For fans of my Western series, the Ames Archives, here's an excerpt from the fifth book in the series, working title "Silver", currently in preparation.
Readers of previous books in the series will know Walt bought a herd of horses bred true to the Spanish strain when he was down in Mexico a few years before this excerpt takes place. He brought them (and his new wife) back to Colorado, and established a breeding program. Now the first fruits of that program are ready for the market, and he's supervising that personally. At the same time, silver mining is booming in Colorado, and there are indications that one of his parcels of land may have viable deposits of it. He's trying to find out for sure.
You can bet he's going to have an interesting time with both endeavors! Look for the new book late this year or early next year. It's more than halfway finished.
Walt braced himself against the movement as a small shunting engine uncoupled his freight cars from the train that had just arrived from Pueblo, moved them onto another track, and coupled them to the train that would depart for Cheyenne in Wyoming later that afternoon. The following day, the cars would be joined to a Union Pacific train heading east to New York along the transcontinental railroad. The entire journey would take about ten days.
The ten men he’d brought with him stood by the horses, making sure they weren’t too distressed by the banging and clattering caused by the shunting. When at last the work was completed, they led the horses down ramps to the ground and across to an empty paddock, where they allowed them to walk around and drink their fill of water.
Walt was watching the horses stretch their legs when he was slapped heavily across the back. A voice boomed, “Walt! It’s been too long!”
He turned, grinning, and held out his hand. “Good to see you, too, Jim. How’s things in the United States Marshal’s office?”
“We may only deal with Federal crimes, but there’s enough of them to keep us busy. Also, we get a lot of bad apples comin’ in from other states. The U.S. Attorneys there wire us to keep an eye on them, or arrest them and send ’em back. We could do with another three or four deputy marshals, but they won’t let us hire that many.”
“If I ever have time on my hands, perhaps I’ll apply.”
Jim Dunnett guffawed. “You? I’d take you in a heartbeat, but we’d never hear the end of it from the Denver politicians. You scared the ever-livin’ hell out o’ them when you brought back all that evidence against Parsons, includin’ his records of who he’d bribed. They managed to bury that deep enough to protect themselves, but they’d be terrified you’d uncover somethin’ new.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“So, why did you want me to meet you here? It wasn’t just to pass the time, I’m sure.”
“No, it wasn’t. Step up into the fodder car for a moment.”
Walt led Jim up the ramp into the foremost of the four cars he’d hired from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The front car contained bales of fodder from the ranch, as well as sacks of oats, nosebags, saddles, bridles and everything else needed for the horses. The three cars behind it carried eight horses each, with enough straw to provide soft, easy footing. More bales of straw lined their sides, providing insulation against the last of the winter chill. Stable hands would ride in each car all the way to New York, relieving each other at intervals. The valuable horses would never be left unattended.
Walt reached into his holdall and produced a glass jar containing the blackened stones he’d gathered from his land near Rosita. He passed it to Jim, explaining what was inside. “I want to get them assayed. They may be nothing at all, but if others are assaying rocks like them, I’d like to know whether anything might come of it. Thing is, I don’t want anyone to know I’m asking about it. I’d rather not start a mining rush on my land if there’s nothing worth finding there. I can’t stop a horde o’ greedy prospectors without gunplay, and nobody wins in that sort o’ war.”
Jim winced visibly. “You can say that again! We’ve run into that in other mining districts. Once the fools get an idea in their heads that an area’s rich in silver, there’s no holdin’ them back, even if the mineral and mining rights are already tied up. Some places see killings every week over that.”
“That’s what I thought. Do you know an assayer who’ll test this stuff, without telling him where it came from or that I’m involved? I’ll pay all the costs, of course. When I come back, you can tell me what he said, and that’ll help me make up my mind what to do next.”
“Sure, I know a good man. I’ll take this to him tomorrow.”
“Thanks.” Walt peeled off fifty dollars from his wallet. “That should cover the testing.”
“If not, I’ll pay any extra, and get it back from you later.” Jim accepted the banknotes and pocketed them. He looked out through the sliding door of the car at the horses slowly circling in the paddock. “Those the first of your Spanish hosses that you’re selling?”
“Yes, they are. Ain’t they lovely?”
“They sure are. How much are you askin’ for them?”
“Five hundred apiece for most of them; mebbe a little more for the best.”
