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Calico Mary

Dreams of the Golden Aspen Ranch

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I didn't really sleep well that night, I was too disappointed that our plan had not produced any results. I still wasn't sure Water Lilly had been behind the attacks, but I was certain she was up to something. It was really late when I finally drifted off to sleep. I dreamed of having to share both Cheyenne and the cabin with Water Lilly, and I was so pregnant that Cheyenne paid no attention to me, spending all his time with Water Lilly, that didn't make for a restful night!

Cheyenne and I had planned to spend the day together, but after breakfast Frank asked Cheyenne to join him in the den for a few minutes, they had ranch business to discuss. Cheyenne wanted me to go with them, as he didn't feel safe leaving me alone, but Buick volunteered to keep me company. Father and son headed for the den, and I decided to show Buick the library, I knew he really liked to read and thought he would enjoy seeing the extensive collection of books that the Culpeppers had. I sat on the couch while he looked over the books, and I could tell he was really impressed, then he came over and sat down by me.


“You're sure looking lovely nowadays, how have you been?” he asked, and I noticed that he had put his arm along the top of the couch behind me. “Fine, except for the little fact someone's been shooting at me,” I told him, “That's been a little rough.” He kind of laughed a little, and said “Now ain't the first time that's happened, now is it? You seem to be handling it better than most ladies would. Try not to worry, we'll get this all figured out, hopefully Black Jack and Jesse will have some news for us when they come back. How are you getting along with Black Jack's wife? She seems really nice.”


We talked about Black Jack and Sadie for a few minutes, I was really thankful now that Frank had hired them, they were both proving to be good people. He also told me some of the things that had been happening at the Golden Aspen, and I promised to keep him informed of anything the lawyer had to say on the subject. The whole time we were talking I noticed that Buick was staring straight at me, and the thought occurred to me that I had forgotten how nice his eyes were....

What was I thinking? I shouldn't be having thoughts like that anymore, I had Cheyenne and Buick was married to my best friend, why was I still noticing his eyes? I could have sworn I had gotten over my feelings for him, and he for me. Then all of a sudden he leaned forward as if he was going to kiss me, and a feeling of sheer panic rose up in me. What were we doing, we couldn't do this! But I made no move to stop him, why not I had no idea. His lips met mine, but just then we both heard the sound of horses approaching the house, and he backed off really quickly. I was thankful he did, I was so ashamed of myself for almost letting that happen! He quickly apologized, saying “I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have done that. I don't know why I did, I just couldn't help myself. I think maybe it would be better if we weren't alone with each other again. Let's go, maybe that's Black Jack and Jesse with some news....”

Well, I couldn't argue with that, I couldn't risk it happening again. I was just relieved that no one had seen us. I couldn't do that to Morning Star, and I definitely didn't need to be doing anything to drive Cheyenne into Water Lilly's waiting arms....

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We heard horses coming and as we headed for the porch I met Calico and Buick coming out of the library. Buick kind of rushed right by me and Calico looked awlfully flushed, as I grabbed her she looked off a bit, "he didn't hurt you did he?" I asked, "because if he did..." "No, no, nothing like that happend, he was just asking about my condition." Then she looked away again, I wasn't so sure that I really believed her, but then I had no real reason not to.

 

Jesse and Black Jack were already telling their news as Calico and I joined them on the porch. They had heard of talk of someone bragging of trying to scare the great and mighty Culpeppers, and who better to use than the newest Culpepper, Calico. But, they didn't know if he was finished or not.

 

I had had enough and blurted out, "If any man hurts my Calico I'll kill him, I don't care who he is!" Then I made sure that Buick saw my glare. After that I tried to convince my father to send Buick home, but he still felt that we needed him, I wasn't so sure, I knew that something just wasn't right though. My father could sense my consternation and insisted that Calico and I spend the day together and try to forget all this for the day. Fat chance of that happening I thought as I took Calico's hand to head back into the house. I was thinking that since the news we heard pretty much meant the shooter may be done, that a trip to the water hole may be good medicine for us.

 

I reached over and kissed her on her neck and whispered in her ear about my idea, and then waited for her reply.

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Uh oh, Cheyenne knew something was wrong.....I shoulda known I couldn't hide anything from that man! I still wasn't sure why I hadn't tried to stop Buick from kissing me, I guess I was so flattered by his compliment, and the fact he was concerned about me, not just the baby like everyone else seemed to be. I sure wasn't feeling lovely, not with my belly growing bigger every day, and that had been nice to hear. But I knew Cheyenne had a jealous streak a mile wide, and I hoped there wouldn't be any trouble between the two. The fact that they were friends sure wouldn't stop Cheyenne from hurting Buick if he found out what had just happened....


What Black Jack and Jesse had to tell us seemed to indicate there was a stranger involved, but that still didn't mean that whoever it was doing it hadn't had help from someone on the ranch. We still didn't really know much, I wasn't so sure this was over yet or not. They had managed to put together a decent enough description of the man, but weren't sure where he might be. Buick decided that the three of them should head out and see if they could find anyone who might know where this man may have gone. Sounded good to me, it would be best if Buick wasn't hanging out at the ranch for a while.

Then Cheyenne kissed my neck and whispered to me that he'd like to go down to the water hole, and I just froze. I was still pretty shook up, and I wasn't sure how well I would be able to hide it. So I said “Not right now, it's still a little chilly out there, and the water will still be in the shade at this time of day. It won't be long before it'll be too cold to go at all. How bout we wait until this afternoon, to see if it warms up any?” I could tell he was disappointed, and more than a little suspicious, but he agreed to wait until after lunch. “Why don't we see if Sadie is busy?” I asked, “I know there's probably a lot of things we're gonna need for the baby, but I have no clue what, maybe she can give us some suggestions?” Maybe I could get him thinking about something else until I had a chance to calm down....

I don't think he really liked the idea, but still he agreed to look for Sadie. We found her in the parlor, and sat down and talked to her until it was almost time for lunch. I could tell Cheyenne wasn't all that interested in the conversation, we did have plenty of time to figure out what we'd need and arrange for it all, but I wasn't too sure I could handle being alone with him at that point. By the time lunch was over though, I was feeling a lot better about it. I mean, it's not like anything had really happened after all, no harm done...right? I was just thankful that Black Jack and Jesse had returned when they did!

After we had eaten it was a lot warmer outside, and I could tell he was almost desperate to go down to the water hole, so I finally said ok. He kept his arm around me as we walked down there, and I started feeling really guilty again, how could I have even thought of kissing someone else? Not when it was so obvious how much Cheyenne loved me...I really had to pull myself together, I just couldn't let anything else happen! To our surprise though, the water hole was not empty when we got there....I was absolutely furious when we found that Water Lilly was already there! Cheyenne looked rather embarrassed, I was just mad! How dare she? Of course she just laughed, and invited Cheyenne to join her. She looked at me and had the nerve to tell me she didn't think I should get in the water, it was still a little cold and it wouldn't be good for the baby. I was so upset, I started crying and couldn't say a word. I just turned and started walking back to the house as fast as I could, and Cheyenne quickly followed, I was grateful for that at least.


All of a sudden from behind us we heard Water Lilly yell, “Cheyenne, look out!” Then we heard the rifle go off, and to my horror the bullet struck Cheyenne in the shoulder. He managed to stay on his feet, and he shoved me back towards the house, telling me “Go! Get inside fast!” I didn't want to leave him, but I knew he needed more help than I could give him anyway, so I took off as quickly as I could back to the house, hoping that Frank or one of the other men had heard the shot and would come running...

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When we found Water Lilly in the watehole I was really disappointed, I had been waiting all day, and now here she was in "our" waterhole! Water Lilly looked rather pleased when she saw us, I think she was just trying to be a stinker, but with all that had been going on, who knew. Calico wasn't pleased at all and saw no humor in it either, she quickly turned with tears starting to roll down her pink cheeks and headed back down the trail. I of course turned to follow her, there was no way I was going to linger at all.

 

Just after I turned and took one or two steps I heard Water Lilly scream, I started to turn back towards her when I heard the shot and felt the searing heat run through my shoulder. I pushed Calico towards the house and yelled for her to get to the house, NOW! Then instinctively I drew my pistols and started firing them at the bushes that were being jostled, I emptied them before I realized that I was able to use my left arm, the one that the bullet tore through. But, as I fired the last shot the intense pain made itself known as I tried to holster my pistols. Water Lilly had sprung from the water and ran to my side as I started to stumble, I was feeling woozy, but not so much so that I didn't notice that Water Lilly hadn't taken the time to clothe before she ran to my aid, Just after I had holstered and Water Lilly came to my aid I heard Rye up in the cupulo start to swear a blue streak and then I heard his Wichester open up, it reminded my of the gatlin gun the marauders had, just not as loud.

 

By then my father and Kark came running up the trail with four or five men following them. As my father took my side from Water Lilly I heard him whisper to her that she better put her clothes on before mother came out. The two men helped me to the porch where we were met by Doc Eells who had come running when he had heard Water Lilly scream and then the shot. He quickly evaluated my wound and told me it was a through and through flesh wound but I would need to be taken to his office to clean it properly.

 

Now I was really starting to get mad, this was the fourth time someone had shot at Calico and I wasn't about to rest until I found the shooter and killed him, no matter what Doc had to say. Rye came running out onto the porch, apologizing for not seeing the shooter. Later when I thought about it, yea, he was probably watching Water Lilly the whole time. But that didn't make sense either, there was too much open ground the shooter would have had to cover to get to where he shot from. The shooter must have come under the cover of darkness. Rye was sure that he had winged the shooter though, he had seen him lunge after one of his shots.

 

Calico was kneeling beside me the whole time, crying almost uncontrollably. I reached down and pulled her chin up so I could look into her deep blue eyes and assure her that I was ok, that it was just a scratch, then Doc and Karl led me to Doc's office with Calico leading the way. Doc cleaned my wound and then dressed it with my mother's salve. Calico sniffed it, it brought a smile to her face as she remembered how quickly I had healed when I had been shot by Black Dawg. She finally started to calm down as we walked back to the house.

 

A meeting was already being held on the porch, Buick, Jesse, Rye and Prairie Dawg had already taken off on their horses in pursuit of the shooter. Before I started up the trail, I reloaded my pistols, it hurt like the dickens, but I couldn't let Calico or my father see my grimace or they would try to stop me. Karl and Black Jack went with me to the spot where the shooter had taken his shot, we found a 44-40 casing there, then we tracked him though the brush to where his horse had been tied. We found a few drops of blood along the trail, but not enough to get happy about. His horse was shoed so that meant it wasn't and indian, we followed the tracks aways and we found more blood.

 

We returned to the house, by then the pain had caught up with me. I took a seat in the den and Karl poured me some whiskey hoping it would take the edge off the pain. Calico had sat at my feet with her face on my knees and was saying how sorry she was, that she was sure they were shooting at her and not me. I tried to comfort her, and told her I was sure glad that she hadn't been hit, and that I would find the one responsible. Then I told her how sorry I was that I had put her in jepardy by taking her out there in the first place.

 

By then the whiskey was making it's presense known and I started to drift off, I was soaring as an eagle again, I was with another eagle and taking turns feeding two eaglets. What was with the two eaglets? I did hear Calico whisper to me that Karl and Rye were going to help me up the stairs, she said later that that had brought a smile to my lips.

 

I remember her slipping my buckskins off of and kissing my shoulder, but after that I didn't know anything until morning when I rolled over onto my shoulder. Calico saw the grimace on my face, and after she kissed me she got a real serious look on her face and told me I wasn't going anywhere today. Yea right, I thought, well see about that!

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We laid there awhile just looking into each other's eyes and my mind started to wander a bit. Don't ask me why I wasn't thinking about Calico, but I was thinking about taking Rye to the doc when he'd been shot in the fanny and he had farted in my face. And if you know Rye you can imagine just how badly it stunk, which rhymes with.....skunk. Hmmm, if I couldn't sneak away today, then I'd get even with Rye. I knew where a family of skunks lived, I could trap one and set it loose in Rye's cabin,,,,hehehe fart in my face would he, haa, I'd get the last laugh.

