Western Fiction posted August 22, 2014


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Tumbleweed ropes his first cow pony.

Tumbleweed-Cattle Drive, Part Two

by c_lucas


Cattle Drive
Part Two
1892

Previously:

Three riders, led by Tex, holding the halter rope of an unsaddled horse, showed up. He turned the horse over to Horne, who quickly changed his saddle to the new mount. The four men began herding the cattle north.

Tumbleweed figured the cowboys had enough daylight to get the small herd to the camp. He watched as the horsemen moved the cattle effortlessly.

Pearson wiped his brow and turned toward Jerry. "Time to head for home, Jerry. There's water up ahead, we'll give the horses a break, and talk about your first day of punching cattle." He turned and rode away with Jerry in his wake.

The rancher slowed and waited for him to catch up. "Did you notice Tex and Dooley's behavior when you joined them?

Jerry scratched his head, "They weren't as friendly as before."

"Why is that?"

Jerry mulled over the question. "I don't rightly know."

"You have to be mighty careful around cattle. The least little thing can spark a stampede. Running cattle can be dangerous. Most of us older hands have lost friends, or relatives to the hooves of stampeding cattle. Any sudden movement can set them off. Tex was showing concern for your quick movement. There weren't any cattle today, but there will be when it comes time for branding.

The rancher looked at his young cowhand. "The only time you'll see a cowboy move quickly is when his life is in danger, but there are other reasons for him to be slow. Fast movement can bring about personal injury to you, or someone near you."

"You're the first to tell me to slow down. Farmers and city bosses wanted me to work faster. They wanted a dollar worth of work for their quarter. Carny bosses were the worst, they refused to pay, claiming I was too slow. Mr. Blake came to my aid and got me a quarter raise. He told Harris, the Carny boss, if he ever tried to cheat me, he would read Harris from the Good Book, Chapter and Verse. I can see the reasons why you want me to be careful and not spook the cattle... How many cattle do you have?" Tumbleweed waited for his answer.

Several minutes past before Pearson answered. "The Sweet Pea has a herd of about seven thousand. I own about five thousand. The rest belongs to men like Miguel and Consuela, who owns about five hundred heads. Jake owns about around a thousand. Mr. Wakefield and Susan have around four hundred. Mr. Dawson owns about seventy-five critters. Jake and Miguel have free use of my range. Mr. Wakefield and Dawson pay me sixty per cent to look after their cattle. We settle up when the cattle are sold."

"Did you ever make one of them long cattle drives?" Tumbleweed spotted the stream. He followed the rancher to it and dismounted. Both loosened the cinches of their saddle and held on to their horses' reins.

Mr. Pearson ignored the question and pulled his horse away, Jerry did likewise with Paint.

The rancher removed the bridle and bits before he freed his saddlebags, and left his horse free to graze. "Rope your horse to the tree."

Jerry looked at him questionably, but did as he was told.

Pearson took a small hammer and shoe pick from his right hand saddlebags and lifted Paint's right front leg.

Jerry watched as the rancher used the pick to clean the hoof and tapped the shoe lightly with the hammer. "I want you to take a horse from the corral, tomorrow. Your horse needs shoeing."

"Yes, sir."

"Hungry?" Pearson asked.

"You'd better believe it, sir."

"Did you ask Consuela for some jerky?

"No, sir, I didn't."

Pearson reached back into his saddlebag and pulled out two wrapped packages, he handed one to Jerry. "Always take food and water with you."

They walked down to the creek bank and sat down with their backs against trees. Jerry glanced at Paint who was grazing near the end of his rope. The Morgan was grazing several feet away. He returned his attention to his boss.

"Why didn't you tie your horse to a tree? There is nothing to keep him from running off."

"He sees me as his protection and I see him as my protection. Wild animals won't come around a man unless they are powerfully hungry. As night closes in, my horse will be a few feet away. He'll warn me if anything tries to come into camp."

Jerry pondered over what the rancher had said. "I guess the horse is an extension of the cowboy."