Jim shook his head. “That’s way too rich for my salary, but if I ever get lucky at the faro table or in a game of poker, I’ll come buyin’.”
“You do that. You won’t have to pay full price, either. You and I go back a long way together, so the least I can do is give you a discount.”
“I’m not too proud to take it. Thanks.”
~ ~ ~
ALBANY, NEW YORK STATE
Sean’s brother Mike had arranged to rent a large, well-grassed, fenced field, complete with a stable block large enough to accommodate all the horses. The hands slept in the hayloft, and took turns keeping watch over the animals. Mike had warned that there were always thieves looking for easy prey during the spring horse auctions, so Walt took precautions against that.
They arrived a week before the auctions were due to begin. At first they were ignored, being far enough out of town to be away from the social whirl that was part and parcel of the event. However, when Walt rode one of the best of his horses into town to order supplies, heads turned to follow him all down the street. It was a gray stallion, so light it was almost pure white in color, with a proud, arrogant gait and its head raised in challenge to all the lesser horses it passed. It made a very impressive sight, and Walt knew it. He had dressed to match the horse, in the best business suit he could procure in Denver. He did not strap on his usual gunbelt, since no-one else in this eastern city was openly carrying a gun, but wore a cut-down Smith & Wesson Russian model .44 revolver in a shoulder holster beneath his jacket.
When he came out of the store, having placed his order and received assurances that it would be delivered that afternoon, he found half a dozen interested men standing around, examining his horse closely. They had many questions about where he’d obtained it. He took the opportunity to describe how he’d found his breeding herd down in Mexico, bought it from Don Thomas O’Halloran shortly before his death, and taken it back to Colorado despite the best efforts of a villainous Mexican bandido to steal his horses. Out of the corner of his eye, Walt noticed a young man scribbling intently in a notebook as he listened.
“So what happened to Enrique Sandoval in the end?” one of his audience asked jovially. “Did he give up his attempts to steal the herd?”
Walt grinned tightly. “In a manner o’ speakin’, yeah. He challenged me face to face on the morning of my wedding, and I killed him.”
There was a sudden, appalled silence. Walt reminded himself that in the relatively safe eastern states, few had any personal experience of the thunder of guns and the settling of disputes in the most permanent way possible.
“You… you killed him?” the young man with the notebook asked, pencil poised, eyes wide.
“What else should I have done?” Walt asked reasonably. “He and some of his men came down the street at us. I left his men to my guards, and handled Sandoval myself. He was good with a gun, but not good enough when push came to shove.”
A man who’d stood further back in the crowd snorted aloud. “I’ll say he wasn’t! You men probably haven’t heard much about Walt Ames, but he’s a known man out west. He killed Hunting Wolf, a Kiowa war chief, in Kansas back in ’66, and faced down Satank himself a few days later. A few years after that, he hunted down the men who murdered his wife. That’s how he lost his left hand, but he’s still a dead shot with his right. He’s earned a reputation as a good man to have on your side, but a bad man to cross.”
“You have the advantage of me, sir,” Walt said politely. “How do you know so much about me?”
“I’ve traveled a lot out West in connection with railroad business, including the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. My name’s Loren Atkinson. I was in the area when you ran into the Furlong gang in Pueblo, and read about it in the papers. You killed all of them, didn’t you?”
“I had help, but yeah, they ended up dead. Pleased to meet you, sir.” They shook hands.
The young man was scribbling again. Atkinson nodded to him. “This is Fred Lowery, a reporter for the local paper. I daresay your name will be in it tomorrow.”
“May I come out to see your horses, sir?” the reporter asked eagerly. “If they’re all as good as this one, and with a name like yours behind them, they’re sure to attract a lot of interest.”
“Sure, we’re about three miles out of town on the Schenectady road. Come out any time. If I’m not there, my men will show you the horses. I’ll let them know you’ll be coming.”
Next morning, a banner headline on the front page blazoned Walt’s name before everyone in the area. Two men came out from Albany to see the horses, bringing copies of the newspaper with them, somewhat to Walt’s embarrassment. The reporter had recounted his exploits out West in breathless detail, and described how he’d brought back a breeding herd of the finest Spanish strain of horses from Mexico. The article concluded with a promise of a follow-up the next day, describing the horses in more detail.
The reporter duly arrived early that afternoon, bringing with him more men who wanted to see Walt’s horses for themselves. Several tried to buy them at once, at a discounted price, but Walt refused. “We’ll wait for the auction and let the public set the price,” he said. “I’ve got a pretty good idea what they’re worth, and I don’t want to settle for less.”
