by Jim Foreman
Joe Armitage had just recently graduated from the University of Texas and returned to work for his father, one of the richest and most powerful men around. Edward Armitage sat on the boards of several corporations and was chairman of the board of the Kansas and Southern Railroad. He owned two banks and at least half the downtown buildings in Dallas. If he didn't own a building outright, he probably held a first mortgage on it. His power reached all the way from Dallas to Austin where, after having served as a senator for more than thirty years, he was the undisputed leader of the Senate and many who would agree that Senator Armitage wielded more power than did the Governor. In fact, endorsement by Senator Armitage considered to be an absolute necessity for anyone who expected to occupy the governor's mansion.
Shortly after Joe returned to Dallas his father called him into his office and told him, "Up in the Panhandle, a small town by the name of San Jacinto is springing up along the Fort Worth and Denver. I have a feeling that area will become the trade and banking center for the whole Panhandle of Texas and a man can become very rich if he's in a position to control and manage its growth to his advantage."
"But father," protested Joe, who had intended to return to Dallas and lead the pampered life of the rich and indolent. "We studied about the Panhandle area in college and there is absolutely nothing there except open ranges and cattle, and we both know how much you despise crude cattlemen."
"True," replied Edward. "Even though it will probably become just another rough and smelly cowtown like Fort Worth, it will still be the hub city of the Panhandle. Your money will come from development of a town, not from cows. Land which you can buy for a dollar an acre today will be bringing a dollar a square foot in years to come. Once you have extracted the quick and easy profits to be made there, you can return to Dallas."
"What do you want me to do?" asked Joe. "Should I start by building business buildings in San Jacinto or stick to land sales?"
"Neither, San Jacinto is on the Brewster Ranch and it would be difficult for you to make very much money there. You will buy vacant grass land and establish a completely new town on it."
"What about San Jacinto? It is already established and has a foothold. Won't the competition between the two towns ultimately reduce our profit?"
"If San Jacinto becomes a problem, then you will just have to destroy it. The same goes for anyone who gets in your way."
"I realize that you are a very rich and powerful man, but you can't simply destroy an existing town," replied Joe.
"Why not? Small men have small ideas and they should never be allowed to stand in the way of progress. Actually, you are going to build a new town which will be so much more attractive than what is already there that the old one will simply die. The first thing that you will do when you get to the Panhandle is to buy the four sections of land adjoining the Brewster ranch to the east. You should be able to buy most of this land for somewhere around a dollar an acre, but even if you have to go as high as ten an acre to obtain some of the smaller parcels to complete the four sections, do so. Buy up the land as quietly as you can so people don't get wise and start raising their prices. Just don't spend money foolishly. You know my rule for getting rich; never spend a dollar unless it will return ten. Here is a map of the area with the sections to buy marked," said the elder Armitage as he handed Joe the map.
A week later, Joe caught the northbound Fort Worth and Denver train with maps and letters of credit tucked away in his brief case. Thick coal smoke belched from the stack on the engine and rolled through the open windows of the passenger cars. The heat during this particular summer was so intense that the passengers would endure the smoke in order to obtain a measure of relief from the moving air. The train huffed and puffed and lurched its way along the single tracks which led through towns such as Rhome, Decauter and Bowie. The further Joe got from Dallas, the more disgusted that he became with his assignment. By the time that he reached Wichita Falls, Joe was ready to catch the first train back.
Every half hour, which translated into about ten miles of travel, the train would shudder to a stop at a siding. At some of these stops, there would be a few crackerbox houses standing beside the tracks, while at others, Joe could see nothing more than a pattern of streets which had been scraped into the parched, dry soil. At each third or fourth stop, the train would be delayed for an hour or more while it took on water and coal. Darkness finally came, offering Joe not only relief from the oppressing heat, but also from having to look at the depressing landscape. Joe leaned his head into the corner of the seat, pulled his hat over his eyes and tried to sleep.
"Wild Horse Siding. San Jacinto, end of the line," shouted the conductor as he made his way through the car.
