Frontera, NM Spring 1949
To Wade, it seemed as real as yesterday since he still dreamed about it almost every night. He stood by the open grave and stared down at the coffin holding the earthly remains of his wife, victim of the flu and just being run-down, pregnant with her third child when the doctor had suggested she should have no more. Winifred had been a good woman but perhaps too gentle, small, and fragile for the life of a rancher’s wife in dusty southern
Now she was gone.
Eight-year-old Ben clung to his right leg and Li’l Winnie, only five, to his left, neither fully understanding but knowing their mother was gone. The old biddies at church said he should not have brought them to the services, but what else could he do? None of them had really offered to care for the kids. Upon hearing Winnie’s sniffles turning to audible sobs, he woke up.
Three months had passed since that grim day, and nothing had gotten any better. In fact, almost everything had gotten worse. Ben had to go to school in poorly washed clothes that never saw an iron. Thank the powers that for now Winnie, only five, stayed home. Frontera did not have a kindergarten. She’d been growing fast all her dresses were too small.
Unfortunately, it also meant someone had to take care of her. Old Buck usually did, since the aging, stove-up cowboy really wasn’t a lot of use on ranch chores. Despite that, Wade would not let him go. Where would the old man end up? With the war over and all the soldiers coming home, jobs were scarce. So a grumbling Buck watched Winnie. Wade felt sure the old man would never hurt or even growl at her, but he could tell it was not a good fit for either of them.
Inevitably, at that point his thoughts turned to the magazine he’d found on the table at Nettie’s New Diner last time he was in town. Although he rarely ate anywhere except at home, he was so sick of his own limited offerings he could not resist a decent meal. And there it lay, like someone had put the damn thing in his path on purpose. The cover was kind of garish, a cowboy on a big palomino and a gorgeous blonde gal in ripped up clothes that left little to the imagination. Across the top, Ranch Romances appeared in big red letters. Lower, in a different typeface, he read “Captured by Brutal Outlaws.”
Why would he even pick up such trashy, dime-dreadful junk? Still, when he went to lay it back down, it flipped open to a page that somehow caught his eye and would not let go. There were letters from men looking for women and women seeking men, mail order brides, handymen, and more. It must have been the devil put the notion in his mind, but once it was there, the idea would not let go. He could write in and try to find a wife or at least a housekeeper to take care of the kids…
Wade labored over that letter for several nights before he was finally satisfied with what he had written. He was not an ignorant man. He’d been through high school back in
Kansas and could write with proper grammar
and in a decent hand. That wasn’t the problem. Wording the request was. Finally,
he just cussed, folded the paper, and stuffed it in an envelope. He put an airmail
stamp on it in hopes it would get to the magazine and bring results that much
quicker. Five cents was a lot to spend, but this was important.