Mike Flanagan had taken note of the article in the newspaper, and was on hand to spread the word about the hunting business he was entering into with his brother Sean out in Colorado. “Walt Ames has partnered with us, and we’ve set up a separate company to handle it,” he told his eager audience. “They’ll guarantee a good hunt – our guides know where to find the best trophies in the Rocky Mountains – and they’ll provide as much luxury as possible during the trip, including the best food and wines. It’ll be the experience of a lifetime for any sportsman.” He was soon noting down names and addresses for future reference.
After the visitors had left, Mike joined Walt, jubilant at the day’s events. “This is the finest possible way for us to kick off both businesses – your horse sales, and my – our – hunting outfit. You just watch. You’ll have people falling over themselves to buy a top-quality horse from a known gunfighter, and they’ll come to me to book a hunt they know you’ll help to arrange. This is great!”
“I’m not a gunfighter,” Walt informed him frostily, feeling annoyed. “I just happened to come off best in the fights I’ve had so far. I could meet up with a better man at any time. Don’t use that word when you talk about me, please.”
“I won’t, but please don’t sell your reputation short, either. It’s worth money to us.”
He was proved right at the auction. Walt’s horses attracted enormous interest, not just because of their quality – they were as good as the best from other breeders, and better than most – but also because of the newspaper article about him, and who and what he was. Bidding was brisk when his animals entered the ring, and all sold for higher prices than he had expected. The two dozen horses went for an average of almost six hundred and fifty dollars each, and he could have sold twice as many if he’d brought them.
The auction led to another fortuitous meeting. Walt had just finished signing a bill of sale for the last of his horses when a voice behind him said, “I don’t suppose you remember me, Mr. Ames.”
He turned, to find a tall man in his late thirties or early forties standing before him, with an attractive woman on his arm. He thought swiftly. “Your face is familiar, sir, but I’m afraid I can’t place the name.”
“That’s not surprising. You met me more than ten years ago. I was a captain in the U.S. Army.”
Walt’s brow cleared. “Captain Gordon! You were in command at Pond Creek when our wagon train passed through there, on our way to Colorado Territory in ’66.”
“Yes, just after you dealt with Hunting Wolf. I gave you a letter of commendation for the help you provided to the Army in getting the train through. May I introduce my wife, Anne?”
“Very pleased to meet you, ma’am.”
She smiled. “And I to meet you, Mr. Ames. Your reputation precedes you.”
Gordon nodded. “I was telling my wife about you after we read that article in the newspaper. I left the Army as a major last year, and came home to my parents’ horse breeding farm near here. My father has retired, and I’ve taken over the family business. I understand you breed horses in Colorado now?”
“I sure do, at the Rafter A ranch in the Wet Mountain Valley near Pueblo.”
“I understand it’s a rather larger establishment than mine, but we do our best here, too. Will you be sending more horses to our auctions each year?”
“I plan to. It’s a good market for them.”
“We may be able to help each other. I want to buy good breeding stock from time to time, to introduce new blood to our herd. You’ll probably do the same. We can sell or exchange good horses with each other. In addition, you might find it useful to have a local agent you can trust, who can accommodate your horses and help your representatives at the annual auction. I’m sure you won’t be able to come here yourself every year.”
“You speak wisdom, sir. Perhaps we can discuss it at greater length while I’m visiting.”
“That will be my pleasure.”
Walt ended up being the Major’s guest overnight at his breeding farm, which was an extensive operation and clearly very professionally run. They agreed to explore options for the future together, and the Major promised to visit the Rafter A later that year, bringing his wife to meet Colleen.
~ ~ ~
Jim Dunnett was waiting at the station in Denver to meet the train from Cheyenne as it pulled in. He greeted Walt and his men and escorted them to a nearby hotel, where they’d spend the night before taking another train down to Pueblo. Walt saw his people settled in, then met Jim in a nearby high-toned saloon. They ordered drinks, and sat down at a table against the far wall, far enough away from other patrons to be able to talk undisturbed.
“What did the assayer have to say about those rocks?” he asked, sipping his whiskey.
The lawman shrugged. “He reckoned they weren’t anything much. There was silver there, all right, but in low concentrations, only about two to three ounces per ton of ore. That’s not enough to bother with digging it out. Sorry it isn’t better news.”
