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Riding The Country

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Mature Content:  Probably not. 

With: Marshals Cook & McNue
Location: Columbia Falls
When: Mid July 1876
Time of Day: Of A Morning..




Cook and McNue had ridden north-east out of Kalispell up through Columbia Falls to Coram and just beyond. They turned back after camping a couple of nights just pretty much doing nothing but talking about what was going on back in Kalispell. Both men had been up the trail and around the bend, so what they were seeing in Kalispell was nothing they had not seen before. Ruthless ranchers ready to do whatever they had to to increase their holdings, on hang on to what they had. Maybe run off the sod busters that fouled the range and denied grazing. But in this case, what they knew was that the two big dogs were ready for a fight.


All that was necessary to spark the tinder and burst it into an all out range war was an incident, whether one party could blame the other or not. And from what they were seeing, it really would not take a whole lot to fan the flames. What both had trouble understanding was the hospital and orphanage plans. All of that had been settled long ago. Both men knew how all of it was done, the right of ways bought and paid for, with a written contract from the railroad to guarantee the proposed route. Yet, nothing had been done other than to stall, and for no apparent reason where someone, other than the town Council might profit, and that was sketchy at best.


The woman, Leah Steelgrave had seen to every detail, both had heard the stories and been witness to some. She worked hard and long hours to make sure everything was iron clad. She must have expected problems like those that had arisen. Yet their question was still, why.


Passing back through Corum and then into Columbia Falls, the marshals decided to stop for the mid day meal. They stopped at the Bon Ton Cafe and dismounted, tying the horses at the hitch rail and then going inside. The place had those long communal tables, but they sat down with three other men across from them, one spoke up,'


"Marshals are ya?" The older man said. Both men looked up. "Boone, Doctor Joshia Boone, gentlemen."




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"Doc, I'm John Cook, this here's Bill McNue we're in Kalispell sort of looking out for things, you might say. This here's a nice town." Cook said eaily.


"You boys from the Territorial Capitol?" Boone asked making conversation.


"Are." McNue answered. "Sort of lendin' a hand to Marshal Guyer down there."


"I was down there a spell after Whitefish was destroyed. Speed's a good man." He paused, looking from one to other. "Keepin' an eye on Miss Steelgrave as well, I take it."


"You could say that, the Governor has an interest in seeing that hospital getting built, so he left us to be of service where we could. Seems he expects trouble about it, and from what we've seen, that's likely."


"Hell John, that Town Council like an anchor around her neck! They keep stallin' and foolin' about to keep the construction fro startin'." McNue added.


"Well now, those Steegrave's are a crooked lot, I'll give you that, and you'd think since Leah wants the hospital they'd be all for it, but I doubt that's the way things are. Elias Steelgrave is a dangerous, greedy, no account human being!"


"You'll not get an argument from us about that from what we've seen and heard. That she has three gun hands watching her says a whole lot." Cook stated.


"You need to know them's Evergreen men that left to watch her, there's a story in that." Boone relayed. "They know the old man, and that was enough for them. It won't go easy if Robinson and that bunch ever let her start the project. Daddy will have something to say about it, that's for sure!"


"You don't say." McNue chimed in, "No wonder the Governor has us here, an' John, we're in the wrong town to do any good."


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John nodded, "That we are. Best we finish up and head on back, maybe a bit quicker'n we got here. Hate to miss any of the excitement."


"Now, when you get back you give my regards to both Danforth and Miss Steelgrave.  Let 'em know I'll be along to help once the hospital's built." Boone request of them. "Been a pleasure meetin' the two of you, and the best of luck, I believe you'll be needing it, oh, and those boys watchin' out for Miss Steelgrave, you can count on them where she's concerned."


"Been good meetin' you too, an' we'll surely deliver yer regards, count on it." McNMue promised.


"Well sir, been a pleasure, and we'll see if we can't have words with those men, providin' the badges don't get in the way of it. I heard tell they've stood by Marshal Guyer when needed, so yes, I've wanted to talk with them about all of this." Cook explained as he got to his feet offering his hand.


After hand shakes with Doc Boone, the two lawmen left the cafe and mounted their horses, trotting out of town, they had a ways to ride so they would measure their animals strength and pace accordingly. If there was already trouble, they were the better part of a day from getting back to Kalispell.


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  • 3 weeks later...

It was late evening before they returned to Kalispell, having pushed it, only to find the town still standing, the streets deserted and only the hotel and the Stardust showing lights. They pulled up in front of the saloon, light spilling out of the open doorway and front windows. Both men weary from the ride, and the thought of a beer and maybe something to eat lifted their spirits.


Standing and stretching form the trip they said nothing at first. Then McNue said; "Damn that was some ride. I'm plumb tuckered out, but I could use a bite ta eat."


