The Second Hundred Years Ch. 06bywoodmanone©
By Woodmanone copyright November/2010
Please read Chapter 1 to 5 so you will be able to understand the characters and the events that have led to this point.
Constructive comments and emails are welcome and appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time to read my work. I hope you enjoy the story.
Yeah, we've got a cattle ranch, Lewis said to himself two weeks later. I'd forgotten how much work it was going to be. When I was a kid I thought you just put the herd to out to graze, set back and waited for them to fatten up. Now I'm a nursemaid for a bunch of cattle. Then he laughed at himself; I'm as bad as the dudes we plan on having here.
"What are you thinkin about boy?" William asked as he joined Lewis on the porch. "You look like you're a hundred miles away."
Lewis grinned and replied, "Just thinking how much I didn't remember about ranching." He paused to think about where he'd been a year ago and in a more serious voice added, "But I'm glad to be here doing the work."
William knew Lewis was thinking about Iraq and his friends that hadn't made it back. "I'm glad you're here too, son."
Shaking himself Lewis asked, "What's on the schedule for today?"
"Well...We got all the cattle tagged, we've dipped them for ticks, and spread them out over the valley grazing lands, so not much to do today. Jim said he was gonna climb the trail up to the cave. Tom and I are going into Prescott to see about winter feed. Unless you want to climb a mountain or ride to Prescott I guess you can take a day off."
Lewis nodded and smiled. He stepped back into the house, got his coat, and headed to the barn. In a few minutes William heard the roar of a Harley motorcycle and Lewis rode out of the barn and up to the porch.
"Going over to see Alyssa," he said with a smile and a wave.
William nodded and watched him ride toward Josh Benson's ranch. Like that was a big surprise, he thought with a grin. Like I said, that boy is roped and hogtied.
Jim stepped off his horse and dropped the reins to the ground. The horse was trained to ground tie and would move no more than a few feet from that spot. William's got well trained horses, he thought. Good animals that do their job very well. He started to pull his Winchester 73 out of the saddle scabbard but put it back. If I remember the trail right, it gets pretty steep, Jim said aloud. Better just depend on the .45.
The Colt .45 Peacemaker was the same pistol he'd carried before his long sleep in the cave. He and William had been talking about Jim's desire to see the cave that he'd spent so many years in sleeping. Jim mentioned that it would hard climbing the trail carrying the Winchester.
William said, "Damn, I must be gettin old. I forgot I've got something that belongs to you. Just a minute, I'll be right back."
He left the room and shortly returned carrying something wrapped in several layers of material. William set the bundle on the coffee table and began to unwrap it. The first layer was a heavy material that Jim didn't recognize. The second layer was a piece of buckskin and the third layer was a soft cloth material.
When the last layer was unwrapped, Jim smiled and felt his eyes tear up. There was his Colt from all those years ago. He picked it up, checked to see if it was loaded, and looked up at William.
"I remembered the Winchester because it was hanging over the fireplace in my bedroom and I saw it every day," William explained. "I didn't think about your Colt until you mentioned how steep that trail is"
Jim handled the pistol with an ease that told of years of use. The Colt, just like the Winchester, was a bridge back to a life and time he could never return to. Somehow the weapons and the totem over the ranch house door kept him from feeling totally lost. He nodded his thanks to William and put the pistol in the hostler that William handed to him.
Now at the trail head, Jim pulled the Colt and made sure for the tenth time that it was loaded and ready to be used. Looking up the trail, he took a deep breath and started his climb.
Maybe I should have worn those "sneakers" that Lewis gave me instead of my boots, he thought as he slipped and slid on the trail. It took him almost an hour to reach the tall rock butte that Lewis had told him about. Jim stepped around the edge of the wall and across a small canyon he could see where the cave had been. The mountain had fallen in on itself just like Lewis told him. But he'd wanted to see it for himself.
Jim had never been afraid in his life. He'd been wary, concerned, and downright mad in his life; but never afraid. He was afraid now. The hair on the back of his neck stood up and his breathing increased. He felt a chill down his back and he felt like running away.
He took a deep breath to calm himself and faced the rock filled entrance to the cave. Jim stared at what had been his prison for over a hundred years. After several minutes he shouted at the cave entrance, "I escaped your trap Spirit Healer, you son of a bitch. I'm still here and you're just dust."
