The wildflowers weaved back and forth under the gentle breeze, an ocean of color upon miles of young green spring grass. Dewdrops clinging to pedals appeared as a million glittering diamonds, where the evening sun broke through the rain clouds and shone down on them. A fine hazy mist rose from the earth, as the ground started drying after the last sprinkling of rain.
In town two men sat in front of the jail, chairs tilted back, feet resting upon old wooden apple crates. Their silent companionship spoke of a familiarity brought on by years of friendship. Both were content to sit back and watch the quiet movements of the town they were hired to protect. Somewhere behind the street where they sat the laughter of children could be heard as they played, and couples holding hands strolled down the boardwalk enjoying the warm spring evening air. Some, a few lucky women who got out of cooking for their families that night, ventured into the hotel restaurant for their meal. The tall man with a full mustache and the man dressed all in black debated where they wanted to eat, but so far were too comfortable to make much of an effort to move anywhere else.
A women stood on the street directing three men as they maneuvered around to hang a new sign for her general store, unfortunately a lot of brawn and not to much brain was being used to this point, giving a small audience lots to chuckle at.
A dark horse with a bold white blaze caught the mens attention as he jogged slowly up the road that led into Four Corners. The rider upon his back seemed, like the rest of the town, to be in no particular hurry as he meandered around the few puddles that had settled on the roadway. The tassels on his buckskins and his long sandy colored hair bobbed gently in rhythm with the horse's jog, the man comfortable as someone who had spent his life in a saddle. Waving to the two men sitting on the porch, he pulled his mount up in front of an old canvas covered wagon and dismounted. Tying the horse to a ring on the wagon's side he proceeded to remove the saddle and Navajo blanket from it's back, and slowly started to rub the horse down.
Two other men watched the proceeding as well from the steps of an old church in the thralls of restoration. A tall black fella and an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair sat drinking coffee from clay mugs and discussed the days events, lounging back peacefully on the church stairs. The setting sun sinking into the flat horizon cast golden halos on their bronze skin.
A lilting baritone laugh emerged from the saloon that stood across the street from the jail, bringing a smile to the faces of the five men. The handsome gambler inside seemed to be really enjoying his currant card game, and the company with which he was playing.
Spring seemed to bring the best out in the residents of Four Corners, the wet cold winter was now just a memory in the Clarion record books, and everyone was on their best behavior, as to not break the spell of tranquility that had wrapped it's arms tenderly around their small community.
+ + + + + + +
As the first scream ripped through the air, the tall mustached man sitting on the porch flipped over out of his chair landing on his posterior, while the scowling man in black just kicked the apple crate over and surveyed the boardwalk. The man in buckskin whirled around, his long hair flying across his face, and dropped to one knee. His rifle that had been leaning against the wagon, in a blink of an eye, now rested in his hands.
The two men on the church steps came up off their elbows and scanned the street below them, and the windows in the building across from them.
The swinging doors at the saloon flew open and a man in a vibrant red coat emerged, shooting a quick look towards the man in black, ready to follow his directions.
"Hey, hey...Stop!" The young voice floated down to them from behind some houses at the other end of town.
Chris helped Buck get back on to his feet, as a young women came running out of her house yelling that someone had peeked in her bedroom window, and the town's sheriff was chasing after him.
Chris and Buck sat back down on their chairs, Josiah and Nathan leaned back on their elbows, and Ezra turned back inside to finish his game.
"Think we should give the kid a hand?" asked Buck.
"We always get all the fun, besides he's the one who wants to play sheriff. You can go if you want, but I'm enjoying just sittin' here."
"Well, I think it will be a lot more entertaining your way!"
"You are truly a good friend Buck"
"Hey, hey...I said stop!" Out from behind the house ran a large middle-aged man, making a beeline for the hotel. Hot on his trail sprinted a dark haired youth, also heading for the hotel.
"Go get em JD, he's getting away!" Chortled Buck.
The man jumped up on to the boardwalk, and struggled with the doorknob in his haste, before finally throwing the door wide open and disappearing inside. A chorus of shrieks could be heard in his wake. JD jumped up onto the wooden walkway, slipping from the mud on the bottom of his boots and colliding with the door jam before he too entered the building. His voice echoed out on to the street, telling the folks inside to remain calm. A door banged open on the top floor of the hotel and the man materialized on to the balcony. A panicked expression on his face, he looked down the stairs leading off the balcony, then back at the hotel door doubtful of which direction to go. JD's feet pounding down the hotel hallway towards him made the decision easier, so he scrambled down the steps and back onto the boardwalk. JD came flying out of the hotel, grabbed the banisters with both hands and slid down without even touching a step.
"Nice move kid, I think I'm impressed!" Buck elbowed Chris in his side just to make sure he was still watching, "I taught him that move."
"I'm sure you did Buck, it has you written all over it." Came the dry reply.
