Frank added two more logs to the fire before returning to his seat. The man took a swig from the flask and leaned the same arm over his knee as he stared out over the flames to the man opposite him. A few feet away Pancho snorted and padded his front hooves against the sandy earth in response to the distant whine of a coyote.
“It all started that at sundown in Amarillo. I was travelin North lookin fer work and that seemed like my best bet. My second day there I set down at the Broken Mug fer a drink and a hand.”
He scratched his cheek and tucked a few stray strands behind his ear.
“Sure enough, the purty lady at my table was cheatin, and was’n bein shy about it neither. The other feller, Josiah sumfin, took offense, or more likely, was itchin to use his piece. I saw where it was goin but it was too late. I jumped out uh the way before I had a table in my lap and the cards and bets went everywhere. Some bloke got down on his knees, looking for spare bits—a miner by the look of it. As Josiah and his gang whipped out their knives, a Reverend, his flock, and a Negro jumped to their feet to try and stop the fight.”
Frank chuckled, “I knew better.”
“Before I had a chance to stop er, the lady sent the cards flying at Josiah and knocked him to the ground. Probably that was my first warning that there was sumfin strange about er. Seeing their leader fall the thugs leapt into action and swiped at me and the others. I began to reach for my whip while the Reverend just prayed when I heard the click of spurs coming down the wooden walkway and knew we were in fer it.
“Right as the Sheriff was gonna place us all under arrest the room went dark in an unnatural way, and I tried to sneak behind the bar and then out the back but the Sheriff was’n fooled. It was’n long before we were walking down to the jail, but I whistled to Pancho here and he knew well nough to follow.”
He downed another swig of whiskey and sighed.
“One whole night we spent locked up together, the most of em too nosy fer their own good. Introductions and whatsuch. Did’n need any uh that. The lady was still with us so I thought I’d try and let her know that she was’n gonna be getting us locked up again—ya hear?—and then tried to catch some shuteye since there was nothin else to do.
“In the morning the Clerk came in and let us know we were free, but warned us against crossing Josiah’s family again.”
The wood snapped just then, firey specks drifting up into the night sky.
“I knew then that that probably was’n gonna be the last time we heard from him,” and the old cowboy shook his head.