Scott's Sweet Revenge
by  JEB


Sam Jenkins quietly closed the door to the bedroom and went downstairs to join an anxious Lancer family in their living room.  Teresa O’Brien, Murdoch’s ward would sit with the patient.  At the patriarch, Murdoch Lancer’s inquiring look, he reassured the family of his patient’s well being.

            “He’ll be fine Murdoch.  It’s nothing serious – just a cold and a bad case of laryngitis.  Give him a few days and he’ll be back on his feet.”

            “That’s good news Sam,” Murdoch said with relief.  “Ever since he and Johnny had the influenza and pneumonia toward the end of this winter Scott seems to pick up every sickness that exists.  I’m worried.”

             “Doc can I go up and see him?”  The voice belonged to dark haired Johnny, Scott’s younger brother.

             “He’s sleeping right now Johnny and he’s unable to talk very well.  It would be best if you waited until later.”

             “Aw Doc, I ain’t gonna bother him.  I just want ta see how he’s doin’.”

             Sam relented.  Everyone in Morro Coyo, Green River and Spanish Wells knew that the two half-brothers shared a closer relationship that many siblings who shared the same father and mother.  And Teresa was like a younger sister to them.

             “All right Johnny.  But only for a few minutes.  Teresa’s with him and she’ll see that you don’t wear him out.”

             Johnny left the room and went straight up the stairs to his brother’s room.  When he was gone Sam turned back to Murdoch.

             “I know you’re worried Murdoch.  It’s a parent’s prerogative.  And where both of the boys were so ill at the beginning of the spring you’re going to worry for a while.  As I said, this time it’s just a cold.  I know the cough is bad but it’s really not as bad as it sounds.  His lungs aren’t congested.”  Picking up his bag again Sam started for the door.  “I left orders with Teresa to see that Scott stays warm and quiet in bed for a few days.  If he tries to talk stop him.  His voice won’t get any better if he strains his throat.  It’ll take just that much longer for it to get better.  There’s not a whole lot you can do.”

             Outside Sam climbed into his buggy.  Jelly Hoskins, the Lancer family’s friend and handyman, had brought it up from the barn where he’d taken it while Sam examined the invalid.  The bewhiskered older man held the bridle of the buggy horse until Sam was settled in his seat.

             “Don’t worry so Murdoch.  Scott’s basically a very healthy young man.  He’s just having a tough season.  So long as he stays in bed resting and gets plenty of fluids he should get over this pretty quick.  I wouldn’t even have him stay in bed except for that bout with pneumonia that Maura told me about.”

             “Thanks Sam.”

             “I’ll be back in a couple of days to check on his progress but I don’t think there’ll be any complications.”  So saying Sam signaled his horse to move on.

             “What’s the doc say Murdoch?  Scott gonna be all right?”

             “He says it’s just a cold and laryngitis.  If he stays warm and quiet and drinks plenty of fluids he should get over it pretty fast.”

             “Well that’s good ain’t it?  I mean at least he’s not sick like he was before.”

             “Yes, I suppose so Jelly.  I just can’t help worrying.”  Murdoch frowned.  “That cough sounds so bad.”

             “Maybe I should fix him up with one of my tonics,” Jelly said.  “That’d perk him right up.”

             Murdoch almost choked on his laugher.  Jelly’s “tonics” or “’coctions” as he sometimes called them were far from popular with Scott and Johnny.  After Maura Talbot, their friendly neighbor had nursed them through influenza and pneumonia she’d allowed Jelly to fix up a tonic for them. Jelly had been away from the ranch and only returned just before Maura left for home. Both boys had turned up their noses but Jelly stood over them while they drank it.  They didn’t want to disappoint their now surrogate mother.  Besides which, for all she was barely over five feet and weighed one hundred pounds soaking wet, she terrified them.  Diplomatically Murdoch refrained from making any comment as he took his leave from Jelly and went back into the house.




            Johnny quietly opened the door to Scott’s room and let himself in.  Just as quietly he closed it behind him.

             “T’resa?  How is he?”

             Teresa looked up at Johnny and smiled.  “He’ll be all right Johnny.  The cough is wearing him out but the fever is very low.  Nothing like it was when we all got sick a few months ago. 

             “Yeah.  Mrs. Talbot said you hardly got sick at all.  It was me and Scott who were real sick.  And Murdoch didn’t get it at all.”

             Scott moaned softly in his sleep.  The quiet voices seemed to disturb him some and his eyes flickered open.

             Johnny noticed first.  “Sorry brother.  Didn’t mean to wake you.  Doc Jenkins said you need a lot of sleep.”

             “It’s all right.”  Scott smiled weakly at his younger brother as Teresa wrung out a small towel and placed it on his forehead.  “Thanks Teresa.  That feels good.”

             “You’re welcome.”  The young woman rose from her seat next to Scott’s bed.  “I’ve got to go help Maria and Juanita start supper.  Don’t you stay too long Johnny.  Scott needs his rest.  You heard what the doctor said.”  So saying she planted a platonic kiss on Scott’s forehead and left the room.

             “Hey big brother.”

             “Hi.” Scott croaked in return.

             “Not feelin’ so good huh?”


             “Well Doc Jenkins says it’s nothin’ but a cold and laryngitis.  You’ll be up and around and yellin’ at me again in no time.”

             Scott just gave his brother a look.

             “I mean, uh, yellin’ at the cattle.  I know you don’t yell at me.”  Johnny was quick to amend his statement.  Scott seldom raised his voice in anger at anyone.  Even when confronting their father about is treatment of Johnny when they’d first arrived he hadn’t exactly yelled but he had gotten his point across.

             Scott nodded in acknowledgement and closed his eyes.  His throat was sore and his head was pounding and he really didn’t feel like talking to anyone.  A contrite Johnny replaced the old compress with a new one and sat back quietly watching as his brother drifted off into a fitful sleep.  Just as he did Murdoch entered the room quietly.

             “I think you’ve been in here long enough Johnny.  You heard what Sam said – Scott needs to rest.  And you have some chores to finish before supper.”

             “Ok.”  Johnny reluctantly got up from the straight-backed chair he’d been sitting in since Teresa left.  “See you later Scott.”

            Murdoch smiled down at his elder son.  “You just sleep as long as you can Scott.  Teresa or Maria will bring you some soup later.  Sam said to feed you a lot of fluids and that the soup would be good for you.”



            Supper that night was a quiet affair for the rest of the family.  There were no visitors and with Scott laid up there was no bantering back and forth (bickering in Teresa’s opinion at times) between the boys and their father.

             After a meal of steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and coffee, though Johnny drank several glasses of milk instead, the three family members retired to the living room.  Teresa took up some mending she hadn’t had time for during the day, Murdoch settled in a comfortable chair with a thick volume on Scottish history while Johnny sat in front of the fireplace staring into the flames.  After about five minutes of this Johnny grew restless and tried to talk Teresa into a game of chess.

             “Hey Teresa how about playing me a game of chess?”

             “No I don’t think so Johnny.  I have this mending to catch up on.”


             Murdoch glanced up from his book.  “Hmm?  Oh, no, I don’t think so Johnny.  I’ve been trying to find time to read this since it arrived in the mail the other week.  Your Uncle Colin sent it to me.”

             “Sure wish Jelly were here,” Johnny mumbled under his breath after the second refusal.  He’d play.”

          Jelly had declined to join the family at dinner.  He had gone into town to take care of what he called a “personal matter”.  If Johnny hadn’t been so preoccupied with Scott being sick he would have sniffed around and hounded Jelly until he found out exactly what Jelly was up to.  And if he were seeing a lady friend he and Scott would be all over him about his looks and the “perfume” he was wearing.

But Scott was sick in bed.  Not seriously but not up to playing anything that needed his full concentration. The burning sensation the cold caused behind his eyes made them very tired.  Sleep was what the doctor had prescribed, other than fluids, so sleeping is what he was doing.  When the nagging cough he’d developed wasn’t keeping him awake.

Johnny rose as if to go to his brother’s room but Teresa, seemingly reading his mind, scolded him.

“Don’t you dare go upstairs to Scott’s room and disturb him Johnny Lancer!” she exclaimed.  “Sam said he needed to rest and he’s not going to get any rest if you go up and bother him.”

“Aw, Teresa, I wasn’t gonna bother him.  I just want to see how he is.”

“You don’t fool me Johnny!  You’re bored and you’re mad because nobody will play chess and Jelly’s not here to pester.  You just stay away from Scott.  I don’t want both of you sick at once.  You’re terrible patients!”

“Better listen to her son,” Murdoch hid a smile behind his book and kept his eyes half closed so Johnny wouldn’t see the twinkle.  “She’ll take a switch to you if you bother Scott when he’s sleeping.”

Whatever else Johnny was going to say was cut off by a knock at the door.  For want of anything else to do Johnny went to the door himself.  It was his friend Val Crawford, Sheriff of Green River one of the three nearby communities.

Val was a good lawman but not exactly noted for his neat appearance nor his generosity with his money.  Johnny called him a cheapskate but willingly helped Val out at one time by cutting his hair just before an interview with the Cattlemen’s Association.  That whole period of time had resulted in one disaster after another culminating in a crooked lawman being appointed to take Val’s place temporarily.  One misunderstanding after another had led to this man taking over by enforcing a “no gun” law and having every gun in town save his own and those of his henchmen locked up in a jail cell while they robbed the bank.  Johnny and Val together, acting on information gained from the children of Lone Crow, an Indian man that Val had been forced to kill some time before, had broken up the robbery attempt and sent the men away for a very long time.  Johnny would have cause to eat his words about cheapskate Val when he discovered that his friend was secretly buying Indian blankets every month from Lone Crow’s widow.  Those blankets he in turn donated to an orphanage in San Francisco.

 “Val!  Come on in.  How about a cup of coffee and a game of chess? I think Maria’s got some pie left over from dinner.”  Johnny was happy to see someone other than the two who had rejected his pleas for a game of chess.

 “No.  I don’t think so Johnny.  I just came by ‘cause ole Doc Jenkins said he had some medicine for Scott but he was too busy with patients in his office to bring it by himself.  So I told him I’d bring it out for him.”

 “That was very nice of you Val,” Murdoch said as he approached the younger men.  “I’m sure when Scott’s feeling better he’ll thank you himself.”  Turning to Teresa he said, “Why don’t you take it up to him darling and check on him one more time.”

 “How come when Teresa takes something to Scott it’s checking on him but when I want to go see him it’s ‘botherin’ him?” Johnny demanded.

“Because you’d pester him with a lot of questions and tease him into playing a game of chess,” Teresa said pertly.  “Besides that you’d just plain tease him because he can’t talk and give it back to you.”

            “Aw Teresa!  That ain’t so!”

             “She’s got you there John.”  Murdoch added his two cents worth.

             “Val ain’t you gonna stick up for me here?”

             “What for?  They’re just tellin’ the truth.”  Val needled his friend.

             “Thanks a lot,” Johnny pouted.

             “Anyway I got news too,” Val said as they moved from the entryway into the Great Room.

             “What news?” Johnny asked.

             “There’s gonna be a fair in town next month.”

             “A fair?  That’s news?”

             “You didn’t let me finish,” Val said.  “This might interest you too Mr. Lancer.  There’s going to be a county wide fair.  There’s gonna a livestock show, a barbecue, produce exhibits and stuff like that.  There’s gonna be a quilting contest and prizes for jams and jellies and pies.  I thought Teresa might be interested in that and you might be interested in the Livestock show.  There’s a $100 prize for the best bull and for the best milk cow too.  Fifty dollars for the prize winning jam as well as a big blue ribbon.”

             “When’s all this supposed to happen Val?” Murdoch asked.

             “August twentieth through the twenty-sixth according to the flier.  Here I brought you one so you could see for yourself.”

             Murdoch took the proffered paper and scanned it quickly.  It did look interesting.  He had a bull he was quite proud of – with good reason – and Teresa had a pretty little Jersey cow she’d been raising for the last two years that might be in the running for a prize.  And how Maria and Teresa and some of the other women would love to show off their cooking skills.  Whether in competition for prizes or to feed a hungry horde the women would be in their element.

             Finally Murdoch looked up with a smile.  “Thanks for dropping this off Val.  And the medicine.  I’ll make sure Teresa and the other women know about the quilting contest and all that.  And when Scott’s feeling better we’ll discuss entering Sebastian in the livestock contest.  And maybe Johnny knows a couple of good horses he’d like to enter in the judging of the horses.”

             Up until now Johnny hadn’t been too excited about the fair but the prospect of entering some of their own livestock, especially a horse that he was working with, sparked his interest and put a light in his dark blue eyes.

             “You mean it Murdoch?  We’re actually going to enter some of our stock in that contest?”

             “Of course I mean it,” his father answered him with a grin of his own.  “What are we raising them for if not to show them off to potential buyers?”

             “Yahoo!”  Johnny whooped.

             “Johnny!  Scott’s sleeping remember?”  Teresa came back into the room as Johnny let out his excited yell.  “You’ll wake him up.”

             “Aw so what?  He’ll be so excited when he hears what’s happening that he won’t give a darn and won’t be able to go back to sleep.”

             “Murdoch?  What’s he talking about?”

             “This.”  Murdoch handed Teresa the flier about the fair.

