Glory Trail Excerpt

Prologue

Gittin’ back to Deer Run after ridin’ the Cutthroat trail for as long as we done was shore a welcome treat. Willie was some excited about it too, shakin’ his head now an’ then an’ fussin’ some when we got to about five miles from home. By the time me an’ Marion come through town an’ turned up the lane that little buckskin was dancin’ an’ chewin’ at the bit. I woulda liked to have just turn him loose an’ let him go ahead on, but I didn’t want him to figger that was a choice he got to make an’ git him any kind a barn sour. Marion was some tickled at me an’ Willie goin’ the last hunnerd yards sideways like we done.

We was purty close to the house when Bill come walkin’ out from down by the forge an’ seen us. He give a holler an’ come a runnin’ toward where we was, yellin’ for his momma that his daddy was home. I got down offa Willie an’ grabbed the boy, roughin’ him up a little bit while he squirmed in my arms. Then I rubbed my face agin’ his, scratchin’ on him with some stubby whiskers. I seen Miss Harmony come outa the forge then. I passed Bill to Marion for more abuse an’ trotted toward her, kindly ketchin’ Harmony up like I done Bill, but bein’ careful to not scratch on her face too much. She was laughin’ an’ grabbin’ aholt of me quite a bit, kissin’ on my cheek an’ such.

Verlon showed up about then an’ give me a handshake, grabbin’ on to my shoulder an’ welcomin’ me back. Marion loosed Bill an’ took a easy little hug from Harmony, an’ there we all was, grinnin’ an’ laughin’ an’ terrible happy to be home an’ back from the trail. I turned around to just look at the place, an’ Arliss the mule was right behind me.

“Arliss,” I said, “are ya alright?”

Durn if he didn’t switch his tail.

 

After a spell, I got my saddlebags offa Willie, an’ Verlon an’ Marion headed down to the livery with the horses. Bill taggin’ along. Me an’ Harmony walked up to the house an’ went in the kitchen. They was some warm coffee on the stove an’ she poured me a cup an’ we took a set at the table.

“Marshal Beeler,” she said to me, “where have you been?”

“Around the world an’ back agin’,” I said, grinnin’ at her. “Me an’ Homer an’ Marion has been north to Saint Joe, then out into Kansas a ways, then down in Arkansas to Fort Smith, then plumb out into The Nations in the Oklahoma Territory, then back to St. Joe. I have met The Hangin’ Judge, et rattlesnake, took a run with some bufflers, got ta know a fella by the name a Johnny Sweetgrass, seen a breed a horses called Nez Perce that can go a hunnerd miles a day, had some help from a skunk, an’ brung justice to some fellas that kilt I doan know how many folks.”

“That’s all?” she said.

That hit me kindly sideways, an’ we set there gigglin’ at each other like a couple a little girls. She give me another kiss then, an’ I spoke up.

“An’ that ain’t all,” I said.

“It isn’t?” Miss Harmony said, kindly leadin’ me on.

“Nope. Marion an’ Homer got me an’ Willie in some horse races up in St. Joe,” I tolt her, rootin’ around in my saddlebag an’ comin’ up with that poke a cash money. I set it on the table. “They was four or five heat races to decide who the winner was, an’ Willie won everthing that they was to win. That there is almost three thousand dollars.”

Miss Harmony’s eyebrows durn near disappeared up inta her hair.

“Three thousand dollars?”

“Yes ma’m. Me an’ Bill both need some new boots, I guess. I reckon you and your daddy can figger out where the rest of it oughta go.”

It took Harmony some time to kindly git aholt a herself. When she did, she spoke up.

“I have some news too,” she said.

“Ya do? What?”

She smiled at me, real sweet like, an’ I could see tears gather in her eyes.

“We’re going to have another baby,” she said.

 

CHAPTER ONE

I kindly felt like somebody had dropped a bucket over my head.

“A baby?” I said. “Another one?”

“The first one isn’t a baby anymore, Ruben,” she said, smilin’ real big.

“Ain’t that somethin’,” I said. “When ya fixin’ to have it?”

“That isn’t exactly up to me, Marshal Beeler. Doctor Stillwell says he thinks early next spring or late winter. Miz Clary agrees with him.”

“Well, that there is just fine, Miss Harmony,” I said, reachin’ over an’ givin’ her a little hug an’ such. “That there is just right fine. Does yer daddy an’ Little Bill know?”

“Not yet,” she said. “I’ll tell them when I begin to show. I don’t want everybody fussing over me. I’ll be fine and the baby will be fine, Ruben. I want you to keep this under your hat. Nobody needs to know until I decide to let them know. You hear me?”

