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That was Then, This is Now  - Part 1

by: CLK

Background:  Originally Posted January 2005 – written post season ten Christmas episode.

Adult for one chapter  ( PG -13 version at: www.oocities.org/clkjag/)

Summary:  Harm and Mac learn a few things from history.
Chapter 1

Sometime shortly after the New Year

Mac had been dozing for the last thirty minutes or so when she felt the car come to a sudden stop.  Straightening herself up, she glanced out the side window at the vast expanse of green pastures.

“Are we here?” she asked groggily.

“Not exactly,” Harm chuckled.

Turning to look out the windshield, Mac’s eyes opened wide at the site of several cows casually strolling across the road, and a rather loud dog barking behind them.

“Does this happen often?”

“I don’t think so.  I suspect the fence gave way at Mr. Greeley’s place.  At least, that would have been the reason for cattle on the road fifteen years ago.” Harm shook his head lightly.  It was going to be a wonderful change of pace spending a few days with Mac and his grandmother.  It would be exactly the rest Mac needed after that horrible accident.  Physically she had pretty much recovered, but he knew she was still working through a few things.

It had been way too long since he’d made the time to come and visit Grams.  Even though she was a strong woman, she was well into her eighties and Harm couldn’t keep taking her being around for granted.

Mac couldn’t help but wonder what exactly she had gotten herself into agreeing to spend some time on a family farm.  She must have been nuts.  What is it they always say?  You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl.  What in Lord’s name was she doing surrounded by cows?

Rolling her eyes heavenward, Mac adjusted the neck roll and nestled back in for another nap. “Let me know when we’re almost there.”

“No problem.” Harm was delighted to take advantage of the slow pace at which the few cattle were moving to simply admire the beauty of the sleeping woman beside him.  He hoped this time alone with her would be the open door he needed to move their relationship in a new direction.  At least, that’s what he’d been praying for.

An hour later and Harm was turning onto the old road that led to the farm.

“Time to wake up.” Harm tapped her thigh lightly.

Mac shifted her shoulder, burying her head further into the back of the seat.

Chuckling to himself, Harm squeezed her leg a little more firmly.  “Mac, you wanted to know when we were almost there.  We’re just about here.”

Still not getting any reaction out of her, Harm waited until they were at the edge of his grandmother’s property. “ Mac… MAC… COLONEL MACKENZIE!”

Mac shot up out of the chair like a new recruit in boot camp. Quickly getting her bearings, she turned to Harm.

“That wasn’t funny, Navy.”

“Hey, I’ve been trying to wake you for the last ten minutes.  You said you wanted to wake up when we were near.”  Gesturing with his chin, Harm raised his hand to point ahead.  “There it is.  The Rabb homestead.”

Not far down the road, which judging by the surroundings Mac realized was actually the Rabb driveway, you could see a large two-story house standing proudly among the old oaks.

“Why do I feel like I’m not in Kansas anymore,” Mac smiled.

“It’s a great old place.  Wait till you meet Grams. You’re gonna love her.”  Harm followed the curve of the drive and pulled up in front of the charming wood-framed home.

Stepping out of the car and taking in the peaceful view from under the shady trees, Mac felt as though with one breath of fresh air the weight of the world had been lifted.  Hearing the creek of hinges, she turned in time to see a flash of brown streak towards them followed by the sweetest looking little old lady she’d ever seen.

“Down, boy.” Harm laughed, rubbing the ears of the large German Shepherd now perched on his shoulders.

“I swear, on his hind legs like that, he’s almost as tall as you are.” Sarah Rabb was coming down the front steps, her arms open wide, obviously trying to hold back the tears of joy that were building as she got closer to her only grandson.

“It’s good to see you, Grams.” Harm wrapped his grandmother in a strong bear hug.

Taking an extra moment to just hug on her boy, Grams patted Harm soundly on the back and turned to face Mac.

“Where are your manners, young man?  Aren’t you going to introduce me to this lovely lady?” With her back to Harm, Grams winked at Mac.  She had hoped some day her grandson would smarten up and see what was right in front of him.  The moment she laid eyes on Sarah MacKenzie, she knew she’d been right. This was the woman for him and she was going to make darn sure they both knew it before they left.

“Grams, this is Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie.  Mac, this is Grams.”  Harm waved his hand between the two women.

“How do you do, ma’am,” Mac offered tentatively.

“Don’t you ma’am me. In this house, I’m Grams.” Sarah Rabb pulled Mac into a bear hug as ardent as the one she’d just given Harm then quietly said, “I’m glad you’re here.”

Mac was genuinely touched by the sincerity in the old woman’s eyes.

“Thank you ma… Grams.  I’m glad to be here too.”

With an arm around each of her visitors, Gram led the two into the house. For a woman of only 5’6” or 7”, she managed to match her stride easily with Harm and Mac’s.

“Baron, you stay. He’s going to hate being left out, but I’m not sharing you with anyone for a little while.  Even him.” She nodded her head back towards the large dog now peacefully lying at the foot of the porch stairs.

“I’ve got your old room cleaned up and ready for you.  I thought Mac would prefer the spare room across from yours instead of the guest room down here.” Gram headed straight for the kitchen.  “You two make yourselves comfortable.  I’m going to get us a couple of glasses of lemonade and then you can tell me everything that’s been happening since you were last here.”

Mac tried to follow her into the kitchen.

“Sofa’s that way.” Gram pointed to the living room.  There was no mistaking the tone of her voice or her rigid finger.

“Yes ma…Gram.” This woman might have married into the navy but she had Marine written all over her.

Walking back to the living room, Mac noticed the dining room to her right.  Intrigued by a large painting hanging on the far wall, she took a brief detour into the charming room.
Upon closer inspection, she could now see that it was a painting of this house when it must have been a working farm.  There was a huge barn and silo to one side. Black and white dairy cattle were scattered throughout a large patch of green behind the barn.  There were two women sitting in a swing on the front porch watching several small children running around in the front yard.  From the style of the long flowing dresses and the children in knickers, Mac guessed the painting had to be of the farm as it had been at least a hundred years ago.

“Great scene, isn’t it.” Harm practically whispered in her ear.

Mac was startled by the feel of his breath on her neck. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on a Marine?”

“I didn’t think anyone could sneak up on a Marine.” Harm raised an eyebrow in a gleam of triumph.

“You two are going to play nice while you’re here?” Gram chuckled carrying a tray with several glasses of what Mac soon discovered was fresh squeezed lemonade.

“This is just marvelous.”  Pointing to the old painting with one hand, Mac accepted a glass of lemonade from Grams with the other.

“That’s my husband Peter’s great-great-grandmother, Abigail, with her sister, Beatrice.  This place originally belonged to Abigail’s family.  When her parents passed on, great-great-grandpa Adam Rabb and she moved here from Boston.”

