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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 - 7. Chapter 7 Castle

While the garden grows, so does trust....

Castle

 

 

He nailed the final rafter to the ridge beam, and then Lucas, standing cautiously on a ladder, did the same to the notched end he’d been holding in place—fixing it to the milled board running the length of the top log on the front wall. Everything appeared square and level from his perch, and Jubal hooted as his beaming friend let his hammer drop to the ground, the thud of it signaling a job well done.

“Never would have thought such a thing possible in one day, and I still don’t know how it be so, but we did it!”

“We surely did, but there’s plenty more still needing doing after I put on this last cross tie.” Straddling the adjacent rafter, he was quick to nail it in place as Lucas watched him. Not that he’d admit it to his new friend, but his shoulders did have some ache as he swung his hammer. Them ties from rafter to rafter maybe weren’t necessary, but they added extra strength and took very little work. “There… they be done too.”

Lucas hooted this time. “I reckon that looks as strong a structure as I’ve ever seen. It’s well past supper time and I reckon we’ve earned a full belly. You certainly have!”

“So what if it’s past supper time? You don’t want to fix some roof boards on afore we eat?” Jubal asked, challenging the man.

“No, I don’t, but I’m supposing you do?”

Jubal supported hisself on two rafters as he crawled his way backwards down to the front wall. “If we put a few up on either side, it’d make in strong enough to stand through any storm. We already figured out the amount of overlap, so it’s only a matter of some nailing.”

Lucas scoffed. “Ain’t no sign of any storm. Sky’s clear as clear can be.”

“That be true, but wind could come during the night… while we be sleeping.”

“Suppose it could happen,” Lucas said with a sigh. “So, it’s not strong enough now to survive a wind?”

Jubal looked across the entire roof, pleased and satisfied with all he saw. “I reckon it ain’t going nowhere most likely, but I’d still like you to hand me that first cedar board. Take no time to nail it in place, and I’d feel the better for it.”

Lucas snorted. “You were right you don’t mind working hard. Don’t know where you get your fire from, but my shoulder feels it might fall right off. And, I don’t for one second believe you’ll only want that first one, cause I’ve watched you the whole day and you got no quit in you a’tall.”

Jubal grinned, not admitting anything. “Think you can pass it up before your shoulder hits the ground? And make sure its front edge be good and straight.”

“You be one of those what enjoys pushing a man to his limit,” he answered with another sigh as he made his way down the wide wooden ladder. He muttered something else, but Jubal couldn’t hear the words.

He chuckled to hisself as he took the time to look around the farm from where he balanced. Lucas should see this, but his fear for being high wouldn’t let him look around, even just being on a ladder eight feet from the ground. Up here surely was a view to be appreciated. Just like Lucas with his shirt off, he couldn’t help thinking as he looked back down at the man’s broad back bent over the board pile, his britches pulled low. Farming, and the work it required, sure put on some fine muscle. He sighed, forcing hisself to look away as the man sorted through the boards to find the truest one to start with.

They’d counted out they had plenty—three extras not counting the two to make the ridge cap. They could use those extras to close in the sides of the loft area, doing it board and batten style. It was decided they’d frame openings for small windows on either end so breezes could flow through when needed. They’d be off center because of the ridge beam supports they'd decided to leave in place, so they’d have to be on the small side, but Lucas didn’t see a problem with that, especially after Jubal pointed out the one to the south wouldn’t be blocked a’tall by the big stone chimney.

“Here you be.” Lucas’s shoulder’s bunched and arms bulged as he lifted up the one end to Jubal. “You got it?”

“Yep.”

“Don’t move till I shift the ladder.”

“Next time put the ladder in the middle, and then you can lift easier and hold it while I nail.”

Lucas gave him a sheepish grin. “Reckon that makes better sense.”

 

They quit at Lucas’s insistence once they had three overlapping boards on either side. It was edging closer to evening and the stew had been ready for hours, its aromas reaching where they toiled. Jubal had been hot and sweaty much of the day, but there be a nice breeze now, and he was feeling right proud of the work they’d done in the past dozen hours.

