Bill had one leg raised with a foot in the stirrup, about to step into the saddle, when Rod Owen hailed him.
Bill had to extract his foot in a hurry. The Old Man's stident tone had upset his mount and it took to bucking, almost getting a chance to drag Bill.
Once he'd got two feet on solid ground, he turned to his employer, hoping the anger he felt wasn't showing on his visage.
"Glad I caught you," Rod said. "I have a new task for you and the hands. I'm building a barn come a month, and we all need to cut timber for the sides. Pine logs. Cut 'em to size, too. Twelve foot, I reckon. Here's the plan." He handed Bill a sheet of paper with figures written on one side and a drawing on the other. "We'll drag the logs out of the woods and stack them there." He gestured toward his chosen spot. "When folks gather to help us with the raising, I want the logs right at hand."
"Lots of folks?"
"I'm spreading the word through the country."
Bill looked over the paper. "Plan for logging," it said. Logging? I have no experience of that chore.
His doubts must have shown on his face because the Old Man asked, "You've all cut trees before?"
"In Texas? We was lucky when we had mesquite and cedar. Some live oak. Nothing like pine in my part of the country."
Rod shrugged. "The same principle applies to cutting one tree as another. Rulon will show you where to begin."
Bill shook his head as the Old Man walked away. The cows needed tending to, but that didn't seem to matter. Logging was number one on Rod Owen's chore list.
Bill put on speed to get to where Chico and Sourdough were saddling up. He explained the change in plans, tapping the paper he still held.
"What's that? You want us chopping down trees?"
Bill watched Chico roll his eyes and groan at the news. He felt the same, but wasn't going to mention that fact to the cowhand. "It won't last long. We'll be done in a month."
"A month? Thirty days of hard labor on our feet?"
"We'll take Sundays off."
"They won't come near fast enough. I'll get calluses on my feet, never you mind the blisters I'll raise on my pretty hands. Have to soak 'em every night."
"You have a queja, take it to the Boss."
"Not me. That's your job. I signed on to work cattle, not make my complaint to the Old Man."
"Shut your mouth and get an axe. Rulon's in charge of the tree felling."
Chico swore mildly. "What's Old Man Owen want with a bunch of logs?"
Bill snorted. "The paper says he's fixin' to build a barn. I reckon he's throwing a regular party to get it done. Inviting the whole countryside to pitch in." He chewed on a loose bit of dry skin hanging from his lip. "You reckon he'll farm us out for laborers come harvest time? He'll need to pay back a lot of favors."
"You're the one with the inside word, Henry. You ask him!"
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Copyright 2012 Marsha Ward