“Boston?” Mac mouthed quietly to Harm.

Harm simply shrugged.

“Most of the children belong to Aunt Bea, the baby over here,” Grams pointed to a buggy close to the porch. “This is Peter’s great-grandpa Harmon, who your Dad was named after.  We think one of these two boys here is Harmon’s brother, Hosiah, named after an uncle in Texas.”

“Texas? Your family sure got around a lot for the 1800s,” Mac commented, truly surprised.

“You have no idea,” Sarah Rabb chuckled, walking over to the table.  “You see all this?” She waved her arm across the mountain of papers and photos.  “I’ve been trying to put the Rabb history into an easy-to-read book for almost two years now.”

“You never told me anything about that.” Harm looked questioningly at his grandmother.

“Well, I’ve always hoped to pass the stories of the family down to my great-grand-children myself, but at the pace you’re moving I decided it would be better if I got it all down on paper in one place.”

“Grams.”  Harm almost whined, a blush rising slightly up his cute crooked ear.

“All this is family history?” Mac glanced across the table, in awe of all the photos and newspaper clippings.  Picking one up from the top of a pile, she couldn’t help but notice the striking resemblance the man had to Harm.  If she hadn’t known better, it looked very much like a photo of Harm and Bud in one of those old time costume photos taken at carnivals and fairs.

“Who is this?” Mac asked.

“Oh, that’s Hosiah Rabb and his friend Jeremiah Roberts,” Gram smiled proudly.

“This could be you.” Mac handed the photo to Harm.

“Never mind me.  This could be Bud.  Talk about coincidence.” Harm stared at the picture shaking his head.

“If finding trouble is any indication, you do seem to take more after your Uncle Hosiah than your granddad.” Gram was still smiling broadly.  She had hoped Harm would be interested in the family history but having Mac so enthused as well was a tonic to her aging bones.  

“You know a lot about Uncle Hosiah?” Mac took the photo back from Harm.

“Do I ever.” Gram smiled and turned towards the living room leaving two very curious people standing in her wake.

Chapter 2

“When your grandfather Peter and I were first married the war was going crazy in Europe.  Everything here was in war mode.  We didn’t really have the time or money for a fancy honeymoon, so your grandpa decided that a short trip to visit his cousin Daniel in Texas would be a nice change.” 

“Do you still have family in Texas?” Mac asked.

“No.  Daniel passed on years ago.  His son Joshua was killed in Vietnam shortly after my son went missing, and his daughter Elizabeth never had any children.  When she passed on two years ago, her husband sent me most of the stuff on the table there.” Gram held a photo of Daniel with his wife Edith on one side of him, holding their infant son, Joshua, and Peter with his arm wrapped tightly around a young Gram’s waist on the other side.

Mac noticed the sadness with which the older woman stared at the honeymoon picture.

Sitting across from Gram on the sofa next to Mac, Harm couldn’t help but notice his grandma’s gaze either.  After all these years anyone could still see how much she loved and missed her husband.  Without thinking, his hand reached over to Mac’s lap and firmly took hold of her hand in his.

Still watching Sarah, Mac squeezed Harm’s hand tightly. 

When Sarah Rabb glanced up from her reverie, she couldn’t help but grin happily at the two hands tightly clasped on Mac’s lap.  This might just be easier than she’d thought.

“Anyhow,” she continued. “When we were visiting Daniel and Edith they started filling me in on some of the colorful family history.  Especially around the time the railroad had wanted to go through town.  When I decided to start taking notes so I wouldn’t forget anything, Daniel suggested it would be better if I talked to Mr. Hawkins.” Gram paused to take a sip of her lemonade.

“Who’s Mr. Hawkins?” Harm questioned.

“I thought he had to be the oldest man on earth.” Sarah chuckled to herself.  He probably wasn’t much older than she was now.   “He grew up in Rabb about the same time Hosiah came to town.”

“He moved to a town called Rabb?”  Harm may have actually asked the question, but both his and Mac’s faces were riddled with confusion.

“Well, the town was actually called Calamity when Doc Rabb moved there.  Later they changed the name to Rabb after him.” 

Mac and Harm watched Gram walk over to the table and pull a large book off a pile, then walk back to the rocker by the fireplace.

“Mr. Hawkins was quite a character.  He remembered every detail about what went on in Calamity in those days.  I couldn’t believe how much one little kid could know. The moment he started talking, I knew I was going to need more than one notebook to write it all down.”

November 15th 1941

“So y’all wanna hear about ol’ Doc Rabb, do ya?  It all began, oh, must be eighty years or so ago now.”  

“Doc was just a young whippersnapper…came out on the train from Boston or some place like that back east. Word is he was sent out by his pappy for some “ed-u-cation”. Now the ladies, they took to Doc right away. Ed-u-cated man like that and good lookin? Course the ladies will flock to him like bees to honey. Now, the menfolk, they were a different story. Most didn’t mind Doc, but there were a few who really felt the need to, test him, shall we say. Odd thing, the Doc didn’t mind these young hotheads testin him, but there was one time when the Doc went right ornery.”

All ears were turned to Jacob Hawkins. Perched on the edge of her seat, Sarah Beason Rabb sat rapidly scribbling every word.  Listening intently to the old man recount history, everyone in the room could feel themselves practically taken back in time.

Calamity Texas

Dr. Hosiah Rabb eagerly climbed out of the cramped stagecoach.  At six foot four inches tall, he stood a good head taller than most men he knew. Three days straight in that confined space since they'd reached Texas was just about all his legs could stand.  Maybe leaving the comforts of Boston wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had.

Hosiah was a shining example of Boston aristocracy.  He was polite, courteous, well mannered, well educated, and extremely wealthy in his own right.  Despite his impeccable credentials, however, he just wasn’t happy living within the confines of the Boston social world. 

He was considered to be a prime catch by every unmarried female in Boston.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t content himself with the demure young women who spent the days doing needlepoint and their evenings contemplating the ruffles on this year’s fashions.  

Ever since childhood he had been fascinated with tales of the Wild West.  He longed to live where the land and people were strong. Some place where his skills as a physician and surgeon could do some good. 

Had his brother Harmon not gone to Pennsylvania to take over his wife’s family lands, Hosiah would have talked his father into accepting this change years earlier.   As it was, he felt almost guilty leaving his sister Anoria with the day-to-day responsibilities of living up to their mother and father’s expectations.  He was, however, sure that once she and her new husband, Benjamin, had their first child, the additional attention his departure had left on her would quickly dissipate.

Looking around, he heard the thud of his bag drop beside him.  Nodding his head in thanks to the drivers, regardless of the lack of care for his belongings, he retrieved his bag and began his walk in search of the town hotel.

