Authors: Susan Leigh Carlton
Susan Leigh Carlton about 19000 words
Tomball, TX 77377
Copyright © 2014 by Susan Leigh Carlton.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.
Susan Leigh Carlton
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
The Montana Widow’s Husband/Susan Leigh Carlton . -- 1st Ed.
This book is dedicated to my spouse of forty-nine years, who puts up with all of the hours I spend at my computer. Thanks, Honey
Emma Walker, age 27, had only five years of marriage before her husband Caleb died at age 30, struck by lightning.
Emma was left with a 12,000 acre ranch to run and a three year old son to raise. The first year following the death of her husband, Emma received three offers to purchase her ranch at prices less than half the value. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t interested in selling at any price. The ranch had been in the Walker family for three generations, and her son would be the fourth.
Her determination to keep the ranch was tested by men out to take advantage of a widow with little knowledge of ranch operations. She had no ranching experience, but she was full of grit and determination. She would not give in to the people out to cheat her.
It was the loneliness that plagued her. Loneliness and the feeling her son needed a father.
Read how Emma resolved her need for companionship and a father for her son.
Helena, Montana July 1874…
It was over. All of the mourners had left except for three. Emma Walker, her three year old son, Jared, remained, along with the Flying W foreman, Sam Ramsey.
Emma stood there, staring at the open grave. The grave containing the body of her husband, Caleb. Her eyes brimming with tears, Emma said, “It’s just us now, Jared. Papa’s gone to heaven.”
“Miss Emma, we had better go,” Sam said softly. He had been the foreman at the Flying W since it was operated by Caleb’s father. He had taught Caleb the fundamentals of running a ranch after Caleb’s family had been killed by the Sioux. Now in his fifties, the rigors of the roundups, night guard, and long days in the saddle were becoming too difficult for him. He walked with a slight limp, and had talked to Caleb about slowing down.
Emma looked at him and nodded, with her son in her arms, she turned and followed Sam to the wagon that had brought them to this place of mourning.
Caleb had been put to rest by the graves of his mother, father, and little sister. When the Sioux had raided and torched the Flying W, killing the three members of the Walker family, Caleb had been away at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Bozeman was where Caleb had met, courted and fallen in love with Emma Pierce. When his parents had been killed, he left school and returned home to begin a different type of education, that of running a ranch. Caleb and Emma were married six months after she had completed her degree at Montana State.
From their wedding, they went directly to the Flying W and began their married life in the rebuilt ranch house of the Flying W, a spread of over twelve thousand acres. The ranch prospered and the future promised an idyllic life for the young couple.
Eighteen months after they were married, Emma gave birth to Jared, a healthy eight pound six ounce boy. He was the apple of his father’s eye, but he turned to his mother when he encountered things that went bump in the night.
Three nights before…
The loud cracks of thunder frightened the three and one-half year old boy. Emma heard him crying, and hurried to his crib side. She picked him up and cuddled him in her arms and rocking him in the old rocker by his crib. She rocked and sang one of his favorite lullabies. She felt his tiny body tremble with each clap of thunder. She held him close until he went back to sleep as the storm passed.
Caleb and the ranch hands were out in the midst of the storm. The lightning lit the evening sky, rolls of thunder followed, one after the other. The herd became spooked by the noise around them and began to run, as the cowboys tried to turn the leaders in an effort to slow the stampede.
Caleb was riding near the front of the herd, trying to nudge the leaders into a turn to the left. This would put the river on one side, and serve as a wall in that direction. A double bolt of lightning split the sky, the same time as a deafening clap of thunder assaulted their ears.
It was close. Too close. Sam had been riding behind Caleb, and saw him go down. He spurred his horse to get to the point where Caleb had fallen. He had to turn the herd, lest they trample Caleb. He had to keep moving the herd, and could not dismount to check on his boss.
When he was able to return, he found both Caleb and his horse, their bodies smoking from the intense heat of the lightning. They left the smoldering carcass of the horse to the coyotes, The cowboys tried to calm the restless herd as. Sam tied Caleb’s body across the back of his horse, and rode back to the ranch house to tell Emma she was a widow.
The Flying W Ranch…
Emma had just put the sleeping boy back in his crib and was returning to her bed when she heard the sound of horses outside.
Expecting Caleb, she lit a lamp and hurried into the kitchen. There was a loud knock on the back door.
That’s strange, Caleb wouldn’t have knocked.
She opened the door and found Sam and two of the ranch hands carrying Caleb.
“What happened?” she asked. “Is Caleb hurt?” Looking at the grim faces, she put her hand to her mouth in shock. “How bad is it, Sam?” she asked the foreman.
