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Western Short Story - The Proposals

Updated on July 30, 2016

The Proposals

“Think about it Nellie. That’s all I ask.’

Nellie Larson had the dual attraction of being not only the most beautiful girl in the territory, but the daughter of Jeb Larson, the owner of the J-L, the territory’s largest ranch. As a result, she was in her parlor listening to the proposal of young Billy Wilson, son of the late Jim Wilson. Billy was now owner of the Lazy W.

“Well, I’m certainly honored Billy, and I will give your offer all due consideration, but, as I’m sure you are aware, I’ve also had a proposal from Todd Bailey.”

Billy’s face darkened. Todd Bailey was an older man and the local banker. He held the notes on almost all the ranches in the area, including the Lazy W, and he was known as a ladies' man.

“I hate to speak ill of any man behind his back Nellie, but Todd Bailey has a bad reputation around women. That’s all I’m going to say.”

“Oh, I’m sure you don’t mean that Billy. Todd is quite a gentleman, and so of course, are you. Please don’t speak that way of Todd. It doesn’t become you.”

Todd Bailey rode down the hill overlooking the J-L in time to see Billy Wilson ride out of the ranch yard to the south and head for the Lazy W. He walked his horse to the rail and dismounted as Nellie Larson watched him from the porch swing. As he watered his horse at the trough, he glanced up at Nellie.

“Was that the Wilson kid?”

“He's hardly a child, Todd. He’s nineteen and the owner of the Lazy W. He's a year older than I. There’s no call to insult him. He’s a fine man.”

He tied his horse off at the rail, and mounted the steps to the porch, seating himself beside Nellie.

“Have you given any additional thought to my proposal?”

“I certainly have, Todd, but surely you don’t expect me to make a decision so fast? It has barely been a week. A girl needs time.”

‘What did Wilson want?”

As Bailey watched her, Nellie pursed her lips, obviously considering her reply.

“Now don’t get angry Todd. Billy was here to propose marriage to me.”

Todd Bailey rose abruptly and faced Nellie, a look of rage on his face.

“Who the hell does he think he is? He knows damn well that I have already spoken for you! He’ll pay for this.”

“Please Todd, watch your language. Have you forgotten that I am a lady? I’ll have no such talk. And Billy Wilson means no harm. Besides, I’ve not given my consent to anyone, including you, so don’t make presumptions.”

Billy Wilson never saw it coming. One minute he was tying off to the rail in front of Hattie’s restaurant and then next minute he was lying in the dust of the street, dazed and shocked from a blow to his jaw. A shadow fell over his face and he was looking up at Todd Bailey.

“That’s what you get. You went sneaking over behind my back to see Nellie, and now I’ve settled up. Stay away from her.”

He spun on his heel and started to walk off. Billy struggled to his feet and used his hat to slap off some of the dust. Two cow hands were grinning at him from a bench in front of Hattie’s. Humiliated, Billy, turned toward Todd Bailey, walking away down the street.

“Bailey!”

Todd turned slowly and faced Billy.

“I’ll go see Nellie anytime it pleases me, or until she tells me otherwise.”

Todd Bailey’s jaws worked and his hand slid quickly inside his jacket. Instantly, Billy palmed his revolver and shot Bailey twice in the chest. Bailey's face turned white and his eyes went wide. He slumped to his knees and stared at Billy, shaking his head in disbelief. As he sagged into the street, his right hand came out of his jacket clutching a fresh cigar. He was dead.

The trial was the next morning, and the two loafers in front of Hattie’s restaurant testified that Todd Bailey was unarmed and helpless when he was gunned down. The jury was fed up with gunfights in the street and sentenced Billy Wilson to hang the following day. The sentence was carried out at dawn, and both men were buried at opposite ends of the cemetery at noon.

Jeb Larson and Nellie stood on a high knoll under an oak overlooking the cemetery below and watched the burials. Her father had his large arm around her shoulders as tears ran down Nellie’s cheeks.

