They had made good time after leaving Porterville and had intended to avoid staying in any towns along the way until they were safely across the Territorial line. It had actually been quite warm and pleasant camping out and since, for a change, they had enough money and provisions to last a while they hadn’t foreseen any need to risk going into the towns they passed along the way. That is until Kid’s big gelding, Buck threw a shoe and the fellow was making it quite clear that the bare foot was becoming rather “ouchy” on the hard and pebbly trail and shouldn’t his human be doing something about it!? “Sorry Heyes.” Kid had mumbled as he stood by Buck shaking his head at the offending shoe. “I guess we better return to that town we passed a couple of miles back and get this taken care of.”
“Yeah.” Heyes agreed. “At least you have the shoe so the blacksmith just has to tack it back on, save some money that way. But that smithy back in Porterville sure didn’t do a good job. Last time we’ll be using him I think.”
“No kidding. That shoe should have been good for at least a month.” Kid tucked the shoe into his saddle-bag and remounting, they turned the horses back the way they had just come.
The two men rode along together in companionable silence. As is so often the case, they were totally unaware that this one small incident was going to prove to be significant. It was about to set in motion a series of events that would test their courage and their friendship and would ultimately change their lives forever. Of course there was no way for the partners to be aware of this at the time and it would only be in hindsight that they would shake their heads and ponder the mysteries of fate.
So there they were. Karma-Lou, Buck and the wayward shoe had been left at the Livery along with instructions for their keep and the boys found themselves with an afternoon to kill in a town they didn’t really want to be in. So, where would our boys go if they found themselves in a town with nothing to do? Why, the saloon of course!
They almost made it too, but then the one thing they were always trying to avoid, happened; they were recognized.
“Thaddeus! Joshua! Hey boys!!”
Heyes and Kid stopped in their tracks just as they were about to enter the bat wing doors of the saloon. They both felt the tingle of shock at being beckoned but also a measure of relief that it was by their aliases and not their actual names. Kid’s hand instinctively dropped to the handle of his gun but it went no further, and then suddenly both men were grinning from ear to ear with recognition at the older man running across the street towards them.“Jesse!"
“Hey Jesse! What are you doing here?!”
“Howdy boys.” Jesse Jordan stepped onto the boardwalk smiling broadly, and everyone shook hands all around. “What a surprise to find you in these parts! How are you doing?”
“Oh, same as usual.” Heyes answered.
“Just trying to stay out of trouble.” Kid responded.
“What about you? Heyes asked. “We thought you folks moved to Denver.”
“Well we did.” Answered Jesse, “But, well that’s a long story. I’m just in town here looking over some breeding stock for our ranch over in Colorado. Which way you fellas headed? If you got time why don’t you swing by our place for a few days? The girls would love to see you; well I guess I should call them young ladies now. You won’t believe how they’ve grown up!”
Heyes and Kid exchanged quick smiles. This was quite a mouthful for Jesse, whom the boys remembered as being a quiet man of few words.
“Jesse another ranch?” Asked Kid, “Thought you were going to go back to teaching.”
“I did.” Came the matter of fact response and then he sighed and smiled “Well, we’ve gone through a lot of changes these last few years. Come on, I’d love for you to see the place since you two boys had a hand in us getting it.”
“We did?” asked Heyes
“How was that?” Curry said at the same time.
“Well now, that’s just another thing I can tell you about when you come visit.” Answered Jesse with a smug look on his face. He knew he had their curiosity up
Heyes and Kid exchanged a look. They both knew they shouldn’t do it, but they both remembered Belle’s good cooking and seeing the two girls again could be fun. What harm could a quick side trip cause? Neither of them wanted to honestly answer that because they both wanted to go, so they ignored their inner instincts. The agreement passed between them. Heyes smiled.
“Alright Jesse.” He said in response to Jesse’s hopeful smile. “How about we buy you a beer while you give us directions and then we’ll see you out there in about a week.”
“Sounds fine.” Said Jesse and his smile broadened, “You’re in for a treat—and a surprise!”
Later that afternoon, Jesse had departed by train, leaving the boys to keep themselves entertained through the rest of that day and evening. Despite some aggressive pushing and prodding Jesse had refused to give them any more information about his family and the boys had to admit that they had been reeled in hook line and sinker. They had no choice but to take Jesse up on his offer and stop by their ranch because by now they just had to know what was going on.
