Shane told the
cowboy slaves to take a break and sleep late the next morning, but when
they got up, to check out everything in the bunkhouse. He knew
there were some old supplies still left and cooking utensils. He
wanted a report on what was usable and what needed to be
replaced. They would find some brooms and old mops in a store
off the kitchen, and he wanted them to clean up the place as best they
could; however, just the
quarters, the kitchen, the mess room and their own rooms. The
other rooms were to be left for cleaning by those to whom they would be
going to be their new home, and he wanted it to reflect their pride in
living there. Cowboy slaves live with internal clocks which go
off shortly before the sun rises to get their day started. Monday
was no exception.
Shane and Cole
went to the front house to check on the old man and found him already
up for the morning, dressed and sitting in the kitchen talking with
Mrs. Huggins. She brought more groceries and was cooking
breakfast for the three men. Potter introduced Cole to her,
and told them to grab a cup of coffee and join him. Shane got
himself and Cole a cup of coffee. He set Cole’s cup in front of
him, but didn’t sit down. He asked Mrs. Huggins if there was
anything he could do to help her.
“No, Son, I’ve
got ever’ thing under control, but it’s nice of you to ask. Judge
Potter told me you insisted on cleaning the kitchen yesterday so’s I
wouldn’t have to do it this morning. Your help is greatly
appreciated. You already done helped me a lot. I can git
more things done for him this morning.”
They had a great
breakfast while Mrs. Huggins went upstairs to change Mr. Potter’s bed.
“You stayed up
and watched our video, didn’t you, Judge.” Shane grinned.
“Oh, yeah.” was
his response and they laughed.
refreshing to see a cowboy what really knows how to ride a Western
saddle.” he giggled like a schoolboy. “Of course, I played with myself,
and I thought I was gonna’ rip my damn guts out when I shot.” he
whispered confidentially, “Hardest ejaculation I had in years.
You know, I’d be surprised if your boy don’t git pregnant, cowboy.” he
said to Cole. They laughed again.
“When you have
time, you need to check out Commander Fielding and Captain Trong’s
video, and I heard Captain Jones made another.” said Shane. Then as an
afterthought, he added, “It’s better if you watch it on one of
the ships because it’s three dimensional holographic video. It’s
like you're right there watching them do it.”
“Do it?” asked
“Oh, yeah, big
time.” laughed Shane. “You think our cowboy video was something?
Y’ain’t seen nothing yet.” he chuckled.
There was one
other house on the Potter ranch not far from the slave
quarters. It was a small, two bedroom cottage. Shane asked
the old man about it, and he said it was the original foreman’s cottage
until the foreman’s family grew so big they had to build a larger house
on the apex of the two valleys. He claimed he
thought everything worked in the house, but he couldn’t be sure,
because he hadn’t been in there for several years. Shane said he
wanted to check it out later that morning. Potter said it would
be fine with him. After breakfast Shane and Cole walked over the
hill to the slave quarters to check on their cowboy slaves. The
slaves were in the process of a major field day cleaning
everything. Shane told them to take a break and sit down at
a table to talk. They were going to go through the slave ritual
with Shane, but he waved them off. He told them while he
appreciated their adherence to custom, there were certain times the
ritual just got in the way of day to day progress, but he or Cole would
let them know when it was appropriate. The slaves reported they
found four cans of vacuum sealed coffee, an old but serviceable coffee
pot and made a big pot of coffee. They offered Shane and Cole a
cup, and they accepted. They set down and Shane began.
“As you men
already know, Mr. Jack Hamil and Mr. Spencer Gaether are two cowboys
from a ranch in another county; the Morris ranch, I believe.” the two
cowboys nodded, “Welcome to Potter Ranch, gentlemen, I hope you find a
good home here with us and are comfortable. Since we’re starting
from scratch you men have the disadvantage of git'n in on the ground
floor. On the other hand, there just might be a few
advantages. Lester Gumble and Otis Hann, here, are from my
brother Charlie’s ranch. They know I was a slave under my older
brother Angus Goodnight for ten years, but I’ve know’d them
almost all my life. I’m pleased and proud they volunteered to
come work for me. So Mr. Hamil and Mr. Gaether, I hope their
actions will put some peace in your hearts and ease your minds that you
ain’t come to live in a bad place. My brother Charlie does things
differently than my brother Angus. They get the same results, but
I prefer the way Master Charlie works with and treats his slaves.
So Lester, you and Otis won’t notice much difference in the way we run
things around here other than you might have to suffer through us
getting this operation up and running, but you knew that when you
volunteered. I’m glad to have you aboard. We can use
cowboys with your knowledge and experience.
I’ll get some
basics out of the way. You will address me in one of several
ways; ‘Master Goodnight’; ‘Master Shane’ or ‘Sir.’ You may also
address me as ‘Foreman’ or ‘Strawboss.’ Judge Potter, who is the
owner of the property, you may address as ‘Master Potter’ or you may
call him ‘Boss Potter." Cole Jenkins, here, is my right
hand man, my ‘Ramrod” or ‘Top waddie.’ You will show him the
respect his position deserves by calling him ‘Sir,’ ‘Ramrod,’ or
You may also call him ‘Mr. Jenkins’ unless he tells you
otherwise. Like you, Cole
Jenkins is my slave, but before you men do a lot of cogitate’n on it,
‘yes’ we share a bunk. We worked together as farriers for ten
years, and when I was granted my emancipation it seemed like the right
thing to do to buy the cowboy I love and take him with me.” the men
smiled and nodded in agreement. They understood about cowboy love.
seem a bit hectic around here at first, but we’ll try to keep you busy
until the cattle gets here and we form a remuda. Until then we
have several maintenance projects we need to git done. We need to
know what you men are going to need in the cowboy mess area. I
found some writing tablets, pens and pencils in one of them drawers on
the back porch. Make lists of anything you can think of no matter
how foolish yore’ cowboy brother might think. I might not think
it’s foolish. If you need new brooms and mops we’ll get
them. For right now we’re on a limited budget, and let me assure
you we won’t be shopping at Neiman Mark-ups.” the cowboys shook their
heads and laughed, Shane continued, “Instead, we’ll be taking you men
out on foraging expeditions to auctions, swap meets, yard sales, and
thrift stores to get what we need. ‘New’ don’t make a pot cook no
better’n a used one.” the men smiled. They liked this young man’s
sensibility and practicality. Otis held up his hand and Shane
nodded for him to speak.
“Are we gonna’
be allowed to have a garden, Master Shane?”
Otis, glad you asked; irrigated fruit trees, too. We’re gonna’
take it one step further than my brother Charlie. We’ll have free
range chickens for poultry and fresh eggs. Eventually we’ll raise
our own pork, mutton and goats, slaughter and process ‘em. Of
course, like my brother, I’ll expect a portion set aside for Mr.
Potter, me and Cole. I want you men to start surveying the area
so we can decide a place for a garden and its projected size.
Keep in mind we eventually plan to max out the slave quarter with a
full compliment of cowboy slaves. Forty double man rooms plus the
four, double man, lead cowboy rooms is eighty-eight men. That
should be enough of a labor force to accomplish damn near anything we
undertake. As Lester and
Otis know, I’ve eaten at my brother Charlie’s salve's table with them
many times. I’ve seen how a garden can supplement cowboy slave’s
diet and overcome the monotony of slave chow and biscuits. Cowboy
slaves jes’ seem to be more dedicated and work harder if they get a
good breakfast and they got a good supper to look forward
to. Eventually, you’ll git two main meals a day, breakfast
Lunch for slaves at Master Charlie’s ranch has always been slave chow
and a nutrient biscuit. We’ll continue that tradition, but until
then, I’m afraid we’ll have to rely solely on slave chow for a
while. In keeping with that tradition your foreman and his ramrod
most days, be taking their noon meal with you men. Since we’re
still a small operation I plan to supplement your meals with some
groceries once a week. Make me a wish list for groceries.” Shane
smiled, “I say ‘wish list’ because what we buy will depend on cash flow
for the moment. Since you men
will have seniority and will suffer through our infancy working with us
to give birth to our new ranch, you will be our first lead cowboys.”
The new men liked that. “The title don’t come with a lot of perks
except you git larger rooms, your own toilet and shower
facilities. When you men ain’t working on a project for me or the
ranch, I expect you to be working on a project to better yourselves and
your slave brothers as a whole. If you got ideas, we wanna' hear
‘em, but once me or Cole make a decision, it’s final.”
The new cowboys
were impressed. They didn’t have anything like that at their
ranch. They occasionally got some beef but very few fruits or
vegetables. They lived for years on slave chow. After
talking more with Lester and Otis the new cowboys began to think they
landed in a much better place, just this side of cowboy slave heaven,
but they still held a deep affection for their previous master and his
“We got us sixty
head of cattle and a proven bull coming in two weeks so I want to get
as much maintenance work done around here as possible before
then. During the next two weeks Boss Potter, me and Mr. Jenkins
may be gone for periods of time. If we’re gone longer than
overnight we’ll have a temp freeman foreman come and stay at the
ranch. After you men get through here, I want the old foreman’s
house on the other side of the road cleaned up. We’re going over
there after talking with you to check it out.”
Shane got some
idea of the men’s mechanical fix-it skills. He knew Otis and
Lester were jacks of all trades and were two handy cowboys to have
around. Jack Hamil was once a journeyman carpenter and Spence
Gaether had been an electrician; he could do some plumbing and
carpentry. Jack was also good with engines and fixing farm
“I expect you
men to start taking care of our big remuda today.” Shane said, and Cole
laughed. Their ‘big’ remuda consisted of their two horses and the
two old horses that belonged to Boss Potter’s son. When Shane
explained to the men why Cole laughed, they laughed too. “I know Boss
Potter’s ponies are pert-damn long in the tooth, but they’re fixtures
on this ranch. They were his son’s horses, and they just happen
to be close personal friends of mine. I’ll expect you men to take
as good care of them as your own.”
Sir. If’n you need horses for a remuda, Master Shane, our master
tried to sell his, but couldn’t even git nobody to come out to look at
‘em. They’s about--- what Jack--- eighty to a hundred ponies?”
fine horseflesh among ‘em, mostly generic cow ponies, a few rare Indian
ponies, some mustangs, quarter horses, two mules, a couple a’ jacks and
ginnys, even a couple of Arabians, but they’s been neglected and need
attention. If’n you men is farriers, won’t be nothing for
you. Last we heard he was gonna’ contract with a slaughterhouse
to come get ‘em. I’m sure they won’t offer him as much as they’s
worth. Being cowboys we hate to see such fine animals go for dog
food.” said Spencer
Thanks, Mr. Gaether, we’ll look into it today. That’ll be a good
project for our boss.” said Shane.
