The lawyer letter said I had till the end of May,1890 to get married, and be living with a wife on the ranch, in order to inherit.
Here it was already May 28th. I had no prospect in sight for the first condition, and so no hope for the second then neither; much less in 3 days. Pinkie told me I should'a never let that letter lay around unopened for so long, but I wuz busy with John Barleycorn and a few friends up in the hills havin a wild time as usual, and couldn't be bothered.
Pinkie wuz, to that point, the best friend I ever had. He got his nickname from us teasing him about his ruddy complexion and his fiery red hair, and the name just stuck somehow. His real name wuz Patrick Hinke and so P. Hinke easily became Pinkie that way too. Only his closest friends ever dared call him that as he had a quick temper to match. But right then he wanted to help.
"None but a spinster as what is desperate to get married might be willin, and onliest place you can find a spinster woman, on such short notice, is a school house," he wisely said.
Well, that made righteously good sense to me, as most everyone knows teachers wuz same as spinsters. Pinkie and I were both still considerable under the influence of the liquor, and so it seemed like wonderously good reasoning at the time.
My uncle Rad Wallens had a weak heart what gave out on him, and bein his next of kin, he left me his ranch conditional on terms as noted. Me failin to meet said terms on time, the letter went on to advise the ranch would pass to a more responsible distant cousin livin somewheres out east. I couldn't let that good fortune slide out from under, so me and Pinkie went direct to the nearest schoolyard.
Well, peekin in the schoolhouse window first, wouldn't you know all the children wuz in there with that teacher woman and, of course, we had no ways figured on that. The question then wuz, how to cut her out from the herd. Pinkie suggested lassoing her, but I guessed she might not have taken kindly to that. Besides, what with me staggerin a bit, I might have missed my throw an lost her altogether. But then the teacher lady tinkled a little bell, and all those youngsters up and skedaddled for home. That monstrously fine solved that problem. We taken us a quick swig from the bottle for courage, and marched in the front door like two truants facin the music.
Everybody knows teachers have a way of starin at people for to intimidate them until they knuckle under. Myself, bein some scared on that account, I right away and over loud hollered "I needs me a woman right quick for to marry up with me and figure you, bein a spinster an all, might we willin to give it a go."
First off her face started twitchin like she wuz tryin real hard not to bust out laughin. After that she wuz quiet for a moment, like she wuz thinkin it over. Then she said "All right, I am willing to marry with you provided you pay me one thousand dollars."
I didn't have no thousand dollars, but I thought brightly to handle one problem at a time, and so I said "Done."
When she marched up bravely from her desk by the back of that room, I said to myself "She sure is a cute little thing, all tiny only comin up to my chin for height, neatly dressed, with jet black hair and white skin, bright eyes and a mouth upturned at the corners like bein smiley all the time." Me . . . I am easily six feet tall, fair haired, well-muscled and slim, have a hardly noticeable hook nose probably more from fightin than bein born with it, a firm slightly cleft chin, and then there are those dimples in my cheeks. Pinkie has said I have a twinkle in my eyes, what ain't always there from liquour, and to watch out cause that, and those dimples, is what makes them "nestin" girls just swarm.
Pinkie and I never spent much time gettin serious with women folk . . . horses and cattle taken most of our attention to this point. Oh we liked girls alright, but seemed to us they wuz all about "nestin", and we wuz all about "flyin on past."
My handle is Calvin Wallens, and I might be a little lackin in being held to the reins of your idees for respectability, what with the fighten and drinken and just havin a generally good time, but I don't mean no real harm at anybody. I guessed uncle Rad's aim was to see could he steady me up some.
Sorry Uncle Rad, but as far as I wuz concerned, I wuz just jumping thru this hoop for temporary to get that ranch. I wuzn't no way gettin hornswoggled into makin this a for keeps arrangement, an my plan wuz to shake that young woman off soon's I could. Lucky she is teacher minded and so not all about nestin was my consoling thought then.
Pinkie ran out to catch up the circuit preacher, while I explained the whole deal to that there slip of a girl. I surely had Pinkie to thank for comin up with how spinster girls wuz all so desperate for she wuz still willin. Happily the preacher was in town, and sooner you could say "I do," it wuz all done. We wuz hitched legal and proper . . . me and the spinster.
I had left her talkin to Pinkie while I ran around town to find a wagon and horses, Then I picked her up back by the church, where she had asked me to. She'd earlier gathered up a carpet bag of clothes and what not . . . probably all she had in the world.