             “Ooh!  This looks like fun,” she squealed.  “I’ve got to start planning.  Which quilt should I enter?  Will my garden still have vegetables to enter?  What kind of pie should I bake?  Maria?”  Her voice trailed off as she wandered toward the kitchen to talk to the housekeeper.

             The men just grinned as the young woman’s excited voice came back to them as she left the room.  The Lancer men knew that things would be quite lively between then and the time the fair opened.

             “Thanks for coming out Val,” Murdoch said as the lawman rose to leave.  “I appreciate your coming all this way with the medicine.  Scott’s been having rather a hard time of it this year.”

             “Yeah, I know.  I heard all about how those two sons of yours went and got sick right after Scott’s granddaddy left.  At least you didn’t have him for a patient as well.  I heared the visit didn’t go very well.”

             “That, Val, is an understatement.”  Murdoch frowned as he remembered how Harlan Garrett, Scott’s maternal grandfather, had lied and blackmailed and manipulated Scott into leaving Lancer and going back to Boston.  It had nearly torn the family apart.

             “They’s lots of other things going on at this here fair,” Val informed them as he moved toward the door.  “I hear they got a wood chopping contest, corn husking, cock crowing, a horse race and a shootin’ match and all kinds of things.  ‘Course I’ll have to judge the shootin’ match and make sure nobody cheats but I might just enter one o’ them other contests.  I hear they’re going to sell the leftover pie for a nickel a piece.  A man could feel like he’d died and gone to heaven after a feast like that.”

             The Lancer men laughed but the gleam in Johnny’s eye told his father and friend that there was probably going to be at least one person representing Lancer in the shooting contest.



The next morning found Johnny and Teresa, as well as Maria, already making plans for the fair even though it was a month away.  Maria was bubbling over with anxiety to get the morning meal out of the way so that she could start looking over her recipes to see what she might enter in the canning competition or the pie baking contest.  Johnny’s request for more eggs and bacon to be a major disruption in her plans.  She bustled about muttering imprecations about her Juanito and how he was getting too fat anyway.  Normally she’d be forcing more food on him because she felt that both he and Scott were too skinny.  She’d told them, Scott especially, that more than once.  But she served him his second helping anyway and sent some scrambled eggs and toast, along with a large glass of orange juice, up to Scott with Teresa.

           Murdoch wisely ate his meal and left to see to the work assignments for the hands as soon as possible.  It was obvious that there would be no peace in that house until the fair had come and gone.  It was best to keep out of Maria’s and, indeed, Teresa’s way as much as possible until that time.

           “Maria you are muy bonita this morning,” Johnny told the housekeeper/cook with one of his brilliant smiles.  “And breakfast was magnifico!”

           “No!  It will do you no good Senor John.  You’ve had your breakfast now go.  You have work to do.  Do not bother me until lunch time.”

           Johnny’s hopes for a third helping were dashed so he rose from the table, grabbed his hat and gun belt from the front hall and went out to the barn.  There he found his saddle and bridle and tacked up his compadre – his beloved Palomino Barranca.  The horse had been his from the day he broke him right after his arrival at Lancer.  It was evident to all that there was a special relationship between man and horse and that Barranca was a one-man horse.  Nobody else dared ride him – unless they wanted to risk their having necks broken

     Teresa took Scott his breakfast and saw to it that he took the medicine Sam had sent out.  Sam Jenkins was a wise man.  He’d heard from Maura Talbot about how sick both boys had been at the end of the winter and he was taking no chances.  He’d examined both boys, against their wishes but with Murdoch’s wholehearted approval, after they’d recovered.  Scott hadn’t been quite as sick as Johnny but somehow his immune system had been hit harder.  The canny old country doctor explained to the worried family that it was because of the earlier injury – the head wound he’d sustained at the hands of the Deegan brothers when they ambushed Scott and his grandfather as they traveled toward the train station.  The influenza had come on Scott so quickly after that injury that his body hadn’t really had sufficient time to recover.  Hiding the fact that he was having headaches didn’t help.  There wasn’t much Sam could do about the cold or the laryngitis but sending something to help combat the slight fever would make the family feel better.  Even though they knew that nature had to run it’s course having medicine for Scott had a soothing effect on the family’s nerves.

Maura Talbot, having heard from Teresa in Green River’s clothing store, that Scott was ill with laryngitis on top of the cold, suggested that they give him tea with lemon and honey in it.  It might not cure the laryngitis but it would soothe his throat.  Keeping him quiet was essential.  Easier said than done with his younger brother around to stir things up.




          “Hey Scott did you see this?”  Johnny burst into his brother’s room late that afternoon after a day of rounding up strays and fixing fences.  He was hot, sweaty and dusty but full of plans for the upcoming fair.  He showed Scott a copy of the flier about the fair practically shoving it under his nose as the other struggled to sit up and make sense of his brother’s statement.

           Disgruntled, for he’d been dozing, Scott croaked, “Seen what?”

           “This flier about the fair they’re going to have in Green River.  I’m plannin’ on enterin’ that shootin’ contest.  Teresa and Maria are planning all kinds of pies and such.  I don’t know what Murdoch’s planning.  I think I heard him talking to Cipriano about entering Sebastian in the cattle show.”  Johnny rambled on and on making Scott’s already tired and stuffy head spin.

           “Jo-“  Scott’s voice broke off.  “John-“  he tried again.  Nothing.  No amount of throat clearing or water would make his voice come back strong enough to be heard.  Teresa had noticed this earlier in the day and had been thoughtful enough to bring a tablet of paper and a few pencils up to him so he would be able to communicate despite the loss of his voice.

           “Well, I gotta go clean up and get ready for dinner.  You know how Teresa is about washing up before meals.”  Looking over at his older brother Johnny momentarily showed a spark of remorse for Scott’s condition.  But it was only a brief few seconds.  “Sure am sorry you’re not feeling good Scott.”  His blue eyes twinkled as he spoke his final words before fleeing out the door with a pillow sailing after him, “But it sure is quiet around here without you giving me an English or History lesson.  Or spouting that silly poetry you like so much.”  His laughter rang through the upstairs hall as he closed Scott’s door and the pillow aimed at his head thumped against the door and landed on the floor.




          A roast beef dinner complete with potatoes, green beans, fresh rolls and peach pie for dessert went a long way toward filling Johnny up.  Teresa had discovered, soon after he came to live with them, that feeding Johnny could be like filling a teenager with two hollow legs.  From what little she knew of his past she decided that it must be because he had seldom had such good filling meals.  And Maria, knowing that Johnny was “one of them” made sure that there were plenty of tortillas, beans and salsa among other things for when he craved food from his mother’s side of his heritage.

           “So have you decided whether you’re going to enter Sebastian in the cattle show Murdoch?” Johnny asked his father.

           “I think I will.  It’ll be a good opportunity to try and drum up some business for the ranch,” Murdoch answered.  “What about you?  Have you decided what you’re going to enter?”

           “Oh, I don’t know.  The shootin’ contest for sure.  I’ll have to decide on anything else once we get to the fair and see what the competition looks like.”

           “Well Maria and I are entering some of our strawberry preserves,” Teresa piped up.  “And some canned peaches and a pie or two.  And I want to enter that new quilt I’ve been working on.”  

          “Well,” Jelly, who had joined the family sans Scott, at dinner, “I’m a going to enter Dewdrop in the judging for the poultry.  I’ll slick him up real nice and he’ll do Lancer proud.”

           This announcement brought a fit of giggles from Teresa while Murdoch choked on the mouthful of coffee he’d just taken.  Johnny, however, was quite vocal about it.

           “You gotta be kidding!  That goose will scare everybody with his non-stop honking and hissing!  What makes you so sure the judges will get anywhere near him?”

           “Dewdrop’s not a goose he’s a gander and a might good looking one too!” Jelly defended his “best friend”.  “He’s a sight prettier than some people I know and he has better manners too,” he huffed.

           So started a round robin of arguments between Johnny and Jellifer B. Hoskins over whether of not Dewdrop was worthy of representing the Lancer ranch at the upcoming fair.  Johnny was most adamantly against it – if for no other reason than the fact that his friend, and surrogate parent/uncle, was so sure of himself.  Jelly was determined to defend his pet and argued that Dewdrop was as worthy of representing the Lancer ranch as Barranca or any other animal on the place.  Finally, with Teresa breathless from giggling and throwing in a few remarks of her own, and the argument going nowhere, Murdoch broke it up.

           “Well it’s certainly Jelly’s right to enter Dewdrop if he wants to,” he said.  “But Jelly you take full responsibility for any trouble Dewdrop may cause.”

           “O’ course.”  Jelly agreed readily.  “Only there ain’t gonna be no trouble ‘cause Dewdrop and me have an understanding.”

           “Yeah, right,” Johnny snorted.  “He’ll cause the trouble and you’ll make it up to everyone that crosses paths with him.”

           “Enough Johnny,” Murdoch said trying, with much difficulty, not to laugh himself.  “If Jelly wants to enter Dewdrop he can enter Dewdrop.”

           That being said Maria came to help Teresa clear the dishes off the table.  Johnny took Jelly aside and said, “Jelly would you care to make a little bet on how well Dewdrop does?  I got a dollar says he won’t win any prizes and he’ll cause a lot of trouble besides.”

           “You’re on.”  Jelly said.  “I’ll be looking for you right after Dewdrop wins the top prize for geese.”

           Ten minutes later, in Scott’s room, Johnny was filling his brother in on his bet with Jelly.  Scott listened closely then scribbled furiously on one of the pads of paper Teresa had left him.

           Murdoch’s really letting him enter Dewdrop? he wrote.

           “Yeah.  I got a bet with Jelly that Dewdrop won’t win anything.  He’s sure that goose will win the top prize in the poultry judging.  Want in on it?”

           How much?

           “A dollar.”  Johnny answered.

           That’s all?  Just a dollar?  Seems to me that if Jelly’s that proud of Dewdrop and so sure he’s going to win top prize that he ought to be willing to bet more than a dollar.  See if he’ll go for five.  I want to be in on this too.

           Johnny chuckled when he read this last.  “Ok brother.  I’ll go see him and tell him we’re raising the stakes.”  Johnny started to leave the room.  “This is going to be a very interesting fair. If your voice don’t come back pretty soon I think I’ll find something you can enter.  Maybe they got a hog calling contest or something.  That’s about all your voice is good for right now.”

           Scott scowled at his younger brother.  It didn’t do him any good but he made his displeasure known the only way he could at the moment.  Johnny just grinned at him impudently and left the room in search of their handyman.



          Next morning Johnny wolfed down his breakfast and made his way to his brother’s room.  When he’d returned from Jelly’s quarters the night before Scott had fallen asleep and this time Johnny didn’t wake him up.

           “Hey Scott,” he said.  “I talked to Jelly last night.  He’s betting both of us five dollars apiece that Dewdrop will take top prize in the poultry judging.”

           Scott’s wan face lit up and his blue-gray eyes sparkled like they hadn’t for days.  With a grin he croaked, “Good.  I think we’re a shoe in to win that bet.”  On the last word his voice stopped working altogether.  A frustrated frown crossed his handsome features that was not lost on his younger brother.  However, Johnny just couldn’t resist teasing his brother.  It wasn’t very often that Scott couldn’t lecture him or tease him or just banter with him and he had no intentions of losing out on this opportunity to do all the talking.

           “Say Scott,” Johnny’s blue eyes sparkled with mischief.  “I hear there’s a new choir in town.  They’re looking for voices just like yours.”

           Scott’s right eyebrow rose in anticipation.  He knew that something was coming.  And he knew that Johnny probably thought he was hysterically funny.  As Johnny prepared to leave the room before making his parting shot Scott’s right hand slowly moved toward the pillow behind his head.  He was going to get his little brother if it was the last thing he did.

           “Yeah, they practice out by the charca le la rana.”  Johnny’s grin grew wider.  Scott just looked at him uncomprehendingly.  His Spanish was still limited.  “The Frog Pond.”

           The door closed behind him just in the nick of time as Scott’s pillow missed its intended target.  A frustrated Scott got out of bed to retrieve it just as Teresa entered the room with his breakfast.

           “Scott Lancer!  What are you doing out of bed?”  she scolded him.  “You know what Sam said – until that fever is completely gone you’re to stay in bed and keep warm.”

           But I had to retrieve my pillow from the floor.  Scott scribbled furiously on the tablet next to his bed.

           “And just how did your pillow end up on the floor all the way across the room?”

           Scott grinned.  I threw it at Johnny.  He told me I should join the choir at the Frog Pond.

           Teresa giggled when she read his response.  “Oh well. That’s our Johnny.  You’ll just have to find a way to get back at him later.”  She placed the tray on his lap as he settled back in his bed.  “Here.  Eat your breakfast and drink this tea with honey and lemon in it.  Mrs. Talbot says it’ll help with the sore throat if nothing else.”

           “Thanks,” Scott rasped.

           “You’re welcome.  And stop talking until your voice is a lot better.  You’ve only had that laryngitis a couple of days and it could be a couple of months if you don’t take care not to talk too much.”  She kissed his cheek.  I’ll be back in a little while to pick up your tray. And I’ll bring you some more cold water too.  Sam says to make sure you have plenty of liquids.  Especially since you’ve got that little fever.  We don’t want to risk another bout with pneumonia so you make sure you do exactly what he said.  Eat; drink lots of water and juice and sleep.  I’ll even bring you some lemonade later if you’d like.”  So saying she left to tend to dishes and meal planning for the rest of the day




          To Scott his recovery seemed to drag on forever.  In reality the cold was gone after a week.  The honey and lemon tea helped his throat feel better even though it didn’t do anything for his laryngitis.  The medicine Sam had sent with Val eased the cough making it possible for him to rest.  But if you asked Jelly what made Scott’s recovery so quick it was the concoction he brewed up for him.

