Coming up from one side, Philip James remarks to his friend, “This is quite an experience. I never worked cattle before—particularly not on such a large scale." Laughingly, he adds, "Chasing the old milk cow around was about all I ever did.”
George snorts amiably, “I was raised around a cattle-lot in Texas and decided to go into the providing end of the business. I preferred being free to roam about rather than working in the pens all day long. It didn’t make my pa too happy at first, but he got a son-in-law that liked the shipping business, so everything worked out well."
He paused and after a moments gazing, turns back to Philip with a hint of pride in his frank eyes, "My boys were all practically born on horseback working cows. Sometimes I think they know more than I do.”
Philip muses, “Benjamin isn’t much of a hand with animals I’m afraid.”
George shifts in his saddle, looking in the direction Philip's gaze it drawn toward. Benjamin is attempting in a half-hearted manner to move a particularly lazy cow along.
George grins, “Oh, he’ll learn—particularly if he wants to. Bartholomew will be more than willing to teach him…my only fear being he’d be superior and insulting. He’s mighty proud and it gets him in serious trouble sometimes.”
Philip raises an eyebrow, "Benjamin is pretty subborn, too. He won’t ask how to do something for fear he’ll get laughed at. So, instead he gets in scrapes which make him look more the fool. He hasn’t figured that out yet.”
Meanwhile, while their father's are discussing their personality traits, Bartholomew is watching Benjamin closely. Fed up, he shakes his head.
"Oh, come on, Ben! You got to be a little more forceful with ‘em. You act like yer scared of them.”
As Bartholomew turns his horse and back to Benjamin in order to return a stray animal to the herd, Benjamin briefly glares at the his broad back. A nerve had been touched.
Aaron is siting on the porch, cleaning his revolver. While burnishing the barrel, he keeps glancing out to where the dust is rising from the cattle. He sighs briefly and looks down at his leg, which is still slightly
Suddenly, Celab and Lucy turn the corner. Aaron waves a greeting, "Come to see Phineas, Caleb?”
Celab promptly responds, with the grammer he is increasingly picking up from Phineas, “Yup. Lucy wanted to see how you were doing.”
Aaron gives the little girl a cheerful smile. She shyly smiles back as he says, “I’m doing pretty good. Pa said I should stay out of the sun though.” He laughingly shakes his head and calls out, “Julian! Come on out here!”
Julian appears at the door, a dish-towel in his hand. His normally happy little smile increased when he saw Lucy. It got even bigger when Aaron suggested, "Julian, why don’t you go show Lucy the kittens?”
Lucy's face lights up and Julian grabs her hand, "C’mon, Lucy!”
They dash off for the barn. After a split second glance shot between them, Caleb and Phineas take off after them. Aaron leans back in his chair with a gentle, laughing smile. Chuckling, he returns his attention back to cleaning his gun.
At the back of the herd, Benjamin is fighting to get his horse under control while trying to run a breakaway animal back into the pack. His face is strained and his eyes are wide. Try as he might, he can't help being terrrifed. The horse, sensing this, starts acting up even worse.
Bartholomew, who is supposed to be keeping an eye on the greenhorn, is off someplace else riding along peacefully, unaware that his charge is in trouble. When last he had checked, Benjamin had been doing fine.
Rodger Burke, George's 13-year-old son, being somewhat more compassionate to Benjamin's unfamiliarty with animals, is actually doing a better job and keeping a watchful eye on the James boy. Looking back, he realizes that Benjamin is in trouble. He waves his hat at his brother and bellows across the herd, “BART!
Bartholomew!! Ben’s in trouble!”
Bartholomew hears his brother’s voice, but not the words. As he strains to get what his brother is saying, Benjamin finally gets in front of the steer, which was obsinately going the opposite direction he should have been. Without warning, his horse spooks and Benjmain flys off, landing within inches of the steers nose.
Terrified at this sudden change of scenery, the steer bolts back into the herd. His sudden reappearence accompanied by blowing and bellowing startles the other animals and within minutes the chain reaction has started a stampede.
Rodger in front of the stampeding cattle, suddenly realizes what is happening, but too late. His horse gets thrown off balance as Rodger wheels him in an attempt to slow the rushing cattle. The horse falls, unable to regain his footing.
