Topic #31: Pictures - the West of the Story
|Willing to Try by: Lori
in Need - Part 3 by: Sameena
|Memorial by: Lori
by: Michelle R
| What Was and Will Be by: Cindy
“What have you been drinking?” Jimmy sputtered.
“Punch, you nit,” she snapped. She wished he would let go of her but he held her firmly in place. She pushed at his chest and he reluctantly dropped his hands from her arms.
She felt the world start to turn faster than normal and she placed her hands on her knees, leaning forward a bit, ignoring the curious glances of the people going in and out of the hall. She certainly hoped everyone would just go inside, because she was going to be sick.
“Are you okay?” Jimmy asked and Priscilla hated hearing the concern in his voice.
“I’m fine, just go,” she retorted.
Instead of going, Jimmy put an arm around her waist and led her to the side of the building. Leaning heavily against it, Priscilla took a deep breath while a black and white dog eyed them warily.
It felt good to be outside in the night air, away from all those people, away from the stale smell of cheroots filling the air. Priscilla inhaled deeply once more; relieved that her head had decided to stop spinning for the moment and her stomach slowed it’s violent churning.
“I’m fine,” she repeated. “You can go now.”
“Thanks,” Jimmy replied dryly. “But maybe I’ll stick around to make sure you don’t fall over again.”
“I didn’t fall,” Priscilla grumbled under her breath.
Jimmy laughed softly.
Priscilla raised her head, her eyes flashing. “And I do not need your help,” she said stiffly. “So why are you sticking around here?” She paused, studying him for a moment before she answered her own question. “Waiting for a chance to laugh at me?”
“No,” Jimmy answered, instantly becoming serious.
“You did you duty, you brought me here, so William could bring Lorna,” Priscilla continued. “Your job is done.” She regarded him closely. “How did William persuade you, blackmail?” No one willingly chose to be in her company.
Jimmy arched a brow upward.
“You owe him a favor?” she asked, still fishing. Once again she was met by silence.
“He paid you?” Priscilla continued her query.
“He offered to pay me,” Jimmy admitted.
Priscilla felt her mouth drop open and her stomach lurch once more. She suspected something but she didn’t expect Jimmy to be so blunt about it.
“I see,” she said, turning her head to the right slightly so he wouldn’t see her eyes well up. “I hope it was a lot.”
“So far it’s been nothing,” Jimmy answered, his voice light.
Priscilla pushed herself off the wall, deciding to leave then and there. She stumbled but quickly righted herself. She would not lose her dignity or whatever was left of it. But Jimmy caught her arms once more.
“What is wrong with you?” Priscilla half shouted. “Why do you insist on pawing me all the time?”
“Listen,” Jimmy said loudly, pushing her back against the wall. He put both hands on either side of her head, so she had no choice but to stay in place and she had no choice but to look at him.
“How well do you know Cody?” he asked sternly.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“If you knew Cody, you’d know he has no money, ever.”
“So what? Now he will be indebted to you forever.”
Jimmy laughed softly. “Yeah, like he doesn’t already owe me.”
Priscilla balled up her fist and struck Jimmy on the chest. But he did not so much as flinch. He merely glanced at her hand and continued speaking. “I wanted to come to this dance. With you.”
Priscilla stared at him, thunderstruck. She could not have heard right. “Just because I look like Lorna doesn’t mean I act like her,” she managed. It had happened before; a man rejected by Lorna had turned to her because they shared many of the same features. But where Lorna was sweet, she was tart, where Lorna was demure and thoughtful, she was brash and rarely did she think before speaking.
“I saw you at the pond a few weeks ago,” Jimmy told her.
Priscilla swallowed hard. The way he was looking at her made her weak all over. And what he was saying . . . He knew about the pond incident? And he was still here? With her?
“One of the older girls pushed your little brother in the pond,” Jimmy said with a smile.
