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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Sidewinder - 8. Chapter 8 Salvation

The Lord is my shepherd...





It was a strange feeling to have solid ground drop out from under you. There was no time to be scared… that came once Boone found himself immersed in turbulent, cold water with no idea where the surface was. The shock turned to terror and built quickly over seconds, but his survival instinct kicked in and he began to thrash blindly as he was carried along. He felt dragged and pushed at the same time, and it was soon apparent he was moving at incredible speed.

In the next instant, he was slammed by something huge that might have been Blue, but it was gone too quick to be sure in the blackness of the water. Even through his despair at drowning, he noticed the silence. His frantic movements made no sound whatsoever as he pumped his arms, and he realized one flapped almost uselessly with no real power to it, so he kicked harder with his feet until abruptly, he found blessed air.

Gasping with fear as much as need, he welcomed the sudden noise, and coughed up water as the current continued to toss him around, praying he’d find something to grab onto. His hopes were short-lived, though, because something else hit him, this time in the back of the head, and so hard he saw stars.

He fought with everything he had to stay conscious, but the power of the river was too strong. The world was moving too fast to keep up with, and when he got hit again, he flailed aimlessly in a feeble attempt to stay alive, to stay above water, but knowing what his fate was now destined to be. Coy’s face flashed briefly, and Boone sputtered his name before he went back into the silence.


Something was jerking on his lower body. It was gentle tug after gentle tug, and the feel of it brought Boone awake. With effort, he opened his eyes, experiencing searing agony inside his head while his blurry vision registered the coming daylight… and then he remembered. With a violent shudder he recalled the moment the riverbank gave way beneath him, and then realized with great gratitude he was alive, though still in the water. Miraculously, instead of being on the bottom of the river, he was wedged into the fork of a mostly submerged tree with the leaves still on it. He had no doubt the Lord’s hand had intervened to keep him safe, and spoke his thanks aloud. His voice barely worked.

Lucky for him, the tree’s jagged end appeared to have been caught between two cow-sized rocks sticking up out of the water. Was it what had hit him? He took a deep breath and felt intense pain along his right side. He’d broken a rib before, in an argument with a young bronc, and this felt worse… way worse. Short breaths were all he could manage.

The tugging that woke him was from something wrapped around his legs… he could feel it, like a rope or a vine being played with by the current. He tried to dislodge it by swinging his legs, but yelped at a painful stab, this time in his hip. He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. He was alone and fearful of his situation, but had only himself to rely on. Could he edge along the tree and get to shore without passing out?

He looked around, but the banks were too high to see much. Where in tarnation was he? The river was much wider than where he’d started from, but it was still fast-moving, likely from all the rainfall. Then he remembered poor old Blue. Did he make it? And Daisy? Last he knew, she’d been tied tightly to a tree in a storm that was snapping them like twigs. Maysie Diamond used to say praying wasn’t for animals, but he said one anyway. Daisy was like family.

Fighting a strong urge to throw up, he took stock of himself. If anything, the pain in his head was getting worse. Had he cracked it? He tried to feel the back of it, but was immediately reminded his right arm didn’t work too well. In fact, he couldn’t hardly move it at all.

Forcing himself to focus on anything but the hammering behind his eyes, he reckoned he had to get whatever was around his legs off before it pulled him under. He started kicking, doing his best to ignore the protest of his injured hip. Whatever it was, it moved off when he swung his legs, but would settle right back around them after each swing. He was just wasting energy he didn’t have, and the last thing he needed was to slip back into unconsciousness, so he rethought his situation.

Determined to live, he kicked backwards once, as mightily as he was able, and then lifted his legs forward as high as he could, with assistance from the current. It worked, and his legs were free when he let them back down. He was dizzy from the godawful agony he’d caused, but was relieved he had new freedom in his upper body, no longer so tightly wedged in the fork. Knowing he didn’t have much time, he used his one working arm to pull himself farther up the tree, shutting out everything but the need to get to shore. His breath came in short gasps now, but he wasn’t about to quit on himself.

Inching along the trunk took time, but he managed to get most of his body above water. It turned out to be a bad decision, though, because in the process of pulling a second knee slowly forward, the tree sank downward from his weight, and in a quick motion upward, the jagged end broke free of the rocks’ grasp. He’d gone from what he thought was relative safety to immediate peril, and as the tree bucked and spun, he was thrown back into the water.

He swallowed a bunch, but desperately held onto a branch with one hand and, with more luck, the tree righted itself as it headed down river. It was then he realized how godawful cold he was, and knew he wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer… to the tree or consciousness. His thoughts went to Cody, praying the man would have a good life.

