Saturday’s Surprise

Threads of Grace
continued

     Trey pulled a box from beneath his bunk. “For two cents I’d pack up and just keep moving. Who does he think he is, giving me orders to get myself moved in with my wife?” He wadded a shirt and stuffed it in the box. “And wipe that stupid grin off your face or I’ll knock it off for you.”
     Ben plopped onto Trey’s bunk. “First of all, buddy, Covington is your boss. He don’t have to explain nothin’ more to your ugly face. And you high-tailing it out of here because you don’t like to own up to your own doings ain’t gonna hurt nobody but yourself. You don’t want to take orders? Then you shoulda never stopped here.”
     “You want to know why I stopped here?”
     “Cuz ya couldn’t bear to ride on and leave me, your best friend?” He stretched out on the bunk and put his hands behind his head. “You were broke, hungry and smelled like a goat. That’s why you stopped.”
     Trey shoved Ben’s legs aside so he’d have room to sit. ” You think if I explained things to Mr. Covington he’d let me go back where I came from and see if my girl is still waiting for me?”
     Ben’s head hit thunked against the top bunk. “What? Move over, you lunkhead. Are you tellin’ me you got some gal waiting for you somewhere and you up and married another one? What kind of snake are you anyway? Besides that, I think you’re lyin’ and so will Covington. You’re just lookin’ for a way out of the hole you done dug for yourself.”
     “I do want out, but I’m not lying.” He pulled a gold chain from around his neck and opened the round engraved locket it held. “Take a good look and listen-up. Probably should’ve told you all this the first time we bunked here.
     Ben cocked his head and grinned. “Whew, man. I sure am happy to know there’s a reason you wore that thing. I never seen a man wear a necklace before and you had me worried.” He opened the locket then gave a low whistle. “Is this your girl? Man, Trey. She’s a looker alright. But seems a but older than you”
     “That looker as you call her is my ma. She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw.”
     “SueAnna looks a whole lot like her. You notice that?”
     “Yeah, I noticed, but I wished I hadn’t. You want to hear this or not? As much as I want it to be different, I’ve not got all night. Hilda will be out here with a rolling pin if she thinks I’m dawdling.”
     Ben scooted to the head of the bed and jack-knifed his knees. “Talk away. I’m listening.”
     “When I met up with you, I’d been on the road near two years. Buried my ma one day, saddled my horse the next and never looked back.”
     “Didn’t tell your pa you was leavin’?”
     “My pa’s the reason I left. You see, I never knew him. Don’t know to this day what he looks like, his name, or anything.”
     “Flyin’ catfish, Trey. I knowed you was dumb, but this keeps gettin’ dumber.”
     “From the earliest I can remember, Ma prayed with me every night. And every night she’d ask her God to please keep Trey’s daddy safe, wherever he is.” 
      “So—”
     “Those last weeks she kept sending me to the porch. ‘Go look for him, son. I know he’ll come. He promised, and he’ll know I need him. Her last day, when she was in so much pain she could hardly talk, she had me pull the curtains aside…she was that sure he was coming down the lane. I told her I could see him. And she nodded, smiled and took her last breath thinking he’d kept his promise. Never saw a face change so quick. One minute she was all gray and sick, and the next it was like she was young again.” He swallowed. He hadn’t cried then and he wasn’t going to now.
     “She was talkin’ about your pa?”
      He nodded his head. “I begged her over and over to tell me his name, show me a picture, anything so I’d know him if he came. But she’d just shake her head. ‘That’s not for you to know, yet. But someday, my boy, he’ll come and tell you everything. Just promise me you won’t hate him, or me, with the telling’.”
     “He never came.”
     Trey stood and wiped his face with his hands. “He never came. I lied to her, Ben. Lied to my own dying Ma. But I vowed I’d find him one day. And for two years I rode up and down this country showing that picture to every man who’d take the time to look.” He leaned against the bunk. “The day we happened onto one another was the day I stopped looking.”
     “But none of this explains you havin’ some little gal maybe waiting on you somewhere.”
     “Ma dragged me to church every Sunday. Only thing I ever got out of it was getting to know the preacher’s daughter. Her name is Claire. She’s the only one I told I was leaving, and why. Her pa wasn’t real keen on the two of us being together. Said we were too young, and how was I going to support her. He had every argument in the world and wouldn’t believe we were in love.”
     “And you proved your love by running away. Gotta leave it to you, Trey. You give pickle barrel a whole new meaning—like you done got yourself into one.”
