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Thursday, June 5, 2014

SECTION 10 RANCH




She inherited the ranch and some live stock. Along with that a lot of debt due to some bad investments her dad made before he died.

She had a full section with good grass and at this time about sixty head of saleable beef and lot of cows with calves that needed branding.  She could only brand a half dozen a day if she was lucky.

If she could get enough of the steers to market she could survive another year but this was unlikely the way things were going.

Here she was single and with no prospects for marriage. She wasn’t old, only twenty one but the people in the area believed she should become an old maid school teacher and sell her ranch.

Word was she ain’t ever gonna get a man cause if she ever loses her ranch no one would have her.

When her pa was still alive he wouldn’t let anyone near her and none of the young men ever got to see her beyond the bonnet that all but covered her face.

The people who held the note on her place were ready to pounce on it as soon as the note was due.  Each day things were looking darker.

She tried to borrow some more so she could hire at least one hand but the money people wanted her land and wasn’t going to help her keep it.

Then one day she saw a stranger looking over her herd and it looked like he was counting them. She went to the corral and threw a hackamore on one of the horses and headed for the stranger at a gallop. He saw her coming so he rode toward her and removed his hat as she approached.

As he said, “Howdy ma’am,” she lit into him demanding to know what he was doing on her land looking at her cattle.

He quietly replied, “Ma’am I was just admiring the condition of your cattle. I’m from the Pecos country and down there the cows are gaunt compared to these.”

“Why were you counting my herd?”

“Well ma’am I was just trying to tell how many calves still needed to be branded and as near as I can figure there is about ninety without brands.”

She still angry said, “What’s that to you mister?”

“Nothing I guess but I was just wondering if you needed some help catching up?”

 She said, “No I don’t need the likes of you.”

He went on saying, “I reckon I can understand you being upset at seeing me a doing what I was doing but I meant no harm.  I thought I might be of some help to you being as I’m a top hand.”

As she was settling down he went on and said, “I don’t mean to say something out of place but you are way behind in branding and cutting the steers out for shipping. If you are going to get them to market you better get moving.”

“It’s none of your business but what you say is true.  The thing is I don’t have the money for wages and I can’t do it all by myself.”

He said, “Suppose I helped you; would you feed me and have a bunk for me?”

She said, “I don’t know you or if it’s safe to have you around.”

He replied, “Well I’m just what you see and I’m harmless.”

She answered, “I see you don’t carry a side arm.”

“No not usually, I have one but what little shooting I do I use my rifle. He continued, “We have about three hours daylight left suppose we use that hot branding iron and brand a few calves before dark. Get your iron ready and I’ll be right back with a calf.”

A couple minutes later he had a calf tied and ready for the iron.



As darkness approach he said, “I figure we got half of them done and tomorrow we can finish the rest if you are a mind to.”

She just stared at him and said, “See the bunk house over there?”

He said, “Yes I see it.”

She said, “Go over to it and light a lantern and then you’ll find some blankets for a bunk then come to the house and I’ll heat up some beans and bacon for our supper.”

When he lit the lantern he could see the place was dusty and needed a good cleaning.  He fixed his bunk and at least it was comfortable. After washing up he went into the kitchen and she served him some food which filled an empty place for he hadn’t eaten all day.

She said, “I need to talk to you and explain some things.”

He said, “Why don’t we wait till tomorrow after we finish the branding because we will be done early, and right now I could use some sleep and I suspect you could also.”

He said goodnight and was out the door before she could answer but she thought “He’s right I need some rest.”

The next morning while she was cooking a big breakfast she thought I wonder what his name is.

He had fed the horses and saddled them. She called him and they began eating their breakfast.

While they were eating she asked him, “Do you have a name cowboy?”

He said, “Most just call me Hack and I always answer to that.”

She said, “Well I answer to Ellen or El and you can call me that.”

They walked their horses to the corral and he said get two irons ready for I will bring them in the corral two at the time. She was amazed at how fast he was at throwing and tying a calf. He would tie one and then the other while she branded the first.

He changed horses ever so often so as to keep them fresh especially after the herd began to scatter. They finished the branding in record time and he fed the horses and put them in the corral.

She fixed their food and as they ate she explained that she was broke and wouldn’t be able to pay him until she got her check from the slaughter house which was usually three weeks after the sale.

He said, “That would be alright if he could stay there and fix up the place until he was paid.”

She agreed to that but added “You know your place?”

He answered, “Yes ma’am I know and will keep my place.”

She said, “Just so you understand how things stand.”

He said, “I understand but it wasn’t necessary to tell me that.”

She said, “Good!”

