Ride For The Sun Ch. 03bywoodmanone©
A working copy of this chapter was mistakenly posted earlier. Please excuse the error.
I thought I'd put this story to rest but my main character, Rafe Cassidy, reminded me that I hadn't told the complete story of he and Emma. So according to him this tale wasn't finished. At Rafe's request I must continue the story. And as our friend Denham Forrest says "Life Goes On".
Please read Chapters 1& 2 as the flow of the story and characters blend into this chapter.
Constructive comments, critiques, and emails are welcome and appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read my work and for your comments. I hope you enjoy the conclusion to "Ride For The Sun".
My legs almost healed, Rafe thought as he made his morning walk down to the barn and corral. Should be able to start riding again real soon. Rafe chuckled to himself. Course if Emma has her way, she'll keep me here at the house for another month or two.
As soon as he could get out of bed after being shot in the leg, Rafe started walking to the corral every morning. He wanted to take care of his horse Bowie and it was a good way to get the leg back to normal. He held out a handful of oats to his horse but Bowie turned his nose up at the feed.
Damn horse has been spoiled rotten by Emma, Rafe thought and laughed. Bowie doesn't want just a few oats as a treat now. He's got to have a piece of carrot or apple or even a piece of sugar.
"All right you big baby," Rafe said as he pulled a carrot out of his vest. "Here's your carrot. But don't think you're gonna be getting those when we get back on the trail."
"Back on the trail?" Emma asked. Rafe hadn't heard her come up behind him. "I thought you were going to stay with us Rafe." Before he could answer, Emma turned and ran back to the house. He had seen the tears in her eyes before she turned.
"Aw hell," Rafe said out loud. "Reckon I better have a talk with her," he said and walked back to the house. Rafe had thought a lot while in bed recovering from his wound. He knew that if he wasn't already in love with Emma that he soon would be. Rafe thought of Juanita sometimes but it was with a feeling of fond regret. He no longer thought of her as the woman he'd lost but as a friend he would probably never see again.
The problem wasn't Juanita but the things he'd done since he left home. I've been forced to defend myself several times, Rafe thought. More than most I guess. But I never shot any that didn't have it comin, but killin puts a stain on a man's soul.
Molly looked up from shucking corn when he came into the kitchen. Silently she pointed to the back door. Rafe nodded and stepped out into the covered area that was used for cooking during the hot summer months. Emma was sitting on the low stone wall that surrounded the outdoor kitchen.
"Can I talk to you please?" Rafe asked. Emma didn't say anything and wouldn't look at him. Rafe went on with what he wanted to say.
"I was gonna talk to you and tell you what I'm thinkin." He paused and took a deep breath. "Emma I have feelings for you."
Emma looked up for the first time. There was a hope on her face.
"But you don't know anything about me," Rafe continued. "Emma, I've had to kill men and would have killed another one but I missed my shot. I'm not the hero you've made me out to be." He hesitated and added, "If Emmett hadn't stopped me I would have tracked those bandits down and shot them.....Emma I'm not what you think I am."
Rafe looked at Emma's face and the hope in her eyes. Damn this is the hardest thing I've had to do, he thought. "Emma there's a mark on my soul because of the things I've done. I'm not the type of man you deserve. That's the reason I decided to leave you and the ranch.
"I know most of the things you've done," Emma replied. "I heard you telling Daddy about the bounty hunter and that fellar over to Fort Stockton. I also heard you talk about that vaquero back in San Antonio." Rafe started to interrupt her but she held up her hand to stop him.
"Every one of those men was trying to hurt or kill you. Those bandits tried to do the same thing. You were within your rights to protect yourself." Emma stopped, stood, and stepped closer to Rafe. "How can you tell me you've got feelings for me and then ride away? Cause I have feelings for you too Rafe." She put her hand on his cheek.
"I know the type of man you are Rafe," Emma said. "I've seen you work hard for my family, harder than you had to. You put your life on the line to save the money we earned from the cattle. Not because you'd get a share but because you gave your word to help us. The kindness you've shown to our family shows what type of man you are."
She stopped for a few seconds and angrily added, "So don't tell me I don't know what kind of man you are. You're the kind of man I want to spend my life with, to have children with, and grow old with."
Emma was crying now and Rafe didn't know what to do. After a few seconds he put his arms around her and pulled her to him.
"Reckon I won't be leaving after all," he whispered into her ear.