Staying away from the Jordan family had been something they had easily agreed upon. It wasn’t because of dislike; in fact, it was the exact opposite reason that had forced the decision. The short time they had spent with the Jordan’s and their two daughters had been like finding a home again, they had cherished the time there and the friendships they had developed. But the law knew that the Jordan’s were sympathetic to them and the boys just didn’t want to bring more trouble down on the family that had come to mean so much to them. So they had stayed away.
But now, running into Jesse so unexpectedly, and him being so adamant that they come visit, well, the boys just couldn’t refuse. That morning, standing outside the Livery getting their horses ready for travel, they could both feel the growing excitement and anticipation of a long over-due homecoming.
It took a number of days to ride to the Jordan ranch and in that time Heyes noticed that Karma-Lou was becoming more and more irritable. Instead of just moving along at a smooth ground covering jog-trot, she insisted on prancing around, swishing her tail and tossing her head while constantly playing with her bit. All of which made for a rather uncomfortable ride. She had also taken to laying back her ears and taking a swipe with her teeth at ole Buck. Buck, always the gentleman, had done his best to avoid these unprovoked onslaughts, but when Karma had actually squealed and tried to swing her hindquarters around to kick the kind-hearted fellow, Curry laid in a protest.
“Heyes! Come on!”
“I know.” Heyes answered sheepishly. He had felt the mare move her hindquarters and he had instantly blocked her with his leg to prevent her from getting in that kick. “Cut her some slack Kid, she’s coming into season and you know what she’s like when that happens.”
“Yeah, I can’t help but know can I? And poor Buck has lost more hair to her teeth than he sheds out every spring.”
“Well, she’s just a little testy.”
“A little testy?!” Exclaimed the Kid. “For her ‘a little testy’ is kicking down the stable door, heading for the nearest farm, jumping their fence and spending the night eating their corn!!”
“She only did that twice.” Reasoned Heyes, “And the farmers were quite reasonable about it once I paid them off.”
“I donno, Heyes,” said Kid while he shook his head, “I know she’s saved your skin more than once with that untying knots trick and on her good days she really is something to behold. But I got to admit there are times I just want to shoot her.”
Heyes smiled. “Yeah, but you love her.” He never had and never would admit to the Kid that he had come close to doing just that himself.
Kid snorted. “Just keep her out of kicking range will ya? With my luck she’d probably miss Buck and kick me. That’s all I need is a broken leg because of some ‘testy’ mare…..” Kid’s mumblings trailed off into his own thoughts.
Heyes just smiled.
Once having crossed the border from Wyoming into Colorado the boys had relaxed some but were still careful to stay away from the larger towns. The Jordan ranch was within a few days’ ride of Denver, but since that town was the home base for a couple of noted detective agencies they stayed clear of it. They easily found lodgings in smaller towns until they were finally able to make the last leg of their ride out to the ranch.
The approach to the Double J ranch was quite the opposite of what it had been that day four years ago when they had fortuitously crossed path with Belle Jordan. The landscape leading onto that ranch had been dry and bleak with very little green grazing available for livestock. The ranch house itself, though neat and clean had obviously seen better days with a ‘For Sale’ sign that looked as old and worn out as the rest of the property had been.
This new place was green and lush. White fenced pastures lined the well kept road that led up to an open yard and a friendly two story ranch house with a wraparound porch and flower beds hugging the front of the structure. There were two large barns with paddocks leading off them, a bunk house and a large, well kept vegetable garden off to the side. When all was said and done it was an impressive package but not so much as to be intimidating and as the boys rode down that nicely shaded roadway towards the house they couldn’t help but smile and felt relaxed and welcomed.
As the boys approached the front of the house a large tan colored dog of mixed lineage padded around the side of the structure and woofed lazily at them, tail wagging. Then two hairy tornadoes scrambled around from behind, yapping their heads off and causing such a commotion that Karma stopped in her tracks, pinned her ears on them and started blowing. Buck, who was more experienced than his counterpart sent them a glance and then dismissed them. Heyes gave his mare a reassuring pat and dismounted. Kid was following suite when the front door of the house burst open and two more tornadoes in skirts came flying down the steps towards them.
