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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.

Dining with a Gentleman


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Mature Content:  Highly doubtful

With: Caroline, Arabella, Lt. Greene
Location: Starting at StarDust Saloon then ?
When: August 21, 1876
Time of Day: Afternoon

 

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Another hot summer day especially when one's living quarters is on a second story. An open window was the only hope for cooling the place off but the gentle breeze probably made little difference. No matter, Caroline ignored the weather, her mind was on this dinner date with the young army officer, Lt. Greene. He had  surprisingly asked her out at the boxing match the other day. Not that there weren't a lot of men who would love to spend time with the vivacious saloon gal but those men were not some upper class army officer. Frankly Caroline never expected someone like that to risk being seen in public in the company of a saloon woman.

 

She, on the other hand, seldom if ever went out with any man of any sort or social class. Caroline definitely had never gone out on a date with a gentleman. On occasion she could be seen strolling the boardwalks of Main Street with a certain cowpoke but he was certainly regarded as riff raff such as her.

 

Now as she readied herself for this rather strange outing, Caroline still harbored a bit of doubt he would even show up, possibly he would come to his senses even as late as now. She had taken a bath and washed her hair, gone easy on the eyeliner and makeup (her trademark look while performing), and now was in the act of putting on her best dress. Helping her with that and of course, first her corset was another denizen of the saloon, young Arabella Mudd.

 

Caroline was facing the mirror on the wall as Arabella began pulling on the corset stays.

 

"So hon, be honest with me, do you really think this is a good idea? Or if you were a betting sort, would you wager this is going to end badly?"

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Arabella didn't pull too hard on the corset strings: her reasoning being that Caroline should be able to eat as much of the fancy Hotel Restaurant food as humanly possible. 

 

"There! That'll leave you room for starters, main and a puddin'!" she said as she tied up the laces in a neat but secure bow. When she stood back to admire her handiwork, Caroline asked her the question which, in truth, she had been hoping she wouldn't.

 

"So hon, be honest with me, do you really think this is a good idea? Or if you were a betting sort, would you wager this is going to end badly?"

 

Lying would be easy. The Southern girl fancied herself as a great actress in the making, after all. But Caroline was her friend. She owed her the truth.

 

"Not end badly exactly. It's just..." Why did she feel uneasy about the saloon singer's fancy date with the handsome officer? "Well, it ain't the Lootenant. I danced with that boy at the barn dance and he seems like a nice enough feller and all, 'sjust..." She put her arm round Caroline and tipped her head curiously as she looked at the two of them side by side in the mirror. 

 

"See... when I watch you down in the bar or, well, just anywhere, really. You're always... you're always sort of in charge. You got all them fellers twisted round your little finger and eatin' out o' your hand and... and I'm sort of proud of you and feel like you're, safe. Like your heart's safe. You're cleverer and better and prettier and just so... so kinda above all of them fellers and none of them fellers can ever break your heart cause you are so much above them." She was finding it hard to explain her admiration of the way Caroline 'operated'.

 

"But that there Lootenant, he's... well, he ain't better than us saloon folk, but, you know, he might think he's better than us..." She was avoiding saying 'better than you' "Well, all I'm sayin' is... just forget about him and eat as much as you can."

 

@Wayfarer

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Caroline chuckled at the girl's reasoning behind not tightening the stays fully.

 

"Honestly, Ara, I am not going for the food. You'd think I was starving or something."

 

Ara answered her question then, there was no doubt in Caroline's mind the girl would have an opinion and a strong one at that. Sure enough.

 

"See... when I watch you down in the bar or, well, just anywhere, really. You're always... you're always sort of in charge. You got all them fellers twisted round your little finger and eatin' out o' your hand and... and I'm sort of proud of you and feel like you're, safe. Like your heart's safe. You're cleverer and better and prettier and just so... so kinda above all of them fellers and none of them fellers can ever break your heart cause you are so much above them."

 

"Aww, that's layin' it on a bit thick, hon but thank you. It's what I learned to do pretty young in this kind of job," Caroline smiled.

