South Llano River

Green, Green Grass of Home - Tom Jones






The Avenger Comes Home

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"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
Captain Bill McDonald - Texas Ranger

Chapter One

It was the middle of the afternoon as the train rolled to a stop in Lampasas, and another fifteen minutes before they were able to align the stockcar with the ramp and corral there. In the meantime, even though Sophia had done most of their packing throughout the day, she continued to take charge of packing the last-minute items for their departure from the train.

As Joseph carried their luggage and bundles to the platform, under Sophia’s direction, Randy started making arrangements to pay off the crew, counting out their money and placing it in the small bags he had gotten from the Bank of Belton when he withdrew all but a thousand dollars from his account. He made sure to include an extra forty dollars for each man, considering that to be the suitable bonus he had promised them early on.

Asking Melvin Broadmoor, the conductor, to have each member of the crew wait outside of the dining car until they were called, Randy and Sophia thanked each man for their excellent service and handed them their money in the bags of gold double eagles. And each man, in turn, thanked them for their kindness and declared that this was the best, and easiest, trip they had ever taken in their time working for the Union Pacific.

The only man that didn’t show when he was called for was Dev, the livestock handler. His absence was explained by his brother, Joseph, the porter. “Mista’ Randy, Dev’s a-takin’ ca'e o’ da stock fo’ ya, suh. Las’ ah see’d ’im, ’e was a-loadin’ the packs. But ah reckon ’e’ll be ’long sho’tly. Suh, ah knows ’e wants ta talk w’ich ya ’fo’ we pulls out. ’E’s in a fix, suh, sa ah’d sho’ ’preciate it if’n ya was ta be able ta he’p ’im out.”

“What’s going on, Joseph? Why does he need help?”

“Mista’ Randy, ah’m a-gonna let ’im tell ya. ’Cuz ah don’ reckon it’s none o’ mah bidness, suh.”

“Well, alright. But we’re just about ready to find a carriage for the ride into town, and I’d like to get him paid as well.”

“Yassuh, ah’ll tells ’im ta hustle up, suh.”

Five minutes later, Dev popped into the dining car, looking tired and sweaty, hat in hand. “Ah’s sorry fo’ takin’ sa long, Mista’ Randy, Miz Sophia. But ah’s got ’em crittahs all loaded fo’ ya, suh, ma’am. All but da thangs yuns got stacked up on da platfo’m.”

Tossing the small sack of coins to Dev, Randy said, “Dev, Joseph tells me that you have something you’d like to speak with us about. We’re in kind of a hurry now, as we still need to find a ride into town, and find a hotel as well as get our animals into town and find a livery for them.”

“Mista’ Randy, youse an’ Miz Sophia hab been real good ta me, ta all o’ us, an’ ah wants ta t’ank ye fo’ ’et. ’Specially as how dis hea’ is mah las’ train ride onct ah gets back ta Denvah. Dey’s a-lettin’ me an’ da res’ o’ da stock handla’s go, sayin’ dey don’ need us no mo’. Suh, ah’s a wona’in’ if’n dey’s any chanct ya mights be a-needin’ a good hoss wrangla’ out on yuns ranch. Ah’ll work fo’ nuttin’, longs ah gots a roof ova’ mah haid.”

Randy looked at Sophia for a minute, and seeing her smile, knew that the answer he was about to give Dev was agreeable to her as well. “Dev, I’m sure I can find a place for you, but it pays a dollar a day and found, not just a roof over your head. Although I’m not sure where we’ll have you stay at first…”

“Shoot, Mista’ Randy, ah’ll fin’s me a place, ah sho’ will. But ah’m a-gonna needs me time ta find a hoss an’ tack ‘fo’ we leaves dis hea’ town.”

“Dev, I’ll take care of that for you, as well as see if I can find you a rifle, and a pistol and holster if you want one. You’ll probably need them, and that’s the least I can do for you. I had originally planned on riding out at daybreak tomorrow, but Sophia has asked that we take tomorrow to make certain we have adequate supplies to start our life on the ranch, so tomorrow we’ll also see about finding you a good horse and saddle as well as the weapons.”

“Mista’ Randy, ah sho’ does ’preciate ya, suh. Ah’ll go string da critta’s an’ foller ya inta town ta whea’eva’ yuns wants ta boa’d ’em animals. An’ ah’ll be ready soon’s yuns is,” Dev said, pulling his hat on and spinning toward the door, vanishing out of the dining car in mere seconds.

