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Leann Frances Clark Wade was a young wife and mother in post-Civil War Missouri. Times were difficult for families after the war. The state of Missouri was decimated with outlaw gangs roaming the countryside. Crops were destroyed, livestock stolen or confiscated, and many male family members killed or crippled in combat. Leann worked alongside her husband, working the land, planting and harvesting crops, and taking care of home and children. She had the independent spirit and strong will of a frontier woman, but depended on Ralph’s strength during the difficult times.
Leann loved her husband and children. She was raised in a large, fun-loving, God-fearing family. When she married and went to live with Ralph on their farm, she felt isolated and alone. The first winter on the farm was severe with an abundance of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Leann got pregnant and Ralph was overly protective of her. He didn’t want to take the chance of Leann causing harm to herself or the baby, so she stayed inside the cabin, not even venturing outdoors to visit her family who lived ten miles away, or making the trip into Cuba. Leann’s father and several of her siblings contacted influenza which also made visiting her family impossible.
One cold winter day, Leann had a special visitor, making the bleak winter a trifle more tolerable. The visitor was Sonny Wade, Ralph’s older brother and Civil War veteran, who courted Leann before going to war. Sonny’s absence gave Ralph room to move in and win her affections. Leann felt attraction for handsome, restless Sonny, but her heart belonged to the settled farmer, Ralph.
Leann felt having a large family like the one in which she was raised would solve the problem of her loneliness, however, problems arose. Leann’s and Ralph’s love for each other was tested during those early years, but their overcoming faith and commitment to each other brought them through the trying times.
“Think I’ll be going on back to the folks’, Ralph. It’s getting darker and colder outside. I’ll get my horse from the barn. By the way, thank-you for taking care of him.” Sonny walked over to Leann. Taking her hand, he bowed slightly. “Thanks for the delicious meal, little sister. I’ll be back before long to check on you and this guy.” Sonny nodded toward Ralph. He stood to shake hands with his brother, but Sonny gave him a hug instead. “Stay warm, big fellow, and take care of your lady.”
Ralph looked at Sonny’s handsome grinning face and managed to give his wayward sibling a pat on the back. Now, he felt guilty. “Good to see you. Come anytime.”
The two men walked to the door. Leann rose from the chair and followed. Sonny took his coat from its peg then bundled up tightly before going outside into the cold.
With a smile, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small cloth bag. “Here’s the wedding gift I didn’t get to give you, being inebriated and all.”
He placed the small but heavy bag into Ralph’s hand, opened the door, stepped to the porch, and closed the door securely against the wind.
Ralph’s sweet wife looked at him with tear-brimmed eyes, went back to the chair, and sat with folded hands without speaking. She wiped her eyes with the apron. He took the chair across from her but didn’t know what to say. Leann loved him, but loneliness overwhelmed her, and he did act a fool around Sonny, which didn’t help the situation. Ralph’s heart ached while watching her misery. What could he do to make things better for her?
“The first company we’ve had in a while and you were rude.” Her voice broke.
“I’m sorry, Leann,” he finally managed. “I’ll try to be nice to my rascal brother. I really love him, but he can irritate me to no end, especially when it comes to you. I love you and will do anything in my power to make you happy.”
She silently dabbed at her wet eyes.
“Things will be okay, hon. Spring’s just around the corner. We’ll visit our families and they can come to see us. We can go to church. It won’t be long, now.” He placed the small bag on the table beside the chair and rose to pull her up to him. He held her tightly and felt the sobs shaking her body.
“I know, Ralph,” Leann said with tears in her voice. “I know.” He stroked her cheek with the back of his thumb then caressed her lips with a gentle kiss.