Hey everyone, this is the first story of my Week of Thursdays. Make sure you check back everyday this week for a new story.
The Love of Sons
The ranch really was something, back in the day. Way it seemed to just keep on going made you think that Big Red Rollins got his water straight from the sea. A man would be hard pressed to find a single person in Salt of The Earth who hadn’t worked on the ranch in one way or the other. He’d be even more hard pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy that time either. It sure was something. Damn shame what happened though. Seems like those few good men out there always catch the first bullet. The bastard who pulled his trigger got his, too bad the trouble didn’t end there.
Only been ten years since Big Red Rollins was thrown into the ground. But if you’d look at his land, you’d think it was abandoned a day after Jericho. The crops are gone, except for a few that Mother Nature must’ve liked. The bones of the dumb cows that couldn’t find a way over the fences are littered about as if the place was a damn graveyard. Suppose you could say it is. Yep, suppose you could.
See, the thing is, when you get as big as Rollins, you have to almost expect that some soft handed bastard will show up and try and take it. That’s the risk. Of course Rollins knew it, so did his sons. The real hole in the bucket about the whole thing is what happened to Rollins’ wife. They already took what they wanted, no need to treat her like that. Killing a man is one thing, but to, well you know, is just asking for The Almighty to send some vengeful soul after you. And boy did he. I don’t think anyone expected the hell that Tallboy Zeke brought.
Everyone knows what Zeke did. Hell, you probably cheered him on, just like everyone else. The way he tore apart those bandits, one by one. You probably read the headlines, said something like “well that’s justice.” But if you’d seen just what exactly Zeke did to those men. It was hell of a lot more than justice. It was fury, it was rage, it was passion. It was like Zeke was a painter who finally figured out he was good at painting. Makes you kinda understand why his little brother. Stone Eye Saul, started chasing him. Sure, he was righting wrongs, but at the same time Zeke was writing a whole new legacy for the Rollins name. Reckon that just didn’t sit well with Stone Eye.
Remember when those two finally caught up with each other. Anyone who was there ain’t likely to forget it. It happened right there on the old ranch. It couldn’t have happened anywhere else, not enough poetry anywhere else. Nope, had to happen at the old ranch. Still some green left back then. Not much, but enough to give you hope that it’d come back. Of course, if you’d seen what happened you’d realize that hope was a dream and nothin’ else.
It sure was a sight to see. Stone Eye standing there at the gate. Forty something men behind him. None of them seen war before. That’d change by sundown. Saul took two men and rode right up to the front door of the big house. Walked right on in, like he had just finished up getting the cows rounded up. Found Zeke, sitting at the table, almost seemed like he was waiting on dinner or something. Granted, back in the day he’d be whipped silly for bringing a pistol to the table.
“Look good there, Saul. Or is it just Stone Eye now?” Zeke said, his dusty eyes never leaving the gun.
“Been better. You?”
“Same I guess.”
It might sound like a strange thing for these two to have their little talk. They knew what was coming. God might as well been playing trumpets, it was so clear.
“Saw what you did out there.” Saul said.
“Sure you did. Didn’t think your little gang out there was here to pardon me.”
“They sure aren’t. Got to bring you in brother.”
“You don’t got to do anything.”
“Just like you didn’t have to do what you did to those men.”
“I ain’t sorry for it. If you’re expecting me to ask for forgiveness, you ain’t getting it. The only thing I’ll say is that I’d do it again and again and again.
“Pa wouldn’t want this. This isn’t his way.”
“Yeah, well, he didn’t want to die either. Looks like the old man just ain’t ever going to get what he wants.”
Gotta say, those two men who came in with Saul, they’re a tougher sort. Just standing there watching. A lesser man would’ve left those two be. Not out of respect, no, out of fear. The way those brothers talked, the way their bodies coiled up, it was like a cobra and a rattler shooting the shit.
“What about mom?”
“Don’t you say a damned thing ‘bout her! You were there Saul, you watched what they did. Hell, it should’ve been you out there killing those men. No, here you are coming after me. Honestly, you think what I did was wrong?”
Saul shot his men a look. Didn’t have to tell them nothin, they knew that what was going on in that kitchen was meant for those four only. Obviously they didn’t keep it between them. So long, doesn’t really matter now.
“No, I don’t. Hell, if you were just cutting them down, I would’ve joined you. But you went too far. Right out the gate, Nightrider Ulysses, it was sick. All you had to see was what you did. You didn’t see the buzzards and worms eating for the mile you spread em.”
“Gotta make yourself clear. That’s what I did.”
“No Zeke. You weren’t sending a message. You were, I don’t even know how to say it.”
Things got quiet for a moment. Real quiet, the wind even shut it’s trap.
“So how many boys you bring with ya? How many you think it’d take to bring me down?”
“You tell them what happened to ma?”
“Not for them to know.”
“I suppose you’re right. I ain’t going in without a fight.”
“I know. That’s why I came in. Figured this be the last time I’d get to talk with you. Always liked talking with you. Back then that is.”
“Yep, there were some good times. So when this is over, you goin open this place up again.”
“Nah, it’s gone. Give it to the dust. Maybe stake a claim farther north. Always did get too hot for my liking here.”
“Not a bad idea. Well, I suppose. You better get on out there to your friends. Sure they’re getting restless. I loved them Saul. Loved you too.”
“I know Zeke. I loved them too.”
Stone Eye strolled out of the house a heavier man. His pace slow as he rejoined his men. Could tell that something was weighing on him. Not sure what though. Maybe it was the fact that he might be the last Rollins after that day. Maybe he was worried about being a coward. A brother should take care of a brother right? Shouldn’t take forty men.
Don’t quite remember if Stone Eye ever did get that ranch of his own. Don’t remember much of the man after that day. Just the last thing I heard him say.
“Take the sonofabitch.”