- Our Companies
- Hosted by Us
- Other Links
Prairie's Children, Chapter 3
Submitted by Starla Anne on Wed, 02/27/2008 - 14:48
Sometimes women are stubborn -- such as facing a professional gunslinger in the middle of the steet to protect her husband-to-be, having never practiced a "quick draw" in her life. With no hope of winning a gun fight, Ruth intended to prove that she was that kind of a frontier woman.
By Starla Anne Lowry
Mrs. Wellington, I am going to get married," proudly announced Ruth.
"Congratulations! I suppose it is the young man at the livery stable that you have been seeing?"
"Yep, shore is." Ruth was grinning from ear to ear.
"Well, tell me -- what kind of man is he?" inquired Mrs. Wellington.
"Well, he is nice -- very nice. He doesn't even carry a gun. Ah -- he is not educated, kinda on the ignorant side, but I can fix that. I never knew of him taking a drink. Well -- he is just a good all-around good man."
"Well, a lot of girls have married intending to 'fix' their men's faults, but did not do very well. How long have you known him?"
"Oh, just a little while. We met on the prairie and it was night -- but he was nice -- did not offer to do anything to me -- and he is still behaving himself, if you know what I mean," replied Ruth.
"Yes, I know what you mean. I only wished that you had known him earlier and not planned on a marriage so quickly, but out here a lot of women don't wait. They jump at the first opportunity, so you won't be the first, I guess."
"He's going to take me to the dance Saturday night and buy me a new dress -- that is, if he can get off work before the store closes -- or if I can?" Ruth asked it in the form of a question since she happened to think that she had not cleared Saturday afternoon with Mrs. Wellington.
Mrs. Wellington smiled and said, "Of course you can, my child. I like to see you happy."
Ruth went through the rest of the day singing. The only song she knew were church songs she had heard her mother singing -- but they were happy songs and Ruth was a very happy girl. Her work seemed extra easy and time flew by. The first thing she knew, it was suppertime.
She couldn't hardly wait until Saturday afternoon, although she saw Josh every day. But Saturday was special and nothing was going to ruin it. Josh asked Barney if he could have that afternoon off and it was okay.
Saturday was the day Clint Lovett rode into town. He was a tall man with a weathered face, revealing numerous scars where he had been cut by knives and broken bottles in saloon brawls. It was easy to recognize him as a tough hombre, well known as a gunfighter, quick on the draw. It seem clear to most people that he enjoyed gunfighting and killing -- for fun. He did not consider anyone his equal. One of the townspeople recognized him right away and passed the word, causing fear among the citizens.
Barney had told Josh that he could go ahead and meet his sweetie. He was going to the saloon for just a few minutes and be right back. Josh was so excited that he ran toward the boarding house -- right past Clint Lovett.
Clint yelled after him, "Hey boy. Come back here and take care of my horse."
Josh hollered back, "I've got some important business. Barney is in the saloon. He will be right with you."
That was the wrong thing to say -- to Clint. His mind was made up that this young whippersnapper was the first one he was going to kill. Clint smiled at that thought.
First, he needed a drink. He tied his horse to the hitching post and marched into the saloon as the important person he invisioned himself to be. He stopped just inside the swinging doors and looked around. He could sense the nervousness of the men. His reputation preceded him and that pleased him. Stepping up to the bar, he ordered a drink.
"Yes sir, M-m-mister Clint. A-a-anything you want -- on the house," stuttered the bartender as he handed the gun fighter a glass and a bottle. Clint grinned at how the bartender's hand was shaking with fear.
Clint took the bottle to a table and sat down. He wasn't in a big hurry to kill the young fellow from the livery stable, so why not just empty the entire bottle? After all, it did not cost him anything. It was on the house. He was a man and a real man proved himself by how well he could hold his liquor.
Josh was excited that Ruth and he were going to pick out her first store bought dress. He hoped he had enough money in his pocket. Since Josh never went anywhere, he was able to save almost everything he was paid.
