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Shade Thornton

More Than a Fistful of Dollars

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Scene Rating: PG
Scene Type: Narrative
Scene Synopsis: Originally published on Sun May 21st, 2017 @ 3:22pm
Setting & Location: Laramie, Wyoming; Sherman Ranch & Relay Station
Time and Weather: Flashback to before 1875

Like a beautiful woman donning a gown for a spring social, the land was turning green as the cold of winter retreated. Her shoulders, the high peaks of the Laramie and Snowy Mountain ranges, still showed white with snow-capped splendor. Soon, though, the snow would only remain on the highest summits. It was the time of year to round-up and inventory the ranch's herds of horses and cattle, make repairs to home and out-buildings and get crops planted. 


The Sherman Ranch lay a few miles outside the town of Laramie along the main stage routes from Cheyenne and Denver. With the foothills of the Laramie Mountains behind it, the ranch was well-watered and the soil fertile. Its primary source of income was the stage relay franchise and supplying horses to the stagecoach line and the army. It also raised cattle for ranch consumption as well as holding contracts to supply the army with enough beef for themselves and the Indian reservations. The Shermans weren't rich, but they weren't destitute either, able to pay their bills with a little left over for improvements to the ranch and a few simple pleasures.


Shade Thornton had been born into wealth but left it all behind at the age of seventeen. Chance Thornton, Shade's older brother, had inherited the family's fortune, ranch, and other business assets after the death of their father in 1868. The younger children were usually given the means to start their lives, but the killing of a man and the subsequent row with his stern and often unforgiving father had sent Shade off to make his own way. Time had healed some of the hard feelings from the original rift and opened others as Shade's reputation as a gunfighter reached his father's ears, not to mention the occasional wanted poster. Still, Shade and Chance had exchanged letters on occasion although he had not returned home other than to attend his mother's funeral from a careful distance.


No, Shade had made his home with the Shermans in Laramie. He almost had enough money saved for a downpayment on a spread of his own, but he was in no hurry. In one of the letters he'd exchanged with his older brother, Chance had again asked Shade to come home, stating that he would happily deed over half of the ranch. Shade had refused. His past tended to follow him and bring trouble with it. It was bad enough that it had put the Shermans in danger more than once, he didn't want the same to happen to his brother and family.


Shade's big horse snorted and sidled sideways bringing his attention back to business. He was posted on a slight rise where he could watch for trouble and spot any horses trying to break from the herd. John Sherman, his wife Marianne, and their two sons were driving the herd of twenty animals toward the largest of the ranch's corrals where they would cut out the colts and fillies that were old enough for saddle breaking. They only had a short period of time before the army representative would be arriving to look over the horses and make their selections. They didn't like taking green-broke animals, preferring horses that were ready for cavalry training. Shade smoothed a tangle of glossy black mane and chuckled as a big two-year-old broke from the herd and Lakota's muscles tensed.


"Let's get 'em, boy," Shade told the horse, laying the reins against his neck and setting heels to his flanks. Lakota leaped forward, galloping down the slight rise and angling away from the running colt, calculating the best track to take to cut off the stray. It was the mark of a good stock horse. Whether running cattle or other livestock, a good one learned how to anticipate the moves of the quarry and bring them in.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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Two hours later, Shade and John Sherman leaned against the rails of the corral's fence and watched twenty head of top horseflesh mill around while John's two sons, Andy and Mike, filled the water trough. The horses were still nervous from the roundup, not unusual after a winter running loose. Sherman gestured at the two-year-old that had tried to escape earlier, "Bringing in the bloodstock from back east is starting to pay off. The youngsters are showing more leg and heft."


Shade nodded, "And more speed. You'll need to upgrade your working stock to keep up. It's a good looking bunch this year. Should get top dollar."


"Think you can get them ready in time?" John asked. He didn't doubt Shade's ability with the horses, but the other man also had his duties with the stage company to keep up with. 


"I think so," Shade replied, narrowing his blue eyes against the morning's sun. "The boys can start halter breaking them, and you know Marianne will be out here as much as she can. That gal is a better bronc rider than either of us."


Shade preferred having time to really gentle a horse, teach it to trust the humans around it before putting a saddle on it. There wasn't always the luxury of that much time, however, especially with the first round-up of the season. Not only did they have the horses to get ready, but they needed to tend to the spring calving and foaling. "If time gets too tight, we can see about hiring an additional man or two. Prefer to handle it ourselves if we can."


"Right! No sense in souring them before we have the rep out to see them," Marianne's soft voice said from behind the two men. She stood on tiptoe to kiss her husband's cheek and patted Shade's arm. "Lunch is ready."


Shade grinned, "Best thing I've heard since breakfast is ready this morning." He trailed behind the Shermans toward the ranch house. John and his wife walked arm-in-arm, talking quietly about the horses, occasionally tossing a question over their shoulders to Shade. The Shermans were the best friends Shade had ever had. There had been others during his years of riding rough, most were not to be trusted when you were down and out. It was different with John and Marianne. Shade's past had come calling in Laramie on more than one occasion, and they had stood by him through everything.


He stopped at the sink in the kitchen to pump some water into the basin for washing, laughing as Marianne sent her two sons back outside to rinse off. The smell of fresh cornbread and hot beef stew made his mouth water while the companionship of his friends helped ease the occasional longing for the Montana mountains. Andy and Mike crowded in, chattering excitedly about a couple of the horses they'd helped bring in. Shade took his place at the table, bowing his head and linking hands with Marianne and Mike as John began to say grace.


The boys were clearing the table as the sound of hooves and rattle of the noon stage reached them from the yard. John and Shade moved together to help unhook and change the team while Marianne hurried to lay out refreshments for the passengers. "Another day, another dollar," John said as they unbuckled harnesses from the horses.


"Amen, partner," Shade grinned, "Amen!"

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)

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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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