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    • "Where would we put it?"  Emeline grinned as she started to sit beside him, but just at that moment the train's brakes engaged for the first time, sending her sprawling across Barnabas' lap.   "Goodness!"  She started laughing as she looked up at him.  "I'm afraid my husband isn't going to like this!" she giggled.  "He's very jealous, you know, so you'd best kiss me while you can!"   @Flip
    • It was long, tedious work, even though, for the most part, it was just plodding along with the cows, making sure they all stayed together and went the right way they were supposed to.  Even after the wind picked up, there were only a few mavericks who tried to wander off on their own, but the drag riders managed to coax them back to the herd.   As the day progressed, Annie became less jiggy, and Justus could tell she was getting tired.  "It's all right, Miz Annie."  He patted the horse's neck, then tightened the bandanna that was keeping his hat from blowing away.   "Ya think this is just a dry wind?" Justus called to Loredo, "or somethin' more movin' in?"  There wasn't the smell of rain in the air yet, nor clouds, but he knew that the weather could change quickly.  "Will they try ta settle in camp early?"  It seemed to him that if there was 'weather' moving in, it was better to have the cattle settled than moving, but what did he know? He just hoped it didn't impact supper!   @Flip
    • "Wonderful!"  Jonah almost clapped, for this had been going on for so long, that he really expected that this would be some sort of new setback, and Leah certainly didn't need any more complications.  "I'm sure it's going to be a huge relief when they finally break ground.  It's going to be rewarding to watch it take shape, and for you to know you are responsible for it."   He hoped, for her sake more than anything, that the weather cooperated, and that the progress was swift and without complications.    "You'll be overseeing the project?"  He couldn't imagine that she'd step back now, and not assure that every detail was right.   @Flip
    • "Boss, we found us a herd ripe for the pluckin'. Maybe we oughtta move on it afore they change where they're grazin' 'em, an make it more difficult." Toole suggested. "We can take close to a hunderd head easy enough, they move 'em, thet might not be the way of it."   "'Scuse me men, but Toole here is on to something, and cattle is our other business. We've customers waiting up north." Case said, not happy at being interrupted, yet realizing that what he said was true. It was why they were there, and it was what the did. "So go on and make yourselves to home while I get this job situated."   "Oh sure thing, Case, an thanks for the offer. We appreciate it, 'mon boys." Shannon said, and with that they walked outside to find the other building Case was talking about.   "Alright Toole what did you have in mind?" Case asked.   "The place is just at the foothills where they have their cattle. Now any buildin's 'er maybe a mile, mile'n a half away. What we saw was just maybe four riders wit the cattle, may not hav'ta kill any of 'em. We just filter down through the trees and then rush 'em. Maybe eight 'er ten of us, circle the heard an' push 'em back the way we come which was the long way around , and shore they'll be tracks alomst all the way to the dry river bed, maybe  whot, two mile from the tree line. Hard ground to river bed, but they won't catch us, not seein's they're out numbered."   Case gave it some thought, but Toole had been plotting how they would steal a herd for quite a while, and he knew what he was doing. Besides, no County Sheriff, no problem!   "Pick your men, Toole and get it done." Case said, knowing if they got a hundred head, that would be enough to drive north, once the brands were altered.
    • Having a second thought, to bolster the findings he sent for Fairchild before he could leave for New Orleans, and in the vicinity of Elinor Steelgrave, that could be done at another time after this meeting with Elias himself.   It was like hedging his bet on the situation. He wanted Elias to meet the man who could explain what was in the file in detail, much better than he himself.  might be able to. Nothing like being prepared. Elias could be unpredictable when upset, if a man like Fairchild explaining what he had found could manage to keep Steelgrave manage-ably clam then the expense was worth it to all concerned.   He had to congratulate himself on the idea. It just might work!

Head 'em up, move em out!


Frank Teal
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Mature Content: language

With: Frank Teal, Wheezer, Dixie,
Location: Coldwater, Texas Sazerac Saloon
When: Mid-summer 1876
Time of Day: Afternoon

 

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A day after being sent the telegram reached the agent in the town of Coldwater Texas where the herd belonging to Barnabas Pike was standing in the holding pens. Seven hundred fifty mixed, longhorns, Herefords and a dozen Angus. Three bulls were being sent by rail to Montana which would take just about as long as the planned ninety days for the thirteen hundred mile drive, if they managed fifteen miles a day, the average speed for a drive. That took into account nooning to rest and graze.

