Jeannie, A Texas Frontier Girl, Book Four is the last in the Jeannie book series. In the exciting adventures of the final book these are questions to be answered:
Will seventeen-year-old Jeannie begin a horse ranch with Slim as her foreman? Will Helga become a schoolteacher? Will Billy Joe and Helga marry? Will Jack or Slim win Jeannie's hand in marriage or will she NOT EVEN get married? What about Ma and Pa? What has happened to Henry and Linda Mae? What has happened to Prairie Flower and Gray Wolf, Melissa and Esther and the other children? How will the discovery of oil in the Ranger and Eastland, Texas, area affect the lives of Jeannie and her friends?
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Chapter 1 “Building A Ranch House” West Texas May 1889 “Oh, my! Look how fast they are putting the roof on your house, Jeannie,” Helga said, giving her best friend a hug. While standing at the new water well, the girls looked to the roof above and watched the menfolks hammering on roof boards, and placing them around a stone chimney on the east wall of the clapboard ranch house. “Uh-huh, Jeannie said, shaking her head. “I just can’t believe my new house will be ready for me to move into by tomorrow.” Jeannie dipped a gourd dipper in the water bucket sitting on the circular rim of the well and offered it to Helga. After drinking the cool liquid, Helga dipped more water for Jeannie. “Well, when Pastor Thompson mentioned to the menfolks that you could use some help last Sunday, you could expect they would all turn out to help you,” Helga said confidently. “I’m so thankful,” Jeannie murmured, sipping the water. She stared ahead with a far away look in her eyes. “ Oh, grannies! Give me a little pinch, Helga. After all these years of hoping and planning--at last--I can begin to think of having my, very own, horse ranch.” “ Ja, (yes), but I knew you’d get it someday,” Helga said, smiling. “You are just that determined, once you set your mind on doing something. Let’s sit under that oak tree. I see some empty cane-bottomed chairs.” Helga took Jeannie by the arm and strolled with her toward the oak tree. “Helga,” Jeannie said, “sometimes I used to wonder whether your Pa would sell me this land, especially when his friend, Mr. Belton, from Eastland wanted it.” “ Well, your poppa and my poppa are good friends, too,” Helga reminded. “They also have adjoining ranches, and my poppa knew you’d be a good neighbor.” Helga smoothed her taffy-colored hair away from her face. She paused a moment lost in thought. “You know, Jeannie, it’s hard for me to think about not being in school any more as a student.” “Yes, ma’am,” Jeannie said, sighing. “I reckon graduating from school two years ago was a sure sign we’d grown up.” Jeannie leaned the back of her chair against the trunk of the old oak tree and watched a yellow Monarch butterfly settle on a cluster of bluebonnets growing wild in the spring grass. For a moment, her eyes held a faraway look. “Sometimes I think about these last few years, since you and your ma came from Germany, after she saw Mr. Markham’s ad in the paper saying he wanted a housekeeper for his ranch.” Helga nodded and said, “Ja, when my poppa died, Mutter (Mother) thought it would be a good idea for us to come to America and start a new life. And so, we did.” Helga turned and gave her friend a questioning look. “You know what I like to think about?” “No, what?” Jeannie asked, gazing back at Helga. “I like to think about our last year in school. So much happened that year. Do you remember when Little Fawn taught us how to weave Comanche Indian baskets, and then Gray Wolf, her little son, took your hound dog Junior and my dog Lady, Junior’s mutter, and his sister Cutie-Pie to go hunting? Gray Wolf had such a worried look on his face when they all came running back.” Jeannie smiled, remembering. “Well, Gray Wolf was afraid he’d killed Junior with the arrow he shot at the rabbit,” she said. “He missed the rabbit and hit Junior in his foot. But Little Fawn’s Indian medicine, sure enough, fixed Junior’s foot. In no time at all, he was up running around again and acting a little ornery, just like his pa, Ole Blue, my childhood pet. I sure do miss Ole Blue.” Jeannie gave a soft sigh. “Ja, he was a good dog,” Helga said. “And he was brave too. He saved us from a rattlesnake when you and I were riding our