Short Story Fiction
The Man From Piney Woods
Scott A. Gese

He came out of East Texas. The Red River area, land of the piney woods.

the man from piney woodsSkeeze/Pixabay

His roots were well established in the deep South, Louisiana bayou country. Some considered East Texas an extension of that area. He had made his way into Texas five years ago. Now he was heading further west, looking for adventure.

He found more than he expected.

His name was Tyler Jones. He was the wandering type. Never satisfied to settle down in any one place for too long. This latest stretch of five years was long enough as far as Tyler was concerned. Working as a hired hand on a cattle ranch was getting old.

He was itching to get back in the saddle and move on.

Heading to California was something he had on his mind for some time now. He had been chewing on the thought of giving his notice and mounting up for the better part of a week now, but he needed to drum up the courage to tell his boss. He finally found it one morning after breakfast, before he was to start a full day branding calves.

He didn’t give a notice. Never planned to. He just walked up to the ranch foreman and told him he was done. He would pack his belongings and be gone within the hour.

The foreman didn’t appreciate the sudden notice or the timing. He gave Tyler a piece of his mind before he made him cough up four bits for the breakfast. The anticipation of hitting the trail again was worth it. He paid the man and gathered up his bedroll from the bunkhouse, strapped it to his saddle and mounted up.

He purposely meandered past the corrals where the branding was taking place. Several of the men cursed him for leaving them with the extra work. Several others secretly wished it was them up on that horse. Only one gave him a proper farewell.

Orley Boggs was a good man. Everyone called him “Ornery” even though it was far from his true nature.

When he shook Tyler’s hand, he let him in on a secret. “I’ll be right behind you in a week or two.” They agreed to meet up in a small Arizona town Tyler was heading for. It was called Jasper and could be found just over the New Mexico line.


Tyler took his time. California would be there when he arrived, whenever that might be. He was enjoying the freedom and fresh air of this wide open space. He was in no hurry.

Once he reached Jasper he set up camp along the trail just outside of town and waited for a long month, but Orley never showed.

“Maybe he got cold feet, or maybe it just took him longer to chew on those quitting words. He either spit them out and moved on or he swallowed them and stayed. Either way, he ain’t here,” Thought Tyler on the morning he packed it in and hit the trail once again.


It was true. Orley did chew on those quitting words. He chewed on them for so long, they finally dissolved in his mouth.

He never did find those words again.

It was a full month after Tyler had left before Orley gathered up what courage he could muster and did the same. Thing is, he took the easy way out. He had gone out early one morning searching for maverick’s and just kept on going.

No one back at the ranch ever knew what happened to him.

He figured he was too late to find Tyler, so when he came to Jasper, he blew right on by, only stopping long enough to pick up a few supplies.

He was in Arizona when he rode into a small town called Shedd. It wasn’t much of a town. Looked like it might have started out as a mining camp and was growing some. A few shacks and a couple of storage buildings stood just outside of town, two saloons, a general store and a jail were further in. Orley wouldn’t be staying any longer than he needed to. He was wanting to get to California.

It was early morning when he arrived. The town was barely awake. As he rode down the street he heard someone call out, “Hey Ornery.”

At first he thought he was hearing things. He scanned the area until his eyes came to rest on what must have been the jailhouse. There was a narrow passageway between it and the saloon next door. Someone called out again from behind the barred window. He could see an arm motioning for him to come closer. He rode toward the window and was surprised to see it was Tyler.

Orley couldn’t believe it. “What the heck are you doing behind them bars?” He asked.

“Orley, I’ve been framed for murder. They’re planning to hang me without so much as a fair trial. Get me the hell out of here. I left my horse at the livery three days ago. Hopefully it’s still there.”

Orley agreed to help his friend. He stopped off at the livery to leave his horse for a few hours. He noticed Tyler’s horse in one of the stalls.

Just after sundown there was a commotion in town. The dry goods warehouse on the edge of town was on fire. Everyone in town ran to man the fire line.

Everyone except Orley.

He stopped by the livery and grabbed his and Tyler’s horses and headed for the jailhouse.

The sheriff was on the fire line, so it was just a matter of finding the keys, which he did.

The distraction and escape worked perfectly.

That night two good friends rode on to California.

© Copyright 2024 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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