It was summer now with the pressing responsibilities of winter and spring behind him. Most days now he rose early, strapped on the pearl handled revolver and rode up into the hills where the others would be waiting. The gun had been a gift from the man and woman who had raised him, as was the sleek black holster with the rawhide tiedown. It was shaped to fit low on his thigh and had a single large rivet holding the holster body to the belt. This was a benefit when riding with the tiedown applied as it afforded more freedom of movement. But it also had the advantage of allowing the holster to be swiveled into firing position without extracting the gun when the tiedown was left to hang. He had seen this done and was convinced it was the fastest method of delivering a first shot, especially if caught off-guard in a situation that required swift decisive action. He had practiced this for hours and was confident that he could execute all the required mechanics of pulling back the hammer, aiming and firing flawlessly.
Not that he wasn’t fast using the conventional draw. Very fast. Of the three that met on an almost daily basis to hone their skills he was without a doubt the fastest. And he liked to think he was the most accurate as well. He was the youngest of the three and reluctant to make too much of it, preferring to let them arrive at their own conclusions naturally. They were all young, the truth be known, but no one dedicated more time to their craft than the three of them, and their confidence was growing like the unmown grass of the pasture where they practiced.
The gun was his pride. The pearl handle, the detailed tooling on the silver body. He wanted to add notches to indicate his successes, but had heard from those older and more experienced than he that that was for tinhorns. He did not want to be thought of as a tinhorn. But it was the holster that gave him the most satisfaction. The row of loops on the back of the belt that held a dozen cartridges, secured on each end with a small silver Concho. The casings were silver with the business ends of brass. This was his trademark. The leather smelled good in the summer sun, and he oiled it regularly. Like others of his age, he wore the gun practically everywhere. If he were to be honest, he would feel naked without it. The one place it was strictly not allowed was in church. The minister had a lot of strong convictions and that was one of them. He never felt all that comfortable in church anyway, but felt compelled to go. This just added to his discomfort. A fellow felt exposed enough in the presence of the almighty without being disarmed as well. He was almost willing to risk the unfortunate result of attendance taking on the day of judgement if it meant that attendance here on earth could be a little more sporadic. But the other two went and he did not want to be thought less a man than they.
This morning was no different than most. He mounted up and rode off up the hill. Between his knees was the shiny black with splashes of white. His saddle was black with silver rivets and black rawhide ties. His saddlebags, too, were black with white western fringe and silver buckles. And these were outfitted for the day, including a hastily thrown together lunch and the last of the pie. “Ma”, as she was called, was strict in her own way, but she could make pie like nobody else.
He always enjoyed the rhythmic sound of riding, slow and labored for the trip up the steep incline, gliding almost effortlessly down the gentle slope and past the general store and restaurant that was one of the few commercial establishments in the small settlement. He had his choice of trails. He could take the long steady incline with the equally long switchback or he could walk his mount directly up the side of the bluff that was far too steep and rough to allow for riding. The latter was quicker, and as he was late arriving today he chose that. It was a stiff climb, and he was breathing heavily as he crested the hill and gazed out at the broad sweep of the pasture where the others were waiting. One of them, his brother, was twirling his gun around his finger and switching hands and putting on a show for the other who was clumsily try to copy the moves without much success. Though less sure handed than the two brothers, being bigger and stronger made that fellow a good one to have on your side in case of a scrap. And besides, he was good natured generally and all in all pleasant to be around when not crowded.
As he remounted for the short ride to where the others had secured their mounts he smiled slightly and breathed a little deeper to take in the smells of the pasture and the fresh summer air. He was happy. And on top of everything else, today was his birthday. He thought to himself as he put down the kickstand that he was glad it was summer…and that it was good to finally be eight.