Bravado sometimes only an act

Bud and Kathy ride horses, of course, but they also like to ride mules, especially in rough country.

Awhile back they bought a new mule, and Bud was ready to try him out. Kathy knew she couldn’t quite trust the one they already had but she didn’t know the new one at all, so she rode the original, Old Lonesome.

The dog went along, of course, sniffing at gopher holes, bushes and everything else he found interesting along the way.

Late spring put its special zing in the air. Her mule behaved himself fairly well, so Kathy relaxed a little and enjoyed the fresh mountain smells and the scenery. The new mule Bud was riding handled all right. Life was good.

Until the dog found a porcupine.

More to the point, the porcupine found him. He yelped in pain and ran toward Bud and Kathy, his face loaded with quills.

Kathy’s mule came unglued. Kathy is a good rider, so she stayed with him through the first few jumps, but then he made a spectacular leap and dumped her into a pile of rocks. Old Lonesome headed for home.

Bud’s mule, of course, didn’t appreciate the storm and tried to take off after Old Lonesome. As they lurched by, Bud yanking back on the reins, he yelled, “You all right?”

Kathy, true to the Code of the West, answered, “I think so,” while trying to pick herself up.

Bud finally got the new mule stopped and turned around. Kathy had managed to get to her feet. Have you noticed guys think you’re okay if you’re upright? Your body may be mangled, but if you’re standing they assume you’re fine.

Bud looked from the dog to Kathy. Old Lonesome was long gone. “Can you make it to the house?” he asked. (This question was directed at Kathy, but he was looking at the dog.)

Again Kathy said, “I think so.”

So Bud carefully laid the dog across his saddle swells and headed for the house — about half a mile.

Kathy took a couple of steps before she realized her leg hurt — really bad. Nothing to do but try to get home. That mountain scenery, so nifty a few minutes ago, wasn’t so great from her new viewpoint down among the grass, weeds — and rocks.

She trekked out, each step more painful than the last, and the last hundred yards were pure torture. Bud, pliers in hand and dog in his lap, said, “We’re gonna hafta take him to the vet.” He looked closer at Kathy and again said, “You all right? You look awful.”

She really wanted to hear that! “I’m not good,” she admitted.

Bud loaded Kathy and the dog in the pickup and they headed for town. They went by the veterinarian’s place first.

It turned out Kathy’s leg was fractured. She says next time she’s in a wreck and somebody asks if she’s okay, she’s gonna ignore the Code of the West and say, “No, I’m not okay.”