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    Headstall
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Sidewinder - 9. Chapter 9 Faith and Angels

Psalm 34:17

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears them and delivers them out of their troubles.

                                                                                                                                                                                 ***

Faith and Angels

 

 

Boone slept most of the day, waking only for brief moments before exhaustion pulled him back under. Each time he opened his eyes, Coy was close by, sometimes staring at him, and he recalled drifting up at the feel of the man’s hand on his brow a few times. By evening, he was starving, and woke to the smoky smell and sound of meat frying.

“You staying awake this time?” Coy asked in a soft and weary-sounding voice.

“I… I think so. Hungry.”

“That’s what I wanted to hear,” Coy said as he offered him a cup of water. “Here, drink this.”

Boone did, and asked for more as soon as he was done. Deeps breaths after helped clear the last cobwebs of his deep sleep. “That hit the spot. I feel better.”

“Well enough for rabbit and beans?”

“Sure am. My stomach will be mighty thankful.”

“Want me to help you up? Probably best to be moving about after laying around so many days.”

“And it’s easier to piss standing up,” he said with a chuckle.

Coy helped him with his boots, and Boone smiled at the feel of his gold still there in the toes. A few minutes later, after a satisfying piss, he gingerly walked over to get a look at Daisy and Blue. They were grazing a short distance away from camp with Buttercup and Mouse. Blue’s head came up first, and he gave him a baleful eye before returning to his favorite pastime.

“I owe you, mule, but you’re still a miserable cuss,” he muttered, remembering how Blue had fought him on the night of the storm. Daisy, hearing his voice, trotted over for some attention, and he obliged with a good scratch to her neck and withers. Satisfied, she moved off. Seeing her lifted his spirits. She was a good horse, and he’d have had a hard time if she’d perished in the storm because of his decisions.

Walking back towards camp, he tested his tender shoulder to find the mobility improved. His hip, too, was better, although it still had a powerful ache. Moving around seemed to have helped his head. It hurt, but as long as he kept it steady, it wasn’t so bad. He looked around, taking in a couple of downed trees and wondered whether the storm had been responsible. He turned his attention back to Coy, watching him get their meal ready. He was frying simple biscuits in pork fat, and the smell made Boone’s stomach grumble. It was ready for a solid meal.

“You packed a tent too? Is that our old one?”

Coy glanced over at the stack of supplies. “Yep, that’s it.”

“How come you didn’t set it up?”

The man took the biscuits off the heat, and stood. “You were too sick to be cooped up. You needed the fresh air… Ma always said fever needs the good outside air. I rigged up the piece of canvas I saved from your tent for cover from the sun, though.”

“I… I’m beholden to you for what you did for me, Coy.”

“Yep. I was scared, Boone… damn scared.”

Coy suddenly looked damn close to breaking down, something Boone hadn’t seen outside of his ma and Will’s deaths. He took notice of the dark circles under his eyes, but stayed quiet while his friend got control.

“Thought you were dead when I found you, and it seemed like you were slipping away while I watched over you. Not much I could do but wait… and pray hard you wouldn’t leave me too.”

“You prayed over me?”

“Course I did. Prayed the whole time.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, thank Him. Should a knowed you were too stubborn to give up.” He snorted and turned away, and Boone saw his arm come up and swipe at his eyes.

Poor Coy. What an ordeal it must have been for the man. What was it he’d said before Boone left? Something about there being a lot of death lately? Yep, too much death. Boone needed to show his friend he was fine now… or would be. He was pretty sure Coy was still keeping constant watch over him while he slept, which would explain the weariness he kept hearing in the man's voice. “Prayers worked, didn’t they?”

“Who’s to say? Maybe God don’t hate me after all.”

The words threw Boone as he stared at the man’s profile. He couldn’t help wondering at the pain poorly hidden behind those words. Coy was never one to feel sorry for himself. “Well… I don’t claim to be an expert on the Lord, but I’m pretty sure he don’t hate good men like you.”

“Kinda hard to tell if you ask me… but Ma always said keeping faith is the hardest work you’ll ever do.”

“Reckon she was right about that. There’s been times I lost mine. Coy? How long ago did you find me?”

Coy slowly turned back his way. “Let me figure… you fought the fever for three days, then slept through another, and now it’s another day, so that would be five days since I drug you up here.”

“Hmm… guess I was really out of it.”

