Western Short Story
Maude Terranova was blond, ravishing at first glance, rode like a whirlwind on her favorite horse, and could shoot the tail off a buffalo on the run, with one rifle shot. Nobody in Texas had as yet accosted her, snagged her, plied her with mouthy declarations, if they knew one ounce about her, as just here announced.
She was not forgettable, not in the least measure.
Even the pacified chief of the local Karankawa tribe, Wolf Tonic, himself handsome as a lone wolf on the prowl, was aware of her charms, having seen her in several studies from afar, and as he listened to the talks of his scouts, always on the go, and quickly and succinctly capping their moods with an unmistakable “in the good old days.”
Everybody knew what they meant by that time reference.
And this was 1894, Maude at 18-years old, prime of prime, dame of dames, lady of ladies, and then she met Clint Trotter without a slow bone in his body, a master of both pistol and rifle at age 22. Clint appeared right off the trail near her father’s spread, looking for work, explaining his habits and talents to Maude’s father who took a shine to the young cowpoke, when he said,” I started my work habits and talents at an early age to protect my mother, a widow at the time, from all kinds of attention from the wrong kind of people. I was 14 then, a good rider but not so good with weapons, which I had to learn in a hurry to be any good to her. The pistol use came easy and the rifle took longer, but I finally mastered it in a steady practice. I am now a pretty fair hand with it, if I do say so,” and that was said without any hindrance or hesitation, straight talk on the level, having a special affect on the senior man, totally swayed by the younger man.
“Did you get to use it to protect your mother?” said Maude’s father, quickly interested in the applicant.
“I sure did, the night I think I came of age and caught a man sneaking around in the dark for the second time, apparently up to no good for her. I challenged him when he pulled a rifle from his scabbard and took aim at me. I killed him on the spot and my mother thanked me, saying he had threatened her on a couple of occasions without telling me, knowing I’d leap at revenge. That was enough for me, bet your bottom dollar. He had a steamy reputation, if you know what I mean, and I’m sure my mother knew his intentions, one way or the other.”
A sense of honesty and truth hung upright in the air between the two men.
The two of them talked for more than an hour and Clint was hired by Luke Terranova, Maude’s father and ranch owner, fully aware of the young spirits that would arise between Clint and his daughter. It was what made the world go around, including that part of Texas where they were top=type citizens.
In this case, for a certainty, it was as if he set his daughter up for life, for the long ride, which is exactly what happened, for in 1902 they celebrated 66 years of marriage with their 3 boys and daughter, Celine, who ladied-it-up like her mother had and the three boys ran the ranch, Clint Junior, Clark and Clifford, as stable a family as West Texas had ever known, even to this day. The boys grew into talents and hustle in all tasks under the direction of their father, eventually the boss-man of the spread after Luke Terranova passed on, and Celine waited for her true love, but not too long, as her mother had.
When the Great Cattle War broke out in 1916, about the time of World War One, the boys went into the mix with rustlers in a head-on, hell-bent-for-an-election war, while Clint Junior joined the Army and ended up in France, serving with exceptional gallantry on several occasions and came home a be-medaled hero. He brought a French girl, Mimi, with him, married her aboard a ship on the wild-Atlantic crossing, leaving one war and headed for another war, back in Texas.
Life was loaded up for all the Trotters, bar none, as tempestuous undertakings were cause and concern of the times, and each one lavished their duties one way, as their father had, yet the ship’s captain told Clint Junior, “If all the troops were as romantic as you, we’d be top-heavy with ladies and half as many veterans of the war, not such a good trade-off for the war-weary, but you wear war well, and I think Texas did it for you.”
He carried those words home with him, all the way to the ranch and his brothers, telling those words to anybody who listened in a Saturday night saloon between cattle drives, at length writing a book about his life, as pushed by Mimi who had a taste for good reading, and who suggested the eventual title, which Clint Junior liked, “Two-Wars Twisted,” a best-seller in Texas and Paris, and getting critical acclaim from many points in the world of literature.
“What was it really like over there, Clint?” one of the younger brothers asked, almost afraid of the answer and not sure why.
“The hardest part,” replied Clint, “is killing guys who never did anything against you in the first place, like stealing your cattle or your horses or your best girl,” which made them all laugh.
“Do you feel like that when you have him in your sights, or right afterwards?” Cliff, the youngest, asked most of the questions, not embarrassed by his steady approach and interest, “Could you or can you tell the difference, then, at that minute, or perhaps after a while when things settle down?”
“It never fails to hit you, even after the gun smoke has lifted, gone off to wherever, but the dead remain, at least for a while, right where you hit him, dead as can be.”
He paused, caught his own meaning in place, and replied, “Death has no true partnerships.”
The topic was not brought up again for a long and quiet spell, enough said, they all believed.