Buck and Wiley Tangle with Rustlers
by Parker Littlewood
Art by Hank Blaustein
Wiley and I were working our way through rough country, little canyons and scree slopes, following a hint of a game trail. The Lazy Double D roundup was underway, and we were off on our own, miles from home. We’d rousted out a few steers in the morning and chased them to the gathering, but none for hours. The afternoon wore on. I was ready to head home for a roll in the dust and a quiet night grazing with the remuda. Wiley was mumbling to himself as usual and, as usual, I paid no mind, being focused on where to put my feet. He was saying, “We aren’t finding half the beefs we should. Sure as moldy acorns, it’s rustlers, like everyone thinks. A rotten bunch of thieves, taking advantage. Always some kind of chiseler no matter where you go. I thought that sheriff knew his job, but he hasn’t—”
I smelled smoke first, then cattle and men as we rounded a bluff. I took two steps and stopped dead, for a man stood on a boulder right in front of us. He pointed a rifle our direction, and I could feel Wiley startle and go rigid. I, having some experience with this type of situation, gathered myself to wheel about and run for our lives. But Wiley relaxed, leaned forward, and let the reins go slack. “Well, that was easy,” he said, in a voice loud enough to carry to two other men deeper in the canyon. They were standing over a cow lying flat on its side next to a little fire. One of them had a branding iron in his hand. Wiley said in the same loud voice, “We’re going to have to make some changes here.”
“Who the hell are you?” asked the one with the rifle, a short man with a mean face.
“I am your new partner, and all that stands between you and hanging.”
I shuffled my feet a little. This situation made me uneasy. The two men left the campfire and walked on over with their hands on their sidearms. Wiley patted me on the neck. “Easy, Buck. These are our new friends.”
“Should I shoot him?” asked the mean short one.
“Oh, that would be a great loss to all of you,” said Wiley. “I have much to offer this enterprise.”
“Such as?” said one of the other men, a skinny fellow with a shaggy mustache and faded blue suspenders holding up his baggy pants.
“You’ve got half a minute before you’re buzzard bait,” said the third. He was large and bearded and smelled of chewing tobacco.
“Here’s my situation,” said Wiley. “The Lazy Double D was fine with me until we got a new foreman, name of Pilgrim. He’s a man of faith, that’s for sure, and he has banned our Friday card games. He’ll send me packing next time he catches me enjoying a round of poker or red dog or gin rummy with the other hands. I’m a man of few vices, but I do love my cards. Now, I never take advantage—”
“Make your point or meet your Maker . . . !”
Copyright © 2021. Buck and Wiley Tangle with Rustlers by Parker Littlewood