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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic

They became friends for life in the old West

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Partners

Submitted: October 19, 2009

Reads: 398

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Submitted: October 19, 2009



Chuck Smith
Two horses made there way down the steep rocky slope from the higher elevation they had started out from. There was still snow on the ground even at the lower part of the mountains. But spring was in the air and soon the snow would recede back to the highest levels of the mountains. The two cowboys riding the horse’s had allowed them to find the easiest way down this portion of the trail. Arnold Baxter, (Arnie), for short, was riding the sorrel mare and Doug Williams (Whitey) was riding the buckskin and both had owned and ridden these horses for several years. Both men were still wearing a heavy winter coat and had on gloves and thick wool scarf’s around there necks. Whitey was saying to Arnie as they descended; “Arnie, I swear if you ever volunteer us again for a line camp in the mountains for four months, I’m going to knock you into next week”. “Well, partner it weren’t so bad and now we have the advantage of having already been there and won’t have to go back for a spell”. “If you called being cooped up with you in a one room leaking, cold shack looking after a bunch of dumb cows and you losing half of our grub we were bringing up there, aint so bad, then it’s like I have always told you, Arnie, your crazy loco”. “Now how was I to know that dumb mule was going to bolt and slide off the mountain with that grub”. “You could have climbed down and got the grub, you know”. “Whitey, it was at least a half of mile straight down and I weren’t going to risk climbing all that way down and then back up, no sir re”. “Well half of the bacon we were carrying was on that mule and we been out of bacon and flour for two months and that’s a fact”. “And another thing if Mr. Martin ever finds out how many of his cows you killed and ate, we both are going to be out of a job”. “Well, I weren’t going to starve and the deer meat you cooked was tougher than boot leather and I get tired of nothing but beans”.
The ride down would continue through the morning into early afternoon and the two would bicker and argue about many things on the ride down…… Doug and Arnie had ridden together for over 25 years and the year was 1891. Arnie Baxter was from Tennessee and had been a Lieutenant in the Confederate Calvary and Whitey Williams was from Michigan and had been a Captain of Artillery in the Union Army. When the war had ended both men mustered out but having seen the horrors that war causes could not see going back to there old lives and each had separately picked his way westward. In Fort Smith, Arkansas they some how reached there at about the same time and with out jobs or much money both had enlisted as privates in the US Calvary. And it was during this time of service (1866-1870) in the Calvary that the two became friends and would be partners for life. There regiment was stationed at Ft. Sallisaw, Oklahoma and patrolled all the area in that part of the territory of Oklahoma. After there enlistment ran out the two decided to stay together and look for work and that they did at several different cattle ranches over the years. Now having worked for Jason Martin’s, Flying JM, ranch in western Wyoming for the past four years found them riding down from the line camp on a cool spring morning.
Both men were similar in appearance and each stood just a little over 6 feet tall and lean but tough from the many years of herding, branding and being around the cattle. Arnie had a thick crop of brown hair sprinkled with gray and brown eyes with a handle bar moustache. Doug or Whitey as he was known because his hair was snow white and had been since his service in the Union Army also wore a moustache but always kept it trimmed and in generally was a better dresser than Arnie was. Now both in there early 50’s and knowing that the changes taking place in the west would eventually end there way of life but just could not see or want to do anything other than what they were doing. Reaching the plains that would be part of the Flying JM ranch they dismounted and shed the coats, gloves and scarfs. Then riding on toward the ranch, “Whitey, if’n you don’t stop talking bout that damn bacon, I going to kick this horse and ride away from you”. Now Arnie had a slow talking real southern accent and talked loud enough to hear for one mile. Whitey had a clipped high voice and broke off his words in northern style and to hear the two talking to each other would just naturally bring a smile to those that did. Riding into the ranch proper and Fred Buttres the foreman stopped the two and asked about the line camp and the cattle held there, and did the two cowboys to replace you two get there ok? “Yep, they got there day before yesterday, and we showed them where the cattle were being held”. Fred; “Next week I’ll send up some wranglers and we will bring the herd down and let them graze”. The natural valley in the mountains always maintained a sizeable herd during the cold of winter on the plains of Wyoming.
Partners 11
As the warmer weather of spring begin to bring out the new grasses and spring the ranch alive it was time to brand the new calves born that year. The chuck wagon was brought out of the barn and loaded with supplies and the 20 cowboys riding and pushing a small group of horses ahead of them headed out to start rounding up the new calf’s. For it would take several weeks to round up and separate the calves and doing the branding. Most of the cowboys enjoyed the time away from the confines of the ranch proper, but then there is always a few that gripes and are disgruntled no matter where they are. Now Arnie and Whitey were not among that small group, for they had always loved being out in the open and doing the work they loved and had done for so many years. They set up camp and then begin to round up different groups of the scattered cows and there calves and some would set up the branding close to where they found the cows and others would drive them back close to there base camp and do the branding there. They worked in pairs in cutting out the calves and one rider would rope and bring the calf close to the branding station. Arnie was just a natural born roper and could work magic with a coiled rope and very seldom missed what he was trying to rope. Whitey was just so, so in roping and the two had many arguments about who was the best. “Damn, Whitey you ever gonna get a rope around that little calf and bring him over here”. “Just shut yer mouth, Arnie, and I will bring him over in a minute”, as he recoiled his rope for another try at the calf.
