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Johnny rode hard and fast across the valley, leaning low over Barranca’s neck to cut the wind as the sleek palomino gave it his all. The smile on Johnny’s face was tempered only by the fact he didn’t want to eat bugs for supper. Not this supper, for sure. A laugh escaped then he gave out a whoop before he pulled back on the reins as he crested the hill.
Barranca came to a stop and blew heavily, snorting and bobbing his head. Johnny patted his neck, a bit breathless himself. “That was a good run, eh, compadre? But, you know we gotta go slow now. The old man won’t like us tearin in there like our hair’s on fire. Birthday or not, he’ll skin us alive. You just take a minute and cool down.” He slid off the horse and dropped the reins then settled in the grass, crossing his legs Indian-style. Johnny plucked a blade of grass and popped it in his mouth as Barranca wandered slowly around the hillside.
“You know somethin, Barranca? I wasn’t really sure the old man would even remember it was my birthday. Wasn’t sure I wanted him to. You know I don’t like a lot of fuss but, well, I’m kind of lookin forward to it now.” A smile settled on his face as he looked down on the white hacienda. “You should’ve heard Scott. I guess Murdoch told him and he was all in a pucker. Said I should’ve told him sooner because he didn’t have a lot of time to get me a present. Can you believe that? It ain’t like he told me when his was!”
The smile wavered a bit as Johnny recalled that conversation. Scott sure had been upset not knowing but, he honestly hadn’t given it much thought. It wasn’t something he ever paid any mind to before. Just another day, another year he’d made it; alive and fairly well.
Besides which, he’d been a little busy as Murdoch had told him Scott’s birthdate. Johnny had gone crazy trying to figure out a present. Yeah, it had passed through his mind their birthdays were only four days apart at the time but, that idea was gone as soon as it came. He had more important things to think on. Like, what do you get a man who has everything?
Now, the smile was back as he recalled how much Scott had liked his present. He could tell it wasn’t one of those fake things where a body was just being polite. Of course, he’d better have liked it! Johnny had worked through most nights for a week getting it ready. There’d been times he’d worried he would mess it up because his eyes kept crossing, he was so tired. But, it was worth it to see Scott’s face when he’d given him that saddle. Yessir, he was sure his brother had never gotten a saddle as a present before.
After the special dinner Maria and Teresa had prepared for Scott and everything had settled down a little, Johnny had thought about the fact they’d been born just days apart. He liked the idea a lot. That he had something like that in common with his brother. Of course, by then Scott knew when his birthday was which he reckoned was good. If he’d only found out that night, Scott would’ve really blown up. Johnny laughed aloud at that.
He stretched his back and uncrossed his legs then got to his feet. “Well, amigo, I guess we’d better get down there. Teresa’ll skin me alive if I don’t get home in time to get a bath and get all prettied up. I think I can smell the tamales from here.” He grabbed the reins and vaulted into the saddle then reined Barranca in. “I wonder what ole Scott came up with. Well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough. Can’t remember the last time I got a present.” He pressed the horse into a walk as they headed down the hill. “I’ll tell ya one thing, this is one busy month. Not only do we have birthdays, Christmas is in two days. Boy! I’m gonna be a lot more prepared next year.”
His heart hitched a little at that thought. Next year. There’d never been any ‘next year’ before. There’d always been ‘right now’ and that was all. “Things sure do change, Barranca. You know something? I don’t even want any presents. I mean it. I have everything in the world right here on this land. A home, a family and, finally, a future. Come on, boy. Let’s go home.”
12/09 Archived July 2022
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