The Gathering
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2010 by woodmanone

Reading Chapters 1 & 2 will give you a better feel for the characters and the events that have led them to this point.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story. Constructive comments and/or emails are appreciated and more than welcome.


A slight noise interrupted the confrontation causing the five gunmen to turn toward the side. They saw a man with steely eyes staring back at them. Surprise showed on their faces; they hadn't heard Dillon ride up.

"You can have the one on your end Dillon," Red replied.

"Get off our land and keep moving," Josh ordered.

"Too late for that now," Red responded. "They'll just wait and bushwhack us along the trail or maybe here at the house where the kids could get caught in the crossfire. I say we take care of them right now."

"That's right Josh," Dillon agreed. "These skunks will keep coming at you until they get you and your family or until they're stopped. Now's as good a time as any to finish it."

Stillwell and the others realized they had no choice but to try and kill Josh, Red, and Dillon. The man closest to Dillon started to turn his horse with a pistol in his hand. Before he could get face to face with Dillon a rifle shot rang out and the man was knocked out of his saddle. Dillon turned his attention to the next man and shot him in the head. By this time the other three, including Stillwell, were all lying on the ground. Their horses bolted and were running away.

Red heard a horse coming fast and looked behind Dillon. Dillon turned and saw Elizabeth riding at a high gallop toward them; she had her rifle lying across the saddle in front of her. Red chuckled and Dillon smiled with pride.

"Fine shot Elizabeth made Dillon. She's about as feisty as Sarah," Red remarked with admiration.

"Sometimes she's got too much spunk," Dillon replied with a smile. As Elizabeth pulled her horse to a stop, he said, "Thought I told you to stay back there girl."

"But you didn't say I couldn't help out, so I made my shot from over yonder," Elizabeth said as she walked to Dillon and put her arms around his waist and her head on his chest.

He hugged her to him. "You did fine Honey."

Sarah and Danni came running out of the house, holding their own rifles. There was smoke flowing out of the barrels. "Are you okay?" Sarah asked as she came to Red and Danni went to Josh.

"We're fine," Red replied and Josh nodded. Red continued, pointing at Dillon and Elizabeth, "Looks like our guests just paid for their lunch."

Josh looked down at Danni and asked, "Where are the kids?"

"I told John to keep them in the house," Sarah answered. "He's got them playing hide n go seek."

"Let's drag the bodies behind the barn and wrap them in a ground cloth," Josh said. "We'll round up their horses and put them in the small corral. After lunch we'll ride to town and tell the Sheriff to come get the bodies and their horses." His face was red with anger as he added, "Don't want them buried on our land."

"Sorry Dillon, guess we'll have to put off the horse trading for another day," Red remarked.

"We can come back tomorrow or the next day," Dillon replied. "Your ladies don't seem too upset about the shooting." He nodded at Danni and Sarah with admiration.

"There's been a few other ... err ... incidents during the years," Red responded. "They're veteran soldiers by now. But it will take a little cuddling tonight to settle them down. He smiled and added, "Me too."

"Well if you've a mind to Dillon you can ride your pick of the horses and come with me into town to see the Sheriff. That'll give you a real feel for the animal," Josh suggested. "While we're gone I'll send a rider over to the Maggie M and have Jerry bring over the two horses he's willing to part with. They were both sired by his Morgan; either one would make a good horse for Elizabeth. You can spend the night here and go back in the morning, if you've a mind to."

"I reckon I could stand another afternoon in town," Red agreed.

Before Josh could say anything, Sarah spoke up. "You're not going off and leaving us here alone Red McCall. Either you or Josh are going to stay right here."

"Yes em," Red replied. Turning to Dillon he said grinning, "See told ya, she's feisty."

Josh and Dillon walked back to the corral and the horses he had available. "What kind of horse are you looking for Dillon? That animal of yours has the looks of a good one."

"Buck's one of the best horses I've ever owned. I've had him since '64 and rode him a lot of miles since then. But he's going on 15 and I'd like to give him some rest; wouldn't mind breeding him too. If we find a ranch I'll need more than one horse anyway."

"You talked about a ranch at the diner yesterday," Josh said. "Up around Colorado Springs you said. You know there's a good ranch for sale not far from here."

