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Authors: Whispers in the Wind

Lauraine Snelling

BOOK: Lauraine Snelling
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© 2012 by Lauraine Snelling

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

www.bakerpublishinggroup.com

Ebook edition created 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-7098-6

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by John Hamilton Design

Whispers in the Wind
is dedicated to:

Sandy Dengler, who, with her wild wit and wisdom, first introduced me to the intricacies of researching as a writer. I am beyond grateful that she has continued to make my life richer with her enduring friendship and assistance.

Colleen Reece, fiction teacher extraordinaire, who read my first horse book chapter, bled all over it, and then suggested where to send it and how. Colleen has remained a friend and advisor. All of us need cheerleaders like these two.

The many others who have left their marks on my life.
I am incredibly blessed.

Who am I? Daughter of the wind,

The wind that covers,

The wind that brings the mist.

I am she who breathes deep of that wind,

Hiding no longer,

Loves so that others

Yearn for the wind.

—Lauraine Snelling

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Epigraph

1
        
2
      
3
      
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5

6
        
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10

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32

About the Author

Books by Lauraine Snelling

Back Ads

Back Cover

1

Late October 1906
Bar E Ranch
Argus, South Dakota

A
re you telling me this ranch is not ours?”

Mavis Engstrom shook her head, wishing for a way to erase the anger she could read on her son’s face. Ransom wore the ice blue eyes and steel jaw of his father when he was fighting for control. “No, that is not what I am saying. I said the ranch belongs to Cassie Lockwood too.”

“How can this be? You’ve never mentioned it before.” Ransom snapped off anything else he was going to say.

“No, I haven’t, and that is my fault, but I couldn’t see any sense in worrying about something that might never happen.” Mavis scrubbed her sweaty hands down the sides of her full apron. “This is a long story, so I’ll put supper on the table and then we can talk.”

“This better be good,” Ransom muttered as he grabbed the canvas wood carrier and stomped out to the front porch to bring in wood for the fireplace.

Mavis crossed to the front window, wishing she’d been able to convince Cassie to stay longer. Cassie Lockwood, the daughter of Adam Lockwood. What a wonderful surprise. At least in Mavis’s mind. But Cassie and her guide, Chief, had elected to return to their camp closer to town. Amazing how she had recognized in the old Indian the young man who had guided her not-yet-husband, Ivar Engstrom, and his new partner, Adam Lockwood, in their search for both gold and land. What a long story she had to tell. Where to begin?

“Did they leave already?” Gretchen, Mavis’s twelve-year-old daughter, asked. “I thought they would stay awhile. Did you see Cassie’s horse? Mor, did you really know her pa?”

“Yes, I saw her horse. He truly is a beauty.” Mavis paused, as if to say something else but then stopped. “Please set the table, Gretchen, and slice the bread. Oh, before you do that, will you go to the cellar and bring up a jar of string beans and one of applesauce?”

“We having pork chops?”

“Well, elk chops, and applesauce tastes good on them too.”

“I thought the applesauce was for the gingerbread.”

“Oh, that’s right. It is.” Mavis blinked as if coming awake. She shouldn’t let the situation rattle her like this. But trying to explain the story from those many years ago to her two grown sons was not something she was looking forward to.

Gretchen came up the stairs from the cellar with two jars and a pint of jam. “I thought Juneberry jam would be good on that corn bread.”

“Oh yes. The corn bread. We were going to have that.”

“Mor, are you all right?” Gretchen set the jars down on the counter, keeping her gaze on her mother.

“I will be.” Mavis forced herself to cross the kitchen and add wood to the firebox of her shiny black range with chrome trim. After rattling the grate to let the ash fall through to the box below, she opened the damper so the wood would catch more quickly. “Maybe a cup of coffee will help.”

“Help what? Are you sick?”

“No, I am not sick. The arrival of Cassie and her guide was just a huge surprise.” Shock might be a better term for the way she was feeling. Mavis tried to smile reassurance, but the look on her daughter’s face told her she’d failed. “Besides, I need to get my thoughts together. This is dredging up a lot of memories, and I want to be sure I tell the story correctly.” How much to put in and what needed to be left out.
Just be honest
, she reminded herself with the wisdom she had passed on to her children.

