I shall call him Dr. Case. He was an old-school country doctor and a close friend of mine twenty years ago. In the years that followed, I often stopped in his little Colorado town to see him when I went west and sometimes he would tell me stories about people we had both known. He told me about John and Louise.
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John was a ranchman, big, quiet, unlettered and strong as a horse. He had begun with fifty head of sheep. Ambitious and frugal, in ten years he owned two thousand ewes and ample pasture for them. Next, he bought an alfalfa farm at the edge of town and fattened his lambs. By the time he was forty-five years old, he was a prosperous man.
Then, he married. Louise was a local girl who had finished high school and gone to work as a waitress in the restaurant in town. John met her there the summer she was twenty. Soon he began driving in from his alfalfa farm everyday for a cup of coffee at ten o'clock. You could set your watch by the time he drove up and parked in front of the restaurant.
John was methodical as a windmill, dependable as the seasons.
Louise chattered to him about the weather, the crops
and harmless local gossip.
This went on for three months.
They were married two weeks later. After a honeymoon in Colorado Springs, they settled down on the alfalfa farm, and Louise had the house painted, papered and refurnished with things from Denver. Throughout that first year, John had workmen out there, putting in a new kitchen and building a screened porch.
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However, Doc Case knew things weren't going right. John called
him out twice to see Louise and he discovered that Louise wasn't
happy. She wasn't well, either; she said she had frightful headaches
but there was nothing that Doc could put his finger on. The second
time he went out to see her, he asked her if John was treating
her right. Louise answered that John was the best husband any
woman could ask for, only well, he didn't say much and a woman
wants to be talked to. After that, things seemed to straighten
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