Goodnight, jes' call me ‘Spence.’ We feel so bad for our other
Sir. His wife is dying from cancer, and he’s worried about git’n
enough money scraped together to bury her. His boy’s awful
sick. He knows his kid probably won’t live long neither.
medical care he had weren’t worth a damn. They couldn’t or
wouldn’t invest the money to find out what’s wrong with the boy.
Mr. Morris can use all the help he can git. Once he sells his
place he told us he and his boy will be living out of his camper on the
back of his pickup. Last we heard them real estate vultures done
him they didn’t know if they could sell his ranch; they said ain’t
nobody interested in gambling on ranching no more. If’n they
don’t sell it, the insurance companies will place a lean on it for his
wife’s unpaid medical bills and foreclose right after her death
anyways. One way or t‘other they’s gonna’ screw him for ever’
damn penny they kin git; you can bet on it. Sometimes, me and ma’
partner, old Jack, here, is glad we’s slaves. At least we got us
roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in and food to eat. To
live out of a small camper ain’t no way for a man with a sick kid to be
living.” Spence shook his head in disgust. Jack nodded his
“Is Mr. Morris a
real God fear’n, bible thump’n fundamentalist?” Shane asked.
Spence got a surprised look on his face. For a minute he didn’t
know how to answer, but mature cowboys heard rumors, many folks,
especially members of the Grange, were rejecting and turning away
the insanity of the rabid Christianist movement, and he reckoned he
spotted that in his new young master. Knowing Shane was an
ex-slave compounded his suspicions. Most slaves didn’t cotton
much to religion, because they were told: "There waren’t no room in
slaves. Since slaves weren’t considered human and were almost
always used for homosexual purposes by their masters, they were
considered the lowest of the low. Since they were no more than
they didn’t have souls. They forfeited their humanity when they
done wrong or for whatever reason they became enslaved. Their
souls died and left their bodies the day they became slaves. God
wouldn’t allow no men what got butt fucked or sucked another man’s cock
into heaven; unless, they were emancipated, sought forgiveness for
their wicked ways, was born again, and became ‘warshed’ in the blood of
Jay-zus." Kissing a snake or two and speaking in tongues was a
step in the right direction, but the unspoken metaphor of the act was
completely lost to ignorance. Spence looked at Jack. Jack
nodded his head slightly. Spence thought he’d take a chance and
tell Shane the truth.
He’s jes’ about lost all his faith. He never was much of a church
goer no ways, but he’s a damn good man, Master Shane. You gotta’
he treated us well for us to be say’n such about him. If’n we
didn’t love him and his family, we jes’ wouldn’t say nothing.
Meaning no disrespect to Mr. Morris, Jack and me come to think on him
more as a younger brother than our master. We’d do anything in
the world for him. He jes’ don’t deserve what’s happening to him,
Shane got the
name, address of the ranch and phone number of Mr. Morris, their
previous owner, from Jack and Spence. Shane asked his cowboys if
they had any questions, but they seemed satisfied with his talk.
He told them to take advantage of the beautiful creek and swimming hole
down in the other pasture during the hot weather, but be sure to leave
it as pristine as they found it. They assured him they
would. Shane and Cole said their goodbyes and walked over to the
old foreman’s cottage. It wasn’t locked, but Shane found a key
for the doorlock on top of the door molding. It was old and
rustic, but had a feel to it that was almost impossible to
describe. It felt like a comfortable old boot and had a lived in
quality about it. It sort of pulled you in, invited you to pull
up a comfortable chair and relax for a spell. It had a beautiful,
natural rock fireplace and what looked like a small office area off the
large living room. Like the foreman’s house it was fully
furnished and had drop cloths over the furniture to protect it.
Everything seemed to work, but it looked like the old hot water heater
might give out at any moment. Shane made a mental note to get a
Shane and Cole
walked up to the big house and told Potter what they found. When
they mentioned the name of the rancher, Gil Morris, Potter said Morris
was a close friend and associate of his boy, but he lost touch with him
over the years after his boy was killed in the middle East.
called and spoke with the man, explained he was retired and starting up
his ranch again. Could Potter, his foreman and ramrod drive
over and take a look at his horses? Had he actually sold them yet?
“Naw, Sir, Mr.
Potter, I ain’t sold ‘em. They’s still here. I guess
the man from the slaughter house heard I was hurt’n for money and only
wanted to gimme’ five hundred bucks for the lot of ‘em. I’d
rather give ‘em to you than have ‘em killed for dog food.”
Son, but I think we can do better’n ‘nat. May we drive over and
take a look?” Potter asked.
“Yes, Sir, be
happy for you to, but I’m due back to the hospital this
afternoon. Could you come this morning, Sir?” he asked.
o’clock. We should be able to be there by ten thirty if we
Sir. I’ll be wait’n for you.”
The men drove
over to the Morris ranch. They were disturbed at the neglect of
the place, but the man lost all his cowboy slaves and just couldn’t
take care of two sick people and see to his ranch. He was
overwhelmed. Morris was waiting for them. Shane was
impressed by the man’s size and handshake. He looked to be about
thirty-five but looked drawn and haggard like he hadn’t eaten a good
meal in a while. There was no doubt in either Shane or Cole’s
mind he was a cowboy to the bone. Shane didn’t see the boy
anywhere. After introductions he looked at Shane and Cole and
“You the men
what got my last two slaves?” he asked.
They’s the one’s what told us about your remuda.” Shane replied.
“You got two of
the best cowboy slaves I ever owned. They’s been with me since I
first took over this place. They worked their damn butt’s off to
see us make a go of it, and we done pretty good until my wife and kid
got sick. I hated to let ‘em go, but that man, Mr. Long, he bid
double what anyone else done for ‘em, and they ain’t no young
men. Said he needed a couple of older, seasoned cowboy slaves for
a good friend of his, the younger brother of his boss Charlie
Goodnight, what just became emancipated.”
“That ‘ud be me,
Sir, Shane Goodnight.”
Goodnight, you got chore’self two fine buckaroos. I had to
sell ‘em together. ‘Er’s no way I could a’ split them two
up. They’s,...well.... you know.” he said shyly.
cowboy love, Sir. We’re jes’ damn glad to git ‘em.” said
Shane. He showed the men his horses. Shane and Cole got in
among them to examine them. Spence was right, there were a number
of fine horses, but they were neglected. All of them were going
to need work and many needed new shoes. That didn’t bother him
Cole. Shane particularly liked the diversity of the
animals. He liked the mules, jacks and ginnys. They weren’t
good for much on a ranch, but Shane fell in love with them. They
begged him not to leave them behind. They knew what their fate
might be. He flashed pictures to them of the meadows and the
barns on the Potter ranch and they were pleased. Even the mature
work ponies expressed interests in going with him. There were a
number of young ponies and yearlings who hadn’t been shod yet.
Shane knew he wanted them and told Cole and Potter. Cole backed
him up and told Potter they were mostly a sound lot.
Shane spoke with
Morris. “Come, Mr. Morris, walk with me.” Shane put his big
arm around the cowboy’s shoulder and walked him away from Potter and
Cole. “I know’d h’it ain’t an easy thing to talk about, Mr.
Morris, but between two cowboys, what’s a funeral cost these days,
Sir?” the man looked at Shane like he was the last kind man on Earth.
“The man down to
home told me, a simple, no frills casket and service with headstone
would run me three thousand bucks, Sir.” he said quietly.
“Okay, will you
accept that amount for your remuda?” he asked. The big cowboy looked
like he couldn’t make up his mind to either break into tears or kiss
Shane right on the mouth.
“To be honest
with you, Sir, I was jes’ gonna’ give ‘em to you.” he conceded like he
“I done figured
you was. You’re the kind of man what loves animals and don’t
wanna’ see ‘em killed. There’s some good ponies in the lot.
Some not so good, but none deserve to be slaughtered for dog
food. Besides, you look like a man what could use a help’n hand
right now and wouldn’t take charity from nobody.”
about that, Sir. I don’t know what to say, Mr. Goodnight.”
“Say we got us a
deal, and I’ll write you a check. I’ll contract with a transport
company and have ‘em picked up in the next couple a’ days.”
chore’self a deal, Mr. Goodnight.” Gil Morris stuck out his hand, and
they shook on it.
“One more thing,
Mr. Morris. Can I meet yore’ boy?”
“He’s in his
room in the house. He’s awful sick, Mr. Goodnight. I don’t
think it would do him no harm, though. He’s worried sick about
them ponies. One of ‘em, the little sorrel mare is his.
He’ll be thrilled to know they ain’t gonna’ be killed. It might
make him feel a little better. I know'd it done me a world a’
good.” Morris smiled at him. Morris took the men into the
unkept house and into the young boy’s bedroom. He looked to Shane
to be about seven or eight years old. He heard the men come into
the house and was lying in his bed awake.
good men bought the remuda from me, and Mr. Goodnight, here, wanted to
meet you.” the boy instinctively held his arms out for
Shane. Shane went to him, took him into his arms
and gently started patting his back and rubbing his head.
"How long you
been feel'n poorly, Bobby?" Shane asked as he rubbed the small boy's
years, now, I guess, Mr. Goodnight. It's only been the last year
I lost all my weight and can't seem to eat nothing. I think I'm
probably gonna' join my mom when she goes." he said fatalistically.
"I don't think
yore' ma' would want that for you, Bobby. I'd be willing to bet
she'd want you to stay here and take care of yore’ pa. I pray
nothing's gonna' happen to her, but if'n it does yore' daddy's gonna'
need you some’um fierce. You got to fight for his sake,
Son. Besides, you got chore'self some new friends now what will
stand by your side. Me'n ma' cowboy brothers won't let nothing
bad happen to you. You're gonna' feel a lot better in just a
little while, I guarantee you. Tell you what, Bobby, I’m gonna’
sing you a song. It’s one a’ my favorite cowboy songs, ma' pa
taught me to sing when we's herding cattle at night to keep them
critters from spooking. If you know it, will you sing it with
me?” he asked.
song, Mr. Goodnight?”
“I know that
song. We sung it in school.”
singing softly, and the boy joined him. He knew the song and sang
it to the end with him. Shane set the pace and sang it slowly so
he could hold Bobby as long as possible. It sounded almost like a
funeral dirge. Potter looked at Gil Morris, and the big man had
tears running down his cheeks. Potter put his hand on his
shoulder to comfort him. When they finished, Shane laid the boy
down and gave him a kiss on his forehead.
singing with me, Bobby. You got a fine, pure cowboy voice.
I hope you git to feeling better real soon, Son.”
Goodnight. I already feel lot better jes’ know’n our horses ain’t
gonna’ be killed. Take care of my pony Stardust for me,
Sir. She’s a real good pony.” he said.
