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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.

Checking Out the Town

Aurelian Redmond

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It was a warm one again but then it was July after all as two of the three Redmond family walked down the boardwalk of Kalispell. They had already made one stop, Aurelian introducing himself to the school marm and presenting his a bit reluctant youngest, Wyatt, to the woman as a first step in enrolling the boy into school. Wyatt was even now still there, taking a few simple tests for the teacher so she could judge how to better place him among her current class of students. They, Aurelian and his daughter Clara, would swing by and pick him up the way out of town once they had their own business taken care of.

"So while I almost dread to ask, what do you think of the town so far, child of God?" Aurelian glanced down upon his daughter keeping easy pace with him on their boardwalk stroll.

The girl gave a nonchalant shrug that was so typical of her, joyous enthusiasm was not something Aurelian ever much witnessed in her even before her mother's death.

"It will have to do. It is no Scranton," she huffed.

"You did not like Scranton you always said," he pointed out bemused.

"It was in the main............unpleasant, but that was mostly the people," Clara countered.

"Well, Clara dear, learn to get along with people here because remember we are staying here now long term. This is our home like it or not," Aurelian reminded.

"I know.............I can be pleasant............most of the time," Clara grudgingly conceded. 

Aurelian didn't press the issue especially as they were getting closer to their current target, the town's General Store. They needed things there, a wide variety of things but there were issues. Being newcomers, establishing a line of credit might prove.....well, challenging. But Aurelian was down to little more than coins to his name. Clara had long been saving for a personal desire of hers, a horse of her own but now she was tempted to dip into that even though her father had not mentioned a word. But even then it wasn't a whole lot, less than $40.00 at her last count.

"Very well, Clara, glad we are squared away on that point," he smiled then abruptly got down to business, "Now you let me handle the storekeeper when we get in there. And in return, I will let you be in charge of the purchasing if he allows it. I know you will watch our every penny and spend wisely, I trust you."

"Oh I will, and I will demand..." she started.

"Ask for," he hastily corrected.

"ASK for a receipt of our purchases then double check. It would not be the first time some clerk could not manage simple addition," she asserted.

Aurelian grinned, pity the poor clerk who got into a tangle with Clara over figures.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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Laura Hale slowed the team of big gray Percherons as the buckboard approached the general store. Normally, she would pull the team around back, but today she had the Thornton twins with her and did not want to risk losing track of them near the loading area. Laura was usually able to keep the five-year-olds in line, but this was the first time they had been off the ranch since the deaths of their parents. Right now, Cody was easily spooked and tended to run and hide. Nettie was likely to go with him simply because they were twins. Ordinarily, she would not be worried about them not watching for horses and wagons, but she did not feel comfortable with taking chances.

After setting the brake, Laura hopped down from the wagon and secured the team's line to the hitching post. Walking back to the side, she lifted Nettie and then Cody down to the ground. Cody took hold of Laura's dark gray split-skirt and tucked himself close to her legs. Laura's heart broke for the small boy. She longed to bring back the laughter to his eyes and the engaging smile that was so like his father's. In that instant, she realized she had not completely dealt with her own grief either.

Nettie, her short-cropped golden brown hair ruffled by the wind, boldly led the way into the general store. She stopped just inside to wait for Laura and Cody while taking in the myriad scents within the shop. Laura had said they could have a small bag of rock candy if they were good. Nettie wondered what the criteria for being good were. No doubt she'd find out if the promised bag of candy appeared in Laura's shopping basket.

Laura began her usual routine in the store. She liked walking around to see what was new, check the prices and make a mental list of what she needed versus what she wanted. This was something she had done since she was a little girl and often buying anything was impossible. She and Ezra had had a few lean years as well. 

Truthfully, the ranch was well stocked at the moment. She had come to town to pick up a load of feed from the Farmer's Co-Op to tide them over until someone could drive in with the big wagon later in the week. Her other objective was to get out and about town, show people that the twins were doing as well as could be expected. The Kalispell region was large, but there weren't that many people there yet. Those that lived in the region knew everyone else and news traveled fast, especially when it included rumors of an Indian attack on one of Kalispell's most prominent families.

The chime of the bell over the door distracted her from the rack of quilts she had been perusing. She looked up as a young girl entered the store followed by a man. He was just over medium height with dark hair. The man was not young, but she wouldn't consider him old either. Laura guessed the girl to be in her mid-teens. She seemed oddly self-possessed for a teenager, at least on first glance. Laura gave the strangers a welcoming smile, checked the location of the twins, and returned to her browsing.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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Aurelian paused upon entry to take a moment to give the store interior a bit of a once-over. It was quite reasonably stocked, things appeared tidy enough, the floor was swept, that all spoke well for the quality of the ownership. Now if the man was just the understanding sort that not everyone could pay for things upon purchase. Meanwhile, Clara swept right past him down the first aisle, already engaging in some visual shopping for needed goods. She'd do her usual diligent job, of that he had no doubts.

