When they removed the apostrophe from Hallowe'en, they made it less scary.
“Dear Gram,” Betty read, “How are you?
My round-the-world trip’s nearly through.
I’ll drop by for a visit
next Saturday. Is it
convenient? Hope so! Love, Matthew.”
As Ringo peered over her shoulder,
Betty mused, “He’ll be seven years older
since last he were here...”
and she dabbed at a tear,
which boggled the buckskinned beholder.
“Her grandson?” said Thomas to Jim.
“I don’t think I’ve heard about him.”
“Yep, a circus performer
and quite a barnstormer:
he’ll leap sixteen sheep on a whim.”
Two days later they met the noon stage
and out stepped a tall lad whose age
was sixteen or less.
He was dressed for success
in a suit of pale yellow and beige.
Before introductions were done
he was juggling four satchels for fun
while tipping the porter
a dime and a quarter
produced from the ear of a nun.
And all the way back to the ranch
when the buckboard passed under a branch,
young Matthew would grab it
and, quick as a rabbit,
flip over—which made Ringo blanch.
The cowboys at first were agog
each time Matthew sprang like a frog
up into a tree
or juggled a bee
and three pine cones while rolling a log.
But after two days had gone by
their well of good nature ran dry.
“Again?” Ringo muttered
the tenth time Matt buttered
his sourdough toast on the fly.
“This kid, he gets all the attention,”
Thomas grumbled to Jim. “Not to mention
he’s showing me up.
I slurp from my cup;
he don’t ruffle the dang surface tension!”
“Yeah, but Betty just can’t get enough
of her grandson,” Jim said, “and that stuff
that he’s learned in the circus,
so let’s don’t let him irk us.
I say we make friendly, not gruff.”
Whereupon with a forthcoming grin,
Jim ahemmed and said, “So...mighty Quinn...
Care to go for a ride?
Take your time to decide.”
Matt smiled and answered, “I’m in.”
They suggested the gentlest horse,
but the boy said, “You’re joking, of course!
I’ve ridden wild stallions!
I’m used to rapscallions!
I want one with fury and force!”
So they led out Ms. Thunder Ann Lightning
whose way with a rider was frightening.
When the saddle appeared
she bucked and she reared.
“Much better,” young Matthew said, brightening.
“No saddle. I’d rather go bareback.”
He spat on his hands, smoothed his hair back,
took off at a run,
vaulted high and, for fun,
did a somersault—smack on the mare’s back!
With a whinny like hell in a bottle,
Ms. Lightning took off at full throttle.
Matt clung to her mane
and he yielded his brain
to the mercy of Quetzalcoatl.
“Not smart,” Ringo said. Jim agreed.
“I suppose we should do the good deed.”
“I suppose,” grumbled Thomas,
who disliked melodramas,
“and I guess we’d best put on some speed.”
To their horses they swiftly repaired
in pursuit of the runaway mare.
Her dust cloud soon bloomed
and then the mare loomed
like the fruit of a daredevil’s prayer.
“Hang in there!” yelled Jim to young Matt
who was lying impressively flat.
He pulled up alongside
of the mare, stride for stride,
and yodeled “The Nebulous Gnat.”
That tune was almost guaranteed
to divert almost any stampede
among horses or cattle
engaged in a battle
with panic, or anger, or need.
Meanwhile, seeing his opportunity,
Thomas came to the rear with impunity.
Yelling, “Time to skedaddle,”
he leapt from his saddle
and with Matthew he formed a community.
Tom’s riderless horse was soon caught
by Ringo, who’d never been taught
to round up loose strays.
He just did it, unfazed,
like a Roy Rogers wannabe ought.
At last the three cowboys were able
to make things a little more stable
for horse and for rider
and a swig of hard cider
didn’t hurt, back at Betty B.’s table.
“Ms.Thunder Ann Lightning?” yelled Betty.
“Were you boys born with brains or spaghetti???”
But Matt held up a hand
with an air of command
that he’d learned on the vast Serengeti.
“They tried to dissuade me,” he said.
“But I paid no attention. Instead,
I was reckless and foolish,
self-centered and mulish.”
He paused, both his ears turning red.
“My act may be famous, but they
are the ones we should cheer for today,
‘cause next to their feat
my tricks can’t compete:
not a chance, not a prayer, and no way.”
A long stretch of silence ensued
until Jim interrupted the mood.
“Hey—show me that thing
where you fly through a ringlike a quail, upside down, would ya, dude?”