Andrew Jackson pulled up to the café and nosed his truck carefully into the parking spot between Grant Toews’ blue GMC and Bob White’s Ford Ranger. A gust of wind blew a spatter of raindrops under the brim of his Stetson as he opened the truck door, and Andrew hunched his shoulders as he made his way up the sidewalk to the door of the café. Once inside, he stopped to shake the rain off of the hat before heading over to join Grant and Bob at the table by the window.
“Hey howdy,” said Grant. “Fine day for being out and about, wouldn’t you say?”
“No I wouldn’t, actually,” was Andrew’s reply. “Fine day for staying in, if you ask me.”
“And yet here we are,” said Bob.
“True,” said Grant. “But we are at least in at the moment.”
“And planning to stay in for a while if I
can help it,” said Andrew. He slid his coffee cup to the corner of the table and the young girl who had appeared from the kitchen with a pot of coffee filled the cup to the brim.
“Get you anything else?” the girl asked brightly.
Andrew contemplated the question for a second. “How’s the hash browns this morning?” he wanted to know.
“Brown,” said the girl, “and hash-like. Just the way people like ‘em.”
“Sold,” said Andrew. “Eggs and bacon and rye toast and keep the coffee coming till we say stop.”
“Which is like, never,” said the girl with a grin as she headed back to the kitchen.
“She’s a bright one,” said Grant. “Sure is nice to run into a few cheerful people when the weather’s this dreary.”
“Isn’t she John Byrnes’ daughter from up by MacGregor?” said Bob. “I bought a gelding from him a few years back and I’d swear it was her that brought the horse in for us when we went to pick him up. Small world.”
Andrew looked surprised. “No kidding,” he said.
“What do you mean?” asked Bob.
“I talked to John Byrnes yesterday,” said Andrew. “He’s got a donkey for sale that I’m going to buy, to guard the sheep.”
“Ah yes, you said you were looking for one of those,” said Grant. “So you found one, eh?”
Andrew nodded. “Byrnes has a couple,” he said. “He’s got a jenny with a foal, which is ideal from what I’ve been able to determine. Randy and I are going to have a look tomorrow.”
“Who’d have thought Andrew Jackson would be buying donkeys?” said Bob as the waitress came by again, making the rounds with a fresh pot of coffee. “Excuse me miss,” he said. “Is your father by any chance John Byrnes from MacGregor? I bought a horse from you folks a few years ago.”
“Oh, I remember you!” The girl stopped and stared. “You bought Rudyard Kipling!” She extended a hand. “I’m Stella,” she said. “How’s Rudyard?”
“You have a horse named Rudyard Kipling?” said Andrew, laughing.
“Dad named him,” said Stella with a laugh. “One of Dad’s favourite stories was his high school English teacher asking him if he liked Kipling and my dad said he didn’t know, he’d never kippled.”
“Your father told me that story,” said Bob. “And Rudyard’s fine, although my daughter calls him Rudy. Oh, and Andrew here is looking at buying a donkey from your dad.”
“Cool,” said Stella. “My dad raises the best guard donkeys around. Raises them right with the sheep so they’re used to them, and he makes sure they’re not too aggressive with the sheep before he sells them as guards.”
She smiled a confident smile. “Most years we only lose a couple of sheep, which is way below average. Of course it helps that my brother’s a sniper with a rifle.”
“So the donkeys do a good job?” asked Grant.
“Oh yeah,” said Stella. “Dad always says there’s nothing in the world as dangerous as a jackass who perceives a threat.”
“I heard my dad say that once,” said Bob, “but he was talking about the war in Iraq.”
Stella laughed. “I’ll have to tell Dad that one! He’ll get a kick out of it. People need coffee,” she added. “I’ll be back with your breakfast in a minute,” she said to Andrew, “and I’ll tell Dad I talked to you.”
“Do that,” said Andrew. “Tell him he’ll see me tomorrow.”
“Nice people to deal with,” said Bob, as the girl made her away around the other tables.
Andrew looked pleased. “Always good to know,” he said. “Always good to know.”