2018-03-28, 10:30 AM (ISO 8601)
Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"
Goado stood on the horse's back to get a better look at the city. He had never been to a city before and, having nothing better to do, jumped at the chance when old Koma asked for drovers. His share of the pay for the mixed herds would be a lot more than he could have earned on the roundup circuit back home.
Others were spending the money in their minds, talking about gadgets and pretty things for their wives and girlfriends and tack and saddles, and any number of other things. Goado had no wife, and while he enjoyed a barn dance now and then, he couldn't imagine a girl wanting to live in the saddle the way he did.
Women wanted to live in cities, and from what he could see, it looked like living in barns shoved right up to other barns, with no room to just take a horse and run. They had run into the first few fences a day or so back, and they marked out squares on the ground, most with neat rows of green filling them, some with the gold of ripe grasses, and some with trees.
His folk used fences. Around a kitchen garden to keep grazers out, or to corral livestock. Here there were fences everywhere. Every bit of land was fenced, and the cattle had no choice but to follow the road. Except there, a stream crossing with a good bit of scrub on either bank.
He turned back to the herd, putting heels to his pony. She was a good drover, small and nimble under a light rider, but she had a tendency to prance, and Goado had to stand in his stirrups to avoid being bounced along the road. She was his third mount, but she belonged to the company, not to him. His horse never pranced, but it was his day off.
He could see the leading edge of the herd still two ridges back, funneling through the narrow slot between the fences. They would be an hour getting here. And just over the near ridge came the trail boss with some dude on a huge grey. Prancer was due for a changeout in an hour anyway, so he set her to a trot and walked her the last hundred yards to meet up with Todd and the dude.
"Hard on my horses?" the trail boss asked as the pair rounded the last curve.
"Nosir," the drover replied. "Prancer's been bouncing all morning, I figured she needed a good stretch to finish off her shift."
"Walk her down this way," the Trail Boss said. "We're almost to the holding pens."
"Yessir." Goado answered. "There's a stream ahead crossing the road with no fences. Might want to picket there to keep the herd from spreading out."
The dude said, "The holding pens are closeer, under the sign of the double M."
Goado had passed several gates with signs on or over them, but he had no clue what a double M looked like. He wasn't about to tell that to the dude, with his over-sized hat with a feather in it and his shiny purple jacket. Instead he nodded and began leading Prancer back the way they had just come.
It was just past noon when the herd made it to the gate where the dude and his toothless servant counted them as they jammed through the gate. Things got a little hairy when an old cow tried to break for the road with a dozen others right on her tail, but Prancer was a good drover. With heels and a bit of shifting body weight she was guided to cut off the wayward band and get them back into the queue at the gate, aided by a few snaps of his small whip. Three hours later the herd was corralled
In the fenced pasture.
Just as he was wondering about watering the herd a wagon rolled up the lane pulled by a team of the largest horses Goado had ever seen. They were glossy black with white markings, at least twice the height and four times the bulk of Prancer. When he dismounted to check, their hoofprints were larger than his boot. Not far behind came another wagon.
The men driving the first wagon began forking fodder in rows behind the huge wagon as it slowly crossed the field. From the second, fat, short barrels were set out and filled with water. The water wagon was making a second trip from the stream when the Boss returned.
By then Prancer had been rubbed down and picketed, and old Jose had been saddled. The crew was excited, talking about how they were going to spend their wages. Goado didn't gamble, and he would be too embarrased to buy a wife for an evening. He had no need of silk scarves or jewelry, and no children to bring toys. After asking the price of one of those giant horses his interest in them diminished. He would hang on to Jose for a while at those prices.
Cookie set up the kitchen table and Boss Todd sat behind it with a small chest and his book. Starting with Cookie, Boss counted out wages. Goado's turn came toward the end with the youngest members of the company. Boss counted out sixteen gold coins, twenty-one silver, and twelve copper.
Goado had never seen a gold coin before, and he took a moment to examine it. On one face it had the familiar ship emblem, as all coins had. It was the bird on the other face which caught his attention. Silver coins had the faces of dead Sea Kings, copper had three kegs, or three axes, or three sheaves of grain, or the design of whichever guild made them. The gold coins bore a sharp-winged, sword-beaked bird in flight. How large must such a creature be to impress even the kings themselves?
"What's the matter? Never seen a swift before? Sign the book," Cookie growled.
"Ah, sorry, sir."
Goado made his mark in the ledger, then paused.
"Sir, can you hold it for me? Back to Trail Head?"
"How much?" Boss Todd asked.
"All of it."
"All of it? A young man on his first visit to the city?"
"Sir, all trip I been listening to the older fellas talk about their trips to the city. They all end up with, 'And Then I Was Broke.'"
There were a few chuckles from the company, but Todd said, "Every drive some youngster goes broke in the city, it's a rite of passage. Then I try to hire them cheap for the ride back. Tell you what: you hire on with me, bed down my horses tonight and tomorrow night, and I'll hold your gold to Trail Head. The rest of it you keep."
Boss Todd was writing on the next page as he spoke, signed it and passed the book and pen to Cookie, who also signed.
"After all, visiting the city wouldn't be the same without money burning holes in your pockets." The Boss turned the book to him.
"Well sign the book," growled Cookie.