 

Frank Teale read the brief message, folded the paper and stuffed it in his vest pocket, then drew out his pocket watch checked the time and got to his feet. He kicked the chair where Dixie Brick was alseep. "'mon get up, we're movin out." He sided up with Weezer Walcot. "Time to take it on the trail, Weezer."

 

"Yes sir," and he hurried outside,leaped into the saddle and galloped to the pens at the other side of town where most of the boys were waiting just such news. Now the herd had been held in Hardeman, Texas, but Teale and the boys drove them to Coldwater, giving them mover of a straight shot north, northeast to Montana. The riders from the XIT, a new outfit had made the delivery genitally, but Teale and his cowboys finished the move.

 

With Dixie in tow they went to the hitch rail and mounted up, it would be a while before they bellied up to the bar again, but that was the life of a cowboy on a drive. It was about to get hot and nasty! Teal had the route planned, waterholes and rivers marked, hoping the waterholes would not be dry by the time they got to them. Waiting at the holding pens were the best men he could find, not just to drive the cattle, but to fight if and when it was necessary. Fifteen top hands ready to head out on one more drive where things were unknown, hostilities were probable, hard going assured. And they couldn't wait!

TBC

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  Dixie Brick             Weezer        Frank Teal

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"Godamn! Here we go boys!" Dallas said watching Frank, Dixie, and Weezer coming toward them at a canter. A clear sing that it was time to head north for this Montana country to deliver the herds, not that any of them had seen that country, even though this would not be the first herd driven up there.

 

"Mount up! We're movin' out!" Pythias Modeen shouted to the others, but Cookie and the kid were already hitching  the team to the chuck wagon, which had been kept close by, as they'd be moving out ahead of the heard. "Get them doggies together!"

 

Dallas Hardin leaped into the saddle and began herding the cattle together, while Virgil and Lorado began getting the remuda organized to move. It was not a simple thing, just throwing the gates open and letting them run, it was all calculated. Everything in it's turn and ever man had a job insuring neither horse, man, nor cow was injured. That would make for a bad start.

 

The remuda would get out first and they would run after being penned up, and it would be the job of several of the hands to chase after and slow them down. Excitement raced through man and animal as the preparations were made to open the gates and head out.

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The idea of moving seven hundred and fifty cows with fifteen men might seem like overkill, but Frank's reasoning was, that if he lost men along the way, or whatever reason, replacing them would be next to impossible, so better too any than not enough.

 

Granted, seven hundred fifty was a small herd compared to hears of a thousand to twenty-five hundred driven to Kansas, most times there were ten cowboys for those herds, not counting the cook and his helper. Frank counted them all.  Long before the Pikes had left for their trip, Pronto had contacted Frank about what he wanted, and how he wanted it done.

 

So, as they moved out from Coldwater Texas, it was just as the owner had stated. Frank was a stickler for instructions. Though his main concern was the Indian territory they would pass through, not just for Indians, but outlaws as well. This patch of land that was called Oklahoma would not be recognized as a state for some years yet, so it would be wide open.

 

Cookie and Little Mary, Danny Barker, led out, and behind them came the herd, the drive was on!

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Frank had given out assignments before the start, and promised that positions would rotate. Generally the drag riders were new hands, but the men he had were all experienced, the drive was too far in through questionable country to be training youngsters. The men he had knew how to handle most things they might encounter, stampedes, herd cutters, Indians and just plain bad weather.

 

The sun was out and bright, not a cloud in the sky, and they were making good time, though the would cross into Oklahoma within the hour, The would then make their first camp that night in the territories. If they pushed hard which Frank Teal just might, they could get close to ten miles in that first day and just about cross out of the strip known by several names, 'No Man's Land,' 'The Cimarron Strip are just two. But a dangerous place. The could cut over to New Mexico Territory but that would invite the Apaches to raid them, so they would give the lawless town of Cimarron a wide birth and lose perhaps a day.

 

They were moving a a good steady clip. So far, so good!

