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Authors: Fay Risner

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

Blue Bonnet (6 page)

BOOK: Blue Bonnet
12.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Billie twisted at the stove and
frowned down her nose at him.

Bat figured she didn't like what
he was referring to. He best change the subject before she gave him
a lecture on what he should and shouldn't talk about with his
sister. “How much do I owe ya for cleanin' the ranch house up,

Billie set plates and silverware
on the table. “You don't owe me a thing, and you know it. I was
glad to do it if having a clean house helps your matrimonial cause
any. I must admit I didn't expect you to be quite so particular
about wife criteria.”

“I wouldn't say I'm that
particular. Not exactly anyway. This week I've paid attention to
the unmarried women in town just like ya told me to do. So far I
ain't seen one yet that strikes my fancy. This wife huntin' may
take awhile.” Bat frowned. “As hard a job as this one is, I figure
the house is libel to be in the same dusty, rodent infested fix
again before I make up my mind about a bride,” he said

“Well, I hope not! Before you do
show a woman where she might be living, may I suggest you get that
painting of Hannah off the parlor wall like I told you to do,”
Billie said.

“Uh oh, I forgot about that. I'll
take it down in the morning,” Bat agreed. “Where should I hang

“No where in
your house. The only possibility is hide the painting in the attic
if you can't bear to take it out of the house. I do have a better
suggestion. Why not hang the painting at your daughters house? I
think they would like a remembrance of their mother, and you can
enjoy the painting when you visit them.

Take it from me, no woman likes
competition alive or dead, and that's what Hannah is.

All a woman has to do is catch you
gazing lovingly at that painting just once. That woman, you're
trying to spark, will walk out of your life as fast as she can get
back to town,” Billie predicted.

“All right, if you say so,” Bat
said reluctantly. He decided he best keep his mouth shut about
already comparing women to Hannah. That was exactly what Billie had
already told him not to do. “I'll take Hannah down tomorrow while
I'm at the ranch and bring her back to Dead Horse with

Billie shook her head at how her
brother talked about the painting as if his dead wife was still
alive. “Another thought if you don't mind?”

“No, guess not. As if I could stop
ya now that you're on a roll with all this advice. I think about
getting married, say so out loud to ya, and ya take to the idea
like a dog with a tasty bone that he ain't ever goin' to stop
gnawin' on. So go on and say yer piece,” Bat said.

“How about giving your girls the
silver comb, brush and mirror set and that tray of perfume bottles
on the bedroom dresser? Tessie and Ethel will treasure things like
that from their mother,” Billie suggested.

“I'll do that. Sure is going to
make the house look naked with all Hannah's things gone and her
picture not there,” Bat said sadly, fingering the rim of his coffee

Billie shook her head yes as she
rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Brother, that is what I've
been trying to tell you is supposed to happen. That is the whole
idea. An empty house with no memories for you and a new wife to
start fresh in. Believe me, the new wife will want to make the
house her home with her own memories in it.”
























Chapter Six




One morning in the next week, Bat
stayed in town. He had a meeting with the lawyer, tending to ranch
business. When he walked by the Seamstress and Millinery Shop the
owner, Leta Mays, was rearranging the hat displays in the window.
He nodded and touched his hat brim when she smiled at

An idea lit up his brain like when
he struck a match to the wick in a kerosene lamp and lit up a

He should have Miss Mays make a
bonnet for him. That way he'd be prepared to impress the right
woman with a gift when and if he ever met her.

If he didn't find a woman to
impress, he could always give the bonnet to Billie for being such a
good sister to him. After all, she'd worked real hard at cleaning
his house, and she was a good listener. A tad too free wheeling
with her advice, but he'd be lost without her.

Bat took the time to study Leta
Mays while she changed two bonnets on the female heads in the shop
window. Somewhere in her forties and holding her own with a trim
figure and light yellow hair, Leta wasn't a plain looking woman.
She wasn't a raving beauty, either. He knew her as a successful,
hard working business woman. A woman that could take care of
herself in the undeveloped west was a rare person. The only other
woman like her he knew was his sister, Billie.

Bat sauntered through the shop
door and stuck his hands in his jeans pockets. “Mornin’, Miss Mays.
I'm Bat Kayhill.”

The woman pushed a strand of pale
blond hair back into the bun on the back of her head. When she
turned from the window, her warm smile wrinkled the corners of her
bright blue eyes as she replied, “Morning, Mr. Kayhill. I know who
you are. One of my good customers is your sister, Billie Sommers.
It's nice to meet you. What can I do for you?”

Bat looked around the female
clothing store, feeling instantly uncomfortable with his

An older seamstress, Etta Borders,
sat in a corner, working on the hem of a dress some woman had

Her eyesight must be fading. She
squinted as she held the needle up to the sunlight, streaming
though the window, so she could see the eye to thread

Mrs. Borders was an old gossip and
a widow. He knew for sure if he had a possible wife list she
wouldn't be on it.

In fact, he'd better be cautious
about what he said around that old woman. Otherwise, Billie would
be able to tell him about his business in the seamstress shop word
for word next Sunday at dinner.

Bat blurted out, “I need ya to
make a bonnet for me, Ma’am.”

Leta Mays perked up. She picked up
a pencil and scrap of paper to take notes. “What kind of

Bat shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t
know exactly how to answer that question. Is there more than one

Miss Mays chuckled. “Of course,
there is. Do you want an ever day bonnet for someone to wear at
home, a nicer looking one for church or a fancier one for

Uneasy, Bat shifted his feet as he
rubbed his chin. “I didn't realize I'd have to make a choice. I
figured on just a nice modern bonnet like all the women are
wearing. I’ll leave that part up to ya. Ya know more about such
things than me as far as how a modern bonnet should

Leta made a note and asked, “How
old is the woman the bonnet is for?” When Bat looked confused, she
went on to explain. “Is the bonnet for someone that's younger, for
instant, like one of your daughters? Their young age figures in to
the bonnet style they would prefer.”

