Chapter 4: Brightman First Offer
Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd
“Jim, I think we’ve got company,” Vi Brightman called out from the kitchen.
“Oh? Anybody we know?” he replied, standing up from his leather-padded swivel chair in their ranch office.
“No. It’s somebody in a suit. And it’s a Lincoln Town Car with Colorado plates.”
Vi watched the car circle around. It came to a stop alongside the gated rail fence separating the yard. A balding, paunchy man in a tailored suit emerged from the passenger side. The driver stayed seated.
“Jim, he’s going around to the front door. Can you meet him there?”
Vi frowned, setting her mouth in a tight line. Nobody they knew dressed or drove as expensively as that, and no friend would ever come to their front door. The kitchen door on the drive side of the house was their hospitality entrance.
Jim opened the front door as the stranger raised his hand to knock.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“No. There’s no Colonel Brightman here. I’m James Brightman. I own this ranch and I’m a civilian,” Jim answered.
“I was told that a Colonel Brightman lived here and owned this property,” the man said. “I assume that’s you.”
“How can I help you? Are you lost?”
“No. I think I can help you. May I come in?”
“That depends. Please state your business,” Jim replied.
The stranger backed up a step. Obviously he’d made another bad approach. He reached inside his suit jacket and withdrew an envelope. He held it out.
“This is an offer for your property. My principals wish to take immediate possession, with a move-out provision of sixty days. If you need help relocating, they are willing to offer any reasonable assistance.”
Jim looked down at the envelope but didn’t take it.
“We won’t need any assistance.”
“Good. That’s very good. In lieu of assistance, I’m authorized to extend a stipend of $2,000 in addition to our offer. Do you have any questions?”
“No. Our ranch isn’t for sale.”
Jim stepped back and closed the door, leaving the stranger standing on the front steps.
Jim ignored the man’s loud knocking on the door. Five minutes later he watched the lawyer and his man disappear down the narrow gravel road winding down Virginian Ridge to the valley.
“Who was that, dear?” Vi wiped her hands on a kitchen towel. The aroma of hot rhubarb-apple cobbler wafted along with her when she stepped into the front room. Jim stood puzzled and half angry.
“Beats me. Some lawyer, I think. Said he was acting for his principals; that must be some corporation he works for. He tried to hand me an offer to buy the ranch.”
“What did you tell him?”
“We’re not interested. The ranch isn’t for sale at any price.”
“Good. Come in the kitchen. The cobbler is ready to come out of the oven. Would you like a fresh pot of coffee to go with it?”
“You know I love your cobbler. I always have. I’ll skip the coffee and take a scoop of ice cream on the side,” he teased.
“No, you won’t, either!” she teased back. “Doc Jameson said your ice cream days are long behind you. You’ll find a glass of sweet cider on the table with your cobbler. It’s fresh. Graydon brought two gallons of cider with him yesterday while you were out. Will they be back, do you think?”
“Probably. He called me ‘Colonel’ which means they’re pretty ignorant of us. I expect they’ll be back. That lawyer seemed pretty full of himself. I think it’ll take some discouragement before they believe we mean what we say.”
“Too bad. If he’d been halfway neighborly, he’d be sitting here eating hot cobbler and sipping cider. City people these days! They just don’t have their priorities right!” she scowled. “Come, sit, eat! It’s ready and you always like it hot from the oven.”
Jim Brightman had just turned 75; his wife, Violet, was 72. Theirs was a late love affair. Jim graduated from West Point, Class of 1902, ranked fifth in his class. He was sent to the Philippine Islands immediately upon graduation as a newly-commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. On arrival he was put in command of a squad of infantry to help put down the Moro rebellion. He was blessed with a senior sergeant who taught the young officer the grim business of surviving guerrilla warfare. Twice wounded and three times decorated, he returned to the United States in 1913 as a Major. He was sent to teach anti-insurrection and guerrilla tactics at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Promoted to Lt. Colonel with fresh orders in hand, he sailed in 1918 to France in command of an American Expeditionary Force regiment. His unit spearheaded America’s entry into World War One. Decorated twice again, he never spoke of the horrors of trench warfare, of gas attacks that crippled and killed his men, or of the permanent bond of friendship forged in the flames of war with Captain Michael Peterson who served under his command.