It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own (Code of the West)

It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own (Code of the West) by Stephen Bly

Book: It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own (Code of the West) by Stephen Bly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen Bly
rump, he got the bull to struggle to its feet. “That-a-boy. Keep it goin’.”
    The animal staggered a few feet and then stopped to eat some grass.
    “Dinner time? I can’t argue with you there. But just a little bit. You’ve got to keep movin’. That’s enough. Now you move along. Hay-yah! Git on! Git on!”
    The bull turned away from the pair, and instead of trotting ahead of them to the north, he spun south and tottered right back out into the bog.
    “No, you chunkhead. Look at that. You’re stuck again.” Tap shouted in frustration. “I’d leave you right there to die, but you’ll foul my stream.”
    Once again he roped the animal and began to tug it out of the morass. This time it took four different angles to finally get the animal to dry land. Again the bull collapsed in the grass.
    This time Tap circled behind the animal and positioned himself between the bull and the spring. He gave the bull a few moments to catch his breath.
    Slapping his chaps, he hollered, “ Otra vez, el toro! Otra vez! ” Inching the horse forward, he beat on the bull’s rump until it staggered to its feet. It glanced to the right, as if to spot the spring for another repeat, but Tap cut the brown horse in that direction, blocking the bull’s line of sight.
    The struggling bull spun and made a pass at Brownie, tr ying to hook the horse in the right shoulder. Brownie reared and jerked to the left so fast that Tap slipped over the back of the cantle. He tumbled to the ground, his rope still clutched in his right hand.
    His left foot hit a granite rock and twisted until his ankle touched ground, and he stagger ed back and crashed on his backside. Sitting up quickly, he saw the bull pawing at the ground not fifteen feet from him. Dropping the rope, Tap leaped to his feet to sprint to Brownie, but his left ankle collapsed, slamming him back to the ground.
    Lying on his left side, Tap yanked his Colt from the holster and fired a shot over the animal’s head just as it began to charge. With the next bu llet aimed for the bull’s head, he pulled back the hammer of the gun. This time the animal veered left and staggered into a clump of pines.
    “On second thought, maybe we’ll just leave that old boy up here. If they want him, they can come get him.” He m otioned to Brownie, who wandered up to Tap once the bull was out of sight.
    He stood gingerly on his ankle and hobbled over to grab the reins. Tying his rope back to his saddle horn, Tap stayed  on the ground.
    “I’ve got to walk this thing off, or it will stiffen up, Brownie. So come on. Let’s find out what other surprises are hidin’ on this ranch.”
    As he walked slowly down a gentle slope, the ankle r egained its strength. After about a mile Tap remounted the horse and trotted north.
    “We know some of the Rafter R beef got through that drift line. ’Course, that old boy might have been down here for a number of years. Now you’d think that a bull would get awful lonesome and want to go home to visit with the ladies. Unless, of course, he brought the whole harem with him.”
    He hadn’t ridden more than a mile when he spotted a longhorn cow, a yearling, and a calf.
    Here’s the rest of the family, but they aren’t branded. Not even the cow. If I ran them back down to the ranch, no one could prove .  . . but I don’t think that’s what Hatcher would have done. No, sir, I’ll play it by the book. I’m going to be the perfect neighbor.
    It was late afternoon by the time Tap reached the Wy oming border and the edge of Hatcher’s ranch. He was pushing ahead of him six longhorn cows (two of which were pregnant), two heifers, three yearlings, and two calves. None of the bunch wore any brand at all. They were skittish about being driven along, but the cows were too close to dropping calves to put up much resistance. Brownie had turned out to be a first-rate cow pony, never allowing any of the herd to stray too far.
    “Brownie, it’s green down at the bottom of

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