The Adventures of Sport

A Night on the Town

First posted on Western Writers -- May 2003

Humans---even Cartwrights—weren’t very smart, Sport concluded . . . although he did allow that there was a spot of hope for Adam; the oldest Cartwright son had come home with the latest edition of Leaves of Grass the other day, and while reading about grass wasn’t as good as eating it, it was at least a step in the right direction.

"How long’s it been?" he nickered softly to Chub. He didn’t have to move his head because he had binocular vision, and could see almost three-hundred-and-sixty degrees. Humans thought they were so superior! They could see barely half that. Sport couldn’t help a nice, disparaging snort.

"’Bout an hour," the dark bay gelding responded. "Not long enough to give us any trouble. Much more, though, and we’re sunk."

Sport shook his head enough to rattle the hardware on his bridle. Humans thought it was such a big deal just to come into town for a bucket of whiskey—hadn’t even the good sense to drink water. And then when they walked out, half the time it was up to him or Chub or Cochise—or any horse like them worth his salt—to stay under ’em all the way home. If you let one fall off, you had to stand around next to him till he woke up. It was unutterably boring. And it could get worse. When the idiot came to, he’d be complaining about his head, and like as not, he’d get on and vomit right over your shoulder. If you dodged out from under the noxious spit, he was liable to fall off again.

That was one reason it was best to come to town only in herds. That way there was a prayer that at least one of ’em would be sober enough to prop the others up in the saddle. Usually that was his human, Adam, but not always. Sometimes it was Hoss, for which they all thanked the Great Equine In The Sky, as they doubted any of the humans could get the middle Cartwright son back in the saddle if he fell off Chub.

Just then the saloon doors flew open and a human cannonball came flying out. Even Sport jumped in surprise. The airborne missile came to a rolling halt in the dusty street and unfolded itself.

"It’s Joe," Cochise muttered. "Big surprise."

Chub cocked his head to look over Sport’s saddle. "What’s he done this time?"

Cochise studied the sub-herd of humans who had gathered at the bar door. "Uh . . . I’d say, either won big at poker or more likely made a pass at that new girl who looks like a floozy."

"How can you tell?" Chub inquired.

"Look at the gent in the suit with the waistcoat buttoned. He’s a big-time gambler. He might not like losin’." Cochise gave it some thought. "Nah. If Joe was winning, the gambler’d want to win his money back, so he’d keep him at the table, not throw him out in the street. Must be the floozy."

"What makes ya say she’s a—a –well, you know, one o’ those women?" Chub studied the trim young blonde who stood in the doorway next to Herb the bartender. She looked awful pretty, in her reddish-pink dress with the black lace trim. It even matched the long, curving
feather that stood up over her head like a headdress on an Indian. "She looks okay to me."

"If you like the type," Cochise sniffed. "She is kind of a looker; I’ll give you that. But Joe took ’er out last week and I about lost my dinner. She titters."

Tittering was definitely not appreciated--you didn’t see a horse titter, Sport thought. Not even that annoying black filly who’d moved into the barn the week before. He swore that if she squealed one more time when Curley saddled her up, he was going to belt her one when they got on the trail.  Oops, so sorry, were you back there?  Ha!

"That don’t make her a floozy," Club objected.

Cochise managed to look arch.

"Okay, boys, looks like it’s showtime," Sport murmured, as Adam and Hoss Cartwright pushed past the crowd at the door and advanced on their brother.

Joe was shaking his head as they each grabbed an arm and hauled him to his feet. They started to brush him off, but he jerked free and did it himself.  Adam retrieved the stray hat that had come loose in mid-flight.

"Nobody’s throwing me out of a saloon—" Joe took at step toward the now swinging doors of the Silver Dollar, only to come off his feet, courtesy of both brothers, who scooped up an arm each and put some space between his boots and the ground. "Come on, guys! I’ve got as
much right to talk to her as anyone else!"

"Yeah, little brother," Hoss agreed in a low voice, "an’ if Cora Sue McIntosh finds out about it, yer goose is gonna be cooked so many ways we won’t be able to get a fork in ya!"

Joe halted abruptly. "Yeah, well, I guess there’s something to that," he admitted. His green eyes glinted irrepressibly. "Thanks, guys. I knew I brought ya along for some reason!" He swiped at his jacket again and strolled breezily to Cochise. "And speakin’ of Cora Sue, I might as well just pay ’er a visit. It’s almost time for dinner and she’s a mighty good cook."

"Oh, Jesus," Cochise said. "We won’t get home till after midnight and he’ll probably want to gallop half the way."

"Cochise . . . you got any idea who Jesus is?" Chub inquired with a hint of disapproval.

"Nope. But every now and then Joe says ‘Jesus.’ So it’s a person, huh?"

"No, I think it’s a god. Might not be too good for you t’ be sayin’ it."

Sport snorted. "Good grief, you pair of morons! Jesus has only two legs! Everyone knows that God has four!"

They allowed as how, yeah, anyone oughta know it. It was an easy concept to grasp.

