Never Love A Logger
Click on image to enlarge.
by Edna Curry
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: A historical romance set against the background of the largest log jam ever that occurred in 1886 on the St. Croix River at Taylors Falls, MN. It depicts life in the logging days with lots of detail about the lives of people during that time. What happens when a rough and ready logger who wants no responsibility and thinks he doesn't deserve a second chance at love falls for an attractive lady with a ready made family? Will and Carrie think there is no chance for them to have a family of their own. Each has reasons to avoid love and entanglements. Will is burned out on responsibility after helping his widowed mother raise his siblings after his wife and infant son died. Carrie thinks no man will want her and her brother. She promised her father she'd raise her brother. While she's attracted to Will, duty comes first.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: October 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [353 KB]
Reading time: 231-324 min.
Taylors Falls, Minnesota, June, 1886.
"Is it ever gonna rain?" Lumberman Will Tellers asked, sipping his mug of beer. He rubbed at a weary shoulder, trying to ease muscles still sore and tight after a winter cutting logs in the woods.
"Sure don't look like it," his foreman, Sven Petersen, agreed. "The river's the lowest I've ever seen it. If we don't git those logs to the sawmill pretty soon, we're all going broke."
"Don't I know it." He gazed around the crowded room. The mixed smells of sweat and beer hung thick in the heavy air.
They were sitting at a table in the rear of the hot country tavern. More of their crew lounged at another table. The noise level rose. "Our men are getting restless," Will said.
Sven nodded. "They ain't in the best of moods, that's for sure."
"Can't say as I blame them. They're more than ready to get those logs to the boom and go home to their families."
"Yeah. Winter is long enough, without having to wait out a spring drought to finish your season's work."
Will jumped as a chair crashed to the floor near the front door.
"This beer's as warm as piss." Sweat poured off of the out-of-work logger in the hot tavern, as he stood, kicked away the overturned chair and slammed his fist on the plank table. "Get me a fresh mug, woman!"
The sturdy, gray haired waitress stopped wiping the bar with her wet rag and glared at him. "'Tis not warm. My man brought me a fresh block of ice from the ice house just down the street and the beer's been sitting on it for hours."
The big man stepped toward her belligerently. Though unsteady on his feet, he thrust a frowning face forward. "Well, I said it is. And I ain't paying your high prices for warm beer. Bring me a fresh mug, I say."
The waitress moved closer, placed her hands on her hips and glared at him, narrowing her eyes. "You'll get another mug only if you pay for it, mister."
"I said, get me another beer, woman!"
The other three loggers at the table rose, ready to back up their drunken buddy. Flies buzzed around the men's heads. One man swatted them away with a tanned, beefy hand.
Will jumped up, ready to ward off trouble. Sven rose beside him. Tension swirled through the summer air and all talk abruptly ceased as everyone turned to watch the confrontation.
Knowing Sven would follow, Will pushed through the crowded room determined to quiet his crewmen.
Some local men rose from a nearby table to confront Will's men and one said, "No lousy logger talks to our women like that."
"Yeah. Go back to the woods 'til you learn some manners," a second townsman put in.
"Go to hell," the first logger said. He raised a beefy fist and threw a punch at the townsman, making blood spurt from the man's nose.
From the corner of his eye, Will saw the waitress hastily retreat behind her bar. Shoving men aside, he fought through the crowd to get to his men. Fists flew and men yelled. A table overturned and the disputed beer spilled onto the sawdust-covered pine floor. Others in the crowded room rose to join the fray.
"Stop this, now!" Will hoped his men would recognize his voice as he shoved another man aside and pushed toward them, desperate to quiet them before more damage was done.
If they had heard him, Will's men weren't ready to be controlled. He dodged a flying fist and grunted when he failed to dodge another large fist and it burned against his ear and bounced off his shoulder.
Will had almost reached his men when several burly townsmen, objecting to someone putting a stop to their fun, grabbed him. They shoved Will out the open door and down the steps onto the boardwalk outside.
