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A Man of Yet a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

A Mighty Fine Cup O' Coffee

Buck stopped his horse and turned in his saddle. He looked back across the prairie towards the herd and the other cowboys who were driving those doggies to the railhead at Abilene.

From the height of the sun in the sky he guessed that it must only be around three in the afternoon. They had already covered about fifteen miles that day, however. To push the herd further in a day would cause the weights of the steers to fall and their prices to drop. Buck knew this from ten years of drives on the Chisholm Trail. His first had been when the Abilene railhead had opened, way back in 1867.

Buck raised his arm. The cowboys recognised this signal from their trail boss as calling an end to the drive for the day. It was almost as if the herd recognised it too as they slowed to a halt and began to graze upon the prairie grassland.

Hal pulled the reins of the oxen, bringing the chuck wagon to a stop. The men rode towards it, then dismounted nearby and made their camps. Several collected wood with Hal and helped to get the campfire going. Soon boiling pots were suspended above the flames.

‘I could sure use a coffee,’ said Joe, passing a tin mug to Hal.

‘Sure thing,’ said Hal. ‘D’ya want latte, mocha, Marocchino, Medici, Tobio, Zorro, Cappuccino, Espresso or something else?’

‘I’ll have a cinnamon dolce soy latte with caramel syrup an' chocolate syrup,’ Joe replied in a Texan drawl.

Hal glanced into the open back of the chuck wagon. ‘There ain’t no cinnamon dolce syrup left,’ he said.

‘Shit,’ Joe yelled. ‘Call yaself a cook, and ya can’t even make a cup o’ fuckin’ coffee.’ He reached for his six-gun.

Hal spun around to face Joe and began to draw his own Colt 45.

Before the gun of either cowboy had cleared its holster, the sound of a gunshot caused both to freeze.

‘Put ya guns away,’ shouted Buck, smoke rising from the barrel he had just fired into the air. ‘I ain’t gonna have no more killin’ over coffee. We lost two good men back at Fort Worth, Texas, in that fight over a biscotti Frappuccino.’

Hal and Joe eyed each other with suspicion but let their guns drop back into their holsters.

Buck walked to his horse and pulled a bottle from one of the saddlebags. He returned to where Hal was standing and thrust the cinnamon dolce syrup dispenser into his hand. ‘Next time, ask me first,’ he said. ‘I always carry plenty of extra coffee supplies.’ Buck had already planned that when this drive reached Abilene he would hang-up his guns and use the money he had saved over the years from Chisholm Trail drives to start a chain of coffee houses.

Hal glanced at the cinnamon dolce syrup dispenser and smiled, relieved that Buck had the coffee for the drive so well under control. He looked the trail boss in the eye with admiration. ‘You’re a star, Buck.’