That’s A Lot of Bull
by Rick Beck

Email Rick

 

Another story for the men of the Brokeback Nation, and their admirers!

Sharing an email:

Subject: For the men who live in the Brokeback Nation
To: quillswritersrealm@yahoo.com, quillswritersrealm@yahoo.com
Date: Saturday, June 21, 2008, 7:02 AM

Hi, 

 

I just want to say that you guys are not alone.  I am a heterosexual female who believes everyone should be free to love whoever their heart leads them to.  May you all find love ane love well.  There is nothing better than sharing your life with your soulmate.  Not always easy no matter who you are but you should never be made to feel fear or shame because of the one you love. 

MS

 

                                                          *****

 

‘…bless’ed are the peacemakers for they shall become the children of God’ 

J C, from the Sermon on the Mount.

 

What would Jesus drive, and how would he feel about a culture where it isn’t safe for two men to hold hands or kiss in public, while in that culture it’s fine to bomb 100,000 innocent men, women, and children back to oblivion if you don’t like their government?  Why is love so often hated?

 

R B, from the Blue Ridge Mtns.

 

                                                          *****

Writer’s Note:

I have a high regard for anyone who takes the time to email me.  I do my best to respond promptly.  Because of a serious vision impairment I’m unable to visit with you in the forum and other writer’s venues provided for us at Awesome Dude.  I regret it far more than you.

Love & Peace,

Rick Beck

 

 

 

Thanks Jerry for your suggestions in making the words easier to read

Thank you, Lew for helping to keep the words straight if not the author

 

Olympia50

June 14, 2008

That’s A Lot of Bull

By: Rick Beck

 

 

          Lying in a combination of rich Wyoming soil adulterated by bullshit, which was obviously too close to his nose, Pardo Hemsley lie dying for all he knew.  With spit and sweat from man and beast thrown in for good measure all he could do was to lie there and pray he wasn’t.

          The first hint about his status came when he became aware of the clown staring down at him with a perpetually painted smile on his face.  It was then Pardo knew he had to be dead or dreaming.

          “You okay, cowboy?” Jack Slade inquired in a husky un-clown like voice, coming out of the bizarre clown face that hovered over Pardo.

          “Don’t touch me,” Pardo yelled, being careful to move only his lips, while wondering if he could breathe.

          “You hurt?” Jack asked with concern.

          “Would anybody be lying in a pile of bullshit if he wasn’t?”

          “You aren’t hurt.  You just got the wind knocked out of you.  Go ahead and breathe.  It’ll do wonders for you,” Jack said, becoming less sympathetic.

          “Easy for you to say,” Pardo gasped with a ragged breath of air that seemed to have rough edges that dug into his lungs.

          “Had a hundred worse falls than that, youngster.  You landed flat as a pancake.  It’s only the wind knocked out of you,” Jack said, reaching for the disabled cowboy’s arm, knowing he’d breath better once he got up. 

          “Don’t touch me,” Pardo yelled again as Jack did his best to ease the body out of the deep dirt where it landed only a few yards beyond the chute where his bull ride started and ended in short order. 

It wasn’t a particularly skilled example of the bull riding art.  Jack had seen worse, but not many, after giving it a thought.

“Did I make it to eight seconds,” Pardo checked.

“Two, maybe.  It only seemed like more.  Never lean that far into the direction the bull wants to go,” Jack advised, since they seemed to have a minute and he wanted to get the rider’s mind off the pain.

          “What the hell does a clown know about bull riding?” Pardo snapped defiantly.

          “Yeah, you got a point, kid.  I forgot you cowboys know everything.”

          “Don’t call me kid,” he snarled with his breathing improving.

          “Look, son, I’d like to stay here to chat, but I calculate in about a minute and a half three-quarters of a ton of bull is going to be set loose on this bull ring.  One of us isn’t going to be here when that bull gets here.  What you’ve got to ask yourself, are you going to be here?”

          Pardo was quickly up and bent forward while trying to assess the damage.  He’d taken a couple other falls, but none worse.  Most of his career was spent on mechanical bulls, and they rarely threw him anymore.

          The crowd cheered the cowboy’s rise.  Now, they could get on with the show.  Pardo took his hat from the waiting clown, shooting it immediately into the air to show he was okay.  He used the hat to dust himself off, hoping the pain would pass.

          “Come on, kid, their ready for the next ride,” Jack said, taking Pardo’s arm to assist him to the waiting open gate.

