It was a blistering hot day when Teaspoon announced that Emma needed a new well dug, since Kid and Buck both had runs that day it was left to Jimmy, Ike, Cody, and Lou to dig the new well.
"Alright Teaspoon just where are we supposed to dig this thing?" Lou asked as the riders broke out shovels and pick axes.
"Hold yer horses there Lou, got to find me the right stick first." Teaspoon replied, searching one of the trees for the perfect branch to cut off.
"Stick? What do you need a stick for?" Jimmy asked confused.
"To find the water of course." Teaspoon stated with a chuckle as he cut the perfect 'y' shaped branch and stripped it of its leaves.
"I think the sun is getting to you Teaspoon." Cody muttered.
"Hush up boy, my family been doing this for three generations, ain't dug a dry well yet." Teaspoon said cutting a glare at Cody.
The riders all just shared a glance as Teaspoon started moving the stick back and forth over the ground. "I wish Buck could see this, bet you he could find the water." Ike signed to Lou.
Lou grinned and spoke only loud enough for Ike to hear, "I'd much rather he be here than Cody, at least then there would be four of us doing the digging." Ike's shoulders started shaking in silent laughter.
"Here we are boys! The water is about twenty feet down." Teaspoon said suddenly jabbing the stick into the ground.
"You better be right about this Teaspoon cause that's a lot of digging if ya ain't." Jimmy muttered.
"Just get busy." Teaspoon ordered the boys before moving off to a shaded area to take a nap.
Dirt flew into the air and landed on the hard desert floor. Sweat dripped from the blond man's brow as he stabbed the shovel back into the ground and straightened his tired body. Wiping his arm across his forehead, he mumbled "Why am I the only one digging?" He stared at the lazy loafers that were sprawled comfortably in the shade near the hole.
Barely moving Lou smiled, "We've done our digging now it's your turn."
"Are you sure there's water in this hole Teaspoon, all I see is more dirt." Cody replied leaning on the shovel.
"That's because you just got in there. Now dig." The older man said pulling his hat lower over his eyes to shield the sun.
Cody shook his head and grabbed the shovel again. "I know what I could bury in this hole." Cody mumbled as he continued to dig.
Cody stood in silence as the shovel hit something hard. He raised the blade again and lowered it a few inches away. He had hit something hard. He squatted down and rubbed the dirt off the top of a wooden box.
"Hey I found something!" Cody hollered
"Hope it ain't a body." Lou muttered to Ike who just nodded his head in agreement.
"If it ain't water, KEEP DIGGIN'" Teaspoon said getting a bit annoyed as his nap was being interrupted.
"It ain't water; I think it's a chest or something." Cody said removing more dirt from around the box.
"Move aside there Cody." Teaspoon ordered as he dropped into the hole next to Cody.
Jimmy and Ike pulled Cody out of the hole as Teaspoon took a shovel and started to dig the object up. "One of you boys help me pull this out." Teaspoon called out after he had uncovered an old chest.
Ike hopped into the hole and helped Teaspoon lift it up to put it on the ground beside the hole. He pulled himself out before turning around to help Teaspoon. Cody's eyes got huge as he took in the large chest. "If we was close to water I'd swear that was a pirate's treasure chest." He said.
"Treasure chest? Do ya think there could be treasure in there Teaspoon?" Jimmy asked.
"Don't know bout there being treasure in there but something's in there." Teaspoon replied.
"Come on lets open it!" Cody hollered already picturing what he would do with the treasure if there was some in it.
"Now hold on Cody, we should take it back to the bunkhouse and wait to open it with everybody else." Lou piped in, though she was no less excited to find out what was inside the chest.
"Besides, since it's on Emma's property, it belongs to Emma. She might even be the one that buried it." Ike signed.
"Ike and Lou got a point Cody. Sides ya need to finish digging this here well. Water in these parts is treasure in itself." Teaspoon said.
"Ah come on Teaspoon!" Cody whined.
"Dig!" Teaspoon shouted at Cody handing him the shovel and pointing to the hole. "Ike, Lou you boys take that chest on back to the bunkhouse and don't let anybody open it until we talk to Emma, got it."
