Do They or Don’t They (by ACSPeej)

Summary:   A Challenge to use “Damn, He Smells Good” in a story.   (Oh yeah! And what cologne do you think the boys wear?)
Rating:  G   Words:  1,315

Brandster’s Note:

There are numerous stories by ACPeej in the Brand Fan Fiction Library, but this one was not previously included.  This story is added as part of our Preserving Their Legacy project.

Thank you AC1830 for forwarding this gem.


The whole thing started as a simple observation from Hoss. Being such an animal lover, Hoss was considered the authority on animals and animal behavior and had taken a ribbing from Joe on the subject of whether animals could actually talk.

“’Course they can!” Hoss had insisted.

Rolling his eyes skyward, Joe giggled and pointed out the obvious. “Then why can’t we understand them?”

“’Cause they don’t speak English!” Hoss retorted.

Adam grinned and muttered, half under his breath, “I’m not too sure that Hoss speaks English all the time.”

Looking at his middle son’s face, Ben realized that Hoss’s feelings were hurt. He decided to put a stop to the whole conversation by adding his own theory. “They don’t actually talk but they do have some form of communication. All you have to do is listen to the wolves at night. Their howling is their way of ‘talking’. Each sound means something different and they seem to understand each other.”

Hoss’s face lightened. “Yeah, that’s what I meant t’ say.”

“Finish your breakfast, boys. We have chores to do. And stop picking on Hoss! He knows more about animals than any of us know!” Ben ended the subject by finishing his coffee and leaving the table.

“Bawk, bawk,” Joe whispered to Hoss as he imitated a chicken and then ducked as Hoss threw a half-eaten biscuit at him.

Chuckling, Adam left the table and, knowing that Hoss truly had a sensitive side, the elder brother admonished Joe to stop teasing Hoss. Adam was rewarded with Hoss’s bright smile and a slight scowl from Joe. Joe did love teasing Hoss and did so at every opportunity. And so the day started. As Ben had said: There were chores to be done.


While Ben and Adam worked inside the house on a timber contract, Hoss and Joe wandered out to the barn to saddle their horses and to ride the fence line to make sure it was secure. Chubb nickered as Hoss approached him but Cochise always remained silent.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that Chubb is saying ‘hello’,” Joe muttered.

“’Course he is,” came the answer. “Ain’t his fault that he don’t speak English, so I gotta learn what he’s sayin’.” Hoss rubbed Chubb’s neck and spoke softly to him and then got him saddled up. “Ya don’t jist come in without bein’ polite an’ toss a saddle on his back an’ jam a bit in his mouth. It ain’t right.”

Rolling his eyes, Joe did just what Hoss had said not to do. Cochise bit Joe on the leg – not hard but enough to make a point.

“See? I tole ya!” Hoss chuckled.

Joe ignored him, finished the business of saddling and bridling his horse, and the two brothers rode off together.

As they rode, they passed a prairie-dog area. One creature stood on his hind legs and chirped in alarm. The others fled into their homes; the last one to seek refuge was the “guard.”

“What’d I tell ya?” Hoss queried. “How did the others know to hide ‘less they’d bin told t’ do that?”

Shaking his head, Joe refused to answer. But the point was well-taken even though prairie dogs were skittish to begin with.


The day was hot, so the two brothers stopped at a clear stream to refill already half-empty canteens. Bullfrogs were croaking in loud tones.

“Listen, Joe. Them bullfrogs is talking t’ the gal frogs.”

Joe giggled. “Hoss, you’re carrying this idea of animals being able to talk a little too far, don’t you think?”

Shrugging, Hoss answered. “Naw. If ya’d open yer eyes an’ watch an’ pay ‘tention, ya’d understand.”

Joe was silent. He was thinking about what Pa had said about creatures communicating. Spying a small army of ants marching toward a dead grasshopper, Joe asked an interesting question. “Are those ants talking to each other? They’re moving in a straight line in exactly the same direction.”

Grinning, Hoss nodded but said nothing other than, “We got fences to check.”

But the fact that Joe spoke gently to Cochise before swinging into the saddle didn’t go unnoticed. Cochise didn’t flinch or back away.


The day passed; fences were checked and mended quickly. Joe wiped the sweat from his forehead and grinned.

“Time to go home, Hoss! We’ve covered this whole area!”

“Yeah, and it’ll be good t’ git home. Reckon if Hop Sing’s got some o’ them donuts an’ cold lemonade? I could drink me a gallon ’bout now!”

Even though the horses had been tied under a shade tree, their heads drooping as they snoozed, their coats were damp with sweat. Cinches had to be adjusted, so Hoss spoke to Chubb and apologized as he tightened the cinch. Chubb sighed. Joe, in more of a hurry, poked his knee into Cochise’s side so that his cinch could be tightened. Cochise made some kind of a noise and looked pointedly at Chubb who made his own noise back.  Joe was tired and impatient to get home.

“If you tell me that our horses are talking to each other, I’m going to tie you to a tree and leave you here.”

“I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’,” Hoss retorted. But under his breath he whispered that they were, indeed, talking.

In a few minutes, Joe made an observation. “How come going home always seems faster?”

Hoss grinned. “Maybe Chubb and Cochise want to git home as bad as we do. They git back to a cool barn, the sweet smell of fresh hay, no saddles ‘r bridles, and mebbe a handful of sweet feed.”

Joe considered this for a minute. “Makes sense, I guess. Cochise’s ears just perked up. Maybe he understands what ‘going home’ means.”

“Count on it, Shortshanks.”


As luck would have it, Joe had planned to ride over to his newest girlfriend’s house that night. After putting Cochise in his stall and leaving Hoss to wipe down and curry Chubb, Joe sped into the house to take a quick bath. After a quick shave and a wee bit too much cologne, Joe raced downstairs.

“You must be seeing Annie tonight,” Ben said as he looked up from his easy chair.

“How’d you know?”

“We could smell you before you even came downstairs,” Adam deadpanned.

“Go easy on that stuff. A little goes a long way.”

Making a face at Adam, Joe sprinted towards the door and out to the barn. Hoss was still currying Chubb and was talking to him quietly. Every now and then, Hoss would hum a bit of a tune.

“Hoss, stop humming. You’ll scare the horses to death!”

Down went Chubb’s ears as he snorted. Buck snorted in return and so did Sport. Cochise, as yet not tended to, backed up in his stall and whinnied loudly. Several whinnies were returned – it got loud inside the barn.  Cochise would not hold still for Joe to get into the saddle. Hoss stood by and watched, a knowing smile on his face. Even he knew what the problem was.

In the scuffle to swing onto Cochise’s back, Joe fell into the stall and into the not-now-so-fresh-hay and couldn’t avoid a big pile of manure which his horse had produced. Standing up, looking embarrassed and smelling like a barn, Joe looked at Hoss for sympathy. He got none. Hoss loved the smell of the barn; apparently the horses did too.

Cochise looked around at his stablemates and whinnied loudly in his own language: “Damn, he smells good!”

Hoss muttered happily under his breath, “Don’t tell me that horses cain’t talk an’ share a joke!”

~  The End


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Author: acspeej

Majored in Archeology at the University of Georgia. Am now a retired surgical assistant. Love to scuba dive, ride horses, read. Am a published author of 2 novels.

4 thoughts on “Do They or Don’t They (by ACSPeej)

  1. What a fun story as Joe seeks answers to his question. After that wonderful ending maybe Joe will listen to Hoss first and not last.

  2. Thank you for your story…it made me smile. As an animal rescuer in my early years, you learn their body language and sounds in order to help them and put them at ease. Therefore, it was easy to connect to your story.

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