Country Living - Cover

Country Living

Copyright© 2021 by Wendell Jackson

Chapter 4

Wallace MacKay had waited patiently for Brad to return from The Main Ranch. Now he was riding in to hear about the news Brad had hinted at, but William wanted to personally explain it all to his son. For the most part, Wallace assumed it would be good news. He and Brad had worked hard stringing barb wire for his dad. And rounding up strays. He expected some kind of reward.

Wallace knew he’d have to spend the night, because of the late start. The Broken Bow ranch where he and Brad were staying was half a day’s ride from the main ranch at Salmon Falls, even on nice sunny days.

Armed with a saddle gun and a colt cap and ball revolver, He felt like he could handle any situation a marauding Indian might start. Things had been quiet with the local tribes, but there were rumors of the Utes causing trouble East of the Cascades. So far, the trouble remained on the East side.

When Wallace arrived at the Ranch, the family get together, along with neighbors was still going on. Brad had mentioned it to him, but didn’t elaborate. Since it was hosted by Willow, he under stood why Brad didn’t stay long. Stepping through the gathering to enter the house, he spotted Margo. She was sitting next to Willow and wasn’t too happy about it. One of the dandies from town was trying to pull her up out of the chair, so he could dance with her. He was drunk and didn’t pay any heed to her wishes to remain seated. There wasn’t any music to dance to. All the drunk wanted was to grope the pretty black girl.

Wallace didn’t just start swinging. He first told the oaf to take his hands off her. It was enough for the man to assume he’d been insulted and shoved Wallace back a couple steps. That was plenty for Wallace and he delivered a hard right to the man’s jaw. A scuffle of chairs and screams from the girls, brought Howard Barnett to his feet. He was going to protect his friend from this cow hand, and in the process teach him some manners. Willow screamed out for Howard not to hit him, as he was her brother.

Holding his Jaw, the man wanted to return a few punches of his own, but both men were being held back by the others. “Why all the fuss over a negro?” he finally managed to mutter.

“Because she’s a human being.” Wallace shook the hands off his shoulders. “That’s why.”

William had come to the door, and saw his son being held by Howard and a couple of his friends. The fight was over for the time being, but to be safe, he called Wallace inside. He had more to discuss than a squabble over a girl. Setting his son down in the chair that Brad was in earlier that day, he tried to steer his hot-blooded son to the reason he wanted to see him. It took a few minutes before Wallace, was able to cool down enough to listen.

Explaining that he wanted Wallace and Brad to form a partnership, and take over running the whole ranch. He pointed out that carrying on with black women was a distraction. He needed to present a better image, at least for business reasons. William wasn’t expecting Wallace to blurt out that he was in love with Margo and wanted to marry the girl, but Wallace did.

“That is out of the question. No white man marries a black.” William had his steam up. “You’ll marry white, and if you must, you can keep the black girl on the side. You don’t marry a black woman ever.”

In a way, Williams sympathized with his son. Margo was a beauty, which even he had entertained some thoughts, but knew better than to exercise them. He did think about sending the girl to some school, but it was hard enough to get a white woman educated, let alone a black girl. He would have Jonas take her back to Broken Bow, and hope that Wallace had the good sense to keep her there. He wasn’t happy the way some things were turning out.

Howard, the man Willow showed up with, was over confident in his self-worth to the ranch. Which William hadn’t discussed with him at all. Marrying his oldest daughter didn’t put him in line to inherit any part of it. If Dorothy had her way, Howard would be running the ranch even now. She was even planning on Wallace marrying a girl of social prominence. Where she was going find her, William hadn’t a clue.

The next morning William rose, hoping to speak to Wallace again, this time without the shouting and anger. His son wasn’t there. Discussed with the way Margo had been treated, he’d left early that morning to ride back. Normally he would have waited for Margo and Jonas to accompany him, but because the local tribes were once again peaceful, he didn’t want to stick around waiting for them.

By the time Wallace reached Jay Hawk Creek, he was letting his horse set the pace. The horse before crossing the small stream, nosed down to taste the water, then its ears perked up. Wallace sensed something wasn’t right, and pulled his rifle from the scabbard. He didn’t have a tube fed action, only a single shot rifle, but it did take a brass cartridge. The horse’s head was up now, and looking across the stream. Looking along between its ears and down its muzzle, Wallace saw the same thing his horse was watching. He recognized a Bannock Indian. Young and with only one white mark painted across his face. Any Indian wearing pain was a bad sign, this one was drawing a bow, and notching an Arrow.

