By Deborah Dyess



Buck Cannon stepped out on the porch of his small house located not far from the main hacienda of the High Chaparral, owned by his brother John. He sipped coffee and contemplated the morning, the early hustle and bustle of a ranch in Arizona. Behind him, his pregnant wife, Belle, was cleaning the kitchen after their morning meal aided by a young Mexican girl hired by Buck’s sister-in-law, Victoria. Her baby due in two weeks, Belle moved slowly, but determinedly.


Buck finished his coffee and went inside to put his cup away. He pulled Belle close, kissed her and said, “Ah’ll see yuh later. Send someone for me if you need me.”


She smiled, “I will. Don’t worry so; women have babies all the time.”


“Yeah, but this is my baby. An old man like me ain’t likely to get another chance,” was his response.


She swatted at him, and he walked out the door laughing.


Buck saddled his horse, Rebel, and joined his brother and Sam Butler, High Chaparral foreman, who were discussing the days work. Manolito Montoya, John’s brother-in-law, stood nearby with the rest of the High Chaparral crew. Buck and Mano had their own herd, C-Bar-M, with John’s cattle. Pedro, who cooked for the crew, had finished clean-up and was hurrying to join the rest.


Soon after, everyone rode out to begin delegated tasks, except those on guard duty and coming off night herd.


Spring roundup had commenced and there were calves to brand, earmark and castrate. Waterholes to clear out, and all of which kept the ranch going. With a break at noon for lunch at the chuck wagon, the work continued until late afternoon. Tired and dusty, everyone was glad when the night herders appeared and they could head home.


Upon their arrival at the High Chaparral, they were met by Vaquero who always stayed near Victoria as her guard. He told them, “Senor Cannon, Buck, the baby comes. Senora Cannon is with your wife now Buck.”


Buck leaped off Rebel and ran for his house.


John and Mano cared for their horses, along with the crew. Ate their supper, and John and Mano joined Buck to offer support. The crew had their own meal, cleared up and, one by one, made their way to Buck’s house. They paced with him, offered him a drink, and waited.


Buck began asking, “John, do you think she’s all right? How long is this gonna take?”


Mano assured him, “I am sure she is fine, else Victoria would have told us. Babies come in their own time, mi amigo.”


The hours wore on and the tension mounted.


Suddenly a piercing scream split the still night air. It was followed almost immediately by the wailing of a newborn baby. Chaos erupted as everyone cheered, whistled, and slapped Buck on the back.


Buck sat stunned for a moment, then stumbled to his feet, mumbling, “I’m a pa!”


Victoria came to the door and motioned for Buck to enter, saying, “You have a son, a fine, healthy boy. Mother and child are doing well.” He walked softly inside while Victoria joined her husband and brother.


Belle lay in her bed cradling a bundle close to her. She saw Buck and said, “Come and see your son. He’s beautiful.”


Buck sat on the bed and she placed the baby in his arms. He pulled back the blanket and stared at the tiny face of his child.


Shakily, he asked, “Has he got a name yet?”


“No, I was waiting for you. I thought to name him for my father and yours. Mine was named Robert. And yours?”


“Jason,” said Buck.


“Then Jason Robert Cannon it is, all right? Do you want to show him to the family now?” she asked.


“Yeah, I do,” said Buck and got up to walk to the door. He spoke to John and the rest, “This here is my son, Jason Robert Cannon, after Belle’s father and ours, John.”


Everyone filed past to admire the baby until finally, urged by Victoria, they left to allow the new family privacy.


Belle took the baby from Buck and put him to her breast to nurse him. At her request Buck stayed with her, both of them enjoying the moment.


James, Belle’s brother and owner of Triangle R, came over the next day, bringing John’s son, Blue, who had stayed overnight after returning late from Tucson. They were introduced to their nephew and cousin and added their good wishes to the rest of the family’s.


James brought news for his sister and also for John, “Belle, Uncle Pete is on his way to visit us in a week. They are going to stay a month. Jeremy is courting a girl so he will stay to supervise the ranch. Cousins Marla, Rachel and Sara are coming, however.”


Belle agreed that this was good news.