Will put out his hands, trying to catch himself as he fell, but the momentum carried him forward so that his face smacked the hard wooden sidewalk, nose first. Pain radiated from his nose through his body.
Cursing, he caught his breath, drew in a mouthful of dust and rolled to a sitting position. Lifting a hand to ease the tenderness in his nose, he found it was bleeding. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it to his face. Confound those men. They got rowdier every year. And less respectful.
He looked up to see a pair of neat, black high-buttoned shoes below a long black skirt on the sidewalk next to him. The indignant feminine voice apparently belonged to their owner.
Raising his gaze, he ran it up a tall, slim figure until he met the loveliest pair of hazel eyes he'd seen on a woman in a long time. Angry eyes set nicely above a pert nose and stern jaw. Her face was flushed with annoyance.
They stared at each other for a long moment in mutual surprise and apprehension. He noticed smooth, clear skin and neat brown hair held back with combs. A slim hand held several envelopes. She'd dropped a couple others and bent to pick them up.
"Brawling in a bar in broad daylight," the young woman scolded him in a prim and proper voice.
Will smothered a laugh. Hell's bells if she didn't sound like his old school-marm back home. "I beg your pardon, ma'am. Next time I'll try to do it at night when I'll be less likely to offend pretty ladies." He reached to pick up the envelopes for her but stopped as she scolded again.
"Don't touch them. You'll get them dirty."
That wasn't so funny. He cringed inwardly. Who did she think she was, anyway? He'd only been defending himself and trying to control his men. That was hardly brawling. But he supposed he couldn't expect a woman to understand that.
He drew back his hand and again pressed the handkerchief to his nose to staunch the flow of blood, sending a scowl her way. "Sorry, ma'am."
"Oh, you're bleeding. Here, let me help you." She quickly drew a handkerchief from her reticule and bent toward him to help stop the bleeding.
"It's only a bloody nose. That's nothing, Ma'am." Wincing, Will struggled to get to his feet, bruised muscles screaming.
By the time he'd succeeded, she'd stepped back and held out the handkerchief to him.
Staring at her in surprise, he took it, noting that she was taller than most women. In fact, she looked only a few inches shorter than his own six foot, two inch height. He found himself thinking how well her long, slim body would fit against his own. Most women were much too short for his liking.
Fascinated by the sudden concern in her lovely eyes, Will almost didn't see the danger behind her. Just in time he saw men come piling out of the bar and pulled her out of the way, shouting, "Look out!"
His men came hurrying out down the steps. The angry waitress followed close behind, waving a butcher knife. She stopped in the doorway, shouted some parting obscenities, and then went back inside the bar.
"Oh, my goodness." Red-faced, the lady stared after the waitress.
Will couldn't help grinning at the lady's apparent shock at the waitress' language.
With a sniff, the pretty lady pulled free of Will's grasp, picked the envelopes up from the dusty boardwalk and brushed them off with another lace-trimmed handkerchief. She seemed to have an endless supply of the things in her reticule.
Seeing his stare, the woman lifted her nose, stepped daintily around him, and walked on down the street toward the post office.
Will shoved her now bloody handkerchief out of sight in his pocket and dusted off his clothes. "What are you staring at?" he asked his men. "It's time for you to go back to camp." They nodded sheepishly and headed down the street to their wagon.
Casting another glance at the attractive figure striding stiffly down the street, Will sighed. She obviously had no time for rough and rugged logging men like him. She was way too prim and proper, but she sure was pretty. And she'd seemed really nice when she saw that he was hurt.
Carrie Banks gripped her letters tightly in an attempt to rein in her feelings as she hurried to the corner and across the street.
Her heart still pounded from the shocking encounter with the big stranger. The town was full of loggers and this man was dressed in woolen clothes like a logger, so she felt sure he was one of them.
She bit her lip, resisting the urge to look back at him, to see if he still watched her. Was he really all right? There had been quite a bit of blood.
