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The Old Ranger

Well, What Have We Here?

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Mature Content: Not sure, we haven't written it all yet.

With: Dorothy Parsons, Greer, Billy (NPCs)
Location: On the fringes of the Steelgrave ranch property
When: September
Time of Day: Evening

 

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It was dark now and the campfire was crackling away as two men sat across from each other separated by the fire. They had spent much of the day tracking down some loose horses who had wandered away from the ranchhouse corral when a gate had been carelessly left open. Truth was they hadn't been trying all that hard to find the animals as if they had come back with them too fast they might have been assigned some other chore for the day. Neither of them had a lot of ambition . Yes, they were ranch hands but no one would label them all that good at their jobs. But they were kept on because they had the sort of loose morals necessary to work for people like the Steelgraves who flouted the laws at very convenience and needed cowhands who didn't mind that at all. That might include such things as a bit of bullying intimidation to rustling to if necessary bloodshed. Long as they got paid.

 

Their now unsaddled mounts were tethered to a horseline and three other horses roped next to them, so the job was done but they'd take their time getting back. Ride in again the next morning....maybe late next morning, so as to have a better chance to miss any new chores. Billy had taken a shot at a rabbit earlier but missed so they ended up settling for cooking up some beans and were eating those as they relaxed.

 

"Wish we coulda went on that bear hunt, instead the Lost Lake ranch gets credit for that," sighed the younger of the two.

Billy was seventeen but most folks didn't think he looked it.

 

"No, not what I heard happened. One of them got all torn up and it took some woman to go n' kill that bear. Talk about embarrassin'," chortled Greer in between shoveling in some more beans, he always ate like he was starving but that sizeable paunch above his belt showed that was definitely not the case.

 

billyforsaga1.jpg                  Greer.jpg

 

@Juls

 

 

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The normally high strung brown and white pinto gelding plodded along slowly, head hung down, his spirits seeming as low as those of his rider who slouched in the saddle.  

 

Dorothy had been lost for a week now.  She didn’t even know if she was in Idaho, Wyoming, or Montana at this point.  All she knew was that she’d run out of provisions 3 days ago and was so damn hungry that she was beginning to consider eating the horse.  But after running from Indians and being separated from Flinch and Smitty, the gelding named Pongo was all she had left.  She’d spent a day hiding, then two days looking for her companions.  Maybe they’d been killed.  Maybe they’d fled.  But she was no skilled tracker and had eventually come to the frightening realization she was on her own.

 

Yesterday, she’d run across something she thought was some kind of wild onion and had eaten several of them for her dinner only to heave them back up shortly after.  Today, she’d found a pear tree with a few gnarled pears the critters hadn’t gotten yet. The fruit was hard as a rock, but at least something to gnaw on and seemed to be staying down. She groaned in self-pity as she halted the horse and slid off Pongo's right side, intending to unsaddle and hobble him for the night so he could graze while she rested. “Wish I could eat grass…” she muttered.

 

And suddenly… she caught site of a fire, which simultaneously filled her with hope that perhaps she’d stumbled upon Flinch and Smitty after all and fear that it was Indians.  Hunger and hope outweighed caution and instead of unsaddling the pinto, she quickly looped his lead rope around a tree branch.  “You wait here,” she whispered to Pongo, then made her way as quietly as she could toward the camp site until the two men came into view.  Definitely NOT Flinch and Smitty.  5 horses though, which seemed to suggest there were three others around somewhere.

 

Dorothy crouched down behind a pine tree, eyes scanning the area in an attempt to locate the other 3 men before eventually returning her gaze to the two at the fire, warily eyeing whatever they were eating.  They looked… rough.  Not that she looked, or probably smelled, any better.  She hesitated, debating between just going out there and asking if they’d share their dinner versus waiting until they’d fallen asleep in order to scrounge through their saddle bags.  Either one was risky.  

 

But while she debated, Pongo must have caught sight or smell of the other horses, for he whinnied loudly in greeting.  Ding horse!  She should have known he’d do that! 

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Greer practically spilled his plate of beans on hearing the horse from closeby but not the direction where their horses were tethered. Then he froze in place and stared out into the darkness. Being so close to their fire, that only made vision past the blaze all the more difficult. He did manage a shout out though.

 

"Hey, anyone out there?"

 

Billy flinched but then recovered quickly to set his own plate aside and carefully place one hand on the handle of his holstered revolver but he did not draw it. For all he knew someone or several someones out there had aimed guns on them. He was no fool.  But if shooting did start he was ready to dive away from the fire and go prone while at the same time having his weapon out and firing at any possible target.

