Room and Board



Dear Readers:  This story is what we call a ‘fictionalized account’.  Something that did actually happen, one of my dad’s favorite stories from back in the day, except maybe not exactly like this and maybe a name or two was changed ‘cuz there are a few people who might recognize these folks. Plus it’s easier to just make things up.

William was a cowboy, a horse trainer, a farrier when necessary to make ends meet. Mostly, though, he was a hustler. He hustled games of pool and always managed to be at the bar when a generous soul ordered up a round of drinks for the house. He hustled a free cup of coffee from the waitress at the sale barn café. A free meal from the old lady down the road who didn’t mind trading a plate of beef stew and a slice of apple pie for the company of a good looking, charming young man. William even hustled a free bed when his buddy John was out of town.

John was out of town a lot. A big bruiser of a man, he could wrestle a steer with the best of them. He’d hit the professional rodeo circuit hard beginning in January, and spent most of the year traveling the country from show to show. Folks figured he was sure to capture the world championship before he was done. John’s wife stayed home to care for their small herd of cattle and horses. Back in those days, even the top hands barely won enough to keep the car full of gas and their belly full of beans. Her job at the court house kept the bills paid more often than not. William kept John’s side of the bed warm.

It got to be a regular routine. John’s horse trailer would barely disappear over the hill before William’s dusty old Ford would rattle down the driveway. People in town couldn’t help but notice, but nobody wanted to be the one to tell big John what was going on. Still, it was only a matter of time before word got out.

One day, early in the fall, it finally happened. William was sitting in the sale barn café, reading the newspaper he’d borrowed from old man Johnson and sipping the coffee he’d persuaded the waitress to ‘warm up’ one more time. The door swung open and there stood John, hands on hips. Everyone held their breath and prepared to get the heck out of the way as he headed straight to William’s table.

“We need to talk,” John declared.

William scooted his chair back, debating his chances of getting to the exit in one piece. “Uh, sure John. Whatcha want to talk about?”

“This.” John slapped one big hand flat on William’s chest with enough force to almost knock him over backward, chair and all. The piece of paper John had held fluttered to the floor.

William squinted down at it. “What’s that?”

“A bill. I figure if you’re gonna spend more time at my house than I do, you should at least chip in a third of the rent.”

And with that, John turned around and strode out of the café.


Kari Lynn Dell – Montana for Real