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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Bearpaw: An Old West Tale - 11. Chapter 11 A Gentle Touch

A land of ups and downs....

A Gentle Touch

 

 

It be a new day, and after working much of the morning setting posts for new corrals, they were taking a break so Lucas could show Jubal more of the farm. The orchard might not look impressive yet, but it surely would in a year or two. The smaller trees appeared healthy for having been dug up and moved, and that spoke to Lucas’s knowledge for transplanting. Like Lucas had said, some of the young ones already carried fruit.

They were on the far side of his property near its east border where there was plenty of sun to be had. Jubal figured the location was the reason the three bigger trees were loaded with immature apples. Nothing blocked the day-long sun. The land dropped away along that edge, but it weren’t steep, and after they walked the property line up to the northeast corner, Jubal understood more of why it be the place his friend chose to settle on.

The views were far-reaching, miles and miles of steep hills and trees, and it was unlikely the land they could see would ever be settled, least not by any farmers. A river meandered about half a mile or so away, a fair bit lower than Lucas’s property, and Jubal knew it be the one the sawmill sat on to the south, though that couldn’t be seen a’tall.

It wasn’t flat land on this side of Lucas’s farm, but it weren’t hilly either. There were some ups and downs to it like on the west side, but they were gentle ones too, making all the land usable for one thing or another.

“You’ve laid eyes on about all of “Gold Rush Farm” now,” Lucas said as they began their easy trek back, avoiding the northwest area altogether for fear of spooking them wildings what still be there that morning.

All the oats had been eaten up, so they’d replaced them and filled the almost empty water trough, making no fuss as they did so. Setting posts hadn’t seemed to bother the herd a’tall, but Jubal still hadn’t seen the boss stallion.

“Yep, and I see why this be the place for you. It’s good land, wider than I thought it be, and plenty deep to the back ridge. I expected more stumps than what I’ve seen.”

“They’re mostly within the stands of trees, but the ones showing will have to be burnt out once they’ve had a year or two more to dry. Easier time of it then. A hundred-and-eight acres is a good chunk of land, and I don’t mind some of it staying treed,” Lucas said, pride showing in his voice and on his face. “Hear tell a lot of these settlers be taking all their trees down… seems a shame, but it does give more land for farming, and I suppose some of them have plenty of mouths to feed.”

“Might be fine for them, but I agree with you on keeping trees where you can. Expect there’s lots of ways to farm, and if it works out like we plan, you’ll likely be the only horse farmer around,” he said with a smile Lucas matched.

“Yep, that be so. Don’t see big fields of crops in my future.”

Jubal sighed, feeling a contentment as his eyes took in everything. “It surely is a lot of property, and I believe you built the house in the right place after seeing most of it. Be close to the crick, and a spring, but far enough in from the road you can have all those pens and paddocks in between. And, it still be private, even if you do get a close neighbor to the west.”

Lucas nodded. He seemed contented too, and it was good to see. “Took some time to make that decision, I’ll tell ya. Knew the first cabin would be a temporary one, and I surely liked that knoll what sits above the barn and pens. Thought I’d build there in maybe three, four years, but the flooding hurried me up,” he said with a chuckle. “Waking in the dark and setting your feet in water—in your own cabin—is not a feeling I want again. So, I expect knowing you like I do, you’re wanting to chop out that doorway now?”

“You might think so, but I’ve been pondering. I surely don’t like being predictable-like, so it might be time to take scissors to all what’s under your hat.”

“Well, about time, I’d say!” Lucas said with a huge grin across his furry face. “I’m hating all this hair blowing around and collecting sweat. There’s so much now it pops my hat up with a little breeze.”

“Then it’s settled. Time to razor that beard off too. Don’t even know what you look like. Could be right scary, I suppose,” Jubal said with a serious face.

“Can’t be worse than looking like a hairy lion-goatman.”

