Word Count 3,311
Rule 17- Complain About the Cooking and You Become the Cook
Usual Disclaimers Apply – No Beta – Flying Solo
Response to Lancer-Righters’
Code of the West – Week 1 Challenge
March 15, 1844
Stepping outside the Sacramento Land Registry Office into the bright sunlight, a twenty-five year old man, with slate blue eyes and hair light brown with hints of gold and auburn highlights gleamed from the illumination. He placed his wide-brimmed hat on his head as he pulled a tri-folded piece of paper from his jacket pocket. Broadly smiling at a waiting couple he held the signed deed high above his head. Excitedly waving the paper with clear jubilation in his voice boomed as his native inflection thickened, “Guid day Paul, ‘tis mine now! The Estévan and Manzanelli de Munrás parcel of land, along with the 2,000 head of cattle and 100 horses belong to me!”
Paul’s face erupted into a broad smile as he nodded at this tall friend of his whose broad shoulders and stature gave him the appearance of a giant amongst the passersby on the wooden slated boardwalk. “We should celebrate this grand occasion my wee laddie.” Paul roped his arm around the slender woman standing alongside him and gave her narrow waist, clinched securely in a whale boned corset, a bear hug. She squealed with delight at the possessive clasp as she titled her head back to chuckle in joyfulness.
“Just think Angel, a place to call home, where we can raise our family and build our dreams alongside our wee friend here,” Paul said as he smiled down at the radiant red-haired woman standing on her tippy-toes to give him a quick kiss.
Murdoch Angus Lancer towered over the pair at 6’5” bent over to give Angel a kiss on her cheek, “Who are you calling wee, Paul? Mrs. O’Brien, how you put up with this Irish riff-raff, I’ll never understand. Come on, let’s mount up and head for home.” He slapped his friend on his stout back as Paul moved to climb up to the driver seat of the sturdy broad-wheeled Conestoga wagon that was laden with food supplies, household goods and building materials. The items would be needed after they had toured the property and saw the condition of the main house, damaged by lack of attention and finances of the previously owners. There was much work to be done before it was suitable for Murdoch to bring his intended bride home.
“HOME!” Murdoch’s brain register that thought while he tucked the deed back in its secure location, next to his heart. “HOME!” Murdoch’s heart beat its steady cadence against the crisp parchment document that held his future dreams to build a home and a booming cattle business. People were migrating in droves to the wilderness, this land called the “Wild West” and those people would need beef to survive. He knew this land held his future, where he would bring his bride and raise a whole passel of children, children who would become men of the land or women with backbone to survive this wilderness land that had become his for the taking. This was his dream!
Murdoch waited for Paul to settle himself before he swung Angel up alongside her new spouse. She and Paul had been married only a few months, Murdoch standing witness for them. Since that time she and Paul would smile unabashly as they snuck off at times to start working on that family that both wanted, but so far no luck. She giggled with glee as the tall Scotsman easily swung her to the wooden seat.
“Put me down Murdoch Lancer, you’ll wrench your back!”
“I doubt that, wee Mrs. O’Brien, you don’t weight more than 100 poonds soakin’ dreich,” (100 pounds soaking wet.) Which Paul translated for Angel, who blushed bright red.
“Why! Murdoch Lancer you need not be concerned about what I weigh or don’t weigh! That is none of your concern!” she admonished him with a gentle slap to his hands.
“Mrs. O’Brien, I am terribly sorry. I am but your poor humble servant set here to do your biding. What say you, do you forgive me for my blunder? But you really could use some meat on those bones,” he grinned chucking her under her chin before stepping away to avoid her jabbing at him with her elbow.
“Murdoch Lancer, I will not forgive you, if you don’t stop calling me, Mrs. O’Brien. We’ve know each other for months now, you must call me, Angel, I insist,” she grinned at the Scotsman standing alongside the wagon.
“Murdoch, my wee lad you might as well give in. Angel will hound me night and day until you do, and I have better things to do at night with her than hear about how you call her by my mother’s name of Mrs. O’Brien.”