A month and a half after getting shot, Rafe was allowed to go into town. He still couldn't ride very far but sitting in the wagon wasn't too hard on him. Especially since he wasn't allowed to handle the team; he had to sit next to Emma or her father as a passenger. He still used a cane to help support his left leg when he walked.
"If you get tired or hurtin Rafe get down and ride in the wagon," Molly had told him the first time she let him ride Bowie to town instead of riding in the wagon. He still wasn't allowed to work the ranch or herd cattle. "Promise me now; you won't try to do more than you should."
"Yes em, I promise." Rafe would have promised anything to get out from under Molly's thumb.
The next trip into town Rafe started out a stride of Bowie. The big horse kept trying to gallop; he wanted to run. "Take it easy big guy, we'll get out on the trail pretty soon," Rafe said and leaned forward to scratch Bowie's ears.
Emma and her father rode in the wagon and Rafe rode on Emma's side. They talked a little on the trip into Camp Verde and Emma hinted at a late summer wedding; Rafe just nodded as she talked. He'd just come to grips with the fact that he loved her and now she was talking about a wedding. She don't let no grass grow under her feet, Rafe thought with a smile.
As Emmett stopped the wagon in front of the general mercantile, a tall man who had been leaning against the store front and watching them ride in, stepped to the wagon and offered to help Emma get down.
"My daughter's perfectly capable of getting off the wagon by herself stranger." Emmet didn't like the looks of the man. He was dressed like a dandy wearing whipcord pants, a frock coat, a shirt with a button on collar and a string tie. The man's hair was dark, long, and hung down almost to his shoulders. The stranger also wore a gun with a tied down holster low on his right hip.
"No offense meant Miss...?" The dark haired man said with a smile.
"If I wanted to tell you her name I would have," Emmett said. "Step back and leave us alone."
"I'm Woodson Rhodes Miss. I'd be proud to buy you a midday meal."
"I told you to step back Rhodes," Emmett ordered again.
Rhodes flipped his coat behind his holstered gun. "How do you plan to make me old man? You're not heeled."
Rafe had dismounted on the far side of the wagon and now came around to join the Riley's. He slipped the safety tie off the hammer of his Remington .44-.40 sidearm and confronted Rhodes.
"If need be I'm wearing a pistol Rhodes," Rafe said with barely concealed anger. "I'd be happy to show you how it works."
Rhodes looked hard at the young man challenging him. He saw a man leaning on a cane but he wasn't fooled by that. The boy's eyes are cold and hard, Rhodes thought. He's done this before. This isn't the time; I need to prod him a bit more. There'll be another day.
"I know how a gun works sonny and if you're not careful I'll have to give you a lesson," Rhodes said with a sneer. "But not today." Turning back to Emma he said, "I hope to see you again Miss. Maybe next time I'll get your name as well as the pleasure of your company."
"Not likely," Emma replied. "I'd rather eat with the horses down at the livery. Good day sir." Emma walked past Rhodes and went into the store.
Rhodes watched her go. "Perhaps another time sonny," he said, turned and walked toward the saloon.
Sheriff Rawlings came walking fast to join the Riley's in front of the mercantile. "What's going on here?"
"You sure got here fast," Rafe said sarcastically. "Yep, just as soon as you knew the danger was over, you sure got here lickity split."
"Now see here Rafe..." Rawlings started.
Rafe didn't try to control his anger. "You wouldn't do anything before about Morrison and his band of rustlers; hell you didn't even want to hold Jim Morrison for the circuit judge. So don't come around now trying to play lawman. Stay out of my way Rawlings."
The Sheriff sputtered for a few seconds and then walked away.
Emmett nodded in the direction Rhodes had gone. "Just who in the hell does he think he is?"
"He's known as Woody Rhodes," Rafe answered as he watched the man walk away. "He's a gun hand from down in Texas."
"You know him?"
"Heard of him and what I heard wasn't good. He'll work for whoever will pay him. Doesn't matter who they are or what they want him to do; as long as they meet his price he'll do their dirty work." He turned and looked at Emmett. "You best stay clear of him Emmett. He'd shot you down right here if he was a mind to."
Emmett, Molly, Emma, and Rafe got the supplies they'd come for and headed back to the ranch. Along the way Rafe was deep in thought about Woodson Rhodes. He wondered if someone had hired the gun hand or if the man was just passing through. Rafe didn't like the idea of the pistolero being around Camp Verde.