     He shrugged. “I know. Now Ma is gone. I have no idea who or where my pa is. Claire has probably found someone else to give her love to, and I’m married to someone I don’t know and don’t care to know.”
     “Could take you to the creek and shoot ‘ya. That’d put a whole lot of people out of their misery, and I’ll just tell God you died.”
     “You can leave God out of it. He doesn’t give a whit about me anyways. Ma always said God’s son, Jesus she called him, was her  best friend. But best friends don’t just let somebody up and die when they still have so much living to do, do they? And if he was such a good friend to her, don’t you think he would have paid a little bit of attention to me?”
     “You mad at God or your pa, Trey?”
     “Both. You don’t know what it was like. Ma wore the same dress to church every Sunday for as long as I can remember. I never owned a pair of boots that didn’t have holes in them because someone else had worn them out first. That beautiful woman you called a looker had hands raw from water and lye soap washing other people’s clothes. For what? To die before she really lived?”
     “He did, you know.”
       Trey slammed his hand against the wall. “He did what? Who’s the he in your statement.”
     “Jesus. Jesus died young, you know. Awhile ago you said somethin’ about if Jesus was such a good friend to your ma he shoulda paid attention to you. Nothin’ I say tonight is gonna change your mind because you got yourself all steamed up. It’s easier for you to blame someone. But one day—Trey, my friend—one day you’re gonna have to start growin’ up. Ain’t no better time than right now when you got a wife—”
    “Will you stop saying that? Yes, the way everyone else looks at it I do have a wife. But you and I both know she has not yet become my wife, and I have no intention of doing more than giving her my name. That’s all, you hear? So don’t expect me to go whistling off to her room with a wink. It isn’t going to happen.”
     “And how will you explain this to Covington?”
     “I’m not going to explain anything. But you mark my word, Ben Penwell. There will come a day when you wake up and I’ll be gone. Oh, I’ll leave you all a note and it’ll say ‘Gone to fetch my one true love, Claire Hudson.’ Then you can explain all you want.”
     Ben stood and clenched his fists. 
     Well, I’ve done it now. I knew the clown had a limit and I think I’ve found it. Now he’ll run to the boss, or Hilda. Right now I think I’d take my chances with Adam Covington
     “Now it’s my turn.” He pushed Trey onto the bunk. “You think you’re the only clown without a circus? This ain’t none of your business but so help me, if I hear you whine one more word I’ll kick your skinny rear clear up to your shoulder blades. So you didn’t have a Pa. So you had to wear hand-me-downs and your ma had to wash clothes. So you had to go to church. Poor little rich boy. That’s what we would’ve called you, us boys at Mrs. Conrad’s Home For Wayward Boys. Only you know why we were wayward? I’ll tell you why. Because there wasn’t a single one of us there who could ever remember a Pa, or a Ma. We ate the rich kids’ scraps and wore his ripped britches…britches with holes so big we couldn’t tell where to put our legs. And when we was sixteen we was told we’d done overstayed our welcome.”
   “I…I had no idea—”
   “You got that right. You have no idea.” He shook his fist in Trey’s face. “The day we met I had four pennies in my pocket. That was the most money that I could ever call my own, and it was left from the nickel Mrs. Conrad gave us as she pushed us out the door. I stole the horse, if you must know, and yes I smelled like a wet dog because I couldn’t even afford to spend the four cents on a bar of soap when I needed bread the more.”
     “You never had a—”
     “I don’t aim to say another word about it. But I was standin’ right beside your ugly face when you told that Preacher Bittman that you would take care of SueAnna and her sister. It ain’t none of my business what the two of you decide about being true man and wife, but I’ll hold your feet to the fire if you don’t start treatin’ her like somethin’ more than a nuisance. You think she wanted to be beholdin’ to the likes of you?”
     “But I don’t love—”
     “You love this Claire person, I suppose? Loved her so much you just up and left and never went back. You ever write to her? You ever tell her where she could find you? Onliest person you love is your poor little self.”
     “You gonna let me get a word in edgewise, you red-headed woodpecker.”
     “Not tonight I ain’t. You don’t need to pack no clothes. Right now you got more important things to do so get your sorry backside out of here and at least show up at Hilda’s table like a man. And you better have that little gal beside you.”
     Trey slammed the door behind him. Oh, he’d have the little gal beside him alright. Why, there wouldn’t be a soul who’d know theirs was a marriage in name only. He was good at pretending. Real good. 
    