Murdoch raised his heads in the air and said, “Ahh, alrecht Ah ken when Ah am ootnumbered!” (Ahh, alright I know when I am outnumbered!).
Murdoch mounted his sturdy mount, a mixed draft horse, built for endurance, not speed, the horse would be like everyone else and have to pull it’s weight to help built his dream home, making it a fit and proper home. The home he wanted ready to receive his intended bride, left waiting for him back in Boston. The beautiful blonde, blue-eyed fair complexion, Catherine Elizabeth Preston Garrett, just the roll of her name from the tip of his tongue made the young man giddy with anticipation for that day to hasten. Murdoch rode the large lumbering animal as his thoughts drifted thinking about his bride-to-be.
The day Murdoch met Miss Catherine Elizabeth Preston Garrett was the best of his life so far, having left his native land to seek his fortune in America, the land of opportunity. He literally almost knocked the wee lassie down as he turned to leave the newspaper office with his nose stuck in the paper. A quick save on his part steadied the woman, who was left breathless. From the moment on she would meet him at the newspaper office every afternoon.
And he spent the first six months in Boston, working hard, saving his money. He devoured the daily newspaper and read of cheap land in California, pennies on the acre, where a man could provide for his wife and family. On weekends, Murdoch would escort Catherine around her Beacon Hill neighborhood, wooing the beautiful, delicate flower, much to the chagrin of her father, one Harlan Garrett. As they strolled, his long legs adjusting to her small strides, he would tell her of his grand plans for their future together. Her elbow held in the crook of his arm, as she looked on in admiration at her suitor, the man she knew she would marry. Here was the promise of a life of adventure with this giant of a man guiding her through life as she guided him as well.
Meanwhile Harlan flumed, believing himself to be a proper blue-blood Bostonian, doted upon his own daughter, as such, he forbade her from spending time with the immigrant with the heavy bough and uncouth manners. He wanted much more for his dear, sweet, precious Catherine, position, wealth; a fine Bostonian family name to marry, Murdoch Lancer was not right for his daughter. But Catherine had set her cap on the titanic man with the witty sense of humor. She longed for a life away from Boston’s spurious high society airs and proper decorum – this splendid man would take care of her. She accepted his offered of proposal with the understanding that he would go to California, purchase his lands, built upon it a fine home and then return to Boston to claim her as his wife.
But for now, he had to settle for the companionship of his friend Paul, who he met, seeking his own fortune on the ship that brought them from Boston to this magical land that reminded them both of their own far away homelands, his Inverness, Scotland and Paul’s County Tipperary, Ireland. On board the vessel, “The Lady Ester” their friendship strengthened as they told tales of their upbringing in their native lands, had meals together, and walked the decks each getting to know the other. Murdoch was very much impressed with the shorter 6’0” man, who was a few years his senior that he suggested they throw in together to make a go of it. Paul was game as he wasn’t quite sure what other opportunities would be available to him.
Angel Day was also on board “The Lady Ester” and the trio soon were fast friends and almost inseparable on their trek took them down around Cape Horn sailing from the cool, rougher Atlantic Ocean to the warmer, calmer waters of the Pacific Ocean. Arriving in San Francisco before disembarking from the ship, Paul and Angel were wed in a simple ship’s captain ceremony, as the tall Scotsman looked on wishing it was him and Catherine, knowing in his heart of hearts that one day it would be his turn.
The trio set off on their way to Murdoch’s dream, his El Dorado of land which was nestled in the San Joaquin Valley. Land where he intended to raise the finest stock cattle and champion horses, despite his lack of knowledge in either, he was a man that was willing to put forth the efforts to make his dream a reality. The pace was slow and laborious as the team of horses pulled the overloaded wagon – up hills and down they went, stopping occasion to move obstructions from their pathway on the unpaved, rough road to their destination.
