Origins: Blackjack Jenny
The boys are on their way to Touchstone where they don't know it yet but they would run into an old friend, Blackjack Jenny. She and the boys go way back to shortly after they broke out of the Valparaiso School for Wayward Boys, which is where our story begins.
Heyes and Kid are in Sister Mary's office once again. She is pacing the floor as she always does when these two have been sent to her office. "Boys, what do you think I should do with the two of you? You can't continue to terrorize Miss Purdy! I've told you time and time and time again that she doesn't like frogs and yet you feel it necessary to bring her one every single day to class! To start with, you will each write "I will not bring Miss Purdy frogs ever again" 500 times each."
The boys begin to squirm, sit straight up on their chairs, and start to speak up just as Sister Mary stops them with nothing more than a look and continues with their punishment.
"In addition, you will also do all kitchen and bathroom chores daily for the next month! Including Saturday and Sunday!"
Heyes blurts out "Ah Sister Mary, that's not fair! We were just havin' some fun!" Kid shaking his head in agreement to everything his cousin is saying.
"There is no more discussion needed.... off with you both, back to class or we'll see what else we can add to your punishment!" They both flew out the doors of her office still fuming from the unfair punishment handed down for their "crime" of having fun.
That night, Kid went over to Heyes. "Heyes, I can't write another sentence! My fingers are about to fall off!" "I know Kid, mine too! Kid, I been thinkin' while doin' all this writing....let's leave."
"What?!" Kid asked confusingly.
"Let's leave. We can get along on our own now. I know we can! I'm 15 almost 16 and you'll be 15 soon. We don't need to be writin' sentences! We're men, we need to be doin' men things!" Heyes exclaimed with a wrinkled brow.
"You think we can Heyes? If you do, then let's do it. Let's leave."
They packed their few measly possessions in a pillow case and they left in the wee hours of the morning. Heyes and Kid both left a note thanking Sister Mary and Miss Purdy for their guidance and patience but they felt it was time that they went their separate ways. They also apologized to them both for all the "frog" transgressions and asked for their forgiveness. At the end of each of their notes, they wrote "I will not bring Miss Purdy frogs ever again!"
They had been out on their own now for about two weeks. They found it was a lot harder than they thought it would be on their own. They hadn't thought about how cold it was going to get shortly after they had made their great escape. They were thinking about the nice, warm beds they left behind and were actually considering returning to Sister Mary and Miss Purdy. At least they would be warm and fed a good meal.
"Kid, I just don't want to go back. We need to give this a little more time. Whatcha think?"
"I don't know Heyes. It's gettin' awful cold and I'm way beyond awful hungry! Those berries and that tiny squirrel don't make for a full belly!"
"I know Kid. I'm powerful hungry too."
They agreed they would give it a little more time to see if they could catch a break as they continued walking down the trail stopping only when they found some grapes or berries or nuts to eat. They had been walking about an hour when they saw a stagecoach approaching. They both duck into the tree line by the trail because they were afraid whoever was in that coach would send them back and they were having none of that! Too late....they saw the stagecoach begin to slow down as it got closer to them. They waited just to see 'cause they knew they could run if they needed to depending on who got out of the coach. The stage came to a halt about 100 yards from the boys.
As they watched the door open, their hearts began to pound right out of their chests. A very buxom blonde haired lady with a lovely beauty mark on her cheek exited the stage door. They both let out a sigh of relief. She didn't look like the type that would send them back.
"Alright boys, come on out. I know you can hear me and I know you're there. Come on out and let me take a look at you both."
Since they didn't think she would send them back, they slowly approached her. About that time, a young boy leaped out of the stagecoach. "Get back in there Billy! You wait 'til I tell you that you can get out!" Jenny said sternly to the young boy. Kicking the dirt with every step and mumbling under his breath, he slumbered back to the coach and hopped back in and took his seat.
"Well now, let me see you. When was the last time you boys ate? And I don't mean berries and such. I mean a good meal." Heyes said "I guess it's been 'bout two weeks now ma'am." Kid quickly added "But we're OK, we'll be OK!"
"My name is Jenny and that's my boy Billy there bustin' at the seams to get out here and meet you both. What do people call you boys?" "My name is Hannibal Heyes but people call me Heyes ma'am. This is my cousin Jeddediah Curry." "People call me Kid, ma'am."
"Where are your parents?" Jenny asked. Heyes told Jenny about how both his and Kid's parents had been killed and that they have been in and out of orphanages ever since.