Bartholomew watches in horror as his beloved younger brother is engulfed before the rushing herd. He looks back and sees Benjamin stand by his horse is terrified wonder. His head is bleeding, but Bartholomew either doesn't see it or take it into consideration. His face contorts with grief and murderous anger. Fighting his rifle out of its scabbard, he buries his spurs into his horses sides and gallops down on Benjamin, screaming, “You fool!! You’ve killed my brother!!!”
The action has attracted the ever vigilant George's attention. Wheeling his horse, he spurs it into an all out run before Philip has fully realized what it going on. As Andrew and the two hired hands, Red and Smitty,
take off to try to stop the herd, Philip follows George back to the crisis point. He had seen Bartholomew leveling a gun at his son.
George bellows as he strains every fiber in his being and wills his horse to move fasher, “BARTHOLOMEW BURKE! HOLD IT! STOP BOY!”
Bartholomew is practically foaming as he reaches the spot where Benjamin stands in a semi-dazed state, “I'm gonna kill you Benjamin James! You murdered my brother!”
Horrified by what he had just witnessed and terrified of the furious boy before him, Benjamin crys out, “Don't! Don't! I don’t even know what happened!” He raises his arms over his face as Bartholomew levels the rifle at him, fully intending on pulling the trigger.
George throws himself headlong off his horse, knocking his burly son to the ground as he does so. The rifle fires but misses Benjamin thanks to Mr. Burke's timely leap.
As father and son regain their feet Bartholomew roars at his father, "He killed Rodger! He deserves to die!”
George grits his teeth and his fingers bite deeply into the boy's shoulders. Sternly, he says, “We don’t even know if Rodger is dead…It was an accident. It could have happened to anyone. Now, git out there and help get those cattle stopped!”
As Bartholomew sullenly heads for his horse, he recieves a powerful open handed smack across the seat of his pants. Something like shock and pain register briefly across the young mans face, chased away by anger as his father commands, “I’ll keep the rifle.”
By this point, Philip has reached the scene and has grabbed his son comfortingly around the shoulders. Nearly in tears, Benjamin is trying to explain, “I was trying to get that steer back into the herd and something spooked him and my horse! Next thing I know, the whole bunch are tearing along. I’m sorry, Mr.
George reaches out and briefly grabs him by the shoulder, in a display of forgiveness that caused the tears to really flow from Benjamin's eyes. Then he mounts his horse and heads for the spot where Rodger lies.
Reaching the place where Rodger lay under his dead horse, George swings down and kneels over the prostrate, bloody form. Tears gather in his eyes. Lovingly, he places his hand on the boy's forehead, then
move it down to check for a pulse. Suddenly he gets more alert, a light starts glowing behind the tears. Bending over he puts an ear down close to the Rodger's chest. George looks up with a wondering expression on his face as Philip and Benjamin approach, “He’s alive!”
Aaron had seen the
stampede, but not the rest of the drama. Standing by a post, he was leaning on it when he saw a lone rider come galloping up the hill. As Aaron straightens up, the rider, Benjmain, starts yelling, “The cattle stampeded and Rodger got trampled! He’s alive!! Quick, get the buckboard!”
Even before he finished speaking, Aaron starts a headlong dash across the yard. “PHIN! Start getting the
buckboard ready! Ben, go for the doctor!”
Benjamin takes a deep breath and spurs his horse off down the drive, his face is set with determination.
Dirty and grim, the Burke men stand around in what passes as their living room. Julian is teary-eyed and Phineas stares at the wall apparently in something akin to shock. Aaron stands with his hands buried in his pockets, then breaks away into a worried pacing, only to stop and stand still again. Andrew sits alertly on the edge of a chair, slightly bent forward with his hands on knees, watching the door to the boys’ room. Bartholomew stands with his back to the wall, legs spread, chin down, arms crossed. His brothers knew without looking into his face that he was still furious, as this was his typical posture when angry.
Bartholomew's rage at Benjamin, who is also in the room, edged next to the door behind his father who has one hand on Lucy’s shoulder and the other on Caleb’s, was unsubsided.
Dr. Harris emerges from the boys room and closes the door gently behind him. He looks around at the serious group about him. His tired face creases into a very slight smile, “He’s in a bad way, both arms are broken, most of his ribs, and a leg. However, the way he fell under his horse saved his life. I think he’s going to make it.”
