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|Glasses and Garters Part 1|
|Written by RKP Hunt|
Dandel was a rather large town, nearly a four days ride away from Honeycomb, which was where Jacob called home. Putting the cows in the pin, he had to ride through town to get his payment for the herd. It was the last lot of cattle he would be selling for the year and seeing that they had been away for three months he couldn’t wait to get home. Driving cattle around Wyoming was always the hardest part of the job, but it had to be done in order to earn money for the year.
Coming to the main road that would lead them to Ivan Granger’s shop, they kept on their horses. The people that they passed gave dirty looks, that of disgust and surprise as they passed on by. It wasn’t Jacob that they were upset by, but instead his riding partner.
Wearing pants, chaps, a tan hat down to the eyebrows, a Henry brass frame rifle attached to the back, which her father had just bought her in the town before, and blonde hair in a higher than normal ponytail, Nick had always given people a reason to stare. She merely met their stares of disapproval with grins and kept riding past. Jacob couldn't have been more proud of the way she enjoyed people’s ignorance. It never seemed to bother her that they only tolerated her.
Looking over at Jacob, she gave a smile, and he returned it. She looked just like her mother. When he had first lost Caroline he feared he would forget what she looked like. But now whenever he looked at Nick, he would see her and there was no better apology from God then that. At times it was hard to look at her, and know it had been twenty four years since Caroline had past, and Nick’s birthdays were hard too. Yet, she always seemed to understand; no matter what someone was angry about, she could sympathize.
She was more than just a beautiful smile and sympathetic heart, she was one of his best ranch hands. Jacob’s aunt had come to take care of her when Caroline past, but after six years she too answered the call to heaven. He was at a loss of what to do with her, he couldn’t leave her in the house all day, and taking her out with him just didn’t seem right. But she hated all the women that he hired and more left because ranch life was too hard. So finally, he saddled her up, and it took her no more then fifteen minutes to get the horse moving. She started out roping the calves, and as she aged so did her roping expertise.
When she was twenty, he bought her a cattle dog, which she named Boss. She taught the dog to do more in her spare time then Jacob would ever dream of teaching a dog. Damn dog would find and bring her boots to her every morning. Her, Boss, and Goliath, her horse, were an inseparable trio. She made him proud everyday, she wasn’t afraid of hard work or sacrifice. And he just knew that Caroline would be more than pleased with the way that little infant turned out.
“You hungry, Nicky?” He asked while her eyes were still on him.
Everything she seemed to say was done with such enthusiasm and her eyes gleamed with a happiness that Jacob wished he could know. He always thought that it must be something special to be able to see the good in every situation and every person you meet. Sometimes, just for fun, he would try to forget all the bad he had heard or seen someone do, and look at them with fresh eyes. Nick taught him how to forgive, she taught him how to understand, but most importantly she taught him that no one’s heart is either black or white. Lessons she didn’t even realized that she was teaching him.
It wasn’t that she was naïve, but rather that she just chose not to embarrass the darkness in everyone. Her mind was that of an adult with their eyes wide open, but her heart remained that of a trusting child. Jacob both hoped no one would take advantage of it and hoped she would remain that way forever.
Stopping in front of Ivan’s store, they jumped off and went inside. Nick grinned at Ivan’s boy, Michael, and he promptly came over to speak with her.
Ivan was a short pig-like man with black hair and stout figure. He never looked to be in a good mood, and Jacob had decided it was either because he didn’t like seeing them or he was just a sour puss. His son Michael didn’t resemble him in the least. He was tall with light brown hair, and a rancher’s broad figure. In the saloon before, he had heard rumor that Michael’s mother had been with other men while she was married to Ivan.
It was strange how much he knew about some of the town folks he saw once a year and how little they probably knew about him.
“Hey there, Ivan.” Jacob said as Ivan’s dark eyes watched his son.
“How many you bring for me this year?” Ivan asked referring to the cattle as he wrote something down on a piece of paper.
The reason they came to Ivan last was because he was willing to buy whatever cattle they had left over for jerky and other traveling foods he could come up with. So, they wanted to make sure that their other stops got what they needed.
“Brought you seventeen.”
“Seventeen, you say? That’s a good haul this year, Jake.”
Jacob grinned, “You bet, didn’t have a single calf get killed or sick this year, so we were able to sell more of the older gals this year.”
Ivan didn’t seem interested in what he had to say, “Well, it’s ten dollars a head, so that’s hundred seventy dollars.”
Walking over to his safe, he pulled out the money and counted it. “Here ya go, Jake. See you next fall.”
“See you then. Come on, Nicky.” Jacob said walking towards the door.