"Where's that?"

"Coming out here if you'd turn west at the big bluff it's about 3 miles; just this side of the mountains," Josh answered.

Dillon thought for a few seconds and replied, "Might be worth looking into. Don't know if Eleanor would want to live here though; she got an idea about teaching school. Why's it for sale?"

"Feller named Tom Anderson owns it. Says he's getting too old to ride the range anymore and wants to get out. His boy was killed on a cattle drive last year; there was a stampede and his horse went down right in front of the herd. Tom and his wife sorta lost heart after that; said they've had enough and are going out to California."

The two men came to the corral and climbed up to sit on the top rail. Diablo and two other horses came over to greet them. "They're looking for treats," Josh explained as he handed each of the horses a piece of apple. "Hello Diablo," he said as he scratched the horse's ears. That big grey is Balin; his name is Cheyenne for warrior. He's one of Diablo's sons out of Lady, that grey mare over there."

"I know that Diablo isn't for sale but what about that roan over there?" Dillon asked.

Josh smiled, "If I sold Itsa, Diablo would be real put out. So would Danni; she's dang near made a pet out of him. He's another one of Diablo's sons."

Dillon and Josh talked about the merits and breeding lines of a few horses. Danni had come to join them and after listening to them for a few minutes she went into the barn. She came out leading a buckskin filly.

"This is Sandy, she's yours if you want her," Danni said. "Sunny there is her sire and Red's quarter horse, Queenie, is her dame."

Josh was surprised; Sandy was sort of Danni's pet. "I thought you said you didn't want to sell Sandy."

"Men, you don't listen," Danni was grinning. "What I said was that I didn't want to sell her to just anybody. I wanted her to go to a good home. Sandy would be a fine horse for Elizabeth."

Danni turned to Dillon. "It's my way of saying thanks to you and Elizabeth for helping Josh and Red."

Dillon looked at Danni and with a small smile said, "Thank you. Elizabeth will be tickled pink. Back in Arizona she rode one of the stock horses. She's always wanted a horse of her own."

"It's settled then. Josh, you and Dillon work out the money details," Danni ordered. She went back to the house leading Sandy.

The men watched her walk away and Josh said, "She always full of surprises." He chuckled and added, "That's one of the reasons I love her."

Dillon nodded his understanding. Turning back to the corral he said, "Could I ride Balin into town?"

Josh nodded and they saddled Itsa and Balin. Diablo pushed against Itsa wanting to be saddled. Josh had to push him out of the way. "It's worse than having a bunch of kids," Josh remarked. "If I ride Diablo too much Itsa pouts and if I ride Itsa for more than a day Diablo gets surly. I should'a raised chickens instead."

Dillon had to laugh as they rode up to the house. As he said good bye to Elizabeth he told her, "I'm going to send a telegram to your mother and ask the family to join us in Fountain. Eleanor should look at some of these horses and there's a ranch available I think we should see too."

"Did you see my horse? Danni said she's a real good animal," Elizabeth said excitedly.

"She ain't yours yet. Josh and I have to agree on a price for her."

Josh winked at Elizabeth, indicating that the price on Sandy wasn't going to be a problem. "We'll be back by early evening," Josh said. "If we've got time we'll stop over to Anderson's place and let Dillon take a look. Don't worry if it's after dark before we get here."

They rode at several different gaits traveling into Fountain. Josh wanted Dillon to see how Balin handled himself. They started at a fast walk and after the horses warmed up they kicked them into a trot, a cantor, and then into a gallop for a short stretch. Josh could see by the look on Dillon's face that he was impressed with Balin.

When they rode into Fountain, Dillon went to the telegraph office. He sent a wire to Eleanor care of Ted. Dillon asked the clerk to make sure the message was delivered as soon as it got there. He hoped to get an answer before leaving to go back to the Josh's ranch that afternoon. Leaving the telegraph office they went to see Sheriff Kennedy.

"Howdy Josh," Kennedy said as Josh and Dillon entered the office. "Surprised to see you in town two days in a row."

"We've had a hell of a day out at the ranch. By the way, this is Dillon Gallagher. He and his family are thinking about moving here."

After greeting Dillon Kennedy asked, "So what happened out to your place?"

