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Authors: Fay Risner

Tags: #western adventure 1880, #western couple romance, #western oklahoma

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BOOK: Blue Bonnet
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The women said they
weren't sure why the Indians gave up the fight. Or, why they didn't
come back. Billie always hoped their courage and Hannah’s fighting
skills brought a measure of respect from the Indians. That might be
what made the braves decide to spare their lives.

 

Chapter Four

 

After daydreaming about Hannah's
story, Bat was uncertain about getting married again. It might be a
unwise decision to make. As tamed down as the country around here
was now, it still was a far piece from town. A woman married to him
would spend an awful lot of her time alone during the day and with
only him for company at night.

Once in awhile Indians were a
worry, but rustlers were what worried him most. The lazy good for
nothings still cropped up ever now and then. They burnt ranchers
out so they could make off with the cattle while the ranch hands
were busy putting fires out.

Bat broached the subject with his
sister, Billie Sommers, over Sunday dinner. She had been a widow
for about as long as he had been without Hannah. Maybe she could
shed some light for him with her views on him trying a second
marriage. One thing was sure. His sister never lacked for an
opinion.

Billie passed him the platter of
fried chicken as she advised, “If you found the right woman,
marriage is a good idea. Though if you're getting ideas about
taking another wife, you don't want to wait too long to pick one.
You're not getting any younger.”

“I reckon I been thinkin' that way
myself. Fifty don't make me feel like I've got one foot in the
grave, either,” Bat defended. “What about ya, Billie? Ever think
about hitchin' up again? You're only a couple years younger than me
and right handsome and fit as a fiddle yet.”

“Thanks for the complement. Makes
me feel as if you are comparing me to one of your cows. I'd rather
be considered pretty and lady like.

Sure, I think about marriage ever
once in a while. If the right man came along, I just might
considered marriage real hard. I'm just not in a big hurry to find
the right man,” Billie said, spooning mash potatoes on her plate
and reaching for the gravy bowl.

“Why not?” Bat asked, laying the
drumstick bone on the side of his plate.

“A woman finds it easier to take
care of herself than a man does. As long as she has some money set
aside for her needs and a roof over her head, she can make do,”
Billie declared.

Bat couldn't imagine that being
true. Most women thought they needed a husband to provide for them,
or so he had always figured. “Is that really right?”

“Sure, we already know how to cook
and keep house. That's not a skill most men possess. As for me, you
know Lester left me well set with an income from the newspaper. As
long as I have an editor to run the paper, I get paid for owning
it. No work involved there.

Lester had the house paid for, and
no other debts when he died. We had some savings in the bank so I'm
fine on my own,” Billie assured her brother. “The problem for you,
with picking a woman to replace Hannah, is that no other woman will
measure up to her in your mind. You're going to have to give up
some expectations I'm afraid. You can't be too choosy the second
time around. Comparing the women to Hannah is a no no.

Now as far as I know, there is
several wife possibilities in town that you're already acquainted
with. Give each of them some thought to see if one of them is right
for you.”

Bat rubbed his chin. “Several,
huh? I hadn't looked at another woman that way for a long time.
Don't know which ones to check out right off.”

“You will think about it when you
run into the possibilities now that it's on your mind. What's got
you thinking this way anyhow?” Billie asked.

“Yesterday, I went out at the
ranch to check on the boys. I stopped to see how the house was
fairin' with no one living in it. It was fall last time I checked
inside. I got to thinkin' about how much I miss livin' out there.
Besides, it makes for a long day ridin' back and forth from the
ranch to town,” Bat said. “I never was cut out to live in town. It
just isn't in my nature, and God Bless them, but sometimes, my
daughters drive me crazy.”

“I thought as much,” Billie said
knowingly as she cut the vanilla creme pie on the end of the table.
She dished up two slices and handed Bat his. “So how is the
house?”

