Topic #52: Thankful
By the Fire   by:  Miss Raye
A Bruised Rump  by:  Ty
Home by Night by: Cindy One of the Boys   by: Debbie
Thankful  by: Nina
By the Fire
by: Miss Raye

Sam sat back in his chair at the far end of the table surveying the chaos that reigned around him.

Dinner out at the Pony Express station was always a lively event and today was no different.

All the riders were present, along with Teaspoon Hunter and the apple of his eye, Emma Shannon.

Just then, Emma caught his eye. As she set a pumpkin pie on the table, she winked at him with a promising smile.

Yes, he sure had a lot to be thankful for this year. There was a good woman that he loved and it looked like she felt the same about him.

He had made friends with all of the Express riders and the station master too. They'd already helped him out a time or two when he was in a bind.

Hard to believe not long ago, he was feeling lonely and now, he couldn't be happier here with this rag-tag bunch of kids as they fought over who got the biggest piece of pie.
A Bruised Rump 
by: Ty

Lou sat alone in the barn trying to hold back the tears. Tears because she had gotten a bruised rump.

She had a job with people that didn't make her do things she didn't want to do. She didn't have to worry where her next meal would come from, or if she would have a roof over her head that night. She had friends, no family, that took care of each other, so she could relax and not always be on guard.

So why did she want to cry? Because she had to let out the happiness out somehow and running around hugging and kissing the others would get her some very strange looks and maybe a shove or two.

She wanted to cry because a poster had spooked her horse last March; because she had fallen off the horse; because she had read the poster; and because she had become a Pony Express Rider.

Lou whispered quietly into the darkness of the barn, "Thank you Lord for bruising my rump."
Home by Night
by: Cindy

It was well after dark, and he considered stopping. No one expected him back from the special delivery assignment until the next day, and it had been a long, hard ride.

Still, something drove him to continue on.

The nearly-full moon lit the prairie, providing enough light to guide the horse by. And so it was that Sweetwater came into view an hour or so after midnight.

He continued on, past the sleeping town, onward toward the Pony Express station.

Toward home.

The farm finally came into view, the buildings showing an almost unearthly glow under the moon and stars.

He rode through the yard slowly, to make as little noise as possible. To his left, the house stood silent and dark. Emma would be asleep, of course. But she would be up before dawn, baking, preparing breakfast, and starting on the day’s chores.

A smile crossed Buck’s face as he imagined the smell of Emma’s freshly baked bread.

The tack house was dark and silent as well. Teaspoon would be sleeping – probably snoring and mumbling now and then. At least that’s how the stationmaster slept out on the trail.

The riders had a bet that Teaspoon spent his sleeping hours dreaming up some of the strange tasks he assigned them.

Buck dismounted when he got to the barn. He opened the door slowly, not wanting to spook any of the animals inside. That would just cause a ruckus and wake people unnecessarily. He led his horse inside, using the moonlight that filtered through the open door to lead the way to the stall.

It only took a few minutes to remove the gear from his horse, brush the trusty animal down, and make sure the feed bin was filled. And then he let himself out of the barn, carefully closing the door with barely a sound.

His shadow led him toward the bunkhouse. He paused just before he reached the porch and removed his boots. Padding silently on stockinged feet, he eased the door open and stepped inside.

The moonlight revealed a familiar, and comforting, sight. He could make out Lou, Cody, Jimmy, and Ike, sprawled in various poses on their bunks, all asleep.

Buck slipped silently over to his bunk. He stowed his boots, hung up his jacket and gun belt, and stripped down to his long johns. Then he pulled the blanket back on his bunk and slid into bed.

He leaned his head back on the pillow, just listening. All around were the sounds of light snoring and deep breathing.

And the sounds all belonged to friends.

Buck looked over at Ike’s bunk and smiled. It wasn’t all that long ago that the two of them were sleeping on the ground and begging for odd jobs here and there just to buy food.

And now . . . now, they had a home, friends, family.