“Joshua!! Thaddeus!!! We’ve been waiting for you! We thought you’d never get here!”
“Wow! Girls, look at you!” Exclaimed Heyes as excited female teenagers tackled them both with hugs and kisses and a stream of questions.
The dogs were underfoot now, yapping and woofing and wanting to be a part of the festivities. Both Buck and Karma backed up a step or two, not sure they wanted to be a part of anything.
“My but you girls have grown up!” Observed Curry. “You’re turning into real nice young ladies!”
“We still ride and shoot!” Protested sixteen year old Beth. “We only
wear dresses because Momma insisted on it when we’re not helping Papa with the
“I don’t mind wearing dresses.” Bridget announced. “There’s nothing wrong with being a lady and wearing dresses!”
Heyes and Curry exchanged glances and smiled.
“Girls, girls! Let the fellas breathe.”
“Hey, Jesse! How are ya?” Said Heyes as they shook hands
“This is a real nice place you got here.” Said Kid. “A real step up from the last one.”
“Yup, and I got you boys to thank for it.”
“That’s what you said before.” Said Heyes with a suspicious smile. “I think there’s a story to be told here.”
“Sure is.” Jesse agreed. “Why don’t you come on in and relax. Belle is putting together a real nice lunch for us and we can get caught up on all the news.” He waved over at his hired hand that was just coming out of one of the barns. “Hey Sam, take these fellas horses and get them settled in will you?”
“Sure thing, Mr. Jordan.” Replied Sam, smiling as he approached to take the horses off their hands. “That’s a real nice lookin' mare you got there mister.”
Heyes smiled. Curry rolled his eyes. “Geesh.”
While Sam, the horses and the dogs all made their way towards one of the barns, everyone else made their way up the porch and into the house. The atmosphere was bright and airy with a comfortable sitting room to the right and a large dining area to the left and from the sounds and enticing aromas it could be assumed that the kitchen was straight ahead. The table to the left of them was already laid out for a lunch and the boys were just thinking about how hungry they were—again, when Belle appeared in the hallway.
Both young men lit up with pleasure upon seeing this kind woman they had come to feel such a bond with. There was something different about her, something subtle that neither man could quite put their finger on, but whatever it was, it was a good thing as she looked happy and welcoming.
“Oh boys.” She smiled warmly at them. “Look at you; you’ve hardly changed a bit!”
“Hello Belle.” Both men took turns giving her a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. It really was good to see her.
“Now you sit down.” Belle told them. “Girls, come help me. We have coffee, or lemonade and a real nice lunch ready.”
“Great,” said Heyes
“Yup,” agreed Kid, “Been really looking forward to this.”
Everyone was enjoying the spread that had been laid for lunch while Jesse was relating the surprising turn of events that had enabled them to purchase such a nice piece of property.
“Well, that’s the long and short of it boys,” he was saying. “We were quite prepared to get re-established with the money that you had left for us that night when all of a sudden the bidding war started. It seems that two fairly wealthy gentlemen from back east had rather romanticized impressions of the “wild west” and wanted to buy a little bit of it. So when word got around that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry had been captured on our old place well they were just tripping over each other to see who could offer us the highest price.”
Both Heyes and Curry were staring at Jesse with mouths open in disbelief. Kid even had a piece of pastry hovering half way to his mouth while they both tried to take in this information.
Heyes was the first to recover: “But, we escaped.” He reasoned. “It’s not like it was ‘The Place’ where Heyes and Curry were finally ‘Brought to Justice’. We’re still at large to carry on with our thieving ways.”
Jesse shrugged and smiled. “I know. I thought they were crazy, but the price we finally got for that patch of dirt has set us up very nicely. We moved to Denver and I got a job teaching, but as it turns out none of us were really happy there.”
“That’s for sure,” agreed Belle. “I missed hearing the birds in the mornings and the quiet afternoons out on the porch. Living in town had its advantages, but I think we all missed the open spaces.”
“So, when this place came up for sale,” continued Jesse, “We decided that if I continued to teach part time at the small school here we could afford to hire some help and maybe just make a go of it. Goodness knows the girls were ecstatic over the idea!”
