Who's In Charge Anyways?
by  Diana P.

A Lancer fan fiction short story, 

No copyright infringement intended.


It was a dark dreary night. The thunder was a roar in the distance, but the cattle were uneasy and surely would stampede if the storm got closer. Johnny and Scott had seen it happen before so even though this was a small herd they were moving, they knew their cowhands needed to be prepared.  One more day on the trail and home would be in sight to give them all a welcome rest. 

The loud rumble did indeed cause the cattle to run scared. Lancer’s foreman and a few cowhands were able to stop them, but not before they had back tracked over a mile. Scott snarled at the men, “I thought you were on your toes. You knew this would happen. Sure is hard to get good help. We’re lucky they didn’t get further off course. I ought to take that extra time right out of your pay.”  They don’t much liked what he had to say. A cowboy called Cal spoke up, “I reckon you need to get yourself some more hombres south of here. It seems your cows understand Spanish better anyhow. I’m out of here. Who’s with me?”  He rides off with three of his buddies close behind him. Johnny shakes his head, “I can’t believe you, Scott. We needed them, you know?”  Scott has simmered down knowing he should have thought a bit before opening his mouth. “I know. Sorry, I got hot headed. At least, the storm has blown over. We should be alright.”

The next day turned out to be a nightmare. Keeping the cattle together was an extremely hard task with four hands short. This made everyone else having to work harder keeping strays from wandering off.  The men and the horses were tired out by the time they got the herd to better grazing ground.  Johnny sighed as he spotted the ranch in front of him. “I’m ready for bed. Boy, am I beat. If Barranca wasn’t so tired, too, I’d hurry.”  Scott looks at him, “We’re all beat little brother. I suppose Murdoch will be ready to chew my ear when he finds out four men quit before we got the herd moved.”  Johnny smiles, “Yeah, reckon he will be.”

At the dinner table that night the brothers discussed the cattle drive. Scott looked at Murdoch, “I guess you know I’m sorry I caused those men to quit. It sure made it harder to move the herd without them. It’s hard to say how many got left behind. Did you ever get mad and say things you shouldn’t, sir?”  Murdoch nods his head, “More than once son, more than once.” Johnny finishes his plate and gets up from the table, “I really need to get some rest. Good night.” 

A few days later who should ride into Lancer but the four men who had quit in the middle of the cattle drive.  Murdoch greets them, “Cal, you looking for your job back?”  Cal nods his head, “Yes, sir we are. Sorry, we could not take Scott’s mouth the other day, sir. Sometimes it’s best to walk away from trouble.”  Murdoch chuckles, “Sometimes it is I suppose. Well, the hands are still out looking for strays that got lost in that storm. You guys can go join them. I’ll put your names back on the payroll.”  The men thank him and head out to help round up strays.  Murdoch returns to the dining room where his sons and Teresa are drinking coffee. “Scott, I just hired Cal and the boys back on. Try not to sound so mean around them this time. I sent them to help with the strays.”  Scott looks at him, “Yes, sir. I’ll stay clear of them. Let the foreman deal with them, I guess.” Murdoch smiles at him. “Thanks, son, I get hot headed myself sometimes.  That’s why I like to have someone else in charge when I can.”  Teresa laughs, “I remember my pa saying Mr. Lancer is a great cattleman and a smart businessman, but a people person, he needs to work on more.” Murdoch smiles at her, “He knew me well. He was the best man I ever put in charge of my affairs. I sure do miss him.”  Johnny looks at Teresa, “I wish I could have met him, Teresa. I bet that’s where you got your smarts from.”  She looks at him, “Thanks. That was a nice thing to say. Please excuse me.” She heads to her room so the men would not see her fighting back tears from thinking about her father.

One warm afternoon while Johnny and a couple of cowhands are mending fence Cal rides up, “I need to run into town and meet my sister, she’s coming in by stage for a visit. Can you give me the okay to do that or do I need to ask Murdoch or Scott?”  Johnny looks at him, “Go ahead, I can give you permission. She can stay here, bring her back with ya. I know Teresa would love to have a female to talk to.”  Cal smiles, “You mean it? Thanks, Johnny.”  One of the men helping with the fence they call Butch laughs, “See Cal, I told you Johnny is in charge.”  Johnny wipes the sweat from his face, “Sometimes anyways, I reckon I’m in charge.”

The Lancers were just finishing supper when a carriage comes rolling to a stop out front.  Johnny says, “That must be Cal and his sister. You didn’t mind me telling him he could bring her here did you, Murdoch?”  Murdoch looks at him, “I don’t care and I know Teresa will like it.”  Teresa smiles, “I’ll go greet them.”  She heads out the door.  Teresa saw a well dressed woman with light brown hair around thirty walking toward her, “Hello, you must be Teresa. Cal has told me many nice things about you. I’m Cathy.”  Cathy follows Teresa in the house. Teresa grins, “Cathy this is Murdoch and his sons Johnny and Scott.”  Cathy shakes Murdoch’s hand, “Pleased to meet you, sir. Thank you for letting me stay here for a few days. Cal and I haven’t seen each other in over five years.”  Johnny smiles at her, “Guess, that was my idea, ma’am. I hope you’ll like it here. Cal was sure excited to see you.”  She seemed quite taken with Johnny.  “He said you were the man in charge. I’m glad Cal found someone so nice to work for.”  Scott speaks up, “Johnny was in charge of mending fence today. He doesn’t have all the say around here.”  Cathy stares at Scott, “So, I’ve been told.”  She directs her attention back toward Johnny, “It sure is beautiful out here. Thank you for inviting me. I hope I’m not imposing on anyone.”  Johnny looks into her bluish green eyes and smiles at her, “No ma’am, you’re not.”

