A Texas Matchmaker
XI. A Turkey Bake
Deweese and I came back from Mexico during Christmas week. On reaching Las
Palomas, we found Frank Nancrede and Add Tully, the latter being also a trail
foreman, at the ranch. They were wintering in San Antonio, and were spending a
few weeks at our ranch, incidentally on the lookout for several hundred saddle
horses for trail purposes the coming spring. We had no horses for sale, but
nevertheless Uncle Lance had prevailed on them to make Las Palomas
headquarters during their stay in the country.
The first night at the ranch, Miss Jean and I talked until nearly midnight. There
had been so many happenings during my absence that it required a whole
evening to tell them all. From the naming of Anita's baby to the rivalry between
John and Theodore for the favor of Frances Vaux, all the latest social news of the
countryside was discussed. Miss Jean had attended the dance at Shepherd's
during the fall, and had heard it whispered that Oxenford and Esther were
anything but happy. The latest word from the Vaux ranch said that the couple
had separated; at least there was some trouble, for when Oxenford had
attempted to force her to return to Oakville, and had made some disparaging
remarks, Tony Hunter had crimped a six-shooter over his head. I pretended not
to be interested in this, but secretly had I learned that Hunter had killed Oxenford,
I should have had no very serious regrets.
Uncle Lance had promised Tully and Nancrede a turkey hunt during the holidays,
so on our unexpected return it was decided to have it at once. There had been a
heavy mast that year, and in the encinal ridges to the east wild turkeys were
reported plentiful. Accordingly we set out the next afternoon for a camp hunt in
some oak cross timbers which grew on the eastern border of our ranch lands.
Taking two pack mules and Tiburcio as cook, a party of eight of us rode away,
expecting to remain overnight. Uncle Lance knew of a fine camping spot about
ten miles from the ranch. When within a few miles of the place, Tiburcio was sent
on ahead with the pack mules to make camp. "Boys, we'll divide up here," said
Uncle Lance, "and take a little scout through these cross timbers and try and
locate some roosts. The camp will be in those narrows ahead yonder where that
burnt timber is to your right. Keep an eye open for _javalina_ signs; they used to
be plentiful through here when there was good mast. Now, scatter out in pairs,
and if you can knock down a gobbler or two we'll have a turkey bake to-night."
Dan Happersett knew the camping spot, so I went with him, and together we took
a big circle through the encinal, keeping alert for game signs. Before we had
gone far, evidence became plentiful, not only of turkeys, but of peccary and deer.
Where the turkeys had recently been scratching, many times we dismounted and
led our horses--but either the turkeys were too wary for us, or else we had been
deceived as to the freshness of the sign. Several successive shots on our right