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 Horse Sense

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CD Roberts

Posts : 114
Join date : 2013-09-23

PostHorse Sense

I decided to write a crossover story, which you may or may not know, and may or may not care, is generally a deft merging of two television series. I wanted to stick with a Western show for my first crossover story because I don’t think I could  produce as successful a result if I used, say, a science fiction story.   When I couldn’t come up with a Western that hadn’t already been used, I settled on a show with some feel of the west in it.

This in itself produced a new and exciting challenge, because the show I chose is one I haven’t watched since it first aired, some forty years ago. However, I do remember part of the theme song that introduced the series, and I felt confident that I had enough to work with to produce a successful, realistic blend of the two television series.

“Did I ever tell you about my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather?”

“No, I can’t say that you have.”

“He led a very exciting life in the old west. He even knew two outlaws, Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. He rode with them for a few months.”

“Really? Go ahead, tell me the story.”

“It all started after a poker game…”

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry followed Clay Austin out of Lucky Lulu’s Saloon and Gambling Hall to retrieve part of their winnings: a horse. Clay had drawn to an inside straight, resulting in the loss of all his money on the table and an IOU. It turned out that he didn’t have the finances to buy out the IOU. He had offered to wire his brother back east to ‘raise and send’ the money, or, he suggested, “you kin have my hoss. He’s a real good fellow, fast and steady.”

The outlaws had opted for the horse not wanting to wait in town for the money.

Clay sighed. “I sure am gonna miss that there hoss. I been riding him for awhile now. He’s just about the best hoss I ever had. Dear old Neddy.”

“Clay if he means that much to you, why don’t you raise the money from your friends?” The Kid halted and looked at Heyes.

Heyes returned his look. “Sure Clay. Thaddeus and me can wait a few hours, even a day or two, we just don’t want to wait more’n that.”

Clay’s eyes widened. “No. No. You won him fair and square. He’s yours now. C’mon.”

Clay hustled on to the livery stable with the two friends following at an accelerated rate.

Inside they took a close look at the horse. They smiled at each other.

“He’s a good looking horse Clay,” said the Kid “real healthy, muscular too.”

Heyes stood back to admire the horse, hands on hips. “Should be fast.”

“Oh, uh, yeah, he’s real fast. Good horse. Whelp, he’s all yours now. Nice meeting you boys. Good luck.” Clay hurried out, swiveling once nervously to look back. He ran down the street, and then turned between two buildings, where he stopped, panting. Catching his breath he hurried to his home.

“Well, now we only gotta buy one new horse. We’re all set.” The Kid grinned.

“That’s for sure. I can’t believe you almost offered to let him collect the money instead. You must be getting soft.”

“Guess I am a bit. It’s this being honest that’s doing it to me.”

They laughed, and left to find the livery man.

A few hours later, and with a new horse for the Kid, they returned to saddle up and head on out. The Kid took the reins of his horse and walked him out of the stable. Heyes tried to follow, but his new horse wouldn’t budge.

“C’mon you. C’mon!” He pulled harder on the reins. “Move Neddy!”

“Uh, Heyes, what’s going on?” The Kid had turned back to look.

“Damn horse won’t move.” He tugged on the reins.

The Kid looked on in amusement. “Mebbe you been took. Mebbe Clay wanted to get rid of that horse.”

Heyes glared at his friend, and gave him a strained smile. “And mebbe this horse is gonna end up as dog meat if he don’t get going.” He tugged on the reins again, falling as the horse gave a sudden lurch forward.

Picking himself up, Heyes brushed off his pants.  “There, you just gotta know how to handle horses.”

“Uh huh, well if you say so, partner.”

They rode out of town. Even walking their horses at a slow pace Heyes’ Neddy lagged behind the Kid and his mount as if the horse had ten pound weights tied to each hoof.

Heyes gave a grunt. “This horse is as slow as molasses. I think you were right after all. Clay wanted to get rid of him. We’ll have to sell him in the next town.”

The Kid looked back watching the horse drag its feet. “I can’t figure what’s the matter with him. He looks alright. I’ve never seen a horse act that way.”

“Me neither. Let’s hope we don’t run into any lawmen who know us before we reach the next town.”

The Kid and Heyes rode on for a couple of hours. Figuring it would be a long ride, Heyes decided he would entertain himself and the Kid by telling stories to pass the time. After all, he figured talking was something he was known to be an expert at. He figured it was lucky he liked the sound of his own voice and lucky for the Kid too.

The Kid didn’t see it in quite the same light. Some days Heyes knew how much to talk, and on other days he just wouldn’t shut up. This was gonna be one of those days. And the stuff he talked about. He was talking about some French men cutting each others’ heads off about one hundred years ago. Now, why would anyone be interested in old news like that? Now, if someone he knew got himself hung, that would be interesting. He jerked his head up with a new realization, and spurred his horse forward.

“Hey slow down, where are you going? You know this horse can’t keep up.”

“That’s right, partner. I’m gonna ride a few feet ahead, just far enough so’s I don’t have to hear about no Frenchmen no more.”

Heyes looked at his friend’s back stunned. “What in the world’s the matter with him?” he asked his voice betraying his hurt pride. “Here I am giving him enlightening information and he don’t care.”

“If you ask me, I don’t think he is the type of man you can discuss the French Revolution with. You’re wasting your breath.”