horses near the Leon River.” “Yep, then later on, that very same rattler killed Ole Blue.” Jeannie sighed again. “But after their bad fight, even when he was snake-bit, Ole Blue managed to kill that mean rattler.” There was pride in Jeannie’s voice. “And now we have Ole Blue’s children. You have Junior and Princess, and Billy Joe has Hunter, and there is Lady and Cutie Pie with me,” Helga said, trying to sound cheerful. “It does help to have Ole Blue’s children,” Jeannie agreed. “And I have Morning Star, the son of your stallion, Diamond. I ride Morning Star, now that his mutter, Susie, is getting older.” Helga chuckled, and said, “Diamond and his son can run like the wind.” “They sure can,” Jeannie agreed, still lost in thought. After a few moments, Helga’s brow wrinkled into a frown. “Do you remember when we taught Gray Wolf and his little sister Prairie Flower the alphabet and got them all ready for school? And then, Vernon Wilson and his brother Eli and his twin sisters, Ruby and Pearl, were unkind to the children? I was so angry with them.” “So was I,” Jeannie said with a stern look in her eyes, “but Mrs. Thompson had a talk with Vernon, and then he told his brother and sisters to be friendly with the Indian children.” “Good thing, too,” Helga said. “Poppa says Eagle Feather is a wonderful ranch hand, and his wife Little Fawn has been a great help to Mutter. She helped her when she gave birth to my little three-year-old brother, Frankie. Little Fawn and Mutter are good friends.” Jeannie smiled, remembering another time. “I was really happy when Little Fawn gave me the Indian doeskin dress that she made especially for my birthday. Gray Wolf said he tanned the deer hide, and Prairie Flower said she sewed on the beads.” “I love to see you wear that dress. You look pretty in it.” Helga reached over and gave Jeannie a hug. “Remember when you wore it to the Fourth of July party to celebrate my mutter and Poppa Markham’s wedding anniversary---and it was also my birthday? Then Mr. and Mrs. Decker were so upset to see you wearing the dress, because their little son had been tortured and killed by Comanche Indians, even though, that sad thing happened many years ago.” Jeannie pushed a strand of yellow hair away from her face and tucked it in the bun at the nape of her neck. “Yes, and your pa mentioned how Mr. Wilson had been wounded in the leg by an Apache arrow when he was soldiering at Fort Apache,” Jeannie replied. “And he said Eagle Feather had lost all his relatives in the Indian wars. And then, my pa said we all had grievances from the past, but we should all try to get along now.” “Ja, and that’s what we’re all doing. I’m glad about that,” Helga said. “I like wearing my dress for special times,” Jeannie continued. “I remember it was after the party on that very same day that Slim, your pa’s ranch foreman, rode over to the house and gave me a beautiful saddle for Diamond.” “I think Diamond likes that saddle,” Helga said, smiling again. Jeannie nodded. “I’m sure he will be a good stud for my ranch. You know how he loves to run. And he has lots of energy. He got me away from that mountain lion in a big hurry the day after we had that terrible cyclone a few years ago.” “Ja. Then your pa and my poppa went after the mountain lion and killed it.” There was a tone of sadness in Helga’s voice. “I know,” Jeannie said, looking at her friend’s solemn face. “But they had to do it, Helga. He was a mean one, and it’s possible he could have hurt someone or some other critter.” Jeannie rushed on with another memory. “I can’t forget how scared I was when Pa was bit by a snake in our barn, and Henry and Ma worked fast to get rid of the poison in his arm.” “Ja, and what about the time Slim was gored by that longhorn cow when he and Poppa and the cowboys were branding the little calves?” Helga shuddered and said, “That was a real scare for me.” “Oh, grannies! Me, too!” Jeannie exclaimed. “It was your ma and Little Fawn who doctored Slim’s ribs and helped him heal up. I was very afraid for awhile that we would lose him, and I was also worried, because he was supposed to be my ranch foreman someday.” “He’s good and strong again now,” Helga said, looking to the house. “I can see him up there on the roof, hammering away on those boards.” “Yep, Slim, sure enough, is a good worker. I think he’ll be a good ranch foreman. I