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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.

An Empty Stomach


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Mature Content: No

With: Emeline and anyone else who happens to be around at the time
Location: Main Street and Lickskillet Diner
When: June 19, 1875
Time of Day: Mid-afternoon

 

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If Lucinda tilted her head up and looked cross-eyed at her nose, she could see where the sunlight made tiny golden freckles through her straw hat. But that was unladylike, so she contented herself doing it just the once and took comfort in the knowledge that they weren't real freckles.

 

She hefted her carpetbag in one hand and her small suitcase in the other, and then had no hands left for her slightly larger and heavier trunk filled books. She had known it would be difficult to manage three cases, but couldn't stand to leave her books behind.

 

Well, she would have to leave them behind temporarily until she could find someone willing to move the trunk for her. For now, she shoved the trunk with her foot to get it as much under a porch as she could. When she looked up, she saw a sign that read, "Lickskillet Diner."

 

Her stomach rumbled in a most unladylike manner and reminded her that she'd not eaten since the stage left the station early in the morning. She pushed open the door and took a seat at one of the tables. It had been a while since she had eaten in a restaurant. Did restaurants out here have waiters? She took off her hat, set it on the back of her chair, and then sat ramrod straight in her chair to wait and see what happened.

 

@Bongo (Can't believe this is our first thread together!)

Edited by Bailey (see edit history)
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It was the 'slow' hours between lunch and dinner, so Emeline was in the kitchen, cleaning up from one meal and starting to prepare the next, and the tinkling of the little bell over the front door alerted her to a new customer. 

 

After wiping her hands free of flour, she grabbed the pot of fresh coffee and headed to the dining room.  It was easy to spot the newcomer, since there were only a handful of other customers at the moment, and they were already eating their meals.

 

"Good afternoon," she greeted with a smile, trying to decide if she'd seen the young woman around town before, "welcome to the Lickskillet.  Would you like some coffee?  Or I can get you some tea."

 

@Bailey

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Lucinda looked up as a pleasant-looking woman approached her. So places out west did have waiters and waitresses after all. She returned the woman's smile and was surprised to find that her lips and cheeks still remembered how to express happiness.

 

"You have tea?" She put a hand to her mouth in surprise and pleasure. It had been a long time since she had used up her precious supply of tea leaves from back east and she had never come to really enjoy coffee. The thought of having tea was almost overwhelming, but she swallowed down her excitement and answered the woman.

 

"Oh, tea would be lovely. I will take it however you would make it for yourself. And...I know it's not lunch or dinner time, but would you happen to have a small meal I could eat? Some potatoes or vegetables...anything, really."

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"Yes, I keep tea," Emeline commented, smiling.  "It's a bit harder to get out here, but the advantage is that I can make it by the cup, so there isn't any waste."  While she was primarily a coffee drinker, there were times that the lightness of tea 'hit the spot'.  Not only that, but she did keep some specific teas for medicinal use.

 

"I have the makings for shepherd's pie, there's some beef stew, and chicken and dumplings."  There as always something ready, even if it varied from day to day.  "And I have pie...apple, peach and rhubarb, if you'd like, for later."  Then she shrugged and laughed.  "Or for first, there's no rule that says you can't have your dessert before dinner, right?"

 

@Bailey

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"I'm so glad you have tea. I've been so long without it that it'll be like Christmas to get to have it again." Lucinda was sure that her happiness showed on her face, but she didn't mind right now. She was too tired and hungry to care about being serene at the moment.

 

"May I please have chicken and dumplings and a slice of rhubarb pie? The pie can wait until a bit later, though. I know there's no rule about it, but I always eat dessert last." She quirked one eyebrow and stretched her lips in something that was similar to the smile from the woman in front of her. "Thank you so much...Miss?..."

 

There was no way to tell for sure whether this pleasant woman was a Miss or a Mrs. She did seem old enough that it would be strange if she wasn't married, but it was always better to assume the innocence and youth of a woman.

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"Mrs. Blakesley...Emeline."  She smiled brightly as she added, "Soon to be Mrs. Barnabas Pike.  I own the place and do most of the cooking myself.  There's a young woman, Clara, who works with me as well."