Bat stared out the plate glass
window at the street as he gave that question thought. He didn't
know which woman in town he’d give the bonnet. How would he be able
to give Miss Mays an age now? One thing he knew for sure was that
the woman wouldn't be as young as his daughters.

He glanced back at Miss Mays. He
found an expectant look on the seamstress’s face as she waited. He
had to give her an answer. “She’s a lady about yer age.”

“What color do you want the

“Cain’t say. Why don’t ya pick a
popular color,” he suggested, thinking the color surely wouldn’t
make much of a difference. That wasn't as important as him picking
the right woman to marry.

Leta grimaced and said slowly as
if she was explaining to a child, “I can't pick a color for you or
the woman the bonnet is for. The color usually depends on what
color the dress is the bonnet is going to be worn with. You need to
check with the woman and figure out which dress she wants to wear
the bonnet with before you choose a color.”

“Cain't do that,” Bat said
hurriedly. Leta eyed him hard. He finished with, “Cause the bonnet
is a surprise gift.”

“All right, you're welcome to look
at the different colors of material I have in.” Leta walked over to
a table stacked high with material. “I just got in a new shipment.
Maybe one of the bolts will jog your memory about the color of a
dress you have seen on your friend.” She stood one bolt on end.
“This bright blue material would make a striking bonnet. Of course,
I’m partial to blue.” Leta chuckled, running her hand over the
material. Then she turned business like. “The color is your choice.
I can't pick a bonnet choice from all these bolts for you. That's a
personal preference between you and the woman.”

Me asking a woman what color of
bonnet she prefers isn't going to happen any time soon since I
don't have a woman to ask, Bat thought. He was regretting ever
coming in this shop. The bonnet gift was a bad idea.

He studied the blue bolt Leta Mays
held up, knowing he needed to make a decision quickly. She wasn't
going to fool around all day trying to help him. If a paying
customer came in, she might leaving him waiting. To be stuck in
that woman's store for very long would be sheer torture.

The shade of the blue material
reminded Bat of the color of the water in the spring fed pond on
the south forty at his ranch. It struck him when he focused on
Leta's face that her warm eyes matched the blue of that material.
“I can tell ya right now after looking at this pretty blue
material, a blue bonnet would do just fine. Reckon when ya might
have the bonnet done?”

“A couple weeks from now maybe. I
can't say for sure. I’ve several dress orders ahead of you. I have
to make those first. That means I’ll have to work on the bonnet in
between if you can wait that long. Is that all right, or do you
need the bonnet sooner?” Leta asked.

“Whenever ya get the bonnet done
would be fine. There’s no big hurry,” Bat said

He noticed the way Leta eyed him,
wondering what he was really up to. Since he didn’t have a woman in
mind to give the bonnet why should he be in a hurry. Not that he
could tell Leta that. She'd think he was touched in the head for
buying a woman's bonnet if he told her the real reason he wanted

A few days later, Bat was on his
way by the seamstress millinery shop to the hotel for lunch. Leta
wouldn’t have the bonnet done so soon, but why not check on her
progress. Bat went inside and crossed the store with a slow gait to
where Leta sit in her corner sewing. He took his hat off. “Hello,

Leta looked up from the dark green
dress sprawled across her lap. “Hello, yourself. Call me Leta,” she
said, grinning at him. “Ma'am makes me feel old, Mr. Kayhill.” She
stuck her needle in a dark green thread spool and rested her hands
over the spool in her lap as she looked at him.

“Yes, Ma’am. I
mean Leta. I sure wouldn't want to make ya feel old. You're far
from that from what I can see. My name is Bat in case ya didn't
know. Ya can call me that instead of Mr. Kayhill so I don't feel
old, either,” He said with a twitchy grin, rocking from one boot to
the other.

Small talk made him nervous,
especially in a woman's dress store. He’d like it better if he was
talking to the men over at the mercantile. He sure hoped he got out
of the store before any women customers came in. They would stare a
hole through him, trying to figure out what he was doing in the

“Yes, I know your name. Bat, what
can I do for you?” Leta asked.

“Well .. well, I thought maybe I’d
check to see how you’re coming with the bonnet?”

Leta looked distressed. “I must
have misunderstood. Did you need it this soon?”

Bat put his hands up. “Oh no,
nothin’ like that. Just checkin’ as long as I was goin' by to see
if ya started the bonnet. That's all,” Bat said quickly. “I don't
need the bonnet in any kind of a hurry.”

“Good.” Leta
relaxed back and took a deep breath. “I did start it. I just got
the material cut out. That’s all I can do to the bonnet until I get
this dress done.

In fact, right now I’m ready to
stop working and go find me a bite to eat for dinner,” Leta said.
She arched her back and rubbed where she could reach.

Bat twisted his hat in his hands.
“Why how about that! Puttin' the feedbag on is what I intend to do.
How about comin’ over to the hotel with me for the noon meal. On
me, of course,” Bat invited.

He surprised himself that he had
the nerve to offer the invitation. He probably wouldn't have if
he'd taken the time to think about asking her. He hoped Leta didn’t
think he was being too forward. After all, they really didn't know
each other.

“I’d love to get out of here for
awhile. I am going to take you up on that offer. I hear the hotel
has good food,” Leta said cheerfully. She yelled toward the back
room, “Etta, I’m leaving for lunch. You will need to watch out
front. If anyone asks for me, I'll be back in an hour.”

BOOK: Blue Bonnet
12.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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