Etown Experience – 6 of 7

Eliza pushed the curtain back, allowing more air into the room. It was almost as hot outside as in, but the moving air helped a little. She stared into the dark street. In the bed behind her, Arthur moved restlessly. In the room down the uncarpeted hall, a child whimpered in his sleep.

Las Vegas could be so hot during the summer. She leaned her forehead against the window glass, thinking of the first New Mexican town she had lived in. She missed Elizabethtown. She loved her husband and her children, but there were times when she longed for those rustic log buildings with the bark still clinging to the outside, and Baldy Mountain looming above them to the east. The soft banks of Moreno Creek in the spring. Moreno River, she corrected herself with a smile.

“Eliza?” Arthur asked.

“Mama?” a small boy called.

She turned toward them.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Etown Experience – 5 of 7

“Henri has decided to sell the hotel and build in Cimarron,” Mary said. “Business is slowing here and the doctor says it may be better for my health.”

Eliza put her teacup on the small parlor table. “I will miss you.”

“It’s not so very far. Only a short stage ride.”

Eliza smiled. “It will be a little farther. I expect to be in Las Vegas.”

Mary’s teacup stopped halfway to her lips. “Las Vegas? I thought you didn’t want to marry.”

Eliza put her hands in her lap and looked down at them. “Charles Ilfeld has offered me a position as dry goods clerk.”

“At the Mercantile? But standing behind a counter all day…”

Eliza smiled. “I don’t expect to clerk for very long. I’m beginning to think my aversion to matrimony is shortsighted.”

Mary laughed and lifted her cup. “You should have plenty of opportunities there,” she observed.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Etown Experience – 4 of 7

“You went out alone?” Mary moved nervously around her small parlor.

“I was always in sight of the town,” Eliza said. “I couldn’t disappear without somebody noticing.”

“Men have disappeared between here and Taos,” Mary said grimly. “That Kennedy man was killing them.”

“I wasn’t going to Taos.”

“I’m glad of that.”

“I like it here,” Eliza said. “The openness, the freedom.”

“Then you will stay?”

“If I can find something to do. My savings are almost depleted.”

Mary chuckled. “You’ll be married within three months,” she predicted. “If that’s what you want.”

Eliza laughed. “There do seem to be plenty of available men,” she agreed. “But I’m not at all sure that is what I want.”

Mary sat down. “No?”

“Men die so easily,” Eliza said quietly, looking at her hands. “The war taught me that.”

“Yes,” Mary agreed softly. “It shadows us women as well as the men.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Etown Experience – 3 of 7

Eliza paused to stare at the wooden structure that stretched across the mountainside like a great long-legged wooden centipede.

“What is it?” she wondered aloud.

A passing miner stopped, as if glad of an excuse to talk. “It’s a flume, Ma’am,” he said. “It’s supposed t’bring water from the Red River down here so we can wash the gold outta the hillsides.”

She glanced at him. “You said ‘supposed to.’ Did it not work correctly?”

“Not enough, ma’am,” he said. “They call it Davis’s Folly, for the man that thought it up. Mosta the water seeped out ’for it got here.” He peered into her face. “You Molly Lambert’s friend?”

Eliza frowned, but he grinned at her companionably. “Don’t take offense, ma’am. A new face in Etown’s bound t’draw some attention.” He pulled off his hat, as if suddenly aware of it. “I hope you’re planning t’stay a while, ma’am.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Etown Experience – 2 of 6

“After the Great Rebellion, I just wanted to leave Virginia,” Mary confided. She prowled restlessly around the room, touching the ornaments on the shelves and mantelpiece. “Henri was so traveled and so French. It was a pleasure to talk with a man who knew something of life besides battle and war.” She turned to her friend. “We went to Denver first. It was rough, but it did have some culture.” She raised both hands, palms up, then dropped them helplessly. “But there was little opportunity for another hotel and restaurant. When Henri heard about Elizabethtown, he was eager to come here.”

“But you don’t like it,” Eliza said.

Mary frowned. “It doesn’t agree with me,” she said. “I cannot adjust to these altitudes and the chill. I long for warm southern nights.”

Eliza chuckled. “Yes, I had noticed that the nights here are somewhat cooler than those of our childhood.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Etown Experience: 1 of 6

She’d only been able to catch glimpses of the scenery as they’d travelled through the Cimarron River Canyon, but when Eliza stepped down from the Moreno Valley stagecoach, she saw that she was now truly in the mountains. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“Mademoiselle? May I assist you?” There was a Continental lilt to the man’s voice.

She smiled at him gratefully. “I am looking for Mr. Henri Lambert,” she said. “He is married to my good friend Mary.”

“You must be Miss Dawkins!” the man said. “I am Henri Lambert. Mollie will be so pleased that you have arrived. Welcome to Elizabethtown, New Mexico Territory!”

He said it with such pride, she thought with amusement. As if he’d built the place himself. She examined the street and its people as she followed him and her trunk. Etown was a ramshackle, bustling kind of gold-mining town. She liked it.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Fishing

Almost as soon as he woke that morning, he decided to go fishing. There were chores to do, sure, but the sky was slightly overcast and the breeze was light and cool on his skin when he stepped onto the cabin’s porch. Good fishing weather.

He let the chickens out of their pen and gathered the eggs, then cut himself some bread. The cow hadn’t calved yet, so there was no butter, but that was all right.

He collected his pole and headed to the river. As he settled onto his heels just below the beaver ponds, he heard the swoosh of wings overhead. He looked up. A bald eagle was settling itself onto a snag at the head of the pool. A heron stood in the water below, apparently ignoring both eagle and man.

“Why in tarnation would any man want to live in a town?” the man wondered.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson