Raining Trouble
96 pages

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96 pages

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Wealthy rancher Barry Scrum dominated the valley and all the small ranchers in the area. When Ron Ward, a tough as nails rancher and his giant friend Once Dunn stopped by the area to look at horses, things began to change. Ward didn’t take kindly to bullies and Scrum was that and more. Ward and the few other ranchers were heavily outnumbered and out gunned. They would need to use their wits and patience to deal with this ruthless foe.



Publié par
Date de parution 02 juillet 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781772992076
Langue English

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Raining TroNble By Randall Sawka Digital ISBNs Kindle 978-1-77299-20G-9 EPUB 978-1-77299-207-G WEB 978-1-77299-208-3 Print ISBN 978-1-77299-209-0
Copyright 201G by Randall Sawka Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. Dedication To my amazing wife Nancy, with love.
Chapter One Ron Ward wore a wide smile on his handsome face as he gripped his horse’s reins. Beside him his giant friend known as Once Dunn lean ed over the pommels of his horse. The two men stared at the green valley in front of them. “Aren’t they something?” asked Ward as they looked at twenty-five or thirty horses eating the lush grass. “I can’t say I’ve ever seen a finer bunch of horses .” Ward knew horses. His ranch on the Texas border rai sed some of the finest stock west of the Mississippi. A tall man, just over six feet, Ward had broad shoulders and narrow hips on his muscular frame. On his hips rest ed twin Colts and in his scabbard a custom-made Winchester. Those who knew him well nev er tested his abilities with his guns or his fists. However, Ward’s good looks and l ight-hearted style did draw the attention of the ladies. Once Dunn’s black stood several hands higher than W ard’s chestnut. Dunn needed a big horse to carry his six-foot-five powerful frame . The giant of a man preferred a face-to-face scrap to a gun battle, but had plenty of ta lent with his guns. He learned to box in his youth on the east coast and moved west as a you ng man, looking for adventure. Nobody who knew him called him by his given name, F rank. Dunn earned his nickname in his first fight after moving west. His big opponent crashed to the ground after the first punch. A bystander at the fight saw Dunn’s power and yelled, “if that man hits you once, you’re done.“ Once Dunn bought a piece of land next to the Ward r anch. It wasn’t nearly as big as Ward’s spread, but it had good water and plenty of feed. Ron Ward was long a fixture in the area south of wh ere they sat. His large spread had been purchased by Ward’s father many years earl ier. He took over the ranch after his father was killed fighting off rustlers. A few years later Dunn settled next door. The two men teamed up to protect their stock. Several t imes rustlers tried to steal cattle. Each time the thieves turned tail and ran. The repu tation of the ranchers spread quickly. Soon the outlaws kept their distance. Since then Ro n and Once had each other’s back. The two friends planned on visiting a family friend of Ward’s on a nearby ranch and then attend a horse auction in Wyoming. In the valley below them a small ranch house sat ci rcled by corals and buildings. A few colts milled around one coral. Across the valle y two horses danced away from the rest of the herd. They moved to the bottom of the h ill from which Ward and Dunn watched. The darker of the two horses rubbed against the oth er then bolted along the bottom of the hill like a flash of lightning. The second h orse, a tall grey, took a dozen effortless strides as it caught and passed the other horse. Ward sat up straight. “That has to be racing stock.” “Especially the grey.” The two horses stopped at a stream and drank. The g rey shook its head, sending a fan of water into the bright sunlight. Mud spat out behind the horses as they sped away
from the stream and joined the other horses in the shade of the trees. “Once, I reckon we should get over to Jed Cochran’s ranch. I only met him when I was small. Pa spoke highly of him. It’s a log house and should be a few miles the other side of this ranch.” Their horses had their second wind and galloped smo othly along the crest of the hill. The horses reduced speed as they moved down the hil l and splashed through a shallow stream. At the top of the next hill another ranch a ppeared. The gleaming log ranch house sat against thick tree s on the north end of the property, protecting it from the cold north winds o f winter. “Jed’s place,” said Ward as he wiped sweat from his brow. The smell of frying bacon wafted toward the riders from smoke billowing out of