I wish someone would say something; like the story, don't like it; something.
In the Sierra’s:
The morning had dawned cooler then normal for this time of year, two weeks had now passed since their world had changed. Each new day seemed to get harder, doing all the washing, dishes, cleaning, repair of clothes, and leather work by hand and then learning to work on the ranch. David didn’t know when things would get easier he hoped it wouldn’t take too long for him to get the hang of things. What was funny was as much as Olive hated doing things the old way; she sure seemed to do ok. Must have been the way she was raised after all, even Kate knew how to do things he didn’t. They even knew how to handle the guns and rifles better then he did. He guessed he should have spent more time out here with gramps growing up then he did. Everything in town seemed to be more interesting especially as a teenager. He sure didn’t remember much of his time out here as a child. Now he regretted that immensely.
The twins Tyler and William seemed to be taking to the gun practice with a vengeance, they loved it, and old Juan had brought his bow out to have the boys give that a try. He really seemed to take a shine to the boys, Juan said they reminded him of his boys, when they were alive. David hadn’t known that old Juan had even been married, let alone had a family and lost them to a car accident back in 1970. He explained he had just stayed a bachelor after that, he never could find another good woman that could stand him.
Gramps thought it wouldn’t take too much longer for them to start seeing a few drags of society coming their way. Sooner or later they always showed up he said, even way out here.
The ranch hands Duke and Red were showing him just what to do and how to handle the horses, how to repair the straps, rigging, saddles and so on. Then in the spring he would have to learn how to handle them for plowing. Today as every other day he did target practice. He got three shots with the pistol and then the 30.06; they didn’t want to waste too much ammunition. He was getting much better and could almost hit the bull’s eye now. They also had him easing into working with the cattle.
Tyler and William had gone out into the hills with Gramps this morning to learn stealth in hunting and how to track game, which would work for the two legged kind too if it came down to it. David was coming back from the shooting range they had set up not far from the ranch, when he saw his wife out back of the house hanging a basket of clothes. Talk about a different way of life from one week to the next, who would have even imagined it. He just stood there for awhile watching her, he enjoyed seeing her move.
She looked around a shirt she was hanging and saw him standing off to the left of the house.
“I see that smile on your face David, what are you thinking.”
His smile got even deeper, “I was watching my beautiful wife hang clothes.”
He walked over to her and gave her a big hug and just held her.
At that time Olive’s sister Kate walked out of the back door with another basket of clothes, “All right you two get a room for that kind of stuff.”
David and Olive broke apart laughing and Olive went back to hanging clothes and David went inside to clean the rifle. These days everyone wore a pistol when they were awake and at night it stayed beside their beds. No one was exempt from this, gramps insisted on this fact.
David went on to his next chore which was muck out duty down at the stable, this was not what he had envisioned for himself for the future. Their one hope though was that the fallout had missed them. This was a very big worry of Olive’s because of their boys. Everyone seems to be fine; none of the animals were sick or showed any signs of illness of any kind. The winds had been blowing northeast since the bombs went off and they were behind a mountain that split the winds, so gramps thought they were most likely okay. If they were David thought, it was shear dumb luck. He noticed gramps had more stuff around then one family and a few ranch hands could use in several years, in the basement and the sheds. But he hadn’t asked yet what that was all about. All he wanted to do is get through each day right now. By the end of the day he just fell into bed dead tired.
He didn’t have to ask gramps the whys for all the different supplies after all; at dinner gramps laid out just why he had the things he did on the ranch, besides what he had told them the first night.
After gramps said the dinner prayer, and prayed for the family, and those that still were in harms way he started to explain.
“Like I told you the other night, I have been planning for quite some time on having you here with me if possible when this finally came down, and a blind man could have seen the writing on the wall. Sorry no condemnations on you son, but you were worse then that. But at least you remembered where to come when the going got tough. I have also planned for gardens and crops we need to plant to get through a few years or maybe indefinitely if we have too.”
That brought a shocked look to the family, they had hoped after a few months things would get back to normal and they could go home and go back to their life, and told gramps so. David, Olive, and Kate were all trying to talk at once. Juan, Duke, and Red already knew all of this and so they just waited for gramps to go on.
