The Fiddler, Jesse Lee

Fictional Book of the Month


January                      Cool Mom: A Drew Kasey Chronicle

February                    Aviator Wings: A Drew Kasey Chronicle *

March                         Navy Hero: A Drew Kasey Chronicle *

April                           Pentagon Assignment: A Drew Kasey Chronicle

May                             Family Warriors: A Drew Kasey Chronicle

June                            Marine Friend: A Drew Kasey Chronicle

July                             Last Mission: A Drew Kasey Chronicle – 2015

August                         Undercover Sailor: A Drew Kasey Chronicle – 2020

September              The Fiddler – Jesse Lee – 2013

Molly’s Story – Draft – 2017 [short story]

October                      Uncle Joe’s Gift – Draft – 2010

November                  Virginia’s Conversion – Draft – 2009

December                  Mr. Jack – Draft – 2019

* Published

‘September Fictional’



Think about your great-great Grandpa or Grandma. They might have lived around the same time frame as this story. There weren’t automobiles or planes to travel from point to point but there were a few Railroads by this time. However, the majority of the folks either walked, rode a horse, took a stage coach, or used the horse and buggy as their primary ways for traveling during the time of this story. This fiddler was my grandpa and parts of the story are about him and his father, James who was born in 1844; some of the ‘stuff’ are just stories I heard him tell my brother and me in the late 50’s; some is just fiction.

The Wild West was exactly that, it wasn’t what we have as the normal in today’s world. There were a few fortunate people but the majority was those who lived on a poor man’s wage. The majority of the people who lived west of St. Louis might have been part of any old Wild West story.

The ‘fiddler’ was one of the few who gets a break along his journey.


             Chapter 1


It was early in the year of 1865 when brothers were still fighting some of their brothers in the Civil War; there were even a few cousins on opposite sides throughout many of the states of North America as the civil war continued. Mothers and sisters were having sleepless nights with worry about those same boys.

There was a young man working on his father’s farm in southern Indiana. His name was Jesse Lee and he had just turned twenty-three on the twenty-first of January. His girlfriend for the past two years had been Susie Murphy; she had recently traveled back to Virginia, which had left him depressed and feeling low. Her father did not like Jesse; he had told him he would never amount to anything other than a poor sod buster, just one step above a bum. It was apparent she would never receive her father’s blessing to marry him so she left her nursing job one Monday morning without a word or a good bye.

It was a frustrating day for him as snow and sleet were piling up on the ground. Jesse had just finishing getting supplies loaded on the buckboard for the family farm. One of his friends over the past several years asked Jesse to join him at the café for lunch. Ed Dill started talking about the war and told Jesse he thought he was going to join the south and get away from the cold winters.

Later that evening, Jesse was letting his mind wonder and finally decided to leave the family farm and join the Army. Both he and Ed caught a ride on the southbound train toward Kentucky, where he had lived the first fourteen years of his life. It was not totally a northern or a southern ally; a young man could travel a day or two and choose a blue or gray uniform. When Ed found out Jesse was going to join the blue coats he growled out a comment, “Jesse if I ever see you again, I’m going to kill you.” It was late February when Jesse departed the train and tipped his hat to Ed.

As he traveled by foot toward the ‘Yankee’ recruiting headquarters he was thinking back at his life. It seemed like he was stuck in a mud-hole going nowhere; maybe this change would provide something to jump start his future life.

His first assignment after joining the Army was to ride south a couple days into Tennessee. Then late one evening with half a dozen other Calvary soldiers, two things happened that put a scar in Jesse’s mind. He witnessed the leader of his small group stop by a farm house and murder, in cold blood, a farmer. Next he saw the result of more devastation while destroying a building full of rebel supplies. He was involved in a fierce battle lasting no more than twenty minutes; two of Jesse’s comrades including the leader went down and two others were wounded by the Johnny Reb’s before they retreated, then rode back north toward their unit.



It didn’t take long for Jesse’s military career to end. Midway through the fourth month of his enlistment a shell exploded not more than twenty feet from where he was riding and his left eye was damaged. He wasn’t totally without vision but there was a blur when looking from the corner of his left side. It left him blind enough to where he could not see good enough to be a soldier. After spending three weeks in the nearby medical tents he was discharged with an extremely small government pension. Jesse boxed-up the majority of his possessions and mailed them home to his parent’s farm in Jackson County.

Jesse had no plans for his next day or for that matter his future. It was impulse that drove him to hitch a ride on one of the trains going north. Fortunately it was the third week of June and the climate was starting to get warmer. He ended up near Omaha and found a job as a laborer working on the new railroad that was supposed to go west; it was intended to eventually end up connecting to a rail coming eastward from Sacramento.

Not that it mattered to Jesse but the week after he was discharged from the Army, the war officially came to an end and the majority of the fighting stopped.

Work on the railroad was hard and many a man died over that next year. Jesse was one of those who had a muscular body and the hard work added strength to it. His jaw line was chiseled to go along with his physique. He had worked hard six days a week and he also played hard on Saturday nights. Jesse was the best fiddle player in the surrounding area and was often seen providing music for the weekend dancehalls. The monthly pay from the Union Pacific was but thirty-five dollars for each of the laborers. It wasn’t exactly what Jesse had in mind for his future.

Finally on one Friday evening several months later, after payday, he packed his belongings into a couple satchels and caught a ride on a train going south. Jesse was thinking, “There had to be something that he could do that was better than what he had been doing.” His mind continued to wonder as he was sitting on the floor of the half empty boxcar.

Fortunately with his mother’s help and then a few years of school; he had learned how to read and write proficiently. The main book his mother used for reading was the Holy Bible and he had also learned the difference in right and wrong along the way. There was an actual time just prior to his sixteenth birthday that he had trusted the Lord to forgive him of his wrongs. As he was thinking, while he rode the train, he knew there had been a few times that his mother would not have been proud of his actions. That is, if she had known about his favorite cousin, Lizie, when he was but sixteen; then there was a time from those early fiddle playing evenings; once he had turned twenty-one. He believed in the mercy of God, so why had he faltered with the temptations? As he mediated, he asked the Lord to forgive and strengthen him in his daily life.

It took Jesse almost a week to make it as far as St. Louis and another week to find a job. He would be playing his fiddle four evenings a week. It didn’t pay much but he did get his room and board included. After another two weeks he was able to get a side job playing his fiddle for private parties. To his surprise he met some influential men of the city.  It wasn’t long until Jesse found a job working in a lumber yard from seven to five. He also worked private parties twice a week. He could make more on the private parties and before long he quit his original job playing at the dance hall.



The weekly routine went on for several months as Jesse settled into the St. Louis night life. On occasions he was invited to a lively house party overlooking the Mississippi river. On those nights, he could earn as much as seven dollars for playing the entire evening. He was also introduced to a couple ladies who liked to party late into the night; not really his thing but temptations were fierce.

One day prior to his twenty-sixth birthday he was playing at a political gathering for several of the wealthy merchants of the city. There was one dark haired beauty that had made Jesse lose his concentration on more than one occasion. She usually was included in social gatherings at least once, sometimes twice a week. On a couple of occasions she wore dresses that left many a man drooling with his imagination. She was as tall as most men when just wearing her dainty slippers to dance in. After several weeks he found out her name was Cate Choney and she was twenty-eight. She had been married twice and both of the men had died in the prolonged civil war. The rumor had it that she was a widow of great wealth and she wasn’t looking for a man to help spend her money. As he had observed, she didn’t smile much as she danced with the eligible men attending the evening functions.

At intermission that evening Jesse took a deep breath while he was still seated and closed his eyes for a brief period; when he opened them he looked toward the audience and Cate was looking directly into his face. It made him a little uneasy but he nodded at her and she returned the nod with a beautiful smile that made him stir from within. That was the first genuine smile he had ever seen on her face. He stood and then took another deep breath prior to walking to the refreshment line. Moments later, Cate was beside him and asked, “Would you mind it if I brought you a drink and then you could walk with me outside for a breath of fresh air?” He was startled by the offer but he told her that it would be his pleasure to get to visit with her, for a few moments, before he had to go to work.

Their visit was brief but he could tell she was a modest person, seemingly not stuck on herself. This was unlike some of the rich widows who were acting slightly snobbish following the death of their husbands, which had been due to the war. Jesse had to cut short the visit with her and play some more music. This was a Friday and the party would last late into the evening.

Cate had stalled around a little near the dance floor wanting to finish the conversation with Jesse after most of the guests had left prior to the final round of music. Her driver wouldn’t be there for another ten minutes as she gathered her shawl from the wardroom.

She stepped out the door for a bit of fresh air. A few minutes later Ben Samford, an old acquaintance of her late husband, walked toward her. Cate nodded toward him and spoke. His eyes looked her over from top to bottom and he replied, “How about you and I having a late night of it?” She told him that she didn’t think so, but he took a step closer to her and grabbed her arm. She exclaimed, “Ben take your hands off me, you’re hurting me!”

Jesse stepped out the door with his fiddle case in his left hand just at that moment and looked at both of them. He squinted toward her and asked, “Is everything o.k. with you Ms. Choney?” She told him that Mr. Samford was hurting her arm. Jesse looked toward her and then into the eyes of Ben Samford and Jesse told him to leave. There were some harsh words from Ben telling Jesse where-he-could-go.

Two quick strides by Jesse brought him within three feet of Cate. She screamed as she had her arm twisted a little harder. Within a second, Jesse had unleashed a left hook toward Ben’s jaw. The fight between the two men lasted less than two minutes as Jesse landed a dozen solid punches. Jesse had taken a blow to his cheek as well and a bruise was evident.

Moments later the doors opened and Cate explained what happened. Cate’s driver was just pulling up as Ben Samford was being escorted to the kitchen for some first-aid and a tongue lashing. “Mister Lee, my driver is about to take me home. Do you need a ride anywhere?” He was surprised that Ms. Choney offered the ride but it did give him a warm feeling inside. He told her he lived about a mile north and just west of the river in a boarding house, “I’ve been in St. Louis for awhile but with working two jobs I don’t have much free time for anything more.” Jesse told her it was not an upscale neighborhood like what she was probably used to driving through. She commented, “It is just a ride Mr. Lee and if I were to judge a book by its cover, I would miss some interesting stories, don’t you think?”

This was a nice carriage that she had. It was about as large as a stage coach only lined with padded seats and silk cloth covering the inner walls of it. As they rode they talked casually about the different parts of St. Louis. He commented on the new bridge that was just about to start, which he heard was supposed to eventually cross over the Mississippi river. As the carriage came to a stop she asked, “Won’t you please join me for dinner tomorrow evening at six? I’ll send my driver and please bring your fiddle.” He thanked her and walked to his door.

As he stretched out on his cot, he thought about Cate Choney. He remembered that she was twenty-eight, which meant two years older than him. He chuckled to himself when he thought of her comment that she didn’t judge a book by its cover. He sure wasn’t looking for a wife but a good friend would be nice to have.

Sure enough, the carriage was there at the time Cate had told him. He had bathed that afternoon and had a clean white shirt under his dress-up jacket. He had tuned-up his old fiddle just moments prior to changing into his evening clothes. As far as he knew, the evening should be a fun one.

He could tell that Cate had a nice home as the carriage pulled around a path to the back of the house. There was a stable large enough for four to five horses, the carriage, a smaller buggy, a larger buckboard, and plenty of storage for horse feed. The back entrance to her home was as nice as the front, which was only used for guests coming to visit. The house wasn’t quite a thirty-five room mansion but it was much larger than anything he had ever been invited to visit. The driver told him that there was four acres of ground on the property.

As he walked toward the door, someone opened it and invited him to have a seat in the parlor. He chuckled to himself as he looked around. Within five minutes the same lady returned and asked him to follow her. It was a nice room and had a piano in one corner turned sideways, which allowed the one playing to look at others in the room. Before he had time to scan the remainder of the room Cate entered the room wearing a gown with two different shades of black. She was a gorgeous looking woman, no doubt, and she gave him a smile that made him feel like he was already a friend.

She walked toward him to properly greet him with a firm handshake. Jesse was surprised with the firmness of her grip but did not let on. She commented, “Is that bruise on your cheek from last evening?” He shook his head; she reached toward it and felt the texture of the bruised area. The soft touch made his mind turn a somersault as he looked at her beautiful face.

“We have some wine if you care for it or there is a fresh pot of tea. I prefer the tea; it keeps my mind sharp but some of the gentlemen, who have visited, have preferred a glass of wine.” He told her he didn’t drink often and the tea sounded like a good idea. She looked toward her ‘house keeper’ and said, “Mary, please bring two cups and the teapot for Mr. Lee and I.” She left the room and soon returned with the refreshment. Cate told Mary she could come back in an hour, “Please tell Jana to serve the meal at that time. Ask her to use the small table. Thanks.”

She told Jesse there was a small chair in the closet that he could use while playing his fiddle, “In fact pull it up close to the piano where I can sit and watch you in case there is music I can join in on.”

When Jesse returned he asked, “Tell me a few titles of the music that you enjoy, just in case I can play along with you.” She had heard many of the arrangements he had played and although most weren’t her very favorites, she started playing. He smiled at her and joined in. As he played he looked at her; what a beautiful lady she was. He could tell she had been taught to play the piano by someone who was skilled. He was different, he had watched an uncle play when he was a youngster, and learned to play the fiddle on his own. They had played over a dozen different tunes when Mary returned.

“Ms. Cate, Jana has the food ready. Are you ready to be served?” Cate looked at Jesse and told him to leave his fiddle; they would resume later in the evening. He stood and reached for her elbow to escort her after her attendant led the way. There was a large dining room that looked like it would seat close to thirty guests around a large table but there was also a smaller table that had but four chairs around it. That is where they went. Soup was steaming as they sat down.

They talked for an hour as the main course was served and then the apple pie was put in front of them. Jesse found out that Cate employed three people in her home. None of the three were married and they used guest rooms on the second floor. The cook was Jana, the house keeper was Mary, and Jeffrey was the driver who also doubled as grounds keeper. They were all there working when her husband, Brett Choney was killed in the war. This had been his house prior to his first wife drowning in the river. Brett owned the Newspaper, called ‘the Dispatch’, and Cate had assumed management of it almost two years earlier. Cates first husband had died in the early days of the war. His business, which was a mixture of construction and ownership of large rental buildings, had thrived with the growth of St. Louis.

Cate was owner of each of them now. She had made steady improvements to each of the businesses. Her income was extreme, to put it bluntly. She told Jesse that in ten to fifteen years she would like to come up with another business and sell what she presently had. “Jesse, I want to do something else but at the moment, it is just a dream.” He told her she would figure it out one day and then have fun making it happen. She smiled at him and told him, thank you.

“How about you Jesse, what was your life like as you grew up?” He told her he was born in Virginia, what is now Kentucky. “My family moved to Southern Indiana, from Kentucky, when I was fourteen, and we all became farmers. I was a young farmer living at home and a so-so musician prior to joining the Union army in 65’.” He looked down at the floor momentarily then commented, “When my left eye was damaged, they put me in the hospital and then discharged me about a month later.” He told her that his life was not exciting like her life was. She asked, “What else did you do besides farm. It couldn’t have taken all your time.” He told her that he, his brother, and sometimes cousins had built a few barns and a couple cabins when the farming season was slow. “So, how many girl-friends did you have, Jesse, please be honest,” she asked as her eyes penetrated his face. He looked deeply into her eyes for a moment, as his mind swirled to a time when he was just maturing; then he commented. “Like many people there are a few things in my life that I’m not proud of. When sixteen and we had been living in Indiana, for just a couple of years, my mom’s sister and her family came from Kentucky where we had lived. Lizie was my favorite cousin from age ten until we moved and she was about two years older than me.” Jesse looked down and wondered if he should continue. He asked her if she wanted to hear more; she replied with a, “Yes Jesse.”  …“Well, Lizie was engaged to a fella close to ten years older and he had been involved with two affairs over that last month, which had her very depressed.” Jesse told Cate that while he was in the barn feeding stock she just happened to come in and explained how unhappy she was and then started crying. “She told me the whole story about a friend seeing him coming out of the hotel with the different ladies. I tried to quiet her crying; then one thing led to another and she was in my arms kissing me.” Jesse finished by telling Cate that Lizie had married the sorry rascal a month or so after returning to Kentucky and had a child within the year.

Cate was misty eyed as she looked into his face as she told him that her life had not always been great. “My daddy was the black sheep of his family and often was in trouble with the law.” She paused as she looked into his eye for several seconds, “When I was nine my mama ran away from both him and me; then when I was eleven, he was killed in a gun fight with the Marshal. His older brother, my uncle, who I had never met before claimed me and I came to St. Louis.” She told Jesse that her Uncle Lloyd was wonderful and pampered her like she was his own. “By the time I was thirteen the piano attracted me and I learned to play and soon was good enough to perform. By nineteen, I was playing professionally and that is where I met my first husband.” A tear ran down from her eye and she told him that he was the reason she never judged a book by its cover.

Cate commented, “Surly Lizie wasn’t the only girl you liked as you grew up?” He told her that there was one when he was around twenty-one named Susie but her dad didn’t want her to get tangled up with a sod buster like him. She moved back to Virginia one day and I never heard from her again.

Jesse thought about another pretty lady up near Omaha, but decided he would just dig a deep hole if he continued to talk about some of his dark days. He thought that neither Cate nor his mama would ever need to know about this one.

“Let’s go play a little more music,” she said. As he stood her eyes were almost even with his; they were as brown as he had ever seen on a face, at least from this close. “She was tall and beautiful”, he thought to himself.



Chapter 2


In another state, a few hundred miles southwest of St. Louis, was Jesse’s first cousin who went by the name of Frank. They were only a year apart in age but Frank was one cruel hombre at times. There was a time Frank had slapped another of Frank and Jesse’s cousins because she wouldn’t kiss him. She was a year older than Frank and Jesse, but tiny and cute. Frank tried on many occasions to impress her with his strength by shoving all the other smaller cousins around.

There was one incident that all the cousins in the family had to smile about. That small cute cousin had finally had her fill; she had told Frank that if he didn’t try so hard trying to be mean and a show-off that he could have been a good man. Her rebuke in front of the others had made Frank almost cry.

Frank was now running with a gang who robbed a bank or a stagecoach now and then. He had joined the war effort in late 1863 as a confederate soldier down in the state of Texas and had stayed there after the war. No one had heard from him since the gang he ran with had made the WANTED posters.

The gang stayed low most of the time in northwest Texas. It was somewhere north of Abilene, at least from the letter Frank had written home two years earlier. For the most part the gang had only robbed for the money but that all changed when the gang leader was sick with a stomach virus. Frank was put in-charge for the night. The gang robbed a Saloon several miles south, shot up most of the mirrors, and took three of the dancehall girls with them. They rode all night before getting back to their camp. The girls were crying and scared that they would be killed if they didn’t cooperate. The gang leader told Frank they needed to take the women back. “Robbing the Saloon is one thing but kidnapping women will bring a posse on our heels and a noose around our necks.” He started to draw his pistol on Frank but Frank was quicker and killed him on the spot, then he claimed gang leader status.

Frank claimed one of the girls for himself and the other two were shared among the other gang members. Their names were April, Mae, and June. One of them, June had some older brothers and one of them found out she had found her way to Texas. He had packed his six-shooter months earlier in his saddle bags; he was on his way west looking for his younger sister.

Two weeks later Frank had the girls tied up and put in the shanty where the horse feed was kept. The gang were split up by two’s and taking the buckboard to town for supplies. They acted like normal citizens when making the bi-monthly trip. Only Frank was allowed in the Saloon while the others gathered supplies.

There was only one dancehall gal in the saloon that afternoon from what Frank could see and just two cowpokes at the bar. This little lady was the prettiest woman he had seen since that cousin of his back in Indiana. As she walked past his table he asked her, “How much?”  She told him No-No, that she was married to the owner. She normally only worked a couple hours in the afternoon until the regulars went to work for the evening crowd.

Frank looked her over closer as she walked near and there were two small bruises, one to the left of her eye and another just below her elbow. Before he had a chance to comment, in walked a man wearing a suit. He gave her a look and shouted, “Come to my office. I have something that needs taken to the house.” There was a look of fright as she obeyed.

Frank wanted this little lady real bad but didn’t say anything. He thought, “This little lady will be mine one night real soon.” Before he could make another thought he heard loud words coming from the rear. “Minnie, go home and get my supper ready and don’t waste time getting’ there.” She was crying as she replied, “I’m going Jace.”



Back in St. Louis, a letter came for Jesse around mid-week. It was from his dad, James, and it was nothing like what he would have expected. His mom had divorced James the previous month, and had run off with her cousin named Mac Comer. They were living on the other side of the county and with them was Mac’s youngest daughter, Melisa, who was seventeen. James also wrote that Mary Jane, his mom, was claiming that their youngest child of two, Maggie was Mac’s child and not his. Jesse knew Mac and the family. They had visited each other often as he grew up.

Jesse could tell that his dad was highly upset with Mary Jane and going through a bitter time at the moment. He sat down on his bunk and finished reading the letter a second time. Jesse wasn’t sure what could be done but since he was the oldest of the children maybe it was his responsibility to try to help in some way.



Jesse had a gig to play that evening but he needed to inform his boss, at the lumber yard, that he had to leave town and visit Indiana for a family emergency.

As the fiddler played that evening, he often let his mind wonder over what might be happening back home with his dad and mom. He didn’t really have to concentrate too much to play his fiddle; he knew the music like the back of his hand.

At first break Cate looked toward him holding a glass of iced tea. He smiled at her and walked toward her. They talked for a few minutes and he asked, “Are you doing anything after this is over? I need to talk with you.” She told him she would have her driver wait and they could go to her home. He thanked her and then returned to his chair to play until the evening was over. Luckily, this was not a late night event.

As Jesse put his fiddle in the case, Cate was walking toward him. He looked her in the eye and told her that he was grateful she was willing to talk with him on such short notice.

It wasn’t long until they were in her parlor talking. He handed her the letter he had received from his dad. She read it and then handed the letter back to him. “What do you need to do Jesse? Is there anything that I can help you with?” He told her he didn’t want to take the long trip to Jackson County in Indiana but he felt compelled to see if there was something he could do. He told her he had to talk with his boss and inform him he could be gone, maybe up to a few weeks. “I probably won’t have a job working there when I get back but I can find something else, I’m sure.”

If he wasn’t wrong there was a tear running down the cheek of Cate. She commented, “Jesse, I really like you a lot. Since my late husband had died I’ve been in a depression. Then you came along and my heart has some joy back in it again.” She paused a couple seconds as her mouth made a couple of movements. She wasn’t sure if she should continue talking, “Two nights of romance in my entire life and the next day both of them left for the war.” She told him that he was leaving her now and it would be difficult since he was someone she was beginning to count on as a close friend.

He stood and walked toward her; she took a step toward him as well. She moved her lips toward his and they both clung to each other for several seconds. This was no peck on the lips; it caused her body to tremble and from within she warmed with passion. Neither of them wanted to stop, but she stepped back and said, “Jesse, Jesse, I want you to come back to me. Will you?” He told her it was something he also wanted and he would be back when he was finished with the challenges his family was presenting.

They talked for another half hour and she told him to take one of the horses and her buggy for the trip. “I want to make sure you return it and come here first thing when you return. I assume you will be giving up your present boarding place so I’ll have a guest room available the day you return.” She told him to leave any valuables with her as he traveled. He told her he would be back the following day after he took care of his business at the lumber yard.

He was back by about two the next afternoon. Jeffery had the comfortable buggy out of the stable and had it cleaned. Cate had told him to put a few supplies for the horse in the back of the buggy. As he watched Jeffery work he was surprised at how nice the rig was; it had a padded seat, which would take some of the bouncing on the seat away. Jesse would get up at the crack of dawn and take the ferry across the river into Illinois. He would go east toward Indiana over the next several days.

They visited late into the evening. The last thing he wanted to do was leave St. Louis and visit a family that was going through great discord. His mind was working and he had a couple of humdinger dreams just before he awoke.



Frank Lee was on the war path with one of the gang members. He had been accused of being reckless and putting the whole gang in danger. Frank had told the other members that he wanted a certain little lady in the saloon; he wanted to ride so they could be at the edge of town as the sun set.

Old Jake was just a year short of forty and had seen his share of young men die in their twenties trying to make bad choices become their dream. He said, “Every gun in town will be after you Frank and I don’t want any part of it.” Frank told him he was tired of the crying woman he had and wanted a new one. Jake told him to go by himself.

Frank asked, “Who will go with me?” Not a soul answered. He didn’t want to look bad as the leader so he mounted up alone and rode south for town.



Frank rode in toward the main part of the town prior to the sun going down and it was just beginning to stir with some music from the saloon. He looked both ways prior to entering the double doors of the saloon. He blinked twice as he saw what he was looking for. “Whoa me,” he uttered to himself as the little lady walked around the bar toward a table. This one was a beauty and she had no business working in a saloon. He aimed to take care of that real soon. Moments later her husband told her one more table and then to go home; she walked to his table and asked, “What can I get for you cowboy?” He replied, “How about you wrapping yourself up in a red ribbon and then marrying me little lady.” As Minnie walked away, she said something to the man dealing cards and he looked toward Frank. He said something and two men stood up and went outside.

Five minutes later the sheriff walked through the doorway with a WANTED poster in his hand. He looked at Frank as he spoke, “Do you reckon your face is on this poster cowboy. Come over here and stand in the light so I can see you better.” Frank didn’t say a word as he turned from the bar to directly face the sheriff. He heard two clicks from behind him as guns were cocked, which apparently was for the sheriff’s protection just in case Frank made a move. He walked toward the sheriff until it was easy to see his face. It was the wrong poster as the sheriff looked closely into the face of Frank. “Maybe there was another one in his office,” he thought.

The sheriff asked for his gun and told him to come along peaceable to his office. He nodded toward his deputy and told him to lead the way. Frank wasn’t happy but he followed the deputy.

The sheriff asked him a couple dozen questions as he looked through each of the WANTED posters. Some of the posters had gangs and the pictures weren’t clear enough to tell so he put him in jail overnight for a cooling period. He didn’t want any trouble that night.



The gang members, back at the hideout, were playing cards each taking a guess if ole Frank would make it back alive. The dancehall girl named April was the one that Frank was claiming as his own personal property. She was laughing and having a decent time for a change as she talked with the others. April told them that Frank had a mean streak at times when they were alone.

Jake looked at her and spoke softly, “If Frank doesn’t get back tonight, how about spending it with me?” She told him she couldn’t, that Frank had threatened her, “He will kill me if I ain’t faithful. I’m not taking a chance.” Jake commented, “If he gets killed trying to take that other woman, I’ll see to it you get back to your job.” She told him that this was no worse than the saloon. Mae heard her, and then spoke up. She told them all she wanted was to be treated more like a lady and to have a real man to love her. The guys playing cards hooted and hollered at her, “Miss Mae, you can have the night off if it pleases you,” and they hooted again.

Jake pulled his chair closer to April and spoke softly, “If I could get you away, would you go with me and settle on a little farm in southern Missouri. I would treat you good.” She told him she would have to think it over; it sounded like a hard life living on a farm working seven days a week.



Chapter 3


Jesse’s trip had been just slightly over three-hundred miles as he rode into Seymour Indiana. He would spend the evening and then drive out to the farm. It had been nine days since he left St. Louis and he was tired and his body was weary from riding in the buggy over the jolts of a bumpy trail. He had only brought a single change of clothes, his shaving gear, and his six-shooter; everything else was stored at Cates home.

He couldn’t get her off of his mind as he had traveled. She was way out of his league but if she could love him, what did it matter.

Jesse got a hotel room, then a shave and a bath before having his supper at the local diner. Before he turned in for the evening he stopped at the Wells Fargo office and sent a message to Cate. “Cate – Made it – first visit tomorrow – missing you terribly – will send a second message later in the week – Jesse.” He was happy inside as he thought of her beautiful face.