the chimney. Dunn smiled. “That smell tells me we timed our visi t perfectly. I’m mighty hungry.” “When aren’t you hungry? Jed’s wife Lynn is suppose d to be a fine cook. You’re in for a treat.” In the Cochran house Lynn looked up from a pan of fried potatoes as Ward and Dunn rode toward the ranch house. “Jed, riders coming do wn the hill.” “Scrum hands?” asked Jed as he strapped on his gun belt. “Can’t say for sure. They’re a ways out yet.” Jed Cochran stood beside his wife and slid cartridg es into his rifle. “They may not be Scrum hands. Big men, though. I’ll handle this. Sta y in the house, Lynn.” “Be careful. Remember last week.” The previous week Cochran’s wealthy and powerful ne ighbour, Barry Scrum had sent a couple ranch hands to try and force The Cochran’s off their land. The Scrum hands had no idea how much talent Cochran had with a rifl e. The two men had fired warning shots from their horses as they closed on the sturd y log house. Jed Cochran had smashed out a window and fired two rounds, hitting both men, one in the leg and the other in the arm. The men had turned their horses in a matter of seco nds and disappeared over the hill. Cochran had saddled his horse and followed th em. He found a trail of blood leading to the Scrum ranch. Cochran had decided there and t hen to not trust Scrum for a second. Cochran walked out the front door of the house and stayed in the shadow of the veranda roof. He then moved into a sliver of light so the riders could see him but kept partly behind a support post of the veranda. “The riders may consider a shot,” thought Cochran. “But at this distance and with me not on a horse I have the advantage.” Even from a distance Jed recognized the high qualit y horses and clean, fine clothes on the riders. He doubted Scrum hands could afford those horses or dress that well. Still he kept his finger near the trigger of his rifle. C ochran didn’t recognize the riders but saw little likelihood of trouble. Both Ward and Dunn slowed their pace when they spot ted the man with the rifle. Their respect grew when they saw the man grip the w eapon in an efficient, confident
manner. “That’s close enough,” shouted Cochran. The two friends reigned in their horses. Ward kept his hands in view. “Howdy. We’re looking for Jed Cochran.” “You found him.” “I’m Ron Ward. We met when I was young. My father was Len Ward.” Cochran looked Ward up and down. He lowered his rif le. “Well, I’ll be. You’re the spitting image of your pa. Now let’s stow your hors es in the barn and you two can join us in the house for a bite to eat.” “Thanks,” said Ward. “Obliged,” added Dunn. Ward introduced his old family friend to Once Dunn while they unsaddled the horses and rubbed them down. Both horses ate grain supplie d by Jed. The barn mirrored the rest of Jed’s spread, well maintained and clean. A line of stalls on each side of the barn held a few horses of equal quality to those on the pastureland. Two cows at the back of the barn bawled when Ron and Once’s horses settled into hay-covered stalls beside them. “Fine horses.” Jed ran his hand along the neck of W ard’s mount. “Pa said you knew horse flesh,” replied Ward. “You have some fine stock yourself.” “A handful, but I need more land before I can incre ase the size of the herd,” replied Jed as he led them into the house. Jed introduced the visitors to Lynn who invited the m for lunch. Big Once Dunn eyed the bacon and fried potatoes on the stove, and the golden-brown bread Lynn pulled out of the oven. “Ma’am, I must say, this smells great.” Ward accepted a steaming cup of coffee from Lynn. “ I noticed racing gear in the barn. Pa didn’t mention you breed race horses.” “Started about ten years ago.” Jed Cochran nodded. “It’s big business around here.” “Tough business,” added Dunn as he sopped up some g ravy with bread. “Tougher than I thought. That horse in the far stal l of the barn is my most promising runner, but…” “Yes, I saw the bandaged leg,” said Ward. “It appea rs someone around here doesn’t like competition.” After lunch the three men walked the worn path from the house to the barn. They passed well-tended gardens and several young colts prancing around a coral. Jed opened the rear door of the barn and a large wedge of light fell on the injured horse. Once Dunn leaned on the rail of the stall. “Looks like it’s standing okay.” “That it can,” said Cochran pointing at the lower p art of a rear leg of the horse. “I was putting it through its paces when two men from up o n the rise to the north opened fire. One bullet caught Milo here in the leg. It was touc h and go for a while. But, I think he’ll be fine. He’s the fastest horse in the area and I a im to prove it.” Ron Ward admired the fine racing saddle on the far end of the coral. “Do you know who caused the trouble?”
