Western Fiction posted February 4, 2018 Chapters:  ...16 17 -18- 19... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
I The Traveler tries to break a wild horse.

A chapter in the book The West


by Thomas Bowling


Kit Carson's true nature is revealed as he ruthlessly forces the Navaho onto a reservation.

Chapter 18


Next, I came to Texas. If ever a person doubted that Hell existed, he should ride through Texas. I rode for three weeks without seeing a single tree. The closest I saw to a bush was tumbleweed. As far as I could tell, it was some kind of dead bush that blew across the ground and served no purpose. For whatever reason, Texas had a neverending supply of them.

One day, I came across a strange looking plant with a large red flower sprouting from the top. I called a man over. “What kind of plant is that?”

“That's what we call a Bird of Paradise.”

“It sure is a long way from home,” I said. It was the only pretty thing I saw in Texas, and I was there a long time.

I hired on with a group of cowboys who were herding cattle to the train station in Houston. Josie had been with me a long time. I figured it was time to put him out to pasture and start the drive off with a fresh horse.

Jebediah Smith made a living selling horses to cowboys in need of a mount. I went to look at his stock. He had some nice animals, but one, in particular, caught my eye. He stood at least four inches at the shoulder taller than Josie. He was black as coal with a white streak running down his face.

“How much for this one?”

“Save your money,” Jebediah said. “That's Lightning. Nobody can ride that horse.”

“I never saw a horse that can't be ridden.”

“You're lookin' at one now. A lot of cowboys have tried, but he's still here.”

“Lightning's callin' my name. How much?”

“Tell you what. If you're determined to throw your money away, stay on him for twenty seconds and he's yours. If not you owe me eighty dollars.”

I walked over to Josie and took my saddle off him. “Josie, we've covered a lot of miles together. Today, I'm setting you free.”

I carried my saddle over to Lightning and set it on the ground. I slapped him on the belly. He shivered and shook his head. I slapped him again and he ignored me. I took a handful of corn out of my pocket and held it out to him.

“Hi, big fella. We're gonna be friends you and me.” I stroked his head and talked to him real low, wanting him to get used to the sound of my voice. I patted his back a few times and lifted my saddle on him real easy like. I expected him to throw it off a few times, but he didn't seem to notice it.

As I tightened the straps, I kept talking to him. I held the bridle up where he could see it. “It's all right, fella. Nothing to be afraid of. You won't like it at first, but you'll get used to it.”

I slid the bridle on. He took it easy. So far, things were looking good. I looked at Jebediah. He didn't like what he was seeing. “Are you gonna ride him, or make love to him?”

I climbed on Lightning and started waving my hat in the air and raking him with my spurs. To my surprise, he started walking slow and easy. I stopped waving my hat around and leaned back in the saddle.

“Are you sure this is the horse you were talking about?”

“That's the one. You've only been on him for a few seconds. You've got a ways to go.”

Lightning never bucked. He continued to walk at a leisurely pace. Then it happened. As if on cue, just before the twenty seconds were up, Lightning laid down and rolled over. I got out of the way before he crushed me. I stood up and brushed off the dust. I didn't know whether to shoot Lightning or Jebediah but I was plenty mad.

Jebediah laughed and slapped his thigh. “He does that every time. You owe me eighty dollars.”

“Why do you keep a horse that can't be ridden?”

“Lightning earns his keep. About once a month, some fool comes along and thinks he can break him. If you know anyone that wants to give it a try, send him my way.”

Red-faced, I carried my saddle back to Josie. “Sorry, old friend. Looks like we're going on a cattle drive. That was all my money. I can't afford another horse.” I think he knew what I had planned to do. As I slipped the bridle on, he bit me on the hand. The next time somebody tells me he has a horse that can't be ridden, I'll take him at his word.

To be continued . . .

Book of the Month contest entry


The story of Lightning is based on an actual event. When I was a young man, I bet someone one-hundred dollars that I could ride a horse that he said couldn't be ridden. It was a very expensive fifteen seconds.
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