Topic #94: When It Works
|Second Thoughts by: Shauna||The Perfect Plan by: Karen|
|A Good Thing by: Miss Raye||The Best Advice by: Cindy|
|Honey by: Jo||Overused by: Debbie|
|When It Works by: Ellie||When a Plan Works by: Dede|
|Cody's Contest by: Georgia||Jimmy Trap by: Lori|
Lou sat on the corral fence thinking about her feelings for Kid. She knew that they had changed in many ways since he proposed. She had feelings for someone else that were turning into romantic and loving feelings. This man had been there for her when she needed him and always had a way of calming her by his own calm presence. He was kind, patient and willing to help whenever it was needed. He also had such a loving and giving heart that had been hurt so many times she wanted to make him feel loved the way he should have been loved his whole life. She wanted to heal his heart and soul and make him feel wanted. She didn’t know when her feelings started to change; she just knew that they had changed. She had to tell Kid how she felt and give him back his ring. She was sure he would be hurt by this, but she couldn’t marry him while she had feelings for another man.
Lou walked into the bunkhouse looking for Kid. She saw him sitting on his bunk with his head in his hands.
“Kid? I need to talk to you. Is this a good time?” Lou said as she approached him.
Kid looked up and had a look of pure regret on his face. “Hi Lou. I’ve been wanting to talk to you too. Do you think I could go first?” Kid asked Louise.
“Sure Kid go ahead.” Lou replied wondering what was bothering him.
“Lou I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about you and me. I have to go back to Virginia to fight for my home. I can’t ask you to come with me to a place where people are battling one another to the death. It’s too dangerous and I won’t make you a widow right after we’re married. I can’t do that to you. I’m sorry Lou, I can’t marry you. I can’t put you in that type of danger.” Kid told Lou who was surprised but relieved. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“I wanted to tell you that I can’t marry you. I have developed feeling for someone else. I have to take the chance to see if he feels the same way about me. I guess this worked out for the best. I’m sorry that we couldn’t make it work, Kid. I’ll miss you something fierce.” Lou said to Kid as the look of worry came off his face. Lou took off her ring and handed it to Kid who had a sad look on his face.
“Who’s the lucky guy? Anyone I know?” Kid smiled at Lou who ducked her head as she blushed.
“You’ll find out soon enough. I haven’t even talked to him yet. So it may be nothing if he doesn’t feel the same way. I’m going to talk to him now. We can talk more later. Okay?” Lou said to Kid as she reached up and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“He’d be a fool to turn you down. I wish you luck.” Kid added as he walked out of the bunkhouse to the hitching post where Katy was. He thought a nice ride would do him some good.
Lou watched as Kid mounted Katy and rode off into the prairie. She then set her sights on the man she loved more than anything, hoping he felt the same way.
Lou walked into the barn she heard noise from up above her and knew he was in the hayloft. She climbed up the ladder. She saw him reading a book. He looked so handsome with his face free of stress and the only thing he needed to think about at that moment was his book.
Lou made her way to the top the ladder. He looked up and smiled at Lou. He was always happy to see her.
“Come on in a pull up some hay. I’m done with the book anyway. Is there something you wanted?” he asked as Lou sat down beside him.
"Umm. Yes there was something I wanted. I need to tell you something. Let me get it all out and then you can say what you have to say. Alright?" Lou said in a rush of words.
"Alright. This must be important. Go ahead." He replied as he steeled himself for something bad or disappointing as he looked at Lou.
"Well I have been feeling some things for a while and I had to tell you to see how it affected you. It's nothing bad in my mind but you may feel different. I have feelings for you and they ain't brother and sister type feelings. I'm in love with you and want to explore those feelings with you if you willing." Lou said biting her bottom lip.
"What about Kid?" He asked with his eyebrows raised. Not giving Lou any clue to how he felt.
"I talked to Kid and he was about to tell me that he couldn't marry me. He doesn't want to stay here. He's going to Virginia to fight for his home. He doesn't want to make me a widow. We're both relieved about this. No one gets hurt and everybody is getting what they want. Now will you tell me if I've gone too far?" Lou said hoping this would make it easier for him to share his feelings.
"Well Lou. I have to say this does surprise me. I never thought in a million years you would want to be with me. I do have feelings for you. More feelings than I should when Kid was in the picture. I guess I would like to explore these feelings too and see if it works."
"You mean when it works. There's no ifs about it. I love you with all my heart, Buck." Lou replied as she kissed him passionately. Buck responded to the kiss and their relationship was started.
As he made his way down the stairs, he wondered why he’d thought things would be different this time. He should have known that things would turn out this way; after all, isn’t that the way the world worked.
He made his way to the marshal’s office. Sam wasn’t there so he took the keys and locked himself in the nearest cell. He then tossed the keys back on the desk before settling down on the cot.
It wasn’t long after he’d sat that the others arrived. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the noise from outside. He let his mind go back in time to try and figure out why he’d put himself in this position yet again. He smiled as he remembered the first time he’d felt an attraction to someone.
That’s how the others found him – locked in a cell, sitting on a cot, smiling.
“What’s there to smile about?” asked Lou, glancing from his still form to the others.
Kid shrugged, and everyone else indicated they had no idea why he’d be happy. They were all thinking how ashamed they’d feel for having allowed themselves to be used that way. They quietly approached the bars of the cell.
“Buck?” Lou asked softly. “You alright?”
Buck opened his eyes and turned to face his friends. “I’m fine,” he replied. “Just figured I’d save Sam the trouble of having to come get me.”
*Why would he have to come get you?* asked Ike.
“I killed a man,” replied Buck calmly. He managed to keep the smile from returning. He didn’t think the others needed to know how good it felt to rid the world of this particular person.
“Who?” asked Jimmy.
“Rance,” said Buck. “He was going to shoot Mr. Devlin and possibly Kathleen so I killed him. I’m sure someone will be here…” he stopped speaking as the door to the office flew open and one of Devlin’s men came running in.
He pulled up short when he saw the group gathered around the cell. “Where’s the marshal?” he asked curtly.
“Don’t know,” replied Cody, moving so his hand rested on his side arm. “Want us to help you look for him?”
The man shook his head. “That’s alright. I can manage.” He quickly left.
A few minutes later Sam came into the office. He was accompanied by the man from earlier and Kathleen Devlin. He looked at Buck and the others before sitting at his desk. “Now,” he said to the man, “what was it you needed to tell me?”
The man glanced at the group still standing by Buck’s cell. He took a deep breath before beginning. “I came to tell you that you needed to arrest him,” he said pointing at Buck.
“Why?” asked Sam.
“He tried to kidnap Miss Devlin, and…” he had to stop speaking when everyone else – except Buck and Kathleen – objected.
“Quiet!” shouted Sam. Once everyone had stopped speaking he turned back to the man. “And…”
“When we rescued her, he came back here and murdered Rance.”
Sam nodded. He motioned for the riders to stay quiet as he turned to Kathleen Devlin. “That how things happened?” he asked.