“That reminds
me, there's somethin' I need to ask ya. Ya know any women in town I
can pay to go out and give the house a good cleanin'? The whole
place needs dustin', airin', windows washed and whatever else makes
it look presentable. Between the layers of dust and a whole slew of
mice and spiders, the house is in a real mess.

Hannah thought an awful lot of her
house. She'd turn over in her grave if she was to know what shape
the place is in now.”

Billie looked woefully at her
brother. “I think I know how you feel. I miss Hannah, too. You have
a lot of good memories from living in that house with
Hannah.

Trouble is that's competition for
any other woman as sure as if Hannah was still alive. She might as
well be living with you and your second wife.

It wouldn't at all do to bring a
new bride into Hannah's house with her ghost still present,” Billie
said seriously. “No woman would stand for that, and I wouldn't
blame her one bit.”

“What ghost? I don't believe in
such things, and I don't think ya do, either,” Bat
scoffed.

“Hannah staring down at a woman,
who is very fond of you, from above the fireplace would be a very
uncomfortable feeling,” Billie declared. “Hannah's drawers are
still full of her clothes. Her personal items all over the place is
another thing. Looks like Hannah is still yet living in the house
and might just pop out any time.

The drawers need to be cleaned
out, and Hannah's personal things need to be gotten rid of before
any other woman goes in that house,” Billie declared.

“I reckon that is right. I
couldn't bear to clean out Hannah's things so I just walked away. I
left the house like it was and moved in with the girls,” Bat
admitted with a tinge of sadness.

“When you going back to the
ranch?” Billie asked.

“Tomorrow. I want to ride the
north fence to repair where it needs fixin' now that winter is
over,” Bat said. “The cowhands have the cows and spring calves in
that area, brandin' the calves. The herd will be there all summer
so I want the fence in good order.”

“I'll tell you what. Come by here.
I'll be ready to ride along with you in my buggy. I'll take
cleaning supplies to straighten up the house. When you get ready to
leave the ranch tomorrow afternoon, you can escort me back to
town.”

“Oh, Sis, I didn't mean for ya to
take on the job. That's too much to ask of ya. Ya really don't know
how dirty the house is,” Bat declared.

“First of all, I
can imagine how bad the house is after two years of neglect.
Second, you didn't ask. I volunteered. Besides, it will be easier
on you if it's me going through Hannah's things rather than snoopy
women.

If you don't mind, I think Ellen
Withman, on the old Fry place, could use some different clothes.
She's about Hannah's size.

Heaven knows, she has a hard lot.
Ellen has a mess of younguns. As hard a worker as Lim Withman, that
hardscrabble ranch just barely seems to keep ahead of the bills.
Lim never has any money left over.

That poor woman has nothing decent
to wear. What do you think of that idea?”

“That would be fine. Hannah always
felt sorry for people that were down and out. I think she'd approve
of the notion of Mrs. Withman gettin' some good out her clothes,”
Bat said. “Sis, I'm much obliged for ya helpin' me out until you're
better paid.”

“Nonsense, that is what a sister
is for to help her brother when you need her,” Billie said. “Now
eat that piece of pie so we can see if we have room to hold another
piece. It's not often I make you a pie.”

Bat took Billie's advice to heart.
With a keen eye out for the right woman to be his second wife, he
was ready to start his search. He intended to study the single
women around town whenever he had a chance meeting with
one.

Monday morning, he stopped at the
Mercantile to buy two pounds of staples to take to the ranch for
fence fixing.

Morgan, Daniel Johnson's daughter,
waited on him. She was about twenty five years younger than Bat,
with light brown hair and average height for a female. Seeing as
how he'd known her forever and watched her grow up, he just never
thought about her as wife material.

She was as natural a fixture in
Johnson's Mercantile as the counter she always stood behind to wait
on customers. Bat couldn't hardly remember back to when she hadn't
worked for her father, clerking in his store. In the beginning, she
was barely tall enough to see over the counter.

