Read CHAPTER VI of Fred Fearnot's New Ranch and How He and Terry Managed It , free online book, by Hal Standish, on ReadCentral.com.

Evelyn’s first day on the new ranch.

Evelyn extended a cordial invitation to Mrs. Jones and her two daughters to drive over to the ranch-house some day and spend the day with her, and the mother gladly accepted the invitation. The girls were two healthy-looking lasses, both blondes with rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes.

Terry kept the old man busy telling him of the improvements that they were contemplating making on the ranch and of the residence that they would build down by the big mineral spring.

“Great rattlers!” the old man exclaimed. “You’re sho gwine to spend a lot of money, ain’t you?”

“Yes, we’ve got to in order to get a good start. If you know of any ranchmen within a hundred miles of us who want to sell a hundred or two beef cattle just tell us where to find him and we’ll go after the cattle.”

“Waal, I don’t believe I know of any just now who want to sell any cattle other then to the market, but I reckon you can find plenty of them along the line of the railroad.”

“How many cattle do you want to buy?” he asked.

“About one thousand,” was the reply.

“Land! but you’ll have a big lot of ’em.”

“Oh, we could keep ten thousand on the ranch and keep them fat, too, for the grass down here is very rich.”

“Yes, too rich for the farmers. We raise grass on our farms all summer. We raise a heap of corn and cotton.”

“Yes, we will raise corn, too, next year, for the use of our horses and hogs, but not for the cattle.”

“Gwine to raise pork, eh?”

“Yes, pork will sell in the market just as readily as beef will, and we are going to raise our own supplies for our cowboys and for family use. We have forty thousand acres on the range, which is room enough to feed several hundred people, as well as the cattle on the range and ducks, pigs and chicken. I believe that our dairyman is making some of the finest butter ever seen in this part of the South. It is sweet and rich and as yellow as gold. Generally one can’t get a glass of milk or a pound of butter on any ranch, because the ranchmen don’t take the trouble to make it. Everything pays that is raised on a ranch, and the greater the variety the more pay.”

“That’s so,” said the old man, shaking the ashes from his corncob pipe; “but I reckon you’ll have considerable trouble with coyotes and cattle thieves.”

“Yes, we expect to have a little trouble with them, but we have a way of dealing with cattle thieves which we have found to be very corrective. Every cowboy on our ranch has a Winchester rifle, and a lead pill from one of them makes a cattle thief sick. Then, too, a rope is something very distasteful to that breed of mankind, and as for coyotes, we will enclose that part of the ranch where we are keeping the pigs and ducks and chickens with a high wire-net fence, which no coyote can scale.”

“Mister, wire fences cost a heap of money.”

“Very true; but they will pay for themselves in one season.”

By and by the old farmer’s wife and daughters, having made their little purchases in the store, came out to the wagon ready to start home.

Evelyn came out with them and was on the best of terms with all three. She shook hands with Farmer Jones and told him that his wife and daughters had promised to come over and spend the day with her in the near future, and that if he put up any objection to that he would probably get himself into trouble.

“All right, miss,” said he. “I’ll let ’em come and will drive ’em, too.”

“Do so,” she replied. “We’ll set you down at the head of the table and see that you get plenty to eat.”

“Waal, miss, don’t offer me any jerked beef, for I can’t eat it.”

“Neither can I,” she laughed, “and we never have it on our table. We’ll give you fish, prairie chicken, quail, jack-rabbit and that genuine old Southern dish, bacon and greens.”

“That’s it. You can bet on my coming, and right soon, too. Bacon and greens is a dish fit for a king, but you haven’t got any on this ranch, I reckon.”

“No, we’ll buy that in town, as we do sugar and tea and coffee, and if you are fond of coffee, brother and Mr. Fearnot can certainly make the best that you ever tasted.”

“Gosh! I do love it.”

Fred and Terry assisted the mother and her two daughters into the wagon, and the girls they literally lifted off their feet by catching them around the waist and lifting them up as though they were little five-year-old-children. The girls blushed and laughed, and Evelyn really enjoyed their confusion.

They all drove off, waving their handkerchiefs at Evelyn and the boys.

“Fred,” said Evelyn, “they are plain, good, honest folks. The mother is a good woman and the girls do their share of the household work at home. Their hands show it.”

“Yes, and yet the old man is able to keep good servants for them, for black servants are cheap down in this region, and by the way, dear, when you go up to Crabtree again, you must start an inquiry for a good colored cook among your lady friends. Tell them you want a good one, who understands washing and ironing and all about cooking. At present we boys do all the cooking down here and we send our laundry up to Crabtree, where there are only three Chinamen to the whole town.”

“Fred, let me do the cooking at present,” she asked.

“Oh, yes, it’s fun for you now; but you would get tired at it after a while.”