“I missed riding and shooting,” commented Beth. “None of the other girls in town were interested in that. They were more concerned with boys and gossiping. And Papa says that my numbers are good enough that I can start helping out with the business end of things here on the ranch.”"Well now that’s real promising Beth,” commented Curry obviously impressed. “Joshua and I have come across a few ladies who ran their own businesses and did real well with them.”
Beth brightened up visibly. “Really!?” She exclaimed. “The other girls in town just laugh at me and say that it’s not proper for a girl to want to go into business. That I should get married and have a family.” This last part stated with a sneer.
“Oh well, no reason you can’t do both,” began Heyes “Why some of the ladies we know….” Then his voice trailed off and he glanced over at Jesse and Belle, the thought occurring to him that he might be overstepping the boundaries here.
Belle smiled. “That’s alright, Joshua,” she said. “Jesse and I have always encouraged the girls to go after what they wanted and not be too concerned about what other people thought.” Then she looked at her daughters pointedly and added; “You can be ladies and still pursue your interests as well. Although,” She added thoughtfully, “It might be difficult managing both a career and a family. You might have to make some tough choices girls.”
The girls didn’t seem too concerned about tough choices at the moment.
“What do your lady friends do in their businesses?” Asked Beth.
“Well, let’s see…” began Heyes. He thought of Jenny, but a woman who ran her own saloon and gambling hall didn’t really seem appropriate for this group.
“There’s Alice,” suggested the Kid.
“That’s right,” Heyes agreed, thankful to the Kid for having come up with a more appropriate example. “Now Alice had a great sense for money and business. She, ahhh came into some funds and was all set to start up an establishment where people could go and have a nice dinner and watch theatre at the same time.”
Really?” Asked Belle. “What an unusual concept. Was she able to do it?”
“As a matter of fact, she did,” said Heyes. “She met a young German fellow named Kurt who just happened to be an excellent cook…”
“A man who’s a cook!?” Exclaimed Beth. “Whoever heard of such a thing!”
“Well now there’s the pot calling the kettle black,” pointed out Belle. “Just a few minutes ago you were complaining that people put you down for wanting to do something different with your life, now here you are doing the same thing.”
Beth hung her head, looking sheepish. “Yes Mama.”
“Yup,” said Curry. “They made a good pair. With his cooking skills and Alice’s head for business they were able to put together a real nice place.”
“Then there’s Georgette,” mused Heyes. “But she’s more into the entertainment line of work.” He caught Jesse’s eye, and they both smiled.
“Of course, there’s Clementine,” added Curry. “We’ve known her for years and she never did get married.”
“Nope,” agreed Heyes. “Came close a couple of times though.”
“Yup, real close.” Both men smiled at the thought of Clem.
“Then there’s Meg Parker, who really turned out to be Margaret Carruthers,” continued Heyes, who was leaning back and smiling in memory of all these lovely ladies. “And of course, Miss Porter who was into banking.”
“And we’re never going to forget Abigail,” said Kid and then instantly regretted it as Heyes’ expression suddenly became somber and he was no longer smiling.
Belle also noticed the change in Heyes’ countenance and knitted her brow. “Was she someone special?”
“Ahhh, well yeah, you could say that,” answered Curry hesitantly, not quite sure where to go with this now.
His eyes were on his partner looking for some indication, but Heyes just sat quietly, looking at the table, deep in his own thoughts. Curry decided that the damage was already done, so may as well go for broke.
“Abigail was a detective for Pinkerton’s, and we ended up locking horns with her on more than one occasion, while we were still in our previous line of work, you might say.”
Bridget, who had been uncharacteristically quiet throughout most of this conversation, suddenly perked up with interest. “She was a detective---with Pinkerton’s?!”
“Ah, yup,” Curry confirmed, still a little uncomfortable with the subject, knowing he had probably cut Heyes to the quick. “A real bright and gutsy lady too.” Curry smiled at some of the memories that came flooding back “I tell you, there were times she had us so riled up we were both fit to be tied. But she had class that’s for sure.”
Belle smiled while watching Heyes. “I have a feeling she did more to Joshua than just get him riled.”