The days passed and although it was the same day after day the cowboys went about there work and most never complained as the chuck wagon cook was very resourceful in preparing good hot meals for the cowboys. Then after a hard day and a good meal those not doing night herd could set around the camp fire and enjoy a smoke and another cup of hot strong coffee before turning in for the night. Tonight though, Arnie and Whitey were two of the night herders and after finishing there meal had saddled up and ridden away from the camp towards the herd of cattle. All day off to the west there had been rumbling thunder and streaks of lightening flashing. As the darkness begin to settle in the lightening was much closer and the thunder was just one continuous rumble. The night herders had prepared for rain and all carried heavy slickers to help ward off the rain they all knew was coming, but the lightening and thunder was something else as it could spook the cattle into a wild stampede. It was just a little after midnight although it had started raining earlier when the full fury of the storm struck. The rain started down in sheets and the wind was gusty and getting stronger by the minute. The lightening was probably what set the cattle off as one bolt struck close enough and the resulting clap of thunder put all the herd in a dead run. Arnie had been easing his horse through the cattle to reach the other side and join up with Whitey when the herd bolted. Now caught up in the head long flight and unable to reach either side but just to ride along with the stampeding cattle. The ground turned uneven and several cows along side of Arnie went down only to be trampled by those behind. Now worried that the same thing could happen to him and even though Dolly, his horse, managed to jump over a couple of downed cows, Arnie worried that even Dolly could trip at any moment. Then through the continuous lightening flashes and just ahead he spotted a lone sizeable tree and begin to try and steer Dolly toward the tree. It was rough going as he was bumping into and against cows but finally the horse was able to get in line with the tree. Arnie could make out a lone branch that was low enough that maybe he could grab a hold of as they flew by the tree. He wrapped the reins around the saddle horn and stood up in the stirrups and as they flashed under the tree grabbed the limb and held on for dear life. Still dangling in the air and he was almost walking on the backs of the cows as they ran by. The rain slicker he was wearing was really a burden and once or twice he feared he would lose his grip and fall, but finally getting a push off one of the cows back was able to swing up and get a leg over the limb. Now secure for the time being and finally the cows were gone and he was alone setting on the limb of a tree with the ever present lightening striking all around. Now being in a lone tree out in the middle of a lightening storm is not the smartest thing to be doing so Arnie slid over to the base of the tree and climbed down and moved away from the tree. Not fifty yards away and the bolt came out of nowhere and split the tree in two. The concussion was so great that it knocked Arnie down to the ground and as he looked around could see the tree smoldering from the lightening strike. Now just setting out in the middle of a roaring storm was not the best choice for Arnie, but there just did seem to be any other place that would afford any kind of shelter. Arnie just pulled the slicker over him and set close to the ground as the storms fury continued to pass over. It was just a little before daybreak that the storm passed by and as the day started the sun broke out from the east and started its relentless climb across the sky.
There was nothing in sight from any direction so Arnie rolled up the slicker and begin the walk back toward the base camp. Figuring he was about 6 or 7 miles from the camp he continued walking. But then problems begin to occur as his boots still wet and the socks he was wearing exposed all his toes and as the boots begin to dry they begin to rub. At first it was just a little pain but the drier the boots became the more they rubbed and rubbed, until he could not walk any further in the boots. Setting down in the drying grass, Arnie pulled off the boots to expose a huge blister on each foot, one on his left little toe and the other on the right big toe. He tried walking barefooted with the socks now just around his ankles but the blisters had formed, broken and reformed only to break again. Then noticing a small rock outcropping just ahead, Arnie headed for it and upon reaching the rocks was grateful to find a pool of water in one of the rocks and set down to soak his blistered, aching feet in the water now warmed by the rising sun. What to do were his thoughts but thinking that surely they would send riders out to check on the cattle and maybe even him, he just set, soaked and waited. Then off in the distance he saw four riders riding parallel to where he was setting on the rocks but seeing they would pass to far away, begin to wave his grey slicker and hoping they would look his way and see the slicker. Just as he thought they had not seen him and were going to continue on the path they were riding; one rider broke off from the other three and begin to head in his direction and was leading a horse. “Damn, Whitey it took you long enough to look this way and see me”. Whitey rode up and looking down at Arnie setting on the rocks with his feet in the pool of water just took his forefinger and pushed his Stetson back and said; “ Been here long Arnie?”. “Where ya find Dolly?” “She came into camp late last night”.
Partners 111
Arnie mounts Dolly and the two friends start back to there base camp. “How did the herd come out and where did they finally stop?” Arnie asks. “We lost maybe 25 head in the run but the bad part over 100 split off and then went sailing into a deep ravine. Weren’t but maybe 10 still standing when we found them and had to shoot 3 of those”. “Jason sent a rider up to the Indian Reservation to see if they would like the meat before it can spoil”. “Hmm”, were Arnie’s thoughts.
