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Authors: Janet Dailey

This Calder Sky

BOOK: This Calder Sky
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JANET DAILEY
CAPTURES THE
HEART OF AMERICA!
LOOK FOR
THE SPLENDID
CALDER SAGA:

This Calder Range

Stands a Calder Man

This Calder Sky

Calder Born, Calder Bred

ALL AVAILABLE FROM POCKET BOOKS

“I'm Glad You Saw Me In This.”

Her voice was low—lower than a whisper, yet steady and direct. “I wanted you to see that I really could be a lady someday.”

His gaze made a raking sweep of her and the dress.

“You'll never make it,” he said, his dryness rustling through his voice. “I've never met a lady yet who went around in bare feet.”

A green-eyed fury shattered the picture of composure as Maggie reached around for the first thing she could lay her hands on. He laughed softly because this kind of lady he could handle. He pulled her toward him and forced her hands to flatten themselves on his chest.

“I
will
be a lady,” she hissed, and tried to strain free of his steel hold.

“It doesn't matter.” Lazy with satisfaction, he ran his eyes over her animated features. “What man wants a tame, dull lady when he can enjoy the excitement of someone who is all woman? You don't need to change to satisfy me.”

The need to impose his will on her ran through him. The rashness of it made him catch her shoulders and pull her against him. His mouth silenced her faint outcry with the domination of his hard kiss.

Books by Janet Dailey

Calder Born, Calder Bred
Stands a Calder Man
This Calder Range
This Calder Sky

Published by POCKET BOOKS

For orders other than by individual consumers, Pocket Books grants a discount on the purchase of 10 or more copies of single titles for special markets or premium use. For further details, please write to the Vice President of Special Markets, Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10020-1586.

For information on how individual consumers can place orders, please write to Mail Order Department, Simon & Schuster, Inc., 100 Front Street, Riverside, NJ 08075.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

Copyright © 1981 by Janet Dailey

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

ISBN: 0-671-04051-0
eISBN-13: 978-1-45164-031-1

First Pocket Books printing February 1981

26 25 24 23 22 21

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Cover photo by Ric Ergenbright
Cover design by Jim Lebbad

Printed in the U.S.A.

PART I
 

A sky of sunshine;
A sky of change;
This sky that covers The Calder range.

Chapter I

Beneath a clear sky, the Montana plains rolled to the far horizon in an undulating sea of grass. This great, sprawling rangeland was broken by lonely buttes and wandering ravines. It was a huge, almost empty, always challenging land. Its vastness made the small man smaller and the big man king.

Where once the shaggy-maned buffalo had grazed, a herd of six hundred red-coated Hereford cattle was gathered in a pocket of the plains. Held in place by an encircling group of riders, they bawled their discontent. Into this milling confusion, cowboys working in pairs walked their horses into the herd to slowly and methodically cut out the crippled cattle—dry cows, the cows with poor spring calves, and the odd steer that had escaped the previous autumn's roundup.

Webb Calder pointed the nose of his claybank stud at the cow to be separated from the herd, then sat deep and easy in the saddle to let the horse do its work. The stallion was the color of the yellow mountain cat from which it took its name, Cougar. The instant the cow
was isolated, the claybank frustrated its every attempt to rejoin the herd—getting low, coming around on a dime, and springing forward with the swiftness of a cat.

To the big-boned man in the saddle, the rangy stallion was a source of pride. He'd picked the horse out of a range-wild group of yearlings and earmarked it for his personal remuda. The breaking and training he'd done himself, turning the animal into the best cow horse on the spread. It was never something Webb Calder bragged about, and any compliment was met with the casually indifferent reply, “The claybank is good.”

He had a philosophy that if you were the best, you didn't have to tell anybody—and if you weren't, then you'd damned well better keep your mouth shut. He lived by it, and expected the others around him to live by it, too.

When he and the yellow horse had the cow separated from the herd, the cowboys moved in from the flanks to push the animal over the lip of the ground's pocket to where the cut of injured or inferior cattle were being held. Two more riders took his place to work the herd.

