Thursday, October 2, 2014




William didn’t act as if he heard, but Jenny looked back at the ornery animal as she walked. Rocky had climbed on top of the cellar again, reminding her of kids who liked to play king of the hill. Maybe that’s why they named him Rocky. He thinks he’s a mountain goat.
She stood beside William and stared at the grave, marked by a small wooden cross. A breeze sang in the trees, more beautiful than any organ music. A tiny gray bird lit on a high branch and joined the chorus.
William took her hand. “Let’s pray.”
He thanked God for the MacDougal family and prayed in such a loud voice Jenny worried Grouch might pop out of the trees, wanting to know what the yelling was about. With a catch in his voice, he prayed for Mrs. MacDougal, her family, and the baby. Then he prayed for Jenny.
“Lord, you know how happy I am to see Jenny again. But she’s sick. She’s so pale and thin. She needs somebody, Lord. Send good folks to her.”
He whispered then, and the name Benjamin was loud enough to hear. When he lifted his head, tears pooled in his eyes. He looked at her and gave her hand a squeeze.
She smiled. He grinned back.
When their eyes connected, Jenny’s heart danced. William leaned toward her, pulling her closer. Is he going to kiss me?
Then he blinked, pulled away, and dropped her fingers. They stumbled down the steep hill together, back toward the house.
“I don’t want to, but I’m going to look at what the fire did.” William entered the log structure, scanning the ceiling, the burned out wall, damaged furniture and the hole in the floor. “This wasn’t just a house, it was a wonderful home,” he said, a catch in his voice.
Jenny stood beside him, and he reached for her hand again. He bowed his head, and Jenny guessed he was thinking about Christian. Then he opened his eyes, looked up, and let his gaze fall on her. He led her outside.
“I met your brother on the train.”
He turned, his eyes huge, mouth hanging open. “What?”
“He rode in the caboose with me. His horse and Leather traveled in the same stock car.”
Their hands dropped apart. “How do you know it was Benjamin?”
“He looks like you. But what revealed his identity to me was how he acted when I mentioned your name and told him you are looking for him because of a family crisis.”
“Did he seem interested in going home?”
“I don’t think so. He seemed emotional about it, but he used the name Cameron and denied he’s your brother. He told me he was a businessman going to Yucca Blossom, but while I was asleep, he got off early and stole my satchel with all my money in it.”
“He didn’t!” William kicked a good-sized rock. It flew across the yard. “How much money did you have?”
“Over three thousand dollars sewed into the satchel lining.”
He threw his arms wide. “And he took it? Where did you get it?”
“Mama saved it from the sale of peaches and horses after Daddy went to the sanitarium. John took his half when he ran away to Minneapolis to live with Aunt Betsy.”
“When did he do that?”
“Shortly after the judge took over the ranch. Uncle Danforth beat John with the horse whip. My brother tried to interfere with the judge’s violent way of training horses. John doesn’t believe a whip ever should be used on a horse, especially in training.”
“Sorry.” William placed his arm over her shoulders. He bent to look into her eyes.
Rocky trotted down off the cellar, working his way toward them.
William turned. “What was it you said about a goat?”
Rocky pawed the ground.
“Look out. I think he’s coming our way.”
Rocky raked his hooves then dashed toward William.
A grin on his face, William pulled out his red handkerchief and dangled it like a bullfighter waving a red flag.
Rocky smashed his head into the brilliant cotton then collided with the fence.
William shook the hills with laughter. “This could be fun. That’s what you could do. Become a goat fighter and charge admission.” He laughed until he doubled over.
Rocky took advantage of the situation and rammed, headfirst, into the tempting backside.
Still laughing, William slowly got to his feet. “The first thing I’d do with this animal is pen him up.” He pointed. “He’s probably supposed to be in the pen with the chewed post. He needs a mama goat. You could raise goats and sell them.”
“I wouldn’t have another goat on this property for anything. Why don’t you take Rocky into town and sell him? Or take him along while you peddle your household goods and give him to a farmer who needs a daddy goat?”
William studied Rocky for a minute. “Seems one time when I was by here, Valerie MacDougal was upset because a neighbor—I think she called him Grumps—mistook the nanny goat for a deer and shot her. I think she was talking about Mister Anderson.”
“Sounds like him, but she called him Grouch.”
William picked up a big stick, herded Rocky into the pen, and shut the gate. “Did you say Mrs. MacDougal gave you this property?”
“Well, actually, I bought it.”
Jenny ran into the cellar and retrieved the paper Valerie’s father drew up. She handed the document to William.
“This looks legal. Do you mean they sold it to you for one dollar?”
“That’s what it says, and I gave them a dollar. Valerie’s pa is a lawyer, and he said it was legal, only I did need to pay the dollar. Valerie told me if I sold the farm to Grouch Anderson she’d really be angry.”
William lifted his hat and scratched his head. “Strange. The land and the burned out house aren’t worth much. It might be valuable to Mister Anderson, though, because of a nice stream that runs behind the house.”
Jenny hadn’t paid much attention to the creek since she’d used the windmill  for water. The thick cellar walls must have muffled the sound of water running.ll to investigate. Her stomach growled. “You want to stay for lunch?”
“What you havin’?”

“I’ve been eating jerky and fruit from the cellar.”