“Emily pushed John in,” Priscilla said, supplying the names, as she did not know how else to respond. She knew the story. Her father had been quite cross with her. So why was Jimmy smiling?
“Yeah,” Jimmy said, nodding. “I was coming back from a run and I saw it. I was wondering if he needed any help then I saw you march over and push Emily in.”
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Priscilla mumbled. She had been so angry with Emily that she acted without a single thought. ‘How do you like the water?’ she had shouted at her younger sister.
“But then you jumped in and fished them both out,” Jimmy laughed.
“I had to,” Priscilla muttered. She could not just leave Emily in the water like that. She glanced up quickly and saw, much to her surprise, that Jimmy was still grinning.
“Emily looked so mad and John was ready to cry and you were laughing.” Jimmy shook his head. “Then you all started laughing and started walking away together. I never saw anyone handle a problem the way you do.”
Priscilla lowered her head, feeling utterly confused. He liked that about her? He liked her rash behavior? It made no sense, yet it sent tingles up and down her spine, all the way down to her stomach.
“Is that a good thing?” Priscilla asked softly, still staring at the ground, the blood pounding between her ears. She wanted to hear the words, out loud.
“Very good,” Jimmy whispered, leaning in.
“Oh Lord,” she whispered. She clutched her abdomen, leaned over and threw up, right on Jimmy’s boots.
You could see the swirls of dust blowing through the empty streets. An eerie feeling was what was felt amongst the two Pony Express riders as they rode in to the edge of town. The streets were completely empty as if the entire town had just uprooted and left the area.
The two riders looked at each other with questioning faces.
“Are we sure that this is the same town where Teaspoon said we had to make that special run to?”
Jimmy looked to his left at the sign where the town’s sign was posted. It was a little worse for wear and the writing was faded, but it was still legible.
“It says that we’re here in Hook’s, Lou.”
“I don’t have a good feelin’ Jimmy. They’re ain’t nobody here. Why would Teaspoon send us to a town that’s got no one in it?” She kept glancing towards the other end of town, trying to see if she could spot anyone else besides them selves.
“Ah…don’t worry Lou. Maybe they all went to church or somethin’.” He was trying to keep Lou’s wits about her, but he was having a time of keeping his to himself too. He didn’t have a real good feelin’ about the town either, but he didn’t think they should jump to conclusions. He also knew though that he always trusted Lou’s instincts, and if she didn’t feel right about something then there usually was a reason. He’d just make sure that they were extra careful as they rode further into town.
“Let’s just go in to town a bit further and head towards the way station. I’m sure someone will be there and ‘ll be able to tell us what’s goin’ on.”
He gently tapped Sundance on his sides and then trotted slowly in towards town and towards the Pony Express Way Station. Lou picked up on what he was doin’ and followed closely by his side, watchin’ the right side of town while he watched on the left.
“Let’s just stick close together, how’s that sound?”
“Sounds fine by me Jimmy,” Lou smiled over at him.
They slowly trotted in to town, both with their eyes carefully watching their surroundings. The only thing you could here in town was the quiet hoof beets of Sundance and Lightning and the steady breathing of the two riders. That’s until Jimmy quickly turned towards his left when he heard glass bein’ broken in the Mercantile’s window.
Quickly pulling up on Sundance’s reigns he stopped, “Whoa.”
Picking up on the same noise Jimmy did, Lou stopped Lightning and quickly drew her gun, the same as he had done and pointed it towards where the noise had come from.
“Who’s in there?”
There was nothin’ but the sound of their own breathing and the wind that was whistling between the buildings.
“Damn it! Who’s ever in there, come on out!” The frustration in Jimmy’s voice was apparent to Lou. Comin’ into this once bustling town, which is now basically a ghost town, had both of them on edge.
After that initial noise of the glass breaking there was nothin’ else.
“Maybe it just fell out of the window Jimmy,” trying to sound more calm that what she was feeling, Lou glanced towards the right of her again. Just to make sure that no one was over on the other side.
