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A Southern Belle on the Prairie (Part 2)

Updated: May 10, 2021

Ena and her family tried their best to leave her brother's murder of her fiance Dr. Harley behind them as they made a home for themselves on the Nebraska prairie. She got to know the locals and spent as much time as she could with the handsome cowboy turned scout Texas Jack, meticulously journaling each time she spent time with the dashing Mr. Omohundro.

They had met again after the buffalo lassoing adventure at her brother’s home, where Jack teasingly challenged her to a shooting contest. Texas Jack was well known in the area for being a crack shot, and while he may have been joking with Ena, she was quick to take him up on any offer that would allow them to spend more time together. When he arrived at the family home to escort her to where they would shoot, Ena wrote in her diary that:

"He made a very graceful presentation in the way of a handsome toy-bag of China-work — its original purpose I do not know; but he used it for cartridges, and so shall I — i.e. if I keep it; for it is but the souvenir of a challenge to shoot; and after having the bravado to take up the gauntlet thus thrown down, if he does beat me (and I expect it will be ‘even so!’), I shall not have the courage to retain such a memento of my defeat, but give it back, with my pistol to boot!"

Under the watchful tutelage of Texas Jack, Ena would eventually achieve recognition in the area as a formidable marksman in her own right. Jack also taught her the finer points of prairie-style horsemanship, far removed from the sidesaddle strolls she had taken in her native Savannah. With Buffalo Bill Cody out of town on a scouting mission, Jack was staying at the Cody home, ensuring the safety of Bill's wife Louisa and his small children. Suffering with fever, Ena worried that she might have spoken in her sleep and said something less than ladylike that might have been overheard by the handsome cowboy:

"I am still wretchedly unwell, but I have not given up. Went to ride with Texas Jack this afternoon and had a good ride of it, only my Injun pony, Falcon, got de mal en pis, and I don’t know if I can ride him again, tho’ I have made an engagement to ride tomorrow afternoon. I’ve spent one night with Mrs. Cody. She took me in out of charity because I have to get up so early over here, with the promise that I might sleep just so late as I pleased. But I did not sleep late — I was delirious all night — talked or rather raved in my usual crazy style. Hope I said nothing mal a propos, as Mr. Omohundro slept in the adjoining room."

A few days later, Jack entertained Ena by showing her how he would have lassoed her pony down in Texas:

"At noon I was over to Mrs. Cody’s and I saw a windstorm for the first time. Such clouds of dust whirring and rushing like mad everywhere! After it, we had a rain, which, while it rendered everything very muddy, still did away with the dust and made riding possible. Mr. ‘Texas’ had quite a time lassoing my little rascal of a pony! We found it pleasant after getting out on the prairie and my (I mean our!) Western Hero made himself just as pleasant as possible, delicate, yet kind and manly in his attentions. I must not ride Falcon again; Mr. Omohundro says it is dangerous and I should not attempt it."

The two continued to spend time together, but Ena attracted the attention of other men in the prairie town of North Platte as well, some more affluent and socially mobile than the manly "Western Hero" Texas Jack. One of these men was Doctor William Frank Carver, a dentist from Homer, Illinois, who had also recently made the prairie his home. She took a job as Carver's dental assistant, and began to spend more and more time with him, all the while continuing to confide her feelings for Texas Jack in her diary. One entry describes a moment when she was walking with Doctor Carver through town and spied Texas Jack. Without a word to the Doctor, she rushed to speak with Jack—a breach of etiquette towards her companion. She wrote that she hoped she hadn't embarrassed herself in the moment.

She quickly set up another ride with Texas Jack, but was disappointed the following day when Jack showed up not to accompany her on horseback across the prairie, but to say goodbye. He would be accompanying the Pawnee tribe on its long summer buffalo hunt, and expected to be gone from the settlement for several months.

Then, in the middle of the hunt, Ena was surprised to see Texas Jack and his Pawnee friends arrive at her doorstep:

"I, very unexpectedly, received a call from Texas Jack, evening before last, I believe it was. He remained in but a short time; had a few Pawnees with him. I do not think them as fine looking, not so erect as the Sioux; but they say they are better ‘braves’ than the latter. When asking one of the Pawnees if he was not afraid to venture so far on the hunting ground of the Sioux, it was fine to see the expression of unutterable scorn that lighted up for a moment, the stolidity of his face; then instantly relapsing into the grim Stoic, he quietly crossed his throat, giving the sign of the Sioux, and said they were ‘heap squaws’. Mr. Omohundro said that the Indians were in fine spirits; plenty of buffalo, and the papooses all fat."

After the hunt, Ena mentions in her journals that Jack and his friend Buffalo Bill are thinking about going east to join a dramatic company, a venture she presumed was destined to fail. She continued to hedge her bets by accepting Doctor Carver's company and courtship, as Carver built a home in Medicine Creek to be closer to Ena and her family. She wrote in her journal that the eastern papers were full of the sayings and doings of her own "Western Hero." With Jack on tour, she spent more and more time with Doctor Carver, but as she approached the one year anniversary of arriving in North Platte and meeting the handsome cowboy, her journals show where her thoughts were.

"Every day now is an anniversary to my weary life. This stormy warmth of July is so fraught with many memories. And do I alone remember? Whom do I ask? The winds? Their sympathy gives so much unto my lonely life as aught else, now! One year ago I fancied that I had found that which would make me count the hours of life jealously. Perhaps I had, but it has slipped from my grasp or has been thrown away in madness. God only knows which."

The following day, one year removed from her musings on what she had referred to as her Western Hero’s delicate, yet kind and manly attentions as they rode across the Nebraska prairie, she wondered:

"Who, besides myself, thinks of this day with strange memories tugging at their heartstrings. When just one year ago today comes back with visions of tearful sunshine, dewy plains, and shadowed hillsides? And yet the doubt that I feel is my work I fear!"

Ena’s journals go silent for a period of several months, an uncharacteristic ceasing of her recorded thoughts. She received no further letters from Omohundro, and inside her journal, after the previous entry was a clipping from a newspaper reading:

"Texas Jack was married last Thursday, at Rochester, NY, to Mlle. Morlacchi, a lady actress, reported to be very wealthy and beautiful. Such is greatness."

Ena’s journal set silent but for one entry to explain her weariness with writing for the better part of the next two years. [The conclusion is at A Southern Belle on the Prairie Part 3]

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