DARK TRAIL HOME

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CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

After several days of watching Lonny go out of his way to sweet talk Marcie was getting under his skin, and an idea formulated. He didn’t have any flowers to offer her or sweet talk, but surely she would respect how he handled a horse.

There was a four-year-old colt that was particularly troublesome. Malone had been working with it and turned it over to Tyree to exercise. It was stubborn, and hard-mouthed, it had belonged to a previous owner and Malone was trying to gentle it down. It had been ridden, but it wasn’t broken by any means. Malone had told him to put it through all its paces as though it had never been handled, work it from the ground up. Build up its trust, which it was clearly lacking.

“Don’t put no hardware on him. Hackamore and a blanket. That’s it,” Malone had told him.

He went in the stable, and came out with a saddle and blanket. The horse side-stepped him, but he managed to get the saddle on it.

“What you doing, Tyree?” Mark called from the dooryard, stepping out into the yard to watch while Tyree tightened down the cinch.

“I’m going to show this beast who’s boss.”

“He ain’t ready to be ridden. Joel will skin you alive.”

“Sure he is, he just don’t know it yet.”

“Bad idea, Tyree. Don’t do it.”

Tyree threw himself on the horse, sure that Marcie had watched him saddle it. The horse exploded, sun-fishing left then right, kicking out and spinning. He whooped and kicked its sides, and the beast fairly erupted under him like a geyser. He was grinning ear to ear when it worked itself into a lather, trying to shake him off. He hung on like a tick on a hound dog. Finally, when it stood still, shivering under him, he slid off of it, and looked over the saddle at Mark.

“See that? That’s how you break a horse the old-fashioned way,” he said proudly.

Tyree was satisfied Marcie had observed his handiwork, and Lonny could take his daffodil and shove it right up his ass. He pulled the latigo loose, and took a step back, right into Malone’s chest. He was expecting to get dressed down, but he wasn’t ready for Malone.

He turned around just in time to catch the back of Malone’s hand across his face. The blow staggered him, and he tasted blood as his lip busted open in a starburst of white light. The horse crow-hopped away from him. He had time to throw his arm up, though it didn’t do him any good. Malone grabbed a handful of shirt, and some skin with it, and slammed him against the barn door.

“You sorry little shit. Don’t you ever let me catch you doing something like that again. You just set that horse back weeks. I told you slow. Groundwork, no saddle.”

Tyree jumped away from Malone’s hands as he grabbed for him again.

“What the hell is your problem, Malone?” He spit blood in the dirt, and glared at Malone. Malone looked like he was ready to tear his head off. His face was twisted red, and his fists were doubled up. Tyree backed up a step as Malone came toward him, and his hand just naturally dropped to his side.

A quick movement at the edge of his vision drew his attention, and he saw Pete standing there with his hand on his pistol butt. He blinked at the implication of that. Pete looked grim, his eyes narrowed. Tyree made a fist of his hand, and pulled it away from his gun, and Pete relaxed. Malone glanced from Tyree to Pete and shook his head.

“Don’t you ever do that again, you worthless shit. Now you brush that horse down. You spend the next two weeks doing nothing but brushing him. And I mean nothing but. You pull that stunt again I swear to god I’ll take a quirt to your back side.”

Marcie came into the stable after Malone left, and glared at him as she ran a hand over the young stallion.

“You ass. What were you trying to prove?”

“I dunno,” he muttered, his head hung low, licking his busted lip.

She punched him in the chest. “You aren’t any smarter than that horse apple out there. I would have sworn you had some sense.”

He had made a fool of himself, and Lonny was reveling in it. He wanted to punch Lonny, and might have if Marcie hadn’t hooked her arm in the cow puncher’s, and walked off toward the house.

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