“Arnie tell me why you were trying to come through the herd with all that lightening striking around?” “Well it seemed like a good idea when I started but guess it didn’t work out as being to smart”. Then out of the now clear blue sky, Whitey says; “Arnie, were you at Shiloh?” Arnie turns in the saddle and looks at Whitey for a long moment and then says; “Damn, Whitey how long we been riding together?” “Guess little over 25 years, huh”. “In all that time you and me have never mentioned or talked about any part of that period of our life, why now?” “Don’t know but it has been bothering me here lately”. “Well, yes I was at Shiloh that answer your question?” Both riding along in there own thought for a spell and then Whitey says; “That be my first engagement with Grant’s Army of the Tennessee and we were raw and not all our troops were well trained”. “Where were you located during the battle, Arnie?” “Our company of Calvary was on the right flank to protect against Yanks trying to flank our positions”. “We were in the wood line just east of Duncan’s Field”. Whitey; “Your right flank you say?” “Yep”. My artillery was positioned on our left flank and guess that would make us facing each other”. “Never told you but on the second day I took a musket round in the right shoulder that put me out of the action”. “Well, Whitey it weren’t me as all I carried was a cap and ball pistol and my sword”. “It were a bloody two days is all I know and were certainly glad when Beauregard ordered our retreat to Corinth, Mississippi”. “My platoon of Calvary was part of the rear guard action that followed while the army retreated”. Then the two fell silent and rode on back to the camp deep in there own thoughts.
Reaching the chuck wagon camp and they found Jason Martin at the camp and he was very upset about losing all the cows during the storm. Some of the wranglers were still out rounding up the strays but then Jason dropped a bombshell on those standing around the chuck wagon. “Boys that little storm has probably put me out of the cattle business, just can’t continue to take losses like that anymore”. “I’m going to ride into Butte and try and find a buyer for the herd, any of you that want to leave now can and I will pay you in Butte”. Whitey looked over at Arnie with a question mark on his face, but then Arnie just kinda nodded and both knew they would ride into Butte with Jason. Going back first to the ranch after helping gathering up the herd and keeping them together the two got what belongings they had from the bunk house and two days later rode the 20 miles with Jason Martin and four others that were leaving into Butte, Wyoming. Jason Martin did find a buyer in Butte and true to his words drew money out of the bank to pay off the six cowboys that had ridden into Butte with him.
Whitey and Arnie decided to stay a spell in Butte and bought new outfits and took rooms at one of the two hotels in Butte. “Hell, Whitey, Jason was mighty generous and I think we can spend a little time here before going out to find a place to work, what do you think?” “Sounds like a good idea to me, Arnie”. That evening, clean shaven and wearing there new clothes found the two friends after a good steak supper trying out several of the saloons in Butte. Guess it were two days later that Arnie met Suzanne at the Red Slipper saloon. Can’t say it was love but it sure be close when Suzanne had walked up to Arnie and hugged him around the neck. Suzanne being from southern Louisiana and half Cajun had the slow drawl talk that Arnie had. Black hair, green eyes and a figure that made you catch your breath. Whitey just stood back and watched the two and was very happy for Arnie and not to be outdone had wined and dined a few of the local girls himself. Then one day while checking out there horse’s at the stable, Arnie spotted a dusty buggy and asked Ike the owner if it was for rent. “Yep, just need to clean it up some”. That was how Arnie, Suzanne, Whitey and Clara went buggy riding one Sunday and carried a big picnic basket and found a nice shady spot next to a mountain stream. They all had a great time that Sunday.
Now Butte had a silver mine just to the north of the town but it would play out in the next few years. But for now the town had almost 300 people living in and around it. But one day it would only be a ghost town of the west… A couple of days after the picnic it started raining and rained for four straight days and not a light rain but heavy all day and night. The street down the center of Butte being a dirt road at first became very muddy and then it turned into a soupy type of mud. In places the slop was a foot deep, but the enterprising people of Butte put wooden planks from one side of the street to the other since no wagon and very few horses’s came down the street. The morning the rain stopped and Arnie and Whitey were walking down the wooden side walk and Arnie spotted Suzanne standing at the wooden planks that ran across the street. She was wearing a full skirt and blouse with sequins sewed in it and both were blue in color. Suzanne had just purchased the outfit and was waiting for Clara to come across the street for them to go to work in the Red Slipper. Arnie slipped up behind Suzanne and scooped her up into his arms and thinking she wanted to cross stepped out onto the planks and started across. Suzanne being surprised and not knowing who had picked her up begins to swing the new parasol she was carrying and hitting Arnie on top of his Stetson hat. They were about half way across and Arnie calling Suzanne’s name out took a bad step and one boot sank into the soupy slop and losing his balance caused him to pitch Suzanne up in the air and she landed in the middle of the street and the slop went up in the air and covered her. The little straw hat with the flowers on top slipped down side ways on her head. Arnie in the meantime after pitching Suzanne up continued to fall and landed face first and then kinda sunk down in the mud. Suzanne so stunned and surprised just set for a moment but then seeing Arnie raise up his head begin to swing the parasol against Arnie’s head and shouting; “You dumb ass, I didn’t want to cross the street, I was waiting for Clara”. Whitey standing on the side walk was now down on his hands and knees laughing so hard he feared his sides would bust. Suzanne now crying and trying to stand up and when Arnie tried to help her she could only shout out; “Look, look at me you get away from me and don’t come near me ever again”. Suzanne made it to the side walk where Clara was now waiting and once again looked back at Arnie and said; “I mean it, Arnie, don’t ever try to talk to me again”. Arnie could only shrug his shoulders and then stood up and waded through the mud back to where Whitey was trying to catch his breath from laughing so hard. Arnie pulled off his boots and poured the mud out and then looked at Whitey and said; “I feel so stupid”, “I was only trying to help”.
