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Shade Thornton

Prelude to a Bear Hunt

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With: Aurelian & Clara Redmond, Various TBD.
Location: Redmond Homestead, Kalispell General Store area.
When: August 25, 1875
Time of Day: Early Morning

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Shade eased back on the reins, "Steady Clyde, steady Clive," he called to the two big gray Percherons. He smiled as the two draft horses steadied and worked in concert as they turned the buckboard onto the short road that led to the Redmond homestead. He needed to stop by and suggest that Clara not come for her work days at the ranch until they found and killed the marauding grizzly that was terrorizing the area. He also needed to let them know that it had come close to killing Ezra Hale. The Hales got along well with the Redmonds and he figured they would want to know what had happened. Of course, they may have made it into town already and heard stories from there.

 

Hopping down from the buckboard, Shade opened the gate, led the team through it and fastened the gate behind them. He had helped put up line fencing after the escaped cattle incident that led to his first meeting with the feisty Clara Redmond, eldest of the two children. In a few minutes, Shade was pulling the team to a stop again outside their house.

 

"Hello the house!" Shade called out as he dismounted from the wagon seat again.

 

Wyatt opened the front door, he was barefoot and without a shirt, his hair looked wet too. He grinned at the sight of the cowboy.

 

"Howdy!  You here to see my sister?" he asked.

 

Before he could say anything else or Shade could even answer, Clara half pushed the boy aside. Her eyes lit up upon seeing just who the visitor was. She had her usual work dress on but she too was barefoot.

 

"Good morning, Shade. A fine day. What brings you out here?" she had her own question then frowned at her brother.

 

"Will you put some clothes on. You would think you were some redskin savage or something."

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Wyatt opened the front door, he was barefoot and without a shirt, his hair looked wet too. He grinned at the sight of the cowboy.

 

"Howdy!  You here to see my sister?" he asked.

 

Before he could say anything else or Shade could even answer, Clara half pushed the boy aside. Her eyes lit up upon seeing just who the visitor was. She had her usual work dress on but she too was barefoot.

 

"Good morning, Shade. A fine day. What brings you out here?" she had her own question then frowned at her brother.

 

"Will you put some clothes on. You would think you were some redskin savage or something."

 

Shade grinned at Wyatt, "Mornin', tiger. I am here to see all of you actually," he replied to the boy before turning to nod at Clara. "It's good to see you, Clara. Is your father here? We've had some trouble at the ranch."

 

"Yes, of course he is. Just a moment and I will get him," Clara nodded.

 

Wyatt had ignored his sister's fussy demand and instead looked up at their visitor, they didn't get much company out here after all.

 

"We just finished up taking baths. I'll just be dirty again by day's end what with helping Pa with the chores," he declared in all seriousness.

 

"So do those two kids actually like my sister?" he had been told so by Clara and found that hard to believe, he could not imagine bossy Clara being their teacher for anything but grumpiness.

 

Shade had to grin at Wyatt's declaration regarding having to take a bath and the probable lack of cleanliness by day's end. "That does sound like you'll need to bathe again tonight," he teased. "And yes, the twins really are fond of your sister. She's making a big difference for them. They even look forward to their lessons now."

 

"Oh no, we don't go thru all this bother every day. Too much fuss, even for my sister," Wyatt shook his head. Who in their right mind took daily baths?

 

"I'd be worried about those two twins of yours, sir. Think there might be just a little something wrong with 'em," he tried without success to come to terms with Shade's revelations.

 

Just then Aurelian showed himself, buttoning up a shirt, his hair wet too.

 

"Shade, good morning. I hope this is a social call and not that there is something amiss?" Aurelian greeted their visitor.

 

"Mornin', Aurelian. Guess it's a little of both," Shade replied. "Wanted to make sure you folks were okay here and let you know that Ezra Hale was mauled by that old Grizzly the other day. We'll pay Clara for her time, but she needs to stay around here until we find that animal and kill it. Oh...nearly forgot...we slaughtered a couple of big hogs a few days back and the meat finished smoking. I brought you some bacon and pork chops."

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Aurelian listened as the man filled him in on the latest about that damned bear. It was very disturbing too.

 

"Oh that's terrible. I hope it's not too serious. How did it happen and where if I might ask?" Aurelian frowned.

