June 2011 Volley Challenges:
The brightening sky signaled the dawn of a new day. The boy felt the change in the sway of the stage as the driver urged the horses into a faster gait. Soon they would reach their destination and put all the problems that had plagued them since the last stop behind them. Once they reached their goal, he could start his life anew and leave his troubled past behind him as well. He smiled at the thought of beginning his new life - one without constant pain and hardship.
The dark clouds finally opened up about an hour away from home. When they did, visibility vanished in a matter of seconds. Buck slowed his mount to a walk and scanned the area for a place to wait out the *downpour*. In a matter of seconds, he found what he was looking for - an old miner's lean-to. It would be big enough for both him and his horse.
Buck dismounted and lead his mount up the small incline to the dwelling. As he neared the building, he was surprised to smell smoke. He hoped whoever was there would be willing to share the shelter. He made sure to keep his hand away from his side arm so as to not cause alarm.
When he was close enough to be heard over the storm, Buck called out, "I mean no harm; I just want a place to wait out this storm."
"You'll have to put the horse around back," came the reply.
Buck made his way around the lean-to and found a small stable. He turned his mount loose in it with the other animal there. He then made his way back to the front of the dwelling. Once there, he knocked on the door to let the inhabitant know he was back.
The door opened just enough to let him slip inside. He quickly shed his coat.
"Do you mind if I…" he stopped speaking when he saw who it was he was addressing.
"Not at all," came the reply. "In fact, I have an extra blanket if you want to just undress and hang your clothes up in front of the fire so they can dry."
"Eagle Feather?" Buck asked, as he moved near the fire. He took the offered blanket as he passed by her. "How'd you end up here?"
She nodded toward the corner where a child lay sleeping. "I needed a place to let him rest for a bit. We were going to leave this morning, but I didn't like the look of the clouds. Since I'm not sure how close town is, I decided to wait."
"I'm glad you waited," said Buck, "but you would have made town easily. It's only about an hour away." He glanced at the back of her head as he quickly wrapped the blanket around himself. As he hung his clothes on the makeshift line she had strung across the room, he asked, "Did you let anyone know you were coming?"
Jennifer Tompkins shook her head. "I wanted to surprise you," she said with a smile.
As she surveyed the school yard, Sister Catherine noticed that their newest charge was once again making an attempt to talk to Ike. She was impressed by the boy's tenaciousness; all the other children had given up after only a few days, and the sisters hadn't lasted much longer. Buck was going into his fourth week.
She shook her head as she remembered the events from earlier in the day. She'd overheard Buck speak to Ike as he passed by the table where the mute child ate alone. When Ike didn't respond, but got up and left, she had asked Buck, "Why do you continue to try with him?"
Buck smiled at her. "I sense the good person that is trapped inside of him. Don't you?"
Sister Catherine had nodded. "I think he's just scared," she replied. "I'd try to help you, but I'm not sure it would do any good." She sighed. "I'm not sure he even understands what is going on around him anymore."
"He knows," Buck replied, as he left her and found his own seat so he could eat his breakfast before doing his chores.
Buck was now making his way to the stables where Ike was hiding from the others. He had seemed so sure of himself during their conversation this morning that Sister Catherine decided she was going to try and get Ike to at least respond to Buck's advances. She waited until she saw Buck leave the stables, and then she had Ike escorted to her office.
Once she managed to calm him down, she reminded him that the monthly trip into town was the next day. "You need to keep out of trouble the rest of the day in order to go with us." She paused before adding, "I've noticed that Buck is still trying to get your attention. I think he could be a good friend for you, but you have to help some. Remember, the most important trip you take in life is meeting people halfway."
Marshal Sam Cain stood in the door to his office surveying the main street of Sweetwater and trying to catch a breeze on this warm summer afternoon. He smiled to himself when he spied Emma Shannon and the boys from the Pony Express station housed at her place. They were just going into Tompkins' store.
He decided to make his way down there and see if he could strike up a conversation with her. It had been a couple of weeks since he'd last spoken to her. At that time, she hadn't rebuffed him completely - maybe that meant there was a chance they could start seeing each other again - maybe this time they'd be ready to make it work - maybe this time their longing for a relationship would be stronger than their fear of losing someone.
by: Miss Raye
Lou pulled her slicker tightly closed at the neck. It wouldn't matter, she supposed, the instant I let go to hold the reins, the water'll just slide down into my shirt again.
So she let go and grasped the reins, giving them a quick flick to get her mount started again.
It didn't take much really, the horse was just as eager as she was to get to shelter. The rain started a few miles outside of Potter Town and had continued growing in size and weight the longer she rode. And ride she did unless the downpour made it impossible to see where she was going.
There were bumps and jolts in the road that felt all the more bone-jarring because she wasn't prepared for the sudden changes in height and the stutters in her horse's steps. She held on and pushed forward through the worst of it knowing that the leather case hanging from her saddle horn held an important message.
Sure, all the messages they carried for the Express were important, but the Captain that had entrusted her with this message had given her a stern talking to when he tried to impress upon her how dire things would be if she didn't get the message safe and sound to his counterpart just outside of Sweetwater.
