Bill and Bob Larsen, twin fourteen-year-old boys, are left for dead after their rancher father and mother are brutally killed by ruthless outlaws. The boys ride out for their Uncle’s homestead, with sparse supplies and a belly full of determination. The beauty of a western is its deliberate pacing through the spectacular landscape, either dessert or mountain, and the pause to absorb the rawness that could either spare or take a life. Dunaway’s story follows form. As always, man is the most dangerous animal in the wild, and the boys navigate the canyons, fearful of outlaw reprisal. Here the story is suspended to recapture the Larsen’s trek west and the early establishment of their ranch—days lost forever to murder and mayhem—which enriches the boys’ motivation for settling the score. What from the past can they salvage in the future? Sarah, a neighbor girl about their age, might figure prominently. Dunaway has set off a classic western journey of endurance and revenge.
Left for dead after an attack of men on the run from the law, they lay quietly in the deep cellar beneath the house of their parents. Their father had made a safe place beneath the house for his family in case of an Indian attack, though it served its purpose for the boys, but unfortunately, not for the man and his wife.
The brothers were only fourteen, but tough on survival. They would spend the next several years preparing for the encounter they would one day have with these killers.
The men were convicts running from the law and had escaped from Yuma prison and crossed over into California. They rode across the vast desert lands and around tall mountains leaving little in their wake. These vicious, murderer’s shot anything that got in their way. Eventually they made their way into the valley where the Larsen boys and their parents lived on a three hundred sixty acre ranch that was nestled in the valley below the mountains.
The outlaws rode up to the ranch and begin their dastardly deed. One man grabbed the woman the other two men started beating the father. However he managed to free himself long enough to grab his gun, he took aim at the man on top of his wife, he fired two shots shooting his wife along with the man attacking her, the man rolled over on the ground, she lay in the same position in a pool of blood. He knew that after raping her they would kill as well.
The sons of the rancher fired shots at the outlaws and then ran into the house and down into the cellar. After the outlaws killed the rancher and knowing the boys were inside the house, they set the house on fire, and stood for a while watching it burn. Believing no one could possibly escape a fire of that magnitude, they rode away.
The next day the boys were scared and bewildered, but wouldn't give up the fight to get out of their predicament. Not realizing that the house was weighing down on top of them, they began their attempt to dig themselves free from under the debris. The house was nearly gone and there was a large amount of debris covering the trap door where the Boy’s were hiding. Finally forcing the rubble off and making their way through the debris they finally got the door open.
Seeing their parents both dead they were sad and bewildered, determined to get the outlaws.
They buried their parents and sat near the gravesite while scanning the entire area of the large ranch, they were looking for a way out without going through the canyon for fear there might be more men coming their way.
They spotted their two horses in the pasture up near the quarry about a hundred yards away, and they started walking slowly through the pasture to retrieve the horses.
Being only fourteen years old they didn't know just what to do, but it wouldn't take long to figure out what they had to do and whatever it took to survive. Knowing they had family, and other relatives in New Mexico, they also knew as soon as word reached their relatives about what had happened to them, they would come looking for the two boys.
The boy’s were named Bill and Bob Larsen, they were twins and although they did look somewhat similar, Bill had blond hair with blue eyes and Bob had Brown eyes with black hair, I guess you might assume that they were fraternal twins.
Their father had taught them to hunt and fish and survive the elements of the land knowing that their Uncle Jack in New Mexico would take care of them if anything happened to him and his wife. They began to make ready to travel, never giving a thought about the Henderson’s who lived just a few minutes up the hill, or if they too were dead, their minds were preoccupied with their own survival.
In the meantime a posse’ was heading towards the boy’s ranch, they were looking for the escapees. The outlaws made their presence known by looting and killing all the way across the Arizona /California border with the posse’ hot on their trail.
Riding up to the ranch where the boys were getting ready to travel. Bob the Brown eyed brother that had just buried their parents, knew nothing was going to stop their moving out as soon as they made ready.
The leader of the posse’ confirmed his desire for them to go.
Now the boys had found two bridles in the burnt down barn, but the leather was almost completely burnt away, yet there was still enough to hang onto. They were without saddles, but both were good riders and were confident they could make it to Quartzsite.
The leader of the posse took a collection of food and canteens from the rest of the posse and gave it to the boys so they would have enough provisions to make it as far as Quartzsite.
On their own now, the Larsen boys, come hell or high water intended to catch up with the outlaws that took the lives of their parents, and one day seek revenge.
Armed with only one pistol and one bullet, that Bob had managed to hide, after unloading his gun on the outlaws, they were ready to travel.
Their ranch from the valley below extended up the side of the Mountain, and all the way to the top they choose that as their escape route.
Starting their journey crossing over the top of the mountain near the quarry they made a trail zigzagging through the sage brush and cactus and down the hillside heading for somewhere in Arizona in search of Quartzsite. They knew that the outlaws most likely were heading in the same direction since they had no desire to go back to Yuma.
It was hot in the valley nearly 100° perhaps even hotter so the boys had to travel slowly or their only transportation would surly die from under them leaving them stranded in the desert below.
They spent the night along the hillside under an old Oak Tree, traveling less twenty 20 miles. It was hot and sticky the sweat running down there foreheads and into their eyes. They gave the horses most of their water knowing there would be plenty once they reached the river below.