Running feet heading their way brought their attention back to the chase. The man was running straight towards them while throwing nervous glances over his shoulder at the rapidly advancing sheriff. Leaping from the boardwalk he sloshed across an alley opening then landed on the walkway in front of Chris and Buck and proceeded towards the church. JD launched himself off boardwalk trying to cover the span of the alley, catching his foot on the top step, and sprawling out in front of his two friends.
"Now that move I can believe you taught him Buck." Deadpanned Chris.
"JD your making me look bad here, you know your legs are to short for those kinds of moves. You have to pay more attention to the details of movement between a man my size and someone..."
"Shut up Buck."
"Did that pip squeak just tell me to shut up?" A flabbergasted Buck asked pointing to the departing, albeit slightly limping sheriff.
The man made a dash up the church stairs, two at a time hoping to escape out the back of the building, but by now, a very peeved JD was gaining ground swiftly. Hurdling over Josiah's legs, JD pounced on his adversary clutching him around the waist and hauling him against the church's door.
"Good tackle kid...think we ought to help em?" Vin pondered to Buck and Chris, after he had sauntered over from his wagon.
"We could, but this is more fun." Snickered Buck.
"Ya, your right." Vin slouched against the jailhouse wall, crossed his arms, and settled down to enjoy the festivities.
JD suddenly found himself tumbling backwards down the stairs, both Josiah and Nathan grabbing their coffee mugs out of the way of flapping arms and legs. The criminal then vaulted over JD before moving back towards the saloon. No one else seemed interested in his capture and while the young sheriff was more than a little zealous, they both just found out he did not possess the same physical strength.
"Oh that had to hurt...you okay there JD?" Nathan asked as he took a sip of his coffee.
"I'm fine, but thanks for asking." Muffled JD as he extracted his limbs out from under his body and started the pursuit again.
The man now developed a posture of casual indifference as he ambled up the boardwalk, all but ignoring the approaching footsteps behind him. JD reached up, grabbing the man's coat lapel and whirled him around so they were face to face. With one shove JD found himself unceremoniously disembarking the walkway, and landing in a stagnant water trough.
Tasting freedom the man scoured the street, then slugged the swinging batwing doors of the saloon open and dissolved inside. Meanwhile JD awkwardly clambered out of the trough, to the sound of stifled laughter. Whirling around he glared at the men sitting by the jail, and at the two on the church step, but they all pretended to be looking elsewhere or in a deep conversation. JD struggled out of his sodden coat, spinning and flapping his arms wildly as the wet material stuck to his shirt, finally tossing it on the trough.
"Which way did he go?" He reluctantly asked the men by the jail.
Five different fingers pointed at the saloon.
With a bellow JD charged towards the saloon.
Ezra sat with a bored look on his face, while shaking with glee inside. The largest pot the saloon had seen in months lay before him on the card table, and in his hand he held a royal flush. He hadn't even had to cheat, he had been dealt most of it, exchanged one card and now here he sat with a winning hand. The player to his left was about to make his last move and then Ezra would have the pot. He had casually made note of the man who entered the saloon a minute ago, as he did everyone who came in, but dismissed him as not being a man of means. Then he heard JD yell, and someone hitting the batwing doors so hard they almost were knocked back outside by them. A puffing JD flashed his eyes at the saloons inhabitants, before settling on his target. With a roar he came at him, head down and arms outstretched.
"No!!!" Ezra screamed as JD and the other man crashed onto the card table, cards and drinking glasses flying in every direction, and chairs toppling over as people rushed to get out of the way of flying fists. The larger man finally was able to toss the young man off and tore out the back door. JD bounded over the bar countertop almost knocking the bartender off his feet and sprinted out after him.
Ezra was the only one still sitting in his chair, the table and other chairs all over- turned. "Everyone remember where you were sitting, just pick up your cards from the floor, this game is not over yet people!...People??? Come back...oh hell!" Ezra dropped his cards on the floor in total disgust as the others moved away.
Five horses stood tied outside the saloon at a couple of hitching posts, awaiting their owners, flicking their tails and occasionally stomping a foot at annoying flies. The peeping tom came out from between two buildings, trying to figure out how to lose this damn kid, who was sticking like glue. Spotting the horses, he decided it was prudent to leave this town now, the theft of a horse just one more thing to add to the list of laws he had broken in this lifetime. Grabbing the reins of a little bay mare, he mounted and pointed her out of town.
JD looked up the street, none of the seven's horses were near, but one of the horses tied to the hitching post was a tall leggy gray of good breeding. JD reached for the reins, next thing he know he was flat on his ass as the gray reared up, catching JD with a front hoof.
Discouragement raining over him JD scooted away from the horse and pulled himself up. The guy getting away turned over his shoulder to laugh at JD, his hat brim flipped up from the wind, a big smirk plastered on his face.
He ran smack into the Potter General Store sign that still hung out over part of the street, left there until morning and better light to be hung properly.
The man looked up from the mud puddle he landed in, three angry looking sheriffs who wouldn't stop circling above his head, yelled down at him.
"I...said...Stop!" Finally the three sheriffs molded into one and the peeping tom was able to focus on the man who stood over him. Dripping wet, his shirt torn and blood trickling out of his nose, the sheriff glared down at him, then a big grin spread across his young features.