 

Wyatt was wide-eyed, "Oh gosh! So it's trying to eat people now?"

 

Clara was stunned too but, as usual, hid her emotions better. It took a lot to rattle her.

 

"Poor Mrs. Hale," she sighed, taking in his other part of her having to stay put now til this monster could be hunted down. She had experienced a first hand run in with that bear. Terrifying was the only word for it.

 

"Shade, I believe we heard him last night or at least a very loud bear," she revealed.

 

"He sounded huge," Wyatt added.

 

"We do all our chores now as a trio. Two of us are armed when we go out there too," Aurelian explained to Shade their own family precautions.

 

Shade ruffled Wyatt's hair, "I think that old bear is an opportunist," he told the boy, addressing his concern first. "Best we can figure is that Ezra came upon it when he was looking for a stray. Tore him up pretty bad but the doc is cautiously optimistic on his chances."

 

"That's good, we shall include him in our prayers," Aurelian declared solemnly.

 

"Staying together while doing your chores is good. If you need to borrow a heavier rifle, let me know. I can drop one by in the morning. Heading into town now to pick up supplies for the hunt," Shade told them.

 

"No need, my Sharps carbine packs quite the wallop with it's .52 caliber cartridge. I have talked to a few men who told me they dropped buffalo with it," Aurelian informed him.

 

"Not to mention, Wyatt's loud scream would probably scare the bear away," Clara smiled.

 

"Hey!" Wyatt glared up at his sister.

 

"I might be in the same boat with Wyatt," Shade said with an affable grin. "Sounds like your gun will do the trick. We're pretty sure the thing is still on the ranch. There are riders out in groups trying to pick up its track. We will be heading off to find it and kill it day after tomorrow.  We could use another experienced man with a heavy rifle..." Shade tilted one eyebrow in inquiry at Aurelian. He almost immediately wished he had not said anything in front of the children.

 

"Of course, I'll go. I think we need to end this threat to the entire community. I'm glad to do my part," Aurelian did not hesitate.

 

Clara was proud of her father, some girls might protest that their father should not take such a risk but Clara knew the man could handle himself. And as for her and Wyatt, they would be extra careful and they would be just fine.

 

"Good, thank you, Aurelian," Shade said. He was relieved that the man had agreed to go on the hunt. The ranch had a good complement of ranch hands. Good men, proficient at their jobs. However, they could not all be pulled off ranch duties to hunt the bear. The hunting party needed to be small but competent.

 

"We're meeting up at the lower valley bunkhouse just at dawn day after tomorrow. It's the one where you brought Clara after that other incident. We'll have a good breakfast before heading out," Shade told Aurelian their plans. Without realizing it, his voice had fallen into the cadence he used to use when giving his scouting reports to the commanding officers he reported to back when he rode scout for the army.

 

"Sounds good," Aurelian nodded.

 

"If you like, we can send a hand or two down here to look after your place and take Clara and Wyatt up to the house?" Shade would feel better if the kids were taken care of.

 

Clara frowned, "We have daily chores to do and a milking cow and henhouse here."

 

Aurelian shook his  head, "No, very kind of you but between you giving us meat and offering some of your valuable hands to come over here, that's too much. We pride ourselves on self-reliance. And I trust my daughter and son to be careful. No need for the hands."

 

Both of his children smiled at the compliment.

 

If it were Indians that would be quite a different story but no, there were always some risks living out West. Hell, there were risks in just living.

 

"Fair enough," Shade replied. He knew Clara was as strong and confident as anyone could be. However, Old Satan wouldn't care about that. Hopefully, with all the hands on the ranch on lookout for him, he was heading for higher ground. "Well, I need to head on into town for supplies. Thanks again for riding with us, Aurelian."

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Less than a half-hour after leaving the Redmonds' place, Shade arrived in Kalispell proper. Carefully guiding the buckboard through the slightly heavier than normal traffic. Wednesdays were the town's second most hectic days with Saturday being the busiest thanks to the Friday night revelers. Shade hoped that he could join in on some the town's activities soon. Right now, though, he needed supplies and ammunition.


