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Friday, December 13, 2013


Branding Time
It was eight in the evening before the last cowboy was fed and had turned in.

Once again Juan offered to ride night herd along with two other riders.

Senior took him up on his offer because Juan had a days rest before the others had arrived.

The next morning while the men were readying for the day and having breakfast Juan was able to get a couple hours sleep.  When he awoke the branding had started.  

He grabbed a quick ham and biscuit and was ready to go to work.  His job for the day was roping the young bulls and holding them while they were altered into steers.  At noon he changed horses and had a quick snack before returning to his job.  This went on from daylight until dusk for five days and then they were finished.  

They had cut out the cattle which were going to be for sale while they went through the branding process and moved the cattle they were going to keep in a herd by themselves.  The cattle they were selling had to be driven to the rail head at Santa Fe and then shipped back east.  

The three oldest boys were to go with the cattle to market leaving Luis at home because his mother wanted him there with her.  He was disappointed but his father promised he could go next year.

Pablo insisted that Juan go with them and Senior agreed he should.  Pablo, Raul, Reynaldo who was called Aldo along with Juan and a couple of the older hands were going to accompany the cattle to market and see to it that the money got into the right account in the Chicago bank.

All went well and after settling up with the buyers Pablo paid the hands off including the brothers and they set off to have some fun.

Juan opened an account in a bank that had a branch in Santa Fe for he wasn’t in the mood to spend all his money on what to him was nothing.

Pablo paid Juan several times what the others earned for he had earned it.  At first Juan started to protest but then took it without further comment.

The one thing Juan bought was two small derringers because his six shooters were too large to wear out in the city.  The derringers could be hidden out of sight and would be available if needed.

The brothers and the hands went down to a girlie place and drank too much.

Juan only had a small drink while he listened to the music and watched some of the girls dance.  After three hours he had all of the entertainment he could stand and started gathering up everyone to leave.  

He discovered that the girls had taken all the money the guys had and they didn’t realize it.

Juan went over to the Madam and said he wanted the men’s money back except for a reasonable amount for their entertainment.  She started to object when he took out his derringers and said, “I will empty this place and burn it down if you protest”

She said, “Say no more.  You will have the money in five minutes.”  She was honest about that and they all left with the money in Juan’s money bag and he didn’t let on what he had done.

He decided to wait until they had returned to Santa Fe before he returned it to them.

The ranch hands moaned about being stupid and losing all their money all the way home from Chicago.  Reaching Santa Fe, they were all smiles when Juan returned their several months’ wages over to them.  He said, “Let that be a lesson to you,” all the while thinking, “They will never learn.”

Because Luis had to stay at home Juan gave him one of the derringers and he was as proud as he could be.  Juan warned him that he could get in a lot of trouble if he carried it with him.

For the next couple of days after getting back to the ranch Juan kept to himself.  He had a talk with Senior and asked if he still needed him, if not he would be moving on.

Senior said he could use a hand to keep watch over the northern herd over the winter if he was interested.  He said it entailed not letting the cattle stray beyond the ranch’s border.  Protecting them from predators and if the weather got bad to put out some feed.  

Juan said he would like to do that but he wanted to make a trip to Santa Fe and pick up some books to read during the winter.  Senior said, fine and while he was gone he would have the place stocked with food, hay and an extra horse.  

When Juan saw the setup he was really impressed.  There was a cabin and a nearby spring and a lean to barn for the horses.  A shed stocked with hay in case it was needed; and plenty of meat, beans and flour and other basic foods.  It looked like he was set for the winter.  

As the days went by he had a schedule he followed.  In the morning he would check the herd and round up any strays.  Then the rest of the day he would read and do some exercises.  He had a couple of run-ins with some wolves and one bear.  That broke up any monotony and kept him on his toes.

He was settled in and was ready for the winter and whatever else happens in the next four months.

To be Continued


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