It was nearing noon when the old cowboy everybody knew simply as Henry, returned to the Bar 44 Ranch from his trip into town. Henry’s old bones took a beating riding that distance but he was too proud to admit it in front of the younger hands so he kept his mouth shut and uttered no complaints. The ranch hands close enough to observe Henry noted his slow dismount and how he vigorously rubbed his knees after taking a quick look around to see who had observed his arrival. After a few halting steps toward the ranch house’s hitching rail, his legs appeared to regain some of their former strength.
“Dang legs ain’t nothin’ but a pair of rickety ‘ol hickory sticks anymore!” Henry thought grimly to himself.
Twirling the reigns around the hitching rail, he’d let the horse cool down before letting it water and feed back in the lean-to stable. The Pinto had been a prize horse once owned by the original owner of the ranch. He had given the Pinto to Henry only two days before being killed in a tragic fall from his own horse four years ago. That owner, James Comstock, had hired Henry on over forty years earlier as a wrangler and all around protector of the family Comstock. Back when Henry had been hired, Indians and displaced angry Mexican vaqueros still roamed freely enough in Texas to need a good man with a rifle and a pair of six guns to keep the peace. It was now said the most dangerous thing out on the range to a cowhand were rattle snakes and prairie dog holes. At least that’s what was commonly thought… until now.
Hearing Henry’s horse trot up to the house, the foreman who was given the privilege of living inside it by the new owner, a Mister Clarence Osborne from back east in Connecticut, stepped out from the screened door and onto the porch to great him.
“I see you made it just in time for dinner Henry, step inside and grab a bite with me, won’t ya’?”
Jake Ramsey, the Foreman and long time friend of Henry, threw his arm around the elderly Henry’s shoulder’s as they passed through the doorway. Jake was younger than Henry by a good ten years but both had been hired on at the same time. Jake worked his way up the ladder until one day being offered the position of being the ranch’s foreman.
Stepping into the cool air of the polished wood vestibule, Henry handed Jake the telegram he had been sent to retrieve. Taking it, Jakes face became grim as he saw that the paper the telegram was written on was an unusually long one. All Jake had needed to see as an answer to his query was a one line response, so this could not be good news.
Stuffing the telegram into his top shirt pocket, he told Henry, “I’ll read this latter, I don’t want to spoil a good dinner.”
After the two had eaten and jawed for a time, Henry left to return to the caring of his horse, leaving Jake alone with the telegram.
Nervous fingers reached into the pocket and pulled out the yellow paper. Putting on his reading spectacles, Jake read the telegram. He read it through three times before gathering the muster to get out of the chair and let the others know their fate.
Slowly Jake opened the screened door and stepped out onto the raised wooden porch. Grabbing up the iron dinner bells clangor, he thrust it between the triangles thick metal bars and began violently bouncing the clangor off the inside of it. It was a large triangle, meant to be heard miles off for those workers out on the closer pastures. It did its job well, bringing in the men from far off.
The only other time Jake had rang the triangle other than to gather the men for dinners, was when it was discovered that the ranches owner, James Comstock had been killed in a riding accident. Most of the same hands making their way to the ranch house this time had been there on that day too. The ringing triangle boded ill news when rung outside of dinner.
Looking up to their foreman who stood over them on the raised porch, Jerky Dobbins, with a tilting head asked Jake what was the cause for calling the hands in.
“I’ll tell ya’ in a minute Jerky, wait till the others make it.”
When the full group of seventeen was finally huddled together, in a loud voice Jake began to speak to them. “Boy’s, this here telegram is from the owner back east. It’s in response to my asking how much funds we were going to be allowed for this winters chuck line. I have some comments to make after I read it to ya’ so don’t go wonderin’ off.”
Jake unraveled the wrinkled yellow paper and began to read the telegram .
“J Ramsey, Foreman Bar 44 Ranch. STOP. This is in response to your inquiry of the so called Winters Chuck Line funds. STOP. My financial advisors recommend my doing away with this outdated and unneeded expense immediately. STOP. In the winter the Bar 44 Ranch is not to be used as a haven for laggards or dead beat vagrants of any kind. STOP. I give permission to keep only two hands hired on for the winter months. STOP. They are to be fit enough to chop wood, repair fences and maintain the herd as needed. STOP. Therefore this excludes all hands too feeble to perform any work needing attending to. STOP.
