Purveyors of tales that are
entertaining, illuminating, and thoughtful.
Questman Tales Publishing
The boys are back in town, but not for long. After a disastrous match, Double Dog decides he needs a break. Hoping to leave everything behind for awhile, he plans a road trip to Deadwood, South Dakota - a sort of mecca for anyone who is a fan of the Old West. But he won't be travelling alone.
Come and meet a new group of friends as they tag along on what should be a pilgrimage of sorts, and instead wreak havoc almost everywhere they go! As the boys try to sort things out in their own inimitable way, they are reminded of the true meaning of friendship, and what the code of honor of the cowboy is really all about.
Party on, dudes!
“Hey – all I’m saying is he could’ve told us a little sooner that he was planning this. I would have packed differently.” It was just after nine in the morning and Gappy Jack was running on four cups of coffee, three doughnuts and a diet Coke. He weaved in and out of traffic on the freeway, the ‘dressing closet’ trailer following faithfully like a tail. Buckskin Betty didn’t answer: she had been listening to Gappy’s rants since 6:30, when Double Dog had called to let them know he was headed up early to Amarillo to pick up the trailer he had rented for the month. She was aggravated at the prospect of having to sleep surrounded by all of Gappy’s dusty old cowboy shooting outfits; just the thought made her nose itch.
They pulled in to the parking lot behind Double Dog, and watched as he got out of his truck and headed towards the rental office. “Besides,” Gappy continued, “I hate driving.” Betty hoped that the trailer Double Dog was renting had space for at least two people; if not, maybe she could find inexpensive motels near the camping sites where they were headed. She focused back in on Gappy’s ramblings: “either way, I’m teaching him a lesson….”
An hour later, Double Dog had a twenty-foot camper-trailer hitched to the back of the Cannon Wagon, and they were headed up to the Amarillo Ranch RV park in Amarillo. “Why Amarillo?” Buckskin Betty had asked Double Dog the night before.
“Because it’s the flattest place on earth!” Double Dog told her. As she got out of the Jeep and looked around, she had to agree.
As Gappy and Double Dog headed to the registration office, a group of campers waved to Betty from a nearby site. There was no mistaking Pink Pistol Petunia’s buzz-cut, or Dead-Eye Darling’s grating voice. They had apparently gotten to the RV park earlier, and had already set up a nice camp site, with a pop-up shade next to the ancient RV that Sam and Darlene owned. Plastic flamingos on long thin metal poles were stuck in the ground around a large patch of plastic grass. Dead-Eye and Petunia sat in folding camp chairs, accompanied by Hokey Pokey Hontas. Sorry Sad Sam emerged from the camper with a small ice chest. “Hey – you made it!”
“How did you all get here so fast?” Betty took the wine cooler Sam offered her.
“As soon as ShanDee sent us a text and told us what Double Dog had planned, we packed up and headed out. We’ve been here since yesterday,” Petunia offered.
“And you all got the time off?”
“It’s dog days. No one wants to do anything when it’s this hot. It was easy!” Petunia laughed.
Betty noticed that Hokey Pokey Hontas (a.k.a., ShanDee) was wearing a cervical collar. “Did you get hurt at the shoot?”
“No – I got smacked in the jaw by the buckle to my seat belt, and I think it might have caused some nerve damage in my neck. I’m on disability for a couple of months.” Hokey Pokey Hontas stood and stretched, removing the collar. “I’m taking this off for a while – it’s making me sweaty.”
Great; another queen bee was going to try to take over the hive.
Doc U. Mint arrived in his rusty red 1941 Chevy COE truck just as the boys were heading to join the group. Petunia, he told them, had called earlier and told him the group was doing a month-long caravan. Since Doc was retired, he didn’t need to clear a month with anyone – he had simply packed his old truck and his old dog and driven up. The brindle Dutch Shepherd, rightfully named ‘Tex,’ perched in the seat next to Doc, looking out the windshield excitedly.
