Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rural Legend, Part III (Final) - Fiction

Welcome to the third and final installment of "Rural Legend". If you're new to my little corner of the web, I encourage you to take some time to catch up with Parts I and II further down this list. Also, I know I said this would go up on Monday the 22nd, but quite frankly holiday weeks are a bit of a pain in the ass in my mundane-world career so I decided to get a jump on the week and post a little early. I hope you enjoy the end of the tale. - Author

The woods surrounding the pasture came alive with responding howls and not a few yelps of pain as nearly a dozen creatures broke from various points in the scrub and made for the pasture. Those unlucky enough to be near the chicken coop and the northern side of the pasture found the traps Paul had laid earlier in the day in the worst way. Servants of the wolf, the silver Paul had taken from his own mouth and used to cover the jaws of the traps went to work on them, searing their flesh from the inside out. The werewolves that remained came across the pasture at a full run, some on two legs and some on all fours and broke around their leader like a wave bearing straight for Paul.

“You should all run for the house now.” Paul said over his shoulder to the family. “The boy doesn’t need to see this.” Mabel nodded mutely and started pulling her boys across the yard towards the house. Billy broke free of her grasp but didn’t move back towards the pasture.

“Everett… go get my gun…” Billy said.

“Billy! Whatever this is, we got no part in it!” Mabel reached for him but Billy pulled away and broke for the barn.

“Get Everett inside and lock the doors!” he yelled back. Mabel screamed for him twice, then grabbed up her youngest and ran for the house as the wave of fangs and flesh met Paul.


Paul roared and threw his arms out. There were only four of them left, the traps having done their deed well. If he wasn’t careful, though, four of these overly–large curs would be more than enough. The first one didn’t even slow as it neared him, intending to bowl the giant over. It slammed into his chest at full speed and seemed to bounce off, falling to the ground in a heap. It shook its shaggy head a few times and stood up on its hind legs as the other three rushed past and fell upon Paul.

“Kill the Green Man!” the thing that was Barnhart screamed at his minions then took the advantage of the giant’s distraction and ran after the tiny unicorn. Drahkshin, still groggy from the emergence of his true nature, looked back and saw the werewolf coming for him. It turned in a slow circle as it tried to decide if it could run.

Paul let out a war cry that shook the ranch house windows as he tried to pick the smaller werewolves away. They held on with rending claws and crushing jaws as they tried to open every vein the big man possessed. They had been successful in a few places, but not enough to bring the man down. One had sunk its claws into his chest and was snapping for his neck as he darted his head back and forth. Another of the creatures had had the misfortune to be caught in his vice–like hand. Paul swung the creature around and bashed at the one on his chest with all the power he could muster. Both yelped, then the one used as his weapon went limp, its throat crushed. Paul knew the animal wasn’t truly dead, that only a bit of silver to the heart or an old–fashioned beheading would be the only way to completely destroy them. Dazed, the werewolf stopped trying to tear out his throat for a moment. Paul drubbed it again with its pack mate and finally succeeded in knocking it off his body.

Paul threw his weapon away and watched it land near Granny. The mare had struggled to her feet and stood swaying, watching her foal and its impending demise. Paul whistled for her while tried to remove one of the werewolves from his left bicep, but he knew she wouldn’t come. The mare brayed fiercely and moved to intercept the large werewolf. Barnhart was so intent on the foal that he didn’t realize the mare was bearing down on him. He caught her movement a moment too late as she rode him down. As the wolfman fell, it swiped with its great claws, opening four long, fatal gashes across the mare’s neck. Granny keened and stumbled then fell to the ground as her life’s blood seeped into the new grass.

Paul used his free hand against the side of the werewolf’s head and bashed it against a fencepost, and both it and the creature's skull cracked with equal volume as the creature fell whimpering to the ground. He turned towards Drahkshin just as another of the creatures leap onto his back and sank its fangs deep into his shoulder. He roared in pain and tried to reach behind him, but the its rear legs were already going to work on his lower back. Paul could feel the blood roll under his shirt as he got a hand on its scruff and tried to pull it free but the jaws were cinched tight, letting even more of his blood roll down his chest. Just as he was about to fall backwards and use his weight to crush the creature, a peel of thunder split the night.

