A rider rode up in a cloud of dust, his face covered with his handkerchief. “De dun han er illy.”
Skip Larson, ranch foreman grabbed the rider’s reins. “Casey, get that wad outta yer mouth and slow down. Now, what in the four aces did you say?”
The young man on the horse ripped off his handkerchief and spat a large wad of tobacco onto the ground. “Dad blame it, I said, they done hung ol’ Billy.”
“Hung’em? What the blazes fer?”
By that time a half dozen ranch hands had gathered to witness the commotion. Cassey appeared to grasp the moment.
“They dragged Billy out from under steps of the Sweet Bird Saloon and strung him to a tree. That ol’ injun didn’t bat an eye. Course there was probably fifty of em’ hang’n him. Said, ‘he was spook’n horses.’ You know that Johnson woman’s horse bolted last Sunday – just when Billy crawled out from under that porch.”
“Fifty?” Larson tipped his hat. “That poor injun never hurt nobody; he ain’t right, but he never hurt nobody. You sure it was fifty? ”
“Well, a bunch.”
“Huh uh, them’s some mean folks. I high tailed it riech here, soon as see’d it.”
Larson turned to the gathered wranglers, “Jose’, saddle my mare, and put that Henry on it, I’m go’n in the house and get some grub and try to find some gifts for the chief. Breed, you’re ridden with me, less you rather not.”
A mixed race man stepped forward, “I’ll go.”
“How about me boss? I seen it.” Casey slipped out of his saddle.
“Chief Wompaw," Larson paused, "would have you quartered and stewed before you could open yer mouth.”
The wranglers laughed and pushed Billy between them.
Larson walked on into the ranch house. The owners were out of town so he had full charge, but preferred to stay clear of the house and its finery. On a bureau table was an old Bible. “I think the mission folks taught the Chief to read a little, I’ll take him this book, maybe he will take pity on me, remember what they taught’m.”
“Git some blankets too boss.” The man called Breed looked in the window. “Them people like those woven blankets from back east.
Larson ran up the stairs and ripped two blankets off of beds. Well, if the Chief doesn’t accept these, we have nothing to worry about anyway, he’ll hit this ranch first.
Minutes later the two riders skirted the fences of the sprawling ranch and headed into the hills to talk to a historically friendly Indian Chief and his people.
“Whatcha got in the saddle bag besides blankets.” Breed pulled up alongside of Larson.
“I got that ol’ Bible.”
“Ever read it?”
Larson tapped the reins. “Nap.”
“You read it?”
“Yup, you know I went to the mission school.” Breed coughed at the dust. “We read the Bible every day.”
They both pulled their handkerchiefs up over their noses. Larson patted the saddlebag. “You suppose the Chief did too?”
“Yup. I hope he’s read’n Psalms right now. ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.’” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)
“That’s nice, I like that, sort of serves us now doesn’t it.” Larson often thought about God, but never really put time or effort into faith.
“You do believe in God; don’t you boss?”
“Can’t miss with that, Breed, just look around you, man didn’t build this.”
“Then you know about Jesus Christ too, right?”
“Larson scratched his head. “Yeah, back in my Sunday School days, we learnt about Him.”
Breed coughed again with the flying dust. “Boss, do you believe that when you go to heaven that Jesus will forgive all yer sins?”
“That’s a powerful bunch, but yeah I believe that. Why you ask’n all these church questions?”
“I ain’t got much water and this ain’t too official but here.” Breed tipped up his canteen and tossed a handful of water at Larson.
Most of the water bounced off Larson’s shoulder. “What’n the dad blazes you do a thing like that?” Larson stood in his stirrups and brushed the water from his shirt.
“Well, boss, look at them smoke signals up ahead.”
Larson strained to see. “Yeah, I see’m.”
“Well, first of all they know we’re comin.”
“What else in dem messages?”
Breed cleared his throat. “They already know about ol’ injun Billy.”
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