A Relative's Choice by Diana L. Pierce...alias...Dee Grainger...

No copyright infringement intended.

As he rode his horse into Medicine Bow, the Virginian could see he was way late to pick up the Grainger's niece at the train station. The sheriff was standing in front of his office talking to a brown haired lady on a buckboard which was loaded with trunks and such. She had a curly haired black and white dog sitting close behind her and a red and white paint mare tied to the rear of the wagon. The sheriff waved for the foreman to come join them. "There's the Virginian now, ma'am. I knew they'd make sure someone got here to see you to Shiloh." She turns to greet her escort, "Where's Uncle Clay? He said he'd be here." The Virginian looked into her pretty blue eyes and smiled at her, "Sorry, Dee, he had unexpected business, but said he'll be home time we get there." He tied his horse to the wagon and climbed into driver's seat taking the reign from her.

The Virginian watched her head nod up and down, her closing her eyes as they rolled along the bumpy road. He broke the silence, "What do you think of Wyoming so far, Dee?" She looked around and said, "It's beautiful, what I've seen of it. Guess I'm getting sleepy, sorry." He said, "Just don't doze off and fall out of the wagon. Maybe you better lean toward me." She turned to check on her dog who was panting from heat. She takes the canteen out from under the seat and pours some water into a tin cup for her furry friend. "Pretty hot in Wyoming, isn't it Curly?" She pours water on a white cloth and washes her face. "Maybe this will wake me up." She drinks from the canteen and hands it to The Virginian. "Guess the horses could use a drink too. Just up ahead a piece is a stream, we'll stop for a few minutes."

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Clay and Holly are outside on the porch looking up the road. Clay says, "They should be coming any minute now." Holly was getting excited to see her sister's daughter again and could still remember vividly that little eleven year old girl she saw twenty years ago. "It just doesn't seem right Sarah and Ben both being gone now. I remember when they got married how pleased I was to think Sarah got her one of them fine looking Grainger men, too. Of course, Clay, you were much better looking than your cousin Ben." His face lit up. "You wouldn't dare say otherwise would you, dear?"

Dee was wide awake now and very chatty. "I met a nice couple on the train. Their names are Tom and Mary Adams, they're from Laramie. You ever hear of them?" Before he could answer she said, "They have a small farm outside of town and told me they raise Border Collies. They thought Curly here must have come from a very good line, him being so smart and having all the right markings." He glances back at Curly. "What kind of tricks does he do that makes him so smart?" Dee shook her head and laughed, "It's not tricks that makes him so smart, silly. He's a herd dog. Of course, he worked with dairy cows and sheep back home but I bet he could help drive some of this young stock here at Shiloh. I can't wait to show Uncle Clay what he can do?" The Virginian informs her, "They ain't like tame milk cows and sheep, reckon maybe calves he could move, you'd have to stay clear of the main herd with him, it don't take much to spook them." She felt like he was teasing her, "I know I'm not use to beef cows, but they still got four legs don't they?" The Virginian quickly changes the subject. "Say, what did you think of that last bunch of letters we sent you?" She smiled at him, "I think that was what finally gave me courage to come out here and see all of you. Aunt Holly sure had a fine idea having everyone add a few lines of their own so I wouldn't feel like a stranger when I got here. I kept those letters if you want to read them sometime." He said, "I probably should tell you some of those letters from the other cow hands, I wrote, not all of them read and write very good." She looked at him with another smile. "No, I never would have guessed. I thought all of you sounded very friendly."

When they pulled up in front of the big house everyone was eager to meet the new Grainger. Trampas, Elizabeth and Jim were the first to greet her. Her cousin smiles at her, "It's so good to finally meet you, Dee. I hope you like it here." Trampas helped her off the wagon, "Howdy, ma'am. Welcome to Shiloh. I'm Trampas, I'll show you around whenever you're ready for the grand tour. Who's your four-legged friend here?" The Virginian spoke up and said, "This is Curly and he's a very smart herd dog so be careful, Trampas, he may be taking your job." Trampas laughs, "You wish." Clay and Holly come out of the house with open arms giving their niece a hug. "We're so glad you could come out here, Dee. We need more females here at Shiloh. Elizabeth and I have been quite out numbered." Dee felt so pleased to be there. She started to help unload the wagon. "Ma'am, I'll do that, I'm Jim, I've heard a lot of nice things about you. If you need anything, you just let me know." She smiled, "Thanks you're all so kind. Uncle Clay, I want you to have Daddy's saddle. I bought it for him his last birthday. It's still nearly new." Clay was admiring his gift, a black saddle with a G engraved on both sides. "Thank you dear, I'll cherish that." Dee turns to Jim and says, "The trunks are tagged and marked house, bunkhouse, and barn so you know where they go. Of course the suitcases go here. Holly looks at this load of stuff and says, "Dee, we didn't expect you to bring all this stuff with you." Dee said, "I know. I wanted too. Besides the trunk for the house has a lot of things in it mom had and things I thought you may not be able to get out here. The one for the bunkhouse is loaded with clothes, gloves, socks and such I thought your cowhands could use. And the one for the barn is full of brushes, curry cones, bridles, animal medicine, and such. You know I sold everything else. The Ben Grainger farm is history. I'm never going back to Kansas, again. Miss Dealia Grainger is now residing in Wyoming at least if you all can put up with me." Holly laughs, "I just hope you can put up with us dear. We'll sure try to make you feel at home here. I'm so glad we had letters all these years to keep us in touch."

