Western Short Story - Sweet Nellie Larson

Sweet Nellie Larson

Frank Damon topped Baker Hill and reined in for a moment. Below him lay the town of his youth, and his destination. He had been gone for fifteen years, and as he sat there, he once again questioned the wisdom of his return. It served no good purpose, he told himself, but he dismissed that argument immediately. He was here now, and he intended to have some old questions answered. From where he rested, he could see Main street, and rising behind the mercantile was the tall, white steeple of the Baptist Church.

Seventeen years ago, old Jeb Larson, owner of the big J-L, had hired him on as ramrod, and before long, Jeb’s daughter Nellie Larson started seeking him out on one excuse or another. She was beautiful, sure enough, but after Todd Bailey and Billy Wilson had lost their lives courting her, she had gained a reputation as a lovely but deadly black widow, so he kept her at arm’s length. Besides, he knew that Jack Macy, his best friend and foreman at the Flying W, had eyes for Miss Nellie Larson.

Then one day, Nellie told Jack politely that she had no interest in him and confessed that she was in love with Frank Damon. Jack talked to Frank about it, and Frank’s interest in Nellie grew despite his misgivings. A month later, she made sure Frank knew which box supper was hers at a social, and he bid on it to win. They found a quiet table, and she spun her web.

The courtship lasted a year, and Jack Macy graciously stepped aside, a fact that seemed to bother Nellie for a time, but later, she seemed to forget all about it. Finally, Frank asked for Nellie’s hand in marriage, and her father agreed. There was even talk from Jeb Larson about making Frank a full partner in the ranch after the wedding, and Nellie beamed, but there was always a feeling in Frank that something was amiss; something just out of his grasp. He shrugged it off as jitters and the courtship continued.

Frank asked Jack Macy to be his best man, and after a moment’s hesitation, he accepted.

The wedding was scheduled for June, but one day in April, Nellie shocked Frank with the demand that they move the wedding up, all the way up to the following Saturday.

“Why put it off, Frank? Why wait? What’s the point?”

She smiled at him and stroked his hair.

“I don’t want to wait any longer for you, darling. I want to start our life together right away. Is there a reason why you want to wait until June? Don’t you want me right away?”

She pouted in a playful, pretty way, and Frank relented. He could think of no good reason why they should wait other than making it possible for distant relatives to attend, but that wasn’t a sure thing anyway. He grinned at her and nodded.

“Oh, all right Nellie. Next Saturday it is!”

The Baptist church was packed with town folk and outlying ranchers. This was the wedding they had all been waiting for and no one wanted to miss it. Frank waited at the altar with a nervous Jack Macy, and Preacher Martin. Suddenly the lady at the piano began playing the bridal processional and Frank looked up to see Nellie coming down the aisle in her white gown. She was beautiful, and his heart swelled. She looked at him, and as their eyes met, he once again had the feeling that something was not right, but it quickly passed.

She stood at his side and he smiled down at her, but she did not smile back. The preacher began the ceremony, and Frank listened intently, not wanting to make a mistake. Then the preacher asked the usual question of those in attendance.

“And if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be married let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

Just as the preacher was ready to resume the ceremony, Frank heard a soft voice on his right. It was Jack Macy.

“I know a reason.”

Frank turned to him in astonishment, and Jack’s face reddened.

“I’m sorry Frank, but I can’t allow this. Nellie is two months with child, and it’s my child.”

As Frank watched in astonishment, Jack stepped in front of him and took Nellie’s hand. Together, they walked down the aisle, past a stunned crowd and out the door of the church. Nellie glanced hopefully back at Frank as if to see if he was going to do anything, and when he did not, she sniffed and held her head high as they climbed into Jack’s waiting buggy.

Frank heard later that they drove to Santa Fe, where they were married by a circuit judge. Frank rode out to the J-L and collected his pay from a furious Jeb Larson.

“I apologize for my daughter’s actions, Frank. She grew up without benefit of a mother, and I’m afraid that I’ve indulged her.”

He chewed on his moustache thoughtfully.

“You may be better off to be rid of her, my boy. I’ve long suspected that she might like having men fight over her.”

