Thursday, July 19, 2018

JULY 19, 2018

PROVERBS 31:10-31

In Hebrew, this is an acrostic.

"An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack o gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good,
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
She extends her hand tot he poor,
And she stretches out her hand to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household, 
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing.
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bred of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her,
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
'Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.'
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears (reverences) the Lord,
She shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates."

I've set the table time and time again as I've blogged through Proverbs, 
but these last verses are like a savored dessert, delicious but tinged with a little guilt.
So far, I've included most of these virtues in my short story, "Pretty as a Scripture,"
as well as giving reprints of the examples of Abigail Adams and my mother.
Finally, I'd like to offer the wisdom of Adam Clarke's perspective of these verses.

"Who  can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."

I guess that's one way of saying that she is worth her weight in gold. He adds,
1. She is a virtuous woman--a woman of power and strength.  A strong or virtuous wife,
full of mental energy."  (As for me, that's about the only kind of energy I have left.)

2.  She is quantity of precious stones can be equal to her worth.
3.  She is an unspotted wife, and makes no waste of any thing: the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.  She will take care that a proper provision is made for the household.  'He hath no need of spoil.'  He is not obliged to go out on predatory excursions, to provide for his family at the expense of the neighbouring tribes.
4.  She has her husband's happiness in view constantly.  She recompenses all his kindness to her in beneficent acts.  For kind words she gives kind deeds...her good is unmixed: she will do him good, and not evil.  Her good is not capricious; it is constant and permanent...for she will do him good all the days of her life."

 This is the second part of her character...

1.  "She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly" ...she procured the raw material...from her own flocks; if flax, most probably from her own fields.  (I've observed the rooms in the plantations where the slaves beat the flax and spun the wool, as in the Lee's, the Jefferson, and Washington's.)
2.  All her labour is cheerful service; her will , her heart, is in it. 
3.  "She is like the merchants' ships." If she imports, she exports.
4.  "She rises also while it is yet night"  She is an economist of time (home economics).  Note, he says, "but they all rise before daylight."  (the little woman is not alone in her tasks, but prepares for them all.)
5.   "She considereth a field, and buyeth it"  More land will shortly be needed, for the family growing up...she pays for it by the fruit of her own industry.  
6.  She does not restrict herself to the bare necessaries of life; she is able to procure some of its comforts.

7.  "She girdeth her loins with strength"  She takes care of her own health and strength, not only by means of useful labour; but by healthy exercise.  She avoids what might enervate (weaken) her body, or soften her mind.  (I doubt she has time to drag a tire around the gym, and workout on the treadmill, but who knows what Adam Clarke was thinking of in the 1700's when he wrote this?)
8.  "She perceiveth that her merchandise is good." Her goods are in high repute. 
9.  "Her candle goeth not out by night."  In a time and places where there were so many banditti, this was a very necessary family regulation.  (Home security)
10.  She layeth her hands to the spindle" She gives an example of skill and industry to her household.  The spindle and distaff are the most ancient of all the instruments used for spinning, or making thread.  (I've done a little of the carding and the spinning of the wool thread in art class.)

11.  "She stretches her hand to the poor:  She is truly charitable.  She knows that in every portion of a man's gain God requires a lot for the poor; and if this is not given, God's blessing is not in the rest."
12.  "She is not afraid of the snow."  She is not anxious relative to the health and comfort of her family in the winter season.  The purple was supposed to have been dyed by a precious liquor obtained from the ...large shell fish, found on the coasts of the Mediterranean

"For all her household are clothed with scarlet." Cloverdale, "For all hir householde folks are duble-clothed." ...Scarlet, as being a lively bright clour, is used in the winter dresses.
13.  "She maketh herself coverings of tapestry."  Egyptian cotton is probably intended (which are our preferred sheets). 
14.  "Her husband is known in the gates."  She is a loving wife, and feels for the respectablitity and honour of her husband..  He is an elder among his people, and he sits as a magistrate in the gate.  He is respected not only on the account of the neatness and cleanliness of his person and dress but because he is the husband of a woman who is justly held in universal esteem.  And her complete management of household affairs gives him full leisure to devote himself to the civil interests of the community.
15.  "She maketh fine linen and selleth it."  Al these were generally women, the consumption was great; and an able artist must have a good trade.
16.  "Strength and honour are her clothing."  All the articles manufactured by herself, have a double perfection:--1.  They are strong  2.--They are elegant...Besides, she has so conducted herself that she has reason to expect that the hand of the Lord shall be still with her, and shall keep her from evil that it may not grieve her.

17.  "She openeth her mouth with wisdom."  He comes now to the moral management of her family.  1.  She is wise and intelligent; --she has not neglected the cultivation of her mind.
2.  She is amiable in her carriage, full of good nature, well-tempered, and conciliating in her manners and address.   "Her tongue is the law of kindness."  This is the most distinguishing excellence of this woman.  There are very few of those who are called managing women who are not lords over their husbands, tyrants over their servants, and insolent among their neighbours.  But this woman with all her eminence and excellence, was a meek and quiet spirit.  Blessed woman!
18.  "She looketh well to the ways of her household."  She is a moral manager; she takes care that ll shall behave themselves well; that none of them shall keep bad company, or contract vicious habits...In her house, diligence in business, and fervency of spirit, serving the Lord, go hand in hand.
19.  "And eateth not the bread of idleness."  She knows that idleness leads to vice.

20.  "Her children arise up, and call her blessed."  She considers a good education next to Divine influence; and she knows also that if she train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.  1.  Her children are well bred; they rise up and pay due respect.  2.  They are taught the fear of the Lord, and obedience to His testimonies;--therefore, they call her blessed.  3.  Her husband is so satisfied with her conduct towards himself, his household, his business, and their children, that he praiseth her.  He shews himself sensible of her excellence; and encourages her, in her work, by the commendations he bestows. "Many daughters have done virtuously"  This is undoubtedly the speech of her husband., giving testimony to the excellence of his wife....but Thou, my incomparable wife, excellest them all.  

"I have met at least her equal, in a daughter of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Annesley, the wife of Samuel Wesey, Rector of Epworth, and mother of the late extraordinary brothers, John and Charles Wesley.  I am constrained to add this testimony after having traced her from her birth to her death, through all the relations that a woman can bear upon earth..  Her Christianity gave to her virtues and excellencies a heightening, which the Jew matron could not posses.  Besides, she was a woman of great learning and information, and of a depth of mind and reach of thought, seldom to be found among the daughters of Eve, and not often among the sons of Adam.  