Paul could feel the load of buckshot crash into the werewolf’s back. He knew the blast wouldn’t kill it, but the sudden and unexpected attack shocked the creature enough that it opened its jaws to scream. Paul reached behind his head with both hands and grabbed the thing fully by the scruff like a mother would her pup. He pulled and lifted with all his considerable strength and the thing flew over his head and to the ground, its grasping claws tearing chunks of flesh from Paul's body in the process. Paul lifted a massive boot and brought it down on the curr’s head, the results best left to the imagination. He turned quickly and saw Billy standing in the moonlight, the old shotgun still leveled at him. Billy dropped the muzzle slowly and shook his head as if clearing it of a fog.

“Thought I told you to get in the house.” Paul said off handedly.

“Couldn’t let someone do that to my best hand, could I?” Billy said. Seeing the beast on the ground had galvanized Billy. He broke down the barrels, reloaded and then flipped the barrels back into position with a practiced motion as Paul made for the foal.


Drahkshin watched as his mother fell in a gush of blood. He could see as well in the gloom as he could in the noon day sun, and the bright red and coppery smell broke his trance. The colt turned from the screaming werewolf and ran as hard as he could for the far side of the pasture with the werewolf in pursuit. Instinct took over as the colt ran in a random pattern, changing course and direction with blinding speed. Barnhart howled and slobbered as he tried to keep up and anticipate the unicorn’s next change, the odd loping and shifting making him look like a grotesque rodeo clown. After a few moments, the werewolf got lucky in his anticipation and leaped, landing immediately in front of the unicorn. Drahkshin bleated and tore off in the opposite direction, but not before the werewolf landed a long graze from its claws on the unicorn’s left flank. It bleated again and ran in a pain–filled haze for the shelter of the barn with the werewolf hot on his hooves.


Everett could just make out the combat in the pasture from the safety of the sitting room window. His mother stood at another window by the door, waiting for Billy to come back to the house. They both saw the young man fire on the wolf and Everett nearly cheered. Everett had asked his mother if the creatures really were werewolves. Her only answer had been to shush him and tell him to watch the window for any trouble. Mabel had already tried the phone and found the line dead. She was sure if they made it through the night they would find the service line out at the road slashed in two.

“Ma’! Drahkshin!” Everett screamed as he saw the werewolf bearing down on the days’ old colt.
“It’ll be okay Everett…” Mabel said quietly, tensely.

Everett watched in horror as the werewolf chased the young horse. He waited until his mother’s attentions were completely fixed on the events outside and slipped out of the room. Hurrying as quietly as he could, he made it up the stairs and into his room. He dug around in his “treasure drawer”, the place he reserved for all the tiny mementos and other assorted brick–a–brack of his young life. He passed by small photos of the father he’d never met, his first merit badges and several flint arrowheads before he found it near the back of the drawer. One of the main reasons he had wanted to go to the Fair last year was to meet the Lone Ranger in all his glory. Billy had used the opportunity to enter a few steers in one of the competitions, and Everett’s vaunted, masked hero served as a celebrity judge for the event. Not only did his screen idol sign the plastic grip of his official Lone Ranger cap pistol, he even gave him a silver bullet from his own cartridge belt as a souvenir.

Everett clutched the bullet tightly and ran for his mother’s room. Having been born and bred on a ranch, Everett had come to regard guns in the same way as anyone else in the area did. They were tools and not some great, evil thing. He’d been taught gun safety from the time he could walk and as all farm people did developed a healthy respect for them as well as the rudimentary skills to use them. He boy threw open his mother’s closet and drug a chair to the doorway. Climbing up, he rooted around the upper shelf at a fevered pitch until he found an old hat box. He remembered the dull red box from when he and Billy went shooting and pulled it down. He jumped off the chair and threw the lid off the box. The old Colt .45 revolver looked incredibly large in the bottom of the box. He let the box drop to the floor, stuck the gun in the front of his pants then ran for the back door.