Early the next morning the sun beamed its brilliant light and the heat would soon become intense, it was time to move on.
The next day from the side of the hill where they stood overlooking the valley below they could see a river, but it was still a ways off. The boys mounted their horses and started slowly down the hillside. Between the brother’s and the horses their water supply had diminished to only drops. The question was could they make it to the river before sundown, or would the horses collapse from under them. It wasn’t very far it just took time zigzagging down the slops being careful of the loose rocks, it would be a catastrophe at this time for one of the horses to slip and break a leg, putting the burden on a single horse to carry both the boys.
The sun was flickering on the swift running water when finally they made it to the riverbank, but the water was so swift, how could they possibly cross? They allowed the horses to drink from the shallow area where the water ran slowly, and upon the bank. The boys lay down beside the horses and drank till her hearts content, then they filled their canteens that the leader of the posse’ had given them.
The brothers decided they might as well spend the night by the river where it was cooler than the trail ahead, but being confused they turned North looking for a place to lay down for the night and cross the river the next morning.
It was still hot, but not like the day before perhaps a little more humid. They took off their shirts and dipped them in the cold water and wiped their bodies.
The sun woke the boys up early the next morning soon it would be hot again and watering the horses was only one of the morning tasks they had to under go. Being that they had never been away from home before they had little knowledge of direction or distance. Knowing however that the sun ascended from the East it didn't take them long to figure out the river was running north and south, but to what end. All they knew was that they had to find a way to cross the river to the other side and the water was not only swift but deep as well.
“Bob said,” It's only a guess, but if Yuma is a border town then it must be on the south end of the river so we don't want that direction.” Satisfied that they were traveling in the right direction they gathered the horses and with full canteens continued North in search of shallow water.
After riding for about 2 miles they stopped, and from a far distance they saw horses coming in their direction at a fast pace. They found an area with large boulders forty feet from the riverbank and hid behind them awaiting the horsemen. As the riders came ever closer the boys noticed that there were four men and a woman, she was a young Indian Squaw. Even at 14 they were smart enough to know that it wouldn't be long before several Indian warriors, were hot on their trail.
The boys waited patiently behind the rocks as the riders came closer and closer until finally they seen them cross the water far upstream pushing the horses hard as they could, but no warriors in sight.
When the probable outlaws were out of sight, the boys went to the same area and crossed the river. However they cautiously traveled slightly south through the hills for several miles and then turned back towards the East making sure not to run into any oncoming Indians, they weren’t prepared to fight one Indian much less a tribe.
Slowly they rode up one canyon and then through another, up and over hills following the trail they had no idea where it led. It was very hot, and sandy the wind blowing sand blinded not only them, but the horses as well. There was no shade, nothing but sagebrush and sand so they pushed on ever forward.
Two more days passed and then another, Bill said,” I don't think we're going to make it Bob, we’re out of food, and less than half a canteen of water left.” Little did they know they were paralleling Quartzsite?
“We have to make it Bill no matter what we must keep pushing onward.” Bob insisted.
The boys were hungry, they attempted to catch a rabbit, but they had only one bullet left and if they missed, well it wasn't worth the risk They whittled Spears out of heavy bush branches, several of them they made, but the rabbits would not cooperate they ran swiftly zigzagging through the brush, almost an impossible task.
Bob got lucky, he threw a rock about 3 inches in diameter in front of a running rabbit, and hit his prey, it looked like they would have supper tonight, talk about luck.
“We'd better hit the trail Bob we have a long day ahead of us, and they did, the days were long in the summer months.
While Bob was dressing the rabbit Bill spent an hour attempting to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, and old Indian method. He was surprised that all his work paid off, a few sparks in some fine dry pieces of brush tips and soon he had a fire blazing.
The boys took turns holding the rabbit over the fire which was held on by a large stick, when they were satisfied that the meat was cooked they sat on a rock and gobbled down the food, that might possibly turn out to be their last meal.
Suddenly the day was gone and it started to get dark. They fell asleep by the fire it was warm, but in the early morning hours it turned cold so they snuggled up beside each other until sunrise.
Bill slept so soundly his mind slipped into a dream mode, remembering how this journey all begun, it appeared he would relive every detail, he would dream several years in just hours
It was February 3rd 1871 the Larsen family loaded up the old covered wagon with everything it could carry, fortunately they had two horses to pull it. Mr. Larsen drove the wagon, while the Mrs. sat alongside him in the front seat and Bill and Bob, the twins rode in the back often switching places with their mother to allow her a little rest. They had just left Oklahoma en route to California traveling southwest through some of the most desolate sandy sagebrush infested country anyone had ever seen.
It was spring but summer would surely arrive before they reached their destination, and none of them was sure where that was, other than somewhere in California
It took three weeks to get out of Texas battling sandstorms and freezing temperatures at night, it sometimes felt like they were freezing in the daytime. Occasionally they would hit a hot spot, but even now in March they had more cold days than hot ones yet it was destined to get much hotter.
At night they pulled off anywhere there was coverage from the elements, like flying tumbleweeds and they all climbed in the back of the wagon and slept as best they could, but it was miserable at best.
