The Smell Of Cedar
Getting Up There In Age • Dilemma At Goodheart Ranch
One Minute Wit
Getting Up There In Age
Investigating my options
I’m getting up there in age.
So I’ve been looking into those senior-only communities.
But old people keep looking back at me.
The Smell Of Cedar
The smell of cedar reminds me of my grandmother’s house. Grandma Clifton lived in Flint, Michigan, in a small two-bedroom house. My grandfather, a carpenter, added a small dining room addition onto the back of the house and built a bedroom in the unfinished upstairs using cedar boards. But he didn’t install any heating in the room.
Because it was a small house, when we visited, my brother and I would sleep in the bedroom upstairs. Since it was Michigan at Christmas time, the bedroom was freezing cold! My Mom would go up before we went to bed and turn on an electric blanket. Then once it warmed up, my brother and I would run up the stairs as fast as we could and jump under the stack of blankets to get warm. As I drifted off to sleep, I smelled the scent of the room’s cedar walls.
My mother was six years older than her two sisters. So her sisters still lived at home when we visited. My grandmother was a character. She was a short woman, about 4’ 10” inches tall. Her name was Laurena, but everyone called her “Dolly.” She had a fun sense of humor and frequently told us if we didn’t behave, she would give us to The Goodwill. But she never did.
I later realized that my Mom and her two sisters all inherited my grandmother’s sharp wit and sense of humor. Laughter was a common occurrence at my grandmother’s house, and I loved visiting.
I recall one Christmas Eve, as my brother and I were lying in the bed upstairs, trying to get to sleep without much success. I kept hearing noises coming from downstairs. I learned later from my mother that it was my future uncles playing with our toys.
My parents didn’t wrap our toys back then. They simply put them on a chair. My brother and I each had our own chairs.
Early Christmas morning, we would yell out, “Is it time yet!” To which my mother would say, “No. Go back to sleep.” Yeah, right. We were about to explode, thinking about a chair full of toys waiting for us. There was no more sleeping.
Finally, after the grown-ups had coffee and chatted, my mother would say, “Alright, you can come down now.” We would jump out of bed and run down the stairs as fast as we ran up them, totally ignoring the cold. Toys were waiting!
Some smell cedar and think of a cedar chest or a sauna. I smell cedar and think of my Grandmother and my childhood. And that cedar bedroom upstairs.
Dilemma At Goodheart Ranch
It was Monday. Sheriff Clarence Creed was riding out to the Goodheart ranch. He knew he shouldn’t. It was torture, seeing the woman he loved married to another man, but he couldn’t help himself. He looked forward to their time together. Even if it was just sharing a slice of apple pie and conversation.
Clarence had loved Sarah Weston since he was a boy, and they played together after school. Although he was too reserved to let her know how he felt. When Jedediah Goodheart rode into town on Sarah’s 17th birthday, tall and handsome, and just shy of his 21st birthday, he saw a look in her eye he hadn’t seen before.
Jedediah noticed Sarah right away, also. She was a striking young woman with raven-black hair, dressed in a new Sunday dress and possessing the as-yet untarnished beauty of youth. Six months later, they were married. It was the worst day of Clarence’s life.
But life rolled on as it always does, and by age 23, Clarence had become the sheriff of Rockhill. The youngest they ever had. His calm nature served him well as sheriff. Folks appreciated a sheriff who wasn’t easily agitated.
Every Sunday after church, Sarah baked an apple pie. Being neighborly, like the Good Book says to be, she regularly invited folks over after service for dinner and pie. Clarence was invited occasionally, but eventually fell into the habit of waiting until the following day and riding out for a slice of leftover pie.
Jedediah Goodheart rightfully disliked the sheriff for his familiarity with his wife.
“He’s an old friend. Nothing more,” Sarah would say.
“You might think that, but I see the way he looks at you. He wants more than friendship.”
“Don’t be a fool, Jed, I love you, not Clarence. He’s like a brother to me.”
“You’re the one fooling yourself, not me. His feelings for you are plain as day.”
“Well, he’s not only a friend, but he’s also the sheriff. What would you have me do?”
“I don’t know. Don’t encourage him.”
“You’re the only man I want. Quit being so jealous.”
On this particular Monday, Jed had ridden out to mend some fencing. Sarah was alone at home doing some daily chores when an obviously drunk Tobias Hardline rode up to the ranch. Tobias was the son of Hannibal Hardline, the largest ranch owner in the area and the Mayor of Rockhill. Hannibal Hardline was a stern, mean old cuss who was universally feared by local folks. Tobias suffered from too much privilege and too little discipline. He was ornery for his years and used to getting what he wanted. What he wanted was Sarah.
“What brings you out this way, Tobias?” Sarah said.
“I just felt like looking at the prettiest woman in the whole state,” Tobias said.
“You shouldn’t say things like that. And you’re drunk again. I got things to do. I will bid you a good day. Go on home.”
“Why did you marry a nobody outsider with nothing to his name? You could have married me and been rich. You knew I fancied you.”
“Lots of boys fancied me. I married the one I loved. Now I am telling you to leave.”
“I will leave when I am good and ready. I know Jed ain’t home. I think it’s time I showed you what you’re missing.”
Tobias stumbled off his horse and grabbed Sarah by the arm. He started pulling her toward the house. Sarah struggled to get away from him.
Just then a shot rang out and hit Tobias in the back. He fell and grabbed his chest. A moment later, Jed was standing over him, watching him breathe his last breath.
Sarah grabbed Jed and hugged him tightly.
“What are we going to do?” Sarah asked.
“I’ll take him out in the desert and bury him. It’s better than he deserves.”
