“Are you Paco Cervantes?” the dark suited round mound of a man asked coming up the steps onto the ranch house porch. Before Paco could answer, the man smiled and put out his hand. “I’m Noel Fogerty, Mr. Durley’s attorney.”
“Sí, I’m Paco Cervantes.”
“You worked for Mr. Durley, over fifty years, I think?”
“Sí. Since I was fifteen years old and he was eighteen.”
“Paco, tomorrow at noon I will be reading Mr. Durley’s will. I want you to know that but there is no need for you to come.”
“Ohhh… Well, I understand. What will happen to his ranch?”
The attorney went to his car and opened the trunk. Taking out a chain and padlock he handed them to Paco. “At noon tomorrow, Paco, chain the gate shut. Don’t let anyone on the property, especially Mr. Durley’s son. We want everything to stay here until it’s officially settled. You know Bryan Durley, don’t you?”
“Sí. I know him. He is muy bad. The patrón kicked him off the ranch for stealing cattle. The last time he came begging, I loaded my double barrel with number sixes. Seńor Durley was too sick to argue with him. He left cussing in Spanish and English.
“Did Durley have any other children, Paco?”
“No, my patrón never married again. His wife died giving birth to Bryan. He never had any more keeds.”
“Well, lock the gate tomorrow. You and I have the only keys. And don’t worry about your pay or a place to live for awhile. I’ll see that you are taken care of. ”
Paco touched the fob of the old pocket-watch but didn’t pull it from his faded Levis. The sun told him it was noon. Or, close enough. He closed the welded-iron gate and threw two wraps of chain around the cedar post and gate, and locked them together with the padlock. For good measure, he tied a bright red sign to the gate declaring NO TRESPASSING in bold black letters.
Only death could separate the bond forged between him and his patrón. After lightening killed Durley’s parents, Paco had helped bury them in the fenced plot on the hill. Durley had inherited the two thousand acre ranch and asked Paco to work for him. Now named Dos Compadres, two friends, they had made the 2-C a respected brand. Old age had snuck up on them like a coyote after chickens.
That attorney had surprised him. He thought he knew everything about Durley but he didn’t know he had a will. Durley had seldom gone to town without him other than Sundays when he attended church. Paco and Carmelita, his wife, had gone with him a few times, but their Sundays were usually spent visiting friends and shopping. At the funeral, the church overflowed with folks that came to say their good-byes.
Carmelita sat beside Paco in the porch-swing, her slender fingers covering his sun-bronzed hand on her bright floral skirt. Fogerty was lapping over a sturdy raw-hide laced chair peering into his coffee cup. They were sipping boiled coffee made the way Paco liked it and eating Carmelita’s pan dulce. Rain drops dripped from the tin roof with steady musical plinks into a nearby collection barrel.
“Have you seen Bryan?” Forgerty asked. Seeing the sideways shake of their head he said, “I didn’t think you would. “One hundred thousand dollars was left to him in the will if he agreed to stay out of this county forever. He agreed and I sent the money to his bank in Denver.
“Durley left the rest of his money, the ranch and cattle to his church. This” he said, handing Paco an envelope, “is a check for your wages and two years’ salary. Durley wanted you to have that.”
“Gracias. Mr. Durley was a good man.” Paco looked at his boots, and then rubbed a toe behind his calf. “Carmelita and I have been talking. Maybe so we will be moving to our son’s. He wants us to come. But, who is going to take care of the cattle?”
“Ohhh… something else Paco. Until you die or move away, the 2-C’s Ranch and cattle increase are yours. Then they go to the church. You were his compadre, his friend.”
“Ai-Yiii” Paco squealed, snatching his arthritic hand loose from Carmelita’s sudden vice-like grip. “That Durley…” He wiped tears from his eyes. “Maybe so, my son will come here and help me. I think he will.”
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