          “I can walk on my own.  How’s it look with a clown helping me?” Pardo snapped, limping only a few steps before stopping to raise his arm in surrender to his disability.

          “Image is everything,” Jack reminded himself, ready to slide into place as Pardo half walked and was half dragged through the waiting open gate.  Before it was closed behind them the crowd leaped to its feet and roared.  Jack dropped Pardo to charge back toward the action.

          Left alone, Pardo collected himself and got back to his feet.  His attention was immediately drawn to the bull ring.  He stood next to the gate and watched the clown work the bull.  He’d never paid any attention to the men who pulled him out of danger before.

“Why does he do that?” Pardo asked the man stationed at the gate.

Jack jumped clear of the horns of a marauding bull by climbing the fence.  A cowboy on horseback ran the bull out through another gate.  Pardo found it hard to take his eyes off the clown that put himself in danger to save bull riders.

          “What?  Pull you hard chargers out of danger?  That’s Jack Slade, sonny.  He was a hard charger once.  I guess he never got it out of his blood.  Once he couldn’t ride anymore he started saving you boys.”

          “That’s Jack Slade?  Two time bull riding champion?”

          “In the flesh,” the man bragged.

          “What happened to him?” Pardo asked.

          “Same thing that’ll happen to you if you ride long enough.”

          “What’s that?” Pardo asked.

          “Bull trampled him.  Clowns were out of position.  He fell bad, couldn’t get up.  That’s a lot of bull to land on a fella,” the cowboy said. ”Mess up his leg sos he can’t ride no more.  Now he clowns.  Guess he can’t stay away from the bull riding ring.”

          “Jack Slade,” Pardo pondered, thinking back on the circumstances under which Jack Slade was pointed out to him in a bar in Laramie.

          “You might want to get in line.  He likes cold beer once he’s finished for the night.  Bull riders wait to thank him at the beer wagon.”

           Pardo went back to watching the bull ring.  A gray Brahma with a hump that leaned perpetually left, kicked and bucked on center stage.  The bull stopped dead.  The cowboys rode past him, surprised by his refusal to leave.  Snorting and pawing at the dirt, he seemed ready to fight, until they turned back for him and he ran out the gate.

Pardo’s eyes stayed with the clown.  He slipped back off the fence and into the ring in time for the next rider.  ‘Jack Slade,’ he thought.

          Pardo passed on the beer wagon.  An hour later he stood at the doorway to the washhouse as Jack Slade scrubbed the clown makeup free of his face.  He couldn’t remember the face because it had been dark in the bar where his friend pointed Jack out to him.  He couldn’t tell if it was the same guy and at the time he’d doubted it was the bull riding champion.  Not in a gay bar and he was more sure than ever as he watched the man wash.

          “You’re welcome,” came the deep low throated pronouncement.

          “Oh, yeah,” Pardo said in response, surprised.

          “No, that’s you’re welcome, goodnight.  I don’t entertain in the washhouse.  Come by the beer wagon next time.  I do entertain beer.  Goodnight.”

          “Oh, yeah, sorry, but why do you do it?”

Pardo persisted in getting the question answered before a bigger idea came his way.

          “You’re adding journalism to the things you do poorly?  Goodnight indicates an end not an invitation to ask one more question.  Although journalists always do, why shouldn’t you?”

          “I’m curious.  I haven’t made up my mind why.”

          “Yes, well, I would like to take off my makeup, which isn’t something I usually say in front of the boys.  It’s a one man operation.”

          “Why would a man like you become a clown?  You’re Jack Slade.”

          “I am?  Damn!  I thought I was Bucky the clown.  I can’t allow anyone see me transform into Jack Slade.  Goodnight now.”

          “I won’t tell,” he said.  “I’m Pardo Hemsley.”

          “I know you.  Colorado Springs, Tornado, Casper, Swing Time, Provo, Dark Cloud, and tonight, Bee Hive.  You’re a tenderfoot.  Go back to Lucy May, while you still can walk.”

          “You’re a real asshole,” Pardo observed, leaning his back on the door jamb, watching Jack.

          “I’m not a nice drunk.  After spending the night pulling you boys out from under bulls, I get testy.  Sorry!”

          “You’re pissed because you’re not the one being pulled out from under the bull.”

          “Jesus Christ, a goddamn Sigmund Fraud.  It’s a job, Hemsley.”

          “Bullshit.  You’re a bull riding champion.  It runs deeper than that,” Pardo observed.  “Teach me.  If I’m such a bad bull rider, teach me to do it right.  Teach me to do it the way you did it.  I’ll do anything it takes to sit a bull the way Jack Slade did,” Pardo said with the proper amount of admiration.

