Patty Goes To Town
From: The Gold Girl
Ma Watts called loudly from the doorway and numerous small Wattses
appeared as if by magic from the direction of the creek and the
cottonwood thicket. Dinner consisted of flabby salt pork, swimming in
its own grease, into which were dipped by means of fingers or forks,
huge misshapen slices of sour white bread. There was also an abundance
of corn pone, black molasses, and a vile concoction that Ma Watts
called coffee. Flies swarmed above the table and settled upon the food
from which they arose in clouds at each repetition of the dipping
How she got through the meal Patty did not know, but to her surprise
and disgust, realized that she had actually consumed a considerable
portion of the unappetizing mess. Watts arose, stretched prodigiously,
and sauntered to his chair which, true to calculation was already just
within the shadow of the east side of the house.
Baby on hip, Ma Watts, assisted by Microby Dandeline and Lillian
Russell, attacked the dishes. All offers of help from Patty were
"Yo' welcome to stay yere jest as long as yo' want to, honey, an' yo'
hain't got to work none neither. They's a old piece o' stack-cover
somewheres around an' them young-uns kin rig 'em up a tent an' sleep
in hit all summer, an' yo' kin hev their shake-down like yo' done las'
night. I s'pose yo're yere about yo' pa's claim?"
"Yes," answered the girl, "and I certainly appreciate your
hospitality. I hope I can repay you some day, but I cannot think of
settling myself upon you this way. My work will take me out into the
"Jest like yo' pa usta say. He wus that fond o' rale home cookin' thet
he'd come 'long every onct in a month 'er so, an' git him a squr meal,
an' then away he'd go out to his camp."
"Where was his camp?" asked the girl eagerly.
"Lawzie, his camp wus a tent, an' he moved hit around so they couldn't
no one tell from one day to 'nother where he'd be at. But, he never
wus no great ways from here, gen'ally within ten mile, one way er
'nother. Hits out yonder in the barn--his tent an' outfit--pick an'
pan an' shovel an' dishes, all ready to throw onto his pack hoss
which hits a mewl an' runnin' in the hills with them hosses of ourn.
If hit wusn't fer the fences they'd be in the pasture. Watts aims to
fix 'em when he gits time."
"I don't know much about tents, but I guess I'll have to use it, that
is, if there isn't another ranch, or a--a house, or something, where I
can rent a room all to myself."
"Great sakes, child! They hain't another ranch within twenty-five
mile, an' thet's towards town." As if suddenly smitten with an idea,
she paused with her hand full of dishes and called loudly to her
The chair was eased to its four legs, and the lank form appeared in
the doorway. "Yeh?"
"How about the sheep camp?"
The man's fingers fumbled at his beard and he appeared plunged into
deep thought. "What yo' mean, how 'bout hit?"
"Why not we-all leave Mr. Sinclair's darter live up there?"
Again the thoughtful silence. At length the man spoke: "Why, shore,
she kin stay there long as she likes, an' welcome."
"Hit's a cabin four mile up the crick," explained Ma Watts, "what we
built on our upper desert fer a man thet wanted to run a band o'
sheep. He wus rentin' the range offen us, till they druv him off--the
cattlemen claimed they wouldn't 'low no sheep in the hill country.
They warned him an' pestered him a spell, an' then they jest up an'
druv him off--thet Vil Holland wus into hit, an' some more."
"Who is this Vil Holland you speak of, and why did he want to drive
off the sheep?"
"Oh, he's a cowpuncher--they say they hain't a better cowpuncher in
Montany, when he'll work. But he won't work only when he takes a
notion--'druther hang around the hills an' prospeck. He hain't never
made no strike, but he allus aims to, like all the rest. Ef he'd
settle down, he could draw his forty dollars a month the year 'round,
'stead of which, he works on the round-up, an' gits him a stake, an'
then quits an' strikes out fer the hills."
"I couldn't think of occupying your cabin without paying for it. How
much will you rent it to me for?"
"'Tain't wuth nothin' at all," said Watts. "'Tain't doin' no good
settin' wher' it's at, an' yo' won't hurt hit none a-livin' in hit.
Jest move in, an' welcome."
"No, indeed! Now, you tell me, is ten dollars a month enough rent?"