Whitey with still a wide grin on his face said; “You’d better get down to Wong Su’s laundry and get them clothes cleaned before that mud dries or you’ll be stiff as a board”. Arnie just nodded and carrying his boots walks down the side walk leaving his foot prints on the wooden boards. Starting into Wong Su’s and Wong Su who also had the Chinese meat market and was cutting up some meat saw Arnie coming through the door and said; “Glit out, glit out, go to back not come in here”. Then raising the meat clever started for the door but Arnie shut the door and went around to the back. Reaching there, Wong Su stuck his head out the door and said; “Glit clothes off and Sue La bring you water to take bath in tub”. Arnie started undressing as Sue La came out and carrying buckets of water begin to fill the tub. Taking every thing off but his long handles which also were soaked with the now drying mud and Wong Su again stuck his head out and said; “Take all off”. “Well, I aint going take my hat off and that’s a fact”. Now standing naked and waiting for Sue La to bring the warm water, Arnie in only his birthday suit wearing a Stetson hat that had one brim sagging down from the mud and waiting. Every time Sue La came out to pour the warm water in the tub, Arnie would take the Stetson off and cover himself and Whitey who had came around to check on Arnie and seeing this again fell down in another fit of laughter. Arnie glaring at Whitey; “Damn you Whitey”.
Partners 1V
That night the two went into the Red Slipper and were standing at the far end of the bar when Suzanne came in wearing a bright red dress that Arnie had bought her. Both sipping whiskey and Arnie says; “Think I will go down and talk to Suzanne”.
“Arnie, think it would be best to wait a day or two before you try to talk to her”. “Hell man, she’s wearing that red outfit I bought her, aint going be no problems”. Suzanne was now standing next to a table at the other end and talking and carrying on with two miners setting at the table, and as Arnie started toward her she put her arms around one of the miner’s neck. And when Arnie reached the table and started to say something to Suzanne she just picked up the miners whiskey bottle and took a swipe at Arnie and said; “Arnie Baxter, I said never, never talk to me again”. Then continued to swing the bottle and Arnie backing up bumped into a cowboy standing bout the middle of the bar and made him dump his drink down the front of his shirt. The cowboy bellered out; “What the hell” and stepped away from the bar as Arnie turned around to see who he had bumped into. “Mister, you’re gonna pay for that, I’m gonna gun you down”. But Arnie who had left his holster and gun at the gunsmith to be cleaned could only shrug and say; “Not wearing any iron right now”. “Then I’ll just cut you down to size” and pulled out a knife and started toward Arnie. Whitey standing behind the cowboy and not wanting to see his partner cut up but not having pulled his pistol out over three times in the last few years could only bring it out and whapped the cowboy across the head and once again as the cowboy started to slump to the floor. Then leaning against the bar and looking at Arnie said; “You know, partner, I think we have just about worn our welcome out in this here town”. Arnie with a sheepish grin said; “Yep, guess you’re right, partner”.
 The next morning the two put there bed rolls on there horse’s and left Butte for Montana after Ike at the livery stable told them of several new cattle ranches that had been started there. On the ride there and Whitey asked; “Arnie, you know where we are heading?” “Yea, I got a pretty good idea from Ike about where we should be going”. “How is it when we are on the trail or herding cows, you always seem to know where we are or going?” “That has puzzled me all these years and guess you can say I just follow along but how in the hell do you know?” “Whitey, if you had grown up in the foothills and forests of Tennessee and had a grand pappy like mine who called it dead reckoning then you probably wouldn’t have to ask”. “Then the four years in the Confederate Calvary in raids to northern territory and retreating all the time, you just learn how to know where you are or die”. “You see, my grand pappy raised me and my two brothers after mom and pap died”. “Can remember when I be about 12 and he came and got me out of bed and says; “Lets go coon hunting, Arnold”. Well I got up and dressed and me and him took his old coon hound and out we go, me thinking it was awful late to be coon hunting but after a spell Jake treed and grand pappy shot that coon out of the tree by the light of his old lantern he carried. “Fetch that there coon, Arnold”. And I went over to the base of the tree and picked up the coon and then looking around he weren’t there anymore and it was pitch dark in the woods. “Grand pa, Grand pa” I hollered but there be no answer. Then alone and you could not see your hand in front of your face, I first just set down, but then I begin to feel around for small sticks and touch some of the trees around me and then I found it, one ole rich pine tree with the sap running down. Knew then I would have some light from the fire I would make. Use my knife to cut some of the pine away and putting it amongst the sticks and a little dry grass and striking that flint he always made me carry, I got a little fire going and then a bigger one and putting on more wood I knew I would be ok until daylight or he came back for me which I didn’t think he would. I just set by the fire and then started getting hungry and remembered the coon in my pouch and just a simple matter of skinning it out and finding a couple of green limbs and sticking them through the hind legs and sticking them on the fire. Had a right good meal that night. When it started breaking day and the sun was peaking through the woods I just knew which way I needed to go and started walking out. But then Grand pappy stepped out from behind a tree and said; “Boy, when you were cooking that there coon I almost had to come out behind this tree and get me a bite of it”, “you did good, am proud of you”. “Now Whitey, that’s how I learned to do dead reckoning”.