 

For some reason I started thinking about Calico again,,hmmm I wasn't in any hurry to go no where, so...maybe I could get a lot of milage out of my wound....hmmmm

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As I stumbled up the path to the house, I didn't even think about the shooter being behind me, all I was concerned with was getting help for Cheyenne. Thankfully his father and several of the men had heard the shot, and were rushing towards the water hole. Frank stopped long enough to make sure I was ok, but I told him it was Cheyenne that was hurt, and to please hurry! Hop Sing and Sadie had come out onto the porch, and they helped me up the steps and into the house. I quickly went to the window and pushed aside the curtain just enough to see when they brought Cheyenne back. I rushed out to the porch as soon as I saw them coming, Sadie tried to grab me but missed. I just had to see how bad he was hurt, this was all my fault!

The men got Cheyenne up on the porch, and the doc looked him over and said that it wasn't as bad as it looked, but would need tending to. All I could do was cry, if I hadn't been upset that morning Cheyenne would probably not have suggested going down to the water hole, and he wouldn't have gotten shot. I was terrified, I needed him so much, he just had to be ok! Doc and Karl helped Cheyenne down to the doc's office, and got him fixed up, but I still couldn't stop crying. I didn't start calming down until Cheyenne had had enough whiskey in the den that I could tell he wasn't feeling so much pain anymore. It sure wasn't easy getting him up the stairs in that condition though....I was grateful for the help with that, no way could I have done it myself!

I got his buckskins off, then covered him up and quietly sneaked out of the room, he was already out but I didn't want to risk waking him up, rest was what he needed right now more than anything. As I closed the door, I noticed that Water Lilly was down at the end of the hall, but as soon as she saw me she headed down the staircase. I rushed after her and caught up to her at the bottom of the stairs, and grabbed her arm before she had a chance to get away.


“Ok, you brat, you listen to me and you listen good!” I growled at her, “Cheyenne is MY husband, and he loves ME! I ain't gonna tolerate you throwing yourself at him and you prancing around nekkid in front of him, and that's finally! You just stay the heck away from him from now on, or I'll make darn sure you regret it!”


“He can do way better than you, you not good enough for him,” she hissed back, “And you not gonna make him happy for much longer, not as big as you getting! He need a woman that can give him what he needs, not some wild fat pig!”

That was the final straw, I'd had enough! I reached out and slapped her as hard as I could, but before either of us could do anything else, Hop Sing grabbed her and Frank grabbed me. “That's enough, both of you!” he insisted, “Water Lilly, you will go to your room and stay there until you can decide to behave yourself like the lady your parents raised you to be, now go!” Then he pulled me into the den and shut the door, standing in front of it so that I couldn't get by him to go after her. “OK, honey, I know you have the right to be upset right now, but I can't let you try to fight her, not in your condition. I'm going to have a long talk with her mother and father, and see to it that she keeps her distance from both you and Cheyenne from now on. Cheyenne needs you to be taking care of yourself right now, the last thing he needs is to be worrying about you any more than he already is. Can you please at least try to control your anger?”

I was still furious, but I knew he was right. Besides, she just wasn't worth it...I agreed to display a little more self-control in the future, but I wasn't too sure he believed me. He did let me out of the room a few minutes later though, after asking me to please head on back upstairs. I didn't mind listening this once, I wanted to check on Cheyenne anyway. The doc said he would be ok in a couple of weeks, but I was still concerned. He was still sleeping when I got back to the room, so I gently climbed in bed next to him, and before long I was dreaming about being back at the cabin with him...but for some reason in my dream I could still hear two babies crying....just what in the world was going to happen to Morning Star.....

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Buick and the others had taken off after the shooter, and for a while they were able to follow the trail of blood pretty easily. After a while, there were no more blood drops to mark the way the fella had went, but they were still able to follow the horse's tracks. Buick's tracking skills had improved after a few lessons with his father-in-law, so the group didn't have much trouble figuring out which way the shooter had went, almost straight north. They rode on until it was almost too dark to see, then made camp for the night.

“Hey MacKane, if we keep going north like we are, it won't be long before we cross over into Wyoming, that badge of yours any good up there?” Prairie Dawg asked him.

“Actually, it ain't much good anywhere outside of Hugo Springs,” Buick admitted, “but if we don't tell this fella that, maybe he'll be too stupid to figure it out for himself.”

The next morning they were back on the trail as soon as it was light enough to see. Buick was pretty sure they were catching up, but he didn't know if it was because the man's injury was slowing him down, or simply a case of the man's horse getting tired. The posse was mounted on the finest horses the Culpepper ranch had to offer, this shouldn't take much longer. Sure enough, it was only about an hour before they could see a small lean-to up ahead, located at the bottom of a small gully, with a horse tied up outside of it that Rye was sure he recognized as the one the shooter had ridden off on. “That's a stupid place to put a lean-to,” Jesse remarked, “One good storm and that gully will be totally flooded.”

“Well, just keep your fingers crossed that this feller really is that stupid, might make this a little easier!” Prairie Dawg replied. Buick instructed Rye and Prairie Dawg to approach the gully from the west, keeping a bit of distance between them, he and Jesse would to the same from the east, taking care to stay low to the ground, as there wasn't much in the way of cover. It would have been easier to surround the guy if they'd had more men, but couldn't risk him getting away if they left to get reinforcements. Once they were all in place, Buick could see into the lean-to, and saw the man lying on the ground, facing away from him, one leg of his pants was covered in dried blood.

“This is Deputy Sheriff MacKane, we have you surrounded. Throw out your weapons and come out with your hands up!” he yelled. The shooter woke up, and rolled over onto his back. “I can't, Sheriff, my leg's been shot, can't put any weight on it,” he called out, but he did toss a pistol and a knife out, “My rifle's still on my horse, that's all I got. I ain't gonna give ya no more trouble, but could ya get me to a doc? I'z hurtin' real bad!”


It didn't take the posse long to round up the man's weapons and get him tied up. Jesse was all for hanging the man as soon as they could find a tall enough tree (not an easy task), but Buick shook his head no. “We're gonna take him straight back to the ranch, it's up to Frank and Cheyenne what they wanna do with this fella.”

“But I need a doc, you promised me you'd get me to a doc!” the shooter whimpered. “We didn't promise you any such thing,” Rye told him, “but hey, don't I know you? You look awfully familiar...” Prairie Dawg took a closer look at the man and quickly agreed, “Yeah, didn't you used to work for Mr. Culpepper? I remember you now, Cheyenne had his father fire you after he caught ya drinking on the job a couple of times. Seems like I remember you swearing to get revenge for it too. Nobody took you serious at the time, maybe we should have. That was a couple of years ago though, sure took ya long enough to pull somethin' stupid!”

“That dang half-breed disappeared before I could do anything, had to wait for him to come back! Besides, this weren't my idea, some woman from the ranch come up to me in Fort Collins one day, said she recognized me and wanted to know if I still wanted to get back at the Culpeppers fer firin' me. I said sure I did, and she told me she'd make it worth my while ifn' I could get rid of Cheyenne's new wife for her. She sure was pretty, all that long black hair and a nice figure to boot, of course I wasn't gonna turn down the chance at getting close to her!”


At that the four men all looked at each other, the man's description fit Water Lilly perfectly. So maybe she was involved after all...unless the man was lying. But it wasn't up to them to make that call, their only job was to get this scum back to the ranch so that the Culpepper family could decide what to do with him....

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The next morning I awoke with my shoulder throbbing with pain, maybe I wouldn't be sneaking out today after all. I was starting to feel quilty about accusing Water Lilly of being the shooter, if she had had something to do with it why would she have warned me? It didn't take long for Calico to awaken too and as she saw me grimace when I moved the look on her face reminded me of my mother's face when I would come in with some kind of injury.

 

I knew she wasn't going to like hearing about my remorse towards Water Lilly so I didn't tell her, wasn't so sure how that would work out, but at least I didn't have to deal with that now. During breakfast I whispered for Hop Sing to have Water Lilly meet me on the back porch after breakfast, he looked a bit puzzled but he agreed to do it. The conversation was all directed towards the shooting and wondering how Buick and the men were making out tracking him. My father was getting pretty angry at the thought of someone coming on to the ranch with the thought of killing one of us. He really didn't understand why anyone would even begin to think that way. The Culpeppers had always treated everyone faily and generously, why would someone do such a thing?

 

The whole time Calico's eyes were trained on Water Lilly, and Water Lilly was diffinately feeling the heat, but I just thought it was from Water LIlly trying to get my attention. I knew a little about women from watching the women on the ranch interact with each other, but come to think of it, the only thing I knew about women was that they confused me to no end!

 

After breakfast I took Calico's hand and told her I wanted to go for a walk out the back porch, but just before we went out I asked her to wait just inside the door by the wall for a minute. I left the door open as I went out and found Water Lilly eagerly waiting for me, just outside of Calico's view. "Water Lilly, I want you to know something, one of the reasons I went on my quest was to put space between us. I know that we had plans as kids but as I became a man I knew it wouldn't work so I left hoping you would find someone else." She tried to convince me otherwise but I was adamant, then I called for Calico to step out onto the porch. "I love HER, and that child in her belly is mine and there is nothing on The Great Spirit's green earth will make me change my mind. Now, if you can't deal with that, then we'll send you wherever you want to go, but I won't have anymore of this turmoil around my wife." "I'm sorry about thinking you had something to do with the shootings, but that doesn't change anything, Calico is my wife and she is the only one that I want to see unclothed and the only one I want to be with. Do you understand?"

 

Water Lilly nodded yes and leaped off the porch and disappeared around the house crying as she went. I turned to Calico, she had the biggest smile you could imagine and that smile turned into a sweet kiss. She led me back into the house where my father and Hop Sing were waiting, "oh boy" I thought, but both were smiling. Hop Sing held his hand out to me and told me I had done well and that he would see to it that Water Lilly behaved better or that she would be sent to San Fransico to live with her aunt there. My father just nodded at me, I knew what that meant, and then her hugged Calico. "You know he loves you more that life itself?" my father asked Calico. She looked a bit sheepish and nodded her head as she squeezed my hand.

 

About then Doc Eells came through the front door and pointed at Calico and I to follow him, "It's time for Cheyenne's bandage to be changed, and Calico it's been a while since you were last checked too, come on might as well get the both of you done now before anything else happens.

 

He took care of me first, it didn't take long as there was no infection in the wound, then he took Calico into the back room. After several minutes the two of them came out and Doc had a perplexed look on his face. "Just when to you think you became "expecting?" he asked. We both counted backwards on our hands and told him our best quess. "Hmmmmm" was all that came out and then a long silence, followed by, "either, you're off on your count, or you may be looking at more than one child." "Why doc, what makes you say that?" I blurted out real quickly. Doc looked a little sheepish and told me, "she's pretty big for the amount of time she's been 'expecting."

 

After Doc and Calico picked me up off of the floor, I asked Doc, "are you sure?" He just nodded yes, boy there sure was a bunch of head nodding going on already that day.

 

As we walked back to the house, I reached over and rubbed Calico's belly and told her how much I loved her, and the child she was going to have, or children I laughed. She didn't really find the humor in that for some reason, but she managed a small smile for me.

 

I heard horses coming and turned to see Buick and the other's returning with, could that be Johnny? My father had fired him years ago for something. My father was already coming out of the house to meet them, but all you could hear was Johnny calling for someone to get Doc, that he needed Doc real badly. Doc had already come out too and was making his way towards Johnny when my father stretched out his hand and said to Doc, "Just hold off Doc, I'm not so sure he needs you yet, unless you've got a rope!"

 

Johnny's eyes got real big as he saw and heard the anger in my father. "I wasn't aiming for Cheyenne," Johnny cried out, "he stepped in the path of the bullet meant for that blonde hussy."

