Legend of the Bunkhouse
It all started with “Biscuits,” the cook at the old Double M ranch. Like most ranch cooks, Biscuits was a crotchety old coot who could whip up solid, tasty grub. Depending on when you talked to him, Biscuits had been either a miner or “the best roper north of the Pecos” before he broke his leg and ended up with a limp he never shook. That put him first in the chuckwagon and later behind the cookstove.
Biscuits was by nature a wandering man, and it bothered him something fierce that his bum leg kept him from riding out with the boys. So he started gentling up one of the chuckwagon mules and had her saddle-broke in no time. Biscuits and Mary took to roaming the foothills and watercourses in the high country north of the ranch. It must have been his old prospecting habits that drew him that way, and from time to time he’d come down with his trousers soaked and a few glittering flakes tucked in a leather pouch.
One day, though, he came back from one of his rides with a wild gleam in his eye and a battered old leather-bound book gripped tight in one hand. “I found it!” was all he’d say at first. “I finally found it!”
Well, we got him calmed down a bit and he finally started talking sense. Seems he’d been after something after all on his rides, and it wasn’t gold…at least not the kind you pan. Back when he’d been a rider, Biscuits had been a drinking man. Not whiskey, mind. Biscuits was partial to beer. One night he’d been working his way through a keg in a Montana ranch town saloon when he got to talking to the bartender. That gent told him about a feller he’d met a few years back.
“Figured he was Dutch from how he talked,” the bartender said, pouring Biscuits another beer. “Turns out he was. One of them German fellers who came over a few years back. Anyhow, he was one of them fellers who makes beer. A brewer I think they call ’em. He was workin’ in a saloon back then, and he made some of the finest brew I’d ever had. Think I’ve still got a bottle around here somewhere. Anyhow, he had him a book with all his recipes in it. Said they’d come to him from his father, who got ’em from his father before him.”
They talked a bit more, and Biscuits learned that the German had moved on. Before he left town he told the saloon owner that he was looking for a good location for his own brewery. It needed the right water, the right air, and a “sense of being” he insisted he’d know when he found it. Then the German lit out, leading a mule loaded with his brewing tackle and with that leather-bound book tucked into his shirt pocket. No one ever saw him again. It was like the mountains just reached out and swallowed him up.
But then Biscuits got that crazy light in his eyes again. “But I found him, boys,” he thundered, spooking his poor mule and at least two of us. “I sure did. Up by the fork where the Crazy Woman flows into the Little Silver. Least, I found his bones. An’ this!” He dug into a pocket on his grease-stained vest and pulled out a battered black book. “I know it were the Dutchman from this here book!”
He never did let us see that book up close. But once he got done bangin’ away on pans and such in the cookhouse we got to taste some of the best beer we’d ever had in our lives. You can bet he kept that cookhouse door locked tight, too. But you can also bet we didn’t care. Not so long as he kept bringin’ out that beer. The first one he had was dark as midnight, an’ strong enough to put hair on a boulder. “Sheepherder” he called it, ’cause it was as black as a black sheep an’ strong enough to warm a man through like a pair of woolie chaps. Then he comes out with an ale red as good whiskey an’ calls it Sabino Red after a particular ropin’ hoss the foreman favored.
No one ever figured out just how many recipes were in that blasted book. An’ Biscuits never told. He just kept comin’ up with a new one every couple of months. And you never saw a happier bunch of cowhands than the old trail crew at the Double M.