Riding back to the gather, Webb was joined by Nate Moore, who had worked the cut with him. The lank, weatherbeaten rider was one of a small corps of cowboys who had their roots dug as deep into this Montana range as Webb Calder had. Yet, some invisible quality stamped Webb Calder as the cattle owner.

For this was Calder land as far to the south as the eye could see, and beyond. All the livestock, except strays from the bordering small ranches to the north, carried the Triple C brand of the Calder Cattle Company. It was the heritage left by the first Calder who pulled up stakes in Texas and drove his herd north in 1878 to find free grass. That ancestor, Chase Benteen Calder, had carved out an empire that was measured in square
miles numbering nearly six hundred. He'd held it against warring bands of renegade Indians, homesteaders, and jealously ambitious neighboring ranchers. He'd paid for it with Calder blood, nourished it with his sweat and the bones of drought-stricken cattle, and buried the Calder dead under the Montana grass.

Of the score of cowboys who had made the drive with Chase Benteen Calder, most had drifted, but a few had stayed to build a new life in this raw land. These men formed the nucleus of the group of forerunners to Nate Moore, Virg Haskell's wife, Ruth, Slim Trumbo, Ike Willis, and a handful of others, born and raised on the Calder ranch, like Webb. Their loyalty was a deep-seeded thing, ingrained into their souls as surely as if they carried the Triple C brand.

This thread of continuity ran through each generation, tying them together. The old ones eventually gave way to young blood, bringing change without ever changing.

Cresting the rise of the untamed plain, Webb reined in his horse. Satisfaction ran easy through him as he surveyed the scene before him, the teamwork of all the riders working the herd with efficient, well-oiled precision. He liked it best when he could get out among them. Although he was there out of necessity, since his decision determined which was the poorer stock to be culled from this herd, the sheer pleasure of the work made him take part in the actual cutting of the cattle.

The pressures and responsibilities were enormous and endless for the man who owned a ranch as vast as this. New salesmen or cattle buyers often commented on its size, and Webb was fond of quipping dryly, “It takes a big chunk of ground to fit under a Calder sky.” He didn't know how it ranked against other big ranches in the country, whether it was first, second, third, or far down on the list. If anyone asked him, he couldn't have answered and he didn't care enough to check. His only
interests lay in making it prosper and keeping it intact for his son.

The responsibilities were heavy, but so was the power he wielded. Webb Calder believed himself to be a fair man. There were some who would say he was exacting. And still others would claim that he ruled with an iron hand. Resentment born out of envy and jealousy made him the object of hatred from a silent few. As far as Webb Calder was concerned, he had never raised his hand against a man without cause. When he acted, it was swift and with purpose. Indecision could eventually spell disaster for an outfit the size of the Triple C.

It was one of the things he'd tried to teach his son, Chase Calder, named after their Texan ancestor. There was more to running a ranch than keeping books, raising cattle, and going to the bank. But how do you teach a man to be a leader, to handle men?

Before Chase had taken his first step, Webb had set the baby boy on a saddle atop an old bellmare and wrapped the tiny fists around the saddle horn to take him on his first ride. By the time Chase was two, he was given the reins. When he was five, he went on his first roundup, tied to the saddle so he wouldn't fall off if he fell asleep.

Horses and cattle were part of living. Those things Chase learned by osmosis, unconsciously absorbing the knowledge into his system until it was second nature.

But it was the subtleties of command that Webb wanted him to learn. From the time the boy had understood his first sentence, Webb had tried to drum these things into his head, shaping and molding Chase to take over the ranch someday. He'd warned Chase that as his son, he would have to work longer, be smarter, and fight rougher than any man-jack out there. No favor would ever be granted him by Webb—no concession would ever be made because Chase was a
Calder. There would be no special privileges because he was the rancher's son. In fact, the reverse would be true. In his teens, Chase had the hardest jobs, the rankest horses, and the longest hours of any man on the place. Any problems were his to solve. If there was trouble, he had to be man enough to fight his way out of it, either with his fists or his wits. Chase couldn't come to his father and expect help. Webb pushed him as hard as he dared without breaking the boy's spirit.

BOOK: This Calder Sky
12.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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