Still feelin’ unsure of the situation, Jimmy slowly started to holster his Colt again, “Yeah. Maybe.”
They both started back towards the end of town, the feelin’ that they were bein’ watched was still doggin’ them, but they kept movin’ on through.
Tryin’ to keep their minds off of the eeriness of the place, they tried to keep up a bit of light conversation.
“So, Lou…”Jimmy sounded kind of nervous when he was talkin’ to her. She wasn’t sure if it was the situation they were in or if it was somethin’ else.
“You know how the town’s havin’ a social next week right?” Was it him or was his palms actually sweatin’ here?
Lou turned towards him with a small grin on her face, “Mm hmmm.”
He couldn’t believe it. How could this one small, but amazin’ woman make him so nervous and happy at the same time? He couldn’t believe he was doin’ this. Was it too soon for him to ask since she and Kid had gone their separate ways? All the doubts were startin’ to rush through his head. Was he makin’ a mistake by askin’ her? Was it gonna ruin his friendship with Kid if he did ask her? But wait, Kid was already takin’ Miss Myra to the social. Why shouldn’t Lou be happy and be able to go?
He was so lost in his thoughts that he left Lou wonderin’ what he was gonna say next, “Uh…Jimmy? You ok?”
Waking him from his ramblin’ thoughts, Jimmy pulled up on his faithful mounts reigns. Lou pulled up on Lightning’s as well to look at him.
“I was just wonderin’ if you’d like to go with me?”
There. He’d done it. He had to quietly sigh in relief. Things had been kind of tense between he and Louise lately. It’s as if they were seein’ each other in a different light. He knew he’d always had some more than friendly feelin’s towards her, especially after seein’ her in that pink dress that she had bought so long ago. But, he had also always thought that she and Kid would end up together. But, amazingly enough, things didn’t work out that way. Their were so many times that he was ready to knock Kid upside the head for some of the stuff he kept doin’ to Lou. How could he not see that she was perfectly fine the way she was. He had kept on tryin’ to change her for what he thought was the perfect lady, when Jimmy saw that she was perfect the way she was.
“Yes. I’d love to go to the social with you Jimmy.” Lou had a small blush rise to her cheeks. The way Jimmy was lookin’ at her made her feel like she was absolutely beautiful.
She leaned over and gently kissed him on the cheek, quickly pullin’ back to make sure no one had seen them.
That’s when everything had turned into a blur. The first thing they had heard was a single gunshot, that’s when she saw Jimmy start to slump forward.
Louise quickly drew her gun and aimed in the direction of the bank’s windows where she had thought she had heard shot come from. While also tryin’ to keep Jimmy and Sundance close to her and Lightning’s side.
“I’m fine Lou,” Jimmy seethed through the pain.
“They just hit my shoulder, I’m ok.”
Lou looked at his left arm while tryin’ to keep an eye out towards where the shot had come from. “You sure? I’m still plannin’ on you takin’ me to that social next week.” She tried lightning up the mood with a quick wink.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Lou.”
That’s when another shot was fired, this time from the back of the bank, barely missing Lou.
“That’s it, I’m tired of just ridin’ out here like we’re sittin’ ducks.” Jimmy and Lou spurred their horses towards the only cover they could really see which was an abandoned buckboard.
“We can at least take cover behind this, until we can find these fellas.”
They both quickly dismounted and let their horses’ head off into the prairie, knowing that both of their mounts were trained well enough to stay close but away from the immediate area.
They both knelt behind the buckboard keeping an eye out for any more of whomever it was that was takin’ shots at them.
“Did you see how many of them there were?”
“I know I saw one, but there has to at least be two since that one was able to hit you in the shoulder and then the other one was takin’ shots at us from behind the bank.”
Lookin’ over at Jimmy, she eyed his shoulder and his quickly paling pallor. “Are you gonna be ok?”
“I’ll be fine Lou. Don’t you worry none about this, I’ve had worse.”
