Lady Luck Strikes Again
Not mine; CBS and FOX abandoned them, and we’ve given them a voice and a home. That’s about as much of an apology as they’re going to get. Wish I could add an appropriate sound bite.
Johnny muse; wish he’d quit crawling around in my head, got another place he could be, and it rhymes. Some cussing; sexual innuendo.
Lady Luck Strikes Again
I’m walkin’; leadin’ Barranca. Not ‘cause I want to, but because today has been for shit. Them cows ol’ Murdoch is so fuckin’ in love with are not only the ugliest animals God ever created, they’re the dumbest and the most contrary!
“What you’re going to do, son, is deliver this cow to Father Sebastian at the mission in Green River. It’s not as if I’m asking you to ride over to the next county.”
Askin’, Hell. Last time the old man asked me anything was when he was pointin’ at the clock in the Great Room wantin’ to know what time it was, and if my watch was workin’. That was Saturday night -- well, Sunday mornin’ -- when he caught me comin’ in. Not my fault he decided to wait up. Told him that. Told him the watch was workin’ just fine, too; right after I told him it was 3:30.
Which is why I’m stuck deliverin’ this fuckin’ cow.
She’s draggin’ ass behind me; her an’ that bull calf of hers. Not that I didn’t tie him off before I left Lancer. The little sucker don’t seem to know he’s ‘sposed to be weaned. So here I am, headin’ back to the ranch; takin’ the fuckin’ calf home.
Hey, that’s kinda funny. Little sucker. Persistent little sucker fucker. Caught him just last week rollin’ under the fence to get to the free milk. Head butted Jelly once, and busted through the gate to get to his mama, too…
Barranca’s limpin’. Seems that Mama cow didn’t take kindly to me ropin’ her baby and pullin’ him up short. She charges right in, ducks under the rope and brings her head up hard, right beneath Barranca’ chin. And then for good measure, she starts buttin’ him until he backs up into a stand of yucca. Leaves poke him in the ass end, and the next thing I know I’m sailin’ ass-end over elbow and landin’ flat on my back; bouncin’ twice and seein’ stars.
And the fuckin’ cow? She walks over, gives me quick look, and then, usin’ her tongue -- the same tongue she uses to clean the snot and boogers out of her nose -- plants a big wet one right across my mouth.
I’d a shot her, if the Old Man hadn’t confiscated my pistol this mornin’ when I took that potshot at Dewdrop. Hell, it’s not like I was goin’ to kill the damned goose; just crease its fuckin’ ass so it would quit shittin’ on the doorstep. No pleasant thing, ya know, walkin’ about in my stockinged feet only to step into a pile of fresh goose crap; then havin’ to listen to T’resa and Maria chewin’ me out like it was my fault my white socks ain’t so white anymore.
Jeez, it’s hot. From the way my belly’s growlin’, it’s gotta be close to noon. I could take out my watch and check; but that ain’t happen’. It fell outta my pocket when Barranca dumped me, and when I hollered at him, he stomped his right forefoot down; just as I was scoopin’ up the watch. Missed my fingers by that much; but managed to hit that old ticker dead center.
Wouldn’t pick up his foot, either, ‘til I whispered in his ear. I whispered, all right; told him I was gonna cut off his fuckin’ cajones. He moved right quick then. Hope Scott can fix the watch this time. Kinda means somthin’ to me, comin’ from the Old Man and all. Not that I’d tell him that.
Man. We’re through the arch. Old cow’s pickin’ up her pace behind me like she thinks she’s goin’ home, and Barranca is perkin’ up some, too. Fuckin’ calf’s keepin’ up with his mama, and I can hear from the noise he’s makin’, he’s tryin’ hard to grab a hold of a tit. If she pulls up to let him suckle…
I look up. Scott’s standin’ by the gate to the corral, arms folded across his chest, lookin’ like he’s just stepped out of the bath house. Lookin’ pretty damned cool, too, and he’s smilin’. No, he’s grinnin’; like he’s lookin’ at something funny. I’ll wipe that fuckin’ grin off his face, and I won’t even have to punch him. “Scotty,” I greet.
