Rifles for Watie

by Harold Keith

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Who are Edith Bussey, Ring, and Mary in Rifles for Watie?

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Edith Bussey is the mother of the main character in Rifles for Watie, Jeff. She is from Kentucky, but has come to live in Kansas, where her husband Emory has bought a farm. Edith, who is used to the "gently rolling hills...seas of bluegrass...stone fences festooned with honeysucke, and...stately homes with...tall white columns towering into the drowsy air" of her home state, finds Kansas "hard to like." In comparison to Kentucky in the year 1861, Kansas is wild, unsettled, and "erratic," famous for "its cyclones, blizzards, grasshoppers, mortgages, and its violently opposed political cliques."

Ring is Jeff's dog, a big, gray creature with a plumed tail, "half shepherd and half greyhound." Ring has "big shoulder muscles and a white ring around his neck," and weighs almost ninety pounds. Jeff had brought Ring home as a puppy six years previously, and had talked his parents, who already had two other dogs, into letting him keep him. Now, Ring and Jeff are practically inseparable.

Mary is Jeff's younger sister. She and another sibling, Bess, are riding to the trading post one day when the two are accosted by bushwackers who steal their horses. Thinking quickly, the girls persuade the lawless men from taking their saddles as well. Although Mary and Bess return home safely, carrying their saddles, the only horses the family possesses are gone. Mary is twelve years old, and reacts bravely a second time when bushwackers actually come to the Bussey farm and threaten the family. While Bess sneaks away and goes for help, Mary snatches a pan of hot water from the fireplace and throws it at one of the intruders, helping to prevent them from doing more harm than they already have (Chapters 1-2).

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