Disclaimer: I don’t own them or make any profit from them. I just like to borrow them for a little while.
Note: This piece is not betaed, so all mistakes are mine.
Murdoch ran his hand through his hair. How the hell did things get so out of hand when dealing with his younger son. It began with a sharing of thoughts about the mare and her newborn foal and erupted into a war of words.
‘Can’t seem to discuss things with that boy. I know he wants to start a horse breeding program – hell, he’s mentioned it often enough that I’d have to be deaf or stupid not to know what he’d like to do. Still, he needs to understand that cattle are what built this ranch and are what will keep it going.
‘How dare he tell me I’m not listening to him. I’ve heard all his arguments, seen the figures he’s presented, ridden to the canyon to watch the herds of horses that are running wild there, but he won’t listen when I tell him that it will take a great deal of time for a horse breeding program to show a profit. Not just time, it will take more manpower to make it work. There is more than enough work with just the cattle and maintenance of the ranch to keep the hands busy. How many more men would we have to hire to deal with the horses, and how long before enough profit would be made to pay them?
‘Johnny’s a hard worker and a determined man when it comes to reaching a goal. If he were to begin something like horse breeding, he would find a way to make it work. Have to admit, he’s done his homework when it comes to the market for horses and the army contracts that, if won, would be a good start for the business. The wild herds he’s talked me into going to see were beautiful and would be fine examples of stock that Lancer could offer if we were to breed horses. Still….’
Murdoch walked to the French doors and looked toward the corral where his sons stood, watching the mare and her foal. He’d once compared his younger son to a wild horse; to the point of thinking the boy needed to be “tamed” or reined in. In time, he came to better understand Johnny and changed his way of thinking when it came to the younger man.
When his sons first came to Lancer, he worried that one or both of the young men would leave someday never to return. He understood, now, that Johnny wanted, needed to belong here and that he looked for approval and affection. Of course, Murdoch was certain, Scott looked for that, as well. Neither son would openly demonstrate nor admit that desire to him, but there were signs; especially from Johnny.
‘Maybe, I’ll wire my friend in Modesto; see if he knows of someone who might have a few good horses for sale. Maybe a stallion and a couple of mares: won’t hurt to get two or three young colts, too, that should be a good start. I’ll let Johnny know about my decision about the breeding program, although I should wait until I get an answer to that wire.’
‘He and Murdoch argued again. I don’t need to witness the event to know; it’s evident in his posture, the arms held across his chest, and the set of his jaw.
‘When I’d left them earlier, they were watching the mare and her newborn foal. Johnny was proud of that foal. He wouldn’t leave the barn until after it was born and had stood to suckle its mother for the first time. The mare was one of the horses from the wild herd that Johnny had helped to capture. He bred her with one of the cattle ponies; said he hoped to get a good quality colt.
‘Johnny’s wanted to start breeding horses for sale, but Murdoch refuses to budge on his stand against it. Both men are stubborn and neither will hear the other’s argument on the subject. Johnny has a point about Lancer diversifying as a hedge against poor cattle markets and drought, but Murdoch is right about it being a while before the business shows a decent profit. Still, it was probably a couple of years before Lancer operated in the black. I can’t believe Murdoch was an immediate success as a rancher.
‘Could it be that our father doesn’t want his son to be a success on his own: maybe he fears Johnny’s past would become an issue in starting his own business. I’ve overheard him telling Sam Jenkins that a few of his old business associates canceled contracts and would not deal with Lancer when they learned of Johnny’s return and decision to stay at Lancer. Johnny’s dealt with bigotry before -- on both sides of the border. If that is really the basis for Murdoch’s refusal to allow Johnny to try this, then he should put that on the table as one of his arguments. Johnny would probably rather hear that Murdoch’s refusal is based on an attempt to protect his son than his belief that the boy would be a failure.
‘Johnny has a poor sense of self-worth; he thinks we will be disappointed in him or disgusted by him and his past. I think that is why Murdoch’s refusal cuts the boy so deep; he sees it as a lack of faith in his abilities.
‘Yes, Johnny is like our father, and given a chance, I’m sure he will be as much a success at horse breeding as Murdoch has been at ranching.’
Scott walked over to the corral and stood beside his brother. He allowed his shoulder to brush Johnny’s, a subtle sign that he was there to listen if his brother wanted to talk. The dark-haired man acknowledged Scott with a brief nod then leaned with his arms resting on the top rail of the corral. Johnny relaxed in his older brother’s presence.
“Hey, fella. Thought you’d never get here; kept me in that barn until nearly two this mornin’ waitin’ on you. Didn’t sit well with my old man that I was out there that late, he figured I shoulda gone to bed and got someone else to sit with your momma till you came. Can’t say it didn’t sound like a good idea after awhile ‘specially when you took your time comin.’
“You and your momma got me thinkin’ about talkin’ to my father ‘bout startin’ a business breedin’ horses to sell, but, I guess you heard Murdoch – hell, I bet half of the valley heard him. – ain’t no way he’s gonna go along with it. Don’t know why he don’t let me try. If he’s worried about a stake, I got most of that ‘listenin’ money he paid me and Scott when we first got here plus some of my poker winnin’s… and I saved some of my pay. I wouldn’t have to buy any horses to start; there’s plenty of wild horses to use to fill the first contract or two. I wouldn’t thin the herds too much, though. I figured after I filled a coupla contracts, I could get a loan to buy some more at auction or make a deal with Murdoch. Guess I can forget that now.”
‘Maybe I won’t give up. I’ll do like Scott said last time I talked to the old man about this; sit back, bide my time and wait for a better opportunity to come along to present my case again. While I’m waitin’ for the right time, I’m gonna get some more money saved and maybe work with a few of the wild horses, maybe breed some more mares, too.’
Scott walked up to stand beside Johnny giving silent support. After a moment the younger man looked at his brother and flashed a quick grin
“Ain’t he somethin’? Hope he got his poppa’s sense for cattle herdin’.”
“If he’s going to be the start of your breeding program, then you’ll have to get used to the idea that someone else can stay with the mare until she foals.”
Both brothers quickly turned to face their father. Scott grinned, but Johnny shot Murdoch a look of confusion.
“Well, you haven’t changed your mind, have you? I thought it’s what you wanted to do, but…”
The rest of Murdoch sentence was lost in a joyous whoop from Johnny.