Topic #102: Picture Prompt
The Eyes Have It by: Cindy
Digging In by: Dede
You Don't Wanna Do That by: Lori
Dedicated Follower of Fashion by: Dede
Melting by: Miss Raye
The Eyes Have It
by: Cindy

“Some mighty fine lookin’ horse flesh out there,” Cody remarked. He moved along the rope barrier that formed a temporary corral.

“Sure is,” Jimmy agreed, grinning. But his eyes were on a young woman standing off to one side, near the horse trader’s camp.

Lou reached out a hand to touch the nose of a roan mare that had wandered over. “Not quite like the mustangs we used to get.”

“A little harder to find them around Rock Creek,” Buck pointed out.

“How many did Teaspoon say he wanted?” Kid asked.

“Five,” Buck replied absently, his attention on a horse on the far side of the enclosure. The dappled grey mare stood alone, head down as if defeated. Still, there was strength in the lines of her body that caught his eye.

The trader wandered over their way just then. “Help you boys with something?”

“We work for the Pony Express,” Kid explained. “The stationmaster is looking for a few new mounts.”

“Pony Express, now ain’t that somethin’.” The trader spat some tobacco juice on the ground and held out his hand. “Name’s Joe Reilly, and you’ve come to the right place. I got some fine animals, be real good for the Express.”

Kid shook hands. “This here’s Lou, Jimmy, Cody, Buck, and they call me Kid.”

“Well, you know what you’re lookin’ for? Check ‘em out.”

As the riders slipped under the ropes, Buck made his way toward the grey mare. She shifted nervously as he approached, but she didn’t bolt. He reached a hand out slowly to touch her shoulder, feeling her trembling under his touch.

Behind him, Buck could hear the others discussing horses and prices, but he didn’t really care about that at the moment. This wasn’t like negotiating for the mustangs back in Sweetwater, where he was needed to translate. And something about the shy mare kept him in place.

He ran his hands gently over her flanks, feeling strong muscles rippling under his fingers. Then his hands stopped when he felt raised ridges on her skin. Parting the hair, his jaw tightened when he saw the scars.

Buck’s eyes searched the nearby camp area, and he quickly found what he had expected. There were several pairs of spurs hanging from the side of the wagon, the pointed edges glinting in the sunlight.

“Someone sure rode you hard,” he whispered, continuing his inspection. Except for the scars, the mare seemed physically very healthy. Her muscles were firm, her lines promised power, her legs were solid. He moved up to her head, carefully opening her jaws. Her teeth were sound, and indicated she wasn’t very old at all.

And then she looked at him, and he froze. The horse’s eyes seemed to speak to him, telling of pain, fear… but also strength.

“You don’t want that horse, boy,” Joe called, wandering over. “She don’t run, so ain’t no good for the Express.” He paused, chuckling. “Thought Indians was supposed to know ‘bout horses.”

“She might run if she hadn’t been cut by spurs,” Buck said softly.

The trader’s laughter stopped, and he glared at Buck. “Now you see here, boy. I run my horses the way I see fit. Ain’t you nor nobody else gonna tell me how to do it.”

“Hey, Mr. Reilly, how much for the black and white one here?”

Distracted by Lou’s question, Reilly glared at Buck for a moment longer and then turned his attention back to business. “Well now, that’s a real fine animal,” he started, walking in that direction. “I can see you’ve got a good eye…”

The rest of the conversation was lost as Buck turned back to the mare.

“She runs for me, mister.”

The voice, soft though it was, startled him, and he pulled his hand away from the mare. Looking beyond the horse, he saw the girl Jimmy had been eyeing earlier. Probably seventeen or eighteen, he guessed, with sandy blond hair – and eyes nearly as deep as those of the horse.

Eyes that also seemed to hold pain, fear, and strength.

“She runs for me,” the girl repeated. “She just needs someone gentle. Someone who ain’t gonna hurt her. Then she’ll run, fast as any of them.”

“You like to ride?” Buck asked.

The girl nodded. “Often as I can. Usually… well, usually when pa goes off to the saloon. He’s gonna drink most o’ what he got for sellin’ horses, an’ he ain’t gonna be back for a while. So I ride.”

Buck stepped around the horse, closer to the girl. “The mare does have good lines,” he said.

“She’s strong,” the girl agreed. “Just scared. But pa… well, he don’t see it that way. If you don’t do like pa wants, an’ right away, he…”

Her voice trailed off, she looked away – and that was when Buck saw the bruise. It covered most of her left cheek, and her eye was swollen.

