|Glasses and Garters Part 3|
|Written by RKP Hunt|
Andy was already in the stable by the time they pulled up, and began taking apart the cart right away. Jacob helped him, the twins went into the stable to ready their horses.
It didn’t take long for Rock to ride up without his hat on, and showing off his new black eye.
“What in tarnation happened to you?” Jacob asked, walking over to the fence to get a better look at his eye.
“James Hartley came and paid me a visit. Got in a few shots, but I put him in place.” Rock told him, and then smiled over at Nick. She shook her head, and frowned.
James was Elisabeth’s brother, who probably came to fight with Rock. After all, he had disgraced her name, and made her move all the way to Boston. Odds were he would never see his sister again, and it was all Rock’s fault.
“Well, as long as you both walked away, don’t see how it did any harm. Just made him feel better.” Jacob told him, and he gave a slight nod.
“That’s why he got a couple free shots.”
Nick rolled her eyes, he was such a liar. Rock didn’t expect the short boy to nail him one. Oh, how Nick wished she could have seen James take him completely by surprise.
It wasn‘t long before Teresa wanted to put her two cents in. “You deserved it, you lying sinner. And I’ll tell you, you have a lot more coming to you from God. He don’t like dirty little boys…”
“Teresa, shut the hell up.” Jacob snapped.
Her eyes widened and she looked at Hank, then gave a huff. “Well, I never!” Picking up the ends of her dress, she hurried into the house. Nick assumed to make her Sunday dinner, it was the only time they could eat in the house.
“Sorry, Hank, for talking to your wife like that.” Jacob told him.
Hank only shrugged his shoulders, “It’s alright, Jake, someone’s got to do it, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be me.”
Nick grinned, the last time Hank made her mad, he slept out in the bunk for a month.
Shaking her head, she turned to Andy who seemed to ignore all that had happened, and was still getting the ropes off the horses. “How's Goliath?” Nick asked, seeing if she could ride him for her night shift.
“I think he needs another night, Nick.” Andy said as he lead a dark brown nameless horse into it’s stall. “I let him out to pasture this morning, and he didn’t move from the spot.”
Goliath wasn’t normally the horse she took on the drive, but Frostbite died a few months before. She had to take him or not go at all, it was tough as Goliath wasn’t use to working so hard for so long. Jacob told her that he did a good job, and would eventually get use to it.
“You best not baby that horse, Nick” Jacob snapped, pulling Snow into her stable. “He’s got to work or he just doesn’t have a reason to be. You ride him tonight, understand? Two days off is more than enough, and I don’t think Snow can take another full day.”
Nick looked at Andy.
“He’s real tired, Mr. Beldin. I think…”
Jacob cut Andy off, “He’s a horse and he’s got to learn to work hard like the other horses do. Rock’s horse worked all night and then was out in the field with him the next day.” Jacob turned his eyes to Nick, “Don’t let me catch you on no one else but Goliath, girl.”
As Jacob walked out of the stable with his horse, Nick turned to Andy with a grin and reached around her neck and pulled off the necklace. She had placed it around her neck in the cart so that she wouldn’t lose it.
“I found this, thought it was yours.” Nick held it out to him, and he took it.
“Found it where? Around Patty’s neck?”
Nick smiled, “Alright, I found it around something, but it came off. She didn’t mind that I took it.”
“I’m sure she didn’t.”
Andy stared at it, “Well, nothing I can do with it, why don’t you keep it?”
“You know I just don’t think it would look right in my ranching clothes. But I bet you would make Teresa the happiest woman on earth if you gave it to her. She has her birthday next week.”
“Think it would be wise to pass on a used gift?”
She shrugged, “Why not? Teresa hates Patty. Bet she would love to wear the necklace around her. Would just ruffle Patty‘s feather so.”
Andy cracked a grin and put the necklace in the pouch around his belt. “Alright, you go into the house and get dressed, and I’ll get Goliath ready.”
With a quick nod, she quickly jogged to the stable entrance.
