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I always enjoy a good humor read and this one was over the top.  In this book we meet two sisters in their sixties, Maxcine and Isabel. The husbands of these two funny ladies decided to have a midlife fling and spread their wings, so to speak. Unfortunately they were caught, and found themselves without their marriage partners,leaving the ladies living out their lives together in one home.   The story takes wings when the ladies decide to make advance travel plans to leave this world in their timing, if St. Pete allows.  Of course they will first have to undergo an intense interview with his worker, Angela. This interview  will be long and extensive, and perhaps shine the spotlight on some areas that really doesn't need light shone. It is through this time that the ladies begin to tell tales of their lives, always trying to shade off the more 'colorful' parts with out much success.  I giggled myself silly over some of their antics and their stories always left their interviewer with wide eyed amazement. If the truth be known, myself as well, but that was part of the charm of this story.     This was a funny tale, with two very entertaining ladies taking the spotlight,  and it was packed full of surprises that definitely entertain you. Who could guess what they were going to come out with next. Quite amusing! Do they fly away to Glory before their true appointed time, or is there more to that story than meets the eye? You'll have to read this laugh out loud book to find out. If you like to giggle, this book is for you. Well done! Thanks for the laughs, a very welcome emotion.   Shirley Johnson/Senior Reviewer MidWest Book Review







Sharon Kull



Snow was on the ground in the woodlands of south eastern Kentucky, however not so deep as to conceal a hare who had been watching the speedy approach of a burly man. Time had it late on a Tuesday afternoon, the month was February, the year 1881. The situation; dangerous








Chapter 1

"Pack up your paints and bloomers, Ashley
, we're heading west!" Sammuel bellowed as he slammed open the backdoor to their pale yellow little house and stomped into the kitchen. His coat was wide open, exposing a blue plaid shirt crossed by red suspenders.

About to set a kettle on the stove, she hesitated, swinging her gaze to focus on her husband of six months. The sight of him nearly always set her
twenty year old heart to thumping, and not only because he was just about the most handsome man she'd ever seen. However, at this moment there was every temptation to bop the kettle she was holding against his head.

"What did you say?" she whispered hoarsely.

"We're going to start a new life out west."


"Does that mean you don't like the idea?"

"Have I ever said that and been favorable?"

, no, not that I can think of." He gave pause, then tried, "You haven't seen the glory of the west."

Haven't seen the glory of the inside of a privy hole, either. I don't need to have a look to know I don't want to go there. What's wrong with Kentucky, Sammuel Smite?" She had a feeling her day had just been ruined.

"We're going to start over, away from the crush of civilization." They resided in rolling forest land, and Barth, the closest town, had all of
three hundred and fifty-seven people living within rock throwing distance of it. "I've sold the house and bought us a covered wagon. Why aren't you packing yet?"

Thunking the kettle onto the Franklin stove eased a teensie, weensie bit of frustration. However, there was a whole lot more where that came from
. "You might be leaving, but I'm not!" Ashley countered defiantly, glaring at Sammuel for all she was worth. She didn't care if every other woman she had ever heard of allowed their husband to make all of the decisions. It wasn't in her to be treated like a cowering pet, rather than as a person.

Sammuel grinned knowingly. Two axe handles wide, his shoulders were capable of carrying heavy burdens. Keen of wit, he wasn't above challenging the world to attain his goals. Reserved, yet bold. He wasn't satisfied to be a store clerk in a small town, nor did he want to move to a city
, so he had let Matthew, his father-in-law, talk him into pulling up stakes and heading westward. To homestead, for certain. To perhaps raise mules as Matthew's partner, or to have his own carpenter shop. Ashley was not going to change his mind. He'd married her because he loved her deeply, because he was certain they could make each other happy. Which was exactly the opposite opinion that his friends had shared with him. They'd warned him that he was only infatuated with Ashley and it wouldn't be long before misery set in. Sammuel was as stubborn as the mules Ashley's Pa raised. He hadn't been about to change his mind back then, and he wouldn't change it now.

