Stands a Calder Man (Coronet Books)

 
9780340330326: Stands a Calder Man (Coronet Books)

Webb Calder fought the newcomers who rushed to claim grasslands where Calder cattle grazed. But he could not resist Lilli - a proud and lovely young immigrant, loyal to the homesteader's cause, and to her husband.Still, a Calder kept what he had and got what he wanted. Where a man stands for what he believes, there Stands a Calder Man.

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About the Author:

Janet Dailey's first book -- a Harlequin romance -- was published in 1976. In the twenty years since, she has written 89 more novels and become the third largest selling female author in the world, with 300 million copies of her books sold in 19 languages in 98 countries. Her most recent bestsellers, Masquerade, Rivals, and Heiress, have all sold more than one million copies each. She is known for her strong, decisive characters, her extraordinary ability to re-create a time and place, and her unerring courage to confront important, controversial issues, like alcoholism and sexual abuse, in her stories.

All of her novels are meticulously researched, an endeavor she shares with her husband, Bill Dailey. The couple met in 1963, when Janet worked as a secretary for the construction company Bill owned. The two travel extensively to scout story locations, and have visited all 50 states; these days, they are likely to fly, but miss the time when they drove cross country, a trailer attached to their car. Janet Dailey also reads voraciously about every aspect of any subject she writes about; as she remarks, "Accuracy is important in genre fiction; you have to get it right, zero in on the real details. That's the way to make writing come alive and not irritate the readers with carelessness."

When they are not traveling, the couple spend time at their home on the shore of Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Missouri. It is the part of the country Dailey loves best, partly because, she says, "The people around me are more interested in their problems and their lives, and that sort of keeps me in touch with reality. They think it's nice that I write, but they really couldn't care less."

Allison Janney has been featured on Broadway (Present Laughter), in films (Big Night and First Wives Club) and on television shows on all four networks.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

An indifferent sun sat in the endless stretch of Montana sky, blazing down on the confused and bawling steers that jammed the cattle pens next to the railroad track. The chugging hiss of the motionless locomotive could barely be heard above the bewildered lowing of the steers and the clatter of cloven hooves on the wooden ramp of the loading chutes. The noise was punctuated by shouts and curses from cowboys as they poked the steers with long prods to force them up the chute and into the rail cars.

"Eighteen!"

With one cattle car filled to capacity, the locomotive rumbled out of its idle snoring to pull its string of cars ahead so the next one could be loaded. Plumes of smoke rose from its stack as the lumbering train's clanks and rattles added to the existing cacophony. Loading cattle destined for the slaughterhouses in the East was a tedious chore, made more unpleasant by the noise and the collective stench of penned animals.

Benteen Calder watched the proceedings from the sidelines. The wide hat brim shaded his sun-creased features and partially concealed his restless, assessing gaze. His dark hair was shot with silver and the middle fifties had put some weight on his big-boned frame, but there was no mistaking that he was of the kind that produced the cattle kings. Piece by piece, he had carved out the Triple C Ranch with his sweat, his blood, and his cunning. He'd fought outlaws, renegade Indians, and greedy neighbors to keep the ranch. There would always be someone wanting it. And the man christened Chase Benteen Calder knew that.

The cattle being driven up the loading chute carried the Triple C brand, marking them as the property of the Calder Cattle Company -- his ranch. The dry summer had left the steers in less than top condition for market, but the weather in eastern Montana was seldom ideal.

After nearly six weeks of roundup, Benteen was conscious of the soreness in his aging muscles. Absently, he rubbed at the stiffness in his left arm. He picked up a movement to the right and shifted his head slightly to identify the figure approaching him. The corners of his mouth lifted in a silent greeting as Benteen recognized the railroad man, Bobby John Thomas.

"Oughta be through loadin' here in another hour," the man observed without any preliminary greeting.

"More or less," Benteen agreed with a faint nod.

The local railroad man's sharp eyes spotted a steer with an odd brand among the penned cattle. "I see you picked up some estrays. Diamond T." He read the brand and frowned. "Don't recall seeing that brand around here."

"I think it's a Dakota brand." It was impossible to know the various brands of ranches located outside of the state, and Benteen didn't try. "All told, we've got fourteen estrays in this shipment."

A description of each was listed on the shipping manifest. Given the wandering tendencies of cattle and their lack of respect for boundary lines or fences, it was inevitable that a beef roundup would include cattle owned by other outfits. Reps from neighboring ranches were always on hand for just that reason. If there was no representative for a given brand with the crew, the animal was always included in the market shipment. Left to roam, the estrayed cattle would eventually die of old age, benefiting no one. More important, it would eat grass that could have supported the range owner's cattle.

