Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters. I only borrow them. I make no money off of them.
There is very mild profanity, and one of the characters has an accident resulting in injury to a delicate part of their body. (It’s not as bad as you think)
Johnny brought his arm up across his forehead, wiped the sweat from his brow and resettled his hat. He eyed the terrain, hills still green from spring rains, the creek flowing well, but a shimmering haze of heat distorting the distant mountains. ‘Dam it’s hot’, he thought. Too hot for this early in the summer, he sighed, feeling his shirt clinging to his sweaty back.
The sound of men trying to round up calves for branding brought him back to the work at hand. Not only was branding a hot, dirty, smelly task, but also could be dangerous with worried cows bawling after their babies. Most of the time it worked out OK, as the men tried to take both cow and calf together, only separating them at the branding pen. However, once in a while a slippery old cow, wise to the ways of the rope, managed to sway and duck the lariat, until the exasperated hand just went after the calf. It was then it could be a bit dangerous as the cow, being protective of her calf, may go after the rider. Another hand would try to drive the cow away from the cowboy, or may just rope her until the branding was done. The hands were so experienced at roping and branding that it took only a few minutes to get the task done, sending the now bawling baby back to its mother. Few accidents happened, but one still had to be careful around the stock.
Johnny surveyed the proceedings, noting that a calf was in the process of being branded in the pen. The mother was unhappy, crying for the calf, but she wasn’t being a problem. Two hands, Frank and Morris, had that well under control, Johnny noted. There were still several calves waiting to be branded in a holding pen with their mothers, and Johnny could see three hands rounding up cows and calves, guiding them down the hill and towards the pen.
‘Now where is Scott’ he thought to himself. He looked around and spied his brother a few hundred yards east of where the pens were, trying to drive a cow and calf towards the pens. Johnny smiled to himself, thinking of the Boston raised dandy he had first encountered. Scott was far from that ruffled stranger he had met on the stage those many months ago. He was now covered in sweat, dust, and grime and probably smelled as bad as he looked. He had become darn good at roping though, Johnny thought, as he admired Scott’s ability to easily sit his horse as he tried to maneuver the cow to the pen. The cow was not being cooperative, and it appeared that Scott was going to try to rope the calf. Johnny decided to give his brother a hand and trotted off in Scott’s direction.
As Johnny rode closer to Scott, he got a better look at the cow. She was an older animal, hip bones protruding, her milk bag almost touching the ground from nursing many calves. Johnny started to feel a bit of unease as he got closer and closer to the cow. Scott wasn’t paying much attention to her, which he should have been, but was trying to separate the bawling calf from its mother by riding between them. Johnny didn’t want to distract Scott, but suddenly a bit of panic set in and he called out, “Scott, that might be Tilly!” Just then the cow bellowed loudly, snorted, pawed the ground furiously and took off after the monster trying to take her calf from her. Scott had turned around to look at Johnny, a question on his face from being distracted, and didn’t notice the outraged cow bearing down on him. Scott could see that Johnny was frantically trying to tell him something; he could hear Johnny’s voice but could not make out the words. All of a sudden his mount jumped straight up into the air, taking Scott by surprise. Scott felt himself going higher than his horse. For a few seconds he was flying and hoped that when he landed, it wouldn’t be too hard. He came down on his belly, knocking the wind out of him. After catching his breath, he unsteadily came up on his hands and knees trying to figure out if he was hurt or not. He didn’t think so, and tried to collect himself. He glanced off to his left and could see Johnny riding up to him, frantically trying to get his rope out. Scott was still a bit groggy from the fall and wasn’t totally aware of what truly had happened.
When the cow first took off after Scott, it all seemed to go in slow motion to Johnny. The cow - the very, very angry cow - charged his brother and his horse faster than a bull at a matador. Johnny had seen his share of bull fights when in Mexico and knew an angry animal when he saw one. He never liked bull fights, feeling it unfair that the bull could never win, but now he wasn’t real concerned about the feelings of the cow, just about getting his brother out of harm’s way. He saw Scott’s horse bound straight up into the air, like one of them war stallions he had seen in a show one time. He thought Scott’s mount jumped higher than any horse he had ever seen, running out from under Scott as his brother sailed above the saddle and came down with no horse beneath him. The cow, that determined, irate mother, continued after the horse, chasing it over the hill, the frantic horse running and bucking like a cougar was after him.
Johnny saw his brother start to move after he landed. At least he didn’t seem to be hurt too badly, Johnny thought, relieved as he urged his own horse hurriedly towards his brother. Scott came up on his hands and knees, holding his head down, wobbling a bit. Johnny saw Scott look a bit dazedly around; then out of the corner of Johnny’s eye appeared the cow coming back over the ridge. She stopped, saw her target, pawed the ground, lowered her head and took off running faster than Johnny had ever imagined an old, bony, arthritic, bag dragging cow could run. Johnny spurred his horse, reached for his rope and started screaming at Scott.