Paul chewed up the ground as he made for the barn. It was the worst place it could have ran and robbed the unicorn of its only real advantage; speed. It wasn’t old enough yet to use its horn as a weapon and lacked any of the real strength and size it would hopefully live to gain. Paul reached the open barn door and stopped short. He pulled his knit cap off his head and tossed it into the room. A huge paw swiped at it from inside the doorway. Paul grabbed the still–closed right hand door and ripped it from its hinges with a shriek of rusted metal. The werewolf leaped from the shattered doorway and was caught by surprise as Paul used the heavy door as a shield, battering the creature with it. The werewolf bounced back into the barn and barely had time to get to his hind feet as the giant came after him.

Barnhart was nowhere near Paul’s equal in size, but his transformation had still made him a head taller than an average man. The two locked in struggle and danced across the front of the barn, smashing each other against walls, tools and anything else they could find to try and gain the advantage. Billy ran to the door then took several steps back as he watched the two. He raised the shotgun but knew that he had as equal chance of hitting Paul as he did the werewolf. He looked back to the house and saw that every window in the house was lit up. Then he saw Mabel come out onto the porch and heard her screaming Everett’s name. Mabel caught sight of Billy in the light from the barn and ran off the porch and across the yard towards him.

“Everett’s not in the house!” she screamed. “He’s gone!” she cried out as she came over the pasture fence and towards Billy.

“Get back ma’!” Billy shouted, his head swiveling between his mother and the supernatural battle before him.

“I have to find Everett!” she screamed. Billy met her several feet away from the barn to keep her away from the battling figures then stared wildly around them, waiting for any of the creatures to come around. The moon was swelled and impossibly bright in the cloudless sky and lent an eerie glow to the ranch. They were in the open with only the barn to block their view, letting Billy see the entire length and breadth of the pasture. Mabel continued calling for Everett while Billy stood a tense guard. The ones that Paul had put down were noticeably twitching and moving, still alive even after the giant’s assaults. Billy kept an eye on them and said a tiny prayer for his family and Paul.


Paul let the wolf’s arm slip from his right hand and dropped it, coming up with an uppercut that nearly severed the animal’s tongue. Its head snapped back violently as it let fly with a pained growl. The force of the blow made the wolf slack his own grip, allowing Paul to get both hands on the creature at once. He heaved and sent the werewolf crashing against the barn wall then took a precious moment to breathe.


Barnhart had hit the wall with such force that the thick boards cracked behind him, sending slivers of harsh electric light out into the night nearly at Billy’s feet. Billy spun at the cracking noise and leveled the shotgun as the werewolf pulled himself away from the torn wall. A flash of movement caught his eye towards the rear end of the barn. He immediately recognized Everett’s darkened form as it raced down the pasture and disappeared behind the barn.

Everett!” Billy called out. “Come on ma’! He just went into the back of the barn!” The two took off at a run as Mabel screamed for her son to get out of the building.


The werewolf recovered far more quickly than Paul had expected. It hit the floor in front of the wall and sprung through the air towards him almost as soon as its feet touched down. Paul let fly with a backhand at just the right moment and sent the beast hurtling through the air. It hit the straw-littered floor and slid like a howling puck nearly the length of the barn. It caught the edge of a stall with its claws and pulled itself around, disappearing into the darker part of the barn. The sound of its claws scrabbling on the walls and then overhead on the thick beams echoed, making it difficult to track his movements. Paul walked slowly down the aisle and opened his senses. He could smell the wolf, but with the scent of so many of them on his clothes and the collected scents of hay, animals and years in the barn he couldn’t rely on it to betray the master wolf’s direction. He spun in slow circles as he went, straining his ears to catch the slightest murmur of movement in the place. One moment, it seemed the thing was to his left, another directly above him. He kept moving until he was near the end of the barn and looked down into the stable that had witnessed the birth of the colt less than two days before. There in the far corner was Drahkshin, his head held securely in young Everett’s arms.