Sammuel was well aware that there were problems. Pretty Ashley was not your run of the mill anything, artist included. As a matter of fact, it was amazing to him that she was an artist at all, let alone a very good one. Long fluffy chestnut hair was constantly drifting across her eyes, making it difficult for her to see what she was attempting to put on canvas. Lacking a sense of humor, her way of coping with distractions was to grumble rampantly. On sunny days, he could find her standing before her easel, in the middle of a clearing, telling off a raccoon that refused to stand still, while slopping colors left and right. There was, thank the Lord, a mild side to Ashley, however much she hated to admit it. Their home was cluttered with silk flowers, stuffed dolls and lacy doilies that she had traded her paintings for. Often, without recognizing she was doing something silly, Ashley did just that. Then she would ponder why those around her were often thrown into fits of laughter.

The light of Sammuel's heart was also content to remain living where they were till hell froze over. He wasn't about to put up with that, anymore than he'd like to tell her Pa she'd flatly refused to head west.

"Tell you what," Sammuel now dared suggest to his glaring wife, "come west with me and I'll grow a beard."

Her eyes widened, but she wasn't to be convinced that easily, even if she had been nagging him to grow a beard. With his coal black hair and light skin coloring, she figured he'd be well beyond handsome
, which might attract single women along the trail west, should she decide to let him convince her to go. "What about if, instead, you quit trying to make me see the funny side of things?"

An unfair compromise if he'd ever heard one. "Well..."

"You know I'm not the type to laugh," Ashley reminded him sternly, picking up a wooden stirring spoon from the table and shaking it at him. A fly got in the way and was clobbered but good.

Sammuel struggled to contain a cheer of laughter. This was definitely not the time to risk irritating her. "There's a chance that you'd see the humor in me trying to help our team, by shoving a fully loaded covered wagon..."

"Covered wagon? Did you say covered wagon?"


"Folks quit going anywhere in covered wagons over
thirty years ago!"

, and exactly why the wagons were selling for dirt cheap. The trick had been to find one that hadn't rotted apart, he mused. "Not everyone has stopped traveling in them."


"Wouldn't you like to see me trying to help our team, by shoving a fully loaded covered wagon over the top of a mountain," he wryly continued saying what she'd interupted, allowing himself to break out into a face expanding grin.

No where near close to chuckling, she could picture him in her mind, doing what he'd said
and succeeding. Since she was determined to change his mind, and knowing he'd refuse her request, she asked, "Can we take the chickens? You know I won't go without the chickens. I hatched them right here, in this very kitchen. I wouldn't even consider going anywhere without them!"

Beaming successfully, leaping forward to grasp h
is wife by her upper arms and begin dancing her in a circle, Sammuel said the words that could come back to haunt him a lot sooner than he'd like to think about.

"Chickens, dolls, the stove. We'll make room for everything you want."

Yetch! she spat inwardly. "Something I want," Ashley declared, stiffening her legs to halt the dancing, "is a confession. You let my Pa talk you into headin' west, didn't you?"

"He wants to see the west. What's wrong with that?"

"Pa is blinder than a bat. He can't even see the end of his nose."

"Doesn't slow him down. He raises the best mules in Kentucky."

, with help. Pa's always had help since his accident, and it's been that pansy, Thomas Galagher, helping him of late."

"What's wrong with Thomas?"

What wasn't wrong with him? Ashley asked herself. In another life, the
twenty-two year old man had to have been someone's daughter. Not an especially attractive one, either. Far too muscle-bound. Too tall. Voice too husky. However, he wore Sunday go to meeting clothes all the time. His after-shave smelled like perfume, and he was practically scared of his own shadow. He knew squat about guns, rode a pinto mule, and hated it when his hands got dirty. Shoes instead of boots. Worst of all, he refused to stand up for himself, and was prone to apologize even when he hadn't done anything wrong. But her Pa liked Thomas, the mules liked Thomas, the Belgian broodmares and Belgian/Morgan cross broodmares liked Thomas, Sammuel liked Thomas.

"Maybe it's just me," Ashley admitted. "Only, he's worked for Pa nearly five months and never caused no trouble. It isn't natural."

"Folks aren't all the same, like the slats of a picket fence. Everyone
is different."

"I know that."

If Thomas wasn't Thomas, who would you want him to be like?"

