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The Adventure of Puck and Laughing Bear - Part 4

Tumbleweed Ty

By Lucas, mirrorrorrim@bigfoot.com

On the morning of the third day of our journey, Dollar Bill flew in huge circles ahead of us. He would flap his strong wings to ascend and then glide downward in circles over Windy Bob’s herd. We were not alone though. There were three strangers on horses watching over the magnificent cattle that grunted, snorted and mooed in concert.

“Howdy! I’m Puck, this here’s Laughing Bear. Over there is Simmerin’ Sam, and this here’s Windy Bob, the owner of this here lost herd.”

The stranger tipped his cowboy hat, “Howdy, I’m Tumbleweed. I was wonderin’ when someone would come along and claim these lost ones.”

He turned and looked over his shoulder. “I’m here with a couple of friends of my own. Over yonder by the buckboard, that’s Jen Ho. And the lady riding on the horse, she’s Hollerin’ Holly.” Tumbleweed eyed each of us. “Why don’t you all take a little break?.”

We dismounted and walked our horses over to the buckboard, which is a flat wagon drawn by a horse. Suddenly Hollerin’ Holly made a strange noise as she rode over to join us.

“Yip-yip-yip-e-e-e-e-e!!” she shouted in a lilting tone.

“What’s that?” I asked Tumbleweed.

“Oh, you mean the hollerin’? Out here, we call that the rebel yell..”

“Oh.”

We joined together around the wagon to watch Jen Ho prepare lunch. He was a short, lean Chinaman.

“Very Glad to meet you,” said Jen Ho, “…glad you find cattle. We work ha’d keeping herd together. You stay…lunch.”

“Hello,” Holly said smiling widely at our party, “we can use a little company around here.”

“So tell me, Windy Bob, Where does this herd belong?” asked Tumbleweed.

Windy Bob stepped forward and cleared his throat with a few coughs.

“Well, I was a tryin’ to drive ‘em up north and sell ‘em to the meat packin’ company.”

“I see,” said Tumbleweed, “you know they’ve been grazin’ on private property. I was sent out here by Grimm to keep ‘em from a minglin’ with his graded-up stock. Can you move ‘em today?”

“Well, yes, I intend on movin’ em.”

“I noticed that you have your own brand,” Tumbleweed pointed out.

“The cinch buckle,” exclaimed Windy Bob.

I was curious, so I asked Puck, “Do they still brand cattle?”

Puck grinned and began to explain.

“Some folks brand their stock with a single letter -like the letter W for instance. And then there are variations, like the Circle W, the Diamond W, the W in a box, the Flying W, the Running W, the Walking W, the Rafter W, the Tumbling W…”

“Puck.”

“the Bar W, the Lazy W, and even the Rocking W. But it ain’t just letters. You can have symbols too. Like the Hash Knife, the Pig Pen, the Bible, or the Crutch…”

“Puck, “ I repeated.

“the Spanish Bit or the Scissors, the Andiron, the Turkey Track, the Frying Pan, Pancho Villa’s Death’s Head..”

“I get the picture, Puck.”

“Cortes Three Christian Crosses, The Cabeza de Vaca, the Cotton Hoe, the Apple Bar, the Straddle Bug, the Gay Brigade.”

“OKAY!”

Puck stopped.

Jen Ho set fire to the pile of wood and stoked it until it was flaming hot. He took his wok out of the buckboard and cooked a stir-fry.

“Hey, is that a guitar?” asked Puck pointing to the back of the wagon.

“Yep, I play the guitar when I’m finished with work,” answered Tumbleweed.

“Well I play the harmonica myself,” Puck beamed back.

Laughing Bear sat quietly feeding Dollar Bill, stroking the back of the magnificent bird, while Windy Bob paced back and forth scratching his head. I believe he was worried.

“Why don’t you join us over here?” I beckoned to Windy Bob.

He stopped his frantic pacing and joined our circle.

“Ya know, Windy Bob,” said Puck, “if you’re a worryin’ about what to do with the herd, you can drive ‘em over to my place an’ hook up with the cattle cars in Gallup. Why, I’ll bet that herd could drop about five hundred pounds of chips on the ranch. That’s enough fuel to last us for two whole winters.”