Joe unwrapped Cochise’s reins from the hitching rail and backed the pinto out into the street, where he vaulted into the saddle. "See ya at home!"

For a moment, Adam and Hoss just watched him ride away and then Hoss shook his head. "Well, whatcha wanna do now?"

Adam looked at the sky. The sun was heading down, promising darkness soon. "Have dinner?"

"Thought you’d never say it."

They turned back to the horses.

"Think they’ll put us in the livery stable?" Chub asked hopefully. "I wouldn’t mind a little dinner myself."

"More likely just tie us to the rail for another hour," Sport replied. "Only the two of ’em. They won’t be there all night."


Sure enough, Adam and Hoss mounted up only for the block’s ride to the International Hotel.

"Pa said he might come inta town," Hoss observed as he tied Chub to the rail by the hotel’s steps.

Adam looped his reins there as well. "It’s dinnertime. If he’s in town, he’ll come here."

They disappeared into the hotel.

"Well, this stinks," Chub complained. "I’m hungry."

"Hey, here comes Buck!"

"He’s prob’ly hungry, too."

Sport snorted. "Chub, if you keep it up, you’re gonna be as big as Hoss."

"Better’n wastin’ away."

"Evenin’, Buck," Sport whinnied at the buckskin who came to a stop at the hitching rail next to theirs. Chub nodded amiably over Sport’s back.

"Evening, boys," the buckskin responded, taking it as his due that the other horses spoke first. "Where’s Cochise?"

"Joe went courting," Chub told him as Ben Cartwright swung down off the buckskin.

Buck grunted and then shook himself, glad to be rid of the load. "We’ll be home and fed before he even thinks about coming back."

"At least he don’t have to listen to Joe sing," Chub snickered, an obvious reference to one of Adam’s techniques with his ladies.

Sport leaned over to nip Chub on the neck. "If I had to listen to Joe Cartwright sing, I’d demand combat pay," he snapped. At least Adam had a good voice; lots of humans sounded like cats in heat. Even so, the gelding couldn’t understand why anyone would want to warble as they did. What was wrong with just listening to the wind in the trees? Another fault of two-legged creatures, in his opinion. In that sense, he had to give Joe credit.

"Hey, Sport, look!"

At the sound of Buck’s voice, Sport craned his neck up high enough to see the two humans struggling down the sidewalk to the alley, where, all the horses knew, deliveries to the kitchen were made. Over the years, they’d watched countless tradesmen carry all kinds of food in there—nothing anyone with sense would want, not even oats—and they enjoyed seeing what the silly people were eating today. This time, the men were carrying wooden crates marked POL ROGER, EPERNAY, FRANCE.

Sport’s eyes glazed. "Champagne," he breathed.

"Now, contain yourself, boy," Buck cautioned nervously.

"Yeah, Sport," Chub chimed in. "You just calm down now."

Sport was mesmerized. "Champagne."

"Good lord, he’s as bad as Adam," Buck muttered disgustedly.

"Always was," Chub agreed with a sigh. "Got real good taste, though."

"Doesn’t change that he’s a nitwit."

"Champagne . . ."

"Sport, good grief, shut up!" Buck’s patience wore thin. "It’s not yours."

"I want some."

"This makes no sense. You’re a horse," Chub said. "Have you forgotten that?"

"That’s discrimination. You don’t give Cochise a hard time for liking coffee."

"Coffee is understandable," Buck intoned. "Champagne’s not and neither’s beer. It’s un-equine to like those bubbles up your nose."

"It’s a delicacy," Sport maintained and sniffed loudly. "Peasants!"

Grumpily, he leaned down to scratch his cheek against his leg. He didn’t care if he damaged his bridle, as long as he didn’t hurt his leg with the bit; Adam could afford a new bridle if necessary. It felt good . . . if he could just get his head lower. He reached farther, sliding his muzzle along his cannon bone.

Suddenly his reins hit their limit, dissolved their loose affiliation with the hitching rail and dropped at his feet. He regarded them curiously. Both Buck and Chub lowered their heads to see.

"I wonder . . ." Sport mused. "Since Adam didn’t put those reins there, does this constitute a ground tie?"

His companions couldn’t answer.

"I mean, it’s like if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make any noise?"

"Sport, have you lost your mind?" Buck demanded.

"No," the chestnut replied loftily. "That’s a famous conundrum. Adam told me."

Chub looked perplexed. "A conun—what?"

"A conundrum. It’s philosophy."

"You and Adam are an example of brains run amok," Buck pronounced.

"Yes, it must be the same thing. The sound doesn’t exist, so the ground tie doesn’t exist. At least, in my interpretation, and Adam’s a big advocate of thinking for yourself." He nodded politely to Buck and Chub. "Good evening, gentlemen. I trust you’ll cover my flanks if I’m not back in time."

"What do you have in mind?" Chub asked innocently.

"What do you think?" Sport backed out into the street and turned toward the alley. "I’m going to have a night out."

"Silly young colt!" Buck snorted.

