The Diary

© 2019 CR Britting

I'm scared. I'm scared because I don't know what's going to happen next. I didn't want to hurt him, really I didn't, but I didn't have a choice; he was going to kill my father.

 

Daddy and I are close and if I grew up a tomboy it's because the Circle-C will belong to me someday. Mama doesn’t think much of that, of course, so I had to learn how to cook and sew and all those girl things. So I can make a dress if I have to, but I'd rather be out riding with the wind blowing in my hair.

 

I have a great deal of freedom, but for the most part I work just as hard as the crew. One reason I don't dress up more is 'cause I don't have one of those curvy shapes like a lot of women. Someone said I’m lanky, which is a kind way of saying I'm straight up and down. I'm nearly six feet now, and my mouth is too wide for me to have a pretty face.

 

In fact, the only part of me I really like is my hair. Daddy says it's the color of autumn leaves. I like that, and I'm smiling as I write this, 'cause I love him so much.

 

 

 

1876

 

Dear Diary, I've loved our neighbor Dick Thorne as long as I can remember. Only problem is he's 19 and I'm only 12, so to him I'm just the annoying kid next door. No matter, I'm still gonna marry him someday, even if I have to lasso him and drag him to the altar.

 

The other day I found him shooting at some tin cans, so I asked if I could watch. He wasn't excited about it, and pretty soon I could see why.

 

"Hey, Dick, how come you missed all those times? Are the cans too far away?"

 

He turned to me and I saw an irritated look on his face.

 

"Shooting's not as easy as it looks, Runt."

 

I hate it when he calls me that.

 

"Shucks, Dick. You just point your hand where you want the bullet to go, everyone knows that."

 

Well, next thing I knew, I had his gun in my hand and those cans right in front of me. I'd never fired a gun before, but I think I did pretty well. It was fun to see the look of disbelief on his face.

 

Dear Diary,

 

I really had fun shooting, so I asked Daddy if he would take me some time. Mama didn't like the idea, of course, but he took me anyway. I asked him if could have a revolver of my own, he said maybe when I turn sixteen. Sixteen? That's forever, diary. How can I wait that long?

 

 

 

1878

 

Dear Diary,

 

Mama died last winter and I miss her terribly. We argued over my being a tomboy and all, but she taught me more than I realized. It's just Daddy and me now, and yesterday he told me he's sending me back east to school in the fall. I protested, but he wouldn't change his mind.

 

 

 

1880

 

Dear Diary, I'm finally home after two years at the school. I learned more than I thought I would, not just the book stuff, but what mama might call, "the social graces", too. When he sent me to school, Daddy said I'd learn things he couldn't teach me. He was right. I finally got it in my head there's more to being a ranch owner than just punchin' cows. So I'm still the same tomboy, but I know how to be a lady when necessary.

 

Today I turned sixteen and as he promised, Daddy let me buy a gun of my own. I'm not allowed to take it into town, and I can only carry it for protection when I'm out riding alone. I practice often, and it seems to come easy for me.

 

Since mama died the other women are on me all the time about bein' a tomboy. They tell me I need to grow up and start acting like a lady. They'd have a fit if they knew about my shooting, so I keep it a secret. I don't have much of a reputation as it is, and there's no point in giving them another reason to gossip.

 

And now Dick says he’s leaving home, "to see the world" as he put it. I have no idea when he'll come back, if ever. So much for schoolgirl dreams.

 

 

1886

 

Dear Diary,

 

Dick's father died recently, and he returned home day before yesterday. I'm twenty-two now, and I told him I was ready to marry him, but he didn't think much of the idea.

 

In fact, all he does is look at Joanna. She’s everything I’m not; blonde hair, blue eyes, beautiful clothes, and a figure that makes me look like a tree trunk. She has this seductive way about her, too, and it wasn't half a minute before she had Dick wrapped around her little finger.

 

I can’t believe I waited six years for him to come home. (sigh)

I love living at the ranch and working with Daddy and the men, but beyond the circle-C, almost no one likes me. Anytime I go to town, I can count on snide remarks from the women and ridicule from the men, so most time I stay close to home. So beyond the ranch work and keepin’ the ranch books for Daddy, there isn’t much to do. I go for long rides a couple of times a week and I practice my shooting.

