Marjolaine set us to the chores. Me and Eli had the nanny goat Francine tied to the porch and commenced milking her, a task new to us.
Jessie and Warren were taking turns shaking a fruit jar of cream into butter.
Marjolaine gathered up her sewing kit, took the orange chair, and started telling a story about the man that wanted to be a cowboy.
The Story Begins
The woman’s sun-tinged and plowed face mirrored the five-acre Pennsylvania corn field. “You’ve got your own room, C.J. Someday the farm will be yours and it’s plenty good enough to bring in a wife and raise a family. Why do you want to go?”
“Mama, we’ve been all over this. I love this place and I love you and daddy, but I’ve done my duty here. Every other man my age went to war, but with you pleading, I stayed and helped. Now they’re out looking at the new territory.”
“You’re only twelve. And you’re alive,” mama said.
His father took the pipe from his mouth and gestured at the horse the young man saddled. “Let him go, mama. He needs to take his lumps afore settling down to farm. I did it, too.”
The son tightened a cinch. “The Miller boys and Deacon Fisher have already gone west.”
Mama wiped her eyes with her apron while daddy addressed his son. “C.J., I can farm for about ten more years. After that, I’ll be too old. Come back by then if you want a decent place, otherwise … who knows?”
“I understand, daddy.” C.J. mounted the chestnut stud the Easterly’s kept hidden from both the Union and the Rebs during the great clash between the states and grinned. “I’ll write.”
Mama’s tears fell as she watched her only son ride away. “It’s those dime novels that put the foolish ideas about cowboys in his head.”
On The Way
After 80 days on the trail, he had to be near Little Black Water, New Mexico. C.J. took every opportunity to learn local customs and take in the news. Turns out he didn’t chafe at missing the war after all. He would pass up the chance to be an Indian fighter, too. It was lonely and a little scary riding along by himself and he had added at least ten days to his trip by staying farther north than he intended when he heard that Geronimo still hadn’t surrendered. Popular opinion said that the Apaches couldn’t hold out much longer, but C.J. didn’t see the need to stumble into negotiations between the Indians and the U.S. Cavalry.
He turned the chestnut toward an adobe hut on the high ground above a small stream. Perhaps they had spicy beef rolled in tortillas to share. He loved the flavor of western food and found that the pleasant people of this harsh scrubland welcomed strangers. He would share what salt he could spare from the little pouch in his saddlebag. A few oats for his horse would be out of the question, though.
As he neared the low dwelling, a short, slightly plump woman stepped out.
C.J. took note of her. She had long shiny black hair down past her shoulders. She wore clothes of combination animal hide and cloth. She was barefooted in spite of the coarse terrain, and she had a .52 caliber Sharps falling block rifle pointed between his eyes.
A mostly naked man with a war club sat a barebacked horse off to his left. Where had he come from?
What has C.J. gotten into? Leave a comment.
To read the series, click on September 2017, in the Archive list and start with Tales Old Roy Told.
Thank a veteran.