Deadlands: The Early Years

Denver Complications

As I intend for this journal to be more of a check to my own faliable memory, rather than a narrative intended to be enjoyed (read, laughed at) by some other cowpoke on down the road. Because of this, I don’t often talk about stuff what I think is obvious.

I’m a cowpoke from Nolan County, Texas, so I don’t talk about the trails, dust, the Comanches, chuck-wagon chili, beeves, or hosses, except in a general way. Ask any cowpoke from anywhere about those sorts of things, an’ they’ll tell you just about the same things, just not mebbe the same way. I expect the sheep-punchers back in King David’s day would have had about the same to say, too.

Still and all, sometimes the obvious bears writin’ down, too. When Chuck – that is to say, Professor Charles Sullivan from jolly ol’ England – was privy to my so-called ‘expertise’ with hosses, he was ‘pleasantly surprised’. Really? The cow-puncher is good with hosses. Well, if that don’t just beat all! Hell, I wonder if he knows the Padre is pretty conversant with the Good Book!

In all fairness, while this city boy probably wouldn’a known a stallion from a mule, his heart seems in the right place. He’s out here in the open air, not testin’ rich people’s flatulence for lack of smell (or worse), so that’s a step in the right direction.

Y’see, though, the reason I brung all this up isn’t to laugh at a tinhorn on paper (I can do that anytime), but to put forth the idea that sometimes it takes a statement so simple, so … naive … as to be from the mind of a child to bring about a profound change in one’s point of view.

The Prof and I were walkin’ back from the Broken Kay’s shingle when he dropped the ‘pleasant surprise’ about my ‘expertise’ turn of phrase on me. While I was tryin’ not to cry from wantin’ to laugh so hard, I realized that I really had no reason to laugh. I mean, here was someone I didn’t really know payin’ me a kind word, and lookin’ and talkin’ like he does, he’d probalbly been taken by less kind folks a time or two on his way West.

It was in that moment that I stood thunderstruck that I ceased to be ‘just’ a cowpoke who got really lost on his way to an extremely big payday, and became a sorta travlin’ hoss trainer. I mean, if I’d not woken up right then, when the Prof offered me a job makin’ sure his yearling grew up right while he continued on to wherever this place he was goin’ was, I’d have laughed in his face.

Hey – money is money, sure, but a few dollars a week steady is nothin’ compared to the pay-day of a month-long drove. I may not wear fancy duds or keep little widgets an’ such, but takin’ care of at least one ornery young hoss for and indeterminate period at quarter pay (or less) than what I could make workin’ the droves did not mathematically add up.

It didn’t matter. Of course I said yes. For one thing, could you imagine the Brothers Boom tryin’ to take care of those poor beasts alone? Hell, they’dve given her nitro pills or summat to make her run faster, then explode. If I din’t take a swing at it, I’d always wonder if the real reason I got jobs back home was ‘cause I was ’the Padre’s boy’, or if I was made of somethin’ better.

Anyone standin’ there in the street probl’y coulda figgred all that out just by lookin’ at me. I don’t really care. There was another reason I signed on, one nobody but me could know, ‘cause it was all in my head: For one New Yawk Minute, I was that slack-jawed tinhorn, standin’ there without clue one, an’ the Prof, God Bless him, din’ even notice. I owe him at least that much respect.



I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.