|Western Fiction posted December 14, 2009||Chapters:||...28 29 -30- 31...|
Luke becomes an entrepreneur / Rebel is hired
A chapter in the book THE TOUGH BREED
New Help - Part Three -
The Peralta Land Scam created hostilities between early settlers and new arrivals to the West. This is a fictionalized account of one incident. The story begins in 1895.
Rebel watched Leland’s party leave. He had already said his ‘goodbyes’ to everyone--except the colonel and Cookie--at breakfast in the hotel dining room. He was glad everyone had survived the ordeal. A much worse ending could have befallen him and his friends.
He turned and looked at the freshly painted sign lying on his desk. Free Livery Business. New owner to be approved by fellow businessmen. For more information check with the deputy sheriff at the jailhouse.
Rebel checked to see if the paint had sufficiently dried. Satisfied, he picked up the sign and walked down to the livery. He nailed it to the door just under another sign, “Closed until further notice. No one is in attendance. Use at your own risk."
Luke came out of the livery with a pitchfork in his hands. “Good morning, Rebel. The stables have been cleaned and the animals have been fed and watered. I’ve just about got hay and water in all of the empty stalls.”
“Morning, Luke. You are doing a good job. I appreciate you taking care of things.”
Luke read the new sign. “Can anyone apply?”
Rebel looked at the husky young boy. I was wrangling horses when I was his age. “I believe so. Mr. Peel, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Joplin didn’t make an age limitation. Are you interested?”
Luke stood proud and straight. “Yes sir!”
“How old are you?”
“Thirteen, but as you can see, I’m big for my age.”
“That you are. Do you know anything about shoeing?”
The young man frowned. “I helped Mr. Carson a few times. He never thought I was ready to do it myself.”
“There are enough old cowhands around to help you out, if you need it. How is your arithmetic?”
Smiling, Luke answered, “I can add, subtract, multiply and divide. I’ve had almost six years of schooling.”
Rebel chuckled. That’s more than I have. “One last question, what would you do about your messenger job?”
“I could use one of the horses from the livery and make my trips faster. I’ll help Mr. Bates until he finds another delivery boy.”
Rebel offered his hand. “Meet me at the hotel dining room at one. I’ll have the town committee there and they can vote on you taking over the Livery.”
Luke enthusiastically shook hands with Rebel. “Thanks, I’ll be there.” He pointed at the signs. “Can I take them down? I can make my deliveries this afternoon.”
The new deputy sheriff chuckled. “You can take them down, but don’t throw them away. You’ll still have to convince the committee you’re man enough for the job.”
“I can do that!” Luke carefully took down the signs and walked into the livery.
Rebel chuckled. Reminds me of myself when I told the foreman I could handle bucking horses. It took a few spills and a sore butt, but I finally got the hang of it. He turned and made his rounds. He visited with Mr. Peel and Joplin about the meeting. He left word with the swamper at the Salty Dog, Old Hank.
Luke showed up at the restaurant a few minutes before one.
Rebel was visiting with Mr. Peel who was standing behind the counter.
The young man pushed his hat back. He glanced at Rebel. “Have they made their decision, yet?”
Rebel grinned at him. “They have some questions for you, but we’ll have lunch first.”
Mr. Joplin walked into the hotel. He greeted the two men and spoke to the boy, “Dave has an outstanding feed bill with me of twelve dollars and fifty-three cents for oats. If we agree for you to have the livery, you’ll have to settle up with me.”
“Yes sir, I’ll do that if you can give me a couple of weeks.”
Mr. Peel interrupted them, “Otis, let’s leave the business until after lunch. Luke, you and Rebel are invited to join us. Pete and Opal should be here any moment.”
“Thank you, sir. … Miss Opal is coming?”
“Pete sent me word she’ll be your character witness.”
Rebel chuckled. “You take a lot of wires to Opal and her girls. Maybe we’ll find out how they pay you.”
Luke looked anxious. “With coins, sir. Only with coins.”
Joplin agreed. “That’s the way it should be.”
Pete held the door for Opal. After a round of greeting, Pete led the committee and its guests into the dining room.
After lunch, Mr. Peel fastened a chain across the entrance to announce that the dining room was closed. “Now, let’s rearrange the chairs and I’ll call this meeting to order.”
Three tables were joined together and the chairs put in place. Mary smiled at Rebel and set a glass of water by each place. Mr. Peel waited until she went back to the kitchen.
He glanced at Rebel. “Our first order of business is to make Deputy Sheriff Pickens our acting Sheriff. The Office of Sheriff pays seventy-five dollars a month, plus fifty per cent of the fines and ten per cent of the taxes collected. … Rebel, are you willing to accept the position?”
Rebel leaned his chair back. “I am, but only until you can elect a new sheriff.”
“Then it’s settled. We all know Rebel’s credentials as a former Texas Ranger. Are there any questions?”
No one responded. Mr. Peel looked at Pete and Otis. “How say you?”
Pete and Otis nodded their heads in agreement.
“Okay, Rebel the job is yours. We’ll try to hold an election within ninety days. Now, Luke we can take your verbal application. Tell us about yourself.”
Luke glanced at Rebel who winked at him. He turned his attention to Mr. Peel.
“I am going on fourteen and have been on my own since I was eleven. I am big for my age and know how to handle livestock. Before he died, Mr. Carson let me sleep in the loft. He was teaching me how to shoe horses. Rebel has promised to train me. He told me to tell you that I’ve six years of schooling. I can read, write and do arithmetic.” Luke stopped and glanced at Rebel who nodded for him to go on. “I can handle the livery and be a good businessman.”
