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Kepa turned to see a big man who must have been in his mid twenties standing at the bar. He was dressed in almost stereotypical cowboy wear. He had on a bright red button down shirt that tucked into denim jeans. Around his waist he wore a holster that housed one revolver that Kepa could see. His boots were polished — Kepa suspected these were his fancy boots he wore when he was out on the town. To top it off, he wore a big cowboy hat on his head.
Kepa turned back to Maite to continue their conversation. But, the man’s voice overwhelmed everything else in the room.
“Boys!” he bellowed, seemingly to the small group of men that had gathered around him. “Did I ever tell you that time I was riding in the hills and I came across a Basque sheepherder? He was a friendly enough chap. He was cooking beans in his pot on the fire and invited me to have a bowl. It had been a long day and I was much obliged. We got talking and, as things often do, the conversation drifted to women. I told him about my many conquests, of all of the young ladies with whom I had made my acquaintance. He got very excited. ‘Me too, me too’ he exclaimed. ‘I know many too.’ I chuckled, but I indulged my host. ‘How many?’ I asked. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Let me count. One, two, three…’ It wasn’t long before his snores filled the camp. He had fallen asleep. He was counting sheep!”
The crowd around him burst into laughter.
The man wandered over to Kepa and Maite’s table. He stood behind Maite but looked over her at Kepa. “Hey, didn’t you hear my story?”
“Yes, I did” replied Kepa.
“Don’t you speak English?”
“Didn’t you think my story was funny?”
“Huh. You know what I think isn’t funny?” The man’s mood suddenly shifted and Kepa could hear the outright hostility in his voice. “I don’t think it’s funny how you damn Basque bastards take your damn sheep everywhere, destroying the land for my cattle. I don’t think it’s funny how you take what’s ours and give it to your damn sheep.”
The man leaned over Maite’s shoulder, his hands on the back of her chair. She could feel his breath on her left cheek. It reeked of beer and whiskey.
“You know what? Maybe I should take something of yours.” His hands shifted to Maite’s shoulders as he looked at Kepa. “What do you think of that?”
“I think you better take your hands off of her.”
“Why? Maybe you are afraid of touching such a pretty little thing, maybe your hands are only used to touching wool. Maybe she wants a real man. Besides,” he added as he glared at Kepa. “What are you going to do about it?”
Kepa shrugged. “Me? I don’t need to do anything.”
Maite’s right hand swung over and hit the man hard, in the throat. He immediately collapsed to the floor, holding his windpipe.
The man’s friends rushed over, pulling him up to his feet as he still gasped for breath, murder in his eyes. He roared at Kepa but before he could do anything, the man from behind the bar rushed over and got between them.
“Not in my bar, Donny,” said the man.
Donny glared at the man before shoving his friends aside. “Let’s go,” he barked as he made his way to the door, all the while staring at Kepa and Maite.