If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast.
Old man Corker, short and spindly-legged, was a real character, acting out his thoughts and words like a sideshow clown, apparently not a shy bone in his whole body. The first thing Boone noticed when they rode up with their pack horses trailing behind, was the jagged scar across his neck, and he couldn’t help but stare at a thing that looked like it should have killed him dead.
The man, sharp as all get out, must have seen his expression before he dismounted. After a silent greeting, he did a comical version of a war dance, and then a short, quick slicing motion across his neck as he fell backwards to the ground… a real fall that startled Boone. He was perfectly fine, though, and gripping his throat with both hands, he got up and performed a trudging walk before falling again, this time reenacting the sewing of his neck as he lay on the ground. He jumped up grinning, and a whispery, strange-sounding cackle came out of his mouth.
Boone got the message loud and clear. Somehow, after having his throat cut by an Indian, he’d managed to walk for help, eventually collapsing, after which someone had sewn up his near fatal wound. As amusing as he’d made the performance, Boone was shook. The knife or hatchet cut must have missed the major blood gushers, but it had taken his voice.
It didn’t hold the man back, though, and communicating with him turned out to be almost as natural as speaking. After he read Will Merrick’s note, he proceeded to harness up a fine pair of horses to a big, sturdy wagon with the ease of someone who could do it in his sleep. Boone walked around the four-wheeled wagon, seeing it was reinforced with iron braces. The wheels were ringed in forged steel as well. Neither horse so much as moved a muscle as Mister Corker worked away, and with the little experience Boone had with teams, he was mighty impressed.
Once the spry man finished, he wrote their names in the dirt with a stick. The black stud horse was Duke, and the dark bay mare was Molly, but Boone couldn’t help but wonder why they had names when they weren’t able to hear them from the man’s mouth.
The whole time they spent with him, the old fella was either talking with his hands or using his stick. Both Boone and Coy did a lot of laughing as they walked around the team. His way of telling them the stud horse was quiet was to go to his side and point at his balls, and then perform a plodding walk with his head down. Next, he walked over to the mare on the other side and hugged her, still playing the part of the stud. After he tugged on her harness, he stood at her side with his head down for a good long minute, and then stood up straight and smiled.
“So?” Coy asked. “He don’t bother her none at all when they’re harnessed?”
Old man Corker shook his head… pointed at the stud’s balls, lifted the harness leather a few inches, and shook his head again.
“How old might they be?”
Some quick stick writing told them the stud was five, and the mare was six. Boone walked around the pair one final time, liking what he saw. They weren’t powerful built like some of the bigger draft horses he’d seen, but they were sturdy, and much broader than a saddle horse, with good strong legs on the thick side, and deep, wide chests. He was more than interested, and so was Coy, who’d signaled his approval to him a couple of different times.
When the older man pointed up into the wagon, they all climbed in. Boone rode up front and soon took over the reins as they rode up a hill into a big open field. The pair moved easily, and never took a wrong step as he maneuvered them around a few stumps at the old man’s direction. After crossing back and forth across the pasture, he took them along the edge, and then back down to where they started. “They felt good… smooth as well-churned butter,” he said to Coy, who was standing right behind him. “You want to take a turn and get a feel for them.”
“No need. I saw all you did. They’re well-mannered for sure. Always listening too, and never pinned their ears back once, even when they were sidestepping in them tight corners and bumping one another.”
“Yep, no hesitation for anything I asked.” His head turned around to look at Coy, and saw from his expression he had no doubts either. That was all he needed.
It was time to talk money, but old man Corker had other ideas, waving his hands and insisting on showing them some other horses. They followed behind, and Coy took the opportunity to bump Boone’s shoulder. The gesture made him happy enough he could feel heat rise up his neck.
Turned out their host made his living training horses, and wagon teams in particular. Besides the barn, he had a shed he made harness in, with a stack of good cowhides waiting to be put to use, and another longer building that looked ramshackle, but was actually quite solid once they had a gander inside. It was filled with different kinds of wagons, either newly built or in the process of being given new life. Cart and team horses were obviously his passion, and he had them in all shapes and sizes. This was a person who spent his life doing what he loved.