Morgan had never married, but for
some reason, he'd not taken the time to notice her before in that
new wife sort of way.

“Morning, Mr. Kayhill,” Morgan
said briskly as he stepped up to the counter.

“Mornin', Ma'am,” he answered back
with a polite tug on the brim of his hat.

The buxom woman asked, “What can I
do for you this fine day?”

“I need two
pounds of staples,” he answered.

As he observed the clerk closely,
Bat found himself wondering if that young woman ever smiled. Maybe
she just reserve a pleasant face for certain people she liked.
Customers like him must not count.

“All right, just give me a minute
to weight them out and sack them up,” Morgan said
crisply.

Efficiently fast, she picked up
the metal scoop that rested on top of the wooden barrel of staples.
She wiggled the scoop back and forth to get it to dig into the pile
and fill up. As she spilled the staples on the scale, they
clattered when metal hit metal.

Bat smiled at her and
complemented, “Well, anyone could tell you've done that a time or
two.”

All business, Morgan nodded as she
sacked the staples for him in a small burlap bag. She handed the
sack to Bat and asked, “Will there be anything else, Mr.
Kayhill?”

“Nope, reckon not,” Bat returned.
“How much do I owe ya?”

Morgan held her hand out. “That
will be ten cents.”

Bat reached into his jeans pocket
and brought out a hand full of change. He picked out two nickels
and placed them on the palm of Morgan's hand.

“Thank you, Mr. Kayhill.” She
dropped the nickels in the cash register till. “Good day, Mr.
Kayhill,” she said and turned her back. She picked up a rag and
dusted the can goods on the shelf behind the counter.

Bat walked outside into the
sunlight. He felt as if he'd need more than a might of warmth from
the sun's rays. It might take a stiff drink to warm him so he'd get
over the chill he just went through in the store.

No wonder that young woman was a
spinster. She was business like and courteous but without a warm,
friendly bone in her whole body. If he had made a list of women to
check out to find someone to marry, she'd be the first one he'd
mark off the list.

Bat got on his horse and rode to
his sister's house. She'd already sent word to the livery stable
hostler to park her buggy in front of the house. He tied his horse
on the back of the buggy and headed to the house. With his head
stuck in the front door, he called, “Sis, are ya ready?”

“Sure am,” Billie said tying her
bonnet.

“I need to carry anythin,?” Bat
asked.

“Thanks anyway, but I'm way ahead
of you. I've already taken a couple boxes of cleaning supplies out
to the buggy.”

“I saw that,” Bat
replied.

“I'm assuming there's still a
fairly decent broom and mop at the house,” Billie said, raising an
eyebrow.

“Of course.” Bat said slowly and
paused to think. He began again. “I guess there is. Well, there
should be. To tell ya the truth, I've never noticed since that
wasn't my department.” Bat grinned at her.

“Wait here,” Billie said. She came
back carrying a broom in one hand and mop in the other. “I'd better
be safe rather than sorry. It's too far back to town to come in
after these later.” She picked up a wicker basket covered with a
white dish towel and held it out to Bat. “Here, make yourself
useful and carry this basket of food for me. I fixed a lunch we can
eat if you have time to stop at noon. If not just say so. I can
always send part of what I fixed with you to eat when you get ready
to take a breather.”

“Eating lunch with ya'all sounds
good to me. I won't be that far away. I might as well stop for
lunch.” Bat set the wicker picnic basket in back with the boxes of
supplies. He took the mop and broom and laid them behind the boxes.
The handles stuck out over the wheel. “I'll ride in the buggy with
ya to the ranch. That way we can talk,” Bat said, helping his
sister into the buggy.

 

Chapter 5

 

Bat offered to drive. They had
traveled the first four miles in silence when Billie finally spoke.
“Why don't you spit out what is worrying you this morning. You was
the one who said we were going to talk, and you haven't said two
words since we started.”

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