Word Count 2,596
In Honor of August 23rd – Ride The Wind Day
Usual Disclaimers Apply
~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~ JML ~
Scott and Johnny were seated upon their respectively mounts, Charlemagne and Barranca, overlooking the stunning valley vista below them and the majestic snow-capped mountains in the far eastern distance. This vast land the young men looked over they now called home, after fighting to hold onto it. For the past few weeks the newcomers had discovered that much had been offered to them from this land, the Lancer Ranch. Besides the obvious acquirement of family, the brothers looked towards the future. Their responsibilities of custodians of this land, working the land that was a significant thriving cattle ranch commerce, and making something bigger than themselves from their father’s fortuitous offer to share and share alike. All the while they frequently tested the other’s mettle, along with their father’s who retained the controlling factor if he so deemed it. Both brothers gave as well as they got after the initial discovery of the other, their bounds soon became interwoven in an intricate pattern, regardless of their being half-brothers.
Johnny was ecstatic to be back in the saddle again after recouping from the fire fight when Day Pardee’s back shot him. Scott charged in, took aim with deadly military precision and killed Day Pardee thereby squashing the remaining land pirates’ advance on the Hacienda by toppling their leader. Steadfastly he had protected Johnny, standing over him as the vaqueros finalized the battle, and then he hoisted his stubborn sibling to his shoulder inside their new home for medical aid. To affirm that Johnny had been the perfect patient would be stretching things too much as Scott kept him company much of his convalescent time as possible thereby adding multiple layers and depth to the brother’s intricate woven bond.
Johnny’s mood was just as reflective as Scott’s was while they pay attention to the progress of the slow moving cattle on the valley floor below. Plaintive bawling of the bovines drifted their direction as the herd was driven under the management of the Lancer vaqueros towards the south pasture where green grass did indeed grow, or so they had been informed by their father. Johnny could feel Barranca restlessness underneath him as his horse bobbed his head up and down eager to be on the move. He understood the feeling well but held Barranca in check while the brothers continued watching the activity going on before them.
Earlier in the day, Murdoch had given his blessing for the brothers to ride out, spend time in the great outdoors and get to know who the other really was in a whole different perspective than Johnny’s bedroom. For Johnny this was a welcomed relief not to be fenced in any longer and watched over like he was some invalid not capable of taking care of himself. Dios, he’d done that all his life, since he was a snot nose kid. He didn’t want to be coddled over like some baby chick by its mother hen as his restless nature demanded he get up and move. Johnny sighed loudly at the scene playing out before him.
His noisy sigh caused Scott to look over in trepidation that perhaps it was still too early for Johnny to be up and on his horse, searching for a tattle-tale sign of blood, seeing none was an enormous weight lifted from his shoulders. Being the older brother was still foreign to him but he drew upon his own recollections of how his friends back in Boston had been around their younger siblings.
Scott had marveled as the older brothers had to endure the flack and teasing from the siblings while the responsibilities for their welfare and keeping them out of trouble were directives from the respected parents. He had heard enough tales to know that this didn’t always work out for the best as several of his friends had ended up in their family woodsheds alongside their sibling getting their comeuppance for their misdeeds. This deterrent did have a lasting effect on his friends as many times he was called upon to help mediate the scrapes the youngsters had gotten themselves into to avoid another such trip. Most misdeeds dealt with swiping apples from neighbors’ trees, tipping over the metal rubbish bins or soaping of windows. Scott was well respected by the adults in the community and after their initial irritation would allow the miscreants to make restitution with the full accord that any such more misdeeds would get back to their parents’ ears and their backsides.
Scott had all the makings of a fine diplomatic in Foreign Service or even as a respected attorney. Most folks in Boston were shocked when it was announced that Harlan’s beloved grandson, Scotty, was heading to California to meet his father. They were sure he would be back in a few months time when he came to the realization he belonged in a civilization world and not some back woods ranch, using his hands instead of his head to make his mark upon the world.
