Gender: Male Age: 72 Location: N/A
|Introduction: To the reader: As the plot to purchase the old Olmstead ranch thickens; Jake finds himself busily expanding his ranching empire and anxiously awaiting Danielle,s return. DB|
The Bell Mare
(Back at the Ranch)
I stopped in Mason to fill my stomach as it had been a long time since breakfast. No wonder my stomach is churning. As I sat in the diner, I tried to clear my mind and get things back into some kind of order; I knew I had ranches to run and the possibility I would be busy getting the Olmsted Ranch back to paying its way. I needed some new equipment. Come spring I needed a foreman for Cow Camp to replace Bob Young as I moved him to the Sorensen Ranch to replace Tex after he died. How many more men should I hire? If I get control of the Olmsted Ranch, how many men will I need there? I needed to talk with my foremen about these subjects; I put a lot of faith in those boys. I was thinking what would Tex have done. I depended on him just as much as I did Grandpa John. “Jake, you are going to have to pull a rabbit out of your hat somehow.”
I made another stop to fill up the Buick with gas. I started for the Home Ranch and decided to stop by the Sorensen Ranch and talk with Bob Young first. I found Bob out in the mechanic shop. “Good afternoon Bob.”
He shook my hand. I asked him, “Bob, do you have a few minutes I need to set up a meeting with you and Jack Snow for Monday.”
“I want you to bring some ideas with you. What you will need in the way of men and equipment and a list of who you think would be good foremen material. Can you be in my office about ten on Monday?”
“I will be there by ten. You look tired Jake, are you sick?”
“I’m just tired and need to get back home, I’ll see you then.”
I decided to just go on back home and call Jack Snow from there. When I got home, I called Jack and told him the same things I told Bob. Jack said, “See you Monday.”
When I got back to the Home Ranch, I crashed on the couch. I woke up around three o’clock Sunday morning. I felt restless and decided to go over to the office and fix a pot of coffee.
I should take a good hard look at the books and ledgers of the ranches; maybe I can see something I missed before. I changed my clothes and walked to the office. “Water,” I said aloud. “If I had water I could handle more cows.”
I fixed the coffee and sat down at my desk, “Water,” I said again aloud.
If Danielle can pull the Olmsted deal off and I lease the ranch, perhaps we could divert some of the water from the upper springs to the Home Ranch and to the Sorenson Ranch. It would take in a lot of piping but it would be all gravity fed.
Its not to bad here I thought as the Home Ranch probably has enough water in the springs to support another fifty to a hundred cows through the winter, It would mean, more calves.
The Olmsted Ranch could handle about three to four hundred cows if the grazing rights go with it. I will have to check things out after the deal is complete.
This is a big gamble here I thought. A person wouldn’t want to tip off the government and let it get back to old man Olmsted.
If the springs had enough water left for the Sorensen Ranch, we could run another three hundred more cows there. I could ship more to Denver or Chicago by rail. We also will need more trucks and update those worn out GMCs Grandpa John hated so much.
Tex said before he died if we would upgrade to self-propelled swathers, get rid of those old horse drawn sickles, and dump rakes we could save on upkeep and we wouldn’t need to keep stock through the non growing seasons. We are going to need all of the hay the Bailey Ranch can produce and hope we don’t have any bad winters. Thanks to Grandpa John’s insight, when he bought the Bailey Ranch. We have all of the water we need there.
If we used walking sprinklers instead of flood irrigation, we could get more hay per acre. We might even have some left over to sell. “Jake,” I said aloud, “You’re a genius.”
I wonder what Bob and Jack will think about your idea? Maybe they could add to it or perhaps I am just pissing into the wind. Any ways it won’t hurt to run things by them, like they say three heads are better than one.
Some times, I wish I were more like Grandpa John; I often thought he could see into the future. I do know one thing, we have to get with the times and modernize.
Grandpa John use to say, “The old ways are not the ways of the future.”
He told me many times. Maybe this is why Grandpa John spent so much time and money sending me to school. He thought, maybe he knew I would be smart enough to see what he saw.
I need some fresh air. I said, “Jake, why don’t you go up to Cow Camp and clean up the place.”
About six, I called Bob and told him where I was going and when I would be back.
I took new sheets and pillowcases along with me. I thought I had better take a couple of laundry sacks too. When I pulled up in the yard, I could see the Cowboys did, as I wanted them to do. Danielle’s elk was gone and so was the horses, I went into my cabin. The front room and kitchen were fine except, I needed to wash the dishes; I finished them and went into the small bedroom. I changed the pillowcases and sheets, and then I made the bed. I picked up Danielle’s nightgown, panties, and bra then cleaned the closet and drawers out. I tidied up the bathroom putting new towels, soap, and washcloths out. I cleaned the shower, basin, and toilet. Then I went into our room and did the same. I picked up the rest of the clothing lying around and carried them back into the kitchen. I sat down in my chair; I imagined I could see Danielle cooking breakfast. I sat there a long time but she never reappeared. I loaded everything into my truck and headed for home. When I drove down the lane to the Home Ranch, I stopped as Danielle and I did before. I looked at the old house and thought; I like the shape of the house and its walk around screened porches. I also like the second story and the yard with its flower gardens. Danielle would enjoy them. I thought about where the new barn, bunkhouse, cook shack, and corrals would be located.
I drove on up into the yard and took every thing into the house. I put her things into the washer except for the stained panties and bra she had been wearing on our last night. I held them up to my chest and stood there swaying back and forth, “Danielle, Danielle,” I said then dropped them into the washer along with the rest of her clothes. As the washer finished, I put her clothes into the dryer. When they were finished drying, I carefully folded and put them in the chest of drawers in the bedroom. I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of warmed over coffee; I said to myself, “Back to normal what ever that is. I wonder what tomorrows meeting will bring.”
Monday morning I started a pot of coffee for the men when they got here. As I looked out of the window I could see Jack’s pickup coming up the lane, when it stopped, I saw Bob getting out of the passenger side. I felt better they were both here together. I walked out on the porch to greet them; I shook their hands and invited them in saying, “I have the coffee ready.”
We sat down. “Bob, do you have a list of potential foremen?”
“Yes, three men, all have above average common senses and a working understanding of ranches.”
“Which man is the best?”
Then I asked him, “Which one would you recommend for Cow Camp.”
“Their all good men, probably Joe Nathan would my first choice.”
I handed them note pads and pens. “I’ll try not to show my excitement and go so fast you can’t keep up with me. The both of you have been around here long enough to be aware of the feud between Grandpa John and Paul Olmsted? Olmsted will not sell the ranch to me I have tried. Now what I am going to tell you is strictly off the record. It goes no farther than the three of us, ok?”
They both agreed.
I said, “I am aware of a potential buyer for the Olmsted Ranch out of New York. Whom, I have talked with quite a bit lately, at present; she has no intentions of running the ranch herself and perhaps not even moving here. I offered to take a one-year lease on the ranch and make enough improvements to cover the lease price. At the end of one year, she will either move onto the ten acres to the front of the ranch or stay in New York. Either way, I can lease it for five years at a time, renewable at the end of each five years at an agreed upon price. We need water, I believe she would agree to let us upgrade the two upper springs and pipe the water to the Sorensen Ranch. We could supplement the Home Ranch and use what we need. Water is my main concern, without it we can’t expand the ranches also Paul holds the grazing rights to those twenty-five hundred acres northeast of Cow Camp. I have an appointment in Deming Thursday to discuss things up to this point. Right now, I don’t know much more than you do.”
I outlined the other items on my list. I asked Bob Young, “Are you happy with the Sorensen Ranch, or would you like to move to the Olmsted Ranch, if this takes place?”
“There is going to be a lot of changes we will need to make, I believe I would be a better choice for you than Jim Johnson. Besides, Jim knows the Sorensen Ranch almost as well as me.”
Now Jack, “Do you think you can handle the things I outlined for the Bailey Ranch or do you think you will need an assistant? Perhaps you had better think about this one for a few days. Can we all get back together next Monday same time, and place?”
They both agreed next Monday would be a good time for our meeting.
“In the mean time, I need you two to put some thought about what I said. If you disagree, I want you to tell me, this is going to be quite costly and if I go, we all go. Personally, I like it here.”
They looked at each other a minute or two. Jack said, “I’ll pick you up Monday morning Bob, I wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.”
Bob said, “Jake, Do you think we have a chance to shove a shovel up old man Olmsted’s ass?”
I smiled and said, “I’d like to give it a try for Grandpa John? One other thing Bob, would you ask Joe if he would like to take over Cow Camp this year? It will save me a trip over there to talk with him.”