“You won’t let the werewolf hurt him, will you, Paul?” Everett asked quietly, his eyes full of tears. He had already found a saddle rag and was keeping pressure on the colt’s flank where the werewolf’s claw had raked it. Paul held his finger up against his pursed lips and turned his head to the side as the werewolf’s claws sliced through the air. Paul pulled his head back but couldn’t avoid the tips of the claws as they passed his cheek. Two thin gashes like paper cuts opened and bled freely as he shifted his bulk and twisted at the waist. His balled fist shot like an arrow and caught the creature in the center of the chest, briefly pinning it to the roof support he clung to. It hit the stall floor accompanied by Everett’s scream and the colt’s bleating, then coiled and came up at Paul with every ounce of strength it had.

The beast hit Paul with the fury of a hurricane, slashing violently at any part of the giant’s body it could. Paul deflected most of the blows, but more than one hit home. The creature wasn’t as strong, but it was far faster than Paul, especially with the man’s loss of blood. Paul knew the mortal world kept many of his abilities dampened, but it had been so many years since he had walked it that he had indeed forgotten just how taxing it could be. He let the beast dig both sets of claws deep into his chest to still its paws, and then grabbed it under the arms. He spun and lifted the werewolf off the ground in the same motion and watched as the beasts claws slid free of him. It hit the stall floor and flopped about for a moment before it came up in a crouch facing the unicorn and the human boy.

“If I can’t have the bastard, neither shall you!” the thing that was Barnhart growled. It coiled and leaped through the air before Paul could grab hold. Billy and Mabel came through the back door of the barn in time to see the werewolf spring towards Everett and the colt. Mabel screamed for her son as Billy raised the muzzle of the weapon and let loose with both barrels at the wolf’s back.

The werewolf felt the lead pellets tear into its thick hide. The attack did little more than anger it and did nothing to change either its course or resolve. He knew he could at least reach the soft, smooth coat and the equally soft flesh hidden under the colt’s mane before the Green Man got to him. The human boy would be less than a flick of a single claw to send his spirit to the Undermaster. They were all soft and would be so weak and stunned from the loss of both young animals that he would easily escape their grasp and make good his getaway. He howled as he went through the air, the noise stilling abruptly when he saw the muzzle of the revolver leveled at him. He had been shot, stabbed, beaten and otherwise assaulted hundreds of times before, but an argent glint caught his notice just as the cylinder rolled in the revolver’s frame.

Everett touched off the revolver, sending his hand skyward from the recoil. There was less than three feet between them as the silver bullet slammed into the werewolf’s chest and buried itself in its heart. It crashed into the wall above and behind them and fell into them as it clawed at its own chest. Unicorn and boy screeched and tried to separate themselves from the tangle of the werewolf’s limbs as it howled and yelped. Paul reached down and plucked them away one in each hand and stepped back to the stall opening while the beast thrashed and rolled on the straw–carpeted floor. He set the young ones down gently behind his thick legs and watched the werewolf in its final death throes. Fur and flesh melted and slid from it, bubbling and roiling onto the floor as it ripped pieces of itself away. After a few moments, all that remained was a very human and very dead Barnhart still wearing bits of fur and gore from his murderous alter ego. The eyes were the last to change, losing their greenish glow and fading away to dull, glassy, dead brown orbs. Paul and Everett stared into the dead man’s eyes for long moments before Mabel and Billy rushed forward and pulled him away from the stall.

“Everett!” Mabel screamed and hugged the boy. “What were you thinking? Why did you run out like that? That thing could have killed you!”

“I couldn’t let it hurt Drahkshin, ma’.” Everett said into her shoulder as she held him close to her again.

“What happened?” Billy asked, the shotgun held at port arms. He was still scanning the barn nervously, waiting for the next thing to leap out at them. Paul walked into the stall and toed Barnhart’s body gently. He bent over and picked up the revolver from where Everett had dropped it. He examined it for a moment and shook his head, then smelled the cylinder.

