Baxter Black: Stop, look and listen!
The sun had already set when Joe finally called home. Janie said, “Joe, where are you? We’ve got company coming!”
Joe sighed, dug another cinder out of his hair and said, “Sweetie, I’ve had a bad day.”
That morning at daylight they unloaded their horses in the big Texas panhandle pasture to gather the steers. Joe reluctantly let his friends come on the gather in their helicopter but as the morning progressed he was learning to appreciate its value. It could zip up a draw, check the next rise and push ‘em like a spatula in a pan full of Jimmy Dean sausages!
As they approached the tunnel that would take the cattle under the Santa Fe railroads tracks, Joe held ‘em up, waiting for the train. It soon rattled through in the cool November fog. Knowing there wouldn’t be another train for a while he started the steers.
In a few minutes he noticed that some of the steers had climbed through the fence and were casually socializing on the tracks above him. Cow shaped silhouettes in the mist.
Riding up, Joe saw that the fence had come down. He kicked himself for not checking earlier, but they’d come in a different way. He spurred his horse, Freckles, up the side of the roadbed, went down the tracks south and bought the steers back. The helicopter came in from the north and they sandwiched the critters over the crossing.
A whole bunch was milling around on the tracks when Joe saw the helicopter suddenly rise straight up! A rotating beam shone through the mist. A eerie feeling shivered down Joe’s neck. There was no sound. Then, like a whale breaching out of your Grape Nuts Flakes, a locomotive burst outta the fog!
Joe pulled Freckles hard down the side! He tangled in an old fence at the edge of the cinders. Joe came off in the rat’s nest of wire! The horse panicked and ran straight at the onrushing train draggin’ several yards of wire and Joe!
The hysterical horse got sideswiped by a flatcar! Skimmed him from hip to shoulder and tore the fender and stirrup off the saddle! Scuffed the seat up some, too. Joe’s boot came loose before he hit the crossties and he rolled away from the roaring train.
No cattle were killed, Joe was black and blue for ten days, they had to Pine Sol the helicopter cockpit and Freckles healed up. Although they don’t call him Freckles anymore. Now they call him Santa Fe!
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