 

When I heard that I reached for my knife and in an instant the sharp point was putting pressure against his throat. "Really, you tried to kill her and my family, really?" I screamed as I pushed the knife slightly into his neck. Calico's hand on my arm was the only thing that kept me from pushing the point out the back of his throat. I turned my head slightly, all the while holding Johnny's eyes in mine, "I hope the Great Spirit calms me, or so help me you won't see another morning" I told him as I put my knife back into it's sheath.

 

Calico, breathed a sigh of relief and the two of us walked back towards the house. Something was curious though, Water Lilly had saddled her horse and was making a beeline on the road leading towards town. I guessed I had hurt her feelings and she was heading to town for a while. I didn't really care, except that I knew that we wouldn't have to deal with her anymore.

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As we were walking back to the house, we noticed Water Lilly heading off on her horse towards town. The only thing I could think was “Good riddance, hope she don't come back...”. Then we heard shouting behind us, from where Frank was still questioning Johnny. “That's her, that's the woman that put me up to this, the black haired one. Don't tell me you're gonna let her get away and make me take the fall!” I looked back, and Johnny was pointing straight at Water Lilly...so she did have a hand in this! Cheyenne had stopped dead in his tracks, and everyone else looked like they were in shock.

I wasn't about to let her get away, I raced over to where Jesse was standing beside his horse, and whispered, “Give me a boost, I'm going after her!” Jesse quickly helped me up, and just then Doc saw me and moved to grab me, saying “Oh no you don't, young lady!” but he was too far away and I managed to get the horse moving before he could. I took off, and seconds later there was another horse galloping right behind mine, I looked over my shoulder and it was Buick, I also noticed that Cheyenne had grabbed the reins of Prairie Dawg's horse and was trying to mount, but his shoulder was slowing him down. I didn't think I needed either of them to help, this was
my fight!


Water Lilly heard us coming, and tried to urge her horse to go faster, but for someone raised on a ranch it didn't seem like she was a very good rider, and I quickly closed the distance. The fact she was using a side saddle may have had something to do with it, and that sure helped when I caught her, it wasn't hard to reach over and yank her off that horse, and she hit the ground hard. In seconds I had reined Jesse's horse almost to a halt, and jumped off and ran back to where she was just getting up. I grabbed her hair and pulled her the rest of the way onto her feet, and then I punched her square in the face. No slapping or fighting fair this time, I was too mad! She tried to defend herself, but I don't think she had ever had to before, and it only took a couple of punches before she had collapsed on the ground, screaming for Buick to help her. He just sat on his horse and watched me pound on her, until Cheyenne was able to catch up. I noticed that neither man seemed all that anxious to dismount....

They finally did and Cheyenne grabbed me, saying “Enough already, she ain't going nowhere now,” while Buick hauled Water Lilly back to her feet, none too gently. He started dragging her back to the house, telling Cheyenne to make sure I was ok, he would deliver Water Lilly to Frank and her father for them to deal with. Cheyenne quickly put his arms around me, and stated “You are going right back to Doc's office, and have him check you again. What the heck were you thinking, why didn't you let me handle it? Are you crazy?”

“Yep, but you shoulda figured that out a long time ago!” Now that I knew she was going to have to answer for what she did, I was starting to calm down a little. I tried to tell Cheyenne that the doc had just checked me, and I was fine, didn't need to go through that again. He was adamant though, and started leading me back towards the office. I didn't want to go, and told him as much, he stopped and asked me why. “Well, we was just in there and he tried to tell me I might be having twins...I don't wanna find out what other surprises he might come up with this time! Having someone shooting at me I can handle, but havin' two babies? That scares the heck outta me!!” I couldn't understand why all he did was laugh....

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Calico had a stubborn streak that made mine and my father's look like child's play. Times like this it really showed and all I could do was laugh, and part of it was the way she had taken off after Water Lilly. Oh that girl, Calico that is, could ride. If she had been any futher along I would have pulled her off of Water Lilly, but the doc did say she needed to be sure to excersize. I figured as long as Water Lilly wasn't fighting back I'd let Calico go at it, for a little while at least. I pulled her off when I thought she had had enough exercize, I sure didn't want her to overdue her self with this much at stake.

 

I didn't need Buick telling me to make sure Calico was alright, I could handle looking after MY wife without his input. After a bunch of squawking from Calico I managed to talk her into seeing doc again. Everything was ok but doc sure did give her what for, though when he finished he told her how proud he was off her, her riding and the whooping she put on Water Lilly. He told her she could still ride for about a month, but to take it easy when she was. Doc then told her that the autumn pony was due any day now and he'd be sure to let us know when the time was near. That brought a smile from both of us and we headed off for the house again only to be brought into the turmoil with Johnny and Water Lilly. I got lucky and my father told us in no uncertain terms to get to the house that Calico didn't need any more stuff to bother her. I really wanted to stay and be a part of the fracus but I didn't want Cali anywhere near the commotion that was about to erupt.

 

I did see Little Joe mount up to ride to town for the sherrif, and as we walked up the steps to the porch Lu Sing came out of the house with the biggest wooden spoon I'd ever seen. We could hear Hop Sing off in the distance just giving it to Water Lilly in chinese, I didn't know what he was saying but I sure understood it. We stopped and turned back to see what was about to happen with the spoon but before Lu Sing could do any damage Prairie Dawg managed to grab her in a big bear hug.

 

It was quiet in the house as we sat in the study, I sipped a little whiskey and Calico was enjoyng a sasprilla, I was so glad the men had found Johnny and he had thrown in Water Lilly. Maybe life would get back to normal now. Normal? I thought, just what was gonna be normal with Calico anyway. With one or more children on the way I didn't think I'd be experiencing anything near my normal for a long time, if ever.

 

My shoulder felt better with the more whiskey I drank, but I also knew I didn't want too much, it had been a while, I looked over a Cali and I think she was thinking the same thing...

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Well, I got lucky in the fact that Doc said I probably didn't do myself or the baby (babies?) any harm, except for messing up my knuckles pretty good. My hand was gonna be sore for a while, but oh, was it ever worth it! Water Lilly had been asking for it for a long time, and she definitely deserved that and worse for conning that Johnny character into shooting at me. I sure hoped they didn't have anyone else involved, and life might calm down a little, at least for a while. On our way to the study, we met up with Sadie, and she was as concerned as the doctor had been, but I assured her the doc said I was fine. I don't think she really approved of what I had done, but I wasn't about to apologize to anyone for it. Well, maybe one person...

“Cheyenne, I'm so sorry, I know I shouldn't have done that. I promise I'll try to behave better from now on,” I told him when we got to the study. He just laughed again, why did he think it was so funny? He poured us each something to drink, I kinda wished I coulda had some of that whiskey instead of sarsaparilla, but I knew he wouldn't allow it. Oh well, I wasn't having to give up everything I enjoyed, at least not yet!

It wasn't long before I could tell that Cheyenne wanted us to go upstairs, seemed like everyone else was going to be busy outside for a while, maybe we could finally get some privacy. On the way to our room, I asked “Can we please go out to our cabin now? At least for a little while?” He just smiled and said it could probably be arranged, but not right at this minute, we had better things to do. I had to admit, I liked the sound of that!

But when we got to our room, I sat down on the edge of the bed to take my moccasins off, and all of a sudden I felt something really weird....at first I was terrified. What if the doc had been wrong, what if I had hurt myself somehow in beating the tar outta that witch? But the funny feeling really didn't hurt, it was just kinda tickly. I felt my tummy, and it dawned on me what it was. Cheyenne had been watching me, a concerned look on his face, and he quickly
sat down next to me and asked “What's wrong? Do I need to get Doc or Sadie? Are you ok?”

I just smiled at him and grabbed his hand, and pressed it to my belly. “Just keep your hand there, and wait for a minute or two....maybe you'll feel it.” I told him, then watched as a big smile spread over his face. “Is....is that the baby moving?” he asked, and all I could do was nod. If that's all it took to get him to smile at me like that, maybe this whole baby thing wasn't so bad after all. Cheyenne gently kissed me, then wrapped his arms around me and laid us both back onto the bed. We spent the rest of the afternoon just laying there, feeling our baby, or babies, moving....

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We finally got up and went downstairs at dinner time, I was starting to get really hungry. By then things had calmed down a bit. Frank told us that the sheriff had taken both Johnny and Water Lilly to jail in town, and that kind of shocked me. Johnny I could see, but Water Lilly? All of a sudden I felt really guilty, I wasn't too sure how I felt about that. I mean, I know she had tried to have me killed, but all the same, she had grown up on that ranch and her parents were the Culpeppers' most loyal employees. It just didn't seem right somehow.

We went into the dining room, and I saw that Hop and Lu Sing were sitting quietly at one end of the table, staring at their plates. Nobody around them seemed to want to talk to them, and I felt bad. It wasn't their fault what their daughter had done, and I had no idea of the pain they must be going through. I wanted to say something to them, but I wasn't sure what, and besides, Cheyenne wanted to sit next to his father so we could talk to him. The whole dinner was a lot quieter than usual, I think everyone was still in shock over what had happened earlier.


“Father, Calico and I want to be heading on back to our cabin as soon as we can, we really need some time to ourselves,” Cheyenne said, “Is there anything you need me for around here for the next few days?” Frank didn't say anything at first, just sat there looking at us, but finally he sighed and said “Are you two sure that's such a good idea? I know you like it out there, but with Calico's condition and winter coming, I'd feel much better if you'd stay put here at the house. The church is almost done, and as long as the weather cooperates I can have the men get started on a new house for you soon. With any luck and no big blizzards they might be able to have it done by the time the baby arrives, or maybe a little bit after.”


My heart just sank when he said that, but Cheyenne just shook his head. “No, our agreement was that we could go out there until the doc said we needed to move back, and I even asked him about it earlier. There's no reason yet that Calico has to stay around here, and as long as he says it's safe for her to be at the cabin, that's where we're
staying. If it will make you feel better, send Sadie out to visit every couple of days, I know Calico would enjoy the company, but we really need some time alone.” I was keeping my fingers crossed under the table, and finally Frank gave in and agreed. I think he just wasn't in the mood to argue, not after today.

After we had finished eating, we got up to move into the den. Before we could leave the room, however, Lu Sing came up to me and softly asked “You help with breakfast tomorrow morning?” I could tell she was more than a little uncomfortable talking to me, and I certainly could understand that, I felt the same. I saw Hop standing a few feet away, patiently waiting for my answer. I had a feeling they both were sure I'd refuse to have anything to do with them anymore. I just smiled at her, and told her “Are you sure everyone wants to eat burned eggs again? If so, I'd be more than happy to try...” Lu looked up at me with tears in her eyes, and said “Maybe this time you learn not to burn them...” and I gave her a big hug. Then I turned and went to Hop and gave him one too, and they both started trying to apologize for what their daughter had done. I stopped them though, and told them I didn't think they needed to, neither of them had done anything wrong. “But we raised her...” Lu started to say, but I interrupted. “I doubt you raised her to pull stunts like this, and I ain't gonna hold it against either of ya. You're not to blame for what she did.” I felt Cheyenne's hand on my shoulder, and when I looked up at him he was smiling. We all hugged some more, and then they started clearing the table while Cheyenne and I left the room.


“I'm proud of you for the way you handled that,” he told me, and gave me a big hug. I was starting to get the idea that raising kids wasn't all that easy, and that thought scared the heck outta me. But I'd never backed down from a challenge before, and now was no time to start.....

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The next day we got ready to move out to the cabin, at least for a while. Doc said he would send word if anything started happening with my autumn pony, and Sadie agreed to come visit every few days. Right after breakfast (which included burned eggs again!), Buick and Jesse got ready to head back to the Golden Aspen. Cheyenne seemed really happy about that, but I wasn't, I was gonna miss them. Buick had behaved himself since that little incident in the library, but I knew Morning Star needed him to come home. I did give him several baby quilts that I had made for her, and he gave me a big hug. I thought Cheyenne was gonna explode there for a minute, but he did shake Buick's hand, and Jesse's as well, before they left.

