- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Amelia Donovan bounded up the porch steps of the ranch house and stuck her head through the kitchen door. "Ma, when is Pa coming home?"
"By dark, I expect," her mother replied, rolling piecrust dough into a neat circle. She glanced up, then took a closer look at her daughter. "Amelia, what on earth have you been up to? You look like you've been rolling in the dirt."
Amelia barely spared a glance at her mud-streaked dress. "I've been down in the barn. Bessie's ready to calve, and she looks like she's going to need help." She swiped a strand of hair out of her eyes with the back of her hand, leaving a grimy trail along one cheek.
Mary Donovan shook her head. "Rob's nearly old enough to take care of things like that, And your father ought to be home anytime. He went to a meeting at Virgil Webb's."
"More talk about the rustling?" At her mother's nod, Amelia snorted and rolled her eyes. "A fat lot of good that will do. They've talked themselves hoarse, but they haven't come up with anything helpful. If there isn't less talk and more action, we'll soon be wiped out."
Mary transferred the crust to the pie plate and sighed. "They've done what they could. The ranger they sent for should arrive soon. Maybe he'll get things moving."
Amelia brightened. She Couldn't wait to meet the ranger. She had plenty of ideas to share with him—ideas the ranchers only laughed off. Surely a lawman would be willing to hear her out. Sheturned and headed back outside.
"Where are you going, Dear?"
"Back to the barn." Bessie needed watching, and Amelia had plans to make.
* * *
Jake Thornton shifted in his saddle and squinted into the westering sun. By his estimate, nearly three hand widths spanned the space between the fiery orb and the horizon. About three hours until sunset. If he'd figured right, he should reach his destination well before then.
The information Cap Samson had given him had been scanty. Area ranchers had been losing cattle steadily for months, and no one knew to whom or why. It was up to Jake to find the answers.
As far as Jake could see, the so-called mystery wouldn't present much challenge. With a little tracking and a few well-placed questions, he should be able to come up with the solution in short order. At least it would be a change from dealing with a riot or a feud.
A rider skylined himself on the crest of a low hill. Jake reined his horse to a halt and watched cautiously, hand flexing to pull his Henry rifle from its scabbard if the need arose. The rider moved toward him without pause, then drew up a few yards away.
"You the ranger?" The speaker, an older man, tipped his sweat-stained hat farther back on his head.
Jake nodded, noting that the weather-beaten cowboy rested his hands casually on his saddle horn and kept them away from his side arm.
"Name's Bart Sloan. I ride for the T Bar Seven. The boss sent me to meet you and bring you in."
Jake eyed the man closely, then allowed himself to relax. Together they headed back the way Sloan had come. Within thirty minutes, they came within sight of a log house and scattered outbuildings. Jake glanced quizzically at his guide of few words, who nodded. Jake surveyed the place as they drew up before it.
"Looks like quite a crowd," he said, nodding toward the bunch of horses tied out front.
Sloan merely grunted, then rode off toward the barn.
Jake mounted the two steps to the porch and rapped on the front door. It swung wide, revealing a tall, broad-shouldered man who beamed and extended his hand in greeting.
"You're the ranger, I take it?" Without waiting for Jake's acknowledgment, he turned to a group seated inside and announced, "Here he is, the man of the hour."
A roomful of faces turned toward the door. Jake stood patiently while they looked him over.
"I'm Jake Thornton," he said to the group at large. "I hadn't expected the escort ... or this meeting."
The tall man burst out in a good-natured laugh. "Samson wired us when you left, so we had a fair idea of when to expect you. To be honest, though, we never expected Sloan to catch up to you quite so quickly." At Jake's curious glance, he added, "We'd planned to meet today anyway. Having you show up while we're all together just makes it that much better."
Jake gave him a thin smile. He'd met horse traders who had that same overdone joviality. "And you are ...?" he asked.
"Seth Hardy, owner of the Ladder Five."
Jake's brow furrowed. "I thought Sloan said this was T Bar Seven headquarters."
Hardy chuckled. "Right you are. Meet Virgil Webb, who let us use his place for this meeting." He waved a hand at a skinny, weathered man, who nodded at Jake.
Jake nodded back, wondering why Webb would let another man control a gathering in his own home. Hardy continued to point out the other men in the room, introducing Jake to Matt Vickery, Les Carter, and Ben Donovan. Each murmured a word of acknowledgment while eyeing Jake speculatively.
He gave them equal scrutiny, reading in their faces both hope and reserve. He'd seen that look before. They knew the reputation of the Rangers but weren't completely ready to relax and believe an outsider would be able to waltz in and solve a problem they hadn't been able to deal with on their own.
Time to get down to business. He needed more information than Cap Samson had been able to give. Might as well question them while he had them all there at once, instead of wasting time riding between the various ranches.
"I need some background on what's going on," he told them. He studied their faces, trying to assess the type of men he'd be dealing with.
Matt Vickery, his shock of white hair a stark contrast to his deeply tanned face, slapped his beefy hands against his knees. "What's going on?" he roared. "We're being robbed blind, that's what. Stock's disappearing here and there, and we haven't been able to put a finger on who's doing it."
"If we had," put in Les Carter, angling his wiry body forward like a lean hunting dog on the scent, "they'd be dancing at the end of a rope by now, and we wouldn't have called on you." His nose twitched, making the resemblance to a predator even more pronounced. "If you find 'em, Ranger, you just leave 'em to us. We'll take care of the vermin, and no need to trouble a judge and jury."
