Authors: Margaret Madigan
Copyright 2016 by Margaret Madigan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarities to real persons, living or dead are purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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To Darin, for being such a patient and creative sounding board.
The bracing coldness of the air hit my face as I closed the door to the schoolhouse and locked it behind me.
Mayor Parker stood at the bottom of the steps.
“Good afternoon, Mayor. What can I do for you?”
“I wanted to talk to you about your proposal for a town library.”
My heart swelled with hope as I descended the stairs to stand beside him. I’d been trying to talk the Mayor and Town Council into a library for a while now. Maybe they’d finally decided to dedicate some time and money to the project. “I’m heading to the livery. Would you like to walk with me?”
We fell into step together. “What can you tell me about my proposal?” I asked, crossing my fingers in my coat pocket.
He cleared his throat and drew his brows together in a serious expression, but wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Well…”
“It’s been rejected,” I said.
“Nobody on the council dislikes the idea, exactly, they just didn’t think it’s the best use of the town’s money when we have other issues to deal with.”
I turned to face him as we reached the front of the livery. “You and the council may consider a town library to be frivolous and unimportant, but I assure you, it’s nothing of the sort. My teaching is limited by the few books we have to choose from in the classroom. We’ve read the same books so many times that their covers are tattered and falling off, and the pages are worn thin. Most of the children have few books at home.”
The Mayor stood taller, as if that would telegraph his indignation even more. “Miss Templeton, most of these children will be farmers or ranchers, or work in positions which do not allow them the luxury of lounging around and reading literature. I don’t even know why the girls are in school. They’ll just be married when they’re old enough. Why do they need schooling? And as for your limited supply of books, you’re only required to teach them the skills of reading, writing, and figuring. Anything beyond that is just excessive.”
“Mr. Mayor…” Before I could even begin to rebut his narrow views, the door behind me flung open and smacked me in the back. I stumbled forward into the mayor, who pushed me off him as if I’d infect him with something contagious if he touched me.
I got my feet under me and glanced back, planning to give whomever had barreled into me a piece of my mind. All I registered was tall, dark haired stranger with a wide-brimmed hat.
“Oh, excuse me, ma’am. Are you hurt?” he asked.
I turned my attention back to the mayor, who was in the process of backing away, escaping the consequences of his comments.
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” I said, waving the man off.
“Please accept my apologies.”
“Yes, yes. Fine. No harm done,” I said, hurrying after the mayor and leaving the stranger behind. “Mr. Mayor,” I called after him.
“Good day, then,” the stranger said and headed off down the street.
“Miss Templeton,” the mayor said, stopping on the other side of the street. “I understand you have a passion for this project, but the council has made a decision, and it’s final. Your job is clear, and you have the supplies to do it. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
I didn’t want to excuse him. I wanted to argue with him about the value of a comprehensive education for both boys
girls. How it would broaden their horizons, help them learn to think and reason and dream. How life was about more than just getting married and having babies, or planting crops, or raising cattle. But he turned his back on me and walked away.
I took a deep breath and let it out on a long sigh. My hands were tied, leaving me wallowing in frustration. I’d just have to find other ways to expose my students to a wider education.
Back at the livery, I collected Dusty, then rode out for the ranch, trying to swallow down my anger with every step my horse took.
It wasn’t just about being an effective teacher and having a variety of reading material for the students. I wanted a library for the whole town—a place where everyone could find books to enjoy. I couldn’t be the only person in town who loved a good story. Anyway, what could it hurt? It might even give people something to do with their idle time other than getting into trouble.
But apparently the matter had been decided. I snuggled deeper into my coat to avoid the chill November air, and gave Dusty a dejected nudge in the flank with my heel to remind her we were on the way home, not out for a stroll. She still wasn’t used to living at the
ranch and often tried to go back to the old homestead instead. I didn’t blame her. We’d only lived at the
for a few months, but it didn’t feel like home to me, either.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” I told her, unable to shake my blue mood. “We’ll get used to it. There’s plenty of space there for both of us—a big stable for you, and Boreas is there. And there’s a big kitchen for me, and I have my own room.”
I patted her neck and gave her another nudge. She lurched along at a better pace shuffling through the dusting of snow on the ground.
“That’s it, girl. I want to get there before Juanita has dinner all done. I miss cooking for everyone.”
At least my words of encouragement seemed to convince Dusty. I wasn’t so sure, myself. I was happy for Beth that she’d found love again. Marriage and life on the ranch had made her bloom. But I missed the homestead as much as Dusty. At least there, Beth, Daisy, Nellie, and I had been a family. If I couldn’t affect any change in town, at least I’d always had my friends.
“That’s not very charitable,” I said aloud.
I’d taken to talking to myself lately just to keep myself company. Everyone else at the ranch was so busy with their own work, we hardly had the chance to sit down for the quiet evenings around the table that we used to every night.
“I wonder what Juanita’s got cooking tonight.”
I had to admit, Juanita was an excellent cook, and having her cook for everyone took pressure off me. I didn’t have to rush home after a long day of teaching to prepare supper. But now that we had that big, beautiful kitchen, my fingers itched to get in there and experiment.
Maybe someday I’d have my own family to cook for. I’d have a husband of my own, and I wouldn’t have to teach everyone else’s children because I’d have plenty of my own, and I’d have my own home I could keep clean and beautiful. I’d have my own garden where I’d grow my own vegetables and herbs to use in my own kitchen. I’d invite Beth and Isaac, Daisy and Nellie for supper every Sunday, and we’d sit around
table and laugh and sing and the children would run around and we’d have to scold them, but not put much heart into it because they’d be so sweet and having so much fun it would seem wrong to put an end to it.
I swiped at the tear that slid down my cheek.