Monday, January 7, 2019

Andi's Journal - September 8 Continued


September 8, 1887, continued

This ridiculous incident with the buggy happened on September 8, although it’s taken me a week to finish up the entry. By the time any grandchildren and great-grandchildren read these entries, the dates will be so muddled that nobody will be able to figure out when something actually happened. Oh, well, let’s just call it Fall 1887. That should do it!

When I saw the empty hitching rail, my stomach dropped clear to my toes. I’d been in a hurry to tie him up, but surely Ranger would not make it his life’s goal to loosen his reins and hightail it home! Ranger was trained to be ground-tied, and that included the buggy.
Those thoughts comforted me for about two seconds. Andi Prescott, how could you have been so careless?
           
I glanced up and down Mariposa Street. Late afternoon traffic was picking up. Buggies, wagons, cowboys on their horses.
But no Ranger. No spanking-new buggy.
Riley is going to skin me alive!
That buggy cost all of fifty dollars. Now, that might not seem like a lot of money to someone who grew up on the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin Valley, but to Riley it was huge. Except for the 1,000 acres my family deeded over to us as a wedding present, Riley works hard to make Memory Creek ranch pay.
And we never ask for help from the family. Riley works for Chad sometimes, and Chad pays well, but—
“What’s the matter?” Melinda asked.
“What do you think’s the matter?” I wailed. “Our brand-new buggy is gone.”