They worked well together, especially since Lucas be real good with the saw, and weren’t afraid of hard work either. He had no doubt Vincent would be proud too, if he could see the proof Jubal learned well what he’d been taught, and how he never forgot those lessons… not a single one of them.

“It sure is a warm evening.”

“Yep, but at least that breeze came up. Makes it bearable.”

“You done good, Jubal. Real good, and I’m obliged to you. Don’t ever remember being so impressed by someone for his determination to work beyond normal men, and I mean that truly. You don’t waste no movement, always a step ahead.”

“Weren’t that hard,” Jubal said after scoffing, but he was plumb pleased to be so appreciated. He looked back up at the changes they’d made since morning, and was a mite impressed hisself. Yesterday, the log cabin had looked good, but weren’t nothing special. Now it looked to belong on the knoll it sat on. It was a fine house, a fine home, and anyone coming upon it would consider it built well.

“Never thought we could do so much in a handful of hours. Still don’t seem possible.”

“That be two good handfuls,” Jubal said with a grin. "Helped plenty we already had what we needed, and to have Dinah lifting them logs in place. That beam… took some strength to put it up once she got it laying on the walls.”

“She deserved them oats I fed her when I put her away. You were smart to notch them boards what let us lift the beam higher than we could reach. Where did you learn such a thing?”

“My neighbor.”

“Vincent? He must have been a great teacher.”

“He was. Told you he was patient… and kind… and he was decent too. He never said anything what wasn’t how it was… always truthful, and always understanding, not like my pa be. Liked it better at his farm than my own home. Could breathe there.”

Lucas eyed him curiously before turning to the stew pot. “Won’t need to do much chewing… was ready hours ago.”

“Don’t have strength to chew anyway.”

Lucas chuckled as he handed him his plate. “Careful, it be right hot. Let it set a spell.”

“Ain’t waiting,” Jubal said as he lifted the bread sitting on the top. It had sopped up some juice and he chewed off a piece. “Good… good,” he mumbled, struggling to cool what be in his mouth.

Lucas eyed him and smirked. “Told you so.”

“Not that hot,” Jubal said, but he set the plate on the table stump, which made that smirk turn into a snicker. “Maybe I will wait a spell, though. When do you think we can search out where those wildings be, since they weren’t up there this morning?”

“Whenever you want.” Lucas was now stirring his stew to let heat escape, but he looked up. “We can do it tomorrow if’n it suits you. They’ve been sticking close, so we probably won’t have to go far.”

“Tomorrow?” Jubal shook his head as he watched the steam rising from his food. “No, not likely. Got to complete the job before we move on to the next, and the roof needs finishing and the ridge put on and sealed with that black tar you got. Them peaks need closed in, and don’t you still want that door put in the back wall? You got the front door built, but we’re needing one for the back once we got the opening sawed out.”

“Slow down, cowboy. I surely do want the second door. Be smart not to have to walk around the building to get to the barn and pens. Should have thought of that myself, but what be wrong with taking a day for some fun? I expect you’ll like them wildings same as me once we can find them. And you haven’t even rode your new mare yet.”

“No, but there’s plenty of time for such—she ain’t going nowhere. Finishing a job is what I been taught, and a day or two won’t make a difference to them wildings. They’re either here or they’re not.”

“You get that easy going way from Vincent too?”

“Suppose maybe I did. Needing calming as a youngster, and he changed me for sure.”

Lucas peered over his plate as he picked it up and began eating. “Surprised you would need calming.”

Jubal dug in too, but was careful till he got used to the temperature. “Was confused for a time, and had lots of fear for things I didn’t understand. Just needed someone what understood such… what understood me… and he did, like my pa couldn’t.” Jubal swallowed, suddenly wondering if he’d said too much. It was easy to let his guard down around Lucas, and that could be a dangerous thing.

Funny thing, though. He had more trust in this man across from him than he’d had in anyone since Vincent. It weren’t he thought they were made the same, because he didn’t. He knew from experience he wasn’t good at figuring out other men, being wrong more often than not. Hoping wasn’t the same as what was, and that was a hard lesson to learn. No, it was hisself he didn’t trust, especially when he felt that scary kind of hope.