Just as Wallace fired at the Indian across the stream, he winced as an arrow struck him behind his right shoulder. His horse bolted to the left, heading down stream. Wallace, was able to pull a cartridge from his belt and jam it into the open breach. A second arrow hit his back, and he turned in the saddle, firing in the direction it came from. He wasn’t able to aim, with the horse jumping to avoid rocks and logs in the water. Another two arrows flew pass, as he reloaded and managed to turn the horse and face the oncoming Indians. This time his shot took the one in the lead square in the chest, sending the Indian rolling off the back of his horse. Quickly, Wallace had another shell, fitted into the chamber. Locked in place with the lever, he shot the next one. He hadn’t been able to count, but he saw several Indians, wheel their mounts away. With two of their number dead, this wasn’t the easy picking they had figured on.

Still in the saddle with two arrows sticking out of his back, Wallace watched three Indians disappearing over the next rise. He turned his horse again, and headed back to the main ranch. There wasn’t going to be any real medical help at the Broken Bow, and Margo was still at the ranch. He didn’t dare dismount and pick up the spent brass, which was common practice. The empty shells were reloaded and used again. This time he left them laying on the ground and shining up in the creek waters. Wallace didn’t know how bad he was wounded, but the second arrow was the one paining him the most.

Wallace’s arrival back at the ranch, met with a great deal of excitement. Dorothy rushed out, leading the others and had them helping her son down out of the saddle. He’d rode in slumped over the saddle horn, with the two arrows sticking out of his back. The doctor was sent for, while Wallace was laid on his stomach across the kitchen table. The arrows had to come out, before anything else could be done. Howard had experience pulling arrows out of men, and he rose to the occasion.

Holding the extracted arrows from Wallace’s back, Howard held one up and claimed that it was a Bannock Arrow. Bannock Indians were from the Eastern Oregon country. What they were doing in this neck of the woods was a mystery. Though Indians like to travel, going clear to the coast to visit other tribes. It had been Wallace’s bad luck in running into a band of youthful braves. Now the surviving Indians would have stories to tell, and would gain respect within the tribe. When the posse came to the creek, the bodies were gone. Evidence that the Indians had returned and gathered up their fallen braves. The men found the arrows that missed Wallace, and his spent cartridges. From Howards examining the scene, he agreed that it had gone down like Wallace said.

The posse wanted to continue on and capture them, but Howard knew that it would only cause more trouble. The men would likely take out their anger on Indians that had nothing to do with the attack. While the braves responsible, would be returning home, so their dead would receive the death ceremonies. There would be great respect for the returning braves if they brought along their dead. Reluctantly the posse all turned back.

A very upset Margo was forced to return with Jonas to the Broken Bow. William made sure she was on the wagon, with Jonas along with a couple other cowhands for protection. He had no doubt when Margo arrived at the Broken Bow ranch, Mattie would see to it that her daughter stayed there.

When Jonas arrived with Margo, he brought instructions for Brad. He was to keep Mattie and her daughters there, both to be treated with great respect. Wallace was severely wounded but with time would recover. No one was to travel without adequate armed escort. Reports of Indian fighting were coming in from all areas south to the rogue river and north to the Portland area. Nola was staying at Salmon Falls and nursing her brother.

Two of the ranch hands at the Broken Bow, asked to be relieved from escorting the supply wagon and any other carriage between the two ranches. They claimed there wasn’t enough fire power to head off an Indian attack. Fighting had broken out clear to the Willamette valley and beyond. If they had to face the Indians, they asked to be assigned to Howard Barnett’s command. He had recently been activated with the rank of colonel. A detachment of two hundred men was being formed, and would soon mount a punishing party and clean out all the renegade bands.

Brad still had cattle to tend, and with winter coming on, it was hoped that the Indian trouble would be washed away with the rains. He was still cutting hay and trucking wagon loads to the barns. With his help being used to escort travelers between the ranches, he was short of man power in the fields. He’d expected Nola to join him, but now that she was tending to her brother, it mollified his anxiety.

Margo was upset that Wallace was hurt and recovering without her there to tend to him. When the first snow came, and stayed on the ground, she knew it was going to be a long winter. Brad felt the same, as it continued to come down and covered the land with over a foot with the first storm. The Broken Bow seemed empty, and it was. Maggie had just her daughters, and Brad to cook for, she wondered how long her job would last.

With only himself to do the work, he started out riding the fence lines. He knew William didn’t know that it was only the four of them at the Broken Bow. The extra help had left to go fight Indians, and he was back to freezing in the saddle. All he had to look forward to was more of the same till spring.