But Sport wasn’t listening. He gazed down the alley and found it deserted—and miracle of miracles, the back door to the kitchen was open. Apparently the delivery men were coming and going. Must be a party tonight, he figured. Probably a drunken party, and the humans
had run out of champagne. Otherwise, wouldn’t the goods have been brought in during the afternoon? No matter . . .

At the door, he peered into the building. There was a small room stacked with boxes; he examined them closely, but none of them were champagne. He proceeded to the next door, stepping carefully on the wooden floor so as not to make noise.

The next door was closed, but to his amazement, it moved when he gave it a good strong push with his muzzle. His knee worked just as well. And better yet, the top half of the door was a large pane of glass that gave him a great view of the kitchen. On one wall was a huge black contraption spurting fire from its top; he grunted nervously and resolved not to go near it. Besides, it was getting enough attention from a fat man in a white apron.

In the middle of the room was a large wooden table, filled with plates of food. Skinny boys in black and white uniforms seemed to be trotting back and forth through another swinging door—this one without glass—at the far end of the room. They snatched up the dinners with each trip.

He peered at the plates; most of them weren’t worth the bother—an endless array of steaks and pieces of chicken and weird-looking flat things in sauce greeted his vision. He wondered if the weird-looking flat things were what he’d heard referred to as fish. Trust humans to eat such nonsense. But now and then, there was something worth his notice: Smaller white discs which he decided must be half-grown plates carried green stuff that looked like grass, although the leaves seemed broader. And there were definitely carrots. The night was looking up.

Better yet, right out there in the middle of everything on another table was a tray of funny looking little flattish glasses, filled with a pale golden liquid. Tiny bubbles migrated upward to the top of each glass. Bingo. This was going to be easier than he’d thought.

Just then the man in the white apron began waving his arms and shouting. "If you cannot do it properly, get out! Get out! Get out of my kitchen!"

The army of skinny boys in black and white backed up into each other at the swinging door and then fled. Sport had heard of floor shows; the Cartwright boys went to the Opera House now and then and always discussed the ladies, sometimes almost naked, they saw there. He wondered if this was the beginning of the floor show, but shook his head in confusion. Not a naked lady among ’em.

The fat man was much better entertainment. He was still waving his arms and shouting. "Aye-yie-yie! Imbeciles! Idiots! I am forced to work with idiots!  Madre di Dio! Can they do nothing right? Why must I put up with them? It is madness! I quit!" He ripped off his apron, threw it across the room and stalked away through another swinging door at the side of the room.

No time like now, Sport thought, and shoved open the door. Skirting carefully away from the fire-breathing thing on the wall, he approached the feed table and snitched a mouthful of grass and carrot on the way to the champagne. The grass wasn’t very sweet, but under the circumstances—he’d worked up a hunger—it was acceptable. The carrots, little bitty human-bite-size things, were better.

He sniffed the champagne glasses with discrimination. There was no point, he opined, in drinking the cheap stuff and the Pol Roger smelled on the expensive side. Voila! The flattish glasses were a bit of a pain, but after a few unsuccessful experiments, he perfected
swooping his tongue down and gathering up the contents in one fell lick. It cut down on the breakage, which he knew was likely to upset the humans. On the other hand, served ’em right for not using a sensible trough, or at least wooden containers.

Ah, bliss . . .  He should be timing himself, he reflected. Efficiency was to be rewarded and he figured he accounted for sixty-four glasses of champagne in less than four minutes. He added a few carrots for good measure. This stuff had a kick. He giggled. A kick. He fired off a good one with one hind leg, just for fun. Behind him, a small table skidded across the plank floor and slammed into the wall. Sport peered over his shoulder to see a big white pitcher of milk teeter on its edge and then leap off on to the floor. Little shards of crockery floated in the expanding pool of white. Sport sniffed it. Cows. What a waste. He turned back to the champagne, but he’d finished it.

Might as well get another bite before going back out into the night. No telling when they’d get home for dinner. Delicately, he picked out as many carrots as he could before he realized that there was quite a bit of commotion beyond the door at the end of the room. Human voices were rising in protest. Perhaps the better part of valor would be to withdraw while the field was his.

He started for the door, only to be jerked up sharply by his bit. Damn. Almost felt like he’d cut his mouth. He lowered his head to see what had happened and found one of the confounded reins caught on the leg of the feed table. Well, bother . . . but he didn’t complain; you had to take reins as you found ’em. Sometimes they helped you out and sometimes they didn’t. But the noise in what must be the dining room was growing louder. He did need to get a move on. There was only one thing to do.

He backed around so that his hind quarters faced the table as best they could with the rein trapped the way it was. Gathering up his strength, he let loose with the hardest kick he could muster—a real gutbuster, if he did say so himself, and highly successful. The rein came free in a second. It was to be regretted, he would admit if questioned, that the table flipped sideways, causing all those plates and their children to fly every whichaway. Pretty much scattered the wide grass, too.

In his opinion, it was an excellent time to leave. He pushed open the swinging door and bolted into the alley, sliding a little bit as he rounded the tight corner and made for the street. In a second, he was standing calmly next to Chub.

"I think we’ll be going home soon," he told his friends.

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