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"Iggy's Last Ride"




As you know, round about Christmas time somethin’ started pullin' on Iggy and he packed up and left his friends in the bunkhouse where he lived.

Them was about as fine a bunch of fellers as anyone could ever want to ride the high country with; but something told him it was time to be driftin’ on. Iggy really hated to leave ol’ Jim. He had been as fine a bunkie as a man could ask for, but it was time.



When Iggy left the Triple T, he headed north and about a half a days ride he ran into the worst “blue norther” he had ever seen. He screwed down his Stetson and pulled up the collar on his sheepskin coat and kept agoin’. Something was pullin’ him on.

He couldn’t hardly see his hand in front of his face and he had to depend on ol’ Alpo to find his way. After a while even, Alpo was ‘bout blind. He had snow and ice froze on his face and around his eyes.

Iggy knew of a grove of trees and some cover ‘bout a mile up ahead and decided to try and make it there and “hole up” till this danged storm let up some.



They were only about a hundred yards from shelter when Alpo stepped off into empty space. He had wandered to the edge of a gully about 10 feet deep and about 30 feet wide. He did a somersault and landed on Iggy in the bottom.

Iggy’s chest was crushed and both his legs were busted and he was knocked out cold. In a few seconds the rush of pain brought Iggy back to his senses, and he became aware of Alpo lying nearby and thrashing around trying to get up.

Iggy could tell that Alpo’s shoulder was broke and there was no help for him. He was just gonna hurt himself more. He dragged himself over to the struggling horse and spoke quietly to him. The horse settled down a bit. Iggy managed to get Alpo’s head into his lap and the horse became quiet.

“Well, ol’ podner, I reckon we are in a hell of a mess here, huh?” He rubbed the horse’s nose and ears. Tears came to his eyes as he slowly drew the pistol from its holster. The tears were so bad that he couldn’t see as he moved the gun up to Alpo’s head and when he pulled the trigger, he shuddered so hard that the pain in his chest nearly made him faint.



The old Colt pistol boomed but was hardly heard in the roar of the storm.
Alpo shuddered once and was still.

Iggy said, “Goodbye old friend,” A whole lifetime of loneliness swept around him like a flash flood. For the first time in over fifty years he cried.

He lay there cradling his horse’s head and tried to figger what he was gonna do. He couldn’t feel his legs anymore and it was sure getting’ cold. Maybe if I rest a bit. It is getting’ dark anyway. He drifted off into a deep slumber.

Then over the roaring wind, Iggy thought he heard someone calling his name.

“Iggy!”

There was a voice, but there was nobody even knew he was out here.

“Iggy! Up here!”

Then Iggy recognized the voice. “That you Lord?”

“Yeah, Iggy, it’s me. What have you two got yourselves into this time?”

“Well, Sir, I think maybe we have bit off a little bit more than I can chew!”
The Lord reached down with his hand and said,
“Well come on you two, there is a whole bunch of your friends up here that is waiting to see you agin!”
Iggy reached up and touched the Lord’s hand and the pain and loneliness were gone.



A couple of months later, Jim was out riding the north range and he happened to see a couple of coyotes jump up out of a gully and run away.

Hmm, that’s kinda strange to see a couple of yodel puppies out in broad daylight, he thought to himself. He rode over to the gully and was shattered by what he found.

“Awww, Iggy!! Why couldn’t you have stayed a while longer?” He sobbed.

There wasn’t much left--a saddle, a boot,
a few bones, some scraps of clothing,
and an old Colt’s revolver.

Jim picked up the gun. He noticed the 3 notches filed in the back strap. He had always wondered about those notches, but there is some things you just don’t ask a man.

He gathered things up as best he could and put them in a pile under the dirt bank. He caved the bank in on top of what was there. He knew full well that when the first spring flood came that all his work would be undone.

Jim looked again at the old Colt and carefully put it in his saddle bag. He walked to the edge of the gully. Jim removed his hat and looked down into the hole.
He whispered softly, “Why Lord?
Why couldn’t he a been happy and stayed where he was?”

A voice rumbled softly, “Jim, you know that Iggy was getting’ long in the tooth and him and Alpo was only gonna be able to do what they loved for just a little while longer. You know that neither of them would have been able to stand what was coming’ their way. They was doin’ what they wanted.
They was together and they was still strong and proud.”


Jim thought about it for a minute and nodded. “You’re right, Lord, I never thought of it that way. This is a hard land for old timers and there ain’t no good way to get old out here.

Them two up there with you, Lord ?” he asked.

“Yup. Ol’ Iggy is playing cards with his friends,
and Alpo is seal fat and sassy!”
said the Lord.

Jim smiled and asked, “Would you give Ol’ Iggy
a Howdy for me sir?”

“Consider it done Jim. See ya down the trail!”
the rumbling voice said from a distance.

“Thank you Sir.”
Jim murmured as he climbed back into the saddle.



As Jim rode back toward the Triple T, he realized that he now understood more of the hard cold truth about living out there on the eternal plains that Iggy had called the “High Lonesome.”

He was able to see that Iggy and Alpo had become a part of the prairie and would forever be a part of that unforgiving land.

Jim realized something else.
He was a part of that “High Lonesome” too, and he was able to accept his fate, just as Iggy had done a long long time ago.



A note from the author:

I know this wasn’t a pretty story,
and yet if you look at it for a bit,
I think you can find a simple beauty to it.
 
This wasn’t easy to write.
You see there was a real Alpo,
I learned that he had cancer,
and there was nothing that could be done for him.
I had to shoot him to end his pain.
I lost a good old friend that day.

This story took me through some deep emotions
and maybe even some sort of catharsis.
Maybe in writing this I came to a better
understanding of who I am and what faces me.

Maybe there is more of Iggy in me
than I really knew.

See ya down the trail!




2003
Chip Harding


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7/31/07