“Bye, Nick.” Michael waved.
“See you next year, Michael.” Nick waved as she stepped outside.
“Don’t you be flirting with her no more, Michael.” Ivan snapped, “She nothing but a gal who wants to be a boy. You want to be with a woman who can bake you pies, not one that cleans up cow pies, hear me?” His voice was a deep growl.
“Yes, sir.” He mumbled and went back to arranging jars on the shelves.
The streets of Dandel were congested, back in Honeycomb they could drive their cattle through the main street and no one would get hurt. But Dandel was filled with people, horses, and other animals. Walking down the street, Nick walked past a cart filled with pigs, not healthy looking either. They smelt like they were washed in their own filth and there was no way they would be edible for the fall.
Jacob walked ahead of her, as they left their dogs and horses in front of Ivan’s store while they went to get something to eat at the saloon. He didn’t like taking her to them, but it was the best place to get a cheap quick meal so they could be on the road before sundown.
Nick stopped in front of the wanted posters that were pinned up outside the sheriff’s office. Looking them over her eyes fell on Tatius Norcliff’s wanted poster; he was a famous outlaw, known for his hired hits. Every time she saw one of his posters the price for his head had gone up. This year it was fifty thousand dollars, a king’s ransom. To top it off, he was wanted dead, it said nothing about being alive. To prove you had shot him, the officials wanted his Colt Marshall ivory handled revolvers, expensive guns as they were, the fifty thousand dollars were worth ordering the gun and selling them off as his own. Sometimes for fun, she would imagine catching a crook with that much money on his head, and how she and her father could live well on the ranch with no tight pockets ever again.
“Nicky!” Jacob yelled from up the street and she came to stand beside him, “This isn’t the town you want to be alone in. Now, lets get into the saloon.”
The two swinging doors were in front of them and they pushed open with ease. Jacob stood at the door and allowed Nick to enter. They got their usual greeting, the bartender whom Jacob had seen every year for nearly thirty years, gave a slight wave. The patrons almost seem to go through amnesia and never could get use to Nick. They would stop playing poker, drinking, or talking to watch her walk in and head over to one of the tables in the back.
It was decided long ago that it was best to sit in the back, away from the patrons’ glaring eyes. Not for Nick, but because if they saw her for too long it would cause problems. Sitting down they looked around, it wasn’t much different then the last time they were in here. Bar and Bartender to the right of the entrance, a small stage to the left, and drunks everywhere. There were a few saloon girls walking about, but they knew well enough to leave Jacob alone.
“What can I get ya?” The waitress asked.
“What food you got?” Jacob asked.
“Today we have cornbread and baked beans.” The lady smiled causing her wrinkles to deepen, but she seemed so unhappy.
“Then we’ll have two plates and two beers.” She gave a nod and walked over to the bar.
Jacob turned back to Nick who was digging some mud out of underneath her finger nails. “Beer was alright for you?”
Her deep blue eyes looked up, “Its fine. Hey, papa, you know I was thinking maybe on our way home, we could stop in Gregor and pick up some of those candies that the boys like.”
“You mean that you like?” Jacob grinned.
“Well, that too.”
He gave a nod, “We are passing through anyway, Denise normally has them this time of year, but we finished later than normal.”
“No harm in checking.” She smiled as the waitress put their beer mugs in front of them.
“Food will be out in a moment.” She told them, then headed over to a table that was calling her.
They both took a drink and the Nick stretched out her arms, “I can not wait to get home and sleep in my own bed.”
“That’s if Hank and the rest of the boys haven’t burned down the ranch.” Jacob jested, but he saw that concerned her a little.
“Why didn’t Hank come with us this year?”
He shrugged, even though he knew the answer, “Nicky, he’s getting old and he just didn’t think he could make the drive this year. The others are just too new and I wouldn’t trust them, besides I think we did right fine just the two of us.” Jacob grinned, and she followed in cue.
“Hey!” A young man with almond colored wavy hair walked over to the table. He spit onto the floor, and stared at Nick. “You know, you ain’t welcomed in here, girl.” Nick looked him over and decided to ignore him, and looked back at her father.
“Only women allowed to be in here, are working. You working, sweetheart, cause if you is I could take you upstairs and teach you to be a real woman.”
She snorted trying to hold in her laugh and looked at him. “I don’t think you have anything big enough to teach me how to be a woman.”
The boy’s friends laughed.
He looked over at Jacob, “You should be ashamed, letting her run around in boy’s clothing.” His eyes went back to her, “You acting like a boy, think you got what it takes to be one?”
“I don’t act like a boy, I act like a man. What I do for a living would have you on your ass in less then a second.”