My son, daughter and I will be making our way to the Bar 44 within the next fortnight by train. STOP. We will be expecting to see the Bar 44 to be in satisfactory operating condition at that time. C. Osborne. END”
Jake lowered the paper to gaze at the gathered hands standing below him. No one spoke but their grey bloodless faces spoke volumes.
Shifting uneasily on his feet Jake told them, “We have two weeks before Mister Osborne and his children arrive here. In that time we need to buckle up the place for winter.”
Slim Pettit, a hand on the ranch for nearly fourteen years finally broke the men’s silence. “Boss, I don’t understand, what’d we do wrong? I mean, I ain’t never heard of being booted oft’n a place without due cause, ‘specially just before the winter snows come. Why even if we left for places unknown today, why we still might git caught bare headed in an early storm. Where’s we to go to at this late a date? No one figured on leavin’ so no one made any plans.”
Jake’s face turned bright red as what the man said sunk in. “I honestly can’t figure it boys.” Jake stammered, “I ain’t never dealt with nothin’ like this before. You all know me, I’m a cattle man born an’ bred. Allowin’ hands to winter over at their place of employment is universal… ‘specially here in Texas!”
Another hand spoke up, “It ain’t like we’s freeloadin’ Boss! It’s true we get our grub an’ a bed but we don’t draw no pay no way. We ain’t no dead beats either, we help around the place in winter near as much as if we was drawin’ pay. We work hard throughout the warm months an’ bank on the Winter Chuck Line to keep us alive and healthy for next spring’s start up. Why without that, why would we even return to a place come spring if’n they call us vagrants and laggards soon as winter comes.”
A general growl of approval went up along with a chorus of unmentionable expletives towards the ranch’s owner.
Another angrily man shouted before turning and walking off, “If he wants us gone by golly, then we’re gone! Adios, Vamoose Amigo! To hell with him! Anybody with half a measure of pride will do as I do an’ leave pronto!”
Jake saw the tide turn from disbelief to anger to disgust. “Men”, he shouted after them, “wait up now, I’m sure once he comes here for himself he’ll see it was a darn mean thing to do and change his mind!”
Jerky Dobbins turned and walked back to where Jake stood on the porch. “Boss, we hold you in the highest regards but how can you expect us to even think of returning come spring when we was treated this way? Do you realize when Mister Osborne declared he don’t want no unhealthy folk wintering here he meant Henry! Ain’t no one else he coulda’ been speakin’ about, no one is as old or stove up in the legs here like Henry! You know as well as I Henry done saved this ranch time an’ time again in the old days by usin’ his guns. An now to think this is the thanks he gets? No Sir, I won’t put one more minute in for Osborne. I’m packin’ up an’ expecting my pay to be ready when I’m done.”
Jake dropped his head in defeat and let drop the hated yellow telegraph paper as he watched the men he held in high esteem and even loved some like brothers, wander back to the bunk house to gather up their belongings and leave.
By three that afternoon, only Jake remained save his old stove up friend Henry. Before the men left, Henry gathered them up to say his piece. He now sat alone and grim faced cleaning his guns inside the vacant bunk house.
It was nine that evening when the downhearted Jake noticed the lamp light lighting up the bunk house windows. Intrigued to see who had not left, Jake made his way towards the light. Stepping up to the doors stoop, Jake knocked and opened the door. Lit by the dim lamplight sat Henry holding his gun.
“Why didn’t you leave with the others Henry?”
Henry shrugged his shoulders saying, “I don’t know. I guess after forty years I know nothing else but the ranch.”
Jake noticed the polished gun still be held in Henry’s hands. The realization that Henry had no future and no reason for living came crashing into Jakes mind. Squatting in front of the seated old man, Jake took both Henry’s hands along with the gun into his own. “Henry, the two of us rode a million miles side by side for the last forty years. We always had each other’s back.” Looking down at the hand clasped gun he continued, “This ain’t how it’s going to end my friend, no way. I’ll leave this place to the coyotes before I see you fill your skull with your own lead.”
Henry looked up at Jake with moist eyes. “Yep, we done had us one hell of a life together you an’ I. Why we out lived most every bandit an’ renegade didn’t we? Tarnation, we even outlived both our wives!”
“Give me your gun Henry, there’s no need to do this as long as we still have each other’s company.”
Henry looked quizzically up at Jake. “Why Jake! Was you thinkin’ I was about to put this here colt to my own head? Hell man, I just cleaned it, why would I want to fire it off?
“W-what was you goin’ to do then? I mean it sure looks like you was sittin’ here contimplatin’ ending it all.”