Josh started the story of Stillwell and his men's attack on him and Red. Dillon added things as Josh explained the gun fight. "We wrapped the bodies and put them behind our barn. Sheriff you'll need to come out and get them pretty quick."

Kennedy listened without asking questions; Dillon and Josh had given all the information he needed. "Guess that's the end of that family or at least this part of it. The father of the boys and the last brother were shot while trying to rob a bank over to Pueblo two years ago."

"Trash is trash," Dillon said coldly. "And good riddance to them."

The Sheriff nodded. "Well I guess I better get a wagon and head out to your place Josh. Are you boys going back right away?"

"I think we'll stay in town for a while," Josh said. "Dillon is waiting to hear from his family in Colorado Springs. Maybe we'll have a beer or two."

Standing at the bar in the saloon having a beer, Josh said, "If your family starts riding tomorrow morning they can be here by mid morning, well before lunch."

Dillon chuckled. "They'll probably come in a wagon. I don't think Oso will find a horse that he can ride at the livery."

"Doesn't he ride well?"

"That's not it. He ... well he's just Oso. You'll understand when you met him," Dillon replied.

They waited for a couple of hours and made a stop at the telegraph before they headed back to the CBC. The clerk looked up as they came into the office. "I was just going to send my boy to find you. I've got an answer from your family Mr. Gallagher."

Dillon took the telegram, read it, and smiled. "They'll start this way tomorrow morning," he told Josh. "They should be here by late afternoon."

After Dillon received the answer to his telegram, he and Josh rode back toward the ranch. It was late afternoon when they got to the turn off for the Anderson place and they decided to pay a call. As they rode toward the ranch house, Josh pointed out some of the creeks and water holes. Dillon noticed a lot of good grass land and an abundance of trees.

They visited with Tom and Julie Anderson for about an hour and looked around the ranch. Dillon asked the price and was surprised that it was fairly reasonable. "I'd like to bring my family over to look at your place in the next day or two," Dillon said. "Would that be okay?"

"Hell yes boy. Be happy to have them," Anderson answered with a big grin.

Saying goodbye, Josh and Dillon rode back to the CBC. After riding for several minutes Josh talked about the Anderson place.

"Anderson's is only about 400 acres but its prime cattle country," Josh said.

"Little small for a cattle ranch if you want to run a bigger herd," Dillon responded.

Josh nodded and continued, "It is smaller than our place but you can homestead the land behind it and make it a lot larger."

"How's that? Homestead?"

"The Federal Government passed the Homestead Act in '62. It says that anyone at least 18 can file on 160 acres," Josh explained.

"That's all, just file a claim?"

"You have to file an application on the land you want, live on it for five years and make improvements. Then you can file for a deed of title. That means that between the four in your family you could claim another 640 acres," Josh told Dillon. "That'd give you over a thousand acres. That ought to be enough for a good size herd."

Dillon thought for a minute and asked, "If it's that easy why hasn't someone homestead the land before?"

Josh laughed. "Anderson's place runs right up to those mountains yonder. And the only pass that can be used to move cattle through the mountains opens on his land. The next closest pass is 20 miles or more away through real rough country. If anyone claimed the land on the other side of the mountains they'd be land locked unless they could work out a deal with Tom."

Now it was Dillon's turn to laugh. "If we bought out Anderson we could connect it to the land on the other side of the pass."

Josh continued, "To satisfy the improvement requirement, you'd have to build a small cabin on each of the homesteads."

"With all that timber on those mountains and along the creek we could easily build four log cabins," Dillon replied.

"Yep," Josh replied. "C'mon let's get home before supper's over." With that he spurred Itsa into a gallop. Dillon was right beside him on Balin. The two horses broke through the trees into the clear running neck and neck.

The men pulled the horses up by the corral. "I think it was too close to call a winner Dillon."

"No, I'm the winner," he replied. At Josh's funny look he said, "I won because I found a damn good horse. If you don't want my first born I think we can make a deal for Balin."

Kennedy, with his deputy Roy driving the wagon, came out from behind the barn. They had the grisly cargo in the bed of the wagon covered with a large canvas. Kennedy rode up to Josh. "Made use of the canvas you had covering them Josh. Hope you don't mind."

