In Oklahoma, 1938, though scarcity and hardship have taken their toll on the spirit of the nation, one young woman still dares to dream. Kathleen Dolan has high hopes for investment in a newspaper, but then trouble strikes.
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By Dorothy Garlock
Copyright © 1999
All right reserved.
Tillison County, Oklahoma-1938
"Bury me not on the lone prair ... ie
where the coyotes howl and the wind blows free.
In a narrow grave-just six by three,
Oh, bury me not-"
Kathleen stopped singing abruptly when she rounded a bend in the
lonely stretch of Oklahoma highway and saw a dilapidated old car
sitting crossways in the road. Her hands gripped the wheel of her
old Nash as her feet hit the clutch and the brake at the same time.
"Oh Lord! Hijackers!"
She had read about them, had even written about them while working
for a year at a small paper in Liberal, Kansas. Now a hijacking was
happening to her! She put the car in reverse and started backing up.
Out of the brush beside the road a man sprang up and ran toward the
car. Afraid to look away from him and watch where she was going, she
began to zigzag. Then, to her horror, the back wheels of the car
sank into the ditch beside the road. Quickly shifting gear into
drive, she gunned the motor in an attempt to go forward. The wheels
spun, digging deeper into the sandy soil.
The door beside her was flung open, and a big hairy hand gripped her
wrist. "Stop it! You'll strip the gears."
"Let go!" Kathleen jerked on herarm and tramped hard on the gas
pedal. The engine roared.
"Stop or I'll break your goddamn arm!"
She looked into a flabby, whiskered face. The man's lips were drawn
back showing tobacco-stained teeth. He twisted her arm cruelly.
"All right! All right!" she shouted. "Get out!"
She took her foot off the clutch. The car jerked and the motor
sputtered and died. When she was pulled from under the steering
wheel, she fell to her knees next to two pairs of run-down boots
planted in the red dirt beside her.
"What she got in there?" The second man peered into the back window
of the car. "Jesus! It's loaded with stuff."
"We gotta get this thin' outta the goddamn ditch. You stupid-ass
woman! I never met one a ya that had the brains of a suck-egg mule."
He reached into the car and snatched Kathleen's purse off the seat.
"Got any money?"
"Liar." He pulled two ten-dollar bills out of her purse. "This all
you got?" "No! I've got a dozen gold bars in the bottom!" Anger was
replacing her fear. She had lost one of her shoes when she was
pulled from the car. She reached down to get it.
"Watch her!" The first man snarled and gave her a push that sent her
reeling backward. He poked the two ten-dollar bills into his shirt
pocket, tossed aside the thick pillow Kathleen used on the back of
the seat so that her feet could reach the pedals, and slid under the
wheel. "Get back there and push. Both of you."
"If you think I'm going to help you steal my car ... you're crazy
as a cross-eyed mule!"
"And if ya know what's good fer ya, you'll shut yore mouth and do
what yo're told."
"Lippy, ain't she?" The second man was shorter and had a big belly.
He wasn't much taller than Kathleen, who was five feet and four
inches. He leered at her. "She ain't hardly got no titties a'tall,
but she shore does have pretty red hair." When he reached out to
touch her breasts, Kathleen's temper boiled over. She balled her
fist and swung, hitting him square in the mouth.
"Ouch! You ... bitch!" He dabbed at the blood on his mouth with
the sleeve of his shirt and lifted his hand to hit her back. She
drew back her fist; too angry to notice her sore knuckles, she
prepared to fight.
"Touch me again and I'll ... knock your head off!"
"Whapsy-do! If I had time, I'd take the fight outta ya."
"Goddammit, Webb." The man in the car turned the key, and the motor
responded. "Stop messin' with 'er and help me get this thin' outta
the ditch. Push, goddamn it! We've got to get out of here 'fore
somebody comes." The gears were shifted into drive and then into
reverse to rock the car.
The spinning wheels sent sand and dirt flying out behind. The wheels
almost reached solid ground, then rolled back into the hole.
"She's not pushin'," Webb shouted, his face splotchy with anger and
exertion. Kathleen moved up onto the road and searched the horizon
for something or somebody. The only movement in all that vast
landscape was a few white clouds drifting lazily. A dozen scattered
steers grazed on the sparse dry grass. There wasn't a car in sight.
Then she saw something coming over a small rise. At first she
thought it was another steer; seconds later, she recognized a man on
horseback riding across the prairie toward the steers. After a quick
glance back at the two men arguing beside her car, she lifted both
arms and waved wildly to the horseman and pointed toward the car.
