Western Fiction posted August 2, 2009 Chapters:  ...15 16 -17- 18... 


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Leland and his crew continue after the horsethieve

A chapter in the book THE TOUGH BREED

The Chase Continues

by c_lucas



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

The impromptu posse rode through the afternoon, keeping an eye out for possible ambushers. They stopped only to change mounts. Talking was kept to a minimum. 

 

Leland put the fate of the two captured thieves out of his mind and concentrated on the job at hand. Near dusk, he watched Tea examine another pile of horse manure.

 

Tea stood and brushed off his hand on his jeans. “This one has some warmth. We are gaining on them.”

 

Leland nodded and watched Coffee and Slim approach. They had been studying the tracks of the stolen horses. Coffee rode back to Tea. “They are tiring. We should catch up with them tomorrow.”

 

Two hours later, the young foreman called a halt to the chase as the Southern skies darkened. The riders started taking care of their mounts. Leland studied the dark, lightning-filled clouds, several miles away, south of them. “We may have some help if that gully buster breaks loose. Flash floods will slow them down.”

 

Once their horses and extra mounts were attended to, the men ate from the rations they carried.  Bone-tired and saddle weary, Leland scheduled the guards, and everyone but the first guard shift bedded down the best they could on the rocky ground.

 

Leland, Slim, Coffee and Tea took the last shift. The young foreman took the time to outline his plans. “I’m for hanging them and being done with it.”

 

He and Tea got into a brief staring match. Tea spoke first. “That would sure end the problem, but it wouldn’t tie up loose ends.”

 

“Meaning?”

 

“Don’t you think it’s strange that we haven’t seen any Circle C riders? They let us cross their range without protesting and from what you have told me, we were on the edge of their range when we broke up the ambush.”

 

Leland thought it over. “What are you getting at?”

 

“Coffee told me when he was leaving the Circle C, a rider came in to report several men were on Circle C’s range. Junior told him not to worry about it.”

 

Coffee looked at Leland. “I thought it strange Junior wasn’t concerned, but I had to get into town and forgot about it.”

 

“Are you saying Jake Jr. knew why the riders were there?”

 

The two older men shook their heads. Tea answered for them. “We’re saying that we need some questions answered before we start decorating trees.”

 

“Let me think about it.”

 

 

Leland gave the order to rise an hour before dawn. He assigned Panhandle and the two K-Bar cowhands to watch over the remuda and to catch any of the stolen horses they came across. To keep the horses from straying, they were roped together. Lucky Nelson and Al Maddox took control of them, leaving Panhandle free to gather any strays he found.

 

The posse was on the trail at the crack of dawn.  Leland set a ground-eating pace that would not tire out their horses. The posse changed to fresh mounts every two hours.

 

Soon, they were finding an occasional stray. Tea assigned Bucky to work with Panhandle to help catch the stray horses. The two cowhands were kept busy.

 

Four hours after breaking camp, Leland noticed the normally dry washes were showing signs of water. He smiled. “They're going to have trouble getting through some of the washes.”

 

Tea nodded. “Too bad we can’t cut across these mountains. The switchback trail is working to their advantage.”

 

“There are a few animal trails up ahead that cut across, but I don’t know if they go all the way through.”

 

Panhandle spit a wad of tobacco at a rock. He overheard the comment. “There's a good one coming up in a couple of miles. I used it a few years ago. It’ll save about fifteen miles of traveling.”

 

Leland was quick to act on the information. “Coffee and Slim, continue dogging these bastards’ trail. Panhandle, Tea and I will take the short cut and try to get ahead of them. Panhandle, grab three spare horses, so we’ll have fresh mounts when we get to the short cut.”

 

With Tea’s permission, the young foreman sent Antonio to take Panhandle’s place with the remuda.

 

Soon, plans were made and the posse started again with more vigor. When they reached the short-cut, Leland, Tea and Panhandle switched horses. Now, Leland was on Sidewinder and Tea was on Thunder. The three men started their climb, each pulling a spare horse behind them.