At this point Heyes looked up from his musings and he and Belle locked gazes for a moment and then he smiled. She knew.
Bridget, however, was totally unaware of the underlying drama being played out around her and was focused only on the one thing that had caught her interest.
“She is actually a detective?!” Bridget repeated. “And you know her?! Can I meet her? Do you think she would talk to me? Do you think she would tell me how to become a detective?”
“Whoa, hold on there!” Exclaimed Kid. “I thought you liked ‘being a lady’?”
“Well I do!” countered Bridget, her eyes shining. “But we’ve just been saying that a person can be a lady and follow her dreams as well!”
“And it’s your dream to become a detective?” Asked Heyes.
“Oh brother.” Jesse and Belle rolled their eyes at each other. “You have no idea,” continued Jesse. “Any detective books she can get hold of, anything to do with the law and the justice system, Bridget’s right in there.”
“We know she would like to go back East to study law, if we can find a Lady’s Collage that will teach it.” Said Belle. “But again, the attitude is that Law is a profession exclusively for men so it’s been difficult.”
“Well getting into law is one thin,” said Curry. “But becoming a detective, that can be a dangerous line of work, Bridget, dealing with all sorts of unsavory individuals. It’s kind of like being an outlaw, the flip side of the same coin, you might say. Once you get locked into that kind of life, it’s very difficult to break away from it again. You might find that it’s not quite as glamorous as you think.”
“Yeah I know,” said Bridget, not willing to be deterred. “But if you know a woman who is already a detective, it can’t be that dangerous," Heyes rolled his eyes at Bridget’s naivety, “and maybe she could help get me going in the right direction. Can you get in touch with her?”
Heyes and Kid exchanged glances. “Ahhh.” They were both very hesitant.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” commented Kid
Bridget looked crestfallen.
“You have to understand, Bridget,” explained Heyes. “Thaddeus and I are still wanted, we can’t just ‘get in touch’ with a Pinkerton detective and not expect some dire consequences to come of it.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot.” She still looked crestfallen.
And then it happened. That silent communication which takes place within seconds, between two people who have known one another so well and for so long, that words weren’t necessary. Just a glance between the partners and a whole conversation had taken place.
Jesse and Belle exchanged looks and smiled. The girls were oblivious.
“There might be someone we could get in touch with,” offered Heyes, though he was hesitant about it.
“Yeah,” continued Curry. “Someone in the Bannerman Agency.”
“Really?” Bridget perked up again.
An exchange of glances again and then a shrugging of shoulders.
“His name’s Harry Briscoe,” stated Heyes. “He’s not exactly the best in his field, but oddly enough, he is a friend, and we do have a way of letting him know we want to see him without causing a stir. He might be willing to give you a hand in getting started.”
“Oh that would be great!”
“You boys have a friend in the Bannerman Detective Agency?” Asked Jesse somewhat incredulous.
“Yeah, well,” said Curry. “We kind of helped him out of a scrape once…”
“So he’s kind of willing to help us out, once in a while.”
“As long as it doesn’t threaten his career,” commented Heyes.
“Or call for much thinking.”
Belle smiled. “Sounds like just the man we need.”
Just then a quiet, just barely audible sound came from a back room off the kitchen. All heads swiveled that way.
“Oh, sounds like someone’s awake,” announced Belle, and she quickly got up and left the table. Both Heyes and Curry sent a questioning gaze towards Jesse, but he just smiled.
“You boys like some more coffee?” he asked.
“I’ll get it,” said Bridget, and she got up and headed for the kitchen, just as Belle returned carrying a small cooing bundle wrapped in a blanket.
Both boys were instantly on their feet and gazing down at the infant in Belle’s arms
“Oh ho, Jesse!” exclaimed the Kid. “You said you had a surprise, but we certainly didn’t expect this!”
“No, neither did we,” said Belle, with a smile. “Here we thought we were all done with child rearing, and then all of a sudden, this little fella shows up.”
“How old is he?” Asked Kid.
“Just about six weeks,” answered Belle. “Here Thaddeus, why don’t you hold him.”
“Yeah, come on Thaddeus,” said Heyes with a smile. “Puppies and kittens just love you, so you shouldn’t have any trouble with a baby.”