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The first day had gone without incident, either human or weather, if they were lucky, and their good fortune continued, making good time would be easy, yet every man knew that one day does not make a drive. They had a long way to go yet to deliver the herd and the horses.

 

"Say boss, this Montana country, you ever been up thata way?" Laredo asked.

 

"Can't say as I have, but I hear it's real pretty country." Frank replied. "Part of the reason I took this job, man says we can stay on if we like, he'll be looking for hands once there's cows on the place."

 

"You know this hombre?" Was the next question as others gathered around.

 

"Know of him. Was a Ranger once. Done some movin' about, much the same as most of us. He's said to be a square shooter, not given to slippery deals, and bad promises. Frank explained, he had heard about Pronto Pike and his reputation was good. "A fair man, an honest man, one they said to ride the river with. So that got me to thinking that this here drive mind end where a man could set down roots, quit wanderin' around."

 

"Well then, glad I signed on, like the sound of that!" Laredo said. "A fresh start in new country. Sounds good, real good.

 

The the triangle was sounded and Cooke shouted, "Come an git afore I throw it out!" Not that he ever had.

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When the ringing of the call to supper echoed across the plain, even Mule's head shot up, and the paint's ears pricked forward.  The gelding had been around ranches to know that the sound meant rest, going back to the barn, and his own meal.  Still, the lanky horse wasn't going to do anything he wasn't asked to, so he just kept plodding forward until his rider pulled him to a stop.

 

"Ya heard it, too?"  Leaning forward, Justus patted his horse's neck as he scanned the low rolling prairie in the direction the sound had come from, spotting the distant glow of a fire against the fading light of dusk.  As he sat up in the saddle, he could hear the lowing of cattle, and the pieces fell into place.

 

A drive...

 

"Think we should chance it?"  While it was a bit safer to intrude into the camp of a cattle drive than just riding in on a lone, or a couple, of men, there was still a risk that they would be jumpy, or just plain mean, and he wouldn't make it within half a mile of camp before being shot out of the saddle.

 

Still, most drovers were just good, hard-working men, willing to help a strange, so Justus decided the risk was worth it if he could get a meal...it was going on three days since he'd had anything substantial...and short of being killed dead, what harm was there in asking?  And even if they shot him, that solved the problem!

 

About a half mile from the camp, Justus swung out of the saddle, leaving the cinch tight in case he had to make a quick retreat, then unstrapped his gunbelt and hung it over the horn.  Essentially unarmed, and on foot, he led Mule toward the fire, keeping his hands in sight, planning to stop as soon as he was challenged.

 

@Flip

@Wayfarer (It's just me, resurrecting another Green Valley character!)

 

 

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Edited by Bongo (see edit history)
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"Well boy," the rider said looking down at him from the back of his horse. "Just what are you up too?" It was Dallas, and he was one to ask questions first, rather than just shoot a fellow. "You might oughtta ride on in like a man. There'll be plenty of grub, and you'll be welcome to it." He smiled.

 

Dallas, had been sitting his horse between the stranger and the herd in the fading light, and though he has a hand close to his Colt, he had not seen the need to draw it. "You out here on yer own? Mount up an' I'll ride in with ya jest so's you don't get shot er nuthin'!" The he laughed.

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@Bongo

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Justus kept a close eye on the man as he approached, reassured by the fact that he was being allowed to approach, and that there was no sign of aggression.  He stopped a few feet away.

 

"Evenin', sir."  Justus nodded with an easy grin, relieved that it seemed this was a friendly bunch.  Most men on drives were, but Justus had learned young that it was best to assume the worst, then be happily surprised.

 

"Just what are you up too?" It was Dallas, and he was one to ask questions first, rather than just shoot a fellow. "You might oughtta ride on in like a man. There'll be plenty of grub, and you'll be welcome to it." He smiled.

 

"Thank ya, sir, I might do just that."  While he didn't want to seem too eager, there was no denying that he was grateful for the offer.

 

"You out here on yer own? Mount up an' I'll ride in with ya jest so's you don't get shot er nuthin'!" The he laughed.

 

"Yes, sir, I'm alone."  Swinging into the saddle, Justus patted Mule on the neck, then fell into pace beside the man.  "I do appreciate this, sir, I'll work for it, sir, help th' cookie with dishes or some'at."  A thankless job, but it wouldn't do him any harm, and he wouldn't feel so much like mooching.