At that, Jubal couldn’t keep his face straight any longer. “No, not much could be worse than such a beast.”

 

“How short you want me to hack it?” Jubal asked once the man was settled on a sitting stump with his shirt off.

“Make me look pretty as you can.”

“Not sure I’m that good with the scissors. If the good Lord didn’t do it, I can’t for certain.”

Lucas attempted a scowl, but it weren’t long in becoming a laugh. “You got a mean streak in you for certain. I do like the way yours be.”

“So… no hair sticking out from your hat? As short as that?”

“Yep.”

“And you’re sure? Cause I can’t put it back once it’s cut.”

“Just cut the damn stuff and stop your foolishness, son. There’s water dripping down my back and it’s driving me loco.”

Jubal snickered. “Want me to dry it more with my sackcloth?”

“No, just get it done, would you? You’re having too much fun torturing me.”

“Torturing? Son, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Jubal was grinning ear to ear, but Lucas couldn’t see it.

He’d already run his antler bone comb through the man’s hair, and that weren’t exactly easy, but he was ready to make the first cut. “Oh, damn and tarnation!”

“What?! What did you do?”

“Not a thing. You just relax and leave it to me,” he said, snickering loud enough Lucas heard him.

“Jeez… you’re a pain in my ass, Jubal Coyle.”

“Got to live up to being called a torturer,” he said as he made another snip. This was no chore for him a’tall.

“Always got something to say,” Lucas muttered, but Jubal didn’t respond, taking this job extra serious.

As he worked his way around the man, he had to work hard not to look at that gaze what kept flicking his way. Fact was, cutting another man’s hair be an intimate thing, and could easily start that cursed ache in him.

After working on the front, he saw Lucas had nice brows, now that they could been seen clearly and both at the same time. Thick and well-shaped and that same dark red-brown as his lashes, they only added to the power them green eyes had when they found you.

By the time he was done, Lucas’s hair had mostly dried, and the difference was right shocking with his short, soft curls shimmering in the sunlight. Jubal stepped back and admired his work. He didn’t look like the same man, and he admired that strong neck column what could now be seen. The skin at the back was paler than the sides since the hair had kept the sun off. He’d need to razor some of that neck hair, though, once he started on the beard.

“How’s it look.”

“About as good as I can do.”

“I’m sure it is, but what does that mean?”

“Gave you the same cut I have, just a little shorter, and my scissoring looks good to me. You got some curls on you.”

“Reckon I always have. So, we’re done?”

“No sir. There’s still the razoring to do. Got to scissor that wretch of a beard before I can get the razor through it.”

“Why you wearing that fool’s grin?”

“Cause your beard looks even bigger now.”

“Well, I be counting on you to fix that.”

“I’ll do my best. Ain’t responsible for any blood what spills, though.”

Lucas snorted. “Going to have to trust you’ll leave me enough to live on.”

“Let’s hope so, friend. Just never know when a razor can slip,” he said with a snicker.

“I like you, Jubal, but you should know you’re getting on my last nerve, and I’ve got a good mind to—”

“Just keep in mind who be holding the steel at your throat, son."

Lucas laughed. “Yep, you got a mean streak for sure, but I reckon you got a point.”

“Suspect I do. Now all you got to do is stay still while I try to tame this forest you been growing.”

“Yes, boss.”

There wasn’t much more talking as Jubal got serious, carefully shortening Lucas’s bushy growth, turning and twisting his head with one hand while the other snipped at the thick hairs. When it was as short as he could get it, he lathered the man’s face with shave soap, and those eyes closed while Jubal worked, and stayed that way even when the razor touched his skin.

When it was done and the lather wiped off, Jubal had to swallow hard. He expected Lucas was appealing under all that hair, but hadn’t been prepared for just how handsome he truly be. Seeing those lips for the first time gave him all kinds of thoughts he had to push away right quick. Not even a scar to mark his smooth skin, and that be unusual for sure, especially on a cowboy.

