This is a school project that our reader and guest writer Evelyn did. She made an A+ on it. I enjoyed reading it so much I asked her if I could post it here. Thanks so much for sharing this, Evelyn, and congrats on your good grade!
“Wanted, young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.” Charles Winston read, frowning slightly. “Huh. I’ll be. $25 a week?” A smile crept across his features, pulling chapped lips into a weary grin.
“A man can get rich that way,” Winston chuckled, talking to no one in particular. He was still young, probably no older than nineteen. Blond hair rested over dark eyes, denying any attempt to be tamed by a brush. He rubbed his chin, feeling the roughness of unkept stubble. He sighed, dropping his hand. “I could do with a little extra money...” Winston glanced back at the poster tacked on the station door, debating with himself.
“Awww, what the hell,” Winston groaned, pushing open the pony express station’s door. Dust swirled as the door swung open, cloaking his boots and lower pant legs in a dusky brown film. A tall, dark haired man looked up as Winston stepped inside, his head bent over a cup of coffee.
“I’m here for employment. You’re hiring?” Winston smiled. The man nodded, took a long sip, and set down his now-empty cup on a wooden table with a sigh. He leant back on a cupboard, his arms crossed over his chest with an easy grin.
“Most people are- we don’t get a lot of business. Five dollars is a lot to pay for a scrap of a letter.” the man chuckled. “I’m Buck Jenson, one of the riders here. And you are?” Buck offered his hand to shake, appraising Winston with an inquisitive look.
“Charles Winston,” Winston smiled, taking his hand. His hand was callused- a working man’s hand, and a worker who worked hard.
“Charles. Or do you prefer something else?”
“Call me Winston- Charles just reminds me of more than I need to remember,” Winston smiled sheepishly, running a hand through his wayward strands of hair.
“Winston then,” Buck smiled. “I know that look. As long as you’re not running from the law, you’re good and I won’t ask anything more. Well, make yourself at home. Mr. Howell’s off to God knows where, but he’s bound to be back soon. I’m not the one hiring- he is.”
Winston nodded, looking around the room. A series of steps led up from the kitchen, probably leading up to a bunking room. From a window, Winston could see a stable and a beaten path leading off, presumably the trail to be taken out during a mail run.
“Here- coffee?” Buck asked, raising the half-empty pot.
“Yeah, thanks,” Winston nodded, taking a cup. The dark liquid swirled, forming abstract designs among the grounds. He took a tentative sip, noting either an obvious preference for coffee grounds or a solid lack of taste buds.
“Who else..?” Winston began.
“Works here?” Buck grinned, finishing his sentence. “Kelley Hoffman, he’s out on a run, Chad Wilson, and Sam McKay. If you join, there’ll be five of us. ‘Cept for Mr. Howell, but then, he doesn’t really count-”
“Oh I don’t, do I?” Came a voice from the doorway. A brisk, pale man stood at the door, taking in Winston with piercing blue eyes. He could have been a rider, though his clothes were well cut and clean. Buck grinned wolfishly and lowered his head, avoiding the stationmaster’s direct gaze.
“Winston, you said, was it?” Mr. Howell, asked watching Winston with an uncomfortably sharp gaze.
“Yessir,” Winston shifted his weight, but didn’t break the man’s look. Howell just looked at him for a few more moments, before sighing and turning around to pull open a drawer on a close cabinet. He withdrew a sheet of paper and a pen, putting the paper on a desk and tapping it. “Can you read? You don’t have to read well, just enough to get around.”
“Yessir, well enough to get the idea,” Winston replied.
“Well,” Howell sighed. “Do you hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during your engagement, and while you are an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, you will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that you will drink no intoxicating liquors, that you will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect you will conduct yourself honestly, be faithful to your duties, and so direct all your acts as to win the confidence of your employers, so help you God?” He said this all in two breaths. Winston nodded, raising his right hand.
“I do,” he said. Howell surveyed Winston again, nodded once, and slapped an aged and beaten bible on the desk in front of him.
“You’re hired then. You’re issued one Navy Colt- don’t use it unless you need to. You’ve got two cylinders in case of an emergency. Of course, if you have your own revolver you can use that too, but keep it light. Your pony will be your main defense against an attack. If your pony dies or is wounded, you carry the mochila -mail pouch- and walk to the nearest station. Got that?” Winston nodded again. Howell sighed, and walked back towards the doorway.
“Your first ride is tomorrow, to Horse Creek. If you do your job well, I can trust you to carry military documents. The boys will keep an eye on you if you need help, but you’re likely to catch on fast.” Buck grinned like a jackal over his refilled coffee cup, one thick eyebrow hitching above the other.
“Buck, quit scaring the kid,” Howell sighed, and closed the door behind him as he left. There was a moment of silence as Winston looked around, feeling awkward and out of place.
“Well, let’s get you upstairs and all moved in. You can meet Sam and Will as well. They’re good old boys, you’ll be fine,” Buck smiled encouragingly, and started up the stairs. Winston followed slower, suddenly nervous about what they’d think of him. But before he had any time to reconsider, he was in the bunk and standing in the doorway with Buck Jensen, meeting his new colleagues.