Scott heard his brother, but the sound echoed a bit through his still muddled brain. He brought his hands up to his head trying to clear it a bit, and came down on his elbows. He was really, really trying to remember what exactly had happened when he felt a bone cracking bolt to his backside, and once again he was sailing through the air. But this time he knew where it hurt even before he landed in a heap several feet away from his original position. His first thought was that he’d been broken in two, that his bottom half couldn’t possibly be there any more, or at least he hoped so given the amount of pain it was causing him. He wondered if he should try to get up and move, but couldn’t bring his body to obey. He just lay there, waiting for whatever release death could bring.
Johnny couldn’t get his horse to move fast enough as he saw that old cow zeroing in on Scott. To his left he could see two other hands frantically pushing their horses to Scott’s aid, ropes flying, arms waiving, voices screaming trying to distract that beast away from his brother. Johnny saw Scott go down on his elbows, his posterior a perfect target for the enraged animal. And then he saw the impact and heard the crack of the sound as the animal’s hard head collided with his brother’s bottom. Scott was long arms and legs wavering in the air when he flew, and hit solidly when his body stopped soaring. Shit, shit, shit, Johnny breathed, racing towards his brother.
The old cow turned once again prepared to attack her persecutor, but almost seemed to calculate that odds were against her. Frank and Morris were between her and Scott, ropes swinging, horses heaving. With one last angry snort, she turned and ran back over the ridge, her calf bawling after her, the two cowboys in pursuit.
Johnny reached Scott’s body and flew off his horse, kneeling next to his brother. He didn’t know if he should touch him or not. “Scott” he frantically called, “Scott, are you all right?” He touched his brother’s shoulder which elicited a low moan. ‘He’s alive’ Johnny thought, relieved. ‘I wonder what’s broken.’
“Boston, don’t move” he said as Scott’s limbs stirred sluggishly.
Scott could smell something really bad. It prodded him, irritated him and dragged him from the comfort of stupor. His eyes squinted open and he stared into some fresh cow dung a few inches from his face. Scott attempted to move away from it, but felt Johnny’s hands holding him, telling him not to move.
“Johnny, get me away from this cow shit. It’s right in my face!” Scott rasped.
Johnny leaned over his brother and batted the cow dung away. He moved to face Scott and lowered his head, looking into his brother’s eyes. Scott looked back at him, his eyes skewed in pain. Dios, Johnny thought, worried his brother’s back may be broken.
“Scott, where you hurt?” he asked, looking anxiously at his brother.
Scott closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on his arms and legs. He moved his fingers without pain, then his arms which seemed to be working OK. His feet were next, and then his legs, which obeyed him without too much trouble. The only real pain seemed to be emanating from his posterior and that was throbbing relentlessly. He opened his eyes to see that Johnny was still bending over him with a very concerned look on his face.
“I’m OK I think. Help me up, Johnny” Scott said.
“Yea, I think so ….. just help me up.”
Johnny helped turn his brother over until Scott’s back end came into contact with the ground. He groaned. “Johnny, just on my side for now, ok” Scott gasped, wincing with renewed pain.
Scott caught his breath, grasping his brother’s arm. It took a few minutes, but the pain gradually subsided to a manageable level. He raised himself up on his elbow and looked around. Johnny was still hovering over him and an audience of five ranch hands had gathered, all looking at him intently. Now that he thought that he was not seriously hurt, (just painfully), realization started to come to Scott of what had happened, who had witnessed it and, most importantly, ‘how was he going to live it down?’ He cringed, bringing his hand up to his face. Johnny’s hand caught his forearm, obviously still anxious that Scott had been seriously hurt. “I’m ok, Johnny” Scott said. “Give me a hand” as he reached out for help.
“You sure, Boston? Maybe you better lay back for a bit.” Johnny replied worriedly.
“I don’t think that’s possible right now” Scott replied cryptically. “Johnny, just help me up --- please” he asked when Johnny hesitated.
“Frank, give me a hand, and let’s go real slow” Johnny said, turning to a hand.
With Johnny on one arm and Frank on the other, they managed to slowly bring Scott to his feet. “Can you walk?” Johnny asked. Scott appeared to be a bit twisted and bent. Scott slowly straightened his back and was relieved when he was able to put one foot in front of the other without too much trouble. Yes, any pain he had was definitely emanating from his rear; otherwise he was feeling almost not so bad.
Realization was also starting to come to Johnny. Relieved that Scott wasn’t seriously hurt, or didn’t appear to be, the whole episode came back to him with the vision of Scott, his butt swaying in the air, a perfect target. Its consequences for his brother became all too apparent also, as he scanned the faces of the other men and could see smirks starting to form. A little bit ashamed of himself, Johnny couldn’t help but feel a smile forming on his lips as he lowered his gaze away from Scott.
When Johnny looked back up at Scott, his brother was staring at him. A look of annoyance played across Scott’s face touched with obvious discomfort. “Well, I guess we’d better get you back to the house” Johnny said, still trying to maintain a serious manner, his lip quivering just a bit.
