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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.

The Morning After or Consequences

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Mature Content: No

With: Charlie Wentworth, Ben Simons and maybe one or two other Wentworths
Location: In a barn somewhere in town
When: Early June 1876
Time of Day: Morning




Another yawn escaped as Ben continued to make his way around town.  It was still a little early in the morning for him, considering he hadn't finished the game until near midnight.  It was a fairly good night and he had made a little bit of a profit, so he had a pleasant night's sleep until the knock came around 7 am.


To his surprise it was his cousin Matt, someone who he thought would be only just getting up right about then.  Matt told him about how Charlie failed to return to his parents' home the night before and that his father had sent word asking Matt to do a search.  Ben knew all too well the problems Charlie had with strong spirits, something he tended to avoid himself especially when he was playing cards.  Strong spirits like whiskey tended to dull his senses and that didn't help when you were making a living out of playing cards.  However, his cousins had tended to avoid the strong stuff because of some sort of family malady.  Each one had learned how to control their drinking but Charlie seemed to be having the hardest time of them all.


For a while, it looked like Charlie had beaten it but it seem that wasn't the case.  Ordinarily, he wouldn't be worried about some fella going on a bender but Charlie was family and so he agreed to help.  Matt headed off towards the north side of town and he had headed south.


After checking a few barns, he finally came to the one where Charlie was still sleeping off the effects of the alcohol he had consumed.  Ben felt some relief at seeing that Charlie was sound asleep in a pile of hay.  He went over and began to rouse the younger man, "Okay Charlie boy, time to rise and shine."


The response he got was Charlie rolling from one side to another.  Ben sighed and looked around the room before seeing a bucket near an empty stall.  Going over to it, he was pleased to see that it was filled with water.  Picking up the bucket he walked back to Charlie and threw the contents on his head.  This motivated Charlie to sit up and start shaking his head. "What the..." he yelped.


Ben smiled as he watched Charlie slowly begin to start moaning and groaning about his head hurting.  "Don't worry, a few cups of coffee will get rid of that.  We got to make sure you're presentable for your Pa."


He started to look around for Charlie's jacket and saw it hanging on the wall.  As he picked the jacket off the hook, a piece of paper fell out of it and onto the floor.  After picking the paper off the floor, Ben unfolded it and read it.  Raising both of his eyebrows, he glanced over at Charlie, shook his head, and said in almost sing-songy voice, "Oh Charlie boy, what have you done."



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Matt shook his head slowly as he re-read the paper.  Ben had managed to get Charlie over to his office in the hotel, where they had they plying the young man with a large amount of black coffee.  The coffee was doing the trick and Charlie seemed to be more alert than he was when he had arrived about thirty minutes ago.


Ben, who was sitting on the sofa looked slightly amused as he watched Charlie drink another cup.  Walking over to his cousin, Matt thought that if it wasn't his own brother, he too would find the humour in all of this.  To a degree, he did and the thought that maybe this would finally be the catalyst that would cure Charlie of his drinking problem.


"Are you sure that Charlie can't get out of this," Matt asked Ben, who nodded in response.


"If I know ol' Crabbe, he would have made a few copies of that contract and you can be sure he'll make Charlie live up to his end of the agreement," Ben replied in tone which indicated he was trying to be serious despite the circumstances.


"I guess, we'll just have to make the best of it."


"I was thinking the same thing," Ben smiled.  What he was thinking of would have to be kept quiet for the time being until after the rest of the family was informed about Charlie's predicament.  In a way, that was a blessing as it would give him time to get things organised and go have a talk with Crabbe.


Going over to Charlie, Matt placed his hand on his brother's shoulder, "Well, now all we have to do is tell father and mother."



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Charles looked down at his youngest son, who was still feeling the affects of last night's drinking despite the generous amounts of black coffee he had had.  "I won't give you lecture as I know that whatever I say won't work.  I've learned the hard way that you and your brothers have chosen your own paths.  However, what I will say is that I think the time has come for you to decide on who will win this battle...you or the bottle?"


Looking over at Matt and Ben, Charles sighed.  After he had read the contract, Ben had told him what he could about Lorenzo Crabbe.  He had only limited dealings with the man, mainly through the bank and through his ward, or whatever Bridget was, so he was reliant on Ben had said.  Ben was all for the making the best out of the situation and Charles agreed.  What Charlie needed was some words of encouragement.


