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New American Western
Saddlebag Dispatches




Western Short Story
Chicaro
John Duncklee


Western Short Story

During the early 1960's many cattle deals and horse trades became finalized on the bar stools or booths in the El Dorado Bar. "Chema" witnessed a good many transactions from his position behind the bar. "Chema" didn't say much, but his friendly smile made customers feel welcome.

Since my business was a combination of cattle and horse trading I came to know "Chema", and one day I expained that I didn't believe in mixing booze and business. The arrangement "Chema" and I made insured that my trading instincts came from a clear mind. Should I order a Scotch and water while sitting with anyone, he would bring me just that, a Scotch and water. If I ordered a Scotch and soda, he would bring me a glass of ginger ale.

One late afternoon I had finished the chores, and gone to the house when the telephone rang. The man calling owned the stallion I leased for breeding my small band of broodmares. "Chicaro" was twenty-one years old, but still going strong as a stud.

"Come on down to the El Dorado, and I'll buy you a drink," the man said over the telephone.

"All right," I replied. "I'll see you in a bit." (The ranch was about six miles from town.) As I drove along the highway I wondered about the man's invitation. I had known him several years, and this was the first invitation he had ever extended to me. "It must be something to do with 'Chicaro'," I thought.

I was happy to see "Chema" behind the bar as I entered, and sat down with "Chicaro's" owner, his brother, and another horseman from Bakersfield, California. "Chema" came out from behind the bar to the booth to take our order. The three others ordered Scotch and water. I ordered Scotch and soda. "Chema" moved half his mouth in a half smile to let me know he knew what was going on.

The conversation rambled through three rounds of drinks, and I began to wonder why I had been invited to join these men. I could see that their drinks were starting to affect their speech. Then it dawned on me why they were taking so long to broach the subject; they were waiting for me to feel the effects of the Scotch. When "Chema" brought the fourth round "Chicaro's" owner looked across the table in my direction.

"Do ya wanta buy a horse?" He asked.

"Hell, I don't know," I replied. "I don't have any money to buy a horse."

A few moments of silence prevailed at the table. "What horse are you wantin' to sell?" I asked.

"'Chicaro'", he answered.

"I probably can't afford to buy him", I said.

Another few moments of silence. "How much do you want for him?" I asked.

"Twenty-five hundred," he answered.

"That sounds like a helluva lot for an old bastard that's old enough to vote," I replied.

The conversation drifted. "Chema" brought another round, and I could feel myself getting bloated from so much ginger ale. My companions were either feeling their drinks or had decided not to pursue the matter. I wanted to buy the old horse, but I was determined to get him on my terms. The other factor that drove me to attempt the consumation of the trade was their tactic of supplying me with enough booze so that I would buy the horse on their terms. When I thought the right time had arrived, I tilted my hat back, and began my offer. "I'll give you a thousand dollars for "Chicaro" on a one year's note with no interest, and you transfer his papers into my name tonight."

"You just bought yourself a horse," he said.

I left the table, and asked "Chema" for a piece of paper and pen. I returned to my place, and wrote out the note with its provisions, and signed it. "I assume you have the registration papers with you," I said.

"Here they are with the transfer application", he said, taking the documents out of his briefcase.

The horseman from Bakersfield interrupted. "Tell you what I'll do", he said to me. "Transfer the horse to me. I'll pay off your note in a year, and write you a check for a thousand dollars right now. I'll pick up the horse next week."

"Sorry," I said. "'Chicaro's' not for sale."

I glanced toward the bar. "Chema" had been leaning toward the conversation. When he caught my glance I saw a broad grin on his face. I ordered a Scotch and water on the next round of drinks.

As it turned out "Chicaro's" former owner brought four mares from California to breed to the old horse at two-hundred dollars per head stud fee. I told "Chema" about the mares coming to breed. "That horse is quite a gigolo," he said, and grinned.