"Yes Teaspoon." Lou replied as she bent to grasp on side of the chest and Ike doing the same on the other. Halfway back to the bunkhouse Lou grunted, "He should have got Jimmy to help ya with this Ike, I feel like my arms are fixing to fall off. Let's sit it down for a second."
Ike complied and sat his side down and looked over at Lou and signed, "What do you think is in here?"
"Don't rightly know Ike, whatever it is sure weighs a ton. Might really be a treasure, gold pieces and jewels would weigh a lot if that chest was full of them." Lou said grinning. "What would ya do with it if there is a treasure?"
"Don't know; the treasure would belong to Emma." Ike signed
"True, but knowing Emma she would let us all have a share of it, so what would ya do with your share?" Lou asked.
Ike sat down on the chest and thought for a moment, "Well I think I would start a horse ranch with Buck. It's what we have always talked about doing. I think I would enjoy being able to work with horses every day without having to go on the runs we do. I think Buck would enjoy it too."
"That sounds really nice Ike. You and Buck would do good with something like that." Lou replied with a sincere smile.
"What about you Lou, what would you do with your share?" Ike signed.
"I'd find me some land and a house and get my brother and sister out of the orphanage to bring them back home to live with me." Lou stated, "Come on let's get going again."
Ike gave Lou an understanding smile as he lifted his side of the chest again. Once they made it to the bunkhouse they sat the chest on the table and stretched out their fatigued muscles.
"Go ahead and get cleaned up Lou, I'll make sure no one bothers you." Ike signed.
"Thanks Ike, I won't take long then you can take your turn before the others get back." Lou replied grabbing a towel and change of clothes before walking out the door.
By the time both Ike and Lou were clean the others had returned to the bunkhouse. After they took their turns getting cleaned up they were all sitting around the bunkhouse staring at the chest. "When is Kid and Buck supposed to get back?" Cody asked.
"Buck should be back within the hour. I think Kid won't be back until supper time." Lou said, "Why?"
"Cause I want to know what's in that chest. Do we really have to wait on them?" Cody asked.
"Yes we do Billy. It's only fair they get to be here when it's opened." Emma said walking in the door at that moment.
"Ya know what's in there Emma?" Jimmy asked.
"Can't say I do Jimmy. I didn't even know it was buried out there, no telling who put it there." Emma said.
"Ya think there could be treasure in it?" Cody asked.
"I spect there just might be treasure in it." Emma replied with a soft smile.
"What would ya do with it if there is treasure Emma?" Jimmy asked.
"Well, I don't rightly know Jimmy. The things I want, treasure ain't going to get them for me." Emma said quietly.
"What do ya want Emma?" Lou asked.
"Well I've got most of what I want right here in this room … a family. The only thing I want that I don't have is a ring on this finger that Sam puts on me." Emma stated with a grin that earned chuckles from the riders.
"I reckon Sam will get around to doing that one day soon Emma." Lou said.
"I'm sure he will Lou. What would ya do with some treasure Jimmy?" Emma asked.
Jimmy scratched his jaw for a moment before answering, "I think I would go out west, maybe to California and try to put 'Wild Bill' behind me. What about you Cody, what would ya do with the treasure?"
"I'd like to travel, see the world. I'd kinda like to be on the stage, maybe I could bring the west to the big cities, put on a show for them city folks so they can see what the west is like without actually having to come out here." Cody said. The others hid their snickers so sure that something like that would never succeed.
"That's a big dream Cody, but if anybody can do it, I'm sure ya can." Emma said smiling at the blonde rider. Emma had no doubt that one day Cody would make a name for himself; she just hoped it wasn't a name like the one Jimmy had.
A short time later Teaspoon, Sam, and Buck walked into the bunkhouse to find the others still sitting there staring at the chest.
"Ya know staring at it ain't going to make Kid get here no faster." Teaspoon pointed out.
"Ah come on Teaspoon, it's driving me crazy wondering what's inside it." Jimmy grumbled.
"That ain't a far trip." Ike signed to Buck and Lou. The two friends started laughing.