 “Uhmm, wish I could do that”. The weather still in early summer and the trip was uneventful with evening camping and the days riding until reaching Jaking, Montana. Just a small settlement but from there the two found a cattle ranch and were hired by the owner, George Masters. The two proven wranglers and all around cowboys were such a delight to Masters that he raised both to top hands and paid them accordingly. Arnie and Whitey stayed with Masters until 1897 and one day with the snow blowing around them and herding a small group of cows, Arnie says; “Whitey, I’m tired of all this cold weather and snow for 8 months of the year, I want to go somewhere it is a little bit warmer”. “Weren’t it cold in Tennessee?” “Yep, but not like we have been in for the past 10 years and these old bones tell me I need to be in a warmer place than here”. “It were cold for long spells in Michigan so guess it don’t bother me as much as you”. “Ok, where do we go?”
“Been thinking about going south to Texas for a while, what do you think?” “Let’s wait till spring then as the ride down won’t be in all this snow and windy weather, Ok?” “You got it”. And that spring the two partners having given George Masters ample warning of them leaving and him hating to lose them but understanding, paid them off handsomely and provided the two cowboys with pack animals to carry there supplies on the long trip south. The trip to Texas was a delight to the two friends and slow easy days riding and good camp fires at night they continued to move southward. Both, Arnie and Whitey now almost 60 years old and still doing what they loved and there friend ship was stronger than ever during this time. Arnie’s brown speckled grey hair was now almost as white as Whitey’s and the handle bar moustache he loved was now solid white. Whitey still looked the same as he had for years and one day said; “Been thinking, Arnie, Your hair is as white as mine but we can’t have two Whitey’s in this here outfit, so what can I call you?” “Whitey Williams if you call me anything but Arnie, I’ll get off this here horse and whop you good, nuff said?” “Ha, ha, ok, Arnie”. They stopped at several towns and settlements along the way to replenish there supplies and just spend time around other people but then continued the ride south until reaching the border of Texas, but not wanting to stop just continued south. Think both knew this would probably be there last time to make a long horse back riding journey together and didn’t want it to end.
“Whitey, you remember when we met in Fort Smith and I always wondered why or how you ended up there and what made you join the US Calvary?” “Don’t really know, Arnie, but after I was wounded it took a long time to heal and then there were other battles and finally over, but I could not see going back to the foundry that I worked in even after I got back to Michigan and mustered out of the artillery”. “Something just seemed to pull me westward and guess like you the Calvary seemed a good way to learn about the west and see some of the country”. “Well partner, glad you did and we met”. “How bout you, Arnie?”
“When I got back to Tennessee, my grand pappy had already died and I lost two brothers during the war, just weren’t a whole lot to hold me there and guess say I had itchy feet”. “Ever think about going back home?” Arnie; “Maybe, someday”.