As Scott pondered over how quickly life can change he had a gut feeling that while Murdoch was dogmatic in his ways, he didn’t believe that he would end up in the same predicament as his friends and their siblings. But on the other hand coming to recognize his brother’s mile-wide stubborn streak, to match his reluctance to trust he figured that Johnny might very well end up in Murdoch’s proverbial woodshed. And that wasn’t even taking into consideration that Johnny was prone to being the most notoriously free-spirited youth that he had even known this side of the Mississippi and east of China combined.
Scott had realized fairly quickly that Murdoch’s bark was worst than his bite and while Scott was by nature a peace-maker, he prefer not to push the envelope too often with his father…what a strange but nevertheless pleasant word to say after all these years…father…he had gained both a father and a brother. Shaking the cobwebs from his head, Scott, gave Johnny another look.
“Something brothering you, brother?”
“No, Boston, just thinkin’ that’s all.”
“Do you mind if I ask about what?”
Johnny hitched his left leg up around Barranca’s neck shifting his position in the saddle to look at his brother, grinning crookedly, “Nah, brother, don’t mind t’all…if ya ask.”
Scott sat patiently trying to decide if he was going to have to prod Johnny further or just wait him out. He pushed the brim of his Stetson back on his head, allowing the cool breeze to blow across his forehead. He continued waiting as Johnny bent down, crossing his arms and resting his chin in one hand. Now it was Scott’s turn to sigh as he waited for his brother to speak again.
“100,000 thousand acres, boy, that’s a lot of land, ain’t it, Scott?”
“Yes, Johnny, it is indeed.”
“How long do ya reckon it would take ta see it all?”
Scott pondered that thought, “I hadn’t thought about it, Johnny. Let’s analyze the situation, it takes an hour or so to reach Morro Coyo on horse back, longer, of course in the wagon, roughly about 20 miles away. So if I were to compare that distance with Lancer’s square mass, multiple that distance and facture in the mountains, pastures, streams, fence lines…”
“Hold it right there, Boston! Stop usin’ all that fancy college education,” joshed Johnny as he sat up in his saddle. “Didn’t ask for no math lesson,” he grinned as he socked Scott in his upper shoulder with a soft thud. “A rough guess would do just fine, brother.”
Scott shook his head back and forth, chuckling hardily, forgetting that his brother did tend to get impatient with any long explanations. He couldn’t help but notice that Johnny wanted answers like he preferred his lady friends, fast and easy, except upstairs in the boudoir then he wanted them smooth and slow until the pinnacle climax was reached. He heard tell from the scamp himself as they compared notes on the pickings at the Red Dog as to who prefer which girl over the other not that either had yet to test the waters, just brotherly comparison learning each other’s preferences. Yep he was discovering with each passing day that Johnny was a complex mixture of “hurry up” and “slow down” depending upon the particulars.
“Tell ya what brother, instead of sittin’ here jawin’ like two washerwomen over a clothes line; let’s see how far we can go right now. See if that plow horse of yours can keep up with my frisky amigo here, he’s been itchin’ ta stretch his legs,” he chuckled as he turned Barranca and kneed him to a fast start. Johnny leaned low over Barranca’s neck to reduce his wind resistance and draft, stealing a quick sideways check he saw that Scott had taken up his thrown gauntlet and was following. Grinning with wild, reckless abandonment at the sound of Barranca’s thundering hooves; Johnny felt the wind caressing his newly sun-kissed face, as his hat flew off his head, held in place by the stampede strings down his back, his long, gleaming raven locks ruffled in the breeze. Johnny’s smile ran from ear to ear as he released his pent-up doldrums and rode as if ol’ Diablo himself was chasing him to collect his soul…and he wasn’t ready for that!
Behind him Scott was in full charge mode as he urged Charlemagne onward to catch his rascally, wily little brother. Scott compared his military style to Johnny’s lunacy style of riding and deemed if he wanted to reach Johnny before nightfall, he had better follow suit as he adopted the rather unorthodox riding style. Crouching low over his stead’s neck, Scott felt the wind against his cheeks as his hat dropped down behind his head and he heard the wind’s whistling as he galloped full speed down the dirt trail. Certainly this was not his preferred style of riding but he did find it had certain advantages as the distance between the pair was narrowing. However he was eating a lot of trail dust, his eyes tearing, which meant he needed to go faster to avoid the cloud of dust left in Barranca’s wake.