“If I ask you? Who? Wha..? Who’s there?”

“Me, here.”

Heyes stopped the horse and looked from side to side. The surrounding country was brush land, with no trees and no bushes large enough to hide behind. The nearest large rock was about five hundred feet away.

“If this is some kind of a joke…” he began.

“No joke. I’m right here.”

Frustrated Heyes blurted out angrily “Well where is here?”

“Beneath you.”

Heyes froze. He looked to the right, and looked to the left without moving his head. He swallowed. The implications of what he had heard were impossible.

He took his left foot out of the stirrup, and dismounted. He looked under the horse.

“There’s no one under me, if that’s what you’re checking for.”

Heyes head snapped up. He walked to the horse’s head.

“Say.   That.   Again.”

“There.   Is.   No   One.   Under   Me.”

Sure enough the horse’s lips moved. Heyes stared at the horse's mouth. He put his hand to his forehead.

“I don’t have a fever,” he mumbled.

“Naw, you’re OK. I can talk. Really. Surprises folks a lot, so I don’t do it too often. Didn’t talk to my last six, oh, seven owners at all.”

“Huh,” Heyes grunted, staring at the horse’s head, watching its lips curl as it spoke displaying some really big teeth, he noticed through his dull daze.

“It seems to bother humans too, as if they have a monopoly on speech.” The horse turned his head towards Heyes. “You, on the other hand, display wit and intelligence in your conversation. I figure you can handle this. Plus, you’re actually worth talking too. Yep, I think I’m going to like being your horse.”

Heyes looked up at the sky. It wasn’t that hot or bright out so it couldn’t be sunstroke. He hadn’t been drinking heavily last night so it wasn’t a hangover, and he knew he wasn’t dreaming. It wasn’t insanity because he was just about the sanest man he knew. That left one alternative; the horse talked.

“OK Ned, you talk.” He paused briefly to collect his thoughts. “Alright I have a question for you. Why’re you so darn slow? After all, my guess would be that’s why you’ve had so many owners, am I right?”

“It’s like this. The more I do, the faster I go, the more my owner expects. I like to take things easy, especially if the fella on my back weighs too much. Or if he’s boring. That way they sell me. I’ve been looking for the right owner. Oh, and thanks for calling me Ned, Heyes, has a nice ring to it. I prefer that to Neddy.”

“So, Ned, you’re saying I’m not too boring or heavy for you, and therefore I get the privilege of owning you, is that it?” Heyes asked in a slightly sarcastic tone of voice.

“That’s it. Although I wouldn’t exactly call it “owning” me. Let’s look at this as a mutually beneficial relationship.”

“Well right now I fail to see the benefit I’m getting from this ‘relationship’. My friend is almost out of sight, you’re as slow as molasses, and I’m not too sure I want to spend my time talking to a horse.”

“Tell you what. I can go faster. You get on and I’ll take you back to where you can see your friend.”

“How about you take me back to where I’m next to my friend?”

“Not yet. We have more to talk about first. Lay the grounds for our friendship, so to speak.”

“Don’t get carried away,” Heyes said as he mounted the horse. “You’re a horse. I ride you, you carry me. Go.”

Ned sped up, riding until he was merely a few feet behind the Kid.

“Hey Kid,” Heyes shouted at his friend. The Kid looked over his shoulder.

“Don’t try it,” said Ned.

“What do you mean, don’t try it?”

“I’m not going to talk to him.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t trust him. He’s got the look of a man who would shoot a horse.”

“He won’t shoot you. He likes horses, really.”

“Heyes, who are you talking to,” the Kid turned his horse around to face his friend.

“You’re not gonna believe it. This horse talks.”

“That horse WHAT?”

“Talks, talks. This horse talks. C’mon Ned, show him.”

The Kid rode back to Heyes.

“Well.” A few moments passed. “I’m waiting.”

Heyes looked at the horse angrily. “He’s not going to shoot you. Talk.”


“He really can talk. Just doesn’t wanna talk to you.” Heyes frowned thoughtfully. “Maybe he’s got a point.”

“Very funny. At least you got that nag moving.”

“I’m not joking. About the horse, I mean.”

“The horse doesn’t talk. Horses don’t talk.”

“This one does.”

“You really do mean that, don’t you?”

“Sure. He’d talk to you too, except he’s scared of you. Tell him you won’t shoot him.”


“Tell him you won’t shoot him, and he’ll talk to you.”

The Kid reached over and felt Heyes’ forehead. “No fever,” he muttered.

“I’m not sick! Tell him you won’t shoot him so he’ll talk to you.”

“OK buddy, you don’t have to yell.” He looked directly into the horse’s face. “I won’t shoot you.”

Time passed. No response.

The Kid looked at Heyes. He felt his forehead again. He looked up into the sky.

“You been riding without your hat on again?” he asked.

“No I have not! I’m not sick and I don’t have sunstroke. I’m fine,” Heyes yelled.

“OK, OK,” The Kid said in a soothing voice, “it’s just that most folks don’t have a horse that talks to them. So it’s a little strange, iffen you know what I mean.”

“Don’t humor me, I am not crazy.”

The Kid studied his friend for a few minutes. He sighed.

“Look, I never told you this before, but you remember that time you got hit by that bullet; the one that grazed your head?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“You know, the time with the poker game, and everyone was getting shot, and you were almost killed?”