"Favour is deceitful, ad beauty is vain."
Here is the summing up of the character.

1.  Favour, grace of manner may be deceitful, may a fair appearance of this kind is put on, assumed for certain secular or more unworthy purposes.
2.  Beauty, elegance of shape, symmetry of features, dignity of mien, and beauty of countenance, are all vanity; sickness impairs them, suffering deranges them, and death destroys them.
3.  "But a woman that feareth the Lord," possesses true religion, has that grace that harmonizes the soul, that purifies and refines all the tempers, and passions, and that ornaments beauty; that meek and quiet mind, which in the sight of God, is of great price.  "She shall be praised."  This is the lasting grace, the unfading beauty.

Finally verse 31, "This may be a prayer.  May she long enjoy the fruit of her labours!  May she see her children's children, and peace upon Israel!  "And let her own works praise her in the gates."  Let what she has done be spoken of for a memorial of her:  let her bright example be held forth in the most public places.  Let it be set before the eyes of every female, particularly of every wife and especially of every mother: and let them learn from this exemplar...Amen.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

JULY 17, 2018


"For the churning of milk produces butter,
And pressing the nose brings forth blood;
So the churning of anger produces strife."

President Lincoln meeting at the Moscow General Store.
(hmm, our president meet with Russian President Putin)

Well, we decided--very last minute--that we would go to the largest Civil War Reenactment on the West Coast , 400 from the North and 300 from the South.  We joined the hundreds of spectators, much like those of Washington, D.C. gathered at the first battle at Manassas, a battlefield we have visited.  Many took picnics and parasols thinking it would be a decisive short war and would be over in a day.  Friends even took Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's young son, and momentarily lost him as the carnage of war became overwhelming causing everyone to flee.  These reenactments are just a thimbleful of the actual battle sizes and are done lest we forget.

The universities' spin on the Civil War is to say it was only about economics, then states rights.  That the issue of slavery was an afterthought.  The South had nine and a half million people, half of which were slaves, while the North had 22 million.  How on earth did the war last so long while 700,000 lives were lost: one out of ten Americans died?  More lost their lives from disease and infection than death on the battlefield.  However, I believe what has been long embraced that it was primarily about slavery.  I do not believe it to be about states rights, an issue which is swirling about in our time still.  Men do not go out and shed blood over that.  Yes, slavery and economics went hand in hand since the large plantations could not produce cotton or any yield without the institution of slavery.  "The churning of anger produces strife."

Lincoln on his way to give the Gettysburg Address,
which he pulled out of his tall hat.

The North were Republicans, and the South were Democrats who tried to vote down any legislation after the war which benefited the race they had long oppressed.  The KKK was created and membered by Democrats.  The abortion issue was birthed by Margaret Sanger who wanted to use it to wipe out the black race, (she was a friend of Hitler's and Darwin's), and thus, the Planned Parenthood Clinics were put in black neighborhoods.  Currently more blacks are aborted, at least in Washington D.C. than are birthed, a continued genocide. "The churning of anger produces strife."

The Democrats still want to manipulate  the race-issue and to keep the blacks "on the plantation" with identity politics.  The current movement, #WalkAway, finds many blacks doing just that, as well as immigrants, Jews, Hispanics, and gays who are tired of broken promises, of the vile rhetoric, and violence of the Resistance Movement.  Finally. Before the Democratic decision to give welfare as an inducement to single mothers, black families were mostly intact.  Now, the home is broken up, and many single men without fathers find their belonging in gangs.  "The churning of anger produces strife."

Now, leaving those politics aside, we laughed thinking of our president meeting with Russia's Putin while we went down  Moscow Road on the Russian River.  It made more sense as we went on a little adventure the day after the event going to Fort Ross.  This was a very early part of California history as it was established in 1812 by a Russian-American venture for  i.e. seal and sea otter pelts and as a place to provide supplies to Sitka, Alaska, and eventually back to Russia. 
One of the products it made to send north was butter: "the churning of milk produces butter." So we have come full circle.  Now Fort Ross, one of the first State Parks, is a beautiful one at that.  

Since we decided so last minute to make the trip, it seemed to be impossible to find lodging while our soldier camped with his unit.  The historic Casini Ranch who hosted the reenactment also provides a huge campground right on the Russian River.  Tents, R.V.s abound as well as teeny tiny cabins and larger ones for groups who want to stay.  Of course, they were full-up, but had kept back a handicap cabin, which they decided to allow us to stay in since my husband needed a place to plug in his sleep machine.    When we looked it up online, we read that the little cabins offered refrigerators, coffee makers, microwaves, dishes as well as beds, so that is how we packed.  Yet, the handicapped cabin had only beds and was a cement block space, a part of the bathroom building.  In the words of little girls in line for the bathroom who we overheard, "I would not stay in that place 'cause it stinks like a sewer."  Well, we were still glad to get any place to lay our heads, but will plan better for next year.   

As we left Moscow Road on the Russian River, we listened on the radio to the contentious coverage of our presidents meeting with the leader of Russia.  Sigh.   Churning of butter is better than a bloody nose.  One commentator asked what Democrats wanted, for Trump to punch Putin in the nose?

Thursday, July 12, 2018


A new Just for Fun Friday Fiction
Celia Jolley

Joe sat reading his Bible by lantern light, though his hands fisted his hair.  He read aloud from Job 29,

"Oh that I were as in months past, 
As in the days when God preserved me;
When His candle shined upon my head,
And when by His light I walked through darkness;
As I was in the days of my youth,
When the secret of God was upon my tabernacle;
When the Almighty was yet with me,
When my children were about me.."
(Job 29:2-5)

Now he could only groan.  His wife had died running off in the brokenness of her spirit after burying their three children, but Joe still remained in the bleakness of an empty house where quiet was draped in hollow shadows.  The happy laughter of children no longer filled the dusk as when they gathered round their table for a modest meal made pleasant by love.  

A knock broke him out of his morose brooding.  He forced himself to rise from his chair and moved slowly to the door.

"Come in, Solomon, my one true friend," Joe said shaking his hand.

"Why have you let your fire burn down, Joe?  Don't you feel the cold in here?"

Joe looked over in surprise.  Indeed, he had not noticed.  "I'll go get more firewood off the porch," he said hurrying out.

As he squatted before the embers blowing encouraging breath upon them, he asked, "So, what brings you out on such a cold night, Sol?  Surely you do not think me good company these days."