          The words weren’t lost on Jack, although he kept washing behind his ears, wanting to get the smell of greasepaint out of his nose.  He was drunk but not that drunk.  He didn’t know if he could teach someone to ride.  His mind wasn’t clear enough to decide.  He finished in silence and packed up his gear.

          “How’d you get here?” Jack asked, bumping past Pardo.

          Pardo caught up with him and stuck out his thumb.

          “Figures.  What if you’d really gotten hurt.  How’d you get home then, huh?” Jack asked, walking faster.

          “Never been hurt.  Never thought of it.”

          “Stop,” Jack ordered.

          “What?” Pardo asked.  “I never thought about it.”

`        “Give me your hand,” Jack growled.

          “No,” Pardo objected.

          Jack grabbed his hand and put it on his right knee.  Pardo felt the metal in the brace both above and below the knee.

          “Fuck, how do you walk so fast.”

          “I paid a lot of money for it,” Jack said, walking faster, before stopping next to a maroon Silverado.

          Jack took a pad off the dashboard and jotted something on it.  He ripped off piece of paper and tucked into Pardo’s pocket.

          “That’s south of Casper.  You hitchhike over there.  I’ll put you to work.  $200 a week, room, board, and in the fifteen minutes spare time you’ll get a week, I’ll teach you about riding a bull.  Personally, I think you’re wasting your time but I can always use some cheap help.  If your still interested you hitchhike over there.”

          “You’re going to get busted for DUI before you get home,” Pardo said.  “You’re wobbling when you walk.”

          “Come on, kid,” Jack said, tossing the keys to his new employee.

          “Put on your seatbelt,” Pardo said, after starting the truck.

          “Oh, shut up and drive,” Jack replied.

          It was certainly no marriage made in heaven.

          “Do you have any aspirin on you?” Jack asked, after being awakened to give Pardo directions.

“No but anyone who drinks like you ought to carry them.”

“Anyone who rides like you ought to carry them,” Jack snapped, rummaging in his glove box.

 “Turn here and then take the first driveway on the right,” Jack said. “Yeah, right here.  Pull down toward the barn.  The bunkhouse is to the left.  Jose and Miguel are the only two wranglers at the moment.  I doubt they’re here tonight.  They usually stay in town with their women on days when I’m traveling.  Their bunks are the ones that look slept in.  Should be an extra pillow in there somewhere. 

“I eat breakfast at sun up.  If you’re hungry come up to the kitchen but don’t ask me to do it again when you decide to get up.  There will be too much work for second shift feeding.  I’m alone on Sundays.”

“I guess,” Pardo said, and a loud squeal came from the barn.

“Shit.  Bonnie Bell’s ready.  Why me?  I’m not up for this,” Jack said, feeling the side of his aching head.

“What do you need?  I can help,” Pardo said, figuring to make points with Jack by volunteering to help.   Pardo had a lot to learn and he had no idea what he was volunteering to do.

“Yeah, good.  Sure you can help.  You ever deliver a colt?”

“No, that’s something else I don’t know anything about.”

Well, this is Bonnie Bell’s first too.”

Jack jogged down the center of the barn with Pardo right behind him.  Opening the final stall, there lying on a bed of hay was a very pregnant horse.

“Hey, Bonnie Bell, daddy’s home,” Jack said with tenderness.

“This is your big chance, cowboy.  Get around there in the pilot’s seat and I’ll keep her head steady.”

Pardo peaked around at the horse’s ass.

“Don’t worry she’ll be too busy to kick as long as daddy’s here with her.”

“Pilot’s seat?” Pardo asked.

“You know biology?”

“Sure,” Pardo said, thinking back to tenth grade.  “Some.”

“She’s having a colt.  She needs a little help.  You reach in there and feel for the colt’s head.  Make sure it’s pointed in the right direction and she’ll do the rest.  Just keep the nose pointed at your chest.”

“Reach in there,” Pardo said, not liking the idea.

“Biology?  Think childbirth.  This baby has a very big nose.  Guide the nose to the opening.”

Pardo sat behind the horse studying its back end.  ‘Maybe I don’t need bull riding lessons,’ he thought.

“You find it?” Jack inquired.

“Yeah, …yeah, I’m getting there,” he said, reaching inside, gently turning the warm wet colt’s head toward him and feeling it moving forward.

“He moved.  The baby moved.”

“It’s moving.  I can see the head.  I can see the head,” Pardo said excited by his part in the colt’s birth.

