She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.
Have you ever had something so horrific happen in your life you just couldn’t believe for an instant God would bring anything good out of the experience? When I read the true story of Juliet Watts I was profoundly impacted by how she not only survived her ordeal but lived a full, fruitful life. She was a survivor AND an overcomer. She is also the inspiration for the character in my novel Locket Full of Love (which is on sale today!).
In Locket, there is a ten-year gap from the opening to when we see Juliet again. I wrote a short story about her during this time and gave it away exclusively to my newsletter subscribers. Here is a sneak peek at Juliet’s Corset (the Short Story).
She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.
“My, that looks like it’s got a story behind it.” Sam, the grizzled, weathered bartender she’d met the day she found the saloon, stood in the doorway, her valise in his hand.
Juliet sucked on her cheek, the memories flashing through her mind as fast as lightning. “Saved the woman’s life who was wearing it.”
“No kidding?” Sam stepped in and set the valise on the bed, his pock-marked, gritty face alight with curiosity. He peered around Juliet for a better look. Not nearly as enamored with it as he appeared to be, she handed it to him.
The big man inspected the undergarment carefully, pausing over every tear, every rip, and especially the hole in the front. “Saved her life, eh?” After a moment, his hand stilled. “I remember hearing tell years ago of a woman the Comanches tried to…harm and the corset stopped an arrow.” He regarded Juliet with one raised brow and narrowed eyes. “I thought that was just another tall tale out of Texas. How’d you come by this?”
She almost offered a dismissive answer but gave in to his curiosity out of sheer weariness. “It was me. I was wearing that corset when the Comanche hit Rimfire. I survived. My husband did not.”
Sam’s expression melted into sympathy and he nodded. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
She plucked the corset from his hands and tossed it back into her trunk. “Yes. Thank you.”
With her back to Sam, she thought he might understand she was done discussing the past, but he didn’t leave. A moment later, he moved off to her left so he could see her profile. “Ain’t really any of my business, but the busiest saloon in town has a twelve foot stuffed grizzly on display. The owner shot it up in Montana territory. It brings in a lot of people to the Big Bear Saloon.”
Was he suggesting…? Juliet cut her eyes at him. “You think I should…?” What was he saying?
“I think a lot more men in this town would rather see the Iron Rose of Texas and the garment that saved her life.”
“The Iron—” The Iron Rose? She’d never heard the name. It both horrified and flattered her. After a moment’s thought, however, she decided she did not wish to perpetuate what it implied. “I don’t think I want that moniker.” She sat down on the bed. “I’m alive because I wore a corset they had no idea how to undo. I didn’t fight them off single-handedly in wild combat.” She swallowed against the knot forming in her throat. “I’m no Calamity Jane. I just got lucky.”
Sam scratched his chin thoughtfully, shoved his hands into pockets and nodded. “Seems to me, God was watching out for you.”
She clamped her jaws. She hated hearing that. People who said that didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat, choking back a scream caused by nightmares so real…
She sighed and stood up again, ready to end this conversation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said curtly. “I’ll see you downstairs in a bit.”
His face, wise, wrinkled, melted a little in obvious hurt and Juliet felt as if she’d kicked a dog. But she couldn’t talk about God…he was too cruel, too distant. If he was really a loving God, maybe one day he’d shove past her anger and show himself, but she wasn’t holding her breath.
Juliet had helped Hugh enough in their mercantile to understand the inventory management of a saloon. Not to mention, Sam was a great help. No, the hard part about running a saloon was managing the patrons. Bossy, arrogant, sometimes inebriated, expecting things from Juliet they had no business expecting.
Tired of the continual argument to protect her reputation, she pushed a beer across the bar and frowned at the grinning, hopeful sailor reaching for it. “I said no, James, and my no means exactly that.”
In his late twenties perhaps, tanned and weathered from life in the elements, he was man enough to understand her meaning. Yet, a devilish glee still played around his lips and she was wary. He was a River Rat, as these men called themselves. They ran the Missouri and the Mississippi aboard paddle wheelers and flatboats, only stepping ashore long enough to entertain themselves for an evening and then back to the water they went. They didn’t seem to have many rules and even fewer boundaries.