His friend chuckled.  "Hardly, but good or bad, you are still my friend."  Then Solomon scratched his head with a funny expression on his face.  It made Joe curious.

"You remember how everybody came to you when you were on the city council, right, Joe?"

"Those days have sailed past, Solomon," Joe stonily said with his face to the flames.  "People still blame me for the creek that was contaminated making so many sick.  How was I to know that a wild boar was caught in the current two miles up beyond my place, had drowned and putrefied?  Do people think I wanted my girls to get sick and die from drinking that water, or any of my neighbors?"

"It's not your fault.  We know that.  You just need to believe us as your friends that you are not to blame.  I know that you keep to yourself these days, but that hasn't changed the fact that you are still the wisest man I know."

Now it was Joe's turn to bark a laugh.  "That's not how most people think anymore.  I'm a pariah."

"Now Joe, you know that's not true..." but Solomon's friend turned 'round with a cocked eyebrow.

Sol rubbed his neck but continued, "Well, some may think that way, but most still respect you and remember the man you were before your great sorrow and you began hiding out here all by your lonesome." He nodded over to the Bible where it lay open on the table.  "I'm glad to see you reading the Good Book, Joe, but you need to come back to church..."

Joe rose to his full height that towered over his friend and said through his gritted teeth, "Do you know what that preacher said after I laid my little ones' caskets in the ground?  He dared to say it was the sovereign will of God that they should die, so we should not morn.  Not only that, but he told me to my face that we have no way of knowing if my precious girls were part of the Elect, and that there was no way of knowing if they were in heaven or burning in the flames of hell!  That, if so, we should rejoice in their torture."  Joe's face was livid as his hands were in fists. "They were two, three and five, Solomon!  Babies. 

Solomon scuffed his foot on the plank floor, "I don't know how to answer that exactly, though there are some of us who don't see Scripture quite the way as he expounds it, nor Jonathan Edwards whom he follows and quoted.  But I do know this, that was just down right wrong, Joe, and I'm sorry."

"I'll never forget Elizabeth's eyes when the preacher said that to us.  It was as if she shattered like crystal." She went straight home, locked herself in our bedroom and somehow slipped out in the middle of the night.  I'd have had no way of knowing where she went if we had not got word of her death when the stage lost that wheel and went off in the ravine.  Maybe it was merciful, I do not know."  He returned to where he was sitting and fisted his hair in his hands again.

Solomon sat across from him and thumped his Bible.  "Maybe you should read something other than Job..."

"Why?  Does he not describes my life exactly?"

Solomon realized he wasn't going to rouse his friend out of his grief this way so he just blurted out the reason he had come.  "I don't know what to do, Joe.  My sister's husband passed away, and she refuses to come here and live with us.  I'll admit it would be a little tight with her and her two kids, but we could make it work.  But that's not the worst.  She asked me, you read it for yourself."

He picked up the letter and read quietly before jerking his head up.  "A mail-order husband? She wants you to advertise and choose?  Is she crazy?  The woman must be so bound up in sorrow that she can't be thinking right!"

Solomon ran his hand through his hair.  "I know, I mean I don't know.  Should I take this seriously?  You see where she says she needs help, how she is staying up late and getting up before dawn trying to get everything done that must be done, how she continues to spin the wool from her sheep, she weaves, sews her and her children's clothes and even sells some to others? She feeds all her hands on her ranch to boot.  Shoot, did you see there that she went out and bought another field with a small orchard?  I'm afraid she'll work herself into an early grave."

"She certainly isn't idle, that's for sure.  But I can't think of any suitable bachelors around here, can you?"

Solomon looked funny and shook his head.  That's why I came to you.  I need your advice."

"Write her again and insist that she sell her place and come live with you."

"I already did.  She's not moving.  Mercy's determined to stay where she is.  I mean, I know my sister, and if she says she's not moving, she ain't moving."

Joe read it again.  How old are her kids?  Can't they help her?"

Solomon screwed up his face trying to remember.  "I'd guess they are four and six, something like that."

"Too young."  Thinking of his little ones he'd lost gave Joe a pang that squeezed his heart.  He rubbed his chest then asked, "Do you have any older kin who would move there to help her out?"

"Not any of them left, maybe a cousin or two back east, but none around here.  We lost too many in the War between the States, so there aren't nearly as many menfolk left to tend to widows and orphans, and there's plenty of those around."

"How about you?  Can you sell your farm and go there?  What is it, four or five days ride away?"

"I can't imagine selling my place and leaving.  I mean, I've just proved it up and am feeling too at home here to just up and leave.  Besides, my wife's family is all here."

Joe rubbed his jaw realizing by the scruffiness of it that he had not shaved in a few days, maybe even a week or more.  He was a mess, not fit company.  This is a conundrum, Solomon.  I don't know what to tell you."

"There's Jack Evans, but  I wouldn't wish that man on any female."

"Yeah, he needs to stay a confirmed bachelor for all his live long days, that's for sure.  Jess Henry is too young.  Ed Smith is adamant that he is not a Christian.  Bud Harvey is a heavy drinker and Jacob Stillman is too fond of gambling."

"Nah, none of those would do.  I just can't think of any other bachelors, and I most certainly will not allow just any stranger to show up and marry her if I advertised.  I wouldn't do that to my sister." 

Joe seemed deep in thought before asking, "Do I know her?" 

Solomon studied his dirty fingernails and tried to figure it out.  "You moved here, what, six or seven years back?  But you were so in love as a newlywed that I doubt you noticed my little sister.  Then when Adam Jenkins showed up and stole her heart, he proposed, married her and swept her away back to his place.  I heard he has quite a spread."

"Adam Jenkins?  I remember meeting him.  He was a good man."  Joe tried to think past his sorrow to that earlier time wondering if he had indeed met Solomon's sister. "Wait, did she have fly-away hair that never wanted to stay in her braids and dark brown eyes.  She was just a little thing that hardly came up to my shoulder.  Am I right?"

"Brown hair with dark eye lashes?  Yep, that's her.  She was always in a hurry and didn't take time to tame her hair, much to my mother's consternation."

"Mercy.  That's her name, right?  I think my Elizabeth liked her, but she moved before they could develop much of a friendship."

"She wrote to have me tell you that she is sorry for your great losses, and that she is praying for you."

He snorted.  "Good, because she's probably the only one who does.  Now tell me again, Sol, why you rode all the way out here in the cold to ask me, of all people, advice about your sister?"

