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Continued from The Secret

But mom, you were almost 30? I thought you were in Wyoming by then. How’d you get from Central Park to Wyoming?”

“Well, fatheh, poor man . . . he recognized how heartbroken I was. He had this business associate who ran a cattle operation in Wyoming. So he contacted his friend and arranged for me to hire on as a ranch hand.”

“You must have loved that! Did you get to stay until the war ended, or what?”

She commenced to talk about her first impressions of the west and about Cody and the Rhoads. Interestingly enough, she left out the entire Sheridan/Cormack part of the story. Was she trying to head off snooping?

We had finished the last of the wine and ordered dessert and nightcaps when she leaned into the table, and almost whispered, “You must not eveh breathe a word of this to youa sisteh. It would kill her to hear it from you.”

Shocked, I nodded solemnly. She had my full attention. She went on to explain the details of her affair with a married man. I never knew how much of the story was real, embellished, or simply concocted as a means of loosening my tongue. But later, as I examined her papers, the evidence of her willful behavior bore out much of what she told me that night.

“I fell in love with more than Wyoming. You know, much of the business of teaching me to cowboy fell to Elaine’s brotheh. (But here she is talking about Elaine and Cody, while I know that she got her boots wet in Sheridan before going to Cody. Have I misremembered, or did she obfuscate?) We spent a lot of time togetheh. I was high on life and my enthusiasm intrigued him. He told me about his horrible relationship with his wife. He was quite depressed about it. She wanted children so badly, but in 15 years that had nevah come to pass. And she was lonely living on the ranch. Honestly, I don’t know when that was, because during the entire time I was there, I neveh met the woman. Besides, I couldn’t imagine feeling lonely in that astounding country!”

Our Brandy Alexanders arrived and I reached for mine as if it were the ripcord on my parachute.

She continued, “I fell madly in love with him. The sun rose on his cheeks in the morning, and set on his ass in the evening.”

Thick slabs of chocolate torte arrived, providing me with the break I needed to resume breathing.

“It didn’t take long for the whispehs to start. Not just in town, but at the ranch, too. Willard and Elaine would exchange looks wheneveh he and I were in the same room. I’m not stupid, I knew what they were thinking,” she growled around a mouthful of chocolate. (Willard and Elaine? Really? What about George and Claire?)

“I couldn’t understand why he stayed with a woman who was so cruel to him. But he was not one to walk out on a commitment. He just couldn’t bring himself to leave heh. She had no one else. Heh siblings had died as children and both heh parents were gone. She needed him. We really did try to hide our feelings for each otheh, but it was next to impossible. Elaine was angry with me. I can understand that . . . really, I can. But I couldn’t help myself.”

Looking at photos of my mother, I can commiserate with a hearty cowboy’s desire. But he should never have told her he was sterile. And she should never have believed that he was sterile, no matter whose brother he was and no matter which community he lived in.

Continued