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Romany Roundup - part 1 — episode #29

Jason rode into a town one day and stopped a stranger for directions to the Jimmy View Ranch. “I work at the Jimmy View Ranch. What’s on your mind?” Jason told him he had some business with the owner, Aaron Shields. “Oh, he’s in there,” the cowboy declared, pointing behind him. “Bad time to bother him though.” Jason asked him why. “We just finished with roundup. He’s got some serious drinking to do.” Jason laughed.
 
It was pretty wild in there. The men were getting drunk. They were fighting and had women everywhere. Aaron Shields was offering fifty dollars to anyone who could lick his man. One of the men bet a dollar he could lick the man, and he lost. I bought a beer. Shields looked at me. “Well, you look like a fellow who can make it interesting. You wanta lose a dollar fast?”
 
“No,” Jason answered. “I want to earn one the slow way.” Jason asked him if he was Aaron Shields. He told him he wanted to discuss a business matter with him.
 
“I never saw you. I never discuss business with anybody I don’t know,” Shields answered. Jason then introduced himself and told him the territorial governor had sent him there to make a survey of his land. That news didn’t make him too happy. He thought the governor was out to get him.
 
“I don’t think anybody’s out to get you, Mr. Shields,” Jason assured him. “It’s just that you were giving away certain land grants years ago and…well, it seems you outgrew them.”
 
“So what? Maybe I did take ten times what the government gave me. Well, that’s the same thing the government did to the Indians only they didn’t do a blasted thing about it. I took that land and made something good out of it. I took that alkaline cactus land and turned it into rich horse and cattle country! These other ranchers are collecting profit now, when all the collected before was a handful of decent dirt.” Jason again reminded him that he’d only been asked to map his boundaries, not take them away from him.
 
He didn’t believe Jason.  He started calling the governor names. Something about “Muck-raking self-righteous, crusading politician.” He said that the governor thought he was getting too big for his britches. “He wants to jot me down to a size he can handle, only it’s too late now. I’m big enough that I can kick him out of his office and put my own man in.”
 
Jason assured him he was getting all upset over nothing. He was just there to do a quick survey. He’d be gone in a week. Shields said that the governor’s office was up in a couple months. He just wanted some powerful ammunition to keep his job. “Well, go ahead and make the survey,” he told me. He’d smash Sorley his own way.
 
Shields’attitude suddenly changed. He told Jason it was nothing personal, and even invited me to stay at his ranch while I was making the survey. He told his hand, Jud, to go back to the ranch.
 
He told Jason that there was a bunch of gypsies who came around every year, and he hired them to help him round up horses. “They’re a dirty, no-good breed who would slash your throat if you don’t watch out.”
 
“Then why deal with them?” Jason asked.
 
“Because they bust broncs better than anybody!” He had a fat contract with the army to deliver horses in five days. “I’d hire the devil himself if he could do it faster.”
 
Another ranch hand rode up to them and said he’d seen Shields’ daughter just ride over to one of the gypsies. “What makes you think she was riding out to meet him?”
 
“Well, he was standing down there at the Oak Groves to meet somebody,” the cowboy announced. That news didn’t make Shields too happy. He told Jason that he was going to do some gipsy breaking.
 
The gypsy was telling a story. “Once upon a time there was this prince who fell in love with this beautiful princess. They were very much in love, but their families were enemies. So the young prince made a bargain with the devil. And that night…the devil changed this father into a box, and this mother into a bowl. And his four young brothers into strings. When the young prince woke up, he picked up the magical instrument and said ‘Play’ and then all of a sudden, the girls’ parents changed and they became kind and nice and loving people. And the young prince was forever lost into his spell.”
 
The woman, Robin, smiled. She told the young man that she thought it was a true story. “Oh, it’s not true. It’s just a fable.” He became angry. “Because it’s done nothing for your father. Like all the rest of the people, he believes gypsies are nothing but a dog and must be treated as such! Not to be touched, for fear it might bite.” She argued that his people did the same to her. They called her a pig and an outsider.
 
He took her in his arms and they kissed.
 
Just then, Shields showed up with Jason and his ranch hand. “Get away from that animal,” he ordered his daughter angrily.
 
“Your father wishes to teach this dog a lesson,” Kolyan declared.
 
Everyone watched in horror as Shields stepped off his horse and took out a whip. He began using it on Kolyan while Robin watched on in horror. Jason whipped out his sword and leaned forward. He cut the whip apart. “If that’s the way you feel, McCord, stay here with him. Shields took a couple steps toward Kolyan. “I’m warning you for the last time. Stay away from my ranch, my town, and my daughter. When you deliver the horses, take the filthy pack and make a yourself scarce, or I’ll see to it myself.” He ordered his daughter to get her horse. She didn’t want to comply, but did anyway.
 
Then Shields turned to me. “The same advice goes to you, McCord. Make your survey and get out fast. Take your report back to Surey and tell him to eat it!”
 
After Shields left, Kolyan and Jason introduced themselves. He told Jason he was very brave. He invited Jason to stay with him in his camp. Jason told him he’d just stay in the hotel in town, but he warned Jason that he wouldn’t get in. Shields owned the town and would make sure Jason didn’t get to stay there. “Oh, well then I’d be honored to stay with you…and breathe some fresh air.”
 
“I’ll never forget what you’ve done. You’ll have a home with my tribe forever.”
 
But that’s not the way Lisa felt. She was mad. She said Jason would never have a home there – he should go back to his own kind. She said Jason was a gaucho. She called her brother stupid for bringing him here. “If he did not help me, I’d be with the angels playing a harp instead of my violin.”
 
