Welcome Basket with Cattle - Part 3 [MOVED]
Location: Redmond Homestead
Timeline: July, 1875 Early afternoon
The man was taking his promised drink from the bucket's dipper, and while he did so, he offered to return her pistol, long as she gave her word not to shoot him. Clara thought that an unnecessary condition but nodded, "I looked at the welcome basket, it is as you said it was. And you did chase those beasts away from the garden....though damage has been done....so you are quite safe from being shot by me. I am quite different than the bloodthirsty sort of outlaws you apparently hung about with."
"Also, I would like to point out that a gentleman caller would give a lady his name especially since he now knows hers," she pointed out solemnly.
Shade sputtered, nearly snorting the water he'd been swallowing. He hung the dipper back up and looked at the girl, torn between astonishment and amusement. "I'm Shade Harper, owner of Lost Lake Ranch." Technically, he was only half-owner but did not want to set his little niece and nephew up for trouble. Right now, the fewer strangers knew about their situation, even teenaged ones, the better. "The LLR will reimburse you for the damage if you'll draw up an accounting of your losses."
Clara frowned when the man almost spit up the water, there was nothing wrong with the well water.
"Shade? What kind of name is that?" her usual bluntness came out. As for the accounting, she would handle that part alright, she'd have to write up something very specific.
"The kind of name I was given by my mother," Shade retorted good-naturedly. Leaning a hip on the edge of the well's enclosure, Shade studied the girl for several moments, "Since our cattle caused the damage, I can come back in a couple of days and help put things to rights as much as possible." Shade nodded toward the sack laying next to the welcome basket, "We had to slaughter a heifer yesterday that broke its leg. Mrs. Hale sent you the haunch and the hide. It'll keep for a while in a spring house or smoked. I can get it started smokin' for you if you want me too, Miss Redmond."
Before Clara could reply to that her attention was distracted by the approach of a buckboard wagon with none other than her father and little brother on it, in the back was a load of freshly chopped wood. Aurelian, of course, had spotted his daughter and some cowboy standing there talking by the well. He could not help but wonder what that was all about. Wyatt no doubt felt the same.
"Who's that, Pa?"
"I do not know, son. We shall very soon find out I suppose," the man calmly replied.
"That is my father, Mr. Harper, it may be a good idea to give me back my father's pistol now," Clara pointed out as the wagon closed on them.
"Or maybe I should just hold on to it and give it to your father," Shade replied, raising one eyebrow at the girl, a grin pulling at his lips. "After all, he's not tried to shoot me yet."
"You offered to give it to me but fine, go back on your word," the girl shrugged, "And if you mean to get me into trouble, I do not think that will happen."
"Hello!" Aurelian called out as he set the brake on the wagon then clambered off the vehicle, Wyatt beat him to it landing in one jump on his feet, his eyes riveted on the newcomer.
He stepped toward Shade then, "Good day to you, sir. Do what do I owe the pleasure of this visit of yours?" It did not get by his notice about the Colt Dragoon in the man's possession, sure looked like his piece. He also exchanged a silent glance with his daughter and was relieved she did not seem neither alarmed nor afraid.
Shade straightened and gave the older man a respectful nod and tip of his hat. "Hello, sir. I'm Shade Harper from the Lost Lake spread, your neighbor to the west. Mrs. Hale asked me to ferry a welcome basket over for you and your family." He paused and waved a hand toward the meadow beyond the house, "I'm afraid some of our cattle strayed onto your property. I've asked Miss Clara for an accounting of damages."
"Mr. Harper," Aurelian nodded back, "They did huh? That'll happen I reckon."
He glanced at Clara again, wordless communication between them. Clara nodded affirming the man's version. Fair enough.
"Mrs. Hale is a wonderful lady I must say, tell her thanks from us. Clara, we must write her a proper thank you note," he added.
"We meaning me," Clara commented dryly.
"You have the best penmanship," the father smiled.
