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    • It was long, tedious work, even though, for the most part, it was just plodding along with the cows, making sure they all stayed together and went the right way they were supposed to.  Even after the wind picked up, there were only a few mavericks who tried to wander off on their own, but the drag riders managed to coax them back to the herd.   As the day progressed, Annie became less jiggy, and Justus could tell she was getting tired.  "It's all right, Miz Annie."  He patted the horse's neck, then tightened the bandanna that was keeping his hat from blowing away.   "Ya think this is just a dry wind?" Justus called to Loredo, "or somethin' more movin' in?"  There wasn't the smell of rain in the air yet, nor clouds, but he knew that the weather could change quickly.  "Will they try ta settle in camp early?"  It seemed to him that if there was 'weather' moving in, it was better to have the cattle settled than moving, but what did he know? He just hoped it didn't impact supper!   @Flip
    • "Wonderful!"  Jonah almost clapped, for this had been going on for so long, that he really expected that this would be some sort of new setback, and Leah certainly didn't need any more complications.  "I'm sure it's going to be a huge relief when they finally break ground.  It's going to be rewarding to watch it take shape, and for you to know you are responsible for it."   He hoped, for her sake more than anything, that the weather cooperated, and that the progress was swift and without complications.    "You'll be overseeing the project?"  He couldn't imagine that she'd step back now, and not assure that every detail was right.   @Flip
    • "Boss, we found us a herd ripe for the pluckin'. Maybe we oughtta move on it afore they change where they're grazin' 'em, an make it more difficult." Toole suggested. "We can take close to a hunderd head easy enough, they move 'em, thet might not be the way of it."   "'Scuse me men, but Toole here is on to something, and cattle is our other business. We've customers waiting up north." Case said, not happy at being interrupted, yet realizing that what he said was true. It was why they were there, and it was what the did. "So go on and make yourselves to home while I get this job situated."   "Oh sure thing, Case, an thanks for the offer. We appreciate it, 'mon boys." Shannon said, and with that they walked outside to find the other building Case was talking about.   "Alright Toole what did you have in mind?" Case asked.   "The place is just at the foothills where they have their cattle. Now any buildin's 'er maybe a mile, mile'n a half away. What we saw was just maybe four riders wit the cattle, may not hav'ta kill any of 'em. We just filter down through the trees and then rush 'em. Maybe eight 'er ten of us, circle the heard an' push 'em back the way we come which was the long way around , and shore they'll be tracks alomst all the way to the dry river bed, maybe  whot, two mile from the tree line. Hard ground to river bed, but they won't catch us, not seein's they're out numbered."   Case gave it some thought, but Toole had been plotting how they would steal a herd for quite a while, and he knew what he was doing. Besides, no County Sheriff, no problem!   "Pick your men, Toole and get it done." Case said, knowing if they got a hundred head, that would be enough to drive north, once the brands were altered.
    • Having a second thought, to bolster the findings he sent for Fairchild before he could leave for New Orleans, and in the vicinity of Elinor Steelgrave, that could be done at another time after this meeting with Elias himself.   It was like hedging his bet on the situation. He wanted Elias to meet the man who could explain what was in the file in detail, much better than he himself.  might be able to. Nothing like being prepared. Elias could be unpredictable when upset, if a man like Fairchild explaining what he had found could manage to keep Steelgrave manage-ably clam then the expense was worth it to all concerned.   He had to congratulate himself on the idea. It just might work!
    • List in hand, they made their way back to town and to the Anderson's Mercantile where they laid out their list of needs. John and Mary Agnes looked over the list and began adding prices, plus shipping where it was warranted.   "So, you're in the mining business Marshal?" John asked.   "We are." Alice replied with a wide proud smile on her face. Speed just looked at her.   "Amos here found a property to good to pass up, so I bought it myself." Speed said, "Actually two properties, the other on is off to the west, but this one is just north of the Evergreen Ranch a couple of miles."   "Ah that would be the Henshaw mine. Sad about his wife passing on so suddenly. Life can be hard out here, it was just too hard for Martha Henshaw, though she tried as hard as anyone could." Mary Agnes said. "Most all of what you have here we have in stock. Most all of this was on Henshaw's list as well, he just quit before he paid for it. I believe we can give you a good price on the machinery out back. Right John?"   "Yes we can, The fact is Speed I'll let you have it at our cost, plus the shipping expenses, of course. Be good to free up that room back there. Let me see here at my cost, yes, well, it looks to be just under three thousand dollars, without the things we have in stock that wasn't Henshaw's."   Fair enough John, and we appreciate it. Now, if you'll let me get up to the bank, we want to use their money until we get started, and then we'll settle up."   "Makes sense to me, it's what we did. Hated those monthly payments, but it worked for us." John agreed.   "We'll be back." Speed promised.