 

 One hour into their climb, Leland looked up and spotted some mountain sheep. “I wish we could climb like them,” he said, pointing toward the sheep.

 

Tea chuckled, “I wouldn’t want to break one to saddle. But, I wouldn’t mind having some mules right about now.”

 

Panhandle cleared his mouth of tobacco, “Since I got the colonel’s rifle, I might come back this way. That big fellow would look nice on the colonel’s wall.”

 

“I don’t think Cindy would appreciate that,” Leland said. “She’s the reason the colonel quit mounting his kills.”

 

Panhandle bit off another chew. “Two days of marriage and you’re already yelling ‘calf rope.’”

 

Tea laughed. “Don’t complain until you tried it.”

 

Panhandle looked at Tea, a tight smile across his face. “I wanted to try it, but someone threatened to nail my balls to a tree.”

 

“I just might do it yet for that kidnapping caper.” Leland took the lead.

 

The trail narrowed and the going began to get rough. The good-natured teasing quit as each rider paid attention to his mount and the narrow trail. 

 

Leland and his companions breathed a sigh of relief as they crested the mountain. “It looks like it will be easier going down.”

 

Panhandle let out a stream of tobacco juice. “Don’t count on it. You just can’t see it from here.”

 

Tea looked at the gathering storm clouds. “We best be out of here before that breaks.”

 

It was easy going until they came to a small clearing. Leland shook his head at the narrow trail facing them. They slowed their pace of descent and the trail became less than eighteen inches wide.

 

Leland looked at the two thousand foot drop-off under his left foot. He could see sparkling glimmers of water. Lightning filled the sky ahead of them.

 

Panhandle hit a small pebble with his next stream and sent it over the edge. “This is the fun part. We have less than a mile before it widens for the rest of the way down.”

 

 

The flashes of lightning frightened the horses, but the riders were able to keep them under control. They all offered a sigh of relief when the trail began to widen.

 

The three riders pulled on their slickers just as the rain started. They rode in silence as the storm increased.  The heavy rain lightened about twenty minutes later.

 

Leland looked over the edge. The raging river below was less than a thousand feet from them.

 

The riders met another storm before they were off the mountain. They were less than a hundred yards from the roaring torrents of the river.  The new storm soon abated.

 

Leland stopped their procession and they changed horses. To save time, they feasted on beef jerky as they rode.  They stopped at the base of the mountain and watched the raging waters cut across the trail.

 

Leland stroked his horse’s neck. “They’re not going to get past that.”

 

Tea agreed, but added, “Maybe they already have.”

 

Panhandle handed his spare horse off to Leland and started his horse down the trail. “I’ll check to see if there is any sign of their passing.” He increased his speed to a canter.

 

Leland studied the mountains on both sides of the trail. “We can get up into those rocks and keep them from trying to cross when the water goes down.”

 

They tied their horses to a lightning-struck pine twenty feet above the trail. Loaded with weapons, ammunition, and rations, each climbed to boulder-sown perches on either side of the trail.

 

In the late afternoon, Panhandle came back to report he couldn’t find any signs. He tied his horse with the others and joined Leland.

 

Leland noticed that the wash had slowed its flow of water. Shortly after, they all heard the sound of approaching horses. The three men put their hunting rifles to their shoulders and waited.

 

The first three horse thieves never made it to the wash. The stolen horses continued across. Leland killed another thief with a head shot. The rest took to the rocks.  It was a standoff until Coffee, Slim and the rest of the riders showed up. The cornered horse thieves were out gunned by the hunting rifles. The fight ended quickly when the last three thieves surrendered.

 

Tea gathered the horses’ reins  and brought them down to the trail.

 

Leland thanked him and asked, “Is it okay if your men help mine go after the horses?”

 

Tea motioned to his men and the two crews, led by Slim, went after the horses. McKenzie looked at the three bound thieves and turned to Leland. “What are you going to do with them?”