“No wonder… you musta laid on the ground for three… no… closer to four days before I found you. Blue came into my camp as I was fixing some breakfast, well after the storm let up where I was,” he said, looking thoughtful.

“Where was your camp?”

“From here? Hard to say because the river winds so much, and my camp was nowhere near it. I reckoned at the time I was two days behind you, but I reached your campsite—or what was left of it—at nightfall that same day Blue showed up. Must have been catching up to you. Anyways, I found you on the third day after I found Daisy.”

“Catching up? Why were you—”

“Here, let’s sit on that big ol’ log and eat, unless you want to sit here?”

“Think the log would be better,” Boone answered as he walked over to the long-dead tree.

Coy followed behind him. “Food’s the best medicine, as Ma always said. Need some help?”

“No, I can manage. I’m near fit as a fiddle.” Boone carefully straddled the lower end of the log and eased himself down, trying to show his friend he needn’t worry so much.

“Eat, and then we can talk.” Coy handed him a plate of food, and then got his own and joined him.

The more Boone ate, the hungrier he got, and soon had his plate emptied.

Coy had beaten him, though, and belched as he got up. “Room for more?”

“Hell no. Barely got that last biscuit in me.”

“Let some air out then.”

Boone shook his head and smiled, thinking of the many belching contests they’d had.

Coy, grinning, belched again as he took their tin plates and spoons and headed down to the river, leaving Boone with his thoughts.

A full belly gave him some contentment, but he had a lot of questions that needed answering, questions he’d wanted to ask since he’d woke the first time. What was Coy doing following him… tracking him? When had he left the mining camp, and why hadn’t he gone on to his family farm? He’d said he could think anywhere, but Boone had expected he would go see the family graves at least. What changed his mind? Had something happened? But the biggest question might be, should he say nothing and wait for Coy to tell him… or bring it to the fore?

The man had cut him off earlier, like he was uncomfortable with where the conversation was going, and frankly, after nearly dying, he was just glad his friend was with him again. Answers could wait.

Wanting to go off by himself to maybe find someone to love seemed damnable stupid now. All he’d done was make Coy feel he’d done something wrong… when he hadn’t. He couldn’t help how he felt, just like Boone couldn’t change who he was, but it shouldn’t have meant they couldn’t keep the friendship they’d been lucky enough to find.

He got up and wandered over to the pile of supplies, relieved to see his all his tack piled neatly. Even Blue’s pack saddle was there. As he stood next to it, he was thrown back into that night… and the terror that followed his dropping down into the dark water. He shuddered, feeling a mite shaken.

“You okay?” Coy asked, suddenly behind him.

Boone turned and saw his concern. The man needed to stop worrying and turn in. “Yep, I am. Thought I was dead for sure in that water… but I’m not. Makes you see things you didn’t before.”

“I suppose. Made me do some thinking too… seeing you grey as gravel with your lips all white like they were. I didn’t expect to see your eyelids move. I was glad, but it scared me bad because I didn’t think you’d last another hour. I expected I’d watch it happen before I even got you moved.”

“I’m sorry, Coy.”

“What for?”

“That you had to go through this. You were right there’s been a lot of death lately. You don’t need to see anymore, that’s for sure.”

“I reckon I’d prefer not to.”

“So why didn’t you go visit your ma’s… the family graves?”

“Didn’t see much point. Ma said she’d always be able to see me from heaven when I wanted to talk… and how she wouldn’t mind leaving her old bones behind for coyotes to gnaw on, because they weren’t good for much else. I reckon if I want to tell her something, I can say it from anywhere, and I have.”

“So you decided to come looking for me?”

“Guess you could say that. It’s easier to think when you got something to do.”

“You said no when I asked you to come.”

“I did. Changed my mind… something Sheriff Willard said.”

“The sheriff? What did he have to say?”

“Well… he rode out to see me the day after you left, to tell me the reward came in… brought the old paint with him and said he was going to take Wes’s saddle.”

“That worn out hunk of leather?”

“That’s what he said… told me Paint didn’t like his saddle… I don’t know… he was shooting the breeze, like he just wanted to talk.”

“So what did he say that changed your mind?”

Coy took a deep breath. “That if I wasn’t panning no more, I should clear out. Said I was lucky the fever hadn’t got hold of me, and I wasn’t doing myself any good moping around.”

“You were moping?”

“Might have been. He said I looked sadder than a man who just lost his best horse. Said you looked the same when he saw you.”

