Topic #88: Word List: spitfire, triple, atop, chow, hoarse (use at least 3)
A Gentle Touch by: Lori And The Winner Is... by: Cindy
Ike's New Best Friend by: Jo Sweeten the Pot by: Dede
The Coming Storm by: Miss Raye
A Gentle Touch
by: Lori

“Man, oh, man,” Cody whistled through his teeth. “She sure is a little *spitfire*.”

Jimmy chuckled as he walked along by his fellow rider and his voice was low and appreciative, in that tone that all men get, as he said, “You’re tellin’ me. I found it hard to stay *atop* her.”

Lou stayed low in the barn, careful to keep out of sight as the two carried on. They were checking their tack, but she knew what they were really doing was taking the time to brag about their conquests. She was disgusted by their talk, even though she knew she shouldn’t be. Just because they knew she was a girl now, didn’t mean that they were going to stop being men and having urges. And they were probably only talking about their latest conquests because they didn’t think she was around. Ever since they’d found out the truth, they tried to be respectful around her.

So if she was angry, it wasn’t because they’d deliberately set out to be coarse in her presence. She just caught them at an unguarded moment when they thought they could talk.

“Man, I don’t know how you do it, Hickok,” Cody continued on. “I can barely hang on; she’s constantly bucking and thrashing, tryin’ to toss me off.”

“You just gotta know how to handle her,” Jimmy replied, a little bit of smug confidence entering his voice. “She just needs a gentle, yet firm, hand. She needs to know that you respect her wild nature, but that you’re in control and you’re not going to let her buck you off.”

Lou pinched her lips together, feeling disgust and then anger. Were they talking about the same woman? Did this mean that they…that they’d been with the same woman?

“You mean just like you were in control the time she caused you to do a *triple* flip right off her?” Cody laughed. “That sure was a sight to see.”

She frowned, her eyes widening. They were watching each other?!

“Oh, come on,” Jimmy scoffed. “That was nothin’. That was when we were first starting. It’s not like Kid who keeps getting forced off no matter what he tries. I don’t even know why he bothers anymore.”

Kid! Kid was…was…the same woman…going with Cody and Jimmy?! Lou was so angry that she stood quickly from her spot in the barn and stormed over towards Cody and Jimmy. They looked up at the sound of her approached, and then stopped suddenly and Cody even took a step or two back.

“Kid?!” she demanded of them.

“Uh…Lou,” Jimmy said slowly. “Are you…are you lookin’ for Kid?”

“We ain’t seen him,” Cody offered.

“He’s…he’s probably off with that…that little spitfire!” she spat out like it was poison in her mouth.

“Uh…no,” the dark-haired rider shook his head. “He’s stopped trying to break her. Gets too beat up.”

“Oh, I’ll just bet,” she said low and dangerous in her throat. “It won’t be nothin’ compared to how feels when I get done givin’ him a piece of my mind. And her. I have half a mind to go talk to her! And I should tell Rachel while I’m at it.”

“Hey, hey,” Jimmy said, holding up his hands as he stepped towards her. “You really will be in half your mind if you think that you can handle Spitfire any better than the rest of us. I respect your ridin’, Lou, but you ain’t got the weight necessary to try to break her. And then Rachel and Teaspoon would have our heads if they knew we let you get in the stall with that horse.”

Lou blinked and looked up at Jimmy, then over at Cody. Apparently the blond thought she was going to argue with them because he stepped forward, “You’re a good shot, Lou, and you know that the rest of us support you workin’ for the Express. But there ain’t no way we’re gonna let you try and break that horse. She nearly took Ike’s head off with a kick and Jimmy, Buck and I have been bustin’ our backsides tryin’ to gentle her.”

“You’re…you’re talkin’ about Spitfire? The horse?”

Jimmy tilted his head to the side and asked, “Yeah. What did you think we were talkin’ about?”

