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Bang! The screen door slammed behind Lilly as she stepped out onto the porch. She raised her hands to shade her eyes from the sun as she looked to see who was coming down from the ridge. It was a half mile away but with the low lying shrub it wasn’t hard to see approaching riders. She counted three. Turning back around, she reentered the house, screen door slamming shut again.
“How many are out there girl?” asked a wizened old woman from the corner of the poor but well kept kitchen.
“I’ll cover ‘em from the kitchen winda.” said the old woman as she began to struggle out of the old rocking chair that seemed to moan at her departure.
“Ma, you just sit back down. You know the recoil would bowl you over an probably break somethin’ so just sit ok?” said Lilly with vexation as she took the double barreled shotgun down from the gun rack. It had held company there with an old walking stick and a well used fishing pole.
The small house where Lilly and her mother lived was a single story building of fairly solid construction made from good wood bought at the lumber yard up in Harperstown. The kitchen and living room shared the front half of the interior with a wood burning stove for cooking and a nice brick laid hearth in the living room. Lilly opened up a drawer on the dresser that dominated one of the four walls of the living room and pulled out a box of shells. She cracked open the gun and looped it over her left elbow as she pulled some shells out of the box and loaded two in the chambers. The other five she’d pulled out, she shoved in the right hand pocket of her loose fitting breaches as she made for the door.
By this time the riders had gotten close enough for her to identify. Jeb Franks the Banker was on the left. Harvey Tubbs the sheriff was in the middle and James Reddick “Red” was on the right. Lilly was not surprised to see any of them and knew they were back once again to try to push her off her land. She did not lower the shotgun as they made their approach.
“Mrs. Jameson there’s no cause for alarm here, so why don’t you lower that iron and let’s talk civil.” said the sheriff as they came into talking distance.
“Harvey, I know why y’all are here and it ain’t gonna work.” Lilly said with defiance.
“Mrs. Jameson, it is un-seemingly for a woman in the prime of her live to be wasting her good years out here in this hot sun. Your poor mother must be thought of as well you know” declared James Reddick with the same air of condescending superiority he’d used during his last visit. James Reddick was a land owner with a vast acreage adjacent to Lilly’s property. He had been trying to get Lilly to sell her land to him ever since Lilly’s husband Ben and their son Rick had died in the rafting accident three years ago. Ben and Rick had entered into the annual rafting race Harperstown held down in Harper river canyon. It was a rough race that had been a tradition ever since the first pioneers had settled this area of the region.
Ben being the good loving father that he was, had promised Rick that when he turned twelve Ben would take him down the rapids in the annual race. It had been a freak accident, somehow the anchor of Bens raft had come loose from its ties and as they made the last and most difficult turn in the race the anchor had snagged between two submerged rocks. The raft flipped and the large rudder used to steer had caught Ben square on the temple. Both he and Rick drowned leaving Lilly and her aging mother Iris to fend for themselves.
Lacking any good taste, James Reddick had been at her door step just one week after the tragedy to ask for the property. Lilly just slammed the door in his face. Being raised from that hearty pioneer stock had helped Lilly and her mother through the grief that fell like an avalanche on her heart. She had been so in love with Ben that she would sit up nights just to watch him breathe in his sleep. Of course Rick was her angel sent down to bless their marriage. So quick to follow in Bens footsteps around the house and across the property where Ben would cut lumber to sell to the yard in town.
Not long after the accident, talk began circulating about how the line Ben used to tie the anchor rope to its post had been found cut. Lilly chose to ignore these rumors because she knew that it would lead her down a dark road where even her pioneering courage might not keep her sane.
Jeb Franks the Banker leaned forward.
“Mrs. Jameson I hate to be the barer of bad news but your savings have dwindled down far too low for you to be able to keep this here ranch much longer. Now I’d be glad to oversee the sale of this property with Mr. Reddick here and I know he’s offerin a good fair price too. There’s plenty of new houses being built in town now with the new century an all, and the money you’d make off this sale could easily move you and your momma into something nice and cozy. So why don’t we… “
Lilly raised the gun so both barrels were looking Jeb Frank’s dead in the eyes. She had heard enough.
“Mr. Franks I am surprised you’re not the mayor of Harpers by now with that silver tongue of yours. You sure its not forked?” she asked with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
“Now Lilly put that dagum gun down before you hurt somebody.” The sheriff cried with alarm at the sudden turn of events.
“No Sheriff it’s alright.” Remarked Jeb Franks as he held up his hands and backed his horse a few steps. “I know where this comes from and all those rumors aint going to change the fact that poor Ben and lil’ Rick died in an accident.”