He hadn’t made it far when heads in town started turning at the sight of the handsome stranger.  Mrs. Perkins in the general store dropped a handful of eggs when he smiled and tipped his hat at her.  His smile alone could have melted butter on a winter day.  Add that to his twinkling green eyes and impeccable manners, and there wasn’t a woman in town, married or not, who didn’t fall in love with the Doc the first time they laid eyes on him.

There were a few young bulls who weren’t terribly happy about the Doc’s popularity with the women.  Every so often some young man or other would ‘accidentally’ bump into him when walking down the street, or make some disparaging remarks during a card game about Eastern men not really being men.  No matter how hard they tried Doc just ignored them and went on with his business.  It didn’t help any that he usually beat the pants off of everyone at poker, too.

The Doc had been staying at the hotel over the Saloon.  It wasn’t quite the sort of accommodations he’d been used to in Boston, but it was clean and the company was good. 

There was one little gal in particular who had taken a shine to the Doc, Miss Jenny.  She mostly just served drinks and danced with the girls.  She couldn’t really carry much of a tune but Miss Porter said her high kicks more than made up for it. 

Since she didn’t ‘work’ the upstairs at night, she was the only girl around to serve the lunch crowd. Of course, in a town the size of Calamity, it wasn’t much of a crowd.  The Doc sat at the same table every day.  Even after he bought his house, the Doc still kept coming by the saloon for lunch and his talks with Jenny. Doc thought she was a real sweet kid. 

Doc had purchased the last house at the edge of town to hang his shingle on.  Mrs. Perkins from the general store and her daughter Irene, who just happened to be one of Calamity’s few eligible young women, volunteered to help him pick out the furniture and things he would be needing to fill the three bedroom house.  It hadn’t failed to escape the attention of most of the town that as well as being drop dead gorgeous, Hosiah was also very wealthy by Calamity standards. 

One of Hosiah’s first patients after he’d set up shop had been a local rancher, Jeremiah Roberts.  A portion of Jeremiah’s spread backed up to a small canyon where a herd of wild horses would often corral.  Several days before, he had managed to rope one of them.  It was a beautiful animal.  Jeremiah almost thought it a shame to try and break him, but try to break him he did.  Whether he or the horse had won was a debatable issue for the Doc to resolve.

Jeremiah had come to Calamity several years before Doc Rabb.  He’d bought a small patch of land and had been trying his hand at cattle ranching.  No one was really sure where he had come from, but it was obvious he was learning about ranching through trial and error. Over the years he had managed to do pretty well, but everyone in town knew it was unlikely he’d ever become one of the great cattle barons of the west.  He was too good-hearted a man. Battling the elements and the challenges of the life led taming the land would have made many a man hard-hearted.  Not so with Jeremiah Roberts.  He was a good man with a kind and tender heart, and he was likely to remain so all the days of his life.

About a year before Doc Rabb arrived, Roberts had begun having trouble with rustlers raiding his herds.  There were two types of men in Calamity: those who picked fights, and those who walked away. Though Roberts would defend himself if the need arose, he wasn’t known for being one of the fighting men. He was actually much tougher than the town gave him credit for. He would have to be to have built the spread he had from nothing. But that hadn’t done him any good against the antics of the rustlers.  

The rustlers would appear at night, set something on fire as a distraction, and then steal around twenty head of cattle or so.  Roberts had lost his barn, his root cellar, and his icehouse so far this year.  The townspeople had been good about coming together to help him rebuild.  They’d even been surprised recently to see that Doc Rabb could wield a pretty mean hammer.  None of it helped with the frustration they all felt.

Cattle was the way of the land around this part of the country, and the sheriff wasn’t much help when it came to protecting the ranchers.  As far as they were concerned he wasn’t much more than a dog himself.  Whether it was rustlers, railroad men, or bankers, they all had a piece of the sheriff.  Roberts, like all the other ranchers, was on his own to protect his land and his cattle.

Chapter 3 

Sarah Rabb stopped to rub her eyes.  It had been a long time since her eyes had done that much work in one sitting.  It was already way past her bedtime and as much as she hated to stop, she needed to get some sleep.  It warmed her heart when she looked over at her grandson and his partner.

Mac was now sitting on the floor in front of Harm.  With his legs on either side of her, he had been rubbing her shoulders practically the entire time Gram had been reading from the journal. 

Both had been completely engrossed in the chronicle, watching Gram read as though she were a new plasma-screen TV.  The detail with which she’d been documenting the family history was amazing. 

“Sorry, folks.  It’s way past my bedtime and these tired old eyes need a rest.”  She set the open book down on the coffee table in front of them.  “You’ll have to keep reading without me.  I doubt you’ll finish up with this volume before bed, but if you do, the next one is on the table in there with the rest of the papers.”  Noticing Harm shifting to get up, she said, “You stay put.”

Not being one to disobey his elders, Harm relaxed back in his seat as his grandmother leaned over and kissed him and Mac good night.

“Don’t stay up too late, there’s plenty of time while you’re here to finish reading.”  Nodding her head, she was off to bed.

Letting her head fall back behind her, Mac closed her eyes, just enjoying the feel of Harm’s fingers working the knots out of her stiff shoulders.

“Mm, I have to remember to let you do this more often,” Mac purred.

Looking down at her beautiful face, Harm couldn’t resist raising one hand to softly stroke her long brown hair.

Her scalp began to tingle at the gentle caress of his fingers in her hair. “Keep that up and you’ll put me to sleep long before we read anymore of the story.” 

Letting go of her, he reached forward to pick up the book then patted the sofa beside him.

“Come on, I want to find out why the Doc ‘went ornery,’” Harm chuckled.  “You’ll be much more comfortable up here.”

Sidling up beside him on the couch, Mac fought the tug at the ends of her lips when she felt Harm drop his one arm along the sofa behind her, his hand barely resting on her shoulder.

“Let’s see.” Holding the book with his other hand, Harm searched for where his grandmother had left off.

November 1941

“One day when Roberts was in town pickin up some supplies, he saw one o’ those rustlers. Now this varmint rustler comes on over an’ decides he’s going to show young Jeremiah a thing or two. Only thing is this hothead didn’t figure on Doc bein there.”

Calamity Texas

Jeremiah Roberts rode into town every two or three weeks for some supply or other.  This time he’d been having more and more trouble with the rustlers on the north pasture and decided maybe what he needed was to try some of that newfangled barbed wire to slow the men down.

The ranchers all had different ideas on who was behind the rustling.  Not everyone could agree on who the culprits were, but pretty much everyone agreed that Jed Lowman was most definitely one lowlife to keep an eye on.

After hitching his wagon in front of Mrs. Perkins’ general store, Jeremiah caught a glimpse of Jed out of the corner of his eye.  Now, Jeremiah wasn’t one to go looking for trouble, but every hair on the back of his neck knew there was trouble coming his way.

