High Chapparall

(From the TV-series 1967-71)

Life at High Chapparall was not quite the same since Mildred Oakes had arrived. That is, life out on the ranch she couldn't not affect, but more so in the house, among the family members. Vividly protesting, the brother and the son of John Cannon had done everything in their might to stop him from letting her come to the ranch. But nobody could make Big John change his mind. He had promised his cousin from Massachusetts to let his daughter learn about the wild life of the west, to make the somewhat spoilt big city girl add some frankness to her personal qualities. And when Big John had made a promise, he intended to keep it.

He trusted Victoria to keep the girl busy. John's young wife was glad to have female company and supported her husband strongly. She was aware of the differences – Mildred was a from the east coast, raised the British way, while she herself was a Mexican.

John asked his brother, son and brother-in-law to be kind and polite to the girl. "She is about your age, Blue. I expect you to keep her company every now and then." Blue groaned but thought "Perhaps she is sweet?"

Mildred Oakes arrived. Her features were cute, she had a snub nose and lots of chestnut curly hair. Properly dressed, wearing hat and a parasol, she dismounted from the carriage right in front of the Cannon residence, where all the family had gathered. There was an air of nobility about her, a little nonchalance but also curiosity. She looked around with big brown eyes.

Mildred and Victoria took to one another at once. Big John she treated like the authority he was, obediently but not humbly. Manolito didn't care much for her and she not for him. Blue was unfavourably disposed towards her from the beginning, finding her a spoilt town girl. Mildred found him unpolite. She looked at Buck with some contempt. He was too dirty, lacking manners, unpolite or too jesting. He thought that she perhaps needed a lesson – she had to learn about the realities of life.

So there were conflicts but everyone endured and life went on. Buck realized that under the surface Mildred had a fresh and untamed soul living in a body very pleasant to look at. And Mildred understood that she lived among real men, making a living out of their bodies' work.

One afternoon Mildred stood by the corral admiring the landscape. Buck passed and she began to talk. Perhaps she said something to offend him or the ranch, because soon they began to quarrel. It escalated, and soon both of them told one another what they thought about each other. Buck couldn't help saying: "You ought to have a good spanking, miss." – "How could you say a thing like that? Nobody lays a hand on me!"- "Let's just see about that." Buck's eyes narrowed in his dusty face, Mildred looked back at him just as stubbornly. In a moment Buck went down on one knee, took a firm grip around Mildred's arm and pulled her down over his other knee. He gave her a smacking on her behind, but because of her many skirts it didn't hurt very much. But the shame made her yell. She yelled for a while, but when nobody heard her she stopped. Her anger left her, instead she felt surprise, and even a little admiration. She uttered a final cry, then he stopped. She slipped from his knee and ended up standing on her own knees in front of him. Quietly she looked at him. He saw her sitting in front of him, her eyes gleaming, her hair out of order and her bosom under her yellow silk skirt heaving as she breathed heavily. He grabbed her arms and said "perhaps this has taught you something." Then he was quiet and let go of her. He was suddenly aware of the woman in front of him, beautiful, enchanting, attractive, and he became shy.

Mildred felt it too. A man with blue eyes, curly blond hair beneath his black hat and irresistible humour in the corners of his mouth was close to her – and he was tempting. After a few moments of silence he rose, mumbled "I'm sorry, miss" quite awkwardly and returned to the house. Mildred looked at him as he walked away. She was totally mistaken. She really wanted to get to know that man.

Neither Mildred nor Buck talked much during dinner that day. The following morning she surprised them all by saying: "I would like to take a ride today. I'm not very good on horseback, but I have ridden, and I would like to practice." – "Is that so?" John said. "Who would you like to accompany you? Blue?" and he looked at his son. Blue, who stood nearby, shook his head. "I haven't got the time" he said. "I'm busy". 'Beware of her manners on horseback' he thought and was very relieved as she answered "No I would like to ride with Buck." 'Poor uncle Buck' Blue thought.