At the moment no one was behind the counter, didn't mean much though he could be in a back room or showing a customer something out of sight for a bit. The bell tinkle would have notified whoever was working there were more customers. Aurelian wasn't in a rush anyhow as he now ambled deeper into the shop. There was a distinguished looking woman looking over some fabrics who had given him a smile when he first entered so he felt pretty comfortable gambling she would not mind the intrusion from a stranger.

Removing his hat, he smiled, "Excuse me, ma'am. Sorry to bother you but I'm new to town. Would you be able to tell me who and where the proprietor of this store is? I'd be grateful."

Laura looked up from the bolt of cloth she had been considering. The twins always needed new clothes. She saw that it was the stranger that had spoken to her and she smiled at him again, "Neil and Sarah Goodman own the store. They are probably in the stock room. Just ring the bell on the counter."

Feeling a twitch on her skirt made Laura remember her manners, "I am so sorry! I'm Laura Hale. Everyone calls me Laura. My husband, Ezra, is the foreman at Lost Lake Ranch." Laura indicated the small boy peeking out from behind her skirts, "This is Cody Thornton and this..." she glanced around and frowned.

"I am Nettie!" Cody's twin stepped out from behind a bin of hardware cloth. She looked up at the stranger, "Cody is my twin. He's shy. He calls me Nettles. So does Uncle Ezra and Aunt Laura. But I'm not a nettle. Those sting and I don't sting. My real name is Antoinette. She's a dead queen. Did you know her?"

"Nettie!" Laura was torn between laughing and the need to discipline the little girl.

The woman was immediately helpful with her advice then introduced herself.

"Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Hale. I am Aurelian Redmond and the young lady down that aisle over there is my daughter, Clara," he responded then listened to the jabber of the little ones with a growing smile. His were that young once, and these two were cute.

Putting his hands just above his knees he put himself a bit closer to the children as he spoke to them in an easy tone.

"Hello, Cody. And hello to you, Nettie. As for that queen, she was a bit before my time and in a country far far from my home, but I do happen to know they say she loved cake. What about you then, do you love cake?"

"I like cookies better," Nettie told the man and then pointed at Cody where he stood holding Laura's hand, "Cody likes pie."

"I am sorry about that, Mr. Redmond. Afraid Nettie's never met a stranger. Are you new to Kalispell?" Laura asked, having offered a friendly smile to the young lady that had been introduced as Clara. She knew most people in the region, but new folks came in all the time. Laura always made it her task to see that people were greeted and could count on the men and women of Lost Lake Ranch to help them when they needed it. She and Mary would have a ton of work to do to get together a welcome basket for the new family.

Aurelian paused grinning long enough to dismiss her worries, "Nothing to apologize for. The youngsters just have their opinions is all. We all have our likes and dislikes when it comes to food."

Then he looked down at the twins once more, "Cookies are fine. I definitely am with Cody on the pie. My Clara makes wonderful pie."

As for Clara, she was too far off and caught up in her silent appraisals of necessaries for the shopping to even notice Mrs. Hale's smile to her. Just then an older gentleman stepped out of a back room and behind the register, his eyes taking in who all might be in the store. Since Clara was the closest, he fixed upon her first trying to place the young miss without success. Clara, of course, spotted him back and approached with her usual confidence.

"Good day, sir. We.........that is...my father would like to talk to you for a moment....that is when he can tear himself away from his current conversation," she declared then glanced over to Aurelian chatting with that woman and the small children in tow.

Laura nodded toward the counter, "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Redmond. It looks like Mr. Goodman is back." She had wanted to find out more about the man and his daughter. Not to be nosy, but to make plans to visit them with her usual welcome basket. She would make a point of asking where they lived once he'd concluded his business with the store's owner.

"Ah yes, I see. Mr. Goodman...very well. I better get over there before Clara gets her claws into him," Aurelian smiled then glanced down at the twins, "You two be good now."

"Thank you, Laura, for your help. Nice to meet you and I'm certain we shall be seeing each other around town on occasion," he replaced his hat then and took his leave of the woman. He had some very serious business to attend to.




It took awhile, and though Aurelian found Mr. Goodman to be a most decent sort, the fellow was still a businessman and was not about to stay in business by making poor gambles. This was the storekeeper's livelihood and extending too much credit to many folks who rebound to hurt him financially, Aurelian got it. He had to use all his charm and logic and even threw in an appeal to his kindness to get Goodman to agree to let his first purchases be on credit. Aurelian listened then to the man's conditions for payment and judging them fair, there followed a handshake deal. With that, he turned his highly motivated and efficient daughter loose on the store. 


It was a good beginning, a crucial first hurdle but there remained a lot of hard work and necessary good fortune to make this new life of theirs, him and his children.

Edited by Stormwolfe (see edit history)
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