Word Count: 1200
It seemed just an ordinary day. Fact is, it was just an ordinary day. Nothing special about it. The sun was shining and birds were twittering…all that kind of thing, you know. I’d had just an ordinary breakfast but ate it sort of slow because it was that kind of day. Pa said I was a bit slow and tried to chivvy me up, but I didn’t really feel like I wanted to be chivvied up; I just wanted to be left alone. Thankfully, Adam seemed to sense my mood and didn’t bother to say anything. That kind of annoyed me as well because he just looked at me with those raised eyebrows and slight shrug of the shoulders. Hoss had sighed and said something about how we all get days like that, and then when he got up from the table, he had slapped me hard on the back, which was just when I had a mouthful of coffee. Of course, I choked and Adam said something like “Tchah, don’t you just hate it when that kind of thing happens?” and left the table. Thanks, Adam!
For good measure, Hoss slapped me on the back again which helped clear my tubes right down to as far as they go. He’s been slapping me on the back like that for years and I would have thought he would have stopped by now. Anyhow, I just gave him a black look and muttered under my breath. Some mornings I could do without Hoss’ hearty back slapping, especially when my mouth is full. I could tell you some pretty embarrassing things have happened some mornings.
I knew I had a whole stack of chores to do and Pa wanted me to ride down to the south pasture and check on the water holes down there. Not my favorite job. I guess that was why I was in no hurry to get out of the house. But I finally managed to stir myself away from the table and slouch out of the house.
Hoss came ambling up towards me with that grin on his face that meant something was making him happy.
“Hop Sing baked apple pie for yer, Hoss?” I asked, and he shook his head. “What you got behind your back, Hoss?”
“Behind muh back?” Hoss opened his eyes wide and looked over his left shoulder, then he looked over his right shoulder.
I knew he was teasin’. I’m used to it by now. I’ve lived with this big-hearted galoot for 16 years now. Then he grinned and went all kind of mushy looking and produced a harness, bridle and bit.
“Here y’are, Joe. A present for yer.”
“A present?” I looked at the gear, and sure enough it was all brand new. “It ain’t my birthday.”
“Don’t have to be a birthday to give you a present, does it?”
I scowled. I shouldn’t have, but well, I was a bit miserable as my pony, Patch, had got sick and died the week before. Hoss and I had spent long hours nursing it through the night, but I guess we both knew he wasn’t going to make it. I loved that horse. I called him Patch because he was a paint, you know, a black and white. I’d been riding him since I was knee high to a grass hopper. I could talk to that horse like he was my best pal. In a way he was, but I don’t want you to think I was kind of sick in the head having to talk to a horse! I could talk to my Pa and brothers about anything, and I had some good friends in Virginia City. It’s just that a man and his horse build up some kind of relationship, being as how they are together so much of the time. Since Patch died, I was kinda using horses from the corral that the hands used. Pa said I could have the pick of the next bunch of horses we get.
“Thanks, Hoss, I truly appreciate it,” I said and gave him a half-hearted smile, but he just smiled that big wide smile of his and strolled off to the kitchen. He was whistling, so I knew he was happy. I looked at the bridle and bit again; it was good to have new tack, and I walked on towards the corral.
I hadn’t seen Adam there; he was leaning against the corral fence. I always wanted to be just like my big brother, Adam. He was handsome, charming, intelligent. He was also a whole lot older than me. He nodded at me and I nodded back,
“Got you something, little buddy.”
“Huh?” (I’m nothing if not gracious!)
“A present for you.”
“A present? It ain’t Christmas, you know?”
“Doesn’t have to be Christmas to give gifts, Joe.” Adam raised his eyebrows and I wondered if I was going to be given a lecture but instead he led me to the water trough. I slowed a bit, knowing how things are with my brothers and water troughs, but he stopped anyway and leaned down beside it.
“Here you are, Joe. I got it from town yesterday. It’s brand new.”
Brand new. A saddle. Leather worked real beautiful too, much like Pa’s fancy one. Wow, was I pleased! I swallowed and there was a lump in my throat.
“Wow,” I said, because I couldn’t think to say anything else.
“My pleasure.” Adam grinned and slapped me on the back.
He stepped back when Pa came out of the stable, and I saw him wink at Pa and Pa winked back. Then I saw him.
My Pa had a horse on a rein, and oh my… I could barely swallow anything, lumps or nuthin’. What a little beauty!
“For you, Joe. I couldn’t resist getting him for you. Fletcher was selling his stock and had only just acquired this little chap. What do you think of him?”
“Oh Pa…” I know this sounds stupid, but I had tears in my eyes. But it was so unexpected, and so – well – special. A special moment. I looked at that horse and he looked at me and I fell in love with him. “What’s his name?”
“I never asked,” Pa replied, “Guess it would be best if you named him; after all, he’s your horse.”
I looked at the saddle by my feet, and the tack in my hands and then at the horse. What a family I have and what a lot I owe them. I stroked the horse gently. He was just like Patch — a paint, or piebald as some call ’em. Beautiful black and white with a mischievous twinkle in deep brown eyes. He nuzzled my hair, and then my shoulder and the hairs on his chin tickled my face.
“I’ll call him Cochise, after that Indian we keep reading about.” I looked into his dark eyes, and breathed down his nostrils so that he would know me again. “Cochise.”
Adam slapped me on the back and nodded. Then they left me alone with my horse. My horse… Cochise.