Gretchen went about setting the table before taking a loaf of bread from the bread box. “I thought we were going to have corn bread.”

“We are. It is in the oven.”

“Then why am I slicing bread?”

Mavis chuckled and shook her head. “You caught me.” She could hear wood being stacked by the fireplace in the parlor. Not that it was really a parlor but instead the room where the family lived, other than the kitchen. With a huge stone fireplace on one wall, cottonwood frames with leather cushions for furniture, and a bear rug in the middle, the room invited everyone to come sit a spell. Right now Mavis would love to have done just that. A cup of coffee, a blazing fire, and time to ponder her situation.

Instead, she heard the men’s boots on the back porch. After bringing in the wood, Ransom had milked the cow for the last time until she freshened while Lucas checked on the cattle. Ever since they’d had a fence cut in two places, they checked the herd morning and night to make sure all were accounted for. Cattle rustling was still considered a hanging crime unless, of course, one talked with Sheriff Edgar McDougal, a real by-the-law lawman.

Taking the pan of corn bread from the oven, she set it on the table on top of a pot holder and then brought the skillet of elk chops, along with the potatoes she’d baked. The gingerbread sat cooling on the counter, and Gretchen emptied the kettle of string beans into a bowl. The jar of Juneberry jam waited by the corn bread.

“Are we missing anything?” She turned to Gretchen.
Other than my mind, I think not.
She glanced up to see Ransom studying her.

“I strained the milk and set it in the tank. There wasn’t even enough to fill a jug.”

“I wonder if anyone else might have some milk for sale. It won’t be long until Rosie comes in, so we can get along without if need be.” As soon as they were all seated, she bowed her head. Tonight it was her turn to say grace, and she needed all the grace she could get. “Heavenly Father, thank you for this food and all the provisions you have given us. Thank you for this day, for my family, and please show us your leading in all matters. In Jesus’ name we pray.” They all joined in the amen.

Except for the occasional “please pass” and “thank you,” an uncharacteristic silence settled over the table. The tension did a fine job of doing away with her appetite.
Lord, tell me what to say, where to start. Let these men of mine hear me out with ears of love. The furrows on their foreheads are deep.

“Would you like dessert now or later?” she asked when the last plate was scraped clean.

“Both?” Lucas grinned at her, obviously trying to lighten the situation.

“Of course. There is plenty. I’ll bring it into the other room.”

They all picked up their plates and set them in the pan of soapy water staying hot on the reservoir. Gretchen set about putting the other things away, and Ransom retrieved small plates, cups, and saucers from the cupboard.

Mavis called, “Lucas, would you please cut the gingerbread and put applesauce on it? I need to get a few things.” When he returned from the parlor, she ignored his questioning look and strode down the hall to her bedroom. The box she needed lay at the back of the shelf in her closet, resting there all these years. She debated just bringing the whole thing into the sitting room but hesitated, thinking through the treasures she had saved in this box. Mementos from the early years before she and Ivar were married, the contracts, later contracts, the journal Ivar kept in the early years before they turned to the leather- and cloth-bound ones they used now, a lock of hair from each of the boys when they’d had their first haircut, a baby rattle, a poem that Ivar wrote on the death of their son. She’d never known he could write poetry until then. Feelings he couldn’t say, he put on paper.

Realizing that the others would be wondering what had happened to her, she took out the parchment packet that held the original ranch contracts between the Engstroms and the Lockwoods and, after setting the wooden box up on the shelf, returned to find that they’d served themselves and were waiting.

“I fixed yours too.” Gretchen pointed to the table by the rocker Ivar had made for Mavis when she was expecting the first time. Why did everything remind her of Ivar? Perhaps the arrival of Cassie Lockwood had opened the floodgates of memory and she was swimming for all she was worth.

“Thank you.” Mavis sat down and smiled into each of the three pairs of eyes watching her as if she might disappear at any moment. “I am going to start at the beginning. You all know that I was born in Minnesota and lived there until my father decided he’d rather live somewhere else and moved us to Rapid City, South Dakota. It felt like the end of the earth, but we settled in and I attended the local school along with my brothers and sisters. You’ve seen the place where we lived.