"We'd probably just burned it anyway Sheriff," Josh replied with a grim smile.

"Well, get a replacement at Mitchell's and tell him to bill the sheriff's office," he ordered.

"Stay for supper Sheriff," Josh offered. "That goes for you too Deputy."

"Thanks, but I reckon we ought to get back to town. Got a bit of a ride and I don't fancy being on the trail after dark. See you boys the next time you get to town. Come on Leroy let's get going." Tipping his hat Kennedy and the deputy left for Fountain.

Josh and Dillon washed their hands and faces at the pump on the back porch and entered the kitchen. Danni, Sarah, and Elizabeth were fixing supper and Red sat at the table offering suggestions on how to do it.

"Red if you don't hush up, I'll make you cook all the meals from now on," Sarah scolded.

The ladies didn't realize that Josh and Dillon had returned until they heard them laugh. Danni and Elizabeth came to welcome their men home.

"Well I found a horse Honey," Dillon said. "I'm going to buy Balin." At the look Elizabeth gave him he added, "And Sandy too of course."

"Time enough for horse trading after dinner. You men set the table while Danni and I get the wild bunch cleaned up," Sarah said pointing to the four children playing in front of the house.

Supper time in the Kelly/McCall household was something Dillon, or Elizabeth for that matter, had never experienced. The four children seemed determined to out talk each other and only quieted down when scolded by the parents; the quiet would last about five minutes and then they were off again. The adults were almost as bad but they made a point to pull Dillon and Elizabeth into their discussion.

After supper, sitting on the porch with coffee and a cigar Dillon watched the kids chase lightning bugs. For the first time in his life Dillon began to think about being a parent. He looked at Elizabeth setting with Danni and Sarah and he smiled. We've never talked about children, he thought to himself. Maybe it's about time.

Later Sarah carrying a lamp led Dillon and Elizabeth to the guest house that had been converted from one of the bunk houses. "This place will keep you from being overrun by that zoo up at the big house," she told them while lighting a coal oil lamp. And with a small laugh she added, "It'll give you some privacy too. Breakfast at six, if you care to join us."

Going to bed Dillon put his arm around Elizabeth and she put her head on his chest. Nows as good a time as any to talk about having children, Dillon thought. Before he could say anything Elizabeth spoke up.

"Dillon, have you ever thought about us having kids?" Elizabeth asked in a rush. Maybe I could've been a bit more tactful, she thought. When she heard Dillon laughing, she sat up to look at him.

"I was about to ask you the something Honey," he replied still chuckling. "We sort of got married in a fever and never talked about things much. What about you Honey, do you want to have kids?"

"I asked you first."

Reckon one of us has to say what they think first, Dillon thought. So here goes. "Watching Josh and Red and their families and the way you were with their kids got me to thinking that you and I should have a real family," Dillon answered.

"Guess great minds think alike. I was thinking the same thing," Elizabeth admitted with a grin. "When do you think we should start our family?"

"Right now is fine with me," he replied with his own grin. "Though we might want to find a place to live first."

Elizabeth laid down putting her head back on Dillon's shoulder. "Let's not wait too long. Okay?"

At breakfast during the normal circus of the kids and Red, Josh turned to Dillon. "I forgot to tell you. Jerry sent word yesterday that he'd bring his horses over here tomorrow or take them into town if you'd like. He was tied up doing a repair job on the dam and couldn't get away until then."

"Dam?"

"Yeah, several years back Red came up with the idea to build a dam and back Chico Creek up into a lake," Josh answered. "Gave us a good watering hole for the stock."

"And our farmer here dug some canals for irrigation and we grow a lot of feed for the cattle," Red added. "The feed sure comes in handy when we get a real cold spell or lots of snow."

"You're not going back to Fountain to meet your people until this afternoon, right?" At Dillon's nod Josh continued, "Let's take a ride over to the dam site and let Red show off a little. It'll be a good chance for you and Elizabeth to get know your new horses."

Danni joined the conversation saying, "Why don't we pack a picnic lunch and all go? We can take lunch to Jerry and his crew too."

Josh nodded and replied, "Good idea. I'll go hitch up the wagon so we can take the kids."

William, Josh's boy butted in and said, "I want to ride, don't want to sit in a wagon."

