Emma led a shaken up Ike over to a bunk and sat sown with him. She wrapped a wet bandanna around his forehead, before embracing Ike and holding him close. As she began to hum a lullaby, the other riders quit eating and all turned to watch the tender moment play out.
Lou felt tears burn the back of her eyes as she recalled how her own ma would sing lullabies to her and her younger siblings whenever they were sick and injured.
Buck felt a twinge of envy over the special treatment Ike was receiving from the housekeeper. He could not remember much about his own mother, except that she was very beautiful and sad most of the time.
Kid reflected on the fact that Emma was around the same age as his own ma would have been if she was still alive. There was a resemblance there between the two women as well, since his ma had red hair and her frame was similar to Emma's, too.
Cody watched the interaction between the housekeeper and Ike, and felt a bout of homesickness flood over him. Unknown to anyone at the station, his ma was very much alive, and living in Kansas. To get the job riding for the PX he had lied when he told the man he was an orphan. His pa was dead but not his ma.
Jimmy wished it was him being held by Emma. He had not felt a motherly touch for more years than he could really recall, and he bet that it felt real good being held the way Emma was holding Ike.
Aware of her audience, Emma smiled sadly. She could see the open looks of longing on the other riders' faces as they watched her care for Ike, and it saddened her to think that had probably been years since any of them had felt the touch of a mother's love.
She vowed to find a way to change that. Now that the boys were under her care there was no reason why she could not foster a closer maternal relationship with all of them. After all, they were not longer orphans with her around.