There was one thing Shade could look forward to. Once he got to the general store and handed over his list to be filled, he could stop in at the Stardust and grab a cold beer. He smiled and greeted the few people that he knew as he jumped down from the wagon's seat. It was without much surprise that he saw Hannah Cory sauntering his way. Despite their history, Shade still admired Hannah's determination to keep the unrulier of Kalispell's citizens in check. It still surprised him that she was unmarried. Then again, while he considered her quite beautiful, many men might consider her too independent - or too much of a handful for them. She would never be a staid and obedient wife.


"Hannah," Shade greeted her affably with a tip of his hat. "Hot one today."


"Shade," Hannah greeted in the same manner although without the hat-tipping. Her own hung by its thin leather straps on her back. She also ignored his statement about the weather. In typical Hannah fashion, she went straight to the point, "Sorry to hear about Ezra. You stockin' up for the hunt?"


Shade blinked, wondering how she had known, "Yeah. Doesn't do to head into the Blackbirds ill-equipped." He answered using the colloquial name for the Choguns which meant blackbirds in the language of the Blackfoot tribe. 


"The Choguns?" Hannah narrowed her cat-like eyes, "You are not joining the hunt being put together here in town?"


"No. That animal was on Lost Lake land when he attacked Ezra. We're gonna deal with it." This time it was Shade who narrowed his eyes, "There's not going to be a bunch of men trampling over our range, shooting at anything that moves."


"And how do you plan to keep people off Lost Lake, Thornton?" Hannah asked, her voice sounding more than slightly irritated.


"Hope to pick up a couple of good men while I'm here today. Need someone to manage the pack animals too. Our hands will be ridin' the range like always." 


"I gotta finish my rounds," Hannah said, obviously deciding to not rise to the bait. "No trouble, Shade," she tossed over her shoulder as she walked away.


Shade shook his head. He had no intention of starting any trouble. He would end it if it came his way. For a moment, he watched Hannah walking away. Hard not to admire the view. Grinning to himself, he headed on into the store.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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A few minutes before Shade's arrival at the General Store, Kate had been discussing school supplies with the store's owner, Daniel Wilson.  To her it help that Mr. Wilson was also a member of a school board and so he had at least an understanding of what was needed.  They needed to get an order in very soon as it would take a month or two to arrive, depending on what freight service they used.  Since it had a good chance of the last one before winter, she wanted to make sure that everything was on the list.  The last thing she wanted to be short on supplies if any new children arrived.

 

The discussion was halted by the arrival of Ruth Johnson, a woman she had met a few days ago.  Ruth was in desperate need of some food items for a dinner she was preparing for her husband's boss, Mr. Croft.  Seeing that Ruth was anxious about having her first dinner party, Kate let her conduct her business.

 

While she was waiting, the bolts of fabric that were stacked on the table near the right wall caught her eye. Going over to the table, she saw a dark blue bolt that was at the bottom of the stack on the shelf underneath the tabletop.  Grimacing, she wondered why was it that all the things she like were always at the bottom.

 

Knowing that Mr. Wilson was busy with Ruth, Kate decided that she would have to tried to get the bolt out herself.  Bending over, she took a few bolts that were on top of the dark blue one and placed them on the floor.  As she started to pick up the dark blue, she found that for some reason it was refusing to budge.  Confused as to why, she got down her on knees and stuck her under the tabletop.  Seeing that some of the fabric was caught on a piece of metal that had somehow lodged itself between the table and the wall, she set to work setting it free.

 

She became so pre-occupied with the task that she failed to notice that Ruth, while waiting for Mr. Wilson, who had gone out the back, had come over and was watching what she was doing.  It was at this point, that Shade walked into the store.

Edited by Stormwolfe
removed tag. (see edit history)

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Shade entered the general store and glanced around for the Wilsons' young clerk. Seeing that he was busy, and that neither Mr. or Mrs. Wilson were available, he decided to look around for some of the items that he needed. Shade had only been in the store a couple of times since returning to Kalispell in July. Usually, the foreman or the hands came in for ranch supplies and Laura handled the goods needed for the ranch house. He picked up one of the baskets that sat by the front door and began making his way around the shop.

 

Not having gotten too far, Shade spotted some activity by a table stacked with bolts of cloth. A tall, pretty young woman was standing next to the table and another, shapely one, from what he could tell, was kneeling with her head beneath the table. Curious, and wondering if he could be of assistance to the woman that seemed to be battling something beneath the precariously laden table, Shade walked over.