Jed Lowman was a man who feared nothing. Most men, even those without brains enough to spit, knew better than to draw attention to themselves when up to no good.  However, Jed wasn’t ‘most men’.  He’d taken a liking to tormenting Roberts.  Over the last few months it had become clear to most of the ranchers that the rustlers had begun singling out Roberts’ ranch as a target.  What no one knew was why.

“Shouldn’t you be home tendin’ to your cattle?  That is, what’s left of ‘em.” Lowman spit out his tobacco squarely on Roberts’ boots.

Jed had walked up to Roberts and stopped dead in front of him, blocking the path into Mrs. Perkins’ place.

“That is precisely what I’m doing.  If you’ll excuse me…”  Jeremiah stepped to one side in an attempt to move around the rather obnoxious obstacle.

Stepping to the side as well, Jed continued to block the entry.  Leaning forward, with an overpowering wave of liquor-stinking breath in Jeremiah’s face, “I don’t see as you have no need to be in these here parts. Why don’t you just turn ‘round and go back where you done come from.”

Meanwhile, Doc Rabb had stopped in Mrs. Perkins’ store to check up on some equipment he’d ordered out of Boston.  It had been a couple months and he’d hoped it might have come in on this morning’s stage. 

“I’m really sorry your order hasn’t arrived yet.  As long as you’re here, why don’t you join Irene and me for some tea?”  Mrs. Perkins had been doing everything she could to get Doc Rabb to take notice of her daughter Irene. She had hoped with her and Irene at his house almost every day for a week, picking out pictures, setting up his kitchen, and setting out all the different furniture and knick knacks they’d helped him buy, that he would have just naturally taken a shine to Irene. A man like that was going to need a good woman at his side. Mrs. Perkins knew if she could just get the Doc to spend a little more time with her daughter, sooner or later he’d have to notice her.

“I don’t think you heard me the first time.  I have things I need to be doing. If you will kindly move out of my way…” Jeremiah’s voice was loud enough this time to get Doc Rabb’s and Mrs. Perkins’ attention.

Before Jeremiah could react, Jed threw a right cross to his jaw, sending him stumbling back a few feet.  Shaking his head clear and preparing to defend himself, Jeremiah saw Doc Rabb fly out of the store.

By now all the kids had stopped playing in the street and a commotion of neighbors had begun to gather along the sidewalks. 

Raising his fist to strike again, Jed was surprised when a strong arm grabbed it from behind and swung him around.

“I would think twice about that if I were you.” Doc’s voice was barely above a whisper.  As far as the onlookers were concerned, he hadn’t said a word.  His other hand wrapped itself around Jed’s throat.  Lifting him a good six inches off the floor, Doc threw Jed up against the wall gasping for air.

He didn’t have to say another word.  The fire in his eyes said it all.  The people in town would talk about that day for years to come.  You could see hell and damnation, fire and brimstone, and all the good book had to say in the Doc’s eyes as though the Good Lord himself had sent him to avenge the great State of Texas.

When the Doc was sure Jed had understood, he let go.  The vermin fell into a heap at Doc’s feet. Never raising his eyes to look at the Doc, or the crowd that had moved in to gather around them, Jed grabbed his hat and scurried off like a scared rabbit leaving behind a puddle of fear for all to see and laugh over. 

It had been quite a sight for the town of Calamity.  Until now, a man who had never raised a hand to stop man or beast from coming after him, was throwing a grown man around to protect young Jeremiah.

Extending his hand, Jeremiah smiled gratefully.  “Thanks, Doc.  I guess I owe you one now.” 

“It wasn’t anything you wouldn’t have done if the situation was reversed.  I’m sure of that.” Doc smiled back at the man.  It hadn’t taken him long to understand that Jeremiah was a goodhearted man who would most likely risk his life for a friend.

“I’m still grateful to you. I don’t mean to pry, but you do have a gun tucked away someplace in that old house you’ve fixed up?” Jeremiah asked seriously.

“I might, why?”

“After today, you’re probably going to need it.  I’m sure they’ll be gunning for you now too.” Jeremiah turned to see the dust kick up from where Jed and his horse had ridden out of town. 

A lot had changed in Calamity that day.  Jeremiah and Doc had become friends, and peaceable Doc Rabb turned to a different old friend.

“Hey Jacob, did you see that?” Eight year old Eddie Johnson asked.

“See what?” Jacob Hawkins answered, more engrossed in the can he’d been kicking around.

“The Doc.  Look at him. He’s wearing a six gun.”  Eddie was watching the Doc walk down the street towards the saloon.

“Oh, that.  My pa says it’s a Colt. Says it’s got nice smooth action.” The boy shrugged.

“What else does your pa say?”  Eddie stood there staring at the Doc, unsure of what to make about him wearing a gun.  He had heard his folks, and lots of other folks in town too, talking about what a peaceful man the Doc was, how he’d never hurt a fly.

“They reckon he must o’ brought it with him cause there’s no place ‘round here he’d o’ bought it.”  Jacob looked up to see what Eddie was so fascinated with.  Every so often he could see a glint of metal shining from under the Doc’s long coat as he walked.

“You think its got sumthin to do with that rustler he embarrassed?”  Eddie continued to watch the Doc.

“Maybe.” Jacob kicked the can past Eddie’s feet.

“If you ask me it ain’t natural for a man like Doc to be totin’ a gun.” Eddie was still staring at the saloon doors the Doc had just passed through.

“Well ain’t no one askin’ ya.  Ya gonna play or not?”  Jacob and his dad had been thinking the same thing, but Jacob’s dad had told him only time would tell what it was all about.  Like any good son who believed his father, Jacob was waiting for time to tell.

Chapter 4 

Harm’s hand had dropped down around Mac’s arm.  He’d been caressing her with the gentle swirl of his fingertips for most of the story.

“Wow.” Mac smiled, shaking her head at the book in Harm’s lap.  Pulling herself away from Harm to sit up and look at him. “Even a hundred and thirty years ago, the Rabbs were looking out for the Roberts.”

“Well, I doubt it’s the same Roberts family, but the parallels are interesting.” Harm looked at the photos scattered between the pages of text. “I can’t believe Gram has been putting all this together and hadn’t said a word to me.”

“Oh, come on, Harm.  How often do you really take time to stop and talk to your grandmother?  Or your mother, for that matter?”

“Apparently not often enough.”

“I didn’t think so.” Mac sat back, leaning her head back against the sofa.

“It’s pretty late.  We probably should pick this up tomorrow.”  Harm shifted his weight onto one hip so he could stroke her hair again. 