“I hear ya,” I said. “I won’t say a word about it to anybody. Can I paint a sign an’ hang it someplace?”

Harmony smiled an’ shook her head. “You do and you’ll be hanging someplace with it,” she said.

“Well,” I tolt her, “I see it has come to threats between us. I never thought you an’ me coulda have sunk so low.”

Harmony kindly peered at me. “I think you need to get a haircut, a shave, and soak in a tub at the barber shop. You have sunk so low that you smell a little too much like Willie.”

“I’m glad we agree on somthin’,” I said. “I believe I’ll collect Marion an’ head on down that way. Why doan all of us go out for supper at the Sweetwater tonight? Call it a celebration of our return from the trail. It won’t cost us but three or four dollars.”

Harmony got up, leaned over, an’ gimme a little kiss. “That would be fine,” she said.

“An’,” I went on, “I’m gonna need a hunnerd dollars a that cash money.”

“Oh?” she said.

“Yes m’am.”

“That would be fine, too, Marshal Beeler,” she tolt me, an’ handed it over.

 

Me an’ Marion both got haircuts and shaves, an’ set in them two tubs for a hour an’ a half or better, soakin’ in that hot water an’ jawin’ over the events on the Cutthroat Trail an’ such. I’d had a idea I’d been chewing on, an’ I asked him about it.

“Marion,” I said, “Bill is growin’ up. When he gits a little older, he’s gonna need a horse a his own. Truth be tolt, once I got over myself, I was some impressed by them Nez Perce Appaloosas. You reckon, if’n I was to send a message to Johnny Sweetwater through the court down in Fort Smith that I was interested in gittin’ a horse in three or four years, they’d pass it on to him?”

“Well,” Marion said, “Judge Parker ain’t got no reason not to cooperate with us, an’ Johnny took a fair likin’ to ya. Might be that could work out right fine. Bill is as good as he can be with Arliss the mule. He treats him fair an’ shows him respect. I bet he’d be the same with one a them Nez Perce horses.”

“To tell ya the truth,” I went on, “Willie’s the best horse I have ever knowed, but he’s comin’ fourteen or fifteen year old now. By the time Bill is ten or so, Willie is gonner be past his prime some. I kindly figgerd, at that age, that he might make a better mount for the boy than me. Plus the way we havta take to the trail now an’ then, one a them Nez Perce Appaloosas might could make a better horse for my needs. They ain’t one of ‘em faster than Willie, an’ I know it, but I think bein’ able to cover ground like they can might be more important. They ain’t never gonna be but one Willie, but after another few years I’d kindly like for him to be able ta take it some easier than havin’ to git way out on the trail like he does now.”

Marion smiled at me. “Ol’ Ruben,” he said.

 

When we finally got up we was both clean an’ some waterlogged after settin’ in them tubs so long. I managed to talk Marion into hangin’ around Deer Run for a couple days.

 

Supper at the Sweetwater was quite a event. Arliss the gunsmith joined us an’ so did my deputy, Hank Buford. The whole bunch a us et an’ set in there for a couple a hours or more, tellin’ stories about what happened on the Cutthroat Trail. Since Homer Poteet warn’t among us, most a them stories was actually true. When Marion brung up the races in Saint Joe, an’ how me an’ Willie had won us a small fortune, ol’ Hank spoke up.

“Now that there is just the kinda thing that gits me terrible irritated,” he said. “Here we was, me an’ Emory, workin’ ourselves half ta death tryin’ to keep Deer Run safe an’ secure, day an’ night, week after week, while our boss, Ruben Beeler, is off runnin’ around God knows where, havin’ hisself a time racin’ horses. Prob’ly smokin’ big cigars an’ drinkin’ whiskey, too. I used ta have quite a bit a respect for Ruben, I truly did. But this here kinda behavior has ruint it for me. I thought better of him than that. Not no more. I am so disappointed in him that if I hadden et so much for supper, I’d git up an’ show you folks my heels.”

Everbody come to laughin’ some, an’ I spoke up.

“Afore ya go, Hank,” I said, pullin’ out that hunnerd dollars, “I’d appreciate it if you’d split this here with Emory. I figger the two a you has well-earned it, takin’ over the town while I was gone.”

Hank took the money an’ looked at it. “This here is a hunnerd bucks,” he said.

“It is,” I tolt him.

“An’ you want me to split this with Emory.”

“I do.”

“I’m glad ta know you ain’t as cheap as I thought ya was,” Hank said, “but this ain’t fair to me, Boss. I work twice as hard as that bum Emory Nail. By rights, I oughter git at least seventy-five.”

It was a fine dinner on a fine night, among some fine people, an’ it was a real treasure to me. We stayed late enough, jawin’ an’ such, that Bill fell ta sleep. Marion an’ me took turns totin’ him on the walk back home.