Likewise, Ruth had saved most of her money, too. For kids who were never wealthy, they felt they were rich with just a few dollars in their pockets.
Walking arm in arm, the two lovebirds strolled to the general store. Josh was thinking, 'I hope they have something she will like'. Some higher power must have heard his wish because a woman had ordered a dress suitable for all occasions, but never picked it up. Seeing such a young couple in love, the merchant's wife offered it to them at a reduced price.
"Do you like it?" asked Josh.
"Oh, it is beautiful. I love it. Can I get it -- please?" begged Ruth.
Counting out his money, Josh came up short. Noticing that, the merchant's wife said, "Well, it has been here a long time and we really need to get rid of it, so I will tell you what I will do. It is yours for that amount," referring to the meager amount of cash young Josh had on hand.
"Okay now, it is my turn," said Ruth. She counted out her money and stated, "Josh needs some new trousers, a shirt, and a hat if this will cover it."
The saleswoman laid out the merchandise, totaled up the charges, and Ruth had more than enough. The couple, pleased with their purchases, kindly thanked the woman for her assistance and left the store very happy.
The woman turned to her husband and said, "We didn't lose anything. It is pay enough to help out a young couple like that because they are going to have a rough road ahead of them. Everyone who gets married in these parts always do." The merchant agreed.
Walking back along the dusty street, a drunken man came out of the saloon. When he saw Josh, he called out, "Hey young fellow, I don't like the way that you refused to take care of my horse. My horse is impotant to me."
The townspeople crossing the street ran to the wooden sidewalks when they heard the voice of Clint Lovett. Everyone had heard of his reputation -- how fast he was on the draw.
"Sir, I am terribly sorry. I did not mean any harm. I was just going to see my future wife and carry her to buy a dress for the dance tonight," explained Josh.
"That don't make any difference with me. My horse is important to me, too. "
Seeing that Josh did not have a weapon, Clint asked, "Where is your gun?"
"Ah -- I don't have one, sir," replied Josh.
Clint looked to the side and motion to one of the men standing by the saloon. "Give this young feller your gun."
The man quickly obliged and pitched his gun belt out in the street.
"Now, put it on, " demanded Clint.
"No, sir -- I don't fight with guns," replied Josh.
"Someone put it on him. I want him to be armed when I kill him."
Ruth spoke up. "Sir, my husband-to-be has more sense than face you. He is not a gunfighter."
"Well, he had better learn fast," advised Clint.
"Sir, if you are going to shoot someone, you will have to shoot me," said Ruth as she picked up the gunbelt and starting fastening it around her waist.
"Wait a minute," objected Josh. "I am not going to let you face him in my place. I am not a coward!"
Ruth whispered, "I am bluffing. I don't believe that any man worth his salt will shoot a woman."
Almost as if Clint had read Ruth's mind, he proclaimed very loudly, "When a woman puts herself in the place of a man, I will treat her as a man and, in case you are wondering, I don't bluff easily."
"No, I am not going to let you do this," demanded Josh. Ruth pushed him aside.
"Someone come and take my husband-to-be out of the way. I intend to stand my ground," said Ruth, still thinking Clint wouldn't do anything. However, if he did, she needed a plan. She had never even practiced a quick draw, so there wasn't any way that she could expect to draw faster than a professional gunman. The situation appeared hopeless if Clint decided to act on his threat and evidentally he was going to do just that.
Ruth stood there in inexpressible fear. If he wasn't accepting her bluff and she backed out now, this evil man would surely kill both her and Josh. But, if she had not taken a stand, he would have most certainly killed the man she intended to marry.
The Fleming family had always been a proud people and willing to stand when the going got rough. As the only daughter, she felt that she had to go through with this to keep from shaming the family name.