After selecting their camp spots (all clustered together, of course), the group discussed their plans for the day. The guys wanted to head over to the Big Texas Dunlop Steak Ranch to do the ‘Four-and-a-half-pound Challenge,’ but the girls were having none of it: they suggested a day by the pool and a group barbecue. Someone suggested tossing a coin to break the tie, and someone else suggested a wrestling match, but no one wanted to volunteer to wrestle. They were about to launch into a game of ‘Fire-Grass-Water’ when someone pulled up in a restored bright pink VW camper van, covered in pink bows, pulling a small U-Haul trailer and honking the horn wildly. Petunia jumped up and ran to the VW; behind her, Dead-Eye squealed under her breath: “hweee-hweee-hweee…”
The tiny woman who got out was wearing bright pink ‘unmentionables:’ long ruffled cotton bloomers and a matching ruffled camisole cover. She sported a pair of beige Victorian boots and tiny granny glasses. Petunia escorted her to meet the group. “This is my friend…” she started to say, when Double Dog jumped in: “Don’t tell us – Pink Pistol Pansy?”
“What? No!” both women said, looking at him with confused glares.
“I’m Boones Farm Annie,” said the underwear-clad woman.
“Interesting name,” Gappy Jack told her. “Is there some background behind it?”
“I’ll show you.” Boones Farm Annie led the group to the back of the U-Haul, where she opened the doors to display several dozen cases of wine and a dozen boxes of expensive cigars. She also had a few boxes of assorted spirits, several cases of mixers, and a dozen large packages of red plastic cups. “I like to bring my own party with me.”
“Barbecue or four and a half?” Betty asked.
Boones Farm Annie, who lived in Amarillo, did not need the choices explained. “Barbecue,” she said without hesitation. Hokey Pokey and Doc offered to go get the supplies. Doc said he’d drive, but Hokey Pokey resisted getting into his truck, saying it reminded her of something out of ‘Jeepers Creepers.’ Everyone assured her that Doc was harmless.
They returned with ‘some of everything,’ and set up the half-barrel barbecue Doc always had with him. The others, meanwhile, had partaken of the offerings in Annie’s party trailer and were heading towards the large indoor pool at the RV park. Since they had the place pretty much to themselves, they all decided to go swimming, and the pool was quickly filled with a variety of sagging, jiggling flesh, flopping boobs and bulbous bellies of all sizes. Jokes and hilarity ensued, with friends old and new offering good-humored jabs and wisecracks about each other. Annie kept the wine flowing, and Double Dog ate some of everything, then went back for seconds. Even Tex, who had been treated to the only filet mignon that Doc and Hokey Pokey had purchased, had a great time. Everyone helped to clean up, then enjoyed a last glass of wine before heading off one by one to their own camp sites to dry off and change.
One steak, one large sausage, half a chicken, three roasted Russets and a bottle of cabernet later, Double Dog fell asleep propped against the stairs in the large Jacuzzi. His arms were stretched out over the edge, and he snored loudly; the snoring echoed through the pool’s enclosure. “It’s like standing outside the gates next to Ellington,” Betty told Gappy Jack. “We should wake him up so he can go open his camper. Maybe he’ll let us sleep there.”
“I got his keys. Hey – you just gave me an idea.” Gappy tiptoed over to the Jacuzzi and quietly stepped in. Moving almost painfully slowly, he managed to slide Double Dog’s swimming trunks down and off. Climbing back out of the Jacuzzi, he quickly ran back to where Betty stood, trying not to laugh. Double Dog continued to snore. “Let’s go hang ‘em on the handle of his camper.”
“That is so mean,” Betty said with a laugh. “How’d you do that so easily?”
“Simple: he always wears his pants at half-mast, and I figured his trunks wouldn’t be any different. I told you I’d get back at him for making me drive myself.” They closed the door to the pool house quietly, and made their way to the camper.
They watched from the windows of Double Dog’s camper as Hokey Pokey Hontas set up her campsite. She had driven in on a restored WWII motorcycle with a sidecar, dragging a tiny trailer. She unlatched a series of flip-latches all around the four-foot square box and pulled out an insert which was nearly the size of the whole shell. Opening a few more latches, she pulled up the main shell, creating a taller section. She unzipped the flap on the taller side and climbed in, zipping the flap closed and switching on an inside light, making the pop-up shelter appear almost like a large coffin that had been lit from within. “See? She’s some kind of vampire!” Betty mumbled.
