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Calico Mary

Dreams of the Golden Aspen Ranch

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While Calico napped on the porch, I slipped off to talk with the men sitting around the fire, some alone, some with their wives. Karl's injury that day had gotten me to thinking about things I could do to make life on the ranch better for everyone. I had always thought a church was needed on the ranch, you never knew when someone might need a preacher, like now!

 

Then men and their wives for the most part agreed, especially the wives. The men told me of a young fellow that had ridden into town a few weeks ago. Seems he had been a gunfighter down in Texas that had stepped into a service to get out of the sun and came out a new man. Story was that he had ridden north till he wasn't known by anyone, and that place was Ft Collins. They called him Biblepuncher, sounded strange, but a cowboy that works cattle is called a cowpuncher, so the common nickname of a preacher or religous fellow would be biblepuncher. He didn't have a church and had been preaching on the street corners, I wondered if we could convince him to come to the ranch. But we would need a church....

 

After I led Calico to her room I went back downstairs to talk to my father about the church idea. He said "That's fine son, but right now everybody we can spare is working on the house for you and Calico." "And right now, it should be getting livable just before winter sets in." I had some thinking to do, how would Calico like a tipi for a little while, oh I knew that was gonna hurt!

 

I slept well that night, dreams of soaring among the clouds again, swooping down through a tipi, children playing, and Calico in buckskins made like I like them, I slept well.

 

That morning I woke Calico and after breakfast I went and saddled the autumn pony and Soars with Eagles and led them to the porch. When Calico saw her wedding present, a fancy new saddle she was almost beside herself. She almost started crying when Hop Sing brought her pistols to her that were lodged in a set of holsters that matched her new saddle.

 

She was still wiping the tears from her eyes as we rode towards the west pasture, I was wondering how I was going to tell her about my idea for a church on the ranch.

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Oh my but that saddle sure was pretty, and those matching holsters too! I didn't know what I had done to deserve such a beautiful and thoughtful gift, but I also wasn't about to turn it down neither! I knew the giving of gifts was traditional for marriages in both red and white cultures, but I didn't really have anything to give him, and that concerned me a little. I had been working on a new quilt, but it was really for both of us, would that even count? I wasn't sure, maybe I should be asking his father about it. I couldn't think of anything else I could come up with, and I was running out of time.

We headed west, and it was a little difficult concentrating on the task at hand, all I wanted to do was look at those mountains up ahead of us. This was really gorgeous country up here, the scenery was as much a precious gift as the saddle and holsters. A couple times I looked over at Cheyenne, and he seemed to be spending an awful lot of time looking at me too, at this rate we were never gonna find any coyotes. His hair was starting to grow out again, and I had to admit I kinda liked it longer, he looked good regardless but the longer hair just seemed so right on him. Maybe I could talk him into not letting Hop Sing cut it any more....


One thing I was very happy about was that for the first time in what seemed like a long time I really didn't feel that bad this morning. I didn't know if that meant I was finally getting over all those upset stomachs, or if I was just in such a good mood that it wasn't bothering me. I put my hand on my stomach, it wasn't too big yet but I couldn't help but wonder how much longer it was gonna be before I had to quit riding. I hoped it wouldn't be til after I'd had the chance to go riding in those mountains this fall, I really wanted to look for some aspen trees, when the leaves started turning those had to be one of the prettiest sights on God's green earth. This still seemed so strange....Cheyenne and I having a baby....just what was that gonna be like?

We rode for a while, then he said “You know, I've been thinking, one thing this ranch really needs is a church. Father has no objection to the idea, and the men know of someone who may be interested in preaching for us, what do you think?” I was a little taken back, I hadn't thought about it before, but if he thought it was a good idea...

“Well, I guess that sounds fine, I gotta admit I ain't never been in no church before, so maybe I ain't the best person to be asking. If that's what the men want, then it's fine by me.” What exactly did one do in a church, I wondered? There certainly hadn't been one anywhere nearby one I was growing up, though I knew that several had been built in some of the small towns around the Golden Aspen in recent years. Ma had had a Bible, and she had read from it to us girls when we were little, but I always had a hard time concentrating on the stories she was reading, too hard for me to sit still I guess. I had seen Cheyenne reading his Bible often enough. I'd glanced over his shoulder at it a few times, but it looked really difficult, so I hadn't tried to read it myself yet. Maybe it was time for me to try...especially if it would make him happy.

He went on to say that he wanted to give something back to the men that worked so hard for him and his father, and I certainly understood that. The Culpeppers had some really good men working for them, wasn't nothing wrong with doing right by those men. And if they wanted a church, ok, we'd give them a church. Myself, I didn't really see what sitting in a building for an hour or so a week had to do with God, maybe it was just the way I was raised. I couldn't understand why any one would feel closer to God someplace like that then they could out here, in the beautiful world our Lord had given us. All the same, I had no objections, maybe I could even start going and see if I could figure out what some of those stories Ma had read to us really meant!

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I was gettting the feeling that Calico was catching on that I wasn't really interested in looking for coyotes. I could tell by the way that she stared towards the mountains that she really getting used to the area, and in fact was falling in love with it. We were nearing the place where my grandfather had originally started the ranch, I hadn't been out here for years and wasn't sure what we would find, if anything was left of his cabin.

 

We crested a knoll and I heard Calico grasp for breath, as I looked at her, "Oh my" was all that came out of her mouth. The cabin was still standing, with of stand of pines behind it, and aspens, oaks, and maple trees spread throughout the area. The outbuildings looked to be in disaray, but the cabin looked better the closer we got to it.

 

I had been explaining the history of the cabin and I could see Calico's eye's getting wider and wider. "I been thinking, would it be alright with you if the church was built on the site above the water hole? If you wouldn't mind, mabe we could live out here until a new place could be built back at the ranch," I asked her.

 

As we entered the cabin, ouch, she slugged my arm again, but this time much lighter,,,"Why didn't you tell me about this place before?" was all she could say. Then she looked out the back window, yes, it had a water hole too.

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She turned around from the window with a sad look on her face and held out her arms to me. "I don't have anything to give you" she wimmpered as she looked at the floor. "Are you sure you want to marry me?"

 

I reached out and took her hands, and pulled her to me. "You gave up your ranch for me" I reminded her, "but your best present is for me to have you for the rest of my life." I'm thinking that I'm the one that doesn't have much to give."

 

I must have said the right thing, I had never felt a hug like the one she gave me then. We went out to the water hole, and enjoyed the cool water for a while, oh would we be glad to have this purification ritual over with, only two more days.

 

As we dried off I asked her, "Well, do you think you might like to live here for a little while?"

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Cheyenne showed me his grandfather’s cabin, then asked if I’d like to live there for a while. I almost punched his arm again, did he really need to ask? This was perfect, and more than a litte private as well. Oh, sure, the cabin would need a little work and a good cleaning, there was at least an inch of dust on everything, and the outbuilding definitely needed attention, but this was wonderful! I could already see us living there. Maybe bring a couple of those rocking chairs from the front porch of the big house, and put up some curtains, oh, I could get this cabin looking like home in no time!


“Are you sure you won’t mind?” I asked, “It’s not very big or fancy, and it’s quite a ways from everyone else….are you positive you’re willing to stay here? Because to me this is heaven on earth, and I’d stay here in a heartbeat, but only if you want to as well.”

 

He just hugged me and then said “Let’s go take a closer around and see just how much work needs doing around here to make this livable.” So he was willing to consider it….all I could do was smile….


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check yer email

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We walked all around the out buildings, lotta work to get them into shape. I saw a flash of something shiny just on the other side of the water hole. Both Calico and I drew our pistols and hollered, "Step out from that tree or you'll be feeling lead friend!" We both laughted as Ol Grizz stepped out from behind the tree, "Don't shoot, I didn't see a thing", he begged.

 

We just looked at each other and laughed, where did he come from and what were we gonna do with him?

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Calico got an evil look in her eyes as she asked me, "Do you think he can dance?" Ol Grizz's smile started to turn into a frown. "Well we won't know unless you help him a bit." I laughed. I hadn't gotten bit out of my mouth when I heard Calico's pistols start to talking, and my o my you should have seen Ol Grizz just a jumping and wiggling, when her pistols ran dry, mine picked up where her's left off.

 

As we holstered our pistols Ol Grizz was grasping and wheezing. "Y'all are mean just plain mean" he hollered at us.

 

"We need a bear hunter at the ranch Grizz, you in?" I hollered back at him and waited for an answer from the curious round little man in a grizzly skin.

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They didn't have to wait long, Grizz turned as if to untie his horse but when he turned around, he had a lit stick of dynamite in his hand which it thew at them.

 

Cheyenne and Calico were do dumbfounded they could do nothing but watch as the stick twirled through the air. Calico regained her wits and pulled iron, only to discover that she hadn't reloaded after making the fat man dance. She started to reload when the dynamite hit and exploded, leaving a smoldering hole where a tree stump had been.

 

'That ones for free, but you want me to clear the rest of them stumps, it's gonna cost cha' Grizz called out as he swung into the saddle and rode off. After a few trots of his horse, he stopped and wheeled around, spat, and raised his voice 'next time you pull a hawg laig on me, I'm shootin back, no matter if'n you is a lady' Grizz chuckled to himself and rode off, wondering how long they'd wait for him to come back and clear the stumps. He had no intention of doing it, no matter how good that dang womans cooking was.

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Calico had two rounds in her pistol by the time Ol Grizz looked back at us and hollered something neither one of us could understand. As he road off I had to push her hand down as she drew a bead on the little round man. I laughed to myself as I thought that he didn't know how close he had come to meeting St Peter, throwing a stick of dynomite at a woman that was expecting, what a dummy.

 

"If he knows what's best for him he won't show his face around here" Calico snarled,"bet he was watching us in the water hole too." Then she felt her tummy, and I told her "If I thought he was throwing that at us he'd be a dead man already, next time I'll teach him manners instead of how to dance!" "Watching him dance sure was funny though!"

 

"Just two more days" I told Calico, "just two more days."

 

She moaned a little as we walked back to the cabin, our new home.

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We never did find no coyotes, but managed to get some target practice in anyway, that was fun. I sure liked that cabin, it would be a nice little place for us if we could get it cleaned and fixed up a little. We had brought lunch with us, but headed back to the house in time to get cleaned up for dinner. While we were eating, Cheyenne told his father that he'd changed his mind about putting our new house up on the knoll above the water hole, and said that was as good a place as any to put the church, that a new house would come later. Frank agreed at first, saying “Then you don't mind staying here a while longer? I think that's a fine place for the church, but it will delay the building of a new house for the two of you.”

“That's fine, we found someplace else to stay for now. I took Calico out to Grandfather's old cabin today, we're going to fix that up, Calico really likes it,” Cheyenne told his father, but then the smile disappeared off of Frank's face. “When you're done eating son, I think you and I need to have a talk in the den, alone,” he replied, and I got the feeling he was none too happy about the idea.


So after dinner the two of them went in the den and closed the door, I went out to the porch to wait for them, and was soon joined by Chief Hosa. He didn't say anything, just sat down next to me and stared off into the distance. It wasn't long before we heard shouting coming from the den, sounded like the “talk” wasn't going so well...and my heart just sank, last thing I wanted was his father mad at us, but that little cabin was just so perfect....

Neither me nor Chief Hosa was intentionally eavesdropping, but it was a little hard not to hear what was going on. Frank Culpepper had no intention of letting his future daughter-in-law move so far away from the doctor or anyone else while she was in such a delicate condition and that was final! His son was equally insistent that he would live wherever his wife would be happiest, and that's all there was to it! Boy, I was beginning to wonder which of the two was the more stubborn. Finally Chief Hosa turned to me and said “I know you wish to follow your heart, and Cheyenne will do anything to make you happy, but I can understand Culpepper's concern. You have more to think about than just the two of you now, do not fault the man for caring about what happens to you and your child.”


“But my mom had three babies with no doctor, and no one to help her but my pa, and she managed just fine,” I insisted, “Plenty of women have babies with no doctor, I'll be fine.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” the chief told me, “Your mother had five babies, not three, were you not aware of this? And after the second one she almost did not survive, if it wasn't for the medicine man in Chief Niwot's village she would not have. Did you never hear the story of why your father and Niwot were such good friends?”


My jaw just dropped, I had no idea of what he was talking about, ma only had us three girls, didn't she? He went on to tell me that I actually had two brothers, neither had survived more than a couple of months. When ma had my second brother, she had almost died. Pa didn't know what to do for her, fortunately just then the people of Niwot's village went riding by the ranch, and Pa managed to flag them down. Most of the tribe just wanted to keep riding, they didn't care if a white woman and her newborn didn't survive, but Niwot wouldn't hear of it. He made everyone stop, and then had the medicine man and some of the other women, including his wife, help my ma until she did manage to pull through. They couldn't save my brother, but at least they tried. That led to a life long friendship between the men. This was something pa and ma had never told me, and I was in shock for a few minutes.


I thought about it for a while, but I knew we wouldn't be that far away from help if I needed it, and I still wanted to move to the cabin. But I knew better than to interfere between Frank and his son, so I stayed on the porch with my fingers crossed, hoping that Cheyenne would be able to get his father to agree to the idea....

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Grizz thought about taking Culpeppers gelding back to where he'd found it, three ridges over and then scaring it off, but decided to leave it tied up on the bush.

 

As he rode off, the further he went, the madder he got, no one, and I mean no one had ever made him a fool like that, especially some woman. He had never killed a womon, well, there were those two up in Silverton, but they hardly qualified, and he was starting to wonder about this one. Truth be told he'd have plugged them both and left culpepper for the buzzards, but he couldn't bear the thought of the buzzards picking that unborn child out of a corpse, and he dang sure wasn't in the mood to be digging no holes.

 

Grizz loaded up a big chaw of tobaccer and spit, nope, he wasn't gonna stick around these parts, not with that loco women around.

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This was one of the worst arguements my father and I had ever had, the other was when I had announced that I wanted to go on a quest to discover who I was. We had almost come to fists over that one, but it was brief and my mother intervened before either one of us did anything stupid. But we didn't have my mother to step between us now. We both stomped and snorted, hem and hawed, neither wanting to give an inch.

 

Then I heard my mother's voice again, "Honor you mother and father." My father was startled by my silence, "you heard her too huh?" he asked. "Yes," I replied hanging my head.

 

"The Good Book says "Come let us reason together." "I think we can work this out," my father offered as he poured us a sip of whiskey.

 

First we had a good laugh over both of us hearing my mother's voice, and that both of us hardheads had listened to it. Then we started to try to come to a comprimise. It took a little while but we finally came up with something we could both live with, but we both knew that the WOMAN had to approve of our plan for it to be final.

 

As I stepped through the doors I could hear Calico and Chief Hosa talking on the back porch. I looked into Calico's face, she looked scared, real scared. I asked her to join my father and I in the den, then I invited the chief to come as well. He graciously accepted with a smile on his face. As he rose he wispered in my ear, "You've got a fine young woman Cheyenne, see to it that you always treat her as you would treat yourself." "Calico's mother taught me that."

 

Calico was already sitting as the chief and I entered the room. "We had a discussion about the cabin," I saw Calico rolled her eyes when I said "discussion", and we came up with something we want you to think about" I told Calico.

 

"After the wedding we can move into the cabin, but every saturday we will return here for dinner, and to have Doc Eells check you out. He'll let you know how long you can ride the autumn pony, which may or may not be after you'll need to stop riding her because she is expecting too, anyway, then we'll use the surry until Doc says you need to stay here until you deliver." "Is that ok with you?" I asked her sheepishly.