“I hear you, but I don’t think it’s going to go back to normal, not for a long time if it ever does. So you can stop thinking it will, right here and now. Now where was I, oh yeah, we will be planting a large garden and wheat this spring, but I got off my train of thought. The extra things are also for others that may join us and I hope more do. There is no way if we were hit even by 20 men we could defend ourselves for a great length of time if they were well armed. I do have more guns and ammunition but we can shoot only so many at a time. We have to have more people. What I am going to do is have two of you go out and in a ten mile or so radius, see if any other ranch or other people would like to move here and join up with us. I know there are some cabins higher in the mountains that people live in and commuted to the city. That’s where I think I will send you first, starting tomorrow. David and Duke will be the first to go out, you will take a rifle each besides the pistols you already wear and food for three days, just in case you can’t get back right away for some reason.”
Olive had stopped eating; she had lost her appetite with the thought of David going out into an unsafe world.
David noticed, “Look honey I have to take my turn too, if I am one of the first so be it. I need to hold up my end and learn to do what needs to be done, that’s just the way it has to be.”
“I know David but I didn’t think it would start this soon, I thought we would just hold out here and wait for things to get better, it’s very disappointing.”
They finished the meal and Olive and Kate did the dishes both in somber moods. Then Kate went out to the cool room in the ground that gramps and his men had dug some time ago and got the eggs out for breakfast in the morning. The cool room was like other peoples root cellars as far as Kate was concerned; looks like gramps always did things in a big way. She also helped with the chickens, De Ja Vue she thought, she had done this most of her life back home in Washington. She was somber because one of her thoughts was, was there going to be someone for her, she didn’t want to end up an old maid out here in the sticks. So she sure hoped that some of the other families that joined them had young men.
The boys Tyler and William went out and helped bed the horses down for the night and do a walk around the buildings, to make sure all was ok for the night, while Juan and Red got ready for guard duty, they would do 7 to 11 pm. Gramps and Olive would do a four-hour shift from 11 to 3 am. Then Kate and Duke would do three to daylight then when everyone was up, they would head to bed again for a bit more sleep. This was a revolving duty, and tonight was different because of the two going out at daybreak, looking for others to join them and see what was up around them.
David shivered in the cool dawn air as they rode, winter was in the air and he knew it would be cooler the higher they climbed into the mountains. He could see snow at the tops of the mountains and that made him colder just looking at it. It was now two hours after dawn and they should be coming upon the first cabin gramps talked about soon. Duke was in the lead, they had both looked at the map gramps had marked the cabins, homesteads, and ranches on and Duke had just put it back in his saddlebag.
“It should be around this next bend David,” Duke said.
He was right, as they rounded the bend they could see smoke coming though the trees in the distance. The cabin was back up off the road in the trees. The two of them rode up the driveway. Duke didn’t know how smart that really was, he would rather have scouted the place out first to make sure everything was in order here, then just ride up in full sight. He would let David have his way this time, but that was it, safety first from now on, this gave him the willies.
A shot went over both their heads but Duke didn’t know by how much.
“Stop right where you are,” a man’s voice came from behind a tree off on the right of the cabin.
“Not another step if you both want to keep your heads and don’t make a move for your guns either.”
A man with a couple of week’s old growth of salt and pepper beard stepped out from around the tree. He was dressed in a thick flannel red and black checked shirt, jeans, boots, and a Seahawks cap. David estimated him to be about 55 and he was holding a wicked looking 12 gauge shot gun on them. No wonder the boom had been so loud.
“Toby, Ruth get out here,” he bellowed.
A middle-aged women and a young man came out onto the porch of the cabin, both armed with rifles.
“Keep your guns on them, both of you,” he said to them.
The man looked at David and Duke and said, “Now what are you two doing here and what do you want?”
David cleared his throat.
“Ah sir, well I’m David O’Dell and this is Duke Ledbetter, were from the Double O ranch down the mountain. My grandfather Theodore O’Dell sent us up here to contact folks, and see if they would like to join us at the ranch to live for the time being and help each other. At least have a place to go if things get bad or you see yourself about to get over run. That’s if you can get to us in a time that is.”
The man lowered the barrel of his rifle halfway, and just stood there for a few moments thinking.
“O’Dell you say, I have met your grandfather a time or two, seemed a decent sort, friendly. By the way I’m Greg North, this is my wife Ruth and son Toby.”
Then everyone’s attention was drawn to Ruth standing on the porch.
“Well why don’t you all come in for something hot to drink, you men would stand here talking all day, as for me I am getting out of the cold.”
With that Ruth turned and went into the cabin.
“Might as well come ahead and come in,” Greg said, “the missus is right.”
Dave and Duke got down from their horses and led them to the right side of the cabin and tied them to a pine tree, there was some grass for the horses to nibble on so they should be happy for now. Greg stood on the porch and went into the cabin behind them. He stopped by Toby who stood inside beside the door.