“Naw, just been thinkin, that’s all. Say, let me ask you something Jake. After forty years of workin’ here, how much do you think you saved up?”
“Just thinkin. When Osborne gets here an’ there ain’t no one to run the place, how long do you think it would be before he sells the place off?”
Jake rubbed his chin thinking. “Well, the cattle will survive even if we get a couple good snow falls. The house would freeze up but that’s no big deal. The remuda wouldn’t live out the winter though, they’s not bred to be in the wild. They’d up an’ die waiting for feed in the corral before it dawned on them to leave an’ eat grass like the cows. All in all not much harm would come to the place though.”
“Do you think Osborne would know all that?”
Jake chuckled, “No, Osborne wouldn’t. Why?”
“I’m thinkin of becoming a ranch owner, that’s what I’m thinkin’! Now, how much did you save up all these years?”
A wide smile crossed Jakes face. “Well, I got money stuffed in a few banks since I don’t trust a single one by themselves. Then there’s my inheritance from Jesse that she inherited from her Dad. When she passed, I was too broke up at the time to look into all her finances so I hired a financial company in San Antone to handle her affairs. I guess if I was pressed, I’d say she left a tidy sum to me as her husband. I’d have to telegraph the folks in San Antone to get the exact amount.”
Henry sat back looking smug. “Well, I got near fourteen thousand dollars saved up!”
“How in blazes did you save up that much?”
“I took each pay and sent three quarters of it to the bank. Do you know I made over nineteen thousand dollars in my life here an’ saved fourteen of it by bein’ frugal?”
“But I know you spent money, why when we was younger, we’d light up the town together.”
“You bet, but I only went to town on the money I didn’t spend the month before!”
Jake laughed out loud saying, “No wonder you never borrowed money like the rest! You always had a cashe of funds! Har har har.”
Getting a serious look on his face Henry returned to the subject of buying a ranch. “I’m thinkin’ Osborne cut his own throat trying to save a dime by cutting off the Chuck Line. Now he’s lost all his help an’ when folks find out what he did, ain’t no one gonna’ work for him no how. All we need to do is sit an’ wait for him to cave in.”
“What about us? We’d be without hands too. The boys all took off to parts unknown before the hard winter sets in. We’d be in as bad a shape as he is in right now.”
Henry smiled, “Nope, the boys are set up here for the next month. Well, not here but in town.”
“When I went to town to pick up the telegram, I peeked at it before the key operator sealed it. I did a might prayin’ right then an’ there an’ guess what?”
“Fast as a lightning bolt, this whole plan unfolded before me before I even hit the door! I went on over to that big old house widow Mathews died in an’ found her son. I rented it as is for the next month from him for twenty dollars. I figure it’ll hold all the men an’ since it has a big kitchen they can fend for themselves food wise with Osborne none the wiser they is there ready to back to work if asked.”
“Well I’ll be Henry! You figured out a whole plan. How did you convince the men to go into town rather than leave?”
Raising his colt he spun the gleaming cylinder with his hand. “I give ‘em no choice! Plus I advanced each one twenty five dollars out of their first pay working for us.”
That night out of the burning ashes of despair rose the phoenix of hope for the Bar 44 Ranch.
Jake stood alone watching the rented three seat Vector coach make its way up the lane to the ranch house. Sitting by himself in the front bench seat, a scruffily dressed negro guided the horses along more by shouts than by the reins. Setting the brake, the old but spry negro jumped down to assist the three dust covered passengers. Texas dust is no respecter of persons nor cares which season it is.
Jake approached the trio and stopped short of holding his hand out to be shaken. Instead, he first tipped his hat to the lady then touched the brim for the men.
He had never seen Osborne or his son but took an immediate dislike to both the spot. The girl sat quietly and smiled shyly in return of the hat tip. Both children appeared in their late teens or early twenties.
Trying to disguise a well needed stretch, Osborne pretended to tie a shoelace instead. Finally rising to his full height, short of six feet by six inches, he nodded back to Jake asking, “I suppose you’re my Foreman, Jake Ramsey.”
“Yes, Sir. I am.”
“I dislike starting off on the wrong foot, but can you explain without sniveling, why no one was at the station to meet me?”
Osborne’s eyebrows raised in question, “Sure what?
“Dammit! Stop playing games here Ramsey. I’m starting to regret keeping you on here after I bought this place. If I’d known you were such a snippety upstart, I’d have kept looking.”
“I believe Sir that you hired me for my ability to bring in the bacon, not because I knuckle under when someone insults me.”