The rest of the day, I looked through the ranch ledgers and bank accounts. I also looked through the old file cabinets Grandpa John had in his office. I said aloud, “It’s hard to break old habits.”
Grandpa John kept the ranches on a cash and carry basis. He would say, “If you don’t have the money in the bank you can do without it.”
Progress went slow in those days. Grandpa John also told me before he died, “Jake, my ways may not be the way of the future.”
Going into debt is taking a big risk, but if I don’t take the gamble now when the ranches need it, we will be living in the past.
I stood up and went outside to the small graveyard, as I stood looking down at Grandpa John’s grave I said, “If you were still here, would you put the ranches on the line?”
I looked to my left to where Tex lies. I said, “Tex, if you were still here would you take me out to the corral?”
“I sure wish the two of you were still here.”
I took a deep breath, I said, “Jack Snow and Bob Young are both good men, I don’t take their advice lightly but, when the chips are down on the table it’s my decisions to make, I sure hope I make the right ones.”
I walked slowly back to the office.
Thursday morning I picked up my brief case and put it in the car. The drive to Deming was enjoyable; my mind went back to the days when Grandpa John and Tex were still running the ranches. Grandpa John bought the Bailey ranch for the hay it would produce. In those days, Mr. Bailey used horse drawn mowing machines to cut the hay. After the hay dried, they used horse drawn dump rakes to wind roe. Then came the horse drawn wagons, the hay had to be hand forked unto the wagons and taken to a stationary baler and again hand forked into the baler which tied a two wire bail. Grandpa John bought some new tractor pulled balers to let them bale the hay out in the field. The new balers tied a three-string bale instead of the wire tied bale but they still used the horse drawn mowing machines and dump rakes.
It was Tex, who suggested Grandpa John replace the horses with tractors. They then cut, windrowed, and baled the hay using tractors. Now it was my turn to upgrade the process. If we had two of those self-propelled swathers and had more balers, we could save in time and manpower. The dump rakes could be retired as the swathers did the windrows when they cut the hay. I had heard about another piece of machinery, it was tractor drawn with a wide moving belt powered by the tractor. It would pick up the bales and elevate them to the back of the trucks for stacking. It would speed up getting the hay out of the fields so we could get the water back on as soon as possible.
I relaxed a little; arriving early, I stopped by the farm supply store to pick up some brochures on Irrigation equipment and those self-propelled swathers. I checked on prices of good used ones as well as the elevators. Then I went to the International Truck Sales yard, I talked to Gene Davidson about some trucks. He said, “Jake, some times like in your case it might be wise to buy six used trucks than it would be to buy three new ones. The price would be about the same and they will last you just as many years as new ones, if you take care of them. I have a small fleet of over the road units coming in next month on trade; I’ll give you a call when I get them.”
It was getting on about eleven thirty; I parked in front of the hotel I noticed Dave’s car was already there. I picked up my brief case from the back seat of my car and went inside. I saw Dave standing in front of the bar with one foot on the foot rail and his elbows on the bar.
Dave is a pudgy built man about five foot-six in his late fifties or early sixties, round head and graying hair. He always wore a dark blue suit and tie. I suppose the most striking thing about Dave is his dark gray eyes, he can add a smile to them and charm the devil himself or he can turn his eyes cold and appear to look right through you to your very soul.
As I walked up to him I said, “Good morning Dave it’s been a while.”
I held my hand out and we shook hands. “You’re looking good Jake; you want a drink before we sit down?”
“I might have some coffee.”
“I arranged for us to use the big table in the corner I think it will be a little more private.”
We sat down and the waitress came over to take our orders, she said, “It will be a while before your orders are served.”
Dave said, “It will be fine Sue. We are going to be here for a while, we’re in no hurry.”
When Sue left to turn in our orders Dave said, “How’s the ranching business these days Jake?”
“That’s why I am here.”
“Are you having problems Jake?”
“Yes and no but I need your help putting a deal together. I met a woman.”
Dave interrupted me, “Serious I hope, it’s about time.”
“It’s not what you are thinking Dave. Well not at this time any ways; right now, it is all business. Her name is Danielle Hansel, she lives in New York.”
“Hold on, let me get my note pad out this looks interesting.”
“You knew about the feud between Grandpa John and Paul Olmsted?”
“I sure do, she was a real looker, well that was before your time. The funny thing about it was they fought over her and she dumped both of them for a gambler. Let’s see, her name was Goldie Dawson, if my memory serves me correctly.”
“I need the Olmsted Ranch, I tried to get Paul Olmsted to sell it to me after Grandpa John died but he wouldn’t answer my letters. I suppose old feuds are more important than money. Anyways, he wants to sell the ranch and this lady is interested. I heard he is asking one hundred fifty thousand for it. I told her if she bought the ranch, I would lease it from her and upgrade things for the lease money. I need the grazing rights that go with the ranch. I don’t know if she will move here or not but it would be a good business deal for the both of us.”
I continued, “I told her to get in contact with you and keep me out of things; if Paul Olmsted found out about me, chances are he would try to take it with him when he dies. She said, she would wire you fifty thousand for the down payment and will need you to make contact with Paul in her behalf.”
Our orders came, as we ate we talked some more. I gave Dave her name and address along with her phone number. Dave said, “The place is in bad shape, it might not be worth his asking price.”
I said, “It occurred to me to but she would be getting a good deal in the long run and so would I. The problem is I cannot expand without the ranch and I can’t buy it from Paul. She said she needed a good tax right off, even if she came out short the tax write-off would offset things later on.”
“You are probably right on that one Jake.”
“We will need you to make out a good lease agreement for both of us to live with.”
I gave him the details. He said, “Grandpa John would probably have said, I think Jake is going soft in his head.”
“Well perhaps it is the case.”
“The look in your eyes tells me more than you are telling me.”
I smiled and said, “You never know Dave, you will have to do the paper work for the sale too.”
Dave was smiling now, he said, “Jake is she a good looker?”
“What the hell do you mean, you see?”
“Do I hear wedding bells off in the distance or is it just the patter of little feet I hear?”
“Damn it Dave, you are a lot like Grandpa John, can you see into the future?”
He smiled and said, “No, I think I can see far enough to tell when a man is in love. Leave it to me Jake, when she contacts me I’ll take care of things for you.”
“Thank you Dave, I’ll get the check.”
Dave said, “I’ll get the tip.”
We shook hands again. “Jake, she must really be a good looker; I can’t wait to meet her.”
“You will soon.”
I left the dining area. I stopped by the drug store and dropped the three rolls of film off saying, “It may be a few weeks before I get back to pick them up”
It was late Friday evening I was still deep in the books at the ranch office, when the phone rang. I picked it up saying “Home ranch,”
The voice at the other end said, “This is Danielle Hansel.”
I almost dropped the phone, “Could I speak with Jake Lance?”
“Danielle, this is Jake. I hardly recognized your voice it sounds so soft.”
“I am so excited, I talked to my lawyer Monday about getting my name changed and when he called me back, he said, “Go out and buy yourself a wig and a blue business suit make sure the skirt wouldn’t come up any higher than the bottom of your knees. Low heeled shoes and make sure you are wearing nylons.”
“I told him, I would do as you suggested. Dee helped me with my face and this morning we went before the judge. She seemed to be a pleasant person.”
My lawyer told her, “Miss. Hansel wants to petition the court to change the spelling in her first name. Her father wanted a boy so bad he refused to call Miss Hansel anything but Dan, as it was the name he had chosen for her.”
“You’re Honor,” he continued, “In the business world Miss Hansel has found it is difficult to function using her name as it is spelt, her clients are expecting to talk to a man, and she has in the past experienced much embarrassment.”
Miss Hansel would like, “You’re Honor, to change the spelling from D-a-n to D-a-n-i-e-l-l-e.”
The judge didn’t hesitate one second, she said, “Miss Hansel’s motion is granted. I see no reason for Miss. Hansel to suffer any more embarrassment in the future.”
My Lawyer said, “Thank you you’re Honor.”
Danielle continued in an excited voice, “I changed my bank account and sent the money to your lawyer; he should have it the first of the week. O, Jake I have missed you so much.”
“You sound so excited about everything I can hardly believe it. I miss you to Sweetheart. I wish you were here with me.”
“Uncle Rick and Aunt Dee got married. What do you think about that? I wish they were us.”
“Danielle, I love you.”
“I have to go before I start to cry, I’ll write to you. I love you Jake.”
The receiver went dead as she hung up. I said aloud, “What a day this has been; Danielle is really in love with you Jake.”
Saturday I grabbed my note pad and a few pens and pencils, I went out to the corral to saddle Ike, he is my favorite horse. Grandpa John gave him to me the summer before he died; it makes him something special to me.
His color is solid black, except for the white blaze on his face. He is not too tall but rather on the short side in length, he walks fast and his movements are as smooth as glass.
When he saw me coming with the saddle, he didn’t shy away but stood still while I put the blanket and saddle on him. I kind of expected him to act as if I had put on to much weight. Perhaps he was unaware of my eating habits the last week or so.
As I eased the bit into his mouth and adjusted the bridle straps, he took a good look at me out of the corner of his eye. “Ike I think you will like Danielle. She is small, probably only about half my weight. She is quiet and her smile will make you melt like butter.”
His ears came forward and he nickered at me. “I think you will love her as much as I do.”
I eased into the saddle as he adjusted himself for my weight. I told him, “We have a lot to do today boy.”
We headed in the direction of the Olmsted Ranch fence, I thought to myself, we could cut a road from the office to the high spot straight ahead, and lay the pipeline along the south side of the road. We need a cattle guard right about there in the fence. “You do remember how to cross a cattle guard don’t you Ike?”
As we rode on, I thought if we put a bend in the road, it would be almost a straight shot to the house from here. The pipeline could turn to the right and head straight up there to the springs. We turned to our right and headed along the fence. Ike stopped cold, “What do you see Ike?”
He took a few more steps and a covey of quail came up, as near as I could count, there was about twenty. “Good boy,”
When we reached our corner post we turned west, I could see a few places where the deer had pushed the fence down as they crossed. Ike forded the creek and we continued on, the fence looked all right to the corner. We turned north, about two hundred feet ahead I could see part of the fence was down; I jotted it down in my note pad too. About another quarter mile, I could see three posts needed replacing. I don’t think the fence is as bad as I thought; we can go home now. I said, “Git Ike.”
He took off like a shot. “Ike, what do you think you are a race horse or something?”
When he slowed to a walk again, I got it, “You see the corral and think you deserve a treat do you?”
I brushed him a little and gave him a handful of oats then turned him loose into the corral.
I went back to the office and made some sketches and a few more notes. I said aloud, “Call it a day Jake.”
I always talk to myself that way; I know then I am not loosing my mind.
The weekend went by quietly. I think I was waiting for Monday and the boys to show up. I sure needed their advice.
When Monday finally came, I was ready for the foremen. Ten o’clock, right on time, you could set your clock by them. I motioned them in; I said, “Have a seat. Bob, did you talk to Joe about Cow Camp?”
Bob said, “He would be glad for the promotion.”
I told them I had looked things over along the fence line Saturday here is what I found. “Bob the fence is yours.”
“Jack, what do you think about the Bailey Ranch?”
He agreed we needed to upgrade the sprinklers, it would be better than the old system. I gave him the brochures from the Deming Farm Supply. “Can you use an assistant?”
“I have a man in mind to help me, let’s keep the cost down right now; I believe I can handle things alright by myself.”
I told them I had stopped by the International Truck Sales and Gene would let me know when he received the fleet of used trucks. “Bob, we will need to go have a look at them. What else do you have for me to look over?”
Each gave me their list. I said, “I will look them over and get back to you as soon as I hear anything positive on the sale of the Olmsted Ranch. I did talk with the lady Friday evening; she said the down payment is on its way. Keep your fingers crossed on old Paul. Perhaps he has some good left in him yet. Jack, what do you think about us going into debt?”
“If we are going to get control of the Olmsted Ranch we will need to upgrade the Bailey Ranch.”
“That’s kind of what I thought. Is there anything else we never covered?”
Jack said, “Not at this point.”
“Bob, how about you, what are your thoughts?”
“Jake, we have a lot riding on the ranch sale. If it doesn’t, happen we will be all right. If we get it, you might have to come up with a lot of money fast.”
“I can come up with the money alright but it will mean we could loose the whole thing if it doesn’t work out. You two put some more thought into it and I will keep you informed about my progress. I really need to pick what is between you boy’s ears. I depend on you to keep me thinking straight, we don’t have Grandpa John and Tex to pick us up if we fall down. Let’s have a snort then maybe we can go back to being normal till things heat up again.”
Tuesday I saw one of the pickups from the Sorensen Ranch coming up the lane towards the office. When they pulled up to the front of the office, one of the cowboys came in asking for directions to find the problems with the fence. I said, “If you go west, to the fence line and follow it you will find the broken posts. Then keep on going to the corner, turn left and follow it until you find the two places where the deer pushed it down.”
As they drove toward the fence, the phone rang. I said, “Home Ranch.”
It was Dave Mosley, “Jake, this is Dave Mosley the check is here. I will need you to come down here to discuss some more of the details on the offer. There is a letter for you. Miss Hansel suggested I start the offer at a much lower price than you said. I just want you to confirm any changes before I move on the offer. I don’t want my secretary to type things up to many times.”
“It’s a little late to make it down there tonight, can we talk tomorrow?”
“Can you be in my office at nine o’clock?”
“You don’t want to meet me at the hotel?”
“No Jake, I think we had better discuss things here in the office. Let me say this though, Miss Hansel has changed some of the rules of attack, this is why I need you here in the office.”
“Dave I’ll be there at nine.”
He hung up the phone.
I shook my head; I hope she has not done something to mess things up. If I have to, tomorrow we can try to get her on the phone if she is in New York. I suppose if push comes to shove Dave and I can make any decisions after all it is my problem and not hers.
I was up at five thirty and ready to leave by six, three hours should give me plenty of time to have some breakfast before this shindig gets started. Dave seemed a little upset when I spoke to him last night maybe her check was no good although she should have sent it certified. I stopped for breakfast; I sat down and ordered biscuits, gravy, and coffee. I hope Dave has this all sorted out by the time I get there, right now I have myself upset and confused. It was eight forty-five; I had better get my backside over there before I am late for our appointment. I try not to be late usually early but, this; I am worried about; there is a lot at stake here.
I walked into Dave’s office; he came out and shook my hand, and then motioned me into a side room. I thought this is not like Dave he is usually talkative, especially with me. He said, “Jake, up early today are you?”
I mustered a smile, “Dave do we have a big problem with this?”
“Take a look at this” as he handed me the check.
I looked at the check, and saw it was made out for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and no cents. I replied, “I, I don’t understand this Dave it was to be for fifty thousand as a down payment.”
“Jake this is the instructions Miss Hansel sent with it.”
Dave handed the paper to me. It read; Mr. Mosley, money talks. I want the ranch but from what I saw of it, I don’t believe it is in the best of shape. I thought if I sent the total asking price, if Mr. Olmsted was to be offered cash he just might sell at a reduced price. I want you to start with one hundred twenty five thousand; if he wants more you have my permission to go as high as the full asking price. If he sells for less, take your fee plus paper work and write Jake a check for the difference, he will then be able to start the work on the house as he sees fit. It was signed, Danielle Hansel.
“What do you want me to do Jake?”
“I suppose the lady wants it done her way, I won’t try to stop her after all it’s her money and she is the boss.”
“I will have my secretary get the paper work in order. I have taken the liberty of contacting Paul Olmsted. I told him I have a cash offer from a lady in New York. I said, “It is less than you are going to put it on the market for but after you pay the real estate people and wait six month to a year for a buyer this offer may look pretty good to you.”
“I have a meeting here tomorrow at ten with him. Jake if you want to call any of this off now is the time to say so.”
I looked at Dave and finally said, “She really said to start at one twenty five?”
“You read the letter didn’t you?”
“Dave I would never.”
Dave cut me off. He said, “She must have a good business head on her shoulders and it looks like she has guts to, you had better marry her as quickly as you can before someone else does. She might even teach you a thing or two about finances before it’s all over.”
I gave Danielle’s address to him so he could send any paper work to her for her signature. “She is vacationing in Sweden?”
He just shook his head and said, “Jake, I’ll send Miss Hansel the lease agreement so she can sign and return it to me.”
Dave shook my hand and said; “As soon as I know anything I will give you a call. You will be at the Home Ranch won’t you?”
As I was driving home, I tried to recall what took place. I cannot believe she did this, I was not expecting her to kick in with a hundred thousand of her own money. Just when I get to know her, she turns into a he, now he is a she I think! I said aloud, “Jake, you are not making a damn bit of sense. Your problem I think is, you have been doing things your own way to long and here comes little Miss Sweet titties and knocks the damn plank out from under your male ego. Yes, that must be it, you have a real woman on the string, and you do not appreciate her. What is wrong with you anyway Jake. Look at what sacrifices Danielle is making for you, she is changing her body for you, and she is spending her money for you. She is willing to spend the rest of her life with you, she never asked you for anything but she is willing to give you her all, what more can a man ask of a woman?”
