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Prairie's Children, Chapter 5
Submitted by Starla Anne on Sat, 03/15/2008 - 00:11
By Starla Anne Lowry
Josh came storming into the kitchen just as Mrs. Wellington and Ruth sat down to eat their breakfast after serving the guests.
"What's the matter? You look madder than a wet hen," remarked Mrs. Wellington.
"Ruth! Now you really went and done it!" exclaimed Josh. "I thought we agreed that you were not going to add to your reputation!"
Ruth knew exactly what Josh was talking about, but she asked, "What is being said now?"
"It is being told that a man had the drop on you and you were so fast on the draw that you shot him before he knew what was happening -- that's what!" exclaimed Josh.
"I never outdrew anybody. I heard his gun click and as I turned, I went down on my knees so he would miss. Before he could cock his gun again, I shot him in the shoulder. I had my gun in my hand all the time," state Ruth very sharply. "Besides, there were some young girls about to be attacked by those things called 'men' ".
"Well, that is not the way it is being told."
"That is what happened. You know I am not fast on the draw and I surely could not draw against a man holding a gun on me and fire before he does!"
"Anyway, I am having a problem getting you a horse on the small amount of money we have," said Josh. "I worry about you. Right now, there is probably some idiot just waiting on his chance to draw against the fastest woman in the west."
"Horse?" asked Mrs. Wellington. "What's this about a horse?"
"We need a horse for Josh and me to get out of town before someone else comes looking to see if he is quicker on the draw than I am," replied Ruth.
"Honey, I agree that you need to leave and I also believe that everything that has happen has been exaggerated. I like you and, if you need a horse, I will get you one," answered Mrs. Wellington. "I don't want to see my favorite young employee shot down in the streets. You and Josh have your life ahead of you and you need a chance."
"Oh, Mrs. Wellington, you have been so good to me, I couldn't take a horse from you," answered Ruth.
"You can and you will! That is settled," replied Mrs. Wellington.
"At least take the money we have. It isn't much, but..."
"Hush! Keep your money. Just consider a horse as your wedding present. Also, if you two are going to leave together, you need a preacher to get you hitched good and proper. You won't have much of a chance to get married out there in the wilds. I will get your marriage arranged and see about the horse at the same time."
True to her word, Mrs. Wellington had a preacher and a horse ready that afternoon and, after saying the vows, Josh Fortson and Ruth Fleming were pronounced man and wife -- now Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Fortson. Mrs. Wellington even provided the bride with a wedding ring, something that Ruth would treasure forever and probably pass on down to her children.
Just before sundown, a young cowboy came into town looking for the famous female gunfighter that he had heard so much about. He made the brag that no woman was going to make a fool of men and get by with it.
Early that night, the young Mr. and Mrs. Fortson slipped out of town on horseback, carrying food in their saddlebags, hoping that it would suffice until they reached a safe area.
This time, Josh was wearing a gun belt and Ruth was wearing her first pair of jeans that had been given her by Mrs. Wellington -- but without a gun strapped to her side. Her father's revolver was in her saddle bag. Although she was not wearing it, she was not giving it up, mainly because it was the only possession of her parents that she had kept. She was hoping that her gun fighting days were over.
The young man burst into Mrs. Wellington's kitchen demanding, "Where is that female gunslinger? I heard she lives here!"
Mrs. Wellington recognized him as the cowboy who had been bragging about not letting Ruth get by with making fools out of men. "There is no female gunslinger here, so get out!" she exclaimed.
The youngster backhanded her and knocked her to the floor. Mrs. Wellington wiped the side of her mouth and felt blood. "I tell you there is not a female gunslinger in this house!" she insisted.
"You're a liar!"
"Now, that is no way to talk to a lady." The voice came from behind him. "And what is she doing on the floor with blood on her mouth?"
"That ain't none of your business," remarked the young cowboy as he turned to face the voice. "Who do you think you are anyway?"
"My name is James Hickok -- James Butler Hickok in full if you want to know and I am making the way you treat women my business," replied the older man.
"Mister, you have bit off more than you can chew," proclaimed the cowboy as reached for his gun.
In a moment, it was over.
James Hickok drew his revolver and fired before the cowboy's gun was half-way out of the holster. Still holding the weapon in his hand, Hickok walked over and, with his foot, turned the young man on his back and determined that the self-proclaimed gunfighter was dead.
He had helped Mrs.Wellington to a chair and was checking on her when some of the residents ran in to see what had happened.
Seeing them, James Hickok suggested, "How about dragging that body out in the street and call the undertaker?"
One of the men noticed that they young gunslinger's gun was still in his holster and metioned it to one of the other men. Upon overhearing the comment, Mrs. Wellington replied, "He was not quick enough on the draw. It was self-defense. I can witness to that."
After the men carried the body outside, James Hichkok asked Mrs. Wellington, "I guess that was the feller who wanted to prove that he was faster than the young lady here in Ellsworth?"
"Yes -- but she is not a gunfighter. The reputation she gained was due to luck and certain circumstances," answered Mrs. Wellington.
"I thought so -- so she has left?"
"Yes, I think her and her new husband are going to Abliene to rest a spell and, from there -- I have no idea where they are going."
"Well, I wasn't elected sheriff here, so I think I will mosey over to Abilene, too. Maybe I will get to meet this famous lady", smiled James Hickok.
"Mr. Hickok, I saw how fast you were on the draw. If you see her in trouble, would you please take care of her? I have grown to love her as if she were my own daughter." Mrs. Wellington paused a moment and, with a tear in her eye, she continued, "My daughter died in birth, so I kinda adopted Ruth."
