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Bearpaw: An Old West Tale - 8. Chapter 8 A Fine Pair

Used to be....

A Fine Pair



It was a hot night for sleeping, and a shirtless Jubal had tossed and turned for most of it, waking up covered in sweat and gulping air. It weren’t just from the heat, though. He’d had dreams powerful enough they stayed with him after he opened his eyes, and this last one be the worst.

Lucas be in ‘em all—but so had the Prescotts, the dead ones and the live one. Each time he’d wakened, he relived that night as he stared into darkness and took long, deep breaths to calm hisself. Lucas had been damn lucky those shots hadn’t found him. In Jubal’s dreams, though, it be a different story, one he didn’t want to think about, sleeping or awake. The man had come to mean too much to him, but that be a different concern.

He was aware Lucas had done some tossing and turning too, but he now lay peaceful on his side, his warm hand settled on Jubal’s hip. Jubal’s hard cock lay only inches from the man’s fingertips, so he eased away careful as he could, not wanting to wake him. When he turned his head, it appeared Lucas’s eyes were open. It startled him, but he stopped moving, unsure if it just be his imagination. His listened to the man’s steady breathing and eventually, exhausted, he fell back to sleep.

The next time he woke, he was alone in the bed and the unsettling dreams had passed. Wasn’t the first time he’d been tormented with such, and it likely wouldn’t be the last. Still had terrible ones about the rope.

Sitting up, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. It be cooler now, thank the Lord. Movement could be heard outside the cabin. It was barely dawn and Lucas was fixing something what smelled damn good, setting his stomach to gurgling. He stood and stretched, feeling some aches in muscles he’d worked hard the day before—his first full day here. It were a good ache, though, because he could picture how the new house looked, and that feeling of pride returned.

Taking his shirt down from a nail, he pulled it over his head as he headed towards the sounds. Cussing softly, he turned back and grabbed a tooth stick and his soap sack. When he did pull the door open, the sun had about cleared the horizon, but there was a sliver of shade in front of the cabin and a breeze was moving air enough to affect smoke from the cookfire.

“Good morning to you, Jubal,” Lucas said as he stirred the leftover stew stored overnight in the crick.

“That smells even better than it did the first time. Shoulda woke me when you started your day.”

Lucas looked him up and down as he came up from his crouch. “What for? You earned the rest if anyone did. Reckon you deserve to sleep all day if you’ve a mind to. Know for a fact the heat affected your sleep like it did mine.”

“Got cooler nearer it got to morn.” Jubal turned his head towards the knoll and was once again filled with satisfaction at the sight. “Well… look at that. House shows even better in the light of day. That ridge couldn’t be any straighter than what it is.”

“I saw that first thing when the sun peeked out. You did a good job on the tar too. Can’t even see it up there on the peak. That house be a thing of beauty for sure, all thanks to you,” Lucas said, looking smug and happy both. He also looked relaxed, like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he faced his new home.

That pleased Jubal as much as anything had over the last few months of his life. “Weren’t nothing but a good day’s work of two men. Sweated the whole night long so I’m going to wash up.”

Lucas nodded, his gaze back on him. “I already did. Water wakes a fellow up for sure. Stew’s simmering, so we’ll eat when you’re ready, and I got fresh milk already chilling. Don’t forget your offer to saw off my hair.”

“Wouldn’t forget something what needs doing so godawful bad. Might even need a saw to get the job done.”

“Don’t have to be so gosh darn mean about it,” Lucas muttered, his eyes showing humor. “Could use a shave too.”

“You trust me with a razor at your throat?” Jubal asked slyly, teasing the man again.

“Reckon I trust you completely,” he answered, but he weren’t at all joking. There was seriousness behind them words, and Jubal felt it strong. “Know you got a steady hand for sure… seen it with my own eyes.”

“Reckon I do… when I need to.”

“This’ll be one of them times,” Lucas said, his humor back.


Breakfast was devoured, finished up with some cool, buttery milk, and the mess cleaned up before they began filling troughs. Jubal told Lucas to do his feeding, and he responded with a, “Yes, sir,” causing him to smile at the man’s back. They both knew he be the boss, but Jubal didn’t mind pretending for the fun of it.

By noon they had the peak ends of the cabin closed in, each having a small, square opening to fit a window. Jubal was the one what figured out the measurements, and passed them on to Lucas. “Will you remember those?”

“Course I will. Already repeated them in my head a couple of times. I need to get us some trees milled for the loft. Reckon I will do both sides, for the good space it’ll give me.”

Jubal nodded. “Makes sense to do so. Should we get started on it?”