“Toby I am putting you on Guard duty while we talk, go on get dressed and go on out.”
Toby didn’t look any too happy with having to go out and not be in on what the two men from down below had to say. The family had been up here for an extended weekend when things went to pot and he hadn’t seen another soul but his parents, that was a real bummer. He slipped on his warm coat, hat, and gloves and slipped out the door. He knew better then to sass his dad and make a fuss about being inside. He also knew things weren’t the same now and he was considered one of the protectors of the family. That did make him feel better about having to be outside with company in the cabin. Now he was one of the men of the family.
Ruth got them all a cup of tea; they were out of coffee and had been for two days now.
Greg sat down opposite Dave and Duke, “Ok gentlemen now what’s this about, this invitation to come down to a ranch?”
David looked up and into the Greg’s eyes.
“Like I said Mr. North, my grandfather wanted to invite good folk down to the double O ranch to live, work, and generally help each other out. No other strings attached just a mutual help each other out verbal contract. You are to bring whatever you can get to the ranch, so you can help take care of yourselves. To join in with the work and chores with the planting, and animals, or whatever there is to do. That’s right from my grandfather. Now I know your family needs to talk and think about this, so we’re willing to go do a little bit of guard duty for you while your family talks this over, or we can just be on our way and you can still think about it and come down when and if you want.”
Greg looked over at his wife, they had been talking about this very thing only this morning, and they were both worried about how much longer they were going to be able to hold out up here. They had always meant to bring more supplies up here, but some how never got that done. It was always we would do it next time, and the next time came and they were too tired to bring more but the normal supplies. Now they found themselves in a real pickle and thought they would have to go down to a town in another week. He had used the cabin for hunting so they had more then most people had on hand, but it just wasn’t going to be enough to get by for the winter, even with hunting.
Ruth nodded her head at him with the go ahead.
“Well gentlemen believe it or not we already talked about this not but a couple hours ago. We had already come to the conclusion we wouldn’t be able to stay here much longer; we don’t have to think about it. We will take you up on it. Our only problem is getting our things down to the ranch. We don’t have any horses, so I don’t know what were going to do.”
David sat there and thought for a moment.
“All I can think of is you all start packing, we will go ahead with our rounds and see if there is anyone else that would like to join us and when we get back to the ranch we will come back up with help and a wagon and get you and your things, how’s that? Oh before I forget I will draw a map of where the ranch is, just in case you need it in case you don’t remember.”
Both Greg and Ruth smiled broadly. Greg shook both David’s and Dukes hands.
“You have a deal, my family will be ready when you get back.”
Greg felt a weight lift off his chest; he had been so worried about what they were going to do. He couldn’t believe things had turned out like this. It was just amazing.
Nobody brought up the idea that this could be a trap of some kind, and that Greg and his family had just been suckered, you have to think, that kind of thing could happen. It would be one way for the scum to get what other’s had. Greg was going on what he felt; these men seemed like good men, there weren’t any shady looks to them, sidelong glances at each other. They seemed very sincere with what they had told him and Ruth. He was betting his families lives on it.
Duke and Dave got up from the table, Duke hadn’t really said much up to this point and he wanted to now.
“Before we leave I wanted to make sure while your family is packing that you still keep watch. I don’t know anything about any of your neighbors, but I think some may be getting desperate about now and that’s not a good thing. Some of them may shoot first instead of just asking for a hand out and that will be too late for you folks.”
“Well thank you Duke, I wouldn’t have let our guard down but thank you anyway, yes it’s easy to get lax about this sort of thing when your not used to it and need a different frame of mind.”
Greg then walked over and opened the door for them and led them out and over to where the horses were tied.
“You men be careful now, we want you to be coming back, if you don’t make it back here in three to five days we will walk down to the ranch and tell them you were by and send out a rescue party, how’s that?”
Duke looked at Greg, “I sure hope that won’t be necessary Mr. North but thank you, we’ll see you soon.”
“You two call me Greg, all that formal stuff is for the birds when you’re gonna be living with someone, isn’t it?”
Both Dave and Duke nodded and grinned, said goodbye and headed off for the next place. From what Gramps had drawn on their map it was about one mile further north. How in the world gramps knew these places were up here David couldn’t figure out, gramps was one smart cookie, which is the opposite of what he thought as a teenager.
“Boy was I stupid, or rather naïve,” he mumbled to himself.
Duke turned in his saddle, “what was that David, I didn’t hear what you said?”