“I said I remember.”

“Well, the doc said that stuff could happen later, that you might have some problems. He said head wounds are real unpredictable, funny that way.”

Heyes dropped his head. Obviously he held a losing hand and the best thing to do was fold. He raised his head, smiling.

“You were right the first time. I was joking. You really thought I meant it, didn’t you. As if horses could talk.”

“Yeah right.” The Kid looked at Heyes suspiciously. “Let’s go on then.”

The Kid rode on, and was soon far ahead of Heyes and Ned.

“Now I told you not to try that. I told you I wasn’t gonna talk to him, and anyway we haven’t set all the ground rules of our friendship yet.”

“Well, how about we set a rule that we don’t let my partner think I’m crazy? Otherwise you can consider yourself sold as soon as we reach the next town.”

“That’s easy. Just don’t talk to me in front of him. Now as far as my meals are concerned, I require fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to grains. After all a healthy diet with a variety of foods…”

“Forget it Neddy. You talk to my friend so he doesn’t think I’m losing my mind or the whole deal’s off.”

“Ned, I prefer Ned, Hannibal. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I am uneducated or ill informed. I am fully aware of who Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry are. Now you don’t want me talking to the wrong people, do you?”

“Ned, blackmail is not the way to start a friendship. I don’t think this is gonna work out, so maybe we oughta separate so’s both of us will be happy.”

“Heyes, I’m happy right now. Like I said all we gotta do is set up a few ground rules. And don’t tell me that if our positions were reversed you wouldn’t try the same thing. I think we’re a lot alike, and that’s why we’re gonna do well together. You just gotta give it some time.”

“I see, and I guess I should be happy because one of us is happy? Well, I’m not, but you’re holding a better hand right now, so for now we’ll stay together. But don’t get too comfortable because as far as I’m concerned this is a temporary arrangement. My friend is almost out of sight. You think you might hurry it a little more so we don’t lose him?”

“OK. I’ll get a little closer so you don’t get so edgy. By the way, do you know why Marat was in the bathtub when he was assassinated? It’s an interesting story.”

Heyes dropped his head, and sighed. “My guess would be it’s not because he figured it was time to take a bath; although people have been known take baths occasionally.”

“Right you are. He had skin disease from hiding out in the sewers of Paris for so long, so he was always in the bath. You see it soothed his skin and…”

Arriving in town, Heyes and the Kid bedded down the horses in the livery stable, Heyes took special care to see to Ned’s comfort.  He didn’t want the horse to draw attention to them, and hadn’t figured a way to divest himself of the troublesome beast although he had been thinking over the situation continuously while Ned was talking during the ride. Having a horse that talked was not a good thing. He could let someone know who he and the Kid were. Would people believe a horse?

The one consolation was that Ned was a better conversationalist than the Kid. How that horse had become so well educated was beyond Heyes, but he appeared to be widely read.

He was quiet now, Heyes thought ruefully. He had shut up as soon as they were within the range of the Kid hearing them.

After securing a room at the hotel, they went to the most promising saloon for an evening of poker. They seated themselves at a rickety table with four other players. Heyes had considered, and discarded the idea of losing the horse in a game. He was sure Ned would know he had done that deliberately, and would probably make good on his threat. He snorted. Blackmail. He didn’t like being blackmailed. Then again, who did?

It wouldn’t be too difficult to lose a few hands though. Two of the players had annoying habits that he found slightly distracting. One of them repeatedly cracked his knuckles, which was actually OK because he did that when he was bluffing, and another was chewing carrots. Oh hell, carrots.

“I’ll see your twenty, and raise you another five,” he said to carrot eater and knuckle cracker.

“Too rich fer me. I fold.” Knuckle cracker threw down his hand.

“Ah heck. I only got four dollars and twenty-five cents,” said carrot eater in a whiny voice.

Heyes pretended to think this over. “OK, tell you what. You throw in those carrots and we’ll call it five.”

“What?” The Kid looked directly at him.

“I like carrots,” said Heyes evenly.

“Enough to make up for seventy-five cents? Since when do you like ‘em that much?”

“Mister, this ain’t your call. If he says my carrots’ll make up the difference, it’s between me and him.”

“That’s right, Thaddeus. But if it makes you feel better you can have some of the carrots.”

“That’s right. Hey wait. You ain’t won them yet.”

Heyes smiled and laid down his cards.

“Oh shoot.” Carrot eater threw down his hand in disgust.

After a couple of more hands the Kid left the game in ill-disguised disgust, but whether the disgust was the result of losing repeatedly, or due to Heyes’ unusual behavior, or a combination of both is impossible to determine.  At any rate, when Heyes finally called it a day, the Kid was long gone, hopefully eating or sleeping.

Heyes loped over to the livery barn. He took care to peer around the open door, and seeing no one present, walked on in.

Approaching Ned, he held out his open hand with the carrots in it.

“Here you go, Ned, carrots.”

Ned sniffed the carrots tentatively, shook his head, and looked aside.

“OK, so they’re not so fresh. They’re still carrots, and they’re good.”

Ned shook his head again, shifted his weight, and ignored the proffered treat.

“I know they’re good—I tried one. OK, you tell me what’s wrong with them?”

Ned snorted.

“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue? How am I supposed to know what’s wrong with ‘em if you won’t tell me?”