He was done fighting. God have given him a second chance, and he’d messed it up. He had no energy left, and his grip was slipping. It was then the tree swung sideways again, after slamming into another large rock peeking above the surface, and while he’d lost his grip, the current pushed him against the trunk, one of the branches stabbing into his messed up ribs. He shrieked, but the sound came out as a hoarse whimper. He barely took notice when one of his feet brushed the bottom, but as the pain lessened, instinct took over. With a scary drop downward, he found it again and pushed off with as much effort as he could muster. It was enough to cause the tree to swing closer to the bank, taking him with it, and he let go as the river took it. He managed a few steps before collapsing in the shallower water, and then scrambled like a crawfish towards the river’s edge.

Finally free of the current, he made it onto solid ground. For the moment, he was safe. He was cold and broken, without the strength needed to get up the bank that towered above him, but his entire body was out of the water. Shivering, he threw up river water, and then eased over onto his back just as everything went dark.

He came to a few times. The first time was when he tried to flip over to avoid the sun beating down on him, making his head feel like it would bust open. One side was hot, but the other side was still cold. He crawled a few feet further toward a line of shade from the overhanging bank, but didn’t make it… and the world disappeared again.

The next time was because his throat was parched. Water was only a few feet away, but he wasn’t capable of moving. He knew what he needed to do, but he just couldn’t.

Darkness enveloped him the next time, and so did the cold. There was no doubt he was in trouble. Something was wrong with his head—his vision was worse, and his breath came like pants from an overheated dog, and his entire body was one massive ache. He was weak… weak like he’d never been in his whole life.

He couldn’t even lift his head, never mind sit up, and he had no way of protecting himself. He fought hard to stay awake, with the hope strength would somehow seep back in, but it didn’t, and the only movement he could master was shivering. His thoughts went again to Coy, and he felt the added torture of missing him. He was dying… he knew it… knew he wouldn’t see another morning, but it didn’t scare him as much as never seeing his best friend again.


He was back in the water. Struggling for breath on the bottom of the river bed, he was tossed and turned and dragged over sharp rocks and through sand. Water filled his lungs, but still he lived on, enduring searing pain that burned worse than a hundred fresh brands. Was he dreaming? Was he already dead?

Daisy was there, in the water, a broken lead rope swaying from her halter, and so was Blue, floating upside down, and still cantankerous as hell. His bawling reached Boone through the glowing depths as he thrashed and kicked, and the sound echoed within his head.

Like an angel, Coy appeared right above him, his black hair floating in the water around his face, his blues eyes shimmering as he moved closer and kissed him. His friend was crying. Yep, Boone was dead and they would never see each other again, and he’d come to say goodbye. A flash of lightning-like fire rushed through him and all the pictures burned away, and he was left alone, Coy’s beautiful face fading until only those sorrow-filled eyes were left. Boone screamed into his watery grave, and let the flames take him.


The scent of smoke reached his nostrils, and Boone opened his eyes to bright daylight. Groaning from the torment of the darts shooting through his head, he closed them quickly and drifted away, back down into the water, back to his grave.

“Boone? Boone, can you hear me? You opened your eyes… open your eyes again… please. Please!”

Kicking his way upward, he listened to the pleading sound of a far off voice. Was he… alive… or could he dream in death? He kicked some more, and the surface parted. “Coy? Is that you, Coy?” His scratchy, whispery voice sounded broken to his own ears, but it wasn’t muffled, and he chanced lifting his eyelids a crack.

“It’s me… I’m right here… I’m right here, Boone.” A head moved into view, and Boone blinked until he could focus. It sure looked like Coy… he looked as real as he ever did, and he wanted to cry at the sight of him. Sudden tears helped him see clearer, and he noticed what he thought was a piece of canvas suspended over them, blocking some of the bright light of a living sun.

“You scared the bejesus out of me, Boone. How are you feeling? Are you warm enough? You’ve been shivering for days.”

“Days?” Boone swallowed, trying to find some moisture. He noticed some tears in Coy’s eyes too. He forced more questions out. “I’m… I’m really alive? You’re… real?”

Coy laughed, a most welcome sound. “Yep, I’m real, and you are alive, but truth be told, I had my doubts for a while there. You had a powerful fever and you weren’t making no sense at all. Are you warm enough?”

Boone tried to nod because his throat was sore and parched, but that wasn’t a good idea. “My head?” he asked with a croak.

“Took a wallop, for sure. You got a big lump and you’re missing some skin, but the swelling’s down. Does it hurt bad?”

