In the spring of 1923, the sun was just barely comin’ over the hills surrounding the ranch in Thermopolis located along side the Wind River. Jack and the guys had had a pretty bodacious evening the night before. Some say that there was a lot of song, more drinking than song, and far more women than song than nature should allow. Consequencely, their normal get-up time
of 5:00 am had come and gone as well as 6;, 7, and 8. The only reason that anyone had woke up was because Meryl Johansen was pounding on the door hollerin’ , “Jack get up. Jack, Jack, Jack. Come on Jack you’ve got a phone call down at the post office.” (In 1923 in Thermopolis, there was only one telephone and it was located outside the post office so that when anyone called for someone every who heard the phone ringin’ would answer it; find out who it was for; and then go fetch them.)
“Go away,” Jack roared. “Can’t you see we’re all hung over.”
“But Jack, it’s your Uncle Wallace and he said to come a fetch you and not to let you go back to sleep. He said there was fifteen hundred dollars in it for you, but you best come now! So haul yourself out of that bed and get down there. He’s awaitin’.”
Jack rolled out of bed and stumbled over to the wash basin; took one look at himself in the large mirror and let out a loud groan. He looked like hell warmed over; and to make matters worse, he looked as if he had slammed his right eye into someone’s fist–several times. He threw some water up over his face and coal-black hair and warshed off some of the dirt. He wasn’t quite sure where the blood had come from if it was his or someone else’s. When it warshed off and there wern’t no mark, he figured that the blood must have been that feller that smacked him in the eye.
“Who-o-Wee,” hollered Vard, “we sure got drunk last night didn’t we! Damn Jack, you look like hell warmed over. Is that what that old gal from the bar dun’ to you? I don’t think she thought much of you picking her up and throwing her over your shoulder and running up the stairs. I ain’t seen nothing that funny since the hogs took after Grandma Sorensen. Who’d a thunk that old woman could run so fast and cleared the fence the way she did. I’m telling you that was pure inspirein’.”
“You two had better knock it off. J and I are still trying to sleep,” said Orville. “What’s all the commotion about anyhow. We just got in a couple of hours ago. You look like hell, Jack.
J set up in bed, cast a daggered look towards Vard and Orville and then at Jack. As he fell back into his pillow and exclaimed, “Shish!”
Orville threw his feet over the side of the bed, looked at Jack, and asked, “Who was that feller at the door and what did he want?”
“Oh, it was just Meryl Johansen. He said that Uncle Wallace was on the phone and that I best get down there quick. My mouth tastes like a bear cave. What in the heck was it that we were drinking last night? I ain’t been this drunk since I can’t remember when.”
Jack sat down to pull on his boots. He looked for his cleanest dirty shirt to wear down in town and hollered, “Hey Meryl, you still out there?”
“Yea I’m here. Hurry up.”
“While I’m finishing getting dressed why don’t you run over to the cook shack and get us some coffee. I’ve got a powerful hankerin’ for coffee and lots of it.”
Looking over his shoulder as he heads to the cook shake, Meryl says, “Alright, but you be quick about it.”
Jack was a pretty presentable sight when he was dressed up, more or less. Stood about 6-3 and was nothin’ but raw muscle and bones, but he had a smile that would make you stop in your tracks and wonder what he was up to. Looking over his right should he cast a quick wink at Vard and said, “You fellers get some grub rustled up. I shouldn’t be more than twenty minutes.”
They all knew that wern’t true ’cause the ranch was twenty-three miles east of town and the road was just a bumpy, old, dirt road; and Meryl’s truck was a 1922 Chevy, one ton with a cattle rack on it that was rougher ridin’ than Jake Long’s bull.
Meryl pulled up in the truck; Jack got in; and Meryl handed him his coffee and said, “You best drink as much of that now as you can because you know how these roads are!”
With that Jack gave him a wink and started to gulp it down when he noticed somethin’ wasn’t right. “Good gwad Meryl that’s hotter than the hubs of Panacea.”
“Well, Lucy Bell said she just got it boiled, but not to tell you that it was real hot because of the way to treated her last night, and we ain’t goin’ into that one for sure.”
Jack cast him a sorry look and said, “Yup, it’s pretty hot. Now tell me what’s this all about Uncle Wallace and fifteen hundred dollars!
“Taint to sure Jack. He seemed pretty secretive about it. Tole me not to tell anybody nuttin’, but to get to you straight away.”
The rest of the trip was spent pretty much with Meryl talking about his new wife, Emma Sue. He said she was a real fire cracker. Some nights she just won’t leave him alone.
He asked Jack, “You know what I’m talking about don’t you Jack?”
Jack had a sly grin on his face and answered, “Naw, J’s the one you ought to be talking to. Seems like he is talkin’ gettin’ some pertner ever’ night.”
Meryl said, “But you don’t understand. Sometimes it’s eight or nine times a night. I used to hate goin’ to work. Now I can’t wait to go to work so that I can get some rest.
Both men chuckled at that and fairly kept to themselves the rest of the way to town.
When they pulled up to the post office, Janie Sue Martin, the post mistress, came running out. Her chubby red cheeks kinda bouncin’ like a dog’s jowls. She was nearly out of breath when she wheezed, “Your Uncle Wallace says it’s might important that you get back to him. You get in there right now and use the phone next to my desk so that I can hear you better.” She laughed and said, “I don’t want to miss a single word.”
Jack picked up the phone and dialed the operator. The operator at the other end came on. Jack said, “This is Wyoming Jack. I’m calling back.”
“Yes sir. Please hold while I fetch ‘ur Uncle Wallace.”
The operator came back on line and said, “Okay sir, I have your party go ahead.”
“Hello Jack, this is your Uncle Wallace. How in the heck are you?”
“Doen’ good, what’s all the commotion about?”
“Well sir,” he said, “I have a proposition for you and the boys. Sister Smith, Mort Smith’s widow up there in Deaver, just can’t take care of the place since he died and has sold it to me for four thousand dollars. It’s got some pretty good land to it. It has about 57 acres, but more important than that she has 182 head of Black Angus cows, thirty seven calves, eighteen more due to drop in a week or two, and one prize bull that need to be herded down from there to here. Now, you know how changeable Wyoming weather can be in the Spring, I need to get them down here by the first of July so that I can get them fattened up for the market in September over in Casper.”
“What I’m goin’ to do is send my cousin Willy to be your cookie. He has his own rig and he’s a right good cook; plus he’s good at doctorin’.”
“Well sir, that sounds pretty interestin’. Fifteen hundred dollars doesn’t quite cut it. Let’s do twenty four hundred dollars. That’s six hundred a piece. When do ‘ya want us to start?”
“Willy’s on his way up there now. You guys load up your trucks and trailers so that you can haul your gear up there. There’s a road that is in pretty good shape that follows the Big Horn most the way up. You should get there in one day. It’s about 115 miles.
Her wranglers up there in Deaver are kicking in six head of horses, and two of them are going to make the drive with you. Last week they went out and rounded up all the cattle from the brush and trees. Don’t worry about their wages. I’ve got that covered. They are goin’ to stay there and work for me. I think I’m goin’ to be able to find some oil on that property.