It was so bright out that even the shadows were casting their own dark replicas. Not a cloud in the sky and not a sign of the strays Hooter was prowling for.
“You sure you counted right?” wondered Peetie Womack, who was grimacing astride his favorite paint. By this time in his life, Peetie was more accustomed to skirting the edges of his own pastures in a Cadillac, rather than bouncing through the brush on top of a horse. He'd done his share of that in his younger days, but it had been awhile. So, he was surprised but glad when Hooter had invited him to ride along.
“Well,” chuckled Hooter, “I counted right, far as you know, so there's got to be three more here somewhere. What's the matter, you getting saddle sore already? You know what they say, the outside of a horse is good for the insides of the man riding him.”
“Just curious,” said Peetie.
They rode along in silence. “Your wife told me you took a trip to the doctor,” ventured Hooter. “Said you've been awful glum ever since. Me and the boys have noticed it to. Anything you in need of getting off your chest?”
“That woman could out-chatter a magpie,” said Peetie gruffly. “And has, by the way. What kind of gain did you get with all this rain, anyway?”
“Oh, about 1.3,” replied Hooter. “I've got to say I was a little surprised, what with as wet as it's been.”
“Isn't that the truth,” said Peetie. “Why I don't ever remember a summer where we've had as much moisture. You know…”
His horse crow-hopped to the side as three fat-as-a-toad javelinas spooked from the brush to his right. Peetie managed to stay on, albeit with a foot in his left stirrup, but his right leg draped across the swells of his saddle, turned about half-backwards and looking like he had his legs crossed.
“Good huntin',” said Hooter, trying with all of his might to keep from laughing. “I haven't seen any of those javvies in here for a long spell.”
Peetie was trying to get himself rearranged as inconspicuously as possible; about like showing up at the church social without your britches and trying to fit in.
“Anyway, no more than you like doctors, you may want to take a tighter wrap,” chuckled Hooter. “Speaking of doctors, by the way…”
Peetie was red with embarrassment. “I'll tell you what I'll do, Hooter. I'll tell you exactly what my doctor told me, since you seem so bent on sticking your nose into my business. I sure will, but only after you tell me why the Lubbock police were out to visit you. That's what your aunt Pinky told my wife.”
It was Hooter's turn to pink up. “I should have known that Aunt Pinky would find out and go to jabbering. I'll tell you, but I'm guessing you won't believe it.”
Peetie's mood lightened a bit. “You forget who you're talking to, Hooter. With you, there's not much I wouldn't believe.”
“Well sir, apparently there are some fairly strict rules about how you're supposed to go about making a citizen's arrest. According to the police department's lawyers there may even be some question about whether or not you can do such a thing in this fair state of ours.”
“A citizen's arrest,” said Peetie, pondering the notion as he pulled his horse to a stop. “I have to say I've never heard of anyone trying that before.”
“Well, that's what it was about. Now, about your doctor…”
“No sir, Hooter, I want the whole story. Deal's a deal.”
Hooter stepped off his horse, dropped the reins and fished a thermos out of his saddlebag. After offering Peetie a cup he continued.
“I was driving to Lubbock, not in the best of moods I might add. You get out on that main highway and I swear people drive like they don't have good sense, people cutting in and out of traffic, hitting their brakes for no apparent reason.
So, I'm about five miles from the city limits, coming up on some roadwork, where the two lanes merge into one. I look in my rear view and I see somebody in a SUV hit the gas and try to pass two cars behind me, and me, to get ahead of us. That seemed rather rude so I hit the gas, too. Long story short, this idgit chickens out, had to lock them up and got stuck behind the cars he was trying to pass.”
“And that's why the police came?”
“I'm getting to that. When we get through the road work, I'm watching my rear-view and sure enough here comes that same SUV on high, pulls up beside me long enough to honk, give me the finger, and mouth some things that I know in my heart were un-Christian. So, I take off after him. And, wouldn't you know it, this guys zips around a cattle truck about the time I hear the siren behind me.”
“So, they got you for speeding is all?” wondered Peetie, really getting caught up in the story now.
“I swear, Peetie, if there's one thing worse than a gossip, it's an impatient one. I'm getting to that.”
“Well sir, this Lubbock policeman pulls me over for speeding alright. I tell him as calmly as I can what happened. And, I ask him how fast I was going. He tells me he didn't have his radar on, but knows I was going too fast. It's possible that I got a little riled about that. Long story short, he reckons how he won't give me a speeding ticket but he will give me a citation for not wearing my seat belt.”
“They're getting tough on that, alright,” agreed Peetie. “It's a state law, you know.”
“Do tell. I asked the officer how me not wearing a seat belt endangered the lives of other folks on the road. He kept writing his ticket. So, I ask him if it's still illegal to make a turn without using a turn signal. He says it is. So, I tell him while he's had his nose stuck in that ticket book, writing me up for supposedly being a danger to myself inside my own car, I've counted four folks turning on to the off-ramp just ahead of us without using a signal. Then I ask him if he thinks his time might be better spent stopping folks like that, who are endangering others, instead of looking for folks who might be launched through their windshields when they have to stop suddenly to avoid hitting folks who are turning without giving any indication.
“Anyhow, somewhere in there he gets to shouting at me. And when I go to get out of the pickup he blocks the way. So I tell him when I get out I'm arresting him for harassment, and if he's not careful I'm going to get him for assault, too.”
Peetie rolled his eyes and let out a soft whistle.
“About then, some little red car goes blasting by like a cat with its tail on fire. The cop runs for his car and yells at me to wait where I am. I holler at him that he can't leave because I've got him under citizen's arrest, and I've got his badge number. Off he goes.”
“So, you left?”
“Of course I left. I didn't have all day. But I stapled a feed sack to the road sign there, telling him he was still under arrest.”
“So that's what the police came for?”
“They gave you a ticket, then”
“Yep, for not wearing a seat belt. They said that was getting off easy because of this statute and that one dealing with citizen's arrest, and how what I had done could be construed as threatening an officer of the law, and a bunch of other hocus pocus gibberish.”
Peetie thought for a minute. “And, you're not going to pay the ticket, are you?”
“Nope. I told my lawyer about it. He said he'd enjoy them getting frisky.”
Peetie laughed harder than he had in weeks.
“Your turn,” said Hooter, getting back on his horse.
With a little more encouragement Peetie told Hooter that the news from the hospital wasn't catastrophic, but he had to start taking some heart medication and had to go on a restricted diet, including giving up his Blue Bell ice cream. All in all, he said it boiled down to the fact that he was getting older and wouldn't be able to do things like he always had.
When Peetie finished telling him, it was Hooter's turn to laugh. “Lord, Peetie, I'd hate to see how long your face would get if something really bad happened to you. Every day that goes by there's things none of us can do like we did the day before, but there's a bunch of other stuff that we can do that we couldn't before, if we're paying attention.”
By now Peetie noticed that they had been riding again. He looked at the sun. “Hooter, aren't we riding the wrong way, back toward the gate instead of to where those strays might be?”
“You know, Peetie, it dawned on me that you were probably right. I bet I miscounted. It's been worth the ride though, hasn't it?”