The Homestead: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

Daddy invited the men into the house, and told me to fetch Henry from the barn. As they tied their horses to a rail, the one with the long moustache nodded in the direction of Walter, who had come to see who was visiting. “Thet neegra of yours is carrying a shotgun, mister. T’aint a good idea for folks to see him with that”.

His accent was unusual, almost like a whine, and not familiar to my ears at all. Daddy held his hand up to stop Walter coming any closer. “Walter ain’t mine. He works here. He’s his own man, lives in his own house too”. The other man looked older, and was fat. He didn’t say anything, but shook his head.

I came back with Henry, telling him to be careful about what he said to the men, and not to say nothing if he wasn’t sure. Daddy had poured some whiskey, and they were sat around the table. Henry sat down and took out his pipe. Moustache man reached into his inside pocket and removed some folded papers.

“Says here you’re Henry Dench, and you have staked claim to this land. Is that a fact, Mr Dench? Henry glanced at daddy, then nodded. “Well then it’s your lucky day, Henry. If I may call you Henry? ‘Cause I’m about to make you a fine offer for this place. Enough for you to start over anywhere’s that takes yer fancy. See, I bought the Ryan place next to this one, and two more to the east behind you. I’m aiming to build cattle pens for when the railroad starts to attract the big drives to Wichita”.

Henry listened politely, lighting his pipe and filling the room with sweet smoke.

“Ain’t for sale, sir. We are happy here, and want to stay on the homestead. Getting crops ready for next harvest, and got a good business going with building too. No need for us to start again. But I say thank you for your offer, all the same”. The man hadn’t mentioned a price, but I got the feeling Henry wouldn’t sell for a king’s ransom. The older man started talking. He had an accent I did recognise. Dutch, or German.

“Mister Dench, you are too hasty. Listen to our offer, and think about the future. Very soon your homestead will be surrounded by cattle on three sides. There will be a lot of noise, a great deal of dust, and in hot weather, those beasts will drink the creek dry. Why not move on, find somewhere more pleasant? There will be room for your workers to stay on with you, and you can start again someplace else. Once the railroad comes, Wichita will change completely. You won’t recognse it, I promise you”. He slid some papers across the table. You will see our offer is well above market value, and all you have to do is sign. We will arrange to pay you in cash or gold, and you will have six weeks to pack up”.

Blowing out a cloud of smoke that covered both the men, Henry shook his head. He didn’t even bother to inspect the documents, not that they would have meant a great deal to him anyway. “My mind is made up, mister. I ain’t selling, and don’t care about how many cows are living around us. But I say thanks to you again for your consideration, and there’s more whiskey if you care for some”. The men looked at each other, and both downed what was left in their glasses. Then they stood up, and moustache man folded the papers before returning them to his pocket.

As they walked to their horses, the fat man turned back to Henry. “The offer’s good for a month. We are in the hotel if you change you mind”. Once in the saddle, moustache man looked over at daddy. “Take that shotgun off your neegra, mister. That’s free advice”. When they were gone, Walter walked over. “What them fellas want, Boss Jessie?” Daddy had told him not to call him boss, but he couldn’t stop himself. Daddy spit on the ground, and looked over at the dust where they they had reached the trail.

“Trouble, Walter. They want trouble. And don’t call me boss, y’hear?”

24 thoughts on “The Homestead: Part Twenty-Two

  1. I like it when I play catch up as I don’t wait for the next episode all the time…Cattle Barons don’t bode well they tend not to have no in their vocabulary…Time will tell…another great episode, Pete 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) “T’aint a good idea for folks to see him with that.” Moustache Man speaks with t’ainted sentences.
    (2) Henry Dench is a widower. His wife was a weird-looking cat woman who retired from MI6. She had a room with a view at the best exotic Marigold Hotel, but leaned out the window too far at six minutes to midnight, and died from her skyfall. That’s why she’s not home on the range with Henry. Instead, she’s in heaven, floating on stranger tides.
    (3) Overheard:
    Moustache Man: “Well, it’s your lucky day, Henry. Surely, you can understand that.”
    Henry: “Don’t call me Shirley! It’s Henry Dench, not Henry Shirley!”
    (4) Moustache Man is aiming to build cattle pens. Because cattle have hooves rather than hands, these pens have to be special built. One of them has already been reserved by a steer named William Cowper. He wants to write a poem about snails.
    (5) Overheard:
    EVIL MOUSTACHE MAN: “I have a plan, Henry. You’re a wealthy landowner. Either you sell me this ranch, or I’ll make it known that you are the widower of Lady M.”
    HENRY DENCH: “Everyone knows that already.”
    EVIL MOUSTACHE MAN: “I wish Fat Bastard had told me that. Hey, pardner, throw me a frickin’ bone here! I’m the boss! Need the info!”
    FAT BASTARD: “How about the cattle disguised as land sharks—the ones with laser beams attached to their head?”
    EVIL MOUSTACHE MAN: “Right! Those laser beams will obliterate the wood railing around your ranch, Henry, allowing my cattle to trample your land. That is unless you pay me a king’s ransom!”
    HENRY DENCH: “i don’t care about cattle trampling my ranch. And I’m not about to pay you a king’s ransom!”
    EVIL MOUSTACHE MAN: “Oh hell, let’s just do what we always do. Steal your goats and pigs and hold Phin hostage. If you want them back, you’ll have to pay me one hundred dollars!”
    FAT BASTARD: “Don’t you think we should ask for more than a hundred dollars? A hundred dollars ain’t exactly a lot of money these days.”
    EVIL MOUSTACHE MAN: “Really? Okay then, let’s get groovy! We’ll hold Phin, the goats, and the pigs ransom for…ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!”

    Liked by 2 people

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