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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.

Meanwhile at the Evergreen Ranch


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Layton Harris stood, hat in hand, in the massive living room of the SGR ranch as Elias Steelgrave paced back and forth, chewing on his cigar, smoke swirling up and past his head as he moved. Seated on the divan was his wife Elinor watch what was transpiring and knowing that Elias’s temper was growing toward that fearful rage. Suddenly he stopped.


“A fight and my people started it?’ He started to pace again and suddenly whirled around. “Who was involved?” He demanded.


“Greer, him and that kid, Billy. They were the ones to start in on the girl.”


“Girl, what Goddamned girl?” Elias barked.


“It was that Redmond girl. Clara Redmond. She said Billy an’ Greer stole he stuff and commenced to lay into Billy. Greer tried to pull her off’n him an’ he hit her in the face.” Harris described. “Then this feller I ain’t never seen before come in with Thornton and Cantrell and it was Katie bar the door.”


“And?” Was Elias’ question.


“And all hell broke loose. Jenks, Mason and Daniels were in it and got whopped pretty good.” Harris continued. That red-haired fella he beat Greer pretty bad, and Mason? Busted a chair across his face. Believe he’s up to the Docs. Hannah Cory got smacked some too, so Kalispell ain’t real happy right about now.”


“Red-haired fella?” The voice belonged to Leah Steelgrave. All eye turned to her as she seemed to float into the room.

“This is none of your concern girl!” Elias barked. Now she might be daddy’s little girl, and she might get whatever she wanted but in this situation, Elias put his foot down. His sons were in Whitefish where another son Case was Marshal. Right job, wrong town for this one. “They locked up?”


“Just Greer and Billy. Ain’t sure we kin bail ‘em out. Circuit judge ain’t due till Monday next.”

Harris added in response. “The others were headin’ back after me, be here directly. Need ta put somethin’ on this split lip.”


“You do that and then you ride for Whitefish and get my boys back here.” Elias ordered.


“Yes, sir.” Was Harris’ response and with that, he headed for the door and bunkhouse.

Elinor continued her needlepoint. Leah joined her quietly on the divan.

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Meanwhile, a lone rider entered the ranch grounds and after taking care of his horse, headed for the bunkhouse. Despite Harris' report to his employer, Billy was back and not jailed like Greer. There had really been nothing the local law could charge him for, there was no proof of any stolen property simply a girl's word against that of two males. Greer however had made a stupid mistake, punching that girl, however annoying she might have been. That not only got him a beating in the ensuing brawl but also he was thrown into jail. Billy on the other hand was sternly directed by the sheriff to leave town and not attend that evening's dance. He was no fool and complied, heading out of there as fast as he could mount.


Once inside the bunkhouse, he removed his bloodied shirt, looked at his face in the mirror - he was lucky his nose wasn't broken and by tomorrow one eye was going to show as quite the shiner.  His nose had sure bled enough though plus a split lip so he proceeded to fill a washbowl with water and use a cloth to clean his battered face. Still he consoled himself that Greer had got a far worse handling.....that idiot.  He also tried not to think if he was going to be in trouble with the Steelgraves. Hell, he had just been following orders.




"Harris opened the door of the bunkhouse and nearly jumped out his boots when he saw the boy. "Hotdamnboy, you got whooped to a frazzle. He exclaimed. "The old man's hot enough ta fry an egg, so you lay low. I gotta head over to Whitefish and fetch his boys. Them others stay in town or are they headed back?"


Layton Harris.jpg


Billy winced as he dabbed at the bloodied lip, "Yeah, thanks to that idjit Greer. Sheriff arrested him."


"I didn't see anyone else comin' back here," he shrugged bare shoulders.


Figures, old man Steelgrave was angry now, seemed like that jasper was always mad at someone or about something.


TAG: @Elias Steelgrave

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"You lay low Billy, you keep outta the old man's way till the boys get back. Ain't sure you're in much trouble, not near what Greer'll find himself in." Layton Harris paused a moment. "Don't be the first one he sees is all. Now I gotta ride for Whitefish. You stay outta sight." Harris had been on the SGR long enough to know that when Elias was angry staying out of his way was best. He turned and went out the door, it banging shut behind him.


He saddled a fresh mount because it would be a hard ride to Whitefish. Of course, he thought, 'the boys might already be on their way home.' He led the dapple grey out of the barn and then mounted, he put the spurs to the mount and galloped out of the gate.




tag @Wayfarer



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  • 2 weeks later...

Whitefish, Hart Saloon


Layton Harris pulled up in front of the Hart Saloon. He knew that the brothers would be inside as opposed to anywhere else in town. Drinking and whoring were what they did in Whitefish, and deal with their brother Case, the Marshal. Once in a while, they were in town on business, SGR business which was always about an increase. Land, cattle, horses, it didn’t matter which.


Layton climbed the two steps to the boardwalk and strode through the batwing doors into the saloon, and there they were, all looking at him, knowing where he’d come from and why. Pa wanted them back to the ranch for one reason or another.


“Harris! Step on up an’ have a drink. The oldest Ben offered. “What’s Pa want this time?”