He took a step closer. “Did your father…”

She shook her head quickly, turning her back. “That don’t matter,” she whispered roughly. Then she turned partway back, trying to smile. “Leastwise he don’t use spurs on me.”

“Girl! Girl, get over here an’ find the papers on these here horses!”

She stepped away, answering the summons. But Buck reached out a hand, halting her momentarily. “What’s your name?”

“Colleen,” she whispered, and then she was gone.

Reilly was pointing out the horses he wanted papers on, and when he was done, Buck called out to him. “How much for the grey?”

Reilly sighed, shaking his head. “I told you, boy, you don’t want her. What good’s an Express horse that ain’t gonna run?”

“He’s right, Buck. Teaspoon wouldn’t wanna spend money for a horse he can’t use,” Cody said.

Jimmy had wandered over, and his hands found the scars. “Yeah, Buck, he ain’t gonna pay for a horse like this.”

“We already got five anyway,” Kid added.

Reilly nodded in agreement. “Listen to your friends, boy. Anyway, that nag ain’t good for nothin’ ‘cept maybe dragging a plow.”

Buck ignored them all. “How much?” he repeated, staring at the trader.

Reilly finally shrugged. “Suit yourself. Guess you might as well take her, she’s just costin’ me feed.” He paused, considering. “No good piece of horse flesh, gimme fifteen dollars an’ get her out o’ here.”

Buck nodded. “I’ll be back with the money in a few minutes.” Fifteen dollars was more than he generally carried – but since he was a good judge of horses, he figured the mare would be worth every penny.

As he climbed out from the rope corral to go to the bank, he passed Colleen. She had her hands full of the papers for the other horses. “I’m going to take the grey,” he said. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Colleen managed a full smile this time, though it was accompanied by a grimace of pain. “I’m real glad,” she said. “She’ll be a real good horse for someone who’s gentle with her.” Her smile faded, and she looked at Buck for a long moment before finally turning away.