The End

And The Winner Is
by: Cindy

It was a sorry lot gathered around the corral at the Sweetwater waystation. Kid sat propped against a bale of hay, holding his bruised ribs with one hand, while carefully protecting a broken finger on the other hand. Ike sat near him, holding a wet cloth to the side of his head, attempting to stem the flow of blood from a deep gash.

Closer to the house, Jimmy sat on the back of the buckboard as Emma cleaned a cut on his arm and wrapped a bandage around his injured wrist. And Buck walked slowly back and forth, his hand occasionally rubbing his backside – walking was painful, but sitting would have been worse.

All four young men were mostly silent, except for an occasional low moan. They were *hoarse* from shouting encouragement to each other, and from yelling in pain.

Only Lou had escaped the carnage. By luck of the draw, she was on the mail run when trouble arrived.

The source of their misery paced back and forth in the corral, looking anything but dangerous at the moment. But as the riders had found out, appearances could be deceiving.

Teaspoon watched the compact grey mustang testing its boundaries and let out a low whistle. “Well, you’re a real *spitfire*, ain’t ya?”

“Don’t you worry none, Teaspoon. I’ll handle that horse.”

All eyes turned toward the speaker, watching as Cody strode confidently toward the fence. Pulling on his gloves, he undid the latch and pulled the gate open, then stepped onto the field of battle.

As the only other one of the riders remotely mobile at the time, Buck hurried as fast as his sore rear end would allow to help. Cody had spent enough time laughing at the others in their failed attempts to gentle the horse, so it was only fair he had his turn now.

Cody managed to work the horse into a corner and grab the reins. Giving the horse as wide a berth as possible, Buck took the leather into his hands and held the horse steady as Cody once again tugged at his gloves, hitched the waistband of his pants up, and grabbed the horn of the saddle.

Buck jumped out of the way and scrambled for the fence as soon as Cody mounted. But no sooner had he gotten *atop* the horse than the mustang began to frantically kick and twist. If his butt even fully hit the saddle it was only momentary, and then he was airborne, executing a perfect *triple* flip before landing with a THUD next to the water trough.

Emma and Teaspoon hurried to Cody’s side, with Buck close behind. The others followed more slowly, until they were all gathered around. Cody lay sprawled on top of a feed bag just outside the fence, eyes closed, unmoving. Underneath him, grain flowed out in golden rivulets.

Emma gathered his head into her lap and held a cool cloth to his head. “Billy?”

Teaspoon knelt down and gently shook the unconscious man’s shoulder. “Cody? Can you hear me son?”

There was a long pause, and then Cody’s eyelids fluttered. All of a sudden he sat up straight, staring straight ahead. “Is it *chow* time?”

Kid groaned and shook his head, while Jimmy just stared at the blond rider. “Always food with you,” he muttered incredulously.

“I think that’s enough for today,” Emma announced, getting to her feet. With Buck’s help she managed to get Cody standing as well. “Let’s get you all into the bunkhouse and cleaned up. And then, yes, Cody, I’ll get lunch ready.”

The group started slowly toward the bunkhouse and the comfort of their bunks. Cody wobbled along, supported by Emma and Buck.

Teaspoon paused and looked back at the corral, where a now placid mustang stood quietly by the feed bin. “Guess you won this round, Spitfire,” he admitted, then he turned and headed for the bunkhouse himself.

And in the corral, the victor munched contentedly on spilled grain, gathering strength for Round Two.

Ike's New Best Friend
by: Jo

“I’m tellin’ ya, it was the strangest cross with a bear I ever seen and it had a blue tongue!” Cody told the others as he sat on the bunkhouse porch after dinner.

“Sure it was Cody,” Jimmy laughed nodding his head slowly. “Just like that two headed cat you swore you saw last week.”

“Awe, give me some slack on that one, how was I to know there was two cats sleeping all curled up together?” Cody retorted with a grin.

“Well, the fact that the heads were on opposite ends of the body might have given you a clue.” Jimmy laughed again.

“Well, alright, there was that….but it might have been!” Cody defended himself. “But I swear on my Aunt Sally’s soul that I really did see this, this, thing!”

