Since this is a blog of my first public showing of the cover of The River of Cattle I decided to include the first scene in the book. It’s just a teaser (I do so love to tease people) and a little dose of temptation to stir the juices of curiosity so that on the official launch day, NOVEMBER 1, 2016, you will be ready and eagerly waiting to see what happens to Will and Buck. I’ll post another excerpt, this one about Two Feathers, in October. So, STAY TUNED!
“Come on, Pa. If we don’t spur up, the wild horses will be broke before I get there.” Will Whitaker’s heels itched to tap Buck into a gallop. Yesterday had been all about hurry up and get the work done. Will slipped another side glance at Pa. Today there was no hurry up in the man.
“It’s going to be a long day. You want to burn Buck out before we get started?” Pa asked. “I’m gonna need you two on the way back. Besides, we aren’t buying wild horses. Goodnight and I need working stock for the cattle drive.”
They crested a hill, and Will spotted the corrals in the distance. He gave Buck a slight kick with his boot heels, and the stallion stepped out ahead of Pa’s sorrel. Pa didn’t seem to notice. The last quarter mile stretched forever.
They rode up to Charlie Goodnight at Baxter’s ranch. Horses milled in the loaded corrals, except the big pen in the middle. It held only one. Will forced his gaze from the horse in the pen and turned to greet the tall trail boss. Goodnight was still on his horse. We’re not too late.
“Good to see you, Dan.” Charlie shook Pa’s hand.
“Howdy, Will.” The trail boss’s big hand surrounded Will’s. “You ready to be a drover on a long cattle drive?”
As far back in his eleven years as he could remember, Pa had told stories about the famous cowman. He hoped his grin disguised his grimace as the big hand closed with a tight grip. He wiggled his numb fingers and maneuvered Buck closer to the action in the pen.
He watched a bowlegged cowboy walk up to the angry, white-eyed mustang. The blowing, snorting horse stood snubbed to the post in the middle of the corral; sweat already streaked his shoulders. The rider gathered the reins in one hand, stuck one foot firmly in the stirrup, and swung his other leg over the saddle. The cowboy at the horse’s head pulled the rope loose and scrambled for the rails. The horse jumped and kissed the moon.
“Ride that bronc!” Will whooped and waved his hat in the air. Snapping the well-worn Stetson tight on his head, he nudged Buck closer and stretched tall in the stirrups to see over the men standing on the corral rails. Billowing dust rose from the horse’s hooves like steam. The cowboy was jerked up, down, and sideways. The horse crow-hopped, twisted, and bucked from one end of the corral to the other.
“Buck, did you see that?” Excitement made him wiggle in the saddle, and he slapped his leg with his hat.
The buckskin stallion turned his ears back toward his best friend.
Will pulled his boots from the stirrups and onto the saddle beneath him. Straining to see every second of the action and his heart jumping with every leap of the bronc, he practically stood on the saddle.
“Pay attention. You might learn something about buckin’. Hold tight! Hang on!” He hollered along with the men who rooted for the rider from the safety of the tall bars.
“Pa,” Will yelled over the noise of the cheering cowboys. “If all the horses are like that one, I may be the only cowboy not getting a buckin’ lesson in the mornings.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” said Pa. “You won’t be on Buck all the time. You’ll have to ride other horses.”
Will watched the bronc slow to a walk, horse and rider both sweat soaked. Finally it stopped, front legs spread, head drooping, sides heaving. After a few minutes, the rider nudged it into a walk around the corral.
“Here he is, boys, gentle as a new-born foal.” He tipped his hat to the men.
Will patted Buck’s neck. “You know, Buck, I can handle horses. I taught you, and you’re bigger than any horse here. I can handle anything they put me on.”
Two cowboys lassoed a wild-eyed pinto and dragged it, kicking and bucking, to the snubbing post, and the circus started over.
Will wiped his sweaty forehead with his sleeve. He worked his tongue around his mouth to stir up enough spit to swallow. Well, almost anything.