At Salmon falls, the punitive posse had returned. Winter wasn’t inducive for chasing Indians. Like bears, the Indians and homesteaders were all denned up. Wallace was healing and sitting up, being entertained by frequent visitors to the ranch. A stage was now making stops at Salmon Falls, and then going on south to California, or North to Portland. A detachment of soldier’s was being stationed at Fort hill, and would be available for Indian problems at Salmon Falls. A Cassie Rockshire was often visiting Willow, and making sure she was seen by Wallace. Dorothy was pleased that the winter had brought all her children home. Everything was going as she hoped and planned.

Willow and Howard had set a wedding date. They would be married in May. The roads should be cleared of ice and snow by then, so Dorothy could have the big social gathering she always wanted for Willow’s wedding. The way that Willow and Howard were carrying on, William hoped May wouldn’t be too late. He was growing more disgusted with the man, with his superior attitude to the ranch hands and the other ranchers too.

Feeling it necessary, William called Willow into his den for a chat. He made it clear that it was a father daughter talk and didn’t need the attendance of any others, Especially Howard. With Willow sitting across the desk from him, he was reminded how much she looked like her mother at that age. He was afraid that she might also inherit Dorothy’s disposition too. He didn’t care if Howard suffered because of it, he just wanted his daughter to have a good marriage, and if there were children, well Howard was probably a good choice for strong healthy children.

“I want you to understand, that the ranch is going to be primarily left to Wallace.” He started out. He could see from a slight reaction, that Willow already didn’t like the sound of it. “He’s proven himself to be reliant, and capable of running the Ranch.” He didn’t include Brad in the discussion as he didn’t want to bring him into it, and have Willow running to her mother with another complaint.

“I will see to it that you have a new school, and I’ll furnish you with books, Desks, and anything else you need.”

“What about Howard?” She sat up on the edge of the chair. “He’s expecting to be of help with the ranch.”

“That will be up to Wallace.” He motioned for Willow to sit back in the chair. “Howard is your responsibility. Your school is going to grow, with all the new business’s coming into the valley. If you want, you can include him there in some way.” Then he brought up another aspect of Willows ability. “I’ve heard many wonderful things about your work, and nursing the wounded at Fort Hill. I know that Nursing is mostly a man’s job, but here in the Territories things don’t always adhere to common procedure. If you can get Doc Barnes to go along with it, a hospital could be started. Course that would take others putting a hand in it, but I’ll make a substantial contribution.”

“What have you planned for Nola?” Willow didn’t care for anything he’d just said. She wanted the ranch and had plans of Howard doing her bidding, when it came to running it.

“Nola doesn’t want any of it, nor does she want my help.” William spoke with ease now, having talked with Nola beforehand. “If anything, she intends to help Wallace any way she can. She’s been the one helping him to recover from his wounds, and I’m very proud of that.”

“So that’s it.” Willow said with a shake of her head. “Wallace gets everything?”

“Basically, yes. But While I’m alive, I will do what I can to help you in any endeavor you choose.” William pointed to a large space on the wall. “I’m going to put a map up there, of the whole territory. On it will be the grazing lands that I own and lease. My wealth is the result of a growing demand for cattle. I have the largest herd this side of the Cascades. But It can all be gone with one bad winter. If that happens, and I am fortunate to be left with the land, I might be able to recover and, in a few years, have another herd ready for market.” He paused to let his words sink in.

“That’s what Wallace will be inheriting. It’s not a sure thing. So, don’t think you’re being short changed.”

The rest of the talk, was filled with reassurances, that as long as he lived, Willow would always have a home with him. She asked what he had for her mother, and William simply said, Dorothy went with the ranch. She would be Wallace’s problem. He didn’t bring up his plans that the Broken Bow would go to Nola, through Brad, even if she didn’t want it. Brad would be the owner, but his greater position would be the partnership with Wallace in the main ranch.

He’d already had a talk with Wallace, and his son knew to keep silent on all future plans for the ranch and the partnership with Brad. A benefit for Wallace was the local ladies all assumed that he would be the sole owner of the ranch in the years to come. So, he pretty much had his choice of future brides in the area. William hoped that Wallace was capable of handling this new appeal to women, and didn’t let it go to his head.

Cassie Rockshire came to visit several times a week. Wallace liked her, and Dorothy approved. Along with Nola’s help, Wallace was receiving excellent care. Cassie was proving her worth, in caring for Wallace.

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