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    • "We'll have to get on over to the dinning room them. Afraid it's liable to be a bit more like Kalispell than Frisco." He said. "But it'll be good food, just not what we've been used too. Will be up on the hill, for sure.  I was told this is the best hotel because it was a ways out across the river from town, and it was solid built."   "The wealth on the hill is such that all most everything around it is growing at a fast pace. You'll really see that when we visit the Capitol, Carson City. Supposedly discovered by Kit Carson and General John Freemont on their way to Sacramento in. At least Freemont named the river after him back in '43 or '44. Nothin' was there then."   "All that made me hungry too, let's go eat an then take us a walk across the river, or along it, which ever you want." @Bongo
    • That did not take long. Cookie rang the triangle and shouted his best but in the end he sent the kid to roust all but the closest to him. Rance joined young Wheeler in the line, a bit out of the wind, but mostly in it for the moment. It seemed calmer up by the wagon.   "That had ta be bad back there. The wind drivin' the dust an' the smell, but should this wind let up you'll be on flank, left flank, then right, then back to the drag. It'll be me, Dallas, an' Dixie. eatin' dust tomorrow. But at least we got hot grub, won't always be that'a way out here though, every trip is different."   And they moved up steadily. @Bongo
    • "Nothing to discuss? I am surprised, Jonah. Why, if we have time for breakfast, there will be much to discuss regarding the hospital as well as the start of the orphanage. Hopefully that the railroad will be completed, or close to it by then." She smiled brightly. "Things will be different by then."   "My hope is that we get through all of this without my fathers interference causing delays, or real problems with the builders. You know we could get well into October before the snow flies, but I'm not counting on that. The winter will stop construction until the thaw." She stated, but the smile was still there, "But it will be well underway!" @Bongo
    • "Pleased ta meet ya, Rance."  Justus gave the man a nod, then lined up with the others for grub.  Maybe he could get some sleep despite the wind.  He surely was tired enough, and until there was something that concerned him, he didn't need to be concerned.   First, though, a full belly!  As the line progressed, he he nodded to the kid who was the cook's help.  "Times like this, I bet yer glad ya don't have ta be on th' downwind end of a herd'a cows!"   @Flip
    • "It's good to know you'll have the best working on the project, you've come this far, you don't need to risk the quality with less than the best working on it."  Even though he had no doubt that the crew would be excellent, it was reassuring to know that the man hand picked for the job would actually be on site overseeing it.  That way, too, he'd be there if Leah needed to discuss anything with him, and Jonah had a good feeling that was going to happen!   He grinned and took a sip of coffee.  "Just think, this time next year it will all be over!  We'll have a fine hospital with the best equipment...and nothing to discuss over breakfast!"   @Flip  

Cattle Drive [Chapter 1]


Shade Thornton
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With: Quentin Cantrell, Harriet Mercer
Location: Ranch Office, Blackbird Lodge
When: September 1875 (Thursday)
Time of Day: Mid-morning

 

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Shade leaned back in his desk chair. He had spent the first three days after the bear hunt in bed and barely conscious. Finally, his head had cleared, and he was getting up and around. He still had a tendency to fall asleep without warning, which was the lingering after-effect of the concussion. Shade was also supposed to keep his injured leg elevated and use a crutch for getting around. Finding that he had a tendency to trip over it, he had gone to the attic and dug out his father's old cane. It was a sturdy custom-built cane made from solid oak with a carved wolf's head handle. John Caleb Thornton had needed it after breaking his ankle one winter.


Today, he was writing checks for the monthly bills. The ranch still took in more money than it had to pay out each year. However, as things stood, Lost Lake was going to barely make the mandated six-percent profit that had been part of the judge's ruling regarding the ranch and custody of his five-year-old niece and nephew. On top of that, he had to send one of the hands into Kalispell with an ad for the Kalispell Union.


Ezra Hale was recovering from the bear attack which had been the catalyst for Lost Lake getting involved in hunting the animal down. It was going to be most of a year before he would be able to resume any of his duties. Ezra had come that close to dying! Yesterday, Ezra had told Shade that he and Laura, his wife, would be retiring. Once they got their small ranch sold, they would be heading for Texas to settle near their eldest daughter. It made sense, but Ezra and Laura had been a big part of Lost Lake Ranch for nearly forty years. They would be sorely missed.


