The two boys burst through the door of the bunkhouse. Emma glanced over her shoulder at them as she worked at the counter preparing supper. They were dusty and sweaty, and looked ready to drop at any moment. Even as she glanced at them, one sank wearily to the edge of his bunk, while the other lay down on his.
Buck and Ike had been working hard the last three days, doing all the chores that normally would have been done by six. Today alone, they had fed all the stock, turned over some sod so Emma could add to the garden, put up a load of hay in the barn, shod several horses, repaired some fence and then cleaned out the stalls in the barn. To top it off, it had been unseasonably hot, which added to their misery.
And all either one of them could think of right now was sleep. But Emma had other ideas.
"Don't you boys go getting' my clean sheets all dirty. You know where to wash up." They both stood up, bone tired, but grabbed clean clothes and headed out to wash. Emma thought that a bath might revive them both, but when they came back in they headed right back to their bunks.
Minutes later Kid, Lou, Cody, and Jimmy entered boisterously, adrenaline still pumping from the excitement of helping Marshall Sam Cain round up the latest batch of bad guys to come through town.
"When's supper Emma?" Cody asked.
"Boy am I tired!" Lou said, with just a little too much animation in her voice to be convincing. Buck raised his head up off his pillow and Ike rolled over onto his stomach and buried his head under his at the comment.
Emma barely listened to the noises going on around her as the four travelers talked about their adventure. Ike and Buck had been out on runs when Sam had come asking for help, or they would have undoubtedly gone along and none of the chores would have gotten done. Still, she felt bad about them all falling on the two. And they had done them all without complaint, at least none that she had heard. She wouldn't have been able to say that if it had been Cody or even Jimmy left behind. If it had been Kid or Lou they might have complained a little.
"Where's Mr. Spoon?" Emma finally interrupted.
"He'll be along shortly. He stopped in town for moment." Kid told her.
"Well, you four go wash up some. Supper will be ready shortly and I won't have you at my table looking and smelling like you do."
"Awe Emma!" Cody muttered, but they all headed outside. Emma could hear them splashing water from the bucket outside the door at each other, and a good natured argument began. The two on the bunks were quiet, and she began to think they might have fallen asleep, despite all the noise the other four made.
"Hey you two, supper's on the table as soon as the others come in."
"All right, Emma." Came a tired reply from Buck as Ike sat up. Buck soon joined him and the two moved to the table as the others tumbled inside again. Teaspoon followed them in.
"Evening, Emma. Boys." he said as he took his seat, tucking his napkin into his shirt. Ike and Buck sat on one side with Lou as the other three jockeyed for seats on the opposite side of the table. Emma brought platters of food over and mayhem erupted again.
"Boys!" Emma warned and they all calmed down once more. In fact they got through about half the meal before any further chaos occurred. And Kid was caught in the middle of the two culprits.
When the dishes had been cleared and coffee and pie served teaspoon made a production of pulling a letter out of his pocket and clearing his throat.
"Boys, I got this here letter from Russell, Majors and Waddell. They want me to bring two riders to give a demonstration…in St. Louis, Missouri."
"Who ya takin', Teaspoon?"
"Well of course he's takin' me! Who'd ya think?'
Voices erupted once more as four riders gave their opinions on who were the logical choices to go. Only Ike and Buck remained silent, both too tired to care. Emma caught Teaspoon's attention and motioned with her eyes at the two. When Teaspoon's eyebrow went up in question, she nodded slightly. Realization sank in and he nodded back. He cleared his throat again.
"I'm thinkin' I'll be takin' Buck and Ike."
"Us?" Buck reacted for the both of them as they looked up from their plates, startled.
"Ever been to St. Louis?"
"No." Buck answered as Ike shook his head.
"Now Teaspoon, don't you think that with my finesse and showmanship that I'd be the more likely candidate to go?" Cody inserted.
"No, I think I made good choices. Unless you two don't want to go?"
What do we have to do? Ike signed.
"Well, Russell, Majors and Waddell are trying to convince some businessmen to make an investment in the Pony Express. They want a couple of riders to demonstrate their skills as riders. You two can both do some tricks, and you're good shots. And you're good with the horses. I think that you'll give them a good example of what our riders is like."
"Why'd they ask us? Wouldn't the riders in St. Joe be closer?" Lou asked.
"Well, I reckon they know my boys is the best there is." Teaspoon drained his coffee cup. "Anyway, we need to be leaving in the morning in order to catch the train in St. Joe. So you might want to catch some sleep as soon as you pack."
On to Chapter Two