Buck paused from his work to watch a young colt skip-hop around the corral. It was a beautiful spring day and to be honest he wished he could take off all his clothing and go running around too. "Huumph! Spring fever, that's what it is, Jane would have my head examined if I did that!" he said to the gently blowing breeze. He was about to toss another bail of hay out of the wagon when his oldest son Ike surprised him.
"I'll get that for you, Pa." the young man called out as he came into the yard.
"I won't say no to a little help." Buck laughed. "How was school?"
"Not too bad….I'm glad this is my last year." Ike said putting on a pair of gloves.
"I thought you liked school? What's wrong? Did you fail a test?" Buck asked with a little concern.
"Nah, just tired of goin' to school in general." Ike smirked wiggling his ears.
"You and your father!" Buck laughed. "I never could figure out how he did that!"
The banter continued between the two as the wagon load of hay became a barn full of hay. Buck had a nagging feeling that Ike wanted to talk to him about something but wasn't sure what. They'd covered just about everything Buck could think of while they'd stacked the hay in the loft. The pair exited the barn and Buck dropped down beside the wagon. "I want to check something….the ride seemed a bit bumpier than usual, I want to make sure the spring isn't workin' its way loose." Buck said as Ike dropped down beside him and began looking at the undercarriage of the wagon too.
"I found it! This bolt is startin' to come out. How do I know when it's the right time to ask a girl to marry me? How did you know Ma was the right one?" Ike just let the words roll right into each other.
CRACK! Buck sat up too fast and misjudged the location of the wagon bed. "MARRY?" Buck managed rubbing his head where it had connected with the wagon.
"Want me to get a wrench and fix the bolt?" Ike said wincing at the tone Buck's voice had taken.
"Not so fast young man….I think we need to talk about that other question, um, fix the bolt then come inside its time your mother and I have a long talk with you." Buck said standing, still rubbing his head. He looked at his fingers but there wasn't any blood. "Hmm, I almost knock myself out and it don't even bleed…."
"Why does Ma have to talk to me? I thought this might be one of those 'Teaspoon talks' you was always tellin' us about." Ike whined knowing he'd already lost the argument.
"You lost that right by surprisin' me and whining like a girl, or your Uncle Cody, so fix that wagon and come in the house." Buck gave his son a half smile letting Ike know he wasn't angry with him.
"Yes Pa, oh and Noah put Peggy Upton's pigtail in his inkwell again. She cried for an hour." Ike almost ran into the barn.
Buck groaned, he was going to have to have 'the talk' with his second oldest son sooner than he wanted too. Buck turned toward the house, "NOAH!" He called as he mounted the stairs.
"We're all in the kitchen…What did you do now?" Jane called first to Buck then addressed her son. Buck walked to the kitchen smiling and shaking his head.
The sight that greeted Buck warmed his heart. Jane and their oldest daughter Ellie were baking something. The others were sitting at the other end of the table doing their lessons. "What no homework Ellie?" Buck asked feigning surprise. At almost eleven, Ellie was well ahead of most of the students in her class and always had her lessons done first.
"Nope, Teacher says I'm too smart for my own good…" the girl giggled and smiled at her father; she had him wrapped securely around her finger.
"She did not! Paaahhh!" Emma-Ray said quickly sticking her tongue out at her sister. Jane rolled her eyes and glanced at her husband, both were trying not to laugh. Emma-Ray was eight and believed she knew everything.
"I'm not sure if Teacher said that but I will!" Buck laughed leaning over to plant a kiss on the top of the little girl's head.
"Me too, Papa!" Eli, the youngest Cross child at four years old, held up his arms for Buck to hug him. He was too young for school but Buck and Jane were giving him lessons at home; his slate had several letter C's and the word CAT on it.
"That looks good Eli…what else starts with the letter C?" Buck asked hoping for the word Cross.
"CANDY!" Eli proudly exclaimed without a moment's hesitation.
Jane began laughing at Buck's mock look of frustration. "That's right Eli, now turn the slate over and work on that letter. Nice try Pa!"
"Humpf, Noah, did anything happen in school we should know about?" Buck asked his nearly fourteen year old son. Ellie and Emma-Ray both fell silent and looked at their brother.
"I don't know….maybe….Teacher didn't send home any notes did she?" Noah asked glaring at his sisters.
Buck looked at the girls but neither volunteered any information. "Noah?"