At the crack of dawn he was on his way to his dad’s farm. It would take close to two hours. His mind was in turmoil as he tried to think what might have happened over the past month since his dad had written to him. It wouldn’t be long now until he knew the answers to his thoughts.

As he rounded the corner he could see the sandy lane that led to the four room house. It was good sized for the area of the country. It had a large kitchen, a separate living area, and two bedrooms. There was a loft just in case company might stop overnight and need a bed. The water pump was about ten feet from the kitchen door and there was a two holed out-house a good twenty strides into the back yard. The barn and out building looked the same as when he had left.

He rode the rig toward the barn and then stepped down. Before he could unhitch the horse the door opened and to his surprise Melisa B. Comer stepped out and looked in his direction. He had recognized her from the family visits in earlier years. He hollered, “Hi Melisa, where is my dad?” She told him that he was over in the next field checking on the crops. “When will he be back,” he asked? She told him that it should be within the hour. “What are you doing here, Melisa?”  She told him that she lived there now. He asked her how old she was and she told him she would be eighteen in a couple more months.

“Oh me,” he was thinking. He asked, “Is there room for me to sleep in the loft for a few days?” She told him there was a spare bed in the second bedroom. He hitched the horse back up to the buggy, let it drink, and then told Melisa he was going to find his dad.

Twenty minutes later he could see his dad riding his horse toward him. He turned the buggy around and waited for him.

“Looks like a few changes have been made in the last few weeks. What is going on dad?” James K. looked at his oldest son and then started talking. “She ran away with Mac Comer and was married six days after she divorced me. I let four days pass and then I went to Macs farm and had a few words, then brought Melisa back with me and married her. She is young thing and has raging hormones, son.” He told Jesse that she was a nice person, maybe a little young for him, but he would be a good husband to her.

“Where did you get the nice buggy that you’re driving?” Jesse told him a lady in St. Louis loaned it to him for the journey. They talked some more and Jesse asked, “Do you mind if I stick around a few days, maybe even talk to mom and see what she has to say? I’ll head back to St. Louis in a week or so.”

Melisa could cook, that was for sure. She fried a chicken and made some small sized dumplings for the meal. She had also changed her house dress for one a little nicer. The three of them were eating in silence when Jesse finally commented, “You cook real well Melisa, and of course you have grown into a nice looking young woman. I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your name rather than Mrs. Lee. Do you?” She laughed and told him it would seem funny calling her anything other than her name. James K laughed and said, “For sure son, don’t call her mom,” and he laughed again.

The tension was broke in this house but he still had to travel to visit his mom. He didn’t want the word to get out he was around, so he planned to get up early and drive the twelve miles and pay a visit.



As Jesse drove the rig into Mac Comer’s lane he could see him chopping some wood. He was building a supply for winter and he also stacked a small rack of wood close to the kitchen door for cooking. Mac looked up but couldn’t recognize the driver with his hat pulled down low on his forehead.

Jesse pulled the horse to a stop a few feet from the front door and started to dismount. Mac walked around the corner and immediately recognized Jesse. He let out a holler, “Mary Jane, you have a visitor. It’s someone you haven’t seen for a few years.” Mary Jane opened the door and looked into Jesse’s eyes for a few moments before she spoke, “Son, it is nice to see you. I suppose you are here to see if I went and lost my mind. Well I haven’t so I suppose you want to know why, is that right?” Jesse told her that was part of it but that he had missed seeing her and also seeing how the family was getting along.

She asked, “Can you stay for supper? We can talk for a spell and I hope answer all your questions”. She told him to unhitch his horse and feed it a little hay.

After they ate Mary Jane asked Maggie to go to her bedroom and then settled in to have their talk. She commented, “Jesse, I was a good mother and a good wife to your dad until a few years ago. Somewhere during those years I drifted from James romantically and Mac and I had an experience. Mac is a lover and he treated me like a special person and I loved it.” She told him that she could not stay away from Mac. “I have asked the Lord to forgive me but I have a hard time facing old friends because they know I sinned.” She told him life did not provide do-over’s when it came to what she had done with Mac. “People don’t forgive like the Lord does.”

She told him that Melisa was angry with Mac because of the infidelity he participated in. When James came over and yelled at both of us for being home wreckers, she left with him. “They got married the next day just to spite both of us!” Jesse spoke up and commented, “They like each other mom. It’s not like they are completely at odds. They will do o.k. so find a way to make some kind of peace. Jesse paused a second while his mom rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. He did tell me that there is a forty acre tract of land up in Jasper County that he was thinking about making an offer on.”  He told me that for him and Melisa to have a survivable marriage he thought he had to move. Jesse and his mom talked some more and then she made up the couch for him to sleep on.

Before he left the next morning they talked some more. He asked about the rumor concerning his sister. She told him it could be Macs or maybe James’s since it was close to the time she had one of the affairs. They spent time talking about family in Kentucky and that Lizie had a young daughter that should be close to ten. Mary Jane told him that her niece had been ill for going on six months and was not expected to live more than a year. As he thought, he commented, “Lizie was my favorite cousin, ma. I hope she is going to be well.” She raised her eyes and looked directly into his face, “I was aware she was your favorite, even way back then.” Jesse changed the subject quickly and told her that he was going back to St. Louis soon; that there was a lady there that had caught his eye.



Jesse was back at his dad’s home by noon. He helped with the farm work that afternoon and the next day. He found copies of his birth records and the discharge papers from the army and put them in a waterproof satchel. He was going to leave the next day. That evening James K and he had a long discussion about their family history and Jesse wrote several pages of notes to add to the satchel. James had five brothers and two sisters. An older brother named John had five sons, one of them was Frank Lee; James told Jesse that Frank had turned bad. He also told Jesse that he had heard there was a reward on him, Dead or Alive and that his brother, Jogn, was taking it hard. “That’s some more bad news,” Jesse thought.

Jesse asked, “One thing I’ve wondered about over the past couple years. What ever happened to Ed Dill? We took the train south and when I told him that I was joining the Blue Coats he threatened to kill me if he ever saw me again.” James told him that Ed, after one battle with close to ninety percent casualties, had deserted the army and fled to New Mexico. He had robbed a bank and was in jail now, serving some time.

When they had finished talking Jesse loaded a few of his personal items including his shotgun and another fiddle he owned into a tarp and rolled it tight. He waved at his dad and Melissa as he rode away, who knew, possibly for the last time.

When he was a day’s journey from St. Louis he sent another telegram to Cate and told her when he expected to arrive.



Frank Lee was having a bad night as he tried to sleep in the jail. Two old drunks were brought in later that evening and vomited on the floor. The stench was horrible and Frank yelled at the sheriff to get it cleaned up. The sheriff told him it would get mopped in the morning when the deputy found time.

When morning rolled around Frank was hungry but the sheriff, or for that matter, the deputy wasn’t around.

The sheriff came in and let the two old codgers out and told Frank the Marshall would be stopping by about noon to look him over. “He has more up to date WANTED posters to check before I let you out. If you are on the WANTED posters, you will be in here for awhile.”

Frank hollered, “How about something to eat, sheriff? I missed supper last night and I’m hungry.” He told Frank when the deputy came in a little later that there would be a biscuit and some gravy. Frank was mad and was thinking what he was going to do to this tin badge when he had a chance.

Four hours later the Marshall strolled into the jail. The Sheriff talked with the Marshall for a while and then he pulled out some WANTED posters. Both of them looked through what was in the pile. None of them fit the description so the sheriff told Frank he could go and it would be best if he left town. Frank told him he was going for dinner and then he would leave. The sheriff told him to come for his gun after he had finished eating and on his way riding out of town.

An hour later Frank was picking up his gun. He mounted his horse and rode slowly past the saloon, then cut down the alley. There she was, just walking toward him, about ten strides from the back door. Frank dismounted between her and the door. She started to yell but he hit her with a short solid punch to the jaw that knocked her speachless. She was stone cold as he picked her up and put her in his saddle. He mounted behind her and rode directly away from town; where it only looked like one person was riding on the horse.

Ten minutes later he put his horse into a light gallop and was out of sight before anyone had the foggiest idea that she had been kidnapped.

Two hours later he was riding into the canyon where the hideout was located. As he rode past the lookout he yelled that he had a real woman.



It was raining when Jesse pulled the buggy onto the river barge to cross the Mississippi. Even though he had a slicker on to keep the rain from soaking him, his pant legs were wet. It also took twice the normal time for the crossing to take place. As he left the barge the lightning started and the skies became darker; then the sky rumbled with thunder. He wished he was at Cates but it would be at least half an hour, maybe more, and he was already starting to feel the chill.

It was close to seven when he pulled the buggy around the house and into the stable. Jeffery ran out to help him a few minutes later. When the horse was stabled Jesse went inside. Minutes later he had a warm bath prepared. He soaked in it until he was warm and then he took his straight-razor and shaved the week’s growth. He felt ten times better as he was called to supper.

Cate was seated and stood as he came into the dining room. They both smiled as he walked toward her. His heart was racing as he looked into her eyes. “I have missed you more than I had imagined possible. Every day I would daydream about getting to talk with you and see that beautiful smile.” She told him that she had missed him and feared that he would not come back. He stepped closer and put his right hand on her waist and looked into her eyes as he puckered his lips and found the sensation of her soft lips. She kissed him back with every ounce of passion a woman had ever been given. Moments later, as their lips parted, Mary was bringing both of them a warm bowl of soup. Jesse commented, “I could use a cold glass of water.” Cate looked at him and smiled as Mary looked at both of them before leaving the room.



The next morning Cate was up early and went through the ritual of making herself beautiful. She wanted to talk with Jesse about an idea she had for the newspaper.

It had been a trying month for Jesse and he had just had the best night of rest in years. He had no idea what time it was but he located his clothes and dressed himself. He found his fiddle and took it to the room with her piano and shut the doors. He played a few of his favorite tunes as he waited for the house to come alive.

It wasn’t loud but the faint sounds of his music could be heard through the walls on the first floor. Mary and Jana were listening as they did some of their work for the day. Jeffery was inside sitting in the kitchen as well and commented, “Nice sound coming from the fiddle. Wish I knew how to play an instrument.” Jana told him that he was good at his job and not to be discouraged by someone else’s talent.

As Cate descended the stairs she could hear the softness of the music. It sounded like a love song. Maybe Jesse was playing something just for her. She opened the door a crack and his back was to her. She quietly walked toward him but suddenly she turned toward her piano. As he paused she played a soft chord on the piano that caused Jesse to suddenly turn her way. She looked into his face and played a soft response to his last music. He recognized the tune and hummed along with her.

Moments later Mary stepped into the room and told them Jana had breakfast almost ready, “Where would you like to be served?” She told Mary to serve it at the small table in the dining room.

As they ate, Cate asked, “I have this idea for the newspaper, tell me what you think of it. I recently read a couple articles about the West and there are a few things I would like to put in the paper titled ‘Fact or Fiction’ and I need a person to investigate and write the column. There would be some travel involved and I might decide I want to be somewhat involved. Do you think the idea is worthwhile?” Jesse thought a moment and then told her that he knew for sure some of the rumors that were spread were factual. She replied, “Jesse, I would like to give you the job of preparing these stories and making the article one of the main reasons our readers purchase the paper.” She told him she would like the first article coming from Kansas City. He chuckled and replied, “When would you like for me to start?” She told him a couple weeks after they were married. He was startled for a second but responded, “When do you suppose that might be?” She looked directly into his deep blue eyes and said, “When you ask me, Jesse. I am ready anytime.” “What if I’m not the right person and some wealthy man comes along?” She told him that would never happen. “I know who I want as my mate; he is standing right in front of me.”

Jesse told her that tomorrow he wanted to visit the Newspaper and start learning the ins and outs of how to write the column; then he would spend some time putting a couple articles together based on fiction. “You can determine where I need help by reading and then explaining what you might have written in the article.” He looked into her glowing eyes and commented, “That other topic. Let’s do it soon! I’m thinking that maybe a month or so, which will give you some time to prepare a good article to put in your newspaper. Wouldn’t you like to suggest to readers that we have been seen in public together for awhile?” She told him it was a good idea and she could get the articles going.



The month was about over and the wedding would be in two days. There had been at least half a dozen articles with a couple pictures of them out in the public. Yesterday the article in the paper had a heading that read, ‘Cate Choney to wed Jesse Lee’ and there was a stream of her friends stopping at her house all evening. Jesse had ate in the kitchen and then left for the evening. He took his fiddle and played with some friends until ten and then started back to Cates house. The lights were out when he walked past the front of it and then he came in through the kitchen door.

She was waiting for him as he entered. She had been crying, he could tell because those beautiful eyes were swollen. He didn’t know what to say but he could tell she had something on her mind. He looked her in the eye and asked, “Did you get the wind knocked out of your sail? Your eyes are swollen and there are some tear stains on your face.” She started to cry again and told him that some of her friends were cruel to her. Several had told her she was making a mistake. “I want you for my husband Jesse but I wasn’t expecting to get a tongue lashing from the ladies I thought were my friends. I need you to provide some answers for me.” Jesse told her that while in the Army one of the commanders had told the troops, “Don’t borrow trouble before it comes.” He paused and told her that changes in both their lives would have some day-to-day challenges.

She told him the most important question was, “Do you love me and will you always be faithful to me. Think for a second before you answer.” Jesse took a deep breath and looked her square in the eye. “I will love you until the day I take my last breath and the second part of your question is this; my heart tells me you are worthy of having a faithful husband. Any man who would not be faithful to you should be considered a snake.” He told her that the first time he noticed her; he had to turn his head to keep his concentration on playing his music. “I fell in love with you at first sight but never had an idea that I would ever get a chance to speak with you, let alone have the privilege to be your husband.”

She responded, “What if I told you that one day I wanted a few children and a real family, would that make you feel different?” He told her he had not honestly thought that far ahead but if she was his wife and it was what she wanted, then it would be, “When do you want that child; we can make it happen.”

Most of my friends told me you were a handsome man but the first time a fancy lady came along you would abandon me. Another one of them told me that, yes, you were handsome but would probably always be a fiddle playing bum, never amounting to much. None of them who came and went this evening actually told me I had made a good choice and congratulated me.

Jesse looked her in the eye and asked, “Should I leave St. Louis so your friends can say, see I told you so, or do you want me to show you that we can be a happy couple?” He told her that he could just take the job she had offered and leave St. Louis for the West. He could write the ‘Fact or Fiction’ article and give her time to make up her mind and if he was just a bump in the road; if so then she could send him packing.

“What do you want Jesse?” He told her that he wanted her in his arms every evening and he was ready if she was. “You cause my stomach to tremble. I would like to Do-si-do you around the dance floor and kiss you until your beautiful lips are swollen, my dear.” She commented, “We leave St. Louis right after the ceremony and go to Kansas City. We will stay gone about a month before we return.”  She told him that by then, she hoped life could have gotten back to normal.


Chapter 4


The wedding was history now and they were on the train traveling toward Kansas City. They did survive the wedding but only about half of the invited guests, Cate’s friends, attended. Cate commented to Jesse as they traveled, “The ones who truly love me for who I am came but those busy bodies who have often wanted to run my life stayed away. Remind me to make a love list, Jesse.” He told her that he remembered a story that his mom had read to him years before. “It was about a wedding in the bible days and several of the invited guests refused to come. They had excuses but the punch line was something like this; when you are invited to a party to honor the newlyweds and refuse the invitation, don’t expect to get that second invitation at a later time. The eternal doors might just be closed; just like you may not extend an invitation in the future to those who snubbed you and me.” He told her that is sort of how his mom used to tell him it would be someday.

They looked out the window at the passing hills and finally Jesse whispered in her ear, “I forgot to tell you that our wedding night was totally wonderful. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.” She whispered back that she was his to have and hold whenever and forever.

This was a honeymoon and business trip combination for them as they both wanted to see some old West flair. To be sure, they were a little disappointed after arriving at the railroad station because the city had a new law that all guns had to be checked at the police station. There more than likely wouldn’t be any bank robberies or gun fights to report, coming out of Kansas City. They spent two nights at the hotel on Main Street. They spent time together during the daytime inquiring around on where the wildest town in Kansas was located. It wasn’t long until they left Kansas City and where on their way to Dodge City. It was where gunfighters seemed to end up; many of them were laid to rest in Boot Hill.



The kidnapper, Frank Lee, had the saloon owner’s wife by the shoulder as he pulled her into the bunkhouse where the gang was sitting around the table. When the door had opened it startled the lot of them because they figured he was killed by now or in a jail. The lady was gagged and had her wrists tied together. Her eyes looked furious as she met the gaze of the gang of men and three women. “What in the world was happening here,” she wondered.

Frank exclaimed, “I want all of you out of here, now! This little lady and me are going to come to an understanding real soon.” Frank wasn’t a bad looking gent; actually handsome, but he had a temper and caused other people around him to become uneasy. As the gang started to file out he hollered at Jake and told him he could have April as his own. Jake said, “Thanks Frank. I’ll take good care of her.”

When Frank finally took the gag off of his new special gal, she screamed, whimpered a little, and swore at him like she was a drunken sailor. “You have ruined my life, you low down snake,” she screamed. He started laughing and told her that no decent man would want her when he finally discarded her. She started crying in despair as he took his hand and gripped her jaw tight and roughly kissed her. He gripped the front of her neck, slightly choking her with his right hand, and told her she was going to die today if she didn’t settle down. Outside every word that was screamed could be heard by the gang.

There were four outlaws talking to Mae and June under the tree and Jake was in the barn talking to April. He told her that the first chance they had he was taking her and leaving the gang, that is if she would go. “I haven’t decided yet what I want to do but I’m so glad that Frank found someone else to treat bad.” She told him she was only twenty-seven and often thought by this time in her life she would have found a nice gentleman. “I wouldn’t have come west if this was to be my life.”

Over under the tree the four outlaws were cutting a deck of cards to determine who would have Mae and June once Frank calmed down.

In just a little over half an hour, Frank walked out the door and was standing on the porch; he told the men to gather round. He commented, “I’m moving the gang to southern Missouri, since there are more trains and banks.” They had two buckboards and a larger wagon that would accommodate their needs. He gave them all some chores to accomplish so they could start the northeast journey the next morning. He told them that the lady in the cabin was named Minnie and she would be the only one riding in the buckboard with him. He told them to get busy and stay out of the house; that Minnie would be cooking the food for their evening meal.

She heard what he said from inside. There were still some tears on her cheek but they weren’t flowing from her eyes anymore. He had slapped her just once and handled her like she would never have imagined. Frank walked back into the cabin where Minnie stood; she was tied up to the pole that held the loft in place. He told her exactly what she was going to do and she said, “I heard you out there barking orders. I’ll cook but don’t hit me again. I’ll do what you tell me.” Frank told her he would untie her if she did as she was told. She was totally humiliated as his eyes seemed to penetrate her.

Minnie had been brought up in a good family and she was pure when she had married her husband, Jace. He had come from a good southern family and had come west to earn his own fortune. Jace had changed a lot; he ran around with a bad group of fellas now that he had bought the saloon. He had started abusing her when he came home drunk more often than not. This last year he hired and used young women to make him a substantial profit. She had witnessed him being unfaithful to her with more than one of the soiled doves that worked for him. If she could actually laugh at the moment, it would be that neither of these two men was much different. Her husband was a very mean man, maybe worse than Frank.

As a teenager growing up with the civil war and with death all around her, the young ladies had been counseled on the terrible things that happened to women. Her mom had told her that if it came to being used by a soldier or dying, to submit. Her mom had said, It was ugly but one day the Lord would handle the wrongs of life.” As Frank walked toward her, that thought came to her mind. She intended to be a lady from now on, even if the world around her wasn’t treating her as one.

Minnie cooked the meal and all the gang and women folk told her it was wonderful. Frank gave her a look that caused her to feel a chill; then she commented, “Frank, if you didn’t try so hard to be mean and show-off, you could become a decent person.” The room went silent and for just that instant Frank recalled he had heard the same thing several years earlier from that little cute cousin back on the farm.

The next day the gang left the area and rode northeast. Two days later they robbed a bank. One of the gang, Dudley, had accidentally shot a woman in the leg. She was the wife of the sheriff of the surrounding county. A week later the gang split the money and also split up, going in separate directions. Lefty and Slim had lost the women in the card game: they headed south with a bitter taste in their mouths.



Jesse and Cate stayed in Dodge City for three nights. The sheriff was Matt Dillon and he kept the town reasonably calm most of the day. At night when most of the town was resting the wild and wooly could be found in one of two saloons. Jesse and Cate attended the larger of the two one evening just to make some notes for the article in the paper. For sure Cate had never seen the like of it before. There were dancehall girls waiting tables and being mishandled by several men as they delivered the drinks. There was a small dance stage where a threesome sang and danced as entertainment. They sang three to four songs as they put on a skit for each of the songs. Afterward it didn’t take more than ten seconds for a few of the rowdy men to fight over which gal they wanted to take upstairs.

It had been less than an hour when Cate asked to leave and she led Jesse to their room. Cate commented, “That was not what I expected Jesse. Is this what the Wild West has to offer?” He told her that parts of the land were totally untamed and almost uncivilized at times. They had a serious discussion on whether the idea of reporting such matters in the newspaper was something the normal city folks of St. Louis would find interesting. “Jesse, answer me this please. What were those three dancers taking the men upstairs for?” She looked him in the eye waiting for an answer. He was trying to figure how to explain it using the right words. “This is kind of sad but that is the way many of the women of the West make money to live on.” She exclaimed, “Every hour or so with a different man! Come on Jesse, this is barbaric. I want to go home.” He told her he would go down and check for the earliest stage coach going back to Kansas City. As he walked he was thinking they could have a pleasant ride on the train to St. Louis looking out the window watching trees change color. He walked out of the hotel room minutes later.



Jesse was gone for over two hours and she was getting worried, especially after hearing some gunshots. There had been someone in the saloon that Jesse recognized and he had to speak with him.

Frank Lee was still in the saloon sitting near the piano player. Jesse planned to slip in unnoticed and pay a visit. That is exactly what happened as the dancers had most everyone’s attention. Jesse was beside Frank and had pulled up a chair before Frank even knew someone was there. Jesse brushed his shoulder against him before Frank turned to look. The surprise on his face looked like he had seen a ghost and he did not say a word, only stared at his cousin.

Jesse told him that he had just returned from Indiana and a visit with the family. He told Frank that both his mom and dad were suffering with the news that he was a WANTED man. Frank finally spoke and told him that he was going to try to change and start a new life. He told Jesse that he had a nice woman now and there was a chance he could open a mercantile store and have a family. He told Jesse the woman was kind to him, even when he hadn’t deserved it. “I’m supposed to meet the owner of this saloon in a few minutes about the purchase of a building down the street.” They talked for several more minutes and Jesse finally told Frank he had to get back to his wife soon. Jesse asked, “Why don’t you write a note to your mom and I will mail it from St. Louis. That is where I live now.”

Minutes later Jesse left with the note and shortly after that the saloon owner slipped in next to Frank and they made the deal. He had a new store front and it had only cost fifty dollars. Frank walked out the swinging doors of the saloon and noticed Jesse just walking in the front door of the hotel up the street.



Jesse let himself into the hotel room. The lamp was still on and Cate looked at him with big cow eyes. She was in bed crying and stared as he walked to her and seated himself next to her on the bed. It was a chore trying to talk to her; she would try talking and then cry more. “How can they do that Jesse? No respectable man would ever want those girls for a wife.” He told her that he had read the papers in Omaha before coming to St. Louis and that many a farmer going out west married them. “A woman doesn’t last in that business many years until they die or find a lonely man willing to have her. Some of them make good faithful wives after going through the ordeal.” She told him she couldn’t see how a woman could face her husband. “I would like to talk with one of them someday.”

She looked into his eyes for several seconds, “Jesse, there is something I’ve never told a person on this planet. My mom was named Louise and when she ran away from my dad, he told me later, that she ran off with a man and he used her. Tonight brought back that awful memory of her occupation.”

Jesse’s sad eyes met hers as he turned out the lantern and crawled in bed. Before he could pull the covers over him Cate had her arms around his neck whispering in his ear. He told her he knew about these things happening, even in St. Louis; where there were some ‘gentlemen clubs’ where men were doing the same thing; for sure these things happened in civilized cities. “Have you ever been a participant,” she exclaimed!” He told her No but he had played his fiddle at a few private parties where not a single woman at the party was the fellow’s wife. She cried again and was soon asleep.

The ride to Kansas City was quiet and tiring. Cate didn’t say many words and Jesse sure wasn’t going to press her to talk. He could tell that she was in partial shock and it would take time for her to heal. The train ride back to St. Louis from Kansas City wasn’t much different but toward the end she told him that she was sorry. He nodded; then told her it would take some time to digest the ways of the dark side of the world.

She looked at his face and nodded her head, “Yes it will, Jesse. Please be patient with me.” It was early evening when Jeffery picked them up at the train station. On the ride home she told Jesse she did not want to go out for a few days and asked him to resist taking any evening jobs until they had time to talk.



Two days later Cate came down to breakfast. She asked if Jesse was available. “Jesse is in the basement with Jeffery working on the furnace.” Mary told Cate that Jeffery needed some help changing the heavy metal door of the furnace where coal is burned. They had told her it would be an early winter according to the Almanac.

Jesse was still not up from the basement when she finished eating and she asked Mary to show her where he was working. She had to walk through a large pantry and then down a brick stairway. It was a gigantic room and right in the middle was a large contraption that she had never seen before. Mary told her it was the furnace and the large arms were actually what the heat traveled through to heat the rooms on the first floor. They walked all the way to the back and the two men were covered in coal soot as they worked on a large door on the side of the furnace. There was a room covering close to a third of the basement that had some chunks of coal remaining from the previous year.

Mary called, “Jesse, Cate is here to see you. Can you talk?” As he turned he could see Cate watching him with a serious look on her face. “When you are finished, please come up to our room.” She smiled at him and made another comment, “You look real good dressed in black. Get a bath and change before you come up. I want to talk before lunch.” The two women left and as they started up the stairs Cate commented, “I had no idea the basement was so large. What is down here besides the furnace?”



It was almost lunch time when Jesse finally knocked on Cate’s door. She was at a desk with several papers in three stacks as he entered. She said, “Jesse, I want to go over my papers with you. You’re my husband and I want you to partner with me and share working the different businesses.” She told him that she had a lot of money and the businesses make a large profit each year. “One day we will talk the financials but today I want to cover the basic business plans and expectations that I have for each of them.”

She covered each in medium detail and told him that tomorrow morning they would visit the newspaper and spend the day with the editor in-charge. “I want you to see every room in the building and understand the details of the business. We will do the same over the next few days at our other investments.”

She gave him a wicked smile and commented, “Today I call the shots on these businesses but as my husband, very soon you are going to make the decisions on many of the weekly challenges and I’ll continue to cover the financials.” She told him that she didn’t like the dark world they had encountered while they were out on their honeymoon and she wanted to have babies and spend more time at home. Jesse looked into her eyes and asked, “I have a proposal for you; do you have a few more minutes to talk?” He told her that there were two tracks of land that he wanted to purchase, “Both are two-hundred acres and the asking price is five-dollars an acre. I would like to offer them three and one-half per acre. We could hold on to the land for future development.” She told him she liked the idea.

“One more thing, I am sorry to tell you this Jesse but your days of playing the fiddle outside of this home for private parties or gentleman clubs are over. You can practice, play for me, or play for guest when we have them but I don’t ever want you playing where ethics are bypassed!”  He looked into her beautiful face and replied, “Yes Ma-am!” She looked at him and wanted to know if that was all he had to say. Jesse thought for a second, he smiled as he commented, “Thank you Cate, I love you, and I want to help you make those babies.” She threw a pencil at him and told him to get a leather satchel to keep papers in while going from job to job. “Come here,” she said as she took a step toward him and put her arms up over his neck.



