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by Victor J. Banis
Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Description: The Double H cowboys are a tough bunch, and none of them are gay--exactly--but they have been out there on the prairie for several weeks, herding cattle, and new thoughts have begun to enter their minds. Enter Buck, a handsome young drifter with a silly grin, an unembarrassed penchant for being "rode hard," and an instant hankering for Les--the straight ranch boss. Despite his openness about his tastes, Buck quickly demonstrates to his fellow cowhands that he's no sissy, at the same time charming them with his zest for life. But it is Les who has stolen Buck's heart. As these rugged cowboys dance their own version of the Texas two-step, the other boys watch their little Buck's campaign with amused interest and bet their boots on what the outcome will be. "The publication of Victor J. Banis's Longhorns is a major event for gay publishing...a terrific novel and a great read" ... Michael Bronski
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: March 2012
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [318 KB]
Reading time: 222-311 min.
The Texas prairie, soon after the Civil War
They were herding cattle, out on the range, when he first showed up, late of an afternoon.
"Looks like we got company," Red said.
Les looked in the direction Red was staring, toward the far horizon, where a distant speck gradually formed itself into a cowboy on a brown and white pinto.
Visiting strangers weren't common on a round up. It had never happened to him personally, but Les had heard tell of a time or two when that had meant trouble of one kind or another for the herders--rustlers, they said, or bandidos, though a lone rider wasn't likely to be much of a threat with a dozen or more cowboys gathered around.
Still, he broke off working with the boys and strolled out to meet the stranger as he rode into the camp in a cloud of dust. Les wore his six shooters on his hips and he did not draw them, but he hooked his thumbs in his wide leather belt, where he could get to them quick if he needed to, and if there was a faster draw in Texas, he had never met him. The cowboy jumped off his pinto, hitched his pants up, and swaggered over to where Les was standing.
"I heard you was herding some longhorns, thought you might could use an extra wrangler," he said in the way of greeting, extending his hand. "My name is Buck."
"Mine's Les." Les shook his hand and looked him over. The boy wore an old shirt, worn but clean, and those new pants, dugris, that had come up from the Bahamas--but the fellows called them dungarees, and said they were way more comfortable than the old-fashioned woolies--and he had a fancy looking pair of snakeskin boots on his feet, white, with curlicues of black and green. He wasn't more than eighteen years old, maybe nineteen, his skin already leather colored from the Texas sun, and he stood only five foot nine inches, ten at the most, fine boned and small built, but wiry. He had a piece of string under his chin to hold his faded gray Stetson, but the hat had fallen behind and his hair reached almost to his shoulders, a tangled mass of wayward curls as black as obsidian. His eyes, in the fading light, were nearly as dark. An old fashioned Winchester long rifle was slung over his shoulder, and he wore a Colt on one hip, and a Bowie in a leather sheath on the other. Despite his size and his youth, he had a cocksure air about him, like a man who has just wrestled the puma and is waiting for you to send in the grizzly.
Les himself was six foot three, broad of shoulder and chest and narrow of hip, his long legs bowed outward, like a pair of parentheses that contained his cowboy history within them. A life out of doors had etched fine lines around his mouth and eyes, and bleached his fair hair almost to a whiteness, but the thatch of it on his chest was reddish-yellow still where his shirt hung open. He looked exactly like what he was, a long-time cowpuncher who was man enough for just about anything that might come up, and damn well knew it.
"You Indian?" he asked the newcomer.
"Half," Buck said. He seemed unembarrassed by the fact, though not everybody around these parts took kindly to half-breeds. "Daddy was a trader, leastways so I always heard, but I never knew him. Mama was a Nasoni. A Nasoni princess, she used to claim, but she didn't live no royal kind of life, seemed to me."
"Nasoni? Don't believe I know that tribe," Les said.
"North east Texas, was where we come from. Gone now. Mostly died out the last century, or swallowed up by the Caddo, except for a few of us stragglers here and there." Buck said. "Texas is a Nasoni word though. It means friend. Guess that's why I'm so doggone friendly." He grinned again and looked Les up and down. Something about the way he looked at him made Les oddly uncomfortable, and he shifted his weight from one foot to the other and glanced down.
