Wedding of the Year
June 24, 1876
Kate Shaw came up the steps to the back door of Martha Fitch’s
boarding house, her blond hair tied back with a green ribbon
and her battered small valise in hand.
Gray-haired Martha came out of the kitchen drying a plate.
“Your beautiful cream silk dress is finished. I tacked the last bit of lace for the collar last night. It’s pressed and ready for the
town’s loveliest bride. It was a joy to work with the beautiful silk
your mother sent. We’ll put blue ribbons in your yellow hair for
the ceremony. Same shade of blue as your eyes.”
“How can I ever thank you? Are all brides supposed to be
this happy, Martha?”
Both women laughed.
“I’ll do as you and my mother have said and will be careful
going down to the hotel and then to the church, so Monday
doesn’t see me today until the ceremony.
“I do so want Monday to think I’m pretty when he does see
“No fear of that. Go behind the houses and stores, Kate. Everyone’s
been asked to keep their dogs in and I asked Sam to get
you up the back stairs so you can dress and get ready in your
room. Here’s a basket with your lunch in it. Buxton is dressing
up in his Sunday best right now and Sally will be over before 2:30
with your parents to attend to whatever help you may need.”
Kate kissed her dear landlady’s cheek.
“If you hadn’t had the foresight to buy this saloon and have
Joe set up a dining area and a second story with four rooms, we
might’ve had to be married down in Laramie,” she said. “And I
did hope to have as many of Albany County and Warbonnet’s
families as can come. I’m thankful that three couples from Buffalo
and my teachers school in Seneca Falls were able to make
“Well, you can be sure that most all the folks in town, some
from the ranches and farms, and two forts will be coming in,”
“Not to mention those Indian friends of Monday’s that’ve
been staying out at his ranch,” she continued. “I been here three
years before you and Monday arrived and I can say without a
doubt that this’ll be the biggest shindig the town has seen since
I got here.
“And the only one I’ve ever heard of with Indians in attendance.”
Kate thought of Martha as more than a long-time friend.
She was becoming Kate’s savior. Martha said she hoped to strike
a bargain with parents and the other Town Council members
that would allow Kate to continue teaching for at least a year,
perhaps more, as long as she pledged not to have that first child
And if managing that went well, she thought, perhaps she
might have a second child in a few more years. She’d used all her
ingenuity learned from a year as a student at the women’s’ teachers
school in Seneca Falls, to convince Martha—and through her the rest of the Council—that a small town of ranches and farms like Warbonnet had many students who’d watched their
mothers all through pregnancy, the birth of their siblings, and
wouldn’t be surprised or inquisitive about conception or infant
Now all she’d have to do was convince Monday that his husbandly
duties would have to strictly adhere to a calendar that for
a few months would help her identify safe times for “conjugal
duties”. She had set the wedding date to coincide with a safe
time and wouldn’t have to explain her planned precautions to
him tonight—or for a few nights after that.
She’d cringed at revealing this stipulation to Monday, but she
assured him that the book Martha had given her talked about
counting days on a calendar each month to ensure the two of
them could engage in conjugal duties without producing a child
until they were ready for that step. They planned to have their
first child, perhaps in a year, with Mary Oberdorf taking Kate’s
school post by herself at that point. For a while.
“I think that’s a good plan,” Kate had told Martha. “A year
from now, Mary will have gotten a wealth of experience with
teaching Warbonnet’s children. She’s spent years as one of my
Kate was vastly grateful that the Town Council had voted to
let her continue teaching after the wedding. It was widespread
practice back east and in some places out west that teachers had
to resign as soon as they married. But Martha had persuaded
the Council that Warbonnet was such a small town that students
would learn of Kate’s pregnancy when it occurred, regardless of
whether she was teaching. Or living out at Monday’s ranch and
riding in each day.
Kate left by Martha’s back door and walked down the back
side of houses to the rear of the new two-story High Plains Hotel.
Sam, formerly just a bartender and now also the manager of
the hotel, let her in. As Martha had wisely foreseen, this hotel
was the only place for stage passengers to dine or lay over on the
route between old Fort Caspar and Fort Laramie. Kate could attest that what passed for a meal at Fort Fetterman in between
didn’t bear thinking about. Lodgings there were limited, to say
Martha often sold food baskets for stage passengers to ease
Kate knocked at the back door and Sam opened it quickly
and quietly. She hugged him, responding to his gap-toothed
“I’m putting you in the left front suite, Miss,” said Sam. “It’s
our largest room, but you know all those rooms are over the
bar downstairs. Hope that’ll be all right. I’ll have Buck’s help to
keep noise down in there tonight, so you and the marshal will be
able to . . . . I mean, so’s you can, umm . . . .”
Sam wound down into an awkward silence and twisted his
“Sleep. So we can sleep,” Kate said, rescuing him without
blushing. “How very thoughtful of you, Sam.”
Kate followed him up to the room and Sam set her valise on
the bright yellow Oriental comforter on the big brass bed. It was
the best decorated of Sam’s four rooms. She and Martha had
seen to that. Kate hung her cream-colored dress in the wardrobe
right away to avoid wrinkles.
There was still an hour or two until her father would walk
her down the street to the church, adorned today in blue ribbons.
Right now her parents were downstairs talking with other
guests and enjoying luncheon in the dining room beyond the
They’d also be speaking with Reverend Jonah Barnes, who
would be officiating. Kate had turned down the preacher’s proposal
a year ago, but still played piano for church services and
sang in the five-member choir. She, Monday, and Jonah had
Kate accepted the key from Sam and noticed a few planks in
this room had knotholes missing.
“Uh, you’ll just have to avoid those, Miss Kate. Wouldn’t
want to catch a shoe heel in that big one over there in the corner.
We arranged the bed to cover most of the holes in here, ’til we
can get around to fixin’ them.”
“Thank you. That’s most thoughtful.”
Sam seemed surprised when she tipped him a quarter.
“Good luck for both of us,” she told him.
People of every background came to Warbonnet, but most
just rode through on the stagecoach. Perhaps tipping wasn’t as
universal a habit as she’d thought back in her home town of Buffalo.
Even with the new hotel, Warbonnet was still just a food
and drink stop for passengers on this east-west stagecoach line.
Here was an opportunity for travelers to eat, rest, and use the
hotel’s “necessary” while the coach horses were changed.
Kate checked the watch in her reticule and found she had
enough time for a nap before the ceremony. She enjoyed the
luncheon tray that Sam brought up for her, then removed her
everyday dress and put it in the wardrobe. As she turned back
toward the bed, she thought she saw a stray thread hanging
down into one of the knotholes on this side of the bed. Kneeling,
Kate took out the little travel scissors she always carried and
prepared to cut the string off. But as she drew the string toward
her a little, she heard the brief tinkle of a small bell, followed by
male laughter from the bar below. Oh well, no reason for the bar
patrons to quiet down until tonight, she thought.
Tonight…. She jiggled the string a bit and heard more laughter
from down at the bar.
Kate peered under the bed more closely. The string was tied
to the bedsprings and went down through the knothole into the
saloon below. That meant any movement into or on the bed this
evening would ring a little bell down in the bar.
Men. What a dastardly trick, she thought.
Then she had an idea.
Kate took a match from her reticule. As silently as she could,
she untied the string from the bedspring and re-tied it to the... ENJOY THE BOOK FOR THE FULL STORY