Kathleen glanced at the man who nodded; she then looked past the riders to where Buck stood silently watching her. She finally turned her gaze upon Sam. “No,” she replied. “Buck didn’t kidnap me; he was helping me run away. He didn’t murder Rance; he prevented Rance for killing my father. He’s done nothing wrong; there’s no reason for him to be in jail.”
Sam nodded. “Thank you. You can both leave now.”
When the man started to object, Sam cut him off. “I won’t be holding a man that the young lady says did no wrong. I suggest that next time, you get your stories straight before you go accusing an innocent man of wrong doing. Now leave before I decide to arrest you for causing a public disturbance.”
Kathleen took hold of the man’s arm and lead him out of the office. She was telling him something about being lucky if he still had a job once she had a chance to talk to her father.
Sam watched them leave, and then opened the cell. He handed Buck his knife. “Want to add anything?” he asked.
Buck shook his head. “No, Sir,” he said as he placed the knife back in its sheath. “She pretty much said it all.”
“So why did you come over here instead of just going back to the station?” asked Sam.
“Didn’t’ want anyone else getting hurt on account of me,” said Buck. “I knew you’d learn the truth, and I’d get to go home. If I just left, they could come looking for me so…” he let the sentence drop.
“You knew they’d try to say you took her, didn’t you?” asked Lou.
“Figured they’d have to,” said Buck.
“Weren’t you concerned that she’d say the same thing? I mean…”
Buck stopped the comment from being completed. “No,” he said. “I knew she’d tell the truth. There was no reason for her to lie. She’d already gotten what she wanted, and when a plan works there’s no reason to create enemies by being mean.”
He moved across the room and took his hat from where he’d hung it when first entering the office. He then left, leaving the other riders shaking their heads in confusion.
by: Miss Raye
Teaspoon’s Rules of Courting
It started out as a simple mention. The foothills around Sweetwater were blooming with wildflowers.
Emma looked longingly at the tin cup in the center of the table, her fingers gently tracing the edge of her own cup. “Ike… these flowers are beautiful. Thank you.”
The young rider blushed and looked at his friend Buck in time to move out of the way of Buck’s congratulatory elbow meant for his side. Lou, from her seat across the table, gave him a wink.
Cody just couldn’t wrap his brain around it. “They’re wildflowers!”
Jimmy speared a piece of meat from his stew. “Yeah, so?”
“I ain’t never seen a women go all soft and sweet over wildflowers ‘fore.” He shook his head adamantly. “Women like all that expensive sweet smellin’ stuff and expensive gewgaws like what Tompkins has at the store.” He waited for someone to agree with him and then sputtered on, looking for someone to back him up. “Right, Kid? Like that perfume you were playin’ with?”
Lou’s snort was nearly covered by Kid’s coughing spell and Jed pounded on his brother’s back to rescue him from death, although avoiding embarrassment was not impossible. He gave Emma an exasperated look over Kid’s back and she smiled, the corners of her eyes wrinkling up with mirth.
Teaspoon gave Sam a look. “Uh… Marshal?”
Sam didn’t look away from Emma… or Jed when he answered. “Yeah?”
“You think,” Teaspoon couldn’t keep the twinge of humor from his voice, “you might wanna leave a little butter for the rest of us?”
Looking down at the piece of bread in his hand he saw the problem. The top face was heaped with butter; some of it was sliding off the edge of the piece and into the stew on his plate. “Sorry.”
“No arguments from me, Sam.” Cody had a wide grin on his face. “I love butter on everything too.”
“Nobody asked you, Cody.”
“Nobody asked you either, Hickok.”
The little argument grew in volume but Sam ignored it all. His eyes were still focused on Emma… and Jed.
The next morning when Emma opened her front door she was pleased to see a tin cup perched on the top step of the porch, pink asters, their frilly petals flickering in the breeze, filled the cup. Just as she was about to reach down and pick them up the sound of an approaching rider caught her attention. Shielding her eyes with her hand, she watched a familiar horse and rider approach, her face aglow. “Sam!”
He slid from his saddle and quickly looped his reins around the hitching post as he made his way toward her. She met him at the bottom of the steps and let out a feminine giggle when he held out a handful of dainty blue flax flowers. “Oh, Sam… they’re beautiful…. But really, more?”
His answering grin faltered. “More?”
Emma half turned pointing to the flowers on the top step. The door to the bunkhouse opened and Jed stepped outside; looking refreshed and nearly dressed in his military uniform. He stopped working on the buttons of his shirt and raised a hand in greeting. “Mornin’ Emma.”
He nodded to the porch. “Did you like the flowers?”
“Jed! Was that you?”
He looked away with a sheepish grin. “I knew how much you liked flowers and I couldn’t quite help myself… after all, you’ve been so nice to me.”
The front gate banged closed and before Emma could stop him, Sam was riding off, a small pile of flax at her feet.
That’s how it all started. Cups… bowls… buckets… and tubs of wildflowers started to appear at all times of day and all over the station. Yellow sunflowers, white prickly poppy, purple pentsemon, the red and yellow pinwheels of the Indian blanket flower, orange milkweed, golden rod and the blue of sage in full bloom overflowed their containers. They soon filled nearly every room of Emma’s home, some containers creating a walkway from one room to the next.
Every room awash in color… every room over burdened with flowers. Sam and Jed… well they were exhausted, both spending every available minute locating some new color or type of flower to bring to her. So exhausted in fact that when they finally met… at the gate to her house, both clutching a handful of the long purple blooms from the blazing star plant they could only manage a weak snarl at each other before they walked up to Emma’s door.
The greeting they expected wasn’t…
The door opened slowly creaking on its hinges. “Yes?”
Both men blinked at Emma with curious eyes, but it was Sam who spoke first. “Emma?
She lowered the handkerchief in her hand and blinked at them. “Yesssh, Sam?”
Then it was Jed’s turn. “Is somethin’ wrong, Emma?” He edged closer. “Have you been cryin’?”
“Cryin’? No...” she belied her statement by dabbing at the corner of her eye. “Just havin’ a hard time *achoo* breathin’ an’ *sniiiffff* gettin’ my eyes to stop tearin’…” she waved a hand before her face and yawned, “not sleepin’ much either.”
“You’re sick!” Sam’s bellow made her cringe. “Why didn’t someone send for the doctor?”
She waved a weak hand at the statement. “It’s not a cold so much as somethin’ in the air.”
Jed’s concern was plain on his face. “You need someone to fix the windows? Or cracks in the walls? You just tell me, Emma and it’s as good as done.”
Sam wasn’t going to let Jed’s words be the last. “I’ll be the one fixin’ the windows if it needs to be done, can’t trust the likes of you walkin’ around inside when there’s no one else around to-“
“If it gets it done faster than you can do when you ‘find the time’ to get out here, Sam… then I’ll be the one to do-”
“Emma, I hope you’ve made it clear to this… this… boy that it’s *me* that’s your sweetheart and-”
“There ain’t no ring on her finger, Cain, and ‘sides if Emma wants-”
“What,” Emma found a clear moment in the haze of her thoughts to step in, “what I want… is a few days… of quiet… of peace and quiet…” she blinked at them once… then again… “and for both of you to get rid of EVERY SINGLE FLOWER IN THIS HOUSE… burn them if you have to… but the only thing you two have given me besides a full heart is a full case of hay fever…” she took in a deep breath as she calmed herself, holding back a sneezing fit. “So, if you’ll excuse me,” she gave them both a smile with watery red-rimmed eyes crinkling above, “I’m going to go and…” she couldn’t seem to find the word she was looking for and so she just turned and walked away.
