After Cono’s dad beats the tar out him the night before, Cono’s grandpa Ike (who witnessed the beating) shows up the next morning with an extra horse and a bit of wisdom. (Cono is ten at this point) No Hill for a Stepper– based on a true story.
We keep riding until we get close to the stock pond. Ike mashes on one side of his nose and snorts out snot from the other.
“Damn,” Ike says. “Those dandelion feathers Float up my nose ev’ry time this year. He nods his head toward the water. “That pond o’re yonder?”
“That there’s yer Great Grandpa Dennis’ favorite spot. Used ta ride up on him sometimes, saw him sittin’ there starin’ at the water like he was waitin’ for it ta talk to him.”
“Did it?” I ask.
“Prob’ly. Guess that’s why he kept goin’ back to it.”
“Maybe I should sit there sometime.”
“Wouldn’t do no harm. A little piece’n quiet kin go a long way for a man.”
I liked that he said that; like he can see the man in me.
“Kin I ask ye somethin,’ Ike?”
“That time P.V. Hail beat the tar outta ye on Main Street? Did ye wanna kill ‘em?”
“P.V.? Nah. He was jes’t doin’ his job’s all.”
“But it wadn’t right. He shouldn’t ‘a done that.”
“Nah, wadn’t right. But some folks feel a little too big fer their own britches.”
Ike pauses and says, “Besides, it shor’ wouldn’t ‘a been right fer me to kill him. That’s a whole nuther thing. He’s jes’t a piss ant’s all. Kinda like this here horse I’m ridin’.” He reaches down and gives P.A. a couple of pats on his neck.
“Did ye feel sorry fer yerself?”
“That you’d been done wrong.”
“Why a’course not. That’s called pity. Hell, pityin’ yerself don’t do no good. Nobody ever got anywhere by pityin’ themselves.”
“That a fact?”
“The part that ye really didn’t wanna kill him.”
“Cono, if I tell ye a rooster wears a pistol…”
“Jes’t look under its wing,” we finish together.
“That’s right,” he says.
“Yer a straight shooter, ain’t ye Ike?”
“Only way to be.”
I stare up in the cool and clear Texas sky and picture that rooster standing up on our fence post, his wing back like he’s ready to draw. “Cock-a-doodle doo, you sons ‘a bitches. Now get up!” Then I laugh.
“What so funny?” says Ike.
I tell him about the picture I’d put in my head and he says, “He’s prob’ly one’a P.V.s deputies.” And when he lets out his “hee hee hee” laugh, I laugh even harder.
“Ike,” I say. “I believe what ye say, that a rooster’s under yer wing, when ye tell me he does.” Not only that, I’m thinking that rooster’s got a six-shooter under there ready to unload.
“Let me tell ye a little somethin’ and I want ya ta listen up.” He pauses, clicking the left side of his cheek like he’s finding the right words and I wait. I can wait all day if need be just to hear what Ike has to say. “When it comes right down to it, yer your own best friend. Most the time, ye can’t trust anybody but yer own self.”
I think I’ve done figured that out on my own. But I say what I mean. “I trust you though.”
“Uh huh, but trustin’ yer own self’s even better.”