Buck watched her go, considering. There was something else in the girl’s eyes now, and he thought he knew what it was. But it was something he was going to have to think about.

~~~~~

“Thanks, Billy.” Buck handed the small bag up to the stage driver, watching as the other man tied it onto the baggage rack on top of the coach.

Colleen hadn’t had much to pack, but he knew every item was precious to her.

“Well, we was runnin’ a little early,” the driver said, a touch of pride in his voice; too often he heard complaints about being late. “Ain’t surprisin’ you missed the stage in town.”

Buck nodded. “Glad we caught up with you,” he said – even though the plan all along had been to catch the stage outside of town. It was much easier to sneak away that way, without the prying eyes of other people around.

“Well, miss, climb aboard,” Billy said, settling back into the driver’s seat.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” Colleen said softly.

“You deserve better,” Buck said simply. He’d finally figured out what he had seen in the girl’s eyes – happiness that the horse was getting another chance, combined with sadness that she saw no way out for herself.

Well, there was a way. And as for what might happen once Reilly woke up from his hangover and found his daughter missing…

Plenty of time to deal with that. Besides, he’d made sure no one saw them leave town.

He helped her up into the westbound coach and shut the door. She leaned out of the window, extending her hand. “Thank you.”

Buck touched her fingers for a moment, and then pulled his hand back. “Good luck.”

Billy threw off the brake, flicked the reins, and with a shout started the team up. The stage pulled away, leaving a cloud of dust behind.

When the dust had settled, and the coach was a barely visible dot in the distance, Buck turned to the grey mare. He placed one hand on either side of her head, his fingers rubbing her ears as he looked into her eyes.

“No one’s going to hurt you now,” he whispered. “Colleen’s safe, you’re safe.” His hands moved down her neck, and she leaned into his touch.

Maybe it was his imagination, or a trick of the sun, but he could have sworn fear was gone from the horse’s eyes. That kind of abuse wasn’t something the mare was apt to get over real soon, but maybe she could start trusting him at least.

“Let’s see what you can do,” he said, pulling himself into the saddle. He turned the horse away from the road, flicked the reins, and pressed his spur-less heels gently against her flank. She started forward easily, her gait steady and sure.

Buck loosened his hold on the reins, letting her set the course, and the pace. He used one hand to stroke her neck, whispering words of encouragement.

Her pace quickened, and she raised her head, snorting. When no punishment came, she shook her head, the long mane flaring. They were trotting, the open prairie beckoning on all sides.

And then they ran.

Digging In
by: Dede

“Give it back,” growled Jimmy. “I mean it.”

“Ya’ know Kid,” drawled Cody, merrily twirling what Jimmy wanted, “I think he just may mean it.”

“And I agree Cody.” Just behind Jimmy, Kid held his hands up and Cody tossed him Jimmy’s hat. Quickly, Kid twisted away before Jimmy could grab him, and waged his finger in Jimmy’s face. “Now, now Jimmy.”

Lips drawn in a thin line, Jimmy closed his eyes and put his hands on his hips. “I would like my hat back… please.”

“Oh, he did say please,” stated Cody, but his grin said it didn’t matter. As Jimmy lunged, Cody dodged him and gracefully twirled to catch Jimmy’s hat when Kid threw it. Waving it in Jimmy’s face, Cody cackled. “I do remember it wasn’t too long ago that you and Kid,” he gave Kid a pointed look but only received an eye roll as regret, “did just this and my hat was ruined.”

“I do remember,” grunted Jimmy. “But you also remember that we had to buy you a new one.”

“Just give him his hat.”

Startled by the irritated voice, the three boys looked over to see Buck, who was sitting on the seat of the wagon, wearing a rather rigid expression.

“Thank you Buck,” said Jimmy smugly, holding his hand out.

“Uh, can I ask why you want us to do that?” Cody was almost pouting and he still clutched the hat.

Buck’s grimace caused Cody and Kid to exchange looks of surprise, and Jimmy to cross his arms over his chest and gloat. “Why? Cause he thinks you two are actin’ like children. Right?” Jimmy nodded towards Buck and grinned.

“I just think you need your hat ‘cause, well, you look better with it on.” The corner of Buck’s mouth curved into a sly grin, as he arched one brow.

Speechless for a brief moment, Cody and Kid recovered quickly and burst into gales of laughter. Jimmy took a little longer but soon was laughing with his friends as Cody tossed him his hat.

*~*~*~*~*

The deep laughter vibrated off the store window as the three girls spied on the boys.

“He is truly a handsome man.” The petite redhead sighed as she stood on her tiptoes to get a better look at the scene.

“Which one?” asked the brunette, as she leaned closer to the glass.

“Take your pick,” replied the redhead and giggled.

“Really Esther, you should behave.” Flinging her hair over her shoulder, the brunette lifted her nose in the air.

“Oh Rose, you are not fooling anybody. You like that blonde,” said Esther, nudging her friend. Rose joined Esther’s giggles as they looked at their companion, who hadn’t said a word. “What about you Nori, as if we didn’t know?”