John and Daniel quickly joined in, "We want to ride too. We want to ride too."

"Okay, settle down," Red told them. Turning to Sarah he said, "We could ride double with them, it's an easy trail over to the dam and it's not very far." She nodded.

Josh, Red, and Dillon went down to saddle the horses while the ladies put together food for a picnic in three baskets. Dillon was surprised that Red saddled Jasper, his big black stallion. He'd heard the stories about how mean and contrary the horse could be. Dillon asked Red about it.

"Jasper's only acts up with me or with strangers," Red replied. "Watch when the boys come down here."

Red's boys, John and Daniel, came running down to the corral and right up to Jasper. The big horse lowered his head so the two boys could scratch his ears and feed him pieces of apple. "See he's like a big four legged teddy bear with the boys."

William had come to the corral with the other boys but went into the barn where his father was. He came out leading Diablo as Josh led Sunny and Sandy. Josh smiled at the boys and Jasper shaking his head. Diablo's the same way about William and Maggie, Josh thought.

Elizabeth saddled Sandy while Dillon saddled Buck. "Thought you'd ride Balin," Josh said.

"Riding him wouldn't be right. I don't own him yet," Dillon replied. Pointing to Sandy he added, "Don't have that choice with Sandy. Elizabeth wouldn't forgive me if we didn't buy Sandy."

Josh looked at Dillon for a few seconds. "You got a hundred dollars on you Dillon? Dillon was surprised at the question but nodded. Josh asked, "Give it to me will you?"

Dillon dug into his pocket and handed Josh five Double Eagle gold coins. "You just bought yourself two horses Mr. Gallagher," Josh told him.

Before Dillon could object that Balin and Sandy were worth more than that, Josh said, "It's our way, Danni's and mine, of saying thanks for your help. Besides, I know that both of them are going to someone that'll take good care of them."

Danni and Sarah joined the group at the corral. Danni had been holding Maggie's hand but when the youngster saw the horses she broke away. Maggie ran over to Sunny and hugged one of the buckskins front legs. Sunny reached down and nudged the girl with his nose as if to say hello.

Elizabeth laughed at the look on Dillon's face when he saw how Danni and Sarah were dressed. Both women were wearing men's pants. Danni notice his surprise and giggled.

"Going into town we usually wear riding skirts," she told him. When we go to church or if we have company, like last night, we'll wear dresses. But for working around the ranch we wear trousers. Sorry to shock you Dillon."

"In town or when we have company we like to look like females," Sarah added. "But working or riding the range we don't really care if we look like ladies."

Red grinned at his wife and said, "I think if you girls were wrapped in buffalo robes there'd still be no doubt that you're females. And pretty ones too."

"Oh Red," Sarah said as she walked over to him, hugged him and gave him a quick kiss. Turning back to Dillon and Elizabeth she said, "Just when I think there's no hope for him he says something nice."

"We want to ride, we want to ride," the four kids said.

Red mounted and pulled his two boys up on Jasper with him. He put John in front of him and Daniel behind him. Josh put William on Diablo and mounted behind him as Danni did the same with Maggie on Sunny. Sarah, Elizabeth, and Dillon each carried a basket of food for the picnic.

As they topped the crest of a hill Dillon and Elizabeth saw a rock dam running from one hill to another. Behind the wall was a large lake shimmering in the sunlight. Dillon estimated that the lake was at least a mile long and about three hundred feet across at its widest.

Red was smiling at Dillon's reaction to the lake and dam. "This high plateau is good grazing land but water is a little scarce if you wanted to run more than one or two hundred head of cattle up here. The cattle used to just about drink Chico Creek dry in the heat of the summer. So we came up with the idea of this dam."

"It wasn't we, it was Red that thought of this idea," Josh told Dillon interrupting his partner.

"I see a lot of leaks in the dam," Dillon said. "Is Jerry repairing those?"

"Nope, we don't care if the dam leaks," Red answered. "I think it was Josh that said we weren't trying to stop Chico Creek, we just want to borrow its flow for a while."

"Some of the rocks have settled since last year," Josh told Dillon. "Jerry and the men are just filling in some low spots with more rock."