She'd been walking along minding her own business when he'd come tumbling out of the bar, landing in front of her in a huge red and black plaid wool mound. It was enough to set any girl's heart to beating double time. Why, she'd almost walked into him.
Then he stood, taking her breath away. He was tall and powerfully built. She guessed he was good looking, though how anyone could tell behind all that unruly black hair, she didn't know.
Still, she felt sure he was. His eyes were sky blue and the parts of his face not covered by the black beard were weathered and brown from the sun. And then he'd pulled her into his arms and out of the way of those other men running out of the bar. She could still feel the pressure of his strong hands on her arm. She shivered at the delicious, forbidden pleasure.
She'd been appalled at first. But when he held her close and she smelled his manly scent of wool, pine and something she couldn't put a name to, Carrie had thoughts a minister's daughter shouldn't have.
Gracious, what would Aunt Louise say if she knew? Carrie stepped into the post office. If she told Louise of course, which she certainly wouldn't. Louise didn't approve of local girls seeing or talking to loggers.
"Good afternoon, Miss Banks," the postmaster greeted her.
"Good afternoon, sir," she answered with a smile. She laid the letters on his counter and opened her reticule to pay him. "I'm sorry if some are a bit dusty. I dropped them on the boardwalk."
"Yes, I saw you almost get knocked down by that logger and his herd of ruffians. There must have been another brawl going on in the bar. It's a crying shame what we have to put up with from those barbarians."
"Aunt Louise says they do bring business to town though," Carrie said, wondering why she felt inclined to defend the rough man she'd just encountered. She rubbed her arms where his large hands had touched her. The warmth of them still lingered on her skin. She pushed the memory away. All her life she'd fought against having to be the proper preacher's kid. She still resented it.
"That they do." He peered out the front window. "Ah, I see Will Tellers is sending his crew out of town, so the excitement should die down for today, anyway."
"Who's Will Tellers?" Carrie questioned.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Why, he's that lumberman you almost fell over, of course. He owns one of the biggest outfits that have been cutting pine a few miles upriver this winter. He usually keeps his men in line pretty well until today. I suppose they're all getting antsy waiting for rain."
"Oh." She was unreasonably pleased that now she knew his name. Though it didn't matter, she had no need to know it since she'd probably never see the man again. It would hardly be proper. And loggers didn't stay around very long.
"Here's your aunt's mail. Say hello to her for me."
"Thanks. Can you give me Uncle Joe's mail, too? His rheumatism is acting up too much for the walk downtown today."
"Sure thing. You tell him I hope he gets to feeling better soon. And tell him I said for him to try that new salicylic powder they've got at the pharmacy. I hear tell it helps."
"I will." Carrie took the letters and walked back to her aunt's boarding house, disappointed to see that Mr. Tellers and his men had indeed disappeared.
She dropped off her aunt's mail, promised to be back in time to help her serve her boarders their supper, then walked on down to Joe Carter's newspaper office.
She stepped inside the wooden frame building, stopping a minute to let her eyes adjust to the dim light. The familiar smell of ink and paper was a balm to her still shaken nerves and she smiled. Someday, she'd have a real job as a reporter at a newspaper office and could spend her days writing. Then she could give up waiting tables for leering men.
Uncle Joe sat at his desk, pen in hand, bent over his work. A small, skinny man, he was nevertheless a powerful force in town. His words often stirred up a lot of controversy and people were leery of raising his ire.
He looked up as she laid his mail on the side of his desk. "What took you so long? It's only a couple of blocks to the post-office."
Her uncle was fifty with steely gray hair and a face lined with pain. He spent most of his days in the office, grumbling because he could no longer get around to search out stories for his newspaper. He hated relying on others. It made him grumpy and argumentative.
Carrie loved him and understood his frustration. She also knew he was a softie under all his bluff, so she paid no attention to his bluster. "I stopped to give Aunt Louise her mail, too," she said. "And I ran into some loggers brawling at the bar."
