What Happened to Johnny?
The answer to the Parallel Thoughts drabble
Scott jogged his horse forward toward the last of the cattle he was trailing. Riding drag was one of the lesser joys of ranching. He watched as Johnny effortlessly swooped around a strand of trees, heading off several wayward head and sending them back to the main herd. Scott wondered how he knew they were even going to do that. When would he be able to do that, just look at a cow and know what its next move was going to be?
‘Well,’ he thought, ‘at least we’re home tonight.’ Eight days bringing cattle from the upper pastures down into the valley and riding drag all the way, was enough for him. The only thing on his mind right now, was keeping the herd in front of him, and the long hot bath and clean clothes just a few more hours in his future.
He wondered briefly where his brother had disappeared to. Just then Johnny appeared from the tree line. He was no longer on Barranca, but on one of the young horses he had been schooling on cattle the last few days. Scott was getting a little anxious watching them work. This particular youngster was still unusually spooky and seemed to have quite a hot head on him too, not the best combination. ’Why does he do these things.’ Scott wondered, ’The end of a long hot eight days, a few hours from home and he just has to get one more ride in on that hard headed little cow pony! You’d think he’d just leave well enough alone.’
Two cows to his left diverted his attention, they had turned and were quickly moving even further left of the herd. As he dropped back his thoughts became engaged on the task at hand. ‘Keep them ahead of you, but don’t get between them and the herd. Don’t move to quickly, look like you’re really not heading at them, circle just like this, then when you’re still behind them, ah, yet actually in front, turn them back to where they were supposed to be. Perfect, got ya!’
Scott sat back with a self satisfied little smirk. He looked around to see if Johnny had seen how well he’d done that time. He noticed Ramon and Manolito, one on each side of the herd. They were gesturing wildly at each other. Several other vaqueros seemed to be moving in to split the cattle. They were all moving very quickly now and Scott was becoming concerned. What was going on? They seemed not to care that the cattle were getting scattered. Where was his brother?!
Scott stayed where he was. Standing in his stirrups, he tried to make out what was happening. The dust hung heavy in the air as the cattle milled around, and the vaqueros kept trying to keep them away from something Scott could not see.
Suddenly the hot headed little cow pony Johnny had been on appeared in the middle of the swirling dust cloud, and with its saddle hanging on its side took off running and bucking out of the melee. ’Oh, shit!’ Scott took off, circling the right hand side of the herd all the while searching through the cattle, dust and horses for his brother.
Ramon galloped up beside him. “Senor Scott!”
“Do you see him Ramon?”
“Si, Manolito has him, they are going out the other side, by the trees!”
Scott looked wildly both directions, he needed the quickest way over to them!
“Senor, follow me! I will show you! Come!”
Two men on horseback were leaned over using both hands to hold Johnny up between them. Other hands were leading the rescuers horses. They moved away from the herd, up the hillside to a shade tree, where they eased their burden into the arms of some of the men already off their horses and waiting. Scott slid his horse to a halt and vaulted off, scrambling quickly to Johnnys side.
Ramon was again next to Scott, he took hold of his arm and spoke quickly and quietly. “Senor, por favor, give them some room, it is alright, they know what to do. Please, I know it is hard. Let them see to him, just for a moment.”
Scott took a step back. He could see Johnny now, he was covered in dust, his eyes were closed, shirt was torn, one boot was missing. He looked like he’d been punched hard on his left cheek bone and there was a deep one inch cut just above that and below the corner of his eye, bleeding freely. Raul and Mano were checking him over.
Johnny was beginning to wonder what was going on. Hadn’t he been riding that spooky ornery little cow pony? Where was it now? Why were the cows over top of him? He couldn’t seem to get his thoughts in order. He was very confused.
Scott tried to keep the fear from his voice when he spoke. “Mano?”
“Uno momento, Senor.” Mano replied calmly. After a few minutes, Raul and Mano sat back on their heels. Mano looked up and found Scotts eyes, he smiled reassuringly.
“He looks a little trampled, pretty good hit to the head, I don’t think any ribs are broken, but bruised for sure. Arms, legs, no breaks I can find. That ankle though,” indicating the one with the missing boot. “Now that’s going to hurt.”
Scott tipped his head back and let out the breath he had been holding, it seemed since forever. He pulled in a lungful of air and knelt down next to Johnny.
“Should we make him comfortable here, and send for a wagon?”
Mano looked around. “We’re close enough to the ranchero, Raul get some water, let’s see if we can bring him around.” He looked at Scott. “The sooner he gets home the better. If we can get him on a horse, you could be home before dark. It would be quicker, no?”
“Let’s try it then.” Said Scott. “Ramon, would you get my horse please? Take the bedroll off, I’ll sit back there and put Johnny in the saddle.”
After about twenty minutes, Johnny had begun trying to come around. Opening his eyes to the light was hurting his head, but he seemed to understand he’d been hurt, somehow, and someone was going to help him get home. He hoped they knew who he was, and how to get to his home. He wasn’t real sure he had the answer to that himself.
Finally, Scott saw the ranch house in the distance. Lord this boy was getting heavier by the minute! They had set Johnny upright facing forward in the saddle, so he just had to lean back against Scott. His head had fallen back onto Scotts shoulder and rolled sideways, his forehead was now resting against Scotts neck, and his arms were hanging limply at his sides. As long as they didn’t make any turns it wasn’t too hard to keep him upright, but any jostling or swaying sent him sliding easily off to the side. Johnny had never really come around, some movement, a few sounds, no real sign of awareness. Scott was worried and worn out!
He watched warily as their father walked toward them. ’Please don’t start up now Murdoch! If we can just not have to have it out right now, take care of Johnny, get some feeling back in my arms and legs. We can discuss what happened later.
Please, please, please! Shit! No such luck.!’ Scott gave a heartfelt sign. When had he started swearing to himself like this? He gave a baleful glance at his brother, ‘It’s all your fault, you’re a bad influence on me Johnny Lancer.’
At a loss for words or cognizant thought Murdoch began his tirade.
“What the devil…is he…how did he?” He didn’t mean to be shouting, he was just terrified at the sight of them. ’God, was the boy even alive? Well, of course he is you old fool! There, he moved. Oh, look at his face! Where is his boot?’
Scott sat still, staring at his father. The horse, sensing trouble, was beginning to step nervously side to side. Scott tightened his grip on Johnny, and waited for Murdoch to hopefully calm down.
Just as suddenly as the tirade began, it ended. Murdoch took a step away, a questioning look on his face. He quieted, composed himself, and asked, by reaching up, for Scott to relinquish his brother. It worked, he lowered Johnny to the ground. He was on his feet, but barely. Murdoch wrapped one arm around the boys chest, he grabbed Johnnys shoulder with the other. His sons body swayed into him, the boy was not completely conscious, his head came to rest under Murdoch chin, tilting back against his shoulder. As he leaned over to sweep his son into his arms and carry him inside, he had to catch Johnny's head with his chin to keep him from falling forward. In that brief moment, had come the overwhelming desire to rest his lips against the heated forehead of his son, in sheer relief.
‘Oh no, don’t let me fall off again!’
‘Ok, it’s ok, I’m ok.’
Johnny hoped someone was aware of the loose lions running around. He had no idea where his gun was, or his hand, to shoot it with, for that matter. He really didn’t care either. Huh, had those lions been in the house? That was definitely Murdoch cologne they’d got into. He was being carried away, held tightly onto, he felt very safe. Pretty friendly these lions.