“Yep… sure… does.”

“Okay, just relax. You need to drink. I got water into you a few times but you didn’t take much… just some drops here and there.”


“I bet you are. Here, Drink this. Can you lift your head?”

“Think so.” He tried, but his ribs complained so fiercely about the movement, he whimpered.

“Take your time… let me help.” Coy’s hand gently cradled the back of his head while Boone took some deep breaths, gritting his teeth until the pain eased off. “Here you go. Drink this. You got some cracked ribs, judging by the bruising, and I reckon they hurt bad too. You got bruises all over. I don’t know if your arm’s broke, but you cried out every time you moved it. Don’t look crooked, though.”

Boone took a sip before responding. “Not broke. It’s… my shoulder. Tore something… in the storm…. tree fell on it.” He took another sip of the cool, delicious water, and then started gulping until the tin cup was empty. “How? How did I get here?”

Coy let his head back down carefully before answering. “A tree fell on you? Tarnation! You sure been through a bunch.”

“Guess so… how did I end up… here… wherever here is?”

Here is a hundred feet from the river, close to where I found you. I made a travois and drug you up the bank like we did the cowboy with the broke leg that time. You were in godawful shape, but you did open your eyes once. I don’t think you knew who I was, though… don’t think you knew anything.”

“How… did you find me? How did… you even know to look?”


“Blue? He made it… he’s alive?”

“Course he is. Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He fell… he fell in the river with me.”

“Ah, so that’s what happened. He the reason you ended up in the water?”

“The river bank gave out from under us… the water was moving fast… fast as I’ve ever seen water move.”

“I saw where the bank collapsed… it was quite a chunk gone. The old bastard was dragging a lead rope when he came up to me in camp. Thought he broke free in the storm… shook up, he was… jittery as a cow who smells wolf.”

“He was making a real fuss afore it happened… can I have… more water?”

“Sure you can.” Coy produced the tin cup again, full of liquid, and lifted Boone’s head enough he could drink. “Maybe we should talk about this later… you got no color in your face at all, and you need more rest.”

Boone finished the water and sighed. “That helped. Need to talk, Coy.”

“If’n you say so. So… tell me what happened?”

“That damn mule. Blue don’t care for lightning, and I was trying to move him, but it weren’t easy with his one leg over the picket line. Storm was real bad, but I got him free.”

“Bad where I was too. Explains why Blue had a big rub sore ‘tween his legs.”

“Not surprised with the way he was pitching back and forth. He all right now?” Boone asked, feeling drained from the effort it took to the talk, but wanting to put the missing pieces together.

“All healed. Never seemed to bother him at all.”

“Good. Hold on… you saw the riverbank?”

“Sure did. Saw what was left of your tent up in a tree too.” He pointed to the canvas above them. “That’s it there. Hell of a storm to tear canvas.”

Boone’s stomach dropped. “Did you see Daisy anywhere?”

“Yep. Found her where you left her and she was none too happy. Blue was, though. He ended up leading me right to her once we started up the trail. I figured it possible you were in trouble, but that’s when I knew for absolute certain something was wrong. Blue could have run off in the storm, but you never would have left Daisy tied in the woods like that, and there was no way you could have made it across the river, it being the way it was.

Wasn’t hard to figure out what I needed to do. After I got Daisy settled down, I turned around and rode alongside it fast as I could… lot of brush to go through, and the river winds like none I’ve ever seen, but I checked every inch… both sides. Don’t worry about your mare. She’s none the worse for wear… just needed a good drink is all… and some company… and Blue’s happy as a pig in slop to be back with Buttercup.”

“Buttercup? Who’s Buttercup?”

“Lee’s mare. Had to give her a name, didn’t I? Don’t know why he never did… only ever heard him call her ‘mare’.”

Coy appeared to be studying him as he spoke, and Boone noticed he looked more worn out than a broken cinch.

“Anyways, enough talking, you need some food in you. Got some nice tender prairie chicken and cattail root in floured broth… think you can handle that?”

Boone nodded cautiously, doing his best not to aggravate the ache in his head. He watched as his friend went over to the other side of the fire. He was exhausted, but happy to know Daisy… and Blue… were okay. Guess he owed Blue his life for finding Coy’s camp like he did… and Coy. Coy? Why was he on his trail in the first place? He should have been long gone in the other direction.

There was no time for more questions, though, because Coy insisted on spoon feeding him. Boone chewed on the soft meat, and ate enough to make himself feel full, but it weren’t a lot. Sighing, he laid back with his friend’s help and immediately gave in to the heaviness of his eye lids. He listened to Coy moving about, enjoying the familiar sounds the man made until he fell asleep.

