Western Fiction posted January 30, 2018 Chapters: 1 -2- 3... 

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Chapter One Continued

A chapter in the book Pecos Valley

Ridin' for the Brand

by Brett Matthew West

A western full of calamity and a wistful but prevailing human spirit.
Cast of Characters:

Wyatt - young cowboy for the Bar JS ranch and narrator of this tale

John Shelton and Verne Alexander - co-owners of the Bar JS ranch

Scarred Choc'late Charlie, Tad Holden, and Gunther McCuen - Bar JS ranch wranglers


Verne took his jug back to the porch. There he placed his chair so that a sliver of shade covered him. Eventually, the shade would extend over the wagon yard, the Bar JS ranch, and Pecos Valley. As evening fell, Verne would soften. As long as he could find labor to occupy his time, Mr. Shelton would work 'til dark. If not, he'd make something up to do.

The shoat dined on the snake he'd caught under one of the wagons in the yard. That made sense to Verne 'cause the creek that runned along the edge of the ranch was dry. In a lengthy argument with Mr. Shelton, Verne often praised the oinker's intelligence.

He'd say, "That pig's smarter than most people."

The remark infuriated Mr. Shelton, and he'd respond with, "Ain't no pig smarter than a good, hardworking, hand or a horse."

This argument between the two of 'em had been escalatin' for a couple years.

As the sun slowly sunk out of the afternoon, Verne drunk his jug as dry as the heat he sought to escape. The rye took the staleness away. It made him feel foggy and cool. The rotgut also presented the ranch hands more tolerable.

To Verne the Bar JS wranglers was a bunch of raw sorts, including our coosie Gunther McCune. Verne thought Gunther could rustle up grub with the best of 'em, but he weren't too good at cutting cards. One of Verne's favorite pastimes. A good poker game, with a day's wages around the campfire, didn't fit Gunther.

Then there was Tad Holder, all five and a half scrawny feet of the widget. Verne thought he were a sawed-off runt. Claimin' he was from parts unknowed, although he could never be pinned down to exactly where they was, Tad'd rode into camp one day and talked his way into Mr. Shelton's good graces. His cattle branding won Mr. Shelton over.

Next came Scarred Choc'late Charlie. He'd been a cotton picking slave in Alabama. That was 'fore he escaped his cruel master and runned away to the North. Mr. Shelton and Verne found him when they were Union officers in the Civil War. When they migrated into the Arizona Territory they brung Charlie with 'em. He could outwork any two men and weren't afeared to ride for the point in a stampede.

Last, there was me. Fifteen years old soon to be goin' on sixteen. Verne thought I was still wet behind the ears and had some more growin' to do. A real greenhorn if ever he seed one.

Many times when he and Mr. Shelton was discussin' matters, I heared Verne ask him, "How do you expect a boy of his tender years to cope with the inconsistencies of his identity?"

Mr. Shelton never responded to Verne's question. I wondered why?

As the sun set in the salmon sky, Verne rose from his perch on the porch. He yawned, stretched, and gave me a nod of approval. In the corral, I slipped the rope off Sidemeat's neck. That was my new name for my horse. Tomorrow, I'd saddle him for the first time. Leaving the corral, I fed him an apple. We was gonna get along fine.

Verne meandered around behind the homestead and kicked on the back door three times. The shoat followed him, probably hoping Verne would drop something for it to eat.

"Better rustle something up in that stewpot of yours, you no account varmint!" he called to Gunther.

The old coosie didn't answer. Verne kicked the door again then returned to his perch on the porch. He seed Mr. Shelton and Charlie walk up from the fields. The Darkie hadn't been much of an injun fighter, but give him a chore to do like blacksmithing, and Choc'late Charlie done a right fair job. If he didn't, Verne knowed Mr. Shelton would have runned him off a long time before. There weren't no room for freeloaders on the Bar JS.

Verne met them beside the wagon on the yard.

"Mite early for you two to be quittin', ain't it?" he asked.

He handed Mr. Shelton the jug he'd nursed all afternoon. Mr. Shelton was middle-sized and two inches shorter than Verne. When you looked him in the eye it didn't seem that way. Everyone knowed he was the boss. Verne was the only living soul in the Arizona Territory who could keep Mr. Shelton under control.

Choc'late Charlie never understood their behavior. Mr. Shelton had a single-tracked mind. He never wasted time appreciating himself. He kept all his minutes for whatever job he decided needed doin' that day.

"I ain't scared to be lazy," Verne ribbed him.

"You may see the light that way. I don't," Mr. Shelton snapped back.

"John, if any man worked as hard around here as you do there'd be no thinkin' done at all," Verne remarked.

"What I'd like is for you to think a roof back on top of that barn," Mr. Shelton challenged him.

A haboob had blowed the roof off the barn two months ago.

If he'd been satisfied with the day's labor, Mr. Shelton would have passed the time conversing with Verne.

After he left, Verne asked Charlie, "I thought you boys was diggin' a well?"

"Hit rock," Charlie replied, "I was swingin' a pick. Tad was shoddin' horses and the dun chomped a hole in Misser Shelton's side."

"Aye God in Heaven, Charlie!" Verne exclaimed, "Don't he knowed not to let a horse bite him?"

(To Be Continued:)


haboob - an intense dust storm
coosie - one who cooks food

This tale is written in Old West jargon, so the words used are not nits or errors.

If the use of these words bothers you then don't review what I have written.

Symmetrical Motion, by Paul G., selected to complement my tale.

So, thanks Paul G., for the use of your picture. It goes so nicely with my tale.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Paul G. at FanArtReview.com

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© Copyright 2018. Brett Matthew West All rights reserved.
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