By most folks standards, Charlie Vickers was an arrogant bully. Lord help the cowpoke that didn’t move quick enough for him when he barked an ‘order’ or who gave Charlie even the slightest bit of lip.
He had no problem using his size as a weapon of intimidation, pushing men aside as he cussed them out with great precision. He even managed to bluff the boss-man a time or two.
The only reason anyone kept Charlie around was because he was also one of the finest cowboy’s to come out of Wyoming. If only he hadn’t known it – Charlie might have been a decent fellow.
It was the Friday ahead of the end-of-summer Kiley Ranch Barbecue and Picnic. And like every other year, the boss-man had a large steer culled from the herd and chased into a corral, where it would spend the night before finding its way to the barbecue pit.
And like every year, once Charlie got hired, it fell to the six-four, 300-pound man to kill the unsuspecting animal. Many of us believed that because Charlie enjoyed it so much, he could have been a serial killer in an earlier life.
That night, Charlie took extra time out of his evening before turning in to clean, oil and load the 30-30 that always hung on the wall above the door of the bunk house. Amos Farr and I could hardly wait for Charlie to start snoring before we hauled that gun off the wall and headed out back towards the blacksmith shop.
After the supper bell and with work finished for the day, Charlie was given the go-ahead to kill the steer. With that, he shouted for someone to bring him ‘his’ rifle, though the weapon belonged to the ranch, meaning it was really the boss-mans.
Rifle in hand, Charlie climbed over the fence, jack a shell into the chamber and took aim. The bark of the rifle caused the steer to jump and dash to the far side of the corral.
“What the hell…” muttered Charlie as he tossed the lever forward and back again. It was obviously a surprise to the big man that he’d missed such an easy shot.
Again the rifle barked, and again the steer raced across the corral, this time back to where it had started. At this, Charlie began cussing a blue-streak so loud that the women-folk came out of the ranch house and onto the front porch to see what was the matter.
With the chamber filled and rifle once again aimed, Charlie squeezed the trigger. This time instead of running, the steer backed up into the corner, butt against a corral post and put its head down.
As for Charlie, he was beyond angry. He cocked the weapon and fired again and again as he rushed the steer.
Having had enough and being both agitated and in fear, the steer jumped right at Charlie. With a flick of it’s head, its horns catching him up, the beast tossed the large man like a rag-doll over it’s back and into the post and down all four railings of the corral fence.
We all heard Charlie’s leg snap at the thigh bone as he came to rest on the ground with the steer heading to the far side of the enclosure. Though we knew he was hurt, we couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of the bully finally getting his comeuppance.
After Charlie began sounding off like a buzz-saw on a wobbly drive-shaft, Amos and I took the rifle to the shop, emptied it of it’s shells and removed the bullets from their casings. Leaving the powder in the cases, we next sealed each one up with a personally handcrafted spit-wad to keep the powder in place, followed by reloading the rifle and returning it to its spot on the wall.
When Charlie demanded that the rifle be brought to him, Amos obliged him by retrieving the weapon and handing it off to me. I, in turn, gave it to Charlie, then we stepped back to watch the fun commence.
Neither of us thought Charlie would be so full of bluster that he’d charge head-long at a woolly and scared steer fresh off the range. That’s was his doing and none of ours.
It took only a few minutes for the ambulance to arrive. Normally, one of us would’ve driven him to the hospital like we did with most injuries that didn’t involve the loss of a lot of blood, but the boss-man believed Charlie’s leg was too badly broken for anyone but professionals to care for.
Amos and me never got to attend the barbecue and picnic that year because the boss-man fired us once we admitted to what we’d done. The hardest part to take was his laughter as he recalled Charlie getting bounce by snot-blowing steer while we drew our final pay.
But in the end though, it was worth it to see Charlie taken to the hospital where I’m certain the nursing staff taught him a thing or two about manners. Most all folks with any sort of common sense know you get mouthy with a charge-nurse only once.