* * * * *
Addison Carter had never been so humiliated or downright mad in her entire life. Her father and brother had said she’d never be accepted as a female doctor and she’d proved them wrong. At least for three days, she had. Now she had to get back on that train and retrace her journey from
to eastern Healdton, Oklahoma . Eat crow and
wash it down with pride. If she could find a hole she’d gladly crawl in it and
“No, they won’t win,” she muttered under her breath and drew her light weight coat closer against the bitter cold northern wind whistling down Main Street, kicking up red dust devils along he way. “They won’t take my pride,” she declared a little louder.
Besides, embarrassment couldn’t even come in second in the race with pure old mad. She could have chewed up Magnolia Oil executives and spit pieces of their sneers from
to the Oklahoma Pacific Ocean. She’d survive and no one would
ever know she’d been fired before she ever opened her doctor’s kit. She
wouldn’t let her family or anyone in
know she’d been sent packing just because she was a woman. She’d enlist in the
service as a nurse and go overseas first. She’d heard tell they took women for
that job. She eyed the new black leather satchel at her feet, a present from
her brother when Magnolia Oil Company sent her the contract and the letter. No,
they didn’t need to meet Addison Carter. They’d seen the school records, read
the many letters of recommendation from the professors. They’d hire her without
an interview. After all, women were named Sue or Edna. Not Arkansas Addison.
That was reserved in the holy courts of heaven for the male gender.
Euphoria lasted until she arrived at the Magnolia Oil Company office where the driver ushered her in with a big grin on his face. When the officers of the company looked up from behind a massive mahogany desk, their faces registered nothing less than pure shock. Addison Carter was a woman. Great God, they couldn’t have hired a woman.
was a man’s name. What was she doing with a man’s name? When the sputtering
stopped, the driver said he’d take her back to
to catch the next east bound train. They put their heads together and decided
that they’d put her up in the Hotel Ardmore for one night. One of the men was
going back there after
that evening. Surely she could entertain herself in Healdton for three hours.
According to them, it was senseless to make an extra trip to Ardmore
just to return her. Ardmore
“Might bankrupt the whole damn company,” she muttered, shoving a strand of kinky, curly red hair out of her face. The driver had put two trunks and her bags beside a bench in front of the Drug Store according to the swinging sign right above her head. She’d plopped down on the bench, determined that she’d seen all of
she ever wanted to see. What had
seemed like paradise in the letters now looked like only a dusty, dirty little
cotton town that had been stung by the oil boom bug. Healdton,
The bitter north wind picked up speed and dust blew into her face. Few people were out and
sure didn’t blame them. She shoved her hands down into her coat pockets and
wished for gloves but they were packed down inside the trunk and she wasn’t
about to dig into her personal things right there in public.
“Cold, ain’t it?” A lovely lady with dark hair and the clearest blue eyes
ever seen sat down beside her on the bench. “You comin’ or goin’?”
“Thought I was comin’ until I got here but now I guess I’m goin’,”
“I’m Tilly Sloan. Where you coming from?”
“’Bout as far west in
as you can go. With a good throwing arm,
a body could pitch a rock across the Arkansas Mississippi River
into . Thought I had a
job but found out real quick some men can’t abide a woman doctor.” Tennessee
“You got that right. Want to come inside for a cup of hot chocolate or coffee?” Tilly nodded toward the door leading into the drug store.
“I’m Addison Carter. I’ve got three hours before my ride takes me back to
Might as well,” Ardmore Addison picked up her doctor’s bag and
carried it with her.
“That looks like …” Tilly opened the door.
“A doctor’s bag? That’s exactly what it is. Magnolia Oil hired me. I really am a doctor.”
Tilly’s eyes widened until they were as big and round as the moon. “Magnolia hired a woman?”
“No, they hired a man. They got a woman and fired her before she had time to sneeze. Hired me without an interview on the basis of my recommendations and good grades. I’m right out of medical school. Turned out they thought
Addison was a
Tilly laughter was loud enough to make the druggist peer over the tall counter at the back of the store. “That’s a hoot. So you’re a doctor and they don’t want you. Where you going now?”
“They offered to buy me a ticket back to
where I’m from,
but I can’t go back.” Arkansas
“Get ya’ll a cup of coffee?” Cornelia, the lady behind the fountain, asked.
“I’d like hot chocolate. Doc?” Tilly raised a dark eyebrow.
“Same. And thanks for using that title,”
“You are very welcome. Why can’t you go back?”
“Because my father and brother said I was wasting my time getting a medical degree. They said even though women can go to college now and get the training, I’d never find a job. When Magnolia hired me, I made them eat crow. There were going away parties. A huge story on the front page of the newspaper about women finally breaking into a man’s field. I was a celebrity. Addison Carter was about to make her mark in the world. A woman doctor working for a big oil company in
If I went back, I’d be the laughing stock of the whole state.” Oklahoma
Cornelia brought two steaming cups of hot chocolate. “How’s Ford adjusting to the farm?” She asked Tilly.
“Right well. I swear he was born to be a farmer and just using the sheriff’s badge to support himself until he found the right farm.”
“Or the right woman,” Cornelia smiled.
“I’ve only been married a couple of weeks. The sheriff was on his way out of town when I figured out I was in love with him and proposed,” Tilly explained.
“Congratulations. You proposed?,”
Addison sipped the chocolate. It did taste good. She
hadn’t eaten since early morning. Too nervous for the lunch served on the train.
Too angry to eat after the men had dismissed her like something they’d tracked
in on their boots from the hog lot.
“Woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do. It was either propose and be happy, or let him go and be miserable. I don’t like misery,” Tilly said. “Besides he’s a natural born farmer. Just like I am.”
“You don’t look like a farmer. I’d have classified you as anything but a farmer. Maybe a model for one of those
magazines.” New York
“Keep talking, Doc, and I’ll hire you myself.”
could reply the front door literally flew open and another woman ran inside.
She was as stunning as Tilly and her eyes were frantic.
“Tilly,” she said breathlessly, “come quick. Tucker’s been hurt. Briar went over there and found him on the ground. He’s fallen off the barn roof. Looks like a leg’s broken and who knows what else. We’ve got to go to“No we don’t have to go to
and bring a doctor. Ford and Briar have him up in his bedroom but he’s not
started to protest.
“But nothing. You a doctor or not? Tucker may be dying. I need help and I don’t have time to drive twenty three miles to get it if you can fix him,” Clara’s blue eyes flashed.
“I’ll go but I might miss my ride,”
Addison thought out loud.
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go if you’ll just come on with me and take care of Tucker,” Tilly was already at the door and beginning to pick up luggage while she talked.
“Who’s Tucker?” Addison asked as Tilly drove like a bat set loose from the bowels of hell, cold dust boiling up behind her car, knuckles white as she gripped the steering wheel, eyes scared half out of her mind.
“He and the lady in the car ahead of me, Clara, are my cousins. But we were all born within months of each other and we’re more like siblings. Tucker owns the farm right next to Clara’s and not far from mine. And he’s going to hate you, so get ready for it.”
“Why? What did I do?”
“You know how stubborn those men were at Magnolia Oil about having a woman doctor? Well, multiply that times ten and you’ve got Tucker Anderson.”
breath rushed out in a gush.
“Yep,” Tilly nodded and set her foot down even heavier on the gas pedal.