Jed sent his partner another one of those looks, while he was being shuffled back into his chair and the blanketed bundle settled into his nervous arms. Heyes sat back down in his chair but was still leaning over the Kid’s shoulder, looking at the baby and grinning from dimple to dimple. Bridget returned with the coffee pot and began filling cups all around, then she settled back into her chair and began nibbling on some pastry. Beth was watching Jed intently, thoughts of going into business suddenly on the back burner of her desires.
“What’s his name?” Heyes asked, as he continued to smile down at the infant.
“Jesse Jr,” answered Belle. “Or J.J. for short, or just Jay.”
Heyes smiled over at Jesse and Belle, as he settled back in his chair again. “He sure is a fine looking boy. Congratulations.”
The proud parents smiled and then passed a loving look between themselves. Then all eyes were on Jed. He had relaxed, as soon as he realized that the baby wasn’t likely to break in his arms. A huge smile broke over his face and there it stayed.
Jesse suddenly had a vision of a small boy at Christmas time, finally getting the present he had always wanted. It took him by surprise. Belle, on the other hand had been no fool in handing the infant to Jed. With all the stories she had heard over the years about the notorious Devil’s Hole Gang and its infamous outlaw leaders, once she had met the men themselves, she knew that they were nothing like the tabloids made them out to be. Made some bad choices, yes, and got themselves onto the wrong side of things, definitely, but they were working hard at trying to turn their lives around and were both basically good men.
But especially in Jed Curry, she sensed a gentle and caring soul which was in drastic conflict with his reputation as a dangerous gunslinger and cold blooded killer. She wasn’t quite sure how to reconcile these two very different versions of the same man, but sometimes you can over think a thing too much. She trusted her own instincts, and she had no qualms about handing her infant son over to him.
In the meantime, Beth continued to watch Thaddeus with bright eyes that were taking in everything. A quiet, knowing smile played about her lips. If Kid had had more experience with teenage emotions, he would have taken note of that look and quickly make his departure to parts unknown.
As it was, he was so intent on this new little human being in his arms, that he was totally oblivious to all the other thoughts swirling on around him. It seemed that J.J. was also quite interested in this new person in his small world. Bright brown eyes locked onto bright blue eyes, and little hands tapped against a lowered chin and played with smiling lips. Then suddenly, that same little hand clasped tightly onto a finger, and a huge yawn escaped from the tiny mouth. Curry laughed.
“Aww, Heyes! One day, maybe huh?”
Heyes smiled over at his friend. Visions of them being able to put all this running behind them and settling down to families of their own were not far from his own thoughts at that moment.
“I know, Kid. Maybe, one day.”
Beth’s smile grew even broader.The extended lunch had finally been cleared away. Belle had excused herself from the gathering and retreated with J.J. into the day nursery in order to feed him and put him down for another nap. The girls were busy cleaning up in the kitchen and arguing over who was going to wash and who was going to dry.
Thoughts of supper were the last thing in anyone’s mind at that point, and the three men were contemplating moving out onto the porch to enjoy a drink in the fading afternoon light. Then, the serenity of the moment was completely shattered by loud raucous horse squeals, the splintering of wood, and Sam yelling obscenities from across the barnyard.
Curry sent a suspicious look over in his cousin’s direction. “Heyes…?”
Heyes shrugged innocently, and all three men headed out the front door and down the porch steps. Across the yard, in the paddock, where the horses had been put to enjoy their own lunch, Karma-Lou was in the middle of a temper tantrum. Ears flattened against her neck, mouth gaping open and emitting more angry guttural squeals, she had poor Buck pinned into the corner of the paddock. With her hind feet, she was reigning vicious kicks upon that kindly soul, as though he were the knackerman himself come to claim her!
Fortunately most of the kicks had missed their mark, but she had succeeded in hitting the fence a few times and splintering the wood and knocking a few boards down. Buck was doing everything he could to avoid the onslaught and scramble out of her line of fire.
While in the meantime, Sam, having grabbed a driving whip, had jumped what was left of the fence and was yelling and cracking that whip in order to move the mare away. To add to the ruckus, the three dogs that had been quiet all afternoon, were now right in the thick of things, barking and yapping and woofing, and generally getting under foot.
