Western Fiction posted August 7, 2014

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Tumbleweed goes on his first cattle drive

Tumbleweed: Cattle Drive-Part One

by c_lucas


The three men waved at those they were leaving behind.

Miguel, driving the wagon, led the four-horse team past the large corral. Tumbleweed and Pearson soon took the lead.

"Have you ever been on a cattle roundup before?" Mr. Pearson asked.

"I ain't had too much experience working with cows," Tumbleweed answered.

Pearson chuckled. "I'm not a Carny, but I can teach you about cattle." Pearson grinned at the young man. "Do you know what the first rule is?"

"No sir?"

"Never attempt to stand on the calf's head and tail at the same time."

"I'll try to remember that," Tumbleweed chuckled. He looked around. For as far as he could see, all the land was fenced in. "Is the whole ranch fenced in?

"Unlike the old days, the range and water sources are fenced in. There's not much open range left." The rancher adjusted his hat and studied Jerry for a couple of minutes. Ready for rule two?"

"Yes, sir."

"Never get between the cow and her calf when you're on foot. She'll attack you in a heartbeat."

"Yes sir. I know about mothers and their babies." Tumbleweed adjusted his better fitting hat. "I got between a black bear and her cubs, once. I shimmied up the nearest tree. The bear started climbing it, too. I was lucky to have a sling shot with me. I'd climb to the next limb and peppered her nose with stones. Then I'd climb higher with the bear tagging along. Soon a tree limb cracked under the bear's weight and she fell to the ground. I hit one of the cubs with a stone. It squealed and the mother bear rounded up her two cubs and left. I stayed in the tree. They went north. When I finally got out of the tree, I went south."

"Sling shots aren't going to work on bulls. Being hit by stones will only make them madder. Never challenge a bull on or off your horse. The bull is bigger and heavier than you and your horse together. Leave the bulls to the more experienced cowhands."

"Yes sir."

Miguel stopped at a locked gate.

Pearson handed Jerry a single key. "The gates leading to and from Sweet Pea's Range are locked. Any gates within the boundaries will have a rope loop. Never leave any gate open. He pointed to the gate where Miguel was waiting. "Do the honors."

Tumbleweed dismounted and tied his horse's reins to a nearby post. He walked over and studied the lock before unlocking it. Miguel and Pearson rode through the open gate and waited for the boy to get his horse and lock the gate. They moved on with Miguel and Pearson in deep conversation. Tumbleweed rode behind the wagon, studying the landscape, marveling at how much land Mr. Pearson owned.

Two gates later, Miguel took the left fork. Pearson dropped back to visit with Jerry. "You probably won't do anything but help Miguel, but I think it would be a wise idea to watch the branding."

Texas, and another one of the new men, plus a stranger to Tumbleweed, herded small bands of cattle into different pens. All of the enclosed pens had good grass. Tumbleweed noticed a bull in one of the larger pens of several acres. Cows without calves were herded into the pen. Cows with calves were put into another pen closer to some old fire pits.

Miguel parked the wagon on the east side of a large oak tree beside a rippling stream. Tumbleweed helped to unharness the team and put them in a small corral straddling the stream.

Mr. Pearson rode up with the stranger by his side. "Jerry, this is Sam Horne. He's my second in command. Sam, this is Jerry Reese. He'll work mainly with Miguel who'll send him to you if he's not needed. Whatever chores you find for him is fine with me. At one o'clock, he's to return to the ranch. Send the delicacies back each day with him. Consuela will cook them and send most back to you."

"The boys told me about how you outsmarted Wally and won the horse. Right smart dickering. Mr Pearson tells me you ain't got any critter savvy." Horne didn't offer to shake hands.

"Thank you, sir. critter savvy?" Tumbleweed scratched his head and stared at the man.

Pearson and his foreman rode North before he got an answer.

Nice meeting you, too, sir." Tumbleweed touched his hat and stared at the retreating foreman. I wonder what he meant.

Tumbleweed spent the early afternoon helping Miguel prepare his camp. Toward early afternoon, Miguel sent him to gather limbs for firewood. Texas and the other new hand were gathering their own supply. Tumbleweed rode off to a different strand. He laid his rope on the ground in a snake-like fashion and threw deadwood on it.

Once he had a sizable load, he took a second rope and tied the dead wood into a bundle. He carefully dragged the bundle toward the wagon. After freeing his ropes, he returned to the strand, roped, and pulled dead limbs off standing trees.

Coming back from his third trip, Tumbleweed was met by Miguel.

"Buenos, the ax is in the tool box."

Tumbleweed started chopping and put the wood into three different piles according to size. Unknowingly, Jerry embarrassed the two cowhands who had a smaller stack of chopped wood. He received a cool welcome when Miguel sent him over to help. Tumbleweed worked faster than the two cowhands, who deliberately slowed down.

Pearson and Horne rode into camp around mid-afternoon. The ranch owner spent several minutes conversing with Miguel before he and Horne rode toward Jerry.

"Saddle up," Horne ordered Tumbleweed and turned his attention to Texas.

"Yes, sir." Jerry hurried to put the ax away. A few minutes later, he saddled up and mounted, ready to ride.

Pearson led off in a Southerly direction. Horne rode beside him and Tumbleweed brought up the rear. The two men talked ranch business, as they rode toward a large hill.

Horne broke off and rode into a long draw.

Pearson motioned for Tumbleweed to ride with him as he rode toward the far side of the hill. "I don't think your horse has had too much experience with cattle either. We're about to find out." He headed into a wide gully at the base of the hill.

"Yes sir," Tumbleweed said to his boss' back. He soon caught up with him.

"These cattle are not as wild as the longhorns of old, but they can be a handful. Loosen your grip on the reins and let's see what your horse does." He rode into the grease wood bushes and jumping cholla. He came across a dozen head of cattle and began herding the cattle into the clearing by whacking their backsides with his coiled rope.

The Paint whinnied and got out of the way of the cattle. Tumbleweed freed his rope, and slapped his horse's flank. He pulled the reins to guide his horse toward the cattle. The Paint resisted.

Pearson's horse was all over the place keeping the cattle together. Tumbleweed watched in awe as the horse needed very little directions from Pearson. A steer broke loose and headed back into the bushes.

Without thinking, Tumbleweed took a stronger grip on his reins and gave chase. He blocked the steer's escape. Fighting the Paint's reluctance to charge the steer, Tumbleweed was still able to turn it back into the small herd. He noticed his boss turning and going back into the bushes. The cattle began to graze in the open area.

Tumbleweed turned and caught sight of Horne herding a larger group into the clearing. He waved and went after his boss. The Paint began to understand what was expected of him, making things easier on his young master.

In a short period of time, Pearson and Horne gathered over three hundred head. The men left Tumbleweed with orders to keep the growing herd together. An hour before sunset, they had almost five hundred head gathered.

Three riders, led by Texas, 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.

Pearson wiped his brow and turned toward Tumbleweed. "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 Tumbleweed in his wake.


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

Creosote bush is known as 'grease wood' because it the crushed limb give off and oily texture that can be used against termites, etc. When burned, the black smoke has an oily texture to it.

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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