Pete caught Luke’s attention. “You know one of Dave’s jobs was to keep the street cleaned of horse droppings.”
“Yes sir, I know. I will do the same.”
“Each business paid him ten cents a week….”
“Sir, Mr. Carson told me it was fifteen cents a week. He said he did it three times a week. I plan to do it every day, except Sunday.”
Luke’s comments brought chuckles from everyone.
Mr. Peel grinned at Pete. “He caught you in your own lie, Pete.”
In his defense, Pete said, “I was just testing the boy, Andrew.”
“You scoundrels ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” Opal interjected. “I pay Old Hank a quarter and a bottle a week to keep the yard and path clean….”
Pete raised his hand to interrupt Opal. “Don’t go giving the boy any ideas….”
“Mr. Taylor, I’ve offered Luke a drink and some of the girls have offered him a tryst. He turned it all down. That’s more than the other young men in town did. Luke has proven to me that he is all business when he’s working.”
Luke blushed, but kept quiet.
Pete nodded. “I know. He turned down the juvenile beer I’ve offered.”
Andrew Peel knocked on the table a couple of times with his knuckles. “Okay, let’s get back on track. Luke, do you have anything else to add?”
“Mr. Carson wasn’t much of a business man. There are several ways to bring in extra money at the Livery and I plan to use them. I know he owes several businessmen money and I plan to pay off all his debts, including any back taxes ….”
“He’s already promised me the twelve-fifty-three Dave owes me,” Otis Joplin added.
Opal folded her arms across her chest. “I believe Luke. He will make good in paying off Dave’s debts. You can pass the word; anybody who tries to cheat this young man will find the Palace off limits.” She glared at Pete who remained silent.
“Does that mean I get the Livery?” Luke asked.
“We need to do this legal, Luke,” Mr. Peel replied. “Are there any other questions?” No one spoke. Mr. Peel asked the saloon owner and the storekeeper, “How say you?”
Mr. Peel leaned back in his chair. “It’s official, Luke. Hogan Hell Hole’s Livery is yours. You have a week to bring me a copy of the indebtedness and the inventory. Also, I would like to know how you plan to increase the income. Mr. Thurmond will be coming in on this afternoon’s train. When he finishes with the colonel’s business, I’ll have him draw up the papers. I will keep tabs on you to see if you are meeting your obligations.”
Luke beamed. “Thank you.” He went around and shook everybody’s hand. Opal kissed him on the cheek and he blushed.
Rebel put his hand on Luke’s shoulder. “We best get out of here and let them get on with their business. Miss Opal, may we escort you home?”
“I would like that,” Opal said, “I have a young lady who wants to meet you.”
Rebel cleared his throat. “Luke, you mentioned making your deliveries after the meeting was over, I’ll see Miss Opal home.” The acting sheriff offered his arm and Opal accepted it.
Leland and Cindy were able to get her father into bed without any difficulty.
She kissed the colonel on the cheek. As a means of apologizing for breaking up his impromptu meeting, she said, “I’ll let you know when dinner is ready. You can visit with your friends for a while.”
Leland held the door open.
Cindy stepped into the hallway and turned when she heard the closing of the door. She put her arms around her husband and gave him a passionate kiss. “That’s my way of apologizing to you.”
Leland was about to kiss her back when the cowbell sounded.
She pushed him away. “Nursing comes first.”
He looked at her. “Where did that cowbell come from?”
Cindy laughed. “I think it’s a gift from Panhandle. When Cookie can take care of herself, I’ll return it to him. He might get a bit uncomfortable where I want to shove it.” She hurried down the stairs.
Frustrated, Leland walked out the front door. Slim and Pecos were riding away. He hurried to the hitching rail, freed Sidewinder, and rode after them.
Slim slowed, allowing Leland to catch up. “We’re going to check on the boxed canyon.”
Leland slowed his horse. “How’s the arm?”
“It hurts like Hell, but I been sipping on one of those bottles Cindy gave me.”
“Maybe you should take it easy. Pecos and I can check on the cattle.”
“Are you making that an order?”
“Do I need to?”
“No, but I need to check on things, myself. Why did you promote me if you’re going to do my work?” Slim’s face reddened.
Leland reined in Sidewinder.
Slim stopped his horse.
Pecos kept riding
“I know how you feel, Slim. When the colonel made me Foreman, he kept asking questions. I felt inadequate, but I had you to help me. I never had a bullet hole in my shoulder to slow me down.”
Slim stared at Leland and chuckled. “Those were some fun times. The only reason you didn’t have a bullet hole in you was because you’re better with a gun and I couldn’t bring myself to back shoot you.”
“Was I that bad?”
“Worse, but you became good at your job.”
“And you’ll become good at your job, too. Just allow that shoulder wound to heal properly. You can give orders at the breakfast table and evaluate the results at the dinner table. One thing the colonel pounded into me was to trust my judgment and my men’s.”
“You won’t hold it against me if I took it easy for a few days?”
“Let me put it this way. Cindy caught Coffee, Tea and me having drinks with the colonel in his office when he should have been in bed. ”
Slim broke out laughing. “I bet she paid you back with a kiss.”
“She tried, but Cookie called for her.”
“I think I’m going back to the ranch and get me some nursing. Maybe even some kissing lessons.”
“You can get away with the nursing, but think twice about the kissing. On my orders, two men died from rope burns for trying to steal K-Bar’s horses. Think about what I’ll do to the man who tries to steal my wife.”
Leland nudged Sidewinder and rode to catch up with Pecos.
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