Solomon shifted his feet nervously under the table as if antsy to leave.  "Like I said, you're the wisest man I know and my closest friend.  I knew I could trust you with this.  Can you imagine if I went to Jeff or Henry with it?  Their wives would have it all over town before I could crawl into bed tonight.   I respect my sister too much to let her be the fodder for gossips."

Solomon began jiggling his leg under the table before going on, "The only thing I can think of to do is to take a trip out there to her place.  I'm between planting and harvesting, so it's a good time for me."  He kind of coughed in a nervous fashion before continuing, "I was hoping maybe you'd go with me, you know, to see what her situation truly is."

Joe jerked his head up to stare at his best friend.  The only sound was the ticking of the clock on the mantle.  As the spring wound to begin its chime, its dong sounded eight times before he said with a sigh, "Sure, I guess I could do that."  He gave out a harsh laugh.  "It couldn't be any worse than how I'm spending my time now digging up my sorrows every other minute."

Solomon beamed.  "Good!  I surely didn't want to go by myself.  We can take our rifles and maybe do some hunting on the way too."

Joe even grinned then.  "Hunting?  It's been too long since I've been hunting with you, Sol."

The house was still quiet after his friend left, but his heart was humming about getting away from this sorrowful place, even if it was just a trip to help out a widow.  "

He flipped another page in his Bible to find where he had read earlier, "I caused the widow's heart  to sing for joy." (Job 29:13)  He chuckled and prayed aloud, "God do you see a wee bit of humor in all this?  Help us to find this poor woman the man she needs so she can maybe find a little bit of happiness again."

Then he went to bed and slept the best he had since he had lost his family. 

The next morning Joe was as ready as a fish leaping to catch a fly when Sol rode up.  The two friends thoroughly enjoyed the riding, the times around the campfire, and the time taken to finding a wild turkey here and a nice buck there to bring to his sister.  As far as Joe was concerned, the time went by too quickly before arriving at an impressive spread.  He had not realized how starved he was for conversation and the fellowship of his friend.  He'd been alone far too long.

As their horses rode under the arch over the entrance to his sister's ranch, a cowboy arrived to meet them to find out their purpose.

"Howdy, folks.  Are you here on business or is this a social call?  If the latter, Miz Mercy isn't acceptance any callers.  The lady of the place is far too busy now as in the near future and sent me to give you her regrets."

Solomon chortled, "I appreciate your protection of my sister, but I think she will be glad to see me as well as my friend."

The cowboy took his hat off and wiped his sweaty brow with a red kerchief but began to grin.  "To tell you the truth, we'd all be glad to have you look after your sister a spell.  She's one determined woman to keep this ranch running as smooth as butter on a hot rock, but it ain't easy."

Solomon laughed good naturedly.  "I'm sure she is a handful.  My name is Solomon, and this here is my friend Joe."

The cowboy rode up between them to shake their hands.  "I'm just called Lem.  Nice to meet you.  What we all think, to tell you the truth, is that she needs a new man about the place.  Though she loved her husband and did nothing but good by him, he's gone.  It's high time for her to find another."

As they rode up the long drive to the house, the man went on, "Miz Mercy's the hardest worker I ever saw, and the godliest one as well.  She's such a strong woman that we all can't help but appreciate her backbone.  Though small, she's mighty and carries herself with such dignity that wherever she goes, everybody, including all her hands here, respects her just like they did her husband."

"That's my sister, alright,"  Solomon nodded proudly.  "How's my niece and nephew?"

"They're growing like weeds and learning how to ride and rope too, though they're still too young to be out with us riding herd.  They sure do love their mama, no doubt about it."

Joe just looked about him wide-eyed at the prosperous ranch that spread as far as he could see in fenced pastures, valleys where a river ran clear, and clear to a forest thick with trees.  "Nice place," was all he could add.

"I had no idea," Nathan agreed looking around amazed.  "I know ranchers don't like to tell others about how many head of cattle they have or how much land they own, but still, I never imagined this."

"Yep, she works hard and prepares ahead.  She'll be ready when the snow flies.  Miz Mercy also is ready to help any needy she hears tell of.  She's a generous woman."

"I'm glad we came."  Nathan said with a fierce look coming over him.  "No wonder she's turning away callers.  There's got to be a passel of greedy men just salivating to get their hands on this ranch to try and take advantage of her."

"I'm not saying she's not a beauty, for she is, but she's not so vain not to realize that most callers are more interested in her spread than her.  There is not a deceitful bone in her body, but she doesn't suffer a fool."

"Well it sounds like, Lem, that she has the right man protecting her.  We're here to see how we can best help her as well."

As they approached a log ranch house, a little woman stepped off the porch shading her eyes to try and discern who was riding alongside of her foreman.  It was a moving moment when she recognized her brother.  Mercy began running and laughing while Solomon spurred his horse forward to meet her.  When he jumped off, he grabbed her and spun her around.

"Oh for lands sake, I can't believe it's you, Sol!"  "When I wrote you I never expected you to come in person."  Then she looked suspiciously to where Joe still sat in the saddle and whispered, "Don't tell me you brought me a man.  I mean, I know what I wrote, but I'm not so sure I'm ready to take that step yet.  I was sorry as soon as I posted my letter, but couldn't get it back."

"We'll talk about it later.  But Joe's no stranger." He waved him over. "You remember my best friend, don't you?"

She tried to smooth the hair flying wild out of her thick braid and flung it over her shoulder.  "Welcome to my Ranch, Joe.  Lem, you won't mind taken the game to the smoke house, would you?"

"'Course not, Miz Mercy.  You know we always like a break from eatin' beef all the time, not criticizing the cook or nothing though."   The man winked and led their horses away.  

Solomon threw his arm over his sister's shoulder and began walking towards the house with Joe following them.  Just then a little boy and girl threw open the door whooped and began chasing each other until they suddenly froze at the sight of company.

"David and Jemima, come meet your Uncle Solomon."

"Uncle Solomon?" the little girl rasped as in awe.

"Did you bring our cousins?" the boy asked boldly coming up next to his uncle looking up to find his smiling eyes under his hat.

"I sure wish I could have, son, but it was a mite too far.  Maybe when they are older, we can all come for a visit."

"Who are you?" Jemima asked Joe, looking up from his boots to his hat.  "Are you a stranger,  'cause Ma won't let us talk to strangers?"

Joe grinned but rubbed his chest where his heart hurt with a sudden swelling filled with thoughts of his children.  He squatted down and shook her hand.  "I'm your Uncle Sol's best friend.  Do you have a best friend?"

