One Damn Good Reason
A SHORT STORY
The question was asked, here’s my answer:
He knew he shouldn’t be out here. It was too far, he hadn’t meant to come this far. As usual though, the distance between what he meant to happen and what actually happened were as far apart right now, as he was from the hacienda! He settled up on some high ground, and scanned another section of rolling hills and meadows. Where were they?
His curiosity had been peaked weeks ago. Not after he had seen and chosen this particular palomino as his own. No, in actuality it had been the day before. As his ’father’ was telling them about the ranch, when he’d heard the words, ‘finest palominos.’ After claiming this horse the following day, there had been no time to wonder about the others. Then after the battle, he had almost run out of ’wondering’ time, period. So today, feeling like making a run for it, and knowing he wouldn’t be successful anyway, he decided he would placate himself with finding this herd of the ‘finest palominos.’ Just to see for himself.
Riding down the hill, he noticed a rather rugged piece of land over to his right. The hills sloped down and it looked like several deep arroyos ran crisscross. He rode over to check it out for tracks. He rode down into one steep arroyo, then found a worn steep path up the other side. As he crested that, he saw that there was a sort of meadow in there, hemmed in on the backside by another steep arroyo.
Just as Johnny was about to dismount, his mount went on the alert. Head high and ears pitched forward. He breathed in the heavy warm air in great horse gulps, blowing it out as if to announce he cared not for the smell. Side stepping nervously and hitting the ground stiff legged, told Johnny this big boy had bolting on his mind.
Hoping he was going to be strong enough to keep the situation form getting any further out of control, he quietly urged the big horse a few more steps toward the rim. So far he had no indication of what his horse was finding so upsetting, but he would know very soon.
The truth had been hard to face. Worse still, the knowledge that he was going to have to be the one to tell this. He’d sat stone still, how long? It was easier to keep his eyes more on the horizon, and just take small glances at the macabre scene below him. His horse had calmed, his big head hung low. He seemed as shocked by the scene below as his now still and quiet rider.
They had told him cattle and horses had been scattered far and wide over Lancers vast expanse. There had been a random slaughter of livestock. Pardee and his boys had taken target practice on some cattle and a few of the horses too. Johnny was finding it difficult to believe just how far his old nemesis had gone though.
Below him, lay his fathers herd. Dead. Mares, foals, yearlings, young stallions with perhaps useful breeding futures, gone. He didn’t count them, couldn’t. There had to be several hundred. Mostly palominos, a few strays of different darker colors or markings. Johnny knew in his heart, Day had killed them all, they weren’t going to find any survivors. His heart hardened against his old ‘friend’ forever.
Finally, as the shadows grew long around him, he turned his horse away and headed home. He wished now, with all his heart he hadn’t decided to do his search today. Would have preferred it more to let someone else find this grievous scene. Now, he was going to have to return and report to these people, his new found ‘family’, this heartbreaking news.
It was going to be a long ride home.
JANUARY 1, 2008