Frank rode to Denver where his ranch experience got him a job with a cattle buyer. On the buyer’s advice, he invested in a mine venture, and it paid off handsomely. He read law and attended a law school, eventually becoming a lawyer and joining a prestigious Denver firm. He continued to invest, and accumulated a small fortune. He met many eligible young ladies, but he shied away from any serious courtships. Then one day, he decided to face the past that troubled him. He decided to return and confront Jack Macy and Nellie.

Fifteen years was a long time to be away, and no one looked familiar. He was trying to enjoy his breakfast at the Bon Ton restaurant, but the enormously fat female cook was continually screeching at her waitresses. Finally, he pushed back his half eaten eggs in disgust and left. He walked down the street to the mercantile, but again saw no one he knew. Finally, he entered the Brass Nickel saloon and ordered a beer.

He was sipping his brew when a thin, stooped, tired-looking man stopped by his table and stared at him. It took him a moment to realize the man was Jack Macy.

“Ain’t you Frank Damon?”

Frank was two inches taller and twenty pounds of hard muscle heavier than the last time Jack had seen him, and he also had a flowing moustache. He nodded and motioned Jack to a chair. For a long moment, neither said anything.

“I wondered if you’d ever come back, Frank. I owe you an apology. What I did to my friend was unforgivable, but Nellie came on to me, and I was weak. In the end, I couldn’t let you be fooled into thinking that you had fathered that child after marriage, so I spoke up. I’m sorry.”

Frank nodded, and then he was astonished to see tears welling up in the eyes of his old friend. All the time he had been harboring anger, Jack had been feeling the pain of great regret for what he had done. Suddenly, he felt as if a great weight had been lifted, and he extended his hand to Jack, who hesitated and then took it.

“Have you seen Nellie, Frank? I won’t care if you want to.”

“No, I haven’t seen her, and I suppose I won’t need to now. It was you I wanted to see, I suppose. I have no plans to ride out to the ranch anyway.”

“Oh she ain’t at the ranch no more. Her pa ran her off after we married, and then he cut her out of the will. She lives here in town now. She’s the cook at the Bon Ton.”

Jack looked down at his hands.

“She put on a mite of weight after having the children. You may not know her.”

Frank nodded and stood. Once again, he offered his hand and Jack took it.

“If you ever get up to Denver, Jack, look me up. Just ask around.”

Half an hour later, Frank Damon was headed out of town, a solemn look on his face. As he approached the edge of town, a small smile began to play at the corners of his mouth, quickly spreading into a wide grin. Then he began to chuckle.

For months afterward, the town folks wondered at the stranger who was seen leaving town, doubled over in his saddle and roaring with laughter.


More by this Author


Comments 78 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Will, this was great. And of course another nice twist at the end. That Frank turned out to be one really lucky guy.


Becky 5 years ago

I remember the first story and wondered what would happen to a person like her. I am glad to see she got a little humbling. Her type do not age well anyway. It is the quality of a persons soul that make them age well.


SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

Absolutely awesome, Will. I'm starting to feel like I know you in person, man, and I like the feeling. And by the way, all through the four years in the navy my nickname was "Nellie" for Nelson. Other nicknames would appear and disappear, but "Nellie" stayed. Again, great hub. If you haven't already, I would recommend starting to check around for an editor/agent, because, my friend, your stories are that GOOD.


marellen 5 years ago

Enjoyed it immensely....you are a great story teller, Will....Are you writing a western novel of short stories? You should....I would buy it...


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Mike!

Yes, he had a narrow escape!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Becky,

Physical beauty always fades and only inner beauty survives.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Nellie!

I had a brother-in-law named Nelson and we called him 'Nellie' too.

I have a rep who is looking for agents and publishers. It's tough game to play!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Marellen!

A short story compilation is a hard sell. They all want novels.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I love how you worked in country lore like Frank buying the box supper. This girl was an egocentric and ugly spoiled brat. She sure became on the outside what her insides were like. Poor Jack. That short romp cost him his happiness and ruined his life. I am glad he thought enough of his friend to tell the truth though.

This is another of your great stories with that twist at the end. You write them better than anyone I know.


biblicaliving profile image

biblicaliving 5 years ago from U.S.A.

Great Hub Will, I know people just like that, be careful what you wish for.. Beauty is only skin deep, but mean is... Very well done!


Diane 5 years ago

Thanks for the follow up from the first story. Could you make your stories longer!

Ever ready for the next story to come. Makes my day!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Hyphenbird, and thank you!