The lack of noise woke Double Dog quickly, and he sat up and looked around with a snort. Not seeing anyone else, he started to stand up and suddenly noticed a slight chill: his trunks were missing. Trying not to panic, he scanned the pool enclosure for a towel or something to wrap himself in, but found that everything had been picked up and the enclosure was spotless. There weren’t even any flyers pinned to the bulletin board! He started to climb out, but ducked back in quickly when he spotted one of the groundskeepers making his evening rounds.
When the groundskeeper was out of sight, he climbed out and scooted over to a corner where he had spotted a small white trashcan. The empty trashcan had no liner, as he had hoped, so instead he picked it up, turned it upside-down, and stomped down hard on the bottom, detaching it from the sides. He then wiggled the small trashcan up, an inch at a time, to cover his lower half, and taking tiny mincing steps he made his way out of the pool house and down the path to his camper, where Gappy Jack and Buckskin Betty had made themselves comfortable at the small dinette inside.
“You did this!” Double Dog exclaimed when Gappy started laughing.
“Yup! That’s what you get for making me drive myself. Now we’re even.”
“Even? Not even close – it’s on, Brother Jack. This will not go unpunished.”
The next day, the group was awakened around ten by the sound of pistol fire nearby. Hokey Pokey Hontas, awaking before everyone else, had gone off to an empty area about five acres away from the campsites. She set up a row of empty beer cans and was practicing her pistol-shooting, gunfighter style. She hit every one in order, sending the cans flying up in the air: ‘Ting-ting-ting-ting-ting-ting!’
Betty heard the shots and went to get her rig.
“Where are you going?” Gappy asked her.
“If she can do it, I can do it,” Betty told him defiantly.
Soon, all the women in the group were out with Hokey Pokey, shooting at empty beer cans. They started by lining up rows of beer cans and seeing who could shoot the whole row, any style, the fastest. Hokey Pokey came in first and Dead-Eye was last, although she only trailed by three seconds. Next, they made pyramids of the cans; the shooter was instructed to aim for the center can. After several tries, they each got to be pretty good; Petunia had the best aim of the five.
"You know what would be fun? Skeet shooting!” Dead-Eye suggested.
“No problem!” Hokey Pokey told them. She gathered all the cans back together in a pile, stomped on them to flatten each one into a neat disc, then stood off to one side and tossed the cans as hard as she could in a long arc. Boones Farm Annie prevailed in that contest: she managed to hit seven out of ten. After a while, the ladies were laughing so hard they decided to finish up their games and clean up.
Double Dog, comfortable in his camper, was the last to get up. He had heard the pistol shots earlier and had sleepily assumed that they were at a range somewhere. When he finally opened his eyes and looked around, he remembered where they were. He got up to investigate. Seeing the women way off in the distance, he dressed quickly and went to stop their obvious shenanigans. The women had picked up all the cans and the brass and were headed back to camp.
“What were ya’ll doing?” he demanded.
“Practicing!” “Having fun!” “Working on our aim!” “Nothing!” came the volley of answers.
“You can’t be out there shooting like that!”
“Why not? There’s nothing around for miles! Besides, we were using rubber practice ammo,” was Buckskin Betty’s reply.
“But you weren’t following the rules!” Double Dog continued.
“We’re not at a match,” Dead-Eye told him.
“We were being careful – it was safe,” Petunia offered.
“It’s okay – Hokey Pokey Hontas deputized us all,” Boones Farm said with a laugh.
Hokey Pokey finally spoke. “We were exercising our ‘stand your ground’ rights – those cans were intruding on our territory and threatening us. Besides, I’m a state trooper – so shut the hell up.”
Double Dog retreated to his camper and slammed the door. When he finally emerged, close to two in the afternoon, the rest of the group was waiting. “It’s your trip – what do you want to do?” Gappy asked him.
“Did everyone eat already?”
