The Imposter by Diana L. Pierce…..alias…Dee Grainger

It was a warm afternoon in mid May. Not much stirring at the Shiloh ranch as the cowhands were all busy with rounding up wild mustang. Clay Grainger had business in Medicine Bow and although he had left there early in the morning he wasn't expected back much before night fell. The women decided it would be the perfect time to put the finishing touches on a quilt that had been waiting their attention for months. As they sat working on their project Elizabeth says, "Aunt Holly, I think we should give Dee this quilt when we see her again, after all most of these blocks were hers. I don't think she even packed any bedding to take with her." Holly smiles, "Wonder how she's doing with her new lifestyle. I thought she'd sent us a letter by now." Elizabeth sewing a hem looks up from her work, "Well, she will. Training dogs I'm sure she's busy." They could hear the roaring sound of horses coming closer. Holly looks out the front window, "Looks like the boys got some nice ones. Let's take a break." The two go out to watch the chaos taking place at the corral.

As the women near the corral, Trampas waves at them, "What you think of this bunch, Liz? That mare looks almost like Dee's Patches, doesn't she?" Elizabeth shakes her head, "She sure does. Has anyone been riding Patches? Dee wanted someone to. You know how she is about her animals." Jim speaks up, "I took her out yesterday for a spell. But she acts a bit spooked by me. Maybe you ought to ride her. Don't think anyone but Dee's ever rode her before." Elizabeth nods, "Yes, I can do that. Dee thought she should be with the colt longer and she plans to leave him here. She said she'll be back for Patches." Jim looks at the mustangs, "Want me to break that paint for you? She sure is a pretty one." Elizabeth agrees, "If you want. She is pretty. I think she has more white on her than Patches and a darker shade of red."

A little later that day Clay Grainger comes back from town and he and the Virginian are sorting the pile of mail Clay brought back. Clay says, "Do you think we should send these letters from Johnny to Dee or burn them like she told us to do with them?" The Virginian is looking at six letters addressed to Dee each sent just days apart, "He is persistent isn't he? What we going to tell him if he shows up here?" Clay looks at his foreman, "I really don't know. You think he might do that?" His foreman answers, "When she sent his ring back to him, she told me she included a note telling him to leave her alone. That was over two months ago. Don't look to me like he gets the message." Clay scratches his head, "I wish I knew what was in those letters. Would it be terrible of me if I opened them?" The Virginian replies, "If she was my niece, sir. Yes, I'd open them." Clay reluctantly opens the first letter with the earliest date. He shakes his head and hands it to his foreman to read. Clay then opens another letter. By the time Clay and the Virginian had read all six letters they both felt a bit uneasy. The Virginian says to his boss, "I'll ride to town in the morning and tell the sheriff about this and I'll send a telegram to the lawman in Laramie. At least Deputy Sherman can keep watch at his end. He said he'd be there for Tom if anyone gave them trouble over the sheep. This may not be sheep trouble but certainly could be trouble anyways." Clay agrees, "Yeah, would rest a little easier if the law knows about it."

In the sheriff's office the next day, the Virginian is talking to the lawman about the problem, the sheriff says, "Johnny knows enough about the law to know he can't just come and make Dee marry him if she doesn't want too." The Virginian says, "And he's made it clear, she's leaving with him, with or without a wedding. If we hadn't opened those letters we wouldn't have known what he's up to. At least, we know the ring got back to him." The sheriff looking a little worried, "I don't know if we could stop a man like Johnny Marble from doing anything he's gotta mind to doing. Dee should know about this. You say you sent Slim, a telegram?" The Virginian replies, "Yeah, but I didn't tell him Dee didn't know. Dang, guess I should have told him that. Dee has wanted to come get her horse. I think I'm going to take it to her. Hate to have Johnny run into her at Shiloh. It's going to be bad enough explaining she's not there."

Later arriving back at the ranch, the Virginian informs the Graingers of what he thinks he should do. Holly asks, "You know he'll come here first. What are we to tell him?" The Virginian thinks for a minute, "Tell him I took her back home to see an old friend. Yeah, that ought to work." Clay says, "You are going to tell Dee, aren't you?" The Virginian replies, "I don't know, maybe. I'll just let her think I'm bringing her horse to her." Elizabeth says, "Roll this quilt up and take it to her, okay?" He takes the quilt and nods, "Okay, guess I can do that."

A couple days later the Virginian rides in at the Adams farm to find Dee rounding up sheep with four dogs. He stands near the fence to watch. Each dog is with their own little group which they are keeping away from the other groups. With a few hand motions and gestures from Dee the dogs put the flock together again as one. The Virginian is amazed how she has so much control over these animals. Dee brings the dogs out of the enclosure when she notices she has company, "This is a surprise. Never thought you'd bring Patches to me. I thought maybe I'd come get her in a few days." She pets her horse and hugs its neck. The Virginian grins at her, "Patches missed you. Guess I did too. These dogs mind you better than my cowhands do me. Maybe you can give me some pointers." She chuckles, "Well, you got to promise them a treat and scratch them behind the ears now and then." He laughs, "Bet that would work for some of them." They take care of the horses and Dee invites him to the house while she prepares lunch. "What'd you do ride after dark? Don't seem like you had enough daylight to get here this early." He smiles at her, "I'm not afraid of the dark. Besides thought it looked like rain coming before long. I don't much like getting wet." She shakes her head and looks out the window, "Rain? It doesn't look cloudy." She slices some bread to go with the soup she had on the stove. Before their meal is over, Dee's dog is pawing on the door to come in. As she opens the door, it begins to rain. "Chance, guess you don't like getting wet either, do ya boy?"