"Well, Esther lives too far and so I only get to see her on Sundays, and Davey is too mean, so I guess I would have to say it's Lem."

By then Davey came over shoving his sister away saying, "I'm not too mean.  I have to be your  best friend 'cause I'm your brother."

Joe's grin grew as he said, "It's nice to meet you, Davey."

The boy shook his hand hard and then said, "I'm the man of the house.  I'm glad to meet you, sir."

Joe winked at him and ruffled his hair.  "Lem says you and your sister are turning into quite the cowhands, riding and roping and such."

"He said that for reals?  Well, I'll be!"  The boy swelled up like a toad with pride.

"You better come in, or we'll miss the cookies mom always serves company.  Do want a glass a milk, mister?" little Jemima said.

"Don't be so bossy, Jemima," Davey scowled before trying to shove past her when Joe's long arm stretched out to stop him.

"Ladies first, young man.  That's how a cowboy treats a young lady."

"She's not a young lady, she's my sister." But with Joe's hand heavy on his shoulder he finally  looked up chagrinned.  "I know, that's what my ma says too."

"A gal always likes a cowboy with manners," he winked.

The boys eyes grew wide, than he ran off shouting, "Ma, Ma, is that man here to be our new daddy?"

Joe stood up, swiped his hat off and used his arm to wipe the sudden sweat off his forehead.  Surely his collar had gotten smaller enough so he ran his finger underneath it before unbuttoning it to be looser.  But his boots were glued, stuck on the front porch with too much dread to face Sol's sister.   Nothing like a kid to turn a cowboy beet red, he thought.  

Solomon came out where he stood sweating like a pig, and grabbed his arm while laughing, "Don't worry none, my sister took it in stride and shushed Davey up."

Nevertheless, Joe hung back once in the house not wanting to join them around the kitchen table.

"Come sit by me, mister.  I saved you the biggest cookie," Davey said.

"Nah uh," his sister argued.  "You already grabbed the biggest one and done et it.  That's just the next biggest one," she said smugly.

"Children, where are your manners?"

"See, mister, my ma makes us mind our manners too, jest like I told ya," Davey whispered, but  was loud enough for all to hear."

"Davey, you owe our guest an apology for running in shouting as you did," his mother said sternly.

The boy hung his head and said in a true whisper, "I'm sorry, sir."  But then back to his loud whisper he added, "I jest was hoping it was true!"

Solomon was getting a good belly laugh out of it while his sister blushed furiously.

Joe just tucked his head and shoved a big bite of cookie in his mouth not daring to look up.

"Do you want milk or water, mister?" Jemima asked.

"Riding here gave me a powerful thirst, so water would be appreciated, miss."

He drained the glass and the girl poured him more.  "Thanks."  He glanced up and smiled at the child in spite of the pang it caused him.  She was about the age his oldest would have been, his Betsy.  Then he peered up at her mother.  Jemima was a miniature portrait of her mother, a pretty little thing.

Mercy's eyes were watching over her children but snagged on his.  He gave a faint nod her direction, then looked around the kitchen, a generous room.  There must be a parlor on the other side of the middle staircase with bedrooms above.  He would volunteer to go sleep in the bunkhouse.

As if reading his mind, she was speaking, "...and you and our guest, Solomon, will be able to share a room since there are two beds in Davey's room.  He can share the big bed in his sister's room.

"What!  I'm not sleeping with her!" Davey pointed contemptuously towards his sister.

"I already figured I'd use my bedroll in the bunkhouse, ma'am."

"That's not necessary..."

"It's alright, ma'am.  We came so you could visit with your brother, not me."  

She stared at him with her eyebrow raised, then quoted from the Scripture he recognized from Job, "The stranger did not lodge in the street; but I opened my doors to the traveler." 

"Alright, then.  I accept."

Then she added, "I finally hired a new cook for the hands.  But since I can't vouch for his skill, I'll be doing the cooking for us."

"Thank you, ma'am."

"Lem says cook can't hold a candle to ma's cooking," Jemima volunteered.

"I bet," Solomon jumped in.  "She learned to cook from the best.  Our ma was quite a cook."

Joe watched as a soft look fell over Mercy.  She said, "I miss her."

"She would be so proud of you, sis," Solomon asserted.  But to lighten the mood he teased, "But you still haven't got the hang of how to out bake her."  He waved his cookie before stuffing it into his mouth with a wide grin.

"Don't forget to finish your chores before supper, children, or you will not be able to visit with your uncle and our guest afterwards."

The two shoved away from the table and tried to outrun each other out the door not wanting to miss a minute of sitting in the parlor with the two men tonight.

"So now that they are occupied elsewhere, I want to hear it straight from you, Mercy, how are you truly doing?"  Solomon looked into his sister's eyes.  She however seemed to be evasive.

"The ranch is doing well, but I will be honest enough to say it is a heavy burden.  I think the children fare the worse seeing more attention from Lem and the boys than from me."

"Can you hire more help, Mercy, like someone to at least do the laundry and cleaning."

"I can do that..."

"That's not the question, sweetheart," Solomon pressed.  "It's about wrestling more work off your shoulders.  You can afford it, can't you?  It looks like you are prosperous enough.  Is it as it appears to be?"

"For now, but anything can happen, a drought, a blizzard, a low market for beef, disease, rustlers.  Anything can wipe out any ranch or put it back on its heels."

"It seems to me, miss that one of those things that can set a ranch back on its heels is if its boss-- that would be you, ma'am--gets overburdened by the work."  Joe was as stunned as Mercy and Solomon that he had spoken up.  "Of course, it's not for me to say.  Please excuse me."  

He stood to leave, but Solomon waved him back down.  "Those are my thoughts exactly, Mercy.  Thanks, Joe.  I couldn't have said it better."

"Thank you, gentlemen.  I will take it in consideration," she sighed.  "Lem and I will take you around the ranch tomorrow.  It just so happens that it's the usual day  when the children go to play at their grandparents, their father's parents, in town freeing me to be with you.  I'll send one of the hands into town with them, and he can pick up the things on my grocery list for me.  As much as I appreciate my in-laws, their unabated grief is hard to add to my own.  Thankfully, the children don't seem to notice, and are happy just to play with their old dog and their father's toys from when he was a boy."

Joe just listened to the pleasant visiting around the table.  At one time it would have been his to enjoy in his own home before he lost his wife and children.  He understood Mercy's loss, but at least she had her precious children to bring her joy.  It was at times like this when Jemima or Davey spoke or laughed that the sparkle was back in her eyes and a smile was easy on her lips instead of the slump of her shoulders and knitted brows otherwise.  Such was her heavy burdens.  It made him wish he could shelter her from it all, but of course it wasn't his place.  They were only here for a few days.  

