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Sagas of the Wild West
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Not to be left behind and sure that his wartime experience could be of help, Phinn was one of the first to head the call when it came.  Of course, there was a story in it, it was a disaster after all. But his humanity took over, there were people left behind in Whitefish and they needed help.

 

He would get that story and be of service to his fellow man, regardless of who they were, or where they were from. He had ceased to care much about prejudices after the surrender, as he saw no good was coming from it. Part of the reason he had moved west.

 

Phineas McVay was hardly a perfect human being and admittedly so, but like some in his business, he was not callous to the suffering of others. He had seen far too much of that.

 

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Dressed more like a man than a young lady of means Leah Steelgrave had joined the cavalcade early on, doing whatever she could to ease the suffering, which included giving up the family suite and taking up a bed at Doctor Jonah Danfoths office.

 

Before she could deliver what news she had the remnants of the survivors from Whitefish had arrived and everything focused on them. Leah had gone to every store in town and opened her accounts to those in need, something that made the businessmen sit up and take notice. She had then gone to the hotel and rented every room that was available including opening her families suite. Her actions even stunned Jonah Danforth.

 

She plodded along on a rented horse, torn by what she was seeing along the trail, and what she had witnessed in town. She had no illusions about forgiveness of the Steelgrave name by what she had done, and she cold honestly care less. What was done, needed to be done and she had the where with all to see to it. Those that did not think her motives were genuine could go to hell!

 

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Emeline glanced at Barnabas and smiled, even though he couldn't see her mouth behind the scarf.  "I've no doubt it will not be pleasant, but we can only do our best."  Reaching over, she squeezed his arm, then left her gloved hand resting there.

 

"The people of Kalispell have put up a good team, I'm sure we'll be able to do the most we can."  She left off the 'for the survivors' part, for there was no guarantee that there would be survivors, considering how cold it had been, and there was no telling what sort of provisions were left.

 

With riders serving as plows and trampling the worst of the snow, the wagons were able to move at a fairly good pace, and  the horses were winded as they arrived at what used to be Whitefish.

 

The rubble of collapsed homes as they drew closer to the town proper gave them an idea what to expect, but even that didn't prepare Emeline for the devastation. 

 

Collapsed buildings, still under huge snowdrifts, burned hulks, massive trees knocked over...and bodies...strewn in the streets and on the boardwalks...

 

But there was no time to fret over that...as the caravan rolled into town, they were quickly met by all manner of people, young and old, some injured, some obviously sick and unwell...

 

"Oh...oh, goodness."  Emeline's heart broke, and even before the wagon stopped, she hopped  down from the wagon and ran to help a woman who could barely walk, taking the woman's baby and wrapping inside her coat, then helping her to the side. 

 

"You need to stay back so we can get the wagons in!" she called, but she doubted she would be heard over the shouts and noises.

 

 

 

 

 

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Whitefish hadn’t promised much. Oleander had been warned of that when it was first pointed out to her on a map of the local area. “You could try and make it out to Kalispell before the next big storm hits, but if you’re really just looking for any kind of place like you say, might as well go for Whitefish.” They had said. And that really was all she had been looking for. 

 

Her last safe haven had been with Felix, the old veteran. In fact he had given her his old mule, Twiddles, on account of “she hardly did much anyway.” What Twiddles did do was at least march her scrawny nag body over to Whitefish and allowed Oleander to scrounge a bed from a pitying passerby. Oleander had gone to bed that night expecting some solace. 

 

She was woken up not a few hours later by screams and a warm, threatening glow bleeding through the windowpanes. Leaping out of bed to assess the blaze, Oleander was quickly met with it as it licked along the sill. Blizzard winds had brought the embers slamming into the side of the shed, and soon enough the shed was collapsing. 

 

That’s what she told people when they pulled her out a few days later. Somehow they had placed her in the church along with the other women and their children, but instead of huddling with them Oleander had picked herself a corner seat in a far removed pew. It gave her a good look over the rest of them, as well as a place to clear her head and allow her to shiver and chatter her teeth in peace. 