His head snapped up and his gaze raked her face anxiously. "Ran into? They didn't dare accost you, did they?"
"Of course not, Uncle. One of them was thrown out of the bar and landed at my feet on the sidewalk is all. Nothing to worry about."
"You weren't hurt?" He looked her over carefully, a frown making his bushy brows dip.
She shook her head.
"Well, the buggers will be gone soon. A change in the weather is coming. My rheumatism is acting up something fierce and it's never wrong. That means it's going to rain and the sooner the better. Then they'll have enough water to float their logs and they'll all go back to Stillwater 'til next winter."
And life in Taylors Falls will go back to its usual boring routine. Carrie sighed. "The postmaster sends his best wishes. He thinks you should try that new salicylic powder they have at the pharmacy now. He heard it helps rheumatism."
"Humph. I already tried that stuff. It's the bitterest tasting medicine I ever put on my tongue. Whiskey helps too, and it tastes better."
Carrie sighed. Uncle Joe's drinking was not her favorite topic, though she knew it dulled his pain. She turned away. "I'd better get back to finishing that story on the Johnson wedding."
Her uncle nodded. "Yeah. I'm almost done setting up Hank's article on the new book Mr. Folsom is writing. So I'll need your story next."
"I'll finish it right away," Carrie said.
As she walked through the stuffy room to her worktable in the back, she cast an envious eye toward the printing press in the rear. The smell of ink and the thrill of telling an important story called to her. With a sigh, she laid her reticule to one side and sat down to work.
Her best friend, Martha, worked for Mr. Folsom. Carrie had tried desperately to get Uncle Joe to let her write that story. Instead, he would only let her report the local society news. While that was important to the local women who liked reading about who had visited whom this week, it was not what Carrie wanted to write. She wanted a chance to do serious reporting.
After all, what choice did she have for a life in this town? Waiting tables at the Falls House wasn't her cup of tea and hardly qualified as a career. She had a young brother to raise and no prospects for marriage because of it. Not that she minded of course. She hadn't met a man yet she'd have anyway. And those who had claimed to want her had changed their mind fast enough when they heard about Tom. They hadn't wanted a ready-made family.
Later, as Carrie hurried on back to the Falls House, thunder rumbled and lightning cracked in the evening sky. The summer air felt heavy and damp. Uncle Joe's rheumatism had predicted correctly. It was going to rain at last.
Several of the wealthier loggers had taken rooms at the boarding house to wait for rain. Her tiny Aunt Louise was busy fixing supper when Carrie walked into the big kitchen. The delicious aromas of roast beef and dried apple pie filled the air, making her stomach rumble with anticipation. Louise was a wonderful cook, almost as good as her mother had been. Life had been so simple and good before her parents died. She'd felt safe, and her life had been so carefree then. She pushed away the memory of her childhood home and family.
"Oh, Carrie, I'm so glad to see you. I'm a little behind tonight," Aunt Louise said, sliding a huge kettle of boiled potatoes off the front burner and toward the cool end of the cast iron cook stove.
"I'll mash those, Auntie." Carrie said. "That kettle is as big as you are. You slice the roast."
"Humph. No need to be sassy about my size."
But Aunt Louise complied, her bony shoulder blades showing through her blue cotton dress. She was too thin and Carrie knew she worked too hard, but Aunt Louise was from stubborn German stock and did things her own way, so there was little Carrie could do about that. No point in fussing about it.
"Don't forget to save the potato water for tomorrow's bread making," Aunt Louise cautioned.
"I know." Carrie smiled at her aunt. She hurriedly put on her white cotton apron and washed up at the corner sink. Draining the cloudy boiling water from the potatoes into a crock, she set it aside. She added milk to the potatoes from a two-quart jar and butter from a small crock, and then began pounding the potatoes with the heavy wooden masher.