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“Of course it's ok!” I told him, and immediately jumped up to hug Frank. “Thank you so much! We'll be here every Saturday, and I promise I'll do everything the doctor says. And I know Cheyenne will take good care of me, he always has so far.”

“I know, and I want you to be happy, but I need to know you and my grandson are safe,” Frank said as he hugged me back. "Both of you will of course take your firearms with you, as far away as you'll be from the main house there's no telling who might wander by," and of course Cheyenne and I looked at each other and laughed. "And tomorrow why don't you start a list of the things you think you'll need, and I'll have Hop Sing start getting them ready to be taken out to the cabin when it's ready."

 

“And what if it's a girl?” I couldn't resist asking, teasing him a little now that I knew he'd let us have the cabin.


“It won't be!” both men said at once, and both me and Chief Hosa had to laugh at that. Then I excused myself to go upstairs, it had been a long and exciting day, and I knew tomorrow would be very busy. Cheyenne almost wouldn't let me go when he hugged me goodnight, I could tell it would be hard for him to stay in his own room tonight...but it wouldn't be long at all before we wouldn't have to worry about that anymore....


I headed up the stairs with a smile on my face, life was good.

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My father and I were relieved when Calico said yes to our plan, tho I pretty well knew that she would, she never had been unreasonable and I didn't expect this to be any different.

 

I called for Hop Sing and told him of our plans. "I know the ladies will be out there by noon with everything needed to clean the place up and get it set up to live in" he told me and then disappeared. My father said he would pull the men off what was now going to be the church, and send them out with supplies to get it ready, "should be done for your honeymoon" he laughed and gave me a wink.

 

Wow, it was Monday evening and the wedding was going to be on Wednesday, Wow I thought, no more waiting.

 

I slept soundly, soaring through the clouds, but spending more time at the nest, and teaching a pair of eaglets to fly and hunt. I woke, "A pair?", what was with that? Well, it was just a dream, and eaglets came in pairs usually didn't they?

 

I woke a little later than normal that morning and when I went to awaken Calico she had already gone downstairs. I started hearing a bunch of women's voices as I went down the stairs.

The whole table was filled with women, with Calico at the head of the table, it sounded like a hen house with a fox in it. Hop Sing motioned me into the kitchen, "Come eat in here, you'll be safe here" he told me with a wink. I kissed Calico on the forehead as I passed by, I don't think she even noticed, and joined Hop Sing in the kitchen.

 

After I ate I went out to the front porch, and there in front of the house were three wagons loaded with lumber, and who knows what else, and six men. My father was giving last minute instructions. All I could do was smile.

 

I walked over to Doc Eells place and had a talk with him about our plans, and to have him check on the autumn pony. I could tell that he was pleased, he always looked out for me.

 

I left Docs place and headed back to the house, my father was having a cup of coffee on the porch and I joined him. I had no more than sat down when Hop Sing had a coffee for me too. My father looked over at me real serious like and said, "it's about time we had THE talk son," then he laughed.

 

Ah, yes, life was good, and it was about to get a lot better.

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The next day was very busy, I barely had time to eat breakfast before all the ladies insisted on going over all the last minute details for the ceremony the next day. All I had wanted was a simple ceremony, but this was turning out to be a far bigger deal than I had originally thought it would be. And it sounded like half the territory was going to be there! Most of the men that had been working up on the knoll left right after breakfast, to go work on the cabin and the outbuildings and get it all ready for us to move into the day after the wedding. We would be staying at the main house for the night after the ceremony. The new church could wait one more day. Frank did insist that I rest for a while after lunch, and I was grateful to him for that. I was feeling much better, but still getting tired a lot. The doctor had explained that it was perfectly normal, nothing to worry about, but I would need to take it easy when I started running out of energy. I wanted to make sure I had some energy the next afternoon....and later that evening as well!

After dinner Cheyenne and I went for a walk, and ended up down at the water hole. We didn't get in the water, I think both of us were a little tired, but we sat on the log and talked for a while. I told him how I thought this would be a really pretty place for a church, and he told me about the work that had done on the cabin, and asked me if there was anything else I wanted done to it. It was a pleasant evening, and we stayed long enough to watch the sun set over the mountains, it was lovely.


When I went to bed that night, it was hard to sleep, I was nervous and excited and scared and happy all at the same time. No sooner had I drifted off when the dreams started again. I saw my pa and ma, but much younger, standing by two tiny graves I never knew existed. Then I saw myself as a young girl about 8 or 9, the first time pa took me with him when he went to stay with Chief Niwot and Chief Hosa in their village so that we could go hunting with them. That was when I had met Morning Star. I was kinda shy at first, which is how I ended up with the name White Deer. I wasn't really comfortable around the Arapaho girls, as I think they thought I was strange for wanting to go hunting with the men. But it wasn't long before Morning Star and I were fast friends, and were getting into a lot of trouble with both of our fathers. We sure had some good times back then.


Then the dream turned into a nightmare. I saw my pa on the day we found out about the Sand Creek Massacre, and how many of our friends had been slaughtered. It was the one and only time I ever saw my father cry. I was in hysterics until I found out that Morning Star and her family had managed to escape. That was one of the two worst days of my life, and I soon was having flashbacks to the other one, the day ma and pa were murdered. I woke up at that point, sitting straight up in bed crying. After I caught my breath, I got up and went over to the closet. That's where I kept the doll that Cheyenne had rescued from the ashes of the cabin and carried with him until he finally was able to give it back to me. I went back to bed and laid there with that doll in my arms, not wanting to go back to sleep, but I couldn't help myself, and was soon dreaming again.

This time, it was scenes of the cattle drive, when I'd first become aware of Cheyenne's presence. I saw everything that had happened between us, and I think I probably blushed in my sleep remembering the first time he saw me, getting out of that water hole Gloria and I had found to bathe in. I saw him saving my life several times, but it was like I was seeing it all happen from above, that I wasn't really myself. Oh, was I glad that man was still willing to put up with me, after all I had put him through! Those scenes continued all the way up to that very day, then I started seeing flashes of what must be our future. I saw us moving to the cabin, and being really alone for the first time, I had managed to fix it up real nice. I saw him riding off to help with the work on the ranch, usually only after one of the ladies had ridden out to keep me company. I was starting to make friends with several of them, and it was nice having them around. We kept our word about going to dinner at the main house as well. Buick and Morning Star had to return to the Golden Aspen, and I sure did miss my friend. But I also started to get worried about her. The last part of my dream, I saw myself opening the door of the cabin when I heard crying, and saw two babies lying in cradles on the porch. Again there was an eagle flying overhead, what a beautiful sight that was. One baby was blonde with blue eyes and pale skin, obviously my child. The other had jet black hair, with dark eyes and skin, that must have been Morning Star's baby, but why wasn't she in the dream? Just where were her and Buick? Why was I dreaming about their child, was something bad going to happen to them?

I woke up in a cold sweat, shivering, just in time to hear Cheyenne knocking on my door and calling for me to wake up. Before I could reply, I heard the sound of Lu Sing and Water Lilly coming down the hall, and Lu Sing telling him “Oh no, you not see her today until the wedding. Is bad luck! You go downstairs now, not see her til later.” Bad luck? Well, if she said so, maybe it would be a good idea to not take any chances. It wasn't that long until the ceremony. After a minute or so the door opened and the two women came inside, Water Lilly was carrying a tray, they had brought me some breakfast. It looked like Water Lilly had been crying, I think it was finally hitting her that she wasn't going to get what she had wanted for so long. But at least they were being polite to me, still, I wasn't really hungry. They made me eat anyway, and Lu Sing said that when I was finished she would get a bath ready for me, then some of the other ladies would be up to help me and Morning Star get ready.