Proudly, he showed them some mighty fine horseflesh in the corrals, pointing at each one. Raising his arms as if he was lifting something, and smiling broadly, meant that horse was doing well in its training, but waving his hands right after meant it weren’t ready. One team he pointed out, a pair of black and white paints, got a shuffling trot from the man, followed by a shrug, and Boone, understanding him easily now, took it to mean they were ready enough if he was interested. He wasn’t, though, having already decided on Duke and Molly who he suspected would be more expensive, and maybe by a lot.
Coy agreed out loud this time. “I don’t know, Boone. If this gentleman is saying the other team is the best, then I’m inclined to believe him. Nothing wrong with these two—they’re a handsome pair—but Duke and Molly are fine-looking horses built more for what we need, and we already know they work real well pulling a big wagon.”
“Yep. I’m of the same mind. Would you sell the harness and wagon too, Mister Corker?” Boone asked as they walked back to the team, who were still standing exactly where they left them.
The old man hopped from side to side and grinned.
Boone took it as a yes. “How much? We can pay in gold if you’d rather… double and single eagles.”
The man’s grin grew into a bigger smile. He scratched a number into the dirt and pointed at the horses, first one and then the other.
“One hundred and fifty each?” Boone was a little thrown by the price, but had no doubt they were worth every dollar.
The man nodded, and then followed up with a shake of his head. He made a motion of biting on something between his teeth, and then wrote one hundred and forty on the ground.”
“One-forty if we pay gold?”
Nodding more vigorously, he handled the harness on Duke and wrote again.
“Seventy for each harness?”
Old man Corker made the biting sign again, and scratched out the seventy, replacing it with sixty.”
Boone smiled at the man. “Sixty each for gold. That’s a fine deal. What about the wagon?”
The man cupped his chin as though in thought. His eyes sparkled as he wrote again. When he finished, he slapped and rubbed his hands together as if washing them.
“Seventy for the wagon, and that’s a good deal if we pay gold?”
The man bobbed his head in agreement, and Boone glanced Coy’s way. “What do you think?”
“That’s four hundred and seventy dollars, Boone.”
“Lot of gold for sure.”
“I don’t know much about buying teams and wagons. Mouse cost me forty-five dollars, which was cheap, but she weren’t broke at all, and I doubt she could pull much more than a couple of saplings.”
“So, what are you saying?”
“Mr. Corker here, he wouldn’t steer us wrong, I’m sure of it.” The man, watching and listening to their every word, appeared quite pleased. “With Duke being a stud, we can breed the three mares come spring… even Molly once we can spare her. Maybe have another team we can sell in a few years’ time, and I know how much you like working with horses. I reckon Duke will throw good, strong colts, the kind a farmer would want—with a little training, they should fetch a decent price.”
Old man Corker, in response to Coy’s words, did another fancy-step jig before pointing at his own chest. He then wrote with his stick again.
“You’d be interested in buying colts of Duke’s?” Coy asked.
His answer was one of his smiles and a light slap on the stallion’s shoulder.
“There you go, Boone. We can work with some and sell some.”
Boone, still not used to what was now between them, enjoyed hearing Coy speak about years ahead. “They’d sure earn their keep with all the work we got ahead of us—the wagon’s nothing fancy and it ain’t new, but it’s good workmanship. Look at the size of those bolts. I suspect it will hold a good amount of logs.”
Old man Corker nodded again, and so did Coy.
“Mister, you got yourself a deal,” Boone said. He wasn’t surprised to see another little dance from the man. Digging out all the gold pieces he had stuffed in his pockets, he had to go to his saddlebags for the rest. Counting out four hundred and seventy dollars—not far off the amount of the bank note he’d paid the government earlier for one hundred and thirty-two acres—he placed it in the man’s hand.
Corker actually bit into one and made that hissing cackle noise before going over and stroking each horse between their calm eyes, making signs they both seemed to take notice of. It showed his care for his animals, and to Boone it meant they were used to be treated with kindness.
