Memoirs of a Yankee Cowboy

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Ben investigates a serious crime and sets up the solution. His handling of a hard issue strengthens the bond between himself and Rose.

Chapter 8 (v.1) - Tough Love

Submitted: May 02, 2019

Reads: 24

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Submitted: May 02, 2019

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Chapter Eight

After talking with the host management about doing a round up demonstration, we arranged for some of the regular trainers to take a group of green horns out into the south pasture to watch the demonstration on rounding up cattle.  I made sure that Bennie and Gene were at the head of that and far from the main action.

The free range and the mountains around the open pastures had been peppered with riders from the RB Dude Ranch and other connecting ranches until seven that night.

The separate ranchers calculated their findings from the various herds and gathered in the association office nearest town to compare notes.  No other rancher reported missing horses, but the RB Dude Ranch had lost an approximate twenty head.  That nailed it for me.

I headed back to the ranch.  I walked into the blacksmith shop just as Benjamin was assisting with his first ever blacksmithing demonstration.  Expecting to see Gene and Bennie there for support, I searched the crowd for those faces.  Finding none, I stayed and cheered Benjamin on and then snuck out the back for the barns.

I called Gene’s number.  He answered with, “Yeah, Pa.  I’m at the college.”

“Tonight?”

“Yeah, We’re on the road.  I’ve got a class with Bennie.”

“I need you here as soon as you get out of there.  Don’t be high tailing it to the bar.  It’s an emergency.”

There was a pause.  He asked me nothing about all the activity going on in the range, which was odd, because he was always nosey about everything.  Maybe the round up demo was enough to keep him from asking questions.

He came back with, “I just talked to Bennie.  We’re skipping class.  We’ll be back in a few.”

I turned around as Benjamin came out of the shop surrounded by a lot of the pretty girls and his mother right by his side.  My heart skipped a beat.  They stopped in front of me and I grabbed Benjamin’s hand.  “Congratulations, son.  You just proved to me that you’ll make a great apprentice for Harvey and maybe take over when he retires.”

Benjamin chuckled and then said, “I’m not so sure about taking over, Dad.  I’m not going to college to stop at being a blacksmith.  I’m aiming for veterinarian.”

“Well, for whatever you settle on, you’re going to be top notch and the ranch that gets you will be fortunate indeed.”

“Oh, I want to work for the government programs to save animals, in particular wild horses.”

“I see.”

There was a pause.  Then I mentioned that Bennie and Gene were going out to the college for a class tonight.  “Did you miss that class to do this demo?”

“Unless it’s something special there aren’t any classes tonight.  Orientation is tomorrow.”

Rose had been standing quietly by, however, I had been aware of her presence throughout.  I looked at her and smiled.  “It’s always wonderful to see your beautiful face.”

“And it’s always wonderful to see your sunbaked mug, as well.  By the way, what’s under that dirty hat?  I haven’t seen that head of hair for many years.”

I took off my hat and bowed before her, my gray mass of wool falling forward.  “My lady.  Would you knight me?”

Rose and Benjamin were both laughing and Benjamin said, “I could have told you, Mom.  I realized that I’ll never be bald after the first day I saw him.”

I chuckled.  “Never say never.  I’m gray, but I’m not that old.  I mean fifty-four years old is not ancient in today’s world.”

Gene’s voice behind me said, “Yeah, well, I’d beg to differ.”

Bennie was standing nervously by his older brother.  I turned to see both of them as Gene said, “What’s the emergency?”

“We’ll talk about it in my office.  You go on ahead.  I’ll be there in a minute.”  They turned and walked away without acknowledging Benjamin.

Rose said, “I was going to invite you to a celebration at Maude’s, but I see that you’re busy.”

“I am.  But I’ll catch up to you soon.  Could I have your phone number, Rose.  When Benjamin gets busy with classes, I may need to connect with you more.”

She immediately looked into her purse and pulled out a business card.  “I just got these today.  I’m starting a teacher’s discount online store in in addition to some other writing efforts and my teaching duties at the school.”

I looked down at the treasure she handed me.  “That’s great!  If you have more cards, have Joan in the lobby put some at the front desk.”

“Thank you.  And I hope you’ll be calling me soon.”

“I will.”

 

I watched them climb into her van and as I walked up to the main building, I waved.  She waved back and suddenly all was right with the world.

The elation stayed until I walked down the hall and I stopped before opening the door with the plague, Foreman, Benjamin Patrick.  I pushed a button on my phone and said, “Ready.”

Gene was sitting behind my desk bent over some papers when I entered.  I stared at him as he looked up.  Seeing my disapproval, he got up and went to sit by his brother on the lounge sofa.

“So, what’s the emergency.  What’s the count sheet doing on the desk.  Isn’t it too early to be doing inventory for round up?”

Bennie chipped in as I was sitting down in my chair.  “Was that what the ruckus was all about across the whole territory today?”

“I’m surprised that the two of you didn’t notice before this.”

I pulled the boa clasp out of my pocket keeping it hidden in my hand.  I stood and walked around the desk and sat on the front it.  Then I opened my hand so that the clasp fit in the palm.

“Lose something, Gene?”

The look on his face was to be treasured.  “Where did you find it?”  He was clearly more shaken than the occasion called for.  “I’ve been looking everywhere for it."

Gene stood and reached for it.  I closed my hand.  “Could it be that you and your brother were searching for it at the casino bar in town tonight, because I know that there was no class at the college.”  The boys were quiet as I continued, “Did you think you were so drunk that you lost it in a casino game of cards and forgot that you did it?  Or did you lose it because you got in a fight with some card shark that you owed money to…by the way, your makeup is wearing off over that bruise over your eye and what’s that red mark under your kerchief?”