I soaked in that tub a good long time, it felt wonderful. Then I went back to my room, it was full of women all wanting to help. They worked on my hair for quite a while, I was used to just wearing it down or putting it in a ponytail, but eventually they managed to get it fixed up. I looked in the mirror and I couldn't even believe that was me, I looked so different with my hair all swept up on top of my head like that, with a few curls hanging down framing my face. Different, but nice, they did a good job. While all that was going on, I only had some underclothes on, I wouldn't put the dress on until almost the end, so as not to wrinkle it. There was a knock at the door, it was Frank, so the ladies quickly threw a dressing gown at me to put on so that that he could come in. He walked into the room and smiled, telling me “You look beautiful honey, Cheyenne's eyes are going to fall out of his head when he sees you!” I just blushed, and said I hoped so. He continued “Well, the custom is for a bride to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. That dress qualifies for half of it, so I bought you this to take care of the other half.”

He held out a small box to me, so I took it and opened it, and inside was a beautiful necklace with a blue stone that he said was a sapphire. I couldn't believe how pretty it was, and I was almost in tears when he helped me put it on, that man was just so thoughtful! He had one for Morning Star too, only hers was a ruby, and she was so touched all she could do was give him a big hug, but I knew he understood. Then he excused himself, saying he needed to get ready and he knew we did too. It was starting to get late, and before I knew it, it was time to get the dress on. Morning Star already had her outfit on, the beaded doeskin Cheyenne dress that had belonged to Lives Again, she looked lovely in it. The ladies helped me into my dress, oh, it was already starting to get tight again, even though Skipper had let out the seams. But they still managed to get it buttoned, it was a good thing we weren't waiting any longer or it wouldn't have fit at all, I didn't think it could be let out much more. Finally we were done, and the other ladies told me and Morning Star just to wait there, that they would send her father up to get us when it was time for us to go.

The two of us sat on my bed, and Morning Star kept talking about how excited she was, and how happy she was for me. I wasn't feeling so excited and happy though, I was so nervous that I almost got sick again! I still wasn't sure I was ready for this. We heard a lot of noise drifting up from outside, it sounding like everyone was there, and I knew it had to be almost time. I was right, before too long there was another knock at the door, and Morning Star got up to answer it. It was her father, and he had his ceremonial buckskins on, and looked every inch the proud Arapaho chief that he was. He hugged his daughter, then turned to me, “White Deer, are you ready? Cheyenne is waiting for you, it's time.”

It's time? Now? Already? All of a sudden I was in full panic mode, oh no, there was no way I could go through with this, what had I been thinking? I wasn't ready...not for the wedding, not for being a wife, and certainly not for being a mother! No, I sure wasn't ready.....




To Be Continued......

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All I could do was shake my head, no I wasn't ready for this! I think I must have turned even paler than usual, and it felt like my whole body was shaking along with my head. I couldn't even stand up, I had never been so terrified. Morning Star tried to smother a laugh, I don't know what she found so funny. But her father just looked at me and smiled for a second, then sat down next to me.

“White Deer, do you love him?” he asked, and I managed to nod, “Then you can do this. I have seen you face much harder times, and you got through them with much courage. Now, you need to find some of that courage, you have a good man waiting for you outside, who wants nothing more than to share his life with you.” Chief Hosa put his arm around me and hugged me, saying “The two of you will know much happiness, I know this in my heart, but first you need to go down there and follow through with the promise you made to him to become his wife. You will not be alone, you have your family with you.”


Darn that man, why did he always have to be right? I took a deep breath, and nodded, if this man that I had always looked up to had faith that I could go through with this, who was I to argue? He helped me to my feet, then the three of us headed downstairs. Bob was waiting out front with the chief's horse and the surrey to take us to the meadow where the ceremony was to take place. It was just a little ways from the house, not far from the water hole. It was a beautiful spot, and big enough to seat all of the invited guests on benches that had been built just for this day. The two men helped me and Morning Star into the surrey, Bob would drive us to the edge of the meadow, and Chief Hosa would ride his horse. It was just a short trip, and on the way I started getting nervous again, there was so many people over there that I must have been right about half the territory being invited.

The benches had been set up so there was a long aisle between them, and Bob stopped the surrey at one end of the aisle. Chief Hosa pulled up beside us and dismounted, then helped both Morning Star and I down, while Bob went to find a seat on one of the benches. Then Chief Hosa pulled a blue blanket out from under the seat of the surrey, and he and Morning Star helped wrap it around me. I had seen Cheyenne and Buick standing at the other end of the aisle next to the Fort Hays preacher. Buick had a nice suit on, but Cheyenne was dressing in ceremonial buckskins, similar to those worn by Chief Hosa. Cheyenne also had a blue blanket wrapped around him. Except for the ceremonial native outfits worn by him, Morning Star, and her father, most of the wedding was being done according to white customs. But the blankets were one indian custom that I had insisted on including. I wanted something to honor that part of Cheyenne's heritage.

Everyone had gone silent when we had pulled up, so it wasn't hard to hear when the music started, it wasn't Cheyenne playing the flute this time but it still sounded lovely. Chief Hosa gave me one last smile, then held his arm out to me to escort me down the aisle. Morning Star walked in front of us, a huge smile on her face for Buick. I couldn't believe how many people were there, I had never seen that many people in one place in my life! I was too nervous to smile, until I got close enough to see the look in Cheyenne's eyes, then I could just feel my face light up. After that it was like none of those other people were even there. It seemed like it took forever to walk down that aisle, if I hadn't been holding on to my substitute father's arm, I might have ran the last few yards. When we got to Cheyenne, he stepped forward to take my hand, but first Chief Hosa gave me a big hug, then turned to his friend and said “You take good care of my White Deer!” before he stepped back to sit down.

 

Cheyenne took my hand, and we turned to face the preacher, who started speaking “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the joining of this man and this woman in the bonds of holy matrimony...” The preacher kept talking, I think he was quoting the bible, but I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying, all I was aware of was Cheyenne. Finally the preacher got to the vows, “Cheyenne, do you take this woman, to have and to hold, to love, honor, and cherish, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do you part?” I didn't think Cheyenne could smile any more than he did as he said “I do!”

Then the preacher turned to me, “Mary Elizabeth, do you take this man, to have and to hold, to love, honor, cherish, and obey,” and I heard Morning Star giggle at that, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do you part?” I almost couldn't speak, but I finally managed to whisper “I do!” The rest was over with all too quickly, and then the preacher ended “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Then Chief Hosa and Frank Culpepper stepped forward, holding a big white blanket that had been placed on the first bench earlier. Buick and Morning Star helped Cheyenne and me take off the two blue blankets we had worn, and our fathers stepped forward and wrapped the one white blanket around both of us. Then the preacher said, “You may kiss the bride,” and Cheyenne pulled me close, whispered “I love you”, then his lips found mine....

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continuing....

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The evening before the wedding the men had called me out to the fire pit after Calico had gone to bed for the night. Korupt Karl was there with his ever present bottle of Crown, along with Doc Eells, Prairie Dawg, Wagonmaster Duke, Rye Miles and the rest of the men. They were all slappong me on the back and asking how in the world did I manage to catch such a philly as Calico. They did their best to get me drunk but I had learned years before just how stupid I could act if I drank too much. I remembered a verse, that strong wine is a mocker, I had played the fool and been mocked before, and I wasn't about to got there again, especially tonight.

 

I snuck back to the house after a while, I knew the men wouldn't miss me, and I was looking forward to the end of the time of my purification tradition. It took a while for me to drift off to sleep, just so many thoughts driffting through my mind. I was a lucky man, I had found Calico while on my quest and through that quest I had become a man, some of the things that had happened and that I had seen I would just as well forget, but others I hoped that I would never forget.

 

I had never shed the blood of a man before, and now that had become all to prevalent, not that I sought it, but it just needed done. That was something that I was hoping to put behind me as much as possible. Although, I knew what I was able to do, and if anyone would ever try to harm my family, family, wow.... What a change in my life was taking place.

 

Then my mind drifted to Calico, stepping from the water hole that first time, and standing there just staring at me. I don't know how long we would have stood there if it hadn't been for Gloria pointing that rifle at me.