 

"But that there Lootenant, he's... well, he ain't better than us saloon folk, but, you know, he might think he's better than us..." She was avoiding saying 'better than you' "Well, all I'm sayin' is... just forget about him and eat as much as you can."

 

"No, yer right, hon, he ain't better'n us. He seems like a decent sort though. I do not think he's gonna try and lord it over me. But tell ya what, dearie, I will try and bring some choice bits back fer you to have a taste," Caroline declared.

 

"After all I ain't the one that needs to put on weight, you are," she teased.

 

 

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"After all I ain't the one that needs to put on weight, you are," she teased.

 

Arabella looked at the reflection of her own ironing-board flat figure in the mirror and nodded. "Ain't that the truth! Not all over, o'course, just need to put a few pounds on here and there." Not that she was trying to attract men: just good parts in plays. Also-rans were assigned parts holding spears in the background: with her figure, she'd probably get the part of the spear. 

 

Well, Caroline looked pretty much ready to go, and still no sign of the Lieutenant. Arabella skipped to the window and looked out down to the street below: lots of civilians moving around but no sign of any uniformed men in blue. Then there was a knock at the bedroom door. 

 

"Say, Caroline, there's a feller down here reckons he's takin' you out someplace!" came Mrs McMahon's distinctive tones. "Oh! We must've missed him out the window!" squeaked Arabella surprised, for she fancied that she had eyes like a hawk.

 

Truth to tell, that was hardly the fault of their powers of vision: the young man waiting downstairs was not in uniform, wearing just a good quality but pretty plan dark suit and, curiously, no hat.

 

"Ooh-ooh-ooh, you'd better go!!" Arabella fussed, putting some finishing touches to flouncing up Caroline's skirts.

 

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"Ain't that the truth! Not all over, o'course, just need to put a few pounds on here and there."

 

"I didn't mean no offense, hon, yer young yet. You'll be just fine, yer gettin' prettier by the month I daresay," Caroline assured her, she almost added that the boys would be getting more interested too but she already knew that was something Arabella did not even desire. So be it, she wasn't gonna tell the girl how to live her life.

 

Arabella skipped to the window and looked out down to the street below, no doubt looking for the young military gallant.  Then there was a knock at the bedroom door. 

 

"Say, Caroline, there's a feller down here reckons he's takin' you out someplace!" came Mrs McMahon's distinctive tones.

 

"Oh, alright, thanks, I'll be right down," Caroline called back, stuffing her derringer in the hiding spot in her outfit.  One never could be too careful.

 

"Oh! We must've missed him out the window!" squeaked Arabella surprised.

 

"We? Yer the one on lookout, kiddo," grinned Caroline.

 

"Ooh-ooh-ooh, you'd better go!!" Arabella fussed, putting some finishing touches to flouncing up Caroline's skirts.

 

"Wish me luck, hon! Not that I need it, I can handle any man," Caroline was back to her usual confident self and out of her room she went straight away down the stairway.

 

Sure enough, there was the young officer only not in military uniform? She wondered why and she could always ask him later. Least he didn't chicken out on their date.

 

"Well, well, there you are!  Looks like you are dressed like ...........what? A spy?" she teased him as they stopped short of each other.

 

 

 

 

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"Wish me luck, hon! Not that I need it, I can handle any man," Caroline was back to her usual confident self and out of her room she went straight away down the stairway.

 

"In that case, good Good Luck to the Lootenant!" quipped Arabella, clapping her hands with delight at the beauty of her friend as she flounced out of the room, then ran behind her to watch her descend the stairs in grand style.

 

The Lieutenant, dressed in civvies, waited for the gay looking blonde at the foot of the steps, grinning ear to ear. 

 

"Well, well, there you are!  Looks like you are dressed like ...........what? A spy?" she teased him as they stopped short of each other.

 

"Well, if I'm a spy, I like what I'm spying" came Joseph's rejoinder "You look completely beautiful!"  He offered her his arm to walk her out of the bar, apparently deaf to the hoots of the other patrons and blind to anything or anyone else in the place apart from Caroline.

 

As they exited through the swing doors someone complained "Who's gonna sing fer us tonight then?" and Arabella's raucous voice sounded "Better go up and put ma red dress on, boys!" but how well that suggestion went down, they never found out.