“Better get out of the way now,” Jack said cautiously.

There was a loud squishing sound and something that sounded like a muffled fart.  The colt came squirting out into Pardo’s lap.  His shirt and jeans were covered in after birth and blood. 

The colt struggled and then stood, Jack stood, Pardo stood, and Bonnie Belle stood and turned to lick her colt.

“Yeah, baby, you did it,” Jack said, patting the horse.

“Hey, Pardo, come one out and let them have some privacy,” Jack said, while Pardo watched the horses get acquainted.

Pardo slipped out of the stall carefully and a gush of water knocked him backward until he ended up on his butt two stalls away.

“What the…?  What’s wrong with you,” Pardo yelled, caught unaware.

“Can’t have all that blood in the bunkhouse.  Nothing like a shower after childbirth.”

“You knew that was going to happen,” Pardo insisted.  “That’s why you had me back there.”

“Hell, I got on my best shirt, Pardo.  No point in getting it all ruint.  Yours has been rolled in bullshit.  Now its been washed.  Sorry, I don’t have an iron.”

“You bastard,” Pardo said, standing up dripping wet.

“Come on.  I got an extra in the house.  We do have running water.  You can leave your things on the back porch and get a shower.  Hell, you done so good, you can sleep in the guest room.  Might even be something edible in the fridge but don’t get your hopes up.”

Pardo took his anger into the shower with him but soon found himself giddy over guiding the colt into the world.  Jack was an asshole, but he liked him just the same.  Maybe it was what he knew about bull riding and maybe it was something else.  He couldn’t be sure that Jack Slade was the cowboy who had been pointed out to him in the gay bar, but maybe he was.  If he was he wasn’t sure what he’d do about it or how he’d find out.  For now he’d be content with learning about ranching and hope for the kind of bull riding lessons that might propel him into the upper ranks of the bull riding competition. 

Once he finished his shower he found a clean pair of jeans and a clean shirt next to the towel rack.  When he got back to the back of the house, Jack had put out some lunch meat, cheese, and soda.  It soothed Pardo’s ruffled feathers even further.

“Those things fit.  They were starting to shrink up on me.  You can keep those for work,” Jack said.

“Thanks,” Pardo managed between bites of his first sandwich.

“I put fresh sheets on the foot of the bed in the room next to where you showered.  It’ll be better than the bunkhouse.”

Jack’s rough edges were mellowed out.  Pardo was grateful for the change and too tired and soar to look for ulterior motives.

The next morning Pardo road fence with Jose and Miguel.  They were quiet efficient men, who knew their job.  Jose put Pardo on tightening the wire, showing him how to use the tool provided, while he and Miguel strung now wire from a roll that had been left from the week before.

It was hot and Pardo was sweating, unaccustomed to working out in the sun for so long.  The rumbles of thunder and clouds announced impending rain.  It was a relief but became even hotter in the slicker that had been tied behind his saddle.  It made things hotter and it was more difficult to work in the wet leather gloves but they stayed out most of the day.

By the time they rode back toward the house, Pardo was stiff, soar, and soaked.  The rain had stopped and the slicker was back behind the saddle, but his sweaty clothes clung to him in the humid air.  Jack had a ladder up against the house and he was working on the roof of the house when they got back to the corral.

There was fried chicken and potato salad that Pardo knew Jack hadn’t fixed, but he saw no sign of a woman’s hand in the house.  He still wasn’t sure about Jack and for the next two days there was no change.  The three wranglers saddled their horse and rode out to mend fence for most of the day, riding back early each afternoon.  Pardo could see that Jose and Miguel knew what to do.

Each morning after breakfast, Jack said, “Go with them.”

On the third afternoon with Pardo’s muscles feeling renewed, the routine changed, once the horses were back in the corral, Jack  said, “Come with me.”

They walked toward the side of the house where two steps led up on to a covered porch about twenty feet wide and twenty feet long.  A tarp covering something mounted at one end.  Removing the tarp, Jack revealed a barrel with a saddle across the middle.  Four straps secured to each corner of the barrel connect it to the four posts.  Jack tightened each strap until there was no slack Left in them.  Once he was done he stood back admiringly.

“What’s that?” Pardo had to ask.

“That’s your bull.”

Pardo laughed.  “Jack, it’s a barrel.”

“You ride mechanical bulls?” Jack asked.

“Sure.  I learned bull riding on one.”

“This’ll make that look like a kiddy toy,” Jack said, spitting across the barrel and into the dirt beside the porch.