By that afternoon, ridin in a buckboard headin for the ranch, and sobering up, the whole marriage idea seemed to be losin its shine. It were a 2 day drive out to the ranch in west Texas, and there I wuz married to a "strange woman." I got increasingly morose and silent, while she waved her hands about and gabbed away about the scenery, the colour of the sky, and looking forward to seeing the ranch. She sure wuz a chatty thing. Out of the corner of my eyes, I couldn't help but notice her dark hair curled a bit at the edges, her eyelashes were long, and her fingers were slim.
She kept sayin "My name was Amy Andrews and now it is Amy Wallens".
I couldn't help thinkin Amy is a pretty soundin name and I guess just fittin to her. My next thought was Whoa . . . I ain't gettin my feet hobbled by no girl, even a pretty one like this. I gotta find a way out of this, as soon as I get squared away with that there lawyer.
It wuz all Pinkie's fault, cause it was him as suggested it. Well, he better then help me find a way to shake her off. I done hired Pinkie to help with the ranch, so to not let him squeeze out from under his share of the blame. He wuz following . . . somewhere back of us for some reason.
We stopped later at a small settlement, and she got taken in for overnight by a local family, while I spent the night sleepin under the buck board. It do beat all how, in no time at all, they were treaten her like a long lost daughter. Anyways, it solved my immediate problem of how to explain the need for separate sleepin arrangements, us bein only married fer convenience like.
Next day wuz more of the same, only she seemed to be tiring of my apparent lack of zeal, so she quieted down. As soon as we got to the ranch, I dropped her off and headed for town to meet with that lawyer, time bein tight. Well all wuz in order pretty quick, only when I got to hintin about what the terms actually meant as regards the marriage, he said we had to live on the ranch for an unspecified but reasonable time, and in his judgement, that would be for a minimum of a month. "I wasn't countin on that I can tell you."
Then I went to see the bank as to what cash or line of credit I might have inherited on the ranch. There were no debts outstanding, but the funds available wuz pretty limited, and all deemed to be necessary just to operate the ranch. What I wuz hopin for was an extry thousand dollars so's I could pay the little woman off as promised. My thought then wuz Pinkie . . . what did you get me into?
After pickin up some groceries in town, my slow drive back to the ranch didn't solve anything, except the horses got to crop some grass here and there along the way.
Comin over the last rise, I seen a wagon bein unloaded at the ranch. Pinkie had showed up and wuz bringin furniture into the ranch house . . . a rockin chair, a bureau with a large mirror, a desk of some kind, wood chairs, a bedstead, and clothes . . . lots of clothes. Goin in the front door, I seen Amy had ben busy as the place wuz swept up and even some of the floors wuz washed. Uncle Rad lived on his own, an so naturally fer just him, housekeeping might not have ben a priority. Windows were open to air the place out. Next she got getting Pinkie to put up curtains already. The place wuz lookin . . . gasp . . . like a "nest" instead of a ranch.
Soon's I could, I got Pinkie aside and asked him what in tarnation he wuz doin, an where all this "foofura" and stuff come from.
He says it wuz every bit hers, and he can't say no more about it, except she wuz playin fair with me and I better see to play fair with her . . . a deals a deal an all.
I wuz plain flummoxed. Pinkie had gone over to her side.
Well, she could cook too. I had to say that for her. She took them groceries and whipped up a belly scratchin supper in no time, and we polished that off in less time. Pinkie wuz fer sure bought, sold and delivered then, cause he ain't never ben shy about food and, when she told us she wuz going to bake a pie next, he looked at me with big calf eyes like he'd gone to heaven and he wuzn't comin back no how.
I shaked my head at him " . . . no . . . no."
I told her I wuz residing in the bunkhouse as we only had us a business arrangement, and hang it, I wuzn't ready for to get tangled up permanent with no woman, especially not one formally and properly courted for at least a few years first.
She said "Fine, you and Pinkie go sleep in the bunkhouse and you can keep doing that because I am not leaving until I get my thousand dollars."
I said "Dang woman, I don't have no thousand dollars now, but I am good for it, and you ken leave any time after a month is up."
She said "I do not take IOU's or cheques or money orders, only cold hard cash, and now get out of here because I am going to bed."
That is how it went on from there. For starters, she wuz up with me and Pinkie, wearin old clothes and doin her share of chores in the barn. I got her to muck out the stalls, as for to discourage her, but she wuz a trooper. I did see her upchuckin a few times though . . . heh, heh.
