So far Jack wins the world title “Champion calf roper”, picks up a herd of cattle, runs into wolves, a mountain lion, a blizzard, rustlers, the Occidental Saloon, and now this
“Jack,….. Jack wake up”.
The voice seemed like it was miles away, and then it came again, “Jack, you damn fool, wake up, we got trouble”.
Then the roar of thunder as the lightning hit a tree not but thirty feet from Jack’s bedroll.
Jack reared up in the sack grabbing for his side arm, when Vard grabbed him and shook him.
“Get outta there, Jack, come on we big trouble”, pointing to the tree and the five dead cows under it.
“What the he…a..Vard why didn’t you let me know the storm was so close”?
“There was no time, Jack, it just rolled in over that hill in no time atall. You was sleeping so good, hell you hadn’t been to sleep fer a couple a days and I knowd you needed it, but when that lightning hit, I damn near peed my pants, so I woke you so’d I wouldn’t do it alone.”
“Where’s J & Orville? Are they safe”?
“They’re over at Big Reds , but I reckon they’ll all be here right pronto”.
Jack grabbed his saddle and threw it over the back of the big bay mare he called Baldie. She knew something was up, but didn’t flinch as he cinched her down. He threw his .06 in its scabbard, made sure he had his Bull Durham, and set out to inspect the herd.
Now the true test of a cowboy was if he could roll his smoke when the wind was blowin, and Jack knew the trick all too well.
He got it rolled, took a match and just as he lit it…….Ka Boom. The lightning hit him sideways and threw him twenty feet to the ground, leaving Baldie there in a shiver, with a 2 foot slash burn down her right side. She walked over to Jack and nuzzled him, but no sign of life. He just lay there motionless with his shirt still smoken.
“OH gawd Jack, please be alive.” cried Vard as he raced to his brother’s side. “Come on breathe, dammit, I got no time fer you getten dead on me.”
About that time J and the rest of the bunch got there all in a panic not knowing what quite to do. It was Big Red who got her senses back and remembering that sometimes when a newborn calf ain’t breathen, you’d give it mouth to mouth to keep it alive. The big woman threw Vard to the side like a rag doll, grabbed Jack, put her leg under his neck and began to blow into his mouth. The first five times there was nothing and just as she was about to quit Orville cried, “Oh almighty God in heaven, let my brother live.”
Red stopped long enough to look up at Orville like he was plumb crazy then Jack let out a wheeze as his body jerked back to life. Helga was never one to show emotion, but with that she burst into tears and cried, “All mighty Jesus, thank you fer saving this here fellers life. I promise ta never get drunk again, cepten with my boys of course, an I aint gonna mess around with men no more cepten J.”
Jack had third degree burns on his right side, mostly on the ribs. Cookie grabbed the black bear salve and covered him over the burned area, then tore an apron into long pieces and gently wrapped them around him, ad then attended to the horse. Jack just looked at them with a deadpan expression, then looked into Helga’s eyes and softly asked her to roll him a smoke.
Helga started to laugh and stood up, dropping Jack back to the ground. She laughed so hard, her ample bosoms shook like jelly.
“OK Jack, I can do that by gum, yew sure did get me worried. You be the toughest bastard I never did see, and with that there in the rain, in the wind, built and lit a smoke fer Jack and then they drug him over to the safety of the chuck wagon.
The storm raged on during the night, but had settled down by day break. Jay and the two Swedes took a ride out to see the damage. It wern’t nearly as bad as they had thunk. The only dead ones were the five that were under the tree that got hit first.
They took to gutting and skinning them. They could still make good camp meat for the crew and the dogs. Some were burned too bad and just left there for the wild critters that was sure to show up in the night.
When they got back to camp, everyone, but Jack took a knife and set about cutting the meat into strips for jerking and salting.
It would be a full week until Jack was able to ride, so’s they made a lot of music, and ate like royalty.
I had been quite the trip so far, wolves, snow, robbers, Vard’s appendix, and now this. They were two weeks late and still three weeks outta Thermopolis. What else could possibly go wrong?
The book continues with The wonders of the chuck wagon chapter 11.