Jim turned and headed back down the trail to his family and his new home.
Lewis had more than one reason to ride to Josh Benson's ranch. The main reason was Alyssa. He hadn't seen her for three days and that was too long in his mind. I'd like to see and be with her every day. Lewis also wanted to talk to Josh about an idea he had. If anyone in the area could help him it would be Josh Benson.
The balanced roar of the Harley's pipes as he pulled up in front of the house announced his arrival. Alyssa came bouncing out of the front door to meet him. Laughing she ran out and hugged him. I think she's glad to see me too, Lewis thought.
Right behind Alyssa was her grandfather Josh Benson. Standing on the porch he waited until Lewis shut down the Harley and said, "Come on inside Lewis and tell me why you're here." As if I don't know, Josh thought to himself with a smile.
"Gramps, stop teasing Lewis," Alyssa said. "You know very well he came to see me."
"Actually I did want to talk to Josh about something," Lewis admitted.
"C'mon into the office then," Josh offered.
Once seated in a big overstuffed chair with Alyssa sitting on the arm next to him, Lewis looked at Josh. "Mr. Benson, I mean Josh," he said seeing the look on Josh's face. "I want to buy some horses and I thought you might be able to help me."
"I'd be glad to help if I can Lewis."
"Well, I want to buy two maybe three horses. I want to get a couple of real good animals for Grandpa and me. But I want one more and it has to be special. It's for Jim. I don't have any idea of where to look or how much money I'll need. That's why I came to you."
"Good animals aren't that easy to find unless you know where to look," Josh agreed. "What kind of horse do you want for Jim?"
"I'd like a horse that's quick and fast enough to work cattle close in, sort of like a quarter horse. But I want an animal that's got more long distance bottom to him. Maybe a quarter horse cross breed or something," Lewis explained.
Josh nodded. "I understand what you want, but now the big question. How much do you want to spend?"
"I've managed to save about 6 thousand dollars. Will that be enough?"
"You're willing to spend all your savings?" Lewis nodded and Josh continued," Well that might be enough if we look in the right place."
He thought for several seconds and said, "I haven't any stock for my ranch yet but I know a fella that's got horses that will fit the bill. Bill Jackson's got good stock and they're usually well trained as working animals. He's got a buckskin stallion and a sorrel filly that would be good choices for you and William. I was talkin to him over to Cole's just last week."
Alyssa was playing with Lewis's hair and Josh looked to see if Lewis was paying attention. "Bill usually gets top dollar for his horses but he owes me a favor or two and we might get a break on the price. If you're interested I'll set it up for us to go look at them."
Lewis nodded and asked, "What about a horse for Jim?"
"Bill's got another animal he was telling me about a couple of weeks ago. From what you say, it sounds like the horse for Jim," Josh told him. "I won't tell you anything about the animal and let you make up your own mind when you see him."
"When could you go see these horses Josh?"
"Any day this week," he answered. "Bill's place is just this side of Kingman. If you're not too busy we could go tomorrow," Josh told him. "We could be there and back by late afternoon."
"I'll check with Grandpa and Jim and see what they've got me doing tomorrow," Lewis said with a grin. "Call you tonight if they can spare me."
"We can take my truck," Josh said. "I'd rather drive it than sit on the back of that motorcycle."
His business done with Josh, Lewis and Alyssa spent the rest of the day together. She bundled up a little and climbed on the bike behind Lewis. It was early summer but the wind could still be sharp, especially on a motorcycle. They went to Prescott and Lewis withdrew all of his savings; $6200. He left a hundred dollars in the account to keep it opened.
Lewis followed Alyssa as she browsed through some of the shops around the courthouse square. After eating lunch at the Pioneer Saloon, Lewis headed the bike for the Lynx Creek area. He wanted to see the place that Jim had found some of the gold over a hundred years ago.
They sat in an opening on the creek bank and let the sun warm them. Alyssa turned to him, putting her arms around his neck and kissed him; he kissed her back. After several minutes they pulled away breathing hard and aroused. Lewis held off, not because he didn't want her, but because she was special to him. She deserves more than a romp in the woods, he thought.
Lewis smiled, kissed her on the nose, and said, "I guess we better head back or we may be here all night."
"Yeah, it'd get cold tonight," Alyssa replied returning his smile. She held onto Lewis tighter on the way home.