“No,” came the chorus, “we were waiting for you!”
“In that case I want to go do the steak challenge!” Double Dog gestured towards Buckskin Betty. “I’m sure after your morning exercises that some of you ladies would prefer a salad of some sort, so maybe we can all meet back here for dessert.”
Pink Pistol Petunia crossed her arms. “Do you think we’re not up to the challenge? I’ll bet at least one of us can actually finish in time!” She and the other women had experienced a boost of confidence following their practice routines. Minor insults were exchanged, including inferring doubts about parentage and questioning the size of various body parts. The group agreed to head over to the steakhouse, where they would all participate in the eating contest. The last to finish, they all agreed, would cover any tab for those that did not win the challenge. They rode together in the various vehicles, although they once again resorted to a game of ‘Fire-Grass-Water’ to determine who would ride in Hokey Pokey’s sidecar. Doc got the honors, and spent several minutes hugging and reassuring Tex before climbing in and putting on the spare helmet.
At the steakhouse, the group was seated at a long row of tables – all except Hokey Pokey Hontas, who sat at a separate small table and watched the proceedings while she slowly consumed a small baked potato. The others all asked for the steak challenge, and everyone except Double Dog ordered beer to go with it. Double Dog instead requested two large pitchers of ice water.
They all began at the same time, drawing a crowd of spectators who secretly wagered on possible winners (with most choosing Double Dog as the most likely). Another round of insults was exchanged between the diners, until about ten minutes into the challenge when most started to feel full. Double Dog kept a steady pace, followed by Pink Pistol Petunia. Dead-Eye gave up after another five minutes. “My jaw hurts!” she told Sam.
“Ha – that’s what she said!” muttered Boones Farm Annie, thinking that no one else would hear.
Amidst groans and muted sounds of retching, the group members gave up, one roughly every five minutes. All except Double Dog and Gappy Jack, who were determined to win the challenge. They struggled through every bite, with Gappy chewing frantically, and Double Dog, sweating and red-faced, following each bite with a large gulp of water. They both looked like they might actually finish in time.
They had four minutes to go, when suddenly Double Dog put down the piece of steak he was working on and thumped himself in the chest a few times. Gappy, concerned for his friend, stopped chewing and asked if Double Dog was all right. “Yeah,” he answered, “just think sometimes everything gets stuck halfway.”
They continued to the bitter end – but both were defeated by the clock. Time was called, and Gappy still had another ten or twelve ounces to go; Double Dog had at least five. The crowd of observers gave a collective moan of disappointment.
The manager appeared at their tables, flanked by Hokey Pokey and Boones Farm. Hokey Pokey had a huge smile on her face. “Take your time, and enjoy the rest of your meals, gentlemen – we have a new challenger with an interesting proposition!” the manager announced to the crowd. “Our new friend here has informed us that she can do the challenge in half an hour, and we decided to accept her challenge. If she loses, she has offered to pay for all your meals, but if she wins, we’re comping you all! It’s never been done before, so let’s get to it!”
A table was cleared and Hokey Pokey sat down. She requested her steak to be cooked medium-rare, and all she wanted was a single glass of water with it. The other four ladies of the group offered words of encouragement and advice, and the contest began.
While Double Dog and Gappy Jack slowly ate the rest of their dinners, they watched Hokey Pokey, fascinated by the relatively slow pace of her actions. She took the steaks and cut each one into long narrow strips, about six inches long. Then, using her fingers, she picked up each strip by one end, and swallowed it whole, following each with a sip of water. The boys sat mesmerized; Gappy paused with his fork halfway to his mouth. No one knew whether to laugh or scream, but all were engrossed by Hokey Pokey’s performance; all of the guys, and most of the girls, watched with their mouths open in expressions of amazement.
She beat the timer by four minutes, and the crowd went wild. A large group of patrons had gathered to watch, and when she was done several of them decided to take the steak challenge themselves, planning on putting her techniques to the test. While the boys stood together in a small perturbed cluster, the ladies in the group applauded her efforts, offering praise and pats on the back.
“How in the world did you do that?” Betty asked her, in awe.