Jack jerked one of the straps to make the front of the barrel jump up.  He pulled another strap and it made a sudden dip.  He spit again.

“You’re kidding me?  That is a kiddy toy,” Pardo said, not quite sure of what to make of it.

“Climb aboard, sonny.  Put your ass on the business end of this here toy.  You might learn something in spite of your hard head.”

Pardo eyeballed Jack suspiciously as he eased himself into the saddle.  He’d ridden mechanical bulls since he was sixteen, but he’d never seen a contraption like this one.  On the offhand chance Jack knew what he was talking about Pardo resisted no further.  Jack had him wrap the rope around his hand the same way he’d do in the bull riding chute.  This meant he was tightly tethered to the barrel with the ability to let loose by simply opening his hand and letting go of the rawhide strap.

Jack jangled the straps lightly.  Each time a strap was touched the barrel danced in a different direction.  The barrel imitated the modest bucking of a bull.  Pardo felt like a kid whose father just put him on the mechanical horse outside the shoe store in his home town and dropped a quarter in the slot.  He couldn’t believe he was doing it. 

It didn’t do much more than rattle Pardo’s teeth.  He let his weight shift according to the barrel’s trajectory. 

He thought, ‘this is no mechanical bull.’

“You okay, cowboy?” Jack asked with a certain smirk on his face.

“Like I said, it’s a toy.”

“Yeah, we’ll see,” Jack assured him, moving swiftly to hit one strap and then the other, giving it a bit of extra motion.

Jack moved faster and the barrel responded with a more vigorous motion.  As Pardo was forced to concentrate harder, Jack moved back and forth between two of the straps.  The barrel did a quick dip in the front before the barrel leaped up.  Pardo went rolling off the back of the barrel in a somersaulting motion.  Jack caught him before his butt could hit the porch.

“You bastard,” Pardo snarled and Jack let go so Pardo’s bounced on the wood.  “You did that on purpose.”

Jack stood leaning against the house, putting his index-finger to his lips, “Shhh!  Don’t look now but you just got thrown by a toy.”

“You did something.  That’s not what you were doing before,” Pardo complained.

“Yeah, and that’s what’s missing from the mechanical bulls.  They don’t do what real bulls do.  What I did was what smart bulls do.  The mean ones know to get you going in one direction before they break back in the opposite direction.  Throw in a twist and twirl for good measure, you’re done.  Ride over.  The smart bull adjusts like the smart cowboy.  It takes a turn or two to get the feel of a bull breaking back on you.”

“So why are you telling me all this?”

“You got good balance, son.  I never figured you’d get your feet under you before you landed.  That was fast thinking and faster reactions.  I think that earns another lesson.  Who knows, me and this toy might be able to teach you something, but don’t get your hopes up.  I ain’t made my mind up about you yet.  And you got a foul mouth on you, you know?  What would your momma say?”

“Let’s try it again,” Pardo said.  “I wasn’t ready that time.”

“I ain’t catching you next time.  There’s a mat folded up under the porch.  Put it behind the bull.  You’ll land on that.  It ain’t soft as dirt but it’s a damn site softer than that porch.

…And so it went.  Pardo spent most of his time getting up off the mat and Jack spent a lot of time trying to hide his chuckles.  After a break Pardo asked to go again, determined to stay a top the barrel.  He didn’t and he kept cussing and Jack had to laugh.

It took a week for Pardo to finally admit defeat.

“Okay, okay, I’ll never be a bull rider.  You’ve proved your point,” he complained from his seat on the porch, after only the second ride that day.  “I can’t ride this damn thing.  You keep doing stuff to it.”

“Now, we’re ready,” Jack said sternly.  “Get your ass up.  Help me round up the Brahmas.  We want the black one but we’ll keep them together until we get them corralled.  It’ll be easier to separate him out in there,” Jack said as he headed for the horses.

“You been laughing at me all week and now you want to cut out a bull for me to ride.  You proved your point.  I can’t do it.  I’m sore.  I’m tired.  I quit.”

“Yeah, but lucky for you the average bull ain’t smart as me.  I put moves on you he’ll never think up.  Let’s give it a couple of tries with the real deal.  Trust me.  If you still want to quit after two rides on the Demon, we’re done.”

“Yeah, right,” Pardo disagreed.  “Two damn rides.”

An hour later the black Brahma was snorting and bucking, banging his flanks against the wooden slats that were far too confining for his taste.  Jack put the riding rig on him and situated the rawhide strap his protégé would use to stay on him. 