Scott looked at his brother intently, not missing the amusement in his eyes. “Get my horse” he said quietly, not wanting to look at any of the men gathered around.
Johnny was taken aback a bit with Scott’s request. “Scott, you can’t ride” Johnny said reasonably.
“How do you think I’m going to get home, brother” Scott said, just as reasonably but with a pained edge to his voice.
“How can you sit Scott? What if you injure yourself more by bouncing home on a horse?” Johnny said, once again maintaining a rational demeanor.
“The same way I always do, I put one leg on either side of the horse.”
“But Scott, what if you’ve really hurt your ….” Johnny hesitated, noting the rest of the hands listening. “You know, you might do more damage.” Johnny figured Scott wasn’t thinking right yet. He couldn’t ride home on a horse with his butt bouncing all over.
“Don’t worry about it, Johnny. I’ll make it home. Now would you please get my horse?” Scott was obviously trying to maintain patience and whatever dignity he had left.
“Scott, be reasonable. Think about it, will you?” Johnny said with exasperation.
“I’m being reasonable, Johnny. Do you know anyone who is more reasonable? I’m riding home.” Scott’s face was inflexible and his tone unswayable.
“You’re not sitting a saddle” Johnny said firmly.
“Yes I am” Scott returned stubbornly.
“No you are not” Johnny replied with finality.
Scott turned to one of the hands. “Pete, would you please get me my horse ... and thank you” he requested through gritted teeth.
“Pete, you will NOT get his horse” Johnny directed.
Pete did not move.
The two brothers stared at each other, eyes glaring, backs straight, well at least Johnny’s. Scott was still a trifle crooked and was unable to bring his body to its normally erect posture. The hands stood attentively, wondering which brother was going to win.
“Morris, I am ordering you to get me my horse” a glaring Scott directed to one of the other hands, wincing when he moved towards him.
“Morris, you get his horse and you’ll answer to me” Johnny said quietly, never taking his eyes from Scott’s face.
Morris looked at Johnny, then Scott and back to Johnny. He walked towards his own horse, mounted it and moved off towards the pens. “Morris” Scott called, “what are you doing?”
“Well sir” an obviously very uncomfortable Morris hedged, “I’ve got work to do,” and he continued towards the remaining calves to be branded.
Scott, dumbfounded, exclaimed in his most officer-like voice, “I gave you an order, and I expect you to follow it?” That tone usually broached no argument.
Morris looked back at Scott then at Johnny. After consideration he said, “I’m sorry, sir. But Johnny scares me more than you,” and he turned, continuing to make his way towards the pens.
Scott hadn’t been this angry since --- he actually couldn’t remember when he had been this angry. He had just gotten hit in the ass by a stupid cow, he was hurting, humiliated, knew this story would be making the rounds of the bunk house tonight and probably every other ranch within 100 miles in the next few days. His reputation as a greenhorn, it seemed, would continue to plague him. Now the hands were more afraid of making Johnny upset then they were of him!
He looked to the other hands that immediately avoided his eyes and started towards their horses. “Frank?” Scott said, looking at their foreman. All of the hands, including Johnny, had great respect for Frank. He was a man who minded his own business, did a good job, and had been one of the first men to work for Murdoch Lancer when he settled here.
Frank looked at Scott candidly. “Scott, I think your father wouldn’t want you riding home either, and I have a great deal of respect for him. I also think you’re brother is right. I’m sorry.” Frank looked towards Johnny. “Any ideas on getting him home?”
Johnny nodded. “Just let me talk to him about it.”
Frank strolled to his horse, grabbed the reins and mounted. “Let me know if I can help.”
“I’ll get my own horse” Scott grumbled, limping as best he could towards his horse. It was actually more of a waddle as it appeared he was having a very difficult time navigating the rough slope to his horse. He walked bent over, his rear sticking out behind him, one leg not cooperating with the other. If it weren’t for the fact that Scott was being so frustrating, Johnny would have had a hard time not laughing at the scene. With an exasperated sigh, Johnny quickly went to Scott’s horse, grabbed him and called “Frank.” Frank stopped and waited for Johnny as he walked over to him leading Scott’s horse. “You bring Charlemagne back with you when you go back to the ranch, OK?”
Frank took hold of the reins and nodded. “I will Johnny” and with that trotted off to join the rest of the cowhands to finish the days work with Scott’s horse following.
Johnny took a deep breath and turned to face his brother, trying to prepare himself for whatever he may throw at him. He was very surprised and a bit concerned when all he met was a pain weary expression on Scott’s face. “OK, Johnny, how do you propose I get home? Walk?”
“No, I thought maybe you could ride with me.”
Scott’s face took on a very puzzled look. “I’m not sure I understand. I can’t ride my horse alone, but I can ride with you, both of us cramped on the saddle. How is that any different?”
“Well, I didn’t figure you straddling the saddle” Johnny hesitantly stated.
Scott pursed his lips, “and how are you proposing I ride?”