Sam and Jed stood there watching her until she disappeared up the stairs. “Well,” Sam started, surveying the room.
“Well, what?” Came Jed’s answer.
“Get started on that clean up.” Turning on his heel, Sam headed off toward his horse.
Jed made it to the edge of the porch but couldn’t seem to go any further, he looked quickly over his shoulder at the mass of flowers overflowing in the living room of Emma’s house and he felt his stomach fall into the soles of his boots. This wasn’t going to be easy.
The bunkhouse door opened and drew his attention. Ike stepped out into the sunlight, cupping his hand over his eyes to see the house, and raised his hand in greeting.
Stepping down from the porch, Jed waved Ike over and when Ike was nearly across the fence from him Jed leaned in with a question. “That mule of yours eat flowers?”
Ike looked at the open front door and smiled. *yes*
Buck shook his head, clearing away the words of advice repeating themselves in his head.
He hadn’t asked for any advice but he had sure gotten plenty.
With a sigh he undid the cord tie around his neck, straightened the ends, and started over. Not that he wore a suit very often, but he usually didn’t have this much trouble with the stupid tie.
Of course, his hands weren’t usually sweating or shaking as much.
And that was another thing, he thought, wiping his palms against his pants. He wasn’t really sure why he was so nervous. There was no reason to be. It wasn’t like this was a real date or anything. He wasn’t courting Ruby Wallace or anything like that. This was just a dinner to apologize for knocking her down.
That was yet another thing – why was he apologizing? He was the one who had been carrying the heavy, high load of supplies for Polly. Why hadn’t Ruby seen him before they collided? He’d wound up on his butt too, tangled in boxes and Ruby’s skirt.
It was Polly who had suggested that he take Ruby to dinner as a way to make things up to her. And when the words had come out of Polly’s mouth, they had seemed to make sense. But that was yesterday, and now…
He took a deep breath and tried once more with the tie, going very slow. But that gave him time to think about other things.
He’d known who Ruby was, of course. Word had quickly spread around Rock Creek when Polly hired a woman as a bartender. Much of the ‘word’ had to do with scandal, of course – the good folks of Rock Creek didn’t all consider that a proper thing for a woman to do. Polly, of course, hadn’t much cared what anyone else thought, and from all accounts Ruby had fit in very well. Buck had seen her behind the bar a few times when he’d been helping Polly with something. She looked happy and quite comfortable tending bar.
They’d even exchanged a few words – friendly, though nothing special. But it wasn’t as though they really knew each other. What would they find to talk about for a whole dinner?
Well, if they didn’t talk much, dinner would be done faster.
Buck pulled the tie loose again, briefly considering the satisfaction that flinging it into the dying embers of the stove might bring. But since both Lou and Rachel had been in to make sure he had everything – including the tie – laid out for the night, that would just lead to questions he didn’t want to deal with.
It wasn’t spending the money to buy dinner, he decided, as he tried the tie again. It was more having someone else decide how he would spend that money.
And would you have ever asked Ruby to dinner by yourself…
He shook his head, trying to stop that line of thought. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that somehow word of this dinner seemed to have spread faster than a summer twister on the plains. And since then he’d been getting one set of advice after another.
Polly, of course, knew right away. (And wasn’t it convenient that Ruby wasn’t working tonight…) Now, he really liked and respected Polly, and normally she kept her counsel to herself unless asked. Well, except for with Teaspoon, but since they’d been married he figured that was kind of different.
That was Polly’s advice – bring Ruby candy tonight. Dinner and candy just to apologize for something he still wasn’t really sure he should have to apologize for?
That had been Rachel’s advice. Of course, since it was early November, the only blossoms around were frozen wildflowers. But Rachel had had an answer for that. She’d supplied the names of three women in town who grew flowers indoors.
Teaspoon had offered that advice, from his vast experience with women. Jewelry – accompanied by a recitation of poetry. (And somehow Teaspoon had gotten six wives with moves like that?)
Word of this dinner had even spread out to the farm Kid and Lou had purchased when the Pony Express shut down last month. Lou had shown up this morning with her own advice – a book would be an excellent gift. A book? He didn’t even really know Ruby. How should he know what she had read, what she liked to read – or even if she did like to read?
He wasn’t really sure why he had to bring a gift to a dinner like this. It was not a date. Chances were Ruby wouldn’t have accepted even if he had asked her before their little encounter. And after tonight, and the stares that would undoubtedly accompany her having dinner with a half-breed, she wouldn’t be apt to want to try it again. By Tomorrow the talk would be all around town…
Buck groaned and undid the tie once again. He had taken a step toward the stove when there was a knock on the bunkhouse door.
“Buck? You dressed?”
Lou. Well, at least she was asking this time. She’d insisted on his taking a bath this afternoon – and then launched into a long recitation about courting. He’d finally had to physically lead her to the door to get some privacy.
He went to the door and opened it; he still wasn’t quite used to seeing Lou in a skirt.
She brushed past him, tugging at the lapel of his jacket. “Looks good.”
“I’m ready to burn the tie,” he grumbled, going back to the mirror.
Lou grinned and reached for his shoulder, turning him to face her. “Here, let me.”
Buck felt her fingers moving, and it seemed like no time before she stepped back, a satisfied look on her face. Turning back to the mirror, he found a perfectly knotted tie at his neck.
“That’s what friends are for.” Lou sat down at the table, looking up at him. “You ready? Got everything?”
“Lou, it’s just a dinner. I knocked her down, and I’m apologizing.”
He decided he didn’t like the sly little grin that crossed her face. There was something behind it, he was sure. Something conspiratorial…
“No reason it can’t be fun anyway.”
Buck nodded – make the best of it. That’s what he’d decided.
And since he figured Polly probably knew Ruby the best, he’d actually taken her advice. His hand brushed against the pocket of his suit jacket, where there was a slight bulge cause by the packet of candy he’d bought. Fortunately, Tompkins’ store had been busy enough that the shopkeeper hadn’t had time to give him much grief about being in there. Unfortunately, he had no idea what kind of candy Ruby liked. So he’d bought his own favorite – lemon drops – and a small embroidered pouch to put the candy in.
Lou was still staring at him, that little smile on her face. “Just figured I’d stop by before I head home, see if you needed anything.”
“Thanks, Lou, but I think I’m fine.” He just needed to get this over with.
“Of course you are. Just be yourself, Buck.”
Oh yeah, that had worked so well with women so far.
Lou got to her feet and walked over to him, stretching up to kiss his cheek. “Have a real good time.”
Buck held her shoulders for an extra moment before finally taking a step back. “Thanks.”
