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Larkspur: A Sidewinder Tale - 13. Chapter 13 The Ride Home


The Ride Home



As Mitch left Larkspur, his thoughts were all over the place. They weren’t able to settle on any one thing long enough to grab hold, yet he rode at a sedate pace, fighting a powerful urge to gallop into the wind and shout out… something. It was what he used to do as a young’un when he had no answers for what certain men made him feel. Sighing, he picked his way through a field, waiting for his mind to slow. He weren’t a kid no more.

To avoid going past Will’s place, he took the back way out of town. His narrowed eyes searched the road both ways as he came upon it—and was relieved to find it empty. Unsure of what this second chance to live was supposed to mean for the times to come, he weren’t ready to go down certain trails just yet.

He could have used some supplies, and that had been his plan when he set out that morning—but the one thing he was sure of—he didn’t want to talk to another soul for the time being, and especially not the always curious Alan Bright. He trusted Doctor Jergens—the man surely was a knowledgeable doctor—yet he still had trouble believing what the man had just told him. He needed time because, plain and simple, he had this feeling it was too soon to do any celebrating.

He hadn’t been having a good spell like he’d thought—he was a healthy man with a good chunk of life ahead of him, god willing. Sure as heck he’d been given a gift, but everything he’d done since his ride out of Red Bluff had been through the vision of a dying man. He might have pretended different, but there weren’t a single day gone by he didn’t wonder if it was to be his last on this good earth. What did he do now?

Buying his land had been with Coy and Boone’s future in mind, not his own, but now he had to reconsider that whole situation. He loved his newly acquired property like none other he’d ever seen—that was a fact—but was this the right place for him? Larkspur was where he’d chosen to die, but, Will aside, was it where he wanted to live?

He’d thought he was done being a sheriff, but is that what he truly wanted? His entire adult life had been about upholding the law, so who was he if not a lawman? Mitch was certain he didn’t want to return to Red Bluff, or anywhere near it. Breathing dust day after day was out of the question for him. The air here… well… it was like eating a good meal with every breath, and Doc Jergens had said hisself it’d helped his recovery. As long as he was careful about getting chills, he’d continue to get better. Get better? It surely was a powerful thought.

Now on the main road to his land, the turmoil eased considerably the further he got from town. He slowly passed the other farms on the north side, and one thing became clearer with each step. He wasn’t just heading to his new land; he was heading to his home. It was time to put up his tent, and then consider which new trail might be his.

Even after the purchase of his property, he still had plenty of money in the bank to live off, but he’d worked his whole life. Fact was, he wasn’t a farmer—he knew how to from his pa, but would it be enough for him? It was true he didn’t need much, and Boone and Coy had already showed him how a fellow could make a living off land rich as his. They’d help him, he was certain of that. Hell, they would bend over backwards to give a hand if’n he needed it… they’d already proven such.

Coy. He’d want to know what the doc had told him, and he’d want to know it right away. They were either still at the mill, or at Red Apple Farm waiting on him. Should he go there now?

No, not yet. He wanted to go home first… and for some reason, he really wanted to burn sage and point it at the four corners of his land and thank the Great Mother as Coy had done.

He couldn’t shake the feeling he owed someone, be it God or Her. After that, he’d set up his tent and then walk across their new bridge to tell the boys they were stuck with him as a neighbor longer than any of them had thought.

Guess he’d just answered his own question. He didn’t want to go anywhere, and as far as making a living, he’d sort it out eventually. There were more important things to figure on first. Like what kind of home he wanted to build.

A stick built home was something he knew how to do, but Boone and Coy’s cabin had a solid and warm feeling his house in Red Bluff didn’t never have. Yep, he’d prefer a home like theirs… not as big of course, but just as solid. His barn could still be the pole barn he’d planned—he knew how to build one of those, and that would do just fine for him. What with the summer half over, he saw no need for the extra work of a stone foundation like the boys had.

The access to his land from the road was nothing like the other farms he’d passed. There weren’t no wide, well-kept lane leading in, and that was something else he needed to work on. He followed the horse-wide trail onto his property and planned what trees needed taking down. If he let the lane bend like the boys’ did, he only had to remove three large ones, some medium-sized cedars, and a few smaller saplings. He could do all that in less than a day, and then there would plenty of room for a team to come and go, as long as he sawed the stumps short enough.

