Six White Horses

"I am curious," she said, leaving the sarcasm out of her words. "Why is it called the Sooner State?"

There was an instant of silence and she felt his measured look studying her face. There was a slight vibration of her nerve ends in response to the almost physical touch of his eyes.

"The word dates back to the land rush days. In the beginning it had an uncomplimentary connotation. The settlers who were referred to as 'Sooner' earned it by being accused of jumping the gun, you might say, and staking their claims for homestead land before it was actually open for homesteading. Often it was wrongly applied to those people who obtained choice pieces of land by others who had settled on nearly worthless ground. Poor losers, I guess," Morgan explained. "That meaning has been pushed to the background and a 'Sooner' is now simply a nickname for an Oklahoman."

"How much farther to your ranch?"

"Not far now," he answered, his gaze turning out the side window of the pickup. "We're north and west of Ardmore, near the foot of the Arbuckle Mountains. This river peninsula we're on right now used to be a refuge for outlaws. Some of them are buried right here near Thackerville. Have you been in Oklahoma before?"

"I've been through it," Patty answered noncommittally.

"Maybe you'll have a chance to see some of it while you're here." But Patty noticed he didn't offer his services as a guide.

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