“Silver.” Paul said and dropped the gun with an air of disgust. He had no use for guns, or anything designed solely for intelligent creatures to kill other intelligent creatures with for that matter. Paul had always been reasonable himself and disdained violence committed by intelligence. He expected wild animals to fight for their survival the way nature intended them to. Violence should always be the last resort of an intelligent species. Humans seemed well–versed in ways to destroy and only precious few to create. But in this instance, he felt the boy was completely justified.

“Silver? Where in God’s name did you get a silver bullet?” Billy asked Everett.

“Last year, at the fair…” Everett said. Mabel let him go and started going over his face and hands, looking for any injuries. “Ma’… I’m okay…”

Well I’ll be… guess the Lone Ranger really does use those things…” Billy said softly.

“Mr. Sinclair? Mrs. Sinclair? Everett? I need you to stay here. There are still matters that need my attention that are not for your eyes to see. If anything happens, call for me.” Paul said.

“Billy.” he corrected as Paul walked towards the rear door of the barn.

“Mabel.” she added. Paul looked over his shoulder and smiled at them.

“Billy and Mabel it is then.” Paul said.

“Paul… what are you?” Everett asked sheepishly, childish innocence and curiosity coming to the fore. “I don’t mean no disrespect or anything by askin’…” he quickly added.

Paul stopped and hung his head for a moment. He turned and regarded them with a deep sigh but a wide smile. “Just think of me as the grass beneath your feet and the trees overhead. I am one, yet one of many, yet the greatest and yet most humble of my kind. I am the first, yet not the last. You may call me Paul.”

“Are you… are you the Paul? Paul Bunyon, I mean…” Everett asked. Paul laughed in a deep, warm tone and hitched his thumbs into his belt. The sight would have been reminiscent of picture books and children’s tales if not for the gashes on his face and the shredded, bloody flannel that clung to his body.

“I have been known by many names, child.” Paul said warmly. He laughed again as a soft light seemed to grow from his wounds. The gashes and punctures from his battles with the wolves shrank and closed, sealing themselves and leaving the flesh whole and unmarked. “And in many times. I walked this world in the days before memory and have walked it many times since. Now, stay and tend the unicorn, if you would.”


Paul went out behind the barn and found several of Barnhart’s minions caught in his traps. They lay on the ground, writhing in agony as the silver continued to boil there flesh at the sight of the wound. A few had even tried to gnaw away at the trapped limb to escape, but the pain of that and the silver soon made the effort impossible. He pitied them. Most likely, they were innocent humans led into a trap that would guarantee them a place in their own purgatory. The strength of Barnhart’s curse wouldn’t die with his own death in these ones, but Paul knew after these were gone, any that they may have infected would be purged of the mark of the wolf.

He went to each in turn and apologized for what he must do. Paul snapped his fingers and a woodsman’s axe made to his proportions appeared in his hand. The thick, wedge blade was made of silver and the haft of the finest oak that had ever grown in any realm. The tool glowed softly in his grip and he regarded it with a smile. The axe would not have come to him in battle, for it was even more prone to peace than even Paul himself. But it had let itself be called up from its place of honor at his hearth for this task. The battle with the werewolves had been just that; battle. But this was now a task more for mercy than violence, and it knew the purpose he had called upon it to serve.

Paul showed far more mercy in ending their curse than Barnhart would have showed bestowing it. Each succumbed instantly to a single blow from the great axe as it cleaved the head from the body, the axe head glowing with a white–hot intensity that could be seen through the cracks in the barn wall and seared both halves of the ruined bodies, keeping the blood from flowing into the hungry ground. He produced a velvet pouch from his trousers and gently placed a bit of the night–blooming wolfsbane in each of their mouths. Their curse broken, he went to the horse pasture and repeated the process with those he had defeated and stacked all the bodies into a neat pile in the pasture. He then went back into the barn and without a word removed Barnhart’s body while the Sinclairs wisely looked on in silence.

