Ms. Cora’s Tale … Chapter 16

Monday morning, Elmo came downstairs before Corky left for breakfast.

“Corky, when you come back from Lil’s this morning, come dressed as Cora. I’ll be watching for you and we’ll go up and see that lawyer fella. What’s his name?”

“Lorenzo Albright”.

“Yeah. Sounds right. As soon as you get back we’ll head up to Quality Hill and find him.”

“Does that mean you’ve made the decision to give me this place.”

“I didn’t say. I just said let’s go up and talk to the lawyer.”

“Okay by me.” Corky said, starting for the front. “Cora’ll be back before you know it.”

Half an hour later, Elmo and Cora were sitting in Lorenzo Albright’s office at his home on Quality Hill. Elmo explained that Cora was his granddaughter… he didn’t have to know the actual truth.… and a few of the other details about what had happened to her since. He didn’t bother to mention that she had almost been raped on her first day in Bisbee and had lived in a whorehouse for most of the time since or that she had been posing as a boy for most of the last year.

And Elmo told the lawyer the details of Lil’s plan, making him believe he had come up with it himself. He wished to sell his bar to his granddaughter for one dollar.”

“Are you sure about this?” the lawyer asked.

“Well lawyer, I’ve give it a lot of thought and it’s for sure what I want to do. And I also want to have a paper drawed up that says she… Cora… my granddaughter… is gonna let me keep livin in my room up over the bar for as long as I’m still alive.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem.” the lawyer replied.

Albright could have cared less about what Elmo did with his property. Or what kind of agreements he made with his granddaughter. He had never met Elmo. He simply said, “My fee for drawing up a deed and having it recorded will be $300. Is that acceptable?”

“Fine.” Elmo said.

The lawyer pulled a legal pad over in front of him and removed the top of a large, black, Mont Blanc fountain pen. “What’s your full name, Elmo?”

“Elmo Manville”

“No middle initial.”


He looked at Cora. And your name, darlin’?”


“Cora Manville?”

“No, sir. Cora Hicks.”

He wrote both names on his pad and looked back at Elmo. “What is the address of the bar, Elmo?”

“## Brewery Avenue.”

“And I assume you have a legal deed to the property?”

“Yessir. It’s in a safety deposit box at the bank.”

“Fine. Just to make sure I’ve got this right, let me reiterate… Cora and Elmo just looked at each other and shrugged, neither of them knowing what ‘reiterate’ meant… The lawyer paid them no mind but went right on talking, “You want the Bill of Sale to say you, Elmo Manville, are selling this young lady, Cora Hicks, your property for one dollar?”

“That’s right.”

“Fine. Fine.” He pulled a small black notebook calendar over in front of him and looked at it, commenting. “This is Monday. I’ll have my clerk type up the papers tomorrow. Can the two of you come back Wednesday morning, say around ten, to sign the papers?”

Elmo said, “Don’t see why not.” He and Cora stood up and Elmo added. “Unless they’s more we need to do here, we’ll be going.”

Albright stood and extended his hand “I’ll see you Wednesday, then.” He shook Elmo’s hand and extended a mock hat tip to Cora. As they started out the door Albright called after them, “Oh. One last little detail. I’ll expect to be paid on Wednesday as well. Acceptable.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll have your money.” Elmo answered, stepping through the door and down the steps, Cora following at his heels.

The fee was paid and the papers signed Wednesday morning. The lawyer said, “I’ll have to send all of this to Tombstone for recording. It’ll take the courthouse a few weeks before we get copies of the recorded deed back. They don’t get in any hurry. I’ll be back in touch.”

We digress once again now, back to the previous day, Sunday, the second morning that Ron slept in Cora’s bed.

It being Sunday morning, there was no reason to get in a hurry, as long as Ron was gone before Pops stirred. They began to discuss how Ron’s staying there every night was going to work.

Ron rented a cellar up on Laundry Hill. Laundry Hill was quite a hike up from the gulch but he had rented the cellar because it was a safe place to store his tools and his tools were his livelihood. He moved an old cot in so he didn’t have to rent another room for sleeping. The place was dark and damp but he had gotten used to it. It was in the home of a widow woman, whom he despised and fortunately didn’t have to see often.

After Ron had gotten to know Corky and had started going to the bar almost every evening, his routine was to hike up Laundry Hill from wherever he happened to be working, stash his tools, hike back down to the bar and then, later, back up to bed. But he never stayed at the bar after nine and most nights left earlier than that. Now he would have to be at the bar at closing.

Cora hit on the solution. She suggested that when Ron got back up Laundry Hill after work he should stay in his cellar until late and get a few hours sleep, and then head down to the bar whenever he wanted to get there but once he came down he wouldn’t have to go back up the hill until the next morning!. He could get a few hours sleep early in the evening and a few more during the wee hours after the bar closed.