“Insult you? When have I ever insulted you?”
“Osborne, I don’t make it a habit to snivel, nor have I ever led anyone to believe I ever would. Out here if you imply a man snivels or kowtows to another, it’s an insult worthy of drawing iron to prove the opposite!”
“Oh, Yes, I forgot you Western men are a mite touchy about your manhood.”
“I may be touchy but it ain’t about my manhood, it’s about respect. Something that you may remember before someone with an itchy trigger finger calls you on it.”
Realizing he was only digging himself a deeper hole to stand in, Osborne wisely dropped his verbal fencing and drew the conversation back to why no one had been in town to greet his arrival.
“Well, I suppose I could have ridden out to meet you but then it would have left the ranch with no one to manage it. Besides, it’s less than ten miles and we haven’t had a highway robbery here in years. You were plenty safe an’ never in any danger”
“I didn’t mean that you personally should have met us, I was referring to the hired help here. By the way, I haven’t seen another soul yet, are they all out on the range?”
“Nope, but before we end up doin’ business here in the yard, why not you and your young ones go inside an’ freshen up a bit. You’re so full a rode dust ,you’d think a dust rag was shook on ya’. I’ll drag in your luggage to your rooms. I made up some fresh lemonade with ice knowin’ you’d be parched.”
Having quenched their thirst on the cold lemonade, the four sat in the parlor on matching dark leather hob nailed chairs and a matching sofa.
“So when I telegraphed, you got upset and fired them all on the spot?”
“No Sir. As I mentioned before, it’s about respect. By you telling the men they were laggards and vagrants for expecting to hole up here over the winter, did you really think they had any choice but to leave? We have a tradition out here in the West. In the warm months we expect every wrangler to earn his salt and then some. These are trail hardened men, not city bred lazy bones. If a man gets six hours of uninterrupted sleep it’s because he over slept. They work hard, harder than any man back where you come from. When the winter winds begin, the ranch’s they are hired at give ‘em their last pay an’ let ‘em stay free of charge till spring calving time. We call that time, The Chuck Line. It’s not a hand out, these men earned this. If we let everyone go each fall to fend for themselves, no one would ever return in the spring. That’s what going to happen here now.”
Percy Osborne had been sitting quietly but with insolent rolling eyes. Now he spoke up. “Father, it’s my opinion that Mister Ramsey here is exaggerating to cover his mistake in letting all of the men go. Why not we ride in to town tomorrow and hire all new replacement workers…including a new Foreman?”
Jake rubbed his face with his hands as if trying to wash off the stupid statement the young man had tossed his father’s way. “Sonny,” Jake said without looking at the young man, “ It’s best you keep your thoughts to yourself. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I do declare Father! Am I to sit here and be insulted for offering my opinion?”
At that moment, the daughter raised her head and holding up her hand for quiet, she calmly spoke. “Father, I believe him. He ran this ranch making a good profit for years for Mister Comstock. In fact, so well did he run it that when you heard of it being up for sale, you jumped at it bragging on how you, “skinned” the estates executor alive in the deal. We arrived here and from the start you insulted Mister Ramsey, nor was any apology offered him. He has been a grander gentleman to us than we deserve. Please Father, Ask Percy to hold his thoughts to himself until Mister Ramsey finishes what he was trying to tell us.”
Jake looked approvingly at the girl saying, “You have a wise and far seeing daughter Osborne.”
“She takes after her mother, rest her soul.”
Clarence Osborne stood up and paced the floor for a good two minutes before asking. “So the way I see it, I made a cultural and financial blunder here. A mortal sin so to speak. If I tarnished the Bar 44 so badly through my actions then what you are implying is I’m done for here. With no hands I can’t even trail drive my cattle to market. All that I could hope to recover now is the money’s made from a local herd sell off, pennies on the dollar I might add, and the ranch itself. No one wants the expense of buying a ranch just as winter arrives nor would anyone put a new herd onto pasture winter land meant for the original herd. There wouldn’t be enough grass to last the winter for them all. No, I guess I acted the fool and I admit it. I sat in my comfortable office convinced that I could come here and teach you Texans a thing or two about how to operate a successful cattle ranch.”
Jake patted Osborne’s vacant chair beside his own implying Osborne to sit back down. “Yore a fast thinking man Mister Osborne he drawled, it’s no wonder your other ventures are successful. I got to admit, I thought your pride would be the anchor around your neck but you chucked it off. There is yet another way you can recover most if not all your investment if you’re willing to listen.”