Then it was our turn, and Lu Sing brought us a big basket of food to take with us. “Just in case you need it,” she told me, “but you keep practicing. You getting the idea.” Well, I wasn't too sure about that, but we'd manage somehow. After hugging just about everyone on the ranch, we mounted up and headed west. It wasn't long before we saw the cabin up ahead of us, and both of us urged our horses on a little faster. As we pulled up in front, I asked Cheyenne “How's your shoulder feeling?” He just grinned and told me “Just fine!” The day was a little cold, and I knew that our chances for hitting the water hole would be limited until spring, but I had brought a couple of quilts that would be nice to snuggle under in that big bed in the cabin's only bedroom. Then it occurred to me, I might not be getting much use out of that water hole come spring either, if we were counting right that's about when I was due. Oh well, we'd just have to see how things worked out, the water wasn't going anywhere.

That night, with Cheyenne's help, I managed to make a halfway edible dinner for us. Well, he ate it at least, how much he enjoyed it I wasn't sure. After we cleaned up we sat on the back porch for a while and watched the sun set over the mountains, then got up and went inside....this privacy thing was really nice! His shoulder was obviously feeling better too. The next day we took a bit of a walk to see the changing leaves on the trees, and then he read to me for a while out of his Bible, I was trying to learn more about what was in it. The rest of that day was pretty much the same as the first one had been. After breakfast the next morning (burned eggs ain't so bad once you get used to em') Cheyenne headed back to the ranch, he'd promised his father he would still come back and do his fair share of the work, and he promised to send Sadie to keep me company.

I took care of the breakfast dishes, and did some other chores, then I heard the sound of horses approaching. Cheyenne had insisted I keep my rifle close at hand, my pistols were in the bedroom as I couldn't get my gunbelt on anymore. Since I was only expecting Sadie, and I had heard two horses, I grabbed the rifle before peeking out the window, maybe Black Jack had come with her but no sense taking chances. Turns out it wasn't Sadie, but I wasn't sure I'd need the rifle or not, but carried it out to the porch with me just in case.

Just riding to a stop in front of me was that bear hunter, Ol Grizz, and he had a young indian girl with him. She looked to be barely into her teens, filthy, and skinny as a rail. From the looks of her dress, I was guessing she was probably Ute. My father and I had meet a few Utes during some of our trips to the mountains, but I really didn't know much about the tribe, and had never gotten a chance to learn their language. Ol Grizz looked at me and asked “Where's Culpepper? I got this problem I need some help with, didn't know where to turn and figured he might know what to do.”

“Cheyenne and his father are both up at the ranch, is there something I can do fer ya?” I asked him, but I couldn't take my eyes off the girl, she looked miserable, and I got the idea she was probably starving. Ol Grizz got down, and started telling me about how he had been up in the mountains hunting, and had made camp for the night. He started a fire, and put a rabbit on a spit over the fire while he went down to a nearby stream to get water for his horse. When he came back, the rabbit was gone, but he didn't have any trouble following the thief's tracks, right back to a small cave. It was barely big enough for the girl to hide in, and she was in there eating the rabbit. He quickly figured out she needed it more than he did, I guess the fella did have a good heart after all.


He wasn't able to communicate with her, but finally got her to understand that if she went with him, he'd take her to a place where she could get more food. He put her on his spare horse and headed straight for our cabin, knowing that the Culpepper family was not likely to turn away a starving indian child, and he was right. Since I didn't know Ute and it wasn't likely she knew the languages of the Plains tribes, I had to stick with sign, but to my relief she did understand that. I asked her some questions, turned out her family had been attacked by whites and everyone but her had been killed. She had been wandering around ever since, trying to find some other Utes, but I knew that most of the bands had been pushed farther west and south, and she wasn't likely to have any luck. She said she was about 14, and her name was Little Flower. I told her to get down, and I'd find her something to eat.

I thanked Ol Grizz, and assured him that she would be taken care of, so he got back on his horse and headed back towards the mountains. I took Little Flower in the house, wondering what to feed her. I didn't think she'd want eggs, but maybe there was some of that cornbread left from last night, and I knew I had plenty of apples as well. She didn't need to be told twice when I put some of both on a plate in front of her. She'd need a bath as well, and something clean to wear, maybe some of my old buckskins that didn't fit me anymore. Then what to do with her...I wasn't real sure. But I did hope Cheyenne would come home soon!



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While Little Flower was eating, I went into the bedroom and dug out a pair of my old buckskins. They would be a bit big for her, but it was the best I could do. I grabbed a towel as well and headed back into the main room. She was just finishing up the food I had given her, and I could tell she was hoping for more. Later, I signed to her, too much
at once will make you sick. I indicated it was time to get her cleaned up, and she could have more to eat after that.

We had a tub in the cabin, but remembering Morning Star's first experience with one the first time we came to the Culpepper ranch, I figured this girl would probably be more comfortable going for a swim in the water hole. The water was probably a little cold, but I figured she was used to that. I took her outside, and she peeled off her filthy dress and dove right in. I was glad to see she got the idea, I hadn't been looking forward to having to demonstrate. While she was bathing, Sadie rode up to the cabin, and I motioned her over. She was a little shocked to see Little Flower, so I quickly explained why the girl was there.

“Are you sure Mr. Culpepper and Cheyenne aren't going to mind you doing this?” Sadie asked me. I shook my head, saying “It don't matter to me ifn' they do, I wasn't about to turn her away. She barely escaped being killed along with the rest of her family, I know exactly what that feels like. At least I was old enough to take care of myself when it happened to me. As it is, I don't know what would have happened to me if a nice couple named Bucky and Whiskey hadn't offered me work. What else was I supposed to do, let her starve? Ol Grizz didn't mind bringing her this far, but I doubt he'd be willing to take her in permanently. Somebody's got to help the poor girl.”


I could tell Sadie still wasn't sure about the idea, but it wasn't really her place to say so. Arrangements would have to be made for the child, I knew that, but in the meantime I intended to see to it that she at least got some food in her. After she finally climbed out of the water, I gave her the buckskins to put on. We had to roll up the pant legs, and the shirt was too big but it would do. Sadie and I took her back into the cabin, and Sadie produced a basket of food that she had brought for the two of us, and I insisted on sharing with Little Flower. Of course Sadie also insisted that I eat my fair share, it was her job to make sure I took care of myself, but there was enough in the basket for all three of us to have some.

I told Little Flower that if she was tired, she was welcome to lay down and rest, while me and Sadie went out to the porch, but she shook her head no. She followed us out onto the porch and sat at my feet while Sadie and I talked. Hmmm, looks like I had myself another shadow....oh well, at least she seemed to be able to trust me. Considering what she had been through I would have understood completely if she'd felt the exact opposite. For some reason, the girl didn't seem to feel the same about Sadie, she acted a little scared of the other lady, and that concerned me. My first thought had been to see if one of the other families on the ranch might be willing to take her in, but if she was going to have a hard time trusting people that might not work after all.


Maybe I shouldn't wait for Cheyenne to get home, maybe it would be better if Sadie and I took the girl back to the ranch house ourselves. The situation would need to be discussed with Frank and Cheyenne anyway. Might as well take the girl there instead of waiting for Cheyenne to ride all the way to the cabin, then have to ride all the way back to talk to his father. I had Sadie help me saddle my horse, the girl would have to ride double with one of us. Of course she insisted on riding with me, and while I was flattered I was also a little worried. What if we couldn't convince her to trust anyone else? And how was Cheyenne going to feel if we were stuck with her? Maybe this hadn't been the greatest idea I ever had.....no, I told myself, we'll work something out....there had to be a solution to this we could all live with!



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I knew that I needed to be helping out more at the ranch, but I sure wasn't feeling good about leaving Calico at the cabin alone. It always seemed to lead to something going wrong whenever i was away from her.

 

I was in the barn helping Doc with the autumn pony as I heard someone holler that riders were approaching, as I looked out the doors I could make out Calico and Sadie off in the distance. A dangerous thought went through my mind, "boy, how did she get so big so fast?". I was sure glad I hadn't said it out loud, I knew that would have been big trouble. As I walked to greet them I noticed what was making Calico look so big, a young girl was riding behind her and in a pair of Calico's old buckskins.

 

The young girl's head was turning like an owl's as they neared, and her eyes were as big as an owl's too. I could feel the fear coming from her as they neared me. Once she saw me her head steadied as her eyes locked on me, and I watched as she tilted her head sllightly to the side a bit. Caico quickly signed to her that I was her husband and that helped a little. You could see the girl sizing me up, I was almost as red as her, my hair longer than most of those around, and I was wearing buckskins that were very close to the same design as the ones she was wearing.

 

Calico quickly told me that Grizz had rescued her and then dropped her off at the cabin, knowing the reputation of the Culpepper ranch to care for those in need, especially indians. Then she told me the girl was a Ute, I smiled at that, for I knew a little of the Ute tongue. I introduced myself to the girl, Little Flower and told her that I was half Cheyenne, you could see the girl relax when she heard that information. I told her she was welcome here on the ranch and that she was safe here.

 

I waved for Hop Sing and Lu Sing to come join us as they watched from the porch. Little Flower's head tilted again as the Sings neared, I could tell she had never seen any Chinese before but Lu Sing was masterful in winning over the young girl's confidence. It wasn't long before Lu Sing was leading the girl to the house.

 

Sadie spoke up saying she wasn't sure how the ranch would react to the young indian girl. I gave her a brief history of my parents and the history of the ranch and then she just nodded her head and saying that now she understood why Calico was so confident that all would be well.

 

About then I heard Doc holler for me to "Get in here, NOW! The colt is coming!" Calico's eyes got real big as I pulled her to the barn, "you gotta see this" I told her and lead her into the barn. I thught her eyes were going to pop out of her head as I helped Doc pull the young colt out of it's mother. Then I noticed Calico turning an odd shade of green, and put her hand over her mouth. I didn't understand her reaction, I'd seen this numerous times since I was young, just a mother giving birth, what was the big deal?

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I was glad to see that Cheyenne wasn't upset with me about Little Flower, and it sure helped that he could talk to her a little. I was also glad to see that Lu Sing seemed to take to the girl right away...maybe that was the solution I was hoping for? We didn't really have time to talk about it much, because Doc started yelling for Cheyenne to come back in the barn, and he insisted I go with him. As we walked up to my autumn pony, I realized she was giving birth, and for a second I was thrilled. But as things progressed, all of a sudden I started getting a little queasy. I'd seen horses give birth before, but it had been quite a while, I'd forgotten what it was like...

It wasn't long before I just had to get out of that barn, I needed some fresh air! I went up to the porch to sit down and wait for Cheyenne, my pony needed him right then more than I did. I started thinking about what it was going to be like when I went through that, would it be anything like it was with horses? Or something completely different? I knew so little about what humans went through, and I was more than a little nervous about it to begin with, what I'd seen in the barn wasn't helping much!


A little while later Frank came up to the porch, and I explained to him about Little Flower, and said she was with Lu Sing. I apologized for agreeing to take her in without asking him first, but explained that I felt sorry for the girl, as I had some idea what she was going through. He assured me that I'd done the right thing, and not to worry about it. The girl was more than welcome, and would be cared for. I told him I was hoping that Lu and Hop Sing might be willing to take her in, I knew that Lu was still upset over Water Lilly, hopefully that would help get her mind off it. He agreed to talk to the couple, and before long everyone was being called in to dinner.

We went in the dining room, and Lu Sing had Little Flower helping her bring all the food out, they seemed to be getting along fine despite the fact neither of them understood a word the other said. I don't think the girl was familiar with any of the foods, but she must have still been a little hungry, as she ate everything on her plate. Lu then served her some more, and was rewarded with a big smile. I think Lu really appreciated that. But after the meal, when Cheyenne and I were going to leave to go back to the cabin, that's when something went wrong. As soon as Little Flower realized I was going to leave, she ran up and threw her arms around me, and wouldn't let go. She was saying something, but I had to turn to Cheyenne to find out what. “She wants to go with you, she doesn't want to stay here,” he explained, and I saw that he wasn't really happy about that. But the girl was starting to cry at the idea of having to stay at the house without us, and I couldn't bear seeing her so upset.


