Luke sat in a squatting position, on his heels, like the old men. Some of them spit tobacco juice into the fire, some whittled sticks but most just watched the flickering flames. No one spoke. Luke sure didn't since he was the youngest. A Greenhorn they called him. He had spent the first week trying to ride despite being so saddle sore that he could barely walk. He found he could get around better by walking with a bowlegged gait, moseying, the oldtimers called it.
The old men left the fire, one or two at a time to find their bedrolls and sleep off the ever present weariness. Luke soon found himself sharing the warmth of the fire with the trailboss Jack and his top hand Ray. They squatted and spoke so softly that Luke couldn't hear their words. Jack would nod his head as if he understood something Ray was saying, take the twig from between his lips and spit into the fire producing a sizzling sound. Ray moved back and forth shifting his weight from one side to the other and appeared to be doing most of the talking.
Off in the distance coyote howls, calling and answering. The only sound except for an occasional popping from the fire.
At last Luke arose and moved slowly to his sleeping place near the wagon. Greenhorns don't get to sleep very close to the fire. Luke rolled himself into his blanket like a cocoon and drew the waterproof up over his blanket.
"Git up boy"
Luke moaned and opened his eyes to darkness. He could see others moving around. He smelled coffee and breakfast being cooked. he didn't want to sit. His tailbone was very sore and the inside of his legs ached from sitting in the saddle. So he turned and put his weight on his knees and rose slowly.
He found the chow and ate hardily, washing it down with two large tin cups of thick black coffee hot enough to scald pigs with.
"Every hand to the fire" came the call out and the cowboys began to assemble around the morning fire. It was Ray, the first hand who did the talking. Trailboss Jack stood with his arms crossed watching the faces of the men around the fire. Luke caught his glance when he looked his way and nodded out of respect.
Ray gave out directions and what each hands job for the day was. Luke was one of the "Tail draggers" whose job was to ride at the back of the herd and round up strays. It was a job for greenhorns and Luke was a greenhorn.