by DiVoran Lites
As Ribbons pulled the wagon through the open door of the barn, Aldon glanced at Signor Solano’s Ford Touring Car, which was up on blocks at the back. It was now spring and he wanted to get it ready for church tomorrow, since they’d be picking up the boss’s grandson. He hoped that someday, he’d be able to use an automobile in wintertime, but not yet. The snow was too deep, the ice was too slippery, and the hilly roads were too steep. His own flivver had spent the winter on the leeward side of the barn covered with a tarpaulin.
“If you don’t mind, you can take a seat on that hay bale while I put Ribbons up. We’ll have supper in the kitchen, and I’ll come back and get the automobile ready to run us to church in the morning.” He helped Miss Morgan down.
“I’d be glad to assist you with the automobile,” she said.
Reaching for the lantern and turning up the wick, Aldon avoided answering her. He’d never thought about a woman working on a motorized vehicle before. It didn’t seem proper somehow.
She sat where he had indicated while he removed the traces, currycombed Ribbons, and checked her feet for gravel stones. Glancing over at Miss Morgan, he saw that her head was down as she watched him tend to the horse. Even though it was narrow, the brim of her hat shadowed most of her face. He saw full lips, a just right nose, and a purposeful chin. He could tell she had a delicate complexion and planned to get her into a hat with a real brim. He wondered if she would consent to wear a sunbonnet, then recalled his brother, Bill acting up in one. He chuckled.
“Is something funny?” Miss Morgan asked looking up. The light from the lantern turned her blues eyes into sapphires like the ones he’d seen at the Denver Museum.
“I’m thinking about my brother, he’s a real clown.”
“In the circus?” She asked with a smile.
“No, ma’am, but he makes us laugh a lot. Right now, he’s in Hollywoodland working as a stuntman and horse wrangler for the moving pictures shows.”
“I love the movies,” Miss Morgan said. “Before I left, Granddad and I saw Cooper Randolph in ‘Colt 45.’” She tilted her head and examined him. “Come to think of it, you remind me of him.”
“What does this Cooper Randolph fellow do?” he asked.
“He gets rid of the bad guys.” Miss Morgan stood and waited until he retrieved her carpetbag, the only baggage she needed for the night. “Was your brother in the war?” she asked as they left the barn.
“No, he was four F – heart murmur. We couldn’t believe it. He ran circles around the rest of us.” Aldon took her arm and guided her over the straw-littered floor.
“Who lives in the house?” She asked as they exited the barn.
“Right now, Signor and Signora Solano and Molly.”
“Now that the weather’s warming up, I’ve moved into the loft for the summer.” On the enclosed back porch, he pulled the string of a light fixture. Wiring the house had been easy once he figured out how to harness the creek for power.
“Take off your coat and hat and stay awhile. That’s what my family says when company comes.” He helped Miss Morgan out of her cape and hung it on the peg Molly had cleared for her. The other pegs held coats, jackets, and dusters from the past two generations of ranchers. He liked having them there because they reminded him of family members who had gone on to be with the Lord. Besides, it could be useful even now. A row of galoshes and boots sat lined up, ready for work. No need to buy new ones while these were still good.
Miss Morgan took off her hat and handed it to him. Now he could see that her hair was a beautiful palomino blond. She smoothed curls over her cheeks while he placed the hat on the shelf where he knew his grandmother’s sunbonnet lived. When they entered the kitchen, he drew in the smell of simmering stew.
“So this is a ranch kitchen,” Miss Morgan looked around.
“Yep, that big stove has been here since 1900, but it’s a good stove and can use either coal or wood. Ma used it until she moved to town. After Ma left, I ate mostly biscuits, bacon and beans until Molly moved in, but she loves the stove, wouldn’t use any other.
He pulled out a chair at the long table so she could look at the glimmer of a few lights in the town below.
“What a lovely view,” she said resting back with a sigh.
“So you fix cars, huh?” he said wondering why a woman would do such a thing.
“You read my letter of application?” she spoke slowly, and he nodded. “Well, wouldn’t it stand to reason that if I can drive an ambulance, I can maintain and repair an engine and change tires? Who do you think, did all that?”
“You?” He turned and got her a glass of water out of the spigot. The ranch water came from the mountains and was cold, and delicious. She drank the whole glass as though she hadn’t been watered since Illinois.
“I’ll get Molly,” he said.
When he reached the second floor, He heard soft voices coming from the Solano rooms. At least they weren’t fighting for once. He hated the way the young Mrs. yelled at her husband, who was old enough to be her father, if not her grandfather. He was the kindest and gentlest man Aldon knew. He walked on past to Molly’s door, tapped and waited.
“You took your time,” Molly wore a clean apron over her cotton dress, a sign she was ready for company. A line creased her cheek. She’d been napping, or as she called it, resting her eyes. In her opinion, only lazy people took naps.