 

Before going to get the order, she asked, "Are you new to town?  I'm not terribly busy right now, I could join you for a few minutes if you'd like?"  Emeline enjoyed getting to know folks, and especially a young woman alone and new to town could use some information on what to expect in Kalispell.

 

@Bailey

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"Oh, really? Congratulations, then, Mrs. Soon-to-be Pike!" Lucinda smiled warmly, but her smile was tinged with sadness, as were her thoughts. This woman had found someone she liked enough to marry again, but Lucinda doubted that she ever would. Out here, anyway. Back east was a different story.

 

"I would be glad of the company if you could spare a few minutes," she answered. Now the question was...what would they talk about? All Lucinda wanted to know was news from the east, but it wasn't likely Emeline would know any more than she did. And as far as news went, living by yourself for six months didn't give you a lot of news-worthy things to talk about.

 

"Could I also have some water? I don't know about you, but stagecoaches make my throat terribly dry."

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"Oh, certainly, just give me a moment."  She was efficient from her years of experience, and the food was already prepared, so all she had to do was plate it, set everything on a tray and carried it back to the table.

 

"Here we go...let me know when you're ready for pie and I'll get that for you."  Settling across from Lucinda, she sipped her coffee then explained, "I've been here for a couple years, so I know some of the comings and goings, if you have any questions."  She wasn't one to gossip, but there were things that were general knowledge, so speaking of them wouldn't be considered rumor.

 

"I started a cafe in a tent in Dakota territory to support myself after my husband died, then moved here and bought this place...I live upstairs, so it's convenient, but Mr. Pike is building a ranch outside town, so I'm not certain yet how we'll work that out."

 

Chuckling, she shook her head.  "Sorry, I guess I got a little carried away!"

 

@Bailey

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Lucinda took a bite of the chicken and dumplings and sighed contentedly. It wasn't that the food she'd had at the stations between Spokane and Kalispell had been bad, but this was so much better. She took a tentative sip of her tea and nodded appreciatively. Honestly, it was almost like Christmas.

 

She continued eating and listening to Emeline. After a winter completely alone, it was surprising to hear one person talk so much.

 

"No, please don't apologize," she said quickly, realizing that she'd been staring at Emeline. "My conversation skills just need some dusting off, that's all. I think it's wonderful that you've been able to support yourself this whole time. Did you have any cooking experience before you started the cafe?"

 

She wondered if she might be able to start some business to support herself, but then laughed inwardly. What a ridiculous idea. Once she made it back home, she wouldn't have to support herself any more. But would she be able to make it back home?

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"Oh, well, I was cooking with Mama since I was little, then for my husband, of course, but no, I'd never even considered it as a way to make a living."  She smiled a bit sadly, then shrugged.  "But after I lost Andrew, I really didn't want to go home, and even before he had died I found that ladies are revered in a mining camp...we're so few, and the men are so homesick."  She laughed.  "My food could have tasted like sawdust for all that they'd cherish a home-cooked meal and a chance for a feminine smile."

 

It had been a bit of a humbling experience for her, but for the most part she had been treated with respect.  "It was like having dozens of brothers, but then, there were also dozens of proposals every day!"  She laughed at that.  "Anyway, they liked my cooking and my pies, paid well, and gave me the chance to move here and buy a place that wasn't a tent.  And now it's really becoming a home.  It has its faults, but everywhere does, and the scenery isn't nearly so beautiful."

 

@Bailey

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Lucinda nodded and smiled as she continued eating, although she hadn't been around enough miners to experience men's adoration in quite the same way Emeline had. Francis had always tried to keep her away from that sort of thing.

 

She couldn't imagine cooking for a bunch of dirty miners...and them proposing to her! The thought made her skin crawl! But even though she didn't find Emeline's statement quite as humorous as Emeline did, she could relate to one thing.

 

"You...you lost your husband, too? My Francis died last fall. I had to winter alone on our homestead. That's why I'm just starting to head back east."

 

As she spoke, Lucinda realized that she felt a connection with Emeline, the first one she'd felt with anyone in a very long time. Losing a spouse was a commonplace occurrence, even back east, but it was still a painful one, and she and Emeline were united in that pain.