“Sure I know. It’s that skunk Barry Scrum. I can’t prove it was his men that did the shooting, but I know it was him that sent them. He knew my horse would win against his best.” “My guess is that they were regular cowhands,” adde d Dunn. “They had a big target in this horse and only grazed it. Jed, do you mind if I take a look, I know a thing or two about leg injuries?” “Obliged if you did.” Once Dunn pulled the rope off the post that held th e stall gate closed. He walked into the stall and stood directly in front of the horse as it backed up a step. The big animal locked eyes and seemed to accept Dunn and relax. On ce bent over and removed the bandage on the horse’s leg. He leaned closer. “Heck, not too bad. Ron, can you grab the green bottle and a small piece of cloth from my saddle bag?” Ward nodded and flipped open the leather saddlebag. He found the bottle sharing a pouch with some clean cloths. He removed the bottle and one cloth and handed them to his close friend. Dunn poured a small amount of the liquid on the clo th and dabbed it on the wound. “This will help a small wound like this heal in a d ay or two. I suspect she'll be fine.” He wrapped a clean bandage around the leg and left the stall. “I can't say I like the idea of someone shooting at a horse so it can't compete in a race.” “I agree,” said Ward. “What's worse is someone like Scrum having someone else do his dirty work. One wonders if we shouldn't take so me time and teach this Scrum fellow a lesson?” Jed Cochran shook his head. “I've been wanting to d eal with him for a long time. Fact is, Scrum's a powerful man in these parts.” Both Ward and Dunn smiled as Ward spoke. “There isn 't much Once and I enjoy more than dealing with guys like that.” Ward stood silently for half a minute. “Jed, we need to know a little bit about this man. I'm guess ing that anyone who would have someone shoot a competing horse likes a sure thing and isn't much of a gambler.” “Heck, no,” replied Cochran. “He likes nothing more than gambling. Trouble is, he isn't big on losing. He's known in these parts for cheating his way to wealth. I've had a couple other horses up against his over the last ye ar that should have easily won. Both ran far slower than their capabilities.” “Any proof that Scrum did something?” “Nothing I can prove. I can tell you that after the last race I found strange footprints leading up to the barn and noticed a smell in this bucket I used to feed that horse.” Cochran took a wooden pail off a hook on the wall a nd handed it to Dunn. “I never used the bucket again.” Dunn smelled the bucket and winced. “Smells familia r.” Dunn scooped some of the oats remaining at the bott om of the bucket and studied them. He picked out some small green leaves and sme lled them. “Yup, it's valerian.” Jed shook his head. “Never heard of it.”
“I learned a lot about medicines from my uncle who was a doctor. This is used to put people to sleep. A little bit will make you tired.” “I lost a good chunk of money on those races,” said Cochran. “You best steer clear of racing against this Scrum, ” added Ward. “At least until we teach him a lesson or two.” “I will avoid it.” Cochran frowned. “Turns out ther e's a race coming up real soon. It’s not a horse race and I’m having a bad feeling about it.” “Sound's interesting, what kind of race?” asked Ron . Cochran led the other two out of the barn. He leane d on a hitching post outside the barn and glanced northward. “Just north of here is a small ranch owned by a fellow named Tom Sheridan. He and his family are good folk . It's known in these parts that Tom's young boy Bart runs like the wind. Barry Scru m never misses an opportunity to take someone’s money and convinced Tom to bet his r anch that he had a man that could outrun the boy.” “Risky when dealing with a coyote like Scrum,” adde d Dunn. “Seems that Barry Scrum agreed to cover the costs o f Bart's college education if the boy won.” “And you suspect that Scrum has a plan to cheat the Sheridans?” interjected Ron Ward. “Suspect? Heck, we know it now. Scrum brought in a man from Kansas City and hired him temporarily so he'd qualify for the race. Word is that he was a mighty competitive runner and all he does is train at the Scrum spread.” “I'm guessing the Sheridan family didn't take that news well,” said Ward. “They weren't shocked that Scrum pulled a fast-one. They know this city runner but still think young Bart can beat him because the man isn’t young.” Jed points to some high hills to the south. “This race is cross-countr y. It has rough ground the city fellow won't be used to. Still, Scrum isn't one to take ch ances.” Once Dunn stared at the hills. “Ron and I would sur e like to have a look at the race course.” “I'll draw you a map. Both runners have been practi cing on it and it's packed down pretty good. Bart's turn is tomorrow and he usually trains around nine in the morning, before the mid-day heat.”
