NOTE: Ghost Town-ing is a series of stories that follow Pat and Sherry (Fast Break) as they explore some of the places Jesse and Jennifer (the Sweetwater Saga) visited. Although these stories are connected, each episode stands by itself and you do not have to wait for the entire series to be completed. Nor is it necessary for you to read the Sweetwater Saga series and Fast Break to understand these stories but it is highly recommended.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
PART TEN - BANNACK
by Mickey Minner
A shrill clanging jump-started Sherry's sleeping brain. "Turn it off." She reached out in the darkness, hoping to find the offensive alarm without opening her eyes.
"Good morning, sweetheart." Pat snagged Sherry's flailing arm and pulled it back under the warm blankets. She then reached over to the end table and turned off the alarm on her cell phone.
"Ugh." Sherry groaned, snuggling against her lover. "What time is it?"
"Time to get up and start our day. We have a long one ahead of us."
"Pat, it's still dark." Sherry peeled one eyelid back just enough to see that except for the eerie green glow given off by the clock on the dresser, the room was pitch black.
"Yes, it is. And the sun won't be up until we've been on the road for an hour or so. Come on, sleepy head." Pat started to roll over and away from Sherry.
"I wouldn't be so sleepy if someone hadn't kept me up so late." Sherry held on tight to her lover while she continued to protest the start of their day.
"And just whose idea was it to give me a massage?" Pat whispered into Sherry's ear, taking a nibble or two as she did.
Sherry refused to answer. After becoming lovers, it had not taken her long to realize that a massage, properly administered, usually always led to love-making.
"So, get up, you temptress." Pat laughed, throwing back the blankets to expose their naked bodies to the cool morning air. She rolled to the edge of the mattress and stood as soon as her feet hit the carpeted floor. Pulling the blankets behind her, she strode to the bathroom laughing at the cries of displeasure coming from the bed.
"Pat, that was mean." Sherry grumbled, wrapping her arms around her body as if that would keep her warm. She heard the shower come alive in the bathroom. "Come back to bed and bring the blankets with you. I'm freezing."
"I have a better idea." Pat opened the bathroom door and a streak of light cut through the dark bedroom.
Sherry rolled on her side as she glared towards the source of the offensive glow. She couldn't help but smile at the sight that greeted her eyes.
Pat was leaning against the opening, her naked body framed in light. "How about you come here and join me for a nice hot shower?"
"Damn." Sherry slipped off the bed and padded across the room to join her waiting lover. "I hate it when you make offers I can't refuse."
"I know." Pat grinned.
"But you're washing my back first."
"Do we have everything? Camera?"
"Check. And I made sure everything was in it before bringing it out."
"Good. Looks like we're ready to go."
"I'll be right back. I need to make a pit stop first."
Pat smiled as she watched Sherry's attractive butt disappear back inside their house before climbing into the driver's seat and starting up the engine of the pickup. Reaching up to the sun visor, she pressed the button on the garage door opener then eased the truck out of the garage to idle in the driveway while she waited for her lover to return.
"Let's go." Sherry said moments later after pulling open the passenger door. She stretched the seat belt across her body, latching it securely.
"Breakfast in town or on the road?"
"I could wait a while unless you want to eat here."
"I was thinking Hamilton."
Pat pulled out of the driveway and turned onto the street. "Hamilton, it is then."
It was still dark but streaks of pink were starting to color the sky over the mountains on the eastern side of the Missoula Valley, their morning shower having taken a little more time than had been planned.
"How far to Bannack?" Sherry asked as she leaned forward to turn up the heat in the cab. Although still officially summer, a fall chill claimed the mornings.
"A little more than 2 hours to get there. That's if we don't make any stops."
"Which we will, of course." Sherry leaned back smiling.
"When will the sun be up?" She looked to the east.
"By the time we're done with breakfast."
Pat relaxed, settling comfortably back in her seat. Traffic was light at the early hour and she didn't feel a need to keep both hands on the steering wheel. She placed her right hand on the seat beside her, hoping Sherry would notice.
Sherry did. She reached down with her left hand, slipping it underneath Pat's and entwining their fingers.
After breakfast, the women continued south on Highway 93. Eventually leaving behind the Bitterroot Valley, the road narrowed and began to climb up to Lost Trail Pass. At the top of the pass, they turned onto a secondary highway heading east into the Big Hole Valley.
"It's beautiful up here." Sherry looked at the passing scenery of thick pine forest intermixed with wide open meadows and snow covered peaks in the distance. "I can imagine Jesse and Jennifer riding along here on their way to Bannack."