     

     

     
     
      
     
  
     

Thursday’s Teaser

Threads of Grace
Chapter 2, continued

     Ben reined the horses to a stop in front of the house. “You go on in, Trey. I”ll take care of this wagon.”
     “No way, fella. We’re in this together, remember?” He reached for SueAnna’s hand. 
     She ignored his offer of help and climbed out of the wagon on her own, then lifted Lily to the ground. “Perhaps it would save you both trouble if I were to introduce myself.” She gripped Lily’s hand. “And you let me do the talking, little sister.”
     Trey shrugged. “There isn’t any need for you to go it alone, ma’am. I got us in this mess, likely it’ll be up to me to get us out.”
     She pulled Lily in front of her and put her hands on the girl’s shoulders. “This mess, as you call it, was a wedding, sir. And as much as I didn’t like the idea then and like it even less now, I took a vow that I’ve promised to keep. And I expect you to keep yours…in name only. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to meet Mr. Covington.” She swallowed and prayed she sounded more confident than she felt. Truth was, her legs were so weak she’d likely fall if she were to loosen her hold on Lily. 
     Ben winked at her, and one side of his mouth slid into a grin. “I reckon we best all go in at once.” He squatted in front of Lily. “How ’bout you and me walkin’ in together seein’ as how I’d be all alone now that Mr. Martin, here, has gone and got himself a Mrs.”
     Lily giggled. “Can I, Annie? Cuz that would be polite, wouldn’t it? And remember, you told me to mind my manners.”
     SueAnna met Trey’s gaze. “Is it okay if Lily comes along, or would you prefer I keep her away from your boss?”
     He nodded. “No need to keep her away. It isn’t like you can hide her for long. Keeping her hid would be like trying to keep the leaves from twisting on a windy day.”
     Lily stepped away from SueAnna and took Ben’s hand. “I wish you was my sister’s mister instead of him. He don’t like us, does he?”
     Ben laughed. “You want to know a secret? You listen too, Mrs. Martin. Trey’s a real slow learner. Took him near a week to like me, and I never met a soul that didn’t take to me right off. Don’t you worry none. He growls and pouts and says stupid stuff all because he thinks it makes him more like a man. But he won’t hurt ya none.”
     SueAnna sighed. Could a man understand how many ways a lady could be hurt? 