 

“What do you want to do with them?”

 

Tea looked at Coffee who had just joined them. 

Leland was unable to hear his remark.

Coffee smiled and nodded his head. “Why not?”

 

Leland wondered what was going on between the two. He knew they had a past together, but did not know what they were thinking.

 

Coffee nodded back the way they came. “There is a clearing back there a ways. It will do nicely.” He stared at the three thieves, “On your feet.”

 

One of the thieves, fear in his eyes, looked up at him. “What are you planning to do?”

 

No one spoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Recognized


GUIDE TO TOUGH BREED

The Baron of Arizona
Addison ???Peralta??? Reavis played a dark role in the History of Arizona Territory. A former Confederate soldier, turned real estate investor, he tried to steal a parcel of land from the United States Government.
He claimed to have acquired an old Spanish Land Grant giving him the rights to an area of land the size of New Jersey in Arizona and New Mexico Territories???about twelve million acres.
Reaas-Peralta was a master forger and enhanced his claim with some very good forged documents and by training a young Mexican maiden claiming she was a direct heir to the Peralta Land Grant. He married the young girl, giving him a stronger claim.
The farce lasted for twelve years and he became rich by cheating rail roads, mines and individuals. The twelve year farce was revealed in the Santa Fe Territorial Court and the Baron of Arizona spent a short time in jail for his duplicity. He was a true Arizona Legend.
THE STORY LINE
The land scam created by hostilities between early settlers and new arrivals to the West. This is a fictionalized account of one incidence. The story begins in 1895.




CHARACTERS
K???Bar???K Ranch

Leland Richards ???Foreman ??? Twenty two years of age--Six foot???one hundred-eighty pounds???Brown hair???Birth date August 10, 1873--Son of the Colonel???s deceased Sergeant and wife. Has lived on the K-Bar-K all his life. Been a ward of the Colonel since age eleven.

Colonel Kenneth David (K. D.) Johnston,??? Birth date December 19, 1826???Fifty-nine years of age???Five foot-nine--gray/white hair???two hundred pounds--Brilliance strategic who earned his fame as a Calvary Officer in the C.S.A.* -- Lost his wife (Kayla) when daughter was eight years old--Started the K-Bar-K in 1873. (Settled on the land???did not purchase it)

* C.S.A.--Confederate States Of America.

Cindy Johnston???Only child of the Colonel???Birth date May 6, 1875???twenty years old--One hundred-fifteen pounds-Black hair.

Sergeant Jim Richards ??? Leland???s father ??? first foreman of the K-Bar-K. Served under the Colonel in the Civil War.

Alice Richards???Jim???s wife and Leland???s mother. She and Jim died from fever outbreak when Leland was eleven.

Sidewinder ??? Outlaw horse on the K-Bar-K???has never been ridden. It is finally tamed by Tea McKenzie and Cindy.

???Slim??? Martin Sheldon ??? Leland???s assistant ??? five seven ??? one hundred and eighty-five pounds. Twenty-five - two years older than Leland.

Pecos Kelly Nelson - ranch hand ??? late twenties ??? five foot ??? eight, one hundred and sixty pounds.
Jesse Nelson ??? New cowhand.
Fred Owens ??? New cowhand.
???Lucky??? Jim Nelson ??? Older cowhand
???Al??? Allen Maddox- older cowhand
Riley Hayes ??? K-Bar Cowhand ??? early twenties ??? five foot- six, One hundred and fifty pounds.

Johnny ???Rebel??? Pickens ??? K-Bar Cowhand ??? late thirties, five-foot-eight- One hundred seventy pounds.

???Panhandle??? Pete Davis ??? forties ??? five-six - one hundred and ninety pounds, ranch hand

Dusty Jose Gomez ??? Ranch hand/wrangler in charge of the barn - nineteen ??? five foot ??? two ??? one hundred and thirty pounds.
Mike Adams ??? Cowhand chosen to stay with Dusty to help with the horses.
Big Bill Mays ??? Crippled up cowhand that worked with Dusty. Five-foot-two

Cookie Johnston ??? the ranch???s cook. Heavy set female???a former slave of the Colonel???raised Cindy when her mother died at childbirth.