When the train came to a gasping stop, Joe straightened his stiff legs and stepped to the ground. The air was thick with clouds of dust and the pungent odor of cow manure. Cowboys whistled and yelled as they prodded the bellowing animals into cattle cars to be taken to the packing houses in Fort Worth.
Joe located the station agent who was sitting in a shack which had been hammered together from shipping crates. His desk was illuminated by the yellow glow of a kerosene lamp and cluttered with piles of papers. A telegraph clacked away on its wooden sounder box. It seemed that everything and everyone around the place was coated with a layer of fine dust. "Excuse me," Joe asked the agent. "Could you tell me the direction to the hotel?"
"Ain't got no hotel in this here town, Mister," replied the agent as he surveyed Joe's unusual appearance. Joe was dressed in a pinchback tweed suit and wore a derby hat. "Widder Ellis serves meals and takes in a few boarders, but I know for a fact that she is full up and ain't got no room at her place."
"Are you telling me that there is no place for me to sleep in this God-forsaken place?" asked Joe.
"Well, the train that you came in on ain't going back till about daybreak, so I'd suggest that you get back on it and sleep in your seat."
Hunched in the corner of the seat and using his rolled-up suit coat as a pillow, Joe tried to sleep. However, it seemed that every time he dozed off, the train would be moved for one reason or another. First, it was to shuttle the flat cars of rails and ties that it had brought from Fort Worth to a place where they could be taken on to the construction site at the end of the line. After that, it was turned around for the return trip. Just when Joe figured that all of the banging and moving had ended, it was time to use the engine to move the full cattle cars away from the loading chutes and spot empty ones to be filled. With all of the beating, banging and slamming of the train, Joe got very little sleep that night.
When daylight came and the train was hooked to the loaded cattle cars in preparation for the return trip to Fort Worth, Joe walked to the Ellis house for breakfast. It was a small house with two bedrooms, a parlor and a lean-to kitchen across the back. A folding cot leaned against the wall of the kitchen, indicating that Mrs. Ellis had to sleep in the kitchen. The table was so small that only four people could be seated at a time. Each of the two bedrooms contained two double beds and in addition to a couch and a few chairs, there were two single beds in the parlor. Mrs. Ellis could accommodate up to a dozen boarders at a time, depending on how many of them shared the double beds.
While he ate his breakfast, Joe asked Mrs. Ellis if she had any room for him. She replied that since one of her boarders had left that morning to attend his father's funeral and would be gone for a week, Joe could have his bed in the parlor until he returned.
"I see that there are lots of vacant lots around, what does one cost?" Joe asked Mrs. Ellis.
"My husband paid twenty dollars each for these two lots," she replied. "Lots here are only thirty feet wide and ninety feet deep, so we had to buy two of them to have enough room for a house and a garden. You planning to build yourself a place here?"
"Looks like I'll have to if I want somewhere to sleep," Joe replied.
As soon as Joe left the Ellis place, he went directly to the station agent to send a telegram to his father. It read, "No place to sleep in San Jacinto STOP Ship lumber and carpenters to build hotel STOP Will have location bought when material arrives STOP."
As soon as the agent had finished tapping out the message on the telegraph, Joe asked him, "Who do I see to buy land to build a hotel on?"
"Mr. Lloyd Brewster owns this town and all the vacant land in it, so he would be the one to see if you want to buy a lot. His son, Warren runs things for him. His house is about half a mile over that way," he replied, pointing off to the southwest with his thumb.
Joe walked to the Brewster place, which was far from being as impressive as he had anticipated that it would be. The main house was a simple, square, frame house with a peaked roof and four rooms. There were a couple smaller out buildings and an open barn inside a small corral. Three saddled horses were tied to the rail along the front porch of the house. Joe's knock on the door was answered by a gruff little man about fifty years of age.
"Joe Armitage," said Joe, extending his hand.
"Lloyd Brewster," he replied, shaking Joe's hand. "Come in and have a seat."
