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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.

Wrong Place, Wrong time


Case Steelgrave
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Mature Content:

With: Case Steelgrave
Location: Night raiders hideout
When: April / Day (optional) / 18756
Time of Day: Mid-Morning

 

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Unbeknownst to County Sheriff hopeful, Case Steelgrave, the feather in his cap that might have been, was underway in Kalispell with the bank robbery which was in progress. But, he would not be there because he was at the gangs hideout examining cattle that had been rustled over the past few days. But what he was seeing from the saddle was alarming, a cold chill ran up his back.


Case stepped down among the cattle to have a look. “What in the blue blazes is this? These are Lost Lake cows! For Christ’s sake, just what the hell were you thinking!”  


Toole, head hung and shaking side to side, exhaled. “Wasn't me Case! Somma the boys musta took ‘em without thinkin'. Damn it ta hell anyways! They was told!” And they had been warned to steer clear of the Lost Lake range, and told bluntly not to take any Lost Lake cattle under any circumstances.


“This could cause an all out fight for the Evergreen. Damn it!” Case barked. “The hell! The old man don’t need a fight on his hands over some cows. You find the idiots that rustled ‘em and by God you have ‘em these them back where the belong. Whatever story they concoct to clean this up is on them and they best make it good!”


“Yes boss, I’ll get ‘em on it right now.” Toole said. He knew what was at stake, for the Evergreen, and for the idiots that thought it would be a good idea to take Lost Lake cows. “I was told the cows had roamed onto the Redmond spread, still ain’t no reason to go agin orders. They said they didn’t see no brands, but there they be, plain as the nose on their faces.” He shook his head again, “They’re new.”


“Well they ain’t gonna get much older if this is what they do!” Case fired back. It had been a long standing rule that Lost Lake was left alone, period. The Redmond place wasn’t to be bothered either, but they really didn’t play into the rustling of cattle, as the place was more a farm than a ranch. There were plenty of other spreads to hit without risking war with Lost Lake.


Then an idea came to him, an idea that might just help his victory in the up-coming election. Return the stolen cattle in person!

image.jpeg.78bb6886aaf6f6a9e451cb8bccc0e5ef.jpeg

TBC

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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Tole stopped just as he started to walk away, "Boss? They're new hands on the Evergreen, said the cows just wandered onto their range, which makes no sense, I mean I ain't fer sure, but seems a ways fer cows to be wandering."

 

Case blinked a couple of times in disbelief of what he had just heard. "They'da had to cross some country to get onto Evergreen range, just don't seem right. I want to talk to 'em, get the straight of this. Smacks of a couple men out to lift a few beefs, maybe sell 'em, they ask for money?"

 

"Nope. ell, they didn't ask me. Was Sloan that brought 'em in, but they was huntin' a place to hide 'em. Don't believe they ever asked about money, but he'd be the one  you need to ask."

 

"The you get him for me, Toole. And them two after." Case stated.

 

"Yes sir," And with that he was moving. It didn't take long for him to get back with Sloane in tow.

 

"Yeah boss?" The outlaw asked.

 

"These two that brought in these cows. that try to sell 'em to you?"

 

"No sir, never mentioned sellin' 'em, said the needed a place to stash 'em was all. Figgered this was as good a place as any, an' we'd either move 'em north with the rest, 'er run 'em back to Lost Lake, one way 'er tuther."

 

Case smiled in spite of himself. "Run 'em back would you? Hell Sloane, likely as not they'd hang you for a rustler. From here on, don't take in nothin' from nobody that don't ride with us, including my old mans help."

 

"Got it." Sloane replied.

 

"Get me the two riders from the Evergreen." Case said.

 

image.jpeg.78bb6886aaf6f6a9e451cb8bccc0e5ef.jpegimage.jpeg.25c5169bcf132919a015147d17d4fe56.jpeg

@Wayfarer

 

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"I don't like this, don't like it at all," Greer growled as they approached the tall white haired lawman though he wasn't sure the jasper was still legal n' all as his town had been destroyed. Who knew about such things, not him.

 

"Take it easy, Sloane just said to report to the man. Maybe he just has some questions? Or maybe he wants us to do something for the Steelgraves. He's a brother of our boss afterall," Billy seemed much more relaxed but that was one of the many differences between the unlikely pair.

