Just in Time for Christmas
Author: Gail L. Jenner
Published by: Prairie Rose Publications
Publication Date: July 24, 2015
Mrs. Kerrigan stepped forward when she noticed the man at Della’s front gate. “Mrs. Wagner’s not home.” She wiped her hands off on her apron and studied him critically.
“I suppose you’re lookin’ for a place to light for a day or two?” She waved him over to her garden gate.
He’s a nice-enough lookin’ fella, she thought. Strong hands and shoulders. Just what Della needs – maybe.
“The storekeep said Mrs. Wagner puts up boarders.”
“She do,” returned Mrs. Kerrigan. “She’s a widow. Fine cook, too, and kind-hearted. Sometimes too kind-hearted for her own good,” she added, half to herself.
The stranger said nother. She looked him over agina. A little broody, maybe? No, he had a good face-probably seen his share of pain, but clear-eyes. Course, ever trail’s got its potholes, she mused.
“She’s probably down at the schoolyard,” she volunteered. “She’s always lookin’ after some poor waif or other.”
The man nodded. “That you.”
Mrs. Kerrigan moved closer. “Now you head on down there. It’s on the other side of the church. See the steeple?” She pointed.
The man followed her gaze. Mrs. Kerrigan put her hand out. “I’m Esther Kerrigan, the preacher’s widow.”
He extended his own. “James McMurray.”
He had a good grip, she thought. She smiled. “Well, Mr. McMurray, welcome to Miner’s Creek. Not much of a name. But not much of a town, neither.”
McMurray shrugged. “I heard Miner’s Creek is in need of a blacksmith. Is that true?
Mrs. Kerrigan nodded. “We are indeed, praise, God. We ain’t had a blacksmith for nearly a year. Sampson-that’s what ev’rybody called him-dropped dead last fall. Just like that. Nailed the last shoe onto Ole Man Rainey’s buggy horse and kelled over. The horse never moved a muscle, just stood over poor dead Sampson ’til someone stopped by and found him. We buried him over there in the churchyard.”
It was clear that Mrs. Kerrigan, albeit the preacher’s widow, was also the town gossip. She apparently knew everything-and everyone-in town. He tipped his hat.
“I’ll make my way to the school then. Than you, uh, Mrs. Kerrigan.”
She inclined her head and smiled once more. “We’ll be neighbors then…”
He followed the rocky path back toward town. It was only a short distance to the mercantile where he’d tied up his saddle horse. From there he would see if he could secure lodging with Mrs. Wagner, a widow-woman, cook, and-saint? The word stuck in his throat. Or, more like his craw. McMurray reached the mercantile just as the storekeep stepped out onto the boardwalk, hands tucked under his well-worn apron that hung like a dress over his britches and grimy boots.
He smiled a toothy grin. “The missus took the mare ’round back. Gave her some oats. Fine looking saddle horse,” he added. “She for sale?”
McMurrary frowned. “No. She’s not. How much do I owe you for the oats?”
“Nickel,” returned the storekeep. “It weren’t much.”
McMurray pulled a thin leather sace and removed a nickel. He handed it to the storekeep and headed round to the back of the clapboard building where barrels sat one on top of the other and rucksacks hung from pegs on the wall. He found his horse tied to a hitching post. He looked the mare over carefully, but all seemed well and good. He tightened the cinch before mounting and heading back down Main Street. He kept his eye on the steeple that rose up from the small vale to the south. If you didn’t look for it, he thought, you’d almost miss it. It wasn’t even a steeple, but merely a small brown cross nailed to a poorly framed widow’s walk. Not much to boast about. But the remoteness of the small mining town was a perfect resting spot, he thought. He needed a place where he could start over, apart from the bustling life of Marysville, Sacramento, or San Franciso. To many memories attached to those places.
About the Author:
Gail L. Jenner is the wife of a fourth generation cattle rancher and the author of seven non-fiction titles and two historical novels, plus the Christmas novella, Just in Time for Christmas. She has also contributed to a number of western romantic anthologies, including the 2016 Christmas anthology, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe and the 2015 Christmas anthology Present for a Cowboy, both from Prairie Rose Publications.
Amazon author’s page: /https://www.amazon.com/Gail-Fiorini-Jenner/e/B005GHR47O/