At that comment, she turned to Jason. “My brother is king of this tribe! We do not need him! Who asked you to help?” She walked to the people and told them Jason would be nothing but trouble. “And I tell you, he WILL be TROUBLE!”
 
“Well, as king, I order you to make him welcome at this camp,” Kolyan answered calmly.
 
She glared at me. “Welcome,” she muttered, then walked away from us.
 
“See, your welcome,” Kolyan said. I stared at him. Kolyan laughed, and I laughed back a bit nervously.
 
The next day, Jason watched the gypsies breaking horses. It was entertaining watching them. Suddenly, Lisa spoke from behind him. “You can do better, gaucho?”
 
“Some men are better at one thing, some at another,” Jason answered her.
 
“And what is your specialty?” Lisa asked. “Breaking small goats?”
 
“Small…stubborn goats.”
 
“Now…there’s a man of great strength and courage…he knows how to handle women!” she declared sarcastically.
 
“Uh uh uh…” Jason warned her. “I said goats.” Then she started yelling at her brother all over again about how stupid he was. He told her to keep her temper down.
 
“Let us see how good he is with the seat of his pants before he laughs.” Jason stared at her face, which was only inches from his.
 
“Get the bronc ready, Kolyan,” Jason said as he stared into her eyes, accepting her challenge. Kolyan tried to stop him, but Jason wouldn’t hear of it. Jason told him to get him ready.
 
Jason had a good ride. Jason was able to stay on the bronc until he settled. Everyone cheered. Kolyan was proud of Jason, but Lisa was not. She was angry. Kolyan called Jason a gypsy.
 
“He’s a gaucho,” Lisa sneered at me. “And foolish like you. And even a small, stubborn goat can make him lose his head.”
 
Jason just stared at her retreating figure. Kolyan noticed Jason was upset and tried to assure him that women were like wild horses. “It takes a strong hand to break them.”
 
Jason needed to get back to his surveying job. Kolyan offered to let him use Lazar as an assistant, but Jason explained he couldn’t afford an assistant on this job. “You broke a very bad horse for me. It’s an even trade,” Kolyan explained. “Lazar is very bad and very broken.” He told Jason he could even write his name and count up to one-hundred.
 
“Well, that’s fair enough,” Jason smiled. “I’ll take care of everything over one-hundred.”
 
Jason started to leave. “McCord…” Kolyan stopped him. “Who’s going to take care of Shields and his men when they come looking for trouble?”
 
“I don’t expect trouble.”
 
“It’s his land…it’s his people…it’s his law…And you’ve crossed him. You’re going to have trouble, my friend.”
 
Jason went out to do his surveying. While working, Shields showed up. He guessed Jason and the gypsies had hit it off just fine. “You got one working for you.” Jason told him it oughta be glad since it means the job would be done quicker. “Since the government’s checking on me, I’m going to do a little checking on the government,” Shields announced then. Jason asked him what that was supposed to mean. “I’m going to leave my foreman here to go over every one of your figures.”
 
“That’ll slow me down, Shields. I’ve only got a week,” Jason answered.
 
“I just want to make sure everything’s done fair and square.”
 
Shields left. Jason went to explain the concept of “a half” to Lazar when he heard a noise behind him. Jason turned to see the cowboy standing there. He had ‘accidently’ stepped on some of the equipment. So, Jason’s fist ‘accidently’ punched him.
 
Lisa came riding up. She had brought food. Jason thanked her and held out his hand to take the food, but she threw it and stated it was for Lazar. If there was any food left, Jason could have it. The cowboy mounted his horse and started to ride away. “I guess you’ll be busy all afternoon fixing the pole,” he explained. Jason glared at him. “I’ll be back.”
 
Jason started to go after the cowboy, knowing he was going to follow Lisa. Lazar stopped him. “Lisa can take care of herself. But Jason wasn’t so sure.
 
The cowboy followed her all the way back to camp. She jumped off her horse and cursed the gauchos again. The cowboy cursed her back and said he wasn’t in any hurry.
 
That night, Jason apologized to Lisa for cramping her work space. All the other wagons were full of families with children. Lisa climbed up on a step ladder to reach something high when Jason pushed his chair back and stood up. She slipped and fell…right into Jason’s arms.  He didn’t let her go right away, but stared into her eyes. “I said there would be trouble when you came,” she said softly just before their lips met in a passion-filled kiss.
 
“McCord!” Kolyan interrupted them. “Shields is here with the Sheriff to take you.”
 
Jason went to see what was going on. Shields told the sheriff to arrest him. The sheriff ordered Jason to give him his gun. “On what charge?” Jason asked.
 
“I can name a hundred,” Shields answered. He said Jason had polluted his creek that morning.
 
“I did what???” Jason demanded.
 
“That’ll do for openers. When the sheriff checks that one out, I’ll start naming the others.”
 
“Now, do you call this justice?” Kolyan asked. “This is the law of one gaucho and his gun” Shields told the ‘gypsy’ to stay out of it, then he ordered the sheriff to arrest Jason. Jason started to stop it, but the sheriff pulled a gun on him and cocked it. Jason had no other choice but to do as he was told. As he passed Shields, Shields laughed at him.
 
The next day, Kolyan came to the jail to see Jason. He told the sheriff he had no right to keep Jason there. The sheriff smiled, pointed to his badge and said, “This give me the right.” Kolyan then announced that he came to take Jason with him. The sheriff told him it would take money. Kolyan said he had money. “Keep your money, Kolyan. He’ll just think of another lame excuse to put me back in,” Jason told him.
 
Kolyan laid down all the money he had. The sheriff told him that wasn’t even close. It would take almost as much as they were getting for breaking Shield’s horses – Three hundred dollars!


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*Thanks to Michelle Palmer for writing this episode!

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