A Neverending Race for Glory – Extended Epilogue

Helena, Montana 1889

The years leading up to her biggest life challenge yet gave Naomi the insight she needed to face it. Life in Great Falls had been enlightening and dangerous at times. The city grew from a pocket of fertile earth from a small notation in journals by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. They began their presidential commission for Clark and Lewis to survey and document the land following the Louisiana Purchase. 

When they reached what would become the Montana Territory in 1804, their exploration only touched on the majestic surroundings under the big sky country. The city started as a settlement on the mighty Missouri River near where the river sliced through the territory and over a series of rapids and five heart-stopping waterfalls that dropped over five hundred feet. The wild beauty of the location was something Naomi always appreciated but didn’t quite see until she shared it through someone else’s eyes. 

“It takes my breath away,” a woman whispered as she stared, mesmerized, at the oil painting in the gallery. She stood with a man with a rigid collar and gold cufflinks. He carried a leather-bound notepad, jotting something at her remark. “It cannot be a real place.”

Naomi took a breath to answer—though she wasn’t part of the conversation, she stood close enough to eavesdrop. When someone had something to say about the area where she’d spent the majority of her life, Naomi was fiercely protective. 

“Oh yes, it certainly is,” the gallery owner said, approaching the couple. He glanced at Naomi and surprised her with a wink. The gesture made her use the champagne flute to cover her smile. “This is one of the series of paintings from the region. You see how the vegetation represented in the painting matches the foliage we have in our beloved city of Helena.” 

The gallery owner stepped forward, using the couple’s engaging interest in the painting to explore its colors and images. Naomi had heard the monologue more than once, but it made her proud each time someone from the art world saw the work. 

“Now, there are three landscape painting concepts,” the owner said. “It doesn’t matter what medium the artist uses because it’s about how it displaces. He could have created the same masterpiece on paper with charcoal.” 

The gallerist shook a finger at the painting before crossing his arms and resting his hand thoughtfully under his chin. 

“In fact, I believe the artist has a collection of charcoal drafts of this painting. I’ve seen them directly. But here, you see, he’s used representational brushstrokes to capture the realism in the setting.” 

He stepped back, slipping away from the oversized frame, making sure to remove himself as an obstacle for better viewing. 

“If you were to stand in this place where the artist chose for his easel, you’d see the same view.” He leaned in, cupping his ear. “Listen, can you hear it?”

There was another subtle knowing smirk from the gallerist as the woman mimicked his gestures. The man remained impassive, stoic. 

“You can almost hear the water babbling over the falls and the songbirds.”

“It’s simply marvelous,” she said, arching her back as she stood upright again, squeezing the silent gentleman’s arm. “And you say that is near here?”

“Oh yes, the city of Great Falls is about one hundred miles from here,” the gallerist said. “I’ve been there many times over the last few months, securing this work and more from the artist.”

“Well, I cannot leave without this piece,” she said, focusing on the quiet man at her side. “I think we should acquire it.”

“Oh,” the gallerist said, touching fingers to his lips. “Sadly, this piece had sold only an hour ago. The gentleman who purchased it intends to collect other pieces from this series.”

The woman’s face changed from serene interest to fury. “Well, I cannot leave here without owning a work like this,” she said firmly.

“If you’re truly interested in this piece, I believe I have a similar work in the next room,” he said. “You’re welcome to explore and find me later. I’d be happy to help answer any questions you have about the other works.”

The woman pulled the quiet man along by the elbow as she wandered away from Naomi and the gallerist.

“Did this sell?” Naomi asked once they were alone, standing by the work. 

“Actually, Mrs. Hastings, all of your husband’s work in the gallery already sold,” he said. “I don’t have any left to sell. Since I’m at a loss, I’ve had my assistants rummaging through our back room inventory, hoping to relieve more patrons of their money. Unfortunately, your husband’s work is well ahead of anything I’ve had in the gallery before now.”

“Mr. Bates, I appreciate everything you’ve done for Elijah. He and I have so much to be grateful for.” 

