Hard Time Marrying Part 4

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Bedded down in the barn, Joe couldn’t forget how cold the woman must have been in her shallow grave.  He’d meant to heap rocks over it to keep the coyotes out later, but would be spared that trouble now.  The ghastly thought of her clawing her way out flashed every time his eyes closed.

Giving up on sleep, he cursed himself for being fool enough think of marrying.  His ma had died when he was nine.  No mention was ever made of his pa.  The gruff, old bar-owner let him sleep in the store room till his death three years later.  After that, Joe worked for his keep on a hard-scrabble ranch where a crotchety old rancher ran a few longhorn cows.  They never struck up a friendship, so Joe kept to himself the little time he wasn’t working or sleeping.  In the absence of friends or relatives, the old goat left the place to him.

At twenty-nine, Joe scratched out a spare living on his place neither happy nor unhappy.  His solitary life suited him till Peggy Bartlett caught his eye.  He didn’t normally mix with folks much, but he took meals with the family when he had a few days work with her pa.  He never even spoke to her, but couldn’t forget her quick smile or soft hand on his shoulder as she leaned to fill his coffee cup.

Joe never even considered courting a woman, but on a whim, wrote out an inquiry for a wife upon seeing an advertisement in a  newspaper.  He’d forgotten about the whole business when he received a response from Anna Meuller, offering herself for matrimony, in exchange for a ticket.  He wrote back, offering marriage, a ticket, and decent treatment.  The business contracted, the rest was history.  What a fool he had been!  A man like him had no business trying to marry.

 

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