"What'd he say?" Jimmy asked.
"Nothing!" Buck and Lou said together.
"Well Sam do ya know who might have buried that chest out there?" Emma asked.
Sam walked over to the chest and looked it over before answering, "No can't say I do … it looks like it's been there awhile."
"What do ya think is in it?" Buck asked.
"It's a treasure chest Buck, what do ya think would be in it." Cody piped in.
"Just because the chest was buried in the ground don't mean it's a treasure chest Cody." Buck argued back. "Side's even if it is a treasure chest, it ain't ours. Any treasure would belong to Emma."
"That's right Cody, it was found on Emma's land, it means the chest and whatever is inside is Emma's" Teaspoon agreed.
"Well that maybe so Mr. Spoon but we're a family so anything in that chest belongs to all of us." Emma replied.
"What would ya do with a treasure Teaspoon?" Sam asked.
"Nothing… I've got everything I want right here." Teaspoon said looking around at his 'boys'.
"Ya wouldn't do nothing with it?" Cody asked in disbelief.
"Nope, some things are more important than money Cody. The things that matter the most ya can't buy. The sooner ya learn that the better off you'll be." Teaspoon replied.
"I'm with Teaspoon on that one … though I would like settle down with a good woman and raise a family." Sam replied looking at Emma with such love in his eyes that she blushed.
"What would ya do with it Buck?" Jimmy asked the young Kiowa.
"I think me and Ike would start a horse ranch together, wouldn't we Ike." Buck said nudging his friend in the ribs. Ike nodded, "Is that all you would want to do?" he signed.
Buck blushed and looked down, "No I too would like to settle down with a good woman and raise a family."
Jimmy and Cody teased Buck about that but the others thought it was a really nice thought. Lou especially hoped that Buck's dream could come true. She hated how the women in town treated Buck because of his skin color. If they would just open their eyes they would see what a wonderful man Buck is. Lou was still seething over what Kathleen Delvin had done to him, it just wasn't right. Poor Buck was still smarting over it, he told Lou and Ike that he should have known better, he should have known a girl like that could never really want him. Lou wished there was something she could do to show Buck it wasn't him that was the problem it was the girls.
"Alright, Jimmy, Cody you two get that chest off the table. Lou can you get the plates and set it for me. Ike and Buck will you please help me carry the food over from the house." Emma said shortly before supper time.
Everybody did as Emma told them. The table had just been set when Kid finally arrived. After taking care of his horse he joined the others around the table to eat. Over the course of the meal the others brought Kid up to speed on the discovery and what everybody said they would do with the treasure if there was some.
"So what would ya do with it Kid?" Teaspoon asked the young man that kept so much about himself quiet. None of them were sure they really knew Kid at all.
"Well I think I would go back to Virginia and buy my family's land back. I might get married and start a family." Kid replied.
"Ya sure ya want to go back to Virginia Kid, there's all this talk that a war is coming between the north and the south. You go back there you'll be right in the middle of it." Sam said looking the young man over.
"Virginia is my home Sam. If a war does come, I'd go back anyway. I have to fight to protect the home that I love." Kid declared.
"You'd really go back and fight for the right to keep slaves?" Jimmy asked.
"It ain't about keeping slaves Jimmy, it's about the government trying to tell the states what they can and can't do. It's a free country; the states should have the freedom to do what they want." Kid stated.
"Even when those states want to deny that freedom to people just because their skin is a different color?" Buck asked.
"It's my home Buck… I don't agree with slavery but I'm not going to let my home be destroyed." Kid stated.
"Ok boys that's enough talk about a war that hasn't even started. I'm not about to let it start in the middle of this bunkhouse." Emma declared just then. "Now who wants pie?"
"I Do!" Cody shouted out.
"Of course he does." Ike signed, which earned a couple of snickers from those who had seen him.
After the pie was eaten and the dishes cleared off the table the chest was brought out. "Who wants to do the honors?" Teaspoon asked holding out a crowbar to open the chest with.
"I'll do it!" Several cried out at the same time.
"Let Sam do it Teaspoon." Lou said quietly.