 

I felt the fear in my heart when Calico and left the herd while I had gone off with the troop, then finally catching up to her as she lay on the ground unconsious from the attack of those Kansa braves. What guilt I had felt knowing I had failed my oath to protect her.

 

Then we were at the water hole at the Golden Aspen ranch, when she finally said she was ready, ready to pick me. All through the dreams I kept seeing her smile, her deep eyes, those buckskins, and her voice whispering yes. The voice I was looking forward to hearing say I do.

 

I finally awoke, I felt like a child at Christmas, excitement filled my spirit, which was dampend a bit when the women chased me from Calico's door. I could wait a few more hours I tried to tell myself as I went down for breakfast. Before I sat I peered out the window towards the firepit, I was surely glad that I hadn't let Karl get me drunk the night before, he and several others we still sprawled out on the ground asleep. Karl's little white fluffy dog was licking his face trying to wake him up, but to no avail. Skipper had Prairie Dawg by the ear leading him towards their cabin, I could hear her from where I was telling him she had things to do for Calico and he wasn't about to git in the way.

 

The rest of the day was a blur, until I saw Calico pull up in the surrey with Chief Hosa riding beside it, my heart seemed ready to burst from my chest, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. As we stood there lost in each others' eyes I think the preacher had to nudge me when it was time to say I do. I do remember Calico taking forever to say it, kinda scared me a bit, I could have kissed her forever but I felt that nudge again.

 

Back at the house I had never seen it set up for such a party as was going to take place, steers and hogs on the spits over the fire, pots and pots filled with all sorts of fixings. I have to admit thought, I had pretty much one thing on my mind. Each time my eyes met Calico's I knew she was thinking the same thing.

 

Well into the party the two of us snuck into the house to change into our buckskins, and while we were tempted to just stay right here, we knew where we had to go. We snuck out the back door and off the porch and headed up the trail to the water hole. Once we got there, we saw two nicely folded towels waitng for us on the log. I guess somebody knew us pretty good.

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Me thinks this story needs some skunks, lots and lots of skunks :D:P:D:P:D

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you feel like dancing agin Griz?

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We watched the sunset from the water hole and then rejoined the party at the house. What a day it had been, marrying my best friend, someone I would have followed to the end of time because of my oath, even if she hadn't picked me. It seemed that now I was being rewarded for holding to that oath, oh and what a reward.

 

We spent much of the evening with Morning Star, Buick and Chief Hosa for they would be leaving the next day. I don't know who smiled the most that evening, Calico or me, but I do know my face was getting awfully sore, but then I had lots to smile for.

 

We visited much longer than we really wanted to and finally got away from the party pretty late, there was no fear of dreams that night though. We missed breakfast the next morning, the only reason we finally showed ourselves was to say goodbye to our good friends as they left to return their ranch and for Chief Hosa to return to the reservation, something that broke all of our hearts. We knew that it would be a long seperation between friends, as both couples would soon have children to deal with.

 

The Lt from the fort came with a detachment to escort Chief Hosa to the reservation, not because of fear he wouldn't go, but for his protection. There was a great deal of resentment still in parts of the territory against the indians and the killing of a respected chief would throw the territory into a full blown war. My father had a wagon prepared and fully loaded with supplies for the trip and to take on to the reservation as a thank you to Chief Hosa for making the trip. A surrey was also prepard for Morning Star's trip home, for she was getting to the stage of her "expecting" that riding a horse might prove dangerous for her. The goodbyes were hard, with promises all made to get visit when we could, and with plenty of tears being shed.

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Calico and I spent the rest of the morning thanking everyone that had helped with the preparations, the ceremony and the party afterwards, what a task that was. There were so many that had helped, all the women that had helped with Calico's dress and hair, the women who had helped cook, the men who had helped set up the "church" in the pasture.

 

After that was done a lunch with leftover's from the party the night before were served, there was enough to feed everyone on the ranch, and then some. We packed a large basket of food to take to our cabin, it seemed that Calico was getting pretty nervous when some of the women had asked her about what see was going to cook at the cabin. Cook? we had never thought about that! Oh well, we'd get along somehow.

 

My father had Rye Miles hitch up the surrey so that he could take it to the cabin for us so that it would be there when we would need it. Rye had his horse tied to the surrey for the ride home although we suspected the Rye would manage to hang out around the cabin for a few days before he would head back.

 

Mike and Miss Tabitha had brought another set of leathers for Calico for the trip, and boy had they done a great job on them, low cut, with plenty of beadwork and even some shiny stones.

As we dressed, I guess I should say as Calico dressed, because all I could do was watch her, we put on our gunbelts as well. Calico's wouldn't be fitting for much longer, she had managed to latch it on the last hole, but dang, a pretty woman in leathers and a pair of pistols on her hips,,,,well, the trip could wait a little longer.

 

My father finally came to our door and told us that if we hoped to make the cabin before dark we'd best come out and get on our way. I could hear plenty of laughter from downstairs as we finally emerged from our room and went down the stairs. Rye was lying under the surrey sound asleep and as I roused him to told me, "heck Cheyenne you didn't have to hurry for my sake" and then laughed. He made sure his accordian was secure in the back of the surrey for the trip to the cabin, and saying something about wanting to serenade us. "Oh Brother" I thought, we may never get him to leave!"

 

During the trip I had noticed a pair of riders off to the north, I only caught glimpses of them now and then, that had me worried. Calico had noticed me looking off to my right and asked me if something was wrong, "I hope not, but we've got company yonder", I fell back to Rye and warned him too. He pulled his trusty Winchester and laid it across his lap, smile and said "Ole Betsy will talk to them if need be."

 

We increased our pace and after a while we noticed a lone rider to our north also, but well out ahead of the other two. "That fellers got trouble" I said to Calico and Rye, "We may be in this wether we want or not." We made the cabin without any incident, but we didn't take that for granted. Rye would take the first watch, then I would watch until morning. Calico whispered in my ear, and well we left Rye alone to watch.

 

We relieved Rye, morning seemed to take it's time coming, but when it did the sunrise was spectacular. Just after the sun was making it's way clear of the horizon we started hearing a man crying out, I quickly went inside and got my glass and started glassing in the direction of the sounds. It was Ol Grizz being held by two renegades. What had he gotten into now?

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There were two dog soldiers, cheyenne braves who refused the treaties offered by the government, holding onto Grizz, each holding a knife that was glistening in the early morning sun. About that time Rye caming running with his Winchester and his gunbelt with his Colts slung over his shoulder. "What's going on, can't a man get some rest around here?" Rye asked grumpily.

 

The dog soldiers called me by my name, telling me that if I didn't give them what they wanted that they would scalp Ol Grizz. As they finished saying what they wanted they pulled Grizz's grizzly skin hat off, the glare through my glass almost blinded me. I could see the look on their faces and I could hear the one tell the other, "He's done be scalped!, What'll we do now?"

I starting laughing until, OUCH, this time it was Rye smacking me in the arm, then he lifted his hat. "Did they get YOU too?" I asked him. For some reason Rye wasn't laughing but Calico sure was as she handed me my golden rifle.

 

By now the two dog soldiers weren't laughing any more, matter of fact, they looked pretty irratated. Rye and I started walking towards them, with Calico ready with her Winchester on the porch, until we were about fifty long steps from them. "Don't come any closer, or we'll slice this neck" they warned. Rye couldn't help himself and hollered out, "So what?" At that point I felt sorry for the two dog soldiers that surely looked like they were starving, "How about we trade him for a steer, on the hoof?, as long as you don't pull this again."

 

That brought a big smile to the twos' faces, I pretty much figured that was the plan all along, "Running Bear, next time you just come to the cabin and ask, just like you do at the ranch. Although I enjoyed the look on Grizz's face when you put that knife to his head." I told them laughing. "And don't let that ole man get into his saddlebags either, unless you've got a stump you want removed."