"It's possible. The Nee-Me-Poo trails have been used by the Indians for hundreds of years. Charley's journal says that they followed the Indian trails."
"It must have been so scary for Jennifer to see this for the first time."
"She was used to living in a large town. To come to a place like this where you can see forever and there isn't a single manmade object anywhere must have been frightening."
"I guess I never thought about it that way."
"It's amazing that she had the inner strength to leave her home, travel west and begin a new life. And to do it at such a young age."
Pat considered Sherry's words. "You know, when I read the journal and read all the things Jesse and Jennifer managed to accomplish, I completely forget how young they were when they first met."
"If they were living today, Jennifer would still be in high school."
"Times have changed." Pat glanced at her lover.
"Not necessarily for the better." Sherry shrugged.
"First side trip." Pat said as she turned off the highway.
"Which is?" Sherry asked as they approached a building perched on the top of a bluff. The near end of the structure was shaped like a giant tepee.
"Big Hole National Battlefield. This is where the Nez Perce stopped to rest on their flight to Canada after being forced from their homelands in Idaho. Their village was attacked by soldiers sent from Fort Missoula to stop them." Pat parked the truck and shut off the engine. "There's a nice overlook with a taped description of the battle and more information inside the visitor center and museum." She said as she opened the truck door to climb out.
Grabbing her camera, Sherry joined Pat and they walked to the overlook.
Below the bluff, a small valley spread out before them. On the opposite side of the valley steep hillsides climbed up from the valley floor, some covered in trees while others appeared to have been scraped clear of all vegetation except for grasses and scrub bushes. A river snaked its way along the base of the hills flanked by thickets of willows.
As they listened to the recording, Pat pointed out the specific positions being described. The Nez Perce village was located beside the river, its exact location represented by tepee poles erected in place of the original village. On the opposite side of the river, was the grassy hillside where the village's horse herd grazed during the night before the attack. Not too far away was the forested hillside that hid the soldiers as they made their way down to the river.
Sherry noticed a trail leading to the village. "Can we walk to the village?"
"Yes. And there's another trail that goes up to the area where the soldiers were forced back to after being driven out of the village. They were kept pinned down there while the surviving Nez Perce made their escape. If you're interested."
"I'm interested. Do we have time?"
"Sure. Now you know why I wanted to leave early."
The women sat quietly on a wooden bench next to the trail that encircled the Nez Perce village. It had been several minutes since either of them had spoken.
"Penny for your thoughts." Pat said softly.
"I was just wondering if one of these tepees belonged to Walks on the Wind."
Sherry leaned against Pat, her head resting on her lover's shoulder. "Charley said he died in a battle with soldiers."
"Yes. But he didn't say when or where. There were hundreds of battles between the soldiers and the Indians. It's hard to know without any more information than what's available in Charley's journal. And, come to think of it, I'm not sure he ever identified Walk's people."
"So he could have died here."
"Yes, he could have. It's just as likely that he didn't though."
"It's sad, either way."
"Yeah." Pat wrapped her arm around Sherry, hugging her tight. "A lot of people died that didn't have to. It's too bad the two sides couldn't have learned from each other."
Sherry sighed. "I don't think it's ever worked out that way, has it?"
"Not very often." Pat smiled sadly as she looked through the uncovered tepee poles, many adorned with bits of ribbon and feathers tied to leather pouches. The prayer offerings left by the descendents of the men and women who had died during the early morning battle so many years before. Pat wondered how many of the prayer offerings were taken as souvenirs by non-Native visitors who didn't understand the tepees held strong religious meaning for those who came to this hallowed spot to honor their ancestors. It was discouraging to realize how little had changed between the Native peoples and the white interlopers in over a hundred years. "Ready to go?"
"That's the road that goes to Bannack." Pat pointed off to the southeast.
"It sure is out in the middle of nowhere." Sherry looked out over the miles of endless grass covered rolling hills, unbroken except for an occasional group of buildings identifying the location of an isolated cattle ranch. "How did anyone even find this place?"
"The prospectors followed the creeks and rivers. And they would talk to the Indians. Gold wasn't of much use to them but that didn't mean they didn't know where to find the shiny nuggets."
Pat turned off the highway where a sign pointed the way to the ghost town. They hadn't driven far before passing a graveyard a few yards to the east of the pavement.
"I thought the graveyard was on top of a knoll in town." Sherry said as she noticed the grave markers, some obviously quite old.