Ron wasn’t crazy about splitting up his night like that but couldn’t think of a better plan that included sleeping at least part of the every night in Cora’s bed. But how would he wake up once he was asleep in a dark cellar?

Cora seemed to be reading his thoughts. “You’ll have to go to the drugstore and get an alarm clock.” she said.

So the plan was put into place. Ron arrived at the bar that night a little before midnight. He sat in his usual place in the shadows by the wall sipping beer until closing time. And then slipped up the stairs when summoned by Cora.

This plan worked for awhile but soon took it’s toll on Ron. He hiked back up Laundry Hill at the end of his workday lugging his tools up with him. Then he would lay down for a few hours hoping to sleep at least some, before hiking back down to the gulch and sitting on a barstool for a couple of hours, and then going back to bed, where he often dozed off waiting on Cora to finish her bath. But Cora’s bath always re-energized her after her long day in the bar. She became insatiable and that meant neither of them slept very much until she let him out the door at six most mornings because he had to hike back up to Laundry Hill, grab his tools, and get to wherever he was working that day before seven.

And since Cora couldn’t … wouldn’t … let Pops know what was happening and couldn’t have Ron let himself out of the bar at six and leave the door unlocked, she had to go down with him and let him out and she was getting exhausted as well. Something had to change. But what else could they do except sleep together only on weekends.

The perfect solution came from a most unexpected source the very next morning.

It was a Sunday. Ron didn’t have to work so it was about ten when he and Cora tiptoed down the stairs for her to let him out, secure in the knowledge that Elmo was asleep in his room, Cora having peeked in and seen him in the bed. Or, rather, she saw the shape of a body in his bed covered by blankets. So neither she nor Ron noticed him sitting at his usual place at the end of the bar hiding behind his newspaper as they passed by on their way to the door. They were whispering their good-byes when Elmo’s voice startled them suddenly, “No need to be so secretive ya’ll. I been knowin what was goin on up there for some time now.”

Both Cora and Ron turned around aghast. Their faces were white with embarrassment.

“Oh shit!” Cora muttered. “Pops … I … Errr … That is … “ Cora couldn’t seem to actually say anything until she noticed that Pops was laughing his arse, as he would say it, off. She looked over at Ron and when their eyes met they both started laughing as well.

Elmo said between chuckles. “Ya’ll both come back here. You in a hurry to get somewhere, son?”

“Nope. The reason I was in a hurry to get away don’t seem to exist anymore.”

“Then let’s talk. Did you two actually think you were getting away with something behind my back?”

They both nodded sheepishly. Cora said, “I guess we did. I don’t know what we thought except how much we wanted to be together.”

Pops grinned. “I’ve known since that first morning when I heard you talking. And then I started listening for you to go down and let him out, Cora, so I know he’s been here every night for the last three weeks. And the first suggestion I have for Ron is to take this spare key and have another made by the locksmith.” As he said this, he produced a key and laid it on the bar.

Now it was Ron’s turn to look sheepish. He looked at Elmo and asked, “Are you sure, Pops?”

“Actually, it’s not my place to say, or it won’t be pretty soon onc’t that deed gets back from Tombstone… Hell, I shoulda asked Cora if it was okay before I gave you the key to the place.”

Cora smiled at this exchange. “I think it’s one of the most wonderful suggestions I’ve ever heard. And now, I want to make a proposal, Pops, if its okay?


“If Ron is willing, what would you think about hiring him as a night bartender to help me out the last four or five hours every night.”… Having found her tongue, words start tumbling out of her mouth as fast as she could say them… “because I’ve noticed that he is really tired lately and he’s missed some days of work because he’s so tired and, that is, if you would want to Ron, I thought if he was working here part time he could slow down with some of the carpenterin and maybe you could even give up yore room” she had begun speaking directly to Ron now… “on Laundry Hill and bring yore tools here and keep em in the storeroom back yonder.”

Elmo laughed and said, “My god, girl. How long you been savin that up?”

Cora looked at her shoes. “Uh. Guess I should’ve cleared it with you first, Pops.”

“Seems to me Ron’s the one you should clear it with. Ron, I think it’s your turn to speak.”

“Gee. That went by so fast I’m not sure I caught it all. Did you say you’re offerin me a job? And that you thought I could maybe give up some of my carpenterin?”

“Is that askin too much?”

“You kiddin. I’d love it. … I would’t never have to hike back up Laundry Hill again or have to worry about that weird old woman up above me attacking me in my sleep?”

Elmo chimed in. “You seen how big our storeroom is? Seein how you’re a carpenter and all, you could put up some shelves so there’d be plenty of room for your tools.”

