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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.


Mike Wentworth

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Mature Content: No

With: Mike Wentworth and others
Location: Add specific location information here.
When: Late May 1876
Time of Day: Late morning




The day had turned out better than expected.  After some rains clouds that had eventually come to nothing, it was bright, clear and a not too hot late spring day.  The better part of the morning had been spent chasing some strays who had wandered in the foothills located on the north west of Lost Lake Ranch.  They were gathering a herd to drive down to Fort Somers, and this was the last of the bunch.  Mike, along with his brother Sam, Stan Iverson and a couple of other hands had nearly finished when they heard the gunshots.


Sam rode over to where Mike was now trying to work out from which direction they had come.  "Sounds like they came from further up the mountain.  Think we should check."


Initially, Mike thought it might be some trappers or hunters and since they were in an area that was not in the Lost Lake Ranch confines, he was happy to let whoever it was go about their business.  Besides, they had plenty of work to do with getting the stray cattle back into Lost Lake territory before they headed towards Evergreen, a few miles east of their location.


Before he could answer, another shot rang out.  Seeing the concerned look on Sam's face, Mike reluctantly nodded, "All right, we'll go and check."


He waved at Stan to come over.  When the ranch hand arrived, Mike gave him orders to start getting the cattle they had found back to the ranch.  "We'll ride for about 10-15 minutes, turn around and catch up. Besides, we might find a few more strays so it won't hurt to find out where those shots came from."


After Stan had left, Mike and Sam began the ride slowly up the mountain.  Thankfully, it was a gradual climb and not too steep.  Even though it was heavily wooded in some places, they managed to find a path.  Just as they were nearing the end of the search, they came upon a ramshackle building.  Mike didn't know whether to called it a cabin or a hut as it had been no doubt hastily constructed to spend the winter in.  It was made mainly out of branches and pine needles resting up against some large rocks which formed part of the mountainside.  There was door or something that resembled one that was hanging precariously off some rope which had tied it to the structure.


Not knowing what to expect, both Mike and Sam got off their horses and pulled their rifles from their scabbards.  They gave each other a knowing look and then slowly made their way to the hut.




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As he entered the structure Mike almost tripped over something.  Looking down, he saw it was the legs of a large man who was obviously dead.  Mike turn his gazed forwards and in the dimly lit room he could see that part of it extended into a natural crevice in the rock wall.  There was a makeshift bed and lying on top of it was a woman, who was dressed in buckskins with a fur blanket wrapped over her legs.  However, the thing he really noticed about her was that she had a rifle aimed at him.


Pausing for a moment, Mike put down his rifle and raised his hands, "It's all right.  We heard the shots and..."


Before he could go on, the woman slumped and dropped her own gun.  Mike rushed over to her and found that the woman, although tanned from being out in the sun a lot, was not an Indian, as he originally thought she was but white.  He could also, see that there was blood coming from her lower abdomen.  After he helped her to lie down, he began to look for something to stop the bleeding.


Meanwhile, Sam had entered the hut and had managed to find the light source which was a small fire on the far side.  The hut was larger than it seemed thanks to the crevice, which Sam thought was more like a cave. Seeing that there was a pile of wood not far from the fire, he went over and began placing what there in the pile onto the fire.  As the fire grew larger, it was then he saw something behind it.  Making his way to the other side, so that he could take a better look, he was surprised to find a young girl.  He couldn't work out how old she was as she was huddled in the corner of the hut, but he surmised she was no more than ten years.


Not knowing how to approach the girl, he decided to leave her alone for now.  Going back over to his brother, who had by now found something to stop the bleeding.  Sam looked at the strips of material that were now on the bed and then over to the body which was now half naked at the top, "I guess he didn't have a use for the shirt."


"No, he didn't," Mike answered, "Looks like some sort of mountain man, maybe he has a mule around here somewhere."


Sam nodded, "I'll take a look and I'll also get rid of that but there's something you should know.  Over in the corner, there's a girl."


At the mention of the girl, the woman lying on the bed, roused a little and mumbled, "Natosi."



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While Mike was tending the injured woman, Sam dragged the body of the large man outside.  He was hoping that there was a shovel around somewhere and that the ground was still soft enough to dig a grave.  Leaving the body a few feet away from the hut, he began to look around for the mule and the shovel.


Since the outcrop of rocks that formed the basis for the hut and the cave was large, his search took him down a slope that a was northwest of the direction that he and Mike had come from.  As he turned a corner around the edge of the formation, he came upon small plateau.  There he could see the mule grazing on some grass seemingly oblivious to what had a gone on.  He could see a shovel leaning against the rock face wall.