"Heyes and Kid, well alright then. Get on up in there and you can stay with us just for a while. You will be able to leave whenever you want but for now, I think it would be good for you to come with me. OK?" "Why sure ma'am! Thank you very much" the boys said almost in complete unison. They both jump in and sit next to Billy. Jenny did introductions all around and the boys hit it off instantly with Billy even though he was a little younger than they were.
They had been riding for almost two hours and they were finally getting to their destination. When they arrived, a lot of pretty ladies ran to meet the coach carrying Jenny and Billy. More pretty ladies than the boys had ever seen in one place at one time. Their eyes were open bright and their smiles were wide. When the ladies reached the stage, they saw the two extra boys and they went crazy over Heyes' brown eyes and dimpled smile and Kid's blue eyes and blonde curls. Jenny made the introductions and they all went inside. It would take a while for the boys to remember all their names.
Over the next nine months, Jenny and the other ladies taught the boys a lot. What ladies like and how to treat them properly no matter if they are the richest woman in town or the lady just trying to make ends meet to stay off the streets, like Jenny's girls. The boys helped out around the hotel and saloon and made some money. They saved as much as possible just spending what they had to in order to get by from day to day.
They sat down with Jenny at her blackjack table after all the patrons had left. Heyes started, with a huge lump in his throat "Jenny, you know we love you and we owe you more than we can ever repay you for all you have done for us." Kid shaking his head in complete agreement with everything his cousin was saying. "We think it's time for us to move on." Jenny smiled and nodded "Yes, I know boys. I've known for a while now that this day was soon upon us. You've learned a lot here. Don't you ever forget any of it!" "Oh we won't Jenny." Kid said. Heyes and Kid both had tears welling up in their eyes. Jenny saw it and knew they didn't want to let her see them cry. She said "Well you're not leavin' tonight. Let's get a good night's sleep and do this proper in the morning." Heyes and Kid both agreed and leaned in to give Jenny a kiss on the cheek and the biggest hug ever. "We love you Jenny."
The next morning, Jenny told Billy before she ever came downstairs. She then got all the ladies together long before the boys ever got out of bed and told the ladies that Heyes and Kid would be leaving and that they needed to give them the best send-off ever!
The boys finally got up and once again, they found themselves packing their possessions. Each had bought a horse and saddle bags with some of the money they had made. This time, they would be leaving proper, on a horse, not on foot in the middle of the night. They headed down the hotel stairs to find all the ladies lined up yelling "SURPRISE"! They had gone and put together a going away party fit for a king for them!
"What's all this?" Heyes inquired. Kid and Heyes were both grinning ear-to-ear and they just couldn't stop.
"Thanks ladies! We didn't spect nothin' like this!" Kid exclaimed. The ladies had fixed all of their favorite foods. They had a good party with all the ladies that morning. Heyes looked to the other end of the table to Jenny. She was smiling with a single tear running down her cheek. He went over to her and gave her the biggest hug and kiss ever. Kid followed suit.
"Jenny, we need to thank you. Thank you for taking two scruffy boys off the side of the road and treating them like your own. Thank you for teaching us how to play poker, black jack, and so many other card games. Thank you for teaching us how to know when someone is cheatin' or tryin' to cheat us. But most of all, thank you for the love you showed both of us. You will ALWAYS have a special place in our hearts. We will miss you but we will see you again one day. I just know it. I feel it in my gut! You can ask Kid, my gut is always right!" By this time, Jenny had tears flowing freely. Once again, the boys hugged and kissed her. They didn't want to let her go. They loved her hugs more than anything. As they hugged Jenny one last time, she handed each of them some money to help them get wherever they ended up going. They didn't want to take it but she insisted. They then hugged and kissed each of the ladies one-by-one.
They walked across the room to the door, throwing their saddle bags over their shoulders on the way. The ladies handed each of them a sack of food they had packed for them. They reached the door and looked back one last time. They looked at each other and then looked back to Jenny, Billy, and the ladies and said...
"Thanks Jenny! Thanks ladies! See ya Billy! We love you all and we'll be seein' ya!" Heyes and Kid turned and walked out the doors. Billy and the ladies ran outside to send them off with a band of waves as they left. They looked back to see Jenny standing in the middle of the road waving. Both boys waved their hats back at her as they rode out of sight.
Back to present day, Heyes and Kid were getting ready to fulfill their promise to Jenny and prove Heyes' gut was right even way back then. They were going to see her again sooner than they knew. She was in Touchstone and they would be there too in just a couple of hours.