Boone raised his eyebrows, but then he nodded. “He weren’t wrong. I made a mistake and I figured out you were right… about me changing cause of the punch. It weren’t fair, and I’m sorry.”

Coy nodded back at him, frowning before looking away. “I made some too.”

“Not like I did. Sheriff Willard is a confounding man, isn’t he? I found myself wondering why he cared so much that I was setting off by my lonesome, but there was no denying it bothered him.”

Coy snorted and met his gaze again. “That man is slick as goose grease. Says a lot more than words when he speaks. Pointed out I had a responsibility to do his friends’ memory justice… that you and I both did… but it seemed like it was more than that. Made me think of how my pa used to talk to my older brothers, like he knew what was best for them.”

Boone nodded, thinking how he hadn’t a clue what fathers did, or how they talked to a son.

“Anyhow, he said Wes and Lee had a genuine fondness for the pair of us, and I couldn’t go wrong investing in some good land in the vicinity of a good friend. He said you had the right idea, and I could always sell if I bought the right piece. Mentioned Larkspur, and I cottoned on to his purpose for riding out to the camp,” Coy said with an eyeroll. “He up and left without the saddle.”

Boone laughed… picturing the man. “So he talked you into coming after me.”

Coy gave him an unsure look. “Truth is, I was thinking about it since you left, but I had to get over my pride. He didn’t talk me into it, but he gave me the boot I needed.”

“So, you do want to farm?”

“I don’t rightly know. Haven’t got that far yet, but I think the sheriff was right. Wes and Lee ended up giving us a gift that shouldn’t be wasted, so I’ll have a look see at this land around Larkspur and see how it makes me feel, if’n it’s all right with you?”

“Course it is. I’m glad you came, and not just cause you drug me back from death’s door. It was a pretty lonely life I had afore I met you… you’re my best friend… hell… you’re family, Coy. You’re the only family I got in this whole world.”

“You’re the only one left for me too, and you’ve always had my back. I know Ma and Will said some harsh things, but those weren’t never my thoughts. That punch… it was a boy being afeared, and stupid. I’d like to think I’ve growed up some since then.”

“I know what it was, and you don’t got to tell me that life is confusing sometimes.”

“Yep… can be for sure.”

It was a bit of an awkward moment, but Boone believed they’d moved beyond the turmoil of the past few weeks, and he was thankful. “So, was that all the sheriff had to say?”

Coy scoffed. “Not likely… there’s always something more with that man. He said sometimes we have to ponder on what makes us unhappy before we can figure out what makes us happy. That was after he mounted up. Told me you took the trail along the railway line and rode off… like I said, without the saddle. I hollered after him about it, but he just smiled at me and kept riding. He’s a strange fellow, that one. Never met a lawman like Sheriff Willard… but I think I kind of don’t mind him. At least he don’t make me shake in my boots anymore,” Coy said with a suddenly wide grin.

Boone returned it. “I guess I don’t mind him either… could even say I like the man, but he still makes me jittery when he looks at me. Suppose he does that to most folks. So, you and me, we’re going the whole way to Larkspur?”

“Looks like we are, Boone.”

 

*

Thanks for reading. So Boone's on the mend, and we find out a bit about where Coy's head is at. And there was the sheriff popping up again. What did you think?

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8 minutes ago, Wesley8890 said:

That sheriff is a right fine fellow

Glad you think so, Wes. :)  The fact he cared enough to ride out to Coy's camp shows how much he cares. :hug: 

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7 minutes ago, heifel35 said:

That sheriff is a wise man 🙂

 

Hey, heifel! Wise, perceptive, and caring. Maybe Boone was right about him?  Cheers, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Gary.... :hug: 

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Thank you very much.....

Going back to the title of this story - the common definitions are:

sidewinder (plural sidewinders) A North American rattlesnake, Crotalus cerastes, that inhabits lowland deserts. (slang) A person who is untrustworthy and dangerous. (slang, dated) A heavy swinging blow from the side which disables an adversary.

I wonder which we will encounter here?  

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56 minutes ago, mayday said:

Coy says: "I’d like to think I’ve growed up some since then.” He must have, because he really seems changed in some respects. But still he needed a father figure to tell him what was good for him... He was lucky that that man was the Sheriff. Not everyone would have been so perceptive and open to share his opinions. And - no doubt - Boone was lucky in that, too. More than doubly so.

I like this chapter very much, Gary. Thanks for your fine writing!

