(from a recording - Dr. H.L. Greene,University of Nebraska,1908)
   Trading for horses is about as much fun as getting shot in the foot; but, it’s one of life’s necessary evils. By the time I was done with my business up at the fort, I had bought me two decent animals and one extra blanket to boot. The best horse was a gelding, the other a young bay. My plan was to use the horses to tote water up from the river so as to irrigate a swath of land. Without water, farming is a lame-brained profession. Some folks might say a wind-driven well woulda been a better idea, but building a windmill is hard work and I ain’t got the constitution for it. I was set on utilizing brute labor and that was the end of it.
     But life has a way of swatting its tail at you during unsuspecting moments and that’s what happened as me and my new horses crossed the Llano River on our way back towards the farm. We was midstream in low water when a goddamned bullet lopped off part of the gelding’s ear and that started a ruckus the likes of which most folks have never imagined. That beast reared up more out of fear than pain and started kicking up a fuss, which wadn’t a wrong idea, considering that where there’s one bullet, more are likely to follow.
     The bay tried to bolt when she got kicked, and that caused my own mare to buck, which sent me right in the river. Lucky thing too, because another round came whizzing past at that exact moment, barely missing my own self.
     I grabbed the reins of my mare and pulled her head around, aiming for dry land and some respectable cover. Whoever was firing them shots appeared to be alone, seeing as how the sounds I was hearing were all of one caliber. I always wondered how come everybody didn’t shoot the same kind of gun in the old days. That way, we could use each other’s ammunition when one of us got killed and the other needed some lead. But that wadn’t the case then, or now either.
     Another round plinked in the water next to my shoulder. It was clear the shooter was trying to hit me and not the horses. A damned horse thief! If the tables got turned and I came out on top, the only proper thing to do was a hanging. That was a remedy I could respect.
     The mare was a strong swimmer, but I didn’t know about them other two, so I let her go and swum around to untie the gelding and the bay. Another piece of lead splashed not five feet from my face to the lee and I thought - This idiot cain’t shoot straight worth a damn. By the time I got to the gelding he was wild-eyed and liable to drown hisself. Blood was pouring out of that ear and I figure it was stinging like a fleet of mad hornets. That’s how sensitive ears are to getting shot.
   Being comfortable in water, I eased over to the horse’s side, keeping his bulky shape between me and whoever was popping off them rounds. If they was thieves, it wouldn’t pay to get careless and accidentally shoot one of the horses - so I was safe for the immediate time being.
     Hey you in the water, a Voice hollered.
     There was this big thicket over yonder and the Voice was down in the bush.
     The Voice said, Let them horses loose and back off to where I can see you. I ain’t got enough bullets to keep this up all day and one of them buggers is liable to git drowned.
    I pulled my long skinning knife from its sheath and cut the leader on the gelding so he was free, then swum upstream and cut loose the bay likewise. Now we was all on our own and in the hands of Fate, which is where we usually end up anyway.
     You hear me? I ain’t aiming to keep talking, said the Voice. Just let them ponies skeedattle and we’re finished with our bizness.
    One problem I foresaw just then was that my ammo was soaked and pretty much worthless. My best bet was to get ashore, and hope the horses had sense enough to follow. But the gelding was fired up and anything was liable to happen.
      My mare knew the hand that fed her and she was easy to coax, so I found her reins and she shielded me as we moved away from the shooter. There was plenty of brush on land and if I could keep myself from getting shot I’d probably make it out of there with at least the horse I rode in on.
      The bay followed suit but I looked up to see the gelding drifting downstream, crazy-eyed and full of impulsive fear. Cain’t say as I blamed him, neither; his ear being shot up and all.
       The Voice said, You don’t let them other two go and I’m gone have to kill you. Another round popped off but wadn’t aimed too good so that it slammed harmless into some deadwood.
      The Voice was getting angry and maybe a tad careless too. Best thing to do was steer the course and get the hell out of there as fast as permissible.
       Just then I felt bottom and the mare and me started making good time towards a line of cover, followed by the bay. In another few seconds, we’d be nigh impossible to hit for awhile. The gelding was almost 50 yards downstream and starting to panic. Probably hadn’t never been in deep water and didn’t know what to do about it. Then I seen a shadow moving along the opposite bank, attempting to reach the spot where it’d be easiest to snag that horse.
     Me and the mare pulled up behind some brush. I yanked the bay in behind us and tied her to a piece of snag. The shadow slipped out of cover and ran along the far shore, gaining ground on the gelding. I figured it’d take him about another two minutes to get close enough to make a go of it, so I mounted up and swung behind a line of cottonwoods along my side of the river. Come hell or high water, I was gonna keep a eye on that character and see what sort of opportunity presented itself.see what sort of opportunity presented itself. You never know when the tables might turn and it pays to be ready, just in case.
      The Voice appeared to be an older man wearing a floppy hat like you might see on a good for nothing sodbuster. By the way he was moving it looked to me like he’d been gunshot in one leg, as he ran sorta lopsided. Then again, he might’ve been old enough to have seen Indian action. You wouldn’t believe what a arrow will do to a femur; rips you right up. At any rate, he was out there in the open and I trotted down after him on my side of the river. If the gelding decided to go to the other shore, there wadn’t much I could do about it.
      That old codger was pretty shifty in some ways, but I don’t think brains favored him much, because as he neared the point along the river where it was possible to make a go at retrieving the gelding, he let loose his gun belt so as to keep his powder dry. All he had showing was a big blade like the kind made famous by Jim Bowie. Them things looked pretty powerful but actually weren’t much good for nothing except bluff and show.

The noose
We was midstream
in low water when a
goddamned bullet
lopped off part of
the gelding’s ear and that started a ruckus
the likes of which most
folks have
never imagined.
That beast reared up
more out of fear than
pain and started
kicking up a fuss,
which wadn’t a wrong
idea, considering that
where there’s
one bullet, more are
likely to follow.
    The mare held up and I dismounted, keeping real low so as to be out of view. I got my own knife back out and crawled on hands and knees through a big tangle of briars until I could see exactly what was transpiring. I still carry a scar or two on my face from them god-awful stickers; but at least I’m here to tell about it. Which is more than I can say for that chicken shit horse thief.
He started chatting up the horse, saying stuff like Whoa, boy! And, Come on, chuck-chuck. The usual idiotic horse talk that never did a lick of good. Horses are clever at reading a man, but they don’t give one damn about the English language.
      Come to me, you pretty thing, the Voice chortled. I shore am sorry I nicked yer ear, boy. I really am and I’m gone make it up to you, just git over here to the shore, says the Voice.
      But that gelding wadn’t buying such malarkey and started more of his previous thrashing, taking some water up the nose and having a real bad time of it. The only way that thief was gonna catch his prize was by getting in deep and taking control. And that’s the move I was waiting for.
      Like I learned from watching water moccasins, the way to enter a river without attracting attention is on your belly, real slow like. So I hitched the mare and crawled into the water without making a splash. The thief would be keeping his eyes on the gelding, creating something of a blind spot.
      Now, most folks will probably assume that what I intended was to slit that bastard’s skinny throat. But that wadn’t what I had in mind at all. Two grown men going at it with knives in a river is downright foolish, as anybody who’s ever done it will tell you. No, I wadn’t out to lose any skin, regardless how much I wanted that horse back.
      The Voice and my gelding were drifting along, splashing, making all kinds of noise. Being free of my boots, I swam easy enough, traveling underwater as much as possible so as not to be noticed. I made a line straight across so as to come ashore close to the spot where that peckerwood had dropped his shooter. When I got there it was just a matter of borrowing his rig and