Pardo watched closely to see the process but Jack kept getting in his way.  The oddest thing was when Demon stood still while Jack was rigging him up.  Until that point Demon was mad as a hornet.  Besides patting his nose, it was unclear how Jack calmed the cranky bull.  He’d been riding that barrel long enough that Demon was starting to look good. 

Pardo was having second thoughts up until then, but when Demon quieted down, he figured it was worth a shot.  Maybe he had learned something on that damn barrel.  Jack moved Demon in position. Each time he got cantankerous Jack went back to patting his nose.  Pardo was convinced there was more to it than that but that’s all he saw.

Demon stayed calm until Jack finished arranging him in the chute.  As quick as he walked away, Demon wanted out of the chute.

“Okay, sonny, climb up on the chute. Demon’s ready to take you for a ride.  You can still back out if you want.  This is what it takes if you want to ride them.”

Demon didn’t think much of being in that chute, but Pardo wasn’t going to back out now.  Jack backed away to open the gate once Pardo was ready to ease himself down on Demon.  He felt like he did when he was a little boy looking down into his granddaddy’s well, and he shook off the dizziness and forced himself onto Demon’s back, quickly wrapping the rawhide firmly across his palm to get it over with.

“Ready,” he said.

Jack yanked the gate clear of the chute, watching Demon leap into the bull ring with the cowboy hanging on.

The bull twisted one way and then the other and somewhere in the middle of this Pardo became dislodged, landing on his feet, he ran for the fence.  Jack opened another gate to let Demon back into the corral.

“You sure got off slick as a whistle, but that don’t convince me of nothing.  Take a breather and I’ll load him back up.”

Pardo didn’t complain.  Jack didn’t call him names and he hadn’t taken much of a fall.  He’d go again and see how it felt.  

The second ride went better and Pardo almost made eight seconds before Demon turned back on him.  He landed easy like and rolled under the fence near where Jack stood.

“Not half bad for a rookie.  You’re balance is better,” Jack said, going to let Demon back into the Corral.

Pardo waited for the insults but none came as Jack came back to see if he was fit to go again.  

“We got time for one more, cowboy and we’ll call it a day?”

Strangely enough, Pardo figured he’d learned more on that barrel than he’d thought.  He felt as if he had a little control for the first time.  He liked Jack and he wanted to be friends, but it wasn’t easy with a bull always between them.

The next ride on Milk Run was a success.  That’s where Jack ended the day.  Dinner was cold fried chicken and ice tea and it hit the spot.   Jack even bragged about Pardo’s best ride yet and there was no edginess to his comments.  Pardo felt like they’d crossed a divide and stood on the same side of bull riding for the first time. 

Pardo was feeling comfortable in the house with his instructor, but there was still one lingering question that erupted from time to time.  It had to do with the mystery of the unknown cowboy at Lariat’s who had been identified as Jack Slade.  At times he was sure it was the same cowboy and at other times he wasn’t.

These thoughts were reinforced the following day when Jose and Miguel became the audience after chores were done.  They applauded, laughed, and cheered on the cowboy they rode fence with.  They volunteered to open the gates, which freed Jack up to stay astride the chute to advise Pardo about the best way to position himself on the bull.

“Quit tensing up,” Jack yelled at him.  “Relax damn it.”

“Relax!  Are you nuts?  He wants to crush my legs against the chute,” Pardo complained as Demon twisted under him.

Jack put his hand in the middle of Pardo’s back to reassure him.

“Do what I tell you.  Relax your muscles as you ease down around his flanks.  He’ll won’t react like that if you don’t immediately tighten up around him.  You can come out of there a hell of a lot faster if you relax.”

Pardo didn’t like it and without Jack to pat the Demon’s nose the bull was downright ornery, but as usual, once Pardo followed Jack’s instructions, both he and the bull calmed down.  Jose swung open the gate as quick as Pardo said, ‘ready.’

They used all three Brahmas by this time but Demon was the only unpredictable one.  Pardo could sense the moves of the other two bulls and he was most likely to ride one of them for the eight seconds necessary.  He’d managed two successful rides on Demon and he knew those were his best rides.

Pardo knew he was developing his skills and gaining confidence.  Jack had eased up on the criticism, realizing there was the time to break the bronco and a time to gentle him.  It was an old wrangler’s recipe.  In the process each had learned to admire the other’s pluck, but it wasn’t something cowboys talked about.

The second time Pardo did eight seconds on Demon, Jack patted his ass the way guys do in athletics, but it had a decidedly different impact on Pardo when Jack touched his ass the first time.

