Many of you, who read my "Prairie Schooner Days..." story, will no doubt remember Frank Hardin's friend, the gunfighter, Emmett Lacey. This is his Story...
Emmett Herron stood by the new-made grave heartbroken. She's gone... , he thought, as tears streamed unashamed down his craggy weather beaten face.
Talking low, his voice a mournful whisper he said, "Aw, Emma, Darlin'... , you and I have already been through our hard times. All that's left down the trail is the good times we should have enjoyed together," he said, still unable accept his devastating loss.
Yet, he took comfort as he looked around him at the quiet group of Mourners, his own cowhands, and some of his neighbors who owned ranches nearby. He felt a certain sense of belonging.
The entire ranch community had joined him in his grief. He appreciated their desire to express their sympathy and was grateful they had come to share his deep sadness.
The short Service over, everyone started moving silently down the lonely hillside away from the gravesite. Silently he reached down, picked up one of the shovels lying nearby and started to fill in the grave.
"Here, Boss... ," one of his cowboys said, gently removing the shovel from his grasp. "You don't have to do that. We'll take care of it."
Still numb with grief, he stepped aside, and watched as several of his cowhands silently shoveled the loose dirt back into Emma's grave. At first, he could hear the dirt hitting her coffin. After a few moments the dreadful sounds stopped. All was silent...
At least, I'm glad I didn't tell her the truth. She wanted so badly to give me a boy, he thought, as a bittersweet surge of love and affection for her gripped his heart.
Emma had died within minutes of giving birth. The doctor had looked over at Emmett and sadly shook his head, telling Emmett Herron in unspoken words, his wife wasn't going to live.
As Emmett watched, Emma's beautiful eyelashes had fluttered open for a few moments. Weak and faint, she had looked up at him lovingly. Using her last weak breath, she had asked her husband, "Was it a boy?"
"Yes... ," he had said, squeezing her limp little fingers. "We have a beautiful baby boy," he had lied, smiling down into her beautiful face. A few minutes later without ever regaining consciousness, she slipped quietly away into the good night.
Emmett Herron would forever be glad he hadn't told his wife the truth—because the newborn child wasn't a boy. His Spanish maid, Rosalie was holding the baby in her arms when he walked through the doorway of his large ranch house a few minutes later.
Crossing over he quietly took a seat in Emma's old rocking chair. Rosalie understood. Walking over, she carefully placed his baby daughter in his arms.
He would in days to come often refer to her as his little Sweetheart of the Prairie. He bestowed upon her the name her mother had picked out for her. He named her Abigail.
Two years later...
She's only two years old, but that little girl means more to me than all the world, he thought, as he watched her running and playing in the large yard.
He was grateful for Rosalie who fussed over her as if she was her own child. When Rosalie had tried to keep her from getting her dresses dirty, Emmett had just laughed.
"Rosalie... , it won't hurt her to get a little dirty. Let her enjoy herself. You can always give her a bath later," he had said. The two of them couldn't keep from laughing as they watched Abigail scampering about out in the yard playing with her little dog.
My little Angel, with a dirty face, he thought affectionately as he watched her at play. How could I have ever thought I wanted a boy?
Precocious little Abigail blossomed like an early spring flower. And as she started to get older, she quickly became everyone's little Sweetheart. Often, some of the rough rowdy cowboys would almost come to blows with each other as they tried to decide who would get to entertain her.
Emmett Herron and his men had developed a close bond and were like a family. It's as if she has 35 fathers to look out for her, he thought, laughing at the absurdity of one little girl having that many fathers.
Rosalie also couldn't resist teasing him. "Boss... ," she would say, "That little Senorita has you wrapped around her tiny finger."
Emmett Herron would never take offence. Instead, he would just look at Rosalie and smile. He knew that she cared for Abigail almost as much as he did.
As she grew older, Emmett was secretly proud that Abigail had turned out to be a bit of a tomboy. He had taken her with him fishing down on the Pecos River when she was 5 years old. To his surprise, she had enjoyed it.
