A deal had been made. The two men stood and shook hands across the desk.
As they did so, Daniel Davis, the towns’ banker, wondered to himself just how the deed to the Willis place had made its way into the hands of a stranger named Frank Palmer.
A local rancher named Kendall Draper has been after that piece of land for years, but Jacob Willis had always refused to sell. Draper wanted it bad enough to have his foreman try to physically force the old man into signing over the deed.
His foreman was a little over zealous with his tactics and Willis died without revealing where the deed was hidden, let alone signing it over. Draper wasn’t too happy with the outcome. He searched high and low for the deed but it had been hidden all too well. He never did find it.
Now here it was, in the possession of a man no one in town had ever seen before. “Kendall won’t be happy when he finds out the deed has resurfaced and someone besides himself will be taking over the Willis place,” thought Daniel.
But, business was business and Dan Davis stood to gain some good interest off the money he was loaning to Frank Palmer.
“Congratulations Mr. Palmer, with this deed as collateral, I can give you the loan you need to fix up the Willis place. This valley is prime cattle country, you should do well here,” remarked Davis. “Mind if I ask you how you came across this deed?”
“Cattle?” questioned Frank, ignoring the bankers’ prying question. “I guess I forgot to mention it… I’m not planning to raise cattle, I’ll be raising sheep.”
Davis’s jaw went slack as he realized the loan he had just made may have been a big mistake.
“Sheep? You can’t do that. This is cattle country.”
Frank didn’t want to hear it. He grabbed up his hat and headed for the door.
Davis continued to protest. “Frank Palmer! You need to reconsider that decision. Sheep won’t be tolerated here. I’m telling you, This is cattle country!”
Davis continued to protest. “Frank Palmer! You need to reconsider that decision. Sheep won’t be tolerated here. I’m telling you, This is cattle country!”
Frank turned back toward the banker. “What do you mean, sheep won’t be tolerated?”
“You can’t raise sheep here. This is cattle country. You’ll be run out of the county, and I’ll be run out of town when word gets around that I loaned money to a sheep farmer.”
“A deal is a deal,” replied Frank as he turned and stepped outside, closing the door behind him.
“You tricked me!” yelled Davis as the door swung shut. “We talked about cattle. I thought you were going to raise cattle?”
Frank heard the bankers rant through the door, but had no intention of replying.
Dan Davis slumped back into his chair. His head was spinning. He needed to come up with a plan, fast, if he wanted to save his good name and his career.
No self respecting cattle rancher within a hundred miles would do business with a man who loaned money to a sheep farmer.
“Nice looking horse,” stated the young cowboy as Frank stepped out of the bank and up to his pure white stallion. “I ain’t ever seen an all white horse before. Especially one with pink eyes.”
“He’s an albino,” replied Frank.
“Albino? I ain’t ever heard of an albino. Where did you happen to find a horse like that?”
“I didn’t find him, he found me. One day, out of the blue, he just showed up at the ranch I was working at. Walked right in like he owned the place.
All the hands tried to lay claim to him, but he was mean as hell to every one of them. In fact, the cook threatened to shoot him and use him for stew meat, especially after it nearly bit his ear off. But for some reason, this ol’ boy took a liking to me, so I gave the cook my horse and I took on this one. That stopped his talk of stew meat.
He’s still mean as hell. I don’t know why he let’s me handle him. No one else can even get close.”
The cowboy stepped up to get a better look, but the albino wanted nothing to do with it. He threw his head to the side and knocked the young man to the ground. He then bared his teeth like some wild animal.
The cowboy crab walked back a few paces and jumped to his feet.
“That horse has the devil in him,” he complained as he brushed the dust off of his backside.
“I just told you he was mean as hell to everyone but me, didn’t I? What made you think you were an exception?”
Frank mounted up and headed out of town toward his new place, leaving the cowboy standing alone in the street.
“Looks like a woman’s horse,” he yelled out.
Frank heard the remark, but paid no attention.
The banker stepped out onto the boardwalk just in time to see the albino knock the cowboy into the dirt. As Frank rode off, he commented, “Not a very friendly sort now, is he?”
“And neither is his horse,” replied the cowboy.
“I never had seen a horse bare its teeth at someone before,” stated the banker.
“I tell you what. It put the fear in me. I’m glad it was tethered.”
“Didn’t I see you with Grady Wilson a couple of weeks back? Do you work for the T Bar T?”
“Yes sir, I do. Grady Wilson hired me about a month ago. We’re in town for supplies.”