Teaspoon nodded and handed the crowbar over to Sam. Sam took it and made quick work of busting the lock open. "Well let's see what's inside." Sam said as he lifted the lid to reveal the contents.
All the riders, Emma, and Teaspoon leaned forward trying to see what was inside as the lid fell open. "Ah man it ain't treasure." Cody whined when the contents were revealed.
"I beg to differ Billy … these things were treasures to the person who buried them." Emma said as she started pulling things from the chest.
Lou picked up a piece of paper that had been on the top of everything else and read it aloud.
"To whomever finds this chest, may you see the treasures in your own life. These are items of great importance to me. My son's blanket, I sewed it with all my love and with all the dreams a mother has for her child, only to have it never used. Joseph was born asleep and never woke. The labor was difficult and my only child did not survive, nor did the chance of having more children. The family bible which has helped me through many desperate days and lonely nights. The hat belonged to my husband Seth who was a simple farmer and a loving husband. Grief of our son's death and a long illness claimed him this past winter. It is so hard going on without him. My mother's cameo that was passed to me on my wedding day. I can no longer hold on to these items and have no family to give them to. I cannot live with the knowledge of never holding another child in my empty arms, and the thought of never loving someone the way I loved Seth breaks my heart. Look at these treasures and realize how important the people are in your life. I can no longer go on as the despair in my heart is overwhelming. Treasure the people in your life
Anne Marie Watson.
"That poor woman." Emma said quietly, tears running down her face.
Lou quickly wiped her own tears away, hoping Teaspoon had not notice how her voice had softened as she read the letter. "You were right Emma … this chest did have treasure in it." Lou said quietly.
The others just sat quietly, lost in their own thoughts. The chest may not have held the kind of treasure they were hoping for but it contained a treasure none the less. It contained the evidence of a family that loved each other. And family is the greatest treasure there is. Yes some of the boys were more disappointed than the others over the lack of 'real' treasure but even they had to admit that despite that they were already rich because they had a family that truly cared for one another.
"Well reckon my Wild West show is just going to have to wait a few more years." Cody said suddenly effectively ending the somber mood that had descended upon the bunkhouse. "Got any more of that pie Emma?"
The others all started laughing at the blonde rider. "He eats anymore of that pie and his horse won't be able to carry him." Ike signed. Buck laughed out loud and Lou nearly spit out her milk that she had just took a swallow of.
"You could have waited until after I swallowed Ike." Lou said coughing after the milk had gone down wrong.
Ike just grinned as Cody glared at him and asked, "What did he say?"
"He said your horse was going to have a hard time carrying you if you eat any more of that pie." Buck translated with a grin.
"Ha ha very funny Ike." Cody said making a face at Ike.
"What are we going to do with all this stuff Emma?" Lou asked still going through the chest.
"Well I reckon if there is anything in there that any of you boys want ya can have it, whatever ya don't I say we bury again." Emma replied.
"Maybe we should just bury all of it again Emma." Buck spoke quietly.
"I think Buck is right … these things belong together. Maybe we can put up a cross over it, that way nobody will ever dig it up again." Lou stated.
"We'll bury it tomorrow first thing." Teaspoon said.
Cody grinned as he got a great idea. "Hey what if we buried our own treasure." He said excitedly. Making the other riders look at him as if he was speaking a foreign language.
"We don't have any treasure to bury, Cody." Kid said
Emma liked the idea and smiled "Who said we don't have treasures? If we each put one thing that is important to us or something that says who we are into a trunk; that would be our treasure for someone else to find."
Teaspoon looked at his 'boys' and said "That's a great idea. I will get a trunk." He stood and left the bunk house.
Jimmy and Kid grabbed the chest and delicately sat it on the floor out of the way. Kid put his hands on his hips and tried to think about what he could give up for someone else to find. "We can't put Cody in the box can we?" He asked as the others laughed, except Cody who just threw a pillow at Kid. Emma watched as they all walked around the bunkhouse contemplating what to put in the trunk.
Teaspoon walked back in and sat an old trunk on the table. "Alright boys. What are we puttin' in this thing?" He looked at the 'boys' and Emma and Sam and said "I figure I'll go first then. These 'spenders were given' to me by my fifth... sixth wife." He said and placed the suspenders in the box which made several of the riders chuckle.