Jerry had seen Red, Josh and the rest ride toward the lake. He also saw the baskets and knew they were going on a picnic. He motioned for his crew to stop work.

"This lake lets us run a lot more stock up on the plateau," Josh explained. "It also lets us irrigate that plain over there to grow silage, hay, and corn for winter feed; there's more than 50 acres we use for that. That extra feed sure cuts down on losing cattle in the dead of winter"

"But the best thing about the lake is it makes a great swimmin hole for the kids during the summer," Red added laughing. "Makes a pretty good fishin hole too." He let out a rebel yell and said, "C'mon kids let's get wet." Red, Josh, and Danni sent their horses at a run toward the lake.

Riding Jasper into the lake up to his belly, Red picked John up and threw him into the water followed quickly by Daniel. As Josh and Diablo got close to the lake, William squirmed down and ran into the water. Danni dismounted, helped Maggie down and waded into the lake with her.

Dillon and Elizabeth had followed the mad rush to the shore line. Elizabeth gasped in surprise when Red threw his sons into the lake. Sarah had followed at a more sedate pace and came up behind them. "Red and Josh had those kids swimming about the same time they learned to walk," she explained. "Never would have thought that a cowboy from the dry plains of Texas would know how to swim."

Red pulled off his boots and tossed them to dry land. He looped his gun belt around the saddle horn and stood up on his saddle. He gave another rebel yell and dove into the water beside his sons. Then the water fight started with the two boys ganging up on their father. Josh wasn't far behind and William jumped on his back trying to dunk him.

Dillon was laughing hard at the "boys" antics. Turning to Elizabeth he said, "See what we have to look forward too?"

Elizabeth looked at him with a gleam in her eye. She shucked her boots, ran to the lake, and dove in. She yelled back at Dillon, "C'mon in, you need a bath anyway."

Dillon dismounted, dropped Buck's reins, and dropped his gun belt. He took off his boots and with a rebel yell of his own ran into the water. He looked up and saw the horses standing at the edge of the lake looking at the crazy humans.

He stood and swept his long wet hair out of his eyes. Dillon noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned and squinting into the sun saw about a dozen riders on the crest of the far hill. Being as natural as he could be, he walked out of the water toward his gun.

Dillon reached down, picked up his gun belt and buckled it to his waist. "Josh, Red, we've got company," he said pointing with his chin at the riders as he pulled his rifle from the saddle scabbard. Both men looked in the direction indicated and they began to slowly come out of the water; they brought the children with them.

"Danni, you and Sarah take the kids over behind that rock outcropping there," Josh ordered. "Take your rifles with you."

Red gathered the horses and walked them over to where the women and children hid behind the rock outcropping. "Hold on them tight," he told Sarah and Danni. "We might need them pretty quick." He had to smile at Elizabeth; she was kneeling behind a big rock dripping water but holding her rifle at the ready. Sarah's not the only one that's feisty, he thought.

Jerry and the two men working with him on the dam had mounted their horses to join the family playing in the lake. Josh gave a shrill whistle; it was a well used signal between them to form a defensive front. Jerry didn't even look back to see what the problem was; he yelled at his men and they spurred their horses into a gallop.

When they got to the family Josh nodded at the riders on the hill. Jerry quickly dismounted and positioned his men near the women. "Any idea who it is?" He asked Josh. Josh just shook his head.

The riders on the hill watched as the people by the lake reacted to their presence. The leader motioned to his companions and slowly rode down the hill. They stopped at the waterway below the dam and let their horses drink. One man came on alone.

Red had eyes like a hawk and quickly realized that the dozen or so riders were Indians. As the lone rider slowly got closer Red turned to Josh and said, "I don't believe it. That's your old friend Running Wolf."

The Indian had gotten close enough that Josh recognized him too. "Wait here," he said mounting Diablo.

"Josh, take your gun belt," Red suggested.

"If Running Wolf wanted to cause us trouble, we'd never seen him on the hill. This is a friendly visit," Josh replied. At least I hope so, he thought. He turned Diablo to ride out and meet the chief of Jicarilla Apache.

Josh rode to about twenty feet and stopped. Running Wolf nodded and dismounted; Josh dismounted too. The chief walked closer to Josh and place one hand on his shoulder; Josh copied the gesture. The Indian dropped his hand and said something in Apache and smiled.

