Oregon Territory 1850
The tall, rugged, red-headed, bearded woodsman braked the wagon in front of Lytell’s general store. He grabbed the beaver pelts to trade and jumped down from the buckboard. Staring impolitely at the young woman walking past, he opened the door and went in to conduct the first part of the business that brought him eight miles to town.
“That’s a little over ten pounds.” Mrs. Lytell said, weighing the woodsman’s furs.
Looking around the store, he asked, “How much is beaver worth this year?”
“Six dollars a pound,” she replied, pursing her lips. She knew they needed the business but she really hated dealing with the uncouth, rustic settlers.
Arms crossed, he nodded. “Well then, I’ll trade ya for a new plow, two tubs of lard, barrel of molasses, twenty-five pounds of chewing tobacco,” he answered walking around the floor selecting stock. Leaning against the counter, he addressed Mr. Lytell. “And you wouldn’t have a wife under the counter there, would you? I’m looking for a wife.”
Mr. Lytell puffed on his pipe and chuckled. “Any special brand?”
“Well, yes. I’d like best a widow-woman who ain’t afraid to work. There’s seven of us men. Me and my six brothers. Place is like a pig sty and the food tastes worse. So I made up my mind, next time I come into town to trade, I’m gonna bring me back a wife,” he said matter-of-factly, as if the shopkeeper really did keep a stock of ready-made wives.
Mrs. Lytell crossed over to the woodman and shook her stubby finger at him. “Now that’s a fine thing, I must say. Thinking you could come here and trade for a wife like she was a bag of meal.”
“Oh no, ma’am. I wouldn’t say that, ma’am.”
“Well, you let me tell you, none of our gals is gonna go off to bear country with you to cook and wash and slave for seven slumicky back-woodsmen.” She huffed off, disgusted.
“There’s ten men for every woman out here,” Mr. Lytell said gesturing with his pipe. “You want a wife, you’ll have to go back east and get one.”
“You mean there’s no unmarried females in this town?”
Before the shopkeeper could answer the question, the bell over the door jangled and four comely young ladies walked in. Surrounding Margery Lytell, they began to chatter on about having a quilting bee.
Looking the women over, the woodsman asked, “How about these?”
“Now just a minute…”
“What’s the matter?” he asked, interrupting the shopkeeper. “They married?”
“They’re spoken for.”
“Oh, just spoken for. You had me scared.”
Beginning to get his dander up, Mr. Lytell’s voice rose. “I tell you, they’re promised.”
Seeing a challenge, the woodsman replied, “Ah. A lady can change her mind, can’t she?” He confidently crossed over towards the young women.
“Pay him no mind girls,” Mrs. Lytell said sharply as the girls tittered and blushed as the stranger stared them up and down as if he were inspecting them. “Fred! Put his things in the wagon. Don’t keep him waiting.”
“Oh, I’m in no hurry. I’ve got all afternoon.” He leaned in to see the blonde better.
“Well, you’re wasting your time. You won’t find a girl in this town to marry you,” Mrs. Lytell said forcefully, hoping the woodsman would end his business in their store.
Crossing his arms across his chest, he leaned back, looked the grey-haired woman in the eye. “Never set my mind to something yet, but what I got it. Whether it’s plowing twenty acres in a day or dropping a tree within an inch of where I want it. I’m here today to get me a wife. Don’t aim to go back home empty- handed.”
Having finished looking over the young ladies he said sincerely, “You’re all pretty, fresh and young. I’ll keep you in mind, but I ain’t deciding on nothing until I look them all over.”
Exiting the General Store, he whistled as he meandered down the wooden covered walkway. Leaving horses and buckboard to be loaded, he set out to find his bride. Seeing a pretty woman tending to the chickens in a side yard he approached, calling out, “Morning ma’am.”
“Mornin’” she said, inspecting eggs.
A small girl rushed out of the door and tugged on her skirt. “Mamma, Mamma! Poppa wants you.”
Shrugging, he moved on down the street. Spying a petite woman in a brown bonnet, he straightened his buckskin jacket and moved in to talk to her. She was staring into the dressmaker’s window, so he walked around to catch her eye. He had to laugh at himself when he realized the object of his current affection was a shop-window dummy. Deciding to be more careful next time, he headed back down the street. There she was. She was pretty, seemed to be the right age and she looked him in the eye. “Morning, ma’am.”
“Morning back, woodsman,” she said, smiling.
Taking this as encouragement, he said, “Nice day for marrying.”
Overhearing that statement, a man stepped out of the shadow of the doorway and grabbed the woman by the elbow. “That’s a right good idea.”
Turning to him, her eyes wide, the woman cried, “Oh, Lester! I thought you’d never ask me.” The couple walked off hand-in-hand.
