Windy Gus and Crabby Pete  
by Michael L. Charters  


Now Windy Gus were a Texas man
With eyes as black as coal.
He had a head of curlin' hair,
And a simple, gentle soul.
He come from down Laredo way.
No one is sure jest where.
He 'peared one day in early May,
Atop a dragged out mare.
The boys and me we looked with glee
At that wonder to behold.
He wadn't tall, he wadn't short,
And his face was worn and old.
He slowly came up through the gate,
And tipped his hat at us,
Then jumped down off his horse right quick,
And said, "The name is Gus."
"I'm lookin' fer a friend o' mine,
They call him Crabby Pete.
I reck'n he's 'bout the best cowman
You'd ever like to meet."
"I ain't seen him in many a year,
But he could rightly rope and ride.
I guess he were pret' near the tops
At most anythin' he tried."
"We shore spent a lot of time down there
Jest bustin' through the brush,
Then on the sudden one fine day,
He plumb took off in a rush."
"He didn't like to set hisself
In one place fer all too long.
Ya'd think that he were doin' fine,
Then he'd jest be gone."
"I don't know where he got to,
I don't know where he went.
I 'spect he found somewheres to work
To satisfy his rent."
"Well, by and by the years rolled on
And I jest forgot about old Pete.
I had a place to work and sleep,
And I had a place to eat."
"Then one snowy day here comes this gray,
With a cowpoke from up 'round here,
Who spins us a tale of a man named Pete,
And it were Crabby Pete it's clear."
"He said Pete come up north to get a job,
When his work in Texas quit.
And when his grubsteak disappeared,
He 'bout had a fit."
"The story that come down to me
Were that Pete was dang near through,
And I pondered how I could help him out,
And find a life that's new."
Gus straightened up and scratched his neck,
And shuffled in the dust,
And when he took his Stetson off,
His hair was all a'mussed.
"I hear'd tell of a spread called the Bar KK,
Hit's down near San Antone.
They're lookin' for some men, they say,
That boss he's all alone."
"The cowpokes jest up and left one day,
Is the story that I hear'd.
The cook was out to get 'em,
And death was what they feared."
"The food there was so bad, they say,
They couldn't do their chores.
And when the chuck bell went to ring,
It were like goin' to the wars."
We stood there in that dusty yard
And shared a smoke or two.
No one went to speak real quick,
And the silence jest kinda grew.
We din't want to speak right out
And scare him off the place,
So I fixed a look of puzzlement
Acrost my worried face.
Gus kept on with his story,
While we all looked around,
And besides the words that he bespoke,
You couldn't hear a sound.
"Now that cook's fired, and a new one hired,
And I aim to sign on soon.
So I'll be headin' back that way
Towards the end of June."
He plucked a piece of old dried grass
And put it in his mouth.
"It ain't that I don't like it here,
But I'd be better off down south."
"I thought I'd try to find old Pete,
As a pal he were tried and true.
I guess I'm gettin' kinda tired
Of friends that only moo."
"I s'posed that he might jest go back
Down the Guadalupe way,
To push some cows and ride the range,
And mebbe make some pay."
"He's a right old cheat, that Crabby Pete,
And he might'a caused a fuss.
He's shore been in some scraps like me,
And he's been known to cuss."
"I wonder if you've saw him here,
Or if'n you've heard a tale.
Might be he's around somewheres.
Might be he's in jail."
Gus pulled a wanted poster
From outa his saddle bag.
It showed a man jest sittin' there
Up on a scrawny nag.
"This here's old," Gus said with a grin,
"No one wants him anyhow.
He used to be a handsome scamp;
He might look diff'rent now."
We offered Gus a place to sleep,
And a bare spot to set his roll.
Then we tied his mare with a real good knot
To that old wood hitchin' pole.
"I shore could use some chuck," he said,
"That trail was mighty dry.
I felt so doggone dragged out there
I thought I's bound to die."
"Yes, I'm hungrier than a corn-fed snake,"
He declared with a rimpled smile.
"I've eaten much of nothin'
For nigh on twenty mile."
We looked each other up and down,
No one spoke out a word.
It were a techy situation, so
We made like we hadn't heard.
It wadn't that we didn't care,
We'd a'liked to feed him up.
There jest was somethin' that we knew,
And 'sides, we'd already had our sup.
"Come on now boys, I'm grumblin' bad,
You gotta help me out.
I cain't make it till tomorrow,
And there's no saloon heres about."
"The cook's not here," someon' finally said,
"He skedaddled right 'round four.
But we got some leavin's here somewheres.
There really tain't much more."
Gus ate a plate of beans, then two.
Some cold coffee went down fast.
A piece of beef, and biscuits too.
Seems he had to make it last.
He downed a bunch of white skunk eggs,
All gravied up real fine,
Then he grinned and burped, and said right out,
"That's the way I like to dine."
"I shorely do appreciate
The way you filled me up.
But mebbe you could put a drop
Of redeye in this here cup."
Well, late that night the fire was gone,
And the boys was sleeping sound.
The stars was out, the wind was down,
And there was coyotes all around.
Suddenly old Gus jumps up and cries,
"I plumb feel mighty queer.
My belly's all a'tumble,
Is there a backhouse near?"
Now Gus was gone fer quite some time,
But finally he came back.
And he was walkin' sorta slowly
Along that dusty track.
He sank down on his old bedroll
And gave up a groan or two.
"That chuck ya offered treated me
Jest like a horntoad stew."
"Mebbe you're used to it by now,
But how do ya eat sech food?
I guess I shouln't go to fussin' none,
And I don't like bein' rude."
"But your sallie must be a real greenhorn
To serve up sech a plate.
And eatin' grub that acts like that...
It's just a'temptin' fate."
Gus went to the backhouse once't agin,
Then we got to beddin' down.
He laid there while the moon came up,
His face a wrinkled frown.
Ever' now and then we'd hear somethin'
Besides a coyote's cry,
Rumblin' from beneath his roll
In that night so still and dry.
Well, by morning we'd moved off aways,
And he was most all alone.
When he peeked his head out in th' air,
Even the birds had flown.
"How 'bout some grub," he heard a call,
And it were a voice he'd heard before.
It were the very same old Crabby Pete
That he'd been a'lookin' for.
He had an old white apron on,
And was holdin' a coffee pot,
And from the steam risin' in th' air,
Gus could tell that it was hot.
Pete stood there peerin' down at Gus
With a grin that split his face,
And Gus looked right back up at him
With a sour incensed grimace.
"Don't tell me you're the cook," Gus said,
"After that rough night I had.
I've ate some chuck that din't agree,
But that was pretty bad."