Well, Juliet was not here for his or any other Rat’s entertainment. “For the hundredth time,” she said slowly, “you can get beer or liquor here and that is all.”
James huffed, drummed his fingers on the mug of beer. The men on each side of him chuckled knowingly. Juliet had given them the same speech.
“Beer and liquor,” he repeated, his heavy Southern drawl drenching his words.
She gave him a slow, acquiescent dip of her chin.
“But see,” he leaned forward and lowered his voice, “you’re so pretty. I was thinking about you out on the wide water yesterday. I’ve got a silver eagle burning a hole in my pocket, just for you—”
“James,” Juliet snapped, losing her patience. “There are plenty of pretty girls down at the other end of the street.” Her raised voice drew the attention of several nearby patrons. A few smiled. A few did not. Hungry stares argued a consensus was growing Juliet should add herself to the list of drafts available in the Lost Sally. She moistened her lips and took a moment to calm down. “I think that beer is your last one here tonight.”
If you’d like to read the whole story, Juliet’s Corset, please subscribe to my newsletter and we’ll get it right out to you. For subscribing, you will ALSO get a free copy of A Lady in Defiance–the Lost Chapters. Readers really have enjoyed learning the backstory of my sisters before they left Carolina for Defiance.
I would like to thank reader and friend Jeannette Shields for tipping me off to this intriguing lady in defiance–a real one! I get so tired of the feminists making us feel like victims. We’re only victims if we choose that road. I’ve profiled many, many women who simply refused to accept their societal limits and shot right past them.
So, here ya go. Here is another one, a gal breaking the rules, exceeding the expectations of society, living life to the fullest. When Isabella crossed over the Jordan, I expect she did so riding at a full gallop!
“In 1854, at the age of twenty-two, Isabella Bird left England and began traveling as a cure for her ill health. Over the years she explored Asia, the Sandwich Islands, Hawaii, and both the Eastern and Western United States. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains contains letters written to her sister during her six-month journey through the Colorado Rockies in 1873. Traveling alone, usually on horseback, often with no clear idea of where she will spend the night in what is mostly uninhabited wilderness, she covers over a thousand miles, most of it during the winter months.
A well-educated woman who had known a comfortable life, she thinks nothing of herding cattle at a hard gallop, falling through ice, getting lost in snowstorms, and living in a cabin where the temperatures are well below zero and her ink freezes even as she writes. She befriends desperados and climbs 14,000 foot mountains, ready for any adventure that allows her to see the unparalleled beauty of nature. Her rare complaints have more to do with having to ride side-saddle while in town than with the conditions she faces. An awe-inspiring woman, she is also a talented writer who brings to life Colorado of more than one hundred years ago, when today’s big cities were only a small collection of frame houses, and while and beautiful areas were still largely untouched. –Erica Bauermeister
Title of book: A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains
By Isabella L Bird
Available on Amazon. I thought the review (above) might give you food for fodder for a new Lady of Defiance.
The book is free.”
Thanks, Jeannette. Can’t wait to read it!
Lilian Heath. Such a demure name.
She was anything but.
In the 1880s, Lilian’s pa got her a job assisting Dr. Thomas Maghee, the physician
in the wide-open railroad town of Rawlins, WY. A petite little thing still in high school, Lilian was pretty fearless, but not stupid. She dressed like a man and carried a .32 when she went on calls late at night. She and the doc did everything from delivering babies to reconstruct a man’s face after his failed suicide attempt.
The nursing position set Lilian’s destiny. She graduated high school, and, with her father’s blessing and Dr. Maghee’s recommendation, headed off to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa. She was one of only three women in the class. After completing her training, she returned to Rawlins to practice medicine and was well-received … by the menfolk. The women in town were another story. Catty, and jealous, they whispered behind her back, accused her of being a know-it-all, a few even refused to pay Lilian for services rendered. Lilian’s mother Calista wasn’t thrilled with the vocation either, believing her daughter had over-stepped her bounds as a woman.