The two visit all afternoon over coffee and listen to the rain. Dee was pleased to have someone from Shiloh come to see her. She was pleased with the quilt they sent to her and excited to know how everyone was doing at the ranch. "The colt must be growing like a weed. Never did give him a name. Aunt Holly said she'd think of one." The Virginian thinking he should tell her about Johnny never heard what she said about the colt. In a sober tone, he blurts out, "Dee, Johnny is coming to Shiloh demanding you go with him, wedding or no wedding. He's been sending you letters. Your uncle and I read them. Hated to read your mail but if we hadn't we wouldn't have known about his plans." Dee has tears rolling down her face, "What else did he say? Why won't he leave me alone? If he hurt Uncle Clay or anyone at Shiloh I'd feel so bad to think it's my fault he went there to begin with." She cries. The Virginian knew he shouldn't have even told her about it. He tries to comfort her putting his arm around her and handing her a hanky to blow her nose. "Dee, listen to me. It's not your fault, he's not thinking straight. He ain't showed up yet. Maybe he won't. Don't cry. Blow your nose." She wipes her eyes and blows her nose. Dee looks at her friend and can see he feels bad for her and it's not the first time she saw that look on his face, "Tell me. What do you think I should do?" He looks into her sad blue eyes and knows he doesn't have the answer for her, at least not the right one. "Dear, I don't know. As far as we know he doesn't know you're here. Both lawmen in Laramie and Medicine Bow are watching for him. For now I'd say stay here and do what your good at. I'll head back to Shiloh tomorrow and hope we don't have any trouble with him. Can't say as I can defend anyone against a fast gun like Johnny Marble either, but he sure as heck's gonna have a fight on his hands if he messes with me."

Meanwhile back at Shiloh the cowhands are breaking mustangs. Jim has been working with the paint mare for Elizabeth. He climbs on, he's thrown off, he climbs on again, and he is thrown off again, many attempts at breaking this pretty girl all fail. Jim is limping as he walks toward Elizabeth, who had been watching him. "Sorry, she may look like Patches but she's frisky." Elizabeth looks at him, "It'll be okay. Leave her alone. Maybe she'll tame down after awhile." They leave the mare alone in the corral awhile. Trampas decides to try his luck, "Watch this Liz. Let's see what I can do with Miss Frisky." He stays on the bucking beast for much longer than Jim did and is able to dismount on his own. Trampas laughs as he exits the corral. "She's doing better. You're right about her not being like Patches. Could be she's a ladies horse though. Didn't Patches act strange when you rode her, Jim? Wonder she didn't buck you off."

They see a rider coming in. It's Johnny Marble. He dismounts as he approaches the corral. "Hey, how's things been? Is Dee around here?" Elizabeth says, "The Virginian took her to visit an old friend back home. Don't know when they'll be back." He says, "I see, suppose she won't mind then if I borrow Patches there for a day or so. My horse needs a rest." Jim smiles, "She's not Patches, but sure guess you could borrow her." He winks at Elizabeth who is glaring at him wondering, what Jim was thinking. Johnny throws his saddle on the mare and leads her out of the corral, "Hey, thanks Buddy." Johnny mounts the mustang mare and at first it looks like she actually is going to let him ride. He manages to ride the frisky creature clear outside the entrance way to the ranch. She begins to buck, "Woo, woo, Patches, it's alright girl." He slaps her on the neck. The mare rears up tossing her rider high in the air. Johnny falls on the ground twisting his arms under him as he rolls. When he comes to a stop he is screaming in pain. By this time the cowhands have come out of the bunkhouse to witness a ride they knew would not go well. Jim harnesses a buckboard and goes to Johnny's rescue. "Sorry, Johnny, told you it wasn't Patches." Johnny groans, "I'll say. She's not Patches. Think both my arms are broke. Better take me into town to the doctor." Jim takes the injured ex-gunslinger to Medicine Bow to the doctor. Jim informs the sheriff Johnny is there. The sheriff grins at Jim, "You say he broke both arms? Hope it knocked some sense into that thick skull of his."

A couple days later the Virginian returns to the ranch. The Graingers are asking about his visit with Dee. Elizabeth asks, "Was she surprised to see you and Patches?" He smiles at her, "Yes, she was surprised to see Patches and even more surprised about Johnny meeting Patches imposter. That was one funny telegram the sheriff sent, Dee needed a good laugh."

THE END