Emma excused herself quietly and exited the bunkhouse. She walked up the steps to her house and went to her room. Pulling the small box out from under her bed she quickly found the small white lace gown and the red velvet pouch that was on top of it. She ran her fingers over the lacy gown that her baby had worn and couldn't bear to part with it. She picked up the pouch and slid the box back up under her bed.
Walking back into the bunkhouse she heard laughter and happy voices. She noticed in her absence no one else had placed anything in the trunk. She grabbed a piece of paper and quill and sat them on the table. Grabbing the ink well she sat on the bench and began writing. She watched as each person placed their item in the box.
Cody thought about what he was willing to part with. He smiled as he reached under his pillow and pulled out one of the many dime store books he kept there and said "Here, this is what I'm a puttin' in there" And placed the book in the box.
"Oh thank God that's one less story we have to hear him read out loud." Jimmy said lightly as he tossed a deck of well-worn playing cards into the box. He had a feeling deep inside that would be the right thing to put in there all though he couldn't figure out why anybody would think an old deck of cards meant anything.
Buck walked over to the box with the message that his brother had left for him once. It had a picture painted on it of a red bear and a running buck. He had chosen the white world but his heart was still Kiowa. He stared at the red bear and spoke a promise in Kiowa that his spirit would always be Kiowa. He sat it inside the box and sat down beside Emma and watched as her beautiful handwriting stretched across the page.
Ike reached under his mattress and pulled out a red bandana, smaller than the one that he was wearing. He took a deep breath as he pushed the memories of the day his parents died out of his mind. He had been wearing this bandana the day they were killed. Buck watched his friend place the treasured item into the trunk and placed a hand on Ike's shoulder as he sat next to him.
Lou fingered the faded envelope and held it to her lips, placing a tender kiss on it. She had written many letters to her brother and sister in the orphanage in St. Joe and it still broke her heart that they were so far away. She had only received a few letters back from Jeremiah and Teresa; she decided to put one in the box. She sat it in the box and laid back down on her bunk. She watched Kid pull something out from under his bed.
Kid pulled out the tattered buckskin shirt he had worn many times. The fringe was falling off and several small holes were in it but he remembered the many adventures he had in that shirt. Including the memory of having to fight for money to buy his horse Katy. He laid the shirt in the box.
Jimmy looked at Sam who had sat watching the group and asked "Well Sam that leaves you and Emma"
"Nah this is for ya'll." Sam said
"Nonsense, Sam you're a part of this family too. Now put something in the box." Emma smiled at him.
He could never say 'No' to Emma, so he took a deep breath and reached into his shirt pocket and fingered the familiar strand of ribbon. He pulled it out and looked at it and remembered how many times his wife had worn that ribbon in her ebony hair. He stood up from his place on the bench and sat it down inside the box. The riders looked at him questioningly. He sat back down and said "It was my wife's hair ribbon."
Emma finished the letter and replaced the quill back in the ink. She looked at her family and the items in the trunk. She held the velvet pouch that contained the wedding ring that her husband Evan had given her. That was a long time ago and she needed to move on. She sat it gently into the box. Emma read over what she had written.
To whoever finds this chest,
The things in this chest may not mean much to you but to those who placed them in this box they mean a great deal. We are a rather unique group. We all come from different walks of life and under normal circumstances we wouldn't mean anything to each other, but thanks to a thing called the Pony Express a group of strangers have developed a bond unlike any other, we have become a family. The items in this box represent our family.
The faded red suspenders belonged to our Station Master Teaspoon Hunter. Teaspoon says they were a gift from his sixth wife. Teaspoon may have been married six times but he loved each of his wives dearly.
The dime novel belonged to William F. Cody, Cody to his friends. A dime novel might not mean much to you but Cody loves the adventures held within the pages. He longs for the day when his name will be famous like his heroes in the dime novels.
The old deck of cards belonged to James Butler Hickok, Jimmy to his friends. You may know him as Wild Bill. I want it to be known that Jimmy Hickok is nothing like what is written in those stories. He's a good man and a good friend to all of those represented here.