Partners V
Arnie and Whitey continued there slow and easy ride deeper into Texas and one day Whitey asked; “Just how fur are we going to go before stopping?” “Don’t know do you want to stop?” “Guess not”. That evening they stopped early by a stream that had plenty of shade and grass growing along the bank of the stream. There did not appear to be anyone or anything for miles and miles. The two hobbled there horse’s and then strolled down to the stream and both grinning at each other jumped into the cool water after removing there gun belts and just set and splashed each other with the water. Then taking off the dirty, grimy clothes proceeded to give them a little scrubbing and then hung them out to dry. Whitey gathered fire wood and started a little fire and then they cooked there supper before the sun set. Lying against there saddles on there bedrolls and drinking another cup of coffee as the stars by the millions begin to fill the sky above. Whitey; “Arnie, did you ever want to get hitched to a girl?” “Oh, guess there might have been one or two but just never could see be tied down in one place and never had enough money anyway, and you and me have been all the company I’ve ever needed”. “Well, you seem to be pretty well taken by Suzanne”. “Yes she was great just wish that I had not slipped on that damn plank”. “Want more coffee?” “Believe I do”. As Arnie got up to pour the coffee he noticed off in the distance several lights that were dancing and flickering through the darkness of the night. “Now I just wonder, who or what them lights are about, don’t remember us having to pass any towns along this part”. “Got to be several miles away or we would have noticed them this afternoon when we stopped”. Whitey got up and peered at the lights and said; “Don’t know but looks to be a pretty good size something from that many lights”. Then putting a couple more sticks of wood on the fire even though it was a very warm evening but like Arnie always said; “Aint nothing like a nice fire to set by in the evening”. Whitey; “This warm enough for you now?” “Now Whitey, it sure beats the hell out of having your toes, nose and butt freezing off day after day, so yes, it’s now warm enough for me”. The next morning after having breakfast of hard tack they were carrying Arnie said; “Guess it would be a good idea to head toward those lights from last night and maybe we can get some supplies from what ever is there”. Riding along in that direction and once again Whitey asked; “Now just how far south do you want to go, Arnie?” “Ever seen the ocean, Whitey?” “Ocean, hell no, but have seen Lake Michigan and its pretty good size pond of water”. “Why would you want to ride clean across Texas to look at some water?” “My grand pappy was with Colonel Jackson when they fought the British and he had seen the ocean and talked about it a lot, just seems we be this close, why not?” “How far you figure we have already come, Arnie?” “I figure a little over 1,000 miles so far and probably that much further to reach the ocean”. “That don’t seem close to me and my butt is pretty sore from all this riding”. “You don’t want to go?” “Didn’t say that”. Now approaching the area where the lights were coming from they could make out several wagons and smell the smoke from cooking fires around them. “Now why would there be wagons along here and why after the rush of moving west over”. “Look Arnie, there all chuck wagons and there must be 40 or 50 of them”. Riding up to the wagons the two were hailed in by one of the men standing next to a wagon. Approaching the man and he hollered out; “Welcome, come set a spell”. Dismounting and leading there horse’s up to the wagon the man said; “Name is Rafe Walters, what be your’n names?” “Arnie and Whitey”. “What have we got going on here with so many chuck wagons together?” “Oh this is the great chuck wagon race from Lewisville to Abilene held each year around these parts”. Whitey; “Why would you want to race a chuck wagon for?” “Well it started out as just a joke a few years back but the Abilene city council decided to make it a yearly event three years ago”. “Seems with very few cattle drives anymore there was not much excitement around these parts”. “We are in a two day rest period for the horse’s and men and equipment right now”. “You two come on in and have breakfast as both of you look like you could use some good ole chuck wagon cooking”. “How far do you race?” “It’s just a little over 100 miles between the towns”. The breakfast was biscuits, gravy, big slabs of bacon with beans and even eggs if you wanted them. Plenty of hot coffee was served and each time Arnie or Whitey emptied there cup it would be filled up again. After breakfast, Rafe took them around to meet several of the other chuck wagon men who would also try to fix them some breakfast but they had to decline each offer. So it was late morning before they left loaded down with fresh provisions generously provided from the many chuck wagon drivers. As they were leaving, Rafe asked; “Where you two cowboys headed?” Whitey grinning, nodded at Arnie and said; “The Ocean”. “Whut the hell would two cowboys want to go to the ocean”, and shaking his head bid the two farewell. Arnie thinking; what the hell would you want to race chuck wagons would be my thoughts.
Partners V1
The ride south continued and Arnie told Whitey they would head for Austin and stop there for a spell. “Why, Austin?” “Would like to see the Alamo once in my life time”. “Yep, guess that would be nice”. Whitey; “Arnie, you ever think about all the engagements we had while in the Calvary with the Indians?” “Nope, but I do remember the bunch we met on the road back to the fort that looked like they were starving and you gave them half of the supplies we were to bring back to the fort”. “And I remember the week we had to set in the brig as a result”. Whitey sheepishly; “It just seemed to be the right thing to do, Arnie”. “Oh, I didn’t mind it much as it kept us out of all the details for a week”. And the ride continued with exchanges between the two friends of the places they worked over the years and some of there adventures that had occurred during all that time.
Reaching Austin, Texas and they took rooms at one of the hotels and would stay there for three weeks. Whitey wonders why they stayed so long but never said anything to Arnie. They spent two separate mornings at the Alamo just looking and poking around and knew there had to be some very brave men that had been there so long ago. Leaving Austin, they continued on and in late summer of 1897 reached Houston, but now Arnie seemed to be in a hurry and they passed through and continued until reaching Galveston and as they rode up to the beach, Arnie just rode out a ways into the gentle surf and turning in the saddle and looking back at Whitey jumped off Dolly and landed in the waters of the bay. Whitey just shook his head and watched his friend play in the Ocean. They found rooms along the beach and it was close to a long pier that stuck out into the bay and had many restaurants located there. Then finding a stable to keep the horses in the two settled in to life without horse’s or cattle around them day and night. Then to Whitey’s surprise Arnie in eating fish from the sea loved everything about it and sampled many different varieties of fish. “Now Arnie, you can’t eat every fish in the sea and yes I have had fish from Lake Michigan, didn’t you ever have fish before?” “We had bream and mud cat but that’s about all we had”.