 

As Rye and I headed back to the cabin Rye asked what was for breakfast, I told him to ask Calico, and to tell her that he wanted bacon. Well Rye did just that and I heard him yell OUCH, OUCH before he could finish the word bacon. I got a dark look from both of them for that one, the water hole may have to wait a little while after that!

 

The three of us raided the basket of food that we had brought with us from the ranch, but as we ate all three of us began wondering what we were going to do when it ran out. Rye offered to go out after deer or whatever happened along, hmmmm I thought that sounded like a royal idea and I could see the smile starting to form on Calico's face. Needless to say we got Rye ready real quick and sent him off in search of fresh meat with a small amount of food to get him throught the day.

 

As Rye disappeared into the tall grasses and then the trees, out of the corner of my eye I could see Calico lifting her buckskin over her head, oh yes,,,, life is good!!

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When Prairie Dawg brought the telegram from Hawk out to the cabin, it was a shock, but even my father understood what a man has to do,he had already notified Wells

Fargo to send three stages to the ranch and had men and supplies ready when Calico, Rye and I returned to the ranch. The dream that afternoon before Pairie Dawg had shown up must have meant something, as right after the dream Dawg had shown up with the telegram.

 

I had dreamed of seeing Whiskey at some kind of shooting competition in front of a saloon, and then later that evening at a fancy party. She was dressed a lot different than I had ever seen her dress, she wore a black and white striped dress and she wore gloves that went all the way up to her elbows. Buck was even dressed in a suit, a suit mind you, not the normal trail clothes he had always worn with the herd. It didn't really surprize me much when the telegram showed up.

 

Calico was a good sport about staying behind, I knew I would rather of had her with me, but with a family coming along we both knew there was no question about her staying behind. I knew Rye was hurting with the way she punched him for saying she needed to stay behind to learn how to cook. Sometimes Rye just didn't know when to keep quiet, but I bet he would around Calico from now on.

 

The trip on the stages was intense, the only time we stopped was to change teams, I didn't know what it was costing my father for this arrangement, but I knew it was a great deal of money or favors returned.

 

While I was gone Calico decided that it was indeed time to learn to cook, if only a little. Lu Sing took her under her wing while she prepared the meals, trying to teach Calico as much as she could in that short time. Miss Tabitha even taught Calico the ins and outs of fashion and how to dress that would show off her attributes the best, that part I really appreciated. She was already beautiful and anything else was icing on the cake. Skipper taught her how to run a spinning wheel and sew, Calico hardly had time to miss me, except for the walks up to the water hole.

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While I was away from Calico I have to admit I was downright miserable without her. My dreams of soaring with the eagles were gone, I just plain yearned to be near her again.

 

The gunfight at Hawk's place was brutal, but at least it was pretty brief, we had be able not only to surprize them but we overwelmed them with sheer numbers and dynamite. We had a couple minor injuries, Prairie Dawg got his ear clipped and somehow Rye had gotten shot in in butt, he was going to have a painful ride home. I don't think he minded Gloria digging out the slug, except for the pain.

 

What really surprized us was the hole that had opened up and swallowed the only survivor from those attacking Hawk. But after the fight had ended we weren't too concerned about that for a while, we had lots of catching up to do. Gloria and Whiskey seemed to have a new question about Calico and her condition everytime I finished answering the one before. They were pretty disappointed that they had missed the wedding and dang it if both of them didn't pick an arm to slug. The more questions they asked about Calico the more I missed her, this was worse than the purification period we had had to endure, at least then we were together.

 

 

 

Little Joe and the rest of the men were going from man to man, gathering guns and checking for any signs of life. Nothing like having a "dead" man start shooting at you again to make sure they were all on their way through hell's gates.

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Apparently Caldwell had escaped and Hawk and Whiseky had taken off after him. Once we got things cleaned up we all took off for town to catch up with Hawk. I was getting pretty anxious to head for home, I could tell the men were too, especially Rye with that new hole in his rear end. I swore to myself that as soon as this was done with we were gonna make a bee line straight home. I had visions of building a large fence around the cabin, with a lock on the gate! I was getting awfully tired of interuptions, besides, it would help with the little one coming.

 

Dang, I wasn't even sure when the little one was gonna make an appearance,,, I was gonna have to ask Calico about that!

 

I could hear a long departed pal, telling me, "Get your head in the fight Culpepper, you're gonna get yourself killed if you don't!" That'll get your attention.....

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The first few days after Cheyenne left weren't too bad. I had wanted to go back to the cabin, but Frank wouldn't hear of it, but at least some of the other ladies managed to keep me busy enough so I wasn't going crazy. Lu Sing especially, though I'm not sure she really enjoyed the cooking lessons she gave me, I think I burned almost everything, it was harder than everyone made it look.

A couple of days later, I did manage to convince Frank to let me ride up into the mountains to see the aspens turn to gold. He wouldn't let me take my autumn pony, but he let me use one of the ranch's mares. He also insisted Karl go with me, he was recovered enough to ride but not to work, and he was getting bored. I didn't think I really needed an escort, but it was nice having company, even if it wasn't Cheyenne.

We rode up into the foothills, and headed for a place that Karl said should have a lot of aspens. It was a really pretty ride, and before long we were at a spot where we could see a huge grove of golden aspens up ahead. I wanted to get closer, but Karl was a little hesitant to let me, he said it was a bit of a rough ride, but I insisted on at least trying. If it got too difficult we could always stop and turn around, so he finally agreed. We started riding closer, then my mare started to stumble a little on the rocky ground, so I leaned forward to pat her neck a little to encourage her. Just at that moment, we heard a shot, and I swear that bullet went right behind my head! Karl wheeled his horse around to try and see where the shot came from, but couldn't. “That's it, we're going back right now!” he told me. I tried to argue with him, it was probably just someone hunting that missed their target, it wasn't likely to happen again. But he put his foot down, and flat out refused to go any further. Then he even threatened to hogtie me and haul me back to the ranch that way if I wouldn't cooperate....I wasn't sure if he really meant it or not but figured I was better off not risking it.


When we got back to the ranch, Karl of course told Frank all about it, and Frank was a little upset, until I assured him I was fine, no harm done. At dinner, he told me that he had hired a new hand, a feller named Black Jack that could do both carpentry and blacksmithing, to help out with those tasks. Then he also told me that Black Jack's wife, Sadie, had worked before as a midwife. “The doctor will still be primarily responsible for your care, but I thought it would be nice to have a backup plan. I also figured you might like having a woman to talk to if you have any questions, she can tell you if it's something you need to discuss with the doc. They'll be here tomorrow morning,” he informed me.

In the morning, Frank and I went out on the porch to wait for the couple to arrive. I was a little nervous, I didn't really think I needed one more person worrying about me, but knew better than to argue. When their buggy pulled up in front of the house, Frank went down to greet them, but I stayed seated on the porch. Hop Sing opened the big heavy wooden front door of the house to come out and help with their belongings, just as he did we heard the crack of a rifle, then splintering of wood as the bullet hit the door. “Get the ladies in the house, now!” Frank yelled, and the new lady came running up the stairs and we both headed inside. I could hear Frank shouting to some of the men to saddle up and go find out where that shot came from. A few minutes later he came in with the new man, and introduced both of them to me. Some of the other men helped Hop Sing get everything inside, and before long, the men who had chased after the shooter came back and had to admit that they hadn't been able to find anyone, or even any tracks to follow.

Frank looked very concerned, but announced “I need to head into town for a while, I shouldn't be gone long. Calico, after lunch have one of the men show Black Jack and Sadie around the ranch, I'll be home in time for dinner.” He left, and the rest of us sat down for lunch, it didn't taste too bad but then again I hadn't had to help with the cooking this time. When we were done eating, I showed the new couple the rest of the house, then started showing them around the rest of the buildings. The last thing I wanted to show them was the new church that we were having built, I figured Sadie might like that. As we were walking towards the water hole, I felt a rock in one of my moccasins, so I bent over to dig it out. Just as I did, there was another gunshot, and the bullet again passed just where my head had been a second before. Bob was just walking towards us to meet Black Jack, and when he heard the shot he started screaming at the other men to find the shooter. Then he grabbed me by the arm, telling me “Get back to the house, NOW! MOVE!!” and he practically dragged me back there, Black Jack and Sadie hurrying behind us.