“Yeah, I know. But still, you’re losin’ a lot of blood.”
“I’ll be ok. The sooner we can catch these guys the sooner we can get to Ft. Laramie and I can get patched up.”
“Then at least let me do this.” She grabbed the edge of her now untucked shirt and ripped the bottom edge off. With that she put down her gun for a second and bound his shoulder up.
“Hopefully you won’t do anymore damage to that shoulder with it bein’ bound up like that.”
Jimmy smiled at her, “thanks Lou.”
It had been at least five minutes since the last round of gunfire. They knew somethin’ had to be up.
“Who are these fellas? And why are they shootin’ at us?”
“Somethin’ tells me we walked in to a bank robbery. That’s probably why the town is so empty.” Jimmy whispered over to her.
“I don’t know who they are, but I’d love to know why the Marshall ain’t out here tryin’ to stop ‘em.”
“Maybe he didn’t make it.”
Jimmy looked at her questioningly, “What?”
“When I looked back by the bank where the shots were comin’ from, I saw a man lyin’ there. It looked like it must’ve been the Marshall. He still had his badge on.”
With a sigh, Jimmy couldn’t help but think how rotten their luck had turned. “Well. I guess it’s up to you and me to catch us some bank robbers and then we’ll ride ‘em in to Ft. Laramie for their Marshall to take care of ‘em.”
“I guess so. Just promise me Jimmy that you’re gonna take care of that shoulder,” Lou was worried about him. He’s always been a stubborn man and made sure that everyone else around him was taken care of before he took care of himself. Well, she was gonna make sure that he took care of himself this time.
“I promise Lou. And when we’re back home in Rock Creek, I’ll make sure that you have the best time at the town social.”
She gave him a gentle kiss, “I’m countin’ on it.”
With a new surge of energy thanks to the kiss that Lou gave him, Jimmy got back up, “Let’s go get these guys.”
“You lead the way.”
After deciding to go separate ways to surround the two bank robbers, or at least they hoped it was just two bank robbers, or their odds went down real quick, they both quietly went behind the town’s buildings.
Quietly, Jimmy walked in a crouched position tryin’ to find the idiot who had shot him. He had a bone to pick with this guy and he wasn’t gonna let him off easy. That’s when he saw it. There was a quick movement he saw out of the corner of his eye. There was a man dressed in brown pants and a ratty jacket with a bandana around his neck aimin’ right at where he had just seen Lou creep by.
Cocking his Colt, Jimmy aimed it at him. “Don’t even think about it. Or so help me God, I’ll shoot you right into next week.”
The surprised robber dropped his gun and put his hands up. Slowly he started to stand up, but he had an ace that he was sure this fella didn’t know about. As he started to stand, he quickly dropped his right hand and tried grabbin’ for another gun he had stashed in front of him as a back up. Seein’ the quick movement, Jimmy warned him.
“Both hands up in the air! I ain’t foolin’! Don’t make me shoot you!”
Without a blink of an eye the robber tried turning around to aim at Jimmy, but Jimmy was too quick for him. It took just one shot, and the robber was gone.
Jimmy walked towards him, kicking the gun dead man’s gun away just in case.
He had hoped that all the commotion that he had made didn’t spook Lou and the other guy.
Jimmy decided to keep runnin’ back behind the buildings to see if he can go help her, just in case there was more than one robber that she was dealin’ with. Oh, he knew she’d be able to handle the situation on her own. But, they had no idea really what they were dealin’ with in this town. It had certainly been full of surprises. With that last thought he was off towards the back of the bank where he had hoped to find Lou safe and all in once piece.
Lou was tryin’ to keep as quiet as a mouse. The last time she had seen this guy, he was directly behind the bank and he was aimin’ right at her and Jimmy. She hoped that he was still there and wasn’t tryin’ to get a jump on her.
