Billy Oldham's War
Billy could see what was going on at the wagon, so he put on a burst of speed as soon as Maria fired that first shot. Since Maria kept firing, he knew that she was relatively well off, so he was not worried so much about her as he was about killing as many of the bushwhackers as he could manage.
Billy did not ride directly into the mass of men milling around the wagon, but steered off enough to put them on his left side and about 25 feet away as he rushed passed. Billy began shooting at the range of around 50 feet and continued to shoot as fast as he could bring his Colt to bear on another bushwhacker. He was slowed down slightly because he had to switch guns after every five shots, but that was almost trivial. Billy managed to get off 12 shots in the short time that he felt that he was within adequate range.
The men were so bunched together that he hardly had to do more than just shoot into the bunch to hit somebody, but he didn't do it that way. He always made a point of aiming at a specific individual, just as he had admonished Maria to do; therefore, many of his bullets hit where they would do some good. Between Maria's and Billy's shots, only four of the bushwhackers were unwounded, and all of the moderately wounded were likely to die from gangrene if arms or legs were not taken off within a day or so.
The last of the bushwhackers still on horseback took off for the woods as soon as they could with Billy chasing them. They were gaining on him since he was trying to ride and shoot aimed shots from his Colt. In disgust, Billy switched to his two Mississippi rifles and managed to hit two of the fleeing bushwhackers in the back as they rode away. Unfortunately, from Billy's point of view, two of the bushwhackers escaped unscathed, and that was just too annoying for words. Nevertheless, Billy did voice a few curse words, which did make him feel a little better.
Suddenly realizing that he had left Maria alone back at the wagon, he turned around and raced back to see what sort of help she might need. He rode up to see her holding a bloody cloth and "cussing a blue streak!" As soon as he saw the blood, Billy feared that Maria had been shot. "Maria, Honey, where were you shot?"
That question broke her streak of cuss words, and Maria started to laugh. "I wasn't shot, Dear. Oh, you mean this bloody cloth. It's the one I had between my legs to catch my monthly, and it came loose in all of the excitement. Now I've got blood on my last clean dress, and that is what I am so mad about. We'll have to stop at the next stream so that I can wash the blood out of the dress before it makes a permanent stain.
"The excitement of the past few minutes seems to have increased my flow. Please see what needs to be done about those bushwhackers while I try to get the damned bleeding under control."
Several of the bushwhackers were not yet dead, so Billy did the merciful thing and cut their carotid arteries to speed them out of their pain. He collected valuables and guns and tossed them into the wagon. The moneybelts were all dumped into the driver's box for later evaluation. He did salvage a couple of the cleaner shirts for Maria to cut into more cloths for absorbing her monthlies. It took nearly an hour to get things cleaned up so that they could resume travel. The horses and tack would be sold at the next town.
They came to a stream after about 90 more minutes of travel, and Maria decided to stop there for the rest of the day. Billy bowed to the inevitable and agreed with her. They pulled as far off the road as they could manage, and Billy rigged a rope corral for the animals while Maria took care of the laundry.
They were out of direct sight of the road, so Maria simply stripped off her boots and dress and jumped into the stream. She figured that to be the easiest way to take care of the clothes washing, and she could bathe at the same time. She inveigled Billy to strip, too, so that she could wash his clothes at the same time.
Billy was awestruck! This was the first time that he had seen Maria completely naked in the daylight. She was beautiful—perfectly proportioned from her light brown hair to her small feet. Her breasts were classically proportioned, and her nipples were jutting out from a combination of standing in cool water up to her knees and the sight of the naked body of Billy. Billy's male appendage had risen to the occasion, and neither one of the two lovers could think about anything beyond coupling under the warm sun on the grass beside that stream. The clothes could wait, besides, soaking in the stream would probably help get them clean.
An hour later, Maria was back to washing clothes, still not dressed. Meanwhile, Billy had dressed enough in his other clothes to start scouting up firewood. Billy was away from the stream only a few minutes when he heard Maria scream. He dropped the wood he had gathered and ran as fast as he could go back to Maria.
