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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Fourth Man - Chapter 12

School Dance
The dance

Billy had Chen to heat enough water to take the chill off and he soaked for a while, long enough to loosen up his muscles some.

James came in and wanted to know if he was going to stay home with him and play some games.

Billy said no, he didn’t think he would for there was a dance tonight and he was going to it.

James said, “You going to see that girl?”

“I don’t know, maybe if she is there.”

“Are you going to marry her Billy?”

A little impatiently he answered, “Listen you better never say that again or I will tan your hide you hear me?”

“Yes, I was just asking for Missy said you might so I was just wondering.”

Billy said, “I don’t know where these people come up with the idea that I like Mamie. If they don’t quit teasing me I’m never speak to her again.  I know you grow up on a ranch pretty quick but I’m only ten (nearly eleven) and I’m not interested in girls.”

One of the hands hitched up the buggy and pulled it around to the front porch. It had enough lanterns on it to see the way home late that night.  Since Sarah and Les were going to stay home a couple of the hands wanted to go with Missy and me.

Les didn’t like the idea of us going by ourselves so he sent the hands with us with some pretty hard and fast rules for them.

When we arrived at the dance, the hands took care of the horses and then came in and found themselves a partner to dance with.

Missy found a girl she knew and they danced together until some boys got up enough nerve to ask them to dance.

It wasn’t long before Mamie spotted Billy and she came right over and sat with him.

After a couple of dances she asked, “How long are we going to sit here before you ask me to dance?  There are some of the older boys who have already asked me and I said, ‘not now maybe later.’  So what about it, is it going to be you or should I find someone else.  I didn’t come here to sit all night.”

Somehow that idea of someone else dancing with her and holding her didn’t sit well with Billy. He didn’t understand why for he wasn’t interested in girls but it just didn’t sit right with him.

He danced with her all night and when someone asked her to dance with them she said Billy had already asked her.  Just before he headed home she said she had something to tell him.

All news isn’t necessarily good news

She said she asked her folks if she could attend the girls’ school near where Billy was going and they said yes. She said we can see each other often and go to the dances together every time they have one.

Billy was shocked by that for he was planning to get away from the teasing he always got and now he would also get it at school.

He told her he wasn’t sure if he was going back to that school.

She said, “I know you are for you have already been signed up by your mom.”

He said, “I don’t want you bothering me if you go there.”

She answered and said, “You know you are going to have to take care of me and protect me from all those naughty boys.”

Billy didn’t know how to answer that.  Here on the ranches if anyone tried to bother her he would put them in their place right off that is unless she wanted them to; but in a school situation it was different.

He said, “You already know there will be boys after you even though you are still too young to be after. You already look to be thirteen and that is the age boys are looking for. You are going to get me beat up by one or more of the older guys.”

She said, ‘You will just have to deal with it. You don’t have any trouble at the ranch with older guys.”

“Yeah but there I have Jim and my dad backing me up. Besides you are too young to be thinking about boys.”

She said, “Well if you remember it was you that brought it up and the only one I mention was you so don’t go off talking about me and other guys. I know how old I am and how I should act so you just behave yourself and things will be alright.”

He thought, “We aren’t even at school and we are already arguing. No telling what will happen when we get there.”

What cowboys do

A couple days after the dance Billy asked Jim, “Do cowboys grow up faster than the city boys?”

Jim said, “What do you mean or in what way?”

“You know in becoming responsible and things.”

Jim said, “Now you ain’t thinking what I think you’re thinking are you? You ain’t thinking about marrying that Bartlett gal are you?”

Billy said, “Naw I ain’t thinking that but it seems I am farther along in becoming a man than those sissy boys at school.”

Jim said, “I guess I know what you’re getting at.  Out here where you have to take care of yourself you are forced to do manly things quicker than if you are in the town where they have more protectors than out here.

A cowboy has to learn to do most of the man things at an earlier age like roping and riding and other stuff like shooting. You know all the stuff that they will have to do all their life. By the time they are your age they should have it all down by then and that will make them feel older than the city boys. The city boys might have an edge on the country boys when it comes to courting the girls but that’s about it.”

Billy said, “I just hope I don’t have to shoot any of them on account of their courting spells.”

Jim had to smile at that for the truth was about to emerge. “I guess what we have been talking about in a round about way is that little Bartlett gal isn’t it?”

“Yeah I guess so but how did you figure that out cause I didn’t mention her?”

“Well everyone knows you and she are courting whether you know it or not. I bet she knows it for she is after you and is putting in her claim on you early on.”

“Jim you mean she has staked me out as hers when I don’t have that stuff on my mind.”

