Friday, 5 December 2014
How the West was won
In some parts, in some ages, folk didn’t rely on welfare. Times past a man had to fall back on his own wit to keep himself alive, let alone well. Self reliance, a heart of stone, a constitution of cold, hard steel and your trusty steed. Into this land of the free and home of the brave, in a fly-blown clapboard frontier town in the old Wild West, rode a stranger on a prancing white charger and as he trotted along Main Street – the only street – the world stood still. In the stiff, cold breeze a lone tumbleweed tumbled steadfastly on.
Groups of rowdies jawing on rickety board walks stopped talking, spat tobacco juice into the dirt and turned their gaze to the newcomer and his elegant mount. The man looked straight ahead, crows-feet pointing determinedly to his steely blue eyes, clenched tightly against the glare of midday winter sun and slowed his horse to a measured walk. As they processed along the dusty ground he chewed on a cheroot; a man with a mission.
Womenfolk ushered their children indoors and curtains were drawn. A stranger in town was rarely a good sign. Who was he - lawman, outlaw, ranger or just another ornery cowpoke drifter, here to get drunk, gamble away his wages and get thrown into jail to cool off? But there was something different, self-assured about this one and as he carried on down the street a small but wary few followed him to see how long he’d live.
Eventually, he coaxed his horse to a halt outside the saloon and without glancing round, slid nimbly to the ground, deftly hitched the beast to the rail and strode over to the trough to grab a bucket, which he filled with water to quench his travelling companion’s thirst before his own. As the horse drank he dipped into a saddle bag, took out a steel comb and attended to the tangles and burs in its mane. Grooming complete, the stranger put the comb away, brushed the dust from his own coat and turned to face the saloon.
He took one pace towards the swing doors then checked himself, turned around and walked straight to the hind quarters of the horse where he quickly lifted its tail and planted a full-on kiss directly on the horse’s arse. The followers were shocked and as the stranger disappeared into the saloon the speculation began. Curiosity got the better of them and they swiftly followed the man into the dark shadows of the bar.
There he was, a fresh cheroot gripped between his teeth and a second neat whisky about to follow the first. He downed it in one and as he lowered his gaze from the ceiling he found a young man, a pressed delegate, thrust hastily in front of him. He stared at the nervous youth, clutching his hat in both his hands and clearly afraid. “What can I do for you, son?” the lone stranger enquired. The lad stuttered a little and then said “Why’d you do that, what you did? You know, with the horse’s ass and all?”
Who was that masked man?
The crowd fell silent as the stranger stood up and leaned toward the youngster. He raised his hands and pointed to his mouth. All he said was “chapped lips.” The silence became deafening as seconds passed; it was excruciating. “But why?” blurted out the young ‘un, “does it cure ‘em?” The stranger's mouth stretched into a strangled smile and he replied, “Nope. But it sure as hell stops me licking ‘em.”