 

Tipping his hat to the young woman that was standing by the table, "Ma'am," he greeted her politely having noted the wedding ring on her finger, "Can I be of assistance to you or your friend down there?"

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Ruth Johnson looked over to the man who appeared out of nowhere and shrugged her shoulders.  "I'm not sure if she wants any assistance or not. Frankly, I have no idea why she's down there in the first place."

 

Kate had almost worked, the cloth free when she heard the voices.  She froze, wondering how she could get herself out this situation in the most lady-like of ways.

 

Seeing that she had no choice but to get up, she tooked a deep breath and slowly back out from under the table, making sure she didn't bump her head.  The last thing she wanted to was make this more worse than it already was.

 

In her determination, to get the cloth and have a good look at it, she had totally forgot that she was still new in town and needed to present the image of decorum.  If the man who had spoken was a father of children who attended the school, this would not be a good first impression.

 

After she had cleared the table, she slowly stood up and brushed the dirt off her dress.  Staring at the wall, while she did this, she tried to think of something to say.  When she couldn't, she decided to just turn and face him.

 

Quickly glancing at Ruth, she then steered her gaze towards the man.  What she saw surprised her...this was not what she was expecting.  Hoping that her surprised hadn't registered on her face, she smiled apologetically. "Thank you for your offer but as you can see, I am quite fine."

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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As the woman turned to face him, Shade felt a little jolt in his chest. She was indeed lovely. He immediately felt as if he could stare into her deep brown eyes forever. He gave himself a mental shake.

 

Shade gave a nod of his head and took his hat off, "I'd be happy to extricate that recalcitrant bolt of cloth for you, ma'am." He offered a smile also. "I'm Shade Thornton." He probably should have introduced himself right off. Too many years on the range. It was sometimes hard to remember what social etiquette required these days.

 

@JulieS

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Thornton?  The name rang a bell.  Last night, wasn't Pastor Evans telling her about some children who had become orphaned recently called Thornton?  If that was the case, then this man couldn't be their father...maybe he was a relative or something else entirely.  What she did know was that he was most definitely something else but what it was, she was didn't know.

 

"Nice to meet, Mr. Thornton.  As for the bolt of fabric, I think I managed to get it loose but I do appreciate the offer."

 

The sound of Mr. Wilson returning from the back room made everyone turn to face the counter.  "Here it is Mrs. Johnson.  You're lucky as this is the last one we have in stock."

 

Ruth excused herself, partly grateful that Mr. Wilson had found the item she had been looking and partly disappointed that she would miss out on the rest of the conversation between Mr. Thornton and Miss Bowen.

 

Kate watched her go to the counter, before turning her attention back to the man standing in front of her.  "My apologies, Mr. Thornton.  My name is Katherine Bowen, I'm the new school teacher."

 

@Stormwolfe

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For a moment, Shade felt like an idiot for having fallen back on his Catholic school education. School teacher! Just his luck that when he tried to appear educated and gentlemanly, the woman was seriously educated and intelligent. Still, he smiled, nodded at her introduction and added a bit more information about himself, "Welcome to Kalispell. I expect you'll have our ranch hands' children in your school...at least most of 'em. I'm part-owner of Lost Lake Ranch."

 

@JulieS

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"Lost Lake Ranch?"  Kate paused for a moment to think.  Yes, that was the ranch, Pastor Evans had mentioned with the two orphaned children.

 

"I understand that there are two young children living there who lost their parents recently.  Pastor Evans said that he would be taking me out there in a few days to meet their guardians, as well as the parents of the children who will be attending school.  I was hoping it would be sooner, but he said something about some sort of bear killing livestock and it might be dangerous to leave town at this time."

 

As she waited for his reply, she thought about what she had just said and realised that she might have rambled on a bit too much.  Something about the man, made her slightly nervous.  When she was nervous, she tended to blurt out whatever was on her mind. Smiling, she hoped he hadn't notice her faux pas.

 

@Stormwolfe

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The fact that the young woman seemed a bit nervous had not escaped Shade's attention. For all his unassuming ways, he was very sharp when it came to people's reactions. That extra sense regarding people had helped keep him alive for the last thirteen years. Still, he was not sure why Miss Bowen was unsettled. Shade never considered that it might be him that was the cause of her skittishness. She was definitely intriguing.

 

"That's why I'm in town, ma'am. Getting supplies for the hunt in case it takes us more than one day to find the animal and dispatch it," Shade told her. "The children the pastor mentioned are my niece and nephew, Nettie and Cody. Once it's safe, it would be great to have you meet them and their nanny...maybe advise her on a lesson plan for them? They are only five so just getting some pre-school learning right now."

 

@JulieS

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"I understand.  I will be happy to visit your ranch and the children.  When you are ready, you can send word to me at Pastor Evans.  I am staying there until I can work out other arrangements and after I get to know the town a bit better."

 

Wondering about the nanny Shade had mentioned, she continued, "How many years of experience has the children's nanny had at teaching?  Knowing this will help me to devise a lesson plan that she will be able to understand and one that will help the children."

 

@Stormwolfe

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Shade grinned as he thought about the young lady that he referred to as the children's nanny. Honestly, he had no idea how to designate Clara's job. She fit in so well at the ranch, even with only being there two or three days a week. Also, Cody and Nettie adored her. She was young enough to keep up with them and old enough to discipline them when needed which was rare. The twins were rambunctious but well-behaved.

 

"The young lady that takes care of them two or three days a week is Clara Redmond. She's fifteen. The rest of the time the wife of our ranch's business manager is their care giver. Laura Hale has been teaching the kids on the ranch for as long as I can remember. Clara's new at the teaching although I'm sure she supervises her little brother's studies."

 

@JulieS

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Kate smiled. She was fifteen when she was sent to live her Aunt Emily, so she could understand the burden young Clara must be carrying her shoulders.  "Well, judging by my own experience, I am sure that Miss Redmond is able to handle the responsibilities she has."

 

Taking a moment, Kate glanced around the store.  Ruth Johnson was still at the counter but now had been joined by Mrs. Wilson.  To her, both women seemed to be taking a bit interest in her conversation with Mr. Thornton.  Even though she was sure they couldn't hear what they were talking about, she wondered what they were thinking.  Mr. Thornton was probably well-known in the town and if he spend any more than a few minutes talking  to any woman would be a cause for speculation.

 

Knowing that she was new in town and that she needed to build her up reputation as a respectable school teacher, it was time to end this meeting.  Looking at Shade again, made her regret her decision and that puzzled her.

 

"If you would let me know a time and day of your choosing when I can meet Miss Redmond and your wards then that would be appreciated.  In the meantime, I will get some lessons ready for her to use."

 

@Stormwolfe

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Shade smiled, "I will send word in once it's safe, Miss Bowen. It's a really long trip out to the main house so you will likely want to plan on an overnight trip. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Hale will be there in case I'm on the range." He really wanted to keep her talking. However, he could not think of anything else to say. Besides, he really needed to get his order placed and head out to see if anyone else was interested in joining the ranch's hunting party.

 

Tipping his hat, he gave a small nod of respect and stepped aside, leaving Miss Bowen room to pass him and get on with her business.

 

@JulieS Final tags... or if you feel this is good, I'll move Shade on. Just let me know.

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"Mr. Thornton, I look forward to visiting your ranch soon."  If they weren't in such a public place she would have liked to talk to him a bit longer.

On 9/3/2019 at 10:01 AM, Shade Thornton said:

Tipping his hat, he gave a small nod of respect and stepped aside, leaving Miss Bowen room to pass him and get on with her business.

She smiled as he tipped his hat and made her way past him.  For a minute or two she browsed around the store before deciding that she had enough of shopping for the day.  Besides, Thornton's presence in the store was a bit distracting and it looked like he would be there for a while. Seeing that Ruth Johnson was leaving, she decided to go with her.

 

Ruth, who had bought more than she had originally planned, accepted Kate's offer of help and the two of them left together.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Shade surreptitiously watched the two women leave the store. He could not help but feel that something momentous had happened although he had no idea what it was. He shook the feeling off and handed his order over to Mr. Wilson. After being assured it would be ready when he returned, Shade went looking for someone to help him and Quentin kill a bear.

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Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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