Country Living - Cover

Country Living

Copyright© 2021 by Wendell Jackson

Chapter 1

The home place was the MacKay ranch, but was called Salmon Falls because of the water fall on the western end of the range. Instead of branding the cattle with an M, the brand was a large SF. It didn’t really matter to the MacKay’s what the ranch was called. They were too busy running the place to worry about the name. William MacKay took pride in the fact that he opened the valley up and even started a town at the falls. He’d homesteaded his section and bought out three other homesteaders. The ranches were failing and the owners wanted to get out while they still had some money. William provided the cash, and now owned most of the valley.

The town with the same name, marked the extend of the ranch to the west. Several other large land owners held claims in the lower valley. None were as large as MacKay’s. The main house wasn’t in town, but still within and hours ride. Mrs. MacKay took the buckboard every Sunday to church. Sometime William accompanied her with the three children. During the school year, the children rode horses to class, along with several other familys. The land still had Indians roaming the hills, but most had settled on government reservations. It was still a wild land, but civilization was getting a foot hold. There would be plenty of flare ups, where settlers were attacked, and some times they did the attacking.

For safety’s sake, the children rode to school in a wagon driven by one of the ranch hands. Usually, the morning chore was assigned to Jonas, the families black servant. He’d started out life as a slave, and fled west during the civil war. He’d always been a house slave, but the war destroyed the plantation. He had been left without a place to live or work. He had came to Salmon Falls, driving a wagon pulled by oxen. Unable to find work in the town, he arrived at the door step of the MacKay’s. He had his dress coat on, which he wore when applying for positions.

William MacKay was about to send Jonas on his way, when his wife, Dorothy insisted on hiring him. She pointed out that they had more cowhands than needed, and she needed help with chores on the ranch. So, Jonas was hired, and in a short time became one of the family, with pay.

Driving the children back and forth to school, he spent a lot of his time waiting the hours away at the back of the class. Jonas took on the responsibility of splitting fire wood and keeping the wood stove going with a warm fire. He had a lot of time to sit and listen to the instructions in the one room school, and in a short time he learned to read and write. All from sitting at the back of the class.

This was going to be Willow MacKay’s last year as a student. Next year she would be the schoolmarm. Along with the position, a back section of the school house, was living quarters that previous teachers stayed. Wanting to strike out on her own, Willow was planning on moving into it. It was also her mother’s wish, as she wanted more for her daughter. Being a schoolmarm was a stepping stone for her daughter to gain status in the town’s society. Hoping for a better life for her daughter, Dorothy Mackay was afraid that Willow would settle for a simple ranch hand. There wasn’t much else to choose from in the small community.

Dorothy made sure they attended every social event in town and all the church socials. William disliked those get togethers, as he figured there were more important matters at the ranch needing his attention. He gave Paul, his top hand, the chore of picking someone to escort the women to and from all the social events. Even when he attended, there was always one of the hired hands taking the reins, as William like to relax whenever he could.

MacKay’s oldest was Wallace. He was now the carriage driver, but one of the ranch hands always rode along. Not all the Indians in the area were docile. Several small farms had been attacked the previous month, and serious wounds were the result. A posse pursued the marauding band, but lost them in the forests. This time Brad was chosen to ride shotgun for the family. He was one of the ranch hands, Dorothy was concerned about. Willow was often seen in his company, walking with the handsome young man. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company, which inspired Dorothy to ask her husband to let Brad go. The ranch always cut back on hands, after the spring round ups. So, it wouldn’t be out of the norm, if Brad had to move on. William wouldn’t hear of it, neither would Wallace. Brad was a good hand and could be counted on to do a good job, without having to keep checking on progress.

It was Brad’s time to drive the wagon or just ride along with a shotgun. Willow placed herself between her brother and Brad, and was in a good mood. Riding in the back of the carriage, Dorothy sat with her younger daughter Nola. Everyone was under Dorothy’s watchful eye. She didn’t trust Brad, not an inch. Willow started a conversation about a book she was reading. “ Uncle Tom’s cabin,” was the title, and she wondered if slaves in the south were treated as in the book. A slave was whipped to death by his owner, because he wouldn’t tell on his friends. She asked if they were really treated so badly.