Maybe, but if a man lay dying of a gunshot wound 30 or 40 miles away, Lilian put on her big girl breeches and made the ride.
Clearly, being a trained female physician was a bad thing, because you could, you know, save lives.
Lilian met her husband, Louis Nelson, in Rawlins and they were married in 1898. He was a painter and a decorator. Go figure. Lilian practiced medicine for fifteen years and then quietly retired, though she kept her medical license current much, much longer than that.
Unfortunately, you can’t read any article about Lilian that doesn’t mention her “connection” to an outlaw. In 1881, while Lilian was still in high school and a candy-striper, for all intents, Big Nose George Parrot was lynched for murdering a deputy. When no one claimed the body, Doctor Maghee stepped up. Curious to see if the bandit’s brain was somehow deformed, he dissected the man’s head, in the name of science. Lilian assisted with the autopsy and was given Big Nose George’s skull cap as a souvenir. She kept it for years, using it for everything from a doorstop to a pipe holder.
Reporters loved to mention that story as if it was her greatest achievement.
My guess is, there were a few members of the press she would have liked to use as doorstops.
But she didn’t let the claws or the snipes get to her. Lilian never gave in, never backed down, never lost faith. I say thanks for paving the way!
Love conquers all. Eventually, right? One of my favorite stories of a determined man finally winning the heart of his beloved is the true tale of Ethel and John Love. Yes, Love. This is the story of a girl who held out against this love-struck sheepherder for five years…but John wore her down. I hereby republish this blog from 2012.
Again, I am intrigued to read between the lines. A city girl leaves Denver, degree in hand, to accept a job as a teacher on a Wyoming ranch. Her classroom consists of seven students. During her school year, she meets her future husband, a handsome, ambitious sheepherder. It takes this stubborn Scotsman five years and dozens of sappy letters to convince Ethel to accept his proposal. What was she waiting on?
Born into a relatively wealthy family, Ethel Phoebe Waxham was a fearless young thing with a big heart. She spent a summer volunteering in the slums of New York if that tells you anything. In 1905 she finished at Wellesly and took a job teaching the children on the Red Bluff Ranch in Wyoming. Her letters indicate she fell madly in love with the place and its people, but not so much with rancher John Love. Oh, she liked him well enough and appreciated the fact that he made the eleven-hour ride to see her several times during the school year. Ethel, though, apparently wasn’t ready to settle down. She had, you know, places to go, people to see, things to learn. Or was she simply afraid marriage might mean her life would pass into obscurity?
At the end of that first teaching job, she enrolled in the University of Colorado to obtain a master’s in literature. That’s when the letters started arriving. Lots of them. John Love made no secret of why he was writing. Ethel needed to be his wife and he would wait for her. No matter how long it took. Unless and until she married another.
When Ethel received her degree in 1907, she took a job in Wisconsin, again as a teacher. Still the letters followed. And she answered, often with an apology that she shouldn’t. She didn’t want to give him false hope, after all. Once she even scolded him for closing his letter with “ever yours,” instead of the customary “sincerely yours.” Yet, Ethel did not entwine her life with any other men. She didn’t often attend dances or parties. Strange girl. It’s almost as if she was the female version of George Bailey. Perhaps restless, she moved back to Colorado in 1908 and continued her work, but where was her heart, I wonder?
Ethel spoke four languages, enjoyed writing, especially poetry, even staged theatrical productions. But that sheepherder, who by now was doing pretty well for himself, wouldn’t give her any peace. Finally, this fiercely independent American girl caved. The two were married in 1910 and remained together the rest of their lives, happy by all accounts.
If you’d like to know more about John and Ethel, check out this piece from PBS. It’s worth the read.
Abortion. Yeah. I’m going there.
As a history freak, I’m pretty well acquainted with how hard life was for the women who settled and–might I add–fought–for this country. Sometimes they manned cannons or rode through hell and high water to deliver intelligence. They fought marauding Indians, beat off snakes with sticks, stared down cattle rustlers, stamped out brush fires with handmade quilts, heck, even crawled through blizzards. And a lot of the time our ancestors did these amazing feats with babies in their arms and toddlers clinging to their apron strings.