When the estrayed steer arrived at the terminal market, a brand inspector would spot it and payment for its sale would be forwarded to the animal's rightful owner. Such a practice, by both the rancher finding the estray and the brand inspector, was regarded as a courtesy of the range, observed by all and rarely abused. It was the Golden Rule put into practice -- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Another railroad car had its load of steers and the door was slid shut. The train's engine began a racing chug to bring the next car into position. During the short respite in the loading operation, one of the cowboys stepped down from his perch on the chute and removed his hat, wiping his forearm across his brow, then jammed his hat back onto his nearly black hair all in one motion. A brief glimpse at his angular features, the color and texture of richly grained leather, was enough to hint at a similarity between the young cowboy and the owner of the penned cattle.

Bobby John Thomas looked at Benteen. "Is that yore boy Webb?"

There was an imperceptible tightening of Benteen's mouth as he nodded an affirmative answer. A troubled light flickered in his eyes, put there by a gnawing worry that wouldn't go away.

"He sure has growed since the last time I saw him," the railroad agent remarked.

"Yeah." The abruptness of the response seemed to carry a negative connotation. Benteen didn't volunteer the information that, so far, Webb had only grown in size. The promise his son had shown in his early years hadn't yet developed in adulthood.

There was much about the tall, huskily built youth for Benteen to be proud of. At twenty-six, Webb was one of the top hands on the Triple C Ranch. He could ride the rankest bronc, rope with the best of them, and turn his hand to almost anything. Webb never shirked from hard work, so Benteen couldn't fault him for that. It was responsibility that Webb avoided, accepting it only when it was forced on him. On those rare occasions, he handled it well, making few wrong decisions. But it was that lack of interest in assuming an active role in the management of the ranch that troubled Benteen. The more he pushed Webb about it, reminding him that the Triple C would be his someday, the less interest Webb displayed.

Lorna didn't help the situation by insisting that Benteen was expecting too much from their son. It was her opinion that Webb was still too young and needed time to sow his wild oats before taking on any responsibility in running the ranch. Maybe she was right, but he'd been the same age as Webb when he'd driven the herd of Longhorns north from Texas to found the Triple C Ranch. It worried him to think he'd raised a son who was content to take orders instead of giving them. The future of the ranch depended on his son.

Moving his attention from the leanly muscled frame of his big-boned son, the source of his vague anxiety, Benteen half-turned toward the agent. His face showed none of his inner disturbance.

"Ya been keeping busy, Bobby John?" he inquired.

"We've been busy, but we haven't been makin' much money," the agent declared on a rueful note.

Benteen's mouth quirked in a dry line. "That's always the railroad's complaint. And it gets harder to swallow every time I see the freight rates go up."

"It's a fact." Bobby John was a loyal company man. "We may haul a lot of cattle out of Miles City in the fall, but we don't haul enough in or out on a regular basis. We just ain't got the people here, or the goods."

"I suppose," Benteen conceded.

"That might all change, though." The comment was made, then left to lie there like a baited hook allowed to settle near a submerged log where a big fish rested.

Benteen's interest in the conversation was no longer idle, his curiosity aroused by the remark. "Why is that?"

"Some fella plowed him some ground up around the Musselshell River and planted him some wheat. Rumor has it that he harvested forty bushels to an acre." He saw the skepticism in Benteen's dark eyes. "He used that dryland method of farming like they developed in Kansas."

Benteen had a sketchy understanding of the principle involved in such a method. In arid land where there wasn't a local water source to provide irrigation, crops were planted on only half the acreage while the other half was left fallow. This idle land was plowed and harrowed so no plant life would consume any moisture that fell on it. The next year, that half would be planted to crops. It was a way of conserving the moisture from rain and snow for the next year's use.

"It won't work here," Benteen stated flatly, regardless of the evidence just given to the contrary. "This is cow country. That's all it is good for. Besides, I've never heard of a farmer yet who could make a living on just eighty acres." That was half of the one hundred and sixty acres entitled for homestead, and the only part that was productive at any one time under the dryland method of farming.

"That may be true," Bobby John admitted. "But I've heard talk that there's a proposal bein' presented to the Congress to double the amount of acreage allowed under the Homestead Act."

Benteen's chin lifted a fraction of an inch in reaction to this new information. An uneasy feeling ran through him as he looked beyond the cattle pens of the railroad yard to the grassland.

In the autumn afternoon the stark Montana landscape looked like a sea of tanned stalks. It was the best damned grass any cowman could hope to find. The idea of its being ripped up by a plow and replaced by wheat was more than he could stand. A lot of things were different from the way they had been when he had first arrived in the territory, but this was one change Benteen wouldn't accept. He'd fight any attempt to turn this cow country into farmland.

