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    • "Ain't hardly nothin' to do but hunker down till she blows herself out." The man squatted, "Rance, is the name. Been watchin' you, doin' a fine job. You'll do Wheeler, you'll do. Try and get some rest, might end up bein' a long night. Least you won't be ridin' drag come daylight, there's a plus for ya."   He stood and made his way to his shelter to await the grub that was coming.   @Bongo
    • Meanwhile, in the main house, Reb Culverson was visiting with his old friend Fightin' Joe Hooker, who was the ramrod for the fledgling Montana Territory Stockgrowers Association, Northern District. He was there to convince ranchers to join and support the organization, hoping it would take root.   "And just what good is this here association ya got started?" Reb asked.   "It'll give us a voice in the territorial government, Reb, that's what it'll do. Once that happens we'll be able to git us some sortta range police to protect the herds, and the ranchers." Hooker responded. "Rustlin' might not be the threat it was, but you know as well as me, it can come back."   "You get anywhere with Lost Lake, 'er that cow thief on the Evergreen?" Reb asked.   "Can't say as I have, startin' with the smaller spreads an' workin' my way up to them two. I'm well aware of both spreads, and the men that own 'em."   -------------0------------   They swept down out of the trees whooping and hollering and firing off a couple of shots as they closed on both sides of a big group of cattle, just as they had planned. The  lone night hawk knew he had no chance of stopping the raiders, or of saving the cattle while he watched the chunk of the herd moving toward and then into the trees at a run.  He emptied his Colt at the raiders, the whipped out his Winchester  and levered several shots in the area where they had disappeared.   He could not know that one of his shots had found its mark. A man that had just joined took a slug in his back and toppled from his horse. Toole and the men continued to drive the cattle toward the dry riverbed as planned. It was an acceptable loss.   The sound of the shots, mere pops at the distance to the main house and the bunk house alerted everyone, and men boiled out of the bunk house guns in hand, only to watch the night man shooting after the rustlers.
    • Out on the boardwalk they stopped, "So we managed ta git a deal right off, thet's good, it is. Now all we gotta do is convince ol' Wentworth to free up the money so's ya don't have ta use yers right off." Amos commented, "Seems a fair deal but like you say, minin's not no sure thing."   "John and Mary are good folks. It's not a sure thing, but you saw the vein, went to the floor and it looks rich," Speed responded. "And it looks to be wider where they stopped digging. I can't wait to get it assayed to see what we've really got our hands on."   "And it should assay out pretty good from the looks of it, though I know so little about copper ore." Alice admitted.   "Well, you saw the copper ore, which is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding rock due to its reddish, mottled appearance. And that surrounding rock is granite which is not easy to work, but it can be done, and, if we have hit it, the veins could be as much as a mile long, a mile wide, and a mile deep!" Speed explained with a grin. "With that equipment we'll be able to not only dig deeper, we'll be able to tunnel, and we have the property to do just that."   "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" Amos exclaimed. Might oughtta buy up what ground ya can aound 'er, jest ta be certain!"   "First things first, let get on up to the bank." Speed suggested.
    • Justus was more than happy to have a chance to get out of the bulk of the wind, although he knew this was far from over.  And he knew they'd be hacking up dirt for days.     With the picket lines set, he moved over to help put up the shelters for the night, pretty quickly deciding that it was a fool's errand...they were all going to be miserable until this let up.   Squinting, he looked out toward the herd, not able to see but a few in the dust, it looked like they had been swallowed by the big, dirty cloud, and weren't even there.  In fact, he had the eerie sensation that all that was left in the world was this small circle of men and horses.   "Ya need me ta do anythin' else?" he called over the din of the wind.   @Flip
    • Doc Gilcrest walked into the bunck house to see Carson on his feet, dressed. "I may not be able to ride, but I can darn sure walk some. Tired of layin' in that bed."   "I reckon you kin do thet, sure 'nough. No body said ya had ta lie there if'n ya didn't want to. Yer stitched up plenty good. Jest leave thet hog leg where she's hangin' fer now, don't need the weight in thet wound."   "So anybody come sniffin' around?" He asked.   "Not so's you'd notice. There's four men down there keepin' watch, but it don't look like Lost Lake's lost any sleep over their man, that is if'n they even know he's gone." Gilcrest offered.   "He seen that brand an' went ta shootin'!" Carson reflected. "I jest shot straighter. Had no choice in the matter. Fool could'a rode on, but, well, that just ain't what happened. Hell of a mess."   "Oh I dunno. So far nobodies come huntin', the boss ain't upset over it, neither's Granger, so you got nothin' ta worry on 'cept gettin' better."   "I should'a been more careful, but maybe there just wasn't no way to be more careful. Up on the side of that mountain is the purdiest view a man could look at. You can see fer miles, see right where they got them cows of theirs. Now that ain't gonna be no easy matter to get to any of 'em. They're deep on Lost Lake range. Gonna be hard to get at, an' worse to get out. We'll lose some men tryin' this one, that's for sure!'   Gilcrest rubbed his chin. It wasn't like Carson to go on about the prospects of a job.

