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On Guns and Breakfast and Getting Shot: Or, why there is a difference between encouraging imagination and actively fostering it.

I woke to the smell of bacon and coffee, familiar and pleasant and full of the promise of a new adventure. Rolling out of my sheet, I tossed my legs to the floor and dragged my boots towards me with my right foot. I slipped into the jeans draped over the foot of the bed and put the boots on. A crooked, bent white hat hung from the bed post, a red and white flannel draped beneath it. I slung the hat cockeyed onto my matted hair and quickly buttoned the shirt. The gun, a fully loaded white handled revolver, rested under my pillow. I retrieved it and fastened the gun belt around my waist, dropped the pistol into the holster, and yelled, “morning sunshine, let’s get a move on!”

The dining room was empty save for the cook, a 30-something lady with shoulder length hair and a generous smile. I leaned against the counter and ordered a plate of eggs scrambled, half a dozen slices of bacon, and whatever was strongest to wash it down. My companion – the aforementioned sunshine – did the same and we settled in for the kind of homemade breakfast a cowboy doesn’t find on the trail.

“Much obliged”, I said.

“Where to today boys?” she asked.

“Wherever the trail takes us” one of us said not wishing to give away any more information than was necessary. “Wherever the trail takes us.”

“Who you chasing this time?” she asked. She was nosy, but friendly and a good cook and so we conversed. “Could be we’re being chased this time.” My companion looked up from his breakfast and grinned. “Could be”, he agreed.

“It is that kind of world, ain’t it”, she said.

“Some days.”

“Well, boys, eat up and don’t forget to get something for lunch. I wouldn’t wish that dusty trail on any man, hungry or not, but might as well make sure the hungry part is out of the equation.”

I nodded.

“Okay, let’s go”, I said to my companion. “Let’s get the horses.”

My companion was not one to hurry through a breakfast as good as that one so I left first, slipping my arms into my vest as I walked. I retrieved my rifle and saddle bags from the bunkroom and went to the corral. The horses – one white, one brown – were antsy and eager to move on. I saddled the paint and climbed aboard and waited for my companion. Some time passed before he emerged from the hotel and he was rushing, his uncinched holster flapping against his leg as he ran. I had been growing annoyed at his tardiness and told him so. He muttered something back I couldn’t hear well as was his way when I grew overbearing.

“I s’pect they’ve gone that way,” I said pointing towards the mountains to the west and he said, “S’pect so” as he dropped his black carbine into the sheath settled against his saddle. “Let’s go.”

And we went, not yet ten years old and bouncing towards some unknown adventure. As we rode away, the cook looked out from the kitchen window and waved. We tipped our hats and I said, “we should have grabbed some cookies.”

“I wonder what’s for lunch,” he said, then yelled, “look out! There they are!” and fell from his horse.

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