Arnie found oyster on the half shell to really be a delight and would always have a couple of dozen before having his meal. And after about a month and half, Whitey noticed that Arnie stomach was beginning to push out over his belt buckle from eating so much and when he mentioned it to Arnie. “Arnie just grinned and said; “Can’t believe that I have found something I like and don’t really have to eat beef anymore unless I just want to”. The weather begins to turn colder and one day, Arnie asked Whitey to come walk with him toward the pier. On each side of the pier were the restaurants, fish houses, markets and a few hotels. As they walked toward them, Whitey noticed a large sign was being pulled up in front of one of the buildings but could not read what was on the sign yet. But as they got closer and he could see and read his mouth dropped open and he turned to Arnie in disbelief. “What the hell is that?” For the sign said “A and W Fish Market, Arnie Baxter, Doug (Whitey) Williams prop”. “What have you done now, Arnie?” “Well, I contracted with several of the larger fishing boats to provide the fish and guess we needed a place to put them, so I bought this establishment for the two of us”. “Come inside and look for yourself as it has rooms upstairs for us to live in and the market downstairs is already set up to start our new business”. “Where in the world did you ever get the money to buy something like this and for something you or I know nothing about?” “Sometime back a letter caught up to me and told me about my Aunt Clara having moved into Grand pappy’s ole place”. “She said in the letter that Grand pappy had left some money and the old place to me, but she and her husband not wanting to see it run down had moved in and had started farming it again”. “I wrote back and the return letter came while we were in Austin and had a money transfer letter with it and I drew the money out while we were there”. “But damn, Arnie we know nothing about selling fish or even how to clean some of them to sell”. “We’ll learn, Whitey, or hire some help at first”. “I just can’t believe that just a short time ago we were just cowboys and probably never will be again and now selling fish in Texas”. After moving into there new home and then cleaning up downstairs and one day as they were finishing up, Arnie looked up and in the door way was a giant standing there. A very large Negro filled up the door way and towered over both Arnie and Whitey. Arnie; “Can I help you?” “My name is Ezkiel and I hear you two are going to open and run this place, now I know fish and how to clean them and can also do many other jobs that needed to be done”. Standing just behind Ezkiel was a very small Negro woman and she was peeking around the large frame of Ezkiel. “This is Nora, my wife, and she can clean, cook and be a big help for you also”. “Well, both of you come in and man just how tall are you?” Ezkiel grinning; “Don’t rightly know, but I have that question asked to me a lot”. “Well, we certainly need someone that knows the fish business better than we do, so guess you two are hired”. Now we have a large room just off the back of the market if’n you need a place to stay”. “That be mighty nice of you”. “I’m Arnie and the other guy standing there looking up at you is Whitey”. On advice from Ezkiel, Arnie purchases a wagon and mule to go down to the docks as the boats come in and pick up the fish. Whitey goes to the ice house and arranges for ice to be delivered each morning and the next week the A and W Fish Market officially opens for business.
It wasn’t long and both Arnie and Whitey could see they were just in the way of Ezkiel and Nora as they both were very knowledgeable about a fish market. The two started spending time on the wide front porch of the market in rocking chairs and watched at first just a few but then more and more people begin to come in and buy the fresh fish. Not that they didn’t help out as much as they could but Ezkiel or Nora would come over and take over the job either was doing. Then Nora suggested they start cooking meals at the market and Arnie bought a big cook stove and supplies for cooking and Ezkiel built large wooden tables to eat on. This too became a very profitable business for the A and W Fish Market.
Partners V11
The business was very profitable for the two ex-cowboys now proprietors of a fish market for the next three years. Arnie continued to try and eat all the fish in the ocean and gained a lot of weight on his once lanky frame. Then in the spring of 1900 a large storm (hurricane) came out of the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into the southern coast of Texas. The sea surged and crashed into the pier and buildings along the water’s edge. The fury of the storm at it’s height devastates many of the buildings around the pier and then the pier collapsed too. A and W was hard hit also and the four just had to ride out the storm in the room at the back of the market that Ezkiel and Nora lived in. But survive they did and after the storm passed they came out to examine the damage and could not believe their eyes of the damage the storm caused. But finding a place to purchase timber and lumber inland they started rebuilding the market and replacing all the damage to the building. It would be early summer before things really got back to some normalcy along the coast of Texas but it finally did. And life continued as before.
 Then in the fall of 1901, Whitey begins to notice that Arnie was losing weight even though he seemed to be eating as much as he had been. Whitey; “Hey, partner, you ok?” “Why hell yes, why do you ask something silly like that?” But the weight lost continued until one day as Whitey walked out on the front porch of the market he found Arnie bent over the railing at the far end and when he walked down to Arnie could see he was spitting up blood. When Arnie felt Whitey’s presence he raised up and using a handkerchief wiped his mouth and walked back to there chairs and set down. Whitey walked back and leaned against the railing across from Arnie and said; “Arnie?” Arnie looking up said; “Whitey, you remember the time you asked me if I would ever go back home and I said someday maybe”. “Yep, I remember”. “Whitey, I want to ask a favor of you”. “What?” “Will you take me home to Tennessee?” “You know I will, but what is wrong with you and have you seen a doctor?” “Yes, and it is a sickness that has no cure, but I sure would love to see Tennessee one more time”. “When do we leave?” “Now” “Ok, I’ll make the arrangements but what do you want to do with the market?” “How bout we leave it to Ezkiel and Nora that be ok with you?”
