The Dandy by PatriciaG

Amazing beta: Raian

Word count: 6,835

The work crew had split up, one clearing a creek and one repairing fences. The work assignments were made just after breakfast. Johnny was assigned to join the creek clearning crew while Scott had surveying duty.

Splash! Johnny came up from the creek sputtering, covered in mud and dirty water. The rope had slid off the stump they were trying to remove from the creek. Johnny shook the water out of his hair, but didn’t even try to get all the mud off. He rinsed his hands in the murky creek water and stepped up onto the grassy bank shaking off like a dog.

Johnny glanced up when he heard a horse approaching. He knew that silhouette anywhere. He immediately began to think nefarious thoughts of how he could dirty his big brother up a bit.

“Oh, here comes the dandy,” Cole, the new hired hand, mumbled loudly.

“No, he is not a dandy. He is a hard worker,” Jorge argued.

“Lunch break!” Johnny announced as the work crew quick stepped toward the back of the wagon.

Scott dismounted, retrieved his saddlebags, and strolled over to the wagon where Johnny was now standing. He chuckled at how filthy his brother could get. Johnny started to grab his brother, but Scott was too quick and made it just out of reach.

“Teresa packed up a lunch for us, brother. Cold fried chicken … again!” Scott complained, but realized they were still eating better than the crew.

“Had his meal made for him. Must be nice. I bet he ain’t never had to take care of hisself,” Cole spouted as he walked away from the supply wagon with his cold lunch in his hand. “Someone always cooking and cleaning for the Dandy.” The jealousy in Cole’s voice was heard by those around him, including Johnny.

Johnny started to walk over to Cole, but Scott put his hand in front of Johnny and shook his head. “Johnny, it’s not worth it. Let’s go find a shady place to eat.”

The brothers relaxed away from the rest of the crew, but Johnny was still fuming.

“Scott, why’d you let him get away with that? I could’ve punched him, I was so mad.”

“Brother, hot heads like him just don’t get to me. He wanted to get a rise out of us. I’m just not going to stoop to his level. Besides, he’s right.”

“What?! You aren’t some Fancy-Dan. You pull your own weight around here.”

“Yes, but you know I’ve never had to take care of my own cooking and cleaning. Ever. In Boston, the boarding school, and now here. Even in the army we had a cook sometimes.  I’ve always had someone to take care of me. It doesn’t mean I’m not strong, courageous, smart, good looking …” Scott waited for a laugh from his brother, but didn’t get one. “Come on, lighten up. The other hands know he’s just a blow-hard. They respect me. I just don’t care what people like that think.”

Johnny thought over what Scott had said. He nodded his head and went back to eating even if he didn’t agree with his brother. He still wanted to stand up for Scott, but decided to respect what Scott said and let it lie.

After lunch was over, Scott remounted his horse and yelled over his shoulder, “I’m going up to finish the surveying on the north boundary to the Simpson’s place. I’ll see you at supper. Stay out of trouble, brother.” Scott smiled as he kicked his horse into an easy canter.

The crew finished their lunches and began to wander back to their work sites, but Jorge walked over to Johnny. “Johnny, could I talk to you? I want to talk to you about Cole. He is saying some mean things about Senor Scott.”

“I heard.”

“I don’t like what he said and some of the others don’t want to work with him anymore.”

“Jorge, thanks for letting me know. I’ll take care of it.” Johnny appreciated loyal hands like Jorge.

Scott got home about thirty minutes before his brother. Just long enough to get cleaned up and have a drink before Johnny got home.

Johnny slammed open the front door and saw Murdoch working at his massive desk. “Murdoch, I let a hand go today. He’ll be in to get his pay in a few minutes.”

“Who did you let go, Johnny?” Scott had a sneaking suspicion.

Johnny hadn’t seen his brother sitting on the sofa. “Cole,” Johnny answered. He knew this would anger Scott and he waited for his brother’s response.

“Why did you fire him?” Scott questioned rather calmly, considering how furious he was.

“Scott, even if you don’t care what he said, none of the other hands want to work with him. He just needed to go!”

“What did he say, son?” Murdoch chimed in.