That’s when she had heard the gunshot from where Jimmy was. She hoped with all her heart that it was him doin’ the shootin’. She wanted nothin’ to happen to him, she loved him. At first he was one of her best friends, he had always listened to her problems whenever she wanted to talk to someone. Most of the time it was about Kid, but he always listened to her. But over time, she had realized that she was beginning to feel more than just friendship for him. He was always treatin’ her like she was an equal to him. She never felt like she had to prove herself to him, and he always believed in her. And most but not least, he didn’t try to change her. Was she fallin’ for him? She wasn’t sure, things were still so fresh after her and Kid had gone their separate ways. But, she also knew that she didn’t want Jimmy to get away. If any one could match her, it was Jimmy Hickock.
There were no more shots fired, so she resumed sneaking behind the building, getting closer to the bank. That’s when she saw him. It was the same fella that was aiming at them.
“Hold it right there!”
He sneered at her as he turned towards her voice, “Who says?”
“That don’t matter. Just drop you’re gun.”
“Over my dead body!” The bank robber quickly stood up and tried makin’ a jump for Lou when he stopped right in his tracks. Lou looked at him in surprise. She hadn’t fired that shot, her gun had jammed as she was tryin’ to pull the trigger.
That’s when she looked up and saw Jimmy standin’ in front of her and the robber out cold at her feet.
“You ok Lou?” Jimmy looked concerned at her.
Still shocked over everything that had just happened, “Yeah, thanks.”
He walked over towards her and the now unconscious man at her feet, “You sure?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. My damn gun jammed on me.”
“Probably all the dirt got caught up in it.” Jimmy took it from her slightly tremblin’ hand and looked at it. “We’ll clean it up and it’ll be as good as new.”
“How’d you know where we were?”
“I ran into his friend over on the other side of town. He ain’t with us any more, so I figured I’d come on over here and see if I could help. ‘specially since we didn’t know how many of these fellas there were.”
“Good timin’.” Lou slowed her breathing down.
Lou had noticed that Jimmy’s voice seemed a bit faltered and that when she had seen that blood was seeping through his make shift bandage. “Jimmy? Let’s get this guy tied up and head into Ft. Laramie and get you looked at.”
“Alright, alright. I said you didn’t need to worry about me. I’m fine.”
“I’m sure you will be, but just listen to me ok? I’m expectin’ you to take me to that social next week and show me a real good time.”
“Like I said Lou. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Good. Let’s get goin’ then.” Without thinkin’ about it though, Lou leaned over and kissed him again. Sendin’ a tremor through his entire body.
“Thanks again for your help Jimmy.”
“Any time Lou. Any time.” Jimmy blushed.
With that they tied up the hands of the wounded bank robber and put him on the back of Lightning while she and Jimmy rode on the back of Sundance towards the next station, with thoughts of their new found relationship and the next adventures they would embark on and a town social that wasn’t comin’ soon enough.
Close to town…but not too close.
Near people…but not really a part of them.
Tolerated…but not really accepted.
He sighed and looked around the small building. It was part of his payment for his job. A small tack shop near the livery, with a tiny partition in the back for sleeping.
The owner was skeptical, but after being thrown by a horse he was forced to admit he needed some help. And when the stranger was able to soothe the raging beast, even the skeptic was forced to admit he was different.
And like always, when Ike proved unable to speak and answer the owner’s questions the man had been ready to run him off like a freak. But the older man’s wife said beggars can’t be choosers and said he looked like an able bodied enough boy despite his deformity and he’d be useful until the man regained his strength.
So, he was told he could stay, but only in the room in the store. It was obvious they didn’t trust him, or want him too close to them. He was tempted to refuse the job, but it had been too long without money. He and Buck were hungry, and he was looking forward to eating something besides fish or wild rabbit. He missed fresh vegetables and fruits. The money the couple offered to pay him would help supplement their diet, and he couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
Looking out the window he wondered how Buck was doing. The couple hadn’t realized the two friends were traveling together, and as they set about scolding Buck off their property he signed to Ike to stay and take the job. He would be fine, he would be close by.