Then James told John, “I am missing about a hundred head. Are you short any cattle?”


John asked Sam, “Sam, didn’t you tell me that you thought some of our herd was gone?” At the foreman’s nod, John said, “May be we better join up and track the missing stock.”


Sam chose Ira and Reno to go with him and John.  James said they could stop at his ranch and find three or four hands to help them. The group set out at once, leaving Buck and Blue at the High Chaparral.


Soon, tracks of the cattle were located and quickly followed. They led into the hills in a small draw and there the men found the herd, guarded by five hard-looking riders. Shots were exchanged and the outlaws, outnumbered, surrendered.


When questioned, the thieves said they had been paid by a man named Anderson in town, to run off Cannon and Russell stock. The man told them he wanted to draw out the two ranches in revenge for his brother.


John asked James, “Shall we take these varmints into Tucson and turn them over to the sheriff? Maybe we can locate this man, whoever he is, and deal with him.”


“Yeah. We Russell’s never knew Anderson had a brother,” was James’ response.


Upon arrival in Tucson the thieves were escorted to jail. Then, grim-faced, John, James and their crew went to the hotel and found Anderson.


Confronted, he was told about his brother’s action and subsequent death, and told to leave town or be jailed for cattle theft. He was surrounded by High Chaparral and Russell men and taken to the afternoon stage. This done, everyone headed home to a well deserved supper.


A week later, James drove the buckboard into town, accompanied by his foreman, Neil Upton, who drove a buggy, to pick up James’ Uncle Pete and family. The Triangle R hands rode as guards. Mano, Buck, Blue and John were already in Tucson to pick up supplies.


Victoria and Belle had planned a small fiesta and James had agreed to it being held at High Chaparral, so that Belle and Buck’s son wouldn’t have to travel. But he had insisted on supplying whatever they needed. His hands would attend, except for those on guard or night herd.


The stage arrived and a tall, well-built, man, about fifty years old, with brown hair flecked with gray, and brown eyes, stepped down. He offered his hand to a mature, handsome lady in her forties, green-eyed and copper haired.


One by one three younger women stepped down. The oldest about twenty-three, the others two or four years younger. All were copper haired like their mother but the oldest and youngest had hazel eyes, the middle one had amber colored eyes.


James greeted them happily, “Uncle Pete, Aunt Louise, Marla, Rachel, Sara, glad to see you. This is my foreman, Neil Upton, my crew, and this is John Cannon, brother to Buck, Belle’s husband, their brother-in-law Manolito Montoya, and John’s son Blue. We are going to take you to the High Chaparral, John’s ranch, so you can see Belle and the baby, then we will go to Triangle R.”


“Okay, James. Sounds good to us,” answered Pete.


His family agreed, the luggage was loaded and the trip commenced.


Upon arrival they were welcomed by Victoria and Belle. Louise Russell and her daughters cooed over baby Jason, and questioned Belle. The men discussed cattle, the weather, and admired Belle’s horses, the mares with foals and Rio, her stallion.


Belle noticed her cousin Rachel standing a few steps away, taking quick looks across the yard, and blushing. Curious, she followed Rachel’s gaze and saw Ira staring intently at Rachel.


Belle walked to her and asked, “Have you found a potential beau already?”


Rachel answered, “He is handsome. Who is he?”


“His name is Ira Bean and he’s one of John Cannon’s best hands. Come, and I’ll introduce you.”


This done, Belle left the pair to get acquainted and returned to her baby.


Plans for the fiesta were completed and James prepared to take his relatives home. Ira asked Pete Russell’s permission to call on Rachel and John Cannon vouched for him. Grinning, Pete and Louise agreed, and the Triangle R crew escorted their boss and family homeward.


That night, after supper, Belle and Buck sat in their sala, talking.


He asked her, “What was going on today with you, your cousin, and Ira?”


She smiled, “I just want everyone to be as happy as I am,” was her response.


Buck looked at her, stared at his hands and finally spoke, “So you’re happy here. With old Buck?”


She rose, took his hand, and answered, “The baby is asleep and the night, for now, is ours. Come with me and let me show you how happy I am.”


He grinned, kissed her, and off they went, their private little world complete.