“But times were hard, and when I was in high school, my mother and father decided to return to Minnesota. I chose to stay here, as did your uncle Vernon. I went to work for the Graden family for my room and board so I could finish school here. Vernon went to work at the local lumberyard. We didn’t see each other a lot but enjoyed the local dances in the fall and winter months. One night Vern brought a friend along, Ivar Engstrom. The next week, he brought a newcomer to town, Adam Lockwood. Vernon became fast friends with the two men, and they included me in many of their adventures. I think I was considered a bit wild by the proper ladies of the church, but we had marvelous times.

“Lockwood and Engstrom decided to try mining for gold, but Vern thought they were nuts and told them so, which caused some hard feelings. However, the two of them located a young man from the Rosebud Indian Reservation, who now goes by the name of Chief. He was quiet but an excellent guide.”

And I was falling in love with Adam Lockwood.
Mavis kept that bit to herself as she took a bite of gingerbread. She sipped her coffee and wrinkled her nose. Tepid coffee was not to be endured.

“I’ll get the coffeepot,” Gretchen offered before her mother had time to stand.

“Bring the gingerbread too,” Lucas called after her.

“You come get that. My hands are full.”

Mavis jumped up to go with her daughter. She cut another piece and made sure the applesauce came with it. Anything to keep from looking into Ransom’s face. When they were all settled again, she held the steaming cup of coffee in front of her like a shield.

“So then what happened?” Ransom’s voice rang insistent, icy hard.

“Well, they did find gold. Right here in this valley. They filed on the gold claim, and then Lockwood suggested they buy the valley for a ranch. That way, if the mine played out, they would turn to ranching, or if it did well, no one could move in on them. They built the cabin in time for winter and kept on tunneling, searching for the elusive gold.” She paused and shook her head. “Gold fever is a terrible disease.”
How do I tell them that I was becoming the bone of contention between the two friends? Or can I leave that out?

“They pulled enough gold out of that hillside to pay for the four hundred acres of this land, and then the vein ran out. When they started tunneling again, the mine collapsed. It was thanks to their Indian friend, John Birdwing, now called Chief, that they were able to get out. They finally listened to the geologists and engineers and boarded up that tunnel. Since they owned the land jointly, they decided to go into the ranching business. But Lockwood got itchy feet.”

She took a swallow of coffee. “One night at the saloon, they met a man who owned a Wild West show, quite an eccentric fellow. Lockwood won half title to the show at cards that night. He now owned half interest in a ranch with Ivar and half interest in a Wild West show with this Jason Talbot. Lockwood dreamed of developing a trick riding act and asked me if I would like to go along.” She studied the dregs of her coffee cup. When had she drained that?

“I’ll get it.” Ransom stood, the set of his shoulders saying more than his mouth. “What happened then?” he asked as he refilled their coffee cups.

“Since I’d not had a home of my own since my folks left, I chose to stay here. Ivar asked me to marry him, and I did.”

Did he ever know how much I loved Adam Lockwood? I traded love for security, and I’m still sure I made the right choice—most of the time.


And Lockwood?”

“He promised to return some day. He left some money on the table to buy cattle and took off with Talbot. Your father and I lived in the cabin until we built this house—you know what a good carpenter your father was—and over the years we built up the ranch. We’d hear from Adam once in a while. Tales of his adventures made his letters a delight to receive. He married a Norwegian princess, or at least she was somehow related to the family of the king. Their Wild West Show traveled the world with Adam’s and his wife’s act the headliner. I heard they had a little girl who became part of the show, and then the letters stopped coming. I think I heard that his wife died; I’m not sure if it was in a letter or what. But I always figured he would come back when he got tired of the traveling life.”

“And now his daughter showed up,” Ransom said. “Or at least she says she’s his daughter. Did she bring her copy of the deed?”

“She showed it to me, but she still has it. She is who she says she is.”

“You don’t know that!”

“Yes, Ransom, I do. Besides, I recognized the old Indian with her.”

“May I see the deed?”

“Of course.” She handed the packet to her eldest son. “It’s all legal. They had an attorney draw it up. They both signed it. Your father took it to a judge one time when we’d not heard from Lockwood for a long while. The judge said it was absolutely binding and could be deeded by heirs, if someone ever showed up. If they didn’t, well, the place was all ours. When your father died, the deed came to me, and when I die, it will be split between the three of you and Jesse. Our share, that is.”

BOOK: Lauraine Snelling
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