October 27, 2012 by Whispering Smith
HOME ON THE RANGE
Henry Lee said, ‘Crow, you ever considered becoming a motion picture star?
‘What’s a motion picture?’ Dan Crow asked.
‘Remember that night in Cheyenne, we went to a theatre and watched Bronco Billy in a two reeler?’
‘That was a motion picture?’
‘That’s what they call them and I hear tell Bronco Billy is looking for some real cowboys down in California to play the bad guys or whatever in his motion pictures. They say he pays top dollar for them as can ride, rope and shoot.’
‘You can’t shoot worth a damn, Henry, and you know it. You tote your daddy’s pistol but you sure enough don’t know how to shoot it. Now me…’
‘You can’t shoot a handgun worth a damn either.’ Lee interrupted.
‘Never bothered with one, happy with my carbine.’
‘This here six,’ he tapped the ivory grip of his holstered revolver, ’was once owned by Billy the Kid.’
‘Every damned pistol in the west once belonged to Billy I hear tell that often enough but maybe so, maybe so, I concur.’
‘You concur, what the hell is concur?’
‘It means I agree with whatever you just said if it pleases you,’ said Crow.
The two friends were riding night herd for the Rocking W. The moon was bright and the tired cattle were in no mood to run. Henry Lee drew on his smoke and Dan Crow chewed a lump of Redman, spitting occasionally into the long grass that blessed that part of the Wyoming. They crested the brow of a small hill and dismounted. Lee rolled himself a fresh cigarette and squatted down, Crow the shorter heavier built of the two men bit off a new chaw of Redman and leaned his back against a stunted pine, too stiff to squat. He looked over at Lee, the lean waddy was bathed in brassy moonlight giving his tanned face a yellowish glow, his drooping tobacco-stained moustache twitching now and then as he drew deeply on the tobacco.
‘You don’t look like no motion picture cowboy and you don’t speak much above a whisper, you ain’t eloquent.’ Crow observed quietly.
Lee turned and stared at Crow. ‘Eloquent? Where the hell you getting these dumb words?’
‘I got another book in Dogbite while you was in the room above Halloran’s Bar doing I don’t know what.’
‘You bought another book, you dumbass? Didn’t the book tell you that there is no sound in motion pictures they print the words when something important gets said so you do have to be able to read or have someone with you who can, but you don’t need any special voice, just have to look the part is all.’
‘It wasn’t a book on motion pictures and besides their lips was moving’
Lee’s pony shook its head, snorted then farted long and hard from the rear end, its long tail swishing gently. ‘Jesus,’ said Crow, taking off his battered hat and waving it into the night breeze, ‘that’s Wyoming grass for you. Think of them eight hundred head of beef down there all blasting the night away, I wonder where it all goes.’
Lee ignored him and went on, ‘You remember Jesse Ironmonger over at Halloran’s Bar, did the swamping weekends when not riding for the Slash?’
‘Yeah, I remember him. Little raggedy-assed feller kept falling over his own feet or off his pony. Got on it backward onetime and no one could figured out how or why, he just done it. Wonder whatever happened to him.’
‘I’ll tell you what happened to Jesse Ironmonger, Crow, he went to California and became a sidekick to a big-time silver screen cowboy and now he is into the big bucks compared to our forty a month. That’s what happened to Jesse Ironmonger.’
‘But he couldn’t ride worth a damn.’
‘That’s the point, he does what he does naturally, falls over his own feet a lot and off a horse most times, but he does it in front of a camera. They call him the light relief.’
‘You know a lot about motion pictures, Henry Lee.’
‘I read about them, trying to better myself take you along with me, Get us a pair of those big white hats, fancy shirts, striped pants and concho studded leather holsters, be somebody.’
‘You see me as a sidekick, don’t you?’ Crow’s tone said it wasn’t really a question that needed an answer but he got one anyway.
‘Sure, Crow, you were tailor made for the part and you are getting a belly, all the better, we could clean up. Bronco Billy will take one look at us and see something special two good ol’ boys from the real west, out and out outlaws. He’ll say we are just what he’s looking for and look no further.’
‘I don’t think so, Lee, I ain’t cut out to be no Jesse Ironmonger. Anyway, it ain’t dignified a growed man falling down like that just to make folk laugh.’
‘Dignified? What the hell was that book you bought?’
‘I bought a lot of books lately but I’m reading Ben Hur by Lew Wallace at the moment, he’s the guy what shot Billy The Kid.’
‘Pat Garrett shot Billy, everyone knows that.’
‘Garrett pulled the trigger right enough but Wallace loaded the gun. And I bet he ended up with Billy’s Colt Thunderer and that there piece you carry is a mere counterfeit.’
‘Mere counterfeit? You should stick to dime novels, Crow.’
Crow was quiet for a moment then, ‘Face it, Lee, dreamin’s not a bad thing but best we stick with what we know, what we do best, what we already got.’
‘And what exactly have we got?’
‘We got a lot of Wyoming, Lee, a decent cook and a friendly bunkhouse. You ain’t cut out to be no Bronco Billy you’re too damned ugly and I ain’t no Jesse Ironmonger, I’m too damned smart. Besides it’s a long ride to California.’
‘We were going by train, you dumbass.’
Lee killed his quirly with thumb and forefinger and Crow spat out the Redman and took a long swig from his canteen then the two men remounted and began their endless night time swing, circling the bedded herd. After a little while as the silence and darkness engulfed them, Lee began singing Clementine very slowly in his tuneless whisper and Crow was thinking of some new words he could throw Henry Lee’s way just to piss him off. Sidekick, hell, he would have been the one in the white Stetson and Lee the fucking light relief! He grinned, liking that idea a lot.
Copyright 2012 Chris Adam Smith