The Cowboy’s Baby excerpt continued, Chapter 16

Marian clamped down her automatic response and stayed out of it, to her husband’s surprise. The grandmother altered her tone the next time she spoke. “Why don’t you go visit with your friends before we all have to go to bed,” she suggested nicely, pushing little Leon in the direction of Peter and Leon who were sitting on a car hood. It was Ellison’s car and he had just noticed them. He frowned.  

“I need to get someone to drive me back to the house,” Leon’s grandmother continued. “I need to go to the bathroom.”  

Lots of luck with that, Marian thought. Then she wondered if the goats had eaten the only toilet paper Cassie had brought. She snickered.  

“What’s so funny?’  

It was the little boy.  

“Nothing son,” Mr. Bishop interceded. “Let’s see what Leon and Peter are up to. It’s about time to set up the tents. I could use your help.” He led little Leon away, leaving Marian and little Leon’s grandmother alone for some more bonding time.  

“Tell those two to get off my car,” Ellison called after them.  

Little Leon nodded, as if anything he said would get the teenagers to behave. He decided to go after them himself, but by the time he’d gotten near they had jumped off. He picked up a tent and dragged it back to the clearing. The older boys followed his example, leaving Mr. Bishop to struggle with dragging his own tent back by himself.  

Cassie came back with the news that the miniature bull had been cornered and forced into the pen, but that the horses and goats would be free to wander at will.  

“They aren’t dangerous,” she said. “We’ll hobble the horses. I don’t think the goats will go far.”  

Frank made a strangled sound, abruptly turning it into a cough when Cassie shot him a look. Alan and Jeremy kept their mouths shut and had a similar strangled look to that of their boss. To keep from laughing they walked away to retrieve the rest of the tents before it got completely dark.  

“When is someone going to take me to a bathroom?” little Leon’s grandmother asked. “Or do I have to walk all the way back,” she said when no one responded.  

“This one’s all yours,” Frank told Cassie. “I’ll start on the tents,” he said as an excuse.  

Cassie walked up to the older woman with a smile on her face, but she was quavering on the inside. “This is a camping trip, ma’am,” she said. “We’ll set up a few spots for people to relieve themselves in the pasture and behind the pen, but we’re not taking anyone back to my house just to use the bathroom.”  

Marcia pulled Ellison away. “Let’s set up your tent,” she said. “Then please help me set mine up. Not too close,” she added.  

“What’s too close?” he asked, sorry he had pitched a fit about them sharing a tent. He could certainly keep his hands off the woman, for this night anyhow, there were so many other people around, but it would have been nice to talk with her into the night, to see her fall asleep. To keep her safe.  

“I’ll know it when I see it,” she said. “Before too long the light will be gone. So get a move on.”  

“Yes, ma’am.”  

While Cassie argued back and forth with little Leon’s grandmother about the necessity of a clean bathroom for little old ladies and very young boys, Marcia and Ellison struggled with the tent. They got it set up, and it collapsed. They got it set up, the zipper got stuck and they could not get inside. They got the zipper undone, and the tent collapsed. Frank finally came over, and in a huff shook the nylon contraption open with a flip and said, “There! Don’t fiddle with it any more. Now, where’s the other one?”  

Ellison crawled into his tent to escape the derision. The ground was lumpy, but no word of complaint would cross his lips tonight. Marcia had followed Frank. Ten feet away Frank flipped the second tent out, set the opening to face Ellison’s tent, gave the young woman a stern stare and said, “Keep your hands off it and it will be all right.”  

“But I wanted it further away,” she said, ashamed to sound like a timid mouse in a fairy story, but that was how she felt at the moment.  

Frank glowered. “You’ll stay where I put you,” he said. “And if you have to leave the tent during the night, be damned careful and use the flashlight. If I were you I’d take someone with me, too. It’s a whole lot easier to recover from embarrassment than from a butt full of cactus thorns, or worse.” Glad I never mentioned the tarantulas, he thought.  

He could hear Cassie yelling again. Cassie’s not going to win this one, he decided. She ought to just give it up. We’re going to be up all night one way or the other anyhow, might as well drive the whole bunch there and back to use the bathroom as worry about them in the field. Can’t tell her anything, though. Let her figure it out for herself.  

To be continued…  

Copyright 2010 by Gretchen Rix. Photos by Roxanne Rix

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