Go West~Chapter 43

Chapter 43 Heading Home

Go West

by DiVoran Lites

Chapter Forty Three

Aldon

 

The trip down the mountain was easy until they got into a sloping meadow where the herd fanned out. There, without warning two horsemen came over a rise yelling and shooting their side-arms. The Herefords took off in a stampede, leaving no time to go after the hecklers.

Riding fast on both sides of the herd, the men set themselves to stopping the stampede. First they had to get them into a mill. It wouldn’t do for them to fall into a draw and break their bones or get lost and have to be rounded up all over again. Kenny and Aldon rode next to the head of the stampede slowly forcing them to change their course and double back. After a few heart-stopping moments, the beasts melted into a swirling, red and white tornado, and were forced to slow to a standstill. Eventually they settled down and began to graze. Aldon took the first deep breath he’d had since the stampede began.

“You can start on down again, Mr. Morgan,” Aldon rode to the wagon with Summer in tow. Do you mind riding Ellie’s horse, Mr. Morgan,” he said. He dipped his hat in thanks to the older man who got down off the wagon and mounted Summer.

Aldon tied Chief to the back of the chuck wagon, and took his place on the seat next to Ellie.

“I’m glad everyone is safe.” She touched his face with her warm, slender hand and all at once Aldon felt as full of ginger as a day old colt.

“Who were those men?” Ellie asked.

“Probably the squatters that were at the ranch with Enrico the other night,” Aldon gave the reins a shake to remind the mules they weren’t allowed to graze along the way.

Why would they do something like that? We could have been hurt or killed.” Ellie leaned against him as though seeking reassurance.

“Nah,” he shook his head and then looked directly at her. “It’s all in a day’s work.”

“But, what if one of us had died?” Her eyes pooled with unshed tears.

“That would have been a shame, don’t you think?” He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.

“Why would it have been a shame?” He guessed maybe she was looking for reassurance.

“We’ve got a lot of living to do.” He clicked his tongue at the mules to move along now that they were on more even ground.

“But what’s the use of living if you’re not happy?” She asked.

“You’re not happy?” He hadn’t known that. He’d thought she was just mad at him.

“Not really,” she answered rubbing her hand on her jeans.

“Don’t you know? It’s, it’s…” there was a sob in her voice…because we’re at odds with each other.”

“You may be at odds with me, but I’m not at odds with you,” he said.

“You’re not?” She found a handkerchief in the jacket pocket and dabbed at her eyes.

“Haven’t you noticed who has been doing the ignoring?” He pulled the brim of his hat down a quarter of an inch.

“You walked off when I was trying to talk to you after church.”

“All right, I’m here now. What did you want to say?” Aldon pushed the hat back a bit and gave her his full attention.

“Having men fight over me was embarrassing.” She put her hands over her face.

“Didn’t I tell you I was sorry?” He thought he had explained how he felt, but obviously he hadn’t said the words she needed to hear. Would dealing with this woman ever become easy and commonplace? He doubted it but he knew he’d keep on trying.

“Out here we call a man responsible for his own actions even if he’s sick or drunk.” Aldon, shifted and wrapped his hand around hers. He pulled it to the region of his heart which seemed to be fluttering in his chest.

“Besides, you could have hurt him.” Ellie’s hand cuddled into his.

“There’s no harm in a bully getting hurt if he’s misbehaving, especially toward a lady like yourself.” He knew he sounded gruff.

“Is that what you think he is… a bully?” She tugged, but he held on to her hand.

“Maybe, but I have to be honest with you, I wasn’t sorry about interfering with that young man.” She tried again to pull away, but he went on talking. “I was, though, very sorry it upset you. I know fighting isn’t right or good, but sometimes men must look after women and…

“Are you saying I don’t know how to look after myself?” Ellie’s voice rose slightly.

“Anyhow, I never hit him. He passed out while I was dragging him away.” He tried to tell her the truth, hoping she’d listen.

“You didn’t hit him? But he was unconscious when you threw him in the pick-up.”

“No ma’am, I wouldn’t hit a shrimp like him. You ever heard of, pick on somebody your own size?” Aldon shook his head amazed at her lack of understanding. “Besides, why do you care what other people think?”

“You don’t care what people think of you?” She asked.

“I care what you think.” He gently rested their joined hands on the seat.”

“Why?” She sighed.

“First ‘cause you’re a good woman.”

“What else?”

“You’re easy on the eyes.” He flashed her a smile.

“You like the way I look?” Ellie, who was sitting hip to hip with him scooted a bit closer. Knowing he’d fall off if he budged, he sat as still as if he were watching a butterfly hover over a flower.

“Sure I do.” Maybe they were getting somewhere now. He held his breath.

“And?” Her voice went up on a singsong note.

“I got fond of you.” He gently squeezed her hand.

“Why did you stop talking to me, then? People can’t read each other’s minds. We’ve got to communicate.”

“Everything I said seemed to make things worse.”

She thought and nodded. He wondered if she might be getting angry all over again.

Aldon turned loose of her hand, removed his hat, scratched his head, leaving tufts of champagne colored hair sticking up like bull horns on the front of his head, and put the hat back on over them. Silence fell and after a long haul to the ranch, the mules pulled the wagon into the barn.

 

 

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