John smiled. "I will ask him" he said, and as Buck just passed he asked "Would you like to go riding with miss Mildred?" Buck stopped, pushed his hat up on his forehead and looked at her. Mildred smiled at him and put her hands on her hips. This day she was wearing trousers. He smiled back. "Yes, why not? Coming in a moment."

A little later they rode out. Mildred was a good rider and Buck told her so. They got on well together and Mildred found she really had a good time. "You know, I feel free at last" she said. "Like I have escaped some kind of restraints." – "And I have changed my opinion of you" he answered. "You are nice and frank. I like spending time with you."

They rode rather fast, and suddenly they reached the edge of a small ravine. Stones began to rumble and Mildred lost control of her horse. She was frightened, but Buck came to her rescue by grabbing her horse by the reins. "Thank you. I was frightened there for a while. But of course you can handle these things." He smiled and pushed his hat up again ('one of his habits' she thought). "Your'e welcome, miss. Your'e not so bad either."

Around lunchtime they turned their horses to ride home. Suddenly a bullet passed them at close range. Mildred uttered a shriek. "Down!" Buck shouted. She slid off the horse in a hurry and crawled behind a rock. He dismounted as well and hid behind another rock, gun ready. Soon there were bullets all around them. Some Indians rode to and fro shooting at them. Buck aimed, shot and ducked. Mildred stayed calm in spite of her fear. She felt a sudden admiration for the man who fearlessly fought the enemy, dirty and resolute, and she thought 'He must make it, he must be alright, he's too alive, to wonderful not to..'

A bullet bounced back at the rock where Buck was hiding and he crawled to hers. A bullet right over their heads made her grab his arm and hide her head against his chest. He put his hand on her arm "Be calm. It's OK". He fired a few more shots and another bullet made her press herself against him again. "If we keep still perhaps they will think we are dead" he said in a low voice and held her face against his shoulder. They lay still and were quiet. She felt his arms around her, his body against hers and she felt very safe. She put her cheek against his chin. He held her against him, slowly caressing her arm, feeling her cheek against his. He felt her softness.

So they stayed for a while, forgetting the danger, which now was going away, forgetting the time. Then Buck rose, slowly. "Come on miss, we have to go home." She rose and removed the dust from her clothes. "There are the horses, let's run." He took her hand and they began to run. But the terrain was rough and suddenly she stumbled and let out a shriek. She felt the pain all the way from her foot through her body. He stopped her from falling by taking her in his arms. She leaned against him heavily. "I think I sprained my ancle" she said, out of breath. "Bad luck, miss" he said, holding her a little tighter. She put her hands on his shoulders and they looked into each other's eyes. Hers were brown and almost pleading. He let his hand slip into her curly hair, drawing her face nearer to his and kissed her.

She kissed him back intensly, her hands caressing his shoulders. When they let go they both were a little confused. "Perhaps I should smack you face for this" she said, laughing nervously. He smiled embarrased. "I will carry you to your horse" he said. She nodded, feeling the pain in her foot. He lifted her and carried her in his strong arms and she leaned her head against his shoulder and felt very happy.

Slowly they rode home. They family-members were worried. "You were away for a long time!" – "Did something happen? You are so dirty!" - "Is miss Mildred hurt?" Buck lifted Mildred from her horse and carried her in his arms. "We just bumped into some Indians." – "Yes, and I only sprained my ancle." – "Well if you can take that easy, that's good for you" Big John laughed. Buck carried Mildred into the house with a smile on his face. She leaned against him, playing with his scarf.

Victoria looked at them. "John, do you think there is something going on between them? I feel something. Perhaps that is a good thing for both of them." Blue looked at them as they entered the house. 'Uncle Buck and she – what the..?'

Buck put down his precious burden on a coach. Before anyone else entered the room he caressed her cheek. She took his hand, kissing it, and smiled happily at him.