Neither of them had anything to say, but I wasn’t finished.  “I guess you got your answer about what the count was for.  You’re lucky that you didn’t pull in any of the other association horses, but this is far from over.”

I could tell that the wheels were turning in Gene’s head.  “Pa, I got in a fight with Benjamin Miller.  He was the one who had the deal with the wrestlers and the truck was already out and, on the road, when we caught them.”

Bennie chipped in.  “Yeah, and we were trying to cover for him.  We couldn’t stop the wrestlers.”

I was furious but I contained myself and started giving them enough rope to hang themselves.  “Where and what time did this all happen?”

Bennie took the lead.  “Out by the Warren Road Gate.  Forgot the time, it was dark already.  We saw the lights on the truck, but we didn’t catch the name on the side of the rig.”

“So, you’re saying this happened last night.  What were you doing out twenty minutes in the opposite direction of town if you were coming home from the casino bar at dark?”

“We saw Ben’s mom’s van headed that way, so we followed her.”  Bennie’s eyes were fluttering.  I knew that sign.

“That can’t be because Rose drove Benjamin by Roger’s place and he was having an interview conversation with the owner that got him the blacksmith assistant job here on the ranch.”

Gene wasn’t ready to give up.  “Well, it must have been after that.”

I figured it was time to do a little lying myself, well at least part lies.

“Oh, I’m sure it was, because you stumbled in to the bunk house past midnight.  You see, I was driving right behind you last night and I saw you drive right past the ranch gate.  I figured you’d be back soon, so I waited up for you.  So today, when I was out riding the fences, guess what I came up on.  You’d might as well tell it to me straight, because if you don’t, the sheriff’s office and the association is listening to this whole conversation and your next step is going to be interrogation by the FBI.”  I picked up my phone and with the speaker on said, “Did you record all of this?”

“We got it, Ben.”  The sheriff’s voice echoed from the phone.

The dropped jaw looks on the boy’s faces was something I had never hoped to see.  Tears welled up behind my eyes as I looked at their washed out faces.

The sheriff said, “Boys, we have a lead on where the horses were taken.  It would help if you could give us the names of the wrestlers so that we can get the horses back and bring these men to justice.”

Gene recovered.  “What’s going to happen to us?”

“You have to go through the legal process, and I’m not promising anything, but it will go a lot easier on you if you are honest and help us make this right.”

Eugene shifted around and for the first time in his entire life, I saw the tears.  I handed him some tissues and he started talking.  “I’ve been gambling and I was into the Casino bosses for some big money.  So, there was these guys from the Hannibal auctions over in Duncan County who came up with this way for us to get a lot of money fast.  They set it all up and all we had to do was to guide them to the gate with the horses that we would be driving in.”

Bennie added, “Yeah, except that when they got there with the thug boss from the casino and two big rigs and saw that we only had twenty head, they jumped all over us.  The thug went at Gene, grabbed his boa and about ripped his head off.  He threatened him and said that if he didn’t come up with another load, he would finish the job.”

Gene took an envelope out of his inside vest pocket.  “Dad, I found the college fund papers for the both of us and was taking them into the casino to prove that we would be cashing them in to pay the rest of the gambling debt instead of going to college.”

By that time, I was furious with the casino and the auction house.  I took the envelope from Gene.  “There’s nothing you or they could have done with these, Gene.  These can’t be cashed in without my authorization and I’ve already paid out of it for this semester for the both of you.”

Roger Bence spoke up from the other end.  “Ben, I believe since these are my horses we’re talking about, we can have you discipline and take action as you see fit as far as your boys are concerned.”

The sheriff said, “I just got off the line with the authorities in Duncan County.  They’re raiding the auction as we speak right in the middle of the auction event.  It’s been shut down and inspections are being made.  We should soon have your horses back at RB by the end of the week.  The Feds are out at the casino and I have a feeling they’re going to have to fess up to a lot.  The boys will still have to testify in both cases.  Roger doesn’t have to press charges, but that may not exonerate them from all liabilities in the courts.  You have pictures of the crime scene and all that, so we’re good to go legally.  As for the discipline for the boys, Ben, what are you planning for them if we’re able to leave this in your hands?”

Number one:  I’m going to get them into the Addiction Center Rehab Ranch.  I’m not sure what I’m going to be able to do about their college classes.  Believe me, they will learn that there is a price to pay in letting life run them and not living life with a positive purpose.”  I paused and took in my breath.  “However, as for tonight, it’ll do them some good to sit in jail until the PA decides what must be done in the eyes of the law.”

Gene and Bennie stood up and stared menacing at me.  I stood up and towered over them.

The sheriff said, “Sounds like you know a lot about how the legal system works.”

I stared into the faces of the young men and said, “Yes, I was once young and dumb, but I was patted on the hands one too many times and I was long an adult before I started on my own to change things.  I don’t want this waste of life happening to my boys.”

“Are you ready to turn them over?”

“Yes, I’ll follow the car and bring their personal items that our housekeeper has for them.”

After I hung up, the boys turned and started to run for the door only to find a big armed guard at the door.  “Ready to go, I see.”  He said.

I walked to the window and watched as the guards and driver opened the doors to the RB Dude Ranch limousine and put the boys in it.  According to Roger, this was effective transportation for covering over the truth and saving the reputation of the ranch..

A flood of remorse and regret waved over me and I turned and collapsed on the lounge that still had the prints of where the boys had sat.


© Copyright 2019 Cookie Reece. All rights reserved.

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