“Dagnabbit, Heyes!” Yelled kid as they both ran forward to assist Sam in separating the horses.
“Well, I told yea she was a little testy!” Countered Heyes. “Buck must have said something rude to her.”
Curry sent him a nasty glare, as they grabbed halters and lead shanks and proceeded to get their horses under control.
Once Heyes had Karma in hand, he lead her to the far end of the paddock and kept her walking around in a small circle to calm her down, while Kid gently ran his hands over his gelding to make sure he was alright.
“What set them off?” Asked Jesse of his hired hand.
“I’m sorry Mr. Jordan,” answered Sam. “I guess I just wasn’t thinking. It never occurred to me, that she might be in season. I was bringing Johnny Boy in for the night, when that mare started acting up. Of course, Johnny Boy was getting all hot and bothered, so I had to quick get him into his stall, before he killed me, and then I hear all hell break loose out here. I got out here as quick as I could. Again, I’m sure sorry about that.”
Just then, a deep stallion sized bellow came from inside the barn. Karma’s head went up, and she answered with a loud shrill whinny, that caused her whole body to vibrate and Heyes to grimace in pain.
“Well, don’t worry about it,” said Jesse. “You better get in there and tend to that stallion. We’ll get the fence fixed in the morning.”
“Yes sir.” And Sam disappeared into the barn. The three dogs, who were apparently quite proud of themselves for having gotten things under control, happily followed the young man back into the building, content in the knowledge that they had done their job.
Jesse smiled at the two young men, each in their respective corners attempting to sooth their respective horses.
“Well, that was quite a show,” he commented.
“Yeah. Sorry about that Jesse,” Heyes apologized somewhat sheepishly. “She can be quite a handful sometimes. We’ll be happy to fix the fence in the morning for you. It’s the least we can do.”
Quiet grumblings came from Curry’s general location.
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Joshua,” said Jesse. “Sam’s a great hand with the livestock, and the dogs just love him to pieces, but he is young and sometimes doesn’t think. He wanted to get into town tomorrow morning to see his girlfriend, so having to hold off on that to fix the fence will be a good reminder for him. When you’re handling a stallion, you always have to be aware of what’s around you, or you’ll get yourself into trouble. A couple of hours delay won’t kill him.” Then he glanced over at Curry. “How’s your gelding, Thaddeus?”
Curry glanced over from where he had been rubbing Buck’s ears and speaking quietly to him. Buck was responding with half closed eyes and a quivering upper lip. “I think he’s fine. He might be a little sore tomorrow, but that’s all.”
Well, an excuse for you fellas to stay over another day! Why don’t you take them over to the other barn and get them settled in for the night. In the meantime, I’ll get us some drinks to have on the porch. I think after this, we could all use one.”
The boys carefully lead their horses over the one plank that was still nailed up and cautiously picked their way through the litter of splintered wood that had once been part of a rather sturdy paddock. Leading the horses into the barn, they found themselves in a large sturdy structure with eight box stalls and a large, well supplied tack room. There were six other horses already occupying stalls, and though they were busy munching dinner, they were certainly interested in who these newcomers were. Though a couple of them laid their ears back in a ‘Don’t think you’re touching my dinner!!’ kind of attitude, a couple of the kinder souls perked their ears and nickered a welcome.
Two empty stalls, across the aisle from each other, presented themselves, and the boys lead their horses into them and found that water, grain and good rich hay had already been supplied. Heyes gave Karma a final pat on the neck and then left her stall. He closed the door behind him and then leaning back against it with his arms folded, anxiously watched the Kid.
The barn was light and airy and smelled of fresh straw and sweet hay. The only sounds were that of the small birds settling into their nests up in the rafters, and of the horses munching their grain and giving the occasional contented snort or stamp of a foot.
Normally, this setting would have been a comfortable and relaxed one, but this time it felt strained and heavy. Kid was still in the stall with Buck, stroking him and speaking quietly with him.
“Kid?” No response. Heyes sighed. “Come on Kid. I know you’re mad at me.”
“Yeah, I am,” Curry answered quietly, while he continued to stroke his horse, and nor did he turn to meet Heyes’ eyes. “Or maybe just more scared,” he continued. “Sacred that Buck might a got real hurt.”
