Story: Just An Old Cowhand

By: Michael C. Keith


There are lots of people who mistake their
imagination for their memory.
      –– Josh Billings

Billy-John Calhoun saddled up his horse, Rickets, in the corral of his windblown homestead north of Ashby, Nebraska, and rode it westward with great purpose. It took him just over a half an hour to reach the tiny farming town of Bingham. He kept a gallop through the two-block center as he moved in the direction of Ellsworth, some 15 miles further along the parched trail that ran parallel to a paved highway a half-mile to the south. Dang, I got to get to where we need to be awful soon, he reminded himself. It’s real important. Yup, it sure is.

When he reached Ellsworth, he slowed to a trot and gave the Farley granary a long look. No . . . no, can’t stop to say hello. Gotta keep going, he thought, urging his mount onward with a soft poke of his boot heels.

C’mon ol’ boy, ain’t there yet. We got business to tend. So, giddup, now, ya’ hear?”

A dozen miles later, he found himself in Lakeside.

Place looks as worn out as I remember. ‘Course, where we’re headed ain’t much prettier. Antioch is our stop, Rickets, and it’s the next town up. Promise you that. So don’t go losin’ your legs yet.”

By the time Billy-John reached the outskirts of his destination, his aging nag was lathered up and snorting hard. He dismounted the swaybacked Appaloosa and gave it a drink from his canteen. He then poured the remaining drops of tepid water down his dry gullet as he gazed at the western horizon.

There’s the place we need to get to. Yup, that’s where we’re gonna’, ah . . . ” he mumbled, and then a look of bewilderment covered his weathered face.

After a few moments, he climbed from his horse and threw his hat to the ground.

Shiii-it! If I ain’t gone forgot why it is we come here.”


Michael C. Keith teaches college and writes fiction.


3 responses to “Story: Just An Old Cowhand

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