Updated: Jul 8
Traveling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
Unfortunately, the name of the wise man who first spoke this insightful observation escapes me, but often these words have tumbled through my head as I end one journey and begin another. My journals are a testament to his accurate opinion.
Sitting at the outdoor table where he first met Seth Westcott, Scott paused to appreciate the view. Before him, neat, cultivated rows of grapevines basking in the late afternoon sun blanketed the San Joaquin Valley’s fertile land. A slight breeze nudged the redolence of ripening fruit to come visit and mingle with the comforting scent of a tooled leather book cover.
Scott’s current trip had called for a new journal slightly smaller in size which made it convenient for travel. However, convenience was not the primary reason for the purchase. He’d bought two identical journals during his last stay in Sacramento, one for himself and the other for Kinsey with instructions she must capture their journey to Boston through her sketches. The immediate suspicion of why received the simple explanation of because I said so. Granted, his reply was a typical Murdoch-ish answer, but it was the best Scott could come up with and still keep his plan a surprise.
After learning of his love for old books, Emily Browning had suggested Scott patronize her favorite hole-in-the-wall bookstore. He found the proprietor not only knowledgeable with first editions, but a master at bookbinding. The idea of combining his words with Kinsey’s drawings began to take shape. Receiving a nod from the gentleman that he could indeed disassemble two journals and bind them as one was the answer Scott had hoped for. He now had the makings of the perfect wedding gift to give his cousin - joint memoirs of their last trip together before she became Mrs. Seth Westcott.
Scott’s sentimentality toward Kinsey flying the nest struck him as a rather amusing surprise. It certainly wasn’t how he felt during the time leading up to Lancer’s Furlong Invasion.
“Son, Kinsey arrives tomorrow. Have you given any thought to what you might like to do with her during the five-day stay?”
Scott glanced up from the novel’s page he’d been staring at but not reading. What he’d like to do with her? Well, of course he’d given it some thought. In fact, after much consideration, his mental do-with list was finally narrowed down to three possibilities.
1. Send her off fishing in a leaky boat.
2. Suggest she camps out in coyote country.
3. Let her explore the North Pole without a compass.
“No Sir. I haven’t given it much thought.”
Scott returned to Great Expectations - an appropriate title considering his present situation. He estimated the time of two full minutes before the chill of a father’s icy stare made its presence known by burrowing into Scott’s skull. Setting the book aside, he cleared his throat. “Well, I thought Kinsey and Teresa could spend a few days shopping.”
Scott shifted in his chair. “Perhaps Kinsey and Johnny could ride out to…”
Scott raised a hopeful eyebrow. “Kinsey and Jelly?”
In retrospect, Murdoch’s lengthy lecture on sarcastic, childish behavior had been well deserved that evening.
The pencil agreed and continued.
I must admit, as I start this last journey with Miss Kinsey FURLONG, I’ll miss the almost daily sound of my name bouncing off walls, the inevitable mountain goat head butting and yet another one-word adjective being added to the list describing my personality. Yes, I will indeed miss it. However, this morning proved this fond absence was not quite ready to present itself.
Tightening the strap on the final piece of luggage in the back of the buckboard, Scott estimated the battle cry of his name had echoed from the upstairs hallway.
Ah, troop movement. The Great Room had been breached. Confidence regarding the subject matter of an upcoming conversation tickled a smirk on Scott’s face.
His name, closer now and no longer muffled, indicated the adversary had maneuvered past the confines of the hacienda. Scott guessed he’d be flanked from the left and braced for the attack. His defensive strategy: casual big brother inflexibility with a dose of annoying sarkiness.
Through a faked focus on securing their baggage, Scott’s peripheral vision spied a determined young lady carrying a travel bag and heading his way.
“Didn’t you hear me calling your name?”
“I did.” A tug on a rope, a nod of the head and the luggage was deemed secure. “So did the deaf man drinking a cool beer at Henry’s.”
“Please explain why this” - A dropped bag hit the ground. - “was returned to my room?”
“Because that” - A pointed finger acknowledged the dropped bag. - “is one too many.”
“Yes, I know I agreed to limit my luggage to three.”
“You did.” Roll call seemed prudent as an open palm methodically rested on each of Kinsey’s bags. “One. Two. Three.” Scott turned, crossed his arms and leaned against the buckboard. “Which is why Four will not be traveling with us today.”
A sweet smile and folded hands signaled a brief halt in the skirmish for negotiations. “Honestly, Scott. This is a result of my innocent miscalculation of wardrobe needs. With Seth’s mother and Uncle Harlan hosting social events... well, I simply can’t wear the same dress to both and -”
“Why not? I plan to wear the same tie.”
Negotiations teetered on the brink of war with a female scowl. “It is quite obvious you’re completely ignorant of the steps required for a young lady to properly clothe herself for an event.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m completely ignorant, Freckles. In fact, I believe I have a fairly good grasp of those steps, however, I must confess I’ve only witnessed them in reverse.”
A turned head and bit lower lip stifling a smile broke ranks. “You sir, are a despicable cad.”