Nick gave him a half grin and a nod, then disappeared around the corner. Forgetting that she was in a dress, she ran all the way into the house. Teresa was in the kitchen preparing the large meal, and Jacob was standing in the dining room. The house wasn’t very big, and was cluttered with seven generations of items. The dining room alone held three armoires, a table that sat ten, as well as several end tables. There were knick knacks that her great grandfather had collected during his travels.
“What are you doing in here?” Nick asked Jacob.
“Forgot my lunch.” He held up his leather pouch.
“Missy!” Teresa yelled and then came into the dining room, “Oh, you are down here. I need you to run into town for me, and pick up some things at Randall’s.”
“But… but, I have to get out into the field…”
Teresa sighed, and glared over at Jacob.
“Do as Teresa says, you have all night to be out in the field. And make sure you take Goliath.” He was obviously trying to make up for telling her to shut up, and he headed out the door before Nick could protest.
“Let me go get dressed, and I’ll be right back.” Her voice was angry and sharp, but it didn’t bother Teresa any. Nick had been angry with her plenty, and the one thing about her was she never stayed angry long.
After getting dressed, Nick walked down the stairs and was handed a list by Teresa. “Make sure you get all of it, and tell Randall to put it on the tab.”
She gave a nod and started to walk towards the kitchen door.
“Oh, missy. Make sure you invite Robbie to dinner understand?”
Nick frowned, Robbie was Sheriff Devlin. His real name was Avery Robert Devlin, but he hated his first name, which was why Nick called him by it. Most called him Devlin, except those who knew him as a child called him Robbie. Robbie, Devlin, or Avery, no name could change that he was a complete ass, that Nick would rather slit her throat than talk to.
Teresa frowned, “That boy hasn’t had a decent Sunday meal since his mother died, and I think it would be mighty fine of us to allow him up here on Sundays. Besides that you need to start thinking about getting married…”
“Is this why you are inviting him? You think I should marry him?”
Teresa folded her arms together, “You are twenty four years old, missy. I was married to my first husband at sixteen, god bless his soul. Your mother would roll over in her grave if she knew her only daughter wasn’t even thinking about getting married.”
“Don’t use my mother in this, and when someone comes along who is worth something I’ll marry him, until then I’ve got time.” Before Teresa could rebuttal Nick slammed the door behind her and headed to the stable.
“Pa!” She yelled out, seeing him open the gates out to the field.
He stopped and sighed, turning around the look at his daughter. “Nicky, I made my say.”
“No, it’s not that. Teresa wants me to invite Avery to dinner, and she says she wants me to marry him!”
He folded his arms, “Nicky, I am sure she didn’t say that. Now, go get what she needs and be quick about it. I’ve decided to brand the bulls today, and the rest of the herd tomorrow.”
With a quick stomp of her foot she went into the stable, Goliath was saddled up as promised, and Andy was cleaning out his stall.
“I have to run into town, don’t suppose I could talk you into coming with me?” She gave her best pleading eyes.
Andy said nothing.
“I didn’t think so. Alright, see you at dinner.” She told him pulling Goliath out of the stable.
Rock was over by the fence and waved her over, he still wasn’t wearing his hat. Somehow, she spent so much time with everyone out in the field to see them without their hats was different. She looked to see if it was in his hands, but it wasn’t.
“You going into town?” Rock asked.
“Yeah, what of it?”
He looked around, “Think you can get my hat from James?”
Pressing her lips together, she looked up at him and then grinned.
“Come on, Nick, I told the guys that I left it in the house. Just ask him for it, he’s real sweet on you, please?”
“I like it when you beg.” Nick laughed, and mounted Goliath.
He smiled, “I can beg all night.”
A quick roll of her eyes, and she headed out onto the main road.
“You going to get it for me?”
“Maybe!” She yelled back, and then took off full speed.
The actual town of Honeycomb wasn’t that far away from the ranch, five minutes ride at full gallop on Goliath. Slowing him down when she reached the first building, she strolled over to Randall’s shop. Dismounting Goliath, she threw his reigns over the stop and walked into the store.
