"That is it! I've had it!" stormed Artemus Gordon as he stomped down the corridor and into the parlor.
"What is it, Artie?" asked his partner, Jim West.
Flinging an arm toward the baggage car from which he'd just come, Artie said, "Nellie! I noticed she's been a bit off her feed and that I can't cinch her saddle as tightly as before. So I called in a veterinarian. You wanna guess what's wrong with Nellie, buddy? Hmm?"
Jim raised a hand to cover the smile that was determined to break out on his face. "The, uh, same thing that was wrong with Patsy?"
"Uh-huh! And Lizzie. And Jill. And Rachel! It's that goldurned stallion of yours, Jim! I can barely ride the same horse from one week to the next because of that randy stallion!"
Now the smile - or smirk - was in plain sight on Jim's face. "So stop buying mares, Artie."
Artie glowered and shook a finger at Jim. "That is exactly - exactly! - what I'm going to do, pal! Told the vet I'd swap him pregnant Nellie for a good gentle gelding." There was a knock on the door. "I bet that's Doc Fielding right now. He said he had just the horse for me."
Artie answered the door while Jim trailed after him in curiosity. Artie rode horses out of necessity, but Jim was the true judge of horse flesh in this partnership. As Artie greeted the friendly, balding vet, then followed him outside to meet the new horse, Jim slipped on past the others to start looking over the gelding.
It was a chestnut Quarter Horse, one white sock, with an odd blaze down his face that looked remarkably like a backwards question mark. While Artie listened to the vet tell the history of the gelding and how he had come to own him, Jim stepped up to the horse and made friends, patting him, chatting to him. He gradually inspected the gelding, murmuring to him, "Good boy. Aren't you a fine fellow?" as he checked him over, teeth and back, legs and hooves - especially the hooves. "Nice conformation," said Jim. With the vet's permission, Jim led the gelding over to the baggage car, brought out Nellie's tack, and soon had the gelding saddled. He then mounted up and set out on a brief test ride.
Jim's face was sober when he returned from the ride. Leaving the horse with the vet, he drew Artie aside.
"Well?" asked Artemus.
Jim shrugged. "Nothing's wrong with the horse. He's a fine fellow. Nowhere near as spirited as I like 'em, but he's all right. Sitting on his back is about the same as sitting on top of a table."
"Really?" said Artie, and immediately turned to the vet and proclaimed, "Sold!" The two shook hands on the deal and the vet handed over the reins to Artie, then led Miss Nellie away.
As Artie settled the gelding into his new home in the baggage car, Jim said, "Funny thing, but this horse looks familiar to me."
Artie nodded. "That's because he is. I asked Doc Fielding how he came by this horse, and he said he bought him off a black man with a glass eye and a strange touch with animals. This man worked for Fielding for a time. He could just about lay his hands on a sick critter and tell you what was wrong with it. Fielding said that he wrote the young man a letter of recommendation to become a veterinary student, but that it was a crying shame that likely no school here in the USA would take him on as a student because of his race."
Jim tipped his head to one side and said, "Let me guess. This young fellow he told you about - his name was Jeremiah, wasn't it?"
"Indeed it was, James. Our old friend Jeremiah. He rode your horse once upon a time, and now it looks like I'll be riding his!"
Jim came over and patted the gelding some more. "Well, now. I'm usually pretty good with names, but I don't seem to recall what Jeremiah called his horse. Do you, Artie?"
"Nope. I'm just going to hafta come up with a new name for him myself. I might could..." He trailed off, then snapped his fingers. "Table! You said sitting on his back was like sitting on a table!"
"Yeah. So, Artie?"
"So that's what I'm going to call him!"
"Table? You're going to get a lot of strange looks, riding on a horse named Table!"
"Oh c'mon, Jim. I know that! So I'll just have to disguise it a little, that's all." He patted the horse on that long question mark running the length of its face and said, "Welcome to your new home, Mesa old friend!"