He watched as she left the bunkhouse and then, with a deep breath, he reached for his hat. Best to get this over with.
Ruby had a room over the back of the saloon. The back stairs seemed extra steep to Buck as he climbed up toward her door. But finally he was there, and after two aborted attempts he managed to knock.
When the door opened, it felt like his breath had been sucked away.
She stood in front of him, auburn hair falling loose around her shoulder, the front pinned back with shell combs. The deep green of her dress seemed to bring out the same color in her eyes.
“Hello.” His voice cracked on that single word, and he winced. “You look… nice.” Nice? She looked beautiful…
“Well, thank you.” Her green eyes sparkled as she spoke. “I’m looking forward to dinner.”
She was? “Well, if you’re ready, we can go.”
Ruby reached toward her left, removing a shawl from a wall peg. Then she stepped out onto the landing, pulling the door closed behind her.
Buck took the shawl and laid it across her shoulders. She smiled, pulling the ends across her chest. For a moment they just stood there, and then Buck finally made himself move. He held out his arm, feeling a spark and warmth as she laid her hand inside his elbow, and then they started down the stairs.
It wasn’t far to the restaurant, and when they got there he realized he hadn’t even seen anything along the way. He’d been too focused on the way she held his arm, the way the early moonlight made her hair glow.
They entered the restaurant and he managed to remember to take his hat off, and to help Ruby with her shawl. Jarvis showed them to a table and Buck waited while the restaurant owner held her chair and seated her. Then he sat down across the small table from her.
The single waitress seemed to be busy across the room, so there was no relief to be had in her appearance at the table, at least not right away.
Buck finally cleared his throat, figuring he should say something. “You, uh… you do look real nice. I mean, that dress is a nice color on you.”
“Well, thank you, sir. You’re looking quite handsome yourself in that suit.”
Something about her smile seemed very genuine, and Buck felt himself relaxing a little. Remembering the pouch in his pocket, he pulled it out, hesitated a moment, and then pushed it across the table. “I got this for you.”
Ruby picked up the cloth bag, looking at him with a raised eyebrow. Then she untied the ribbon and peeked inside. “Oh!” She held one of the yellow candies up, an excited grin on her face. “Oh, I love“Ummm, I didn’t,” he admitted. “They’re my favorite.”
“Well, we have something in common then.”
“Good taste in candy.” He grinned, realizing that with the silence broken, he was feeling a little more relaxed.
Ruby grinned too, eyes sparkling, and slid a lemon drop across the table to him. Then she popped one in her mouth. “Mmmmmm, that’s good.”
Buck took his candy, savoring the tart and sweet taste on his tongue. “Thanks.” Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“Polly tells me you’re half Kiowa.”
He felt himself tense, and he steeled himself for what would come next as he slowly nodded.
“I hope you’ll tell me about it sometime. Growing up Kiowa, I mean.”
Buck figured his jaw had about dropped onto the table, but for the moment there was nothing he could do about it. “Ummmm… if you really want to,” he finally managed to stammer.
“I do. I’m very interested.”
Buck actually found himself relaxing as the waitress finally made her way toward them. The candy had been a success, and now it seemed that maybe he really could be himself with Ruby after all, not need to hide his Kiowa blood.
Yes, this might just work out after all.
Ruby held the paper with the day’s menu written on it up in front of her face. Peeking over the top at her dinner companion, she was glad of the opportunity to cover her satisfied smile.
The casual encounters at the saloon hadn’t led to anything, but airing her frustration to Polly about the handsome former Express rider had turned out to be a fortuitous occasion. Besides being able to pass on a wealth of information about the man, Polly had turned out to be an excellent co-conspirator. The two women had soon come up with the plan for the accidental encounter that had led to this dinner tonight.
The candy had started the night well, and Buck seemed to be relaxing around her.
Yes, this might just work out after all.
“Hey Ike…How’s the kid doing?” Buck called to his friend as he dismounted his horse.
*She’s good, you should see her and Nipper playing, they’re so cute together.* Ike responded like a proud Papa. *How was your ride?*
“Not bad, the ground was still a little damp after all that rain yesterday and that slowed me down but Brandon from the Split Rock station was late getting in too so it didn’t really matter.” Buck said brushing the dried mud off his jacket.
“I’ll get your horse Buck you look like you could use a bath.” Jimmy laughed looking at Buck.
“Thanks….yuck” Buck tried to run his hand through his hair but the dried mud caught his fingers. “I’ll just get some clean clothes, Emma’s not gonna let me in the house in these….”
“Ah, Buck, here’s a towel, change around back….” Lou said holding out a small towel.
“Buck!” Emma called to the disheveled rider as she came out on the porch. “Come on in through the mud room, that’s what it’s for. I was heating some water to wash sheets but I think you need it more. Lou what were you thinking? That towel is a bit small….” Emma winked at Buck who blushed all the way to his toes. Both women laughed.
At dinner that night Ike kept talking about the kid and Nipper, the little fawn he and Buck rescued. Finally Teaspoon had enough. “Kid this and Kid that…Kid’s sitting right here can’t he talk for himself? And Kid I didn’t know you took such and interest in the fawn.
“Oh it ain’t me it’s the kid, you know the baby goat…..” Kid smiled raising a forkful of venison steak. “This sure is good Emma.”
“Thank you, Kid. Ike, have you decided on a name for the kid yet?” Emma asked passing the peas to Cody.
*Not really I was thinking on Sally but I don’t know….* Ike signed shrugging his shoulders.
“Sally! What kind of a name is that for a goat?” Cody laughed. “How about Milkmaid?” Emma and Lou both groaned. “What, ain’t we gonna milk her when she gets older?” Cody said as he chewed a carrot.
“Hmm, I can hear it now Cody, can you milk Sally?” Jimmy laughed. Ike looked mad and Buck just managed to keep the sip of milk he’d just taken from coming out of his nose.
“Next time warn me….” Buck laughed after he manager to swallow the milk.
Emma sighed and Lou rolled her eyes. Kid, Cody and Jimmy were laughing so hard they couldn’t speak.
“How in the world you all manage to make namin’ a little goat into this I don’t know….It’s Ike’s goat he can name her whatever he wants.” Teaspoon said trying to ignore the boys.
“The mama goat is Ike’s but the papa goat belongs to the station so who does the baby belong to?” Cody asked.
“There you go again makin’ mud outta clear water…..” Jimmy groaned.
*They’re my goats* Ike signed angrily almost hitting Buck by accident.
“Calm down, you said you didn’t know if Sally was right did you have any other ideas?” Buck asked hoping to calm Ike down. Ike shook his head.
“How about we put names into a hat and draw one out…” Kid said.
“Maybe, does anyone have any ideas for a name?” Teaspoon asked quietly wondering why naming a goat had become such a chore.
“I like Milkmaid or maybe Cheesy” Cody offered.
“Do you always think with your stomach?” Jimmy asked frowning at Cody. Cody made a face.
“I had a goat named Daisy when I was a kid.” Kid offered to a few nods.
“My sister named our goat Sunshine.” Jimmy smiled at the pleasant memory. “She is kinda honey colored, like sunshine…”
“HONEY!” exclaimed both Emma and Lou together.
