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Lordsburg To Kalispell

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Mature Content: Possible

With: Tyrell Thornton and Unknown NPCs for the thread.
Location: Lordsburg, New Mexico
When: June 1875
Time of Day: Mid-morning




Lordsburg, hot, dusty, some bigger than a wide spot on the trail. Home to rattlesnakes, Gila Monsters, Apaches, pimas, Mexican Banditos, heat, and drought. Home also to the Lazy S Ranch. A place some sixteen miles from what was town at the time. There were a couple of other spreads run by equally as hardy men as Alvarado Muncy, half Mexican, half French-English.


On this particular day, the monthly trip to Lordsburg set out, Alvardo remainging at the ranch, sending his foreman, Tyrell Thornton instead. With the wagon and Thornton were five armed riders because one could never be certain of the trail in those days. But, supplies had to be procured, so men had to go in after them. For Thornton any trip to town was rare as he felt his place was on the ranch, but no one argued with Alvarado Muncy. So he rode along, reluctantly, as he had no interest in going to town since the passing of his wife Gracie Marie in 1870. She was strong willed and determined, but Gracie for all her determination was not built for the hard life in Southern New Mexico. She contracted pneumonia and passed quickly, but that changed Tyrell, it hardened him.


When they arrived in town the first stop was the general store where they filled the list with what was available, including bulk ammunition with the food stuffs. Once the wagon was loaded and covered to keep the dust out, they went to the saloon, which might have had a name, but no one seemed to know it. They stepped up to the bar for drinks, as with Alvarado, there would be two, and then back to the ranch. That was the standing rule and every man knew it.


Harvey Ledbetter, who handled the singing wire, came in and walked up to Tyrell. "You got a telegram." He said shoving the paper at him.


Tyrell took the paper, fished out a dime and handed it to the boy.


Next: The Telegram

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"Well now, Sade Thornton. Ain't heard from him since we were boys." Tyrell said more to himself than the others. Of course, the men gathered around to see the paper, not that most of them could read, it just wasn't common place for a telegram to come for one of the men on the Lazy S, not even Alvarado Muncy, himself.


"Where'd this wire come from, it don't say." Tyrell asked.


"No sir, it don't. The sender wanted it blocked, left out." Ledbetter informed him. "Guess he wants his privacy for one reason 'er another. Didn't ask, just did what I was told to do. You got yer message, any reply?"


Tyrell stood looking out the window at nothing as he mulled it over. "Tell him to rest easy, I'm on my way." It was family, there was no choice in the matter. One Thornton was in trouble, all of them were. And the Steelgraves, whoever they were, they had bit off more than they could chew, no matter how it was divvied up. And, Montana? That would be a ride.


"Drink up men. We need to get back to the ranch, we'll be runnin' short of daylight!" He ordered, and drinks were downed, men turning and starting for the door, spurs jingling blending with the sound of boots on the wood plank floor.


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Ty was a man that did plan, did think things through, and this was certainly no exception. Planning would happen as they rode back to the ranch. The trip would take the better part of three months, something Shade must have realized when he wired him.  The trip, near as he could figure was near fourteen hundred miles, most of which would require riding. He might catch a train to Utah territory, if there was one, or maybe Denver , but where would he catch it if there was one? There were rumors of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway has in fact, built a road to Denver City from  Albuquerque, near three hundred miles.


He was beginning to believe he had bit off a large chunk, because that was a good three days ride just to start. The train with eat up a portion maybe four or five hundred miles, then it would be by horse again. Maybe not a year, then it dawned on him, winter. Somewhere along the way winter would set in and really slow or stop progress, so thinking he would get him a good start might make little difference to the time it would actually take. All thoughts of how far he could ride in a day depended on a whole lot of things going right, and nothing going wrong. 'Fat chance of that!' He thought.


He'd ride out at first light, while it was still cool. Maybe he could talk Alvardo out of at least one, if not two horses, one a pack animal and the other a remount. The man had several mules, and a large remuda, because there had been no trouble with the Apaches, and they had a truce of sorts. Apaches love mule meat, and stealing horses.  He would ask. And, he had wages coming.


Might not be so bad after all.

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The ride back to the ranch had been quiet and uneventful, which was always good. Though there was a truce with San Juan, often called Yellow Boy, that did not mean other Apaches might not raid outlaying ranches, or an escorted wagon like Tyrell and his men had. But the trip was uneventful.


Alvarado was in the yard to welcome them back as he always did. Counting heads to ensure thay had all made it back safely. Ty stepped down, trailing the reins of his horse and walked over to  his employer. This would not be easy, he had been on the Lazy S a long while,.


"Patron, I have this wire that came from my cousin who needs my help." He said and offered the message to his boss and long time friend.


"Family?" Alvarado asked taking the message. He fished out his glasses and read the telegram, looking up then, "No question, you have to go." It was blunt, it was the way Alvarado was, direct and to the point. " You'll take a spare mount and a pack mule. Extra ammunition, which you may need. The boys will pack supplies for the journey."


Alvarado need say nothing to the men that were standing there, they went right to the job of unloading the wagon while one man went to get the horse and the mule to be loaded. Alvarado motioned him to follow into the house.


"I had hoped we would finish our time here on the ranch together, that one day you would take over for me and run this place more than you do already. Maybe that will come to pass when whatever it is you have to do is finished." The man said, "Your place here will be waiting, if you can make it back."


"Hell, I dunno what lies ahead. I do know that I will miss this place and you. You have always treated me well. Family is family, and I have so few that I even know of out there." He responded, "I've not seen Shade in years, since we were boys, but we were close."


"Blood cannot be denied, Ty, whatever he did not say is more important than what he did say, and he said he needed you. Which tells me of your relationship. He trusts you will see this through, as do I." He walked to the safe that stood behind his desk and fiddled with the combination. He hauled out a money belt then tossed it to Ty. "You'll need money for the trip. Maybe eight hundred in that. Be cautious, as I know you will be." Then the big man walked over and hugged Tyrell. "Go with God, Ty."


As the sun faded from the New Mexico sky, there was more conversation, and a couple of whiskeys, before Ty headed to the bunk house to sleep. It would be a long day tomorrow.


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The long ride ahead would begin with riding off of the ranch, and possible the hardest part of the ride north. Dawn was a ways off yet, but Alvarado stood in the door watching as Ty mounted his horse, the spare and the pack mule on lead ropes. He moved forward slowly looking at the place, touching the brim of his hat to the man in the doorway, and turned his mount toward what served as a gate.


Before he went much further, he looked back at the ranch house for what would be the final time, The door was closed, there were no lights in the windows, he exhaled heavily in the pale predawn light. The cloudy sky might have a promise of rain, most likely not. It would be blistering hot within the next hour. Too many memories.


He looked then to the trail ahead, touched a spur to his animal, who broke into a brisk trot to put some distance between him and the ranch. This had proved to be much harder than he thought it would be. Ty had never given much thought to ever leaving New Mexico and the Lazy S. It had been home for far too long to consider what he was doing in the name of family.


And so it began, a journey of almost four thousand miles, to a place he did not know, to deal with people he did not know. But, it was to him to see it through. He had Alvarado Muncy to thank for that. The man had taught the twenty year old drifter responsibility, respect, and gave him a work ethic that made him into the man he had before his twenty-second birthday. Now, that thirty four year old man was answering a call, because he was man enough to.


The trail ahead may well have trials and tribulations along the way. He would ride into winter snows that would stop him, or at least slow him. There might well be Indians, or bad men to contend with, but he would deal with that if and when it happened. The weather? He would handle it. Rain, heat, snow, thunder and lightning. He'd driven cattle north to the rail head more than once, and farther before there was a rail head. They had been caught in storms, so he was no stranger to them, snow on the other hand, not so much.


They had lost sight of the Lazy S, he and the horse, and so he slowed his horse to a walk. Quite a ways to go yet before Albuquerque and the railroad to Denver City.

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A man heads out to answer a call he's mindful of the need to get there, so taking chances was not one of the things Ty Thornton ever did, let alone in that particular instance. He was also mindful that a man wearing two pistols would attract a good deal of attention in certain circles. It would be assumed he was a gun hand, a gun for hire, or any number of other possibilities a man armed that way might be taken.


Law abiding was not one of the first thoughts to come to mind.


For Ty, he carried two Colts from his days fighting Apaches or other hostiles, especially the border crossing banditos that threatened the ranch. He had never pulled on a man that did not threaten him, and no one, other than the afore mentioned, ever had. He had been fortunate in that way. He was even tempered, was not much for whiskey or cards when in town. He gave no one reason to brace him. When that happened, and it had from time to time, he settled it with his fists.


Now he was a long way from the Lazy S and from Lordsburg, mounting the train for Denver City some four hundred ninety-nine miles north. With stops along the route, the trip would take thirty to thirty-six hours. After that, it would be on horse back the rest of the way.

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A trip of the magnitude Tyrell Thornton had embarked upon was filled with risk and dangers from animal and man. It was, as so many are of that period, a trip of solitude, where a man would have to rely solely on himself and his abilities to survive. There were towns scattered long the way, sometimes near his route, other times a ways off. Either way, he would be a stranger which didn't sit well with him. But supplies needed to be bought, sometimes canteens filled.


The rail to Denver City had been the last comfort he would have on his trail. In the settlements and towns he did stop in, he was in early and out as soon as his business there was finished. He never carried all of his money, and settled on what he could afford if he misjudged the costs involved. Te size of Denver City was a bit unsettling, he had never been to a city before, towns of all sizes, yes, but never a city. He was out of there as fast as he could. Of course, partly because he wanted to be on the trail as quickly as possible, and partly because he just didn't like the size of the place.


Summer had eased into fall. Heavy rains had slowed him several times. Forcing Ty to hastily build a shelter and huddle over a what could be described as a hat full of fire in his slicker waiting out the storm. His animals close by. He had been fortunate in that he had avoided the red man, even though he had see both sign and them at a distance. In a running battle he would have lost his mule and the spare horse, along with his hair.


The country in Colorado Territory and this Wyoming country were breathtaking! Tall trees, virgin forests, rivers and streams abounding. Teaming with wildlife, all manner creatures, both harmful and harmless. Fall was beginning to wane, and then, the first feel of winter set in of a morning. Crisp and clear, he pulled on his coat for the first time. He pushed on, well, as far as Gilbert's Trading Post where he could go no further.


Come morning the blinding snow was gone and he pushed on again, under clear skies, wearing a newly bought buffalo robe and mittens, and directions to a place called Atlantic City which would become the high point of his trip.

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It would be a hard hundred miles to reach Atlantic City, He had heard that over and over as there was no trail now that the snow, sometimes breast high to a horse, had cover them and some of the landmarks along the way, And, as Jed Gilbert had asked, "What's the hurry Thornton?" He had given his word to a cousin he had not seen since the early teen years. Shade needed him there, and that was enough.


The weather was holding as he and his mule and the spare left a trail a blind man could follow, wide and deep. Though the mule and his horse, once he shifted to the spare, fell more or less into line, following Ty and his mount. Made it easier going for both.


It was three days in all, two were clear, the third offered up snow, heavy at times as Ty pushed on. Finally there was a jumble of buildings ahead, and smoke rolling up from half a dozen or more stove pipes. Ty allowed for a smile, but held his pace. His animals were tired, as tired as he was from the fight of getting there.


He reached what was Atlantic City Wyoming. There was a cluster of wagon, their wagon bows bare, the canvas bonnets now covering the belongings in the wagon beds. Atlantic city sported two barns, which were probably filled now with the stock from the wagon train Hopefully there might be room for his animals. He dismounted at a building with a sigh that read Saloon, Rooms and Food. He stepped down and climbed the two steps to the door which he opened and stepped quickly inside, closing it immediately.


"Howdy Mister. Bartholomew Quinlan proprietor. Reckon a hot meal might be what you're lookin' for." The large barrel chested man suggested.


"I'd like to put my animals up." He said.


The big man smiled. "Well sir, all that's left is a lean to. It'll keep 'em out of the weather alright. Plenty of hay, you'll have to fork it down yourself. Be two dollars for the lot, if it's no more'n four."


Ty took out  some coins, "An' I'll need me a place to wait out the weather."


"Gimmie another two, that'll be room an' board such as it is." Quinlin said. "Got me thirty odd folks here, but, there's room."

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The room was almost filled with folks from the wagon train, he surmised. He smiled at the man, "Now what I just paid, how long's that good for?"


Quinlan smiled, "A month, now you can pitch in around here as time goes by, doubt you'd be for ridin' back the way you come, that'd lower what I'd charge. Up to you of course. You're welcome, help or not." Then he laughed, "Cash money is some useless up here, til the thaw. I get me several folks every winter thinkin' they'll make the passes afore the heavy snow. Don't work out that way most times. That's what happened to these folks, and their kin."


"Injun trouble, rustlers hit 'em once't, thinned their heard a mite. I got plenty of hay to feed all these critters, usually have a few folks, like I said, but not this many, an' not with cows. Their beef'll help with food, an' that'll save 'em money, an us from starvin'."


Ty looked about at the people in the room. He was no mountain man, but it was plain to see these folks were nowhere near plainsmen, or drovers, and certainly not mountain men. "And their wagon master? He here?"


"Killed they said. Where you headed?"


"Kalispell Montana." It was then that the door opened and she walked in.

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The sight of her was like a shot to the solar plexus, nearly took him back a step. Big strapping man like Tyrell Thornton to be taken so.


"That'd be Molly McGuire, widowed. Travelin' with her Pa, Nate, but he ain't doin' so well. Laid up with the fever. I'm hopin' it don't spread ta the rest."


"Handsome woman. Depends on what he's got. Could be it won't be the spreadable kind." Ty observed, not taking his eyes from her. "But you can count on me, Mister Quinlan. Seems like the weather's got me stopped here, at least for a spell. When do ya think a body could get through?"


"Maybe May sometime the passes'll open. These folks here are goin' on to Oregon, they might be gone afrore you, less you got time to sashay on around a couple hunderd miles. How the hell they got here, I mean it's makeable if the passes are open."