He turned back to Charlie, "Myself and your brothers all went through this battle you're facing with alcohol.  We each found our own ways of dealing with and you will too.  Maybe this problem you've gotten yourself into is the solution for you.  Just remember we're all here to help you.  All you need to do is ask."


Charlie looked up as his father, then over to his brother and Ben.  Smiling weakly, he nodded once before slowly standing up.  Seeing that his son was a little unsteady, Charles made a move forward to help but was stopped when Charlie put up both of his hands.


Stepping back, Charles watched for a moment, for his own sake, to make sure Charlie was okay.  Charlie had had hangovers before but somehow they all knew that this time it was different.  Not knowing what else to do, Charles went to the door of the office.  "I think both Charlie and I should go and see his mother and let her know what happened."



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"What need to do is make sure we fatten him up and put some muscles on that scrawny frame of his.  How 'bout it, Dan?"


Dan Morgan, the Lost Lake Bunkhouse cook nodded, "Sure, Marty and we also need make sure he does a lot work so that he'll be in shape."


Sam smiled, as he listened to the other hands talk about Charlie's predicament.  When Charlie had told about what had happened in Kalispell, Sam felt sorry for his younger brother in a way.  However, in another way, he hoped that this would be what Charlie needed to break his drinking habit and finally grow up.


Looking over to where Charlie laid on his bunk, Sam could see that he was not in the mood for talking.  When Mike got back in from working over on the west side of the ranch, they would have to tell him.  Mike would do all he could to help, just like Sam would.  Charlie wasn't ready talk but when he was they would be there for him.


After arriving back from his excursion into Kalispell, Charlie had quickly advised all those present in the bunkhouse about his upcoming fight and Sam wanted to hear more.  Charlie told him that he would explain it all to both him and Mike later on.  Once he had said all that he was going to say for the present, Charlie hastily retreated to his bunk and had been there ever since.


Not knowing what else he could say or do, Sam decided to leave Charlie alone with his thoughts.  One thing was for certain, he would help his brother get ready for whoever he was going to be up against.  All Sam could hope for was that the man was evenly matched with Charlie and not someone he had no chance of beating.



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Sitting outside the bunkhouse, Charlie thought again, that he should be in bed.  Knowing that he would have to get up early in the morning to go work he still wasn't that tired.  His mind was still in a turmoil over what had happened that he couldn't possibly sleep.


This time of night it almost silent, except for the odd owl hooting...not that it really worried him.  He was more concerned with the consequences of his latest drinking binge.  Crabbe had taken the opportunity of his drunken stupor and gotten him to sign a contract to fight with some un-named opponent.  Even the time and date of this match had not been determined but Charlie knew that he had to honour the agreement no matter when it did.


Thinking back over why he broke his resolve not to drink strong spirits, Charlie sighed.  His plan was to wait until Clara was old enough to be courted.  His feelings towards her were strong and he had to keep her at arms length.  It the one of the reasons why he argued with her so often.  Sure, there are other reasons why he fought with her so often but it only proved to show him why Clara wasn't ready.  She needed to know who she was and what she was capable of becoming before taking on the task of being a wife and mother.


At least he had thought she wasn't ready for such a big commitment as marriage, but he been proven wrong and now it was too late.  Part of him hoped all the best for Clara in her new life but part of him also wanted to go to Lutz, punch the living daylights out him and take Clara away.


Whatever her reasons for taking such a drastic step, she had made her choice and it wasn't him.  It would take some time to forget her, and he would but until then he would avoid both her and Lutz, more for Clara's sake than Lutz's.  Thankfully, with his job at the ranch and now training for this fight, it wasn't going to be too hard.  Besides now that she was getting married, she would be spending most of her time on the Lutz family farm taking care of her husband.


For now, he needed to make changes in his own life, so that he wouldn't be tricked again into signing any contract again without his full knowledge.  The first thing he would have to was to strengthen his resolve and make a solemn vow never to drink strong spirits again.  The vow needed to be more than just verbal, it needed to be written down...a contract of sorts with himself.


A yawn escaped and he realised that now he was ready for bed.  Satisfied with the decisions he had made he went back inside.

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