*Honey? I don’t know it’s a little girly….* Ike said knitting his brow.
“And Sally isn’t? How about, um, Hortense?” Buck asked to barely disguised laugher from the others.
“Ike any other ideas?” Teaspoon asked?
*Baby?* Ike said after thinking a moment.
“Any one else?” Teaspoon asked looking at each rider. Everyone shook their heads. “Alright majority rules, I want a show of hands only, no shouting. Who wants Daisy?” Kid raised his hand. “Who wants Sunshine?” Jimmy raised his hand. “Cody I’m not even going to ask about your suggestions, I don’t like them. Who wants Hortense?” Not even Buck raised his hand. “Who wants Sally?” Teaspoon raised his hand but surprisingly Ike didn’t. “Who wants Honey?” Emma, Lou, Buck and Ike all raised their hands. “Honey it is!” Teaspoon smiled and looped his thumbs under his suspenders.
“You didn’t ask about Baby….” Jimmy pointed out.
“It can’t win…the only one who hasn’t voted is Cody. Unless we can vote twice…?” Lou pointed out.
“Each person gets one vote, that’s the way this country works!” Teaspoon said smiling.
“Yeah but women don’t vote….” Cody said “Lets do it again…”
*I don’t think you want to tell Emma she can’t vote…..do you want to eat?* Ike smirked and winked at Lou. *The kid is officially Honey Baby but we’ll call her Honey.*
Teaspoon raised his cup. “To Honey Baby welcome to the Station Zoo!”
Cody used the shadow of night to quickly sneak from the bunkhouse across the yard to the barn. He’d been doing this every night this week but knew better than to get too cocky about not getting caught yet by Teaspoon or Rachel. Still, he had someone waiting for him and he wasn’t about to disappoint such a fine woman as Molly Oster.
He pulled open the barn door and slipped in. Taking the lantern off the hook just inside the door, Cody was about to light it when soft voices caught his attention. Crouching down behind a hay bale, Cody glanced toward the back of the barn and realized there was already a light illuminating the building.
It didn’t take a genius to realize whose voices he was hearing. He should have known they’d pick tonight to want to keep the horses company. If he’d been more alert when he’d left the bunkhouse, and looked at more than Jimmy who told him to have fun with Molly, Cody would have noticed the other empty beds. Now how was he supposed to get out of there without anyone but Jimmy knowing of his secret excursions?
Deciding that maybe they were nearly through with what they were doing, Cody figured he’d wait behind one of the stall walls until they left. If they left. He sighed as he recalled that when those two snuck out, it would be hours before they surfaced for air. Grumbling to himself, Cody got up from his crouched position and made his way to the door. He paused, though, as he heard for the first time what they were actually saying. Cody made his way to the beginning of the aisle that led down the center of the barn to listen better.
“Kid, come on, I need this real bad.”
“I’m tryin’, Lou. I want this as much as you do but ya just can’t rush some things.”
“Well it was never a problem before.”
What was never a problem? And what does Lou need real bad? Cody tried to decipher their speech as he kept listening.
“Lou, you know I would never disappoint you if I could help it but I don’t know if I can get it goin’ tonight.”
“I know you’re tryin’ as hard as you can, Kid, and I appreciate it but I can’t help it. When it works, it’s the most wonderful feelin’ in the world.”
First Kid was sounding disappointed then Lou was sighing happily. At least they weren’t moaning at each other. Cody shuddered at the thought of what they were doing … or trying to do. That thought caught his attention as he listened once more; definitely more curious than he had been a minute ago.
“Well, believe me, it’s good for me too, probably better than it is for you, so I know what ya mean. It’s just been used an awful lot lately. You keep askin’ for it wherever we are and honestly, maybe it just needs a rest. You don’t want this to happen again, do you? I know I don’t.”
“Of course I don’t. I know it must be hard on ya and I’m sorry for makin’ you feel like less of a man but I think you might be right. We have been overusin’ it and as much as I hate to think about not havin’ it, maybe we should give it a break.”
Now Lou’s sigh was not a happy one and the tone of Kid’s voice matched the terror Cody was feeling. It could stop working if it was overused? He gulped nervously as he dug his hands into his pockets. He thought back to how disappointed Kid had sounded at not being able to give his woman what she wanted. Was that going to happen to him? Cody had been seeing Molly several days in a row now and as much as she would playfully protest that it was inappropriate, she and Cody would always end up having a way better time than he’d ever imagined having with the daughter of the minister. Even though he’d probably end up burning in where he didn’t like to think about, Cody had only wanted to make Molly happy. Well her happiness wasn’t more important than his future good as a man so Cody crawled back down the aisle of the barn, slid out the door and ran across the yard, not stopping until he’d entered the bunkhouse and thrown himself down on his bunk.
“Cody, I thought you were goin’ to spend some quality time with Molly. What happened?”
Jimmy’s voice floated up to him as he buried himself under his blanket. “I realized I might have been overdoin’ it and I wouldn’t wanna end up useless for who knows how long so it’ll be better to wait a couple more days ‘fore I see her again. And if she don’t understand then there are others out there that will appreciate the sacrifice I’m makin’.”
“Whatever you say,” Jimmy told him as he turned on his side to go back to sleep. Hearing the door open a moment later, though, he rose up on his elbow as he whispered into the dark, “I take it you didn’t have any luck?”
“No, Jimmy, Kid tried real hard but everythin’ you said just wasn’t helpin’ tonight. Maybe you can show us what you mean tomorrow night?” Lou asked as she climbed up into her bunk.
“I’d be happy to.”
Cody stuffed his blanket in his mouth to keep from screaming out in shock. Jimmy knew about their problem? And he not only knew about it, he’d offered them advice and was now going to show them what they could do to get it working again? Cody swore right then and there that he would never, ever tease Kid about being with Lou ‘cause what the man must be going through right now talking to his girl about his problem was bad enough but to have to go to someone for advice, well, that was an embarrassment that Cody intended to never have to go through. Recalling how many times he’d heard Kid and Lou sneak outside or how many times their bunks had been empty when he’d gotten up to answer the call, made up Cody’s mind for him. Maybe he should only see Molly once a week and make it worthwhile enough to hold him over until the next week. That should be long enough, right? Apparently Jimmy seemed to have all the answers but Cody was damned if he’d go to him the way Kid seemed to not mind admitting his faults.
“Night you two.”
“Night, Jimmy,” Kid whispered back as he bent over Lou’s bunk to give her a good night kiss. “I am sorry, Lou, and I promise I’ll make it up to you for lost time.”
“You bet you will.”
Cody pulled the blanket over his head and moaned, not caring who heard him, as he knew this was going to be one of the longest nights of his young life.
Frederick Dixon was out of bed. Again. His mother groaned at the sound of his small feet toward the kitchen.
“Mama, I’m thirsty.”
Cassie looked with mock sternness at the three year old. “You already had a drink ten minutes ago, young man. “
“I’m thirsty again,” the little tot complained.