“You can come
visit and ride her anytime you want, Bobby.” allowed Shane. Shane
didn’t want to stay longer. He was about to lose it himself.
couldn’t thank the men enough. He saw them back to their truck
and bid them goodbye. He immediately took Shane’s check to his
bank and cashed it. He was going to leave Bobby home by himself,
thought better of it, was going to put him in the back of the camper,
but the boy said he felt like riding up front with him. After
they went to see his mother, Gil spent ten bucks of the money for a
decent meal for him and his boy. Bobby seemed hungry and ate more
that he had in weeks. Morris wondered about what he witnessed
pass between the big, handsome cowboy and his boy. The love that
flowed between them as they sang together was palpable. It felt
to Morris like they became brothers. Bobby assured his dad, they
did. He called Mr. Goodnight his cowboy brother.
* * * * * * *
“Do you think
you healed the boy, Son?” Potter asked quietly after they got to the
blacktop. Cole was driving.
Boss. Like Cable done told ju’ my talents ain’t yet fully
developed like some a’ ma’ brothers. He’ll feel a lot better, but
if I don’t see him again several times he’ll relapse. He’s real
weak; lost almost all his muscle mass. He can barely walk or hold
himself up. I could a’ done more if I had full body contact with
him, but you just can’t do that sort of thing with a young boy.
It’s different with a horny old judge.” Shane chuckled and tickled
Potter with his hand. Cole and Potter broke up laughing.
“I’s jes’ lucky Morris didn’t wonder about me singing with him” Shane
“I watched him,
odd-job. I think he knew there was something special going on
between you and his boy. He was deeply moved. You made it
the most natural thing to share a song with the kid. Good think’n
on your part, Son.”
“Thanks, Pa, I
hope I git to see him again.”
“I have a
feeling you will, Son.” allowed Potter. “Do you know what’s wrong with
“I don’t know
much about medicine, but there’s some'um wrong with his heart.
It beats all right, but one of the valves don’t close completely and
allows blood to flow the other way for a few seconds. It robs the
of his system of normal pressure and flow. His body is actually
starving to death from lack of oxygen and nutrients. Damn, I wish
I could take him to Cable. Maybe I could git Jesse Watkins and
Utah to help.”
“Maybe you can,
odd-job. Don’t lose hope. That man needs a miracle in his
life no matter how it comes about.” Cole stated.
“See, Judge, I
done told ju’ my pa was a good hearted man.” Shane smiled.
that, Son.” allowed Potter. “How much you give him for them ponies,
foreman?” he asked Shane with a smile like he already knew the answer.
“Enough to bury
his wife.” Shane said without nuance.
“You’re a good
man, Shane Goodnight. I knew I done the right thing by you.” said
the old judge.
“I hope so,
Boss.” Shane smiled at him.
"Ain't no doubt
in my mind, Son.” Cole stated firmly. “Whither thou goest, cowboy, I'd
follow you anywheres." he added
and smiled at his partner.
* * * * * * *
with a horse transport company that afternoon and they said they could
pick them up and deliver them to the Potter ranch early afternoon on
Wednesday. It would cost him eight hundred bucks. He agreed
to it and told them the address of the Morris ranch and gave them Gil’s
address and phone number. Then the three of them went to the
bunkhouse to check on the men. They already cleaned up the
bunkhouse. It was spotless. They were working on the old
foreman’s house when they decided to take a break for lunch and have
some slave chow and a biscuit. Jack and Spence were thrilled when
they heard Shane bought their previous master’s remuda. They
know how Gil and Bobby were. Shane told them about their visit
and they listened intently. Jack said the hot water heater in
the old foreman’s cottage was on its last leg. Shane told him
they would get a new one, and asked if could Jack install it?
Master. No problem. Just git me a couple of them flex
hookups and some plumbing tape.”
They left the
cowboys to their meal. Shane asked Potter if he wanted to go
shopping with them. Shane wanted to go to the store and get some
things for the cowboys and stop by the large hardware store for a water
heater. Potter said he’d buy the water heater, so he would go
along. He was feeling much better. Cole agreed he
noticed a great change in his stamina. On the way, Shane
announced to them he planned to take them to Mars tomorrow, now they
had cowboy slaves to look after the ranch and animals when they were
gone. They wouldn’t stay overnight, but just see the sights and
return after having supper at the Lodge.
food for him and Cole to start stocking a pantry and have something in
their fridge. They had food left over from the party on
Saturday they were still eating. He bought eggs, bacon, and wheat
bread for him, Cole and the cowboys. Shane felt like they
couldn’t keep eating with Mr. Potter. Cole told him he thought
Boss Potter might have other ideas about that. He said the old
man seemed to really enjoy having breakfast with them every
morning. He wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t become a family
thing. Shane bought another couple of large bags of slave chow
and one bag of nutrient biscuits. His bill for all the food he
bought was several hundred dollars. He reminded himself he needed
to start keeping records for tax purposes. He hated the idea he
had to render unto Scudder, but he reveled in the thought it might not
be for long. Anything bought for the slaves was a business
expense and deductible. He wished he had an accountant.
returned to the ranch it was like Christmas in the bunkhouse. The
cowboys helped bring in the groceries he bought for them. Shane
told them to make it last for several days, and he would get
more. Shane and Cole went to the big house again and warmed up
leftovers from the party for supper for the three of them. Potter
was in heaven having company around him. He was thrilled to see
the way Shane and Cole were making the ranch come alive.
* * * * * * *
The next day
after breakfast and some instructions to the cowboys Shane led his
small family down to the old barn. When they got there, Shane
there gate posts in one of the many slots on the robo-cams?”
several, Captain Shane. Do you require one?”
I’d like to install a gate, here, at the ranch for emergency purposes,
and for ease of through passage to Mars port.”
“Look up to your
right, Captain.” boomed Kyron’s voice.
The men looked
up, and a robo-cam appeared. It lowered itself to stop right in
front of Shane. A little drawer opened with a ‘zzzzit’
sound. Shane saw a gate post inside and removed it.
Kyron. I appreciate your help.”
“It was nothing,
but it’s always nice to know you’re appreciated.” he allowed.
Shane found a
stall way to the back in a dark corner of the barn. Potter and
Cole watched as he installed the post in the ground beside a four by
“Hold on to each
other.” he said, “There will be a sharp jolt in the Earth. It
grounds itself in bedrock.” Shane instructed. He leaned over and
pressed the button on the gate stud. He counted to five and
suddenly they heard a ‘whump’ sound. The ground shook and the
barn rattled. It didn’t bother the ponies a bit. Shane sent
them a message to expect it and told them why it was happening.
He named the gate ‘Potter Ranch’ set the coordinates for the
Bandersnatch, hit the four by four post once with his fist and the gate
“Right this way,
gentlemen. The next stop, the Twilight Zone.” he laughed.
His family considered themselves veterans of the gates by this time and
stepped through with no trepidations. The were met by Cable in
sickbay. After greetings Cable asked how Judge Potter and Cole
“I didn’t expect
the shot to work so quickly, Sir.” Potter told him.
“I’m having a
problem ever’ time Captain Shane walks in front of me.” Cole laughed
adjusting his crotch. Cable laughed.
“Your body will
adjust. You just forgot how it feels to have an active
libido. When you’re young you live with it
twenty-four/seven. As you get older you’re lucky if you get seven
out of twenty-four months.” Potter agreed with him. “Kyron tells me you
plan to visit Mars port for the day. Be sure and check with the
desk at the lodge, Captain. I’m told there’s several new things
to see. Come, gentlemen, I’ll see you to the gate. Captain
Shane is due for a small surprise on the other side.” Cable smiled
Out of nowhere
came one of the pups. Shane was one of the few people who could
tell them apart except for Larry and Shep who always wore their
Visallian head bands. It was Maxine. She was staying with
Dr. Stevens and Arnie in Parsons, but she came through the gate to
visit Cable, David and Jonathan for the day.
Shane! Are you going to Mars port? I’ve never been.
Please take me with you. My brothers and sister have told me so
much about it, but I’d love to see for myself. Please! I
promise to be good.” she begged.
know. What do you men think?” Shane winked and grinned at the
judge and Cole. They didn’t know what to say. “Has she been
a good girl, Cable?” Shane asked
Captain. She suffers from a wasting of the heart. Sadness
and sorrow from great loss are difficult for any mammal to
overcome. She has a way to go before she’s recovered enough to
travel life on her own again. It takes a while. It takes
the unconditional love and understanding of those who care about
her. She’s eating a little more, but she still has her bad
days. She stays with us a lot and sometimes gets underfoot.
A trip to Mars port with you and your family might be just the thing
for her. It would certainly be a much appreciated relief for us
for a while, Sir.” Cable subtly pleaded.
“All right, but
you must agree to stay within earshot of my whistle and come running
when I call, understand, little lady?”
“I promise, I
will, Captain Shane. I’ll be good.” the men laughed and proceeded
to the gate. As charming as they were, Potter wondered if he
would ever get used to talking dogs.
The men were
dressed in their best Western clothes, because, according to Captain
Shane, you saw many people dressed Western on Mars. He stressed
they would be more apt to blended in with the crowd, but conceded it
would be a bit more difficult with a talking pup by their side.
Shane took Potter and Cole’s hands, and they stepped through the gate
together. They walked into Mars port station or so it was named
a little over a week ago. On a metal plaque on a marble pedestal
was a new name plate which read: Welcome to Goodnight Station, Mars
port. Beneath it read: Named in honor of our brave and heroic
Captain Shane Goodnight. Shane saw it and groaned. Potter
and Cole were wowed.
exclaimed Judge Potter, “you weren’t kidding about being a hero on
“I gotta’ admit,
Son, the thought of you having my baby is sounding better ever’ day.”
Cole grinned and winked at Shane.
exclaimed, “Trust me, gentlemen, being a hero ain’t all it’s cracked up
to be. I didn’t do nothing special. I’s just doing my
job. All my brothers were the heroes.”
Shane was swamped by admirers wanting his autograph. Potter and
Cole got a taste of it Sunday in Parsons, but this was something
else. The androids came to him wanting to know if he planned to
stay the night. They had a suite available for him. Shane
thanked them, told
them ‘no’ he was only there for the day, and he and his party would
return after an evening meal. Again they told him everything
would be comped by Darryl and his corporation.
“We’re just here
to get tram tickets and inquire about any new sites of interest.” Shane
“Right this way,
Captain.” the androids ushered the three men and one pup to the front
desk. They were seen to immediately. Shane got a brochure
on new and interesting things to do while visiting Mars port. He
got four, round trip shuttle tickets to the savanna below. He
turned to Potter and Cole.
gentlemen, let’s walk to the balcony. Maxine ran ahead as
Shane walked his small family to one of the most spectacular views in
the universe. As Potter and Cole walked out onto the balcony they
could see the vast stretch of the savanna, the mountains and waterfalls
in the distance, but most striking of all was the massive movement of
hundreds of animals below and flying through the air. They were
thunderstruck. They were speechless. It was truly a
“My God in
heaven!” whispered Potter.
how could you keep this from yore’ old pa? Them cowboy
rumors was wrong. This is beyond fantastic. This is mind
blowing.” Cole spoke in awe.
keeping it from you, Pa. Many times I bit my tongue. Would
you have believed me?” he asked.
not. I ain’t real sure I believe you now.” Cole grinned.
