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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.


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Pronto stepped back through the batwing doors and out onto the boardwalk. He paused and took in the town, a nice place, wide street, well-maintained buildings. Perhaps a place he could call home, maybe even put down some roots. Then he smiled, almost to himself. He already heard there was range trouble between the big spreads, and that meant the small man was going to get squeezed out. He’d seen it before, too many times to his liking.


The hammerhead roan stood three-legged at the hitch rail, waiting. Well, a ride out to this Founders Day Fair and back, then a good rub down and a bate of oats at the livery would be his reward. He stepped down to the dusty street, taking up the reins as he went, then stepping into the saddle. He wheeled the roan north and walked a bit before raising the horse's gait to a trot.


In no time he reached the trail the bartender had told him about and saw the hand-painted sign that announced the event. He turned in and moved toward the sounds of people. It was not all that far and from what he could see as he got closer, the town populace was there in full force. He moved to where a picket line had been set up and dismounted, tethered the animal to the line. He gave thought to his appearance and decided that it might be best to take off his guns. He removed them and tucked them in his saddlebags, then used his hat to knock off the trail dust as best he could from his clothing. Resetting his hat, the walked toward the crowds, looking for a badge so as to check in. His common practice.


Quentin finished nailing down a few boards on the incomplete dance floor and stood, arching his back and rubbing down at the small of it. He paused and watched a man he did not recognize walking across the meadow. He seemed to be a little lost but the fact he was here and was also a stranger made bells ring faintly in the back of Quentin's head. He turned and gave a low quick whistle at Shade. When the younger man looked up at him Quentin tilted his head in the direction of the newcomer as he walked closer to Shade. "You recognize him?...I sure don't."


Shade paused in the act of securing one of the dance floor boards that someone, probably some of the older kids, had yanked loose. They probably planned on hiding out and watching the dancers get dumped on their behinds when they stepped on the insecure planks. He looked at the man and shook his head at Quentin, "No, but look at this place!" He gestured at the people moving about all over the fairgrounds. "There are people from everywhere." Shade added with a lopsided grin, "Probably the biggest event this side of the Snake River."


Straightening, Shade stepped out so the man could see him. Quentin would not be happy until they had made sure he wasn't a threat. Probably a good idea with the twins off their leash and wandering the fair with Kate or Josephine. "Hey," Shade called out to the stranger with the dusty red hair, "Can we help you find something?"

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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Pronto pulled up and looked toward the two men. “Howdy. Just got into town was lookin’ to speak with the law hereabouts.” He replied. “Got no guns, meanin’ no harm.” He automatically held his arms away from his side to show he wasn’t heeled. “Would that be one of you?”


Quentin made a long step off the side of the dance floor and walked toward the stranger. "'Fraid not, we're just ranchers..." Quentin wiped some sweat from his forehead with a sleeve and then stuck his hand out to the other man. "Quentin Cantrell...this gentleman with me is Shade Thornton..." Cantrell left the introduction open for the newcomer as his eyes moved down along the man. noticing the cleaner spots for holsters on his hips where they had kept the trail dust from his clothes.


“Pike, Barnabas Pike, but folks call me Pronto.” He extended his hand. “Shade Thornton? Bartender in town spoke right highly of you. We spoke some about the area as I had a run in up to Whitefish with their lawman. Unpleasant fellow to be sure. Me, I’m lookin’ to lite n’ set a spell. Not lookin’ for no trouble.”


Shade was a bit surprised that anyone would speak about him one way or the other. Maybe it was a case of him being associated with Chance and Regina. His late brother and his wife had been well-liked, even loved, by the residents in and around Kalispell. He closed his eyes very briefly as a wave of grief hit him. It was getting better, but it still hurt.


Taking the Pike's offered hand, Shade smiled briefly. At least his past was not dogging him for now. "Good to meet you. Whitefish? That'd be Case Steelgrave." He shook his head, deciding not to propagate the Thornton-Steelgrave feud for the moment. "Deputy Marshall Hannah Cory is on-duty for the marshal's office today. Saw her heading toward the vendor's tents awhile back."


"Got an ear full 'bout this Steelegrave down to the hotel," Pike replied. "Got you a female deputy do you? Interesting. Heard tell of that sort of thing. Have to look 'er up, like to check in first thing in town." He noted the looks from both men. He chuckled. "Ain't wanted if that's what yer thinkin'.  Just easier to have the law know I'm about if'n there's any rumors 'er tales poppin' up."


Shade's gaze sharpened a bit at the man's last comments. He was the last one to judge simply because a man's face showed up on a wanted poster. He knew from personal experience that it did not always mean the person was guilty. Even when he was not wanted for anything, he was often questioned if the description of a miscreant included black hair and blue eyes. Shade was also no stranger to having his reputation proceed him into a town. "Wasn't the first thought I had, Mr. Pike," Shade said affably.


“No sir, don’t expect it was.” Pronto agreed. “Just an old habit of mine.”


Quentin watched the byplay between the two. "You must have a bit of trouble staying on the right side of the law whether you mean it or not...Shade understands what that is like..." Quentin gestured and began walking. "We'll help you find Deputy Cory. I need something cold to drink anyway, so we'll solve both problems at once."


“Some might say that. Sure enough, there’s those what might have that opinion.” Was Pike’s response to the man’s observation. And it was true enough that there were those that believed Pronto Pike straddled the legal fence. “ Appreciate you helpin’ me out. I’ll stand you boys a cold drink for your trouble.”


Quentin grinned as the three men walked along. "Friend, you certainly know how to start fitting in...keep that up."


"Quentin's right about that one," Shade agreed. "I also need to check in with Clara Redmond. She's looking after her little brother and the twins for a bit, giving Kate and their nanny a break." He had asked Clara to look after the children while he rode the horse race and attended to a few chores. She had readily agreed - for a price - and had taken charge. However, she was fifteen years old and Shade did not want her to miss out on enjoying the fair because she was babysitting. "We'll likely find Hannah close to the trouble areas." He did not come out and say the saloon tent.


"Trouble spot, you say. Thought this was a family affair." Pike queried as they walked along. The folks about them seemed to be having quite the time, and there weren't any signs of trouble, but then there seldom are until something explodes.


To be continued in Let Me At 'Em

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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