Pete settled down beside him,
And reached out a grimy hand.
His teeth was bent, his hair was wild,
And his face was cracked and tanned.

"The boys tole me that you come up
To drag me to the Bar KK.
But they don't want to see me there,
Not since they fired me that day."
"I'd cowpunched there fer a spell
When our cook went off and died.
He were shore an ace-high beanmaster,
And the boys jest broke and cried."
"They needed someone mighty quick,
Someone who could cook,
So the bossman lopes on up to me,
And throws me a cookin' book."
"Well, I'd never wrangled a pot or pan,
But I said I'd give a try.
It truly didn't work out well,
And those boys was fit to tie."
"They took to eatin' out on the range
Instead of comin' back.
They'd stay off there for days on end,
Sleeping on their tack."
"You see, my cookin' jest weren't right,
And it made most ever'body ill.
So them cowpokes plain scooted off,
And even took the grill."
"Now it's true that the food was perty bad,
And might make ya take a pill.
But I done learnt a thing or two,
And now we eat our fill."
Pete stood up and poured a cup
Of coffee thick as mud.
He dropped a biscuit in my hand.
It landed with a thud.
"I cain't go back down that Texas way,
So how 'bout stayin' here?
I'll give ya all the grub you need.
Hit ain't a bad career."


Backhouse - privy
Beanmaster - cook
Chuck - food
Redeye - whiskey
Sallie - cook
Skunk eggs - onions

© 2010 M. Charters, Sierra Madre, CA.