And now Cora again, “And you’ll never have to sneak in and out again and we can live just like normal married folks.” She hesitated, looking at Ron. When he didn’t respond immediately, she added, “I’m not sayin we’d have to get married, or nothin, though.”

There was a short, pregnant silence before Ron asked, “When can I bring my tools down?” and everybody laughed. Ron left immediately, returning soon with a borrowed hand-cart containing all his tools. By late afternoon, everything was stowed away and Ron became a permanent resident of Cora’s room above the bar.

And that night, he started learning to tend bar, working beside Corky for now, but that was soon to change.

The next week, almost four weeks after Cora and Pops had been to see Lorenzo Albright a boy came into the bar with a large envelope. He had been dispatched by Lawyer Albright and had been instructed to give the envelope directly to Elmo Manville, Lawyer Albright thinking that Cora Hicks would not be allowed in the bar at that time because of the city ordinance. He was completely unaware of Corky.

The envelope contained six photostats of an officially recorded, fee-simple deed, stating that Cora Hicks is sole owner of the building at ## Brewery Gulch and that the only covenant was that she allow Elmo Manville to live rent free in a room above the bar for the rest of his natural life.

The next morning, Friday, Corky and Ron left the bar going up to breakfast at #41.

Half-an-hour later Cora and Ron emerged, Cora looking very feminine in a smart ankle-length business dress complete with gloves and a sun-bonnet. A livery wagon was waiting for them on Brewery at the bottom of the steps. She dropped Ron at the bar and the teamster drove her on to the bank.

Stepping inside through revolving doors, Cora looked around in awe. She had never been inside a bank before. Elmo was seated on a bench at the opposite side of the lobby. He saw her walk in and immediately signaled her to follow him. As she crossed the wide office, she looked around and realized she was the only woman in the bank. There were no female employees that she could see. No female customers. She quickened her pace slightly to get into the office and out of the range of stares coming from all around her.

Inside the office, a young clerk sat behind a desk and waved his arm towards two chairs in front of it. As they sat, Elmo began by saying that he had sold his bar to the young woman here with him, his granddaughter, Cora Hicks, who wished to establish a bank account in her own name.

“Well.” the young clerk said. “While it is certainly legal for a woman to have an account in her own name, most of them want to be on a man’s account if that can be arranged.” He looked at Elmo, almost turning his back on Cora, speaking as if she were not even in the room. “All the women I know prefer to let their husbands or fathers, or, in you case, grandfather handle their business affairs. What if we set up a second account in your name, Mr. Manville, since you’re her grandpa, and put Miss Hicks on the account.” He looked at Cora now. “And you, Cora,”… She noticed his familiarity. He would regret it!… “you wouldn’t have to be bothered with writing checks for everything you wanted to buy.” He reached across the small desk to pat her hand. He would regret that, too! “You’ll have good credit in Bisbee, I’m sure, and those merchants where you charge merchandise will be glad to send Mr. Manville here an invoice each month and he can dr…” he would have finished with “drop by with a check.” but he was abruptly, emphatically, indignantly interrupted.

“You pompous ass!” Cora exclaimed loudly as she jumped to her feet. Loudly enough that it got the attention of Mr. Biggers, president of the bank, who sat next door in his office and had been listening to parts of the conversation through the open office doors, generally impressed with how Jenkins was gently steering his customer in the right direction, as his … Mr. Biggers’ … official stance was to put women on pedestals and keep them out of the realms of business. ‘You pompous ass.!’ in a female voice got his full attention. He jumped up out of his chair and maneuvered his bulk out one door and into the other hearing …

“Look here, Mr. Whatever-Your-Name-Is, that paper there.” Cora stabbed her finger down on the deed laying on his desk. “That paper there says that I have fee-simple ownership of that building”… Cora wasn’t sure what that word meant but it sounded good… “and the business that is housed inside it. Now, when I leave this bank, I will have a bank account in my own name, Cora Hicks.” She reached into her bag and extracted a $2 bill which she extended across the desk. “Here’s $2 to secure the account until tomorrow morning when I, Cora Hicks, will come in with my first daily deposit of the receipts from tonight. And you, or one of them other little pipsqueaks out there” … arm sweep … “like you, will smile and say ‘Good Morning, Ms. Hicks’, and give me a receipt” … she pronounced it ‘recipe’ … “Is that clear, Mr. Whatever-Your-Name-Is? Now, set me up an account pronto or I go find go find me the president of the bank.”

But there was no need for that as the president of the bank was standing in the doorway behind her.

“Mr. Jenkins,” the president of the bank bellowed, “I strongly suggest that you do just as this young lady has asked you to do.” Jenkins had, in reality, not been ‘asked’ to do anything, he had been ordered by his customer to do it.