Three weeks later another trip was taken into Camp Verde. This time in addition to supplies, Emma and Rafe were going to talk to the pastor at the local church; they wanted to schedule their wedding. As they rode into town, Rhodes was sitting on the porch in front of the hotel. His chair was leaned back, balanced with his feet on the porch rail. When he saw Emma and Rafe, he let the front legs of the chair come back down and stood. He tipped his hat at Emma as she rode by.
Easy, Rafe told himself. You can't shoot a man for being polite to a lady. But I can make damn sure that's all that happens. Rafe gave Rhodes a penetrating stare as they rode passed him to the general mercantile. Rhodes slowly walked toward them, stopped about 30 feet away and leaned against the building next door.
When Rafe and Emma came out of the store, Rhodes stood and took a few steps closer. "Howdy Miss. Wondered if you've reconsidered my offer?" He was talking to Emma but kept his eyes on Rafe.
Before Emma could answer, Rafe stepped in front of her. "The lady told you before she wasn't interested. Why are you pushing this Rhodes?"
"When I see something I like, I go after it sonny."
"There's more to it than that, I think," Rafe said. "But I don't much care Rhodes. Leave her alone and stay away from her."
The gunman started to reply but Sheriff Rawlings stepped between the two men. "Here, let's have none of that," he said.
Rhodes gave Rafe an insolent smile, turned and walked back to his chair in front of the hotel.
"Better watch out Sheriff," Rafe said. "You might have to actually act like a lawman if you're not careful." He turned to Emma. "C'mon let's go see Pastor Innes about the wedding."
Riding to the church Emma said, "I could have told that Rhodes feller to go to hell all by myself you know." Her voice sounded a little angry that Rafe thought she couldn't take care of herself.
"Yeah, I know. But I was afraid you'd take a buggy whip to him," Rafe replied with a grin. Then he sobered and added, "Keep your distance from him Emma. He's not the type to pay much attention to what you want."
Emma started to argue the point but saw the look in Rafe's eyes. Emma knew if she tried to handle advances by Rhodes and things went bad that there would be no stopping Rafe; he would make the gun slinger pay, possibly with his life. She didn't want Rafe to have to brace the gunfighter if she did something stupid.
Two weeks later, Emmett, Molly, and Emma were going into town. Rafe was staying at the ranch. There was a mare about to foal and it was her first. Rafe's horse, Bowie, was the sire, so Rafe had more than a passing interest.
The Riley's had been gone about an hour when the mare gave birth. Everything went fine and Rafe wasn't needed. He cleaned up, mounted Bowie and started for town. Rafe pushed the big horse, hoping to be able to spend the afternoon in town with Emma. Bowie sensed Rafe's mood and stretched out at a hard gallop.
As he came into town, he slowed Bowie to a walk. No need to ride over anybody, he thought as he pulled the horse down off a high gallop. At the far end of the dusty street he saw Molly and Emma standing in front of the general store clutching at each other. In front of them, Emmett stepped off the boardwalk to face a man; the man was Rhodes.
He couldn't hear what was being said, but Rafe thought he knew the problem. Rhodes probably approached Emma again and Emmett objected. I'm too far away to stop this. He saw Rhodes stroking the butt of his pistol while Emmett stood in front of him holding a rifle. Angry words were coming from Emmett as Rhodes taunted him.
Rafe pulled his Winchester from its scabbard, took aim, and fired a shot into the ground at Rhodes' feet. The gunfighter turned and saw Rafe sitting on his horse with the rifle pointed directly at him. Rhodes took his hand away from his gun and put both hands in the air at shoulder height. Slowly walking Bowie toward the two men using just his knees to guide the big horse, Rafe never lowered his weapon or took his eyes off Rhodes.
"Not very sporting sonny," Rhodes said with a grim smile when Rafe stopped his horse.
"I didn't intend for you to shoot Emmett," Rafe replied. Rhodes was on Bowie's left side; still holding his Winchester on the gunfighter, Rafe threw his right leg over the front of his saddle and dismounted. "What's this all about Emmett?" Rafe asked over his shoulder, still watching Rhodes.
"Rhodes wouldn't let Emma pass and I had to step in," Emmet answered.
"Here," Rafe said tossing his rifle to his future father in law. He never took his attention away from Rhodes. Slowly he stepped away from Bowie, fully confronting the man.
He's still limping, Rhodes thought. But that won't affect his gun hand. The boy's as tight as a banjo string. It'd be best not underestimate him.
