The Tenderfoot

The minute he stepped out of the stagecoach that morning we could tell he was a tenderfoot. A real lily. His boots were clean; his jeans had no holes; his hands had no callouses. After the first afternoon of riding the trail in the hot sunshine he says he’s feeling “a bit faint.” La-de-dah.

The second day on the trail he asked the cook if we’d ever be served oysters. Can you imagine? Cook’s roar of laughter almost spooked the cattle. But we’d break him in. We make all our new ranch hands into real cowpokes if we can and we usually have a lot of fun doing it. But this one was a real jewel – or should I say “a pearl.”

We were sure to warn him that when he used nature’s biffy he should turn over every rock around in case a rattler was hidden under one. After all, we’d say, “You don’t want any painful jabs in the behind and we don’t want to have to lance and drain ‘em.” Of course we all stood around sober as a judge as we told him, and he still hasn’t been informed that there are no rattlers in these parts.

After that I don’t know if he was more scared of the rattlers or of us; every time he lit off his horse he looked around real careful first. Well, that was just too good to resist, you know. One afternoon while the rest of us rode on, Art slips back and picks up this garter snake he’d seen beside the trail. Carries it along in his saddle bag until we make camp. When our tenderfoot goes off to dreamland, Art sticks this snake in one of his boots.

Next morning you should have heard him yell when he stuck his toe into the boot and the poor snake wriggled a bit. ‘Course we all offer to cut of a few of his toes if the snake bit him. Cook flashed a nasty-looking cleaver and we tell him it’s the only way to save his life. Thought he was going to keel over right there and then, ‘til he realized we were just funning him.

Early one morning, just for fun, Sam pours out a little gun powder around a dried up bush, then trails off behind a nearby tree. When our tenderfoot ambles off toward the woods for some privacy, Sam’s waiting, flat out, behind that tree. He lights the gunpowder and we all watch out the corner of our eye as this little flash of white zips long to the bush and gets there at exactly the same minute as our new cowpoke. Suddenly there was this poof and flash as the bush combusted. He jumped three feet and took off running. Did we ever laugh!

Oh, we had our fun with that guy in the four days he was with us. But he found the work too strenuous, so he quit and went to college. I believe he became a dentist; heard his name in the capital city one time I was there.

Look him up if you ever get a toothache. He was a good guy; probably didn’t deserve a bunch of rascals like us.

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