Thanks, mayday! I appreciate the kind words. Yes, I think Coy has shown growth, and I'm pleased you see it too. It's been close to a month since Boone left Red Bluff, and both men have had plenty of time to think. As Coy said, Sheriff Willard gave him the  boot he needed, but he'd already been thinking about following Boone. He is indeed lucky the sheriff cared enough to do what he did... and yes, Boone was fortunate as well. He likely wouldn't be alive if the sheriff hadn't been open enough to give Coy his advice. 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the chapter with us, my friend... cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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Oh no! This is is way too short Gary. We'll never get to Larkspur at this rate! 😉 more double chapters, please!

These characters are like a comfortable pair of slippers: the best kind. Everything about Coy and the Sheriff, we've pretty much guessed, after some careful prompting. But that just lulls our sense of security until the next big sucker punch or storm comes along. We never get to see them coming but, for sure, they're on their way.

A life farming together in Larkspur. What could possibly go wrong? 

Thanks Gary for another piece of something good in a world that's busy going crazy. :hug:

 

Edited by Bard Simpson
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Hah! I knew it! The sheriff set Coy straight - or maybe not....... 😉

Go for it, boys! 🤠💕🙏

Another awesome chapter - and another long week ahead before the next one....🥺

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21 minutes ago, spyke said:

:thankyou:It is and it has.  Thank you for taking the time to write it and to share it here on GA.  I for one am very appreciative. 

You're most welcome, spyke! Thank you for reading and expressing your appreciation. Escape has been necessary for all of this. :hug: 

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20 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

That sheriff is a smart, observant man. Now that Coy saved Boone, I wonder what perils await the pair along trail. And if they ever get to the promised land of Larkspur, will it be what it was hyped up to to be? I liked this for the renewed friendship in Coy and Boone, which made me smile. 

The renewal of their friendship is great to see... I hated writing the probable end of it in the earlier chapters. Whatever their destination turns out to be, I'll try to make it interesting, Parker. :)  Cheers! :hug: 

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19 minutes ago, Leo C said:

Hah! I knew it! The sheriff set Coy straight - or maybe not....... 😉

Go for it, boys! 🤠💕🙏

Another awesome chapter - and another long week ahead before the next one....🥺

Hey, Leo! The sheriff did a good job, didn't he? He's got the boys' number as far as the intimidation factor, but I suppose he's used to being listened to. :)  Lol to setting Coy straight. :P 

Sorry for the wait, buddy, but happy you liked this one. :D  Cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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35 minutes ago, Headstall said:

More storms? Highly unlikely, buddy, but we shall see. :) 

I was speaking metaphorically. So is it all  going to be plain sailing from here?

That's a real shame! :yawn:

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5 minutes ago, Bard Simpson said:

I was speaking metaphorically. So is it all  going to be plain sailing from here?

That's a real shame! :yawn:

Yup... all boring from here on. :P  Day after day of riding and describing the scenery and the meals. Surely you wouldn't want more drama, would you? :unsure2:  :gikkle:  

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Well that is a great chapter! That sheriff is one wise man and I love how he move the story along. I just think that Boone and Coy will come to there senses and see how great the things have are!

Thanks for such a great chapter

Thanks for sharing:thankyou::worship:

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1 hour ago, Albert1434 said:

Well that is a great chapter! That sheriff is one wise man and I love how he move the story along. I just think that Boone and Coy will come to there senses and see how great the things have are!

Thanks for such a great chapter

Thanks for sharing:thankyou::worship:

Sheriff Willard does move the story along... good observation, buddy. In a way, he became a father figure to Boone and Coy, inserting himself in their lives and giving them some caring advice. Thanks, Albert, for sharing your great thoughts, as always... cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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9 minutes ago, dughlas said:

"Maybe God don't hate me after all." There's alot of weight in those words.

Well done bro.

Yes, there is, dugh. It tells us a lot about Coy... the fact he's lost his entire family has made him wonder. Still... he holds on to his ma's wisdom... that faith is the hardest work he will ever do. Thanks, bro... so glad you liked this... cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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I had a line manager a lot like Sheriff Willard.  Knew me better than I knew myself, and subtly altered the course of my life, often indirectly and in not so many words.  I didn't cotton on until much later, and by the time I pulled my head out of my ass, it was too late to be grateful in person.

Hopefully Boone and Coy can make it to Larkspur without further incident.  And that's a long way on horseback with a headache.

 

 

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