It was early evening when Lewis got back to Eagle's Nest. William, Jim, and Tom were already there; they'd waited supper for him.
"Y'all didn't have to wait on me, but thank you," Lewis said.
"Figured you'd need a lot of food to replenish your strength," William said with a big grin. At the look on Lewis's face he added, "Just teasin you son."
He returned William's grin and sat down at the table. As he filled his plate with food, he thought of how different his relationship with Alyssa was.
"It's sort of funny Grandpa, Alyssa and me, I mean. I think if we do get together it'll be after we're sure of how we feel about each other," Lewis said. "It's easier to wait when you've got something worth waiting for."
William stared at Lewis for a bit. "I think you're right son; you have grown some since you came back to the ranch."
Lewis nodded and said almost to himself, "It's different with Ally than it was with Julie."
Tom was lost. He hadn't met her but he knew about Alyssa. He had to ask, "Who the hell is Julie?"
"She's my ex fiancée," Lewis replied laughing at the look on Tom's face. "Part of my past."
"Speaking of loved ones, what's your wife think about you being gone so much Tom?" William asked.
"Helen says she glad to get rid of me for a while," Tom replied laughing. "Said it's like taking a vacation every week." He continued in a more serious voice. "No, she's fine with it. Helen knows I'd rather be doing this than working in that office. And getting to go home at least three days a week helps too."
"How long can you keep that up though?" Lewis asked.
"Well...I'll tell ya. I'll stay until after we get the cattle to market this fall," Tom said. "If y'all decided to keep ranchin I'd like to stay on." William and Jim nodded. "Okay then, Helen and I will sell our place back in Prescott and find somewhere to live closer to the ranch." Tom smiled and added, "Helen's been wanting to quit her job anyway."
Lewis changed the subject by asking, "Can you get by without me tomorrow? I got some errands I'd like to run."
"You had today off," William replied trying to be stern. He couldn't do it and laughed. "Sure Lewis, you go get done what you need to do."
Lewis stood and said, "I need to make a phone call, be right back."
"Tell Alyssa I said hello," William responded and Jim laughed.
Lewis made his call and the next morning, just after first light, he rode his Harley to Josh Benson's place. In spite of the early hour, Alyssa came out to meet him.
"I'm going with you today if you don't mind me tagging along," she said as she put her arms around Lewis's neck.
"I was hoping you'd go, but didn't want to ask you to take the long ride," Lewis replied.
Josh joined them carrying a thermos of coffee. "Let's get going before you two decide to ride off on that motorcycle again," he said.
They jumped in the truck and headed to Bill Jackson's place. When they got there, Lewis and Josh examined the two stock horses Jackson had for sale; the buckskin stallion and the sorrel filly. As they looked at the horses, Jackson kept up a running monologue on the virtues of the two animals.
"Bill you make em sound like they're related to Pegasus," Josh said laughing. "You've known me too long to try and fool me, my friend. Where's this wild horse you told me about?"
"He's in his stall, c'mon this way," Bill said as he led them into the barn. When they entered the barn a black horse stuck his head out of his stall and watched the humans approach. He didn't act concerned or afraid, just curious. Jackson attached a lead to his halter and led the animal out of the stall. The horse tossed his head several times and then settled and stood still.
"He is a big horse isn't he?" Lewis said.
"Yes he is. He stands just over 16 hands. Crossbreed of quarter horse and Andalusian and is just over 4 years old. He'll fill out some and get stronger as he gets older. He'll carry you all day at a lope but is still quick enough to cut cattle. He's got more bottom than a quarter horse and is almost as fast off the mark. Damn fine animal." Bill finished his description of the horse.
Josh slowly and carefully ran his hands over the horse's legs, chest and rump. Turning back to Lewis he nodded. Unless the horse had been unsound Lewis had already decided that this was the animal for Jim. Fits the description Jim gave us of Sampson pretty close, Lewis thought.
"How much for this black and the other two we looked at?" Lewis asked. It was time to get down to horse trading. Lewis was no stranger negotiating deals. That was part of his job back in St. Louis; usually he worked with amounts in excess of 100 thousand dollars.
"Well...since you're a friend of Josh's and since you brought this pretty young lady to see me, I'll give them to you at the bargain price of eleven thousand dollars," Jackson replied.
