Western Fiction posted June 6, 2009 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 


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Preparations for the wedding

A chapter in the book THE TOUGH BREED

Saturday - Part One

by c_lucas



Background
The Peralt Land scandal led to violence pitting settlers against new arrivals that had fallen for the farce.

Saturday morning found Leland, Slim and two of Tea’s cowhands, Bucky and Cliff, riding for the box canyon. 

Three of the riders  were leading two horses each. Leland, on Sidewinder, was leading three horses.

The young foreman felt the leather pouch in his left pants’ pocket. It contained his life savings; a little over a hundred dollars. He planned to buy a new outfit and a ring for Cindy when he reached town that afternoon. He hoped he would have enough money left over for the best room at Hogan’s one and only hotel. 

**
Slim smiled at Leland’s attempts to hide his nervousness of getting married.  The assistant was in on Panhandle’s kidnapping of the boss’s daughter after she became Mrs. Richards. You think you are nervous now? Just wait until you hear what the ransom will be. Slim wondered if the visiting cowhands knew of the plan.


**
The young foreman nodded at the work Pecos and his three helpers were busily doing. The canyon’s opening was nearly fenced off.  “Slim, I think the boys want to attend my wedding.”

“It sure looks like it. I wouldn’t have believed they could build that much fencing in such a short time.”

Leland noticed two cowhands chopping down small spindly pine trees while Pecos and the other cowhand were using the blister end of a pick and shovel, planting posts corral style.

Without a word being said, Leland and his crew unsaddled their horses and pitched in to finish off the fencing. Cliff took over the responsibility to fix lunch. He finished just as the sliding poles gate was completed.

Leland smiled at the end of the project and looked at Slim. “You got your cards with you?”

“Sure do.” Slim went to his saddle on the new fence. He handed the cards to Leland who handed them to Pecos.

“As Segundo of this crew, let them each cut for a card. The two lowest cards stay. You and the other one can come to town tomorrow morning.”

Pecos shuffled the deck and let each of the new cowhands cut for a card. Jesse Nelson and Fred Owens lost with the three of diamonds and five of spades, respectively.

Leland looked at the young cowhands. “I’ll give you two a day in town next week.”

The new horses were the center of attention after lunch. With everything settled, Leland left with the group he arrived with.  They were back at the ranch a little before one.

**
Colonel Johnston, Cindy and Cookie left about mid- morning in his surrey. Amanda was tied to the back. 

The ride to Hogan’s Hell Hole was uneventful.

K.D. left his daughter and cook at the hotel, with all the luggage, and took the horses and surrey to the livery. Afterwards, he stopped by his attorney’s office.

**
“Enter,” Nile Thurmond called out when K.D. knocked on his door.

“Do you have a minute?”

Nile stood when he saw his visitor. “I’ll always have time for you, Colonel.”

The two men shook hands and seated themselves. The Colonel refused an offer of a drink.

“Any more news about the Peralta situation?”

“No, but I don’t think you have anything to worry about. With the election out of the way and Cleveland back in office, things are beginning to boil. Some of the landowners are making noises and Cleveland made it clear he wants Peralta gone. His Surveyor General, Royal Johnson, declared the deeds to be fakes.  He has been gathering evidence over the years. Peralta is in the proverbial shit pile.”

“That’s good. I would like you to change my will.”

“Because?”

“Cindy and Leland are getting married tomorrow afternoon. I think both should have their names on the deed when I pass.”

“Congratulations are in order.” Niles stood and offered his hand.

The Colonel stood and shook it. “If you can break away and be my guest, I’ll buy.” He and his lawyer, their business soon concluded, went to the Salty Dog Saloon.

**
Around one o’clock in the afternoon, Leland, Tea and their crews started for town. Dusty and two cowhands were left in charge of the ranch and to look after the animals.

Once the group of riders reached the creek, they veered off the trail. Leland took a lot of good natured teasing while the men bathed in the creek. He dunked Panhandle in the creek and that led to a free for all water fight. Tea and his crew, along with Slim, fought on Leland’s side. They were hopelessly outnumbered.

The men arrived at Hogan’s Hell Hole in high spirits. Leland left them and went to see Mr. Joplin. Tea and his crew, along with Slim, went to the Salty Dog.

After Leland was out of sight, Panhandle took up a collection. Everyone made a donation and followed Panhandle to the hotel. Their plans were in danger when Cindy and Cookie unexpectedly exited the hotel as the cowhands approached.  The cowboys greeted them and continued down the street toward the Salty Dog.

With a quick glance back at the two women, Panhandle and his crew entered the alley way.  He assigned two of his conspirators to follow the women. The rest returned to the hotel and walked up to the desk.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” Mr. Peel, the owner/manager, greeted them.

“We would like to rent that fancy room of yours for two days,” Panhandle said, laying the donated money on the desk.

“Why would you want that room?”

“Cindy and Leland will be getting hitched tomorrow and we want to surprise them.”

“That’s the first I heard of them getting married. The Colonel and his daughter and cook checked in a couple of hours ago.”

“If they haven’t told you, don’t let them know I did.”

Mr. Peel looked at the cowhands. “You want the room for a wedding gift?”