“How about we let her come with us, just for a day or two until she feels a little more settled? This has to be so scary for her, not knowing anyone and not being able to communicate....If we take her and let her calm down a bit, then we should have an easier time convincing her to move to the house in a few days,” I asked him. At first I thought he was going to refuse, but I said “Please? Just for a little while?” and he finally agreed. He went to have a pony saddled for her, but I could tell he wasn't crazy about the idea....so much for us being alone!

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I wasn't really that all against Little Flower coming with us, but I just loved the way Calico begged. Her bottom lip would protude slightly, her head would dip a little and she'd look up at me with those pretty blue eyes. I couldn't resist that for sure, much less seeing Little Flower hanging on to her for dear life. The poor little thing was scared to death and who in their right mind would torment the poor thing by not allowing her to return with us.

 

I did think of a good name for the new colt, Little Flower. I hoped Calico wouldn't mind, maybe I would have to beg too, but then I knew how to beg almost as well as she could. I only hoped the new colt had half as much heart as Calico did, if she did, oh what a pony she would become.

 

On the ride home I was able to talk with Little Flower a little and she asked about Calico's name, when I told her Calico, she made a face of dismay. I told her I called her Fair One, that lit up her small face. It even brought a smile to Calico's face without me translating it for her.

 

It was an enjoyable ride until we noticed three riders quartering towards us. I brought Soars with Eagles around to put me between the riders and Calico and Little Flower. Calico didn't have her pistols but her Winchester was in it's scaboard and I told her to pull it and lay it across her lap. I pulled my right pistol and let my arm hang down so it would be out of sight of the riders as they got to us. I told Little Flower that if anything happend to ride back to the ranch for help. She looked scared as a little kitten, but as the men drew nearer that look started to change and she pulled her knife from it's sheath. I smiled as I saw that, she had spunk!

 

The men stopped about ten paces from us and started trying to taunt us. "Hey breed, that's a pretty white woman and cute little squaw you got there, you wouldn't want to share would you?" was all I needed to hear. I asked them if they knew where they were but they didn't seem to care who's property they were on or who I was for that matter.

 

Little Flower was starting to get real anxious, and then started pointing at the men. "YOU, you were the ones that killed my family" she spoke in the Ute tongue. That made the men real nervous even though they couldn't understand her. The first man with the most mouth tried to draw his revolver first, but a shot from my revolver to his chest lifted him out of his saddle. The second man tried to draw to but Calico put a round into his face and another into his chest that sent him to join his friend. The third man quickly threw up his hands and cowardly gave up, Little Flower pushed her pony to within reach of him and with her knife put a four inch slice across his cheek. I knew I liked her, spunk, I say, she had spunk. As Calico covered me I disarmed the man and we all headed back to the ranch.

 

We had barely started back when we saw a cloud of dust coming from the ranch. Apparently they had heard the shots, and well, they didn't take kindly towards anyone trying to harm to women. Me? not so much....but I knew they loved me too, or at least I kept telling myself that.

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Once we saw the riders coming from the ranch we just waited there for them to get to us. The dead men would need to be identified and either taken to town or buried, for all I really cared they could have been left for the buzzards or opposums. We did have to keep Little Flower away from the survivor though, you could sense that she would have liked to have done far more damage to him than she had already done.

 

It didn't take much more than a minute for the riders from the ranch to get to us, Karl was the first to start asking questions. I could tell the men were learning a new respect for Calico as they rolled over the man she had shot and found a bullet hole between his eyes and another through his heart. They kidded me because I had only hit the man in the middle of his chest, but they all cheered when I pointed to the cut on the man's cheek and told them that Lillte Flower had done that. She started to sit a little taller on her pony as she could feel the approval of the men.

 

We headed back to the ranch again with the the two dead men strapped across their saddles, we didn't even tie the other man up, it was almost an invitation for him to try to escape. After seeing Calico shoot her rifle I was pretty sure he wouldn't be so foolish as to try to get away. It helped too when I told him that if he tried that Calico would only wound him and that I would let Little Flower cut out his heart before he died. I signed that as well as spoke it and as I did Little Flower drew her knife again and pointed at the man's chest with a devilish grin on her face.

 

My father, the Sings, and a few of the men were waiting for us as we rode into the ranch, my father took a look at the two dead men and our captive and just shook his head. Calico started to try to explain but he stopped her saying, "they were vermin, the law has been after them for years, I just don't understand how you two are always in the middle of anything that happens around here" and then he went into the house laughing as he went.

 

Doc brought out a bottle of rot gut and poured it into the man's wound, not so much to clean it as to watch the man suffer, much to Little Flower's delight. Prairie Dawg got a pile of wanted posters from his cabin to how much of a reward their was on the men, it totaled two thousand dollars. Calico and I agreed that it would go to Little Flower, after all we had all we needed, and more.

 

That night Little Flower slept in our room with Calico and me, she wouldn't have any part of a bed and made it clear that a blanket was more than enough. Just before we turned in the little one in Calico's belly started kicking again, Calico had Little Flower put her hand on her stomach. It was fun to see Little Flower's eyes get big as she felt the movement in Calico's belly. She had a big smile as she put her arms together like she was cradling a baby saying Cheyenne's and the Fair One's baby in her tongue.

 

I dreamed I was soaring as an eagle again that night, but now there was a third grown eagle among us, and all three taking care of the two eaglets in the nest. I was beginning to get the idea that this wasn't going to be a short term deal. Maybe she could learn how to cook.......

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I was glad we had managed to kill two of the three men that had murdered Little Flower's family, but I couldn't understand what the men thought was so amazing. Yes, I'd managed to hit the one man twice before he fell, I'd been trying to tell these fellas all along that I could shoot, maybe now they'd believe me! I was also glad to see that Little Flower wasn't hesitant about sticking up for herself, that could prove to be a good thing.

But there was still one problem we had with the girl, she seemed to have gotten a little too attached to me. I was flattered, but at the same time I wasn't sure if it was such a good thing. We had decided to stay at the ranch for the night, and tried to get the girl to stay in one of the guest rooms, but she was having none of that! She insisted on staying in our room, and almost started crying again when I tried to convince her that the room next to ours would be close enough, she'd be safe in there. Oh well, it was only for one night, the next day we would go back to the cabin and she'd have to accept the idea of sleeping in the front room. I didn't mind having her there, but there was a limit to my generosity.


The next morning Little Flower and I helped Lu Sing with breakfast, and for once nothing went horribly wrong. Little Flower seemed to be really interested in everything Lu was doing. She helped out quite a bit, and that brought a big smile to Lu's face. After we had eaten, we went to the barn to check on my pony and her baby, she was so adorable! I was really looking forward to the day I could start riding my pony again. The appaloosa mare that Frank was letting me use in the meantime was nice enough, but that pony and I had been through a lot together. She still needed time to recover, and I wasn't going to be riding for much longer anyway, oh well...

Before we left, Lu Sing brought a bunch of clothes out for Little Flower, stuff that would fit her a lot better than my old buckskins. There were some pants and riding skirts, a few blouses, and several dresses. I got the feeling that the clothes had belonged to Water Lilly, but as long as Lu was willing to let Little Flower use them, I wasn't gonna say a word. Little Flower seemed to like the pants and riding skirts ok, but I could tell she wasn't too sure about the dresses. I had a feeling that the only way we were going to get her to wear a dress is if I did....and I knew the day was fast approaching that I would have to start. My brand new buckskins were already getting tight...again!...and I couldn't expect Mike and Tabitha to keep making new ones every other week. Some of the other ladies who had had children had been nice enough to loan me a whole bunch of maternity dresses. Cheyenne wasn't going to like it much, but pretty soon I was going to have to start wearing those until spring. At least they were all pretty warm, winter was going to be here before too much longer.

We headed back to the cabin again, and when we were about halfway there, we saw a rider heading towards us, and all I could think was “Not again!” But this time it was just Ol Grizz the bear hunter, he had come to the cabin to check and see how Little Flower was doing, and not finding us decided to head to the ranch to see if we were there. I got the feeling he was just an old softy, and a much nicer person than we had given him credit for. It was nice of him to be concerned about the girl, so I let him know that he was welcome to drop by and see her once in a while, and would of course be invited to stay for dinner if he did. He looked at me in horror, saying “No thanks, ma'am, I've HEARD about your cooking....I'll pass!” Then he turned his horse around and headed back to the mountains.

Oh great, did everybody in the territory know I couldn't cook??





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We finally got started on our way to the cabin, again, it was pretty uneventful until we saw a rider approaching straight at us. I was ready to pull out my Sharps and plop down on the ground and blow the rider into kingdom come. But I knew I couldn't do that, though I was really tempted. As the rider grew nearer we recognized Ol Grizz. Seems that the grizzled old man wasn't so crusty afterall, here he was checking on Water Lilly. You could tell that he was pleased to see her all cleaned up and in some decent looking clothes. He quickly bid adieu and headed back for the mountains. Calico and I looked at each other and chuckled at the thought of Ol Grizz riding all that way to check on Little Flower's well being.

 

It didn't take long for us to get to the cabin and as we did we saw two eagles building a nest in one of the tall pines out back by the water hole. We sat there on our horses for quite a while watching to two eagles carrying branches to add the the nest. A chill in the air though brought us back to the moment and the realization that darkness was setting in and we hadn't cared for the horses yet, much less anything else.

 

I convinced Little Flower to help me put the horses up while Calico started a fire in the fireplace. Little Flower was catching on quickly, it helped that I knew a small amount of Ute, she seemed to understand the horses and had a way of calming them. I let her know that we planned to name the new colt Little Flower and that brought a huge smile to her face. We were making progress I thought as we closed the barndoor and walked to the cabin. We stopped for a minute to appreciate the stars that were starting to appear., The harvest moon was just starting to peak over the eastern horizon, a sign that winter was not to far off. I started to feel a little sad that Calico and I would have to return to the ranch for the winter because of the little one that was going to make it's appearance late winter or early spring.

 

Calico had the fire roaring by the time we entered the cabin, you could feel the chill leaving the cabin and the cabin felt more welcoming than ever. We put out a buffalo hide on the floor near the bedroom door and explained to Little Flower that it would be her bed and that we would leave the door open to the bedroom. Not the best for us, we would have to try to be quiet, not something either us was good at, at all.

 

To our pleasant surprize she took to the idea pretty well, though she did try to drag the hide into the bedroom once. It was early morning when she woke us by pushing on us gently, and when we opened our eyes, "food,, cook?" came out from her lips. "Well, I guess there's one person in the territory that doesn't know that I can't cook" Calico laughed as she rose. Then Calico slugged me in the arm and said, "Fire, you fix fire, NOW!" Well I may have been a little slow at times but I knew what that meant and I quickly stirred the coals and started rebuilding the fire.

 

I was surprized when the eggs that Calico brought to me weren't burned, and before I could stop myself I blurted out, "these are undercooked!" Well, that almost got me an ouch from the cast iron skillet, but fortunately for me Calico saw the humor in it too.

 

I decided to hunt that morning, we would need fresh meat to make jerky for us. I was sorely tempted to ask Little Flower to go, but I felt that time spent with Calico at the cabin may be in her best interest. But as I picked up my golden rifle to leave she jumped up and pointed at herself then at me, and dang it if she hadn't already learned how to use those deep brown eyes to plead her case. Calico just shook her head and told us to "git" and that she could manage by herself. I reminded her to keep her guns near her and to listen carefully for riders, boy, did I get eye rolled for that! I was just trying let her know how much I cared about her, maybe next time I would just tell her!

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I took my glass along with me as Little Flower and I left to hunt that morning, but not to use for hunting. We walked to the knoll out from the front of the cabin and as soon as we crested it we sat there out of sight from the cabin. That perlexed Little Flower, there was very little chance of any game coming anywhere near us as we sat there in the open.

