#68 Love Thy Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor – A Story for Christmas
By Patty Wilkinson

Thanks to Sally B for the screen cap

Chapter 1
Jess Harper found the man lying by the side of the Laramie Road, about a mile from the ranch and relay station.
It was a bitterly cold day just a few weeks before Christmas and Jess was hurrying home after checking on the stock over in the east pasture. The collar of his sheepskin jacket was turned up and his hat well down to try and keep the stinging wind out of his eyes.
He might well have passed by without seeing the old man. But just as he drew near the wind got up and caught the old-timer’s jacket, the material billowing out and making Traveller shy and sidestep.
Jess put a comforting hand to his horse’s neck and on peering down saw what looked to be a bundle of old rags by the road side. However, on closer inspection he was just able to make out the form of a man in the dim late afternoon light.
He jumped nimbly down from the saddle and kneeling by the grey haired, balding little man, deftly turned him over onto his back. Jess gave a little gasp of shock as he saw a deep gash to the man’s temple. His face was pale and pasty looking with a neatly clipped grey beard. At first he thought he was dead, but then moments later he groaned and his eyes flickered open.
“Take it easy,” said Jess kindly, and leaving him for a moment fetched his canteen and returning offered some water.
“Thank you, my boy, most kind,” the gentleman finally managed and he tried to sit up, failing miserably, gasping and falling back again.
“Easy,” Jess said. “What happened, did your horse throw you?”
The man shook his head a dazed look in his eyes, “I can’t remember… I think not, I seem to be on foot I believe.”
“What out here?” Jess asked looking slightly surprised, “Heck it’s no place to be afoot, in this weather too.”
The old man shook his head as if in an attempt to clear his mind, “I have a feeling I don’t ride. I have no great affinity for the animals I’m afraid,” he said casting Traveller a rather anxious glance.
“You have a feeling you don’t ride, dontcha know?” Jess asked looking decidedly puzzled now.
The old man fixed Jess with anxious brown eyes then, “To be perfectly honest with you young man I really don’t know. I also don’t know who I am, or what I’m doing here, I find myself in rather a quandary, I’m afraid.”
Jess looked down at the rather dapper little man, his clothes of good quality if somewhat threadbare and dusty now, he noted. He was kind of intrigued by his mode of speech too he sure wasn’t from around these parts he mused.
“Jess, Jess Harper,” he said offering his hand, then, “A quandary huh,” he said looking faintly amused, “I guess you’d better come home with me then and we’ll get Miss Daisy to clean you up some, maybe you’ll remember everything come the morning huh?”
“Miss Daisy you say?”
“Uh-huh, she’s our housekeeper back at the ranch. A real dab hand at treatin’ the sick and injured, ex-nurse ya see,” Jess said as he helped him to his feet.
“Well I don’t know, I don’t want to be a nuisance,” the older man said now looking up and down the road as if somehow, he could turn the clock back and be once more on his way…but to where?
“Ain’t any bother,” said Jess firmly, “and I dunno about you, but I’d kinda like to git out of this wind huh?”
“I agree on that account,” he said now smiling timidly.
“Come on then,” said Jess eager to be off, “I’ll give ya a leg up, we can ride double it ain’t too far.”Read More »


#67 The Haunting

The Haunting

Patty Wilkinson

Many thanks to Quickdraw Jess (Bel) for the screen shot
(Some strong language, adult themes, violence and disturbing scenes)

Chapter 1
Jess Harper sat back in the saddle surveying the empty grassland around him, before tipping his Stetson back and running a hand down his weary face.
He’d been riding fence over in the far flung south pasture for most of the day and had become increasingly aware of the lack of stock, animals that should be grazing peacefully in their winter quarters were just not around.
“Garldarn it, where the heck are those critters,” he muttered to himself.
It was only ten minutes later when he had his answer, a gaping hole in the boundary fence.
He spurred Traveller on and a few minutes later dismounted and investigated the damage. It appeared that several of the posts seemed to have rotted with age. Jess remembered his partner in the Ranch and Relay, Slim Sherman, telling him it had originally been erected by their neighbours. However, he’d seemed unforthcoming as to who they were and when the land had originally been fenced off.
Now looking at the damage Jess figured the fence was real old and he knew for a fact that whoever had once lived there was long gone. Heck just that morning he’d asked Slim again about the possibility of buying the parcel of land, but Slim had seemed reluctant to discuss the matter.
“Look Jess just quit jawing will you and get over there, we need to be sure those prime beasts are safe and got shelter before the snows down…and it won’t be too long either by my reckoning.”
“Oh stop fussin’ Slim”, he’d returned as he’s mounted up. “It’s still early fall and those critters will be just fine.”
Now as he stood surveying the overgrown land on the far side of the fence his heart sank. Heck it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack searching this overgrown and hilly landscape before him. Then if the other fences hadn’t been properly maintained, well the animals could be anywhere. Maybe even heading back up the mountain, as he stood there, he thought ruefully.
Spurred on by that thought he quickly remounted and trotted off towards the overgrown pastureland, now a mixture of cottonwoods, pine and low-lying bushes and shrubs. The further he penetrated the dense foliage the more his stomach churned with unease. Even though there was an abundance of undergrowth and woodland there was no birdsong or sign of any wild creatures at all. Not one deer or even a lowly jack rabbit crossed his path.Read More »


#66The Day of Reckoning

The Day of Reckoning

By Patty Wilkinson

(A series two story with some strong language, violence and adult themes.)

