Western Short Story
Reno Runs the Ranch
Tom Sheehan

Western Short Story

Reno Juarez came up into Texas when he was just 12 years old and got a job as a stable boy at a huge cattle ranch, The GM. He was a fast learner, adept at handling horses, smart enough to observe all the hands on the ranch, how they did things, what short-cuts they knew and who was who in the leadership corps, watching the most serious leaders with measuring eyes.

He sided with his careful findings, not linking himself to the top dog, but to a cowboy named Link Harrow, quiet, told jokes by the yard, was friendly with every hand working the ranch, made a visible effort to include Reno in his fun, not leading the boy by the nose, but by a soft hand.

Reno moved ever in Link’s shadow, an adopted son of sorts, a new kind of association for a Texas cowhand, to say the least.

When a fire broke out in the main barn, Reno rushed all the stabled horses to the outside corral, assuring every horse was accounted for. And for that brave and quick-thinking exploit, Link had a drink in Reno’s honor that night at the Broken Arrow Saloon in town, crowded to the hilt with local cowmen, smack in the heart of Litchfield, a mid-sized Texas town 50 miles from the border, close enough for Reno to visit home. But he never made that trip, being a declared citizen of his new country, and proud of it.

Reno, in a hurry, was able to shoe a horse, fix a sheared saddle belt, ride alongside a herd of cows or a remuda of ranch horses as well as any old cowman on the job. As a result, he was accepted and acclaimed by the regular crew as “one of them.” In fact, one of that crew openly said at a campfire one night, “I saw a bunch of school kids the other day in town and there ain’t a one of them can wear Reno’s pants, or even pretend to wear them.:

Picking up the mail in town for the ranch owner and all the hands was one of his duties, and they often tell the tale of a bandit set on robbing the mail of one of Reno’s deliveries, covering Reno from behind a clutch of bushes with his pistol, “Kid,” he said, I just want the mail going to the ranch owner and nothing else. Got me?” the gun levelled directly at Reno.

For the love of that kid, he wasn’t about to give up any of his deliveries, but saying to the bandit, “Sure, I got you, sir, and it’s all in a yellow envelope I’ll get out of my bag if you stop waving that gun at me.”

“Sure thing, kid, you know your way around, what’s best for you, and it ain’t your mail to begin with.” He offered a smile of understanding the kid would see and accept, and lowered his weapon so it was not pointing at Reno.

Reno told the rest of the story to Link and the owner, George Marberry, that evening; “When I saw he was relaxed, his gun not at firing command, I reached into my bag and drew out not the yellow envelope he was expecting to see. But my own small, just-in-case handgun and shot him in the shoulder. He dropped his weapon tried to ride off, and I shot him again, bad enough to lead him to the sheriff in town, where I left him in good care.”

The two elders marveled at his tale, and made sure they spread the good word on Reno to all their confidants and visitors. That’s how Reno’s story come down through the years to my grandfather, an import himself, from Ireland, who loved stories on imports making their way in a new country.

Of course, there came other stories from him about Reno, and you ought to know that by the time Reno was 18, he was a top hand on the ranch, the wrangler when it came to horses, for which he had the real gift as though every horse he handled understood his every word and command.

Wrangler Reno, at 18, commanded a lot of respect from the corps of ranch riders,

and from Fancy Marberry, the 18-year-old daughter of the owner who knew she had fallen in love with a Mexican import. But her father raised a bit of Hell when he heard about it, yelled at her until she broke out in tears when her father threatened to fire him off the ranch.

He called in Link to get rid of Reno in a hurry; “I don’t want that kid around anymore. He’s playing games with Fancy. Get rid of him right away, Link! Right away!”

Link, knowing something like this was bound to come along, was ready for it, saying then and there, with full intent, “If he goes, George, I go with him. He’s the best hire I ever brought onto this ranch, and for you, if you can believe it.”

“He’s nothing but a Mexican,” the owner said, “a Mexican!” The enmity filled his voice, every yard of it harbored for so long.

“And I’m a Scott,” said Link, “from the far side of Scotland, from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, so make the same thing as that about me and at least half the crew on hand right now. Even you! We all come from someplace else, meaning Reno and me, and you, by George, and Fancy, too!”

The retort was a mere stumbling of words, of misunderstood ideas and intentions, of open declarations of an inner soul running at full disturbance. It didn’t last long, the self-deprecation, the lonely misery, the ignoble fright that pulls some men this way and that way without any foundation for belief or tolerance,

Grandpa had the last word on the matter of Reno, the Mexican import, wrangler of the first order, subsequent owner of the GM ranch after his marriage to Fancy Marberry, and at the death of her father mere years later, as he shrank into history as we all will.