The frown is immediate. Ol’ Harlan calls him Scotty, and he hates it. Hates it even more when I call him that.
“You were supposed to be delivering that cow, John. What happened?”
I ain’t so crazy about it when Scott calls me John. Sounds just like the Old Man when he does it. Just as I’m about to tell him to fuck off, Murdoch comes out of the barn.
Shit!! Two Johns, and I ain’t even opened my mouth yet! I reach up, pullin’ my hat down hard, before my head explodes and it goes sailin’ off into the nearest pile of manure.
The Old Man cants his head a bit, seein’ something in my face that makes him smile; just a little. Don’t mind that smile. Been seein’ it more lately, and like it a hell of lot more than his old stone face.
“What’s happened, son?”
I feel his hand on my shoulder, and take a deep breath, and just let ‘er buck. “We was doin’ just fine, Murdoch. Me and Barranca was leadin’ that old bit… cow…down the road easy as pie, makin’ good time.” I turn to glare at the calf, who’s already hard at work suckin’ his mama dry. “Next thing I know, I hear that little fu…. son-of-a-bitch …. bellerin’ like a grizzly’s chewin’ on his ass. Didn’t see no halter on ‘im,” -- where the hell did that halter go? -- “and his mama stops dead in her tracks.” I point to my leg, to the place where the rope burned my calzoneras; it’s still smartin’, “Damned near burned a hole in my britches!
“Anyway,” I continue, “decided I didn’t have no choice to but to rope the little bastard…”
“Sounds like a plan, little brother.” Scott’s not even tryin’ to hide the smile.
“…BUT TO ROPE THE LITTLE BASTARD,” I continue. I throw up my hands in disgust. “And then she…” I jab a finger at the cow “…goes all loco on me. Dropped that noose over that calf’s neck clean as a whistle, and before I can take up the slack, the fuckin’ cow charges Barranca; he backs into a stand of yucca, and I end up ass over elbow in dirt.” I take a deep breath. “An’ Barranca stepped on my watch!” I take out the timepiece, and hold it up for all to see.
Murdoch reaches out, takin’ the watch. I can see it again, the little smile that starts with his lower lip tremblin’ a bit, workin’ its way to the corners of his mouth; the smile that makes me want ta call him pa sometimes. And then I remember it’s his fault I’m in this mess in the first place.
He hands the watch off to Scott. “It appears, son,” he says, lookin’ right at me, “that Lady Luck has forgotten to smile on you today.”
I feel my mouth drop open. “Lady Luck!? Lady Luck’s been pissin’ on me every fuckin’ day of my life, Old Man! Only thing different about today is she decided to take a shit!!” I look at him hard, and lean forward, makin’ sure he hears what I’m sayin’. “Lady Luck ain’t the one that told me I had to deliver that fuckin’ cow, you know.”
Scott actually has the balls to laugh; me puttin’ the blame on Murdoch. He tries to stop it by coverin’ his mouth with his hand, but it’s too late. The old man shoots him a look. The look. And then he turns it on me. “Yes,” he growls, “I am the one who said you are going to deliver that cow; and deliver it you shall.” He shades his eyes with his hand and looks up at the sun. “Today.”
I can’t believe what I’m hearin’. My horse is lame, my ass hurts, and I ain’t had lunch… “Jelly can do it!” I’d suggest Scott, but I want him to fix the watch.
“Jelly is not the one who forgot to come home at a decent hour Saturday night, John.”
Jeez, I hate it when he gets all quiet; almost whisperin’ the words. I try again, turning to look at Barranca; givin’ him a pat. “But Barranca’s lame,” I argue; hopin’ for some sympathy.
This time, it’s Scott who speaks up. “Johnny, I watched you as you were coming in; and wondered why you weren’t riding. The only time Barranca limped was when you’d turn back to look at him.”