Joe entered the small living room where three other men were seated. Brewster introduced the men to him, "This here is my son, Warren Brewster. The son appeared to be about the same age as Joe and was dressed in the same manner as was his father and most of the cowboys Joe had seen around the town. Everyone there seemed to wear cowboy boots, Levi pants and a leather vest.
"Nice to meet you," replied Joe, shaking hands with Warren.
"This fellow here is Emmitt Knox, my ranch foreman and this man is Roger Bates, bookkeeper for the cattle pens. Warren runs the town for me and I take it that you are the rich young squirt from Dallas who wants to build a hotel in my town."
Joe had just learned his first lesson about how fast news can travel in a small town. "I'll have to admit that I am young and from Dallas, but as far as being rich, that's a rather rash assumption. To answer the other question, yes, I am interested in building a hotel in your town."
"Don't try to snow me, boy. I know who Senator Edward Armitage is and that he owns about half of Dallas, so let's get down to the nut-cuttin'. Warren will tell you how much a lot for your hotel is going to cost you."
"How big a place do you want to build?" asked Warren.
"Well, I had something in mind which would be about thirty feet wide and seventy or eighty feet from front to back. Two story with lobby and restaurant down stairs and about a dozen small rooms up stairs," replied Joe.
"Well now," said the younger Brewster, obviously already coached by his father, "That will be just the right size to fit on one lot, and a lot for a big hotel like you are planning to build will cost you ten thousand dollars."
"That's a pretty steep price for just one lot. I'd heard that most of the lots around here went for about twenty dollars," replied Joe.
"It all depends on how much money you will be making off what you plan to put on the lot," broke in the elder Brewster when Warren shot him a questioning look. "Twenty dollars is the price of a lot for one of my employees to build a house on to live in. Commercial property cost a lot more. Five thousand for a store, ten thousand for a hotel and fifty thousand for a bank," Brewster replied with a grin, knowing that the Armitage family was also involved in banking.
"I'm afraid that I'll have to pass on buying a lot at that price," replied Joe as he rose to leave. "I didn't plan to spend more than about ten thousand on the whole thing, and certainly not that much just for the land to put it on."
"Take it or leave it," replied Warren. "We got the land and you have lumber for a hotel on the way, so you can pay our price or go to hell."
"Looks as if I'm going to have to do without," Joe said as he rose to leave.
"I'm a sporting man," Lloyd Brewster spoke up. "I'll make you a deal. I'll give you a three-year lease on the lot for a dollar a year, and you put up a hotel on it that costs at least ten thousand dollars to build. At the end of the three-year lease, ownership of the hotel reverts back to me. After that, you can lease the hotel from me on a year by year basis."
"I can imagine what the lease payments would be after it reverts to you," said Joe.
"I can tell you right now how much the lease payments would be, fifty percent of the gross that the hotel takes in," said Warren. "That`s what the other businessmen pay to set up shop in my town."
"I wanted to build a hotel in this town, Mr. Brewster, but I'm far from being stupid," replied Joe.
"I didn't take you for a stupid man, Mr. Armitage," interrupted the elder Brewster. "It is simply the fact that you have lumber for a hotel on the way and I own the land that you need to build it on. If you want to build a hotel in my town, you will have to pay my price."
"I'll still have to pass on your offer, Mr. Brewster," Joe replied as he rose to leave.
"You'd better take my offer while I'm in a generous mood. Who knows, as popular as land is around here, I might want twenty thousand for a lot tomorrow," Lloyd Brewster said as Joe walked toward the door.
Joe left the Brewster place and Lloyd turned to Warren, "That's how you handle rich bastards like him. Make them pay through the nose for anything that they want. If they want it badly enough, they will pay whatever you ask, just like the railroad did."
Joe thought to himself as he walked back into the Ellis place, "Those are two men who I am going to cut down to size."
As soon as Joe entered the boarding house, he asked, "Mrs. Ellis, how would you like to go into the hotel business?"
"Why, Mr. Armitage, I'm just a poor widow woman who can barely make ends meet by renting out beds in my house. Where on earth could I come up with the money to build a hotel?"