"Rhodes, I think it's about time someone showed you that manners can be taught as well as learned." Rafe voice was cold and full of challenge.
"I don't think you're the one to do the teaching sonny," Rhodes said. He flipped his frock coat away from his holstered pistol. "Better mind your own business while you still can. Hard to do when you're dead."
"Why are you pushing this Rhodes? Rafe asked in a puzzled voice.
"You remember a man named Ralph Colbert?"
"He was from over Roswell way?"
Rhodes nodded. "Was is right; you killed him." It was a statement, not a question.
"He forced the point Rhodes. I gave him the first move and it was a fair fight."
"Doesn't matter. Ralph was kin; my cousin. Now I'm givin you the same fair fight. Go for your gun or die where you stand."
"You two hold on right there," Sheriff Rawlings called from across the street.
Rafe's attention wavered, drawn by the Sheriff's voice. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rhodes move. The gunman's pistol came to bear just before Rafe's shot hit him in the chest; Rhodes shot went wide of the mark. The surprise on Rhodes face would have been funny if it hadn't meant his death. Rhodes looked down at the blood spreading on his shirt and then looked over at Rafe. He raised a hand in salute and slipped to the ground; dead before he came to rest.
Emma ran to Rafe as Molly hurried to Emmett. "I'm okay Emma, his shot missed me." Rafe holstered his Remington and looked down at Rhodes. "Hope that's the last of that family," he said to himself. "I'm gettin real tired of killing them."
He turned toward Sheriff Rawlings. "You almost got me killed Rawlings. Next time it might be you I shoot at."
"You can't talk to me like that boy," Rawlings replied. "I'm the law in these parts."
"Then act like it. You should'a braced Rhodes yourself but you didn't have the nerve." Rafe put an arm around Emma and teased the family. "If y'all are done causin a ruckus I think we better head back to the ranch."
Rafe and Emma's wedding was the social event of late summer in the small town of Camp Verde. They'd thought about putting it off until after the cattle shipped to market. There was a round up and branding that had to be done before the animals could be driven to the railhead.
"If we get married now, we won't have time for a honeymoon," Emma complained. Emmet and Molly, mostly Molly, wouldn't hear of a postponement.
"Jeb Turner, he owns the ranch upstream on the Verde, wants to sell out and move to Oregon," Emmett said. "He's on a scouting trip right now. His boy, Bob, decided to stay in the Verde Valley. Said he didn't know nothing about Oregon and doesn't want to." Emmett grinned and added, "I think the boy's interest in the Mayor's daughter is the real reason he doesn't want to leave. Anyway, he's lookin for work. I'll hire him, at least until after we ship."
The wedding was held at the church which was filled to overflowing by the friends and neighbors of the Riley family. Most had watched Emma grown into the fine young woman she was and many respected and liked the young stranger that had moved into the Verde Valley.
Rafe and Emma made the ride down the hill to Phoenix after the wedding and the party afterwards. They planned on spending a few days together, alone. Having dinner on their third night together at the Stock Yards restaurant they both started to speak at the same time.
"Honey what would you..." started Emma.
"What would you...." Rafe began and stopped when Emma spoke. "You first," he said.
Emma giggled. "I was going to ask what you would think about going back to the ranch early."
Now it was Rafe's turn to laugh. "I was going to ask you the same thing." He took her hand. "I love you and we've got the rest of our time together. I'm worried about Emmett working the ranch with just the Turner boy to help."
"I worry about Dad too; and Mother," Emma confessed. "Besides, we need to plan where we're going to put our house."
"Yes. I was thinking a mile or so downstream; about where the old tree is where the trail forks. What do you think?"
"Best talk to Emmett about that. After all it's his ranch." Rafe thought for a bit and said, "but if he agrees I think that would be just fine."
"It's settled then," Emma said. "We'll start back in the morning." She leaned over closer to Rafe. "I think we should make our last night of the honeymoon special. Let's go back to the hotel." She smiled and coyly blushed.
The next morning they made the ride back to the Verde Valley. When they got to the ranch, they found that Emmett, Molly, and Bob busy in the pasture closest to the house. Emmett and Bob were both mounted. They would rope the cattle and drag them closer to the fire where Molly applied a red hot branding iron.
Rafe and Emma quickly changed into work clothes and went to help. Emmett and Molly were surprised to see the newlyweds and after a short greeting the work continued. Now there were three riders roping and two women doing the branding.