Many, many years ago, when the red planet was untamed and sparsely populated–not like it is now, with its towering star scrapers and rumbling freewheelways—Schmitties roamed the plains, and the atmosphere was breathable.
A man could make a fine life for himself as a Schmittyboy. The pay wasn’t great, but the vistas couldn’t be beat.
Picture this: Phobos and Deimos shining overhead in rare alignment, Schmitties rolling and purring in the valley below, occasionally waking to vacuum up a snootful of that fine Martian sand. Me wrapped in a desert robe, eating a can of Luna’s tuna-beans and pouring another cup of that oily Turkish coffee.
Later, leaning up against my mount Shep’s howdah, I’d play the snissle-whissle, old Schmittyboy tunes from the days of your great, great, great grandpas.
Yes, you come from a long line of Schmittyboys, some of ‘em from Mars, others from that dead planet Earth, and still more from other galaxies, in other times.
Shep was a Double-Hump Desert Mount, and as loyal as any house hound. He had feet as big as your head, flat brown eyes that belied the intelligence beneath, and he could spit silicon slobber nearly 150 feet. One shot o’ slobber was usually enough to stop a Schmittie trying to break from the herd, at least long enough for me to ride up to the little beast and swat him back towards his siblings with my furry Rustlmallet.
I half-suspected they were toying with me. The clacking sound they made when they bumped up against each other after a mallet smack was also accompanied by group giggles. Cute little buggers, for sure…
Why did I quit the life?
People got greedy, I guess. The air got foul, the sand got polluted and the Schmitty birth rate dropped. Mars turned into a vacation spot, and there wasn’t a safe place on the planet—Schmitties couldn’t roll out of the way fast enough to avoid the Duneraker brigades.
Those idiots bought cut-rate Rustlmallets–the ones without the insulating benefits of fur—and came roaring down on the poor critters in their six-wheeling Dunerakers. The Schmitties never had a chance.
Nothing I could do about it, so I joined the Academy, got as far away from the red planet as I could. The Administrative Corps was the right career choice for me: quiet, predictable, good pay with little impact. I guess I finally grew up.
Now tell me again why you don’t want a career with Star Fleet?
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2016)
Prompt(thanks to Pam Brittain): Write a Western. The setting would be in the west of Mars and the mounts are not what we think of as horses. The ranch herd isn’t quite like cattle or buffalo.