Randall had been a friend of her father’s back before Jacob was even a rancher. The old red head, now had sprinkles of white throughout his hair. He was short with chubby cheeks, looking very much like his Irish ancestors. He stood behind the counter with a big grin on his face.
“Well, Miss Beldin, it’s rare to see you in town.”
“Believe me, it’s not where I expected to be today either.” She told him as she approached the counter, and reached into her pocket for Teresa’s list. “Teresa needs these things for Sunday dinner.”
He took the list from her and began checking the shelves for it.
“I’m surprised that you are open on Sunday’s.”
He grinned, “Well, the misses is cooking dinner, and like Teresa a lot of people need last minute things. I just keep the doors open for a bit after church and then close up.”
Nick gave a nod.
“Alright, here’s everything. I’ll put it on your father’s tab.”
“Thank you, Randall.” Nick smiled and then pushed everything into a sack she had brought along.
Stepping outside she tied the bag onto Goliath and then headed over to the sheriff’s office.
“Nicky! Nicky!” She turned after hearing the children’s’ voices.
Little Buddy Sherwin, and his three friends came running up.
“What is it, boys?”
“Sheriff Devil took our harmonica, can you get it back for us?”
She rose her eyebrow, “Why would he take that from you?”
Buddy shrugged, “Maybe because we were singing a song about him.”
Nick grinned, “And what song is that?”
They looked at each other, as if to decide if they wanted to tell her. Finally Buddy began, it was more of a taunt than a song. “Sheriff Devil, he ain’t picky. He’ll go and kiss on Nicky. And when he’s through, he’ll go and kiss on Betty Sue.”
Nick folded her arms, “Oh really now?”
“We mean no harm to you, Nicky. He’s just mean, always making us leave where we are playing, and taking away our toys. Please, Nicky, please?”
“Alright, but don’t call him Devil anymore, understand?”
“And make up another taunt that doesn’t involve me, got it?”
They giggled and nodded again.
“I’ll be right back.” She told them, and then walked into the office.
Avery was at his desk, which was the only piece of furniture beside a few chairs, to the right were three cells, all empty. The only time any one was locked up in Honeycomb was when someone got a little too drunk and caused problems, and next day they would be set free. He was talking to Curtis, the deputy. Nick didn’t get why they needed two law men, there was hardly enough crime for one.
“Well, hey there, Miss Nicolette. What can I do for you?”
“Give me the boys’ harmonica, Avery.” She held out her hand.
He looked over at Curtis, and then back at Nick. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Nicolette. They are disrupting the peace of our town, and I would assume that you won’t like that to happen.”
Her hand was still out and she glared at him, “Give it to me, Avery.”
“You can’t intimidate me like you do others.”
Her hand dropped, “Alright, here’s the deal.”
Folding his hands together he leaned forward, “Yes?”
“Give me the boys’ harmonica, and I’ll invite you to Sunday dinner tonight.”
Avery smiled and reached into his desk, pulling out the harmonica and placed it gently in her hand.
“Sheriff Devlin, would you be so kind as to join my family for our Sunday dinner?”
“I’d love to, when should I arrive?”
“Around five.” She smiled, and then headed out the door.
Avery gave a wink at Curtis, who was smiling like a dofus. There was no dumber pair of lawmen in the world, but Curtis just looked the part.
Walking out, she handed Buddy his harmonica, “Now, remember our deal, boys.”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you, Nicky.” They chimed then ran off.
Taking a deep breath, there was only one more errand to run. She needed to get Rock’s hat for him, and she knew just the place to find James.
Stepping into the saloon, Elliot, the barkeep, gave her a wave. In the back of the room, she saw James with his head on the table, and an empty glass in one hand and Rock’s hat in the center with his other hand placed over it. Walking over, she sat down in the chair beside him and waited.