The hot steam rising from the kettle added to the already stifling heat in the room. Tendrils of hair escaped from Carrie's comb and she pushed them out of her eyes with the back of an impatient hand.
Her brother, Tom, came in the back door carrying an armload of firewood.
Aunt Louise eyed him warily. "You didn't put a frog in there again like you did last night, did you?"
"No ma'am," Tom said, hiding a grin.
Carrie knew he really loved his aunt, but he dearly loved to tease everyone in sight, especially if he knew he could elicit a few screams to tell his buddies about.
"That wasn't funny, Tom," Carrie said, trying to sound stern. She sighed. Trying to be a mother to a prank-loving twelve-year-old was no fun either.
Tom dropped his armload into the wood box at the end of the cook stove. Giving them both a conciliatory smile, he reached for a plate to help himself to some supper.
"Wash up first," Carrie reminded him.
"Sure, Sis." He moved back to the sideboard in the corner of the kitchen. He filled the dipper with warm water from the reservoir in the cook stove and poured it into the enamel basin.
Carrie kept an eye on Tom as she filled white crockery bowls with fluffy mashed potatoes. She knew he hated soap and water and avoided it whenever possible.
Glancing over his shoulder, Tom saw that she was watching, sighed and grabbed the yellow bar of lye soap.
Satisfied that he was really using it, Carrie picked up the bowls of mashed potatoes and carried them into the dining room where a dozen men sat waiting around the long table. Aunt Louise followed with the platters of roast beef and placed one at each end of the table.
Carrie set a bowl of mashed potatoes down and glanced at the man nearest her. She met the clear blue eyes of the man she'd met that afternoon and almost dropped the second bowl. "Mr. Tellers!" she exclaimed, before she could stop herself.
Embarrassment at her outburst sent heat shimmering up her neck and she quickly looked away. She could feel the other men's curious gazes swing toward her. Why did he have to attract her and make her feel this way when most men's attention didn't bother her in the least?
Will stared at her. Damned if it wasn't the prim lady he'd seen on the street earlier. He'd thought she was a society woman from her attitude.
But here she was in an apron, serving food to these men like any other servant girl. A flush stained her cheeks, whether from embarrassment or exertion, he didn't know. But it sure added a nice bit of color to her cheeks.
He reached out and grabbed the bowl, saving it from disaster, and said, "Yes, Ma'am. I don't think I caught your name?"
Before Carrie could reply, her aunt snapped, "She's my niece, Carrie Banks. And I'll thank you to treat her with respect. Mr. Tellers just joined our group today, Carrie."
Carrie swallowed, nodded and managed a hello, adding, "I thought you'd left town."
"Not me. I only sent my men back to camp."
"Oh." Feeling flustered, Carrie hurried back to the kitchen for the bread and butter. He'd obviously taken advantage of a bath and looked a whole lot better. He wore clean clothes and his hair looked clean and was neatly combed. She wondered how he would look without his bushy black beard.
But he was still a rowdy logger, she reminded herself. Nobody any proper girl could pay attention to, she told herself, ignoring the flutter of her heart. Loggers came and went, as fast as dandelions in the spring.
She avoided looking his way as she served the remaining food, though she could feel his eyes following her about. Why did he have to stay here? Louise's boarding house was the best in town, but there were others, weren't there? Honestly, they'd be sleeping under the same roof.
She poured tea, cut the pies and set them on the table, then quickly retreated to the kitchen to eat her own meal at the kitchen table with Aunt Louise and Tom.
At last the men all went outside to the porch to smoke, so she could clear the table and carry the dishes back to the kitchen in peace.
Why did the man make her so nervous? He was just another logger like all the rest of them. Big, muscular, and uncouth. Probably couldn't even read and write. Not a man she should be noticing. She'd been raised to be a lady, even if she did have to work in a boarding house now.
"What's wrong with you tonight?" Aunt Louise asked. "You're as jumpy as a cat with its tail near a rocking chair."