 

After I spotted what I was waiting for I handed the glass to her and told her to be gentle with it. It took a few tries before I could get her to put it to her eye, and then to close the other eye so that she could see through the tube. At first she was alarmed and if I hadn't been expecting it she would have thrown the glass to the ground and most assuredly broken the fragile instrument. The wagon with two teams of horses, one rider and a horse tied to the wagon was what had scared her, especially the rider in the yellow shirt, Korupt Karl.

 

We walked over to the path the wagon would use and waited for them there, I wanted to make sure that the surprise for Calico went as planned. When they arrived at our spot Little Flower and I climbed into the back of the wagon, once in sight of the cabin we would hide under a tarp and wait until the right time to complete the surprise. I did peek from under the seat of the wagon, I wanted to be ready in case Calico decided she wanted to create a surprise of her own.

 

We were still over one hundred long paces away when she appeared on the front porch with her rifle not only in hand but at her shoulder ready to fire. It was good that Karl was wearing that bodacious bright yellow shirt. "Karl, is that you?," she hollered in a voice that would make a buffalo back up. Karl was quick to reply, "Yes ma'am it's me, PLEASE don't shoot!" She lowered her Winchester and waved for the wagon to continue on to the cabin.

 

"Where's Cheyenne?" Karl asked, "we've got supplies to deliver, but we've got strict orders not to leave them without his seeing them first." I could tell by her voice that she really didn't like the sound of that. "What, you mean I'm not good enough for you? What supplies? Who said that? Are you kidding me?" Karl's acting was pretty good as he backed up his horse a couple steps and then replied, "I can't help it MA"AM, I was told that he had to appove the delivery before we could leave, now where is that potshot?"

 

I knew that Calico was at the edge now. Karl dismounted and stood by the lead team of huge draft horses, "Are you sure he's not around? I'd hate to have to have Prairie Dawg drive this team all the way back to the ranch" Karl stammered. As I peeked through the seat of the wagon I could see the confusion in her face, then Karl called back to the wagon, "Cheyenne, would you please get out here and approve of these old slopebacks before she starts whooping on me!"

 

Little Flower and I then threw back the tarp, I sure hoped this was going to end the way I had hoped. Who wouldn't want four genuine large draft horses, the kind she had allways wanted? I was hoping she could see the humor in my little ruse.....

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I was beginning to get awfully nervous, Calico just stood there staring off into space, her eyes were kind of blank and she wasn't able to utter a sound. She just stood there, moving from one foot to the other, like her feet were bothering her or something. Well at least she wasn't using my arm for a punching bag......yet.....

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Sometimes there just was no understanding that man! Oh my, were those horses ever pretty! Big, powerful Clydesdales, all bays with white markings, strong and gorgeous to boot. Just the kind of horses I had always wanted to breed on the Golden Aspen....but it wasn't my ranch anymore. What was I gonna do with them here? I appreciated that Cheyenne had obviously been paying attention all those nights on the trip from Kansas when I'd talked about my plans for the ranch, but those plans had long since changed. I knew Buick was intending to raise riding horses and mules, and was planning on more cattle than I had wanted. Which was fine with me, he could do whatever he wanted with the land. And if Cheyenne intended these horses for the Golden Aspen, he would have just sent them there, not have them brought to our cabin. So obviously they were for me, but what to do with them....

I guess I was taking too long to think about this, because I noticed Cheyenne was getting more than a little nervous that I wasn't saying anything. So I just walked over to him, put my arms around him, and gave him a big “thank you” kiss....I could hear Little Flower giggling, and Karl and Prairie Dawg shuffling their feet, but I didn't care. Some women might want fancy clothes or jewelry or something like that, but Cheyenne obviously had figured out there was a much better way to make me happy! At the same time, I was a little concerned, the barn here at the cabin only had eight stalls, three of which were already in use, and none of the stalls was that large, certainly not big enough for these giants on any long term basis. And the cabin was only a temporary residence anyway, we would be moving back to the ranch at some point this winter. Had Cheyenne cleared this with his father?

When I finally let Cheyenne go, he asked “Am I right in guessing you like them?” I just grinned, how could I not? Then he continued on, saying “Father has moved some of his breeding stock over to the old Miller place, now that he has enough men over there to handle it. He was wondering what to do with the extra room in the barns now, so I suggested we get some of these big brutes, there's always a market for a good strong draft horse. Right now there's some men working on remodeling one of the barns, to enlarge the stalls to fit these big beauties. I knew you wanted some, so these ones will give you a good start. This can be your special project, Father and I and the men will help as much as you want, but you're gonna be in charge. I know that sometimes you get a little bored, I don't think that's going to be a problem anymore.”

Well, that was sweet of him, but I had to ask “But what about when the baby comes? Everyone keeps telling me how much work it's gonna be, will I really have any time for horses then? I'm getting the feeling I'll still be bored, just extra extra busy and bored!” It was no big secret that except for sewing domestic skills weren't my strong point....


“Oh, Father and I decided a long time ago that when the baby came, we'd hire someone to help you out. Not that we think you couldn't handle it,” he added really quickly when he saw I was about to slug him again, “But we know you'll be much happier helping us with the ranch then you would be if you're stuck inside doing all sorts of cleaning and cooking and laundry and stuff. We'll find someone else to take care of all of that, and occasionally help with the baby as well. That will free up some of your time to oversee our new draft horse breeding program. I want the baby to grow up being involved in the ranch too, and not just stuck inside the house all the time. I grew up spending more time outdoors helping my father than in the house, and I want the same opportunity for our children.”

Well, I certainly couldn't argue with that, as it's the same way I had grown up. I had started helping my father almost as soon as I could walk, and I hated being cooped up in a house for any great length of time. I had been dreading this winter, and having to move back to the ranch house...but now maybe I would have a good excuse to spend plenty of time down at the barns instead. I knew we'd still have to have a long talk with Doc Eells about how much actual work he'd allow me to do with the horses as the winter progressed, but I was sure I'd have no problems getting some of the men to pitch in. Most of them were starting to become really good friends of mine...So I didn't hesitate to ask Karl and Prairie Dawg to stay for lunch before they headed on back to the ranch. But they just looked at each other, kinda scared, and insisted that they were under orders to come right back as soon as the horses were delivered. Yeah right....likely story!

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I knew Calico was going to fall in love with the large beasts long before they got to the cabin, and with the planning my father and I had done I knew everything was going to work out real well. My only fear was her not getting my humor with the surprise.

 

Karl and Prairie Dawg headed back for the ranch without staying for a meal, I guess burnt eggs weren't they're favorite meal. Before they were out of sight Calico was up on the seat of the freight wagon ready to go for a ride. Little Flower eagerly jumped back up into the rear as I climbed up onto the seat next to Calico and handed her the reigns, "let's see what you can do with these beasts" I told her. Her eyes lit up and I got another Thank You, and then we were off, real slow but we were on our way to...well we weren't lost. The freight wagon rode real roughly without a load on it and it didn't take long for Calico to decide that she'd had enough of the bouncing the frieght wagon was giving her.

 

We unhooked the horses and put them in the corral for the day, letting them enjoy the warmth of the fall sun upon their massive backs.

 

We headed back towards the cabin but Little Flower headed for the water hole, it seemed she was getting used to the idea of being clean. We let her head for the water hole and as she did Calico tugged at my hand and told me she wasn't done "thanking" me yet. I didn't need her to explain that to me at all. It was good that Little Flower took her time in the water hole.

 

I went out to the barn and did some inventory of the hay and feed we had on hand, it wasn't going to last for long. I would have thought that my father had made a mistake by not sending the wagon fully loaded with supplies, but then I knew that was his way of making sure we returned to the ranch soon.

 

When I finished in the barn I saw Little Flower staring off towards the mountains, and as I neared her I noticed a tear rolling down her cheek. Using the little Ute I knew I told her that we would head up into the mountains at first light for a day trip. She liked that idea but I knew that it was only a stop gap to the loniness she was feeling. She needed to be spending more time with Calico with me only there to help interpret for them. I couldn't begin to imagine the grief that both of them felt by losing their families the way they did.

 

That night as we got ready for bed Little Flower put down the buffalo hide down a little ways from the door, and as we turned in for the night she even pulled the door almost closed.

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The next morning we were up before dawn to get ready. Little Flower helped me with breakfast, and I got the feeling she was used to helping her mother with the cooking. She actually kept me from totally messing it up for once. The methods may be a little different, but the basics were the same. Cheyenne had found out that the girl had had four younger siblings, maybe that's why she took to me so fast. My being pregnant reminded her of her mother. We were still communicating with sign, but we had started teaching her English, and she was picking it up fairly quickly. After we ate, she went out to the barn with Cheyenne to take care of all the horses, and to help saddle the ones we'd be riding. I got stuck with the dishes, but I guess someone had to do it.

Then we got ready to go, and Cheyenne had to help boost me up on my mare, I was getting to the point I couldn't do it myself. That was rather embarrassing, but he just smiled and reminded me that this was all temporary...but it seemed to me like spring was never going to get here. I was starting to get a little uncomfortable, and my back was giving me problems. Probably had something to do with my injuries from that attack by the Kansa, I'd have to remember to talk to the doc about that. But I was still looking forward to the ride. We headed west, and it wasn't long before Little Flower had as big of a smile on her face as I did. I was glad to see her happy, sometimes she looked so sad and lonely. We couldn't really replace her family, but we were trying to give her the next best thing, a place she felt at home.

It was a lovely day, sunny but a little on the chilly side. We had a lot of fun, until all of a sudden Little Flower reined her pony to a stop, and then started sniffing the air. So Cheyenne and I did the same, just then Little Flower said something and signed at the same time, “Snow.” I couldn't smell anything, but Cheyenne agreed with her, and decided it was time for us to head back. When we got to the cabin, we could see clouds moving in from the northwest, I wasn't too sure if we were going to get snow or not, but the temperature was dropping, and fast. Cheyenne told me to go inside and get a fire going, he and Little Flower would take care of the horses. He assured me he'd get my Clydesdales under cover just in case, the stalls were a bit small for them to be truly comfortable in but it would still be better than them being outside if the approaching storm was a bad one.

As we were eating dinner, the snow started falling, but we were all warm and cozy in that cabin, there was plenty of firewood, and it turned out to be a pleasant enough evening. But when Little Flower woke us up in the morning, we realized that the snow was already over a foot deep, and still coming down! Cheyenne made Little Flower stay in the cabin with me, and he went to the barn alone to care for the horses. I was hoping he'd take his time. I had a feeling I wasn't going to like what he had to say when he came back, and I was right.

“I don't know how long this is going to last, but as soon as it melts, we're going to have to pack up and head back to the ranch. You know we promised my father that when the snows started, we wouldn't risk getting stuck out here so far from help if you need it. As much as I'm enjoying being out here, if the storms are going to be this bad this early, you'll be much safer if we head back soon.” he said.

I hated admitting it, but he was right. We were just too remote, but I had been hoping we'd have more time to ourselves....well, except for Little Flower. She was behaving herself, and seemed to realize that Cheyenne and I did need some time alone, she was quite respectful of that. I was starting to think of her as the little sister I never had, and was thankful that Grizz had brought her to us. I still wasn't too sure how she'd react when we got back to the ranch house, I sure hoped we'd be able to talk her into staying in her own room this time!

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Somehow that morning I knew deep within my spirit that snow was coming, but I just wanted to take that day trip for Little Flower so badly that I overlooked that intuition. It was within a couple of hours that Little Flower smelled the snow coming. We knew we needed to turn back immediately, to get caught out in a snowstorm could be disaterous.

 

We were fortunate to make it back before the snow hit, but the temperature had been dropping quickly. Calico went in the cabin to get the fire going again while Little Flower and I took care of the horses. It was a tight fit for the Clydesdales, but they sensed the storm moving in and moved inside eagerly.

 

That evening in the warm cabin was almost magical, the fire in the fireplace, the snow falling outside, the woman of my dreams and well, Little Flower. She hadn't been part of my dreams, but who could have turned her aside? Not me, for sure. The majic continued on throuhout the night.