Each morning was a new day, as they traveled through endless desert. Now in New Mexico still sandy as Texas, didn’t seem to be much relief from the sand, so far it seemed like the natural product. It took nearly another two weeks to pass through New Mexico; there were some beautiful sights from the beginning to the end. Never stopping long to see the sights anyway, Mr. Larsen said,” if we were ever going to get there we have to keep moving, and moving we did.
Whoopee, finally a new state and guess what more sand. Some places you could look off in the mountains and see trees growing up the slops near the top, and every now and then an armadillo crossed our path, other than that, not much excitement. Traveling is a lot of work, especially for kids, they didn’t really want to do it to begin with, they were perfectly satisfied at home, at least they had friends.
Another week passed they’d been on the road now for more than two months, figuring about 20-25 miles a day at best, and probably less. Finally in the thirteenth week, they crossed the river. We were told it was the Colorado River, don’t know how anybody knew that but dad seemed to know, just looked like large stream water to me.
We stopped and let the horses drink and refilled our canteens as well. The water tasted great it was very fresh. I guess the snow had just melted recently.
We spent the night in a little spot in the road I can’t remember if it had a name or not, didn’t matter all I knew was there wasn’t much of anything there.
Off to our left was range of mountains, not great tall mountains but nonetheless mountains. So we decided to follow a trail that led though those mountains. My father was interested in finding a good piece of property, where we could settle in and raise cattle. I later found out that we really weren’t gonna search because my father at some time on another before we left home, bought the property or made a trade of some sort. I imagine he traded places where we lived for this new place in California, now all we had to do was find it.
I would eventually hear the whole story of how this family left the ranch in California and went to Oklahoma for a visit leaving everything they owned behind, including live stock, a few cattle and a couple of horses they left with a neighboring rancher a couple miles from their place. Their intentions were to pick them up when they returned and exchanging feed and some other farm items for the neighbor’s time and efforts.
We drove this trail for three days, every now and then we seen a ranch or farm, whatever it was off on one side of the trail up against a hillside.
Dad said,” I think we are getting close boys this is pretty much what the MacLean’ described, so keep your eyes open for something similar to what you just seen only perhaps on the opposite side of the mountain.
We drove another half hour, and sure enough up on the left side of the hill was a large area partially fenced with a rickety old house and a barn.” I guess this is home dad said as he pulled on to the property and through the gate leading up to the house.
We all climbed down off the wagon and walked the property almost entirely, must’ve been 360 acres. High up near the top of the mountainside was a quarry and below the quarry was a gigantic waterhole. Dad told me when he exchanged the property he understood there to be a running spring on the property that we should never have to worry about water, and I thought that was great, because water sometimes can be a problem or the lack thereof I should say.
We went into the old dilapidated house I’m sure I could see disappointment in my mother’s eyes as she scanned the building,” There is a lot of work to be done before we can move into this place, she said,” and it’s gonna take all of us to get it done.” The property had been vacant for approximately eight months hard to believe something that was once a nice livable place could go to pot in that length of time but as they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
So this would become the Larsen ranch. Mom and dad Bill and I would live here forever, at least that’s what we thought, but assumptions can sometimes be impossible to differentiate. But together, we would do the best we could to make this into a comfortable place to live and work and hopefully prosper.
There was an old plow in the barn it seems the MacLean’s didn’t bother to take much with them when they left here, but now that the story is known I guess it makes some sort of sense. They just packed up and run out I don’t think the story had ever been told completely but they have their reasons. Perhaps it was Indians but then they were everywhere, but they’re pretty well settled down, not as much on a rampage as they were a few years back. We’ll learn to keep our eyes open and take care of each other.
Dad suggested that we all get a good night’s rest that tomorrow morning we had to haul water down from a spring and start cleaning the house making it livable. After which we would repair the barn, whatever repairs it needed to keep the horses in and the hay dry.
The two horses that pulled the wagon all the way across the vast desert from hither to yawn must’ve been close to 2000 miles 1800 and least. Not only did the horses have to pull the wagon all the way to California, but now they’re going to have to pull the plow, no rest for the wicked or in this case the reliable.
Our parents expected a lot from two young boys but then without us it would undoubtedly put a hardship on our survival. My brother Bill took one horse and hooked him up to the plow while I took the other and followed behind Bill with a harrow breaking up the clods. It was hard work but somebody had to do it and Bill and I were elected. We were eleven year old twins and had to grow up faster than we would’ve liked too, I mean we were kids and like to do the things that normal kids like to do, chase rabbits, or throw rocks at lizards, we had little luck at either but it was fun trying.
Mom and dad worked feverously attempting to make the house livable. Bill and I before plowing carried pales of water down from the spring and filled large tubs so mom could use the water for cleaning.
Dad with his handy hammer and a few nails pinned the siding back up and made the walls more secure, it also kept out the cold of night.
Two weeks had passed it was time for planting the seeds mom brought from our house in Oklahoma, like corn, beans and a variety of vegetable seeds.
Bill plowed long furrows on the most level ground, however getting the water to the field might be a bit of a problem.
Dad had a plan however he told Bill to plow a trench from the large spring filled pond and to start the trench three feet from the pond.
Bill did as dad had asked him to do he plowed a shallow furrow from the pond crossing the furrows used for planting making sure to leave enough room that the water couldn’t flood the furrows until we were ready to irrigate.