“Oh nothing Duke just grousing at myself.”
“I do that all the time these days myself, don’t worry about it.”
In about 15 minutes they were nearing the next place, all was quiet, this time they did it Duke’s way. They got down from their horses and took different paths to the house. Duke had David go to the left and go behind the place and Duke was going to go straight and come into the side. David was trying to be as quiet as he could and it seemed like almost every time he stepped, he crunched. He wondered how loud his walking really was, it sure seemed loud to him. It took him around eight minutes to go around and head into the back of the house. He still felt like he was telegraphing every move he made and someone had to know he was coming.
Soon he spied the back of the small home, it was a one story wood frame house, painted white. He looked off to the right to see if he could see Duke anywhere and await some kind of signal to go closer to the house. Finally he saw Duke peek out from behind a tree and look his way. Then Duke waved his hand forward and David began to make his way closer to the house. By the time he got to the back of the house Duke was already there and looking through a side window. Greg looked into one of the back windows a bedroom; no one was inside that he could see. Duke was walking around the house towards him.
“Nobody home that I can see, how about you?”
“I haven’t seen a soul Duke, looks like no one was home when things went to heck and gone, or this was just a weekend retreat and they didn’t have time to get here.”
They went back to their horses and decided to eat something, then saddled up again and went on their way to the next place. This one was closer just a half mile from this one. You had to swing around to the left and it was on the other side of the mountain. They had only gone a few yards when they heard the dull sound of gunfire. Duke and David exchanged looks at each other. They spurred their horses faster, they had to see what was going on and if they could be of any help. The horses weren’t even breathing hard by the time they got close enough to get off their horses and make there way closer to the gunfire. They both slid their rifles out of their scabbards on the saddles and dismounted.
This time they stayed closer to each other, just a few feet apart and made their way as not worrying too much about how quiet they were in the process. There was so much gunfire, no one could have heard them. They got lower as they could see the top of the house over the bushes. They found themselves across the road from the house, which was only about 60 feet off the road. There in front of both he and Duke were three men divided by about ten feet each, they were behind pine trees. Their backs were clear targets. Duke got a big smile on his face; he thought this would be like shooting ducks in a barrel. He took in the men’s clothes; long t-shirts, jeans, tennis shoes, and that they were filthy. Nope, no way these were the people that lived here and invaders had gotten in and things were reversed. Duke raised his rifle.
“David I’ll take the one in the middle, you shoot the one in front of you.”
“Wait Duke, how do we know these are the bad guys?”
David didn’t see Duke roll his eyes, and the longer they took to take these guys out the more likely someone in the house was gonna get killed. Duke lowered his rifle and whispered to David.
“Look how their dressed David, no way anyone with sense would be up here dressed like that and dirty to boot. No these guys have been on the road. They don’t belong here and they are trying to take what they want. Now lets take them out before they hurt anyone else.”
With that Duke raised his rifle and David did too, a second later and they both shot, then Duke turned and took out the guy on the left before he understood what was going on. David turned around and threw up in the grass, he also wondered if this would be the first time of many he would have to kill someone. All that target practice had paid off, he had gotten the guy right threw the heart. He stood up and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
“I can’t believe I had to shoot someone in the back I always thought cowards did that, I guess I watched to much TV.”
“We have to do what we have to do sometimes David, and I think your granddad is right, we’re in for a world of hurt, if we can’t cope and get on with what we need to do.”
They both went around the bushes and went over to the bodies to inspect their work. They were careful to make sure the men were dead so they didn’t get shot by a wounded man.
Duke raised his hands and cupped them to his mouth.
“Hello in the house, it’s all right now, we’ve taken them out.”
From the house they heard a man’s voice.
“How do we know you’re good guys and you won’t shoot us and take what you want like those others tried to do?”
“We’re from the Double O ranch a few miles from here, I have Mr. O’Dell’s grandson with me, does that work for you?”
They didn’t hear another word, but then the door opened, and a man stepped out and stood half in and half out of the doorframe.
“Show yourselves and make sure you don’t have a gun pointed my way or I will take you out.”
Both David and Duke stepped out from behind trees and into the road, their rifles pointed at the sky lying on their shoulders. They then started to walk towards the house.
“All right you two lay down those rifles at the road edge, I am a bit nervous at the moment.”
Duke yelled back, “I would be to if someone had been shooting at me and mine.”
They laid down their rifles making sure it wasn’t in the dirt, and walked closer to the house. Some how David felt a bit naked without that rifle at this moment. He never in a hundred years thought he would feel that way about a gun. He had heard that saying in old movies but he thought it was just bull hockey. Well, live and learn.