Now I am pissed. “What?”
Murdoch is nodding. “It’s true, Johnny.” He moves over to Barranca’s side and checks him out; all four legs.
Them four legs are workin’ fine. I know for sure when Barranca tries to cow-kick Murdoch and gets his nose popped for the effort. I grab his bridle and give him an eye-to-eye, lettin’ my eyes go all narrow. He blows out a big breath, his lips flutterin’; spit flyin’. Twistin’ his top knot, I pull his head down and whisper in his ear. “This is Madrid talkin’, compadre. I’m goin’ shoot you in the knees, and then I’m gonna cut off your balls. ¿Comprende?” He bobs his head, lettin’ me know he does understand.
Scott reaches out as I start to remount. “You need to tie off that calf, Johnny.”
“Your fuckin’ arm broke?” I shoot back. Murdoch pops me on the behind before I get my leg tossed across the saddle. Guess he’s gettin’ tired of the cussin’. Doesn’t help that T’resa is comin’ across the yard.
“It’s your job, brother,” Scott replies. “Maybe this time Lady Luck will smile on you.”
That’s it. I’m done. I’m off Barranca faster’n a scorpion off a hot rock. I grab the dallyin’ rope on my way down. Don’t take me but a minute to put that fuckin’ calf on the ground and get him hog-tied. I stand up quick, put my arms out like I’m bein’ timed. “Good enough?”
The calf starts to bawl.
We never did give that cow a name before. Jelly’s just comin’ out of the barn when she starts kickin’ up her heels. He calls her a sorry-ass critter; Murdoch says something in Spanish I don’t quite catch; T’resa screams Boss; and Scott, my Boston-bred big brother, calls her…
…Fucking Whore Bitch!!
Right after she head butts him in the family jewels.
“So, brother? Need some help getting’ up?” I put out my right hand. It’s not like Scott’s goin’ be takin’ a punch at me anytime soon. Or anybody else, for that matter.
He’s grittin’ his teeth when he finally stands up. Except he ain’t exactly standin’ up. More like he’s bent over, kinda like that character in the book he was readin’ me when I was sick; Quasimodo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
“Help me into the house,” he whispers.
Must hurt to talk.
With me on one side, and Murdoch on the other, we take it slow. Jelly’s right behind us, luggin’ a bucket and headin’ for the ice house. We get to the waterin’ trough, and Scott needs to rest. I wait, lookin’ down at the dirt; playin’ with the grass with the toe of my boot.
And then I see it. I bend over. A perfect four-leafed clover. I pick it up and stick it in my head band. Screw Lady Luck. Everybody knows a four leafed clover is better.
I leave once I know Scott’s all settled; wonderin’ just how long it’ll take before T’resa barges in to see how he’s doin’ and finds him spread out in all his glory. Somehow, my day doesn’t seem so bad after all.
Frank’s waitin’ at the corral when I collect the cow. She’s settled down some now, her belly full of alfalfa, and the calf penned up inside the barn where she can’t see ‘im. Barranca ain’t actin’ so smart either.
“Hear you had a bad day, Johnny,” Frank grins.
I mount up, takin’ the lead rope and pulling the line up taut. “Yeah, Frank, but it’s gettin’ better.” I take off my hat; wipe off the sweatband by rotatin’ it around my elbow. “Found me a four-leafed clover,” I smile, showin’ him. I make sure it’s sittin’ tight in the headband. I also found a twenty dollar gold piece that fell out of Scott’s pocket when we pulled off his pants and put him to bed. “All I got to do now is get ol’ Lucky to the mission…” Good name for a cow, Lucky.
Barranca moves out, and I nudge him into a trot; the cow dancin’ along behind. I do this right; I can get Lucky delivered, and still make it to the Silver Dollar in time for supper and some dessert.
Too bad about the watch. I’ll never know what time it is; or when I hafta head home.