Before the next week was over, Cate had a decorator in the house. She wanted to have a nursery room ready in case the seed was planted soon.



Chapter 5


Here it was mid-Fall of the year and twelve months had rapidly past. It was October first of eighteen-sixty-nine and not quite what Cate had expected. She loved being a wife and working along with her husband but that child she had fantasized about just wasn’t in her tummy. It was different for Jesse, what a year it had been for him as he learned how to run several large business. His days were fairly long and occasionally he come in to supper later than he would have liked.

It was certainly the fall of the year, with leaves turning colors and there was crispness to the air. They had talked about inviting some special guest for thanksgiving this year. Jesse had a list and had discussed several of the possible what-ifs of each name that was mentioned and they still weren’t close to finalizing it. Over the next weekend they determined something would have to be decided if they were to pull it off this year.

Jesse had finished the unpleasant task of taking one of the horses to the vet and putting it to sleep. While at an event for the hospital, someone had put poison in the water tanks. Several of the horses driven that evening were in the same situation and the police were called into service to investigate.

The newspaper reported,

‘After several days the criminal that had poisoned some horses in the city was caught. He was disgruntled with the Richie-rich giving their money to the hospital and not helping the street people as winter was soon approaching. As his luck might have it, the poor soul was being placed in prison for two years and would get his meals and housing provided.’

Jesse and Cate discussed the article following their evening meal and Cate commented, “Why can’t we take the vacant warehouse close to the river and provide cots to sleep on for those unfortunate souls who have no home.” Jesse told her they would need food to eat as well. “What if I wall up a room where a soup kitchen could operate and a supper meal served before they went to sleep? Maybe we could get donations for food but if not, we can afford it.” Cate told him it would be a good plan but she only wanted the building opened mid-October through the end of April. “Also, take the stairs going to the second floor down and board up the first floor windows.” She told him those changes were needed to make the warehouse both safe and secure. He hired the work done but it wasn’t completed until the third weekend of October.

They had worked together to post several signs advertising the warehouse as a shelter for the homeless; the following Saturday would be the opening. Cate had invited some ladies from the church that they had recently started attending; they were to help her in the kitchen for that first weekend. There was more volunteer help than she needed so she formed a schedule with the help of the ladies; the volunteers covered each evening with a cook and a couple helpers.

Prior to the opening Cate had a poster made with a few rules. They had determined that only forty-eight cots would fit safely with some room to spare. If the number got that high, only the first forty-eight could spend the night. No tobacco or alcohol would be permitted or the person would be expelled from the property. She did not want to take a chance on a fire or someone vomiting while there. The doors would open at six p.m. and by eight-thirty the next morning it would be locked shut, unless the weather was extremely drastic.

Cate and Jesse had a bowl of soup with the homeless that first evening. They waited until all in attendance were served and then they sat at one of the tables and visited. Each person they talked with seemed to have a different reason why they were down and out.

On Monday they both had work to catch up on and were busy all day. There must have been a couple dozen letters on the desk in their study awaiting them. They put the envelopes in separate piles and took care of business first. Once the business was completed there was one addressed to Jesse. Needless to say, he didn’t get many letters from his folks. This one was from Dodge City.

It read,

Dear cousin Jesse, I will be in St. Louis the week prior to thanksgiving with my wife Minnie. We have been thinking about making a move from Dodge City to St. Louis before we start a family and intend to look for a building to start a business. I remember the last time we met; you were decent to me, knowing I was a criminal at the time. I am writing to see if we might pay you a visit while there. I look forward to hearing from you.

It was signed. Respectfully, Frank.

This was unexpected and Jesse handed it to Cate. He asked her to read it. She read it and commented, “I don’t remember meeting a cousin in Dodge City. Have I forgotten something?” He told her he spotted his cousin in the Saloon when they were looking for a potential story and when he had gone to make arrangements to leave the next day; he wandered over to the saloon and spoke with Frank for a few moments. When I returned to the room you were still sad and as we talked I completely forgot about it. Jesse felt a little guilty with this last comment to Cate because he had thought about the meeting several times over the past year and wondered how Frank was doing.

“Have we ever nailed down what we were going to do for thanksgiving? I’m sure my cousin would be grateful if we asked them to spend a couple days while they looked for a building.” She told him that maybe the Lord had this visit in mind all along. “Why don’t you telegram him tomorrow that we would be delighted to have them as guest for thanksgiving.” Jesse’s mind went into action as he thought about the possible what-ifs with his cousin. “Jesse, did you hear what I said? Can you contact your cousin tomorrow?” He told her he would and then he thanked her for the support.

Jesse sent the telegram and included their address. He told Frank they could come the week prior and then spend the entire holiday with them. He told him he knew the town and that as the city had grown larger; there was a need for merchants in a few of the new and expanding areas.



Jesse had received another letter and Frank had thanked him for the kind offer. He showed the letter to Cate after they ate and she smiled. “I hope they have a delightful time visiting with us and that your cousin can find a building for a business. Do we have any that he might be able to use?” He told her maybe the one down town if he wanted to warehouse and expand out to a new community later. “It isn’t very far from the Mississippi and there are items needed for the boats going up and down the river. I’ll mention it to him.”

They went to the music room, as they called it, and played some tunes together. It was enjoyable and seemed to drain the stress of the day out of them; both mind and body. Cate asked, “Does your cousin play an instrument?” He told her that several years earlier he had played a guitar but more than likely he wasn’t into music, like some of us in the family.



It was a week before Thanksgiving and both Jesse and Cate were working at a separate location for the day. They had planned to get home early and prepare for their expected guest coming in on the following day.

Frank and Minnie had arrived in St. Louis just after lunch. They had taken the train and had no idea what to do until the next day. Finally Minnie told her husband they could catch a ride to the address Jesse had given. As they gazed at the large beautiful house, Frank told Minnie he must have made a mistake on the address. He pulled the old telegram from his pocket and double checked. This was the address that Jesse had written. He looked at Minnie and commented, “Maybe he is pulling some kind of a stunt on me and wrote this address to get even with me for the times I was mean to him and the other cousins.” He told her that he was sorry they came on the wild goose chase. She told him to go knock on the door, maybe they knew where Jesse and his wife lived.

Mary answered the door and looked into the face of a man she did not recognize. Standing near the street beside a carriage was a lady that she had never seen as well. She said, “May I help you sir?” Frank told her he thought he was lost but that he was looking for his cousin, Jesse Lee. “Yes sir,” she said as she smiled. You have the right house. Is this your wife with you,” as she looked toward the lady standing a few feet from the stairs? She told him she had been told about a visit but was expecting them the next day. “Bring your bags right in, Sir.”

Frank walked back down the stairs and whispered that this was the right house. Minnie walked back to the carriage and asked the driver to help unload the bags. All three of them carried the satchels to the door. Mary told them she was sorry that Jeffery was driving Ms. Cate that day but she would try to help them with the bags. Mary commented, “Let me show you to your room. It is here on the first floor, down the hall and to the right.” Frank carried four of the bags and the ladies each had one as they walked to the room. Mary told them they usually served the evening meal at six-thirty but if they needed a bite now, she could show them to the kitchen where Jana was busy preparing food.

Frank told her maybe later but they needed to unpack. Mary closed the door as she left and Frank whispered, “I didn’t know Jesse had a house like this? Growing up he wasn’t any different than me, just a poor old dirt farmer.”

Minnie looked at Frank and reminded him that a couple years ago he was nothing but a mean bad tempered bank robber and that he had kidnapped her. “If the Lord had given you your due, you would have been hung by your neck back then.” She told him that he had changed; that she had hated him that first day because she had been kidnapped from her routine and secure life; even though it was from a mean and cruel husband. “You were both the same, both mean acting but at that moment I considered you the worse of the two.” She told him there was a big difference now, “Your heart is soft and you love me and treat me with respect. Jace never knew how to be tender and I’m far better off with you.” He lowered his lips and kissed her with gentleness. She looked up into his face and raised her lips again. After the kiss she smiled and commented, “Thanks for kidnapping me.”  Thanks also for putting the name of Minnie Hanson on the tombstone of that poor saloon girl who was killed; it should keep Jace from ever coming after me.



Cate was the first one home that afternoon. As Jeffery drove her in, Mary opened the back door and slipped outside. She told Cate that the guest had arrived and had been in their room all afternoon. “I told them that you eat at six-thirty and they could have a snack in the kitchen.” Cate told her thanks.

When Jesse arrived, Cate told him the guests were a day early and in the guest room. “Would you mind letting them know our routine so they won’t feel like strangers in the house. I want them to enjoy their time as they visit with us.”



The guests were summoned by Mary and soon they were seated at the smaller rectangular table in the dining room. Jesse and Cate walked in as Mary walked out of the door to talk with Jana, who was at the moment preparing the meal in the kitchen. Jesse greeted them as they walked through the door. Cate asked if they were hungry at the moment or would they like to stretch their legs and go into the music room. Minnie was hungry but she replied, “I would like to stretch for a few minutes and the music room seems like a place I would like to see.” Cate took her hand and asked her to walk with her. Frank stood and joined Jesse as they walked several steps behind. They made small talk but the women talked like they had known each other for several years.

Minnie asked Cate about the piano and some of the art work. Several minutes later Mary stepped into the room and asked if they were ready to be served. “We will be right there, Mary. Have Jana serve the soup first and bring a bowl of crackers in case the gentlemen like it.” While they ate Cate asked, “Do you play the guitar much Frank? Jesse mentioned that when you had family picnics back in Indiana that was your musical instrument.” He told her that he played it while in the war quite often but that the last couple years he had not touched one. “At one time I wanted to play the fiddle but in those days I was a little showy and liked to sing the words and cut-up. The fiddle and singing don’t mix so I learned the guitar.” She asked Minnie if she had played an instrument and Minnie told her she had played the piano close to ten years but only on occasions now. Frank was startled; he didn’t know she even knew how to play.

The meal was the best Frank or Minnie had ever eaten and Minnie made it a point to thank Cate. They talked awhile about the trials of life. Minnie told them Frank had changed a lot since they first met. Jesse whistled under his breath then commented, “Now we will go back into the music room and wind down the evening; normally we just kick back and relax.”

Jesse went to the closet for his fiddle. He asked, “Cate, this guitar in here, do you mind if Frank tunes it up and strums along?” The flash crossed her mind of her late husband, Brett, playing it on occasions. He hadn’t been a professional but he had enjoyed it now and then. “Why yes Jesse. It may need cleaned a little but Frank can use it anytime.” Jesse handed it to Frank and there was a Wow that came from his lips. ”This is the finest guitar made.”

The evening in the music room ended a little over an hour later. Frank gently laid the guitar on the top of the piano and thanked Cate for the use of it. She looked at him and replied, “I think it adds to the décor of the room, maybe it should stay right where it’s at.”

They covered the schedule of events for the next day and then went to their rooms.

Just as Jesse shut the bedroom door Cate turned and took a step toward Jesse. She commented softly, “I had a good time visiting this evening but right now I want you to hold me close for a while.” She moved her lips toward his and they lingered a little longer than usual.



Chapter 6


There was a thick coat of frost on the ground as Jesse looked out the window. “Dress a little warmer today when you go out. What time are you leaving with Minnie?” Cate told him that she had a reservation for lunch and wanted to briefly stop at the newspaper prior to the lunch. He told her that he was going to the warehouse that was closest to the river, then we will ride out further north to where the population growth was starting to increase. “We will just have a light lunch between looking around at a couple of warehouses.”

Frank and Minnie were up and had finished dressing. Frank told her he thought they should just go down to the parlor and wait. Mary was walking through as they took a seat and told them they could go into the music room if they cared to. Minnie played the piano and Frank picked up the guitar and played a few cords that partially blended with the piano music. They played for half an hour before Jesse joined them.



Frank and Jesse had looked at the larger warehouse and was about to stop at a saloon for lunch. Most of the saloons served a lunch and for the price it was a good meal. As Frank followed Jesse through the door he spotted Jace Hanson, Minnie’s previous husband; he was sitting at a table with a woman. He was heavier and had dark bags under his eyes, but it was Jace for sure. Frank knew a lot more about him today than he did before he had kidnapped Minnie.

Frank was seated so his back was toward Jace and he tried to ease-drop when he had a chance. Jace ran the place they were having lunch at and had been in St. Louis about three months. The lady was his new wife and owned the saloon; her previous husband had died. Somehow the two of them had been acquainted from years earlier; when they both had lived out east.

Frank was clean shaven now and did not resemble the man who had been an outlaw in Texas. It was a good meal and as Frank stood up he spoke to the saloon girl, “Tell your cook that the meal was very good.” Jace and his wife looked toward him and told him to come back when he was in the area.

As they mounted and rode away Frank commented, “Is there anything further south along the river that is growing. I’m thinking a little higher ground in case the river floods.” Jesse told him there was but it started about quarter-mile from the river. “The city has had some code restrictions added to the contractor and business regulations. The city offices are on the way back, so we can check.”

They talked about business in St. Louis as they rode south and eventually it switched over to back home talk; to the times when Frank had been mean to Lilly Mae. “She is married with two daughters,” Jesse told him. He told Frank about his dad and Melisa Comer being married and Frank told him he doubted if he would ever go back. “I was warned that every once in a while a Marshal stops by the old farm and inquires about me. Mom told them she thought I died so they haven’t been around for the last six months.” He told Jesse that they use Minnie’s maiden name of Hooper, to buy and sell at the store.

Frank commented, “We have a buyer for both the house and the business in Dodge City if we can find the right layout here in St. Louis. Personally it would be nice to live in civilization where a child has a chance to prosper.” Jesse told him that Cate was ready to start a family herself.



Thanksgiving would be the next day and they had spent three days looking for a building. There was a nice building larger than Frank had originally thought about that caught their eye. It also had a second floor. The price would be the deal breaker but after all was said and done; Minnie made the offer for the building. Three-hundred-fifty dollars was a lot of money but they decided that an upstairs apartment could be built on the second floor, which would reduce their overall cost for a separate home.

As they ate their evening meal Cate suggested that Minnie go ahead and wire the acceptance on the offer in Dodge City; then Jesse could spend the week taking the wagon and helping Frank bring their possessions back to St. Louis. Cate commented, “While the second floor apartment is being finished, you can stay in the guest room right here in this house. It should only be a couple of months.” Minnie told her it was too much but Cate insisted. They talked about the festivities of tomorrow and went to bed later than normal.

Once in bed Frank told Minnie about seeing Jace and that he had a new wife. “Oh Frank, that poor woman doesn’t know what she is in for, does she?” Minnie rolled over next to Frank and whispered in his ear.



Thanksgiving was just that; they gave thanks to the Lord for the blessings and spent time in fellowship. Cate invited her small staff to have lunch in the dining area and to join them in the ‘music room’. The three of them stayed about an hour and then thanked Cate and left the ‘music room’. After they left Frank commented, “Jess, all those times I had to read out of the Bible growing up finally sunk in several months back. I repented and got right with the Lord.” He told them it would be nice if he could get right with the authorities but being hanged was more than he could agree too.

All four of them discussed the additional upgrades for the new second floor apartment and what stages needed completed first. Frank and Minnie were excited to have a plan and to be moving to the St. Louis area.



Three weeks later Jesse and Frank were on the west side of St. Louis as the sun was setting. Both were driving a wagon full of the belongings from Dodge City. They would be driving the wagons to the warehouse and leaving them overnight.



Later the same month Jace Hanson was contemplating on his bad misfortune. His wife was no pushover like he had expected. He had spent more than half of his stash impressing her prior to her agreeing to marry him; now he was short on everyday funds to make the improvements to the business that he had promised her. He had wanted to add a building beside the Saloon as a private gentleman’s club where the same sins that had transpired in Sodom & Gomorrah over three-thousand years earlier could take place.

As he continued to contemplate, several ideas flashed through his mind. Most of them were evil to some extent but he was getting desperate for some money. Jace had made several trips around the outskirts of the city and knew where each bank was located. He also knew that Friday afternoons was the time when the cash on hand was the greatest.



Two days later Frank and Minnie were meeting with their new bank and would be setting up an account in Minnie’s name; just as they had previously done since they had become a couple. Not more than five minutes after meeting with a banking employee, a robbery was taking place not more than twenty-five feet from where they were sitting. A lone gunman with a mask over his head was waving his gun around the room and making threats. The tellers were gathering cash and the patrons were emptying their pockets.

Minnie whispered to Frank that the robber was Jace; she had recognized his voice. Frank whispered back, “Keep your back to him. If he is crazy enough to rob this bank by himself he might kill you if he sees you.” Five feet from where they were sitting, a man pulled his six-gun and pointed it to shoot at Jace. He was spotted before he could get the shot off; Jace put a bullet through his chest. Frank told her not to move. As Jace started to gather bags from the tellers, Frank pulled his six-shooter and yelled, “Don’t move Jace or you will be a dead man.” Jace swirled in the direction of the voice and started to point his six-shooter when suddenly the loud bang from Frank’s gun seemingly caused the body of Jace to jerk backward. Moments later his mask was removed and a couple men recognized his face as the owner of a saloon on the north side of St. Louis. He was still breathing but for sure he wouldn’t be in another couple of minutes.

Minnie rushed to the fallen man and looked down into his eyes. He saw her; his eyes widened but before he could talk he took his last gasp. She turned and started walking toward the door. Frank followed her outside and did not speak until they were in the buggy. She told Frank that Jace had recognized her before he died.

She smiled, “Well Frank, it looks like we can bank anywhere we want. Here we thought this bank would be far enough south that we would be safe from him. Isn’t this the craziest thing you have ever heard of?” They rode toward their new home.



There was a headline in ‘the Dispatch’, which was Cate’s paper that read;

‘UNKNOWN HERO KILLS BANK ROBBER’. The state bank was in the process of being robbed; the outlaw had already killed one patron who was attempting to stop the attempted robbery. The cold blooded murderer was about to make off with several hundred dollars when an unknown person gave a warning shout prior to shooting the outlaw. Jace Hanson, who was recently married, and owner of the North-side Saloon was the robber.

Cate was reading the article out loud and commented to Jesse. “Wasn’t Frank and Minnie supposed to open an account over at the bank south of their place? I’m sure she told me it was going to be yesterday.” Jesse looked at her and told her he would check with Frank the next day. Jesse had that feeling down in his stomach that maybe his cousin had foiled the attempted bank robbery.

Jesse was about to pull his horse up to the rail near the side door of Frank’s business when a buckboard, with a couple in it pulled up. He heard the man tell his wife that this was the address he had been given by the courthouse; it was for Frank and Minnie. “Jake, this looks more like a warehouse or a business than a home.” He replied, “April, maybe all they had was a work address, do you want to come in with me or wait here?” She told him she would come along; she wanted to see the look on Frank’s face when he saw both of them.

Jesse was at the door as they approached and he greeted them and said, “I don’t remember seeing you folks around; are you from St. Louis?” The man told Jesse that they used to be friends with the owner and rode together at times. Jesse put two & two together real fast; he might be someone to watch at a safe distance if he actually rode with Frank in a gang.

Frank was behind the counter looking at an invoice request as Jake and April approached him. He looked up and the color drained from his face. “Holy cow Frank, aren’t you glad to see us? You look like you just saw a ghost; are you feeling o.k.?” Frank told them that they were the last people in the world that he thought he would ever see again. Jake told him they sold the farm and everything they owned and were moving to St. Louis. ”We want to get jobs and then find a home soon. April wants a family before I get older.” Frank told them that they were both looking good.

Jesse was behind some of the hardware and supplies where he could see and hear everything. Frank asked, “Where are you staying?” Jake told him they had just spent the night on the outskirts of town; checked the court house and came directly here. Frank whistled then said, “Me oh my; Minnie is upstairs, why don’t you take those stairs behind me and knock on the door.” He laughed and told them she would probably faint from the surprise. As they walked past Frank toward the stairs, Jesse walked toward the counter. Frank saw him and closed his eyes to see if he was seeing straight. When he opened them Jesse stood four feet in front of him.

“I can explain it all Jesse, come’on upstairs so you get all of it right from the horse’s mouth. This would be an article Cate would love to write in her paper.”

Just as Frank heard Minnie shout he said, “Hold the door, I’m coming up.” Jesse followed him up and through the door. When they walked through the door Frank said, “This is my closest cousin from back in Indiana. Jesse and his wife put Minnie and me up while we had this apartment built over the store. He knows all about me and he has already figured that we rode together in the gang.” Jesse stepped toward Jake and extended his hand giving him a handshake.

Minnie told them to come in and have a cup. They talked for awhile and Jesse finally told them he needed to talk to Frank a minute; then get over to the paper and have lunch with Cate. At the bottom of the stairs Jesse said, “Frank, Cate has it figured that you were in the bank at the time of the robbery attempt and that it was you who put the bullet into Jace. Be careful about showing your face too close to the public. Someone will want a story about how you saved the bank. There is going to be a reward offered.” Frank told him thanks and that maybe Jake ought to collect the reward. Jesse told him to go out and get the newspaper and read the article to keep the story straight.

“What are you going to do about your friends?” He told Jesse he would like to find him a job soon so he could get a start on a new life. “His wife is one of the Saloon girls I kidnapped; she was my own before I met Minnie; it’s a little uncomfortable for me looking her in the eye.”  He mentioned that he was pretty mean when he was with her.

Jesse told his cousin to bring his friends over for supper the next evening since it was Christmas Eve. We can eat and then go into the music room and have a peaceful talk. “April can sing like no one you’ve ever heard. I’ll bet she would love it.” He told Frank he was going to see Cate and have her arrange for the dinner.



As Jesse entered the Newspaper front office Cate was watching him walk toward her. He was a handsome man and treated her like he was still trying to win her heart in matrimony. She was glad she hadn’t listened to some of the women when their marriage was made public. He smiled as he saw her and she stood up and walked his way. “Did you get a chance to talk to Frank?” He shook his head and she asked, “What did he have to say about the incident?” Jesse smiled and told her she could ask for herself tomorrow evening, “I’ve invited them to dinner along with two guests of theirs that just arrived in town. Have your pen and some paper, you will never get another opportunity for an article like it.” She told him that it sounded interesting and something fun for all of them since it was Christmas Eve.



The guests would be arriving any minute. Jesse would be near the door as Mary welcomed them and he would walk them to the dining hall following her. Cate was in the music room getting it all fancied up so they could go from eating to having an enjoyable evening.

Minnie had loaned April a dress and Frank loaned Jake a nice shirt and a jacket for the evening. As they rode April kept asking where they were going so decked out. “Jesse and his wife are down to earth people but they do have some of the luxuries of rich folks. They dress nice for dinner so we have a couple outfits for the occasion.” As their buckboard rounded into the rear of the house April exclaimed, “Wow, are we really eating here in this mansion?” Minnie told her to not get too excited and to try acting like she had been to places just like it.

Mary had been waiting and as they walked up the steps she opened the door and welcomed them. It was a little chilly outside so she took the wraps the ladies had and then Jesse greeted them. April whispered, “Was that his wife?” Minnie told her that his wife was tall and beautiful and that Mary was the housekeeper.

As they entered the dining hall April whispered to Minnie, “This looks like what a king would have for entertaining the rich guest at a party.” Minnie whispered that tonight they were the chosen guest. Jake said, “Nice place Frank, it sure beats the places we had to live at. If I were to be seated at the table’s far end, I would have to get my glasses to see to the other end.” Frank laughed and slapped Jake on the shoulder and told him it wasn’t that far.

Cate entered from the far door as Mary was seating them. She seated the women on one side and the men on the other with no one at the head of the table. Cate was between the two women and Jesse between the two men. It was a four coarse meal; soup, salad, main dish, and then cherry pie. April watched as Cate choose her utensils and followed her example. She laughed inside as she watched Jake. He used the same fork for everything except the soup. April told them she hadn’t eaten this much since she was still living at home as a teenager.

When they were finished Mary escorted them to the music room. She told them she would bring some tea and coffee a little later. Jesse and Frank played a tune that they told the guest was from younger days back on the farm in Indiana. April commented, “Frank, I didn’t know you knew how to play a musical instrument.” He told her that when he was growing up all the cousins played some kind of instrument. They played another, which was a Christmas song and Frank sang a little. He looked at April and she was ‘Lip Ping’ some of the words. He told her to stand up and come join in the singing. Her eyes got big and Jesse nodded at her to join in. Like Minnie had mentioned, she could sing.

Cate walked to the piano and joined for a couple of the numbers and then she motioned Minnie to take a turn. All Jake could do was sit and watch but he enjoyed it. They stopped and drank some of the refreshments. Cate asked, “Where did you learn to sing so well, April?” She replied that it was in church back when she was about ten and from there she evolved up to singing as a Saloon girl. “That’s the way I earned a living after I left home. Well that and making a few trips up the stairs with cowboys.” Cate was speechless but Minnie replied, “Lots of young girls made that mistake. It sounded like a glamorous life to sing but then reality hit once they had left home. The singing didn’t pay enough to live on.” April commented, “That’s the truth, for sure.”

Cate asked, “Tell me what you mean by making enough income to take care of yourselves?” April looked at Minnie for a second before she responded, “For the most part we were available when a man was looking for a good time. A cowboy working on a ranch made about thirty dollars a month. Since I was a pretty white girl I could make seventy-five cents to a dollar for one trick’. The Mexican girls only got a quarter for the same thing’.” She told Cate the saloon owner took twenty percent for their room and board.

She looked into Cates eyes and continued, “When we needed a few days off, we danced with a cowboy for fifty cents a dance and if he bought me a drink, I received half of the price of it; mine was only tea. Most of us would make over twenty dollars a week.”

Cate told them that the PRINTER who set type at the paper was paid one-dollars and twenty-five cents a day because of his skill; the unskilled only make about two-dollars and fifty cents for the entire week. “What a disparity,” she commented.

Minnie looked at Cate and said, “My first husband owned one of those Saloons out in Texas and I saw firsthand how several of those innocent girls were treated. Old Jace won’t ever treat one of them bad again. Frank took care of that yesterday.” Jesse looked at Cate and told her she better get her pencil and paper. Jesse told them that Cate owned the newspaper and she had always wanted to interview a real live gal who had worked the Saloon circuit somewhere out in the Wild West.

Cate asked, “Was there any way you could have supported yourself besides being a Soiled Dove?” April told her that like she said earlier, she had first tried to just sing but didn’t make enough to live on.

April and Minnie did the majority of the talking about Saloon life but a few of the questions asked were directed to outlaw activities. Frank let Jake answer the majority because it hurt to think of what a rascal he had been. Before they knew it, another two hours had passed. Cate commented, “I would like permission to use these stories with fictional names. I will show you the draft prior to putting it to print; that is if you don’t mind. It may actually be more than one article.” She intended to use Jack, John, Sue, and Sally as her fictional characters names. But before any of this she was going to publish an article of how Jake had saved the day at the Bank. He had never been mentioned on a WANTED poster that any of them knew of. He was going to get a clean shave and wear the same clothes that Frank had worn into the bank the day of the attempted robbery.

Cate wrote the article and it was so convincing that Jake was called to the court house for a big tah-do. He was given one-hundred dollars as a reward and given several job offers from grateful and influential men of the city.



Chapter 7


It was mid-January in St. Louis and Jesse was busy working on a proposal to win a contract for the first nursing school in the St. Louis area. He had his architect and planning manager going through last minutes changes prior to his presentation. If all went well this would be a two year project and employee close to fifty men.



In the mean time Cate had finished her draft on the first article that she titled as ‘Was it Legend or Lore’. It would start with a story about young Sally, a ten year old, living near the capital of Kentucky. It caused tears to come to her eyes as she had written it and hoped that those reading the article would find it fascinating as well. The article covered Sally’s time from youth to the first two weeks as a Saloon girl. It was both sad and shocking to some of the readers. Cate would put a second article out two weeks later on the life of an outlaw. She would go back to the Saloon girl’s life on the third article and then move to farming by a converted outlaw. She wanted to show that it was possible for the worst of people, if given the chance, could begin a new life.