Bringing his mare to a halt, he let her stand while he took a good look around him. It was peaceful in this little glade. He could hear his brook running to the left and the call of an eagle from above the treetops. Wind whispered past him, its coolness caressing his face. A squirrel scurried silently up a young and slender oak tree to his right before chittering a warning to another squirrel in the neighboring pine. It answered shrilly before darting out of sight.

Mitch took a deep breath and let it out slowly, not unlike what he’d done repeatedly during Doc Jergen’s examination. His last bit of doubt vanished as he finally allowed something else—someone else—to enter his mind. This is where he was meant to be… this is where he could be happy… and this is where Will lived.

Imagine that—the place he’d picked to die was the place Will had set roots. He’d never been a devout man, but he weren’t no fool either, and there was no doubt he needed to thank the Lord for putting them close after all these years. He pictured that good face as the breeze curled around him again, welcoming him home.

Picking up the reins and urging his horse forward, he entered the first meadow to the north. His gaze drew a line where the new lane would continue up the gentle slope of land and through the next belt of woods—he’d need to do more tree felling there. On the other side of it was the clearing he would build his home and barn in. It was flat, open, and well-drained, with room for a couple of good-sized corrals.

Taking his time, he walked the imaginary laneway until he was in the next bit of woods. He felt like he was the only one around for miles, and he supposed that’s what he liked most about his land. The plot next to him was much more heavily treed than his, which was most certainly why it hadn’t yet sold. That suited him just fine. He didn’t want neighbors close up on him, so his chosen home site would be near the ravine. That desire to be isolated is why he’d never consider removing the belt of timber along the other property line.

He was drawn from his musings by an unexpected whinny close by. Real close. His body stiffened, and his sheriff’s instincts took over. Someone was straight ahead, in the very clearing he’d been thinking about. His mare’s body shook beneath him as she whinnied in return. Whoever was there, now knew exactly where he was.

He dismounted quickly, put his body behind a wide maple, and drew his gun. A mounted man made for a bigger target. It weren’t the boys. If they weren’t still at the mill, they’d be on their own property, and if they came over, they’d walk, not ride. The only other person he knew around here was Will, and this was the middle of his work day, so that ruled him out. Red Eagle? That was a possibility. Indians could be curious of new folks in their territory. His mare whinnied again.


Mitch sighed, and then relaxed. Since his pa and ma died, only one person in this world called him Mitchell. “Yep, it’s me, William.” He holstered his gun and picked his mare’s reins back up, clucking her into a walk. Striding alongside, he did his best to control the excitement his whole body was experiencing. The prospect of seeing Will was a lot different now that he’d been given back his life.

He entered the clearing to see him sitting on a section of old dead tree he must have drug from somewhere. His saddled horse was grazing a ways off, her bridle laying across the log Will sat on. He stood as Mitch approached him, his nervousness plain as plain could be.

“What are you doing here this time of day? Thought you’d be at your mill.”

“I was… till Coy told me you were seeing Doc Jergens. Couldn’t think a lick after knowing that, so I came here. Heard the cock of your gun. You plan on shooting me?”

Mitch snorted as he went about unsaddling his mare. “At the moment, no, but I reckon we’ll see. What about the mill?”

“The mill can wait. Logs for your bridge planks are unloaded, and Larry’s there to keep an eye out. Thought you might need to talk.” He reached for Mitch’s saddle, and he let him take it before pulling the bridle off his horse, setting her free. She trotted over to the other horse before dropping her head to the grass.

Nothing to do but face the man now. “Might be I do. Expected you might be coming for an apology,” he said as he tried to lock eyes with ones that were shifting nervously.

“Well, I am sorry, Mitch. I never should have—”

Mitch snorted again, interrupting Will. “I meant one from me.”

“You? For what?

Now Mitch had his full attention. “How I treated you. It weren’t fair what I did.”

“No? Well, I’ve been thinking on that. That kiss meant a lot to me no matter it can’t go nowhere, so don’t be sorry for it. Weren’t fair of me to expect what I did of you. I figure I got to respect your wishes, and I do. Can’t wear the shoes of a man who’s dying, and I shouldn’t have worried more for myself, so I ain’t asking anything of you. I’ll be here if’n you need me… just wanted you to know that.”

“That’s just it. I ain’t wearing the shoes of a dying man either, not anymore.” Mitch could have sworn those blue eyes flashed brighter as he stared into them. They sure enough got bigger.

“You’re not?”

