Mini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. That’s what you can expect from the “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story!

TIME: April 17, 1869. PLACE: Midway to Abilene, Texas, riding the Chisholm Trail.


Copyright Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


Cutter never knew what spooked ‘em.

He only knew that a minute earlier the ground had exploded into a rumble, and that the dust had swirled up in night clouds cut with fleeting moonlit glimpses of galloping longhorns with lolling tongues and wide frightened eyes. There was no turning this herd: they came in a wall. A yell would be swallowed in the pounding of hooves like a yippee in a thunderstorm. A gunshot would only spook them to gallop faster. They would have to stretch themselves out.

Cutter bent to the saddle and was swept alongside, praying that his mount, Angel, had eyes better than his own, and that the palomino would be surefooted. Watch fer gopher holes, he urged her mentally, taking hold of the saddle horn. Don’t you step in no dang crack, Girl.

The chuck wagon loomed ahead, and Cutter saw Cookie diving for the safety of a buckboard. The stampede rushed past, stamping down bedrolls and saddles. Cooking utensils, pots, and dinners were pounded into ruination. Cutter cursed, and wove Angel through the debris. He heard the crack of a pistol ahead, saw the shadowy figure of another rider. Save yer dern ammo, Cutter thought. Aint nothin’ stoppin’ this skedaddle but a case of the tireds.

The stampede rumbled on, irresistible, surging. The rider was lost in veils of dust. Cutter heard no more shots.

The cattle swung right, angling between two thickets of mesquite. Angel stumbled, and Cutter jumped from the saddle as the horse went down. He hit on one knee, felt a jabbing pain. Angel righted herself and was off, reins flopping wildly behind.

Cutter staggered up and began to run for the mesquites, feeling the rumble from the cows through his boot heels. A longhorn brushed past, catching his shirt with a horn, then was swallowed by the stampede. Cutter ran in a hobble, cursing the stabbing pain in his knee. He saw an arm of the herd wheel in his direction, and redoubled his efforts. He could smell them, in a musk of hot, sweaty, frightened, and dusty.

Heedless of thorns, Cutter threw himself at the nearest mesquite. It was a small squatty thing, and Cutter prayed that it would shield him. He clambered up, the branches razoring his cheek. He could sense them coming—not by the sound, which was deafening—but by the trembling of the mesquite as he climbed.

The herd thundered past, parting, sweeping by in a mad rush that ended at the edge of a ravine some three miles distant.

The dust began to settle.

Cutter stared after the herd for a long moment, savoring the breath in his lungs. Then he went about the business of extricating himself from the thorns and branches of the mesquite, and cursing the ruination of his favorite shirt.

“You lookin’ fer fruit, Cutter?” drawled a voice from behind. “I might be plum wrong, but that don’t look like no dang apple tree to me.”

Cutter flushed. He’d hoped to recover his mount before being discovered. Wiping the blood and dirt from his face, he said: “Nah. Thought I’d have a climb here and have a look see. Never seen a stampede from a tree afore. Was mite interestin’. You oughta try her sometime, Spencer.”

The rider cracked a grin across a grizzled jaw and offered up a calloused hand. “I reckon sometime I will, Cutter. I just reckon I will.”


The End


(For more information about the Chisholm Trail, please try this excellent link:


Each “Five-Minute Escape short-short story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!”

The “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story is copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013