The next day they cut out half of the steers and pushed them down to a lower pasture where the others would be joining them tomorrow. She told him he would have to work alone while she went to the railhead and to tell them she was bringing her herd in tomorrow so they could be ready.

She returned in the late afternoon and Hack was finished with the cutting and had begun to move the herd toward the railway.

She brought him some biscuits and fat back fried up crisp for he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

He said, “If we are going to make to the rail head in time to load we need to push the herd on until it is dark and rise up early tomorrow.”

She said, “One of us should ride herd tonight.”

Hack said, “I have someone who will do it for we need to be fresh for tomorrow’s push.”

She wanted to know who was going to watch over the herd tonight and Hack said. “I’ll tell you later for it is a long story.”

She started to object but she was too tired, anyhow Hack would be sleeping on the ground near the herd and would wake if there was a problem.

By the time she caught up with the herd the next morning he had pushed the cattle several miles toward the rail head.

She said, “At this rate we’ll be there before twelve and by four we will be loaded and sold if the buyer offers a decent price.”

Things went just as she said except for two things.  First off somewhere along the trail an Indian woman had joined them and Ellen never knew when it was.

She rode up to Hack and asked, “Who is she if you know and what is she doing here?”

Hack said, “She has been with us right after I arrived. Thing is if she doesn’t want to be seen you won’t see her.  She just now decided to join up with us.”

“Is she the one who rode night herd all night?”

“Yep she’s the one and she has been helping me move them along this morning.”

“How did you hook up with her?”

He said, “On the way to Chicago I’ll explain everything meanwhile the cattle are lagging on your side so punch em’ up.”

They got the cattle in the loading pens and a buyer was there making a count. He was talking to Ellen and offered her a low ball price which upset her very much. She came over to Hack and told him what the buyer had said.

Hack said, ‘The cattle are almost loaded. You have just enough time to go to the hotel and get a bath and I will have you some new clothes for you by the time you are through.”

Hack looked at the buyer’s count and his offer and said, “Your count is short and the price is too low. These aren’t West Texas scrub cattle; these are prime beef so we won’t be dealing with you.”

The man said, “Wait a minute I was dealing with the lady and it’s time for you to ride on out of here.”

As he said that he motioned for two tough looking men with guns to side him.

All a sudden a shot rang out and the Indian girl shot a bird on the wing out of the air and it landed between the men.  She then stood with her two six guns drawn and was aimed at the two toughs.  Seeing her shoot the bird while flying over them with a six gun took all of the meanness out of the three of them.

Hack said, “Now I think it is time for the three of you the mount up and ride out of here for I have no control over her and if she is of a mind to she will cut loose with both guns.”

The yard master saw what happened and nervously told Hack they would pull out in thirty minutes and if he was going with them he better get ready.

Hack quickly told the Indian girl Rose after they had left to take his and Ellen’s horses back to the ranch and to watch the place till they returned.

She nodded yes and took off at gallop with the horses Ellen and Hack were riding.

As she rode off he thought to himself, “There will be three men who are going to make the mistake of their lives if they try to do harm to Rose for she is unforgiving.”

Hack went to the toggery shop and bought Ellen a new outfit, inside out.  She quickly got dressed at Hack’s urging and they headed for the train.

She said, “Thanks for the clothes and you know a bath wouldn’t have hurt you.”

He said I’m going to be riding with those cattle a good deal of the time so it wouldn’t have lasted.

After they were on their way for a while Hack left the cattle car and joined Ellen for dinner in the dining car.

During dinner he said, “You wanted to know about Rose and how we hooked up.  I found her in some rocks along a trail with buzzards flying over. I took her and nursed her back to health and she has been with me ever since.”

“Are you using her for pleasure?”

“No I never touched her that way. She doesn’t want to be messed with and this was the reason she was in the condition she was when I found her.  Some men gave her some Brandy and got her high and then tried to have their way with her and she resisted them. They got her knife and finally overpowered her and beat her badly and left her to die.

When she was back on her feet the first thing she wanted to do was to find the men and even the score. I was pretty mad about the way they treated her so I agreed to help her. We found two of them by themselves and she made short work of them.

Later we found the other two men half drunk and asleep. I stayed back a bit while she went to work on the two of them. As I thought back I feel I should have done the men a favor by putting a bullet through their head but it wasn’t my game and I didn’t have a hand in it.

Another thing was I didn’t know if I could have done anything about it anyhow. She had anger unlike any I had ever seen; it was a cold anger that was expressionist.

I could tell that she was remembering the whole episode detail by detail as she dealt with each man; them giving her a drink with some substance that rendered her helpless. The beating that followed and each of them raping her while being held down by the others.  Then being dumped to die.