           When the Lancers had first met Jelly he was taking care of seven orphaned boys he’d found in various places during his travels.  Those boys, ranging in age from about Willie, about fifteen to Toogie, about seven, had found a wounded Johnny near the cabin they were staying in and brought him home with them.  Not before relieving him of his gun and whatever money he had on him.  It seemed that when Johnny fell from Barranca’s back he scared off about ten dollars worth of rabbits they were about to trap.  Jelly hadn’t been real happy to see Johnny in their cabin but he let it go as it was obvious Johnny wasn’t going to get anywhere fast in the condition he was in at the time.  A head wound precluded his traveling for a few days.  When Scott and Murdoch caught on to Jelly’s being responsible for Teresa’s pearls and other items being missing Scott had taken him to the jail in Spanish Wells.  Murdoch had been stunned when Johnny told him about Jelly’s kids.  Upon arrival at the ranch the boys, feeling Johnny had betrayed them, scattered and took refuge in the barn.  The youngest one, Toogie, had fallen from the hayloft while searching for money Jelly had picked up off the street during a robbery.  A frantic Johnny had ridden into town to get Doc Jenkins and an even more frantic Jelly, convinced that no one could take care of his boys like he could, broke out of the jail and went to the ranch to take charge.  The bank robbers had showed up looking for their money but fortunately Scott, who had left the room with Teresa, was able to start the fight that put a stop to the hostage holding in the Lancer Great Room.

           Nothing much had changed since then.  Jelly still thought he knew as much, if not more, about medicine and treating the different ailments that the boys, or anyone else for that matter, contracted.  When Scott’s cold showed no signs of breaking up after a week Jelly pestered Murdoch into letting him try one of his infamous concoctions.

     Bright and early on a Monday morning Jelly put together his “cure” and took it up to Scott’s room followed closely by Murdoch and Johnny.  Murdoch was a little concerned about Scott’s reaction to Jelly’s concoction remembering how he and Johnny both reacted to the last one they had – onion tea and blackstrap molasses combined.

           “Here ya go Scott,” Jelly said handing the blond the mug with the “tea” in it.

           Scott looked and sniffed suspiciously at the mug.  “What is it?” he asked in a still very raspy voice.

           “It’s a cure for that cold you got,” the old man said.  “You just drink it down and you’ll soon forget you ever had that cold.”

           Scott looked at his father and brother but saw no help coming from them so he reluctantly raised the container to his mouth.  One swallow and he grimaced, started coughing as his face turned red while it broke out in a sweat and his eyes watered. 

           “What’s in it Jelly?” Johnny asked as his father quickly poured a glass of cold water for Scott and handed it to him.

           “Yes, Jelly,” Murdoch said in a stern tone.  “What exactly is in that concoction of yours?”

          “Just some boiling water and blackstrap molasses, a few drops of lemon juice and ….”

          “And what?” Murdoch asked.

          “Some cayenne pepper.”

          “Egad man!  Are you trying to cure him or kill him?” Murdoch exclaimed.  “No wonder he’s got tears running down his face.

          “It works boss!  Honest it does!  The cayenne will get him to sweating and it’ll clear his head right up.  The blackstrap molasses is to help build up his strength again.  The lemon juice makes it taste better.”

          “I don’t think anything could make this taste ‘better’,” Scott rasped.  “Take it away.”

          “Oh, now Scott, it’ll get rid of that cold real fast so’s you can get back to work instead of lollygagging around in bed all day.”  Jelly was almost pleading with the younger man to give his “cure” another chance.  “Drink it down while it’s hot.”

          “Come on Scott,” Johnny kidded his brother.  “You know Jelly went to a lot of work to put that together for you.  The least you can do is finish it.”

          “You finish it,” Scott told his brother in a voice that sounded about three octaves higher than usual.

          “I hate to say it Scott but you might as well finish it,” his father said.  “Jelly did go to a lot of work to fix that up for you.”

          Scott scowled at his father and brother but did as he was told.  He’d barely finished it when Teresa came to his aid with a tall pitcher of lemonade.  She’d heard that Jelly was fixing up one of his notorious cures for Scott and she had had a feeling that he would need something to kill the taste afterward.

          “Teresa!”  Scott said.  “You’re an angel!  Jelly’s trying to kill me with his so-called cure.”

          “Now Scott,” Teresa chided him.  “It’s not that bad and he’s only trying to help.  Sam’s medicine was only intended to kill that cough you had.  It did that but you’re still congested.  Now everyone out of the room.  Scott still needs to rest until Sam says he can get up and move around.”  She shooed everyone out of the room and took the by now empty mug from Scott down with his breakfast dishes.  Before leaving she poured him a large glass of the lemonade placing the pitcher and tray on the table across the room and opened the drapes and windows to let the fresh air in.



        Surprisingly Scott did feel much better the next day.  His head had cleared up and the cough was finally gone.  But the laryngitis was still there.  Sam Jenkins arrived late in the morning to look him over.

           “Well, Scott,” he said, “I hate to admit it but Jelly’s concoction did more for you than the medicine I sent over.”

           “When will my voice come back?” Scott asked.  He was barely able to speak above a whisper.

           “Hard to say.  But talking won’t help.  Maura’s honey and lemon tea remedy won’t hurt but it won’t cure either.  It will soothe your throat though and that will go a long way toward your feeling a whole lot better.  You can get up and get dressed if you want but don’t overdo it.  That fever you ran wasn’t high but it was enough to sap your energy levels.  For the next few days, Murdoch,” Sam said turning to the patient’s father, “I want him to stay close to the house.  No chasing strays, mending fences or anything else that’s very strenuous until at least next week.”  His eyes twinkled as he looked back at an impatient Scott.  “I think lots of bookwork is in order.  And maybe some correspondence as well.  A short ride once or twice a day is ok but Scott, I mean short.  Until I tell you otherwise you’re not to go very far or very fast.  It’ll probably be a week before you feel like doing much anyway no matter how anxious you are you’re going to find yourself tiring easily.”

           Scott nodded eagerly anxious for the other men to leave so he could get dressed in private.  He was rewarded a moment later when Sam picked up his bag and followed Murdoch out of the room.  Dressing quickly in brown pants, bright blue shirt and his boots he made his way out of his room and downstairs. Before he could even get out the door to the first fresh air he’d had outdoors in over a week his father was in his way steering him toward the desk in front of the large window that looked out over the rolling hills and green pastures of the ranch.

           Handing him some ledgers, bills of sale and receipts Murdoch grinned at his frustrated son and said, “Here you go Scott.  I’m a little behind on the entries.  You being sick has had me out doing your regular work.  I’m sure you don’t mind picking up where I left off.”

           Johnny entered the room just then and grinned very broadly when he saw the “invalid” was up and around.  “Hey brother!  I see Doc Jenkins finally let you out of bed.”


           Momentarily Johnny was concerned at the sound of his brother’s voice.  It seemed to him that Scott didn’t sound any better than he had when he was stuck in bed.

           “You don’t sound so good.  What did the doc have to say?”

           “I’m not supposed to talk much,” Scott acknowledged – his voice halfway between a whisper and a squeak.

           Murdoch saw the twinkle in his younger son’s eye and knew something was coming.  “He’ll be fine Johnny.  Sam says the cold is gone but there’s nothing he can do for the laryngitis.  It’ll have to clear up on it’s own.”

           “Uh-huh.”  Johnny tried to put on his best “gunfighter mask” as he parted company with his father and brother.  “I always knew you were squeaky clean Scott.”  Scott waited for the punch line.  “Now you’re just squeaky.”

           Scott looked around for something to throw at his brother as his father, unable to contain it any longer, roared at the comment and the frustrated look on his older son’s face.  He had a sneaking suspicion that Johnny was going to pay, sooner or later, for all this teasing.

           “I’m sorry Scott,” Murdoch gasped as he stopped laughing.  “But it was funny.”  Scott glared at the older man.  “All right.  I’ll stop laughing now.  I have some work to do outside anyway.  You spend a couple of hours on those books and I’ll be back for lunch. I’ll have Maria make us some sandwiches and we’ll eat outside so you can get some fresh air and sun.  You’re looking just a little pale.”

           “Thanks.”  Scott reluctantly turned his attention to the books and papers his father had given him.  A pat on the shoulder from his father went a long way toward restoring his good humor.  In the back of his mind, though, he was plotting just how he was going to pay his little brother back for the nonsense of the past week and a half.


          True to his word Murdoch was back by noon.  The work was going well.  The crew repairing the fence around the south pasture was about done.  Johnny was with a crew that was clearing debris, washed down from the hills during a rainstorm a few days previously, from the stream in the north pasture.  Cipriano was overseeing a crew that was cutting hay and spreading it out to dry before being baled and stored for winter feed.  Still others were picking up supplies in town.  Feed for the animals as well as medical supplies for men and animals.

           “You’ve done a good job Scott,” Murdoch told his son.  “And your handwriting is so much better than mine or Johnny’s.  I have no trouble reading what you wrote.”

          Maria, unwilling to upset the patron, had made him and Scott several thick roast beef sandwiches and sliced some tomatoes to go with them.  Hot coffee for Murdoch and more tea with honey and lemon for Scott along with large wedges of spice cake with butter cream frosting made up their lunch.  After shooing Murdoch out of the kitchen with the heavily laden tray she went back to poring over recipes for pies and cakes she was considering for entry in the upcoming fair.

          It was while Murdoch and Scott were finishing their dessert that Maura Talbot drove up to the house in her buggy.  Unseen by Murdoch she climbed out and walked up to the front door.  Maria’s grandson took charge of her rig for her reveling in the warm smile and thank you he got from her.  The Lancer ranch hands and their families knew that a smile from Maura was genuine and not gratuitous.

           “Maura!  What a pleasant surprise,” Murdoch said.  “Come on in.”

           “Thank you Murdoch,” the small redheaded Irishwoman said.  “How are you?”

           “Fine, Maura, fine.  How’s Jim?”

           “Busy as ever what with the hay needing cutting and strays chased back where they belong.  I believe he said he would be returning a half dozen or so head of your cattle within the next day or so.  They always seem to find a way to get through the fence bordering your Eastern boundary.”

           Entering the Great Room she greeted Scott, whom she thought of as a substitute for one of her three lost sons, with a kiss on the cheek as he stood to greet her.

           “Sit down boy sit down!” she said.  “How are you feeling?  Any better?”

           “Yes, ma’am,” he said in a still very raspy voice.  “I just haven’t got my voice back yet.”

           “Well, that’s not unusual,” she assured him.  “I had such a bad case of laryngitis once myself that it took three weeks for my voice to get back to normal.”  She turned back to Murdoch.  “Murdoch would Maria be about the place?  I’d like to speak to her.”

           “Yes, she’s in the kitchen.  After she gave us breakfast she hustled us out.  This fair that’s coming up next month has got her so worked up that we don’t dare set foot in the kitchen.  She’s been looking over recipes and the gardens and supplies to see what she wants to enter.”

           “I’ll just go and speak to her then.  I’m sure she won’t mind – I have a proposal for her as one of the committee members for the fair.”

           So saying Maura made her way to the kitchen where she found the Mexican woman rolling out the crust for several blackberry pies.

           “Maria, my dear, como esta?”

           “Señora Talbot!  It is good to see you Señora?  Does the Patron know you are here?”

           “Yes, Maria, he knows.  And Señor Scott.  I just left them in the living room.”  Maura smiled to hear the other woman’s nervous excitement.  “It’s you I came to see.”

           “What is it you wish Señora?”  Maria was curious.

           “I want to hire you to cook at the fair next month,” Maura told her.

           “Me Señora?”

           “Yes, you.” Maura smiled.  “You see, Maria, I want to encourage more of the Mexican farmers and storekeepers and such in the area to participate.  One thing I’ve noticed is that most of them much prefer events where there is plenty of the food and music they like best.  So I talked to the other committee members and convinced them to hire you, and whoever you wish to have work with you, to make and sell your marvelous chili, enchiladas, tortillas and sopaipillas or whatever you want.  You’ll be well paid and your people will be happy to have food they like available to them while they shop or watch the contests or whatever they wish.  What do you say Maria?”

          “Oh, Señora, what can I say?”  Maria was flattered.  It sounded like a big responsibility.

           “Say yes Maria.  You’ll be well paid for your time and trouble and the committee is paying for the meat, beans or whatever you need.”

           “Si Señora, I will do it,” a flustered Maria said.

           “Good girl.  Now you figure out what you’ll need and get me a list,” Maura told her.  “And most importantly keep Senor Johnny out of it or there won’t be anything left for anyone else.  I declare I don’t know where that boy puts it!  He and his brother both are so skinny – just like my boys were.”

           Maura left the kitchen accompanied by Maria.  Murdoch and Scott saw and heard them coming.

           “Well, what have you two been up to?”  Murdoch inquired while Scott looked curiously at the two chattering women.

           “I’m hiring your cook away from you Murdoch,” Maura said with a wink at Maria who smiled.