James had black hair, and soft features at twenty eight he looked ten years younger. Most in his family looked younger than they actually were. Every single one of his brothers were an exact match to him, and Elisabeth was just a feminine form of the same mold. His father owned the local bank, and his extended family owned banks in Boston and other cities. They were the elite family in Honeycomb, holding themselves up higher than the rest. James was the embarrassment of the family, at least to them.
His father was the reason that he was a drunk, as he would give him five dollars a day just to get out of his hair. Occasionally, James would fill in cracks or paint the bank, but he spent most of his time drinking away his father’s money. Everyone said he was worthless, but Nick believed that he just needed someone to believe in him. No one ever had, and she had known his family since she was a child. Once long ago, before Andy came to the ranch, James was her best friend. He would walk out to the ranch everyday, and chat with her.
Jacob had toyed with the idea of giving him a job, but when he asked James’ father he told Jacob that he would never give him another loan if he allowed his boy to become a filthy rancher. Nick guessed that James’ father thought being a drunk was a much better life, than being a hard working man.
After Andy came to the ranch, James’ visits became fewer every week, and after four years they disappeared completely. James just spent all his time in the saloon, locking out the rest of the world around him. There was nothing that could be done for him, he had to decide to change. Elisabeth had been his only hope, and now she was gone.
Nick took a deep sigh, she hated seeing him now. It always made her want to cry, but she had to keep it all inside. Gently, she kicked his leg and he looked up at her and grinned. “Hey, Miss Nicolette.” His face was bleeding from several cuts, and his right hand and left side of his face was swollen to almost twice their normal size. There was some blood that had collected around his lips, and stuck within his five o’clock shadow. Rock had busted his lip, and looked like he had been working on the rest of his face.
“I hear you and Rock got into a little squabble.” She said and then looked at the hat.
James immediately pulled it to him. “He dishonored my sister, she thought they were going to get married. Now, she’s in Boston, and they are talking about her becoming a nun or some such nonsense. We ain’t even catholic, Nick. He ruined her life, all her dreams are gone.”
“What he did was wrong, James. I know it, and I’m not about to stand up for him, friend or not. But you think getting yourself hurt fighting a man twice your size is going to bring Elisabeth back?”
“I thought if I ran him out of town, my ma might let her come back. Elisabeth can’t be the shame of our family, I am!” He said it a little loud for comfort.
Nick patted him on the back. “I’m sorry, James. I know she was your best friend.”
“Could I have his hat back?” She said gently when James looked down at it.
Slowly he handed it over to her, “I wanted him to come and get, and make him earn it back.”
“The shape your hand is in right now, I don’t think you want to fight him again today. Maybe another time.” She took the hat from him.
“Did I, at least, get some good hits in?”
“He’s got a black eye. I’m sure it’s still swelling. Probably be closed by tomorrow.”
He chuckled, “Good, he deserves it.”
Nick smiled, “Yes, he does. Well, I better get going. I have to get Teresa her fixings and help brand some cattle.” She went to stand up but James grabbed her hand.
“Have a drink with me.”
She shook her head, “I think you’ve had enough, as a matter of a fact. I think you should never step foot in the saloon again.”
Letting go of her hand, he put his head back down. Nick shook her own, and then headed out the door. James was a drunk and had been since his brother died all those years ago. With Elisabeth not here he had just gotten worse it seemed. She would come into the saloon everyday to pull him out, and for a while he only came twice a week.
Nick felt bad leaving him there, but she had to get back home. Climbing onto Goliath, she strolled out of town, and then went into full gallop to get back home.
Home was a sanctuary away from the sadness Honeycomb actually had to offer, it was like her own little paradise. She could ignore everything that was real, and just focus on the drama here on the ranch. There was no better place to be, it always brought a smile to her lips to see her home over the horizon, no matter how long she had been gone.
Riding up, she jumped off her horse and ran into the kitchen, throwing the sack on the counter.
“You invited, Robbie, didn’t you?” Teresa asked, and only got a nod from Nick before she ran out the door and jumped onto Goliath.