“Don’t take on too hard Nellie. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I can’t help it father. Two men have just died, fighting over me!”

With trembling hand, she pulled her shawl over her face to hide her smile.


....

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    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, quester.ltd!

    • quester.ltd profile image

      quester.ltd 6 years ago

      but, dear Will, I bet he will find out - perhaps on his death bed??

      did not know that you knew my sister . . . I should not say another thing.

      vote up

      q

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, theseus!

      Yes, sadly, our little Nellie is not as sweet as she puts on. Not even her daddy knows!

    • theseus profile image

      theseus 6 years ago from philippines

      What an ending.I never saw it coming.I could strangle her though.She's such a cold-blooded spoiled brat.Ggrrr..

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Mrs. J. B.!

      I have a collection of nearly 500 episodes of the radio version of gunsmoke. We listen to them when we go on trips.

    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 6 years ago from Southern California

      I was so into your story until the end... HMMMM... That little flippin bisquit....I loved this hub... You write so beautifully, you keep your readers engrossed(?) whatever I loved loved loved it...

      Oh I thought I should tell you that my second pit is named Miss Kitty after Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke and my cat was named Chattoe...........

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      And again, thank you, Teylina!

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 6 years ago

      Yep,Austinstarr and Cardisa. So many other fab comments, I forgot what I was going to say! But--weird thing about men and women to me is that men don't ever stop and think--they just do it (whatever it is), and women? - c'mon, few of us would admit it, but it's an ego trip if two guys wind up in a stupid fight because they both "like?" you! - However!! THAT WICKED SMILE! - Yikes, takes me back to some really horrid girls I knew at that age! Have to agree w/silver-genes! And now gotta check Qudisa! Really great short read!!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Bob and thank you! I too knew of such a 'lady', although I was never one of her victims. :-)

    • Bob Francis profile image

      Robert Francis Steffke 6 years ago from Springfield, MO

      Will, Thanks for a great story with a twisted end! Reminds me of my first mistake. I got latched up with a "beautiful red headed Movie Starlet" when I first moved to Hollywood, I tended bar and she loved to drink and knowing of my fighting ability loved to create situations where I had to defend her honor. Thankfully I got older and perhaps wiser. Luckily for me that relationship only lasted 2 years. Keep hubbing, and I'll keep reading, Thanks, Bob

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, amillar, and thank you!

    • amillar profile image

      amillar 6 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Oh what a wicked girl Will. (Many a true story told in jest.)

    • WillStarr profile image
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      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Sally!

      Yes, I do know that most women don't need or want men to fight over them. But there are those few who love it. I once knew one.

    • Truckstop Sally profile image

      Truckstop Sally 6 years ago

      I agree with Cardisa - more of Nellie! Thanks for a fun read. Of course, you know not all women are conniving, two-timing, heartless . . .

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi dusty,

      Yeah, I remember that song! It was sung by Arthur Godfrey.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

      Will, great story line, one I've seen played many a time and the old song "I don't want her you can have her" pops to mind, dust

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Wayne,

      There was a woman back in the 80's who finally confessed to falsely accusing a man of raping her after he served years in prison.

      She was mad at him over some trivial thing that I've forgotten.

      Hell hath no fury...

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

      Well! the nerve of that BITCH! Dang it Will, I was pretty sure that you couldn't twist this one around but you did. I just can't believe such spoiled little gal could get a young boy like that hanged and then smile about! Good Write! WB

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Ingenira!

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 6 years ago

      Good short story, I can imagine the 'movie' in my head as I read it.

      Voted up and awesome !

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, toknowinfo!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 6 years ago

      Well done and enjoyable read. As usual your endings catch me unexpectedly. Love your stories. Can't wait for more. Rated up and awesome.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi SilverGenes,

      I don't think sweet Nellie had any notion of marrying either one of them.