 

The best part of her perch was it had the best window that looked out onto the main street of Whitefish … or what was left of it. She watched as the horses plowed their feet through the paths, the wagons groaning along behind them. More and more continued to emerge from the silhouettes of what once were buildings. Oleander, like many others, seemed to suddenly become possessed and rose to her feet, surging out to meet the rescue teams. The orders to have those from Whitefish disperse to let the wagons through fell on deaf ears, and suddenly Oleander found herself tugging on the sleeve of anyone who would listen. 

 

“His mule. Twiddles. His … my mule. Has anyone seen the old nag?” She drifted from person to person, hardly waiting for an answer. Her mind was more frayed than she had realized. Apparently midnight infernos would do that to a person.

 

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Aurelian was there in his buckboard wagon as part of the rescue mission organized originally in Kalispell. He had felt he needed to be involved as his civic duty. Oh and Christian one also. They needed wagons to transport refugees to Kalispell and he could do that much.

 

Once all of these surviving folks made it to town, temporary shelter and living space was going to be at a real premium so the man also notified those in charge he was willing to put up a few unfortunates on his farm outside of Kalispell.  The place was nothing special but it was at the least a roof over their heads, a warm fire, and he would be happy to share meals with these luckless souls.

 

People had been kind to him and his children when they had first arrived in Kalispell, he would never forget that. So maybe this was a chance to pass on that kindness to at least a few of these unfortunates. And a fine lesson in Christian charity for his children. Now it was just a matter of seeing who those in charge would assign him.

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Inside the coach, Jonah stared out the window, horrified by the conditions that they were riding into.   It was unlike anything he had ever thought he'd encounter, but at least he wasn't the only doctor.

 

And as they drove farther up the main street, the magnitude of the situation became evident.  At least there had been some pre-planning, and the goal was to find intact buildings and set up temporarily where people could be treated, fed and sorted before loading everyone up and heading back to Kalispell. 

 

But someone else was coordinating that, his job was doing what he could to keep survivors alive, and he was not really sure he was prepared for the magnitude of that.

 

Addy bit her lip as she drove the stage into town, staying focused on the job at hand.  Her task was to see to the animals, to make sure that the Kalispell stock were fed and tended to, then to do what she could for the town's critters, be it cows, horses, dogs, cats...

 

She looked down at the young woman, desperately talking to one of the men from town.  "Gimme a minnit ta git th' stage here stopped an' I'll take a look for ya," she called down, setting the brake then hopping to the ground.  She was wearing pants, a heavy coat and had a scarf keeping her hat jammed on her head.

 

"Don't fret none, Missy, I'll look for ya."  She knew how important your animal could be, and she'd make every effort to find it.  "Let th' doc take a look at ya, get some food..."

 

 

 

 

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Matt was helping the kitchen staff take stock of how much food there was in the hotel's pantry.  He was working with the town council and Pastor Evans getting everything ready for all the people that would be arriving soon.  There had already been a few people who had made it Kalispell but only just barely.  Thankfully, the hotel was virtually empty of guests and so they had the room to accommodate some of the victims and their families.  He had been adding extra beds to the rooms that had the space, as well getting all the available linen and blankets.

 

When Walter told him that Leah Steelgrave had rented out all the rooms, Matt was a bit perplexed.  Her motives for doing so would be something he would be looking into later on when things were back to normal.  When he got the chance, he would have to inform her that she didn't need to rent the rooms and he wasn't about to take any payment for it, as he was not one to make a profit out of someone else's misery.  Giving the rooms to the victims was already on his mind from the time the news had come through and he had been too busy getting things organised that he had forgotten to tell Walter to let the current guests know.

