The Lonely Cowboy (Trace Atkins Family)

BOOK: The Lonely Cowboy (Trace Atkins Family)
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Susan Leigh Carlton                                                                                                  about 15000 words

Tomball, TX

[email protected]

The Lonely Cowboy

by

Susan Leigh Carlton

Copyright

Susan Leigh Carlton 2013

Published by Amazon

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Chapter 1   The Lonely Life of a Rancher

             
The land office stood apart from the other buildings in the small town of Cimmarron.  It had very little business here in 1873.  Most of the homesteaders had given up trying to grow anything on the prairie surrounding Cimmaron.  About the only thing that would grow besides cattle was rocks and the thick rooted prairie grass.  Trace came out of the land office and started to climb into his buckboard.  He needed to stop at the general store and pick up some oats and other supplies.  Two men, their guns slung low and tied to their legs stood on the plank sidewalk. 

“Mr.
Clayton wants to talk to you, Atkins,” one said.

“What’s
he want?”

“He
wants to talk to you in his office.”

Trace
followed them to the office of Jess Clayton.

What
he wanted was the Rocking A Ranch. “I’ll give you $600 and a job working for me, Atkins.” 

“The
Rocking A isn’t for sale, Mr. Clayton.  Not for any price.”

“I
need that land, Atkins, and by God, I will have it.  If you won’t listen to reason then I’m not going to be responsible for what happens next,” Jess thundered.

“I
homesteaded the land, Mr. Clayton.  I proved it up and I have improved every year since I got back from the war.  I have all the papers.  My blood and sweat is on every foot of it.  My wife died and is buried on the Rocking A.  I’m not selling to any man.  Not you, not anyone.”

*
* *

They
came, just after midnight.  Riding low and riding hard.  There were six of them, silhouetted by the waning moon.  He had known they would come.  They came to a stop in front of the small cabin, their horses chuffing and snorted, their flanks white with perspiration from the hard ride.  A mist came from their noses.

“Trace
Atkins… Come out.  We mean you no harm.”

No
answer.

“Atkins,
be reasonable.  Mr. Clayton made you a reasonable offer for this miserable piece of land.  Come on out and lets talk.”

No
answer.

A
torch was lit and thrown on the porch.  Soon, bright flames were licking at the wall by the front window.  The men circled the small ranch house and began shooting into the openings.  Louder shots rang out, from a rifle.  Two men fell from their saddle.  The others regrouped, not knowing the source of the rifle shots.  They turned toward the barn, deciding it must be the hiding place.  They moved in that direction.  Another rifle shot, another man fell from his saddle.   One man shouted, “I’m getting out of here.  He can pick us off one at a time.  Clayton can do his own dirty work.”  They turned their horses toward town, riding just as hard as they had when they were riding in.

Trace
Atkins stood in the opening of the barn loft.  He was not smiling.  He’d had enough killing in the war.  He would do what was necessary to safeguard his land.  For now, he would be sleeping in the barn while he rebuilt his cabin.

*
* *

After
church, Trace stood talking to the preacher.  “That sure was a hellfire and brimstone sermon today, Preacher.”

“Well,
I just hope it does some good.  Seems like there are more temptations today than ever before.  I don’t know what is going to become of today’s kids.

How
are you doing, Trace?  I heard about your troubles with Jess Clayton.  You watch your back, now hear?  Ole Jess, he doesn’t give up easy.”

“I’m
doing okay, Preacher.  It’s awful lonely out there with no one to talk to except my horse and the cattle.  It’s been that way ever since Clara died.  I don’t know that’ll ever change though.”

“Have
you considered getting married again?”

“Preacher,
I ain’t got nothing to offer a woman.  All I got is that hardscrabble homestead and it looks like I’m going to have to fight to keep it.  This country is too hard and rough to bring a woman to.  It just plain wears them out.  Doc Taylor said Clara died from what he called the wearies.  He said she was just plain worn out.”

“Well,
there’s several women here in Cimmaron whose husbands didn’t come back from the war.  Just like you, they’re lonely.”

“Aw,
Preacher, I don’t know.  It just seems like too much trouble.”

“Hogwash.
  You need a partner.  We’re having a social after church next Sunday.  I expect to see you there.”

*
* *

The
next Sunday, Trace put on his best pair of pants and the least worn shirt he owned.  He shaved and rubbed in some bay rum as he’d seen the barbers do.  Clara had bought the bay rum before she died but he never used it.  Like so many things, it just seemed like too much trouble.

After
the sermon, the members of the congregation staying for the social brought out the makings they had brought to eat.  They were put on a large picnic table under the trees.  The kids were running around, the boys chasing the girls, the girls pretending to be upset when they were caught.  The younger ones played on the swing and the makeshift slide.

“Preacher,
I didn’t bring anything.  I’m just going to run on home.  I got some chores that need doing.”

“Nonsense,
Trace.  Now come on.  There’s one particular woman I want you to meet.”  He led Trace over to the group of ladies and signaled to one that was working by herself to come join them.  She adjusted her bonnet and walked over to them.

“Sarah,
this is Trace Atkins. Trace, this is Sarah Bartlett.  Sarah lives on a ranch outside of Cimmaron.”

The
woman Trace saw was beautiful by any standard.  Compared to most of the women in Cimmaron she was a goddess.  Her long blonde hair and green eyes with gold flecks and a face with a flawless complexion made her the most beautiful woman Trace had ever seen.  Though she wore a long, loose fitting dress, it did not conceal the curves of her body.  Ashamed of his thoughts, Trace flushed, said, “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”

What
Sarah saw was a man who was ruggedly handsome. There was not an ounce of fat on him.  His skin was tanned by the sun and there were lines in the corner of his eyes from squinting into the sun..  His blue eyes contrasting with skin that was a golden tan made him a really handsome man.  He appeared totally unaware of this fact.  He looked uneasy and embarrassed.  She smiled at his discomfort.   “It’s my pleasure, Mr. Atkins.”

“Sarah
lost her husband at Gettysburg, Trace.”

“I
was at Gettysburg,” Trace said softly.  “I was with the Texas Brigade, we lost a lot of good men those three days.  What was your husband’s name?”

“He
was Captain Joshua Bartlett.  He was at Manassas too, and he was killed on the second day at Gettysburg.”

Trace
said, “I knew him as Major Bartlett then.  I was maybe fifty feet away from him when he got hit.  I was hit in the shoulder right after that.  We lost a lot of men that day.  We gave as good as we got, but we lost too many good men and boys that day.”

“I’d
like for you to tell me about it if it isn’t too painful for you to remember.”

“It’s
hard to talk about.  It was not a pretty sight.  We were going right into their cannons and they cut us down like mowing hay.”

They
sat under the tree talking most of the afternoon.  Her two boys came running up to them at the tree, dirty, red faced and sweat stained.  She introduced them to Trace.  “Boys this is Mr. Atkins.  He knew your father.  He was wounded at Gettysburg too.  Mr. Atkins, this is Thomas and this is Joshua.  Say hello to Mr. Atkins, boys.”

“You
knew my papa, Mr. Atkins?” Joshua asked.

“Yes,
I knew him some.  Corporals don’t talk much to Majors.”

“Our
papa was a Captain, Mr. Atkins.”

“Yes
he was but he got promoted to Major after Manassas.

“Can
you show us where the Yankees shot you Mr. Atkins?” asked Thomas.

“Thomas!”
a shocked Sarah Bartlett said.  “You should not ask a question like that.”

“It’s
all right, Mrs Bartlett.  He pointed to a place on his left shoulder and said it was right here.  It still hurts  a little when it rains.”

“Wow,”
said Thomas.

“Boys,
get your things together, we’ve got to be going now.”  Turning to Trace, she said, “Thank you Mr. Atkins.  I really appreciate your telling me about Gettysburg.”

“You’re
welcome, Mrs. Bartlett.  Mrs. Bartlett,” he said nervously,  “Would it be all right if I called on you?”

“I’d
like that Mr. Atkins.  I think I’d like that very much.”  She gave him directions to her ranch

*
* *

Thank
you, Preacher for introducing me to Mr. Atkins.  He seems to be a very nice man.”

The
preacher beamed.  “Sarah, there’s not a finer man in the state of Texas.  He’s had a hard time since his Clara died.  She held on until he got back from the war.  A few months after he got home, she died one evening.  She was just plumb wore out.  She was never really strong but she held things together and kept their place going.  When he got home, she had nothing left to give.”

“Did
they have children?” she asked.

“No,
they were never blessed with children.  I’m glad you liked him, Sarah.  He needs someone just like you.  Your boys need a papa and he’d make a mighty fine one.”

“Well
thank you again, Preacher.”  She turned and headed for their buckboard.

*
* *

Back
home, Trace took care of his horse

Two
weeks later, on Saturday evening, he called on Sarah Bartlett.  She lived in the same ranch house she had shared with her late husband.  As he rode under the arches marking the entrance to her property, his first thought was, “Boy, you are out of your element here.”  He could see cattle grazing off on both sides of the lane approaching the ranch house.  The water was too precious to be wasted on such things as decorative shrubs, however he did see a small rose garden that showed lots of loving care.  A dog came out barking at the stranger that dared encroach on his property. One of the boys came to see what was disturbing the dog and saw the cloud of dust signaling the approach of someone. 

“Rider
coming, Mama,”  he cried out. Sarah came to the porch and looked toward the drive.  “That’s Mr. Atkins.  Go see if he needs any help seeing to his horse.” 

“Yes
ma’am,”  Thomas said. “Come on Josh.”  They hurried out to the barn showed Trace the location of the water trough.  He tied the big roan to the hitching post where he could reach the trough.

“Would you like for us to give him some oats, sir?”

“I don’t think that is necessary, right now.  Thank you boys.”

Thomas brought  a curry brush and brushed the horse down.  Trace could see the boys were comfortable around horses.  He stayed with them

 

“You
have  a nice home, Mrs Bartlett,” Trace said.  “Since I was burned out, I’ve been bunking in the barn.  It’s pretty comfortable in there.

“After
they burned me out the other night, I ‘m  bunking in the barn.”

“I
would have no problem with you staying with  us,  We certainly have the room.” 

“I
couldn’t do that.  They would say I ‘m not living there and take it over.” 

“What
are you going to do with the ranch, Trace?’

“I
don’t know, but Clara is there and I’m not letting Clayton have it.  I’ll start rebuilding the cabin.”

“Is
there anything we can do to help?  I can spare a couple of hands to help do that.”

“I’d
appreciate that.  I’ll get the lumber and stuff ordered and let you know.  I’ve thought some about building with stone this time.  I’ve certainly got plenty of that.”

“Whatever
you decide, I’m sure the people at the church will help too.”

“Thank
you.  I appreciate it.  I reckon I better head back.  I’ve got to feed and water the livestock.  I would like to call on you again, Mrs Bartlett.

“I
would be disappointed if you didn’t, but on one condition only.  You must call me Sarah.”

“He
laughed.  Okay… Sarah.  Thank you for a pleasant evening.  It’s nice to have someone to talk to besides my horse.  And, you’re a lot prettier.”

Her
cheeks colored with embarrassment.  “Thank you Trace.  It’s nice to hear a compliment.  There’s not many of them around here.”

They
stood, and she walked with him to the front porch.  He extended his hand, smiled and said, “Thanks again, Sarah.”. 

BOOK: The Lonely Cowboy (Trace Atkins Family)
11.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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