The cattle drive proceeds through the attack by wolves and Ben getting killed, to the wild mustang stampede, and finally to the Wyoming early spring blizzard
Everyone in camp hunkered down in their bed rolls and got close to the fire as the white side of hell burst upon the camp. It only dropped about four inches, but in Wyoming, the ground blizzards turn the night into a total whiteout. Jack and J wrapped up in their dusters and with bandannas covering their faces, positioned themselves facing the herd with their backs to the wind. The cows huddled together, while the night wind played its song of death all night long.
About three AM, Vard and Orville rode in each with a canteen full of steaming hot coffee for their brothers.
“Ya better grab some shuteye, Jack.” said Vard, as he handed him the hot brew. “This’ll help warm yer gullet fer sure.”
The two men took the offering gladly and moseyed back to the camp and the warmth of the fire. After taking care of their horses, they laid out on their bed rolls slurping loudly and never said nary a word. It felt good to lie down.
Cookie came over with some eggs and beans and Johnny cakes for the men to eat. They had barely started to eat when each one drifted off to sleep.
Cookie made short work of the calf. He had it strung up in a tree and skinned it and then rolled up the hide, and put into his wagon. Cookie was a crafty little guy, who possessed the god given sense to think ahead, and good thing too, because the next morning as he noticed the camp was filled with 22 inches of snow. It was a wet , heavy snow, and as the morning began to warm up, it melted. The streams and ponds filled up fast. Cookie had picked higher ground so as to let the water rush by and stay out of the camp. The herd likewise was on a small grassy mesa away from the water and in tall enough grass as to be able to feed for days.
Ben got up first, took a leak and went to pay his respects to his brother. He remembered the first time they ran away from the school. They were sent to reform school for thievery. A trait they never quite got rid of.
For some reason the cows quit mooing. It got still as kitchen mice in the corner. You could hear the thump, thump, of your own heart amidst the shallow breathing of each man as fear crept over them.
Jack tried to shrug it off, but it kept gnawing at his craw. Someone or something was coming, and it was not quiet or slow. Those that were still in the sack quickly rolled out and grabbed a weapon. Jack threw two big logs on the fire and got into a firing position. Still no sound, just the thunder of a bunch of something, and it was headed straight into the camp.
It was a herd of wild horses. Wild Mustangs, pony, mares, and several studs, a total of 43. Just as they rounded the corner, Jack threw a log from the fire out toward them and fired his 30.06 twice into the air. They came to an abrupt halt and mulled there for but a minute, and as if on cue, broke off into four groups and scattered the cows, before they hightailing it over the edge of the mesa.
“Whowee, yelled J. Did you see that palomino stallion? He is just what I’ve always wanted. Some day Jack, when we’re through with all this, let’s come up and get him and about 10 of his mares.”
Jack smiled broadly because J never got this excited over anything lessen it was a purty gal. J was the ladies man of the bunch. He really was wild eyed when it came to the women, but never let it be said that he was abusive. He’d beat any man he ever saw hurt a lady. Their maw saw to it that they all respected women.
“Well, I reckon they’re going off a fur piece, but they will range up this way all year. We’ll just have to be patient and let em come to us. We’ll bring a few mares that are in season with us. That’ll get his attention. Aw hell Jay, I aint telling you nothing that you don’t “taint funny you smart ass. I was a dreamen about that cute little Ellen over in Worland. Someday, I’m gonna marry her and settle down. She’s a fine lady.”
“That she is piped in Orville, but you gotta get cleaned up and buy a new suit so you don’t look like no saddle bum. She’s a lady of good breeden and her daddy is the Mormon Bishop. You’re gonna have ta work for her.”
“Oh hell, I can change.” he said with his usual wheezy laugh. Asides, I have you varmints to keep me on the straight and narrow. Why, just the other day Jack was a telling me that he and Eva Meyer were seeing each other. Now if he can clean it up, I know I can.
Jack gave Vard a dirty look and told him, “I’m a peaceable man for the most part Vard. Don’t go starten some damned rumor that I am going to church and stuff. The walls would fall down if I was even caught dead in a church. Don’t be sayen that kinda scary stuff. What if it actually came true?”
“We seed the way you walloped that young Dempsey guy in Butte Montana back in 1921. He was full of grit but you caught him looken off at some purty girl and you busted his jaw. Say weren’t that thar Eva Meyer you saw flirting with him. He could not keep his eyes off her as she batted them there long eyelashes of her’n at him. That weren’t quite the Christian thing to do if you asken me.” Vard said with another wheeze.
By 3 o’clock, they had finally rounded the herd up and got em bedded down in a nice lush pasture. The snow was nearly melted and cookie promised veal steaks fer dinner, with boil fries, baked beans and johnny cakes with peach cobbler fer desert. The herd was close to camp so it only took one man to ride night herd and Frank was fartten so bad he thought it best he should go out.
He had a kind singing voice and he could lull them cows into the other side of morning with his singing and he could fart in time to the melody as well. When he came in at 5 AM for a bite and to have J relive him, it was suggested he go and wash his backside off, cause he smelled worsen a trampled skunk five days dead in the road. (quite frankly he knew he best get washed. Eaten that many beans, ya just can’t trust a fart.)
It was still dark but the day had to be starten and Jack was getting nervous again. That night he heard a cougar off in the distance but the they were down wind and if it were a female, moren likely she had cubs to feed. Now Jack hardly ever worried, but he got the damndest look in his bright blues that got the rest a case of the jitters too. It was just too calm to be true.
The book continues with Here kitty, kitty.