I was over in Hot Springs at the time. I stopped to just wet ma' whistle in a small saloon there, before I went on into Engle. The wind had been blowin' somethin' awful so it was kinda nice bein' inside. A cold beer was hittin' the spot.
This gal came up and asked me if'n I'd like to buy her a drink. I looked up and down her long, tall body and said, "Sure darlin' but that's all I can afford. I wouldn't mind just chewin' the fat with ya' for a spell."
She pulled up a stool and sat real close-like and thanked me for the whiskey. The barkeep came along and he even had what she wanted in his hand. He asked me for four bits. I paid the man and he went off down the inside of the long bar. I figured he was used to the dosie-doe the saloon gals ran on the cowboys that found their way into that place.
We told each other our names and she wanted to know where I was from and if'n I was stayin' awhile. I told her about Engle, New Mexico where I liked to call home, and nope to the stayin'. She smiled at me.
She had a real nice voice and seemed to be a pretty nice gal. She was all dressed up in a red lacy dress that didn't seem to fit her and it showed too much of her top end, if'n I was judgin' her. I wasn't, of course. She told me she just gotten this job yesterday and she didn't really want it, but she had ran out of money and had no choice. She sipped on her whiskey kinda lady-like. I liked her ways pretty much after we had talked for maybe an hour.
Then, things got a little more confusin'. I thought to myself, "What kinda luck have I had with women before then? Not all that great." It was like a mental note I had to myself, kinda tellin' me to watch my step. She told me she wanted to go upstairs with me where she would grab her suitcases, then sneak out the back, go down the stairs, jump on my horse, and ride off for Engle.
She had tears in her eyes and said she didn't want to end up doing the things the other gals were doing. She seemed kinda afraid. So, I held her hands. She told me she'd make me a fine wife. Or, we could tell my neighbors she was a relative and was goin' to be stayin' with me for awhile. That way I'd have the time to think what I'd like to do with her.
My head was spinnin' with ideas. Most of all, I was thinkin' that I'd like to help her out.
Thirty minutes later we was makin' some dust out across the desert, heading east to Engle. It was about twenty- five miles away.
I heard someone say once, "Every woman has some baggage along with her." Well, this gal had some luggage. Somehow I thought they was talkin' about a different kinda baggage, maybe a bad secret or somethin'. I just hoped none of my friends saw me out there trottin' out across the desert with this pretty, busty blonde woman and four suitcases. It must'a been some sight.. Oh well, I was a doin' somethin' I felt was the right thing to do at the time. So not much else mattered. Well, I did kinda plan our ride to Engle, soin' we'd get there after dark.
It was funny. Horses know when things aren't quite right. Brighteyes seemed to know I was takin' the long way home; a smart horse she was. When we stopped once for a woman's break, I opened my saddlebag and gave ol' Brighteyes one of the biggest apples I had in there. My horse meant a lot to me. I kept my back turned to Betty while she did her business.
We finally got into Engle just after sundown. It was an interestin' trip. I showed Betty around my house and showed her her bedroom. She seemed like maybe she was expectin' somethin' different in our arrangements.
I could tell she wasn't used to ridin'. She said she didn't know how I could ride a horse everyday, day in and day out. She rubbed the small of her back and her upper thighs, and looked tired. But darn! She was the prettiest gal that had ever been in my house.
I took a lantern out to the corral and started brushin' down Brighteyes. She really had a workout with all that luggage and the two of us. I was surprised Betty came out. Even though she was all sore and tired, she helped brush down my pride and joy, the best horse a man could ever have. We got her plenty of straw and feed. I had it rigged up so the corral had a wooden trough that was always full of water from ma' windmill. It was a great life there for this ol' boy.
The next mornin', I woke up to the smell of some breakfast: Bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, bread, and coffee. "Shoot," I smiled to myself,. "She can cook, too!"
I walked in the little kitchen and it all smelled so good. She had me sit down at the table and was askin' me about how I went about doin' ma' laundry. I smiled. Everything back then was an ordeal. But then, that's all there was.