After a while I gave up, on the whole idea of her doin chores, as she fairly had enough to do th'out that. She dressed up prim and proper otherwise, and she could bake alright. Word had for sure got out bout that, and we suddenly had many new "acquaintances" droppin in for coffee, with cake, or fritters, or pie, or cookies, or what have you. Even mister lawyer came by to check up on things, so he said, but I knew he wuz thinkin pie right along with the rest of em.
I watched as everyone seemed right away enamoured with her, and sayin what a lucky man I was. I thought If you only knew.
I wuz of course expected to play the genial new husband, which wuz hard for me. I had work to do to keepin this ranch operatin and couldn't always follow those pretty little ankles around.
All Pinkie wanted to know wuz "What is she makin for supper this time?"
He wuz always a good worker, and knew livestock as well as me. I would have ben in trouble without him, and might have needed to make him a partner to keep him, but no worry then as he wuz lickin his lips all day as it wuz.
I myself wuz gettin so's I looked forward to comin in the door, and seein Amy, and hearin her talk about her day. I expected I wuz honestly going to miss her when she wuz gone. But she had to go, most 'suredly when I started thinkin like that. She absolutely had to go.
So I told her. Right off she came back with "And where is my thousand dollars?"
I said "I don't have it now but I told you I was good for it."
She said "Then I am not leaving," and that wuz when the tears started . . . hers.
It wuz bad enough havin a woman laugh at you, but when they are cryin at you . . . that takes the cake. I stomped out hollerin "Woman, I am goin up into the hills with a couple of friends and stay there a week while you come to reason."
Pinkie tracked me down after some miserable days up in the woods north of the ranch. He asked me where were my friends?
I showed him two unopened bottles of hooch.
He said that was not like the old me to have left them stoppered. Then he said "The problem with you Calvin my friend, is you really don't want her to leave. But that may cease to be an issue soon anyways as she has had a gentleman caller, duly chaperoned by his mother, come visitin for to sit on the porch with her most every evenin you have ben gone."
I said "What?"
He said "Yup."
I said "You mean someone is down there every evening makin time with my woman?"
"Looks like it, kinda," he says.
I said "That there is my woman and no one is gonna take my woman from me."
By that time, I was hoppin mad. "Where is my gun" I said, as I rooted around in the underbrush.
"I done took it," he said, "fer I don't want you doin somethin foolish just cause you are mad."
I said "I am goin down there and bust whoever it is in the snout."
Well, when I got to the house she was alone. I said "Listen Amy, you are my woman and no one is gonna sneak around for to try and take you from me."
She said "I am not your woman."
I said "Well ain't we married all legal and proper?"
"Yes" she said.
"Well what does that make you then" I said.
She said "It makes me your wife."
I said "Well that's what I meant."
She said "Then say it."
I said "Okay, you are my wife and no lay about is stealin you away from me."
"Say it again," she says.
So I get mad and holler "You are my wife." Then I say it softly "Amy, you are my wife."
That wuz when she up and kissed me. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather duster, for my knees went all weak and my head started a swirlin.
Just then, the lady, from the next ranch down the road, drove up in her buggy with her 5 year old son who jumped down, sat up on the porch, said how he is back again and does Amy maybe has any more pie for him.
I was flummoxed . . . but must confess to like'n it by then.
While Amy wuz entertainin her guests, Pinkie up and told me he had to break a promise he made her for him not to tell me, but he had knowed most from the beginin she wasn't desperate, and she wasn't a spinster, and she wasn't even a teacher.
"Remember how you left me talkin to her whilst you wuz rounding up the wagon and horses thet first day?" Pinkie went on to say how her mother ran the bakery shop back in that there town, and that is where Amy really worked. This explained how, around here, she was the "queen of baking." Turned out Amy was only just fillin in, as sorta like babysittin, for the teacher man back when we sashayed into the school house. Pinkie then explained how Amy had right off arranged with him to get all her furniture and clothes from her mother's house.
"Calvin old bosum buddy", he said with glee "While I was gettin that furniture an stuff, her mother told me, what but already six months ago, Amy pointed you out to her and said 'Mom, that is the man I am going to marry.'"
Then my now second best friend, Mr. P. Hinke, had the nerve to laugh at me and said "Yes, she is after all one of them "nestin" women and all your "flyin on past" days is over."
So I said, "Okay, but I ain't payin her no thousand dollars now neither."