 

I can even shoot pretty well left-handed now, so I bought another revolver, and Mr. Heavner at the store helped me make some holsters for them. I have to laugh when I look in the mirror. Those prim and proper ladies in town would definitely not approve.

 

Dear Diary, Something happened today and I'm not sure what to do, Dad and I had come into town for some supplies, and I waited for him at the sawmill. All at once I heard gunshots from up the street. I turned and saw Daddy and Sheriff Dancy come out of the sheriff's office.

 

They ran up the sidewalk, but they hadn't gone very far when there were more shots, and I was horrified to see my father spin and fall. I think I screamed, and I'm not sure what came over me right then.

 

I turned to my horse, where my guns were still in my saddlebags from my last practice session. I headed up the street, trying to be careful, and saw several men lying on the ground in front of the bank. I wasn't scared yet, that would come later. I just wasn't sure what to do, 'cause there was all this gunfire, people were yelling, and horses were dancing around in confusion.

 

Then the sheriff got hit, and suddenly I realized I was alone. That’s when I got scared. I couldn't move; it felt like I was paralyzed. My mouth felt dry, and I could feel my heart racing. I heard a gunshot across the street. My father had barricaded himself behind some packing boxes. He was trying to help, but he was in an awkward position, and it was hard to aim the big Winchester very well.

 

Then one of the bank robbers started shooting at him. That finally broke through my hesitation. I drew my revolver, and in one well-practiced motion, I shot the outlaw's gun out of his hand.

"Leave my father alone!" I yelled. At least that's what some folks told me I said. I'll have to take their word for it, 'cause I don't remember it.

 

What I do remember is that outlaw turning toward me, nursing his injured hand. "You're dead, girl!" he yelled and pulled his other pistol. I don't know if my jumping aside threw off his aim, but the bullet missed and smashed a lamp right where I'd been standing a split second before.

 

I ducked through a doorway, half expecting a bullet to hit me in the back. Once I got inside, I realized the place was empty, so I knelt behind the end of the counter and turned to face the door, revolver in my hand, afraid that he might come after me. Sure enough, it wasn't long before I heard the jingle of spurs, then boots on the wooden sidewalk outside. His shadow crossed the opening and I held my breath.

Seconds ticked by and then, to my surprise, the outlaw peeked around the doorframe, his gun in front of him. That was pretty foolish if you ask me, 'cause his gun was a much easier target than when he was across the street. My ears rang at the sound of the gunshot and my second bullet smashed the cylinder out of his revolver.

 

I rose slowly, guns leveled at him. "Mister, you leave me and my father alone."

 

Long, greasy, black hair fell around his shoulders and above his mask, his eyes were dark and angry as he threw down the remains of his pistol. "We'll settle this another time, kid," he said in a gruff voice. "I'll be coming back, and when I do, I'll kill you."

 

 

 

Dear Diary,

 

I’m still thinking about those dark, angry eyes and even now it scares me to think what he might do. Later, someone asked why I didn't shoot him. To be honest, it never occurred to me. As I said, I can handle a gun just fine, but I've never shot at anything but cans and bottles. The idea of shooting a real person is, well, it's something I'd never thought about; I just wanted to keep him from hurting Daddy.

Sitting here in my room, I can hardly believe it. Everything happened so fast, I didn't have time to think about the consequences. Doc asked me to help with the wounded men, and I did, but then I noticed some of the women watching me. They were whispering to each other, stern expressions on their faces, and I realized I was still wearing my guns. I quickly took them off, but the damage had been done, and my secret wasn’t a secret anymore. A couple of women came right up and gave me the "what would your mama say" speech and someone even suggested I should be tarred and feathered for the way I was acting.

 

Well, diary, what was I supposed to do? Let those men kill my father? I did my best to help, but all they want to do is ridicule me, 'cause I don't act the way they want me to act. I wish they'd just mind their own business, and leave me alone.

 

Dear Diary, Today I met the gunfighter. I sat in the rocking chair on the front porch of the boarding house, trying to deal with my battered emotions, when a man pulled up at the hitching rail in front of me. I had no idea who he was, but when he swung down from his horse, I could see he was dressed entirely in black leather and carried two of those fancy, pearl-handled Colt revolvers.

 

As he climbed the steps he glanced over at me and tipped his hat. "Nice town you have here, ma'am," he said, the corners of his mouth turning up a little. He went inside, and it occurred to me he was a very good-looking man.

