The Rocking Horse Kid
The setting sun was purple shadowing the sagebrush when The Rocking Horse Kid moseyed on into the town of Moist Gusset to go a courting his sweetheart, Miss Fanny Dimples.
He rode a white maned and tailed appaloosa with black spots painted on its hindquarters, like polka dots on a neckerchief, he called Joiner. Joiner Dots.
Twin leather holsters held a pair of pearl handled revolvers. Not that The Kid had ever shot anyone. He didn't need to. When the bad guys heard he was in town they skedaddled for the hills as fast as their ske could daddle.
A white stetson hat kept the sun out of his eyes.
His cowboy boots had pointed, silver tipped toes.
He wore a pair of fringed chaps for fringing the high chaparral.
A cow hide vest with a sheriff's badge pinned over his heart.
And spurs that jingle jangle jingled.
Miss Fanny Dimples lived in a two room tar-paper shack behind the respectable tearoom where she helped her widowed mother. When The Kid jingle jangled through the tearoom's door, Miss Fanny looked out the window with its blue gingham curtains.
Where's your horse? She asked him.
The hitching post was already taken, he told her.
Moist Gusset was a one horse town.
The Kid's full name was G. Russell Horne. Miss Fanny had soon shortened it to Rusty. Rusty Horne and Fanny Dimples were often seen parading, arm in arm, down Main Street. Moist Gusset's only street. Her twirling a yellow parasol all the way from Paris. Paris Texas. And him trying not to trip over his spurs.
On Sundays after church, Rusty would hire a surrey from the stables to take Miss Fanny picnicking by the river. And if he played his cards right, she might even allow him the familiarity of dunking his jam fancy in her pot of cream.
Everything was satisfactual. Little bluebirds were doo-dahing their zippeties. Miss Fanny was the belle of Moist Gusset's annual harvest barn dance and christian ladies' mud wrestling contest, taking home the winner's blue ribbon.
Down in the barnyard
Swinging on a gate
Take your girl
And don't be late
Chicken in a bread pan
Picking out dough
Swing your girl
With the corner maid
Meet your own
Two by two
Now walk 'em home
Like you ought to do
Here we go
Heel and toe
Hurry up cowboy
Don't be slow
Swing 'em high
Swing 'em low
Turn 'em loose
And watch 'em go
Bow to your corners
Weave the ring
Cats can't fiddle
And dogs don't sing
Rusty was proudly promenading Miss Fanny in step and in time with the other heel kickers when Pecos Pete tapped him on the shoulder.
Pass on through, said Rusty. Nobody's handling my Fanny, but me.
Pete had been drinking. Corn-jugged to the eyeballs, he wasn't about to take no for an answer. He swung a wild haymaker at Rusty's lantern jaw.
Rusty ducked. Pecos Pete just about swung himself off his feet. His punch found the preacher's wife instead. Reverend Lamb was a peaceful man of God, but he couldn't abide to stand there and turn the other cheek. Snatching up a bottle of elderberry wine from the refreshments table, he smote Pete a mighty blow crying, Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord!
Stumbling backwards, one of Pecos Pete's windmilling arms knocked the fiddle player's elbow. And while the wallflowers wilted, the young bucks yee-hawed and waded in. All hell broke loose. Tables were overturned. Chairs were thrown. A smashed lamp set the stacked strawbales ablaze. And the fiddler struck up Bonaparte's Retreat as the barn burned around them.
Hoisting Miss Fanny over his shoulder, The Rocking Horse Kid done git while the gittin' was good.
There was nothing Rusty Horne would have liked more than to sit in the tearoom, eating jam fancies, and talking about Fanny, but then the tearoom door crashed open and the barkeep from the Floating Nugget staggered in.
We need you down at the saloon! He hollered. His face behind the handlebar of his beeswaxed moustache whiter than his crisply starched apron.
Remembering his manners, The Rocking Horse Kid folded his napkin and brushed the crumbs off the blue gingham tablecloth into a saucer before excusing himself to Fanny’s mother. He picked up his hat. Loosened his twin pearl handled pistols in their holsters, just in case, and moseyed on down to the Floating Nugget to see what the trouble was.
Pushing through the batwing doors of the saloon, Rusty realized, too late, that the barkeep was right behind him. The spring hinged doors swung back, lifting the man off his feet and sending him flying through the air to land with a wet SPLAT in the mud of Moist Gusset’s Main Street.
The barkeep wasn’t alone in his predicament for long. Old Corky Sniffter, who was Moist Gusset’s town drunk, came windmilling through one of the Floating Nugget’s two plate glass windows, with their expensive gilt lettering, to land head first in the sludgesome quagmire.
Inside the Floating Nugget was a riot of splintered furniture and cracked skulls. Men sprawled everywhere, black eyed and bloody nosed, nursing bruised ribs and even more bruised egos. And in the middle of it all stood Moist Gusset’s blacksmith, Dolorous Dire.
Dolorous like Delores: Only the spelling was unfortunate.
Dolly Dire wasn’t a mean drunk, Rusty knew, and she wasn’t the type to start a bar room brawl. But she knew how to finish one.
Meanwhile, back on Main Street, the barkeep had managed to extricate himself from the sticky situation he’d been in and pushed through the batwing doors, only realizing, too late, that Old Corky Sniffter had also unpredicamented himself, and was right behind him.
It really wasn’t Corky’s day.
Who’s going to pay for all the damages? The barkeep quavered like an asthmatic soprano.
Don’t look now, Dolorous said to Rusty, but Pecos Pete is standing right behind you,
What’s he doing? Asked Rusty, cucumber cool.
He’s pointing a gun at your back.
The Kid’s palm scraped his stubbled lantern jaw. You don’t say?
I guess he really didn’t like you kissing his Fanny, said Dolorous.
The barkeep had already absconded as fast as his ab could scond and was crouched, snivelling falsetto, behind the bar.
This town ain’t big enough for the both of us, said Pete, thumbing the hammer back on his six shooter. Putting your hands on my Fanny was the last thing you’ll ever do, gravelled Pecos Pete. Say your prayers.
Back on Main Street, Old Corky Sniffter was snapping his braces and setting his shoulders, ready to make a run at the saloon doors. The thirst was on him something powerful, and nothing and nobody was going to stop him!
He hit them like a runaway locomotive.
Barrelling through the batwings.
And ploughing into Pecos Pete.
Causing Pete’s finger to tighten on the trigger.
The gun fired.
The bullet ricocheted off a spitoon to part the barkeep’s toupe straight down the middle before it shattered three bottles of whiskey and one of tequila on the mirrored shelf behind the Floating Nugget’s spit polished mahogany bar and PINGED off a brass lampshade.
Where it went after that nobody knew...
Until Rusty hauled Pete’s head up by a fistful of lank hair and grinned at him. And there, clenched between The Kid’s teeth, was the bullet.