“Sophia, we have officially hired our first hand, though other than tending the animals we have now, I’m not exactly sure what we’ll have him doing. Well, if you’re ready, let’s see about hiring a carriage to get us into town, shall we?”

As they stepped out onto the platform, a dapper looking gentleman approached. “Excuse me, sir, but might you be needing lodging in Lampasas?”

“Yes, we will, and we’ll need our luggage and parcels taken in as well. Do you represent one of the hotels in town?”

“Yes, I do, actually, and I have the hotel’s carriage parked around the side of the depot. How many in your party, sir?”

“Just the two of us. No, make that three. We’ll need two rooms, one for us and one for our man. That is providing your establishment will allow a colored man to stay there.”

A“Absolutely, sir. We have rooms at the rear of the hotel for servants. And if that’s your man leading all those animals, might I also recommend that you board them at Mr. George Taylor’s Livery. It’s just two blocks from the Globe Hotel, and easy access. Mr. Taylor has always been very accommodating to our guests, and gives a discount to those guests who board with him. The Globe has a fine dining room, and spacious accommodations, including private bathing options, if you need them. And our rates are very competitive, among the lowest in Lampasas.”

“Very well, if you’ll show us to that carriage, and stow our gear, we’re ready to go whenever you are,” Randy said, motioning for Dev to come forward.

After Dev led the animals around the depot, Randy and Sophia actually met him beside the carriage. “Dev, would you mind helping this gent load all our belongings into the carriage, and then follow us into town to a place where we can board the animals?”

Thirty minutes later, the deal was made at Taylor’s to board the animals for two nights, including brushing them down and graining them—with special instructions to the hand at the livery on how to handle the mules. Another ten minutes found the three checking into the hotel, though it took some convincing the clerk to allow Dev to eat in the dining room with them instead of making him take his meals behind the kitchen with the hotel servants.

After freshening up in their room, Randy and Sophia made their way to the dining room, meeting Dev there at the agreed upon time for dinner. Not what they had grown accustomed to on the train, the meal was still decent, with generous servings, and the coffee flowed like water for Randy. Sophia was not amused when told they only had enough milk to serve her one glassful, but drank water with ice in lieu of the white liquid once that only glassful had been drained.

“Randy, if we can find a milk cow for the ranch, it would be nice, but I know that trying to lead one out would take extra time that we don’t really have right now.”

Albrectsen didn’t sleep too well, getting up every two hours to“Oh, I’m sure we can find one in or around Junction City, once we get to the ranch, that is. It’s a day ride to and from town, but mother always wanted to ride in of a morning, stay the night, and then ride back home the next morning. I see no reason why we can’t do the same thing when we need to buy something from town.”

Dev sat quietly, listening carefully to every word shared by the newlyweds, until Randy drew him into the conversation. “So, Dev, what kind of food do you like to eat? I understand that Uncle Jesse has a Mexican couple helping out, so I imagine we can have about anything from Mexican foods to whatever my dear Sophia can dream up to cook for us.”

“Wa’l, suh, ah fava’s hot food ova’ col’, but ’sides ’et, ah gots no neva’ min’ whut’s set in fron’ o’ me. ’Cep’ sum o’ ’et Mezikin food kin sho’ makes a man pay.”

A Randy couldn’t help but laugh at Dev’s observations, feeling pretty much the same way himself. “Well, I’ll take Sophia to the mercantile tomorrow, and she can pick up whatever she thinks we’ll need for food supplies and such. But we may have to go hunting for some beef to eat, as Jesse said that the stock had been all but run off. And we may have to make a run into Junction City to see if we can find her a milk cow, and maybe some laying hens if we want eggs from time to time.”

Just then, the clerk came to their table with a few words for Randy. “Sir, I hate to interrupt your meal, but Mr. Taylor and another man are here to see you. Shall I tell them to wait?”

With Charles now in his sixties, she began to fear she would never be blessed with children, something she hadn’t even thought of when she agreed to marry him. But now, after a year of marriage to a man who was healthy as a horse, on top of living in such a remote valley, she began to feel depressed, often crying herself to sleep at night. Albrectsen had yet to enter her room, let alone lie with her, so there would be no chance of children, and her virginity remained intact.

“No, I can always come back to the table to finish, though I’m nearly finished now. Sophia, would you see what you can order in the way of dessert for us?” Randy asked, standing and then following the clerk into the lobby. He was shocked to see Joseph standing there, no longer in his porter uniform, and with a sad look on his face.

Standing beside Joseph was an older gentleman in rather rough looking clothing, so he assumed that to be George Taylor. “Mr. Taylor, I presume?”