Jed headed for the wagon when he saw Sheriff Creed riding up in the distance. He ran back to Sarah and said, “It’s the sheriff. If Hardline finds out I killed his boy, he’ll have me hanged.”
“Ride, Jed. Go hide. I’ll talk to Clarence.”
Jed hopped on his horse and rode off.
Clarence saw Jed riding off and Sarah striding up the path toward him. She stood in front of his horse.
“Clarence, I need to show you something. But you have to listen to my story first.”
“I killed Tobias Hardline. He attacked me, and I shot him.”
The sheriff got off his horse and said, “Show me the body.”
Sarah walked over to the body of Tobias Hardline.
Clarence looked at the body. Then he crouched down and touched Tobias’s neck.
“You say he attacked you and you shot him?”
“In the back? Where’s the rifle?”
Sarah knew she was caught.
“I lied about shooting him. Jed shot him. But he did attack me. He was dragging me toward the house when Jed showed up and killed him. He was just protecting me.”
“I believe you. But I can’t start to tell you how serious this is.”
“I know. I’m scared, Clarence.”
“You know I got to bring him in, Sarah. It’s my duty.”
“Can’t you ignore your duty? For me?”
“If your story is true, Jed’s innocent. He’ll go free.”
“In this town? You know better.”
“I’m sorry, Sarah. If I don’t get him, Hardline will track him down and kill him on the spot.”
“I’m begging you, Clarence, let him go.”
Clarence looked at Sarah. She was sobbing now. It tore his heart to pieces. He climbed onto his horse, looked at Sarah, then rode off to find Jedediah Goodheart.
Sarah crumpled to the ground.
Clarence had learned to track from his uncle, who raised him after his parents died from Cholera. He was good at it. In a few hours, he found Jed holed up in an abandoned farmhouse. Jed sent a warning shot over Clarence’s head.
In a moment of weakness, Clarence thought about killing Jed and making Sarah a widow. But he knew Sarah could never love the man who killed her husband. Clarence also knew he couldn’t live with himself or look Sarah in the eye if he did. Just as he knew Sarah was right about Hardline. He would have Jed killed, one way or another. There was only one thing to do.
Clarence shouted, “Listen, Jed. I ain’t here to take you in. I just want to talk. For Sarah’s sake. What do think will happen to her if you run? Hardline will take out his vengeance on her. You know him. Even if he don’t, she can’t run the ranch by herself. And she won’t give up on you coming back for her. Hardline will have her watched. Let me come in.”
“You think I’m stupid?”
“Jed, you know I can outshoot you. If I wanted you dead, you would be. I’m trying to help.”
There was silence for a moment, then Jed said, “Come on in.”
Clarence opened the farmhouse door. Inside, Jed stood with his rifle aimed at Clarence’s chest. Clarence put his gun down and said, “I have a plan.”
Clarence rode back to his house, went inside and pulled up a floorboard. He took out a leather pouch and emptied the contents, a wad of cash. Clarence split the wad in half and put half of it back. The other half he put in his pocket. Next, he rode to Sarah’s ranch and dragged Tobias’s body behind the house.
“Get on Tobias’s horse. I’m taking you to Jed,” Clarence said to Sarah.
“What are we going to do?” Sarah asked.
“I’ll explain when we get there.”
They rode fast for the old farmhouse.
When Jed saw Sarah and Clarence riding up, he ran out to meet them. Sarah jumped off her horse and ran to embrace him.
Clarence gave them a minute, then said, “Listen close. Ride to Felton. When you get near town, let Tobias’s horse go. Sell your horse and buy a train ticket for as far away as you can get from here. Use false names to buy the tickets, and keep using them. Your life here is over.”
Then he handed them the money from his pocket. “Here is some money. Use it to start a new life. Never come back.”
Sarah looked at Clarence and started to cry. She hugged him long and hard. “Thank you, Clarence.”
“I will never forget this,” Jed said.
“I’m doing it for Sarah,” Clarence replied.
Clarence rode back to the Goodheart ranch and collected Tobias Hardline’s body. He rode far out into the desert and dropped him in a ravine.
Two days later, the Mayor called Clarence into his office and said, “Tobias is missing. He’s been gone for three days.”
“He’s probably sleeping one off in Dead Oak. I wouldn’t worry.”
“He’s my son. Of course, I’m worried. You’re the best tracker in these parts. I want you to find him and bring him home.”
“I’ll get right to it, Mayor.”
As Clarence walked toward the door, he turned and said, “It’s a curious thing. Jed and Sarah Goodheart have gone missing also. I rode out to their ranch for pie Monday, and they were gone. All their possession are still there, but they ain’t been back. Makes a man wonder.” Then he turned again and walked out the door.
Clarence went home. He pulled up the floorboard again and took out the pouch of cash. He packed up some belongings and a bedroll and rode out. He no longer had any reason to stay.
Goodheart Ranch: You have an excellent feel for dialog, Mark. Your characters are strongly limned, and your unexpected ending was just right. An entertaining piece!
Getting Up There In Age - If you’re the youngest person in a senior-only community, you’ll be the cool and hip one!
The Smell Of Cedar - A chair full of unwrapped toys? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing that before, but that’s actually very smart. You save time by not having to wrap all those presents, and the money you’re not spending on wrapping paper could go towards another small gift. “She had a fun sense of humor and frequently told us if we didn’t behave, she would give us to The Goodwill.” Your grandmother was hilarious! This was a nice entry. I really like this one.
Dilemma At Goodheart Ranch - A bittersweet ending. At least Tobias won’t hurt anyone else.