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Trespassing, and Other Such Deplorable Crimes


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Guest boshmi

Mature Content: Potentially harsh language

With: José Reyes, Elias Steelgrave, Possibly others of the Steelgrave brood(?)
Location: Central Evergreen Ranch
When: Early March, 1876
Time of Day: Dusk

 

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The sun was sinking low in the sky, painting the blues in those first few tinges of pink, when José found himself in the shade of trees at the outskirts of Evergreen ranch. The air had grown cool, and he pulled his poncho close around his frame, it's wool his primary line of defense against the encroaching night chill.

He'd been on the trail for most of the day, pausing only to bag a hare, which now hung from the edge of his saddle, ready to be cooked when he stopped for the night. Coming out of the mountains and into more settled land meant that there was a severe drop-off in the quantity of big game, and though José could hardly eat an entire elk on his own, it had been good to bag the odd bighorn or deer, at least while he was holed up in the Rockies.

Soon enough though, he hoped to find a town where he might get a proper meal. Mexico was several hundred miles behind him, and by now it would assuredly be safe to show his face in civilization once more.

 

The forest though which he ambled was coming away as he traveled, and even from horseback he could see places where foliage had been cleared for the sake of farm animals. No doubt this indicated rural land, maybe a farmstead of sorts? With any luck, the owners could point him in the way of town.

"Ándale, chica." he told his mount, giving her a little kick to move her up into a trot. It'd be a hell of a time trying to find his way in the dark.

 

Loretta's hooves plodded along into a quicker rhythm against the spring scrub, but no sooner had she fully settled into the new pattern than they broke through the treeline, coming to bear with a vast grazing area, packed with cattle.

 

"Ay, paras, detiene." he quickly muttered, pulling back on the reins to halt the mare. She gave a whinny of complaint, but came to a stop before reaching a short fence ahead of them. Well, this was certainly a complication. Cutting straight through the herd probably wouldn't go over well, especially if it agitated any of the cattle. José squinted his eyes and scoured the area for any human silhouettes. Maybe he could find someone who knew a way around the field.

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It was the change of men working the herd, the Night Hawks were trading places with the line riders of the daylight hours. Most of them hated the fence line that had been put up, but it was there and needed tending. Of course the Night Hawks job was to patrol the herd, insure they were bedded down and to watch for anything, rustlers, fire, or strays.

 

So, several riders were fanning out through the herd, riding easy so as not to spook the cattle in their passing from the exchange of information to their assigned spots. One such rider went by the name of Carson and he seemed to have ridden past the stranger at the edge of the trees when he suddenly wheeled his horse around, his Colt in his hand, ready to unravel some cartridges.

 

“Mister, this here’s Evergreen range. Not sure where you’re bound for, but cuttin’ though ain’t an option.” He said, the pistol leveled at the man. “State your bid’ness!”

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The thumping of horse hooves on the ground sounded as a rider passed just by where Loretta was paused. The desperado watched him pass, seemingly unaware of his presence, but did not make to call out just yet, lest he startle the outrider and provoke a hail of bullets.

 

Once man and horse had passed a sufficient distance, José opened his mouth to speak, but in that instant the rider did a full turn, bringing his horse to bear. José heard the leather scraping of a pistol being drawn, and he felt his own hand drop down to the handle of his revolver on instinct. He didn't make to pull, but the muscles in his arm tensed, ready to put this man down if need be.

 

“Mister, this here’s Evergreen range. Not sure where you’re bound for, but cuttin’ though ain’t an option. State your bid’ness!”

 

"Easy, compadré." José said, slowly and carefully. He was once more stuck by how diverse the American dialect was, seeming to remove pieces of their words entirely at random. Even as he mustered up the English phrases he'd learned through and through over the past few years, they sounded silly and false in his mouth.

"I'm not here to cause trouble. I'm looking for, ah, el pueblo, you know? The... town?"

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"I'm not here to cause trouble. I'm looking for, ah, el pueblo, you know? The... town?"


“Kalispell?” Carson asked, trying to figure out how a Mexican came down from the north. “Don’t see any Mex’s up here, an’ where yer at, well, there’s this dad blamed fence line running all the way south to the Lost Lake spread, and likely beyond.” If he took the Mex up to the ranch house, the old man would likely hang him as a rustler, or just because he could.

 

“What I kin do, is up a ways is a way through the fence line, I ‘d take you across the range to the trail to Kalispell an’ set ya on the right track. The boss ain’t the friendliest sort, he might decide on stretchin’ yer neck was I to take you up to the house. So you kin see how that’d be a bad idea.” Carson was basically a good sort, a working cowboy, one of the few on the ranch. He was not one to look for trouble of any kind.

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“Don’t see any Mex’s up here, an’ where yer at, well, there’s this dad blamed fence line running all the way south to the Lost Lake spread, and likely beyond. What I kin do, is up a ways is a way through the fence line, I ‘d take you across the range to the trail to Kalispell an’ set ya on the right track. The boss ain’t the friendliest sort, he might decide on stretchin’ yer neck was I to take you up to the house. So you kin see how that’d be a bad idea.”

"Uh... huh, ah, alright." José managed, struggling to follow along with all the rapid-fire contractions. He had probably caught about one in every two words of the rider's statement, entailing something about making his neck longer? Anyway, the rider seemed a little less aggressive now that they had been introduced, and he had understood 'set ya on the right track' - which sounded agreeable enough.