Speaking her husband’s name, she glanced at the other end of the gallery, where Elijah stood with her father and another man looking at artwork that Elijah hadn’t done. He often got sidetracked by other artists’ work. She hadn’t seen him near any of his exhibited paintings, only interested in the different positions, sculptures, and paintings by foreign and domestic artists. However, since the gallerist recently purchased the latest pieces a few months ago, Bates had a showcase of Elijah’s work. 

“He will be excited to hear that,” Naomi said. 

“And what of you, Mrs. Hastings? I’ve heard you recently heard some exciting news,” Bates said. 

She blushed, smiling. 

“I did, but I haven’t heard the results yet. As it states, I sent invitations to some gentlemen who hold my fate in their hands.”

The gallerist chuckled. “Well, I don’t believe that for a moment. We make our own fate, Mrs. Hastings. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must break that woman’s heart and still find a way of relieving her of the money she wanted to spend on this work. If your husband’s going to—” 

“Mr. Bates, my husband has two paintings in the works back home,” Naomi said. “We’re returning to the city before the snow gets too deep to pass. I’ve finished my sessions, and there’s nothing here in Helena to keep us.”

“Except the gallery,” he said defensively.

“Yes, of course.” Naomi smiled. “Excuse me, Mr. Bates.”

Naomi parted with the gallerist as he slipped through the groups of people admiring the paintings. She wandered across the varnished, hardwood floor to stand between Elijah and her father. She found Elijah’s hand and squeezed it as her father touched her opposite elbow. 

“Naomi, do you remember Mr. Russell?” he asked. 

“Hello, Mrs. Hastings,” C.M. Russell said as he turned from viewing the work. “I’ve been talking to Marshal Woodard and your husband about this work.” 

It wasn’t her husband’s painting. The piece was a large portrayal of three men on horseback firing their pistols in the air with crudely painted cattle running through a gulley to the right of the drovers overlooking the stampede. 

“This is Mr. Russell’s work,” Elijah said. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

He grinned at Naomi. She saw the glimmer of excitement in his eyes. He truly appreciated the work like it was better than anything he could accomplish. Naomi knew better.

“Your husband’s having a go at me,” Russell said. “I ain’t half as good at what I saw around here.”

“Mr. Russell, one thing I know for certain, this is a beautiful painting.” 

“Well, thank you, Mrs. Hastings. I’m going to see if Mr. Bates wants to have a few more of my pieces,” he said, offering handshakes to Elijah and her father. “It was good to see you again, Elijah.”

“Thank you, Mr. Russell.” 

Elijah continued to study the painting, leaning closer to look at the color overlays and the brushstrokes. Russell’s art style reminded Naomi of cover art for the penny novels in the local shops.  

“Did your guests show up?” her father asked once they were alone. 

“I didn’t see them,” Naomi said.

“They’ll come.” Elijah’s genuine belief gave Naomi a surge of encouragement. 

It had been a tense few months leading up to Christmas of ’89. Naomi completed her analyses in Cambridge fall of last year. She’d returned to Great Falls to marry her fiancé and study with Judge Swanson. The immeasurable dedication to her studies with the judge’s help reassured her that when the time came, she could perform admirably. 

“They know we’re going back home tomorrow,” Elijah said. “Do you want to wait another few days to leave?”

Naomi sighed. “I don’t think it matters,” she said. “There’s nothing left to do. I can try again next year, but I don’t see a point.”

“Don’t let your spirits dampen,” her father said. “Even if you don’t hear anything before we go, you need to do it again next year.”

Naomi loved how her father and husband supported her. Judge Swanson had provided the realities of Naomi’s future as a lawyer. For a woman, it was an uphill battle. Men had dominated all fields for so long that they rarely saw women in the same profession as anything more than an anomaly. Naomi’s willingness to persevere meant other women could keep pushing out the stodgy, autocratic men to make way for future generations. 

Before they continued the conversation, Mr. Bates approached them. “Mrs. Hastings, these gentlemen came looking for you. I attempted to sell the paintings. Alas, they wanted only to see you.” He slipped away after the introduction.

