A Different Trail


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Two more days. Just two more days, then I´m pullin´ out. The dirt, the smell, I swear, I don´t know how folks live in a place like this.

The steaming, huffing locomotive crawled into the stockyard amid the screeching of steel against steel and the lowing of ten thousand head of Texas longhorns. The smell of oil added sweetness to the astringent odor of urine and dung that has soaked into the churned up dirt for twelve years. Michael Iron sat on the top rail of a cattle chute and watched the engine grind to a halt, the brakeman already off the last car, trotting along oiler in hand and red bandana flapping from his back pocket. As the train stopped the engineer pulled on the whistle letting out a long low howl draining off the last bit of boiler pressure. The longhorns bumped and shuffled to this new annoyance, straining the weathered boards that confined them.
Michael Iron brought the King herd in four days ago. The meat broker from Chicago bought the entire herd and paid with a check. The check cleared without delay and Iron paid off the hands. Sitting with a pocket full of greenbacks, Iron tried to figure his next move as he idly watched the longhorns into train cars. At first he thought of heading south to pickup another herd. He could take his time and relax some on the trip, but south Texas held no more appeal than south Hell and the idea faded quickly. What Michael Iron needed was something new, a different trail.

Michael´s rear end hurt from the fence rail and he decided he could make a better decision in more comfortable surroundings. He jumped from the rail and headed toward the Gem Saloon, his thoughts of dust and cows now turned to a bath, a cigar and a bottle of bourbon. The only decision he wanted to make tonight was which one of Madame Fifi´s girls he would choose. Feeling better already Michael swaggered across the street crowded street, his Mexican spurs jangling with each step. Humming along with an up tempo tune pouring from the batwing doors of a nameless honky-tonk, Michael didn´t notice the two rangy looking men who kept a discrete distance behind him.

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