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Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Fourth Man - Chapter 6


We Needed a Pacing Horse
 

The new buggy works fine

Sunday arrived and Sarah insisted we go to church. One of the hands hitched up the team and drove it to the front hitching post.  Billy climbed up into the front seat with me and Sarah sat with Missy in the back.

I soon decided I needed some pacers to pull the new buggy for the saddle horses were too slow and wrong gaited. They could run loping but were not the even gaited horses for a smooth ride.

I sent Jim to Kentucky to find some pacing horses for he knew something about the breed. It took a while but the breeders finally realized they couldn’t sell him their inferior nags for Jim knew all about all kinds of horses. 
When Jim started to walk away without buying, they brought out their best stock. He got carried away and bought a stud and several mares.
He fell in love with the fine brood mares and was going to breed them for sale in our part of the country.

I went to town with a couple of hands to help bring them to the ranch. Instead of driving them like a Remuda Jim had us lead them to the ranch.

I was surprised that he bought so many but trusted his judgment. He was so taken by the smooth gait of the horses he picked out two of the mares to use with our buggy and spent time with them getting them used to our gear.

One trip to town was all it took to convince me he had done the right thing by buying these fine horses. He wanted a large corral and a new large barn to house them in. I just went along with him and let him do what he wanted to do.
Sunday was church time

Sarah had been in church since she was a child and had been a regular attendee until she made the mistake of marrying the cad she married.

Our first trip to church was interesting. There was a lot of whispering and ogling of my family.  We walked in as if we were old time members and made our selves at home. When after the service the minister acted as if he knew us then there was even more gossip started.

When we had a private moment I thought I should explain things to the minister. I told him, “Sarah’s first husband was dead and when he married us it was her second marriage.

I’m the father of the children now and I didn’t want anyone to say otherwise. I further stressed this point by saying these are my children and I’m the father of them. That is all anyone needs to know and nothing else matters. What I’ve told you is for your information only not for anyone else and I expect you to keep it to yourself.”

He said, “Enough said, I will speak of this to no one but I’m glad you told me just in case someone brings it up to me.”

He seemed to be a man of his word and I trusted him. Sarah on the way home said she was glad I told the minister but one thing I said bothered her.

“Are you sure my ex-husband is dead?”

I said, ‘Yes absolutely sure.”
“Did you have anything to do with it?”
“No, no I didn’t do it or have it done, because he cheated a card shark and the man killed him.”
She said, “Good,” and that is all she has ever said about it.

I told the preacher I didn’t know how often we would make it to church but will come as often as possible.

He said, “Well you surely come in style. Those pacers and that new buggy are as good as I have ever seen and I was in Boston for some time where they have the best.”

When we arrived home we were hungry. Chen’s wife had the table sat and soon she had the food on the table. I had to ask Chen her name again and he said, “Her name, Mai Chen.”
I said, “Like My Chen?” and he said, “Yes like My Chen.”
 
Jim’s new project

Jim had another idea about breeding horses. It wasn’t new but he had a different twist on it. He brought in several mustang mares he had rounded up that were running wild. He made sure they were sound and about two or three year old. He built another corral for them and bought a couple Arabian studs to breed them to.

His idea was to end up with one quarter mustang and three quarter Arabian. And sell them to the army. This was a ten year project but was finally successful. They were mustang tough with Arabian conformation.

This man loved horses and I tried to partner up with him on these projects but he wanted just to be the ranch foreman because I let him do whatever he wanted to do. I let him set his own salary but he didn’t abuse the privilege. He took enough for his personal needs and he had a girlfriend he took care of in town.

I did it.
Sarah and I were in bed and she was snuggling up close to me and said, “Well you’ve done it.”

I didn’t have the slightest idea what she was talking about.
She said, “You have gone and gotten me pregnant.”

“Got you pregnant? You mean you’re with child?”
She said, “Yes I am.”

I didn’t know what to think. At first I thought, “I have done something wrong. Then I said no its alright what I did… I got her pregnant.”

She said, “I was teasing you. Are you as happy as I am?”
I said, “Let this announcement settle in…are you sure?”
She said, “As sure as I can be.”
I couldn’t believe it I am going to be the father of a child of my own.

I assured Sarah I was thrilled but at the same time something was bothering me. I was wondering how having a child of my own would affect my feelings for my step children.

I love those kids but this adds a different dimension to everything. Seems every time I turn around, Sarah’s ex gives me cause for reflection even though he is gone.

I knew I wouldn’t ever show partiality but would it be fomenting below the surface.

For the next few days this was in the forefront of my thinking. My conclusion to the matter came last evening when Missy climbed up into my lap. She was picking at my neckerchief trying to untie it and as I held her.  I knew I could never love any child more than I loved her or Billy who had become my buddy.

Yet there was a difference to be dealt with. It was a matter of blood relationship. It will be natural for me to love my own flesh and blood. This was beyond my smarts for I’m just a young cowboy who has survival skills but lacking in schooling where some of this stuff could be sorted out.

I had to face this conundrum with what smarts I had and the fact that knowing the cows only cared for their own calves didn’t help. In the middle of the night the answer I have decided to live with came to me. Sometimes you have to make a decision and let the feelings catch up to it as time goes by.

I realized there is more than one kind of love. And they can be equal if you deem it to be. I will love my child for one reason and my step children for another. The two need not be in conflict with one another but rather enlarge one’s capacity for love.

Accepting this concept allows me to love all my kids without being preferential. Of all the issues in my life so far this was the one that haunted me the most for it required complete honesty with my feelings.

With other issues a certain amount of guile crept in but there was no place for it to be found in this equation. The next few months were to be honest, a drag.

With the animals the time it took to have their offspring didn’t affect me at all. They were bred and then they had an offspring but this was completely different for I was sleeping with the future mother of my child. She liked to snuggle up to me and I could feel the baby moving. At first that was unnerving to say the least.

The time came when we sent for the doctor and she presented me with a son of my own. We decided on James Riley for a name and I know it was going to be interesting to watch him grow up to be a man. James was small and he would have a lot of catching up to do to become rooted in my heart like Billy and Missy was.

I found this to be strange because my feelings for him were very shallow at present. Sarah felt a much deeper love for him than I did.

I didn’t dare express these feelings out loud but I was honest with myself. Day by day I began to grow to have stronger feeling for him.

By six months I couldn’t put him down and would take him out to the barn with me. He responded to the chickens the most. By the time he was walking and beginning to try to talk he had completely won me and the other kids over.
I would sometimes hold all three of the kids and look at their mother and think of how lucky I was to have my wonderful family.  There was very little of my father left in me. Some of his strong traits would show up but none of the hardness that I grew up with.

I felt a little guilty at times when thinking I’m glad Sarah’s husband threw her out for otherwise I would never found her.

I owe Chen for being smart enough to see beyond the obvious and being able to see the family I have now.

His words echo in my mind; “You like cleaning lady?”
To be Continued

 

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