“Dang that alarm, dang it anyhow,” Frank said as he reached out and pushed the button down on the old fashioned wind up alarm clock. Slowly he sat up and swung his legs around. He jerked as his warm feet touched the cold floor. He scratched, stretched, and pulled on the faded old straight leg Levi’s, the blue denim shirt and the old wool sweater, the one she had made for him. She had worked all winter on it, knitting, raveling, knitting, raveling, until she got it right. Heck, what was that ten, twenty years ago?”

Slipping his feet into his warm sheepskin slippers, he struck a match and put it to the paper and kindling he had in the stove. The coffee pot was already filled so he washed his face and measured out some oatmeal. A hand full of raisins and about that much water.

Soon Frank was drinking hot coffee, coffee with grounds that had not yet settled. Two slices of toast with blackberry jam, a bowl of oatmeal and half a pot of coffee pretty much prepared him for his day. As he picked coffee grounds from his teeth he put his boots on and thought of what all he had to do today, this Thursday.

Just before the sky began to lighten, he fed and watered Dog and Sarah, his horse. Then it was gas up the four wheeler, check the oil and tires, and begin his day up here on the North range. There were twelve-hundred seventeen head to round up so they could be trucked down to the winter range. It was a strain on him and Dog since Dolph had twisted his knee and had to go down to the hospital. “Come on Dog, there are still fourteen head over there next to rattlesnake draw. Dang cattle seem to find the dangdest places to hole up.” He grinned and shook his head as he rubbed Dog’s head. “What you say we take the four-wheeler and then use Sarah in the mesquite?”

Eleven head he and Dog got headed toward the big corral in swamp valley, but the final three he had to go in on foot and chase out. They would trot out then start toward the valley then quickly double back to the dense thickets. “Come on you durn crazy critters. Don’t you know it is going to snow? Winter is nearly here,” Frank said as finally he got all seventeen into the big corral. He could not keep the herd here long because there was not enough grass, so he had it planned to finish the roundup today and tomorrow morning the trucks would come and haul them over to the old Ranger place, where they would be wintered, well the ones that were not sold would be wintered there.

As the sun was setting Frank and Dog were back to camp where Sarah got a good currying and Dog got an extra can of food. Now they had twelve hundred thirty-seven head in the corral.

Frank was tired. He fired up the Coleman stove and made some supper. “Dinty Moore Stew and a nice hot chunk of corn bread,” Frank said as he pulled off his boots and put his warm slippers on. He ate his supper, fed Dog the leftovers and at quarter to eight he was in his bedroll fast asleep.

Morning found ice on the water bucket and a good chill in the air. After a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee he saddled Sarah. He was thinking how best to ascertain who the extra three head belonged to.

He saw the dust and diesel smoke before he saw the trucks coming. Then he heard the crazy dang air horns Frank Detwiler had on his truck; you could not miss it. “Morning Frank, got twelve hundred twenty for you, three extra or I can’t count anymore.”

“Morning Frank. No coffee pot down here? Shucks, how you expect us to work without coffee?” Frank Detwiler said in reply. They looked over the setup and soon one man was driving the cattle toward the two story trailers as two men checked brands and counted the cattle. As soon as one trailer was loaded it headed for winter pasture, so by the time the sixth truck was loading there was just he and the driver. As soon as the last truck headed out he figured he would have between three and four hours to break camp before the trucks returned for their second load.

He took down his tent and rolled everything up and loaded it into the back of his truck, and then he hooked the trailer up, placing the spare bales of hay on top of the trailer. He drove the truck down to the corral area and waited. By four all 1,220 head had been loaded and were gone. Every one of the herd had the Rocking TH brand. He felt good that after five months up here they had not lost any cattle. Frank was glad that he had only spent the past two months up here and someone bringing provisions up every two weeks.

As he drove into town he looked around and everything looked the same as he stopped off at the Crown and bought a case of Mickey’s, a jug of good gin and two bottles of tonic water plus a big piece of jerky for Dog. The bunkhouse, well his small cabin had been closed up since he left and it smelled musty as he opened the windows and doors. He took two beers and tended to Sarah brushing her down and giving her an extra ration of oats. Afterwards, a nice hot shower, an hour of paper work and he headed into town for dinner. The loneliness did not bother Frank, he enjoyed it; but when he came back to the ranch he always went into town for dinner and a few snorts.

A good spaghetti dinner at Angelo’s with a bottle of wine set him in good stead; so when Frank walked into the ELKs lodge and saw Judge Cato and Clem Feister the DA he knew it was Poker night. Before they could say anything Frank whomped both on the back, “Not tonight, I just came down from two months with the herd up in the Bow, OK?”

“Frank, stay out of trouble cause I don’t want to see you in court for I am still mad over that five hundred you took from me the last time we played,” the Judge said with a laugh.

“Yeah and I lost three fifty, so I will ask for the maximum,” Clem said with a laugh as the three men shook hands. Frank headed for the kitchen where he found Mary Beth giving a young woman what for.

“Hey sweet lady, can an old ranch hand buy you a drink when you get through chewing out that pretty young thing?”

Then embraced, “You are going to get it, you scallywag, thirty minutes and I will be done,” Mary Beth whispered as she stepped back and pinched his love handle, “Eating your own cooking I see,” she said.

About nine the next morning Frank returned to the ranch and set at the books. He looked at Dog who was stretched out on a big old shag rug, “One of these days that woman is going to say yes and then we will have to clean up around here.”

By Tom (tomWYO@aol.com)





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