The next time he woke, he was surprised to see it was the beginning of a new day. He’d surely slept a bunch, and he could smell bacon. His stomach gurgled at the aroma. Coy’s bedroll was right next to his, but he was nowhere in sight.

Testing his body, he found the aches were still there, but bearable after a long night’s sleep, and his ribs, though tender, were improving. The back of his head surely hurt, but the pain inside it wasn’t driving him crazy like it had. He carefully sat up, but experienced some dizziness. With slow, easy breaths, though, it cleared.

Next step was to stand. That was trickier, but with supreme effort and a few muttered curses at how his hip objected, he did it. It felt damn good to be upright, and truth was, he didn’t feel that much worse than the day after being bucked to the high heavens by a rank horse. Difference was, this time the bucking had been done by Snake River.

His eyes widened to see his boots standing a few feet away. It was hard to think he hadn’t lost them during his ride down the river, but wet leather was always hard to pull off wet britches. Smiling at his luck, he wondered if his double eagles were still in the toes. He took a step towards them, but realized there was no chance in hell he could put them on.

The urge to piss had him shuffling along until he was out from under the canvas. It was going to be a warm and sunny day in a few hours, but he shivered from the dawn chill. Undoing a few buttons of his long johns, he let loose a stream that, while not lasting long, felt about as good as anything he could remember. His thankful sigh was soon interrupted.

“Goddammit, Boone, you shouldn’t be standing yet!” Coy was marching towards him from the direction of the river, and he looked madder than a wounded buffalo.

“Had to piss, Coy.”

“For God’s sake, it coulda waited! I was only gone a few minutes. You fall down, you’ll break your damn head again.” He looked seriously worried—scared even—and Boone felt powerful bad.

“Should have called out for you… sorry.”

“Nothing to be done about it now. You’re not dizzy, are you?”

“No, not anymore.”

“Well, that’s good, I reckon. How were you able to get up with all them bruises?”

“What bruises?”

“Here, let me show you.” Coy stood close and undid the rest of the buttons on his longjohns, and eased them off his shoulders and down his arms, letting them fall to the ground. “See what I mean? I reckon you dodged death by a whisker,” he said in a voice so quiet, Boone scarcely heard him.

Boone took a look down his right side, and was shocked at what he saw. From shoulder to knee, he was a mass of color… black, blue, purple, and a few shades of yellow. There were bruises on his left side too, though not as bad. No bronc had ever left him like this, and it was a wonder his hip moved at all. “I’ll be damned. That’s a mess for sure.”

“That’s only the half of it. You should see your backside. Your shoulder, back, and even your rump are all bruised as bad as the front. Something must have slammed you godawful hard to do that kind of damage. Did you hit some rocks?”

Boone met the concerned look in Coy’s eyes. “I… I don’t know. Something big did hit my head… it was moving, and it was too dark to see much. Think I might have got hit twice, but I don’t remember after that.”

“How long was you in the water for?”

“Musta been overnight, but I weren’t conscious for the length of it. Maybe midnight or so when the ground gave way, and when I woke up on that tree, the day was coming. Got no clue how I managed to stay alive, or where these bruises came from, but I figure the Lord had a hand in me surviving.”

Coy grimaced, and then removed his hat and looked to the heavens. “Dear Lord, thank you for watching over Boone… you bless us with your protection, and we humbly bask in your glory. Amen.”

“Amen,” Boone said, watching his friend swipe at his eyes before smiling at him.

Coy bent down and worked his longjohns back up, and when his fingers brushed Boone’s skin while redoing the buttons, goosebumps erupted over his entire body. He shivered as his cock began to lengthen and swell. Coy must have noticed the movement, seeing as that’s where his hands and his eyes were, but made no mention as he worked his way up to Boone’s neck. “Let’s get you back to the fire. Don’t need you getting chilled and undoing the Lord’s work. There’s still a nip in the air, but it’ll be warm soon enough we can set you in the sun for a spell. So… what tree you talking about?”

“Tree? Oh… ah… woke up in the water stuck in the fork of one, wedged pretty good in fact, with something pulling on my legs, like a thick vine or something. Never did see what it was, but got my legs loose after a time. Tried to climb up on the tree after that, and almost made it, but it up and broke free from where it was caught between two big rocks. Got dunked again, but I held on and went for another ride downriver afore it crashed into another rock and swung towards shore. That’s when I was able to reach bottom. Got out of the water, but didn’t get far. I remember that, but not much else.”