ChapterTwo The next morning Ward and Dunn rode out early. A we ll-used trail would have had them at the race site within two hours. Instead, th ey pointed their horses southeast and used an old Indian trail leading through a heavily wooded area. Just shy of the valley and the race route they stak ed their horses beside a small stream and moved quietly up a hill and to the edge of the trees. The high vantage point provided an excellent view of much of the path used in the race. Ten feet out from the tree line the trail turned to the right and moved u p a steep hill. “Seems totally deserted right now, noted Dunn. “I think so too, replied Ward as he prepared to step into the open. As his foot hit the ground he stopped and pulled it back into the shado w of the trees. He put a finger to his lips to ask silence from his good friend and pointe d down the hill to their right. The crunching sound of fast-moving footsteps on gra vel grew louder. Soon steady heavy breathing announced the approach of a runner. Moments later a young man dashed past. The runner moved steadily, barely slow ing as his powerful legs carried him up the steep grade. Bart Sheridan's handsome fa ce wore sweat and a sense of purpose. His trim muscular limbs moved his five-foo t-four body along the trail. A thin hand brushed back his thick blond hair. “Can't be over fifteen, commented Ron Ward. “I'll be, he stopped at the top of the hill. While looking down at the valley Bart ran on the sp ot for thirty seconds. He extended his right leg in front of him and set it o n a three-foot-high boulder. With ease he leaned forward and stretched, his head touching his leg. The second leg stretched as easily as the first. A few quick breaths precede d a return to running. “Seems we have company. Once Dunn gestured to a lo wer hill to their right. Two riders sat on their horses and watched the youn gster run. Bart dipped quickly down a gulley on the undulating course. His pace sl owed considerably as he climbed the next hill, the tallest and steepest on the trai l. Tall jagged boulders blocked the views of both groups watching. The men on horseback moved their mounts to the eastern edge of the hilltop. Bart Sheridan appeared at the far end of the hill a cross from the two men on horses and wound his way down the last section of the race trail. “Once, hand me that field glass. Dunn pulled the field glass out of his pocket and h anded it to his friend. Ward stepped back several steps so no sunlight would reflect off the lens. He watched the two men on horseback closely. The ta ller of the two men leaned forward as Bart reached the finish line marked by two poles stuck in the ground. The tall man moved his left hand closer to his face. A glint of light flashed off the man's pocket watch. The concerned look on his face caused the mo st concern for Ward. “They look very unhappy. Dunn tightened his grip on the rifle he always kept with him.
Young Sheridan drank from a canteen that had been h anging from the pommel of his horse that stood in the shade of a tree near th e start-finish line. The young man shrugged and stretched his legs. Movement at the far end of the valley caught Ron's attention. A horse bounded along the shade of the hill. “More company. Ward t rained the field glass on the fast-moving rider. The horse moved well and the rider sa t confidently in the saddle. The rider wasn't large but knew how to handle a horse. Bart put down his canteen, his wary eyes locked on the rider. He winced in the growing morning sun to get a better look at who app roached. When the rider moved in to the light his concern washed away, replaced by a large smile. Dunn also smiled. “I don't need field glasses to se e that it's a woman, and a pretty one at that. Ron nodded slightly while maintaining his fix on th e attractive, trim woman. He was mesmerized by the glow of her red hair in the brigh t sun and her equally bright smile. The rider was about ten years older than Bart and d ismounted when she reached him. They carried on an animated but friendly conve rsation. “I think they are friends, said Once Dunn. “Yes. Still, keep an eye out for someone else appro aching. I'll focus on her. I mean them. Once Dunn shook his head and smiled. Ten minutes la ter the women climbed on her horse and galloped off in the direction from wh ich she came. The two riders stared down at Sheridan for a minute before turning their mounts and riding off, a cloud of dust in their wake. A few mi nutes later Bart mounted his horse and rode off toward his family ranch. Ward and Dunn hiked to their horses and made their way to the Cochran house. Here, they relayed the story of the men watching th e fleet-footed Bart Sheridan. Lynn Cochran said, “Don't trust any man working for Scrum. They're trouble. “If you don't mind, we'll stick around until after the race, responded Ward. “Glad to have you. Jed nodded and poured whiskey for everyone. The morning of the race long lines of people snaked through the two trails at each end of the valley. Heads turned towards a wagon in the line approachin g from the south. Ron and Once had arrived early and took up secluded positio ns on opposite sides of the running path on the highest part of the course overlooking the growing crowd in the valley. They had scouted the running trail and figured they had an eye on the likely spot for trouble. Wade trained his field glass on an approaching open wagon. He saw Bart Sheridan and a concerned-looking couple that turned out to be To m and Susan, Bart's parents. The Sheridan wagon came to a halt beside a dozen ot her wagons. Bart grabbed the wood railing on the wagon box and sprang over the s ide. He landed softly on the lush grass. Immediately he stretched and ran short sprin ts. Each sprint grew faster and faster. The fitness and speed again impressed Ron. Dunn, who didn't have a view of the valley, sat as quietly as his friend so he wouldn't give away his position above the running path and the three caves below that opened onto the running trail.
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