"Clem, You have to make a decision," Martha said in a high pitched voice in her parlor.
"I told you over and over Martha that I am not the marrying kind, "explained Clem.
Martha and Clem have been courting for three years, and Martha thinks it is time to marry. Her family used to give hints about a wedding, but now they bluntly ask when and where.
"You can't use your momma as an excuse anymore, Clem," Martha shouted back at him.
"Martha, momma needs me," protested Clem.
In spite of this, Clem sees himself as a hard-drinking gambler like his daddy. Martha would laugh when he described himself in this way. She knew he was not at all like his daddy who left his momma before Clem was born. His daddy was sixteen when he married Clem's momma, and took off a few months later never to be seen again. There have been rumors that he was a gambler and heavy drinker in the saloons. Clem's momma never remarried thinking that maybe one day he would just appear at her front door. This was unlikely to happen, but this went on each day of her life.
"I'm going to the saloon tonight," Clem announced in an authoritative voice.
"Why don't you grow up, Clem?" Martha asked, shaking her head.
That night the saloon was empty except for a few locals, and a lone stranger. Clem stood next to the stranger and offered to buy him a drink.
"Well, thank ya young fella. It is a mighty kind of you," he said in a soft voice.
The stranger was in his late forties going gray around the temples. He used to work for the Pony Express until the telegraph came along. Now, he dabbles in odd jobs including cattle drives.
"I'm a hard-drinking gambler just like my daddy," confessed Clem looking solemnly at his drink.
The stranger looked at Clem smiling and shaking his head from side to side.
"Now son, you have to make your own way in this world. Your daddy lived his life, now it is time to live yours," he said to Clem who was listening closely.
"What are you afraid of?" he asked Clem.
"Not a thing," Clem said unconvincingly.
"It seems to me you need to take the reins and get going with your life. By the way, you don't look like a hard-drinking gambling man at all," the stranger said, sizing Clem up.
"I don't?" asked Clem looking suspiciously at him
"No, you don't, but it is up to you to decide who you want to be," the stranger said thoughtfully.
"Well, partner, you seem to know what you are talking about," Clem said with a grin.
"I do, I do," said the stranger staring at his drink.
Clem took the last swig from his shot glass, and said goodnight to this obliging man.
The next day he saw Martha, and had to jump in front of her to get her attention.
"Well, what is it, Clem?" Martha asked.
"Martha, I've been thinking about us getting married," he said nervously.
Martha was speechless, she tried to walk; but got dizzy and passed out right in front of the livery stable. Clem frantically tried to revive her, and she finally came around. Clem carefully helped her up, and Martha dusted herself off.
"Clem, I will think about it," Martha said, still reeling from his proposal.
"Martha, you got to tell me now," Clem begged, kneeling on both knees with his hands clasped.
Clem's heart was pounding; he wanted Martha more than anything to be his wife.
"Well, I have waited long enough for you to ask for my hand in marriage," Martha said pensively.
"I will marry you, Clem Jefferson Bailey. I am not marrying your daddy, but the man I know and love," Martha vowed.
Clem seemed to have changed overnight, and Martha thanked her lucky stars for that. He finally realized he was his own man, and didn't need to hang on to a ghost in the past.
"Martha, I intend on making you the happiest gal in the county," Clem proudly declared.
"Clem, I couldn't be more proud of you than I am now," Martha said knowing this was a new beginning for them.