“I reckon I understand such better than you might think, Jubal. Struck out on my own cause my pa and I didn’t see eye to eye. He surely didn’t understand me a’tall, not that I blame him. I just couldn’t abide the disappointment he carried for me. Once my ma passed, he saw me different, and I was. Had no use for him or the farm and didn't hide it, so I was a lot happier once I found a place I could breathe… know what that feeling’s like. Cowboying was a good life for me, and what I was needing at the time. Maybe had enough of it, but I don’t regret choosing that trail for them years.”

“I don’t regret it either. My pa was a decent enough man to most other folk, but he would always choose the bible over anything or anyone else. I finally saw he was wrong in what he preached to me, and the power he thought that book gave him, but he was never one to budge no matter what I dared say.” He finally met Lucas’s steady gaze, and saw understanding there. “This is fine vittles. Right tasty. We could always finish the roof boards after we’re done eating?”

Lucas sighed, and then gave his eyes a roll. “I was believing we could rest for a time after we ate, but see now that you’re still chomping at the bit. I’m starting to think you be the boss, not me.”

“No, sir, you do the deciding. I was just saying.”

He sighed again. “It’ll be dark soon, but I say we nail on a few more if it keeps you happy.”

Jubal grinned. “I reckon it would. A few more and it’ll be near done.”

 

Jubal grunted with satisfaction as he set the ridge cap in place. Two cedar roof boards—nailed together along their long edges—covered the top roof boards just right, lying flat and straight. It was the crown for Lucas’s castle, and he scooted along the peak while nailing it down on both sides.

“Pass me that tar and the stick for spreading, would you? And be careful. Don’t want no mess on them boards.”

Lucas climbed the ladder and passed the tin tub and stick to Jubal, who’d moved down to the edge. “I can’t believe you ain’t afeared, running around up there in your bare feet. You’re plumb loco to be doing such.”

“Like I told you twice already, bare feet don’t slip on the cedar like boots would. About done anyway once this tar is spread on the seam and the nail heads, and then you’ll have a roof what won’t leak. You’ll need to spread the tar again every few years, though.”

Lucas stared up at him with the moon full on his face, and Jubal saw his eyebrows be raised. “If it needs doing, you better be around to do it, because I ain’t never going up there.”

Jubal laughed as he scrambled back up the steep pitch.

“Can you even see what you be doing?”

“Yep. Can see fine now the moon’s full out. Want to do this neat so don’t ask me no more questions till I’m done.”

“Yep… you can’t deny you be the boss, that’s for certain.”

Jubal chuckled to hisself as he concentrated on spreading the tar locally made from the burning of pitch pine logs. It didn’t take long before he was finished, pleased the job was done neat. “I’m coming down now, so hold the ladder still.”

“Be careful,” Lucas warned. He breathed a loud sigh of relief when Jubal was a couple of feet from the ground.

“You worried for me?”

“Reckon I didn’t want to clean up a mess of brains from the front of my new house is all.”

Jubal laughed as he squished his bare feet into cool earth. “My brains wouldn’t have made much of a mess. Half a shovelful at the most.”

“Twice as much as I would leave.”

Jubal was staring upward when Lucas’s arm settled around his shoulders and squeezed him close a couple of times. “We done fine work today!” he said in a loud and happy voice. “It looks kind of fancy for a little log cabin… almost too good for a dumb farmer.”

“Well, it ain’t too good for you, not by a longshot,” Jubal said as glanced sideways, hoping Lucas could see such. The man was still smiling, and that was good enough for him. “Don’t look so little no more neither.”

“No, I reckon it don’t, not now. I’m beholden to you, Jubal, I really am. When we talked this morning about what Vincent would say, I never thought we’d accomplish what we did together. A whole roof in one day? Would have taken me two, maybe three, just to do the shed roof I planned, and it likely would have sagged same as the cabin’s.”

Jubal liked the weight of Lucas’s arm on him, and didn’t try to dodge from it. “I reckon you made a good decision to change it.”

