“Darn liquid sunshine,” Tommy said as they stepped off the bus. It had rained all the way from Cheyenne to Denver as the bus traveled throughout the early morning.
The horses were already in Denver. A caravan of horse trailers had started out two days before. Tommy was supposed to be down there with them at this time but he could not get away from work.
Minutes after their arrival the skies started to clear and the rain stopped falling. All around the stabled horses the sound of water dripping from the eves and falling to the pavement could be heard. But the air smelled clean and crisp and the horses’ ears were all pointed forward.
All twenty were looking forward to the Saint Patrick Day Parade. The horses had no idea that it was called such. For them it was a chance to get out and stretch. It was an opportunity to show off their skills.
The same could be said for the riders. They too had been looking forward to this day. This was the Fifth Cavalry reorganized. And this group of twenty horses and riders had practiced hundreds of hours for this event. It was their first time riding as a unit and this was the pay off.
Once the horses were saddled up and ready, it was time to mount up. The sharp sound of sabers striking against the hard saddles echoed through the city streets between the buildings.
The blue wool itched against Tommy’s skin. He had decided to discard the long handles for this ride. The humidity was high and he could feel himself sweating with the underwear on. Now he was sweating and this time he had nothing to prevent the wool from rubbing against his skin. Tommy reached up and grimaced as he raked his hand over his chest several times. “No time to change,” Tommy thought as he stood in his stirrups and waved the signal to form up.
He moved his horse out and onto the parade route. “Hard Tack, lets do it right,” Tommy muttered lowly to his horse. Hard Tack’s ears flipped back for an instant and then back to the forward.
It had been a stormy relationship between these two, rider and horse. Neither had selected the other. Both were simply assigned to each one another. It was a random act.
The first day Hard Tack decided he was hungry and that Tommy had climbed out of the dusty corral and paused to lean against the fence rail. That’s when Hard Tack struck. He reached over the top rail and bit into the straw hat on Tommy’s head. Tommy jerked away but it was too late. Hard Tack was bounding around the corral kicking up his heels like a kid at play.
“My hat!” Tommy screamed as he piled back over the fencing. But before he could get the hat away from the horse, it had eaten most of the brim and was working hard at chewing off the crown.
Tommy pulled the cowboy hat away from Hard Tack. “You stupid horse!” he shouted as he slapped the animal on the rump and climbed back over the fence.
The entire outfit laughed long and heartily at the incident. A couple cried and one rolled on the ground as Tommy placed the chewed-on hat back where it started. With the hat on his head, Tommy knew he looked more like a rodeo clown than the commissioned officer of a Calvary unit.
The crowds were thick and the cheering full as the Calvary unit moved through the streets of Denver. There were several flag laden viewing stands and as the senior officer of this unit Tommy relished the act of pulling his sword from its scabbard and saluting the symbol of the nation.
Midway through the parade they were scheduled to have a demonstration about how a fight was fought during the Indian Wars period. Upon attack the bugle would sound. Every rider was to dismount and force his or her horse to lie down. The dismounted rider would then pull out their carbine and commence to fire on the attackers.
The signal sounded, a single black powder rifle fired into he sky. And as planned and as he was trained the bugler sounded his horn and riders jumped from their mounts and using the reins pulled the horse over on their sides.
With carbines pulled and laid over the saddles of their horses the twenty members of the Fifth Calvary Reorganized commenced firing on the imaginary attack of plains Indians.
Tommy remained mounted on Hard Tack. He was directing fire from the high position, which was the custom of the day. His saber drawn and flashing in the sunlight Tommy pointed out where the hostiles were. They continued for five minutes, firing frantically as their horses fought them for their heads and attempted to stand up. Lying down is not the natural position a horse will stay in for a lengthy time.
Just as the announcer was explaining this and just as the riders were regaining their mounts, Tommy noticed Hard Tack’s ears were twitching wildly. He reined the horse back to the left a little but Hard Tack kept drifting to the right.
Suddenly and without warning Hard-Tack jumped forward. Tommy was preoccupied with trying to re-sheath his steel sword. As he managed to hilt the blade and just after cutting the back of his left hand on the razor sharp edge, Hard Tack bolted. He raced head long towards the crowd.