“Got enough pine logs stacked right now to take to the mill. More than double what I need to cover the cost, so we could make the trip any time. It ain’t far. We’ll take all the logs the wagon can carry. It’s mostly flat the whole way so Dinah never has a problem with the weight.”

“Reckon you mentioned that before. I can stay here and work while you go, if’n you want? Could go at them weeds in the garden what been bothering you?”

“No… no, sir. You’ll come with me. I ain’t that worried about them weeds, and you don’t need to be working every dang minute, so stop trying to. We can take a trip into Bearpaw after and you can finally see it in the light of day. Need some more of that bread the mercantile sells. It comes from women just outside town, so they’ll have it for sure—they always do—and it’ll be right fresh compared to what we ate the last two days. There’s grouse sounds coming from the north woods, and I’d Iike to get one for something fresh to eat.”

“Yep, saw one from the upper pen when I was watering, but I didn’t have my gun. I’ll go hunting later.”

“Put that good shot of yours to use. Still want to see you shoot the eye out of a squirrel what’s dancing in the rain,” he said with a chuckle.

“Oh, ye of little faith,” Jubal responded with a confident smirk.

“Got plenty of faith in you, cowboy. Want to saddle up your new mare and walk alongside? See how she feels?”

“Yep, like that idea a bunch. Been itching to ride her.”

“Thought you were going to insist we cut the opening for the back door first,” Lucas said with a relieved sound what made Jubal laugh.

“I reckon it can wait an hour or two.”

Lucas sighed and shook his head. “Then we’ll get Dinah harnessed and load up before you change your dang mind. You can saddle up after. Need your strength for lifting them logs.”


His new mare rode easy, listening well, and very comfortable to sit. She had a good whoa and spin to her too, so someone had done a good job of bringing her along. She did have a high head at the beginning, but was responsive to him coaxing it lower. She kept it there after that, and that impressed him a whole bunch. He’d checked her teeth and figured she was between three and four. A mile down the road he had to admit she was a mite smoother in her gaits than even Kema was, though he carried that extra power in his movement that a stud horse often had.

“You make a mighty fine pair—can see she trusts you already,” Lucas said when he returned from riding out ahead. “I’d say she makes up for some of them double eagles you lost. Around here she’d go for a hundred dollars at the least, and probably a lot more, especially being that pretty color what glints like copper when the sun hits it.”

“Well… I’m surely pleased with the feel she has. Reckon I wouldn’t sell her now no matter what she’d bring. She ain’t Kema, but I got no choice in saying he weren’t a better moving saddle horse than her.”

“Can see how pleased you be. Wearing the biggest smile I’ve seen on you yet.”

Jubal chuckled. “Suppose I am, and I’m happy for sure, but I’d still like a wilding… that colt maybe, if we ever get to see him.”

“No doubt you’ll like him plenty, but just how many horses you wanting?”

“Suppose three would do for now,” he answered with a grin. “You got three.”

Lucas snorted. “That’s true, ain’t it? I forget about Dinah cause I never ride her… almost never.”

“And I never ride Bean… and you want that wilding filly you mentioned.”

Lucas snorted again. “I reckon us old cowboys always be wanting a string of horses, even if we don’t chase cattle no more.”

“Ain’t admitting to being an old anything, but I reckon so. Rather have me nice horses than gold.”

“That be true for me too. How’d Bean get her name?”

“Well… fellow I bought her from said riding her was like sitting a Mexican bean what jump up and down in the sun, and Bean seemed to fit after my first long ride on her. He’d called her Piggy, what didn’t seem right to me—she ain’t piggy a’tall—since she be as willing as any. Think I told you about how sore my ass was after that ride, though.”

“Yep, you did. Reid was right she’d likely make a good cart horse. I saw her snapping her knees high in the big pen as she trotted around, and it’s a sight for sure. They like ones like her in the south. I got extra harness what’s adjustable if you ever want to try her with a cart.”

Jubal thought about when he might need a cart horse, and couldn’t see it. “Might do… someday. We turn soon, don’t we?”

“Just ahead, we turn left and head east. You’ll like Morey Swain. He’s always wearing sawdust, so don’t get too close if the wind’s blowing. It’ll fill your eyes, but it don’t seem to bother his none. He don’t even blink much.”


The mill was right on the river in a low spot what had some marsh grass in places, a long tall building with a water wheel fed by a wooden chute on stilts. It appeared a mite rickety to look at as it brought fast-moving water down a slope from the river, but the proof it worked well was in the many piles of sawn lumber spreading out from the building.

