To humor the cowboy, Wilkes asked, “And what would those traits be that I’m looking for in this breeding-bride?”
Vern smiled as if he’d won the argument. “Stout. You don’t want one of those skinny girls who only eats out of the garden. She’ll need to have a little meat on her bones. Ain’t nothing worse than trying to cuddle up to a skinny gal on a cold night. I did that once in Amarillo, and about midnight I decided driving home in a snowstorm would be warmer.”
Wilkes grabbed a pen off the poker table and started writing on the back of his Western Horseman magazine. Not skinny.
His uncle leaned back in an old rocker that had come to the Devil’s Fork Ranch in a covered wagon. “She’ll need to know how to cook and clean and sew, too, otherwise she’d be wearing out the road to town buying takeout, hiring housekeepers and replacing clothes she’s lost a button on.”
“All that might be hard to find these days.” The only thing the four or five women Wilkes had stepped out with in the past six years could make for dinner was reservations. He considered them cooks if they knew how to use the microwave for popcorn.
His aging uncle wasn’t paying attention. He was busy thinking. “And she needs to be rich. Not just have money coming to her, mind, but already have it in the bank. You don’t want to count on her father liking you, ’cause if he don’t he might cut her out of the will. Then you’ll be stuck with a poor wife with rich habits.”
Rich. Wilkes scribbled.
“And dumb.” Uncle Vern lit his pipe. “Ain’t no smart girl ever going to marry you, even if you are good-looking. If she’s got much schooling, she’ll want to work at something or sit around and read all day.”
Wilkes had humored his old uncle long enough. Vern was the dumbest and the youngest of four children, and all his brothers and sisters claimed he’d been dropped on his head one time too many when he was a baby. He had lived on the Wagner family ranch all of his seventy-seven years. The rule was whoever ran the Devil’s Fork also had to keep an eye on Vern. Wilkes’s father and grandfather had done it, and now it was Wilkes’s turn. The few other relatives, who’d been smart enough to move to the city, never wanted to come back and take over the job.
This crazy idea Vern had tonight was the worst one yet.
Wilkes leaned forward until Vern’s whiskey-blurred eyes focused on him. “I’m real busy with the calving right now, uncle. Do you think you could keep a lookout for a possible wife? She shouldn’t be too hard to find. She’s chubby, eats beef and is rich and dumb. She’ll be wearing a homemade dress and probably have freshly made jam dripping down her chins. Oh, I forgot, she needs to be easy to impregnate, ’cause I won’t be visiting her often.” Wilkes fought down a laugh. “Only, that trait might be hard to prove on sight.”
Vern didn’t get the joke. He rocked back so far that the forward swing, a moment later, shoved him out of the chair and onto his wobbly legs. “I’ll do my best for you! I promise. Might go into Crossroads tomorrow and put up a few signs. I don’t think I’ve been to town since spring and the Franklin sisters always say they miss seeing me.”
Wilkes laughed. “You do that, Uncle Vern.”