 

One of his housemaids, came into the room to let him know that Pastor Evans had arrived.  As he went out to the lobby to meet the man, he mentally assessed the food situation.  Between the hotel, the White Rose, the Stardust saloon, and Miss Blakesley's establishment there would be enough places to feed the victims and their rescuers.

 

After greeting the Pastor with a sturdy handshake, Matt told him about  the hotel preparations.  The Pastor was pleased and in turn, told Matt that many of the town's residences and some of the outlying farms and ranches were ready to take in whoever needed a safe place to stay and recover.  Even though some of the work had been done already, there was still a lot more to do.   Pastor Evans informed Matt that the town council was having a meeting in two hours at the church to see what still needed to be done.

 

Giving his confirmation that he would be at the meeting, Matt said goodbye the Pastor, who was on his way to check if anyone needed help with stocking up their firewood.  There were a few men in town who had stayed behind to any physical work and repairs that needed to be done quickly to make things comfortable for the victims.  After checking with Walter that all of the guests were aware of the situation, he made his way back to the kitchen.

 

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Dressed in a buffalo coat, woolly chaps, and heavy gloves for added warmth, Marshal Henry Guyer rode with the procession out of Kalispell. Seeing the bodies strewn along the trail was not easy. It looked like a scene out of the late war, but they had been soldiers, not women and children. His heart was heavy, yet there was comfort that those that had survived the trip were lodged wherever there was room. Pike had given up his room at  to sleep in a cell, while Speed offered up his mining office and the rooms above to bunk right next to the Texan.


Before Speed could get the word out that they could begin the rescue of Whitefish survivors Pastor Gideon Evans was rallying the people of Kalispell, so he just took a step back and allowed the sky pilot to handle the organization. That had been sometime back and finally they had gotten moving while the town council sans their Marshal would be meeting, businesses would be doing what they could to prepare for what was to come.


Speed rode into what remained of Whitefish near the head of the column and it was clear that it had suffered a death blow. Fires had consumed just about everything, few structures were spared, and those that were did not look all that stable. Except the church, it stood unaffected at the end of the street, it’s spire reaching toward the heavens in defiance of the destruction and tragedy around it, offering what shelter it had.

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More than one person had shrugged Oleander off. All they could give her was a blank stare, a shake of the head, or an agitated huff. As if whatever pesky animal she was griping about was the only thing on her mind. As if she was ignoring the collapses houses, holding bodies (both alive and dead) in their bowels. As if she wasn’t aware of just how many other animals had run off in blind terror the first moment they could.

 

But Oleander was very aware of all of these things. And if that old mule had run off without her, Oleander wasn’t sure how long either of them would make it. Both she and the old ride had seemed to be keeping each other going. 

 

One person seemed to understand. Oleander found herself whirling when she heard a set of feet plod into the frozen earth behind her, and she whipped around, causing what braid was left in a shoddy plait to free itself and cling around her face. Her muscles immediately tensed, but as soon as she looked upon another woman, full of life and sincerity, Oleander let herself breathe again. “A dun,” she croaked. “It’s an old dun mule. Regular sized.”

 

The woman had mentioned a doctor. That’s right, the doctor was still in town. “No, no, I’m fine. I just want the mule. I’ll … the doctoring is for later. I just need the ride.” And need the ride she did. As soon as she could, she would high tail it out of here with directions to Kalispell. It seemed this woman with the stagecoach would help make that happen. Now, where did those herded steeds get placed? And had that damn old thing even been part of that rescue mission?

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"A ride where?"  Addy wasn't sure if the young woman was delirious or maybe just confused, although she wouldn't blame her, it had to have been a rough few days.

 

"Here, have somethin' ta eat."   She pulled a bundle from beneath the seat, revealing some biscuits and jerky.  "Tell ya what, ya help me get these horses settled an' we'll take one'a th' spare teams an' go lookin' fer that mule'a your'n."  At least they knew it wasn't in town, or she would have found it, and it wasn't on the road to Kalispell.  "There's a couple places outside'a town we might could look."

 

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