“Yep that’s way it works sometime. It looks to me like the only thing between you, her, and the preacher is a little time. If I was you I would start planning your house and start building it.  Of course you should let her help lay it out for the woman should have some say in the way it is laid out for she will spend more time in it than the man does.

You can feel her out by asking if she knows what kind of house she wants and if she says yes then you know how far ahead she is in the planning. If I was you I would stick close to her for she has you, roped, and tied just waiting for the branding iron.”

Billy said thanks Jim, “I think I will ride over to the Bartlett’s and spend the night. They always keep asking me to stay so I think that’s what I will do.”

As he left Jim had to laugh and thought, “That boy is hooked and she is just playing him and can reel him anytime she wants.”

When he got to Bartlett’s he was putting his horse into the corral when he saw a horse he recognized.  It was Jonah’s horse. A boy who was fourteen and he was come a courting Mamie sure as shooting.

They were sitting on the porch when he got there and Billy said, “Jonah you should come down at the barn and check my horse.”

While down at the barn Billy said, “Jonah you should leave and not come back or there would be trouble because Mamie is my girl.”

When he got back to the house Bartlett asked where Jonah was and Billy said he had to go home.

Bartlett said, “That’s strange for he was going to have dinner with us,” then he went into the house and left Billy and Mamie on the porch.

He said to his wife, “It is sooner than I expected but it looks like the courting has begun,” and they both had to laugh at that.

A little later Mrs. Bartlett came out and asked if Billy wanted to stay the night and he said it was getting late so he would like to stay.  “I better go and take care of my horse and then I’ll be back.”

When he returned Bartlett decided to have some fun at Billy’s expense and said, “What are your intentions concerning my daughter?”

Billy laughed with him and said; “I don’t know, she ain’t told me yet.”

They both laughed at that and Bartlett said, ‘Yeah I know what you mean for she is just like her mother. Much of the time she tells me what I should think before I think it. They are both pretty smart but I guess they don’t mean any harm.”

Billy thought, “Maybe I should go home for this is getting out of hand.”

About then Mamie came in and said; “Time for dinner my Billy boy.”

He turned red because her parents heard her call him her Billy boy. She sat next to him and put her hand on his leg under the table several times until her mother told her to stop teasing Billy.

She acted as if she didn’t know what her mother was talking about. Her mother smiled at her and just said hmmm.

When around Billy alone she was shameless and kept him on the defensive most of the time.

The next day, before he went home, they saddled up their horses and went for a ride. When they came to the river they watered their horses and then they crossed over and went down to where the water was deeper.

They tied their horses to a bush and were throwing rocks into the water and Mamie said you smell and need a bath. This threw Billy for a loop and he didn’t know what to say about that. He knew he hadn’t bathe for a couple of days but didn’t think it was that noticeable.

Mamie said c’mon you’re going in and take a bath right now. Without giving him a chance to respond she started unbuttoning his shirt and when he tried to stop her she was unbuckling his gun belt and shortly he was standing with his pants down around his ankles. He tried to cover himself but she wasn’t having any of that.

He decided the best thing for him to do was to get into the water. She said get some sand and rub yourself down.

While he was washing himself he said, “You oughtn’t to have done that.”

She said, “You needed a bath so what’s the problem besides when we get married I’ll see you all the time.”

This irked him a bit and he said, “What about you miss smarty who knows everything.  Besides what would your farther think if he came along?”

She said, “I don’t know but in case he does; and with that she took her clothes off and told him to turn around and see what you get when we marry.”

He turned and looked at her, and couldn’t take his eyes off of her until she said, “You have seen enough,” as she jumped into the river and swam across and back.

She swam back to him and asked, “Are you embarrassed?”

Billy said, “Not anymore. I didn’t realized you were well on the way to becoming a full grown woman. She said there are plenty of girls my age who are already married and having kids.”

Billy said, “Well you aren’t going to be one of them I’ll tell you that right now.”

She said, “I know but since you have seen everything you will have to marry me now and by the way did you like what you saw.”

She had done it again for Billy was red as a beet from being embarrassed but he managed to say; “Very much so because I didn’t realized what I was getting until now.”

She laughed and said, “I’m getting a fine specimen for a husband I’m proud to say.”

She continued, “We better go I don’t want someone to come looking for us.”

They got out of the water and Billy just stared at her while she got dressed.

She laughed and said, “Take a good look for you won’t see it again until we marry.”

He said, “That’s okay I have a very good memory.”

When they got to her home they were still a bit wet and Mamie’s mother said, “Did you have a good swim?”

They looked at each other and she said, “Yes ma, a very good swim.”

Her mother said, “When your young man goes home I think you and I better have a talk and I hope Pa doesn’t have to talk to Billy, he won’t will he?”

Mamie smiled and said, “No ma, not yet,” and ran into the house.
To be Continued


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