So ride she did. She rode through the buffeting waves of rain, ducking her head and curving her shoulders to help the thick sheet of water slide from her back. She rode across a swelling creek, carefully urging her mount through even as he balked and tried to turn from the swirling waters .
She was a rider on a mission and she would get the message through no matter what.
Hours later, as she rode up to the Army camp a half-mile outside of Sweetwater town and asked to see the Captain. The sentry wasn't about to help. He stood under a tent-fly, dry and comfortable and didn't want to leave it to go and get permission for the rider to pass.
Lou, for all her eagerness to get the message to the right person and in leaning toward the importance to get the message through nudged her mount and shot past the sentry toward the Captain's tent.
The sentry, shocked and dismayed at the actions of the small rider on the buckskin stepped out into the rain, raising his rifle. It was the sheeting rain that blocked his vision and kept him from shooting. He did shout out a warning to his Captain.
Captain Barlow was already on his feet and at the opening of his tent. His cross expression softened into a grateful smile when Lou stated her purpose. He held his hand out impatiently as she freed the leather carrier from the horn of her saddle. She handed it him and he waved her down from her mount. "Come inside, young man," he could barely be heard as he marched back insides the confines of his tent, "have a seat.. dry yourself." He threw a look back over his shoulder. "Don't drip on my rug, eh?"
Lou looked down at the ground and the elegant rung that seemed to occupy the center of the dirt floor. "No, sir. I'll be careful."
The Captain removed the top of the case and set it aside, his fingers reached into the base and removed a roll of paper.
An orderly handed her a rough-hewn towel and stepped back outside.
The Captain studied the message on the paper with a furrowed brow.
"Is something wrong, Captain?" Lou hoped her wavering voice wouldn't betray her true identity.
Indeed, the Captain's expression was most dire for a moment.
"Bollocks and damnation!" The captain slammed the paper down on his desk and moved into the shadows.
"Sir?" Lou tried to swallow the rising fear she felt as she moved toward the Captain, rain pounding on the walls of the tent as she moved. "Sir?"
She froze as she reached the table. The Captain, his hand pressed tightly over his brushy beard, was standing over a chessboard his eyes wandering over the pieces. "Hmmm..." He looked over at her after a prolonged moment. "Damn idiot didn't fall for my ruse." He sighed and his brows rose hopefully. "Don't supposed you'd like to take him a return message for me?"
Lou swallowed, her mind still struggling to understand that the message she'd risked her life to get through was a simple chess move in an ongoing game. "I, uh... have to get back to the station." She swallowed again, her throat and mouth dry. "Maybe one of your men-"
"Ah!" He brightened up. "That's right... I'll send one of my men! Wickens!"
As a flustered orderly burst into the tent, Lou made her escape. She walked right into the sheeting rain, her Army towel left behind on the fancy rug. She found her horse and swung up into the saddle giving the creature a soothing pat on the side of his neck.
With the promise of a dry stable and warm mash the rode off into the rain.
by: Miss Raye
The winters winds were harsh that year, creaking solid oak boards and making the windows shiver. Evan paced beside the stove, his anxious energy providing a warmth of its own. "We'll take a ride into town as soon this clears up. I could use a little tobacco and maybe they've got news in town."
"Hmmm?" Emma looked up at Evan, a curious light in her eyes. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
He huffed and folded his arms. "Didn't you hear what I said?"
With a little indulgent smile she leaned back in her rocking chair and lifted her knitting. "I'm sorry, Evan, I had a song in my head."
"You had a... a song?" He threw up his hands in frustration. "What is wrong with you?" He waved a hand at the windows, nearly frosted with snow. "We're stuck out here by ourselves and I'd think you'd want to go to town."
She shrugged a little and continued rocking. "That sounds like a lovely idea."
He stared at the top of her head and balled his fists at his sides as she went right on knitting the blanket she'd been working on for weeks. "An idea is all it will be... the snow-"
Emma looked up as she looped the yarn over the needle. "The snow will pass soon enough and summer will be here before you know it." The child within her stirred and she fancied that it was at the mention of summer, her favorite season. "We're due in summer, Evan."
He frustration pecked at him. "I know that, Emma!" He grabbed his hat off the hook and slapped it down on his head, his hands snatching his coat from the rack. "I'm goin' to check on the horses."
Before she could answer he'd slammed the door behind him and disappeared into the snow.
His sudden exit wasn't upsetting, it was the tension in his voice, the anger in his eyes. She set her knitting down for a moment, her hands splaying over the gentle rise of her middle. The worn calico fabric bunched beneath her fingers, single blossoms gathering into bouquets as she moved.
"Don't you worry none," she crooned to her child, "your Papa doesn't like being cooped up in the house all the time." She tilted her head to the side, that elusive song tickling her ear... just out of reach. "He'll be happier once the snow starts to melt and then you'll be here. "
The warmth of the fire soothed her, almost as much as the gentle shift of the baby within her womb. Emma closed her eyes and rocked to the soft sounds of a longing melody.