Noah poured a little bit of water into a glass from the pitcher on the table and handed it to the boy, watching him drink. “Okay, you ready to go to bed now, son?”
Frederick nodded. “If you read me a story,” he wheedled.
“Noah, you have to tell him no, it’s past nine o’clock. We need to get to bed ourselves soon, he has to learn to get in his bed and stay in it.”
“I want a story!”
“Okay, son,” Noah chuckled. “One more story.”
“Cassie, come on. He’s still a baby.”
Frederick grinned wickedly at his mother over his father’s shoulder on his way back to bed, and Cassie shook her head.
Ten minutes later, Noah came back to the kitchen table. “He’s fast asleep,” he said modestly.
Before he got his coffee cup to his mouth, the little scamp was at the door to the kitchen again. “I got to go to the outhouse, now,” he said, doing a little dance. “Take me, Daddy?”
Noah set his cup down and avoided Cassie’s raised eyebrows. “Boy has to go to the outhouse, nothin’ wrong with that,” he said, a little defensively.
“No, it’s perfectly natural when he drinks a gallon of water after going to bed,” Cassie observed. “Better take him to the outhouse.”
Noah glumly took Frederick and swung him up in his arms again. “Let’s go, your feet are bare,” he said. When Frederick was done in the outhouse, Noah carried him back through the kitchen.
“Give mama a kiss goodnight, now, son, and this time you have to stay in bed.”
“I need another story.”
Noah looked at Cassie, who was sitting with crossed arms. “What you need is to go to bed and stay there, young man,” Cassie lectured. Noah was reminded of how strict Sally always was.
“Now Cassie, one more story won’t hurt, if it helps him go to sleep,” he entreated. “But you promise Daddy you’ll stay in bed if I do.”
Twenty minutes later, Noah appeared in his bedroom, where Cassie was looking at the papers in bed. “So, he’s asleep, finally?”
She laughed, shaking her head. “Noah Dixon, I never thought I’d see you taken in by a three year old child like you are.”
“Ah, he’s just a high-spirited kid. He’s a good boy. He’ll stay in bed now.”
“Why should he, when getting up and asking for one thing after another works so well with you? He’s got you pegged, that’s for sure.“
“I think I am a little smarter than a three year old boy, Cassie -“
His words were cut off by the opening of Frederick’s door and the patter of small feet.
“Daddy! I’m hungry!”
Peering around the corner of his current lodgings, the tack room, Teaspoon observed the odd mix of characters that had gathered outside Miss Shannon’s house to form this new mail delivery service – the Pony Express. He scratched his chin stubble, contemplating on exactly how to approach this bunch.
Startled, Teaspoon turned to see the lovely landowner standing behind him staring at him with a sweet, curious smile on her face. He grinned sheepishly. “’Lo Miss Shannon.” He glanced at the ground and, not knowing what else to say, turned back to watch the group.
“Please, call me Emma,” she insisted. He nodded absentmindedly at her request and another silent moment passed. When he didn’t respond, she asked, “Are you okay?”
Sighing heavily, he turned to her. “Do ya’ see what they sent me?” When her puzzled expression turned into complete bewilderment, Teaspoon ran his hand through his hair impatiently. He waved for her to stand in front of him and she did as he asked. Over her shoulder, he pointed towards the boys. “Now, look at ‘em.” He stood there and let Emma look over their charges. She shrugged slightly and he sighed once more.
“I got a half-breed that I ain’t sure other stations’ll take, let alone the towns lettin’ ‘im ride through. There’s a gun totin’ fool, who hopefully’ll get himself shot and not anyone else.” He continued pointing. “Ain’t too sure about that next one, I think he’s bald and I ain’t seen him say a word. Then of course there’s the mountain man, I mean good grief, where’d he get them buckskins?” He drew in a steadying breath; he could feel his nerves on edge. He waved towards the last two. “And then some lil’ waif? I mean do ya’ seriously think that tiny thing’ll be able to pull his weight and do what’s expected of ‘im? And finally, they’re rounded out by some dirt farmer’s kid who prob’ly’ll run the other way if in a fix.” He added a resounding ‘humph’ to the end of his descriptions. “This ain’t gonna work. It jus’ ain’t.”
After a few more moments of silence, Teaspoon thought Emma was quietly taking in the scene in front of them. He was sure she understood his misgivings and shared his feelings. And yet, when she turned to face him, he knew he was wrong.
“Oh Mr. Spoon,” Emma said, with the sweetest smile on her face as she patted him on the arm. “Now I don’t think they’d a’ given ya’ these boys if they didn’t think ya’ could do it.” With one last squeeze of his arm, she walked back to her house, leaving him there to his fate. His jaw was slack as he realized what her statement implied.
“Well aren’t you jus’ full a’ help,” he grumbled. He turned back to the boys and decided he needed something to catch them off guard. A slow smile spread across his face as he quickly ducked into his room and got his bathing supplies.
Teaspoon sighed wearily and leaned against the corral fence. It was the only thing holding his tired body erect. He watched as Cody and Jimmy went after each other for the fifth time in the last hour; Lou and Kid were arguing again over who was the better rider; and Buck and Ike weren’t talking to each other, much less anyone else, which had Teaspoon worried that this insufferable job had damaged even their friendship. It had been one long week of preparations, getting the station ready, and the boys. But they weren’t ready and Teaspoon didn’t think they ever would be. Not the way Teaspoon wanted.
“Like I said, this ain’t gonna work,” he grumbled.
At first, every time he tried to explain something or tell them to do something, all he got was backtalk or grief. Cody had interrupted Teaspoon more times than the stationmaster cared to think about, and Jimmy seemed hellbent on getting someone in a fight, using guns or fists, the boy didn’t care which.
It was obvious that other than working, Buck didn’t want to be any part of the group. He stood off to the side not talking to anyone, except Ike. And then there was Lou, who was always hovering in the background, his head down as his eyes darted everywhere. Teaspoon was almost convinced that Lou was on the run from the law. Kid was okay most of the time, keeping to himself mostly, but would every now and then try to take on the leader position, which none of the others appreciated. Ike was the only one that hadn’t had any major confrontations with the others, due to the boy being easy going. Only when it came to Buck was Ike’s protective nature ruffled and that hadn’t been a direct problem – yet.
But, Teaspoon had to admit, the boys had taken their lessons seriously and could now ride even better than when they’d arrived. They’d paid attention to his “bag of tricks” even if it hadn’t seemed like it at the time. Teaspoon was sure they could protect themselves, which meant they could also protect the mail, and he guessed that was the best he could hope for. But it still wasn’t up to the level Teaspoon wanted for them. Individually they were fine but together….
He slowly pushed away from the fence and headed in the direction of Jimmy and Cody. Teaspoon needed to nip that before someone seriously got hurt. “Bad enough that these boys need ta’ worry about what’s waiting for ‘em out there; they don’t need ta’ worry about that from each other.” Teaspoon walked with strained steps. “I’m gettin’ too ol’ for this,” he grimaced. “This jus’ ain’t gonna work.”