"The horse is the cowboy's life blood. You'll never want to be afoot in this country. That's why we used to hang horse thieves." Mr. Pearson took a bite of his snack.

The next morning Tumbleweed heard from muscles he didn't know he had. He stifled a moan and got up. After washing the sleep from his eyes with cold water, he dressed and limped to the kitchen.

Consuela smiled and pointed to a burlap potato bag. "Take it with you to camp. Give it to Miguel." She pointed to a smaller flour bag. "Your breakfast and lunch; get a horse and come back for them." She picked up a Blue Willow plate and carried it to the dining room.

Tumbleweed wondered how she knew he wouldn't be riding Paint. He went to the large corral. Two Mexican teenagers, about his age, were performing the chores he and Miguel did yesterday morning. They greeted him and kept on working.

Tumbleweed studied the horses at the far end of the corral. I've never roped a horse before. He took one of the coiled ropes off of a fence post and built a loop. When he walked toward the horses, they ran away from him. After a half a dozen trips he stopped and stared at the horses. They're laughing at me.

"Don't show them the rope until you're ready to throw it." Mr. Pearson was sitting on the top rail. "Throw from behind the horse."

"Good morning, sir. Yes, sir." He's probably laughing at me, too.

After several unsuccessful attempts, Jerry managed to get his loop over a horse's neck. He removed his hat and brushed the sweat off his brow. The horse took off running, pulling the rope from his hand. Jerry felt a burning sensation and the palms of each hand showed rope burn.

"Dag gum, you ornery critter!" Jerry chased after the rope and snagged it near the end. He worked closer to the horse, taking up the rope hand over hand. The horse started to fight him.

"Get your rope around one of the hitching posts." Mr. Pearson yelled. He was standing inside the corral with rope in hand. "Pull on the rope until the horse is at the post and tie the rope to keep him there."

Jerry fought with the horse and eventually won the fight. He took a few breaths and went to get his saddle blanket. He threw it on the horse who bucked it off immediately.

"Hold up!" The rancher walked over to the horse. "Once you have him saddled, you'll never get that knot undone." He loosened the loop and freed the horse, who tried to run away. Within seconds, Pearson built his loop, twirled it twice over his head and threw it. The loop sailed over the horse's neck.

The rancher ignored the fighting horse as he wrapped his rope twice around the hitching post and hauled the horse in. The horse quit fighting. Soon Pearson had the horse snug against the post. "Get your saddle." Jerry grabbed his saddled and waited.

Pearson picked up the blanket and showed it to the horse. He spoke quiety, calming the horse. The horse didn't attempt to throw the blanket off. He motioned for Jerry to bring his saddle over. The rancher threw the saddle on and clinched it up.

Jerry was surprised when his boss kneed the horse in the stomach before he clinched the saddle tighter.

Jerry watched in awe as the horse stood still. He wiped his hands on his pants, staring at the rope burns.

"Mount up and get Consuela's packages, you're running late." Pearson walked into the barn.


Tumbleweed rode into camp three hours late. He faced an unhappy Miguel.

"Take care of your horse, and then get started on your work." He walked away with the burlap sack in hand, muttering under his breath.


Recognized


Thank you, Susan F. M. T. for the use of your image, "I've not seen you before?"


Character List:

Jerry Reese aka Tumbleweed. Slender sixteen year old, five-foot-seven inches. Light brown hair, trimmed. Approximately ninety pounds. Hazel eyes.

Jim Pearson, owner of the Sweet Pea Ranch. Five-foot-ten inches, widower. Thirty-three. One hundred and seventy pounds, dark trimmed hair, dark eyes. Dark eyes.

Lynda Ann Pearson- Pearson's daughter, twelve year old-dark haired, blue eyes. Fifty pounds.

Jake Horne-Foreman of the Sweet Pea. Hefty, five-seven, Late forties. One hundred and ninety pounds. Gray/black shoulder length hair. Has worked for the Sweet Pea for over twenty-five years.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Susan F. M. T. at FanArtReview.com

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