“Well” Johnny said slowly, knowing what his brother’s reaction would be, “I thought you could ride across the saddle in front of me …. ya know, kind of draped over it.”
Johnny didn’t look at Scott immediately, afraid of what may be looking back at him. When he finally did raise his eyes to Scott’s face, a stare of disbelief and shock gazed back at him. “Are you crazy?” Scott demanded. “You expect me to ride across the saddle, with the horn sticking in my belly!! How am I supposed to hang on?”
“Now just think about it Scott,” Johnny tried to placate. “I’ll pad the horn so you won’t even know it’s there. I’ll hang on to your belt. It’s not that bad a ride. I had to do it once a few years ago, and I had a bullet in my back, which hurt a lot more than your …. then your injury,” Johnny stammered.
“What’s the story on the bullet in your back?” Scott asked, wondering once again about his brother’s past.
“Don’t change the subject, Scott. This is about getting you home and not about me” Jonny deftly said, bringing the problem back at hand.
“No!” Scott exclaimed.
“Can you think of a better way to get you home, Scott” Johnny reasoned.
“I can ride my own horse!” Scott said, flinging his arms in the air. (An almost fling, as he couldn’t get his arms much more than waist high.)
“NO, we’ve been over that” Johnny shot back.
Scott obviously was trying to calm himself. “Ok then, send someone for a buckboard. I’ll ride home in that”.
“It would take an hour to get home, an hour to get back here, and another hour to get you home. That’s three hours Scott. I can’t leave you sitting here for two hours and bouncing another one,” Johnny pressed, trying to get his brother to see reason.
Scott snorted “You don’t understand the problem fully, Johnny, I wouldn’t be ‘sitting’,” as he gently touched his rump.
“Scott, listen. I’m sorry for what happened to you, I really am. But we have to make the best of it and do what we need to do. This is the quickest way to get you home and you know it.” Johnny could see he was getting through to Scott, although grudgingly.
Scott looked up at Johnny skeptically. “How are we going to do this without everyone seeing me riding home across your lap? Getting hit in the ass by a cow is enough of a story, I don’t want it known that my little brother had to carry me home with my butt wiggling in the air?” a very edgy Scott exclaimed.
“Leave it up to me” a smiling Johnny urged. “Do you think you could walk just over that rise? No one can see us leave from there. I’ll get some extra bedrolls from Frank; he won’t ask and he won’t tell. We’ll go in the back way at the ranch. No one will see.” Johnny held his breath, waiting for Scott to make the next move.
Obviously under duress, Scott looked at Johnny with steel blue eyes. “I’m trusting you in this Johnny. No one will know?”
“No brother” Johnny smiled, putting an arm on his shoulder and assisting him towards the rise. “See, no one will see us, no one will know” Johnny said as they crested the hill and went down a few yards. “I’m going to get the bedrolls and will be right back. You wait here, ok?” Johnny said hurriedly before his brother changed his mind.
“Johnny, where do you think I’ll go? I’m not exactly up to a foot race right now,” Scott reasoned as Johnny ran back to get his horse and the bedrolls.
Within a few minutes Johnny had returned with the needed blankets. Johnny studied Scott. His face was pale and pinched, he was stooped and with every step he took, Johnny could see him grimace.
“What,” Scott asked as he saw Johnny studying him.
Johnny hesitated a bit. “Scott, do you think maybe, just to make sure, well, ….” Johnny plunged ahead “Do you think I should look at you before we go?”
“You’re looking at me Johnny” not fully understanding.
“I know, but that’s not what I mean” Johnny forged.
Scott looked puzzled a minute, then comprehension registered on his face. His jaw became as hard as the cow’s head that had plowed into him. “NO”.
“But Scott, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea, ya know? It’s not like I haven’t seen your back end before” Johnny softly replied.
“Johnny, you have gotten your way in everything up to this point. You are NOT getting your way in this. Now, let’s get going before I change my mind”. Scott’s whole manner was rigid.
“OK, OK” Johnny placated, trying to calm his brother.
Johnny mounted his horse, scooted as far back as he could and laid several bedrolls across the saddle. He sat waiting for Scott to get on. “Come on, Scott” he urged sympathetically, “the sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll be home”.
Scott sighed, looking around for some means of escape. With nothing presenting itself, he resignedly put his foot in the stirrup, grabbed Johnny’s outstretched arm, and with a painful grunt, folded across the saddle. He felt Johnny grab his belt to hold him in place and gently kick his horse to get started.
After a while, Scott determined that if it weren’t for the fact that he was slung over a saddle like a side of beef, the ride really wasn’t that uncomfortable. The blankets not only padded the saddle horn, but added girth to the saddle allowing most of his torso to lay flat. The only thing he got tired of doing was holding his head up. He would let it drop once in a while, but looking upside down made him dizzy. His back end hurt; no doubt about that. When Johnny’s horse tripped, a jolt went through him clear to his tailbone.