Being independent, once they got there, little Abigail had insisted on learning how to bait her own hook. When she caught her first fish, —the fish wasn't the only one that was hooked. From then on, she never stopped pestering him.
"Daddy, can we go fishing today?" she would ask excited and always full of hope.
"Not today, but maybe real soon though," he would promise her.
If that little girl had her way, she'd be down on the Pecos River fishing every day. What am I supposed to be raising here, a tomboy? he thought.
When Abigail turned fifteen, he started allowing her to ride her horse down to the river. Many times, he would have the occasion to watch her unobserved. Sitting on his horse behind some cottonwood trees unseen, he would watch his now fifteen-year-old daughter as she fished. My... ! Does that little girl ever love to go fishing... ! She'll be a woman soon enough, he thought. She's the one person who makes my life worthwhile.
Abigail's first dance...
At eighteen years old, Abigail was the talk of the range. A dark haired beauty, with a sweet delicate face, and a slender almost boyish figure, she was lusted and sought after by almost every lovesick cowboy in that part of West Texas. Her sunny disposition and quiet demeanor coupled with her alluring good looks now turned heads wherever she went.
Emmett Herron, who had never been able to deny his daughter anything, found himself reluctantly agreeing that Abigail could go with his cowboys to the Saturday night dance being held at the town hall in nearby Five Forks.
"She's got a level head on her shoulders, Boss," his foreman, Ben had said. "She'll be alright. Don't you worry. The boys will look after her."
Emmett had to laugh at how she had handled Randy, one of his cowboys a few minutes earlier, when he had decided to have a little fun and tease her.
"You know, Abigail," he said, with a sly grin, "Every time I look at you these days, you remind me more and more of my guitar."
Not to be outdone, Abigail had only laughed at him. "Maybe that's 'cause all I'm ever going to do for you is string you along."
The other cowboys lounging around under the big shade tree had laughed. "Give up, Randy," one grizzled old ranch hand said. "Don't you realize, a woman as pretty as Miss Abigail is always entitled to the last word?"
One of the other cowhands not to be outdone had chimed in. "Boss, if this girl gets any prettier you're gonna have to hire someone to guard her with a shotgun."
Emmett Herron, sitting off to the side, smoking his pipe, couldn't help smiling. He loved the camaraderie that existed between himself, Abigail and their cowboys.
That evening at sunset, he watched as his daughter and her escort of over twenty of his cowboys rode off toward the town of Five Forks to attend the town dance. The Princess and her Escort, he thought, laughing to himself as he watched them ride away.
Putting his arm affectionately around Rosalie's waist, he said, "Rosalie, I'm afraid our little Senorita is almost a woman."
"Si, Mr. Herron," Rosalie had said. "It make me very sad."
"Me too, Rosalie," Emmett said, feeling a touch of melancholy, "Me too."
The coming of Amos Lacey...
Amos Lacey had ridden through the town of Five Forks several times in the last several years, always on his way to somewhere else; but six months back, while riding through, he had spotted a sign. "Ranch for Sale."
Being in a very secretive and dangerous business, he had long been looking for a secluded out-of-the-way place to hang his hat between jobs. When he had enquired, he realized he had come upon the perfect spot.
The little ranch he was interested in was located right on the Pecos River in West Texas. It was in a wild and isolated area, but still near enough to the bustling town of Five Forks for him to keep in touch with civilization, buy his supplies, and pick up his mail.
Furthermore, he liked it that the town folks seemed to mostly be interested in minding their own business. His comings and goings would go almost unnoticed. Considering the risky business he was in, —he preferred it that way.
He met the Owners, an elderly couple, one day later, and bought the place lock, stock, and barrel. He decided to name his little Spread, the Circle X Ranch.
Amos Lacey had started out back in the East as a School Teacher but had quickly tired of the tedious, boring routine. Always restless, he made the decision to go West. He decided to head for the still mostly unsettled territory known as West Texas.
Upon arrival, Amos had two strokes of good luck. First, he met and formed, what would turn out to be, a life long friendship with a younger man who went by the name of Jim Hatfield.
.... There is more of this story ...