On the evening of the first article, she had invited her contributors for the first article over for supper. She had two extra copies of the newspaper, one for each of them. As Cate had written the article, she had mentioned her trip to Kansas City and then on to Dodge City as eye openers, which had prepared her for the stories.

By the time Cate had read the article out loud, April was crying. It was heartbreaking how a young innocent girl could change so much; though portions of the story had been written with fictional results.



Jake had landed a job as a deputy Marshall. It was about as easy a job that could be found with his low skill-set. He made sure that all prisoners going to trial were shackled in transit and there on time. None of the prisoners tried any funny stuff because he had the reputation and fame as being a dead shot, which was based on the articles in the newspaper.

April worked the two days each week that Cate went to the newspaper. She was learning a little about how to brainstorm the facts to make them sound dynamic and interesting. On occasions a tall tale with a fictional character was added to the article to make the news more interesting.

Between Cate’s cook Jana, and Minnie they baked pies for the street people that were staying in the warehouse each evening. Jake made a trip over to the warehouse each night, wearing his badge, as the supper meal was over; he made sure there was no alcohol or smoking taking place before he shut the lights off for the night. So far the street people project was working like they had intended.



A week later Jake was locking up the warehouse used for the homeless when he overheard one of the men say, “Curly, there haint’ any whisky allowed in here; you will get us all in trouble.” The voice that replied was one that Jake had heard often in his past life.

Jake circled around and pulled his six-shooter as he came up behind Curly. A quick thump to the head and Curly fell on the floor. Jake commented, “You all know that smokin’ and drinkin’ ain’t allowed. I need two of you to drag this man to my buckboard.” He told them the old boy would spend the night in Jail. He drove his buckboard to the jail and told the jailer the man was drunk and disorderly.

The next morning when Curly awoke he had his legs shackled and would soon be on his way to Kansas City. There was a letter to the judge that he was WANTED for robbery and needed to be sentenced to some time in prison.

As Curly was loaded on the stage for Kansas City he could have sworn he saw an ole acquaintance, Jake, standing in the doorway with a badge pinned to his shirt. When he looked back a second time, there was no one standing in the doorway.

Just before the stage left; a buckboard approached and a strongbox was loaded onto the stage.



As the stage was coming to a halt after four hours on the trail for a change of horses; five outlaws surrounded it and shot the driver dead. The others surrendered and it didn’t take long for the strongbox to be opened. One of the outlaws recognized Curly and he was soon set free. There was something fishy in his mind as he rode one of the old nags south. He was still wondering how he had been arrested and put on the stage. Besides, he knew the face of Jake from riding with him earlier. What threw him was the badge pinned to Jake’s shirt. If anything, “Jake should be the one on a stage going to jail, not wearing a badge”, he was thinking to himself.



Jake had stopped by the warehouse of Frank’s as he was just opening up. He covered the story with him. He told Frank that after he and April had left the outlaw business; Curly and Dudley had made off with Mae and June. He had heard rumors that they opened up a saloon and the girls were back in business. They were partners splitting the profits four ways.

Jake told Frank that he wanted him to know just in case Curly showed up again. “Curly was put on the stage for Kansas City with a note to the Sheriff. I was hoping he would be arrested and serve some time,” Jake said, as he rolled his eyes.

Four days later Jake stopped by Frank’s business to inform him about the escape of Curly. Frank told him to be careful as he locked the homeless shelter in the future. “Did yah know that someone was in the Court House the other day looking for ole Dudley? I didn’t see his face but I heard it was the Sheriff that had his wife wounded by Dudley, and who had later died. Remember it was on that last robbery we did before splittin’ up.” Frank told him to keep his ears open just in case there is anything mentioned about the other gang members who were involved.

“Frank, I just wanted you to know, April and I spent most of that reward money and bought a nice little house. It’s not much but it has three bedrooms up and will allow us to start a family.” Frank told him it was good news and if there was anything he needed to let him know.



A week later Curly entered the saloon as Mae and June were starting to sing. He stood inside the doorway and watched as they went through a routine they had done a hundred times. “It was time to change the routine a little,” he thought. He would talk with them about spicing it up and then up the price for their services afterward.

He had been on his business mission for nearly two months and had seen plenty. There were some real nice places in larger cities that were called Gentleman Clubs and the prices there were much higher. Maybe relocating was what they needed.

Dudley was behind the bar helping or at least watching the crowd from the viewpoint. He spotted Curly and nodded toward the empty stool on the end. As he straddled the stool he asked for a drink and commented, “I went as far as St. Louis and if we were to pack up and move closer to the city we could double our business. Listen to this, compared to Mae and June, I saw some ugly women making more money than us.” He told Dudley that when they closed up for the evening they would all have a good talk.

After the saloon was closed the four of them were sitting around one of the card tables. Curly was telling his story… Mae interrupted and said, “Hold on Curly, I’m ready for a change, that’s it! Count me out.” She told him if she had her way they would get married and I could quit this work. June chimed in, “I say the same. Why don’t we find a new business in the city and each put one-fourth the money up and share in the work.” Curly laughed and exclaimed, “We don’t know how to do nothin’ but rob people or run a saloon!”



Jesse was just entering the back door when Jana motioned him to be silent. She walked toward him and whispered, “Ms. Cate received a letter this afternoon and it was from her mother. It didn’t take long for her to start crying and she has been in her room since. Mr. Jesse, she needs a shoulder to cry on.” Jesse exclaimed, “Oh me! What in the world should I say?” They talked for another minute and Jesse’s mind wondered, “I thought I had a challenge from the contractor today, now this.”

Jesse knocked on the door to alert Cate and then walked into the bedroom. She was at her desk looking into the mirror. “Jesse, my mom is on her way to St. Louis. Apparently she stopped back in the old neighborhood and found out I moved to St. Louis to live with dad’s brother. She wants to see me; what should I do?” Jesse thought for a moment and then spoke, “Well, why don’t we talk with Reverend Jim. I’ll stop over there and make an appointment for us.” Cate turned her head toward Jesse and gave him a brief smile. She told him it might be what she needed.

“Jana has some hot food, let’s go down and have a bite.” She looked toward him and started to reply but he nodded his head up and down. She smiled and stood to her feet and walked with him down the stairs.

As they ate Jesse told her one of the contractors had made a mistake on the job and didn’t want to correct it. He talked her through the ordeal and she told him they would get her lawyer involved. Cate told him his name was Carter Davidson; he would be out to the job location after she gave him the lowdown.

“I want a baby Jesse. If you have to eat spinach every day for the next month, then do whatever it is that gives a man that strength needed to fertilize a woman.” He laughed and told her he would be on the job soon; maybe in an hour or so. She told him she had to work in the morning. “What,” he commented with a grin, “I thought you wanted to start working on that baby.”


Chapter 8


It was a bright Saturday morning, early in April, as Jesse was walking from the rear of the house to check the rail on the front porch. Just as he bent down to check the underside of it, a carriage approached and stopped in front of the house. The driver asked, “Is this the home of Cate Munson?” Jesse told him his wife was Cate Lee now but at one time her name had been Munson.

A tall, medium built, lady with hair the colors of salt and pepper stepped down and she resembled his wife, Cate, in many ways. ”It was probably her mom,” he thought. He took a step toward the driver and commented, “I’m Jesse Lee and I’m Cate’s husband, how may I help you?” She told him she was Cate’s mom and she was here to pay a visit with her daughter.

The door opened and Mary came through the door. At first Louise was startled as she looked at Mary. She had figured that Cate would look more like her but this lady was short and had light brown hair. “Cate,” she exclaimed! Jesse responded, “No, that is Mary. Cate had an early appointment with the Doctor and should be home by noon. Mary can take you to a room where you can put your bags.” Jesse looked at the driver and asked him to help with the bags. Jesse looked at Cates mom and said, “I’ll be in soon and we can visit for awhile.”



The Doctor was examining Cate as she mumbled about wanting a baby. He asked, “When is your mid-cycle?” She told him it was during the past week; the Doc opened the cabinet and gave her some medicine and told her to take it easy for a couple of weeks and take the medicine every day until the pain went away. They had a good talk and she learned some things that had never been explained to her before. The appointment was longer than normal and Jeffery was waiting as she stepped out of the door with a bag filled with medicine.



Jesse finished the job on the hand-rail and went inside. He washed his hands and then asked Mary to summon Louise to the music room. Jesse was standing beside the piano as Cates mom entered and he motioned toward two chairs across from each other. She began by telling him how she wanted certain things to be changed around the house. Jesse interrupted and said, “Louise, everything your daughter knows about you, I know; everything her dad told her about you, I also know. You left her twenty years ago and haven’t corresponded with her since, that is until a couple of weeks ago. If you want to visit for a short time and try to mend your previous actions, I’ll allow it but as far as trying to have a say in what happens in this home, you have NO say!” They eyed each other for a couple of moments until she told him that she understood.

He motioned toward the piano and asked her if she would like to play. She told him she wasn’t a musician. He asked, “Were you a dancer for awhile?” She looked him in the eye and then nodded her head. “I won’t judge you for your past lifestyle but Cate is one the finest woman in St. Louis so be careful how you act in front of her.” Jesse asked her how she provided for her livelihood and she told him her late husband had provided a little but it was about gone and somehow she needed to find a way to earn an income. “Do you have any professional skills?” She told him that he probably knew enough about her to know that at forty-nine, her skill was getting too painful to continue.

Jesse told her they would talk again after he made a few contacts with some of his business acquaintances. She nodded and told him thanks. He stood and told her if she wanted to see the home that he would show her around the different rooms. After viewing the inside he took her outside and was just coming out of the barn when Cate arrived. Jeffery helped her down and she looked toward Jesse and the woman with him. She knew instantly that it was her mom. She handed her bag to Jeffery and asked him to put it in her room and then walked toward the barn. Louise tried to speak but a lump formed in her throat as she gazed upon her beautiful daughter. A tear ran down her check as Cate stopped in front of her. Louise tried to speak but as her lips quivered, nothing came out of her mouth. She tried to clear her throat but it just seemed to swell tighter. Moments later she felt her head spin and she fainted. Jesse reached out and caught her just before she slumped to the ground.

“Dear Lord, please don’t let her die here,” moaned Cate. Jesse told Cate she would have to help him drag her in, “She is a fairly big woman so we will need to get a shoulder under each arm or we will need a stretcher.” Cate laughed and told him it was not funny but it’s like hilarious that it is happening as we meet for the first time in twenty years. Jesse commented to her, “Your mom went into shock. I don’t think she was prepared to see someone as gorgeous as you walking toward her.”

Half an hour later Mary and Jana had Louise revived and she was sitting up talking. Jesse and Cate were out in the hallway as Mary asked her what happened. “I was so overcome with grief as I looked at my daughter that I just couldn’t speak. It seemed to be a whole bunch of emotions all hitting me at once.” Jana told her she had chicken sandwiches for lunch and maybe a little food will give her some strength. “I’ll prepare it and serve in about twenty minutes.” Jesse looked at Cate and nodded toward the music room.

As they entered he told Cate he had set the record straight with her mom. “She was trying to dictate to me how she wanted things done while she was here and I straightened her out real quick. I think she is about out of money and thought she might pressure us to help her.” Cate told him they needed to do something and Jesse told her Yes but she would have to work for her income. He also told her that he would check around and see where he could get an unskilled person a decent job. Cate put her arm around his waist and said, “Thank you Jesse. You know just how to take care of things firmly but with care. I appreciate how you have handled this.”

They ate at the small table and Louise ate in her room. All of a sudden Jesse started chuckling to himself and Cate asked what was so funny. He said, “I think we need to have Frank and Jake over with their wives and see how the conversation goes.” She told him that it might be real funny if April were to get off on a tangent.



Curly had just made a deal to sell their saloon and all the merchandise for nine-hundred dollars. It was two-hundred more than they paid for it and they also had a savings from the past couple of years. The banker was interested in buying their house for seventy dollars so they took the deal. They loaded their wagon, which was much larger than a buckboard, with their personal things. The four of them, as partners, would be leaving in the morning for St. Louis or somewhere close by.

As they traveled Curly suddenly remembered something he had heard, “I hear-tell there is an Arlen Perry who worked in Dodge City and now he’s a US Marshal; is he family June?” She told him she had not heard that Arlen had come west or that he was a lawman but her brother did have the name of Arlen. Curly then told them that he was pretty sure he saw Jake. He exclaimed, “I’m sure I saw ole Jake in St. Louis just before I was put in leg irons. He had a badge on his shirt if I saw right.”

Dudley listened to the talk and finally let out a whoop and told Curly he must have had too much to drink. “No it was morning and someone had drug me outah some homeless shelter after dark and put me in jail overnight. I was sober.” Mae told them if Jake was there, maybe April was too. June said, “I would like to see her; I loved to hear that girl sing.”

It was about two-hundred miles to St. Louis and they made it in eight days. They stayed sober the entire trip and talked over the many different things they envisioned might be a decent business. As the wagon was entering the west side of town ole Jake was just returning a convicted robber to the jail on the main street that entered the city. As he started out the door he saw the wagon and he tripped on the bottom step. A horse at the hitching rail made a noise, which caused Dudley to look. “Holy cow, it’s Jake over there,” he exclaimed! The other three looked and sure enough, it was him.

Curly jerked the reins and the horses turned toward Jake who just stood there and watched them approach. As they came closer he pointed toward his left and started walking that way so they wouldn’t be right in front of the door. His heart was sinking but he had to make a good impression. Jake had his six-shooter hung low and his badge was shinning. “You folks haven’t come to town to make trouble have you,” he asked? Dudley replied Nope and told him they wanted to make a fresh start in some type of a business they could partner in. “That would be good; what you thinkin’ about?” Curly replied, “Don’t rightly know but something we can make a go at and live within the law. Settling down and marr’ing these women was on our minds.” Mae and June about fell out of the wagon when they heard Curly.

Jake asked, “Where you staying until you find this business?” Curly told him they just got here and didn’t have a clue. Jake told them they could spend one night with him and April but we don’t have any extra beds yet, for uninvited company.

June commented, “Jake, you sound like a refined man. Maybe settling down with April was a good thing. I’m hoping that one of these days us four will look back and have a good laugh on ourselves. I would sure love to see April tonight.” He told her he was heading back toward the center of the city and after I report in, I can lead you home for a visit.



April was humming and singing softly as she prepared the evening meal. It was nice having a home to call their own. Jake would be home soon and she was having his favorite meal. She was making dumplins’. She had baked three chickens earlier and what they didn’t eat would go to feed some of the street people staying at the shelter. On occasions she could make a couple dollars by making the extra food, otherwise charity on occasions worked.

She was about to set the two plates on the table when she heard a noise at the door. “Don’t forget to give the horse some oats tonight Jake”, she hollered toward the door. Jake opened the door a couple of inches and stuck his head in and told her that he would do it right away. “Set four extra plates tonight, we are having some company!” In her mind she thought, “Oh No! He has invited Jesse and Frank to supper and didn’t warn me to bake something special.”

She turned to pull the extra plates down from the shelf but before she could turn back the door shut with a click and she heard, “SURPRISE!”  April almost dropped the plates when she saw Mae and June walking toward her.



The evening meal was finished off without a scrap left. April was thinking, “Good thing I made extra to sell or there wouldn’t have been enough for the extra mouths.” They visited and talked over old times.

All April could offer was a couple blankets to throw on the floor to sleep on but it would have to do for the night. Tomorrow would have to unfold as the day wore on.

Jake was up early and told Curly and Dudley they could follow him over to a warehouse early and see what kind of work might be available. Jake commented, “I have to take a couple prisoners to the courthouse for trial and will be tied up most of the day. This friend of mine may be able to help you.” April looked at Jake and her mouth dropped an inch as she almost said, no Jake but she gained her composure before she spilled-the-beans.

Jake mounted his horse and the two sidekicks followed him in their wagon. He pulled up outside Franks store several minutes later and told them to wait. Jake entered the store and told Frank the story and Frank made several faces as he tried to figure if there was anything he could do for them. He needed to talk to Jesse about this and felt uneasy about what these old time friends could pin on him if he crossed them. Frank said, “Let’s go out and talk with them. I have something in mind but I need to check with Jesse.” He told Jake that Jesse had a deal underway to build an educational facility of nursing and might be able to use them somehow.

When Frank walked out of the door ole Curly and Dudley about fell off the buckboard. Frank had about skinned them more than once and they had a fear of him. Frank walked right up to the buckboard and said, “How long are you boys in town for? There’s not going to be any trouble is there?” They shook their head No and about that time Jake told them he had to head off for work, leaving them with Frank. He told them to hang on a minute. Frank walked to the stairway and asked Minnie to watch the store for the morning. “I’ve got a couple gents who need my help for a few hours, sorry hon.”

They followed Frank for half an hour. Jesse would be in his office preparing for the construction on the new project and just maybe he had a job these two could do.

He told them to wait while he talked with a friend. Jesse listened to the story and was shaking his head when Frank finished. He blew out some air and then asked, “Frank, where do you come up with these former outlaw friends?” Frank replied, “It’s a sad story as you know but I went down that wrong road and didn’t listen to my mom or for that matter, my pa. What do you think about a job?” He told Frank that he would need supplies brought up to the new project on a daily basis once they broke ground in a couple weeks. It will all be in my warehouse by the river. Jesse told Frank he could meet with them over lunch and they could see if they could agree on something as far as payment.



Fifteen miles west of St. Louis Marshal Arlen Perry was walking his horse eastward. It was mid-May and color was coming on most of the trees as the Marshal looked off toward the south. Just a little over a year earlier he had been a deputy for Matt Dillon in Dodge City but the past year he had been on the circuit rounding up crooks. Most of them were on WANTED posters somewhere and most had tried to find a remote area to hide from the law. The Marshal had been tipped off about two fellers who had kidnaped a couple of dancehall gals down in Texas and had set up their own disgusting business. He thought to himself, “One of those saloon girls might have been his own younger sister.”

He had found out that recently the two had sold their saloon and bragged they were moving on to St. Louis and taking the ladies with them.

It was the Marshals job to locate them and arrest them; then bring them in for trial. All he knew was that there first names was Curly and Dudley. The poster with them on it showed six men and it was so unclear that not a one of them could actually be identified.

By noon the next day the Marshal was riding in on the west side of St. Louis and noticed a building where local police were stationed. He tied his horse to the hitching rail and walked through the door. With the two inch heels on the boots he stood a little over six-foot-six and looked to be a good two-hundred pounds. Arlen asked, “I’m looking for two gents named Curly and Dudley. They could have been here in the area a week or two and they are wanted down in Texas for kidnapping women and robbing a saloon. Can any of you lawmen help me?”

All the Marshall got was wide eyed stares but not a sole replied to him. “Can anyone help me,” he asked again? Jake was listening but didn’t say a word but finally someone told him to check the register to see if they had been brought into the jail for questioning. He looked through the last two weeks of information but there was nothing to help him.

Jake watched the tall lawman as he left through the door; then he mounted his horse. “Uh Oh,” he thought as he watched him ride east, “I need to warn those folks right after I take my prisoner to court.”



April had left to meet Cate. Mae and June were sitting at the table talking over wedding plans. The women were making plans and hoped in a week or so they could be married. They were laughing like two teenagers as they tried to plan. June commented, “I wish these last three years had never happened. When I left home I had every intention to be pure when I married a man.” “Don’t we all have that hope,” commented Mae.

Chapter 9


US Marshall Perry rode on into the downtown area of the city and inquired about the two men he was trying to locate. No one had heard of either of them. Just then Jake was in the wagon with a prisoner about to be delivered and saw the Marshal talking; their eyes met as he unloaded his prisoner and was walking slowly toward the courthouse. The Marshal took a step in the direction of the courthouse door and Jake gritted his teeth not wanting to get into a conversation.

Jake told the prisoner to move along and to stop stalling. “Bad Luck,” is what he was thinking. Arlen was waiting at the door when Jake and the prisoner arrived. The Marshal looked at the prisoner and asked, “What’s your name?” The criminal looked at the Marshal and spit on the ground in front of him and didn’t say a word. Jake told the Marshal the fellas name was Jack Lance and he was wanted for a robbery that took place a month ago. The Marshal told them he was looking for two fellas named Curly and Dudley. Jack told him that he heard of’em by way of other outlaws but they were quitin’ the business and gettin’ married the last he had heard. “What are the names of their women,” he asked. Jack told him they were two decent looking ‘women-of-the-night’ who worked the saloons and the names had something to do with the calendar.

Jack also told him they were supposed to visit St. Louis but he hadn’t seen the girls for several weeks. Jake was ready to hit Jack over the head with his pistol but knew the Marshal would think something was fishy.



Jake was riding for his house as soon as the prisoner was sentenced. Jack was given a five year sentence and would be shackled for the next week until there were a few more going to the same prison.

Jake was at home half an hour later and rushed through the door. He exclaimed, “Where are Curly and Dudley? The Marshall is in town looking for them!” Mae told him they went with Frank lookin’ for a job and that they were planning their wedding. Jake told them there was some bad news; that the Marshal was her brother.



Jesse had finished his planning and it looked like he could use a wagon full of supplies about each day construction was taking place on the nursing facility. He would talk with Frank and have him pass the word on to his two friends.

Marshal Perry had left the courthouse and rode to the newspaper building and he inquired about the two fellas’ names and two women with them. One was named June and the other might have been an April or May. Cate was watching the tall Marshall from about twenty feet away and finally walked to the reception area. She told the Marshal she was the owner and wondered if she might help him.

As Cate listened to the story her insides were starting to tighten. She told the Marshall she had some connections and would try helping him find the outlaws. She asked again, “What exactly are the crimes they committed?” He told her that three dance hall girls had been kidnapped and the saloon was possibly robbed. “We don’t actually have a WARRANT for the robbery since there was no determination anything was taken.”

Cate asked, “What if these so called criminals were married to these ladies and the women did not want to press charges. What would happen then?” The Marshall looked into her eyes and asked, “Do you know something that I don’t? One of those girls is my younger sister.” Cate made a cough and told the Marshal that her paper had published two articles where the lady had married the person accused of this same thing and the wife would not press charges. Arlen took a deep breath and looked toward the ceiling before he looked Cate in the eye and said, “In that case there better be a wedding certificate I can take back to Texas.”

Cate sent a messenger to Jesse and told him to invite the whole gang to supper; something big was happening that could involve them.

It was a late meal since they had to finish the day’s work before they ate. The guests all arrived at seven and were ushered into the dining hall. There were ten of them and men were on one side of the table and the ladies faced them on the other.

Before anything, Cate rose from her chair and walked to the head of the table. She took her time going from one to another looking each of them in the eye and then she smiled and commented, “We have a challenge tonight folks so take your time eating because this is going to take some thought.” She told them she had met a tall man named Arlen Perry, a US Marshall; he was at her office trying to find a Mae, June, Curly, and Dudley. “Jake I would guess that you also were in on the kidnapping as well but you have married April, is that right?”

April looked toward Cate and told her they were married in front of a preacher. Cate asked, “Do you have a marriage certificate to prove it?” April looked at Jake and put her palms up as to ask, “Do you have one?”

Cate told them that tomorrow evening there is going to be a wedding right here in this room at six o’clock and that all three couples would be married. She told them that she would make arrangements with her Pastor; with all the details provided that he would need.

Frank coughed as he looked at Minnie, “Did we get a marriage paper when we were married honey?” She told him that she never saw the paper. “Maybe the preacher kept it.” Cate looked at Jesse and told him to look in their safe to make sure theirs was available in case they ever needed it.

The next day Cate contacted the Marshal and told him she was having a small party the next evening at seven-fifteen and invited him to attend. She sure hoped he had a good sense of humor as she thought what his reaction might be.

Cates preacher was there at six and the others arrived about the same time. Jesse ushered them into the dining hall and had the men, with a clean shave and a haircut, stand on the left side of the preacher and the women on the other. Jesse and Cate were to witness for each of the certificates of marriage. Each of the names was given to the preacher and he proceeded through the vows in the group. Cate completed the certificates of the couples as the ceremony progressed. She and Jesse signed them and once the preacher finished, he signed each of them as well. It was seven o’clock as he finished with everything. Before he left he told them it was a most unusual evening but he hoped that each of them had a wonderful life together.

As Cates preacher walked out the front door a tall man wearing a badge was about to knock on the door. The ole preacher asked, “Were you coming for the wedding? I think they are about to sit down for a dinner.” The Marshall gave the man a strange look and knocked on the door. Mary answered the door and invited the Marshal in and walked him to the dining hall.

Cate saw him enter and walked over and greeted him. “Marshall Perry, let me introduce you to some of my guests this evening.” She introduced Jesse as her husband and then Frank and Minnie Hooper; who was a cousin from Indiana. She introduced Jake and April Hall, then Mae and Dudley Jackson, and last she introduced Curly and June Warren. “I believe June might be the younger sister you mentioned.” He stood for a second looking at each clean shaven face to make sure he would remember exactly what they looked like.

He started to turn and leave and Jesse commented, “Marshal Perry, please join us for a good meal and then a piece of wedding cake to follow.” The Marshal looked at Jesse and raised his eyebrows a little, wiggled his nose as the mustache moved with it. “OK, I’ll join you and get a chance to see what kind of a sham is taking place.” Jesse asked him to sit at the head of the table so he could visit with all of them.

Cate walked to the far end of the table and picked up the wedding certificates and brought them to their guest at the head of the table. He looked them over and told Cate they looked authentic then he commented so everyone could hear, “Ladies, it looks like you have consented to marriage but if any of you were forced into it, I would like for you to speak.” He looked at them for a full minute before he looked at June and said, “Your mama has been worried sick about you for the past four years or so.” June told him that ma wasn’t sick when she was only sixteen and told to be out working a job; bringing in some support for the family. “I loved you Arlen but the rest of the family was just takers who wanted me to give all my earnings so they could drink it away.”  He told her that it had been wrong for them to do what they did but that family was family and sometimes the bad comes with the good.

Cate had the food served. Arlen talked to each of the new wives and determined they had all been misguided somewhere along the path of life. It seemed all of them were on their way to a new beginning, which was a relief to him. He would not be delivering any of them back to Texas but would probably be on his way there, soon.

When the meal was finished they went into the music room. Arlen was surprised that there was talent and watched for about an hour. He stood and looked toward Cate and signaled he was going to leave. She walked to him and commented, “Tomorrow a little after noon, stop by my office and I will have copies of the wedding papers available for your return trip.” He told her he wasn’t sure he was going back to Texas; he might look around St. Louis for employment and make sure his sister didn’t get into trouble. “I will pick up June’s and mail it home with a short letter to the family.”



Curly commented, “I sure wouldn’t want to be on the bad side of your brother if he was mad.” June told them that Arlen was the only one in the family that amounted to much, “I was the youngest and there were two other brothers older than Arlen. We used to be friends but I could feel that he wasn’t happy tonight.”

She told them that Arlen had never married; back then he had a girlfriend who was the prettiest gal in the county. “Chadda Jo was destined for something more than a farmer’s wife but if Arlen would have asked her, she would have married him. A couple of months after she was twenty she packed her bags and left for Chicago. When I left three years later, she had never been back.”

Cate responded, “I know a Chadda Jo who performs here in St. Louis on occasion. She is beautiful and has a great voice.” She told June that she would check around and find out if she was performing somewhere.



The next morning Marshal Perry was at the courthouse looking at records on new arrivals to St. Louis. He might as well go through all the WANTED posters and see if he could earn some reward money.

It was almost noon when he finished making a few notes on possibilities. He needed to high tail it over to the newspaper to meet Cate Lee before he forgot and was involved in something else.

