Prairie's Children, Chapter 18 -- Final Chapter

 Prairie's Children

  Chapter 18
By Starla Anne Lowry


“You are in no shape to go after anyone,” replied Josh. “Let the sheriff handle it.”
“Well, get me home and then I will decide what to do,” said Ruth.
Grant was standing in the yard when the two young people came riding up. Immediately, he saw Ruth’s injury. “What happened?” he asked.
“They bushwhacked her,” answered Josh. “I found her in the road unconscious. They must have thought she was dead.”
“Well, bring her on in and lay her on the bed, so we can see about her.”
Josh carefully laid Ruth on the bed. She turned over on her side and said, “Josh, will you get me some willow bark and ginger. You know how to fix it. My head hurts.”
“Sure, I will honey. You just lay there and rest.”
“Take your time, Josh. I will just lie here and rest.”
Okay, just don’t go to sleep. Okay?”
“All right,” said Ruth as she kept her eyes slightly opened just enough to see Josh and Grant leave the room. They walked out discussing how to make the headache medication. As soon as the door was closed, Ruth flung off the sheet that Josh had placed on her and tiptoed to the window.
Looking out, she saw that Josh had not taken time to unsaddle the horses in his haste, but had tied them to the hitching post in front of the house. Slowly raising the window, she climbed out and, carefully watching to make sure no one saw her, she untied her horse and quickly made her way to the woods. As soon as she determined that she had not been noticed, she mounted and rode toward Oneonta and the train station, hoping the outlaws were truthful when they had mentioned their plans.
Ruth rode as fast as she could, hoping to put some distance between her and Josh before Josh discovered she was gone. If she was going to rescue her aunt, one thing she did not need – a man getting in her way.
Arriving at the railroad depot, Ruth began asking questions. The ticket agent did not remember selling three tickets to anyone. There had been quite a few purchasing one ticket, a couple purchasing two, and another man had bought four.
Overhearing her, a woman who had just gotten off the train got Ruth’s attention when she mentioned seeing two men and a woman get on the train. “It looked like the woman was not too anxious to go with them,” she added.
That is all Ruth needed. That had to be the two outlaws. With a quick “Thanks”, Ruth mounted her horse and rode down the road nearest the track. She was thinking that the train would probably stop at Mattawana to take on water from a tank located there.
She was correct. The conductor saw her ride up and, thinking she had some news, walked over as she was dismounting.
“Good day, sir,” Ruth said. “I am looking for two men and a woman who caught the train in Oneonta. I need to see them about something very important.”
Rubbing his chin, the conductor thought for a moment. “Oh yes, there were three people that got on the train there. Strange thing, though. When we got here, they got off. Seems like they had some horses over in the bushes over there and they rode off.”
“Did you see which way they went – or know where they were going?”
“Well, I hear one of them say something about St. Louis, Missouri. They were talking to each other. The woman must not have liked that idea because they handled her a little rough, but she went with them, anyway.”
“Thanks a lot,” said Ruth. “You have been a lot of help.”
It did not take long for Ruth to discover fresh horse tracks and determined that they were the tracks of three horses. The sheriff was correct when he had mentioned Ruth’s tracking ability. She was one of the best. Her father had taught her well. Ruth’s mother had been upset at that at first, thinking a woman’s place was in the kitchen, but was soon resolved to the thought that Ruth could learn to cook later. Later never came, so Ruth was not a good cook. But – she was a good tracker and that is what was needed at this point in time.
The tracks were easy to follow. The storm earlier in the day made the ground very soft and, there not being any other tracks around, Ruth was certain she was on the trail of the men she was seeking. One problem was that nighttime was almost upon her and, without some kind of light, she could very easily loose the trail in the darkness. She had to make camp. There was no doubt that the men would either make camp somewhere or know of a place to stay for the night, too.
Tired and hungry, she checked her saddlebags to see if she still had some flint and steel with which to start a fire. She did, so getting a fire started was easy. The sun had dried out straw and sticks enough to kindle the fire. Next was the food situation.
The question arose in her mind if she were far enough from the outlaws to shoot some game and not be heard. Finally, she decided that it would not matter anyway since they would just think someone was hunting in the woods.
So, with a good fire going and squirrel meat, Ruth made herself as comfortable as she could. She planned to get started at the first sign of daylight and, hopefully, gain on her persons of interest. Roasted squirrel without the ‘fixings’ wasn’t the best food in the world, but at least it satisfied a hungry stomach.
Sleep drifted in and out throughout the night. Ruth’s thoughts were continually on her aunt and what could happen to her. The few moments of sleep brought nightmares; Ruth waking suddenly, realizing that she had her six-shooter cocked and ready to fire at imaginary villains constantly invading her dreams. Finally, she felt she had to get up and continue on the journey even though it was still dark.
What time was it? Ruth looked at the moon; then the stars, but not being familiar with following the heavenly signs used by travelers who traveled often by night, she was unable to determine if it was late evening or early morning. Something she needed to learn. If it had been day, she could have determined the time and the direction easily.
She was thankful that there was almost a full moon even though she had to dismount and kneel often and look for hoofprints to be sure she was still on the trail. She was!… each time she checked. Tracking made her journey slower, but she could not be far behind the outlaws. She had gotten to the water tank before the train left and immediately started following their well-marked trail.
Light began to slowly brighten the morning as Ruth came upon a field. In the center stood a small wooden shack – a corn crib at times, a cotton house at others – according to which crop the farmer had planted. This time, it was going to serve as a cotton house, but would be empty since the cotton had just begun to put on their green bolls.
Through the dim light, she could see three horses hitched outside. So, this must be the place the outlaws had spend the night – inside a small building instead of the open skies. She began to consider the situation: It was still dark enough so that she may be able to sneak up to the building without being noticed.
Tying her horse to a tree out of sight in the woods, Ruth bent over and began to creep through the cotton stalks. Although it was rough on her back, she definitely was not going to walk upright where she could be seen.
Inside there was a conversation going on. Lolus was assumed to be asleep, but she was hearing every word said.
“I think we are far enough away from the railroad so we won’t need our captive anymore. Maybe we ought to get rid of her when we get a little piece into the woods,” said one of the men. “If we shoot her here, the farmer may decide to check on his field and find her too quick.”
Nobody likes to know that a quick death faces him or her. Lolus tried to console herself by thinking, ‘Well, at least she will be with her niece who they had killed earlier.” That thought was not doing much good, though.