It also meant that Shade needed to find a new foreman since he would have to take over ranch management. Otherwise, Quentin was going to have to juggle managing the various other business interests and the ranch. Even with Harriet overseeing everything, including all contracts, it was a monumental job. It was just logical for Shade to take on the business management of the ranch as well as working the range as needed. That was providing, of course, that he could find a good foreman that would not steal them blind.


hgrace5.jpgA rustle of skirts and soft footsteps heralded the arrival of Harriet Mercer. Shade wondered if there was a way to compliment the woman's choice of footwear without giving offense? Since his injury, he and Harriet had formed an uneasy truce. After some thought, Shade chose to not make any comments on her soft-soled silk slippers. 


"We have a problem, Shade," Harriet stated in her usual forthright manner as she laid some documents in front of him. "We owe Fort Poison twenty-five head of cattle within two-weeks, or we forfeit the remainder of the sale price. They only paid ten percent upfront."


Shade sat straight up, "But most of the hands are taking the bulk of the marketable herd to the Missoula yards!" It was a habit for the ranch to sell off a large part of their older animals, so they did not have to be wintered. Pregnant cows and weanlings would be brought up and ready for the range during the harsh winter months. In the next second, Shade wondered how he had missed that contract. Before he could speak, Harriet was waving her hand.


"No, you did not miss it. It was at the bottom of one of the folders of completed contracts that Chance had in the files," Harriet said as if reading Shade's mind. "Chance usually sent me all of the new contracts, and I kept copies. This one is a year-to-year one that I have not previously seen." She sighed and dropped into the chair opposite the big oak desk.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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"HARRIET!" Quentin's voice roared through the house. The two of them could hear footsteps coming down the stairs to the first floor. "HARRIET!" His voice actually gained some volume on the second roar. They heard the steps coming down the hallway and suddenly Quentin walked past the doorway, his mouth opening again. "HARR-..." He stopped past the doorway and then stepped back, planting himself in the frame and looking at her. "Oh, there you are..." Quentin glanced over and nodded at Shade. "Morning..." His head then tracked back to Harriet. "What in the hell is this...?" Quentin held up a half crumpled piece of paper. "...This was on my door this morning...I am most certainly not going to go on a cattle drive or have you taken leave of your senses?"

 

Harriet had immediately bristled when she heard Quentin bellowing her name. She sat up in the chair and sensed more than saw Shade slump back in his although he acknowledged Quentin's greeting with a wave of his hand. Harriet's eyes flashed pure fire and she loaded as much sarcasm into her tone as she was capable of. Since her ability to be scathing was legendary, this was a prodigious amount of sarcasm.

 

"Then who do you suggest to lead the drive?" Harriet's tone was as condescending as she could manage. "Unless, of course, you are recommending that Mr. Thornton make the trek to Fort Poison and back?"

 

"What are you talking about? Of course Shade can't go on a cattle drive, but we have a ranch full of hands to do just this sort of thing. Why can't any of them run it?" Some of the steam had gone out of Quentin's charge as he realized that something might be wrong that needed to be fixed. Quentin glanced over at Shade. "Why are we taking cattle to Fort Poison?"

 

Shade tapped the sheaf of papers that Harriet had tossed onto the desk, "Because Chance has a contract to supply them twenty-five head every month from April through October. Ezra handled July and August."

 

Harriet glared at Quentin, "And the contract calls for a senior ranch representative to bring the herd to the fort. Foreman or higher in rank. Since neither Ezra nor Shade can go, you are the only one left that can represent the owners, Cody and Nettie...unless you are suggesting they make the drive?"

 

Quentin's eyes narrowed and he spared a look at Harriet. "I am aware who the senior ranch representatives are, Counselor..." He then looked over at Shade. "Twenty-Five head doesn't sound too bad. Who else can I take with me?"

 

"Nick Hale and Reuben Smith," Shade answered. "And, Harriet Mercer." He leaned further back in his desk chair, carefully adjusting his injured leg, and waited for the explosion.

 

Quentin started to nod then his head came up. "HER? Absolutely Not!..."

 

"That sounds ... Wait! WHAT?!" Harriet's tone was strident.

 

Shade grinned, "Sounds like a plan. I'll let the men know. Four of you should be able to handle a herd of twenty-five head."

 

Continued in Cattle Drive [Part 2]

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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