Monday, March 19, 2012
Longhorns by Victor J Banis is a bawdy love story set on the Texas plains. Longhorns ranges from hard riding action and sex as hot as the blazing Texas sun, to lyrical descriptions of the Old West. New MLR Press edition.
MLR Press (February, 2012)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-593-6 (print)
They were herding cattle, out on the range, when he first showed up, late of an afternoon.
"Looks like we got company," Red said.
Les looked in the direction Red was staring, toward the far horizon, where a distant speck gradually formed itself into a cowboy on a brown and white pinto.
Visiting strangers weren't common on a round up. It had never happened to him personally, but Les had heard tell of a time or two when that had meant trouble of one kind or another for the herders—rustlers, they said, or bandidos, though a lone rider wasn't likely to be much of a threat with a dozen or more cowboys gathered around.
Still, he broke off working with the boys and strolled out to meet the stranger as he rode into the camp in a cloud of dust. Les wore his six shooters on his hips and he did not draw them, but he hooked his thumbs in his wide leather belt, where he could get to them quick if he needed to, and if there was a faster draw in Texas, he had never met him. The cowboy jumped off his pinto, hitched his pants up, and swaggered over to where Les was standing.
"I heard you was herding some longhorns, thought you might could use an extra wrangler," he said in the way of greeting, extending his hand. "My name is Buck."
"Mine's Les." Les shook his hand and looked him over. The boy wore an old shirt, worn but clean, and those new pants, dugris, that had come up from the Bahamas—but the fellows called them dungarees, and said they were way more comfortable than the old-fashioned woolies—and he had a fancy looking pair of snakeskin boots on his feet, white, with curlicues of black and green. He wasn't more than eighteen years old, maybe nineteen, his skin already leather colored from the Texas sun, and he stood only five foot nine inches, ten at the most, fine boned and small built, but wiry. He had a piece of string under his chin to hold his faded gray Stetson, but the hat had fallen behind and his hair reached almost to his shoulders, a tangled mass of wayward curls as black as obsidian. His eyes, in the fading light, were nearly as dark. An old fashioned Winchester long rifle was slung over his shoulder, and he wore a Colt on one hip, and a Bowie in a leather sheath on the other. Despite his size and his youth, he had a cocksure air about him, like a man who has just wrestled the puma and is waiting for you to send in the grizzly.
Les himself was six foot three, broad of shoulder and chest and narrow of hip, his long legs bowed outward, like a pair of parentheses that contained his cowboy history within them. A life out of doors had etched fine lines around his mouth and eyes, and bleached his fair hair almost to a whiteness, but the thatch of it on his chest was reddish yellow still where his shirt hung open. He looked exactly like what he was, a long time cowpuncher who was man enough for just about anything that might come up, and damn well knew it.
"You Indian?" he asked the newcomer.
"Half," Buck said. He seemed unembarrassed by the fact, though not everybody around these parts took kindly to half-breeds. "Daddy was a trader, leastways so I always heard, but I never knew him. Mama was a Nasoni. A Nasoni princess, she used to claim, but she didn't live no royal kind of life, seemed to me."
"Nasoni? Don't believe I know that tribe," Les said.
"North east Texas, was where we come from. Gone now. Mostly died out the last century, or swallowed up by the Caddo, except for a few of us stragglers here and there." Buck said. "Texas is a Nasoni word though. It means friend. Guess that's why I'm so doggone friendly." He grinned again and looked Les up and down. Something about the way he looked at him made Les oddly uncomfortable, and he shifted his weight from one foot to the other and glanced down.
"Them's fancy boots," he said, his eyes settling on them.
"Thanks. I traded a fellow down in Galveston for them," Buck said.
"Must have given him something pretty special," Les said. "For a pair of boots like that."
"Mighty special, to tell the truth." Buck winked when he said it, and Les felt his face color slightly, and decided that he wasn't going to follow that subject any further, just to be safe.
"You new around here?" he asked instead. "I don't recall seeing you about San Antone when I been in town."
"Come from Oklahoma, but I been down Galveston way for a spell. Just come up from there. I was looking for some work, and fellows I met on the trail mentioned your name, said you was herding and that I should ride out to find you. Mighty glad they did, now that I set eyes on you."
Which Les thought was an odd thing to say, but he glanced past the kid just then for a moment to where some of the boys were working on the makeshift corral, and his attention was distracted. "Best make that fence a little higher, Red," he called across to his Segundo. "From the look of them clouds yonder, appears like we might get some weather tonight."
When he looked back at the newcomer, Les found Buck's eyes down, an intent expression on his face. Les looked too, and realized Buck was staring at him, staring right at the bulge of his crotch.
"What you got on your mind, boy?" Les said sharply.
"I was just thinking," Buck said, seeming not to mind at all that he had been caught with his eyes where they were, "'bout some of the things them sailors taught me down in Galveston. Things I had never even heard of back in Oklahoma. I tell you, them sailor boys is truly something. I got me a fair education, is sure."
"Well, they ain't no sailor boys here," Les said, doubly annoyed because they had been herding cattle out here on the prairie for several weeks now, and his prick, on the alert for any prospects, had took instant note of the attention it had gotten.
Still, one of his cowhands, Rex, had taken a fall a couple days before and broken an arm and had to ride back to the ranch—you weren't much good one-armed on a round up, and a man who couldn't work was a man who was in the way—and Matt had come down with a bad case of the trots and couldn't stop shitting, and that had kept him in camp for two days now. They had been a bit short-handed to begin with when they had set out; so the plain fact was, he could use an extra hand, and out here, there wasn't much to choose from.
"I reckon you can stick around for a day or two, see how it goes," he said. He glanced down at those fancy snakeskin boots, not a speck of dirt on them, and added, spitefully, "I'm guessing you can ride okay. We got no room here for sissies."
"Well, now, seeing it's you, and now that I have set eyes on you, I would surely love the opportunity to show just how well I can ride," Buck said with a flash of teeth in his sun-leathered face. "I got the time, if you got the inclination, and that big old patch of mesquite over there looks private enough to me."
"I expect I'll see you on your horse soon enough," Les said, hoping without much hope that he had misunderstood the suggestion.
"Oh, a horse, well, I guess so," Buck said. He turned and started toward his pinto, his shiny spurs jingling, but he looked over his shoulder to add, "I can ride them, too, case that's what you meant."
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