When they were fifteen feet from the man at the door, he told them to stop. He stepped out and saw they both had holsters on. He was a large man six foot four if he was an inch and around 290 pounds, not flabby at all, it looked like all muscle, he had salt and pepper brown hair and laugh lines around the eyes and mouth. His rifle had been lowered but came back up.
“Ok boys I want you to lose those pistols and holsters too.”
Duke just stood there in front of him; David didn’t know what to do.
Then Duke spoke up.
“No sir, this holster stays right where it is, I will not be without protection of any kind. I laid my rifle down for you but I draw the line there. We are who we say we are, and you don’t seem very grateful for us taking out your problem across the road.”
The guy just stood there and to David it seemed like an eternity. But it was less then a minute.
“All right keep um on, I believe you somewhat, but we will keep a close eye on you, come on in the house.”
He lowered his rifle barrel again and turned and went inside. David let out his breath, man alive I bet I’m turning gray ahead of time he thought. Then he thought the guy said we, so then he knew they might still have guns on them.
Duke and David went the rest of the way and stepped into the house, Duke was first through the door. David stepped inside and out of habit closed the door behind him.
As he looked around for a few seconds, the family was gathering, he saw light coming through the bullet holes that had been put in the house. Windows had been smashed, and many things ruined. He then heard, “Bert and Tammy you scramble out there and collect any guns and ammo those scum had, then high tail it back here, you got that?”
David saw a boy of about 17 or 18 and a girl of around 14 to 15, paying close attention to their father. The Boy Bert was about six foot three and 180 pounds, brown hair and blue eyes with tanned skin. The girl was around five foot six, 135 pounds, no stick but not heavy either, shoulder length light brown hair and blue eyes and also a slight tan, like she had been working outside.
“Yes dad,” was said in unison and the two teenagers went out the door.
A woman was coming into the room who looked about 60 or so, white hair, no coloring to try to mask that she was growing older. She looked to be about five foot three inches, 150 pounds, dressed in jeans, t-shirt and a blue flannel shirt over that. She carried a 30.30 and it looked like she was a real hand with it. On her right hip she wore what looked like from where he was a 38 special, one deadly grandma.
“Reece can they be trusted,” she said this as she looked in Duke and David’s direction, her rifle in her right hand, barrel only slightly lowered. David just knew that if they made one wrong move she wouldn’t hesitate to take them out. Her family had been threatened; she was a real she bear.
Reece turned to Duke and David, “my name is Reece Porter this is my mother in law Carla Lang. Now, I will thank you gentlemen for taking out those no account bushwhackers. I didn’t mean to seem ungrateful, I just needed to make sure of a few things first. Which were mostly you two. Mom here had my back covered while we watched how you acted, no insult intended.”
Duke nodded at David, so David stepped ahead and reintroduced himself and Duke again to make sure there weren’t any mistakes as to whom they were.
“No insult taken Mr. Porter,” David noticed there was no Mrs. Porter but he figured that was Reece’s private business. So he went into why they were there. My grandfather is extending an invitation to all those we talk too, to come down and join us on the ranch for mutual safety. Make no mistake, it won’t be to just take care of you but for you and everyone else that’s there and comes there to help work to take care of and protect each other.”
Reece looked over at his mother in law, “well Carla they have given us something to think about, we just sort of saw what could happen and imagine if it had been more then three scum ball’s, we wouldn’t have lasted long I am afraid.”
One of the teenagers gave a hoot right then, Reece went over to the window and gave a hoot back, a minute later the teens came back in with rifles and pistols stuck in holsters in their arms.
They brought them over to their dad who was still standing by Duke and David in the middle of the small living room. Carla was still off to the side near the kitchen door.
David was curious about something, “excuse me Mr. Porter I have noticed there aren’t any vehicles in your driveway or anywhere by the house, did you all walk up here?”
“Oh that yeah, we were headed up here in one big hurry in my pickup and trailer, we got a mile away and it stopped running, we had it packed to the gills, it took us days to go back and forth bringing our things here. Made me wish I had given into Tammy here and gotten a horse.”
Tammy was smiling, “told you so dad.”
“Don’t be a smart aleck girl,” Reece told his daughter with a grin.
She stuck her tongue out at him and then said, “Oh wait, this was hanging out of one of the dead guy’s pockets.”
She pulled a gold locket on a chain out of her jacket pocket and on the chain was attached five rings, four women’s and one mans diamond ring.