           “No, Maria, por favor,” Johnny had just entered the house.  “You can’t leave me – us!  We’ll starve if we don’t have you.”  He started a rapid-fire conversation with the cook/housekeeper in Spanish that even his father had difficulty following.

           “Johnny, dear, relax,” Maura said with a laugh at his panic stricken face.  “I’m only hiring her to work at the fair.”

           Maria started laughing too.  “Si, Señor Johnny.  It is true.  She wishes for me to cook the foods our people like so that they will be happy to come to the fair next month.  I am not leaving you.  You would waste away to nothing.  You and su hermano I will not be responsible for mi patron losing his two sons to hunger.”

           Johnny grinned good-naturedly as he realized that their neighbor and the housekeeper were just teasing him.  A look at his father and brother’s faces told him that they had had a sneaking suspicion Maura was putting them on.  Maria was very happy at Lancer and, if she wasn’t as stressed out as she was at the present time, very devoted to her “Juanito” – seeing that he was well fed.  She did the same for Scott and Murdoch but Johnny’s mixed heritage made him as much a part of her world as it did a part of his father’s decidedly non-Hispanic world. 

           Scott looked especially pleased that the two women had put one over on his younger brother.  It gave him a deep sense of satisfaction to know that someone was able to tease him as well as Johnny had been teasing him and would continue to do so until Scott was able to retaliate verbally himself.

           “Hello, Mrs. Talbot,” Teresa said as she entered the room.  “What brings you here?”

           “Hello Teresa,” Maura greeted the younger woman.  “I came to talk to Maria about cooking Mexican specialties for the fair next month and I’m happy to report that she’s agreed.”

           “Oh that’s wonderful!” Teresa exclaimed.  “Now the Mexican people in the area will feel much more comfortable going.”

           “Yes, they will.  And we’re having some of the musicians among them form a little band to entertain fairgoers and I’m hoping some of the women will display any embroidery or tapestries they have.  If any of you know of some good artisans among them encourage them to set up a display.  They might be able to generate some income for their families by selling their wares.  Embroidered shirts and skirts, pottery, baskets.  We’re looking for all kinds of displays.”

           “I’m sure Maria knows someone if we don’t,” Teresa assured the older woman.

           “Good.  I convinced the committee that we need everyone, and I mean everyone, who lives in the county represented.  It’s not just for the big ranches.”

           “Who else is on this committee, Maura, that you had to convince them?”  Murdoch was curious – he had a hunch he knew who might have needed “convincing”.

           “Oh, Daniel Koning, Bob Greene, the Ingersolls, Andrea Thompson, Ted Paris, Les Butler, Jim and myself and Pierce Wilson.”

           “No wonder you had to do some convincing,” Murdoch commented.  “Wilson’s not exactly fond of those he considers inferior races.” 

           Pierce Wilson was the owner of a dry goods store in Spanish Wells.  He was noted for his racism and did all he could to make his opinion, that Mexicans and Native Americans, should not be considered equal with whites.  Most of the residents in their part of the valley ignored him and treated everyone equally.  No trouble caused no trouble given.  Most people felt that there were good and bad in all races and judged others on their actions and not the color of their skin.

          Not so Maura Talbot.  She had emigrated from Ireland as a young woman as the famine years were just starting.  All up and down the East Coast and in New York she had seen the signs – “No Irish Need Apply”.  She made it a point to fight bigotry and racism wherever she could.  She’d been among the first to welcome Murdoch’s first wife, Maria, when she arrived at the struggling ranch in the late 1840s.  She and her husband, Jim Talbot, had been among the first to know of Maria’s disappearance with her toddler son.  The Talbots had remained good friends of Murdoch for all those years and had rejoiced when the two sons, now grown men, had answered their father’s summons and arrived to stay at Lancer.  Maura, with her nursing training, had been the one to care for, Scott, Johnny and Teresa when they were stricken with the flu late the previous winter.  It was her onion poultices that had finally broken up the congestion in Johnny’s chest as he lay struggling to breathe days after being stricken.

           By the end of her almost month long stay Maura had adopted Scott and Johnny as substitutes for her three sons that had died during the war.  All three had been about the same age as the Lancer sons.  Teresa was the daughter she’d never had.  Murdoch had been “forced” to tell his sons about their mothers because Maura had “billed” him that way.  In other words the only payment she wanted for spending almost a month at Lancer nursing the two very sick boys was that Murdoch sit down and tell them about their mothers.  It was something he was reluctant to do but she was adamant.  Because of this they had eventually developed a much closer relationship.  Murdoch had built up a lot of walls around his heart after the death of his first wife and the desertion of his second.  The scars were internal and invisible but there nonetheless.  And in many ways the boys reminded him so very much of their mothers.

           Being given the opportunity to help plan the fair was a blessing for Maura.  She was such a motherly person and she wanted to see her neighbors get together and have some fun.

           “What else is being planned for the fair Maura?”  Murdoch asked.  “Val Crawford gave us a flier but it didn’t say much.”

           “Oh we’re planning all sorts of games and contests for children and adults alike,” she replied.  “I’m sure you’ve heard about the livestock judging.  And the poultry exhibit and such.  A barbecue will run all week.  Maria has agreed to manage the Mexican food and gifts booths for me.  She’s going to make her wonderful chili.”

           Johnny leaned close to Maria and whispered something in her ear which made her mock scold him.  But then she kissed his cheek and whispered something back.  The family looked at them amused.  Maria, in many ways, was a substitute for Johnny’s mother. 

           “There’s going to be music and dancing for one thing.  Brad Ingersoll has persuaded some of the best fiddlers in the county to come.  I think he’s planning on a contest between them.  There may even be a bagpiper or two.  And Jim is arranging for some Highland games to be organized.  The hammer toss and tossing the caber at the very least.  And I think some sheepdog trials.  Now don’t get started on the sheep matter Murdoch,” she said seeing the annoyed look on his face.  “There are people who raise sheep in the area and they have as much right to show off their animals and their dogs as any of you men who raise cattle.”

           “But Maura, is it really a good idea to mix sheep with all the cattlemen that will be there?”  Murdoch himself didn’t particularly hate sheep – Johnny’s experience with a lonely sheepherder named Gabe had cured him of that.  Johnny, breaking up the potentially destructive “fun” of some friends in town had been rescued from an angry bull after his leg cramped up on him.  Troubles had followed Johnny’s allowing Gabe to stay for a short time on Lancer with his flock and a young woman whom both men were interested in had been killed but Murdoch and Jelly and Johnny’s friends had pitched in to help the ewes when they went into labor.  Gabe had since moved on but the Lancers at the very least would not soon forget him.

           “Yes, it is!” she exclaimed in irritation.  “It’s about time they learned to live with each other!  Oh I know the sheep crop closer to the ground than the cattle and that makes it hard to find graze for cattle after sheep have been there but that’s no reason to start a fight.  You simply must find a way to move your herds and flocks around so that the sheep don’t graze down to the ground and the cattle still have good grazing.  There’s plenty of room in this valley for both.  And you, Murdoch Lancer, are a Scotsman!  Sheep are in your heritage even if your family didn’t raise them!”

           “So are cattle and I’ve worked long and hard these twenty-five years to build this place up.”

           “Murdoch!”   Maura’s brown eyes flashed fire.  “You know perfectly well that there’s no danger of you losing your land or your herds now – especially to sheep.  But enough about this.  You asked about the fair.  There will be quilts to be judged and other needlework such as embroidery.  Teresa, dear, I do hope you’ll be entering that quilt you showed me a couple of months ago.  And that shirt you were embroidering. 

           For the children we’re going to have a corn-husking contest, a sack race, and a three-legged race for both children and adults.  The corn husking will take place the first day.  The corn is for the barbecue and we thought that a good way to get it done in a hurry is to challenge the young people to do it.  There will be prizes awarded to those who shuck the most corn in the allotted time.”

           “It sounds like a lot of fun,” Scott said before his voice quit working again.

           “Yeah, it sure does,” Johnny agreed.  “I want to enter that shooting contest they’re having.”

           “You’ll have to talk to Mr. Wilson about that my boy,” Maura told him.  “He specifically requested that he be put in charge of that.”  She frowned as she remembered that particular committee meeting.  “I’m not sure why.  I’m afraid to ask why it’s so important to him to be in charge of that.”

           “Well, I for one am going to enjoy myself thoroughly,” Teresa said.  “Maria and I are baking and canning and I’m definitely going to enter my quilt and a couple of other things.”

           “I’m glad,” Maura smiled fondly at the girl.  “Now, Murdoch, would Jelly be about?  I want to talk to him about being in charge of the barbecue.  He really is very good at that sort of thing.”



           “Yes, ma’am,” Jelly said pleased as punch and hooking his thumbs in his suspenders.  “I’d be proud ta help you out.”

           “Thank you Jelly,” Maura said.  “I knew I could count on you.  I’ve yet to find any other man in this area that can manage a barbecue the way you can.”

           “Well, you just tell me where and when you want me and I’ll be there,” the bewhiskered handyman said.

           As he walked Maura back to her buggy Murdoch leaned down from his superior height and, in a voice loud enough for his sons who were hovering nearby, said “Maura you’ve still got the gift of the blarney in you!  Jelly will be floating on cloud nine from now until weeks after the fair is over.”

           “Why Murdoch Lancer!  Whatever do you mean?” Maura asked with a laugh in her voice. “I merely told him the truth.”

           “You told him what he wants to hear is what you did,” Murdoch retorted. 

           “He’s going to be impossible to live with for a long time,” Scott managed to chime in before losing his voice to a barely audible whisper again.

           “Ma’am you got no idea what you just did to us,” Johnny added his two cents worth.

           “Now you three stop complaining,” Maura scolded them.  “Jelly is an excellent cook as you well know.  And barbecues are what he specializes in.”  By now they had reached her buggy that Cipriano had brought around for her seeing that she was ready to leave.  “Thank you Cipriano,” she said as Murdoch helped her into the buggy.  Turning to the boys she said, “I’ll have hugs from you two scamps if you please.”

           Blushing furiously at Cipriano’s being a witness to this, but grinning with pleasure all the same, the two young men did as she bade. She in turn hugged them back and planted kisses on their cheeks.  They’d become very close since she’d nursed them earlier that year through influenza and pneumonia.  Now they spent almost as much time at her home as they did at Lancer. And both were completely spoiled with all their favorite sweets if she knew they were coming.  If they showed up when she was baking bread it was inch-thick slices of hot bread slathered with plenty of fresh butter and jam. “I’ll see you again later this week.  I’ll be by to see Maria and Jelly about their duties.  And I’ll have details for you on all the contests and such.” Then she picked up her reins and clucked to her buggy horse. 

           The Lancer men watched her drive off down the road and under the arch.  Then they turned back toward the house.  Johnny had tethered Barranca to the hitching rail outside the courtyard and had to get back to the crew he’d left repairing fences.  Cipriano, who was working with him, was already climbing into the buckboard that was loaded with more wire and fence posts.  Scott and Murdoch went back inside.  Scott’s cold was pretty much a thing of the past but the low grade fever and the cough he’d had with it had sapped his energy level and it was slow getting back to its normal level.  Much as he hated to admit it to himself, let alone his father or brother, a nap sounded pretty good right about now.




          By drinking plenty of honey and lemon tea, not that tea was his favorite beverage, and resting his voice as much as possible Scott’s laryngitis finally did go away for good in another week.  During that time he still had to endure more jokes and wise remarks from Johnny but at this point in time he was willing to bide his time – planning how best to pay his little brother back for his torment of the last few weeks.

           By the time his voice was back to normal Scott’s energy level had restored itself and he was back to doing the manual labor he’d become accustomed to since coming to California.  It felt good to be able to go out and do a hard day’s physical labor of chasing stray cattle, driving into town to collect mail and supplies or breaking horses.

           The fun part was getting together with Johnny to torment Jelly about how there was no way on “God’s green earth” that Dewdrop was going to win any sort of a prize at the upcoming fair – unless it was for being the noisiest, most disagreeable, trouble making bird at the fair.

           “You two think you’re funny don’t you,” the old man fumed.  “Well you just wait and see.  Dewdrop and me we got an agreement and he’s going to do just fine.  You just wait and see.”

           “Come on Jelly,” Scott needled him.  “You can’t be serious.  From his first day here he’s scared the barn cats, chased at least two of the cattle dogs belonging to some of the neighbors that have driven steers over that we’ve bought, nipped Elena’s youngest boy…”

           “Not to mention driven off the supply wagon that first day you brought him home,” Johnny added.

           “That don’t mean a thing!  Dewdrop’s a changed bird.  He’s reformed I tell ya!”  Jelly huffed.

           “We’ll see,” Scott grinned.  “That fair is in two weeks.”

           “Yeah, just think,” Johnny said, “in two weeks, brother, we’ll both be five dollars richer when Dewdrop don’t win anything.”

           “Boys?  Are you still teasing Jelly?”  Murdoch came along just then.

           “Not teasing,” Scott said.  “Just stating facts.”

          “Oh?  And what facts would those be?”  his father inquired.

           “That on the last day of the fair, which by Scott’s calculations is two weeks from Sunday, he and I will be five dollars richer, Jelly will be ten dollars poorer and Dewdrop won’t have won any prizes – unless it’s for being the biggest troublemaker,” Johnny answered.

           Murdoch tried hard not to smile at that but he was the one who had told Dewdrop his first day at Lancer, after the gander had frightened the team hitched to the supply wagon, that if he had any more “disagreements with the livestock” he would be invited to Sunday dinner and not as a guest.