They were visiting in the living room, the Graingers, the Virginian, and Curly curled up at Dee's feet. Night was rapidly approaching and Clay said, "Dee, your friend can bunk in the barn, he'll be comfortable down there." Dee was quite upset. "Then, I'll sleep in the barn, too. Curly has never slept anywhere but at the foot of my bed other than him being in that crate coming out here on the train."

A tear started to roll down her cheek. She was tired, in a new place, around new people and she was not about to put her best friend in the barn without her. Holly tried to comfort her, "I don't see any harm in Curly being in your room surely Uncle Clay didn't mean to upset you. Did you, Clay?" He sighed, "I guess he can stay in the house with you, but I'm just not use to having a dog in my house. Sorry, Dee, I didn't mean to make you feel bad." With that she motioned Curly to climb the stairs ahead of her. "Good night! Everyone!"

A few days later, Dee decided to saddle her horse and go for a ride out where she knew her Uncle Clay was looking over his cattle. She no more than mounted her horse when out of the barn walked Trampas. He said, "Hold up a minute there, ma'am. I'll come with you so you don't get lost." They rode out near the cattle with Curly close behind. Her Uncle Clay, the Virginian, and a few of the other cowhands were out there. The Virginian knew Dee wanted her Uncle to see Curly herd. "Now's your chance, have Curly bring those calves back that just wondered off." He pointed to the strays. Dee was all for that. Perhaps her Uncle would see Curly wasn't just any dog, but could be very valuable. She commanded Curly of his chores and Curly knew just what to do. He rounded up one calf after another at her request. Clay was very pleased. "Good job, Curly. You're right Dee I do need a good cow dog. But keep him away from the main herd, it could be a disaster." She was so happy with that comment coming from him, she remembered the Virginian saying something about not letting Curly near the main herd.

In the meanwhile back at the house Holly and Elizabeth were busy baking bread in the kitchen. Holly said, "I wish I could make Dee feel more at home here. The poor dear has lost just about everyone she ever cared for. Her father was a hard headed man and after her mother died when Dee was a teenager, he refused to even let her off the farm. I don't know why he moved them out of Texas in the first place. You know Dee had a fella there, his name was Johnny. She was planning to marry him as soon as she was of age. Ben hated the boy and claimed his daughter wasn't marrying any saddle trap. Dee thought her dad paid him to leave, but she never knew for sure because she never saw him again." Elizabeth said, "Sounds like that's why they moved, so Johnny couldn't find her."

Over the next few days, Dee rode out with the cowhands and Curly to round up strays. One day after working past noon, Dee decided to call Curly to come back. She thought she'd go to the house and help her Aunt Holly the rest of the day. "Curly! Curly! Come on boy." She could hear him barking like something was threatening him. The Virginian yelled, "No! Curly! No!" By the time Dee got to where Curly and the Virginian were she saw Curly take a hard blow in the side from a young bull. The dog laid lifeless on the ground and the Virginian quickly chased the bull off and went to Curly's aid. Tears were running down Dee's face, "Is he dead? Oh no!" she cried. The Virginian nearly at tears himself said, "No, but he's not good. I'll hand him up to you, take him to the barn, I'm right behind you." He helps her get the dog on her horse.

Curly was lying on the hay on the barn floor. Dee felt of his ribs, "At least three ribs are broke, I'm not sure what to do for him, I think he could have punctured a lung." Curly was making gurgling sounds blood was coming out of his mouth. The Virginian knew what needed done, "Dee, I know you don't want to hear this, but he's suffering, he should be put out of his misery." She cried, "I can't, I just can't." The foreman said, "You go to the house, I'll take care of it." She cried harder pleading with him, "Please give him until morning at least, if there's no change then you can do it, okay." He gave her a hug trying to comfort her and said, "Okay, until daybreak." The Virginian went back to his work. Dee stayed by Curly's side.