As he went over to get the mule and shovel, it was then he saw a large mound.  To him, there was no question that it was a grave and by the looks of it, it hadn't been there that long...a few weeks at the most.  Frowning, he went over to the mule and grabbed the rope around its neck and tied to a nearby tree.  Taking the shovel, he found another spot not from the grave and began digging.


Sometime later, he was heading back up to the hut with the mule in tow.  Now there were two graves, both containing their own mysteries.  Maybe the woman inside the hut, or even the girl could tell them what had happened.  Whatever occurred here to leave two people dead, and two living was a question that would have to be answered.



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Mike stood near the entrance of the hut as he watched the young girl and her mother.  He had done all he could for the injured woman, and he hoped it would be enough until he got her to a doctor.  As for the child, Natosi, she had left the spot she had been hiding in, shortly after Sam had left with the body.


As if on cue, Sam came inside.  "I found the mule and buried the body," he whispered, "There was another grave."


Turning to look at his brother, Mike frowned, "Another missing piece to add the puzzle, I guess."


Sam nodded, "Yep.  As for the puzzle pieces we do have, what's next?"


"We have to get her to a doctor and the sooner the better," Mike answered, "I've been thinking it over and Kalispell is nearer if we cut through part of Evergreen to get back into Lost Lake territory and head across the Redmond farm."


"Cut through Evergreen?" Sam looked over to where the woman was and sighed,  "I guess we have no choice.  I'll go start building a travois>"


Thankful that Sam knew what to do, Mike ventured back to bed and kneeled down.  Smiling at Natosi, who looked at him with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity, Mike told her it would be all right.  He wasn't sure if Natosi understood what he had said but as soon as that thought had come out, her mother answered, "She knows.  I taught her how to speak English."


"That's good.  She's going to need to know how to care of you when we get to Kalispell."


The woman smiled weakly, "Yes, she will need to know...and so do you.  I have much to tell you but first my name was or is Ruth Masters."


"My name is Mike Wentworth and the fellow with me is my brother, Sam."


Ruth smiled again, "Ahh...Mike...Michael as in the archangel.  Maybe you have come because you have been sent."


"Maybe I was," Mike replied.




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After adding another log to the fire, Mike looked over to where Ruth and Natosi were.  Ruth was as comfortable as she could in the travois with her daughter sleeping on the ground near her.  It had been a slow trip and they had reached Lost Lake ranch territory well after dark.  He didn't want to camp on Evergreen and so he had kept going until they were safe.


Even though he was tired, he knew he had to stay awake until Sam joined him again.  Not knowing how long that was going to be, he had begun to lean back on his saddle when he heard Ruth beginning to stir.  Getting up again, he took his canteen over to her and kneeled down to hold her up as she took a couple of mouthfuls of water.  When she had finished, he was about to go back to his place on the other side of the fire when she grabbed his hand.  "Please don't go...I have much to say," she whispered.


Mike smiled, "You can tell me later when you're feeling better."


"No, I must talk now...there may not be a later."


"All right," Mike answered.  It was evident that whatever she had to say was important enough for her to not want him to leave her side.


"I have family somewhere.  We, they were headed south to the Helena gold camp when I choose to go with my husband. I took my journal and some other things with me.  Over the years I managed to get paper and ink from time to time and I wrote letters to Natosi and my parents.  My journal and the letters are in that satchel that Natosi has."


Yes, the satchel that Natosi was clinging to right now even in her sleep.  Seeing how important it was too both of them, Mike nodded and simply said, "Yes."


Ruth smiled weakly, "I have two things to ask.  Help me find my family and when I die and take care of Natosi until you do.  Please promise me that you will."


For the first request, Mike had no qualms but it was the second that would prove to be a problem.  Being a ranch foreman and living in a bunkhouse, there was no way he could take of Natosi.  He would help her as much as he could but there was only one place he could leave the child safely and that was with his parents.  However, now was not the time to start dwelling on the matter.  There was still some hope that Ruth would make it.


"I'll do the best I can," he replied.


Seemingly satisfied with his response for now, Ruth closed her eyes and slowly went back to sleep.  Pulling the blanket back over her, Mike made his way back to his own makeshift bed.



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About one hour later, Sam returned to find Mike and his two charges resting comfortably near a large fire.  He was glad to see that they had made it through the Evergreen portion of the trip unharmed.


Mike had sent him back to the rest of the hands to let them know what they had found and to get some supplies.  While he was there, one of the newer hands who had been hired for the roundup, mentioned something about how some of the ground was a bit bare to the west a little.  Some of the hands had put it down to the grass not growing fast enough after the winter.  The others didn't even care, and Sam was one of them.  He had more important things to do.


