"For Everything, A Purpose"
William ‘Billy Blue’ Cannon couldn’t sleep. He was filled with dread. What he dreaded was the approaching dawn--and the endless drudgery it would bring.
Every day was exactly the same as the last. They would rise, ride out, round up cows and then rope and brand the new calves--from sun up to sun down. Then they’d drop their bone-weary bodies onto to their beds and drag them back out to start all over again the next morning. This had been going on for weeks now, without any let up. The monotony of it all made him just want to scream!
Instead, he got dressed, grabbed his hat and his sidearm, and slipped silently out of the ranch house.
Blue glanced up at the ranch’s guard post. "Nah," he assured the silhouetted figure with a rifle. "Too restless to sleep, is all. Think I’ll go for a little ride."
"Okay. Just don’t go too far," the older man advised.
"I won’t," the boy promised.
Blue saddled and mounted his horse. His insides were churning for a ‘change a’ pace’. He wanted to head off in a dozen different directions at once--and just keep going! However, true to his word, he decided on a closer destination--Big Wind Bluff. The bluff was Blue’s favorite spot on the whole ranch...to watch the sunrise. No matter how crazy things got, it was a place where he always felt perfectly at peace.
Blue pushed his antsy feelings aside and concentrated on the rest of his senses. The cool, almost chilly, desert air belied the 100+ degrees he’d be facing later in the day. With their colors muted, shadowy objects had to be recognized by their size and shape alone. There was the soft, soothing creaking of his saddle...the occasion ‘yip’ of a coyote...and the faint whisper of the wind as it wove its way through the mesquite.
By the time horse and rider reached the top of the bluff, the stars were fading in the pre-dawn sky and the fluorescent-pink glow was increasing on the eastern horizon. A big grin broke out on the boy’s face. It was amazing how he felt so ‘at home’ in these harsh surroundings. Even more amazing, was the joy experiencing a desert sunrise brought him.
Blue reflected back on when he first saw this desolate, god-forsaken land. How he had hated this parched place! He missed the woods...and his favorite fishin’ hole...and the lush, green fields of grass. Now, the saguaro were his ‘trees’. He loved the stately forests of cactus. And, while there weren’t any good fishin’ streams--close-by, there were loads of other wildlife: cottontail bunnies, black-tailed jack rabbits, wild hogs, bobcats, antelope, bighorn sheep, wolves, coyotes, quail--and a seemingly endless variety of other birds. Blue especially enjoyed the woodpeckers who carved their homes in the cactus. Owls, smaller birds and bats would then take up residence in these abandoned nests. He watched an owl swoop silently down into one such hole. The night had produced a successful hunt, for its talons held a pack rat breakfast for its fledglings.
Blue noticed the saguaro’s flowers were now tinged with the pink of dawn’s first light. He turned back to the horizon and inhaled deeply, as the sheer beauty of it all took his breath away. He just sat there...completely spellbound...with the biggest grin on his youthful face.
Blue caught a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye. His right hand reached, instinctively, for his revolver. Then his muscles untensed. It was only a coyote pup. He watched as the poor thing stumbled blindly along, with its head stuck in a fogged-up Masonry jar.
The odd sight was most amusing and the boy had everything he could do to keep from laughing.
‘So,’ he mused with a grin, ‘the mystery of Pedro’s missing jerky is finally solved!’
He quietly dismounted and drew his gun. With its ears encased in the jar, Blue was able to creep up on the critter. The boy took a careful aim and then busted the bottle with the butt of his pistol. The pup let out a startled yelp. The dazed animal gave its rescuer a curious glance before loping thanklessly off. The young cowhand managed an amused gasp and began burying the broken shards of glass with the tip of his boot. Blue sure wished someone would come along and bust him out of his prison...a prison of mind-numbing tediousness.
The desert air was warming--rapidly. The restless young man reluctantly remounted and returned to the ranch.
Big John, Buck, Mano and
His Pa gave him the third degree. Where had he disappeared to? Why was he out riding alone when he and his horse should have been resting?
"I must not work you hard enough!" Big John Cannon finally concluded.
Blue couldn’t tell his father that he’d taken all the time and trouble--just to watch a sunrise. "I just had the urge to go for a little ride," he sheepishly stated, and then tried to change the subject. "I know what happened to Pedro’s missing jerky." He then went on to relate his encounter with the hapless ‘jerky thief’.
Victoria and his uncles were most amused.
His father was irate. "Instead of ‘rescuing’ it, you should have shot it!"
Blue’s grin vanished. "It was just a pup."
"It was a food-thieving, chicken-snatching, calf-killing varmint!" Big John corrected. He drained the remainder of his coffee, slammed his cup down hard and slid his chair back. "We’re heading out. If you want something to eat, you’ll have to take it with you."
As usual, the morning wore--endlessly--on. When the head count came up short, Blue was sent off over a ridge to check for strays. However, the only four-legged animal in sight was a young fawn. The cowboy rested his forearms across his saddle horn and just sat there, watching it.
Some time later, there came a commotion from behind him. It was Buck and Manolito. The two were worried when the boy hadn’t come right back. The baby deer stiffened and went bounding off.