"It is. This is a newer graveyard. They began using it when the other one filled up."
"Bannack must not have been too good for a long life."
"Most mining camps weren't."
Pat slowed. She steered the pickup onto a dirt and gravel path not much wider than the truck was. "That's Grasshopper Creek. And those piles of rock are what was left after a dredge was used to extract what gold there was in the gravel of the creek's bed."
"Compared to other towns, these aren't too bad. The dredge piles on Bear Creek below Garnet are huge. And the ones on the way to Virginia City go on for miles."
"Ugh. Sure wasn't much left when they finished, was there?"
"Not much but rock piles. This is where Yankee Flats was located." Pat pointed out the side window." Dredges wiped it out. And there's the start of Bannack."
Sherry pulled her eyes away from the mounds of rock. She looked down the dirt road ahead of them where several buildings of various shapes and sizes could be seen. "This is the end of town Jesse and Jennifer came to first, right?"
"Yes. The visitor center is in one of the old houses. We have to park here and then we can walk around town."
Pat parked in the shade of a large cottonwood tree then the women walked to the house that served as the park's visitor center. Inside, they took their time looking at old photographs to give Sherry an idea of how the town looked when Bannack was a vibrant mining camp. They watched a short movie that described the town and the buildings remaining before picking up a guide booklet and heading back outside.
Pat paused on the wooden boardwalk in front of the old house. "We should carry a couple of bottles of water with us. And it might not be a bad idea to take a light jacket. It may be sunny but it can get chilly if a breeze starts up. We can come back for anything else."
"Want to grab a quick snack before we start?"
"Sounds good. And it'll give us another chance to read what Charley said about Bannack."
Mommy always said that Bannack would never be far from her heart. It being where she had received her greatest gift -- her family.
Mommy would bring us here every year. Even after most people had left Bannack we would still make the journey. Mommy would sit for hours on the courthouse porch with her arms around momma. Sis and I would play in the abandoned buildings. But we never went near the jail. Sis always said the jail made momma sad and she refused to go inside.
Sometimes, mommy and momma would walk with us along the street. They would point out where buildings had been. The Goodrich Hotel was special to them. When it was taken down and carted away momma cried for days. It was where mommy had asked her to marry her and she said she never lost the ache in her heart when the hotel disappeared from Bannack.
The dress shop burned one winter and mommy stood looking at the ashes the next time we came to town. 'Good riddance', she had said and never mentioned it again. Auntie Leevie's log house burned one summer when a miner got drunk and tossed a whiskey bottle into the fireplace. He thought it was empty. It wasn't. Snow claimed the Chinese restaurant. Its walls just couldn't support the weight any longer. Both mommy and momma were sad to find it collapsed.
Sis and I weren't allowed to go up to the graveyard unless mommy and momma were with us. After Bette Mae died and was buried on the ranch, mommy came and got Miss Lizzie. She said that Bette Mae would have wanted Miss Lizzie close to her. After that, we never walked up to the graveyard again.
"Where do we start?" Sherry asked as they locked up the truck after finishing their snack of crackers, summer sausage and cheese washed down with a shared can of soda.
"The town is basically just one street with buildings on either side. The graveyard is near the center of town. I suppose the best thing is to follow the guide booklet which starts at the visitor center."
"How many of the buildings that Charley talks about are still here?"
"Actually, a lot of them." Pat knew that was unusual for ghost towns.
The hastily built camps and towns generally succumbed to fire and pillaging within a few years after being abandoned. Bannack was lucky in that it had been occupied almost continuously from it's founding through the second half of the 20th century. The few, but loyal residents, had done what they could to preserve the buildings. Now a state park with year round caretakers to watch over it, Bannack was one of the best preserved ghost towns in the country.
"The main one that isn't is the Goodrich Hotel. It was dismantled and moved to another town when people started abandoning Bannack." Pat told Sherry as they walked along the boardwalk past the visitor center. "This was an assay office." She stopped in front of a rough hewn log building.
Sherry stepped up onto the building's entry. Peering through the glass windows, she was surprised at how bare the inside of the structure was. "Not much more than four log walls." She commented on what she saw.
"They were built for function not looks. It probably had a desk or two and maybe a counter of some sort where a scale for weighing gold dust sat. A couple of chairs and some oil lamps. Probably a safe. And maybe even a cot in the back where the assayer would sleep."
"Cozy." Sherry said as she rejoined Pat on the boardwalk.
"Functional. Easier to protect the safe holding the gold if you slept with it."
"Makes sense. What's next."