 

"Oh, m' name's Justus Wheeler, sir.  I'm headed north, nowhere in particular."

 

@Flip

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"Well now, so are we, Headed up ta Montana to deliver them horses an' cows. Ever been on  a trail drive?" Dallas asked, thinking the boy probably had not. It had been acceptable that boys joined drives once they were in their teens.

 

"We get to camp I'll inter-duce ya to Frank Teal, he's the ramrod o' this outfit an' it'll be his call about you hirin' on. But I'd say the chances are good. He's about as fair a man as I know. Fact is, you'd fit right in. 'corse you'll want ta go back fer that Pinto ya left back there, you'll be needin' it."

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@Bongo

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"Never been on a drive," Justus explained, "but I've worked some on a ranch, ropin', brandin' an' whatnot."  He hadn't expected to be offered a job, so this was a good turn of events.  "Horse here knows more'n I do, but that ain't sayin' much, an' don't mind gettin' dirty."  As lanky as his rider, Mule didn't make much of an impression at first, he had a slow, ambling gait, with his head out-streached and lower lip hanging low.  But when the time to act came on, the horse could keep up with the best, and had a good sense for running cattle.

 

Justus knew that he'd likely get the worst of the work, but if it was a way to get to north with regular meals and the protection of other cowboys, it would be worth it. 

 

"Montana?  They still havin' trouble with th' natives up that way?"  He reckoned that, in a way, it was probably safer there now, since the ire of the US Federal Government had been stirred up, and there would be focus on suppression, if not all-out retaliation.

 

@Flip

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"Don't know nothin' about that. All we know is we need to get the herd up there fer this Pike fella." Dallas replied. "Injun trouble, one of them risks we gotta take. Storms, stampedes, nefarious outlaws lookin' ta take the herd, specially them Morgan horses, but this here bunch a men'll make it hard on them."

 

"Good ya got some experience, you tag along with us, well, you'll learn a lot on a drive like this 'un. Ain't easy, but there's nothin' like it neither. It's the freedom out here, an' ya got a purpose to boot." Dallas stated. "Ol' Frank now, he's the curly wolf of this bunch, an' he takes no lip, just warnin'  ya. He's fair but demandin' we all pull our share with no arguein'.

 

They were almost to the camp when Dallas asked, "You handle a gun?"

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@Bongo

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"I ain't adverse ta puttin' in a honest day'a hard work," Justus declared, but then he grinned.  "'Course, can't say as I'd not jump at somethin' that paid good with no effort!"

 

He laughed, then nodded.  "Yes, sir, I'm a fair shot with a pistol, an' give me a decent long gun, I can do passable well, if I do say so."  He didn't want to brag, but it was a fact...he was skilled with a gun, but preferred not to demonstrate that if he could help it.

 

"I can't say as I'd mind ridin' with you all, so long's th' food's good!"

 

@Flip

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Frank Teal was standing there waiting to see who this new man was that Dallas was bringing in. There were three others out with the herd, the Morgan horses were in close. The rest of the boys were about to shake out their bedrolls as the watch would change every four hours until sun up.

 

Dallas pointed to Teal, "That's the boss, Frank Teal so we'll get that outta the way. Some of the boys are getiin' read to bed down. While we're in this part of the country we'll have four men on watch through out the night."

 

"Who you got there, Dallas?" Teal wanted to know.

 

"Justus Wheeler, Boss." Was the answer as the two stopped.

 

"Well, light an set. Grub's on if your hungry." Frank offered. Dallas nodded, turned his horse and headed back to his place with the herd. Meanwhile Justus stepped down. "So what finds you out here, on the run? Folks, the law? Step over an' get yerself a plate."

 

"'mon son, this ain't gonna git et with you standin' there!" Cookie demanded, the kid smiling, here was one close to his age.

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"Well, light an set. Grub's on if your hungry."

 

"Thank you, sir, it's good ta meet ya."  Justus smiled, then stepped out of the saddle and loosened the cinch.   "I truly do appreciate it, sir."  He knew how fortunate it was that he'd come across a drive in the first place, so to be offered a job was all the better.