“That’s the idea. If anybody else asks for it, you can tell them it has been rented.”

The owner was familiar with cowboys' sense of humor and knew they were up to something. He smiled. “At five dollars a night, that will be ten dollars for two nights.”

Panhandle paid him and smiled at his friends before he signed a bogus name on the registry, “Mr. Hangem & Vi D. Balls.” 

Mr. Peel looked at Panhandle.

“Private joke,” Panhandle said and gathered up the remains of the cash. He and his crew left laughing.

**
“Hi Leland, what can I do for you.”

“Afternoon, Mr. Joplin,” Leland returned the greeting and headed for the haberdashery section of the store. He tried on a suit coat, which was too tight.

Mr. Joplin walked over to him. “What’s the occasion?”

“Cindy and I are getting married tomorrow.”

“Well, congratulations!” He pumped Leland’s hand.

“Thank you. I need a Sunday-go-to-meeting suit for the wedding.”

“Let me get my tape measure so you don’t have to keep trying on coats.”

With Mr. Joplin’s help, Leland chose a dark brown suit in less than ten minutes and was relieved it only cost him ten dollars.

“I need a ring,”

“No, you need a set of rings.”

Leland looked puzzled.

Mr. Joplin laughed.

“There are two rings; an engagement ring for when you ask for the lady’s hand and the wedding ring you put on her hand during the wedding.”

“How much will they cost?”

“You can get a real nice set for about twenty dollars.”

“A set?”

“Let me show you.” Mr. Joplin led him to the display of jewelry. “What size does Cindy wear?”

“I don’t know.”

“You need to know the size of her ring finger if you’re buying her rings. The rings has to fit her.”

Leland became lost in thought, mentally looking at Cindy’s finger. He placed his hand on the first joint of his little finger and smiled. “Her finger is about the size of this part of my little finger.”

Mr. Joplin went behind his counter and retrieved a numbered board with holes in it and walked over to Leland.

The perplexed foreman stood still while the store keeper took Leland’s little finger and begin poking it into various holes.

“A size seven.” Mr. Joplin said and took hold of Leland’s ring finger. After a few unsuccessful tries, he smiled. “Size fourteen.”

Leland stared blankly at Mr. Joplin, who picked up a man’s gold ring and fitted it on the young man’s finger.  He took it off and placed it toward the back of the display. He did not comment on his action.

“Which of the lady’s rings meet your approval?” Mr. Joplin waited while his customer studiously looked at his limited inventory.

“I like these two.”

The store keeper studied the group in the style of Leland’s choice. He picked out a size seven. “If these don’t fit properly, I will exchange them. Now, you need a few items for yourself.”

**
Twenty minutes later, Leland left the store forty dollars poorer  with a bundle in his arms. He collided with Cookie and winced at the pain of walking into an unmovable object. “Excuse me.”

Cookie snorted, but otherwise kept silent.

Cindy chuckled and looked at the bundle he was carrying. “What’s that?”

“I bought myself a suit and some things for the wedding.”

“Is that the only thing you bought?” An impish smile crossed her face.

“You’ll find out when I take you out to dinner.”

“I haven’t been asked.”

Leland stared at her. Why is she being so stubborn?

“Would you have dinner with me, tonight?”

“We would be happy to,” Cookie interjected, staring at the young man.

“We?” Leland and Cindy asked in unison.

“You’se ain’t gonna be alone until after the wedding. The Colonel will be joinin’ us.”

“We have to make arrangements with Reverend Barkley….”

“He ‘pectin’ youse at four oh clock.”

“We stopped by the church, at her insistence, about an hour ago,” Cindy informed Leland. “Reverend Barkley wants to talk to us.”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the church at four.” Leland watched them go into the store. He needed some moral support and headed for The Salty Dog.

The first rounds of drink started.

Gentleman Pete smiled when Leland tasted his drink. It was colored water. “You’ll thank me in the morning,” Pete said and handed him a tumbler of real whiskey "For your nerves."

Leland knew he would be served watered down drinks the whole evening. “Thanks.”

**
Leland arrived at the church a little before four and found Cindy waiting by herself. “Where is Cookie?”

“I appealed to a higher authority. Father told her to escort me to the church and to meet him at the store.” Cindy punctuated her remarks with a kiss. “Do you have something for me?”

Leland leaned down and kissed her.

“Is that all?” Cindy asked, frowning.

“Do you mean this?” Leland asked, before showing her the engagement ring.

“Yes!” Cindy offered her ring finger. It was close to a perfect fit, but she didn’t mind the tightness. She admired it for a few seconds and looked at Leland with questioning eyes.

“You’ll have to wait for the other one until tomorrow.”

She put her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“Are you waiting for me?” Reverend Barkley interrupted the kiss.

Cindy broke off her kiss and blushed. “Yes, Sir.”

**
Leland forced himself to sit through the minister’s questions. When called upon, he answered in monosyllables.

The wedding would be announced during church services and the time was set for three p.m.

The young couple thanked Reverend Barkley and left the church arm in arm. They walked out of town, discussing their wedding plans. 

“Well, isn’t that nice. It’s the cow thief, alone with his woman.”

The drunken voice of Clay Slade, behind him, chilled Leland to the bone.



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