Section One: Young Tom
The twenty three young men who made up the varsity squad of
team huddled beneath the bleachers awaiting the signal that would send eleven
of them onto the field where swirls of snow threatened to obscure the yardage
“Good thing this is our last game for the season,” one lad grumbled.
“Aw, come on. Don’t let a little snow get you down,” Tom Calhoun joked. “Aren’t we all tough
“Yeah,” another teammate put in. “We don’t let a little thing like a blizzard slow us down.”
Just then the coach’s whistle called them out to start the game. As quarterback, Tom led the Butte Broncos onto the field. Not only was it the last game of the season, it was also homecoming, and the final game for the seniors, such as he.
Two rosy-cheeked girls warmly clad in black coats with orange mufflers around their necks and heads held a hoop framing a likeness of a bald eagle, the mascot of the opposing team. Tom charged through, ripping the damp paper to shreds, tearing the eagle asunder. The rest of the team followed.
“Give ‘em hell, Tom,” one of the girls said, saucily.
Glenda Crocker was the only daughter of the city’s widowed bank president. She’d grown up motherless and most of
society matrons derided her as a fast minx. She did not have many girl friends,
but the boys thronged to her.
Even if there had not been a ratio of at least five boys to every girl in the last two classes of the high school, she would have been popular. She had already promised every dance on the program for the after game festivities but there was no question which boy would see her home.
The Broncos formed up to receive the Eagle’s kick off as the game got underway. Tom called for a fair catch and moved in under the ball as it arced downward. The other ten players fell into place and they all charged down the field in a flying wedge. They were finally stopped at the twenty-five yard line in a melee of tangled bodies.
The Eagles proved to be a worthy opponent and made it a hard-fought game. The final score was 24-21 in the Bronco’s favor. Tom’s strong passes were responsible for two of the touchdowns and he made one himself with an interception.
The locker room reverberated with post game jubilation. The Broncos had fought to an impressive nine and one record for the season. It was thus no real surprise that the head coach of the
paid the team a visit that
evening. Before they headed off to attend the Homecoming Dance, Ton and two
teammates had a wide range of perks to consider if they elected to attend UM
the next year and try out for the team. That they would gain places was almost
a foregone conclusion. University of Montana
“I’ll think about it,” Tom promised, too cagey to commit himself so early.
“You do that, young man. You have the makings of a fine athlete, a real star. With the right coaching and exposure…” But Tom had already wandered away, more interested for now in the charms of Glenda Crocker than a vague future as a college football hero. He knew he had no need for a scholarship. He had no doubt his father had already arranged to pay his way to any university he might choose to include Harvard, Yale or the newer Leland Stanford.
The Homecoming dinner and dance were to be held in the Lodestar Hotel,
newest and most luxurious. Before the dance, Tom would escort Glenda to dinner
at the Chez Louis, indisputably Butte’s
finest restaurant. Then they would move to the ballroom to dance until
The orchestra began to play “After The Ball” as the hands on the large clock at one end of the ballroom edged toward twelve o’clock. There was a momentary flurry as couples paired off for the last dance of the 1910 Homecoming celebration. Tom, who had just been to the men’s room to share a nip with his friend Justin Everhart, emerged from the corridor to glance around the room, seeking Glenda.
In a moment her blazing hair and bright azure blue gown caught his eye. Almost at the same moment she saw him and started around the edge of the ballroom his way. When they met at the end, she stepped into his arms. There was nothing coy about Glenda. She met his blue gaze frankly and smiled, a very warm and inviting smile.
“After the ball is over, I intend to go right on having a wonderful night,” she declared.
“Count me in,” Tom replied. Though far from intoxicated, he felt a pleasant warm, relaxed and anticipatory glow. Although it was only a few blocks to the elegant house Glenda shared with her widowed father, he had rented a neat little buggy in which to take her home, and if the snow had not gotten too bad, they might take a round about route to get there.
They waltzed around the room as the gas lights slowly dimmed. Most of the young couples on the dance floor took advantage of the crush of people and the reduced illumination to press more closely together and those farthest from the group of teacher and parent chaperones stole eager kisses as the orchestra played the final refrain.
Glenda’s modish gown, straight from
been told, was cut to enhance her fine figure, making her waist appear even
smaller and her bosom fuller than they actually were. It might have been deemed
a bit daring and overly mature for a young lady of high school age, but without
a mother to advise her, perhaps she did not know or so some of the more
generous among the chaperones allowed.
None of the speculation disturbed her enjoyment of the masculine appreciation it won for her, though. Even Mr. Perleman, the dapper, young, bachelor English teacher danced with her once and surreptitiously ogled the lush white expanse of flesh bared by the deep cut sweetheart neckline.
She tossed her head and made the dangling ringlet curls dance against her neck. So what if some of the girls whispered behind her back and used terms like hoyden and even harlot to refer to her. Her father could buy and sell theirs by the half dozen any day and she could steal a beau from the prettiest one without half trying.