Once she was satisfied that justice had been served, she seemed to be return back to her normal self which is gentle and kind.

Ellen said, “From what I heard she was riled up at the rail head.”

Hack said, “Well yes, there is that side of her.”

She dropped the subject and asked, “Since this is your idea to take my cattle to Chicago where will we find a buyer that won’t cheat me?”

Hack said, “Don’t worry I have wired ahead and a buyer will meet us as soon as the cattle are in a pen and the count is done.”

She looked at him and said, “If this works out you will be a handy man to have around but I’m afraid I couldn’t afford you.”

Hack smiled and said, “Well so far it has only cost you a little food and I think you can handle that.”

She looked at him quizzically and said, “That’s true but I’m waiting for the big surprise.”

They finished their meal and after he paid the waiter he said I better get back to the cattle for they have to be missing me by now.

The trip only took a day and a half with no unexpected problems and they were quickly unloaded into the pens designated for them. The buyer was there on time and greeted Hack as if he knew him.

Ellen thought, “I hope they aren’t too friendly for I may be going to be taken in.”

Hack said, “Ellen this is Lowell the buyer for the best restaurants and I might say the most expensive in Chicago and New York.”

Ellen said, “Hello, nice to meet you,” and wondered what was going on.

Hack was talking to Lowell in subdued tones she couldn’t understand until Lowell said, “I don’t know what your pa is going to say.”

Hack came over and said, “Let’s go and get your check.”

She said, “Wait a minute you didn’t haggle with him, didn’t he try to get our price down whatever it was?”

“There was no need I told him what he had to pay and that was it.  Now, let’s go and get your check then and go out on the town.”

They went into a fine hotel and the concierge held his nose as Hack talked to him and then said, “Yes; I understand.”

Hack came back and said, “Go with the bell boy to your room and I will meet you shortly.”

Ellen had never been in such a room before and was enjoying the view when a knock at the door brought her back to earth. When she opened the door a couple of women came in and started measuring her. She was too shocked to object and a few moments later they disappeared.

Ellen said, “Wow.  What was that all about?”

A half hour the women returned with their arms full of clothes and one of them started stripping her clothes off while the other started drawing a bath for her. She needed “Freshening up” after her ride on the train.

They dried her off and started to dress her with things she had never seen before. There was a knock on the door and one of the women answered and said she will meet you in the lobby shortly.

Her hair was the last thing they did. They swept it up on top of her head after trimming off the broken ends. Then they stepped back and said, “You’re so beautiful Mademoiselle.”

Ellen looked in the full length morrow and couldn’t believe she was looking at herself. The maids rushed her out and said, “Your handsome man is waiting for you so go, go.”

She felt a little foolish in these glad rags but tried to walk like the women were walking in the hotel.  It wasn’t easy after riding a horse most of her life.

When she got to the hotel lobby Hack was waiting for her and he said, “How do you feel Miss Ellen?”

She said, “I don’t know; pretty good I guess.”

He said, “We’re going to see some of the in places in Chicago and enjoy some good food.”

The next morning she told Hack she had to get back to the ranch for she was worried about it.  He said, “Rose would take care of everything so just relax. He said let’s do a little more shopping and we will head out of here.”

On the ride home she first became aware that Hack was a handsome man. She had been so caught up with the ranch problems she had never looked at him close like.

As for Hack he had seen prettier women but Ellen was a very comely lady when fixed up and was desirable to look at something a man would like to get his hands on.

When they arrived to the rail head there was a man waiting for some equipment. Hack helped him load it on his wagon and he offered Ellen and Hack a ride out to her place since he was going near there.  They were riding on the back of the wagon and the driver couldn’t hear what they were saying due to the noise the wagon made.

She asked for more information about Rose.  He said, “There are several things you need to know about her. Her mother was French catholic. She was captured in a raid across the border into Canada. The chief decided she should marry his son. Shortly she had a girl child and because she loved roses she named her Rose.

She died when Rose was sixteen about six months before I met Rose. I went to that village and chatted with the chief and met the mother briefly. She was ashamed of her plight and hid Rose away though I had a glimpse of her.  Rose saw me and remembered me from the camp when she got well.

Her mother taught her the ways of a Catholic but her father insisted she know the way of the Indian. So when she was assaulted the way of the catholic was offended and the way of the Indian demanded vengeance.

For these last three years she has been with me and is most protective of me.

Ellen said, “Did you ever see her naked?”

Hack had to swallow before answering that one. He said, “Many times.”

“Has she seen you with no clothes?”

