by Sandra Seamans
Smitty Jones spotted the vultures just outside of Silver City. Black shadows circling high in the sky, with a multitude of feathered undertakers waiting their turn in the branches of a gnarled oak tree. Others perched on the shoulders of a cowboy dangling at the end of a rope, his body swaying with every savage peck.
“Petey Sway,” he muttered. “You never did know how to keep your neck tucked in when trouble was sniffing round your back trail. I’m gonna miss you, old friend.”
Jabbing his heels into the horse’s flanks he nudged the pinto away from the tree.
“He a friend of yours, Mister?”
Smitty froze in the saddle, then slowly turned his horse. A green kid with a deputy’s badge was holding a shotgun on him. “Used to be.”
“You just gonna leave him hanging there?”
“Ain’t much else I can do, is there? The law seen fit to let him swing, I expect he’s meant to be a warning.”
The kid nodded. “Sheriff figures to collect the reward on both of you, but he’s in town drinking and I can’t stand them birds no longer. Don’t matter none to me what you done, Mister, just help me bury him, then get back on your horse and ride on outta here. Please, I can’t stand seeing them scavengers pecking at his eyeballs no longer.”
“I know what you mean, kid,” said Smitty as he swung out of the saddle. Hell, Petey would’ve taken the risk for him.