“Yessir, I’m George Taylor, and danged if you ain’t the spittin’ image o’ your Paw. If I didn’t know better, I’d a-swore I was lookin’ at Ellis. Cactus Jack an’ Rafe said you’d be along. They was here a couple weeks back, bought some horses an’ tack from me ’fore they rode out for the South Llano. You might want ta know that they hired a half dozen men ta ride out with ’em. Good men, fit for a fight if one comes at ’em, ’r for hard ridin’ diggin’ mossy backs an’ mustangs outta the scrub oak an’ brush. I know ever’ one o’ ’em, an’ helped Jack an’ Rafe pick ’em out. They’ll serve ya well, they sure will, for as long as ya need ’em.”

“That’s good to know, but I wonder what they had in mind hiring men to go with them?”

“Randy, if ya don’t mind me callin’ ya Randy, I heard on the wind that your Uncle Jesse was in trouble out that way, an’ that he didn’t have no hands left, an’ that most o’ the stock had been stole ’r run off. An’ I heard that Carbajal an’ his gang o’ Mexican cutthroats was usin’ the South Llano ta hide out, and ta hide stolen cattle an’ horses. I also heard that the damned county was after the place for taxes, ’specially a feller name o’ Wadsworth, who is tryin’ ta beat Ernie Holecamp ta the punch on providin’ the city with water, an’ figurin’ on stealin’ both places at the tax sale. Now, I reckon Cactus Jack done threw a dally on that by payin’ off the taxes, leastwise he said that was the plan. Now then, I been doin’ all the talkin’ an’ all I really needed ta know is when are ya leavin’, an’ what can I do ta help ya?”

“George, you just filled me in on what I needed to know, but figured I’d have to wait ’til I got home to find out. And I appreciate it, more than you know. We plan on riding out day after tomorrow, before daybreak, and I’m going to need a good horse for another one of my hands. And if you can tell me the best place in town to acquire supplies, we’ll need to pick up quite a few things. Including a good saddle, a Winchester, and a Colt and holster as well as all the ammunition for them.”

“Well, I have my preferences when it comes ta where I buy supplies. Right straight north o’ the hotel a block an’ a half is the Texas Tradin’ Comp’ny. Tell ’em I sent ya, an’ I promise they’ll take real good care o’ ya. Best make sure the carriage driver o’ this place knows when you’re leavin’, ’cause he don’t gen’rally start his day ’til about eight, an’ if ya wanna be out o’ town by daybreak… Well, ya might want my man ta bring your stock here for ya instead o’ countin’ on him.”

“Thanks, George. That’s likely our best bet anyway, considering all the stuff we have already, and we’ll be picking up even more tomorrow.”

“Well, if ya need ’em, I got three ’r four good pack horses I’ll sell ya. An’ I won’t hold ya up on the prices either,” Taylor said with a wink. “Now then, if there ain’t nothin’ else, I’d best be gettin’ for home ’fore the old woman tosses out my supper.”

“Good enough, George. I’ll likely drop by tomorrow to look at that horse I need for my new man, so I’ll see you then,” Randy said, shaking Taylor’s hand. After the liveryman left, Randy turned to Joseph. “Well, I didn’t expect to see you again, and certainly not this soon. What can I do for you, Joseph?”

“Ah finds mahse’f in da same boat Dev uz in, suh. Mista’ Melvin, ’e telegraphed Denver ta let ’em know we’s all done hea’, an’ they tolt ’im ta lets me go when we gots back ta Denvah. Ah ain’ gots nothin’ thea’ ta go back ta, so I jus’ drug up hea’.”

“And you’re wondering if I might have room for you as well, right?”

“Yas, suh. Ah ain’ as good wit’ critta’s as Dev, but ah’m a fai’ ranch hand. Ah sho’ ain’ skeered o’ workin’, an’ ah’ll do jus’ whut ah’m tolt when ah’m tolt ta does it.”

“Alright, Joseph. Let’s get you a room, and I suppose you’re going to need a horse and tack as well, right? Have you eaten supper as yet?”

“Yas, suh, an’ no, suh.”

“Tell you what, go on into the dining room, find our table and ask Sophia to order you the same thing we had for our dinner. In the meantime, I’ll speak with the desk clerk and see about getting you a room for the next two nights. Now then, I’ll pay you the same as I pay Dev, a dollar a day and found, and I’ll get you a horse, saddle and bridle, a rifle and a holster and pistol along with the ammunition to go with them, and whatever else you think you might need to become a good cowboy.”


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