"You own your land free and clear, so this is what we will do. I'll furnish the money to build a two story hotel and restaurant on the vacant lot where you have your garden. Ownership of the hotel will be listed in your name and you will run it. You and I will split the profits down the middle. If we ever decide to sell the place, we will also split what it brings."
When the Fort Worth and Denver train pulled into the station a week later, among the cars that it was pulling were two flat cars stacked high with lumber and a box car filled with furniture and restaurant equipment. A dozen carpenters and helpers got off, carrying their tool boxes with them.
Joe met with the job foreman and looked at the blueprints which he had brought with him. The building wasn't quite as large as Joe had envisioned, but it would be adequate for a beginning. It was only 24 feet wide by 72 feet in length, but it did have two stories. On the lower floor was the lobby, restaurant, kitchen and a small apartment for the manager. The upper floor was divided into fourteen rooms, six rooms, each measuring about eight by ten feet, were situated along either side of the hall and two larger rooms across the front facing out over the porch. There was a back stairs which could be used as a fire escape or to sneak women in or out of the rooms at night without their having to go through the lobby.
Several local workers were hired to help the carpenters from Dallas and the Ellis property became a beehive of activity. Every piece of lumber on the flat cars had been precut to the proper length and numbered. By the end of the first day of construction, the foundation blocks had been laid, the floor built and walls for the first floor were in place. By the end of the second day, the walls of the second floor were up and the roof was being nailed in place when darkness forced the workers to stop.
The hotel was really taking shape when Warren Brewster appeared. He surveyed the building for a few minutes and approached Mrs. Ellis. "Is a fellow from Dallas by the name of Armitage building this hotel?" he asked her.
"No, Mr. Brewster. This is the Ellis Hotel and I am having it built," she replied. "Why do you ask?"
"Your husband bought these lots to build a house on, Mrs. Ellis, not a hotel," he replied.
"We paid cash money for these two lots and I have a deed in my name. I don't see what difference it makes what I build on them," she replied.
"Well, I don't like what you are building on this property and I'm going to put a stop to it," replied Brewster as he walked away.
When Joe arrived for dinner that night, Mrs. Ellis told him of Warren's visit and what he had said.
"Let him try to stop us," said Joe. "I can have the best lawyer in Dallas here on the next train to defend our rights."
The following morning Warren Brewster and Emmitt Knox traveled to the court house at Tascosa, where they got Judge Osborne, Warren's uncle, to issue an injunction to stop construction on the hotel. While they were in the Judge's office on the second floor, Joe Armitage was in the basement, having a visit with the sheriff, who just happened to be coming up for re-election in the near future.
"I have looked into your record and would like to make a contribution to help you in your race," Joe told him.
"Well, it is a tight race and I could certainly use a few more dollars," replied the sheriff.
"I would normally write a check but since I happen to have some cash on me, I'll just make the contribution that way," said Joe as he laid a pair of hundred dollar bills on the desk.
For a sheriff who was making fifty dollars a month, and had run his previous campaigns on less than thirty dollars, this was a lot of money. "For a total stranger, this is an awfully big contribution," said the sheriff as he stuffed the money into his pocket. "Someone might think that you were trying to buy me or something."
"Nothing like that, I just want you to consider me to be your friend. No one ever had too many friends."
"A man can buy himself a lot of friendship for that kind of money," replied the sheriff.
Three weeks later, the Ellis Hotel held its grand opening and on that same day, the sheriff got around to serving the injunction papers to stop its construction. Since the hotel was already finished, the injunction was a moot question and nothing more was ever heard about it.
From the day that the Ellis Hotel opened its doors for business, it was difficult to find an empty chair in the restaurant and there was always a waiting list for rooms. Joe Armitage rented the two rooms across the front of the second floor, living in one and using the other as his office. As far as anyone else in the town knew, the hotel belonged to Mrs. Ellis.