And as if Moses had raised his staff against the Red Sea, the line of people parted. This allowed Tommy and his run away mount to pass through them unencumbered.
Hard Tack broke to a dead run through the open park as Tommy struggled to reach for the reins and keep his seat at the same time. With one hand, wrapped and threaded through the mane Tommy leaned forward as he stood in his stirrup and grasped one of the reins. He pulled back.
Suddenly Tommy found himself tumbling through the air. He landed on the ground with a thud. The breath was knocked out of him. Hard Tack fell as well. He rolled over on his back with all four legs thrashing wildly at the now blue skies. He rolled over on Tommy as he came down. Tommy relaxed as Hard Tack struggled to get to his feet.
Once Hard Tack completed his roll and found his footing he stopped running. He just stood there as if feeling the limp weight of his motionless rider. Tommy’s feet were both in the stirrup and he had his bloody left hand still tangled in his mounts mane and a single rein gripped in the right.
Tommy gulped in air as soon as his lungs allowed him. Hard Tack shivered. A mounted police officer stood next to the pair. “You okay?” he was asking Tommy as he reached over and gathered in the other rein.
Being a solid trooper and the senior officer Tommy headed back to his unit. They had moved on without him as the parade could not wait. And other than stained in grass and little bruised he joined up with the Fifth Cavalry Reorganized.
Tommy reached down and patted Hard-Tack on the neck, “Its okay, boy.” The horse flipped his ears back for a moment then back to the forward position.
The rest of the parade continued with out a hitch. Tommy dismounted his troopers then slowly and painfully climbed down out of the saddle. “What happened?” was the question at the moment. All Tommy could do was shake his head silently because he did not have an answer.
“He never acted like this before,” Tommy said to Dave. Dave was helping to get the horses back into their trailers for the ninety-five mile trip home.
Other than a minor abrasion on his right fore shoulder and a small blister on his left rear flank Hard Tack was fine. The vet walked out of his stall, “I think it was a piece of cap in his hair that caught fire, causing him to act so wild.” He turned and latched the stall gate shut. Then he continued by asking, “How’s that slice on your hand?”
Tommy held up the bandaged hand and replied, “It’s a little painful and the Doc says I’ll have a scar, but other than that it’s okay.”
“You sure you’re alright?” Dave asked Tommy.
“Yeah,” he responded as he led the horse to the trailer.
Dave stood there a moment watching Tommy load the animal, then said, “That was a nasty wreck,” as he handed Tommy a small bag of oats.
“Yeah, and the only thing that hurts is my pride and this stupid cut,” Tommy replied as he held up his left hand. He had sliced himself with his sword during the fall. Then he added, “Want to go have a beer?”
Dave smiled, “Let’s go and I’ll buy the first one.”
Darkness filled the bar as they stepped inside from the bright glare of the afternoon sun. Within moments their eyes had adjusted well enough to notice that there were several women in the bar. All eyes were on the two men in their cavalry uniforms as they walked towards the bar.
The woman on the end of the bar turned in her seat and got up. She walked around the corner of the bar and asked, “What’ll it be gentlemen?”
Dave cleared his throat and answered, “Beer, one each, please.” He leaned against the wooden structure, placing his back to the wall-full of liquor.
The tender placed two brews full of head running over on the counter and Tommy reached into his trousers and pulled out a ten spot and slid it to the barkeep. Dave just stood there looking around the room and at all the women.
He leaned over and whispered out of the side of his mouth, “There’s go to be a least ten women here.” He paused to sip his beer then added, and they’re all beautiful!”
Tommy took a mouthful of beer and turned around to have a look.
Within minutes Dave was standing in front of the jukebox fishing change from his pant pocket. A young woman quickly joined him. She had on tight fitting jeans and a halter-top. Her skin was tanned a light brown to match her auburn hair.
She leaned against him as he inserted coins into the slot of the machine. It was obvious to Tommy that she was helping Dave make a selection of music and Dave was enjoying the assistance as well as her company.