Maria was fighting with the two escaped bushwhackers from earlier in the day. One was holding her arms while the other was trying to grab her feet. They were so excited over finding the naked woman that they were paying no attention to their surroundings. They had pulled Maria from the water and were trying to push her onto her back on the ground. Neither one noticed when Billy rushed up and stabbed one of the men in the kidney with his bowie knife.
That was enough to get the attention of the man who had been grabbing for Maria's legs. He straightened up and tried to draw his gun, but Billy beat him to it. Billy put a bullet into the bushwhacker's chest, and that ended the argument as far as the bushwhacker was concerned.
The two lovers embraced and again demonstrated their deep love for each other. Billy dragged the two bodies away from camp and resolved to stay within sight of Maria for the rest of the day. He took advantage of the remaining daylight to check through their loot from the day's work with the bushwhackers. This group did not appear to be very successful, since he found less than $200 in all of the moneybelts, combined. They now had so many guns and knives that they could have equipped a small army. Billy decided to take advantage of so many guns by lining the entire inside of the driver's box of their wagon with hanging holsters holding Colt revolvers. Maria should never run short of weapons, now, no matter what the circumstances might be. He also picked up three more Mississippi rifles.
That night, after supper, they spent their time in bed with each other, getting to know each other even better, both physically and emotionally. They now felt truly married and permanently tied one to the other.
The next day, they were able to sell their extra horses and tack at a livery stable. Billy was not yet sure what he was going to do with the surplus guns and knives.
Late that afternoon, they rolled into the Aikens' farm, and Billy was welcomed like a returning prodigal son. Maria was made just as welcome when Billy announced that they were married, though Ann did look a little disappointed. That evening was spent on catching up on all of the local news from the Aikens and the adventures of the hunters from the Oldhams.
The next day, Billy was out in the barn helping Josh with the chores when they stopped for a short break. That was when Josh dropped his bombshell. He announced that he had simply lost interest in farming since the death of his son, and he would sell the farm in a minute if he could find a buyer. One man had expressed some interest, but he was not offering enough to support both Josh and Ann if he did sell. However, the amount was sufficient for one person to live in comfort indefinitely. Josh could manage easily on the offered money, but he did not know what to do about Ann, since he certainly could not abandon her. The conversation ended there, but it was something that Billy's mind chewed on for the rest of the day.
Billy remembered that he had all of that money stashed in the cave beside the Missouri River, and he speculated on how he could help the Aikens with some of that. Meanwhile, Maria and Ann had spent the whole day with each other and had become "thicker than thieves."
That night, without a fresh stream to wash away the surplus blood, Billy and Maria simply cuddled in bed, but Maria wanted to talk. "Husband, ya know that Ann is deeply in love with ya, don't ya?"
"What!?! Ya must be joking. She can't be. Ann hardly knows me."
"Well, I hardly knew ya when we first got together. Ya just are so sweet the way ya have no idea how attractive ya are ta women. No, I'm serious. Ann would love ta be a second wife ta ya. Ya know that there is no law again a man havin' more than one wife. Most don't, cause there ain't enough women ta go around. But ya could take Ann as yer second wife ifen ya wanted ta."
"But what about you? How would ya feel goin' from an only wife ta one of two wives?"
"I wouldn't mind ifen the other woman was as good as Ann. I love her already, an' I'm sure ya do, ifen ya will just think about it."
"Maria, Honey, I just don't know. Sure, I guess I do love Ann some, but I want ta be fair ta ya. I couldn't bear ta hurt yer feelin's. How did I git myself inta this mess?"
"Ya got inta it by bein' the sweet, lovable man that ya are, Darlin'. The way ya're agonizin' right now just proves what a good man ya are. Ya think about it, an' ifen ya wants Ann as yer second wife, it's OK with me. Now, goodnight, an' I hope ya sleeps good."