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All Together in One Place

Jane Kirkpatrick

  Praise for

  All Together in One PUce

  “Great characters and a strong story. Jane Kirkpatrick is an excellent writer.”


  “Jane Kirkpatrick has performed a literary miracle. She made me—a reader who seldom ventures into Western fiction by choice—struggle across dusty plains and ford swollen rivers right along with her eleven turnaround women, then thank her for the perilous journey. She made me cheer for characters who rubbed me the wrong way until they polished clean my resistance and stole my heart. Their collective trust in God fortified my own. Read and experience this miracle of kinship and courage for yourself.”


  “Rich in detail, All Together in One Pkce is the compelling story of a band of pioneering women as told in Jane Kirkpatricks unique style. Here is the journey west as women saw it—burdensome and often cruel, yet not without moments of compassion, love, and humor.”


  “4½2 Stars, Gold, Top Pick of the Month. While [All Together in One Place] may not be a romance per se, it is a compelling love story, sweet in intimacy and rich in human drama. When a cholera epidemic claims all their men, the women…are forced to draw the strength from within themselves, fanning long-dampened coals of hopes for dreams not yet realized, and aspirations still untried. This novel speaks to the heart of human relationship—love. Jane Kirkpatricks book is a treasure, well worth reaching beyond our genre to experience.”


  “Jane Kirkpatrick has produced a work rich with beauty and imagination. All Together in One Pkce is a rare piece of literature that sings of courage and faith.”



  No Eye Can See

  What Once We Loved

  A Sweetness to the Soul

  (Winner of the Wrangler Award

  for Outstanding Western Novel of 1995)

  Love to Water My Soul

  A Gathering of Finches

  Mystic Sweet Communion



  A Burden Shared

  Daily Guideposts, Stories for a Womans Heart

  This book is dedicated to

  a special

  circle of women

  Blair, Kay, Sandy, Barb, Carol, Katy,

  Jewell, Harriet, Normandie, Nancy, Jeannie, Judy,

  Arlene, Sherri, Jean, Michelle, Millie, Patty, Kathleen,

  Melissa, Joyce, Julie, Jacki, Patty, Marilyn, Madison,

  Mariah, Pearl (my mom), Annie, Melissa,

  and to Lisa and Traci, newly joined




  near Cassville, Wisconsin

  Cold water quaked from her torso to her toes. In an instant, Madison “Mazy” Bacon understood: greedy reeds and grasses lurked beneath the rivers surface. Fear surged through her. She struggled against strands yearning to tangle her ankles and knot the flounced hem of her swimming dress. Cold numbed her arms; thickening stalks sucked her under. As she fought, she scolded herself for not suspecting the danger signs. For being naive, swimming in the mighty river alone.

  No, no, no, no! Determined, Mazy swallowed her panic, spit out murky water. She closed her eyes tight in concentration, then jerked her legs into a ball beneath her dress. She twisted until supine, surrendered to heaven. Then with a controlling backstroke, a thrust of her sinewy legs, and a prayer, she pushed toward warmer, safer water.

  Sheltered later in their log home cradled by grassy bluffs, Mazy warmed herself before the fireplace, her thin chemise clinging hot against her back. Wet chestnut strands of hair veiled over her head as she bent and toweled it with an old quilt piece.

  “There's a dangerous place of currents in the Mississippi,” she told her husband of two months. “It looks safe, calm almost, then all of a sudden, and you're in it.”

  “Its a necessary discovery,” Jeremy Bacon told her, not looking up from his book about cows and cow brutes. “Things are often not as they seem at the surface.”

  “True,” Mazy said. She tossed the thick tousle of hair over her back. Knotting the still-damp waves into a single braid, she vowed to remember his words of warning.

  She didn't.


  mazy bacon's place

  April 1852

  Mazy Bacon embraced her life inside a pause that lacked premonition.