Shrugging off his bad luck, he stopped at the water pump to make a game plan. A few women walked by…kinda slim…heavenly eyes, but oh that size. He’d just have to keep looking. Moving to the wooden walk way, he leaned against the post. Hearing the rhythmic sound of chopping he looked around. He observed a woman competently chopping wood. He needed a closer look, so he crossed the street and leaned against the split rail fence.
A dog started to bark and before he could say anything a man came out of the back door shouting, “Trixie, where are you? A dozen men in here bellering for vittles and you’re out chopping wood.”
“I’m coming!” she said, grabbing the chopped lengths before she went in.
Thinking to himself as he walked to the front of the building, Hmm, pretty, trim, not too slim. Heavenly eyes and just the right size, he watched through the bar-room window. He saw the girl ward off the advances of one of the patrons who’d had too much. Simple and sweet and sassy as can be. She’s the gal for me.
Walking into the bar, he saw a group of men gathering at a long table covered with a red checkered table cloth. “Trixie, Trixie, let’s eat. Come on. We’re starving. I’m dying of hunger.”
Trixie walked into the room carrying a large steaming bowl of fragrant stew, and chided, “You’ll all eat. Stop fretting. Just give me time.”
“Ah, nobody can cook like Trixie,” one of the men said, tucking a napkin into his shirt under his chin and rhapsodizing about her skills in the kitchen.
Friendly banter circled around the dining table and men were buttering rolls while they waited to be served stew. “When you gonna marry me?”
“Oh, next week, Tad.”
“No, she’s gonna marry me. Ain’t ya, Trixie?”
Smiling, she replied, “What would your wife say, Tom?”
Taking in the easy exchange, the barkeep interrupted the woodsman’s thoughts. “Anything you’d like?”
Staring at Trixie, he replied, “Could be. But first, I’d better sample that cooking.” He crossed over to an empty seat at the end of the table.
Startled to see the rugged red-head, Trixie served up the next ladleful of stew right into the patron’s lap, missing the plate completely. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” the burned man exclaimed as he jumped up to remove the unexpected addition to his lap.
“Oh, Nick!” Trixie cried, shocked she had done something so clumsy. She’d worked very hard to not be clumsy anymore. Brushing helplessly at the mess, she couldn’t help but stare at the stranger again as laughter rang throughout the room. “I’m awfully sorry.”
“Aww, that’s alright, Trixie,” Nick said, leaning back as she managed to scoop another serving onto his plate.
The woodsman couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was very pretty. A becoming blush had crept into her cheeks. Her blonde hair curled gently around her face and was caught in a black ribbon at the nape of her neck. The blue gingham dress clung to her curves in all the right ways. She made her way to him and he teased, “That smells good enough to eat.”
He was a brazen one, staring at her like that. “Tastes good, too. So they tell me,” she answered, raising her chin rebelliously.
“Got any ketchup handy?”
Incredulous, she retorted, “My stew can stand on its own feet.” Waiting to see his reaction, she stood patiently as he tried the meal.
He reluctantly tore his gaze away from those blue eyes. Piercing a chunk of meat, he tasted the delicious concoction.
Digging in for more, he looked up and smiled. “Good.”
Unenthusiastically, she continued down the table and finished serving the waiting customers.
After scraping his bowl clean, the woodsman sought Trixie out. He found her in the back yard again, milking the cow. Leaning on the cow, he looked down at her as she sat on the stool. “My name’s James Adam Winthrop Frayne.”
“Odd name, I must say,” Trixie responded as she continued to competently milk the cow.
“They call me Jim. I live up the mountain. I got a farm there. It’s a good farm. A house on it. There’s timberland, high grazing meadows, sheep, milk cows, fifty acres of wheat. Only thing it ain’t got…a woman. How about it?”
“How about what?” She looked up, confused.
“I just told you. How about marrying me?”
As Jim had been describing the farm, she had settled into a slow, gentle rhythm. With his last statement, the sound of the milk hitting the bucket sped up in a rapid, hasty tempo.
Knowing instinctively he needed to slow down and go more gently, like with a skittish mare, he continued, “Oh, I know. It’s short notice. Back east, we woulda met on Sunday leaving church. Six months later I would have asked you, could I walk you home. Next two or three years I would have set in your front parlor every Wednesday night. And finally, I would have asked your father for permission to marry you. But here, there’s not time. I got to be home tonight to tend to my stock. It’ll be another five months before I’m back down again with my grain.” The sound of the milk had gentled again. “Are you going to keep me waiting five months just for your pride?”
He waited. She looked up at him. There was something unexplainable happening between them. Those beautiful green eyes looked down, questioningly. She bit her lower lip, looked back up and took a deep breath. “I’d have to finish my chores first.”
He smiled brightly. “I knew it the minute I set eyes on you. You’re the gal for me. I’ll go get cleaned up a bit and root out the preacher.” He strutted off, pleased with his success.
Trixie sat on the milking stool a moment, waiting for fear, shock or panic to set in. It didn’t. She felt warm, hopeful and right.
