Howdy from Fort Worth, where it’s sweater weather just in time for Halloween. Today we’re joining Lil Crawford at an old-fashioned barn raising. She’s not happy to be there, but she’ll get to see Tye Devlin later. Quite a bit of him as the day heats up!
The intense August sun was beginning its climb across the sky when Lil and her family arrived at the Rocking B Ranch. They’d come to help Morgan Bayliss put up a new barn to replace the one destroyed by a recent cyclone. Since his spread lay a fair distance from theirs, they’d left home long before dawn in order to make it here for the start of the barn raising.
Lil stifled a yawn as her father reined the buckboard team to a halt. Shaking off her drowsiness, she snatched up her skirts and jumped awkwardly from the wagon box where she’d ridden with her uncle. She’d donned a dress today at her mother’s insistence and, as always, she felt ridiculous in a skirt and petticoats.
“Quite a few folks here already,” Uncle Jeb said, joining her with the basket of food they’d brought to share. Up front, Pa was just helping her mother climb down.
Glancing around, Lil saw several families gathered near the Bayliss homestead. “I expect more will be riding in soon.”
“Yup, cuz it might be them needing help next time. The storm that tore down Morg’s barn could’ve just as easy hit somebody else’s place.”
Lil nodded, knowing he was right. Morg dealt mainly in horses and he’d lost not only his barn but also one of his best mares and her foal to the deadly wind. Word of the disaster had gotten around fast, and everyone had pitched in to organize this barn raising. Neighbors helped neighbors if they wanted to survive for long on the frontier. Then too, gatherings like this were chances to socialize, something the womenfolk appreciated.
Not that Lil counted herself among them. Most of the women looked down their noses at her and her mother because of their Indian blood. Lil didn’t give a hoot. She didn’t like them anymore than they liked her, with one exception: Thea Knudson, who came rushing toward her now.
“Lil! I’m so glad to see you!” the blonde woman gushed, throwing her arms around Lil and hugging her tight. “I was afraid you wouldn’t make it, and we haven’t seen each other in a coon’s age.”
Lil had known Thea – short for Althea – since they were both in pigtails, when Thea’s folks, the Hewitts, had owned a small spread near the Double C. Even after the family gave up ranching and moved into Clifton, Thea had remained Lil’s friend, her only female friend.
“I’m glad to see you, too,” Lil replied, smiling as they drew apart. “Looks like married life is still agreeing with you.” Thea was married to a big Norwegian named Arni Knudson who owned a farm over near Cranfill’s Gap. The pair had three children at last count.
“I couldn’t be happier, Lil.” Thea’s round, freckled face took on a sympathetic expression. “I only wish you’d find the same happiness.”
Lil stiffened. “I am happy,” she said more sharply than she intended. At that moment, her mother walked over, stopping her from saying something she’d regret. Thea meant well and Lil didn’t want to lose her friendship, but she couldn’t stomach her unwanted sympathy.
“Hello, Althea. You are well?” Ma asked with a hint of a smile.
“Yes ma’am. I was just telling Lil how glad I am to see you folks.”
“Seeing you is also good.” Turning to Lil, Ma said, “There is work to do. Come.” With that, she stepped away, expecting to be obeyed.
Lil and Thea shared understanding grins and joined the other women, who were setting up long plank tables to accommodate the throng of people when noontime rolled around.
To be continued next week