###   
     “You did what?” Adam Covington scooted himself higher against the headboard.
     “Hush,” Hilda pulled him forward and gave the pillows a fluff then shoved him back against them. “If you’re going to yell, then you do it when that little lady isn’t present. You sent them two to bring you back a housekeeper and that’s what they’ve done.”
     He glared at her. “I’m not yelling.”
     “That’s telling a lie, Mister. Sister says if you tell a lie you’ll get a blister on your tongue. And they hurt. I know. I tried it once.”
     Before he could stop it, his tongue gave an involuntary swab against the sides of his mouth. It was bad enough his cowboys came home with one girl instead of a grown woman, but to add a miniature one with a strong opinion was more than he bargained for. 
     Hilda handed him a glass of water. “If I had soap handy I’d make you take a big chew of it before you swallowed a drop of this nice cold water. The little girl’s right, you were yelling.”
     He took a long, deep breath. “Okay, I’ll not raise my voice again. But young man,” he pointed to Trey, “you best start explaining exactly what it is you’ve done. And Ben, you can wipe that smirk off your face. I sent the two of you to do a job so the two of you can either take the blame, or receive my thanks. I’m reserving both until I know the whole story.”
     Awkward silence filled the room when Trey finished his explanation. Adam glanced at his housekeeper. Wasn’t she going to get him out of this? She’d be most kind if she’d choose to put a pillow over his face and hold it there until he quit breathing. 
     “You satisfied, now?” Hilda hissed. “SueAnna, my dear, you come along with me and I’ll get you settled in. And if we’re lucky, these three will chew one another into tiny pieces and we can sweep them up and toss them to the wind before nightfall.”
     “You mean I’m to stay?” 
     He could only nod. He closed his eyes against the image of another woman, at another time, that near tore his heart to pieces. And he clamped his teeth onto his tongue to keep from calling her name. 
     Kathleen had stood like this—back ramrod straight, too proud to lower her head, her eyes so full of pain he couldn’t breathe. Even with her pa’s shotgun against his chest, he vowed he’d never stop loving her. He’d not stop looking until he found her…no one would ever be able to keep them apart…he’d die first. 
     Only he was the one still alive. To this day he didn’t know how her pa knew where to find him. But the letter said she’d died before their bastard child was born. And it ended with a promise to kill him if ever saw his face again.
     “Mister?”
      Something hit his chest and he opened his eyes. A rag doll. Really? Brown yarn hair hung in long braids that matched the little imp of a girl who peeked over the top of the tall mattress.”
     “I kinda don’t like you much, but Miss Libby likes you. She can stay with you if you’re sad. She knows kind words and happy words.”
     “Adam Covington. The young lady asked if you agree to her staying and you’ve not answered. I think that doll has more manners than you.” Hilda threw him a glare that would make an onion cry.
     “I nodded.”
     “Annie says I’m to speak when spoken to. That means I can’t just shake my head or shrug or look at my feet.” She demonstrated each move. The rag doll hopped on its bottom closer to his face, then one grubby rounded arm rubbed against his face. “Libby says you need a shave. Whiskers hurt her when she gives hugs.”
     Hilda rolled her lips and he didn’t chance a glance at the two cowboys. Okay, he could play this game. He took the doll and held her in a standing position on his chest. “Well, Miss Libby. How about if you stay here with me while your mama and her sister get settled in.” 
     He smiled at SueAnna. “Yes, you are to stay. My obvious angst is not against you at all. This broken leg has kept me abed too long, I’m afraid, and I’ve grown old and cranky in the meantime.”
