Author's Note: This story is a reimagining of the 1958 film "Man of the West" starting Gary Cooper and Julie London.
"I am Billie Ellis"
"Girl with a Golden Voice"
In the 1870's, the only matter concerning the fact that I was a woman was that most creatures my age would think of nothing by marrying the man of their dreams and having children in order to start a family. To me, a young saloon singer named Billie Ellis, I chose to not follow that path. In the years since I became a singer, I knew that this was the destiny I wanted to follow.
To me, this would be the career that would not only help me be financially supported, but also allow me to do something that I want to do. As the years past however, I began to feel that there was something more that I can do. I obviously couldn't go on forever doing this, as all creatures must live and die at some point. Before becoming a saloon singer at the Longhorn, I was trained to be a schoolteacher, a profession that I didn't want to take, but it was because my father, Billy Ellis, wanted me to become because in his mind, it was what only women were good at.
"You have to be a schoolteacher," he would always say to me. "What is wrong with being one? Your mother was one as was your sisters, why couldn't you just follow in their footsteps?"
"Because I don't want to be one," I would always reply. "Teaching children just isn't for me, father. I'd prefer to do something I would enjoy like singing."
"I know you enjoy singing operatic songs," my father would reply. "But, no child wants to be interested in the arts. No one in this part of the world would want to be a singer. That's for the people of Europe. This is Texas, we make a living like normal citizens, do you understand?"
I knew for one thing that my father was right about one thing that I had to make a living. But, if he thought that teaching children their ABC's was going to get me anywhere, he was wrong. If I was going to do any teaching, then it would be teaching children how to sing. When I was born, I was billed as the girl with the golden voice. Throughout my schooling, I wowed my classmates with my voice and even sang for the dictator of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Yes, my voice was heard throughout Texas and people would come far and wide to the Longhorn Saloon just to hear me.
However, there was another side to this fame that would haunt me for several years. There was a couple of times where some men would want to touch me for their own selfish desires. It was scary, being treated like someone's stuffed doll or stuffed animal. From the looks that I displayed while I was on stage, I was certainly someone that was often afraid of going on stage not because of stage fright, but because of being violated.
It was after one particular incident where I decided that it was time to leave the Longhorn and pursue my dreams of becoming a singing teacher. On the morning of my departure, I awoke and was just about to start dressing, when a knock came to my door.
"Hello, Billie," said a man, wearing a pair of overalls. "I heard that you are going to be leaving us. Is there any reason why?"
"I decided to leave, George," I replied, getting out of bed and putting on a robe. "I can't stand it anymore with all those men wanting to get close to me. I thought I came here to sing, not be a man's plaything."
"But, you are," replied George as I gathered the shirt and long skirt of my pink dress that I had laid out the night before. "Do you know why women like you perform at this establishment?"
All I did was roll my eyes as I went behind a screen and began to get dressed. Up until now, I felt that being at the longhorn was a dream come true, but that was not the case.
"I can only imagine," I said as I slid on my bloomers and then my petticoat. "All I want to do is bring culture to this part of the United States. Why can't these men see it?"
"That's not the case, Billie," protested George as I hitched on my corset. "This isn't Europe, you know. European culture and American culture are different from one another. But, I think you know what your problem is?"
"What?" I asked huffily as I grabbed my black silk stockings. "What is my problem?"
"Your problem is that you are single," replied George. "That's the trouble with women like you, women deserve to be schoolteachers, maids and housewives. One of these days, Billie, you are going to run into a man with a shady past and you will be dragged into a situation that will be far more dangerous than what you experience here."
Little did I know of what my soon to be ex-manager was saying to me. All I was concerned with was getting a fresh start, going to another town and getting another singing gig hoping maybe, just maybe, someone would recognize me as an operatic singing teacher.
However, little did I know that at that moment, the man who would be the one to change my life forever was arriving into Crosscut, Texas alone on a brown horse. As I stepped out into the warm Texas air, I saw him ride past me before taking a right and heading off towards the stable in the back of the saloon.
"I guess you're leaving us," said my friend, Willie, who was the assistant proprietor of the Longhorn.
"You're a good guesser, Willie," I replied, extended my gloved hand out to him. "Take care, and thanks for being the only man for respecting for who I am."
"Oh, you're welcome, Billie," he chuckled as I stepped down the stairs and looked up at the name of the person who would be replacing me at the Longhorn. "Safe travels, you hear?"
I waved to Willie and then I walked off towards the train station, where I would begin the greatest story of my life…