 

"So what finds you out here, on the run? Folks, the law? Step over an' get yerself a plate."

 

"Might say that."  Justus hadn't really thought about how he would answer that, although he should have suspected it was coming, and it was only reasonable that the man would ask.  "Family's gone, my ma died when I was little, an' Pa an' I...separated ways, so I figured it was best ta head north."  Truth, yes, but maybe not all of it.  "'Sides, I'm hopin' it'll be a little cooler up Montana way."

 

"'mon son, this ain't gonna git et with you standin' there!"

 

Justus chuckled and nodded.  "Thank ya, I'd like ta picket ol' Mule here first."  Of course, the horse came first...without a horse, a cowboy wasn't much of anything.

 

That only took a couple of minutes for him to unsaddle and add the pinto to the picket line, then come back for the offered meal. 
"Thanks.  It's been a couple'a days."  He nodded, then added, "I'm Justus, good ta meet ya."  Even though he'd been introduced indirectly, he wanted to make it directly to the cook, who was much younger than he would have thought.  But he figured the trail boss knew what he was doing, a cook was crucial to contentment on a drive.

 

"I'll help ya clean up, if ya'd like."

 

@Flip

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Teal looked on as the youngster ate and then offered to help clean up, something no hand he had ever known would do.

 

Cookie, Nate Amrose had been on many a drive north to Kansas and he had never seen it either. "Now son, ya wanna be a cowhand on this drive, ya don't start by washin' no dishes when Danny Baker here is about to do jest that. Now g'wan. Git!"

 

Frank suppressed a chuckle, not Dixie Brick, or Tisdale, or Will Ames. No, they all had a good chuckle at the lads offer. "You boys best rest some, you're on at mid-night, and son, roll out yer soogun cuz you'll be out there with 'em."

 

"We'll show ya the ropes." Brick said.

 

"You'll be a good hand in no time, yer ridin' with the best Texas has to offer!" Ames added.

 

Tisdale got to his feet, "Here, I'll lend a hand stripping yer horse." He took the last swallow of his coffee and set his cup near the circle of rock where the fire was to be lit. The cook fire was out.

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                                                                                                 Will Ames             Tidale

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Justus shrugged.  He wasn't going to complain about not helping with cleaning up from grub, especially when it seemed like he was going to be run out of bed in a few hours to watch cows!  Not that he minded, he was no stranger to keeping odd hours and getting up in the middle of the night, fully (mostly) alert!

 

"Thanks."  Justus smiled and nodded to Tisdale.  "Glad ta know this outfit's th' best, wouldn't have it any other way!" 

 

He chuckled, then walked over to Mule, knowing that the horse would be more than happy to be free of his tack, and he showed his enjoyment of a good brush-down by swishing his tail and smacking his lips.

 

Once the horse was settled, he picked up his saddle, that still had the saddle bags and his bedroll strapped on.  "Where can I put my roll?" he asked.  He knew that there was a sort of hierarchy on ranches among the cowboys, and he figured it was the same here, and he didn't want to step on anyone's toes.

 

@Flip

 

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"Close to hand if you ain't usin' it fer a piller." Name' Pete but most call me Pecos Pete." The man with the easy smile said. "We'll up an' at it pretty soon, so, best we get us some sleep. Frank's gonna rotate duties, but there's a couple men what like night hawk duty and volunteer fer it."

 

It was not unusual to rotate duties on a drive instead of the same men doing the same jobs over and over. Frank wanted to keep his sharpest men on at night when the Indians liked to sneak in and steal horses, or raiders  swoop in to rustle the herd, or at least a part of it.

@Bongo

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"All right, then."  Justus smiled and nodded, then tossed his saddle down near the fire and laid out his bedroll.  It was still pretty warm, so he opted to lay on top of the blankets, grateful for the extra layer of padding between him and the dirt. 

 

With his saddle under his head for a 'pillow', and gunbelt at his side, Justus closed his eyes and relaxed, although he lay awake for a time, listening to the activity around the camp and allowing himself to trust the situation that had been given to him.  Maybe he was finally on the right track...

 

@Flip

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"'mon boy, time to git too it." Pecos Pete said nudging the boy in the shoulder with his boot toe." Then moved on to his own chores. It was the way of things out on the prairie . Quite, gentle. The boys for the nigh hawk were getting ready to saddle up, later on, they would already have their mounts under saddle.