“It was nothing, sir, just some snide comments that I’ve heard before,” Scott replied.

“Johnny, what did he say?” Murdoch was unperturbed by Scott’s reply. He wanted to know what had upset both of his sons.

Scott looked at Johnny. Johnny looked at Scott. “He said that Scott couldn’t take care of himself. He always had someone to cook and clean up after him. He even said that he thought someone probably wiped his ass for him. That’s when I got mad and fired him.”

“Well, I appreciate you standing up for your brother, but good hands are hard to find, Johnny. Maybe we could’ve done something a little less drastic,” Murdoch stated in a calming tone.

“He wasn’t that good a hand and with nobody wanting to work with him I figured it wasn’t that great a loss.”

A knock on the front door interrupted the spirited conversation. Scott stood as Johnny went to answer the door. “I’m here to pick up my pay,” Cole stated in anger, but then looked at the floor. Johnny motioned for the hired hand to come in and go to Murdoch’s desk. As Cole walked over to the desk, he noticed Scott standing in the living area.

Murdoch opened the ledger and added up the hand’s wages. He wanted to lecture Cole, but decided he would stay out of it. What was done, was done. Cole accepted his money, thanked Murdoch, and turned to leave out the front door where Johnny still stood. Cole sneered at the Easterner as he walked by, secretly vowing to someday repay the wrong he’d been done.

Scott broke the silence, “I’m going to go clean up for dinner.” He had already cleaned up, but needed an excuse to get away from this situation.

“I think I’ll go get cleaned up, too.” Johnny turned to his father who tried to smile at his son, but it turned into more of a grimace.

After dinner, the three Lancer men adjourned to the great room for after dinner drinks.

“Scott, did you get the surveying done?” Murdoch watched Scott nod his head. “Good, because I purchased Joseph Simpson’s place. I figure we can use it as a place to get away, a hunting cabin or a large line shack. It’s been abandoned since Simpson passed, so I’m sure it’ll need some repairs. We’ll send some men up next week to take care of fixing it up.”

Scott deep in thought, only partially listening to Murdoch, just nodded his head. He was thinking about how Cole’s cruel comments had affected Johnny. There was another part of Scott that thought how true those statements were. Maybe this was the perfect opportunity to prove that he could take care of himself. He’d talk to Murdoch about it later without his little brother listening in.

Murdoch and Johnny talked about using the new place for hunting trips and about how long it would take to fix it up before they could put it to good use. They looked over to see Scott staring off into space.

“What’s on your mind?” Johnny waited for a response from Scott.

“Nothing important. I think I’ll go catch up with some correspondence,” Scott answered as he stood, stretched his back, and turned to go to his room.

After Scott left, Johnny commented, “Why, do I not believe my brother? I guess he’ll let us know what’s on his mind when he’s ready. How about a game of checkers, Old Man?’

Scott left his door open so he could stop Murdoch on the way to his room. He heard Johnny coming up the stairs. He could tell the footsteps weren’t heavy enough to be his father’s. 

Johnny stuck his head in Scott’s room. “Hey, do you want to talk?”

Scott looked up from his letter writing and shook his head, “Nope. Goodnight.”

“OK. Goodnight, Scott.” Johnny shrugged his shoulders, closed the door behind him, as he strolled toward his own room.

Scott was torn between going back down to talk to Murdoch or waiting until his father retired for the evening. Murdoch made the decision for him by starting up the stairs. Scott got up and greeted his father at the top of the stairs. “Sir, could I speak to you for a few minutes … in private?”

“Sure, son.” Murdoch walked with apprehension into Scott’s room, closing the door behind him. “What’s on your mind, Scott?”

“Well, I was thinking about the repairs the Simpson place will need.” Murdoch nodded, then Scott continued, “I’d like to do them, sir.”

“That sounds fine. I’ll send you and a work crew up next – ”

“No, sir,” Scott interrupted his father, “I want to do it on my own. I know it’ll take a little longer, but I want to do it. Alone.”

“Scott, does this have something to do with what Cole said today? You know you don’t have to prove anything to me,” Murdoch asked while studying his son’s face.

“Partly. It’s something that I’ve thought about for a while and his comments just brought it up again. I don’t like questioning myself. I’ve never had an opportunity to be alone, to take care of myself, and I want to try. I need to prove to myself I can do it.”

“How long do you think it will take you, son?”

“I’d like two weeks to do as many repairs as I can, cook and clean for myself, and just be self sufficient.”

“If I didn’t think you could do it, I’d say no.”

Scott waited. Finally Murdoch said, “When do you want to leave? We need a day to get the supplies together.”

The blond sighed. His father understood. “I could leave day after tomorrow. Thank you, sir.”

“Goodnight, Scott. See you at breakfast.”

His family was almost finished eating breakfast when Johnny stumbled down the stairs. He looked up to see his brother and father’s heads together deep in conversation. “Good morning. What are you two up to?”

“Well, if you’d get down for breakfast on time, you wouldn’t miss out,” Murdoch admonished his youngest. “Your brother has volunteered to go up to the Simpson’s place to make repairs.”

Johnny smiled. “Volun-told you mean,” he chuckled. He was glad he’d slept in and would miss that assignment.

“No, brother, I want to do the repairs. I’ll be gone a couple of weeks. Will ya miss me?”

Johnny grinned. “Two weeks, huh? It shouldn’t take that long with a full work crew.”

Maria placed a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and biscuits in front of Johnny.

“Your brother won’t be taking a crew. He’s doing it on his own. I think it will be a good learning experience.” Murdoch missed the side eye look from Scott as he said the learning experience comment.

Johnny thought for a minute while he shoved the food in his mouth. “Does this have anything to do with the ‘never doing anything for yourself’ comments from Cole?”

“That may have been the catalyst, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time … to prove I can take care of myself. I hope you can understand.”

“Oh, I understand, big brother, I just don’t think you need to prove anything.”

After spending the morning talking with his father over what repairs would probably be needed at the cabin, Scott spent most of the afternoon getting the supplies together collecting shingles, nails, boards, and tools. He also got food supplies based on the line shack inventory list. By the end of the day, he was convinced that he had everything he would need. Jelly offered to help, but Scott declined his offer.

“Jelly, I appreciate your help, but I got this under control.”

“Well, I’s just lettin’ ya know I’ve got experience with this sorta thing and would be happy to help – ”

Scott interrupted in a voice that brooked no arguing, “Thanks again, Jelly, but no thank you.”

Jelly nodded his head and walked away, mumbling to himself about stubborn mule-headed people.

Dinner that night was a somber affair. The men were lost in their thoughts, and Teresa got tired of trying to carry the conversation. After dinner, they retired to the great room for drinks, but Scott decided to turn in early. Johnny tried to talk his brother into playing a game of chess before he left. “Come on, Scott, I’ll even take it easy on ya.”

“Sorry, brother. I need to make an early night of it. I plan to get up before dawn and I still need to finish packing. Goodnight, all.”

After Scott left, Johnny turned to his father, “Why? Why is this so important to him? Why does he need to prove anything to anyone?”

“Sometimes a man’s actions are for himself, son. We both know that he can handle himself. He’ll be fine. Are you worried about your brother?”

“No, just don’t see the need to waste time doing it alone when we have hands that could make short work of it, is all.” But, secretly, Johnny was concerned about Scott out there without any back up. Maybe he’d just have to stop by to see how his brother is doing. Johnny felt better about his decision and challenged Murdoch to a game of chess.

Breakfast was a much more lively meal than the evening one had been. Scott was looking forward to his ‘adventure;’ Johnny was happy with his decision; and Murdoch was proud of Scott, but didn’t show his feelings. Teresa brought plates of eggs, ham, potatoes and biscuits to the table as she sat down with her family.

“Everyone seems to be in a good mood this morning.” Teresa beamed. All heads nodded. “Scott, I’ve made you a basket of food to get you started with. It should last you a few days.”

“Thank you, Teresa, but I’ve already loaded enough supplies to last me for two weeks.”

“Son, just take it,” Murdoch admonished Scott. He looked at his father then at the hopeful face of  his sister.

“O.K. Thank you, Teresa.” It was easier to make concessions than start an argument. Besides, nothing could dampen his good mood today.