"Young Kelly has grown into a man," Running Wolf said in English. Josh was surprised; the first time he'd met Running Wolf the Apache didn't speak English.

It had been over ten years earlier when Josh and Running Wolf met for the first time. The Apache had been slowed by a several days of heavy rain on their way to their summer camp. They'd used up a lot of their food supply and hadn't had any success at hunting ... Josh had persuaded the wagon master, Hobart, to give the Indian band some cattle to feed the women and children.

The next day in a ceremony showing his respect and admiration for the young man that had helped his band, Running Wolf adopted Josh and Diablo into the Jicarilla Apache tribe. He gave Josh an Apache name which translated into "Friend with big horse".

"I've learned your language," Running Wolf said smiling at Josh's surprise. As he talked he made sign language along with his words. "I see you still have the big horse."

Josh smiled and patted Diablo. "It has been a long time Running Wolf; it's good to see an old friend. But why is your band this far north?"

"The white eyes have broken another treaty and the young men are talking of war. There is a Lakota Sioux called Crazy Horse in your tongue that is saying he's had a vision of a white buffalo. He says it means that we will drive the white eyes away. I think he's been smoking too much of the sacred tobacco and drinking too much of the white man's firewater." Running Wolf snorted showing his displeasure of Crazy Horse.

As they were talking, Red had walked forward to join them. He stopped at Josh's side and said, "Thought you could use some help with the sign language."

Josh turned his head to hide his smile; Red was gonna be surprised.

Red made sign and said, "It's been a long time since we met Running Wolf. Do you remember me from the meeting at the wagon train?"

Running Wolf looked at Red for a few seconds and replied in English, "Yes I remember the color of your scalp."

Josh and Running Wolf laughed at the look on Red's face. "I'll be, you speak English," Red remarked.

The Apache nodded and said, "We are traveling to the north. There are fewer whites there and I want to be as far away from them as I can." Running Wolf stopped for a moment staring off into the distance. "Crazy Horse is wrong. We cannot defeat the white eyes; there are too many, they are like the leaves on the trees."

Josh didn't know what to say to his old friend. He thought for a few seconds. "How did you know I was here?"

"I heard stories of a tall dark haired man that carried a coup stick with many feathers," Running Wolf replied. "It was said he had a man with hair like the sun with him. Our trail led us passed your lodge so I thought I would see if that dark haired man was my brother."

Josh turned back toward the lake and motioned for Danni to join them. Pointing to the children he indicated that she should bring them too. She walked over leading William and Maggie.

"This is my wife Danni and our children William and Maggie," Josh told his friend. "Danni this is Running Wolf, chief of the Jicarilla Apache. He's the one that..."

"Gave you the coup stick, I figured," Danni interrupted. She made hand signs to Running Wolf as she spoke. "It is an honor to meet the chief of the Jicarilla and a pleasure to meet an old friend of my husbands."

Running Wolf smiled and nodded at Danni. "My brother has chosen well; you are a good partner for him. Turning to the children he added, "You've given him a fine son to carry on his name and a daughter as pretty as the first days of spring."

Little William was wide eyed with wonder. He had seen a few Indians in Fountain when they came into town for trade goods, but they were considered "tame" Indians. Many dressed just like the townspeople. This was a real live "wild" Indian. William knew it wasn't polite to stare but he couldn't help himself.

This man was an Apache chief. He wore buckskin leggings with a loin cloth and no shirt. His chest and arms had designs painted on them and his hair was long, with an eagle feather in it. William was fascinated with Running Wolf. When William noticed that the Indian was watching him, he blushed and hung his head.

Kneeling down Running Wolf faced William and said, "You are alert and watch the things new to you. It is a good thing." Drawing his knife he looked at Josh; Josh smiled and nodded at Running Wolf. Danni started to step forward but Josh put his arm around her and shook his head. She relaxed, leaning against her husband.

Running Wolf took Williams right hand and pricked his thumb; then he did the same to his own thumb. As blood seeped out of the small cuts he pressed their two thumbs together. He had done the same thing with Josh years ago.