"The one where Jesse was put on trial."
"I can't wait to see that. Where is it?"
"Right in front of you."
"But it says Hotel Meade." Sherry looked up at the impressive two story brick building.
"It was turned into a hotel when the capital was moved to Virginia City. Come on." Pat grabbed Sherry's hand and led her up the steep wooden stairway to the portico. A massive iron split door, an indication that the building once housed the offices of the territory's government, greeted them. Pat pushed the heavy door open.
"Oh my god." Sherry whispered when she walked inside. "That's the staircase. The one Jesse had to carry Jennifer up." Slowly she walked across the room to the hand carved banister and placed her hand reverently on the wooden knob atop the Newell post. "They touched this very spot." She turned to Pat. "They stood right here every day of the trial."
"Yeah." Pat nodded. "Gives this place a whole new meaning for me."
She had visited Bannack many times but the people who had gone before her were always nameless. Not any more. After reading Charley's journal, she felt like she knew Jesse and Jennifer. Standing in the very spot Jesse and Jennifer had stood, she could almost see and hear the celebration when they were carried down the stairs by the jubilant men after Jesse's trial had ended. To be here, in a place that held so much meaning for the frontier women, made her want to just sit down and let her brain absorb it all before continuing.
"Can we go upstairs?"
Sherry's question brought Pat back to the present. "Yes."
Sherry bounded up the stairs. Slowing almost immediately when she discovered how narrow and steep the curved steps were as they curled up to the second floor. No wonder Jennifer would have had trouble climbing them with her injured leg. She tried to hold onto the smooth railing but it was at an uncomfortably low height and she gave up trying. "Guess it wasn't meant to be used." She muttered as she climbed.
"Actually, we're a bit taller than most folks were back then. So it probably worked fine for them. But it just doesn't fit us Goliaths." Pat chuckled when Sherry glared at her over her shoulder.
"What room do you think the trial was held in?" Sherry asked, refusing to comment on her lover's comment.
The top floor of the courthouse was split down the middle by a wide hallway lined by doors. The doorways stretched much higher than modern doorways and were wider also. They opened into large open rooms with high ceilings and large windows.
Sherry walked through the first doorway on her left. Though the room was large, it was much smaller than she had imagined it would be. In her mind's eye, the room Jesse's trial had taken place in would have been much larger. But was that really true? One thing visiting ghost towns had made her realize was that they were usually much smaller than the western movies made them out to be.
"Could have been any of these rooms." Pat answered as she followed Sherry into the room. "If I had to guess, I'd say it was this one. It's the biggest room on the floor and considering how many people supposedly attended the trial, it makes sense they would have held it in the largest room.
"Whoo." Sherry let out a breath as she walked around the room. "Imagine how different Jennifer's life would have turned out if the judge had found Jesse guilty."
"Jesse's too. She most likely would have been hanged or sent to Deer Lodge prison for the rest of her life."
"Do you think Jennifer would have gone back east if that had happened?"
"I doubt it. Her life was here. With Jesse."
"Even if she had hanged."
"Yeah. No matter what happened to Jesse, she would have stayed close to her."
"You're such a romantic." Sherry walked up Pat and wrapped her arms around her. "And I love you in spite of it."
"In spite of it?"
"I'm just kidding. I actually find that side of you to be quite adorable."
"You do, uh?"
The women embraced for several minutes, content to be held by the other.
"Want to stay like this or see the rest of the town?" Pat asked as she leaned in for a quick kiss.
"Both." Sherry grinned. "But I think it'll be hard walking like this."
"Okay, tour guide." Sherry released her grip on Pat's waist but kept tight hold of a hand. "Lead on."
They took their time exploring the rest of the courthouse turned hotel before venturing back outside.
"Next we have Finney's saloon."
"The one the bandits used as a headquarters."
"Yes. And it still has the bar inside."
They walked a few feet down the boardwalk to another rough hewn log building. At the front of the structure, a pair of multiple paned windows flanked a pair of half glass doors. Inside was an open rectangular shaped room, vacant except for a long bar along one side. The bar was ornately carved and its top consisted of a single piece of wood almost thirty feet long and three feet wide.
"Wow. It's just like Charley described." Sherry walked beside the bar, drawing her fingertips along the polished surface.
Pat stood quietly near the front of the saloon, looking out the windows. From where she stood she could see the general store on the other side of the street. She knew from her previous trips to Bannack that located in the rear of that store was the sheriff's office.
"What are you looking at?" Sherry asked, slipping her arm around Pat's waist.
