Jelly sat on the stone bench outside the
hacienda whittling on a piece of wood into who knows what. He let the wood talk
to him, letting it take it’s own design. His gnarled old fingers nimbly worked
the knife edge.
He tried to block out the muted sounds
of shouting as he concentrated on his self appointed task. As the shouting grew
louder, his mouth began to twitch and he felt the corners of his mustache rub
his lower lip as he frowned.
In the three weeks since his boys had
been placed in stable homes, this was the second such argument he had witnessed.
This one seemed louder and more intense than the other one.
With resolve to move out of earshot, he heard the door open and slam
shut. The sound of angry spurs ringing across the tile of the
Looking up, he saw the dark haired
Lancer son, striding angrily toward the barn.
Silence ensued with his departure and Jelly relaxed a bit back onto his
bench. ‘Wonder what that was all
about?’ he thought to himself. Before he could return to the solitude of his
quarters, the tall gray haired Lancer came out onto the veranda.
He stood there watching his
angry son’s departing back with a measure of his own anger showing on his
face. Jelly thought, ‘Should I say something?’ Before he could form the
words, the man he had come to know as a firm but fair boss, turned and retreated
into the house.
Getting up from his perch,
Jelly walked slowly toward the barn.
He had expected the angry young man to gallop away on his golden horse as
he had seen him do on that other occasion.
Stepping into the cool darkness of the barn, he stopped for a moment to allow his eyes to adjust. Focusing on the palomino’s stall, he saw the young man leaning his forehead on the horse’s neck. The gelding had his head turned and his cheek pressed up against his young friend’s side in an almost tender embrace.
Jelly wanted to turn to leave-not
intrude on this moment, but was frozen in place, mesmerized by the picture of
trust between a man and his horse. Looking
closer, he could see the young man was breathing hard as if he had run a long
distance and his shoulders were trembling.
While wary of this deadly young man,
Jelly could recognize the sorrow and need in the boy’s posture.
Clearing his throat to allow Johnny time to collect himself, he
said.”Oh there ya are. Saw ya leave the house like a cat with his tail on
Flushing, Johnny looked at the
bewhiskered old man and snapped. “So ya wanna make somethin of it?”
“No, jest checkin to make sure ya
ain’t brushin the hide offa that horse. The
boss put me in charge of keeping them horses in the cream of health and one of
the boys told me afore you got this horse, he was a light chestnut with a flaxen
mane and tail. He said ya brush him
so much ya wore the color right offa him and now he’s kinda pale.”
With that Jelly was rewarded with one of
the most brilliant smiles he had ever seen.
It started slow around the mouth and then worked it’s way up his face
and into his startling sapphire blue eyes.
“Well now Jelly, at your age old timer
you know better than to believe everythin ya hear.”
“Old Timer? Who’s an Old Timer? I
can take a whippersnapper like you any day of the week.” he said gruffly.
Johnny feeling a weight lift off his
heart, patted his best friend on his neck, and walked out of the barn with the
“Ya play checkers, Johnny?”
“I’ve been known to play a game or
two.” Glancing slyly at the older man, Johnny added. “How bout we make it
“Whatta ya got in mind” Jelly asked
“How bout we make a friendly wager. A
dollar says I beat ya at the first game?”
“You’re on!” Jelly said as he led
the way to his quarters, off to start the first of many such games over the
course of their friendship.