 

"I hope you don't mind me not being in uniform!" Joseph asked Caroline as they crossed the street to the Hotel.

 

 

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"Well, if I'm a spy, I like what I'm spying" came her date's response "You look completely beautiful!" 

 

"Oh my! That's a great line, I like it!" Caroline beamed, she liked smart men. Besides too often she dealt with stupid ones or at least ones stupid drunk.

 

 

 He offered her his arm to walk her out of the bar, apparently deaf to the hoots of the other patrons and blind to anything or anyone else in the place apart from Caroline.

 

Caroline ignored any comments too, she was off work now. And that seldom happened, this was a young woman who almost lived in this place.

 

As they exited through the swing doors someone complained "Who's gonna sing fer us tonight then?" and Arabella's raucous voice sounded "Better go up and put ma red dress on, boys!" but how well that suggestion went down, they never found out.

 

Ralph did answer the complainer though, "She'll be back in time for her evening performance. Let her have some fun, boys."

 

*******

 

By then the couple were strolling arm in in the direction of the hotel.

 

"I hope you don't mind me not being in uniform!" Joseph asked Caroline as they crossed the street to the Hotel.

 

Caroline smiled up at the taller man, "Well, tell ya the truth, I had kinda figured you might wear a general's uniform to really impress me."

 

It was a tease of course.

 

"Nah, yer fine. You got the face, you'd look dashing in any outfit," she assured him.

 

"I'm warnin' ya though, we might just get kicked out of this hotel dining room if some folk recognize me. My sort are not welcome in such places," she did have her trepidation about it all but the man was in charge of a date, the woman just went where he led. That's how things worked.

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"Oh my! That's a great line, I like it!" Caroline beamed, she liked smart men. Besides too often she dealt with stupid ones or at least ones stupid drunk.

 

"Really? Oh geez, I think I might have set the bar too high for the rest of the evening!" he sighed in mock resignation. 

 

"I hope you don't mind me not being in uniform!" Joseph asked Caroline as they crossed the street to the Hotel.

 

Caroline smiled up at the taller man, "Well, tell ya the truth, I had kinda figured you might wear a general's uniform to really impress me."

 

He tipped his head a little and looked at the beautiful blonde quizzically. Somehow, that was as good as laughing out loud at her her quips.

 

"To be honest, I noticed that you never wear a hat and I wanted us to match. I'm not allowed to do that in uniform: I'd be improperly dressed." he explained. "Hence the old ill fitting and out of fashion civvies."

 

"Nah, yer fine. You got the face, you'd look dashing in any outfit," she assured him.

 

"Hmm, that's true." he nodded, laughing at himself. "Say, you'd get on well with my mother, she thinks I'm the most handsome feller in Vermont. Mind you, that's a pretty small place compared to Montana."

 

"I'm warnin' ya though, we might just get kicked out of this hotel dining room if some folk recognize me. My sort are not welcome in such places," she did have her trepidation about it all but the man was in charge of a date, the woman just went where he led. That's how things worked.

 

"Oh, they hate beautiful women, do they? We'll see about that." he misunderstood on purpose. They both knew what he meant. Scion of a well heeled family that looked down on just about everybody who didn't have a pedigree stretching back to the 17th Century, when Vermont hadn't even been settled, in his family's book, a saloon girl was no lower than a bank manager's daughter or some other mercantile type. This was the West, he'd wait a long, long time for a socially suitable young lady to drop from the skies.

 

This left him free to fall for girls based on their looks and charm alone, and Caroline Mundee had both in spades. And if Mother and Father didn't like it: they shouldn't have made him join the Army in the first place, so there.

 

They reached the hotel. A boy opened the door for them and Joseph tipped him a couple of cents. Not too much. As a green 2nd Lieutenant in a unit full of grizzled veterans, he had to make every effort to impress, but in this social milieu he was right at home, although, obviously, he wanted to impress Caroline, too. 

 

"I'd like your best table for two in the restaurant, please." he said to the clerk on duty at the front desk. 

 

@Wayfarer

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