 

Pete was at his horse, ready to blanket and saddle him, he looked back at Justus, "Be alright tonight, good moon, lite breeze," He said as he worked. "You'll do, Wheeler. Just takes a bit of time to catch on ta things." He pulled his cinch tight, dropping the fender, then with the ease of a well practiced mount, swung up on into the saddle without using the stirrup. He looked at justice and smiled

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@Bongo

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Justus started awake, his hand instinctively going for his gun, but he quickly realized where he was, and why he was here, and stayed the movement, for a moment blinking up at the outline of the man standing over him.  He was accustomed to waking up at all hours, and he readily jumped up and grabbed his hat. 

 

"Gimme a minnit ta git my horse saddled up."  Mule wasn't too happy at the prospect of roaming around in the dark, but the lanky horse tolerated the intrusion, and soon, Justus was mounted up and beside Pete.

 

"Tell me what needs doin' an' how ta do it," he said, nodding.  He was willing to learn, and he surely had plenty to learn!

 

@Flip

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"Well now that'll be easy. You an' me we'll just ride out, relieve the first two we run onto." Pete began, "mostly it's about eyes an' ears out here. You an me'll string out a bit time to time with Dixie and Tisdale. The job is to be wary of Injuns 'er outlaws. both'll come fast if they come. Ain't like every night out here there's a threat, but we just prepare for it."

 

"Frank's put on extra riders since we're so close to the 'Strip.' Mostly there'll just be two men out as night hawks once we've cleared this area, maybe a couple more days." Then it's the wide open spaces, meadows and mountains, rivers to ford, clean clear sweet water for the drinkin'. Yep new country."

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@Bongo

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"Yes, sir."  Justus nodded, easing a bit, at least as far as his companion went.  Pete was a nice guy, seemed willing to teach and help, and not to judge a raw kid on his first ride out.

 

Or course, Justus was only 'raw' to the trail drive, but when it came to other things he was seasoned far beyond someone of his years should be.  But those were skills he wasn't going to use again, and chuckled at the realization that his Pa had never gotten into cattle rustling -- 'Too dangerous and too hard' -- although now, it would be knowledge that Justus could use to predict when rustlers might be a problem.

 

"So, now, we don't gotta sing ta them cows or nothin', right?"  That alone would cause a stampede!

 

@Flip

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Oh, singin' ta them doggies, thet's somethin' some do, some don't. They say it keeps them calm, don't doubt it, but I don't have the voice fer it." He admitted. "Not no problem though, there's al'ays a couple boys what ain't afraid ta lullaby."

 

Likely you'll get paired up with different riders as we go, gener'ly whot Frank does with a new man. The job is ta keep an eye on things, includin' them steers. What what's goin' on around ya. Eye out fer trouble. Hard cuz it's dark, but the time'll pass quick enough. Be four afore ya know it. then back inta the flea bag till time ta rise an' shine."

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@Bongo

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Justus had always enjoyed the stillness of the night, and it was even better when they weren't hiding, or running from someone trying to hunt them down.  Of course, he was aware that that opinion might change if or when the cows decided to act up, but for now he was content to ride along the fringes of the herd with Pete, discussing the job at hand.

 

"Be good ta have a chance ta work with everyone," Justus observed, "get more knowledge that way, so I'll be an expert in no time!"  He laughed quietly, although there was some truth to it...even though the end product was the same, each man has his own expertise and way of doing things, and learning those would help him figure out what worked best for him.

 

"You ever have a run-in with rustlers?"

 

@Flip

 

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Pecos Pete was a canny sort, and the question made him smile, "Yep, a time 'er two. Always somebody out to take whot ya got. 'specially stock. Thet's why they hang 'em when they catch 'em. Decorate the trees with 'em. Men work hard to build somethin' out here and then here come the cow thieves, them what don't do a lick a work, but rob an' steal an honest man's efferts!"

 

H looked a Justice, "Figger you've had some truck with them sorts? Have ya?" A pointed question. It mattered little, unless he was the point man meant to infiltrate the drive, then it would be totally different. Until anyone had proof, Justice was just another hand under Frank Teal

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@Bongo

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