           “You don’t have to defend me from these two boys boss,” Jelly told Murdoch.  “They think they’re funny but you’ll see.  When we get to that fair Dewdrop will win hands down and them two will have to eat their words.”

           This brought more howls from the boys who by now were gasping for breath holding their stomachs and wiping the tears from their eyes.

          “All right,” Murdoch said sternly – or as sternly as he could manage under the circumstances.  “That’s enough.  Don’t the three of you have chores to do?”

           Stifling their mirth with difficulty the boys agreed and headed toward the barn where they were stacking hale bales on the floor and in the loft.  Jelly, indignant to the end, went on his way to the south pasture to get the horses that were in need of new shoes.  They would be reshod in the morning so Murdoch had relegated Jelly to round them up, move them to the corral next to the barn and assist him with the shoeing.



A week later the Lancer family held a conference about the upcoming fair.

“I think we need to decide what we’re going to enter in that fair,” Murdoch said.  “It’s only a week away and we need to fill out our entry forms.”

“Entering Sebastian seemed like a good idea to me,” Scott told his father.  “He’s come along very nicely and could offer some stiff competition.  Breeding fees could go through the ceiling if he wins first place.”

“You have a good point there Scott,” Murdoch agreed.  “We could use the money to keep up on the taxes and buy some new breeding stock of our own.  All right - we’ll do it.”

“I’m entering my double wedding ring quilt, and a couple of blouses that I embroidered and my new sampler,” Teresa said.  “And some blackberry, raspberry and strawberry preserves.”

“What about your little heifer – Blossom?  Do you want to enter her as well?” her guardian queried.

“Oh, yes,” Teresa said.  “If you think she has a chance.  I’d hate for her to be disappointed if she didn’t win anything.”

“Who’d be disappointed?” Johnny hooted, laughing at his “sister”.  “I don’t think Blossom cares one way or the other.”

“A lot you know, Johnny Lancer!”  Teresa turned up her nose at him.  “Blossom is a very sensitive animal.  She’d be crushed if I took her all the way to Green River and she didn’t win anything.”

This just set Johnny to laughing even harder. “Now you sound just like Jelly when he talks about Dewdrop.”   No amount of warning looks from his father or pokes in the ribs from his brother could stop him.  Finally Teresa gave him one more disgusted look and flounced out of the dining room to seek comfort from Maria.  Maria was the only “mother” Teresa had ever known.  And while the housekeeper might spoil “Juanito” to a certain extent she was just as quick to take Teresa’s part in their infrequent quarrels.

“Johnny you’ve really upset her this time,” Scott told his brother.  “You’d better go apologize to her before Maria gets mad at you too.  You know that’s where she’s gone.”

“Scott’s right, Johnny.  You went a little overboard,” Murdoch agreed.  “You know how she feels about Blossom.”

“I was only teasing her,” Johnny complained.

“I think your teasing went a little too far,” Murdoch told him.  Hearing excited voices approaching from the kitchen, which was located in the back of the house, he added, “And I think you’d better be ready to apologize now.  If I’m not mistaken that’s Maria’s voice I hear and she doesn’t sound happy.”

Johnny’s face got a little pale at the thought of their “mamacita” being angry with him. Maria, with Teresa close on her heels, entered the Great Room. One look at her angry face and Teresa’s triumphant one and he knew he was in big trouble.

“Now, mamacita, you know I was only teasing her,” he said rapidly backing away from her waving spoon as she scolded him, speaking so rapidly in Spanish that only he was able to keep up with her.

“Well I didn’t think it was funny, Johnny Lancer!”  Teresa said emphatically.

“Ow!  Maria!” Johnny exclaimed.  “That hurt.”  It seemed that Maria’s spoon had made contact with his hand when he tried to take it away from her.

“You apologize to Señorita Teresa ahora – at once – or there will be no tortillas at dinner for a month!”  Maria was adamant.

“Ok, ok!  I’m sorry I teased you about Blossom.  She’s a fine heifer, Teresa!”  The thought of no tortillas was a depressing one – one which he was going to remedy quickly.

“Good!  Now you stop teasing Señorita Teresa or else.”  Maria marched back to the kitchen leaving a satisfied Teresa, a contrite Johnny and an amused Murdoch and Scott in her wake.

“I guess you’ll be a lot more careful of Teresa’s feelings while Maria’s around won’t you, son?”  Murdoch grinned at his younger son.

“Lo siento, Señorita,” Johnny grinned still rubbing his sore hand.  “I won’t tease you about your heifer any more.”

“I should hope not – or there won’t be any desserts for you any more than there will be any tortillas!”  Teresa had the last word before she left the room.



“Buy you a beer brother?” Scott asked Johnny.

          “Sounds good.”

         The two brothers were in Green River to pick up some packages at the Post Office, do some banking and hand in Lancer’s entries for the fair to the committee, which was renting some office space.  Before they could go to the saloon for those beers they needed to take care of the ranch business.  After a short but lively debate over who would take care of which errand Scott came up with a solution – a coin toss.

           Scott pulled a quarter out of his pocket and said, “Heads I go to the fair committee office with our entry forms and you go to the bank.  Tails I go to the bank and you go to the fair committee office.”  So saying he tossed it into the air only to have Val Crawford come along and catch it in mid-air. 

           “Hey!  What’s the big idea?” Johnny asked his friend.

           “I heard the two of you arguing about who was going to do what and I know that Scott here would dearly love to get out of doing the banking business for a change just as much as you always do,” the sheriff of Green River told the younger Lancer.  “So I’m gonna make sure neither of you cheat.  I’ll toss the coin.”  Looking at Scott he said, “Call it.”


           “Sorry.  It’s tails.  Looks like Johnny will be going to the fair committee office after all.”

           Reluctantly Scott handed over the envelope with the entry forms and money for the ranch’s entries including Sebastian and Blossom.  Then he headed for the bank.  Johnny and Val turned toward the fair committee’s office, which was at the other end of the street.

           “Hey Val,” Johnny asked, his eyes twinkling.  “What are you all slicked up for anyway?  You could die now and we wouldn’t have to do a thing to you – just pop you into a coffin and bury ya.”  It hadn’t escaped either Lancer brothers’ notice that Val was wearing a clean white shirt with a black string tie and his brown pants were clean and neatly pressed – something he wouldn’t wear without a very good reason.

           “Gotta meet with that fair committee this morning.  Mrs. Talbot talked me into this – even cleaned and pressed everything for me.  Said the committee wouldn’t pay no attention to me if I didn’t neaten up.”

           “You mean you didn’t learn anything from that incident with Criswell?  The Cattlemen’s Association wouldn’t even talk to you you were so scruffy lookin’ and then Criswell came in and made everything look so easy.”

           “Yeah?  Well I don’t see how dressin’ up to impress a bunch of rich folks is gonna help me do my job.”

           “The Talbots ain’t rich,Val, and they’re very nice people.”

           “No, they ain’t rich but the rest of that committee’s always lordin’ it over folks – especially that Pierce Wilson.  And you stay clear of him you hear?  I don’t want to lock you up for getting’ in another fight with that fool.”

           “He keeps his mouth shut there won’t be any trouble,” Johnny said.  He’d tangled with the bigoted Wilson several times since Val had become sheriff of Green River.  Val had had to lock Johnny up for losing his temper and attacking the man after he’d made some racially condemning comments about Johnny’s mixed heritage and about his mother.

           Val opened the door and entered the building ahead of Johnny.  The committee was using an old store, currently empty, for its headquarters.  They handled the entries for the people of Morro Coyo, Spanish Wells and Green River and everyone within a ten-mile radius.  Inside they found Maura and Jim Talbot and all the other committee members as well as about two dozen or more area residents looking to turn in their entries and pay their entry fees.  Val hung back as Johnny moved to get in line.  Posters announcing the fair were hung on the walls and handbills and entry forms were stacked on the table in front of the different committee members.  A cash box was on a counter behind the table where change was made when necessary.

           “Johnny,” Jim Talbot said, “It’s good to see you, son.  How’s your father?”

           “He’s fine, Mr. Talbot.  He sent me and Scott into town to take care of some banking business and to turn in our entry forms for the fair.”

           “Good.”  Jim Talbot smiled at his friend’s younger son.  “And what can I do for Lancer today?”

           “Got entry forms here for some of us.  Murdoch’s entering Sebastian in the livestock judging.  He’s hoping to line up some breeding fees from the old boy.  And Teresa’s entering her heifer, Blossom, as well.”

           “I’ll take care of those for you.”  The rancher, a six-foot two-inch blond with a trace of silver in his sideburns held out his hand for the entry forms and rapidly calculated the fees.  Johnny handed him the money he’d been given by his father and Teresa to enter their animals.  “Anything else?”

           “Yeah, Teresa and Maria are planning on entering some of their preserves and jams and stuff and asked me to pick up their entry forms.”

           “You can see my wife or Mrs. Thompson for those.  They’re in charge of the sewing and canning exhibits.  Any other entries you want to make?”

           “Well, not me,” Johnny grinned, “but Jelly will be in later to enter Dewdrop.”

           Jim Talbot roared.  “He really loves that gander doesn’t he?”

           “Yes, sir, I do believe you’re right,” Johnny laughed with him.  “Scott and me got a bet with Jelly that Dewdrop won’t win anything.  And that he’ll cause problems.  Jelly swears he’s a ‘changed bird’ and that he and Dewdrop have an understanding.”

           “Well, we’ll let him enter and see what happens.  Maura tells me Jelly is going to take charge of barbecuing the meat and Maria’s going to handle the Mexican specialties and gifts.”

           “Yes, sir,” Johnny affirmed.  “That wife of yours charmed Jelly to the point where he’s unbearable to live with.  He’s all puffed up like he’s going to burst.  And barking orders about which steers are ready to be butchered and ordering firewood and everything.  I think the hands will be glad when the fair is over and things get back to normal – whatever that is.”

           “I’m sure they’ll survive,” Jim said.  “And half of the proceeds – the money,” he amended as Johnny looked puzzled at the word, “goes toward the orphanages in the county and the schools.  So we’re hoping to make a nice sum.  Now is there anything else I can help you with?”

           “Yeah.  I wanted to enter that shooting contest I saw advertised.”

           “You’ll have to see Pierce for that I’m afraid,” Talbot told him.  “I’m just handling the livestock and poultry.”

           “Thanks.”  Johnny shook hands with their neighbor.  “I’ll see you later.  I’d better go take care of my business with your wife before I forget or Teresa and Maria will have my head when I get home.”

           “Hello Johnny,” Maura said as he approached her and Andrea Thompson at the table they were stationed at on the other side of the room.

           “Mrs. Talbot, Mrs. Thompson.” Johnny returned the greeting with a smile.  “I got entry forms for Maria and Teresa here.  Teresa’s got a few things she sewed and they both plan on entering some of their jams and preserves.  They’re so busy planning the booths for the chili and stuff and rounding up the ingredients that they can’t make it in.  Me and Scott had some business to take care of in town so we got to bring their forms and fees with us.” he explained as he handed them the forms.  

           “I see Maria’s entering her blackberry preserves,” Andrea Thompson said.  “I always did like the way she did them up.”

           “She’ll be real glad to hear that, ma’am,” Johnny said.  “She takes great pride in getting them just sweet enough.”

           “And Teresa?  What’s she entering?”

          “Oh, Teresa, she’s entering her strawberry jam and some pickles.  And she’s got her little Jersey heifer, Blossom, entered in the dairy judging.”

           “I’m sure she’ll do just fine,” Maura said.  “Jerseys are nice little cows and they do give the richest milk – full of butterfat.”

           “Yes ma’am,” he agreed.  “I like to tease her about Blossom but she is a good cow.  Got the best disposition of any cow I ever saw.”

           “Here you go Johnny,” Mrs. Thompson said.  “They’re all set.  Here’s a copy of their entry forms for them to turn in when they bring their goods in on opening day.  And here’s a copy of the schedule.”

           “Thank you,” he said with a tip of his hat and a smile.  “I’ll see that they get these when I get home.”

           “You through yet?” an impatient Val asked as he approached his friend.

           “Why? You got someplace to be?  You got a woman waiting for you and that’s why you’re so smarted up?” 

           “No, I ain’t got a woman waiting for me!  But your brother is probably waiting for us at the saloon and I’d like to get there and have that cold beer you owe me from last week.”

           “Got one more entry to make.”  Johnny stepped up to the counter where the would-be sharpshooters were signing up for the shooting match.  “And what’s stopping you from going over there by yourself?  You afraid of Scott or something?”

           “No I ain’t afraid of Scott! I already told you I had to meet with the Committee and I did.  While you were taking care of Maria and Teresa’s entries I met with Mr. Talbot and Mr. Thompson and settled the business they wanted to talk to me about.  I’m gonna be the judge at the shooting match.  Well, me and a couple of others from up Sacramento way.”

           By now they had reached the head of the line.  Pierce Wilson, fifty with black hair and gray eyes, gave Johnny a piercing look as he approached.

           “Lancer.  What can I do for you?”

           “Mr. Wilson,” Johnny acknowledged the greeting cordially.  “I came to sign up for that shooting match at the fair.”

           “Sorry, you don’t qualify.”

           “What do you mean I don’t qualify?” Johnny asked.  “I’m a resident of the valley ain’t I?  Ain’t that all I need?”

