Smoke River Bride(78)By: Lynna Banning
But people? At this hour?
She was dressed before Thad could button his jeans. On the porch she tripped over Teddy, still in his pajamas and popeyed with curiosity.
“What’re all those people doin’ in our pasture? We havin’ a picnic or somethin’?”
Thad banged through the front screen door. “How many people?”
“I dunno, Pa. They’re all ridin’ horses.”
“Horses! Well, let’s go and see, son.”
Thad and Leah tramped across the pasture, followed by Teddy, hastily dressed in jeans and his pajama top. When they came within sight of the wheat field, a shiver went down Thad’s back.
“Would you look at that,” he breathed.
Wash and Jeanne Halliday stood at the fence. Little Manette and her grandfather, Rooney Cloudman, were just dismounting. Next to them, Ike Bruhn came swaggering up to the gate, and—
Thad could scarcely believe his eyes. A trim little black buggy rolled up with Verena Forester, a crocheted lap robe spread across her knees, and Uncle Charlie in the driver’s seat!
Thad blinked, then blinked again.
“Heard you had some wheat that needed gleaning,” Wash called out. He gestured to the gathering behind him. “We brought bags for the seed. We plan to work straight through this field, strip it right down to the nubs.”
Thad was speechless. With numb fingers he opened the single gate and stood back while his neighbors and the townspeople swarmed through and spread out across the field.
“By sundown,” Wash yelled, “you’ll be ready to plow this field. And by October, you can replant.”
Leah reached out for Thad. His blue eyes were wet and shiny, and she bit her lips to keep from crying.
“Leah, honey,” he choked out. “What did we do to deserve this?”
She rested her head against his chest, listening to the unsteady thump of his heart. “If I knew,” she said, her voice shaking, “I would do a lot more of it.”
Her mother had been right, the slow drip had marked the stone.
Thad held Leah away from him, then bent to kiss her wet eyelids. “You are a bonny, bonny lass, Leah. It was a good omen when you stepped off the train in Smoke River.”
He took her hand and together they turned toward the open gate, walked through it and joined the gleaners.
The following year, Thad and Leah MacAllister were the toast of Smoke River. At harvesttime, Thad’s wheat field brought in twice as much as anyone expected, and the next week the mercantile was flooded with orders for seed.
Even more unexpected was the birth of Violet Marie MacAllister in October. After Violet’s entrance into the MacAllister family, nothing was ever the same for Thad’s son, Teddy, who had always claimed he didn’t like girls.
But Teddy took one look at the pink-and-white creature in the wicker cradle and fell head over boots in love with his baby sister.
That year and all the years that followed, both father and son were the proudest males in town.