After a few minutes more of easy conversation, where they asked a few more questions about the pair, they left with Coy handling the reins and Boone sitting beside him. The three horses and the mule were tied to the back of the wagon, and of course only Blue made a fuss before he finally settled down.
Boone turned around and waved to old man Corker, who was closing the gate behind them. It was taller than the man hisself. “I wonder what his first name is?”
“We should have asked him to write it. He’s mighty quick with that stick,” Coy said as he worked the reins.
“Ain’t that the truth. After a while I forgot he was mute… didn’t stop the conversation at all. What do you think that sign was to the horses at the end?”
“Easy. His hand moved from his chest to their noses and back again. Pretty sure the old fella was saying ‘I love you.’”
“That’s what I thought too. We got us some pretty fine horses.” He looked behind again, making sure Blue was behaving. “More like we got us a herd now.”
“Yep, we do at that. Look how easy these two are moving. I think they could do this all day.”
“And each one is trained to pull a plow.”
Coy chuckled. “I sure enjoyed watching that old fella act out being the plow.”
Boone laughed. “He’s a limber sort, ain’t he?”
“I hope I’m that limber when I’m his age. What do you reckon? Sixty? Seventy?”
“Could be either, or someplace in between.”
“They had a nice plow at the mercantile. Was forty-two dollars, which seems a mite high, but the metal was good and thick. Bet it weighs heavy.”
“Didn’t see it, but I’ll take your word on it. I reckon that’ll be our next purchase.”
“Yep, and a couple of scythes, and I’ll be the one paying for them—need a sharpening stone too if Bright’s has one. We’ll get enough earth turned in the fall for next year’s garden after we scythe the hay off it. Corker had some good looking cattle in that pasture, but I don’t think we’re ready for them yet. Alan from the mercantile said yearlings go for about twelve dollars a head around here. Calves are about two dollars and fifty cents.”
Boone was struck by how much Coy had learned in his one visit to the mercantile. This surely wasn’t a man who didn’t care for farming… he’d had that wrong, and was happy for it. “Not bad prices, but we got six animals to feed through the winter now, and I figure hunting will be good this fall, so we can wait on beef cattle. I’d like a milking cow, but we might be asking too much of the land until we get more cleared.”
“True, but I sure wouldn’t mind a steady supply of milk and butter, and we would get a bred one if we did. I’ve been thinking. The grass on our land is so thick at the roots, there might be grazing all winter, even if it snows some, and there’s enough summer left to get two cuttings of hay if we do the first right quick.”
“Guess we’ll find out. We should maybe think on getting a milk cow after all. With all the work ahead of us, we’ll need to be eating good.”
“Yep. How ya feeling about everything?”
“Well… I can tell you I’m tickled with how the day’s gone—despite Phineas Lemon—but I’m missing you sure enough.”
“I’m right here, Boone,” Coy said with a sudden and crooked grin. “If that’s courting, though, keep doing it, cause I miss you too. I was so happy when we left the land agent’s office, I wanted to kiss you right there in the street.”
Boone experienced instant heat in a couple of places as he looked into earnest, blue eyes, shielded from the bright sun by the brim of his hat. “Wouldn’t that have set tongues to wagging in the town of Larkspur.”
“Yep. Gotta keep in mind someone could be watching wherever we are… elsewise I’d kiss you right here.”
“And I’d be hard put not to kiss you right back. Folks are nice so far, but you just don’t know.” Boone’s cock needed a change from thinking about kissing. “What did you think when we told Phineas Lemon we were buying both properties, now that it’s had time to settle?”
“So you’re calm enough you can talk about it now?” Coy asked with a knowing smirk. “He’s slick, but no doubt he had some other plans for our land. I didn’t expect those bug eyes of his could get any bigger, but they sure enough did when we told him. If there was a way he could have kept us from buying them, I suspect he would have done it.”
“Got no doubt for that, Coy, none at all. He sure was doing some perspiring by the end, though, wasn’t he?”