We took four boulders and put them close to where the opening to the pond would be when ready. A piece of metal siding we found in the field up along side the hill that must’ve blown off the old barn some time or another. We put two boulders in the pond right on the edge and two more next to them only out of the water between which we wedged the piece of metal. We then took the plow and made a small trench into the water, and it began to flow with force. Bill took one end of the metal and forced into the mud between the rocks, and guess what we now had a gate.
We flooded the planting furrows and then shut the water off to allow the water to soak in, and after two days we were finally ready to plant.
It took nearly three months to make ready for the livestock the fences were now mended and we were all set to go.
The two horses no longer needed for plowing were saddled up and while Mom and Bill worked in the garden, dad and I rode off to meet the neighbors and retrieve the livestock.
Twenty minutes later dad and I climbed down of the horses in front of the ranch house of our only neighbor.
A tall bearded man with a rough voice stepped out of the house and asked,” What can I do for you fellas’s?”
Dad extended his hand to the stranger and said,” I’m Garth Larsen and this is my son Bob, we exchanged properties with the MacLean’s. It seems they went to Oklahoma for a visit and the little woman decided she didn’t want to return and leave her family behind.”
The man introduced him-self as Josh Henderson and that they purchased their ranch about ten years ago,” You should have been her then you had to fight for what ever you needed. The Indians were a little hostile then, but there hasn’t been an uprising for a year or two, hopefully they tossed in the towel.”
“Well dad said,” We have Indians where we come from as well I can remember battling a few my-self.”
“Yeah, I guess I didn’t think about that, at one time they were every where” Josh concluded.
“Well their every where you go, but most of the tribes have settled down. Now, they’re not rambunctious like they used to be I guess they’re getting used to the white man or the white man's getting used to the Indians. Their not really bad people just didn't care much about our taken over their property can’t say I blame them.”
“Well what do you say we round up your stock it’s gonna take a little while to get them down the trail. You know you have two young steer and a heifer and if things work out right you’ll have another one before long. I think this one’s about to drop a calf in a month or two.”
That’s great, suppose and I give you the calf for your time and efforts taking care of the livestock, by the way I see you have plenty of chickens running around is there any possibility of selling me half a dozen hens and maybe one rooster. I mean, I don't wanna impose if they're all you have, I mean by that if you need them all I’ll find another method. I decide it would be nice to have fresh eggs to go along with the milk, we haven't had fresh milk for many months.”
“I'll tell you what Garth I have a carrying pen I'll put them in a coup in a few days send your boys over with the wagon and they can haul them back up to your place. Just keep them fed and watered and out of the reach of weasels and coyotes and each hen will give you one egg a day how’s that sound?
“You're very generous Josh I hope I can return the favor someday I'll do my best to be a stellar neighbor. Anything you need at all just send somebody down and let me know. If I'm up this way I’d be glad whatever it is you need, as a matter of fact, if you need some help, you can barrow my two boys I’m sure they’d be willing to help out.”
Well that might be what he thought, but Bob didn't take too kindly to it, but of course he kept silent.
Before they got the livestock together, a young girl came out of the house; her name was Sahara she looked to be about the same age as the twins maybe 11 or 12. “Feel free to stop by it's not far out of your way. I wouldn’t mind having the company.” The young girl said.
Soon they were ready to go; with Bob and his father leading them down the path towards home and once again they’d be living like ranchers. We were a combination of sodbusters and ranchers I mean, we raise a few cattle and that makes us ranchers. We do a little farming. Like growing our own vegetables that makes us sodbusters so what should we call our-selves, ranch-busters, whatever worked for the Larsen’s?
When we passed the front door of the house mom was standing on the porch in the doorway. She must've thought the livestock was not as alive as she expected them to be. However Mrs. Larsen was a reasonable person she knew she had to take what she got and be satisfied with it.
Bill was just walking down from the upper field where the planting was taken place. He too was scratching his head in wonderment,” So this is our livestock? He asked,” Doesn’t look like they’ve been fed in six month’s?”
“Don't worry Bob said,” we’ll be sure and fatten one up before we gut it, I mean, what’s a little bone without a little meat on it.”
They all had a little chuckle as Mrs. Larsen stepped out on the front porch,” Its time for supper better come on in boys.” She said.
They set down at the table and enjoyed great meal. Of course this wasn’t their first meal since they arrived at the ranch more than three months ago. However this one seemed special for some reason, they had accomplished a lot in that short time now that the planting was done and the trenches were flowing water, the fences mended, and the livestock out to pasture they had a lot to be thankful for and Mrs. Henderson while saying grace mentioning all the above.
After supper it was still light out side so Mr. Larsen and the boy’s went to check out the property to see what else needed to be done. It was play time for Bob and Bill so they set a target on the fence post and took turns throwing rocks to see which one could knock down the target the most times.
Bob was the stronger of the two however Bill seemed to be more accurate knocking down the targets more often than his brother. They continued until dark their hands were dirty so they dusted them off on their clothes and went back to the house stopping by the pond to wash their hands and faces.
The next morning was pretty much the same routine as the day before it was time to irrigate again so Bill opened the gate and let the water flow freely down to the furrows thinking, a little sunshine and soon they could reap the harvest and Mrs. Henderson would have her hands full canning and preserving some of the corn and beans for winter and reserving some for the present.