Reece’s face was drawn, “I wonder who they stole these from, sad state of affairs people’s belongings ending up on some thief, and I just hope the folks weren’t home when they took these. Kids these men have asked us to join them and their family over at the Double O ranch, he looked over at Carla, do you have your two cents to put in Carla?”
Carla needed to know a few things first.
“First off, I want to know if there are any women folk at this ranch of your grandfathers or is it all men? Then what kind of housing would we expect to have? Then how do we get our things down to your ranch if we decide to come?”
She stared at David with her arms folded, but at least her rifle was now leaning against the wall next to her.
David at first had a hard time answering her as he looked into those cold eyes, “ah yes, to the first question, there are women, my wife and her little sister Kate. For the second question I will turn that one over to Duke here, my family and I are also new comers to the ranch and he knows more about that then I do. But the third is we come up here with horse drawn wagons and get you, we will be coming up to get the North family as it is. They live about a mile and a half from here around the mountain and they have decided to come down to the ranch.”
David then looked to Duke and Duke took over.
“We have small cabins built for just this, Mr. O’Dell was very forward thinking, they look like sheds so no one will get curious, nothing fancy but are built strong and insulated well.”
David could hardly believe what he was hearing but now that he thought about it, he began to look at the ranch in a different way and did remember some old large sheds here and there around the place. Who would have known, he certainly hadn’t, he just thought they were for supplies and such and the odd things a ranch needs.
Reece then looked to his son and daughter, “well you two can have your say also, you’re going to be adults now and will be treated as such.”
Bert was trying to think of something to say that sounded adult and he just couldn’t come up with something.
“If my dad and grandmother agree to go then I think that’s fine, I think we will need more people to really protect ourselves, today was a real eye opener for me. I thought we wouldn’t have a problem taking care of ourselves up here but now I know that’s not true. So whatever dad and grandma say it’s fine with me to go down. Oh yeah, how old is your wife’s little sister?”
Bert was thinking if this man is say in his 30’s then the wife must be too and the little sister can’t be too old, or can she?
David smiled and said, “Kate is her name and she’s 19, the baby of the family.”
Now that brought a grin to Bert’s face, until he thought, oh no what does she look like. But David was way ahead of him and had brought out his wallet to show them a picture of his family.
“Here take a look at this, he was passing the picture around, that’s my wife Olive, our twins Tyler and William, and Kate there on the right.”
Bert just so happened got the picture last and was trying not to show how much he wanted to see it. But everyone could tell anyway and his sister held onto the picture as long as she could, and then finally handed it over to Bert with a smirk.
He was glaring at her, “what’s that smirk about Tammy.”
“Oh nothing, just nothing.”
She then turned to David, you have a nice family, Carla and Reece concurred with that. Bert who was still holding and looking at the picture thought I’m not being picky with what girls are around, honestly I am not, he was telling himself, he hadn’t realized how much it had mattered to him.
Kate was a nice looking girl, but! “Ah David does she really have purple hair with white streaks?”
David had a good chuckle over that one, “no she doesn’t anymore, she’s a dark blond in real life and she had her sister put it back to it’s natural color so it would be easier to get a job.”
David was taking the picture back and slipping it back into his wallet.
Tammy was sitting there thinking too.
“Well dad, I see I won’t be the only girl, that’s nice, but are there any older boys?”
She said this as she turned to David and Duke.
Her dad slapped his right hand to his forehead, “is that all you kids worry about, if there are other people your age of the opposite sex?”
David decided to answer, “there will be, the North’s have a son around your age Tammy.”
“Far out, sure it’s ok with me if we go to the ranch too dad.”
She was going up and down on the balls of her feet by now.
David looked back at Carla and saw how warm her eyes were when she looked at her granddaughter. There was no steel cold woman here now.
Reece sat down on the sofa behind him, everyone just stood there waiting for him to talk. After about three minutes Reece looked up.
“All right boys, I have made up my mind, were coming and if we can, it will be lock stock and barrel. Carla what do you say now?”
“I say fine, I think it’s a smart thing for us to do. We were just showed we won’t be able to go it alone, even up here where we thought we would be away from all the trouble.”
A soft moo was heard from out back, “Oh man,” Reece said, “I forgot all about poor Annabelle.”
Tammy was already high tailing it out the kitchen door and headed for the back yard. David and Duke could hardly believe the family had a cow. They all went out the back kitchen door and there standing by a shed in a small corral 50 feet from the house was a miniature Jersey cow and a calf. Tammy was already getting the cow and calf some fodder and water. The water running a few feet from the corral where there was no animal manure run off. The spring had been dug out on higher ground further away so there wouldn’t be a problem with that.