Tommy turned back to the bar and nursed his beer as well as his hand. “That’s a nasty slice on your hand,” a woman’s voice lilted from beside him. He looked up and in the direction, smiling relied, “Yeah, not a good day in Bedrock.” She laughed.
Tommy noticed her dazzling white teeth and the long blonde hair as she tossed it back and forth. “Names Tommy,” he said.
“Hi, I’m Angie,” the blonde returned. Then she added, “Your friend doesn’t waste anytime.” Tommy looked back where Dave was and discovered he was sitting in one of the darkened booths. To Tommy it appeared he was doing more than talking with his new friend.
Angie asked, “Want to go sit down where it more comfortable and more private?”
“Sure,” Tommy responded. He picked up his beer and took another drink of it. Then they walked over to a booth that Tommy allowed Angie to pick out.
As they walked to the booth he noticed that the women were all talking to each other. He was being checked out and he felt certain he was the topic of conversation. The looks followed by hushed whispers and giggles told him he was right.
“So, is this your first time in Denver?” Angie asked.
“Naw, been here several times,” Tommy answered. “But it’s the first time we’ve had a chance to visit a bar, though.”
Angie smiled, “Knew you’d never been in here before, because I’m a regular.”
“Well, Dave and me thought we’d died and gone to heaven when we first set foot inside this place,” Tommy said, “I mean, so many women and we’re the only guys.” Tommy sipped at his beer.
“Oh you’d be surprised,” Angie said. She took a drink of her beer. “How’d you cut your hand?” she asked as she reached over and lightly ran a finger over the gash.
Tommy gulped a mouthful of beer. Her touch had sent a shiver through him. Then he replied, “I cut my self on my saber.”
She just looked at him. And after a few seconds she asked, “You’re kidding right?”
“No,” Tommy came back. Then he explained why he had a sword and how he came to cut the back of his hand.
Angie moved closer to Tommy. He could feel his excitement rise as she sat next to him listening to as he told her what he did for a living.
She rubbed her had gently on his thigh. “Want another beer?” Tommy asked as he slid away from her. She nodded her head up and down. Tommy got up and walked the few steps to the bar.
He could feel his head swimming as he thought about how friendly Angie was. He turned to look back at her as the woman behind the bar got the two beers.
Angie smiled and Tommy smiled back. He turned back to the bar and paid for the beverages. His eyes swept over the room and slight cold washed over his person. He picked up the drinks and headed back to the booth where his new friend sat waiting for him.
They sat and talked a while more and drank their beer. She sat next to Tommy all the while.
After Tommy had gotten them each a third beer, Angie asked, “Do you always take your time when a woman throws herself at you?” She smiled.
“Sometimes,” was the only thing Tommy said in response.
“So why now?” she asked. Angie sounded nearly impatient with Tommy
Tommy smiled, then leaned back in his seat and replied, “I don’t know exactly.” He paused a few more seconds then added, “Things just don’t quite add up.”
Angie started fidgeting with the cocktail napkin in front of her. Then Tommy looked at Angie. She wasn’t smiling now.
“First,” Tommy started, “Dave and me are the only guys here or as you said earlier ‘I might be surprised’,” He sipped at the frosty mug. What would I be surprised at?”
Angie looked down and leaned back with a large defeated sigh. Then Tommy asked, “Would I be surprised to find out that Dave and I aren’t the only males in here?”
Again Angie sighed. Then she looked up at Tommy and smiled. “You’re pretty cool. Most he-men type would have figured it out and started throwing punches.”
Tommy interrupted her by asking, “So how far along are you in your gender reassignment?”
Angie pulled open her blouse and exposed her breasts. “They’re mine. What do you think?”
“Th-th-their beautiful,” Tommy stuttered. He felt his face burning red from embarrassment.
Then she said, “Why, you’re blushing!”
“Well, it’s not everyday a woman pops her breasts out at me like you just did,” Tommy said as he continued to blush.
“You’re so sweet, Angie said, “You called me a woman. You’re so sweet.” She reached out and grabbed onto Tommy’s hand and gave it a tender squeeze. “Let’s go rescue your friend.”