This Bed of Rose's - DYJbyJakeRivers©
Several authors are coming out with stories based on the song, "This Bed Of Rose's." There are two main versions of this song, one by Tanya Tucker with the main character (other than Rose) being a young girl and a version by The Statler Brothers with the main character a young man. Having a choice of male or female for the main character offers many options for variations in the story line.
The genesis of this story was an exchange of emails between Josephus and I and we decided it would be fun to have stories written by different authors based on the same starting story source, released at more or less the same time. We quickly added techsan and each of us invited additional authors to participate. Enjoy the stories coming out of this "invitational challenge."
Regards, Dynamite Jack
Thanks very much, as always, to Techsan for his quick and accurate editing! A kind though to Lady Cibelle for her comments and ongoing support.
Thanks for reading, please vote.
This story takes place in and around Julesburg, Colorado from the late 1880s to the early 1900s.
"This bed of roses that I lay on
Where I was taught to be a man
This bed of roses where I'm living
Is the only kind of love I understand"
Bed of Rose's
The Best of the Statler Brothers
©1987 UMG Recordings, Inc.
(Don Reid — Harold Reid)
My life was forever changed that first day of the big storm. Later people came to call it the Christmas Blizzard of '87. We lived on a farm a few miles out of what just became Julesburg for the third time. The first Julesburg just kind of fizzled out. A few years later the town was resurrected and moved a few miles to be close to the new transcontinental railroad. It also became famous as a Pony Express stop.
When they started the spur down to Denver, the town again moved a few miles to be closer to the new line and renamed itself Denver Junction. Now six years later we got some civic pride and wanted to get out of Denver's shadow so we went back to calling it Julesburg.
Dad had to go to Sedgwick for a couple of days for the funeral of a close friend of his. I wasn't figuring to see my girl for Christmas but 'cause dad was leaving we had our Christmas a day early. Everyone called my dad Dutch and up until last year I was known as Little Dutch. Then I shot up a few inches and put on some weight so I was bigger than my dad so we both come to be called Dutch. Dad came over from Germany when he was a teenager and settled in Pennsylvania with his folks. When he married mom, they came out west to have their own land.
Dad took off on his buggy about four on Christmas morning, saying he'd be back in four, five days. Sedgwick was about 15 miles west of us. Our farm was on the South Platte River five miles downstream from Julesburg. Around ten I asked mom if it was okay for me to go into town and see Julie.
"Sure, honey, I'll be okay. Just be back 'fore dark — Dutch said it might snow today."
I saddled up my pinto and rode into town. Julie's dad worked for the railroad doing track maintenance and was gone a lot. Her mom was a full blood Cheyenne and had died of the fever a few years ago so Julie was on her own a lot. Her dad, Frederick, was there when I got there but had to leave after an hour. The guy that came to the door said it was snowing heavy with big drifts towards Cheyenne on the main track and they needed everyone to come in to keep the tracks clear.
"Dutch, this looks like a bad one, so don't stay here too long."
"Yessir. As soon as I whip this cream and eat some of that great gingerbread of Julie's, I'll take off."
Julie had a slightly olive cast to her skin and had long, straight black hair that she wore almost to her waist. She had full eyebrows shadowing the darkest brown eyes I'd ever seen. She had the high cheekbones of her mom but she had the height of her dad. She was almost as tall as I was and as pretty as a picture.
Well, I was awful moony about Julie and it was about three that afternoon that we could hear the house shake from a sudden blast of air. I opened the front door and the wind tore it from my hand. The temperature had dropped somethin' alarming and I grabbed a last piece of cake and kissed Julie on the cheek.
I'd just worn a regular jacket so Julie gave me one of her dad's. It was way tight on me but the fleece lining felt good. I always kept my gloves in my saddlebag. My pony, Paint, didn't want to leave the small shed behind Julie's house but I kicked her a few times and we got started. That was the worst ride of my life! It was hard to tell which end was up in what was now a full-fledged blizzard. The wind was blowing the snow straight out of the northwest and it was starting to drift somethin' fierce.