just hope your pa doesn’t mind him coming to work for me.” Jeannie turned anxious eyes to her friend. “No, Poppa doesn’t mind,” Helga reassured. “Eagle Feather will take over from Slim, and Waco will give him a hand with Poppa’s ranch work.” “I’m mighty glad about that,” Jeannie said with relief. “And I’m real happy that you’ve almost finished your education to be a licensed schoolteacher. I know you’ll be a good one.” “Thank you, Jeannie.” Helga gave her friend’s arm a gentle squeeze. “I’m looking forward to taking over for Pastor Thompson. He and Mrs. Thompson are very busy ministering to the needs of so many new folks moving in and around Shinoaks and out here in the country, too.” Helga shrugged and went on, “They just don’t have time to teach school anymore.” Jeannie glimpsed a small fuzzy-tailed squirrel scurrying around in the branches of her live oak tree and smiled. She loved all little critters. Then she turned to Helga and looked her friend straight in the eyes and whispered in a teasing voice, “I think the best part of all these memories is that you and Billy Joe are half-way engaged; now, isn’t that true, Helga?” Helga’s face colored a bright red. She bit her lower lip nervously and murmured, “Yes--but it’s still a little secret. We haven’t announced it to anyone yet.” “Oh, grannies! I’ll keep your secret, Helga,” Jeannie said, grinning. She gave Helga a warm hug. “I won’t tell. After all, we ARE best friends.” “Ja, always, we will be best friends,” Helga said, smiling again. Chapter 2 “Putting the House in Order” “Jeannie, dear, I’m going to arrange these staples and jars of canned vegetables from my garden right here on these pantry shelves,” Ma said, reaching to place the items on the shelves. “Thanks, Ma,” Jeannie said, as she finished putting dishes in her kitchen cabinet. “Whew! Let’s sit down Ma and have a cup of coffee and a piece of your delicious blackberry cobbler. I’m tired.” Jeannie took plates, cups, and the coffeepot to the table. She brushed past Pa who had just finished putting cane-bottomed chairs around the little kitchen table. Quickly, Pa reached over and gave her long, yellow braid a little yank. Then he grinned mischievously. “I’m mighty glad you’re wearing your hair in a braid today,” he said, sitting down. “I shore do love to yank on it.” “Well, I’ve been too busy all this month to coil it around the back of my neck. But I expect, I’ll do it tomorrow morning,” Jeannie said, grinning; and with a pert little toss of her head, she sat down in a new chair beside Pa and poured him a cup of coffee. “I sure do thank you for making these cane-bottomed chairs for me,” she said, reaching over and giving him a hug and a peck on his cheek. “They are very nice. And the table is pretty, too, Pa. You do mighty good work!” Fondly, Pa rubbed his black chin whiskers against Jeannie’s cheek. “I can’t believe you’re already seventeen going on eighteen, and now you have your own place.” Pa shook his head. “It took us men all month to get everything done. It’s the first of June tomorrow, and I reckon, we can say we’re done all the necessary things.” Pa glanced about the kitchen with a satisfied smile. Jeannie poured cream in her coffee and turned her eyes to Pa. “I sure appreciate it. I’m beholding to everyone,” she said gratefully. “And especially, to you and Ma. I know if it hadn’t been for Ma and you giving me some of her inheritance money to buy this land from Mr. Markham, why, I wouldn’t have my wonderful horse ranch!” Jeannie paused a moment. “And I don’t think Henry and his wife, Linda Mae, would be prospering on that nice piece of land y’all gave him, if it hadn’t been for some of Ma’s inheritance money to help him get started.” “Well, dear, we were glad to help you both,” Ma said, carrying the cobbler pie to the table. She sat across from Pa and Jeannie and cut each of them a piece of pie. Then she cut one for herself and waited as Jeannie poured her a cup of coffee. “Since I was my niece’s only living relative, she was kind enough to remember me in her will,” Ma said. “You’ll remember, I was as shocked as anyone else when I received that letter in the mail asking me to come to Houston to settle her estate.” Jeannie nodded and brushed a pesky fly away from her face. She took several forks and spoons from the glass jar in the middle of the table and gave her parents a