He planned to drill Lem to see if he approved of any of their neighbors as possible suitors. In fact, the next day there was an opportunity to do just that when he and Lem purposefully rode behind the others.  

When he asked, the foreman huffed.  "You have got to be kidding me.  Just about all the good men are already taken.  As for the rest, I would rather her face a rattlesnake than any of those who dare to come calling.  At least she could shoot a rattler."

"I'm sure Solomon will not be happy about that."

"Are you married, mister?"

"I was."

"Ahh, so you are that Joe.  I'm sorry for your losses.  I know our Mercy lifts you up in prayer often."

Joe felt like a fish out of water gulping air before he managed to say, "She does?  She prays for me, out loud?"

"Yes, she felt it was important to teach her children that there were others not as fortunate as they since they still had each other.  I'm not trying to add to your hurt, sir, you understand, but am just telling it like it is."

"Thanks for telling me.  I'm rather taken aback."

"Now don't go feeling too special," he teased, "'cause she's prayed earnestly for each of us here at her ranch from time to time.  I must admit that we scoundrels need it most urgently betimes."

"I'll bet." Joe was able to laugh with Lem.

"Lem," Mercy called.  The man spurred his horse forward.

Solomon fell back and said, "We need you to accompany my sister back to the house 'cause the children will be home soon.  Her hands never let her go about without escort.   Rustlers are always stalking about, and her men are committed to keeping her safe."

"Sure thing," Joe said, though he felt anything sure about it.  It had been a long time since he had been around a woman alone until he came here.  He quoted under his breath, "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?" (Job 31:1)  One glance at Solomon's sister was enough to see that she wasn't the skinny little thing he remembered, but a beautiful woman.  He kept his eyes averted when she rode up.

"I need to get home before Jude brings my children back from town.  My hands shouldn't have to be nursemaids."

Joe said, "They are good children, but certainly precocious."  He drank her laughter like a potion.

"You pegged them, Joe.  May I called you Joe?"  

"Yes, ma'am."  He  took another gulp hearing his name from her lips, and he wasn't thinking about how his wife  said it.  He swallowed and remembered more Scripture, "If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mime eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands...If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door..." (Proverbs 31:9)  But his mind argued saying,  his heart was not being deceived by this woman, nor was he trying to steal another's woman.  She was a widow, and he too was alone.  Then he reminded himself that he was just here to assist Solomon find help for his sister, that is if a man was to be found.

It was a quiet ride since he didn't feel able to converse with someone like her, unless it was about her children.

"The children seem to have latched ton to you.  I appreciate your kindness to them."

Joe looked over at her surprised.  "Doesn't everyone treat them well?"

She snorted.  "They are invisible to most callers, until they act out that is just to get attention.  Since you pay attention to them, they act out quite a bit less.  So I thank you."

"What kind of callers do you have, if I might ask?"  He wasn't of the opinion that children must be seen but not heard and got his feathers ruffled to think her young'ns were ignored at best and were ill treated at worst.

She grimaced.  "They are greedy, wanting to get their hands on the spread my husband worked so hard for."

Joe clenched his fists.  "I'm glad your hands watch over you so well."

"Yes, me too."  But Mercy sighed.  "I wish it wasn't so.  It was such a shock to lose my husband so suddenly."

He nodded, "It is a shock when you lose what you had held so dear.  I find it is a struggle not to hold it against God.  But I keep remembering the truth of Scripture that God is good, and that my family is where there are no tears or fears."  Joe was once again shocked at what he said.

"It is a struggle I wrestle with nearly every night when the house gets quiet and I feel so alone."
Mercy wiped a stray tear.

"Sorry to dredge all this up.  It's not my place," Joe apologized.

"No, it is nice to speak with someone who understands, one who does not give me just platitudes, thank you."

Suddenly they were back as a little boy and small girl child bounded out of the wagon and ran to them calling to their mother.  The joy was back in her countenance.  He could never resent that.

At supper that night, Mercy reminded them saying, "Tomorrow would be a good time for you to come with me to prune my orchard.  The children love to climb the trees now that they have grown sturdy enough.  It was pretty neglected when I purchased it, but I hope it will begin to produce soon enough."

"You'll come won't you, Uncle Sol, and bring your friend?" Jemima asked.

"Please come, mister!" Davey begged yanking on his sleeve leaving a trail of mashed potatoes from his grubby fingers.

"Davey!  Look how you've used our guest's shirt as a napkin."

"It's alright, ma'am.  It's nice to be wanted.  When I go home, there won't be anybody to yank on me.  I don't mind at all."

The table went quiet.  Then Jemima sniffed and said, "We are all sorry your children died, sir."

"Thank you, sweetling."  He forced a smile to grip his face.

Solomon cleared his throat.  "I told Lem that I would go to town with him in the morning.  He has some business to take care of and wants to introduce me around.  He thinks it would be a good idea to have people know that I have my sister's back."

"Do you want me to come?" Joe asked.

Solomon chuckled.  "As intimidating as you can be, I wouldn't want to stir up a brawl if anyone challenged you."

"A fight?" Davey said excitedly.

"No, son, your uncle was only kidding," she stabbed her brother with a glare.

"I was just joking," Solomon asserted.

"Oh," Davey said slumping down in his seat.

Joe fought to hide his smile.  "I don't hanker for a fight.  It hurts to get punched.  Sometimes you get your teeth knocked out, and then you couldn't chew your mother's fried chicken nearly as well.  Besides, young ladies like a man with all his teeth."

"Do you have all yours?" Davey was curious.

"Joe gave a full smile and said, "What do you think?"

"Mom, do you like him 'cause he has all his teeth?"

While Mercy sputtered, Solomon hooted.  "Oh, Davey!  Wait until I tell your cousins about you."

Joe went back tearing chicken off the leg bone pretending he wasn't aware of what the boy kept hinting at.

Mercy took a deep breath and said, "Davey, do you remember what we talked about?"

The boy scratched his cal lick, "Umm, do you mean when you told me not to talk about Mister Joe becoming my daddy?"

Solomon howled with laughter while Mercy strode over and pulled Davey up by his collar and marched him out.  "Wait, I haven't eaten dessert yet!" the boy protested.

Abbie was like a little mother and tisked, "Davey, Davey, Davey, you need to get your mouth washed out with soap."