"Thanks!" Blue sarcastically stated. "You just scared the fawn away."
"Call it back," Mano calmly suggested.
The boy shot him a deeply skeptical look.
Mano assured him it was possible. The Mexican then leaned back in his seat and let out a high-pitched, "Eeeeeee-eeeeee!"
The effect was--Buck and Blue began laughing so hard, they nearly fell out of their saddles.
The retreating fawn heard the strange sound and came to a halt--right in mid hop.
"Eeeeeeee-eeeeeee!" Mano repeated.
All three sat there and watched as the baby deer began coming back, to investigate the odd noise.
"How’d you do that?" Blue wondered, in an amazed whisper.
Mano grinned and shrugged. "I said that it would work. I did not say that I knew why."
His companions returned his grin.
The boss man came cantering up just then. Their grins vanished.
"What in the Sam hell is going on here?" Big John boomed. "How can you three just sit here--gawking at deer--when there’s so much work to be done?" he added, upon spotting the once again fleeing fawn.
Blue felt bad that he’d gotten his uncles in trouble and he shot them some apologetic looks. As for the work...There was always work to be done! It wasn’t every day he got to watch a little fawn--close up! "Well...What are you waiting for?" he asked his father. "Aren’t you gonna shoot it? After all, it’s eating the cattles’ precious food!" With that said, Blue kicked his horse in to high gear and rode off, leaving those bitter words hanging there in the air.
That evening, following an uncomfortably silent meal,
The look in his wife’s smoldering dark eyes put an end to the rancher’s curiosity. "I’ll arrange to have Joe and Vaquero escort--"
"I want Blue to accompany me."
There was that look again. John’s shoulders sagged in surrender. "Will you be needing a wagon, or a buggy?"
"Very well. I’ll tell the men to have one ready for you," Big John begrudgingly conceded.
On the way into town the following morning,
"Your father is content to feed his body. I think you need also to feed your ‘soul’."
"I take more after my mother, that way. She was a wonderful artist! She could draw anything! She could even sing...and play the piano. She was gonna teach me...someday..." Blue’s sad, soft-spoken words trailed off.
"I was taught that instrument as a child,"
"I’d really enjoy that!" the boy blurted, with a big, broad grin.
The pair spent an enjoyable afternoon in
Blue was thrilled!
When her husband discovered the trip into
"What? A bugle?"
"Actually, a piano. The bugle is just to keep him occupied until the piano arrives. I wish to send Manolo to Rancho Montoya with a message for our father--"
"--With reports of bandits raiding this side of the border," Big John interrupted, "I can’t spare anyone to go for a...piano, right now." Besides, he wasn’t all that anxious to have the king-sized dust collector cluttering up the ranch house.
"As soon as possible, then..."
The rancher nodded...reluctantly.
The next day, Blue sure took a lot of teasing when he pulled the horn from his saddle bag.
"Little Boy Blue," his Uncle Buck began, "Come blow yore horn. The sheep’s in the meadow. The cow’s in the corn."
The musician ignored the laughter and blew a few faltering notes.
"You’re gonna stampede the herd!" Sam quickly determined and more laughter followed.
"Do you know how to play ‘Far, Far Away’?" Joe teased.
"I have to practice," Blue calmly explained, amidst the ensuing chuckles.
"We do not mind you practicing," Mano assured him. "We would just prefer if you were to do so from a distance...a very great distance." More giggles escaped from the group.
Blue took the hint--and his horn--and went riding off, to practice--in private.
About a week later, as Big John and his crew were rounding up the last group of cattle, on the High Chaparral’s farthest range, they suddenly came under attack. Pinned down by gunfire and hopelessly outnumbered, the men did their best to make every bullet count.
"A-pach?" Buck wondered.
Manolito shook his head. "Banditos."
"What do they want with us?" Buck further wondered. "We ain’t got nothin’ worth stealin’."
"They are after our horses and the cattle," Mano replied. "Any gold in our pockets or teeth would just be an added bonus."
The Chaparral crew was running low on ammunition. And, while they were discussing the direness of their situation, Blue made a break for it.
"What’s he doing?" Big John wondered. It was too far. Even if Blue could find help, they’d all be dead before he got back.
Suddenly, over the steady gunfire, the sound of a cavalry charge could be heard.
The banditos stopped firing, mounted their horses and fled for their lives.
Blue came cantering up, with his bugle in his hand and a big grin on his face.
"It appears I owe you an apology, Boy," Big John told his son. "That instrument serves a ‘useful’ purpose, after all." The rancher returned the boy’s grin and stood there--with his face and eyes beaming with pride.
His uncles--and the rest of the crew--also apologized for having kidded him about his horn.
"Mano, I have a favor to ask..." Big John announced.
"Would you ride down to Rancho Montoya and fetch one of your father’s pianos for me?"
"I would be delighted to do so!"
Blue gazed down at the horn in his hand. It felt great to be appreciated. A peaceful, easy feeling came over him. "Well...What are we waiting for?" he teased. "Let’s finish the branding and get out of here, before those banditos decide to come back!"
The men exchanged glances and grins.
"Blue Boy, why don’ you play us a little tune?" his Uncle Buck sincerely requested.
The men exchanged glances...and groans.
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