“It’s as bad as it gets, Miss Emma. He was struck by lightning. He’s dead. The herd stampeded and we were trying to turn them when it struck him. I was riding behind him, and managed to keep them from running over him, but when I got to him, he was gone. I’m sorry, Miss Emma. For what it’s worth, it was quick. He didn’t suffer none.”
Emma’s eyes rolled back in her head, and she fainted, falling to the floor.
Sam knelt and picked her up in his powerful arms and carried her to the bedroom where he laid her gently on the bed. He found a towel, and dipped it in the water in the wash basin. He put the wet towel on her forehead. He went quickly to the kitchen, and said to the two ranch hands, “Take him back to the back bedroom.”
“Clete, you go into town and find Doc Palmer. Tell him what happened and ask him what we should do for Miss Emma. Hurry.”
Clete knocked on the door, of the white house on Rodney Street. He knocked again, and heard footsteps inside. The door opened, and the man asked, “What is it?”
“Yes, I’m Carter Palmer, what is it?”
“Doc, I’m Clete Simpson from the Flying W. Mr. Caleb was struck by lightning and is dead. When Sam told Miss Emma, she fainted dead away, right there on the kitchen floor. Sam put her in the bed and put a washcloth on her head, but he wants to know what else he should do.”
“Let me get dressed, and I’ll go out there.” Carter said.
“Doc, is it all right if I get your horse hitched, to save time?”
“Good idea. It’s in the back. I’ll be out as quickly as possible.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Clete said.
Carter went to the bedroom and found the commotion had awakened his wife, Elizabeth. “What happened,” she asked.
Lightning struck Caleb Walker. He’s dead. When they told Emma, she fainted.”
“That poor woman. I’m coming with you.”
“Honey, there’s no need for you to go. I’ll see to her, and she’ll be okay.”
“Wake Sadie, tell her we’re going out, and to keep an eye on Carter. Emma needs another woman at a time like this; now don’t argue, you’re wasting time. I’m coming.” Elizabeth said.
When the Palmers arrived at the Flying W, Sam met them at the door. “She’s in here, Doc. I’m Sam Ramsey, the foreman. She’s come to, but she’s really upset. Their little boy is asleep and we put Caleb in the back bedroom.”
“Okay, Sam. I’m Carter Palmer and this is my wife, Elizabeth. I’ll check her out and see what we need to do.”
In the bedroom, they found Emma, her face tear stained, and her eyes swollen and red. She was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Elizabeth went to her, and hugged her tightly. “Emma, I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, there’s nothing anyone can do. Caleb is dead,” Emma said.
“Jared is still alive and so are you. You have to go on. You have a son to take care of, and you must think of him,” Elizabeth said.
“Let Carter check you out, and we’ll talk some more,” she said, and moved back so Carter could look her over.
He checked her blood pressure, and heart rate. “Emma, physically, you’re fine. I know what an emotional blow this is for you, but Elizabeth is right. You have to take care of yourself and your son. It’s what Caleb would have wanted.”
To Elizabeth, he said, “Talk to her. I’m going to look at Caleb.”
When he checked the body, he found the burned mark on the head where the lightning had entered the body and the mark on the heel where it exited. Caleb only had one boot on; the lightning must have blown the other off.
Back in the bedroom, he said to Emma, “You will need to make some decisions. Elizabeth and I will help but it must be your decision.
“First, where do you want to lay him to rest? Is there a family plot in Helena?”
“No, there is a family cemetery here. It’s where his parents are buried. I want to put him beside them,” she said.
“Do you want to have a funeral?”
“Yes, I guess so; our friends will want to pay their respects.”
“I think that’s a good idea. I’ve seen you in church. Do you want Jack Owens to conduct the ceremony?”
“Yes, I guess so. Do we have to talk about this now?”
“No, it will need to be taken care of soon, so it would be a good idea to get past it. Elizabeth and I will make the arrangements for you if you like.’
“Could you please?” she asked. “I want to see my baby,” she said.
“I checked on him a few minutes ago, and he was asleep,” Carter said.
“I want to see my baby,” Emma said, and began crying.
“Elizabeth,” he said and nodded his head toward Emma.
“Emma. I’ll go with you,” Elizabeth said.
They went into the little boy’s room. He was still asleep.”
“He’s certainly a beautiful little boy,” Elizabeth said.
“A boy with no father,” Emma said.
“He has you. You have enough love to see him through what lies ahead. Let’s not wake him,” Elizabeth said.
Emma let herself be led into the kitchen. Elizabeth took Carter aside, and said, “I’m going to stay with her for a few days. Why don’t you take Caleb to the undertaker? When you come back out here, bring a couple of changes of clothes for me, and bring Carter too. I don’t want him upset because I didn’t come home.”