Heyes sighed again and lowered his head a little. He didn’t know what else he could say.
Then Curry brightened, and he straightened up. “Just give me some time and a good shot of whiskey,” he said, as he gave Buck one more pat and left the stall. “I’m sure, I’ll get over it.”
Heyes grinned over at his partner, relieved. Heyes was fonder of this mare, than he had ever been of any other horse before, but the friendship of Jed Curry mattered more to him than anything else possibly could. Though still feeling a little moody, Curry returned the smile, and they both headed out of the barn and over to the porch, where Jesse was waiting with the afore mentioned drinks.
Next morning everyone was up bright and early Sam had been quick, to get Johnny Boy out onto his pasture with his group of brood mares. Then, making sure to keep the two different groups of horses separated, he had turned Karma-Lou and Buck loose into one of the other smaller grass paddocks. Here the two visiting horses could spend the day grazing and basking in the warm spring sunshine. After that had been accomplished, he set about fixing the broken planks of the paddock fence.
Curry, taking whatever opportunity that might arise to stay finely tuned, had set up some tin cans by the far barn and was doing some target shooting. Beth was standing to the side and a little bit behind him, watching in amazement. When, yet again, all the cans had jumped wildly off the fence in rapid succession, Beth went out and helped Kid collect them up and place them back in position for another beating.
“You want to have a shooting contest?” Curry asked her with a smile, remembering back to their first meeting.
Beth smiled back at him with sparkling eyes. “No way,” she answered. “I can’t imagine how we ever thought we could out-shoot you!”
“Well, you didn’t know who you were up against,” reasoned Curry. “Part of playing the game is knowing who your opponent is.”
“I’ll try not to make that mistake twice.”
Curry smiled. “Good.” A flash of movement, six near instantaneous cracks from the revolver and the six cans met their maker.
Heyes was standing on the front porch leaning against the main post by the steps. He was watching Curry practice, a small smile fluttering about his lips. It didn’t matter how many times he watched the Kid shoot, it still amazed him. Belle came out, holding Jay, and she stood beside Heyes, watching the target practice.
“He really is fast, isn’t he?” Belle commented. “That’s definitely one thing the tabloids say about him, that’s true.”
Heyes’ smile broadened. “Yup, he is fast. Fastest I’ve ever seen. And he’s just playing now, just wait until he’s really serious.”
Belle’s jaw dropped and she stared at Heyes incredulously. “He’s faster than this? Now, that would really be something to see.”
“Well, that’s the problem,” said Heyes, and he flashed his dimples at her. “When he’s serious, you don’t see it.”
It was at this time, that Bridget appeared on the porch and summoned everyone for breakfast.
Later than morning, Sam had finished mending the fence and had hitched up the wagon to head into Brookswood. Jesse figured, that since he was going into town anyways, he may as well pick up some supplies and save them from having to go in again later in the week.
It wasn’t a long drive into town, a little over an hour at most at a steady jog-trot.However, Sam was in a bit of a hurry, and as soon as he was out of sight of the ranch house, he pushed the horses into a hand gallop and kept them at that pace all the way to the outskirts of town. He did have enough common sense to pull the horses back down to a reasonable trot when approaching the main street, but there was still a sense of urgency about him, and the horses were tossing their heads and fighting the bits in response to it.
Sam kept the horses going past the small family homes that lined the street on the way into town, including the home of his apparent girlfriend, and carried on into the commercial area, fully intent on his business. But he kept on going past the mercantile store, past the feed store and even past the saloon, and kept on going, until he finally pulled the horses up next to the telegraph office.
He hopped down from the wagon, tied the horses to the hitching rail and went inside.
“Well, morning there, Sam.”
“You wanting to send another telegram are you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, here you go,” said Clayt as he handed Sam a pencil and paper. “That sure must be an important job you’re waiting on.”
“Yes it is Clayt, real important,” Sam answered with a smile, as he took the items and went over to the table to compose his message.
It was short and to the point, not wanting to waste money on unnecessary words: TO SHERIFF MORRISON, MURREYVILLE, WYOMING.
Contact has been made. S. J.