    • profile image

      SilverGenes 6 years ago

      This was great! I didn't see that ending coming any more than Todd Bailey saw that bullet heading his way. Considering that smile beneath the shawl, it just might be that those two men were luckier in the ground than they might have been has she said 'yes'. Awesome and rated up!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Susan!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Here I was sure that the onlookers were going to say that Todd appeared to have a gun and Billy would get off. Enjoyed this story very much!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks, Caltex!

    • caltex profile image

      caltex 6 years ago

      What an ending! Loved it. Up and everything nice!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi marcoujor,

      Yes, our Nellie has a wicked and morbid sense of humor.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi thougtforce!

      Thanks for the kind comments.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Little Miss Nellie is a rascal... as are you...!! How thoroughly enjoyable~~ Voted UP & FUNNY...!!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 6 years ago from Sweden

      A great story! I was pulled into the story from the first line and the end was super! So unexpected and so twisted.

      Tina

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Happy to shock you always exploring!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I am shocked beyond belief, whatever that means LOL Talk about a surprise ending. Well done will, that's what makes you a good writer, not knowing what to expect.

      Cheers

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I did!

      Very, very good!

    • QudsiaP1 profile image

      QudsiaP1 6 years ago

      Thanks for reading part 2 Will, Part 3 is out. Do let me know, what you think of it. :)

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Genna!

      More than one foolish young man has died fighting for the hand and honor of a woman who was just playing a game. This one was playing for keeps.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "With trembling hand, she pulled her shawl over her face to hide her smile." Lol.

      Wow! Up and awesome...what more can I say; you are still the master.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Suzie!

      Yes, I confess to leading you astray. It's a fault of mine.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Well, what a conniving little hoe. I almost thought the proposal was going to be something besides marriage at first. Thanks for the great read.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Storytellersrus,

      Your approval means I've attained a new plateau in short story land!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Cardisa!

      Maybe sweet Miss Nellie will appear again. Who knows? :-)

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Well that was a switch I did not see coming, lol! And I love the name Nellie- it was my grandmother's nickname, born of Cornelia.

      I was beginning to settle into your hubs, thinking I knew their pattern, expecting they ended with the girl getting the right guy. Fun to immerse myself in for a moment, stress-less and sweet, for the most part.

      Now, you have thrown me off and I love that! Thanks for another fun read.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Will,

      I agree with Maggie-May and yes, we need to hear more from the lovely Miss Nellie.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Maggie May

      A novel is in the works.

    • Maggie-May profile image

      Nadine M AuCoin 6 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

      Hi Will, another terrific read. I know you write short stories, but most deserve to be novels...I am always left with wanting to read more. Voted Up in everyway,

      MM

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Chris!

      Never thought about that...The Little Witch on the Prairie! :-)

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 6 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      why that little ...... !!?!! *@#&!

      sounds like Nellie Olson...must be something about that name..

      AGAIN!!! great job Will....I enjoyed it!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi drbj,

      Those Chi-town thugs would be dead meat if they messed with Miss Nellie Larson. She'd just call the local cowhands down on them, and she do it in the sweetest way!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi chspublish and thank you!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Hey, Will, what's the address of that @#&*$$)(@^ witch? I'll call up the boys I know in Chicago - you know, the ones with the cauliflower ears and broken noses - and they'll take care of her - no charge!

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 6 years ago from Ireland

      Will, you never fail to have that twist. What a surprsie! Well done

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Ya got me Ghost...almost! :-)

    • profile image

      Ghost32 6 years ago

      Best twist yet, Will. I just nodded at the cigar bit, but it was obvious--since there wasn't much page left to read--that something was definitely up.

      Hmm....

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Don't see the connection, but thanks for reading!

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 6 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      Red-headed stranger rode in...saw a woman...and shot her for stealing his horse.

      Very, very Willy Nelson...WillyStar...lol.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks mquee, and yes, it still happens.

