Blue Ribbons from the Past, Episode #13 by Diana L. Pierce…Alias….Dee Grainger…..No copyright infringements intended.
The sun descended behind the dark gray mountain and the reddish purple sky spotted with an orange blaze disappeared bringing a star filled night. Darkness fell quickly upon the range as the dust settled from the cattle drive. The Virginian had just, unwrapped his bedroll giving out a sigh, "Sure was a pretty sunset tonight. Reckon we'll be back in our bunks tomorrow this time. Can't say it'll be any too soon to suit me." He yawns, laying his head on his saddle. His top hand, Trampas is trying to make himself comfortable as he rolls over and back again. "Yeah, sooner the better. Why I always seem to find a spot full of stones is beyond me." He finally gets up and relocates. The foreman informs him, "Better find a good resting spot cause you're up in a couple hours to take watch, sleep or no sleep."
As daylight approached every cowhand was ready to hit the trail hard and furious. A few more hours and this job was finished, at least until the grass grew back for the next move. Coming up from the rear of the herd Jim Horn was slowly losing ground as his horse began to go lame. He dismounts and takes a look at his friend's right front hoof, "It's okay, boy. I'll fix ya right up." He takes a knife to dislodge the object causing the pain. Jim leads the animal to make sure he'll be okay. The herd was a long ways ahead of him. There wasn't much point in being in a hurry now, besides they were almost to the new grazing ground. He hears a calf blatting in the brush and goes to its rescue. As he picks the calf up to carry it, he spots the mother coming right at him. He puts the calf down quickly and hurries to get back on his horse. "Okay, ma'am, didn't hurt him any. Come on let's go find your friends." He tosses a rope over her neck and slowly leads her behind him with the calf by her side. "I can't believe I'm talking to a dang cow."
The Virginian and his cowhands have the main herd where they want them. Anxious to get back to the ranch they make one more check on the herd. Trampas rides up beside his foreman, "Where's Jim? He head home already, you reckon?" The Virginian turns to look back the direction they'd been traveling. "No, looks like he got a bit behind." He points toward Jim leading a cow and calf. They head back to the ranch at a full gallop except for Jim who is still taking his sweet old time.
At the corral Elizabeth is talking to her cousin Dee who had came the day before with Stacy. Elizabeth says, "I hear the boys coming. They're going to be surprised to see you and Stacy are here." Dee looks toward the road where she sees a glimpse of the riders coming. "Surprised? Didn't Uncle Clay tell them?" Elizabeth waves to the cowhands. "No, he never got Stacy's telegram until after they left." Trampas quickly dismounts and grabs Dee from the fence rail she's standing on. "Ma'am, if you ain't a sight for sore eyes." Dee's trying to get her feet back on solid ground and lose the grip of her over powering greeter. "Trampas, you nearly knocked the breath out of me. But glad you're happy to see me." She watches the foreman as he takes the saddle off his horse and puts it on a fence rail. She saw him watching them act like idiots. She smirks at him. He shakes his head as he comes toward her. "Stacy come with ya? Or are ya a traveling by yourself these days?" She grins, "He's up to the house. You know I'm a chicken to travel this far by myself." Trampas laughs as he takes the saddle from his horse, "Anytime ya need someone to come for ya, let me know." She smiles at him, "Thanks, but Stacy said he's my escort. He acts like it's his job or something." Elizabeth says, "Well, I'm glad he does. Bet he wouldn't even come home if he didn't have an excuse." She heads toward the house. The Virginian says, "Tell Stacy I'll be up for a visit soon as I wash off some trail dust. Nice seeing ya, Dee." He retreats to the bunkhouse. Trampas sees Jim coming, "Dee, hide in the barn and surprise Jim." She looks at him, "In the barn?" He ushers her toward the barn door, "Hurry, he'll see ya." She hides beside the entry way. She watches Jim unsaddle his horse and complain to Trampas how tired he is, "Reckon I'll sleep tonight," he turns to take care of his gear and Dee stands in the doorway smiling at him, "Hey, cowboy. Riding a bit slow today aren't ya?" He grins, "How long ya been standing there?" She laughs, "Not long. Trampas had the idea I should hide and surprise you." Jim laughs, "It worked, yep sure did surprise me that's for sure. Glad you're back." She gives him a hug, "Me, too. See ya later. I left Chance at the house with Aunt Holly. Guess I better go back up there."