Ned snorted again, and shifted his feet again, looking repeatedly over his left ‘shoulder.’ He seemed agitated. That was weird, Heyes thought.

“What’s the matter with you?” Heyes asked his voice going up an octave. “You’re not acting normal. Well, normal for you, that is.”

He’s not acting normal?” said the Kid coming out from behind a bale of hay in the back shadows of the stable. “Don’t you mean you’re not acting normal?”

“Oh great,” muttered Heyes. “Now I have both of you to deal with.” He looked with disgust at the horse. “Well at least I know why you’re not talking. You could have warned me, you know.”

“Look, Heyes, why don’t we go to San Francisco and visit Soapy or Silky for awhile. You need rest and a doctor. I figure one of ‘em will know a good one.”

“That’s it. I am not crazy. But I have had enough.” He pulled his gun from its holster, placed the muzzle against the horse’s head, and cocked it. “You have five seconds, horse. One, two…”

“Uh, Heyes, look, don’t shoot the horse. It’s not his fault he can’t talk. I mean he is a horse…”

Heyes ignored the Kid. “Three, four…”

“OK, OK, I’ll talk. Just put that thing down.” Heyes grinned and shook his head. He figured it was Ned’s turn to suffer, and he was going to enjoy it.

“Look, I couldn’t tell you he was back there could I? I mean then I would have been talking in front of him. Look, will you lower that thing? And I don’t want those carrots because they’re obviously all dried out. Oh lordy, will you please tell him to lower that thing? I’m sorry I wouldn’t talk to Kid, Heyes. I’m sorry I was walking so slow. I’ll walk faster from now on. I’ll even eat the damned carrots.”

“What do you think, Kid? Should I shoot him?”

While Ned was gibbering on the Kid recovered from his initial shock. He crossed his arms, and relaxed his stance.

“I think you should shoot him Heyes.”

Ned’s eyes opened wide in alarm.

“I knew it. I told you. He’s a horse killer. I knew it.” Ned squeezed his eyes shut. “I can’t look.”

“You can relax, Ned. I’m not gonna shoot you. And he isn’t either.” He waved the gun towards the Kid.

“Hey, watch that, Heyes. That could go off.”

The horse sighed in relief. “You mean it? Boy I really thought I was a goner there.”

“Oh I wouldn’t worry Kid, it’s not loaded.”

“What?! Maybe I do need to take you to San Francisco. You should know better than to walk around with an unloaded gun.”

Heyes shrugged his shoulders, smiling. “I cleaned it, and I guess I was so distracted, thinking about this talking horse here, that I forgot to reload.”

“Sheesh, Heyes,” the Kid laughed.

“Oh right, that’s real funny. Here you are threatening to kill me…”

“You didn’t really think he was going to shoot you, did you?” asked the Kid.

“Of course I did. You are both outlaws, and you are a known killer. Can you think of any reason I should have thought otherwise?”

“He thinks I’m a killer, Heyes.”

“I know, I haven’t been able to convince him about you being such a law-abiding peaceable citizen.”

The Kid shook his head sadly, “Ned, are you the kind of a fellow that judges folks before you get to know them?”

“Look, I said I was sorry. Just give me the goddamned carrots already.”

“You know, we’ve gotta get rid of that horse.”

Heyes and the Kid had returned to their hotel room after supper.  Heyes stretched and scratched his back.

“We’ve gotta get rid of that horse? I hate to point this out, but he is your horse. That makes him your problem,” the Kid said as he looked up at Heyes, and untied his gun belt.

“Look partner, that horse knows who we are. He also knows that we are not gonna kill him. He’s already been blackmailing me, so now he’s a threat to both of us if he opens up that big mouth of his. After all, if he lets people know who I am, it won’t be long before they figure out who you are.”

“You’re right, we’ve gotta get rid of him. How?”

“I figure we have to find him a good home with someone who is a good conversationalist. He likes to have someone to talk to. He made that clear. But he’s also lazy, so all we have to do is find him a nice comfy situation.”

“OK, what about Soapy or Silky? They’re rich. He’d live well with either of them.”

“They’re also born conmen. They’d probably try to use Ned in some sort of freak show.”


“So, if he’s not happy he’ll expose us.”

“Suppose so.” The Kid paused. “Hey, how about Clementine? She’s got a house and it’s in a nice location. That horse outta like it there.”

“Good idea. I don’t suppose you put much thought into having a horse who knows who we are, and would blackmail us together with the one person who has photos of us, and who also wouldn’t hesitate to blackmail us. Those two would get along just fine. Although it may become a slight problem for us if either of ‘em should want something.”

“Well, I don’t hear you making any suggestions,” the Kid said testily.

“That’s because I think things through. A good scheme takes some thought.”

The Kid sat on the bed, and thought. He furrowed his brow.

“Big Mac?” he suggested.

Heyes pursed his lips, twisting them. “Somehow I don’t think Ned would enjoy Big Mac as a conversationalist. Plus Mac would probably try to use him to his advantage too. No we need someone honorable.”

“Honorable? Do we know anyone who is honorable? Considering most of our friends are conmen and outlaws, we might be at a disadvantage thinking up someone like that. ‘Course maybe Lom…” he mused.

“No-wait, you were closer with Mac. That’s it.”

“You just said Mac was no good.”

“I know what I said.”