“Nope. Not according to the good doctor of Larkspur. He says old Doc Bailey was wrong about what was wrong with me. He weren’t wrong about I should have died, but I got no tumors Doc Jergens could find… nothing that could finish me off, he reckons.”

Will wasn’t moving, his face froze with his jaw dropped, and Mitch waited. He understood better than anyone the shock of hearing something so unexpected.

Will finally found his voice, and it had a shake to it. “So… you… you’re saying you’re all better?”

“I ain’t saying it—the doc is. Not completely over it yet, though. Got to be careful of chills for a spell, and I’ll still cough some, maybe for a good long while. Seems I’m a lucky man.”

“But… you still got blood when you cough, don’t you?”

“Yep, and that appears to be from my throat. It ain’t completely healed yet. Needs more time, but there ain’t no cause for concern.”

“Well, I’ll be damned. So… that’s it then?”

“Going back in a couple of weeks for another listen to my chest, but yep, that’s it. I ain’t dying anytime soon.”

“Reckon I don’t even know what to say. Wasn’t what I expected to hear a’tall, but—”

“I understand. Wasn’t what I expected either. Can’t hardly sort my feelings from which way. It’s been such a rank bronc ride I’ve been on since I first got sick, and I never once thought I had a future to plan for.”

“And now you do….”

“And now I do.”

“Suppose you’ll go back to being a lawman,” Will said before he eased out a long breath, and Mitch noticed he was looking done in.

“That thought bother you?”


“You sure?”

The big man sighed a mite louder. “Not if you stay close by. If’n you plan on leaving, then yep, it would bother me for certain, but I got no right to try to make you stay.”

Mitch watched the man close, and saw he was twitching. He wanted to smile, but it didn’t feel right. He took what Will was feeling seriously, and he needed to put him out of his misery. ”Haven’t figured out much yet, but I already decided I’m staying put. Building a little house about where we’re standing, and a barn over yonder.”

“Really? You sure that’s what you’re wanting?”

“Reckon so. Prettiest spot I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Air I can breathe deep, land I can grow a mess of food on, grass for stock thick as that hair on your head, and the boys I care for like kin as my neighbors.”

Will took in a deep breath, and then blew it out real slow. He was still twitching some, but he looked a mite calmer. Mitch figured he was finally getting over the shock. “It’s all that for sure, and Larkspur is a good safe town.”

“Safe for sheriffing?”

“No, that wasn’t my meaning. I'm just saying it’s a good place to put down roots.”

“Seems so. You know what the best thing is about a town like Larkspur?”

“Best thing? Not so sure what’s the best… the people, I suppose?”

“Well, you ain’t far off about that. It’s you… you’re the best thing about Larkspur, Will. Leastwise, you are for me, if’n you’ll still have me after all these years… considering all I’ve said and done.”

A sudden sheen lit the blue in Will’s eyes as a smile grew across his handsome face. “Don’t matter about the years, Mitchell, not for me. I swear I came back here to just be your friend, cause that’s what I thought you were needing, but this is what I wanted more than anything. I told you I loved you and I weren’t telling no tales.” He stepped forward, close enough Mitch could feel his breath on his face. “Is that what you’d be feeling?”

“Well,” Mitch drawled. “Why don’t I show you again how I feel, only this time I won’t finish up by telling you to clear off my land?”

“Suits me fine,” Will whispered, his voice cracking in a way that tickled Mitch.

He pressed closer to the slightly taller man, his hands sliding up the strong, wide back, and it felt right as it ever had. Will weren’t wrong… time passed had no meaning in that moment. Mitch was the same man, but he was different too. They weren’t young anymore, and he liked that—mostly because there weren’t a speck of confusion in any part of him.

This time Will was expecting the kiss, and participated in a way that brought back some of Mitch’s sweetest memories. “Lord, I’ve been missing this,” he murmured when their lips parted. The kiss he’d foolishly taken the other night had been an ending filled with hurt, but this one was a beginning, and it filled him with peace.

“No more than me,” Will whispered. "I love you something fierce, and I won’t ever walk away from you the way I did in Buffalo Springs.”

“Even if I go back to sheriffing?”

“Learned my lesson. You have to be what makes you happy, and I won’t ever question your choice again.”

“That’s good to hear, but I’ve been thinking on it some since I left Doc Jergen’s.”

“You make a decision?”

“Yep, pretty sure I have. Standing here with you again makes it clear to me. Don’t want to be a lawman anymore. I done a lot of good, looking after folks for all those years, but I think it’s time I looked after myself.”