“Lord have mercy!” Coy exclaimed, and then his voice softened. “You surely have been through it. That’s where I found you… on the side of the river… not moving at all. You’d have been there for days by the time I spotted you. Thought you was dead and gone.” His voice cracked as he said the words. “Yep, we were damned lucky you didn’t get killed.”

Boone caught the ‘we’ and smiled to himself as Coy, with his arm around his waist, led him back to the campsite. The man had forgiven him, and while he didn’t know what had changed, it was nice to have his best friend back.




Well... Coy and Boone are back together again for the moment. Were you surprised Coy followed on Boone's heels, and does that make you happy?

Copyright © 2020 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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26 minutes ago, rockycs said:

Well.  Coy was back faster than I thought ☺️

Hey, Rocky! Yeah, that didn't take long, although it's been a few weeks since Boone left Red Bluff. It should be interesting to see where Coy's head's at now. :)  Cheers and thanks for leaving a comment... Gary.... :hug: 

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30 minutes ago, Headstall said:

Hey, Rocky! Yeah, that didn't take long, although it's been a few weeks since Boone left Red Bluff. It should be interesting to see where Coy's head's at now. :)  Cheers and thanks for leaving a comment... Gary.... :hug: 

Western dialect can be difficult to write.  I think one has to have lived it a bit or read it a lot!  This story brought back some memories.  I have only about 20 or so hardcover books on the shelf now.  At one time I had retained about 500.   But we paid for the last big move across the country ourselves so alas, I had to give most of them away. 🥺  But this story caused  me to go back to the shelf and guess what?  Seven Larry McMurtry's.  (I couldn't part with them).  So keep up the good work.  Perhaps there is one more Pulitzer for Westerns.....  

Edited by rockycs
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2 hours ago, Albert1434 said:

Well I just loved this chapter having almost drowned myself when I was a kid.  It brought back memories well written and dark!

Lots of good Gary magic mixed in to bring this part of story to life! Boone was sooo lucky to have come out of this scene alive!

I was so pleased that Coy found Boone but I must say I knew he was out there some where:yes: So has Coys feeling have changed about Boone we will have to see:yes:

Great Chapter loved it:thankyou::2thumbs::worship:

I almost drowned too, but I was about twenty at the time, swept downriver in horseback. Those dark memories helped me write this, although I don't dwell on that experience much... it's too upsetting.

Boone definitely was lucky, and I'm sure he would tell you God must have given him a hand... that faith played a role. Maybe he played a played in Coy's decision too. Faith is a powerful thing, maybe even a match for Snake River. :) 

We don't know where Coy's head is at. I suspect he missed his friendship with Boone... he really has no one else in his life... the whole camp is gone... Wes, Lee, Dan, Will... and Boone, and that must have hit him hard, to be there alone.

I fretted over these past two chapter, but it looks like they worked out all right. :)  Thank you, my friend... your constant support means so much... cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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12 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Well, Coy’s there for Boone after all. That’s a welcome surprise. What was he doing there, anyway? How long will it take Boone to ask? For now, it seems as if Boone won’t  be doing any kind of travel until he can get on a horse. 

Hey, Parker! Yep, Coy came through in a big way. I expect Boone will be asking those questions shortly, but for now he is thankful to still be alive... and thankful he has his best friend back. I think it's fair to say Boone is out of commission, but cowboys are tough... their world demanded it. Thanks, buddy... :hug: 

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Not surprised that Blue would have returned to where he thought he was safe.  Guess Boone was lucky that Coy was still there and realized that something was wrong.  While glad Coy was there and came to find and save Boone; not sure they were truly separated long enough to figure out much on either of their parts.  

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1 minute ago, centexhairysub said:

Not surprised that Blue would have returned to where he thought he was safe.  Guess Boone was lucky that Coy was still there and realized that something was wrong.  While glad Coy was there and came to find and save Boone; not sure they were truly separated long enough to figure out much on either of their parts.  

Hey, centex! Blue didn't return to their old camp where they panned for gold. He walked into Coy's camp which was downriver from Boone. For some reason we don't know yet, Coy was following Boone's trail. They have been apart close to a month now. Boone traveled quite a distance before the storm. It's enough time for the initial feelings to settle, but I agree it's probably not be enough time to figure where exactly their lives are headed. Coy might or might not be going to Larkspur to keep Boone company... but that is just a friend being a friend most likely. Lots of story left... thanks for sharing your thoughts, buddy... cheers... Gary.... :hug:  

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