           “I’m afraid not,” Wilson gloated as he broke the news.  “You have to be an amateur.  You don’t qualify.”


           “Gunslingers aren’t amateurs.  You don’t qualify.”

           Johnny was getting a little perturbed and Val tensed waiting for the sparks to fly.

           “I ain’t a gunslinger any more.  I’m a rancher.  Just like my father.”

           “The fact remains that you used to make your living using a gun therefore you are not an amateur.”

           “That’s ridiculous!”

           Their raised voices drew the attention of the other members of the committee and others standing nearby.  Jim Talbot, with a frown on his face, was the first to reach them.

           “What’s going on here?”

           “Wilson here says Johnny ain’t eligible for the shootin’ match,” Val informed the other man.

           “Oh?  And why would that be?  All events at this fair are supposed to be open to everyone in the county.”

           “For the pure and simple reason that he’s a gunslinger.  And a half-breed at that!” Wilson was adamant – Johnny Madrid Lancer was not going to enter any shooting match he was in charge of.  For just the two reasons he had stated plus one.  .

           “That’s not in the official rules,” Talbot said.

           “I’m running this event aren’t I?”  At Talbot’s nod he continued, “Then I set the rules and I say no half-breed gunhawk can enter.  It wouldn’t be fair to the other entrants.”

           “Other entrants?  Or one particular entrant?  Your son Mike perhaps?”

           “What’s Mike got to do with it?”

           “Seems to me I saw him in here earlier signing up.  He’s a gunsmith.  Makes his living handling firearms every day.  If he can enter why can’t Johnny?”

           “Mike’s signed up?”  Val asked.  “Let me see that list of entries.”

           Reluctantly Wilson handed the list over to Val who scanned the list quickly.

           “I see a whole bunch of names on here that could be considered gunhawks, Mr. Wilson, not the least of which is your son’s. Which pretty much explains why you don’t want Johnny here to enter. It’s not just that he’s half Mexican or that he used to be a gunslinger - you want Mike to win.” 

           Wilson harrumphed but it did him no good.  He was caught and there was no getting around the fact that he was willing to bend the rules for his son, a young man noted for his temper and getting into fights, but not for Johnny.  Johnny had, not so long ago, whipped Mike Wilson in a fight at the saloon.  Mike was drunk and losing at cards when the Lancer brothers walked in.  Becoming belligerent Mike had started a fight.  During the course of that fight Scott, still recovering from pneumonia followed by a horseback accident that had left him with a broken arm and a slight concussion, was knocked into the bar by one of the brawlers – striking his head and blacking out.  Johnny, seeing his brother lying on the floor, hurt again – though thankfully not seriously - had taken Mike on by himself and beaten him but good.  Mike Wilson had gone straight to Val’s jail for the night to dry out and his father had been obliged to pay bail and damages and Sam Jenkins’ bill for examining and treating Scott to ensure that no further damage had been inflicted.  Pierce Wilson, hating Johnny for being a half-breed and a gunslinger to begin with, had nursed a grudge and searched for a way to pay him back for what he had done.  It was with difficulty that he had kept his son from acting and, until now, had not seen any way to get back at Johnny and humiliating him in the process.

           “If this here shootin’ match is open only to amateurs then, as judge, I’m telling you that Mike, Jim Crane, Buck Anders, Lafe Johnson, Will Baldwin and Slim Perkins aren’t allowed to enter either.”

           “Now see here…”

           “Either Johnny is allowed to enter,” Jim Talbot said, “or your son and those others drop out or are eliminated as ineligible and you lose your place on the committee to boot.  And furthermore we’ll find someone to take your place who won’t discriminate against people on the basis of their heritage or previous line of work.”

           “Well, which is it going to be Mr. Wilson?” Val asked.  “Does Johnny get to enter or do the others drop out?”

           “Amateurs only.  Mike and the others will be told that they are prohibited from entering the competition.”

           “And their entry fees?” Talbot prompted.

           “Their entry fees will be refunded.  Now is that it?”

           “No,” Johnny said.  “How about Scott?  Can he sign up?  He’s not a gunslinger.”  Johnny glared at Wilson.

           “How about it, Pierce?” Jim Talbot asked.  “Does Scott qualify?  Or is he ineligible because he was in the army?”

           “Scott Lancer may enter,” Wilson said grudgingly.

           “Good.” Johnny said.  “Sign him up.  Here’s his entry fee.”

           Pierce Wilson took the money from Johnny and duly noted, though reluctantly, that Scott Lancer was now entered and his son and the others were not.  Satisfied, Jim Talbot went back to his own duties.

           “This isn’t over, Madrid.”

           “Yes, it is, Mr. Wilson,” Val warned the other man.  “If you, or Mike, try anything to get back at Johnny for this I’ll lock you both up and throw away the key.”  Taking Johnny by the arm he said, “Come on, Johnny.  Scott’ll be wonderin’ where we are by now.”




          Scott was sitting at a table in the back of the saloon nursing a cold beer when his brother and the sheriff finally walked in.  He gestured at the bartender to bring two more beers over.

           “What took you so long?  I’ve been sitting here for half an hour,” he said.

           “Got hung up at the fair office,” was all Johnny would say.


           “There’s more to it than that,” Val told Scott ignoring the glare from Johnny.  “Pierce Wilson wasn’t going to let Johnny enter the shootin’ match on account of he’s a ‘half-breed gunslinger’.”

           “What of it?  Johnny’s not a gunslinger anymore.”  Scott was clearly puzzled.

           “Don’t make no difference to Pierce Wilson,” Val said.  “He had plans for Mike to enter and win.  Had him and some others signed up.”

           “What others?”

           “Val? Anybody ever tell you you got a big mouth?” Johnny fumed.

           “Sure.  Plenty a times but I think Scott has a right to know.”

           “Let him finish.”  Scott wanted to hear the rest of the story.

           “Lafe Johnson for one.” Val went on to name the other men and Scott’s hand went to his right temple in an unconscious gesture.  He remembered Lafe Johnson all too well as one of the men involved in that saloon brawl not so long ago.

           “So what happened?  Did Johnny get to enter?”

           “Nope.  But neither can Mike and Johnson and the rest of them.  Me and Mr. Talbot fixed that.”

           “So does Lancer have anyone entered in the shooting match?”

           “Yeah.” Johnny grinned.




           “Yeah.  Old man Wilson had to let you in.  Your time in the army doesn’t count against you.  And if he didn’t let you enter after he refused me and had to disqualify the others Mr. Talbot and the rest of the committee were going to force him to step down.  He didn’t much like that idea.”

           “I can imagine he didn’t.  Just out of curiosity you two – why did you choose me to take your place?”

           “Scott!  Everybody in the area knows you’re good with that rifle of yours.  And like I said, your time in the army didn’t count toward making you a professional.”

           “One of these days, little brother, you’re going to pay,” Scott thought to himself.  “For this and for all the smart remarks while I was sick.”  Aloud he said, “We’d better finish our beers and get on the road.  Murdoch will be waiting for the mail – there’s letters from a couple of breeders up in Montana and Wyoming that he’s been waiting for.”



The final week before the big event flew by in a flurry of preparations.  Scott, at Johnny’s insistence, worked on his target shooting.  Murdoch oversaw Sebastian’s feeding and made sure that the bull was groomed – sometimes with a full-blown warm bath  - every day.  He wanted to be sure that the animal made a good showing.  If he took first prize there was no telling how much money he would bring in by way of stud fees.


          Teresa and Maria put up dozens of jars of vegetables, berries and preserves – some of which were reserved for pies.  Scott had learned that there was to be a pie eating contest for adults and kids and had sworn them to secrecy hoping that no one else knew.  He planned on paying Johnny back for signing him up for the shooting match without his permission and the remarks he’d made while he, Scott, was suffering with the cold and laryngitis.  John Luis Lancer didn’t know it yet but big brother, Scott Garrett Lancer, was plotting.  He had been for a month.  Payback was going to be sweet.


          In addition Teresa spent a lot of time making sure that Blossom was well groomed and given lots of attention.  The boys teased her about how she doted on the heifer as much as Jelly doted on Dewdrop but they were careful not to go too far – they didn’t want to incur Maria’s wrath again.  All the charm they possessed between them was not enough to pacify her if Maria went on a rampage about their teasing.


          Jelly was, according to the boys, insufferable during those last two weeks.  Ever since Maura Talbot had talked him into taking charge of the barbecue he’d been around to all the area ranches procuring meat and wood.  He was confident that this would be the best barbecue they ever had.  All the pots and kettles that could be borrowed or bought to boil corn or potatoes in were scrubbed until they gleamed.  Practically every word out of his mouth was about how good the barbecue would be with him in charge.  Or it was how Dewdrop, whom he’d been feeding special treats, would walk away with first prize in the poultry judging.  The boys, Johnny in particular, howled with laughter every time they heard one of those comments.  They kept reminding Jelly of the five-dollar bet they each had with him and told him what they would spend the money on once they collected.


          In the storage room off the kitchen the shelves gleamed with jar after jar of red, green, blue and yellow berries. And vegetables were lined up and neatly written labels proclaimed the contents of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and vegetables such as cucumber pickles, green beans and peas.


          The day before the fair opened, Jelly was at the chosen location setting up - or rather directing the setting up, of the spits and the digging of the barbecue pits.  Load after load of hickory and oak firewood was piled close by.  Tables and benches were lined up a short distance away where the fairgoers would be able to sit and enjoy their meals. 


          Johnny, Scott and Murdoch assisted Jim Talbot and his crew in the building and placing of booths for Maria and others who would be selling blankets, ponchos, moccasins, beadwork or other native crafts – be it Mexican or Indian.  A small wood-burning stove was set up for Maria to keep her chili hot and a mound of firewood was placed next to it for her convenience.  Several teenage boys from all over the county had been hired to ensure that the wood supply would not run low.  It would be their job, in shifts of two hours each so that they could enjoy the fair as well, to bring wood to Maria and the other cooks from a central woodpile.


          All day long the smell of ginger, various berries, sugar, molasses, piecrust, and the warm yeasty smell of bread permeated the air in the kitchens all over the region.  Small children were shooed from the house while mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other female relatives baked dozens of cookies and pies and loaves of bread and hundreds, if not thousands of biscuits.  Some would be entered in the baking competition and some would be used in picnic lunches.  Stone jugs were scoured and set aside to be filled, in the morning, with coffee, hot water, lemonade and cold water.


          Dozens of chickens at all the ranches and farms in the Morro Coyo area and all over the county were caught, their necks wrung and youngsters were set to work plucking them after which their mothers did the final cleaning and dressing of them for the barbecue.  The barbecue would also include pork.


          Bushel baskets of corn by the hundreds were gathered and loaded into wagons.  Clothes scrubbed and hung to dry in the warm sun were gathered in, folded and returned to their rightful owners.  Clean clothes were laid out for family members to wear in the morning.  Water was heated for baths and properly disposed of afterward.


          All seemed to be in readiness and everyone on the committee heaved a sigh of relief.  Pierce Wilson was still smarting over having to withdraw his son and the others from the shooting match but Val Crawford had warned him and was keeping a close eye on him.  His grudge against Johnny would continue to fester but he wouldn’t be foolish enough, not would his son, to cross the sheriff of Green River.  He and Johnny were good friends and Val was a good lawman outside of that relationship.  Nobody pulled any stupid stunts in his town and got away with it.  No, the Wilsons would have to bide their time and stay out of trouble for now. If they had opportunity later to cause Johnny, or even Scott, difficulties they wouldn’t hesitate to do so but it wouldn’t be during the run of the fair.



          The morning of the fair found everyone at Lancer doing their chores early and quickly.  Breakfast was served, consumed and the dishes done.  Johnny and Scott took charge of leading Sebastian and Blossom to the fairgrounds and settling them in their allotted spaces under the tent assigned to the cattle exhibit.  There were some very good-looking animals there but the Lancer boys were pretty confident of their bull’s chances.  Before the judging would begin they would give him a good grooming to remove any dust and/or straw that was clinging to his coat.  His horns and hooves would be polished as well. 

           Upon arrival at the fairgrounds Teresa and Maria delivered their preserves, pies and sewing projects to the tents set aside for those exhibits.  Maura Talbot and a couple of other ladies took them and set them, with their entry slips, on a shelf or a table according to what the item was.  Already the shelves and table space were filling up with jar upon jar of preserves, jams, jellies, vegetables and honey.  A Stockton man, known for his beekeeping, would be the judge for that part of the exhibit while a woman from Carterville was judging the preserves and such.  A local farmer, who had just moved to the area and had no entries, would judge the vegetables.

           When their personal exhibits had been delivered Teresa and Maria rushed off to other duties.  Teresa went to the tent where the cattle were housed to see to Blossom.  Maria scurried to the booth where she would be selling chili, tortillas, enchiladas and the like.  Several of her helpers were already there getting the kettles of chili out and ready to put on the fire.  Johnny and Scott had been waylaid by Elena Martinez to get the fires started.

           Murdoch arrived just a little bit later driving a wagon laden with sides of beef and pork for the barbecue.  He directed a couple of the ranch hands, who had come with him, to unload and help Jelly get the meat on spits and over the fire.  It would take several hours to get the meat cooked enough to eat.  The sooner they got started the better.