Windy Bob pondered what Puck had suggested, and then responded.

“Sounds like a good idea to me. You sure your folks won’t mind?”

“Not at all,” replied Puck , “I’m always bringing home strays.”

We sat around and lunched together -quickly becoming good friends.

“I figure we can move the herd about fifteen miles a day,” observed Windy Bob, “That means it’ll take about a four days to get back to Gallup.”

“You’re probably going to need some help rustling up the herd, Windy Bob. We’ll be glad to help ya.”

Windy Bob smiled at Tumbleweed. “That’s a fine offer, but I couldn’t impose.”

“It’s no bother. We’re just finishing up our work out here. You can’t drive that herd with just four people.”

“How do you drive a herd?”

“Well, you need a trail boss, Sam. -with a great understanding of cattle. He has to be able to take charge -to be good at directions. It helps if you have a compass.”

Puck looked over at Laughing Bear.

Laughing Bear shrugged his shoulders.

“You also need a couple of point riders. They make a point with the leading cattle and keep them a going in the right direction.”

“That would be Alphie,” cried Windy Bob.

“What’s that?”

“Alphie, he’s my alpha male. Everybody marches along behind him,” said Windy Bob.

“Anyway, The herd trails behind this here point. Then you have some swing riders on the sides, and at the rear you got your trailers.”

“I’ll be a trailer,” I volunteered.

“The trailers keep the cattle from lagging behind.”

After lunch, Windy Bob pointed out Alphie, the ringleader. Windy Bob had marked one of his ears to make him easier to spot.

The cattle in the southwest had changed over the centuries. The earliest Longhorn types were able to endure harsh winters just grazing on the plain. As strains from the east mixed and time passed on, the new blood graded up the original Spanish cattle.

In the twilight as the sun settled down below the horizon, Puck and I walked away from the camp. He seemed uncharacteristically quiet, and I assumed that he wanted to take a nature walk. He wore a dusty pair of denims and suede cowboy boots. As the heat of the day radiated from the sand, he had tied his red bandana around his neck. He wore a white sleeveless tee-shirt. He had short hair and wore an ear ring. A few freckles spotted his cheeks and nose, and his eyes were a kind of greenish-blue. We stopped and rested our backs against a huge boulder.

“Seem kinda quiet there, Puck?”

He looked at me, and grinned, but didn’t say a word.

“Something bothering you?”

He sat thinking to himself, “No…”

He grew silent, “…Yes.”

I held my tongue for a moment.

“Anything you want to talk about?”

He pulled his leg up dragging his heels in the sand, and the pushed them back out flattening his legs.

“I think I’m in love.”

“Oh?…that’s great. That’s supposed to make you happy.”

“Yeah well, the person doesn’t know.”

“Oh…I see.”

“Are you shy?”

Puck’s chin fell to his chest.

“Uh huh.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Yep,” he snapped.

“Well, you shouldn’t feel afaraid. Love is a beautiful feeling.”

“Yeah, I know, but the problem is it’s Laughing Bear.”

“Laughing Bear? Oh,” I was taken back by Puck’s candor.

“I can see how you might think that would be a problem. Are you gay?”

Puck didn’t answer.

“You know, Puck. I am moved that you trust me, and I don’t feel that you have anything to be ashamed about. In fact, I’d like to share a few secrets with you. Would you like to hear ‘em?”

The boy looked me in the eyes, ”Yes.”

“Great. You know, I spent a lot of time thinkin’ when I was a janitor, and I spent my spare time in the library. And when you think about it, by the very definition, anyone who masturbates is committing a homosexual act. I mean, most young boys will get around to massaging their own genitals with carefree abandon. They think nothing about stroking their own penis, but if that penis happens to be attached to another boy, well, then there’s a big issue, and I think it’s all in their heads”

Puck laughed.

“I know,” I said, “It’s a sensitive subject. The penis doesn’t seem to be the issue. Instead, the issue seems to be about self-image –how they view themselves. Sometimes, self-image is determined more by how other people think about you. So, what is at the center of this?”