Cate had been busy once at work; she had the copy and was working on where Chadda Jo Clark might be. She had her home here in St. Louis and had recently returned from a month of performing in Chicago. She was twenty-nine and had never been married. She had a weekend scheduled in the local theater prior to traveling to Dallas for a month. “Wow,” she thought. Maybe it was possible to get tickets for her and Jesse. In fact maybe she would purchase an extra ticket or two.

It was another half an hour and she spotted Marshal Perry walking through the front door. She finished what she was doing and was about to close her journal when her secretary arrived at her desk with the Marshal.

He was seated in front of her as she greeted him and she reached into a drawer and pulled out a paper, as he looked across her desk. He looked tired as she looked into his dark eyes. She tried to put him at ease as she talked to him. She decided to ask him a few question that she already knew the answers too. After a while she mentioned Chadda Jo and his eyes came alive. “How long has it been since you’ve seen her?” He told her they were both twenty so it would have been close to nine years earlier that she had left town. “I left a month after June ran away and went to Texas; worked on a ranch for a couple years and I’ve been a lawman since.” He wanted to know what else June had told her.

Cate told him to stop by the newspaper Friday afternoon; she would have something for him.

He left and was soon on his way to check out a lead on a WANTED poster. He had heard about Blackjack Kain. He had murdered two card players in cold blood and took the money on the table. He thought to himself, “There was a little time for him to check on the gambling places before the evening card games started. There were also five main saloons where the heavy gambling took place and he intended to check all of them before the week was over.”



Cate and Jesse were both late getting home. Jana had the meal prepared and Mary had set four places at the table, which surprised Cate. Mary opened the door and walked straight to Cate and told her the lady named June was here with her husband to see you when you arrived. “I didn’t want you and Jesse to miss your meal so I told her she could talk and eat. I’m sorry Ms. Cate but I didn’t know what to do.”

Jesse entered and had Curly and June with him as he walked toward Cate. June exclaimed, “I’m sorry to bother you folks but I need to talk with you about my brother. He looked so tired and lonely; not at all like he did years ago.” She told them that Arlen had gone to college to become an engineer but after Chadda had left he didn’t have the same Oomph for life. Cate told her that she was going to do something about all of that this weekend. Jesse inquired what she had in mind. “You will see, my dear. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet.”

Cate looked directly into the face of Curly and asked if she could borrow June Friday evening? They decided she would be at their home at six-thirty.



It was Friday afternoon and Cate was working at the office. She had expected the Marshall but hadn’t heard from him. An hour later he walked in and looked pretty rugged. He wasn’t shaved and it looked like a bruise toward the bottom of his jaw.

She caught his eye and motioned him back toward her work area. The closer he got the more frightful he looked. She could even see bruises on his knuckles as he approached. “Hey Marshal, what does the other fella look like?” It tickled him a little and he let a small smile come from his mouth. She looked up into his eyes and asked, “Would you do me a favor this evening. Could you be at my home at about six-fifteen with a shave, haircut and a bath? A clean shirt and a nice jacket would also be nice.”

Arlen laughed, “Are you going to have your preacher and some pretty woman there? You know, there was a nice lady that I wanted to marry several years ago but it just didn’t work. We were different, too different for me to ask her.” Cate told him he would have to make the commitment if he were to know what she had in mind.

He looked deep into her eyes and finally told her she was on. “I’ll see you at a little past six.” He turned and walked toward the door. Once he was gone she sent a messenger to have her driver pick her up as soon as possible. Jesse would be home at five o’clock and they could be ready prior to the guests arriving.



They were on their way to the theater which opened its doors at seven and the show would start at seven-thirty.  Arlen was real surprised to be sitting across from his sister all dressed to kill. He couldn’t believe the beauty of Jesse’s wife. In all of his days he had never seen a woman look so tall and beautiful. She had on a full length maroon dress with white frillies. No wonder the lady had him clean-up.

Twenty minutes later they were in the business part of the city and the driver pulled into a stable. Jesse told Arlen and June it was a short walk to their destination. As they walked up the street Arlen noticed a line of folks in front of a building but before they got to them, Jesse told them to turn left down a short alley to a rear door. Cate had front row tickets for the event.

As they entered the Marshall was still in suspense. It was some type of theater but just what was going to take place was still unknown to him. The Usher spotted Cate and motioned her to the center seats. He handed her a program and she thanked him. Finally Arlen said, “Am I supposed to ask you what is going on or do I have to sit and wonder for a while?” June told him it would be more exciting for him if he just waited. Arlen took the seat he was told and looked all around. He could tell it was some kind of upscale show place and he was in the worse possible row in case something wrong happened.

A short fat fellow walked through the center of the closed Curtain and made an announcement that the show would begin in two minutes and asked the patrons to please take their seats.



Frank and Minnie were still hosting the old gang for a couple more evenings. They had just finished eating and he told them what Jesse had passed on to him about the evening planned for the Marshal and June. The lady singer at the theater had lived next to them years ago and Cate wanted to surprise them. Frank also told the men they needed to get them a larger wagon for the job that Jesse was going to provide them and to look around for a house where they could keep the wagons in a barn beside it. “Tomorrow we will start looking for something that will work.”



The stage Curtin was just opening as a woman started walking from a bench on the stage, toward the middle. She was petite with beautiful dark brown hair but had a powerful delivery as she went into her song. She sang the first verse of ‘some enchanting evening’ and then she spoke a couple of words, “Years ago I remember a few enchanted evenings. How many of you ever had one of those evenings?” She continued into the second verse as Cate peeked toward Arlen. He was as sober as a trial judge in a murder case. His eyes were glued on the singer.

Arlen was thinking she was still as beautiful as when she left for the city. In all his days of traveling the back roads he never thought he would ever see her again.

Moments later her eyes made contact with Cate as she was into the third verse. Cate took her index finger and pointed to her left. Chadda Jo looked and if she wasn’t mistaken, she resembled Arlen’s younger sister, June. That was a surprise but she nodded her head slightly like acknowledging her. She looked toward the center aisle as she completed the song. She sang a half dozen more songs and then a comedian told some jokes for twenty minutes or so.

They had an intermission and they stood and stretched for a while. Jesse asked, “What do you think of the show? This lady knows how to sing, doesn’t she?” Just prior to the show starting the second session an Usher stopped in front of June and told her Ms. Chadda would like to see her and her friends after the show. Of course they all heard his comments and Arlen took a deep breath.

The show continued and as Chadda began to sing the last song of the program she glanced down at June. “She was still a young pretty lady,” she thought. Chadda nodded at her again and as she started to lift her eyes toward the back she turned her face ever so slightly and looked into the eyes of Arlen Perry. In her wildest dreams she would never have expected to see him in a theater. She lost her place in the song and commented, “Sorry folks, I just wasn’t expecting to see a friendly face from my very early years; he’s sitting here in the front row.”



Across town in a jail cell Blackjack Kain was working on a plan to escape and kill that Marshal who had arrested him and ruined a good thing going for him. As he thought about a plan, he knew that he would have to pack up; then leave here in St. Louis and find a new town. Killing a Marshall could get a man hung. Blackjack had killed a few men in his day and one more didn’t really matter to him. Tomorrow he would have to see how an escape plan might work.



Chadda Jo had just finished her last song and rushed back to her dressing room. “Wow,” she thought. “How many years had it been since she had left home and had never once wrote Arlen?”

Within minutes there was a knock on her door. Her usher friend peeked in the room and told her there were friends to see her. She motioned to have them come in.

June entered first followed by Cate, Jesse, and a moment later Arlen entered. Chadda looked past all of them up into Arlen’s eyes for a few seconds and all of a sudden a tear flowed down over her right cheek. She swallowed hard and more tears started flowing down both cheeks; as her eyes closed a cry came out of her and she could not get her breath.

Arlen moved forward and caught her as she almost fell. “I’m so sorry Arlen; I just had to get out of town.” She told him that her heart had told her one thing but she wanted to perform and her selfish spirit had won the inner battle. He told her that she was like a rose about to bloom in the spring and that he was like the scorching sun holding her back from fully blossoming.

Chadda turned to June and talked with her; then she looked up into Cate’s face and told her that she had seen her in the audience on occasions. They all talked for several minutes and Jesse finally commented, “Could we impose upon your time and invite you for supper when you have a free evening?” She told them she was leaving town in eight days for a two week engagement and only had one free evening, which was Sunday. She told them she had a traveling schedule but St. Louis was her home. “Over the last year I have spent some time in Chicago, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and I also stayed in St. Joe for one week.” She told them normally it was for a three to four week engagement. She looked toward Jesse and told him she would love to come for the evening. He told her they would send their driver to pick her up and told her there would probably be eight to ten guests for the evening. “That is a nice sized number; not to many but enough that you don’t run out of things to talk about.” Cate replied, “Thanks so much for inviting us back here in your dressing room. We will be looking forward to Sunday evening.” She told Chadda they should be going so she could finish up and then go home.

Arlen waited until they had all left and he turned toward Chadda and commented, “I’m not sure I will be there Sunday but I want you to know that you are a beautiful lady and you sing better now than when I knew you.” He told her he was a U.S. Marshal and had a prisoner he had to check on over the next few days. She walked up next to him and could see light bruises on his cheekbone. She reached up with her hand and lightly felt his face; “Did you win the fight Arlen?” He told her it was the only way he could get the criminal to jail.

She lifted her face towards him and took one last step, “You are the only man I’ve ever loved or for that matter kissed. Please hold me in your arms for a moment; I’ve missed you.” He put his long arms around her and his hands pulled her tight against his body. She put her face on his chest and moaned as she put her arms around his waist. Arlen lowered his chin to the top of her head and he kissed it slightly as he clung to her tiny waist. A minute later, he took a deep breath and told her he had to go; that he had ridden with the others; that his horse was at Jesse’s.



Blackjack Kain was supposed to go before the local judge for preliminary findings in two days. Several messages using Morse-code was going back and forth from St. Louis to Texas and a few other states getting the scoop about the alias Blackjack Kain. His real name was Charles and he had been a Union soldier until he deserted while in Mississippi. He had lived in New Orleans for a while and gradually spent some time in East Texas before he hit the gambling circuit. There were several WANTED posters for various illegal acts.

Marshal Perry was in the courthouse when Blackjack was brought before the judge. All of the known offenses were presented and the Judge asked, “Mr. Kain, what do you have to say about the many allegations being brought forth?” Blackjack looked up at the Judge and smiled, “You missed a few,” and he laughed. The Judge told him that his trial was going to take place in St. Louis starting the next week. “You, Mr. Kain will spend the rest of your life in the Jefferson City prison, most likely.”

As the prisoner stood he looked toward Arlen and swore at him before telling him that he was going to escape and come looking for him. Blackjack was put in leg-irons and transported back to the jail by Jake, who was the court appointed Deputy Marshal. As they left for the jail, Blackjack told Jake he had seen him somewhere a few years earlier. Jake thought, “I hope he don’t remember where; Blackjack was one of those gambling at a card table the day he was a part of the gang who kidnaped those three saloon gals.”

Jake had the outlaw behind bars an hour later and as he started to leave the jail Marshal Perry rode his horse toward him. He motioned Jake toward the end of the building. As he was talking there was a loud sound from inside and a few seconds later Blackjack was running through the doorway with a six-shooter in his hand. As he ran he could see the two lawmen talking; he pulled the trigger on the gun he had stolen, but the bullet missed its mark. The Marshals horse lurched as it went down on one knee and threw the Marshal forward. Ole Jake fired two rounds wildly and sent the criminal running for the road toward a wagon that was going westward out of town.

Blackjack put a bullet into the man and then jumped into the wagon. He was going as fast as he could away from St. Louis. Jake ran for his horse and was in pursuit within minutes. As he approached the wagon Blackjack took a couple of wild shots but Jake took aim and put a slug into the back of the outlaw. Blackjack toppled out of the wagon a moment later. Jake had his gun trained on the criminal as he approached. Blackjack was on his back and blood was drooling from his mouth as Jake knelt next to him. Jake bent over a little and whispered, “I was one of the varmints’ who kidnaped those three saloon girls. Remember me?” Blackjack gasp as he looked into the face of Jake and smiled up at him as he took his last breath.

Several onlookers rushed toward Jake and the dead outlaw. They had witnessed everything and were talking with Jake as the Marshal and another Deputy rode up. Jake gave the Marshal the story and the crowd verified every word of it.

Chapter 10


It was Sunday evening and Chadda Jo was the last guest to arrive. Marshal Perry was in attendance along with Frank and his old gang. Each of them had on their best outfit, which they had worn on their own accord. Each of them wanted Cate to be proud and not have to make excuses for them.

As Chadda was escorted to the music room Cate was playing the piano and the guests were seated in chairs not more than twelve to fifteen feet from her piano. Jesse showed Chadda Jo to an empty seat, which was next to where Arlen was seated. As she approached, Arlen stood and nodded his head toward her. She smiled toward him and extended her hand. When the music was finished Cate told everyone the meal would be served in half an hour. She pointed toward Jesse and he stood and reached for his fiddle. He started into a melody and Cate was soon on key with him.

As the music ended Chadda commented, “I like it, do you do this often?” Cate told her not often enough with friends. Jesse told Frank to latch on to the guitar and join them. It wasn’t long until April, Mae, and June were singing along with the music. Cate was smiling and nodded toward Chadda and invited her to sing along.

The song was over and the food was ready. As normal the men and women were seated across from each other so they could look at each other as they talked. The Marshal and Chadda looked toward each other several times as they ate. There wasn’t much conversation but their hearts were turning flips. Chadda looked over at Jesse and asked, “How did you and Cate meet?” He told her they met on a Friday night at a party in the city. He told her that he was a paid musician and Cate was a guest of the person having the party.

Chadda looked at Curly and asked, “How did you meet June, Curly?” He bit on his lower lip a moment and replied, “It was kind of an accident. She was with her lady friends and I was with a couple of these gents and somehow we just hooked up.” Everyone was holding their breath as he had replied and was certainly glad she didn’t ask him another question. June said, “Chadda, how did you end up here in St. Louis? I thought you were going to Chicago.” Chadda told her that she did go to Chicago but with the West expanding, St. Louis provided more opportunities so she moved from Chicago.

When the meal was over, they went back into the music room where Jesse and Frank played more music. After two selections Cate asked Chadda if she would like to sing a song or two. “Do you mind if I sit at your piano?” Chadda started to play some music and looked up from the keyboard and told them to join in on any song they knew. She sang a couple of the new songs, which none of the ladies knew but it didn’t really matter because everyone was listening intently at the sounds coming from her mouth; they were each spellbound.

It was close to midnight and time to call it an evening. Chadda thanked Cate and Jesse. Jeffry was bringing the buggy for the trip back to Chadda’s home. Arlen asked if he could escort her home; as he walked to the hallway he reached for his gun belt, which was on a coat hanger. It was a twenty minute ride to Chadda’s home and once arriving Arlen told Jeffry he would be back shortly. She lived in a modest four bedroom two story that had a nice music room on her first floor; not on the scale of Cate’s but it was everything Chadda needed.

Arlen told her that she was beautiful and talented, “The best thing you did for yourself was pursue your dreams, though it broke my heart at the time.” She looked into his amazing dark gray eyes and responded, “I loved you the day I left and I think that love is still in here,” as she touched her chest above her heart. Arlen lowered his head down before he thought what he was doing and put his lips on hers. She responded with her own kiss as they clung together for several moments.



Marshall Perry was on another lead of a wanted criminal. He was thinking of staying close to the St. Louis area; he had two reasons and they were both women. At the time St. Louis was the largest city west of those east coast cities and it brought both good and bad people. Being a US Marshal would allow him access to city records and dozens of WANTED posters.

It was mid-afternoon when he cornered his second wanted person. Abe Satchel had murdered a banker two years earlier and the reward was one-thousand dollars for his capture. Once the criminal was in jail Arlen rode his horse toward his sister’s house. He would be spending the evening and then over the next week, he would be finding a place of his own.

Chadda Jo had invited him for lunch the next day. He planned to have a new shirt and a better jacket to wear when he met her. Arlen wasn’t sure if there was a future with Chadda but he really wanted to have her as a friend again. There was something about her that made him want to be a better man.



The latest news from back in Indiana was Mac Comer and Jesse’ mom just had a child; their first as a legally married couple. Also, James Lee, his dad, and his new wife Melissa were living further north in Jasper County now and their first baby together would be bursting forth any day. Unknown at the time to Jesse; he would have a half-brother and a half-sister to visit if he went back to Indiana someday.


Chapter 11


Jesse was well underway on construction of the nursing school. The sub-contractor firms were working hard to meet the schedules that Jesse had provided. The foundation of the basement was almost completed, which was a major project in itself and parts of the structure depended on it being sound. He spent the majority of his time at the site. Jesse took an extended lunch each day to size-up his other projects around town. Cate usually met him and together they organized each of the following day’s work plans.



Chadda Jo was out of town and Marshal Perry was hot on leads of several WANTED criminals. The worse one was Deacon Young, a left handed gunslinger, who had been in jail waiting to be hanged. Word was that the killer had been a Preacher at one time but had fallen for a married woman; then had killed the woman’s husband when they quarreled over her.

Deacon had escaped jail a month earlier and the rumor was he was holding up close to the river in an old shack. He was a deadly shot and had recently killed a deputy Marshal; it was just a week earlier when he had been tracked to a saloon.

Arlen had taken a room across the street from the saloon and had watched each person entering and leaving for the past two nights. So far Deacon was keeping out of sight and lying low.

It was after dark on the third night and the Marshal could see a man walk from the alley into the saloon so quick he was not able to get a clear look at his face.



It wasn’t long until Deacon was in a card game. After five hands, which he was not able to win, he called the bartender for a drink. One of the pretty young ladies served him and he grabbed her wrist as she had sat the drink on the table.  Deacon told her to stick around and bring him some good luck. He let go of her arm as the cards were dealt in front of him. As he picked up the five cards she backed away. Deacon turned his head slightly and motioned for her to step closer. He said, “I want you over here with your hand on my shoulder bringing me luck Lady, right now.” Her name was Bonnie, she was only eighteen and at the moment she was terrified. She looked toward the bartender and he shook his head indicating Yes.

She moved forward and did as Deacon had told her. She placed her right hand on his left shoulder as he played his hand. Deacon won ten dollars and he told Bonnie to stick around. He won the next four hands before he turned his head and told her he wanted to go upstairs with her. She told him that she was not one of the girls who went upstairs; she said, “I only serve here on the main floor mister.” Deacon lifted his eyebrows at her and said, “I want you up those stairs in one minute and find us a room and come back and tell me the room number.”

Bonnie looked at the bartender and he nodded his head indicating Yes. This was not part of her arrangement to work and she did not like it. “She would go up the stairs but she was not coming back,” she thought. Deacon played another hand and lost. He looked up the stairway and the little lady was not there. He thought, “I’m going to teach the little lassie a lesson on doing as she is told.” He told the dealer he was out and started to walk up the flight of stairs. The bartender pulled his shotgun and was about to shoot when Deacon put a bullet into his chest and he fell with a thud.

The room was dead quiet and finally Deacon hollered, “Hey little lady, I’m coming for you. Get ready!”

The marshal was out of the door at the sound of the gunfire and running toward the saloon. His gun was in his hand and he looked through the window as Deacon was two steps from the top of the stairway. Arlen was inside a moment later as the gunman started his first step down the hallway. “Hold it Deacon,” shouted Arlen! He turned, then took a quick shot at the Marshall, at the same time the Marshall squeezed the trigger of his six-shooter.

Arlen felt a sting as the bullet went through the small portion of the slender ‘love handle’ on his right side. Deacon didn’t feel much as a bullet went through his chest about four inches below his Adam’s apple. He crumpled to the floor and fell forward landing on the top step and continued tumbling down the stairs. Arlen shouted, “Stay away from him. He’s my prisoner for the time being. He is wanted for murder.” No one moved except Bonnie who came running from the hallway toward the top of the stairs. She looked at the Marshal who still had his gun trained on Deacon. “Thank you sir,” she exclaimed! He looked at her and nodded his head indicating you are most welcome.

The next morning Arlen was talking to the Judge about Deacon. The paperwork would be completed and the Marshall would be receiving the reward money. Arlen was told by the Doctor to take it easy for another week as his flesh wound healed.

The incident was reported in the paper and Cate told Jesse about it as they ate lunch the following day. “Maybe I can get an interview with Marshal Perry and put some highlights to the incident, what do you think?” Jesse told her to have him over Saturday evening and maybe the other friends as well. “I’ll work half a day and then be home to bathe before the meal.”

Since the Marshal had been in town there were a couple dead and a couple more arrested. For one tempting moment, his sister June had thought of tipping her brother about Frank and his old gang. “Why should she, they have all changed and are decent men now,” she thought. Then she thought about her own past few years, that would be like calling the kettle black and she was as black as any of them.

Arlen was moving slow as he entered the door. It was a chilly evening and his coat covered his six-shooter. His reputation for bringing in the criminals was spreading and he was a marked man to many WANTED men around St. Louis. He would be wearing his weapon on his hip everywhere he went in the future.

Jesse greeted him and they went into the music room to wait for the other guest. The Marshal asked, “Jesse, do you have any brothers out west?” He told the Marshal he was the oldest of the children in his family and the others all lived back in Indiana working on the farm. “My dad has three brothers who have several boys. They have scattered and are living in a couple other states.” He told Jesse that he had heard of a Frank Lee while down in Texas; he had never had an individual WANTED poster but for sure he had been involved in a couple robberies. Jesse told him there were a couple Frank Lee’s back in Indiana and also a cousin named Frank Comer. Arlen nodded and the conversation was over.

The others arrived and Arlen nodded to each as they entered. “More than likely if the truth was to be known, these gents could have been a gang at one time. His sister was married to one of them so unless something happened in the future to tell him different he was going to try forgetting the thought.”

Cate entered the music room a few minutes later and asked them to join her in the dining hall.

As they were eating Cate asked, “Marshal, it looks like you were called to duty recently, what happened?” He told her the story and then he asked if she had a job opening at the newspaper for a young lady. As he told Cate about the young woman at the saloon, she felt the sadness the girl must have felt. She told him to give her a few days and then he could talk to the girl about a possible job offer.



Chadda Jo was due back into St. Louis and she had five days before she had to perform locally. Arlen was anxious to see her; in fact he could not get her off of his mind.

As Arlen thought about his old girlfriend his mind was working overtime. There was a passion in him for Chadda but he knew if he had a chance with her he was going to need to change his employment status. Over the years he had saved several thousand dollars; he would figure how he might use it to change his life style.

He had picked up two new WANTED posters and both had five hundred dollars reward. Arlen was on his way to the city building; he had several items he wanted to check on. After spending an hour he found what he wanted; about an hour’s ride south, on a good horse, was a section of land for sale. He planned to take a ‘look-see’ after lunch and determine if he would turn in his badge for a farm.

A few hours later the Marshall was riding toward the land. As he rode around the six-hundred-forty acres it had a mixture of terrain. There were some hills, some trees, and then some flat land that looked like he could grow some crops. As he thought, “He could put forty or so cattle and maybe half a dozen good horses on the west side. It looked like forty to fifty acres could be farmed near the center where he would build a house and put up a barn.” Arlen piled about twenty rocks in the area he thought the house should go. As he looked to the north he thought it would be a nice place to plant several fruit trees.

He rode back to St. Louis and was going to visit Chadda Jo. He didn’t want to do something crazy if there was no chance she would want to be a part of his life on a farm. Arlen was a little nervous as he dismounted in front of her house. He took a deep breath and walked to her front door and knocked. He knocked a second time before she answered the door. He took his hat off and asked if she had a few minutes to visit. She took a step toward him and put her arms around his waist and leaned her head onto his chest. “For you Arlen, I always have time to talk.”

They were sitting in the small parlor and she had two glasses of water on a small tray. Arlen took one and gulped down half of it and then took a deep breath. “Chadda Jo, I love you, in fact I’ve loved you since we were twelve years old. I know I need to change some before you would have me; in fact I’ve been looking at some land to start a farm a few miles south of town.” She looked at him as he took several large breaths to calm himself. He told her his plan and asked her if she would take a ride with him the next day. She looked into his eyes but didn’t speak.

It had been a few years since Chadda had ridden but it didn’t take long for her to feel at ease. It was a little overcast and the temperature was in the sixties when they left that morning. At their pace it would take two hours to ride to the destination Arlen wanted to show her. The trail was all dirt and it looked like there were ruts from a few wagons earlier that morning.

It was about ten a.m. when they arrived and Arlen pulled his horse over to the property line, which was at the highest elevation. He pointed toward the different areas and commented; then rode toward the pile of rocks he had stacked. “I was thinking the front porch should face the north with the kitchen on the east wall.” Chadda asked, “What other ideas do you have Arlen?” He looked into her eyes and told her that a barn would be needed and some pasture land fenced off. “What would you like to add to what I’ve said?”

She had a smile creep over her face and thought, “Arlen honey, are you going to ask me to marry you or am I just supposed to know what you have in mind?” He looked toward her and saw the smile come across her face, which puzzled him just a little. Chadda turned just a little and caught his eye looking at her. She nudged her horse toward him and soon was not more than four feet from his face. “Are you planning to marry some woman and raise some young’uns to help you run this farm?” Her lips tightened as she looked directly into his face waiting for a response from him.

Arlen looked into her eyes for several seconds and finally commented, “Maybe I was a little presumptuous but I hope you are the lady who will marry me and then we can fill the home with some of those young’uns.” She looked toward him and commented, “You are going to have to tell me you love me and ask me to marry you before I can give you a reply.”

It wasn’t one second later that he was climbing out of the saddle and then took a couple steps in her direction. He reached up his hand and she took it as he helped her off the horse. He looked down into her eyes and took both of her hands and said, “I love you Chadda Jo and I hope you love me enough that you would consider being my wife.” She started crying and told him she had been waiting for him to ask that question for a dozen years. She shook her head and exclaimed, Yes!”



Jesse was at the job site where the future nurses would be attending school. He had just finished a meeting with his contractors. Everything was lined up for the next ninety days with a contingency in case of a major foul-up.

He was meeting Cate for lunch to discuss the biggest job he might ever bid on. There was funding for a new court house and the city was having a pre-bid meeting with several invited potential builders in the St. Louis area.

He met Cate at the newspaper and they walked to a local café to have lunch. An hour and half later they walked out and Jesse walked her back to the newspaper. There were going to be four bids put out; foundation; exterior work; interior work; and then furnishing the building.

Ten days later there were eleven general contractors in a room with the mayor and several city officials waiting to hear the detailed expectations on what the bids would include.

After two hours into the meeting five of the contractors had left. The job was more than they wanted to commit to. An hour later the city officials left after telling the six remaining contractors that they need the bids back in thirty days. The contractors, including Jesse were still sitting around the room. Jesse commented, “Well men, I think there is more than enough work to keep us all busy for a couple of years. Do we want to work together on a plan or just come up with an overwhelming list of items with a cost including profit added? If that is the case, I’ll put bids in on two.” One of the contractors told them he only wanted to be involved with furnishing the courthouse after the other work was completed. One of them mentioned he would like to be involved in the foundation and maybe the exterior. “I have the same thing in mind,” Jesse said. After the six of them talked through the options and the amount of work involved they determined that each of them would put in the bids and rely on the builders who missed out on receiving the bid to be on a preferred sub-contractor list.


Chapter 12


It was a week later that Arlen purchased the acreage and ten days later Chadda put the announcement of her engagement in the newspaper. They had decided to keep her home in the city for a few years at least. Chadda would continue to perform in St. Louis until they started a family and only the Lord knew when that would take place. The Marshal had wanted to round up another six to eight outlaws for the reward money but Chadda had something else in mind. She wanted him starting on the raising of a barn and then their new home.

Chadda Jo wanted a church wedding and Cate volunteered her home for the wedding party following the vows. The plans were well underway.