Johnny stayed around to watch his brother load his pack horse before he headed out to start his own work day. Johnny shook his head. ‘Why would anyone want to make it on their own if they didn’t have to?‘ Some days he just didn’t understand that brother of his.

Scott made it to the cabin by mid-morning. He had very few problems on the four-hour trip. Genny was a cantankerous old mule who liked to set her own pace, so sometimes Scott just had to give her an incentive. He had tied her rope to the horn of his saddle and when the rope started rubbing on his thigh, he knew it was time to give ole Genny a carrot. It was a good thing he’d observed Jelly getting the mule to do his bidding by simply showing her a carrot. Even so, Scott knew he would have a bruise on his thigh from all the rubbing that rope had done.

On first inspection, the two-story cabin and the small barn didn’t look too dilapidated. But, first impressions could be deceiving. He spent the rest of the day getting the animals bedded down and fed. Then he brought all the food supplies into the cabin and separated out the other supplies in the barn. The barn needed to be mucked out. It was a good thing he had brought a bale of hay, because what was there was moldy. By late afternoon, Scott was hot and tired, but he thought he’d check the barn structure before he stopped for the evening.  There were a few boards that were rotten. He’d replace them first thing in the morning before he checked over the corral.

Scott was actually glad that he had brought food that didn’t need to be cooked. ‘Thank you, Teresa.’ He started a fire in the fireplace for heat and in the pot-bellied stove for coffee. Even though it was warm in late summer/early fall, it still got cold up in the mountains at night. He investigated the small cabin while the coffee was heating. Downstairs was basically one room consisting of a kitchen, dining, living area with a fireplace, and a bed in the corner. Upstairs was basically a loft with two small beds. Upon returning to the ground floor, he sat at the table to eat his dinner. Afterwards, Scott took a chair out onto the front porch. He sat down with a hot cup of coffee in his hand and surveyed the property. It was a nice enough place. He could hear a stream nearby. He’d need to check it out before he left. Maybe there’d be time for some fishing. There’s a lot to be done, but Scott was content in the knowledge that he could do it.

The next few days were spent repairing the barn and the corral. Scott realized that he should’ve already spent time with the cabin roof when a rain storm came on the third day. The roof leaked like a sieve and he didn’t have enough pots to catch all the water. He spent the next morning sweeping out the rain from the inside of the house and airing out the bedding that had gotten soaked. ‘Well, there’s no time like the present to get started on the roof. Oh, my, I’m already talking to myself.’ Scott sighed and went to find a ladder in the barn. The ladder needed to be repaired first as it’d been laid in a wet corner of the barn. Two steps forward, one step back. After working on the ladder for an hour, Scott tested it with his weight. It felt sound.

After gathering the gunny sack of shingles, a small bag of nails, and the framing ax from the barn, he ambled toward the cabin with the ladder in his other hand. He whistled as he walked. Leaning the ladder against the back of the house, he hoisted his load of supplies up onto the roof. ‘Where to start? The ridge-beam at the top seems logical. Maybe start by the fireplace?’ Once on the roof, Scott walked bent over to the ridge of the roof. It wasn’t too steep to stand up, but with his heavy load he felt off balanced.

After a few hours work, he had almost finished the section he had started with. Scott stood and stretched his back. He had unbuttoned most of the buttons on his shirt earlier, but he didn’t feel much cooler. The sweat-soaked shirt clung to his back. The tired blond looked over the roof with a sigh. He was proud of all the work he’d accomplished. He used his shirt sleeve to wipe the sweat off his forehead. He then heard a rider approaching. His feelings of euphoria was dashed. ‘Johnny!’

“Hey, brother! How’s it going?” Johnny hollered from his horse as he rode up to the cabin.

Scott scowled at his sibling. “Coming to check up on me?” He hollered down.

“No, I just wanted to see if you needed any… supplies.”

Johnny began to dismount from Barranca. “No, don’t get off! I’m fine! I don’t need any supplies. I don’t need any help! Just turn around and ride back home.” Scott was furious. He wasn’t some simpleton who couldn’t take care of himself. It had been years since he was that greenhorn from back east. He knew how to make repairs! He stopped himself when he noticed the hurt look on his brother’s face. Scott remembered how he and Johnny had felt when they wanted to help Murdoch with the prison farm.