 

"Just show yourselves...we don't want no trouble," he smiled and his youthful voice sounded a whole lot more calming than his gruff older partner.

 

@Juls

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"Hey, anyone out there?"

 

Dorothy’s heart rate shot up as the older of the two men called out in her direction, forcing her to decide on a course of action sooner than she’d planned.  Her left hand moved to rest on her revolver handle.  Bobby had gifted her a handsome matching pair of the Smith & Wessons and she wore one on each hip, but wasn’t yet good enough to effectively wield one on each hand.  

 

"Just show yourselves...we don't want no trouble."

 

What would Bobby do here?  Probably go be best buddies with these fellows and be eating their food and drinking their whiskey iffn they had any in no time flat.  He’d been the charismatic type.   

 

She was taking too long, probably making them a touch nervous.  Plus, the smell of the beans was making her stomach complain and her mouth water.  That alone was enough to rule out simply retreating into the darkness.

 

“Ain’t lookin’ for trouble, mister,” she called out finally, but didn’t yet move from the shelter of the pine tree. There was no disguising her feminine tone.  “Got separated from my … wagon,” she lied, hoping the idea that there might be people looking for her would be enough to deter any liberties either of them might have a notion to take.  'Course, just in case, that's what the gun was for.  “When my horse spooked and bolted.”  

 

@Wayfarer

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The two cowboys tensely waited for............well something to happen. A reply, gunfire, the sound of a horse galloping away...something. Suddenly there was a voice from the darkness, a female voice! That was a good thing....probably.

 

Billy glanced over to Greer, "It's a gal."

 

Alright, so that was belaboring the obvious. Greer nodded without reply. So even though Billy was by far the junior of the pair he assumed the spokesman role.

 

"That's good, neither do we. We're eating some supper, nothing fancy but you're welcome to have some. Course you're gonna have to come over to the fire then."

 

For just a moment he thought of that rabid wildcat farm girl but no, it definitely did not sound like her. He'd remember her voice alright.

 

"Sorry 'bout your horse. But maybe we can find it come daylight. Besides we got us some extra horses," he added.

 

@Juls

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Some of Dorothy’s caution ebbed as the younger of the pair said she’d be welcome to supper.  Maybe they were just a couple honest cowboys.

 

“I already got the horse,” she said, easing herself slowly out from behind the pine tree, eyes flicking back and forth from Greer to Billy to the half-eaten meals several times as she took a few cautious steps toward the fire, slowly illuminating something that might indeed look like a rabid wildcat girl.

 

Her trousers and used-to-be-white shirt were both dirty and stained, there was dirt under her fingernails, knuckles and forearms scratched from briars.  A gunbelt with two revolvers hung on her hips.  Her blonde hair might have been braided a few days ago, but now it was a tangled mess sticking out from beneath her brown hat.  Her face was partially shadowed by the hat, but looked like it was a week overdue for a scrubbing, the remnants of some black eye liner smeared below her eyes as if she’d rubbed at it recently.

 

“Just got myself lost in the process…” she said.  At least that was the truth.

 

For a second, she rested her hands on her gun belt, then quickly realized what she was doing and crossed her arms instead.  No sense in giving them a reason to shoot her.  Least not yet.

 

“Wouldn’t say no to dinner though.”

 

@Wayfarer  

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And then this mysterious woman finally appeared, emerging out of the darkness of the tree line as she approached the campfire. The woman replied that she already had her horse so that meant they wouldn't have to do a search when daylight came. That was a good bit of news because neither of the cowpokes had any ambition or desire to.

 

"Oh, that's a good thing then," Billy nodded as he studied the woman.

 

Definitely not that damn farm girl with her dark hair in pigtails....no this here was a grown woman. And looking a bit rough for wear but then if she had been wandering around in the wilds, small wonder. Billy wondered how old she was. He also wanted a closer look at her once she reached the fire so he could decided if she was pretty or not.

 

Now on the other hand Greer didn't pay attention to all that as his attention was drawn to the fact this woman had not just one but TWO guns in her holster. In all his years, he never could remember any woman heeled like that. Nope, this was no townie or ranch gal. Nobody like that would wear two six guns. This one could be real trouble.

 

The woman stated a willingness to partake in some dinner though. Afterall they had invited her to share their supper.

 

"Sure, it ain't fancy. Just beans though but we got plenty left," Greer invited her in then.

 

Billy kept his hand on the handle of his pistol but it remained inside it's holster, "Sure, you can use my plate, I'm done anyhow. Oh and we got some beef jerky too. Would you want a couple slices?"