"They'll never be able to push that bill through Congress." There was a steely quality to his voice, but the prospect of a battle, political or otherwise, added its weight to the tiredness in his bones.

"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Bobby John Thomas warned him. "It ain't just a bunch of land-hungry farmers that wants to see it pass." But he added no more than that.

Benteen silently cursed himself for speaking without thinking through the opposition. Farmers were the least of his worries. It was the railroads. They were land-poor in this part of the West, owners of thousands of square-mile tracts of land along their right-of-way, deeded to them by the U.S. government for laying track. The railroads would use an enlarged Homestead Act like a carrot to lure the farmers out here and end up selling them land for farms or townsites. They'd create a land boom that would bring settlers in, tradesmen as well as farmers. People needed products, which meant more freight generated for the railroads.

It didn't take much intelligence to figure it out. The railroads had done the same thing in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado, where that prairie sod was now sown with some Russian strain of wheat. But this land wasn't the same. Methods that worked there couldn't work here.

The proposal coming before Congress had to be stopped, and stopped swiftly. Benteen knew in his gut that he couldn't waste any time, yet the six-week-long roundup had left him in a state of fatigue. Even if he looked the physical equal of his son, he no longer had the resilience of his youth.

"Guess I'd better be gettin' back to my office." Bobby John Thomas shifted his position in a show of reluctance to put his words into action, but Benteen said nothing to invite the railroad agent to stay longer and chat. "Give my regards to your missus."

"I will." An image formed in his mind of Lorna waiting for him at the hotel in town. He suddenly felt an overwhelming need to be with her. Benteen barely noticed the agent move away, his attention already traveling down another channel. His glance swept the cattle pens and loading platform in an effort to locate Barnie Moore, then came to a stop on his son. Dammit, it was going to be his ranch and his land someday, Benteen thought with a frown of irritable concern. "Webb!" There was an edge to his voice as he raised its volume to make himself heard.

With a turn of his head, Webb looked over his shoulder and saw the single motion from his father that indicated he wanted to speak to him. He swung down from the loading chute onto the platform and handed the long prod to another cowboy to take his place. As Webb approached his father, he experienced that strange feeling of pride and resentment -- pride for the man that Chase Benteen Calder was and the wide swath he'd cut across this land practically singlehandedly, and resentment for the same reasons.

He didn't want to be his father's son; he didn't want to be singled out from the other hands because his name was Calder; he wanted to earn his right to command, even though he was born in the position to inherit it. He would rather have been born Webb Smith than Webb Calder, so his was a quiet rebellion -- never overt, always subtle -- denying himself the right to claim what was his by birth. Webb made it a practice not to assert himself or his opinions with the other ranch hands. In spite of that, all the cowboys, except the older ones who had come north with his father, turned to Webb whenever there was a decision to be made, deferring to him because he was a Calder. That angered him, although he seldom let it show.

Webb knew his father was disappointed in him. He'd been lectured enough times about accepting responsibility. Only once had Webb tried to explain the way he felt, his determination to be accepted because of his ability, rather than rest on the circumstances of his birth. His father had brushed it aside as a foolish whim, needlessly reminding Webb that he couldn't change the fact that he was born a Calder. Rebuffed by this lack of understanding, Webb had taken the lonely path, not able to be just one of the boys and refusing to assume the role his father wanted for him. More than once, he had considered tying his bedroll on the back of his saddle and riding away from the Triple C; then he'd think about his mother and he'd stay, hoping something would change.

"Yes, sir?" Webb stopped in front of his father, letting the inflection of his voice question why he had been summoned. He hadn't addressed him as Pa in more than six years.

There was nothing in his son's attitude or expression that showed more than casual interest. Benteen probed, hoping to find more. He never knew what the boy was thinking -- or if he was thinking. A father should know what was going on in his son's head. Benteen knew he didn't.

"I want you to go to the telegraph office and send some wires for me," Benteen stated. "One of them goes to Frank Bulfert, the senator's aide, in Washington. In the wire, I want you to ask him the status of the proposal being brought to Congress to enlarge the Homestead Act and what kind of preliminary support it's getting. Ask for the same information from Asa Morgan in Helena. The last wire I want you to send to Bull Giles at the Black Dove Bar in Washington with the same request for information." The lack of interest Webb showed made him feel weary. "Have you got all that?"

"Yes, sir." Behind the smooth exterior, his mind was running over the possible significance of the information being sought and how it might affect the ranch. "Is there anything else?"

"No." His lips thinned into a tired line. "Don't you want to know why this information is important?" Benteen asked, and had the satisfaction of seeing his son's steady gaze waver briefly.

"I figured you'd tell me when you thought it was right for me to know." There was no hesitation over the reply, and the invitation to ask...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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