“Johnny, I’m sorry. I know you’re just trying to help, but I really want to do this on my own. Can you understand that?”

Johnny nodded and smiled. “I guess so. How’s it going?”

“I’ve just about got the barn and corral repairs done and now I’m starting on the cabin. I’ll be home in about a week.” Scott smiled down at Johnny from the cabin roof, “Thanks for stopping by. It’s been nice to see a friendly face, though.”

Johnny realized he’d been dismissed. “All right. See ya in a week, then.” He waved as he turned to ride away.

Scott worked his way toward the chimney on the front side of the cabin. He was glad this wasn’t his regular job. He stood again to stretch his back. He rotated his shoulders to try to get the stiffness out of them. While using his shirt sleeve to wipe the sweat off his brow again, he regretted not remembering to bring up a canteen of water. He stood up straight when he heard another horse approaching. ‘Who could that be?’ He used his hand to shade his eyes as he gazed down the path. ‘What the hell is he doing here?’

Cole rode confidently up to the cabin. He’d found the man he had been looking for. He knew if he followed Johnny he would lead him to his dandy brother.

“Well, well, well. Look what we have here. A dandy on a roof.” Cole’s words came out slurred.

“What are you doing here? You were fired. Get off Lancer land!” Scott hollered down from the roof.

Scott saw the anger in the man’s face as Cole drew a rifle out of the scabbard on his saddle. Scott knew he’d made a mistake coming up onto the roof unarmed. He felt the first shot graze his left arm as he reached the chimney and started down the back side of the roof. The second shot ricocheted off the chimney stones, hit the side of his head causing him to loose his balance.

Scott stumbled off the roof landing awkwardly on his ankle before falling flat on his back. The air was forced out of his lungs in a rush. Once Scott caught his breath, he realized that he was a sitting duck. He started to get to his feet, but his right ankle gave out on him. Scott started to crawl, dragging his leg, toward the back door of the cabin, when he heard Cole come up behind him.

“Lookie how the mighty have fallen! Crawlin’ round like a baby. Whatcha gonna do now, dandy?”

Scott turned around, sitting up with his legs in front of him. The grimace on his face told of the pain he was in. The graze on his left arm was still bleeding a slow drizzle down his arm. The graze to his temple was bleeding more furiously.

“Cole, you’re drunk and not thinking straight. Leave now and I won’t press charges.” Scott stared at the man stalling for time while his fingers stretched out toward the ax he’d dropped. It had fallen from his fingers when he made his unfortunate fall from the roof.

“You’re damn right I’m drunk! Can’t get a job round here when you’ve been FIRED from the GREAT Lancer ranch,” Cole yelled at Scott, spittle spraying from his mouth.

“I’m sorry you got fired,” Scott’s fingers finally wrapped around the handle of the ax, “I didn’t want that to happen. You brought it on yourself, though. You’re not an easy man to work with.” Scott rethought those last comments. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. “You could go outside the San Joaquin valley and find a job.” He hoped that would soothe the outraged man down some.

“Yeah, but first I’m gonna finish off what I started here.”

Cole stumbled forward, his hands outstretched to strangle Scott. As Cole grabbed him, Scott swung the ax, hitting the former hired hand in the head. Cole dropped like a stone on top of Scott. Scott was shaken by his actions, but was able to pull himself out from underneath Cole and push the man to the side.

Scott sat with his head in his hands trying to calm his breathing. When he brought his hands down he noticed they were covered in blood. He wasn’t sure if it was his blood or Cole’s. He glanced back at Cole with the framing ax stuck in his head, then turned to crawl to the cabin’s back door. He raised himself up onto his knees to reach the handle to open the door. Scott crawled painfully into the cabin and collapsed from exhaustion onto the kitchen floor.