I read somewhere the average woman in the 19th century had six children. Most of these ladies probably would have liked to stop before then. Six babies is a lot, but having them was a fact of life because successful birth control (short of abstinence) wasn’t a fact of life. I surmise, however, if they’d had magic wands and could have “undone” any of these pregnancies, I’d bet 99.99% of these gals would have balked at the proposition. In fact, I’d bet they’d be willing to walk through hell covered in gasoline to protect their infants.
Fast forward to the 1970s when all a woman had to do to prevent pregnancy was pop a pill or slap a condom on her partner. Yet, Democrats and spineless Republicans pushed ahead (Roe v. Wade) to legalize abortion, though with “strict limitations” because those words make “murder” so much more palatable. Pro-lifers warned this was a slippery slope; man is after all evil and rebellious at heart.
So here we are today. The New York state legislature comes along and votes into law the right of a woman to kill her baby in the 3rd trimester. And she doesn’t even have to have a doctor perform the homicide. I heard this morning the Virginia legislature is considering a similar bill.
If you know me, you know I’m not politically correct so it won’t surprise you where I come down on these horrific “laws.” I am DEEPLY DISGUSTED by New York Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and NY State Senator Liz Krueger and Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran. The “sponsors” of these bills. I’d call them death merchants.
Ladies, a law that allows the murder of a child for no reason other than the baby is an inconvenience is diabolical. Abominable. Dastardly. Evil. Heinous. Soulless. As are you.
And I’m sorry for you.
I can talk politics all day long and not lose my temper. THIS is the one issue on which I struggle to maintain patience and kindness. I’m not just dealing with ignorance or fear (as I see so often when discussing the 2nd Am), this is EVIL. Pure and simple. And I stand in Defiance of it.
Pray, people, pray. Vote Pro-Life. Donate to pro-life candidates. Support our pro-life president.
Our ancestors didn’t fight and struggle to keep their children alive to build this nation and settle a country just so we could treat human lives as if they are less valuable than cattle. Think about it. If the politicians feel this way about a 9-month old baby in the womb, who’s next? Senior citizens? The mentally challenged? Jews?
Can I get an amen?
This post first appeared at Cowboy Kisses, May 2017 by Heather Blanton
A simple question on the surface, I thought a quick Google would give me the answer. Turns out, a few females claim the honor. So after a little more serious digging, I came up with Mary Hallock Foote and her first novel, Led-Horse Claim: A Romance of a Mining Camp published in 1883.
Turns out, Mary was quite an interesting gal. Born in 1847 in New York to Quaker parents, she attended school at the very proper Female Collegiate Seminary in Poughkeepsie. Her gift for the creative arts convinced her father (clearly a forward-thinking man) to invest more in his daughter’s education. He sent her to Cooper School of Design for Women, and by her early twenties, Mary was a sought-after illustrator and designer for some of the most notable publishers in New York City. She loved her job. She loved the city. But she loved a man more.
In 1876, she married Arthur De Wint Foote, a young mining engineer whose career would take her deep into the wild-and-wooly Western frontier. Mary saw it all. From Deadwood to Leadville, from Idaho to Mexico.
Impressed, sometimes astonished, at the characters populating these rowdy mining towns, Mary wrote and illustrated dozens of articles for readers “back East.” She quickly gained the reputation for being one of the sharpest observers of, and most civilizing influences on, the bawdy mining, and ditch (irrigation) towns out west. According to an article in the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, “The Victorian gentlewoman traveled the American West dressed in hoop skirt and petticoats, insisting that her children be educated by an English nanny and fed by a Chinese cook, so that she could work on her illustrations and stories, without interruption.”
What this quote doesn’t tell you is that Mary didn’t have time to raise the children because she had to help put bread on the table. Her husband’s career as a surveyor and civil engineer was difficult, at best, due to his unswerving honesty. Apparently, fudging numbers was expected in the mining industry, but Arthur didn’t play along. Hence, the continual moves from one town to the next. But Mary wrote about it all and her short stories and serials gained in popularity. They were published alongside the likes of Rudyard Kipling. Her articles and observations of life in the Wild West were met with lavish reviews, especially by those who could recognize the ring of authenticity—because they lived it.
