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Prairie's Children, Chapter 13
Submitted by Starla Anne on Tue, 05/13/2008 - 00:52
By Starla Anne Lowry
"How do you like your eggs?" asked Bertha as she greased the iron skillet with lard, putting in a few extra sticks of wood in the stove.
"Well done -- wait a minute. I can do that," answered Ruth.
"No way, you are our guest. You can pour yourself a cup of coffee. Need cream?"
"No thanks. I drink it black -- just like my daddy did," replied Ruth as she took a sip. "Mmm, this is good. Strong. Just like daddy liked it."
"You must have loved your daddy a lot," said Bertha as she dished out the eggs with bacon and biscuits.
"Yes, I did. He taught me a lot -- mostly about hunting. I never learned much about farming, though. When he was working his field, momma was teaching me things she thought a girl should know."
"They still living?"
"No, daddy passed first and after momma died, I could not stand living at the home place any longer, so I left. I had no idea where I was going, but anywhere to try to get rid of the memories."
"Well, did you?" asked Bertha, "get rid of the memories, I mean."
"No," answered Ruth. "The memories are still there -- as strong as ever."
"I didn't think so -- Hon, you just have to bear them. They will always be there, but will become precious memories and you will look back and wish you could live your life over again. I know. I lost my folks a long time ago."
Ruth smiled, then continued, "Meeting Josh was the greatest thing I ever done since I left home. Marrying him helped take away some of my depression -- although a lot of tears still wet my pillow."
"How did you meet?"
"On the prairie. I had made camp and had settled down to sleep when he walked up. I was ready to shoot him -- but I am glad I didn't," said Ruth with a smile.
Finishing up breakfast with another cup of coffee, Ruth thanked her host for being so kind. "Wonder when Josh will be able to travel. We are trying to get to Alabama. I have kin folk there."
"You have a long way to go."
"Yes, I know," answered Ruth.
Sam came in and reported, "Well, good news about your horse. I found him. It is a wonder someone hadn't found him first. An Indian would be proud to find a horse like that. I put him in the barn and rubbed him down. A horse having a saddle and not being ridden deserves some petting."
As the days passed waiting on Josh's injuries to heal, Ruth tried to make herself useful. She wanted to leave within a couple of days, but Bertha and Sam insisted that Josh had not healed sufficiently.
After about a week, Ruth decided that it would be best for everyone that Josh and she start back on their journey. A group of army soldiers had stopped at the farm with some disturbing news.
"Dull Knife is on the warpath, killing settlers and burning their homes. I suggest that you move away -- at least until the problem is corrected," suggested the commanding officer.
Sam spoke up, "We have a sick man here. Thanks, but we will stay and face whatever comes our way."
After the soldiers left, Ruth argued, "You don't need to risk your life for us. We can move on."
"No!" insisted Bertha. "Your husband needs rest and should not leave now!"
"Well, why don't you go ahead and move out? We will stay here until Josh is able to travel,” suggested Ruth.
"This is our home. Where would we go? The Lord will take care of us if it is his will," stated Bertha in agreement with Sam.
Ruth also believed that Josh needed to heal some more, but she could not feel right placing the kindly elderly couple in jeopardy. But, how could she argue with the statement: "The Lord will take care of us...?"
Ruth asked to help in the daily chores. Bertha kept saying she was a guest, but eventually gave in and assigned her some light duties. Ruth wanted do more, but Bertha overruled anything else. Besides, whatever Ruth accomplished relieved Bertha of some of her work.
Josh was finally able to sit up in bed and eat his meals without Ruth feeding him. Ruth did not mind seeing about the man she loved, but was pleased to see him beginning to do things for himself. In a few more days, Josh was able to sit at the table.
“Looks like we may be getting close to the time that we can leave,” mentioned Ruth as she and Bertha was hanging out the wash on a bright sunny day. The women worked together on washday – Bertha keeping the water hot in the wash pot with Ruth on the scrub board.
Instead of answering, Bertha was looking at the horizon.
“What is it?" asked Ruth, noticing Bertha gazing at something in the distance.
“I think it is Indians,” declared Bertha.
Ruth looked and, yes indeed, it was Indians and they were coming their way.
“And Sam has gone for supplies,” answered Bertha. “I hope you know how to handle a gun.”
“I have one in my saddlebags – belonged to my poppa.” Ruth felt of her neck and asked, “Have you seen my necklace?”
“Yes, I put it in your saddlebags. I saw the gun, too. That is why I thought you might be able to use one.”
“The necklace! It is very important,” declared Ruth as she ran into the house. She found the necklace, placed it around her neck, strapped on the gun belt and marched back outside. Bertha was still standing there, looking at the approaching enemy.
