chapter fifteen

chapter six

chapter twelve

chapter one

chapter seven

chapter thirteen

chapter two

chapter eight

chapter fourteen

chapter three

chapter nine

chapter fifteen

chapter four

chapter ten

chapter sixteen

chapter five

chapter eleven

chapter seventeen

chapter fifteen
wishing on the moon

 

He was an average looking man. Nothing particularly special about his appearance. Medium in built and just over six feet. He had the kind of face that a mother would call handsome. And except for his thoughts of desperation, his life had come to a stand still. He was an artist in a class by himself, and at the moment he was feeling as if he had used up all his good ideas and was stuck for something new. He was in a depressed state of mind. He had the desire and the need to begin a fresh project, a cause to direct his creative intellect towards new conclusions. But nothing new was coming to him.

In his depressed state, his dispossession was somewhat nasty, and he would find himself in arguments and even fights with those close by when he had been drinking. Right now he was sporting a bruise on his left cheek bone from an attitude adjustment in an altercation from the night before.

The artist bore a heavy secret in his life and it had an inhibiting affect of which somewhat stifled his creativity.

It wasnít something that he couldnít just fix or tell someone about. It was just there forever clouding his consciousness. He had lost the ability to laugh and feel the lighter side of things, and there was a need to get back in touch with the creative expressions he was so good at.

 

There in the middle of gold country, he sat at the front of the little café staring out the window at the same view every day about this time. There was no reason to believe that today would be any different then any other. But for him today would be very different. For it would mark a major change in the direction of his life and his attitude about everything. He sat there pondering his bleak future in the darkness of daylight, unbeknownst to him that less then a mile up the road and heading his way was his equivalent of the rising sun. The discovery of a bounty of inspirational riches worth far more than gold to him.

 

Most men anywhere in the world would seek only one kind of riches. Monetary wealth. The accumulation of monies in hopes that they could possess anything. And having the ability to possess anything would in turn make them happy. At least that was the philosophy of the average man.

But this man, the artist, felt quite different about lifeís happiness and fulfillment. And his views were far from the average man. He believed that true wealth came from within. The feeling of satisfaction from accomplishment or through creation. And there in, lay his frustration. What he sought in life was a rare prey of another species. A motivation and inspiration for fresh ideas to work with.

 

She was approaching his little town about eleven miles west of Angels Camp at the very bottom of the foothills. She had delivered her parcel to her destination, Mr. Wheeler's associate, and proceeded westward.

Descending the mountain, she was consumed with loneliness and she hardly noticed the beauty of the area she was traveling through. Nornyís zeal for life had been deadened by the numbing effects of her painful loss. Nothing really mattered much right now, and her general direction in life seemed a little less purposeful. This was the biggest loss of her life, and she felt as if she would never recover from it.

It was somewhere along here, while she continued on, that she caught the attention of the one person who would play a very important role in the portrait of her saga.

 

As Norny rode Captain through the narrow street of the tiny town, the momentarily frustrated artist, sat at his table sipping his drink and staring out the window. He sat there contemplating whether or not he should plunge the sharp end of his brush into his heart and get it all over with. Life offered no new challenges and the monotony of the same routine was getting difficult to bare.

Like most artists at one time or another, he had reached a plateau in his career where nothing inspired him or interested him enough to engage his skills. He was at the bottom of his potential. And like most real artists, inspiration and creativity was his reason for existence.

He was tired of the commission work he was used to getting; portraits of families and children and even their animals. What he needed was something worthy of his talents. A challenge, perhaps a series of works about something or someone. He needed a subject that he could really get into his imagination and possibly deliver a masterpiece come what may from his creative efforts.

His talents and skills were perched right there at the edge of his enthusiasm. All they needed was a nudge or a push and his creations would have tumbled out of him like dominos colliding one work after the other.

But where was it coming from? That was his problem. He couldnít see anything he hasnít done already.

 

While he sat there, he didnít know exactly what it was that caught his attention, but it was something about her that drew him like a magnet. He couldnít resist.

He watched her carefully as she passed by the window as he has seen hundreds of others do many times in the past. But somehow instinctively he knew this was different.

 

Norny sat tall in the saddle. She had a regal posture about her as her legs draped the sides of her horse like a man. There came a light breeze blowing by, whisping the hair up off her shoulders in a slow motion floating effect. The ruggedness of her appearance and the graceful motion of the wind through her hair was a visual melody to his imagination.

Suddenly the sight of this dust laden woman ignited something deep down inside of him.

He could see she was a woman alright, but there was an air about her that was unmistakably different.

It wasnít that she was pretty or had any noticeable measure of beauty ( the beauty of her appearance was something that became apparent with time ). But rather it was the way she carried herself with confidence and pride. She had a humble look of independence and self assurance that was the undeniable uniform of a fledgling legend. The suggestion of a maverick that quietly passes through towns leaving behind only a whisper of her poetic name.

 

As he slowly raised his glass to the brink of his thirst, to replenish the instrument of his sarcasm, a spark of inspiration hit him between the lobes of his cerebral hemispheres.

Thatís it!!

Sheís what Iíve been looking for! he thought.

One of the things that separates a natural born artist intuition from the rest of the world, is the ability to see things and meanings beyond the boundaries of three dimensions and beyond the universe of the average imagination.

And in this case she could have been invisible and he would have felt her presence.

 

The insignificant unknown artist slowly rose up out of his chair unable to remove his eyes from her. Though she sat motionless atop Captain as she rode through town, she portrayed many images in the artistís vision as he watched her ride by.

To the artist her rugged, trail weary appearance was hauntingly beautiful.

It was like coming out of a coma when he saw Norny. A rebirth of his spirit. Just looking at her he was inspired in visions of paintings sculptures and words like never before. As if after endless searching for an unknown prize, he had at long last hit the mother lode. And if he was lucky, maybe he found her first.

He was ready to devote his total attention and skills to the interpretation of her uniqueness. He would focus all his conscious thoughts and creative abilities towards the engineering of his masterworks of this mysterious woman.

But thatís if she would be willing to work with him and let him use her. What if she wouldnít, or said no to him. Then he would be back where he started from. And having seen her, forgetting her was out of the question.

Rather then take a chance on her denying him, and unlike the later renowned artist Fredrick Remington, this man wasnít going to ask her permission first for fear of what her answer might be.

No, he thought maybe the only way to handle this was to just observe her and create the words and images that he couldnít prevent from flowing out of his imagination and let it all happen.

 

Was this meant to be? Was he there at the edge of his career to be present at that precise moment when she crossed through the field of his vision. With the enormity of the creative possibilities that came to him, he could only believe that it was.

And now at that moment when he recognized his point of focus, his palate was rich with color. And clumps and lumps of shapeliness objects took meaningful form of endless lines and detailed definition. He knew now he was still alive and there was hope. The color of the sky was a shade he had never painted before. And the challenge of his knew subject suddenly made life well worth living.

Now once again he found his pathway, and Norny was the object of his direction.

Should I speak to her? Ask her if she would be the subject of my work. If she said no.. then I would have already called attention to himself, and then I wouldnít be able to follow her unnoticed. But if I met her and talked to her, what would happen then? Could I touch her somehow? These were questions he asked himself as he watched her. After he thought about it for a moment, Perhaps it would be best if she knew nothing of me at all. In this way there would be no changes in the influence she cast on my creative illusion. She would always remain as I saw her now. The mysterious woman of an endless westward highway.

 

Norny rode on down towards the end of the street where she saw the stable. She stopped, went in and convinced the owner to allow her to stay there. The man found this a little puzzling since there was a perfectly good hotel right there in town and it had rooms available. But it could do no harm, and he let her stay.

The artist watched from a distance as she went about her business.

After Norny brushed and fed Captain, she headed on over to the hotel for a bite to eat. The artist walked into the stable to ask the man about her.

Sleep in here? The artists asks, I wonder why? He ponders.

But it actually isnít anything less then he expected of his cowgirl vision. After all, she wasnít just another woman. Her ways and motives were not that of the predictable female. She was a woman of mystery and a treasure chest of inspirational riches for an artist of his caliber. And to question those things that made her so different, would be to look a gift horse in the mouth.

He went in and sat down for dinner across the room from her. And as he sat there secretly watching her, he wondered who she was and where a woman like this could have come from, and how she came to be the independent woman that she is.

Did she have a family, or a man in her life? Perhaps she had children somewhere? How could a woman, whom are generally speaking so fragile and delicate, who lived for babies, lacey doilies and patchwork quilts be so different in every way. Could she be confused about her identity?

He wondered what she would feel like if he could put his hands on her. Would she be soft and smooth to the touch, or have tough skin and firm mussels as men do. He could only guess at that. Then he looked at her in the way any man would. What would intimacy be like with a woman like her. She didnít have that alluring feminine appeal like the women at the dance hall or at church on Sundays. But still there was a sensual awareness that emanated from her that he couldnít explain.

His masculine instincts were just like the cowboys in the room who wanted to hop from table to table and rope her like a doggie. But that wasnít likely to happen so he had to put her in perspective. She would serve a greater purpose, if he didnít let his subconscious motivator take control. He knew it would be best to get the intimate thoughts of her out of his head before it clouded up his creative judgement.

It came to mind that perhaps she was raised by a father whom was disappointed that she wasnít born a boy. And in doing so raised her as a son. It could be, he thought.

What ever the reason this woman was from somewhere else. A place unknown to the average normal person. She didnít have any pre-notions of how a woman is supposed to look or what to act like. She obviously did not conform to the guild lines set down in the social sphere of the civilized society.

She dwells in a place other women dare not go. But the forbidding masculine territory that this woman was from, was so obviously her only world. And sheís not an act or a put on. Sheís the real thing. He thought to himself.

As he studied her, he didnít know what, but he could sense something was troubling her. He had no idea that she was living in a world that had so suddenly collapsed around her.

A world that was now a little more distant then it had already been all along.

 

Norny finished her meal and walked up to the counter to pay for it. She noticed on the shelf behind the counter a jar of peppermint stick candy. And her first thought was of Poco. But Captain was her horse now. And though they had no history together, he was now her companion and deserved no less then her loving and caring attention, "I would like a couple of those candy sticks too please." she says. The thoughtful woman that she was, Norny would never think of herself without thinking of her horse.

There was a time on the trail when Norny and Poco were crossing a desert like barren territory and hadnít seen people or a town for days. There was no grazing land and they were down to a couple of apples between them. There was nothing else. Norny took one small bite out of an apple and then fed the rest of both of the apples to Poco since he had the bigger appetite. She didnít mind doing without if she had to, but she couldnít let her pretty big boy go hungry no matter what. And if it came down to it, and if she couldnít have fed him by honest means, she would have stolen food for him, and paid it back later. She was as honest as a person could be, but left with no choice she would resort to a realignment of priorities.

 

When Norny paid the woman, she turned to walk out the door. The artist, being the gentleman that he was, jumped out of his seat and grabbed the door to open it for her. He couldnít help himself.

"Allow me maíam." He says.

"Thank you." Norny replies.

The sound of her voice sent a charge of electricity straight through him. He knew whoever she was, she had the stuff. Perhaps it was a good thing for him she wasnít capable of generating a smile yet.

He wanted to ask her name, but he didnít want to call any attention to himself.

 

Norny had only spent the night in that town and accompanied the morning sun on its journey west the next day.

He too was up early to be sure he wouldnít lose track of her. When he saw her leaving, he realized that if he didnít follow her, he would probably never see her again. So he went to the stable for a horse but all they had was one. And he wasnít a good riding horse for an unskilled rider. The artist was not a horseman. But he had no choice, "You donít have a buggy?" He asked.

"Sorry."

So he gathered his sketch book and supplies, mounted his horse and followed a safe distance behind her.

He had his equipment loosely tied to the horse and saddle. He was having a hell of a time trying to make the horse do and go where he wanted. But at least he was headed in the right direction. Holding the reins together instead of way out in opposite directions would have been some help had he known.

 

Norny was about a half a mile ahead of him. Just enough for him to keep her in sight.