"Nothing," Carrie said, avoiding her aunt's eyes. She poured more hot water from the teakettle into her dishpan and scrubbed at the plates.
Aunt Louise pursed her lips in disapproval and picked up a dishtowel. She began wiping the dishes Carrie had placed upside down on a large, oblong cake pan to catch the dripping water.
"Can I go play hide and seek now, Carrie?" Tom asked. "It's not dark yet."
"Did you fill the reservoir?" She glanced over at the closed lid of the tank at the end of the cook stove. They had to carry water down from the spring in the side of the hill a block away. Besides bringing in wood, filling the reservoir with water was Tom's regular chore and he knew he had to do it before he could go out to play with the other boys. She couldn't remember if she'd seen him pouring pails of water into it tonight or not. Her mind had been on other things.
"Yes. And the water pail is full, too."
"All right, then, go out to play with your friends. But be sure to be home by dark. I don't want you boys out running around in the dark. Someone could fall in the creek or get hurt and I wouldn't be able to find you."
"Aw, Carrie, I'm almost grown up. Besides, we look out for each other."
"Good." She gave him a quick hug. He pulled away and hurried out the door. But she knew by his grin he didn't really mind her hugs. He just thought he was getting too big for them.
Miles away, on a tributary of the St. Croix, the woolen-clad man stood on the bank of Clam River, high above the wood and earthen dam. The night was broken by moonlight just bright enough to let him see where he needed to go.
Off to the west, lightning flashed. Dark clouds and a thick heaviness to the air signaled a storm brewing. The time was right for action.
Logs filled the river behind the dam and were piled high along the banks, waiting to go downriver. But the water they needed to float the logs to the sawmills was held back by that stupid dam. It was a crime to hold the water back.
And he was about to stop that crime tonight. The large charge of dynamite he held would do the job nicely. Once he'd lit the charge, there would be no way to undo the deed. If his instincts were right, extra water from the storm would help things along.
They'd stop laughing at him now, those other loggers, always calling him "The Hermit". He'd show them he meant business even if he went to jail for it.
He made his way down below the dam, and carefully placed the dynamite. He lit the fuse and scurried up the bank to safety.
When the charge blew with a mighty roar, he gave a gleeful whoop of joy. He danced a jig on the banks as the dammed up water rushed through the gaping hole in the dam, taking out what remained of it downstream. The Clam River fed the St. Croix River and soon the logs would be on their way to the mills where they belonged.
He'd won this round, by Jiminy!
At five the next morning, Carrie awakened as usual. Years of getting up early had instilled a sense of time in her. She hurried through her morning toilet and went downstairs to the kitchen to help Aunt Louise get breakfast.
Thunder had kept her awake for a while last night, and she'd heard it raining hard. But this morning the sun rose in a clear blue sky. It was going to be a beautiful, warm June day. Long days in Minnesota in the summertime meant lots of hours of daylight to get things done without burning expensive lamp oil, so they worked hard then to take advantage of that daylight.
An hour later, she was serving pancakes and sausage to the boarders in the dining room. The men grumbled the storm had brought only an inch of rain, not enough to do them much good.
Will watched Carrie serving the men, trying not to be obvious about it. He didn't want to cause talk among his men, but still couldn't help admiring her. She moved with a smooth, natural grace that sent ripples of desire running along his veins. He swallowed hard and sipped some tea. A woman hadn't stirred him up like this in years, not since Amy--no he didn't want to think of the past.
He pushed away that painful thought and tried to concentrate on his flapjacks and sausage. He had to get his mind off the past, off all he'd lost.
He drew a deep breath and deliberately avoided looking at Carrie. "Good flapjacks," he commented to Sven sitting beside him. He spread some of the creamy butter on them and poured on more maple syrup.
"Yeah," Sven said. "Lucky for us there were so many sugar maple trees in the woods around here. This syrup makes mighty good eating."
"Sure does." Will knew most people around here tapped the trees and made their own delicious syrup every spring.