There was up to a half dozen rides each day the following week.  Jack didn’t press Pardo to fill out the entry forms he’d collected for bull riding competitions within a day’s ride of the house.  He left them on the kitchen table and they spoke positively about his confidence in his protégé’s talent.

It was Pardo who held the ace in the hole and he knew it was time to play the card the evening Jack stopped at the sink in the bathroom to wash up before they went out to dinner.  When he came out of the bathroom with his shirt off, Pardo solved the mystery of the unknown cowboy.  He went about formulating a plan to make the most of this information.  

The following day after the work was done they stood in the corral talking about the number of rides they’d set up that afternoon. 

“I still can’t sense the double turn coming.  I’m not ready to win any competitions yet.  I need more training, Jack.  I’m not ready to be cut loose.”

“Suit yourself, Pardo.  I didn’t say anything about cutting you loose,” Jack advised, not liking the sound of Pardo’s comment.  “You’re ready for competition.  That’ll tell us more about your progress.  Competition gives us a reference point.”

“I just don’t want you to cut me loose too soon,” Pardo said, checking Jack’s reaction.

“I’m getting use to having you around but training you has to have some purpose, Pardo.  I think you’re ready.  You tell me when you think you’re ready.”

It was cloudy with a threat of rain the day the cowboys came in early from their fencing chores.  Pardo was back at the bullring, waiting for Jack to single out Demon for him.  Jack told Jose and Miguel to ride back out to a spot he’d seen from his truck where the wire was down.

Jack loaded Demon as Pardo got ready to ride. 

“You’ll have to get ‘er done on your own.  I’ll have to handle the gates,” Jack told him, glancing at the threatening skies.

Jack stood ready and yanked the gate open when Pardo was ready.

Pardo tilted a bit too much to one side and Jack was shaking his head, knowing he knew better.  Twisting back on himself, his usual technique, dislodging Pardo in such a way Jack lost sight of him.  Demon bucked and kicked, making the cowbell jangle loudly, but Pardo Hemsley lie motionless in the dirt. 

As soon as he looked, expecting Pardo to come up cussing, Jack saw he wasn’t moving at all.  He ran frantically to the cowboy’s side.

“Pardo!  Pardo!” he yelled, suddenly sick at his stomach as he feared the worse.  “Pardo, are you all right?” he yelled, frantic, bending to take a closer look.

In an unexpected move Pardo’s face sprang out of the dirt and he planted a kiss right on Jack Slade’s lips.

“What the hell was that?  What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Jack yelled, in a combination of anger and shock.  “You son-of-a-bitch.  I thought you were hurt.”

His concern turned to disbelief before turning to anger as he walked away from Pardo.

“What the hell made you think you could do a thing like that?”  Jack ranted, turning back on him.

“Cool your tool, Jack Slade, you aren’t putting anything over on anyone,” Pardo advised.  “If you’re worried about Jose and Miguel, they were riding out when I was up on the chute getting ready to take my seat on the Demon.  I wasn’t going to kiss you in front of them.”

“What, are you crazy?  That bull’s a killer.  You can’t fool around in a bullring with a killer like that loose,” Jack said, wheeling to keep from having his back to the still bucking bull who was ignoring them.

“Yeah, right, I might be stupid but I’m not blind.  Come here Demon, come on, I got a kiss for you too,” Pardo said like he was talking to a child.  Scampering to his feet and standing in front of Jack, Demon’s bell jangled as he bucked and kicked his way around the ring, but he’d smelled the chocolate and trotted with the bell tinkling, until he got to Pardo, who unwrapped Hershey’s Kisses.

Jack stood back, realizing Pardo had figured out his secret about how to handle Demon.  He wasn’t entirely mean or wild, having been raised by Jack, but there was one more secret that Jack knew and Pardo didn’t have a clue while holding the candy out in his palm, thinking he knew how it was done. 

Demon eased closer to use his lips to nibble the treat from the open hand.  Pardo reached for more he’d unwrapped earlier and stashed in his snapped shirt pocket.  He looked back for Jack, wanting him to know he was nobody’s fool.  Demon nibbled politely, loving the treat, watching and smelling for more.  The bull was as calm as a cow and that’s how Jack got him to do what he wanted him to do.

It was then Pardo noticed Jack backing easy like toward the nearest fence and away from them.  Looking back over his shoulder at the retreat, Pardo laughed, wondering what he was up to.

