Mare. No critters tormented her but her ears were back and her eyes were wide, she snorted when Tanner approached. As suddenly as the mad moment began it ended.
“Now what in the world was that about” he wondered as he built up the fire. He decided not to bother with his bed roll, pulled out his winter coat and wedged himself where he could see his horse, the fire and the most direct path to the main trail. He had a last smoke and considered the last few days. “I guess I should jes get used to this stuff “ he thought to himself and settled down to a deep sleep. His last conscious thought was of the bottleglass turning into stars.