“I used to date a traveling circus performer. He taught me how to swallow swords,” she told them.
Dead-Eye snorted. “That’s not what they called it in my day.”
“Well, I’m sure such things were frowned upon during the Victorian times,” Hokey Pokey retorted with a smirk.
Dead-Eye did not respond, but she did not take the comment well either. She would get back at the little upstart one way or another. ‘Just you wait, Hokey Pokey,’ she thought; ‘just you wait…’
Gappy looked at Double Dog. “Well, I guess we got served. At least we don’t have to pay for it. We should head back to the camp.”
Double Dog thought for a moment, then told Gappy Jack, “I’ve got a better idea. Since we didn’t have to pay for the first one – let’s have another steak!”
The boys finally rolled back to camp about ten-thirty that night, having consumed another round of steaks and a fair sampling of beers from the restaurant’s extensive list. They had asked for boxes so they could take their leftovers to Tex, but when they arrived they found Tex passed out just inside the doorway of Doc’s truck, belching loudly in his sleep: he had participated in his own steak challenge, eating all the leftovers that the others had brought back for him. It hadn’t totaled seventy-two ounces, but it was enough to give him quite the steak-hangover the next day.
No one was interested in eating anything the next day; they agreed instead on a day by the pool. Pink Pistol Petunia headed over first, but immediately came running back, waving a light green flyer. “Look what I found!” she exclaimed to the group.
The flyer was an announcement: ‘Announcing the Fourth Semi-Annual Shoot-Out at the Sonic Corral! Open to the public! Group match and one-on-one! Bring your own PPE – other equipment provided! Ten-dollar match fee. Sponsored by Pi Pi.’
“Is this some sort of cowboy group?” Doc asked.
“I don’t know – but it might be fun. What do you think?”
“I think I need to do some moving around, so this might work. What time does it start?” Double Dog asked.
“It says ‘high noon.’”
The group agreed to do the match. At eleven-thirty they were dressed in their lightest cowboy shooting outfits and ready to go. They caravanned to the address on the flyer, and found themselves at an abandoned Sonic drive-in on the outer edge of town. Pulling into an open lot next to the Sonic, they saw a number of people milling around the tables and outer structures, as well as inside.
Double Dog took charge. “Let me go see what the deal is,” he told the group. He came back several minutes later. “Well, it’s not exactly a cowboy match, but I think we’ll do okay. Leave your rigs here and bring your safety glasses – they want to start soon.”
The group followed Double Dog to the back of the main building, where they encountered a number of guys in their early twenties, all wearing camo and sporting safety glasses. One of the guys stepped forward. “Wow – I can’t believe we finally got some participants!” The cowboy shooters paid their match fees, were each given special dark sensor-vests to wear over their outfits, and were handed bright red paintball guns. They went over rules (e.g., one point per shot; no shots closer than about ten feet; body shots only; only direct shots count towards the scores – no splash-backs; first match one hour max; second match: one-on-one, random draw), then each group headed to their side of the main building to strategize. The cowboy group was given several bags of light green paintballs; the other group had pink paintballs.
Dead-Eye, who was chosen to not shoot and instead to be one of two ‘overseers’ (along with a member from the other group), went back to Double Dog’s truck for a moment, then came back quickly with a small pad of paper and a pen. She then went to every person in the cowboy group, patting their backsides and wishing each good luck. Tex stayed in Gappy’s Jeep to keep an eye on the large cooler of water and snacks; he watched out the side window and barked encouragement.
When both groups were ready, the overseers hoisted a large green flag to signal the start of the match. The groups quickly spread out, ducking behind smaller structures and trying to see where opponents were. After several quiet minutes had passed, a member of the other group (frat boys, as it turned out), darted out from behind the edge of the main building. He ran across the parking area, fired off a few shots towards the dumpster enclosure, then somersaulted behind an old sign. Gappy and Double Dog, who were peeking from around the dumpster enclosure, looked warily at each other.
“Hey – these guys are serious,” Gappy said.