set and kept one for herself. “Henry and I missed you and Pa when you were gone. I know I said it was just a ‘bird’s nest on the ground’ to take care of the home place until y’all returned, but I really was not that confident,” she confessed. Ma reached across the table and patted Jeannie’s hand. “You both did a fine job,” she said. “The house was neat and clean. You surprised me by washing and ironing the kitchen curtains too. It’s not easy to iron clothes and other things with that heavy black iron that you have to continue heating on the stove to keep it hot. It cools off in a hurry. I hope someday, someone finds a better way to make an iron, so that ironing clothes will become an easier task.” Ma sighed and looked at Jeannie’s little stove thoughtfully and took a small bite of pie. “Dear, I hope someday, you can have a nice, new, modern stove like mine,” she said. “But for now, that little stove will do its work for you.” “Soon as I finish eating this tasty cobbler pie and drinking my coffee,” Pa said, with a loving wink at Ma, “I’ll go out back and chop up some fire-wood for that little stove of yours, Jeannie. You’ll need a good supply of it. As time passes, I reckon you’ll get some good help with your wood chopping chores from Slim and Vernon Wilson, his young helper. I think you said Vernon went to school with you.” Jeannie nodded and said, “Oh, I reckon, I can swing an ax and chop my own wood, if I have to.” “I reckon, you can at that,” Pa said grinning. “You can do most anything you set your mind to doing. I’ve had plenty of proof of that from the past.” Jeannie smiled and shrugged, “Well, I will admit, I’m a little scared about getting the ranch started-up. I’ll need all the advice and help I can get.” “That’s what we’re here for, Punkin,” Pa said, using his favorite pet name for Jeannie. There was fondness in his gaze. “Moving into a house and getting it set up for living takes lots of hard work and plenty of time,” Ma said, glancing about the room. “After the menfolks from the church finished work on your house last month, it did my heart good to see how our friends and neighbors brought you these useful house-warming presents.” “Yes, they’ve all beem so nice to me.” Jeannie said gratefully. “Mr. and Mrs. Markham gave me that handmade quilt on my bed. I love the little Dutch girl pattern.” “It’s pretty,” Ma said. “I like that pattern, too.” “And Helga gave me the embroidered tablecloth she made. I remember when she was sewing on it--over a year ago, but I didn’t know she was going to give it to me.” There was a happy glow in Jeannie’s eyes. “And Little Fawn brought me several hand-woven baskets. People have all been so thoughtful. I don’t think I can ever thank them enough. I love my little house and everything in it. It’s so cozy and comfortable.” She gazed about her kitchen with a happy smile. “I’m expecting Prairie Flower and Gray Wolf to help me plant my garden today. I think they’ll be riding over on Mr. Markham’s, Susie,” she said, and then shook her head. “ It’s hard to believe that such a gentle mare is the mother of Diamond’s son, Morning Star.” “She’s a gentle mare all right,” Pa said, rising. He reached for his straw-hat hanging on the back of his chair. “But that Morning Star and Diamond are two peas in a pod!” “They are that, for sure,” Jeannie agreed. “Helga and I love to go riding. Both those horses like to run lickety-split.” “Just be careful, dear,” Ma cautioned, gently stirring her coffee with her spoon. “You’re a young woman now with responsibilities.” “I know, Ma,” Jeannie said. “I’ll ride carefully and not take any chances.” “Well, I’m going to the barn for an ax, so I can start chopping up some firewood. Just one last thing, I want to say. Us men folks put up a mighty nice barn for you, Punkin. I wish mine was as new and nice as yours.” Pausing at the back door with a twinkle in his eyes, Pa said, “I just hope a cyclone won’t come up this winter and blow your barn away.” “Grannies, Pa! Don’t even think such a thing!” Jeannie scolded. “I remember Mr. Markham lost his barn a few years back from a mighty bad twister.” “Sorry, Punkin,” Pa said, opening the screened door, “just teasing. I’ll be outside if you need me. Whoops! Here comes, Junior!” Pa stood aside, and Junior raced past him and came to a skidding halt beside Jeannie. “Well, I declare, Junior!” Jeannie