"You are now blood brother to Running Wolf. You are part of the Jicarilla. I name you "Lichii Sitiliden", it means Red Coyote," he told William. He took the eagle feather from his hair and tied it in William's mop of reddish blond hair. Reaching into the pouch at his waist he handed the boy a carved wooden totem.

"When you get your first horse Red Coyote, weave this totem into its mane. The totem will protect your horse and you," Running Wolf instructed. Standing he walked to Josh and Danni. He handed another totem to Danni. "Tie this charm into your buckskin's mane. It too will protect you."

William still wide eyed ran to his father, showing him the eagle feather and the totem. "Pa, I'm an Apache now, just like you." Josh nodded and let William show him his new treasurers. "When can I have my own horse Pa?"

Red looked behind Running Wolf and asked, "Where are your people?"

"They are camped beyond that hill."

Danni hesitated and then said, "That area has little water. Move your camp here to the lake; you won't have to have a dry camp."

"There may be soldiers following us soon. I do not want you to put you in danger," the chief said.

"I don't rightly care about a bunch of Yankee soldiers," Red said with a little anger in his voice. "This is our land and we'll help who we want."

Josh patted Red on the shoulder and smiled. "Take it easy Red. They're not even here yet and you're ready to fight the war all over again."

Red calmed down a little but added, "Never liked them Yankees trying to tell folks how to live and what to do back then and I don't care for it now either."

"You are our guest Running Wolf," Danni said. "But more importantly you are blood brother to my husband and my son; that makes you family. And I won't be told how to treat a guest in our home."

Running Wolf was impressed with Danni. Turning to Josh he said, "I was right, you have chosen a good woman to help you as you go through life."

Dillon had relaxed when Josh motioned Danni to join him. He wouldn't put his wife and kids in danger, he thought. Dillon walked over and joined Elizabeth and Sarah. Jerry and the two hands walked over to the rock outcropping.

"You must be Mr. Gallagher," Jerry said. "I'm Jerry Barnes. Got a couple of horses for you to look at when you've a mind to."

"Please to meet you Jerry. Call me Dillon and this is my wife Elizabeth."

"When would you like to see them Dillon?"

"We have to go back to Fountain this afternoon to meet the rest of the family. Maybe we could come back the day after tomorrow," Dillon answered.

"I'll bring the horse over to the ranch tomorrow and leave them for a few days. That way you won't have to rush out here to see them," Jerry suggested.

Josh rode with Running Wolf to lead his people to the new camp site at the lake; the band consisted of about 35 men, women, and children. The rest of the picnic crowd headed back to the ranch house; Jerry and his workers returned to the dam. Dillon and Elizabeth changed into dry clothes and began their return trip to Fountain to meet Eleanor and the family. They promised to return with the whole family in two days.

"We got horses to look at," Dillon said. "And I want a closer look at the Anderson place."

Dillon and Elizabeth returned to Fountain, arriving just past midday. They arranged for rooms at the boarding house and then went to the livery to wait for the family; they had agreed to meet there. Shortly after 2 PM Eleanor, Ethan and Oso arrived in a buckboard. I was right about Oso not finding a horse, Dillon thought.

"I'm glad to see you," Eleanor greeted Dillon and Elizabeth with a hug and a kiss. "But was it necessary to come all this way to get a couple of horses?"

"Yes em it is if you want to get the best," Dillon replied. "Besides I may have found us a ranch. I want to show it to you tomorrow or the next day and see what you think."

Dillon explained Josh's idea about homesteading the land adjoining the ranch. "We'd end up with about a thousand acres for just the cost of Anderson's 400."

"So you think we ought to buy this place?"

"Not necessarily but I think we ought to look at it. I was only there for an hour or so but from what I saw it could be a good place to live," Dillon answered.

Eleanor saw the eagerness on Dillon's face and said, "Well I guess we better take a look at this place."

Later, after supper, Dillon and Oso were sitting on the front porch of the boarding house with a cigar and coffee. "Guess I was right about y'all coming in a wagon. Couldn't you find horses?"

Oso chuckled. "We could have gotten horses for Eleanor and Ethan but they didn't have anything that could carry all this," he said pointing to his body. Oso was 6' 6 and weighed in at close to 300 pounds.

"Why didn't you bring your horse from the Triple E with us?"

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