“Whew!” Dick sighed in relief, as he stood there shaking with his back against the wall. He’d just staggered in the door, and looked like death warmed over.
“I never been so glad to see the inside o’ this shack in my life. I thought I was a goner.”
Billy was just finishing his supper ... a six pack of El Belcho.
“What in the dickens is the matter with you?” he asked his old partner as he winged the empty longneck into the old oil drum in the corner. Dick was still white as a ghost, and shakin’ like a leaf.
“I heard about guys that have bad days,” Dick slowly began, “but I ain’t never had one like this before.”
Here’s the sad and sorry tale that unwound as he recounted his miserable day:
“ ’Member when I left here for town this mornin’ you tol’ me one of the tires on the pickup wasn’t too good? Well fer once you knew what you was talkin’ about. The durn thing blowed out jus’ about the time I was gettin’ down t’ the valley.”
Dick was shaking his head as he thought the whole thing over. “You got any more o’ that El Belcho left?”
“I didn’t think you liked it,” Billy mused as he admired the picture of the señorita on the label.
“Wul I do now,” Dick coughed as he downed half the bottle Billy handed him in one gulp.
“Thank Goodness the spare wasn’t flat,” Dick continued, with his voice quivering nearly as badly as his hands. “But then the dad-blamed jack wouldn’t work. There musta been 10 pounds o’ mud an’ gunk in them little pins on the side of it.”
“It ain’t rained since last year,” Billy interjected. “You sure we ain’t used that since then?”
“I dunno. All I know is it took me an hour an’ a half jus’ t’ change that dang tire ... ’an then I hadn’t gone a half a mile down the road ’til the cab filled up with steam. I’d busted a doggone radiator hose. How come all the good stuff has t’ happen t’ me?
“The only lucky part o’ this whole deal was I was only a quarter of a mile ’r so from a mud hole in the bary-pit. Good thing I was in the valley. Dang shore ain’t no mud holes around here. I really thought things was startin’ t’ go my way, ’cause I found that roll o’ duck tape under the seat that you was fixin’ yer saddle with the other day, an’ I got that hose all taped up.
“But then I couldn’t find anything t’ haul the water in, an’ I had t’ use my hat. That doggone thing’s got a hole in the top where that sharp shod ol’ nag I was ridin’ last winter stomped a hole in it, so I hadda walk a quarter of a mile between the mud hole and the busted pickup with my finger in the hole so all the water wouldn’t leak out.
“You ever try t’ hit the itty-bitty fillin’ hole in the top of a radiator by pourin’ water out of yer hat with one of yer fingers stuck in the leaky spot?”
“Don’t think I never did,” Billy said shaking his head. “Did ja get ’er filled up again?”
“Yea, finally,” Dick continued his lament. “But it took me 10 ’r 12 trips t’ that dang mud hole. I coulda walked to town easier than that. An’ then when I finally got ’er goin’ again, an’ the duck tape wasn’t even leakin’ too bad, I didn’t make ’er only a mile ’r two more, and the danged old pickup quits altogether. It jus’ plain died.
“I was standin’ there lookin’ at that reperbate old outfit tryin’ to figger out what was the matter with it this time when this salesman guy comes down the road an’ stopped. He was drivin’ one o’ them little ferign cars with some kind o’ writin’ on the doors. It was plain as day he was sellin’ somethin’.
“Well, just about the time he stopped, I saw what the trouble was. The battery cable was busted clean in half. All that fuzzy stuff that grows on them batteries finally ate all the way through that big fat wire, and there I was.
“That salesman offered to give me a ride someplace, so I crawled in that little ferign car o’ his, an’ we headed down the road. It was only a mile ’r so more down to ol’ Dave’s outfit. I figgered he could maybe dig around in his junk pile an’ get me goin’. ”
“You mean the ol’ Dave that has that sign on his gate that says, Here Lives the Orneriest SOB in the Valley?” Billy questioned in disbelief.
“Yea, I think that’s the one,” Dick continued. “... but ol’ Dave is OK. Me ’n him always got along OK. An’ I think he musta took that sign down cause I shore didn’t see it anyplace ... but there’s where things got real excitin’.
“Ol’ Dave ain’t as young as he used to be, and his eyes is gettin’ bad. My hat was full o’ mud so I left it back in the pickup, and all ol’ Dave could see was this guy he didn’t know come climbin’ out of a salesman car. He never seen me without my hat before.
“That’s when I saw that other sign.”
“Another sign?” Billy asked. “What other sign?”
“Right there nailed on the barn. It said, Due To The Rising Cost of Ammunition, We Will No Longer Be Offering Any Warning Shots. Thank You For Your Co-operation And Understanding.
“At least that’s what I think it said. I barely got done readin’ it when the shootin’ started. I dunno where that ol’ buzzard was hidin’, cause I never did see ’im, but the bullets was flyin’ all over the place.
“If I’d only had my hat he’d a recognized me. The way it was he jus’ thought I was part o’ that salesman deal. I barely made it back t’ that little ferign car, ’cause that bald headed salesman was headed out o’ that yard like his rear end wuz on fire. I jus’ barely got one foot in the door, an’ wuz hangin’ on for dear life as he smoked that little outfit right out o’ Ol’ Dave’s yard.”
Billy passed another bottle of El Belcho to his pardner, not even bothering to give him a hard time about it not being his favorite brand. It was pretty easy to see Dick had just about been through enough that day.
“That salesman made me jump out o’ his outfit on the run ... wouldn’t even stop. If he ever comes back in this country atoll it’ll surprise me. Last time I seen him he musta been doin’ 75 miles an hour with the rocks flyin’ over the fence posts on both sides o’ the road.
“I cut off a chunk o’ bob wire an’ got that battery hooked up again, an’ jus’ turned her around an’ headed ’er right back fer home. That wuz all the fun I could stand fer one day.”
The two old boys just sat there quietly for a few minutes, nursing a little more liquid supper as they both relived Dick’s eventful day.
“A feller jush can’t believe all the signs ya read, can ya?” Billy finally broke the long silence.
“Whada ya mean?” Dick asked incredulously.
“That sign was all haywire. Them sure look like warnin’ shots t’ me. He never hit ya, did he?”
“Dad blame it Billy, I tol’ you ... that ol’ buzzard is blind as a bat. That’s the only thing that saved me. An’ there’s four holes in the trunk o’ that ferign car t’ prove it.”
Billy just grinned as Dick finished his story.
“Let me tell you somethin’, son ... there’s one thing you can take t’ the bank.
“If them was warnin’ shots, they dang shore wasn’t warnin’ shots on purpose.”
Keep Smilin’ ... but don’t forget to check yer cinch.
Ken Overcast is a recording cowboy singer that ranches on Lodge Creek in north central Montana where he raises and dispenses B.S.
© 2013 Ken Overcast