“Do you even have an Aunt Sally?” Lou asked skeptically.

“Sure, she lived in, um, Baltimore….” Cody countered.

*What did it look like?* Ike asked shoving a laughing Buck back to an upright position.

“Well, it was all this light brown color, all furry with a tail curled up over its rear end….and it only had slits for eyes….it’s head was this big.” Cody said holding up his hands about a foot apart. “It was about two feet tall and its feet were as big as my palms.”

“And where did you see it again?” Buck asked trying to control his laughter.

“What is so funny, Buck?” Lou asked before Cody could answer.

“Do you remember what Cody called the cats?” Buck paused only a second. “A Comin’ and A Goin’ like it could do both at the same time!”

“Yeah and the look on his face when he touched the cat and they both took off, he looked like he’d been struck by lightening!” Jimmy laughed holding his sides.

Ike made a motion with his hands indicating the cats had gone in opposite directions.

Buck was now laughing so hard he had tears coming down his cheeks. “Where?” Buck finally managed to croak out; his voice *hoarse* from laughter.

“Near that old camp the Chinese men had….Buck, Jimmy I’m serious.” Cody voice took on a whining tone causing Buck and Jimmy to laugh harder.

Lou shook her head and ignored the two laughing riders. “Do you still have any of that stuff you bought from the snake oil salesman?”

“Yeah Cody you sure you ain’t been drinkin’?” Kid asked with a smirk.

“No, I don’t Lou and no I wasn’t Kid….Why can’t you all just believe me?.....I’m goin’ to bed….” Cody grumbled and stood. He had to step over Buck who was lying on his side laughing; Ike had moved out of the way.

*I gotta see this for myself; I’ll go check this out tomorrow. Laughing boy here can go with me if he manages to calm down enough to sit *atop* his horse without falling off.* Ike said motioning in Buck’s direction.

“Slits for eyes and a blue tongue….come on Ike, he probably made it up!” Buck laughed.

“He probably saw a bear that had been rolling in sand and had just eaten some berries; you know how Cody can twist things.” Lou laughed. “I think I’ll go to bed too. Goodnight guys.”

“Me too…” Jimmy said wiping the tears of mirth from his face too.

“I’ll be in shortly” Buck snickered. “I think I can manage a horse Ike….”

Ike smirked at Buck *Good night* Ike patted Buck’s shoulder when he walked by on his way into the bunkhouse.

Buck sat on the stairs enjoying the silence a few moments longer then followed his friends into the bunkhouse.

The next day after all the morning chores were done and Kid had left for his run, the rest of the riders all mounted up and followed Cody to the place where he saw the creature. Jimmy claimed that he didn’t believe Cody at all but decided to bring a rifle with him, just in case. They were just approaching the old camp when Buck saw a movement over to his left.

“Hey Cody, is this your creature?” Buck asked pointing to a retreating doe that they had disturbed from her sleeping spot.

“No, Buck I think I know the difference between a dear and a bear.” Cody replied sarcastically.

Buck was about to say something more when Lou squeaked “OH!”

They all followed her finger which was pointing over to a pile of rotting boards. The creature was just as Cody had described it, blue tongue and all.

“See I told you!” Cody said with a grin. “It’s not so funny now huh, Buck!?”

“It looks sort of like a lion with all that fur around its head.” Buck said studying the creature. “But what is it?”

“What’s a lion?” Jimmy asked not taking his eyes off the creature.

“It’s an animal that lives in a place called Africa; I saw a drawing of it in a book once. I thought they were a lot bigger though.” Buck answered. “Look at the tiny ears!”

*Same thing with its eyes, they’re almost hidden in all that fur.* Ike said then got down off his horse.

The creature just stood looking at the riders looking at it; tilting its head to one side then the other.

Ike approached the creature with caution letting the animal get comfortable with his presence. He reached the creature and let it sniff his hand. The animal opened its mouth, extended a blue-ish black tongue and licked Ike’s hand. Ike knelt in front of the creature and let it lick his face. The smile on Ike’s face calmed the other riders. Finally Ike stood up. *It’s a dog* he signed.

