A Laramie Story by: By Elaine Kane
Dedicated to Barbara Taylor and Cathy Hicks without whose support and
encouragement, my story would have never been written.
It’s been a week since Slim brought me home and I feel strong enough to walk around a bit if I don’t make any sudden moves, sneeze, cough or laugh. I’m breathing a lot better so Slim has agreed that I don’t need to take anymore painkiller. True to the doc’s words, the pain in my ribs did get worse, but today I feel like I’m finally on the mend.
It’s great to be outside and it’s a beautiful spring day. The sun is warm and I’m enjoying a good walk around the yard. The sound of a horse coming toward me catches my attention and looking up, I recognize Jack’s owner. He must be here to pick up Jack. What with having to tend to me, take care of all the ranch chores and meet the stage when it came in, Slim hasn’t had time to return the mule. The dogs had gone home days ago on their lonesome.’
Mr. Patterson rode up to me and tipped his hat. “How ya doing, Jess? Sure sorry ya got hurt,” he said. “I still can’t believe Jack attacked that lion. I didn’t know he had it in him. What I wouldn’t give to of seen that fight.”
“I’m doing a lot better Mr. Patterson, thanks for asking. The way Jack took care of that cat was a sight to see for sure.”
“You know, Jess, Jack’s become the talk of the territory since folks seen that story about him in the Laramie newspaper.” Then he added, “Tricky title for the story too. Jack the Lion Killer. No one would have believed your story if you hadn’t brought that cat’s carcass back.”
We chuckled together over that. I immediately regretted it, grimacing, I grabbed my side. “Well, Jess, I’d better get Jack and head on home with him. You wait here while I get him. You’re looking a little poorly right now.
I hated to part with Jack so I asked him, “Say, would you mind selling Jack to me, Mr. Patterson? I’ve grown kinda fond of him.”
He shook his head no. “He’s too important to my business, Jess. I’ve got a waiting list of customers who want to use Jack as a mount for their hunting trips.”
No matter how much I offered to pay for Jack, Mr. Patterson refused to sell him.
We headed for the barn and Mr. Patterson stepped into Jack’s stall, haltered him and led him out. Jack stopped in front of me as Mr. Patterson led him past. Ears pricked forward he stuck his nose out to me. I scratched him behind his ears and gave him a pat on his neck. Then I gave Jack the last of the lumps of sugar I was carrying. Greedy but gentle like he took them from the palm of my hand. While he chewed on the sweet lumps he nuzzled my chest one last time.
“Go on now” I told him with a pat and a gentle shove on his neck. Mr. Patterson climbed on his horse and led a reluctant Jack away. I sure do hate to see Jack go. I’ve grown attached to that mule and I suspect he was kinda partial to me too.
Three weeks have gone by since Mr. Patterson took Jack home and I’m in the yard feeding the chickens; (It was one of the few chores that Slim would let me do.) Lost in my thoughts, I almost didn’t hear the clopping of horses’ hooves coming into the yard. I looked up and saw Mr. Patterson riding up leading Jack behind him.
He led Jack up to me and handed me his lead rope and with a smile said, “Here, you can have him. He seems to have taken a liking to you and this ranch. I’m tired of mendin’ the corral boards that he breaks down so’s he can come ‘n visit you.”
“B-B-But,” I stammered, “I never encouraged him. I always ran ‘im off.” I said, while trying to hand the rope back to him but Mr. Patterson just held up his hand and shook his head.
“Nope, he’s yours now, I’ve made up my mind and I ain’t going to change it. You can deal with the ornery cuss from now on,” Mr. Patterson replied while shaking his head.
I swear that mule knew what had just happened as he nickered and stepped up close to nuzzle me with his nose looking for the lump of sugar he was sure I was carrying.
“Mr. Patterson, at least let me pay you for Jack. How much do you want for him?” I asked.
“No need, son, that mule’s been worthless to me since I brought him home. He refuses to work for me or anyone else, even if I offer him a handful of sugar lumps.” He smiled again reaching down to shake my hand.
“I don’t know what to say. I sure didn’t expect this,” I blurted out. “Thanks, Mr. Patterson, I promise I’ll take good care of him,” I said shaking his hand.
Nodding his head, Mr. Patterson tipped his hat and rode off. I closed my gaping mouth and headed for the barn with Jack following behind. I didn’t need to hold the lead rope that I had draped across his neck.
Traveler looked up from his stall with interest as I led Jack into the barn, and then he laid his ears back when saw that the odd looking four legged critter with the oversized ears had returned. I put Jack in a stall in the far corner of the barn and went back to Traveler.
He was still looking a bit peeved so I grabbed a lump of sugar from a tin I kept close to his stall and offered it to him. Patting him on his neck I let Traveler know that he was still my mount of choice. “No need to be jealous, old friend, I’ve got other uses for that lopped eared mule. You’re still my favorite ride.”
Then I told him, “After all, I can’t let it be known that Jess Harper would ever stoop to riding a lowly mule, now can I? And for sure not in public!”
Nope, I grinned; I’m saving Jack for my next trip to the mountains and that stream full of trout I found while tracking that mountain lion. A fishin’ rod ain’t too heavy and just the other day the doc did say I was fit enough to ride. So, there’s no reason why I can’t go fishing, right?
Whistling to myself I walked out of the barn. It was turning out to be a great day, yes indeed!
I found the pictures that inspired my story on the Internet. They were being forwarded through the email system. There was no available information on who the owner of the mule was or why the mule had attacked the lion. The name of the photographer is unknown also. There was even a disclaimer by the original author of the email that said he wasn’t sure if the photos were real or not.
The entire story is a figment of my imagination. I have “borrowed” the names of the characters of Jess and Slim from the awesome TV series, Laramie. I hope no one responsible for the creation of these wonderful characters minds my use of their names as the subjects of my story.
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