The lanky trail hand slid off his horse, draped the reins over the hitching post and ambled up the steps of the front porch to the big white house at the end of Main Street in Abilene. He looked back out on the street, saw that it was empty, and then with a smile on his face, opened the front door. Once inside, he brushed off the trail dust from his vest, took off his hat, and looked around as an older woman approached.
“You the head whore in this here establishment?” he asked in his West Texas accent.
“I prefer the title ‘Madame’, sonny. But, yes, I own and operate this House,” she shot back.
“Sorry, ma’am, no offense,” the cowboy answered.
“None taken. And just who might you be and what is your business, cowhand?” she asked, moving closer to him, her hands on her hips.
“Ma’am, I’m Dell Forrest, and for the last seven weeks I’ve seen nothin’ but the hind end of some of the ugliest cows ever driven to market. And I’d like a bath, a bottle of good whisky and a woman, if that can be arranged. I got cash,” the cowboy responded, pulling a wad of money from his vest.
The Madame told him to put his money away. “Won’t do you any good here, kid. Town’s all closed down. There’s a pandemic going on. I guess you’ve been out of touch a while,” she explained.
“A pan-what? I don’t care if there’s a tornado on the next block, I just got off a four hundred mile cattle drive all the way from Clifford, Texas, and I ain’t leavin’ until I get a bath, a bottle, and a lady, you hear!” he yelled.
The Madame went to the desk and picked-up a printed flyer and handed it to the cowboy. “Can you read, kid?”
“Well, this will explain it all. It’ll explain why the streets are empty, why all the girls are gone, and why the saloons are closed. You best read it over ‘cause no amount of money is going to get you anything around Abilene, cowboy!” she shot back.
He read the flyer, asked her what a few words meant, and then sat down, a forlorn look on his face. “It’s eighteen hundred and ninety-four, and a man can’t get his needs met after driving nine hundred miserable critters over some of the most godawful desert you ever seen. Is that what this is telling me?”
“Yep. That’s about it, Dell Forrest,” she responded. Then, she paused for a moment, moved closer to him, put her hand on his broad shoulder and asked, “You like ‘porn’?”
He looked up at her heavily made-up face and with a wrinkled brow asked, “What the hell is ‘porn’?”
“Just a little something I’ve cooked up to deal with the current situation. Here, I’ll show you,” she said as she pulled some photos from her bustle and handed them to him.
He said nothing as he inspected the nude pictures carefully, one at a time. “You got any more of these?” he asked, a serious look on his face.
“Yes, I do, but it will cost you some, Dell Forrest,” she countered.
“No, what I mean is do you have a lot more of these ‘cause when I was in El Paso last year, I heard about a Frenchman who can make pictures move. You know, make ‘em appear like they're alive! And with your pictures and my money, well . . . I’ll never have to cowboy again and you, you’ll never have to do whatever it is that you do again.”
“Not a bad idea, Dell. I know some girls down Clifford way who might be interested,” she chirped in.
“And I know a photographer down there, too. And I guess you could talk me into volunteering my services for the first few projects . . . moving pictures I think they call 'em,” he said with a glint in his eye.
“Your services?” she asked.
“Sure, they don’t call us cowpokes for nothin’, partner!”