     “Pffft. You were old and cranky before that leg ever thought of getting broke.” Hilda put her arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Crank is the only thing that man knows. You’ll learn soon enough how to handle him. Come with me, now. I’ll put you in the best room of the house.”
   “Wait. That’s my room, Hilda.”
    “Not any more it isn’t. It’s now for Mr. and Mrs. Martin.”
    Adam didn’t miss the look of panic that passed between Trey and SueAnna. It shouldn’t have…but it gave him the most pleasure he’d had in quite some time.
###  
     SueAnn held her breath. She’d never seen anything this nice. Especially nothing that you only slept in. A bank of windows covered the east wall. The lace curtains that puddled against the floor matched the curtains around the high canopied bed situated across from them. This didn’t look like a man’s room at all. 
     Large marble-topped tables flanked either side of the bed, and both were topped with ruby glass lamps. The dark walnut floor shone even in the midday light, and was topped with a red, gold and peacock blue rug so plush her feet sank into its depth. 
     The fireplace on the north wall was surrounded by walnut book cases and a peacock blue settee faced the hearth. On one side of the settee sat a large, red leather chair—the one masculine accent—and on the other side was a smaller red tapestry chair with a small matching footstool. 
     Hilda bustled around the room. “I’ll make sure all of Adam’s clothing is moved to a different room. Don’t you let him hang guilt around that pretty little neck of yours, you hear? I’m sure you’ve noticed by now this little sanctuary of his has the hint of a woman.”
     “I did notice. Was there a Mrs. Covington?”
     “Don’t ask me any questions, and don’t ask him, either. But I’ll tell you this much—if you take a good long look at the woman in the painting above the  mantle you’ll see an amazing resemblance. I think he took one look at you and thought he’d seen a ghost. SueAnna, my dear, you’ve managed to win him over better than my apple pie, and he’s sworn he’d die for my apple pie.” 
     She pulled open the curtains. “Most beautiful sight in the whole of Kansas, waking up every morning to the sun topping those hills. Adam’s an early riser, and I used to stand here after I got his room all tidied up just gazing across that prairie. In the spring those little calves romp around, their little white faces bobbing like daisies amongst the tall grass. And in the autumn, them hills look like big loaves of bread, all brown and shiny on top like they’d just been buttered. And oh, the winter. Why old man winter just takes him a great big old spreading knife and ices everything in site. 
     She patted SueAnna’s cheek. “You’re going to love it here, sweetheart. Now, Lily honey, you come with me. We got us a room here just specially for you.”
     “Oh, but she can—”
     “My dear, you take a good long look at me. I’ve never married, but I’m not dumb to the ways. I know you want to look out after this little one, but mark my word, that young cowboy you spoke your I do with isn’t gonna be nearly so ready to share the bed with the two of you.” 
     She winked. “No, siree. I just changed my mind and I’m not leaving for one more week. Gonna make sure you all get settled in and know the way around this place before I leave you here. Newly married is hard enough. Keeping house for Adam Covington and cooking for twelve hungry cowboys is no small job. You’ll do fine, but first you need a chance to get used to being a Mrs. Come on, Lily. I gave your sister the best room in the house, now let’s you and me go find the prettiest for you and Miss Libby.”
     SueAnna waited until the door clicked shut behind them, the laid across the bed and wept. Lily would love a room of her own. But how in the world was she going to escape sharing a room, and a bed, with the likes of Trey Martin?  
     

