Idaho Fairytale Bride (Rocky Mountain Romances Book 2), page 6
“I’d hoped your sons would be home safe and sound last night with Compass.”
“You and me both.” Grace poured herself a cup of coffee and sat beside Edith. “But Charles is experienced on the trail so don’t you worry yourself about him. Jeff, well, I can only hope he listens to his older brother. Heaven knows he won’t listen to anyone else.”
“He’s a very bright boy, but I wish I could find a way to fire up his interest in school.” Moriah buttered a biscuit. “He’s only there because you make him go.”
“Maybe it’s because he doesn’t like to read. Says it’s boring.”
That got Moriah to thinking. What books would be exciting to Jeff? And Forrest, too?
But before she could think more on the subject, she had to know if Tex had found Compass—her last real link to her father, who would’ve been a storybook hero, except he’d died.
Storybook heroes don’t die at the end.
Once the buckskin got used to the hackamore, he didn’t fight it. Tex spent all afternoon with the colt to get him used to being around people.
“When are we going back?” Jeff asked.
“Maybe in the morning.” Tex murmured. He bent the colt’s ear down to still him, then patted him on the neck, then the ribs, but stayed away from his hindquarters. “We have a long ride—there’s no use starting today what with it being so late and all. We’d just have to stop and make camp again.”
“Are you sure you can get that horse back to the ranch? He don’t look all that excited to go with us.”
“It won’t be easy.” Tex talked quietly so as not to spook the colt any more than necessary. “He’s a wild animal—of course he’s skittish, and he will be for several weeks, but once he gets used to my scent and is reasonably sure I won’t hurt him, he won’t be so scared.”
Tex talked low and singsong all along, so the buckskin would know his voice. Normally, he’d take three or four weeks or even a couple months to do what he planned to do in a day. But this horse seemed quite smart and likely had a good disposition. Once he got over his fear, Tex would be able to judge him a lot better, but with luck, he’d turn out to be a good mount.
In fact, Tex had such high hopes for this colt that he’d be willing to stay another day if necessary.
“Why did the old stud run this fellow out of the herd?” Jeff asked.
“Because the stallion wanted to make sure all of next year’s foals are his. This fellow is getting old enough to cover a mare, so he and most of the other colts won’t be allowed to stay with the band.”
“All that fuss over the ladies?”
“Most all fuss over anything is about ladies.” Tex slowly backed away from the colt. “You graze a while, and we’ll work a little more after I eat.”
“Seems like it—about the ladies, I mean.” Jeff grinned as he dug a fire pit quite a ways from where the horses were picketed. “Miss Jensen is sure a looker, ain’t she?”
“Isn’t. And yes, she is.”
“Might make a good wife, for she likes young’uns.”
“Teachers have to like kids, or they wouldn’t be teachers.”
“Can’t say that about all the teachers I’ve had.”
Tex couldn’t, either, but he wanted to encourage Jeff to do well in school, not to find excuses to slack off.
“Maybe you should marry her.”
Maybe he should, but it would help if Moriah would cooperate a little. “I don’t think that’s in the cards, little brother. First of all, she has two years left on her teaching contract, and second, she doesn’t cotton to me at all. But why would you want me to marry her, anyhow?”
“On account of if Miss Jensen’s married, she can’t teach school, so Forrest and me could maybe go up to Silver City and work in the mines.”
“That’s hard work just to help a rich man get richer. You’re best off in school, and then you can start a business of your own.”
“I still think you should marry her.”
“Takes two. For now, we best pay mind to our business out here. You groom Compass and I’ll work with the colt a little more.”
“Fine animal, he is.”
“Might give him to Arthur if he shapes up like I think he will.”
“Arthur wants a horse now, not a year from now.”
Tex was relieved that Jeff had gone on to a less threatening topic. “Best we be on the lookout for a pony, then.”
“I could share mine. He can ride Harry to school and I can ride on the wagon with Miss Jensen.”
“Or Arthur could ride double with you.” Tex opened the food bag. “Let’s cook us some food.”
After they ate, Tex had Jeff take Dancer, Harry, and Compass to the stream for a drink. “Don’t bring them back until I signal you.”
He kept the buckskin staked, even though he wanted to go with the other horses. Tex took off his Stetson and poured water into it from his canteen, then held it out to the skittish colt.
“If you want some water, you’re gonna have to trust me enough to drink from my hat.”
The colt had to be thirsty and sniffed at the hat, but backed away.
“C’mon, I know you want this water.”
It might take half the night but Tex was determined to stand there with water in his hat until the colt trusted him enough to take a drink. Only then would he attempt to lead the mustang to the stream.
Earlier, he and Jeff had managed to halter the colt and he hadn’t fought it at all. Whether or not he’d lead was a whole other story. The safest way to do that would be to mount Dancer, dally the lead rope, and see if they could get anywhere.
Which reminded him of Moriah, for she was every bit as skittish. Tex wondered what had made such a beautiful woman decide to be a spinster, for it was a sorry use of beautiful womanly flesh. He hoped she’d come around, but reckoned she’d take as much patience on his part as did this wild colt.
* * *
Two days had gone by, and still no Compass—or Tex. She didn’t want to dwell on him but after all, she was justified since he’d gone after her horse. Morgan and Grace didn’t seem concerned at all that their two sons hadn’t returned. Didn’t they realize how inhospitable the Owyhee country could be?
Moriah and Edith mucked the chicken coop while Grace stayed in the house and washed dishes.
“I wonder if Tex found Compass. Maybe he did, and maybe she’s hurt, so he has to wait a few days to bring her home.”
“Or maybe you’re buying trouble,” Edith said. She scooped the last of the droppings into the muck wagon. “There’s no sense in worrying. Grace puts a lot of store into Tex’s skills on the trail, and if she’s not worried—after all, not one but both of her sons went after your horse—then you’re wasting effort that you could be putting into something else.”
“You’re right. I so want Compass back—she’s very dear to me.”
“Is the mare what’s got you tied in knots? I know you well, daughter. Remember that before you answer.”
“I honestly don’t know.” Moriah sprinkled straw all over the floor, and extra around the water pan. “But I do want my mare back and I desperately hope she’s not hurt. She’s not used to the mustang life.”
“No, but she’s tough enough. I think she’ll fare just fine. As for Tex, he’s likely thinking about you, too.”
That remark caused Moriah’s face to flush and she turned away so her mother wouldn’t see.
Edith brushed her hands together. “Let’s wash and get back to the house in case Grace needs help finishing up.”
Moriah was glad to hear it—her mother’s probing was done, at least for now.
But by the time they got back, Grace was sitting at the table drinking coffee and reading a dime novel. She’d already finished the dishes and had even mopped the floor.
“You really have to read this book that Daisy Richards gave me,” she said. “It’s mighty fun. I’m going to recommend it to the Oreana Literary Society once we get it goi
Moriah peered at the cover, which was hard to read at an angle. “Honey Beaulieu?”
“Yes. She has several adventures out but this is the first one I’ve read and I can hardly wait to read the rest of the series. The older students might enjoy these books, too.”
“Boys?” Moriah asked, for boys usually wanted to read about other boys and their adventures. “I have good luck with Tom Sawyer.”
“The pacing’s similar. Things happen all along, and there’s even a ghost. It’s sometimes a little on the bawdy side, and I wouldn’t have an issue with Jeff reading it, but some parents might not approve. If you use it in school, it would have to be optional.”
“Maybe we should save it for the literary club. After all, we said any age, male or female, could attend.” Moriah stiffened her back. “Schoolteachers have to maintain an air of propriety, you know.”
“Speaking of which,” Edith said, “at our organizational meeting, we also discussed having a fundraiser for school supplies next weekend—a box social. But now we’re having the house-raising and of course that can’t be delayed what with the cold weather coming. And anyway, since most everyone would attend both, why don’t we have the box social during the noon break of the house-raising? That would save the neighbors a trip, and some of them have to come several miles.”