"Alright maybe Peggy's hair fell in my ink. It's not my fault its really long and she wears in all woven together like that…..It ain't normal someone having hair that yellow…" Noah stopped speaking as he watched his parents' faces; they were not happy.
"Do I have to make her another blouse?" Jane asked with resignation this would be the third one this year.
"Maybe…" Noah said very quietly.
"Go back to your homework; you still have your chores to do. We'll talk about your punishment later." Buck said walking over to stand behind his son. He leaned down and whispered in Noah's ear. "If you're sweet on her, try carryin' her books home from school or sharin' some of those molasses cookies your mother makes." Buck resisted the urge to give his son a kiss too but Noah had made it clear a couple of years ago he was too old to get kisses from his father, Ma was alright, she could still kiss him. Instead Buck patted the boy's shoulder. Noah turned a lovely shade of red and Buck knew he'd guessed correctly. Buck winked at Jane when their eyes met.
Ike did all of his chores before coming into the house to wash up and do his lessons. He correctly guessed that it would be too close to dinner for his parents to talk to him. He just prayed they wouldn't talk to him in front of his brothers and sisters; they didn't. After dinner when all the dishes had been cleaned and the other evening chores were done the family usually sat around telling stories or playing games; go fish was popular. The little ones got stories and were put to bed. Ellie and Noah were allowed to stay up a bit later; Ellie was allowed a half hour and Noah an hour. Soon only Buck, Jane and Ike were left downstairs.
"Ike why did you ask me how I knew I wanted to marry Ma?" Buck hadn't had a chance to tell Jane about the conversation with Ike. Jane looked from her husband to her son with questioning eyes.
"I think I found the girl I want to marry. She really likes me too Pa….She kissed me at the Sadie Hawkins dance." Ike blurted out; he was looking at his hands.
"Ike you're only sixteen…." Jane started.
"I'll be seventeen the month after next ….that's the same age you were when you and Pa got married and I was already here…" Ike said realizing his mistake too late.
"ISAAC ANDREW" Buck raised his voice but Jane patted his thigh and made a motion for him to lower his voice as she pointed upstairs. "That was uncalled for. Your Mother and Father never had the chance to marry don't you dare insult your Ma like…like that…."
"Pa, I didn't mean it that way. You always said you did things backwards. What I meant was, was I the only reason you got married and if not what made you want to get married." Ike was trying to explain his feelings and doing a poor job.
"I fell in love with your father the first time he attacked me, then I convinced myself I hated him, sort of…it didn't work…."Jane recalled coming to her son's rescue.
"He attacked you?" Ike asked incredulously. "Pa, you attacked a woman?"
"Ah, well, yeah, she was shooting at your Uncles Jimmy and Noah and me. She's not a very good shot" Buck said. "I followed her trail to her camp and pulled my knife on her. I was going to slit her throat until I realized she was a girl." Buck gave a sheepish grin.
"Couldn't you tell the difference? Come on Pa…." Ike said looking his mother over.
"I was dressed like a boy and my hair was all pushed up under a hat. You should have seen the look on his face. He jumped off me like he'd been burned." Jane laughed at the memory.
"She was madder then a wet cat! That's when I fell in love!" Buck smiled and patted his wife's knee. "You've heard the rest of the story. You know about Emory Pike, the man that killed your Grandpa and all of that story." Buck reminded the boy.
"Yeah, I remember, but how did you know you were in love?" Ike asked looking at his hands again. "How did my father know he loved my mother?"
"Ike your father was like a brother to me. I had trouble believin' he'd met someone. He was always shy around women but your Mother was different. Every time he looked at her, hell, every time he even spoke about her there was this glow, a sparkle in his eyes. I think he fell in love with Emily the moment he saw her too. Do you get a funny feeling in your stomach when you see her?" Buck paused and waited for Ike to nod. "Do you go to sleep thinkin' about her and wake up with thoughts of her bein' the first thing you think?" Again Ike nodded. "Say her name for me."
"Victoria Campbell, Victoria Elizabeth Campbell" Ike said looking at his parents; his eyes sparkled.
Buck and Jane looked at each other and smiled, their boy was definitely in love. "That's the young lady you took to the harvest dance wasn't it? I made her a dress…." Jane smiled remembering the girl. "Honey, isn't she a year younger than you?"
"Eleven months and three days!" Ike answered quickly. "You were young, both of you…."
"Yes we were but we were orphans and making our own lives as best we could…you have us and times are different…" Jane patted her son's hand.
"I'm technically an orphan, my father died before I was born and my mother soon after….besides times are different its 1879."
