Halloween Dirty Tricks …
“Of all the confounded Halloween dirty tricks ol’ Dabner done played that’s the worst!” Lester threw down his cowboy hat and stomped up and down on it several times with all his might. Then he bent, yanked the hat up and smashed it back on his head with both hands, glaring at the group of men who could not hold back their laughter.
The cowhands were already laughing hard at the cow patty stuck all over the back side of Lester, but now with the smashed hat sitting on his head like a crumpled pie tin, the fellas were whooping and squealing like a bunch of hyenas as Lester stomped to the bath house.
Earlier that morning the ranch hands watched Dabner dig a shallow trench right behind the chair where Lester liked to sit when he came out to visit with the guys after the kitchen was all cleaned up. Lester was the cook for the ranch hands. They were all puzzled as to what Dabner had in mind, till he filled the trench with cow patties then lightly covered it with soil. Then he tied a rope around the two back legs of the chair and trailed the rope to where he normally sat on the corral railings. The rope was also covered with soil so Lester would not notice it. The ranch hands laughed and exclaimed about it. “Oh, gawd!”, ” Master of dirty Halloween tricks for sure.”, “Poor ol’ Lester!” They fell silent when they saw Lester coming. As always, Lester stopped in front of the chair long enough to light his pipe after he turned to face the fellas. “Why ya all so quiet?” Then he motioned to Dabner with his pipe, jabbing it in the air.
“Dabner, I’m warnin’ ya! I know this is your day, but I ain’t up to any Halloween dirty tricks from you, so you just keep your distance and behave yourself.” Dabner tipped his hat. “No problem, Lester. I ain’t in the mood today.”
Lester took a few puffs from his pipe then sat down, but there was nothing there, for Dabner had pulled the chair away. Lester fell flat on his back in the trench.
Lester undressed and threw his clothes in a tub of wash water. He had to take two baths to get the smell off him. When he was drying off he called out to the laundry boy to go get some clean clothes and boots for him. The boy was not there, so Lester wrapped the towel around himself and ran to his cabin. When he
was halfway there Jordan Parker rode up on his horse. “Lester! What are you doing running around naked?” Lester told him what happened then said, “I’m gettin’ too old for this kind of stuff, Mr. Parker,” he put a hand on his chest. “It ain’t good for my heart!”
“You go on in and get dressed. I’ll have a talk with Dabner. You’ll be okay to cook up lunch for the fellas? I can send someone over to help if you need it,” Parker was concerned. “That would be right nice, Mr Parker. I am feelin’ poorly right now. I think I’ll rest in bed for an hour or so.”
When the ranch hands rushed in for lunch they stopped short when they saw Parker standing by the fireplace, smoking his pipe. “Sit down, fellas. I got some bad news for you.” They all quietly sat down and looked at Parker expectantly, worried.
“I sent one of my cooks over to help with lunch since Lester was feeling poorly. She found Lester in bed. He died in his sleep.” There were murmurs of shock and sadness, even guilt, but no one felt worse than Dabner. Parker bowed his head, his hat hiding his face, as if the sorrow was too much for him. Lester had been on the ranch for over twenty years, since Parker was a young man.
Parker cleared his throat and said, “I had my boys lay him out in my front parlor. You are all welcome to come by this evening for prayers when the Pastor is here, long about eight o’clock.” There was no talking as the men silently ate their lunch. Some of them sniffing and wiping their eyes. None of them looked at Dabner, who was unable to eat. He pushed his plate away, got up and left, quietly closing the door behind him. He had done the last of his Halloween dirty tricks and would never forgive himself.
The ranch hands showed up at the big house sharply at eight-o’clock. They stopped and stared at the hearse wagon that would take Ol’ Lester on his final ride. All the jack-o-lanterns lined up along the porch that usually brought smiles seemed out of place on this sad day.
When the front door was opened they all took off their hats and entered the parlor. Jordan Parker and the Pastor were standing by the coffin. “You fellas can come up one at a time if you want to take a last look at Lester. They each walked up and paid final respects, Dabner was still sitting, his head bowed. “You otta go see him, Dabner. He looks real peaceful,” one of the fellas said. Dabner stood up and slowly walked to the coffin. He tried to speak, but couldn’t find his voice. Lester sat up and yelled, “You did this to me, Dabner!”
Dabner turned white as a ghost and stared at Lester, then turned and ran out, and kept running till he got to the bunkhouse and hid in his bed, shaking so bad his teeth were rattling. He never again pulled any Halloween dirty tricks on anyone.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns