Gender: Male Age: 72 Location: N/A
|Introduction: To the reader: This story has received mixed comments about the author's ability to write a story. Granted this is the first story the author has ever attempted to write. Just for the record, the author grew up in the small town described with its over the back yard fence gossip, drug store nosy owners, and typical small community attitude related to alternative sex in the 1940s and 1950s. And yes there really was a Dan; unfortunately, Dan took his own life while attending his first year of college due to pier pressure and ignorance of the times. It is to Dan's memory this story is dedicated. Had Dan became Danielle; in real life, would things have turned out different for him? In this part Danielle explains to Jake what her life could have been like without him in it. Enjoy the read. DB.|
The Bell Mare
School was finally out for the summer Danielle was back to her old self. She acted more like an old mother hen but the kids didn’t seem to mind. They were old enough to find things to do on their own except for the girls, she kept them busy doing girl things. Martha’s boy was old enough to help Bob on the ranch this year and I believe Martha felt a little lost now that her little boy was becoming a man.
Danielle and Martha spent a lot of their time taking the days to go to town shopping or enjoying the café and hotel dining room. Perhaps Danielle was trying to make little ladies out of our girls.
Martha was Danielle’s best friend and most of the time if you saw one; you saw both of them together. When Danielle was busy doing, ranch work or we were spending time together Martha looked after our children.
If I didn’t have Terry and Paul in toe, they were off exploring, swimming, fishing, or some other little boy things. Most of the time they would entertain their selves, Danielle spent some time with them when she could get their attention.
By the tenth of July, Danielle had our reservations reserved for August fifth through the sixteenth. Our Buick station wagon was large and comfortable. I removed the rear seat to keep our luggage inside the car. By keeping one of the children up front with us, the other three had a lot of room in the second seat. They would take turns riding up front and possibly, it would keep any arguments down to a minimum.
We would be leaving the ranch on the first of August. Our intentions were to share the driving and cover a lot of miles the first day then stay in Salt Lake City the first night out.
On previous vacations, we had covered the Salt lake area fairly well. From Salt Lake to Boise, Idaho, we would take our time and enjoy many of the sites along the way. It was an easy drive the second day.
The third day we left Boise and drove to Portland, Oregon where we stayed the night. We were all tired when we made it to our motel rooms after we had supper.
Our fourth day we planned to drive to Sacramento, California but Valery wasn’t feeling to good and became fussy. Danielle put her in the front seat with us and she finally settled down and went to sleep. When we stopped in Redding, California to gas up Danielle said, “Jake, this is a vacation, I think everyone is tired of traveling and needs some rest lets stay here tonight.”
I said, “Tomorrow we well be able to make Santa Cruz easily. We will still have time to stop along the way to get out of the car and relax.”
By the time, we made it to Sacramento, California it was about ten o’clock in the morning. We decided we would stay over for the night and see some of the sites we had heard about. Danielle called our hotel in Santa Cruz and told them we wouldn’t be there until the next day. She told them to charge us for the rooms; they had our deposit to cover them.
The first place we went to was the state capital building. After the guided tour, we found Sutter’s Fort. Terry and Paul enjoyed the old wagons and the Indian Museum the most. The girls, Danielle, Becky, and Valery found the old clothes the pioneer women wore in the 1850s and the living quarters where the officers and their wife’s lived.
The next stop was the William Land Park Zoo, where the children got to see many of the animals they had been reading about in their books. We sat on some benches and watched the monkeys when some people came up and started to tease one of the chimpanzees, he would run toward them and jump up on the bars of the cage and throw a fit. He went over to the far side of the cage and filled his mouth with water from a water pipe, when the people came closer to the cage he jumped up and down then made a run for the cage bars again. All of a sudden, he spit the water all over them and jumped up and down again as if he was pleased with himself. We decided we would stay away from him and went on to look at some more of the animals.
Our next stop was a café downtown. From there we went to the Crocker Art Gallery. The building had been one of the early mansions and was the home of the Crocker family before it was converted into a museum. We looked at a lot of early paintings and statues. The boys found a statue of a naked woman and we thought we were going to have to gag and drag them out of the room. Danielle said when we were in the next room, “Don’t you boys ever embarrass us like that again.”
By this time, we were getting hungry and went back downtown to find a place to eat. We located a Chinese restaurant, the food was delicious, and the kids put away enough to feed a small army.
The last place we visited was the Sacramento River; we walked out on some of the old docks and watched the boats go by for a while then went and found a hotel for the night.
The following morning we loaded up, had breakfast, and started for Santa Cruz. We found a few places of interest along the way and stopped but the town of Stockton, California was interesting. It was a town established in the 1800s with industries, farming, and small ranches as well as dairy farms.
When we arrived in Santa Cruz, we went in search of our hotel and checked in. Much to our pleasure we found out the city bus line stopped out in front of the hotel and was a short fifteen minutes from the board walk.
We ate supper in the hotel dining room then went for a walk before dark. Danielle was as excited about going to the funhouse as the kids. She said, “I talked to the desk clerk and he told me they had a Farris wheel, rollercoaster, and a tilt-a-whirl. Inside at the funhouse there was a three-story slide, barrel of fun, and other rides. We can eat hotdogs, cotton candy, and drink soda pop. You will really have fun tomorrow.”
Seven thirty the kids were up, there was no sleeping in for Danielle and me. We had breakfast and waited for the bus, by nine o’clock we paid to enter the funhouse, the kid’s eyes were as big as pie plates when we walked through the door. We walked around and looked at most of the rides. Terry and Paul wanted to go down the slide first. We took a canvas mat and started to climb the stairs; when all of us were at the top the girl attendant told us we had to sit on the mat. The slide was six lanes wide and had a lot of humps and bumps in it. Danielle said, “You boys go first.”
I sat down on the canvas mat with Terry and Paul in the lanes next to me, Danielle gave me a push, she caught me off guard, down the slide I went with the boys close behind me. I don’t know if it scared them but I was damn glad when I got to the bottom.
The boys and I looked up the slide just as Danielle, Becky, and Valery came over the first rise. When they joined us Valery said, “Mama, can we do it again?”
“Just as many times as you want, your Dad and I will be sitting here so we can watch you come down the slide.”
That pleased me, as I sat down Danielle said, “You big wossie.”
“I see now why you wore your jeans instead of a dress.”
“I have been to board walks before love.”
We watched as some people walked by us Danielle said, “Watch her and you will see why I wore my jeans.”
No sooner than she said that, the woman’s dress flew up into the air as a gust of air blast from the floor. I laughed and said, “I get the idea now.”
After the kids rode the slide about five or six times Danielle said, “Watch me and I’ll go through the fun barrel and wait for you at the other end.”
The barrel was about thirty or forty feet long and was revolving as she stepped in, she tried to keep her feet under her by walking as the barrel turned. Danielle almost made it then fell down and rolled around on the bottom of the barrel; she finally got her feet back under her and went out the far end. Becky said, “If Mom can do it, so can I and in she went with the boys right behind her. Valery said, “Can we do it to Daddy?”
She didn’t wait for my answer but went into the barrel with me right behind her. All of us were tumbling and sliding around on the bottom of the barrel, Valery was laughing so hard, she was really into it as we came out the other end. They wanted to do it again. I said, “You kids can do it again.”
We waited for them to get into the barrel again and then Danielle and I laughed as they made it through to where we were standing.
The children wanted to go on the merry-go-round next, all of us got on the platform as I put Valery up on a unicorn, she said, “Daddy, this horse has a horn on his head.”
We decided to take a break and have some cotton candy the kids took off ahead of us, Danielle said, “Jake, put your wallet in your front pocket, that guy in the blue shirt is either a pickpocket or he is after my purse.”
When he came up behind us, he was about six or eight feet away Danielle turned around to face him, pointed her finger at him, and said, “You try it buster and I am going to kick your ass all over this board walk.”
A security officer heard her and arrested the man on the spot. The officer said, “I apologize Ma’am for this outrage, he will be going to jail, you are a pretty brave lady.”
She said, “Thank you officer, but I meant what I said.”
The officer put him in handcuffs and said, “I have been trying to catch this fellow for three days, thank you.”
I asked Danielle, “How did you know he was a pickpocket Sweetheart?”
“Jake, you don’t live in a large city without becoming a little street savvy.”
We caught up with the kids and bought them all their first cotton candy. Little Valery really dug into hers Danielle and Becky took Valery to the restroom and did a good job of cleaning her up. The next stop was the bumper cars; the first ride they caught onto what made things work but the second ride they were really into their driving skills.
After the bumper cars, we went for a ride on the rollercoaster. Becky and Terry sat in the seat ahead of Danielle and Valery, Paul and I sat in the seat behind them. I was never so glad to get out of anything as I was that rollercoaster; I thought I was going to throw up. The children made it just fine and made fun of me as I wobbled around and tried to keep my stomach in check.
Everyone wanted to take a ride on the hammer, I said, “Not me, I haven’t gotten over the rollercoaster yet.”
They went on the ride and I sat that one out. The next ride they wanted to go on was the Ferris wheel; I figured I could handle it all right. Danielle, Valery, and I were in one seat and Paul, Terry, and Becky were in another as we went over the top Valery acted like she wanted to stand up but Danielle held on to her. When the ride was over Danielle said, “I am getting hungry how about us having lunch?”
I saw a stand; it had giant size hotdogs and soda pop, and a place where we could sit down and enjoy them.
Danielle ordered for us then we went over to the condiment stand to put everything else on our hot dogs. Mayonnaise, Mustard, Catsup, pickle relish, and a heavy topping of sauerkraut. When we had a full plate, we went out on the boardwalk to find an empty table to eat our lunch. The boardwalk was high above the ocean, we could see for miles, and miles, as we ate lunch we watched the boats and ships as they came and went. The smell of the salt air did nothing but add to our appetites. When we finished eating, the kids were ready to give the rides another go, Danielle told them, “For the next hour you can go on the slide, fun barrel, waves, and the merry go round while your food settles. I don’t need a bunch of sick kids to contend with.”
They were contented with the rides she told them they could ride. Danielle and I sat on a bench as we watched them having the fun of their lives. I said, “Sweetheart, I think the kids are really enjoying themselves, I think you missed going to the boardwalk too. Do you miss New York and the fun things you use to do there?”
She shook her head and said, “Jake, I think.., it seems like a million years ago. I have a new life now with you, the children, and the ranches. I don’t believe I would ever want to go back, I don’t miss the crowds, and I don’t have to look straight up at noon to see the sun. My place is on the ranches with my family and friends.”
Danielle leaned over and kissed me “I love you Jake I wouldn’t trade my life with you for the whole city of New York.”
The hour was about over the children were anxious to get after the more exciting rides. We spent the rest of the day on the boardwalk then went back to the hotel for supper.
Danielle and I talked about tomorrow when I would take Terry and Paul fishing. We decided we would take the car. Danielle and the girls could ride the bus to the boardwalk and use the car if she needed it.
Early in the morning, we had to be at the dock to get aboard the boat. By five thirty, we had our rented fishing gear, lunch, and were on board ready to go. The boat took about an hour before we stopped; the ocean was choppy but not overly rough. We started to fish and caught a few bottom fish, nothing of any size.
There was one group of people, probably about eight men, and women in all. Who were drinking quite heavily and were fun to watch, they played little tricks on each other. The boys spent a lot of time watching the over aged teenagers. One of the women became seasick, hung over the side of the boat then she laid out on the raised deck over the engine, and went to sleep. One of the men put a squid we were using for bait and stunk to high heaven under her nose. When she woke up it was back to the rail for her, we felt sorry for her and they picked on her most of the day. One woman brought her line in and it had a dark colored ball on it, when the ball dropped off the bait it spread out to about three feet in diameter. The boys had never seen a live octopus before, it was exciting for them. When we had our allotted amount of fish caught, we started for the dock by now we were about two hours away. As we enjoyed the return trip back, one of the crew was busy filleting the fish for all of us. When we were tied to the dock we took our fish, the boys thanked the man, and I gave him a sizeable tip for the work he preformed.
When we walked up to the dock Danielle and the girls were waiting for us. Danielle said, ‘You stink, maybe all three of you should walk back to the hotel.”
Danielle must have felt sorry for us. She smiled and said, “I suppose we can put up with you smelly fishermen, if you keep the windows down.”
We stopped to have our fish packaged, frozen, and sent home. We went back to the hotel to get cleaned up then went out for a steak dinner.
In the morning, we went to breakfast, Dave, our waiter said, “Jake, if you are going down on the beach today it will be a good day to dig for clams. It will be a minus tide until about one thirty and will be at its lowest this month you can walk out to the clam beds. If you catch, six or eight you can bring them back here and Jose, our cook can fix clam fritters for your family’s supper tonight. If you want to go out and dig some stop by John’s Bait and tell him I sent you, he can rent you clam guns and a sack to carry them back to the beach.”
Danielle said, “Jake, the kids will have a lot of fun finding them.”
It was settled, we went back to our rooms to change into shorts for the boys and sundresses for the girls. We stopped by John’s to rent the clam guns. He told us to walk out to the ocean edge and look for quarter to half dollar size holes in the sand. If you are not sure the holes have clams in them just stomp your foot close by a hole and it will spit water out of it then find a hole that has not been disturbed and dig it up.
The clam guns resembled a short handled shovel attached to a piece of one inch wood about four inches around with a one inch hole drilled through it. A piece of leather covered the hole and a two and a half foot piece of what appeared to be four-inch stovepipe attached to the bottom. John said, “When you find the hole center the pipe over it and push down as deep as you can then cover the hole with the leather and pull the gun out of the sand. The pipe will be full of sand, water, and the clam if you did it right. Release the leather and everything will fall out of the pipe onto the sand then put the clam in the sack or they will dig right back down into the sand. They are faster than you would think when it comes to digging, just remember to push and pull the clam gun as fast as you can they can out dig a shovel.”
With the information learned we set out to find some holes in the sand, we must have stomped around twenty holes and nothing happened. Finally, we found a bunch of holes that spit water out of them. I located a hole we had not disturbed and centered the gun over it then shoved down, put the leather over the hole and pulled up on the gun until it was out of the sand. I swung it sideways, pulled the piece of leather up and everything dropped out onto the sand, a six or eight-inch shell fell out of it, our first clam. We were looking for more when we heard Valery start to scream, Mommy, Mommy, everyone took off on a run toward her. She had her sundress up around her waist and then pulled her panties down around her ankles Danielle was the first one to her as she knelt down Valery was crying uncontrollable. Danielle said, “What happened honey?”
Valery finally quit crying and said, “I was looking for clams and I found a hole when I jumped up and came down with one foot on each side of the hole it spit water up between my legs, my panties are all wet Momma.”
Danielle said, “Put your panties back on Valery it was only water.”
Valery shook her head and said, “No, I am not going to put my panties back on until they are dry Mommy.
We laughed at her and she became as mad as a wet hen at us for laughing at her, she stomped her foot on the sand again, as she did another clam squirted up the inside of her leg. We were right back where we were when we heard, her scream the first time.
When we had our clams, we went back to the hotel and gave them to Dave to be cooked for our supper.
In the morning, we were going to be back on the road for the ranch. That evening we ate the clam fritters and clam chowder, Jose did a superb job preparing our supper for us.
The next morning we loaded the car; I settled up with the desk clerk and left a nice tip for the hotel staff. Danielle and I took turns driving and decided that as long as we had daylight we would keep the car headed for home. We stayed three nights in motels along the way and arrived home late the fourth day. I think everyone was ready to sleep in their own beds.
I was up early; Danielle woke up about a half hour later and joined me for our morning cup of coffee. She said, “It is nice to be home; the coffee taste better than any we had on the trip.”
After we finished our coffee I said, “Sweetheart I need to be going I have a lot to catch up on.”
I walked over to the office to look for Bob but the office was empty, I thought to myself it is too early, I’ll go over to the cook shack and have something to eat then go back to the office to wait for Bob.
When I walked in Ben said, “Good morning Mr. Lance.”
“Ben, what is this Mr. Lance stuff all about?”
I heard some laughing behind me and looked around, there sat Bob, Jim, Joe, and Bill at one of the tables. Bob said, “Jake, did you sleep in this morning?”
Joe broke out in a big laugh and said, “How does it feel to be the big vacation boy?”
I walked over to their table and shook hands with all of them then said, “I’m glad to be back home boys.”
I sat down and Ben brought me some coffee he said, “The usual Mr. Lance?”
I said, “OK, the vacation is over do we have anything exciting going on this morning or did I just waste my time getting up?”
Jim said, “The cat had a litter of pups and the dog is nursing her kittens other than that it’s been real quiet around here. How was your vacation?”
I told them, “We really enjoyed ourselves the whole trip. We spent two days on the boardwalk; in the fun house with the kids, Danielle caught a pickpocket. The boys and I went deep-sea fishing and caught enough fish for a real fish feed if we can get Ben to cook them for us but I think the most fun was the day before we left Santa Cruz. We went out on low tide to dig some clams, Valery shucked her panties right out in front of God and everyone when a clam squirted up her dress, you can’t imagine the commotion one little girl can cause.”
They all had a good laugh, Bob said, “Did you have your camera with you?”
“There was so much confusion going on I didn’t have time to think about the camera.”
Bob said, “Jack has his crew using the new equipment, he thinks he died and went to heaven. He is out there in the hay fields every day checking on them. It looks like the barns and sheds are going to be full of hay this year. Chris said the cattle up at Cow
Camp are so fat we will be able to roll them down hill to the ranch this fall, we won’t need to truck them.”
“It looks like you boys have the ranches well in hand; thank all of you, I’m glad to be back home.”
The rest of the summer went by quietly, Joe and I took a crew and spent a week mending fences while Bob and Jim and their crews laid in some new fences we will need to use when we separate the cattle this fall. The weather in the high country held well until the first of November when we had to start moving the cattle off the grazing leases. We had fifteen days to get it finished before the deadline.
Trucks were on the move bringing the cow’s home for the winter. The cowboys spent some long days rounding them up and separating the bulls from the cows, we had a good year as far as the bulls went we only had three bulls not accounted for.
As fast as the cattle were brought in our cowboys were busy separating the cows from calves, last years steers were put in one area with the cows in another. Any thing without a brand was branded and the bull calves castrated. All were checked over to make sure none were sick. The Vet kept busy doctoring any that were sick or questionable. The branded and castrated calves were herded into a separate area
Danielle and Joe teamed up, he would rope, and Danielle and Sonny did a spectacular job of heeling. Bob and I kept busy branding and castrating. Jim and Terry kept things going around the fire; Jim kept the fire going and the branding irons hot and ready. Terry kept the wood stacked in the corral and gathered up the Mountain Oysters in the buckets for when the men had a break they would drop a couple into the fire until they would pop open and then they would fish them out and eat them.
Danielle and Joe would alternate with another crew when they were ready for a break. Joe dropped some oysters in the fire and gave Danielle one to eat. She must have been hungry, when Joe gave her the third one she was bragging how good the meat tasted. Another cowboy came over to the fire, dropped a few in, and commented on how big the calf balls were this year.
Joe and I were watching Danielle when the cowboy made his comment. She looked around and her face puffed up but then she swallowed hard and said, “I thought they were a little meaty and maybe a little salt would make them taste better.”
Joe punched me and said, “I thought she was going to loose it for a minute or so.”
I said, “I would have been afraid to make a bet on that one.”
We were laughing when Danielle turned around to face us she said, “I wouldn’t give you boys the satisfaction of throwing up in front of you let’s get back to work Joe.”
Joe looked at me then said, “Jake, would you like to trade me jobs for a while?”
I nodded my head and said, “Come on Danielle, let’s get back to work.”
Danielle said, “I hope you can use a rope as good as Joe.”
“Come on Ike let’s show them how real cowboys and roping horses do it.”
When we were all caught up for the day I said, “Let’s go and unsaddle then we can go over and have some pie and coffee with Ben.”
As we walked into the cook shack Ben brought the coffee for us he said, “Would everyone like a piece of fresh apple pie?”
All of us enjoyed our pie and coffee. Then the talk was on how everyone did with the branding, Bob stood up and excused himself he said, “I have to run out to my pickup I’ll be right back.”
When he returned he was carrying a large object in his hand. He pulled the paper covering from around it; as he held the eighteen by twenty four inch picture of Danielle and Ike up for all of us to see.
Bob said, “Danielle, I took this picture of you, Jake asked me for a copy to enlarge so he could hang it over your fireplace. Chris saved some of the wood from the old building up at Cow Camp when it was torn down; Jim made the picture frame and cut the glass from its window
Danielle said, “I love the picture Bob, Thank all of you It is so beautiful.”
Bob sat down as Joe held up his coffee cup he said, “I would like to make a toast to Danielle, our Bell Mare.”
There was a round of applause as we stood up then sat back down. Joe said, “How was the Mountain Oysters Danielle?”
She replied, “Joe, you tried to slip something over on me, didn’t you?”
“It was worth a try, we do it every year to the new cow hands. It is sort of an old tradition around the branding fire.”
All of us worked hard that week until all of the cattle were down from Cow Camp. Chris started to close the camp down for the year and was about ready to move back to the Home Ranch. One of his hands came into the office and told Chris two bulls, three cows, and six calves came into the corral this morning for water and he shut the gate. Chris was happy now, only one of his bulls was unaccounted for it may have died or perhaps it was overlooked like this bunch. The men loaded them into one of the stock trucks and sent them back to the Bell Brand. By the next afternoon, Chris and two of his cowboys closed the camp and brought their horses and equipment back to the ranch. The closing of Cow Camp officially signaled the end of another great year, some of the men were laid off for the winter and some were kept a little longer to help with the shipping of the older cows and the previous years steers. We shipped them to the Chicago stockyards by rail then laid those men off too.
The Bell Brand, Sorensen, and the Home Ranch were down to a skeleton crew for the winter. The Bailey and Snow Ranches were finishing up as well and would be laying off their help within ten to fifteen days.
Bob had Mack build a new house at the Home Ranch as a surprise for Chris and Pam when he returned from the high country. We told Chris that he and Pam were invited to an end of year ranch picnic at the Home Ranch; they became the guest of honor and moved into their new home the following week.
Bob, Jim, Joe, and I moved back into the office; while Bob and I closed out the ranch books for the end of the year. Much to our delight we found out we had the best year we ever had. The ranches showed a good profit and were debt free. We were a happy bunch knowing our hard work and our decisions paid off. I wrote my foremen a well-deserved bonus wished them a merry Christmas and closed the ranch books for another year.
As usual the winter slipped by quietly, repairs were made, the cattle and horses attended to and fences repaired for the oncoming spring when we would get things underway for summer.
Danielle and I had time to ourselves; our children were busy in school and our foremen were busy twiddling their thumbs looking for something to keep them busy until spring arrived.
As usual, March first; my foremen were ready for our ranch hands to come back to work; the men started to show up around daybreak. Danielle and Joe were busy out in the corral separating some of the horses for the new men.
About eight o’clock they finished up and rode up to the cook shack for some coffee. After they dismounted I introduced them as I had done with the other foremen; one of the new men started running his mouth about working for, as he put it, a skirt wearing spurs.
Danielle didn’t say anything but you could see the fire in her eyes as she remounted Sonny. She undid her rope from her saddle and turned Sonny into the crowd of men; as they scattered she put Sonny onto the loud mouth. As the cow hand broke into a full out run, Sonny’s ears came back; and at that point Sonny didn’t much care if it was a calf or a man, the foot race was on. The new man made it about fifty feet or so before Danielle dropped her loop down around his ankles and Sonny set the brakes and slid to a stop.
Danielle put Sonny into reverse and pulled the man back into the crowd of men then swung down from her saddle as Sonny held tight, when Danielle leaned over the man Sonny eased up; she undid her loop from around his ankles and extended her hand to help him back onto his feet. He was mad and started to curse her; Danielle punched him right between his eyes at the top of his nose, his feet left the ground and he lit hard on his backside. Danielle again extended her hand to the man to help him back up onto his feet.
He slowly raised the back of his hand up to his face to wipe the blood away when Danielle said, “Mister; I am known as the Bell Mare around this ranch. The way I see it; you have one of two choices you can make, either you put your gear in the bunkhouse or I am going to kick your ass all the way down to the Bell Brand’s front gate.”
He stood there for a minute or two then extended his hand to shake hers, he said, “Excuse my manners Ma’am.”
Then he walked over and picked up his gear as he headed for the bunkhouse. She turned around facing the other men but the crowd stood quietly. Danielle coiled her rope, hanging it over the saddle horn then led Sonny to he hitching rail, tied him up and then went into the cook shack for her coffee. I said, “Does anyone else have any further questions?”
Bob took over, hired the men, and explained what he expected of them.
Joe and I went into the cook shack to wait for Jim, Chris, and Bob to finish things up in the yard.
Danielle was sitting quietly at one of the tables sipping her coffee, when they came in we went over and sat down with her; she looked up and said, “That son-of-a-bitch pissed me off.”
The next morning we were all up early Danielle went down to the corral to saddle Sonny. I was sitting in the cook shack with Bob and Joe as the loud mouth from yesterday came in and sat down for breakfast, he was sitting with his head down as Ben brought him his breakfast he looked up and thanked him. The cowboy looked like a raccoon, both of his eyes were black, and there was a Band-Aid over the bridge of his nose. Bob said, “Danielle really hung one on him didn’t she?”
Joe said, “He had that one coming, I wonder if he learned his lesson?”
I grinned and said, “I guess we will know that real soon.”
As I saw Danielle pass by the front window; the cook house door swung open as Danielle came inside, she closed the door behind her. After Danielle looked around the room, she walked over to the raccoon as he stood up she said, “I didn’t get your name yesterday, mine is Danielle.”
She extended her hand to him, he shook her hand then said, “Ma’am; my name is Sid, I want to apologize to you for my manners yesterday.”
Danielle said, “Sid, can you use a rope, we need to brand and castrate some calves this morning, are you up to it?”
Sid said, “Yes Ma’am.”
Danielle sat down across the table from Sid and said, “After you finish your breakfast.”
Ben brought her a cup of coffee she said, “Thank you Ben.”
Ben brought us some more coffee as Danielle and Sid was leaving the cook house, He said, “after yesterday, he is the last man on this ranch I thought she would talk to much less team up with.”
Joe said, “Ben, sometimes you need to make your point.”
He shook his head and said, “I don’t know how he can see out of those blood shot eyes this morning but maybe he has a point to make too.”
The men were picking out their horses and getting their gear to leave for Cow Camp. The trucks were moving and cattle being loaded. Chris was anxious to be on the way; some of the men had already taken their horses up to camp and were waiting for the first load of cattle to show.
Danielle and Sid finished up with the calves, when they came back to the yard Chris told Sid to load up his gear; Sid and his horse would be on the next truck for camp.
Bob put his arm around Danielle’s neck and said, “Danielle that was a good show you and Sid put on this morning how about the four of us go back inside and have a cup of coffee.”
Joe said, “I don’t think anyone else will cross you this summer, you messed him up pretty good.”
By May, Jack Snow had the Snow ranch busy putting the new hay away and there was a study streams of trucks hauling last years hay out of the sheds to make room for the next cutting.
Bill Roberts over on the Bailey Ranch was getting ready for their first cutting. He needed some more equipment and his men were busy hauling some of Jack’s over to the Bailey Ranch.
Jim Johnson was busy with calving; he had the excess cattle we couldn’t get on the grazing leases.
Danielle and I decided we should take a little time to run into town and do a little shopping. We took in the hotel for lunch then went over to the drug store Mrs. Jensen was in good spirits, she asked Danielle about the kids. Danielle brought her up to date about what they were doing. And said she was proud of their good grades this year. When we finished we went to the grocery store for a lot of small things we needed in the kitchen.
We stopped and picked a small bouquet of wild flowers to take home and set on the dining room table.
When we came back to the ranch, I saw Bob in the yard; when we stopped I asked him if anything was pressing, He said, “No, I even got tired of drinking coffee.”
“If things are that bad perhaps in the morning we can take a run up to Cow Camp and see what Chris and his crew are up to.”
He laughed and said, “Chris was here today and things are the same up there, it would be a waste of our time.”
“If that’s the case we can take tomorrow off with pay, Lets stay home with our wives. If something should happen, they can call us at home. Why don’t you go on home and take the rest of the day off.”
When I went into the house I said, ‘Sweetheart why don’t we put on our swimming suits and go for a swim. We have a couple of hours before the kids get home.”
“I think you have a good idea there, let’s go.”
After we went for a swim, we sprawled out on the blanket. It just felt good to relax after the last month or so. We hugged and kissed as we talked about small things probably most were unimportant. Danielle said, “After the kids go to school do you want to just lie around and catch up on some of our love making?”
“I thought we had it pretty well covered last night.”
“It must be that time of the month again; I have been horney for days. Let’s go for a swim before I rape you right here.”
I rolled over and made a dive for her titty but she got up and said, “For a swim Jake, you don’t want to get me going out here.”
We dove in and swam out a ways then turned over and were floating on our backs. I was just starting to relax when Danielle grabbed my swimming trunks and pulled me under, by the time I figured out what was going on she took off for the dock. When I came up the ladder, Danielle was running back to the blanket. I walked back to where she was and sat down beside her. “Just what was that all about?”
Danielle was laughing as she said, “You were neglecting me.”
“Is that any reason for you to try and drown me?”
Danielle gave me that sexy smile of hers. “If we hurry we can go back to the house and get a quickie before the kids get home.”
I took her hand and pulled her up to her feet then picked up our blanket, we ran back to the pickup. When we stopped in front of the house, it was a race to the bedroom. By the time the kids came in we were sitting at the kitchen table as if we were innocent as church mice drinking our coffee. Our timing must have been right because the children told us school would be out tomorrow rather than next Friday. There was so many small ranch families needing their children to help out this summer the School Board decided to call it a hardship and close the county schools early.
After the children were off for school, Danielle and I locked the house up and went back into our bedroom to spend our day jumping in and out of bed. We knew it might be a while before we would have this much privacy again during the summer. We took full advantage of the day and made mad passionate love.
School was out for the summer. Valery graduated from the eighth grade and was going to start high school in the fall. She wanted to go and visit with her girlfriend for a couple of weeks, Danielle took her over to Mary’s house, they have been friends since the second grade.
Terry was spending the summer helping a family in Deming on their ranch as Tom’s father broke his back in an auto accident and wasn’t able to do any work, it would be up to Tom and Terry to do the ranch work for them so they could get through next winter.
Becky wanted to go to camp for the summer. Danielle thought Becky was grown up enough to be away from us and be on her own for a while.
Paul was staying with his friends over on the Circle-B Ranch for a few weeks. He would be helping with their calves and we thought the change would do him good.
Danielle and I were all alone for the first time since we adopted our children. She had a hard time accepting the fact they were off doing their own things but after a couple of days, she started to settle down.
For a change of pace, we took our lunch out on the side porch in the shade where it was cool. The weather has been running in the high nineties for the past week or so. As we were sitting there, we were talking about our lives. I asked Danielle, “Do you have any regrets.”
“Absolutely none, my life, I feel is complete.”
“What do you think your life would be like if you would have stayed in New York?”
I think for the first time I saw real fear on her face. After a long time she said, “Jake, if it weren’t for you I would probably have been dead a long time ago.”
“Danielle, what are you talking about?”
She hung her head for a long time and after a while; she raised it back up and looked into my eyes. “Jake, if you have the time; it will take me quite a while to tell you about it.”
I smiled at her and said, “Sweetheart I have nothing but time why don’t you tell me all about it.”
Danielle started to tell me about her life as I quietly sat there and listened to her tell her story. She said, “When I was about six years old I knew something was drastically wrong with me. My mind and my body were at odds with each other. I wanted to play with dolls and dress up like a little girl. My mother couldn’t cope with me and she kind of shut me out because she didn’t understand. My father couldn’t understand why I wanted to play with girls and didn’t do little boy things like all of the rest of the boys.”
“By the time, I was ten or eleven it became clear to me I was different, I was a girl in my mind, but my body was a boy. I felt confused and I had no one to talk with so I just started to grow inward of myself. My mother took me to our family doctor but all he would say about me was Dan will grow out of it in a year or so. It never happened; I continued to suffer until I was fourteen. That was the summer I met you, Jack, Ken, and Dean. For the first time in my life, I did not have to make excuses about the way I felt, all of you accepted me as I was and no one was pushing me to be something I wasn’t.”
“When Dean kissed me the first time I got sexually excited, and when he took his pants down I knew I wanted to suck his dick. He wanted more from me and then he made love to me as if I were a girl, for the first time in my life I knew I had deep feelings that were both mental and physical.”
“About a week later is when I met you; I knew there was something special about you Jake. Then when we all got naked in the clubhouse, I wanted you in me but it didn’t happen right then. When you let me dress up in the girl’s clothes, we found in the ragbag, I knew for sure I should have been born a girl. For the first time I had an orgasm and I ejaculated. I felt relaxed with you; you did not treat me like I was weird and if I wanted to cry. You didn’t make fun of me.”
“For the first time in my life, I felt I could trust someone; I did not have to pretend around you.”
“I was heartbroken when Dad and Mom said we were moving to New York that summer. I knew I would never see you again.”
“When I started school in New York I heard the word queer for the first time, I was afraid the other boys would think I was but I knew it wasn’t the case. I was different.”
“It wasn’t until I was in my late teens I found out Uncle Rick was the one person with whom I could talk to, he never put me down or made fun of me either. He was a lot like you. He knew what my feelings were but he was unable to help me with my problems.”
“By the time, I graduated from college Uncle Rick put me to work in the jewelry shop. I think he kept me from committing suicide on more than one occasion.”
“At the time, I knew Uncle Rick was seeing a woman and perhaps they were getting serious about each other. He sometimes would be gone all night but he never said much about her. About a month or so before my Mother and Father were killed in the accident, Uncle Rick took a big risk when he introduced me to Aunt Dee. It must have been his way of helping me. From that day on my life started to change until Mom and Dad died.”
“Uncle Rick and Aunt Dee took care of me but they knew I couldn’t stay there. It was then Uncle Rick told me to go somewhere and get myself back together for a month or so. For no real reason I decided to try for an out of state hunting license and tag. This state was my third attempt; I was about ready to give it up when I received a call saying my application had been approved and Mason County was where I would be able to hunt for an elk. I remembered when I was living here, Grandpa John had the Cow Camp, and there were elk on the property. It was why I called asking for him, it was a surprise to me when you answered the phone. You were the last person in the world I had expected to talk to that day.”
“When you invited me to accompany you on the hunt, I knew I would be with someone I knew. I accepted your invitation and made plans to be here opening day. That changed when I found out I would have to be here earlier because of the plane schedules. I felt bad about you having to change your plans for me but was thankful you did.”
“When we went up to the cabin I found you were so easy to talk to I just unloaded on you all of my problems. You made me feel comfortable and accepted me without making fun of me or putting me down, I was so grateful after all of those years we could still talk freely with each other.”
“I was afraid I had gone to far when I found those women’s clothes in the bedroom. I was so embarrassed and wanted to apologize to you. I told you I was sorry but the bedroom had women’s clothes in it and they must belong to your wife. That was when you told me about Carol.”
“After you went to bed, I thought about her clothes and felt embarrassed to ask you if it would be all right if I used some to sleep in but I finally built up enough courage to ask. I was so relieved when you told me it would be all right.”
“The next morning I woke up early. I felt you would understand me for what I was and started cooking breakfast for us, when you came out of your bedroom and sat down to drink your coffee I could feel you were watching me. You were a little embarrassed when you called me Danielle and again as we sat at the table when I caught you staring at my chest. Do you remember when we were watching the elk eating hay out by the coral; do you remember when we went out on the front porch, you put your arms around me and was so embarrassed and again you apologized to me.”
“Then later when things heated up between us you went outside to cool off, you were leaning on the banister when I walked up behind you and put my arms around your waist. I put my titties right in the middle of your back, yes; I knew what I was doing to you and is why I asked you to make love to me. I had to know if you just had a hard on and was looking for a warm wet place to put it or if you were really in it for the long haul, I judged you right, you were really in love with me. That day Jake, my whole life was turned around and I have never looked back since.”
Danielle continued, “I fell in love with you that day Jake and I have never regretted it, I loved you then and I still love you today.”
She got down in front of me on her knees and started to cry on my lap.
I said, “I knew that day I loved you to Sweetheart, even before we made love the first time.”
I leaned over and kissed the back of her shoulder Danielle looked up at me with tears running down her cheeks. I took Danielle’s hands in mine and helped her to get up on her feet then turned her around and said, “Sit down on my lap Sweetheart.”
She settled down on my lap and put her arms around my neck then Danielle continued with her story. She said, “When I arrived in New York, Uncle Rick and Dee picked me up at the airport and then we went to Uncle Rick’s apartment. I told them about what we did and about our plans we made for the future. Aunt Dee said, “Danielle, Are you sure you are not setting yourself up for a big fall?”
I told them, “In a year I will know the answer to that question. If he backs out, at least I will be able to thank him for changing my life around to the positive. I told Dee I feel down deep in my heart I have found the right man to live the rest of my life with.”
Danielle said, “Jake, you know the rest of the story, I have been needing to say what I just told you for a long time.”
We went back into the house I put my arms around Danielle and said, “Sweetheart, I never knew what turmoil your life was in you kept it hidden from me. Why didn’t you tell me this at the Cow Camp?”
She said, “Jake, my life was a mess and it wasn’t your place to get into the middle of it any deeper than you already were, you had enough on your mind with the ranches. You didn’t know at the time but you were the one person who gave me something to live for. When you included me into your life and we made plans to buy the Olmsted Ranch, I knew we would be a part of each other’s life from that day on. There was always the doubt we would get married but either way, I knew I had a life long friend who was willing to accept me as I was.”
I said, “You put it all on the line hoping I wouldn’t get a case of cold feet.”
“Not really Jake, I bought the ranch and was ready to accept the possibility things could go sour with our relationship. I could have given you the down payment back, lived my life as a single woman and we could have worked out a business arrangement between the two of us. I was sure of my feelings toward you, the loose end was really you Jake, and you had to be as sure of me as I was of you. I decided not to pressure you into marriage. You changed all of that at the airport; you kept your word Jake. I will never forget when you got down on your knees and ask me to marry you. Then I knew it was going to be about us, and not just me.”
“Sweetheart, that day at the airport, you don’t know how scared I was you would refuse my proposal. Dave was right when he said, “Jake, you better marry Danielle before someone else does.”
I pulled Danielle to me and we hugged each other, kissed, and we both broke out into tears as we stood there in each other’s arms. I said, “Danielle, I can’t imagine my life without you in it, I love you now as much as I loved you then.”
She looked up at me with tears running down her face and said, “Me either Jake, I love you more now than I did then. Look at me; I’m a mess, I am going to have to go redo my face.”
“You are beautiful just the way you are but, if you must, I’ll go fix us some coffee while you get yourself straightened up.”
She smiled at me, gave me a kiss, and then went into the bathroom. When she disappeared through the doorway, I went into the kitchen for our coffee. Danielle came back into the kitchen a little while later; I stood up and pulled her chair out for her as she sat down at the table. Danielle said, “Thank you Mr. Lance, you are a real gentleman.”
“Mrs. Lance, you are beautiful today.”
We laughed together then enjoyed our coffee as we held hands across the table; we knew our love for each other has grown only stronger with time.
By the first of August, all of our children were back with us on the ranch. Paul and Valery were spending a lot of time with their friends and the other ranch children swimming in the reservoir. Becky had been back from camp and joined the rest. Terry came home from Deming early; Tom’s father was able to hire a couple of men to help out with their chores around the ranch.
Danielle thought the three younger children spent too much time swimming, they didn’t sun burn, but they were sure dark. Danielle referred to them as her little saddles bags.
Bob, Danielle, and I were talking ranch when Bob mentioned Chris was a little short handed. He had a truckload of salt blocks coming next week he needed to put out on the Forest Service lease ground for the cows. He said, “I might be able to spare him a man or two but we are all shorthanded.”
Danielle said, “Jake, we could take the children and spend some time at the cabin. We can put the blocks out for Chris; Bob can run things for a week while we are gone.”
“It’s going to be a lot of time on horseback, the salt has to be taken up and scattered using the packhorses there is no roads up there.”
“We can do it, the kids would like to do something different for a change and all of them like to ride.”
I said, “Bob, let me ask the kids if they are game for the work, I’ll get back to you in about an hour. Does Chris have enough packhorses up there?”
“At least twenty maybe twenty five head with packs.”
“We could go up in a day or so and be ready when the truck arrives with the salt.”
Danielle said, “You boys talk and I’ll go ask the kids if they are up to it. I’ll be back shortly.”
Danielle was excited and took off to find the kids. Bob and I talked some more about the ranches. Danielle was back in about twenty minutes and said, “They are ready to go when we are.”
Bob said, “It will take a load off of Chris’s mind and his men. I’ll send your horses up along with your tack tomorrow, and a note explaining what is going on. Thank you Danielle, I really didn’t have the men to spare.”
I said, “It will give me a chance to look some of the country over, I have never been on that lease.”
The kids and Danielle started to get things ready for the week at the cabin they were excited about it. For the next two days, it was all they talked about at dinnertime.
Terry and Paul drove the pickup to Cow Camp a day early as they wanted to look around the camp.
The next morning the girls woke us up early they were excited to get going. Danielle and I finally crawled out of bed, Becky had coffee ready for us. Valery said, “Becky and I are going over to the cook shack and get Ben to fix us breakfast.”
Becky said, “When you sleepy heads get ready you can meet us there for your breakfast.”
They took off to get Ben going. Danielle said, “Just who is running whom around this place anyways?
I laughed and said, “How do you like having the kids telling you what to do for a change?”
It was her time to laugh now she said, “We better get going before they drive Ben up the wall. We can have more coffee while we are waiting for our breakfast.”
After we had our breakfast, I told Becky to go get the car and then we can get going. When she returned with the car, Danielle and I piled in the back seat as Becky stood beside the car not knowing what to do. Danielle said, “Do you two think you can find your way up to the camp? Your Dad and I are going to ride back here and neck. Keep your eyes on the road.”
They both giggled as they got in and started for camp. I think they really felt grown up and important. Danielle taught Becky well, she was a good driver. Becky peaked in the rearview mirror Danielle said, “I saw you, keep your eyes on the road Becky we want to smooch back here.”
Valery got the giggles and said, “Can I peek now?
Danielle said, “Who do you think you are trying to fool, you have been watching us in the side rear view mirror all along haven’t you?”
When we pulled in front of the cabin Chris came over and opened Danielle’s car door for her then shut it after she got out. He said, “I wanted to thank you for coming up and helping out. I see you have a new chauffer.”
Becky said, “They wanted to sit in the back and smooch, how disgusting.”
Danielle said, “You two unload we are going with Chris to the cook shack for some coffee, see ya.”
Chris gave me a map of the lease property and said, “I marked where the licks are located. I would like to build them up to six blocks at each site then next month my men can leave enough to finish out the season. The truck will be here early in the morning I’ll have my men unload it and have your pack train ready while you saddle up.”
I told Chris we were going out and look the camp over for a while and we would be back at five thirty for supper. When we walked by the new bunkhouse, Sid came out to shake our hands. Danielle said, “Sid, how do you like Cow Camp?”
He said, “I found myself a home here that is, if you don’t run me off.”
“I hear you are doing a good job up here, I am glad you like it.”
“Danielle, I have never worked with such a good bunch of people before I appreciate the job.”
“Sid, you have a job here just as long as you care to stay.”
We finally found our way back to the cabin the kids were waiting for us. Danielle told them what was going on and when we would be taking the first load of salt up the mountain. She told the girls to take the small bedroom and the boys could camp out on the living room couch. She told them supper was at five thirty and breakfast would be at six.
The kids scattered, Danielle and I went out on the front porch she put her arms around my waist and pushed those titties of hers into my back. She said, “You haven’t forgot about these have you Jake?”
I turned around, put my hands on her hips, and kissed her. “I will never forget them Sweetheart. I remember someone telling me I would have to use my imagination.”
I moved over to my left about a foot and copped a feel then said, “That was a long time ago Sweetheart, they are real now.”
Danielle gave me that special smile of hers and said, “When we get in bed tonight I’ll feed the baby.”
“Do I have to wait that long?”
She laughed, “If you don’t eat your supper there will be no dessert for you.”
It was a little after five, I crooked my arm and said, “Mrs. Lance may I escort you to supper?”
She smiled as she took my arm and said, “I will be honored to have your company tonight Mr. Lance.”
Our children joined us for supper as well as Chris. We had a good talk as Earl prepared our food. We had steak, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits, and gravy. Earl brought us cherry pie with real whip cream on the top. We finished up with our usual cups of coffee.
I thanked Earl before we went back to the cabin. The children turned in early they knew tomorrow was going to be a long hard day and we would have three or four more ahead of us.
Danielle and I went to bed about an hour later. I said, “I am ready for dessert now Sweetheart.”
She smiled and pulled her nightgown down in the front. “Which one do you want to start with darling?”
We quietly finished each other off and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning we were up and dressed. After a good breakfast, we went out to the corral and saddled up. By the time we were ready the men had unloaded the truck and packed our packsaddles with three blocks on each side of the horses.
Earl made each of us a large lunch; we put them in our saddlebags and hung our canteens from our saddles. Danielle and I each led six horses, with Becky and Terry leading four each, Valery had two, and Paul three. We led twenty-five pack animals carrying one hundred and fifty blocks. It was going to be a long day. I took the lead with Paul, Valery, Danielle, Becky, and Terry bringing up the rear.
When we found the first lick, I started to unload Valery’s horses first. The country was easy for us to travel but tomorrow we would be climbing higher into trees and rocks and we would be leading fewer pack animals. I did not want anyone to get hurt. Around noon we stopped for lunch, every one was in good condition. Then we started on around the mountain until we ran out of blocks about four o’clock; we took a rest before starting back. No one had any problems with the horses. A little before dark we made it back to the corrals some of the men came out and helped us unsaddle and put the horses in the corrals. When they were fed and watered, we went over to the cook shack for supper. I told Chris what we were going to do tomorrow and how many packhorses we would need loaded.
I showed Chris on the map where we unloaded. “If we get the rest of the lower licks taken care of tomorrow we are going to leave Valery and Paul here its going to be to rough up there for them.”
He agreed with me and said, “It looks like you might get it finished up in three days.”
“It may be four but the last day Danielle, Terry, and I should finish up.”
By the time we went back to the cabin, the kids were asleep. We gave it up too.
The second day every one was ready to get started. Valery led one horse, Paul two, Becky two, Terry two, Danielle, and me with three each. That gave us thirteen packhorses and seventy-eight blocks. Today will be the last day the horses would be able to carry six blocks tomorrow we will be climbing above the tree line.
As we came to the licks, we unloaded two blocks from each horse to make their loads lighter then we unloaded two more from them and finally when we were empty we headed for camp arriving around four o’clock. We had a good supper Danielle and the children went back to the cabin. I stayed and talked to Chris, I told him we would be able to take ten packhorses but only put four blocks on each horse. That will be forty blocks.
The third morning we started out with Terry and Becky leading two horses each and Danielle and I three horses each. Four blocks was a good load for them as we climbed higher up the mountain. We unloaded two blocks from each horse and then finally unloading each until we ran out. On the way back my third packhorse slipped and fell. It was probably good he was unloaded. Danielle made sure he was all right then we continued back to camp. We arrived around four thirty and unsaddled. Terry and Valery joined us for supper as well as Chris. I said, “Tomorrow if we are lucky we can finish up if not it will take another day.”
Chris asked me, “How many horses do you want loaded?”
“There will only be three of us tomorrow, load eight horses with four blocks each, that will be thirty two blocks. We can see tomorrow night what we will need to finish out.”
We were up and gone by daylight, it was going to be a long day. Actually, it turned out better than we expected, we found a good cow trail to follow it made things easier on the horses and us. We finished up by three and headed back arriving around five thirty.
After supper Chris and I figured we would need twenty four more blocks I said, “load six horses it should do the job if we have to many we can leave the extras on top that way if the next crew comes up short they can bring a few back down the mountain.”
Chris said, “It will be three hundred and twenty four blocks in five days. I would say it will be a good week’s work.”
We finished up on the fifth day and left ten blocks at the last lick. We were back by three in the afternoon. Danielle went back to the cabin while Terry, two men and I unsaddled. Terry and I went over to the office to report in with Chris, I gave him back his map. I said, “In the morning I am going to send the kids back to the Bell Brand. Danielle and I are going to stay over another night before we go back.”
When it was time for supper The Lance, family had a small celebration. Earl said, “Those kids know how to put the grub down.”
Danielle said, “They are growing children, wait until they grow up.”
Earl said, “We will have to hire a new cook just for them.”
We enjoyed our family time that evening I said, “I am proud of all of you, nobody can say you don’t hold up your end around here.”
In the morning, Danielle and I sent the kids back to the ranch. Danielle said, “We will be home sometime tomorrow afternoon.”
We were really happy with our kids, they are not afraid of work even Becky and Valery did their part. Paul and Terry are taking on responsibility like they eat, with both hands. Danielle said, “Someday they will be running the ranches.”
Danielle was worried about her kids and walked over to the office to call home. She talked to Becky and gave her some instructions, when she returned to the cook shack she said, “They made it home all right, I don’t have to worry about them any longer.”
After we finished drinking our coffee, we went for a little walk down around the corral to check on our horses. Ike and Sonny came over to where we were standing extending their heads to be petted. Danielle told them she was pleased with them and gave each a pat on the neck. We walked up to the cabin and stood a long time leaning on the porch banister Danielle shook her head then smiled at me. “Jake, it seems like a lifetime since we stood here together watching the elk eating on the bails of hay. The fresh snow was beautiful.”
“I was too busy watching something else beautiful that day Sweetheart. I have the pictures to prove it.”
She said, “Standing there in that flimsy nightgown my butt sure got cold.”
We laughed then I took her in my arms and kissed her. “What a beautiful butt it was.”
I turned her around and said, “It still is Mrs. Lance.”
As we walked through the front door, I gave her beautiful butt a little swat. Danielle stopped, turned around, then put her arms around my neck, and said, “Mr. Lance I do believe you just made a pass at me.”
I leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Believe what you want, lets go get naked.”
Danielle took my hand in hers as she led me toward our bedroom she said, “Is my baby hungry again?”
We spent the rest of the afternoon making mad passionate love not worrying one of the children would knock on the bedroom door and yell Mommy.”
We were so preoccupied with each other we almost forgot it was close to suppertime. We had to hurry with our showers. When we finished Danielle came out of the bathroom in a black pleated skirt and white peasant blouse draped down over her shoulders, she was wearing those black patent leather shoes I remembered hearing as she walked across the hardwood floor so many years ago. I thought to myself, to hell with supper. I looked down at the front of my pants. Danielle said, “That sound still excites you doesn’t it dear?”
Danielle put her arm around my waist and said, “Control yourself Jake; we are going to be late for supper if we don’t get a move on.”
When we came into the cook shack Chris stood up and motioned for us to join him. We walked over as I pulled the chair out for Danielle to sit down, when she sat down Chris said, “Danielle, order what ever you would like tonight the tab is on me.”
I shook Chris’s hand as we sat down at the table. He said, “You are like a breath of fresh air around here Danielle, may I order you a drink as he motioned for Earl?”
Danielle said, “Now Chris, lets not get carried away.”
Earl came to our table with the coffee he said, “Danielle, you look absolutely radiant tonight, would you like a little more time before you order?”
Danielle started to blush then she started to laugh as she said, “Ok, boys lets not over due things.”
We started to laugh at her, as she turned red as a beet. Chris said, “We had our little fun, are you ready to eat?”
Danielle looked up at Earl with tears in her eyes and said, “Earl, I’m starved.”
“I’ll be right back with your food.”
Earl brought us one of the best chicken fried steaks I have ever had the privilege of eating. After we finished eating, we sat around drinking coffee for over an hour. I told Chris about the cows and calves we saw on our salt block trips. I said, “What we saw was encouraging; about half of the cows had two calves by their sides and it appeared about half of the calves were Black and the others were red. The Angus breed showed to be strong in color, you will have to look the other leases over to get an idea if they are as productive.”
Chris said, “The Brangus show strong markings and color but a smaller amount of twins than you saw, probably in the neighborhood of twenty to twenty five percent but the Herford breed cows don’t show many twin calves at all. Perhaps I missed a lot.”
I replied, “We won’t know until fall roundup, we need to take note of how many calves to cow ratio came from each lease. The amount of red and black Angus calves, then compare the Brangus to Herford calves on the BLM lease. We have an equal amount of bulls of each breed represented. It will be interesting to see the results on paper this fall.”
“From what you saw and what I have seen we may consider replacing some of our bulls but I am like you Jake, let’s see it on paper before we pass any judgment.”
“Danielle and I are going to give it up for one day; we will see you at breakfast. Earl it was a terrific supper tonight we enjoyed it. Thank you.”
When we stood up to leave Danielle received a lot of attention. We walked back to the cabin hand in hand as we went in we paused just long enough to hug and kiss then the foot race was on for the bedroom.
By lunchtime, we were ready to head for the Bell Brand. Our horses and tack left for home around ten o’clock. Danielle and I had a very enjoyable week of work and pleasure.
Danielle and I arrived home around three in the afternoon as we pulled in; we saw Bob headed our way on a high lope. Danielle said, “Bob must have something important on his mind he usually don’t move that fast. I’ll take the car to the house while the two of you talk.”
I said, “Thank you Sweetheart, I’ll be home when we are through talking.”
“Jake, you are just the man I want to see; Mike Bowers called for you and wants you to phone him as soon as possible. I’ll explain at the cook shack, I was going to go over there before I saw you pull in.”
We sat down to drink our coffee and talk about Mike’s call. Bob said, “Mike called an hour ago about our Forest Service lease, He told me he had been in touch with Hank Brady about the BLM lease ground. Hank told Mike they are well pleased with the work we have done on the BLM property. Improvements like the water holes, troughs, range condition, and general cleanliness up there. Mike wants to inspect the new lease we are holding with the Forest Service to compare that lease to an adjoining five thousand acre lease south of the one we hold. Mike said that the CY outfit did so much damage they took the lease back along with the three thousand acres to the east of us. Mike asked me if I thought you would be interested. I told him I was sure you would be. Mike then asked me if they could bring up their biologist and range land specialist to Cow Camp and work out of there for a couple of weeks; they want to inspect the BLM lease, our Forest Service lease, and the two other leases to compare range conditions.”
“Bob you said a mouth full; you look like you need a piece of pie after all you just said you haven’t had that much to say in years.”
“I was just excited, you know we are at full capacity and we have a lot of beef at the ranches that we couldn’t put up there this year for lack of lease ground.”
“I’ll call Mike and see what he has to say, you can listen in on the extension phone we may need your input on this matter. Let’s have our pie and coffee first.”
I motioned for Ben and told him to bring us some pie that Bob was looking a little peaked. After we were finished with the pie, Bob and I went back to the office to call Mike.
Mike was positive about the leases and told us he would ready up the papers for the eight thousand acres and hold them until his men finished their inspection and then he would stop by the Bell Brand to have them signed and pick up our check.
“Mike, how many men will you have up there?”
His response was no more than ten. I told him we have room in some camp trailers for them, and don’t worry about meals; our cook shack can cover the extra people. “Mike, when can we expect you to get started?”
“Would the day after tomorrow be all right with you?”
“My crew will be expecting you then, thank you Mike.”
Bob said, “I’ll get up to the camp and explain things to Chris and have things ready for them.”
“Bob, you had a lot to be excited about, we sure can use that ground next year. If you don’t have any more good news for me, I’m going home.”
When I came into the house, Danielle and Becky were fixing supper. Danielle brought us some coffee as we sat down to drink it. I told her about the new lease ground and the inspection the Forest Service wanted to do.
Becky recruited Valery to set the table, and then went looking for Paul and Terry while Valery looked after things. When Becky returned, Valery helped Becky finish up with the cooking and served our supper. Both girls are going to be good cooks like their mother.
After supper, Valery told Becky, we can do the dishes for Mom while they have their coffee. Becky brought us a refill. Terry went up stairs to work on his model airplane and Paul went into the front room to listen to the radio. Danielle said, “It is good to be back home, you girls did a fine job up at Cow Camp. Chris said to thank both of you for your help.”
Early the next morning, I was up and gone before anyone was awake. I left Danielle a note telling her where I was going. My first stop was over to see Jack Snow, I needed to tap bases with him about the haying and equipment then I drove over to the Bailey Ranch to talk to Bill Roberts. By noon, I was at the Sorensen Ranch and caught up with Jim Johnson for lunch. From there I stopped by the Home Ranch and talked a while with Joe Nathan. He said, “I hear you spent a week at cow Camp setting out salt blocks?”
I told him about the new leases and as I was leaving the office for home, Joe yelled at me saying, “Jake.”
I stopped and turned around, he said, “Did you do any hunting while you were up there?”
I laughed and said, “I’ll never tell.”
He waved as I drove off. I thought to myself, Joe is not going to let me forget that one. I caught up with Bob when he pulled in and stopped in front of the office. He said, “I had a good talk with Chris, he said he would treat those boys like they were our guest.”
Almost three weeks passed before Mike Bowers and Hank Brady stopped by with our new lease papers. I said, “This is one for the books, both the Forest Service and BLM big shots together in an unmarked pickup. Hank leaned over in the passenger seat and said, “We are trying to be sneaky, neither one of us wants to be accused of associating with the other.”
“Your secret is safe around here. How was your stay at Cow Camp?”
Mike said, “We decided we were going to move our offices up there, those cooks of yours really know their cooking. I’ll bet we gained ten pounds those two weeks. Could we do a follow up next year to evaluate things it will give us an idea about range conditions.”
“You boys don’t have to wait a year, feel free to stop in any time you are in our area the cook shack is open twenty four hours a day.”
Hank said, “We appreciate your generosity Jake, We need to get going.”
I showed Bob the lease papers and said, “What are we going to do next spring for sleeping arrangements for another crew?”
“I have been working on that one too. I figure we will need twenty more cowboys and a third shift cooking crew. North Country RV over in Deming have trailers designed for crew housing, each one is designed for ten men. Perhaps we should look into two units for next spring as temporary housing. We can always move them to the other leases if need be.”
“Joe told me the CY might want to sell that hundred acres of deeded ground being they lost their lease.”
I told him to nose around, and see if it could be bought at a good price. We could set up a portable cook shack and if things didn’t work out we could pull the pin and move back to Cow Camp.”
“I’ll look into that possibility and get you a price, maybe we could rent them for the summer to see if it is what we need.”
When the last of October finally rolled around the ranches resembled a beehive. All hands were busy doing their jobs getting the cows rounded up and back from Cow Camp. Terry spent his time with Chris loading and counting cows, calves, and the bulls. Becky and I were busy with the branding. Danielle and Joe did most of the roping. Paul and Valery were both up on new mounts doing the separating after we were finished branding and castrating. Bob and Jim teamed up roping any cattle the Vet, Andrew Jessup, thought should be looked at then doctoring or giving them shots.
By mid November, things quitted down again as some of the men left the ranch for the winter months Chris and Terry closed Cow Camp for the winter and moved back home. The kids had to go back to school. The school shut down for the two weeks of roundup each fall so the children could help their families with the ranch work.
Once again, the ranches waited for the Christmas season. Christmas was always a big family affair for all of the ranch people in the valley, the annual dance, and exchanging of gifts but most of all we were able to see and talk to old friends we other wise did not get see on a regular basis. Danielle and I noticed a lot of the young people were coupling up including ours. Jason was hanging around Becky whenever she would allow him. Terry and Mary made a lovely couple, Mary and Danielle had a lot in common, and the three of them could sit by the hour and talk.
I noticed Betty was taking a shine to Paul; Danielle finally talked him into asking Betty to dance with him.
Valery was kind of shy but it was not too hard to see when Max was around her eyes would light up.
Christmas was a turning point in Danielle’s life; she had to face reality from then on, the old mother hen slowly raised her wing as her baby chicks started to leave the nest. We had one finishing college; one would finish next year, one starting, and one still in high school.
Becky decided she was going to become a veterinarian. Terry set his sites on agriculture. Paul decided business administration and mechanics was his cup of tea. Little Valery was a mathematical genius and majored in accounting. She could look at a column of numbers and had the answers before you could enter half of the column on a calculator.
Becky married Jason right out of college; they both went to work for Andrew Jessup our local Veterinarian. Two years later Andrew retired, Jason and Becky bought out his practice. Becky took care of the office and handled the small animals while Jason handled the larger stock. Danielle and I set them up with a house at the Sorensen Ranch. They had two children. A boy and a girl.
Paul became my shadow and soon took over my place in the office. That is, except when I disagreed with him. He had a level business head on his shoulders and could make good decisions on his own but, wasn’t afraid to admit he needed help. Paul is a lot like me; he listens to his foremen and takes their advice seriously, before he makes any final decisions. Paul finally married Betty, and they had four children, three boys, and one girl.
Terry, on the other hand hated to be cooped up in the office. He became Bob’s right hand man. Terry didn’t miss much around the ranches but if he had any doubts about anything, he went to see Bob first. When Jack Snow retired, Terry and his new wife Mary moved onto the Snow Ranch. They eventually had three children, two girls and a boy.
Last, but not least is little Valery. She was always Danielle’s baby and the last to get married, she finally married Max; they had one boy and one girl. Valery took care of the ranch books and ran the office; she always had time to be with her mother. They would visit in the office or at the cook shack. Ben tried to spoil both of them.
Max and Jim Johnson both liked horses. When Max wasn’t with Jim, he was over at the Home Ranch checking on Chris’s bulls or up to Cow Camp picking Chris’s brain about Cow Camp. Eventually Max took over for Jim Johnson when he retired. Max and Valery moved into Jim’s old house at the Bell Brand.
We had grandchildren coming out of our ears, with six boys and five girls.
Danielle and I were now fifty-eight years old. She said, “Jake, we raised our children and we need some time to our selves, let’s go up to the Cow Camp cabin and enjoy some time together just the two of us.”
“Pack your bag and be sure you bring your sexy nightgown along. I’m going to make love to you until your eyes cross.”
She gave me that lovely smile of hers. “Can I sit on your lap and squirm while we drink our coffee?”
We drove up to the cabin, as we went in I said, “Sweetheart, why don’t you go freshen up and I’ll start the coffee.”
As Danielle went into the bedroom, I turned the thermostat up and sat down in my favorite chair to wait for her to return. When she came into the room, she was wearing her white nightgown and a skimpy pair of panties under it. Danielle went over to the stove for cups and the pot of coffee. I whistled, “I haven’t had a view like that since we were up here on the November elk hunt.”
“I see you still like that chair Mr. Lance.”
“It’s still the best seat in the house.”
As Danielle brought our coffee over to the table, I scooted my chair back a little and patted my lap. She smiled and came over to my side of the table and sat the coffee cups down while looking at my lap, “What are you going to do if I start to squirm on your lap?”
“We’ll have to discuss the first thing that comes up; in the mean time I want one of those titties of yours in my mouth.”
She smiled again then turned around and sat down on my lap as she put her arms around my neck and kissed me. “Is my baby hungry again?”
I wrapped my arms around her waist and let my hands slide down to her soft butt as I gave her cheeks a little squeeze; she pulled the front of her nightgown down. Only a few inches away from me was her beautiful full nipple. I opened my mouth as she leaned forward; I felt her soft nipple start to harden as I gently sucked it into my open mouth. A few minutes later she broke away from me as she stood up, she raised her nightgown and straddled my lap then she sat back down putting her arms around my neck again. We kissed long and tenderly as she started to move back and forth on my lap. I picked Danielle up in my arms as I carried her into the bedroom; I laid her down on the bed then undressed.
Our love making that night was tender, slow, and long. We went to sleep in each other’s arms.
I woke up early, took my shower, and then started breakfast. I was on my second cup of coffee when Danielle came through the bedroom door. I said, “Breakfast will be ready in about fifteen minutes; you have time for a quick shower.”
She smiled and said, “It will be a fast one; I’m hungry and need some coffee.”
“It will be ready when you get here.”
After we ate, we cleaned things up then Danielle said, “We better be getting back to the ranch, I feel a little tired this morning.”
“Are you alright darling?”
She shook her head yes but, that old smile of hers wasn’t there. I said, “I’ll get you back to the ranch and if you are not feeling better by then, I’ll drive you into Deming so Doctor Philips can have a look at you.”
By the time, we went home Danielle told me she was feeling better. We went to bed early that night but about one in the morning Danielle started to shake; I reached over and turned the bedside light on. I asked her, “Are you cold Sweetheart?”
She cuddled up against me; I pulled the covers up around her as I put my arms around her she said, “Jake, I love you very much.”
Danielle stiffened up as I held her tightly to me. Her eyes opened wide then she smiled and said, “Jake, tell my children their Mommy loves them.”
She sighed as she went limp in my arms, I yelled, “Danielle, Danielle.”
I held her to me for a long time. I kissed her lips and said Danielle, “I love you” but I knew she never heard me. I cried as I laid there next to her. I finally got myself together enough to call Martha. I said, “I think Danielle died, can you come over here.”
When Martha and Bob came in, Martha went into the bedroom as Bob and I sat at the kitchen table. When Martha returned to the kitchen, she said, “Jake, I am sorry, she’s gone. Bob, will you call the Sheriff’s office and inform them and find out when they will be here?”
Sheriff Harris knocked at the door and Bob let him in, Martha took him into the bedroom to see Danielle. When he came out, he said, “I will make arrangements to have her moved to the mortuary.”
Martha called Becky, Valery, Paul, and Terry. They started to show up within a little while. When they were all here, I said, “The last words your mother said was Jake, tell my children their Mommy loves them.”
Seven o’clock a.m. the County Coroner showed up to move Danielle to the mortuary in Mason. By eleven o’clock the Coroner (John Hansen) called to talk to me about Danielle, he asked me if I could come to the mortuary and talk with him and Al Norton, the mortician. I said, “I will be there by three o’clock.”
When I arrived, both of them were waiting for me. John said, “We hate to cause you any undue problems Jake but, we need to get the paper work straightened out.”
Al said, “Jake, I am having a problem with Danielle’s gender; I thought she was a female. After I started to prepare her for the autopsy, I discovered that she has male organs. Can you explain what is going on here?”
I said, “You should call Dr. Philips, he can explain better than me as he is aware of her condition.”
John Hansen called Dr. Philips and asked him if he was aware of Mrs. Lance’s gender. Dr. Philips said, “Legally, she is female and should be treated as such.”
John turned to me and said, “Jake, no one other than the four of us needs to know anything different. I will sign the death certificate as Female. Date of death, Tuesday November 28, 1991. Age, fifty eight years.”
Al said, “The Autopsy confirmed the cause of death was a massive heart attack. As long as you are here, where will Mrs. Lance be buried?”
I said, “She will be buried at the Home Ranch Cemetery. Would Thursday at two o’clock fit your schedule Al?”
He said, “Jake, if you will pick out her casket, we will be there at the time you requested.”
I thanked both of them for their concerns then said, “Danielle lived her life as a woman and mother of four children; I would like her memory to stay that way.”
John and Al both agreed we would be the only ones who know the truth.
I picked out her casket, a white one with silver trim and handed Al a suitcase with Danielle’s clothes in it. Al said “I will send you the bill in two weeks; will that be satisfactory to you Jake?”
I said it was. Then I slowly drove back home, it was a long hard trip for me. I knew I would only see Danielle one last time before I joined her.
When I went into the house it was quiet, there was no sounds of children or Danielle moving around just total quiet. I went into our bedroom and made the bed with fresh linen, and then I drew the window shades shut. I stood there looking at our bed where she died. I remembered her words; “Jake, I love you very much.”
I imagined, I guess I could hear her final words. She said “Jake, tell my children their Momma loves them.”
I knew I would never be able to spend another night in this room. I said, Danielle, “I love you and I will miss you.”
I gathered my clothes; I remember it took me three trips back into our bedroom to finish. When I was leaving, I stood in the doorway and blew her a kiss.
Thursday came; my men prepared the Home Ranch for Danielle’s funeral. I stood on the porch and watched as Bob directed the hearse and about fifteen cars to the small cemetery. Terry stopped for me; he came around to my side of the car and hugged me then helped me into his car and then closed the car door.
We were the last ones there. Terry, Paul, Bob Young, Jim Johnson, Joe Nathan, and Bill Roberts carried Danielle’s casket, to the gravesite.
Jack Snow was waiting for me and we walked behind Danielle’s casket to where Becky and Valery were standing, they sat down on either side of me.
Reverend McNeill presided over the service, when he finished, Bob Young opened the casket so we could all walk by and pay our last respects. It must have been too much for me when I saw Danielle laying there, my knees went out from under me and I needed to be helped to a chair where I remained until most of the people had left. Paul and Terry helped me back to the gravesite so I could tell Danielle good by. I reached up and slowly closed the lid of her casket as I did I said, “I love you Danielle.”
Becky and Valery walked back to the car with their arms through mine as Terry and Paul helped me to get into the car and then closed the door. When we went back to the house I said, “I would like to be by myself if you don’t mind.”
I walked into the house and sat down at the kitchen table; I folded my arms and put my head down on them. I broke down and began to cry. Over the next few days, I couldn’t sleep and the only thing I could keep on my stomach was coffee.
It must have been Monday; I started the jeep, and drove over to the Home Ranch and sat beside Danielle’s grave. I talked to her for a long time as I finally picked myself up I said, “I’ll be with you soon, just be patient Sweetheart.”
I drove down the lane to the highway then up to the Bell Brand gate where I stopped. I looked up at the sign that read, The Bell Brand Ranch with the bells at both ends of it. I said, “I think she liked the sign as much as I do.”
I drove back to the house and parked the jeep then went in and sat down at the table, yes sir, I said, “The best seat in the house.
About two weeks passed. I tried to keep up with my journal, but I found too many memories in it. I decided I should write a letter to my children, otherwise they would never know the truth about their Mother and me. I thought, perhaps they might understand some day we loved each other enough to do what we did. We never hurt anyone and only four of us knew the truth. Dr. Philips, the County Coroner John Hansen, the Mortician Al Norton, and me knew about her. Danielle lived her life to the fullest, raised four of the finest children, and made me the happiest man on earth.
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