“And tomorrow we head out to Mac’s ranch.”

“I would say that you are not making any sense, and maybe you really are sick, but I suppose you’ve got an idea.”

“I am not sick!”

The next day Heyes, the Kid, Ned, and a non-talking horse were traveling on a dusty road towards New Mexico and Mac. Heyes and Ned were slightly in front of the Kid and his horse, Heyes holding onto the Kid’s reins while the Kid slept. Heyes discovered that he had finally met someone who enjoyed talking even more than he did. The conversation wasn’t bad, but the horse just didn’t know when to shut up, probably he was talking so much because he hadn’t had someone to talk to for awhile, Heyes figured. At any rate, Ned had been lecturing about French history beginning with the French Revolution until the present for the last four hours. Heyes yawned.

“So as I was saying Napoleon may have been a despot but in my opinion he instituted a number of reforms that greatly advanced the French. And what a brilliant strategist. If he hadn’t made the mistake of attacking Russia…oh wait. Will you look at that?”

“What?” asked Heyes.

“That bush over there.”

“Which bush over there, and what about it?”

“The bush with all the nice green leaves and those red flowers. I haven’t seen one of those outside of Arizona. Saw one near Wickenburg once.”

Ned turned off the road and cantered towards the bush.

“Hey, what the…what’s going on? Are we being chased?” The sudden change in direction and motion woke up the Kid.

“No. We are not being chased,” answered Heyes angrily. “This stupid horse wants to go see that bush.”


“I am not a stupid horse and I don’t want to go see that bush; I want to go eat that bush. I ate that one in Arizona. It was delicious. One of the best meals I ever had. Mmmm, mmmm.”

Reaching the bush Ned bent his head down and began munching happily. Heyes looked at the Kid and shrugged his shoulders. The Kid stared back in disbelief.

“Do you mean we are gonna stay here until this horse of yours eats all of that bush? Who’s the master here anyway?”

“OK, you get him to move.”

“How about I just shoot him and you ride on this horse with me?”

“Won’t work,” said the horse between mouthfuls, “you aren’t gonna shoot me. I’ve got you figured now. You may look like a horse killer, but underneath that rough exterior you’re mush.”

“I’m what?”

“Mush. All soft inside. You two must be pretty good at bluffing with most folks, ‘cause I can’t see how you managed to scare all those people into letting you rob their banks and trains otherwise.”

“Don’t push it Ned,” Heyes said in a cold, even voice.

Ned stopped chewing, and looked up and back at the two former outlaws warily. He swallowed. He shifted on his legs.

“How about we make a deal on this?”

Heyes smiled. “What sort of a deal?”

“You let me eat as much as I want, and I promise to make up the lost time.”

“That sound fair to you, Kid?”

“Sounds fair to me. If  you make up the lost time, Ned.”

“Absolutely.” Ned returned to the bush muttering under his breathe, “can’t see why they’re in such a hurry anyway, don’t seem to have anything important to do…”

The Kid’s horse followed Ned’s lead and started chewing on the bush.

A short while later they left the now denuded bush. Ned and the other horse were bloated from stuffing themselves, and walked groggily on.

“Heyes, I don’t think we came out ahead on that deal.”

“Sure we did. We may not be traveling any faster, but Ned’s too full too talk.”

“Funny,” grumbled the horse.

A few days later they rode past Mac’s ranch.

“Are we going where I think we are going?” asked the Kid.

“If you mean across the border, yes.”

“Heyes, we can’t go to Armendariz’ ranch. He knows we took that bust of Caesar, and he doesn’t trust us. In fact I have the feeling he don’t even like us.”

“He knows we were working for Mac, and that we thought the bust rightfully belonged to Mac. He won’t hold that against us.”

“He won’t? He saw us at the auction in San Francisco. He just might think we took the bust that second time.”

“No, he’s too intelligent for that, and his men keep him well-informed. He’s gotta know we didn’t steal it the second time. And we’re not riding to his ranch, we’re riding into town.”

“So how’s he gonna find out about …”

Heyes cut off the Kid with a meaningful look at Ned. The Kid nodded imperceptibly.

Heyes and the Kid took a room at the local hotel. Being conscientious about the health of the horses they took them out for exercise daily. They rode in the direction of Armendariz’ ranch; they never rode too close to the hacienda but remained on the outskirts of his lands.  In this way his employees would see them and report their presence back to the grandee. Afternoons and nights they spent playing cards in the cantina.

They were in the smoke filled cantina, gambling with other Americans when two of Armendariz’ employees sauntered in. The two employees made their way over to the roulette wheel, and after placing bets turned to watch the card game. The men seemed less interested in their bets than in watching the poker table.

In between hands the Kid leaned to Heyes. “I think those fellas have been watching us.”

“I know they’ve been watching us; they’re not very good at being discreet about it, are they?” He grinned.

“Nope,” the Kid grinned back.

After a couple of lethargic bets the two employees left.   Finishing a hand of poker and their drinks Heyes and the Kid did likewise.

“Where do you think those two have gone to?” asked Heyes as they went around a corner.

“I think they went here,” answered the Kid as he came face to face with a shotgun.

“Gentlemen, may I ask why it is you are in Metasca, and why you are riding daily past my property?”

