Hold your horses as long as they’re yours.
April 2, 2013
Burl Branchwater paused in the shoeing of my horse to tell me a story about a man who accused him of stealing two of his horses. The story he told goes something like this:
September weather was cool for Northeast Texas and Burl expected a lot of horses. A fall parade in town always brought customers who only tended their horses in advance of a parade. Three were already in the barn lot when he stepped out of the house before dawn. He started on the first one by sparse daylight.
A man too well-dressed to be fooling with horses arrived at good-dawn, opened the lot gate and led two horses in like he was a regular customer. “Damn. How early does a man have to get up to be first in line?”
Burl kept at the old shoe. Didn’t look up. Something about the man’s attitude irritated him. “Some sorta parade today. Horses get rode on parade days that ain’t seen shoe or saddle in a year.”
The man led two horses past Max and tied them to the fence. “Name’s Frank Falwell. Call me Frankie T. I called your wife. Reckon you can have ‘em ready by noon?” Max glanced at the black mare and gunmetal gray, dismissing a flicker of recognition.
“Expect I can. Just got this one and the other two ahead of you.” He waited for Frankie T. to leave before taking a closer look. The gray had a big jaw for a gelding, like a late-cut stud. Burl rubbed the horse’s neck, spoke to him and looked between his legs. The blood was not even fully clotted.
He walked over to the house and told Lillie to call Bobby Ray Foster. Bobby Ray had partnered with Cole Cunningham on a top bred gunmetal stud that had been stolen a few weeks back. Lillie reported no answer at Bobby Ray’s house, not even an answering machine.Cole’s number was unlisted. Burl shrugged and went back to work.
By pure chance, Bobby Ray drove up an hour later, dragging a two-horse trailer. Seems his wife wanted to ride in the parade, too. Six horses were tied to the fence by then. Thinking of biting and kicking, Bobby Ray started to tie his two horses several yards away from the others.
Feeling as if Providence had intervened when Bobby Ray arrived, Burl dropped the hoof he was working on and stood. “Tie your two over by the gunmetal gray so I can keep ‘em in order. He don’t kick. Don’t know if I can get yours shod by the time the parade starts.”
Bobby Ray shrugged. “Don’t matter, just the old lady wants to ride. Just as soon skip it myself.” He tied his horses and touched the gunmetal’s hip as he stepped away.
Irritated, Burl pointed a rasp directly at the gray, but did not look up. “All them horses, including that gunmetal stud, are ahead of you.”
Bobby Ray still did not catch on. “I understand. I can wait.”
Burl was exasperated. He pointed to the gunmetal again with his rasp. “Got any opinions on them other horses?”
Bobby Ray took another look. His eyes widened as he ran his hand over the gray’s hip. “Damn. That’s me and Cole’s stud, ain’t it?”
“I’ll kiss your ass if it didn’t used to be your stud.”
Bobby Ray looked under the horse’s belly. “Hell’s bells. Somebody took his jewels. Them was worth five thousand apiece. Where the hell did you find him?”
“Didn’t. Feller brought him in here about dawn with that black mare. Said his name was Falwell.”
“What do you reckon we oughta do?”
“Up to you, but I’d call the sheriff.”
“Can I use your phone?”
“Just go on up to the house and ask Lillie to call.”
It took Deputy Sheriff Leo Briggs an hour to make the fifteen-minute drive from the county seat. Lillie had told the dispatcher that Burl and the horse in question were at the barn, but that did not stop the deputy from going to the house door instead and knocking. Lillie had gone to the grocery store, so Burl and Bobby Ray waited for the deputy to come to them.
When they looked up again, he was driving away. Bobby Ray ran to his pickup and honked the horn enough to stop him. The chagrined deputy returned and sauntered across Burl’s yard, his belly a few inches ahead of the rest of him, hat cocked to one side.
“Miz Branchwater said something about a horse been stole.”
Next week, the law takes hold.
A review from Charlotte: Go Down Looking cannot be described with flowery words like wonderful, great, etc though it is all those things, IT IS LIFE with all the joys of life and all the sorrows.
Be prepared for an emotional ride.Mr. Ainsworth is my favorite author/bar none. Every book he writes is better than the last, though the first one was great.Get to know the Rivers’ family and get with the flow.