Having gotten up to use the bathroom, Sarah Rabb had stopped to peek downstairs when she saw the lights still on.  The sight below warmed her heart.  Mac was resting quietly with her eyes closed and one hand on Harm’s leg.  Harm, on the other hand, was watching Mac with all the love in the world.  His eyes feasted on her as his hands gently combed her long locks.  That man was so in love, any fool could see it, and Trish Burnett hadn’t raised any fools. Sporting a broad smile, Sarah turned back to bed.  Those two just had to wake up and smell the coffee: she wanted great-grandchildren and she was tired of waiting.

Next Morning
Rabb Farm

“Well, good morning, bright eyes,” Gram greeted Harm.  “We thought you were going to sleep the day away.”

“I think it’s fair to say that waking up at 0800 isn’t sleeping the day away.” Harm stumbled across the kitchen for a cup of coffee.  “Is that what I think it is?” Harm sniffed at the air visibly.

“It is. Now sit down there while I pull the rolls out of the oven.”  Gram pointed to the kitchen table.

“Gram said if the smell of her fresh cinnamon rolls didn’t get you out of bed, nothing would.” Mac stifled her smile with another sip of coffee.  She’d been up since 0630 and was already working on her third cup.

“What’s the plan for the day, Gram?” Harm asked between bites of the warm rolls.

“You can do anything you want, I am sort of hoping you’ll be able to find the time to fix the side door on that old barn.  It’s been leaning for months now and Jake just keeps putting off coming to fix it for me.”

“No problem.  Just give me a list of what needs fixing and I’ll take care of it before we leave.” Harm took another roll.

“That’s not the same barn in the painting,” Mac mentioned.

“No, the old barn burned down shortly after Peter and I were married.  It had been a while since this place had been used as a dairy farm so there was no need to rebuild such a big barn,” Sarah said, slicing up apples. “Are you going to show Mac around the farm?  It’ll be a while before this pie is ready to be eaten.”

“I was thinking I’d save the walk until after lunch. She’ll really need it after eating your delicious pie.” Harm had gotten up from the table and was now standing behind his grandmother, his arms wrapped around her shoulders.

“This isn’t going to get you any extra pie, but I love you for it anyway.” The old woman grinned merrily as she patted her grandson’s arms.  She so loved it when he found the time to come visit.

“Okay now, I’m never going to get these pies made if you keep getting under foot.  I promised Agnes I’d take a pie over to the church for the elders’ meeting. You kids go off and find something to keep yourselves occupied.”  

Without saying a word, both knew what they wanted to do. Harm walked over to the table as Mac stood up.  Dropping his hand on the small of her back, he followed her into the living room where they’d left the Rabb family history.

November 1941

“Wasn’t long after that, Doc and Roberts were real thick.  Roberts, showin Doc how to work the land, an’ how to raise them cattle. You could say Doc helped Roberts, an’ Roberts helped Doc.”

“This was also about the time Doc was “introduced” to the widow O’Hara. See, on the spread next to Roberts was a spread that belonged to the O’Hara clan.”

Anyhows, this one day Doc an’ Roberts were out lookin for some o’ the new herd who’d gotten through a broken section o’ fence.  So Doc an’ Roberts go off lookin for the cattle that had run off. Roberts went off down the creek, figurin that some o’ them must be lookin for water, while Doc went down into a ravine. Next thing Doc knows someone is shootin at him, shoutin for him to get off the land and never come back.”

Calamity Texas

Doc had taken a real liking to helping Jeremiah out on the Ranch.  Not to be misunderstood, he loved tending to the sick and elderly, but there was something about working the land with your hands that made a man feel, well, like a man.

He and Jeremiah had spent the better part of this particular day riding around looking for a few lost cattle.  It had been a while since the rustlers had dared come onto his land.  Jeremiah and the widow O’Hara were the only two ranchers for miles who weren’t having any recent troubles with rustlers.  Of course, in the widow’s case it most likely had to do with the six rustlers she shot one night chasing them off her land.  They seemed to get the message fairly loud and clear. At least she hadn’t lost any cattle since.

There were a few stories told about the widow, but Doc wasn’t sure which ones were truth and which ones were just malicious gossip.  The woman kept to herself, and Jeremiah seemed to have a quiet respect for her. Knowing and trusting Jeremiah, if she had his respect, then the least Doc could do was keep an open mind. 

He had never met the woman himself, but when shots starting ringing out over the ravine, and a woman’s voice bellowed for him to get off her land, he had a sinking feeling he was about to meet either the widow O’Hara or his maker.

Fortunately, Doc was a smart man.  Most men would have pulled out their weapon and fired back if someone started shooting at them.  Doc knew that would only make things worse.  Don’t misunderstand, when someone shoots at you, you’re tempted to shoot back, but Doc didn’t let that get the better of him.

Quickly taking cover behind the closest tree, he tied his horse to it and hung his hat from a nearby branch.  Carefully making his way through the ravine, making sure to keep cover behind the trees and boulders, he headed towards where the shots were coming from.

Somewhere in his mind he had conjured up this sweet image of the widow O’Hara in a nice high fashion dress, probably imported with Irish lace.  After all, the O’Hara ranch was pretty good sized and probably cost a pretty penny to maintain. There had to be money to spend on other luxuries.  When Doc came up behind what looked to be a man shooting at him, you could have blown him over with a feather when he realized the man was really the widow O’Hara herself.  She carried that Winchester like she knew what she was doing with it.  Obviously those six rustlers was one rumor he swiftly decided was no rumor. 

Carefully stepping up behind her, with that deep, clear voice he was now famous for, he very politely requested. “Would you please stop shooting at me?”

Spinning around at the speed of light, Doc never saw her fist connect with his jaw.  The next thing he knew, he was flat on his back looking up at the most beautiful brown eyes he’d ever seen.

With her rifle cocked and pointing straight at the Doc, her voice was cold. “Just what part of ‘get off my land’ are you having a difficult time comprehending?”

“I didn’t know I was on your land. I’m Doc Rabb.  I’m helping Jeremiah look for some cattle that wandered off.  We thought they might have come this way.”

“I don’t see any signs of WE.  I only see YOU, and YOU are on MY land.”

Swallowing hard, “We, that is, Jeremiah and I, split up a short while ago. He headed for the creek and I came down this way. I’m terribly sorry if I’m trespassing but I was just trying to help a friend.” Doc figured now was as good a time as any to try smiling at the lady.

“Mister, those pearly whites may get you what you want most of the time but you’re going to have to do some fancy foot work if you want me to believe you’re who you say you are.”

Just then Doc was delighted to hear Jeremiah’s voice calling to him. 

“Doc, are you there? Doc, can you hear me?”

“You are one lucky son of a bitch, mister. He’s over here!” she called loudly, still not moving her rifle from her target.