The rider gigged the horse and was less than two hundred feet away
when Webb came back to the rear of the car.
"Shit!" he shouted. "Somebody's comin'."
The other man got out and looked over the top of the car. The
cowboy's horse jumped the ditch and trotted toward Kathleen. She
hurriedly got between it and the hijackers.
"They're stealing my car!" she exclaimed, without even looking at
the man's face. Anger made her voice shrill.
In the brief silence that followed, the man who had jerked Kathleen
from the car eyed the rifle that lay across the rider's thighs.
"Ah ... naw. We is just a helpin' the lady get her car outta the
"You ... lyin' son of a jackass!" Kathleen yelled. "You're
stealing it. Make him give back my twenty dollars." She looked up at
the rider and almost groaned. He looked to be not much more than a
"Give it back." Young he might be, but he spoke with quiet
"I don't have her damn money."
"It's in his shirt pocket." The rifle, more than the boy, gave
Kathleen courage. "Two ten-dollar bills. I was trying to get away
from them when I went into the ditch. See. Their car is blocking the
The end of the rifle moved. "Toss the money on the seat."
"She gave it to me. It's pay for getting her out of the ditch."
"Liar! You took it out of my purse."
"I'm not telling you again," the cowboy warned.
"Good thing you got that gun, boy." The hijacker threw the bills on
"Both of you move out and stand in back of the car."
"Make them help me get my car out of the ditch. It's their fault I'm
"Get under the wheel." The end of the rifle stayed on the two
hijackers. Before Kathleen started the motor, she heard the boy say,
"Take off your shirts and put them under that right wheel, then lift
and push when she guns the motor."
"I'm not puttin' my good shirt under that wheel."
"No? Would you rather I put it under there with you in it?"
"It'll be ruint."
"Don't look like it would be much of a loss to me."
"Don't I know you?"
"Maybe. Are you going to help the lady, or am I going to see if I
can shoot the button off the top of that cap you've got on that bump
on your shoulders?"
A few minutes later the Nash was up on the road, and the hijackers
were putting their shirts back on.
"Which way are you going, lady?" the cowboy asked.
"Rawlings." Kathleen left the motor idling and stood beside the car.
"You two stupid clods get in your car and head back up the road."
"Are you letting them go? I want them arrested."
The cowboy glanced at the girl. Her fiery red hair, thick and curly,
was a halo around her head. It was what had drawn his eyes when he
first came over the hill to see about his steers. There were not
many redheaded women here in Indian country. Her blue eyes sparkled
angrily. He noticed the heavy sprinkling of freckles across her
nose. Lord! It had been a long time since he'd seen a girl with
freckles on her nose.
Ignoring her question, he walked his horse behind the men until they
reached their car.
"We got a flat tire," Webb complained.
"Don't you have a tire patch, you lazy son of a bitch? It's easier
to steal the lady's car than sweat a little. Is that it?"
One of them muttered something about a blanket-ass. Any other time
the cowboy would have made him eat the words. Now he just wanted to
get rid of the two of them. He glanced in the car to make sure that
no guns were on the seats, then motioned for them to get in. He
waited while they got it started and watched as the car bounced
along the road on the flat tire. When it passed the Nash and headed
away from Rawlings, he went back to Kathleen and spoke as if there
had not been a ten-minute interruption in their conversation.
"How do you suggest we get them to the sheriff? I know who they are.
I'll see that he knows about this." He slid his rifle into the
scabbard attached to the saddle and tilted his hat back.
He was considerably older than Kathleen had at first thought. Inky
black hair, dark eyes, and high cheekbones spoke of Indian heritage.
He was tall, judging by the length of his stirrups, and lean. She
could picture him on the cover of a dime Western novel: horse
rearing, guns blazing.
"I really appreciate your help. They would have taken my car and
left me stranded here."
"Maybe not. They might have taken you with them."
"They'd a had a fight on their hands," she said spiritedly.
"I reckon they would've."
Her eyes were the color of denim britches after they've been washed
a hundred times.
He smiled, and she realized that he was very attractive in a dark
and mysterious sort of way. The thought entered her mind that she
was out here on this lonely stretch of road with this cowboy, and he
had a gun. It hadn't occurred to her to be afraid of him.
"Well ... thank you."
"You're very welcome." He tipped his hat.
Kathleen got in the car, waved, and drove away. She glanced in the
rearview mirror and saw the cowboy still sitting his horse in the
middle of the road.