 

As he was standing he waved with his free hand for her to have a seat by the fire, "Make yerself comfortable."

 

@Juls

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Dorothy watched the two men’s reaction to her, both of which gave her reason to keep her guard up: the younger with his hand resting on his pistol and the older giving her own guns the stink eye.

 

Maybe she should have left the gun belt with Pongo.  It made the whole ‘damsel in distress’ act a little harder.  But she’d be damned if she was going to put herself at the complete mercy of two strangers in the middle of nowhere.  At least she’d left the wad of cash back in Pongo’s saddle bags.  That might prove more difficult to spin some yarn about.

 

“Beans’re okay,” she said, a bit of her rough Pittsburgh accent slipping through.  She’d picked up a little bit of a southern drawl during her time in Texas, but the northern habit of turning multiple words into one hadn’t completely gone away.   

 

She hesitated when Billy waved her toward the fire, as if he was just waiting for her to sit so that he’d have an easier time getting the drop on her.  But the plate of beans and the offer of beef jerky was compelling enough to let her stomach overrule her head and she sat, trying to force herself to relax.

 

“Jerky too?  I didn’t know no better, I’d say you boys were trying to butter me up,” she said, letting her voice soften to a tone she knew men tended to like and allowing a half-smile to erase her wary expression.  Though that trick might not work near so well when she was dressed like a tomboy that got dragged through a thicket.

 

@Wayfarer

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Billy figured it was in the end the food that drew her in as she made her up to the campfire then sat down. He now took his hand off his gun and relaxed a bit. He wasn't a trusting person, most of his life he had lived with and dealt with people you wouldn't want to trust. That included his current employers but they paid decent so he stayed on. The woman seemed quite content with beans then was rather pleasantly surprised with the tack on jerky offer.

 

"Alright, here use my plate and spoon, I'm done eatin' anyhow," he passed over the utensils then got up again to go pull the jerky out of his saddlebags. Those were piled with his saddle on top of the blanket he would be sleeping on.

 

While the young man did that, Greer just stared at the gal. She probably wouldn't want to know what his current thoughts were but whatever, he did not voice them. When Billy returned he had a few long sticks of jerky to give her.

 

"So what's yer name then? Oh, this here is Greer - he don't like his first name none. And I'm Billy...Billy Watlow. "

 

@Juls

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It occurred to Dorothy that the young man probably wasn’t really done with his plate of food, but she sure wasn’t going to offer it back to him now.  Beans weren’t exactly her idea of a gourmet feast, but right now they were the best thing she’d ever eaten and she shoveled them in like somebody was about to steal it back off of her.

 

It was only after several bites that she felt Greer’s rather uncomfortable stare.  And her eyes moved back up to meet his with a challenge in her gaze as she scraped the plate with the spoon to get every last bean.

 

Looks bout as dull as dishwater, she thought, rather uncharitably.

 

“Dotty,” she said, taking the sticks of jerky and turning her gaze to Billy.  “Jackson,” she added.  She’d decided on that name at some point during the trek north.  Seemed easy enough to remember and there were plenty of Jacksons back where she was from.

 

Billy seemed the more likable of the two, even if she thought he was probably at least a couple years younger than herself.  So she looked at him as to ask, “We close to any towns?”

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Juls (see edit history)

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Billy nodded as the woman identified herself. Dotty...Jackson. Now he knew a Jackson family over Billing's way but he didn't recall them having a Dotty. Still it was a very common family name, lots of Jacksons.

 

"Dotty. That's a right pretty name, " he lied thru his teeth, he actually didn't like it but he was trying hard to be friendly with this gal.

 

She turned to meet his gaze then even as she asked a question about towns.

 

"Oh yeah. Closest is Kalispell. Then probably Whitefish. You got family around?" he had his own questions.

 

So did Greer who was far less diplomatic, "Why in tarnation you wearing two sixguns? What kinda woman runs around with guns like that?"

 

Actually Billy thought that too but hadn't voiced it, leave it to his lummox partner.

 

@Juls

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“None ‘round here,” she answered Billy about having family close by.  She’d never even heard of Kalispell or Whitefish, but didn’t want to ask which state she was actually in and reveal just how lost she really was.  Then they’d know for sure that there was no one within 100 miles or more who would miss her if she disappeared tonight.  Still, the young man’s friendly nature was beginning to put her at ease.  He reminded her a little of Flinch, who she'd always got on pretty well with.

 

It didn’t last long.

 

Dorothy bristled again at Greer’s questions.  As if he were accusing her of something.  Maybe something that happened to be true, but nonetheless, his tone put her back on edge.

 

“One that don’t plan on endin’ up at the mercy of some mud sill, Mister Greer,” she said pointedly as she set down the now empty plate, which might give the impression she was freeing up her hands to draw those guns.

 

 

@Wayfarer

Edited by Juls (see edit history)

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A little bit more progress, Billy thought, the gal didn't have any family locally. Still meant though a lot about her was a mystery. Then Greer went and was a bit too blunt with his questions, especially the second one. The woman bristled.

 

Greer was no gunslinger. Oh he had a gun and he'd used both a rifle and a revolver during his lifetime but he preferred the odds to be all stacked in his favor as he was both an indifferent shot and a bit of a coward.

 

"Well, don't have nothin' ta worry about with us. We are just plain law-abiding cowpokes. But mess with our employers and you could well wind up regrettin' it. The Steelgraves are hard folks," Greer replied.

 

Billy almost chuckled about the law-abiding part but let it go. You didn't work for the Steelgraves if you were fussy about breaking laws. The only law was do whatever the Steelgraves told you to do.

 

"Yeah, no need to get upset. You can't blame us for being at least a mite curious when some unknown woman comes inta our camp. Ain't we been welcoming though and proper gentlemen?" Billy added to their defense.

 

He decided to move on to a different topic to break the tension, "So you got a job already or maybe lookin' for one, Dotty?"

 

@Juls

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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Dorothy wasn’t sure if Greer’s statement about these Steelgraves was supposed to be a direct threat or just a fair warning.  It took her a moment to realize that maybe he thought she was here to do some cattle rustle or something.  Ha!  As if she knew anythin’ bout cows.  If he really thought that, then he probably thought she had some friends lurking nearby.  Good.  Let him worry about it.  Maybe that would help ensure he kept his hands to himself.

 

“Ain’t planning on messin’ with no one,” she commented, her eyes still lingering on Greer as Billy chimed in to try to smooth things over.  “And ain’t upset,” she added, despite the fact that she had most certainly been overly touchy about Greer’s comment.

 

Seeming satisfied that Ol’ Dishwater there got her message, she let her gaze slide back over to Billy and allowed the tension to subside again.  At first it seemed an odd question… after being lost for a week and with a wad of Wells Fargo cash in her saddle bags, employment wasn’t exactly forefront in her mind.  But that money wouldn’t last forever and now that she gave it a thought, maybe picking up an odd job or two would let her get reoriented.  Maybe figure out where she was going.

 

“Ya know anyone willin’ to hire a woman?” she asked.  It was worth a shot.  “I mean… anyone ‘sides the local saloon or the cat house?”

 

 

@Wayfarer

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The woman said she wasn't upset, well Billy had his doubts about that alright. She sounded upset. But he wasn't about to argue with her over it. Instead he gave a look toward Greer as if to silently say  'stop it' then instead spoke to her.

 

"Well, that's good then."

 

He then changed topics and asked about if she might possibly be looking for work. Turned out she seemed at least a bit interested given her return question.

 

"Not exactly....I just was curious but no, I didn't mean saloon or cat house. Still......you shoot those guns of yers pretty good? Can ya hit what ya aim at? Might just know a place or two where gunhands can get hired. Depends on how willing you are to actually use those?" Billy still wasn't wanting to come right out with it plainly.

Edited by Wayfarer (see edit history)

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“I can use ‘em if I have to,” she replied.

 

Calling her a gunslinger would have been an outright lie, but she was fairly decent shot, at least with her left hand.  With the right … well, it depended how big the target was.   Flinch had taken the time to teach her and she’d been practicing and getting better little by little.   Usually by shooting at cans that had been hung from a tree.  Or sometimes having Flinch toss one in the air and seeing if she could hit it before it fell.

 

Bobby hadn’t liked to include her in the actual gunfighting though, always telling her it was too dangerous.  Stealing the Wells Fargo cash from the South Pacific Railroad line had been the first time he’d taken her on a job and it had been such a success that there’d been no need for trigger pullin’ at all.  

 

Still, there was some appeal to Billy’s suggestion.  She didn’t have a wide skillset and she certainly wasn’t keen to ever step foot in a whorehouse again.

 

“Maybe you can point ‘em out to me tomorra?” she suggested.  “Hey, you mind if I go get my horse and bring him up here?” she asked, standing up and gesturing to where the other horses were tied and then down toward where Pongo was.  “Left him down there and he’s still got his saddle on…”

 

@Wayfarer

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About Sagas

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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