Honoria (Nori only to her two good friends) Abernathy wasn’t really listening to the other girls. She was too busy staring at Buck. Dreamily playing different scenes in her mind, the various ways she could meet him, nothing seemed spontaneous and yet proper. Her heavy sigh fogged up the window so she lifted her hand to wipe it away. Nose to nose with her own reflection, she saw her two friends bemused reflections beside hers.

“I missed something didn’t I?”

“Very much so,” chided Rose. As Esther moved to Nori’s left side, Rose placed her arm around Nori’s shoulders and squeezed. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” said Nori, though she knew neither Rose nor Esther would believe her.

“Really?” asked Esther, leaning her head on Nori’s shoulder. The girls stared out the window and saw that the boys were actually loading the supplies. “Nothing… so everything is just perfect. That must mean you’ve met him, right?”

Finally, releasing an exasperated breath, Nori shook her head.

“Yes well, it doesn’t matter if you had. You know your father.” Rose glanced over Nori’s shoulder at Esther.

“And your brothers,” murmured Esther, looking back at Rose.

“I don’t care,” replied Nori, squaring her shoulders. “He’s a nice boy and he works hard and he even helps Marshal Cain from time to time. That proves that he’s honorable and –”

“And that’s why your father named you what he did,” pointed out Esther, her hands on her hips. “Honor is very important to him but,” Nori tried to speak so Esther raised her finger, “but, and I know you’re going to argue in Mr. Cross’ favor, but you know your father would never see honor in that boy.”

“And from no fault of Mr. Cross’,” added Rose.

Nori bowed her head, knowing that her friends were right and were just trying to keep her from getting hurt. Rich laughter sent a shiver down her spine and she looked up to see Buck standing in the wagon. Cody had fallen back with a bag of flour and was now covered in the stuff. A small smile started and Nori allowed a big grin to spread across her face.

“I don’t care,” she announced. “I will meet him and I will…” she blushed, “love him.”

Rose and Esther shared the same acquiescent looks. They knew that once Nori decided something, she wouldn’t be dissuaded easily.

“Well, we’ll just call you Miss Spurs,” said Esther teasingly.

Nori felt the support of her friends as Esther curled her arm through Nori’s and Rose wrapped her arm around Nori’s waist.

“What does that mean?” Rose glanced at Esther, who just winked.

Nori looked curiously at Esther who grinned slyly, making Nori roll her eyes. “Do I want to know why?”

“Because knowing you, you’ll dig in and hold on for all you’ve got.”

The three girls giggled as they watched Kid and Buck try to help Cody brush off, while Jimmy, leaning against the wagon, laughed.

“Now,” said Esther in a conspiratorial tone of voice, “how to get you and him to actually meet.”

You Don't Wanna Do That
by: Lori

“You shouldn’t do that.”

He clenched his jaw, as the words carried towards him. He was trying so hard to keep a positive attitude, to believe that in time they would accept him…that he would accept him. However, it was getting rather hard to maintain such an outlook when faced with the negative words and disposition of Jimmy Hickok.

All Ambrose had wanted was the chance to come out West. To see something that he’d only read about in his books at college. To see the wide open expanses and untamed territory and the men and women who lived there. He wanted to meet a man he’d read about and admired for his strength and bravery. He hadn’t meant to embarrass Jimmy, and he hadn’t meant to anger anyone; when he found out the truth about the proposed route change he’d stated it wasn’t right and tried to fight against it.

It seemed like none of that mattered, though. His bumbling, fumbling, overeager first impression was all anyone would remember. They all declared that he wasn’t strong enough to help, he wasn’t brave enough to fight, and he wasn’t honest enough to go with them. He was told to stay behind like a little child, and then told that it was for his own good. He felt insulted and condescended towards and he was tired of it all. He may not know everything, but he was getting real sick of being told ‘no’ in various forms.

He was not going to hurt the animal; it was already dead. He was not going to poke it with a stick and disrespect it. He was not foolish enough to try to eat it since it had obviously been dead for some time. The smell was disgusting, but Ambrose took his handkerchief out of his pocket and covered his nose, determined to get a closer look. This may be his only chance to ever see a real fox and not a stuffed one.

He regretted that he hadn’t had a chance to observe it alive. To see it run across the land on its tiny paws. He would never get the chance to see it hunt its prey or drink from a stream. For some reason that saddened him and he felt robbed of what could have been a beautiful experience. Although death was simply a way of nature and there was evidence of the carcass already being set upon by scavengers, his overwhelming desire was to bury it. It somehow deserved that dignity, even though he knew it was sentimental foolishness.

