forward to being part of your life here in Durry. Thank-you all for the warm welcome you have extended to me.”
The town folk and the local ranchers are milling about. Loretta is talking with another woman. Mrs. Smith says cheerfully, “I sure have missed the preaching since Rev. Boyle left. I think Rev. Davis preached a real nice sermon this morning, don’t you?”
Loretta nods, Yes. ‘Love the Brethren’—it sure is a topic that we must all struggle with sometimes.”
Mrs. Smith laughs, but with a hint of seriousness, “I certainly know that I do! I’m a highly suspicious person
anyway and rather doubt someone’s character until I get to know them.”
Loretta also laughs, but for a different reason, “For the longest time, I never could think ill of anyone…I
still tend to miss suspicious traits that other people notice.”
George Burke's two hired hands, Red and Smitty are keeping a small group of Burke’s animals together in preperation for the local stock sale the next day. The two men are relaxed as they sit in their saddles watching the cows lazily grazing.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a band of rustlers come up over the crest of a knoll and barrel down on the surprised cowhands. Before either cowboy could fully react, they both reel off their horses, shot at close range. The bandits hurry the cattle off in the same direction they had come.
Red rolls painfully over and sees Smitty lying face down in the dust; dead from the looks of him. Red himself has a bad shoulder wound. He staggers to his feet and manages to catch his horse, who, scared by the shooting, had run off a short distance. Red winces as he drags himself on and points his nose toward town.
The welcome party for the new pastor is in fully swing. People are talking and laughing while large quanties of food and drink are being consumed. Reverend Davis finds himself surrounded by pretty Carrie, serious Benjamin, Aaron, in something of an offical mood, and a cheeful Andrew.
Carrie has been recounting her recent escapade with the green horse. She looks smiling at Andrew, before assuring Mr. Davis, “Oh yes, he thoroughly broke that horse after he pitched me off…I haven’t even tried getting back on him.”
Davis nods and inquires, “So, you are a fine horseman, Andrew?”
Andrew chortles, “I don’t know how ‘fine’ I am, sir, but I’m a good horseman without fancy manners.”
The parson laughs at the youngster's confident ease and claps him on the shoulder. Then he turns to Aaron.
“You too, I suppose?”
Aaron grins, "I'm a fair cowboy…my other job is deputy Sheriff.”
Davis nods approvingly while looking the eldest Burke boy over, “Ah, yes. Mr. Bowen did mention you, come think of it. He said you were ‘a fine, upstanding young man’.”
Aaron looks kind of sheepish at this unexpected praise while the other young folk laugh at him, pleased to hear him lauded.
Davis next questioned Benjamin James, “And you, young man—Benjamin, I believe it was, what’s your
Benjamin grins, “It isn’t horses and it isn’t law…at my age sir, its--
He was not allowed to finish his sentence, for Caleb appears out of no where with an answer, “Eating!”
Carrie attempts to scold, "Caleb!", but it is rather futile, for everyone is laughing at the perky young boy standing in their midst, hands on his hips and a mischevious twinkle about his face.
However, Caleb's tom-foolery is quickly forgotten, as more and more people spot Red riding in, wobbling somewhat as he rides.
George steps out and grabs the bridle, "What happened, man?”
Red gasps, “We was jumped. Smitty’s dead and them 20 head stole.”
Sheriff Bowen heads for his office shouting, “Come on men! I need a posse!”
The men start scrambling for their guns and horses, many have a very serious look in their faces. Bartholomew shows up at his father’s side as he is helping Red off his horse and handing him over to the doctor.
Bartholomew speaks softly, “Pa…”
George turns to look his son in the face, “No.”
Bartholomew protests, “But, Pa!”
George says fimly, “No. Not until you are 17. You know that, so quit asking.”
Bartholomew slumps against a post, sulky. His face carries the dangerous edge it often did when he was unhappy or angry.
Meanwhile, Aaron and Andrew are checking their guns. Carrie puts her arm around Caleb protectingly.
Reverand Davis requests, “Benjamin, would you saddle my horse for me? I’ll go take off my clerical garb and get my rifle.”
He turns away as he speaks and heads for the manse. Benjamin stares at him in surprise for a minute, then dashes around to the church barn.
As the posse gathers in the street, none of the men were expecting what they soon saw coming from the church. When their new pastor mounts and joins them, many of the men look at each other and at Davis with pleased surprise.
The sheriff remarks, “Well, Revered, I didn’t expect you to join us, but you’re quite welcome.”
The pastor just smiles a bit grimly.
They ride off while the women and children gather in groups. Bartholomew stands off by himself, arms crossed, feet spread, head down—watching them leave. Benjamin sees him, takes a deep breath and walks over, putting his hand on his shoulder.
He says quietly, “I’d like to go too, but Papa won’t allow it.”
Bartholomew retorts angrily, “Yeah. But I’m a full year older than you are! I’m almost 16! I can handle a gun and a horse as well as any of them! Not only that, but I’m a fair hand at trailing too!”
He shakes Benjamin’s hand loose and stalks off. Obviously hurt, Benjamin sighs and puts his hands in his pockets. Loretta leaves her place among a group of ladies and puts an arm around her son.
She inquires gently, “Benjamin?”
Glancing up, he says, “He’s sore, that’s all. I just happened to be the first one to speak to him so I got the brunt of it.”
Loretta brushes his hair back from his forehead and is rewarded by a wry grin. That is followed by a semi-perplexed look as Benjamin continues, "But in some ways he’s right—he is the best tracker around here that I know of. He feels left out—like they see him as a useless little boy.”
Loretta gently remonstrates, “That doesn’t give him any right to be rebellious about it though. He still is a boy, though quite a mature one in some respects, and if his papa says no, he ought to simply abide by it without getting angry.”