Their first three nights, Angel prepared their meals on the trail. It was a simple fare, no meat as the men were not stopping to hunt, just plain baked beans, corn bread and weak coffee. Simple fare meant to sustain them, nothing more that was for certain, Angel had almost no experience preparing meals but was putting forth a valiant effort. On the fourth night on the trail, tempers were flaring from the slow laborious travels with the same nightly trail fare. They were dusty, sore from pushing and pulling the wagon over rivers, streams and ruts, in need of baths, and what Murdoch wouldn’t give for a soft bed tonight instead of the cold, hard ground under his bedroll, but worst still, the same meal night after night.
Murdoch lifted the spoon filled with more greasy beans and let the beans dribble back onto this plate, “You know Angel, far be it from me to protest, but do you suppose perhaps you might find a piece of slab bacon you could toss into the beans to give them added flavor and some meat for a change?” He looked over and saw that Angel was giving him a look that made him do a double take; he realized that she wasn’t too happy with his critiquing of her cooking skills. But then they were all exhausted from another grueling day nearing their destination.
She was standing by the fire pit, dug out of the soil for the purpose of containing the fire in the pit and not spreading it to the land. A heavy metal cook grate held the pot she stirred; sweat ran in lines down the side of her face from the heat, her flaming red hair held back from her forehead by a kerchief. She stopped stirring the pot of beans, leaving the wooden spoon to rest in the pot, standing straighter she moped her brow with the back of her wrist before replying.
“Mr. High and Mighty Murdoch Angus Lancer, where I come from, it’s not good manners to criticize the person cooking.”
Murdoch arched his eyebrows, mimicking the motion that his own father had employed upon him, many a time, without realizing that he had done so, “Is that a fact, Mrs. O’Brien,” he said, playing along with Angel, hoping that it was indeed a game.
“That is indeed a fact, Mr. Lancer, you complain about the cooking and you become the cook. Tomorrow night, you can take over cooking the one hot meal of the day. In the morning, you boys will have to settle for some hard tack and beef jerky. So enjoy your beans. Tomorrow night, I’ll not lift a finger to help.”
Murdoch lifted up his spoon and let the dripping beans slop back onto the plate, “That, Mrs. O’Brien is fine by me, as long as I get to fix something besides beans.”
“Have at it, be my guest, Mr. Murdoch Lancer,” said Angel, placing her hands on her hips. “Maybe we’ll be at your estancia and have the luxury of an indoor fireplace.”
“I certainly hope so,” Murdoch mumbled under his breath as he spooned another mouthful of beans and slowly chewed. He washed the taste down with her weak coffee, which he reluctantly swallowed. “A man needs more than this to survive the rigors of the land.”
A new morning dawned as the weary travelers were more than ready as they neared their journey’s end. Murdoch pointed out the mountain range of the San Benitos as he sat upon his steed while they paused on a ridge to admire the vast majestic rugged landscape before their eyes.
Finally they arrived at the great estancia, where a few vaqueros roamed about, charged with over seeing the herd. They watched in open curiosity as the wagon pulled to a stop in front of the adobe house and eyes widened when the lone rider dismounted and they saw how grande the man was in height. One vaquero with a wide bushy mustache approached the group while the others lingered in the background.
“Buenas tardes, ¿cómo se llama usted? (Good after, what is your name?)
Murdoch looked at the man speaking to him, “Umm, are you Cipriano? Do you speak English?”
The man nodded, “Si, estoy Cipriano. Mi Inglés es tan-tan.” (I am Cipriano. My English is so-so). “Usted es el Nuevo patron?” (You are the new owner/boss?)
Murdoch shook his head in agreement to what he thought the man had asked, “Cipriano, Murdoch Lancer, owner.” He swept his hand around to indicate the area, then pointed his thumb to his chest and swept his arm around again, before taking out the precious deed. He unfolded it and pointed to the paper, his name and again swept his hand around.