"Ten dollars a month!" exclaimed Watts. "Why, we-all only got fifteen
fo' a herder an' a dog an' a band o' sheep! No, ef yo' bound to pay,
I'll take two dollars a month. We-all might be po' but we hain't no
"I'll take it," said Patty. "And now I'll have to have a lot of things
from town--food and blankets, and furniture, and----"
"Hit's all furnished," broke in Ma Watts. "They's a bunk, an' a table,
an' a stove, an a couple o' wooden chairs."
"Oh, that's fine!" cried the girl, becoming really enthusiastic over
the prospect of having a cabin all her very own. "But, about the other
things: Mr. Watts can you haul them from town?"
Watts tugged at his beard and stared out across the hills. "Yes, mom,
I reckon I kin. Le's see, the work's a-pilin' up on me right smart."
He cast his eye skyward, where the sun shone hot from the cloudless
blue. "Hit mought rain to-morrow, an' hit moughtn't. The front ex on
the wagon needs fixin'--le's see, this here's a Wednesday. How'd next
Sunday, a week do?"
The girl stared at him in dismay. Ten days of Ma Watts's "home
cooking" loomed before her.
"Oh, couldn't you possibly go before that?" she pleaded.
"Well, there's them fences. I'd orter hev' time to study 'bout how
many steeples hit's a-goin' to tak' to fix 'em. An' besides, Ferd Rowe
'lowed he wus comin' 'long some day to trade hosses an' I'd hate to
"Why can't I go to town. I know the way. Will you rent me your horses
and wagon? I can drive and I can bring out your tools and things,
too." As she awaited Watts's reply her eyes met the wistful gaze of
Microby Dandeline. She turned to Ma Watts. "And maybe you would let
Microby Dandeline go with me. It would be loads of fun."
"Lawzie, honey, yo' wouldn't want to be pestered with her."
"Yes, I would really. Please let her go with me, that is, if Mr. Watts
will let me have the team."
"Why, shore, yo' welcome to 'em. They hain't sich a good span o'
hosses, but they'll git yo' there, an' back, give 'em time."
"And can we start in the morning?"
"My! Yo' in a sight o' hurry. They's thet front ex----"
"Is it anything very serious? Maybe I could help fix it. Do let me
Watts rubbed his beard reflectively. "Well, no, I reckon it's mebbe
the wheels needs greasin'. 'Twouldn't take no sight o' time to do, if
a body could only git at hit. Reckon I mought grease 'em all 'round,
onct I git started. The young-uns kin help, yo' jest stay here with
Ma. Ef yo' so plumb sot on goin' we'll see't yo' git off."
"I kin go, cain't I, Ma?" Microby Dandeline's eyes were big with
excitement, as she wrung out her dish towel and hung it to dry in the
"Why, yas, I reckon yo' mought's well--but seem's like yo' allus
a-wantin' to gad. Yo' be'n to town twict a'ready."
"Twice!" cried Patty. "In how long?"
"She's goin' on eighteen. Four years, come July she wus to town. They
wus a circust."
"I know Mr. Christie. He lives to town."
"He's the preacher. He's a 'piscopalium preacher, an' one time that
Vil Holland an' him come ridin' 'long, an' they stopped in fer dinner,
an' that Vil Holland, he's allus up to some kind o' devilment er
'nother, he says: 'Ma Watts, why don't yo' hev the kids all
babitized?' I hadn't never thought much 'bout hit, but thar wus the
preacher, an' he seemed to think mighty proud of hit, an' hit didn't
cost nothin', so I tol' him to go ahead. He started in on Microby
Dandeline--we jest called her Dandeline furst, bein' thet yallar with
janders when she wus a baby, but when she got about two year, I wus a
readin' a piece in a paper a man left, 'bout these yere little
microbys thet gits into everywheres they shouldn't ort to, jest like
she done, so I says to Watts how she'd ort to had two names anyways,
only I couldn't think of none but common ones when we give her hern. I
says, we'll name her Microby Dandeline Watts an' Watts, he didn't care
one way er t'other." Ma Watts shifted the baby to the other hip.