He spit again, “You need a lesson, if you weren’t a woman, I’d…”
Standing up quickly, Nick grabbed the collar of his shirt with one hand and allowed her right hand to swing into his face three times. Then she shoved him back towards his friends, “If I wasn’t a woman, you’d what?”
The boy seemed to be out of his senses as the blood ran from his nose.
“Any of you other gentlemen, want to try and give me a lesson?”
The two men picked up their friend and helped him out of the saloon. Nick sat back down and looked over at the bartender who just grinned at her as he cleaned out a mug.
“Could I have a rag, Tim?” She asked, her knuckles had some of the boy’s blood.
“In a second, Nick.”
Looking back at her dad she frowned, “Wouldn’t kill you to help me out sometimes, pa?”
Jacob grinned, as his food was placed in front of him. “It might.”
Their meal was eaten in silence like most of their saloon meals were. They didn’t want any trouble and making noise would only cause the patrons more of an upset then what had already occurred. It was the reason that most of the saloon owners even allowed them to enter, they knew how to stay out of their customers’ way. Several towns had banned Nick from even entering their saloons and stores. When the first place banned her, she was stung a bit, but it wore off. People were ignorant and she had to find the humor instead of the tears within their own blindness. There was nothing she could do to change their minds, just live in the world and try to make it until the end.
The ride home from Dandel to Honeycomb was uneventful, they had thought that the boy and his friends would show in the dark of night. But as most of the cowards that bothered her in the bars, they just were a bunch of talk. And so the three nights and four days that they rode through the coming fall was peaceful, just the way they liked it.
Nick had hoped they would be home in time for church on Sunday, it was one of the only days she wore a dress. Jacob knew it was much more than the dress that she loved to wear, it was that every boy in town would ignore the good ole’ gals just to give all their attentions to Nicolette. He remembered back when Caroline was young, and how the other boys did the same thing to her. But, even then Caroline would always smile at them all and tell them that she was sorry, but Jacob had already asked her. Even when he hadn’t done so.
The ranch appeared over the horizon, and Nick took in a deep excited breath. She tried to keep Goliath’s speed at a slow pace, but he knew she wanted to race up. Goliath was a huge stallion, his black would turn to a dark blue when the sun hit it just right. Every muscle in his body flexed and bulged with every movement. Jacob had given her the horse when she was a young girl, he was still a foal and by the time he was a yearling, Jacob thought he had made a grave mistake. His size alone at a year was nearly double the average yearling. The colt got so big that for a while Nick needed help mounting him. Goliath was so large now, that they had to remove a wall in the stables, and allow him to have two stalls.
His size, however, didn’t slow the horse down, he was one of the fastest horses on the ranch. He took to ranching like he was a veteran, and his temperament was the only reason Nick still rode him.
He was a sweet horse, enjoying company of any person. Goliath did however, have one flaw, and it was one that didn’t bother Nick. He wouldn’t allow anyone but Nick to ride him, and at first hadn’t allowed anyone but her to come near him. Overall, he was the smartest damn horse Jacob had ever come across, and it was no wonder. Nick seemed to have a knack for getting smart animals to love her. Out of a litter of six puppies, she picked Boss, and he was probably the best cattle dog he had ever seen. Sometimes, he would wonder if it wasn’t the animals, but Nick who allowed them to come to their full potential.
“Pa, there’s Hank and Rock.” She pointed as the cattle and the fence came into view, along with several of the cattle dogs. Nick gave a wave, and the two men rode over.
“We weren’t expecting you back for another two or three days.” Hank told her as he reach them.
His face was wind burned, and his hands hard and old. Hank had worked for Nick’s grandfather, and was well past his stay on earth. Taking off his brown hat, he wiped the sweat away from his white hair, as Rock pulled up.
Rock or Rockwell was a younger man who had just started working on the ranch three years ago. Like most of the ranch hands, they were strangers or orphans to Honeycomb and Nick’s dad gave them work.
His face was starting to get that old rancher’s look, and his hands were long ago rope worn. When he first arrived he had gotten so many blisters that bled, that he almost quit. Most think it was Nick who got him to stay, after all if she could do it, he damn well could too.
“How you doing, Rock?” Jacob asked.
“Just fine, seems we got a lot of wolves this year.” He told them, as he rode beside Hank.
“Lose any cattle?”
Both men shook their heads, “Not yet, but I think this year we need night watches.” Hank’s deep old voice told him.
“Alright. Teresa back at the house?”
Teresa was Hank’s wife, she was a lot younger then him by about thirty five years, but they seemed to be in love.
Hank nodded, “She left this morning to go into town, should be back already. Ya’all hungry?”