“Yep, thanks to you telling me plain. Was just standing inside, and it feels like no cabin I’ve ever been in. There’s so much room with the roof being peaked. It feels like a barn more than a house.”

“You meaning that’s a good thing?”

“I surely do. It’s a powerful thing, the feeling of all that space over my head.”

“Well… you could only loft one side and leave the other side open if you wanted.”

“You think that’s what we should do?”

We? “Not my choice. It be yours… and about what you’d rather have.” He felt Lucas nod.

“Let’s go have a gander.” Lucas took his arm away and picked up the lantern, turning it up full before he stepped inside.

Jubal, still feeling the remembered weight of his arm and the smell of his sweat, followed him through the door opening. The last time he’d been inside it’d been daylight, and it definitely felt different in the night. “Feels like a church to me, one what I like.”

Lucas who’d been staring up, turned to face him. “I feel that too. Remember when I told you I sometimes felt like this land would beat me?

“I remember.”

“Don’t feel that way now. If we can build something like this… then I finally feel like I’m catching up, and that this has made up for a bunch of them mistakes I made.”

“Can’t ask for more than that, but you’ve accomplished a lot here, Lucas. This land ain’t beating you… it ain’t even close to doing so. Just look at that garden over there and how well it’s growing. And so your first cabin ain’t the best… it’s still a good building, one you can use to store supplies until your barn gets added to. And that barn is solid, and big enough for all your stock.”

“But not big enough for yours too.”

“What?” Jubal’s asked, confused at them words. “Why would you say such? I’m only here for the summer months, ain’t that what you said… what we agreed?”

“I did, and we did, but you could stay longer, like through the winter if’n you wanted to.”

“Why would I do that? We’ll get what you need done long before then.”

“Not so sure about that, but… I know you ain’t been here long and we be strangers—though it don’t feel so to me, and I think it be the same for you—but I thought you’d taken a liking to the farm, leastwise, that’s the feeling I got.”

“I reckon I have, but—”

“But what? Sorry… don’t mean to be pushing you for answers you don’t need to give.”

“You’re not. Caught me by surprise is all, and I….” Jubal had trouble thinking clear as he stared at the lantern-lit man.

“Have you already decided what path you’ll be taking? Buying land hereabouts… or moving on?”

“No… no… not for certain, I haven’t. To be honest, I ain’t even been thinking on it yet. Seems longer, but it be only yesterday I had not a thing, and no dang place to go.”

“Understand such, Jubal, but that ain’t true no more. Consider staying until you do make your choice, is all I’m saying. You need to do what feels right to you, but maybe waiting till spring will get you clearer on what that be."

“You’d really want me to stay the whole winter?”

“Yep, if it suits you to do so, and not just for my sake. Seems to me you might need calming again after all you’ve been through, and I think you can get that here, that you feel such on this land. See it in your eyes when you look round. Am I wrong?”

“Ah… can’t say you are, but….”

“Just think about it. I’m not saying I need you to stay, but we do make a good team, leastwise we have so far with this building what’s become a home. Then there’s them wildings to think of... never want to rush a good one... and I do got enough pens for your stock and mine, and winters ain’t terrible bad here. We could build onto the barn right quick if you’re helping me, or might be I should say with me helping you.”

Jubal laughed, pleased and confused both that Lucas had made such an offer to him, to someone he barely knew. What would he think if he really did know him? “I reckon you don’t mind a’tall me being the boss.”

Lucas chuckled. “As far as bosses go, I reckon you don’t be a bad one. Just know you have a place here, that’s all I’ve been saying, so keep such in your mind.”

“I will, and I’m beholden to you for making me feel so welcome. Ain’t felt like I belonged somewhere—enough to stay put a while—for a damn long time.

“Know that feeling too. You do what you want, but seems to me you belong on this land until you decide otherwise.”

“You might be wanting rid of me come fall,” Jubal said with a grin.

“Doubt that plenty, Jubal, I truly do. I was right to trust my gut when we met on the South Road. Don’t doubt that none either.”

 

 

*

 

Story likes/reactions and story recommendations would really help this story along, but those are in your hands, not mine. Thanks for reading.
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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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