Johnny had been talking non stop since they started for the ranch, seemingly trying to keep Scott’s thoughts off his throbbing rear. Scott smiled, reluctantly admitting to himself that if it hadn’t happened to him, the whole scenario was really pretty funny. No doubt he would be the “butt” of comments for some time to come, but figured he’d do what he’d always done since agreeing to learn the ranching business. He’d graciously smile, and try to ignore any type of remarks or laughter at his expense. He knew he should have been paying more attention to the cow; it was really his own fault this had happened. So, he was pretty resigned to whatever may come along when they finally reached the ranch. That is, until Murdoch got involved.
They came up on the back side of the ranch. Johnny was careful to make sure no one was around. He rode just within the grove of trees on that side of the house, and when he thought no one would see them, he trotted Barranca the remaining distance to the back portico. Easing Scott off the saddle, he quickly dismounted, prepared to assist his brother up the back staircase to his room. He thought it would be best to have Scott settled in his room, and then tell their father about the accident. He didn’t relish telling Murdoch, and was feeling real empathy for his brother having to face their father. Johnny knew Scott had been trying hard to learn about ranching and everything that went with it. He was a great horseman, a born leader with the men without being pushy and good with the books, but when it came to cows he had had more than his fair share of failures.
Scott was stiff after getting off the horse. He put his hands in the small of his back, but couldn’t seem to get fully upright. When he started to walk, his legs shuffled, his back was bent and he looked like an old arthritic man.
“You think you can make it up the steps?” Johnny asked uncertainly.
Scott raised his eyes and studied the stairway going up the outside of the house leading to the second story. “I don’t have any other choice, Johnny.” He looked at his brother and lightly smiled. “Come on, give me a hand. I’ll make it.”
It was a struggle but they finally made it to Scott’s room. A pale, sweaty Scott hobbled to his bed and with a deep, satisfied sigh, lay gingerly down on his stomach.
Johnny bent down to Scott’s level. He looked at his brother and said, “Well, I guess I’d better go tell Murdoch, huh?”
Scott cringed momentarily, gazed back at Johnny, resignedly saying “I guess you’d better.”
Johnny bowed his head, brought his eyes slowly back to Scott, pursed his lips and nodded. Getting up, he placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder and walked out of the room.
Johnny slowly walked down the staircase and into the Great Room, spying his father sitting behind his desk. He had his journal open and appeared to be entering transactions into it. ‘Might as well get it over with’ Johnny thought and forced himself forward.
Murdoch heard foot steps coming towards him and raised his head to find his youngest approaching him. Puzzled, he looked towards the clock and noted it was only 4:00 p.m., too soon for Johnny to be back from the range. This time of year they usually didn’t get back to the hacienda until close to 6:00. Murdoch sat back in his chair watching his son approach.
“You're home early, son. Everything OK?”
Johnny cleared his throat and picked up a letter opener, playing nervously with it. “Yea, we had a bit of an accident but I think everything’s OK.
Alarm flickered momentarily in Murdoch’s eyes. “Is someone hurt?”
“Well, yes, but I don’t think real bad” Johnny hedged.
“Who got hurt, Johnny” Murdoch prodded, leaning forward, all attention focused on Johnny.
“He’s ok, Murdoch. Just seems a bit sore” Johnny remarked, his eyes focused on the letter opener in his hands, flipping it up and down, not looking directly at his father.
“John” Murdoch said in his most ‘I-think-you’d-better-tell-me voice’, “who got hurt.”
Johnny looked into his father’s face and ventured “Scott”.
Murdoch immediately came up out of his chair. “He’s ok, Murdoch” Johnny tried to pacify, bringing his arms up in a calming motion. “Like I said, he’s just a little sore.”
“Where is he, Johnny?”
“He’s upstairs, Murdoch.”
“Murdoch, please, let me tell you what happened before you go up there” Johnny pleaded, as a very concerned Murdoch started going towards the stairs.
Murdoch stopped and turned back to his youngest. “Please Murdoch, he’s ok for now and it would be easier for Scott if I told you.” Johnny watched his father’s stern face calm a bit and breathed a sigh of relief when he went back to his desk and sat behind it.
“I think it was Tilly” Johnny started, not knowing how else to begin.
“Tilly who” Murdoch slowly prompted back when Johnny hesitated to say more.
“Well, Murdoch, that old cow, Tilly, you know, the one you won’t get rid of” Johnny reasoned, thinking maybe if he could somehow put the blame on his father it would make it easier for Scott. However, after looking at the sober gaze his father was pinning him with, he decided it would be wiser to take a different tactic.
Johnny continued, deciding to get it all told as quickly as possible, “We were out rounding up calves for branding and this old cow, I think it was Tilly, charged Scott when he got too close to her calf. Scott’s horse panicked, threw him, and Tilly got him. Like I said, he’s ok, though. Stiff, real sore, but it could have happened to any one of us,” Johnny hurriedly explained, trying to take the heat off Scott. “You know, Scott’s real new at this and he was doing real good. If it hadn’t been Tilly, there wouldn’t have been a problem. You know how ornery she is. Why, just last week she had “Old Dave” pinned down in the draw and wouldn’t let him up! No one knows more about cows than “Old Dave” so if she could corner him, she could corner anyone. It really wasn’t Scott’s fault, Murdoch” Johnny finished breathlessly. He eyed his father cautiously, and was taken aback when all he could see was concern.