exclaimed. “What is that smell? Have you been chasing after a skunk?” Jeannie jumped up. “Come on, young fellar -- outside you go!” She shooed Junior out the back door and closed it. Ma chuckled. “He is quite a handful,” she said, carrying her cup to the kitchen sink. “Just like his pa, Ole Blue, always into something.” She pumped on the pump handle and brought in some cold water in the dishpan. “I’m so glad Pa put in a sink and a water pump for you. It sure is a big help. I remember the day he put mine in last year. What a joy!” “I’m glad too, Ma,” Jeannie said, joining her mother at the sink. “It’s hard to have to carry a bucket of water from the windmill or the well every time I need water. I really feel lucky to have both a windmill and a watering trough for horses and stock.” Ma patted Jeannie’s arm. “I believe Pa and you have thought of everything you might need to get settled in your own place,” she said, lifting a teakettle of hot water from the kitchen stove. At the sink she poured hot water into a dishpan and a rinsing pan. Then she reached for a bar of homemade soap from a saucer on the sink and made swishing suds with her hands in the dishpan’s hot water. Then she began washing dishes and putting them in the rinse water pan. Jeannie lifted a tea towel from the kitchen cabinet hook and dried a cup. “The one big thing I have to do soon is buy horses,” she said, putting the cup in the cabinet. “Jeannie! Jeannie!” It was Gray Wolf calling from the front of the house. Jeannie hurried to the porch steps and stood near the swing. She watched Gray Wolf tie Susie’s reins to the hitching rail. Then he reached up and helped his sister dismount from Susie’s back. “Hello, Gray Wolf. Howdy, Prairie Flower,” Jeannie said, turning to the door. “How are y’all, this morning?” “We’re fine,” Prairie Flower said, smiling. Her large black eyes shone with excitement as she climbed the flat-stone porch steps. “We came to help you plant your garden.” Jeannie returned a friendly smile. “Well, that’s mighty nice of y’all. I can use your help,” she said, holding the screen door open. “Come on in the house and have a piece of berry cobbler pie and a glass of buttermilk, and then, we’ll get started.” Later that night before going to bed, Jeannie looked out her bedroom window into the star-filled sky. The full moon shone brightly. She remembered Pa telling stories of how Comanche Indian warriors had often ridden down into Mexico on raiding parties when the fall October moon was full and shining so bright you could see almost as good as when it was daytime. That’s when folks feared the Comanches the most. Pa said the Comanche war trail had its beginning near Amarillo around the Palo Duro Canyon area. The trail passed in this part of the country near Abilene on its way south, but the raids happened long ago, and now, Comanches were no longer to be feared. In fact, everyone knew she was a good friend to a special Comanche couple, Eagle Feather and Little Fawn. Their children Gray Wolf and Prairie Flower had worked hard to help her plant her garden today. They were wonderful children, and she loved them dearly. Jeannie knew Diamond was in the new barn in his stall feasting on a good portion of oats. Ma had given her some chickens, and they were roosting in their chicken coop, settled in for the night. The milk cow Pa had given her was probably lying under an oak tree in a small fenced-in enclosure near the barn. She planned to fence-in a larger pasture for the cow and the baby colts that would be born on her ranch someday. Jeannie sighed. There was still a lot to do before her ranch would be ready. She looked past the barn to the bunkhouse built on a raised knoll between several live oaks. She could see the glimmer of the kerosene lamplight shining through the bunkhouse window. Slim and Vernon must be awake. Slim was probably thinking about tomorrow’s chores, just as she was. Well, she’d fix the boys breakfast in the morning, and then Slim and she would ride into the hills. She’d been anxious to take a good look at her source of water and study out the best grassland for grazing her horses. Jeannie turned and blew out her kerosene lamp. She was tired but happy. “Thank You, God,” she murmured, drawing her quilt up close. “Thank You, Lord, for all my blessings, and thank You for giving me my wonderful, new horse ranch.”