white wolf - part 9

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Chapter 14

John made a brief visit to Helena to send a telegram to his parents, informing them of his son’s birth. While there he checked on the transport business and was very pleased with how things were going with Dave in charge. Dave had put plans in place for their company to buy 5 more wagons bringing the total number of wagons teams to 20. This made them one of the largest transport businesses in the entire Territory and meant they were employing over 50 people. John bought a few cases of ammunition as well as some basic supplies of coffee, sugar, flour and tobacco.

He also stopped in at a real-estate agent and asked about large properties for sale. John spent a morning looking at several ranches but though they were all too close to the growing town. He asked about the small hidden valley located about 25 miles or so from Helena and found out he could apply to buy that section of land. He caught up with a government land agent and they checked the maps of the district to find the exact location. John was excited to discover he could make an offer to purchase the whole 3000 plus acres. The agent was sure a reasonable offer would be accepted as the government wanted to encourage settlers to move out of the towns and take up holdings. Within days John was the new owner of his own hidden valley, he’d made an offer of 300 dollars which was readily accepted and the titles drawn up and signed over to John.

While he was in town, he organised for a builder to ride out to the valley with him and look at possible house sites and ideas. Hans was a German immigrant and a master stone mason come builder. He had shown John a few houses and buildings in the town that he’d built and he came highly recommended. John explained that he wanted a well built stone home with a large open lounge room, separate kitchen and dining area, at least three bedrooms, cellar, laundry room under the main roof, plus a big, stone barn. John was willing to pay top dollar if Hans and his team could start soon. They found plenty of available stone in the hills surrounding the valley so this would cut transport costs and speed up the building process. John picked an excellent house site just inside the entrance to the valley, the land was fairly flat and elevated high enough to give a view of the entire valley. Hans was able to provide lots of good ideas about fire places, verandas, flooring, exposed ceiling beams and feature stone walls. John also asked him to construct an outdoor stone oven and cooking area next to the house. John paid a substantial advance and left Hans to organise the equipment and workers. All the workers would need to stay in tents on the site so a lot of gear needed to be taken out to the valley. Transporting the gear was the easy part and John also arranged for Dave to act as a site manager. The second last thing John organised before leaving, was the acquisition of suitable horses and cattle. He spent a day visiting local farms and buying enough stock to set up the ranch. All his purchases were to be held until John returned early next spring. Just before he left the town and headed back to the Cheyenne, John ordered quite a bit of furniture, house fittings and farm equipment so it would be ready when he returned in four months.

The ride back to the summer camp was an enjoyable experience as John looked forward to living in his own newly built home. The country-side was lush after recent rains and the weather was still warm during the days. Snowy trotted along beside him and John thoughts were about breeding his own herds and enjoying a rancher’s life with his wife and son. John’s daydreaming nearly caught him unawares and it was only the low growl from the wolf that warned him of danger. The six riders closed to within 40 paces and John knew he couldn’t outrun them, not with a pack horse to consider. John studied the men and could see from their appearance and manner they were either outlaws or some sort of militia. All were heavily armed and they looked a very dangerous group, just the sort you didn’t want to be caught alone in the open with. John turned his body to block their view and jiggled his colt in its holster so it would come out quickly without snagging, if needed.

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