Something had changed. Teaspoon wasn’t sure what, but something had happened to change how the boys were acting. They’d become more of a unified group, working together instead of at odds. They were more like a…a family.
He saw it as they sat around next to the corral waiting for Kid’s next ride. The boys were more relaxed with each other; Ike even made a joke about Teaspoon eating an onion. Teaspoon didn’t know what the boy had signed but was glad to hear the laughter from everyone around him, even at his expense.
“I wanna congratulate you boys,” Teaspoon said, chomping on his juicy onion.
“For what?” Cody asked which didn’t surprise Teaspoon at all. That boy certainly could talk.
“Stickin’ together and stayin’ alive,” he said, trying hard to keep the pride he felt from showing, “and that ain’t nothin’ but dumb luck so don’t go gettin’ smug.”
“Do you like us Teaspoon?” Teaspoon looked at Cody’s self-satisfied grin and squirmed under the attention.
“Can’t say,” he answered vaguely, concentrating on his onion. “Ain’t paid ta’ like ya’.” He needed to get the topic off himself so he figured more of his words of wisdom would work. Using his onion to accent his points, he expounded, “‘Sides this here Pony Express is a job enough and it ain’t nothin’ but…”
“Sweat and trouble,” intoned all the riders, much to Teaspoon’s delight. He was so proud at that moment. They’d really listened to his lessons.
“That’s right,” he said, softly, his attention still fixed on his onion. He didn’t trust himself to look at any of the boys – his boys, so he took a big bite and felt the burning sensation spread through his throat. His eyes were watering, whether it was the onion or his emotions, he wasn’t sure; and he thought his throat was closing. He swallowed and said, “This is a good onion.”
Suddenly the sounds of a galloping horse, along with the ‘whoops’ of an Express rider, had everyone moving. Their moment together was over but Teaspoon knew, deep down there would be many more. “You’re up Kid.” He watched with pride how the boys all pitched in to help Kid get going. How Kid caught the mochila and raced away, as the boys watched after their friend – together.
Teaspoon looked around as he wandered away from the group. Waving to Kid, Cody had his arm draped casually over Ike’s shoulders. Jimmy, Lou, and Buck were standing close to each other, as they watched Kid disappear into the distance. Soon after, Jimmy knocked his knee into the back of Lou’s knee, causing the boy to fall into Buck. Buck turned around and playfully pushed Lou into Jimmy, causing the three to start laughing and pushing. Cody and Ike joined as the group made their way back to the bunkhouse. Teaspoon enjoyed the sounds of their laughter as he walked towards the house.
Emma came out on the porch and watched the boys’ antics. She smiled as Teaspoon climbed the porch steps. “Well, I guess they did alright.” She eyed Teaspoon curiously.
“Of course they did,” Teaspoon said, patting his chest as he took another bite of his onion. “Knew it all the time. Yep, I knew this would work. I love it when a plan comes together.” His attention remained on the last bit of onion. He heard Emma chuckle as he popped the last bite into his mouth. His face scrunched up. “That really was a good onion.”
Thank you Dee for all of your encouragement! Episode reference - occurs after "The Decoy."
“Cody, if this works. . .”
“Not if it works, when it works, Jimmy. When it works.”
“You still don’t have me convinced that this is a sure thing, but I have to admit it doesn’t sound as harebrained as some of your other schemes.”
“You say that as if you don’t think my ideas are usually good ones,” Cody returned with a good-natured smile at his friend as they rode into Dawson. Seeing that Jimmy still didn’t seem reassured, he continued, “Relax, Jimmy, this is a sure thing. In a few hours we will both be a few dollars richer, and you won’t have to do hardly anything. Really, I’ll be doing all the work while you just stand there and take in the money. Hell, Jimmy, maybe you should pay me for including you in on my plan.”
A month earlier Cody had ridden through Dawson when a flash flood had washed out the Express trail that ran twenty miles south of the out-of-the-way town. He had needed to stop at the livery after Soda had thrown a shoe when he’d tried to continue riding on the rough, washed-out trail. That was when he’d first seen the Dawson Days flyer and gotten his idea.
The town of Dawson held an annual carnival type celebration. According to the flyer that Cody’d seen, the town’s festivities would include horse races, fortune telling, a greased pig contest, pie judging, and a pie eating contest. Even though Cody thought the pie eating contest sounded delicious and that he’d have a good chance at winning, what caught his eye was the rifle contest: “Top Sharpshooter to Earn $50.” While he was fairly sure he could eat the most pie, Cody was dead certain that he could win the rifle contest.
Dawson Days was a month away, but Cody managed to persuade the blacksmith to submit his five dollar entry fee for him. The blacksmith was amused by the young Pony Express rider who seemed so sure of himself. He tried to tell the young man that there were several crack shots who lived in Dawson who were sure to take the prize, however Cody would not be dissuaded. The blacksmith just shook his head at how easily the rider turned over a sure five dollars for an unsure fifty, but he couldn’t help but admire the young man’s mettle. He’d laughed when Cody shouted as he rode out of town, “I’ll be back in a month to claim my winnings!”
Cody did not have a doubt in his mind that he would win Dawson’s rifle contest and in the bunkhouse back in Sweetwater he boasted of this so often that the other riders would start groaning at the mere mentioning of the word ‘contest’. However, just to be doubly sure that the fifty dollar prize money would be his, Cody put in twice his usual time practicing his marksmanship. As he practiced, images of what he could buy with his winnings kept appearing in his mind: a stylish hat, a sleek saddle, a sure-shooting rifle. His trips to Tompkins’ store took on new meaning as he contemplated his purchase. On one trip to the store to pick up supplies for Emma, Cody finally saw an item he knew he had to have. Once he saw that pitcher with the pretty pink flowers, reminding him of the one Mary Lou had thrown at the claim jumper, Cody had no doubt in his mind what he wanted to do with the winnings and he was more determined than ever to win. He even thought up a plan to earn a little extra money.
“Cody, I ain’t interested in no shooting contest!” Jimmy had bellowed. Cody had quickly explained that Jimmy wouldn’t be shooting; he’d be doing something he enjoyed almost as much - gambling.
“We’ll pool our money together. You bet on me winning. It’s a sure thing. We double our money and split the profits.”
Jimmy had not been completely convinced at the time and still wasn’t as confident as Cody as they rode into Dawson. His doubts redoubled when he got a look at Cody’s competition. He sure hoped that Cody’s scheme didn’t leave them broke and a long way from Sweetwater. Jimmy’s fears melted away as soon as the competition began. All of Cody’s practice had paid off. Every shot he made was dead on. One by one Cody eliminated his competition. His shooting skill was every bit as good as his boasting.
After counting his share of the winnings, Jimmy felt that after all of his doubting he owed it to Cody to admit that he’d been right. “Well, Cody, I have to hand it to you. That was a great idea you had. I’ll have to pay more attention to your schemes from now on.”
“Well, at least I’ll be more likely to listen. You’ve still never said what you were going to do with your winnings. What are you going to buy? I’d be willing to wager that some of it will be spent buying one of those prize pies to eat after you’ve already stuffed yourself eating a meal at the hotel’s restaurant.”