He wished he was stronger, able to tell the couple that Buck was his friend and if they didn’t let Buck stay he wasn’t going to either. But too many days of an empty belly had silenced his protests and made him accept the temporary situation.
The man was getting stronger, and Ike looked forward to the day when they came to him and said he was no longer needed. Money was helpful, but he was tired of feeling like he’d sold his soul for a few pieces of silver.
He looked up when he heard the soft, mournful sound of an owl float down from the trees above town. Turning, he cast a glance at the house. The windows were dark. The sound drifted down again, and he wondered what Buck needed. It had to be something important for his friend to call for him.
Slipping through the darkness, he quickly made his way to the woods. He paused, peering in the filtered moonlight to figure where his friend was camped, but realized it wasn’t necessary when he heard leaves rustling. “Over here, Ike.”
When he reached Buck, he quickly asked why his friend called for him. Buck handed him a piece of paper. “Read it back at the store, but I think I found something. There’s a company looking to hire people to ride horses and deliver the mail. I don’t know if we’d get hired, but I figure it’s gotta be better than drifting around looking for odd jobs.”
He nodded in the darkness, and then handed over a wrapped bundle with an apple and a biscuit he’d saved from his lunch. He’d meant to eat them later tonight, but figured his friend needed them more.
“Thanks, Ike,” Buck said appreciatively. “You should get back before someone notices you’re missing. Only a couple of days more, Ike, and then we’ll check this out. It may be nothing, but it’s better than what we’re doing now.”
Then he melted back into the trees and Ike
turned back for the town. Once back in his tiny room, he lit a
candle and unfolded the parchment paper.
Wanted. Expert Riders…
Leaning back against the wall as he sat on the bed, he folded the paper and tucked it into his belongings. It sounded hopeful…something that could work. Since they were asking for orphans, maybe they wouldn’t care he couldn’t speak or that Buck was part Indian. If they were turned away, it wouldn’t matter. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But he was willing to try…he was certainly willing to try.
She hated this place.
Every time she came here, she wondered why she tortured herself. Why she subjected herself to the overwhelming hatred that burned inside her.
People went on with their lives, pausing just a moment to gawk at a crudely constructed placard. They spoke in hushed tones, almost reverently, at the great figure who had graced the red-brick walls.
She wanted to scream at them. Curse them. Tell them to leave. But they had no clue at the cruelty they inflicted with their words.
The structure itself mocked her…and her pain. Strong, durable, indestructible. It had been designed to keep people out…and specific people inside. If it had been wood, she could have burned it. Watched the flame grow, eradicating the stain in her heart with its intense heat. But she was denied even that.
She made her way closer, her eyes staring unseeingly at the wooden marker attached to the wall. She didn’t need to read the words; she had long ago memorized them.
Final residing place of James Butler Hickok, aka “Wild Bill.” Arrested for murder, Hickok was killed in an escape attempt in 1871.
If one asked the locals, they would talk about the wondrous blessing that occurred that day. A menace to society, he deserved what he got. They always seemed to somehow fail to mention that he had an alibi for the night the murder occurred or that nobody had ever escaped from the jail. They were also silent on how he was waiting for a lawyer to arrive after friends had rallied behind him. He wouldn’t have escaped, couldn’t have even made a run for the door considering he was held in leg irons, but it was a wonderful lie to cover the truth he’d been gunned down in cold blood after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. The town just wanted the notoriety, and they didn’t care how they had to go about getting it.
But she knew the truth. It had been told to her since she was born, by the woman who knew what really happened that night. Her mother had been with her father, celebrating the news that they were going to be parents in seven months time. He had surprised her by presenting her with the deed to land he’d purchased. Land that they were on all night long, celebrating under the stars.
But for a former gunslinger and a former whore, their words were tarnished to the good, pious citizens of the town. They were called liars and after his death, her mother was run out of town. She would have left anyways, rather than give birth to James’ daughter in the town where he was murdered.