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Mature Content: No

With: Brendan and Caroline
Location: Main Street of Kalispell
When: May 1876
Time of Day: Shortly before noon

 

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 This would not be the first time the saloon girl strolled on down the boardwalk of the town's main street, she had been doing it fairly regular since her arrival. But for the first time she was going to have an escort. As she waited, clad in a bright scarlet dress though without any covering at  all on her head much less a hat, she smiled at the sight of the cowboy cantering up the street. So he had indeed made it, having ridden there from the Evergreen ranch property.  Now proper ladies were always expected to cover their heads when out in public but no one had yet to see any such thing on Caroline since her arrival. And they never would, she hated hats. Besides they were symbols of traditional society and she loved to flaunt such things.

 

"Ahh, I wondered if you would make it? Hope you will not get into trouble for showing up here in the middle of the day?" she greeted him when he got within earshot.

 

"It is fine weather for a stroll, I trust you cowboys know how to actually walk?" she teased him with a grin.

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As Brendan rode into town, his eyes were sweeping the street and boardwalk to see if Caroline was out already. And there she was, in a dress that was as brightly-colored as a cardinal's feathers. His mother would have called such a bright color sinful. But Brendan was not his mother, and he liked the bright red dress on Caroline.

 

He tipped his hat as he came nearer, then swung down from his horse and tied the reins to the nearest hitching post. "If I do get in trouble, I'll just talk my way out of it. Or point out all the times the other hands run off when they ain't supposed to." He answered her first question carelessly and patted his horse's side fondly before turning all of his attention to Caroline.

 

"And yes, ma'am, I do know how to walk. I'm good at walkin'...and lots of other things." He returned her grin with one of his own and winked. It was just a little bit of harmless flirting, and if she didn't like it, he was sure she'd either tell him to stop or slap him. He'd had both responses from women before.

 

"Shall we?" He tried to sound dignified and educated as he held out his arm to her.

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One thing about the cowboy, he sure wasn't worried about getting into trouble with his boss or bosses, declaring he could simply talk his way out of it. Well, that was his business she supposed.

 

"Smooth talker, are ya, hon?" she smiled.

 

"And yes, ma'am, I do know how to walk. I'm good at walkin'...and lots of other things."

 

"A man of many talents, I guess I should be impressed? And here I thought you probably just depended on yer rugged good looks," she exclaimed.

 

He was right, she didn't mind flirting in the least, in fact it's pretty much half of what she did for a living. She knew how to twist fellas around her finger alright. Well, cept one little thing.

 

"Hon, don't wink. I never liked winks, they're annoying," she pointed out.

 

"Shall we?" He tried to sound dignified and educated as he held out his arm to her.

 

Actually he wouldn't need to be either of two things as she was neither of them herself.

 

Caroline slotted her arm into his and now they could stroll along like some ordinary couple, "Such a gentleman. I like it."

 

They began their jaunt, it would be slow and steady, no hurry needed.

 

"You from around these parts? Like born in Montana? I'm not having any luck placing yer accent, maybe you don't even have one?" she decided to start up the conversation.

 

 

 

 

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Rugged good looks. Brendan beamed. He liked getting compliments, and Caroline was doling them out generously. But it seemed she didn't like his winking as much as other women did. What could Caroline have against winks? It wasn't as though they were a vice. There were lots of things worse than winking.

 

As they began walking, Caroline struck up a conversation

 

"Naw, I was born in Mississippi. Raised there, too. Traveled around a little bit before endin' up here." His accent wasn't that much different from Arabella's, although of course a twelve-year-old girl and a grown man sounded quite different. And Arabella spoke a lot faster than he did. He hung onto his words right until they left his mouth so his speech was slow and smooth, at least when he was relaxed.

