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“Let’s mosey on along, boy,” Plug continues. “We’ll get you to a water-trough soon enough.”

Having divided into groups, the creaky wagon rolls out. Worn horses plod on.

In Old West days, cowboys were gritty, tough cow-punchers. They roped, branded, drove cattle along any of several worn, dusty, and long trails as cows were plodded to markets. The cowboy had to brave the elements. He slept on the trail. Under open skies, often, it thundered. Sometimes it rained. Cold could freeze his fingers, his toes, numb his mind. He ate on the trail. Hot coffee might have helped keep the cowboy warm, yet, he was resigned to eat what the camp cook could snap together, broil, fry, stew, or roast.

During the day, the cowboy might whistle while he worked. None might hear him save mooing cows, yet, whistling kept him alert as searing sun could beat on a man’s brain, weather his cheeks, his hands, his arms, and naked necks. A small town and a saloon could have been foremost in cowboy’s minds as they drove lonesome doggies along lonely, dusty trails. Here, girls might sing, kick-up and dance. Rodeo boys might join in. The lasso and a pistol were handy as varmints ranged east and west, north and south, to challenge the cowboy’s weary soul. Pistols could shoot snakes; and bad hombres could be laid to a grave. Yet, the cowboy was free. And he might sing a tune as he rode.

Shortly, companions walk dusty planks of makeshift sidewalks. As they stroll, shopkeepers stock goods. Ladies try on fancy-feathered hats, men sit and yank on polished boots, and tinkling coins change hands as goods are bartered and sold.

“The town folk are busy,” Bogey gulps. He scratches behind his long, brown and white-spotted, furry ear. “I think…”

“Hey Bogey. Let’s check this store, dude,” Shank gushes. Pivoting left then turning, Shank stares at guns. “This way Lippy, Birdie,” he sputters and he waves. “Grits ‘n gravy, would you look at firearms in this showcase.”

Guns, holsters, and munitions set in Ten Gallon Tom’s, Gun and Pony Shop. The rustic-looking, wooden building set aside Betty Boot’s Breakfast and Inn.

Now, Bogey and Lippy swerve. Birdie cuts her wings.

“Wow, oh, wow,” Bogey blurts.

Each, stares through wavy window glass.

Birdie smirks. Resting on the windowsill, she leans, squints, and her colorful wings go immediately to her slender waist.

“Now wait a minute, boys. Just hold your cotton-picking horses. We agreed to spend time finding a place to rest. This past week, having traveled thirty miles a day, do we need to stop here?”

“Golly, jeepers,” Shank gushes as his big eyes bonk. “This won’t take but a second, Birdie. Come on.”

Like a miner who had found rich veins of silver, Shank shakes; and he stares. Quickly, he spins to the smooth, wooden door of the shop. On his tailfin, Shank squeaks inside.

“Rinnnnggggg…ding a ling.” The shiny bell above the door, rings, as enthused cowhands clamber to counters.

Now, an older, gentleman hobbles forward. With a hitch, with a giddy up in his step, he pumps arms up and down; and he grins.

“Err, good day, young fellers, an’…miss.” He stares to Birdie who flaps wings and then rests upon an old, wooden barrel. “What can I do fer ya?” Smiling, he goes on. “I’m Ten Gallon Tom. I’m glad to meetcha’. You folks is kind’a new to ShankleShore West aren’t ya?”

“Ugh,” Bogey stammers. His puppy feet pad, hard, floorboards of the store. “Yes sir. We’re new in town.”

“I thought so,” the man goes on and he scratches skimpy, white whiskers. “I can’t say I recollect seein’ a bunch’a folk like you recently. Yer odd but yer welcome,” Mr. Tom perks.

With eyes, gleaming, he pulls his overhaul straps, up; and his right, hand combs few strands of loose hair.

“You like my store, do you? I see you smile,” Tom says to Bogey who grins.

“Why, yes sir. Silver shines like the moon, here, as you’ve hot pistols, sir,” Bogey hums. He gleams. “Looking to settle-in Ten Gallon Tom, we were admirin’ yer firearms. The rest of our ole’ gunfighters…”

“Gunfighters?” ole’ Tom smacks. He jerks.

Birdie’s chest puffs; and she blinks. Shank’s eyes bulge.

“Did you say gunfighters?” Tom asks again. His hands flop to the top of his dumpy head.

“Err, yes, sir,” Bogey continues. “We’re out scoutin’ town fer a place to bed down for the night, Tom.”

Ten Gallon Tom takes two steps back. His beady, gray eyes look new cowpokes over from head to toe.

As he does, cowpuncher Bogey’s deep-brown eyes gaze to the sleek, shiny, firearms in the wiped-clean, shiny showcase. “Look dudes: pocket revolvers, derringers, single-action revolvers…”

“Yes,” Shank goes on. “Cactus scratch, there’s 45-caliber, four-and-a-half and seven-inch barrels, silver and nickel engraved finishes. Gosh-a-mighty,” he nearly blows his top. “There are Henry repeaters, peacemaker pistols…

“Then Remington, Winchester, Cimarron, Browning, and Colt,” Lippy interrupts. He stammers as if he’d seen a ghost of Sutter’s mine. “They’re all here.”

Bogey’s paws slap his soft cheeks. “Well, gunfighters might…”

“Gunfighters?” Ten Gallon Tom wheezes. “Txt, txt,” he wiggles his tongue against his cheek.

Tom’s moist red lips slide to the right. His long, wrinkled fingers of one hand, quickly, rub.

“You sure know your firearms sonny,” Tom goes on. His voice cracks like popcorn as he speaks. “Why, you fellers wouldn’t by any chance be gunfighters of the ole’ west would ya?”

Shank starts, “Well…”

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