“Don’t mind if I do. Hard ride.” Layton responded. Your pa wants you back to the ranch. Greer and the kid got into it in Kalispell. Dumbass Greer punched the girl and got hisself arrested.” He tossed off the drink. “The old man’s fit to be tied.” He took a second drink. “Some new hand showed up. Whupped Greer to a frazzle, that was before he was arrested, an' whatta hell of a brawl ensued!


“Hell, how come he didn’t send you to town with a wad o’ cash and spring him?” Clay Steelgrave asked.


“Ya, why we gotta head back?” Zeke complained.


“Suddup! Alla ya!” Everyone turned to face Case Steelgrave, the nastiest of the Steelgrave brood. Ben, now he was mean, but Case was a killer. “You get on them horses and ride hell bent for the SGR. Harris, what about this new hand?” The brothers were headed out the door, no one bucked Case when he gave an order, brothers or not.


“New, ain’t never seen him before. Redheaded fella, likely ridin’ the grub line.” Was the report.


“Or maybe he rides for Thornton.” Case surmised. “Dirty white shell jacket with tails, rust-colored shotgun chaps? Two guns?”


“Seen everything but the guns, Case. Mighta put ‘em, what with the festivities and all."


“Sounds like the gun hand I talked to this morning. Said he was headed to Kalispell, sounded like he was in a hurry, names Pike, Barnabas Pike. Seems I out to know him, but I just can’t figure it.” He paused. You ride back and let my Pa know what I told you.”


“On my way, case. Thanks for the drinks.” And Layton Harris headed for the door in a rush while Case Steelgrave pondered the red-headed gunman. He was not mistaken about that part of it. “So, Thornton’s hired him a gunman.”

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Back at the SGR

The boys were stepping down in front of the house when Layton Harris galloped into the ranch yard. The Steelgrave boys had obviously not ridden ‘hell bent’ to get back, but Harris had. The boys might get away with it, but not a hired hand, foreman or not.


He followed the brothers inside, Elias Steelgrave turning to face them. “I suppose you three know that Greer and Billy are locked up in Kalispell?” He began. “We need to get them out before the town decides to lynch them.”


The boys stood dumbfounded. “But Pa, it’s goin’ on midnight an’ there ain’t gonna be a soul about. Hell-“ Ben began, cut off mid-sentence.

“You watch your mouth in front of your mother.” Elias barked.


“Sorry, Ma. Tomorrow’s Sunday, Pa, might not be no law around til after noon. You know how them townies are, an’ besides, they’ll all be ta Sunday Meetin’.”

“I’ll get some of the boys and we’ll go spring him! Simple as that.” Clay stated.


“Damn what have I raised here? You try that and there’ll be shooting. McCallister and Cory won’t stand for a jailbreak.” Elias pointed out. “Then you’ll have the whole town in the front yard with ropes aplenty!” He glared at them a moment. “Harris, you make sure that we’ve horses ready in the morning for you and one of my son’s to go and see about getting them out. Clear?”

“Yes, Sir.” Harris responded. “Billy’s back already Mister Steelgrave. They let him go.”


“I’ll deal with him come morning, now clear out. You boys, outta my sight!” Harris made for the door as the Steelgrave sons headed up the stairs for their respective rooms.


              Ben Steelgrave                                         Clay Steelgrave

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Elias watched them go then turned to his wife. "I swear, sometimes I believe benefit boys left their common sense in the barn." He lamented.


“Darling, Clay just looks to the simplest way to get what he’s after.” Elinor Steelgrave responded softly. “He sometimes reminds me of you when you were younger.


“The boys don’t understand the bigger plan to all this. But that’s alright.” He admitted. “We are close to having Whitefish in our pocket, the move now is on Kalispell starting with the hotel. It’s for sale and I mean to have it. Then, one after another.”


Leah spoke up. “One after another? Do you have any idea how long that will take, father?”


Elias whirled and looked at his daughter. “Yes, by conventional means. Not by the plans I have.”


Elinor stood and began to motion to Leah. “Shoo, off to bed. You don’t need to upset your father. Go.” The last word was edged. Leah frowned and left the room. She looked to her husband. “In your time and on your terms. Just like always.”


“Yes my love, just like always.” He agreed. “It’s late, I’m tired. Shall we retire?”


There was always a plan with Elias Steelgrave, one that would deprive some to profit he and his family. 


                 Elinor Steelgrave                               Leah Steelgrave

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Monday Morning, just after breakfast.


Elias looked across the massive table at his daughter, knowing she was as treacherous and she was beautiful. "Leah? I need for you to represent me to old man Conners and wangle the hotel out of him at a good price. He wants out and we want the property."


"I'd like that. The old boy is easy to wrap around my finger, so I see this as a chance to go to town, and to conclude the business with the hotel. Besides, I want to see if there's anything new at the Emporium." Leah responded cheerfully. Always ready to see what new fashions might have arrived from Missoula. Her father's connections there has all of the latest fashions out of San Francisco forwarded to, or even directly shipped Steelgrave's Kalispell Emporium.


"I would think you would want to dress well for the occasion. I'll have the buggy hitched for you." Elias offered.


"Thank you, Daddy. I'll be sure to look my best for Mister Conners. And really, this should be easy." Suggested Leah with a knowing smile.




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