“I heard that,
Son.” Potter agreed. “You mean we’re going down there among them?”
“Of course, it’s
part of the Mars experience. Besides you’ll meet some wonderful
folks. If you look closely you’ll see Visallian warriors working
with and feeding some of the animals. We have to go native so the
animals will trust us, but we’re grown men, ain’t we?” Shane asked.
yourself, old man.” Potter said as he grinned at Shane. “Let’s go.” he
said with unbridled enthusiasm.
Potter and Cole the tram ride was like the Matterhorn ride at
Disneyland times two. It was a thrilling but aerodynamically
comfortable highspeed ride that wove in and out of the mountain side.
“If you like
yore’ hat, you best be advised to take it off and hold onto it.” Shane
smiled as he set down and clasped his hat to his chest.
Potter and Cole did the same. Cole set by Shane, and Maxine set
next to Potter. The ride never failed to get Shane’s blood
running faster. He caught Cole out of the corner of his eye
grimacing several times on a particularly sharp, banked turn. He
could see Potter in front of him fighting against the ride.
Maxine was having a ball. She knew instinctively to lean in the
direction of the turn. The ride came to an abrupt halt at Savanna
Station which threw the passengers forward a bit and then slammed them
back into their seats.
“Can we go
again?” begged Maxine.
lady, we’re here. We go see our family.” Shane laughed at her.
Shane showed the
judge and Cole to the lockers, and taught them how to program the
locks. He told them to strip, and they did. He took them by
the hand and led them into another world they never could have imagined
in their wildest dreams. They saw wooly mammoths, huge mastodons,
Kentaurians who could talk with them, unicorns, flying horses, several
lummox families who were friendly, Langerians, Evanescent children who
would conjoin with their bodies and took great delight in exciting
them, and a host of other magnificent and interesting animals.
Cole and Potter remarked after a while they didn’t even think about
being naked, but then, so were the other animals for that matter.
Maxine was good
to her word. She never strayed far from Shane’s side. She
was too busy herding Boss Potter around and looking after him.
She wasn’t clinging, but she let her presence be known from time to
time with some interesting comment. She loved the Kentuarians and
Unicorns. She became fond of the Langerians because they were
like Ping and Pong and Jack and Jill. Most of all she loved the
big lummox folk, and they thought she was a little bit of all
right. After walking for hours and visiting with almost all the
critters, the men decided to call it a day and return to the
lodge. The tram trip back wasn’t quite as exhilarating, but it
was fun nonetheless. Shane made reservations for a balcony table
at the ‘Jungle Room,’ and they were right on time. As they stood
waiting for their table, an android came to Shane.
Goodnight, Mr. Darryl, Professor Wankle, and Miss McNair have just been
seated. They would like to have your party join them for dinner.”
“We would be
honored.” replied Shane. “Come, gentlemen, you get to meet some
very important people from Venus. Darryl is an ambassador to the
colonies on our world, Professor Wankle is a bladder whale expert and
Miss McNair is his niece and assistant.”
exclaimed Darryl standing and walking to Shane to take his hand, gave
him a big hug and a slap on his back. “So good to see you again.
Glad you and your family could join us. It’s a great honor, Sir.”
was next to shake his hand and tell him how wonderful it was to see him
again. Delfee McNee gave him a big hug and a quick peck on the
cheek. Shane blushed. Shane introduced Maxine, Judge Potter
and introduced Cole not as his slave, but his life-partner. Cole
was so touched, he almost lost his cool, but he stood strong and
stoic. Darryl graciously invited them to sit down. Patty
was with them and curled up at Shane’s feet to make herself
comfortable. In her less than optimum condition, she was a tired
“We’re so sorry
we couldn’t make it to your celebration party in Parsons. The
professor and Delfee have been heavily involved with research, and I
just returned from Venus. My countrymen decided to chance the
trip to Mars in one of our better ships to have it retrofitted
here. I’m afraid it was terribly slow, and I was still in route
during your party.”
necessary. It’s always good to see you, anytime.” Shane assured
their orders with the android waiter and Shane ordered a half pound of
ground round, medium rare, with gravy in a small metal dish for his
friend at his feet.
“I ain’t hungry,
Captain Shane.” Maxine said quietly from under the table.
are. You must eat, little lady. You promised, if I brought you
along you would be good and mind me. I expect you to keep
your word. I will be upset with you if you don’t.” he spoke
softly but firmly.
“Don’t be angry
with me, Captain Shane.” she pleaded.
“Anger and upset
ain’t the same thing, sweetheart. I could never be angry with
you. Bring the food I ordered for her, waiter.”
Captain Shane.” and the android was off.
As they were
having salads, one of Darryl’s staff androids brought him a
package and a briefcase. He thanked the android, and told it to
return to his
room. Darryl set it by his chair and went on with
conversation. Potter and Cole were impressed the Venusians looked
for all the world like humans except Darryl and Professor Wankle were
very fair skinned and had pink eyes. Potter assumed rightly
albinism is a universal anomaly. Delfee McNair had blue eyes and
a darker complection. The waiter brought their main courses and
set Maxine’s in front of her. She got up and tried to eat, but
didn’t seem to have the heart for it. Shane looked down at her.
sweetheart, you can do it. Eat it for me. You told me you
loved me many times, now show me how much you love me by eating your
supper.” Maxine went back to it, and Shane left her alone. As
they were finishing dessert, Darryl changed the subject of conversation.
“Do you remember
our agreement and giving your approval for your action figure before
you left Venus after saving the whales?” he asked.
It was a neat action figure. It looked just like me and came with
several costumes including a spacesuit, authentic looking buckaroo
clothes, and a Tao'mak robe. It was anatomically perfect as I
remember.” Shane smiled.
“Yes, we’re very
proud of it. We created it from a holographic nude image of you
while we were performing the Tao'mak with our brothers and the
Visallian warriors. Here’s your very own Captain Shane Action
Figure to take back with you as a humorous token and celebration gift
for your emancipation. In the same spirit, we have one for you,
Judge Potter as a small token of our appreciation for your generosity
and courage to do the right thing. We also have one for you, Mr.
Jenkins, and Darryl handed Cole one. In the clear plastic covered
box it looked just like Shane. Dirty old man that he was, Potter
had to open his and look inside the figure’s Wranglers to see if it
was, indeed, anatomically correct. He smiled when he discovered
it was proportionally accurate and showed it to Cole. Cole
grinned and nodded his approval. Darryl reached down and took the
handle of the briefcase sitting next to his chair and handed it to
Shane. “And, in accordance with our agreement, here is the first
installment of your share of the profits from the sale of your action
figure, here and on Venus.”
open the briefcase and it was filled with money in various large U. S.
bills. More cash than he ever saw at one time. Potter
and Cole gasped at the sight.
hundred thousand in that case. There will be two more as soon as
I can transfer the funds into American dollars. I wanted to give
you cash because I know your government on Earth traces large deposits
or wants to
know where any amount over five thousand dollars comes from, and if
they’ve missed any taxes. This way you may spend it for whatever
projects you may have without raising a lot of suspicion. I
believe cowboys have a saying: money talks and bullshit walks.” Darryl
smiled, “So does cash for that matter. Put it in a secure place,
perhaps leave it onboard your ship, the Bluebonnet, and take from it
what you need from time to time.” Darryl advised.
speechless. He didn’t know what to say. He’d forgotten all
about approving the action figure for Darryl to market. He had no
idea it would generate this much money. He expressed his surprise
Shane Goodnight and the Coyote Cowboys Action Figures are our top
selling items on Venus and Mars. We can’t make them fast
enough. If you check the shelves at the gift store here in the
lodge you will find a sign that says: Sold Out. Fortunately, I
brought another large shipment with me on this trip, but they will be
sold out within days. You must get back to Venus for a brief
visit, Captain Shane. I understand within the next several weeks
the Banshee plans to transport the new gate to Venus port. It
would be great opportunity for you to make an appearance and gain
publicity if you and your family could come along. I think the
Admiral, your brother Charlie and the coyote cowboys and their brothers
will be going for the installation and dedication. I understand
it’s to be dedicated to all the cowboys including you and the coyotes.”
“I don’t know,
Darryl, we’re just starting a new ranch and we may be too busy, but
I’ll talk it over with my family and git back to you. Thank you
so much for this. I promise it will be put to good use.
I’ll take your advice and keep it on my ship. Miss Maybelle has
the best security system I know. Nobody gets on my ship without
her knowing, and she won't let anyone on-board without my permission.”
The evening was
coming to an end. Shane was proud of Maxine. She ate all of
her meal but a few bites. He noticed she pushed them around in
the bottom of the dish so it wouldn’t look like she left much.
Shane patted her on her head and told her he was pleased with
her. Shane and his family said their ‘goodnights’ and ‘goodbyes’
to Darryl, the professor and Miss McNair. He thanked Darryl for
the briefcase and its contents. Potter wasn’t sure it really sank
in with Shane he now had half a million dollars in his
possession. He could do anything he wanted. It didn’t
bother the old man for a minute. In someways he anticipated some
unusual windfall, because of the success of their business ventures in
his dreams. It takes money to make money. Would Shane take
the money and runaway with Cole? Not too damn likely. In
the short time he got to know Shane, Potter knew he wasn’t that
callow. Potter bought into Shane’s dream a hundred and ten
percent. Besides, Shane had ten years cowboy slave work ethic
ingrained in him, and Potter witnessed too many things Shane
for others. Potter was convince it was Shane’s purpose in life.
The men along
with Maxine passed back through the gate onto the Bandersnatch.
They were met by Cable and his men. They welcomed them, but were
concerned about Maxine. She didn’t seem her usual hyper-active
self. Shane spoke to Cable and said he needed to go to his ship
to leave the briefcase he brought back with him from Mars port.
Cable set the coordinates for a nearby gate to one near the
Bluebonnet. Maxine insisted on going with them and dutifully
trudged along, but the three men were worried about her.
There wasn’t the same spryness or natural bounce in her step.
boarded the Bluebonnet and followed Captain Shane to his cabin where he
locked the briefcase in his personal safe which could only be opened
with a laser scan of his retina. Before he placed it inside Shane
opened the case and took out ten thousand dollars and put it in his
pocket. They left the ship, went back through the gate to
sickbay. Maxine seemed like she was really down or just worn out
from the day. Shane asked Potter and Cole to go with him to see
Maxine through the gate and to her temporary home in Parsons.