Ruth was just around the side of the building and waiting patiently. Her urge was to rush in firing her pistol, but that might cause her aunt to be shot, too. Yes – sometimes patience was advisable.
Eventually, the door opened. Ruth had stationed herself on the opposite side from where the horses were hitched, She peeped around the corner, hoping they would not be looking her way. 
Lolus came out first; then the two men, one with a gun at Lolus’ back. Ruth had to make a decision – and quickly. If she shot the man with the gun, his pistol might fire and shoot Lolus. The other man might have a chance to draw and fire back, too. 
Ruth had to do something. They were nearing their horses. She noticed that the two men were walking side by side. That was their mistake.
Ruth rushed toward the men quickly with her arms fully extended.  Catching them unaware, she pulled her arms together, grabbing each man by the neck very quickly from behind, knocking their heads together. The man’s gun did fire as he fell to the ground, but harmlessly in a random direction.
Seeing that the men were still concious, Ruth drew her six-shooter and proclaimed, “Don’t move or I will shoot!” Pointed her revolver at the man who still had his gun holstered, she barked, “Use the tips of your fingers and pitch your gun toward me.”
Confused and disorientated, the outlaws shook their heads and looked up in surprise at the woman they were sure they had killed. Were they seeing a ghost? No, they doubted that very much – didn’t believe in ghosts. Of course, there was always the first time.
The man to whom she had made the demand, pitched his weapon at her feet.
“Get your horses. We have a long ride back to Oneonta,” said Ruth. “We have some business with the sheriff.”
The men saddled their horses, sure that one lone woman was not enough to handle them until they reached town. Well, that is, until Ruth picked up a revolver and gave it to her aunt.
“Shoot if they move a muscle.”
That did change matters a little. Now, they had two crazed women with guns in their hands – and they had tried to kill both females.
It was night when they rode into town. Fortunately, Ruth still had the light of an early rising moon and they had gotten out of the woods before dark, traveling a stretch of a primitive road. The sheriff was not in his office, so Ruth located the keys and locked the men in a cell; then went to look for the sheriff.
They found him in a cafe, talking about the bank robbery. Looking up and seeing the women, he asked, “What can I do for you ladies?”
“Well, you could go over to your jail and make sure your prisoners don’t escape,” said Ruth.
“Yes, the bank robbers. I locked them in a cell.”
“You what?” said a surprised sheriff.
“I said, I locked them in a cell. I did your job for you, so now I think it is time for you to do something.”
“Well, I’ll be…”
“You had better BE over there and quick,”
“Yes ma’am,” said the sheriff, not sure whether to believe her or not.
Opening the door to his office and seeing the two men locked up, the sheriff said, “Well, she did it. I don’t believe it, but she did it.!” Turning to Ruth, he asked, “How do you know they are the ones that robbed the bank?”
“They took my aunt as a hostage and I just could not allow that. You will find the money in both their saddle bags and we will be in court to testify,” answered Ruth.
Josh was ‘beside’ himself, walking around in the yard for awhile, sitting for awhile, walking again, worrying about Ruth and Lolus. Glancing toward the road, he saw two women riding one horse.
“Grant! It’s them! Ruth and Lolus!”
Grant ran outside and helped Lolus off the horse. “I thought I had lost you,” he said, trying to hold back tears. (He did not think grown men should cry.)
“You had – that is, until Ruth came along. She can deny her reputation all she wants, but there is no doubt – she is as tough as nails.”
“Now, auntie – I assure you that I am not a fast draw gunslinger. Remember? I didn’t outdraw those men, did I?” stated Ruth.
“Well, in my opinion, you had your gun out of your holster fast enough.”
Josh kissed Ruth on the cheek. “Please, don’t scare me like that again.”
“Well, you just tell everyone to leave my family alone. Blood is thicker than water --- and my kin folks.”
                                                         --The End (for now)
More to come?
Well, we will see.
(Probably will be – and soon)
I have been working on three stories at the same time, so by leaving this one with a good ending to the chapter, I can devote my time to the two other stories.

Copyright 2008 by Starla Anne Lowry


Now I Wonder:)

Just how big her rep will get?
May Your Light Forever Shine

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