He grabbed the fabric of his pants just above his knees and hitched it up slightly, seeking a little more freedom as he wanted to take just a closer look at the dead, but still beautiful, creature. Just as he started to move, Jimmy called out, “Ambrose, no!”

He understood the message mere seconds later as his posterior met his spurs.

Thankfully Jimmy was there to grab him as he jerked away from the offending pain, and he didn’t fall on top of the carcass. Kindly, the other man helped him straighten up and stand, not letting go until Ambrose was settled back on his feet. He felt embarrassed, and yet couldn’t help but laugh along with Jimmy who said, “The first thing you gotta learn, Bulldog, is never squat when you’re wearing spurs.”

As his idol, who was quick becoming a friend, stepped away he playfully punched Ambrose on the arm and said, “We’ll make a cowboy of you yet, Bulldog. Just remember…”

“Don’t squat when wearing spurs,” he finished. “Thanks, Jimmy. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

Dedicated Follower of Fashion
by: Dede

“Jameson I said I can’t sell that stuff,” bellowed Tompkins. A small, wiry man wearing an indignant expression stood on the walkway outside Tompkins’ store, clutching his sample bag. “Now git!”

“There’s really no need to shout sir.” He raised his nose in the air, pivoted on his heel, and quickly walked down the sidewalk.

Across the street, Cody sat on the bench in front of the marshal’s office and watched the scene with keen interest. He’d seen the man arrive on the stage and had heard that the man sold clothing of some kind. Once off the stage, the salesman had immediately made the rounds of almost every shop in Sweetwater.

Never one to pass up an interesting person, Cody contemplated introducing himself to this ‘Mr. Jameson.’ Perhaps Cody could pass on his knowledge and experience with the local businessmen but also offer his incredible style advice. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what the man was selling and Sam had called on Teaspoon and the boys for some help.

Kid poked his head out the doorway. “What was that all about?”

“Don’t know, but Tompkins seems irritated about somethin’,” answered Cody.

“Tompkins is always irritated about something.” The two riders looked over to see Buck walk up, followed by Lou. “So what’s got him flustered now?”

“Like I said, don’t know but it’s somethin’ to do with that salesman.” Cody watched the man in question stop at the next store. He really wished he knew what was in that man’s bag.

“Sam inside?” Lou gave Cody an odd look and glanced around for the lawman.

“Yeah but Teaspoon ain’t.”

“Teaspoon’ll be here in a bit with Jimmy and Ike,” said Buck, glancing back at the salesman Cody was talking about.

“We might as well wait inside.” Kid moved aside to let Lou and Buck walk in. When Cody remained on the bench, his gaze following the man with the bag, Kid cleared his throat.

“What?” Cody glanced over and, seeing Kid’s expectant look, shook his head. “I’m gonna find out what’s in that bag.” Grinning, he pushed himself off the bench and strolled leisurely away.

“Where’s he going?” asked Buck as he walked up beside Kid.

“To find out what’s in some bag,” muttered Kid and turned to go back inside. Buck shrugged and followed.

*~*~*~*~*

Cody stood outside the leather shop and looked through the window. He watched as the odd little man spoke to Mr. Wilson. By the tanner’s firmly set jaw, Cody could tell the man was less than enthusiastic with whatever the subject was. However, Mr. Jameson was completely unaware that he was losing his audience and continued to expound upon the topic, dramatically waving his arms around.

Finally, when the salesman opened his case, Mr. Wilson had had enough. The tanner simply turned and walked to the back storeroom, leaving Mr. Jameson alone at the counter. Cody felt sorry for the man but the slight didn’t seem to affect Mr. Jameson in the least. He simply picked up his bag and walked out the door.

“They don’t seem to wanna buy what you’re sellin’,” said Cody amiably, leaning against the pole outside the store.

Mr. Jameson looked Cody up and down appraisingly. With his lips pursed, the salesman sniffed at the rider. “Yes well not many people in this town have taste I see.”

While Mr. Jameson looked around the town, Cody took the opportunity to study the man. Roughly a head shorter than Cody, the salesman was impeccably dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black string tie, black shoes, and a black bowler. The fact that he was dressed like an undertaker or a preacher wasn’t lost on Cody. And that with all the dust around, the suit was pristine as if the man had been encased in some protective cocoon. As for Mr. Jameson’s personality, to Cody it wasn’t as spotless as the man’s suit but that wasn’t a deterrent to the rider. Curiosity got the better of him and Cody had to know what this man had in his bag.

“So wha’d’ya’ sell?” asked Cody, as he leaned over trying to peek in the bag, which was slightly opened. It was made of rich brown leather with two straps over the expandable opening that buckled closed.

“Sell?” said Mr. Jameson snidely, squeezing the bag shut. “I don’t just sell these items, I find only the most suitable people for my merchandise. These are of the finest quality and not just anyone can wear them.” He turned to walk away.

“Wha’d’about me?”