Scrambling his way over, Jeremiah skidded down a patch and landed directly at the widow’s feet.  He couldn’t help but chuckle to himself at the irony of the situation. It had been on his land the widow’s good-for-nothing husband had been found shot to death. It appeared that now it was the widow’s turn to find an unexpected visitor, so to speak, on her land. Fortunately, the widow never did seem to hold that unfortunate episode against Jeremiah.  She admired Jeremiah too much to let her husband’s poor taste on where to pass on affect her relationship with her neighbor. 

“I guess I should introduce you two. Kaley O’Hara, this is Dr. Hosiah Rabb.” Jeremiah smiled at the look in Kaley’s eyes when the Doc stood up.

“How do you do?” Kaley extended her hand.  She hadn’t taken much notice of his features while he was down, but those eyes shone like the emerald green of the Irish countryside.

“The pleasure is all mine, ma’am.” Doc nodded politely, hoping his smile had better results this time.

Chapter 5

Gram had come in to let Harm and Mac know lunch was ready.  Once again, she was pleased to find them huddled together.  Mac was sitting on the floor, her back against the sofa.  Harm was lying on the floor on his side with his head on her lap.  Baron, happy to be allowed in again, was curled up alongside both of them. They were taking turns reading out of the book spread open on what was left of her lap.

“Lunch is ready. Come and get it,” Gram called and then turned back into the kitchen.

Getting up off the floor and stretching a moment, Harm extended his hand to Mac.

“Would you do the honors of joining me for lunch, Miss MacKenzie?” Adding to the moment, he bowed gracefully at the waist.

“I would be honored, kind sir.” Mac raised her chin and accepted his hand, following him into the kitchen.

There was definitely something to be said for country home cooking.  Never had leftover pot roast seemed like such a gourmet treat, and the apple pie was out of this world.  Albertson’s bakery section would never be the same for Mac.

“Well, Harm, you were absolutely correct.  I definitely am going to need to walk this lunch off. I can’t believe I had three pieces of pie, but it was SOOO good.” Mac smiled guiltily at Gram.

“I’ll wash if you’ll dry,” Harm said to Mac, carrying his dishes over to the sink.

“Nonsense,” Gram huffed.  “You didn’t come all this way to clean my kitchen. I’ve got nothing better to do. You two go take that walk and I’ll take charge of the dishes.”

Harm and Mac looked at each other, slightly wide eyed.

“You heard me. Shoo!” Gram practically pushed the two out the back door.

Walking off the back porch, Harm and Mac started down a narrow footpath.

“Are there any animals on the farm anymore?”

“Mostly just chickens.  That’s about as much as gram can take care of by herself. She gets a pretty good income from leasing the pastures to neighbors.  She does have Gertie, though; Gram can’t stand the thought of store bought milk,” Harm chuckled.

“I can certainly see why you like this place.  It’s like stepping back in time.” Mac’s eyes were focused on Harm’s feet ahead of her. 

Coming to the wider portion of the path, Harm dropped back a step and slid his hand around the small of Mac’s back, both surprisingly comfortable with the affectionate gesture.

“Do you ever think about moving back here?” Mac asked.

“I think about it a lot.  If I’d had any children, I would have wanted to bring them out here to spend their summer vacations with Gram, much like I did growing up.  In today’s crazy world it would have helped give the kids a sense of balance.  Who knows, maybe I’ll move out permanently when I retire.” 

“I bet it was a great place to spend summers,” Mac nodded.

“Still is.” Harm’s hand slid down her side and took hold of her hand. “Come see this.” Harm tugged her off the path.


“This.” Harm stopped at a big old tree and pointed up.

“My God, that has to be the largest tree house I’ve ever seen.” Mac walked around the tree, her head never looking down.

“Frank built it for me the summer after he and mom got married.” Harm watched the look in Mac’s eye as she walked around the tree.  “Want to go up?” he smiled.

“Do you think it’s safe?”

“Sure.  Every few years I go up and replace any rotting boards. Just in case…well, just in case.” Harm’s eyes turned upward.

“In case what?” Recognition dawning, “In case you have children. Harm, I…I’m…” Mac couldn’t find the words to tell him how sorry she was.

“Don’t say it, Mac.” Taking a deep breath, Harm put on a huge smile. “Come on, let’s go up.” Harm reached for her hand again and led her to the side of the trunk with the ladder rungs.

Following her up to the tree house, Harm grinned at the look on her face.

“Oh, Harm, this is fantastic.  What a view!” From a break in the trees she could see clear across the valley to the lake. “How much of this is Rabb land?”

“All of it. That’s why the pasture leases are so good for Gram.” Harm walked up behind her and dropped his hands on her shoulders.  “They’ve tried to buy the land up and develop it a few times, but Gram won’t sell.  She wants it to stay in the family.”

“Considering how much work she’s put into that family history, I’d say it’s pretty obvious how important family is to her.” Mac’s stomach tightened at the thought of how close she almost came to being the one to give Harm someone to pass this onto.

“It will probably belong to Mattie some day.” Harm’s eyes were focused on the lake far off.

“You might still have children of your own.” Mac hoped her voice hadn’t cracked at that.

“No, not unless…No.” Harm took a deep breath.

“Not unless what?”

“Just no.”

“Harm, what?”

“Not unless you change your mind.” He looked pleadingly into her eyes.

“Harm, I can’t. You know I’m sick.” Mac walked towards the edge of the tree house.  She didn’t want to have this conversation with the weight of his touch on her.

“I’ve said it before, there are treatments, procedures, and alternatives.” Harm walked up behind her again. They’d started getting closer since the accident. He wasn’t going to let her push him away amymore. She’d brought up the subject of children. Maybe it was time they faced it.

“Harm…” Mac was so tired of the battle that was raging in her head. There was still a chance, but she didn’t dare take it. Four percent was just too low.  If it failed, it might be one blow too many for her to stand.

“Mac, you need to know something.” Harm pulled her around to look at him.  “If I can’t have children with you, I don’t want children.”

“Harm…” Mac looked down.

“They don’t have to be born of you. I know how much you want to carry a child, but if we can’t make invitro or donor eggs work, we could try surrogacy or adoption.  All that matters to me is that we raise them together, no matter where they come from.” Harm waited for her to look up at him.

“It’s not fair to you.” Mac tried to pull away.

“We’re not discussing fair here. We’re discussing reality.”

For just a minute watching Mac stare into his eyes, he thought maybe, just maybe he’d gotten through to her.

“We’d better get back before Gram starts to worry." Mac's eyes darted away momentarily before she looked back at him. "Besides, I want to find out what the widow does to Hosiah.” She nodded, forcing a slight chuckle.

Sighing heavily, Harm smiled back at her, he wasn't going to give up yet.  “You win, Marine. This time.”

