The Ornery Gene
Things happen that connect to someone’s past, but Buck has no idea how. Sam Danielson is killed possibly linked to bull fighting and possibly linked to Buck’s parents and his past a one simple spur that was made for his father and other found at the dump site where his body was found creates a chain of events that leads Buck to reflecting on his past in the present. Buck Ellison is now working on the ranch of Sarah Watkins in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Enjoying the life and finding one place where he could remain the events that follow send him on a search to uncover a murder. A dead body is found at the south end of the ranch and Buck now rekindles his detective skills having to dig deep into the cattle breeding business for rodeos and links to his father and mother with two special artifacts: A spur and a bible cover. Sam Danielson is murdered but why was he there and what was his reason for being in the Sandhills?
Circumstances pointed to Travis Martin, Sarah’s nephew since he found the body but was careful about contaminating the crime scene and yet the Sheriff brings him in several times for questioning but eventually realizes he was just out there to count the cattle for Sarah hoping no were missing. Diane Gibbons is her cook and is interested in unlocking the past for Buck and helping him to solve the murder as the sheriff provides him with documents and Buck unravels some mysteries in a cigar box filled with the past.
Talking with Diane, then with Travis he learns something about what happened at the dump site, but Diane sends him in the direction of Mrs. Hans who might be able to identify who created and made the spur and the bible cover. Iverson created it and here is where things get interesting as he learns that the spur and the cover and the straps were made by this man for Sarah’s brother as a gift for his parents who were getting married. His mother was killed in a hit and run and somehow his father is connected to the man that was killed since he was also a bull fighter like Sam. But what is the connection?
Cattle rustling is at the center of part of this novel but Sam might have been out at Sarah’s ranch to check out the cattle, the elements needed to deal with the fight, genetic breeding is also part of what he was doing as he had the genetics of the cattle documented. But, Travis is sent back out to count the calves and Diane instructs him on other areas that need to be addressed but before he can count the cattle he encounters an old cowboy, stays low, does not want to be seen as he sees cows follow this man but the event takes a lot out of him giving him doubts about his ability to be a ranch hand and the end result is he never counts the calves. Using his rifle to protect him and hopefully not getting shot he returns to the ranch but what will happen next?
The author relates research on cattle breeding, genetic testing and the rationale behind why the red heifer was paramount to so many. Buck and Sarah get caught in the crossfire as they try to make some semblance of what happened to Sam, why he was there in the first place and delve into what one old cowboy was really doing.
The bulk of the story deals with genetic records, papers, postcards and R-fifty. The sheriff explains that none of these pieces fit together and he did not know about the bull her brother, George was riding. There’s a religious aspect to this novel as Goff the old cowboy is focused on finding the perfect Red in order to have it sacrificed. They need to decide on the DNA issue and with the help of the breed investigator, Reims, a connection is found to her calves and that of the Andersons.
Added in we learn that Sarah and Goff’s parents were close at one time, each other worked and helped each helping the other with cattle drives and branding. They both knew the Sandhills well and she wanted to know why he was at her place dealing with her calves or was he planning on stealing any?
Why did he draw the blood to check on her cattle? All he had to do is look at the hide. Angus are red or black or between one or the other. The blood indicates that he was looking for parentage and finding out where those red calves that belonged to her came from. Danielson’s notes indicated a link between her calves and that of the Anderson herd but why?
Diane and Jake explain to Buck many things related to his parents and Danielson that link him to the murder. The spurs are first, the bible cover and the pictures that he sees reveals secrets that have been hidden. Just what happened to his mother? Who killed George? Why?
Tom Anderson and his sister Eleanor run their cattle ranch and she is the brains behind the operation. Just how are their calves linked to Sarah’s?
Sarah has spent her whole life dealing with the ranch and forfeited anything else. When Buck and Jake meet, he learns more about Danielson and what he found that might be sort of misfit. He traced it back to the ranch and was trying to puzzle it out. Sam and Goff were talking about genetic profiling and how it made raising or finding rough stock as much of a science as it was anything else.
But something happened that caused Sam to be shot and what exactly did Goff do or way that might trigger someone into killing him? When the history of Anderson’s ranch comes to play and the discussion between Reims and Buck learn about the Red Angus Registry that Tom Anderson started, where records were kept, and logging information was paramount. Added in they started to use AI to get a better breed of calves. Just how does this all piece together and what was the real reason for his death? Added in there are several components that lead back to Buck’s parents and Sarah’s brother just how remains a mystery as you the reader will have to find that out for yourself.
An ending that is tragic, climatic and a man who died when the past comes into the present and the history of Buck’s family comes into play author Warren C. Embree creates an ending that is suspenseful, sad and reminds us of what happens when greed, power, and wealth stand in the way of honesty and values. Characters like Travis that are strong in many ways and weak in others showing he has flaws and Buck who is a great role model and Diane who helps bring it all together. What is the final verdict? What about the past will remain dark forever? What is the mystery behind the Ornery Gene?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews