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By Bo Drury
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
she waited for him to come for her...He was not staying...she was on her own
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Boone pushed the wooden gate open and rode through into the barren yard that led to the ramshackle house. Wind gusts sent tumbleweeds skimming across the crusted dirt as he rode up to the wooden porch. Squeaking windmill blades added to the forlorn feel of the place. It looked deserted except for the thin trail of smoke that rose from the chimney and vanished in the blue summer sky overhead.
Swinging down from the saddle, Boone froze when he heard the clicking sound of a rifle being cocked. He called out,
“My gosh, Josie, it’s me, Boone.”
He jumped when the rifle boomed and dirt kicked up at his heels. Grabbing the reins of his startled horse he attempted to calm him down while keeping his eye on the rifle sticking through the open window.
“Welcome home Boone.” Came a sweet southern drawl from the doorway as a golden haired girl stepped onto the porch.
The ragged jeans and faded shirt she wore did little to hide the fullness of her young body, nor the fact she was no longer the little girl he had left there three years before. He couldn’t believe what his eyes were telling him.
She stood there smiling a full minute before dashing across the space between them and throwing herself into his arms. He dropped the reins and held her as she smothered his face with girlish kisses.
“Boone.” she cried,” I thought you’d never come for me.”
Disengaging himself from a tangle of arms and legs he sat her back on the porch and held her at arms length. Tears of happiness streaked down her face.
“I’m sorry it took so long Josie, It took your letter a long time to catch up to me.”
Holding his hand she pulled him inside, then suddenly overcome with shyness she dropped it and stood looking at him at a loss of what to say or do.
Wringing her hands together she asked,
“Are ya hungry, I have beans and fried corn mush, it’s fresh, I just cooked it.”
“Sounds good Josie.” He could see she had been struggling to survive.
She busied herself serving up a plate for him and placing it on the table she sat down and watched him, her elbows on the table and chin resting on the palm of her hands. He was hungry and meager though it was, it had a good flavor. Someone had taught Josie how to cook. He cleaned his plate and took seconds. When he was through he leaned back and watched Josie as she cleaned up.
“How have you managed to get by all this time since Ma and Pa died?” He asked as he rolled a cigarette. He really wanted to know. The place was run down but it was clean and neat and she seemed well fed. She sure wasn’t thin anyhow.
“It wasn’t easy. I had to sell off nearly everything to hang on to the place for ya, but I did it Boone. It’s free and clear. Not nothing owed against it.” She said her voice full of pride.
He struck a match under the wooden table and lit his smoke watching her as she explained it to him. Surprised he exclaimed,
“Sure…Pa said to me before he died,” she went on, tears in her eyes, “Hang on til Boone gets here, it’s all I got in the world to leave ‘im. So I promised I would.” A tear slid down her face. Boone didn’t know what to say.
“You been here alone all this time?”
“Well who did ya thinks gonna be here with me?” she asked surprised and waited for his answer. Boone didn’t say anything and she went on,
”Pa said a man’s only got three things that is important in this life, his word, his family, and his land. As long as ya got those you’ll be okay, but without ‘em it would be a powerful useless life. Never leave the land and you’ll always have a home, he said, you can survive there.”
Boone got up and walked to the door and looked out on the dried up farm. Pa scratched out a living here for years and what did it get him...a broken down body and a burying ground. That’s not for me he thought as he turned back to Josie who stood behind him looking out across the yard.
“I buried ‘em up yonder under the bodart tree. Ya wanta go pay your respects?” she asked softly,” I’ll wait here and let you have time alone with ‘em.”
Boone had not given any thought to where they were buried; his main concern after the initial shock was Josie. He had grieved and put it away, but now he would go and say his goodbyes for Josie’s sake as well as his own. He walked slowly up the hill to the big tree where he had played growing up. Many hours he had spent under this tree dreaming of the places he wanted to see and things he wanted to do. Being a farmer was not one of them. He squatted down and looked at the simple headstones placed on the graves. Josie had placed the words ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ on them as well as their names and birth and death dates. They were the only Mother and Father she ever had. He remembered the day Pa had brought her home bundled up in a pink and blue Quilt. He was so curious what was in there. He was five years old.
Her parents had been killed when the wagon train they were in had been attacked by Indians. Josie was the only survivor. No one knew who they were. Most of the families around had a houseful already so Pa brought her home to us, Ma and Me. That was nearly eighteen years ago. Time had passed all too fast. He suddenly felt an ache in his heart for these two he loved so much. He had stayed away too long. He wondered if his Dad had needed him. He stood up and walked away, his vision blurred as he stumbled down the hill.
Josie watched from the porch. How she loved him. She didn’t just hold the farm for him, she held herself for him, too. Ma had said, when he gets the wanderlust out of his system he’ll be back, Josie girl. Just wait and see, he will come back to his roots.
“Where’s that old mutt, Rascal?” he asked as he come up on the porch.