“We should speak to Daisy about that,” Moriah added, “since the box social was her idea, and she also planned to organize the potluck for the house-raising.”
“Have a cookie.” Edith offered her the plate piled high with gingersnaps and smiled in that knowing way of mothers. “I might run it by Hazel. My guess is that Daisy will need lots of rest for the next few weeks.”
“Poor Daisy,” Moriah said to Edith. “I’m certainly glad I’ll never have to worry about such a thing. She looked horribly miserable.”
“It’ll pass. With you, I was only puny for a few weeks, and some women don’t get sick at all. Then again a few are quite ill for the duration.”
After seeing Daisy’s troubles, Moriah was certainly glad she’d made the decision not to marry. Even so, she had a hard time ignoring the niggling bit of jealousy that she couldn’t quite squish. What joy it must be to have a baby of your own. She could almost feel the precious little bundle in her arms.
“It’s getting dark,” Grace said. “Morgan already put Arthur to bed. And it’s late enough that I expect Charles and Jeff will be gone another day.”
Moriah couldn’t understand how Grace could be so nonchalant about her two sons. “I hope they return soon.”
“I’ll give them another day. Then I’ll start worrying. Morgan said he’d go out looking for them if they’re not here by tomorrow night.”
Wilbur honked and Prince barked, enough to wake the dead. And Arthur, for he ran out of the barn in his nightshirt with Morgan following, trying to catch the little tyke.
The dim light didn’t make it easy for Moriah to see the riders approaching but one of the unridden horses was a paint—could it be Compass?
“Looks like Jeff’s leading your mare and Charles has another horse,” Grace said, a grin spreading clear across her face. Moriah thought she detected relief, too. Maybe Grace had been a little more worried than she’d let on.
Moriah was so excited that it felt like her heart did a little flip. She hopped on her toes and clasped her hands to her breast.
“Was that little squeal for Compass, or for Tex?” her mother whispered.
She couldn’t say, although Compass was hers and Tex never would be. “Oh, Mama, they’re here!”
Tex knew he couldn’t bring the colt into the barnyard lest his folks, the Jensen ladies, Arthur, Wilbur, and Prince scare the pea-waddin’ out of the mustang. Wilbur’s honking fuss already made the colt rear, and Dancer had to do a sidestep to keep on his feet, on account of the colt was dallied to the saddlehorn.
“Jeff, take the mare to Miss Jensen but keep to a slow walk, even if Compass gets all excited over seeing Miss Jensen. I’ll try to coax the buckskin to the corral. Tell the others to stay away until I get him settled.”
“Remember, ride away from me slow-like so the colt doesn’t think he’s supposed to follow you. He’s more acquainted with the mare than he is with us, so he’ll want to stay with her, more than likely.”
“I’ll take care to go slow.”
“And if the buckskin does follow, wave the folks off, but take care not to spook the colt, and head for the corral. We’ll get him settled first, then Miss Jensen can have her mare back.”
“I just hope Wilbur keeps quiet for once.”
“Now that’s wishful thinking.”
Tex saw his ma usher Arthur, Wilbur, and Prince to the barn. Arthur’s shrill voice cut through the air. “But I want to see the new horse. Is he mine?”
The colt tossed his head and snorted but Tex managed to calm him with soft words. After a spell, Tex led the buckskin to the gate where he balked, so Tex eased up on the rope and let the horse look around and evaluate the situation for a while.
“All right, it’s time to go into your new home.” He gently tugged on the lead rope and the buckskin took a step. “Good boy. You just think about it a minute and then take another step.”
After a few more urgings, Tex finally persuaded the colt that it would be a good idea to go into the corral. With a little more urging he managed to remove the lead rope from the colt’s halter. Tex latched the gate with himself still astride Dancer, then rode to the middle of the pen where he just sat there and waited while the buckskin explored every dirt clod, post, rail, and horse apple. Tex saw that his pa had fixed the broken rails. That section of the fence looked stronger than it likely was when it was new.
