Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Poplar Mountain by Dellani Oakes Part 11

Lucius asked Dollie to the movies. She got so excited, she kissed his cheek, got embarrassed and raced out the door. Willem assured his brother that he didn't mess up, Dollie's just skittish.

Assured that he hadn't made a mess of things, Lucius went to work. He was digging fence holes with two of the other men. They had a pesky bull calf that didn't respect the barriers that men had laid, so he kept tearing down the fences. This was the third time they'd had to replace the fence in six months. Lucius was ready to sell the beast, but it wasn't his decision. He'd already managed to cut himself on the rusted wire and had more than a few splinters from the rough wood of the posts. Even with gloves, his hands were a mess. Overall, the day wasn't shaping up to be one of his favorites.
He and the other men were still trying to figure out how to reinforce the fence when the noon lunch bell rang. Wiping the sweat off his brow, Lucius got a whiff of himself. He and the other men didn't figure they could go into the dining hall smelling like they did. Instead, they went to Albert Travis' small cabin nearby and washed off under the pump. Feeling a little more fresh, they went to the dining hall and asked Lucius' cousin Jed to bring them cornbread and milk for their lunch. He did so gladly, bringing nearly half a pan of cornbread per man. He also brought cold bacon left from breakfast and hunks of hard cheese.
A slender pink figure strode up the path from the office. Lucius saw her before she saw him, and was upset by his disheveled appearance. She looked as fresh and pretty as she had that morning and he looked like something the cat had dragged in. Smoothing his hair, he and the other men stood as she approached.
Dollie smiled up at Lucius. She mumbled hello to the other men, but had eyes only for him. She didn't even notice that he was dirty and damp from his improvised shower.
"Howdy, Miss Dollie," he said when she stopped to talk.
"Howdy, Mr. Henry. You boys been working hard, I see. That blasted calf busted out again, hm?"
"Yes, 'um," Albert Travis replied. "We been studying about how to keep him in."
"Can you put the posts closer?"
They glanced at one another, slightly surprised.
"Mr. Bertram said he leans on the wire until it gives way. If it hasn't any slack, he can't do that. The closer together the posts are, the less slack there is."
"That's a mighty fine idea," Albert said with a grin.
"Dollie, I think you hit on something there," Lucius said. "May not be perfect, but it's better than what we were thinking."
"Oh? What had you considered?"
"Short of knocking him in the head and sending for the butcher? Not much." Lucius said with a grin.
"Oh, he's just a baby! He wants to be back with his mama."
Considering what they'd found him doing the last time he knocked down the fence, Lucius was pretty sure that wasn't the case. He wanted the females, all right, but not because he missed his mama. It was spring and he was old enough to feel the urges that males of all species felt in a powerful way.
"M'bee so," Albert said with a snicker.
The men burst out laughing. Dollie wasn't sure why they were laughing, but the tone of their laughter told her she'd be better off not knowing. She'd heard that sound before. It meant there was something earthy involved, not appropriate for a lady. Sniffing in disapproval, she squared her shoulders.
Lucius stopped laughing. Taking her hand, he kissed it. "I apologize, Dollie. Got to forgive men our bad moments."
"Yup. We cain't hep it, Miss Dollie. Men are a dirty bunch," Albert declared with a grin.
Lucius opened the door for Dollie. "I'd foller you in, but I'm mighty filthy. I promise I'll wash 'fore I pick you up this evenin'."
Dollie blushed again. "I look forward to it, Lucius."
He shut the door behind her. The other men looked on, hooting and hollering as he sat back down. Albert punched him, the other fellow pummeled his back.
"Whoo whee. That's one pretty girl!" Albert declared.
"Best keep your hands and eyes to yerself," their companion, Billy Ray said. "Lucius'll bust yer teeth, you look at Miss Dollie wrong."
"Look at her a'tall, Billy Ray," Lucius said calmly. "I'll bust your teeth. That girl's mine."
"Ain't no ring on her finger," Billy Ray replied. "Fair game's my way of thinkin'."
"And you're the village idiot," Albert said. "Pay him no mind, Luke."
"She's mine and I'll fight any man says different," Lucius said quietly.
The men sobered with that remark. Lucius didn't fight often, but when he did, he won. Not wanting to provoke him, they dropped the subject. They went back to work and, taking Dollie's suggestion, reinforced the fence with extra posts.
When they were done, it was close to quitting time. They went back to the dining hall for a cold glass of water before heading home. Lucius wanted a long, hot bath, but knew that wasn't likely to happen. He was gonna get an icy cold douse with the pump. When he got home, his mother was nearly frantic. She paced the porch, ringing her hands. She saw Lucius approaching and sprinted off the porch.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes 

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