“Glad you’re seeing it such a way, if’n that’s what you truly want. So, what might you do then?”

“Well… heard tell there was a fellow in Larkspur looking for a man to help him at his mill….”

Will’s face, still so close, broke into a smile. “You saying you want to work with me?”

“I’ll work for you, I reckon, if you’ll have me once I get my buildings up. Want to be situated for the winter best I can.”

“For me or with me, it’ll be the same thing, and nothing I’d like better than to be able to lay eyes on you the whole day long… and I’ll help with the building anyway I can.”

“Then we got ourselves a deal,” he said, grinning like a fool.

Will gave a hoot and kissed him again, hard, his arms about squeezing the life out of him. “I’ll be holding you to it, Mitchell. The Lord’s seen fit to give us this second chance, and I’ll take any deal you’re offering.”

Mitch chuckled as he leaned into the man’s strength and tasted the salty tang of his neck. Damn, it had been so long since he’d allowed himself to feel such a way. “And just so I’m being clear about what‘s going on here, I love you too… ain’t no different than before, and I’m obliged to you for being here waiting on me like you were.”

“Weren’t any place else I could have been once I knew you were seeing the doc. I wanted to be here for you, but it turns out it was the best thing for me.”

“I’m thinking you being here was the best thing for both of us.” He kissed him again, letting his lips linger on Will’s before gripping his arms and returning his gaze. “Seeing you set my mind straight, and that’s what I was needing. Now how about you help me build a fire so I can burn some sage. We have to be quick about it, for them boys will be chomping at the bit to come check on me. Coy will likely be going loco soon enough.”

Will chuckled and nodded. “Yep, he will. I could tell he was beside himself at the mill. Why you wanting to burn sage?”

“To thank the Great Mother and the Lord for my blessings. Did it the day I bought this here land, with the boys help, and I got me a bunch left. After today, I feel the need to do it one more time, you understand?”

Will nodded again, his eyes softening. “Surely do, and I’d like to give thanks too, for them same blessings if that’s all right?”

“Course it is… I’d like that, and expect the Lord would too.”

“Good. I’ll make you a deal.”

“Another one?” he asked with a grin. “What kind of deal would you be wanting this time?”

“One what matters to me,” Will answered, his gaze intense. “I’ll start the fire and help with the tent if I can sleep in it with you tonight?”

“What, and give up my big comfy mattress at Boone and Coy’s?” Mitch asked teasingly.

“I promise I’ll build you a bough bed deep as you want, and I’ll keep you warm as you need,” Will said with a familiar expression that Mitch had seen many times in the past. He understood that kind of longing, because he felt the same way.

“Suppose I can’t refuse an offer such as that. We’ll need to cut some poles.”

“You’re talking to a man who owns a mill. Where’s your saw?”

“Afraid all I got here is a big ole axe.”

“I recall you surely do,” Will said wicked-like, and Mitch laughed loud and long for the first time in ages.




Hey, all! Thanks for reading. How did this chapter make you feel? I surely would like to know, if you're inclined to share your thoughts. Please remember to leave a story recommendation and a story like on the front story page so others might be enticed to give this little western a chance. Cheers!
Copyright © 2021 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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23 minutes ago, Coastguard said:

Well, Gary, this chapter made me feel…..GREAT! I do love stories that end like this. Or….is there more to come? As usual, a really feel good story. I’m ready for the next one!!


Thanks, coral! Glad to hear it, and yes, there are more chapters to come. As far as the next story... :unsure2:  Cheers, my friend... Gary.... :hug: 

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14 minutes ago, Mawgrim said:

So glad those two have got together. Mitch had time to think through what he intended to do now he's been given a new lease of life and it looks like he and Will are heading for a happy ever after ending. What a feel good chapter!

Mitch needed two things... a little time... and to lay eyes on Mitch. Saying goodbye to sheriffing doesn't seem like such a sacrifice to Mitch. I think he's realized he had his priorities wrong, or at least that they had changed. The future does indeed look promising for these men. More chapters still to come, though. Thanks, Mawgrim... cheers... G. :hug:  

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19 minutes ago, Cachondeo said:

Of course there's lots to come, and hopefully it'll include loads of smuching; I need many many chapters of just that!💗💗

No promises, but there might be some more smooching to come... they deserve it don't they, buddy? :P  Happy to hear you want more, Cachondeo. There are only a few chapters left, but I'm hoping you like them. Thanks and cheers! :hug: 

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