Jim quickly made his way to the baths. Looking at the mirror over the sink, it was shocking to see the mountain-man who stared back at him. The nine-months growth of beard made him look older than his twenty-three years. Grabbing the scissors off the counter he began to trim away the years. Thirty minutes later, he wiped the last of the lather from his freshly shaven face. “Ah, where’s the preacher’s house?”
The old man sitting in the wooden chair next to the wood burning stove said, “Down the street, next to the church.”
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the correct amount and handed it to the man. “Thanks, Pop!”
“I’ll say it plain, Trixie, and to your face. I don’t like this marriage,” Reverend Lynch said. “I don’t know you or anything about you,” he added addressing Jim, “And I feel responsible. Trixie’s like a daughter to us. We’re her only family.”
Trixie interrupted, “Reverend, ever since I came here, you’ve been after me to marry. ‘A girl had no right to stay single,’ you said. The country needs to be settled.”
Mrs. Lynch stood up from the rocking chair where she had been watching the exchange. “But we meant for you to marry one of our young men, Trixie. You have your pick of them,” she pleaded with the young woman to reconsider.
“I tried,” Trixie explained. “Again and again I tried. I’d say yes to one of them and an awful sinking feeling would strike me, right here,” she said holding her hand to her heart. “And I couldn’t do it.”
Looking up at Jim, she admitted softly, “But when I said yes to him, I waited for that feeling, but it didn’t come. I feel just fine.” She smiled brightly. “I feel so good I could cry.”
“Well, I think it’s wonderful,” interjected Diana, the Reverend’s daughter. “Love at first sight,” she sighed.
Horrified, her mother turned toward her. “Diana! What kind of talk is that?”
Seeing how resolute Trixie was the Reverend sighed, “You’re determined, Trixie?”
“Then step forward.” Jim and Trixie moved to the front of the Lynch’s parlor. “Take her hand in yours. Repeat after me. I, James Adam Winthrop Frayne.”
“I, James Adam Winthrop Frayne.” His voice was deep, soothing and confident.
“Take this woman to be my lawfully wedded wife,” the Reverend continued.
“Take this woman to be my lawfully wedded wife.” Jim’s smile spread wider on his face and he squeezed the small but competent hand he held in his large, calloused one.
The buckboard full of supplies and a carpetbag of clothes, started out of town. Outside the bar, the men waved back as Trixie smiled brightly and waved at them. “Where’s she going?” one asked.
Mr. Lytell was leaning against the post outside his store and brought his head up at the words. His eyes grew wide in disbelief. “Maw! Maw! He done it! He got a wife!”
Mrs. Lytell hurried as quickly as her ample girth would allow, gasping, “It’s Trixie. It’s indecent if you ask me. One lone woman with seven scroungy backwoodsmen.”
Having traveled in comfortable silence for a while, Trixie looked across at her husband. HUSBAND, can you believe that? Husband! She thought to herself. “Tell me more about the farm, Jim,” she added, saying his name shyly.
Clearing his throat, Jim explained, “Well, we raise wheat, milk cows, some sheep, chickens and of course we trap beavers. Other than coming to town twice a year or so, we’re pretty self sufficient.”
“You keep saying we. Who else lives on the farm?”
“Umm,” he uttered, swallowed several times. “My brothers live on the farm, too. Our ma passed three years back.”
Thinking of her friend Dorcas Gailen and her two brothers, she queried, “So you and your brothers. How old are they?”
“Well, let’s see.” She was certainly taking the news about his brothers well. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. “We range from twenty-three to eighteen.”
“What are their names?”
“My father wanted to name us all biblical names. Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel…wanted to use the whole alphabet, I reckon. But I guess Bobby was too much for them. They stopped at Gideon. Ma agreed we could have biblical middle names.”
Her mind was processing the information. “Gideon?”
“Yes, there’s me, James Adam, my brothers Brian Benjamin and Daniel Caleb. Then there’s Martin Daniel and the twins, Lawrence Ephraim and Terrell Frankincense. Last there’s Robert Gideon.”
Blue eyes were wide as saucers as she counted. “SEVEN? There are seven brothers?”
This little snippet is based on one of the best movies of all times! “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a classic 1954 musical from MGM, directed by Stanley Donen and starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell. Howard has wonderful red hair and Jane is a petite blond. I’ve always seen Jim and Trixie in these roles, (interjected Jenny Smush). Once the seven boys lined up…everything clicked.
We don’t own any of these characters and the dialogue is almost completely stolen from the movie with absolute love and adoration for the masterpiece that it is.
This story was written for the CWE#6, Trixie As….
We have to thank Joycey, KellyKath and Mylee for their skills as editors. They make us so much better than we are. Any and all mistakes are ours.
Photo from image-archeology.com
Background from MS Word
Special title effect by Cooltect.com
Divider quilt square from Pinterest
2,650 word count