She didn’t want to talk to her about Avery for another moment, least she say something Jacob will make her regret later. Riding out into the field she stopped at Jacob’s side with Rock’s hat in her lap.
“Where’d you get that?” He pointed at the hat.
“Rock had me get it from James while I was in town.” She wasn’t about to lie to her father, she very rarely did and it always made her feel guilty. There was no way she would feel guilty over lying for Rock about where she got his hat.
Jacob took it from her with a big grin, and gave a loud whistle which called everyone over to him.
Rock’s face turned deep red, and he sighed when Jacob held up his hat. “Well, take it, boy.” Jacob held it out to him, and he snatched it from his hands. “Best thank Nick for finding it for you.”
“Thank you, was it on the dining table like I thought?”
Nick rose her eyebrow.
“Nope, seems James had it. Must of stole it from you when you weren’t looking. Guess with as hard as he hit you, made you forget that you were even wearing it this morning.” Jacob told him, and the twins and Hank all laughed. Rock glared, and gave a deep scowl to Nick.
“Don’t be mad at her, boy, she ain’t going to lie for you. She don’t like you that much.”
Without another word, he rode off, leaving the rest of the men to laugh. Jacob kept his smile as he looked over to Nick, “Time to brand the bulls.” He said quickly, and then rode over to the bull pin. Everyone but the twins would be involved. They would brand them, while the twins watched the rest of the herd.
Hank heated up the branding iron over a fire, and Rock and Jacob pulled each bull from it’s separate pin into the branding crate. It was a small wooden box, that they could brand each of the herd in without being hurt themselves. The box wasn’t completely fool proof but it worked most of the time. As they branded the first, one of the younger, smaller bulls started to act up. It would be his first branding as he was born last year, and was too young for branding when it came time.
They tried to rope him, getting two ropes around his neck pulling from each side would calm him, but he out maneuvered them. Jacob’s patience were coming to an end with the young bull, they needed to calm him down. If they didn’t, he could cause a stir from all the bulls, and possible alarm the rest of the herd.
“Rock, take care of him.” He snapped as Hank branded a second bull.
Rock jumped off his horse and over the fence, grabbing the bull by it’s horns he yanked it to the ground. Had it been a full grown bull, there was no way that Rock would have managed. The young bull was just starting to go wild, and had been a rather gentle calf. When he decided to ram Trent and his horse a few days ago, they pinned him up. Was better to be safe than sorry in this line of business, and the Honeycomb Ranch had only lost one man in its seven generations due to human error. That was when Nick’s great grandfather started the saying of “if you’re not sure, do it anyway.”
Rock pulled the rope around it’s neck as it laid on the ground, and tossed Nick one end. The other rope he held in his hands and walked to the fence and jumped back over.
“Bet you couldn't have done that.” Rock grinned at Nick.
“Oh no, you are just a big strong man, a little gal like me couldn’t possibly pull down a big old monster like that.” Nick fanned herself with her hand, and then brought the back of her hand to her forehead, “Mister Rockwell, if you weren’t here I just don’t know what I could've done.”
Rock glared at her for a moment, trying to see if he could detect any sarcasm. “Well, just pray you never have to find out.”
“You know though, there is one difference between you and me.”
“What’s that? I’m a better rancher, go ahead and say it.”
Nick snorted, “I’m a girl.”
He frowned, then pointed his index finger at her. “You can’t use that!” Jacob and Hank chuckled, and then called for the young bull. He wasn’t happy at all to get branded, and acted as if he were being slaughtered.
The males made up a sixth of their herd, and most of the male calves were eaten by the ranch. They were virtually impossible to drive, and there was only a certain number needed each year to breed with the females. Most of the bulls only lived to see two breeding seasons, and then Jacob slaughtered them for meat for the Honeycomb residents, and towards the beginning of spring they would trade some of their young females with young females from other ranches. Jacob told them it was to keep the meat fresh, but no one really understood his reasoning for it.