"This is where the bandits watched Jesse and Jennifer leave town that day. They rode right past this window after they talked to the sheriff over there by Carpenter's store. They had no idea what was about to happen to them. They were just happy to be heading home."
"With their baby."
"As a family."
Sherry glanced at Pat. The tone in her voice was unusual. Not quite sad. More regretful she thought and wondered why. She looked out the window. "That's Carpenter's store?"
"That's where Sheriff Logan's office was?"
"The jails are behind the stores?"
One more nod.
"I'd like to go there next."
"I can understand why Jesse hated it in here." Sherry and Pat stood inside the tiny cell that Jesse had been locked in over night. Standing in the middle of the cell, they could easily reach out and touch each of its four walls.
"Creepy." Sherry looked nervously at the open cell door. "I don't even want to think about being in here with the door shut and how dark it must be." Unlike the cell at the front of the jail, the one Jesse had occupied did not have a window.
"It would be as dark as the inside of a cow, that's for sure."
Sherry stared at Pat for a second before she burst out laughing.
"Dark as the inside of a cow?" Sherry continued laughing as she made her way out of the cell and out of the small jail. Being careful to duck her head, she stepped back out into the bright afternoon sunlight.
"Why is that so funny?" Pat asked as she followed her lover outside.
"Pat, have you ever been inside of a cow?"
"Not that I know of."
"Then how can you possible know how dark it is inside of one."
Pat shrugged. "It's something my dad used to say."
Sherry stopped laughing when she heard the answer and saw that look on Pat's face. "I'm sorry, baby. I didn't mean to make fun of..."
"It's okay." Pat tried to smile. When she couldn't, she sighed instead. "It's just something I remember him saying. Before he left..."
"I won't leave you, Pat." Sherry stepped close to her lover. She was beginning to understand Pat's somber mood. Bannack was where Jesse had almost lost everyone she loved. And being here must be causing Pat to think of all the people she had loved and lost. "I'm in this for the long haul. Just like Jennifer would never leave Jesse, I'll never leave you."
"You'll be the first." Pat said sadly, her mind flooding with the memories of first her father and then Karen walking out of her life.
"Your mom never left."
"She died." Pat knew her mother wasn't to blame but, for her, her mother's death had been just as painful as her father's abandonment.
"I'm here, Pat." Sherry took Pat's hands and pressed them against her heart. "That beats for you, love."
"I love you." Pat whispered. "More than anything, I love you."
"I love you, too, sweetheart."
Pat was sitting on a bench on the porch of the courthouse watching Sherry walk along the boardwalk on the opposite side of the street. After the leaving the jails, the women had explored the rest of Bannack. From the miners' shacks to the boarding houses to the old cemetery, they had left nothing unseen. Sherry had wanted to check out a few of the buildings for a second time and Pat opted to wait for her on the courthouse porch and rest her tired leg. As she watched her lover disappeared into what once had been a miners' rooming house, she thought again of her love for Sherry.
'She does love you, you know.' Pat told herself. 'And you love her.'
'So what are you waiting for?'
"I'm not sure."
'Follow your heart. Isn't that what Bette Mae told Jesse to do? Seems like some damn good advice.'
"What if she leaves?"
'She's not Karen.'
'Damn it, girl. You screw this up and you'll be kicking yourself in the ass the rest of your life. She's not Karen. She's Sherry and she loves you. If she didn't, she sure as hell would not have put up with all the crap thrown her way this past year.'
"Yeah." Pat blew out a long breath. Sherry had stuck with her when she could have easily walked away.
'What's your heart telling you?'
"I love her."
'So ask her.'
"She might say no."
'She might say yes.'
"Who are you talking to?" A young girl poked her head out of the courthouse. Stepping onto the porch, she cocked her head to one side as she studied Pat.
"Don't have much else to do until my girlfriend comes back."
The little girl moved closer to Pat, climbing up on the bench to sit beside her. "Mommy likes to sit here too. She watches my brother and me to make sure we don't get into any trouble. Momma says I can get into trouble without trying." The girl said proudly. "Is that your girlfriend?" She asked when she saw Sherry waving at Pat from across the street.
"She's pretty. My momma is pretty too. Mommy says she's the prettiest girl she's ever seen. And I look just like her."
Pat smiled at the girl. "Yes, she is very pretty. And so are you."
"You going to get married? My mommies got married and now they have me and my brother. You should get married and have a baby."