Climbing down the tree, they made it back to the main house in short order and were sitting comfortably on the sofa once again listening to Gram read the next part.

November 1941

The O’Hara clan’d come out bout twenty years earlier an’ took up some land, a man called Seamus O’Hara, his wife, an’ their yung niece, Kaley.  Ol’ Seamus an’ his wife Teressa passed on, must be five years ago. Left their spread to their son Matthew but bein’ a yungin and all, Kaley an’ her husband Clete wer suppose to care for it.

Now Clete was a bit of a snake hisself. Ran with the wrong dogs if you catch my meanin. Fact is Clete was a hard drinkin man who lost more than he had over at the saloon an’ went out to try his hand at rustlin. Was shot through the heart his first night out. Truth be told, no one misses Clete much, not e’en Kaley. Wasn’t a week after he was shot that she started goin by O’Hara again.

Calamity Texas

“I am thankful you saw fit to accept my invitation to dinner.  It’s the least I could do to make up for my lack of hospitality today.” Kaley smiled at Jeremiah and Hosiah as they sat sipping brandy in the parlor.

“I don’t see how we could have refused you, ma’am,” Doc responded.  Jeremiah had pretty much decided that sparks were in the air and he was going to let the Doc and the widow do their own talking.

“This is a lovely place.  Has your family been here long?” Doc asked, admiring the southern architecture.

“It belonged to my Uncle Seamus and Aunt Teressa.  Back in ’45 when the crops started failing home in Ireland, Uncle Seamus decided to take what money he had saved and come to America.  Bless that man, it was the smartest move he ever made. My mother, God rest her soul, convinced them to bring me with them. I was but a wee thing and Aunt Tess couldn’t have children of her own.  Mum knew it would be a better life for me here, and she was right.  Not three years later, she and Da both passed on.  Uncle Seamus had tried to get my Aunt Meg, his baby sister, to come too, but she refused. She passed on only two years after mum.” Kaley shook her head to no one in particular. “None of our O’Haras are left in Ireland any more.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  Your uncle was obviously a hard working man.  I’m sure this wasn’t easy to build.” Hosiah hoped talking about her uncle’s success would take the edge off the sad memories.

“He was a good man,” Kaley smiled. “He and my aunt worked in New York City for ten years, adding to their savings. When they had enough saved he bought a small part of this land and moved here.  He built the original part of this place by himself.  In only five years he had tripled the size of his herd, bought out everything that is now O’Hara land, and finished this house for Aunt Tess.  Yes, he worked very hard.” Kaley smiled proudly.

“It was a sad day when we lost them,” Jeremiah interjected.

“Influenza?” Doc inquired.

“No, Aunt Tess was thrown from a horse. She was an excellent rider, but the horse was spooked by a rattler. She landed in that same ravine, broke her neck. Uncle Seamus died a few months later from a broken heart.  He left Matthew and this place in my care.” Kaley handed Hosiah a frame with a photo of her and Matthew.

“He’s a fine looking boy.  Your son?” Hosiah handed the photograph to Jeremiah.

“Cousin. About fifteen years ago Aunt Tess surprised all of us with little Matthew there.” Kaley was smiling brightly now.  “He’s been the apple of everyone’s eyes ever since.”

“Do you have any children of your own?” Hosiah asked casually.

“No, Clete was not the sort of man a woman would want to have children with.” Kaley straightened her chin.

“Excuse me.  I didn’t mean to…” Hosiah started.

“No need to apologize,” Kaley interrupted. “Everyone knows Clete was a good-for-nothing drunkard.  Uncle Seamus thought I was getting on in years. I only married him so Uncle Seamus wouldn’t worry about me. Turns out all I did was bring on more heartache for the man. Of course, I didn’t know about the drinking then. I thought Clete was a good, hard working man.  But it was the O’Hara money he wanted, not me.  When he didn’t get any, Clete spent most of his time in the saloon.  Wasn’t much of a husband, if you know what I mean.  Whoever shot him that night did Matthew and me a favor. That was nearly three years ago now.” Kaley pressed her lips tightly as she sat nodding her head. “Yes, sir. Best thing anyone ever did for us.” Slowly a bright smile emerged. “Yes, sir.”

Chapter 6 

“Sorry folks, it’s going to have to be someone else’s turn.  These old eyes have had enough.” Gram was a little surprised to look up and see them comfortably listening from opposite sides of the sofa.  She thought they had looked a tad tense after their walk, but she couldn’t understand what might have happened.

“Sure, Gram.” Harm jumped up to get the book.

“So, what do you think so far?” Gram asked.

“I think it’s pretty interesting that a female O’Hara could put a Rabb in his place even a hundred years ago,” Mac grinned.

“Well, it’s easy to get the upper hand over someone when you’re carrying a rifle,” Harm said obstinately.

“Only if you know how to use it,” Mac bounced back.

Gram was loving this. Inch by inch, they’d moved closer on the sofa until they were sidled up side by side. What ever it was, the tension was gone for now, but she’d have to figure out what had caused it in the first place if she wanted to fix things before they left.

“Before we get started again, I really should go make sure the chicken house is locked up tight.  Last week I hadn’t latched the door all the way, and spent the better part of the next day corralling chickens,” Gram chuckled.

“Let me do it, Gram.” Harm stood up.

“While you’re out there, why don’t you take a look at the barn door and see if you’ll need to go into town for supplies,” Gram nodded. Turning to Mac, she said, “I hadn’t noticed how late it is, I should start supper. Why don’t you join me while he’s out checking things?”

Gathering several potatoes from the pantry, Gram set them down in the sink and handed Mac a peeler. “Here, you can get started on these.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Mac washed her hands and began working on the appointed potatoes.

“You know, I love my grandson very much.  Sometimes I think I know more about how he thinks and feels than he does, but I’m getting too old to beat around the bush.  Do you love him?”  Although the woman didn’t bother looking up, she had a pretty good idea Mac was turning several shades of crimson about now and struggling for the right words.

Mac was so startled by the question she found herself juggling the potato and peeler in her unsteady hands.

“Well, yes ma’am. We’ve been friends and partners for a lot of years now.  Harm means a great deal to me.” That wasn’t so hard, she thought.

Why did he have to fall in love with a lawyer? Gram thought to herself. Always choosing their words so carefully…

“That’s good to know, dear. Now tell me what he did to upset you this afternoon.” She wasn’t going to let Mac off the hook that easily.

“He didn’t do anything, Gram.” Mac tried to hide her distress behind a smile.

“Nonsense, something happened out there.  You might as well tell me about it.  I’m old and live in the middle of nowhere.  This is the closest thing to talking to the wind you’re going to find.”

Unable to find a graceful way out of answering, Mac finally responded. “We were talking about passing things down through families to your children.”  Mac paused a moment before continuing. “I have endometriosis, I can’t have children. I try not to think about it very much, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.”