Just as we entered the house from the back, Frank was coming in from the front. He had heard the shot and was anxious to make sure I was ok. After making sure I was, he then got the story from Bob of what had happened. Frank ordered Hop Sing to go around and close all the curtains in every room, and to get as many people to help as possible. I said I would help, and Frank told me, “Oh no you won't! I want you up in your room, and I'll be posting a guard there as well as at every entrance as soon as I can. Don't you get it honey, someone is trying to kill you! All those shots were aimed right at you, you are not setting foot outside this house again until we find out who's responsible.”

“You have to be joking, no one's trying to kill me! That's crazy! Why would anyone do that? And if someone really is, I ain't gonna just sit here, I'm going after them!” I wasn't about to just sit in my room forever, waiting to see if someone else could find this shooter and take care of them for me, I could do it myself just fine!

“You will do no such thing young lady, and I don't want to hear another word out of you! If I have to, I'll take your guns and have them hidden where you won't find them. You aren't going anywhere, let the men handle this. I've got everyone I can spare out looking, and even if they don't find the man, we'll get him soon enough. I knew something was wrong this morning, and this afternoon proves me right. I went to town to send a telegraph to Buick, he's coming as soon as he can to help track whoever is shooting at you.”


“Buick? Why did you send for him? He shouldn't be leaving Morning Star right now!” I insisted, furious that he had done so without asking me.

“Oh, Morning Star won't need him at home for a few more months, right now we need his help more. And until he gets here, you will not leave this house, and you will make sure that the curtains are completely closed in any room you are in. You will NOT be taking any chances with the baby!” Frank was just as upset as I was, and I could now see where Cheyenne got his stubbornness.

“I will not be held prisoner in this house! You can't order me to do that, I promised to obey Cheyenne, not you! And I'm tired of people only thinking about the baby, and not me! I didn't even ever say I wanted to have a baby anyway!” I had started crying, I was so mad being treated like I was totally helpless, it was my life at stake too....

“Go to your room this instant!” Frank screamed at me, and I ran up the stairs and into my room, slamming the door. I threw myself on the bed, sobbing, this was so unfair! I certainly wasn't ready to have a baby, not if it changed my life like this. I had never asked for this to happen, and I still wasn't too sure how it had. Maybe this was one of those questions I was supposed to be asking this new lady, Sadie, and I hoped I still would get the chance to talk to her. I heard Frank knock at the door a few minutes later, but I refused to answer. Instead, I just cried myself to sleep, wishing all the while that Cheyenne would come home......

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It wasn't long after the last shot had been fired we were looking to get back on the trail to home. We did have to stop at the docs again, Rye had gotten shot in the foot, he was lucky to be alive, he had his horse shot out from under him as he rode for Caldwell's place. We made things right with the livery, loaded into the stages and headed home. It didn't take long for us to fall asleep, the two gunfights had worn us all down.

 

Not far from the entrance to the ranch we met up with Buick and Jesse on their way to the ranch as well. When we heard that my father had sent for him because of trouble the driver's pushed their teams hard until we arrived at the ranch. The driver's brought the stages to a sliding stop and I hit the ground on the run, I'm not sure I hit a single step before I reached the porch, "Calico, where are you?" I screamed as I went through the doors.

 

My father grabbed me and quickly told me that Calico was ok and was in her room waiting for me. I bounded up the stairs three at a time and as I reached for the door knob the door swung open. "Don't you ever leave me again" she cried as she softly hit my arm. Then she pulled me forward and slammed the door shut behind me. "I won't" I tried to get out.

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After Calico and I got re-introduced we both headed downstairs to try to figure out what was going on. I wanted to start tracking but neither Calico nor my father thought that was a good idea. Whoever had been taking potshots at Calico may have sights on me too. I thought a while and agreed with them, a little anyway, and I wasn't really wanting to leave her again, it never seemed to work out well when I did.

 

Come morning I would take a positon in the cupulo on the house, from there I could glass for nearly a mile and it offered a great spot to take a shot if one presented itself. Buick would take a team and start tracking then, if they could find tracks that is.

 

Could this be more of Margaret's handiwork? That mess still hadn't been cleared up, someone would need to ride into town and meet with that lawyer fellow and see where we stood with that issue. Our closest relatives back east were still in Culpepper Virginia, a long way from Margaret in Tennessee.

 

That night sleep came quickly, after we decided to sleep, and dreams of the eagle soaring again appeared, but this time the eagle had his talons ready for an attack, a quick deadly attack. Where these dreams of things past or of the future?

 

I awoke suddenly during the night with an idea, perhaps we could use someone to pose as Calico to lure the shooter out, but who would be able to do it, or better yet, be willing to take such a risk? I'd have to wait til morning for that. I felt Calico's hand on my shoulder, yes life is good.

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It felt so good to have Cheyenne home, I almost couldn't stop hugging him. When I finally let him go, I told him everything that had been happening, well, almost everything. I left out the part about the big argument I'd had with his father, I didn't really want to talk about that. When we went downstairs, we saw his father in the den talking to Buick and Jesse and went in to join them. Frank had already filled the other two in on what had been going on. As we walked in, both Buick and Jesse came over to give me a hug, and Jesse blurted out, “Wow, you're really getting big!” Buick quickly put his hand on Jesse's shoulder and shook his head, I heard him whisper “I wouldn't be saying things like that if I were you!” I just cringed, I knew it was true but hated having anyone notice! We started discussing the situation, and immediately Cheyenne wanted to go after the shooter himself, but both me and his father objected.

“No son, we don't know if this man might be after the both of you or just Calico, I'd prefer you let Buick handle this one,” his father told him. “Please don't go, I want you to take me back to our cabin and stay with me, please?” I begged. For a second I thought his father was going to explode again, but he simply said “Not a chance, you're both staying here, too much open country between here and the cabin for you two to be riding out there. It's just not safe.” I could tell right away Cheyenne agreed with him, there was no way I was going to be able to talk him into going out there.

I was starting to get mad again, how long was I going to be held prisoner here? Cheyenne could tell something was wrong, and it was obvious he was confused, his father and I had always gotten along so well before. Buick quickly jumped into the conversation, asking all sorts of questions about any evidence the ranch hands had been able to find, and also about the surrounding area. He wasn't that familiar with the area beyond the ranch boundaries, and wanted to get a better idea of where this man may be hiding. When it was time to start getting dinner ready, Water Lilly came looking for me, telling me her mother needed me in the kitchen. When Jesse heard that he asked “You're not gonna be cooking, are ya?” and both he and Buick didn't look real happy about that! Frank simply told them “She just assists with a few things, she isn't responsible for the whole meal, it won't be so bad.” The men all seemed to think that was funny....I sure didn't!

During dinner Cheyenne was introduced to Black Jack and Sadie, and he seemed awfully glad to have Sadie there. I had to admit, I was really starting to like her, she was really a sweet person, and very easy to talk to. After dinner the men went back into the den for whiskey and cigars, but I asked Sadie if she would join me in the parlor, as I really needed to talk to her. We sat in there for quite a while, and I finally got the chance to ask her to please explain why I was having a baby. I'm not sure which one of us was more embarrassed by that question, me for having to ask and her for having to explain it! But now I finally understood why some people were so disapproving of what we had been doing before the wedding, it made more sense to me now. She did seem to think I was farther along in my pregnancy than I knew I could be. That part still didn't make sense to either of us, but I knew exactly how long it had been since that first wonderful day at the water hole down by the Golden Aspen...