  Warm sun spilled on her neck as she bent over seedlings she'd nurtured in walnut shells and pumpkin halves through a blustery winter. Humming a German song her mother'd taught her, she celebrated the plants’ survival and the scent of sweet earth at her feet. Pig, her dog, lay beside her, his black head resting on paws, his brown eyes watching plump robins peck at worms in the newly tilled garden soil She relished her life. Everything smelled of promise.

  Around her legs, the wind whipped the red bloomers her mother had given her for Christmas the year before.

  “Red? Mother,” she had said, pulling them from the string-tied wrapping. “Hardly anyone wears them at all, let alone ones as red as radishes.”

  “You was needing some seasoning in your days,” her mother said. “A little spice now and then, that's good. You're young. You can wear ‘em.”

  Today, for the first time, Mazy'd donned those loose folds that billowed out at her hips, stayed tight at her sturdy ankles. She didn't wear the jacket, choosing a cream chemise instead. Her muscular arms, laid bare to the sun, already showed signs of spring freckles. And her hair, the color of earth and as unruly as wind, fluffed free of its usual braid.

  Her wooden spade cut the soil. Mazy thought of the fat rattlers that moved lazily in summer sun, pleased they'd still be sleeping in the limestone rocks and caves and not surprising her. She disliked surprises. She knelt, planted, and pressed dirt around her precious love apples. Tomatoes, some called them now. They'd be fat and plump earlier than ever before.

  Finished, Mazy stood, brushed dirt from her ample knees. Ample. Ever since she was twelve years old and stood head to head with her father's five-foot-nine-inch frame, she'd thought of herself as ample. By the time she turned seventeen and married Jeremy Bacon, a man twice her age and exactly her height, the image of herself as large was as set as a wagon wheel in Wisconsin's spring mud.

  Jeremy, her husband of two years, said she was “like fine pine formed from sturdy stock.” Mazy loved him for that and for his melting smile and for treating her as fine china. He'd been gone two weeks, but he'd be back anytime, today for certain. It was their second anniversary.

  Mazy longed for the stroke of his smooth finger at her temple, the brush of his unbearded cheek against hers. She sighed. She'd prepared for him the perfect anniversary gift—a newly planted garden with the promise of abundance. His gift to her would be the Ayrshire seed cow, the “brute” Marvel, as Jeremy called him, and with it, an expansion of their herd and home.

  “I am richly blessed, Pig,” Mazy said.

  The big dog lifted one eye and thumped his tail, then yawned. A Newfoundland, with a bearlike head, Pig had tiny ears that prompted his naming when Jeremy'd brought the ball of fur home to his wife. Mazy liked the word “Pig.” Not the image of a coarse-haired shoat, but the sound itself: a light and airy word that puffed off her tongue. “Pig,” she said out loud, “they should have named bubbles pigs. ‘We'd say Took at that baby blow pigs! Pig, pig, pig.’” Mazy laughed as the dog cocked his head from side to side at the repeated sound of his name.

  Mazy stood, stretched, her fingers spread at her hips, bare toes wiggling in warm earth. A breeze dried the beads of
perspiration at her temples, and she lifted the bonnet hanging loose at the back of her neck to let the air whisper it cool. Blackbirds chirped as they darted toward earth.

  “The Lord knows my lot,” she said aloud. “He makes my boundaries fall on pleasant places.” She'd read the Psalm the day she arrived at this site not far from the Mississippi River near Cassville, Wisconsin; had found it again that morning. The verse read “lines” where Mazy had remembered “boundaries,” but both meant limits to her, the safety of places secured by fences of faith.

  “I wont say anything to Jeremy about fencing in the garden until after he finishes the scarecrows,” Mazy told Pig. She brushed her hands toward birds trying to steal her newly planted seeds. Pig starded and took chase as the flock of intruders soared over bluffs that shadowed the house “Good work, Pig!” she shouted as she watched the dog disappear from sight.

  Later, she would be filled with ifs, the stuffing of regret, but at that moment, Mazy Bacon rested inside contentment.