Arlen had asked Jesse to make him some plans for a large barn and then to set a foundation for it. After the foundation was set, he would order several wagon loads of timber; then they would have a barn-raising with friends invited for the day.



Three weeks later the barn was well underway. With all of the help the framing and the exterior would be finished prior to sundown. There were four teams putting up the separate walls and a team putting up rafters and the roof.

It was going good; only an hour until sundown and the last nail had been hammered home. The women were just finishing the food for the hungry men and there were several blankets thrown on the ground where they could sit and talk around the campfire pit that had been dug deep into the ground for safety.

Arlen thanked them for the hard day’s work and told them after Chadda had married him, and they were moved in, they would all be invited back to celebrate. This got a roar from the guest! Jesse commented, “For those of you who have a free day in two weeks, we plan to put the framework of their new home in place and you all are invited back.” An hour later, all but four buckboards left for home. Jesse, Frank, Curly and Arlen finished cleaning up and put the trash in the wagons, then started home with their women. They talked as they drove back. The next Saturday the four men would be back to put some main supports in for the future foundation.



Three days later just prior to sundown two rugged looking men were dismounting from their horses in front of a hotel near the center of St. Louis. They had been living in Arkansas doing odd jobs and occasionally robbing a stage coach. Slim had shot a driver in one of the heist and a WANTED poster had his face identified. That was one of the reasons they had come further north.

The other reason was they were still feeling slighted from the way Curly and Dudley had made off with the two saloon gals. Maybe it was time they had their turn with Mae and June.

It took five more days to get a lead on the four. They spent a week following them to see if they had a regular routine. Lefty commented, “I think it’s time we had our way with the ladies. We need to find a deserted shack and plan to heist them in a few more days.” Slim agreed and they started putting a plan together.



Friday was the day that Cate had all of the ladies coming over just after lunch to help prepare for the pre-wedding dinner. They would use the dining hall and the music room for the party. All told there would be close to forty at her home.

Minnie had a large wagon that would seat four. She picked up April and they were on their way for Mae and June when Jake rode up beside them. He told April he would ride along with them since he had an hour to kill. It wasn’t long until the other ladies were in the wagon and Jake was still beside them. Lefty and Slim were watching and could not believe their eyes. Lefty said, “Slim, all four of those Saloon gals are in that wagon. Don’t they look purty with those fancy dresses on? That hombre beside them has a tin star on his shirt so stay back a ways.”

Fifteen minutes later they were turning into Cate’s home and pulling to the rear. They were out of sight as the two outlaws rounded the corner and looked left and right for the missing wagon. They circled around several blocks before riding east.

A few hours later several buggies started gathering at Cate and Jesses for a party. Then about ten minutes later Slim and Lefty were back near the location they had lost the saloon gals and were confused with all the wagons in the area. Jeffrey was out attending the horses to make sure none were rustled. He spotted the two gents as they slowly looked toward the house. He startled them when he asked, “Do you gents need some help?” Lefty pulled out his gun and aimed it at Jeffrey telling him to keep his mouth shut if he wanted to live. Jeffery told him to move on unless they had business here. Slim told him they were leaving but they were curious what was going on in the house. Jeffrey told them it was a wedding party.

A block away Slim told Lefty that maybe one of the gals was getting married; they both laughed and mumbled something about the poor man. They rode back toward where Mae and June lived and put their horses in the stable behind their house. They planned on waiting until those two saloon gals returned.

Three hours later they heard the wagon and several horses riding up the street. The outlaws pulled their guns and walked to the edge of the house as Mae and June stepped down. They walked toward the door as the wagon and two horses continued up the street while Dudley and Curly rode to the rear. Slim made four swift strides and put his gun to the chest of June, “Don’t make a sound or you’re dead.” Mae took a deep breath and commented, “Well, well, if it’s not ole slime and his twin. You fellas better high tail it outa here if you want to be alive by day-break.”

Chapter 13


The wedding was set to start in fifteen minutes. Most of the guest had arrived but June, Mae, Dudley and Curly weren’t anywhere to be found. “Maybe they were just late in getting ready,” Minnie was thinking as she looked around the church.

The ceremony was beautiful and the music was just perfect as Chadda and Arlen said their vows before the church attendees. As it concluded Minnie told Frank she was worried. “Mae and June are not here and June wouldn’t miss this for anything.” Frank looked around for Dudley and Curly and they weren’t there either. Frank grabbed Jake by the arm and pulled him to the side. “Minnie is worried about Mae and June; they aren’t here nor are Curly or Dudley.” Jake looked around the large space for a ‘look-see’ himself.

They went back to their wives and told them that they would check out their house on the way to Cate and Jesse’s; that the women could ride together. They rode to the stable and checked it. Something didn’t look right.

Frank knocked on the door but no answer. He turned the handle of the door and it opened. He pulled his gun and Jake did the same. They looked around and when they walked into the kitchen Curly and Dudley were gagged and tied up back to back. It looked like two to three ropes must have been used.

It took several minutes to get the two men untied and then Curly gave Frank the lowdown on Slim and Lefty. Their wives had been kidnapped by the two ole gang members. Frank told them to calm down, “We have to be careful or the LAW will get involved and all of us will end up in jail. Let’s split up and take a look around for four horses.”

It wasn’t more than half an hour later that Jake found the abandoned house with four horses, which were tied to the back porch. He signaled the others to be quiet. They dismounted and left their horses. They walked a hundred yards and listened; they could hear Lefty trash talking in his usual manner. Both of the women were crying and pleading for their lives. Frank told Jake and Curly to cover the front and he was going to the back with Dudley. Frank commented, “I’m going inside and hope to get the low down on them. If they escape you will need to stop them when they run out of the door.”

Frank slipped in the back door as quiet as a mouse. All four were in the living area and the women had been tied up back to back sitting on the floor half naked. Frank had to think for a moment. Should he just shoot them or let them live long enough for Curly and Dudley to do it. He didn’t like the idea of Mae and June being treated like they were but he had done the same thing himself in his former days. “He was no longer that same man,” he thought as he looked into the crying eyes of June.

BAM – BAM were the sounds the other three men heard from outside the deserted house. They waited outside the doors several seconds not knowing whether to rush in and maybe get shot themselves or wait until they were called. Frank rushed to the ladies and cut the ropes. “Put your dresses on and don’t take time for the frillies. I don’t want your husbands to see you like this. Don’t tell them what happened; just forget this as another bad dream.”

They had never put on a dress so fast but when Frank saw them fully dressed he opened the front door and hollered, “Come on in. These polecats are both dead.” Frank acted like he was cutting the ladies ropes from their arms as the three men rushed in. Curly and Dudley rushed toward their wives just as they began to cry and were speechless.

Frank told them to take all the horses to the stable and close up the house. He would mention the incident to Arlen and he could stop over the next afternoon.



Jake rode beside Frank as the two of them headed toward the wedding reception. “Don’t say anything tonight Jake. Arlen and Chadda deserve a nice evening without the knowledge of this incident.”

April and Minnie watched as their husbands walked in together. They looked like nothing was wrong so that was a relief to both of them. One of Jesse’s friends, Ed Stibbe, was playing his fiddle along with Howard on his banjo. The piano player was a friend of Chadda Jo and she was exceptional.



It was Sunday morning and the newlyweds were at worship service in the church they had said their vows. Chadda Jo had not scheduled anything on her itinerary for the next two months. In fact there was nothing on her agenda outside of St. Louis for the rest of the year. Arlen had announced he was turning in his badge at the end of the following week and they would become farmers.

As the Church service concluded Frank nudged Arlen and asked him for a moment. He gave him the lowdown on the previous evening and told him where the two dead bodies were located. Frank commented to Arlen, “Go talk to June in private; she will fill you in on the details of the kidnapping.”

Arlen didn’t ask Frank a single question; he just nodded and stepped back beside Chadda. They were going to lunch with one of her friends and after that he would slip out and take care of the bodies of the two outlaws.

Three hours later Arlen was knocking on the door and asking for his sister, June. “Take a walk with me Sis,” he said. They walked down the street about a hundred feet and he commented, “Tell me everything about these two dead men, your husband, Frank, and Jesse. Tell me how you got mixed up with this whole charade.” June started crying and wrapped her arms around Arlen’s waist and laid her head on his shoulder as they walked. She told him how poor she became and how she ended up a ‘Soiled Dover’; then to the time they were kidnapped.

She took a deep breath and said, “We split up after we headed north and Jake and April went into southern Missouri to farm and the other four gang members drew straws on who would get Mae and I. Slim and Lefty lost and were mad as could be. We hadn’t seen them since that time until now.” Arlen wanted to know where Frank came into the picture at. She told him the gang leader had been killed and Frank had taken over until they split up. “What does Jesse have to do with it?” She told him, “Nothing that I know of. Jesse and Frank are relation from Indiana and after Frank made a clean break he looked up Jesse; he helped Frank set-up a business. That’s it about those two.” Arlen pulled her face away from his chest and looked her in the eye, “You’re telling me all these men-folk except Jesse were in a gang and you were a part of it?” She told him she wasn’t a part of the outlaw gang. “We ladies never had guns if that is what you want to know.”

“O.K. June, these two dead outlaws, are they WANTED for anything.” She shook her head Yes; then she looked down toward the ground. “Who actually shot them? The only legal one of the entire bunch is Jake. Was it him?” She looked up into his eyes with a sparkle and told him it was getting dark but she thought so. He commented, “I’ll take care of it but remember little Sis, you owe me.” Arlen mounted up and rode off. She hollered after him, “Thanks, I love you!”

On Monday Arlen took care of business. He completed the paperwork. There was five-hundred reward dollars on each of them. Minutes later Arlen turned his badge in and rode back to Chadda Jo’s house. He told her that he was officially a farmer; the next week he would start working full time on finishing the new farm house so they could begin the next step of their future.


Frank was a mess, he was worrying that June might slip-up and tell her brother the story and his freedom would be a thing of the past.

An hour later Arlen walked into his store and asked if he could get some lumber that had a finished on one side only, and plenty of nails delivered to the farm. “Are you doing o.k. today Frank, you are lookin’ kinda pale?” Frank told him he had a lot on his mind the past few days. Arlen pulled his vest out and said, “No badge Frank, I’m a farmer now.” Frank looked him in the eye and commented, “You know all about me then don’t you? I was a no-account for a few years but my wife straightened me out. I’m sure Chadda will make you a better man in the long run as well.” Arlen told him he was staking his life on it.



Chapter 14


Eighteen months later; it was March of 1872. In a way not much had happened but then again several things in their lives had changed. Minnie and June had babies that would be a year old later in the year; Cate and Chadda were about to deliver their first. The St. Louis area was still growing and Jesse, Frank, Dudley and Curly were doing extremely good in their business ventures. The farm Arlen built was doing well and he had two young men employed doing the many different farming chores. There were a dozen fruit trees of various kinds. They had built a bunkhouse that could handle a total of four men, when the time came to employee more.



A young girl about to have her fourteenth birthday was on a stage about to cross the Mississippi river on a barge. She had lived in Kentucky her whole life but two weeks earlier her mother, Lizie, had died after an extremely long heart illness. Her dad had died two years earlier after being gunned down by a jealous husband. Her dad was not a nice man by worldly standards but had always provided a home for both her and his wife, Lizie.

Savannah and her mom had talked through several grown up conversations over the last couple of months, as Lizie’s health declined. She learned several things that a thirteen year old should not have had to comprehend, but as it was her life had to go on. St Louis was the place her mom had told her to find a man named Jess’ Lee. He was a cousin and the sealed letter for him would explain all he needed to know.



Jesse had finished a morning conference with the newspapers newly named manager of operations. Cate was just days, maybe hours, from having their first child. Jesse had assumed business and financial responsibilities for each of their businesses. Since Cate’s dear friend had worked there for four years; she knew her way around the office and was assigned to make sure the day-to-day events happened as needed. Jesse only intervened when a big decision was needed. Today Jesse would have to terminate one of the reporters for being drunk on the job and harassing Cate’s friend, Mona.

Jesse arrived home in time to have lunch with Cate. As they were finishing the meal and visiting the house keeper, Mary, announced that there was a visitor for Jesse at the door. Cate looked at him and asked, “Were you expecting anyone this afternoon?” He told her that he only had some unfinished business at the architect’s office but no formal appointments. Cate commented, “Mary, please show him in; we have just finished eating.” Mary told her it was a young girl not a man.

Moments later the tall slender girl dressed in a heavy coat and a hat pulled down to her ears appeared and looked toward the two adults. She stood there a few moments until Jesse commented, “Can I help you with something young lady?” Savannah looked toward him and said, “I have a letter here for Jess’ Lee.” He motioned for her to bring the letter to him. She looked around the large room and gazed at the enormous table in the center, then took a deep breath and started walking toward him.

Cate asked, “What’s your name?” She looked into Cate’s face and replied, “Ma’am I’m Savannah Charona and I have lived in Kentucky all my life.” It was just like her mom had instructed her to greet her cousin, when she finally met him.

Jesse looked at the envelope with the name ‘Jess Lee’ across the front and up in the left corner was just the name, Lizie. He only knew one Lizie and he had not seen her since he was sixteen. His face went pale as he read the note from Lizie. In a hundred years he would not have expected this news. “Oh my goodness,” was all he could mumble at the moment. His mind was miles away as he thought back to the first day Lizie and he had gone to the loft in the barn and then once again before her family returned to Kentucky. Neither of them had planned such a thing; it just happened. In the back of his mind he had never forgot that week. “Oh Lord,” he moaned out loud.

Cate asked, “What is wrong Jesse?” She had to say it three times before he heard her. He finally looked her in the face and commented, “Nothing you could ever imagine Cate.”

He handed her the note and let her read it.

It was dated three weeks earlier and the writing came from the hand of a woman.

Dear Jess,

If you receive this letter, it means that I have PASSED and that Savannah no longer has a mother to care for her. Savannah’s earthly dad died two years ago and she and I have been both working to keep a roof over our heads. I am so proud of her. She is far more mentally mature than what other young girls her age are.

I’m begging you to become her guardian and brighten her young life with some love, like you and I had for a brief moment. You might guess but in case not, Savannah was conceived in June of eighteen-fifty-eight while I was visiting relatives in Indiana. She knows a lot about my cousin, Jess, but she does not know about the one week of experiences we shared or how it was that we had that brief moment of being young lovers.

I have asked God to forgive me over and over and so I am begging you the same. Please forgive me. I will share with you, finally, that the most wonderful week in my entire life was spent on an old farm in Indiana in eighteen-fifty-eight.

Please take care of our daughter.



Tears were running down Cate’s cheek as she handed the letter back to Jesse. “Two children in the same month surely isn’t what I was thinking but I’m sure hoping it will be a double blessing. We will adopt her and raise her as our child. If you don’t mind, I’ll make sure she gets all of the finest education St. Louis can provide for her.” Jesse reached his hand over to Cate and she held it as she looked over at Savannah and spoke. “This will be your home until you are ready to marry and start your own family. You will be Jesse’s and my daughter just like this baby will be,” as she rubbed her tummy and smiled at Savannah.

Jesse put the letter back in his pocket then told Savannah to start calling him dad and to call Cate mom. “You will always remember Lizie as your birth mother but Cate will love you as much as a mother can love a child and so will I.” Jesse extended his hand toward her and she ran to his arms and said, “Thank you cousin Jess. Mom said you would love me.”  Jesse was letting his mind ramble, “What if Cate decided later that this was too much, what would he do?” After Savannah was in bed later that evening, Jesse commented, “I didn’t know about this Cate but when visiting back home mom looked at me funny-like when Lizie’s name came up once. She didn’t say a thing though.”



Two days later Cate was sitting at the piano planning an evening party for Savannah’s birthday when she experienced several sharp pains. It was nothing like what she might have expected. “Oh Lord,” she moaned and then commented out loud, “Oooh, it seems that the childbirth mentioned in Chapter three of Genesis is taking place. Please give me relief from the pain and strength to have a healthy baby, Lord.” Cate screamed, “Help,” a couple of times and both Jana and Mary came running through the music room door seconds later. Shortly after, Savannah opened the door and peeked in. Mary screamed, “Send Jeffery for the Doctor and get word to Mr. Lee that a baby is on its way.” They helped Cate to the first floor guest room she had been sleeping in the last month and started boiling water and gathering some clean towels. Moments later they heard the horse gallop past the window.

A few minutes later Savannah peeked into the dark room and she could hear Cate moan every few minutes. She had seen her share of births; there had been several horses and a few cows on the farm but they were nothing like the experiences she had while helping in the birth of a new born baby. It was quiet for a couple minutes and then Cate took a deep breath and let out another moan. Savannah walked to the bed and took Cate’s hand and rubbed both sides of it as Cate opened her eyes and smiled toward her. “This is a little more painful than I imagined. Please ask Jana to get me a cool cloth for my forehead; I seem to be sweating.” Savannah ran to the kitchen and told Jana what Cate wanted. She dipped a cloth into a bucket and wrung it out before handing it back to Savannah. She ran back to Cate’s room and folded it neatly over her head and rubbed it a little. Cate sighed, “Oh thank you, it feels so good.”

Savannah repeated the routine for the next half an hour until the Doctor arrived. After a quick peek the Doc told them it should be within the hour and instructed Jana and Mary what was needed. They told him everything was prepared and ready. He gave them a smile and said, “Thanks ladies for taking care of the details.” He looked at Savannah and asked, “Who are you young lady? I don’t remember meeting you before.” Cate gripped Savannah’s hand and told the Doc that she was going to be Jesse and her daughter as soon as the papers for adoption could be finalized. “Her name is Savannah; Jesse’s cousin was her mom until she recently PASSED.”

As she was finishing the sentence Jesse was in the doorway listening. He took a deep breath and walked toward the bed. Before he could get there she let out another loud moan and Savannah took one hand and rubbed the cool rag over her eyes and forehead once again. There was another moan less than thirty seconds later. The Doc said, “Jesse, normally I send the men to another room but I want you and Savannah to each hold one of Cates hands and keep her calm as she pushes this baby out into this world.”



It was later that evening that Jesse wrote a letter to Mary Jane, his mom, and told her of his first child about to be born. He also mentioned the news of Lizie sending Savannah to St. Louis, asking him to be guardian of her child.

He mentioned that he had met Frank Lee in Dodge City while on his honeymoon and that he had become a changed man for the good; to let his parents know.



Across town Arlen and Chadda Jo were riding on the buckboard about to arrive at her home in the city; as her expected due date was nearing. She would be staying in its first floor guest room, until her baby came. Arlen’s sister June, her husband, and their young baby were living there as well.

As they were situating themselves June walked into the room with her baby and handed him to Chadda. She counted his little fingers and kissed him on the cheek. She whispered, “It won’t be long until you have a cousin to play with. I can just imagine that you will be good friends one day.”



Back across the city there was one final push and the Doc had a little boy in his hands. He checked all the major areas and declared that all was well. He handed the baby to Mary and asked her to clean him and then wrap him in a blanket and give him to Cate. Jesse was about to touch the newborn when the Doctor told him to leave the room for a few minutes while he cleaned Cate and had clean sheets put on the bed.

Savannah asked if she could help but Doc told her to go wait with Jesse. “You’re a little young yet for this.” She replied, “My mom and I have birthed half a dozen babies when there weren’t a Doctor to do it.” She told him the first time was a bit gruesome but after her ma explained it all, “I was o.k. on the others.”

Cate reached over and patted her head and told her to go with Jesse because she had some personal questions for the Doctor. “Next time I won’t have so many questions.”

As they waited Jesse told her that he was proud of the way she helped. He told her Cate was going to have her hands full being a new mother and her help with the new baby would be appreciated. Savannah smiled and told him she would help whenever she was needed. Jesse took her hand, cleared his throat and told Savannah that Lizie and him had grown up, in Kentucky, together and had been best friends. “My family moved to Jackson County when I was fourteen and I only saw your mom when their family came to visit two years later. She was a sweet person.” That was all Savannah needed to know, ever.



Two days later on the other side of the city, Chadda Jo brought her first born into the world. She was crying with both joy and sadness. She had wanted a boy for Arlen so he would have someone to pal with on the farm; on the other hand deep down she had hoped for a girl so she could train her how to be a true lady. As Chadda looked into Arlen’s eyes it took about two seconds to get over not having a boy; he poked his finger at his little daughter’s fingers; that’s when she gripped his finger and a lifetime bond was made between them. Yep, that’s all it took for a lifetime of love for dad and daughter. Tears rolled down Arlen’s face as he looked at his two beautiful girls. He thought, “Maybe in a couple years that might be a boy lookin’ up into his daddy’s eye.”



A week later Jesse was watching Savannah hold her baby brother. It took a few days to name him but they decided on Samuel Bradford Lee; for no particular reason. The boy did not look like either parent and they could not determine which of the family linage that he had taken after.



It was two weeks later that Jesse received a letter from his mom.

Son, The Lord has a way of making a wrong, right. If you think about it you will understand my meaning. My sister had written about the birth of Savannah and we both put the numbers to her birth. She had to be conceived while Lizie was visiting here in Indiana. Mac and I lost our child a few months ago. Maybe it was a case of my wrong meeting justice. If you remember the story of David and Bathsheba you will understand my meaning. I was wrong to do what I did to two families; and of course, the Lord.

You are in my mind and prayers. One thing I would cherish is a picture of you and your family. Think about it, please.

She just signed it, Mary Jane.



Chapter 15


As Jesse walked out the door of the newspaper, on a cloudless morning, he heard a loud bang-bang sound, like a gun shooting; a moment later he felt a tug on the shoulder of his shirt. Someone had just taken a shot at him. Jesse dove to his right and rolled behind a tank used to water horses. A shout came from across the road, “I’m gonna get you Jesse, you were a low down blue belly.” A minute later he could hear a horse running down the alley heading south. It was only a matter of minutes until a Deputy was trying to find out what had just happened.

After answering several questions Jesse commented, “As near as I know, I don’t have any enemies but someone knows my name and tried to shoot me.” The Deputy had a few men check the tracks of the horse to see if they could follow but at the next intersection there were too many horses walking across the road to tell what might have had happened moments earlier.

Jesse went to the office of the Pinkerton Agency and made a formal complaint concerning the attempt on his life. He spent an hour answering numerous questions. He had no idea who it might have been until one question almost knocked him out of his seat. He was halfway talking to himself when he said, “Ed Dill is the only man that I know of that ever threatened me with my life.”

Twenty-five minutes later there was a WANTED poster on Ed Dill in front of Jesse. He had shot and wounded two guards in his attempt to escaped prison. Ed had also left a trail of robberies and some bloodshed on his way through Missouri.

The Pinkerton’s were going to setup surveillance in four areas; Cate’s home and three of the businesses that Jesse spent time working at. Jesse got word to Frank and asked him to have his friends stop over to get a look at his new son. He mentioned to keep a six-shooter on their hip for a while.



He sent word to Mary and Jana to plan for a dinner at six and who it was that was coming. Tonight Jesse was going to be working on a plan to get his wife and children safely out of their house until all was safe.

Dinner proceeded and Jesse asked the women and children if they minded going to the music room so the men could talk awhile. Cate looked at Jesse with a frown; looking as serious as he had ever seen her. He nodded at her and she understood that something was amiss and it was just to be men-talk for a short time.

Jesse talked to the fellas and then pulled a recent WANTED poster. It was a fairly clear picture of Ed Dill; he was partially shaven and there was a second drawing with whiskers added. Frank yelped, “That lowdown scoundrel is going to pay for taking a shot at you, Jesse.” Jesse told Frank to keep it calm, “Tomorrow, start putting out the word and see if any of your acquaintances’ have seen this fella.” He told them he would duplicate the picture at the print shop and have several copies put around town.

They joined their wives and sang a few songs. Cate kept looking at Jesse for some kind of meaning to what had just happened but he kept his eyes looking away from her for the moment. He needed a little time to think what he would tell her.



Ed Dill was at a saloon just north of the main part of the city. He had a room using a pseudo name and he planned to stay in it the next day and make some plans for ole Jesse Lee, who was a no account Yankee traitor.

Ed stayed in his room while several lawmen rode around town trying to find a trace of him. Later that evening half a dozen men met with Jesse but Ed had not been spotted. An hour later, Jesse, Frank, Jake, and Curly took the buckboard and started visiting the saloons on the outskirts of town.

Jesse commented. “Let’s check one more saloon and if he isn’t here, we will call it a night. Frank, you know what Ed looks like so you can go in first.” As Frank took one step into the saloon he recognized Ed playing cards. He moved to a location directly behind Ed as Jake entered and Frank nodded toward Ed. Jake walked opposite of where Frank was standing and leaned his elbow on the bar, with his badge directly in eyesight of Ed. Curly walked in and went to the opposite end of the bar where he could get a good look at Ed.

Jesse had spotted Ed before he walked through the saloon door. He stepped in and took a step to his right. Ed glanced up at the mirror behind the bartender and his eyes got as big as quarters. He reached for his six-shooter and before he could get it aimed at Jesse, Frank had clamped his hand on Ed’s wrist pushing it downward as the gun went off, with the bullet going into the wooden floor. Jake took three strides and had his gun pushed into the forehead of Ed. “Drop the gun, Ed, or I’ll put a bullet through your stupid brain.”

Ed’s eyes rose toward Jake. He saw the badge first and then the face of the lawman; then released the grip of his gun. Frank kicked it aside and then helped Jake get the cuffs on Ed. Ed sneered toward Jesse and told him he would get out of jail and come looking for him, “You’re not safe anywhere as long as I’m alive.” Jesse did not comment; just looked at him as Jake started him walking toward the door.



Two days later Ed was before the Judge. There were half a dozen WANTED posters given to the Judge. Murder and armed robbery had taken place more than once. The trial was quick and the Judge sentenced him to HANG.

Jake was just about to put him in chains when he went for a six-shooter from another deputy’s holster. Amazing how he had it pointed at the Judge and everyone jumped back when he told them what he had in mind. “I’ve got some unfinished business before I hang,” Ed commented. He told all of them to place their guns on the floor and to back-up to the north wall. Within minutes Ed was out the door and was on a horse, before a single Deputy could pick up a gun.

A Pinkerton Deputy was just about to the court house when he observed what was taking place. He started after Ed but stayed back about one-hundred feet as they rode east toward the river. As Ed started to slow his horse he noticed the sound of the approaching horse from behind. He turned and brought the six-shooter to bear on the rider. Two sounds were heard simultaneous as both men were hit. The gun hand of Ed had been broken, with blood flowing freely. The Pinkerton agent was down. He was dead and it was another notch against Ed. The intense pain with the thumb bone protruding through the skin had Ed barely holding onto the horse but he did ride steadily toward the river.

Moments later he was on the ground and had put his injured hand into the cool water of the Mississippi. Ed took a couple of deep breaths and then heard the sound of horses riding toward him. Jake hollered, “Hands up or I’ll put a bullet in your stinkin’ hide.” Ed took a step toward the river and started to jump as three Deputies shot at him. He felt the sting as a bullet hit him but a moment later he was sinking into the current of the river near the bank. Ed was feeling very little as the current pulled him toward the center of the river. “Would this be it,” he wondered as he was finally caught by the fast moving undercurrent.



Jake and the other two Deputies searched as best they could but could never see where the body of Ed had gone. Within half an hour there were a couple dozen spectators watching and three more Deputies showed up to help search. Jake commented, “The body might be half a mile or so down river by now.”

The body of Ed Dill was never found.

Chapter 16


It was mid-June and Chadda Jo was bringing the baby to the farm for the first time. Arlen had gone back to the farm in mid-April and had returned to St. Louis two days earlier. Family and friends were all following the wagon and an afternoon of festivities was planned.

