After it was all over and the dust began to settle, Otto decided the Atwell-Palmer group driving cattle into his property was a sight to behold. He had put his few cattle in his corral with feed and water and left the pastureland next to the small creek open for whatever his visitors were driving. Henry had cleaned and prepared stalls for a few extra horses, but Otto knew the rest would need to be hobbled. Because he couldn’t sit a horse for long, he didn’t know if he would be expected to help keep an eye on the herd that night, or if his father and uncle had made other arrangements. All he knew was, his barn, corral and pasture looked full—how like he would eventually like it to be all the time with his own cattle.
Mary Palmer had answered both Otto’s and Henry’s prayers. As soon as she climbed down from the wagon she had been traveling in while their neighbor, Shorty Sanders, drove, she headed for the kitchen and started frying up potatoes and some ham she had brought to go with the beans Otto had cooking. She also made biscuits, which pleased everyone.
Henry especially felt gratified when Mary pointed to the loaf of bread she had brought in the house.
“I have bread I baked for when we’re on the trail. But your Mama sent that one for you, Henry. She says she misses you and will be happy to see you home again. Now, you hide it in a cupboard, or it won’t last until we leave.”
Henry smiled wide as he found a clean dishtowel to wrap around his bread. “Thank you, Grandma Mary. Otto’s no baker, so it’s either been hardtack or mush the last few weeks. You bet I’ll keep it hidden.”
“You’re welcome, Henry.”
Otto inhaled deeply as he entered the kitchen. “That ham and fixings certainly smells good, Mrs. Palmer. It will be a pleasant break from my usual fare.”
“Then maybe you ought to get you a fat sow about ready to pop out a bunch of piglets instead of those chickens you plan on getting. I’d druther take care of pigs than chickens any day.”
Otto scowled at his younger brother, who had made the suggestion. “All in good time, Henry. Right now, eggs and an occasional chicken in the pot will do me more good than a pig to be kept fed. Besides, we already got the chicken coop built. I’d have to build a sturdy pen first before I can consider getting a sow and a boar. you’ll be going home with Pa once we get back, so it shouldn’t make much difference to you.”
Henry glanced at Mary’s face with her grin and a knowing twinkle in her eye. He knew to not make a big issue of the matter, but he couldn’t resist mumbling the last word on the subject. “Well, you just make sure when you bring back those chickens, you bring back a wife to chase them down and take care of them. I still want nothing to do with anything having feathers and beaks.”
“What’s this about a wife?”
Otto shook his head, avoiding Mary’s probing gaze. “Nothing. Henry is just being his usual ornery self.”