Jenkins extracted a form from his desk drawer and began to fill in the blanks. Cora sat patiently and watched. Mr. Biggers, who was quite rotund, filled the entire doorway. This young lady was now the owner of a bar on Brewery Gulch and in 1910 there was more than one bank in Bisbee and he didn’t want to piss off the new owner of a profitable bar.

Jenkins finished the form, having Cora sign in her crude script that was now her official signature, and presenting her with a pad of checks. It seemed to cause him pain to have to say, “Thank you, Miss Hicks. We appreciate that you chose our bank to safeguard your money. I hope you have a pleasant day.” The standard salutation to any new depositor. He had never had to say it to a woman before.

As Cora stood up to leave, Mr. Biggers extended his hand.

“It’s nice to meet you Miss Hicks. I’m Horace Biggers, president of the bank, and I too want to tell you how much we appreciate your business.

Cora returned his handshake. “Pleased to meet ya, Mr. Biggers. I’m Ms. Cora Hicks.”

“Well it’s nice to meet you , Miss … err, Ms Hicks. If you ever need anything, you just come to me.” As Cora and Elmo started back across the lobby, the slack jaws of the clerks were even more pronounced now that everyone knew Ms. Hicks. Mr. Biggers looked at Jenkins and said ‘Follow me.’ Back in his office, he closed the door.

The following day, we find Elmo, Cora, and Ron sitting with Lil in her dining room having brunch and Lil is not shy about announcing her intentions. She has known, of course, about Ron’s new living arrangement and his working at the bar since the Saturday it was first discussed. And she was very pleased with this.

At the end of lunch she tinkled her glass with the handle of her spoon and raised her glass of beer. “To Ms. Cora,” she said, having heard from Elmo about what transpired at the bank, “the first female to own a bar in Bisbee and Cochise County and maybe all of Arizona.” The five of them held their glasses high over the table and clinked them together.

Lil continued. “But before I say more on that subject, I want to ask Ron if he’s interested in starting to take his meals with Cora at #41. I’ll feed you for a dollar a day, the same I’m charging Cora. What do you say?”

Ron hesitated Cora remembered how he had initially, weeks ago, declined just such an offer claiming he would have to leave to go to his carperterin job before ten-thirty when breakfast started and most of the time wouldn’t be finished before 5:30 or 6:00 and supper would already be over.

Cora jumped in. “Well, Lil. I was going to mention just the opposite, that perhaps Ron and I should start taking our meals across at the Greek’s. I think Ron might not be comfortable eating here all the time even if he’s not carpenterin as much but of course he has been here a few times for supper when he finishes early.” … She turned and looked at Ron. … “Would you want to eat here on a regular basis?” … and now back at Lil … “Not that it has anything to do with Cooky’s cookin.”

Ron sat silent, a little red in the face.

Lil tittered and ridiculed herself for even suggesting it. But she recovered quickly.

“Oh, Ron. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have just presumed that you would want to take you meals here. But! There’s certainly no reason that you and Cora and Elmo can’t come to luncheon at eleven-thirty every Thursday morning.” She didn’t wait for anyone to actually agree with this statement but continued apace. “Now, for the real stuff. Cora, now that you’re legal owner of the bar, it is imperative that you become not only the owner but also the hands-on, on-premise, proprietor. Corky should disappear forever. And Cora should be seen this very afternoon greeting customers and waiting on the constable to arrive. And we know he’ll arrive because the word will quickly spread on the street that there’s a woman running Elmo’s bar. So when he comes in to try to run you out, you will show him your deed and politely explain to him that, as the proprietor of the bar, you can’t be barred from running your business.

“It’s likely he won’t accept this argument as he’s not the brightest. And, it’s very possible he’ll want to arrest you. But Elmo and I think we can prevent that. We have arranged for Alonzo Albright to be in waiting. The instant the constable arrives, a call will be made to Quality Hill and he’ll be there in minutes. All you guys have to do is stall the constable long enough for Albright to get there and he’ll take care of it.”

Cora looked from Lil to Elmo. “So, Pops, you were in on this? You knew Lil wanted Cora to come out permanently today?”

“Yep. Planned it together. You can say no. We can’t force you to do it. It would be you, after all, who might have to spend time in the pokey.”

Cora laughed heartily. “You know, things have been a bit boring since I got so used to being Corky. I think it’s time for a little excitement. Lil, I’ll send Billy up to bring all my things from here back to the bar. And I think we should have a funeral when we snuff Corky out for good and burn that pair of overalls.”

Everyone had a good laugh at that one.

The only thing left to do was to execute the plan.

Elmo and Ron left immediately to let Billy into the bar and get it ready to open.

Cora and Lil went to Lil’s room to plan Ms. Cora’s debut. Esmeralda, Carmen and Lizzie soon arrived. Ms. Cora, the new proprietor of Elmo’s bar, was going to make a grand entrance at five o’clock that afternoon.

Proceed to Chapter 17

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