“Senor Armendariz, you may find this difficult to believe, but we’re on holiday, and we’re riding daily to exercise our horses,” replied Heyes and the Kid nodded in agreement. The two former outlaws were seated and tied to the chairs in the manner of their first encounter with Armendariz.

“You are right; I do find it difficult to believe. I would find it more likely to believe that you are here on the matter of a certain bust of Caesar on Senor MacCreedy’s behalf.”

“No, not us. We learned our lesson last time.” The Kid said quickly.

“That’s right, Senor. Our being here has nothing to do with the bust or MacCreedy. He doesn’t even know we are here. You can have your men check that.”

“Oh I will. In the meantime you will remain here as my ‘guests.’ My man will show you to your ‘quarters.’ “

“OK, now what?” asked the Kid as he dropped back onto a small bed in the boxlike room they had been locked into.

“Now we wait.” Heyes walked the perimeter of the room making a brief survey of its contents. They consisted of two cots, a small wooden table with a book on it, and a crucifix on the wall. He picked up the book, but on realizing it was a bible in Spanish, placed it back on the table with a shrug of his shoulders. He sat on the other bed.

“We wait for what?”

”Armendariz’ men to return, of course.”

“That’s it? That’s your brilliant plan?”

Heyes responded by laying back and closing his eyes. He was soon breathing evenly. The Kid resigned himself, and followed suit.

Late the next morning the two men heard the sound of the bolt being drawn back from the other side of the door. They both stood as Armendariz entered the room followed by one of his employees cradling a rifle in his arms.

“Gentlemen, I have received my report on you, and it appears you are telling the truth. Therefore, I have no reason to hold you here. I would, however prefer that you avoid my lands during your stay in Mexico.”

“Oh absolutely. We wouldn’t dream of riding on your lands. Would we Joshua?”

“Well, no. Nearby, but not on. We do have to exercise our horses. You wouldn’t object to that would you Senor?”

“As you are well aware, I cannot prevent you from riding on public lands. However I will have my men keep an eye on your movements. If I hear of any disturbances I will not hesitate to have my close friend, the alcade, arrest the two of you. After which you will spend a not inconsiderable amount of time in a Mexican prison.”

“We’ll keep that in mind, won’t we Thaddeus?” said Heyes waving in the Kid’s general direction as he spoke. The Kid gave a noncommittal nod.  “To be frank, Senor Armendariz, we would not be so concerned with exercising out horses if it weren’t for the fact that the horse I am riding is, well, unique.” The Kid flinched slightly.

Armendariz smiled condescendingly. “Unique? That is not what my men have reported to me. Unique in what way Senor Smith?”

“Senor Armendariz, you would have to see this horse go through his motions to understand how truly unique he is.”

“That’s right, senor,” added the Kid. “This is a one of a kind horse.”

“Gentlemen, I thought you were well aware that I am anything but gullible. If I suspect you are trying to tempt me to purchase this ordinary beast from you…”

“Sell? Senor, I have absolutely no intention of selling this horse. Thaddeus, I think it is time for us to leave. Senor Armendariz…” Heyes gave a slight salutation to Armendariz, turned and left. The Kid nodded to the ranch owner and followed.

“You know Heyes; I think you said just enough to get his attention.”

Heyes grinned. “I think so too Kid. With any luck the next time we ride near his lands, his curiosity will bring him out, human nature being what it is.”

“Yeah, well human nature being what is, let’s hope he doesn’t have us arrested or shot first.”

Early the next morning Heyes and Curry again rode out of town to exercise their horses. They rode along side Senor Armendariz’ property, and followed a small stream from which the horses drank, and then rode up a hill that overlooked the valley.

“Nice view,” offered Ned.

“I suppose you could say that,” replied Heyes, “a bit dry though.”

The horse snorted. “Dry? I wouldn’t call it that. Somewhat warmish, but not dry. Hey, who is that riding towards us?”

“That, Ned, is Senor Armendariz, the owner of the lands we are looking at.”


“Good morning, Senor,” called out Heyes as Armendariz neared. He smiled and added, “as you can see we are not on your property.”

“Yes, I can see that you and Senor Jones are just outside my lands, although why you find it necessary to come so close is a puzzle.”

“No puzzle, Senor Armendariz. This is good riding land and we gotta exercise these horses.”

“Ah yes, Senor Jones. And this then, is the unique horse of which you are so proud Senor Smith?”

“As a matter of fact it is.”

“Well, it appears to be a fine horse but I see nothing special in it.”

Ned shook his head and snorted.

“Let’s just say he has hidden talents.”

“Perhaps he has. I am riding a circuit on my lands this morning. If you gentlemen will join me it will give me the opportunity to observe this horse of yours.”

“On your property, Senor Armendariz?” asked the Kid.

“On my property, Senor Jones. We will be riding nowhere near the bust of Caesar, and I hardly think it likely that you will attempt anything, shall we say, of a suspicious nature, in my presence.”

The three men rode on. Armendariz made repeated comments about Ned not appearing to be an extraordinary horse. The words stung Ned’s pride, and his behavior was better than usual. He didn’t lag, and carried himself well. He also found it to his advantage to keep his head raised to hear Senor Armendariz’ words better. This made a dramatic improvement in his appearance, although it still didn’t indicate anything exceptional in him, or as Senor Armendariz put it, “he is a fine horse Senor Heyes, but I can easily obtain better.”