   
    

Tuesday’s Tale

Who Says They Have To Be Red?

In some parts of the country, volunteer fire departments are the rule rather than the exception. These firefighters are highly trained, and they take great pride in their commitment to their communities. 

But competition among them is serious, and it’s best depicted in the engines bearing their insignias. 

In some ways, I think we could learn a lesson from their pride. While the outside appearance of their engines distinguish them among their peers, what CAN’T be seen, all the ‘stuff’ that makes that piece of apparatus work from the inside is basically the same. And the men making it work all have the same goal~rescue what is in danger, save all they can and the bottom line~put out the d*** fire. And when the smoke is to heavy to see through, and the heat becomes unbearable, it no longer matters what color the the quint, or pumper, or ladder, or rescue—the men charging the lines, setting the pressures, handling the hoses or working the nozzle all work together and are willing to risk their lives for one another. 


All colors represented, and all work together for the good of their communities, and if you look closely you will see a flag represented~~no matter the color. 


AMERICA~~WAKE UP


Mundane Matters

It was certainly not a large gathering—13 kids and 9 adults, to be exact.

And the lunch was not all that exciting—hotdogs, mac ‘n cheese, chips and dip and dessert. 

But by what means do you measure hope?

How many warm bodies does it take to represent encouragement? 

Numbers are fickle. Rarely do they tell the …rest of the story. 

Thirteen kiddos represent numbers. But—

Catherine, Jenna, Hunter, Josh, Charity, Eden, Abby, Scarlett, Rosalie, Jillian, Courtney, Gabby and Ethan are NOT mere numbers. 

They are each individual. And they each have a story.  

And they EACH represent a God-planned future. 

Mundane lunch after church?

Not mundane at all. 

Truth is—

It mattered.  