Johnny was truly in his element as the race continued, brother chasing brother, whoops of joy and sounds of laughter echoed over the land as Murdoch perched on his noble stead observed his boys from a secluded grove of trees. He smiled as he heard Scott yell, “Johnny, get back here! You better not make me late for dinner! And you better not fall off that horse! I’ll be sure to let Murdoch skin you alive for this insubordination!” Johnny dismissed his brother with a smirk and a wave of his arm as he kneed Barranca to go just a tad bit faster and felt Barranca’s powerful stride length at his command. He thought to himself, “Dios, this feels right!”
Murdoch pulled out his watch and checked the time…he reckoned that the way those two had rushed past him they hadn’t seen him. He figured that they would probably reach Eagle’s Pass as they wore out their horses and needed to rest and water their horses at the Rock Pool before returning at a more sedate pace. Murdoch figured that those two would indeed be late for their customary 6:00 pm dinner hour but tonight he didn’t mind as he knew his sons were still learning the wherewithal of brotherhood. Tonight a little leniency would bode well for his boys. He turned his horse towards Lancer, letting his sons reap the wind and sow some wild oats.
The brothers rode hard until they reached Eagle’s Pass where the terrain changed dramatically from relatively flatland to a rocky, coarse terra firma. The pathway narrowed as Johnny pulled up to let Barranca rest and for Scott to catch up to him. This was not the place to race a horse unless you want to end up walking after your animal busted a leg over the loose rocks.
“There, ya see brother that’s what I’m talkin’ about…cover more ground by ridin’ over it than doin’ math. Didn’t they teach ya any common sense at that fancy school?”
Scott pulled alongside Johnny, both horses breathing heavily as their riders were as they were now slowly walked to cool off. “Analytical, hypothetical and pragmatically were the best they could muster, brother. No Johnnytical or smart-ass little brothertical courses were offered. Nor in the Cavalry either for that matter,” joshed Scott. “There I was taught discipline, self-preservation and how to follow orders. Something you’d be wise to learn. And I do believe common sense may have fallen in there somewhere, little brother.”
“There ya go again,” snorted Johnny, “It’s a damn good thing ya came out ta California so ya can learn it proper like from me! I see ya had the common sense ta follow my lead.”
“By doing what?”
“Ridin’ hell bent for leather.”
“I did no such thing!”
“Yeah, ya did, crouching low over Charlemagne, ya almost caught me,” laughed Johnny as he gave Barranca a few solid smacks to let him know he had done well. “Might have too if I had let ya.”
It was at that very moment that Scott realized that his brother, despite his lack of formal education would be able to hold his own come what may in any given situation. Johnny was not only able to ride the wind like the fabled winged horse, Pegasus but he had the unabashed confidence and reckless nature similar to another relatively young officer he had known and served under for a stint, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Scott grinned as he wondered what had become of that man as he and Johnny ambled down to the Rock Pool to water their horses before heading home.
Scott deemed he was needed more in Morro Coyo than Boston or the Cavalry and was pleased with his decision to follow John B. L. Soule’s 1851 witticism of “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.” He and Johnny both had much to learn from the other as they shared this their new world together as brothers for life, growing with the country and their father. The west was where he could on occasion kick up his heels and ride the wind, just like Johnny. Scott smiled brightly as he and his brother took their time heading back home, sharing stories and building a strong, enduring bond.
Patti H. – August 23, 2009
Author Note 1:
For more on John B. L. Soule: http://bkgoldberg.tripod.com/gowest/
Author Note 2:
About Ride the Wind Day: Ride the Wind Day is a carefree day to soar above the earth. You can catch a ride with the breeze, or float along slowly like a gentle, late summer cloud. Summer will soon be over. Catching the drift of this day is easy. Just relax, and let the wind carry you away in whatever direction it is blowing. Leave your troubles and worries behind for a spell, as you waft in the air.
I figured high over Lancer looking down on the valley was as close as the brothers could get to soaring above the earth. Added in a fast romp on horseback to feel the wind and the brothers left their troubles and worries behind them.
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