“OK, Johnny, where did Scott get hurt?” Murdoch asked quietly.
Johnny couldn’t think of anything else but to tell it straight. “His butt.”
Murdoch’s face registered surprise, then puzzlement, then what looked like relief, and finally his lips twitched and Johnny thought for a minute he was going to smile. He bowed his head, studied his hands and looked back at his son. “Well, is it ok if I go upstairs now and see Scott?”
Johnny, a bit off center, said “sure …….. Are you mad?”
Murdoch sighed. “I’m concerned, Johnny, that my son has been hurt. I’m even more concerned that you thought I’d be angry. If you would ask me if I’m upset, I would have to say yes, but not because I’m angry with Scott for being hurt. I’m more upset that you and your brother have the idea that my anger would be stronger than my concern. Does that make sense,” he inquired, noting Johnny seemed to be a bit bewildered.
“Ah, well, sure Murdoch,” obviously not sure at all.
Murdoch rose from his chair, walked over to Johnny and draping an arm around his shoulder said, “let’s go up and see your brother. “ He suddenly stopped half way up the stairs and asked, “How did you get him home?” Johnny smiled broadly, blue eyes laughing, “I managed to talk him into riding home over my saddle and I held on to him. Every once in a while his head would go down and then bounce back up. Kind of like watching one of them heads in a box, what are they called?”
“A Jack-in-the-box I believe,” Murdoch supplied. He shook his head, and smiled at his son.
“I suppose Scott thinks I’ll be angry also?”
Johnny nodded his head sheepishly, looking down at the floor.
“Well, I think I could use that to my advantage. I want Sam to look at him, and Scott may not agree. However, he may not argue too much if he thinks I’m angry. Could we keep that between the two of us, at least until after Sam leaves?” Murdoch conspired. Once again, Johnny nodded his head in agreement, but this time he was smiling.
The cry of “Boss” interrupted the progress of the two men going up the stairs.
“I’m here, Jelly” Murdoch called.
Jelly appeared at the foot of the steps. “I just noticed Barranca at the hitching post out back” noting Johnny was with his father. “You want me to take care of him?”
“Please Jelly,” Murdoch answered. “And would you send a hand in for Sam Jenkins? Seems we’ve had a bit of an accident.”
“Yes sir. Everything OK?”
“I think so Jelly. Just want to make sure is all.”
Jelly nodded his head and left. Murdoch and Johnny resumed their ascent up the stairs and reached Scott’s door.
Murdoch knocked on the door and entered, noticing a pair of silver blue eyes staring back at him, following him as he moved across the room to the bed. Scott was lying on his side, watching his father warily. “Scott” he said “I understand you’ve had an accident?”
“Yes, sir” a subdued Scott replied.
“Johnny’s explained it to me. So, how are you feeling?” his voice not betraying any type of emotion.
“OK” Scott returned, grimacing slightly.
“You know, when my men are hurt, I usually like to see the wound” Murdoch informed his son. “Do you have any problem with that?”
Scott’s face became agitated and worried. “Well, yes sir, if you don’t mind, I’d just as soon you didn’t. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Scott looked intently at his father, looking for any sign of anger, but his father seemed to be going on way too much calm.
“When do you think you can ride again, then son?”
“I could try tomorrow” Scott said after a few moments of contemplation. ‘What was his father up to?’ he thought.
Murdoch sat on the edge of the bed, causing Scott to stiffen. Scott looked cautiously up at his father, the movement causing pain to flicker over his face.
“Tomorrow you think. Well, if you don’t mind I’d like a second opinion on that,” Murdoch sternly stated. “I want Sam to look at you. Do you have a problem with that?” raising a severe eyebrow in his son’s direction.
Before he allowed Scott to answer, a quick, “Well, I’ve already sent for him so it’s not up for discussion” Murdoch said soberly.
He could see a flash of anger cross Scott’s face as he got up from the bed. Murdoch had seen his son; he did not appear to be in any jeopardy at this time, and wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible while he still retained the upper hand. “Good, I’ll see you in a couple of hours then” and with that, he exited the room.
Johnny looked over at Scott and smiled. “Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it brother?”
Scott looked at Johnny and said, “I think I’ve just been had.” Comprehension dawning on him as to what had just transpired; he remarked “my grandfather could take smooth lessons from him.”
Scott started to think of what may happen when Sam started to explore the problem. There was no way he was going to allow anyone to touch his very tender bottom. Just the thought made the pain increase. “I’m not seeing Sam” Scott resolved out loud after a couple of minutes.