This stopped the man in his tracks and he slowly turned back. “I beg your pardon? You?” The man’s lip curled.

The man’s curt almost haughty attitude confused Cody. If he wanted to sell something, why was he being so rude? “Why not?”

“Well for one thing, it takes money to buy my goods,” he replied coolly.

“And I have money,” countered the rider.

“No, not a meager pittance,” sighed the salesman. “Not what you can scrape together. A real job paying real –”

“I’m an Express rider,” Cody cut in.

Mr. Jameson’s mouth snapped shut as his eyes widened. After a brief moment, the man smiled and held out his hand. “Bertram Jameson at your service, Mister....”

“Cody, William F. Cody,” replied Cody, taking the man’s hand. It wasn’t hard to miss the shrewd glint in Mr. Jameson’s eyes.

“Now, the items I have to show you are rather expensive but a man of your taste and style I’m sure will know that immediately.” Mr. Jameson was almost purring.

“Oh yes sir,” said Cody, puffing his chest out. “I try to help my fellow riders pick out the latest but it’s hard to help people who just ain’t got the style.”

“I can just imagine,” said Mr. Jameson dryly.

“So, what’s in there?” Cody grinned and pointed towards the bag.

“Those are just basic samples, the real pieces are in my hotel room, come and I’ll show you,” said Mr. Jameson encouragingly.

“Lead the way.”

*~*~*~*~*

The pain was shooting up his legs as he made his way down the walkway. He’d finally found out what Mr. Jameson sold – boots. But not just any boots, elaborately decorated using intricate stitching and colors, made of the finest leather, with beautifully ornate silver spurs. High quality merchandise and Cody was one of the few lucky people to own a pair, in which his feet were now aching. Unfortunately, Cody’s size was not in Mr. Jameson’s samples but he’d assured the rider that they’d stretch out. With each step, Cody hoped that would be so.

Farther up the street, Cody saw Teaspoon and the riders walk outside the jail as Sam stood in the doorway. Desperate to show off his new boots, Cody picked up his pace as Teaspoon turned to face his boys. Cody could just hear what the man said.

“So we all understand what we’re to do?” When the boys nodded, Teaspoon continued, “If someone would explain this to Cody, I’d appreciate it. If I see him I’m liable to –”

Before Cody could speak, Jimmy interrupted and pointed over Teaspoon’s shoulder. Though Cody missed exactly what Jimmy said, he saw everyone turn and stare as he hobbled towards them.

“What in the….” Teaspoon’s voice trailed off as he stared bewildered down at Cody’s feet. The rider was wearing a pair of boots with every color Teaspoon had ever seen. Bright blue, red, green, yellow, in some kind of scene he couldn’t quite figure out.

“What is that noise?” asked Buck, looking up as if the sound was coming from the air. “It’s a jingling noise.”

“From Cody’s feet,” answered Lou, nodding towards Cody’s new boots.

*Cody has bells on his feet* Ike smirked.

“Good grief, they are bells,” murmured Kid, as he bent down to stare at the noisy bobs. “On his spurs.”

“Those ain’t spurs,” drawled Jimmy, “they’re wagon wheels.” The other riders laughed.

“I’ll have you know that these are the highest quality boots around,” grunted Cody, finally able to get a word in. His feet were throbbing and he really wanted to sit down.

“Um, so where’d ya’ get ‘em?” Teaspoon eyed Cody dubiously.

“Teaspoon just think,” said Cody enthusiastically. “We can outfit all the riders in these boots.”

“Oh no, I ain’t wearin’ nothin’ that looks like that.” Jimmy snickered, crossed his arms over his chest, and shook his head.

“Or sounds like that,” added Buck, and they laughed even harder.

Not to be hindered, Cody pleaded his case above the laughter and ticked off the boots’ features on his fingers. “These are the strongest, most durable, most well-made, and –”

“And can be seen for miles,” said Sam. He grinned as the riders’ amusement caused Jimmy and Kid to have to sit down or fall down.

The more he attempted to sell the boots the more everyone laughed, so Cody frowned and looked over at Teaspoon, hoping the man would help him out. The others were still chortling when Teaspoon finally spoke.

“Son, first off, you look like you can barely stand,” he held up his hand to stop Cody’s protests, “and second, how much did you pay for them ‘fine quality’ boots?”

The idea of admitting the boots were killing his feet didn’t sit well with Cody but there wasn’t a way out of it. “He said they’d stretch out with wear and would soon fit my feet like a glove.”

“Don’t know any kinda glove that looks like that,” said Kid, nudging Jimmy.

“Now see that’s the problem,” said Jimmy casually, “they ain’t for his feet but his hands.”

More laughter caused Teaspoon to raise his hand for silence. “Now how much did ya’ pay?”

“Not as much as ya’d think.” The pained grin didn’t have the relaxing affect Cody had hoped, so he tried another route. “Now ya’ don’t have to get such fancy boots,” explained Cody. “I did ‘cause I wanted a nice pair for the social.” He lifted his leg and used his sleeve to wipe the dust away. “But they’re all made a’ this strong leather. Like I said – durable.” As his foot hit the boards, a distinct crack was heard and everyone’s eyes fell to Cody’s foot. Lifting his foot once more, the heel of his boot was dangling off.

