Authors: Fay Risner
Tags: #western adventure 1880, #western couple romance, #western oklahoma
The Blue Bonnet
All rights reserved 12/2014
Published by Fay Risner at
Copyright (c) 12/2014
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This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to
the actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events
or locals are entirely coincidental. Excerpts from this book cannot
be used without written permission from the author.
Booksby fay Publisher
author, editor and publisher Fay
In chapters two and three of
this book, the story originated from a short story I submitted in
In 2006, from White County Creative Writers
contests, I received first honorable mention in the Western Short
In 2009, I submitted the
The Blue Bonnet
in the Arkansas Writers' Conference contests in
the Arkansas Pioneer Branch NLAPW Prose Award category. I was
awarded second place.
Fay Risner's books at Amazon,
B&N, Smashwords, kindle and nook
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The Rainbow’s End The Courting
Hal’s Worldly Temptations Doubting
As Her Name Is So Is
Amazing Gracie Historical Mystery
Neighbor Watchers Poor Defenseless
The Country Seat Killer
The Chance Of A Sparrow
Moser Mansion Ghosts
Locked Rock, Iowa Hatchet
Stringbean Hooper Westerns Tread
The Dark Wind Howls Over Mary The
Small Feet’s Many Moon
Ella Mayfield's Pawpaw
Christmas Traditions - An Amish
Christmas With Hover
Leona’s Christmas Bucket
Spooks In Claiborne Mansion Mr.
My Children Are More Precious Than
Nonfiction about Alzheimer’s
Open A Window - Caregiver
Hello Alzheimer’s Goodbye
Dad-author’s true story
Midwest Favorite Lamb
Books published by Booksbyfay
Sunset Til Sunrise On Buttercup
Lane by Connie Risner
Military Nonfiction Vietnam
Redcatcher MP by Mickey
Life had been good on the Bar BK
ranch for many years. Back in the old days, Bat Kayhill had almost
everything he could ask for. A ranch worth fighting for when
fighting was required, and a beautiful wife to enjoy the wealth
He often gave thought to his one
regret, but he never said it out loud to his wife. Hannah didn't
give him a son to turn the ranch over to after he was too old to
run it. He wouldn't for the world have brought that up with her.
She gave him two daughters, and he loved both of them dearly though
they tended to get on his nerves after they grew up.
He grinned, thinking about the
fact that not having a son wasn't for the lack of Hannah and his
trying. That was just one of those things that wasn't meant to
After Bat laid his wife to rest on
the hill above the ranch house two years back, he couldn't stand
living in their home alone. Too many memories of Hannah in that
place. His daughters invited him to move in with them in Dead
Horse, Oklahoma fifteen miles from the ranch. So he took them up on
their invitation, thinking it was time he made a change in his
Short, plain Ethel, an old maid,
had made spinsterhood a badge of honor. Wasn't a man around would
take on that bossy girl after he associated with her for a few
Fussy Tessie was widowed three
years after she married. Her husband caught typhoid fever during
the epidemic a few years back. The woman kept her house so spotless
Bat was afraid to move anything out of its place. That included
what he had in his own bedroom.
Tessie lectured Ethel and him on
the virtue of neatness as though not being neat was a sin. Bat
smiled. He could think of a lot worse things to call a sin, but he
wasn't about to mention a list of them to Tessie. She didn't have a
sense of humor.
As much as he loved his daughters,
he finally decided he wasn't as lonely now, after this much time
had passed. At least, not as down in the dumps as he was right
after Hannah died. He was ready to move out and get away from his
It took a couple years of living
with his daughters for him to finally come to that decision. Of
course, the first year, he'd been so numb from missing Hannah he'd
paid little attention to his girls or their opinions. He did
whatever they wanted like a puppy being trained.
Since then he'd livened up. He
realized he needed to go on living. That probably had something to
do with the fact he finally figured out his daughters were driving
him crazy. Living on the ranch had to beat living with his girls
except for one thing.
Though Bat concluded he wanted to
go home, he decided moving back to the ranch wouldn't do him any
good if he didn't have a wife. He'd still be just as lonesome as
when he moved to town.
He owned a good house on his
ranch. That was half of what he needed to be happy. The other half
was the right woman.
For the last two years, he had
only been in the ranch house long enough to make sure no one
bothered it. Not that he needed to worry with a bunkhouse full of
cowhands nearby, watching everything for him.
Mainly, checking the house was
just an excuse to get himself to go inside and face the memories of
Hannah. Usually, he came out of the house saddened and lonely. It
always took him awhile to get over those feelings, before he worked
up the nerve to check on the house again.
Early one morning in the spring,
Bat told his daughters he'd be at the ranch all day. He buckled on
his holster and carried his rife to Avery Milhouse's livery stable
down the street where he kept his horse. It didn't take him but a
few minutes to saddle the horse, slip his rifle in the saddle boot
and ride out of town toward his Bar BK ranch.
Once Bat was out of town, Blaze, a
red quarter horse with a white stripe on his face, showed he was
feeling his oats. The horse did a side stepping dance. He even
tried a few bucking hops, trying to ditch his rider. That feisty
horse sure needed more exercise than he'd been getting.
Bat kicked the horse in the sides.
It felt good racing across the prairie with the wind rushing around
his face. Ever so often, he had to tap his cowboy hat tighter on
his head to keep it from blowing off while he let Blaze have his
Bat rode under the Bar BK Ranch
sign over the cattle guard and headed his horse toward the north
range. He halted when he topped a short hill to gaze at his
With his right leg hiked over the
saddle horn, Bat rolled a smoke and studied the lay of the land. He
was always awed by the beauty of his wide sweeping range. He felt
pride at what he had accomplished over the years with Hannah's
Bat spotted his foreman, Hunker
Jones leading the cattle herd, strung out for a mile. That was the
man to talk with about his ranch business. Hunker had pretty much
taken over when Bat didn't have the gumption to pay attention to
Old Hunker stretched his lanky
frame taller in the saddle and waved as Bat galloped to meet him.