Melinda’s breath caught in her throat. “Oh, Andi. How will you get home?”
Getting home was the very least of my worries. “What will Riley say?”
Melinda furled her brow. “What do you mean?”
“It’s our brand-new buggy. I’m the first to drive it. And—and—” I gulped. “I lost it!”
“How do you figure?”
“I was in a hurry and didn’t tie Ranger very well.”
Melinda shook her head. “Andi, even if you were rushing, your fingers know how to do the job, even if your mind is five minutes ahead. I’m sure you tied him just fine. You simply don’t remember.” She huffed. “Even if he did get loose, your horses are all ground-tied. He should be standing right here, thinking he’s still tied up.”
This was true, but her words did not make me feel better at all.
         “On the off chance that something startled him, he might be wandering farther into town. Probably hanging around a horse trough. It’s been a warm day.”
My heart settled down . . . a little. I didn’t want to think of the other possibility. Neither, apparently, did Melinda. Neither of us brought up the idea that Ranger and the buggy might have been stolen.
I hitched up the Wilsons’ buggy, and Melinda and I headed uptown.  
Half an hour later, I was close to tears. Ranger and the buggy were nowhere. It was close to five o’clock. By now, Riley would be home and wondering where I was. Jared was hungry. I was hungry.
And I was scared.
  “We’ll find Ranger later,” Melinda assured me. “For now, I think you should rent a horse and buggy from Sam Blake and head home.”
  I clenched my jaw. “Not without our buggy.”
“Riley will come looking for you.”
Melinda was right about that. I should probably do what she says.
“When you get home, you can tell Riley about Ranger. In the meantime, I’ll ask Peter to keep looking here in town. And we can ask Justin to—”
“No!” Worse and worse! “Don’t get Justin involved. It’s humiliating enough as it is.” I sighed. “Where can Ranger be?”
  My sister lifted her shoulders in a helpless shrug. “I’m sorry, Andi. I haven’t any idea.”
  Downcast, I hiked up Jared’s wicker basket and headed for the livery.
This is a nightmare, I decided. How can I tell Riley I’ve lost his new buggy?
***
An hour later, I pulled up on the horse’s reins and squinted in the distance. A galloping horse was a small, dusty, dark spot. The early evening sun sent faint rays out, but not enough to blind my vision.
  I could easily tell the spot was horse and rider.
  Riley and Dakota.
  Riley rode up beside me and stilled Dakota. A look of relief washed over his face. “I was getting worried,” he said. “Where have you been?”
  My fingers clenched the reins. My stomach leaped into my throat. “I . . . I . . .”
  A look of worry replaced Riley’s relieved expression. “What’s wrong?” Then his gaze left me and passed over the horse and buggy. His eyes widened. “Where’s Ranger and our buggy?”    
  “Missing.”
  What?”
  I explained, and Riley frowned. “That’s odd.”
  “I tied him up. I did.”
  Riley waved my words away. “He’s ground tied.”
  I nodded.
“You searched the town?”
“Melinda and I both. Thoroughly. Ranger is nowhere to be found.”
  “Well, you go on home. I’ll ride into town and look around. Horses don’t just go missing.
  “Maybe not, but this one did.” My throat tightened. “I’m sorry, Riley.”
  Riley reached into the buggy and caught my long, dark braid. He gave it a gentle tug. “It’ll be all right, I’m sure. Go on home. I’ll be back shortly.”
I did as Riley asked, surprised at how calmly he took the news that our expensive buggy was missing. I was twitchy all evening, wondering what had happened to it. Stolen? Not possible.
Or was it?
I waited up until far into the night. But I finally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Drowsiness overwhelmed me, and I fell asleep.
***
  I don’t even remember Riley coming home, but the next morning, at a later-than-usual breakfast, I asked Riley what he’d found out the day before.
  “Nothing. No one in town has seen Ranger.” He shook his head. “He just disappeared.”
  “What’re we going to do?”
  “I’m taking the day off. I have to find Ranger.”
  And the buggy . . . His unspoken words stabbed my gut. I had begun to clear the dishes, but I fell back into my seat. “I’m really and truly sorry, Riley. I—”
  “It’s all right.” Riley rose and wrapped his arms around me. “It’s just a buggy. Just a horse. I haven’t lost the important things—you, Jared.” He frowned in thought. “Even if Ranger’s reins had slipped, he wouldn’t go anywhere. He would stand and wait until Kingdom come for you or me. No, I think someone released him.”
  “Who would do that?” I demanded. But a sudden memory flooded my mind. Someone like that wretched Johnny Wilson! Or one of the Hollister boys would take great pleasure in letting loose tied horses. I wonder who the recent version of the town’s troublemakers are.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
Riley gave me a puzzled look. Who would be knocking on our door at eight in the morning?
            I ran to the door and flung it open. “Why, Libby Flanders!” I exclaimed. “What on earth are you doing here?”
“I’m returning your horse and buggy.”
My mouth dropped open. Riley came up from behind me. “You what?” he asked.
            “Our great-uncle is visiting out at the ranch. He’s old and rather forgetful. Yesterday, Papa needed some supplies and wanted to send a telegram. Uncle Tatum volunteered to go into town. Father protested, but Uncle insisted, and he won. He took our horse and buggy into town. But”—she sighed—“he’s not a teetotaler and likes a drink now and again.”
Libby’s shoulders slumped. “Guess he had a little too much to drink. When he came out onto the street, he figured he’d misplaced our horse and buggy.” She giggled. “Our horse looks amazingly like yours, and the buggies are nearly identical—but yours is much newer.”
Andi’s eyes grew wider by the minute. “You mean . . .”
“Yes. Uncle Tatum helped himself to your buggy and horse. Took us the rest of the afternoon and into the evening to figure out whose rig and horse it was. I mean, really. Your name’s not on it or anything. Somebody was unhitching the rig after Uncle got home, when they figured out it wasn’t a Triple L rig.”
She laughed and finished her story. “We hightailed it back to town, and so our search began. Long about sundown, we checked at the livery, and Sam Blake said both you and Riley had been scurrying around trying to find your buggy. By then it was too late to come out here, but Papa wanted to make sure you got it back first thing this morning.”
  Riley joined the laughter. “Thank you, Libby, for riding all the way out here. We were getting worried.”
  She nodded. “It was the least I could do. I’m sorry we scared you. Of course, Uncle didn’t even realize what he’d done, and we didn’t bother to tell him. Poor old man. His memory is not what it used to be.”
“Can you stay for breakfast?” I asked.
Libby shook her head and untied her saddle horse from behind the buggy. “I’ve got a full day ahead of me. But thanks, anyway.”
  After she’d left, I turned to Riley. A bubble of laughter rose up, and I didn’t hold it back.
  “Well,” I giggled, “at least it wasn’t my fault this time!”
 
 

9 comments:

  1. Aw, Riley is so sweet. Thank you Mrs. M!

    ~Leah

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  2. I like that story! :-) What will the next one be about? :-)
    -Hannah

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  3. I like it! Will you have more parts to this story??

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  4. Haha. It wasn't Andi's fault this time. Besides, one can only make so many mistakes, right? :P

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  5. Wow! Riley took that easy! Love suffereth long and is kind... This story is very similar to one of the stories from the "Grandma's Attic" series by Arleta Richardson!
    Emily

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    1. That was my EXACT thought, Emily, but I still LOVE this story! :D
      -Hannah

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Let Andi know what you think!