As the wagons were circled in front of Arlen’s house they all met in the circle for a prayer. Chadda asked Jesse to lead. They all bowed, A Thanks was given for all the additions and for Savannah’s arrival to Cate and his family. Jesse asked for the safety of the families as the dangers in life were around them. As the prayer ended Arlen asked, “What became of that Ed Dill fella that was gunning for you Jesse?” Cate’s jaw dropped as she looked toward Arlen; she asked, “What are you talking about Arlen? Who is Ed Dill?”

Jesse’s eyeballs rose as he looked up a little. He blew out his breath and replied, “From what I heard, he drowned in the river after he was shot. No one has said but to my knowledge a body has never been found.” Cate hissed through her teeth as she looked at Jesse. She told him to come with her that they needed to take a short walk. He took a deep breath with his head down and started walking toward her.

He waved toward Savannah and motioned her to follow and told her he only wanted to have to say what he was going to say once. When they had walked about a hundred feet from the group who were waiting near the house; Minnie looked toward her husband asking, “What’s going on Frank?” He told her she needed to talk with Cate when she got back. He wasn’t about to say anything that his cousin might not want told.

Cate stopped and Jesse said, “Keep walking a little further. I don’t want them to hear what I have to say until I’ve finished.” Jesse put his arms over both Cate and Savannah’s shoulder and told them who Ed Dill was and that they had a falling out years earlier. He completed the whole story and told them Jake had shot him and he had fallen into the river. “He has never been found.” Cate was emotional and told him the fella might be alive and maybe would come back again. Jesse lifted both hands up; then told her, “Maybe, maybe not.”

She looked into his eyes and started to speak. Jesse said, “Cate, you have enough to take care of besides worry about what might never happen. Nothing is going to happen to me unless the Lord allows it.” Savannah reached her arm around his waist and said, “Amen dad, I think you are right.” Cate looked into the face of Jesse and exclaimed, “Why Jesse, why wasn’t I told before now; that’s not right!” He told her he was sorry but he didn’t want to worry her. She started crying and both Savannah and he put their arms around her. She had a good cry before she started walking back toward the house.

As they approached, all of the women walked toward them and Jesse just kept walking toward the men. He knew that this was a ‘woman thing’ for at least the next half an hour.



Ed Dill had been dragged onto a barge a couple miles downriver. At the time he was hanging onto a floating tree limb but once pulled out of the river, he was given medical attention. His right thumb was splintered, with bone showing on both sides. There was a bullet in his thigh and one had gone through the thin skin on his left side. Later he was wrapped in a blanket; if he made it to New Orleans they would take him to a Doctor, if not he would be shoved over the side.

Would he live? The three crew members didn’t think so but time would tell.



It had taken two weeks for the barge to be docked. The wounded man was barely breathing and it had looked like any minute might be his last. Once the Doc worked on him, he had been moved to a clean room. Over his next two weeks he gradually improved but the man would never be the same again.

Ed still had forty dollars in his pocket. Once he had strength to get up and start walking, he bought clean clothes and a gun with the holster on the left side. He knew he would never shoot again with his right thumb practically missing so he kept a leather glove on it all the time. He was not done with Jesse; he was bitter; he planned to find a way to make sure Jesse would be buried before the year was over.

Two months later Ed had robbed a bank in Louisiana and made off with three-hundred dollars. It would get him a horse and several boxes of bullets to practice with. As he rode northward through the back woods in southern Arkansas, he spotted a neat looking small house. It looked lived in but no one was around so he took a seat on the front porch and waited.

Just prior to sunset a woman rode into the yard and stared at him as she dismounted. “I live here mister; you got any business being here?” Ed looked her over and spotted a six-shooter holstered on her right hip. He told her he was headed north toward St. Louis and needed a place to spend the night. She commented that she would give him a meal and he could sleep in the barn but it would cost him a dollar. Ed was thinking, “Beautiful woman; wonder if she actually knows how to use the gun?” He knew he wasn’t real good using his left hand, not yet anyway.

Ed agreed and pulled a dollar from his pocket and showed it to her. She told him to put both horses in the barn and she would start supper. She kept her six-shooter holstered, on her hip, as she fried potatoes and half of a chicken, which was left from the previous day.

As they ate she told him her husband, Zach, had been killed about a year earlier; he was thrown from his horse and his neck was broke. She had been a mail order bride at the age of twenty-five, which had been four years earlier. She told Ed she was going to stick it out on the farm by herself or until she found a man fit to be her husband. Ed asked, “Do you know how to use the six-shooter that you are wearing on your hip?” She shook her head, “Better than most men.”

Ed was still in the barn when she awoke the next morning. He had a bucket of water shaving and cleaning up as she poked her head inside the barn door. He heard her movement and asked, “I’ll pay you another dollar for one more day. I need to rest a day before moving on; what do you think?” She told him that she could use every dollar she could get her hands on.

“What’s your name lady,” Ed asked? She thought for a few seconds to determine if she wanted him to know, “My proper name is Suzanna but my dad always called me Suz for short. It kind of caught on so I go by it.” He told her he was Ed and that he had been a farmer prior to joining the war.

He told her he wanted to practice shooting. She told him to go north over the hill and down in the low area. “I’ve twenty head of cattle south and I don’t want them spooked.” Suz walked toward a small building and told him she had a dozen chickens and needed to gather the eggs. Her previous husband had built a cellar on the north side of the house with a door leading down to where it kept items cool.

She baked pies with the fruit from the trees her husband had planted several years earlier. It was eight miles to town and normally on Saturdays she would take eight to ten pies in to sell. Suz also had a garden that was half an acre and she was able to make a small income selling the pies, vegetables, and eggs.

Friday was the fourth of July and Suz had a dozen orders for her pies. She would be going in on Friday and spending one night at the boarding house. She wasn’t sure if Ed would be gone by then or would be staying. “I’ll be in town Friday and spending the night; do you have plans for the holiday?” He told her he had been thinking about when to leave, then asked, “If I spent a couple of weeks fixin’ up some fence and the barn would you give me room and board for that time?” She told him to let her think on it.

Later as they ate supper she told Ed there was more than she could get done and she would take him up on the two weeks of room and board. She made a list of what she wanted done. It was a two-hundred-forty acre farm and fences had not been checked for a few months and the ditch needed to be dammed higher to hold plenty of water for the cattle. Then there was the door on the west side of the barn; it would not close enough to latch.

Thursday morning she started working on pies and Ed started out checking fences. There were weak joints and some sloppy repairs that Ed fixed that day. Friday morning Suz left for town. She had left an apple pie and another dozen biscuits for him. She had told him there would be eggs to gather if he wanted some to eat.

Ed started on building an area along the flowing creek to keep water backed up. He used logs and larger rocks so it would last for several years. All told the top of the dam was nearly five feet high by close to fifteen feet wide once finished, but still below the top of where the ditch ran. Once it rained there should be about two-hundred feet of pond. When he finished, he took his clothes off and took a bath. It was the first good one since he left New Orleans about a month earlier.

Once he finished the chore he went back to the cabin and fixed his supper. He was eating and contemplating the miseries of his life since he had left Indiana to join the war effort. The more he thought the more he knew his life had started going downhill after he had left the farm. It was down-right crazy as he thought about it. He had made several left-hand turns along his journeys when they should have gone the other way.



Suz was in town. She arranged to help cook for the boarders for a free room. Her pies were sold and she had the money strapped inside her dress. The main street had some booths and an area was sectioned off for a dance later in the evening. She loved to dance but most of the single men weren’t much to her liking. Most tried to hold her to tight or they smelled like an old mule; it was disgusting just to get close to them.

It was about an hour to dusk and the majority of the folks were gearing up for the dance. The musicians were tuning up their instruments and a few oil lamps were being set around in the areas. The saloon was busy and it was getting rowdy with more liquor consumed than was good for the majority of the men.

Suz was the last to leave the boarding house once the music started. There were a dozen cots in one room for the men but only four for the women in a smaller area.

Suz was still a young woman, wouldn’t be twenty-nine until her next birthday, which was a month away. She looked slender but it was all muscle; since she put in a day’s work like most men; that is, most of the time. Her hair was light brown and pulled back in a ponytail. She wore a dress but it was nothing like a fancy one, which would have had petticoats, to make it look full.

The ladies were seated on one side and gentlemen were on the other. She knew a handful of the ladies in town but had never had a long conversation with a one of them. At the moment there were more women, some married and some single, listening to the musicians. Before the music ended, another dozen or so men walked out of the saloon and then another six rode in from the west, then tied their horses to the hitching post. The six were dusty, needing a shave, and they each wore black vest. The men coming from the saloon appeared to have had too much to drink, talking very loud and two of them stumbled and almost fell down.

As music started again every woman was pulled into the center area and was dancing. A man about Suz’s height had her in the dance area and had pulled her so close she could hardly take a deep breath. He kept one hand on her right hip and the other between her shoulder blades. For sure she did not find it comforting or fun. He spoke into her ear, “How about you and me getting together at the hotel?” She told him No, that it wasn’t in her plans for the evening. He mentioned two-dollars and she told him there were some girls at the saloon. “I want you, not one of those soiled doves.” Suz pushed away and told him she wasn’t interested. She took a step backwards and he grabbed her arm and tried to pull her toward him. Suz was much stronger than he anticipated and he stumbled backward as she pushed at him once more.

The sheriff was standing on one end of the musicians and his deputy was on the other end and that is where she started to walk. She was almost to the deputy when the intruder grabbed her arm and pulled on it. She turned and with the other hand slapped his face. Everything went quiet; the music stopped and the deputy took a step toward the two of them.

Suz exclaimed loudly, “This man is mishandling me. I do not want to dance with him!” The Deputy remarked, “Cowboy, if the lady tells you NO, then no it is!” He told the deputy to mind his own business if he knew what was good for him. The dancers close to them moved further away and at the same time the sheriff took a couple steps closer and looked around for the other men in the gang. They all had their hands on the handle of their six-shooters, ready just in case a rumble was about to begin.

Back in the street there were four clicks. Everyone heard them and no one moved until the Sheriff told the women to move to one side. He pulled his gun slowly on the ring leader and took his gun. The other five had their guns taken and all six were marched to the jail where they were arrested for disturbing the peace.

The sheriff went through his WANTED posters and found what he was looking for. There was a face on one poster that matched. He would keep them all in jail until the traveling judge came to town.

The music continued but Suz left and went back to the boardinghouse.



Suz was up at dawn Saturday morning and hitched the horse to the wagon and slipped out of town. She didn’t plan to come back until she knew these cowboys were long gone and it would be safe.

Ed was still in the barn when she pulled the wagon through the door of it. She nodded to him and he did likewise. She told him she left early, “There were some bad tempered cowboys that came to town last evening. They ended up in jail and they don’t like me very much; so I came home early just in case they were released.”

She told Ed that the one who acted as the leader danced with her, “He was rude and hurt me when I tried to back away from him. There were six of them; he was my height, the others were all taller; all wore black hats and black vests.”

Ed had run into the gang before. They were no one to mess with if they had a job planned. The leader was known as Rex Shnell and there was a WANTED poster on him in a couple of states.

Ed told her he planned to work around the barn and maybe get the area fixed. “If you have a few minutes, you might want to see the pond down by the ditch. It is deep enough to take a bath in and will be two-hundred feet in diameter before the water runs over the top of the dam, that is, once we get a good rain.”

She told him a real bath sounded good. “Let’s go look at it now.” She was surprised to see that the water level was already rising a little but when a decent rain came it would fill the area and the remainder would eventually overflow and continue down the ditch. Ed showed her how he constructed it. He had several logs running parallel to the water flow and then several across it, with rocks in front and behind those logs going across the water from bank-to-bank. “It looks real sturdy Ed, thanks for the good job. It is one of those things that never quite was finished before my husband left this world.”

She told him she was going to the house, which was north of the barn, and she would be making them a good lunch; it was too late to fix a breakfast.



Ed had what she called her coral, repaired. Suz mainly brought the cattle up to the barn when she had to sell one of them for beef. She had sold four of them each of the past two years and the herd had grown by more than a dozen since her husband had PASSED. There were two good sized bulls and the others were heifers. There wouldn’t be a need for anymore bulls until the herd was around fifty or so.

She called him to the noon meal. He washed his face and hands and left his hat over the top of the pump which was on the east side of the house; the outhouse was built on the west side. Ed was looking healthier each day and putting some muscle onto his lean body. As she set a plate on the table for Ed, she prepared one for herself. She didn’t usually sit down when Ed ate at noon but she did today.

“Where were you headed when you stopped here? Did you have business further north?” He told her that he had thought about doing something he had left unfinished. Ed asked, “Was your husband in the war?” She told him No and that he had felt bad that all men couldn’t get along without fighting. It seemed like slave ownership was a major issue and with him living south; he felt he could not put on a uniform and be in favor of slavery so he stayed on this land while it was fought. Suz commented, “If you look at how the war ended; it would seem that there were no winners. Everyone lost and many-many lives were lost as well.”

Ed commented, “I had a good friend, at the time, who joined the same day as I; he joined the Union and I went south. It was a bad day for me when we split up.” She told him it was over but it would take a long time for the country to heal.

He was back outside and repairing a few of the holes in the roof of the barn. He spent the remainder of the day working on the barn.



Tomorrow would be the last of the two weeks Ed had agreed to work. He felt strong enough to move on. His thumb on the right hand would never pull the hammer of the six-shooter but it was getting stronger and he could use the hand to do normal farm chores. His left hand was not as useful as what he had hoped. He could shoot a gun but it was not very reliable when it came to hitting a target.

As the sun came up Ed rolled his blanket and slicker together and tied it to the rear of his saddle. He still had the three hundred dollars in his saddle bags and took forty of it and put it in the cellar on the shelf where Suz kept the eggs. He mounted up just as Suz came out the door. She had a cup of coffee and a handful of biscuits rolled in cloth for him to take. They talked for a few minutes while he finished the coffee. Ed mounted and told her thanks for taking care of him; it had helped him regain some strength.

As he started riding toward the north she shouted, “Ed, if you ever want a job helping on the farm, stop back and somehow we will work out something.” He stopped the horse and turned; he told her it sounded like a good offer.

She stood and watched as he slowly rode his horse over the north hill and disappeared. She felt a little sad at the thought of him leaving. She walked around the barn and looked at the improvements and then went inside the barn to look around. It was cleaner than she had ever seen it and everything had been put in a place where it was easy to locate. She climbed up the ladder to the second level. It was clean. What little hay was up there had been moved to one section and the remainder was swept clean. “Hmm, his daddy must have taught him well while he lived at home on their farm.” she thought.

She walked to her garden and pulled some weeds. It wouldn’t be too long until she would start putting some of the vegetables up and then taking some of them to town to sell. The wind came up and clouds started to darken. As she walked toward the small house she felt the first sprinkles hitting on her shoulder.



As Ed passed through the small town he saw a gallows constructed and it looked like a crowd gathering. He stopped his horse at the end of the main street and paused long enough to watch as the sheriff had Rex by the elbow pulling him toward the steps going up to the gallows.

He watched until ole Rex was hanging, kicking his legs for a second, and then turned his horse and continued riding north. His thought went back to the scene he had just witnessed. He thought, “Sooner or later the old clan of outlaws were being caught and getting their due reward. It is what he had to look forward to unless he could end out his natural life staying out of trouble.” He rode for another two hours and the wind started blowing and the skies turned dark. He stopped his horse and pulled his slicker from the back of his saddle.

As he continued to ride he was thinking of the dry barn he had slept in the night before. His mind wandered back to the day Jesse and he had departed that train. They had thought different that day and he hated Jesse because he had not agreed with him, it was a petty thing to do. He wished that he could have a do-over and go back to that day.

It was raining harder and getting darker; he needed to find a shelter where both his horse and he could rest. He saw a tree-line a mile ahead so he would stop for the night. It rained off and on all night; the clouds were still low and showers hit again just when he thought he would saddle up and continue. Two hours later it let up so he was mounting up when he saw smoke coming from the west. He started to ride that way but soon realized it was a forest fire. Lighting must have hit a tree.

He started in a northeast direction in hopes the fire would not catch him. Along the trail he came upon a road going both east and west. He rode east in search of a small town.



It had rained for four days and it looked like maybe today would be the fifth. Suz hadn’t gathered eggs or anything that was out doors. For the moment it had stopped and she took a bucket to the hen house. She shooed the chickens away and came out with four dozen eggs. She opened the cellar and was about to put the eggs in storage when she saw the money. Where did that come from she asked herself. Finally she realized that only Ed could have left it. “Why would he do that,” she wondered?

She picked it up and counted forty dollars. That was probably as much as she would make in a year, selling pies and vegetables. She put it in a can and placed it behind the jars. By the time she came out of the cellar the sun was trying to come through the clouds. She walked to the barn and saddled her horse and took a ride toward the pond that Ed had made. It looked good and it was full of water and the overflow was continuing downstream. She rode out through the two fenced in areas to check the fence lines. The grass was green and growing. Ed had made sure the fence was repaired and the cows were all gathered together as she counted them.



Chapter 17


St. Louis had just gone through a drenching; this much rain over a four day period in July, almost never happened. Several projects were behind schedule but one thing good was that Jesse was able to spend quality time with his new children.

Cate was strong and looked as beautiful as ever. The baby was in the room beside them; four days a week the baby had a caretaker. Cate went to her office at the paper two days a week just to keep her thumb on issues but stayed away from the normal day-to-day operations.



Three days later Ed Dill was riding into the south side of the large city. Somehow he wanted to talk with Jesse and then ride out of town; never ever to set foot in the city of St. Louis again.

Ed waited down the street the next morning just past sunup hoping to catch Jesse leaving for his workday. A few minutes later he noticed a single rider coming from the far street. As he stopped in front of the house Ed thought it looked like Frank Lee. The last Ed had ever heard about him was that Frank was a two-bit outlaw who was hanging out in northwest Texas. Frank had always been a little on the mean side so he thought, “I better give them a little room and stay back a ways.”

Minutes later a buckboard pulled around the house. It was probably Jesse but Ed didn’t get a real good look since Jesse turned and looked at Frank as they talked. The buckboard turned toward him and started his way as Frank pulled to the side of the buckboard. As the rig approached the two men were talking and didn’t recognize Ed. He was undecided whether to fool-with-them for a moment or just greet them.

Ed pulled his horse in beside Jesse and commented, “My hands are on my reigns and I’m keeping them there…. Hi Frank!” He told Jesse that he was a changed man and that he was sorry for taking a shot at him. “Hey Frank, how is it that you are riding beside Jesse. I figured that you must have been strung-up long ago.” Frank told him that he changed his ways and was going straight now. Ed told him that was his plan but just wanted to straighten out the misunderstanding with Jesse.

Ten minutes later Ed told Jesse that he wished them well but he had some traveling to do. Ed told them he was going back to farming; it was a lot safer than getting shot at. Jesse replied, “If you are ever in St. Louis stop by for a meal. My wife owns the newspaper and would like to get a good Wild-West story to print.”

As Ed rode off Frank commented, “Well I guess you never know when some outlaw will determine they have been riding down the wrong road. Wonder if he didn’t meet some woman who has caused the change.” He told Jesse that is what did it for him. Jesse told him the right woman could make a good impact on a fella. That evening while the Lee’s were having their meal Jesse told them that Ed had stopped him and they talked. Everything is ok now so we don’t have to worry if he is coming after me.



Five days later, after getting turned around once, Ed rode into Suz’s farm. She wasn’t anywhere around but there were several pies on the table. He didn’t feel like walking’ so he mounted up and rode south, maybe she was down at the pond checking cattle. As he came up over the ridge she was there; only she was in the deeper end of the pond taking a bath. She saw him a few seconds later as he moved his horse a step closer; she ducked down to cover herself with water. She shouted, “Ed, you’re close enough. What do you want?” He told her he was interested in working for her as a farm hand, if she would have him. “Go back to the house and wait for me,” she exclaimed!

He had not meant to see her but the image was locked in his mind, “Now what,” he thought. Would she let him stay on and work for her?

Suz’s mind was confused at the moment. She had liked Ed and he was a good farmer but was she brave enough to have a man sleeping in the barn all the time without knowing his intentions. She wished she knew where he had gone off to and what had transpired. She had kind of figured he was on the run and would keep going. She decided to let a day or two pass prior to making her decision.

As she approached, Ed was sitting on a block of wood watching her walk his way. He lifted his hat as she neared him and said, “Ma’am, my business didn’t take long and I thought maybe doing some farm work might be what I needed for awhile.” Before he could say another word she asked, “Why did you leave the forty dollars? I don’t like taking charity.” He told her at the time he hadn’t planned to return but things changed for the better. “One day you might have had a need for something unplanned; that money I left might have helped.”

“I’m going to town tomorrow and sell some pies. It has been a few weeks since I’ve left the farm; that’s why I was getting a bath.” He smiled into her face for just a moment; both of them were looking eye to eye. He was the first to blink and then he told her in case she hadn’t heard yet, ole Rex had been hung; he saw it as he had been riding north and passing through town. “I watched the scoundrel as it happened.” She told him that it was a relief to hear, “To bad for him that it had to end like that; life is precious if you think about it.” He told her he had been thinking the same thing lately.

She told him to go fix a place to sleep for the night; they could talk while they ate supper. He decided on the barns second story where he could open the loft door and get a good breeze. He sectioned a small area and would use his bedroll on top of what little straw was up there. He put his saddle bags under the bedroll to keep it hidden. He put a twenty dollar gold piece in his pocket to give Suz to purchase him some more clothes, another pair of boots, and maybe a blanket while she was in town.

He hadn’t had a bath since he had been here last time so he left the barn and walked south toward the ditch. The cabin had a window, that faced south toward the barn and Suz was in the kitchen; she just happened to look out and see Ed walking south. She was tempted to see where he was going but decided that there was too much work to complete at the moment. An hour later he was walking back toward the barn with wet clothes on. He had washed himself and then washed his dirty clothes in the chilly pond. The fresh rain had cooled it considerably.

Ed went up the ladder and hung his pants and shirt over a heavy string so they could dry prior to Suz calling him to supper. He put his slicker across his bedroll and stretched out. He was in his long-johns, asleep, before a minute had passed.

Suz hollered for him an hour later and there was no response. She hollered again but still no response. She walked to the barn and looked around and did not see him or his bedroll. Finally she walked to the ladder going up to the second floor and climbed it. She peeked over the top edge and did not see anything so she took a step up to get a better look. She saw clothes hanging on a string and then she saw him asleep. She quietly took his pants and shirt; she would hang them on her line; they would dry quicker, with the wind blowing and some warm sun.

After another half an hour she took a couple small rocks and threw then against the side of the barn. It woke him instantly. He went to find his clothes and they were gone. “Oh no, where were they,” he thought? He shouted and Suz responded, “Come on down here sleepy head. Your clothes are on the clothes line and about dry.” Ed asked, “Are you going to bring them to me?” She told him No and that supper would be on the table in less than half an hour.

He had never had anyone take his clothes and leave him in long-johns. Was he just supposed to walk to the clothes line and retrieve them or wait till dark and miss supper? This woman was probably trying to get even with him. His was an accident but this was almost vengeful. Since he was hungry, only one thing he could do. Ed decided to put on his rain ‘slicker’ and go fetch his clothes.

As he walked out of the barn she was sitting on the back porch near the kitchen. “You are a smart guy Ed. I didn’t think of your rain gear. When you get dressed come in; you don’t need to knock, I’ll be expecting you.” He thanked her for drying his clothes and told her he would be back in a few minutes.

While they ate Suz commented, “Ed, when you left I was a little dejected, you were a big help and you have nice manners. I don’t know what your past is and I don’t think I really want to know it.” He told her that he appreciated that his past could be just that. “How old are you Suz? Most mail order brides seem to be young when a man is asking.” She told him that she would soon to be twenty-nine; not a young woman nor was she an old one. He told her that she would be the right age if he was lookin’ for a bride. “Are you looking,” she replied.

He told her he hadn’t ever thought about it until the past few weeks, “When we met you mentioned that you weren’t lookin’ for a husband unless the right one came along.” She told him that she meant what she had told him. “I’m not looking for a lazy man who drinks and orders a woman around like he is king over her.”

Ed decided he needed to be blunt and get down to the thing on his mind, “I’d like to court you Suz while I’m working here on your farm. You can determine if I can meet your standards; there is no hurry since I’m not planning to go anywhere in particular. He looked into her eyes and she did the same. She took a deep breath and then responded, “I wasn’t courted by my husband; I was just married in town and started my womanly duties. I can’t have you trying to kiss me or making improper advances.” He told her that he understood and would be proper with her.



Savannah was now fully the daughter of Jesse and Cate. She was already in school; Jeffery took her and picked her up when the class was over each day. Cate tutored her in the studies and also started her on the piano two evenings a week; her desire was to learn to play the fiddle like Jess’, as her mom had called him. Jesse told her that when school was out he would start showing her the basics.

Jesse had settled into working long days. Business was going better than he had expected; in fact he needed to turn down some jobs so he could be home more.

It was early May and as the family was having the evening meal Cate asked, “Jesse, can we pack-up for a few days and spend some time away from St. Louis together?” He laughed and told her he was thinking the same thing. “Where would you like to go, is there any place you have in mind?” She told him Chadda Jo had been asking for them to come spend a week on the farm, “I think I would like that, once Savannah is out of school.” He looked at Cate and then Savannah and replied, “Let’s plan it. We can take the buckboard and spend the week.”

Savannah told them one of the boys at school was going to spend the summer on a farm. He told me he was going to learn to shoot a six-shooter while he was there. “Do you think Arlen would let me shoot?” Jesse laughed and told her she better ask her mom before she even thought about asking Arlen. Cate looked at her and commented, “This is something that I will have think about for a while.”



It was mid-afternoon and Ed had just finished birthing a cow south of the farm. It had been much more messy than normal but the calf was standing beside his mother looking a little bewildered. Ed looked at the clothes he was wearing; he knew he needed a bath before he went up to the house. Suz wouldn’t want him coming to supper like he was. The pond on the south end was high as he looked toward the shallow end where he would probably wade in. He took his boots and socks off. He stepped into the water with just his long-johns on. It was shallow so he sloshed his socks and cleaned them. Ed turned and started to walk toward the deep end where he had built the dam. He could see Suz’s head and a little of her shoulder above the water.

She didn’t say a word but she did look him in the face, just the same as he was looking her in the face. He took two more steps to check out her reaction. It was nothing, so he took two more steps and paused. She was thirty feet from him; he walked slowly toward her until he was five feet from her. She said, “Stop Ed; you can talk from there! We’re still courting so just take your bath without removing any more of your clothes. We can talk if you have something on your mind.”

He smiled, “You are on my mind Suz. How long am I going to have to court you? You know me a lot better than when you were a mail-order-bride and was married. You take my breath away. I can hardly stand it.” He made a face like he was in pain as he looked into her eyes. This was a test of her will. She liked Ed, actually more than she had ever felt toward her dead husband and just like any other woman that was her age; hormones affected her when she looked at a handsome man.

Ed started to take one more step but she told him No. He stopped and turned and walked back to the bank where his boots were. He sloshed his clothes a few times, then picked up his boots and walked toward the barn. Suz looked up at the blue sky and closed her eyes for a moment. She started thinking about Ed, “Could she allow him to marry her. Was he a bad man trying to go good? Would he get spooked with her and high tail it at the first fuss they might have? Oh Lord, what should she do?”

Before she left the pond she determined she would marry him. She would tell him at supper. He could go with her to church and then the Reverend could marry them after lunch on Sunday.



School was out and the Lee family was packing for the trip out to Arlen and Chadda’s farm. Weather wasn’t bad and the family was ready for a change. Cate and Samuel were in the back of the wagon with the bags and Savannah was with Jesse up front. She had the leather reins in her hands and Jesse was instructing her on the mechanics of how to properly keep the horse staying on the path.

Mary, Jana, and Jeffery were left to leisurely keep the house in order but to take some time to explore the sights of St. Louis for the week.