While she traveled along her mind and heart were burdened with thoughts of Poco. She was bound by the chains of his memory, and dragging the weight of their past with her. It would take some time before she would be able to accept the difference in her life without Poco.

Occasionally she would catch herself giving commands to Captain that were meant for Poco. Then she would remember, this is Captain and Poco is no more.

Though she knew she had done the right thing for Poco, she couldnít get past the guilt of being the instrument of his death. Still though, she knew it had to be her and no one else, it gave her little comfort in the knowledge of that fact.

As the hours passed by the artist was feeling more familiar with her, and felt as if he knew her better and better with each mile. And though he didnít really know her, or had even spoke with her, he could still detect the troublesome burden she was carrying.

After about an hour of riding, something maybe nothing made his horse rear up and bolt. He took off like a streak of light heading towards Norny.

"WoughÖÖstop horse!" he yells trying to take control. But he could barely stay in the saddle and the horse was in charge and had a mind of his own.

In a moment he would be up to Norny and passing her by. What was he going to do? He didnít want to call attention to himself or look like some kinda fool to her. So as the artist passes her by at full speed and his arms flailing around holding the reins he tries to act casual and shouts out, "HOWDY!"

Norny was surprised by him and stops as she watches him race on ahead of her.

He sure rides funny, she thought The sight of which was ridiculous. But she figured something must be wrong when she saw that he was loosing his supplies and he wasnít stopping to pick them up.

She gave Captain the cue, and Norny took off after him. This was the first time Norny put the speed to her horse, and to her delight, Captain was very quick. He was a strong, high spirited young horse that was difficult for most riders to handle. It would have been risky for the average person to ride Captain and surely frustrated trying to control him. But after what they had seen and heard from Norny, they knew she was the right person for Captain, and thatís why Mr. Wheeler had chosen him for her. Yes, Captain was quick, but still couldnít catch up with them soon enough.

Up ahead was a river and it looked like he was going to ride straight across it, but no, the horse had other ideas and stopped short at the edge of the water. The abrupt stop had a sling shot effect sending him head over heals into the river. It was like something from a vaudville act of later years, and it would have gotten a good laugh had there been anyone there to see it. Fortunately the water was about four feet deep or he could have broken his neck. Norny arrived at the waters edge as the artist is standing up.

"Are you alright?" She inquires.
Not wanting to look like the fool, he replies. "Oh sure. I was just anxious to get down here to the water for a quick plunge. The water is really exhilarating this time of the morning"
"With your clothes on?"
"Oh... well, huh yeah, this is laundry day, and this way I can rinse out my clothes and take a refreshing dip at the same time." He knew that was a stupid thing to say. Who was going to believe that one.

Norny could tell he was embarrassed by what had happened. "You know you lost some of your things back there."

"Oh! Did I? Well thanks for telling me."
"Iíll fetch them for you while you dry off." Norny says.

The man walks out of the water as Norny takes the hat off her head and lofts it onto the ground.

Why did she do that? the artist wonders.

It would soon become apparent as Norny spins Captain around and takes off at a gallop.

Strewn out along the trail, she doesnít even slow down as she leans towards the ground and hangs from the saddle horn to scoop up the fallen objects of his trade one by one.

"WOW! Sheís damn good on that horse." He says out loud to himself.

He watches her in amazement noticing her skill as a horseman. He was sure he had something with this woman, but he knew there had to be more. He figured he would learn all there is to know about her eventually... But now there was another problem. He had called attention to himself, and wouldnít be able to remain incognito. He wasnít sure how he would handle this yet.

When she returned he asks, "Your pretty good on that horse. Are you some kinda trick rider or something?"
"No." She says.
The man removes his soaking wet coat and hangs it from a tree limb while Norny dismounts. "Ya know maíam, I have to confess. I wasnít really riding like that deliberately. The horse took off running on his own and I couldnít stop him."
"Oh?" She says not wanting to embarrass him any further, but she already knew that.
"Where are you headed maíam?"
"West, to the next town, where ever that is." She says.
"Well that would be Stockton. Would you mind some company?" He asks
"No. I donít mind."

So after he dried out a little, they mounted up and headed for Stockton. Norny showed the man how to take charge of the animal so it wouldnít get away from him again.

 

While they had talked, the artist had noticed something remarkable about her. Her facial expressions changed with the slightest gesture in movement when she spoke. It was obviously very natural. With each word her face was a whole new picture. Not at all how you might imagine she would look when her face was in a relaxed state. She appeared as almost a different woman with every syllable. This was amazing within itself. She seemed so different in so many ways, and somehow he knew his discoveries of her were just beginning. This was another wonderful surprise of his new subject, and he hadnít even seen her smile yet.

"What do I call you?" He asked.
"Norny."
"Thatís it, just Norny. No last name."
"Thatís it."
"Well, its a fine name." He says.

He knew it just had to be something out of the ordinary, but this peaked his curiosity even more.

Norny didnít ask for his name, so he didnít offer it.

Ordinarily she might have asked, but she was preoccupied with her thoughts of Poco. And some of the little common sense things in her life would just slip by her.

 

After another couple of hours on the trail they arrived in town.

"Say. Are you hungry?" The artist asks.
"Yes I am."
"Well how about I treat you to dinner. Its the least I can do for your help back there. I donít like to eat alone and I would sure like your company."
"Alright." She says. Right now, she needed company of some kind to keep her from dwelling on the past.

So they tie up in front of the saloon next to the diner.

The two of them went in to a nearby cafe and sat down. There was a door that joined the eating area with the saloon and it was open, revealing all the noises associated with drunks and too much alcohol. There was load talk and out bursts of laughter not to mention some of the worst language and swearing that anyone ever heard. When they would try and talk, someone from the other room would whoop it up and drowned out any chance for conversation.

"Sorry about all the noise from next door folks. Its payday and some of the working men celebrate it here. Iíll close the door." The waiter says.
Norny looks across the table at the artist and tells him, "Its the liquid of loud talk and false courage."
"The what did you call it?" He asks.
"The tonic of foolish wisdom." She tells him.
"Thatís a good way of putting it. Iíll have to remember that." He says, "So tell me Norny, what is it that you do?"
"Do? I donít know what you mean."
"Are you here for a reason. You know on business or just traveling?"
"Just traveling." She says.
"And what about you?" She asks.
"Iím an artist... A frustrated one right now. But I feel things are about to change for me." He says.

Norny wasnít quite sure what an artist was for certain, but she figured if she paid attention, eventually she would figure it out for herself.

So they went on with the small talk while they ate their meal. While they are talking, the artists notices the earring around her neck. It sparked something in his memory, but wasnít sure what. It could have been that he had seen a similar earring on another woman. "Does that little earring on the chain have some significant meaning for you?"

She reaches up to hold it and says, "Yes it does." But she wasnít divulging anymore about the personal object she so obviously cherished.

"Is there a man in your life? I hope thatís not too personal to ask." He says.

"I have met some good men along the trail. Men I will never forget. ( It had been at least a year since she last saw Pete and Roscoe ). And I hope they will remember me, as fondly as I do them."

She obviously had no idea of the effect she had on the cowboy duo. They were over a thousand miles away, following the circuit. They were placing and winning in all kinds of events including bull riding. But afterwards you could find them at the local watering hole drinkin and laughin and boasting of their favorite bull rider.

The two of them thought about Norny often. And they wondered how she was doing, and where she is right now. Would they ever see her again? That was the main question on their minds. They told many other cowboys about the kind of rider she was, but it was a little hard for some of them to swallow.

 

In fact, right at that momentÖÖÖÖÖÖ..

Standing on a wooden sidewalk outside the saloon in Santa Fe, two women are startled when a cowboy comes flying through the window, sending broken glass in all directions. He lands right next to them.

The result of a crashing blow from a hairy knuckled right hand of Roscoe Poe. It seemed the cowboy thought their story was real Ďcock & bullí , so he didn't hesitate to express his derogitory disbelief of the bull bustin rodeo queen. And with Pete and Roscoe if you had anything to says about Norny, youíd better smile when you say it, or love the taste of a knuckle sandwich.

In the saloon the men stood there drinking beer and listening to the tales Pete and Roscoe would tell of their cowgirl angel, and rodeo queen. They went on and on about her unbelievable skills as a bull rider, and her balancing act on Peteís shoulders, and the way she could handle herself in a fight with as many as three at a time.

And to top it all off, she was as pretty as a prairie flower, and if you donít believe that, just look into her blue eyes and let your guard down on your heart for only a second.

She sounded like some kind of super-woman the way they told it. But she was just a woman,ÖÖ Norny, their good friend, cowgirl pal and captor of their hearts.

"Well isnít she the rider who won in Arizona?" One man asks.
"Yep!"
"Was Big Tom McKenner there?" Asked another.
"He took second place." Pete says.
"What about Gus Too Close?" (Got his name when the bull tossed him between the horns tearing his pants off and leaving a deep scare just along side of his bag of tricks).
"Yep, Gus was there." Pete answers.
"Well you two rode there? Tell us what happened." The man says.
"Iím sure my pal Roscoe would love to tell you men what happened down in Arizona. Wouldnít ya Roscoe." Pete says.
"You bet I would!" Roscoe replies as he slugs down another shot of red eye, then slams the glass to the bar. "Bartender, give em all a beer on me. Now listen up boys."

It was Sedona Iíd say on that mid August day, and cowboys were coming to ride,

We were gathering there, so unaware that today weíd be swallowin pride,

 

There was old cactus Joe, and me, Roscoe Poe, and bull bustin Ronny Mc Clure,

There was a rider called Ben who came there to win, to show whoís was best for sure,

 

There was my partner named Pete, who came there to beat... the other riders we didnít know,

But weíd see on this day whoís here to stay, and which men were free to go,

 

There was a frenchman Pierre who came to ride there, a cowboy he thought he was,

Slims' big brother Moe, and Colorado Lou Beau, and this kid we all called Peach Fuzz,

 

Each man at his best would be put to the test, in a game of courage and skill,

Some came for the prize, and some for the eyes of the crowds who came for the thrill,

 

Our hopes ran high as we bounced off the sky, each of us thought we could win,

So one by one, for the money and fun, we gave them a showÖÖ.. but then,

 

Out in the ring struts this feminine thing, a female unlike the rest,

Her left eye in paint, just a woman she ainít, who knew she could outride the best,

 

When her turn came around they flew off the ground, on a bull called Tornado she rode,

they watched for a while, theyíd smirk and theyíd smile, thinkin theyíd see her get throwed,

 

High off the ground he flung her around, say "what the hells holdin her on?"

So we watched her that day as she took it away, and our claims to the prize were all gone,

 

"Who is she?" theyíd say, "who can ride bulls that way, tell me is this some kinda joke?"

"Oícontraire mon' Pierre thatís Norny out there, the bull ridin' lady cowpoke,"

 

The men burst into laughter and applauded Roscoeís rendition of the Sedona Rodeo event.

But their tale wasnít over yet by a long shot.

Pete and Roscoe told them about the first time they saw her win in Plumpbucket and her wining Sedona and every mile in between. "Iím tellin ya boys, it may be hard to believe, but every words the truth."

And after a few beers there was Pete singin her praises as a rodeo champ and bull ridin queen, and Roscoe doing his rhymeín routine.

Between each swallow of brew, Roscoe was tossing out six foot poems about this almost mythical woman with the magical smile. And if Disney had been alive then, he would of made a cartoon movie about her for sure.

And for the free beer, all ears were listening intently as Pete and Roscoe created the legend and told them all the saga of Thorny Norny.

No. Pete and Roscoe were a long way from losing the memories they carried of there cowgirl pal.

 

Back in California territory, Norny and the artist were just finishing dinner.

During casual conversation the artist had learned a little more about the mysterious woman of his work, but in a few moments he was about to learn far more then he ever could have imagined.

Outside of the saloon were men that sort of spilled out of the watering hole. Their loud voices and obnoxious mannerisms were apparent to everyone in ear shot.

A couple of the men had noticed Norny and started making comments towards her, "Hey there Missy! Howís about we buy you a drink and have a little dance. Course youíd be neediní a dress to dance with me." He says.