She recognized the three men immediately—they had proctored Naomi’s private testing. She wasn’t allowed to take the exam among the other male applicants. However, they had let her the same time limits as the others, even the space while they took up posts at the front of the lecture hall. They chatted quietly and graded papers while Naomi sat alone with her during their yearly visit to Helena. 

“It is good to see you again, Mrs. Hastings,” Wilbur Fisk Sanders said. He shook hands with Elijah and her father during introductions. “My word, talent runs deep in this family. I had no idea your husband was an artist.”

“Yes, these are splendid works,” Cornelius Hedges said. 

“I do need something for my office,” John B. Clayberg added. “Perhaps we can discuss a commission.”

“Of course,” Naomi said. “Thank you for coming this evening. We’re leaving Helena tomorrow on the coach. The termination dust has reached the tree line. It’s time to get settled for winter.”

“It’s late this year,” her father said. 

“Well, we won’t keep you long this evening. I suggested we come together,” Sanders said. “Mr. Hedges and Mr. Clayberg agreed to accompany me to let you know.”

Naomi felt her stomach flip-flop with nerves. She glanced expectantly at each of the accomplished lawyers. They traveled together throughout the territory, assembling once a year in Helena as the board of bar examiners. 

“Firstly, allow me to say, administering the bar exam for a woman was a first this year,” Clayberg said. “I suspect it will not be the last time.”

“I appreciate your time, gentlemen.” She prepared herself for disappointing news. She had learned from law professors that they liked to preface bad news with something uplifting. 

“It has been an honor, Mrs. Hastings, a delight,” Hedges said.

“Mr. Woodard, Mr. Hastings, we came because of the invitation from your daughter and wife. However, truly, we wanted to let you know that Mrs. Hastings has passed the Bar exam.”

“Examining Mrs. Hastings for admission to the Bar was a surprise,” Hedges said. “She was so well-read. And I dare say her marks were the highest I’ve ever examined.” 

“Our law clerks will record these culminated efforts, and she will receive full endorsement for her law degree from my colleagues and me,” Sanders said. He offered a firm handshake. It was a handshake reserved for people who were equal to him. “Mrs. Hastings, we welcome you as a Bar Association for the Territory member.” 

Wilbur Sanders was an admirable man with a legal background that had broken new ground in law and set precedence in the courtrooms across the country. Naomi aspired to follow in his footsteps, representing minority defendants, including Indians and Chinese, who lacked genuine exemplification in courts or the public.

“Mrs. Hastings, none of us are here to tell you about what comes next,” he said. “Truthfully, none of us knows if your law degree will give you access to anything we hold precious.”

“Are you saying you amused my daughter by allowing her to take the board exams?” her father asked.

“No, nothing of the sort,” Clayberg said. 

“I understand,” Naomi said. 

“We’re behind anything you do now,” Hedges said. “I intend to draft a letter of recommendation anywhere you intend to practice law.”

“We need more women like you willing to step forward and show the rest of the public that women have as many rights as men in this country,” Hedges said, gesturing to Sanders. “Mr. Sanders here will lead our fight into Washington. Since he relinquished the Territorial House of Representatives in ’79, he’s been quietly plotting to get back into politics.”

Sanders laughed. “I have much to do before I go back,” he said. “Perhaps you might consider visiting me in Butte once winter’s over. You and Mr. Hastings are welcome to stay with me while I continue drafting the legal brief against the Chinese business there.”

“We will be happy to come,” Elijah said without thinking about it. “My wife is eager to help.”

Naomi usually didn’t like men talking around her or answering for her. However, she and Elijah had had lengthy private conversations about what the future held for her. Passing her Bar examination was a milestone, but the first step into the unknown. While she saw herself as a prominent member of the legal community, she had rightfully earned her place. Those around her—men feeling threatened at the idea women knew as much or perhaps more than them wanted to keep the walls up. 

“We’re drafting a proposal this year for state candidacy into the Union,” Sanders said. “We wholly intend to have Montana recognized as a state by next year. We need young people like you to help forge the way.”

“You’re welcome to read the briefs we’ve drafted and share your insight,” Hedges said. “We welcome you to help make the future of law all-inclusive, regardless of color or gender.”