Then Will heard yelling from out in front of the boarding house and turned to look out the window. A horseman pulled up outside and threw his reins over the hitching post, then came running inside.
"Lots of rain upriver!" the man shouted. "There was a cloudburst north of here last night and the river level is rising fast."
"Lots of rain. Hallelujah! Yippee!"
"Thank God!" Will Tellers said. He and several other loggers jumped to their feet, forcing Carrie to step back out of their way. Abandoning their half-eaten breakfasts, they ran for the door.
Will glanced at Carrie and her aunt and paused. "I don't know when I'll be back," he said. "Save my room, though. I'll pay for it anyway." He hurried out.
The pretty young woman had cost him a lot of sleep last night. He'd kept thinking of her under a soft quilt just down the hall, probably wearing only a thin cotton nightgown. Did she let all that hair down at night? Or braid it in one long braid like his mother did to keep it from tangling?
Damn it all. He had to stop thinking like that. He had other things to think about now. Rain at last. They had work to do. They had to get their logs into the river while there was a surge of water coming from the tributaries to carry them downstream to the sawmill at Stillwater or there would be no money for their winter's work.
Thank goodness, after the fight yesterday, he'd sent most of his men back to camp. Now he was sure they were already at work pushing the logs into the river. Although his crew knew what to do, he wanted to get there to see it was done. He and Sven were the only two of his crew who were still in town. They'd been buying supplies at the general store for their Wannigan, the cook shack boat on the river.
Now Will, with Sven close behind him, ran for the stable to get his horse. Calling to Sven to bring the wagon and supplies, Will threw a halter on his horse and raced bareback up the road toward camp.
Carrie stared out the Falls House window after Will, feeling a strange sense of disappointment.
Standing beside her, Aunt Louise sighed. "Well, we should have another few days of good business out of this log run anyway. After that, they'll have all the logs downriver and our boarders will be few and far between for the rest of the summer."
Carrie nodded and turned back to clearing the table, thinking of the tall, black-haired man who had left his breakfast half-eaten in his rush to hurry off to push his logs into the river. She picked up his white crockery plate and stared at it. She imagined those sturdy arms wielding a peavey, straining to roll the heavy logs. She wished she could go watch them work, and write the story about it for the Taylors Falls Journal. But Uncle Joe had probably already heard the news and told Hank to write about it, she thought resentfully.
She bit her lip, feeling a deep yearning for what could never be. She'd never have the job she dreamed of, or the family she longed for.
Beside her Aunt Louise said sharply, "You're not eyeing that big logger, are you, girl?"
Carrie started, feeling a flush rise up her neck. Good Heavens. Could her aunt read minds? "Of course not, Auntie."
Aunt Louise eyed her. "You remember Sally, don't you? We went to her funeral last summer because of a logger. No good comes of pining after those men, however good looking they may be. They leave nothing but misery behind."
"Yes, Auntie. I remember."
"Humph. See that you do." Aunt Louise hurried back to the kitchen.
Carrie shivered. She remembered that funeral all too well. Sally, a neighbor girl, had gotten "into the family way" last summer.
When Aunt Louise had heard about it, she'd lectured, "The loggers are transients, you know. They come and go with the run of logs down the river. They have their fun, then leave the girl behind in trouble and she has to deal with the shame of it as best she can."
Sally had dealt with her embarrassing situation in a horrible way--she'd hung herself from a rafter in her parents' barn.
Carrie shuddered, remembering the scandal and the gossip that had followed.
With a sigh she followed her aunt to the kitchen.
No, she was never going to love a logger.
Chances were, she wasn't going to marry anyone at all, because she'd promised her father on his deathbed that she'd raise Tom and that scared most men away. Or they wanted Tom as a free laborer. That she'd never allow.
She sighed. She hadn't thought of that when Papa asked for her word. He probably hadn't either. But that didn't matter now. She'd given her word. And she prayed hard that somehow she'd be able to keep her promise.