Cody went on, “We’ll go back to the river and cross over, see if we can find your father.”
He rode directly towards a high cliff, stretching a thousand feet up out of the dry land. At the foot of the cliff was a small river, shrunken now in the heat of late Summer. They followed it until it swung away from the cliff, then crossed it and rode west.
“I think our ranch is over there,” said Sam pointing off to the northwest, and Cody turned his horse in that direction. “Keep your eyes peeled, boy, things tend to sneak up on you in this part of the country. There is no law other than what a man can bring to bear for himself. And there are plenty of rough folks who intend to take advantage of the lack of law enforcement.”
They topped a rise, and there, off to the left in the distance were the buildings of the ranch farm: a small house, a larger barn and a corral with a couple of horses.
Cody clicked his tongue to his horse, and they started down towards the ranch. As they drew near, the horses in the corral stood with their ears forward, looking at the stranger coming down from the hill above the ranch.
As they got to the flat land before the house, a man came out with a rifle; he also had a pair of six-shooters belted on. “Hold it right there, mister. Don’t try anything foolish. What do you want?”
Cody was calm, “Got your son here; found him out on the plain wandering around. Figured you’d like him back.”
The man’s demeanor changed immediately. “Thank God, I was worried about him. Sorry to be inhospitable at first, but just had a visit from Clement Dodge, the big cattleman. He wants me to leave, threatened to burn me out.
“How many men did he have with him?” Cody asked, pulling Sam out from behind him and handing him to his father. He then stepped down from his horse.
“Ten, and every single one a hard-looking character. He said he has twenty more. I think he hires them for their gun fighting ability, not for being good with cattle.”
“Well, you don’t stand much of a chance against thirty men who are gun fighters.”
“I’d like to kill them all and make way for other farmers like myself.”
“What’s your name?” Cody asked.
“John, John Dickson.”
“I’m Cody Smith, nice to meet you.”
He looked around at the buildings and the wide expanse of land behind it. “Nice spread you got here,” he said.
“Yes, we like living here very much,” John answered.
“Well,” said Cody, “let’s talk about this problem you’re facing with Dodge, John. From your statement about wanting to kill them all, I’d say you have the wrong motive, wanting to eliminate people to get your way. That’s just the way Dodge is thinking!”
John was quiet, struck by Cody’s words.
“Now,” Cody continued, “my favorite book is the Bible, and in the New Testament is the book of James where there is a discussion of Heavenly Wisdom. That is my guideline when it comes to challenging events in life, like the one you are facing.”
“So, what does that have to do with this situation,” John asked.
“The first quality of Heavenly Wisdom is purity, and purity starts in our motives. If we act out of good motives, things tend to go better.
“Now, we all have mixed motives, so it’s good to get all of them out and evaluate them. “For instance, wanting to kill thirty men so you can have your way is not a good motive, so you should reject it.
“This is fighting the wrong enemy with the wrong motives and if you do this, you will lose while the devil will win.
“Dodge has the same motive. As he sees settlers move in and establish farms and smaller ranches on the land he’s grazed his cattle on for the last twenty years or so, he knows that if they stay, his way of life is going to pass by. He’s not necessarily a bad man, but he doesn’t want to lose what he’s got.
“But times change. The red man came in and pushed out the tribes here before them. The cattle men came in and displaced the Indians. Now the settlers are coming in and will replace the big cattle men. It can’t be avoided, but it can be done well or badly.”
“That’s a new perspective,” said John.
“Now,” Cody went on, “Doing it well has to do with starting with good motives. What good motive could you have to oppose Dodge and his threats?” [to be continued]
Picture from internet: a ranch/farm in the wild west