"Them's fancy boots," he said, his eyes settling on them.
"Thanks. I traded a fellow down in Galveston for them," Buck said.
"Must have given him something pretty special," Les said. "For a pair of boots like that."
"Mighty special, to tell the truth." Buck winked when he said it, and Les felt his face color slightly, and decided that he wasn't going to follow that subject any further, just to be safe.
"You new around here?" he asked instead. "I don't recall seeing you about San Antone when I been in town."
"Come from Oklahoma, but I been down Galveston way for a spell. Just come up from there. I was looking for some work, and fellows I met on the trail mentioned your name, said you was herding and that I should ride out to find you. Mighty glad they did, now that I set eyes on you."
Which Les thought was an odd thing to say, but he glanced past the kid just then for a moment to where some of the boys were working on the makeshift corral and his attention was distracted. "Best make that fence a little higher, Red," he called across to his Segundo. "From the look of them clouds yonder, appears like we might get some weather tonight."
When he looked back at the newcomer, Les found Buck's eyes down, an intent expression on his face. Les looked too, and realized Buck was staring at him, staring right at the bulge of his crotch.
"What you got on your mind, boy?" Les said sharply.
"I was just thinking," Buck said, seeming not to mind at all that he had been caught with his eyes where they were, "'bout some of the things them sailors taught me down in Galveston. Things I had never even heard of back in Oklahoma. I tell you, them sailor boys is truly something. I got me a fair education, is sure."
"Well, they ain't no sailor boys here," Les said, doubly annoyed because they had been herding cattle out here on the prairie for several weeks now, and his prick, on the alert for any prospects, had took instant note of the attention it had gotten.
Still, one of his cowhands, Rex, had taken a fall a couple days before and broken an arm and had to ride back to the ranch--you weren't much good one-armed on a round up, and a man who couldn't work was a man who was in the way--and Matt had come down with a bad case of the trots and couldn't stop shitting, and that had kept him in camp for two days now. They had been a bit short-handed to begin with when they had set out; so the plain fact was, he could use an extra hand, and out here, there wasn't much to choose from.
"I reckon you can stick around for a day or two, see how it goes," he said. He glanced down at those fancy snakeskin boots, not a speck of dirt on them, and added, spitefully, "I'm guessing you can ride okay. We got no room here for sissies."
"Well, now, seeing it's you, and now that I have set eyes on you, I would surely love the opportunity to show just how well I can ride," Buck said with a flash of teeth in his sun-leathered face. "I got the time, if you got the inclination, and that big old patch of mesquite over there looks private enough to me."
"I expect I'll see you on your horse soon enough," Les said, hoping without much hope that he had misunderstood the suggestion.
"Oh, a horse, well, I guess so," Buck said. He turned and started toward his pinto, his shiny spurs jingling, but he looked over his shoulder to add, "I can ride them, too, case that's what you meant."
Watching him go, the jaunty swing of his narrow hips and his round little butt in those close-fitting dungarees, Les wondered if he had just made himself a big mistake. He had a bunch of grizzled cowhands here, working the round up. It wouldn't do to have no trouble amongst the boys.
'Specially not that kind of trouble.
* * * *
The Texas longhorn was the descendant of the cattle the original Spanish explorers had brought with them in the sixteenth century, but since then the cow had gone wild. Narrow-hipped, swaybacked and bony, the longhorns had adapted to the Texas wilderness with a vengeance. They could fight off the wolves and the wildcats of the plains, even a bear. They ignored the hardships of blizzard or drought, and could travel incredible distances without water and without seeming to tire. They lived now mostly in the "black chaparral," a no-man's land of mesquite, of prickly pear cactus, and the sharp-thorned paloverde, home to the rattlesnake and the fierce tempered javelina.
No man pretended it was easy to catch the longhorn in his natural backyard. On the other hand, any man who could, owned them. They were there for the taking, and they were the ideal animal for the long, arduous cattle drives to the railroad heads in Kansas and Nebraska, where they were shipped to Chicago and New York and the other cities back east.