“Oh, that’s not bad news at all. It means I don’t have to worry about prospectors finding something rich, and causing a rush that overruns my land.”
“Not on these results, no, but the assayer warned they were only from one small sample. He reckons he’d need to test a lot more rocks, from across the width of the area where these were found, and also from deeper down, before he could say for sure what’s there. He told me some of the silver mines didn’t show much in the first shallow samples. They had to dig down fifty, sixty feet before they found the good stuff.”
“I get it. There’s one hole on my land that goes almost that deep, but I’ll leave it alone for now. I’ll wait and see whether any of those black rocks in other places turn up pay dirt. If they do, it might be worth digging deeper on my land; but if I do that without a real good reason, the miners in the area couldn’t help but see and hear the explosion of my dynamite charges. They’d want to know why I was digging there. I’d as soon not give them cause to wonder about that.”
“Makes sense to me. So, how did the hoss sales go?”
“Real well!” Walt told Jim about their success. “It looks like I’ve found a local partner there, who’ll put up my horses when I send them every year, and my men too, and help look after them. He’s a former Army officer I met comin’ out here back in 1866. He’ll be visitin’ us soon to look over the Rafter A. This might turn into somethin’ good for both of us.”
“I hope it does. You’re stretched awful thin, tryin’ to run your hoss ranch, and your freight business, and this new hunting enterprise, and your half-share in that cattle ranch in Texas. I dunno how you find the time to stay on top of it all.”
“I couldn’t do it on my own. I hire good men to run each of them, and take the load off my back. That means I mostly need to supervise. That’s a lot easier.”
They arrived at Pueblo late the following afternoon. Walt sent his men to a local hotel for the night, then hurried home, where Colleen and the children were waiting eagerly. He kissed his wife lovingly as his three-year-old son Thomas – named for Colleen’s father – tried to climb his leg, and baby Samanta – named for Colleen’s mother – burbled her delight at being in Daddy’s arms again. He handed the baby to Colleen and picked up Thomas, squeezing him tightly.
Colleen leaned against him contentedly. “I got your telegraph message about the auction. That’s wonderful news!”
He nodded. “Our two dozen horses fetched over fifteen thousand dollars between them. Even with the costs of taking them all the way there, along with so many grooms, we still cleared over twelve thousand dollars. Next year I’ll send two to three times as many.” He told her about meeting Major Gordon, and his forthcoming visit.
“That’s wonderful! It’ll give us someone we can trust halfway across the country. You won’t be on tenterhooks, wondering if our hands are coping without you.”
“Yeah, and we’ll probably do business with him ourselves, and he with us.”
She hugged him again. “That’s a great start to the Rafter A’s sales. Let’s hope we can move the rest of this year’s horses as easily, and those Nastas is bringing. He telegraphed that he’ll be at the Rafter A with a score of his people late next month. He wants them to work on the ranch over the summer months, as they did before, to learn how we breed and raise our horses.”
Walt grinned. “It’ll be great to see him again. We’ll plan to go out there with the kids for a week or two. We can spend time with Nastas, check on the builder’s progress, and go through the ranch’s books. I also want to ride up to Rosita and see what’s happening at the new Bassick mine. It’s not far from our land. I don’t want the mine’s workings straying over the boundary.”
Colleen looked worried. “What if they have? How will you stop them?”
“They just took the southern half of Fremont County, includin’ the Rafter A, and made it the new Custer County. I wouldn’t have renamed it to commemorate a man who led his entire command to their deaths because he was too damned careless to reconnoiter what he was facing, but I guess that’s politicians for you. Ula’s the county seat now, about three miles from Rosita, so I’ll see the County Sheriff there. If he won’t help, I’ll have to do it the hard way, with lawyers and courts, but I reckon a word in the right ear should help. I can be real persuasive when I have to be.”
She winked. “As soon as the children are asleep, you can show me just how persuasive you are.”
He winked back at her. “Promise?”
~ ~ ~
The following morning, Walt led a couple of wagons filled with stakes and a dozen mounted men north towards his property near Rosita. “Want to come along, Sam?” he invited. “We’re gonna mark the boundaries, to keep out prospectors and miners. It’ll let you see how big the mining area’s getting. We’ll camp out there for a couple of nights.”
“Sure, boss. Let me throw my bedroll together.”