The laughter was all Cody could stand, or couldn’t stand with how his feet felt. He limped over to the bench, smacked both Kid and Jimmy aside, and slowly lowered himself onto the seat between his two traitorous friends. “He said these were the best,” he whined, shaking his head. Before anyone could answer Tompkins walked up.

“Cain, I wanted to let ya’ know that…” His eyes drifted towards Cody’s feet and Tompkins let out a whoop of laughter. “You actually bought a pair of them horrid boots?” Delighted, he bent over and slapped his leg. After a moment, the storeowner gathered his wits and turned to leave.

“Weren’t ya’ gonna tell me somethin’,” asked Sam curiously.

“Ya’ already know,” replied Tompkins cheerfully, waving his hand over his shoulder. “That swindler Jameson’s in town.” Tompkins whistled as he walked back to his store.

Cody sighed and bowed his head, his chin touching his chest. “Could someone please help me take these danged things off?”

No one had the heart to keep up the teasing. Buck nodded to Ike and the two walked over to help Cody get his boots off. It took a lot for the two to yank the boots off Cody’s feet, and Kid and Jimmy helped by holding Cody on the bench.

“So how much are you out?” sighed Teaspoon. The boots sat on the ground in front of Cody, and he mumbled his response. Teaspoon looked around to see if anyone had heard. They all shrugged. “Cody, how much are –”

“Y’all know that I gotta buy the best cause I’m a dedicated follower of fashion,” insisted Cody. He picked up one of the boots and ran his hand lovingly over the surface. “And if I wear ‘em, get ‘em stretched out, and then get the heel fixed these boots will be great.” He gave them a cheerfully optimistic grin.

For a moment no one said a word, then Teaspoon turned to the riders. “So we ready?” The riders nodded, but still cast worried glances at their friend. “Then let’s get this done.” With Teaspoon and Sam, the riders walked to their horses, leaving Cody sitting on the bench, happily caressing his new boots.

Melting
by: Miss Raye
Teaspoon showed up unexpectedly one morning. Knocking sharply on the door, he waited for the response from inside the house. A few moments later the door opened and Rosa's expression went from frustrated to thrilled in a blink. "Papa!" The light in her eyes was genuine as she stepped forward to ring Teaspoon's neck with her hug. "Come in… this is a surprise, Buck just left."

Waving off her concern he gave her a peck on her cheek. "I see him around often enough, I actually came here to see if you had my old trunk from the Express Station."

Rosa closed the door and set her hands on her hips. "And I thought you'd come to spend time with your favorite daughter."

"Of course I did," he hastily corrected adjusting his suspenders as he looked around the room, "but you have my old trunk, right?"

Throwing up her hands in mock frustration, Rosa sighed and looked over at the back door. "The boys are outside. Ask them where your old things are… when you boys are done 'playing' with your things… come in for a meal."

On cue, Teaspoon's stomach growled like a caged animal. "Well, it couldn't hurt to have a little something to eat."

Taking hold of her father by his shoulders she turned him around and ushered him to the door. "Outside first. And when you boys make a mess of yourselves and the shed, then kindly wash before you come back inside."

*** ***

There are few things more exciting to a young boy than an insect to watch, a reptile to hold, pie on the window sill and someone rooting around in a dark space. Teaspoon didn't even have to look for his grandsons they came to him.

"What are you lookin' for?" Teaspoon didn't have to turn around to figure out which boy had come in first, they were twins, so physical appearance didn't have much to do with telling them apart, their words were enough. Teo was brash and to the point, so the long shadow cast across the floor of the shed belonged to the younger of the twins.

"I came to get somethin' out of my old trunk."

"Oh," the arching statement seemed a bit too broad for his peace of mind, "you mean the one Pa said almost broke his back carryin'?"

Teaspoon shook his head. "I guess… I'd a thought your father stronger than one little trunk."

"He didn't start the complainin'," reasoned Teo. "What was it the Marshal said first, Tad?" Teaspoon had to look up and around to see his other grandson, standing tall in the shadow of the door the young boy had nearly disappeared into the darkness. "I don't think we should say it." Giving the boy a sweet doting smile, Teaspoon urged him on. "Go ahead, son… I'm sure whatever Jimmy had to say it was… colorful."

Tad gave a single shake of his head. "Mama wouldn't like us using those words."

Teaspoon gave a long suffering sigh and reached down to lift the lid of trunk. Teo made a great show of waving his hand before his face as his face was contorted in a coughing fit. "How old is that thing?"

Sure, the trunk was old and Teaspoon knew the things inside had accumulated some dust, but he attributed his grandson's dramatic reaction to the relative good humor of his son-in-law. "Just stay out of the way then, son… wouldn't want you boys to see what was in here anyways."

"Oh? What you got in there?" Teo was all but hanging on his back, trying to get a good look inside the trunk.

"Just some of my things from before the Express."

"Oh?" Teo's voice was full of mirth. "Like the first wheel? Made of stone?"