His right cheek pushed out, as if he had the mumps, with a chaw of
chewing tobacco stuffed in it. He pushed his battered, dusty cowboy
hat up from his forehead and off his large, floppy ears. As he
waited for his boss to get to him, he slowed his black and white
paint to a walk and rested his left hand on his gun belt. When Bat
was close enough, Hunker's wrinkled, weather leathered face broke
into a smile. “Mornin', Boss.”
Bat pulled his horse along side
Hunker and rested one leg over his saddle, ready to jaw awhile.
“Mornin' to ya, Hunker. How's the roundup comin?”
Boss. Ever'thin' is goin' as smooth as I've ever seed it. Mainly,
cause we had a mite of luck with this string of good days. The
weather in our favor always helps.” Hunker thumbed over his
shoulder. “The herd's almost to here. Once we get them settled in,
we'll start the brandin'.” He leaned over to the far side and spit
a string of amber at a tumbleweed.
A large plumb of red dust boiled
up and drifted in the breeze as the herd moved closer. The cowhands
spread out around the longhorns to keep them moving.
The herd ranged closer to the
ranch buildings in the winter and while the cattle calved. That
made it easier on the cowhands to work with them during cold, snowy
days and in calving season.
Now the cowhands were on their way
with the herd to the north pasture. That pasture held plenty of
spring grass, thick and deep. The cowboys would round up the spring
calves in a log corral and brand them with the Bar BK running
irons. After that, the hands turned the calves back with the cows.
They had some more nursing and growing to do before fall
“Well, I reckon
I'm done jawing. Sounds to me like ya have everything under
control. I'll leave ya to it. I thought I might go check on the
house while I'm out this way,” Bat said causally.
“Last I noticed, the house is
still there,” Hunker joked.
“Yip, I figured as much.” Bat
rubbed his chin thoughtfully and decided to tell the foreman his
plans. “Hunker, I been thinking maybe one of these days I just
might move back in that house.”
Surprised, Hunker's fuzzy, gray
eyebrows lifted, and he grinned wide, showing his stained uneven
teeth. “No kiddin', Boss. That sounds like a right fine idea to me.
We sure have missed ya workin' with us. The boys will be right glad
to hear that news. I know I surely am.”
“Well, shucks, that's the problem.
I kind a do miss living out here in the fresh air on my ranch.
There's something doin' out here all the time. I never was cut out
for quiet city life, and I'm beginnin' to see that now,” Bat
As Hunker rode back to the herd,
Bat headed for the house. He stopped within sight of the building
site to take in what he had walked away from. The low, sprawling
house, with a long front porch, was backed by a grove of oaks,
cedar, cottonwood and walnuts. The trees hid Sidewinder Creek where
they used to go for water. It sure made things a heap easier when
he dug the well between the house and the barn.
Not far from the house was the log
cabin the cowhands use for their bunkhouse. That was Hannah and his
first house. The large barn and several three-sided sheds with
corrals made up the other buildings.
Bat moseyed to the house,
dismounted and tied Blaze to the hitch rack. In the silence, his
boots sounded loud as he thudded up the hollow, wooden steps. He
took the rod off the sill and hit the meal triangle a couple times
to hear the clamoring noise before he went through the
He twisted slowly in a circle,
surveying the kitchen and remembering the way it used to be. He
imagined Hannah at the stove, telling him before almost every meal
he was too early to eat. He'd just have to sit down, have a cup of
coffee and wait on his food. She'd end by saying that was all there
was to it which meant her word was final. He might as well not try
to object. She never figured out he came off the range early on
purpose so he could spend some time with her.
A skittering noise caught his
attention. Bat put his hand on his pistol butt. He relaxed as a
mouse raced across the work counter and disappeared behind it. He
heard the plunk when the mouse hit the floor. He wondered how many
more relatives of that little varmint were nesting among his
Bat walked down the hallway and
looked into the bedroom he shared with Hannah. The fancy velvet and
satin crazy quilt she made and was so proud of decorated the
His thoughts ran to Hannah
stretched out in that bed under her quilt, pale and barely
breathing. He sat for days, holding her hand and talking non stop
just so Hannah could hear his voice and know he was with
Billie took care of them both,
feeding him and tending to Hannah. The morning Hannah took her last
breath was the moment his heart lost feeling for anyone or anything
for a long time. He hadn't slept in that bed since.
Hannah's dresses, every day and
Sunday best, hung on the wall pegs right where she left them the
day she quit wearing them. Now the clothes were worse looking after
having been neglected on the pegs for so long. All of them were
dust coated with cobwebs stringing them together.
If he moved back into this house,
Bat didn't think he had the gumption to sleep in this bedroom. He
closed the door and walked across the hall to the room meant to be
used for a nursery. The room was left empty after the girls didn't
need it. He might as well use it for an office once he moved a desk
and safe in to it.
He checked the bedroom on the left
at the end of the hall. That had been Billie's room until she
married. She'd made a couple quilts for the bed and left them on it
when she moved. She joked she might need that bed again some day if
her marriage didn't work out. Bat didn't want to take her room. It
might be his sister would need it again.
The guest room on the right had
windows facing the east. It was the first room to catch the morning
sun and roomy enough for two beds. His daughters slept there until
they left home.
Hannah had made the quilts on
those beds, too. Large nine patch squares from scarps, ordinary
enough, but they would serve their purpose to keep him warm during
the winter. He'd sleep in this room. It didn't hold any memories,
bad or good. If he had any over night company, they would have to
sleep in Hannah's room.