“I’ll make you boys do the rough work. When you go out to hunt in the woods you go to sleep on the ground on blankets and do your own cooking, so it certainly won’t hurt you to rough it a little now.”

“No, it never did hurt us; but Terry and I know that there are at least a score of young ladies in Crabtree who want to come down here out of curiosity and for a change. We are going to have two additional rooms built onto the house so that the two bedrooms that are now furnished can be given up to them and we boys will occupy the annex.”

That evening they sat up quite late talking and planning.

“See here, Fred,” said Terry, “we have no musical instrument on the ranch, so sister had better go in to-morrow and buy a piano.”

“Oh, my! how extravagant you boys are becoming,” she exclaimed. “The idea of a piano on a ranch would certainly astonish the natives.”

“Yes, so it would, but for all that we’ve got to have it.”

“Well, one of you must go in after it, for I won’t.”

“I’ll go,” said Terry, “for a good piano we must have; and, besides that, we must have a good violin, a good flute, and–­”

“A bass drum,” Evelyn interrupted.

“Yes,” added Fred, “and a hurdy-gurdy.”

The next morning Evelyn, was up before either of the boys, for as soon as she heard the little chickens peeping around she sprang up, put on a wrapper and went out to see them and feed them.

The dairyman was up feeding and milking the cows. Evelyn looked on for a while, and finally took up a pail and began milking, too. The dairyman looked on in astonishment.

“Great rattlers, miss!” he exclaimed. “Where did you learn how to milk?”

“Why, up at my home in New York state,” she replied. “I made all the butter from two splendid cows, and more often did the milking than the hired help did.”

“Well,” said he, “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen you milking this morning.”

She was talking with the dairyman when Fred showed up, exclaiming:

“Hello! Why didn’t you make an alarm when you got up so that I could have heard it.”

“Oh, I didn’t like to break up little boys’ sleep. It is good for them.”

The dairyman chuckled at the retort, and so did Fred.

Evelyn milked the pail full, turned it over to the dairyman and went to see the little pigs.

“Evelyn,” said Fred, “how would you like to take a ride over the ranch? We’ll get back in time for breakfast.”

“I would like it very much, provided you give me a safe horse to ride.”

Fred went into the stable and saddled the big grays. They were almost a match in size and appearance for the two big grays which Evelyn had sold up North, and she greatly admired them. She stood there in the lot waiting for them to be made ready, and then, without going into the house to get a hat or any other article of dress, she placed her foot in Fred’s hand, which he held out for her, and was quickly lifted in the saddle.

“Are you going without your hat, Evelyn?” Fred asked.

“Yes, the early morning sun can do me no harm, for it has hardly got its eyes open yet.”

“All right; open the gate, Joe,” and the dairyman went to the outer gate and held it open for them to pass through.

They went dashing down toward the spring, and when they reached there Fred dismounted, went to where a big, native-raised gourd was hanging to a bush, dipped it full of the water and handed it up to her.

She drank copiously of it, smacked her lips and said:

“Oh, my, Fred! I can taste both sulphur and iron plainly.”

“Yes, those ingredients are the strongest in its composition, if it were nearer town it would become a the place of resort.”

“Well, you must make it one, anyway. You must lay off the grounds beautifully, thin out the timber somewhat so flowers will grow and yet leave enough to form plenty of shade. Then if you build a few cottages, or maybe a hotel, it would easily become a resort that is, if I am any judge of the water. It tastes perfectly delicious to me, and really I believe that it will finally prove the most valuable part of the ranch.”

Then Fred led the way further down the road in a southerly direction, skirting the timber, and at almost every ten feet quail and prairie chickens flew up out of their way.

After they had gone about a couple of miles Evelyn suddenly saw something running through the tall grass as if trying to avoid being seen.

“Fred.” said she, “aren’t those wolves out there?”

“Where?” and Fred gazed in the direction in which she was pointing.

He could barely catch a glimpse of their backs through the tall grass.

“I guess they are coyotes,” he said. “Let’s give them a race,” and he put spurs to his horse and dashed off after them. Evelyn, of course, followed, for she was quite as good a rider as he.

To his surprise, he gained on them, and he knew that the coyote was about the swiftest little animal of the kind anywhere, so he supposed that the tall grass was impeding their progress.

When he urged his horse faster the brutes turned, growled, showed their fangs and stood at bay.

“Great Scott, Evelyn!” he exclaimed, “they are timber wolves!” and his horse showed fear of them.

Evelyn reined up her horse right alongside of Fred.

“Why, Fred,” said she, “they seem to be defying us, which is a mighty bold thing for them to do in the open daylight.”