“You bet we’re eating a big steak dinner tonight! And a big slice of apple pie is a great idea, Hickok. The rest of the money I’ve already got plans for.” Cody hadn’t told any one of his plans for the money; he knew the other riders would never let him live it down if they knew he was buying a pitcher with pink flowers painted on it, even if it was for Mary Lou. He intended on keeping that part to himself.
As they started walking toward the restaurant, Jimmy kept up his questioning. “And what’s that? A new rifle or maybe a fancier outfit to impress the ladies?”
“No, I plan to send it to Mary Lou in Ohio. She should have had her baby by now and could probably use a little extra money.” Cody could feel the color rising to his face as he finally told Jimmy of his plan. Well, most of his plan anyway. Cody still didn’t think that Jimmy needed to know that the extra money was going to be tucked inside of a painted pitcher.
Jimmy stared at his friend in wonder and realized that maybe he and the other riders had been underestimating Cody. The Cody he thought he knew would have spent every penny on himself, most likely on things to pamper his vanity. Jimmy was looking at Cody with new eyes. Not only was he, without boasting, truly the best rifleman that Jimmy had ever seen, it seemed that Cody’s elephant-sized stomach might be hiding a heart just as large.
Jimmy quickly thought of a way to show his approval and respect in a way he knew Cody would appreciate. “Dinner’s on me tonight, Billy.”
Something was eating Emma’s garden. Feasting on the lettuce. Nibbling on the carrots. Sampling the radishes. While it was having a wonderful dinner every night on the fruits of her hard labor, the riders were getting indigestion.
Because the creature was making the station mother mad. And anything that upset Emma upset the entire station. It was stealing food from their mouths. It was disrupting their mornings because as each new day dawned, a shriek went up from the garden patch. They’d all rush outside, knowing what they would find. The thief had come along in the night once again and had himself a midnight snack.
Emma wanted the creature dealt with, and what Emma wanted…Emma got.
This time was proving difficult.
A fence was put up…a fence was rendered useless. Chicken wire was utilized…and proven ineffectual. Traps were set…and discovered empty the next morning. She was ready to order them to stand guard in the middle of the night and shoot the varmint.
Jimmy, however, liked his sleep. He didn’t like sitting up in the dark, in the cool air, and waiting for a creature to show up. It was why he’d never liked hunting. He did it if he had to…but Jimmy wanted to try one more thing before surrendering his sleep. Jimmy was going to try his own hand at trap making.
It wasn’t particularly pretty; he never claimed to be a craftsman. It wasn’t light and easy to carry; it was rather bulky and cumbersome. And it wasn’t necessarily small; in fact it was larger than anything they’d tried before.
When he walked out of the barn carrying his trap, the others laughed. Downright guffawed at its appearance.
“What in the world is that?” Kid demanded on a laugh.
“My trap,” he answered simply as he carried it to the pre-determined place in the garden and set it down. Then he turned for Emma’s house.
The other riders followed after him, pestering him with more questions, laughing at his contraption and offering up all sorts of comments about its construction and his thought process. He ignored them all and knocked on the door. Emma opened it, peered at him for just a moment and then turned around and picked up a plate.
“If you’re hungry, Jimmy,” she said, as she handed over a cheese sandwich, “you simply should have eaten more at dinner instead of rushing off to the barn. I don’t like wasting food or having to do more work.”
He tipped his hat slightly and gave her his most grateful smile, “I appreciate this, Emma. I truly do. However, it’s not for me.”
She peered at him curiously as he took the cheese sandwich off the plate and walked back towards the garden. She followed with the other riders as he crouched down, placed the sandwich on the ground, made a few adjustments to the trap and then stood up. Dusting his hands off in satisfaction, he turned around to find the group staring at him in pure stupefaction.
“A sandwich?” Cody asked incredulously. “Your bait is a cheese sandwich?”
Ike signed something rapidly and Buck nodded in agreement before saying, “Hickok…are you feeling alright?”
“Never better,” he answered.
“You really think a sandwich is gonna work?” Cody continued on. “It ain’t gonna eat a sandwich…it’s been eatin’ Emma’s vegetables.”
“A sandwich,” he answered.
“You’re crazy,” the blond rider scoffed. “You ain’t gonna catch it with a sandwich.”
Jimmy leaned forward slightly and asked, “Wanna bet?”
The other man paused and then said, “Bet what?”
“When I catch it,” he said with a simple shrug, “you get rid of it.”
Arching a dubious brow, clearly indicating he didn’t think he’d ever have to fulfill the bet, Cody agree. Then he asked, “And when the trap’s just as empty as the rest of ‘em…what are you gonna do?”
“Anything you want me to, Cody,” he stated, and then walked away, leaving the others to no doubt wonder at his words.
The next morning Jimmy was anxious to see the status of his trap, but he refused to show it. He’d gone about the evening with a forced nonchalance, an air of indifference to the bet, even as Cody came up with wild and grandiose ideas for what he was going to make Jimmy do when he won. The others were up and dressed quickly, and then left to stand around impatiently while Jimmy got dressed and made sure everything was situated just so.
When they walked outside, everyone immediately looked over to the garden and Jimmy noted that the trap was no longer propped up on a stick, but flat on the ground. The others were quiet for a moment, and then whispering spread amongst them. Some wondered if Jimmy had caught something while others were sure the overbearing weight of the trap had snapped the stick or caused it to fall or some other explanation for why it was now in the sprung position. Some reason besides the thought that Jimmy had actually caught the creature.
“Get ready to pay up, Hickok,” Cody cackled with glee as they walked towards the garden. “That trap is gonna be empty as a hole.”
A few others joined in ribbing him, certain that the blond was correct. The trap would be empty, and then Jimmy would have to pay his end of the debt. That was…until the trap moved.
The riders froze and watched. Time passed and nothing happened, so they cautiously began to move forward again. And then the box came to life.
It scooted across the ground, something inside it slammed against the sides and a most decidedly unfriendly sound drifted towards them. Cody grabbed Buck’s arm and whispered, “What is it?”
“I don’t know,” the Indian replied, his own eyes slightly wide. He looked at Jimmy, but the successful trapper could only shrug in response.
“I don’t know.”
“What?” Cody demanded. “How…how can you not know? You caught it. You…you caught it with a cheese sandwich. You had to have known what it was when you decided to put out a sandwich.”
“Not really,” he shook his head. “I only thought about what would make me crawl under a big, heavy box. I figured why not take a chance? Nothin’ else we’d tried had worked and there didn’t seem any harm in seein’ if it’d work before we had to start sittin’ up at night waiting for that to show up.”
They all took a step back when the creature inside the box let out a growl and scratched at the box.
“But…but you just guessed,” the blond protested. “How is that fair?”
Again…all Jimmy could do was shrug. “I don’t know. But when it works…it works.”
Then he smiled as he took in everyone’s stunned expressions and clapped the other man on the shoulder and said, “Have fun, Cody. A bet’s a bet.”
Thank you to Cindy for helping me trap Jimmy long enough to find out what the story was...rascally rabbits and reticent riders are annoying.