Later, I learned he was Nate Youngfellow, and folks said that he was faster than greased lightning. Someone else told me he had killed ten men, and remembering the cold look in his eyes when he got off his horse, I could well believe it.

 

 

 

Dear Diary,

 

I’m sitting here thinking about the gunfighter. I’ve got a man who's vowed to kill me and I don’t know what to do. I can shoot pretty well, but I don’t know a thing about defending myself. What if he was to step out in front of me someday? What could I do? Maybe I if ask Mr. Youngfellow…

 

Dear Diary,

 

I did it. I really did. I entered the dining room and after taking a deep breath, I approached Youngfellow. I offered to pay him to teach me to protect myself. He refused at first until I told him my name. Then he looked at me in the strangest way and got to his feet. "Let's take a walk."

 

We headed outside and down the road. When we were out of sight of town, he led me into the trees. I wondered what he was doing. Why drag me way out here?

Then he turned to face me, and before I could move, he grabbed me by the arm. My breath caught when I saw the knife. The blade moved toward me, and I stood motionless, petrified as the blade touched the middle button on my shirt.

Then the knife slid inside my shirt and a simple flick of his wrist could drive the blade into my heart or cut my shirt wide open. Then he pulled blade toward him, forcing me closer. I found it hard to breathe.

 

"What makes you think I'm any different from that bank robber?" he demanded, his face only a few inches from mine. "I can take anything I want from you, kid. Anything."

 

What would he do? His gray eyes bored into me, his expression cold as ice. I dare not move, but I did my best to meet his gaze. Then, after what seemed an eternity, he lowered the knife and released me.

"I heard about you, Miss Beth," he said quietly, "and how you helped people during the bank robbery. I didn't believe a woman could be that courageous. I had to find out for myself." He turned back toward town, but my feet were rooted to the spot, my eyes wide at his words.

 

Courageous? What did he mean by that? I wasn't courageous, I was plumb scared.

 

He turned. "Are you coming?"

I hurried after him and we walked along in silence, my runaway heartbeat returning to normal.

"Does this mean you'll teach me?" I finally managed to ask.

"Teaching you to protect yourself," he said as we reached the bridge over the river, "is the same as teaching you to kill. You can't separate the two. When the man is fixing to cash in your chips, and you see the hate in his eyes, there's no choice. You can't hesitate. If you don't kill him, he'll kill you."

 

The gunfighter stopped and turned to face me. "Do you have what it takes to do that, Miss Beth? Can you look a man in the eyes and kill him?"

 

The question shocked me. Kill a man? Really? How could I do that?

When I got back to my room, I couldn't sleep. I just stood by the window, staring down into the darkened street, my mind whirling. Until yesterday, I was just a simple tomboy.

Today, my dream of being Dick's wife ended. Everywhere I go, people ridicule me. My father is hurt. Today I shot someone, and he's vowed to kill me. When will I have to face him?

Tomorrow? The day after tomorrow? I don't know what to do.

Well, it's late, and I ought to at least try to get some sleep. I'm meeting the gunfighter in the morning, and I sense what I learn from him may change my life.

Good night, Diary. I'm sorry about all the wet spots on the pages.

 

 

 

Author's note:

 

Ridiculed by women and laughed at by men, Elizabeth Carver lives in 1886 Colorado, at a time when women are little more than possessions. Respectable women are expected to behave like a lady and Beth's determination to chart her own course continues to get her in trouble. What you’ve just read is an introduction to Beth’s story. First begun in the mid-1990s, it has grown into a series of novels called “Gunfighter’s Legacy.” The first book “The Hard Road” has just been released and will be available in both paperback and digital formats and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million, Kindle, Nook, iTunes and Google Play.

 

In the first book, you'll learn about Elizabeth's longtime relationship with Dick and about Joanna, the beautiful stranger who has her own agenda. Then there's Ethan, the handsome young cowboy who is determined to win Beth's heart, and a man named Poland, who has hired Youngfellow to kill Beth's father…for something that happened before she was born. If you’d like to know more, you’ve come to the right place! Just back out to the main page and click on the link to Gunfighter’s Legacy, where you’ll find information about the series and read a sample from each book. Enjoy.

Short Stories:  1  2  3

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