Circle C Ranch
Jake Barker-Purchase the existing Circle C and surrounding area from Reavis. Land claimed by the K-Bar-K lies within this bogus sale.

Jake Barker Junior ??? Oldest son of Jake Barker and foreman of the Circle C.

Brett and Chet Barker ??? twins ??? late teens.

Clay Slade ??? assistance to Jake ??? hot head.



Characters of Interest

Thomas ???Tea??? McKenzie--Widower--Birth date unknown-Approximate age thirty eight--Five foot-nine--Dark Brown Hair-one hundred and seventy five pounds???Owns the Tea Cup Ranch (called ??????The Cup??? Ranch???formerly the Double M. - Raises horses.
Tea Cup Ranch ??? Brand Cup with the letters T C inside a cup.
Ray Marsh ??? foreman of the Tea Cup Ranch. Five foot ??? eleven. In his late fifties. One hundred-eighty-five pounds. Worked with Tea and Coffee at the Double M.

Bucky O???Malley ???late twenties--A cowhand at the Tea Cup Ranch - Nineteen-five foot seven ???

Antonio Gomez ??? late teens ??? Cowhand at the The Cup Ranch.

Sure-Shot Cliff Henderson???worked with Tea at the Rocking R.
Once shot himself in the foot while practicing his fast draw???Early forties.???Tea named him ???Eagle-Eye.???

Joseph ???Coffee??? Harris???aka ???Coffin Joe??????Bachelor???Birth Date unknown--Five foot-eleven???Approximately Thirty seven???One hundred and ninety pounds???Blondish hair???Lost a gunfight with Tea over the hand of Rachel Morris. Job at time of story ??? gunman for the Circle C. Part of his job is to look after the twins.

Rachel Morris ??? Deceased???daughter of Mitchell Morris (owner of the Double M Ranch) Gave Joe, Tom and Pete their nicknames--Married to Tea McKenzie???Died from typhoid fever???

Amanda a four year old black mare with white stockings. Sired by Thunder. Rachel???s favorite mare.

Thunder ??? Tea???s black stallion.


"Hogan's Hell Hole" - a medium-size settlement - home to a couple of hundred people and the closest place within seventy miles to buy supplies.

The Scarlett Lady Saloon???owner not mentioned

Hogan???s House ??? two story hotel ??? David Peel ??? owner/manager.
Rev. Jonas Barkley ??? Pastor of the Methodist Church.
Residents

???Gentleman??? Pete Taylor--Date of Birth ???April 1, 1835???five foot two hundred twenty pounds???Partially bald-Black hair and trimmed beard???Former foreman of the Double MM???friends to Coffee, Joe, and Rachel, who he treated like his daughter.
At time of story ??? saloon owner ???The Salty Dog
Madame Opal ??? owns bordello behind the Salty Dog-- Palace of Gems.

Niles Thurmond ??? Attorney

Doctor Jerrod Barnett ??? Early sixties ??? five foot seven - stocky
Eleanor Barnett ??? Wife ??? early sixties ??? five-foot- four - stocky

Madame Opal ??? owner of the bordello behind the Salty Dog-- Palace of Gems.
Mr. Joplin ??? owns the General store

Sheriff Jim Graham ??? former cowhand ??? friend of Gentleman Pete ??? late fifties, five foot nine ??? heavy built.

Peralta???s men
Bartholomew T. Pettigrew ??? Peralta agent.
Cyril Barratt ??? Agent general representing Mr. James Perata-Reavis.
Marshal Ferguson ??? Fake U. S. Marshal
Santa Fe Territorial Court ??? The court that considered these claims and dismissed them.

Reverend Thomas Peterson ??? Minister of Hogan???s Methodist Church.

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