Hack hesitated and then said… “Many times. When we come to a stream and are hot and dirty we just go in and wash up and cool off.”

“Would you strip off and go swimming before me?”

Hack said, “No I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?” She asked?

“Well it’s a cultural thing; the white man’s culture is different and would provoke different thinking.”

“You mean you didn’t have some feeling when she is without her clothes?”

“Yes I do, I admire her lean firm, well-muscled body and think she is lovely. I also have a strong feeling for her like a brother would.  But it stops there.  She and I are very close and I respect her hybrid catholic upbringing and don’t cross the line.”

You mean, “She isn’t desirable?”

“She is one of the most desirable women I have known but we have bonded on another level and unless that changes we will remain as we are.”

Ellen didn’t speak the rest of the way home but her thoughts were highly active.

When the neared the ranch house Hack yelled for Rose to come out from where she was hiding and suddenly she was on the wagon.

Ellen thanked her neighbor for the ride as Hack hugged Rose who pretended that she didn’t like it like a child but it was obvious she loved every minute of it.

In good English Rose said, “Good evening Miss Ellen.”

It was the first time she had spoken except in Cree or broken English.  Ellen was surprised at that for it took her from being a savage to an educated woman.

Ellen said, “Where is she going to sleep?”

Hack said, “In the bunk house with me.”

“Do you think that is proper?” Ellen asked?

Hack replied, “We have slept under the stars and in barns and in rooms together for three years and I never question whether it was proper or not.”

Ellen said, “I get your point but I just can’t believe you haven’t been intimate with her. It’s like you said she is… well, desirable. Could it be that it’s something to do with you?”

Hack said, “I think this conversation has gone far enough. I have been perfectly honest with you at every turn and your mind set won’t let you see the truth. It will be best if we all get some rest and be rested for tomorrow.”

The next day Ellen rode over to a neighbor woman’s house and asked her what she thought about a white man living with an Indian woman for three years who claimed to never have touched her.

The woman said, “I would say he is the biggest liar of all time. Those Indian women can drive a man crazy with lust and they are all over a man.  No man could resist one of them Indian women if they really came after them… not even my Samuel.”

The conversation went on like that until it was time to go home.

When Ellen arrived home she said, “I want Rose to sleep in the barn and not in the bunk house for I don’t want to make things easier for you.”

Hack said, “You are in good shape now financially, your ranch is safe, and you can hire a hand to help you.  This is what I set out to do and now my job is finished. Tomorrow we will be gone and you can have our horses and gear. Just pick them up at the rail head.
As for Rose she sleeps with me here in the bunk house tonight and in a week she will be in a Catholic Convent to finish up her education.

I should thank your neighbor for her input into the situation for she helped you get your feelings out in the open. She was wrong though in her analyses for things were and are just as I told you.  I would appreciate it if you would leave and let us get some rest before we leave tomorrow.”

Ellen turned on her heel and left. She spent a restless night thinking over what Hack had done for her and that he had been a gentleman all the way.
He probably had told the truth about his relationship with Rose and though he hadn’t said it seemed he had some feelings for her.

She decided to straighten things out in the morning. Her neighbor was an old fool and didn’t know what she was talking about.
Because she had been restless and didn’t go to sleep till late in the morning she slept late. He was gone and his gear was on the bunk he slept in. she saddled her horse and made tracks for the rail head but when she got there the train was gone.

He left a note for her and it said; the horses are in the corral and are yours. Also the wages you paid me are in the saddle bags so be well and have a good life.

P.S. As it turns out you were partly right about my relationship with Rose. Last night she confessed she had a man/woman love for me and I had to admit this past couple of days have cleared my thinking concerning her. I find that which I have been avoiding has surfaced and I am madly in love with her. As soon as she is finished with her one year at school we will be married.

The images of her slim firm body keep coming up in my mind and I fear this is going to be the longest year of my life.

Rose is coming out from being Indian and her Catholic side is ruling her now. She has put her two six guns away and now only has her knife she carries.

Perhaps by the time she finishes her year at school she will put it away but I wouldn’t count on it.

 One other thing you should know is the hotel, restaurants, and all the places we went to are part of my inheritance. I had to get to get the wander lust out of my system before I settled in and began to take over and run the family business. You didn’t meet the main man; my father for you weren’t ready for that.”

As she led the two horses back to the ranch she wistfully kept thinking of what might have been if she hadn’t been such a fool.  

She smiled and said out loud; “Maybe another tall, sunburned stranger will come riding by and want to be of help to me.  Especially since the word is out the ranch has been paid off.”

Finis

 

 

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