Les and his boys had herded nearly a thousand head by this time, and would shortly bring them to the ranch to fatten them up some and prepare them for the drive up the Chisholm Trail. Though it was only the tail end of spring, the weather had turned unseasonably warm, as hot as Hades, an ominous harbinger of one of those violent summer storms that could blow up out of nowhere and sweep like a wildfire across the open plain.
The cowhands worked with sweat streaming down their faces and kept an anxious eye on the sky, white-gray with an ominous bank of yellow smeared clouds massing on the far horizon. So far, they'd had no trouble, and they were all looking forward to heading home; but a spell of bad weather could change everything in a minute.
Thinking about the new man as he strolled toward the chuck wagon a little later, Les figured that they wouldn't be out here more than a few days longer, a week at the most. Even if he was a mite queer, the Nasoni couldn't likely cause too much mischief in the time they had left.
And the extra help would be welcome.
* * * *
Les was sleeping lightly that night in the weighted heat, when Red shouted his name from somewhere nearby. Just as Les opened his eyes, a sheet of lightning lit up the prairie sky.
He scrambled up, instantly awake. He was still fully dressed except for his boots. Cowboys slept in their clothes on a round up. You had to be ready at all times to move fast. It didn't take him but a minute to shake the scorpions out of his boots and wrestle his feet into them.
"Better wake everyone, right fast," he told Red while he grabbed up his saddle. A bad thunderstorm could stampede the cattle. The temporary corral the cowboys had erected held the cattle penned well enough with things peaceful, but it wasn't likely to withstand the onslaught of a thousand or more charging longhorns. It was the worst kind of luck on a round up, the thing every wrangler feared and prayed wouldn't happen: a prairie thunderstorm.
Distant thunder rumbled ominously. In the next flash, he could see that every man was up already and hastily saddling his horse. There was no need for him or Red to issue anybody orders. Everyone on a round up knew the danger and what had to be done. If the cattle stampeded, the only necessity was to stop them. How, you couldn't be sure until you had tried and done it, or failed.
The cattle were on their feet, too, testing the air and milling about nervously and lowing their trepidation. The cowboys riding guard began to sing, not very well, but their off pitch crooning sometimes helped to calm the cattle. A dozen baritones sang in as many different keys, "Did you ever hear of sweet Betsy from Pike...."
"Looks bad," Les said, swinging onto his palomino. Already mounted, Red said nothing, but his face was grim.
In another flash of light, Les saw a rider wearing one of those new rubberized "slickers" that were supposed to be impervious to the rain, though Les personally thought they were ugly as sin. The light was gone too quickly for him to see who was wearing it, though.
In the next moment, he forgot cowboy and slicker altogether. The cowhands were singing louder and louder still: "Says Betsy, you'll go by yourself if you do, singin' toora-li loora li loora-li ay..."
The air was denser, heavier, and the movement of the cattle more restless, their calls more worried.
An ear splitting clap of thunder rent the air and seconds later, a blinding blue flash, so intense you could almost smell it, set the night afire. In the blackness that followed, Les was sightless for a moment, but he didn't have to see to know what was making the earth tremble beneath them. The cattle were stampeding!
Hardly any of the cowboys were even aware that the storm had finally unleashed torrents of rain that poured down on them in wind-blown sheets. It was the thunder and lightning that had spooked the cattle to where they broke right through the fence of that corral. The riders cursed aloud as they rode in pursuit of that thundering, bellowing herd, charging now across the rangeland, heedless of where they were going, driven only by their primeval fear.
Les rode for all he was worth, the palomino nearly leaping out from under him. You had to outrun the cattle, get to the front of the herd. That was the only way to turn a stampede. Once, twice, lightning flashed and he could see not only the herd but Red close alongside him, and just off to their right, that rain-slickered cowboy, riding hell bent for leather.
