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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.

There's a Bear in the Woods

Quentin Cantrell

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Continued from Bear Chase.


The normal forest sounds had returned by the time Shade, Clara and the children were out of the waterfall pool. He still paused to listen, but it seemed that the monster Grizzly had gone in search of less elusive prey. Now, he just had to figure out where they were relative to the main house. It only took a few moments for him to get his bearings.

"This way," he gestured off to his left. Their headlong race through the forest and away from the bear had brought them out just north of the ranch house. Even with measuring their strides to those of the twins, they should be home within twenty minutes.

Within five minutes, Shade had them back on the trail that led east toward the house. They had only gone a few yards when he thought he heard something. "Clara!" Shade called to her and stepped in front of her and the twins. Levering a round into the chamber of the rifle, he turned it in the direction of the sounds. He thought they were footfalls but was not willing to take any chances. Keeping himself between Clara, the twins, and whatever or whoever was coming, Shade waited tensely.


From up ahead the trail moved over a rise and vanished from view. Slowly a head rose over the edge of the small hill and started to drop back, then it rose again to reveal Quentin's face behind the barrel of a Sharps carbine. He watched Shade swing the barrel of his rifle away as he walked up into view, placing his hat back on his head as he looked around behind the tired, wet group. "Shade? What the hell happened? I heard shooting..."


So it was Shade's friend, Clara relaxed then but only for a moment before stepping out from behind Shade and addressing the other man, blunt as ever despite being a soaking mess.


"We were accosted by a bear. And kindly be mindful of your language, there are children present,"Clara gestured with a nod toward the twins.


Quentin blinked and looked back at the woman from where he had been watching the surrounding woods. His jaw dropped a bit then it closed almost audibly. "You four were attacked by a bear and you're giving me grief about my language?..." He shifted the Sharps to rest in the crook of his left arm as he looked at Shade. "...No wonder you like her so much. She's a pistol..."


@Stormwolfe for Shade and open

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Shade grinned, "She is that, isn't she?" Glancing around uneasily, he added, "Maybe we should talk as we head back for the house. I don't fancy meeting that monster with just this rifle and your carbine."


He was confident that Clara would keep pace with the twins. In fact, they had not let go of her hands since being lifted out of the water. Shade wanted to emphasize that they needed to stay with an adult for the near future. At least until the bear was hunted down and killed. If he had wandered this close to the ranch house, he was about as fearless as a Grizzly could be.


"Quentin, I am not exaggerating when I say that bear was a monster. I've seen and even hunted my fair share of Grizzlies and have never seen anything the likes of Old Satan!" Shade shook his head. It was evident from his voice that the encounter had left him shaken which was odd enough. Except when dealing with Harriet Mercer, Shade was fairly fearless himself. He'd lived too much in his short thirty years to be easily brought up short by an animal.


Quentin and Shade fell in behind Clara and the twins so they would be between any threat coming from behind. Quentin took another look behind them as they walked. "Did you manage to hit it? I know yours might not kill it but I was hoping it might at least do some damage..."


"I hit it. Only slowed it down a bit," Shade answered. "If anything, the noise made more of a difference to the thing. Rifle seemed to just make it mad." There was a few moments of silence as both men listened for any sign that the beast was on their trail. The forest was alive with its normal sounds as the woodland creatures went about their daily lives. The only other sound was the wind sighing through the branches of the tall aspens and pines.


Again, Shade's voice indicated how rattled he was although he had tried to hide it from Clara and the twins during their ordeal. "When he stood upright, Old Satan was nearly ten feet tall and, at least, five feet at the shoulder. I'd guess he weighed in at over 1200 pounds. Definitely abnormal size for any Grizzly I've ever encountered."


Quentin's stride checked a step as he listened to Shade. Reflexively he lifted the Sharps and worked the lever just enough to verify there was a round inside. He then snicked the weapon closed and held it ready in both hands. "You look scared enough for two people, and not much shakes you, Shade...I believe you..." Quentin nodded toward Clara and the children. "...when we get back to the ranch they stay inside and we lock everything up tight. We tell all the hands that no one goes about the ranch without at least a rifle and in pairs minimum. Agreed?"


Tags to either Shade or Clara (or both) - @Wayfarer @Stormwolfe

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So this Quentin was a bit surprised by her admonishing him for such language, Clara did not relent.


"I cannot control what a bear does but you, on the other hand, can certainly control the kind of language which comes out of your mouth," Clara sagely pointed out.


Quentin knew better than to argue with a woman under a full head of steam so he gave a nod and touched the front of his hat with a smile and turned to begin walking beside Shade.


She was however rather pleased though with that 'pistol' comment and Shade's quick agreement to it. Yes, being called a pistol was a good thing, she was pretty sure of that. Her folks did not raise a shy person. She had her opinions and was always more than willing to express them. If adults didn't like it, too bad.


Clara had both kids, hand in hand, with her and followed behind the men as they discussed this very dangerous bear. She let them talk. Truth was she knew nothing of hunting bears.


Shade answered Quentin's comment from earlier, "Agreed." Raising his voice slightly, he called out so Clara and the twins could hear him, "Hear that, Clara? Don't want you and the little'uns out and about unless someone is with you and well-armed. I'll check you out on one of our rifles too. Don't take any chances, ya hear?" Shade's tone made it an order, but there was also clear concern in it too.


"My hearing is fine. And I already know how to shoot a rifle, my father has a Sharps carbine," Clara replied, she was not thrilled being lumped in with the twins, she was well capable of taking care of herself.


"Still gonna make sure you know the ins-and-outs of the gun before I hand it over to you, girl," Shade retorted mildly.


"I sincerely hope you are not doubting the truthfulness of my assertions?" Clare frowned.


"I do not doubt that you are proficient with your farther's carbine. However," Shade's voice was firm, "different rifles and carbines handle differently."


Turning to Quentin, he continued, "I should go into town tomorrow and report on this thing to Marshal Cory. We need to let people know what they're up against."


Quentin nodded. "But you can't go alone...hard to get everyone to follow our rules if we don't follow them ourselves. I'll ride with you. We can pick up some more ammunition for the Sharps we have and maybe buy some more before there's a run on bear guns."


Shade nodded his agreement. By now they had reached the courtyard and Laura Hale was coming out to meet them, concern on her face as she saw the four wet and bedraggled group. She smiled warmly at Clara, "Let's find you and the twins some warm, dry clothes. Shade, don't track water all over the house. Mary just cleaned the floors."


"Very well, ma'am. I will remove my shoes so I do not track either," Clare replied, "I can assist with the twins too."


She was being paid for such things afterall, she wished to earn the money fairly.

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)
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