His head hanging from his neck, Teaspoon said a silent prayer for patience. "Keep up the jokes, son and I might forget you're only eight and take after ya."

"Fine… fine…" the boy stepped back out of the doorway, "who wants to look in an old trunk anyway?" With a dramatic sigh he disappeared beyond the sight of the doorway.

Teaspoon turned his gaze on the older of the two. "What about you Tad? You wanna stay and help me look?"

Stepping quietly into the confines of the shed, Tad set his book down on a box nearby and knelt down beside his grandfather. His gaze was full of his questions and Teaspoon gave him a wink. "I'll tell you what we're lookin' for, an old poster with my picture on it." He caught the surprise in Tad's eyes. "Yep, at one point in my misspent youth, your grandpa was a wanted man. I was young and stupid and I expect you and your brother to do better'n' I did."

He lifted off the top layer, a woven Navajo blanket with rich red, white and black threads. Teaspoon set it aside on a crate and reached in again. Teo reached out and touched the complicated pattern his eyes taking in the beauty of the craftsmanship. "Got that from an Indian that wanted to trade me his horse for some food. He'd been a long way from his home and there weren't much in the way of huntin' where we were." Teaspoon got a far-away look in his eyes and smiled. "I couldn't take the man's horse… he had some travellin' to do… and I couldn't just give it to him… he was too proud to accept it without tradin' something."

"You took the blanket instead."

"That's right," Teaspoon agreed. "Treasured it ever since." He kept digging and lifted out a few other items setting them aside. Soon he was wrapped up in the memories and revisiting with the past, both recent and beyond. It wasn't until he reached the layer near the middle that a soft gasp of breath stayed his hands. Giving a quick look to the contents he turned back to his grandson's shocked expression. "What's wrong, Tad?"

Resting both hands on the edge of the trunk, the boy rose up on his knees to look into the confines of the trunk. Peeping out from under an old shirt was the pointed disk of an old pair of spurs. The boy wrinkled his nose and gave a shudder as he sat back down, his shoulders slumped.

"It's just an old pair of spurs, Tad… it won't hurt you." Teaspoon reached into the trunk and pulled the pair out from under the shirt. "Here, you can take a look at 'em if you want to."

He held them out but all Tad would do is look at them, his eyes shadowed with an odd expression.

"Son, is somethin' wrong?"

"You use those?"

Teaspoon lifted them into the light, marking the obvious rust and age that marred the once shiny finish of the spurs. "Nope, not recently… haven't used these since I was a Texas Ranger."

"Did you 'use' them?"

Opening his mouth to answer, Teaspoon thought better of it and looked at Tad's downturned expression. "What are you askin' me, son? Are you just wonderin' if I wore 'em… or are you wonderin' if I used them to hurt the horse?" Clapping a hand on his grandson's shoulder he leaned in to make sure his words were heard by the young man. "In my life I've done a lot of crazy things… sometimes hurt myself and folks I loved, but along with gettin' older and seein' the ways of the world," he paused and gave Tad a smile, "and knowin' folks like your Papa… I wouldn't dare use a spur on a horse." He waited for a reaction… some kind of indication that the boy had heard him… had been reassured.

Reaching out a hand, Tad touched the rowel and recoiled as though it had bit him. The boy was lost in thought for a moment, his gaze on the metal in Teaspoon's hands, his thoughts hidden behind the shadows that had fallen over his face.

Usually quiet, when he was like this it made most folks worry. With Teaspoon, a doting grandfather, it made his heart ache. "Son? Tadeo?"

Tad looked up, unaccustomed to hearing his full name from his grandfather.

"What's the matter?"

"If you won't use them…" he blinked once, "then why keep them?"

It was such a simple question. Teaspoon's mind filled with a dozen answers of why he should keep them… a dozen more followed and yet when he looked in the earnest eyes of his grandson, they all fell to dust at his feet.

Teaspoon let out a sigh that made him feel like he was older than Methuselah. "Give me a hand, will ya?" Together they put the scattered items back in the trunk and Teaspoon closed the lid with a resounding 'thunk.' He got to his feet and waited for Teo to join him at the door.

Together they started walking toward the main part of town. Teo turned his questioning gaze up and Teaspoon answered the silent question. "We're goin' to see your Pa." A beat later when Teo hadn't turned his head Teaspoon continued on with his explanation, lifting the spurs in his hand. "Seems he's got a furnace hot enough to melt a few old pieces of metal in… and I won't be needin' these anymore."

Nodding, Teo turned his gaze forward, walking beside his grandfather with lighter steps.

"What about finding your poster?" The question was spoken through a smile.

Teaspoon shrugged as they walked. "I can find that another day. You gotta take care of the important things first." Teaspoon set his free hand on the boy's shoulder and the two continued on their walk.

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