When Ida Mae Babbitt receives an invitation to visit her son Keith's dude ranch in Montana, she's excited to mend their broken relationship, but not so excited about spending time with cows. Arlette and Tansy go along with her, ready to take a vacation that does not involve dead bodies or mysteries of any sort - one must have a break from time to time. But it seems a no-good scoundrel has moseyed into Dodge City and is bent on causing all sorts of trouble for the ranch. Unable to keep her curiosity in check - especially when it seems her own son is the most likely culprit - Ida Mae decides to investigate. Can she lasso the varmint and get him to the sheriff in time?
- Pages: 258
About the Author
Tristi Pinkston can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to write. Her first poem was penned at the age of five, as was her first book about a little puppy with big dreams, Sue the Dog. It was quite a journey from Sue to Tristi’s first published novel, but a journey she loved taking.
When she’s not homeschooling her children, ignoring her dishes, contemplating grocery shopping, or procrastinating the laundry, Tristi works as a freelance editor and online writing instructor. She is a popular presenter at the annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference, and she finds some of her greatest joy in helping authors realize their true potential. She also enjoys blogging, reviewing books on her personal blog and for The Association of Mormon Letters, watching good movies, and taking really long naps every Sunday afternoon.
Tristi is the author of eight published novels and one cookbook. You can learn more about her at www.tristipinkston.com.
“So, what do you hear from George these days?”
Ida Mae was not misled by Arlette’s seemingly innocent tone. She knew her friend was pumping her for information about her love life—if you could call what she had a love life—and wouldn’t give up until all the goods were dished. She might as well just get it over with and save an entire afternoon’s reenactment of the Spanish Inquisition.
“He’s recovering from his surgery really well. He’ll be on a walker for probably another week, and then he should be back to normal.”
“As normal as you can get for a man his age, I presume.”
“Arlette, he’s not that much older than us.”
“Than you, you mean. I’ve seen your driver’s license. I know you’ve got a few years on me.”
“But it’s not as many years as you’d like to believe.”
Ida Mae heard the squeak of her mailbox being opened, then closed again. She turned from her spot on the couch to look outside. The sidewalk was still clear from the thorough scraping the elders quorum had given it the night before—thankfully, no fresh snow had fallen.
“I’ll get the mail.” She grabbed her coat from the stand by the door and stepped outside, breathing deeply as the air hit her lungs. It was a beautiful afternoon, the cold spell taking a break, apparently.
She gathered up the mail without really looking at it, just giving it a quick perusal to see if her latest movie from Netflix had arrived. No, not yet. “Feels good outside,” she said as she rehung her coat.
“I even turned down my thermostat,” Arlette replied. “A whole five degrees.”
Ida Mae resumed her seat and began to sort the mail. Junk . . . junk . . . an ad for a Chinese restaurant that didn’t deliver out to Omni, but continued to waste their advertising dollars sending flyers all this way . . . and a letter with an unfamiliar return address in Montana. She ripped it open, wondering who would take the time to write in this day and age of e-mail. Personal letters were almost relics anymore.
She scanned the lines, backed up, and read them more carefully. “I can’t believe it.” She shook her head. “I just can’t believe it.”
“What’s the matter, Ida Mae?” Arlette looked up from the bookmark she was tatting.
“It’s a letter from my son, Keith.”
Arlette immediately put her project to the side. “You haven’t heard from him in years.”
“He’s inviting me to come for a visit.” Ida Mae read the next several sentences. “He heard I’m recovering from a bad fall, and he wants to spend some time with me. How do you suppose he heard about that?”
“I couldn’t guess.” Arlette was suddenly the picture of innocence. “Maybe he ran into an old friend from town or something.”
“Or something.” Ida Mae fixed Arlette with a piercing stare. “Or maybe someone wrote him, someone we both know very well.”
“Oh, all right,” Arlette said. “I wrote both your children and told them about your little accidents. I thought it was high time they softened up, and I couldn’t see the harm in nudging things along.”
Ida Mae knew Arlette’s heart was in the right place, but she’d hoped Keith had come to this moment on his own. Years before, both Keith and her daughter, Kim, had moved away from Utah, determined to follow their own paths and escape her somewhat intense mothering style, or what they called “smothering.” But she had learned a lot since then, and she wanted the chance to start fresh—to be there for her children instead of trying to do things for them. She took heart that Keith had been willing to go along with Arlette’s little scheme.
“Did you tell him to invite me out for a visit?” Ida Mae asked.
“No.” Arlette picked up her project again. “He came up with that on his own. I just told him what had happened to you, and that it would be nice if you heard from him.”
“And you got his address . . . how?”
“I Googled him,” Arlette said proudly. “Eden showed me how.”
Ida Mae folded the letter and tucked it away to read later, when she didn’t have company. “And you wrote Kim, too?”
“Yes, I did.”
When Arlette shook her head, Ida Mae wasn’t surprised. It would take quite a bit to get Kim to come around—the girl had always been fiercely independent and resented Ida Mae’s interference in her life.
“So, do you think you’ll go?” Arlette asked.
“To Montana?” Ida Mae thought about it. “I don’t know. I guess I should, but it just feels so awkward.” If there was anything she’d learned over the last six months, though, it was the importance of living each day to the fullest and never taking anything for granted. Being stuck in a wheelchair, wearing two casts, and having most of your movement taken away from you will do that to a person.
“I think a dude ranch would be fun,” Arlette continued.
“Yes, Keith owns a dude ranch. Didn’t you know?”
Ida Mae knew her son was into horses—he always had been. But she didn’t know he’d been able to take his love of animals and turn it into a living. “It does sound like fun, but I’ll have to make that decision later. It’s not something I can just leap into.”
“And you’d have lots of time to spend with Keith. This isn’t the busy season.”
Ida Mae sighed. “You’re just not going to give up on this, are you? You’re that determined for me to go?”
“You need this, Keith needs this, and you need to get things patched up with your children.” Arlette paused to grab another ball of string from her bag. “Besides, I think it’s time you got yourself a pair of Levi’s.”
“What on earth would I do with Levi’s?”
“You would wear them. Like pants. Because they are pants.”
“My pants are just fine, thank you very much.”
“Those polyester things you wear would frighten the horses.”
Ida Mae looked down at her violet slacks. There was nothing in the world wrong with her clothing. In fact, she considered herself very much on the cutting edge of fashion for the elderly. “I think I look fine.”
“You’re no Vera Wang.” Arlette snipped the end of her string with a tiny pair of scissors she kept on a chain around her neck. “I think George would like to see you in jeans.”
Ida Mae’s cheeks felt warm all of a sudden. “George has never expressed a dislike of my clothing.”
“He might not dislike it per se, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to see you in something different,” Arlette replied. “Jeans do something to the figure, Ida Mae. You might actually have one under there somewhere.”
“Now you’re getting personal!” Ida Mae was not at all pleased with the turn this conversation had taken. “I have a figure. And it’s a very nice one, too.”
“Silhouettes created with the aid of a girdle do not count.”
“But jeans are different? Tell me, how are jeans different?”
“Jeans accentuate what you have. Girdles take it and smash it and squeeze it and . . . well, it’s not unlike Play-Doh.”
“Please remind me why I invited you over for lunch. I’m trying to remember, and I just can’t.”
“The memory is usually next to go, after the figure.”
“All right! I will buy a pair of jeans. Will that make you happy?”
“My happiness is of no account,” Arlette said righteously. “I was thinking of the horses.”
“The horses won’t care if I’m wearing jeans or not,” Ida Mae protested. “Be honest. You were thinking of George.”
“Yes, I was. It wouldn’t hurt you to gussy it up for him from time to time.”
“I don’t consider denim to be ‘gussied.’”
“Well, it’s better than polyester!”
The discussion had come full circle, and there was no place to go but around again. Thankfully, they were saved by Tansy’s arrival.
“Can you believe what I found?” she said, bustling in with her arms full of grocery bags. “I was over at Walmart and they had tulips. Tulips! In January! I just couldn’t believe my eyes.” Ida Mae and Arlette followed her into the kitchen, where she set the bags down on the counter and pulled out a bunch of bright red flowers. “May I borrow a vase, Ida Mae?”
“Of course.” Ida Mae grabbed a medium-sized vase from her cupboard and started to fill it with water. “Someday, you’re just going to have to break down and buy a floral shop.”
“I would love that,” Tansy said. “In fact, Earl and I have talked about it. Maybe down the road.”
“Speaking of purchases . . . Tansy, don’t you think Ida Mae needs to buy some Levi’s?” Arlette asked.