Ashley smirked. "Doesn't matter what he's like. Pansy, daisy, or dandelion. You
and me'll be out west, and he'll be shoveling mule dung on Pa's farm here in Kentucky." She grinned happily.


"Ohmylord!" she gasped, grief overtaking her happy expression. Hands flying to press against her flushed cheeks, she smacked her own head with the wooden spoon, but ignored the blow. "I might not ever see my Pa again!"

"Sure you will. He's going west with us..."

Now she knew why traveling would be done in wagons, instead of on a train. Pa hated trains.

"...and his mules will be pulling our wagon. The Johnston's paid him for his farm already. I got him a covered wagon just like ours with his money." Sammuel hooked his thumbs behind his braces and alternately stretched the red straps and eased them back. He was prideful because he'd been the one to find a buyer for their house, who had friends with
two wagons to sell. From the moment of agreement to head west, till the arrangements were a done deal, only two secretive days, four hours, and twenty minutes had passed.

"Ohmylord!" Ashley gasped.

"You're sure
'Ohmylording' a lot today."

Her hands finally lowered to her hips. "I'm being given reason! When you started telling me about heading west, you were meaning that Pa was going, too

"Yup. Wouldn't expect you to break ties with your Pa. I guess you forgot that I said he wanted to see the territories. You even told me he couldn't see the end of his nose. What's the matter with you, honey? Did your brains get scrambled after I left the house this morning? Or is my good news exciting beyond sensible words?"

She closed her eyes tightly, then raised one lid just enough to squint. "Putting up with the likes of you and my Pa is enough to scramble anyone's brains. Maybe it'll all soak in, this business of pulling up stakes, once I talk to the person leading the wagon train."

It would be embarrassing to have his wife speak up like a man in public. He'd be sure she didn't get the chance. "Have to wait a mite for that. The train
is forming in St. Louis."

"St?" Ashley winced. "Louis? Yetch! That's awfully far away. How are we going to get to St. Louis, when we don't know squat about what you're insisting we're going to be doing?"

"By the time we get that far into Missouri, we'll know everything there is about handling wagons. They'll have to let us join up."

"Sammuel!" Ashley took her wooden spoon after him, running in hot pursuit when he turned and bolted out the open door. It instantly became obvious to her that she'd never get close enough to thwack him a good one, so she threw the spoon.

The spoon seemed to be moving in slow-motion as it performed a couple of loop-de-loops, impacted against a support post of the back porch, then picked up speed in a direct line toward a jar of mint jelly cooling on the railing. That end jar was knocked over, and began what equated to the fall of a row of dominoes. A grand total of
eighteen jars of jelly toppled off the railing and onto the flagstone porch floor.

The noise of breaking glass was louder than the wail of despair emitted from the woman who'd spent many hours of the morning canning mint jelly.


ASHLEY BURNED SUPPER. Although it had been deliberate, Sammuel did not complain. Considering the mood his wife was in, he was grateful she had made anything for him to eat
, and because she had, he wouldn't have to choke down humble pie. Considering this, Ashley couldn't really be all that mad, yet. There was more to tell her about their move west, and once told, she would be worse than mad. He waited until after they'd eaten barely edible stew.

Sammuel had such a cowed expression on his clean shaven face that, when he explained a bit more about their pending move into no-man's land, Ashley didn't blow her short fuse. Nothing could, after all, be accomplished by digging in her heels and refusing to go. The house was sold. The wagon bought. Besides, they had been kind of getting into a rut. Stagnated, is how she sometimes felt, especially since she hadn't yet gotten with child. A change of scene might cure any number of ills.

However, to let her smug husband know she was becoming more and more anxious to hit the trail would be plum foolish. Kept in the dark, certain she was itching to mold the cast iron kettle to his head, Sammuel wouldn't dare expect her to do all the packing, while he did the planning. Pa would be needing all the help he could get, so she would even accept Thomas going west with the rest of them, if such a thing came about. However, nobody could force her to be even politely civil to the pansy
. She'd tried that a time or two while visiting her Pa, and the three of them shared the noontime meal. All it had gotten her was squinted at, as if she'd had no business on her Pa's farm.

"Ash? Honey? Don't be upset about our adventure. You're a strong woman
, you could probably walk all the way to the west coast."