 

The snow had stopped by morning, with about eighteen inches of snow on the ground. I wasn't too concerned about the snow, if we needed to head back to the ranch before it melted it would help smooth out the ride of the heavy springed freight wagon. The mighty draft horses would be able to plow through the snow easily and the other horses could trail along behind the wagon in the trodden snow from the behemonths pulling the wagon.

 

By morning it had finally stopped snowing with about eighteen inches on the ground, but the wind was picking up and the temperature wasn't improving, even at midday. We had about seven days worth of supplies, for us and the livestock. If things didn't improve we would need to head out on the fourth day for the ranch, buffalo robes and hay would help to keep us warm on the long ride back to the ranch, but if the wind turned and came out of the northeast we would have a brutal ride ahead of us.

 

For now though, we were still comfortable in our majical winter wonderland, and I wasn't too worried,, yet....

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The first day we were snowed in wasn't so bad, Cheyenne got the horses tended to, and Little Flower helped me out in the house. I didn't know if it was just the weather or my pregnancy, but my back was really aching, so I was glad to have her assistance. One other thing that wasn't helping was that my buckskins were rubbing really bad, they were just too tight again. After Cheyenne and I had discussed heading back to the ranch, I went back in our room, and opened up the trunk that had been sent out for me. In it were all the dresses and underclothes that the ladies of the ranch had loaned me, and I knew it was time to give in and start using them.

I picked out one I though was rather pretty, and got changed. Thankfully all the stuff was pretty warm, even with the fire going it was still a little chilly. But when I went back in the front room, I could tell that Cheyenne wasn't real pleased, and Little Flower looked rather confused. She'd seen the other women wearing similar clothes, but this was the first time she'd seen me in a dress. She disappeared into the bedroom, and I took the opportunity to ask Cheyenne "You don't like it, do you? I can try on something else...." He just shook his head, saying "Whatever you're comfortable in, I guess. I'll just have to get used to it, but I can't wait until those buckskins fit again!" Well, I wasn't real comfortable, but at least I wasn't getting my belly squeezed to the point of not being able to eat!


A few minutes later Little Flower came back out, she was trying to change into one of the dresses that Lu Sing had given her, but since she wasn't familiar with that kind of clothing she was having trouble getting it on. I helped her get the dress on correctly, but I kind of had to laugh. It was so cute, how she wanted to wear something similar to my outfit. Having her be so willing to copy me was going to come in handy as we tried to teach her to live in our world. The rest of the day we spent a lot of time expanding her English vocabulary, she still couldn't speak sentences but had already managed to learn quite a few words, it wouldn't be long before she'd be able to communicate with someone other than Cheyenne.


I thought one thing that may help her in terms of learning to dress herself in her new clothes would be if she practiced dressing and undressing my doll. So I got the doll out of the bedroom, and showed it to her. She was a little confused at first, I don't think she had seen one before. But after I demonstrated, she spent quite a while playing with it, I think she really enjoyed that. Before long she was cradling it in her arms, and saying "Baby." Well, not quite, but close enough. As long as she was happy, that's all that mattered.


When we had come back from the mountains the previous day, Cheyenne had shot a couple of geese as a flock of them had flown over us, heading south ahead of the storm. Between the three of us, we managed to cook one of them, as well as some bread and corn. The other goose we left outside, it had frozen and would keep until we needed it. The dinner turned out just fine for once, and we all ate until we couldn't eat another bite. Then Little Flower went back to playing with her doll, and Cheyenne read to me from his Bible then played his flute until bedtime, I always loved it when he did that.


I was very tired though when we finally went to bed. Little Flower wanted to sleep with my doll, and of course I said yes. I fell asleep rather quickly, but it wasn't long before the nightmare started. I dreamed that I was alone in one of the barns up at the ranch. I could hear wind howling outside, but I also heard the screeching of an eagle over the sound of the wind. There were flames all around me, but I was still as cold as ice. I couldn't figure out how to get out of the barn past the flames, and wasn't too sure I wanted to anyway, not with a blizzard raging outside. Then all of a sudden I felt an intense pain, and started screaming. Over the sound of my own voice, I heard someone yelling "Cali....Cali!" then I woke up. Cheyenne had been calling my name, and shaking me awake. Little Flower was standing in the doorway, and she looked terrified. Cheyenne put his arms around me and pulled me close, then said something in Ute to the girl. She just nodded, her eyes wide, but she finally turned and left the room. He explained to me "I told her you were having bad visions, not quite accurate but it's something she'll understand. I'm guessing the nightmares are back, right?" All I could do was nod, I was still shaking, and having trouble calming down. It had seemed so real....

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When we woke the next morning we found another six inches of new snow, but at least the wind was still out of the northwest. Even with the winds the snow wasn't drifting much, it wasn't blue cold and the snow was maintaining a fair amount of moisture. I went out and took care of the horses and brought in more firewood as Calico and Little Flower prepared breakfast. I didn't know if it was Little Flower's help or not but the eggs weren't burnt and the left over goose wasn't bad either.

 

Just after breakfast we heard "Hello the house" from outside. I looked out the window and saw Ol Grizz just out from the house on his horse, I opened the door and waved him in. He didn't waste any time tying up his horse and making his way into the cabin. He looked pretty miserable but the grizzly skins were doing a fine job of keeping him dry. As he sipped on his coffee he told us this was the worst early season storm he'd ever seen, and the way he was reading it, it didn't look like it would let up for days. I didn't like the sound of his prediction at all, with just a week's worth of supplies I was getting quite nervous. What was worse Ol Grizz was quite aways from his camp and wasn't sure he could make the trip up into the mountain to reach it.

 

That information was all I needed to decide we would be leaving for the ranch as soon as I could get the wagon and horses ready. I had already been planning for the ride back to the ranch and knew I wanted to use the hay bales to build a shelter in the back of the wagon, that would protect Calico and Little Flower from the worst of the weather.

 

Ol Grizz went out to the barn with me to start getting the wagon ready, he was small but he was strong as a bull. We put a fair amount of loose hay on the floor of the wagon to help cushion the ride for Calico and Little Flower. We put blankets on all the horses and then hitched up the Clydesdales to the wagon, the horses were all stomping at the bit to get going. Grizz stayed with the horses as I went inside to get the women and the buffalo hides for the trip. Calico had the basket of food stuffed full and a couple jugs of water. I almost laughed when I saw the two of them all bundled up, they had so many clothes on you couldn't even see Calico's belly.

 

We got the two of them up into the back of the wagon with a buffalo hide to help keep them warm and I climbed up into the seat and wrapped up as well as I could in the other Buffalo hide. Grizz would ride ahead on his horse to guide us, he really didn't want to ride on the wagon so I didn't argue with him that I knew the way. While the horses didn't have any trouble plowing through the snow it was awfully slow going, but as least the wagon wasn't bouncing much. I knew the ride had bothered Calico when she drove the wagon with her new "toys" when they were delivered and I was really concerned about the long ride to the ranch.

 

We had been out on the trail for about an hour when Grizz came back to the wagon to trade out horses, the deep snow had already begun to tire his and and didn't want to chance tiring it too much. We figured we had about six more hours at this pace until we reached the ranch, hopefully we would make it before dark.

 

It was pretty, with all the fresh snow, it reminded me of a verse,,,"Though your sins be as scarlet they will be washed white as snow", something I had always counted on as I knew I had plenty of the scarlet abounding in my life, and knowing I was washed white as snow was one of the best feelings I had ever known,,, right up there with having Calico as mine own.

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I wasn't real happy when Grizz showed up and he and Cheyenne decided we were leaving as soon as we could get the wagon ready. It would be a long, slow, and cold trip, and I wasn't really feeling up to riding in that wagon for who knew how long. I would have preferred riding, but as deep as that snow was, the ponies would be having a hard enough time without carrying riders. So we bundled up, threw a few things in the wagon, and hit the road.

I tried to keep Little Flower bundled up good in that buffalo skin, and as close to me as possible. Since neither of us was moving around much, we needed to stay as warm as possible. It wasn't long before I started getting sleepy, but I was glad that the bouncing of the wagon made sleep impossible, this was no weather to be dozing off in. So I kept busy praying that Cheyenne and Grizz were going to get us back to the ranch without them suffering any damage from the cold. I was also hoping that the trip wouldn't take too long, even with all that Cheyenne had done to make me and Little Flower comfortable, it wasn't really helping. My back was killing me, and the baby was kicking like crazy. The sooner we got back to the ranch house the happier I would be.

Everything was fine at first, but after a while it did seem like the wind was starting to pick up, and it was getting colder. It was also still snowing, which made it kind of hard to see the clouds, but it seemed like they were getting darker and heavier to the west. I could barely see that, but I knew that the two men were facing the wrong direction, unless they turned around they'd never notice. I had Little Flower sit up a little, so that I could push the buffalo hide off of me and on to her and try to get in a position where I could get Cheyenne's attention. Just as I was trying to, the wagon hit a big bump, and I almost fell over, but managed to grab on to the back of the seat just in time. That did get Cheyenne's attention, and he turned around and yelled at me to sit back down, what was I thinking? I didn't blame him for yelling, with the wind the way it was I wouldn't have heard him otherwise. I motioned towards the sky behind us, and he took a look, then started screaming at Grizz until the other man heard him and reined his horse back towards the wagon. I could tell the men were discussing the clouds, but couldn't hear what they were saying. So I sat back down by Little Flower and snuggled back under that hide, I'd done what I needed to do, now I needed to get warmed back up.

 

I watched as Grizz switched horses again, his mount was not having an easy time getting through the snow drifts. As he headed back to the front of our team, Cheyenne seemed to try and speed the Clydesdales a little faster, but not too fast, we still had a long way to go and we couldn't risk hurting any of them. As we kept moving, I was still staring back towards the west. Through the swirling snow, I could have sworn that for a couple of seconds I saw someone on horseback following us, but then the rider seemed to disappear. Maybe I had just imagined it, I wasn't sure if I hoped I was hallucinating or not. The rider seemed real enough, but it gave me a really bad feeling....



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I was no longer thinking about how beautiful the snow was or the verse about having my sin washed white as snow, now I was praying that we would be able to reach the ranch safely, or at all. We were at least half way there, but it was really hard to tell because we could see very few landmarks. The wind was brutal on any exposed skin, which there was very little, but what there exposed was painful.


I hadn’t meant to yell at Calico but between the cold and the wind it caught me by surprise when she grabbed the seat when we hit the bump. What really scared me were the dark clouds behind us, and the way that they were coming at us. I was tempted to send Grizz on ahead, but what would that help, we needed to get the horses to the ranch too, and we were still moving well. The mammoth horses were worth their weight in gold to us now and they had responded well when I had asked them for more speed.


It wasn’t long before I felt Calico’s hand tugging at the buffalo hide that I had wrapped around me, she was pointing out through the back of the wagon at two riders just feet away from the rear of the wagon. I pointed towards her rifle and yelled, “Just in case!” I studied the two riders for a moment, from what I could see they looked to be Indians, but with the heavy hides covering them I couldn’t make out anything more. They surely could mean no harm, what fool would try anything in this weather. I was sure that


they most have been caught out in the storm and had come across our tracks and knew their best chance of survival was with us. But, I wanted Calico ready with her rifle just in case I was wrong.


I was no longer thinking about how beautiful the snow was or the verse about having my sin washed white as snow, now I was praying that we would be able to reach the ranch safely, or at all. We were at least half way there, but it was really hard to tell because we could see very few landmarks. The wind was brutal on any exposed skin, which there was very little, but what there exposed was painful.


I hadn’t meant to yell at Calico but between the cold and the wind it caught me by surprise when she grabbed the seat when we hit the bump. What really scared me were the dark clouds behind us, and the way that they were coming at us. I was tempted to send Grizz on ahead, but what would that help, we needed to get the horses to the ranch too, and we were still moving well. The mammoth horses were worth their weight in gold to us now and they had responded well when I had asked them for more speed.