           Farmers from all over the area started arriving in droves.  Some dropped off bushel baskets of corn and potatoes at the barbecue site.  The women scrubbed the picnic tables and put checkered tablecloths over them.  Two tables were dedicated to the plates and flatware and such that would be needed when the customers arrived.

           “Here, here,” Jelly blustered, “put that side of beef over this fire.  That pork goes over that one over there.”  He pointed out which was which.  “Where’s the chickens?  And who’s going to tend to the chickens while I tend to the beef and pork?  I can’t do ever’thing you know!”

           “Calm down Jelly,” Murdoch said.  “Walt and Mark are going to tend to the pork and the chicken.  Just show them where to set up.”

           “Jelly sure is taking this seriously, isn’t he?” Johnny remarked to his brother as they tried to stay out of the way.

           “Yes, he is.”  Scott agreed.  “He’s been difficult to live with since Mrs. Talbot asked him to take charge.  He’s going to be even more so today.  I suggest we find something to do before we get roped into this.”

          “I’m with you brother.  We better go find out what time you’re competing in the shooting match.”

           “It’s at one o’clock.  I saw Mr. Talbot a while ago and he told me.  What’s more important is that we find something for you to enter now that you’ve been disqualified from that contest.”

           “Don’t worry, brother,” Johnny said airily.  “I’ll enjoy myself just watching you win.”

          “You’re pretty confident aren’t you?  You realize that are a lot of good marksmen entered in that contest don’t you?  There’s no guarantee that I’ll win.”

           “I got a lot of confidence in you, Scott.  I know you’re gonna win.”

           The two brothers roamed the fairgrounds.  Coming upon the tent that the poultry exhibitors were using they found Jelly getting closer to the front of the line with Dewdrop nestled in his arms.

           “Jelly, how’s old Dewdrop today?” Johnny asked with a twinkle in his eye.

           “He’s doin’ just fine.  Thanks for askin’,” the bewhiskered man answered.

           “You haven’t forgotten about our bet have you, Jelly,” Scott asked him.  “Five dollars apiece to Johnny and me if Dewdrop doesn’t win anything.  If he does we’ll pay you five dollars apiece.”

           “I ain’t forgotten and I ain’t worried neither. Dewdrop’s in tip top shape and we’re going to show those other geese what a prize winning gander looks like.”

           “It ain’t his looks we’re worried about Jelly,” Johnny reminded him.  “It’s his behavior.”

           “I already told you not to worry about that!  Dewdrop’s a changed bird I tell you!”

           Dewdrop honked loudly, causing the boys to start laughing.

           “If he keeps that up Jelly, we’re a shoe in to win that bet,” Johnny told the older man.

           “Why don’t you two wise acres just get out of here and leave us alone?  You’re what’s making him act like that.  He knows you don’t like him.”

           “Come on Johnny let’s leave Jelly alone.  I’m sure we’ll win fair and square later on without having to do anything to upset him.”

           “See you later Jelly,” Johnny said as they left.  “Don’t forget to have that ten dollars ready.”

           Jelly could hear them laughing as they wandered off toward where the corn-husking contest was about to take place.  “Don’t you pay them no never mind, Dewdrop,” Jelly said to his pet.  “You’re gonna do just fine.”




          Brad Ingersoll was in charge of the corn husking.  There were three dozen kids of all ages lined up ready, willing and eager to compete and have the honor of being the one who got the most corn ready for the barbecue.

           The tall red headed man smiled when he saw the Lancer brothers approach.  He needed help organizing these kids and thought that Scott and Johnny would be perfect.

           “Scott?  Johnny?  Got a few minutes?”

           “Sure Mr. Ingersoll,” Scott said.  “What’s up?”

           “I need some help getting these kids organized so we can start the contest,” he explained.  “Would you mind helping me settle them in a line about two feet apart?  The sooner they’re settled the sooner we can start.”

           “Sure, we can do that,” Johnny said.  Turning to a freckle faced blond boy of ten he said, “Come on Willie.  Come over here and have a seat so we can get everyone settled and ready to go.”

           Scott took charge of a brown-haired boy of eight and told him the same thing.  Soon all the children that were taking part in the corn husking were seated on the ground in a big semi circle.  To make things easier, as far as knowing who had shucked which ears of corn, each child had a circle drawn in chalk on the ground to their right.  As they shucked each ear they were to put it in that circle.  The winner would be the one who had the most ears shucked when the time was up.

           “Are you ready?” Ingersoll shouted.

           “Yes!” the children shouted.

           “Then one, two three – go!”

           The race was on.  As fast as an ear was taken from the pile it was shucked, and placed in the circle on the ground by the child doing the work.  Then they got up, raced to the pile of corn and got another one.  Taking it back to where they were seated the process was repeated.  Ten minutes later the contest was over.  Nine-year-old Davey Grierson had won and proudly wore a blue ribbon declaring him the winner pinned to his overalls.  Scott and Johnny both congratulated him before moving on to see what else was happening.

           On a wooden platform a few yards away several men sat in chairs or on stools playing a lively tune on their violins.  The platform was large enough that several couples, young and old, were already dancing.  The tune was Old Dan Tucker.  Scott and Johnny spotted a couple of young ladies that were unescorted and swept them onto the dance floor.  If Scott’s grandfather, Harlan Garrett, back in Boston could have seen his grandson he would have been shocked.  No staid, proper ballroom dance this – no!  This was lively and energetic and just plain fun.  Scott had come a long way from the properly dressed Boston dandy he’d been when he first arrived at Lancer more than a year ago.  His blue eyes and white teeth gleamed as he enjoyed himself. 

           All too soon the dance was over and he and Johnny, after escorting their ladies back to the edge of the platform, made their excuses and wandered off to see what else was happening.  They were amazed, upon reaching the site of the sheepdog trials to find that those little Shetland sheepdogs and the border collies were as good at managing the sheep as any good cattle dog was at handling a herd of stray steers.  It made them think of Gabe, who’d had no dog, and how well he’d managed his sheep with just his shepherd’s crook.  They watched for about a half hour before moving on.

           If they’d thought the sheepdog trials were amazing what they saw next really set them on their ear.  A group of grown men, their father included, were participating in what was known as “tossing the caber”.  Five men helped Murdoch raise a telegraph pole until he could hold it upright for a few seconds.  Then he tossed it as far as he could.

           As the boys watched they could see their father’s face turn red with the effort while his shoulder and back muscles stood out in cords and strained his blue and white plaid shirt.  As they looked on their jaws dropped as Murdoch managed to toss the pole several feet.  A cheer erupted from his teammates as they realized they had just beaten the other competitors.  Blue ribbons were handed to all the men on the team.

           “Will you look at that?” Johnny grinned as their father spotted them and came over.  “Our old man just won a prize for tossing a telegraph pole and not hurting himself in the process.”

           “For your information, young man,” Murdoch told his wisecracking younger son, “back in the Scottish Highlands that’s a very popular game.  I think it’ll catch on with those of Scottish heritage in this country as well.  It’s called ‘tossing the caber’.  The women have their turn next only it’s with sheaves of wheat.  It’s called ‘tossing the sheaf’.”

           “What’s the sense in practically killing yourself doing that?”

           “What’s the sense in torturing a bull until you kill it?” Murdoch was referring to what he and Scott both considered the barbaric sport of bullfighting.

           “None.  I never went in for that.” Johnny answered.

           “Never mind little brother. I think we’d better go find something else to do.”

           For a couple of hours the boys wandered the grounds.  They met up with Teresa just as she was about to take Blossom into the ring to be judged.  In an attempt to make it up to her for all the teasing about Blossom both boys set to work brushing her until she gleamed.  And they made sure that her horns and hooves were polished until they also gleamed.  Their efforts were rewarded when, fifteen minutes later, Blossom took the blue rosette for “Best Jersey Heifer”.  She would later go up against all the other “Best” heifers in the dairy competition.  Murdoch arrived just in time to see her win and gave his “daughter” a bear hug.  The beef cattle were next and Sebastian had never looked better.  Ted Harrison, a Lancer hand, had groomed Sebastian until he was spotless. The big Hereford bull was ready to go.  Murdoch took the lead rope attached to his halter and led him into the ring.  It was sheer agony for the “siblings” to stand and wait while Sebastian and the other bulls, all remarkably well behaved, were led around the ring and judged on appearance and build and the condition of their coats.  When it was finally all over Sebastian, too, had won best in his class.  “Best Hereford Bull” didn’t seem like much when there weren’t that many Herefords in the county right now, let alone the state, but Murdoch Lancer was attempting to introduce a new, sturdier breed that was able to withstand the climate of most any region that was also a good breed for beef.  The stud fees in their area would be something but if he won first, or even second, in the overall beef cattle judging later, they would be able to name their price.  The cattle judges were from a federal agency that knew all cattle and not just the longhorns and shorthorns.  They’d familiarized themselves with all breeds of cattle.

           “Oh Murdoch!  That’s wonderful!”  Teresa gushed.  “Blossom and Sebastian both won their first classes.”

          “Yes,” her guardian replied.  “This’ll mean a lot when some of the ranchers in the area are looking to breed their best cows.  We should be able to ask some pretty exorbitant fees for them to turn their cows in with Sebastian.”

           “The old boy deserves a rest now.” Scott said.  “When’s the Best in Show judging taking place?”

           “This afternoon around three o’clock.” Murdoch told him as he handed Sebastian’s lead to Ted.  “Give him a good feed and some fresh water, Ted.  I’ll be back about a half hour before the judging to groom him myself.”

           “Yes, sir, Mr. Lancer,” the young man said.  “Come along Sebastian.  Your lunch is waiting.”

           “Speaking of lunch,” Murdoch said, “have you three eaten yet?”

            They shook their heads.

           “Well then let’s go see Jelly and get some lunch before Scott’s shooting match starts.”

           “Sounds good to me,” Johnny said.  “I’m starving.”

           The family wandered over toward the barbecue area and got themselves plates and flatware.  A group of young women in their twenties were in charge of the serving.  Each one of those girls fancied themselves in love with either Johnny or Scott.  Sometimes Teresa was amused and sometimes she was annoyed.  She so thought of the boys as her brothers that she had a tendency to be both protective and sometimes possessive of them.  The boys, for their part, smiled at each of them but made no overtures of any kind other than to be polite.

           “Jelly!  You’ve got three starving men and a hungry young lady here!”  Murdoch said.  “What have you got for us?”

           “You’ll just have to get in line like everybody else,” Jelly said.  “If you want beef see Mrs. Anderson.  Walt’s got the chicken and Peter Gibbs has the pork.  The girls are serving up the potatoes and corn.  I’m too busy to take care of you myself.”  So saying he started barking orders to the teenage boys that were hanging around.  “Mark!  You get me some more firewood from the stockpile over yonder.  Tom you go with him.  Carl!  Where’s that beef you and Joseph were getting for me.  Let’s get it over the fire!  We ain’t got all day you know!”

           The Lancer men shook their heads.  Jelly was in his element.  With a crew to assist him he was in complete and total control of the barbecue just as Maura Talbot had known he would be.  The quartet moved on to get places at the tables.  Large mugs of coffee were poured for the men while Teresa had lemonade.  After downing their steaks Johnny and Murdoch went to see Maria about small bowls of chili.  She fussed some about them not liking it until Murdoch explained that the chili was to “top off” the steak dinner they’d just had.

           When they got back to the table Teresa and Scott had gotten themselves large wedges of strawberry pie.  Johnny fussed at his brother when he saw the amount of food the blond had eaten.

           “Scott!  You’re gonna be so drowsy you won’t be able to stay awake for the shootin’ match!”

           “Don’t you worry, little brother,” Scott said.  “I’ll manage to stay awake.  We still haven’t found an event for you to enter though.”

           This was not quite true.  Scott and Val Crawford had been conspiring for days to pay Johnny back for the teasing about their appearance and Scott’s laryngitis.  What they had up their sleeve would soon become apparent.

           “Oh, don’t worry about me brother.  I’ll find something.”

           Lunch out of the way, the Lancers and Teresa headed for the area where the target shooting was to take place.  Val and three other men were already there ensuring that all was in residence.  Pierce Wilson was also there. He was still in charge but he wasn’t happy.  He’d had it planned that his son would win because Johnny was not going to be allowed to participate. Instead his plan had been found out and Mike had been disqualified before he ever fired a shot.  He was fuming inside but knew that the sheriff was watching him closely so he did nothing except grumble under his breath about the “unfairness” of the situation.

           Fifty men from all across the county were signed up for this event.  Ten targets were set up so they had to shoot in five separate opening rounds.  Because Mike Wilson had supplied the weapons Val and the other judges examined each and every rifle to be used in order to ensure that none had been tampered with.  Then they had the men draw lots to see who would shoot in which round.  Scott drew a number three so he would shoot in the third wave.

           The targets were originally set up at fifty paces.  For each successive round they would be moved back ten.  All ten men in the first round of shooters hit the bulls-eye.  The second group saw two men miss.  The third group, the one Scott was in, all hit and the last two groups had three men each miss.  The remaining forty-two men took their second shot.  Ten men missed the bulls-eye and were eliminated.  The next round, fired from a distance of seventy paces eliminated ten more.  At eighty paces there were twenty-two men left in contention for the prize – a new Winchester 44-40 rifle.  All but eight of the men in that round missed the bulls-eye.  The smaller the target got the harder it was for some to see it properly.

           “Come on Scott!”  Johnny yelled.  “You can do it!”