"West coast?" she questioned, drying the last dish and putting it into the overhead cupboard. The towel hung as limply from her hand as her spirit hung in her heart. She'd changed her mind about being anxious to hit the trail west.

"A place called California. Haven't you heard about it?"


"I'm not going to be prodded into laughing, by you pretending not to have heard about California. You have, or you wouldn't have reacted the way you just did. It will not be our new home, we won't be going that far. But we will be going far enough for you to paint pictures of western sunsets from our front porch."

Ashley's eyebrows pulled together and she began twisting the towel, her slender fingers working automatically. "I'd rather stay here and paint pictures of trees, Sammuel."

"Well maybe we will go clear to the beach, after all," he muttered in frustration. When she pushed him too far, he automatically pushed back.

the irritated wife spat using only part of a breath. "It's clear on the other side of my Pa's farm, and it is for sale."

"The decision has been made to head west, Honey. We are going!"

"Yetch! You are
'going' to spend this night in the chicken coup, 'Honey'!"

Sammuel chortled wickedly, his eyes caressing the curves not at all hidden by a green and yellow, small checked dress. "Think about all of the nights we'll spend together on the trail, beneath a blanket of stars."

"It's winter
, we'd freeze solid. We'll never last to spring, never last long enough to bake beneath a relentless western sun."

He considered that
for all of three seconds. "Just think,'ll be able to bake bread without an oven all year round, the way I hear tell..." The rest of what he had intended to say was not to be heard as words. The kitchen towel that was shoved into his mouth saw to that."

STANDING IN FRONT of the living room window a short while later, watching a wintery moon rise above the shadowed forest, Ashley Smite was a mite peeved. How dare
my husband all but order me to move away from a four season climate? Why, he'd as much as admitted that the west is nothing short of an oven. The seasons have to range from hot, to hotter, to sweltering hot, to just shy of matching the temperature of Hades!

Memories clicked. Back in my school days, the learning books had pictures of hot places. People in those places rode awkward looking animals called camels. Sand dunes. Striped tents belonging to Arab nomads. Red skinned Indians running around taking scalps. Plants with needles instead of leaves. Modern conveniences such as privys, piped water into the kitchen, and shoes might not yet be available way out west. What about---

"Honey? Ash? What are you thinking about so hard?" Sammuel questioned from their two cushion sofa. The heels of his work boots were clapped atop the low table, perilously close to a fancy doily. He knew to make certain not to put his feet on that bit of intricate string. The one time he'd neglected to be careful, he'd ended up having the ruined doily served to him in his lunch soup.

"Hmmm?" she hummed absentmindedly, snugging her folded arms across her ribs.

"I asked," he began patiently, "what you're thinking about."

Turning in place to face him, Ashley sighed softly, then took the proverbial bull by the horns. "You should have considered my feelings before making such a big decision, such as moving thousands of miles out to the middle of nowhere
. I'd never do such a thing to you!"

"Which is why I did it. Awl, honey,..."

She didn't care for his smug expression.

"...this is going to be a wonderful, new experience."

"Are you saying that all new experiences are wonderful?"

Unknowingly walking into that trap, Sammuel did it with a wide grin. "Of course!"

"I'll remind you of that if some prankster shoves an outhouse back three feet, and you go visiting in the middle of the night

It took him a moment to figure out what she'd said. When he had, the grin fled his face. "That's different."

"No, it's not. Have you ever fallen into a privy hole?"

Sammuel wagged is square head from side to side. "No."

"Then it would be a new experience
, and according to your way of thinking, all new experiences are wonderful."

"Honey, Ashley,...sit here beside me. We need to talk about how wonderful starting a new life will be."

"I'd rather stand here. Sammuel, what is it really like out west? I mean, pictures in books might not be true. They could be made up. I mean, drawn of something else, other than what the words under it say."

"Exactly what are you getting at?"

"Out west is going to be hot, you said so yourself. There won't be any snow. There won't be any leaves on plants. Indians will be galloping around on their camels looking for people to scalp. Oh, Sammuel, is this such a good idea?" Maybe she wasn't as anxious to start a new life as she'd thought herself to be? Who knew? Herself was a mite confused. Herself had quite forgotten that she'd already decided against being for the plan to move west.