"You have my word, ma'am," smile Hickok. "I will be leaving first thing in the morning. Right now, I think I will go back to my room and lie down -- that is, if you are okay."
Mrs. Wellington just smiled and said, "I am okay. Thank you."
As James Hickok departed to his room, the undertaker arrived outside to examine the body. "What happened?" he asked.
"Mrs. Wellington said that he was not fast enough on the draw," answered one of the men.
"..and he was the man that was looking for our female gunfighter to prove he was faster. Well, I guess she showed him who was the faster -- getting him before he got his gun out of the holster," assumed the undertaker.
The legend about Ruth just got a little larger that night while Josh and Ruth were miles away running from her unwanted and undeserved reputation.
It was early morning when Josh and Ruth stopped to rest.
"Maybe we are far enough out of Ellsworth that we will be okay for awhile," Josh mentioned.
"Yeah, as long as someone doesn't come looking for me," replied Ruth. "How in the world can anyone be so stupid to think that a girl would be a gunfighter?"
"That is what makes you so special. Not many husbands have a famous wife." teased Josh.
"Oh, hush! I wonder how long it will take us to get to Abilene."
"Oh, I figured about two more days, unless we push our horses. But, I enjoy taking my time and spending it with my new wife. Ruth, you know I love you and I look forward to us having a home of our own where we can settle down, work hard, and grow old together."
"Do you think I could be safe in Abilene?"
"Well, maybe you can -- at least mybe long enough so I can make enough money so that we can move on."
Ruth thought for awhile. She looked at Josh and finally said, "I still would like to go to Alabama. I guess it is tore up because of the war, but it is the only place I have any kin."
Josh looked back at her and, with a kind voice, said "Some torn up places can be rebuilt."
The young couple laid on their backs, looking toward the sky and began to make plans for their lives. After all, the entire world lay before them and they thought they could do anything they wanted.
Time passed quickly and finally Josh rose to his feet and said, "We ain't gonna git nowhere talking. Let's go and change the world to suit us.
As they rode along, Josh began to get an uneasy feeling.
"What's wrong?" asked Ruth, sensing something was wrong.
"I dunno. I was just thinking. I hear that Chief Dull Knife is around here somewhere. They are talking peace, but I kinda think he may be on the wild side."
"Where is he from?" asked Ruth, not knowing much about the Indians.
"Well, he was born in Montana and should be getting on up in age right now, but I heerd that he needs to be watched."
A few times, Josh thought he got a glimpse of an Indian in the distance, but the vision was gone as quickly as it had seemed to appear. He had heard tales of how that Indians used to toy with their victims like a cat playing with a mouse. He did not know how true those tales were and was not in a hurry to find out.
Night came and the couple made camp. Mrs. Wellington had provided plenty of food for their journey, so there wasn't any need of hunting. It could spell danger if the sound of a gun was heard by the wrong people. They considered their fire to be danger enough without adding to it.
They both slept very lightly that night, each with their hand resting on a revolver. The only sound they heard were animals -- or what they hoped to be animals.
Finally, they woke to a sunny morning and everything seemed to be all right. Getting their stuff together, they decided that they would speed up their trip a little and hopefully hurry enough to get to what they considered more civilized country.
The sun was hot, as usual, as the young couple made their way along the trail, carefully watching for anything unusual. The day passed without any problem, but that did not ease the uneasy feelings. They made camp a little early around dusk, Ruth heard the sound of a horse. She jumped up, punched Josh and they grabbed their weapons.
Suddenly, a lone rider appeared. The man on the horse noticed the guns they had pointed in his direction, so he smiled and spoke.
"Now, young lady -- don't you give your victims a chance to draw?"
Ruth recognized the voice. "Oh, it's you! You scared me out of a year's growth."
"Hope not," said the man. "Life is too short to lose a year."
Ruth turned to Josh and said, "This is a man who stayed at our boarding house and ran for sheriff -- James Hickok."
"Pleased to meet you," said Josh as he stuck out his hand.
"I must ride a little faster than you two. You had a full night's head start on me," mentioned James Hickok. "But I am glad to see you safe. I understand that we may be going in the same direction, so how about me bedding down over there on the other side and we can go together in the morning?"
"Suits me just fine -- as long as you don't pick a gunfight with my wife," answered Josh.
"Oh, no," smiled Hickok. "She is too fast for me."
"Now, those stories are not exactly true..." began Ruth.
"Oh yes, I know. Mrs. Wellington told me all about it. At least we took care of that young whipper-snapper that was looking for you the night you left."
"Yep -- boot hill. He attacked Mrs. Wellington and we had to do something."
"Oh, is she hurt?" asked Ruth.
"Nope -- just a sore mouth, but she didn't blame you. She loves you like her own daughter," replied Hickok. "When you get settled, you had better write and let her know you are all right."
"Thank you, I will," promised Ruth.
"Well, let's eat something and rest up. We should arrive in Abilene sometime tomorrow," replied Hickok. "I have some some beans, if you would like to cook them."
"Good," replied Ruth. "With the food we have, there will be more than enough for a wonderful supper -- particularly now that we have company."
Now that the young couple had a more mature man who probably knew more about the west than they did, they felt safer. After talking for a few hours, each one decided that a good night's sleep was needed.
"Don't worry," said James Hickok. "I sleep very light."
"We do, too. That is the way to stay alive in this territory," answered Josh.
To be Continued ---
Copyright 2008 by Starla Anne Lowry
All characters and places, except historical persons and places, are fictitious and any resemblance to other places or persons, living or dead, are coincidental.