Cook smiled, "Shorely beat hell outta us, and them horses! And we got it to do over't the livery after." Referring to tending to their mounts, as the stepped up onto the boardwalk. "Well, best we get to it."


Pushing through the bat wing doors into the room, they looked around and walked to the bar. "Couple a beers." McNue said.


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After they drank their beer both men left the Stardust  and led their horses to to livery where they stripped off the saddles and tack, then proceeded to rub them down while the animals fed on oats and hay. They checked the horses hoofs, ensuring that the shoes were good. Proper care was vital for these men.


"So what do make of the Doc over't Columbia Falls?" Cook asked.


"Seemed like a good man, well intentioned sort." McNue answered as he brushed his horse. "I reckon these Steelgraves are all they're cracked up to be then."


"Would appear that way wouldn't it. I just don't understand a father gettin' in the way of his daughter doin' somethin' like buildin' a hospital. Seems to me a man oughtta be proud of her."


"You'd think, wouldn't ya?" Both men whirled around. "Easy there, name's Bannister, with them that's keepin' and eye on Miss Steelgrave. We've been meaning to palaver with you two for a spell now, just never got to it."


"John Cook, he's Bill McNue. Just up Columbia Falls where we met with Doc Boone, he had high praise for you boys. Pleased to meet you."


""You know they'll be meeting in the morning about this hospital, and it seems Matt Wentworth will be ramroddin' the Town Council meetin', so sure as shootin', it'll get done for her, and then I'm thinkin' at some point, the trouble's gonna start. So we wanted you to know, we'll stand with you and Guyer when need be."


"He short a deputy?" McNue asked. "That Pike fella?"


"Yep, an I wished he was here, but then, you know, trouble might be a ways off yet, like till they start buildin' an' there's enough to burn down, that sort of thing." Banister added. "I know most of those men, an' we won't be takin' 'em lightly, neither should you."


"Appreciate that." Cook said.


"Didn't figure they'd be the type to take lightly." McNue added.


"I gotta get back, she's eatin' with Wentworth, but you can count on us." Bannister assure them.


"We will, thanks Bannister." McNue stated.


"Give a holler when you need us, we'll be right there!' Cook promised.


They watched as Bannister disappeared in the darkness. "Son of a bitch! This could be quite the show!" Cook considered.


Damn sure will!" McNue agreed.



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Both men had agreed, it had been a hell of a day. That Bannister came to them had been unexpected, but welcomed.  As they walked to the hotel after stabling their mounts they paused on the porch, taking up seats on the porch. Both men silent as they turned over the events of the day. Neither weary as they should be after a long hard ride back to Kalispell.


"This shapes up different than I was thinking it would. I mean hell, this is father against daughter." Cook said, "Seen a few that was father-son, never father-daughter."


"Odd one, that's fer shore. Now This Elias Steelgrave, you know much about him?" McNue asked, wonder what type of man is a threat to his own flesh and blood.


"Some, none of it good, and none of it arrestable, if that's even a word. The man skirts the law in a way he gets what he's after without consequence. Though I've heard there's a dark past with some bodies, but again, no real proof. Well, we'll check in with Guyer in the morning, see what we can do."


"Sounds to be a good idea, as dos gettin' our fair share 'o shuteye." McNue agreed. Both men got to their feet and entered the hotel. On this night their prospective of what was happening had changed.


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  • 2 weeks later...

It took a mite of tracking to locate Marshal Guyer. They caught up to him just outside the Mercantile with A woman and an older fellow whom neither had met yet, but that was about to change.


"Marshal, we were just up to Columbia Falls where we run onto Doc Boone who said to send his best. Seems this situation here is worse than we thought." Cook explained.


"The Steelgrave business?" Speed asked.


"Yep. Know'd it was touchy, but Boone thinks there'll be real trouble with the hospital and all." McNue chimed in.


Yes, moat likely." Speed replied then added, "Let me introduce my intended, Miss Alice Fletcher, and her father Amos Conroy."


"Ma'am. Conroy, heard a you. The bounty hunter." McNue stated.


"Ma'am, and yes, we have heard about you Mister Conroy. Seems to me you've shown up in the right place." Cook added.


"I'm inta minin' these days. Give up on chasin' them hard cases fer a livin'. Figgered I pushed my luck about as fur as I dared." Amos related. "Settlin'  down. But ready if'in this goes south."


"Well we thought we'd just touch base again, and plan on taking up that spare office, if you don't mind." Cook informed the Marshal, "And stay close to home, Spoke with Bannister and they are ready for whatever comes down the pike."


"Good. I expected as much, and maybe after this meeting about the hospital we'll see what we're really up against." Speed surmised. "Well, we've documents to file so you boys make yourselves to home and we'll for sure see where this goes."



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