Beauty is fleeting, but ugliness is permanent.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi biblicaliving,

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clear to the bone! :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Diane,

Happy Fourth!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

You never disappoint WillStar. I guess Nellie finally got what was coming to her, she is a sneaky one. Love it...awesome!


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Will, great karma-lized tale, I so remember that trip I finally made back to Kearny and the hot shot teasers had been to tub-o-lard school and went from baton twirling to stampeding the buffet at the all you could eat Sunday potlucks, what a hoot! dust

Side note: these short tales are great and I cannot imagine that a book of them wouldn't sell. I appreciate a good novel but I definitely like a good story that can be swallowed whole over a cup of coffee every morning. I've read several collections of such, one by Stephan King and being able to read and enjoy seems like it would fit in this "instant gratification world" of people wanting every thing right now, but that is far from my reasoning of just enjoying a good read.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Cardisa!

Glad you liked it!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Dusty,

Publishers seem to have no interest in short story compilations. They all want full length novels.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Sometimes things work out for the best. Great story.


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Justice Is Grand...I had a feeling that "Cook" was going to turn out to be Nelly...I don't know why, I just did WillStarr. But it certainly didn't take away from the story for me. I too was Smiling at the end! Loved IT!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Great read, Will. I loved it. Ole Nellie was more suet that sweet.


lilyfly 5 years ago

Will, I'm sure there are bad women, but I've found men far more vicious and hurtful than women. Many women in Alaska have endured rape, sometimes multiple times(My Mother did), the villages are hotbeds for wife beatings, and that's all I heard at night in Nome, were husbands beating their wives so hard I count count the broken bones. Then there is the problem of forced incest and molestation- even one guy I admired had forced his beautiful daughters to have sex with him.

I can't tell you how hard it is to remain a Christian after going thru these events, and reading that the original sin was woman.

As far as I can tell, I'll never be with another guy again. I tried to open my heart, but this last boyfriend enjoyed hurting me; in fact he hurt me today so deeply I cried like a baby. I;m over it, but we've been broken up for 5 months. As far as I'm concerned Sir, this story shows the predjudices of your upbringing- yes it is ALWAYS the woman's fault. lily


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi dahoglund!

In fact, things work out almost all of the time, given a chance.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, b. Malin, and you saw through me! :-)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

LOL @ drbj!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi lilyfly!

I write about good men and bad men, good women and bad women. I have no ax to grind at all.

In fact, read the story just prior to this one...Rye Whitaker.

Then read The Bride.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

This was another great western story Will. You and Sally are the best. Thank you. Voted way uuuup


quester.ltd profile image

quester.ltd 5 years ago

yes you do, WillStarr - write about good and bad in both sexes - fair handed - the father should feel some of the shame but Nellie has to bear the responsibility for eternity glad to hear the laughter on the way out of town.

voted up as usual.

q


aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Should have guessed it from the cooks description, but you blind sided me again!

Good story.

john

You should publish them a Kindle books, at 99c per copy (you get 35%) I think you would sell plenty, if you want I could typeset them for you, did that professionally for a few years for a publisher!

email me if you want assistance: aguasilver@gmail.com

John


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

I guess that is what you call poetic justice....there is something about that name "Nellie"....I always think of "Little House on the Prarie"...and it seemed to fit just perfect in the storyt.... lol


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, always exploring


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi quester.ltd, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi John,

The problem with Kindle publishing is the lack of publicity...no one knows you're there!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi CMerritt, and thank you!


writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

Great story, loved the ending. I had no choice - voted up


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi writer20, and thank you!


Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

Scintillating story, Will! Frank sure was one lucky man! I have a few ex-girlfriends I almost married - and when I have seen them over the years, I laugh like Frank! Another great one!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Good morning Dex, and thank you!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

Oh my gosh - Frank sure got the better end of the deal here. Voted up and shared on Facebook. Thanks again for the great read.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi suziecat7, and thank you for sharing it on Facebook!

This is loosely based on an experience I had on meeting someone after a 20 year absence. Although she was not a former girlfriend, she was very attractive, and she certainly knew it.

But too many Twinkies will ruin anyone, I guess. I didn’t even know who she was, until I was told.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

I always try to figure out where your stories are heading while I read them and I thought to myself that the marriage was not going to turn out well. But I was lost of course since the first intended marriage didn't even occur:) Loved the story and the end was great! Thanks for a great read! voted up.