By the time Scott came to, it was dark outside and the cabin was cool, especially the floor. ‘You’re on your own. Just like you wanted. Now, what do we do? Start a fire?’ His head and arm had stopped bleeding, but both were throbbing. He looked down at his ankle, but couldn’t tell anything with his boot still on. Scott scanned the room to see if there was anything he could use as a crutch to help him walk instead of crawl. ‘The broom!’ He saw it leaning in the corner by the fireplace where he had left it earlier. He crawled over to the broom and used the wall to help him stand. He turned the broom upside down so the bristles were under his arm. It was too short for a crutch, but it was better than nothing. ‘There has to be something better.’ He scanned the room again. Near the kitchen was a table and four chairs. Four tall-back chairs. Scott hopped over to the chair. The back of the chair was almost to his arm pit. ‘This will work better. And if I get tired, I’ll have a place to sit.’ Scott’s smile at his cleverness, turned into a grimace as his ankle started to loudly complain. Scott carefully sat down in the chair.

Again, he gazed around the room. He had brought enough firewood into the cabin to last at least one more night. The resourceful man tried out his crutch/chair as he hopped over to the fireplace. He plopped down in the chair as he leaned over to pile up wood for a fire. He practically fell out of the chair reaching for some kindling, but righted himself again. Sweat started to appear on his forehead and down his back from all of his exertion. ‘Matches. Where did I leave them?’ Scott closed his eyes to think and sighed. ‘Maybe if I could just lay down for a while.’ He shook himself causing the pain in his head to make itself known again. ‘Just get the fire started, then you can lie down. Matches are … on the mantle! Using the chair back, he stood. Thankfully the matches were on his end of the mantle. Feeling luck was leaning his way, he was able to get the fire started.

Now I can lie down.‘ The tired man looked at the bed in the corner. Just a mattress. He had removed all the bedding and hung it outside to dry after the rain storm. Decisions, decisions. Go get the bedding now or lie down on the plain mattress. He would need the bedding later as the evenings got so cold near the mountains. That would be the logical thing to do, but Scott was so tired from all his earlier work and near death experience. ‘Just a short nap couldn’t hurt.’ Scott thought as he hobbled to the bed.

Scott woke to drops of water on his forehead. ‘At least it isn’t hot candle wax.’ His thoughts slipped back to Zee and all her antics. He suddenly sat up in bed. ‘Oh, no! It’s raining again and I didn’t bring in the bedding. Too late now.’ The fire had died down and the room had a chill to it. His stomach’s growl reminded him that he hadn’t eaten since sun up. Scott sat up gingerly as the room spun. He still hadn’t cleaned his wounds or checked on his ankle. ‘Priorities: Get a fire going in the fireplace and stove, heat some water for coffee and cleaning injuries, heat up some beans to go with the jerky, take care of head, arm and ankle.’ With his plan made and the room now still, he stood leaning against the chair back and hobbled over to the wood pile. It was getting pretty low. ‘Need to add chopping and gathering wood to the list.’

Scott put some matches into his shirt pocket, piled some kindling and wood onto his chair, and dragged it over to the pot-bellied stove. He made short order getting the stove fire started. ‘Now, over to the kitchen pump to put water in the coffee pot.’ Each step sent excruciating pain up his leg. He was very happy to sit down for a moment by the sink and rest. ‘Can’t rest too long. Need to get the beans in a pan.’ Talking to himself kept the young man focused.

Fire – Check

Heat  water – Check

Beans cooking – Check

Time to get cleaned up. Scott found a dusty bowl in the cupboard. He rinsed it out at the sink before he put some cool water in the bowl. Then hopped back over to the stove to retrieve the coffee pot. Happily he only spilled a little hopping back to his chair. He was also happy that he had remembered to use a cloth to handle the hot pot. Scott poured some of the hot water into the bowl of water making it warm enough to clean his wounds. He dragged the saddlebag from the end of the table, to close to where he was sitting. Scott rifled through the bag pulling out the bandages and medicinal salve.

First the arm, next the head, last the ankle.’ Giving himself orders, he proceeded to tear the sleeve off of his shirt. The wound was slightly puckered and pink, but it didn’t look like infection had set in. The bullet had passed threw the fleshy part of his arm. Scott cleaned the wound with the warm water, applied salve, then wrapped it up using his one arm and mouth to tie a knot in the bandage.