“Arlette, for someone who says she cares deeply about the health and mental well-being of horses, you are beating this one to death.” Ida Mae handed the vase to Tansy. “I’ve already agreed to go clothes shopping.”
“So Keith’s letter came?” Tansy asked.
“You knew about Keith?”
Tansy clapped a hand over her mouth, then lowered it. “I wasn’t supposed to say anything. But yes, I knew.”
Ida Mae shook her head. “Ganging up on me, are you? Does Kevin know about this too?”
“Of course,” Arlette said. “We all agreed it was in your best interest.”
“I had every intention of getting in touch with my children when I felt the time was right.” Ida Mae pulled out a kitchen stool and sat down. “It’s just that part of me hoped they’d make the first move.”
“I’m sorry,” Tansy said, wrapping her arm around Ida Mae’s shoulders. “This must be so hard.”
“It is, but not as hard as losing them in the first place.” Ida Mae reached out and touched one of the tulip petals. “After the gloomy winter we’ve had, these sure brighten up the place.”
“If you can change the subject, so can I,” Arlette said. “Have you heard from Ren?”
Ida Mae was more than happy to move on. “Yes, I got a letter yesterday. He has his official release date, so we can make the arrangements for our trip.”
“I can hardly believe it’s almost time to go get him from his mission,” Tansy said.
“Well, it’s still six months away, but it feels close,” Ida Mae agreed. “After we’ve made all our travel plans, it will zoom by.”
They moved back into the living room, where Tansy took a seat near Arlette’s chair. “What are you making? It’s so pretty.”
“It’s a bookmark.” Arlette held it up for further inspection and, Ida Mae assumed, admiration. “I was asked to provide birthday gifts for the Relief Society sisters this year.”
“You have a calling?” Tansy wiped at one of her eyes with her index finger. “I would love to have a calling again.”
“This isn’t really a calling. It’s an assignment,” Arlette explained. “But I’m told it won’t be much longer until we all have callings again.”
Ida Mae herself could cry at that pronouncement. It had been so long since she’d held a position in the ward. She, Arlette, and Tansy had to be released as the Relief Society presidency after participating in nefarious espionage activities a few years previously, and while she appreciated the rest, she keenly felt the lack of stewardship. The thought of having a calling again filled her with joy.
“I can’t wait.” Tansy clasped her hands as she always did when something delighted her. “Why, I’d even work in the Cub Scouts, if it meant having a calling again.”
“There’s nothing wrong with Cub Scouts,” Ida Mae said. “I actually had fun working with the boys when I was a den leader.”
“But I can’t build a crystal radio.” Tansy turned to face Ida Mae. “I don’t even know what one is.”
“That’s not a requirement—it’s an elective,” Ida Mae told her. “You can choose whether or not you want to make one.”
“Well, I choose not. The most complicated thing I’ve ever done was watching Earl change a tire.”
“Watching Earl change a tire was complicated?” Arlette asked.
“You had to be there.”
Just then, they heard the slam of a car door outside. Seconds later, Eden burst through the door, screaming.
“What’s the matter?” Arlette jumped up and took her granddaughter by the shoulders.
“Has there been another murder?” Tansy asked hopefully.
Eden shook her head and thrust a piece of paper into Arlette’s hands. She read it, then sank back into her chair.
“What’s going on?” Fear knotted in Ida Mae’s stomach.
“She got a contract,” Arlette said weakly.
“Eden! Is that true?” Ida Mae didn’t mean to imply that Arlette was lying, but she wanted to hear the news from the girl’s own lips.
“It’s true! I have a contract!” Eden screamed again, jumping up and down. “I have a contract! I have a contract!”
Eden was a brilliant writer and had created a series of Gothic mysteries that were better than anything else Ida Mae had ever read, although she admitted she might be a little biased. After all, this was the girl she hoped would marry her nephew, and so of course she would be the most talented, most beautiful, and most perfect girl on the planet. After a long string of rejections, it was about time she landed herself a publisher.
“I’m so happy for you, dear.” Ida Mae wiped a tear off her cheek. “When will the book come out?”
“Not for a year, I’m afraid,” Eden said. “But they love the idea of a series, and they’d like me to be working on future novels in the meantime.”
“My granddaughter. A published author.” Arlette shook her head. “I always knew you could do it, yet it’s still a surprise.”