“A DOG!” they all yelled at once causing the dog to bark.

Ike played with the dog a few more minutes then the dog turned and went back behind the wood. Ike walked back to his horse and mounted it. *Let’s go home*

~*~*~

Over the next several days Ike disappeared whenever he didn’t have a run or chores. After two weeks of this the other riders were getting curious about what Ike was doing during his time off. They were all sitting on the bunkhouse stairs talking to Teaspoon when Ike rode into the yard followed by the lion dog.

“There, that’s what we been tellin’ you about.” Jimmy said pointing at the dog.

“Yeah his tongue is blue.” Cody added.

“Teaspoon, just what kind of a dog is that?” Buck asked as the dog sniffed his boot.

“You found him at the old Chinese camp?” Teaspoon asked and watched heads nod in return. “Boys, I believe you have one of the oldest types of dogs in the world a *Chow* they are from China or there-a-bouts. You plannin’ on keeping him?” Teaspoon asked Ike.

*Her name is Puff* Ike said smiling. Buck groaned.

Sweeten the Pot
by: Dede

“Aw, come on,” Cody griped. He pursed his lips, annoyed at being refused.

“Cody,” Jimmy grumbled, “I’m hungry and all I want is *chow*.”

“Me too, so let us in,” Kid said from behind Jimmy.

“This can’t miss,” Cody continued, not budging from in front of the saloon batwing doors. “Just ten dollars apiece.”

“Ten dollars?” Kid exclaimed. “I ain’t got that kinda money.”

“Me neither,” Jimmy grunted. “Now let us in.”

Cody eyed his friends – his supposed friends. “That ain’t true. Kid, ya’ got money outta’ the bank to finally get that nice bridle…ya’ know the one with the silver studs?” He grinned when Kid clenched his teeth.

“Fine, so Kid’s got it but I ain’t.” Jimmy once more tried to push by Cody but the blond didn’t give an inch. “Cody….” The warning was clear.

“Jimmy,” Cody said in the same tone. “I know ya’ got money on that last run, ya’ said ya’ helped those rich people with their carriage and they insisted on payin’ ya’.” Cody laughed when Jimmy turned red. “Yeah, so you both are gonna help me, right?”

“No,” Jimmy and Kid said in unison. Buck just chuckled from his post, leaning against the column out front.

“Buck, come on,” Cody said, changing his target. If Jimmy and Kid weren’t smart enough to know a good opportunity, Cody was sure Buck would.

“You’re gonna talk yourself *hoarse*,” was all the answer Buck gave.

“Come on, look at ‘em,” Cody said, pointing over at the gathering of older men around one of the larger round tables. “I can take all of ‘em.”

Not looking at the men, Jimmy sighed and glanced at Kid, reading the same feelings in his friend’s eyes that he felt. Until they let Cody have his say, they wouldn’t find any peace. Kid matched Jimmy’s sigh and turned around.

“Alright,” Jimmy said, stepping back onto the boardwalk with Kid. “What is all this about?”

With renewed excitement, Cody said, “A poker game.”

“You are jokin’ me,” Kid said. “This is that stupid game you’ve been babblin’ about, ain’t it?”

“Yeah,” Cody answered. “But look at ‘em. They’re jus’ farmers and some businessmen from ‘round here. Ain’t a one of ‘em a big poker player.” He puffed out his chest.

“And you are,” Jimmy said, placing his hands on his hips as he closed his eyes. He felt in his bones one of Cody’s schemes.

“Well, yeah, I am.” Cody was miffed that Jimmy would even question him.

Buck laughed again, shaking his head, and pushed off from the post. “I’m gonna find Ike.” He waved as he walked towards the saddlery.

“Forget him,” Cody groused, seeing that Jimmy and Kid were contemplating following as they watched Buck walk away. “Honestly, look in there and then tell me ya’ think they can beat me.”