The laughter was loud and spontaneous, but she ignored them and just walked on by, "Whass the matter, you too good for a drink with a few working men like ush? You ainít zactly no princess you know girly."

She still didnít say anything.

Then one of the men utters the words, "You wanna know what a 'real man' is all about?"

Still she ignored them.

"Shtuck up bitch!!"

She didnít even bother to look at them, but the artist did, "What you guys need - is a good butt kickin. And if you werenít drunk, Iíd give you what for."

"What? You think that becaush weíve been drinkin we canít do thish?"and the drunk hauls off and hits the artist in the face with his fist. The artist falls off the wooden sidewalk and lands in the dirt while everyone laughs ( except Norny ).

He gets up to come after his attacker, but this time the other drunk grabs the artist arms from behind, while the first drunk punches him in the stomach. All the spectators laughed at the two drunks 'whipping up on and making a fool of the artist.

Being drunk is one thing, but getting violent and hurting innocent people is quite another. Besides this man was trying to protect her from these loud mouth villains, she thought. The onlookers had no way of knowing that the drunks would require the protecting. And while everyone seem to enjoy the inebriated entertainment provided by the two fools, nobody there could have imagined that the woman was the real threat until it was too late.

Norny had experienced the antics of drunkards before, and she knew exactly how to deal with them. She casually removes her hat and sets it on the saddle horn. She steps up in front of the first man and puts her hands straight up in the air reaching for the sky.

"Whass the hell you doin? I didnít say shtick em up!" Says one of the drunks laughing at her.

The other drunk pulls out and points his finger as if he were drawing his gun, and then goesÖ.."Bang!"

Everybody roares with laughter.

With her hands up over her head Norny puts a forced smile on her face to show there were no hard feelings, and it was her way of showing that she wanted to play too, and was about to join in their little game.

With her hands up in the air and the little smile on her face she falls forward onto her hands and does a hand stand. A hush came over the crowd as her legs fall the rest of the way over and around the mans neck. With her legs locked around his neck, she tucks in and rolls forward flinging the man head first over the top of her. Slamming him on his back hard to the ground. She gets up steps in front of the other man who is dumb founded, then swings her right leg up over his head and back to the ground as she turns herself around putting him directly behind her. She then bends forward and reaching between her own legs and grabs his pant cuffs, then pulls his legs through hers hard as she stands up sending him flat on his back. The dust floated up around him at the sound of his thud.

"DAMN!!! Did you see that!" someone says from the group of astonished onlookers.

The first man slowly gets up moaning, but it was too much for him and looses his stomach contents onto his boots. The second man had the wind knocked completely out of him, and it took a little longer for him to get a breath. Neither of the two drunks knew what hit them.

It didnít take but a couple of seconds for Norny to turn everything around, and quickly sobered up the two men. She didnít want to take advantage of a couple of load mouth drunks, but they were getting physical and she had no choice.

Now who looks humiliated. Suddenly once again there was laughter from the on lookers while the second man got to his feet. The two men slowly recovered, then turn and walk away with their tails tucked between their legs and didnít say a word.

Everyone who saw the incident couldnít believe what they saw. She took on two opponents and physically taught them a lesson in a way that no one had ever seen before. Not with a weapon or a club or fists. But in a way that had never seen done by anyone much less a woman. The people there had seen fighting many times before, but usually it was boxing or wrestling or just brawling. But the moves that Norny had just put on the two men were like nothing they had ever seen before. And she did it like it was her nature and with the grace and ease of a ballerina.

They were all amazed alright, but not as much as the artist. For in that instant he felt something he never felt before. An admiration and attraction for a special woman he could only describe as remarkable. He suddenly realized the hardest part of telling her tale would be to keep himself from becoming attached to her.

He would have never believed that a woman like her could have ever existed. But it was true, and here she was right in front of him. "Norny, where did you learn to fight like that. Maybe fight isnít the word since it was all one sided?" He asks.

Sheepishly she answers. "My big brothers taught me."

"Big brothers! Well they must have been something to see, if they taught you to handle yourself like that. In fact you and your brothers would make a small army."

She didnít say a word in reply.

 

The artist could see she was a rare women of humility and reserve. This was too good to be true. And suddenly he knew he had journeyed all these years to this exact place in time and waited all his life for her arrival. It took a life time for him to develop his craft expertly enough to be able to capture the essence of this rare prize with the caliber of skill necessary. And she was right here now for him to discover. She may not know it, but there was no doubt in his mind that they were destine to meet.

She was meant to be there with him as much as he was meant to be the artist who would portray her.

She possessed all the magnificence and quality the artist needed to focus on for his work. He couldnít have written a special request with all the qualification and sent it to God, and received a more fitting woman for his subject. She was about as perfect as it would get. But could he stay focused on her as the subject and keep her out of his heart. That would be the trick.

She was a poem waiting to rhyme and a song yet to be sung.

The words were right there on the tip of his tongue.

She was palettes of colors in balance with form, and creative visions yet to be born.

He could see her in daylight and settings of night. He could sculpt her and paint her in all kinds of light.

She was that of which most artists all seek; and a career he thought was over, has yet to reach its peek, and it only took Norny to bring him back alive and make it all happen. She was the Magical Mistress of his artistic kingdom. And with the wizardry of his artistic intellect, together they would make their mark in history.

Strange he thought how life turns on a dime. When it all looks drab and empty and hope dwindles down to a flicker of flame. Some otherwise insignificant person happens by, unaware of their effects on the people and things around them. And for those affected, if they are wise enough to recognize it when it does, it changes everything. And for the lucky one who knows it when they see it, they are forever enriched and never the same again. For the artist, his time was now and he recognized it, and the cause of his effect was Norny.

The artist knew there was no other like her anywhere in the world. And she was there for him. Norny might not have realized that, but the artist sure did.

 

After what they all saw just happen, the crowd all stared at her. This is no normal woman they all thought. And as for the artist he knew now for sure that he had to tell her story, with paint or words or any means necessary.

The artist accompanied Norny through town and to the stable where she boarded herself and her horse for the night, "I can pay for your hotel room Thereís no need for you to stay here."

But she gratefully declined and told him sheíll be alright. He didnít know how to ask her if he could travel with her for a while. In his heart and mind he wanted to just blurt out the words, "Can I come with you?" But she wouldnít understand that, her being the loner that she is. So he thought he would sort of wing it for a while and see how it works out.

They went their separate ways for the evening, but the artist knew that if he didnít keep an eye on her, he may lose track of her.

So that night he didnít sleep so soundly for fear she would leave before he awoke.

He was up before day break to be sure and get a jump on the day. If Norny was to leave town now, he would see her.

He was right about his suspicions, Norny was up and on the move at the crack of dawn. Strange she didnít want to stay and look around a while, after all Stockton had a lot going on there. But it could have been the overpowering grief for her loss of Poco that took her attention. She didnít show much interest in anything at the moment. Her view was clouded and her heart was numb.

The artist dashed to the stable and got his horse without Norny noticing. Then he cleverly rides out of town so that their paths would coincidentally cross just up ahead. "Norny!" He says surprisingly when they meet.

"Headed out of town are you?" He asks.
"Yep. Iím movin on. How about you?"
"Yeah Iím heading west. What direction you headin?"
"West." She says.
"Say, as long as weíre both heading in the same direction, we may as well ride together. After all, I know these parts. I could steer you in the right direction." He says.
It made sense to her so... "OK. Letís ride." She says.

That put a big smile on his face, and now he was set. At least for today anyway.

But there was still one big persistent problem. The artist was not a horseman and it wasnít very long before his horse reared up dumping the artist on the ground.

Norny felt compelled to help the man, and instruct him in how to handle the animal. She taught him not to fear his horse, but to get right back on and try again.

The two of them traveled leisurely along for a few hours in the same westerly direction.

 

Norny and the artist are casually chit chatting about different things and coming up on the railroad tracks. Off in the distance and behind them on the right, is the rapidly approaching 215 for Frisco.

The train was crossing their path diagonally. A bigger shinier train then she remembered from the Jo twins. But it was a train never the less. And the roar of the engine and the clickity clack sound was singing her song.

The two of them were riding along together while the artist was telling her a story from his childhood. When suddenly Captain was anxiously moving around in a jerking motion, and without warning Norny bolted towards the train to meet it leaving the artist standing there talking to himself.

"So me and Jimmy had this sling shot andÖÖÖ.what the hell?!" The artist was taken by surprise at her sudden departure.

Lickity split they flew to overtake the horse of iron and steel. As she approached the train, she turned Captain hard to the left to parallel it. Norny and Captain were moving as fast as they could go to stay up with the train. Captains head was lunging forward with each stride, while his tail was straight out behind him as they were overtaking it. The rapid cloppity sound of Captains hooves were hitting the ground with an almost continuos noise, but easily drowned out by the heavy breathing of the huge iron machine.

The engineer noticed her racing with the train and with a smile, he gave two short blasts and one long one from the whistle to let her know he sees her and to say hello. Norny eyes stayed straight ahead as she crouched low intent on keeping up. They charged along the train with fearce determination. She was so engrossed, that she didnít even look up to acknowledge the engineer. And as Captains' speed gradually declined, the train slowly pulls ahead and the other cars came up along side her, there were passengers gathered at the windows smiling and waving at her as she raced along the tracks. The children on board the train were jubilant at the sight of Norny and Captain racing with them. They were all laughing joyfully and pointing at her. And they all waved enthusiastically to let her know they liked seeing her there.

"Look at that woman go!" Remarks one of the passengers.

They could all see she was something special, there was no doubt about it.

Finally she knew Captain had enough and gave way for the train to move on. Norny stood up in her stirrups as she slowed down and waving good-bye to all the smiling faces at the windows and the train itself. The passengers on board seem to like her and felt entertained by the event.

Though nobody had any idea who she was or where she was headed they all wondered why she felt compelled to charge after the train. But why didnít really matter, most of them envied the freedom of her gallant spirit.

Who knows what kinship she feels for the rails, and what brings it on, but Norny had trains and railroads in her heart ever sense her time with Daniel. Whether it was because she felt closer to him or that it reminded her of something she missed is uncertain. Or perhaps it was something form her childhood before her ability to recall. Whatever it was, the sound and sight of the train and tracks were to her, like an old friend from home.

Whenever she would hear the chugging sound of the big engine and blast of the whistle it would send a charge through her whole body, and her heart would pick up and race. She couldnít help herself from reacting to them. She was like a dog chasing the stage coach.

In her urgency to race the train, Norny left the artist about a half a mile out.

She heads back towards him at a trot.

To the artist she was a very special female creature, an angel in worn out clothes atop her winged Pegasus challenging the power and speed of the great iron horse. His vision of her was quite different from that of anyone else. But then he was the dreamer, a visionary, a point of perspective from a distant place.

He could see that Norny had a love for trains and anything to do with the railroad. And the artist saw something about Norny that even she didnít know. That she was chasing after a dream far in her sub-conscious and needed to catch it. He didnít know why yet, but it was another one of the many mysteries of this wonderful discovery he found. - Hereís a courageous woman that sees life and the world from a place and in colors that is known only to her. I need to know that place, and see the colors in her world. He thought.

Given time he would get to know all the aspects of her adventurous life on the trail alone.

 

Upon her return, "Holy Cow Norny! What happened there. We were just traveling along then suddenly you were off?"

She giggles like a child, "I just had to catch the train. There so big and loud and fast. Its a huge iron horse made by man, but its alive. Like a living breathing heart pounding creature. There amazing to me. I donít know, I canít explain it better then that." She says.

"You donít have to, I see what fascinates you." He says.

But he knew there was more that lay deep within her subconscious. And maybe eventually he would discover it. At least he hoped.

The time of the day was getting on, and it would be a good time to think about where they might pitch camp. The artist knew of a good spot not too far up ahead where they could stay the night. There was water and shade and peacefulness in the surroundings.

When they arrived at the area he would tell her, 'this is it, lets camp.' but he had an idea. He figured if he served some useful purpose to her she wouldnít mind him tagging along for a while. Then he wouldnít have to keep inventing reasons to be following her..

"This is a good place to rest Norny. Thereís enough daylight left for you to go down to the river and bathe. And if youíll set up camp Iíll go and fetch us some dinner. Cooking is one of my specialties, Iím gonna fix you something youre sure to like."

"Good! Cause Iím hungry. You go and get what you need, and when you get back Iíll have the fire going." She tells him.

What the artist didnít tell her, was that not far from there was the town of Fortunata. But if they would gone there and stayed, they would have split up for the evening, and he wouldnít get the time he needed to be alone with her. Not to mention the fact that she might leave without him in the morning and he could lose track of her. Right now he needed to find out everything he could about his mysterious woman.

So the artist rode off to the town and bought everything he needed to prepare a good meal. Of course he told her he got lucky and found all the things he brought back with him.

Norny had setup camp as she said she would, then went off to bathe in the river. When she returned the artist was about ready with their supper.

It was just almost dark on this brightly lit night, when she walked back into camp. He could almost smell the sweet natural fragrance of her cleanliness. Her hair was still wet when she took her place on a log, and her blue eyes sparkled back the flickering flames of the campfire.

She looked new and refreshed when she caught the artist attention, and he didnít realize he was staring at her. But then he noticed that he was, he quickly turned and went about his business.

Hereís a woman that appears both rugged and feminine and makes it look so natural. He thought. But what he didnít know first hand was the gentleness she possessed inside. Her compassionate nature. The inner spirit that glowed from within her as the charismatic force of her soul.

As a woman, she was far more rare then he realized at the moment, but eventually as Norny materialized on his canvases and in his sculptures, he knew her for who she really was. And for him, to know her..... well.

"Iíve prepared here a special meal just for you, my friend." He says.

"It makes my mouth water just smelling it." She replies.

And so he spreads it all out in front of her as if he were laying it at her feet for her approval.

In the middle of practically nowhere, he had truly prepared a beggars banquet for the two of them, "We have for my fair lady tonight... roasted pheasant, sweet white corn and red raspberry muffins. and... then to soothe your fine palette we have blueberries with cream."

"Cream?" She says. "How did you get that?"

"Oh... yeahÖÖ.I found a cow over there." He says pointing toward a hill.

It was hard to imagine that the artist milked a cow while he was gone, but she was too hungry to question it.

"Whatís that under the cloth?" She asks him.

"Thatís something I found for you. But only after we eat this." He says.

The two of them relaxed and consumed the delicious meal he had prepared. She was delighted at what a good cook he was.

"You really surprised me today when you took after that train. You must have something inside you for trains?" He said.

"I guess I do."

Most women didnít care one way or the other about trains, but she does. This adds to the mystery. He thought.

Norny changes the subject back to foodÖ"This is very tasty. Your a good cook. I have a friend, Roscoe, who cooks trail grub... thatís what he calls it. Most of the time its good, but sometimes you have to use your imagination to swallow it." The artist laughed at what she said. Norny didnít realize she was being witty, it just came out that way.

"This Roscoe, heís a good friend of yours?" He asks.

"Well really thereís two of them, Pete and Roscoe. Their the bestest friends a person could have on or off the trail."

"Why is that?"

"Cause theyíre there when ya need them. They have shown me more then once theyíre my trusted friends. And right or wrong good or bad, those two would stay by me through it all. As I would for them."

"I see. Well why donít you tell me a little bit about them?" He says.

"Maybe I will some time, but right now I want to know whatís under that cloth." She says.

"Oh yeah! I though you might appreciate this. Its symbolic of you Norny." He says as he lifts the cloth to reveal it.

Immediately a puzzled look came over her face, "What is it?" She says.

"Its an artichoke!" he beams proudly.

"Huh? I donít understand... What is it used for?" She asks.

"You eat it."

"Eat that?" She says as she tries to pick it up and pricks her finger on it, "Ouch!"

"Oh careful. Let me explain... There are some similarities between you and this artichoke."

"Are you funning me?" She asks.

"No... well, maybe just a little. You see it has a tough and rugged exterior and is protected by sharp thorns as you just found out. But the strange truth of this fruit lies inside. As you peel away the leaves of its exterior one by one to taste its edible composition, the leaves underneath are more tender and tasty the deeper you go. Just as every new discovery I make of you as I peel away one leaf after the other. Until you finally get to the heart of the fruit. The reward for your labor is the prize of abundance concentrated in the very middle of the plant. And it is the most delicious part of all. The very essence of the fruit. The heart."

Norny didnít understand every word the artist used in his description, but she listened intently and got the gist of what he was saying. She didnít know how to reply to his comparison, so she just let it slide by for now.

"Look here, I have prepared a special mixture for dipping the leaves, and I want you to try it. I know youíve never tasted an artichoke before?" He says.

She shakes her head NO.

So the artist carefully peels off the first leaf, then dips it in his lemon and herbs and dredges it across his teeth to show her how it is done. Then he peels one for her and hands it to her.

How bazaar this artichoke thing was to her. And it had an mildly odd sort of flavor. It was quite different then anything she had ever eaten before. And it would probably make a better weapon the a food, but she liked it. And she especially appreciated the fact that the artist introduced her to it and shared her first experience with it. It made him somehow a little more special to her. And that little gesture of friendship and sharing reserved him a permanent place in her memory.

 

After relaxing from a fine meal they spent the rest of evening sitting by the bright fire and an almost full moon. It was bright enough for the artist to do a little sketching.

He had his sketch book, and was drawing Norny while they conversed.

The conversation turned to the artist and his ex-wife, "She meant everything to me at first. I guess I was completely enamored by her."

"What does that mean?" Norny asks.

"It means I was swept away with my love for her." He says.

"My wife and I werenít married very long. We had the same birthday, so we were cursed from the beginning." He said.

"Why should that make a difference?" Norny asks. Norny didnít celebrate birthdays as the white man does.

"I donít know... It has something to do with the alignment of the stars or something. Anyway, this woman who studies the stars, in conjunction with dates and times we were born, and the effects they have on our lives told me that. I think she called it astrology." He says.

Norny had many beliefs that included celestial bodies, but she never heard of that one.

He goes on, "Anyhow, a life with an artist and dreamer like me can be pretty scary for a woman who needs security and stability. I guess I canít blame her for needing those things, most women do. So I just woke up one morning and she was gone and knew I would never see her again."

"Iím sorry." Norny says.

"Well thatís OK. I wish her well and I hope sheís happy where ever sheís at. But Iím a wanderer anyway. I like traveling to new places and meeting new faces you might say. What about you Norny, security and a nest doesnít appeal to you?"

"I donít know. I havenít thought about it much. I think my life is a game of hide and seek. Some where my life hides, so right now I must seek." She says.

"How about yours, whenís your birthday?" He asks.

"I donít know." She answers.

"You donít know? Why is that if I might ask?"

"I was abandon as a baby. I donít know how old I am."

"OH!" He says surprisingly. Then he thought to himself this could explain her difference. "Who ever raised you up to be woman you are, knew what they were doing. But I wonder why they raised you as they did. I mean your not one for frilly dresses and tea socials like most women. Who raised you?"

She hesitated at first, but once again Norny tells the story of her beginnings. And as they sat in front of the crackling fire light he was totally engrossed by the story of her life.

"Oh Norny! Youíve had some childhood. Yet here you are all the better for it." He tells her.

"Thatís enough about me, now you tell me some more of the things about your life. Do you mind if I look at your drawing while we speak?" She asks.

"No, please look. I hope you like what you see." He says.

Norny sat and looked through the artist sketch book while he told her about some of the experiences in his travels. "Your work is very good. I especially like the drawings of the Sioux Indian children." Norny tells him

"That was from my trek through the Montana territory eight years ago." He says.

As Norny slowly flips through the pages, her eye catch something and her heart suddenly rushes to a flutter. The artist notices that she stopped turning the pages and had a stunned look on her face.

Suddenly Nornyís heart gave way to a hard thumping in her chest.

"Whatís that you got there?" He asks her.

"Who is this?" She says.

"Oh him. Thatís some man and his daughter I met somewhere in the Dakotas a while back. Very nice man, rugged, tough sort a fellow. And that was his daughter Jane, Jenny, Joann or something like that. Pretty young lady. He was very proud of her. I remember she cooked dinner for us, and sang while she cooked. She had a voice like a song bird. Always a smile on her pretty face. She really liked my drawings, so I gave her a couple of the wildlife charcoal drawings I had done while I was there. Lucky man to have a wonderful young lady like that for his daughter."

Norny eyes started to liquefy as her left hand clutched her necklace. She remembered the charcoal drawings hanging on the wall in the cabin. "Her name was Jenine. She was all he had." Norny says.

"Had?" He questions.

"Yes... His daughter is gone now. He lives alone."

"What! How did you... say I just realized where Iíve seen that little earring around your neck. Its the same ones the girl in the picture is wearing. Gone you say? What happened to her."

"She drowned in the river."

"Oh my god! That beautiful little lady. What a terrible loss. Iím so sorry to hear that. She was the sweetest girlÖÖ If I remember correctly, his wife had died some years earlier." He says.

"Now he has only himself." She says.

"But how did you know them?" He asked.

"I passed through there once. It seemed like such a long time ago. I was injured and he helped me."

Norny had always wondered if she had done the right thing by leaving behind the one man she had over powering feelings for. But something was driving her to her destination and she couldnít stop it. Even though she had thought many time of returning to Daniel, some instinctual force prevented her from turning around.

The artist could see that her mood had changed for the evening, and her mind was now someplace else. He didnít know that something she found in his drawings would echo the feelings from the hollowness she felt inside. And he didnít know about the void Norny now felt after her loss of Poco. She was living in a loneliness that encapsulated her existence, and his picture of Daniel only reminded her of that.

But he did notice that she was wearing the earring and she clutched it in her hand as if it were a precious momento. He was smart enough to deduce that she had a connection with Daniel. He had to be careful not to interfere with her feelings or emotions, or he might lose the magnificent woman he intended for his work. But for now unfortunately, she was sadly affected by his drawings and he might as well turn in and hope it will be different tomorrow.

He also came to realize that if he had any hopes of winning her favor, her heart was with another, and he would be wasting his time. There was no use in pursuing something that could never be, so reluctantly in his mind he lets go. But in reality it was easier said than done. He may have known she would never be his, but it didnít necessarily mean that he wasnít hers.

 

The next morning she awoke to the smell of wood burning and something cooking. The artist was over by the fire preparing some flapjacks for breakfast, "Good morning. You gotta hunger in ya? Iíve got breakfast just about ready. Iíve cooked up some tea, just grab your cup and come and get it."

Tea, thatís just what I need, she thought. Norny carefully removed the little cup and saucer Daniel had given her.

"Say,ÖÖdid you know that your snoring sounds like that locomotive you chased yesterday?" He says.

"SNORE?"

"Yeah,Ö.I was afraid you were going to scare the horses away."

Norny sat there with her mouth open, not knowing what to say.

He was trying to start the day with some levity, hoping her mood was lighter.

As he pours her cup of tea he says. "Iím just funnin ya. You were as quiet as night."

Norny didnít understand his sense of humor. In fact she was a little perplexed by it. But she had dreamed about Daniel last night, and small parts of her dreams were sneaking up and peeking at her through the port holes of her consciousness.

She couldnít quite remember all of the dream, just little parts of it that were stirring feelings in her chest. Creating small heart gushers. Occasionally something would come clear in her mind and she would feel hot rush of blood surging through her heart as it would momentarily race. On this morning, after the dream, she really missed Daniel now more then ever.

The artist rendering of Daniel and his daughter triggered her dreams and her feelings. For some reason, seeing the drawing of his little lost Jenine, she felt for him and for the first time understood his agony. But she was helpless to do anything about it.

Thatís what bothered her the most.

If she were there with him right now she would have run to him and thrown her arms around him holding on tightly to show him he wasnít alone. That Norny shared his feelings good or bad. But there are thousands of miles between them now, and he may never know.

