Loyal To a Fault
(A response to a ‘word challenge’ on the Yahoo Group: RobertFullerfandom.)
( This story is offered for what it is…fanfiction, ‘Laramie’ and it’s characters don’t belong to me, and any similarities between this and any other author’s story - though not necessarily pertaining to the same word challenge - is purely unintentional and therefore honestly coincidental – hey, sometimes creative minds just work on the same thread. ‘Nuf said. Hope you enjoy this little story.)
Well, I’m sure in a fix this time, layin’ here in ‘Nowhere’ Kansas, my leg busted and hurtin’ like blue blazes after bein’ throwed from Traveler three days ago. My head’s swimin’, and my stomach’s gone all queezy-like, givin’ me the dry heaves dang near every time I take a swig of water from my canteen. I gotta admit, the prospects of gettin’ myself anywhere this side of ‘civilized’ don’t look too good. There’s nothin’ but buzzards circlin’ overhead to give a sign to anyone in this God-forsaken place that I’m here and needin’ help…if I last long enough for anyone to find me, that is.
started goin’ south after Abilene, where I’d collected my pay at the end of a cattle
drive I’d come across and got hired on with. The boss was a bit wary on account
of the way my side iron was worn low, but he was in need of another good hand
since loosin’ a couple halfway up the trail. And me, well I was headed for Abilene
anyway, plannin’ on headin’ for Colorado and points in between afterwards, but
in sore need of some money and grub. It was a good outfit, and apparently the
boss didn’t regret hirin’ me – included a bonus in my pay at trail’s end, and
even extended his apologies that he couldn’t offer me a permanent job. I
thanked him anyway, but had plans of my own. ‘Sides, despite the fact that as much
as I don’t mind drovin’, I had to admit that I’d had my fill of eatin’ so much dust
for a while. We had a few drinks, I wished him a safe journey home and he shook
my hand, sayin’ that if I ever got down
I was in Abilene. After Traveler n’ I’d had a few days to rest up some, we
But I’m getting’ ahead of myself here…
I was about a day outta’ Dodge when of a sudden, I heard the unmistakable sound of a diamondback side-winder. He was all-fired upset and I gotta say, that snake nearly got a’hold of Traveler. Hearin’ that rattler sent him lurchin’ six ways from Sunday to get outta the way of them fangs. Next thing I know, I’m sailin’ off into the wild blue and then slamin’ down onto the hard ground. My left leg took the brunt of the fall and broke half way down from my knee, sendin’ the acid taste of bile gurglin’ up into my throat. Hell, I don’t think the smell of carbolic would’a been worse! In all the time since then, my one and only friend, Traveler, has stayed right beside me, standin’ over me like a mare protectin’ a foal. I swear, I never seen the like of it, but am mighty grateful. I guess he’s showing that female-side of his parentage - but far be it from me to utter such words to ‘im. Gelding or not, I couldn’t bring myself to insult ‘im that way. No sir, not for all the money in the world. He’s too good a horse for that.
Somehow, though I can’t rightly recall how long it took, I got Traveler to lie down and then slid onto ‘im, hangin’ on for all I’m worth. The motion of him risin’ to his feet made my leg feel like it was gonna shatter apart. I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t scream; it hurt so bad I was seeing lights behind my eyes and what I’d eaten that day didn’t stay down. But I was driven by the fact that I had to try to make it somewhere, a town or a farm, so we set off in a westerly direction. Trouble was, I couldn’t stay in the saddle for more’n a few miles before I found myself on the ground again, and Traveler, well, he’s stood close by ever since. I reckon if I die out here, he’s likely to stand beside me ‘till he drops his own self. Dang, hard-headed fool. Guess he’s a lot like me, and you can take that anyway you’re inclined.
I know it’s not likely someone’ll come along, this prairie is pretty barren of people, but I sure hope ‘the Man Upstairs’ ain’t got my time set down in that book of his just yet. I ain’t finished, not by a long shot. Still, my chances of bein’ able to climb back in the saddle an’ keep goin’ are so damn thin, I’d have better luck eatin’ the spines off a horned toad. Traveler must be readin’ my mind, cuz he’s bent his head down and is blowin’ in my face to see that I’m still alive, almost like he’s trying to get me up and goin’ for a few more miles yet. I grab hold of his headstall, get a handful of mane, too, but it’s no use. I’m about give out altogether, and Traveler, though he's a mustang, hardier than most and able to forage on nearly nothin’, he’s not had any water other what I could share from my canteen. He sure is a good horse. I’m mighty lucky to have ‘im. I hope he reckons I’ve done right by ‘im, considerin’ all the miles an’ hardships we’ve endured together. Before I’d managed to climb back on ‘im after takin’ that fall, I’d noticed that he’d stomped that snake’s head clean to a pulp. Lookin’ Traveler in the eye, I’d mustered up a grin an’ said, “I guess you’re downright angry about this whole predicament, too, an’ just had to take it out on somethin’…might as well be that snake.”