Buying three sections of the land was relatively simple as they all belonged to one person who was ready and willing to sell. Joe bought this land, including the mineral rights beneath it, for sixty cents an acre. The forth and most important section, since it was the one which joined the town of San Jacinto on the east, proved to be far more difficult to purchase in its entirety. Over the years, it had been divided into several plots, some of which were as small as twenty acres. Joe was able to pick up a piece here and a piece there until he had title to all except for an old homestead.
Several years before, a man by the name of Polk had proven a homestead on this 160 acre parcel. Later, he died without a will and the courts divided the land among his heirs. His wife received title to the west half of the homestead where the small house was located. This land joined the Brewster Ranch property. The other 80 acres were divided equally among the four children. The wife and two of the sons sold their land to Joe for two dollars an acre. The daughter, Mary and the youngest boy John, who had just turned twenty-one years of age, held out, refusing to consider any offer that Joe made. The boy seemed to the be the main stumbling block as he kept telling his sister that the rest of the family had sold out for too little money and that they could get at least two thousand dollars each for their twenty acres if they just held out long enough. It was most frustrating to Joe that his whole project was being held up by the owners of a mere forty acres.
Knowing that a copy of any telegram which he sent to Dallas would go straight to Brewster, he and his father began to use the mail for all correspondence. They sent everything by registered mail to prevent any chance of its falling into the wrong hands. It took very little longer for letters to go back and forth because the train make round trips to the Panhandle three times each week. He wrote to his father, "Send forty brand new double-eagle gold pieces on the next train."
When the gold coins arrived, Joe dropped ten of them into his pocket to use as a last ditch measure, leaving thirty in the leather bag in which they were sent. Then he contacted the brother and sister who had been holding out on selling their land. They arrived at his office, along with Mary's husband, Walter Scott, who worked as the clerk at the post office which had just opened there. Joe seated them in three chairs in front of his desk. John on one side, Mary on the other and her husband in the middle. Joe silently observed that the bulge under Mary's dress indicated that a baby was on the way.
"I've asked you to come here so I can make you one last and final offer for those two little pieces of land out east of town," Joe told them.
"That sounds like a threat to me," said John. "I've told you that our land is not for sale at any price, at least not at any price that you have offered."
"That's right," echoed Mary. "Whatever John says goes for me."
"I assure you that it is no threat, but I must warn you again that this is absolutely my last and final offer for the land," Joe replied as he opened his desk drawer and removed a small leather bag which was held closed by a leather thong. He hefted its weight in his hand, slowly opened the bag and removed two of the new gold coins. He placed one on the desk in front of the John and one on front of Mary.
"You don't expect us to sell our land to you for a dollar an acre, do you?" asked the brother. "You've already offered us five dollars an acre and we turned you down flat."
Without answering him, Joe took out two more gold pieces, carefully stacking one on top of each of the ones on his desk. With the greatest deliberation, he continued placing gold coins, one at a time, on the two stacks until each was ten coins high.
"Those are twenty dollar gold coins, but the government is paying twenty-four dollars each to buy them back and get them out of circulation," Mary's husband whispered to her.
"He ain't stealing my land for no ten bucks an acre," said John. "It`s worth at least a hundred an acre."
Slowly, Joe continued to place one coin after another on the stacks, carefully adjusting each one to perfect alignment with those below it. When he laid the final two coins in place, bringing each stack to fifteen shiny gold coins high, he carefully folded the empty leather bag and laid it on the desk and sat in silence.
As the clerk at the post office, Walter was paid a salary of five dollars a week and just one of those gold coins represented a month's wages. Fifteen of them was a fortune.
Like the neighborhood bully waiting to knock down a snowman that kids were building, John Polk stared straight at Joe with a smug smile on his face, waiting for him to put more coins on the stack so he could refuse the offer. He knew that he had something that Joe wanted very badly and felt that he could get whatever he demanded for his land.
Mary and her husband weren't looking at Joe, but they were looking into one another's eyes. Joe could almost read the silent conversation flowing between them. That stack of gold coins represented nearly two full years of working at the post office and all that they had to do was sign over twenty worthless acres of land to get it.