Paul carried the body out and added it to the pile made from the bodies of his minions then bowed his head and said a prayer to the Lord of All and Nothing, asking for the gentle treatment of those that had unwittingly become minions of the beast while at the same time praying that the spirit of the true werewolf be damned to the Pits for his willing service to the Undermaster. The axe head glowed with the intensity of a small sun as he placed it against the pile. White flame spread rapidly, searing the bodies within so quickly and completely not even a hint of smoldering hair could be scented on the wind. The fire burned for no more than a few minutes and left not a single trace when it was done. Even the grass beneath the horrendous pile laid untouched and a vibrant, early–spring green.


The family had watched the burning of the creatures from the safety of the ruined barn door. They parted for the giant as he ducked through the doorway and smiled at them. He turned and spread his arms, a hand on each doorframe. With a smile and a knowing wink to Everett, the wood slowly reformed into its intended shape. The door rose up from the ground and reattached itself to the hinge works, making sure not to hit the mystical carpenter as he finished the job. Without a word, he left the family and went back to the birthing stall.


“Yes, young Everett?” Paul answered as he kneeled down and lifted the colt in his arms. It looked like a carnival prize in his grasp.

“Do you have to take Drahkshin away? Couldn’t he stay here? We won’t tell anybody ‘bout it! Honest!”

Paul sighed and scratched the new unicorn’s head. It nuzzled into his barrel chest and snorted in content. “I know you would not speak of it, Everett… nor would your family. But there are things in this world that would sense the unicorn and would come for it. I could not do that to any of you. No, young one. Drahkshin and all of you will be far safer when he is back in his sire’s care, in the realm where he belongs.”

“Where… where is that?” Billy asked. “Where do you come from? What was all this?”

“There are things best left from the eyes and minds of mortals, William Sinclair. Just know that you have my gratitude, as well as that of Mashorie, Drahkshin’s sire.” He hefted the colt easily in one arm and tousled Everett’s hair. A soft glow emanated from his hand, almost unseen in its subtlety. “You will make a fine man someday, Everett. Like your brother.” He nodded to Billy, then a more solemn nod to Mabel. “You are to be commended for raising such fine sons in the face of your adversities, Mabel Sinclair. There are few mothers in any realm that could do as much. I thank you for your hospitality and the fine food. Your skills will be the envy to all that I tell the tale. Goodbye, family. Again, my thanks to you.” He smiled at them and walked out of the barn and started across the moon–drenched pasture.

Paul stopped and seemed to be speaking to the unicorn, though his voice was too far away to hear. He set the unicorn on the ground and watched along with the family as Drahkshin approached his dead mother. The unicorn whinnied once and tipped his head towards her. His horn touched the dead horse’s smooth neck. Granny’s entire body glowed with a soft light. A few moments later, Granny opened her eyes and snorted, getting to her feet just as the glow faded away. Mare and foal regarded each other for a moment before Granny turned away and loped off across the pasture. Paul reached down, picked the unicorn up again and started to walk away toward the far side of the pasture. But instead of shrinking in the distance, the giant’s body seemed to grow ever larger. The silhouette of a huge animal seemed to appear out of nowhere just past the pasture fence. Bovine in profile, it waited patiently while Paul secured the now tiny–seeming colt to its back and led it away into the night.

As Paul disappeared from sight, the family found themselves incredibly tired and physically weary to the bone. They secured the barn and traipsed into the house, finding their beds and falling immediately into the deepest sleep of their lives.


Mabel slept well after the dawning sun, something that had occurred few enough times to be counted on two hands in all her adult life. She'd had breakfast finished before she remembered that Paul had left the night before for parts unknown. Mabel stared at the extra food and smiled. There weren’t many men like Paul left in the world, and she hoped the world wouldn’t kill the rest of them off out of spite. The man had only been there for two days but he had done so much to help them, from dealing with Barnhart to trapping the wolves that could have slaughtered their calves, chickens, and maybe even the new colt. She was happy the colt would be staying on with them, and not just because of Barnhart. Everett would need a horse in a year or two, and he and the colt would do a lot of their growing up together.