It wasn’t long before I felt Calico’s hand tugging at the buffalo hide that I had wrapped around me, she was pointing out through the back of the wagon at two riders just feet away from the rear of the wagon. I pointed towards her rifle and yelled, “Just in case!” I studied the two riders for a moment, from what I could see they looked to be Indians, but with the heavy hides covering them I couldn’t make out anything more. They surely could mean no harm, what fool would try anything in this weather. I was sure that


they most have been caught out in the storm and had come across our tracks and knew their best chance of survival was with us. But, I wanted Calico ready with her rifle just in case I was wrong.

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I had been staring back towards the west as we drove on, so I was caught totally by surprise when two riders seemed to appear out of nowhere from the north. They didn't say anything, just moved their ponies behind the wagon, so they were walking in the tracks left by the huge wheels. I can't say as I blamed them, it had to be easier on their ponies, ours had been tied to the back of the wagon for just that reason. After alerting Cheyenne, I moved my rifle a little closer so it would be easier to grab if I needed it, but I wasn't getting the feeling I would. I glanced at Little Flower, and she was showing no fear, so I figured these two must be indian, she was still a little scared of most white people. She didn't show any signs of recognition though, if these two were Ute then I doubted she knew them. They could have also been Cheyenne, or maybe Shoshone...it was impossible to tell with the way they were bundled up.

I made no attempt to try and communicate with them, just kept a good eye on them as we went along. If all they wanted was to walk in the wagon tracks to make it easier to get where they were going, well, it certainly wasn't hurting us any. After a while I also thought I could make out the rider I had seen before off in the distance, but as before he disappeared again almost as soon as I had seen him, so I wasn't sure. As I watched the two riders following us, I noticed that one was taller than the other. The shorter one seemed a little rounder, but maybe it was just the way the hides were wrapped around them. I didn't know why, but somehow I was getting the impression that this was a man and a woman following us, instead of two men. The taller one was occasionally glancing over at the shorter one, and I got the feeling he was concerned about his companion. The shorter one did seem to be showing signs of being in pain every once in a while, so I couldn't help but wonder if that rider was injured in some way. If so, the sooner we could get them to the ranch and to the doctor, the better. Of course, I wasn't sure if they'd even want Doc's help, but I knew help would be offered if there was in fact a problem.


We rode on in silence for a while longer, and I hoped we were getting close. Even with the buffalo hide wrapped around us, both Little Flower and I were getting really cold, we couldn't move around much and that wasn't helping. I knew the cold had to be getting to Cheyenne and Grizz too, and to our two followers as well. The storm was steadily growing worse, and I was beginning to get worried. Then all of a sudden disaster struck. One of the rear wheels of the wagon went into a hole, and before we knew what was happening, the wheel came off, and that corner of the wagon fell to the ground hard. Little Flower and I got bounced around pretty good when that happened, but fortunately neither of us was hurt, but the wagon wasn't going any farther unless we could get that wheel back on. Cheyenne managed to get the horses to a stop rather quickly, and he jumped down to take a look. Grizz had heard the noise and had turned his horse around to see what was going on. As Cheyenne was assessing the damage, the taller of the two riders dismounted, and walked forward to look at the wagon as well. Cheyenne just looked at him and nodded, then went back to discussing the situation with Grizz. Next thing we knew, the other rider was crying out in pain, and when I heard that I was sure it was a woman. Oh great, something was wrong with her, the wagon was broken, the storm was getting worse, and we still weren't at the ranch house yet....what were we gonna do now?

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When I felt the wagon rear end drop to one side my heart just about fell out of my chest. I felt a little better when I saw that the axle wasn’t broken and that the nut had just fallen off allowing the wheel to woke itself off of the axle. We had extra nuts on the wagon just for this emergency, and fortunately the freight wagons also had a long piece of lumber and a shorter one to use as a lever.


We decided to try and lift it by hand first, that would be much quicker, and with three men we knew it was worth a try. We got the wheel as close as we could to the wagon to be able to slip it onto the axle if we could lift the wagon high enough to slip the wheel onto the axle. I knew that Ol Grizz was strong as bear and I knew my strength so we would hold the wagon once the three of us got it up into the air.


By now Calico and Little Flower had gone to the other rider’s aid, the scream that came from that rider was enough to raise the dead, but if we didn’t get the wagon fixed we’d all be in a bad way soon.


We got into position to lift the wagon, I was glad that we only had to lift the one corner because as we lifted had there been much more weight there would have been no way we could have heaved the rear of the wagon high enough to fit the wheel onto the axle. Once we got the wheel on I called for the women to put the other rider into the back of the wagon to ride with Calico and Little Flower, as they were doing that we found the extra nut and wrench and secured the nut onto the axle.


Grizz was already back in the saddle and heading to the front again as the rider and I tried to close the back end of the wagon with the bales. The less wind blowing through it the better. I was about frozen as I climbed back up onto the seat of the massive wagon and without wasting a second urged the horses on. I was hearing screams coming out from the back of the wagon and urging the horses for more speed, as they responded I was really thankful for their size and strength.


The other rider was staying tucked in real tight behind the wagon, I almost wished I could join him there out of the bone chilling wind. I tried to estimate the time we had left before we would reach the ranch, it was hard because we couldn’t see many landmarks, but I guessed we were about 1 !/2 hrs out, if we could keep moving.


Now I was understanding why my father had wanted us to return early, but this was the earliest bad storm any of us good remember

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Little Flower and I scrambled out of the wagon to make it easier for the men to get the wheel back on. The wagon was heavy enough on it's own, and Cheyenne wouldn't hear of letting me help lift it. So I went over to the smaller rider, she wasn't doing so good. I didn't think she was yelling just because of the cold, but I had no idea what was wrong. I tried to talk to her in both Cheyenne and Arapaho, but she didn't understand either one. Little Flower tried Ute, but didn't have any luck either. I was betting on Shoshone, but none of us knew that language. Then I tried sign, but she didn't seem to be paying much attention, either that or she didn't understand that either.

When the wheel was back on, Cheyenne told me to get her and Little Flower in the wagon, and after the man said something to her, I finally got the woman to let me help her down. I don't think she really wanted much to do with us, but she didn't seem to mind getting off the pony. We helped her up in the wagon, and I tried my best to keep all three of us covered with the buffalo hide as much as possible. As we got going, I could have sworn I caught another quick glimpse of the other rider off in the distance, was he following us too? If so, why not catch up and take advantage of riding in our tracks, like the two Shoshone had done? That didn't make much sense.

Cheyenne had told me we still had a ways to go, but I hoped it wouldn't take too long. This woman was obviously in pain, she was crying out every 10 minutes or so but I had no idea what was wrong, much less what to do for her. I yelled up to Cheyenne to head straight for Doc's office, it was a little closer than the ranch house, and we needed his help. The man stayed right behind the wagon, staring at the woman the whole time, and I got the feeling that they were probably married. What they were doing out here on the plains instead of being up in the mountains was beyond me.

It seemed to take forever before Cheyenne finally saw the first of the buildings that made up the ranch compound. He shouted to Grizz to ride on ahead if he could and tell the first person he could find that we were coming and needed Doc's help. Grizz spurred his horse forward, but because of the snow he didn't really make much better time than the wagon did. Fortunately some of the men were heading to their homes after having checked on the horses in the barns, and saw us coming. Prairie Dawg went to fetch Doc, and he was waiting for us as we pulled up in front of his office. The woman didn't want to go inside, and I don't think the man really wanted to either, but we finally managed to get through to them that Doc only wanted to help, and we got the woman inside. Grizz did volunteer to stay and see if he could do anything to help, the man did speak sign and Grizz knew enough to get by.


The rest of us got back in the wagon and headed for the barn that was being remodeled for the Clydesdales, the ponies would just have to stay there too for a while until they could be moved. We got the animals inside, then left everything else in the wagon for now. Frank had been notified that we were coming, and he ran out to meet us. He hugged us all, then hurried us inside, calling out for people to bring us warm clothes and something warm to drink. After we were changed and sitting in front of a roaring fire, he did let us know we were crazy to try and travel in that weather. Cheyenne pointed out that we didn't have enough supplies to risk staying at the cabin, and we hadn't had much choice. Frank just shook his head, saying "Well, you're here now and safe, I guess that's all that matters. Dinner will be ready soon, are you hungry?"

I couldn't believe he thought he had to ask! I was starving, and I doubted I was the only one. I did point out that I hoped someone could take something to Grizz, but before Frank could arranged for it, we heard a knock at the front door. Hop Sing went to answer it, and we heard the sound of Grizz's voice, asking for Cheyenne. Hop Sing came in the den, and asked Cheyenne to go to the door, as Grizz had refused the invitation to join us. I could here them whispering, but I couldn't make out what they were saying....and I wondered what was going on at Doc's.....

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Grizz acted like he was almost afraid to come into the house, but I did manage to get him inside enough to close the door, I'd had enough cold for one day. It seemed that another rider had come in after us, a lawman from Livermore, north off us. He had been tracking the pair before the storm and when it hit he knew there was no reason to make any moves to make contact with them in the near blizzard.

 

In the mean time the lawman was taking shelter with Prairie Dawg and Skipper, they had seen him come in and immediately offered him shelter, something they were always apt to do if they could be my father to it. There wasn't any need to talk to the lawman that evening as no one would be going anywhere soon, though first thing in the morning he would need to speak with us.

 

I tried to get Grizz to join us but he insisted in staying in the barn with the horses, and by the smell of his grizzly hides I wasn't so sure the horses would like it much, but I wasn't going to argue with him. I did manage to get him to wait for a basket of food to take to the barn with him along with a fresh pitcher of hot coffee. I made sure that he knew he was welcome in the house if he changed his mind and then he was off back out into the storm on his way to the barn.

 

I joined the others at the table and boy did it taste good, and hot! The warm I felt as the food made it way to my stomach was better than the taste though, and by the time we were done eating the three of us were almost asleep in our chairs. Calico's back was bothering her, I would watch as she would twist and turn to try to get comfortable, the jolt she got when the wheel came off may have done more than she thought, or, I'd had seen some of the women on the ranch have some back issues when they were ''expecting'' too. That's what I was hoping it was, no one needed any type of back injury living and making a living on a ranch. Especially working with the huge horses she would be training.

 

Going to sleep that night wasn't a problem for me, my eagle dreams returned and this time I was soaring over a mountain top covered with snow, accompanied by another eagle. It was a little strange though, this time we were followed by three eaglets. At this rate there would be a sky filled with eagles if this continued.

 

Morning seemed to come all to quickly, and I had no idea what this day would bring, the lawman, the two riders, what were they wanted for? Or were they off of their reservation? I was hoping everything would work out real nice like, but the luck were had been having I wasn't counting on that!

 

The lawman was at the table as we joined the others for breakfast, he had already filled my dad in on what was happening, and he gave us a quick story of what had happened. It seemed that the man had fallen in love with the daughter of a Shoshone chief and the two of them had run off when the chief had not approved of their relationship. The chief had threatened to go after them with braves if the lawman didn't handle it. Had the chief handled it himself, he would have had to leave the reservation and that would have created a huge mess with the army getting involved. The lawman had volunteered to try to find them and bring them back, if he could.

 

As we were about done eating Doc Eells came in and brought us up on the woman, seemed she was ''expecting'' and it was about time for the woman to deliver. The lawman wiped his brow when he heard that news and was wondering what else could go wrong.

 

Calico and I just looked at each other and laughed, he hadn't been around us or he wouldn't have even asked that question!

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Grizz ate his food in the barn after giving it a good smell. He didn't trust that Calico woman any farther than he could throw her, and in her current condition, and his, he didn't reckon that would be very far.

 

He slept very little that night, each movement of the horses bringing him full awake with a pistol in each hand.

 

When morning came, so did a rider to the house, lawman from the looks of him. Grizz tried to remember if'n he was wanted for anything in this territory or not, and he rightly didn't remember if he was or not.

 

One thing was sure, with that lawman and crazy Calico woman in the house, he wasn't going anywhere near it.

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