She turned to Ruth and asked, “I see you got your gun.”
“It is for show – to show strength and that I am not afraid of them,” answered Ruth.
“Not afraid? You must have nerves of steel!”
“Well – not quite. I am scared, but I am not going to show it, no matter what happens.”
The Indians began to whoop and yell, riding toward the house at increased speed. Bertha wanted to run, but seeing Ruth stand there not moving a muscle, decided to stand her ground, too.
An Indian shot an arrow through the air, just missing Ruth. She began to walk toward the riders displaying a stern appearance. Bertha was right behind her. The Indians had never seen white squaws do that before, so they slowed their pace. Ruth kept walking.
Rubbing the necklace with her left hand so the Indians would notice it, but ready to draw the gun with the right, she walked up to the one who appeared to be the leader.
“What do you want?” demanded Ruth in a loud, sharp forceful tone.
The leader saw the necklace, stopped, and motioned for his warriors to put down their bows. “Where you get that?” he asked in English.
“I am Fighting Wildcat – am blood sister to Indian brother.” She stuck out her arm so that the leader could see the scar on her arm.
“Me hear of Fighting Wildcat. You brave squaw,” said the leader.
“I am not afraid of you. Now, what do you want?”
“White man taking our land. White chief sign treaty and give us land. Now, white man take it back.”
Taking Bertha by the arm and pulling her around to face the Indians, Ruth states, “Squaw has been here a long time. She wants peace. She is my friend. I will fight for her.”
“She your friend. We will not hurt squaw,” said the Indian leader as he turned his pony around and motioned for the Indian band to leave. Bertha and Ruth stood there watching them leave.
“W—W—What happened?” stuttered Bertha.
“Just like I told him. I am a blood sister and have a reputation for being strong and brave. I will tell you about as we get back to our washing,” said Ruth.
Ruth told about how she had jumped on the Indian brave’s back and held a knife to his throat until another Indian recognized her. She also confessed that she was almost scared to death while that was going on. She continued telling about the Indian chief making her a blood squaw warrior and giving her the necklace to prove her Indian connection. The chief respected her and had given her the Indian name, Fighting Wildcat.
“Well, I will be. The Lord really knows how to work in mysterious ways. He sent you to us to save our home, didn’t he?” asked Bertha.
“Well, I don’t know – could have.”
Josh, standing at the door unseen and smiling, spoke up. “Tell her about your reputation as a gunslinger. That is where the Indian who recognized you knew you from. He had been a scout for the army.”
“Now Josh, you know that stuff ain’t true.”
“Well, folks north of her think so.” Speaking to Bertha, he said “That is why we are trying to get to Alabama, so young gunslingers will not come hunting her to prove that they are faster than a woman.” He continued to tell of the rumors that had been told about Ruth.
Sam arrived back with a wagon of supplies later that afternoon and Bertha had to tell him what had happened. Sam just sat there for a moment with his mouth open. Finally, when he regained the ability to say something, he remarked, “So, we have a famous gunfighter in our midst – and a woman at that!”
“Oh hush,” said Ruth. “I am not a gunfighter. Anybody can outdraw me.”
“Hon, he knows that. Anybody can see that you are not that type,” smiled Bertha. “Let’s go in and cook up some vittles.”
Over supper, Ruth explained everything in detail – how the first time was an accident, the second, she had her gun in hand and dodged a bullet by falling to her knees and that she thinks Wild Bill Hickok outdrew the last man.
“Well, you faced some Indians today,” said Sam.
“Yeah – But, I was scared to death. I had been told that the necklace would be protection, but I wasn’t sure. Actually, I was bluffing. We would have been killed anyway, so why not bluff our way out? Anyway, you should be safe now. We will be leaving in a couple of days.”
Bertha and Sam hated to see the young couple leave, but knew that it would be best if they were among their own kin. Josh did not have any relatives that he wanted to go back to, but Ruth had some in Alabama.
After telling them how to get to Alabama through Arkansas, good-byes were said and Sam and Bertha watched Josh and Sam ride away until Bertha said, “It is bad luck to watch them go out of sight.”
“I guess so,” said Sam. “I betcha one thing. The spunk that gal has got will go through her generations. Things like that are inherited, you know."
As Josh and Ruth traveled eastward, Ruth became astonished at the changing terrain. She had been born on the prairie, so that was the only life she ever knew. She had never been out of Kansas, so to see hills and mountains covered with trees and various kinds of vegetation was breathtaking. To her, she was entering a new and strange wonderland, far beyond anything she had ever dreamed.
--To be continued
All characters and places, except historical persons and places, are fictitious and any resemblance to other places or persons, living or dead, are coincidental.
Copyright 2008 by Starla Anne Lowry