Dust & Cannibals Excerpt

My God, Lyle. Why on Earth are you taking Loup?”

Adeline stood on the top kitchen step outside the door as her husband rode the largely untrained stallion across the yard toward her. She sometimes thought the man turned off his good judgment. She recalled Lyle had ridden Loup around the pasture maybe once. Now he was going to ride him fifteen miles to Alma?

Lyle gritted his teeth and looked away as he brought Loup to a stop a couple of feet from her. “He sure wasn’t my first choice. The rest of the herd already left for pasture before I got there.” He paused and blinked. “Is that the list of supplies you were talking about?”

Adeline handed him a piece of folded paper, along with a sour look. This was standard procedure for Lyle: change the subject when things got uncomfortable. Well, the subject was not getting changed. “You really think you can keep a handle on him if he smells a mare in heat, or picks up on anything unfamiliar?”

Lyle didn’t answer immediately, paying attention to tucking the paper into his shirt pocket, and ensuring the pocket was snapped. “We both agree I’m no horse trainer, although you seem to think I have what you call a touch with horses. Anyway, I’m a survivor as well as lucky.” Lyle paused, and smiled at her in a way that always made her melt. “My luck is still with me. After all, I got you. How about how we got that money and had the wind turbine and solar panels installed two weeks before the power went out for good?”

Adeline sighed. Yes, there was his luck. To her it wasn’t luck. Luck was when her friend went to the casino and won more than she lost. She didn’t know what to call it, but it was more than luck. Maybe it was a guardian angel or a divine plan. In any case, there was no reasoning with him when he was like this. “Well, I’m worried. You need to be safe. You know I’d do anything to be going with you. It just isn’t possible. Which way are you going?”

Lyle shrugged slightly. “With a better-trained horse, I might have ridden along the highway. With Loup, I think my best bet is to avoid the highway, and take the back way.”

Adeline concealed her astonishment. It seemed like whenever she decided Lyle didn’t put any thought into anything at all, he would come up with some real depth. “That’s a good idea. You could maybe go through the pasture and out the back gate, which would avoid the state highway, as well.”

That was rewarded with a thoughtful nod. “You’re right. I haven’t seen any traffic, so it may not be an issue anyway.” Then Lyle shifted in the saddle, and gazed longingly at their vehicles parked not far away. “Still,” he continued, “I’d rather we were just piling into the car and driving there.”

There he went again, beating that dead horse. This time, he had the bad taste of doing it while he was sitting on a live horse. “Mr. Lillard, it hasn’t been that long since you were complaining about how we needed a new vehicle. So now you have one with leather seating, a sun roof, and cruise control that puts the bits and bytes in those gizmos in the car to shame. I don’t think you’ve done much more than a mile on him, and here you are whining already.”

Adeline actually agreed with this particular rant. There was neither electric service nor gasoline, but the only result of Lyle’s ranting would be his getting red in the face. Actually she now saw a second likely result, watching Lyle’s mount get increasingly nervous with his rider’s agitation. She had to redirect the conversation immediately.

So, dear,” she added, “all of our hay burners are suddenly more useful than the gas-burners. It’s too bad they aren’t all trained. Anyway, no matter how lucky you think you are, you still need to be safe.”

Lyle smiled slightly. He had just picked up on the need to stay calm. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll be as safe as I can. You’re the most dangerous thing in my life, anyway.” Lyle leaned over, and kissed Adeline.

She smiled slowly, and whispered, “You hurry back, cowboy. Don’t hurt anything I need to have around.”

Lyle grinned. “Okay. I’ll be sure to lead with my head. I haven’t used it for anything in years.”

Loup fidgeted, turning sideways to Adeline. She was truly astonished. “Lyle, why are you using my saddle? It’s way too small for you.”

Well, I took a quick look at my saddle, and there were several torn and worn straps. We already knew that spare saddle wouldn’t fit any of our horses.”

Sounds like you needed to do some maintenance yesterday.”

Yep. Maybe you should just shoot me, and put me out of your misery.”

Spending all day in my saddle, I may not have to shoot you.” Adeline took a quick look at the stirrups. “On top of being too small, you don’t even have the stirrups adjusted right.”

I was able to get one adjusted down, but the other wouldn’t go.”

I know where your ride will take you, and that’s straight to saddle sore city. You’re probably going to want to shoot yourself by this evening.”

Lyle only grinned weakly and shrugged.

Adeline shook her head. “Well, when you get down there, just get what you can, whether it’s on the list or not. Even if you can’t get anything at all, you be sure to get yourself back here. You just be safe, hear?”

Lyle touched the brim of his old straw cowboy hat, backed Loup a couple of steps, and left the yard at a walk.

Adeline suddenly thought of something. “Since you’re going that way, see if the Rowleys are around. I haven’t talked to Nancy in forever,” she yelled. Lyle turned and nodded that he understood. She walked around the corner of the house, and watched Lyle cross the pasture. Half a mile away, he went through the gate. After closing it, he looked back at her and waved. She returned the wave. Who’d have thought that getting supplies would ever be an all-day thing? These days, there was no telling what strange things might await Lyle on his ride. Being on a half-trained horse was not going to improve his odds. Adeline had a bad feeling, all of a sudden, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it.
For more, mosey along on this link.