Johnny Henry watched the car until it was out of sight. Why hadn't
she told him who she was? Probably she saw no need to introduce
herself to a cowboy out here in the middle of the prairie, even if
he had saved her pretty little hide from a couple of no-good
hijackers. He had known the minute he saw that red hair and the Nash
car that she was Kathleen Dolan and that she was on her way to
Rawlings to work at the Gazette.
A week earlier Johnny had gone over to Red Rock to visit his sister,
Henry Ann, and her family. Her husband, Tom, had had a letter from
his brother, Hod, in Kansas telling him that their niece, Kathleen,
would be coming down to Rawlings. She had been working for a year in
Liberal, and for some reason known only to her, had decided to use
some of the money left to her by her grandparents to buy into the
paper at Rawlings.
"She wants to see and do a lot of things before she settles down,"
Hod had written. "She's twenty-six years old. Guess she's old enough
to do as she pleases."
She didn't look to be that old, Johnny thought now. That would make
her a year older than he was. She had looked to be about twenty-one
Tom had told Johnny that Duncan Dolan, the eldest of the Dolan boys,
had gone to Montana when he was a youth and married a widow from
Iowa. He'd had a fierce love for the woman and their child. Many of
his letters were lovingly centered on his little girl whose red hair
had been inherited from her mother. After Duncan was killed in an
accident, his daughter and wife had gone back to Iowa to live with
her parents, and for a while the Dolans had lost track of Kathleen.
Several years ago she had written that her mother and grandparents
were gone and she wanted to know her father's family.
Johnny had not given her more than a thought or two ... until
today. Now he wondered if he could ever get her out of his mind. He
chuckled as he watched the car disappear. Not many women would set
out alone to drive more than two hundred miles across country. Miss
Kathleen Dolan had spunk to go along with that red hair.
A sudden burst of happiness sent his heart galloping like a runaway
Rawlings, Oklahoma, was like most other towns in 1938. Jobs were
scarce, farm prices had risen only a little since the bottom price
for wheat had been twenty-five cents a bushel, oats ten cents and
cotton five cents a pound back in 1932. Most of the cotton farmers
were allowing their fields to go to grass to keep the soil from
blowing away in the dust storms and were trying to make a living
raising cattle. Some of them were packing up and following Highway
66 to the "promised land" in California where fertile fields
provided a better prospect of jobs.
A steady stream of hobos looking for work or a handout came through
Rawlings daily, seeking the community soup kitchen. The town had
survived partly because a hide-tanning plant had opened several
years ago and now employed more than fifty people. Hides were
shipped from the meatpacking plants in Oklahoma City and Wichita
There was dissatisfaction among some in town, however, because white
men who needed jobs believed that too many Indians were working at
the plant. Miss Vernon had written that the tanning plant was owned
by an oil-rich Cherokee Indian, who was not only wealthy, but smart,
and wouldn't stand for any interference in the way he handed out
During the past two months, Kathleen had learned quite a bit about
Rawlings, Oklahoma. Miss Vernon had sent her every issue of the
Gazette since she had answered the advertisement for a business
partner in the Oklahoma City paper. The first Gazette had been
published in 1910, just three years after Oklahoma became a state.
The family had held on to the paper during the worst years of the
Great Depression. Now, without an heir to take over, it was in
danger of being put to rest.
As Kathleen drove slowly along the street, her heart pounded with
excitement. The town was quiet beneath the hot September sun. A dust
devil danced down the middle of Main Street, where only a few cars
were parked along the curb, and only a few people strolled along the
She stopped at an intersection and sat there viewing the buildings
that made up the business part of town. A number of them were
vacant, but no more than in other towns she had passed through. The
sidewalks on both sides of the street were new, no doubt paid for by
President Roosevelt's recovery program. The new school she had
passed was another WPA project. Even the water tower had a fresh
coat of paint. The district evidently had a hardworking congressman.
Most of the three thousand residents of Tillison County resided
there in Rawlings, the county seat. The two-story, solid redbrick
courthouse building sat in the middle of a square. An arch made of
deer antlers and steer horns spanned the walk leading to the
entrance. Kathleen smiled at that.
Her bright interested eyes took in everything. Rawlings was not as
big as Liberal, but then she had been aware of that. It did have a
good-sized business district because it was the only town of any
size for fifty miles around. The Hughes department store was on the
corner. Next to it was the Piggly-Wiggly grocery and at the end of
the block the Tillison County Bank and Trust.
Excerpted from With Heart
by Dorothy Garlock
Copyright © 1999 by Dorothy Garlock.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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