The Interview

Phinias G. McVay

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Mature Content: Somewhat.

With: Phinn McVay & Leah Steelgrave
Location: Cafe
When: September 1875
Time of Day: Mid-Morning.




Pronto could overhear what was said, and found that to be really interesting. Not much of a womanizer, he could not deny her beauty or appeal, but he'd dallied about long enough, his breakfast long gone and his coffee cold, it was time to be moving on. He dug out four bits and laid the two quarters on the table, rose from his seat and nodded to the lady, touching the brim of his hat and walking out of the cafe.


She looked back to Phinn, "In trade for a bit of information." She said wit a smile. "Have a seat sir."

Phinn nodded and smiled, “Of course. Anything I can do to help.”


“The man that just left, do you know him?” She asked pleasantly enough. Of course all the newspaper man would do was confirm what she already supposed.


“No ma’am, I don’t know him personally. His name is Pike, word is he’s from Texas.” Phinn explained. “So far as I know he’s taken no work here as yet. Former Texas Ranger and known gun hand, all of this public knowledge. And, Mister Pike is part owner of a very lucrative mining operation in Nevada. Anything else?”


“So, no connection to the Thornton’s then?” She asked somewhat surprised by what Phinn had revealed. Granted, all of it was there to be found if one was looking, and at least he was not a hired gun for Shade Thornton, so, why was he shot?


“None,” was the brief response. “Anything else?”

“No, no you’ve been most helpful.” She said quickly, “now, what was it you wanted of me?”



Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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1646524572_1leahsteelgrave.jpg.ba1c69f5c72ea4cd13ccf06033a083e1.jpgMcVay smiled then a sudden realization hit; “I’m sorry, I actually didn’t finish you question in regards to Mister Pike, that being, neither he or I are aware of who or why he was attacked. However he is recovering nicely.”  He paused, starting to ask the usual question one would ask of a female of the upper crust when he denied the urge.


The waitress brought tea for Leah and coffee for McVay which allowed him to begin; “Miss Steelgrave, I’ve heard all of the rumors and gossip there are to be heard regarding you. I doubt I’ve heard much in the way of facts where you, or your family for that matter, are concerned, so, perhaps you’d care to set the record straight, so to say.”


Leah was a bit taken a back by the statement. “Why Mister McVay, I do believe this is the first time that anyone has offered any of us such an opportunity. I know for the time being you are inquiring about me, so I’ll forgo discussing my family. Perhaps another time for them. Oh where to start?”


“I’m sure that the ladies of Kalispel would enjoy reading of your upbringing for lack of a better term.” Phinn was taken by how open she appeared to be, but he was also reserved in the same breath.


“I’m a Montana girl, Mister McVay, born and bred here, well born in Missoula, and pretty much raised here, well on the Evergreen, the family ranch, and in and about Whitefish.” She smiled and continued, “Yes, if there’s one thing I know, I am thought of as a spoiled rich girl and there’s no denying the fact that I am daddy’s little girl.’ Yes, I am pampered and yes it is said that I am cold and cruel, and other things I’ll not mention. To be honest I am not sure where that began, never the less, I have had some bad experiences with men in this area, and I have brothers and a protective father. So I’ll leave that to your imagination as to how that could go. Some I am aware were not pleasant, but not of my doing.



Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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But they underestimate me, sir. I am not in need of their protection, even though it is forced on me before I have a chance to handle the situation myself, in my own way and in my own time. I want it to be said that I believe in strong women, and I believe I am one.


That’s all rather tempestuous conversation, but you may include it, and I will sign my permissions for you. Women have a difficult time of it in the world, no matter where, but, if they are of wealth, influence, prominence, well, let’s say we enjoy some of the freedoms other women do not. Yet, for al the finery, I am still at the mercy of the men of the Steelgrave family. I am given a key to hose, subject to my father taking it back. I am allowed an allowance, and credit here in town, subject to his wishes, and the suite hotel? Only by his permission. So you see, for all of the fashions I may have, I am really no better off than any other woman in town.”


Phinn finished jotting down her words and looked to her with a different perspective. Oh, all of the slights aside, what he was seeing was a young realist in so far as a woman’s lot was concerned. Words he had not expected from her, well, actually no woman, except perhaps Addy Chapple, who could be as forthright as any man he’d ever met.

“I’m sure you know that it has been said that you killed a man, Darby O’Malley.” Phinn figured if she was going to be honest about what was said of her, then his statement would not be rebuffed.




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She paused sipping her tea, looking at McVay over the rim of her tea cup. She set the cup on the table and suddenly smiled. “You’re damned right I did!” She exclaimed. “Darby O’Malley tried to rape me and I drove my hat pin in his eye, took his derringer from his vest pocket, and put a bullet in his brain!” She paused, looking around the all but empty café two men and the waitress stared at her, disbelief at what they had heard on their faces. “Of course, my big brother Ben, who was skulking about near by rushed onto the scene and took credit for it, but he knows. He’s said nothing, and now it’s out. Again sir, you may do what you wish with whatever I’ve said, except, to miss quote me.”

When the pencil was laid on the table, Phinn looked up at her. “No ma’am, if you wish, we’ll bury this. I’ll not publish something which could destroy a life.”

“You are very kind Mister McVay, but it was years ago, I was just eighteen when that happened and after all that’s been said about me, behind my back, in snickers and whispers with no knowledge of the facts, well, you print what you like, sir, and I’ll attest under oath to every word if necessary.

Phinn summoned the waitress, “another tea for the lady, and another coffee for myself. And miss, I count or your discretion in this matter.

“Of course, sir.” Before she scurried off she gave a knowing look to Leah, who smiled back, as Phinn rose and went to the two men engaged in their meal.

He returned with a grin from ear to ear, “Headed to Oregon, just stopped for a fresh cooked meal. One last question, if I may.”

“Of course.”

“Your interest in Mister Pike?

“My father was afraid he was employed by the Thorntons as a gunman. Father sent me here to kill him, for the family, were that the case.” Was her straight forward reply.

“Would you?” Came the inevitable question.



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  • 6 months later...

Phinn had the headline set and was working on the text of the column when he paused, staring out of the window at the street, without seeing either the traffic, or the passers by. He was seemingly lost in the interview or nearly a month before. Lost in that final question he had asked of Leah Steelgrave, would she have killed Pronto Pike as her father had wished her to do?

There had been no answer, just a smile. A smile that could have meant anything at the time. She had been quite frank with him until that final question. She had even agreed to meet with him again if he wished and she had even promised that when the time was right she would give him a story that would rock the Steelgrave empire.

He had not printed any of the interview with her, not because he doubted any of it, but because he saw no good coming from it. He elected to wait, to hopefully meet with her again as she had agreed, to see what might be added to her story. Something that would shine a more positive light on her.

News to this point had been scarce. But that was generally true in the west. There were tales of the Red-man being out, but so far if that was true it had not affected Kalispell, or Whitefish, or even Columbia Falls. No tales of recent rustling of local cattle, no updates on the building of the new fort.

In fact, news of the coming Harvest Festival was even scarce, why the Town Council had not put out more information could only be attributed to there not being any. With that thought he turned from the window and went back to setting type and thinking of Leah Steelgrave and a possible second interview.


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