Read more journal entries in Andi’s Attic >>
I’m still getting used to being a rancher’s wife. It seems to me that Riley gets all the fun and I’m “stuck” inside cleaning and trying to coax the Black Beast (aka the cookstove) into cooperating. But once in a while I find a hidden treasure as I go about my mundane chores. Like today . . .
Riley never fails to surprise me. Today, I was sweeping under the bed, when my broom hit something that had fallen halfway between the bed and the wall. Curious, I stood and leaned the broom up against the door and pushed the bed back. It wasn’t easy. The brass bed frame is heavy, but I wanted to know what in the world could be lodged halfway up from the floor.
After scooting the bed out far enough to see, I heard a thump and watched a small, leather-bound book fall behind the iron headboard. It had somehow been wedged halfway between the bed and the floor and had tuck fast. What could it be?
I slid my fingers between the mattress and the headboard and tried to grab it. No luck. Then I got down on my hands and knees and scooted under the bed–dust and all–until my fingers grabbed the pesky book. I slid myself back out from under the bed and sat back on my heels.
Turning it over, I grew puzzled. I’d never seen anything like this before, at least not around my new home. At first glance, the book looked like a small ledger, like something Chad would take to a livestock auction to keep track of buying and selling. Had Riley lost an accounting ledger, all wrapped up like that? If so, he hadn’t said a thing.
I debated untying the leather strings and peeking inside. Maybe it was something private. On the other hand, Riley was not a secretive fellow. He and I share pretty much everything that has to do with our household. A minute more pondering and I gave in to my curiosity. I untied the string and unfolded the leather binding. One little peek? I thumbed to the first page, and a wrinkled, yellowed photograph slipped out. My breath caught. This was Riley as a child. Not more than nine or ten years old.
Christmas 1876. Uncle Sid gave me this journal for a good-bye present. (Well, he said it was a Christmas present too.) Pa and Mama are not snoops, so I can safely write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in this book. (I once heard a fella in a courtroom ask a witness if he swore to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and it stuck with me.) I’m going to miss my Uncle Sid. But not as much as I’m going to miss my very best friend, Andi . . .
With trembling fingers, I shut the journal. Every fiber of my being wanted to keep reading, but this was none of my business. This was something Riley had written long ago, just a little while after he left the Circle C and went back to live with his mother and father at the Presidio fort in San Francisco.
Riley didn’t talk much about his childhood. Oh, sure, he shared a funny Christmas story (which wasn’t funny at the time) and described some of the forts where his father served as an army captain. However, this journal was probably bursting with insight into the “lost years” between the time Riley left the ranch at age ten and when he returned eight years later.
Oh, I wanted to read more! A little voice said, Be patient. Leave it for now. I set the journal on top of the chest of drawers and finished sweeping the bedroom. I would ask Riley about it when he came in for supper.
I stirred up the trail beans that had been simmering all afternoon. How can anyone go wrong with five different kinds of beans, bacon, molasses and a little vinegar? Yes, this is one meal I have mastered. By the time I finished cooking and set the table, I could hear Riley on the front porch. He came in with a smile, washed up, and sat down at the table. After saying grace, I pulled the journal out of an oversized apron pocket and set it on the table.
Riley’s spoon stopped halfway to his mouth. For a moment, his eyes turned far away. Then he grinned. “I see you found my journal.” He took it from me and turned it over in his hands, much like I’d done.
“I found it squeezed between the headboard and the wall,” I replied. “I…” I swallowed. “I couldn’t help it, I read the first few sentences. I’m sorry if I–“
Riley laughed and handed the book back to me. “No, Andi. Don’t be sorry. Sometimes I’m not real good at expressing things out loud, but I’d like it very much if you wanted to read my ramblings.”
Riley nodded and left the table. Where in the world was he going? He went outside and soon returned with three more leather-bound books. “I didn’t think you would want to read the scribblings of a little kid,” he joked. “So, I kept most of these stuffed in a box in the corner of the tack room.”
Not want to read about Riley? Of course I do. I can’t wait to get started.
Note from Mrs. M. If you would like to read Riley’s ramblings, stay tuned. A new category is being created just to hold Riley’s journal entries.