“Scott, I don’t think you need to worry about seeing Sam. Sam seeing you, now that’s another matter …. And don’t look at me like that. I am not the enemy,” Johnny replied back to the angry look his brother was fixing him with. Johnny started walking towards the door, and like a typical younger brother, couldn’t help but tease Scott with “I’ll always cover your back Scott”, and quickly went through the door. A thud against the door quickly followed, and Johnny thought, ‘he must be feeling better if he can throw something at me’.
Johnny joined his father in the Great Room, sipping on a glass of Scotch. “You do think he’s ok, Johnny?”
“As far as I can tell, Murdoch. I think he’s hurtn’ some, but Sam lookin’ at him won’t hurt,” Johnny tried to reassure his father.
Murdoch bowed his head for a moment before he spoke, causing Johnny to smile. Murdoch caught the smile and asked “what are you smiling at?”
“You just reminded me of Scott then, the way you sometimes look down and think a bit before you say something. Scott does that all of the time, you know,” Johnny responded. His father chuckled softly at the remark, his eyes sparkling as he studied his youngest.
“Yes, I have noticed” Murdoch said reflectively. “Well” he said matter-of-factly, “Sam should be here yet today. We should try to somehow get Scott cleaned up. I’m sure he’d feel much better.” Murdoch got up from the chair and went to the French doors. “Jelly” he called, noticing Jelly just outside the patio. He motioned for Jelly to come in.
“Yea, boss, what do you need?”
“Jelly, could you take a large bucket of warm water, soap, and towels up to Scott. See if he wants any help, but if not, I’m sure he’ll appreciate cleaning himself up. Oh, and by the way, I wouldn’t ask him too many questions at this time.”
“Sure thing, boss”. He started to walk away but curiosity got the better of him. “He OK? I didn’t see him come in earlier.”
“Well, let’s just say that he’s been in a somewhat embarrassing accident. The less said, the better”.
Jelly went to do as he requested, a few minutes later carrying a bucket of warm water, soap and towels up to Scott. He knocked on the door. When no one answered, he knocked again and this time a hesitant “come in” answered back. Jelly pushed open the door and saw Scott on the bed. He noticed right away that he still had his boots on, which Scott never did, in part due to getting the spread dirty, as well as making Theresa angry.
“The boss said you might want this stuff” Jelly explained, setting the bucket down close to the night stand, and the soap and towels on the stand. He looked at Scott closer and noticed beneath the grime, he was actually a bit pale. “You okay?”
Scott wasn’t moving much, just nodded, “I’m fine.”
“You need any help?”
“I could use some help taking my boots off. Otherwise I’ll manage on my own, thanks.”
Jelly studied Scott for a minute, then nodded his head and reached for a leg. When he grabbed it, he heard Scott’s intake of breath. Immediately he let it go. “I’m sorry, Scott. Didn’t know you were hurtin.”
“It’s okay,” Scott said a little breathless. “Just don’t grab so hard. I’ll just straighten my leg and you pull.”
Jelly did as requested, noting that each time he pulled, Scott held his breath and clenched his teeth, releasing his breath after the boot came off.
“Anything else, Scott” concern evident in his voice.
Scott eyed Jelly, “I’m ok. Thanks Jelly. I can manage.” Scott’s fair skin looked sallow and his eyes drained
“You sure” Jelly said doubtfully.
Scott nodded, “yea, please, leave me. I’m okay.”
Jelly picked at the buttons on his vest, not sure he should leave. “I’ll come back for the bucket and your dirty clothes, later then.” Then he left as requested.
Jelly slowly walked down the stairs and into the Great Room, noting Murdoch and Johnny were there. Murdoch walked over to the liquor cabinet and pouring a drink, offered it to Jelly.
“Everything OK, Jelly?” Murdoch asked.
Jelly shrugged. “I think so. Didn’t want me hanging around though. Just helped to get his boots off, and he booted me out.”
Just then Maria the cook came into the room. “Senor Murdoch” she said, “Dr. Sam is here,” followed closely by the man himself.
“Sam,” Murdoch said surprised. “We didn’t expect you until later!”
“I was just coming back from the Clinton place when I ran into your hand a few miles down the road. I’m glad he caught me there, so I didn’t need to come all the way back here from town. What’s the problem? Your hand didn’t say,” the old doctor remarked, reaching for the generous glass of Scotch Murdoch handed him.
Murdoch and Johnny went on to explain what had happened to Scott. Although Sam didn’t have much to say during the narrative, his face did register surprise and a kind of ‘what next’ reaction.
“Johnny” Sam addressed “how is he walking?”
“Kind of stooped over, and he shuffles his legs. He can’t stand up straight either.”
“Sounds like he may have injured his tailbone; that can be quite painful. Hopefully he’s only bruised it and not broken it. I think if he’d broken it he’d be moving a lot slower than what you’re telling me he’s moving.”
“So, how can you tell?” Johnny asked curiously.
Sam studied Johnny for a minute before replying. “Well, without going into details, let’s just say …. it involves close, very hands-on examination.”