   

Thursday’s Teaser

Threads of Grace

Two

     “Are you absolutely sure this is what you want?”
     SueAnna turned from the mirror to face Naomi Bittman. “It’s not at all what I want, but if this arrangement allows me to keep Lilyd then I’ll make the most of it. Mama would never have allowed you to take Lily away.”
     Tears gathered in the other woman’s eyes. 
     “I”m sorry, Mrs. Bittman. I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. It’s just—”
     “You needn’t explain, dear. If it gives you any solace at all, I argued with my husband last night about this decision he’s forced on you. Now we’re leaving, and you’re here to face your brother when he returns. What will he think?”
     “I’ve given up on Peter returning a long time ago. We’d have heard from him by now.  It was too much for him, what with Papa and Mama both dying so soon after we arrived. He knew the odds of being able to purchase our old farm were against him. He told me so himself.”
     “Then—”
     The thump, thump, thump of Lily’s familiar footsteps stopped further conversation.
     “Annie are you ready? Mr. Bittman says you’re ‘posed to hurry.” Lily grinned from the doorway, her ever present rag doll, Miss Libby, draped over one arm.   
     “Oh, that man.” Naomi pulled SueAnna into her arms. “So much I want to say…should say, in fact…but—”
     “Please, don’t say anything. You’ve been so good to us. But you do understand, don’t you? I couldn’t bear to lose Lily, too. I’ll work hard for Mr. Covington, and Mr. Martin has agreed this marriage will be in name only.” If only she could believe him. But she’d face that situation if or when it presented itself. 
     She pulled away from the older woman and knelt in front of Lily. “I’m ready, sweetheart. And I must say you look very pretty in your new dress.”
     Lily giggled and turned around. “See it has a great big bow in the back. I never had a big bow before. I tried to see it but that cowboy told me if I didn’t quit looking at it I would get a creek in my neck. But he’s lying, isn’t he? I can’t get a creek in my neck, can I? Cuz if I get a creek in my neck I might get drownded and then that would make you sad, wouldn’t it?”
     “Mr. Martin told you that?” He must not have much experience with children. Goodness, Lily would change that right fast. She’d have to work on the little girl’s propensity to talk nonstop. At least when he was around.  
     “No, the other one. Mr. Martin is standing like this,” she used her fingers to pull the corners of her mouth down, then put her hands behind her back. “He looks all mad, but the other one is nice. His name is Ben. I kinda wish you was gonna marry Ben because I think he likes me. Could you maybe ask him if you could marry him? And could you tell him not to let a creek get in my neck cuz I can’t swim, you know.”
     SueAnna kissed her sister’s cheek. “It’s crick,  not creek, and it means your neck will get sore. And no, you do not have my permission to ask if I can marry Ben.” She gave her a pat on her blue-skirted bottom. “You go down first and I’ll follow you.” She took a deep breath. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
     James Nelson met her at the bottom of the stairs and tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow. “You look real nice, Susie.” 
     Dear James. He’d managed to ease her beating heart without as much as moving his lips. And she doubted anyone else heard. Oh, but she would miss him. She’d miss Lorna, to. But it was James who snuggled her tight against his side when they lowered her Pa into his grave. And it was James who tucked her just as tightly now.
     He wrapped his big hand over hers. “Well, preacher. You and me have already had our words about this. It’s only because Susie, here, agreed to it that I’ll give her away. Never liked that term myself. Never made any sense at all why a man would raise a daughter then give her away.”
     “James, we aren’t hear to listen to you argue.” Reverend Bittman looked over the top of his glasses. “Peter left me in charge of his sisters, and this is the best way I can see fit to keep them together.”
     She laid her head against the older man’s shoulder. The wool of his jacket was rough against her cheek, and he smelled of leather and oil and spices—like everything in the Mercantile. “It will be okay, Mr. Nelson. Really it will.”
     The preacher nodded. “There, now could we please get on with this task?”
###  
    A slight breeze whispered across the prairie and loosened sparks from the glowing embers of the campfire. Trey followed their path upward until he could see them no more. Someone should have told him SueAnna had a wagon to reckon with. Now the trip would take longer than expected. But she wouldn’t budge when he suggested leaving most of it behind. Stubborn, that’s what. Even more reason for him to make sure this man and wife thing never got beyond the in name only stage. 
    “What have I done, Ben?”
     “You got married. That’s what you done.”
     Trey stretched his legs toward the fire and propped himself up on one elbow. “What are we gonna tell Covington?” Even with the shadow on his face, he could tell the big oaf was grinning. “And I don’t need your smirk. 
     “We ain’t gonna tell him nothing. I warned you, pal. This is your tale and I don’t aim to be in on the tellin’.”
     “You didn’t stop me.”
     “You won’t admit it, but you didn’t want stopped. Them teethmarks that little gal left on your wrist might as well have been a hook in your mouth.”
     “That would hurt, wouldn’t it Mr. Ben? Peter catched a fish once and he couldn’t get the hook out and he had to yank and yank. It got a bloody.”
     “Lily, what are you doing out here?” Ben stood and scooped the little girl into his arms. “I thought you were in the wagon with your sister.”
     “Annie is crying, and Miss Libby can’t sleep when there is so much noise. Can we just sit out here for awhile?”
     “You hear that, Trey? Your wife is crying. That’s not way for a bride to spend her wedding night, is it?”
     Ben sat down and folded his long legs. “Here you go little one.” He pulled the girl down onto his lap. “You sit here with me while Trey goes to talk with your sister. How about that?”
     “You want her talked to, then you go talk to her. I’m not playing this game.” Trey sat up and hooked his arms around his jack-knifed knees. Ben could play the sucker if he wanted but he’d do it alone.”
     Lily held her doll toward Trey. “Miss Libby told me my sister doesn’t want to talk to you either, Mr. Trey. Miss Libby says you’re wude and Annie don’t like wude persons. That’s why she’s crying, cuz you’re not nice. Miss Libby says—”
     “Look, your Miss Libby can’t talk and she didn’t tell you anything of the sort. Ben, take her back to the wagon where she belongs. I reckon Miss Morrow is just tired. I’ve seen tired women cry before, and it had nothing to do with me.”
     “She ain’t Miss Morrow no longer. Have you forgotten you two done said I do? If you’re any kind of man you’ll go find out why your wife is crying.”
     Lily wiggled away from Ben and planted one fist on her hip. “Miss Libby is too real. And I already told you why Annie is crying. You’re wude.” She kicked his shin. “And I don’t like you. I wish she’d listened to me and married Mr. Ben instead.” She ran back toward the wagon, sobbing.
     Ben winked. “Well old pal. I’d say you’ve made a fine start. You hired a housekeeper, got married and now have two ladies crying their eyes out all because you’re such a gentleman. Covington will be right proud.”
     Trey kicked dirt at him. “Shut up, you red-headed loud mouth. Just…just…shut up.”
###
                