The ground shook beneath the pounding hooves. Despite the rain, he could feel the heat of a thousand rangy bodies and the cowhide smell filled his wet nostrils. The palomino snorted wildly, his heart fair to bursting with the effort of his speed. Les could see nothing ahead or below. One misstep, a prairie dog hole, a fallen branch, and horse and rider would both end up with broken necks, but there was no time to think about that. The banging of horns together was like the clicking of castanets in one of those fandangos the Mexicans were fond of dancing, but this was a deadly dance they were at now, and the darkness and the thunder-drums and the alto cries of the cattle only made it more eerie.
The sky turned blue white again, and glancing aside for an instant, Les saw that they were alongside the leaders of the herd, him and Red, and somehow the rain-slickered rider had gotten ahead of them, pounding stride for stride in a life or death race with the front running bull. To turn the cattle from their headlong flight, the cowhands had to literally push them aside, and that meant convincing the leader. If that cowboy fell now, if his horse stumbled even for a second, those charging hooves would pound horse and rider, and rain slicker too, into the dust of the Texas rangeland.
The palomino was steady. Les thanked the day he had bought him and almost laughed to think he had cursed how much the horse had cost. A pain shot up his leg as it was crushed between two massive bodies for a moment. He clung tight to the reins. There was nothing he could do now but ride for all he was worth and trust in the horse--and God, too, of course, but at the moment the palomino was closer to the heart of things.
It was the cowboy in the slicker, though, who counted for the most now, riding at the hell-post with the look of a wild animal himself, shouting "Hi-yah. Hi-yah," at the top of his lungs like some kind of storm crazed demon and leaning all but horizontal out of his saddle to wave his Stetson in the very face of the lead bull--and, miraculously, he began to have his way with the bull, forcing his will on him. The longhorn bellowed in protest, but he was turning now from the headlong flight of his path. The cattle directly behind him began to yield to Les and Red's determined coaxing and to veer as well, and once the leaders had started, the others followed, the cowboys urging them on. A slowly forming circle of longhorns wound in and in upon itself, until cattle were bumping into cattle and none of them knew which way to run or could find an open path for it.
The stampede was stopped. The rain had lessened, the thunder grew more distant, and it had been several minutes since they had seen more than a far off flash of light. Les and the palomino were both gasping for air. He leaned down and patted the horse's sweaty neck, and whispered in his ear what a fine fellow he was. The horse snorted disdainfully and tossed his head, as if reminding him that he could certainly be expected to know his job, thank you all the same.
There was no telling till morning how many head they had lost. Until then, the boys would have to take turns riding a containing circle about the gradually calming cattle. With daylight the herd would be penned again, the corral repaired, and the damage assessed.
For all the effort and all the risk, though, Les felt oddly exhilarated as he rode back to camp, his heart still beating fast. Cookie's campfire already glimmered in the darkness where he hurried to brew his thick bitter coffee by the gallon in his big enameled pot, to keep the men awake. The coffee and a pinch of salt and an egg were wrapped up together in a piece of cloth, and when the water was boiling mightily, the egg was crushed and the entire bundle dropped into the pot, and the pot set aside to steep. It was like creek mud, the boys liked to say, but they drank it gratefully, and you weren't likely to fall asleep after a cup or two.
The cowboys were milling about noisily, laughing off their fear and slapping one another on the back, and saying, "God damn," and "Son of a bitch." Les swung off his horse next to the campfire. Red was already there and when he saw Les he strode quickly across to him, calling as he came, "Man, did you see that fucking kid ride? I never seen nobody could ride a horse like that my whole damn life!"
"The one in the slicker? I saw him," Les said, "but who the hell...?"
He didn't need to finish his question, though, because the new man rode up just then and jumped down from his horse in one graceful leap. He shed the slicker, and threw it across his saddle, and his little pinto snorted and tossed his head.
"Hoo-ee," Buck shouted, walking over to them, and grinning from ear to ear like he hadn't a few minutes before been no more than a heartbeat or two away from ending his days. "That was some excitement, wasn't it? Sure got the blood all stirred up, I will say." He reached behind him and rubbed his hands heartily up and down over his butt. "I swear, it makes me want a good ridin' myself, to take the edge off, if someone was of a mind." He cast an unmistakable glance at the bulge of Les's crotch. To Les's embarrassment, the boys standing nearby saw it as well, and whooped with laughter, too keyed up from the stampede, and too impressed with what the boy had done, to take any offense.