 

She was seized with a strong reluctance to leave the diner and the town where this kind woman stayed. And she was also seized with the sudden need for advice. "Emeline...may I call you Emeline? Well...my husband had run up debts when he died. I paid them off, but I'm not sure I can get back home. You made yourself a new life here. Do you think I could, too?"

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"It's been four years since I lost Andrew," Emeline explained, "we grew up together, been married four years when there was an accident at the mine he was working in."  She hadn't really discussed this with anyone, it was still too raw, and honestly, she wasn't sure how to talk about it.  Somehow, the pain was personal, and she didn't want to put anyone in that awkward position of thinking of what to say or how to react.

 

"It caught me off guard, as you can imagine.  I'd never thought I'd have to make my own way, it can be daunting, but there wasn't time to think about it, really."  They'd had a little savings, but she'd realized that she needed to start earning her own way before it was gone, and the best way to do that was to invest in a business.

 

"It wasn't easy, but at least a few of the men in the camp knew about my cooking, so it went pretty smoothly." 

 

She felt sympathy and a kinship to the other young woman, she couldn't imagine being stranded here without at least a little foundation in the territory. 

 

"Certainly, I'm sure you'd do fine in town, as long as you have a skill.  Or you could see if anyone needs some help...a clerk at the mercantile, I could even use a little help around here, once I get married and move out to the ranch...my current waitress is newly married herself."  She smiled and nodded.  "You'll be just fine, and you may even find that you like it here."

 

@Bailey

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Lucinda knew how painful losing her husband had been, but Emeline's loss, so much more sudden and presumably horrible, must have been worse. "I'm sure. With Francis it was consumption. I saw it coming and just had to watch him waste away. I don't know how I would have coped if it had been...sudden."

 

She sipped her tea, trying to avoid steering the conversation into more sensitive territory. It wouldn't do to ruin the beginning of her friendship with Emeline by making her relive her pain. Thankfully, Emeline was able to move on from the subject easily to one of more importance: employment, food, and the slew of marriages happening in Kalispell. Well, not a slew. Just Emeline and her waitress, but still that was a lot.

 

"Gracious, are you sure you don't put anything special in your food that lures men in? If both you and your waitress are getting married you must have some secret." Lucinda laughed and relished the feeling that the laughter awoke in her. It had been a long time since she had laughed.

 

Emeline's reassurance helped, but it also brought up a new problem. What skills did she have that would make her worth hiring? She was afraid the answer out west would be none.

 

"I'm afraid the only thing I might be good for is a clerk at the mercantile. I don't know anything about waitressing, but if you need the help and I need the job..." she paused, then shrugged and set her fork down on her now-empty plate. "I'll see what comes up." She looked around the diner with new eyes.

 

"In the meantime, is there a cheap place I could stay until I figure something out? I'm afraid a hotel is beyond my means at the moment, but a boarding house would do nicely."

 

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"Of course, do come back here if you can't find any other employment."  That might just solve her problem of what to do with the cafe.  Clara could stick to the cooking and Lucinda could wait tables.

 

"There is a boarding house, run by the Wigfalls, just up the street.  I've heard it's clean and the meals are good."  There were other whisperings, but she refused to pass on rumor.  "I believe Dr. Danforth's new nurse stays there."

 

@Bailey

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"I believe I will walk up there later and see if they have a room free, then." Lucinda drank the last of her tea and sighed. She felt much better; a little rested and a little less like a maple leaf in an autumn breeze. She had a direction to go with her life now and a suggestion for a place to stay.

 

"Now, how much do I owe you for the meal? And are you short on help today? I could...well, wash dishes if you could use the help."

 

The diner was nearly empty and it seemed like business was slow at the moment, but there was no telling what was going on behind the scenes in the kitchen. Washing dishes wasn't the most ideal way to spend her time, but she would be helping Emeline and, to tell the truth, she wanted spend more time with just Emeline before going and meeting other new people.

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"Oh, the meal is on the house for a newcomer, and for good conversation!" Emeline answered, and then she added, "I'd certainly be glad for help, Mr. Pike has been my dishwasher, but his heart is in his job as deputy, so he isn't here as much."

