Travis rode all night and all morning. By afternoon, he was thirsty, hungry, and exhausted.
None of that mattered to him. All he wanted to do was to put as much distance between himself and Claremont as possible.
Whack! Travis slapped his horse’s backside with a riding crop.
“I’m sorry, old friend,” Travis said. “But desperate times and so forth.”
Whack! Travis’ horse whinnied.
A third whack. After this one, the horse reared, kicked his front legs up into the air and bucked his rider off of his back and onto the ground.
“Damn it, Montague!” Travis cried as he dusted himself off. “What’s gotten into you?”
Montague was a beige horse with a black mane. As Travis continued to shout various unpleasantries, the beast reared up a second time and persisted in kicking his two front legs into the air.
When the animal did so, Travis caught a glimpse of something shiny sticking in Montague’s horseshoe.
“You’ve stepped in something, boy,” Travis said as stepped over to the horse.
Montague reared up and kicked his front legs up a third time. Whatever was stuck in Montague’s shoe, it was bright and sparkly because it caught Travis’ eye a second time.
“Will you stand still?” Travis asked. “You’re being ridiculous.”
The horse whinnied. One could only assume it was horse talk for a suggestion that Travis perform an unsavory act upon himself.
Travis took out a pocket knife and unfolded it. The horse reared up again when he heard the blade snap into position.
“Oh stop it,” Travis said. “You know full well I’m not going to hurt you, you big baby.”
A different set of hooves clip clopped down the dusty trial. Travis turned his head to see a stone faced lawman with a U.S. Marshall’s star pinned to his shirt riding atop a dark colored steed.
Travis stepped towards Montague only for the horse to kick his legs up into the air again.
“Oh Lord,” Travis said as he closed his eyes and dropped to his knees. “The people of my hometown don’t believe in me. My one and only law client didn’t believe in me. My newspaper readers didn’t believe in me. In fact, between you and I, Lord, I’m not sure I ever had more than three or four readers if that.”
The marshall drew closer.
“My wife doesn’t believe in me,” Travis said. “If my children were of age I have no doubt they would not believe in me but please Lord, is it too much to ask that my horse believe in me?”
“I guess it is,” Travis said.
Or was it? Immediately, it dawned on Travis that he’d been kneeling on the ground next to Montague for several seconds and had not taken a hoof to the face.
Slowly, Travis lifted the horse’s hoof up. Montague complied and bent his leg at the knee at an angle that allowed his owner to see what was the matter.
There it was. The shiny piece of metal jammed into Montague’s shoe. Ever so carefully, Travis dug the piece out with his knife. Once it was removed, he gently returned Montague’s foot to the ground.
“Howdy pardnah,” the Marshall said.
Travis stood up and turned around to find the lawman trotting his own horse over.
“Howdy,” Travis replied.
Travis and the marshall looked each other over for a spell, each man sizing the other up.
“Horse giving you trouble?” the marshall asked as he brought his steed to a stop.
“Eh,” Travis said. “Horses and women. Always complaining about something.”
“Ha,” the marshall said. “You’re alright.”
The lawman kicked his horse with his spurs and galloped away. “Take ‘er easy, pardnah.”
“I will,” Travis said.
Travis opened up his hand and examined the piece of metal. It was, in fact, a scuffed up silver ring with an “I” etched into it.
“Huh,” Travis said as he slid the ring onto his finger. “Perhaps my luck has changed for the better.”