"Babitizin' is nice, but hit works both ways, too. Take the baby,
yere. When we'd got down to the bottom of the batch it come her turn,
an', lawzie, I wus that flustered, comin' so sudden, thet way, I
couldn't think of no name fer her 'cept Chattenoogy Tennessee, where I
come from near, an' the very nex' day I wus readin' in the almanac an'
I found one I liked better. Watts, he hain't no help to a body, he
hain't no aggucation to speak of, an' don't never read none, an'
would as soon I'd name his children John, like his ma done him. As I
was sayin' there hit wus in the almanac the name 'twould of fitten the
baby to a T. Vernal Esquimaux, hit said, March 21, 5:26 A.M. The baby
was borned March the 21st, 'tween five an' six in the mornin'. Nex'
time I wus to town I hunted up preacher Christie, but he said he
couldn't onbabitize her, an' he reckoned Chatenoogy Tennessee wus as
good as Vernal Esquimaux, anyhow, an' we could save Vernal Esquimaux
fer the next one--jest's ef yo' could hev 'em like a time table!"
The afternoon was assiduously devoted to overhauling the contents of a
huge tin trunk in an effort to find a frock suitable for the momentous
occasion of Microby Dandeline's journey. The one that had served for
the previous visit, a tight little affair of pink gingham, proved
entirely inadequate in its important dimensions, and automatically
became the property of the younger and smaller Lillian Russell.
Patty's suggestion of a simple white lawn that reposed upon the very
bottom of the trunk was overruled in favor of a betucked and
beflounced creation of red calico in which Ma Watts had beamed upon
the gay panoply of the long remembered "circust." An hour's work with
scissors and needle reduced the dress to approximately the required
size. When the task was completed Watts appeared with the information
that he reckoned the wagon would run, and that the "young-uns" were
out in the hills hunting the "hosses."
At early dawn the following morning Patty was awakened by a timid hand
upon her shoulder.
"Hit's daylight, an' Pa's hitchin' up the hosses." Arrayed in the red
dress, her eyes round with excitement and anticipation, Microby
Dandeline was bending over her whispering excitedly, "An' breakfus's
ready, an' me an' Ma's got the lunch putten up, an' hit's a pow'ful
long ways to town, an' we better git a-goin'."
"Stay right clost an' don't go gittin' lost," admonished Ma watts, as
she stood in the doorway and surveyed her daughter with approval born
of motherly pride. The pink gingham sunbonnet that matched the tight
little dress had required only a slight "letting out" to make it "do,"
and taken in conjunction with the flaming red dress, made a study in
color that would have delighted the heart of a Gros Ventre squaw.
Thick, home-knit stockings, and a pair of stiff cow-hide shoes
completed the costume, and made Microby Dandeline the center of an
admiring semi-circle of Wattses.
"Yo' shore look right pert an' briggity, darter," admitted Watts.
"Don't yo' give the lady no trouble, keep offen the railroad car
tracks, an' don't go talkin' to strangers yo' don't know, an' ef yo'
see preacher Christie tell him howdy, an' how's he gittin' 'long, an'
we're doin' the same, an' stop in nex' time he's out in the hills." He
handed Patty the reins. "An' mom, yo' won't fergit them steeples, an'
a ax, an' a spade?"
"I won't forget," Patty assured him, and as Microby Dandeline was
saying good-by to the small brothers and sisters, the man leaned
closer. "Ef they's any change left over I wisht yo'd give her about
ten cents to spend jest as she pleases."
The girl nodded, and as Microby Dandeline scrambled up over the wheel
and settled herself beside her upon the board that served as a seat,
she called a cheery good-by, and clucked to the horses.
The trail down Monte's Creek was a fearsome road that sidled
dangerously along narrow rock ledges, and plunged by steep pitches
into the creek bed and out again. Partly by sheer luck, partly by
bits of really skillful driving, but mostly because the horses,
themselves knew every foot of the tortuous trail, the descent of the
creek was made without serious mishap. It was with a sigh of relief
that Patty turned into the smoother trail that lead down through the
canyon toward town. In comparison with the bumping and jolting of the
springless lumber wagon, she realized that the saddle that had racked
and tortured her upon her outward trip had been a thing of ease and
comfort. Released from her post at the brake-rope, Microby Dandeline
immediately proceeded to remove her shoes and stockings. Patty
"Hit's hot an' them stockin's scratches. 'Tain't no good to wear 'em
in the summer, nohow, 'cept in town, an' I kin put 'em on when we git
there. Why does folks wear 'em in town?"
"Why, because it is nicer, and--and people couldn't very well go
"I kin. I like to 'cept fer the prickly pears. Is they prickly pears
in town?" Without waiting far a reply the girl chattered on, as she
placed the offending stockings within her shoes and tossed them back
upon the hay with which the wagon-box was filled. "I like to ride,
don't you? We've got to ride all day an' then we'll git to town. We
goin' to sleep in under the wagon?"