As they swung their gaze to Joe, he said, "Folks, that represents my last and final offer for your two parcels of land."
"We'll take it for our twenty acres," said Mary as she began to inch her hand toward the stack of gold coins.
"The only way that I will buy either piece of land is if I can buy all forty acres. If I can't buy both pieces, then I don't care to buy either. There will never be another offer made by me for this land nor will this offer remain in effect if you leave this office without accepting it."
"Well, Mr. Armitage. You know what you can do with your final offer," said John. "You couldn't buy my land if you offered me both of those stacks of gold coins for it."
"I think we should talk this over," said Walter. "That's nearly twenty dollars an acre and you know that grassland out there won't bring more than a dollar or two at the most."
"You keep out of this," said John. "This is between Mary and me."
"I'm Mary's husband, so that makes me a part of any decision she makes," replied the husband. "We both want to sell."
"It doesn't matter what you and Mary want to do, I'm not selling," replied John.
"But if you won't sell yours, then he won't buy ours, and we need the money," protested Mary.
Joe spoke up, "I have a feeling that you people need to talk this over before you make a final decision, so I'll step into the next room and give you some privacy." He walked into his bedroom, leaving the two stacks of gold coins on his desk in front of them. By standing next to the door, Joe had no problem in hearing what was being said in the next room.
"Do you realize just how much money is right there in front of us? At twenty-four dollars each, there's three hundred sixty dollars worth of gold coins in each of those stacks," said the husband.
"I don't give a damn if there is a thousand dollars in each stack. I say that we hang on to our land and make that bastard pay through the nose if he wants it. Warren Brewster says that we can get any amount of money that we want if we just hold out long enough. He`s already bought all the land around us and we have him right where we want him. I figure that we can get as much as ten thousand for each piece if we hold out long enough."
"Warren Brewster is stupid," said Walter. "If he didn't have his pappy behind him, he couldn't pour piss out of a boot."
"Warren Brewster will be a rich man some day," replied John. "He said that if I stuck with him, I'll be rich too."
"The only thing that you will get by sticking with the Brewsters is screwed. They use people. The only people that they will ever make rich is themselves."
"The were smart enough to put Armitage in his place when he wanted to build a hotel. Mrs. Ellis was the one who got to build a hotel and now Armitage has to rent rooms from her."
"Who the hell do you think really owns this building?" replied Walter. "Widder Ellis couldn't afford to build an outhouse."
"I still ain't selling now. Some of these days he will be glad to hand over ten thousand dollars for a deed to my land."
"But he said that this was his last offer and there would never be another one," said Mary.
"That's nothing but talk," said John. "See how much he has already come up from his first offer. He wants our land and he'll pay more if we just hold out."
"But he never said that any of those offers were his final one before," replied Mary. "I have a feeling that he means what he says this time."
"He'll go higher," said John. "I hear down at the saloon that he knows some kind of a secret and is buying up all the land in the Panhandle. Word is that he is paying as high as a thousand an acre if he has to."
"That's nothing but wild talk by a bunch of drunks who don`t have two nickels to rub together," said Walter. "Armitage is just another spoiled rich Dallas sop who wants to come out here and play cowboy. His rich old daddy down in Dallas is putting up the money for him to buy a ranch to blow money on, but he will go just so high. He'll get tired of this place and be gone in a year. Look at how he dresses; he'll never be a cowboy."
"Old man Brewster said that he'd give me twelve dollars an acre just to keep Armitage from getting it. If that old skinflint offered that much, it's bound to be worth a lot more."
"All that Brewster wants that land for is to spite Armitage after what he did to him over the land for his hotel. Besides, Mr. Armitage has nearly doubled Brewster's offer, so let's take it while we can it," replied Mary.
"That's nothing but old woman's gossip," said John. "Mrs. Ellis built this hotel, not Armitage. He just rents a couple rooms here. Let's play him and Brewster against each other. We might get as much as a hundred an acre if we play our cards right."