Mabel set the plates loaded with eggs, bacon and biscuits on the table just as her boys sat down to eat. “You boys need to eat up. I plain forgot that Paul wasn’t here anymore, think I made too much.”

“No worry there, Ma’… I’ll take care of it!” Everett said as he loaded his plate. Mabel stared at him. Had he gotten bigger?

“Could you believe that about Barnhart? I can’t imagine that!” Mabel said as she sat down to the table. They ate in silence, enjoying the closeness of family. Had any one of them mentioned an odd dream they each had had last night, about werewolves and the new colt being a unicorn and Paul being the Paul, they might have thought it odd. Mabel had gone so far as to go down to the barn before making breakfast to make sure all was as it should have been. Granny and the new colt were doing just fine, though they did seem a little skitish. Mabel attributed that to the smell of the wolf hides curing outside the barn that Paul had left. They weren't worth much, but Billy had been sure he could sell them for a few dollars to an Indian he knew. All being right with their world, Mabel and the rest of the Sinclairs would be happy to leave their nightmares behind them, and even happier to keep looking towards the future.


Billy walked out of the bank and took a moment to bask in the late-morning sun then adjusted the strings on his bolo tie before walking across the street to where he’d parked the brand new pick–up truck. He looked down the street to the hanging saloon sign and smiled as the memory of Paul and Ferguson’s run–in came back vividly in his mind’s eye. Billy hadn’t been back in the place since and had nearly sworn the stuff off altogether.

Billy hated to admit it, but the Sinclair streak of good fortune seemed to have started with the short time the big hand had come on at the spread. As it turned out, Barnhart had been a con man wanted in three states, with a fat reward for his capture in each. If it hadn’t been for Paul telling Billy about it, he would never have known. The reward money from Barnhart’s capture had been more than enough to pay the balloon payment and with the ranch secure, Billy had been free to take the deal out west. No one was more surprised than he when the futures prices didn’t drop as predicted. The resulting profit allowed for an expansion of the herd and improvements to the ranch. In that short year, the ranch had become prosperous enough to add on three hands and clear away the rest of their debts.

“Billy!” he heard Everett call from down the street. He'd sent his little brother to the feed store to pick up a bag of sweetfeed. The boy had grown half–again his size in the past year alone, and at just past twelve he was now nearly as tall as his elder brother. Everett ate voraciously now and had become strong as an ox in that short time, and according to his climbing pant cuffs he was due for another growth spurt any day now. Billy turned and watched the strapping boy coming down the sidewalk with a hundred–pound burlap bag of feed thrown casually over his shoulder. Everett hurried down the street and tossed the heavy sack in the back of the truck like it was filled with feathers.

“Hey! Easy on the truck!” Billy barked.

“Wanted to make sure ya’ didn’t forget about me. Ma’s makin’ chicken for lunch…”

“Is that all you think about? Food?” Billy asked.

“Can’t help it. I’m hungry. Let’s go!” Everett said.

The brothers got in the truck and headed east, out of town and towards home. Billy looked past Everett and out the passenger side window as they made their way down the road. He swung the truck off to the side and pointed out the window to where more than a half-dozen, over-sized ash trees were growing a few yards from the road. “Weren’t those just saplings a few months ago?” Billy wondered out loud.

“Naw.” Everett answered and pulled a chocolate bar from the front pocket on his over–alls. “Nothin’ grows that fast. Just must not have noticed ‘em before is all.”

The brothers smiled at each other as Billy started the truck and eased it onto the road and back towards their lives. Had they looked closer, they would have seen what could only have been deep smiles formed into the trunks of the great ash trees.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed "Rural Legend" as much as I've enjoyed bringing it to you. If you have, or even if you haven't, you can drop me a line via e-mail or leave a comment here. I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. I do hope in the hustle and bustle of the holiday week you find time to think of those things you're most thankful for, and that you're able to share the season with those you love.
For those of you saying, "Dude... seriously? Unicorns? WTF?", let me assure you I'll be back next week with something a little more in my usual (read "no fucking unicorns"...) vein. So until then, enjoy the holiday, and, just write, damn it. - Author

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