Pat wondered what the odds must be to have the little girl come from a two mommy family. Times are changing, she thought. "I'm not sure about the 'having a baby' part but the 'getting married' part sounds good." She was startled to hear the words she hadn't been expecting to say. But she discovered she liked the sound of them.
"There's a church down there." The girl pointed down to the end of the street. "You could get married in there."
"You think so?"
"Yes. My mommy said they let people get married there. You could if you asked. I'm sure of it."
"Well..." Pat smiled at the girl and she felt a huge weight lift off her heart. "I think I better ask her first, don't you?"
The girl grinned from ear to ear and nodded.
"Are your mommies inside?"
"You better go back inside then before they start to get worried about you."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to go ask my girl if she'll marry me."
"You sure?" Pat wasn't quite as convinced as the young girl seemed to be.
"Yep." The girl's head bopped up and down.
"Only one way to find out." Pat stood from the bench. She straightened her shirt and took a deep breath for courage before starting down the courthouse steps.
"She will." The girl called out to Pat before disappearing back inside the brick building.
"Where are we going?"
"To the church."
"We've been there. And if it's the same church of that Reverend Tobias, I'm not sure I want to go back there.
"We don't know that and this is important."
"Pat, will you please tell me what is going on?" Sherry dug the heels of her hiking boots into the dirt surface of the street preventing Pat from going any further.
"Sweetheart, please just come with me. Please." Pat implored her confused lover.
Since they were almost to the church anyway, Sherry gave in. "All right. But it better be worth it. I'm tired and hungry and a nice warm meal in front of a campfire sounds pretty good right now." She and Pat planned to spend the night in the campground adjacent to the ghost town, both women agreeing to take a chance that they would not experience another ghostly night like they had in Garnet.
"It'll be worth it." Pat smiled. "I hope." She whispered as she turned around and continued across the street.
Climbing the steps to the church doors, Pat pushed them open and held them for Sherry to enter. Then she guided Sherry to the front of the rows of pews. Standing facing each other, Pat lifted Sherry's hands into her own. Nervously, she smiled at lover.
Taking a long calming breath she began. "I learned the hard way not to make permanent plans. It seems that no matter how hard I tried or how much I wanted them to work out, they never did. I worked my butt off to be the best basketball player I could and in a split second it was taken away from me. I told my father I would be good and work hard to be the daughter he wanted but he didn't stay. I told Karen I would love her forever but she still walked out."
Sherry remained silent, giving Pat the time she needed to get her thoughts out.
"I gave up on love. Even after I met you, I didn't think I had a chance. You would tire of me and go on with your life. But I was wrong." She added quickly when she saw the hurt in Sherry's eyes. "I was so wrong. Being here in this place that meant so much to Jesse and Jennifer and now understanding what they faced because of their love for each other made me realize that I was being a fool. They never would have given up and I can't either."
Pat lifted Sherry's hands to her lips, tenderly kissing each finger. Then she dropped down to the floor, resting on her good knee.
"Sherry Gallagher, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Sherry slowly dropped to her knees, tears flowing down her cheeks. "Nothing, and I mean nothing, would make me happier. I love you."
"I love you too." Pat pulled Sherry to her. Her lips pressed against Sherry's and she kissed her in a way that she hoped would show just how true her words were.
"I don't suppose you have a ring, do you?" Sherry asked, her head resting on her lover's shoulder. She was still wrapped in Pat's arms but Pat was now sitting on the floor holding her in her lap.
"Sorry. I wasn't planning on doing this."
"I'm glad you did."
"Why the church?"
"The girl suggested it."
"The little girl talking to me on the courthouse porch. You saw here when you waved at me."
"I didn't see anybody but you."
"You must have. She was sitting right beside me. You had to see her."
Sherry sat up and looked Pat in the eye. "Sweetheart, I didn't see any little girl."
The women stared at each other, neither sure what to say next.
"Sunshine, what are you doing here?"
"Was that the lady at the courthouse?"
"Did you talk to her after momma told you not to?"
"She looked sad."
"She doesn't look sad now."
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her she should marry the pretty lady and have babies. Just like you and momma."
"Well now, that was mighty smart of you to say."
"Let's go find yo'r momma. It's time we started heading for home."
Sherry and Pat looked toward the front of the church when they heard what sounded like a young girl giggle. As they watched, the church door swung open and then shut.
"If it's all the same to you, can we ditch the plans for camping here tonight and just go home?"
"I think that's a good idea."
This completes the Ghost Town-ing series
To view photographs of the places Pat and Sherry visit in these stories
-- go to http://www.mickeyminner.com/photographs.html --
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