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Handles and Horse Thieves

Ridin’ For The Brand
January 18, 2022
Gasoline vs. Hay
February 1, 2022

Handles (Nicknames) are generally affectionate in origin and may often originate from some characteristic or behavior common to the one catching the handle. As an example, I've been called "Yonder" for decades. That handle was given to me in the seventies by a friend who was titling my tendency towards travel and curiosity which led me, uh-huh, 'yonder'. I really like handles because they're fun, often exceptional and typically far more personal and descriptive than what your birth certificate says you ought to be called. When a unique handle comes along, I am drawn to inquire about it's story. If my understanding of history is accurate, American Indians named their people this way, i.e., after some defining event or trait in a person's life. Think of "Stands-With-A-Fist" in the great movie, Dances With Wolves. This is a story about buckaroos with handles, "Patch" and "QT".

Handles and Horse Thieves

"You boys been askin' for some time
Just how I come to be called "QT"
Well, ain't much goin' on tonight
Reckon' I'll tell you how it came to be"

"Musta’ been twenty years ago
Two strangers showed at our camp
Appearin' to be rough and mighty used
They was both lookin’ all the tramp"

"We offered 'light and set'
A hungry man ain't never refused
He’d always be fed and welcomed
Unless the generosity was abused"

"There were beans still in the pot
And the coffee weren't all boiled away
So we shared and welcomed
But didn't ask how they come this way"

"I mighta' been the youngest
And the greenest of the Rafter R hands
But I had a gut-gnawin' sense
These hombres had devious plans"

"Once they had their fill-up
Most folks would shuck-n-howdy
But these two kept their hats pulled low
Their faces dark and cloudy"

"Of course it weren't polite to ask
But they never offered their names
It got unusual quiet sittin' round
Faces reflectin' flickerin' campfire flames"

"When the short one finally spoke
He said they'd best be movin’ on
Struck me as a mite unusual
Them not askin' to rest up til dawn"

" 'Our horses are plumb tuckered
And purdy much just all in
But they're real good horseflesh',
Offered Shorty with a 'trust-me' grin"

" 'Don't suppose you'd have some mounts
We could just swap straight across?'
That's when I subtly shook my head
Gettin' the attention of Patch, our boss"

"What slowly unfolded next
Seemed right out of some western yarn
I noticed their horses weren't used at all
Fact, they looked purty fresh from the barn"

"Patch asked if they had a bill of sale
As he gave the brands a once-over
Ol' Boss he weren't just born yesterday
And he dang-sure weren't no pushover"

"Both horses were branded the same
Each had a left-hip Rockin’ K
From an outfit down south of ours
You could get there in less'n a day"

"When Patch asked 'em who they rode for
The tall one answered Rockin’ K for sure
Adding they’d been there nigh-on three years
Patch asked, 'You like workin' for Roy McClure?' ”

"The tall one was the spokesman now
'McClure’s a boss who treats us all real good
In fact he’s the one sendin' us north for bulls
That's why we need to swap mounts if we could' ”

"Most of us knew McClure died last summer
Which put us all on high alert
The sudden tension was thick and heavy
The only sound was men rising off the dirt"

"Dang me for not wearin’ my Colt
But I did the next best thing
As Shorty started reachin’ for his
I gave the hot coffee pot a fling"

"Patch was only five feet two or three
But he was the opposite of thin
And his shoulders were purt’ near as wide
The tall crook dropped from a fist on the chin"

"We set about to back-slappin'
After gettin' them horse thieves tied
And then they gave me a handle
And here is how it was supplied"

"One of the boys said I needn’t pack no gun
Bein’ I was mighty quick to toss coffee
From that night on I was called “Quick-Toss”
And then, eventually, just 'QT' ”

Now, the next who calls me cutie
Had better say it on the jump
Or the next thing that hombre knows
He'll sport a big coffee pot lump


by Rik Goodell

© 2022. All rights reserved

I am grateful to David Graham for, once again, allowing me to post his art alongside mine. If you do a search here on my website for "The Fencin' Crew" or "The Cowboy Way", you'll see other fine pieces Mr. Graham has graciously allowed me to use.

To see more of his work, go to his website:

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