Her hand drifted down to her pocket, and she could feel the thick parchment through the material of her dress. She didn’t need to pull it out. She had those words memorized as well. And those words were more beautiful than the blackened letters on the memorial.
My dearest child,
You will never know just how much I loved you. You will never know just how proud I was the day your mother told me you were coming. There are people in this world who don’t like what they can’t control, and I fear that they will somehow prevent me from being there when you are born.
Know that no matter what you hear, your father loved you more than words can tell.
Closing her eyes tightly against the burn of tears, she took a deep breath and turned. Her mother still held the deed to the land, as well as the marriage certificate that gave her the right to claim it. She refused to return to this wasteland, but had signed the deed over to her daughter.
Armed with those important documents, it was time the citizens of this town found out that they may have killed the man, but his spirit lived on in his child. She was going to build a home here, and she was going to clear her father’s name, if it was the last thing she ever did. Turning, she spat on the aging marker, then marched resolutely to the title office.
The buildings came into view as they topped the final hill, and he flicked the reins a little harder, asking for just a bit more speed from the tired horses. This was what they had been looking for.
But as they got closer, he slowed the team, finally coming to a stop outside the town. “Damn,” Teaspoon swore under his breath.
“There’s no one here,” Polly said softly at his side.
They started forward again, slowly. The buildings were there, standing in a neat row, just as they both remembered. But a closer look revealed more of the story. Windows were broken all along the street, shutters hung askew, and doors swung lazily in the wind.
Teaspoon guided their wagon around an abandoned, weather-beaten wagon at the edge of the main street and then he stopped. He climbed down out of the wagon and turned back to help Polly down.
Together, they stood and surveyed the town, matching memories to what they saw now. Several minutes passed in silence until a rider appeared at the other end of the abandoned town.
Teaspoon lifted a hand to shade his eyes against the late afternoon sun. Then he raised that hand in greeting as he recognized the rider.
Buck stopped his horse near the wagon. “I found the camp,” he reported as he dismounted. “It’s about three miles the other side of that hill,” he added, pointing at a rocky promontory to the west.
“That’s good,” Teaspoon said absently, his attention still on the town.
Buck looked around himself. “This is where you lived?”
“Where we were going to live,” Polly corrected gently. “We never got here.”
“We came here a lot, usually on Sunday afternoon rides after church,” Teaspoon said. His eyes took on a far-away look as he remembered. “In the summer, they had picnics here every week. Right out there, in that field.”
“There was dancing in the evenings, and there were always games going on,” Polly added. “Sugarlips here was always good at horseshoes.”
Teaspoon smiled at the affectionate name and put an arm around Polly’s shoulders. “There were races for the children. Bobbing for apples, and even games testing their school learning.”
“You could bring your own food,” Polly said. “Or buy food here. The women from the church did the cooking, and the money went to pay for the festivities.”
“It sounds nice,” Buck commented.
“It was heaven,” Polly agreed.
Teaspoon stepped forward. “That there was the general store,” he said, pointing down the street.
“A dress shop was over there,” Polly added. “And the school was just behind over there.”
“The sheriff’s office was that building on the end,” Teaspoon said.
“Lon Carver,” Polly remembered, taking his arm again. “He was getting ready to retire and my father was going to recommend you as his replacement.” She paused, looking out to the south. “We had the place for our house all picked out,” she added quietly.
“Then I took off on that manhunt,” Teaspoon said sadly. “I shoulda turned back. But I was young, and stubborn . . .”
Polly tightened her grip on his hand. “It wasn’t meant to be then,” she whispered.
Teaspoon just gripped her hand as well, struggling against a lump in his throat. “And now?” he finally asked.
“Now, it is meant to be,” she whispered.
“You did get married again,” Buck said.
“That we did,” Teaspoon agreed. “And we’re home again.”
“Back in Texas,” Polly said. She looked around again, and shook her head sadly. “I knew the war had taken its toll. But I never expected it would affect Stone Hill.”