I sure hope someone finds us soon, cuz things are goin’ all blurry again pretty dadgum quick…
There’s somethin’ shakin’ me an’ a voice that sounds far off, tryin’ to get me to stir. I hear Traveler whickerin’ and shufflin’, keeping me in the shade of his underbelly. Openin’ my eyes, I can make out a face, though it’s swimmin’ in my vision before settlin’ down some.
“Mister,” the voice says, “hey, mister? You’re gonna be alright. Just you hang on.”
I raise my head, though it ain’t much, an’ through the fog of fever that’s taken hold of me, I can see that Traveler is actin’ a might suspicious, startin’ to stomp an’ shake his head, like there’s somethin’ not right with this man. I ask if he’s the Angle of Death, come for me; for a second, he gets an odd-like expression, like he’s ponderin’ that aspect, then suddenly smiles real wide an’ jokes that maybe he is! I tell ‘im to go to straight to Hell, then collapse back onto the ground, too spent to do or say more.
“C’mon boy,” the stranger urges, not unkindly. “You get some water into you and we’ll get you mounted up and ride to Dodge. They got a real good doctor there.”
I try to tell ‘im I’d just come from Dodge a few days ago, couldn’t go back! But he’s actin’ like he ain’t hearin’ me too good. That, or maybe I ain’t makin’ much sense -- which is entirely likely, the shape I’m in.
Traveler is nudgin’ at me with his nose an’ I lift one tremblin’ hand to stroke his face. He sure is one good horse. Then a canteen is bein’ placed to my mouth, an’ though I ask the man to give my horse some water first, he says he’ll ‘get to it directly’. Traveler’s stayed beside me all this time, his patience an’ devotion a thing to make me beholdin’ to ‘im forever. “Please, mister…” My voice is so raspy I can hardly tell it’s my own. “My horse…needs some water.”
But the man seems bent on seein’ to my needs first. Well, that’s got me pretty all fired up for sure. From somewhere deep inside, I find just enough strength to draw my fourty-five. “I said…take care of my horse first!”
That stranger’s mouth drops wide open, then his face gets sort’a pinched up, like he’s just smelled a pole cat or somethin’. Starin’ at me, he blurts out in a real huff, “You sure set some mighty big store by that animal, son! He must be loyal to a fault.”
“Mister, you don’t know the half of it.”
* * *
Author’s acknowledgments and notes:
First and foremost, I’d like to give a huge thank you to my friend of many years and beta reader/editor, ‘Druidwolf’, for catching mistakes and making suggestions that I wouldn’t have thought of -- and some that I did, but wasn’t sure about going forward with. ‘Pard, as always, you’re the best!
Next, I have to give credit to Badgergater for her story, ‘A Fresh Start’ - it’s one of my favorites and I love that she made Traveler a mustang. I hope she doesn’t my using that as well, and with no disrespect to any other breed of horse (they’re all beautiful and great), I can’t think of a better one for Jess Harper. These horses are tough, hardy, have incredible endurance and can withstand hardships some others would find difficult to survive. Kind of like Jess! ‘Nuf said.
incident in this little story is obviously based on the season one
As to the way in which Traveler stands protectively over Jess, I’ve incorporated a bit of an experience I had of my own. My first horse, Chaquita, an eighteen year old Quarter Horse mare that I bought in an estate sale, protected me in such a manner. I did something stupid while we were out riding and took a fall, and if I’d been smart enough to listen to Chaquita, I’d have known better. After the fall, she stood over, as though to keep me safe. I had injured some nerves in my left hip and passed out not once, but twice. But when I came to, I saw Chaquita looking down at me, even though there were loose horses about us. She patiently stood by as I held onto her to get up (it took a couple of tries) and after I’d blacked out a second time, she was still right beside me, looking at me as if to say, ‘Yeah, greenhorn, you did a real dumb thing, but it’s okay, I’ll take care of you’. When we got back to the barn, I couldn’t thank her enough, and I’ll admit to bawling like a baby at that moment and then some.
was a great first horse for a beginning rider. I learned a lot from her. Maybe
her standing over me the way she did was simply instinct, but I believe it was
more. When I got her, she was extremely thin, so much so, that I could grip her
backbone. It took five months to get her back up to weight and in top health
and she always took good care of me on out on the trail. Maybe that was her way
of thanking me for taking good care of her when she was in such dire straights.
So it is that, when another
you have been entertained by this little story; it is my first