Wallace doubted it, saying that it was stupid to kill the help. He’d read where slaves cost a lot of money. “Only a fool would kill one, when he could turn around and sell him.”

“I’m glad there aren’t any slaves in our territory.” Nola spoke up from the back.

“Well, that’s where your wrong little sister,” Willow half turned to speak. “The Chinooks and all the tribes along the Columbia, have slaves.” Even the Rogues have em.”

“Brad,” Nola called on Brad to see if she could get some one on her side. “Do the Indians’ really have slaves?”

“I haven’t done much reading on the subject, but I expect they do.” He didn’t really want to be drawn into a conversation and end up disagreeing with Willow. Which was what Nola was trying to do. A sly smile was on her lips, as she made another effort to put a barb in Brad and Willows relation ship.

Wallace laughed knowing Brad was on tip toes. He and Willow had a history of being on the same side. Brad had been the one, Willow practiced kissing, when the other girls at school, made it the topic of conversations. Brad was hesitant at first, but warmed up to it. There were several other times when Willow planted a kiss on Brad, but it was birthdays and rewards for thoughtful gifts. There wasn’t the spooning sessions, like Brad wanted, but there was always hope on his part.

Nola observant as always, teased Brad whenever the talk was of relationships. No matter if Brad wasn’t the object of discussion, Nola found a way to bring up the subject of Brad trying for a kiss. Willow would snap at her younger sister, for teasing Brad. Nola might pause, but the teasing was always there, just waiting for the moment to pop out again. Willow grew tired of it, but Brad found humor in Nola’s comments. He was some times embarrassed but Nola was like a kid sister to him, and could hardly do anything wrong in his eyes.

Arriving at the Town hall, Dorothy put Brad and Wallace to work carrying the food in and setting up the long table with the dishes laid out. A punch bowl at the end, with crystal cups, provided the refreshment. During the afternoon, someone would always spike it. Not just once, but several times. New arrivals would stand close together while one of the young men poured a hip flask into the bowl. By the time the sun went down, it was hard not to taste the booze. Course those having drank several cups already, couldn’t tell the difference, and continued to hit the punch bowl. A few had to steady themselves by leaning on the table or against a wall. The punch helped break the ice when it came for the young men to dance with the girls.

Dorothy always protective of her daughters, checked the taste of the contents, and noted it had been spiked a number of times. The girls were banned from drinking further glasses. There were other mild refreshments to drink. A pine needle flavored cold tea, was popular locally, and the ladies added a little sugar to sweeten it.

When the day was cooling just before sun down, everyone that could play an instrument was invited to join the band. A little tune up and the music was ready for the dances. Jeb Fallworth, was the caller for the square dances. A real stickler for doing it right. At the start, there were several circles formed on the floor. Then Jeb led them through the moves he expected them to make according to the calls. After having instructed the young ones, the music and dancing started. Not everyone danced, but they all clapped and enjoyed the fun.

Willow managed to join a circle that didn’t include Brad. He’d tried to get to hers, but was grabbed by another girl and pulled into a different circle. The dance started and soon Brad was caught up in making the moves to Jeb’s commands. Doing the allemande left and circling around to the next partner. After each dance, Jeb would pick out a couple and have them join the center circle. This was his special group that he wanted everyone to measure themselves against. The girl that chose Brad as a partner, grew frustrated with his missteps. She grabbed another and pushed Brad towards the other clumsy footed men standing by the punch bowl.

He was in good company as all the men from the ranch were there. They’d rode in on their own and were looking for some excitement. Dusty, the bronco buster, was extolling his ability to ride any wild horse. He assured those around him, that he could break even the wildest stallion on the range. His bragging was expected, and the other ranch hands had brought a special horse along with them. Boasting and bets were being bandied about. Dusty was going to be put to the test.

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