 

When I come down to the kitchen the next mornin’, Marion an’ Verlon was settin’ at the table drinkin’ coffee while Miss Harmony tended to a couple a pans on the stove. I give her a kiss on the cheek an’ struck out to the convenience. When I got back, Bill was up but sorta wobbly, kindly noddin’ in a chair. He got that from his daddy, I guess. I got a tendency ta bein’ some slow gittin’ ta sleep an’ wakin’ up. I walked behind Bill an’ took him by the shoulders to give him a little shake.

“Another two or three months an’ yer gonner have to git better at wakin’ up, boy,” I said. “The teacher ain’t gonna like you sleepin’ in class when you go ta school this fall.”

“I ain’t a goin’,” he said.

“What?”

“I ain’t a goin’ to school, Daddy. I doan have to.”

Harmony jumped in. “His birthday is too late for him to go this time. I found out while you were gone. We get to have Bill around for another year.”

“Then me an’ my pal Petey can git ta go ta school together,” Bill piped up.

“You like the thought a that, do ya Bill?| I asked him.

He nodded. “I like it a terrible lot,” he said. “Now I won’t havta go all by myself.”

Marion winked at me. “I can understand just why you feel that way, Bill,” he said. “It’s awful good to have a pard along when a feller is out on the trail.”

 

CHAPTER TWO

Marion stayed on with us for near a week, an’ even slept on the daybed in the parlor instead a goin’ down to Miz Clary’s. He seemed to relax quite a bit an’ was as much a part a the family as any of the rest of us. The fourth or fifth day they come a telegraph for him, an’ he had to strike off over to Jeff City. After breakfast an’ everbody had said goodbye on the mornin’ he left, me an’ him walked down to the livery to collect that big ol’ Appaloosa a his. It was mistin’ a light rain.

“Marshal,” I said to him, “you be careful out there among them heathens.”

He smiled at me an’ put on his slicker. “Thanks to ya for puttin’ me up like ya done. I appreciate your hospitality. It was right nice for me to join yer family for a spell.”

“You ain’t joined nothin’,” I said. “As far as Verlon an’ Miss Harmony an’ me is concerned, you are part a this family, an’ ya have been for years. This here place is yer home offa the trail if ya want it, Marion, an’ it would be right pleasureful to the rest of us if you come to think of it like that.”

Marion looked out at the mist a little while afore he turned back to me an’ helt out his hand. We shook.

“Ruben Beeler,” he said, an’ took to the saddle.

“Keep yer cinch tight,” I tolt him, an’ watched Marion an’ that big ol’ warhorse trot off down the lane. When he turned off toward town an’ got outa sight, it come to me that I had tears collected in the bottoms a my eyes.

 

When I got back to the house, Harmony looked at me some serious.

“Are you alright, Ruben,” she asked me.

“To tell the truth,” I said, “I ain’t. But I will be in a spell, I guess.”

Miss Harmony had a little sad lookin’ smile on her face. “You love that man, don’t you?” she said.

“Well, to be honest with ya, I reckon I do,” I tolt her. “My ol’ Daddy hadden been dead quite a year an’ I warn’t nothin’ but a drifter when I run onto Marion. God knows where I might be, or even who I might be if it hadden a been for him. If it warn’t for Marion I wodden a come to Deer Run an’ you an’ me woulda never even met each other. He’s the finest man I have ever knowed an’ has give me opportunities I most prob’ly would not a had otherwise.”

“And you worry about him a little bit too, don’t you?”

“I do, Harmony. I cain’t help it. Marion Daniels is a force, an’ I know it. Homer says that Marion ain’t lost a step an’ I believe him, but Marion ain’t no spring chicken neither. I mean, Homer is around ten years younger than Marion an’ was into his forties when I first met him. That was about eight years ago. Marion has got to be commin’ into his fifties some by now. He ain’t got no real home nor kin that I know of. It concerns me some is what it does.”

Harmony smiled. “What are you going to do about it, Marshal Beeler?” she asked me.

“I been studyin’ on it. Truth is, I’m kindly scairt that Marion Daniels might just die out on the trail sometime sooner than he should. I hate the thought a that. Marion ain’t got no home, no real one anyways. A fella needs a home, Harmony. A real one, not just some roomin’ house he uses now an’ then. More than that, he needs a family. Special when he’s gittin’ up in age some.”

“So?” Miss Harmony said.