“That’s okay – we’re cowboy shooters, we can take ‘em!” Double Dog stated, then ran out towards a cluster of bushes along the back of the parking lot. He was immediately hit with nearly a dozen bright pink shots. He reached the bushes and found two opponents, crouched down on the other side. He managed to get in two shots each before they were out of range.
Hokey Pokey slid silently along the side of the main building. She had managed to spot the opponents’ flag about a hundred yards away, on a pole surrounded by bushes and old tires. More bushes, old signs, and a few clusters of trees stood between her and that flag. She decided to create a diversion, and fired three paintballs into a nearby cluster of shrubs. “Hey!” came Petunia’s startled voice. Some of the frat boys, hearing the commotion, headed around from their side of the main building towards the shrubs. Hokey Pokey ran out and got as far as a few feet from the first cluster of trees before she was met with a hail of pink paintballs, all directed at her ample ass. Unbeknownst to Hokey Pokey, Dead-Eye Darling, while enthusiastically offering the cowboy shooters encouragement, had pasted a large sticker to Hokey Pokey’s backside; the sticker, clearly visible against the darker material of her Daisy Duke-style shorts, said: +10 points.
Doc U. Mint actually used up all his paintballs rather quickly, indiscriminately splattering signs, bushes and walls with bright green paint splotches before someone finally explained to him the point of the game. Once he understood the goal, he continued to splatter everyone – his opponents and his own teammates – with well-aimed shots, going for distance. Sorry Sad Sam, on the other hand, quickly lost interest; he found a shady spot on his team’s side, took out his phone, and googled road maps out of Amarillo.
Buckskin Betty had the easiest time hiding from the enemy. She had on a sand-colored outfit of a plain cotton shirt and suspender pants, and her slight figure allowed her to hide behind individual trees. Double Dog, on the other hand, had the hardest time: no matter how carefully he tried to hide behind signs and buildings, his ‘dun-lop’ always gave him away.
In the end it was Boones Farm Annie who managed to capture the enemy’s flag. She had found an old sandwich-board sign and had hidden between the two sides, moving a few steps at a time towards the pile of old tires. No one had paid attention to the sign’s movement: they were too busy firing at Double Dog’s ‘dun-lop’ and Hokey Pokey’s ass. The overseers, watching through binoculars, saw the pink flag disappear and quickly hoisted the red flag to end the match.
Both groups were exhausted and decided to forego the one-on-one matches. Instead, they lined up to have their paint splotches counted. A final score could not be determined, as the pink splotches on Double Dog and Hokey Pokey were impossible to count. The groups shook hands. Someone suggested meeting for a celebratory dinner.
“How about the Dunlop Steak Ranch?” Dead-Eye offered.
“Yeah – we can have an eating contest,” one of the frat boys said.
“Good idea. Pick your fastest eater – losing group pays,” Double Dog stated.
“Nick here can do it in fifty-seven minutes,” another frat boy said proudly, “so we’re definitely going to win.”
“We’ll see about that,” Petunia told him. “Wait till we get there. Then you can go up against our secret weapon.”
“Yeah,” Dead-Eye added, “I can assure you: you’ve never seen anything like it.”
Table of Contents:
The Layabout at Levelland
The Tombstone Trials*
Oh! Sedona - Where They Can't
Say When They Last Saw
Who the Bleep is That?
The Great Train Robbery
The Bad, the Worse, and the
Even More Worse
Are We There Yet?
The Tombstone Trials
“Tombstone? Why Tombstone?” Buckskin Betty asked as she and Gappy Jack followed behind Double Dog’s trailer. “Does he know someone in Tombstone?”
“I have no idea – all I know is that it’s his trip and we’re just following him.”
“Does he have any place to stay there yet? I am not spending another night in a Wal-Mart parking lot.” Just a few days into the trip and Buckskin Betty was getting tired of it all.
“Hey – I just do what I’m told,” Gappy said off-handedly.