Gently sitting back down, Osborne looked over at his Foreman. “ Do tell, how’s that?”
“Don’t break up the place but sell it in one piece, Ranch, cattle water rights… everything all for one price making no profit buit breaking even. If you break up or hold off selling for any amount of time, you’ll never recover much. Heck, the place my even be filed in court as an abandoned ranch and sold at auction. If that happens you get zip for a return.”
“Can you advise me on a buyer then?”
“It depends on what you’re asking for the place. If you plan on making a profit, then no.”
“Father!” Percy broke in. “Don’t you see what he’s doing? He’s setting us up!”
Osborne’s ears turned red in anger at the boy. “Percy! Will you please be quiet? You think you know the real estate business better than your Father? Listen boy, it’s about time I shook your ego up. Do you think the position you hold in my company is because you are brilliant? I hate to tell you Percival but you’ve fouled up every job I’ve given you. It’s not that you are so damn indispensible that I don’t complain when you take off a few days to play croquette with your friends on the cape or go sailing off without a word to the family compound with your female entourage. No, it’s because as long as you’re not in your office, you can’t mess things up!”
Percy stood up grey faced, then turned and taking two at a time ran upstairs to his room.
Osborne turned apologetically to Jake then shot a quick glance at his daughter. “I apologize to you both, he takes after his Father.”
Delilah rose then to leave but her father motioned for her to return to where she was seated on the sofa. “Please, Delilah, stay. I’m sorry but in my pride I ignored you all these years. I had been looking for Percy to show some promise but it turned out I was watching the wrong person.”
Turning back to Jake he continued, “You asked what the bottom dollar I’d sell the place for. If you know anybody with forty thousand, I would just break even. I would shake hands on that deal.”
Jake pondered the savings amount he had along with Henry’s. Even at such a price, he was nearly ten thousand dollars short. He knew the cattle alone would bring that or more if they could be driven to Kansas. Then add the value of the ten thousand leased acres added to the owned acreage and that amount topped thirty thousand by itself. Everything included, the place valued at over eighty thousand dollars!
Jake felt defeat slowly crawling up his spine. “Ten thousand short.” He thought.
“Mister Osborne, I need to tell you the whole story here. I ain’t been dishonest but like a gambler I’ve not shown my entire hand. I saw your mistake in stopping the Chuck Line. I knew what the result would be and another fella saw it too. Together we decided if nature took its course and you were forced to sell, then we could bundle our savings together and buy the place from you ourselves.”
“I call that business smart, not deceitful. How much were you and your partner going to offer me?”
“We are ten thousand short of what you need to sell for.”
“I see. Who is this partner of yours, do I know him?”
“You do, he’s the only man you’ve ever met from the ranch when you bought the place, Henry.”
Osborne’s head jerked back. “Henry? Old crippled Henry? The one I alluded to in my telegram? Oh Lord, talk about putting my foot in my mouth! When I bought the place, Henry was the executor of Comstock’s Last Will and Testament. During the signing of papers I made a rude comment on how he was dressed. Here I was in my one hundred dollar suite and there he sat with patched knees and sun damaged sombrero. When I started bragging on how successful my other businesses were, he up and ask me if I knew the any thing about cattle. Well, his question raised my hackles and yet scared me at the same time so I told him that’s what people with less brains are for. Harrumph, it seems from the beginning, I was going down the wrong road.”
Suddenly Delilah turned to Jake and asked. “Mister Ramsey, would you consider another investor in your group in order make the forty thousand dollar sale price?”
Jake shrugged, “I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it Ma’am. I was hoping that Henry and I together would have enough money between us. Money is plenty tight this time of year an’ investors are going to be hard to come by. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d trust an outsider with part ownership of the place. They’d have no vested interest in the place other than their money.”
“What if you had someone come in who had a vested interest in making the place succeed, would you consider them?”
“If I knew a man who would be willing to put his blood, sweat and tears into the place, sure, I might consider it.”
“How about a woman?”
Osborne shot out from his seat in dismay. “Delilah!” He shouted, “Surely you jest! Investing your money into a solid business is one thing, but the Bar 44? It’s already failing!”
Ignoring her father’s outburst she again asked, “What do you say Mister Ramsey?”
Osborne wasn’t through yet, “I insist you stop his nonsense right now young girl! Why it takes know how to run a place as complicated as this! Didn’t you see the mistake I made? Now you’re making the same one!”