The overhead sun bounced off the surface of an outgoing stream headed south, and Jubal saw the simple workings of such an operation. Water came in, spinning the wheel what turned the blade, and then left to return to the river farther down. No doubt Vincent would have enjoyed seeing such a place.

The saw stopped as Lucas brough Dinah to a halt, and a man came out shortly after. “Luke, my boy! What them logs be for? I thought you had all you needed till next spring?”

“Thought I did to, Morey, but got me a helper now and we’ve gone through most of what we had.”

“Who would this fellow be?” the short but sturdy fellow asked while staring at Jubal.

He dismounted and held out his hand. “Name’s Jubal Coyle.” When the man took his grip, he saw Lucas was right. Even the man’s eyelashes were filled with sawdust, same as his hair, eyebrows, whiskers, and every inch of his clothes. Was hard to tell for sure, but he looked between forty and fifty.

“Morey Swain, and I own this here mill. You that fellow what Reid Barnes crowed about?”

“Crowed?” Jubal shrugged. “Reckon I could be.” His eyes searched out his friend who was now in back of the wagon.

“Hmmm. Didn’t know you was sticking around. Reid said you killed two bad’uns and saved Luke from getting kilt. Got the impression you moved on to other places already.”

“He’s staying with me for the summer, and maybe the winter too… till he sorts out what he wants to do. Was going to buy land in Larkspur, but had some bad luck. He’s been real handy… and he only killed one and wounded one. I’m responsible for that other dead man.”

“I see. Reckon that’s what Reid said… my hearing ain’t so good sometimes. Larkspur’s a nice town,” he said to Jubal. “We’re growing, but not as fast as they be.”

“You ever been there?” he asked.


“You ever been to Larkspur?” Jubal asked again, making his voice a mite louder this time.

“Sure have. Heard about the mill what be there, run by a fellow named Will Merrick, big bull of a man with the best smile you’re ever going to see. Yep, real nice fella. Wanted to see it for myself, and he showed me what I needed knowing. Even told me how to get the most out of the gears and where to find them, the blades, and the belts. Told me where not to order from too. Damn good man what offered me a job, but I was stuck on having a business of my own, and Bearpaw’s got all I need. You’d do well to settle here, lad. Land’s not as dear as there yet.”

“I’ve begun to think on it some.” He watched Lucas’s eyebrows raise when he said such.

“Looking for serious work?”

“Ah… I’m not sure.”

“Well, you look strong enough I could use you round here.”

“He is strong, and he ain’t afeared of heights like I be, but don’t you be trying to steal my help,” Lucas said with a scowl, and Jubal wasn’t sure if he be teasing the man.

Morey smirked, and Jubal saw he enjoyed getting the rise from Lucas. “I was only meaning when you was finished with him of course.”

“Sure you were, you old scamp, and he would make you a damn fine worker if’n he can put up with the likes of you.” He winked at Jubal, letting him know he should consider the job if it be what he wanted. “That roof we talked about? Him and me pitched it instead, and now I got me a loft.”

“Pitched it, eh? Smart for you to do so… don’t like shed roofs a’tall, like I told you, ‘cepting for porches and lean-tos. Even then they need be steeper than what you had planned for that house of yourn.”

Jubal nodded his agreement and it made Morey grin. “So that’s where all your lumber went to?”

“Yep. Now I need pine for the floor of the loft. It’s what I brought. Want them two inch thick for strength, but don’t matter the width.”

“Pine? Happens I’m needing some nice pine. In a hurry?”

“Can wait if you’re busy. Looks to be you are.”

“I can fit you in. Two days suit you… late afternoon?”

“Quicker than I expected. Obliged to you.”

“Like to see the serious ones make it,” Morey said, as much to Jubal as to Lucas. It was obvious he had fondness for ‘his boy Luke’, but he was now all business. “Back to work. Time is wood… and wood is money. Unload them logs to the right in that bit of space, and I’ll mill half for you. Don’t forget about my offer for work, young fella.”

“Obliged to you, Morey. Not sure yet what I’m doing, but I’ll think on it.”

“See that you do,” he said, turning and winking at Lucas. A minute later the whine of the saw made it tough to speak so they unloaded quick and rode out, heading for Bearpaw.

“He likes you,” Jubal said as they moved out of the range of the saw, his ears appreciating the peace. “Likes teasing you too.”

“Yep, he does. Treats me like a son, always giving me advice and offers of tools and such. Everyone calls him fair, and he is. He done told me to steepen that roof, so he enjoyed hearing we peaked it after all. I’m learning I got to listen better, like I’ve been listening to you,” he said with a grin. “He’s going to have to push to get our logs milled, but that’s the way he be with me.”