After losing the road a couple times I cut off to my right until I reached the river. As long as I followed the riverbank I knew I'd hit the farm. About half way home, I had stop off and give Paint a rest. I off saddled and walked until I couldn't any do it any more, breaking a path through the snow for my horse. My ears felt like they were on fire.
I finally had to get back on Paint — now I was worrying some about even stayin' alive. At last, I knew we were on our land — two quarter sections spread along the river — and started feeling better. I saw the barn and jumped off to pull the door open. I took the saddle off and put some grain in the feedbag for Paint — he'd sure earned it. As I pulled the heavy barn door closed, my life as I knew it ended.
I heard the heavy roar of a shotgun, barely muffled by the wind, and realized it was my dad's twelve gauge. From the sound, I knew it was both barrels. I stumbled through the drifting snow, scared now. I knew dad kept the gun on the rack on the kitchen wall and he always kept it loaded. An eerie keening sound drew me towards my folk's bedroom. It was an unearthly sound, not anything that could be made by a sane person.
I got to the open door of the bedroom and froze in shock. My mom was in bed with Bill Curtis — he owned a big ranch some miles south of us — both of them naked and both of them ... were very dead. I could see what happened: my dad had tried to kill Mr. Curtis but in his agony he had forgotten what both barrels could do. Mr. Curtis was most blown in two but mom had caught enough of the double-ought pellets that she died 'most instantly too.
I forced myself to look at Dad and saw his eyes were as dead as my mom's were. He was still making this god-awful noise and I was about to panic.
I knew where my dad kept his jug and I ran in and grabbed it. Taking a big swig for myself, I handed the jug to dad. He seemed to know what to do with it so, after he drank several long swallows, I led him into the living room and sat him in his chair. I built up the fire and covered Dad with a blanket.
I sat down on the floor in front of the fireplace and just started sobbing. I didn't know what to do — I wouldn't even be able to get over to Edilson's place a half-mile away through the storm. I guess the storm also made Dad turn back.
The storm lasted three days. My dad was catatonic — he just sat there drinking. He went through a couple of jugs of corn whiskey while the storm continued to howl. He didn't talk even once ... once in a while he would look over to the bedroom door. A couple times he would use the bucket in the kitchen corner I'd set up.
I thought I'd go crazy — alone in the house with my crazy dad and two dead people for three days — no one to tell me what to do, no one to help me out. I couldn't do anything more for Dad than give him the whiskey, which seemed to help him some. I covered Mom and Mr. Curtis with a heavy quilt and opened the bedroom window wide and closed the bedroom door. I put some rags again the base of the door to keep the wind from coming in.
I made it to the barn a couple of times to take care of the animals. I had to tie a rope so I could find my way back and forth. Dad had left the horse and buggy in the front of the house. I got them in the barn but almost died doing it. It was just so damn cold; colder that I ever 'membered it being before. I took the saddle off Mr. Curtis' horse and turned it loose. I knew I didn't have enough feed for our horses and his also.
On the morning of the third day the storm cleared. I made a path so I could get to the barn when I needed to but didn't see how I could get to town. Around noon a group of riders, maybe six of them, rode in looking for Mr. Curtis. They didn't know he had been here; they were just looking.
I told them what had happened and led them in the house. The wind had drifted snow in through the bedroom window and covered the floor and the bed. The bodies were frozen stiff. Four of them rode into Julesburg to get the sheriff and a wagon. They got my dad on a horse and took him with them. I never saw him again. I found out later they had put him in a crazy people's place and he died six months later. I never could find out what had happened.
The other two talked it over and just left the bedroom the way it was, window open and bodies frozen. One of them stayed to keep me company and the other one went back to the ranch to tell Mr. Curtis' wife that he was dead.
The sheriff came the next day but couldn't get a wagon through yet. He stayed for a couple hours looking things over and talking to me ... but it was pretty clear what had happened. He left and finally was able to get through with a wagon the next day. He took the bodies and the guy that had stayed behind helped me clean up the bedroom. We took all the bedding out in the yard and burned it.
