a Sweetwater Saga short story
Stanley walked toward the corral where he had spotted his granddaughter sprawled out on the back of the big draft horse, Boy.
KC was lying on her stomach with her arms and legs spread out to drape over Boy's sides. Her head, resting between Boy's shoulders, was turned toward the ranch yard; her eyes following her grandfather's approach.
Reaching the corral fence, Stanley hitched up his right leg to brace his booted foot on the lowest rail as he studied the preoccupied five-year old. “What're ya doin'?” he finally asked.
“Thinkin'.” KC responded pensively.
Stanley reached up to scratch the back of his neck with his left hand. “What ya thinkin' ‘bout?”
Without any change of expression, KC peered back at her grandfather. “Just thinkin',” she told him.
“Hmm.” Stanley shifted raising his arms to rest them on the top rail. Clasping his large, calloused hands together, he watched Boy inch toward him. “Yer momma is lookin' fer ya,” he told KC as Boy lowered his head to lip at his fingers.
“Don' ya think ya should be goin' ta see what she wants?”
KC gave her nose a brisk rubbing. “Cuz I already knows.”
“Ya do, uh?”
Stanley unclasped his hands to scratch Boy under his chin. “And just what is it she be wantin'?” he asked.
KC's brow creased. “Wants to start me learnin',” she answered, her face distorting as if the word tasted bad.
“Ah.” Stanley fought back the smile forming on his lips. “Don' ya think ya might need sum learnin'.”
KC pulled her arms into her sides and pushed herself up to sit on Boy's back. “What fer, Grumps?” she asked sharply.
“Well, so ya's can read and write,” Stanley explained solemnly. “And do yer sums.”
“Me been thinkin' ‘bout thems.”
“Don't be needin' them.”
Stanley tugged his kerchief out of his back pocket. Only mid-morning, the sun was already heating up the air. “Well, seems ta me that they might come in mighty handy fer ya,” he told KC, wiping the sweat off the back of his neck.
“What you mean?”
“Well, let me think… Okay, let's take readin' and writin'. What say yer momma wants ta bake ya a cake.” KC smiled at the idea. “But she don' have enuff flour so we go ta town ta git her a sack. But we come back with a sack of salt ‘stead of flour cuz ya can't read. Now yer momma can't bake that cake, can she?”
KC's head tilted to the side, her face scrunching up as she gave his comments proper thought. “That's easy, Grumps,” she said with a grin. “All we gots to do is ask Ed fer flour.”
“Ah, but what if Ed ain't in the store and ya got to read the writin' on the sacks fer yerself?”
The grin faded from KC's face.
“And what about yer grandma back east. Seems ta me that every letter she writes to yer momma, she asks ya ta write her back. How ya plan on doin' that if'n ya ain't gonna learn to write?”
KC's shoulders slumped. “Momma can write,” she muttered.
“Yer grandma be wantin' a letter from you, not yer momma,” Stanley explained.
KC frowned. “But I don't need ta learn no sums.”
Stanley let his foot drop off the rail and stretched out his stiff legs. “Gonna make things a tad difficult fer ya,” he told KC.
Stanley shifted to lean against the fence with his back to KC. “What say yer momma asks ya ta git six eggs from the henhouse so's she can scramble them up fer breakfast. Ya bring her back the eggs and she fixes them up and gives one to yer gramma, one to me, one to littl' Charley, one to yer mommy, and yer momma eats the last one.” He glanced over his shoulder where KC was concentrating on what he was saying.
“What ‘bout my egg?”
“You don' git one cuz ya only brought back five eggs when yer momma asked fer six. Cuz ya don' know yer sums.”
KC swung her right leg over Boy's broad back and down his side, a puff of dirt rising around her moccasin covered feet when she landed on the hard ground. Slowly, she shuffled to the fence and climbed over the center rail to stand beside her grandfather, her head tilting back so she could gaze up at him—her face clearly showing her consternation.
Stanley bent down and picked up his distressed granddaughter, hugging her tight. “And, one more thing… ya speak awfully rough considerin' yer mommas have tried ta teach ya better.”
KC leaned back to stare at her grandfather, her eyes opened wide in outrage. “But, I talks like you, Grumps,” she protested.
“That ain't sumthin' ta be braggin' on. I didn' git much learnin' when I was a young ‘un. Wishes now I had. Wish ya'd be gittin' all ya can, too.”
Determined to please her grandfather, KC sighed. “Grumps, I'll do my learnin',” she muttered unenthusiastically.
Smiling, Stanley hugged KC again then set her down on the ground. “That's my girl. Might even take a likin' to it,” he said giving her a loving pat on her bottom. “Go on, yer momma is waitin' fer ya.”
KC grimaced then turned away to trudge across the yard to the house, her feet dragging in the dirt and leaving a trail of dust to mark her path. When she reached the porch steps, KC turned to look back at her grandfather still leaning against the fence. “I'll do my learnin',” she yelled across the yard. “But I ain't gonna like it,” she added emphatically before spinning around and scampering up the steps.
Having listened to the exchange between her daughter and father, Jesse placed the bridle she had been mending on her workbench then stood and walked out of the barn. “Seems you gave that talk to another young ‘un,” she said joining Stanley to lean against the fence.
Stanley nodded. “Seems I did. Young ‘un was just ‘bout the same age.” He turned to smile at his daughter. “Think it'll take with her the same?”
Jesse grinned. “I don't think she has much choice.”
“She's mighty stubborn,” Stanley commented.
“Not as stubborn as her momma,” Jesse said with a laugh.
“Best be getting to my chores,” Stanley stated pushing off the fence.
Jesse reached out to place a hand on her father's arm and stop him from leaving. “I never thanked you for that, Poppa,” she told him.
“Ain't no need ta be thankin' me fer sayin' what needed ta be said.”
Jesse smiled. “Still, it means a lot that you said it.”
Stanley grinned. “Seems ta me, you reacted the same as KC. Yer momma used ta have ta threaten ta beat ya with a switch ta git ya ta go ta town fer yer lessons.”
Jesse laughed. “But I did go.”
Stanley nodded. “Took a likin' to it, did ya?”
“Nope,” Jesse answered shaking her head. “I hated sitting in that schoolhouse, all I could think about was getting back to the ranch. But, as miserable as I was, I figured out that I loved the learning.”
“That why ya took ta reading so much?” Stanley asked remembering all the books his daughter had lugged home from school. Even now, Jesse continued to acquire books—receiving regular deliveries from a peddler that had wandered into Sweetwater one day.
Jesse nodded as she turned her eyes toward the ranch house. “I sure hope KC discovers that, too,” she said wistfully.
“Don' think she'll have much say in the matter,” Stanley told her. “She does everything her mommas do.”
Jesse turned back to her father. “She does, doesn't she?” she stated proudly.
Stanley reached up to clasp his hand on his daughter's shoulder and give it a squeeze. “She surely does.”
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