The altitude where they lived was only about 3500 feet so there was seldom much frost to worry about, the crops would be safe year-round at least from the weather. Their biggest problem was not the weather but the natural environment of squirrels and gophers, the boys had a field day target practicing on squirrels, but what they really needed was a dog or cat or something to keep them out of the field them little suckers can dig like nobody's business. Ground squirrels also dig, but they're more apt to eat from the top of the ground whereas gophers prefer the roots and you might never see a gopher but they’re there pulling on the roots and every now and then you see a plant being pulled under the ground, that which the squirrel left behind.
Everyday they worked in the field harvesting or watering it was a routine that was also a must it was like faith and hope they were both sisters.
Three months past it was Sarah’s birthday and the Larsen's were invited to Henderson’s house for a party, of course the birthday parties in those days were much simpler and the presents were all hand made including the birthday cake which Mrs. Larsen so graciously baked.
Friday about noon the Larsen’s climbed into the covered wagon and drove up to the Henderson’s Ranch, it was party time.
Sarah was dressed in her new dress and her hair was combed down her back she was prettier than the flowers that grew wild and abundantly all over the hillsides.
Mrs. Henderson fried a couple of chickens that the Mr. Killed and dressed for her earlier that day, biscuits and gravy and a little corn on the cob, that's a birthday party.
After they finished Sarah and the boys went out to play while the ladies of the house put the cake out on the table with home made cake candles.
Mrs. Henderson made some fresh lemonade grown from their own tree, which grew smack dab in the middle of the front yard.
Mrs. Henderson called the rest of the group to the table she told Sarah to make a wish and then blow out the candles telling her if she blew them all out she'd get her wish, but if just one was still lit her wish would be wasted.
Sarah had little trouble blowing out the candles especially with Bob and Bill gathered around blowing a little air. They wanted to make sure she got her wish even though they would never know what was.
Soon the party ended everybody hugged and shook hands and the Larsen’s climbed into the wagon, thanked them for a lovely party then headed back home it would soon be very dark and they wanted to get there before the sun was totally down.
Soon a year had passed but nothing seemed to change it was just a routine on the ranch everybody had a job to do and everyone did his or her own job.
While Bob and Bill where working in the fields their father, Mr. Larsen, was working on a cellar on the inside of the house that was started by the previous owner whose name slips my mind.
He had started digging the cellar for protection from an Indian raid probably seven or eight years prior, however now the Indians were no longer hostile, but they thought it would be a good idea if for nothing else food storage, but why not make it as safe from intruders as well and he did a good job sealing it off and putting a trap door on top, would've been hard to distinguish from the floor and he felt it was pretty safe, now we all hoped that we never had to test it out. However life is not always that easy, someday things go fine then all of a sudden something happens and you just never know.
Sunday the Larsen’s asked their new neighbors to come by for dinner and the two brothers had a plan to make the evening more enjoyable they decided they'd throw a rodeo see who could ride their prime bull the longest, of course Sarah wasn't included after all she was a girl, girls don't do boy things. But she was having no part of that she said,” I bet I can stay on longer than both of you put together.”
Now that was a challenge neither Bob nor Bill could pass up they thought it would be a lead pipe cinch she was a girl after all.
Mr. Larsen wasn't happy with the challenge he told Sarah that she might regret that remark, although the boys were not any older than she, they had ridden somewhat more then her.
She said,” Don’t worry about me Mr. Larsen just look out for your boys, I'll show you who can ride the best.”
What do you think Mr. Henderson, is she capable of handling a bull that size, I think its safe but you know your girl better the rest of us, so whatever you say goes.”
“Not to worry Garth, Sarah can handle herself just fine you'll see.” Mr. Henderson said with an almost guarantee.
“Okay boys Sarah said,” which one of you wants to go first?”
“Bill said, I'll go first only by the time I finish the bull will be too tired for you too ride,” Bragging a bit.
He climbed up on the fence slid down on top of the back of the bull grabbing hold of the rope that was around the bull's neck, and they were off and running. The bull bucking up and down sideways twisting turning, but not for long bill lasted about 4 seconds before he found himself on the ground looking up.
“That was wonderful Sarah said kidding around,” You must’ve lasted all 4 seconds, “okay Bob let’s see what you can do.
Bob was a little embarrassed for his brother he was sure he could do better than that and now was up to him and he had to get a better record than Bill or suffer the embarrassment.
He did as his brother climbed up on the fence then dropped down on the back of the bull out the gate the bull started bucking tossing twisting turning till finally Bob was lying in a similar position his brother had been in shortly before.
“Well said Sarah,” I'd have to say you did a better job than your brother I think you were close to 6 seconds on that run.”
“Okay smarty-pants it's your turn all you got to do is stay on it for six or 7 seconds and you'll be declared the winner but, I don't want to hear any crying when you hit the ground.” Bill remarked hoping she would fall off when she mounted.
Sarah climbed up on the fence she was kind of a tomboy, and you could expect almost anything from her. She dropped down on the back of the bull and off they went the bull went through the same procedures as he did with the brothers bucking up and down and twisting and turning snorting, but she hung on for 8 seconds and that was more than a second better than Bob’s run so consequently she was declared the winner and she got the last laugh.
“Any other games you boys want to play, like spin the bottle?” Now she was making fun of them and I don't think they liked it to well.