Reece was talking, “we were so lucky when we found this place and that it had a natural spring on it. We dug it deeper so we could bucket water out for any animals we might get. We brought Annabelle and Turk up with us in the pickup, everyone needs an experience like that I tell you.”
The whole family was smiling when he mentioned their trip up here with the cow and calf.
David saw the calf was a bull.
“How do you plan to breed her, this is her calf isn’t it?”
Reece answered that question.
“No, it’s not her calf, we thought of that, we just bought Turk two weeks ago. We have a five-acre place on the outskirts of town and thought these were just the right size for us. That’s also why we we’re so packed with feed; we threw on a lot of 50-pound bags of grain for winter and a few bales of hay. We had just bought a bunch of feed for these two. That’s about all that was in the trailer. We had planned on getting an animal trailer in the spring, guess I should have just gone ahead and bit the bullet and bought one. Hind sight I guess is always 20-20 they say.”
Reece then turned to Duke and David, “you boys going to stay the night?”
David looked around and couldn’t believe it was almost dusk, man, talk about time flying.
“What do you think Duke, it’s better then sleeping outside tonight?”
“Fine with me David, but right now I am so hungry I could eat one of these mini cows. Lets go get our horses and packs”
Tammy was busy milking Annabelle, who just stood and ate as she was being milked.
Carla turned toward the house, “the least we can do for you is feed you a decent meal, that all right with you Reece?”
“Yes fine with me, these boys deserve it.”
David was shaking his head, it had been a long time since he had been called a boy, then it had started with his grandfather a few weeks ago and now again. He felt younger and younger.
After a great meal of camp stove beans and Spam, Duke and David were given the living room to spread out their sleeping bags. The horses were outback in a separate corral, beside Annabelle and Turk, saddles off and had been fed and watered. They had decided who would take guard shift with whom and sacked out for the night except for Reece and Duke. David felt like he had just lain down and closed his eyes when he was being shaken awake.
“Mr. O’Dell it’s me Bert, you’re suppose to take this shift with me.”
“Right, right Bert be right with you, give me a second to unkink.”
Bert was thinking, old men, gee hope I’m not that bad when I get that old.
David was up about two minutes later; Duke was already in his sleeping bag and beginning to snore. David was thinking, somehow I don’t even think that would have bothered me one bit. He was sitting on the sofa and groaned as he slipped his boots on and tied them. He felt like he had worn them without a break for weeks, not two days. He looked up to see Bert going out the front door and Reece coming in as David slipped on his coat and hat and followed the young man out the door. Good thing he had to move from time to time, it was getting darn right cold here in the mountains. He tried not to do or be in the same place more then twice, he and Bert tipped hats and the next time they would get close and say ok, and make their rounds again.
Time was up and Bert slipped in to make sure his grandmother and sister Tammy were awake to relieve them. His grandmother was getting Tammy up and was ready to go out, so she walked out and relieved David. It would only be for two hours, then they would all be up, but David thought that was better then nothing.
David woke up later and turned to see Duke sitting on the sofa putting on his well wore dark brown cowboy boots. He smelled food cooking and sat up.
Duke looked at him, “how did your guard shift go last night?”
“No problems it was nice and quiet.”
He moaned some as he rolled up his sleeping bag, he wasn’t used to all this ground and floor sleeping.
Duke grinned, “I like the hard floor, my bunks real nice and hard too.”
From the kitchen, “Ok you two, stop your gabbing and come and eat.”
It was Carla, and Tammy was helping get the plates and silverware out.
Carla was taking scrambled eggs and ham TVP (textured vegetable protein) off the Coleman stove. David felt a cool breeze and saw the kitchen window was open a bit, funny he had been so hungry last night he hadn’t even noticed that.
“How did you keep these eggs for so long, he had noticed they didn’t have chickens. Did you keep them in the spring?”
Carla answered, “no but I sure wish we could have done that, but these happen to be powdered eggs.”
Reece decided about five years ago he didn’t like the way things were going in the world, so after he bought this place he bought grains, beans, rice, and dried foods, we kept some at home and some up here. So we can feed ourselves and contribute to the ranch when we get there. I didn’t see his point of view at first but the more I saw happening in the world after he pointed things out to me, the more I thought he wasn’t nuts after all.”
Reece was walking into the kitchen at this point.
“You mean you finally approve Carla, I think I will faint.”