Later Holly came into the barn with a plate of food. "Dee, you need to eat, you haven't ate since breakfast." She knew her aunt was concerned for her, "Thank you, I'll try." Holly stayed with her awhile. Dee curled up in the hay beside Curly gently stroking his fur. Hours had passed by and she fell asleep. The Virginian got a blanket from the bunkhouse and went to the barn. He covered her with the blanket. "I'm so sorry, Dee." He whispered and kissed her on the cheek before leaving the barn.

Everyone at Shiloh gathered for Curly's burial the next day. Dee knew these people really cared about her losing her dog and most of them had gotten attached to Curly. "Dear Lord. Please take care of Curly. He's the best friend I ever had." Holly walked her niece back to the house with her arm around her. The rest just stood there watching them leave when the foreman says, "Well, there's work to do let's get to doing it." They all went back to work.

A few days later the foreman went in the barn to find Dee milking the cow. "Looks like they found you something to do," he grins at her. "Gotta do something to earn my keep," she watches him squat down with his back to her digging through a large wooden box by the wall. She gets up with her bucket full of milk and starts to walk when she catches her toe on a leather strap that lay just under the hay on the floor. She falls forward trying to catch herself and the milk dumps right down the back of the foreman. He yells loudly, " Ahhh!" and jumps to his feet. Dee looks at him and her jaw drops, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that." Red in the face, this man was mad. He looks at her, helps her up and picks up the strap. He's dripping with milk. He grabs Dee's wrist and drags her out of the barn. "I said I'm sorry," she screams at him, she wasn't sure what he was going to do. He takes her out behind the barn where the cowhands were playing horseshows. "Haven't I told you idiots to keep your gear picked up? Dee could have been hurt bad. You best be telling her you're sorry." Trampas takes one look at him and starts laughing uncontrollably, "Yoo, sorry, boss man. Hope you saved enough milk for Mrs. Grainger's tea." By this time they all were laughing, even Dee, who the foreman had scared earlier with his rampage. The Virginian laughs with them wringing the milk from his sleeve. "Dee, did you think that was your fault?" She grins, "No, but the last time I was dragged out behind a barn by a man with a leather strap, I couldn't sit down for a week."

Dee continued to milk the cow, gather the eggs, churn butter, and a lot of other odd jobs around the ranch to feel like she belonged there. She missed Curly and wished she listened better to what her Uncle Clay and the Virginian had told her about keeping him away from the main herd. If she only had kept her eye on him better, but it was too late now, at least neither of them said, I told you so. She respected them for that. They were both away for a couple days on some cattle business. She thought maybe when they get back I'll tell them, thank you, for not mentioning anything about their warnings. She felt bad enough without being told about it. She was standing by the barn deep in thought when Jim and Trampas came out of the bunkhouse and got on their horses. Trampas says, "Dee, you just got to stay at Shiloh, we ain't never seen anyone fire the boss man up like you do." Jim chuckles, "Never laughed so hard in my life, thought for sure the roof was coming off that barn when he yelled." She laughs, "Its sort a funny now, but it wasn't then. Which one of you guys set me up for that mess?" They rode out without an answer to that question.

Clay Grainger and his foreman had just got back to Shiloh. Clay starts through the door, "Holly, where's your niece? We got something to show her." Holly comes out on the porch with her husband, "You mean, Dee? Why I think she's feeding the chickens. Clay Grainger I don't believe it" she saw the Virginian bringing a bundle of black and white fur out from behind the seat of the carriage. "Where on earth did you get him, Dee's going love him." By this time Dee was coming up the stairs that lead to the house. The Virginian quickly held the puppy behind him so she wouldn't see it. The three of them watched her get closer with smirks on their faces. She wipes her face with her hands, "What? Do I have mud on my face or something?" Clay chuckles, "No, we have a surprise for you." The Virginian brings the puppy from behind him and says, "We met your friends the Adams. We told them about Curly and they said to give you this pup for them." She was so overcome with joy, "They just give him to me just like that? What's the catch? Do I have to give him back once he's grown?" She took the pup and snuggled him to her. He smiled, "No, he's yours, but you got to promise you'll keep him away from range herd and bring him for a visit once in awhile." She smiled, "That, I promise. You guys can chase your own blasted cows." They all laugh. She gives the Virginian a peck on the cheek and then gives her Uncle Clay one, "Thank-you, you two are the best." Holly grins, "They are the best aren't they, Dee? Now what you going to name this fella?" she pets the puppy. "I think I'll name him Chance. Because there's a chance I may be staying here awhile." She hugs her new furry friend.

The End