"Certainly not! We will go to the hotel."
"The hotel," breathed the girl, rapturously. "An' kin we eat there
"Yes, we will eat there, too."
"An' kin I go to the store with yo'?"
Patty's answers became shorter as her attention centered upon a
horseman who was negotiating the descent of what looked like an
impossibly steep ridge.
"That's Buck!" exclaimed Microby Dandeline, as she followed the girl's
gaze. The rider completed the descent of the ridge with an abrupt
slide that obscured him in a cloud of dust from which he emerged to
approach the trail at a swinging trot. Long before he was near enough
for Patty to distinguish his features, she recognized him as her lone
horseman of the hills. "If it is his intention to presume upon our
chance meeting," she thought, "I'll----" The threat was unexpressed
even in thought, but her lips tightened and she flushed hotly as she
remembered how he had picked her up as though she had been a child and
placed her in the saddle.
"Who did you say he is?" she asked, with a glance toward the girl at
"He's Vil Holland, an' his hoss's name is Buck. I like him, only
sometimes he chases me home."
"Vil Holland!" she exclaimed aloud, and her lips pressed tighter. So
this man was Vil Holland--that Vil Holland, everybody called him.
The man who had chased an inoffensive sheep herder from the range, and
whose name stood for lawlessness in the hill country! So Aunt
Rebecca's allusion to desperate characters had not been so
far-fetched, after all. He looked the part. Patty's glance took in the
vivid blue scarf with its fastening of polished buffalo horn, the huge
revolver that swung in its holster, and the brown leather jug that
dangled from the horn of his saddle.
"Good-mornin'!" He drew up beside the trail, and the girl reined in
her horses, flushing slightly as she did so--she had meant to drive
past without speaking. She acknowledged the greeting with a formal
bow. The man ignored the frigidity.
"I see you found Watts's all right."
"Yes, thank you."
"Well, if there ain't Microby Dandeline! An' rigged out for who
throw'd the chunk! Goin' to town to take in the picture show, an all
the sights, I expect."
"We're goin' to the hotel," explained the girl proudly.
"My ain't that fine!"
"I got a red dress."
"Why so you have. Seein' you mentioned it, I can notice a shade of red
to it. An' that bonnet just sets it off right. That'll make folks set
up an' take notice, I'll bet."
"I'm a-goin' to the store, too."
"What do you think of that!" the man drew a half-dollar from his
pockets. "Here, get you some candy an' take some home to the kids."
Microby reached for the coin, but Patty drew back her arm.
"Don't touch that!" she commanded sharply, then, with a withering look
that encompassed both the man and his jug, she struck the horses with
her whip and started down the trail.
"I could of boughten some candies," complained Microby Dandeline.
"I will buy you all the candy you want, but you must promise me never
to take any money from men--and especially from that man."
Microby glanced back wistfully, and as the wagon rumbled on her eyes
closed and her head began to nod.
"Why, child, you are sleepy!" exclaimed Patty, in surprise.
"Yes, mom. I reckon I laid awake all night a-thinkin' about goin' to
"If I were you I would lie down on the hay and take a nap."
The girl eyed the hay longingly and shook her head. "I like to ride,"
she objected, sleepily.
"You will be riding just the same."
"Yes but we might see somethin'. Onct we seen a nortymobile without no
hosses an' hit squarked louder'n a settin' hen an' went faster'n what
a hoss kin run."
"You go to sleep and if there is anything to see I'll wake you up. If
you don't sleep now you'll have to sleep when you get to town and I'm
sure you don't want to do that."
"No, mom. Mebbe ef I hurry up an' sleep fast they won't no
nortymobiles come, but if they does, you wake me."
"I will," promised Patty, and thus assured the girl curled up in the
hay and in a moment was fast asleep.
Hour after hour as the horses plodded along the interminable trail,
Patty Sinclair sat upon the hard wooden seat, while her thoughts
ranged from plans for locating her father's lost claim, to the
arrangement of her cabin; and from Vil Holland to the welfare of the
girl, a pathetic figure as she lay sprawled upon the hay, with her
bare legs, and the gray dust settling thickly upon her red dress and
vivid pink sunbonnet.
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