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Tyree was still steaming, and licking his wounds the next day as he saw the two of them in the corral talking.

“Give her a few days. She ain’t all that interested in Lonny.”

“She said that? Cause she looks awful interested to me.”

“She don’t talk about Lonny.”

“She talk about me?” Tyree asked hopefully, wondering if that was what Mark was suggesting.

“Yeah. She says you are a mule, like your horse. A worthless, half wild, broom tail mule with a head like a fence post.”


“Better than not talking about you. You got her attention.” Mark laughed.

“Shut up, Mark.”

He looked out to the pasture as they walked to lunch, hoping to catch a glimpse of flaming hair.

Mark put a boot in front of Tyree’s leg, trying to trip him. Tyree shoved him away.

“Worm infested weasel.” Tyree laughed. He leaned over the water trough, and washed the dust from his face. His hair falling over his shoulder into the water. He raked it over the top of his head, and crammed his hat on. As he stepped into the bunkhouse, Mark shoved a handful of dandelions against his belly and Tyree gave him a puzzled look, and Mark feigned shock.

“I’m sorry I saw that pretty hair, and the way you was walking, would have swore to god you was a girl.” Guffaws came from the jackass table, and Tyree punched Mark in the arm, sending him bouncing against the wall.

“Holy shit, Tyree. You hit hard as my sister.” Mark rubbed his arm and Tyree was torn between embarrassment, anger and laughter. Mark made it difficult to do anything but laugh.

They slid into their seats at the table. Tyree saw Malone shaking his head as he chuckled. The bossman gave him a sideways glance as he stood up, and followed Pete out the door. Lonny seemed to be the only one not amused.

It was going to be a good day. He had spoken to Marcie as he’d saddled up the ponies, and she had given his hair a tug. Probably why Mark had handed him flowers. Lonny had seen him talking to her, which pretty much made his day.

The youngster sashayed over to Mark and Tyree’s table, poking his chest out, taking a deep breath, and pretended to cough at some unpleasant smell covering his nose.

“Oh my gawd. Smells like dead possum over here. Don’t you ever take a bath, Injun?” Tyree looked up, wrinkling his nose.

“That’s your crotch, Lonny. I’d burn those clothes if I was you.”

The jackass table erupted into loud laughter, and Mark snorted coffee out his nose. Lonny’s face burned red, his eyes daggers. Tyree saw his fists form as he stiffened. For just a second he thought Lonny was going to grab iron, but he sucked in a deep breath, and reached for the pie sitting in back of Tyree’s plate, took a big bite of it, and set it back down, then spewed it in Tyree’s plate.

Whatever good feelings Tyree had evaporated like fire from a coal dropped in a bucket of water.

“What you put in that Manny, dog meat?”

Tyree stood up slowly, his jaw muscles working. He didn’t bother walking around the table, but stepped up on his chair, and then stepped onto the table. Every head at the jackass table turned to see what was happening. Lonny grinned and waited for him to jump down, but Tyree didn’t do that. Instead, Tyree kicked him in the face, sending blood flying from a broken nose.

Lonny staggered backward, falling against the next table, and then went to his knees, his nose covered by his hands. Tyree jumped down, walked up on him, and kicked him in the ribs, and Lonny curled up around his side, gasping for a breath.

Mark came around the table, and grabbed Tyree’s arm. Tyree jerked loose from Mark, shoving him away as he prepared to kick Lonny in the head. Mark jumped in front of him, and Tyree tried to shove Mark aside.

“Come on, Tyree, that’s enough.”

“Imma kill that sumbitch.” Tyree yanked away from Mark, and Tulsa stepped between him, and Lonny who was whining about his nose.

Lonny regained his feet, and lunged at Tyree, swinging a fist that scraped across Tyree’s cheek. Taking another swing, Lonny caught Tyree’s fist in his gut, and then an upper cut into the face. Tyree’s boot came down on Lonny’s instep.

“Tyree!” Mark yelled. Tulsa stepped in between them.

“Back off, Kettering.” Tulsa growled. Tyree met Tulsa’s cold eyes, and stepped back.

“Allison. The name is Allison,” he said tersely, holding Tulsa’s eyes, daring him to say more about Ketterings.

I’ll kill you. You push me right this minute I will put holes in you.

“Take your friend out of here, Mark, before he gets hurt.” Tulsa told him.

Mark dragged him toward the door while Tulsa leaned over Lonny. Tyree jerked away from Mark, and went off across the yard.

I’m going to kill both of them.

Mark followed, fussing at him.

“What the hell, Tyree. Was all that necessary?”

“He’s lucky Tulsa stepped in. He woulda been crying for his mama.”

“That one kick was enough. I thought you was going to kill him.”

“I might still.”

Later that afternoon when he saw Marcie walk up to Lonny his sense of humor returned full force. Lonny was not enjoying whatever she was saying to him. He was studying the dirt at the toe of his boots. She was stabbing him in the chest with her finger, and he heard her all the way across the yard. Not much of what she said, a NEVER reached him. And DON’T, but most of it he saw reflected in Lonny’s red face. Red, blue and purple looked pretty good on the cowpuncher. He was enjoying this immensely. Mark came in the stable, and poked a thumb in the air toward his sister.

“Just fair warning. You are next. She’s out for blood. If you got somewhere to hide, I would go there.”

“What? Me? I didn’t do anything.”

“Nope, not a thing. Take another look at Lonny’s face and tell that to my sister.”

“Oh shit.”

He made a dash to grab his saddle, and headed for the door. She had hold of his horse’s bridle and the damn beast just stood there nibbling at her hair.

“Tyree Allison.” He dropped the saddle on the ground, and walked out the door. Turning to his horse, he grumbled. “Traitor.”

“Don’t you EVER…” she started, and he stood there like a school boy caught putting a frog down the back of some girl’s dress. He was waiting for a broken lip or a bruised shin, but when she was done, she only left little bruises on his chest, and one on his heart. He stared down at the dirt, wondering what Lonny had seen there. He didn’t find anything but dirt. Marcie’s foot beats moved away, he dared not look up.

He dragged his feet going into the stable, and punched Mark in the shoulder. “You could have given me more warning, you toad. You are no better than my horse.”

“At least you don’t have boot prints on your face.”

“Naw, they’re right here.” He pointed at his chest. It did ache for sometime, especially when the girl glared at him across the yard.

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