Puffs of gray dust followed the three riders across the prairie and down to the broad Clearwater Creek. The horses forded the stream and headed up the bank toward a cowhand who hunkered down by an open fire.
Boston looked up. "Evenin', Reynolds. Climb down and have a coffee."
The three men started to swing off their saddles. Boston glared at them. "Hold it -- you all named Reynolds?"
Two men settled back as the tall man dismounted. A tin plate with a chunk of burnt bread and a few beans sat near the fire.
"Where's yer hired hand?"
Boston pulled a stick from the fire and lit a cheroot. "Around."
Reynolds squatted down. "Yeah -- 'round in those rocks up there."
Boston flipped the stick into the fire. "Might be."
The visitor studied the rocks and rubbed his stubbled chin. "Heard you bought this spread."
"I bought four sections on this side and over to that far ridgeline."
Reynolds glanced over his shoulder. "Yonder ridge? That must be 'bout five mile."
"Who-eee! Land is going for thirty-four dollars a square-mile section in these parts. Where'd you get that kinda grubstake?"
Boston winked over the rim of his cup. "I got it."
The western horizon glowed golden over plum-colored hills, while a Lonesome Dove tried to talk up some evening action in the distance. Gentle breezes wafted sage smells that mingled with smoke from the sleepy fire.
Reynolds shifted his balance. "You gonna fence yer new land?"
"Might this side."
"Well now, my men have seen you and the Injuns draggin' pole timber down the crick. There's a good pile of it on the west bank. Looks to me like good fence posts."
"Might be a lot of things."
"How 'bout those worthless Injuns -- you gonna move 'em?"
"I gave them that land."
"You what? You've been out in the sun too long."
Reynolds stood, shook his head and looked up at the riders. "You suppose ol' Boston here is another damned teepee creeper?"
The men cupped their hands on the saddle horns. "Sure will make his bedroll softer."
They started to dismount, then sat back at a rifle report from the rocks. A burst of sand kicked up on Reynolds's left boot. He jigged back with his hand ready by his holster. "I know'd you had yer man up there."
Boston rocked back on his heels. "Wondered where he went."
A voice drifted down. "I forget, boss -- didja say shoot off his toe or his pecker?"
"Your choice, Billy -- whichever is bigger."
Reynolds hooked a boot in his stirrup. "By gawd, we'll be back with the Cattlemen's Association." He settled down with a saddle squeak and leaned forward. "Believe you me, they ain't gonna take kindly to you fencin' off open range."
"This isn't an open range, anymore. I have four sections of private land and the Choctaws have twenty-eight. It's all filed at the Land Office in Tulsa."
The tall man sneered. "Then what do you and yer flea-bitten friends plan to do?"
"I'll run a few head of cattle, they're farmers. We'll trade goods."
Reynolds turned his mount, shouted back, "Bullshit."
Billy moved from behind a rock and levered a round into his rifle. Boston held his hand up. "Mister Reynolds, you're on private land -- both sides of the creek."
"We're leavin'. What 'bout that stack of timber down there?"
"Dry season is the only time we have to build a bridge."