“Well, wodden it be kindly good if’n we might offer him to come stay here with us when he ain’t on the trail? Sooner or later time is gonna ketch up to him an’ he’s gonna havta quit marshalin’ an’ such. When that happens, he’ll already have a place that’s kindly like a home to him an’ a family he’s used to an’ cares about him some. Might be nice for Little Bill an’ the new baby ta have two grandpas or a extra uncle or somethin’. We got enough room an’ such. I figger that, even for a loner like he is, if Marion knowed he had someplace to go among folks that thought high of him he might be less likely to die too soon out in the middle a nowhere.”

“That’s what you think, is it Ruben?”

“Yes M’am, it is. I speck you got some thoughts on it too. If’n you’d care to share some of ‘em with me I’d be right proud to give a listen.”

Harmony had tears in her eyes. “I think you are a wonderful man, and I think what you think it is fine with me,” she said. “I have thought that same thing for a year or two, Ruben. I talked it over with Dad since you brought all that money home. He suggested it would be simple to add a nice room on the new stable so Marion could have a place of his own with a woodstove, windows, an’ easy spot to keep his horse and tack, and even his own privy. Marion is a private man and independent. We’ll need to honor that.”

“So you an’ Verlon purty much got this all worked out, have ya?”

“Pretty much.”

“An’ you just been waitin’ for me to ketch up to the rest of ya, I reckon.”

She smiled through them tears. “I am a patient woman, Marshal Beeler,” she said. “You should know that by now.”

We commenced to huggin’ on each other then, swayin’ back an’ forth.

 

The fella with that ten acres sold it to Verlon for forty-five dollars a acre, which warn’t a terrible bad price considerin’ how close to town it was. We got us a mess a four-inch cedar posts for about eight cents each an’ hired a couple a ol’ boys to sink ‘em in the ground for us an’ string four strands a plain wire around them new acres. Me an’ Verlon didn’t use bob-wire ‘cause we didn’t want no stock to git cut up. I spent about two days walkin’ that fence line an’ tyin’ strips a ol’ rags an’ such here an’ there on the wires so any horses could easy see they was somethin’ in the way an’ wodden git all tangled up or nothin’. By the time them rags wore out an’ blowed away, the stock would be used to the line an’ some careful of it.

We had that new small barn an’ such that we built for the freight company to keep some stock an’ one a they wagons handy, but it was all leased to ‘em by a five year signed contract. ‘Cause a that, I drawed up some plans for the new stable an’ took ‘em down to the lumberyard. The ol’ boy there, Willis Holt, was a good fella an’ fixed us up with everthin’ we needed from oak boards to build the stalls, to cedar planks for the walls, cedar shakes for the roof, white pine for the inside walls a Marion’s room, an’ cedar for the subfloor an’ oak for the floor. Willis come up with about five workers we hired to frame the place an’ do most a the heavy work. By the time it was done, I was back in the carpenter bidness. With Verlon an’ Hank’s help we had four twelve by twelve stalls down one side an’ three on the other, plus a room for tack an’ such. Each stall had a lookout door on a outside wall so the horses could stick they heads out an’ take a peek at the world, an’ they was ten feet a open walkway between the rows a stalls. Marion’s room was on the outside a the barn an’ backed up agin’ the tack room. It was about twelve by twenty feet with a little covered porch, four windas, one a them Dutch doors that a fella could open up the top an’ the bottom separate if he wanted to, an’ a back door that opened up into the tack room. Verlon helped me put in a ceiling, a flu an’ woodstove, an’ miss Harmony finished it up with a couple chairs, a real nice cot, a couple a rag rugs, an’ some curtains an’ other things a civilized fella might have need of. About thirty feet on down a shallow slope we put up a new outhouse over a hole them fellas what put in the fence posts for us had dug out to near ten feet deep.

 

About the middle a the mornin’ after everthing had been built an’ finished, me an’ Verlon took some cups a coffee an’ walked down that way to kindly look over what we’d done. I was admirin’ his skill as a blacksmith an’ he was complimentin’ my ability as a carpenter when my deputy, Hank Burford, come ridin’ up on a dead run, an’ brung his mare to a slidin’ stop.

“Ruben!” he hollerd at me, “a feller went by Mister Jeeter’s store a little bit ago an’ found him layin’ half out on the boardwalk in front a his place, all cut up an’ bleedin’ bad from his belly. A couple a folks carried him over to Doc Stillwell’s office an’ he’s gittin’ worked on, but I doan know if it’ll do any good. That feller tolt me that Mister Jeeter looks to be bad hurt.”

I looked at Verlon. “If ya would, git a saddle an’ the like on Willie,” I said to him, “then collect my guns an’ such an’ hustle all that down to the office for me.  I’ll thank ya later.”

I jumped up behind Hank an’ took a holt a his belt then, an’ we was off, tearin’ toward the Doc’s office as hard as that little mare a his could go.


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