“No Father, there is one big difference between you and I. If I had asked yesterday what color the ranch house is could you have told me? No? If I asked the difference between a Stallion and a gelding could you tell me? I doubt it. Six weeks ago you told Percival and I that we were coming out here to “bring the natives” up to the Eastern way of doing business. From that moment on, I’ve searched every book I could find on cattle, the operation of a ranch and in particular, Texas! I hunted down old cowboys that moved back east just to glean from their experiences and know how. You see father, I had planned all along to remain here when you and Percy returned back east. I did not know at the time the Bar 44 was in failure or I would have told you sooner. My plan was to eventually become an integral part of running the ranch, your ranch. Father, the difference between you and I, is that I tried to understand how these westerners ended up taming a land to draw a profit from it. You on the other hand failed in the first lesson of owning a business… know it, before you buy it! ”
Osborne sat heavily back in his chair. He then lifted his face skyward and began to laugh. He laughed so hard tears ran down his cheeks. “Oh my land!” He shouted,” She’s has a better head for business than me! You warned me sweetheart! When I wrote that letter to be telegraphed, you warned me it was a mean and unwise thing to do. I remember you telling me to come here and see for myself before changing anything! I should have listened!”
“Yes, you should have Father. Instead what did you do? You foolishly went to your financial advisors who had never seen a live cow in their life and then to make matters worse, you listened to Percy on how you should put the telegram into words. A fool cannot produce wisdom father and a fool is what Percy is and always will be!”
Osborne sat shaking his lowered head and from time to time chuckling to himself. Finally looking at her, he gave in.
“Alright, you win Delilah, I’ll have the papers drawn up for a three way partnership along with the sale papers and deed. We’ll set up a payment schedule payable over three years. That way you don’t exhaust all your funds in the purchase. I must ask though, how do you expect to hire men to replace those that left? If Mister Ramsey is correct, there are none to be had. The ranch is still without hands so nothing has really changed. What then?”
Jake leaned forward and chuckled, “It wasn’t me who was so far sighted as it was Henry. He got the whole group of hands housed up at a rental house in town waiting to see what the outcome is here. Trust me, if you had not gone along with the deal, they would have never come back to work for you, not after what you did to ‘em. Then all I said that would happen would have happened. We can ride into town tomorrow and see to those papers along with givin’ the news to the hands and Henry. I know there’ll be some celebrating going on after they hear.”
Meanwhile Percival had inched his way quietly onto the stair case to eaves drop on the proceedings below. After shaking hands with Jake, Osborne glanced at the upper stairwell to see his son skulking at the head of the stairs.
“Percy!” He yelled for him, “Come down here, I have some great plans for you boy!”
Percy jumped up and raced down the steps thinking his father did after all come to his senses and would put him back in charge of something important , anything to save face in front of his friends.
“Son, I had originally planned on keeping the ranch and coupling it with our own new stockyard I purchased over in Kansas. I didn’t tell the two of you this because I didn’t think there was any need at the time. Now son, I can’t handle everything on my plate as it is so I’m going to put you in a well deserved and important position in the new venture, How do you feel about moving to Kansas son and heading up a very important department for me?”
Thinking it over and envisioning himself bossing others about from a plush office, Percy readily agreed.
“Good, good. Now run back upstairs while the three of us here discuss the details of the sale.
Percival returned to his room and jumping onto the bed, he lay there staring broadly at the ceiling dreaming of being the important man others would have to look up to in Kansas.
He envisioned himself dressed in an expensive suit like his fathers and replying to invitations to social balls and of course being the recipient of private notes from desirous females.
Downstairs the three hashed out the details and when finished, all were smiling.
It was the sudden look of concern that crossed Delilah’s face that Osborne questioned. “Is there something in the deal that I forgot dear?” He asked.
“No, not really. I was just thinking on how you gave Percival another chance to cause you grief. I swear Father, if he’s in charge of your company’s new stock yard venture and he creates as much havoc there as he does everywhere, I’ll have no choice but to send our cattle to a competitor’s stock yard. My first priority is the Ranch making a profit, not Percival or the new stock yard.”
Osborne chuckled, “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Percival too much. It is true that I am putting him in charge of a department but it’s not quite what you or he think.”
“Then what is it?” She asked.
“I’m putting him in charge of the Asepsis Ablution Department. There he’ll oversee a number of workers performing cattle hygienic prophylactics.”
Delilah looked perplexed. “Hygienic…proph… what?
“It’s a fancy use of the language to make a worker feel more important about their job by giving them a fancy title. Percy will be in charge of mucking my dear, mucking up cattle manure in the stock yard!”