Puck sat listening, “What?” he asked.

“Social conditioning, maybe? When our ancestors were more primitive -living in the wilderness- they had to adapt to nature and the threat of wild beasts. Men learned how to ignore their feelings, and faced danger in many forms. Ignoring your feelings was an absolute survival tactic. In some societies, when those dangers were taken away, and men were allowed to spend their leisure reading and writing books, and studying and philosophizing about nature, well, a more cultivated, sensitive man was manifested. When these men applied their hearts to their thinking, they astounded the world with amazing feats! Have you ever seen the pyramids in Egypt?…the Parthenon in Greece?…or even the sculptures of Michelangelo in Italy? Well, homosexuality flourished in each of these cultures, and usually amongst the more refined, intelligent males. I can’t claim to know why this exactly occurs, and there are even violent, uneducated gays, but, you have to remember that each of us gets half of our genes from father, and the other half from mother. Some of these genes are dominant or very strong, and others are recessent or very weak. And out of this great mix, this great soup, some individuals are born with a desire for love from the same sex. The tragedy, I think, is when religion tries to demonize that which is a creation of nature. But sex itself is a great mystery. Would you like to play a mind experiment just to look at something a little differently?”

Puck nodded.

“Come here,” I said waving him towards me,” Here sit here.”

He sat in front of me and rested his back against my chest.

I placed my arm around him and spoke softly into his ear.

“Puck, I find that I am not attracted to everyone that I see. In fact, if you were to count the numbers of boys that you were attracted to, and also those you weren’t attracted to, I think that you would find that you are attracted to a small percentage of males. It’s not really the genitals so much, as it is something else. I think most people –gay or straight- are attracted to beauty. And that is something that is different for each of us. For me, it’s a combination of inner beauty mixed with an outer beauty. Good looks isn’t enough although, I think our brains react to that first. Many people miss the point. Some become interested in satisfying their lust only. I feel that there is an emptiness in that pursuit. True love means sacrifice. Relationships develop between lovers only when a lot of time has been spent sharing many emotions. We’re not always taught these things. Our society often teaches us instant gratification; we like to get our feelings stroked without waiting, without sacrifice, and without responsibility. Maybe it’s the television, maybe it’s the pace that we live our lives, but I feel that you should tell Laughing Bear that you love him very much, and that he means a great deal to you. Be honest…Puck?”

The calm boy rested his head on my chest.

“Thank you, Sam,” he whispered.

“We’re amigos, buddy. But I want you to take your time…think it through. Love in any form should be meditated upon carefully.”

The first day of the cattle drive was exciting. It was a tense business to start the herd moving towards the west. The long horned procession was inspiring to watch.

Hollerin’ Holly let out a “Yip-yip-yip-e-e-e-e-e!”

Jen Ho shouted a “Hi-Yah-h-h.”

And Windy Bob hooted a “Yahoo-o-o-o.”

It was pretty exciting.

The steer grunted like a bad choir. “N-n-n-n-yaw-ww-w. N-n-n-n-yaw-ww-w.”

The “N-n-n-n-yaw-ww-w’s all overlapped each other, but I was glad to be a part of the drive.

Tumbleweed was the trail boss.

Windy Bob, Puck, Hollerin’ Holly, and Laughing Bear took the side positions,

and Jen Ho -with his buckboard- and I brought up the rear.

At first, I though this trailer position was going to be a piece of cake. Little did I realize that we were forced to eat the dust kicked up by the entire herd. And it was pretty damn dusty, too. Tumbleweed sang out loud when the spirit moved him. They were prairie songs like, The Dyin’ Cowboy, Dinah Had A Wooden Leg, and Hell Among The Yearlin’s.

Puck blew the harmonica, and the cattle drive seemed like it was –well- coordinated. After a few days, the monotony began to set in. One river crossing is very much like the next. Little by little, the enthusiastic air departed, and the discomfort of riding all day began to take its toll.