 

And he was relaxed now. He was walking down Main Street with a pretty woman in a pretty dress on a sunny day when everyone else at Evergreen was slaving away or trying to avoid work. Today was going to be a good day.

 

"What 'bout you? You sound like a Yankee. Not that I mind," he added hastily. "You're right pretty for a Yankee." He almost winked but thought better of it, and instead grinned.

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Mississippi then? Yeah, it made sense. Caroline nodded as he revealed his background.

 

"Hear it gets godawful hot down there," she asked.

 

"What 'bout you? You sound like a Yankee. Not that I mind," Brendan added hastily. "You're right pretty for a Yankee."

 

"I'm a Yankee and proud of it. Born and raised in Chicago, same state as Abe Lincoln, God rest his soul," Caroline declared, "But the war's over, hon. So shouldn't make no difference where someone's from. Besides you look too young to have soldiered in that affair?"

 

She guessed him to be in his mid twenties, maybe late twenties?

 

 

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"It does. It gets real hot. It's a sticky heat, though." He shrugged and inhaled slowly. It was hot in Montana, but at least the heat here didn't feel like it was suffocating him. It was a drier heat.

 

"I wasn't in the war, but my pa was. An' it does make a difference." He set his jaw stubbornly, the mention of the war getting his hackles up a bit. He didn't like to lose and he didn't like people he cared about to lose, and even though he hadn't been in the war, he didn't like to talk about it. After a moment, he glanced at Caroline from the corner of his eye and cleared his throat.

 

"Anyhow, how d'you know Mike Wentworth? You two seemed right friendly that night at the saloon." Now he looked across at the other side of the street so as not to seem overly-eager for the answer. If she was involved somehow with Mike, he needed to know. And then he could decide whether to leave things as they were, or become involved himself.

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"I wasn't in the war, but my pa was. An' it does make a difference." He set his jaw stubbornly.

 

Caroline glanced up at the young man, "So you sayin' yer holding it against me cuz I'm a Yankee?"

 

Seemed awfully foolish in her opinion.

 

After a moment, he glanced at Caroline from the corner of his eye and cleared his throat.

 

"Anyhow, how d'you know Mike Wentworth? You two seemed right friendly that night at the saloon."

 

Caroline had to chuckle, "That's cuz we are friends, old friends from back in Helena when I worked in another saloon there. We hadn't seen each other in quite some time til there he was in the Star Dust. "

 

She again glanced up at him, he was a good head taller than her afterall, "Why? You thought he was an old beau or ex-husband? I don't think either of us are the marryin' kind. Besides, Mike is smart and nobody in their right mind wants to marry a saloon gal."

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"No, not against you," Brendan said grudgingly. "Just...other Yankees." He waved his hand at the imaginary "other Yankees." He wasn't sure what made Caroline different than the faceless Yankees he thought he hated. "You don't seem so bad."

 

He was relieved to hear that there was nothing between Caroline and Mike besides friendship. That might leave Caroline open to...well...he wasn't sure exactly what he wanted from her. "Somethin' like that," he said in answer to her question about who he thought Mike was.

 

"Besides, Mike is smart and nobody in their right mind wants to marry a saloon gal."

 

Brendan had to grin at that. "Now that you mention it, I never did meet anyone who's tried to marry a saloon gal. Tried to do other things with 'em, maybe, but never tried to marry 'em. I guess you never had anyone propose to you?"

 

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"Well then, guess that makes me some kind of real special Yankee? I don't know if I should be flattered?" Caroline chuckled, it was almost a giggle.

 

He asked about her old friend, Mike, so she told him the truth. Frankly it was none of his business but she had nothing to hide. In her trade she knew a lot of men, an awful lot of men. Maybe this one was a mite jealous?  Again she was bemused but did point out her view that no men wanted to get hitched to saloon gals.  She got no argument from him.

 

"Now that you mention it, I never did meet anyone who's tried to marry a saloon gal. Tried to do other things with 'em, maybe, but never tried to marry 'em. I guess you never had anyone propose to you?"

 

Caroline shrugged, "Oh I have had some proposals alright, none of them made by anyone sober. I just laugh it off."

 

"As for those......other things? Well, not sure if I mentioned it the other night but if not then you should know. I don't whore. I never have and I never will. So if yer lookin' to jump me in bed, cowpoke, yer in for a disappointment," she warned in a calm sort of voice.