Red clapped a big hand on Buck's shoulder. "Say," he said, a wide grin on his homely face, "why don't you and me go put them horses away and we can take care of them saddles while we are at it?"
"I'm your man," Buck said. "I reckon my saddle could sure use a little taking care of right now, the way it is tingling." He returned Red's grin, and started away with him, but he looked back to wink at Les, which produced another round of guffaws.
One or two of the cowboys looked after the departing pair wistfully. It was kind of hard not to take notice of Buck's round little butt, the way he strutted and the way them dungarees of his fit it like a second skin, and they had all of them been out here on the prairie for several weeks now, and there weren't many that did not think a butt looked prettier to them now than it might have when they had set out.
Les had been herding most of his life and he was no fool. He knew that sometimes on the trail, one or the other of the men would slip away to somebody else's bedroll for a spell. Everyone just pretended they didn't notice anything or hear the noises that followed. You never could tell: it might be you feeling the need real bad the next night. Truth was, once or twice Les had almost wished someone might creep over to his bedroll, but they never had, him being the boss and all. Almost wished, but not quite. That just plain wasn't his style.
He never paid much attention to that shit when it happened, though, and he had never attached any importance to it, either. He figured that was just a matter of hot nuts, and what was available, which was pretty limited out on the range. This new guy, though, was something different. Les was beginning to think the boy was a real sternwheeler.
He suddenly realized that his eyes too had strayed to Buck's curvy little bottom. He had a fleeting notion that he wouldn't have much minded taking the edge off his own pent up energy.
He turned away in disgust and thrust that thought determinedly from his mind. Shit, he told himself, next thing you know I'll be taking him serious, all them damn fool remarks of his.
The little fucker sure could ride, though.
* * * *
The rain had stopped altogether by the time Buck and Red finished settling the horses in the pen, and a big silver moon had found her way through the ragged clouds that lingered overhead.
"Looks plenty dark over yonder," Buck said, indicating a large stand of mesquite off some ways from the camp. "If you was serious about having yourself a ride."
"I'll just hang these saddles on the fence," Red said, breathing a little faster and not from the work, "whyn't you go on over there and make yourself to home. I'll be along real quick."
"I'll be awaiting," Buck said, and sauntered off in the darkness. Red looked after him for a minute, and hurried to get the saddles stowed.
Red had been riding the range, herding cattle, since he wasn't much more than a boy, and a man got over being too particular about things over the years. He reckoned he liked a woman as well as the next man, but there weren't any women on a round up, and not much else to choose from, although the boys joked sometimes about how a cowboy got to be called a cowpoke, and he figured some of them weren't altogether joking. He hadn't any taste for that kind of thing, but he had learned long ago that there was plenty of pleasure to be found in other ways and he wasn't the least bit squeamish about savoring it when the opportunity offered--and Buck had sure enough offered.
* * * *
By the time Red joined him, Buck had already shed his britches and he was on his knees on the ground, his head cradled in his arms like he was sleeping, but his little butt was raised in the air in plain invitation, stark naked and just waiting for Red to help himself. In the moonlight it looked silver and sleek, and Red needed no encouragement. He tugged himself free of his trousers and dropped to his knees behind the half-breed, and spit in his hand and felt for the opening. The moon scurried behind the clouds and the night went darker.
"That's powerful tight," Red said.
"It stretches," Buck said, and wriggled a little.
It did, too, though it stayed plenty tight. Red worked his way in cautiously, wanting to make it as easy as possible for his partner.
"You ride pussyfootin' like that, cowboy, it ain't no wonder them longhorns paid you no mind a while ago," Buck said over his shoulder.
"I reckon once't I get settled in the saddle, I can show you a thing or two about riding," Red said gruffly. He forgot about being cautious and began to ride his partner in earnest, holding Buck's taut little hips firmly in his big, work-calloused hands and plowing in and out at a fast clip that quickly got faster and then faster still, till his own butt was nothing but a blur of movement in the darkness.
