That injun trouble up north didn’t amount to anything in Wichita. Folks said it was because Mr Chisholm was half-injun, so got on well with those living nearby. He also traded cattle with them, so they had no need to go off hunting buffalo.
The next job we did in town was to build a proper premises for the blacksmith. Daddy negiotiated a price that would include any ironwork we needed at home, as well as horseshoes, and rims for the wagon wheels. While we worked there, a man came and spoke to daddy. Said he heard we had a good plow we weren’t using, and asked about using it. He couldn’t afford to buy it, but offered to pay a portion of his crop come harvest time. Said he had come to the same arrangement with some German Dunkers, to use their ox. Daddy shook on the deal, and got me to write the man’s name down on my paper.
Wichita was definitely growing every month, and spreading inland from the church. Across the river, the so-so settlement there was bustling, and now had a name, Delano. Weren’t nothing much over there except drinking dens and good-time girls, but the small rowboat ferries did a brisk trade taking people back and forth. Daddy said we wouldn’t ever be going to Delano. “Nothing but loose women, gamblers, and drunks there, Phin. That mixture always spells trouble”. Henry made us laugh when he asked, “Mister Jessie, what’s a loose woman?”
The biggest job for us that year was building the hotel. It wasn’t much of a hotel, just a bigger whiskey saloon with some small rooms out back. But the owner had grand ideas, and had someone paint a sign reading ‘Wichita City Hotel’. That job kept us occupied for some time, and daddy employed a Portugee man who used to be a sailor in Maine. He spoke fair English, but I had a lot of trouble understanding his accent. And his skin was so dark and his hair so black, some folks mistook him for an injun. His name was Benedito, but we just called him Ben. He did the heavy hauling, as he had no trade except being a fisherman on the ocean. Daddy paid him off every day, and he used to drink most of his dollars away over in Delano. But he always showed up for work that summer.
Others were claiming land close to our homestead, and folks in town started to call where we lived Derby. Nobody could tell us why, but someone had decided to call the town expansion that, and it started to stick. When a man spoke to daddy about work on a barn one day, he said, “It’s close to your place, Mr Fuller, out Derby way”. I was getting used to working with the wood now, and it wasn’t unusual for daddy to leave me alone on some small jobs. At the end of the summer, he took me to the livery stable and showed me a big old horse that was saddled. “That’s your horse, Phin. Call her what you like. I reckon its time you had your own transport, and you can use it to carry your box to work.”
The box he referred to was a tool box he had me make. He got me a leather strap to fix to it, so I could carry it with no hands, and then he surprised me by buying me some of my own tools. I felt real grown up then. I called the horse Lizzie, as the chestnut colour of her reminded me of a certain girl’s hair.
After Elizabeth went off to school back east, we started to get visits from the Ryan family again. Mr Ryan had the town butcher slaughter some hogs to salt for winter, and he brought us half a hog wrapped in muslin as a gift. I guessed he was hoping to get his house-building moved up the list. There was a new trader in town, by the name of James Mead. He had bought up a lot of land north of the city, mostly places already owned or claimed, and given up. He usually got it cheap, and it hadn’t been long before he set up his own business, trading buffalo skins mostly but anything else folks would buy. Mr Ryan had wangled himself a job with Mead as a clerk, and was keen to move out of the rented rooms into a house on some land near Mead’s place.
After rubbing at his beard for a long time, daddy agreed to start on Ryan’s house next year, saying he would send me off to do the smaller jobs, like building outhouses, and patching fences. Ryan walked over to me with a big smile on his face. “You are growing up, young Fuller. Reckon you should know my Maggie talks about you all the time. Seems she has a notion to be your sweetheart”. I didn’t know what to say in reply, so he tapped the side of his nose, and winked.
“You could do a lot worse, my boy”.