The result of that comment was to be expected. Ned grumbled and pouted on the return trip to Metasca. He railed about Armendariz’ blindness in not recognizing his own unique worth, and otherwise made the ride a misery for the Kid, who actually did seriously consider shooting the horse. Heyes ignored Ned’s complaints, which only served to make the beast feel even more slighted. The only creature that appeared to take any pleasure in the trip was the Kid’s horse.

On the following day the performance was repeated.

“C’mon Heyes, we gotta hurry. They could be right behind us.”

The two outlaws were fumbling in the dark in the livery stable, getting their gear and saddles together.

“What? What’s going on?”

“Ssh, quiet Ned. We’re leaving.” Heyes put on Ned’s blanket and saddle.

“What? Why?”

“Why? Bounty hunters in town, that’s why, so shut up,” responded the Kid in a low, angry voice.

Ned kept quiet until they were almost out of town.

“I don’t see anyone. I don’t understand why we have to leave at this ungodly hour. Couldn’t we have waited until morning? This is not too convenient, and I’m still sleepy, and I’m hungry…”

Two riders darted out from an alley, and Heyes and the Kid spurred the horses.

“Ouch, hey that hurts.”

“If you don’t get a move on you’ll really be hurting. Let’s get going. I’m not sure if they saw us or heard this stupid horse.” Heyes spurred Ned again, possibly a little harder than was necessary.

“I’m sure. We almost made it out of town without being noticed. If this horse had kept his big trap shut…”

“Hey, how was I to know? I didn’t see anyone.” Ned panted. “Why are they after you anyway?”

“Are you joking? What do you mean why are they after us? You know who we are.”

“Ned, they are bounty hunters. Bounty hunters chase men like me and the Kid for the money. If I were you I’d stop talking and hurry up.”

Bullets whizzed past Heyes and the Kid and they ducked their heads slightly.

“Hey, they’re shooting at us.”

“Yeah, lucky it’s dark and they can’t aim too good,” the Kid said.

“Lucky it’s you they’re after you mean. I’m only a horse.”

“Absolutely Ned. I’ve never met a bounty hunter who shot the horse out from under a man to capture him, have you Kid?”

“No, of course not. Who ever heard of that happening?”

“Oh Lordy,” moaned Ned picking up speed.

“Over there.” After rounding a bend in the rode Heyes spied out a gully and turned Ned towards it.

“Good idea, Heyes.”

A few moments later they saw the two bounty hunters gallop down the rode. After they passed, the men and Ned breathed more easily.

They rode up the slope and back onto the rode heading towards Metasca.

“We’re going back?” asked Ned, incredulous.

“You wanna go the other way and follow those bounty hunters?”

“Um, no I guess not, Kid.”

“Right, I thought so.”

The following morning Heyes and the Kid went to the livery stable at the usual time, saddled the horses, and rode out towards Armendariz’ lands.

“Couldn’t you two have let me sleep a little later? None of us got much sleep last night, you know.”

“Ned, if you are going to ride with us you are going to have to accept that certain things are inevitable.”

“Interrupted sleep is inevitable, Heyes?”

“Posses and bounty hunters are inevitable, Ned,” responded the Kid. “That’s part of our life. You’ll just have to live with it. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get a little sleep. I’d appreciate it if you would shut up for awhile.”

The Kid pulled his hat down over his eyes, allowing his horse to saunter after Ned.  Ned sighed. He was tired, and feeling somewhat put out. To tell the truth he really didn’t feel much like talking. He was beginning to think that the life of an outlaw, even a former one, while to all appearances was free and easy, was not all it was cracked up to be. He mulled over these thoughts for several minutes, and their ramifications, when suddenly a strange noise interrupted him.

The noise was coming from behind him. He cocked back his ears. It was a tuneless growl, and was the type of sound that would grate on the sensibilities of any reasonable horse. To his dismay he realized Heyes was singing.

“What is that you are doing?”

“Do you like it, Ned? It’s one of my favorite songs. ‘Poor Lonesome Cowboy’.”

“Oh, is that what it is. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were suffering from severe indigestion.”

“Now Ned, you have the wrong attitude. If you were a man, I’d say you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. It’s a beautiful day, look at that view.”

Heyes resumed his singing.

“Look, do you have to do that so early in the morning?”

Heyes patted Ned’s neck. “Don’t see why not. I’m a happy man. We escaped the bounty hunters last night, weather’s great, we have some poker winnings, and I’ve got a great horse. What could be better?”

Ned muttered something under his breathe to the effect that a nice quiet ride could be better, and that if this noise continued much longer his head would burst, but as Heyes was singing even louder it went entirely unnoticed.



“Yes, Ned?”

“This Senor Armendariz, he’s an educated man, isn’t he?”

“As far as I know he is, Ned. Why do you ask?”

“No particular reason.”

The horse thought that over, and then continued. “I heard you and the Kid talking about him. He is a man of honor you said.”


“I’m a horse of honor; did I ever tell you that, Heyes?”


“Well I am. Once I give my word, I never break it.”

“Is that so,” said Heyes yawning.

“It’s true. For example, if I say I would never tell anyone who you and the Kid really are, I would keep my word. No one would ever hear it from me.”

“If you say so, Ned,” said the Kid lifting his hat and yawning in his turn.

“Look, here he comes.”

“You’re right about that Ned,” said the Kid glancing slightly at Heyes.

