This is the twenty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 865 words.
Daddy was sure pleased when I told him the news, and Henry gave me a big bear-hug too. After I told him, daddy sat thinking for a while. Then he lit his pipe and said he wanted to suggest some things.
“Phin, before any wedding, I think we should build a house for you and Susan. Maybe behind Walter’s cabin, closer to the woods. You two will need your privacy, and you will still be close by. Henry tells me there are men in town offering to set up water pumps. They can dig down on the property, find water, and set up hand pumps. That has to be better than walking back and forth to the creek, and we have the money for it. When you’re in Wichita, ask around about them. Fella told Henry they’re Italians or some such. And you had better speak to Reverend Parker too, arrange a date for the end of Spring”.
Everyone on the homestead pitched in. I wanted a nice plank house for me and Susan, not one made from logs. Walter dug out deep foundations, leaving room for a raised porch at the front. It would only be two rooms, but daddy said I could order real bricks from Topeka for the chimney. Susan and Mary set to making quilts, rugs, and bedding, and Henry built daddy a bench in the barn where he could work sitting down to fashion window frames and shutters. I watched him working, and he seemed happy. “How about real windows, Phin? We can get some glass from town, and still have shutters on the outside”.
Reverend Parker smiled when I told him, but then he put his hand on my shoulder. “Sad to say some folks might not take to you getting wed to a half-breed, Phin. But I could come out to your place and marry you right there. How does that sound?” Part of me was angry that he felt like that, but we didn’t go to church that often, and Walter and Mary hadn’t seemed too bothered about a ceremony of any kind. Walter had laughed when he told me, “You two could just jump the broomstick, that’s fine with us”. When I told them what the Reverend had said, they all seemed relieved. Daddy told me, “He’s right, Phin. You don’t want no trouble with those church people”.
The house was almost finished by the time the weather improved. Mary and Susan started to whitewash the wood, and Walter lit a big fire to prove the chimney. Me and Henry were still working on jobs around Wichita and Delano, then coming home to carry on until dark on my house. Once there was no frost, the Italians came out to fix the pumps. They were from New York City, but from an immmigrant family that had settled there. The older one reckoned he would find the water real easy, as we were so close to the creek. They dug down with a big boring screw, trying various sites until they hit good water. Then they laid some pipes between the cabins and the house, before burying them back out of sight. Pretty soon, each place had a pump just outside, and they were working well.
I guessed it must have all cost a lot of money, but daddy had a meeting with the men inside the cabin to arrange a price, and he paid them himself when the job was finished. After seeing them off the property, he turned to me. “This means we won’t be dependent on the creek so much, Phin. If those cattlemen do as they said, it won’t bother us none”.
When the house was fit to live in, I made two good chairs for the porch. Susan put all her stuff inside, and even made curtains to hang in the windows. Daddy bought us new cooking pots and such, said it was his gift to us. Henry made a heavy table from some old wood, and polished it real nice. Then on the Sunday, daddy smiled when he said, “Best you ride in to see Reverend Parker today, son”.
The wedding day was cloudy, but at least it didn’t rain. Mary had made Susan a beautiful dress that she could wear at other times, and dressed her hair with some flowers, injun-style. I had a new long black jacket and black hat bought in Wichita, and while I was there I had a haircut and shave too. The Reverend came in a buggy with Mrs Parker. He brought the big Bible, and the Church Register too. Mary cried when he said we were man and wife, and then he wrote our names down official like, in the Register. Susan had used Walter’s name, Washington, as she wanted nothing to do with the man who had taken advantage of her ma.
There was good eating and some whisky after, and when Mr and Mrs Parker went home, Walter winked at me. “Time to carry Mrs Susan Fuller over your threshold, I reckon”. He stopped calling me ‘boss’ that same day.
Two weeks later, the railroad arrived. Then things really changed in Wichita.