When I parked in front of the office, I went in and collapsed on the couch. When I opened my eyes the sun was up, I said aloud, “Jake, you must have slept all night.”
My body felt weak. I said aloud, “I don’t think Tex could have done a better job of kicking your butt than the butt kicking you gave yourself. There I go; I’m talking to myself again.”
I thought to myself, I need coffee. I heated the coffee from yesterday, or was it the day before. After I finished two cups, I decided I had better eat something I walked over to the house and fixed myself a sandwich of peanut butter and jelly. I went into the bathroom and took a shower, put on fresh clothes and shaved. I walked back over to the office. It was eleven forty five when I heard the phone ring. I picked up the phone and said, “Home Ranch.”
It was Dave Mosley, he said, “Jake, this is Dave, Olmsted settled for one hundred thirty thousand I have his signature on the contract. The only thing left is escrow; it should only take a week or so. You can tell, “Miss Hansel she is a rich woman.”
“What the hell are you talking about Dave?”
“Remember us talking about the feud between Grandpa John and Paul Olmsted? Well all of those years Olmsted had your Grandpa John where the hair was short. Olmsted owned all of the water rights for half of the valley and he wouldn’t let Grandpa John have any of it.”
“I can’t believe it; you mean all of this because of a dance hall floozy who ran off with a gambler?”
Dave replied, “That’s the truth of the matter Jake.”
“Thank you Dave, I’ll call Danielle and tell her the good news.”
Just as I was going to pick up the phone it rang, I almost jumped out of my skin. I said, “Home Ranch,”
The voice on the phone said. “Jake this is Danielle.”
“Danielle, I was just picking up the phone to call you when you called. I have good news for you, Olmsted signed on the dotted line for one hundred thirty thousand. You are a rich girl. You own all of the water rights on this side of the valley.”
“O, Jake, you made my day, I love you. Jake, if I heard you right, we are rich, we own the water rights to half of the valley?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there.”
“Sorry honey, my plane leaves for Sweden in twenty minutes I’ll write to you when I get settled in.”
“I love you Danielle, I love you.”
“I’ll see you soon I love you to, bye.”
She hung up. I stood there with the phone in my hand, I said aloud, “Jake you are the richest man in the world, you have Danielle, and she loves you.”
I called Jack Snow. “Bailey Ranch” the voice said.
“Jack this is Jake, I can’t say much over the phone right now. I thought you, Bob, and the new man will be having a meeting here in the office in about one or two weeks. It is about the subjects we were discussing last Monday. At this point things are looking good. I need you to put things together before the meeting, what you will need, what you would like to do, and any projection of time and cost.”
“I’m happy for you Jake; give me a call when you need to talk.”
“Thank you Jack, I’ll keep you informed.”
I called Bob young. “Sorensen Ranch Bob Young here.”
“Bob, Jake, I just got off the phone with Jack. As I told him, I can’t say much on these damn phones. I will tell you the same thing though; at this point in time things are looking good. Can you come over here I need to discuss this with you?”
How about an hour, or so, I need to get my papers in my brief case and tell the men what I need them to do while I’m gone?”
“Take your time Bob I’m not in that much of a hurry, I’ll be in the office when you get here. Oh, Bob one other thing I have to say; the next time you are in town, I want you to buy the biggest damn shovel you can find!”
“I remember the statement I made at the end of our meeting last Monday, Just how big is big?”
“Bob, when I say big I mean big, ok.”
I hung the phone up and I must have had a smile on my face reaching from one ear to the other. I filled my cup with coffee and sat down in my chair to drink it. I said aloud, “Jake, where in the hell did you put Danielle’s letter Dave gave you in the office? I remember its still on the seat of the Buick.”
I got up and went out to the car. I said, “There it is.”
I opened the car door to pick it up. I just wanted to go sit down when I read Danielle’s letter, I wanted to concentrate on every last word she wrote.
As I sat there holding Danielle’s letter out in front of me, my hands started to shake so bad I had to set it down on my desk and use the letter opener to open it. I unfolded her letter turning it right side up so I could read it. Her letter started out.
By the time you read my letter, I will be in Sweden. I hope what I did will not offend you, the last thing in this world I would ever want to do is to hurt you. I told you I wanted to invest my money in a safe place for the future, I can’t think of a safer place than with you darling. I sent Mr. Mosley, instructions of what I wanted him to do for us. I knew the Olmsted Ranch was very important to you as you told me you needed it for the grazing rights other wise expansion might not be able to take place. I did not want to take a chance of not getting the ranch that is why I went over your head. I am sorry I did not ask you first.
I talked with Uncle Rick and Aunt Dee about us. They agreed you must have a lot of trust in me to give me a check for fifty thousand dollars after only knowing me for eight days even though it seemed to me like a lifetime. I felt I wanted to do something special for you.
You will never be able to understand the confidence my Lawyer and the Lady Judge instilled into me the day I went into the courtroom. I believe deep down in my heart darling, Dan has gone and is never coming back.
Aunt Dee called the people in Sweden to explain my situation. They had me go to the hospital for a complete work up and to have the hospital send the results directly to them. When they called back, they told Aunt Dee they would like to do something different with me than they did with her. Instead of doing the operations to enhance my breasts and hips, they said with some new medication called testosterone-blocking hormone therapy and estrogen injections my curves would become more pronounced and feminine and I would be able to grow real breasts. The down side is they could not guarantee they would get as large as Dee’s. The other thing is my muscle strength will weaken and my dinky will probably loose some of its size although it will function no differently than before.
There is a good side to all of this; I will not have to stay in Sweden as long as Aunt Dee did. I can come home in the summer time.
I love you.
As I sat there rereading Danielle’s letter for about the sixth time I heard Bob pull up in front of the office. I opened the drawer in the front of my desk putting her letter carefully down then closing the drawer.
I got up and met Bob at the door, “Bob” I said, as we shook hands. “Come on in and have some coffee. I have so much to tell you. I will probably have to make a fresh pot.”
Bob said, as he looked at me, “I don’t ever remember seeing you this happy. Are you pregnant?”
“No, just in love.
“You mean you and the lady from New York?”
“I sure hope so.”
“Changing the subject Bob, I wanted you to know Paul Olmsted signed the papers for the ranch and escrow should close in a week or so. The ranch sold to Danielle for one hundred thirty thousand. We can get going as soon as the deed is delivered.”
Bob said, “I’ll get a shovel.”
“Bob, not yet you haven’t heard the best part, remember the feud between Grandpa John and Paul Olmsted? Well, I finally got to the bottom of it, as we thought; it was over a woman and well it is only part of the story. Paul Olmsted was able to tie up all of the water rights on this side of the valley; we own it now or soon will. We can make all of the expansion to the ranches we talked about; we will hold the water rights.”
Bob was silent; he looked at me for a long time. “Jake, I will pay for the shovel with my own money and have it gold plated,”
He pointed and said, “You can hang it up over the door.”
Did we have a good laugh about this one? I said, “I really needed a good laugh.”
We had another good laugh. “Bob, I will have a list as long as your arm to do on the Olmsted place this spring. Damn it,”
I stopped talking for a few seconds, and then said, “Bob, I hate that name! As soon as escrow closes, I want you to take the sign down over the gate I want it replaced with one saying, THE BELL BRAND RANCH. I would like to register the brand and use the outline of a bell as the logo. What do you think?”
“Do you think she will like it?”
“I don’t know Bob; I think Danielle is the Bell Mare and I will be following her bell for a long time to come. When Gene calls, I would like you to go look at those trucks for me. Gene said they are good over the road units. I think if we bought five of them and one quits we could use it for parts that is, if they have all the same engines, transmissions, and rear ends. I want to park those damn GMCs, they are still good trucks and we could use them for backups if we had to but I think we can get along without all of the damn noise too.”
“We will need trailers for them.”
“I agree. I want you to start grooming Jim Johnson for your replacement and Joe Nathan for Cow Camp. You will probably look like you have three shadows for a while I expect it. I want a crew to go up to Cow Camp this spring and check it out as soon as possible. I want to have everything moving by the first of March. You are going to be too busy with the Bell Brand Ranch; and those boys will just have to be on their own. Here is some of my notes on the property, look them over and get back with me on it. The road, pipeline, and the springs are top priority. Just as soon after closing, I want you to go over to the Bell Brand and pick out a place to build you and Martha a new house as long as you remember the first ten acres is for Danielle. Bob, I have changed my mind, when escrow closes I will make reservations at the lodge for the meeting between me and my key people and their families. How does that sound to you? We can have a victory celebration; you can bring that shovel along too.”
“Jake, It’s good to see you so excited these past few days, I think a Bell Mare, is what this herd has needed, for a long time. Look at the time, it is almost six o’clock, I had better be getting back to the ranch I think we have covered a lot of ground today. I’ll get back to you in a few days; it feels more like the old days around here.”
Christmas had passed; the ranches were quiet this time of the year for all of us. We had cattle and horses to take care of but otherwise, we could just sit back and plan for the first of March. About the time, I thought I could take things easy.
The phone rang, I said, “Home Ranch.”
It was Dave Mosley. “Hi Jake, just wanted to let you know escrow closed yesterday. Miss Hansel is the new owner of the Olmsted Ranch. Also, I have the lease agreement ready for your signature. Miss Hansel sent it back all signed and dated. It looks like you are in the ranching business big time. The next time you come to the office, my secretary will have everything put together for you to sign.”
“Dave, it sure takes a load off my mind. What day and time would be convenient for you? I have to come to Deming soon anyways.”
“If you can be here the day after tomorrow, say noon, I would let you buy me a big steak for lunch.”
“The hotel or your office?”
Dave laughed and then said, “You don’t expect me to cook them do you?”
“Thank you Dave, I’ll see you in the hotel at noon.”
He hung up. I yelled, “Wooop-eeee Dave, you sure know how to make my day.”
About ten minutes later the phone rang again. I said, “Home Ranch.”
“Jake this is Gene Davidson in Deming.”
“Hi Gene, did you have a Merry Christmas?”
“I sure did how about you?”
“For a single man I don’t think it could have been any better.”
What I called you for is to let you know the trucking company turned six of their fleet in on a dozen new units, my boss said if I can get rid of them before New Years he would come up with a handsome bonus for me, are you still interested?”
“I have to be in Deming the day after tomorrow will you be around the yard?”
“In the afternoon I will be here in the office.”
“How about two o’clock I have some things to take care of before I get there.”
“Bring your check book I am prepared to make you the best deal of the year.”
“Thanks Gene by.”
I decided I would need some expert advice on this subject. I phoned Bob Young. He said, “Hello, Sorensen Ranch.”
“Bob are you doing anything special the day after tomorrow?”
“Nothing I can think of, what’s up?”
“Gene called and said he would make me a deal on six used trucks; I need you to go with me as I don’t know a damn thing about trucks.”
“What time are you going to pick me up?”
“Would five be too early for you?”
He replied, “No.”
“The ranch cleared escrow yesterday we only have until March to get things together before we have to start shipping cattle. You had better warn Martha you will be missing a lot of meals in the next few months.”
“I love it; see you when you get here.”
I called Jack Snow, when he picked up the phone he said, “Bailey Ranch.”
“Jack, Jake, you had better find your traveling boots, your going to be busier than a one legged man at an ass kicking contest.”
“I’ll bet the deal flew?”
“It sure did.”
“When can we get started?”
“Bob and I are going to Deming to see about those trucks and the Lawyers office day after tomorrow. I’ll stop by the bank and make sure things are fine there. Right after New Years, I need you to go after the things we discussed. Will this give you enough time?”
“I’ll have my boots all shined up and ready to go.”
“I’ll talk to you later and hung up.”
The next day was Wednesday; I was at my desk when I heard Bob Young drive up into the parking area. He came into the office smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary.
“Jake come out here, I have something to show you.”
I jumped up and headed for the door. When I got to the porch, Bob said, “Look what I brought you.”
There was the old Olmsted gate sign in the back of his pickup. “As soon as your boys get the new one done, have them put it up.”
“Get in Jake; I have something else to show you.”
He drove over to the Olmsted gate. When he stopped, he pointed up. I broke into a big smile there hung the new sign. It read, “The Bell Brand Ranch” with a bell at both ends. “Bob your boys knocked themselves out on this one.”
“Do you like it Jake?”
“Yes, and so will Danielle.”
Bob turned the pickup around and took me back to the office. As I got out I said, “Thanks Bob, the sign is a real work of art.”
“I’ll see you in the morning Jake.”
I waved and went back into the office. I sat down with a cup of coffee, as I drank it my thoughts went to tomorrow. I put the empty cup down on the counter and thought I had better turn in early; tomorrow is going to be one busy day.
The next morning I picked up Bob and we started the drive to Deming. We made a lot of small talk along the way. When we got there, I said, I need to stop at the bank and BLM office; you take the Buick and meet me at the hotel come noon,”
When he drove off, I went into the bank and found Stan White, the bank manager. We shook hands, Stan showed me to his desk. When we sat down Stan said, “What can I do for you today Jake?”
I explained what I had in mind for the ranches this year also about my deal on the Olmsted Ranch. Stan said, “Jake, it looks like you are planning on taking a big bite this year.”
“I hope not more than I can chew.”
“Don’t worry about the finances, you have a clear line of credit up to,” and he gave me a figure.
“Thank you Stan I’ll keep in touch.”
The next stop was the BLM Office. I went over to see Hank Brady. I shook his hand and said, “Hank, I leased the grazing rights on the old Olmsted Ranch.”
“I already heard about it Jake.”
I asked him if it would be a problem with the BLM. He said, “I have the papers ready for you to sign. Dave Mosley called and said you would be here today.”
“Good old Dave.”
We shook hands and I was out of the office within a half hour. The next stop was the Drug Store; I picked up the pictures and took a quick look at my watch. It was Eleven twenty five. I decided to go over to the park and look the pictures over.
There Danielle was in all of her glory. I said to myself aloud, “I hope she will be as happy when she comes back as she is in these pictures.”
I looked at my watch again, I need to get going, or I will be late for lunch. As I walked into the hotel, I saw Bob and Dave talking together. I shook hands with Dave and said, “I see you and Bob are ready to eat?”
We went over the papers Dave brought with him. I signed the ones he wanted signed. Then Dave said, “Good luck with your new venture.”
We finished up and Dave said, “Thank you Jake for the lunch, it looks like you boys are going to have a busy spring.”
Dave excused himself and went back to his office. “Bob, the BLM said we are alright there and the bank gave me a credit line. What do you say we go have a look at those trucks?”
Bob got up from the table, “It don’t look like we are going to miss too many meals.”
“Don’t bet on it.”
When we pulled up Gene came out of the office. “Gene Davidson this is Bob Young my best foreman. Bob, Gene is going to try to sell you some trucks. It’s up to you two as I don’t know anything about trucks.”
“The trucks are in real good shape and all are the same including color. They are 1953 International conventional cabs and are six years old; they all have two twenty horse power Cummins engines, five speed mains and four speed auxiliary transmissions. The rear ends are also the same, Eaton’s. I will run them through the shop and have my mechanics check them out before delivery, if you still want them.”
We looked at the trucks and kicked a few tires then we went back into Gene’s office. Gene said, “If you want all six of them this is the best price my boss will consider.”
He showed us the figures. I took a long hard look at Gene then I said, “Gene I think you are trying to hand me a bunch of bull shit. I know you do not have a boss, now what is your best price?”
He thought for a minute then said, “How about this. This is my bottom line.”
Gene broke out into a laugh. “Bob you have a sharp boss.”
I looked at Bob and he shook his head yes. “Gene It’s a deal
We shook hands. I signed the papers and we were off to the ranch. “You were pretty shrewd back there, how did you know Gene was the boss?”
“Just a lucky guess I suppose.”
We pulled up at the Sorensen Ranch. “I would like to look the Bell Brand over tomorrow. Jake, could you come with me?”
“How about ten?”
“I’ll see you then.”
The next morning Bob showed up as planned, I came out of the office and looked in the back of his pickup. There were hammers, stakes, ribbons, and a three hundred foot tape measure along with some other things. “Bob are you going to look for a spot for your house or are you going to stake out a bunch of mining claims?”
He laughed at what I said. I reached into the back of my pickup and pulled out a five-gallon can of gas. I put it in the back of Bob’s pickup then I got in and said, “Let’s go.”
Bob stopped at the gate. We looked up at the sign then went on up to the yard. Bob leaned over on the steering wheel of his pickup and said, “Jake, if you are thinking what I think you are thinking I would rethink that can of gas. I was up here the day we put the sign up and took a walk through the old place. Before you do what I think you are going to do, at least you should take a look around first.”
I looked at him, “Bob, will you go with me?”
As we entered the old house I noticed the floors were solid one inch hard wood. Bob said, “The whole house has this kind of flooring.”
The ceilings were about ten feet tall and looked solid. The rest of the main floor consisted of two large bedrooms, and a good size den or library, the front room was enormous. I saw a fireplace to match its size; it had to be twelve feet wide. The dinning room was big enough you could feed all of your in-laws at the same time. The kitchen was big enough for two cooks and chances are they would never get in each other’s way. Off the kitchen was a pantry, I would guess to be eight feet wide and sixteen feet deep. In the floor was a large trap door leading down to an earthen cold cellar about twelve feet wide by twenty feet long. We went back up to the main floor. “Two new bathrooms could replace the den.” Bob said, “Come up stairs.”
The up stairs had four large bedrooms and another room, which could become another bathroom. The view of the ranch was breath taking from any of the windows. Bob tapped the floor with his foot and said, “Solid oak, I’ll bet just like the rest of the house.”
We went back to the main floor and then went out onto the porch; it had to be twelve feet wide, and encircled the whole house. It was completely screened in and had more than enough doors leading to the outside. We walked out the north end of the house through the living room with its large double entry doors and down the stairs into the flower gardens. As we stood there in one of the gardens I said, “Danielle will really like this spot. Thank you Bob, I was going to burn it down.”
“It was your decisions not mine. Come with me see those trees. I would like my house on the east side of them. Over there I think would be a good place for the barn and corrals, the cook shack could be over there with the bunk house behind it, and if we needed to add anything else there is plenty of area to accommodate it.”
“I like your idea Bob. Get a crew up here as soon as possible. Your house first then the crew quarters and cook shack. Then the barns, when they finish have them renovate the old house for the Bell Mare.”
Bob took me back to the Home Ranch, as I was putting the gas can back in my pickup; Bob leaned out of the driver’s side window. “Jake; Old feelings are hard to forget.”
I smiled and said, “Thanks Bob, I’ll see you later.”
I fixed some coffee and sat down at my desk as I did, I reached into my brief case for the pictures of Danielle when we were up at the Cow Camp cabin last November. I slowly looked at each one of them putting them into separate stacks. Those I would let someone else see and the ones for us only. I think my favorite picture was Danielle when she had her back to me fixing breakfast. Another she was in her blouse and tight skirt when she raised it half way above her knees. She filled it out in just the right places. The third one was the one where she was leaning over the kitchen table showing her bra and those beautiful titties of hers. She said, “Jake, do you have any film in the camera, or am I just wasting my time.”
I hope that when she comes back they will be real instead of cotton stuffed. I said aloud, “I like all of the pictures.”
For New Years I rented the lodge for my Foremen and their families I just could not bring myself to mix business with pleasure. I did take the opportunity to thank them all for their loyalty and hard work this past year. I said, “This is a new beginning for all of us.”
Bob came up to me with the gold plated shovel and presented it to me. He said, “We sure shoved this one up old man Olmsted’s butt.”
“Bob I believe the old feud has finally been laid to rest.”
I made the announcement. I said, “The new owner of the Bell Brand is Miss Danielle Hansel from New York. When she gets here, I am going to ask her to marry me. There the cat is out of the sack.”
January and February went by slowly, we had some snow on the ground, but it never was very cold. Bob had the trucks back at the Sorensen Ranch. He bought three good used trailers. This gave him six; he was ready to start trucking come the first of March. Bob had a contractor from Deming working on his house another was building the barn. The county and state water permits came through giving us permission to improve the springs and put in a fifty-acre reservoir. The pipeline and road were finished and the well drilling was completed. We planned for the irrigation well to feed the ranches below and to bypass the main line when needed to help keep the reservoir at full level. When the reservoir was full to its capacity, the well pump will shut down letting the water gravity feed directly out of the reservoir saving power.
The first of March I was surprised to learn we were up to full manpower. Bob, said “I hired a new cook, kitchen helper and a full crew for the Bell Brand; they will be here on the fifteenth when the bunkhouse and cook shack are scheduled to be finished.”
“Bob; you’re not wasting any time are you?”
Jake, “We have a lot of work cut out for us to finish before the cows come home this fall.”
“Good thinking Bob. Do you think we have enough bulls?”
“I am looking into two new breeds of bulls they should produce smaller calves. I believe it will make things easier for the cows to calve.”
On the morning of March fifteenth, I stood out on the office porch watching the parade go by from the Sorensen Ranch. I cannot remember this much confusion since I was a kid watching the bands of cattle go by headed up to the Cow Camp.
I shook my head and went back inside the office to finish my coffee as I sat down in my chair I opened the drawer to my desk and removed Danielle’s letter. I read it twice before picking up the picture of her standing on the Cow Camp cabin porch with nothing on except for her nightgown and that beautiful smile of hers. I finished my coffee and put her letter and picture back into the drawer for safekeeping. I said aloud, “Danielle I wish you were here to see all of the improvements we have made to the Bell Brand. The rolling hills are turning green and I saw some wild flowers starting to show up yesterday. O, Danielle, I have missed you so much.”
I thought I needed some one to talk to as I went out to my pickup. Maybe I should go see how Jack Snow is doing with his new sprinklers. As I pulled up I could see some excitement-taking place over by the shop, I drove over to see what was going on. Jack was standing there with his back leaning against a fence post and his big arms folded across his chest. He saw me when I started to get out of my pickup. Jack walked over to me as I closed my pickup door.
It is hard to believe Jack’s size, he is at least six-feet four, a heavily built man in his early sixties. He is of Scandinavian decent with dark red hair, hazel eyes, and reddish complexion. If you have ever seen a picture of a Viking holding a sword and shield, Jack would fit right into the picture.
Jack extended his hand to shake mine. Kind of reminds me of shaking hands with someone wearing a baseball mitt. Jack always had a big smile on his face even when he is upset and I thought this was one of those times.
The men from the Farm Supply were busy unloading one of those self-propelled swathers. “Jack, I didn’t realize how damn big those things were.
“I‘ll bet one of these swathers, will do more in one day, than half of my haying crew. The four new bailers will be delivered tomorrow morning.”
“Jack, if this cuts time and saves the men’s backs they will pay for themselves, next year we can decide if we need more equipment. By then you will know if they are cost efficient or not. Have you heard anything about when the new elevators will be delivered?”
“Next week, those will speed things up too and make it easier on the men.”
“How are the new sprinklers doing?”
“They sure put out a lot of water. I’ll bet we can almost double our hay production this year.”
“Is there anything else you will need?”
“If I had three flat bed trailers I could use those old GMCs to move the hay to the ranches.”
“Why don’t you take a few days off with your family and drive down to Deming and see if you can find some. I will bet your wife has a bad case of cabin fever now spring is here.”
“I’ll bet my men would welcome a few days of peace and quiet around here too.”
“Why don’t you stay at the hotel they have good food too, just save your receipts. Do you need any money?”
“No, I am alright.”
“If you find something else let me know. By the way, Jack, I’ll bet Edna would like a new Easter outfit, it will be my treat.”
“Thanks Jake, I could use a rest and Edna will probably like a new dress.”
I shook his hand and said, “Enjoy yourselves.”
I drove back to the Home Ranch and sat down on the front porch steps
Bob now had the Bell Brand up and running and he was ready to move his family into the new foreman’s house. I knew he would be over there checking things out today. I thought it might be a good time to try out the new road and see about the cattle guard. When I got there, I saw Bob right in the middle of things.
“Bob do you think the new cook has anything hot to eat?”
“Come on Jake let’s go over to the cook shack and see.”
When we came through the door, I thought we were in a new restaurant. I said, “You might have a mutiny on your hands. All of the men from the other ranches will probably be trying to transfer over here.”
“Let’s see what is on the menu.”
As he handed me a cup of coffee I noticed the new cook had a pot of some of the best smelling stew and fresh biscuits sitting on the counter. I grabbed a bowl putting a sample in it and then stuck my finger into the bowl when I had licked my finger clean I decided I had better fill my bowl. Bob said, “I told you I had a good cook picked out.”
“When I get back to the Home Ranch I’ll throw my bed roll in the pickup and be right back. Is there any beds left in the bunkhouse?”
Bob laughed then said, “You can come over here any time you get hungry.”
“Thank you for the invitation.”
“In a couple of days the contractor is going to get started on the big house. He said it was a challenge he was looking forward too. I said, “As long as it will please the Bell Mare.”
“If I were you Jake, I would be careful about using that name to much, Danielle might not appreciate it.”
“Knowing her; she will probably take to it like a duck to a mud hole.”
I finished up with the stew and biscuits then said, “Bob I am headed back to the office, I’ll see you later.”