Benjamin nods, “I suppose you’re right. But I still kind of understand where he’s coming from.”
His mother remarks with a smile, “Too bad he doesn’t realize how much sympathy he has from you.”
Benjamin snorts, somewhere between laughter and hurt, “He doesn’t like sympathy, Mama! By now you ought to know that.”
Loretta smiles gently, “I do…but I also know that underneath that crusty surface is a boy whose only real friends are his family. He doesn’t fully trust anyone else. I think that he would actually like to be friends with you Benjamin, but he doesn’t know how without letting that ‘manly’ facade down. Keep being friendly and maybe he’ll let you all the way in.”
The posse is trailing the bunch of cattle; it is pretty clear where the rustlers had passed. Suddenly George reigns up.
He says, “I hear the cattle.”
They stop and listen. Sure enough, the sound of lowing is distinctly heard from someplace up ahead not too far. They move forward again cautiously.
Suddenly, Reverend Davis exclaims, “Look over there!”
As he points toward a rise, the figure of a man is seen to disappear over the edge.
Bowen orders, “Alright men! We’ve been spotted. Ready yourselves.”
The men loose their guns in their holsters and some go ahead and draw. Others adjust their rifles or shotguns. Quickly, they dig spurs into their animals. They gallop forward and are met by a large band of rustlers.
As the shooting and shouting commences, each man does his utmost. Several rustlers fall, dead or wounded, but most of them rush off. One man from the posse is killed and two more are wounded to varying degrees.
With the cattle recovered, George and his sons enlist the help of several men to bring their cattle back.
Bowen, Davis, and the rest help the wounded and throw the dead men over their saddles and head into town.
When the posse rides in, the women and children come from all directions. There is both joy and sorrow in the greetings. The two women whose husbands were wounded help their men into the doctor's office. The poor soul who lost her husband is taken in hand by Davis who speaks words of comfort and assurance to her.
Sheriff Bowen stops in front of his office with the horses carrying the dead rustlers. He tells Aaron, “I want to see if I have wanted posters on any of these men before we bury them. I should like to know who we’re dealing with here.”
The Burkes are sitting around in various positions in their living area. A knock sounds on the door. Aaron opens it and greats the man standing there, “Asa? Come on in, sir.”
Asa Bowen steps inside. Removing his hat, he remarks, “Aaron, I checked my wanted posters.”
“Yes?” Aaron's voice has just the right amount of curiosity in it.
Bowen demands, “Ever heard of Benson Hadley?”
George explodes, “Benson Hadley??”
Bowen looks over at him, something almost amounting to amusement in his clear eyes, “I see you have, George. Yes…I’m convinced those men were working for Benson Hadley.”
Aarons sounds almost confused, “Benson Hadley…Pa, ain’t he that no good loafer you fired ten years ago?
George nods, “That’s right…you mean, Bowen, that Hadley has become a rustler?”
“That is exactly what I mean. I’ve got wanted posters on him and several men associated with him for bank-robbery, cattle thievin’, and water poisoning.”
George expels air and lowers himself into his chair, "He promised to get even with me when I kicked him out…which was more because he was making trouble for you ma, Aaron, than because he was a loafer. He was that too.”
Bartholomew grouched, “I’d a shot him!”
George returned with a grim laugh, “I couldn’t. Not with justification in the eyes of the law. And you, Bartholomew were just a hot-tempered laddie of 5—a bit young to realize what was going on. Hardly a day when by when you didn’t throw a temper tantrum over something!”
He smiles at the recollection.
Aaron laughs, “I remember that…the one that sticks out the most in my mind was when he snuck out of the house with my new rifle. I caught him and boy, did he scream and kick me in the shins!”
Aaron rubs his shins in the memory of that day, but Bartholomew, still in a sour mood, glowers at his brother.
Bartholomew is headed for bed, when his father grabs the boy's shoulder, neither gently nor roughly.
George says firmly, “Son, I want to talk to you.”
He leads him in front of the fire, “Sit down, son.”
Obediently, Bartholomew sits and looks up at his father.
Taking a breath, George begins, “Bartholomew, sulking is neither attractive nor endearing. I know that you think yourself man-enough to be part of a posse—and you probably are.”
Thus encouraged, Bartholomew blurts out, “Then why don’t you let me go?”
George, who had half turned away, swings back and looks his son straight in the eye. “Because I also know that you have not yet learned to control yourself. Were I let you go with the posse and you got your dander up, you would very likely put not just yourself, but others into worse danger than they already were in. You’d charge ahead and someone would have to go fetch you back. This is true, is it not?”
After a moment, Bartholomew admits, very quietly, “Yes.”
Mr. Burke continues, “I have said that you may go when you turn 17. I hope by then you have learned that rashness is not bravery, but stupidity. Impetuousness is a danger to yourself and those you love. Now thinking on your feet and acting quickly—something you do very well, is not the same thing. When you threatened to shoot Benjamin—that was impetuousness birthed from anger, but when you set up the ambush when the James’ were being held hostage—that was quick thought and action. Son, it is not because I do not value your skills that I hold you back, but because I love you and want to see you become the best man that you can be.”
He reaches up and picks up a Bible from the mantel. He holds it in his hands for a minute looking down at Bartholomew. Then he hands it to him.
George says gently, “Son, this book must be the guide to your steps. I pray that you will learn to put your trust in Him who made you and not yourself. The bravest men are not the rashest, but the ones who trust in God.”
Bartholomew gets to his feet, holding the book in his hands. They stand there looking at one another then
unanimously they wrap their arms around each other in a bear hug. George holds the boys head against his shoulder and kisses him on the forehead. Bartholomew, who destests showing emotion, squeezes his eyes shut tightly, trying not to cry. Something in his stubborn heart had been pricked.