Double Dog pulled off the highway at a large sign that read: ‘Tombstone Dude Ranch.’ Despite the nice weather, the place looked deserted. A sort of RV park, shooting range and Old West town combined, the place boasted plenty of level sites with hook-ups, a dozen small cabins and a pool. The property occupied several hundred acres right on the outskirts of the real town of Tombstone. Double Dog pulled up in front of an old wooden building with a sign that said ‘Office,’ parked, and walked back to Gappy’s Jeep. “I’m going to see if they have spaces for a few nights here – what do you guys want to do?”
“This looks pretty nice – we’ll go with you,” Gappy told him. As Gappy Jack was getting out, the rest of the caravan pulled up behind them. Boones Farm Annie, who was somewhere in the middle of the pack, leaned out her window. “Is this where we’re staying?”
“Yeah – looks like they have space!” Double Dog yelled back. He went into the main office, but quickly came back out. The group was waiting for him. “The whole place has been rented for three days – if we want a space we have to go over to Site 26 and talk to the guy there.” He produced a map of the ranch.
The group followed him to the one occupied spot on the entire ranch. Site 26 was on a shallow rise, about ten feet above all the other spaces, right in the center of the camp sites. Intended as a group site, it was surrounded on two sides by picnic tables and had several fire grills and three faucets. To one edge of the site stood a forty-foot tour-bus style motorhome, with three slide-outs and a huge pop-up tent for shade. A number of long folding tables and a few dozen folding chairs were set up in the shaded area. Behind the motorhome, and out of site of the group, was a fifteen-foot utility trailer, which had been fitted with storage, including space for a customized four-seat wood-paneled golf cart complete with steer horns mounted on the front grill. A very blond teenaged boy sat in the shade.
“Is this Site 26?” Double Dog asked.
“Yeah – who are you?” the kid responded.
“I’m Double Dog Darrenger – the office manager told me to come here to get a camp site for the weekend.”
“Oh – my dad’s been waiting for you. Hey, dad! Those people are here!” The kid stood and went to the back of the motorhome. From around the back another very blond person emerged: he was about fifty years old, with a dark tan, a thick neck which gave him the countenance of a bullfrog, and the shiniest, most reflective pair of sunglasses anyone had ever seen. He came around the motorhome towards the front, wiping his hands on a dishtowel.
“Welcome, my friends! Glad you made it! I was just getting things ready for you – you got here a little earlier than I thought you might!” He shook hands with Double Dog and Gappy Jack, his height putting him neatly between them. “We’ll be ready to start serving in about twenty minutes.”
Buckskin Betty, who was standing next to Gappy, raised an eyebrow. “Do we know you?”
“Not yet. I heard about the road trip from my good friend Brisket County, so I thought I’d join the caravan. Sidewinder and I made all the arrangements for this weekend, and everything’s paid for already.”
“Everything?” Petunia asked incredulously.
“Yes, ma’am! We rented all the spaces we need, and a few of the cabins, and we brought all the food and drinks. We even paid the match fees for the group, so we can use their shooting range whenever everyone is ready.”
The group members looked at each other, puzzled. Finally, Hokey Pokey broke the silence. “Who the hell are you?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am – I should have introduced myself properly. My name is Pulchritude Cooper and this here is my son, Supercilious Sidewinder. We got here last night.” He pointed to the blond teenage boy. “Sidewinder is the Texas State Champion cowboy shooter for his age group – he’s been the champion for the last four years – he even has a scholarship from the NRA already, for when he’s ready to go off to college.”
“And his name is – what?” Double Dog asked.
“Supercilious Sidewinder – state champion!”
Double Dog chuckled. “What the heck is a super-silly sidewinder?” He looked at Gappy. “Is this the same kind of sidewinder whose head you said you had pee’d on?”
Pulchritude frowned. Gappy, laughing a little nervously, tried to deflect. “So can we just camp anywhere?”
“I have a map with all the sites and the cabins we can use. You just need to let me know what kind of space you want.” Sidewinder handed his father a clipboard. “We can take care of that first, if you like.”
The group members shuffled around, deciding whether they liked this guy or not. Gappy Jack turned to Double Dog. “So what do you think?”
“I think there has to be some sort of catch. Is he going to charge us all double at the end of the weekend?” Double Dog crossed his arms.