"No technically we've been your legal parents since you were born, alright the day after, so you were never really an orphan. And I don't care if its 1879 or 1979 you still need the permission of her father to get married. Do you think he's ready for his fifteen year old daughter to leave school and become a wife and mother?" Buck looked at his adopted son and saw Ike, the boy's father and his best friend. Young Ike had his father's good looks and soulful eyes. The one exception was his hair which was thick, dark brown and wavy to the point of curly. "If her father gives his permission you can start courtin' her but I'm going to ask you to wait a year before you marry or um….er…you know…." Buck stumbled not knowing how to phrase his thoughts. He looked to Jane for help.
"I think your father is trying to say we're not ready to be grandparents yet. That hasn't happened has it?" Jane always had been direct and to the point.
"AH, no, no, no…Pa can we have that conversation in private, later…please?" Ike and Buck were both bright red. Buck just nodded.
Jane laughed. "I think this is settled for tonight. Ike you ask her father for permission to court, be prepared for a few rules from him too. I know your Pa has some for your sisters and no they do not have to wait until they are thirty, Dear…" Jane said laying her head on Buck's shoulder.
"We'll talk about that, later…" Buck said kissing her nose. "I'm tired lets all get a good nights sleep…."
"Is Sunday her birthday?" Buck asked looking at his oldest.
"It was yesterday, but her parents decided to have a little party with some of her friends after church." Ike said grinning.
"What did you do? That smile says you've got something planned!" Jane said reading her son's face and smiling.
"I asked her yesterday if she'd be my girl, SHE SAID YES!!!!" Ike's grin became a smile that split his face from ear to ear.
"Yuck, you're gettin' married?" Noah groaned and made a face.
"Isaac?" Buck looked at his son with a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"Not right away….I thought about what you said Pa, and I figured that before I asked her Father I better ask her if it was alright with her so I did!" Ike responded, his voice and eyes reflected his happiness. "She said yes so I'm going to ask after the party. I've been workin' on what I'm gonna say an everythin' I figure I'll tell him that we want to wait at least a year before we get married, that way she can finish school." Ike finished and smiled at his parents.
"Yeah and you can start buildin' a life for the two of you. Start thinkin' on where you'll live, how you'll support her and your children….." Buck said with resignation as Jane stood up and walked around the table. "I'm happy for you son, I truly am, just don't rush things."
"I promise…." Ike's next words were cut off as Jane muffled him in a hug.
"If he says yes I want her family to come over for Sunday supper the next week to celebrate…" Jane began making plans for the two families to get to know one another.
The night before Ike's seventeenth birthday Buck called Ike into the parlor alone. A small wooden box sat on the table. Buck was sitting on the sofa and indicated his son should join him. "Ike I was planning on giving this to you on your eighteenth birthday but there is something in here I think you'll need before then." Buck began solemnly. "This is the box that has the things your father treasured most." Buck opened the box and handed Ike the opened box. "You have the Bible the Pony Express gave to your father when he joined, as you know Noah has mine. This Bible is the one from your grandparents and great-grandparents, it gives a little of your family history. It was printed in Edinburg, Scotland so I'm not sure if this came over to this country with your great-grandparents or not but it belonged to your grandfather before he was murdered."
Buck took the book out and opened it. "Your Father drew that picture in the front and your grandmother was ready to kill him for doing it." Buck said pointing out the faded drawing of a man, woman, boy and young girl. "The boy is Ike, your father, he loved to draw just like you do and several of his pictures are in the box too." Buck turned the page. "This is the family tree. It starts with your great-great grandfather in a place called Portree on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and ends with you. Your Mother made sure she wrote your name and birth in here before she died. It was very important to her; that's her handwriting there." Buck pointed it out to Ike.
"Why did she write my last name as Cross and not McSwain or Metcalf?" Ike asked confused. "I always thought you changed my name when you adopted me."
