When Earl Dean and Lucille emerged from their tent early the next morning, Spud stood in the corral with the saddled buffalo looking like he was readying to leave. A water bag was tied to the back of the saddle. Earl Dean was too concerned about his own busting head to mount any kind of a resistance so he held back. Lucille approached him.
“What do you think you’re doing, Spud?” she asked.
Spud put his boot toe in the stirrup and swung his leg over the saddle. The saddle groaned and his spurs jingled―the buffalo grunted. He gathered up the reins and then he straightened his hat before he spoke. He looked into the coming dawn. “I been up all night mullin’ things over. Here’s what I come to―I’m gonna ride this here buffalo to my ma and pa’s place.”
Lucille did not respond. She was too tired.
“I figger there’s only two things you can do now―either turn ‘em lose or hide ‘em―so I’m-a gonna take the old skutter home and hide ‘em for ya.” He watched Lucille’s face. He was pleased to see her eyes glimmer with tears. “The old buff’s rested up good and he’s grained good, and so am I,” he said and then he smiled and patted his stomach. “We’re cuttin’ cross country,” He moved his hand in a dramatic sweep. Lucille smiled. “. . . Gonna avoid towns and most folks. Don’t know how long it’ll take―travelin’ light. Shoot my supper if I get that hungry. That is if you’ll give me back my cartridges.” He smiled at her.
Lucille reached into a pocket and handed him five .45 caliber cartridges. He juggled them in his hand and then he pulled the gun from his belt and opened the loading gate. One at a time he inserted each cartridge―the cylinder clicking as he turned it. When he finished, he spun the cylinder and then stuck the big gun back into his belt.
“You an Earl Dean just go on back home for now. I’ll get word to ya,” he said. And then, moved by his dramatics, he leaned over to kiss Lucille. The buffalo reacted to the shifting of his weight in the saddle by grunting and sidestepping away―leaving him grabbing for his hat and saddle leather to keep his seat. “Haw now you old son of a bitch,” he yelled out to the buffalo and then he quieted himself. “Tell Earl Dean I didn’t mean nothin’ by tryin’ to shoot him. I warn’t gonna kill his ass.” He took another read on her face. “You take care, now, ya hear?” And then he reined the buffalo around and headed for the gate.
Lucille went ahead and opened it. She watched them trot away―the buffalo’s tail swishing with every footfall. A knot filled her stomach. The sun was coming up. Time was wasting if they intended to strike camp and head back to Vinita. Lucille smiled and wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands. “Well, futz,” she said to herself.
Earl Dean parked his weary bones on the running board of the car with his head weighing heavy in his hands. He said in a whisper when Lucille approached, “Where’s that son of a bitch going to with your buffalo?”
“It’s time for us to go home, baby,” was all Lucille said about it.
Earl Dean turned his bloodshot, swollen eyes to her and a bewildered expression washed over his bloodless face.
“I’ll tell you all about it on the way home. You rest and I’ll break camp and we can go,” she said. “I’ll drive.”
“Does this mean the honeymoon is over?” Earl Dean asked.
“Yes, baby, it’s over,” Lucille said.
“Good,” Earl Dean said with a defeated sounding chuckle. “I don’t think I could have lived through another day of it.”