“You don’t have
to do that, Captain Shane. I can go by myself. I don’t
really have no home anymore, no ways.” she said without raising her
head. “Dr. Stevens and Mr. Arnie are good and kind to me, but the
truth is nobody needs me. My brothers and sister don’t want me
around; my ma and pa love me, but they got their own lives to live, and
I jes’ seem to get in ever’ body’s way. I love Cable, David and
Jonathon, but I know I jes’ get underfoot when they’s busy. I
don’t wanna’ be a nuisance to nobody. I guess I’m just different,
I need a purpose in life. I enjoyed today with you, Mr. Potter
and Mr. Jenkins. I really appreciate you letting me go with
ya’ll, Captain Shane. You made me feel like I belonged for a
while, but when it was over I realized I don’t belong nowhere and the
sadness creeps back into my heart.”
Shane looked at
his family. He could tell with one look Maxine broke Cole’s big
heart. Cole shared Shane’s heart when it came to animals.
Cable shook his head, started to speak but thought better of it.
Judge Potter was deeply moved by her words. He slowly knelt down
to her level, put his hand gently under her chin and raised her head to
look into her eyes.
“Now, that just
ain’t true, little lady. Y'ain’t no different from anybody
don’t care what tribe you belong to or what yore’ station in life is,
ever’body needs a purpose in life. You listen to me, and listen
good. I need you. I’m an old man. I’m
retired. I live alone. I’ve lived alone for fifteen
years. I’m fortunate to have Captain Shane and his partner living
on my property, working with me to start up my ranch. They
provide me with some company and companionship, but I’m still alone in
the world. Come home with me, and be my companion. I need
someone like you to keep me on the straight and narrow. I know
you can do it, and I promise I’ll be good to you.”
“Do you really
mean it, Judge Potter?” she asked sadly.
“Of course I do,
Maxine. I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it. I have a
huge, comfortable bed, but I need someone to share it with me to keep
feet warm at night. My circulation ain’t what it used to be, and
my old feet git awful cold. You don’t have to make a commitment
right away. Jes’ come home with me and try it for a while.
Live with us and see if you enjoy living on the ranch. You’ll get
to be around Captain Shane and Cole almost everyday, and we got some
ponies you can talk with. We’re even gonna’ have a lot more after
Wednesday. I hear Captain Shane plans to have some goats and
sheep later on.”
“I’d love to go
with you and try it for a while, Master Potter. Are ya’ll gonna’
have some cowboy slaves for me to work with?”
“We done already
got us a handful, Missy. A couple you already know, Otis and
Lester from Master Goodnight’s ranch.”
wonderful. I know Otis and Lester. They’s my friends.
Mr. Cable, will you thank Dr. Stevens and Mr. Arnie for me? Tell
them I love them and appreciate all they done for me. Tell them
I’ll be staying with Judge Potter, Captain Shane, and Mr. Jenkins on
their ranch for a spell.”
will, Maxine. I think it’s a wonderful idea for you to go to the
Potter ranch for a while. If you change your mind, get frightened
or want to come back for a visit, you know how to use the gates.” Cable
Cable, for worrying about me and for all your help, but if I’m
comfortable at the Potter ranch, I won’t be back; except, maybe to pass
through with my family or for a visit. I love you, Mr. Cable, Mr.
David and Mr. Jonathan.” she said.
Maxine they loved her. The Potter Ranch family, with one new
member, passed through the gate and were once again in the old
barn. Maxine seemed to perk up a little when they arrived and
walked up through the beautiful pasture to the big house with
them. Judge Potter and Maxine said ‘goodnight’ to Shane and Cole,
and the cowboys walked on to their house. The men thought about
walking down to the bunkhouse to check on the cowboys, but all the
lights were off. They would probably disturb them. The
cowboy slaves knew the three of them would be away for the day.
If anything out of the ordinary happened while they were gone they
would be waiting on their front steps. Shane and Cole decided
they were tired and went in to shower and go to bed. They held
each other for a while, but their hearts weren’t into love
making. They had so many other things on their minds.
“Did you enjoy
Mars port, Pa?” Shane asked him.
“More than I can
tell you. I’ve gone along all these years with the same dull,
boring, tedious work with nothing much interesting happening in my
life, nothing much to look forward to, then you come along, and I fell
in love with you. I done told myself not to do it a hunnert time
or more; not to let
myself fall in love with you. I kept tell’n myself I was a
gall-durn fool. I told myself over and over, it would never
amount to nothing; I's jes’ wasting my energy and my heart on a dream;
a dream what would never come true. I worked with you almost
ever’ damn day. I longed to hold you in ma’ arms and tell you I
loved you. We rarely spoke ‘cause I was so afraid you might see
what was in my heart. Ten years later you buy me and take me
places I never could’ve dreamed about. I ain’t pretending to make
up for ten years, odd-job, but if’n it ain’t out of line for me to tell
you, yore’ slave loves you from the bottom of his heart.”
“I don’t think
it’s out of line for ma’ pa to tell me he loves me, no matter what his
station in life is.” Shane repeated the line he heard Boss Potter
use earlier with Maxine, “I loved you all these years but never thought
it would be possible for us to be together, but here we are, in bed
with one another, happy and comfortable. You never had to say
nothing. I always knew you loved me. I never made it no
secret I was crazy about you. Our cowboy brothers knew I had a
major hard-on for you from the start, but they’d have their hearts cut
before they would a’ told ma’ brother or Birdsall. What goes on
in the bunkhouse, stays in the bunkhouse. I love you very much,
Pa.” Shane said as they shared a kiss.
gonna’ do with all that money, Son?” Cole asked.
Not extravagantly, but comfortably. We’ll still have to work for
a cover. If’n we don’t somebody might get suspicious or
nosey. We don’t want that. I guess you noticed I took some
money out of the briefcase. I’ll pay the horse transport people
cash tomorrow. That way there won’t be a lot of paper
trails. I need to start keeping receipts for tax purposes.
I also plan to spend some money to buy ma’ pa a couple a’ new pair, a’
fine, handmade buckaroo boots and buy him some new clothes; maybe a new
belt or two and a couple of new hats; straw and felt. A ramrod
needs to look his best. I suppose I could use me a new pair of
boots and some better clothes, too.”
deserves ‘em, you do, boy.” Cole said.
“Well, I don’t
think it would be too extravagant to buy us some new duds. After
all, a cowboy rancher needs to look his best for them cows.” they
shared a laugh. “What do you think about Judge Potter asking Maxine to
come live with him, Pa?”
“A match made in
heaven, Son.” Cole sighed. “I saw it coming. Didn’t you see how
she herded him everywhere he went watching out for him like he was a
stray lamb?” Cole chuckled.
right! I jes’ didn’t think on it much, but I agree. I think
they need each other. I hope they’ll be happy together. How
are we gonna’ explain a talking dog to our cowboys?”
Lester and Otis, from your brother’s ranch, are used to talk’n
dogs. Let them explain it to Jack and Spence, if they can.” he
laughed. “It didn’t take me and the judge long to git used to
‘em. They will, too.”
The men drifted
off to sleep. They were so tired they didn’t wake once during the
night. Shane’s internal clock woke him just early enough to get
himself some hot cowboy cream from his pa before they started their
busy day. Somehow, breakfast was always just a little sweeter
with the lingering taste of the cowboy he loved on his tongue.
Shane knew it would be a good day.
* * * * * * *
Maxine seemed a
hundred percent better the next morning. Mrs. Huggins looked at
her askance, but when she tried to thanked Mrs. Huggins for her
breakfast of a couple of scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon, she ran
from the room yelling at the top of her voice, a devil got into
that dog, and it was talking to her. It took Judge Potter thirty
minutes to calm her down by telling her Maxine was a special breed of
dog scientist developed to be companions to the elderly and keep them
company. He was just lucky enough to get one. He had his
name on a list for a couple of years until one finally became
available. Potter laughed at himself covering for his new family
and their technical advances. It made him feel like a schoolboy
again in cahoots with his buddies. If Mrs. Huggins couldn’t adapt
he would have to find someone else. He was serious about his
offer to Maxine to come live with him. Maxine apologized to him.
“Don’t you worry
about it, little lady. You didn’t do nothing wrong. If she
can’t get used to a talking dog we’ll just find someone who can.”
Potter assured his new companion. He was almost sure Mrs. Huggins
had thoughts of him being a warlock and Maxine his familiar. He
certainly didn’t feel like being burned at the stake for her lunacy or
ignorance. Shane and Cole walked into the kitchen of the front
house to find Mrs. Huggins was again fixing breakfast. She made
enough for all three. Judge Potter seemed to enjoy sharing
breakfast with the men. Shane had to admit, it was a great time
to discuss things for the day. There was nothing much on for the
day, but delivery of the remuda. Once that happened he and Cole
would go into action and tend to the horses’ needs. After Mrs.
Huggins left, Shane tried to feel Potter and Cole out about making a
trip to Venus like Darryl suggested. They were both interested,
but they didn’t know about leaving the ranch for several days.
flight on the Banshee is about a forty-eight hour journey, but there
are many activities on board. It will only be a one-way trip.”
“Then how do we
git back?” the judge asked without thinking.
gate they’re gonna’ deliver to Venus, Mr. Potter.” Maxine spoke
up. The old man grinned. He felt like a fool.
“Of course, how
stupid of me, and how clever of you, little one.” Potter shook his
head, and showered her with affection. Her whole body
wagged. She found a new friend in the old man.
Judge. It’ll take us a while to think like a member of Shane’s
family. Jes’ like it’s gonna’ take my boy time to adjust to being
a freeman again.” Cole said in a consoling voice. “Maxine knows
about these things because she uses them daily. They’re second
nature to her.” he added.
that way for you and ma’ pa.” said Shane.
* * * * * * *
The ponies were
delivered at one o’clock in the afternoon. The men just
finished their lunch and came out to show the four animal
transport drivers where to unload. It didn’t take thirty minutes
to unload every critter on the vans. Once the doors opened, they
were more than happy to jump free. They wandered off into the
pasture. All the transports pulled out but one. Shane
signed the delivery statement, paid the man cash, and got a receipt.
gonna’ be the start of yore’ remuda, Mr. Goodnight?” the driver asked.
horseflesh, Sir, and they’s some fine stock in the lot. They’s a
few curs, but mostly, they’s good healthy critters. They need
noticed that, too. That’s me and my partner’s old farrier truck
over there. We’ll take care of ‘em.”
“You men got
some business cards?” he asked, “I’m all the time git’n asked if I
know’d a good farrier.”
We just started out on our own last week. We gotta’ git some made
up. We’s still word of mouth, but they can reach us, here, at the
Ranch. I’m Shane Goodnight.”
“One of the
Goodnight boys? You the son of Angus or Charlie?” he asked.
their baby brother.”
it’s jes’ you look so young.”
necessary, Sir. I git that a lot.” Shane smiled at him.