Red had kind of wondered for a minute, back in camp, if maybe Buck hadn't just been horsing around, but it was clear now that he hadn't been. He was making it mighty plain that it was pleasuring him as well, moaning and sighing and twitching around, which only made it that much better for Red. And he liked being rode hard, too, apparently, since Red was really going to town on him by this time, letting him have it for all he was worth, and mightily enjoying every minute of it himself.
It had been a couple of weeks or more since anyone had slipped into his bedroll at night, and him being Les's right hand, his Segundo, it didn't seem exactly proper for him to go looking for anything amongst the other boys unless they came to him for it; and with that, and the way Buck was working his butt, it didn't take more than a minute or two before Red groaned and swore aloud.
"Holy shit!" he moaned between clenched teeth. He stiffened and rammed it home hard and let fly, it seemed to last forever before it finally dwindled and stopped. He knelt over Buck's bent form without moving for a long time, getting his breath back, and savoring the afterglow of what he decided was surely the best fuck he'd ever had in his life.
"Partner, you must have been saving that up a bit," Buck said after a bit, wriggling happily.
"Been a while," Red said, regretful when he began to grow soft and all too quickly slipped free. "Mighty obliged to you. Hope I weren't too rough, but that little butt of yours would get a dead man to sprout, you ask me."
Buck laughed. "Don't see no point getting in the saddle if you ain't going to ride good," he said, and then, more thoughtfully, "it did go awful kind of quick, though, didn't it? Course, that's the way it is when it's been a while for a fellow, you get a chance, there's no way you are going to hold it back."
"Sure ain't. Sorry, I was so fast, though, like you say," Red said with a little chuckle, shaking his head. He paused, and added, "Course, one shot don't mean the shooter's empty, if you follow me. If you was to stick around a bit, I expect there is plenty more where that load come from, once't I get my breath back."
"I wasn't fixin' to go anywhere for a while," Buck said. "Not now, you got me all woke up, that frisky riding of yours." He rolled on his back and looked up. The moon had watched them one-eyed through a hole in the clouds, but now she sailed into view again, round and beaming. "You got any smokes on you?"
Red sat up, found his tobacco pouch and his papers, and quickly rolled a cigarette. He kept his lucifers in a shirt pocket, wrapped in oilcloth to keep them dry, and he took one out and struck it on the heel of his boot. The match flared brightly. He lighted the cigarette from it and took a puff, and handed it to Buck.
They smoked in a companionable silence for a few minutes, comfortable without talking, passing the cigarette back and forth, the night air smelling of tobacco and man-sex and damp mesquite. Nearby, one of the horses chuffed noisily and another scolded him for it.
"Anybody ever ride that range boss?" Buck asked after a bit.
"Les? You might as well forget all about that, buckaroo," Red said, surprised by the suggestion. "Ain't nobody ever got up enough courage to creep over to his bedroll of a night. Old Les is as ornery as one of them longhorn bulls, and about as tough, too."
"Yep, I can see that," Buck said. Just at the moment, though, he couldn't get old Les out of his mind. Something had happened to him, the minute he set eyes on that good looking cowboy. It was like some spark had jumped between them, and set him on fire. He had never felt anything like it before.
He had a sudden picture in his imagination, of Les's long legs, bent with a lifetime of riding horses--pleasure bent, them sailors down in Galveston used to call it--and thick with muscles, and he could picture them bare, and the hair glinting on them, and he imagined how those powerful legs would feel wrapped tight around him. The thought made his dick tingle and stretch.
"Say," he said, "you about got your breath back yet?"
Red flipped the cigarette away, its red tip arcing into the darkness. "That saddle still warm?" he asked, kind of shy. Looked like this was his lucky night.
Buck turned on his side, his back to him. "You want to know, I reckon it is still slicked up real good from last time, oughtn't to have too much trouble getting back to where you was," he said.
"Well, then," Red said, scooting happily up behind him and feeling for the opening again, "let's us ride a spell, buckaroo."