This week's challenge from Flash Fiction Friday was to write about Cowboys and Indians.
I don’t think we’ve had a chance to tackle a western in these here parts, so why don’t we? Gather us around the campfire with a pan of beans and some trail coffee and spin us a yarn set in the Old West.
Maybe your story features gunfighters in a showdown or a train robbery. Maybe you would like to share a mystical tale of a shaman and his vision quest. Maybe there’s a school marm we need hear about.
There’s something for everyone in this genre that you may never have tried. Why not give it a go? I’ll even give you some words…
Prompt: Write a western short story (1,500 word limit) using these words: Rope, Dust, Whiskey, Medicine, and Ceremony
Cowboys and Indians
Charlie grunted as he pulled his boot off. "Damn, my corns are killing me. It's been a long day." He slapped his pant legs, raising a cloud of dust. "Glad I can spend most of the day on my horse."
"Sucks to be old," said Dave. "We all feel it. But it's late, what are you doing in town? Is it open stage night already?"
"No, that's tomorrow," said Charlie. "Have some new tunes ready. No, I told the wife I needed to drive in to pick up more fence wire at the co-op - and I do. I neglected to mention I also needed a drink, but she may have guessed that." He sipped on his glass of whisky, savouring the flavour. He wiped his white moustache. and nodded at the bartender. "Bonnie, another one please."
"How's your water holding out at your place," said Dave.
"Stream's starting to dry up," said Charlie, "and so are the wells. North pasture is pretty bad, I really need some extra from that stream."
"That's snow melt, coming in from the mountains," said Dave. "Should be fine, shouldn't it?"
"Should be," said Charlie, "but I think it's being all used by the new guy upstream from me. Some Indian guy, bought some land to run a feed lot from, finishing off beef for market. Doesn't know we need to share things around here, especially water."
"Another one!" said Dave. "Where do these people get the money?"
"They all have big families," said Charlie. "Everyone chips in. Plus the bank always has extra credit for them, sometimes with Federal backing."
"Seems every month another one moves in," said Dave.
"I wish they'd stay in their place," said Charlie. "It isn't right, this is our land now, it should be our own people buying it up. These people don't even go to church."
"I hear you," said Dave. "I do wish the government would help us people too. The latest plan from Ottawa is that they want to licence all our wells, make us apply for a permit to draw our own water from our own land."
Charlie's family had raised cattle here since his grandfather homesteaded in the area over a hundred years ago. They'd not been one of the lucky ones to find oil in their pastures, but thanks to hard work had managed a good living. But lately he'd seen beef prices drop, and feed and fuel prices rise - survival was now just a delaying tactic, selling off parcels of land. And as the old spreads shrunk, the old families moved out, and new ones in. People without an appreciation for all the work that had already been done to make this a strong community.
"Another round of medicine," said Charlie. "Then I really need to get going."
Charlie thumped the dash as his jeep shuddered to a stop. He turned the key, pumped the gas - just a whir and a clunk. He really hated machinery. He'd grown up with horses and wagons doing the work around the farm, and didn't take to all the equipment that seemed to have taken over. Some of his neighbours even rode their fence lines on dirt bikes - then were whining into their cell phones when a sudden snow storm caught them unawares. It was getting dark now, Heather would be worrying about him. He pulled out the cellphone his son had bought for him and gave her a call.
"No, don't come out, dear, " he said. "Someone will come along in a bit and I'll bum a ride home. Just wish I'd brought my rifle so I could shoot this damn thing and put it out of its misery."
He didn't bother to climb out, as the driver's door was tied closed with some rope. He settled back, relaxed, and lit a cigarette. He was almost finished it when he saw a light approaching from town. He didn't bother to get out, as he knew none of his neighbours would just drive by, they would stop and check, so he was surprised when the car slowed, but passed him. Charlie tooted the horn a few times, and watched as the car stopped, then reversed. The driver got out an walked over - it was his new neighbour. He waved and smiled as he walked toward Charlie, white teeth bright against his dark skin.
"Charlie, what is wrong, is it broken?" he said.
"No problem," said Charlie," just taking a rest, ah, sorry, I forget."
"Rajit." he said. "I was just in town, picking up some special curry spices my family sent me. Are you sure this jeep is OK? It looks like some of the old ones I worked on back home."
"You can fix things like this?" asked Charlie.
"No problem," said Rajt. "I am top mechanic back home in India, fix many old jeeps like this, I know all the tricks. Here - let me look."
Before Charlie could protest, Rajit had the hood up and was rummaging inside.
"OK- try it now."
With the first turn of the key, the motor sputtered to life.
"No problem," said Rajit. "Loose distributor. Good to go noe. But it sounds rough still. Go ahead, I will follow you home just in case."
Charlie tried to convince Rajit he could manage just fine now, but was unsucessful - his neighbour nodded and agreed with him but somehow still managed to follow Charlie right up to the front of his house. Heather was waiting on the porch, when she heard how Rajit had helped she insisted he come in for a cup of tea. After a few minutes of chit-chat there was a moment of silence.
"So, how's you place doing in this dry spell?" asked Heather.
"Not good," said Rajit. "I had two wells put in already, but they are drying up. I called the man that did them - he said I must have picked a bad spot."
"That's supposed to be his job," said Charlie. "He should know better."
"Well, might depend on the customer," said Heather. "Some of the local people are having a hard time accepting all the new people in the area." She looked over at Charlie, but he was carefully avoiding her eyes.
"I have had to draw form the stream" said Rajit. "And I know that is not good for you - but my feedlot takes a lot of water. I can afford one more well, but it has to be a good one."
Heather reached over and laid her hand on her husband's arm. "Charlie, maybe you could help your neighbour with this."
There was a pause, then Charlie nodded. "I could drop by, I guess. I'm a pretty good dowser - just like my dad was. I can walk a property with my bent sticks, and if there's any water - I'll find it."
"And then I won't need the stream," said Rajit. "That would be such a wonderful thing for you to do. Do we need a contract for this?"
"Hell no," said Charlie. "We don't stand on ceremony here - especially between neighbours."
"Thank you," said Rajit. "But how may I repay you?"
Heather smiled. "My husband is a genius with cattle and horses, best in the county. Not so much with machinery. I'm sure he might find a few things around here for you to help with."