 

 

 

 

 

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"You should be flattered, I guess," he said with a grin. "Not every southerner takes to people the same way Arabella does." Since Arabella and Caroline worked together, he assumed that they got on well and that Arabella had taken to her immediately the way she did with so many other people.

 

"As for those......other things? Well, not sure if I mentioned it the other night but if not then you should know. I don't whore. I never have and I never will. So if yer lookin' to jump me in bed, cowpoke, yer in for a disappointment."

 

He looked away quickly. "Oh, I didn't reckon you did," he said hastily - a lie; almost every saloon girl he'd ever met did, so he'd assumed she did too. He cleared his throat and looked back at her. "You like horses?" he asked suddenly, wanting to steer the conversation to a more comfortable topic.

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"You should be flattered, I guess," he said with a grin. "Not every southerner takes to people the same way Arabella does."

 

"Flattered maybe? More disappointed I guess. That you hold it against Yankees...for a war you folk started and lost," Caroline shrugged, "But I don't wanna argue with you. We're supposed to be enjoying this day."

 

She also made it a point to stress to the young man she was not going to be the sort of gal who simply hopped into bed with him because he made nice with her. Or, god forbid, offered her money. In fact if he knew what was good for him, he wouldn't try that especially.  She made her views crystal clear.

 

He looked away quickly. "Oh, I didn't reckon you did," he said hastily.

 

"Good!"

 

He cleared his throat and looked back at her. "You like horses?"

 

"Well, I never met any personally but yeah from a distance I think they're magnificent animals. But I'm a city girl, I never rode one in my life. Hell, I never even sat on one. Just stagecoaches and buggies," she answered him honestly.

 

"Bet you like 'em, bein' a cowpoke n'all," she smiled up at him.

 

 

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Brendan rolled his eyes at Caroline's statement about the war, but decided that if she could let it go, he should, too. She was right. They were here to enjoy themselves. And maybe she was right about him and other southerners holding grudges, but he wasn't going to admit that to her.

 

"Yeah, I like horses." Brendan grinned at this understatement and then had an idea. He'd intended his question to be merely conversational, but maybe he could turn it into something more than that. Caroline's statement that she had never ridden a horse was the perfect opportunity to test just how far he could go with her.

 

"Would you, uh, would you want to ride one now? Mine's trained real good and won't buck or nothin'." He gestured back to where they had started walking, where his horse waited placidly at the hitching post. They were a good ways off from his horse now, and had in fact almost walked the length of main street. "I'll walk alongside and hold the reins so's he can't run off with you."

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"Yeah, I like horses."

 

"Well, I'm shocked to hear it," Caroline grinned.

 

He apparently brought up that subject because he had a plan too.

 

"Would you, uh, would you want to ride one now? Mine's trained real good and won't buck or nothin'."

 

"Now?" she blinked.

 

He gestured back to where they had started walking, where his horse waited placidly at the hitching post, "I'll walk alongside and hold the reins so's he can't run off with you."

 

"Oh no thank ya, Brendan. Not that it isn't a nice enough offer but I'm wearin' one of my best dresses and I ain't about to risk gettin' dirty ridin' or even worse maybe fallin' off your horse. I also just painted my nails too," she then raised one hand in front of his face showing the brightly decorated fingernails she was obviously proud of.

 

Just then two middle aged women walked by them going the other direction, they were of course properly clad in long dresses down to their shoes, no low neckline such as Caroline's, and certainly no make up or painted nails. Their heads were covered too with the expected bonnets.

 

"Trash!" one of them muttered but she definitely made it loud enough for her target to hear.

 

Caroline turned her head and sneered, "Fuck you!"

 

The ladies went wide-eyed in horror and hurried past, whispering to each other. Caroline re-focused on Brendan then, "It's always the same any town I go to, I get used to it."

 

  The last part was a lie, she never got used to it. She just never let anyone see that it had any effect.

 

 

 

 

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"My horse ain't dirty!" Brendan protested. "And my saddle ain't neither!" His protests were stopped by the sight of Caroline's nails. "Well, those are some fine-lookin' nails, I s'pose."

 

He was trying to come up with a counter-argument as two well-dressed women walked by and insulted Caroline. She responded with a quick and cutting retort that shocked the ladies. Brendan was slightly surprised, too, not at the particular wording, but at Caroline's readiness to curse at the women out in public.

