“Whoa, boys.” Dipsey pulled the wagon to a stop and set the break. She hopped down, her leather boots hitting the road with a thud. Sam, the lead mule had been favoring his right front leg the past few minutes. She’d better take a look before he went lame.
“Let me see, Sam.” She lifted the mule’s big hoof and held it between her knees. “Ah, a rock. No wonder. Hurts, doesn’t it?” With a small twig, she flipped the stone out. “Now, that’ll feel better.” She let his foot drop and patted his neck. Joe snorted and butted her shoulder, so she turned and gave him a pat too. The brothers were jealous, afraid one would get more attention than the other. They were the same when it came to feeding time. She had to separate them lest they try to horn in on the other’s grub.
Dipsey walked back to the wagon and placed a foot onto the spoke of the front wheel to climb into the wagon. A snorting sound from behind her made her pause. Grabbing her rifle from under the seat, she whirled and peered into the field of winter wheat gently waving in the cool morning air. Sunlight glanced off the stalks giving the field a slight iridescence, but no movement caught her attention.
The noise stopped, then resumed with a loud bleating resonance. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Thomas was asleep in the wheat field, but she’d buried her husband two years past. Who trespassed on her land?
Rifle cocked, she stepped in the direction of the snoring. Thomas always said she could sneak up on Satan himself. She hoped her skill served her well today.
Lying on her precious wheat, breaking the stalks flat and making it useless, was a big, burly man. Wrapped in someone’s finely stitched quilt, he had a brown felt hat over his eyes. One arm lay across his chest, the other cradled a new-fangled model Winchester, so new the shine hadn’t yet worn off.
She snatched the rifle from his arm. The dang fool didn’t open his eyes. Dipsey thumped him on the shoulder with the butt of his weapon. He farted and rolled to his side exposing a muscled butt and legs encased in denims. She stumbled back a few steps. Disgusting man!
She fired off a couple of bullets sending wheat flipping into the air two yards above the man’s head. Darnit. More of her precious crop damaged. If the waste continued, her animals would go hungry this winter, and she didn’t have the money to buy feed.
The man lurched to his feet. “Holy hell.” He started toward Dipsey. “What the hell are you doing, woman?”
She cocked the rifle. “Stay put, mister.”
He halted and eyed her weapon before turning his gaze to her. His stare traveled from her boots, past her worn, brown wool dress to her face; his eyes widened when they landed on her scar. She expected to see aversion. Most people shunned her because of her past profession. If they didn’t know of her life as a whore, the ugly scar on her forehead caused them to look away. The man didn’t appear put off. He actually smiled before his expression sobered.
“Could you lower your rifle?”
She snorted. Did he think she was crazy? “Who are you and what are you doing on my land?”
“Your land? I’ll have you know….” He turned in a slow circle while taking in his surroundings. He stopped in front of her, whooped, and clutched his head. “I did it, I actually did it.”
He reached out to her, and she stumbled back. “Stay put.”
Head bobbing up and down, he asked, “Tell me, what is the date?”
Keeping the rifle aimed at his gut, she pondered his question. Some folks couldn’t keep up with the days, especially people like her who worked on their land day in and day out. Maybe he was lost and needed help finding his way. She looked him up and down. Tall and thickly built, he didn’t appear to have missed a meal. Not that he was fat, mind you. No, he carried muscle. Under his coat, she couldn’t tell if the thickness was fat or layers of clothes.
His eyes were clear, not glazed over like the man she’d seen in town several years ago. The sheriff had to send him away to some asylum as he wouldn’t keep his clothes on and scared folks with his raving. No, this man, though his elation was odd, didn’t appear deranged. He was well-groomed, his clothes clean, though from the faint odor that reached her nose, he’d been wearing them for several days.
What hair remained on his head appeared from this distance to have been dark at one time. Blue eyes pleaded with her for an answer. For an older fella, he was handsome, a quality she’d not noticed in a man for a while and shouldn’t be noticing now.
“It’s the first day of November.”
“The year lady, what’s the year?”
“Why, it’s 1892.”
He jumped into the air, clicked his heels, and yelled, “Hallelujah!”
Thank you for reading. I hope you’ve entered my contest.