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The Rattler

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Manolito Montoya pulled his horse to a stop outside the salon, dismounting with his usual flare. He took his hat off slapping the dirt from his pants, smirking as his two compadres arrived, shading his eyes from the dust their horses kicked up. The impertinence of the two gringos thinking they could outride him, as they’d raced the final stretch into town.

“You cheated Mano, we weren’t ready,” Blue complained.
“Now Blue Boy, don’t you be a sore looser,” Buck chided as he slapped his nephew playfully on the back. Dismounting they loosely tied their horses up to the rail over the water butt.

“Blue Boy, you go fetch that parcel from the store for Victoria, we’ll get you a beer in.

The boy looked at the two older men dubiously, “Pa said no distractions, wants us back before nightfall?”

Manotito dragged Buck towards the saloon entrance, “Mr Cannon would not begrudge a weary traveller a chance to wash the dust away my friend,” he directed at Blue.

Buck winked at his nephew,

“and what big brother don’t know, won’t hurt him little Blue Boy, so go do as I say. Now come on Mano, that tequila ain’t gonna drink itself!” he said and they entered the saloon rowdily.

“Okay uncle Buck,” Blue called after them as he slapped Soapy’s rump affectionately before heading to the mercantile store.

Several hours later...

Manolito was a little surprised and dejected when all that was left in their bottle of tequila was the dregs, hardly worth fighting over, as both he and Buck reached for the bottle.

“We have time for another, amigo?” He asked hopefully.

Buck lifted Blue’s head from the table his hair, “I thinks maybe be best getting him home,”

Manolito grinned, shaking his head, “peso ligero,”

Buck grunted, “Huh?”

“light weigh,” Mano translated and both men burst out guffawing.

“Aww don’t you worry, my little Blue Boy, he learn, he got good teachers!”
“Si amigo, si,” Manolito agreed as they made ready to leave.

The return journey went a little slower, between the heat and keeping Blue in the saddle. Manolito accepted the water cantina, gulping a drink, wiping the sweat from his brow. He passed the cantina back to Buck, nudging his horse forward. Diablo’s ears flicked in annoyance at being disturbed from his plodding pace.

Finally reaching Cannon land, with Blue back in the land of the living, just, they were able to pick up the pace. They cantered across the dry arid land, eating up a few miles. Keeping a look out for any hidden dangers, Apache or otherwise. What they didn’t account for was a rattler catching Diablo’s eye and spooking him. Manolito would never admit to it, but his reflexes were a little off and he lost his seat and hit the dirt.

Buck was off his horse, gun in hand dispatching the snake. Blue rode after Manolito’s riderless horse, fetching him back.

Over his initial shock of being thrown, he grinned in embarrassment, before concern for his mount took precedence,

“Is he uninjured?”

Buck checked over Diablo, running a hand down each of his legs, while Blue held him steady as the horse snorted.

“Yeah Mano, just shook up, he’s fine...”
“I think, my friend the same cannot be said for me,” Manolito said, half apologetic.

Buck hurried over to his friend, “you snake bit?” he asked with concern?

“No, my ankle,”

Buck knelt at his prone friends side, gently probing,”

“Ah!” Manolito gasped in pain, “careful compadre, I’m not one of your horses,” he groaned.

Buck grimaced in sympathy, “can you stand?”

With Blue and Buck’s help Manolito was hoisted carefully onto Diablo’s back. Leaning on the pummel of the saddle for support he got one foot into the stirrup, the injured foot hanging free.
Then together they made the final stretch of the journey back to High Chaparral.

“Riders comin!” Yelled the hand on look out duty, “it’s Buck, Mano and Blue,” he added as they got closer.

Dressed for dinner, Victoria came out of the main ranch house, hands on hips crossly. John brought up the rear, he almost felt sorry for his errant little brother and brother in law...almost.

“You are late! Dinner is almost ruined,” she said in English before reverting to Spanish to continue the telling off.

Manolito wasn’t sure if his ears hurt more, or his ankle...okay his ankle just edged in front. Placatingly he raised his hands in surrender, then played his sympathy card,

“Puede que me rompa el tobillo,” and his injured ankle picked that exact moment to make its presence felt and Manolito groaned in pain and swayed in in his saddle.

All thought of spoiled meals forgotten, Victoria was consumed with concern,

“oh Manolito, you’re hurt!” she cried, rushing forward. John made way for Vaquero and Sam to carry Mano into the house and upstairs to his room. Victoria close on the men’s heals.

Big John Cannon starred up at the still horsed Buck and Blue, “you’re late,” he stated gruffly.

“We had quite the adventure Big Brother...”

“I’ll bet it was Buck, and I’ll look forward to hearing all about it, after you’ve taken care of the horses and washed up. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating why your several hours late, and it better not have anything to do with a saloon or a cantina.” he glared for effect and smiled inwardly when his little brother squirmed.

“Did you at least remember to collect Victoria’s parcel? Seeing how that was the whole reason for the trip?”

Blue had been half nodding in the saddle but the question perked him up,
“yeah Pa, I got it, it’s safe in my saddle bag. He leaned down to double check the contents were indeed safe and sound. The movement reminding him he was still a bit hungover as he promptly fell out of the saddle.

Blue grinned sheepishly up at his father.

Rolling his eyes John hauled his boy up and tossed him over his shoulder, as he headed into the house.

“I’ll tend the horses Big John!” Buck called after his brother amiably.

2 days later

Manolito hopped down the stairs, balancing precariously on one crutch, ignoring his sisters chiding as she followed him.

“Manolo, where are you going? Vaquero said at least a few more days before you can even try weight bearing...? Are you listening to me?” She demanded.

“No,” he muttered as he headed for the front door, shutting it none too gently as he left.

John came from the study to investigate the commotion, catching his wife around the waist and drawing her into his embrace,

”what’s wrong Victoria?”

“It’s Manolito,”
“And what has my brother in law done now?”
“My husband, he is being so obstinate...he won’t stay in bed. He wouldn’t take a bath!”

John smothered a chuckle,”he is a grown man, not a little boy Victoria, do you think you might be mothering him too much?”

“He’s my baby brother and he is hurt...and I am the closest he has to a mother,” she pouted.
“Has he gone outside for some air?” John asked.
“He will be in the bunkhouse gambling and drinking,”
“Well then, maybe he’s well enough to sit at the bench outside and clean some tack. I’ll go and see in a while. But if you feel like mothering someone Victoria, well I’ve been slaving over the account books all morning. Coffee and a piece of apple pie? Join me?”

“Yes John...but perhaps Manolo would prefer a soak in the tub over sitting in the sun doing chores?” She wheedled, seeing the possibility of getting her own way after all.

“I’ll ask him,” John chortled as he guided Victoria towards the kitchen.

The end.