  An unfamiliar sound made her stand and turn toward the wooded trail. Anticipation preceded puzzlement. Was it a woman's voice? A shout or grunt? She couldn't see anyone and no one used her name; a neighbor would have called her name. Her skin prickled at her neck. She felt large and exposed in her bloomers.


  A breeze washed through the pines, gave no answer.

  Suddenly, something slashed through timber, loud and unruly. She caught a flash of rust and white, braiding through the shadow of birches, poplars, and pines. Her eyes followed the sound as it shifted in the wooded thickness. She willed herself to see what she heard. She couldn't.

  “Jeremy? Is that you?” She shaded the sun from her eyes with her hand, aware that her heart pounded. Sweat dribbled at her breast, her hands felt damp, her body responding to danger before her mind could make sense.

  A sound behind her didn't match with the clatter coming from the timber. She twisted in the dirt. Spiders of fear inched up her spine as the truth of its source stung clear.

  Jeremy Bacon cursed the branches swiping at his face. How had the animal gotten away from him? So close to home but the cow brute wasn't familiar with this corral, so he wouldn't head home on his own. He would frenzy himself in the trees, move out and be lost forever, Jeremy's investment, gone, unless he could catch up the cows and hope the brute would come to them. With all the ruckus, the milk cows had bolted too. The hemp lines trailed behind them, threatening to catch in the trees and the brambles.

  If only Mazy had agreed to come along! She could have helped. Instead what he had was misery, multiplied by frantic stock. He had to get them to the corral. His eye caught something through the trees near the meadow and he stopped. What was Mazy doing in those blasted bloomers? He shouted but she turned from him. He strained to see what took her attention. When he caught sight of it, his heart thudded to his knees.

  The cow brute shook his wide mahogany head weighted with horns that arched upward like parallel arrows. His nostrils and mouth sprayed foam and saliva in the air. Tilled earth spewed over his back as he pawed at the ground she'd just planted. His eyes bore into Mazy's.

  Mazy's hands and feet were stumps of thickness, too heavy to move. Cold, like the dangerous place of the river, coursed through her. Her head screamed to run.

  Instead, she backed away, as careful as a heron's lift and laying of limbs. She stared at the ground now, her beloved soil, the seedlings both frail and exposed. The brute snorted and then lunged. Mazy sank to the earth as though dead.

  Had she read that somewhere? Had Jeremy once told her? Remembered advice from some wounded patient her father had treated? She couldn't remember. Her face fell into the seedlings, her cheek gritty with dirt, just as the brute rushed ahead.

  Horns gouged the ground beside her, launched pebbles of earth to her back, pelting her like snowballs on the calves of her legs, her bonnet, her head. Spray from his nose dribbled, foamed on her arm. She could see it there, the clear bubble, wondered if it was the last thing she would see. Her eyelids folded closed on their own.

  She heard and smelled and felt everything as though cut with her mothers sharp scissors. Agitated weight shook the ground beside her head. The brutes breathing labored raspy, yet he bellowed, and Mazy knew that if she opened her eyes she would see the wide, wet nose inches from her head. More dirt, then his sweated scent, and she heard the thin chemise rip at her side from the scrape of his hoof as he twisted and jerked.

  Help me, help me, help me Keep me still, dorit agitate him more Her mind journeyed then, searched for pleasant places, the things she loved: her Lord, her husband, her mother, the land. She drifted above the timber to the far corners of the boundaries of the Bacon place, to the land that bordered on bluffs cut by a year-round stream that rushed through the meadow in the hot Wisconsin summer and froze over, hard as a horseshoe, in winter. Stands of pine surrounded the meadow, spearing the sky so high nothing grew beneath them on the forest floor: shelter for deer, high perches for eagles. The cleared meadow gave up stacks of hay for wintering the Bacons’ stock. At the edge of the one hundred sixty acres rose the log house Jeremy's uncle had built and when he died had left—along with the farm—to his nephew.

  Mazy loved this place. She relished the routine of her days, the high vistas and views. She hoped to spend her life here, to live and till and plant and let herself be nurtured by home and the love of her husband. Wind wove through eagles wings soaring above her.