Jimmy and Kid again exchanged a knowing look and did as Cody said. They saw three farmers – Mr. Smith and Mr. Jacobs they knew, but the third one they couldn’t remember his name; the livery manager, Mr. Taylor; and one of the stage drivers, Scotty Gibson. Rounding out the group was a scruffy looking man that they didn’t know at all but he certainly didn’t look like a drifting gambler. Jimmy stepped back, rubbing his chin in thought, as Kid considered the competition.

“Ya’ know,” Kid whispered, “Cody is gettin’ really good. He’s taken us the last few times we’ve played.”

“Yeah, but it ain’t like we’re great,” Jimmy mumbled, though he was considering this.

“Either way, he’ll owe us,” Kid said. Kid’s eyes held Jimmy’s for a moment and they both smiled slyly.

“So what do we get for our ten?” Jimmy asked.

Cody’s head whipped around. He had been staring at the men, hoping they wouldn’t get started without him. “Name it. I know I can double your money. Probably *triple* it.” He knew he exaggerated sometimes, though he’d never admit it to anyone, but this time his gut told him he could do it.

“Triple?” Kid echoed. He chuckled. “Look, I’ll stick with double. If I give ya’ ten, I want twenty in return.”

Jimmy nodded. “Me too.”

“Done.” Cody stuck his hand out for their money.

Though surprised that Cody didn’t hesitate, it also made both Jimmy and Kid confident that this time Cody would do it. Jimmy reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, as Kid pulled his from inside his shirt.

The batwing doors opened and a pretty young woman looked out. “Cody sweetie, ya’ said ya’ wanted to play. They’re gettin’ ready to start.”

Jimmy and Kid looked up at the girl both giving her an appreciative smile. “Comin’ Mary,” Cody said, chuckling at the expressions on his friends’ faces. “Yeah, ain’t she purty.” He turned to follow Mary inside but stopped short as he realized Jimmy and Kid were following after.

“What are ya’ doin’?”

“Um, goin’ inside,” Jimmy said, as if it weren’t obvious enough.

“No, no, no,” Cody insisted, glancing over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t missing anything.

“Cody, that’s our money,” Kid reminded him.

“Look,” Cody said, sighing. “Y’all’ll make me nervous and ya’ know you’ll be nervous too, which’ll make me even more nervous.” He looked pleadingly at his friends. “Please, just go away for a few hours. Please.”

Kid looked at Jimmy, who didn’t like this idea at all, and said, “Fine, but remember either way, ya’ owe us money.”

“Fine. Now, go away.” Cody turned quickly and disappeared inside the saloon.

“Why do I feel like we jus’ did the stupidest thing,” Kid said as he turned away from the saloon and headed up the street.

“All I wanted was somethin’ to eat,” Jimmy muttered and followed Kid.

*~*~*~*~*

“Hey, looks like they’re comin’ out,” Kid said, pointing towards the saloon as Mr. Jacobs walked outside and stretched.

“‘Bout damn time,” Jimmy growled. It had been three hours and he not only was starving but knew that Teaspoon and Emma would be livid. Not to mention Lou who was stuck doing the afternoon chores. “Let’s go collect.” He rubbed his hands together greedily. Kid laughed and the two ran across the street.

Just as they reached the edge of the boardwalk, they saw Buck and Ike stroll up. “The game over?” Buck asked, a small smile on his face.

“Looks that way,” Jimmy said, staring curiously at Buck. It dawned on Jimmy that Buck didn’t do anything to talk them out of backing Cody. “What’re ya’ still doin’ here?”

*Wanted to know how Cody did* Ike signed, grinning from ear to ear.

Kid looked at Jimmy uneasily but before he could say anything their player walked out the door. And by the look on his face, Kid and Jimmy knew the results

“Cody,” Jimmy growled, “I swear I will string ya’ up *atop* the steeple if ya’ don’t gimme my money.” He took two steps towards Cody but stopped when a familiar face appeared at the door.