Goodnight name is rock solid around these here parts. You should
do well, Sir. Best of luck to you.” he said sincerely.
Sir. Thanks for your service.”
Glad to oblige, Sir.” he climbed into the cab of the huge transport
then jumped back down again. “Damn, I almost forgot. Mr.
Morris asked me to give you this.” he turned, got back into the cab,
smiled, waved and was gone.
It was a small,
white envelope with Shane’s name on it. He carefully opened it
and read: Dear Mr. Goodnight, your act of kindness couldn’t have
come at a better time. My beloved wife passed away early this
morning. The funeral will be Friday morning at nine A.M. at the
only funeral home in our town. Thanks for your help. May
God bless you, Sir. Also, I don’t know what you done for my boy,
but since your visit he’s been feeling better than I seen him in six
months. I just hope the death of his mom don’t cause a set
back. Respectfully yours, Gilbert Morris.
terrible for the man and shared his note with Cole and Mr.
Potter. They both expressed an interest in attending the funeral
and taking Mr. Morris’ former cowboy slaves with them. Shane
agreed it would be the right thing to do. The men and Maxine
walked down to the bunkhouse to tell the men about Mr. Morris’
wife. They were out looking at the ponies and just
Lester and Otis were surprised and thrilled to see Maxine. They
knew her well. She ran to them and they started talking.
The other two cowboy’s eyes got real big, and they looked at each other.
“She can talk?”
“Of course she
can. She’s our friend. Ain’t chu’ never seen no talk’n dog
before, cowboy?” asked Lester with a big grin on his face. “She
comes from a family what the parents were genetically altered and given
the speech gene from humans. “It’s so good to see you again,
sweetheart.” Lester cooed over her.
“You gonna’ be
around for a while, Miss Maxine?” Otis asked.
might. Master Potter said he needs a companion, and Master Shane
told me they might be git’n some sheep for me to tend. So far, I
like it here jes’ fine.” she wagged her whole body.
Shane told Jack
and Spence about Mrs. Morris’ death. They broke down and cried
for their master. “We plan to take you men to the funeral Friday
morning if you’d like to go.” Shane said.
Master Shane, of course, we’d like to go, Sir.” they both agreed.
“Can we count on
you men to take care of Maxine while we’re gone?” Shane asked Lester
“Of course, we’d
love to have her visit, Master Shane. We’ll take good care of
her.” said Lester.
meantime, Mr. Jenkins and I are gonna’ set up our forge down to the old
barn. We need you men to rope and bring us the worst of the lot
who need immediate attention today, and we plan to work on ‘em all day
tomorrow. Friday morning we’ll leave about seven-thirty for the
Morris funeral, but when we git back we’ll do some more.”
Shane and Cole
surprised themselves. They finished six horses apiece. It
seemed to not be so much like work when you didn’t have a deadline to
meet. They could take their time and do a better job. They
always did quality work, but no frills. Thursday they were up
before dawn and didn’t stop until the sun was setting in the
West. They only took thirty minutes for lunch and Potter brought
them sandwiches. They were back into their comfortable, silent
work mode, and the cowboys could barely keep up with them. They
were amazed the men could work so fast. Potter brought a folding
chair and set watching Cole and Shane work for a couple of hours with
his constant companion by his side. Now and then he and Maxine
would have a word with each other. Potter was impressed by the
men’s work ethic. It was obvious Cole was the undisputed leader,
but Shane could keep up with him, horse for horse, without any
problem. By the end of the day they finished fifteen horses
each. It was an all time record for them. They were tired,
but smug about their accomplishment. In a day and a half they
worked their way halfway through the remuda.
Cole expected to be stiff, sore and have to stand in a hot shower for
thirty minutes to get going, then move very slowly for
the first hour, but he bounded out of bed and felt better than he had
in years. He knew it must be the longshot. Cable confided
in him it would work faster on him, because he was younger than Potter.
The three men
got into Shane’s new pickup, and the two cowboy slaves got into the
crew cab in the rear. They left Maxine with Lester and
Otis. She was a happy camper. She knew her family would be
back and looked forward to spending the day with her cowboy
friends. Gil Morris was surprised and delighted his old cowboy
slaves were allowed to come to the funeral. He hugged and kissed
Jack and Spence on the cheek. He held them as they cried
together. Little Bobby made a beeline for Shane and gave him a
big hug and a kiss.
Goodnight! Shane!" Bobby hollered as he ran to Shane's open
"I done told my daddy you'd come, but he didn't think so. I knew
you'd come. Jack and Spence taught me about the cowboy way.
I know'd when a cowboy tells you he'll be yore' friend he won't never
you down." Bobby insisted.
Bobby. I meant what I said." Shane was squatting on his haunches
holding the boy as Bobby broke into tears. Shane picked him up
and carried him in his huge arms. The boy weighed almost
nothing. He was skin and bones. There were only
a handful of people at the service. They didn’t have many
relatives. There was one big black, matronly woman who
attended. Gil introduced her as Mrs. Biddle. Essmee Faylene
Biddle was their housekeeper and cook for many years on the
ranch. She was another employee Mr. Morris considered family, but
he had to let her go. The funeral service was short. It was
like the funeral home had a special on funerals, and while they
to be gracious they rushed it along. They followed the hearse to
the grave side. Only Mr. Morris, Bobby, and Mrs. Biddle, were at
the gave side with Shane, Mr. Potter, Cole and Mr. Morris’ old cowboy
slaves. Gil Morris seemed to take great comfort and encouragement
the men from the Potter ranch drove a good way to be with him and his
boy. Bobby set in Shane’s lap through the funeral, with Shane’s
huge, muscular arms enfolding him like the comforting wings of a
guardian angel. The boy would break into tears, but Shane would
kiss him, wipe away his tears with his bandana, hold him close, rub and
pet him to comfort him. There was no music planned, but Mrs.
Biddle was having none of that. With great dignity, the large
black woman walked quietly to the head of her mistress’ grave, threw
back her handsome head and began to sing.
steal away, steal away to Jesus!
steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.
My Lord, He
calls me, He calls me by the thunder;
sounds within my soul, I ain’t got long to stay here.
steal away, steal away to Jesus!
steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.
Green trees are
bending, Poor sinners stand a-trembling;
sounds within my soul, I ain’t got long to stay here.
steal away, steal away to Jesus!
steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.
My Lord, He
calls me, He calls me by the lightning;
sounds within my soul, I ain’t got long to stay here.
steal away, steal away to Jesus!
steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.
She sang several
verses with the same haunting refrain between each verse. She
sang in a strong, clear, pure voice. From time to time her voice
would crack and Shane could see a tear run down her cheek, but she
refused to break and pushed on to the end. There wasn’t a dry eye
among the mourners when she finished. She bowed her head and
"Go to Jesus my dear, sweet friend. ‘Dis old world was never
meant for one so
beautiful as you.” then she quietly returned to her seat.
The funeral was
over and everyone began to leave. The men quietly thanked Mrs.
Biddle for her wonderful song and words. It meant more to them
than the preacher’s palaver. Morris hugged and kissed her
cheek. She hugged and kissed Bobby like he was her own boy.
Shane was last to thank her. Everyone else walked away.
When she took Shane’s hand she acted like a jolt went through her
body. Her eyes got real big, her eyelids fluttered, her other
hand flew to her breast just below her neck like she couldn’t get her
breath, she breathed deeply a couple of times, pulled herself together
and looked him straight in the eye with a stare that looked to the
bottom of Shane’s soul. She spoke in a lilting Cajun or Jamaican
“You got de’
gift, boy. You’s a healer-mon.” she said, “I can tell a
healer. Once you been touched by a healer you don’ never forgit
‘dat touch. ‘Dat boy done tell me a big cowboy hold him, sing
song with him, heal him. You heal ma’ boy Bobby. You done
heal him good. He better than I seen him in a year or more.
You be special mon.”
“I’m afraid I
wasn’t able to heal him completely, Mrs. Biddle. My gifts are not
yet strong enough.” Shane said to her quietly. “I didn’t have enough
time or exposure with him.” Shane was trying to keep his voice low so
the others wouldn’t hear their conversation.
“You know what’s
wrong with the boy?” she lowered her voice, asking more quietly and
“A valve in his
heart is leaking, Mrs. Biddle. Instead of closing tightly like it
should, it flutters like sheets in the wind and allows blood to flow in
the opposite direction. It lowers his blood pressure and robs his
body of oxygen and nutrients he should be getting from proper pressure
and blood flow. His system is starving from lack of oxygen and
nutrients.” Shane quietly explained. “I was only able to repair it
temporarily. It will fail again.”
Jesus!” she exclaimed, “Mr. Morris, ‘dat dear, sweet mon, he won’t
survive the death a’ ‘dat boy.” she lamented. “Help him,
Son. You got ‘da power. You older ‘dan you look. You
smell of roses. You be ageless. You be one of thum whose
body will never age even after death. You be an old soul in a
young man’s body. You done walked through ‘dem hot flames of
bondage and degradation. You be a man of many sorrows; yet, you
done come out de’ other side as strong and burnished as fine
brass. Never forget where you been or how far you come.
Negro slaves from the old country sing songs about listening to thum
voices of the Ancients of days. Ain’t got nothing to do with no
gods or religion. Thum voices be older than the God of
Abraham. You hear thum voices, I know you do. They speak to
you. I can see it in your eyes, healer-mon. They done put
chu’ on this Earth to help others. Don’t chu’ deny yore’ gift,
boy, it can only bring you what most men seek, but never find; it will
bring you peace. You don’t need no possessions or pretensions of
power. They’s only vanities and concessions to false gods.
Your strength will come when you need it most. By yore’ goodness
alone, you will lead many men. Where your bare-feet walk, the
lilies will grow.” the old woman shook Shane to his core.
“I promise, I’ll
try, Mrs. Biddle.” he conceded humbly.
“Thank you, Mr.
Goodnight. ‘Dat’s all I ask. I will sing to thum voices and
praise your name. Sometimes they pay attention to this old woman;
sometimes they listen to me, but not always; sometimes they can be
rapscallions and play tricks on you, because you ask for too much or
something they think not good for you.” she grinned wickedly.
“They hear us
all the time, ma’am. The voices on the winds of consciousness.”
Shane said quietly.
same. They sing to me of an old warrior in a young body who
arises from slavery to do great deeds in the final days. His
youthful appearance hides his maturity, the portent of his goodness and
his power. May the Ancients of days bless you, Son.”
“And you, Mrs.
Shane asked Mr.
Morris if he would take another walk with him. They walked away
from the crowd. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Mr. Morris. If
there’s anything we can do to help you and Bobby, please let us
know. You have our address and phone number. I don’t want
to intrude in you life, Sir, but if you come to a dead end and there
no turn around, y'ain't got no wheres to go, remember my offer of help
and come to me.”