He pulled the blanket up and turned on his side, the smile still on his face. The day they had seen the poster advertising for Pony Express riders had truly been a lucky one.

Buck whispered a quick thanks to the spirits he had grown up with, and he included the Christian deity he’d been introduced to at the mission for good measure. It couldn’t hurt, and he was very thankful for what they had found.

Then he closed his eyes, bidding sleep to come.
One of the Boys
by: Debbie

Lou paused just outside the bunkhouse door, listening to all the banter floating through the wood toward her. It was the usual conversation before each dinner was served. Someone would be talking about the ride they'd taken; someone else would be mentioning something they'd witnessed or overheard from their visit to town; Emma would be asking if they were all washed up; Cody would be trying to peak around Emma's shoulders to see what she was slicing or what was in the pot on the stove;and Teaspoon would be trying to talk about the dull roar to ask if all the chores of the day had been taken care of.

She couldn't help but smile because as of that morning, she had never thought she would hear all those conversations again. The return ride to the station after bringing her brother and sister back to the orphanage had been one of the longest rides of her life. It matched the worry she felt when they'd ridden toward Eagle's Canyon a couple days earlier but that had ended happily and this was the end of something that meant a lot to her. She would have to tell Teaspoon she was a girl and he would be forced to fire her for breaking the rules. Well she would be thankful for the short time she'd had to get to know the riders and become their friend; there was nothing else she could do.

But then she had stopped riding once the station had come into view and for the first time, the boys had talked about her being a girl and then they did the most shocking, touching thing any one could do for her - all of them agreed with Kid when he said 'ain't nothin' to tell' as they promised to back her up if anyone questioned her being a man. She'd already been blessed with Kid not telling when he learned who she really was but he was one person; this was four totally different individuals who all decided that she was worth keeping a secret for.

Lou was so grateful to each and every one of them for not treating her any differently from the moment they'd ridden into the yard. Yes, there were a few stares every now and then, particularly from Jimmy and Kid, but that made her feel good knowing it had to do with Jimmy's comment that she was 'the prettiest boy' he'd ever seen.

As she reached for the door knob, Lou wracked her brain quickly trying to figure out a way to thank them for doing this special thing for her and that she would never forget their kindness. She couldn't exactly show them her gratitude the same way she had when Kid had made his promise to her. She blushed as she recalled the peck on the cheek that had turned into a full-fledged kiss. No, it would definitely make her seem 'girly' if she went around before bed and gave each of them a kiss on the cheek. She didn't want them to see her any differently than was necessary and besides, Lou kind of liked that she'd shared that special moment with Kid and deep inside, she kept wishing it would happen again.

Well she would think of something besides just telling them 'thanks'. It just might take some time and thanks to them, she had a lot of that now. Lou tried to hide the smile that had continued to creep onto her mouth all day due to her happiness. She finally turned the knob her hand had been resting on and prepared to do what the boys had allowed her the opportunity to continue - she stepped into the room and became just one of the boys.
by: Nina

A continuation of chapter 12 of Never Going Back There

Jimmy had been hearing the conversation between Buck and Teaspoon even though he knew that he wasn’t supposed to. He blamed it on not having the ability to shut off his ears. When Teaspoon left Buck’s room, the two shared a look. Jimmy wasn’t sure what it meant but at the moment he didn’t give it much thought.

Buck looked so peaceful sleeping. He had curled up on his side and if Jimmy wasn’t mistaken a smile lured at his friend’s lips. Jimmy sat down on the chair next to the bed and watched over his friend. He would never really admit it but he had been so scared he didn’t know what to do with himself.

The wounds were all healed up now. But the scars remained. Jimmy felt nauseous when one naked arm stuck out from the covers. The white lines stood out of the skin. “I’m just glad that you are alive.” He said it in a low voice so that he wouldn’t wake Buck. Slowly he turned his head when Teaspoon put a hand on his shoulder.

“So am I, son. So am I.”
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