Bob said,” Pick your pony will race starting up by the quarry and run down to the gate, turn around and come back to where we are standing whoever gets here first wins.”
“Wins what,” the saddle off your horse?” She said teasing of course he couldn't play for his saddle.
“Mr. Larsen said,” I prefer not to take a chance on losing one of my saddles and you seem to be the best at everything so if you want to race and just do it for fun.”
“I was only kidding Mr. Larsen and I’m sure my father would agree with you he wouldn’t want us to gamble, but it could’ve happened, sure I'm good at what I do but not the best at everything, but its fun trying to be.” She concluded.
Well needless to say little Miss muffit won hands down and she was a little arrogant about it but she tried to hold back the laughter its not often young girls beat the same age boys, but she's been doing it for a while so I guess she’s pretty good it.
“Bill said,” Let me give it a try surely there's something one of us can beat you at.” Bill said with hope in his heart and revenge in his soul.
They walked the horses up to the quarry, turn their horses around mounted and then Bill said,” Whenever you're ready Sarah give a signal.”
Sarah playing around said the word “Signal” and then she took off like a scolded dog.
She stayed out front all the way to the gate and turned their horses and started back pulling away from Bill slightly so he kicked the horse in the flanks you would've thought he set a fire under its ass the way the horse took off.
Soon they were neck and neck Bill was sure he was going to win this one but about 25 feet from the end of the race, each other was kicking their horse’s flanks, but Sarah’s horse pulled away from Bill by a two head length, she had him now and she knew it she had a grin from ear to ear as she pulled up to the starting post.
“Nice try Bill and I’d have to say you did a better job than your brother.” Goading Bob a little bit.
“Well Bob said,” There must be something we can beat you at, like tree climbing, but I suppose you couldn’t climb trees very well, girls don’t do that?”
“This one does she said,” This area where we live up here in the hills, well there's nobody else around, so you find anything you can do to keep you occupied and have fun doing it so you want to climb a tree let me know.”
“No Bob said,” I think will throw in the towel for today, but one of these days I'll come up with something. Whatever it is it won't be anything overly manly, like splitting logs or pitching hay I wouldn’t expect you to do anything like that, I wouldn’t even ask you too, even if you were good at.”
“Well Bob,” I appreciate that because it really isn't something a girl would be good at, it takes muscle to pitch hay and muscle and accuracy to split logs and I have neither I have a good brain but I don’t want to waist it on splitting logs.”
The day passed and soon the Henderson’s were headed up the hill homeward bound another day was over and everybody was tired so after an early supper they all bedded down for the night.
Bob and Bill had bunk beds Bill was on the top. As tired as they were they lay there for hours talking conjuring up things to do the next day other than chores. Bill said,” You know Bob Summer will be here in another couple months I bet it’ll be really hot like it was last year. I know it was plenty hot last year and the year before so I reckon it's like that every year.”
“So Bob interrupted,” What’s your point did you come up with a scheme to change the weather I know you’ve got all kinds of angles, but I don't think you can handle that one.” Bob said with a slight giggle.
“No, I was thinking about swimming in the quarry, but of course mom and dad wouldn’t allow that, I mean I’m sure they wouldn't want to drink water after we bathe in it. But suppose I take the plow and go down five or 6 feet below the pond and we dig down about three feet maybe four and find a bunch of rocks to build up the walls around the bottom and just get them as close together as we can, I'm sure after a while the leaks should stop up, it'll be like a dam and we can open a little outlet from the pond and fill the swimming hole, but what do you think about that?”
“Sometimes you amaze me Bill, where the heck do you come up with all these ideas we both went to the same school we both had the same grades and I would never in a million years thought to do something like that? Bob asked wondering how Bill got to be so much smarter than him
“I don't know Bob things like that just come to me, actually you know when dad had me trench down to the furrows, I guess thinking back that kind of gave me the idea, of course we’ll have to run it by dad and see what he thinks I don't see why he would mind it'll beat boredom and we won't be swimming in drinking water. To bad we don't have some fish to grow in the pond they kinda help keep it clean, you don’t suppose they have a fish seeds do ya?” Ha, Bill laughed and soon Bob chimed in and it got to a point where if they didn't quiet down soon Mr. Larsen would be coming through the door growling like an old grizzly.
They were still laughing when they dozed off, until an arm shook Bill on the shoulder, he was in the upper bunk,” Bill wake up your brother its time to have breakfast and get the day started we have a lot of work to do.” Said Mr. Larsen.
During breakfast Bob nudged Bill with his elbow behind a little laughter,” Bill asked dad about the plan you develop last night in your dreams I bet he'll think it's great too.
“Well Dad it’s kinda strange the way I think, and what ideas Icome up with, but all kind of dumb ideas pop up in my mind. I was wondering if it would be alright with you if I took the plow and dug a hole down about 3-4 feet deep maybe four to five feet wide and 5-6 feet long and build walls of rock and on the bottom also of rock and drain some of the water from the pond to fill it so this summer when it gets hot will have like a little swimming hole. Would that meet with your approval,” Bill asked being sincere.
“Well Bill that’s a great idea I was afraid you wanted to swim in the pond and then you know we wouldn’t want to drink out of the pond if was dirty from body sweat and dirt, but he added its a good idea but you'll have to do it on your own time, that is to say you have to do it when you finish your other chores I can't have you taken time off and not keeping the place running just to build a place for fun, but then if you think you can handle it, sure go ahead.” Mr. Larsen concluded scratching his head.