"Go home everybody...we have the situation under control, you're all safe now, go back to your families and bed's!" Buck strutted over waving his arms at the citizen's who had come out to watch the commotion.
"Ya know JD, you could have just shot him, and saved yourself a whole pile of trouble." Chris said as he and Vin joined the gathering.
JD glanced at Chris not sure if the man was joking or not. "Shooting seemed a little drastic for sticking your face somewhere you shouldn't."
"Come on mister, you just earned yourself a few days stay at our local jail." Vin said, as he yanked the still fuzzy man to his feet. "Yep, protecting this town is plumb wearing me out, I think I am going to need a nap by the time I get him to the jailhouse." Vin thumped JD on the back as he walked by, trying to hide the laughter on his face.
"Thanks for all the help Buck!" JD said to Buck, while watching Vin lead the felon away.
"I note a slight hint of sarcasm in that remark JD, for that I might not buy you a beer tonight, Well, I've had all the excitement I can handle for the day, I'm with Vin, all this activity has exhausted me. I suggest you head over to the bath house before joining us at the saloon, all that running around has not made you a purty smellin' thing!" Guffawed Buck pinching his nostrils, oblivious to JD's dirty look.
JD was starting to feel too uncomfortable in his soaked, mud covered clothes to waste any more time bickering with Buck, so made off to locate his coat and then go have a long hot bath. JD shivered as his body cooled down along with the spring night. As he approached the water trough he noticed two cowboys in the twilight watching him. One was a tall stocky man of middle age, but with the tanned weathered face of a man used to spending the majority of his life outdoors. He had a faded cowboy hat on his head, and leather shotgun chaps plain, and worn molded to his legs.
The other man was also tall, but leaner, standing ramrod straight with a handlebar mustache hanging neatly from above his lip. His eyes were a light cobalt blue that gazed at JD with a cold expression. His stovepipe chaps had fringes running down the sides and had been dyed a gray blue color, different from the rough natural brown most of the locals wore. On his feet were new boots and silver spurs with the most ornate rowels JD had ever seen.
There was a flare of a match as the older man lit the cheroot he had just rolled, and nodded at JD in a greeting. "I see you caught your man sheriff, guess he didn't know who he was messing with."
JD cocked his head slightly and narrowed his eyes; sure he was being made fun of.
"You have real good taste in horses too," the other man spoke up. "That gray you were fixing to swing a leg over belongs to me."
"Oh...I'm sorry, I didn't have time to go get mine." JD stammered."
"At least ya went for one of the best horse's to ever wear a saddle. My father and I bought the Flying Bar X ranch, an hour's ride west of here, in three days we are bringing in all the horses that the last owner left running wild on our range. The boy's are going to start breaking them so I can sell them off, but first we thought we would have us a little fun. See who the best rider in this area is, since you seem to be a man who knows a good horse when ya see one, we wondered if ya would like to come?"
"Ya mean it?" Asked JD, his voice full of wondrous excitement. "Buck this fella owns a ranch just west of here, and he's invited me to come out and ride some rough stock in a few days."
Buck had nonchalantly made his way over after spotting his young friend talking to a couple of strangers. The older of the two nodded a casual greeting, while the younger man looked at him with a cool, self-assured smug look.
"And just what have you done that someone would figure you could ride a bucking horse?" Buck asked JD, but fixed his look on a pair of cold blue eyes.
"Ya know I can ride better then any of you Buck, it's the one thing I can do."
"There's a huge difference between galloping around on old Seven, and riding a wild mustang that would just as soon kill ya, as look at ya!" Buck answered, a heated edge to his voice.
"Well sheriff, if you get away from your babysitter here, come on out. We will be riding all day Sunday." The two men unwrapped the reins from the hitching post and easily mounted their horses. The older man tipped his hat in their direction and moved off in a slow even jog. The gray pranced a couple of strides before his rider dug some speed out of him with a little spur.
The gray pulled up abreast of the other horse at the edge of town; looking over his shoulder the older man waved back at the young man from town. He could barely make him out still standing in the dusk, just that the wave was energetically returned.
"Nice fella, but a little short on brains. Why did ya tell him to come ride, he's just a tenderfoot? And I don't think any of those men he was with earlier will be happy if he ends up dead." He had noted all the serviceable firearms they wore and apparent ability to use them.
"Those scrawny cayuses we're bringing out of the hills won't be any challenge for our wranglers, I just thought I would supply us with some entertainment." He took one last look at the town, then put his horse into a lope and headed back to his ranch.
"JD you have to know those guys are setting ya up. Ya don't just ask a person to come ride wild horses, because he likes the horse your riding."
"Buck I can run as fast, jump as high, dive as deep as any of ya. So ya can support me, or stay out of my way, cause I'm doing it! But first I'm having a bath." JD swooped his coat off the water trough and swaggered towards the bathhouse...those cowboys could have picked anyone, but they asked him.
Buck shook his head and looked up into the sky. "Lord help us all!"