Believing that Ruth was actually a female gunfighter, four men had eased carefully out into the street and forced Josh out of the way against his objections. Maybe, by shooting Ruth, Clint's anger would be satisfied and he would not bother Josh. She tried to convince herself that it was proper to die for someone else. Perhaps, God would let her into Heaven because of such a unselfish sacrifice since she had never figured out how to get 'saved'.
Ruth remembered her father saying, 'In a gunfight, a man has to have double vision. He needs to watch the other man's eyes and his hand at the same time. When he makes any move, even flinches, that is the time to do what is needed to be done.' Of course, her father had not been referring to his daughter facing a danger like that.
She formulated her plan. The very second she saw any slight movement, even of the eyes, she would move by jumping from her spot and fall to the ground and roll continuously until the danger was over -- after she had gotten to a safe spot or Clint had ran out of ammunition. The plan had little chance of being successful, but Ruth could not think of any other way. The idea to keep moving came to her mind because the man was drunk and a moving target would be more difficult to hit. So, she watched carefully for any movement, no matter how slight.
She suddenly saw a twitch in Clint's right hand, so taking that as a clue, she immediately jumped to one side. It was timed perfectly because, with lightning speed, Clint pulled his revolver and shot where she had been standing. Very quickly, he pointed his gun toward the spot where she had jumped and fired again.
With continous motion and within a second before he fired again, she had jumped back, similar to a zigzag motion, and purposely fell to the ground. She drew her revolver as she fell and, holding it with both hands with her eyes closed, she fired.
Upon hitting the ground, she immediately began to roll. She stopped rolling when she heard someone say, "She got him!"
She opened her eyes and there was Clint, lying on the ground. She had done the impossible! She had accidentally shot and killed the famous gunman.
She heard someone else say, "See, I told you she was a female gunslinger."
Although she knew that wasn't true, she also realized that what had happened today would add to her reputation -- and that would spell trouble.
As the town was cheering and trying to make a heroine out of her, Ruth took Josh by the hand and sneaked back to the boarding house. They went straight to Ruth's small room to talk.
"You know you embarrassed me out there," Josh stated in a rough tone.
"I know, but you would have let him kill you. If he decided to kill me, I was going to make it very difficult by moving around a lot," replied Ruth. "You would have just stood there! I love you and I want a live husband -- not a dead one!"
"Well, what are we going to do? Now, every gunslinger in the country will probably come looking for the woman who killed Clint Lovett," inquired Josh.
"I think we ought to find a preacher or judge and get married right away and leave -- go some place where we are not known -- some place where they never heard tell of Ruth Fleming."
"Or Mrs. Joshua Fortson," stated Josh with a big smile.
"That's right. My last name will be changed, so maybe people cannot connect me with what has happened here."
"Which way do we go?" asked Josh.
"Well, we could go further west -- maybe to California. I have always wanted to go to Alabama. I think I have some family in a town called Blountsville, but the war has caused a lot of destruction there, so really I don't know," replied Ruth.
"Let's work awhile longer here until we get enough money for a horse and buggy or covered wagon and go whichever the wind blows," suggested Josh.
"Well, I want to leave right away, but your idea is better," smiled Ruth. "Maybe we can get a good sheriff. I understand a new man in town is going to run in the next election -- James Butler Hickok. Some call him Wild Bill. I don't know how he came to be known as Wild Bill."
"Anybody running against him?" asked Josh.
"I believe a man named E. W. Kingsbury," answered Ruth.
"Well, at least we will have a sheriff. Maybe he will stop things like what happened today," said Josh hopefully.
"I don't know. Ellsworth is becoming a rough town."
"Well, the best thing is to keep our fingers crossed and wait until the proper time -- and then tell Ellsworth good-bye."
"Yeah, I think so, too," said Ruth as she gave Josh a weak smile.
Copyright 2008 by Starla Anne Lowry
All characters and places (other than historical persons and the name of towns & states) are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or other places are coincidental.