They paired on the work of preparing the meals, Carolyn June and Skinny and Ophelia and Old Heck taking shift and shift about in the kitchen. In this way the work was made a joke, with friendly rivalry between the couples in the preparation of tasty dishes.
Old Heck and Skinny surprised the women with their knowledge of cooking. Nor was there the least embarrassment on the part of either when, with one of Sing Pete’s aprons tied about his waist, he worked at the range or kitchen table. As a matter of course every cow-man must know something of how to cook a meal and, also, naturally and as a matter of course, Old Heck and Skinny, without the slightest thought that it was “womanish” or beneath the “dignity” of men, peeled potatoes, fried meat, washed dishes or did whatever there was to do.
Indeed each was proud of his skill.
Ophelia herself was clever, particularly at making biscuits and dainty salads.
Carolyn June’s sole accomplishment in the art of preparing food was the making of coffee-jelly. This she had learned at college—taught, perhaps, by the other girls during stolen midnight frolics. Probably this, also, was the reason she usually made it the last thing at night before Skinny and Old Heck left to go to the bunk-house. Coffee-jelly was the regular, inevitable, evening meal dessert for the entire week.
“It ain’t so very filling,” Skinny remarked the first time he tasted the delicate dish, “but it’s tender and has a dandy flavor!”
Carolyn June blushed at the compliment.
“It is pretty good,” Old Heck agreed, “but these biscuits Ophelia made are just what was needed to set it off!”
The widow smilingly showed her pleasure.
Twice during the week Skinny rode “line” on the big pasture to look after the Diamond Bar steers. Carolyn June accompanied him. Each time she rode Browny, the old cow-horse. On these days Old Heck and Ophelia, in the Clagstone “Six,” drove to Eagle Butte. The second trip to town Ophelia asked to be left at the minister’s house. Old Heck was to call in an hour and get her. During the hour he slipped into the dentist’s and had his teeth cleaned. When the tobacco-blackened tartar was scraped away they were surprisingly white and even. He stopped at the drug store and bought a tooth-brush and a tube of paste.
Ophelia noticed the wonderful improvement in his appearance, guessed the reason, and the thought sent a warm thrill through her body.
“Like a big boy,” she laughed to herself, “when he begins to wash his neck and ears!”
“It ain’t healthy to have your teeth so dirty,” Old Heck explained, coloring and in an apologizing manner, when Skinny discovered him, after supper that evening, carefully scrubbing his molars.
Skinny watched the performance, saw the result, and murmured:
“Guess I’ll get me one of them layouts!”
On Friday the quartette went to Eagle Butte, Old Heck driving, with Ophelia beside him, and Carolyn June and Skinny in the rear seat of the Clagstone “Six.”