Mary’s stories leaned more toward Western romance, though, as opposed to Owen Wister-style shoot-outs and brawls. She wrote fifteen novels in all. However, her husband eventually landed a job managing a mine in California and as his salary increased, Mary’s hectic writing pace decreased. Her last book was published in 1919. She didn’t seem to miss writing.
Mary and Arthur were married for nearly sixty years. She, ever hardy and determined, lived until the ripe old age of 90. Unfortunately, while her life was long, her fame was not. It is nearly impossible to find the complete collection of Mary’s works now, even on Amazon. What a loss for the Western Romance genre.
I love old books and am always looking to read more. Please feel free to suggest some!
How did all this come about? It’s one crazy God-story!
I was on facebook private messaging with my assistant when I happened to see actor Matt Williams announce that he’d done well in an audition, got the part, and probably another one. I hopped over to just quickly congratulate him. He commented back that he’d like to get a part when one of my books was made into a movie. I said, “Well, it just so happens that I do have a script for A Lady in Defiance, but I haven’t done anything with it.”
Matt immediately private messaged me and asked me about this book. I told him to date it had sold over 50,000 copies and I did write a script for it, passed it around to a few professionals in the industry, but they wanted me to make some changes to it. I wasn’t averse to doing that, I just didn’t feel like working on the script. Really, I’m a novelist.
Matt said there was someone he wanted me to meet and even over the facebook messenger I could hear his excitement!
The next day Micah Lyons reached out to me and wanted to know all about my Defiance books. After a few days of back-and-forth, he made me an offer! And get this–in the course of our conversations, Micah mentioned that he’d seen A Lady in Defiance one day in a Books-a-Million and kept the story in the back of his head! Honestly, we both took that as a sign.
I suddenly realized I might be on the verge of a life-changing decision and reached out to some wonderful folks like Brian Bird and Bodie Thoene for some advice. They were kind enough to offer their thoughts. Like get an agent, don’t give Micah the option on all three books, etc. Then JD Dewitt of 5×5 Productions answered my inquiry and wanted to talk.
JD is precious. I love her to death. Her favorite genre is Westerns and she had already read A Lady in Defiance back in 2013! In short, she now represents me and helped hammer out the deal with Breath of Life Productions.
As I mentioned, one of the things that some professionals recommended I NOT do was give Breath of Life the option on all three books. In case the first one sold, then I should have the ability, they argued, to maneuver for a better deal on books 2 and 3, maybe with a bigger producer. Honestly, that just didn’t feel right to me. Micah was the first producer to look at this project and want to commit immediately to a series, not just one movie. He said he couldn’t see it any other way. That was when I knew. The “up-and-comer” in Hollywood had to have his shot. If Breath of Life Productions and Micah can sell this project, then they deserve to handle all of it.
I’ve heard NOTHING but good things about Micah Lyons and have enjoyed my talks with him immensely. A Godly young man, he is living in a dark kingdom and taking the Light to it.
I say let’s take the good news to those living in Defiance! I hope you’ll pray for this project. We would all appreciate it very much.
Now, a question. Who would you like to see play Naomi Miller and Charles McIntyre? I vote Reese Witherspoon for Naomi, but I’m still deciding on Charles!
Feminism. Do you ever wonder how in the world America was built without those early pioneer women being told (incessantly) they were strong, brave, and didn’t need a man around? Golly, it’s a wonder we were able to help build a country.
In the last few days, I’ve heard a couple of Hollywood starlets berating Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty for being bad role models. Keira Knightley said her favorite Disney movie The Little Mermaid is not allowed entertainment for her 3-year-old. “I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man,” she told Ellen DeGeneres.
I think about the way our culture is working so hard to feminize men and make women masculine and it really ticks me off. Generally speaking, we’re smaller, daintier, physically weaker, more emotional–we’re VERY different from men. And that is our strength. Don’t denigrate it.