“Okay, that’s how I keep him calm.  Very clever you caught me at it, but he doesn’t like it when the chocolate runs out.  Did you notice that little detail while you were spying on my bull handling technique? 

“If I were you I’d start backing away right now, while he still has chocolate in his mouth and doesn’t figure you’re stupid enough to run out.”

“I never thought about it,” Pardo admitted cautiously, easing backward, while smiling at the happy-go-lucky bull, who stepped forward with each step Pardo took back.

“He’s tame as a pussy cat as long as you feed him chocolate.  It’s when you stop he gets downright mean,” Jack advised, turning and running the final few feet before climbing over the fence.

“Shit!” Pardo said softly, as he found himself staring eyeball to eyeball with a 1500 pound Brahma bull and his hand was empty.

“Now, we’re buddies, right, Demon?  I gave you candy,” Pardo explained to the bull.

Demon snorted and looked down at where his hoof dug at the dirt, and Pardo broke toward the fence in a dash for his life.  Jack’s eyes were big as saucers as he reached his arm down and pulled Pardo clear of the mad Demon passing close enough underneath for Pardo to feel the breeze on his britches.

“When it comes to bulls, Pardo, learn everything about one before you start giving him kisses,” Jack said with a smirk.

“I never thought about what happened when I ran out of candy,” Pardo admitted, feeling a little foolish for overlooking the obvious. 

“As a clown you learn to see all the angles when it comes to bulls.  You just don’t let a crowd see you give one candy to pacify them.  Once a bull throws you, he isn’t in the mood for no kisses in case you want to know.  I use the candy to get them where I want them.  It’s a distraction,” Jack explained.   “I learned it while these bulls were still young.”   

“I let Demon throw me so I could plant that kiss on you in case you wanted to know,” Pardo said with confidence.  “I saw you feeding him the candy.  I found the candy dish in the living room with the candy kisses.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?” Jack said, remembering the kiss.

“Get over yourself.  I saw you at Lariat’s a couple of years back.  I wouldn’t a known you from Adam back then, but the guy I was with didn’t have any such trouble recognizing you.  He told me he’d been with you.  I didn’t necessarily believe it, but he described that scar you got on your shoulder.  When you took your shirt off to wash up yesterday, there was the scar, exactly like he described it to me. 

“It was you and he wasn’t lying about being with you.  That’s when I planned to give you that kiss first chance I got.”

“That wasn’t very smart doing it in the bullring,” Jack said disagreeably.

“If I waited for you to kiss me I’d probably end up going without.  No, I knew I’d have to do the kissing the first time.  You could do worse, you know.  Besides, you got someone to train to carry on your legend. 

“How cool is that, Jack Slade?  You can get your riding thrills through me and get shed of that clown makeup.  We just might be champions together, but I’ll be careful not to let the crowd see me feeding you kisses, candy or otherwise,” Pardo said with certainty.

“Pretty damn cool, I must admit, Pardo.  I didn’t expect much when I brought you home.  Looks like I took on more than I bargained for. 

“I just wasn’t expecting a kiss for a thank you.  Lariat’s is the only damn gay bar I ever felt comfortable going into.  Damn nice of them to put a cowboy bar right in Laramie for me.  Just aren’t many real cowboys in that place.”

“So you going to manage my career or what?”

“Mixing business with pleasure ain’t all that good an idea,” Jack said thoughtfully.  “You might have all the tools, but you aren’t in the Wilcox league quite yet.  You might never be as good as him.  I can’t promise you I can teach you that.”

“Suit yourself.  I’m young, handsome, and can ride a bull like nobody’s business, thanks to you.  I’d just as soon throw in with you on account I fit into your jeans and wouldn’t need to do much shopping to make me look like a real cowboy, but you suit yourself,” Pardo said in a tease.

“I simply said it wasn’t good business.  I never said it wasn’t an idea that tickled my fancy, but let’s get one thing straight, we’ll need to toss a coin to see who does the riding at night,” Jack said, giving Pardo a pleasant smile as he patted his ass.  “I think I can get you trained proper.”

“Now we’re talking,” Pardo said happily, slipping his arm over Jack’s shoulders as they walked toward the house.

 

                                                          *****

“Wonderful Wino, W-I-N-O.” 

“War on the homeless.”

“The future isn’t what it use to be.”

Thank you, George.  You were an original, but I won’t be able to miss you, because I’ll put on one of your performances and there you are.  Genius is eternal.

“He was just here a minute ago.” George Carlin’s epitaph for George Carlin.

 

                                                          *****

  

 


  

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