I stayed there for several months until I ran out of money. Mom had kept a jar hidden and had most of forty dollars in it. I tried to see Julie a couple of times but her dad said it wasn't fittin' for the son of a crazy killer to see his daughter. I saw her once in town and she cried but said she had to obey her dad. I 'most cried too but I guess I kind of understood.
I tried to keep going to school but the kids gave me a hard time. Benny Curtis was the worst. He and his friends jumped me a couple of times. If it had been him alone I probably could have whupped him, even though he was somewhat bigger that I was. But with three of them they hurt me bad.
The bank's taking the farm over finally forced me away from the only home I'd ever known. I didn't have anywhere regular to stay. Mr. Edilson let me stay in his barn a few times but he said he couldn't afford to feed me.
The only thing I had left was Paint. I'd ride around trying to get odd jobs or get food where I could. I finally decided to try going to Denver. I didn't know what else to do. I had a guy that said he'd buy Paint — for half what she was worth. But I needed money for the train and enough to live on 'til I could find a real job. Several people, like the sheriff, said there wouldn't be many jobs until the spring. I guess things were tough all over.
Eventually I got so desperate I'd stand outside of different business in town trying to beg for some money. Mostly the owners would chase me away — my clothes were pretty bedraggled by then. It got so the only place I got any money was in front of the church on Sunday mornings. People must have been feeling guilty from the sermon or something', 'cause I was finally getting 'most enough money to go to Denver.
It was the first warm day of spring. I remember there was a gentleness in the air, a soft warmth that had been missing for too many months. I figured I needed five more dollars and I could take off. Most of the people had left after church. I thought I had enough money but I'd wait 'til the last person left.
I saw a woman pull up on the road in front of the church, watching me. I looked at her and she was really pretty. I'm sure I was blushin' somethin' fierce. A guy came out of the church and saw me there. He'd been giving me fifty cents the last couple of weeks. I started in my, "Hey, Mister," routine I'd made perfect. He gave me a dirty look then threw a silver dollar at me.
"Get the hell out of here! I'm tired of seeing you here all the time."
He cuffed me up the side of the head and walked away. I saw the woman getting out of the carriage. Right then Benny Curtis came out — I guess he'd been behind the church in the stables. He laughed at me and tried to take my small leather bag away from me. I had it out to put the silver dollar in.
I sure wasn't going to let it go. I took a swing at him and knocked him down. I was going to start running when his two friends jumped me. I fought somethin' fierce but they were too much. Benny got up and kicked my arm hard; I heard something snap and felt a terrible pain.
I could hear the woman yelling and cussin' really bad words and then she started whipping them with her buggy whip. They laughed at her and one of them took the whip away from her. They left me alone and started circling her.
"Hey, Rose, come around back with us." Benny held my moneybag up, and continued, "I even got some money here so I can pay you your whore money. What do you say, Rose?"
They started closing in tighter around her. I tried to stand up but my arm was hurting so bad I couldn't do it. I was getting scared for Rose. Since Benny's dad had died, he had started drinking and acting real ugly.
Suddenly I heard a shot. The three boys jumped back and Rose was standing there with a small two-barrel derringer in her tiny hand.
"Come on, Benny! I got one shot left for you. Where do you want it?"
She pointed the gun at Benny's privates and he and the other two took off running, calling her names. Rose sat down and put my head on her lap.
"You're Dutch's kid, ain't you?" she said as she took out a small handkerchief ripe with the smell of lavender on it and started wiping off my face.
I was trying hard not to cry: it wasn't so much the pain but Benny had taken off with my money. Rose took me to the doctor to fix my arm and we drove out to her place in her buggy. The doctor had given me some laudanum so I wasn't feeling too much pain.
She lived on a small place some nester had built and abandoned years ago. She helped me fix a place to stay in her small barn. Two days later I had my seventeenth birthday. I didn't tell her — I guess I wanted to make her think I was older than I was. One year later on my birthday, Rose made me a man.
THE FADED ROSE
She was a handsome woman just thirty-four
Who was spoken to in town by very few
She managed a late evening business
Like most of the town wished they could do
- The Statler Brothers
I was born Rosie Donahue on that old squatter shack out west of Julesburg. Life was pretty good until my mom died from pneumonia when I was fourteen. Two years later my dad died when his horse broke a leg in a prairie dog hole. The doc said he hit his head on a rock.