  Her mind jerked back with the grunt of the brute.

  He'd gore her next, gouge her with his arched horns, throw her over his back and then stomp her, and she'd be dead at the feet of a longed-for dream. Her passing would wound her husband, grieve her mother, the two in her life she loved most. Jeremy would bear the blame; she was sorry for that when this was her doing. She shouldn't have worn the bloomers, she should have gone with him, she should have, she should.

  The brute twisted then. She could tell by the spray from his nostrils and the rumble of earth beneath her head. He pawed and bawled. She smelled dirt and manure. Then fury propelled him just as the piercing pain of his horns jabbed her side, the force of it lifting her, pushing, then rolling her over. She lay on her back, the blue ribbon of her bonnet caught at her throat. Her arms were like dolls’ arms, stiff and exposed. A place at her side burned like the stab of a poker.

  She heard the crack the moment the brute lunged, the solid bone of her arm breaking while her elbow sank into earth. A wail formed at her throat but she held it, swallowed it, still as a new-planted seed; amazed but committed to living. The sound of wind she recognized as blood rushed through her ears, her heart pounded. Her mind willed the sounds into stillness.

  Pig barked then. A clatter from the timber broke her drifting. She heard splintering in the trees and what sounded like a woman's voice and then gunshots, a lead thud close to her in the dirt. A bawl, the brute snorted, and Pig barked, standing between her and the seed cow. Earth struck her like pelts of soft rain. She heard another shot, recognized it as Jeremy's cap-and-ball revolver, heard the animal bellow but farther from her now, closer to the corral. She knew in that instant what Jeremy was doing and that she, Mazy Bacon, would live not from her husband's crack shots but from her stillness, her wit, lying dead like an uprooted plant.

  She heard her husband shouting directions to the dog, then to her. “Mazy! Don't move, no sounds We'll have him in, just hang on.”

  Pig barked in the distance. Mazy risked opening her eyes. White, fleecy clouds drifted above her. She pressed her left hand over her stomach and stuffed part of the bloomer against oozing blood. Her arm throbbed and burned, and when she tried to move it, she felt a thousand bee stings all at once. She panted. The bull roared in the distance.

  Now all was a blur, not precise. Someone ran toward her. Relief and pain touched her stomach; a prayer of thanks pressed into her mind.

  “I am so sorry, so terribly sorry,” Jeremy said, scooping her shoulders to lift and pull her to him.
She cried out as he rocked her, then his hand held her head while she retched “O, Mazy! The brute, .it got away from us. The cows got tangled up with the ropes and we—”


  “Mazy, Mazy.” He wiped her forehead with his soft fingers as she buried her face into his shirt smelling of perspiration, fear, and relief. The dog bounded over and tried licking her. “No, Pig,” he said. His fingers made a feathery probe in her side. “You'll be sore. Badly scraped. And the arm…” He cradled the bone of her arm, the movement forcing a gasp. “Lets get you inside,” he said. “You're starting to shake.”

  He squatted as though to lift her, and the pain of the action and the thought of his trying to carry her and the relief she felt at being alive, at seeing him, and the dogs licking at her toes, forced a strangled sound from her throat. Parched joy she felt, mixed as it was with the rhythm of living and pain.

  “I'm too big,” she said. “Dont try to carry me. Just help me stand.” She heard the thump of footsteps thudding across the ground. The brute bellowed. She tensed. “He's corralled,” her husband said. “Its all right.”

  “Who's there?” Pointed shoes stopped in the dirt beside the dog. “Mother?”

  “I waddle like a duck when I'm hurrying,” Elizabeth Mueller said, breathless.

  “Here, I got this side of her, Jeremy. Let me hold the arm steady. Is it broken? We was so worried, baby,” she said, kissing her daughters forehead. To Jeremy she said, “Got the cows in too?”

  “Cows?” Not just a bull? It didn't make sense what her mother was saying.