Pulling the Dragoon from his belt, Shade offered it back to Clara. "This was dropped in the confusion," he added to Mr. Redmond. He would leave it up to the girl to tell her father what she wanted him to know. "I apologize for the trouble, Mr. Redmond."
Clara accepted it, of course, a bit of surprise showing on those youthful features of hers, "Thank you."
"Rather careless of you, child. Handling firearms is a serious business," Aurelian chided her but in a gentle tone.
"Girls," Wyatt grinned, enjoying anything that might embarrass his know it all sister.
Clara just forced a wan smile and inwardly seethed.
"Oh, Mr. Harper, this is my son, Wyatt, he and I were chopping wood in the treeline out to the west," Aurelian introduced his youngest.
Wyatt was a happy go lucky boy and grins came easily to him, quite the opposite of his all too often dour older sister, "Howdy, mister. You sure got a nice horse. And is that one of those Winchester rifles too?"
He pointed to the weapon sheathed next to the saddle. Wyatt had a boy's fascination with both horses and guns especially since he didn't own either.
"Hello, Wyatt," Shade said affably. "Right on both counts. The carbine is a Winchester 1873. You have a good eye for horses too. That's Lakota, one of the best stock horses I've ever owned. If you ride and it's okay with your father, you can trot him around the yard." He looked at Mr. Redmond with raised eyebrows, asking permission on the boy's behalf.
Wyatt looked excited as he glanced up at his father, but Aurelian shrugged, "Thank you for offering, kind of you, but I think I shall have to say 'no' at this time."
The boy looked crestfallen but knew enough than to argue with his father.
"Wyatt has been on a horse with me on occasion, but he does not really know how to ride yet. That day will come of course but right now I ....we simply cannot afford any injuries or accidents. And you know as well as I, Mr. Harper, there are no guarantees once a person climbs aboard a horse. Even the best ones can get skittish or worse if something goes wrong," Aurelian explained.
"Sorry, tiger," Shade said to Wyatt. "Maybe next time I stop by."
Wyatt wasn't happy but took it like a man, "It's alright, mister."
He sincerely felt bad to have gotten the boy's hopes up. Shade gave a rueful mental shake of his head. Seemed he was putting his foot wrong with every member of this little family. He turned his attention back to the man. "I don't know what Kate sent in the basket, but there's a side of beef in the sack. Had to slaughter a heifer yesterday that broke her leg. Smoked or dried, it should last awhile."
"Oh, well, some more generosity. I appreciate it, we can certainly use the food, to be honest. God willing, come this time next year we shall be quite self-sufficient but in the meantime, starting over like this......well, it is certainly a challenge. One we will weather, isn't that right, children?" Aurelian declared.
Wyatt just nodded, still wishing for that horse ride, but Clara gave a confident, "Yes father."
"So your place then...what direction is it from here?" Aurelian asked.
"What little of our boundary butts up to your property line is slightly north and west. If you follow the road west past your gate, you come to our main gate," Shade answered. "Guess I better get those cows moving. I'll have some of our hands look for the break in the fence and get it mended. Sorry for the trouble."
"Ahh, I see," Aurelian nodded at his directions then waved his hand in dismissal, "No apology needed. We can't help where animals choose to wander. Thank you for coming to fetch them...and bringing us Mrs. Hale's kind gifts."
Aurelian had his pride but he decided he wasn't going to turn down the man's offer to have the ranch fix the break in the fence, he had enough other things to do with this still new property.
Catching Lakota's reins, he led the horse a couple of feet away so that it wouldn't walk on anyone as he mounted. Grabbing the saddle horn, he pulled himself partway up and slipped his foot into the stirrup, settling easily into the saddle. "Miss Clara, I'll come back by for the accounting of damages in a day or two. If you folks need anything, please let us know."
"Yes, Mr. Harper, I will have it ready and it will be a fair accounting," Clara assured the man.
"Bye!" Wyatt smiled as he waved.
Once the cowboy was out of hearing, Aurelian remarked, "Right nice fellow as is Mrs. Hale. Seems we have found ourselves some good neighbors."
Clara have a shrug, "He's....................alright....I suppose."