Late in the afternoon of the third day, Tumbleweed decided to camp down for the night. We were dead exhausted from the long trek in the hot sun. Jen Ho set up a small wood fire, and we sat around watching the sun depart another day. Jen Ho was a masterful cook. It was the most exciting part of the day -wondering in what new way Jen Ho would mix the rice and beans together. This particular night, he prepared chick peas –or garbanzos- with catsup and soy sauce.

“Wok cook very fast,” he explained, “In China, there’s so many people and not enough wood. We cook very fast.”

His utensils clanged the wok like a fire engine bell. The aroma was a delight. Even Laughing Bear kept a curious eye on the proceedings.

“Must be organized,” Jen kept repeating. “Toughest vegetables first.”

Our dinner sizzled in the hot oil.

“Catsup.”

“Very Fast.”

“This is another great success, Jen Ho,” I praised.

“Sank You,” the friendly Chinaman replied.

“That goes for me, too,” Windy Bob added.

After dinner, Laughing Bear filled his pipe, while Tumbleweed lightly strummed the strings of his guitar. I was lost in a drowsy reverie.

Puck yawned and in the space of a second, let go with a quick sneeze -like the sound of a sheet of paper being torn in two preceded by a long drawn “ahhhhhhh!!!”

Alphie snorted, rose to his feet and sniffed the air. When Alphie’s concubines saw him rise, they rose too. The gigolos of the concubines of Alphie rose next, and the whole herd bolted off into the dark night in a blaze of glory following that celebrity steer, Alphie the male. It was a dreaded night stampede!

The bad thing about stampeding was that it bred the tendency in the cattle to stampede again. There were a few cattle that remained behind, and I figured these were of the Cortes’ Triple Cross variety. They were intellectual bulls who seemed ill-fitted at chasing the fear-maddened whims of a ringleader. Most of the herd chased off after Alphie though, and in a mad frightened rush. How one bull had become so important I could not figure.

I later learned that there were usually a few old, wild steers who developed the stampeding habit. They were always looking for an excuse to run. When no excuse presented itself, they invented one. Usually the chronic stampeders knew each other and plotted fresh outbreaks.

I waited behind, for I knew that I was bound to break my neck. I was, after all, still a tenderfoot. Jen Ho was not a skilled rider either, so we sat wondering when our friends would return. The Chinaman explained that there was no use in trying to head off the beasts. The only hope, he said, was to follow the herd at top speed. Gradually, a stampeding herd fizzles out. The best way to break them is to get the leaders to run in a curve. This forms a circle that can be slowly tightened until the herd gets tangled in itself.

There was no way that we were going to sleep with our comrades out riding the range in the dead of night. We tried to keep each other awake.

“It’s awful quiet. I wonder if they’ve stampeded clear into Gallup?”

“They come back,” Jen reassured.

“How long have you been in the States, Jen?”

Jen drew an imaginary calculation on the air with his finger.

“About eight year. I stay with Uncle Ray.”

“Has your Uncle been here long?”

“Uncle Ray ancestor worked for Railroad when East and West join rails.”

“That was a while ago.”

“During -what is- Civil War.”

“Sure.”

“West -very wild- then.”

He poured a cup of tea from his canteen and offered it to me.

“Sam, do you know what is Roy Bean?” Jen asked.

“Something to eat?” I guessed.

Jen laughed to himself. “Something to eat,” he repeated. “No, I mean Judge- the Judge Roy Bean.”

“No Jen, -a friend?”

“Judge Bean was what you call -Justice of Peace- long time ago. A cowboy shotted my great-grandfather, Judge Bean was what you call -law enforcement official.”

“A long time ago,” I added.

“Yes. Judge Bean say, ‘I fail to find in Constitution any law that say you can not kill Chinaman. He let cowboy walk free.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Judge find revolver and twenty dollar gold piece on grandfather. Judge fine dead grandfather twenty dollar gold piece for carrying -what is- concealed weapon.”

Jen looked me in the eye.

“We have saying,” he said, “Only if right people had charge of country can you do away with slaughter.”

“That’s a good saying, Jen Ho. We have one of our own. It goes ‘what goes around comes around.”


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