"But he said that we had to take his offer right now or lose it," said Mary. "Suppose we turn him down and Mr. Brewster won't pay more, or even worse, suppose he won't even give us the twelve that he offered."
"Let me find out just how serious Mr. Armitage really is about this being his final offer," said Walter.
Joe stepped back from the door and sat on the bed. "Come in," he answered to the light knock.
Walter opened the door and asked, "Mr. Armitage, what will you do with the rest of your land if we don't sell ours to you?"
"Even without your forty acres, and I'll still have over twenty-five hundred, which is probably much more than I will ever need to run some horses and a small herd of registered cattle. I don't really need the land, and only reason that I want to buy it is so that my ranch will be a perfect four sections. I'll just build a fence around your land and forget that it is there," replied Joe.
"What do you mean when you say that you will build a fence around ours?" asked Mary from her seat in front of the desk.
"I'll have to fence it in with a nice, strong six wire fence without any gates. You'll forced to do that in order to prevent some bull that you might put on your land from getting onto mine and ruining my registered herd," replied Joe.
"If you build a fence like that around our property, then we will be land locked. How will we get to it?" asked Mary.
"Getting to your little pieces of land will be your problem, not mine. Just don't expect me to let you cross my property to get there," replied Joe.
The door closed and the voices from the other room became more vocal. "What good will land do us if we can't get to it?" shouted Mary. "If he fences us off, then it won't be worth a plugged nickel to anybody. His land will be all the way around us and nobody will buy land that they can't get to."
"I keep trying to tell you that we can hold his feet to the fire. He will have to buy that land of ours some day and then we can make him pay our price," said John.
"You may be able to hold out for a year or so until the time comes for him to decide to pay more, but we can't. We have a baby on the way and that stack of gold coins will come in handy when it arrives," said Mary.
"A year or so," snorted her husband. "With more than two thousand acres already in his name, it might be fifty years before he decides to make us another offer, if ever."
"I still say it will take more than that stack of gold coins to get my signature on a deed," said John. "I have too much in that land to let him steal it from me like that."
"You don't have a damn dime in that land. It was given to you by that crooked old judge." shouted Mary. "You never done a lick of work around the place and didn't deserve to get any of it. Pa should have chased your ass off that time when you got arrested for robbing that drummer and he had to use every cent of his savings and sell half of his cows to keep you out of the pen. You don't even deserve to share Pa`s name, much less his land."
"Yeah, but the judge gave me an even share with you and the other two kids," said John. "And my share is going to make me rich."
"Daddy always said that you were nothing but a bum and if he had made out a will before he got killed, he'd have cut you off without a cent," shouted Mary, who was now standing and shaking her finger in his face. "You've never done a day's work in your life and probably never will. Even now, you are living with us and don't pay a cent toward your keep. Now you are trying to keep us from getting a good price for our land."
"I still ain't made up my mind to sell," said John.
"Then how do you feel about a mouth full of knuckles to help you make up your mind," demanded the husband. "You are screwing up our lives with your stupid ideas of getting more than that land is worth. You have no right to do this to your sister."
"That's right," shouted Mary. "The only reason why this man is offering so much money for our land is just to fill out his section, not because it's worth it. If we don't take this offer, we'll never see a red cent out of it. Either sign the deed or get your ass out of our house and never show your greedy face at our door again."
"Tell you what, Sis," said John. "Since you are in such a stampede to get hold of some money from your land, and you said that it wasn't worth more than a couple dollars an acre anyway, how about you taking two dollars an acre for yours and letting me have the rest for mine."
"Why, you bastard," shouted Walter. "You not only stole from your dead Pa, but now you are trying to steal from your sister. I think that I'll just beat hell out of you for the fun of it."
"OK, I'll sell," said John. "But, I'm telling you right here and now that we will be sorry that we did, and within two or three years. Mark my words."
Joe stepped to the top of the stairs and called to the Notary Public whom he had waiting in the lobby, "Mr. Bagley, would you please come up to my office and witness some signatures."