But by the sound of his bellowing, and by the sound of a couple of thwacks, his mother spared the soap, but not the child.  He chuckled.  "I always let my wife handle the paddle or switch. I could not bear to spank afraid I could hurt them with my strength."

I  remember seeing your Elizabeth taking off after your little Joseph who was running as fast as he could go trying to get away from getting a switching.  

Joe was surprised to find himself laughing along with Sol.  It felt good to speak of his children without it tearing him up.  "He seemed to always forget that he'd get hungry and would have to come home sometime and thus, would have to face his switching eventually."

"Were your kids naughty too?" Jemima looked awed.  "I thought it was just Davey."  Then she turned to her uncle asking in disbelief, "And are my cousins sometimes naughty too?"

Solomon chuckled.  "Of course.  All children are from time to time, even you."

She sat up starchily, "Not me!"

"You've never been switched, Jemima?"

"Oh," she said dropping her head, but whined, "but not as much as my brother."

"A temporarily repentant Davey shuffled back in to stand by Joe saying, "I'm sorry for talking about you becoming my daddy, even if I wish you could."

Mercy groaned and dropped her face into her hands.

Solomon guffaws filled the room while Davey looked around wondering what he had said.  "Mom, I apologized like you wanted me too."

"Yes, dear, you sure did."  But her blushing face was mostly still hidden behind her hands.

Joe couldn't help but hug the boy to his chest.  His heart flipped over.  "That's the nicest thing anybody could ever say to me, so thank you young man."

Davey beamed up at him.

But just then Lem burst through the door.  "Rustlers, in the far pasture.  They cut the fence."  He panted out of air, "But we got to catch 'em before they change the brand."

Mercy started to rise from her seat but her brother pushed her down.  "You have Joe and me.  You stay and take care of your children."

Joe was already wrapping some food into a napkin to take with them knowing it would probably take time to apprehend the rustlers.  He also picked up his rifle from the deer antler rack and made sure it was loaded.  Lem went into the kitchen and wrapped up more food.  Solomon grabbed his rifle as well and made sure their canteens were full.

"Let's go," he growled.   

Mercy couldn't help but think that anyone seeing their determined stride would have to think twice before crossing them.

"Come on children.  Help me with the dishes then I'll let you read from your daddy's big picture book of animals.

"Yippee,"  Davey yelled easily distracted.

"We forgot to pray, Mommy," Jemima said.

"Thank you, Jemima, for remembering the most important thing."  So she prayed in earnest but said few words so as not to frighten the children.

Mercy went out to the porch once when the posse flew by.  The sheriff raised his hat to her but did not slow down.  One of her hands led the way.

After the children were settled down to sleep, she got on her knees to pray for all of the men's safety, especially Solomon, Joe, and Lem's, the most special to her.

The next day when the sun was high in the sky, and she was busy in the kitchen, the men returned with much slower hoofbeats than when they left  Mercy ran out to the porch with her children by her side, clinging to her skirt.

"How...Did you..."  She couldn't get her questions out.

"Mommy, Mister Joe is hurt!"

She gasped and looked at the pain in the man's face hidden away under his hat.  

"Let's get him in then I'll go get the doctor," Lem said.

Solomon looked like he was hurting almost as much as his friend.

Children run to ask cook to heat us water.  We'll need more than my biggest pot can hold."
She just wanted her children away where they could not hear a man suffering.  It had been hard enough when they brought her husband in all broken from a run in with a wild stallion.  She became numb and just gave orders.  Joe groaned when they moved him to the parlor.  Her sofa was not long enough, so the men just laid him on the floor with just a fancy pillow under his head.  Joe crossed his arm over his face and gritted his teeth.  His lips moved but she could hardly hear him so she bent over closed.

"And now my soul is poured out upon me; 
the days of affliction have taken hold upon me.
My bones are pierced in me in the night season:
and my sinews take no rest."
(Job 30:16-17)

"Not if I can help it, Mister!" Mercy stamped her foot managing to startle everyone especially her patient by declaring, "Your name is Joe, not Job."  

He had moved his arm away and stared at her with his big blues.  "What?"

"You got hurt on my watch looking out for me and mine.  I won't have you thinking that this is some kind of punishment from God!  Things happen, on a ranch like this.  But you are not allowed to give up.  My husband had no choice, but you do, mister."

For some reason Solomon was smiling.  "You tell him, sis.  I'm been on him for not broadening out his Scripture reading.  It's like he owns that book or something, but the Gospel is the good news, right?"

"That's right, now help me get his pants off, Sol."

"What!  No!  Sol you do it.  Make her leave."

"Oh good grief, Joe.  I've seen a man before, and I am only cutting off your  britches just above your knees so you'll be ready for the doctor, so quit belly-aching.  Richard, you are tall enough to get the bottle of laudanum down from the top shelf over the sink.  I'll need a spoon too."

"Yes, ma'am."

Joe's arm was back over his eyes as he listened to her scissors snipping away.  Then he pert near yelled, but kept it to a loud moan when they pulled them off his leg.  He had no thought of shame, only pain.  

Mercy held up what was the leg of his trouser and said, "Good, it looks like it went clear through."  She wiggled her finger through the holes front and back.  "Now I won't have to roll him over to check.  I'll leave it to the doctor to do that after the medicine has done its work.  Richard brought her the bottle, so she raised Joe's head and gave him a spoon full.  Then the woman wiped a lock of his hair from his sweaty forehead.  He figured her touch was better than any medicine.  Before he covered his eyes again, he drank in the compassion in her dark eyes. 

To get his mind off the pure misery, Joe spoke through gritted teeth, "We got 'em for you Miz Mercy. Didn't let 'em take nary a one."

"I would have better handled the loss of cattle than the loss of your blood," she sniffed.  

Joe lifted his arm off his eyes long enough to see her wipe a tear.  "Ah, don't cry for me, Miz Mercy.  I'm just thankful it wasn't Solomon taking the bullet.  He has a wife and children to get back to, not me."

"Hey, if you don't want me to feel worse than I do for you pushing your horse in front of mine taking the bullet instead of me, you need to take heed and heal up so you can stand on your own two feet again," Sol stretched a smile where worry had just perched.

Mercy peeked closer at the wound dabbing away the blood and said, "Ah, it's a shame because it looks like the bullet did splinter a bone.  You've been bleeding, but it didn't hit an artery causing you to bleed out.  Then you would not be lying here waiting for the doctor, but at the undertakers."

"Now don't spare me, Miz Mercy.  Jest give it to me straight," he winked.  She blushed and turned away.  