The time was going by so fast no one had any spare time, me included, I had not heard much from any of my foremen in over two weeks. I stopped over at the Bell Brand to see if Mack, the contractor, was making any progress on the old place. When I pulled up in the yard, I saw Mack just going into the house. I followed him in and was astonished to see the amount of work his crew had done in such a short time. Mack said, “Hello, Jake,”
As we shook hands, I said, “Mack you are doing a wonderful job with this old place.”
“I wish it belonged to me. In fact Jake I would like to build one very similar to this for my own use over in Deming.”
“It sort of grows on you doesn’t it?”
“If it ever comes up for sale you let me know first.”
I said with a grin on my face, “I don’t think theirs a snowballs chance in hell of that ever happening Mack. I’m going looking for Bob. I needed to talk to him.”
I found Bob over by the new barn. I said, “Bob, do you think it will be able to hold enough hay for next year?”
“If not those bales will stack quite easily over there; we can cover them with some tarps.”
“How are they doing with the springs and the new Reservoir?”
“Let’s drive over and have a look.”
We took my pickup and when we stopped at the new well, I said, “Things look different around here than the last time I was here.”
“We will start diverting the water into the reservoir in a day or so. We tested the new well, boy, does it ever produce. We installed a y with valves so the water goes to the reservoir or to the ranches. The pipe over there goes down towards the deep end with a one-way valve and stands thirty feet off the bottom. It will act as an aerator to some extent but will be far enough below the well level so it can’t back flush if the one-way valve should ever fail or the water level should get to deep. Those valves control how much and where the water will go. The valve on the end of the dock connects into this main line about two hundred feet lower down the pipeline. We should be able to cover most of our water needs down at the lower ranches from the reservoir itself.”
“Do you plan on planting some fish in there too?”
“We could net some fish at the old Mason reservoir. I made a deal with some of the Cowboys kids to go down there and catch me a hundred or so of those big green frogs they should help to keep the bug population down in the summer.”
“It looks like you have everything under control. I am on my way up to Cow Camp to check on things there, want to take a ride?”
“I can use a break, can I drive?”
“Help your self I don’t mind opening and closing gates.”
We made a lot of small talk and discussed the ranches in general. Bob said, “It looks like Jack is about to try out some of his new equipment.”
“Look at the bright side Bob, Jack has to listen to those damn screaming GMCs, he asked me for them and is looking for three flat bed trailers for them over in Deming.”
Bob said, “I need to check on Joe just to keep him on his toes, he probably thinks he’s on vacation up here.”
As we pulled up Joe came out of his office He said, “Come over to the cook shack, and have some coffee we can talk there.”
When we were seated, Bob asked him, “Having any problems up here Joe?”
Joe rolled his eyes back in his head, “That old sow is back, she got into the storage shed night before last. She tore hell out of things but the only thing she ate was three of those big cans of pork and beans.”
I said, “It should be taken care of by today, she probably shit herself to death.”
Bob was laughing as he said, “If she keeps it up you had better Winchester her. Spring bear is tasty you know.”
We finished our coffee and Bob asked Joe if he needed anything brought up?
“I don’t think so; the supply truck will be here next week we should be alright until then.”
We drove back to the Bell Brand as we stopped Bob broke out in a laugh. “Private joke Bob?”
“No, I was just thinking about Carol and the old sow the night at the camp. Between the bear, Carol, and the Cowboys they almost destroyed the place.”
“She sure didn’t do my pickup any favors either.”
“Carol told Doctor Phillips she was going back where things were normal, I wonder where that was.”
“I didn’t think there is such a place Bob, it’s been fun, but I have to be getting back to the Home Ranch.”
I saw Jack Snow coming up the lane towards the office as he got out of his pickup he said, “I thought I would stop by and tell you we will be starting on the first cutting of alfalfa the first of the week.”
“It’s early this year.”
“We will get three cuttings for sure and if the weather holds out perhaps a fourth as a bumper crop. We have everything ready to start up and we brought those trailers back from Deming yesterday. By the way, those days off sure made me feel like a new man and Edna told me to be sure and thank you for the beautiful Easter outfit.”
“It was the least I could do for her; she’s helped me out a lot in the past.”
Jack said, “I have to go see Bob about a few things.”
“You will probably find him up by the new well.”
Easter came and went. The haying went better than expected and I had not heard a word from Danielle not even a letter to answer my last one. I felt down in the mouth about it but figured she was busy.
I decided I needed a few days off. I will take Ike up to Cow Camp with me. I hooked up the horse trailer to my pickup and pulled around to the corral. Ike raised his head and his ears came forward as I stopped the pickup. I got out and went around to open the trailer door. When I opened the gate on the corral, Ike walked out to greet me I said, “Ike I think we need a change of scenery.”
I walked back to the trailer with Ike right behind me. I turned around and said, “Ike load.”
He walked into the trailer and I closed it up. I drove over to the Bell Brand to tell Bob where I was going and when I would be back.
I stopped next to the corral when I got to Cow Camp. I opened the corral gate and then the trailer door, Ike backed out and walked into the corral as if he owned it. I checked to make sure he had plenty of hay and water. “Ike we can get some exercise tomorrow.”
I settled in at the cabin and walked over to the cook shack for some coffee. Earl, the cook said, “Jake, I have fresh apple pie would you like a piece?”
“Thank you Earl.”
As he handed the pie to me, Earl asked, “Are you going to stay awhile, I see you brought Ike along.
“Probably a day or two.”
“I’ll have you some SOS in the morning for breakfast.”
He knew SOS was my favorite. “Thank you Earl, the pie was sure good.”
“Joe will be back in about an hour he rode up to check on the water hole.”
He refilled my cup and went back to preparing supper. One thing is for sure, if you need to know where any one is or what they are doing go see the cook. They are a walking information center. I said Earl, “I’ll see you at supper time.”
“You will be at the cabin?”
I went back to the cabin. I settled down on the couch to take a nap. It was not to long before I heard a knock on the door; I said, “Come on in Joe.”
As the door opened, Joe came over to the couch as I stood up to shake his hand. I offered him a chair and we sat down, I said, “I thought I needed a day or two off.”
Joe said, “The old sow never came back.”
“In the past I have thrown sticks, rocks, and the wash basin at her, you would think she would learn sooner or later.”
Joe leaned over in his chair to pick something up off the floor near the head of the couch.
He held out a pair of Danielle’s panties I had missed when I cleaned out the cabin after she went back to New York. Joe said, “I thought you came up here last fall to hunt?”
He smiled as I took the panties from him. “When do you think she will be back?”
My face was getting redder as I said, “Soon I hope.”
“I hear you finished up the house renovation for when she does get back.”
“I think Danielle will like it especially the flower gardens, you know, women like those kinds of things.”
Joe then asked me, “Are you going to take Ike for a ride tomorrow.
“I would like to go over some of the new lease ground and see where the water holes are. They will give us an indication of where the cows will be come fall roundup.”
“The Cowboys have been marking them on the map as they locate them.”
I said, “It will be helpful for later.”
“I better be getting back to work; supper will begin around five.”
As he was leaving, he turned around and said, “Jake, have you been doing any hunting lately?”
He laughed and then closed the door. Damn I said aloud, “Those foremen don’t miss a thing do they?”
I went over to the cook shack for supper and sat down with Joe and a couple of his men. I sat quietly as they talked about their work. Joe told them what he wanted them to do for him over the next few days. When they excused themselves Joe turned to me and said “Jake, you were quiet during supper is there something wrong?”
“No Joe, there was no reason for me to butt in; here you are the boss, and if I have a disagreement with you it will between you and me and not in front of your men. Besides, I think you are handling things just fine up here. Joe, my foremen are my best friends I rely on you for your inputs and you expect respect from me. I will give you respect and expect you to give me your input either pro or con without this information I can’t make a good decision. I am going for a ride tomorrow. Is there any area you don’t know about or need information on?”
“The high country to the east just above timberline I don’t have any information about.”
“I have been up there a time or two picking up strays when Olmsted grazed it. There is a small lake and some springs I am aware of.”
Joe said as he got up to leave. “I have more work to do tonight, Jake; I appreciate your honesty I know now we will be good friends.”
He extended his hand and we shook on friendship.