“Ahyy, si, patron!” said Cipriano, nodding his head that he understood. He grabbed Murdoch’s right hand and pumped it up and down vivaciously. “Hola Patron! Muy bien!” (Hello Boss! Very good!).
And so it began, Murdoch Lancer with Paul and Angel and the vaqueros began to unload the wagon of its supplies. Angel inspected the kitchen and found that it needed a woman’s touch as she set to work to clean it, while the men set about their tasks at hand.
As the sun moved slowly across the horizon, Angel found Murdoch busy with Paul inspecting the condition of the barn. “Murdoch, it’s time for you to start the evening meal. I’ve cleaned the kitchen for you. But now you need to prepare us a meal fit for the new owner. You promised.”
Murdoch looked down at the petite woman staying in front of him, with her arms crossed tightly against her chest, “Aye, wee Angel. A bargain is a bargain. A promise was made and a promise will be kept. Paul, take over here, while I go rustle us some grub that will stick to our bones. I promise you, no beans tonight but a grand fest instead.”
He walked to the outdoor pump, and splashed the cold, clear water onto this face and hands. “Show me to your kitchen, Angel, where I will make you a meal the likes of which you have never tasted before.”
Murdoch was amazed that the kitchen was small but at least it would be better he knew that cooking over an open fire on the trail. He looked around to find the items he needed for their evening meal and then shooed Angel away, “Go on with you lassie, find yourself something else to do while I make our meal.”
While Murdoch cooked, Angel cleaned the dining area, the table needed dusting, the dishes needed cleaning, and the silverware was tarnished and got a quick polish until more could be done later. She did what she could do to make the first meal in the estancia special, then set about building a fire in the fireplace to give the room a warm glow and heat after the sun set in the west.
Looking around, she knew that many hands were needed to make this place into a special home. She curled up in one of the large overstuffed chairs and fell asleep.
“Angel, wake up, lassie,” she heard sometime later as she saw Murdoch standing over her. “Time for dinner, you should go get your husband, while I bring the meal to the table.”
“Oh? I can’t wait to see what you have prepared for us, Murdoch. I’ll be right back with Paul.”
Murdoch grinned as he watched her rushed out the heavy, oak front door into the yard to call for Paul. He went back into the kitchen and brought out their evening meal, which was on a large platter with a lid that fit to cover it and keep the food warm. He placed it on the table at the head end where he would take his place, then went back to the kitchen to bring in a pot of his strong brewed black coffee.
Paul and Angel joined him and took their places on either side of Murdoch, who grinned at the couple, “Paul, Angel I want to thank you for all your help in getting here to make this our new home. I prepared what I hope will be a treat for your both, as I remembered where I came from, my native home to make this our first meal in our new home. First a toast to Scotland, here’s to the heath, the hill and the heather, the bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather! And a toast to what will be called from this point forward “Lancer!”
The three clinked together their coffee cups, smiling and laughing, glad to have arrived, happy to see that yes, there was much work to be done, but at the end of the day, there was much to be grateful for…that is until Murdoch removed the lid from the platter and the couple looked at their dinner.
Beans might have been more welcomed as Murdoch described the food as he served it to the couple who looked at it with curiosity.
On the platter were Scotch eggs, eggs that were coated in breadcrumbs and looked to have been deep-fried in lard, they were brown, crumbly and looked unappealing. Next to them was haggis with neeps and tatties. Paul’s eyes blinked rapidly at the meal before turning to Murdoch, “Is this your idea of a joke, Murdoch?”
“Joke, no Paul, just a tad homesick for the old country and thought to have given us some to remind us of were we came from.”
Paul looked at Angel and pointed his fork at her, “Angel next time Murdoch Lancer complains about your cooking, I don’t care what he tells you, do not make another deal with this devil. I left Ireland and thought to have left meals of fried eggs, stuffed intestines, mashed turnips and potatoes behind me.”
Murdoch smiled at the couple as he cut off some food and took a bite, “Please eat before your haggis before it gets cold.”
Patti – November 7, 2009
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