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Prairie's Children, Chapter 4
Submitted by Starla Anne on Sun, 03/02/2008 - 23:57
By Starla Anne Lowry
The dance was a huge event to celebrate the establishment of Ellsworth, which existed through the efforts of Fort Harker. Fort Harker was built to protect travelers on the Smoky Hill Trail, wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail, and local settlements. It also became a major supply station for forts in the west.
The dance was held in the open air and it was a perfect night for the merriment. Ruth was very proud to be escorted by Josh and expected to have a marvelous time. However, it wasn't long until she became the center of attraction as the female gunslinger that "outdrew" a notorious outlaw. She tried to explain that she did not outdraw anybody, but the crowd was only interested in making her a celebrated icon.
The citizens began trying to get her on the ballot for sheriff and assured her that she would win. Ruth politely refused, stating that there were two good men running for the office and that either would do a great job.
Such attention prevented her from enjoying the dance as she desired, Finally, as usually happens when drunk soldiers and cowboys get together, a fight developed. Ruth pulled Josh away from the action before he got involved and asked him to walk her home.
As they walked along, Ruth suggested, "Let's leave this place as soon as possible. If we don't, somebody will try to get me mixed up in a fight and luck won't always be with me."
"Well, I don't have the money to buy a covered wagon, but if you have any money left, I might be able to swing a deal to get you a horse. If I can, we can leave tomorrow if you want to."
"Oh yes, please," begged Ruth. "As soon as possible."
Ruth gave him what money she had saved and added, "Remember, we need some left over to buy some beef jerky or something to eat and bullets for my gun. With it, we can shoot us some food along the way."
"Well, okay. My horse came with a rifle when I 'borrowed' it, so, maybe with your gun and my rifle, we can make it," replied Josh.
A kiss and the couple departed -- Ruth to go to her little room at the boarding house and Josh to his sleeping quarters in the hayloft.
Ruth was so happy that sleep came easily that night. She dreamed about her first date with Josh, the upcoming marriage and wondering how large a family they would have. Her dreams were interrupted suddenly by voices outside her door. She listened carefully to what was being said.
"You can't go in there. The girl needs her sleep." It was the voice of Mrs. Wellington arguing with somebody.
"But we need her right now. She is the only one who can help," came another voice.
Ruth opened the door and saw three women outside with Mrs. Wellington in a heated argument.
"What is this all about?" asked Ruth.
One of the women spoke up. "We need you right away. Some men kidnapped our girls and they are going to do awful things to them."
"What can I do?" asked Ruth.
"You have got to go and get them back," said another woman.
"Me? Get them back? How would I do that?" asked Ruth.
"You know -- you are the only one who can," pleaded the woman.
"I don't understand. Where are your men folk?"
"They are drunk and they can't meet these men in that condition. No telling what might happen."
"Well, what can I do?" asked Ruth again.
"You are the gunslinger. You can rescue the girls."
"Now, wait a minute," said Ruth. "I am not the kind of person you think I am. The incident in the street was an accident. I shot wildly and just happened to hit the man," declared Ruth.
"See, I tried to tell you," replied Mrs. Wellington. "She is no more a gunslinger than I am."
"Oh please. They will be afraid of you. Suppose it was your girl? What would you want someone to do?" asked the woman.
"I would go get her myself if the men wouldn't go."
"Well, we can't -- but you can. Please, come?" pleaded the woman.
"How old are they?" asked Ruth.
"Two are thirteen. One is fourteen."
Ruth thought about the situation for a moment. Here were some women, scared because some men had gotten their young teenage girls and probably were going to molest them. That might ruin the girls for life. But what should she do in a situation like this? What would she do if it were her child? She wasn't a gunfighter. But, it was possible that her reputation might cause the men to give up the girls easily.
"Okay, I will go", said Ruth, putting on her gunbelt, "but you all are going to have to back me up. Get some guns -- rifles, shotguns."
Mrs. Wellington saw that Ruth had made up her mind. "I have the necessary guns here," she said. The women followed her to the storeroom and the women got two rifles and a double barrel shotgun. Being armed, the women marched over to the saloon, marched through the front and toward a room in the back.
The bartender tried to stop them, but Ruth looked him in the eye and bluffed him, saying, "If you know what is good for you, you will stay out of the way."
"Ah --Ah -- yes ma'am", said the bartender as he backed away.
Throwing the door open and surprising the men with a six-shooter staring them in the face, Ruth stated plainly, "We have come for the girls. Hand them over and there won't be any trouble."
Knowing of Ruth's reputation and seeing the women holding guns pointed at them, they stepped back and the weeping girls, grabbing what clothing the men had roughly removed, eased forward, still in fear and shock.
"Have they done anything to you?" asked Ruth.
"Not yet," cried one of the girls whose eyes were red and filled with tears, "but they were just going to."
"Just go home with your mothers and we will forget the matter -- won't we, boys?" snarled Ruth.
The men nodded their head. The women exited, each holding a daughter by the arm. Ruth was the last to leave and, still with her revolver in her hand, she turned her back to the men. Suddenly she heard the click-click as the hammer of a six-shooter was pulled back into firing position. She whirled around and fell to her knees as a shot went over her head. She shot back, hitting the man in the shoulder.
"Okay, boys -- for that we are going to jail," said Ruth. "Now, let's go. Don't worry. I will get a doctor to look at your wound."
The acting sheriff was surprised to see a woman march three men into the jail at the point of a gun. Ruth explained the situation and that one needed a doctor. The acting sheriff was not expecting them to stay long in jail, but he was not going to argue with a woman with Ruth's reputation. As soon as she left, he let the men out, but with a warning: "Take it easy next time, fellows. That gal means business."
Outside, one of the men said, "Well, she has it coming and it is up to us to see that she gets it. No woman is going to embarrass me like that and get by with it."
The other two men nodded in agreement.
--To be continued
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.