Sunshine And Shadow
An entire week passed, during which the boys were alone. A few herds were still coming
over the trail, but for lack of an advocate to plead, all hope of securing more cattle must
be foregone. Forrest had only taken his saddle, abandoning for the present all fixtures
contributed for his comfort on arriving at the homestead, including the horses of his
employers. The lads were therefore left an abundance of mounts, all cattle were drifted
above the ranch, and plans for the future considered.
Winter must be met and confronted. "We must have forage for our saddle horses," said
Joel to his brother, the evening after Forrest's departure. "The rain has helped our corn
until it will make fodder, but that isn't enough. Pa cut hay in this valley, and I know
where I can mow a ton any morning. Mr. Quince said we'd have to stable a saddle horse
apiece this winter, and those mules will have to be fed. The grass has greened up since
the rain, and it will be no trick at all to make ten to fifteen tons of hay. Help me grind the
scythe, and we'll put in every spare hour haying. While you ride around the cattle every
morning, I can mow."
A farm training proved an advantage to the boys. Before coming West, their father had
owned a mowing machine, but primitive methods prevailed on the frontier, and he had
been compelled to use a scythe in his haying operations. Joel swung the blade like a
veteran, scattering his swath to cure in the sun, and with whetstone on steel, beat a
frequent tattoo. The raking into windrows and shocking at evening was an easy task for
the brothers, no day passing but the cured store was added to, until sufficient was
accumulated to build a stack. That was a task which tried their mettle, but once met and
overcome, it fortified their courage to meet other ordeals.
"I wish Mr. Quince could see that stack of hay," admiringly said Dell, on the completion
of the first effort. "There must be five tons in it. And it's as round as an apple. I can't
remember when I've worked so hard and been so hungry. No wonder the Texan despises
any work he can't do on horseback. But just the same, they're dear, good fellows. I wish
Mr. Quince could live with us always. He's surely a good forager."
The demand for range was accented anew. One evening two strangers rode up the creek
and asked for a night's lodging. They were made welcome, and proved to be Texas
cowmen, father and son, in search of pasturage for a herd of through cattle. There was an
open frankness about the wayfarers that disarmed every suspicion of wrong intent, and
the brothers met their inquiries with equal candor.
"And you lads are Wells Brothers?" commented the father, in kindly greeting. "We saw
your notice, claiming this range, at the trail crossing, and followed your wagon track up
the creek. Unless the market improves, we must secure range for three thousand two-
year-old steers. Well, we'll get acquainted, anyhow."