By Gary Eddings
Champagne Books: http://goo.gl/afbBAX
Payback that would make his ancestors proud.
The bite in the morning air was enough to make sitting astride a saddle one of the last places a warm-blooded man wanted to be today. Even with the collar of his custom-made three-quarter length bighorn-sheepskin coat turned up and his wide-brimmed hat pulled low over his head, the frosty tingle robbed his face and ears of heat.
His face reminded him of last night’s brawl, and he’d burned the roof of his mouth downing a fresh cup of coffee today before leaving the house. His left eye was swollen almost shut. He hadn’t looked in the mirror, but he was confident he had a shiner. His jaw smarted as if his horse, Rico, had kicked him in the face. It was sore to the touch.
The buckskin stallion blew steam from his nostrils and rivulets of frost already formed on his whiskers. The horse didn’t appear to be any more excited about the morning’s outing than his cold, sleep-deprived, hung-over rider was. Winter was on its way early.
This was a helluva cold day to ride fence. If he didn’t get room and board in addition to his twenty bucks a day, he’d chuck the whole thing and find a job in Red Lodge somewhere. There weren’t enough jobs to go around these days, but it didn’t stop him from dreaming on the back of his plodding horse.
It wasn’t long ago he was bitchin’ to himself in reference to how hot it was when he and his boss, Sourdough, harvested the last hay crop for the year. Thank God Sourdough had the equipment to roll the hay in big rolls and leave them in the fields under cover rather than having to store ’em all in the barn. Even with a tractor, it wasn’t easy. Parking rolls of hay in nice, orderly piles so they didn’t come apart in the barn before they were ready to use later in the winter was a pain in the ass.