 

Standing, she started to gather the plates.  "I'll be starting dinner soon, too, and would not turn down the company.  Can you cook?  Or wait tables?"

 

Emeline could put her to work for the evening, and pay her...anything was better than nothing!

 

@boshmi

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Lucinda's first thought was that she couldn't accept Emeline's generosity. It had been drilled into her that she should never take charity from anyone and that she would never need to accept charity. But the thing was, no one who taught at finishing school had ever been stranded, practically penniless, out on the fringes of civilization.

 

"Oh, are you...well...thank you." She got up and watched Emeline gather the plates, in awe at her good fortune. "I'm sure I could wait tables passably...as long as no one proposes to me!" she added suddenly with a bright smile. "As for cooking, well, I can keep myself alive but I don't know that anyone else would want to eat what I cook!"

 

She unbuttoned the cuffs of her sleeves and started to roll them up. "Let me take the dishes. I know I can do that."

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"Oh, of course!"  Emeline stepped back to let Lucinda gather the dishes, then led the way to the kitchen, separated from the dining room by a swinging door that could be pushed open with a hip if one's hands were full of dishes.  The kitchen was larger than a home kitchen, of course, since there were large meals prepared here, and even with signs of bread, pies and vegetables being prepared, it was neat and orderly.

 

"The sink is there," she nodded to the far wall, where there was a pump for water installed over the sink, and a window that looked out over the herb garden and trees, a peaceful view for whoever was relegated to washing.

 

"And that," she indicated the one-eyed ginger cat curled on a chair in the corner, "is Buster.  He's harmless, unless you're a rat!"

 

@Bailey

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lucinda felt for the first time in over a year that she was somewhere where she belonged. She hadn't been raised to work in a kitchen, or even to be in a kitchen at all, but this just felt right. set the dishes in the sink, then primed the pump and started running water in the sink so she could begin washing the dishes.

 

Before she started, she went over to the corner to say hello to Buster, looking back at Emeline as she moved. "Oh, we used to have cats in the barn when I was younger. They were big mean tomcats, not like...oh!" She finally got a good look at Buster and made a surprised and slightly disgusted face.

 

It wasn't that the deformity was horrible, it was just unexpected. Her world had been perfect until she had come west and she was still shocked by her new world sometimes. "He only has one eye!" She looked back at Emeline worriedly. "What happened to him?"

 

 

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"No one knows," Emeline answered, shrugging, "he''s just an old stray who doesn't exactly belong to anyone.  I know he spends a lot of time at the Millegan Stage barn."  She laughed.  "I'm sure if you asked him, he'd tell you he lost it in a fight with a grizzly...and you ought to see the grizzly!"

 

Laughing again, she gave the cat a scratch on the ears.  "It's amazing, though, I've heard of cats chasing off bears, wolves, cougars, even wolverines."

 

She moved to the sink to wash her hands, commenting, "Sprinkle some soap flakes into the water, then you can wash the dishes, just set them to the side until you're done, then you can rinse them...that's how I prefer it."  She hoped she didn't sound bossy, she was just giving instruction, in case Lucinda didn't know the process.

 

"Anyway, it doesn't work every time."  She started chopping carrots.  "But attitude counts for a lot.  Sometimes you just have to push back, yell and advance...it catches the other person off guard, and often they'll back down."

 

Then she wondered if the young woman knew anything of defending herself.  She seemed a bit like a lost lamb, and this could be a rough place for an 'innocent'.

 

"Do you carry a weapon?  A derringer, or something like that?"


@Bailey

 

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Lucinda laughed a little bit at Emeline's joke, but it was a sort of humor that she didn't quite understand. Wouldn't the grizzly come out of the fight looking less hurt? Emeline's laughter and attitude was contagious, though, and Lucinda found her spirits brightened considerably more than they had been in a long time.

 

And speaking of attitude, Emeline had a set way she preferred to do the dishes, so Lucinda though she should try it that way. Personally she would have rinsed off each dish as she went, but it never hurt to try something new.