 

Greer was perpetually sour faced and whiny. He had a mean streak but would just as easily back down if someone stood up to him. Billy was happy go lucky, nothing seemed to bother him. Billy was quite a bit younger than Greer yet it was pretty apparent he was the brains of the pair. But then that didn't take much.

 

"You wanted ta see us, Marshal?" Billy asked as they got within easy speaking range, flashing a boyish grin.

 

Greer.jpg  billyforsaga1.jpg

 

 

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Case Steelgrave stood, looking at the two as they came toward him with Sloane.He recognized them for what they were, a couple drifters that had caught on with the Evergreen, probably better there than anywhere else in the county. Though it was clear they never would have signed on with Lost Lake, they just weren't the double L's type of riders.

 

"You wanted ta see us, Marshal?" Billy asked as they got within easy speaking range, flashing a boyish grin.

 

"Did." Case said. "Don't know if Harris or Granger told you, but Lost Lake cattle are not to be touched. My Brothers aren't around so I figure you just didn't know about that. Now, the three of us are going to drive these cows back, at least to town where their riders can pick them up."

 

"What you probably don't know is the two ranches are sittin' on a tinder box. Meaning, you ever lift so much as a calf from that spread and I'll kill you both!" Case promised, then his voice dropped an octave or two.

 

"You could work for us, if your a mind to. Pays decent, on top of your wages from the Evergreen. I need eyes and ears on the place since my brothers seem to be far to busy these days to give a good Goddamned. Hell, you boys could be plenty helpful, keepin' tabs on all sorts of things I need to know about."

 

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"Did." Case said. "Don't know if Harris or Granger told you, but Lost Lake cattle are not to be touched. My Brothers aren't around so I figure you just didn't know about that. Now, the three of us are going to drive these cows back, at least to town where their riders can pick them up."

 

"Oh, we just found.." Greer started up but Billy gave him a nudge and frown before speaking himself.

 

"No, we didn't know, sir," Billy was wise enough to not smile anymore but assume a more servile solemnity.

 

"What you probably don't know is the two ranches are sittin' on a tinder box. Meaning, you ever lift so much as a calf from that spread and I'll kill you both!" Case promised.

 

Greer looked like he had just swallowed something very big and his bloodshot eyes went wide.

 

Billy kept up his act better, "We didn't have no inklin' sir. But got it, we understand."

 

"You could work for us, if your a mind to. Pays decent, on top of your wages from the Evergreen. I need eyes and ears on the place since my brothers seem to be far to busy these days to give a good Goddamned. Hell, you boys could be plenty helpful, keepin' tabs on all sorts of things I need to know about."

 

Now this was interesting news alright. Billy warmed to the possibility of more money immediately. Greer, the slow one, was just confused.

 

"You mean we spy for ya, sir? I reckon we could do that alright. We know most of the hands and we know the property too, we've ridden all over it. You just tell us who you want us to keep tabs on and we'll do it," the younger one of the two  declared.

 

"Umm, yeah...sure..we can do it," Greer nodded, by now having sort of grasped the situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 "You mean we spy for ya, sir? I reckon we could do that alright. We know most of the hands and we know the property too, we've ridden all over it. You just tell us who you want us to keep tabs on and we'll do it," the younger one of the two  declared.

 

"Umm, yeah...sure..we can do it," Greer nodded, by now having sort of grasped the situation.

 

Case half smiled, “Yeah, something like that. You boys cut these LL cattle out and we’ll drive ‘em back to their home range, that way, nobody gets killed over it, right?” His meaning was clear.

 

He remounted and swung his horse toward the two men. “Now the other thing, so we’re clear, keep an eye on the Evergreen, I’ll want to know what the old man, or his foreman are planning. I want to know who comes and goes, and if you can eaves drop, uh, listen in, so much the better.”

 

They would do, one was smart, the other, not so much, but they made a good pair. “So let’s get to it, it’s a long slow ride.”

 

@Wayfarer

 

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“So let’s get to it, it’s a long slow ride.” Case half smiled, “Yeah, something like that. You boys cut these LL cattle out and we’ll drive ‘em back to their home range, that way, nobody gets killed over it, right?”

 

"Sure, if you don't wanna bother, me n' Greer can return 'em for ya?" Billy volunteered, though he fully expected he'd be turned down.