The Indian painting of a red bear and a running buck belongs to Buck Cross. The images represent Buck's brother Red Bear and himself Running Buck. This message was left to call Buck home to his Kiowa brother but Buck's love for his white family kept him from doing so. When another member of our family was taken by the Kiowa Buck had to prove that his spirit was Kiowa in order to free his friend and brother. Buck may have chosen to live in the white world but his spirit will always be Kiowa.
The small red bandana belonged to Ike McSwain. It was the first one he ever wore after he lost his hair to Scarlet Fever. Ike has had a tragic life, after witnessing the murders of his family he was left with no voice, it wasn't until he met Buck that he gained a new voice, his hands.
The worn and faded letter belonged to Lou McCloud who is really Louise, the only female to ever ride for the Pony Express, not that anybody outside our unique family knows that. The letter is from her brother and sister who are living in an orphanage. She took the job to earn money to get them out and make a life for them.
The battered buckskin shirt belongs to the Kid. We don't know his real name or much about his past besides that he came from Virginia. Kid has worn that shirt on many adventures and has done a great deal of growing up in it.
The hair ribbon was put in by the town marshal, Sam Cain. It belonged to his wife who was killed by guns for hire to punish Sam. Sam tracked down and took care of the men that did it. It is what has made him the man he is today. Sam is the best lawman the town of Sweetwater has ever seen and the man I love.
The last item is the wedding ring my first husband Evan gave me. Evan took me out of a dark place but after the death of our only child he left. I didn't hear from him again for many years. He only recently came back and brought trouble with him. He died taking a bullet meant for me.
These items are as different from each other as their owners are but together they make up a treasure trove of memories, the same as the members of this group make up a family.
Emma Shannon, Housemother of the Sweetwater Pony Express Station
She folded the letter and placed it in an envelope she labeled PONY EXPRESS FAMILY SWEETWATER.
Teaspoon decided one more thing needed to be in the box. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wooden horse that he had been whittling on and smiled. As it represented the Pony Express "This is what brought us all together. The Pony Express." The riders smiled and nodded.
The lid was shut and the trunk moved to the floor next to the other one to be buried in the morning.
"Well Emma that meal was wonderful but these old bones of mine are a calling for their bed." Teaspoon stated as he pushed away from the table with a groan.
"I should be getting back to town. Dinner was delicious as always Emma." Sam said as he stood up and kissed Emma on the cheek.
"Goodnight Mr. Spoon. Sam ya be careful going back to town." Emma replied.
After the men left Emma had Kid go to the barn and make a cross to put in the ground over the chest for in the morning and a plaque to go over their chest. She had Lou help her wash the dishes while Cody read them all one of his dime novels. After the dishes were wished and put away Emma left to go back to her house while the riders got ready for bed.
That night as Lou lay in her bunk she thought about what all the others had wanted to do with the money if there had been any. For the most part everybody pretty much had the same dream; they wanted a place to call their own. Jimmy had wanted to go to California and settle down away from people who knew him as 'Wild Bill'. Kid wanted to go back to Virginia; that had surprised Lou. She was even further surprised by the fact that he was going to go fight for the south if this war that everybody was talking about actually happened.
Where did that leave her? Lou had no desire to go to Virginia, she had lived out west her entire life, this was her home; she needed the wide open spaces of the plains. Besides she wasn't about to take her brother and sister to a place where a war was going on. She seriously needed to think about these things if she intended to get serious with Kid.
Lou thought that Buck and Ike's dream was probably the best. They wanted to open a horse ranch together. Lou thought this the best dream because it was something that would keep them together and something they would enjoy. It was something she would like to do too. Lou got to thinking about Buck's dream of settling down and starting a family. Buck would make a good father, Lou thought.
Lou just didn't understand why people were so hateful to Buck. He had never done anything to them. He had risked his life every time he had gone out on a run to deliver the mail that they all so desperately wanted. How many times had he risked his life protecting the town of Sweetwater and all he got in return for it was their scorn? It wasn't right. The more Lou thought about it the madder she got. Why couldn't they see what they were missing out on?
Why did women like Kathleen Delvin think they could play with Buck's feelings just because he was an Indian? He was still a person, he still got hurt. And then that hussy had to go and pretend like Buck didn't even exist, that he wasn't even worth the dirt on the bottom of her shoes. If the Delvin's hadn't left town when they did, Lou was sure her temper would have eventually gotten the better of her and she would have told Kathleen exactly what she thought of her.
Lou knowing she was too mad to sleep now silently slipped out of her bunk and pulled on her clothes and went into the barn. She might as well work off some of her steam. Upon entering the barn she lit a couple of lanterns and got to work mucking out the stalls. She had been in there for about ten minutes when she heard him.
"Lou what are ya doing? It's the middle of the night." Buck asked softly from behind her.
Lou turned and gave him a small smile, "I couldn't sleep. That chest just got me to thinking on things."
"What kind of things? Ya look like ya swallowed a lemon." Buck said with a small laugh.
Lou couldn't help but chuckle, "well I was thinking about what everybody had wanted to do with the money if there had been any."
"And that made ya look like ya were mad at the world?" Buck asked
"No… when I got to thinking about how ya said ya wanted to settle down with a good woman and start a family, I thought about how the people in this town treated ya. And that of course made me think about Kathleen and I just got so mad. It ain't right Buck. Why can't people open their eyes and see what a kind decent man ya are?" Lou said passionately.
"People are entitled to their opinions Lou." Buck spoke quietly.
"Maybe but they're all idiots. Those women like Kathleen just don't know what they are missing out on." Lou replied.
Buck blushed and looked down at the ground, "Lou did I ever tell ya that you were right about Kathleen?"
"Right about what?" Lou asked.
"That she wasn't worth it." Buck replied.
"No … but I think ya figured it out the hard way." Lou said quietly.
Buck smirked, "that I did … I should have listened to ya. I never did thank ya either for coming after me with the guys."
"It wasn't anything you wouldn't have done for me or any of the others." Lou replied with a smile.
"It still meant a lot to me." Buck said softly not looking at her.
Lou leaned the pitch fork she was using against the stall wall and walked up to Buck placing her hand on his arm, "I would do anything for ya Buck … ya know that right? You're my best friend … you're family."
Buck smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and gave her a hug, "I love you Lou."
"I love you too Buck." Lou replied.
Buck kissed the top of Lou's head and sighed, "I wish that was true."
Lou pulled back to look at him, "Of course it's true Buck Cross!"
"I didn't mean it like that Lou … I know ya love me as a part of your family … I mean I wish it was true that you love me." Buck replied blushing hard.
Lou's mouth fell open in shock, "Wait Buck when ya said you love me did ya mean that you love me or that you love me."
"I meant that I love you." Buck said softly looking in her eyes, for once allowing her to see the depth of feeling he had for her.
"I never knew." Lou whispered.
"Only Ike knew." Buck whispered back.
Lou just stood there in Buck's arms for a moment thinking about what he just told her. The more she thought about it the more she realized why it always made her so mad the way he was treated in town. Why she really hated Kathleen. Why she really didn't want to go to Virginia with Kid. Why she really liked Buck and Ike's dream the most. Lou smiled as she stood on her tiptoes and put her arms around Buck's neck, "I love you Buck." Lou whispered just before she pressed her lips to his.
Yes that chest might not have been full of riches but it held a treasure and because of it. Lou and Buck found a real treasure with each other. They found love.
The next morning the Express family gathered around and buried the chest they had uncovered. A simple wooden cross with the name Watson written on it marked the place it was buried, not far from its original burial site. Then the family returned the station yard and there in a corner of Emma's yard they buried their own chest. A simple marker was placed above it to mark its location. The marker read, "A family is not just about blood, it's a bond that no one can break. Sweetwater Pony Express Family 1861."
"Do ya think someone will dig it up one day and realize the treasure it represents?" Lou asked quietly.
"I would bet on it Lou." Teaspoon replied.
The family returned to the bunkhouse, all of them well aware of the true treasure they have.