Struggling with masking his own grin, Scott leaned down for a nose-to-nose staredown with his combatant. “I may be a despicable cad, but I’m a despicable cad claiming the high ground with knowledge that as soon as she sets foot in Boston my little cousin will insist she has nothing to wear and make demands to go shopping. So, unless she wants to travel across the country with zero luggage while wearing only a pair of bloomers and one of my pilfered shirts, old number four here stays home.”
Scott allowed his smile to surface while he observed the enemy calmly retreating, bag in hand and waving an imaginary flag of truce as white as a pair of bloomers. A pocket watch was enlisted, its hands confirming the hard-won victory of a timely departure for Westcott Winery.
After a hearty handshake for his one business partner and a more affectionate hello for the other, Seth Westcott solemnly scrutinized the contents of his guests’ buckboard. “My God, man. Only three pieces of the little lady’s luggage? You’ve defied all empirical evidence recorded since the beginning of time.”
“I concur.” Scott’s thumb pushed back the brim of his hat. “Although, not all of us are in agreement. Earlier language indicated someone feels it’s more sacrilegious than scientific.”
“How extraordinary!” Kinsey’s grin surrendered to the teasing. “Could it be that we've packed away some boyish humor to take along on our trip?”
Seth put his arm around the future Mrs. Westcott and kissed the top of her head. “Yes. Most definitely. Now, let’s get this exception to the rule unloaded and inside. Grandfather’s still up at the winery admiring the new steam press. I’m surely going to catch hell he wasn’t here to greet you.” A sheepish grin donned Westcott's face as he grabbed a travel bag. “I told him you’d be arriving at least an hour later than expected.”
Scott laughed and delivered a friendly slap to Seth’s shoulder. “Past history suggested favorable odds on that one and a sure bet I would’ve placed myself.”
Entering the winery, Scott was greeted with the structural changes now leaping off the architect's drawn renditions Seth had brought to Lancer a few months ago. New wood and brick united with the old for a common cause - an expansion which allowed room for the newest addition to Westcott’s family business.
The press stood as a declaration of progress. The advancement of steam power machinery was slowly bringing a revolution in the wine industry as manual basket presses gave way to steam-powered presses that greatly increased efficiency.
However, some people felt the downside of progress and efficiency was the reduced amount of labor needed to operate a steam-powered press. Scott’s attention shifted to the winery’s older manual press still claiming its rightful position in the room. The Westcott patriarch proved he was one of those people by refusing to pull the carpet out from under any of the winery’s hard working men striving to make a living. So, today, two presses stood side by side with their owner presently claiming a spot between them.
“What do you think of your investment, Scott Lancer? The past on the left, the future on the right and this old man stuck smack dab in the middle.” Phillip Westcott grinned from ear to ear.
“Well, sir, I’d say we’ve invested wisely.”
Approaching, the older Westcott offered a welcoming hand clasp. “It’s good to see you again, son.” Spying the younger cousin, Phillip’s kind smile warmed the room as he placed his hands on her shoulders. “And this must be the lovely Miss Kinsey Rose. A pleasure to finally meet you, my dear.”
“The pleasure is mine, sir.”
“Please forgive my absence upon your arrival. Now that you’ve captured my grandson’s heart…” The elder’s stern eyes softly landed on the younger Westcott. “Perhaps you could teach him how to tell time.”
A cleared throat accompanied Seth’s eye roll. “Speaking of… I think it’s high time we let our guests take a closer look at the-future-on-the-right.”
Scott smiled as he reunited his pencil to the journal’s page.
I predict the decision to stay at the winery for a day or two before our journey east is a good one. Like their wine, Westcott’s land with its scents and sounds relaxes the body and mind. I envision a happy and fulfilling life here for my little cousin. A life she certainly deserves with a respected man I will gladly call business partner, good friend and soon-to-be-
Brother-in-law? Scott raised an eyebrow in search of the correct relationship. Cousin-in-law?
A calloused, sun-weathered hand presented a glass of vino. “My grandson and the little lady are enjoying a stroll through the vineyard. At my age, I prefer sitting and sipping the vineyard. Thought you might like to join me.”
Scott closed his journal and accepted the ruby-red offering. “Kinsey would say Philip Westcott is an extraordinarily astute gentleman in his assumptions.” A nod accompanied a raised glass. “And I’d whole-heartedly agree with the wild pup.”
Westcott sat down with a gravelly laugh, ending in a wheezing cough. A swig of liquid relaxation brought it under control. “Ah, Seth has shared my reference to your cousin. I trust he explained his grandmother was a wild pup and it was meant as a compliment.”
“He did. And I must admit, the handle fits Kinsey well.” Pause. Sip. “Seth’s a good man. I believe his grandfather has a lot to do with that.”
“Would you say the same about yourself and Harlan Garrett?”
Scott swirled his glass and examined the wine’s legs. Westcott’s query had been unexpected and a carefully worded response seemed wise. “I’ve learned to sort out the best of my grandfather’s influence and apply it to my own life.”
“Well stated.” From his shirt pocket, Phillip pulled out a creased correspondence, unfolded it and laid it on top of the closed journal. “Perhaps we could sort this one out together.”
Scott didn’t need to see the envelope’s postmark. He recognized the handwriting.