Nightmare on the Mesa
by Pirate Turner
He was riding out on the mesa that fateful day when he first heard it. The horrible sound of an animal in pain sent the birds flying in one great flock that even included the buzzards. Kid was rather surprised to see the death birds wringing their way away from what would normally be their prey, but as the bellowing rose, he thought perhaps even they weren't hungry enough to sustain putting up with such terrible racket.
He gathered his courage to him and rode closer to the noise as the inhabitants of the mesa all flew, hopped, ran, and slithered pass him. All were running away as though some terrible monster had crashed into their homeland, but Kid rode on, his curiosity dangerously piqued.
As he came closer, he began to make out the sounds more clearly. They weren't the final screams of a dying animal, he realized; Dakota was singing again. Though he would never have dreamed it possible, he sounded even worse than when he'd attempted to woo Miss Kate. Cowlorado's heart sank. Kate had to be the heifer he was serenading now, and yet, just two days before, their best friend had . . .
"Mmmmoooooooooooo . . . "
Cowlorado froze. The color drained from his furry face, making him, for just a brief moment, look pure white. He tried to swallow but couldn't fight his way pass the lump in his throat that felt like a bullet. No, it couldn't be!
Yet, as Dakota sang on and Cowlorado listened, scarcely daring to breathe, it became clear that Dakota's song of love was indeed intended for none other than their shared best friend, Marshall Moo Montana. Cowlorado gulped for air as his brain spun. It couldn't be, but yet it was! Dakota loved Moo too, and like himself, those feelings would never be reciprocated for Moo was a bull for the ladies. Compassion filled the Kid's heart as he remembered just who Moo had courted only two days before.
But it didn't make sense, his brain argued. How could Dakota love both Moo and Kate? Maybe he didn't love Kate. Maybe she was just a cover for his true affections, like the many heifers he himself had chased so that the guys would think he was one of them and only inept at actually catching one. Had he truly wanted to make one of them his, he would have bedded little Suzy the first night out, but heifers held little to no interest for him. Of all the heifers on the mesa, he only ever paid real attention to two. He tolerated Lily and liked Miss Kate for her strength and strong attitude; he expected those were the same values Dakota admired in her as a friend.
But, oh, how his heart would break when he found out that Kate had the bull they both wanted! He knew all too well the pain of loving Moo but knowing he'd never return that love. Cowlorado edged his horse quietly forward, his ears swiveling in their attempts to catch all hints of sound so as to not be taken by surprise.
Brush suddenly crunched underneath his horse's hooves, and both rider and steed froze. Dakota had stopped singing, but he didn't inspect the noise. Kid frowned. He had to have heard them, but he wasn't coming after them. That wasn't like Dakota at all.
After waiting through several long minutes where he barely dared to even twitch a muscle, Cowlorado dismounted and, gathering all his courage to him, went on silent, trodden foot to investigate. He crouched behind some bushes, then pulled the branches apart. He had to readjust to get a clear view for the cacti in front of him.
When he finally spied Dakota, Cowlorado froze again. His heart, which had lodged itself in his throat up until now, shot pass his spotted boots as it shattered into a million pieces. Tears filled his eyes as he bit his tongue to keep from screaming his agony aloud. His stomach shot into his mouth, and his shocked brain whirled. Tears poured down his furry face, and a pitiful moo broke from his lips.
The two bulls up ahead did not even notice. They only continued to kiss, completely lost in their shared passion. Cowlorado scampered to his horse, then rode away, vowing to never look back or ever again face the men he'd considered to be his best friends. They didn't want him, and they surely didn't need him. Cowlorado wailed as he galloped on, neither knowing nor caring where he was going. He only knew he had to get away.