“Have Grady stop by my office and see me before he heads out,” replied the banker. “I have an urgent message for him.”
Dan stepped back into the bank and the cowboy continued on his way.
A short time later, Grady Wilson walked into the bank. “Good afternoon Dan. I hear you’re looking for me?”
“That I am,” replied Dan. “Have a seat. I’ve got news and it ain’t good. I know that the T Bar T has been running cattle on the Willis place for a couple of years now, ever since old man Willis passed on.
I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you. The deed to the Willis place has shown up.
I met with a man this morning named Frank Palmer. He has the deed and the old man’s signature is on it. Not sure how he ended up with it. Willis must have had a suspicion about not being around long, considering the way Draper was after him about selling out.
The deed had a second signature on it. I’m guessing Willis bought it off someone who got it from Willis.
Anyhow, I took it as collateral for a loan. Palmer plans to fix the place up.”
“Well,” replied Grady. “The T Bar T is grazing over a hundred head on that land and we’ve got no room to move them. Old man Willis was offered more than a fair price for the place on several occasions, but he never would let it go. When he died we looked for the deed but it was nowhere to be found. I thought he had buried it. Now I know better.”
“You should have thought about getting your hands on that deed before the old man died,” Dan replied.
“That’s not the end of the bad news, there’s more. Seems Palmer is planning to raise sheep on the property. Says he might even put a few hundred out on open range west of his place.”
“Sheep!” exclaimed Grady as he jumped up from his chair and leaned over the desk toward the banker. “That just won’t do! This is cattle country. We got no room for the likes of a sheepherder around here. Especially one who thinks he can get away with range feeding ’em. It’s bad enough we now need to move our cows off that property. Those things will destroy what little open range we have left around these parts. Why the hell did you give him that loan?”
“He tricked me! I thought he was going to run cattle. He didn’t mention sheep until he was heading out the door.”
“You know I’m going to have to tell Draper about this. As foreman of the T Bar T it’s my job to keep him informed on such matters. He may have to move his cattle off the Willis place, but he doesn’t have to put up with sheep.”
“Kendall Draper will skin me alive when he finds out about this,” replied Dan.
“Well then I suggest you come up with a way to renege on that loan you agreed to,” answered Grady. “It’s more than your hide at stake here you know.”
As Grady headed out the door, Dan pulled the Willis file and began scouring it for loopholes.
“A sheepherder!” yelled Kendall Draper. “As sure as I’m standing here I’m gonna’ hang that damn banker, but first I’m gonna’ run that damn sheepherder out of the state. Saddle up my horse; we need to pay this Frank Palmer a visit.”
As Kendall Draper and Grady Wilson rode up to the old Willis place, they could see Frank. He was busy adding a few new shingles to the roof.
Before they could get too close, Frank’s horse came around the house and cut them off. Its big pink eyes made the horse look somewhat comical, but the stare and unusual growl was anything but. Draper and Wilson pulled up short as the albino pawed at the dirt like a bull ready to charge.
Frank heard them coming. He turned from his work to see the two men as they stood their ground just inside the yard. He scolded the horse in a language unrecognized by the two men, and the albino trotted off back toward the corral.
“Interesting horse you have there,” quipped Kendall. “I didn’t catch the language. Was that some kind of Indian talk?”
“Just something I picked up a few years back. The horse seems to understand it.”
“I’m going to get right to the point here Palmer,” stated Kendall. “This here is cattle country. Has been for as long as I’ve been here, and my daddy before that. I plan to keep it that way. If I see one sheep around here, I’ll kill it like I would any other varmint. Do I make myself clear?”
A loud and long, bone chilling whinny could be heard from the corral back behind the barn where the albino had trotted off to.
Frank shot back. “This here is my property now, and starting tomorrow, if I see one of your cows on my property, I’ll shoot it. Do I make myself clear?”
“Palmer,” replied Kendall as his rage began to mount. “If I find even one of my cows dead, I’ll come after your sheep… and I won’t stop there.”
Kendall and Grady quickly turned their horses and headed out of the yard at an angry clip. The albino came back around the corner and followed the two men up to the gate.
“Grady, tomorrow morning take a couple of men and move my cattle off the Willis place,” ordered Palmer. “And tomorrow night, burn the place to the ground.”
The following evening Grady and two T Bar T hands made their way to the South fence line of the Willis place. The night air had a slight chill to it even though it was mid July. There was no breeze and a crescent moon cast a pale light across the pasture toward the barn which stood between them and the main house.