Finally, the colt stopped investigating and turned his head toward Tex.
“Are you done looking around yet?” The young mustang seemed confused by the fences, which Tex understood on account of the mustang had lived free his whole life. Tex remembered a time when he felt as penned in as the colt did now. He reckoned Jeff would go through the same phase. Only thing was freedom comes at a price, too. For himself, he appreciated good food and a soft bed under a roof that didn’t leak.
Jeff rode up to the corral gate. Moriah followed him leading Compass, and walking alongside, he saw his parents and Edith. Jeff put his forefinger to his lips signaling to them to be quiet.
Tex rode to the side of the corral and said in a low tone, “We captured a stud mustang—looks to be two years old. He’s a mite skittish but he’s come around a lot yesterday and today. I think he’s going to be a fine horse with a good disposition once he gets his bearings.”
He tipped his hat to Miss Jensen. “The colt is used to my voice so please don’t answer back. After I get him fed and bedded down, I’ll come to the barn. I expect that mare of yours is going to want you to give her some attention before you put her up for the night. She might need liniment in a few places so check her carefully.”
Miss Jensen nodded and walked Compass to the tack room with Edith and Grace following. His pa stayed, though. He raised his hand, palm forward, showing that he knew to be quiet, then leaned his forearms on the third rail and took a good look at the buckskin colt.
Tex wanted to do a lot of things rather than sit here and wait for the mustang to settle down, but he knew if he rushed they’d all pay later. He rode to the section of the fence where his pa stood.
“The lead stallion ran him off,” Tex whispered. “So it wasn’t that hard to catch him, bein’s he was confused about not being part of the herd anyhow. I like the looks of him—he has nice coloring and good conformation. I wasn’t so sure Jeff and I could get him back here but I took all day yesterday and most of the day before gentling him.”
His pa nodded and whispered, “Your ma was getting a mite worried even if she said she wasn’t.”
“I expect so on account of Jeff
“Let me know when you want me to open the gate. I’ll stay here as long as you need me to.”
“Much obliged.” Tex reined Dancer back toward the center of the corral. Starting a colt required a lot of patience and for the most part was boring. Except for when it was exciting and then he wished it was boring.
An hour later, Tex felt confident enough to signal his pa to open the gate just a smidgen. The squeaky hinge caught the colt’s attention but he stayed on the other side of the corral instead of charging the gate, so Tex had his pa open it wide enough to ride through. After the gate was latched, he dismounted and took off his gloves.
“I’ve never seen a horse tamed down as quickly as this one. Not that he’s tame by any means, but he’s easy to work with. Just needs patience and lots of it. We caught him yesterday morning—I think he’s gonna be a good mount.”
Morgan clapped Tex on his shoulder. “I’m glad your home, son.” The two of them walked side by side toward the barn with Tex leading Dancer.
“I bet Miss Jensen is happy to see Compass.” It’d be right nice if she was that happy to see him, but that hadn’t been the case so far.
“She squealed like a little girl when she first saw you coming. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her squeal before. She’s too busy acting like a schoolteacher most of the time.”
“That’s a fact.” Tex wondered why a woman like her would dedicate her life to teaching school when most likely she could have any man she wanted. She seemed generally put off by all men so he didn’t think it was anything about him that particularly annoyed her—just that he wore britches. Even so, he’d spent the last two days with her on his mind.
“I best give Dancer a little extra grooming, then I’ll be ready for a bath and a hot meal. Could you ask Ma to put some water on to boil?”
“Sure enough, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if she hasn’t already done both. She knows you two will be hungry, and her smeller works just fine so she’ll want you and Jeff both to scrub down good.”
Tex chuckled. “That bad, eh. I’ll be up to the house pretty soon then.”
Other author's books:
- Much Ado About MustangsMuch Ado About MinersIdaho Fairytale Bride (Rocky Mountain Romances Book 2)
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