The next couple of years I managed okay on my own. It was sure lonely though. One day during a heavy rainstorm this gambler passed through. He stopped to get some coffee and warm up. He said he was tired of Denver and wanted to live where it was quieter. I learned later that he was run out of town.
Well, he got me in bed before I knew what was happening. He was gentle so it wasn't too bad. He just brought his saddlebags in and made himself at home. He used me a lot but after a while I learned to like it. After a few months he did take me into town and we got hitched so I felt better.
He would go in and gamble three or four nights a week — the rest of the time he'd either chase me around the house or drink. He seemed to have plenty of money so I was able to fix up the house like my pa had never been able to.
About a year after we were married he tried to mark the cards with the wrong man and wound up shot in the stomach. He hung on for two days ... long enough for me to get to town and hear his too late "I'm sorrys." He was buried and I tried to move on. I figured after a few weeks I'd never really loved him. He just took my life over without a never-you-mind.
I made out okay. I would do some sewing for the town folks, making dresses and what not. I also had a hen house full of chickens and I sold the eggs. I had some hogs that I gradually sold off but I didn't know enough to keep that going.
A few months after my gambler man, Jim, had died I was out hanging my wash. I was pinning up my unmentionables when a rider came into the yard and reined up. I think he was just going to get some water but when he saw my underclothes he got other ideas.
He gave me a hard look and asked, "You were Jim's wife, Rose, weren'tcha?"
I just nodded, starting to get a little afraid.
He looked over at my wet clothes on the line, nodded his head and jumped off his horse. He grabbed my arm and took me into the house and he ... just took me. I fought what I could but he was a big man and laughed at me.
When he left, I lay there crying for a long time. What was going to happen to me?
Later when I got up to wash, I saw he had left some money on the dresser. I got mad and threw it on the floor. Later I realized I was almost out of food so I shamelessly got on my knees and picked up the money. One night a couple of weeks later, he knocked on the door, real loud like. I was scared but I thought whoever it was would break down the door. Finally I opened the door standing there in my worn robe. It was the same guy and he'd been drinking.
Well, he took me into the bedroom and did what he wanted. He fell asleep on top of me, snoring somethin' awful. I finally got out from under him and slept on a carpet on the floor. The next morning he made me fix him some breakfast. He left more money than the first time.
A week after that a guy came by in the afternoon and said Tom sent him. This man put the money on the dresser right away. Two nights later a man from town came out and left me a lot more money than the other guys.
I'd try to fight them once in a while but I eventually just got too damn tired. I quit fighting and laid down the law — no drunks. Most of the men were pretty good about it. I guess they talked to each other — I don't know what — but after a time almost no drunks showed up.
I started making some fancy clothes to wear and charging them my price instead of taking what ever they would leave. I began to think I needed a man on the place to protect me and help around the place. With a man, I could start the hogs again.
Then I found Dutch that day in front of the church and brought him home with me.
A NEW LIFE FOR DUTCH
Rose took me home with her and I found out right away that she was a lady. That was a surprise for me — I'd heard all the stories and knew what she did. When she wasn't working, she dressed nice, even a little conservative. She was smart as heck and read books all the time.
She told me about her gambling man and showed me the books he'd had in his saddlebags. She ordered new books all the time and they were delivered by the railroad. She made me start reading them too. It was hard but she helped me and I got better.
I couldn't do too much until my arm got better but she talked to me about her plans.
"Dutch, this is not the life I wanted. It happened to me and I had to accept it but I hate it ... and I hate myself. I want to get out of this life. If you help me, I'll help you."
So as my arm healed I got the hogs started again. I made their shed bigger and doubled the size of the hog pen. I did the same thing with her egg production.
I'd never used a gun except for my dad's shotgun — and I'd broke that against a tree. Rose had a man she knew — I didn't know if he was one of her "clients" as she called them. He brought me out a new rifle and taught me to shoot it. He told me I had an "uncanny" ability with it. He also started teaching me to box — I learned that pretty good too.