*** 

The euphoria hadn’t worn off even hours later when she was alone with Elijah. He sensed Naomi’s excitement and then the overwhelming uneasiness of what it meant to receive the endorsement for her Bar license finally. 

“We should go to Butte right away,” Elijah said. 

“I thought we were going back to Great Falls for the winter.”

“This is more important,” he said. “I never saw the light in your eyes like they shined when those men came tonight.”

Naomi smiled, touching his smooth face. Alone in their hotel room, they shared a small meal and had put away the money from the painting sales. Her father had a suite next door but had chosen to spend the rest of the evening with the Helena city police. Lawmen habitually congregated together, sharing stories and experiences. 

“What about your painting?” she asked. It was Naomi’s way of deflecting. She wanted to continue the adventure, but Elijah never denied her anything. “I worry you’re only telling me that because you see it in my eyes.”

“I’m saying we go because a man like Mr. Sanders can help others see what I’ve known for a while now.” 

Elijah had spent their time apart painting, practicing his reading and writing, and establishing himself as a legitimate artist. He earned a respectable living off his artwork. Naomi had finished her studies at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, receiving some of the highest grades upon graduation. The months of studying for the Bar exam with Judge Swanson gave her time to build a home with her new husband. 

Life with Elijah was joyous and breathtaking. She saw him become more confident in his ability to paint, emboldening her to continue studying.

“I don’t care where we go as long as we’re together,” he said. “I know you need to start practicing law because it matters to you as much as painting and drawing matters to me. I see how those books give you wings. I know that feeling. I share it with you whenever I pick up a paintbrush or pencil. Don’t set aside your feelings about what’s important to you because you think it gets in my way. I will follow you anywhere you want to go.”

Naomi sniffled, embracing her husband. How many husbands willingly opened up to their wives? How many husbands saw their wives’ inspiration as something special and didn’t dismiss it as fancy? 

“I don’t know how I made it this far without you,” she said.

“You didn’t need me,” Elijah said. “I needed you and your father more than you ever needed me.”

“Well, I don’t want to share you with my father, thank you. I don’t want to see you wearing a marshal badge any more than him.”

“He wants us to go. He told me as soon as they left the gallery.”

“I’m frightened,” Naomi said.

“Me too, but it’s exciting. Imagine what you can do if you’re part of making the laws. I’m excited to see more of the world, too. I can paint anywhere. I want to see more of the country. I haven’t been to Butte yet.”

“You don’t mind staying there a few months or longer if that’s what it takes?”

He laughed and kissed her forehead. His arms went around her shoulders, and Naomi pressed her face against his chest. 

“I don’t care where we go or how long we stay as long as I still have you.” Elijah squeezed her lovingly and sighed. 

Naomi had never expected a love as real as she felt in that moment. 

THE END


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32 thoughts on “A Neverending Race for Glory – Extended Epilogue”

    1. It definitely peaked my interest especially since I am a woman that loves western reading. I have read many books by this author and anticipate many more!
      Thankyou!

    2. I love the book and the extended epilogue was especially good not the run of the mill ending. Keep up the good work.

    3. Very interesting and quite different from any western stories I have read. I look forward to reading more of your books.

    4. This was a wonderful
      Story. I loved how you worked in the characters and situations.
      I am glad I found you.

    5. I absolutely loved this book. The adventure, the serious side and seeing a man who was not afraid to admit he couldn’t read or write and persevered to get what he wanted. To see a woman go for what most women were denied. Derek Levine has a way of drawing you in and always keeping you intrigued. I have read so many of his books and have always wanted to read more. Thank you Derek.

  1. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish i liked the extended story as well and think you should continue the story into another book. I hated to see it finish. You did a great job of writing this book.

  2. I enjoy your writings very much. I, too, believe you should write more from this story. Congratulations on writing such a good book.

  3. A great story that was hard to put down before the end.
    The epilogue was beautiful with a great ending. I think a follow up story would be wonderful also

  4. Read this book and you may find yourself wondering like me. How could two people of such different backgrounds converge and create such success and joy in each other? I would say just answer this question – “Was it just Good Lick? -OR- Was there a Helping Hand?”

    -Bob Simpson-

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