After a wonderful breakfast, I showed Betty the laundry deal. I got down a big, three foot across wash tub and a scrub board, settin' it out by the water trough with a filler bucket. Then I strung a long rope from the house to the corral, nice and tight-like.
"So that's how you do laundry here?" Betty said, as she smiled at my ways of doin' things. She asked about some clothes pins. I told her I just hang them over that rope. Then she asked how often I went to Hot Springs for supplies. I just said, "Whenever need be darlin'." I smiled and tipped my hat to that pretty lady. She rolled her eyes around and smiled.
I thought about the idea of maybe marryin' Betty. But I didn't want her dependin' on me for everything and maybe I just didn't want her there if I went ridin' off for months at a time, which I loved to do from time to time. All the other neighbors would watch over my place. I just loved ma' freedom to do as I liked. I didn't need her.
She really laid the woman's touch all over my house and cleaned and put stuff away. Shoot, after awhile ,I couldn't find things, lessin' I asks her where they be. For the most part, she was nice to have around and meals were always ready. She'd even fixed me a tub of hot water for a bath about every other day. I was used to goin' for a week before she came along.
I also began to notice all the holes in my duds were gettin' mended. My shirts and pants had a pressed look to them. She even took the time to cut my hair every so often. I never ever saw my pan of dirty dishes anymore. My bed was always made before I got in it. It ain't never been like that before.
Then, I got to thinkin' about makin' love and such, maybe havin' children. It was kinda scary for this ol' boy. I knew from Betty she wanted all that to happen, but she was a-willin' to give me all the time I wanted. That didn't seem to help matters. Seemed the pluses were all in her favor.
We sat out on the back porch and did lots of talkin' and holdin' hands, sometimes even kissin' goodnight before we retired to our seperate bedrooms. Some nights she would read me stories, out of real books, somethin' I hadn't had much use for before. The stories almost set me in the same place as the book decribed. I loved that.
At night the lantern would shine on Betty's golden hair. I would watch her full lips read the stories to me in that same light. She was beautiful. She had soft dimples, and a great smile. Her gaze soothed ma' soul.
One night I told her I was goin' to go out on some trip, I really diidn't know where to. I had a small leather bag of some small gold nuggets and some silver and gold U.S. coins. I told her when I got back; I would tell her what I wanted to do, if'n I was to marry her and such. I told her I had to have the time to think things out. When asked me how long, I told her maybe a month or so.
She looked hurt at the time, but this is how I wanted it and she would have to go along with my ways. I also told her if'n while I was gone, she got cold feet, she could take the next train out. I told her all my money was in that little bag on the table. She was welcome to take what she needed. "Just leave me some to get by when I get back." I cautioned.
I was gone before she woke the next mornin'. A month and eight days I was gone. I rode in back thinkin' I would marry Betty, but I wanted her to agree to givin' me some time to just ride out from time to time.
I pushed open the door callin' to Betty. Seein' a note on the table with my little gold bag holdin' the note down, I poured out what was in the bag. Only the nuggets and one twenty dollar gold piece were left. That was fine by me.
I read the note and my lips shook. I got somewhat teary eyed and my neck was tight. It read, "Ride on Cowboy! The hardest thing I ever did was to walk out your door!" She signed it, "Love, Betty." The note looked like it got rained on but I didn't think much about that. It was dated a month after I left.
I sat down thinkin', Oh well, there was a big cattle
drive comin' up real soon, I probably wouldn't have had time to
get hitched anyways. I thought to myself, It's funny how
everything just falls in place, ain't it?
© 2001 David N. Evans, all rights reserved
appears here by permission
I was inspired to write "Betty" when I spent some time out and around Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and out around Engle, NM. The gal in the story is one fine lady I knew once, the Cowboy is how I reckon I would like my own life to be, but it's not. I think to make up a good story, you have to somehow add some color and taste and feelings, maybe a little chunk of your own heart. Also for me it's best to just write and not think.