He felt the furrow the bullet had skimmed on the side of his head. Boy, it throbbed. He dipped the wounded area of his head into the bowl. The water quickly turned a light shade of pink. The wound was no longer bleeding so, it was just matter of cleaning off the blood and dirt. Since he couldn’t see how bad it was, he just left his head injury to air dry.

‘Now the ankle. Maybe I should be on the bed when I take my boot off?’ Decision made, Scott hopped over to the bed using his crutch/chair. The bed wasn’t that far from the kitchen, but it sure took a lot of energy to get from one place to another. The blond looked down at his booted foot. He could tell that it was already swollen. The only way to get the boot off was to cut it off. He took a knife out of his other boot and began to carefully cut the tough leather down one side. A couple of times he nicked the side of his leg while he was cutting, but he didn’t stop until he had the boot open to his arch. He immediately felt the throbbing intensify in his ankle. With the boot cut open, he could tell the injury was much worse than he thought. He decided to leave the boot on but apply bandages to wrap up the ankle and boot.

So tired, but not giving up yet, Scott crutched into the kitchen. He dumped some coffee grounds into the remaining water in the coffee pot. Next, took the almost burned beans off the stove to cool on the counter.

He thought about how cold it was getting and without any bedding he would be miserablein the bed away from the fire. ‘Another decision made! Drag the mattress near the fire for the night.’ After the mattress was near the fireplace, Scott returned to sit in the kitchen to eat his meal. He ate directly from the pan, but did rinse out a cup for the coffee. Meal complete, he hobbled over to the fireplace and lay down on the mattress. Using the last of the wood he had brought in earlier, Scott stoked the fire one last time before he closed his eyes. Tomorrow would come with lots more to accomplish, but tonight he was satisfied with himself. He fell asleep almost immediately.

Morning started before the sun had risen. Scott woke to the chill in the room. He shivered. The fire had gone out during the night and without any covers he felt the morning cold air in the cabin in his bones. Scott thought about what needed to be done today. ‘Go home. Whatever it takes to get back home.’

He levered himself up into the chair. He wanted a hot cup of coffee, but didn’t want to take the time to make it. Scott used his chair to hop over to the kitchen counter to reprieve his saddlebag. ‘Never leave supplies behind, soldier,’ rang through Scott’s memories from the war.

With one last look around the cabin, Scott hobbled toward the front door using his chair/crutch to get him outside. The sun was up. He stopped halfway to the barn to look toward the back of the cabin. He expected to see Cole’s body laying on the ground, but it wasn’t there. His heart stopped for a moment thinking maybe the man was still alive and would be after him. He took a couple of steps toward the back before he saw Cole. He had mixed feeling when he saw the body had been dragged off under the trees by some animal. Scott felt relieved, but also guilty for having to kill Cole. He wished the situation had turned out differently. Hell, he wished that Cole had never come here at all!

Scott continued into the barn and sat down to rest. He went through a checklist of what he needed to do to get home. ‘Bridle on Genny, saddle Charlie, tie on Saddlebag. O.K. Lancer, let’s go home!’ The blond got everything done, but was too exhausted to mount up. He reached up to retrieve his canteen, took a long drink, then wrapped it back around the saddle horn. He took Genny’s rope and tied it to the saddle horn as well. Thankful that his left foot wasn’t injured, he was able to get seated onto the saddle with little effort. He ducked his head as he rode out of the barn pulling Genny behind him. Scott glanced back at the chair/crutch and tipped his hat in appreciation to the chair.

It took four hours to get to the cabin. Scott hoped it would take less time to get home, since he wasn’t heavily laden down with supplies on the way back home. He hadn’t counted on all the times he’d had to stop to rest. The farther he traveled the more exhausted he felt. He even contemplated tying his legs to the stirrups, but just didn’t have the energy.

“Johnny! Rider’s coming.” Jorge pointed into the distance. Johnny looked up to see a horse and mule coming toward the work crew. He squinted to see a man laying across the neck of the animal. He knew immediately what he was seeing.