“Hey – you know what I think? Free food, free lodging, a free match – I think we scored.” Gappy approached Pulchritude. “When do we need to pay you for everything?”
“You don’t – I just like being part of the group.” Pulchritude smiled, his bullfrog neck bulging even more.
“Well, then, sign me up, Brother Cooper!” He patted Pulchritude’s arm. “I just need a level spot somewhere….”
“Preferably with a four-star hotel room on it,” grumbled Buckskin.
“I don’t have any of those, but would you be interested in a cabin? They have full-size beds and their own bathrooms, and little refrigerators with microwaves. I got a few of those – I thought maybe some of the ladies would like a little more comfort for the weekend.”
Buckskin Betty smiled at Gappy. “I like this guy!”
Pulchritude assigned cabins to most of the group – all except Hokey Pokey, who said she preferred her little rolling coffin, and Double Dog, who asked for a quiet space, away from the center, and was assigned a site towards the outer edge of the campsites, near a large bathroom and skirting one of the riding trails. He had a hard time levelling the trailer, since the ground was cracked and furrowed. No shade trees grew along that side, but one could hear the lowing of a small herd of cattle.
The group members went off to check out their assigned spaces. Buckskin Betty was thrilled to have a real bed again, while Petunia and Boones Farm felt like girls at a slumber party sharing a cabin with two bunks. Hokey Pokey camped next to Pulchritude’s spot, taking advantage of the shade cast by the motorhome’s high profile. She intended at some point to talk her way into the air-conditioned inner sanctum of the large tour bus.
After everyone settled in to their spots, they met up again at the shaded area in front of Pulchritude’s motor coach. Double Dog, the last to return, grumbled at everyone. “So what do you want to do now?” Gappy asked him.
“I thought we’d go over to the town and find a place for lunch,” he suggested.
“Already taken care of!” Pulchritude said, inserting himself into the conversation. “We took the liberty of preparing the grill and getting together some burgers and sausages. Since it’s nearly dinnertime anyway, why don’t we just make a party out of it?” He approached the table where the girls were sitting. “Would any of you ladies care to help serve?”
“How much are you paying?” Hokey Pokey asked, a slight smirk on her face.
“Fifteen dollars an hour plus any tips are yours – I think that’s reasonable.”
The girls looked at each other. “Sure, I’ll do it,” Pink Pistol Petunia offered, jumping up. Hokey Pokey and Boones Farm Annie followed her.
From the parking lot, a now familiar figure approached. Brisket County, on his way to visit an aunt in Colorado, decided to stop by and hang out with his friends a while. He was quickly seated at a table, and Pulchritude waited on him personally, offering him a choice of a half-pound burger or a grilled sausage sandwich. Brisket ordered one of each.
“This wasn’t part of the plan…” Double Dog complained, overhearing the friends chatting.
“Hey – two words: free food, dude!” Gappy Jack told him, trying to get him to laugh. But Double Dog was not amused. He abandoned the group and headed, pouting, into town where he found a small café and had … a hamburger.
Supercilious Sidewinder appeared from out of nowhere, carrying the clipboard. “Dad – there’s some people here who want to know if they can rent a space.”
“Of course! Tell ‘em what’s available and let ‘em choose. Don’t charge them anything! Oh – and invite them over to have dinner, if they like.”News of Pulchritude’s offer spread quickly, and soon the ranch was about a third full. Almost all the campers came to have dinner at the newly devised ‘Stagecoach Saloon,’ an establishment that Pulchritude and Sidewinder hadn’t considered until that evening. Sidewinder set up the sound system in the motor coach and played a variety of music, and Pulchritude ran ‘the bar’ – beer and wine were served for a small ‘donation’ to the Sidewinder Scholarship fund. The three hired servers were quite efficient, and Pulchritude offered them a job whenever the Saloon was open.
This is a work of fiction. Names, charcaters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dea, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
DEADWOOD OR BUST!
A Quest Book
Copyright 2017 by Madeleyn Questman
All Rights Reserved
Published by Questman Tales Publishing, LLC
Battle Ground, WA
First U.S. Edition: May 2018
Printed in the USA