Just then, Harm banged the back door open loudly. 

“Chickens are as snug as a bug in a rug, and it won’t take much at all to fix that barn door. You’ve got everything I’ll need in the shed.” Harm kicked his shoes against the doorway, knocking the dirt onto the back porch.

“Harmon Rabb, you know you’re supposed to do that before you get on my porch.”

Grinning madly, he walked up to his grandmother and picked her up off the floor before proceeding to spin her carefully around in a huge bear hug.

“But you love me anyway,” Harm smiled, kissing the woman loudly on the neck until she had no choice but to double over in laughter.

“Harmon Rabb, behave yourself,” the old woman laughed.  “Why don’t you go get that book, bring it in here, and you can sit there like a good boy and read to us, while Mac and I finish fixing supper.”

Harm gave his grandmother one last hug and was seated back at the table in a flash, ready to continue the saga.

November 1941

Doc, he was quite the card playa. Iz a done tol’ ya already that he used to beat the pants off a anyone daft enough to sit down at a table with him? Well see he used to play, musta been just about every night, a card game or three. Some say though wasn’t just a card game Doc was showin up fer. See, there was this girl there…worked the saloon room, name o’ Jenny.. Perty yung thing, took herself a shinin to Doc one night after he “rescued” her.

See, some drunk figgerd he’d had enough o’ Jenny’s teasin ways… she wasn’t one to take the boys upstairs if’n you catch my drift. Anyways, this here drunk figgers he’s got a shot, an’ starts gropin an’ pawin the young thing, pullin her towards the stairs when who should come through them doors? Why if’n it ain’t ol’ Doc. Just like that, Doc sees whats goin on an’ walks o’er all calm like, an’ peels the drunk off a Jenny like some kind of skin. With a tip of his hat to the lady, Doc takes the drunk with a firm hand o’er to the bar an’ buys him a drink. Heard tell Doc suggested that he might want to try one o’ the other girls who did do that sort of thing. Wasn’t too long after that though that some o’ the other girls in the House started havin fun at Jenny’s expense…callin ‘er “Doc’s Girl”.

Calamity Texas

Doc had spent much of his morning thinking about the widow O’Hara. She was everything the women of Boston weren’t.  Practically single-handedly she had managed an enormous ranch and the upbringing of a young boy all alone for the last five years. Granted, for two of those years she technically had a husband, but from what she and the rest of the town said, she might as well have been doing it alone.

Miss Jenny could see Doc coming down the street.  She had his regular table ready and waiting for him just as she’d done every day since that night when young Luke Jones had made a move on her.  It was actually rather sweet to be the damsel in distress, as long as there was a white knight in sight.  Not that Luke wasn’t normally a nice kid, but it was pretty much the same with all the young men around Calamity: give them a few drinks on a Friday night and they wound up with more hormones than sense.  Of course, if she’d been the proper Miss Perkins, no amount of liquor would have had him pawing at her the way he had. Still, Doc Rabb treated her the same as any of the other ladies in town, and it wasn’t any of them he was having lunch with either.

Doc came through the swinging doors and headed straight for his usual table. 

“You going to have the special today, Doc?” Jenny grinned.

“Yup, and bring me a beer too.”

“Starting a little early today, aren’t you?” It wasn’t like the Doc to drink at lunchtime.  Most of the men around town didn’t care what time it was, but Doc, he was a gentleman in every way.

“Celebrating,” he winked.

A few minutes later Jen came back with the Doc’s beer.  Sitting down at the seat next to him, she smiled coyly.  “So, what are we celebrating?”

“Nothing much, just a beautiful day,” Doc winked again.  “Have you been taking it easy on the fellows coming through here?”  Doc had noticed Jenny the first night he came to stay in Calamity.  It would have been hard not to; she was young with beautiful brown eyes, a huge smile and several other valuable attributes for catching a man’s eye, especially in her line of work.  The interesting thing was Jenny wasn’t like all the others. She did her job but drew the line at entertaining the clientele privately.  Jenny’s folks had been killed when she was pretty young.  The orphanage had a hard time just keeping all the kids fed, and hadn’t done anything about teaching them how to earn a living before turning them out on the streets when they were old enough to beg, borrow or steal.

In Jen’s case she wasn’t going to beg, but she wasn’t past a little stealing either.  Doc couldn’t help chuckling to himself.  He remembered the night Luke Jones had made after her.

Pulling the inebriated young man off of her, “I think you should consider asking one of these other more obliging ladies if they’d be interested in keeping company with you tonight.” Slipping a few coins on the bar, he’d told the bartender to give Luke another drink, knowing full well there was more than enough money to pay for several ladies company that evening.

“You didn’t have to do that.” Jenny had insisted rather harshly. “He won’t be the first or last man to think he can get want he wants.”

“Why don’t we just let the young man cool off?  Tell me about Ms. Jenny,” Doc inquired, thinking if he stayed with her a little longer none of the other young hotheads would get any ideas.

Sitting down in the chair Doc had pulled out for her, she sighed. “You mean, what’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?” The bitter words rolled off her tongue.

Doc raised his eyebrows then took a sip of beer, never saying a word.

Jenny didn’t take long repeating her life story to the Doc.  Many men had asked her that before, but talking to the Doc was easy.  The words just tumbled out before she’d even realized what she was saying.

“Anyhow, it may not look like it now, but someday soon I’m going to have a nice place of my own.  Maybe raise a few chickens, some cattle, and if the good Lord is willing, a few God-fearing children.”

“Does that little place of your own have something to do with the silver you lifted from Luke?”  The twinkle in Doc’s eye shined brightly at the startled look in her eye.

“You’re not going to tell him are you?” she asked, slightly panicked.

“No, I think we can agree he deserved it.  Do you roll all the men who make passes at you or just the drunk ones?” He smiled before taking another sip of his beer.

“Just the ones who don’t take no for an answer.” She bowed her head almost contritely, almost.

“Well, maybe you should consider taking it easy on these poor souls.” He smiled again, this time the smile reached all the way to his eyes and Jenny’s heart.

Jenny’s voice snapped him back from his recollecting.

“Never mind me, tell me the truth.  What are you celebrating?” Jenny looked at him pointedly, her arms crossed in front of her.

Laughing loudly, “Miss Jennifer, I do believe you have missed your calling.  You would have made an excellent lawyer with your gift for dodging bullets.”  He shook his head, completely amused by her prying antics.

“If you must know, I’ve met a very nice lady.  I’m hopeful she’ll allow me the honor of visiting her more often.”

Jenny’s heart sank low in her belly. She’d always known a man like Doc would never fall for a saloon girl like her, but she’d also hoped that she’d get to enjoy his friendship a little longer before some other woman stole his heart.

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