The next day they worked hard so they would have time to spare for gathering rocks of a variety of size and digging the hole. Not sure they knew how to build a pool, they never had before but they were about to learn. Once they figured they had enough rocks it was a little more than three days later they had a huge pile, which they stored just below the quarry.
Bill hooked the plow up to the horse while Bob grabbed a shovel. He walked the horse up just below the quarry and started digging, he wanted to stay at least 3 feet away from the edge of the pond so that it wouldn’t run all the time, didn’t want to waste good water.
At the end of the fourth day of work and they would've been finished except it got dark and I mean pitch black, they couldn’t see what they were doing so Bill led the horse back to the barn and turned him loose.” Well Bob we should be able to finish the hole tomorrow except for the rock that is.
The next morning they got up early, had breakfast and started their daily chores they wanted to finish as early as possible and lower some of the rocks to be laid
Bob walked back down to the barn he forgot his shovel when he started back out of the barn he looked up the trail and seen Sarah coming down the hill on her horse she must be coming, to the Larsen's residence since there’s nobody else around, probably coming to show us how to build pool she's so smart at everything else.
Bob took his time walking back up to the quarry allowing Sarah time to get to gate. She caught up with him before he reached the quarry,” What are you two boys up to she asked,” It looks like your building another quarry.”
“Nope Bob replied,” But you're close, we’re building a swimming hole that's what that big pile rocks up there is for.”
“You know how to build a swimming hole?” She questioned with doubt.
“Well I reckon we're going to find out this is of course the first we've ever attempted, but I see no problem, we’re just cleaning out the hole and placing the rocks across the bottom and if you'll notice the walls get bigger at the top than they do at the bottom therefore when we pile up the rocks they are less apt to roll down and should hold themselves in place.”
“Think it'll work, I mean will the rocks be close enough that it won’t leak?”
“Well Bob said,” I am sure some of the water will leak a little until it finally seals off, but eventually it should hold plenty of water we’re making it pretty big, large enough for all three of us.”
“You're going to let me swim in it too,” she asked all excited that the boys would go to all that trouble to build a pond and let her swim in it also.
“Sure Sarah, you know you're always welcome here, you have a bathing suit? When we're here by ourselves we can swim in our shorts, but we can't do that when you’re here that would be too embarrassing.”
“Well if I don't have a bathing suit, can I swim in my genes and a shirt?”
“Of course you can Bob returned,” just as long as you are not exposed, you wouldn't want be embarrassed would you?”
“No of course not, I’m not used to being around boys you’re the only two here, when the Mac Cleans took off for Oklahoma they took the only boy and girl leaving me with no one left to hang out with.” Sarah said I think she was complaining.
“Well you got us," Bob said, ”I guess we’ll have to do until something better comes along.”
“It's not that I'm complaining Sarah said,” I'm kind of a tomboy anyhow I don't necessarily have to have a girl around, but it would be nice, we do different things sometimes you know.”
“Okay Bill said, now that, that’s settled lets get back to work.
“If you only had some way to plug the holes it could pretty much keep the water clean all the time, but if the water gets into the holes and lets mud into the pool it would be nasty sometimes right?” Sarah asked Bill.
“Well Sarah have you ever swam in a pond before, and if you have did you ever notice the bottom being made of rock and the water crystal clear all the time, well that's the way this'll probably be just like swimming in any other pond except we won’t have fish to play with.” Bill said finishing his statement.
“You see that small boulder over there,” Bill asked pointing at a rock next to the pile. What do you suppose holds it together, I mean you can put it in the water just like the quarry up there, with water running over it constantly and yet the rock stays together, why, what keeps it together? If we could figure that out maybe we could seal the holes.”
“I don't know ," Bob said, ”but if you have any idea that I'm going to take the sledgehammer and smash them rocks into powder just to find out, you better think again that would take forever and then there is no guarantee.”
“No not only would it take a long time but it would be very dangerous with all of the Little Rocks flying around, one might hit you in the eye and there ain’t no doctors around here so we had better come up with some other plan.”
All this time Sarah was quietly taken it all in never interrupting or offering any advice she'd never heard such a conversation in life talking about rocks holding themselves together in rain sleet and snow they always look the same, that was one argument she wanted no part of.
They went back to work placing the stones as best they could and as tightly as they could squeeze them together I don't think anyone believed there was a possibility of keeping the mud out of the pond, but they weren't really worried about that, at this point there would be no mud if they didn't finish and put some water in it.
They labored till dark, the two boys were down in the bottom of the pit and Sarah would roll rocks down to them and once and awhile Bob would come out and give her a hand with the bigger ones. But now it was almost dark and Bob suggested that he saddle his horse and ride home with Sarah.
“Oh it's okay, Bob," Sarah said, ”I'm a big girl and I made it down here I am sure I can make it home.”
I'm sure you can Sarah but that's not the gentlemanly thing for me to do, to allow you to ride up there by yourself who knows what's lurking in the dark maybe you will be attacked by a wolf.”
“And just what would you do if I were attacked by a wolf, would you jump off your horse and fight him off, well don't worry about that part, we are safe. As long as we've been here I've never seen a wolf, now coyote is something else, but I’ve never seen one of them attack a horse either."