    • mquee profile image

      mquee 6 years ago from Columbia, SC

      Another good story Will. It has happened throughout history and it happens today. Good stuff!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi epigramman!

      Thanks you for that kind compliment!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi A.A. Zavala and thank you.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi dahoglund,

      Thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Ginn,

      The weaker sex can bring a strong man right to his knees any time they want.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Amy,

      Is that a cowgirl hat you're wearing?

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Cardisa,

      Do you think we should hear more from our lovely Nellie?

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi TTW and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Austinstar,

      You are a naughty girl. It's a good thing we like naughty girls.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi QudsiaP1,

      I read your part two! Great stuff!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      LOL Mentalist acer!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      LOL POp!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Cogerson and thank you!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi GNelson!

      Glad you enjoyed it!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Tim, and thank you.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Bluestar,

      The witch I knew never let on that she was anything but innocent, but she was always manipulating men into fighting over her. I only found out about it when she told another woman what fun she was having, and how it fed her ego. The odd thing was, she was not all that attractive.

      I'm glad I was never drawn to her.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      ..well you're the best short story writer in the hub business - and I would bet my toupee on that one - and you're the most famous 'Starr' I know .... other than your nephew Ringo!

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 6 years ago from Texas

      Very celver. Thank you for sharing.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      She did seem to be playing them off against each other.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

      And they call women "the weaker sex." GREAT AS ALWAYS

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Well, if that don't beat all! Here I was getting all riled up over those greedy alpha males and the "lady" in question is not even forthcoming about enjoying her power. I wonder if her 'ego' understands that the ranch plays as much a part as her beauty in her desirability. Great story, cowboy Will!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hey Will,

      This is like watching a movie, I even read with the western drawl I don't even know how to speak. I love the fight over the girl. But Nellie is a sneaky one, I wonder what she will do next?

    • tumblintumblweed profile image

      tumblintumblweed 6 years ago

      Great twist, WillStarr...Loved it !

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Yep, another instance of men thinking with the little head! I'm always amused at this also. Silly men.

    • QudsiaP1 profile image

      QudsiaP1 6 years ago

      How twisted... You have done a great job portraying her, bravo!

      On your request, I have written part 2. I hope you like it. :)

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Ha,The politics of romance:-))

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      I had a feeling something wasn't right. Does Nellie know the Obamas? Up and awesome.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Ah....the powers of a beautiful woman.....great ending....which reminded me of the master criminal in Agatha Christie's Curtain...great job

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Good story. Well written and not a wasted word. I enjoyed it!

    • profile image

      TimBryce 6 years ago

      Will - Good job. Good ending.

      All the Best,

      Tim

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 6 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Ahhh Bill, this little ole woman should of been on Wayne's hussy list. What a witch to have two men plying for her attention. Another great hub my friend, where do you get that awesome imagination. Must rub shoulders with you sometime and maybe get a little bit of western imagination for myself. x

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi lyn and thank you!

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 6 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Brilliant - You got me on that twist. I normally see them coming but nope not that time. Thank you for the wonderful read WillStarr

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Nan!

    • profile image

      Nan Mynatt 6 years ago

      Great ending, the men didn't think at all. Fighting over a woman who wasn't worth it.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, WillStar, ha ha she had to be a Nell! hee hee, not like me of course, well, not really......! seriously, loved the ending, cheers nell

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      You're the modern Louis L'Amore. Nice job.

      Rob

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you G-Ma Johnson,

      Yeah, I think we all know a sweet, little Nell.

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you Hyphenbird!

    • WillStarr profile image
      Author

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, little sis!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 6 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      HUMMM...I am at a loss for words...but I love Poohgranma's answer...I think my EX just married her sister...

      You always amaze me...:O) Hugs G-Ma

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Ooooh! That little witch! This is a great twist there at the end. I love it!!!

    • Poohgranma profile image

      Poohgranma 6 years ago from On the edge

      I think I know this woman. She was married to my husband a long time ago ... lol Great story!!!