But starting today she sees the artist a little differently then she did yesterday. Nornyís spiritual beliefs told her that meeting the artist was a sign. Of what she wasnít sure yet, and they now had a common ground, they both knew Daniel. And she now favored the artist as a traveling companion.

 

That morning after they saddled up, they headed towards the coast. Norny had told the artist that she had never seen the ocean and she was looking forward to seeing it for herself. The artist was looking forward to seeing Norny seeing the ocean for the first time. This ought to be interesting, he thought.

While they traveled along, Norny asked the artist to tell her all about his time with Daniel.

"Sure." He said. But he could see that Daniel was in her heart, and that earring was the token of his affections for her.

When they were almost to their destination, the artist was jokingly playing around and says, "You see that grove of trees up ahead. Well the last one there... cooks dinner tonight."

And at exactly the same moment they were off. Captain pulled out in from straight away. After a few seconds Norny looked back to see a riderless horse carrying the artist supplies a ways behind her. She pulls back on the reins and comes to a stop. She stands up in the stirrups to try and see the artist. He was sitting on the ground quite a ways back.

Norny takes his horses reins and rides back to him, "Did you mean 'horse and rider', or just the horses were racing? I forget." That was her sense of humor back at him.

"Damn it!" The artist says as he slowly gets to his feet. "Maybe you should tie me to the saddle." He says.

 

From about a mile away Norny caught the scent of the moisture in the air. It was a heavy salty smell, "Whatís that smell?" She asks.

"Thatís the breeze blowing in from the ocean." He replies.

"The Pacific is right on the other side of that hill." He says as he points.

But as they look up at the hill, creeping over the top was a billowing white cotton like cloud rolling over the top and partially down the other side. Norny had never seen anything like it before. She starred at it like it was a two headed mule. It was eerie to say the least.

"What is that?" She exclaims with shock as she points towards the mountain.

"Oh. Thatís the fog rolling in. It must look strange to you. Anyway it wonít do us any good to go there now since you wonít be able to see anything."

"'Fog' you say?"

"Yeah, Iíll explain that to you later, but weíll have to make camp here until morning, then tomorrow weíll head over." So they stopped for the night, and figured on an early start in the morning.

 

When the sun came up, they headed towards the mountains and made their ascend.

Upon thier arrival at the top, Norny and the artist stood at the crest of the mountain and looked out. It was clear, not a cloud in the sky, and no fog in sight.

"Well, thatís it Norny. The Pacific Ocean... Is it what you expected?"

She didnít say anything, she was totally silent. She couldnít. She was dumb-founded by the sight of it. Never had she even imagined what it would be like to see a body of water where you couldnít see the other side. And for 180 degrees there was nothing but water and no land in sight.

She tried to imagine just how far out land might be. Or does it just drop off where you canít see anymore? Then she remembered that Mrs. Beale had told her that the earth was round and not flat as she had always believed, "I donít quite understand why I canít see land on the other side. Or at least the end of the earth." She says.

"Thatís because the earth is round Norny. There is no end to the earth. If you travel straight out long enough youíll come right back to where you started from."

She understood and believed him, but the concept of traveling in a straight line and returning to where you began was difficult for her to conceive of.

Slowly they walked their horses down towards the water. The waves were breaking about a hundred feet out and then gliding up to shore foamy and smooth. Norny was quiet. There was too much to take in and think about. She took a deep breath of the salty air and wondered about the vast expansion of loneliness. Except for the sea gulls flying around and squawking, there was no other life in sight. But all her senses were alert and alive

She strolled down towards the waters edge. At this moment she felt in touch with herself and her past. This very moment was sacred and belonged to her and her pretty big boy. She knew wherever he was he would hear her. So she speaks aloud to him, "Oh Poco... You should see this boy. Iíve reached it, the end of the earth. We almost made it together Poco. We almost rode to the end of the earth together boy. We were so close... I miss you Poco."

She stood there and watched how the water rushed up onto the sand and then slowly withdrew back toward the incoming waves. Over and over endlessly. And she listened to the roaring sound it made as each wave crashed in. Then she thought to herself how much the waves reminded her of the passing of time.

From no beginning they come. And they keep coming inward until at last they finally reach the shore. The instant, the moment of their meaning when the wave rushes to the shore spent, then recedes. And they keep coming one after the other, never stopping never ending. Its always the same there is no beginning, there is no end.

Something inside her heart and being was expanding outward. Her inner self was no longer under her control.

Quickly she ran to Captain and grabbed the saddle horn, and without using the stirrup she flings herself up into the saddle. She gives Captain the go and he takes off flying down the beach. She rides Captain down to the glassy smooth area of the gliding water as fast as they could go. The cool breeze sprayed a mist of salty moisture on her face. It felt wonderful.

She rode until they were almost out of the artistís sight. Then she comes back again. Captain was tossing up big clumps of wet sand into the air behind them. The artist just stood there, watching her as she charged up the beach and down again. And the next wave in covered her tracks behind her creating a fresh canvas for their galloping creations.

With his creative eye, he sees the beauty and form in the movements of her and the horse. Quickly the artist grabs his sketch book and starts reproducing the images he finds most profound in her actions.

As each of Captainís hooves struck the water covered sand, a salt water crown like flower of shapes appeared, and to him a painting was forming right there before his eyes. The reflection of the two of them in the glassy waters, when Captains' hooves met his opposing reflection, carved out a form of balance and symmetry worthy of reproduction in any medium.

They were a living sculpture of beauty for the artist to behold. She was like an innocent child of naïveté. Running and playing in the surf atop her trusty steed.

But he could see that she was chasing after something, and as he rapidly recorded the scenes she portrayed, he thought to himself, how beautiful she is in her innocence and natural splendor.

Her and Captain just kept on charging up and down and up and down. It was her reaction to the wonder of it all. In her mind she had gone as far as one could go, she could go no farther, it was the end of the earth. She had followed the setting sun until it set out of reach.

The artist could see the child like excitement in her discovery of the ocean, and he didnít want to miss any of her reaction. So if she was willing they would camp there for the night there was so much he could tell her about the ocean and all its many inhabitants. And he was looking forward to it.

But they would need some supplies if they were going to stay, he would have to go and retrieve some things for dinner, but he could do that and return shortly. Normally he wouldnít want to leave her alone there by herself, but there wasnít anyone around for miles and she didnít need much protection.

So he told Norny of his plan and she would wait there for him to return.

The artist didnít have far to go, only about a twenty minute ride to get there. Upon his return there was Norny quietly sitting on the beach pushing her bare feet into the moist sand. She was in a fairy tale place of her own making. And to the artist it only revealed another facet to the many images she had created for him to work with, and unfortunately for him to love about her.

The artist had brought back with him some strong twine and a few small pieces of metal hardware. He hiked up over a dune and came back with a long thin tree branch. With that he fashioned out a long pole which he fastened the twine and made himself a pole for fishing.

Norny watches him as he attaches something heavy to the end of the line and casts it out into deep water, past the waves.

"Are you fishing?" Norny asks him.

"Weíll see if Iím fishing if I catch anything or not. If I donít, then this is a sculpture as a tribute to fishing." He says.

The artist's sense of humor was off the wall and Norny still wasnít quite sure how to take it, "Sculpture. Whatís that?" She asks.

"Oh! I never thought that you wouldnít know about artworks. Iíll tell you about it later." He says.

After he planted the fishing pole firmly in the sand on the beach, the artist went to work setting up a camp fire big enough to keep them comfortable when the cool night air set in. It wasnít long before the sun was moving on and they lit the fire.

After they had finished their dinner, they took a walk down the beach, as the waves were crashing in providing them with the song of the sea for a background. The artist told her of all the many wondrous creatures of the ocean big and small. There were fish ( but actually mammals ) big enough to swallow a horse and rider whole. And animals that look like plants that eat fish. There were red fish and blue fish and flat and square fish. And he explained how each fish is only food for a bigger fish.

Norny found all kinds of interesting treasures that she gathered up to study and understand. The artist explained that these items were shells and sand dollars from the ocean.

She was thoroughly fascinated by everything. This was a new world to her, and her curiosity was as wide as the ocean itself. She resembled a child at the sea shore for the first time. At one point she nearly jumped out of her jeans when she turned around behind her to see a crab almost by her foot. The artist burst into laughter at her frightened surprise. Especially a woman who was tough enough to whip most men.

"But whatís on the other side of the ocean?" She asks

"Other countries and different people. People of many races and languages. Its a big world Norny, a mighty big world." He told her.

Now that the artist knew of where she came from and how far she has traveled he had something to compare to, so he bends down to the wet sand to draw her a picture and tells her, "This is where you are from and how far you have traveled to get to here" drawing a small line on the picture, "and all this is how much is still out there to see."

"Oh myÖÖThe world is that big?" She exclaims. Norny remembered the maps on the wall in Mrs. Bealeís classroom, but the artist put it more in the kind of perspective that she would understand.

"Thatís right Norny, and so much more to see then you can even imagine."

"Have you seen it? The other side of the ocean and the people?" She asks.

"Yes. I was a merchant marine and crossed the ocean a couple of times." Then he rolls up his sleeve and showed her his tattoo.

"Did you do that?"

"No, someone else put that on my arm. Its Neptune, the god of the sea. All sailors have tattoos."

Norny didnít know what to say next. The artist knows so much and has been to so many places. He is a very interesting man, well traveled and well versed, she thought.

Little by little they were becoming familiar with and use to each others company.

The things the artist had shown and told her about brought up so many new questions. Nornyís curiosity was insatiable. She went on and on asking everything that came to mind. And the answer to each of her questions brought about new questions. But the artist was delighted to tell her all about the many aspects of life on the great planet earth.

Now she realized how fortunate she was to find the artist as a traveling companion right at this time. Had she discovered the ocean by herself, she would have been bursting with questions and no way of answering them. Perhaps meeting him at this time was meant to be, she thought to herself.

Later that evening, sitting by the fire she asks, "Whatís in that little box with the squares you carry with you?"

"Oh this. Its a game I like to play occasionally."

"A game?" She asks.

"Thatís right. Here, let me teach you. Its called chess. Its a game of foresight and strategy."

So there on the beach in the sand, he goes on to show her the value of each piece and how they move. The artist had played chess for years, but he considered himself at least average. He figured she would learn to be a player in a couple of months or so. But by the forth game Norny had checkmated him in not too many moves.

The artist then realized the potential intellect she possessed, and her abilities for comprehension. Her life seemed rather simple, but her grasp for learning new things was remarkable. She was like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with colors and shapes. And the artist realized the opportunity to be the painter on a much grander scale. As the teacher filling the head of his student with the knowledge that would eventually shape her future.

The wind was starting to pick up and it was blowing the smoke from the campfire into his face. He would scoot over a little, but it would soon catch up to him.

Norny had been around him long enough now and knew the content of the artist's heart from what she saw in his eyes and his drawings. He was a good and kind man and worthy of her friendship. And she felt she could trust this man, who now knew all about her, "Why donít you sit over here by me. We can share my blanket." She tells him.

So he did. She extended her arm out holding the blanket open for him, so he sits up next to her, and they nestled close to each other sharing the blanket, while they looked at the fire, and the stars, and the full moon and talked.

The artist says, "Now there is a perfect work of art. A bright white full moon on a black velvet sky. With gem like stars to only accent the round bold shape of the moon. It seems like a miracle, just hanging out there for the world to look at and wonder about. I wonder how long it would take to walk there if you could?"

Norny just listen to the words the artist had to offer the evening.

"Have you ever thought about what it would be like on the moon Norny?"

"Yes, probably everyone who has seen it has thought about it." She says.

"Well have you ever wished on the moon." He asks.

"No. I have looked towards the stars and made wishes though... Do you wish on the moon?"

"Yes, in fact Iím making one right now. Ever since I was a child growing up in the east, all of us kids would make a wish on the moon in hopes it might someday come true. You see when the moon is at its brightest, a full moon, then and only then can you make a wish on it. But only one to a full moon." He says

"Why donít you try it Norny?"

"All right." She says. Norny looks straight at the moon, then closes her eyes to make a wish. When her left hand took hold of her earring necklace, it kind of gave the secret of her wish away.

After she opens her eyes, "What is it you wish for?" Norny asks him.

"I canít tell you that, or it might not come true." He says.

"Well have any of your wishes come true?" She asks.

"No, Iím afraid not. And maybe they never will. But you have to believe and have faith. If I keep wishing there is hope, so I go on wishing."

"But if you know they donít come true, then why even bother?" She asks him.

"You know, sometimes weíre better off if what we wish for doesnít come true. Sometimes we may want something so bad that it blocks our judgment as to whether it is right for us or not. We just want it. So we wish for it. But because we want it, doesnít mean it would always be good for us. Perhaps we should think about what it is that we wish for before we make the wish. Ah,, but then what fun would it be to analyze each wish before we make it" He says.

"I want to know about those wishes from your childhoodÖÖ.. you know the ones that havenít come true." She asks.

"I suppose it wouldnít hurt to reveal past wishes. It will probably sound pretty silly to you though. I guess I have always wished for the same thing. To one day fly like a bird. To soar high into the sky where only eagles dare. I want to know what it would be like to climb to the heavens and to swoop down towards the earth and then glide gently to the ground."

"To feel the poetic motion of sailing aloft free and easy."

"And to sit on a lofty perch without fear of falling."

"Wouldnít that be wonderful Norny? I guess I have wanted that wish ever since I can remember. Pretty crazy wish, huh NornyÖÖÖÖ.Norny?"

But the day had finally extracted its toll, and she had fallen asleep with her head resting on his shoulder. He wasnít tired, so he gently put his arm up around her and holds the blanket in place, and then slowly he lays back on the sand and places her head to rest on his chest.

And while she slept, the beat of his heart whispered to her the lullaby of security as he stays guard on the night, and she lay suspended deep in her somber serenity. He looks up towards the stars, then to the moon, and with her in his caring embrace he softly tells her, "Youíve had a big day today Norny... tonight I wished on the moon, that you catch the dream that you so gallantly charge after...........you brave angel."

 

The morning sun was defused by a light mist that had blown in over night.

"NORNY, NORNY! hurry get up!" Is the sound that awakens her to the strange place she was. It took a couple of moments for her to remember and orient herself with her surroundings. The salt air smell and the sounds of the gullsÖÖÖ..but thenÖÖ

"NORNY, help me quick!" She sits there in the sand in her morning delirium... wondering where it was coming from then she turns to see the artist holding onto the fishing pole and having a hard time with it.

Suddenly the artist was pulled off his feet into the wet sand and it pulled him toward the surf for about six feet. Still half asleep, she quickly tosses back the blanket and runs down to the water in her bare feet to help him. She grabs onto the pole and helps him hang on to it. The cold water splashing up against her legs delivered the reality of the morning like a slap in the face. As hard as they tried to hang on, the pressure at the other end was too great and was pulling them in. They were about knee deep in the water and heading out. The waves were crashing into them with sudden force.

"Norny! Get my horse. Heís saddled." So she turns lose of the pole as a wave knocks her off her feet and she gulps down a mouth full of salty brine as she goes under. Coughing and choking on the salty water, she gets up and runs for his animal, while the artist put the end of the pole the into the sand and leaned it backward to brace against the pull of the fish. She brings his horse back down to the water and out into the pounding surf. The horse was reluctant and puts up a struggle, but she coaxed him in. Then she grabs hold of the pole and struggles with the violent surf and the determined fish.

Whatever it was that had a hold of the other end of the line, is as strong as a bull she thought. The artist gets the saddle horn between the pole and his catch and wraps the line around the horn.

"OK Norny, take him out.

"Come on boy, thatís it come on." She says. And after a minute the huge fish comes up on the land.

Norny runs back to look at the catch, "WOW! Heís the biggest fish Iíve ever seen." She says.

"Iíd say he goes about six feet. Thatís small for the ocean, but big enough for us." He tells her.

This was incredible to her. This fish would have fed her whole village. She wondered if her people had any idea there were fish this big. Norny looks at the fish then looks out at the ocean and thinks how plentiful and rich the ocean must be. It is amazing this vast liquid prairie, so full of life, she thought.

 

They were both soaking wet and out of breath from the struggle, and at the same time they looked up from the fish and at each other. They both started laughing hard as they realized the humor of the moment..

"You should have seen yourself when the fish pulled you down and dragged you through the sand." She says.

The artist was getting a good laugh at the thought of it. "Well you looked quite the mermaid yourself when that wave knocked you down in the water."

And she was laughing out loud almost hysterically. And for the first time he saw the smile that could turn a mans heart to jelly.

The artist then realized the magic of this moment. He hadnít felt this good in years. And as he watches the squint of her eyes sparkling with laughter, he thought if there was anything in this world worth loving and living for, it was her.

 

 

As the days came and went one by one, the two of them became more accustomed to each others company. Gradually the heaviness they each carried became less of a burden. But it was something they hadnít realized yet. The fact that they were good for each other right now and this time in their lives.

The two of them broke camp and moved a little farther up the beach and spent the next couple of days exploring the rocks and caves. Norny realized the beach would be a good place for the artist to learn to ride his horse, so he could land in the soft sand should he get thrown.

"Do you think you could teach me to ride well enough to stand up in the stirrups like Iíve seen you do?" He asks her.

"Iíll do my best." She says.

Norny got plenty of laughs out of the riding lessons she gave the artist. He was having a heck of a time trying to stay in the saddle and be in command of his horse. But gradually he was catching on, and Norny saw to it.

So they stayed, for the next few days. The artist was a good swimmer, and he swam out into the surf on occasion and brought back many delightful tidbits for her to discover and enjoy. Things like abalone and clams and mussels and even one of those scary crabs.

Her life at the ocean was far from the cowboy life she was used to. This was a whole new world for her. An experience unlike any other, a place she had never even dreamed about, and the artist was her guide and companion. This validated his purpose and reason for being with her at this time in her life.

They strolled the beach together every day. And Norny had plenty of questions for the artist. And he answered them enthusiastically. After all, what a privilege it was to share the excitement and joy of the new discoveries with his child of mystery.

"Lets get some things. Iím going to teach you about sculpture." He says.

So they gathered up the cooking utensils, and started to make a sand sculpture. The artist thought it best to make a form she was familiar with. So they made a horse lying down. They used the fry pan, and the coffee pot and the spoons to shape the details with.

They worked for hours on their project, and Norny really got into it. He could see that she had a feel for this. She seemed to really enjoy it.

While they worked together she asked him about his life as an artist, "What made you want to become an artist?"

"You donít decide to become an artist. If you are, then you just are, and nothing can change that." He answers.

"Iím not sure I understand what art is?" She says.

"Well that seems to be a gray area for most people." He says, "Art comes in all forms of human achievement. A work of art can be done by anyone. It is only the level of skill that separates the artists. And the dedication to the finished interpretation of their accomplishment. It is the combination of imagination and skilled efforts that create art. It is when the hands create what the mind sees. But not every artist can do the impossible, to mold the shape of the wind from a piece of clay. For one to sculpt the wind, it can only be done from in here." He says pointing to his heart. "And that kind of artist is rare, because for them there is only one path towards artistic creation. Their heart always delivers the soul of the dreamer to be interpreted by the admirer."

The depth of his words were too much for her and she wasnít sure she understood all that, but he seemed to know what he was saying, so she believed him to be right.

When they were finished they stepped back to look at their achievement.

"Looks pretty good Norny. I think you have a feel for this." He says.

But Norny just looked at it and didnít say anything in reply. She was very solemn as she looked on.

The artist didnít understand why. But he knew there was something troubling her all along. She was having thoughts of her pretty big boy and feeling the pain of his absents. Somehow doing the sand sculpture of the horse brought Poco to her mind.

A while later they sat quietly together thinking to themselves. The two of them sat side by side as they looked out at the endless waters. Norny noticed the seagulls just hanging in midair, like they were suspended from the sky. And she noticed how the artist was fascinated by them. It could have been the birds he was watching, but more likely how they fly. After all, flight had always been his dream wish on the moon.

The artist also noticed Norny, and how she was bothered by something. He needed to find out what. As Norny looks straight ahead, the artist looks at her and says, "Something inside you hurts. I can see it, and I can feel it. I donít mean to intrude into something personal, but you know, sometimes its better to confide in someone and let it out before we can truly understand and deal with it ourselves."

She didnít say anything, she didnít even move. just sat there as a light breeze blew a few strands of hair across her face.

"Is it a man, did someone you have feelings for hurt you?" He suggests.
"No... its Poco." She says.
"Whoís Poco?" He asks.
"Poco was my horse."
"Did something happen to him?"
She remains silent.
"Please Norny, tell me about Poco."

So after a moment she hesitantly begins to tell him about her beloved horse Poco, and the tragic end that remains fresh in her memory. The artist was spellbound by her words, as she tells of her history with Poco and the story of what happened. Listening to the tale of Norny and Poco wrenched his guts. And when she got to the part where she had to pull the trigger on the best friend she had in the world, he notice the droplets of tears falling from her bowed head.

It was all he could do to keep from crying himself.

Sitting along side her, he couldnít help himself and turned and put his arms around her holding her tight, "You did the right thing. I know it might not seem like it right now, but you had no choice."

"You gave your friend a life. A better life then any horse would normally have. You gave Poco your heart and soul. Thereís many things in your life time that you may walk away from. But you never walked away from your horse."

Then in her mind she remembered the time she almost set him free, but couldnít, "If only we hadnít have gone out to the meadow, or maybe not gone to Mountain Valley at all. He would still be with me." She says.

"No Norny. There is a reason you traveled to the Valley. You may not see why, but I assure you that it served a purpose in some way. That is where Poco was meant to end his journey. It was to happen in that valley on that mountain. If you think of all the ways your Poco could have died suddenly, this was the best way for it to happen."

"With his friend there by his side to love him and comfort him in his final moments. You were the last thing he saw as he went. The last voice he heard. The soothing sound of his trusted friend. And you know, that horse felt your love right through the end. Iím sure he has no regrets. And he knows that he was not just a horse, he was special, because God gave him you to care for and share his life."

With that Norny throws her arms around the artist and hugs him back for his words.

"Never be sorry Norny for doing the right thing." He says.

She thought about all this, but somehow hearing him say it made it true.

As time went on she felt better for telling him. It made her feel a special closeness with the artist that otherwise might never have happened. And she knew this mans caring about her welfare was genuine. And a bond was forming between them.

 

The next morning brought a fresh canvas for the two of them to fill in with colors of their day.

They took their usual morning walk, when out of the corner on her eye she sees a spout of water shoot straight up in the air. She turned to look just in time to see the last half and tail of a large sperm whale break the surface and submerge.

"WOW!!!" She exclaims like a child of surprise, "WHAT IS THAT??"

"Thatís a whale. Remember I told you there were fish big enough to swallow a horse and rider."

"Yes, but I never thought I would see one!" Her amazement of the ocean was never ending.

And everything Norny did in reaction to her surroundings was of special interest to the artist.

 

They decided to break camp and move on up the coast. The artist knew they were headed north towards San Francisco but Norny didnít. While traveling along the coast Norny saw many more wondrous and beautiful sights. One of which was the peculiar way that trees were growing sideways because of the effect of the wind. They had traveled a few hundred yards inland to keep the slight ocean chill to a minimum. They set up camp. After they did, the artist took out his pencil and book and started sketching her.

His imagination envisioned her in so many settings, and took what ever opportunity he could to sketch her likeness. The sketches were practice exercise to know and understand the character of her rugged charm. He needed to familiarize himself with her face in order to paint her when she wouldnít be there for him to pose. And he did. He came to know her face better then she did.

All the little facial eccentricities she was capable of. The subtle gestures and explosive expressions. The lines, long and short. The shadows and contours that harmonized together to compose the sonata of her beautiful smile. He knew them all, and he loved them all. Individually they were just lines and curves, but together they were a complicated orchestration of magical fantasy. She was a living masterpiece. And he only hoped that he was worthy of the task of interpreting her reflection.