Whistling, Lou walked leisurely out of the saloon counting the money in her hands. She looked up and smiled as she walked past Cody, Jimmy and Kid right up to Buck and Ike.

“Here ya’ go, twenty each,” Lou said, handing Buck and Ike money. They laughed as three jaws dropped open simultaneously.

“Why you snake,” Cody hissed. “Ya’ said ya’ wouldn’t back me.”

“I said no such thing,” Buck said. “In fact I said nothing.” He grinned and pocketed the winnings.

“See y’all later,” Lou said sweetly. After only a few steps she turned back. “Oh and the three of you are prob’ly in trouble for bein’ here. ‘Specially you.” She pointed at Cody.

“Why’re we in trouble?” Cody whined. “Y’all are here too.”

“I’m gettin’ my rope,” Jimmy said through gritted teeth.

“‘Cause we told Teaspoon and Emma what we were gonna do,” Lou said. “Bye.” She ran off towards Lightning who was standing patiently waiting for her across the street.

“I didn’t even realize that was Lightning,” Kid mumbled as they watched Lou jump onto her horse and ride off towards the station.

The five boys stood staring at Lou’s retreating form, all smiling in spite of the situation.

“She is somethin’,” Cody said, breaking the silence.

“Yes she is,” Buck agreed. “This was her idea. Since you’ve been going on and on about this poker game that happens every Friday here and that you were sure to win it if you could just get the money.”

“Humph,” Cody grunted, though the expression on his face was of admiration.

The dust from Lou’s exit was settling and Kid turned towards his friends. “She is a *spitfire* isn’t she?”

“Fine, yes, she’s somethin’, she’s a spitfire, she’s amazin’,” Jimmy said, waving everyone towards the saloon. “I’m hungry, let’s eat.”

*What about Teaspoon and Emma* Ike asked.

“Well,” Jimmy drawled, “we’re already in trouble and I’m not sure I can deal with Teaspoon on an empty stomach.” He grinned and the others laughed as they walked into the saloon. Jimmy glanced once more in the direction Lou rode and smiled.

The Coming Storm
by: Miss Raye

Jimmy watched as Sundance lowered her nose into the feedbag and munched happily as his stomach growled. “Yeah, don’t bother sayin’ thanks or nuthin’… I’m more than glad to wait on you hand and foot.”

Laughter reached his ears from the barn door. “Now you’re startin’ to sound like Emma did when we first got here.”

Brushing back his hair from his face he gave Lou a grimace. “Somethin’ like my Mama, too.”

Louise looked away for a split second before meeting his eyes, I can imagine.” Before he could have the time to worry about his words she leaned her head toward the bunkhouse. “Better hurry if you want some *chow*, Cody’s lookin’ to beat all his records tonight.”

With a last stroke of Sundance’s neck he started for the door. “Sounds like trouble… I’ll wash up and head on in.” He stopped a few steps away. “What about you?”

She shrugged slightly. “I had my share and thought I’d come in here and check on things… looks like rain.”

Jimmy squinted at the sky and the dark clouds pressed *atop* the distant hills and nodded. “Maybe. If you’re worried, I’ll stay here and-”

“Go eat.” Louise laid her forehead against the long white blaze on Lightning’s nose and held her long equine head in her hands.

Jimmy couldn’t make his feet move no matter how much his stomach pulled at him to answer its call. He couldn’t move, not as long as he could see the subtle shake of Lou’s shoulders and he could hear the soft sobs that escaped her lips.

She came out here to be alone.

She came out here to cry without folks hovering.

He should go.

She’s asked him to go.

But he knew he couldn’t leave her… even though he wouldn’t pressure her to talk. He’d been here before. Let his Mama cry, his arms wrapped around her middle, his cheek against her back. He hadn’t tried to tell her not to cry… she’d always let him have his tears.

So now… now when she’d likely cry herself *hoarse* long before the tears would dry, he walked over to the wall beside her and leaned against the post rising up alongside Lightning’s stall and waited.

Waited while the storm rolled in.

Writers Ranch Main Page