           Teresa stood there anxiously watching as Scott took careful aim at ninety paces.  She let out the breath she’d been holding when the judges declared his a clean hit in the bulls-eye.  Murdoch was more anxious than he could have thought and had to unclench his fists.  It would only get worse with the final rounds.

           “Targets will now be set at one hundred paces,” Val said.  “The following are still qualified….” He conferred with his fellow judges.  “Scott Lancer, Jim Morgan, Will Pemberton, Bruce Hamilton, Miguel Sanchez, Rey Hernandez, Buck Simpson, Rodger Willis and Dan Flaherty.  Gentlemen - take your positions please.”

           The ten men lined up behind the hay bales that marked the position from which they all fired.  One by one they took aim and fired.  At one hundred paces Hamilton, Morgan, Flaherty and Hernandez were eliminated.  The targets moved back to one hundred and ten paces.  Again the men took careful aim and fired.  This time Simpson, Sanchez and Willis were eliminated.  The contest would be decided between Scott and Will Pemberton.

           A coin was tossed to see which one would shoot first.  The same target would be used for both men.  Pemberton won the toss.  He picked up his rifle and carefully took aim.  Everyone in the crowd seemed to be holding their breath as the tension mounted.  Crack!  Pemberton took his shot.  Val and the other judges went over to the target to see where he’d hit it.

           “Will Pemberton – slightly off center,” came Val’s voice from the site of the target.  “Next up – Scott Lancer.”

           Johnny approached his brother and rubbed his shoulders trying to ease the imaginary tension away.  “You can do it brother.  Just relax.”

          “I am relaxed but I won’t be if you keep that up,” Scott retorted.  “Now just go stand with Murdoch and Teresa and let me get this over with.”

           “Scott?  You ready?” Val asked the final contestant.

          “Yes,” he replied.  “I’m ready.” 

           Taking a steadying breath he picked up his rifle and took careful aim.  Johnny had no idea how close to the truth he’d come.  Scott was a little nervous.  One thing he had not been during his army service was a sniper.  Their marksmanship was something special that they were born with.  No one could make a marksman out of a rifleman though they could polish up their style.

           Crack!  Scott squeezed the trigger and fired his shot.  A hush came over the crowd as they waited for the judges to check his target.

           “Scott Lancer – slightly off center!  We’ll have to use a ruler to decide this one folks.  Unless the two remaining contestants wish to take another shot.”  Val held the target up that Scott had just hit.

          Scott and his opponent agreed that they’d much rather have the judges use a ruler to make the decision. Neither thought their nerves could take it if they had to take one more shot.

           It was hard to say which Lancer was the most nervous as they waited for a ruler to be procured and put to use.

           “The winner is…” Val hesitated as he conferred one last time with his fellow judges.  “…Scott Lancer by an eighth of an inch.  Will Pemberton is second by an eighth of an inch more.  Congratulations Scott.”

           Johnny let out a whoop at the announcement that could have been heard clear to the Pacific Coast according to his father.  Murdoch beamed with pride and Teresa threw her arms around Scott’s neck and hugged him.  For his part, Scott turned to his last opponent and offered a hand in congratulations.  Will Pemberton shook it and clapped Scott on the shoulder before making his way from the area.  He was entered in the pie-eating contest next and he wanted to be sure to be there on time.

           Val approached the Lancers at this point to offer his own congratulations.

           “Nice shooting, Scott,” he said. 

           “Thanks Val,” Scott replied.  “I was a little nervous there for a minute.”

          “I don’t blame you,” the sheriff of Green River said.  “Those were mighty small targets to try and hit from such a long distance.”

           “Hey, Johnny,” Scott turned to his brother.  “I hear the pie-eating contest is next.”  He winked at Val who knew what was coming.  “Let’s go see what happens.”

           “Sure,” Johnny said still thinking about how his brother had won that shooting match and eyeing the rifle that he’d been given for a prize.

           “Mind if I join you?” Val asked.

           Murdoch looked at his elder son and the sheriff suspiciously.  He had a feeling something was up.  Johnny had been playing fast and loose with the teasing while Scott was sick and something told him that he was about to “pay the piper”.  And Val was entirely too eager to go along with them.

           Two long tables had been set up.  About twenty men and boys were already lined up on both sides while another nine were on the other side.  Blackberry pies were placed in front of each of the contestants.

           “Hey,” Johnny said noticing the empty space.  “Looks like they’re missing somebody.”

           “Not any more,” Maura Talbot said as she approached.  She was the third conspirator.  “You’re number twenty.”

           “What? Who me?”  Johnny was taken completely by surprise.

           “Yes, you, little brother,” Scott said.  “Val and I signed you up this morning while you were looking over the horses for sale.”

           “Now wait a minute,” Johnny protested.  “This ain’t fair!”

           “Time to pay the piper little brother.  You set me up to take your place in the shooting match and you teased me for two solid weeks when I had that cold and laryngitis.  Payback is going to be ever so sweet,” he chuckled as Maura Talbot took Johnny by the arm.  His brother spluttered all the way to the table but to no avail.  Maura knew what he’d been up to and she wasn’t going to let him escape his “punishment”.

           A blackberry pie, oozing purple juice, was placed in front of him.  Johnny had only enough time to put his hands behind his back before the contest started.  At the word “go” all the contestants put their faces down and started in on their pies.  It wasn’t long before most, if not all of them, seemed to be wearing half the juice of their pies on their faces.

           Murdoch watched his younger son in amusement.  The light had dawned as to just exactly what Scott and Val had been up to when he’d seen them with their heads together.  And he agreed that sooner or later Johnny was going to pay for teasing his brother for so long.  He suspected, from the way she was giggling, that Teresa had had something to do with it too.

           Five minutes later, ten-year-old Sam Cassidy was declared the winner.  Not only had he eaten every bit of his pie he’d managed to slurp up the syrup that was in his pie plate as well.  Everyone cheered for the boy as he claimed his ribbon.

           Johnny, face covered in purplish blackberry juice gave in and laughed.  Big Brother had gotten his revenge. Now they were even.  Until the next time one or the other of them found something to hassle his brother about.  He approached his laughing family, Val Crawford, Maura and Jim Talbot with a sheepish grin on his face.

           “I guess you got me good brother,” he said to Scott while attempting to wipe the pie crust and berry juice off his face with his hands.

           “I guess I did too – brother,” Scott answered with a huge grin plastered on his face.

           “That’ll learn ya!” Val chimed in.  “We signed you up for that pie-eating contest with Mrs. Talbot this morning.  She’s been waiting all day for this just like we have.”

           “And I made your pie especially juicy,” Teresa chimed in, “to pay you back for teasing me about Blossom.”

           “Looks like you lose out in the conspiracy here John,” his father chuckled.  “Maybe you’ll be more careful about who you tease and how long you tease them.”

           “And how,” Maura emphasized.  “Teasing your poor brother about being squeaky and calling hogs.  Shame one you!”  She handed him a wet towel to wipe his face and hands with.

           Johnny just grinned at them and shook his head.  He’d never figured that their substitute mother would be in on such a thing.  He’d just found out otherwise.  Several buckets of water were nearby for the contestants to use in cleaning up. He had to dunk his towel a couple of times to rise it before his face was truly clean.

           He’d just finished washing up and was drying his hands when a commotion arose from the vicinity of the poultry exhibit.  Children were crying, dogs were barking, chickens were squawking, feathers were flying.  The Lancers, Talbots and Val all ran toward the source of the disturbance.  As they got closer they could hear two sounds above all else – Jelly Hoskins’ voice and Dewdrop’s honking.

           The disturbance carried over to the tent where the cattle were housed.  Several of the bulls started bellowing and the cows mooing.  Murdoch ran over to check on Sebastian, while Teresa went to see if Blossom was all right.  The boys, the Talbots and Val continued on toward the poultry tent.  But now the disturbance was not only in the poultry tent but outside.  Children fleeing the goose excited several dogs that were running around.  Tables were tipped over as the excited canines chased after Dewdrop.  Jelly chased the dogs yelling at them to leave his pet alone. 

           By the time everything was settled down again an angry group of poultry judges and exhibitors confronted Jelly about the disturbance.  Several cages had been damaged when the dogs ran under the tables they were on and upset them.  Chickens of all varieties had been released and were running all over the place.  The dogs, seeing the chickens on the ground, started chasing them.  Two prize-winning hens were killed before anyone could stop it.  Eggs were smashed on the ground and on the clothes of some of the owners.

           Several teams of horses were spooked and one broke free and ran off scattering spectators in their wake and strewing the hay bales and baskets of vegetables in the back to fall out and be smashed.  The owner of that wagon chased his team cursing mightily the horses, the goose and the owner of said goose.

           A water bucket was overturned creating a large mud puddle which Jelly had the misfortune to slip in just as he was about to collar Dewdrop.  Scott was the one who finally got hold of the wayward goose.  He snagged him by the neck just as he was reaching out his long neck to peck Jim Talbot who had gotten there just ahead of Scott.  Approaching from behind Scott grabbed Dewdrop by the neck and picked him up holding his beak closed lest he himself get pecked.

           “That’s enough of that,” he said to the goose.  “Jelly’s got a lot of explaining to do because of you.”

           Johnny and a mud soaked Jelly approached a moment later.  Jelly’s face was red with a combination of anger and embarrassment.  Not only had he lost the bet with the boys but Dewdrop hadn’t won any prizes.  And now he owed people for the damage done to their property.  For the time being the boys let it go.  They knew their father would have something to say about Dewdrop’s destructive behavior but would also probably make amends for Jelly and take the damages out of his wages for the length of time it would take to repay him.  In some ways they couldn’t stand the hurt and disappointed look on the old man’s face.  Dewdrop had let him down – badly.

         Val and Jim Talbot caught the collars of two of the dogs and turned them over to their owners.  Both men, as well as Johnny and Scott, reassured the owners of the slaughtered chickens, smashed eggs and vegetables and the like that they would be compensated for their loss.

 In spite of the problems with Dewdrop it was a triumphant family and crew that returned home that evening.  Scott had his new rifle and had paid his brother back – at least somewhat – for his nonsense while he’d been sick.  Both Sebastian and Blossom had taken top honors in the cattle judging.  Teresa and Maria both had won prizes for their sewing projects and preserves and the chili had been such a smash among the Mexican attendees and the more daring Anglos that Maria’s recipe was in high demand.  The concessionaires had turned a tidy profit and the fair committee had raised a nice sum to be turned over to the director of the local orphanage and to several other charities in the area including an Indian School.

           Johnny and Scott collected their five dollars from Jelly the following morning.  Murdoch had a little chat with Jelly about Dewdrop’s behavior and presented him with the bill for the damages that he’d paid.  Jelly had another long talk with Dewdrop about his behavior.  Only time would tell if it did him any good.




          Three days later Sam Jenkins quietly closed the door to the bedroom and went downstairs to join an anxious Lancer family in their living room.  Teresa would sit with the patient.  At Murdoch’s inquiring look he reassured the family of his patient’s well being.

          “He’ll be fine Murdoch.  It’s nothing serious – just a cold and a bad case of laryngitis.”

           “That’s good news Sam,” Murdoch said with relief.  “It seemed to come on him so fast and that cough…I admit I was worried.”

           “Just treat him the way we did Scott and he’ll come around,” Sam instructed.  “Lots of fluids – especially hot ones.  And lemon and honey in the tea as Maura suggested.  It really does work.”

           “Can I go see him?” Scott wanted to know.

           “Sure.  He can’t talk very well but it won’t hurt for him to have some company.”

           Scott headed up the stairs.  Before entering his brother’s room though he detoured to his own and picked up a two-inch thick red-jacketed book and a slightly thinner one with a black jacket and gold lettering.  Payback was about to become doubly sweet.

           “Teresa,” he said as he entered the room.  “I’ll sit with him for a while.  You go do something else.”

           Teresa gave him a funny look when she heard that and saw the book.  She was torn between seeing what Scott was up to and getting caught up on her mending, which had piled up during the frenzied preparations for the fair.  However, she just leaned over and gave Johnny a kiss on the forehead and said, “I’ll be back when your supper is ready.”  Then she left the room giving Scott one more suspicious look.

           “Hey little brother,” Scott said hiding a grin.  “Seems like you spent a little too much time around me when I was sick and came down with my cold.”

           “Yeah,” Johnny croaked.

           “It seems to me,” Scott said as he settled himself in the chair next to the bed, “that you could use a little entertaining.  Why don’t I read to you?”

           Johnny gave his brother a suspicious look.  He wasn’t sure he liked the tone of Scott’s voice.

           “Yes, it seems to me that you expressed and interest in poets and philosophers not so long ago.”  Scott grinned at his antsy brother as Johnny tried to protest and quickly moved the pad of paper and pencils out of his reach.  “You have a choice here between Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or this volume of Emerson.  Speak up.”

           Johnny glared at his brother.

           “Oh you don’t have a preference?  Well then let’s start with Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance.”

           Scott settled himself in the chair and put his feet up on the bed.  Then he took the volume of Emerson that he had retrieved from his room and started to read.

           “’What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.  This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.  It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.  It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude’.”

           A miserable Johnny Lancer lay back against his pillows resigned to the fact that his brother was not paying the least little bit of attention to his attempts to protest and listened as his brother continued reading.  Scott had gotten his revenge and it was sweet, very sweet.




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