“Yep. Don’t think he believed we had the money to buy both properties, let alone the one, Disappointed when we proved him wrong, but he sure enough tried to convince us we should buy cheaper ones after we told him what we wanted. Not going to lie—it was worrying me some, cause I didn’t know what he was up to. Didn’t like when he said too many fail because they take on more than they can handle, and their land ends up getting taken away because of owing folks... like he was trying to steer us right for our own good.”
Boone was beginning to bristle again at remembering the man’s attempts to scare them off buying their land. He scoffed. “That might have worked on some folks, but there was two of us staring him down like a dog while he yammered. He sure enough got pushy, and that got me more riled than worried… still riles me… cause that ain’t his job to talk folks out of what they’re wanting. But showing him the bank notes shut him up for good. Weren’t nothing he could do after he saw we wouldn’t be talked out of it. Do you reckon there’s rules about land agents buying government land?”
“If there isn’t, there should be… elsewise, agents would buy up all the best places and sell them for profit. I’m willing to bet that’s it, and he had plans. Maybe he was trying to get a partner to hide behind, but lucky for us he didn’t have one yet.”
Boone nodded at them being lucky. His gut told him they’d arrived in Larkspur at just the right time. He’d heard stories of betrayals from government agents and army men… even gold assayers sometimes had dishonest scales.
And everyone knew Indians had been tricked and lied to over and over again by the ones supposed to be protecting them. Banks, too, had been guilty of swindling folks. Farmers wiped out because they were a day late with a payment. When there was money to be made, a body had to be suspicious of the people in charge.
“Could be you’re right, Coy, and I suspect you are. Don’t matter a lick, now. They’re bought and paid for and we have the witnessed deeds stashed at the bank, and we ain’t beholden to no government or no bank. The land is all ours, so Phineas Lemon can go straight to hell.”
Coy snickered. “At least the man knew when to give up when we handed him the bank notes and you told him he was wasting his damn words and our damn time.”
“Got a little forceful, but I’d had enough of being taken for a fool.” Boone hesitated before he finally said what had been on his mind since their purchase. “You know my land is your land, right?”
Coy turned to him. “So that’s what you been fretting about. Course I know that, and my land is yourn… but we have to do it this way so people don’t talk, and we have to refer to the land that way. Got to make it clear to folks around here. And you know my money’s your money, right? You paid for the team, and you paid for more land than I did, but we have to keep doing the purchases separate like we’ve done. It’s why I didn’t dig into my pockets when you was paying old man Corker.”
“I’m glad you didn’t. So we keeping calling it my land and your land, even so?”
“Even so. It don’t matter, because I ain’t going nowhere, and if you do, I’m following right behind.”
Boone tipped his hat back and laughed happily. “Sweet talking sure comes natural to you. I swear you could talk the sap out of a tree if you set your mind to it.”
“The only sap I’m needing is yours, Boone.”
“There you go again.”
Coy chuckled, nudging Boone’s shoulder with his own. “Who’d have guessed I had the knack for sweet talking?”
“Not me. You sure had me confounded all this time.”
“That’s because I said the wrong thing most times I opened my yap. Sorry for that, but wasn’t it you who said we weren’t looking back no more?”
“Yep, I did. After we get back and settle the horses, what say we go for a dip in the river and wash up?”
“We did that this morning.”
“Nope, we just jumped in and out. I need me a good scrubbing.”
“Suppose I do too. Want me to shave you?”
“Yep, and I’ll shave you. Be nice to see that pretty face all smooth again.”
“Only stays smooth for an hour or two,” Coy said, his eyes twinkling.
Boone could tell they were both thinking the same thing. Touching and tasting each other in the privacy of their tent. His cock began pushing its way along his leg when Coy winked at him—at the same time that devilish grin, the one Boone had been waiting for, made its appearance.
So, Boone and Coy have secured their land and their future, and are growing their family in the process. What did you think old man Corker... and Duke and Molly? What about Phineas Lemon? Is he a bit of a sidewinder too? Please share you thoughts if you enjoyed this chapter, and remember to leave a story like and story recommendation so new readers will be tempted to take this journey. Cheers!