“What’s that look for?”

“Ah, I must admit the Lord didn’t shirk his work.”

“What does that mean?”

“The Lord… turns out he made you pretty after all.”

“You think?” Lucas asked with a grin, those pretty lips spreading wide and full.

“Yep, and you know damn well he did.”

Now the man laughed as he rubbed his hands over his smooth face. “Might have been told that a time or two.”

“If you ride into town right now, you’ll be able to catch yourself a pretty girl right quick.”

A snort sounded as he stood up. “Don’t need no pretty girl… just that pretty filly out the back is all I’m wanting to wrangle with. Feels good, Jubal. Feels damn good, and I thank you for it. You’ve got a gentle touch with them fingers of yours. About put me to sleep a few times… you were right soothing despite your hands be so rough, and you never spilt a single drop of my blood.”

“Ah… no… no blood.” Jubal was surprised, not that he had a good or gentle touch… but that Lucas had said such. Soothing? His face heated a mite from the pleasure of hearing those words. None of them cowboys he’d barbered ever said his fingers or hands felt good… not a once.

Of course, he might have taken more care with his new friend than he did a bunch of rowdy, fun-loving cowboys who hardly ever sat still, or showed little respect for him or the effort he put to scissoring. Either way, he’d probably enjoyed it more than Lucas had, something he’d surely keep to hisself.

Washing his tools in the soapy, enameled shaving bowl kept him from having to talk, but he couldn’t help glancing at that strong, smooth jaw a few more times as Lucas began pulling his shirt back on over a chest wearing the same auburn hair. Another line of it began halfway down his tightly muscled stomach, disappearing into his britches as it widened, and Jubal felt some relief when it was all covered up.

Still, the sun shone full on Lucas’s face, and this new view of him caused some serious swallowing. Never seen a better-looking man in his whole life, and that included a very handsome Vincent.

Supper was another stew, the meat being a grouse Jubal had shot the day before. It also had small carrots, potatoes, and onions from the garden.

“Reckon it’s ready. You hear that?” Lucas asked as he gaze turned south.

He looked that way too, and soon heard the sounds of a horse coming near. Seconds later, Reid Barnes rode into view, surprising them both for sure. Lucas’s newly visible eyebrows rose high before he turned back to tending what be in the pot.

Jubal couldn’t help noticing right off the sheriff sat a saddle well, no stiffness to him a’tall as his horse jogged along the path towards them. No doubt about it… he was in the company of two fine-looking men. Course, Lucas be the prettier one with no doubt. His attention turned back to his friend as he waited for someone to speak.

Lucas, who’d been stirring the stew, stopped all movement for a spell. Slowly he stood up, putting the lid back on the pot and sliding it across the iron bar so it was off the tall flames. “Good day to you, Reid. Didn’t expect to see you out this way. Something be wrong?”

“Afternoon, Luke,” Reid said, staring at him with his head slightly tilted. “Well, I’ll be. That be a welcome sight—almost forgot what your face looked like. Did you do that for him?” he asked Jubal.

“Yep, happens I did. Couldn’t stand the look of him any longer.”

Reid laughed, and it sounded genuine, though a mite loud to Jubal’s ear. “He needed some attention for sure. To answer your question, Luke, no, nothing wrong a’tall. My oh my, you fellas be looking right homey,” he said, now grinning as he stared down at them.”

“Would you like to join us for some grouse stew? There be plenty.” Lucas said, not smiling back.

Jubal caught tension between them again, and he surely wasn’t imagining it. His friend’s brows had dipped low enough to form a crease between them.

“Didn’t come to interrupt your meal,” Reid answered as he dismounted smooth as water.

“Anything happen with those dead men, Sheriff?” Jubal asked, trying not to look long at either man.

“Told you to call me Reid. Ain’t much can happen with dead men, other than they got dumped in a box none too gently, then buried six feet down. You two been keeping busy?”