After the evening meal they all went to the front porch and the Fiddler played some music. Savannah was right beside him watching every move he made with the bow and where he put his fingers on the neck. He had twisted the pegs slightly as he tuned his instrument prior to playing it. She had questioned him on what he was doing. He looked at Chadda as he started the next tune and once he had the prelude done he pointed to Chadda. She started singing and Savannah’s eyes grew as big as quarters as the sweet sound came from Chadda’s mouth. She had heard the song often and knew the words.

On the second verse she softly joined in and looked at Chadda to see if she minded. Chadda motioned for Savannah to come to her. Savannah stood next to the sitting Chadda and they finished the verses together. The Fiddler played for an hour before they called it quits. The baby’s needed fed and put to bed.



Church was about over and Ed could feel the trembling in his stomach. He felt conviction from the bad deeds he had been a part of. His mind wondered to the time he had robbed and then killed. He wished there was a way he could make amends but he knew of no way it could happen unless the result ended with his hanging. He should be feeling joyous today; it was his wedding day, but his bride, not knowing his background deserved a better man.

The service was over and they were going to be married after lunch. As they were about to finish eating two men walked into the café dressed in black. Ed didn’t remember the names but he had seen them a few years back while he was in Texas. They were WANTED for both robbery and murder. He pulled his hat a little lower down his forehead and lifted his elbow to the table and rested his chin on his fist.

The two outlaws found a seat and ordered food. Ed took glimpses of them from the corner of his eye every once in a while. Ed spotted one of them pinch the lady waitress as she was walking past the table. It startled the lady and she stumbled with the tray of food and plates were dropped to the floor with a crash.

The outlaw laughed and made a remark. Suz had seen the incident and rushed to help the waitress. As Suz walked past the table with the outlaws they both slapped her on the rump and they laughed. Suz lost her smile and kicked the chair of the closest one. As the outlaw lost his balance and fell to the floor the second one pulled a gun and aimed it at her. The patrons could hear the click as the outlaw pulled back the hammer of the gun. “This will be for Rex Shnell lady. He’s dead because of you!”

Just as Ed was about to pull his six-gun there was a loud BANG from just behind him. The shot from the Deputy had hit the outlaws shoulder and his gun fell to the floor. Suz picked it up and looked into the eye of the outlaw who was still struggling to get up from the floor. “Put your hands where I can see’em mister or you will meet your maker today.”

It took ten minutes to get things back to normal but when Suz was sitting back beside Ed he whispered, “Both of them are wanted in Texas. They used to ride with Rex’s gang.” Ed told her to let the sheriff know after the wedding. She looked at Ed and commented, “Let’s go over to the church and get married and then come back for a piece of pie.” Ed nodded and stood up; he raised his elbow for her to take it and they walked toward the door.

An hour later they were married and about to leave town. Ed pulled the buckboard up to the jail as the sheriff was walking out. She looked at the sheriff and commented, “Those two men were a part of Rex Shneel’s gang and there’s a warrant for their hides in Texas. Is there a reward for them?” He told Suz he would check it out.



The ride to the farm was casual. They talked like they had been married for years, rather than just a couple of hours. She asked, “What kind of work needs done when we get back?” He told her he was going to the ditch to take a bath and then moving his belongings into the house. “That bath will be all that is going to happen today, Ed. It is not the right time of the month to consummate our marriage.” He turned his head to look at her. She looked back into his eyes and told him that he would have to be patient. “What,” he hollered! He looked into her eyes and shook his head sideways. She told him that prior to them having a child they needed to become better acquainted. “Once I have a child my strength will never be the same. Be sure that you can handle the farm duties alone when that time comes.”



While they ate the evening meal back in St. Louis Savannah was telling Cate and Jesse what a good time she had while visiting Arlen and Chadda Jo. “I wish we had a big yard where we could raise horses and ride them,” she commented. Jesse replied, “It would be nice but you know that Cate and I have work here in the city. Maybe we can arrange to visit their farm a couple times a year.” She took a deep breath and blew it out as she looked down toward her plate and decided to change the subject. “Can I play the fiddle tonight with mom? I think I can get through that last one I learned.” Jesse told her he thought it would be fun to try.

Later that evening after Cate and Jesse were in their room preparing for bed Cate asked, “How hard would it be to fence off about thirty acres of the hundred acre tract we have just south of the city? Maybe we could put a small barn and have a few horses nearer St. Louis. Savannah would love to raise a few horses, don’t you think?” They talked about several pros and cons to the idea and finally decided to make it happen.



The next day Jesse hooked up the buckboard and invited Savannah to take a ride with him. He had a lunch packed and was on his way to the hundred acre tract of land. It took less than an hour as Jesse turned west off of the main road and then another fifteen minutes before he pointed his left arm south. Jesse circled the acreage before coming to a stop on a flat area. He stepped down and Savannah jumped down from her side of the buckboard.

“Cate and I own these hundred acres of land that we are standing on. How would you like to have a little cabin and a barn built here so you could have a few horses?” Savannah’s jaw dropped and her eyes got big. “I would love it Jess,” she exclaimed! He looked at her and told her to call him Dad. He took a step toward her and put his arm over her shoulder and they looked around and talked about what the layout might look like. Jesse made some free hand sketches and soon had Savannah’s eyes wide with a happy longing in her heart.

Cate met the two as they returned and asked, “Did you have fun and make some plans?” Savannah told her she had a great time and said, “Dad drew a couple sketches to share with you later. It will be so wonderful.”

Jesse told Cate he thought they should fence forty acres with a three bedroom cabin and barn just inside the northwest corner of it. “We might decide to spend a weekend there every once in a while.”



It was a week later, the twentieth of June, as Ed mended the small coral to the west side of the barn. He needed to bring up a few head of cattle but couldn’t until the repairs were made. An hour later he saddled the horse and slowly rode toward the herd. There were eight new calves; half were males and he was going to keep one of them as a future bull, just which one, he wanted to determine sometime that day. The stud bull on the farm was getting old and seemed to be getting mean, which meant he would need to be replaced within the next year.

Once Ed picked out the one, he headed the other three to the coral. He unsaddled the horse and went to the house to get a drink. Just moments later two riders pulled up to the cabin. Both wore badges on their shirts although neither Suz nor he could see them from inside the house. Ed opened the door and went out and Suz followed him.

The older of the lawmen spoke, “Howdy, we heard there might be some men WANTED for robbery hiding out up near here. Have you seen anyone you don’t know in the area?” Ed told them he hadn’t; then turned to Suz and asked if she had. The lawman listened and then asked, “What’s your names folks; I’m kinda keeping track of the settlers in the area.” Ed replied, “I’m Ed Petz and this is my wife Suz.” The lawman asked, “Ma’am, I heard you tipped the local sheriff about two outlaws; how did you know they were part of the gang?” Ed told the lawman he was riding through town when the hangin’ was taking place a few weeks back and overheard there were two more of them. They dressed the same when they came into town recently so I put two-and-two together.

Ed wasn’t talking about it but the week prior, when they were married, they took the name of Petz since it had been the maiden name of his mom before she had married. Their marriage certificate was the only written evidence they had to show anyone. This was a fresh start for both Suz and him and something she had no need to worry about. If he was a fortunate man he would live out his days and die a natural death one day; several years down the road; was his hope.

Suz commented, “Men, I’m starting supper in a few minutes if you want to wait around until it’s done you can eat with us.” Ed told them there was a small pond a couple hundred yards south of the barn if they needed to clean up. They declined but thanked Suz for the offer, they were riding north to Pilot Knob, the town where Suz sold her pies.

After eating and cleaning the kitchen mess Suz commented, “I’m going to take a bath Ed, it’s time we consummated our wedding vows. I wouldn’t mind if you cleaned up a little yourself.” Ed turned and looked at his wife. He understood what she was telling him and he wanted her to know she was making him feel wanted by the jester. She was a nice looking sensible woman and he was most fortunate to be her man. He would wait until she returned before he took his turn at a bath.



The lawmen were in Pilot Knob sitting down to have a late supper. They inquired about Ed and Suz and found out she had been a widow until Ed and her had married. They checked the WANTED posters at the Sheriff’s office for Ed Petz and nothing showed. “There’s no need to waste any more time on the two of them,” the older lawman said to his partner. Their job was to take two hombres back to Texas and they were supposedly the last two of Rex Shnell’s notorious outlaw gang.

The next day the lawmen were riding south with the two outlaws.

Chapter 18


Jesse was unloading the buckboard when Jana approached him. She had been waiting for him and slid out the back door. With glassy eyes Jana barley spoke to him above a whisper, “Cates mom died a few hours ago. She was crossing the road and a large wagon pulled by four horses hit her.” She told him that apparently she had not seen it coming.

He inquired, “Has Cate been told the news yet?” Jana told her that Cate wasn’t home from her meeting at the church. Jesse told her he would wait until they finished eating and he could be with her privately.

“This was going to be a tough conversation. They were not real close but it was still her mom,” he thought. He walked through the kitchen and Mary looked to him for an answer. Jesse told the ladies to do their normal duties and he would tell Cate when it was convenient to talk with her in private.



Ed waited for Suz to return from the pond; once Suz returned to the house he would make sure that he was back to join her as quickly as possible. She looked good as she stepped through the kitchen door; with the glow of a clean face and her long curly hair hanging across her shoulders. His eyes met hers and for some reason he winked and let a small smile form on his face. “I’ll be back shortly Ms. Petz; I think you are beautiful.” He turned and walked out the door with a towel over his shoulder.

She watched him walk away. Her cheeks were warm; had he actually told her she was beautiful? Suz knew she had feelings for Ed but was she ready for the most romantic night of her entire life. Her previous husband had no idea how to be romantic. He was forty-one when they married and wanted a woman to cook and take care of trivial things. Romance to him was a quick bing-Bang-BOOM once a month and then he was snoring a couple minutes later.

She was sitting at the kitchen table when he returned. He had shaved and his hair was combed back. He wasn’t wearing a shirt either and though slightly slender he had good muscle tone, which caused her to tremble from within. He approached her and bent his head down and sweetly put his lips on hers. They lingered a few moments as her heart started to race.



In St. Louis, the evening meal was over and Cate had tucked baby Brad into bed. She was humming as she walked toward Jesse. He took her hand and asked her to take a short walk to get a little fresh air. She told him it sounded good.

They walked out the back door toward their fenced in back yard; where the horses were munching. They talked about a couple things before Jesse commented, “I have some bad news for you Cate.” She looked into his face for a clue but couldn’t recognize a thing from his expression. “Your mom was walking across the street and was run-down by a rig of horses. She died on the street without speaking to the man who tried to rescue her. I’m so sorry.” He reached toward her and pulled her close. Cate told him they weren’t real close but it was making her feel sad knowing she had passed. She let out a cry as Jesse held her close.

After several minutes Cate said, “I will make some arrangements; in fact I may as well purchase half-a-dozen cemetery lots together for future use.” He told her that no one knew the future for sure and somewhere along their distant future or the children’s future the lots would most likely be needed.

It was a sad funeral for Cate and the entire family. Her mom had changed in some ways but had never come to call upon the LORD to repent or ask for forgiveness of her sinfull past life. To Cate’s way of thinking those were important things to be done prior to taking that last earthly breath.

The next day as they finished their evening meal Cate asked Savannah if she knew what it meant to be a child-of-God. She replied, “A few years ago after my pa died mom told me that he probably did not go the heaven. She took her bible and showed me several verses; then told me that someday I needed to ask the Lord to forgive me because all people will be judged and only those who truly repent will be allowed in heaven.” She told Cate her mom had been faithful to the things she believed in. “What about you Savannah; do you need to repent and ask the Lord to save your soul?” Cate looked at her husband and told Jesse she wanted to talk with Savannah alone.

Two hours later Cate walked into the music room with Savannah as the Fiddler was making some new sounds from his instrument. She whispered down in Savannah’s ear that Jesse enjoyed relaxing to his own music. “I want to be able to play like that one day; it’s what makes me feel good.” They took a few more steps and Cate coughed so Jesse knew they were in the room. He stopped playing and looked into both of their faces for a moment. “My two favorite girls; did you have a good talk?”

Savannah told him they had a great talk. “We sure did,” Cate remarked. “One of the truly best I’ve ever had. I could feel a special something from within; it was remarkable.”



Chapter 19


Dudley and Curly were south of town clearing timber and cutting logs for a job they were going to work on together. Three hours later they had all the timber they could haul and had put the left over in a pile; they had just mounted the wagon when six horsemen pulled up near the wagon. The leader of the gang demanded that Curly and Dudley step down, “Fellas, if you know what is good for you just keep your mouths shut and start walking north. This wood will go a long way in putting us up a cabin, right boys?” A couple of the gang nodded and then laughed.

Dudley went for his gun and put a slug into the gang member doing the laughing but before he could get off another shot both him and Curly had been shot dead. The leader told two of the gang to mount up on the wagon. Then he told another to patch up the wounded gang member; then get him back to camp.



Later that evening when the men did not come home Mae and June became worried. The next morning they let Minnie know about their husbands. Before the end of the day Jesse, Frank, Jake, and Arlen had each been notified about the missing husbands. They determined to let one more night pass but if they didn’t return, then the friends would set out shortly after day-break and find them.

It took only three hours to find the two fallen friends. The trail of the wagon wheels was easy to track and in another three hours they could see that off in a distance a cabin was being erected up higher on a hill. Arlen commented, “Looks like your wagon Frank; the wagon load of timber must have been what Curly and Dudley had put in their wagon and it was hijacked. Let’s be careful and ride up there from different directions.” He told Jake he would have to act as the lawman when it came to justice and talking with the law at the end of the day.

Frank commented, “Check your guns and as you ride in make sure there is a tree or something to give you a little shield in case they open fire on one of us.”

It took fifteen minutes for all four of them to circle at various positions, and then they slowly started to ascend the hill at the same time. The gang was all working on the structure; they were unaware of the four men riding slowly up the hill. The horsemen stopped on the flat spot of the hill and were no further than thirty feet away. They pulled their guns and when they were fifteen feet from the gang, Jake exclaimed, “Put your hands in the air or you’ll be dead men in less than a minute!” Arlen had both his pistols pointed at the leader who recognized him as a Marshall from a past run-in. Every one of the gang members was in sight except the one who had been wounded. He was lying along an interior wall and he took a wild shot at Jake. There was an eruption of gunfire that lasted until the guns had run out of bullets. It was so quiet that a hummingbird in flight could be heard.

Jake was the only one wounded; he had taken a slug in the chest but fortunately it hit his star first and barely penetrated his body, basically a flesh wound. Arlen shouted, “Reload, all of you! It’s possible one of them is playing possum.” A couple minutes later there was but one gang member still breathing. He was loaded in the wagon and Jake took him to jail.

Two days later Curly and Dudley were six feet under a mound of dirt and Mae and June were widows. Five gang members had died and the sixth would be hung by the neck once his wounds recovered enough for him to stand on his feet. Just a moment in time, a blink of the eye, was all it took for the future of each of these people to be drastically changed. One moment taking a breath of air and the next their eternity into outer darkness had been sealed.

Jesse and Cate had a small group for a dinner that evening. It was a sad affair; Mae and June were numb. All those wasted years and recently becoming law abiding citizens. “Why did it happen,” asked Mae? Before the evening was over they had spent two hours on that thought. Finally Jesse commented, “Only God knows the mysteries that we mortals encounter; we need to have faith and trust in Him through all our situations.”



Back in Arkansas Ed was still awake, though it was almost midnight. He didn’t want to move and wake Suz but he needed to go outside for a few minutes. He lifted a leg to climb out of bed when Suz commented, “Are you still awake? I’m so wound up I can’t slow my mind down. I never imagined in a hundred years….WOW is about the only way I can explain it, Ed.” He was gone outside for a few minutes and Suz was snoring when he returned. He had not heard her snore before. He chuckled and thought, “Ha-ha girl, she done wore herself out… what a warm feeling to have a good wife that he could be next too.”

The next morning it was raining when they awoke, not hard just a gentle steady flow. “I have a few chores and I want to check the dam that is holding back the pond. I’ll see you around noon.” The dam was holding but Ed took the wagon to the hill and picked up another twenty larger rocks. He stacked them and then added dirt to it. It was starting to rain a little more steady as Ed was about to finished up; both his clothes and he were muddy so he jumped in the pond for a quick bath before going back up to the cabin.

The table was set and the pot on the stove had pot roast simmering but Suz was not in the kitchen. He looked around and finally found her in bed fast asleep. He backed out slowly and went to the kitchen for a bowl of food. Ed dished a bowl full and tore off a nice sized piece of bread from the loaf. He was about half finished when Suz walked into the room. Ed told her he was half starving and the food was good, “You looked so peaceful sleeping I didn’t want to wake you.” She told him that she was tuckered out but feeling happy.

It was still raining, a little harder now; Ed told her the pond was filling up and water would probably go over the top of the Dam real soon. They talked until Suz had finished eating. They were going to work another two years building up the farm. Ed was thirty and Suz would be the same age in a few months; when their first two years were finished they hoped to work on a child.



Back in St. Louis both Mae and June were trying to determine what they needed to do. Both of their husbands were buried and they needed to figure a way to make an income. Both ladies were in completely different circumstances. Mae was still childless but June had a one-year old. June had mentioned going back home but Arlen told her there was nothing to go back for. There had been a reward on the gang so Jake and Arlen agreed it should go to the widows to help them through tough times for a while.

Jake was moved to a different job. It was considered light duty until his chest wound healed completely; then he could transport prisoners again.



Chapter 20


The next day Jesse was drawing up a proposal for a job bid. As he looked it over the thought of Dudley and Curly came to mind. There could have been some work they could have done for him in the future. Life had its mysterious moments and not a human on earth could predict with certainty if they would still be breathing or that their heart would be beating the next day.

He thought back to the time he was fourteen and moving from Kentucky. What a change it had been. His mind wandered for a few seconds, for those few days when he had been sixteen; he had fallen in love with his cousin. She was for sure, a special relative, who he still pictured looking into his eyes and making him feel loved. Emotions were an important part of his life and Lizie had needed him as much as he needed her at that moment. Who could predict where all our deeds of yesteryear would lead us in the days that were yet to come?

When he thought of Susie Murphy; he probably would have married her if her dad had allowed it but maybe in the big scheme of things it was not meant to be; fortunately he met Cate at the perfect moment. It was a pure blessing to his life just to have Savannah come into their lives and days later little Brad came as well.

Even Frank had changed a lot and it was a blessing to have a relative to visit quite often. Yes, even a thief and someone who had killed others can change if the Lord speaks, but then again it’s a choice, for every mortal, after listening to that inner voice. It is a choice of yes or no. Not making a choice, actually defaults to a no, his mom had always told him.

The one person he was really confused about was Ed Dill. He had been a good friend from the day Jesse had moved from Kentucky to that farm in Jackson County. Then that one day when parting ways back in 1865 was still a point of confusion to him. What if, when Ed had rode up beside the wagon a few months back; he had pulled his six-shooter and put a bullet in him? It was nice but also confusing how he apologized and just rode off. Jesse’s mind took a zig-zag, “Wonder what Ed is doing now; also wonder if he will ever stop by in the years to come?”

Then the ‘What-If’ of Cate’s first or second husbands. Would he still be working at a lumber yard and playing his fiddle on Saturday evenings if one of them was married to her? Was it fate or did the Lord actually pre-determine all things?

One thing sure; there was still a lot of evil and darkness in the world but just knowing that there was still some light showing through the clouds had given him hope for the next day, the next week, and even the next decade. Jesse thought for a few more moments and chuckled to himself, “Even a fella who couldn’t do much but farm and play the Fiddle could on occasion catch a break in this life.”



Moment later, thunder was rolling through the city and dark skies followed. He would not be leaving his office until the fierce rain let up. He took a piece of paper and wrote each of the thoughts from the day. He found an envelope and folded the paper; maybe in five years he would add some significant words of his thoughts of the day or the changes he would make later. For sure he was going to make some changes personally; work would be downgraded and family and friends would become a notch higher. For sure his daughter, Savannah just about a woman physically, was a priority. He wasn’t completely sure how he would make some of the hopes all happen but he knew the Lord had to become a notch higher on his personal to-do list.



Chapter 21


Day after day and week after week had passed by; few changes in the family had developed. Just seemed like a blah-blah time with routine after routine.

It was nearly a year later; Jesse was going through his office and discovered the envelope from the previous year.  As he looked through the contents a smile crossed his face. He had become a regular at the church on Sundays along with his family. It wasn’t significant but in many ways the city had changed; most was for the better just as his personal life had changed for the better.

Jesse was able to get his fair share of contracts with developing industry but he had more competition from new businesses looking for their own riches. He had received two threatening letters over the past month encouraging him to drop his bid on a small orphanage, which was going to be built soon. He contacted his Pinkerton friend with the details. It was less than two weeks later while Jesse was walking down the street to place his bid for the new building site; when out of the blue three rugged looking men approached him and roughed him up, to say the least. He was bloody with bruises; mostly his face and ribs; his clothes were also a shambles by the time the men ran off.

He tried to get to his feet but just as he was about to stand he became so dizzy that he collapsed back to the ground. The next thing he knew there was a nurse trying to help him. He remembered reaching toward his vest pocket and his bid estimate was missing. That was the last he remembered until he awoke two days later in his own bed.

The room was dark as he turned his head just slightly to the left. It took him a few minutes to figure where he was at; then his mind turned back to the day he was attacked. His thoughts went wild as it tried to reason what had happened. Seconds later he was woozy and asleep once again.

His next thought was that it was morning and he could hear sounds, then minutes later the door opened just an inch. His eyes moved in the direction of the door and he spoke, “What is going on? How long have I been here?” The door opened further and he could see that it was Mary, the housekeeper, and then she spoke to him, “Are you awake? We have been worried about you. The Doctor mentioned that a concussion might be the result of the bad beating you took.” She told him that Cate had been by his side most of the last two days but she had just gone to bed.

Jesse tried to raise up on one of his arms but his body was so stiff the pain caused him to lie back on the bed. Later the Doctor stopped and told him that two more days were needed before he could get out of bed.



Two weeks later Jesse was leaving the house for the first time. His strength was better but not good enough to work ten hours a day. Today he was going to the court house and check to see who was awarded the bid for the new orphanage.

Jesse recognized the name, Jack Shelton, and he knew where the man kept his downtown office. He walked to the street and then took a seat directly across the road from the door of the office. He watched as people came and went until close to noon; then he saw what he wanted. Out walked Jack Shelton and the three henchmen who had hurt him. They walked to the end of the street and turned left; that is when Jesse stood and crossed the street. He opened the unlocked door and walked in. He looked around, then he opened the door going to the back room. It was full of boxes and crates of miscellaneous items. Jesse emptied every one of them into a large pile in the middle of the floor. A Texas WANTED poster fluttered down toward the floor; he picked it up and the picture showed all four of their faces. Jesse smiled just a little and thought to himself, “This is going to be fun watching these four squirm when I bring the LAW in on this little matter.” He folded the paper and put it in his pocket.

As he was eating his evening meal with the family he asked, “Would any of you like to ride with me in the morning; I need to go see Arlen and Chadda Jo? I need to speak with him about a couple of matters.” It was a unanimous, Yes, so they made plans and would pack an overnight suitcase.



Jesse worked hard at his job in the city but as he helped Arlen put in half a dozen fence post he knew it was a different kind of work. As they finished the last one he laughed out loud. Arlen asked, “What’s so funny Jess?” He responded, “I forgot how much muscle it took to be a farmer. I’ve been thinking of making a career change.” He let their conversation take him to the beating he had gotten and what he had found in the back room of Jack Shelton, which was not the name on the poster, but a new alias. After talking for half an hour Arlen laid out a plan to capture the criminals. It would include the Pinkerton police, who would be making the arrest.

The next item they discussed was getting a parcel of good land; several hundred acres and starting a vegetable farm. Jesse had not discussed this yet with Cate. He would do that tonight, at least bring the thought to her mind.



There was some commotion taking place in Jack Shelton’s spare room. There were several personnel things dumped in the middle of the back room floor. Jack was acting irate and asking questions to his three sidekicks without getting a good answer. It didn’t appear that anything was missing so who would have pulled a stunt like this, they each wondered?

Jack had an afternoon meeting so he told the boys to clean up the mess and organize the room better. He said, “I’m going to need a good engineer soon to complete blue prints. He will probably use a desk and work right here.”



A few moments after Jesse and Cate laid their heads on their pillows Jesse brought up the subject of a large farm. She listened for a while and told him it was a little overwhelming at the moment. She told him when they were back home they could talk it through.

On Wednesday of the next week Jesse talked with the Pinkerton police and set up a sting operation time for Jack Shelton and his cronies. Arlen was going to be present as his witness when the Police made the arrest of the gang. Jesse had made it clear that he wanted the reward money for the arrest of the WANTED gang.

At noon the police were scattered along both sides of the street just acting normal but waiting. Several minutes later Jack opened the door and led the trio out, then he turned and locked the door. Before Jack could take three steps the police converged on the gang and told the gang to ‘put their hands in the air’. All four of them went for their weapons but not one of them got a shot off as the police had been prepared for a battle.



A month later after looking further at land available, Jesse purchased eighteen-hundred acres south and west of town. His blueprint DRAFT showed areas for a dairy which would have a building thirty by sixty feet; also a five acre spot for chickens and the hen houses. He hired twenty men to start clearing brush in the flat areas, so the ground could be plowed. He wanted to start planting by next spring; things like corn, oats, wheat and potatoes could be planted once the weather broke. Then he had a spot cleared for about fifty fruit trees. He also wanted some beef cattle; then another twenty-five to milk for the new dairy that he had in mind.

The Fiddler and his wife had discussed the idea; then determined they would sell the majority of their business except the newspaper, the vacant lot near the court house, one warehouse near the river, and then become hard working farmers. Jesse’s daughter, Savannah, was almost sixteen now and spent many hours beside her dad as he put his plans to paper. In her heart she was thinking, “All I want is to work beside my dad and learn how to become a Fiddler and a Farmer.”

When they finished eating that evening and putting little Brad to bed they met in the music room. Cate commented, “I’m keeping my house Jesse and in the winters Savannah and I will live here in the city. I plan to make sure she learns all the ways of a proper lady. I know that spring, summer, and fall you will both be busy on the farm making your dreams come true. What do you say to that?” He told her he thought it was a great idea. Savannah started to speak but didn’t. She let her mind sort through the words and knew Cate was right. “Such a thoughtful person.”  Moments later they were playing music and smiling at each other. The Fiddler started playing a toe tapping sound and Cate and Savannah both stood and did a little dance. Family time was so special when it included love.

The Fiddler determined that he was going to make it a goal to bring a little sunshine into the lives of those people who crossed his path; at least when it was at all possible.

The End


Life had been good for the Fiddler; he was eighty years old now and living on the farm with his sons. Brad, as he was called from birth, was about fifty now and Jacob would be thirty on his next birthday. If you can figure math; Jesse was fifty when his second son came along; it must have been on New Year’s Eve when the spark had happened. The five years that followed about did both him and Cate in physically. Thank goodness both Savannah and Brad was around to help.

Savannah was living in the home Cate owned when they met. She had recently retired from the life of theater and involvement with the St. Louis city functions. Her husband had been Mayor for two terms and the two daughters were following in her footsteps.

I suppose you are wondering about Cate. She was a busy woman; into several activities and functions that needed an energetic woman to plan. When she was seventy-eight she went to bed one evening and did not wake up the next morning; she went peacefully.

Two years after Jesse had seen Ed Dill; he made it a point to visit St. Louis once a year. He stayed a few days with Jesse at the farm; that is until five years ago when he had died from a rattlesnake bite. Ed and Suz had two sons who work the farm yet today.

Just in case you would like to know; the Fiddler continued playing on Friday nights at the family farm until he was sixty-five; then his children took over.