"Your Mother asked Teaspoon if she could name you anything she wanted and he said yes. She knew she wasn't going to make it so she gave you my name right from the start." Buck said thinking back to that day so long ago. "I want you to remember that your heritage is Scottish, just as mine is Kiowa." Buck paused and picked up a pocket watch. "Your father said that your grandfather told him he was given this watch when he turned eighteen and it would have been your fathers on his eighteenth birthday. I'm giving it to you now because I'm also giving you this…"
Buck placed the watch back and picked up a small velvet bag. He emptied the bag into his palm then turned his hand to Ike. A gold locket in his hand lay in his palm; the chain trailed over his fingers. "Your grandfather gave this locket to your grandmother on the day they agreed to marry. I found it in your father's pocket the day he died. That's why I wrote your mother's name in the Bible as if she and your father were married. I know they would want you to give it to the woman you love as a promise of marriage. Your Ma says the cameo is of a thistle and represents your Scottish heritage. I've never opened the locket part so I don't know what if anything is inside. If you look through the other items in this box you'll find a drawing of your great grandparents, your grandmother appears to be wearing the cameo; her wedding ring is in there too."
Ike took the cameo in his hand and looked at it closely. "My grandmother wore this?"
"I believe so; I'm hoping that your grandchildren will wear it too." Buck said. "The Kiowa cherish their ancestors and traditions. I know your Father cherished his family and I hope you'll honor him and continue these traditions with your own family." Buck stood up leaving Ike sitting on the sofa holding the cameo; the box sat on his knees.
The next day the two families enjoyed Ike's favorite dinner; roast beef, mashed potatoes, both with gravy, and carrots drenched in butter all followed by a chocolate sour cream cake with butter cream frosting. Ike and Victoria looked truly happy together and both sets of parents agreed there was a wedding in the future. Buck was surprised to see that Victoria was not wearing the cameo but said nothing. He was just glad they were waiting.
"Pa, can I talk to you about somethin'?" Ike asked one day about three months later as the pair rode along checking the fencing on the back pasture.
Buck pulled his horse to a halt. "Sure son what's on your mind?"
"I think I know now why you asked me to wait before askin' Victoria to marry me." Ike started rubbing his horse's neck. "I think we're both ready now. Ma said the most important thing in your marriage was bein' able to talk to each other, no secrets, well except for surprise type secrets. I want a marriage like yours, I know you and Ma ain't my birth parents but you never treated me different from the others. Thanks for bein' you." Ike smiled at Buck who was hoping he wouldn't cry in front of his son. "But what I really wanted to know was how did you ask Ma to marry you?"
Buck started to laugh nervously. "You mean to tell me none of your Uncles or your Aunt Louise ever told you how I made a fool of myself?" Ike shook his head. "It was the night of a dance which one I don't remember, I'm sure your Ma does though. Anyway Louise, Rachel and your Ma all got ready over at the house and Kid and I got ready in the bunkhouse. Teaspoon met us over at the house and we waited at the foot of the stairs for the women to come down. I was so scared. Louise came down first and looked beautiful as always, then Rachel same thing, finally your Ma comes down the stairs and she is out of this world pretty, I took her hand looked her right in the eyes and asked her to marry Ike and give little me a mother. I didn't even know I'd said it….I had all this stuff planned but I went stupid just at the wrong moment. It was horrible……Go ahead and laugh everyone else did….I'm surprised your Uncle Cody didn't have a banner made to hang across main street." Buck looked at Ike and the pair began laughing. "It is kinda funny now!"
"I'm gonna guess she said yes!" Ike said in between guffaws.
"That would be a good guess. When are you planning on asking her?" Buck asked when they both calmed down and caught their breath.
"Just before the dance next week. Her father said she has to finish school first but the rest is up to us. I was thinking May or June might be a nice time for a wedding." Ike said looking off into the distance. "Hey Pa, I love you! HA!" Ike kicked his horse and raced away.
"Why you…..HA!" Buck kicked his horse and raced after his son.
The night of the dance the Cross family arrived early so Jane and Ellie could help the Ladies Guild set up the refreshment table. People started arriving and neither Buck nor Jane noticed that their oldest son wasn't there until Buck spotted Victoria's little sister dancing with Noah. "Jane, have you seen Ike?" Buck asked as they were dancing a slow dance and he tried not to step on her toes.
"They'll be here." Jane whispered.
Ten minutes later the young couple walked in hand in hand, the cameo accented her slender neck. "I guess she said yes" Jane said softly to her husband as the young couple approached.
"Ma, Pa, I did it! I asked her to be my wife and she said yes!" Ike's eyes sparkled with joy. Victoria looked adoringly at Ike and both Jane and Buck smiled as they reached for the couple to hug them.
Buck took Ike in his arms and whispered, "I'm glad to see you following tradition son and the hay in your hair tells me you are just like your father!" Buck plucked the strands of hay out of Ike's hair and sighed thankful May wasn't far off.
A/N This is also part of the Buck and Jane series