“War don’t play favorites,” Teaspoon said sadly. “Never has, never will.” He wiped away a tear and added, “Maybe someday folks’ll learn that.”
“So you’re not sorry you didn’t fight in the Civil War?” Buck asked. By mutual, unspoken consent that topic hadn’t been discussed much these last few years in Rock Creek.
Teaspoon shook his head. “I already seen enough war to last more’n a lifetime,” he answered. “It’s time to rebuild.”
“That’s why we’re here now,” Polly said.
“You really think they can rebuild the Texas Rangers?” Buck asked.
“I sure think they’re gonna try,” Teaspoon replied. “We done some good work before.”
“Texas is a big, big place,” Polly added. “They need to get some law back out here.”
“Got quite a few of us veterans invited back,” Teaspoon said. “And some real good new recruits,” he added, clapping Buck on the shoulder.
“If they’ll accept an Indian,” Buck replied skeptically. He still wasn’t sure about that part. But Teaspoon’s invitation had come at a time when he’d been very uncertain about his future path. He’d spent the war years, and the first couple of post-war years, working for Teaspoon in Rock Creek. But there’d been little to hold him there when Teaspoon had gotten the letter asking him to come back and help re-form the Rangers.
“They need every good man they can get,” Teaspoon said firmly. It wouldn’t necessarily be easy – but it would happen.
Buck just shrugged his shoulders. If it didn’t work out . . . well, that could be faced later. Until then, the man he respected above all others had asked for his help, and he’d give it. He glanced toward the west, noting the setting sun. “Do you want to try and make it to the recruiting camp before dark?”
Polly stepped forward, looking around the deserted town again. “So many good memories here,” she said softly.
“Yup, that there are,” Teaspoon agreed. “And who knows – with the Rangers back, maybe people will come back. Might be some good memories here again.”
“Maybe so,” Polly replied. She closed her eyes, almost able to hear the music from those long-ago dances.
“Buck, I think maybe we’ll just stay here tonight,” Teaspoon said quietly. “Less you got a problem with that?”
“No problem at all,” Buck answered, smiling. He hadn’t seen Teaspoon or Polly this happy in a long time. And that made him happy too. “I passed a livery on the other side of town. It still looked pretty solid.”
“Guess we’ll head there then,” Teaspoon agreed. “Get the horses taken care of.”
“I’ll take care of the horses,” Buck said. He led his horse toward the wagon and took hold of the harness. “You just take your time,” he added as he led the horses away.
“I’m glad Buck decided to come with us,” Polly said as they watched the younger man walk away down the street.
“Me too,” Teaspoon agreed. “Wasn’t sure he would. But now it’s not like the whole family’s torn apart.”
They stood in silence for a few minutes as the sun sank below the horizon. Finally, with just the hint of a reddish glow still lighting the western sky, Polly spoke up. “This was a real nice place, Sugarlips.”
“It was,” Teaspoon agreed softly. He closed his eyes, and in his mind he didn’t see the broken, abandoned buildings that surrounded him now. He saw Stone Hill as it had been – alive, happy, welcoming. “If me an’ Buck get assigned to this area, maybe we’ll still have that house over yonder.”
“That would be real nice,” Polly responded.
“It would indeed,” Teaspoon said. He took her hand again and smiled. “Let’s go see if Buck needs a hand, then get settled in for the night,” he suggested. “Tomorrow we’ll find that recruiting camp.”
“You’ll be a Ranger again,” Polly said. “How does it feel to be going back?”
Teaspoon shook his head. “It’s a whole new world out there after this war,” he said. “Ain’t gonna be like going back at all.” He leaned over and kissed Polly tenderly on the cheek. “I’m just real glad you’re here to share this new beginning.”
“I’m glad too,” she whispered.
They set off down the street then, walking hand in hand. Around them the shutters and doors banged in the wind. But they heard only the music of days gone by . . . and days yet to come.