Later at the house, the Grainger's, the Virginian and Trampas are visiting in the living room. Stacy is showing off his new Winchester. "What you think, Uncle Clay? Ain't she a beauty?" Clay looking over the fire arm, "She sure is. Guess you'll be doing some hunting now." He hands it to the Virginian to look at. The Virginian looking down the barrel, "Nice, Stacy. Mind me asking what she cost?" Stacy grins, "17.95, isn't that ridiculous? But just had to have her." The women absorbing all this gun talk begin to join in the discussion. Dee, the one most noted for putting her foot in her mouth just had to ask, "Why you call it a she?" This got their attention. Clay scratches his head, "Let me see. Guess cause it's pretty." Holly smiles, "Dear that was a good answer." Stacy looks at Dee, "Cause she's loud and mean." Dee looks at him, "Loud and mean? Ya can tell you haven't been around very many females." This question she knew she shouldn't have asked. Trampas speaks up, "Yeah, Stacy what females you know that's loud and mean? Can't say as I've seen any like that." Elizabeth smiles, "I like Uncle Clay's answer better." The Virginian can't keep from blurting out, "Guess, I can tell ya I know one, loud and mean, when she ain't trying to drive ya crazy other ways." He stares at Dee with a devilish grin. Dee looks at him, "You poor thing, sounds like someone I'd like. You'll have to introduce her to me sometime." He says, "Okay, I can do that." He guides her in front of the big mirror hanging on the wall. "Ma'am, this is Dee." He grins at her reflection in the mirror and they both begin to laugh. He says, "Well look it there. She even has long brown hair and blue eyes just like you do." He runs his hand down the back of her head. Dee's thinking of a good come back line. She shakes her head and grins back at him, "Yes and she even has a dang know it all telling her all about it. Just Like I do." The room fills with laughter.
As the time went on Dee is thinking, darn I wish I could show the Virginian up just once. She watches the men passing the Winchester back and forth to each other. Call me loud and mean driving him crazy. Then she thinks the Winchester, that's it. I could challenge him to a shoot out. I may just have to oil up old faithful. She smiles at Stacy, "Can I see your new gun? Sure looks like a nice one." Stacy thinks, I never seen her interested in guns before. "Sure, Dee, look it over if ya want." She takes the firearm and handles it somewhat reckless to make her company think she'd never held one before, "It's nice, Stacy. Any of you boys ever target shoot?" Trampas laughs, "All the time. Yeah, I knocked cans off the fence this morning." She grins, "I mean a moving target with a Winchester. Not cans with your six-gun." He looks at her, "You mean like throwing something in the air and shooting it?" She nods, "Yep, that's what I mean. Like saucers or something breakable, so you can see you hit it right away." Clay smiles at her, "Seems like your dad got himself in those competitions years ago. That's what they shot at, saucers." The Virginian nods, "Yeah, I use to be pretty good at that. Ain't had cause for sharpshooting in a spell." Dee thinks he fell right into her plan, "How about a little competition. Bet I can out shoot ya." The men all crack up laughing. Dee grins, "You don't think I can, do ya? Want to make a wager on it?" The Virginian shakes his head, "Alright, say if you win I'll take you out to a steak dinner at the hotel in Medicine Bow." Dee smiles, "And if you win?" He swallows hard thinking, "If I win you got to …." Dee looks at him, "How about if you win I'll buy you a steak dinner?" He grins, "You got a deal. Let's say the best out of five." She thinks he better do better than five, "Okay, five. When, tomorrow?" He nods, "Tomorrow." Dee says, "Guess, I better go dig my old Winchester out of the trunk in the attic. I'm sure it needs some oil put to it." She heads up the stairs with her dog, Chance following her.
The next day at the breakfast table the Graingers are discussing this shooting contest Dee got herself into. Stacy had never seen his cousin shoot any kind of gun and really thought she was just teasing the Virginian. He said, "Dee, you really think you can out shoot the Virginian? He's good, you know." She stares at him, "Well, I use to be pretty good. It's been awhile, but sure it will come back to me." Clay says, "Did ya get your gun oiled?" She nods, "Yeah, I did. I was really surprised it stored so well." Elizabeth grins, "You can practice while their out with the cattle. I'm sure he'll get his practice shots." Dee agrees, "Good idea. Then they won't be watching."