Meanwhile, in the den the men had been going over their plans for the next few days. Buick would go to both locations on the ranch where we thought the shooter had hidden, and look for any signs that would help him figure out where to look next. Jesse, Black Jack, and Bob would go with him. Cheyenne had plans to do some scouting from the highest point in the house. The rest of the ranch hands would go about their business until further notice. Then Frank finally got his chance to bring up his concerns about me to Cheyenne.

“Son, I'm starting to get a little worried about Calico. She seems to be doing ok physically,” he added quickly as he noticed Cheyenne's panicked look, “but she doesn't seem to be very happy about the baby. I know this has to be very hard on her being cooped up like this, as independent as she is, but I had no choice. I had to do what I thought was best to keep her safe, but she's very upset with me for it. Please keep a close eye on her, especially if it takes a while to track down whoever has been shooting at her. We don't need her doing anything crazy that's going to put her and the baby at risk.” Cheyenne quickly agreed, he knew all too well the kind of trouble that seemed to follow his “Fair One” everywhere....

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The next morning I took my station in the cupulo above the house, I could see just about everything from there, but at the same time I was seeing nothing. I had always done my best thinking when I was alone and I was starting to have a few ideas pop into my head. I was just about to call for Calico to join me when I saw Water Lilly heading up the path to the water hole alone, just before she went into the trees she stopped and looked over her should straight up at me in the cupulo. Strange, I thought to myself, especially as she continued up the path to the water hole and then at the edge of the water turned my way again and disrobed, and then slowly slid into the water. Now I was pretty glad Calico hadn't joined me yet, or would it have been better for her to have seen it herself?

 

I took the stairs down throught the attic and found my father and told him we needed to talk alone, and perhaps Calico needed to join us. I didn't mention Water Lilly at first because I didn't want to taint their thoughts about what was going on. Each of the shots had been single shots, and only at Calico, and no tracks had been found for the shots taken at the ranch. That just didn't sit right with me, and why had my father sent for an outsider to track when we had plenty of experienced trackers on the ranch, including me! It was begining to look like it might be someone from the ranch itself. Then I told them about how Water Lilly had been acting, which turned Calico's face red with anger. "I drown that..." was all she could get out before I managed to quiet her.

 

We developed a plan to use a decoy in place of Calico, that would take a great deal of secrecy and stealth to pull off. We would need someone close to Calico's size, which with her belly growing as it was made it a little easier as we had a few men with bellies too. We finally decided Korupt Karl fit the bill pretty well, but we would need to convince him to do it. We also had to convince Calico not to show any ill feeling towards Water Lilly, that was going to take a lot of acting on Calico's part, something I wasn't so sure she could pull of now. Especially after I had told them about Water Lilly's activityies that morning.

 

My plan was to have Calico and I head off for a ride, but we would go behind the last barn and her and Karl would change places, Calico would wait there with Prairie Dawg and Skipper until we returned. Maybe we could get the shooter to take another shot and then Karl and I would have the chance to track him, or her down.

 

We also decided to do a check on all the rifles in the house and the ammo supplies just in case we could find a clue there. I hated to think that someone that was part of the ranch would be the shooter, but at this point we had to look at every avenue to bring this to an abrupt end.

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When Cheyenne asked to speak to me and his father in private, I knew something was up, I just didn't know what. At first when he suggested that the shooter might be someone from the ranch, I shook my head, that didn't seem possible. I had been so sure that Margaret had a hand in this somehow, but after Cheyenne told us what Water Lilly had done that morning I changed my mind, maybe he was right. She had never liked me, and I knew she wanted me gone, but enough to kill me? Was she really that vicious?

I was more than a little upset, even if she wasn't involved in the shootings I still didn't like the idea of her thinking she could go around taking her clothes off where she knew Cheyenne was watching. How dare she flaunt herself like that in front of him? He was mine, whether she liked it or not! Both Cheyenne and Frank insisted I treat her like I didn't know what she had been up to, and that wasn't going to be easy. I wanted to wring her little neck! All I didn't need right now was another woman throwing herself at my husband, not when I was in this condition.

Cheyenne also made it clear to his father that he didn't agree with Frank's decision to call in Buick and Jesse, until his father explained that he had done so to have some help that would not necessarily be connected to the Culpepper ranch. Buick had hardly met anyone, except the ranch people, a few of the soldiers, and those townsfolk that had been at the wedding. Jesse was a total stranger, as was Black Jack, and Frank pointed out that if the shooter was not someone on the ranch, the three unfamiliar men might have better luck getting useful information in the town's saloons if the culprit decided to start shooting his mouth off in one of them. Most of the ranch hands were too well known in Fort Collins for that.

After Cheyenne had outlined his plan to set up a decoy using Karl, I wasn't too sure it would work, but I was willing to give about anything a try at that point. It was decided that while we were doing this, Buick would try to keep an eye on Water Lilly without her knowing he was doing it. At the same time, Jesse and Black Jack would ride into town and hang out in some of the saloons, and listen for any conversations that may have anything to do with the shootings. It would be best to cover both angles until we had a better chance to figure out if it really was someone from the ranch or a total stranger. I just wanted the whole thing over with. I'd had enough of being shut up in that darn house, but I wasn't looking to get myself killed either....

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When Calico and I were alone I promised her a trip to town when things quieted down, though I knew she would be happy with returning to our cabin and the quiet that it offered. I had to admit that the cabin sounded awfully good to me too.

 

We got ready for our "ride" and made sure everything was in place. I was on Soars with Eagles and Calico was on one of the ranch ponies. The autumn pony of Calico's was too far along in her expecting stage to risk riding her, especially if we would have needed to ride hard. It felt so good to be riding with Calico by my side, if only through the ranch yard, but it was short-lived as we cleared the last barn we veered behind it for Calico and Karl to switch. Skipper had down a fine job on preparing Karl for the switch, a wig and even gave him a figure, well at least the top part, his belly pretty well copied Calico's to a T.

 

Karl and I rode out circling the ranch, trying to act like we were just out enjoying ourselves, but no to no avail. I was pretty disappointed that no one had taken shot at Karl, that would have given us the chance to bring this ordeal to a close. I didn't like all this cat and mouse stuff, I was wanting to just git er done! We headed back to the ranch, stopping at the barn for Karl and Calico to switch back, Calico wanted go on and continue the ride and I almost consented, but I knew better. We rode back to the house with Rye meeting us there to tend to our horses. We went in and cleaned up for the evening meal, and the meeting that we would have afterwards.

 

Calico had a really hard time controlling her emotions at the dinner table when Water Lilly came in to join us, she tried to sit in the empty chair beside me but Calico wasn't having any part of that, "we're saving that for Rye" Calico blurted out, then realizing the gruffness in her voice softly said, "he's had a hard time of it lately, with being shot in his fanny like he did."

 

After we had eaten we adjourned to the study closing the massive doors behind us with Little Joe standing watch by them. We had two of the other men outside the house making sure no one could eavesdrop at the windows. Jesse and Black Jack hadn't returned from town yet so that left a big hole in our information. I sure had nothing to report, and Buick didn't have much to report on Water Lilly either. It was hard to inventory the rifles and ammo because of the trip to Whiskey's place had required so much ammo and several rifles to be in and out.

 

Basically we were right where we had started, with nothing. We did decide to send out Wagonmaster Duke and Bad Creek Kid to try and locate Ol Grizz, maybe he would have some information that we could use. We decided that Rye would take my place in the cupulo to watch the area tomorrow, and that I would spend the day with Calico. I knew her nerves were frayed and we had been apart way to much since the wedding. We couldn't visit the water hole, especially with Rye up in the cupulo, but we would have the run of the house, and perhaps a bath indoors would be a treat.

 

In our room that evening Calico's eyes got real big as I started to undress, she watched me pull three small pistols from their hiding spots in my clothes. "I had no idea you had all those hidden on you, where's mine?" she asked. "Tomorrow my dear tomorrow, but now we've got more important things now....."

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