It took the wagons most of the day to cover the twenty miles to the property. As they drew near to Rosita, Sam was staggered to see pits covering the ground around the town, like pockmarked scars on the land. “Ain’t never seen that afore,” he marveled. “I allus thought mines were dug like tunnels into a hillside, or had a big hoist to lower people down and bring ore up a shaft.”
“They do in a lot of places,” Walt agreed, “but here the ore’s close to the surface. None of the mines go real deep yet, although some might if they find a deeper vein.”
Piles of tailings were scattered haphazardly around the holes in the ground, and unpleasant smells indicated that sanitation was just as disorganized. Walt wrinkled his nose in disgust, and speeded up the convoy until it could turn off the trail onto his land. “I’m glad we won’t have to breathe that while we sleep tonight,” he muttered, to a chorus of fervent agreement from his men.
As they drew near the rocky ridge at the rear of Walt’s property, he heard a loud explosion from a gully. He reacted instantly, drawing a revolver as he spurred his horse forward. “With me, Sam! The rest of you, wait here!”
They rode warily into the mouth of the gully, to find two men moving forward to where smoke and dust from an explosive charge they’d set off were slowly clearing. They turned as they heard the horses behind them, looking surprised and worried.
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing on my land?” Walt demanded.
“Who says this is your land?” one of the men retorted truculently.
“The law does. It’s deeded, titled and paid for, as any fool can see if they check at the county courthouse. What are you doing here?”
The other man held out his hands as if to ward off conflict. “We was just prospectin’, mister. We didn’t mean no harm.”
“You can’t prospect on private property, mister, not without the landowner’s permission. That’s the law, and you know it.”
“All right, mister, if that’s how you feel about it. We’ll just pick up those rocks and be on our way.”
“No, you won’t. You’ll leave everything here, includin’ your camp, and get out right now. I’ll return your property to the county sheriff in Ula tomorrow. You can collect it from him.”
The first man straightened, looking indignant. “You can’t steal our stuff like that!”
“Ain’t stealing it. I already told you, you can get it back from the sheriff.”
“You ain’t takin’ my gear!”
Walt looked at him over the sights of his gun. “You want to try stoppin’ me?”
“If you wasn’t holdin’ that gun, and I had an even break, you’d soon find out!”
Walt lowered the hammer of the revolver and thrust it back into its holster. “All right. You got your chance. Make your move.”
Behind him, Sam laughed. “Before you do, you might want to know who you’re bracin’. This is Walt Ames.”
The other man’s face turned a sickly shade of gray. “Walt Ames? The Injun fighter?”
“I don’t claim that name for myself, but others have called me that,” Walt agreed gravely.
“I… ah… I didn’t know, mister. I’m sorry. We’ll be goin’ now.”
“Yes, you will. Keep your belt guns. You might feel lucky. You can walk to Rosita. I’ll use your horses to take your gear to Ula tomorrow.”
The two men said nothing more, but scrambled down the slope and headed for the town, a few miles away, at a fast walk. Walt watched them go, then swung down from his horse. “Help me check out their camp site, Sam, then let’s have a look at where they set off that dynamite.”
The camp held only the usual bedrolls, cooking gear, and a tarpaulin slung between two trees for shelter. The men’s saddles were laid on the ground beneath it, rifles in their boots, and their horses were picketed further back. A number of canvas bags proved to contain rock samples that the two had already collected. The site of the explosion produced broken rocks that were veined with black material, like those Walt had gathered some weeks earlier, but with darker, more dense patches in them. Sam helped him gather the best-looking samples and put them in another bag.
“I’ll take these to an assayer and get them checked out,” Walt told him. “I had some analyzed earlier. They were nothing to write home about, but I’ll just make sure these men didn’t uncover anything more interesting.”
“You ain’t plannin’ on mining yourself, boss?”
Walt shook his head. “How the hell could I do that on top of all the other irons I’ve got in the fire? Besides, it’s a real chancy business. A heck of a lot more men go broke in the mining trade than ever get rich from it.”
“Reckon you’re right at that. Rather stick to something that’s good for the long haul.”
“That’s how I see it.”
Next morning Walt started his men digging holes and driving stakes into the ground every fifty feet along his property’s boundary. The poles were marked with his Rafter A brand. He loaded the two intruders’ gear onto their horses and headed for Ula. Sam tagged along.
The sheriff’s office at Ula was a rented room in a store building, without a proper jail or any of the usual facilities. The deputy on duty said apologetically, “They only set up Custer County two months ago, Mr. Ames. I’m actually from the Fremont County sheriff’s office, fillin’ in until they can elect or appoint someone here. They ain’t got a proper sheriff’s office and jail yet, either.”
“When’s the election?” Walt asked.
“The County Commissioners say next month, iffen they can get polling places organized.”
“Iffen the county needs a polling place near the mouth of the valley, they can set it up at my ranch, the Rafter A. We got close to fifty people there who’ll vote. Tell them to send someone to see me or my foreman to make the arrangements.”
“I’ll do that, suh.”
Walt handed over the men’s belongings. “I’d be grateful if you’ll pass the word around. That land is mine, and I own the mining and mineral rights. They’re recorded with the title deed in the county register. If I find anyone else tryin’ their luck on my land, I won’t deal with them so peacefully next time.”
“Ah… suh, you can’t take the law into your own hands.”
“And where was the law when those two decided to trespass?”
“Ah… like I told you, they’re still gettin’ organized down here.”
“Then until they’re organized, and can do their jobs, I’ll take care of business myself. Make sure the county commissioners know that. I’ll make sure the mine owners do, too.”
As they rode out of the little town, Sam observed, “You was kinda hard on him, suh.”
“Yeah, I guess I was, but folks have got to learn, right from the start, that I won’t allow any nonsense on my land. There’s thousands of people headin’ for the silver mines all over Colorado with a burnin’ hunger to get rich quick. They don’t mind whose lawful rights they trample to do it, either. I’m not gonna let ’em trample mine.”
Over the next two days, while his men completed staking the boundary between his land and Rosita, Walt visited the owners of the larger mines, the stamp mill, and the assayers in town. He made sure they all knew about his land’s status, and asked them to pass the word to their miners and customers. “I don’t want to have to shoot anyone for trespassin’, but if they try to stake a claim on my land, I’ll stop them any way I have to,” he warned. He also turned down a couple of offers to buy his land. “I bought it for a reason, and that ain’t changed. There don’t seem to be anything worth mining on it, but that don’t matter to me.”
He dropped off the rock samples with an assayer in Rosita. The results were significantly better than the rocks he’d tested a few months previously, but still not good enough to warrant a major investment. “Half of them test out at twenty to twenty-five ounces of silver per ton of ore,” the assayer told him. “You really need to do a lot more sampling up and down that ridge at the back of your property, and goin’ deeper below the surface. These samples are too small, and too widely spaced, to say for sure what’s there.”
“Mebbe sometime,” Walt said guardedly. “Iffen they aren’t showin’ pay dirt right now, I don’t see the point in wastin’ money on more of the same.”
“Uh… y’know, these ain’t the first samples I’ve assayed from on or near your land, Mr. Ames.”
“The hell you say! I ain’t sent any to you.”
“Nossuh, you ain’t, but other people have. I’ve heard them talk about where they came from. One of them was real good, two to three times better than these, but it was only one sample. People have been samplin’ all along that ridge, and the low cliff face, right up to your property line, and then again after your property ends.”
Further inspection of the rocky ridge revealed four more sites on his land where explosives had been used to dig out samples, one carved more than fifty feet deep into the ridge. That was enough to convince Walt to leave four of his hands on guard, promising to send reliefs from the ranch as soon as he got back. “They’ll bring enough wood to build a guard shack, and we’ll rotate people through here four at a time, every ten days or so,” he told them. “Boundary posts won’t be enough to keep prospectors out. You’ll have to patrol each day, keepin’ an eye out for intruders and turnin’ them back. Work in pairs, so they don’t get the jump on you. When silver’s involved, there are too many shysters and thieves around to lower your guard.”
“Good thing you run a bigger ranch crew than normal,” Sam observed as they rode away.
“Yeah. That’s because of the Spanish hosses. The breedin’ herd needs a lot more care an’ attention than regular workin’ horses would get. That’s OK, though. It looks like the hosses will begin to pay their own way this year, and the extra men will come in handy to spell each other as guards further up the valley.”
“Are you still gonna put in a farmer to grow fodder for the Rafter A?”
“Not right now. Things are likely to be too unsettled for a while up there. It wouldn’t be fair to put a man and his family into the middle o’ that, where they might get caught up in a fight that’s none of their business.”
There you go. I hope that whets your appetite for the rest of the book, and the ongoing series.