Jess Harper was plumb wore out. He turned Traveller into the ranch yard, slipped down from the saddle and led him into the barn…
Emerging sometime later he ambled over to the ranch house, pulling off his hat and throwing it on the peg by the door before calling out,” Daisy I’m home….”
His beloved housekeeper peered out from where she was busy in the kitchen, “Hush dear you’ll wake Slim, he’s sleeping, and Mike’s abed too, you’re very late.”
Then she came into the room and observed the man she secretly regarded as her middle and most difficult, but very greatly loved surrogate son.
“Why Jess dear you look done in, come and sit by the fire and I’ll fetch you a coffee. I’ll warm up your supper in a minute too.”
“Thanks Daisy,” he said with an exhausted smile,” I am kinda beat. Ain’t no fun rounding up dang strays on yer own on top of all the other stuff I have to do around the ranch. I’ll sure be glad when old Hardrock gets over this nasty chill. How is he?”
“Oh much improved today dear, I’m glad to say. I really thought it might progress to lung fever. But no, he’s been the perfect patient and should be back on his feet within the week.”
“Oh well one out of two ain’t bad,” Jess said with a slow grin.
“What dear?”
“Perfect patients…well I sure ain’t…. and Mike never gets sick, so the odds are pretty good. Out of me and Slim there’s fifty percent of us that are perfect patents.”
“Well nobody could accuse you of being a perfect patient,” she laughed.” But what you lack in being the most difficult ornery patient I have ever nursed you more than make up for in other ways,” she said with a loving look.
“Gee Daisy we sure are lucky to have found you,” he said wearily as he relaxed back in his rocker a little later accepting a coffee from her, remembering a different time and a very different housekeeper.
He cast his mind back to the time before Daisy and Mike had joined them. A time of conflict and frayed tempers…..a time of compromise and adjustment…..but mostly a time of understanding and forgiveness .He sat back reveling in the warmth from the fire and the reviving coffee and remembered back to that time…….
Chapter 1
“Garldarn it Jess can you not wash out a saucepan, for goodness sake look at this!” Slim yelled from the kitchen holding up the offending item.
Jess poked his head round the door from where he’d been feeding the chickens in the yard.
“Well what was I supposed to do, dang well use gunpowder to shift it? Iffen you hadn’t burnt that god awful gravy in the first place there wouldn’t be a problem anyway!” he replied equally furiously.
“I’ll have you know that was my Ma’s recipe for gravy,” said Slim looking deeply insulted.
“Well I bet she never served it up burnt that way.“
“Hell Jess it wouldn’t have been burnt if you’d come in for it when I called you.”
Jess came in and sank down on a kitchen chair, rolling his eyes.Read More »


#65 Earth Wind and Fire

Earth, Wind and Fire

Patty Wilkinson
(Some strong language, adult themes and distressing scenes)

Chapter 1
The noise was deafening as the fire roared through the building…. the timbers cracking violently and falling…. but worse…..much worse than that were the screams of the trapped within…..

Jess had been to hell and back.
He’d been with his partner Slim Sherman rescuing the horses from the barn and he had figured the worst was over….
Sure it had been their worst nightmare…But the critters were out safely and the barn fire almost out…He had sunk to the ground sweating and shaking with exhaustion…. looking at the desolation before him…
Then in true Harper style he had finally rallied again and turned to Slim…
“Why dontcha go back to the house pard…Just check on Miss Daisy and young Mike, I’ll finish off here huh? Check on the horses down in the lower pasture too.”
He’d even given his friend a little push in the chest,”Go ON Slim, I’ll be in shortly, just go see they’re OK?”
His partner had eventually given him a weary nod,”Sure Jess I’ll go check on them,” and he’d mooched off exhaustion weighing him down.
It was when Jess was traipsing back from the home pasture, sometime later, feeling utterly spent that he saw it.
The plume of smoke in the early morning sky….
He stood transfixed for a moment before tearing down the hill and into the yard….
Then he was confronted with the full horror of the situation…
The ranch house was fully ablaze. Flames shooting from the roof and as he raced down into the yard he heard the widows shattering…..and then that dreadful sound that was to haunt him…. the terrified screams of those trapped within the inferno….
He tore towards the remains of the flaming front door, the porch already alight and suddenly he felt strong arms holding him back and half turned to see his good friend Sheriff Mort Cory restraining him.Read More »