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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.

A Business Proposition

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Mature Content: No

With: Charles Wentworth Sr and Judge Ben Robertson
Location: Helena, Montana
When: Late March 1876
Time of Day: Morning




Charles looked at his watch for what was probably the fourth time in the last ten minutes. His old friend was due at any minute and he was anxious to know why he had come all this way to speak with him when they could have done so in Kalispell.


He had left Washington as soon as he could and thankfully it had been a trouble-free trip so far.  The plan had to been to find either a stagecoach or hire someone to take him the rest of the way to Kalispell.  The snow was already melting making the trip there impossible.  It was a trip he had wanted to make for some months, ever since he had found out that Charlie had quit college and headed west to be with his brothers.  The imminent arrival of his first grandchild and the coming winter had made it impossible to go back then.


In a way, it was a good thing the mission to go get Charlie and drag him back to college had been delayed.  It had given time for him to calm down and along with a few other things that had taken place in the last few months, a chance to re-assess his motives and relationship with his sons.  Even Becky had her say and what she said had made sense.  Even though, he would always try to convince one or more of his sons to join him Washington, deep down he knew that they had made their own paths just like he did.


Picking up the telegram that he had received upon his arrival in Helena, he re-read it.  Ben had asked him to stay at Helena until he could get there as he had something important to discuss.  The telegram had been a surprise as his last correspondence with Ben was in late November.


A knock at his room door, alerted him to the fact that his guest had arrived.  Going over to the door, he opened it and smiled, "Ben, it's great to see you.  Come right in."


Judge Ben Robertson, smiling a bigger smile, entered the room and shook hands with his old friend.  They had both grown up together in Wilmington, Ohio and even though he was a couple of years old than Charles, they treated each other like brothers.  When the time came to go their separate ways to seek their fortunes, he had gone westward, while Charles had headed east.  They wrote to each on a regular basis and had even managed to see each other a few times over the years.


The two men spent the next thirty minutes reminiscing and catching up with each other.  Charles, reluctantly decided to get to the reason why Ben had wanted to see him now.  "Your telegram said that it was important.  I hope it has nothing to do with my sons."


"No, they're not part of this, well at least not yet.  We're hoping to ask Matt, but I wanted to ask you first.  I have a business proposition for you and I'm hoping that you will agree to it.  The stakes are high, and the future of Kalispell depends on it."



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"The future of Kalispell?  That sounds a bit ominent.  I hope it isn't that bad."


"It could be," Ben answered, "It all depends on you ask."


Leaning forward in his chair, he sighed deeply, "Kalispell is a good town and we all want the best for it.  The town has been offered a couple of concessions in exchange for land to build a hospital and an orphanage.  The hospital and orphanage will be privately funded by one person."


Charles frowned, "I don't understand.  If the town doesn't need to worry about financing this project, then what's the problem?"


"The financing and in particular the person doing it is the problem.  If the town council agrees to this project, then the land and not to mention the hospital and orphanage will be owned by a Steelgrave."


"I think you better start at the beginning."


Ben nodded, "I think you're right.  When you know what the problem is, I'm sure you will understand why we need your help."


For the next few minutes, Ben told Charles about the Steelgraves and their history in the area.  When he had finished, he leaned back in his chair.  "As you can see, we are in a bit of a quandary.  Even though Leah says that her father has nothing to do with her plans and that she is estranged from him, there's always the possibility of them reconciling their differences and getting together on this."


"I see," Charles replied.  He already had an idea of where this was going but he wanted to know more.  "A hospital and orphanage is important but since you don't want a Steelgrave to fund it or be in charge then you have to find another solution.  What does the town council want to do?"


"To put it simply, the town council feels that we should find a way to do this ourselves.  People in town are aware of Miss Steelgrave's plan since she has had a lot of stories written about it in our local newspaper and therefore we can't say no to her unless we have a plan of our own.  We already have some local business owners interested in investing, but they wish to remain anonymous as they do business with the Steelgraves.  The bank has decided to stay out of it all together since it can't be seen as favouring one side over the other.  So, we're looking for major investors and please forgive me on this, but since I knew you were coming, I wanted to ask you to invest in our town.  Hence, the reason why I asked you delay here before heading to Kalispell."


Looking at his old friend, Charles could see the hint of desperation.  Whoever these Steelgraves were, they were a force to be reckon with.  The least he could do, was to see if the town was worth the investment.  "All right, tell me what you want to me do and I'll see.  I can't promise anything until I look over the town and hear what the town council has to say.  I may also want to do some investigating of my own before I make my final decision."


Ben smiled, "That's all I ask.  For you to consider what we propose is more than enough and more than I could ask you to do.  It's a pity your sons don't know you the way I do."


Lowering his head, Charles sighed, "Yes, I've made a lot of mistakes over the years where they are concerned.  A large part of the problem, was my own dogged determination to have them be what I wanted them to be and not what they wanted to be.  A lot of things have happened in the last six months or so that's made me start to think about my life and what I have should have done."


Ben placed his hand on Charles's shoulder, "It's called getting older and wiser, and we all get there sooner or later.  I just hope it's not too late."


"Thanks, I hope it's not either," Charles lifted his head up and pulled out his pocket watch, "Well, it's nearing lunch, so how about we go downstairs to the dining room and we can talk this over some more."



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