Two men playing cards over a table placed between two rows of bunk beds, looked up, startled. They both were rough men, though small, the bigger man even sporting a black eye. The slighter man looked up appraisingly, small mouth tight.
“Boys, this is Winston,” Buck gestured, leaning casually against the door. “The impish one is Sam McKay, and the one who looked like he just crawled out of a pub is Chad Wilson.” Buck smirked, motioning to the man with the black eye. Chad smiled and ducked his head. Despite the black eye, he seemed fairly easy going.
“Impish? Should I list off your traits?” Sam glared.
“No, no,” Buck rushed, looking alarmed. “Let’s not get into this right now.” Sam shot one last seething look at Buck and returned to his cards, completely ignoring Winston. That was fine by him. Chad was more inquisitive, but then, he seemed to be easier to get along with.
“Don’t get too polite Sam, or you’ll scare ‘im off,” Buck commented dryly. “You’ve still got the rest of the team to meet.”
“Our better half,” Chad chuckled.
“Women?” Winston joked.
“Oh, don’t we wish,” Chad grinned. “Horses. We could do with a woman around here though- I don’t think this room has seen a broom in a few months.”
“Horses or women, we still have to put up with a load of crap,” Sam grumbled over his hand.
“Ten dollars he fancies men,” Buck murmured, startling a laugh out of Winston.
“I’ll pass, thanks,” Winston grinned. Before Sam could make a retort, Buck was pulling him down the stairs again, and out a side door.
“Don’t worry about Sam- his bark is worse than his bite. He’s not always like that. Sometimes he’s asleep,” Buck winked, talking casually as they paced across the backyard.
“That’s comforting,” Winston grinned back. As soon as they stepped in the barn, Winston was immediately assaulted by the fresh and comforting scent of new hay, grain, and horse flesh.
“These are our other partners,” Buck smiled, walking over to the nearest stall. A long, starred nose pressed against Buck’s shirt, snorting at the smells that must have been harbored there. “We get new ones occasionally, and of course we always have to switch out, but the same faces somehow always wind up coming back. This is Tanner.”
He was a long legged chestnut, with large liquid eyes. Turning to Winston, he snuffled around his hand, before settling on nibbling his pant pocket. Chuckling at the feeling, Winston pulled from his pocket an aged dried piece of fruit. Probably a slice of apple at some point, but it was gone before Buck could look any closer. Satisfied, Tanner backed up, turning in his stall to wander to an outside corral.
“He’s Chad’s horse- try not to get too attached.” Buck chuckled.
“I’ll try. Who’s this?” Winston smiled, gesturing to a stocky strawberry roan. The horse eyed him warily, ears flat against his skull.
“Benton. Stay away from him. He’s Sam’s. Not all that hard to guess, I’m sure.” Buck smirked. He walked past the roan, ignoring the horse’s evident effort to knock down the stall door. They stopped at the stall of a bay gelding, who tossed his head before butting Buck with obvious affection.
“Now this is Ike. Personally I’d say he’s the best, but that’s what we all say about our own ponies. The one in the stall to your right is Ace- Kelley’s- the black one.” A restless stallion who’d been inching closer to Winston’s exposed back stilled, huffing a breath of warm horse breath in Buck’s face.
“Keep an eye on him. Kelley won him at a card game- it’s how he got his name. If that’s not an indication on Kelley himself, I don’t know what is.” Buck winced. “As for you...” Buck eyed him thoughtfully. “Come look at Felix. You should be a good match.”
The older man led him down past another stall, stopping at one containing a buckskin stallion. The horse hung back for a moment before snuffling closer, curiosity getting the better of him. Whiskers tickled Winston’ face as Felix lipped his hair, causing him to laugh. Buck watched with a smile.
“Well? Take a look at him,” Buck raised an eyebrow, unhooking the stall door. Winston slipped inside, smiling as Felix whinnied. He checked his teeth, his hoofs, and brushed down his coat with his hands. After a few minutes getting to know the horse, Winston looked up, grinning.
“He’ll do nicely. Thank you.”
“I thought he would,” Buck admitted, bracing his frame against the stall door. “I’m glad we’ve got some new blood in the mix. Welcome to the pony express kid.”
I can now easily say that I do not own any of the Young Riders’ characters, and the fact that Buck Jenson’s first name was the same as another fictional pony express rider was purely coincidental. Buck Jenson isn’t even Native American- he’s from Missouri. (I didn’t quite know where I could fit that in...) I only watched Young Riders after I’d written that particular section. Honest.
I will, however, admit that Ike’s name was not as unintentional as Buck’s was. I couldn’t resist. ;p If you have any expressions of distaste, allow me to point out that Ike was a human, not a horse in the TV series. Also, I owe a good bit to ‘Gina Shelley, the talented and creative genius behind the blog Five Dollar Mail. Thank you for your time and helpful information.
© 2010 Evelyn
"He took a tentative sip, noting either an obvious preference for coffee grounds or a solid lack of taste buds. "
Ah. An alumni of The Wash Monahan School of Culinary Arts.
'Wonder what the student-body count is? :]
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