 

As she sprinkled the soap flakes in the water and swished them around with her hand to make the most of the bubbles, she marveled at how much Emeline seemed to know about animals and how they defended themselves...or was she talking about people? Maybe it worked the same way for both people and animals.

 

Emeline's question startled her slightly, but she looked up from the dish she was washing and shook her head. "Good heavens, no. I sold Francis's rifle and pistol this spring, having used neither of them the whole winter." She could hear the pride in her voice and remembered that she would not have been quite as hungry during the winter if she had used the rifle to try to go hunting.

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"Oh, well, it might be something to look into."  Emeline didn't want to alarm the other young woman, but holding back on the truth could spell undue trouble for her.  "It's a good idea to have some sort of protection."  She briefly pulled her own derringer from her pocket, then slipped it back.  "You just never know when you might need something.  There are Indians, wild animals, bandits...you know the bank was robbed a couple months ago, I might have lost my future husband if I hadn't had had my pistol."

 

She didn't explain that further, although she would if asked.

 

"There's a shotgun by the door and one up in my apartment...I'm sure Mr. Pike, or even Marshal Guyer, would be happy to show you how to use a gun, and help you choose one.  And Heavens, I don't mean to frighten you, and pray God you never need to defend yourself, but if you do, it's best to know how."

 

She just didn't buy into the notion that ladies were helpless, and should just faint away at the first sign of danger.

 

@Bailey

 

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Lucinda's eyes bulged when she saw Emeline's derringer, even though it wasn't that intimidating as far as guns went. Emeline clearly knew how to use it and even had a story to prove her point.

 

Lucinda shuddered as she scrubbed at a particularly stubborn spot on a dish. "Gracious, that sounds horrid." She didn't want to know what had happened that Emeline had had to use - or at least brandish - her pistol.

 

"I have the general idea. Francis did show me how to shoot, but I'm sure it's more difficult in practice. But the thing is, I don't want to ever have to use a gun. The whole idea of it is abhorrent to me. But..." she set another dish to the side to be rinsed later and shook the water off of her hands so she could rest them on the edge of the sink as she thought. "...I suppose that...in certain situations...shooting someone might be a preferable alternative to...well...unpleasant things."

 

She had always had Francis and so had never really worried about bandits or animals. But now that she was on her own, maybe...just maybe...she should look in to getting a gun.

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"Exactly," Emeline agreed, "none of us are itching to harm someone, but I know if I had to chose between doing harm or allowing harm, whether to myself or someone else, I'd rue not knowing or having the tools to do what I had to."

 

She smiled and shrugged.  "I certainly don't mean to frighten you, and for the most part the people here are good, but...even if you don't plan to stray past the town limits, there is enough potential for trouble.  It was just in April that the bank was robbed, and had it not been for people who were prepared, it just may have been successful.  I'm grateful that it wasn't my shot that killed the man, but I'm also grateful I was able to make a shot that distracted him so that someone else could keep him from shooting Barnabas."

 

It sounded a bit convoluted, but it was a practical way to look at things, and ignoring the possibility could lead to tragedy. 

 

Again, she shrugged.  "If you'd like to learn, I can speak to Barnabas.  In the mean time, I do appreciate the help here, and if you find yourself in need, you have only to ask."  She grinned.  "I don't offer charity, just a helping hand to a neighbor, and I'm sure you will find many good folk who will offer the same."

 

@Bailey

 

 

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"I suppose that's true," Lucinda conceded. "I just...it's very different than the way I was brought up. I was taught not to be cruel to any animal or person and I assumed that included not killing people."

 

She glanced back at Emeline as she told more about the bank robbery. Weren't banks supposed to be where you kept your money so it didn't get stolen? "That sounds so dreadful. I would have been terrified, especially if I someone I cared about was in danger."

 

She set the last dish to the side and began rinsing the dishes. "I think that for now I will not need to learn to shoot. But if I decide to leave Kalispell and go back east I may take you up on your offer. I have a feeling the journey might not go as smoothly without my husband." She shrugged wryly.

 

"Emeline, do you have social events in Kalispell? I've not been to a dance in so long and I miss being around other people. I miss being around people besides farmers and prospectors."

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