“See for yourself,” Lucas answered nodding towards the new cabin. At least his brow had smoothed some.

“Heard about that from Morey this morning. Said you keep needing more lumber. Looks a fine job from here. Mighty fine… appears it could house a family.”

“Yep, it’s bigger than I planned. It is a fine job, and all the credit goes to Jubal.”

“It does, eh? Well, I tip my hat to you then.” And he did, before settling it further back on his head.

Jubal stood, never liking someone standing over him for long. “It was as much Lucas as me, no matter what he says. We work well as a team.”

“And there’s the proof,” Reid said, his smile now a beaming one. Jubal caught a flicker of something behind it though, something that said he wasn’t as pleased as he appeared. For a second, he wondered if it was sadness he saw there.

“What brings you out this way, Reid?”

“Besides coming to see you?”

A long breath came from Lucas what Jubal heard clear. “Yep, besides that.”

“Well… I’ve had no reports of money stole, so thought I’d bring those four coins out to Jubal here.”

“But it ain’t been a full week yet.”

“No… no, Jubal, it hasn’t, but I think it’s safe to say they’re yours fair and square. Don’t like money laying around the office.”

“Could have rode in and picked them up. Save you the trouble… or you could have given them to me or him yesterday when we was in town,” Lucas uttered without looking Reid’s way.

“Didn’t think to then—had other stuff on my mind—and don’t mind riding out this way a’tall. Not been here for a coon’s age, since you’ve been so all-fired busy. Truth is, it feels good to get out of town for a spell. Everyone’s got something to say every day, usually a thing to complain for, and sometimes I need a friendly face to look upon.”

Again, Jubal wondered. More tension could be felt in the conversation, and Reid’s attention kept shifting on and off a stiff-looking Lucas. This visit weren’t about no money, of that he was certain. “Do I have to sign anything for you?”

“No need for such. Lucas is a witness that you’ve been given spoils he was convinced you deserved.”

There was no response from Lucas, and after an awkward bit of time, the sheriff moved his gaze back to Jubal.

“And he’s right. You lost enough of your gold to them thieves, not to mention your best horse. Wired the family of the murdered woman that her bracelet and shawl had been found, and how two of them killers are now dead at the hands of two good citizens of Bearpaw Lake.

“No doubt they feel obliged to you too… the both of you. Bounties ain’t come in yet.” Opening his saddle bag, he pulled out the same four coins and handed them over. “Want to thank you again for keeping Luke alive. He’s an important part of our community, one you’ve helped make safer for everyone.”

“Lucas did the same for me.”

“Yes, he did, and he has my… our thanks too.”

“You want to see the log house up close, Reid?” Lucas asked, seeming tired of the talk about him.

“Expect I would. Haven’t seen many cabins ‘round here what be such quality… in fact most of them ain’t even close.”

“Let me take your horse, Sheriff… Reid. I’ll tie him to the hitching post yonder while Lucas shows you his new home.”

“Obliged to you, Jubal,” he said, holding Jubal’s look a short spell.

Lucas was already walking off when Reid’s head turned back his way, and he hurried to catch up. It was a strange sight to Jubal, almost funny to see the man scrambling, and got even more curious when he saw them stop and face one another once Reid reached Lucas's side.

Lots of words were suddenly being spoken, and if Jubal was a betting man, he’d put those four coins on Lucas being plumb aggravated. They both looked his way after a time, seeing him facing them, and abruptly turned away They soon disappeared inside the cabin, surely not wanting to be overheard, not that they were since they kept their voices so low.

He tied the sheriff’s horse before moseying off to the garden, after checking on the cookpot over the hot fire. Pulling weeds be mostly to keep hisself busy as he waited. He respected that whatever their conversation was about, it be a private one. Still, he had this gut feeling he be part of it, and it wasn’t the first time he experienced such when those men spoke.

 

 

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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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