But the problem with knowing her face so well, is that it makes him feel closer to her then he actually is. However, the artist was aware of that fact from previous subjects of the past. But it didnít stop the feelings of familiarity that stayed with him. The more the artist drew her the warmer his feelings for her. That was the by-product of his profession Right now her body form and actions werenít as important as capturing Nornyís remarkable face.

Thatís where he needed to focus his efforts.

Until now, Norny had no idea that he had been drawing her.

"What is it youíre doing there?" Questioning his sketch book and arm movements with a pencil.
"Iím sketching a picture."
"A picture of what?" She asks.

So the artist turns it around so she can see his drawing.

"Itís me!"
"Thatís right."
"Why are you drawing me, when there are so many other things worthy of you talent?"
"Because your here now, and youíre where my imagination wants to go."
"Me?"
"Oh come now, no one has ever told you how beautiful you are?"
"Yeah, Daniel compared me to a flower on the wind?" She questioned.

The artist lays down his pad then leans over and picks a long length of sysle weed. He holds it up in front of him and looks at it closely. "Let me see... I would compare thee Norny to .."

she interrupts, "I know, you would compare me, Norny, to an artichoke!"

Immediately they both broke into laughter.

"I know it does sound ridicules now, but it made sense then." He says, "Yes. Danielís analogy of you is more accurate. But not just any flower. Youíre not so fragile and delicate as most women seem to be. No Norny, you are one special woman, ready for anything life throws at you. You are an adventurous. But there is wondrous beauty in the likes of you. A rugged yet delicate beauty."

"Like a flower on the wind?" She asks.

He looks at her with a smile and says, "Very much so." Then he gets serious with his words, "You are the kind of flower that gives the sun a reason to rise up each morning. You are the kind of flower, that appears rich in color when surrounded by the warmth of the day. In fact, I would compare thee Norny to a rose. Yes thatís it, a rose."

He sounded almost like he was quoting phrases of Shakespeare.

But she just sits and listens to his words, "Have you ever seen a rose Norny?"
"No." She says.
"Its really quite a remarkable plant. Of all the flowers in the world it possess the most strength and character. It is the most valued by botanists."
"Whatís that?"
"Botanists? Those who care for plants."

"A rose requires special attention in order for it to blossom to its fullest potential.. It needs just the right amount of watering, just enough sunlight and fertile soil for it to take root and grow. Then once it does its a hearty plant that can survive and recover from almost anything. But it is one of the most desired flowers of all. But donít be in such a hurry to pluck it."

"For the stems are long and fibrous like wood, that possess a warning to all that would touch it. It is ladened with sharp prickly thorns. One must regard this plant with care and respect. If you are pricked by one of the thorns it can infect and be a painful wound. "

"The nature of this plant requires respect or you may suffer the consequence. But if you heed the danger and handle it right, you will be rewarded to a flower unlike any other. A beautiful blossom of brilliant colors and peddles spiraling from the center out revealing to its admirers its subtle yet unexpected pleasures. "

Norny sat there silently as he paraded the words of her through her imagination.

"Soft silken peddles so smooth that it holds a single drop of water in place like a sparkling diamond. And if the beauty of this flower hasnít heightened your senses by the mere site of it, then the intoxicating fragrance of its perfume will surely enchant you. Yes indeed, Norny, thatís the kind of flower I see you as. A single, beautiful thorn covered, long stemmed rose."

She pauses for a moment taking in all he had to say and trying to understand it. Then she says, "You know, you have a way of words. You put them in such a way as to make them appear as pictures in my thoughts. This must be another form of your art. And you see so much more than most. To others a flower is a plant, but to you it is much more. You seem to have a sensitivity for feeling and understanding the simple things. To you there is much meaning in all things of life. In this way you and I are alike. I see the beauty in all life as you, but I donít have the words. Something from within me wants to speak my thoughts and my feelings to others, but I donít know how to say it."

"But you could learn. And I can help you. They are only words, no less, no more. You have all the thoughts and feelings contained in your heart, but you canít set them free without words for them to fly on."

"Yes, thatís what I mean, the way you put it. See how you painted such a simple picture in my mind to help me understand." She says, "It is a gift with you. Some people are able to speak their minds better then others."

"Let me teach you some words you will need to get by in the world. You have to understand the importance of words. All you have to do is learn the meanings of some words, and how to put the right words in the right order and you can do anything. "

"Words can be molded or shaped to represent anything you want. They are powerful when written or spoken in the correct way. Your life can be simple or difficult by the mere choice of your words. You can move mountains with words. Use the right words in the proper order and you can fill someoneís heart with love and joy. Or choose your words from hate or anger and you can hurt them just as easily."

"All in the alignment of the carefully chosen word you can change the course of events. You can change the lives of others by planting the words of thoughts in their heads. You can make yourself victorious or bring about your own defeat. Its all within your power. Words can paint a picture or put a song in your heart. Words are all powerful, but they are only reflections of sound. They are mighty, they are merciful, they are words." He stops.

"Where I am from, we have a name for those who have a gift with words. For those who can dance words as pictures through our thoughts, we call them word weavers. But I see now you are a man of many gifts, and not of just one or I would call you my Word Weaver Friend."

"Word weaver huh? I like the sound of that. It has a good feel to it, but I especially like the friend part. I consider it a real honor for you to call me your friend."

She smiles back at him for what he said.

"You know Norny, you have a very special smile. I wonder how could something so special as that stay so well hidden?" He says, "I can see that a little change in the alignment of the contours and shadows of your face, and with your eyes and mouth expressions your face bursts forth with life, enough to set a man's chest on fire."

"I donít understand what you mean?" She says.

"Your smile Norny. Iíve never seen such a wonderful smile in my life."

She was intrigued by what he was saying. Though he was sincere about her smile, Norny had yet to really discover her feminine identity. Besides, they were words she wanted to hear and needed to hear. Not necessarily from the artist or any one man in particular, but to know that men could see her that way. She was still Norny the rugged, tough, self reliant woman she was raised to be, but the reinforcement he gave her as a woman was needed. So the view of herself from a prospective of being beautiful was always a curiosity to her.

"I doubt I could paint your smile with words, but I would sure like to try it with a brush. I donít think anyone would believe the excitement I see in your face otherwise."

Norny smiled again out of self consciousness.

The continual irritation of sand getting into everything including themselves was wearing them down. And eventually anyone gets tired of eating fish and smelling the salt air. So it was time to move on. There were many things to see and experience in the big city, and he wanted to be the one to introduce her to them first hand. So when they broke camp this time, they were 'Frisco bound.

 

In the city there were many foods to sample, including lobster, the fearful looking nasty creature she saw for the first time at the Crystal Ball in Carson City, and there was dancing, though the artist was surprised to see that she knew something about that. Even though Nornyís way of life was quite different then the more refined life styles that city dwellers lived. She needed to know what it was all about. It was part of her education. And it was a pleasure for the artist to teach her.

Another matter that required immediate attention, was to get Norny some new clothes. Hers were showing the wear of mileage. Nothing fancy, just something similar to what she already has.

Being in a real city for the first time, Norny had never seen so many people concentrated in one place in her life.

One morning Norny and the artist were strolling through the farmers market looking at all the different kinds of produce available, when she spotted this little girl with something peculiar.

"Hi! Whatís that you have there?" She asks.
"Its a banana. Donít you know what a banana is?" The child replies.
"No I donít."
"Here you can try mine." The little girl says as she hands it up to her.
So Norny takes it from her, is taught how to peel it, and takes a bite of it, "MMM!ÖÖ..Its creamy! I like it!" She says.
"Yeah. Me too. But my father says if you eat too many bananas, youíll be folding your top lip up over your nose like a monkey."
Norny didnít get the humor in that and asks, "Whatís a Monkey?"
"Gosh! Donít you know anything?" The little girl says.
"They have monkeys at the zoo. Havenít you been there?" Just then the little girl's mother calls her, "Thatís my mom. I have to go. Bye." She says.
"Bye!" Norny replies.

A moment or so later, the artist comes back over to her, "Whatís a zoo?" Norny asks.

"The zoo? What brought that up. Never mind. Iíll tell you what, after lunch, weíll go."

And so they did. And what a surprise that was. To see a giraffe and an elephant and even a monkey for the very first time. But not just to see them, she didnít even know they existed. She really got a laugh at the sight of a zebra. The zoo was a land of strange fantasy creatures and spectacular surprises. Her head was reeling from the whole coastal experience. And in her sub conscious she was growing fonder of the man who guided her through this wonderland of oz.

Their time together was filled with frolic and laughter at every turn. But it wasnít until days later when they reached the town of Bloomfield that the artist got the biggest surprise of all. At the rodeo.

When Norny excused herself, the next sight of her the artist had was when she blew out of the chute, and won the bull riding event hands down. Up until that moment, he had no idea that she could ride bulls. And she wasnít just average at it, she was a real rodeo contender. And the eye makeup over her left eye only added to the visual impact of his recent new discovery of this remarkable lady. She was something from a dream.

When the artist heard the roar of the crowd, and saw how the audience went crazy for her he was impressed like never before. Here she was like a different woman all over again. And right then a shiver went up his spine, and he knew he had discovered and befriended a legend.

To this point the artist tried to keep enough distance between them to save his heart from getting in too deep. But now he realized that he had always known and loved her as long as he had lived, even before she rode into his life. And he would always love her as long as he drew a breath. She was what every man secretly dreams of, or wishes for. And she was right there with him as his friend.

Long before Norny, he had imagined, what if he could draw and bring to life the perfect woman. A woman that would represent all the qualities of femininity he wanted in a female companion. But it was always just a thought. A whimsical fantasy of his own. He knew it was impossible, and he never believed that any female alive could ever fit his image. He was a man of the world, who had been almost everywhere, and he had met a lot of women. Never did he think there existed an angel more perfect then the one he would create out of his own imagination... until Norny came along.

But one day, into his life she rode. She had everything and more. She was independent and self reliant. She was secure with her own unique identity. She was confident and strong and capable and intelligent and had a charismatic charm and beauty in a rugged sort of way. She was compassionate and gentle, and she had a smile that could melt any mans heart, or raise his temperature up ten degree with the sultry tone of her voice

And were he still a sailor, he would have admitted that without a doubt, that she was the woman that 'shivered his timber'. He was falling for her in a big way, and for him this could be disastrous. He had been around enough to know that its the person that you would be willing to sell your soul for that you can never have. He also knew that only a fool would chase after a woman that didnít share his feelings. And all the wishing on the moon in the world would never change that. Besides, no one could clip the wings, or tie a string to a woman like Norny. The best he could hope for was to admire and share what little time she offered him.

He knew their time together was drawing short, and he wanted to give her something when they parted. Something that identified him. Of course he was an artist, so he had to draw something. He sits down with his book, and sketches her a cartoon. Something that would give her good laugh every time she would see it. It was a picture of Norny carrying her saddle and blanket, flowering from the center of an artichoke. But then he thought that wasnít enough, and he needed to express his feelings towards her, and the importance she played in his life in another way. So he started to write what he thought was a poem at the bottom of the picture.

Thorny Norny I paint with soul,

Your eyes of silver blue.

I paint each brush stroke with my heart,

As I create my image of you.

I follow the journey ofÖÖÖÖÖÖ.Oh hell with it!

This isnít poetry. This was just him growning from an infected heart. It doesn't tell her what he means to say, what he would like to say, so why say anything at all? This is a waste of time, he says as he scribbles it out. Its merely a reflection of my own sentiment, he thinks to himself. Nothing came come of this, and I'll be gone soon anyway.

But then it came to mind that he was the artist. The visual interpreter of dreams. The creator of words and meaning. It was never meant for him to share his lifetime with one woman of his own. A female companion to share his all with. He could share only small parts of his life, and he had to except this as his fate. He then realized that she was there for him now as his motivating image for his work, and possibly the crowning glory of his career.

Knowing this he tore up the drawing and threw it away.

 

The night after the rodeo in Bloomfield, the artist had to face the hard truth, and tells Norny that it was time they went their separate ways, and heíll be leaving in the morning. She had no idea of how difficult it was for him to force those words out. It was the most painful moment he could remember ever. But the artist knew that if he didnít make himself go now, he might not be able to later. Norny was a little surprised, but she knew it wouldnít go on forever.

