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"You ain't gonna believe what I just seen," said Rollo Tandy, his voice barely audible above the din of the milling tangle of riders and cattle spread out on the prairie below.
Justin Harte squinted into the dust cloud and asked himself why he hadn't elected to start the roundup at home in Palo Pinto County instead of miles to the east in Tarrant County. At least in the cedar brakes and hills of his home range, the noise would have been muted by broken country. Here, even before the cattle were driven together for cutting and branding, the uproar made it almost impossible to pass on orders. It was noisier than a trail drive.
"You hearin' me, Justin?" Rollo demanded. "I said I just seen somethin' you ain't gonna believe."
If Rollo's news was bad, which it probably was, Justin didn't want to hear it. They had yet to clear the first range, and there had already been enough trouble.
"A woman! I seen a woman back there by the creek."
Justin turned to stare at his foreman, a short, broad-faced man who couldn't have looked more indignant had he discovered a hundred Comanche warriors driving off the remuda.
"Think she was in Morehead's camp."
Justin swore under his breath. Colonel Morehead had been a problem from the first day. Evidently the colonel had expected to be chosen roundup boss, for he had turned sullen and uncooperative after Justin's election by the other ranchers. "Are you telling me he brought along that brainless, young flirt--"
"'Twarn't his daughter," Rollo interrupted. "'Peared to be some widder woman. I asked her real polite what was she doin' there, an' she like to bit my head off."
"Keep an eye onthings," Justin instructed, wheeling his horse toward the creek along which the twelve participating outfits had scattered their camps.
A woman at spring roundup? He hoped that Rollo was mistaken. Maybe she was just passing through, stopping to water and rest her horses, but if so, what the hell was she doing way out here? The camp wasn't that close to the Fort Worth-Weatherford road. And if she had actually come with one of the outfits, God grant that she was wrinkled, weather-beaten and seventy years old. The last thing he needed was some young female distracting the men.