“He sure has a lot of wood piled around there. Why in tarnation would Reid be crowing about me?”

“Cause you saved me from getting kilt, I reckon, and you helped get his name in that book he mentioned for solving crimes. Suppose that be a big deal for a new sheriff trying to make a name for hisself.”

We did that.”

“I suppose, but he knows I ain’t a great shot best of times.”

Jubal was watching his mare’s ears twitch the whole time they were speaking. She was constantly paying him attention and he liked that. “I reckon Reid likes you too.”

Appeared he caught the man by surprise, judging by his expression. “Why… why do you think so?”

“I don’t know, maybe because he crowed for me helping you stay alive? You seem close… ain’t you?”

“Used to be, yep.” Lucas kept his eyes forward and as much as Jubal wanted to learn more, he stayed quiet as they walked along the peaceful road. He’d just been making conversation, but for some reason he had the feeling he’d nudged at a sore spot. He weren’t sure why, though.

“You considering Morey’s offer?” Lucas asked as they neared the road into Bearpaw. “He’ll pay a good wage for sure, and he’s a fine man to deal with. Reckon he’d be a damn good boss.”

As convincing as he was trying to sound, Jubal heard the flat tone as he spoke, and knew Lucas be worried he’d take it. “Pretty sure I couldn’t stand all that noise the day long, so no… don’t believe I’m interested.”

“You sure? You could still stay at the farm if you did… and you could stick cloth in your ears too protect them.”

“Appreciate that, but I am sure. Not worried for money now, and you and me have us some plans.”

“Well… all right then.” He stayed staring ahead, but he was smiling.

They stopped at the mercantile first, and after hitching his mare to the rail, Jubal followed Lucas inside and had hisself a look around. Not much in the way of supplies, but he hadn’t expected there to be, given the main road hadn’t been passable for heavy wagons. They did have that bread, though, and whale oil for the lanterns. Matches and some thick, salted and smoked bacon from a barrel too. When it came time to pay, he tried to put a coin forward, but Lucas weren’t having it.

“You’re more than earning your keep, so quit.”

He accepted that, making no fuss, and was introduced to one of the proprietors, a Mrs. Campbell, who looked a little like his memory of his grandma. She bid him welcome to Bearpaw Lake, but didn’t ask no nosy questions like he’d expected.

Sheriff Barnes appeared on the boardwalk soon as they exited. “Still here, I see, Jubal. Want to thank you again for helping out my boy here.”

My Boy? It was hard to miss Lucas’s sudden scowl. “He helped me out too, Sheriff. And no, no plans to move on just yet.”

“Glad to hear it. You might want to visit the land office while you’re here, if you really be planning on sticking around.”

Jubal was surprised at his suggestion, but it was his tone as he finished off that threw him for a loop. Still, he didn’t truly know the man. “Ain’t ready to settle here or anywhere just yet, but I’m thinking on it.”

“I see. You do have some of your coins back, but you’re probably wise to get to know the place first. Meantime, I hope you’re smart enough to put that money you got back in the bank. Ain’t safe to carry so much around. Luke, can I speak to you over in my office?”

Lucas, until then not being a part of the conversation, was putting his supplies in the back of the wagon. “Can it wait, Reid? I need to order two more windows from Willoughby and then see if I can purchase a chisel from the blacksmith.”

“I prefer we speak now, if you’d be kind enough to oblige me.” There was an edge to his voice Jubal hadn’t heard earlier, but he be pretty sure he heard tension in his request to their friend. “It won’t take long. Please?”

Please? Jubal, surprised at that word from a lawman, expected this must be something personal, not professional. Weren’t his business, but it made him ponder, ‘specially after Lucas’s attitude about his earlier question. Used to be close?

“I’ll be right back,” Lucas said to him. “No need to wait on me if you want to get back to the farm, though.”

Him saying that was a surprise too. “No, I reckon I’ll wait for you, boss. I’ll take a walk around town and get acquainted with what be here.”

Lucas nodded, but there was no change in his expression as he set off across the street, walking fast with the sheriff right behind. It was truly curious. Something about Reid seemed to try his new friend’s patience, or maybe it was anger he was trying to hide.

They’d known each other earlier… when was that, and what did it mean? None of your damn business, Jubal! Loosening his mare’s saddle a good inch for her comfort, he left her tied to the hitching rail and set off to become more familiar with Bearpaw. As he looked around, he saw it really was a pretty town.






I am making another request for readers to leave story likes and fill out the story recommendations section on the front story page. As I've said many times, these things help new readers come on board, and I would be obliged if you would help me and this story out. Gary
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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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