 

He let out a whistle and put his hands on his hips, impressed by her spunk, flashing her a grin. "They sure looked right horrified, didn't they? Surprised they even knew that word." It seemed she was used to being treated that way, however, which might explain her ready reply to the women.

 

He thought for a moment, then pushed his hat back on his forehead and looked at Caroline again. "Bein' on a horse makes you above everybody else. What say we get you up on my horse so them ladies and everyone in town can see how pretty you look in this dress?"

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She didn't say his horse or his saddle was dirty...though in all honesty she doubted they were recently washed clean either. Folks didn't do either of those things, leastwise that she knew of. He missed the crucial part of her refusal though it seemed. Least he recognized her fingernails point.

 

"If I fall off the horse and land on the street, you sayin' the street ain't dirty either? This here is a nice dress I'm wearing I will have you know," Caroline retorted good naturedly.

 

That was followed by a short and sweet but decidedly unpleasant encounter with two local ladies. Caroline didn't take any prisoners in her snapbacks.

 

He let out a whistle and put his hands on his hips, impressed by her spunk, flashing her a grin. "They sure looked right horrified, didn't they? Surprised they even knew that word."

 

"They're lucky I don't have a few drinks in me, I woulda decked the one right onta the boardwalk," Caroline declared. It was hard to tell if that was just talk or an actual possibility.

 

"Leastwise you ain't shocked," she chuckled.

 

The handsome cowpoke pushed his hat back on his forehead and looked at Caroline again. "Bein' on a horse makes you above everybody else. What say we get you up on my horse so them ladies and everyone in town can see how pretty you look in this dress?"

 

"Oh nice try but nope, already gave ya my answer. Besides, I'd be up there grippin' those reins and looking all nervous and that's not the image I wanna give folks," she didn't budge.

 

Or just maybe she did?

 

"Maybe another time. I will make a point of wearing my oldest dress where it wouldn't matter if it got dirty or torn or whatever," she offered.

 

 

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Brendan didn't have to glance at the street to know it was dirty. Hell, it was made of dirt. Caroline did have a point. "It sure is a nice dress, and it sure does look nice on you." He flashed her a smile, determined not to be disappointed by her refusal.

 

"They're lucky I don't have a few drinks in me, I woulda decked the one right onta the boardwalk."

 

He hid a grin. "Sure you would." His tone was just as ambiguous as hers. He wasn't sure that she would actually take a swing at her assailants, but he wasn't going to tell her that.

 

"All right, all right, I give up," he chuckled. But what was this? She might try another time? "Does that mean you want me to come back and escort you again? 'Cause I'd sure like to."

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ooc: sorry, because it's not a saloon thread, I keep forgetting to check on this one.

 

 

He agreed it was a nice dress and complimented her for which she nodded and smiled. She loved compliments about her wardrobe. That moment was interrupted though by a sour one as the two women and her had a verbal run in. Caroline assured him had she some liquid fortification she would have punched them out. He didn't sound like he believed her though. Then he'd never seen her in action. Over the years she had had plenty of run ins.

 

"All right, all right, I give up," he chuckled, "Does that mean you want me to come back and escort you again? 'Cause I'd sure like to."

 

"Yeah, well I don't figure you can miss work every day but on occasion if you are in town, you are more than welcome to accompany me on my stroll. Yer right pleasant company," she nodded.

 

"But if you come in some Sunday, we ain't open. I could dress down from this sort of outfit to something more everyday and shabby and then I'd be willin' to sit on your horse or go for a ride or something like that," she offered.

 

@Bailey

 

 

 

 

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Caroline was right; Brendan couldn't get away from work every single day to come escort her on her walk. But he could on Sundays, maybe. Certainly not every Sunday or the other hands would think he'd got religion or something like that. But every once in a while, sure.

 

He nodded. "I'd like that. Sundays might be easier for me to get away. Well...until then, Miss Mundee." He swung himself up on his horse and looked down at her for a second before raising one finger up to the brim of his hat as though he was going to tip it. The thought crossed his mind that he should have kissed her hand or something like that, but he didn't.

 

He wheeled his horse around, flashed Caroline one last smile, and headed back for Evergreen.

 

OOC: A good place to end, I think, and then I can move start their post-shootout thread soon.

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