He put the back of his right hand to his head and staggered around a little.
Carla rolled her eyes; “you call your daughter a smart aleck, now I know where she gets it from.”
Reece was chuckling by now and so was Carla, the kids were walking into the kitchen and asking, “what’s so funny?”
“Oh your father is just trying not to faint,” and Carla laughed some more at the looks on their faces.
Tammy was heard saying out loud, “old people are weird.”
That brought even more laughing by the old folks.
“Time for us to say goodbye,” said David after breakfast; “we sure are thankful for the dinner and breakfast. We will be back in three or four days if not sooner. We have to be onto the next place, which I think is the last home to check.”
They all shook hands and wished each other good luck after the horses were all saddled, and then Duke and David got on their way.
After riding another forty minutes they did a repeat of getting off their horses and walking in and around the house. They found no one home but the place had been ransacked.
Duke who was standing beside David said, “this must be where those guys got the jewelry, at least I hope it is. We best be getting back to the ranch, we can take this road around and down it brings us right back near the ranch.”
It was just a dirt road, unimproved but it worked for the people up here.
Before three hours were up they were nearing the turn off for the ranch. David felt like he had been gone for more then two days, it didn’t really seem possible it really had been such a short time. Thirty minutes later they were stopped at a gate at the front of the ranch, that gate hadn’t been there when they left. A very heavy well made gate, to David it looked like it was made out of galvanized pipe.
“Is that what I think it is,” he said as he looked to Duke.
Yes David it sure is, that was one of our plans, your grandfather collected scrap pipe for this very thing, there will be one at the back of the farm also and as you notice the fencing may be painted brown but it isn’t wood.”
Duke leaned over and rang a bell that was hanging off to the right side on a post.
No, David hadn’t noticed that fact, he had just assumed it was wood; he hadn’t even really looked to see that it was round and had joints like pipe would have.
“We have been working on this for years, I know you noticed the ranch proper was all fenced in and then corrals, then additional fencing after that. We can’t do the whole ranch of course that’s 15,000 acres. I guess we should have talked more on this trip. Your grandfather has had us dig foxholes and a few bunkers here and there around the ranch also. There are maps at both the bunkhouse and the main house; you had to have seen it as you came in right by the front door. We won’t be using this bell long to announce someone is at the gate long either I don’t think any way, it’s way to loud, in fact I am surprised there isn’t a guard here.”
“Yes I did see a paper with x’s and squares, but I never bothered to ask what it was. I guess I will now.”
“That’s partly our fault too David, we were so busy trying to bring you and your family up to speed on things and teaching you to shoot, we just took some things for granted. I best talk to Theodore about this.”
They saw Juan headed down from the bunkhouse, rifle in hand and a set of binoculars hanging around his neck. He waved to them and both Duke and David waved back. Olive was stepping down off the porch; he could tell it was her even from here. She had on her favorite green flannel shirt of late, one of his. They went straight to the horse trough, which was close to the horse corral and started to take the saddles off the horses and let them drink. Olive came near and threw her arms around David.
“Oh David it felt like you had been gone forever. I was so worried.”
“Olive it’s not like I haven’t been gone from you before for a couple of days.”
She raised her head and looked up into his eyes, “David it’s different now, you never know what you will find out there or who, and they may ambush you to take what they want. Now it is so very hard to wait at home while you’re away. I could hardly believe how I felt myself, but the way things are really sank in while I was waiting for you to come home.”
The horse taken care of Duke said he would put them in the corral, and the saddles in the tack room. David took his saddlebag and Olive by the hand and headed up to the house. He did notice around the back of the house on the left side, a mound of logs had been built, like the kind you could hide behind; the mound was about four feet high, give or take a few inches. That also was new.
That afternoon they gathered together, that is whoever wasn’t keeping an eye on things outside, and they were filled in later, about what went on during Duke and David’s trip into the higher mountains above them.
Granddad O’Dell was happy to hear of the two families that would be joining them, but he had hoped more had been home to be able to do so. Maybe they would just have to go further a field. The whole family was shocked to hear of the Porter family being attacked and David and Duke taking out the bad guys. David didn’t mention the interest of Bert Porter either; he thought he would just let Bert be a surprise to Kate.
Duke also explained he thought they best tell the family what all was at the ranch and around it, where supplies were buried and the covered foxholes and bunkers were. Gramps thought that was a good thing to do and they would have a better tour of the ranch and what was in each building before the evening was out. Then they all broke for chores, dinner started, and to get things ready to head out in the morning with three wagons.
End chapter 2