With the end in sight, Norny felt the first sign of her growing attachment to the artist. It was more painful than she thought it would be. And though she knew it would conclude, it would always be too soon.

There was no doubt their time together was a mutually beneficial exchange for the both of them. The artist was a knowledgeable man, and he taught Norny many things about the civilized world that would help her. She on the other hand filled his life with purpose, and gave him all the inspiration and motivation necessary to become the artist he was meant to be.

She filled a large void in his life with inspiration and warmth of friendship. She gave him the significance he needed. And he helped her laugh and smile again as she went through a troubled time.

But the actual value of their friendship was something they took for granted. The warmth the artist offered Norny, wasnít totally realized until the end. And the sum total of his companionship snuck up on her when she wasnít looking in the form of emotion. How could all the laughter and joyful feelings end in sadness, why canít it end the way it lived, she thought.

Still, she didnít know the extent of the artists feelings for her, and she had confusions of her own to deal with. Her feelings for Daniel were strong, but she felt something for the artist that she knew existed, but didnít want to recognize. She knew she was going to miss him when he left, and she wished she knew what to say. But she had fear inside her. Of what she didnít know. But something stirred in her at the thought of his departure. Possibly she feared she would start something she couldnít stop? And if she told him she felt something, then she would feel she was betraying Danielís memory.

Her stomach was in a knot at the dilemma. Another thing she feared was showing of emotion at the point of their departure. So to remedy that, she decided to put her eye color on for the event. It may help to distract and to hide some of the sadness in her face, and if her eyes started to water, she could blame it on the make up.

Oddly though, emotions were something that were natural to her, and she wouldnít ordinarily try to hide them. But their time had been a joyous one. She didnít want to spoil it with tears for some reason. She couldnít allow herself to show her emotions to the artist.

 

The next and final day together, had arrived.

They met out behind the corral just after sun up.

When they looked at each other, they felt that they were looking at an old friend that they had known all their lives. But the two of them knew their time had been spent.

Norny and the artist faced off to say their respective good-byes. It was a sad moment when something you have gained must now be lost.

"Only a woman like you could paint her face up like that and get away with it. And ya know, it fits you. It wouldnít on any other woman. But on you, its as natural as you are. Thank you for wearing it for me." The artist knew it was another of the many unique things about her that made her so different and so special, and he knew why she wore it. It was good for him to know that she felt she needed it. She stood there in sadness while her tears were gathering just behind the red glaze of her eyes, poised and waiting to roll should the moment come. But she would fight them back.

"I donít know what to say. For someone you would call word weaver, I seem to be at a loss for words. Except that I feel that Iíve known you forever. Its hard to let you go. Iím sure I donít need to tell you that Iím gonna miss the hell out of you" He says.

"I know how you feel. I will always think fondly of our time together. And you have given me so much to remember you by. Where will you go from here?" She asks.

"I have a place in the mountains where I go when I want to attempt the impossible and sculpt the shape of the wind. Iím going to head there for a while. I need to be by myself and reflect on my life and you my sweet friend. I need to think about you." He answers.

She tells him, "You know there is always the chance we will meet again one day. And if we donít. Then we can always wish on the moon."

He smiled at her suggestion, "You know Norny, I believe our meeting wasnít just chance, it was destined to happen. We were like two rogue objects traveling in perfect alignment towards each other, from the opposite ends of the world. The effects of which are not known to us yet, but weíre a part of something still to come. " He told her.

"You may be right, who can tell. But if that is true, then you know it is not by chance that we must part company." She says

"Sadly your right." He replies.

He holds his arms open towards her, so she steps forward into his arms as he closes them around her. "Youíve filled my heart with so much. I donít want to ever turn you loose. "

For at least a minute they held on to each other tightly. They were embracing the warmth of each others character, and the unity of their friendship. And he knew this would be the last time he would feel her in his arms. Then he loosens his squeeze and kisses her forehead. And the quiver of her nostrils and the glassy red in her eyes showed her reluctance to let go. She felt security and comfort and an absence of loneliness in his presence. And they arrived into each others lives at the right time, when they both needed a reason to laugh and to smile. And they found it within each other. So theyíre encounter had effected and touched each others lives in a permanent way. Their friendship was one of magnanimous purpose.

Slowly he takes his arms away from her, then turns and steps into the stirrup and saddles himself atop his horse. Sitting up there in the saddle he already felt the great distance forthcoming between them. The artist reaches into his saddle bag and takes out his sketch book. He opens it and carefully tears out the drawing of Daniel and his daughter, "Here, why donít you take this." as he hands it to her.

"Thank youÖÖ.Iíve always called you 'artist', but I never knew your real name." She says.

"At this point in time,...it no longer matters... I guess this concludes the chapter of our lives, that we spend together. Oh, but what a chapter it was sweet lady. You gave my heart the ride of its life. Thank you for your time, and your friendship. And for the many things you gave me that I canít explain. But thank you most for the memory that I will carry with me always." He says.

"And I wonít forget you, I promise." She answers.

 

The artist turns his horse and rides off at a trot over the hill. In his mind he had let her go, but his heart was screaming his regrets to him as he left her behind.

And Norny wasnít getting away clean either. She felt something for the artist, something comfortable and familiar that seemed to remove the loneliness she had been feeling. And momentarily he had brought the laughter back to her face. It seemed that everything associated with the artist left her feeling good inside.

And he had touched her with words, in the place where her soul connects her spirit to her heart.

He was a good friend and her teacher. There was no question she would miss him.

She felt a slight tug at her heart, as one tear sneaks past and trickles down her face while she watches him go. Then a moment later as Norny walks away she heard from behind her the sound of hooves rapidly colliding with the ground. She turns to see the artist standing in the stirrups and partially turned towards her saying one last good-bye as he rides across the horizon with a big smile on his face.

She noticed how well he had learned to ride his horse, and felt pleased with herself for teaching him. Her face beamed with joy at the sight of him.

Then the look on the artist face turned sad as he puts both hands on his heart, one on top of the other, then slowly lowers his hands to extend from his sides. Like the hands on a clock at four and eight.

She interprets his symbolic gestures. I give my creations to the world, ...but my heart will always belong to you...

Though she is touched by his sentiment for her, they both knew it was not in their destiny, and she says as she watches him ride away, "Go and sculpt the wind, artist."

Her face showed him her response, while her smiling eyes kissed him good-bye and blessed his memory, as he disappeared over the rise and out of her life. She knew that keeping in touch with each other was next to impossible, sense they were both dream seekers following different dreams.

The two of them believed there was a chance that someday they might again cross paths. But they never saw each other again. They even wished on the moon, but it never came true.

And Norny never saw the many paintings and sculptures the artist rendered of her. She didnít need to. She could see in his eyes the portrait of her he had in his heart.

But little did she know that she would someday become the legacy of a momentous time in the artistís existence, and the main focus of his lifeís masterworks that would be seen and admired the world over through time.

A century, later in a time yet to come and a faster pace civilization. When the once proud Indian had now become the gaming masters and the hosts of bingo parlors on their small reservations. An almost pathetic reminder for the legacy of the once fearless warriors. There hangs on the wall amongst a collection of prized artworks and rare pieces, a painting of a solitary figure.

She carries a saddle on one arm and a blanket from the other. Sheís a representation of a time in the west when people had values of substance rooted in religious beliefs. Yet a turbulent time when much change was happening fast and innocents where being trampled on in the wake of a great white stampede.

Making her way across a desolate prairie alone, there is a noticeable absence of human life. Sheís a woman of the west who journeys to, and comes from no one knows. But many questions come to mind as you view the painting.

Was she real or just the product of the artists imagination? Who could have inspired the work of this obvious masterpiece? And why the earring necklace that she wears?

Viewed by many, she has always been a mysterious female form.

The title alone adds another dimension to the oddity. The painting is simply called ĎThorny Norny í. A title that sounds almost absurd or ridicules to anyone who hears it. What does it mean?

What did the artist have in mind as he depicts the scene and places her there alone and far from the civilized world?

There must be much more than meets the eye for the viewer of this plane and simple woman. And as the viewer stands and looks at the figure in the picture and ponders the mystery of her, the painting gives up none of its secretes and delivers only the obvious. But when they look closely into the face, there is a story within the eyes of this earthen woman. Her captivating depth of sparkling beauty is a port hole to the past, and the gateway to a journey through history.

The artist, just as the Indians believed, the eyes are the windows to the soul.

And it becomes obvious, sense her eyes reveal something that transcends time and seems to cut to the heart of anyone who would look upon her. The secrets of her past and her identity lay hidden beneath the silver blue of her eyes. The artist who by this time has long since ceased to exist, took with him all the answers to the many questions. But most believe that she must have had special meaning for him as he so carefully laid down each precise brush stroke of color to create her image. Just looking at her, one can feel the presence of emotion in the strong bond between the artist and the subject of his work.

The present owners of this painting saw this. And just as the artist created, they saw deeply into the simple scene of the painting and realize there is a subtle intricacy masked in the picture. Each time they stand in front of her, and look into her eyes, a new chapter of possibilities is revealed. And with each chapter they see this mysterious woman in a different light, just like all others before them, they see her again and again for the first time... every time.

Whether or not the woman in this painting ever existed, one can only guess. But her appearance in the painting proves her existence in one form or another. She was once either a reality or the figment of imagination. But either way her blue eyes reach out, and speak to the soul of those who look into them. So in that respect, for as long as the paintings of her exist, there will always be... Thorny Norny.

 

After Norny and the artist went their separate ways, he retreated to his studio hideaway somewhere in the mountains. A place where he could do his work without interruption. He spent the next couple of years working from his sketches of her. Once he had completed his series of work, he seemed to stop painting and sculpting, those thing that he loved the most.

Norny wondered what ever became of the artist. In the days left to come, she often took the sentimental journey down the path of distant yesterdays. Faint images emerged, sometimes out of nowhere of the moments they spent together in laughter. She never knew his given name, so she had no way to inquire of his whereabouts. But she thought about him often. Every time she heard the sounds of the ocean, or smelled the salty air. Or when ever she would see an artichoke, it would bring a smile. And then of course, every time she would make a wish on the moon.

The artist had changed after the time he spent with Norny. People that knew him said that he was a different man somehow. But he was always the same artist to those who knew him best. And though the artist had always been an unknown in the world of art connoisseur and collectors, to other artists who knew him and admired his level of skills, he was as large as life.

There were stories from time to time from far away places claiming they knew of the artistís whereabouts. Though they all agree that he never painted again. Believing that he could never out do what he had already done, his desire to create had been fulfilled.

When he had completed the series, in his own words, he had sculpted the wind.

In the later years when man had developed the ability to fly like the birds. The artist had finally realized his dream. And at long last he was able to climb high above, and soar where only eagles dared. And when he was on top of the clouds, deep into the blue of yonder, he felt so close to God that he heard the flutter of angels wings. As they whispered the chorus of his cowgirls' name.

It was during the cycle of a full August moon, when his wings of gossamer that carried him to look into the face of his life long moon wish, betrayed him, and dropped him to his death in the frozen white tundra of Alaska.

But, no one actually knows if it were the artist for sure. Except for one small clue found after his departure. Left behind on a napkin in a little café, he had sketched a remarkable resemblance to a saddle carrying cowgirl he was so fond of.

In the light of his possible demise, his friends say that he had lived his whole life perched on the edge of a feather, waiting for the wind that would carry him aloft.

But there is one thing that those closest to him know for sure. Wherever on this earth the soul and the spirit of the artist finally separated from his mortality, he did not leave alone. For the vision of Nornyís smiling eyes surely drifted with him into eternity.

And if you could ask the artist if his life had served him well, ...he would have remarked that it was full and complete.

For in his lifetime, he had met his perfect angel,

He had sculpted the wind.

And he had wished on the moon,...and it came true.

 


chapter

16

the knot
in the yarn

(click on Norny's face to see sketch detail)