The next morning I finished breakfast, took a sack lunch then went over to the corral to saddle up Ike. I found the lake and a small stream. Later on I found a half dozen-seep holes where a few cattle could get themselves a drink. I decided to have lunch up close to the ridge where I spotted a calf kill about three days old, I rolled the carcass over and found a S- bar brand on it. I took a picture of it and decided a lion did the dirty work. As I was having lunch, Ike acted a little uneasy. As I looked around, I saw something I thought looked like it was out of place, up on the cliff a lion was laying as it watched me eat. I stood up and eased over to Ike for my rifle; the cat must have figured what I was up to as it disappeared from my sight. I finished my lunch then I rode Ike, up to where I last saw the cat. I got off and noticed there was something wrong with its tracks it almost looked like it was stumbling I looked closer. The left front foot was missing two toes probably causing it to be clumsy. I thought to myself it might have been caught in a trap recently. Then I saw where it had urinated on a rock; it was definitely a young male. A calf is easy prey even for a crippled lion; He is going to have to be shot before he kills any more calves. We have too many calves up here. I followed his tracks for a while until he went straight up a cliff and there is where I lost him.
I put my rifle back into the scabbard mounted up and moved down along the dry creek bottom until I found another seep hole with some water in it, I let Ike drink what he wanted then started for camp along the ridge. As I dropped below the timberline, I noticed a good spring at the edge of a quake aspen grove where some cattle could be comfortable. There was plenty of green grass, water and the trees made a good windbreak for them. As I came out of a thicket, I spotted a cow and her calf. When I got close, I could see she wasn’t ours, she was wearing a CY brand I was unfamiliar with around here. I pushed them back to Cow Camp as I came into site one of the Cowboys opened the corral gate for them. I unsaddled and took care of Ike before I let him into the corral with the cow and calf. I saw Joe coming my way to see what was going on. Joe said, “The CY brand range is over thirty miles away; she must have come across the top of the mountain.”
I said, “I saw a lion with missing toes on his left front paw up on the ridge and found where it killed one of our calves. I didn’t get a shot at him but we had better do away with it. I will mark on the map the location of the water holes and the spot I last saw the cat.”
“I’ll have the Cowboys keep an eye out for the lion.”
“I’ll put fifty dollars on his head, I’ll pin it to the bulletin board.”
Joe said, “I’ll send one of my men over to the CY outfit and tell them to come get their stock.”
“I am going to freshen up then go over to the cook shack.”
“As soon as I get a man on the way, I’ll meet you there for supper.”
When suppertime finally rolled around I headed to the cook shack I must have been the last one there. I sat down with Joe; “Did you enjoy your ride today.”
I told him, “I did, up until the time I found the cat watching me. I am going back to the Home Ranch in the morning; I remembered a meeting I have to attend.”
“I was just getting to enjoy your company.”
“You need to talk with your men.”
With that, I got up and excused myself. As I walked back to the cabin I stopped and looked over to where Danielle’s elk had been laying. My mind went back to the day when she was standing holding his horns I could almost see her bending over with her titties exposed and her beautiful smile. The other picture I saw was when she was squatting down in her nightgown wearing those big boots of hers. She has pretty legs, all of the way up. I really miss her.
I turned in early and couldn’t go to sleep. I got up and found Danielle’s panties, I held them up to my face, as I said, aloud, “I wish you were in these.”
As I put them under my pillow for safekeeping.
The next morning I went to the cook shack and ate my fill of SOS and biscuits.
I drove back to the Home Ranch and unloaded Ike and my gear then disconnected the trailer from my pickup.
As I stopped on the porch, I leaned against the banister and looking out over the old county road. I remembered the houses on the other side of the road but they are all long gone now. I remembered the girls who lived there; they were two sisters Jan and Susan McGinnis. Then I remembered Susan was the first girl I ever saw with hair between her legs. I was eleven years old at the time. Grandma and I went over to visit with Mrs. McGinnis. I remember Susan was wearing a cute little dress, I am sure it was yellow.
Susan and I were playing teeter-totter using an old piece of lumber and a sawbuck for the pivot. As we went faster and faster my end hit the ground hard, Susan went airborne causing her to loose her grip on the board. As she landed and slid down the board, she picked up quite a few splinters in her butt. She went screaming into Mrs. McGinnis’s house with me right on her heels; she was in tears and trying to hold her hurt bleeding butt.
We told Mrs. McGinnis and Grandma what had happened. Mrs. McGinnis took a chair from the kitchen and sat down then she leaned Susan over her knees as she pulled Susan’s blood soaked panties off and dropped them on the floor then she picked up one of her sewing needles. For about the next fifteen minutes or so both Mrs. McGinnis and Grandma picked splinters out of Susan’s butt. One large splinter was stuck in the lip of her pussy; they were having a hard time removing it. The women had to spread Susan’s legs to get at it, which gave me a perfect view of Susan’s pussy inside and out. Grandma turned towards me and said Jake; you go on out side and play. I never forgot Susan’s little hairy pussy. I thought to myself, I wonder what ever happened to her.
I stood there for a little while longer, shook my head, and then turned to go back into the office. I heard the phone ring and made a dash for my desk as I picked the phone up I said, “Home Ranch.”
An excited young girl’s voice said, “Jake.”
I said, “What’s wrong?”
The voice said again, “Jake, this is Danielle.”
“I didn’t recognize your voice, is there something wrong Danielle?”
“Not now darling. I am in New York.”
“When, did you get back home?”
“The day before yesterday I tried to call you all day yesterday but no one answered the phone.”
“I was up at Cow Camp and for some reason I knew I needed to come back here I left there a day early.”
“Jake I love you.”
“I love you to Sweetheart. How soon will it be before you come out here to the ranch?”
“My reservation says I will arrive in Deming the morning of the tenth at eight o’clock.”
I wrote it down on my note pad.
“I will be there when you get in or would you rather catch a ride with Steve on the Hopper flight?”
She broke out in a beautiful laugh then said, “Jake, when hell freezes over.”
“We have your house ready for you to move into.”
I need to go shopping for some clothes and get the moving company going tomorrow.”
“Danielle pick out a new wardrobe, a years worth. You know how far we are from a big city. I’ll pay you for it when we get you back to the ranch.”
“I have lost a little weight but I can put it back on when I start eating some real food. Uncle Rick said to thank you for the elk mount He loves it and hung its head up on the back wall of the shop. He made Aunt Dee the prettiest set of earrings from the Ivories you have ever seen. Then Danielle said I will see you at the airport the tenth, I love you.”
She hung up. I said, “Danielle, I love you too.”
Although I knew, she didn’t hear me.
For two days I was so excited, I never slept or ate. Bob Young pulled up to the office when he came in; he stopped and took a long look at me. He said in a concerned voice, “Jake, are you feeling alright?”
I shook my head and said, “I think so.”
“When was the last time you ate?”
“I don’t know for sure what day is it.”
“Maybe two days ago, I don’t know. Danielle is coming home on the tenth.”
“Are you sure you are alright?”
I said, “Yes.”
“Jake get yourself cleaned up and you look like you need a shave too. I will tell Martha she will need to set an extra plate at the table tonight. We can’t have you going to pick Danielle up looking like this.”
“Ok Bob what time should I be there?”
He said, “Five.”
I looked at my watch. “I better get a move on.”
Bob said, “I forgot what I stopped by for, see you at five.” He turned around shaking his head and left. I heard him as he drove off.
I showered and shaved then got myself dressed. As I came by the liquor cabinet, I opened it and found a bottle of fine wine to take to Martha.
When I arrived at Bob and Martha’s house, I rang the doorbell Martha answered the door. I handed her the bottle of wine. Martha said, “Jake, Bob tells me you are in love, is this true?”
I replied, “Yes.”
“You know Jake; you can’t live on love alone don’t you!” Then she said, “Thank you for the bottle of wine. Come on in and have a seat, supper will be ready in a few minutes.”
Bob shook my hand and said, “Congratulations Jake, when are you going to ask her to marry you?”
“Just as soon as I get face to face with her.”
“You better be for getting yourself back together first.”
When we finished supper, Martha brought us some coffee, “I hear she is from New York, what is her name?”
I replied, “Danielle Hansel.”
“Is she the one who bought the Bell Brand?”
“Yes, she is.”
“You have worked your heart out getting things ready for her haven’t you?”
I didn’t answer her. Then she said, “That house is a work of love, she will really appreciate it.”
“Thank you Martha and thank you for such a lovely supper. Bob, you’re a real friend.”
“What are friends for if they can’t help out?”
I shook his hand and gave Martha a kiss on her cheek. As I drove back, to the Home Ranch I thought, Bob and Martha are true friends who really care about you.
The next three days I went over to the Bell Brand cook shack for breakfast and supper. I thought to myself, tomorrow I will drive over to Deming and propose to the most beautiful woman in the whole world. Then I will take her to the jewelry store and we can pick out our rings. Right now, all I want is to hold her tightly to me and tell her I love her, to kiss those precious full lips of hers.
I thought to myself, tomorrow is going to be one busy day for both of us. I turned in early I was going to need all of the rest I could get.
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