  
     
     

Tuesday’s Tale

The Power of Siren

In the tiny town of my childhood, the fire siren blew every day.  

We called it the noon whistle. 

And if it sounded at any other time it was a really big deal. People stopped whatever they were doing, came out of the stores, or homes, stood in small groups in the middle of the street or gathered around fences to determine what was happening. And if all else failed, someone would call ‘central’, and the high school girl working the switchboard would know who, what and where. 

It was small-town curiosity. But it was also a call to arms. A neighbor needed help. And whether it was a fire, or some other type of alarm, the community was there to help: provide meals, take care of children, do chores, etc..

Recently I was in a small town that still had that familiar call to lunch. 

Just one crescendo. 

Time to eat. 

All’s well. 

If it were only so.
















Mundane Matters

Hi! My name is…

September 1956: First day of school for my junior year in high school. 

New school. 

And I hated it. 

Until this year, I’d attended school with the children of my parents’ friends. Small town. Very small town. But everyone knew everyone. And it was safe. 

Now, I was definitely the new kid. I wasn’t alone. I just didn’t know the difference between the new ones and the others who’d known one another since kindergarten. 

Then I met Bonita. Her locker was next to mine. She was new. And our miserableness (that must be a word, there’s no red squiggly line under it) was evident. We latched to one another like velcro. 

It would take a larger word-count than my editor would allow to pen our relationship since that day. We made new friends in our new school. We met and married guys who were also best friends. We raised kids together. We’ve laughed and cried. Miles have distanced us. Life has taken us down different paths. But through it all we’ve stayed in touch. 

Yesterday hubby and I joined a myriad of other friends to celebrate Bonita’s birthday. The joy of hugging her kids again brought tears. To visit with friends we’ve shared—friends we’d never known had our parents not made the move we thought was the end of our lives—added another chapter to our saga; a chapter I will read over and over again in my heart.

It was Bonita who, when I was pregnant with our third child, led me to the assurance of my salvation. 

It was Bonita who would encourage me to “practice the presence of God.” 

It IS Bonita who always has a sweet smile and word of encouragement. 

The term ‘old friends’ has no real correlation with age. Well, maybe age does come in there somewhere. But it’s also a reflection of life experiences that no matter what—can’t pull the velcro apart. 

And the sweetest part?

Not even the grave will separate us. 

And that matters!!





Be My…What?




I don’t normally post on Saturday. But today is Valentine’s Day. When I announced that fact to hubby this morning his response was:   VALENTINE’S DAY ON SATURDAY?  

If you read the title of this post, I hope you raised your voice to a high-pitched squeal as you said “my what?”  Feel it slide up there. WHAAATTTT?

That was how he said Saturday?  Like how could a loving God ever allow February 14 to fall on a Saturday (slide upward again, please)

Yep. I married a true romantic.  And the picture accompanying this post proves it. 

Now, we’ve been married 56 years, and I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a LOT of fine details. You know—love doesn’t keep track of wrong doings! You do realize that is a biblical statement, don’t you?

SO, that being said, I must share one of the most tender moments–the Valentine’s Day that needed no prompting. No subtle reminder at all.  Nope. This was indeed a surprise.  

The gift box was HUGE. 

And HEAVY.

VERY, VERY, heavy.  

Anticipation nearing the squealing stage, I tried to guess what it might be. I mean, it was definitely heavier than the usual spatula I got for Christmas. And he already gave me the last two Laura Ingalls Wilder books—that we needed to round out our set—when our boys were born. 

I carefully—don’t ask me why—removed the duck tape bow, and tore away the newspaper wrapping. And what that box revealed brought tears to my eyes. Of course, I was laughing.

There was the biggest cast iron skillet I had ever seen (although, since then I have seen bigger ones at Silver Dollar City). We could have put a whole side of bacon in the thing. Well, at least I think we could have. We first had to get a crane to lift the lid before I could actually witness the width, and height, and depth of this man’s love. 

“For camping,” he said. 

I’m not sure if we were supposed to sleep in the thing, or pull it behind us. However, even after all these years I can still count on one hand—actually, with one finger—the times we’ve gone camping.

But you know what? It was one of those times when you knew that no matter what the years would bring, that skillet would be there. We’ve had oh-so-may laughs with the retelling of this story. 

As I write this, hubby is building a fire in the fire pit down in our timber. During the day he will keep it going by feeding it deadfall branches. Around that fire pit he’s made benches from logs, and there are a couple of old metal lawn chairs. Even a silly little table he’s rigged up so he’d have a place to set his every-present stainless steel coffee cup. 

I’ll not get flowers, or candy or a card. And I probably won’t get taken out for supper. 

But I know, just as surely as Valentines Day is on Saturday this year, that every time he comes into the house he’ll be singing “will you be my valentine”.  

And I’ll offer to take HIM out. And afterward he’ll tell me I fixed him a right nice little Valentines supper. 

How do I know? Because even when he fixes his own bologna sandwich to give me more time to write, he’ll tell me I fixed him a right-nice little meal. 

He’s romantic, like that. 

And that’s perfectly perfect for me.