Meet a couple of my favorite heroines:
Sybil Ludington, raised in a genteel home with the usual simple expectations of her fairer sex, rode 40 miles in one night to warn the American militia the British were coming.
Another Revolutionary War heroine, Margaret Corbin followed her husband into battle, then took over his cannon when he was killed. Horribly wounded, she fired at the British until she passed out, but hers was the last cannon going.
Or let’s consider Sacagawea who crossed a continent, climbing mountains, shooting rapids, and trekking across remote country for thousands of miles, all while carrying a baby on her back.
And then there’s Susan McSween who, after the broad-daylight murder of her husband, fearlessly stood up to the lawless element in Lincoln, New Mexico and eventually became the state’s largest, most powerful rancher.
And I bet every one of these women had heard some version of Cinderella. In fact, unlike our culture today, women of the past were not expected to be anything but a princess! They weren’t shielded from their “limitations.” Yet, when it came down to brass tacks, when their feet hit the fire, when it all went sideways, our female ancestors stood up, shouldered the burden, and made a difference. Nobody had to tell them they were as smart, as strong, as courageous as a man. They certainly weren’t told they were better than a man, or that all men are bad. They weren’t insecure or threatened by men. They accepted the way things were and rose above it without whining, rioting, or turning their daughters into little self-centered, angry man-hating robots.
I think it was Ginger Rogers who said she could do everything Fred could do, only she did it backward and in high heels. But she liked her high heels and pretty, flowing gowns.
I like being a princess–which, frankly, is just code for being A Lady in Defiance of Expectations.
What about you? Are you proud to be a princess or am I waaaaay off base? Do you have a favorite Disney princess?
Last week I let loose with some choice thoughts for what was happening in this Brett Kavanaugh fiasco. Talk about a smear train coming through and this man is standing on the tracks. BUT, that is not what I’m writing about here. I’m writing to express my SHOCK at how many people congratulated me on speaking my mind. Even other authors secretly contacted me to high-five me, lamenting that they don’t have the courage to speak up ON THEIR OWN FACEBOOK pages.
Man, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work in America. I mean, we are still the land of the free and home of the brave. We have our First Amendment rights. We speak our minds and that is supposed to be okay. FOR EVERYONE.
So, two things. First, I don’t feel particularly brave or courageous when I post anti-Lefty things. I have carefully built my tribe on Facebook. If you are my friend, you are either conservative, a follower of Jesus Christ, inordinately polite in conversation, an #NRA member, a fan of #LastManStanding, or possibly all of the above. Therefore, Facebook is my happy place. Last week when I spouted off about the Kavanaugh smear campaign, I unfriended one person and gained EIGHT new friends in one day. (Now, we’ll see what happens here.)
But, second, I am WELL aware there is some risk. I don’t live in La La Land. When I post stuff on Facebook, I figure my biggest threat might be a liberal Facebook employee who decides to monkey with the algorithms and sink the posts. Yes, this could even happen at Amazon. I offend the wrong IT person and my books could fall off the edge of the world never to be seen again.
BUT, I also know that my God is still on the throne. If he wants my books to get out in the world, out they will go. Look at the success people like Tim Allen, Tim Tebow, heck, even Trump have had by believing in the values that built this country.
I still believe in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. I also believe in discussing matters in a polite, friendly way. (Okay, my posts can be a touch sarcastic, but when I’m face-to-face, I’m ALWAYS polite.)
I will continue to speak my mind as A Lady in Defiance of the Left’s tyranny. And, I believe, so will most of you! It’s your right!
Who’s with me?
I’d like to invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. I don’t talk politics there (well, not often), but we have fun, I keep you updated on important matters (like this movie option thing that’s happening), give stuff away, and let you know about new releases. I hope you’ll join me here.
Welcome to a sneak-peek of my newest release,
To Love and to Honor— Enjoy!
From Chapter 5:
A day later, Joel was strong enough to travel.
And to send word to Ruth of his whereabouts.
He tapped the pencil on the Western Union form, trying to determine how much to write. He believed it a safe assumption his wife did not care where he was so long as he was not in her presence.