“Yes, that would be fine with me”. “Good, come inside with me”. The two friends go inside the market and Ezkiel and Nora are both hard at work and Arnie said to Ezkiel; “Ezkiel, you got five dollars on you?” “Well, I may have a couple of dollars on me, hey Nora; you got any change lying around?” Nora digs in her purse and comes out with one dollar and some change and lays it on the counter. Arnie says; “That’s close enough for you two own this place and in the morning we will go to the lawyer’s office and make it official”. “Mr. Arnie, Mr. Whitey, I can’t do that what are you talking about?” Whitey says; “Arnie and I are taking a trip to Tennessee and probably will not return this way again and we both want you two to own the market”.
Then in a couple of days all was settled and Arnie and Whitey caught a train out of Galveston and started the long journey back to Tennessee. Taking about one week to reach Owensboro, Tennessee and then hiring a carriage and Arnie showing Whitey the roads to take would bring them back home to Tennessee. Turning down a dusty dirt road with large trees lining the road and they came into an opening and before them was a large two story home with four columns across the front. “Damn, Arnie you never said your Grand pappy was rich”. As they pulled up to the front of the house a small man came out and begin to holler back inside the house; “Clara, Clara, There here, come quick”. Clara comes running out of the house wiping her hands on the apron she was wearing and just saying; “Oh, Arnie, Arnie”. Arnie who looked gaunt and tired from the journey but smiling at his Aunt Clara starts to get out of the carriage and shoves Whitey’s hand away in trying to help him out.
Arnie and Whitey were taken to there rooms on the ground floor and after refreshing a bit went into the dining room and Clara had fixed a large dinner for them to eat. There was fried chicken, okra, tomato’s, potato’s, beans and gravy amongst other dishes that Clara had prepared for them. After eating Arnie went into his room and lies down and soon fell into a deep sleep from not only the meal but the journey in getting back home. Whitey went out onto the large porch and set down in one of the chairs and Clara’s husband, Bill, came out carrying a tray with ice, glasses and whiskey. “Whitey, how bout some nice Tennessee sipping whiskey to drink?” “That would suit me just fine, Bill”. A little later Clara came out and set down and Whitey begin to explain what he knew about Arnie’s condition and his desire to come home. Clara; “We never understood why Arnold wanted to leave here and not take up farming but from what you are telling us he had a good life in what he loved to do”. “Yes’m, he does have that”. Clara; “Well, we want mention any sickness or anything like that and maybe with some good ole home cooking he will get better?” And Arnie did as the weeks went by begin to gain some weight and strength back and appeared to be his old self again. Arnie took Whitey around the farm and they even did some bank fishing in the creek not far from the house and catching enough that Clara fixed them a meal from the catch. Arnie; “Sure do miss my oysters on the half shell but spect this is better than no fish at all”. Then one day as Whitey was setting on the porch and Bill had brought out the tray with all the fixing’s on it and sipping the whiskey, Arnie came out and set down beside Whitey carrying a metal tray. Then fixing him a drink, just handed the tray over to Whitey and leaned back in his chair. “What’s this?” “Well, if’n you don’t open it how will you ever know”. But just then a buggy came flying into the drive in front of the house and this lady steps out of the buggy and comes up on the porch and seeing Arnie starts toward him. Arnie seeing her rises up and the two hug and spin around on the porch. Arnie; “Whitey, like you to met Annabelle, we were sweethearts a long time ago and might have been one of those girls you asked me about”. “Pleased to meet you, Annabelle”. The two set down next to each other and begin to talk and talk so much that Whitey got up and carrying the unopened tray went back to his room and set it on the dresser before going back out on the porch. Then two weeks later, Arnie took a turn for the worse and in just a few more days had to go to bed and just did not have the strength to get around anymore. The doctors that came gave him the medicine to ease the pain but could do no more than that. Whitey would set with Arnie for long periods of time but then going back to his room would weep and the tears would streak down his checks as the realization there was nothing he could do sank in. Annabelle also came several times a week to sit with Arnie. One morning Clara came to Whitey’s room and knocked on the door and just said; “Whitey, come”. Walking into Arnie’s room and Whitey could feel the death around him but Arnie turning his head with a feeble gesture motioned Whitey to his bedside. Then motioning for everyone else to leave the room and when Whitey set down Arnie said; “You ever open that tray I gave you?” “No”. “Go get it then”. Whitey going to his room and coming back with the tray and setting down on the side of the bed opens the tray and inside was neatly stacked a large amount of money. “What’s this, Arnie; I don’t want your money”. “My inheritance from my Grand pappy and I want only you to have it now don’t give me any trouble about it”. Whitey nods and takes Arnie’s hand and sets but then Arnie half way rises up and as Whitey leans down, Arnie kisses him on the check and with a sigh falls back on the bed. Whitey just sets and stares down at his friend and partner with tears streaming down his face and says; “And I loved you too, Arnie”.
The End


© Copyright 2017 Chuck Smith. All rights reserved.


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