“Yes, indeed; but they saw that we were gaining on them. Luckily I have my revolver in my pocket,” and with that he drew the weapon and again dashed toward the wolves, who seemed to be full of fight. When within fifteen feet of them he fired and the wounded wolf yelped with pain, while his mate seemed on the point of charging upon them. He fired the second time and the bullet crashed through the wolf’s head. They both gave a single yelp, sank down in the grass and did a little kicking. The first one he had shot at hadn’t been hit in a vital spot.

So he stood by snarling and showing his fangs until another shot stretched him on the ground alongside of his mate.

“Why, Fred,” said Evelyn, as she rode up and looked at them after they were dead, “is it possible that they come up so near the houses on the ranch?”

“Well, I never saw them up so far this way before. I fear that they came up during the night in search of a calf, and I dare say if we search around we can find a dead calf half devoured somewhere in the neighborhood; but we won’t stop to look for it. We will go back to the house and send two cowboys down here to get the wolves’ pelts, for we always let them have the pelts of any wild beasts that we kill.” So they rode back to the house, and just as Terry and Jack were placing breakfast on the table Fred dismounted and assisted Evelyn to the ground. She ran into the house, while Fred went to the stable with the two horses and sent word around by the stableman to two of the cowboys to go down and get the pelts of the two wolves and make a search for the remains of any cow or calf that the wolves had probably killed during the night.

Before he returned to the house Evelyn had acquainted Terry with the result of their ride.

“I’m not surprised at it,” said Terry. “Before we placed cattle on the two ranches wolves were rarely seen in this part of the locality. They come up from the river bottom, some thirty miles away, and I guess we will have to have a grand wolf hunt pretty soon. Jack’s and ours are the only ranches between here and the river. There are farms, though; but they don’t raise cattle enough to tempt the wolves to leave the swamp, and they kept their hogs pretty well protected by wire fences. I am surprised, though, that only two wolves were seen, for generally they go in gangs for protection. As a general thing they are afraid of the long-horned cattle, and they rarely attack the grown ones; but they manage to catch calves quite often, for these long-horned cattle can toss a wolf high in the air and probably give him his death-wound.”

Fred came in and then they sat down to the table, on which was fried prairie chicken and broiled quail.

“Oh, my! such an appetite as I have,” said Evelyn, “and I don’t think I ever sat down to a more appetizing meal in my life.”

Her cheeks were like roses, for the brisk ride in the morning air had flushed them beautifully.

“Terry, just look at those cheeks,” said Fred, “did your ever see them glow more than now?”

“Oh, they’ll glow every morning down here if she takes rides before breakfast.”

They all ate heartily. Jack delighted in cooking since the new range had been put up.

Terry was an expert at broiling quail and any other kind of game, and they had fresh butter and milk.

“Brother,” Evelyn said, during the meal, “last night Fred said that you would have to go to town to buy a piano. Are you going?”

“Yes, I guess I will.”

“Then I want you to take several balls of this butter to several different ladies in town as presents from me and tell them that I want them to pick out a good cook for me. Not that I am too lazy to do the cooking myself, but because we will need a good, strong colored woman to do household and laundry work.”

“Sensible!” remarked Fred.

“Then bring one or two young ladies down with you,” he added.

“Oh, you needn’t bring anybody down vet. I’m not becoming lonesome yet by any means. I don’t believe I would ever get lonesome with chickens and cows and pigs and, ducks to look after.”

“My, sister! are you going to take all that responsibility on your shoulders?”

“Yes, for I’m going to be boss of the entire ranch, boys and all.”

“Good! Good!” exclaimed Fred.

“Fred, don’t whoop until you get out of the woods,” said Terry, “for you will soon find out her style of bossing. You will find her sitting on the fence somewhere yelling to you to do this and to do that, and be quick about it. I know what it is to work for a girl boss, so I will be sure that we’ll get competent help if it can be had. I want to do a little bossing myself.”

As soon as Evelyn could fix up five or six pounds of the rich, golden butter, pressed into pound cakes, Terry took the bucket in which she had placed them and waited for the first freight train that came along. Nearly a score of trains passed the ranch every twenty-four hours, going either east or west, it was about an hour’s ride from the ranch to Crabtree. Terry sent the cakes of butter to the ladies whom Evelyn wanted to have them and delivered her message to the effect that she would be glad to have them find her a good, all-around cook and house servant.

Mrs. Westervelt, the wife of the railroad superintendent, said that she knew a cook who would fill the bill.

“Send for her at once, please, madam, and tell her to get ready to move down to the ranch within a day or two. We will give her good wages and, besides, allow her to make money out of the cowboys by doing their washing, if she wishes to.”

“Mr. Olcott,” she asked, “did your sister make this butter?”

“No, she hasn’t started that yet, but let me tell you there is no woman, North or South, who can beat her at butter making.”