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.We are, of course, paying for the cattle we buy to make the sales to the Navajo, but each drive still makes good money.Besides, Robert’s operation is the one that does so well,” Marge reported.“He has a man to help him now, named Fred Roach.He’ll be his foreman.Robert needs more harness that McCully can fix or build at his new shop.I imagine he’ll need more teams by springtime.They work them hard up there, but they really care for those horses, and that helps.”With his first bite of the Danish, his mouth filled with saliva and the rich strawberry filling in the sweet crust, and he felt himself relax.A man could do a lot worse than this.CHAPTER 21Folks began to arrive early.Hampt and May in a buckboard with their new baby, and their three older kids rode in on their horses.The youngest girl, Donna, about five, rode like some Apache child, and the two boys would close in any time she looked in trouble on her paint pony.Ty, the oldest, rode up and reined his horse up short.“Uncle Chet, Hampt says I can drag calves to the branding fire next spring.”“I’d be proud to see you there, Ty.”He nodded.“I’ll be there.Ray, get sister off that bronc,” he said to his younger brother who dismounted and helped her down.“Good to see you all here,” Chet said, and moved on to shake Hampt’s hand and hug May, whom he’d taken off the buckboard with her baby in her arms.“Those two.” May meant the older boys.“Now they’re full cowhands.”“I noticed how good they take care of Donna.”“Oh, they do that well.They’d fight a grizzly to save her.But they want to grow up way too fast.”“They mean well, is all I can say.”“You been alright? Chasing down more killers?”“Yes, we got them in New Mexico.They won’t kill any more town marshals.”“You are a wonder.Glad you’re fine.”“Glad to have you here—always.”“Thanks, you know I never thought I’d ever have a real life after Dale was killed, but I don’t know now what I’d do if I lost Hampt.He treats those other three so good—like they’re his and, of course, this one, too.Chet, I’m the luckiest woman in the world, and to think I dreaded coming to Arizona.That’s a joke now.”He hugged her and kissed her cheek.“We’ve crossed a lot of rivers together and it’s always been better on the other side.”“Amen.Come see us, always love to see you.”Hampt had put up the buckboard and came back when May went in the house.“I’ve been thinking about the Ralston place some more.”“Are they willing to sell it at a reasonable price?” Hampt asked.“I think they will.But it’s overgrazed and needs some relief.How many cows they have over there?”“Maybe four hundred?” Hampt guessed.“We cut that in half, take two hundred up to Reg, and you could get by a lot easier with the rest?”“Right.But we’d need to move them sometime this fall.You can’t move them when they go to calving next spring.”“You’re right, Hampt.Bo will be here today.I’ll see what he has going on about that buyout.”“Whenever you get ready.I think sending half those cows to Reg would be good and let that ranch rest some.”“Thanks.He has two more hands to help them feed this winter.They’re both real hands.They rode with me after those killers.And they needed the work.I better go greet guests.”“Go on.We can talk later.”Chet welcomed arriving parties.As host, he wore a white shirt and a suit coat against the cooler fall air.The ranch hands took the guests’ rigs and horses to park them.Everyone was dressed up.His banker, Andrew Tanner, arrived.One of the boys took his team and buckboard, and Chet sent him in the house for a drink at the bar.Marge had someone working as bartender, so they’d be taken care of.Bo arrived with his lady, and he asked him about the Ralston place.“I sent them a contract for thirty thousand,” Bo said.“They agreed to it, because I told them there was no hay on their ranch and if we had a tough winter they’d be out a lot of money to keep those thin cows alive.”“When will we get hold of the ranch? I want to move half those cows up to Reg.He has the feed and the grass.We’d have to rebrand them and move them before the snow comes.”“I will wire them tomorrow.They’ve accepted that price, so there should be no problem.But I’ll get off a wire first thing.We should know by sundown tomorrow.”“Do you want to do something?” His lady friend, Shelly, stood aside.Chet removed his hat and spoke to her.“I’m sorry, you two get inside.It’s warm in there.”She shook her head.“No problem.I hope you two can close the deal.”“Thanks.We’ll get it done.”Bo took her to the house.He talked to others arriving in the sundown, and collected kisses on the cheek from Jenn’s daughter, Bonnie, and Valerie.Cole had driven them and Jenn out there and came up to shake his hand.“You get any rest?”“I’m fine.I think Bo has the Ralston place bought worth the money.We’ll know tomorrow if we can move part of the cattle up to Reg.He has the feed for them and it will help rest that overgrazed place.”“Good.Will it be a big job to move them up there?”“Big enough.Sarge and his crew can’t help us.They have a drive of their own each month.But we can round up enough help.It’ll take two weeks to get them up there and it needs done before it snows.Hampt reminded me we can’t wait till spring, because they’ll be calving.”“Right.I’ll herd them inside,” Hampt said, amused, “and we can talk more later.”He gestured at the women standing around.“Ladies, time to go inside.They have the fireplaces going.I can smell the smoke.”Chet smiled.Then he went to greet Ben and Kathrin who’d just driven up.Things were fine with them, so he went on to welcome Tom and Millie from the Verde Ranch.He gave Millie a hug.“Go on inside, Millie.I need to talk to Tom.”“I’m not standing out here waiting on you two to finish.I know where the party is.Good to see you as always.”Tom joined him.“Anything wrong?”“Bo is closing the Ralston.Hampt says they have four hundred cows.We need to send half of them up to Reg.He has the feed and wants them.”“That’ll rest that ranch some.Good idea.Hampt thinks they really hurt it with all those cattle.We need to do it.”“We’ll need to brand those cows—all of them.”Tom looked serious about it, with them standing in the dimming light.“It will take time to get them up there, too.”“About two weeks, if we don’t hit lots of snow.Bo is going to get us a go-ahead to get to work on the cattle and handle the papers later.I’m sure they don’t want them.He dropped the purchase price to thirty thousand and they accepted it.”“You going to use their men?”Chet shook his head.“They aren’t very industrious ranch hands.”“That’s my opinion of them.But they might not have had any leadership over there [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]