“Damn, Kid. It’s cold out here.” Hannibal Heyes yanked up the collar of his battered old coat and hunched into it, pulling down the brim on his hat too. The wind roared across the plains of Wyoming, rustling the dried prairie grass. As it sped by, it took a detour through his threadbare coat, and came out the other side not slowed in the least.
“You’re getting too spoiled, Heyes.” Jedediah “Kid” Curry smiled back at his partner, as he pulled up on the reins of his horse. “Might be a bit brisk out here, but it ain’t really what I’d call cold.” His hat was pulled low to keep it from blowing away, but the wind still snagged those of his frosted golden curls that it could.
“Since this wind will blow from here to Indiana, I think it’s decided to start out pretty frigid.”
“We rode through a heck of a lot colder weather than this on our way back to Devil’s Hole more than once, when you planned our last job for the year just a bit too late.” The Kid started his horse down into the crackling pasture before them. Heyes scowled, but followed his partner.
“Couldn’t help it when the weather turned before the banks scheduled their payroll runs.” The chill air swirled between them, as they meandered down into the valley where the cows were sheltering from the wind.
“You didn’t have to ride out with me.” The Kid turned to look at the man who was still his partner after all these years.
“I needed some peace and quiet with all the noise in the house.”
“You know, some of them kids are yours.”
“Not all of them.”
“Maybe you and Red just ain’t trying hard enough. It is enjoyable, you know.” Curry’s smile brightened the plains.
“I know.” Heyes scowled.
Skirting the herd of cattle down in the valley, they were buffered from the worst of the wind. The air still held the chill of early winter, but the sharpness of the prairie wind had been dulled. Their conversation paused, as the Kid perused the herd.
“I think we have plenty of noise at our house right now.” Heyes urged his horse forward.
“She not ready for another?”
“It’s not been easy for her, not with any of them.”
The wind whistled and moaned between them.
“You seen about all you need to see of these cows?” Heyes pulled at his coat again as he shivered.
“Probably.” Curry turned his horse back towards the barn and it started to trot, as ready to be out of the wind as either of the men were.
“See, even the horses know it’s cold out here.”
“Nah, they’re just wanting their supper.”
“A hot meal sounds good to me too.” A brief smile flittered over his face, but it seemed to just annoy his partner.
“Just what the heck has gotten up your backside?” The Kid pulled his horse to a stop and Heyes reluctantly slowed down too.
“Gotta be more than that.”
“Maybe I’m just getting old, like you keep telling me.” He pulled on his reins to start on back, but the Kid reached out and stopped him. They locked eyes for a moment and then Heyes looked away, searching over the rolling plain. “I always liked it when we went south for the winter.”
“The kids wouldn’t be happy if we were somewhere without snow for Christmas.” He snorted. “And Bessie would shoot me, after all the preparations she’s made here for the holidays to be special.”
“Yeah, Red told me that.”
“You asked her to go south? For Christmas?” Curry looked surprised, but then his face turned thoughtful. “You know you can’t go to Arizona, not with Red.”
“I know.” Heyes scowled, but then brightened. “But there’s New Mexico, Nevada, Southern California.” His partner gave him a scowl, to forestall any longer of a list. “Heck, there’s even Santa Marta. I’d think it would be safe to go back there now with our amnesty.”
“Santa Marta?” The Kid’s face lit up. “Yeah, it might be time to visit there again.” He looked thoughtful as they pulled up to the homestead and made their way into the large barn. “How about in January sometime? Or February?”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Heyes smiled as they started to unsaddle their horses.
“Sometimes you do come up with good ideas.”
“What? You think I’m gonna say always?” The Kid just laughed and put his hand on Heyes’ back. They made their way up to the low sprawling house that looked very warm and inviting on this cold December evening.
Later that night, after all the children were finally settled into their beds, a couple of conversations were held.
“Santa Marta?” Alexandra Heyes was wrapped in her husband’s arms, as they too had finally settled for the night.
“Yes, after Christmas, when it gets really cold here.”
“It’s already cold.” Shuddering, she snuggled in closer and would have purred if she was a cat. Heyes just smiled contentedly.
“You’re cold now?” He ran his hand down to the small of her back.
“Well, not now.”
“The Kid thought Bessie would agree once everything settles down after the holidays.”
“Oh.” Red didn’t continue.
“What?” Heyes had a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“I thought you meant just the two of us.”
“Do you want just the two of us to go?” He pulled back to meet her gaze.
“No.” She smiled up at him. “It would be great to have Jedediah and Bessie along too.” She settled back into his arms. “As long as we have separate rooms.”
“I shared a room and often enough a bed with the Kid all those years.” He wrapped his arms back around her. “I’ll let Bessie have that benefit now. Besides, you’re softer.”
“Stop joking.” She grumbled, but the smile didn’t leave her face, until she thought for a moment. “Does that mean we are bringing all the children too?”
“No, I thought it would be nice to get away. Just us.”
“And Jedediah and Bessie.” She smiled.
“Do you think Mary Beth and Adam can handle them all while we are gone?”
“They do it now for the most part, don’t you think?”
“I guess.” She looked thoughtful.
“Do you want them along?”
“We can ask Bessie and Jedediah.”
“She’ll say yes.” He frowned.
“Maybe she’ll want a break after Christmas too.”
“Santa Marta?” Sitting at her dressing table, Bessie was combing through her long blonde tresses. As she turned towards her husband, her lacy pink boudoir robe fell open, revealing her silk negligee beneath.
“Yeah, in Mexico.” Jedediah Curry was already in bed, reclining into the pillows piled high against the headboard. The coverlet was pulled up to his waist. “I’ve mentioned it before.”
“Yes, and it sounded very nice.” She set down the brush and smiled at her husband. “The children would like the water.”
“It’ll be a bit too cold to wade in the winter.”
“I thought you wanted to go there because it’s warm.” She started to untie her robe.
“Well, it’ll be warmer than Wyoming that time of year.” He pulled back the coverlet so she could snuggle in next to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. “It was really Heyes who wanted to go south, but I thought it sounded like a good idea. Maybe without the kids though.”
“That’s how we usually get another.” Her laugh tinkled as he turned out the bedside light.