Morris was most
grateful and thanked him. He tired to get Shane to say what he
did for Bobby, but Shane wouldn’t commit to anything. He told
Morris he heard it said by some they thought he might have some strange
powers. He wasn’t sure just what he’d done or how much. All
he was sure of, was his touch could calm a frightened pony. How
could he ever explain to the man he needed full body contact with the
boy without thinking Shane was some sort of pervert? Maybe he
could get Jesse Watkins to intercede? In the meantime, Shane
wanted more information on Gilbert Morris. He knew just where to
get it. After they returned to the ranch, Shane put in a call to
his nephew and asked if he and his brothers could find all the
information they could for him on a Gilbert Morris, a rancher in Davis
The men returned
to the Potter ranch, and had lunch. Shane and Cole returned to
farrier work on the ponies. They each got seven horses shod that
afternoon. Saturday was only another work day on the ranch, and
Shane and Cole put in another sunup to sundown day of work on the
ponies. By Saturday evening they shod almost all the major work
horses and had only the odd lot left to do. They would take care
of them the following week. The two cowboy slaves from the Morris
ranch were very impressed with Shane and Cole’s work output.
Lester and Otis knew how good they were. They helped prep the
horses by thoroughly cleaning their hooves before they brought them to
the master farriers.
Charlie always set Sunday aside as a day of rest and worship if a
cowboy slave wanted to attend church. It was also a day of family
get togethers and Shane told his partners he would continue their
tradition. Angus was having a big feed and get together for his
family and invited his little brother, Shane’s family and slaves to the
ranch for food and a fun day. It would be the first time Shane
and Cole returned to Angus’ ranch. Bill Birdsall had not yet
returned or Shane might not have accepted Angus’ invitation. It
was too soon for him to confront that can of worms. Shane told
the cowboys to hook the old two horse trailer he borrowed from his
brother to the hitch on his new truck. It was time to return
it. They left Maxine behind again with Otis and Lester.
Shane told them he would alternate and next time they would get to
go. Shane promised he and Cole would bring them back a good
inquired if he would get to see his nieces and nephews, Angus’ kids,
his brother sort of hung his head and made excuses for them being too
busy with their lives and not being able to come to the ranch as much
as he’d like. Shane couldn’t help feel sorry for him. He
wondered if that was the reason Angus treated Shane and Cole like
prodigal sons returning home after only a week being gone. He
wouldn’t let Cole go through the slave ritual with him, but instead
shook his hand, hugged and kissed him like he was the spouse of one of
his children. Only one of Shane’s new slaves, Spence, completed
the ritual with him as representative for him and Jack. Angus
complained, since Shane and Cole were gone, it seemed like the life
went out of his cowboy slaves.
“They still do
the work, but they don’t put their hearts into it.” he moaned.
Birdsall to keep a barrier between him and his slaves. Of course,
for years Birdsall had Angus’ ear and influenced him greatly with his
ideas and decisions about his slaves. Birdsall’s influence even
filtered into Angus’ personal family relationships and certainly the
way he treated Shane. It was partially Birdsall’s fault Angus
wasn’t more forthcoming with his little brother and treated him like a
slave to the very last. Birdsall pushed to the end to get Angus
to talk the old judge into extending Shane’s slavery for another
five years. Angus balked. It was only because Birdsall
withdrew in anger the last few days of his slavery Shane got anything
at all from Angus, and that, he had to fight for. On the other
hand, Shane thought himself extremely fortunate to get what little he
did from his brother. He considered quality was far better than
quantity, and he was satisfied he got the very best.
Now, Angus was
having to deal with his slaves on a daily basis, and he was
uncomfortable with it. He owned as many as a hundred cowboy
slaves at one time, but he was down to about sixty because of attrition
and advanced age. He seemed surprised to find Shane already had
four slaves. He recognized the names and knew the two slaves who
were a gift from his brother Charlie. He knew Lester and Otis
well, but he didn’t recognize Jack and Spence. When he heard
Lazarus gave the slaves to Shane it broke something inside of
him. The slaves, together with the beautiful pickup truck, plus
thirty head of cattle were far more than Angus gave him, and it began
to eat on him. He suddenly realized he hadn’t given his little
brother anything but what was already his, and made him bargain for and
spend his money for the rest. Shane was still in debt to Angus
for the old farrier truck and tools. Charlie and Lazarus made him
look cheap and niggardly. After a couple of drinks, his
conscience began to weigh heavily upon him. Angus got Shane away
from his family to talk with him.
“I ain’t done
right by you little brother.” Angus declared.
“What do you
mean? I got what I wanted from you. It was enough. I
got quality instead of quantity. I never expected more.” Shane
was stunned by his admission.
“I could a’ done
more for you, but I didn’t. I could blame it on Bill 'cause I
listened to him, but that would be doing the same damn thing I accused
you of, playing the blame game. I didn’t have to listen to his
bullshit. I should a’ done better by you, boy. Damn
it! You’re ma’ little brother, Shane.” Angus berated himself.
“Don’t do this
to yourself, brother.” Shane said in a demanding but pleading voice,
“First of all, it’s embarrassing to me and makes me very
uncomfortable. You done told me you did the best you could, and I
believe you; end of story. Have you heard me complaining?
Has anyone come to you and told you I’m upset with you or feel
cheated? Have I given you any indication I’m displeased with
you? Do you think I’d be here today if I was?”
“No, no, but I
know you. You’re more like Charlie than me. You’re far more
generous than I am. I’d wager you’re more generous than
Charlie. You wouldn’t say shit agin’ me. That’s just the
way you is, boy.” Angus insisted.
me! Take a good look, brother! Do I look unhappy to you,
“No, I can’t
believe the difference in you and what you’ve accomplished in a couple
of weeks. By the way, I got away for another evening with my
sweet Indian Brave and almost pissed my pants when I found out Mars
port station was renamed ‘Goodnight’ station in yore’ honor.
Congratulation, Son.” Angus said sincerely as he hugged Shane and stole
I got from you what I most wanted in this world, and I’m satisfied.”
“No, no, I tell
you what. I’m gonna’ make it up to you. I’m gonna’ give you
any two of my slaves of your choice, and hitch the trailer back to your
truck ‘cause I know ‘em cowboys is gonna’ wanna’ take their ponies.”
Angus stated flatly.
brother? Are you sure?” Shane pressed him. Shane didn’t
know what came over Angus, but if he wanted to whitewash whatever guilt
or remorse he was feeling by being generous, Shane certainly was going
to take advantage of it. Lightening don’t strike twice in the
same place. Angus grimaced before answering.
sure.” he answered, almost in disgust.
The men walked
over to where the cowboy slaves were sitting finishing their
“Okay, you men
listen up! I got me an announcement to make. I’m giving my
little brother two cowboy slaves and their ponies. Who wants to
volunteer to be my little brother’s slaves and go work for him on the
Potter ranch?” Every slave raised their hand including the three
baby slaves. Angus just grinned and shook his head.
“Pick ‘em!” was
all he said to Shane. Angus raised his arm and waved their hands
down in mock disgust, grinned real big and turned his back on
his slaves. Shane didn’t hesitate. He knew exactly who he
“Phil Pie and
his partner Eli Stone.” said Shane. There were a few moans and
groans from the other cowboys, but a big whoop and applause went up for
Phil and Eli from their comrades.
“You men git
chore’ shit together, throw it in the back of ma’ little brother’s
truck, including yore' saddles. Hitch-up that old two-horse
trailer to the back of his truck again and load your ponies.
You’re going home with him this evening.” bellowed Angus.
Phil and Eli
came running up to Shane, dropped to their knees and went through the
slave ritual with him. Shane gave old Phil a kiss that caused an
erection and a wet spot in all the other cowboy’s Wranglers. Phil
returned it in kind.
“Why us, Master
Shane?” Phil whispered to him as he stole another kiss.
“Why not you and
Eli? You done told me not to forgit those what love me, didn’t
you, Poppa Pie?” Shane grinned at him. You could hear Phil’s
laugh across the compound.
“God I love you,
boy.” he whispered.
“No more’n I
love you, cowboy.” Shane told him, “Now, you and Eli do what my brother
done told ju’ ‘afore that tight ass old som'bitch changes his
mind.” they shared a laugh and were away to get their meager belongings.
“What is it with
you and them older cowboys, little brother?” Angus demanded of Shane as
he handed him the ownership papers on Phil and Eli duly singed over to
“The older the
cow the sweeter the cream, brother.” Shane told him and grinned real
big; then added, “Why you think I always preferred you over Birdsall.”
Shane laughed more.
I always know’d you done liked it better with me than him.” Angus
grinned, put his arm around Shane, stole a kiss and slapped him on the
back. It was a new beginning for them.
Potter and Cole
couldn’t believe their good fortune. Cole assured the judge, Phil
and Eli were two of Angus’ best, seasoned cowboys. Cole was a bit
stunned Shane went for the very best of Angus’ herd, but he didn’t know
what Shane had to go through to get him away from Angus. If Angus
felt guilty and was looking to atone for his sins, Shane was going to
make damn sure he felt absolved. The day came to an end and
everyone began to leave. Shane and his family and slaves were the
last to leave. It seemed to Shane, Angus was almost a transformed
man. He allowed himself to be close with his little brother,
closer than they ever were before. Shane didn’t reject
him. He just let it happen and basked in the warm glow from the
depth of love he knew his big brother was capable of but rarely showed.
“When you coming
over to visit, brother?” asked Shane.
“After you git
chore’ cattle, I’ll make a trip over.” he promised.
“Sorry I took
your top waddie, brother.”
“No, you ain’t!”
Angus laughed, “I know’d ju’ love them old cowboys. I’ll get by
without Phil and Eli. Won’t be near as much fun, but I got me a
couple more men what can do the job.” he lamented.
“Any word from
Birdsall?” Shane asked.
“H’it don’t look
good for him. They may press charges against him. I hope
not. They say he needs some character witnesses, or he just might
be looking at slavery his-self. I plan to stand up for him.”
Angus tossed out like chum on the water.
reputation he should have no problem git’n lots of men to stand up for
him.” Shane tossed it back to him.
“I don’t know,
Son, I jes’ don’t know.” Angus sighed deeply.
They managed to
pack everyone into Shane’s truck. Cole drove. Phil sat
behind Cole in the crew section. Since they were old friends,
Cole lowered the window so they could chat.
“Is this a
decent outfit we signed onto, brother?” Phil joked with Cole.
“I’ll be honest
with you, cowboy, it’s a bit hectic right now, but it shows a hell of a
lot of promise. Y’ain’t gonna’ believe the beauty of the
place. I got me a feeling it’s gonna’ be the show ranch of West
Texas in a very short period of time.” Cole mused.