The albino stood out, almost glowed in the dim moonlight. It was restlessly pacing the corral as if it knew something was up.
“You would think Palmer would have enough sense to put that horse up at night,” commented one of the hands. “But then, we are talking about a sheepherder here.”
“That horse has a mind of its own and Palmer lets it do whatever it damn well pleases. It cut me and the boss off yesterday as we rode into the yard. It pawed at the ground like it was going to charge us. Never seen anything like it,” answered Grady.
“I heard it actually growled, and bared its teeth at little Frankie, when he was in town the other day. Said it was the damndest thing he’d ever seen. He said it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. There’s something about that horse that just ain’t right.”
“Maybe so,” replied Grady. “I think we’ve done enough jawin’ here. You two take care of the barn… and that horse while you’re at it. I’ll take care of the house.”
Grady left the men as he slid along the fence line toward the main house. The other two made their way toward the barn.
As Grady stood next to the outhouse, he fumbled in his pocket for a match to light the straw torch he had with him, but before he could light it, Frank Palmer came out of the house carrying his rifle and a lantern. He was heading straight for him. Grady held tight against the back of the outhouse as Palmer went in and closed the door.
“This is going to be too easy,” he thought.
He quickly found a stick and as quiet as he could be, he securely wedged it up against the door.
Just as he was about to make his way to the house, a blood-curdling scream came from the direction of the barn and lingered on the cool night air.
Without hesitation, Grady changed direction and headed straight for the barn as fast as he could run.
Frank Palmer, startled by the same scream, jumped up from his business and ran smack into the door as he tried to get out. It knocked him back to the hole. Dazed and a bit confused, thinking the door was only stuck, he threw his weight against it several times before it finally burst open.
He tumbled out onto the ground, tripping over his trousers as they hung down around his ankles.
Meanwhile, Grady had made it to the barn where he ran directly into a gruesome scene. Three large and ferocious wolves had surprised his two partners. Two of the animals were tearing at the lifeless bodies as they lay in a heap while a third stood guard. It was a huge animal and as white as fresh fallen snow. Its eyes glowed red in the moonlight, and its large white teeth glistened through a bloodstained muzzle.
The wolf was an albino. Its outward beauty caught Grady by surprise and caused him to hesitate, but the evil growl through its bloody snout quickly showed Grady the reality of his situation.
Grady pulled his pistol from its holster just as the three came at him. He only had time to get off one shot before he was overtaken.
Frank hitched up his pants and grabbed his rifle. Leaving the lantern behind, he cautiously made his way toward the barn. Not knowing what to expect, he moved slowly, keeping to the shadows as much as possible.
Once at the corral, he followed the fence to the barn where he spotted two wolves making their way toward the tree line.
One was much larger than the other and pure white. He raised his rifle and drew a bead on the white one but for some reason he held off on pulling the trigger as they disappeared into the trees.
Frank continued around the corner of the barn and almost tripped over a dead wolf. Grady’s shot was true, but the other two wolves didn’t afford him enough time to get off another shot.
Beyond the dead wolf lay Grady and the other two men. All three were dead. Frank searched for his horse but it was nowhere to be found.
It was late and there wasn’t much Frank could do in the dark, so he headed back to the house. He would look for his horse in the morning and then head into town to fetch the sheriff.
The following morning Frank went back out to the barn to get a better look at the scene. To his surprise, his horse was in the corral.
As he checked it over, he found traces of blood around his mouth, but no cuts were visible. Just as he had seen earlier, one dead wolf, killed from a single gunshot, was found just outside the barn.
Not far from it were the bodies of three dead men. Frank recognized one of the men as Grady Wilson from the T Bar T. He guessed the other two were from the T Bar T as well. All three were pretty well chewed up.
Frank loaded the three men and the wolf into his wagon and took them into town where he met the sheriff. After explaining the situation and all that had happened the night before, the sheriff sent his deputy out to the T Bar T to get Kendall Draper and bring him back to town.
He needed to have the three men identified as well as question Draper about why these men were out at the Palmer place last night. The unlit torches Frank had found by the dead men did not set well with the sheriff and he needed some answers.
As the deputy left for the T Bar T, the sheriff and Frank engaged in some small talk.
“That’s some looking animal you have there Frank,” commented the sheriff. “This is the first albino horse I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty coincidental, you being the new owner of the Willis place and having an albino horse and all.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Frank.
“Don’t you know?” replied the sheriff. “Old man Willis himself, he was an albino.”
© Copyright 2019 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.