Jake let his gaze slip over Carter without acknowledging his outburst. He wanted no part of vigilante justice or the men who instigated it. He focused on the fifth man, Ben Donovan, and raised an eyebrow.
Donovan smiled. "You aren't from Texas, are you?"
The question caught Jake off guard. "You're right," he said, his cheeks creasing in an involuntary smile. "I was born and raised in Virginia."
"My wife's from Virginia," Donovan responded quietly. "I thought I recognized the accent."
Virgil Webb spoke for the first time. "From Virginia, huh? How'd you come to join the Rangers?"
A hearty slap on the back interrupted his answer. "It doesn't matter how he wound up in Texas," Seth Hardy boomed. "What matters is that he's here now and ready to help us make some sense of this mess."
Jake shifted his shoulders uncomfortably. He appreciated Hardy's confidence, but he could do without his overdone friendliness. He moved away and leaned against the wall, facing the rest of the men. "How long has this been going on, and how many head have you lost?"
Virgil Webb crinkled his forehead. "Hard to tell when it first started. It isn't like you'd expect, with a big number missing all at once. That's something we'd have noticed right off.
"Whoever's doing this has been moving out small bunches—twenty-five to fifty head at a time, near as we can figure. It's beginning to add up."
Matt Vickery nodded agreement. "My riders were the ones who noticed it first. One of my best cows went missing. While they were searching for her, they found a lot of others were gone. I mentioned it to the others here, and it turned out we'd all been hit."
"And we haven't been able to find a trace of any of them!" Les Carter fairly spat out the words.
Ben Donovan leaned forward, scrubbing a work-roughened hand across his forehead. "There's always been some rustling going on; always will be. I don't begrudge a beef to a truly hungry person, but this is getting out of hand."
Jake glanced around the room. "And you've all been affected?"
All five men nodded. "Every last one of us," Hardy affirmed.
"Has anyone been hit harder than the others?"
All eyes turned to Ben Donovan. He managed a weak smile, then shrugged. "I don't want to sound like I'm complaining," he said, "but I'm nearly done in. All my cowboys caught the gold fever at once and took off for Arizona, It left me shorthanded, so I guess I was easy pickings."
Jake shook his head. "I don't understand why anyone would take small bunches at a time, instead of making one big sweep. It doesn't make sense."
"You're telling us!" Les Carter sprang to his feet and paced the narrow room. "All I want to know is who's behind this so I can get my rope ready."
"Take it easy, Les," Seth Hardy cautioned. "We're law-abiding citizens. That's why we called on the Rangers for help."
Carter snorted, and Jake eyed him with concern. This man would be one to watch. Someone who wanted nothing more than to stretch a rope on the rustlers would only do more harm than good.
"It's time I was moving along," Jake told them, standing erect and settling his dusty Stetson in place. "I want to make camp before dark, then I'll get started tomorrow at first light."
"Wait." Seth Hardy held up his hand. "We talked about it earlier, and Ben here is willing to put you up at his place."
The quiet rancher stood, turning his hat in his hands. "Don't expect anything fancy," he said diffidently. "But my spread is pretty much in the center of things. My family and I would be proud to have you."
Les Carter elbowed Matt Vickery. "And while he's there, he can get acquainted with Ben's daughter." Muffled snorts followed his sally. Ben reddened, and Jake fumed. Being on the receiving end of a matchmaking effort was the last thing he wanted. He had come here to work, not have some dewy-eyed female hanging all over him.
He tried not to let his distaste show. He much preferred working alone, able to come and go whenever he pleased. Having to socialize didn't appeal to him in the least. "I appreciate the offer—" he began, intending to decline. Ben's shoulders hunched, bracing himself for a refusal, and Jake hesitated. It might not be a bad idea to be in a central location where he could pick up nuggets of gossip from people who stopped at the ranch.
"I appreciate it very much." He watched Ben's shoulders relax and felt glad he'd changed his mind.
Posted March 12, 2002
Yellow Roses is an anthology of Christian romances set in 19th century Texas. Each novella is a stand-alone story of plucky heroines and Texas Ranger heroes. All four novellas are good, short reads, but two are outstanding: Serena¿s Strength and Saving Grace.<P> DiAnn Mills skillfully weaves a tender romance between Serena Talbot and Chet Wilkinson while portraying their spiritual struggles in an unobtrusive, believable way in SERENA'S STRENGTH. Her historical and cultural accuracy blends an engaging story line and an authentic narrative of life as a Texas Ranger in the developing Republic of Texas. <P> Kathleen Y'Barbo narrates the story of a tenacious Texas Ranger widow, Grace Delaney who struggles to keep her home and family together and Jedadiah Harte, ex-Texas Ranger turned preacher in SAVING GRACE. Their spiritual journey with God and to each other is a well crafted, uplifting read. <P> While all four are well-written and wholesome romantic stories, I'm sure you¿ll want to read other titles by both DiAnn Mills and Kathleen Y¿Barbo.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 26, 2001
Each novella in the Yellow Roses anthology is like a trip into a bygone day, when Texas Rangers helped to tame the young state. Wholesome, romantic, and uplifting, these stories touched my heart.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.