"A man get himself a cup of coffee?" Ty asked, grateful Quinlan was the friendly type. Now this McGuire woman, she required some study, that was for sure. Ty was not easy captivated, in fact since Gracie Marie passed on he had little to know interest in women. So this Miss McGuire was quite the exception. An this would bare some thought. He had a job to do, that was true, but the snow had stopped his progress. Stopped it cold. He would ride on as soon as possible, although as Quinlan set the cup of coffee before him, he would need to figure whether to wait out his current route, or leave with them and ride the extra miles.


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Tyrell Thornton was a man that weighed the possibilities, looked at all the angles, studied his options. Wait or ride when the thaw came, it would really make no difference in the time it would take to reach Kalispell, not enough to make much of difference, seeings the time it took from new Mexico to near the Canadian border. This rest would be good for his animals. It would be good for the rider as well. It was a long hard ride to this point and shaking out the kinks  easing the strain on the back would be good. But like the ma said, he could help out around the place, and that would keep him active enough.


Now, about this Molly McGuire, it had been a while since Gracie Marie Thornton had left this earth and Tyrell to continue on alone, some five years before. He had never considered another, not once. But then, no woman since Gracie had ever hit him the way this McGuire woman had. It had been in an instant, the door had not even had time to close.


Tyrell might be a lot of things, but a man knowledgeable in feelings as a rule. He knew what he liked and what he didn't. What angered him, and what pleased him. Love at first sight, now that seemed a silly notion, and if that was what this was supposed to be well, he didn't even know the woman, hadn't had word with her, in fact he hadn't even heard the sound of her voice. He sipped his coffee to cover the smile that tried to crack his face. He was being the fool here! Too long on the trail, that was what it was. For thirty seconds that was the answer, that was what it was.


The only mistake Ty made, was to turn around to catch her looking in his direction. All bets were off, there was no answer he could come up with for whatever it was that had a hold of him.



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Reckon it's fair I tell you about the other side of the room, that would concern one Miss Molly McGuire. Ty, we talked about, but he'd not be the only one to see a person that smacked 'em as if they'd been struck hard. So Molly was one what had lost husband four years back Her man, Nelson McGuire, passed from a fall that allowed pneumonia to set in and take his strength first, and finally his life, leaving Molly with all they had including bills and what would be the loss of their home through foreclosure. So she left for her fathers.


She went to her fathers who was in the process of following a dream, a dream of leaving the east for the fabled riches of the west. Gold and silver for the taking, land a plenty. Yes it was the answer, move on, there was nothing to keep him in Philadelphia, his daughter and her husband in Rochester New York, his wife long laid to rest, there was nothing standing in his way. The return of Molly, who had given up her married name, something unusual, most unusual, meant he and her would make the journey together.


So she stood there looking at the bearded man standing at the makeshift bar fresh from the snow covered trail. One she had finished the drive to get her there. He opened his coat as he turned. There were two pistols on his belt, and he was looking directly at her. Was that a smile? What kind of man was this? An outlaw? Gunfighter? Lawman? There was something that she understood fully. She could be alone in the world if her father passed. And that was a real possibility. A woman with no man, no means of support left her little choice as to how she would survive, whether it was there in Atlantic City, or Oregon, or wherever,


They had no doctor along with the train, such as it was. Many were lost along the way, swollen rivers, Indians had taken some. Ones that turned back with no protection from the others finally dwindled to train to half a dozen with walkers and a dozen on horseback. She could drive, he father, Clancy lay in the back the last forty miles of the trek. An arrow had pierced the fat of his left bicep and they were grateful until the fever set in. No one was quite sure why the wound worsened, why it festered and smelled the way it did, but he was not getting better, he was in decline.


Maybe the stranger knew. Maybe she could ask him. Damn the winter cold, damn the Indians, and damn this situation!


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Time. There was plenty of that in Atlantic City, but Spring was a whole lot nearer than when he left  New Mexico Territory, and that meant that the thaw was on the way. Days were still cold, but there was more sun than when he had arrived.


Molly did not ask the man with two pistols right off about the ways of the wound. In fact what she did do was watch him, she knew that she could learn a lot from just watching the man and what he did or did not do. Her father seemed to just hang on, perhaps losing his strength little bits at a time, but he was so far, not rebounding as she hope he would.


Meanwhile, Ty busied himself doing what he could around the place, as did the other men. But not all were young and strong, which he found, to his way of thinking, unusual. What of their sons? Their families? And quite by chance he turned and asked the passing Molly McGuire about the lack of younger men and women.


She turned at the sound of his voice. "Miss McGuire? I wonder, Ma'am, how is it there are so few young men with the train?"


"We have lost a number of them, unfortunately. Some to Indians and desperadoes, others to disease, and a good number to turning back along the way. Disgruntled, and some demoralized by the monotony of that every day was the same as the one before it. Accepting the idea then, that they are beaten, and that turning back is the right thing to do."


"Hard to figure some folks. Abandoning numbers to go it alone in the opposite direction. I'm Tyrell, Tyrell Thornton." He said somewhat clumsily. She smiled.


"Well it is obvious that you know my name, Mister Thornton." She replied, not bothering to tell him that she knew his name already.


"Yes Ma'am. Mister Quinlan told me when I first saw you." Ty responded.


"I wonder, Mister Thornton,-"


"Ty." He interrupted.


"Ty, what do you know of Indian arrow wounds that don't seem to heal?" She asked.


"Most tribes that I've heard of tend to dip the arrowhead in some sort of poison. Not maybe what we think of poison, but something that will infect and eventually kill the person wounded. Is that what happened to your father?"


"It is." She answered, now visibly shaken by his words. "Maybe five weeks back when we were attacked the last time."


"That's good news then. But we really need to try and draw the poison out, could cost him his arm." Ty hated to say that, but it was true, and they really had no sanitary means of performing an amputation, and no doctor to do it. But many is the limb removed under just such conditions, or worse. "Lets have a look."

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"Well, come on then, Ty." She said and led him outside from the main room as they all called it. A general store, cafe and dining room, and saloon of sorts, There were a jumble of buildings And there were trails knee to thigh deep to most of them. However, she turned right, went to the last cabin on the street and opened the door. Both stepped inside, and the smell from her fathers wound was strong.


"Ma'am, I'm afraid this don't look real good." Ty said looking at the mans color, the arm was discolored and swollen from infection, and his breathing was shallow. He was sweating from the infectious fever. This was nothing Ty was prepared for. He simply looked at the man who was now painfully thin the poison from the arrow wound was rampant throughout his body. He could tell that much. This was close to the end for the man who had not even registered that Molly and Ty were in the room.


"It's not good is it? He's lost so much weight since the fight. I've tried to help with the fever, but I know I'm losing this fight. We are headed to Oregon where his brother is, but," Her voice dropped along with her head. "I don't want to lose him, but  when I look at him like this, he's going to die and I know that. But how long before he passes? He hasn't recognized me in days."  She started to break down, Ty laid a hand to her shoulder, and she leaned into it. He took her in his arms and held her. "He hasn't eaten, doesn't drink water that I bring him, he just deteriorates."


"Maybe days, and few of those, Molly. I wish there was something I could do." He said, feeling helpless in a sad situation. The man had very little time left, and appeared to be incoherent at best. "Come on, let's go outside, maybe go get a cup of Quinlan's coffee." She merely nodded.



The actual Atlantic city 1800's

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They sat at the plank table in Quinlan's  a cup of coffee in front of each, but both just looking at the table top, glancing now and again at one another. For Molly McGuire she was in the middle of nowhere with a father that was dying, and a trip yet ahead of her to his brother's place near Portland. And here was this man, an attraction was there, but he had his own journey ahead of him to wherever he was headed. She was feeling lost and empty all at the same time.


"Driving the wagon, you're up to that?" He asked as if he could help if she was not. There was Thornton family business that lie ahead for him, and he could not delay by trekking to Oregon with this woman he barely knew, even though there was a desire to do just that.


"Yes. I've driven a good deal of the way so far, tended to the mules, done the cooking, yes Mister Thornton, I can manage. I've a ways yet to go, and I have no choice but to get to my uncles. After that, I, well, I have no idea."


"Ty. Never doubted you abilities for a moment, just asking to be sure."


She nodded that she knew his intention, yet surprised by his asking.


Ty looked at her, "That I was not bound by family business myself, I would go with you, but damn, I cannot. Excuse me. Not fit language." There was a tug to add the miles that the trip would require, but it would be close to a year making it to Kalispell as it was. He had given his word, and to a man with little else, he was bound by it.


"I know." She responded, because she did. "Where is it you're going?" The question was one she had no answer to, in fact, other than his name she knew nothing of him.


"Montana. Kalispell Montana. My cousin sent word he needed help, and that there could be trouble. He has a place up there. Big one I guess. I don't know a lot about what's going on, only that he sent for me to lend a hand." It seemed kind of hollow, the not knowing what he was riding into. On the Lazy S he knew what was what. Knew the threat of the Apache, the Pima and Comanche, as well as the border outlaws, Comancheros they sometimes called themselves. "Been a long ride from New Mexico territory."


She looked at him then, "For me as well.Philadelphia. I'm glad we have met Ty Thornton. Not the circumstances, but that we were able to meet." A faint smile crossed her lips.