But for tonight, she was quite content to be seen as Tom’s girl. After all, was he not the hero of the hard-contested game as well as the handsomest boy in the room? He could have been Homecoming King hands down except he’d let it be known he didn’t wish the title. It had gone instead to the other quarterback, Peter Scott, although he’d sat out over half the season with injuries sustained in the year’s second game.
Tom had even ditched Annabelle Ryan, who’d been elected queen, for her, the red-headed bad girl Glenda. She had danced every dance, only two previously with her escort, and she’d flirted with every partner but not enough to make Tom jealous or cause him a moment’s worry. Now she felt safe and yet excited in the circle of his strong embrace.
The music stopped at last and the dancers began to move toward the doors, There they claimed their coats. Tom helped Glenda into her fur-collared wool lined with eiderdown. She turned the fluffy collar up around her ears and wound a soft muffler around her neck. Tom shrugged into his sheepskin lined leather coat before they stepped out into the snow.
While they were inside the wind had all but died, yet the snow continued to fall, even thicker and faster than it had during the game. Glenda clutched Tom’s arm. “Oh isn’t it beautiful? I always love the first real snow of the winter. After that—well, it gets tiresome but the first big one is magic!”
Tom laughed as he handed her up into the buggy and tucked the thick lap robe around her. He unclipped the horse from the iron weight, set it on the floor and then climbed up beside her. “What’s magic is you right here beside me.” He slipped off one glove to brush a few snowflakes off her face.
“Straight home or around to look at the snow a few minutes?”
“What do you think?”
“But I’m a
Montana girl, and if we sit close enough
together, we won’t notice the chill now will we?” She slipped over to tuck
herself against his side. He shook out the reins and clucked to the horse. The
beast clearly didn’t relish leaving the relative shelter of the hotel’s
Once they were moving, Tom put his arm around Glenda and drew part of the lap robe over his legs. Even so, they soon had to admit it was cold. Away from the higher buildings along main street, the wind still blew, swirling snow so that the street lights were all but obscured and the few windows still lit at midnight looked dim and far away.
Glenda pressed her face against Tom’s shoulder, ducking away from the stinging flakes.
“Papa is not home,” she murmured. “He’s back east with your brother in law on business. Mina Bowers, the housekeeper, sleeps behind the kitchen and with the hot toddy she takes at bedtime, the dead would wake before she would.”
Her voice was low and muffled but he heard every word. She knew he did although he did not answer her directly. At the next corner he twitched the reins and turned the horse toward the Crocker home. He started to rein in at the front.
“No, the poor horse will freeze, standing out here in the wind. There’s room in the barn. For the buggy too….”
“I was just going to let you go in here, save you the walk in the snow.”
“Oh.” She giggled, feeling giddy and breathless at what she had decided to do. “Oh well, it’s all right then.” He jumped down, helped her alight and then held her for a moment, kissing snowflakes off her face.
“Hurry,” she whispered. “I’ll be in the parlour. Don’t knock. I won’t lock the door.”
He swung back into the buggy and turned toward the rear of the house. A few minutes later she heard him stamp the snow off his feet and then he carefully, quietly opened the door and stepped into the foyer.
“I’m in here,” she called. “To your right. There’s a bit of a fire still and it’s cozy.”
Glenda had shed her coat and stood at the fireplace, warming her hands over the glowing coals. Tom hung his coat beside hers on the bentwood tree at the door and then strode to her side.
“Here, let me build the fire up a bit.” He gathered a few smaller kindling splits and arranged them on the coals and then laid two larger logs across them. Within moments, the fire danced merrily. He turned then and took her hands. His felt warm while hers still seemed icy. He curled his fingers around hers, leaning closer, his breath sweet and warm across her face. Fine tremors shook her body. It wasn’t so easy now to meet his eyes for they had gone from warm to blazing hot, glowing like a barely banked fire with an urgency she had never seen before.
“I…maybe you should know I’ve never done this before. Even if Papa was away I never told anyone, never asked them to come in. I mean, well I know everyone says I’m fast and no better than I should be, but I never did this before.”
“I didn’t think you had. You wouldn’t, not with just anyone. I don’t think you’re fast or bad, just not some starched up prude like most of the girls. I don’t think anything bad at all about you, Glennie, honest I don’t.” He tugged gently on her hands until she stepped closer, into the circle of his arms. It was no different than when they danced, she told herself, but it felt different. It felt very different.
For a time he just held her, one hand stroking slowly up and down her back while the other rested in the hollow of her side. She buried her face against his shoulder, feeling the soft tickly-scratch of the wool in his suit coat. Beneath it the solid warm muscle of his body—radiating more heat than the fire behind her. Her hands finally found their way beneath his jacket, slid along his sides over the satiny broadcloth of his shirt. There at last they grew warm.