The Burke boys break forth into cheers that had to be be quited by the doctor, “Hush, now! Let him sleep in peace. It’s the best medicine for him." He pauses, before continuing, "Rodger fools people with his appearance…he’s just a sturdy as Bartholomew though thinner and less hot-headed.”
At this Bartholomew flushed and ground his teeth. Andrew relieved himself by letting out a slight, overwrought laugh.
Knowing that Rodger was out of danger, Philip starts edging his children to the door, “Well, we’ll be going
now. I’m glad to hear he’s going to be alright.”
Benjmain, glancing at Bartholomew, said almost pleadingly, “Me too!”
Bartholomew glares at him, “No thanks to you!”
Aaron snaps, “That’s enough! You know very well he had no intention of starting a stampede, much less run Rodger down!”
Aaron walks over and shakes Philip’s hand, then putting a hand on Benjamin’s shoulder, he leans over and looks him in the eye, “Take it easy around him until he cools down, will ya? I don’t want you getting hurt because he’s got his dander up. Bartholomew enjoys settling scores with his fists.”
Benjamin looks startled and steals another glace at Bartholomew, who is still glaring at him. He wasn't much of a pugilist. He nods, “Okay.”
Philip walks home with his children. Caleb and Lucy are silent, but run on ahead a little ways, less affected by the diasater than the others. Philip and Benjamin walk along together, Philip leading his horse, one hand on his son's shoulder.
Benjamin suddenly breaks the silence, “He almost killed me, Papa!”
Philip squeezes the boy's shoulder gently, unable to speak and not knowing what to say.
Benjamin went on, "And before that he was laughing at me! He treats me like I don’t know anything!”
Philip is silent for a moment longer, then when he began to speak, it is slowly, “There has been some
tension between you two ever since you met, hasn’t there?"
At his son's nod, he continues, I think your problem is, both of you are proud and don’t want to admit—particularly to one another—that one or the other might actually know something the other doesn’t.”
Benjamin glances at his father, not sure where this is headed.
Philip goes on, getting more confident in what he wishes to say, “You see, the way I see it is this: Bartholomew does know much more about cattle and ranching than you do. But on the other hand, you
have a better, broader education than he does. You both could learn from the other, but neither one of you is humble enough to do so.”
Benjamin takes his hat off and runs his hand through his hair; as he places it squarely back on his head, he admits, “Yeah, I guess you're right.”
His father, seeing an opening to speak a word of truth, follows up, “Son, pride is an evil that you must strive to cast out from your life. Pray about it. Ask God to give you a humble heart." He paused, then finished the thought, "It will take effort on your part…believe me, I know.”
Something in his father's voice prompts Benjamin to look up at him. Philip smiles at him in an understanding way and they walk on with their arms around each other.
Bartholomew stands in the barn doorway, a bucket hanging from either hand, scowling severely at the person standing in front of him.
"Bartholomew, I’m sorry I spooked the cattle. I still don’t know how I did it. I guess I should have come and
gotten you to help me get that steer in." Benjamin looks miserable under the older boy's scathing eyes. "I just didn’t like to admit I couldn’t do it by myself. I-I didn’t want you to laugh at me.”
He looks down at his feet. It was hard for him to admit this--particularly under the circumstances.
Bartholomew's only response was a humming noise.
Once again Benjamin took a bite into his pride, “I’d like to see Rodger, if I could.”
Bartholomew sets off for the house, brushing by Benjamin as he does so. Benjamin looks deflated and starts to turn to leave, only to be stopped by Bartholomew's voice, "Alright, come on.”
Wondering, but happy, Benjamin trots over to catch up to him. As he grabs the door for him, Bartholomew doesn’t acknowledge the gesture.
Rodger lays in his bunk, so bruised and bandaged that it is hard to decern where he left off and the bandages began. As the door opens, he shifts his head slightly. He smiles at what he sees.
Side by side in the doorway stand Bartholomew and Benjamin.
Suddenly, Bartholomew reaches out and puts his big, strong hand on Benjamin’s shoulder. At first, Benjamin is frightened, but once he looks over at the other boy, he realizes that he has nothing to fear. The two boys smile at one another, if not a little grimly. Peace is restored and amazingly, a strong friendship is born.