His time away with the cavalry had changed Ruth. Her letters had grown colder, her thoughts more succinct. Coming home minus a limb had only served to deepen the divide between them.
What exactly was the state of their relationship now? Dead? Dying? How did one resuscitate a marriage in this condition? Prayer. Ask God for a miracle to revive their love?
He had prayed for revival, but without any passion behind the request. He knew he should care, be desperate to save their marriage. Yet, desperation had died with every brief, emotionless letter from her, every repulsed look she had revealed, and every touch from which she had recoiled. The guilt of his growing apathy weighed on him. He suspected Ruth had reasons for some guilt as well, but Joel had no proof. Without proof, suspicions were merely that—suspicions.
Finally, tired of debating, he wrote, Delayed in Evergreen, Wy. Will notify you when I proceed to South Dak. He pondered adding love, Joel. In the end, he didn’t and slid the paper over to the clerk.
The Bar FB sat in a long, flat valley, ringed with hills that alternated between open pastures thigh-high with brittle, fall grass, and deep, dark-green forests of Scotch and Blue spruces. White-faced Hereford cattle milled about everywhere.
Various log buildings such as the barn and bunkhouse surrounded the imposing main house at strategic distances. Surprising Joel, the home was a white-washed antebellum structure with a cupola on the top. From it, he imagined a man could sit up there and see the whole valley in any direction.
King of all he surveys, eh?
“You could still back out,” Angela said from beside him, hunching her shoulders and rubbing her arms. Joel assumed she was cold, but the action could have also just as easily expressed her fears at this homecoming.
He tapped the reins across the horses’ rear ends to maintain their speed. “Not much of an option right now.”
“You could drop me off and keep riding.”
A cowardly act he couldn’t fathom. He was here now and he was committed to the cause.
“You’re an honorable man, aren’t you, Captain Chapman?”
“I used to think so.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t like lying. Normally I wouldn’t have fallen into something like this. I believe almost any man can be reasoned with.” He cut his eyes at her. “You’ve made me believe your father may be the exception and this subterfuge is necessary. I hope I have not misjudged.”
She heaved a great sigh. “I understand your concern. Two seconds with my father, though, and you’ll understand mine.”
They rolled beneath the gate that proudly displayed the Bar FB encircled in barbed wire, and then into the main yard. A few ranch hands nodded and tipped their hats. One, a large fellow with a silvery-yellow beard, paused, allowed his smile to widen, and approached the buggy. Joel pulled it to a stop.
“Miss Angela.” The cowboy swiped his hat off. “What a surprise. Your father said you was back East in school. He didn’t say anything about you coming for a visit.”
“Howdy, Glenn, it’s nice to see you. I’ve missed your saucy jokes.”
The man blushed from his neck up, the color disappearing into his beard, then stole a quick glance at Joel. A glint of disapproval flashed across Glenn’s face but disappeared quickly.
“Oh.” Angela squared her shoulders. “Glenn, this is my husband, Joel Chapman. Joel, my father’s foreman, Glenn Leary.”
Joel reached across Angela and the two shook hands. Glenn was clearly shocked by the news, judging from his slack jaw. “Husband, huh? Yeah, your father didn’t mention that either.”
“I imagine there’s a lot he hasn’t mentioned about me since I left.”
The man pursed his lips as if acknowledging a secret. “Yeah, he hasn’t said too much since you’ve been gone.” He replaced the Stetson. “And he has been in one continual sour mood. Now that you’re back, maybe he’ll quit yellin’ so much.”
“Maybe.” She didn’t sound like she believed it. “We’ll see you soon.”
Angela touched Joel’s arm and he drove the rig up to the front of the house. “Well, here goes nothing.” Her voice wiggled and Joel wished he could give her a reassuring hug.
In lieu of that, he said, “I’ve faced a hundred screaming Indians, dodged a hailstorm of fiery arrows, and a blizzard of bullets. I’m not afraid of your father.” He smiled, hoping he had reassured her some.
Instead, her smile was pitying. “That doesn’t mean he can’t hurt you.”
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