Johnny thought about the reply, and then grimaced. He was sorry he asked, and didn’t want to think about the procedure or about his poor brother.
After a few more questions, Sam finished the Scotch and proceeded to Scott’s room, Murdoch and Johnny following. “Gentlemen” he stopped, “I think with the present situation Scott would be most reluctant to let me examine him with you present.”
“He doesn’t want you near him, Doc” Johnny related.
“Well, let’s use you two as trump cards then. If he gives me any trouble, I’ll tell him I’m getting you to help. I’ll call you two in when I’m done with the exam.”.
Murdoch nodded agreement. “You able to stay for dinner Sam?”
“Tonight, Murdoch, I can’t think of anything better. By the way, will you send Maria up with some hot water right away? Maybe a couple of towels and some soap.”
“There’s soap already in there, but I’ll ask her to get the water and towels up to you” Murdoch stated, watching Sam go up the stairs until he was out of sight.
Sam knocked gently on the door, opening it when a muffled ‘go away’ replied. A pile of dirty clothes and wet towels were lying in disarray near the bed. Sam glanced towards the bed and saw that Scott was lying on his stomach and looking at him with a great deal of trepidation on his face. It was apparent that he had washed, leaving a dirty bucket of water and the laundry nearby.
“Scott” Sam said softly, trying to sound casual. “I understand you’ve had an accident.”
“I’m fine Sam. I don’t need you, please leave.” Scott turned his face away from Sam, seemingly trying to shut out any further discussion. He then turned back to face Sam. “What are you doing here already?”
“I was just over at the next ranch when your hand caught me. I’m staying for dinner by the way. Hope you don’t mind.”
“No, I don’t mind. Just don’t touch me” Scott said matter-of-factly.
“Son, your father wants to make sure that nothing is broken. I can’t determine that if I can’t touch you,” Sam tried to reason.
Just then there was a gentle knock on the door. Sam got up and retrieved the water and towels that Maria brought up, closing the door without letting her in. Scott watched him warily as he set the items down on the night stand.
“Well, Scott, what do you say?”
“I’m fine,” Scott stubbornly insisted.
Sam nodded his head and got up. It seemed to Scott that he was giving up awfully easy, which wasn’t like the old doctor. He wondered what he had up his sleeve, until Sam went to the door and called “Murdoch”.
Within a short time, Murdoch Lancer entered the room, all 6’5” staring resolutely down at his son. “Murdoch, it seems Scott says he’s fine and wants me to leave. What do you want me to do?”
Murdoch looked inquiringly at Scott. “Is that right, Scott?”
“Yes, sir” Scott said trying to sound bold, falling short of the bluff when his voice squeaked.
“I see.” Murdoch quietly went to the door, opened it and called “Johnny”. Johnny came in looking everywhere but at Scott. He was actually feeling guilty about trying to trick his brother or getting him to do something he didn’t want to do. He was also thinking if it were him in the bed, he’d shoot Sam before he’d let him near him. He was glad Scott’s gun was across the room.
Murdoch brought Johnny back to the issue at hand. “It seems your brother doesn’t want Sam to touch him. I don’t agree. So, we may need to give Sam some assistance to make sure he gets what he wants. Now,” he went on to explain, addressing Scott, “it’s up to you Scott. Johnny and I can help Sam, or, if you prefer, you can let Sam help you and Johnny and I will leave. What do you say?”
Scott was incensed. He looked angrily at his father, noting there was no give in his face. Scott’s glance roved to Johnny. His brother didn’t look at him, pretending to be intently studying the dirty towels on the floor, kicking them with his boot. “Scott?” his father asked.
“All right” Scott said, gritting his teeth.
“You’ll let Sam look at you?” Murdoch verified.
“Yes” Scott hissed.
“Good. Johnny, let’s go. Sam, join us for dinner when you’re finished. I’ll send up a tray for you Scott.” Murdoch smiled slightly at Scott and with Johnny following, they left the room.
Sam approached the bed. “This may be a bit uncomfortable, Scott, but I’ll be as quick as I can. Please try to relax.”
When Scott felt Sam sit down on the edge of the bed, he groaned, and buried his face in the pillow, clutching it in both hands. As he felt the sheet being moved off his back side, he hated Tilly more than he ever thought he could hate anything in this world. It was when Sam started to probe with his fingers where no man had a right to be, Scott decided he was going to move back to Boston and never so much as allow another piece of beef into his body or into any place where he was as long as he lived, if he lived through this.
Then a thought occurred to him. Right in the middle of his horrible exam, while gritting his teeth through the humiliation and the pain, he decided he couldn’t move back to Boston. Through all of these months of laboring through the mistakes, the goofs, the slip-ups, being the cause of laughter, a positive came through. He had endured, he had learned, he had fought and he wasn’t about to give up because of some old cow. But best of all, it would be days; maybe even weeks, before he could again sit a saddle, ride a buckboard, or …… see a cow. And, as minor as it seemed within the whole scope of this new life, if he could make something positive of a sore ass, nothing was impossible.
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