“Sounds good to
this old cowboy.” Phil allowed. Phil thought about the baby
cowboy slave he left behind. The kid cried in Phil’s big
arms. The boy was just coming around, and with Phil’s guidance he
would be broken shortly. Phil felt sorrow he wouldn’t be there to
welcome him to the other side. He hated to leave him, but cowboy
slaves don’t have a chance to improve their lot in life very
often. He prayed the kid would make it. He knew there were
others who would make sure he did. Potter rode down to the
bunkhouse with the men. He wanted to pickup his companion and
find out about her day. Lester and Otis were thrilled to see Phil
and Eli and know they were going to be working with them. Shane
and Cole brought them each two big plates of good food plus a couple of
desserts from the big spread at Angus’ ranch. They were grateful
to their master. The men got the ponies out of the trailer and
let them loose in the pasture with the others. Phil and Eli took
one of the other lead cowboy rooms on the opposite side of mess hall
and rec area. Phil couldn’t believe he and Eli would have their
own bathroom. It was an unheard of luxury for cowboy slaves.
the horse trailer and parked it under a tree near the bunkhouse.
Boss Potter and his family drove back to the big house. Maxine
talked nonstop on the way about everything she and the men did during
the day. They even let her practice herding the ponies for a
while. She had a great day and seemed happy. The cowboys
shared some of their slave chow with her for her supper, and she was
pleased. They said she ate everything they gave her. Shane
wondered if she turned a corner.
The next week
was a busy one around the ranch. Shane and Cole spent all day
Monday working on the ponies again. Cole asked Phil and Eli to
help with the horses and assigned the other four cowboys to continue
repairs on the old foreman’s cottage and their house. By Tuesday
noon, the last of the horses were shod, even Phil and Eli’s
ponies. It was a good feeling to get such a big job behind
them. Tuesday afternoon Gil Morris called to talk with Shane.
I got a fine quality John Deere tractor over here to the ranch with a
number of attachments. It’s only seven years old. I bought
it brand new right after my boy was born. It’s in as good shape
and running order as the day I bought it. Yore’ slave Jack Hamil
is the only man what’s worked on it, and he kept it in tip-top
condition. He can tell you what a fine piece of machinery it is,
if I don’t git rid of it, when them real estate people come to slap
locks on the place they’s gonna’ git everything. I’d rather see
it go to a man like you. It’s yours for the taking if you want
it, Sir. Just bring a couple of pickups over for the attachments
and old Jack, he can drive it back for you.”
thinking of me, Mr. Morris. I’m very interested, but I’m like
you, Sir, I won’t accept charity from no man, and I know you must be
financially right now. What if I offer you five thousand for
it? Would that be fair?” Shane waited for a response, but it
didn’t come right away. He could hear the man weeping silently on
the other end. Shane just waited.
Mr. Goodnight. God bless you, Sir.”
“Then we got us
a deal, Mr. Morris. Is this afternoon too soon?”
that’ll be fine. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you
again. I know ma' boy will be, too. He cain't talk 'bout
nothing else but his cowboy brother Shane. He thinks the world of
you Mr. Goodnight.”
"I gotta' admit, I's sort a' fond of him, too, Mr. Morris. I come
think on him as ma' little brother."
Shane yelled at
Cole and Boss Potter. “Grab yore’ hats, gentlemen. Bring
Jack, Spence, Phil and Eli. We need two pickups and that old hay
trailer Jack fixed up for us. Boss, can
I drive yours and Cole can drive ours?”
“I jes’ bought
us a tractor with several attachments from Gil Morris. We need
Jack Hamil to drive it back for us. C’mon, I’ll fill you in on
the details on the way.” Shane urged.
The men drove to
the Morris ranch. Gil was right. It was in perfect
condition and turned right over the first time. Jack Hamil swore
it was in great shape. Gil must have made money from his ranch
because the paperwork showed he paid cash for it new. He signed
over the pink-slip to Shane and gave him all the manuals and
maintenance papers on it. This time Shane counted out to Morris
ten, five hundred dollar bills. The big cowboy turned his head
and wiped away a couple more tears. There were seven attachments
in all. The men loaded six onto the trucks which weighed down
both 3/4 ton pickups until their rears were almost dragging the
blacktop. The seventh
huge scoop, they attached to the front of the tractor and Jack raised
it up and over the cab to keep it out of the way. Shane looked in
on Bobby before they left the Morris ranch. He could tell Bobby
was starting to lose ground. Shane felt really bad. He told
Gil to give Mrs. Biddle his best. He promised he would. He
planned to give her some of the money he still owed her.
Hamil was thrilled to get to dive the tractor back to the ranch.
Spence crawled up into the long seat next to Jack to keep him
company. They made a big caravan with the tractor leading the
way. It took them several hours to get back to the ranch.
They found room to store it in the newer, larger barn on Potter’s
ranch. Jack kept going over it like it was his personal
baby. The men could tell Jack loved farm equipment. Cole and Potter
just shook their heads at Shane’s good fortune. They didn’t know
what to expect next. Charlie called to talk with Shane to see how
Lester and Otis were working out. Shane assured him they were
working out great and thanked him again. He told Charlie about
Angus giving him two of his best slaves Sunday along with their
favorite ponies. Charlie laughed and told Shane it sounded like
Angus’ conscience was bothering him. Shane agreed with him.
“You know, Son,
I let them men take their saddles and tack, but it never occurred to me
Lester and Otis might like to have their favorite ponies. A good
horse is a cowboy’s right arm. You’re welcome to ‘em if they want
‘em. Lazarus should know which ponies they preferred. I’ll
have him git one of our cowboys to walk 'em through the gate and turn
‘em loose in your pasture.”
Charlie. I know it’ll make them happy. They been work’n
hard. It’ll be a nice surprise for ‘em.”
Sure enough, the
next day, Lester and Otis’ ponies mysteriously appeared among the
remuda along with the other horses. They were thrilled and asked
Shane to thank Master Charlie. The week passed and the men were
getting more and more work done on the property. It was beginning
to look pretty damn good and Potter couldn’t have been more
pleased. Mrs. Huggins was beginning to act strange. She
didn’t want Maxine coming anywhere around her when she was there.
Maxine tried several times to make friends with her only to have Mrs.
Huggins chase her out of the house with a broom. It made it
awkward for Mr. Potter. He didn’t appreciate her actions and told
her so. He didn’t think it was very fair to Maxine. He told
her if she couldn’t accept Maxine, he might have to find someone
else. She made the mistake of arguing with him, and he fired
her. With every day that passed, he was feeling better and
thought he might try taking care of himself for a while.
passed quickly. The Potter/Goodnight family stayed home for
Sunday and had their own barbecue for their cowboy slaves. They
most of the day sitting around jawing with each other. In the
heat of the afternoon they all walked down to the creek and went skinny
dipping. Everyone had a great time, and it was remembered as one
of the best days they had at the new ranch. They were coming
together; they felt like family. Even Jack and Spence commented
how much they felt at home on the Potter Ranch. Maxine was coming
out of her shell and recovered quickly from Mrs. Huggins’ abuse.
The cowboys assured her of their love and reassured Master Potter he
done the right thing to fire the witch what was bad to their little
lady. They loved Maxine and
wanted her to stay.
Lazarus and Angus were the major contributors of cattle to the new
fledgling ranch, the other Grange members who donated were urged to
deliver their cattle to either Goodnight ranch where they were being
kept in special corrals and would be taken to the Potter ranch when
Shane and his men were ready. The two weeks Shane decided they
needed to get organized and make repairs were past, and he notified his
brothers they could have the cattle delivered on Monday. Shane
set aside a good amount of money for transport fees. Monday came
and it was a usual day around the ranch except by sundown the cattle
were not delivered. Shane called his brother Charlie to inquire
if there was a problem with the transport service and he assured Shane
there were no problems. Monday was not over until midnight.
About nine in the evening a couple of the cowboys came running up to
foreman’s house yelling for him and Cole.
Mr. Jenkins. You ain’t gonna’ believe it. We seen a
bright flash of light down in the lower meadow. We went to
investigate and there’s damn near a hundred head of cattle down there.”
Cole looked at
Shane and grinned as he shook his head. With a little help from
his friends, Charlie kept his word, but it didn’t cost Shane a penny
for transport. Shane felt like an ass. Why hadn’t he
thought of picking up the remuda with his ship that way, or the
tractor. He laughed at his own stupidity. He not only had
to start learning to be a freeman he had to start learning how to most
efficiently use the technology he had available to him. After
they took a head count they discovered there were more cattle than
Shane was told would be delivered. Charlie explain, in another
fit of guilt or remorse, Angus gave Shane twenty more cows than
originally agreed upon. So now they had eighty head with one
bull. They spent several days tagging and inspecting every cow or
calf. Wednesday afternoon late, an older pickup truck with a
camper on the back pulled into the Potter ranch. Shane knew who
it was before the man got out of the cab. It was Gil Morris, but
Bobby didn’t seem to be with him. Morris looked worried.
Morris. Good to see you again.” Shane shook his hand. “What can I
do for you, Sir?”
“It’s ma’ boy,
Mr. Goodnight. They threw us off my ranch over the weekend, and
we been living out of my camper for several days now. He got real
sick, took a turn for the worse, and I took him to Mrs. Biddle.
She always seemed to make him feel better, but she told me she thought
he was really bad. I took him to emergency at our local hospital,
but they wouldn’t look at him ‘cause I don’t have no insurance no
more. They apologized but told me there weren’t nothing they
could do. I couldn’t get a doctor to look at him. He’s in
the back of the camper with Mrs. Biddle. I think he’s dying,
Sir. I didn’t know what to do, but Mrs. Biddle insisted I drive
him here to you. She said something about you being a
healer-man. Bobby keeps asking for you, Mr. Goodnight. He
kept begging me to bring him to you. He tells me his big brother
will save him. He seems to think you can
help him, Sir. Can you help my boy, Mr. Goodnight? You done
told me to come to you if’n I came to a dead end, Sir. I’m there,
Mr. Goodnight, I done run out of road, there ain't no
turn-around, and we ain't got no place to go. I can’t lose
ma’ boy, Sir. He’s all I got left
in this world. I won't have me no purpose to go on live’n without
him. I’m a’
beg’n you, Sir. I will give you anything, up to and including my
life as yore’ slave if you will only save him, Mr. Goodnight.”
"I'll do what I
can for him, Mr. Morris." Shane made no promises, but somehow his word
was enough for Gil Morris.
Morris to take him to the boy. He opened the door to the rear of
the camper and the stench of vomit and fecal matter filled their
nostrils. It was rank. Inside was Mrs. Biddle holding the
boy. His bowels let go and he threw up all over her, but
still she clung to him like he was the most precious object on Earth,
singing softly to him an old lullaby her grandmother sang to her when
she was a little girl. She caught Shane’s eyes with hers and
tried to smile through her tears. Shane needed no words to
understand her tacit message. 'There's little time, healer-mon.'
End of Chapter
57 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2008 ~