After leaving instructions for the rest of the hands to get the strays back to the main herd, Sam had headed east towards the area, Mike had told him that he would try to get to. On the way Sam thought about the conundrum that was Ruth and Natosi.  A white woman with a half-Indian child usually meant only one thing.  Whatever had happened to Ruth, it wouldn't have pleasant but at least she had accepted the child that had come from that union.  It showed that Ruth had fortitude and hopefully that would help to overcome the injury she had now.


Leaving the bag of supplies with Mike, he went over to unsaddle his horse and get his bedroll.  When that was done, he went back to the fire where Mike had put the coffee on to boil.  Mike looked over to him and smiled, "Thanks for getting these.  It may be another day or two before we get to Kalispell as I don't want to make things worse than they already are."


"I understand," Sam replied.  There was still some distance to go.  If there was only a faster way to get to town.  An idea, then struck him, "Maybe I should ride on ahead and go to Mr. Redmond to see if I can borrow a buckboard to carry Ruth into town.  His homestead is closer to us, than the main house is."


"Maybe you should.  He's a good man from what I know of my dealings with him."


"Then that's a plan," Sam smiled, "Now how about some of that coffee."



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  • 2 weeks later...

Sam made his way as quickly as he could given the terrain to the house where Aurelian Redmond lived with his family.  He had met Aurelian only a couple of times and found the man to be quite genial.  The man seemed to be the type to help out when needed and this was one of those times.


Mike would be making slow progress with the travois, and he hoped that Ruth wouldn't suffer too much.  She seemed to be on the mend and her spirits were high, but Sam had seen this sort of thing before.  Some people tended to rally a bit before they eventually succumb to their wounds.  He hoped that this wasn't case with Ruth and that she would make it Kalispell.


Seeing the house, he spurred his horse on.  A few minutes later, he was there.  Staying on his horse he shouted out, "Hello!  Anybody here?"



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It took a few minutes but soon there was movement within the cabin, the door opened. A dark haired teenaged girl stood there, pistol in hand but not pointing it anywhere but down.

She was frowning until a glimmer of recognition came over her youthful features. It was one of the Lost Lake hands, she used to work at that ranch herself for awhile. He was the kindly gentleman brother of drunken Charlie that day in front of the hotel.


"Oh hello, Sam is it not?" she stepped out as she greeted him, "Do not mind the gun. One cannot be too careful being neighbors with the Steelgraves."





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Sam got off his horse and took off his hat, "Good day, Miss Clara.  I was hoping your Pa might be around but you might be able to help instead."


He didn't have to time to ask Clara how she was or talk about the problems with the Steelgraves.  His main purpose for now to get back to his brother and Ruth, "Could we borrow a wagon or a buckboard and a couple of horses?  Mike and I found an injured woman in the mountains and we need to get her to town.  Your place is closer than the Lost Lake house, so we we're hoping that you could help out."


Knowing that he probably had rushed what he meant to say due to his concern and anxiousness, he sighed, "I'm sorry if this sounds all a bit confusing.  We've been transporting the woman...Ruth here on a travois but it's not ideal considering her injuries.  A wagon or buckboard will help us get her to town quickly and more comfortably."



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"Good day, Miss Clara.  I was hoping your Pa might be around but you might be able to help instead."


"Oh, he is here, in the barn," Clara pointed.


Just as she did, the barn door opened and Aurelian came out, heading straight for the front of the farmhouse and giving a quick wave of greeting to the rider who was even now dismounting. He immediately recognized the fellow as one of the Lost Lake hands.


"Sorry, I was sawing some wood," he excused himself, then joined Clara in hearing the man out, he was obviously a man in a hurry to explain something.


"Could we borrow a wagon or a buckboard and a couple of horses?  Mike and I found an injured woman in the mountains and we need to get her to town.  Your place is closer than the Lost Lake house, so we we're hoping that you could help out."


"Oh....why ...sure," Aurelian nodded.


"I'm sorry if this sounds all a bit confusing.  We've been transporting the woman...Ruth here on a travois but it's not ideal considering her injuries.  A wagon or buckboard will help us get her to town quickly and more comfortably."


"Oh my gosh!" Clara exclaimed.


"That makes sense, yeah. Of course you can! Lemme get the team hitched, it won't take me long," Aurelian nodded and start heading back toward the corral.


"Clara, help me will you please," he asked and the two of them hurried to get the buckboard prepared.





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  • 2 weeks later...

After getting the buckboard hitched, Sam thanked Aurelian and Clara.  He also mentioned that would probably stop on their way through for a few minutes to rest before trying to make it to town before dark.


After resting at the Redmonds for a short time, they continued on to Kalispell.  It was well after dark when they got there.  They took Ruth and Natosi to their parents house.


Sam was amazed that Ruth had survived the trip but he wondered if she would live much longer.  The odds weren't that good.


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