Angel S Ranch





I got to calling him Uncle, he just called me boy
We weren't kin, but both carried the same last name

His name, all anyone ever called him that is, was Shorty Smith
He owned a small spread down on the River

It was an old gold mining claim, but Shorty called it his cattle ranch
The only things it was good for was growing, digger squirrels and rocks

But Shorty back in the fifties had worked for a sawmill over town way
Each night he would pull lumber from the wigwam burner and haul it home

So as time passed there was a barn and a small house gradually grew up out of the rocks
Then some corrals and farther out from the house barb wire fences sprouted

Now for years Shorty worked at the livestock auction
He would show up on Wednesdays and take care of the day old calves

You could count on Shorty every week showing up at the auction, the same each time
An old blue Chevy pickup with a two horse trailer on behind

One side of the trailer always carried his horse, Ol Red
The other side on the way home was always filled with day old calves

Oh yes, most forgot to mention the Little bear looking dog that was always in the front seat
Wherever you found Shorty you would find Bear

The auction closed a few years back
So Shorty found less and less reason to come to town

I got to stopping by his place from time to time when I was down on the river
Most times I'd find Shorty in the pasture by the barn keeping Ol Red company with Bear always close by

Then about two years ago Ol Red just lay down and died
I knew Shorty felt bad, but when I stopped by and said I was sorry
he said, "Hell boy how many other horses do you know of that lived forty years"

There was this little hill out behind Shorty's house, I think it was the only dirt on the place
Shorty call it his Boot Hill, it's where all his animals went when they left this world

It had a white fence, he kept freshly painted and he kept the weeds mostly cut down
I guess there had been a woman in his life and two kids at one time, but they left long ago

So one might say the animals were his only family
And on top of that the best friends he ever had, faithful to the end

Shorty had this old cable operated backhoe, must have been one of the first ever made
When Ol Red died somehow he got the ol horse in the front bucket of that hoe

Dug a hole for him, and buried him in the little hill behind the house
I pulled into the yard just as he was putting the fence back in place

That was about two years ago that Ol Red died
The only two animals left on the place( according to Shorty that is) were Shorty and that dog Bear

I tried dropping by once a week or so just to check on things
Last summer most days Shorty could be found on the front porch in his rocking chair with Bear, both napping

Then come toward end of summer I stopped by and Shorty was not to be found
I walked out behind the barn and saw him inside the little white fence of Boot Hill

He was just sitting there on the ground next to a fresh pile of turned earth
At one end of the pile of dirt was a small sign it said

Bear, My Dog, My Friend, I walked over and sat next to Shorty
Asked him if he was alright, for the longest time he didn't say a word

Then he said, "Day before yesterday we was sitten on the porch come supper time
I told Bear it was time to eat and damned! if he just didn't just forget to wake up"

I asked Shorty "how long you been sitting here
You had anything to eat or drink"

"Well I brought Bear up here before supper and lay him to rest
I been sitting here ever since, I guess since day before yesterday night"

I helped Shorty up and we went back down to the house, I fixed him something to eat
He didn't eat much, said he was tired and needed to get some sleep

I asked him to come home with me for a day or so
But he refused, said everything he ever had or wanted was here so here he would stay

"Shorty! tomorrow morning I'll pick you up, I hear a man in town has a litter of them little black pups"
He stopped me then, "no a pup would out live me, I'll not leave him alone"

Next morning I stopped by to check and Shorty didn't come to the door
So I went in and found him in bed, as he would have said, he just forgot to wake up this morning

I called Doc Evens and he came around as soon as he could get there
We talked about it between us and figured no one else need know

So we rolled Shorty in an old tarp and carried him out back to Boot Hill
I got out the old backhoe and we lay Shorty to rest next to Bear

As we filled in the hole I stuck a large post in next to Shorty's head
Figured I'd carve something on it later

Doc left, and I just sat there awhile but it was getting late and I thought I best be getting home
As I was pulling out of Shorty's drive I saw the ranch sign Shorty had made many years ago

He had always been proud of that sign, one of two things on the place that got paint every year
Carved letters in a thick redwood plank, painted white with black lettering

It said, Angel S Ranch at the end of which was his brand a capital A with wings and an S inside
Below this it said, Shorty Smith Proprietor
I stopped and thought for a minute, got out and took the sign down
I carried it back and nailed it to the post next to Shorty's head

I sat there a moment, what better way to mark the place where Shorty lay
And what better place could there have been for him to lay than with his friends

I remembered then something Shorty had told me one time long ago
When I quit sucken in air and blowing it out again, drag me out behind the barn with the other critters

I got up to leave then and it was like someone touched me on the shoulder
I swear, I heard Shorty say just as plain as if he was standing beside me

Thank You, Boy