“Scott!” Johnny raced to Barranca, jumped aboard, and flew to his brother’s side. He slowed Scott’s horse and held his brother on Charlie until he could get him to the wagon. The other hands helped Johnny place Scott into the wagon. Scott was barely conscious. Johnny looked over his brother for injuries. He noticed the bandage on his arm, the wrapped ankle and the matted hair. He wanted answers, but getting Scott back to the house took priority.

“Jorge, send someone to get the doctor.” Johnny saw Jorge nod, but didn’t wait for a response.

Scott opened his eyes. He was lying in his bed in his own room. He sighed in relief.

“How are you feeling, son?” Murdoch looked anxiously at Scott’s face.

“Glad to be home, sir.”

“Doc will be here soon to check you over. What happened?”

“Cole happened. He showed up at the cabin wanting revenge. I had to … kill him.”

Murdoch tried to hide the shock from his face. “We’ll let the sheriff know what happened and send someone to bring back the body.”

Scott didn’t want to discuss this now, but needed to let his father know. “No need. Animals dragged the body off. It happened outside and I couldn’t do anything but take care of myself.” Murdoch nodded in understanding, but decided he would send a pair of hired hands to find the body and bring the remains back anyway.

Johnny had been leaning against the wall listening. He felt some guilt over instigating the situation by firing Cole. He was proud of his brother, though. He knew Scott could take care of himself, but he hoped that now Scott knew he was capable and didn’t feel the need to repeat this stunt again.

They heard footsteps in the hall. Teresa was bringing up hot water and bandages. They also heard the doctor calling out from the great room while Teresa yelled back that they were in Scott’s room. The doctor ushered everyone out while he checked over the injured Lancer son.

Before the doctor could make it back into the great room, Murdoch was questioning him. “Well, how is he?”

“He took care of his arm and head just fine. I had to splint the ankle, though. It’s a simple break. He’ll need to stay off it for a while, then he can get around with crutches. This was a relatively easy visit, I’d say. Since, it’s still early, I’ll be heading back to town.”

Murdoch thanked the doctor as he walked him out the door.

Johnny quietly crept back up to his brother’s room to check on him. Scott was resting. He had been given pain medicine before the splinting and was sleeping comfortably with his foot elevated on a pillow. Johnny smiled as he left, slowly closing the bedroom door.

Four weeks had passed since Scott was injured. He was now getting around with a cane instead of the dreaded crutches. Dinner had been delicious, as usual, with light banter during the meal. All had dismissed to the great room to relax. Johnny and Murdoch played a feisty game of checkers. Teresa worked on her knitting in the corner leather chair by the fireplace. Scott sat on the couch with his foot on a pillow, watching his family’s activities with a slight grin on his face.

Johnny grumbled as his father beat him … again. Teresa laughed and excused herself for the night. Murdoch stretched and bid his sons, “Goodnight, boys. I’m turning in too.”

Johnny got up off the floor and joined his brother on the couch, careful to not jostle Scott’s foot as he relaxed on the sofa.

Johnny, not one to mince words, jumped right into the talk he had been wanting to have with his brother. “So, do you feel that you’ve proved that you can take care of yourself?”

Scott had been waiting for this conversation for weeks. He sighed. “Yes.”

Johnny waited for more of answer. When nothing came, he tried again. “I still don’t know why you needed to prove anything. You could’ve been killed.”

“I didn’t know that Cole would show up. I just want to survive on my own … and I did. No, I won’t do it again, but it’s good to know I can.”

“Well, ya know you didn’t finish the job.” Johnny loved to rib his brother.

“Once I’m released to work again, we should ask Murdoch if we could go up and finish the job together,” Scott suggested.

“I like your thinking. Now it’s time to get you up to bed.” Johnny helped his brother hobble up to bed content in the feeling that his brother was all right.



February 2022


Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or Email Patricia directly.


7 thoughts on “The Dandy by PatriciaG

  1. Nice Scott-focused story. I can see why he might feel the need to prove to himself that he could be self-sufficient. I’m glad he and Johnny will get to finish the job together.


  2. You know I love a Scott-centric story. Cole made an unfortunate decision to kill Scott with his bare hands rather than just shoot him again. He chose poorly. Liked it a lot, Patricia!


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