 

“Now the other thing, so we’re clear, keep an eye on the Evergreen, I’ll want to know what the old man, or his foreman are planning. I want to know who comes and goes, and if you can eaves drop, uh, listen in, so much the better.”

 

That was expecting a whole lot - the Evergreen spread was a big ranch operation. Also neither cow hand ever were privy to conversations with either Mr. Steelgrave or the foreman.  Why Billy couldn't even recall him and Steelgrave exchanging a simple hello. The man wasn't exactly sociable. But Billy knew how to handle those in authority. Just nod and agree, promise 'em anything. Later he and Greer could sluff off.

 

"You got it! We will do our part to earn that extra money," Billy nodded.

 

Greer just flashed a big grin showing a bad set of teeth, well a few were missing.

 

Case then mounted up, “So let’s get to it, it’s a long slow ride.”

 

Billy blinked, guess they were going along? Alrighty, fine!

 

"We'll quick go saddle up!" he and Greer hustled to do that very thing.

 

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On the ride in with the Lost Lake cattle, Case went over some of the things the two might be able to find out. The most important thing was who was coming and going from the Evergreen. Even casual conversation with either Harris or Granger, the men who replaced his brothers in running the spread for Elias, their father. Most of the hands were long term, the Evergreen paid well, they had to, to compete with Lost Lake.

 

Then, of course, there were the rumors that would be flying around the bunk house, what were they, who were they about and, the hard part, could any of them be verified. But he might have his own sources in that regard.

 

"So," Case began, "Listening, now that's important when there's something to hear, plans that maybe Harris and Granger are talking over. I don't mean herd movements, but maybe movements against the smaller spreads, that sort of thing. I know you won't be able to just saddle up an ride to town when the need strikes, so I'll have something set up when next I stop at the ranch.

 

"Who comes and goes that aren't hands, folks from Kalispell especially. Elias has contacts there doing the same as you are. You won't be able to hear anything, or not every time, the who will tell me the what. Most of the boys up there know who comes and goes by name, so a simple question ought to get results."

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Having no idea about what had transpired in town, Case, billy and Greer moved the small herd of a dozen head of Lost Lake Cattle out from the hide-out. As he had said it would take them some time as the trail to Kalispell was not easily reached since they would have to route around the shambles that was Whitefish. The streets were littered with fallen trees, scattered wood, parts of buildings, nails, busted up wagons and all manner of obstacles that made it more or less unsafe for the cattle and horses.

 

So they went around, and due to the lay of the land, that meant not just going around, but dealing with a switchback or two that would slow their progress so that they would arrive in town by late afternoon, a good six hours after they had set out.

 

Driving the heard into the main street the first thing they saw was the horse carcass being loaded onto a wagon. Case called a halt.

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Billy and Greer actually did a pretty good job of keeping the cattle heading where the men wanted them to. While hardly the most ambitious of hands, especially when left to their own devices, they could do the job when they had to. They did not want to mess up with Case right there. It was an uneventful journey until they reached Kalispell.

 

First off, Billy was surprised the man wanted to drive the cows right thru town. Granted there weren't very many of them but still. Townsfolk would not like it, he figured. Hopefully no old women or little kids were in the street, these cows could spook over almost anything and then the whole bunch would just run.

 

Those thoughts vanished when up ahead some men were working on .........a dead horse? Was that broken glass in front of the bank too?

 

"What in tarnation?" he exclaimed.

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"Hold 'em here, I want to see what happened and if there are any Lost Lake riders in town." Being just outside of town that shouldn't be much of a problem. Case then rode forward slowly observing everything, broken window, blood in the dirt, it could only have been a robbery.

 

He spotted two Lost Lake riders in front of the mercantile, a buckboard out front, obviously in town for supplies, so he rode up to them. "Found some of your cattle out on the open range. Up the street at the end of town." He announced loudly for anyone to hear. "What happened?"

 

"Bank heist went wrong." One of the men said. "Deputy killed the horse to stop one from gettin' away."

 

Couple outlaws an' a citizen were killed. Heard one escaped and the Marshal's after 'em." Another chimed in. "Been a hell of a day so far!"

 

Case nodded, touched the brim of his hat and said. "We'll hold the cows till your ready to head on out." Then cantered back up the street to where the two hands waited. "Bank job went wrong. So we'll hold the cows, some Lost Lake  boys'll pick 'em up on their way out."

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