"Definitely not. Your idea of the way things will be out west are far from the way it really is."

"You misunderstood what I was asking. I..."

"You are the one who's misunderstanding the facts."

Ashley saw red
, and it wasn't the patch of longjohns that were showing through a tear in the knee of her husband's trousers, either. What she had to say was given emphasis by jabbing her pointing finger at her husband. "Yetch! I can promise you this, Sammuel Smite! The first time I see a wild Indian running toward me waving a scalping knife, I'm ducking behind you!"

SNUGGLED BENEATH A stack of blankets, topped with a quilt Sammuel's grandmother had made more than ten years ago, neither he or Ashley were having any luck falling asleep. Each on their own side of the brass bed, neither was in the mood for lovemaking. He didn't dare try to instigate intimacy, and her mind was awhirl with all she'd have to do to prepare for the big move.

"So how long before we have to be out of the house?" Ashley finally voiced the paramount question. She already didn't feel as if it were her home.

"Well....the wagon train leaves..."

"There's really such a thing as wagon trains anymore?"
the thoroughly puzzled woman inquired.

"Not many, I'll admit. We were very lucky to hear of a wagonmaster still doing business. His train will be leaving St. Louis the
third week of April. We have to allow time for us to learn how to handle the wagons, and set up camp. And take camp down. And how to fixbrokenaxles."

"Stop mumbling, Sammuel. I didn't understand the last part of what you said."

Smart man that he was, Sammuel condensed the subject. What she didn't know couldn't be used as a reason not to head west. "Trail trouble. We could come up against slight problems with the trail that we'd have to deal with. Not really a big problem," he added with a confidence he by no means felt.

"Like knowing which one to take?"

"We'll have a map for that."

"Then what? How not to get trampled by folks heading east, after finding out the west is better left to the Indians?"

Now Sammuel forced a laugh. "Only a fool would come back here. Why, the territories are the place to be. Blue sky..."

"Kentucky has blue skies."

"...elbow room..."

"If you'd get yours out of my ribs, I'd have that elbow room," Ashley muttered. She wasn't surprised that he didn't move. Sammuel was a touchy/feelly type of man. "So, how much time are we allowing to learn the ropes? And you didn't explain
'trail problems' good enough to suit me."

"I don't know what problems could arise on the trail," he lied, having heard quite a bit from folks who had relatives that had gone west. Some of the letters they'd received had contained down right scary information. "I've never gone west before. A couple of months."

Ashley sat bolt upright in their bed, head canting to stare at the dark blob on the white pillow case that was her husband's head. "Yetch! If it takes
two months to get to the near middle of Missouri...? Sammuel Smite, when do you expect we'll be far enough west to buy a house? Ohforpitysake! We do have to go clear to California! That'll take years!"

"I've already explained we won't be going that far."

"There's nothing but wilderness between St. Louis and California. How could we buy a house? Ohforpitysake! You don't think you can make me live in
a cabin, do you?"

"Not until we build it." Realizing how big of a cat he'd just let out of the bag, Sammuel tried to disappear under the covers. Only because Ashley was sitting up, their blankets couldn't be pulled up over his head.

Smacking at the skunk, she hissed, "Now here this, Sammuel Smite! I have no intentions of chopping down trees and making a cabin out of them! No intentions at all!"

He grappled with her until he got a grip of her flailing wrists. Holding firm, he told it like it was going to be. "Building is men's work. You'll only be expected to tend the camp."

"Now that sounds like fun," she bit out sarcastically.

"It can be, if you let it."

"Just like it'll be fun for you to build three cabins, barns, and fencing
, for starters, with the help of a blind old man and a pansy!"

"You can't discourage me, Ash." He let go of her.

Flopping backwards, as her head impacted her feather pillow, Ashley muttered, "So when do we have to be out of the house?"

"A week come yesterday," he replied, around a yawn.

"Yetch! Then we have less than a week. Six days. Six days is all we've got. We'll never be out of this house in that short length of time."

Sammuel yawned big time, then muttering sleepily, "Sure we will. You'll get it done."

As her husband snored off into Dreamland, Ashley rolled onto her side facing him, drew up her knees, then used both feet to shove him onto the floor.


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