Lewis didn't hesitate and said, "Thanks for your time Mr. Jackson. I guess I'll just have to keep looking. C'mon folks, we need to get home." Lewis, Josh, and Alyssa started back toward their truck.
"Now wait a minute boy. Like I said, Josh is a friend. Maybe I could do a little better," Jackson told him. "How about ten thousand for all three? And I'll deliver them to you."
"Sorry to waste your time Mr. Jackson," Lewis replied and kept walking toward the truck. "That's more than I can afford."
Josh stopped walking, turned to Jackson and said, "Bill you said yourself that your regular customers don't want a spirited horse like that black. What are you gonna do, keep him around as a pet?"
Jackson nodded and thought for a few seconds. "Bottom line Lewis, how much can you spend?"
Now it was Lewis's turn to think. Looking at Jackson he decided to be honest. "I got $6200 Mr. Jackson; that's the whole bankroll."
Shaking his head, Jackson replied, "I'd like to help you Lewis but I can't let em go for that. I've got close to that tied up in them."
"What's your bottom dollar Bill?" Josh asked breaking into the discussion.
"I have to get $8000 to make a little profit Josh."
"Take the deal Lewis," Josh ordered. Lewis started to object and Josh repeated, "Take the deal. I'll cover the shortage."
Lewis and Jackson shook hands. "I'll have cash money for you when you deliver them, Mr. Jackson."
Jackson nodded and smiled. "I'll bring em over tomorrow Lewis. Now get out of here before you end up owning my ranch for another $100."
Back in the truck, Lewis asked," Why'd you get involved Josh? I won't be able to pay you back until after we market our cattle."
"I figure you're good for it Lewis."
Alyssa grabbed Lewis's arm and said, "If Gramps hadn't of stepped in I was going to." Before Lewis could say anything she added, "You're not a chauvinist are you Lewis?"
He looked at Alyssa for a few seconds, smiled and replied, "Not me."
Josh changed the subject. "I didn't know you knew about horse trading, Lewis."
"It's not any different than trying to get a better price from your suppliers. It's what I used to do," he replied.
"Then why did you let Jim do the dickerin for the cattle?"
Lewis chuckled and said, "You two seemed to be having such a good time, I didn't have the heart to step in. Besides we both got a fair deal; don't matter much who did the dealing."
They stopped for lunch at a roadside café. Alyssa and Lewis talked excitedly about the new horses and Josh sat back and enjoyed the young people. I wish I still had all that energy, he thought.
"You must think a lot of your Jim," Josh said. "You bought a couple of good horses for yourself and William, but that black is somethin special."
"Yes sir, I do. Jim's something special too."
After saying goodbye to Josh and Alyssa, he spent a bit more time saying goodbye to Alyssa, Lewis rode his Harley back to Eagle's Nest. My biggest problem now is keeping my mouth shut about the surprise for Grandpa and Jim, he thought.
As he walked into the kitchen William asked, "Get all your errands ran?" Lewis nodded. "Gonna need you here for the next couple of days, if you've got nothing planned. Jim, Tom, and I are going into Prescott to talk to a couple of cattle buyers. Let them know we'll be shipping cattle this fall. We're gonna arrange for the trucks to haul them to market too. We might decide to spend the night; just depends on how late it gets to be."
Lewis nodded again, thinking this will work out perfect. Mr. Jackson will deliver the horses tomorrow to the Benson's and I can bring them over here and surprise Grandpa and Jim. "That's fine, I'll be here," he replied.
The three men left early the next morning and they hadn't been gone more than ten minutes before Lewis called Bill Jackson and asked to have the horses delivered to Eagle's Nest. Then he called Josh and told him about the change in plans. Josh said he and Alyssa would be right over; he wanted to be there when Jackson delivered the horses. Lewis and Alyssa got to spend almost two hours together before Bill Jackson showed up.
He backed the horse trailer up to the corral and dropped the tailgate. The first horse off was the buckskin. He looked around as he was led into the corral and as soon as the lead was taken off his halter he trotted to the feed trough on the far side of the corral. Next the sorrel filly was led out of the trailer and she immediately joined the buckskin.
The big black came out of the trailer prancing. His ears were up and perked forward and his head was turning from side to side inspecting the area. When he was released into the corral he trotted around and around looking over the top rail. The other two were a little skittish about their new surroundings. The black was interested but not cowered or afraid.