Monday, June 18, 2012

Now playing: Night Riders
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Episode Two of Night Riders

Episode One concluded with:

            “If you really want to help us, Miss Tantrall, tell your father to stay away from my fences.”
Lila tried to maintain a friendly tone. “I’ll tell him, Mr. Ashley. I know that sometimes cattle can knock over fences.”
“It ain’t the cattle that’s doin’ it!”
Lila looked down briefly, then smiled at Stella. “I need to be going. It was so nice seeing you again.”
“Thank you, Lila, thank you for everything.”
The young woman nodded politely at Jared as she stepped off the porch. The homesteader didn’t acknowledge the courtesy. He stormed inside the cabin.

Episode Two

“I’ve got the table set, Daddy.” Seven year old Becky pointed at the dishes on the table.
 “Fine,” Jared’s voice was toneless.
Becky didn’t pick up on her father’s dark mood. “How do you like my pretty new dress? Miss Lila gave it to me today. She also gave me--”
Stella entered the cabin. She had remained outside for a few moments to calm her emotions over her husband’s behavior. “Leave your daddy alone, child. He is tired from his morning’s work. Come help me in the kitchen.”
“Yes, Momma.”
Stella Ashley’s voice slashed at her husband. “Becky and I will have lunch on the table soon. Go ahead and sit down.”
Jared sat down without speaking. He noticed that Becky had done a fine job of setting the table. Looking around the cabin, he once again realized how well Stella had handled her responsibilities.
It seemed that everyone was doing their job well except him.
Lunch passed with Stella giving her complete attention to their daughter. The only time her eyes went to Jared was immediately after Becky lisped through a prayer giving thanks for the food. Her glance was accusatory. Jared hadn’t accompanied his wife and daughter to church for several weeks.
After the meal, Stella and Becky cleared the table. While Becky stacked the dishes and got them ready for washing, Stella took a bucket outside to the pump. Jared followed his wife and tried to speak to her as she filled the bucket with gushing water.
“I’m sorry I treated the Tantrall girl the way I did.”
Stella pushed the pump handle with more force. “This was all your idea, Jared. We had a good life in Ohio. You had a decent job and we didn’t have to accept charity from anyone.”
“But I wasn’t going anyplace at the factory. We weren’t getting ahead!”
The woman let go of the pump and turned toward her husband.  “Where exactly are we going now? We’re one step from losing this place to the bank. You call that getting ahead!?” She picked up the bucket and began to return to the house.
Jared walked back to his plowing. He wanted to tell Stella how much he loved her and Becky. He had brought them West for a better life. The homesteader laughed bitterly at his own thoughts. “Better life!” he said aloud. “We’re barely surviving.”
Plant and hope for a good harvest, that’s all Jared knew to do. Well, maybe he should go to church with Stella and Becky and join all those folks asking the Lord for plenty of rain and no more droughts like the one last year. Couldn’t hurt.
He walked around the barn to where his plow awaited him and stopped. Five men on horseback were tying ropes to his fence posts. They were going to pull down the fence with Tantrall’s herd grazing less than two miles away.
“Damn Elijah Tantrall!” he whispered to himself. “The man thinks he’s king, doesn’t even bother to do his dirty work at night anymore.”
Jared ran back to the front of the barn and grabbed the Winchester he kept inside by the entrance. This time the king has made a serious mistake, Ashley thought.  Tantrall would pay in blood.

Tomorrow: Episode Three of Night Riders