“I’m taking you all out to dinner.” Eden plunked down on the couch. “It won’t be at a very pricey restaurant, but we’ve got to celebrate somehow.”
“Should we stay in Omni or go into Salt Lake City?” Arlette asked.
“Let’s go to Salt Lake. I want Kevin to join us, too.”
Ida Mae knew Eden and Kevin were good friends, but she also knew Kevin had a romantic interest in Eden, and she felt jealous on her nephew Ren’s behalf. Kevin was a nice young man and had risked his life to help them during their last adventure, but Ida Mae was counting down the days until Ren came home to set things to rights again. “We had lunch a short time ago. How soon did you want to leave?”
“Oh, not for a couple of hours. It’s only two.” Eden reached into her bag. “I brought something else to add to our celebration.”
Ida Mae felt excitement start to build in her midsection.
“The Princess Bride.” Eden held the DVD aloft like a trophy.
Ida Mae sighed in contentment. This day just could not get any better.
Another Laugh Out Loud Secret Sister Mystery
by Kay - reviewed on September 24, 2011
Ida Mae Babbit (who has her own Facebook page) and her cohorts are at it again in another Secret Sister Mystery that take them to a Dude Ranch in Montana which Ida Mae's son, Keith, owns. This crew will keep you laughing with their antics (especially Ida Mae's late night, flannel PJs, bare-back horse chase) as they solve the mystery of the sabotage of the Dude Ranch. Tristi has created some fun, great characters and her descriptive writing keep you laughing throughout with the "visuals" she creates in your mind. Hang 'em High was a great escape for me on a rainy weekend when you just want to curl up with a good book - which I did! This is definitely one you won't want to miss!
Best One Yet!
by Heather - reviewed on September 28, 2011
Hang 'Em High is my favorite in the Secret Sisters series so far. It's an easy clean read with a refreshing moral and plenty of laugh out loud moments as Ida Mae Babbitt and her geriatric crew are out to solve another mystery. Set in Billings, Montana, this cozy focuses on the estranged relationship between Ida Mae and her adult son Keith. It explores the family dynamics of alcoholism and teenage pregnancy as well as forgiveness and giving up control as a "smother". I absolutely ate this book up. I only wish I knew all the of side characters a little better and am oh so curious as to how things are going to end up between Eden, Ren and Kevin. Guess I'll have to read the rest of the series to find out! I would definitely recommend Hang 'Em High to all readers as a good, clean book that will bring a smile to your face.
Cowboy up and head on over to read the new Secret Sisters Mystery called Hang 'Em High
by Sheila - reviewed on September 23, 2011
Cowboy up and head on over to read the new Secret Sisters Mystery called Hang 'Em High by Tristi Pinkston. Ida Mae Babbitt is once again trying to solve another mystery along with her two friends Tansy and Arlette. They go on a vacation to visit Ida Mae's son at his dude ranch in Montana. Little do they know that once again they will be pulling out their investigating skills to solve another mystery. We meet Ida Mae's son Keith and gain a new insight into Ida Mae's life. Mother and son have been estranged for years. Ida Mae hopes that this little trip will help mend some fences between them. There were some very touching moments as Ida Mae and Keith finally talked like they hadn't communicated for years. Now of course, there is a lot of humor and suspense along the way. I truly was laughing my way through this book. When you are reading things like... "Jeans accentuate what you have. Girdles take it and smash it and squeeze it and...well, it's not unlike Playdoh."" "...We're talking about horse murder right?" Tansy's forehead wrinkled as she concentrated. " That's not homicide. What would it be-horsicide?" "Well, well, well. If it isn't the geriatric cheerleading squad. If I didn't see it, I wouldn't believe it." That last quote is from the scene I was laughing so hard, that I knew I was going to wake up my sleeping children upstairs. I can never get enough of the three women's shenanigans. As far as the mystery, Tristi does a wonderful job of making you think that everyone is guilty. It is a riot trying to figure out who dunit and realizing that you were led astray chapter after chapter. It is very surprising who is the culprit in the end. I know that you will enjoy this novel. If you haven't read the other Secret Sisters Mysteries yet, I would recommend you reading them first. They go hand in hand and it is a good thing to get to know everyone first. You can also go back and read my reviews of the first two books at my blog: http://www.whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com