Where Lilly was angry before she was spitting mad now and she made this clear as she drew back on both hammers with her thumb.
“You get off my property now Mr. Franks and take your friends with you or I swear I’ll decapitate you right here and now.” The cold quiet way in which Lilly said these words had its effect. All three large men, two of them armed, slowly backed their horses, turned and quickly made for the ridge. It wasn’t till they had cleared the ridge that Lilly lowered the shotgun and released the hammers.
“You’re gonna hear somthin about that, mark my words girl.” said iris from the kitchen.
“I ain’t worried about that momma. I just can’t for the life of me, figure out why that man wants my property so dang bad!” Lilly said with exasperation. “It ain’t worth the money he’s offerin anyways but I’ll be God damned before I sell anything to that man.!”
A few days later Lilly had ridden the cart into town to get provisions. With prudence guiding her she avoided going by the bank or the sheriff’s office. Using the back lanes, she made her way to the general store where her good friend Mary Ann and her husband Ronald let her in the back. Word had already spread it seemed and both of them looked at her with awe and concern.
“I tell you what Lilly.” Said Mary Ann. “By God, you stirred up a hornets nest. Jeb said you nearly shot his head off!”
“He brought up that old rumor bout the anchor” replied Lilly in way of an excuse.
“Oh, for cryin out loud! That man has no class!” was Mary Ann’s response.
“Lilly I have something ta tell you that might explain all this goin on bout yur place.” said Ronald with his slow drawl that belied his intelligence. “While I was putting stores in the back of the Franks residence the other day I heard somthin you might be interested to know. Seems they was mighty put out by what you did the other day so maybe that’s why they was loud enough for me to hear what they said. Mr. Reddick said “That woman must go.” He said “And soon to cause if she ever finds out what she’s sittin on we’ll never get that property.” It was about that time I really started to listen. That’s when the sheriff said “so how much oil is under there anyways?” and Mr. Franks said “enough to make us all rich beyond our wildest imaginations. At least that’s what that surveyor said.” Well after I heard that I quietly got the hell outa there and took myself home. Haven’t told a soul ‘cept Mary Ann here and now you.”
By the time Ronald had finished telling his story Lilly’s eye were wide open and both Mary Ann and Ronald could see the anger building behind those clear blue eyes.
“Do you know what this means?” asked Lilly.
“That you’re a rich woman?” asked Mary Ann.
“No, well, besides that, if I can find that oil, no it means there might be somthin to those rumors after all.” She said with whispered vehemence.
“Oh My Lord Lilly!” cried Mary Ann. “Oh I’m so sorry sweetheart.”
“No don’t you start Mary Ann, don’t start me down that road of tears just yet girl. I gotta be strong for what’s comin.” Lilly declared.
“Alright but first things first Lilly, lets get you your supplies and get you outa here safely” Said Ronald with his steady voice of reason.
With that the cart was loaded in short order and Lilly was on her way back home. When Iris heard the story upon Lilly’s return she stood up out of the rocking chair and raised her fist to the heavens;”I swear by God that man will pay in hell Lord.” She hollered. Lilly hadn’t seen such life out of her since before the loss of Ben and Rick. This time Lilly didn’t tell her to calm down because she felt the same emotions coursing through her veins.
With the help of Ronald, it wasn’t long before Lilly had a surveyor of her own on hand and they both began the search for that hidden black treasure. It was hard work tracking across the rocky ground, carrying the surveyor’s supplies, stopping periodically as he took his samples and the first burst of angry energy was turning into frustration. Then one day while the surveyor was sipping coffee by the fire, Lilly was swinging the pickaxe to and fro and occasionally sticking the ground with its point. Suddenly overcome with rage she hefted the pickaxe and slammed it home to the hilt in the ground. The Surveyor jumped up, spilling his coffee.
“What in the heck are you doing Mrs. Jameson?” He cried as he wiped the hot brew from his hands.
“Just frustrated is all Mr. Surveyor.” She replied as she wrenched the pickaxe free of its hole. Suddenly there was a gurgle and black froth began to bubble its way out of the hole left by the pickaxe.
“Well Mrs. Jameson looks like your frustration has paid off.” He said with a laugh.
She just stared at the black riches flowing out of that dark hole and resting her hand on the end of the handle of her pickaxe she said ”Well now those God damned son of a bitchin chauvinistic pigs can kiss Lilly’s rich white ass!” Retribution had found its perfect Warrior.
"See the man with the lonely eyes, oh, take his hand, you'll be surprised." Supertramp.