Teresa and Cathy become good friends in just a couple of days.  They are seldom seen apart.  Cal knows his days working will not keep his sister lacking for company.  But he sure is giving her his undivided attention when he’s not working.  One day Cal takes Cathy horseback riding.  Teresa goes with them.  As they ride up to a small stream to water their horses they see Johnny there watering his horse and filling a canteen.  As Cathy leads her horse to the stream she watches Johnny and neglects to watch where she is stepping.  She steps into a hole made by hoof prints earlier and turns her ankle.  Down she goes.  Johnny runs to assist her. “You got to watch your step, Cathy.  Better soak your ankle in the stream for a bit. Its ice cold, should keep it from swelling.”  Cathy lets him help her to the stream and before long all four of them are soaking their feet. Cathy says, “Guess, this is cold. Refreshing on a hot day isn’t it?” Teresa agrees, “I come here often just to cool off. There’s fish in here. Sometimes I catch some.”  Johnny nods, “Teresa cooks a good fish dinner.  Reckon we could try to get some for supper.”  He dresses his feet and before long he has a pole with a sharp point on the end.  He begins to spear fish.  Cal tries his luck with several attempts before he pulls a large one out of the water.  Johnny had already successfully speared several. “Cal, you’re joining us for supper, aren’t ya? We’ll have plenty.”  Cal manages to spear another fish and puts it with the mess Johnny has. “Yeah, sure I will. Let’s get them cleaned. Sure sounds better than beans or stew we’ll have at the bunkhouse.”

Scott tried to be extra friendly to their dinner guest. “Cal, thanks for helping Johnny get the fish. Hope your ankle is better Cathy.”  Cal looks at Johnny and back to Scott, “It was fun. If Cathy hadn’t turned her ankle and needed to soak it, we probably wouldn’t have thought to bring fish back for supper.”  Cathy shakes her head, “My ankle is fine, but thanks for the concern, Scott.  Johnny had me soak it in cold water. We all soaked our feet. It was very refreshing. You should try it Scott next time you get over heated.”  Scott grins at her, “Maybe I will next time.”  Teresa passes a platter of fish to Murdoch, “We had a good time today and I hate to see Cathy leave so soon.”  Murdoch looks at Cathy, “You’re welcome to stay longer if you want to Cathy.”  Cathy smiles, “Thank you sir, but I need to get back to my feed store.  I have nine people working for me. You know how it is to leave when everyone wants to be in charge. The last time I took a vacation half my help had left when I got back including my dear brother here.”  Murdoch chuckles, “Yes, I know what you mean. Some bosses are better with people than others.”  They all look at Scott to see what he thinks of Murdoch’s remark.  Scott gives them a serious look, “Maybe I’ll just dip my head in that stream. Bet you all would like that wouldn’t you?”  Cal laughs loudly at him, “Scott, trust me you are much easier to work for than my sister. Cathy is like a wildcat when she gets her temper flared up. Seen times when I would have liked to dip her head in a stream.”  Cathy glares at her brother, “And you can’t stand anyone letting you know you’re not perfect. Well, Mr. Perfect, if you can come back and work with me again, I promise I’ll let you be in charge sometimes.”  Cal grins at her, “I’ll think about it, Sis.”

The next day Cathy walks out where Johnny is helping Teresa fix the hole in the chicken coop.  Johnny is hammering away while Teresa holds a board in place.  They don’t notice their guest watching them.  When Cathy sees how well they work together she can’t help but wish Cal could do the same for her. “Teresa, you are so lucky to have brothers to help you.  Wish Cal would help me like that.”  Johnny smiles at her, “I’m sure he would, Cathy.  Just try not to tell him what to do. What does it matter who’s in charge anyways?  Isn’t family more important?  Make him think he’s doing okay even if you know he’s not. One thing I’ve learned since I met my brother is to keep quiet sometimes. We still quarrel every now and then, but we don’t let it rule us.”  She knew he was giving her good advice.  “Can you guys help me convince him to give me another chance? I’d be so beholding to you.” 

Cathy has to leave the next day.  Cal takes her to catch the stage. They have a nice long chat on the way.  Cal says, “Cathy, give me a couple weeks to help Murdoch find my replacement and I’ll come work with you. I know Pa wouldn’t have wanted us fighting over this business he left us. What’s it matter who’s in charge anyways?  Family is more important isn’t it?”  She can hardly keep the tears back, “Thank you.  Thank you so much, little brother.”







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