Senor Armendariz joined the small riding party.

“Beautiful day, Senor.”

“That it certainly is, Senor Jones.”

“Senor Smith, you have a book? You were planning to read this morning?”

“My friend and I are a bit tired today. We thought we’d ride to that large oak and rest a while. He’ll sleep, I’ll read.”

“Well, you are a man of surprises. Men of your condition are not normally readers. In my experience, I have found that very few ranch hands read. But then, you are not ranch hands, are you?”

“Not exactly ranch hands, no. And I do like to read.”

“It’s a book about the French Revolution. I recommended it to him.”

Armendariz looked at the Kid with his mouth slightly open. “Senor Jones, did you speak?”

The Kid smiled, “nope.”

“He doesn’t know anything about books. You might as well be talking to that rock over there. Me! I’m the one who’s talking.”

Armendariz stared at the horse.

“Senor Smith, Senor Jones, is this some sort of a joke?”

“It’s not a joke, Senor Armendariz, the horse talks. I did say he had some unique talents.”

Armendariz looked at Heyes, then at the Kid, and gazed again at the horse.

“That is most fascinating. This horse is truly a curiosity. Speak again, horse.”

“It’s Ned, Senor Armendariz. Sure, what do you want to talk about? Personally, I enjoy discussing history.”

Armendariz crossed his arms, and reclining slightly, he thought for a few moments. Then he smiled.

“Senor Smith, this horse does indeed speak. He is not by any chance for sale, is he?”

“Oh no, Senor, I couldn’t sell Ned. I wouldn’t want him to end up in some freak show or circus.”

“Senor Smith, I am a gentleman. I am interested in owning this unusual horse, not in creating a spectacle.”

“No, I’m afraid he means a lot to me Senor, I couldn’t sell him.”

“Yes you can,” said Ned.

“What are you saying, Ned? I thought you liked being my horse.”

“Oh sure, and I really enjoyed last night,” replied the horse sarcastically.

“Sounds pretty ungrateful to me,” said the Kid, and Heyes nodded.

“Ned, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you WANT me to sell you.”

“Actually, you do know better, and yes, I think I’d like it here with Senor Armendariz. He’s educated, his lands are beautiful, and I’ve seen a couple of nice fillies since we’ve been here, plus I can learn Spanish. Yes, I think I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish.”

“Ned, you want to leave me for a second language?”

“In a word, yes.”

Heyes shook his head sadly. The three men dismounted. Armendariz walked away from the horses and signaled Heyes and the Kid to follow.

“Gentlemen shall we say eight-hundred dollars?”

“Senor Armendariz, eight-hundred dollars is the price of an ordinary horse, and this is no ordinary horse.”

“That is true, but then I have the feeling you would not be unhappy to be rid of the animal.”

“Senor Armendariz, whatever gave you that idea?”

Senor Armendariz smiled. “You have gone to considerable trouble to bring this horse to my attention, and for a man who does not wish to part with his horse you seem surprisingly eager to sell. I will not inquire why.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other.

“Senor Armendariz, you have a deal. Eight-hundred dollars for the horse.”


The Kid and Heyes left Metasca that afternoon and rode towards the United States. The day was a splendid one, the air fresh and clear. Heyes began to sing.


“What?” asked Heyes innocently.

“Do you want to get rid of me as well as that horse?”

“No. Can’t say that I’d wanna break up the partnership. I think we’ve been doing pretty well together over the years.”

“Then don’t sing!”

“I thought you liked my singing.”

“Heyes there are times I like your singing and times I don’t.”

“You know what? I’m in such a good mood, I’ll overlook that comment. Tell you what, why don’t we both sing?”

“I gotta question for you,” said the Kid hastily, “for a horse like that don’t you think we coulda done better than eight-hundred dollars?”

“Perhaps, but to get rid of a horse like that I probably would have taken a couple of hundred less.”

“Yeah, but, if you recall two-hundred of that…”

At that moment the two bounty hunters walked out from behind a tree ahead of Heyes and the Kid. They went to the center of the road and stopped, facing the two former outlaws. One was holding a rifle in a casual manner, and the other was scratching his head under his hat.

Heyes and the Kid pulled up in front of the two men. Heyes pushed his hat back, and then put his hands on the saddle’s pommel.

“Howdy Kyle, howdy Hank.” He grinned broadly.

“Howdee Heyes, Kid,” said the familiar whiny voice.

“Howdy, Heyes Kid. Took you two awhile to get here.”

“Couldn’t be helped Hank. We had to complete our business,” said the Kid dismounting. Heyes followed.

“And I think you boys would appreciate that we did conclude our business. Here’s your share. One hundred for you Kyle and one hundred for you Hank.” Heyes  handing out the money. Kyle smiled widely displaying some questionable dentistry.

“Thanks Heyes, Kid, although I’m not sure just what it was we did for you,” said Hank.

“That don’t matter none, Hank. We got us a hundred each for not doing much of anything ‘cept following Heyes and the Kid, and shootin’ off a couple of bullets. Woohee.”

“Guess that’s true.”

“It sure is Hank. As our grandfather Curry used to say, ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth.’ Isn’t that right, Kid?”

“And that Wilbur is the story of how my ancestor rode with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry. I’m hungry. Can I have some carrots?”

A horse is a horse of course of course….”
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