The concrete cowboys were always a sight to behold. Sparks flew from the horseshoes as they trotted four abreast down the avenue. The towering skyscrapers that blocked the sunlight from falling on the riders should have dwarfed them, but somehow they dominated the scene. Crowds pressed up against stanchions, their breath as misty as the fog rolling in off the river. The riders didn’t look at the crowd, only ahead, at the long broad stretch of concrete, steely-eyed. Behind them came the herd.
It hadn’t always been this way, the oldsters in the crowd informed the young ones, who knew no other way, and couldn’t imagine it. Once, they opined, the meat had arrived freshly frozen and neatly packaged. Not like this. Not leaving piles of steaming dung on the smooth concrete, where you could also see the arcs of horseshoe scars, the steel defeating the stony surface. It’s better this way, someone’s mother admonished their tottering ancestor. This way is better. She said it the second time, softly, staring after the concrete cowboys as they receded in the distance.
Another one rode alone, with the herd, nonchalant, his hand on his thigh. His other hand held the reins up, pressing them gently against the red-brown coat of his steed. His long coat draped over his legs to his boots, and he carefully didn’t look at the people who were staring at him while he rode in silence.
The herd began to straggle, now, most of them passed by and on to the next avenue over. The crowd sighed, and stirred, preparatory to heading back to their inner domiciles. To work. To eat, appetites whetted by the sight of food on the hoof. To argue, over what was better, trucks and refrigeration, and freezers that could keep the meat fresh for unimaginable periods. Or this. The spectacle of the drive, the thrill of those rugged men on their horses, driving the sustenance of the city before them.
This week’s prompt came to me from Becky Jones, with “The concrete cowboys were always a sight to behold.”
I prompted Leigh Kimmel with “The surly Tree Badger is arboeal in nature, but will come to earth to forage for food before retreating to their lair…”
You can read all the prompt responses, and find out how to take part in Odd Prompts, over at More Odds Than Ends.