Western Short Story
Scat Hoover Finds a Home
Tom Sheehan


Western Short Story

He was as lonely as a pheasant in the low limbs of a dark night tree, and sure the coyotes were looking for a breakdown in alerts. He could feel the desert-like range moving across the tip of this Old Earth, and he was the only horse rider on the Great Plains. He hadn’t seen another rider in two days and knew it was working on his spirit, dragging them down below his stirrups, him muttering again, “and that takes some doing if I do say so myself. Hell, I can’t even break an echo feeling this low and that’s lower than skunk bait.”

He was a migrant rider, a loose wheel, an odd appearance on the spread of the Great Plains, like a shadow thrown from a shadowless creature, the sun directly atop him at this moment of thought, but soon to bend him into a new shadow, him and his nearly tireless horse he called Scat Too or Scat 2, making no difference in the picked appellation, that horse a grand Appaloosa, a stand-alone animal of there ever was one, sticking close to his side or under his rump, carter or carrier of his lithe body, thin as the testy rail, with bones appearing to have little edges, less weight, them being so much alike under the sun, in the face of winds, the mere shadows of them on the wide plains of Texas.

He, Scott Hoover, a cowboy up and down that rank figure, was looking for a job after riding herd for a thousand or more cattle to market near Chicago, cut loose by the boss, roaming on his own, still jobless when he spotted a small caravan of wagons, people on the move elsewhere, who knows where they’ll end up, in what corner of the Great Plains, or run all the way to the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

At the moment of the sight of wagons, he figured he was in a chunk of Arizona territory, and the wagons pointed due west, but not yet able to pick up the essence of the Pacific Ocean. He whispered to himself, as he often did, “There’s room enough for that to happen any month now,” as much hope as he could and would allow, cowboys always coming off as more finders than seekers, so many times in his case proving it true enough to be gospel. Apparently, he’d been in all of them, territories and states, named or unnamed, for as long as he could remember in his thirty-odd years, not yet quite sure of the exact count, and not bothered at all by such calculations; “Touch and go might fit the hour,” he muttered anew, as much to keep himself with some kind of company, real or not.

Again, it did the trick, making him comfortable for the moment, thinking the wagon train had numbers of free women, job opportunities, things to take up time and energy until a new place was discovered, accepted, perhaps as home, or maybe never home, which might be the result on the run.

A sudden Oklahoma scene broadened his mind, a rider drawing close to him on a ragged looking horse, a rifle being raised, him fearing his horse was about to be stolen, fired away at the rider, killing him and his poor animal being ridden to his death, the posse coming over the hill, his being rewarded for the self-life saving task of $200 reward money, his pocket yet stuffed with it, looking for its own opportunity too to be spent, like duty or true desperation.

When he caught up to the wagon train at its evening stop, aromas already in the air, a young woman, attractive as all get-out, waved at him approaching, and yelled, “Are you hungry enough to stop and spend some time with us. I have food you can fill your stomach with, if you stop with us. My name is Shirley Burns, moving west alone in truth, as a member of this western parade.”

He caught her humor, her beauty, her loneliness in one big, beautiful accident, and fell in love with her on the spot, at the opportunity presented to him by a complete stranger.

Love, they say, can multiple and carry its own weight, along with a few other wrinkles.

“I’m all of the above,” he smiled back, tying his horse to the end of her wagon, feeling like chance had kissed him wholeheartedly at this encounter, a blessing all wrapped up in a lovely gift able to move, talk, make jokes, exude herself to a stranger needing exactly what she had to offer, saying her platter was full, the meal available to a lonesome cowboy.

He joined her, in her presentation, in her humor, with his own return: “I swear by all holiness that I will be honor bound to protect you all ways for all our days if you become mine, and me becoming yours, so help me God. Amen.”

“Done,” she said, now our first meal together, as others from the wagon train joined them, a few of them clapping, others smiling wide, checking out the new man of the train, Scat Hoover finding a new home on the move, a sworn bride-of-the-moment, services at hand shortly, blessings made unbreakable on the wide prairie, a need for another hand in the counting, a new male with loaded weapons at the ready, as is often said under such circumstances.

Then and there, in an accidental situation, graces unknown came into the life of Scat Hoover, with a new home and his new woman before the night fell atop him under stars letting a moon continue its journey and him halting his journey in the dead of night, full acceptance at hand and him bound to the vows swapped and betoken.

Where his journey, their journey, can be anybody’s guess, the whole of the western part of the country still dotted with such favorable descendants, in homes all over that part of the country, which grew like thunder in the making.



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