“Starved.” Nick told him.
“Ride up ahead, Nicky. Let me talk to the boys and I’ll come have dinner with you.”
“Alright, pa.” She smiled, and turned to the guys, “See ya’all soon.”
“Bye, Nick.” Rock said, and Hank only gave a slight nod.
Riding up on Goliath towards the house, Nick saw a familiar face that made her smile widen. Andrew Kent or Andy as everyone called him, had been working here for eleven years. He came to the ranch when he was fifteen and was only two years older than her. His story was a sad one, his family had to sell everything they owned and move away from their lives to look for work. On a road not to far outside of Honeycomb, a group of bandits jumped out and took what they had left, including Andy’s family’s life. His mother, father, and sister were all killed in front of him, and Andy was knocked unconscious. The hit to the back of his head was so hard that Andy sometimes stuttered, and he talked very slow.
Jacob had hired him almost immediately, but he was no good with the cattle. Being a ranch hand just wasn’t working out for him, but Jacob wasn’t about to let him starve. It took a while, but they finally realize what he was good at. The horses loved Andy, he moved a lot slower than most people because of the attack, and the horses seemed to pick up on it. He took care of them all and the stable. Jacob had told him that no one had ever done such a great job on the stables since Jacob was the horse boy.
Riding up to the stable, Nick dismounted while Andy kept his back turned to her. He was cleaning the shoes of the white mare called Snow, she was Goliath’s mother. No one had any idea who his father was, but Jacob suspected it was a stranger’s horse that they housed for a couple weeks. He said that his horse was a large stallion as well. All that was known was that Snow almost didn’t make it out of delivering the foal alive.
Andy’s dark brown hair flowed out from under his white hat, and he bit down on his tough thick lips. Snow objected and Andy calmed her down telling her it would be over soon.
When he finally dropped her hoof, Nick reached over and grabbed his shoulders. “Boo!”
He never scared, but Nick tried anyway. Standing up he grinned, “N-nick, you’re back!”
“Yeah, we just got in. Hey, could you do me a big favor?” She questioned.
“Depends on w-what it is.”
“Goliath is really tired, and there is going to be a night watch this fall, and I’ll probably be doing it tonight or tomorrow. Could you make sure he gets cooled off, maybe a bath? He needs some rest for a couple days, so I‘ll just ride Snow for now.” She patted the monster horse’s neck.
“Sure, some e-e-extra TLC for the big guy.”
“Thanks Andy.” She reached over and hugged him quick, “Got to go get something to eat, I am starving.” Handing Andy Goliath’s reigns she turned to head for the house.
“Yeah?” She turned around.
“Sheriff Devlin’s been looking for you all week.” Andy grinned.
Throwing her hands up in the air, she smiled, “I wasn’t here.”
Nick entered the house through the kitchen door, and found Teresa stirring a pot on the oven.
“Evening.” Nick said.
Teresa turned around and frowned, “Go outside and take those damn boots off, girl. You can’t be dragging mud all over my clean house, go!” She opened the door, and shoved Nick out.
Taking off her boots she walked back in and was given a hug by Teresa. “I’ve missed you, Miss Nicolette. Look at how dirty you are, after supper you need to go over to the creek and wash yourself off and leave those dirty clothes to me.”
“Alright, dinner almost ready?”
She nodded her salt and pepper colored head, “About thirty more minutes, we are having stew. Where’s your pa?”
“Out talking to Hank and Rock.”
“Oh, Rock, don’t you get me started on him. I found that boy in the back with Miss Elisabeth Hartley, and not in just a friendly manner either. It’ll take me years of church to wash that sin from my eyes. Don’t expect to be seeing her ‘round Honeycomb no more either. She was sent to live with her aunt in Boston, and as for Rock if it was my way, I’d fire that dirty little man, getting women to bring shame to their families names and themselves like that.” Teresa spoke without taking a single breath as she stirred the pot. She was one of the gossiping grandmas as the younger folks like to call her.
“You told on Beth, then?”
“Oh, you bet I did, missy! I had to save that poor girl’s soul, and she will thank me when she’s an old woman like me, having to look back on her sins. And don’t you think I wouldn’t tell on you either!”
“Don’t you worry none, Miss Teresa, you know me better than that.”
Teresa smiled, and kissed Nick’s forehead, “Yes, you’re an angel, just like your mama and pa says.”
Nick smiled sadly, she didn’t like when people brought up her mother. “I’m going to check on Boss and Goliath, and see what the plan is for tonight.”
“Be back in time for supper, missy.”
“I will.” Nick told her as she stepped outside to put her boots back on.