Elizabeth throws saucers in the air for Dee to shoot. Dee was pleased she still had the gift. She was also glad she had the big stack of saucers in the trunk. She knew her aunt wasn't likely to want to part with hers. Her dad bought her the old Winchester when she was eleven years old. He taught her how to use it, too. And the years he took her to the county fair were happy memories. By the time she was twenty she had won five blue ribbons and at the age of twenty four she had a grand prize win which was a brand new 1886 Winchester engraved with her name on it. That was eight years ago. She really wasn't sure why she never talked about it at Shiloh. But she figured her uncle knew some of it. Her dad was always good at bragging up his wins so she assumed he bragged about her too. She guessed the sharpshooting reminded her to much of her dad. Maybe this is why she didn't talk about it now.
The work was done for the day and with plenty of daylight left they planned their competition for after supper. Elizabeth was looking at Dee's old Winchester with its nicks and signs of age. "Stacy loaned his new gun to the Virginian for this contest. That don't seem right you having to use this old timer." Dee smiles, "This old timer won me five blue ribbons and a new Winchester." Elizabeth grins, "Dee, you really surprise me sometimes." Dee shows her the ribbons and the gun. "I hope I surprise someone. Let's go see if the bossman's ready get showed up." She really thought she found her revenge.
Everyone is waiting out behind the barn to watch the sharpshooters compete. The saucers were stacked against the wall. Trampas grins "Thought it was only best out of five. Got enough saucers here to shoot at for a long time." The Virginian laughs, "Maybe she thinks I'm going to let her shoot until she hits one." Jim says, "Guess, you could be a gentleman and do that." His foreman stares at him, "This was her idea, remember? Nope I said five out of five and she agreed." Dee comes out behind the barn with the Graingers right behind her, "Yes, I agreed five out of five. You ready?" He nods, "Ladies first. Go ahead Trampas toss one up." Trampas throws the saucer high in the air. Dee shatters it to pieces and cocks her firearm for another. Another saucer shatters again and again. Everyone applauds and laughs as they watch her marksmanship in total disbelief. As the fifth one is shot out of the sky, the Virginian is shaking his head, "How many more secrets you got up your sleeve, Dee? Never would have guessed that one." She grins at him looking so stunned with what he saw. "Oh, you might be surprised." Trampas is preparing to launch another saucer. "Ya ready bossman? Show her what you can do." The Virginian nods. With a repeat of what Dee just did, he knocks out five targets. He grins, "Ready for round two, ma'am?" Dee smirks at him, "Ready. Throw them a little faster this time, Trampas." Round two was as accurate as the first. Both competitors were right on target. She smiles at him, "Give up yet?" He looks at her, "Heck no, you ain't ever seen me give up. A little faster this time." He motions to Trampas. Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping! Dee perfected her third round. Again her opponent copied her performance. The Virginian just can't believe this female is as good a shot as he is. "Okay, Dee, we'll call it a tie. We're about out of saucers and already got a big mess here to clean up." She feels a little guilty fooling him into the contest and pulls the ribbons out of the pocket of her slacks. She hands them to him. He looks at her a bit discussed, "Guess you think you're something, aye?" She shakes her head, "No, just like driving you crazy, remember?" He gives her a hug, "Yeah, I know you do. I missed you, too."
The next day as Stacy and Dee were preparing to leave. Dee brings her two Winchesters into the study where her Uncle Clay, Stacy and the Virginian are. "Uncle Clay, can I put these in your gun cabinet?" Clay nods, "Yes, I think there's room for them." The Virginian says, "Let me see that pretty one ya got there." She hands him the trophy from her past. "I won that, eight years ago. Nice isn't it? Hasn't been shot in years." He looks it over. "I see you oiled it. Did ya think old faithful might let ya down?" She shakes her head, "No, she hasn't yet." Stacy laughs, "Why did you call it a she?" The Virginian looks at Stacy. "Don't even get it started again, Stacy. Besides you two are leaving at first light, aren't you?"