Extraordinary Circumstanzas


by Penny McQueen





After the heat of an Arizona day, the cold of midnight descends with icy breath. Skin burned by sun and wind shivers in the night. Coyotes howl up the moon and saguaro stand tall and black against a star-filled sky.


Blue Cannon shifted restlessly underneath his blanket. A rock worked its way through the ground cloth, digging into his shoulder blade. The sand still held slight warmth from the day’s sun but the night wind was cold. Propping himself on an elbow, he looked across the campfire at a bundled lump. “Hey Uncle Buck, you awake?”


 “I am now, Blue boy.” A gloved hand slid from under the blanket, pulling the hat from Buck’s face. Sighing, he rubbed his forehead and grumped. “We chased strays from Black Boots to Salt Creek, ain’t you tired?”


“Yeah, but I was thinking about what Padre Sanchez said.” Blue flopped on his back, laced fingers behind his head. “You think it was a night like this?”


Yawning loudly, Buck scratched his head with both hands, dust puffing from the gray-blond curls. “Well, could’a been. Stars is the same all over, ain’t they? ‘Cept they was sheep herders instead ‘a two saddle tramps.”


“Yeah.” He chewed a corner of his lip, laughing softly when a shooting star blazed across clear night sky. “But they was kinda like us. Nothing special, I mean.”


Chuckling, Buck agreed, “Last time I looked, I weren’t nothing special, so mebbe you is right. Padre said they was ordinary men in extra-ordinary circumstanzas. I like that.” Yawning again and heaving himself upright, he circled his knees with his arms and looked at the stars. “Weren’t for circumstanzas, wouldn’t none of us be here at Chaparral. Way I figure it, ain’t no man gets the chance to be extra-ordinary, iffen he don’t get the right circumstanzas.”  Shaking himself, he slapped the hat on his head and grinned at Blue. “Anyways, you and me ain’t gonna hear no angel singin’ to them beeves come morning.” He rolled to the pallet, pulled the blanket over wide shoulders and growled, “Get to sleep.”


Blue stared through the firelight at his uncle. The back of Buck’s head, the shape of his ears and neck, were identical to Big John’s. Shifting away from the rock under his shoulder, Blue wrapped his blanket tighter against the cold. I think some men are extraordinary, don’t matter the circumstances. And it don’t matter for beans whether they herd cows or sheep. “Merry Christmas, Uncle Buck.”


“Merry Christmas, little Blue button.”