Josie laughed, “He has a girl friend over at the Turners place. Been gone for a few days courting. He’ll be back, wore out and beat up by the competition, but he’ll be okay. He knows where home is.”
Boone sat down on the steps and reaching over picked up some pebbles from the ground and threw them one by one skimming across the packed dirt.
Josie watched him from the porch bench.
“I guess we will sell the place, get you settled in town.”
“You can’t do that.” Josie cried as she jumped to her feet and looked down on him in amazement. “You can’t be serious, this is our home.”
“I’m not a farmer Josie. I am not staying here, look what it did to the folks. It killed ‘em and for what?”
“I can’t believe you Boone. This place is a part of them, they loved it here. It meant everything to your Dad.”
“Well not to me.” he said emphatically, and getting up walked off toward the barn.
Josie could not believe what he had said. She looked around at her surroundings. He didn’t see what she saw, the rains coming and the crops growing, a man and woman working side by side, children playing in the yard, loving one another, growing old together, just like Ma and Pa, she saw a home and security with the land. She was blinded by the tears that filled her eyes and ran unchecked down her face. She would not let him do this. Somehow she had to hang on.
The afternoon turned into night and Josie lit the lamp. Boone didn’t come back to the house. Josie climbed the ladder to her loft room and lay in the dark thinking of what was to come. She heard Boone come in and the light below went out. The night seemed endless.
With daylight she climbed down and stoked up the fire and made coffee and waited on the porch for Boone to wake up. She had a plan, she would buy the farm from him and he could go, and with him all her dreams. She fought the tears. She would never let him know her heart was broken. This was not the Boone she remembered.
The door opened and Boone stepped out, a cup in his hand. Seeing the dejected little figure in the old rocker he said,
“I’m sorry Josie.”
“I’ll buy the farm from you.” She stated quietly.
“With what?” he asked in surprise, “Match sticks?”
Her eyes flashed in anger as she looked up at him.
“I’ll figure out a way. I am not giving up my home.” she said heatedly.
Boone shook his head and leaned against the porch post. “You got no business out here by yourself.”
“I managed for eighteen months without any help, I’m sure I can manage the rest of my life, too.”
Seeing the anger and the pain on her face Boone realized how serious she was.
“You don’t have to buy it Josie; I’ll sign it over to you. It belongs more to you than to me anyhow.”
Josie turned her stricken face away from him. She wanted to strike him and scream and throw things but knew it would be pointless. He didn’t care about the farm or her. She said nothing, then heard him go back inside. When he came out he said to her,
“I’m sorry you’ve had to manage on your own, Josie. I wrote out a bill of sale for the place and I left you some money to help out for a little while.” He saw her shoulders stiffen as he talked. “I’m gonna hit the trail, I’ll be in touch.” He stepped off the porch.
She spoke up, “You’re like tumbleweed, Boone. Ya broke loose and now you’re going whichever way the wind blows. Getting nowhere, going nowhere, just like those tumbleweeds out there.” She said sadly. “I love ya Boone and I’ve waited on you to come home. Whose gonna mourn you when you die on the trail. You’ll lie in an unmarked grave and they will put nothing on your headstone. They’ll never even know you passed through there on you’re way to nowhere.” Her voice choked as she talked.
Boone walked on to the barn and saddled up his horse and tied his bedroll and pack behind the saddle. Mounting up he rode toward the gate. His gaze swept the farm and up the hill to the bodart tree and the headstones that marked the folks resting place. He remembered the loving glances they had for one another, the pride and the tenderness. He remembered, and then put it away with all the other memories of his past. He opened the gate and rode through and looked down the long trail ahead. As he shut the gate he heard her call out,
She stood, a lonely little golden haired girl. She waved.
He turned and rode away. Where was he going? He thought of the things Josie had told him. Things his pa had said about family and the land. Josie was his family. She offered it all to him when she said she loved him. All he had to show for all his roaming was what he had tied to his saddle.
What was he afraid of? Turning out like his dad? Thinking about it his dad had everything. He worked hard, yeah, but he had a woman that loved him, a warm bed and someone to share it. He had food on the table that he raised with his own two hands and he had his pride. Pride in what he had done with his life, in the legacy he was leaving for those he loved. And here he was walking away from it.
A tumbleweed blew across his path and bounced down the road before him going nowhere. Then veered to the left and caught in the fencerow with others of its kind.
Boone stopped and watched as it burrowed deeper into the mass. It’ll take root there, he thought.
He turned sideways in his saddle, hooking his leg over the horn and taking out the makings he rolled a cigarette. He sat there, his horse stamping his feet impatient to go. Boone looked down the endless road before him, then looked back the other way from where he came.
He mashed out his smoke between his fingers and sat straight in his saddle, turning around he could see she still stood there looking after him. He sat there a minute then said,
”What the hell, even a tumbleweed has to stop someplace.”
He spurred the horse to a gallop.
He had come home.
© 2007 Bo Drury
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