"Tim, go look in the barn and find those slats we saved after Billy broke his leg.  The doctor will want to use them."

"Yes ma'am," he seemed relieved to get out of the sight of blood."

When the doctor came, even she left so Joe could scream without losing his dignity in front of her while they set the bone.  She walked over to check on her children with the new cook.  

"Look mom, cook can make doughnuts!"  Davey exclaimed.

"And they are good!" Jemima added.

"I'm so glad.  Maybe he won't mind you staying here a little while longer.

"They ain't no trouble, Miz Mercy.  They remind me of my own young'ns, long since grown and gone."

Mercy walked back to the house leaving behind the chatter of her kids asking cook about his children.  She walked in to find her patient slacked jawed sleeping and moved to her couch with his leg propped up with pillows under his knee.  

"I figured it might be best to leave him downstairs so you can watch over him better during the day while he recovers.  When he's better, the men can move him back upstairs," Lem said in his take charge certainty.

"Thank you and especially you, Doctor Thompson.  "Can I send a slab of beef home with you, or would you rather have cash?"

"You know me, Miz Mercy.  You have the best grazed beef around making the tastiest steaks, so the beef sounds good." He looked back to the patient.  "Just keep him dosed with the laudanum for a few days then slowly wean him off.  I'll be back in a couple days to check for infection, but you know what to do in the meanwhile."

Lem took the doctor out to get his beef.  The other cowboys had escaped as soon as their boss gave them leave to do so after she thanked them all and promised a bonus next payday.  Now it was just her and Solomon.

"You know I need to get home, don't you, Mercy?"

"Yes, of course.  But Joe here can't even think of leaving for some time, not until he's pretty near healed up and at least able to put some weight on his leg with crutches.  Still it would be better to stay longer, just to be sure."

"And you won't mind taking care of him?'

"Of course not, not after he sacrificed for my ranch by putting himself in harms way.  I'm particularly happy you didn't get hurt and can send you back to your wife and children in one piece."

"Well, I'll be leaving in the morning if you are sure."

"As much as I wish you could stay, I know you need to go."

"If he is still sleeping when I leave, tell Joe I'll make sure his place is looked after so he has no worries.  For now, eating doughnuts with my niece and nephew is sounding better all the time.  But a bath sounds good to me too later on.  Lem can give Joe a spit bath in a few days before the poor man starts to become too ripe for your sensibilities."

She swatted her brother in the arm with a towel.  "Be nice, Sol.  Don't make me blush."

There was a chuckle from the couch that soon turned back to more even breathing.  Mercy looked at her brother then whispered, "See what you've done!"

"Go make us some supper, woman.  Chasing cattle rustlers makes a man hungry."

"Lem said the men are going to barbeque meat outside tonight.  Cook is going to make the rest."

"Okay, I'll leave enough room after eating some doughnuts then."


He turned back to his sister.

"Thanks. Thanks for everything.  Thanks for bringing Joe with you.  I hate to think what would have happened."

"I know the sheriff was sure glad to get those bad hombres."

She went over and gave him a big hug, one that lasted.  "You are the best brother in the world, you know."

"Just send me word when you need me, and I'll do my best to be here."

"I know and appreciate it, but the doughnuts are calling you, so I'll let you go," she smiled.

"Bring me one," the man on the couch said from under the arm that still lay across his face.

That set Mercy to giggling and Solomon to grinning.  "Sure thing, partner.  I'll be right back."

It was a tearful bedtime when their uncle told his niece and nephew that he was leaving before they would wake in the morning.

"I have to go home to your aunt and take care of your cousins, you understand."

"I know," Jemima said crying, "but I don't have to like it.  We wish you could stay with us."

"At least we get to keep Mr. Joe," Davey sniffed.

"You have to be extra quiet this next week or so to help Mr. Joe to heal."

"We will.  We promise," they chimed. Their uncle kissed them on the forehead and quietly shut the door.

"Hey," he said as he saw Joe's eyes following him when he came to check on him.  "How're you feeling?"

"Better than a bullfrog in a dried up puddle."

Sol snorted in laughter.  "That's probably how you smell too."

Joe smelled his arm pits, "Phew!  Tell Lem his services with a bar of soap and a towel are needed in here tomorrow."

"I already mentioned it.  The only thing that smells worse is the bunkhouse full of cowpokes who would rather stay in the saddle, then eat and hit the hay before washing up worth a hoot."

"Just so you know in case you're still sleeping in the morning, I'll be leaving at first light.  I mean you're good company, just not as good as my wife.  Oops, sorry."  Solomon was chagrined about mentioning his wife while his friend no longer had his.

"Don't worry about it.  This has been quite a trip, but I sure don't feel up to going back with you just now."

"My sister's a good nurse," Solomon winked.

"Don't be getting any ideas about me and your..." but he quit talking when she walked into the room.

"Is your medicine helping, Joe?"

He quipped, "Yes, ma'am.  But this brother of yours is harassing me.  Put me out of my misery."

"Well, your misery is riding out in the morning, and then you'll just have to put up with me."

"That's nice to think about," he said groggily.

Solomon laughed and said, "Well, this is farewell then, friend.  Thanks for coming with me here and for saving my life."

"What?  I didn't do that, did I?  I just remember," and there was a long pause before Joe continued, "shooting some dirty hiss......ssshooting…….armm."  His words came slower and further between, more slurred before he began to softly snore.

"Well, there goes an evening of scintillating conversation.  Since I'm getting up early, I'd best get to bed.   Love you, sis."

"You too, Sol.  And be careful on the road."

"Sure will."

A month passed, and then two before Sol got a letter from his friend.  The man was still stuck reading in Job, but at least he'd read it nearly all the way through and now quoted... 

"So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning:
for he had  fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, 
and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses,
 He had also seven sons and three daughters,
And he called the name of the first, Jemima...
And in all the land were no woman found so fair as the daughters of Job."
(Job 42:12-15)

Just like Jemima, her mother is the fairest in the land.
I am speaking of the woman I just married
after asking permission for her hand from Sir Davey.  
I don't claim to have as many critters as Job as I don't have any camels here,
 just a few goats, sheep, cattle, horses, donkeys and mules.
Neither would I put a woman through the birth of ten children,
but perhaps the Lord will bless us with a couple more.
And just so you know too, "the widow's heart sings for joy" again.


Your friend Joe, not Job
and the Proverbs 31 woman,
Merciful Mercy

"Her children arise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praiseth her."