Tina


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi thougtforce, and happy to deceive you! :-)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, you know what they say, 'what goes around comes around'! and it seems like it certainly did for her! great story, cheers nell


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Nell, and I apologize for my choice of names! :-)


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

WillStarr - this is by far my favorite short story of yours. Voted up and awesome! It really put a smile on my face to know that poor Frank got what he deserved...a good laugh and the satisfaction of knowing that karma is a b*tch! Have you written or possibly published a western novel? I would love to read it!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi kittythedreamer!

I enjoyed writing it because we all change, and beauty is fleeting. What is in the heart is far more important...and, in the end, far more attractive.


ltfawkes profile image

ltfawkes 5 years ago from NE Ohio

You've got the touch, Will. Enjoyed this very much.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi LT!

Good to hear from you again, and thank you for your kind words.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I just had to come back and read it again. Nellie is helping me lose weight. I SO ain't gonna end up like that.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Hyphenbird,

Nellie had but one asset, and that was physical beauty, so when she lost that, her inner ugliness became apparent to all, including Frank.

We all lose our physical attributes, and that's when our inner beauty takes over. That's why we see a little old man and a little old woman tenderly holding hands after all those years.

I know you from your writings, and you would be easy to love, no matter what.

Relax, my dear!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

Bless you my friend for your support and loyalty.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Not to mention that I can see your picture, and you're gorgeous!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Ah, sweet revenge with a belly laugh.The farther in I read the more the anticipation built. This is a great one as usual Will and it wouldn't be outta place today.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Alastar Packer, and thank you!


Sueswan 5 years ago

I admire Jack's courage for being honest with Frank about the baby. Jack you could say took the bullet for Frank. Great writing!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Sueswan,

Nellie played her cards wrong this time, and lost it all. Jack betrayed his friend and paid the price. Frank thought he lost, but discovered later that he won.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

You are right, Will! If Nellie were really sweet, her "big belly" would be as well! But like Frank, I am laughing as well at this cool tale... voted UP & UFAB!

Have a good day, mar.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi marcoujor, and you're right...to be loved, one must be lovable. Beauty may attract, but it always fades, so there has to be more than just beauty for a relationship to survive.


Ghost32 5 years ago

One of your best, Will, and a real treat after I'd missed coming 'round for a while.

Did have a moment of deja vu there, too; felt like it was me doubled over in that saddle roaring with laughter.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Fred!

I too, have experienced the narrow escape!

:-)


marshacanada profile image

marshacanada 5 years ago from Vancouver BC

Thanks for another great short story.


writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

You are the best western writer


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi marshacanada, and thank you sweet lady!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi writer20, and I'm following the adventures of Sasha and Sydney!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

That was a mighty good one will. I must say I have had a similar experience myself but far less complicated. God saves us from a lot of burdens some time as old Jack Macy might attest. WB


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Wayne, and thank you!

In the end, true beauty is what's inside.


fashion 5 years ago

That`s really an interesting short story.I love it.


poetvix profile image

poetvix 5 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

That was fantastic. You convey time and place so well. The way this worked out was an inspiration.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, fashion, and thank you!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi poetvix,

I attended my fifty year class reunion last year, and that experience inspired this story. Youth and beauty soon fade, and then we can see the real person. Often, that reveals an inner beauty we failed to see, but it can also reveal an inner ugliness.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

haha, yes, a real person exists inside us all, lol. And sometimes its a black widow but sometimes its a malcontent. I like how you turned her around; these two traits seem two sides of the same coin. Voted up, as always.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Barb,

Love is blind, but sooner or later, all eyes open.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Yep, and sometimes love grows.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

And sometimes, love grows.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

Glad I'm catching up! You are so right! "Ugliness goes clear to the bone" pretty much sums up everyone! Liked drbj's suet compared to sweet--wish I could think like that! Remembered your other story of the two men working the gold mine when I first began reading, so was curious about this take and its eventual twist. One lesson here: listen to our instincts--if somethin' looks fishy, smells fishy, and flops like a fish--oh, well, you done good as usual, my friend! Love 'em all!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi Teylina, and thank you!


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Thanks for the great post..Nice short story


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you htodd!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working