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He looked out the window and it was once again snowing, a wind had come up, driving the snow against whatever stood in it's way. The white, so intense, it blocked out the gray of the leaden sky. This happened frequently, and made life in Atlantic city all that more difficult on those trapped there. But as the days passed they had been assured the the storms would lessen and the sun would shine more often until it commanded the sky and melted away the remnants of winter. Those there couldn't wait for that miracle to happen.


"In spite of the conditions under which we've met, I too am glad. Odd how these things happen. I mean to say, it's like the telegram I received from a cousin I'd not seen since were were boys. Because of that I'm here, oddly enough had there not been a break in the weather, I would not have tried to make it here, I'd still be at Gilbert's Tradin' Post  south of here twiddlin' my thumbs. Glad for the clearing though." He smiled. "Your Pa, likely he won't last but maybe another day. I'll lend a hand with the buryin', such as we can in this weather. Ground'll be hard as a rock so you'll need to consider what you'd care to do about it, there's choices." He did not bother to go into them.


She looked tired, saddened, and who wouldn't given the situation. Her affairs were none of his concern, but he had intruded anyway. He liked her, liked her real well, but was certainly afraid for it to get any further than that. He was bound to answer Shades call, and would much as he might not like to.


"And what is it you would do, Ty? What?" She asked. "I know what those choices would be, and honestly, I know Pa wouldn't care one way or another. It's not like I'd be coming by of a Sunday regularly to visit the grave."


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"Your Pa ain't got a lot of time, I said that, and yeah there are choices, but here's the thing Molly, A day, maybe two and then he's gone. Seein's how you'll likely not make it out this way again, then we, bury him, if it can be done." Ty replied. "Keep him comfortable while we can,."


"Yes I guess you're right. I had so hoped we would get to Oregon and to my uncles place where we planned to start again. Plans that now are altered irreversibly." She exhaled heavily, tears escaping her eyes. "But I must press on and hope that a new start is possible there. It was what pa wanted for us, and I should try to make the dream a reality."


"Ain't nothin' easy in this life, Molly, nothin'." He said, "seems like for every positive there's a negative, sometimes bigger than any positive. Good fortune seems rare for most folks out here, but just that we met, that means it's possible." He paused weighing what he would say next,


"This probably ain't fair neither, Molly, but I've no idea how long I'll be in Kallispell, or what I'll have to do while there, but when the jobs done, I'd like to ride on to Oregon an' rekindle this friendship we've started. Fact is, when the thaw comes, I'll ride on with you til I have to turn north, if you wouldn't mind."


"I'd like that Ty, I truly would. Be something for each of us to look forward too in this uncertain world we live in. Yes, that would be nice." She took his hand then. "I knew it when I saw you that there was some sort of future for us, and now you have said as much. You have made this passing of my father a bit easier than it would have been otherwise. So I imagine we just take this day by day then."


His free hand closed over hers. "Yes'um, that's how we'll do 'er."


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Looking back, the wind blown snow made the day even worse than it was.  During the night Nathan "Nate" Scarborough passed from this world, never to see Oregon, or the man that came with his daughter to check on him.  It was evident that she wanted to breakdown, but she held her resolve to be strong in this time of tragedy, not that it was not expected, but as anyone would have said in a similar situation, 'not today.' No day was the 'right' day, or a 'good day' for the end to come for a loved one.


Ty and Bartholomew Quinlan carefully wrapped the man in the bed sheets then bound the sheet wrapped corpse with rope and carried him to the barn where they set him aside from the animals to wait out the snow.


"Should you and the lady push on, I'll see to his burial, This here blow feels like maybe the last one. Givin' 'er all she's got, the next'll be less and then less and then by God! Sunshine, and the thaw!. 'course now, that might be a while yet, but the worst I believe has passed."


"Bart, you been a good friend through all'a this. I appreciate it an' I'm sure Miss McGuire does too. Believe she'll be a few days grievin' the loss." Ty offered.


"Miss McGuire is it now. Ty, I seen how the two of you look at one another, everyone has. You two've been the bright spot for some." Bart said. "Was I you, an' glad I'm not, I'd grab that woman and make her your own Mister Thornton, no matter where it is you're headed, nor what must be done when you get there. You'll not find a better chance at happiness, and I'm thinkin' them guns don't offer no promise of good things to come. Just my opinion Ty."


That conversation had happened  a month or so ago, since Nate's passing the relationship between Ty and Molly had grown. They were closer as the time passed and they took solace in one another, both for her loss, and his need to stay true to his given word. For him there was no choice about where he was headed, nor what he had to do. True, that remained a mystery, but what he felt about this woman was as plain as the nose on his face.


Next: Heading out...

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The snow was not  quite gone when the remaining wagons from the train were hitched as the they made ready to pull out of Atlantic City, It would be slow going as the ground would still be soft, but when the meeting was held in the main room, the vote was to go on to Oregon without delay.


Bartholomew Quinlan had mixed feelings about their leaving, partly the weather, the ground and the miles ahead of them, and partly the need for them to be gone. Yet he would miss them, some of them anyway. And Tyrell Thornton who had made a difference to Molly McGuire and to him with his help around the place. Yet as with all things, the people had just been guests and needed to move on to their destination in Oregon, wherever that may be. But change, the only constant in life, was due with the the thaw.


Ty had helped Molly get her wagon ready for the trip west, her trip west, and over the past moths he found himself in argument with himself about what it was that he must do, and, what he wanted to do. The two pulling him hard. His promise to his cousin Shade, and his growing fondness for Molly. It could be easily mistaken for love, because it was, not that he had admitted it.


For her, it was not the same two choices. She had to reach Oregon and there was no arguing that, but Molly McGuire was in love with the bearded man Tyrell Thornton and wanted to make a life with him, if he felt the same way, yet as she had come to know him, she understood that he had given his word to go to Montana and if he didn't, that decision would weigh on him and on them. How much happiness could they have if he did not do what he had said he would do.


So they were at a stalemate. The future would have to look out for itself.


The morning broke cold and windy, it was till dark but the teams were hitched, horses breath gray in the dimness of the morning from the cold. Everyone was ready to start out, excitement to be on the trail again, even though monotony would set in soon enough, they would be on their way to what they perceived as the promised land.


Ty rode up next to Molly's wagon and he looked at her in the pale light of the dawn. The sun crested in the east as she stepped down and he did as well. Was something wrong? That was his first thought, but she answered that quuickly enough with an embrace, which he returned, and a kiss full on his mouth, which he also returned and then the hug.


"You came back to me Tyrell Thornton, no matter what. You come back to me." She said quietly.


"I will." He said and kissed her back.


Next: The Last of the Trail

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The Last of the Trail lay ahead of Tyrell Thornton. A long stretch from that corner Wyoming to Montana. He had found more than he had bargained for in Atlantic City, that was for sure. He trailed along side of her wagon, as there were miles ahead of them before he actually would turn north.  Something he was not looking forward to, though in his heart he knew that he must, he had given his word, so he would do what he must, yet he also knew that when the job was done, he would find Molly McGuire and marry her.


The miles and the morning slipped away as they made their way along the base of the mountains ever closer to where the canyon led the way north but form the looks of it, he might just have one more evening with Molly, and that would be good. He was glad of the noon break where they got a chance to spend some time together.


Funny he thought how things worked out. How he would never have met Molly McGuire had he not answered the call from Shade. How he would still be on the Lazy S, south of Lordsburg in the stifling heat instead of making his way through the snow. But fate had dealt him a good opening hand by putting her in his life. And this trip to Kalispell, if he didn't die of lead poisoning,  he finish what needed doing and head for Oregon.




They walked along without saying much of anything, just enjoying their time together as they walked away from the wagons a short, safe distance, not knowing the country and what hostiles it might be home to.


"I understand that you have to go, and I know that the wait will be long and difficult for the both of us." She began. "I'm grateful that we have had this time, that we met, that, well, that there is a future for us out there someday, hopefully soon."


He took her hand. "It was meant to be is all I can figure, and I'm glad of it." He responded. "That we have a future, that you'll wait on me to finish this up, can't put into words how that makes me feel. Afraid I'd make it less than it is. What was before, was. It's what will be that's important. I'll find you Molly McGuire. Maybe you write to me, given you know my name an' where I'll be. I'll write you back."


Before she could answer the new wagon boss shouted that it was time to go. Then in a rush she said, "I'll write. I love you!" And they hurried back to the wagon and his horses. His heart was pounding and not from exertion either. Love. It had found them both.


They pressed on ever closer to their destination and to where Ty would ride off, but the wagon train, such as it was, stopped to make camp for the night. The wagons circled, animals kept close, fires lit, and supper started. One last night in camp, it wouldn't be long now.


Next: Adios My Love.

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Dawn broke cold, but with clear skies overhead. Hitching the teams was harder in the cold than when they unhitched the night previous. An early start was required as the days were short even as spring tried to stretch them. Horses were not happy, mules were contrary as always, warm or cold getting into leather for the day's march ahead.


Ty helped Molly hitch up as he had done before, then saddled his own horse for the last ride alongside the wagon of Molly McGuire, a day he did not look forward too, though it would be close to mid-day before he needed to head north. The minutes that he had left with her were precious. How this had happened he did not care to know, only that it did. They stood by the wagon, the last of the coffee in his cup as he held her hand. Words between them were scarce, but they looked at one another, their eyes saying everything that needed to be said for the moment.


The call had come, and he helped her up onto the wagon seat, not that he needed to, but he wanted to, and she wanted him to. He mounted and moved beside the wagon, leaning over to hold her hand when the wagon boss shouted, "Move out!" and in turn, her wagon started forward, pushing on for the promise of Oregon, and for Ty, the promise of the unknown and life without her.


They had not had enough time together in the months that were now their back story. The beginning of something, the promise of a future, the return of love for each of them. Molly sat the seat, ribbons in her right hand, his in her left as the train poked along westward. The day worn on toward noon and the nooning when the wagons would stop for a mid-day meal and a break for the animals.


When it cam he helped her down and held her about the waist. "Another couple miles, Molly. I'll be headed north, but you'll be forever in my heart."


"Hush," she said laying two gloved fingers on his lips. "You'll have me in tears and I'd not want that. We have it to do, you and I. Doesn't mean it will be forever, just as long as it takes. I have your word you'll come for me, and that will have to do. I believe you Tyrell Thornton and I love you. You remember that."


"And just how could I forget." He responded, words were becoming harder.


"Here. A likeness of me so you'll not forget." She smiled her eyes glistening. "I'll not forget you."


"Lets get a move on!" The wagon boss shouted.


They were pressed to one another in each others embrace. No words were said when Ty lifted her to the seat, then turned to his horse, tied to the wagon wheel. He stepped into leather situated himself then looked at her as they started forward. Just another couple of miles before he left the train and Molly McGuire.


It was upon them before they knew it and he stopped as she moved forward. He crossed behind her and started north, the stopped and watched the train and her wagon until they were out of sight, then with a reluctance he had never known before, he spurred his horse and galloped toward the future.


Next: Kalispell Montana

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The trip was all but over, after passing the fort he could plainly see the town that lie ahead, that would be Kalispell. So the plan would be to stop at the saloon, ask about this Lost Lake Ranch and then head on out to it and get a hold of Cantrell to find out what was what and where he would fit into the equation.


The memory of Molly McGuire hung with him during his ride. Having watched the train disappear from sight, taking her on to Oregon had been hard, but here he was, riding into Kalispell, It was now July of '76, making the trip the longest ride he had ever attempted, and it was finally coming to an end, opening the next phase of his life.


The trail dissolved into the main street, and just ahead a sign that read 'Stardust Saloon,' with the promise of a beer and information. His second cautionary thought, the Lost Lake Ranch, were the Thornton's thought of well, or with hostility? That question would likely be answered at this Stardust Saloon.


Many were the eyes that followed the newcomer as he rode into town. John Anderson stood on the porch of his store watching the man as he past the store, wondering to himself if this yet another gunman for Elias Steelgrave's arsenal of gun hands, and if so, why? Did he not have enough, especially with the rumor that Case Steelgrave was back in the territory, and with a number of men with him.


The eyes of the people on the street were plain enough, there was something going on here, and he was being eyed as a man recruited to one side or another, which side would be of importance to both sides. He reined in at the hitch rail to one side of the Stardust and stepped down, flipping his reins over the rail and then stepping up on the boardwalk and pushing through the bat wings, he walked to the bar.


"Howdy" He said to the barman.


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A bearded man came thru the batwing doors, total stranger Ralph thought and he usually had a pretty good memory for faces if not necessarily names. He had the look of a cowpoke or a gunman or both. If he was yet another Evergreen man, he wasn't familiar.




Ralph nodded, "Howdy. Can I get ya somethin'?" 



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"A beer'd be nice. Hot out there today." Ty responded. "I'm looking for a man, a Quentin Cantrell. You know where I might find him?" The question sort of hung in the air. Obviously this Cantrell was known  around town, at least in the saloon, by the looks of things. But there was no way of telling whether that was good or bad news.


"Not huntin' him. Name's Thornton, Tyrell Thornton. Cousin to Shade Thornton. He asked me to check in on him." He wanted them to know he was not after Cantrell.


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"A beer'd be nice. Hot out there today." Ty responded.


"That it is. Better hot than freezin'," Ralph gave his opinion on it then added, "One beer coming up."


"I'm looking for a man, a Quentin Cantrell. You know where I might find him?" asked the newcomer.


"Yeah, I know the man. Lookin'  for him then?" Ralph had to wonder.


"Not huntin' him. Name's Thornton, Tyrell Thornton. Cousin to Shade Thornton. He asked me to check in on him."


A relative, now that was interesting.


"I know Shade Thornton too. Not that either Cantrell or Thornton ever frequent this place. In fact, neither come inta town much period. But they have a ranch a few miles outside of town. Lost Lake Ranch, it's a big one too, lot of cattle, impressive home not that I ever been there. Just goin' by what they say," Ralph explained.


"There's another large ranch too, Evergreen, and there has been a lot of bad blood between the two. I don't pay attention to all the details of why, none of my business," he added.



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