Saturday, 28 March 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015 -

Tamed by the Gunslinger

by Jocelyn Cross
Published: Feb 07, 2015
Words: 31,849
Category: western, romance
Orientation: M/F
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Chapter One - Chance Encounter

It was a hot summer afternoon on the road that paralleled the Agua Fria River in central Arizona. It was 1873, not quite long enough to have forgotten the terrors and hatreds of the Civil War, and though Arizona was quite distant from the bloody battlefields, emotions still fostered sudden and violent outbursts that seemed quite unpredictable. Not that such outbursts would bother the cowboy on that road today, slowly meandering his way to the town of Gillette.

Even when he stopped in a town for more than a week, those who got to know the cowboy never really knew him; most were afraid of the man who exuded a palpable energy that was immediately noticed by livestock, horses and dogs. When he was around, animals were suddenly skittish and other humans would attribute that activity to the likely presence of a coyote or bobcat. But the animals knew something that people eventually got around to deciding on their own: stay clear of this cowboy.

Truth to tell, no one could ever claim that the man started a fight or any trouble at all. He was soft spoken, but his words hit like an iron fist beneath a soft leather glove: they were neat and polite, but the punch would break your jaw. One immediately sensed his confidence, though the cowboy never advertised it.

Oh, he got into his fair share of scrapes, and as his presence on the road this day would attest, he was always the one who walked away unharmed. Though he strove to avoid confrontation, conflict seemed to find him. He never backed away; that was for the other guy, and the man that was foolish enough not to turn around and leave more often than not ended up face down and dead in the dirt.

The cowboy knew the Agua Fria River was close by the road ... just off to his left as indicated by the sycamore trees that hugged the river bank. Sycamores could not live very far from water, and in this part of the west, water was sometimes hard to come by. It was an axiom of survival in Arizona: know where the water is or you'll likely end up dead.

The breeze shifted slightly and his horse sensed the sweet smell of the river and turned his head to the left. "OK, partner," the cowboy said to his horse. "Let's get a drink and take a break." With a touch of his knee, his horse responded and headed off the road towards the river. At the edge of the bank, the cowboy dismounted and took the saddle off his horse then led it down to the river. For a few long minutes his horse drank, and the cowboy knelt at the edge of the river to wash his face then dip his head down to slurp up some cool draughts of water for himself. He also took the time to refill his canteen.