Sounds to me like she was making fun of Bob and that kind of angered him, ”Okay Sarah get yourself in the saddle and get the hell out of here if you get attacked by a wild hare I don't want to hear about it."
He turned and walked up to the quarry to wash, how he would like to get in and take a bath after sweating all day but he had to settle for just splashes of water under his arms than on his body and let the wind dry it off.
Sarah mounted her horse and headed towards the gate never looking back I guess I'll show them she thought.
Bill asked Bob, ”You think she’ll be alright, I mean she is just a girl and I don't know if anything will attack her or not but I suggest we jump on the back of our horses and follow her home, just to make sure she gets there safely. And by the way Bob don't let it get to you that she’s that way, girls are like that they like poking fun at boys thinking they can’t fight back, but we can, we can fight back with words."
The boys did just that they never took the time to saddle their horses they just jumped on them bareback, after putting the bridal on first. They walked slowly up the hill and by the time they reached Sarah's house she was out of sight, she never even knew they had followed her and the all they were trying to do was keep her safe, that's gratitude for you.
When the boys returned they put their horses in the corral, removed the bridles and went into the house. Their mother took one look at them and ordered them back out of the house to clean up, they were filthy dirty. ”And hurry up I saved your supper and it’s gonna get cold, now scoot,” She commanded like a drill Sergeant.
The boys did as their mother ordered and soon they were gathered around the table chomping on a piece of chicken and some biscuits.
“Sorry Mom but if we took the time to eat before we worked in the pool we would loose some precious daylight, and you know we can’t do much in the dark,” Bill explained.
The subject was dropped and soon the entire family called it a night and went to bed, ranchers don’t stay up past eight or so there’s too much work running a ranch.
The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months the pool was finally finished and Bob and Bill along with Sarah, enjoyed their time together.
Sarah was blossoming, but then she, as were the boys now fourteen and they had to be a little more careful how they played with each other although Sarah was a tomboy she was nonetheless a girl, and a pretty one at that. And of course the boys were at the age of discovery a potentially dangerous situation. The kids were happy that their father made the decision to move to California, what could be greater.
The Larsen’s had now lived on the ranch for about four years and yet not once had they ever left the area, if they needed anything Mr. Henderson would make a trip about four times a year about fifty miles to Quartzsite for supplies and on a special occasion Mr. Larsen would ride along with him and bring whatever he needed for their ranch, however he was the only one in the Larsen family to make the trip, the boys would never come to know any other place than where they lived.
Bob awoke first noticing his brother sweating it alarmed him. He began to shake Bill on the shoulder. Bill jumped to his feet like a rattlesnake had just slithered across his chest, confused still in a daze from his dream he shouted,” What’s the matter Bob are you hurt?”
“No it’s you why are you sweating like that are you alright, I’ve never seen you sweat that much before.” Bob questioned being a little worried about his brother.
“No I’m fine I was just dreaming about when we left Oklahoma and came to California, I’m beginning to regret it now, what about you, and do you wish we had never left.”
“Well kind of at least if we had of stayed in Oklahoma we would still have our parents, and we wouldn’t be wondering around out here in a place only God knows where.”
“We had better hit the trail Bob, Bill said,” we have a long day ahead of us, just like yesterday, only the rabbit took up most of it.”
After finishing a few scraps of rabbit, they reserved for morning they mounted up and hit the trail to where ever the trail would lead them.
It was hot during the day and very little water, so each brother took one swallow and held a canteen to the horse's mouth, making sure both got some water.
That was it, out of food and water and only God knew where they were, and they prayed for guidance.
It was getting dark they found themselves down in a small canyon with but a single tree at the bottom and to the center. “Let's tie the horses to that tree and lie down for a while, maybe spend the night Bob said.” And they did both hungry and without water they fell asleep.
At daylight the boys were up unleashed the horses and started up the hill in front of them, near the top of the hill Bill’s horse slipped on a rock and was limping badly,” Well Bill, Bob said,” we can't leave him here for other animals to devour, I guess that last bullet is going to come in handy after all, you want me to do it?”
“No," Bill said. ”I’ll take care of it, he’s my horse.”
Bill Cocked his 44 with the one bullet in the chamber he wrapped his arm over the horses mane and whispered in his ear, ”You've been a good companion old Pal, but I can't let you suffer.” He put the gun to the horse’s head and pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang that echoed through the canyons as the horse fell to the ground, there was a tear in bills eye as he walked away with the empty gun in his hand.
Bob stayed behind long enough to remove the broken bridal from the fallen horse. He gathered as many rocks as he could to cover the horse and keep it from the elements especially the other animals.
Bill took hold of Bob’s horse’s bridal and slowly led the way up the trail. Once they reached the top of the hill they stopped to rest.
Bill pointed out to his brother what appeared to be a small village far off in the distance,” It looks like a town to me.”
“Yeah," Bob replied, ”it sure does maybe we can make it there before dark if we don't stop too many times, but then the horse riding two of us will need to rest more often.”
“Let's take turns Bob, I’ll walked for our hour and you take the next hour what do you say.”
And they took turns until a horse was exhausted and in dire need of water.
Slowly progressing toward the village the structures grew larger as they approached.