 

"Thank you." he said, letting his draw hand relax. Instead, he reached down to the lantern at the side of his saddle, and pulled it up, opening the little gate. He reached below his poncho and found a match in his shirt pocket, which he could then strike alight along the flint at the lantern's base, and set on the the wick within. It flared to life, and José held the lantern aloft, to give them a little more visibility under the quickly-sinking sun.

 

"I'll follow you, Amigo." José told the weather-worn man, as he pulled the reins with his free hand and brought Loretta to bear.

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"I'll follow you, Amigo." José told the weather-worn man, as he pulled the reins with his free hand and brought Loretta to bear.

 

“You got a ways to go, an’ the distance to get around the Evergreen or south to the Lost Lake’d take ya days, if ya din’t get yerself shot ‘er hung.” Carson said matter of factly, and the distance to the South would be as the rider explained, probably a couple days ride to a place where he could head east to the main trail, but not knowing the lay of the land would be a real hindrance.

 

“So, what brings you north? You know somebody in Kalispell or huntin’ work? Jest seems odd you’d be in this country, not that a man ain’t got the right to go where he pleases. Now was you to be lookin’ for Whitefish, she was destroyed last winter by fire and a blizzard. Don’t rightly know hoe that happened, but it shorely did. You wasn’t headed there was ya?”

 

Unlike any number of Evergreen hands, Carson was the friendly type who liked to talk. Of course he was a fair hand with a gun if need be. Helping the Mexican across the spread was just the right thing to do.

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“So, what brings you north? You know somebody in Kalispell or huntin’ work?" asked the ranch hand, as José kicked his mount into a walk. Loretta ambled forward, matching the other's horse's pace across the fence, though an obvious snort from her was an expression of dissatisfaction at their not riding in a line.

"Er... work." he replied abruptly, attempting to curtail any further questions about his origin. Not that any old ranch hand might have heard of him, but, well, word traveled quicker than any man.

 

"Jest seems odd you’d be in this country, not that a man ain’t got the right to go where he pleases. Now was you to be lookin’ for Whitefish, she was destroyed last winter by fire and a blizzard. Don’t rightly know hoe that happened, but it shorely did. You wasn’t headed there was ya?”

"White... fish?" José repeated, a little incredulous at such a name. Not that Kalispell was much better, but at least it was a name, rather than a color of aquatic creature. "No, I wasn't headed there. Why?"

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"White... fish?" José repeated, a little incredulous at such a name. Not that Kalispell was much better, but at least it was a name, rather than a color of aquatic creature. "No, I wasn't headed there. Why?"

 

"Uh, jest that it ain't there no more, an' you'd be wastin' your time huntin' her up.  Wasn't all that much anyway. I mean there was people what lived there, they had stores and all, but it jest never felt right. You know, somethin' off about the place." Carson explained as well as he could.

 

"Nest for outlaws mostly, a man had ta be careful what he said, an' such-like. But now Kalispell? That there's a growing concern. Most folks 'er friendly, Marshal seems to be a fair man. Yeah, a good place. So, what sortta work you looking for?" It was easy conversation for a lengthy ride across the range, pushing through the cattle when they crowded up.

 

"You might wanna douse that there lamp. Moon an' stars shed plenty of light out here." What he was thinking was, that a moving light crossing the Evergreen might bring on problems neither of them wanted, or needed. 

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"Nest for outlaws mostly, a man had ta be careful what he said, an' such-like. But now Kalispell? That there's a growing concern. Most folks 'er friendly, Marshal seems to be a fair man. Yeah, a good place. So, what sortta work you looking for?"

Nest of outlaws? That pricked José's ears right up. He'd resolved to stay away from the law-breaking kind for the time being, but to know that there were in fact some of them out here...

 

"I, uh, anything. Any work." José told the rider, as he dragged his attention back to the present. "I can ride, though, and shoot."

 

He slowed his mount as his guide passed through a clump of cattle on the opposite side of the fence, but soon enough they were through and getting along.

 

"You might wanna douse that there lamp. Moon an' stars shed plenty of light out here."

"Oh? Okay." he said, and obediently opened the gate, licked his fingers, and pinched out the flame. The rider's words rang true as the glim orange was replaced by the pale white of the sky, illuminating the way ahead. After so many months riding through forest, snow, and storm, it seemed almost unnatural for such a source of illumination, but as night vision began to grow he could even make out the shapes of twigs and leaves past which he rode.

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“You kin ride ‘n shoot, that’s a fer shore plus. Ever work cattle at all? Be helpful if ya did, cus far as I know, the Evergreen’s still lookin’ to hire some men, that is, if yer interested. Pays good, prob’ly better than most, ‘course I can’t say for sure about that, but cookie, well he feeds good. That alone is better’n some I’ve worked for before.”

 

Carson liked the work, liked a lot of the men, though he didn’t care much for old man Steelgrave, it didn’t matter because Elias was not one to ride out and see what was going on.

 

There was a new foreman, but telling this man of the circumstance had led to a number of hands riding out, was not a good idea. Nobody much liked Layton Harris and the incident created a definite opening, if the Mex wanted a riding job. He had a number in his time, they were good hands, so this one would likely be all that. “Ain’t a whole lot to workin’ cows, if’n you ain’t never done it before, be easy enough to learn.”

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