The present time…
Sam took Jared from Emma and they walked to the wagon. He lifted Jared into the wagon and then helped Emma up to the seat. He climbed into the seat, picked up the reins, clucked to the horse, and headed back to the ranch house.
Inside, he said, “With Caleb gone, you have to pick up the traces and move on. You are probably thinking it’s too soon, but the ranch is your responsibility now. The men will look for you to lead. I’ll help, but you’re the boss. Rest tonight, and tomorrow life starts all over for you.”
The next morning, Sam had the ranch hands together in the yard. Emma stood on the porch, her hands clasped in front of her and said, “Caleb… I…” She turned and said, “Sam, I can’t do this.”
“Emma, you can do it. You have to do it. Caleb’s family made the Flying W what it is today. You’re the only family left. Are you just going to let all of their work be wasted? You’re not alone.You have all of us.”
Girding herself, she turned back to the men and said, “Caleb needed you and counted on you. I’m going to need your help more than he ever did. There won’t be any changes. Sam is still the foreman. The decisions will be mine, but made with Sam’s help.”
Emma and Sam went to the bank, and asked to speak with an officer of the bank.
“I’m Paul Ingram. I’m the vice president of the bank. “How can I help you today?” he asked.
“I’m Emma Walker from the Flying W Ranch. I would like to see the accounts for the ranch, please.”
“What is your connection to the ranch, Miss Walker?”
“It’s Mrs. Walker. My husband was Caleb Walker. He was killed three weeks ago.”
“Did he leave a will?” Ingram asked.
“I don’t believe he did,” Emma said.
“Then you have no proof you are the legal owner of the property?”
“Emma said, “Isn’t it the law, that property passes to the next of kin in the territory if a person dies intestate?”
“You are correct, however, you need proof of who you are, and that the property belongs to you. If that were not the case, anyone could walk in and say they were the decedent’s wife, husband, or whomever.” Ingram said.
“Mr. Ingram, I have to get the money to pay the hands, and to pay Silas Farmer at the general store.”
“Legally, my hands are tied,” he said. “Look, I’d like to help you, but I can’t. I would suggest you go to the County Clerk’s office. Take your marriage license or something that will identify you.”
“How about somebody to identify me? Would that work?” Emma asked.
Ingram said, “If it was someone known to the clerk it probably would work.”
“Come on, Sam, we’re going to see Doctor Palmer,” Emma said.
At Doctor Carter Palmer’s office…
“Carter, I’ve got a problem and I wonder if you can help me?” Emma asked.
“I’ll be glad to if I can,” Carter said. “What do you need?”
Emma explained, “I went to the bank to withdraw some money to pay the ranch hands, but the accounts are still in Caleb’s name. He died intestate, so there’s nothing that says I own the ranch. Mr. Ingram, at the bank suggested I go to the County Clerk’s office and establish myself as the owner of the property, which would include the bank account. Can you vouch for me?”
“I doubt they would do anything on my say-so, but I have a good idea of someone they would listen to. I don’t suppose you’ve ever been in a saloon?” Carter asked.
“No, why?” she answered.
“Let’s go talk to Harry Simpson,” Carter said.
“Who is Harry Simpson?” she asked.
“He owns the saloon, and quite a bit of other property. I bought our house from him. Do you know him, Sam?”
“I know him to speak to, that’s all,” said Sam.
When they entered the saloon through the bat-wing doors, Emma looked around in wonderment. The place smelled of beer. There were a few cowboys at the long bar, and two fancy girls trying to cadge drinks from them.
Carter went to the bar and asked the bartender. “Is Harry in?”
The bartender replied, “Sure, go on back, Doc.”
Harry Simpson was sitting at a huge roll-top desk, with some ledgers in front of him. Carter knocked on the doorframe. Harry turned and saw who it was. “Come on in, Doc. What’s on your mind?”
“Harry, this is Emma Walker. Emma, Harry Simpson. Emma’s husband, Caleb was killed almost a month ago, and he died without a will, so everything is still in his name. She needs to make payroll and the bank can’t let her have access, until the estate is probated. Do you have any influence at the County Clerk’s office?”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Walker.” Simpson said. “I didn’t know Caleb. I don’t think he was ever in the saloon.
“I’d like to think I have a little influence in the clerk’s office,” Harry said. “What do you need?”
“Would you consider vouching for her to get the properties put into her name? I’d consider it a personal favor,” Carter said.
“I’ll be glad to. You go on over there, and I’ll meet you there in a few minutes,” Harry said.
“Thanks, Harry. I appreciate it,” Carter said.
“Mr. Simpson, I can’t tell you how much this means to me,” Emma said