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    • It was long, tedious work, even though, for the most part, it was just plodding along with the cows, making sure they all stayed together and went the right way they were supposed to.  Even after the wind picked up, there were only a few mavericks who tried to wander off on their own, but the drag riders managed to coax them back to the herd.   As the day progressed, Annie became less jiggy, and Justus could tell she was getting tired.  "It's all right, Miz Annie."  He patted the horse's neck, then tightened the bandanna that was keeping his hat from blowing away.   "Ya think this is just a dry wind?" Justus called to Loredo, "or somethin' more movin' in?"  There wasn't the smell of rain in the air yet, nor clouds, but he knew that the weather could change quickly.  "Will they try ta settle in camp early?"  It seemed to him that if there was 'weather' moving in, it was better to have the cattle settled than moving, but what did he know? He just hoped it didn't impact supper!   @Flip
    • "Wonderful!"  Jonah almost clapped, for this had been going on for so long, that he really expected that this would be some sort of new setback, and Leah certainly didn't need any more complications.  "I'm sure it's going to be a huge relief when they finally break ground.  It's going to be rewarding to watch it take shape, and for you to know you are responsible for it."   He hoped, for her sake more than anything, that the weather cooperated, and that the progress was swift and without complications.    "You'll be overseeing the project?"  He couldn't imagine that she'd step back now, and not assure that every detail was right.   @Flip
    • "Boss, we found us a herd ripe for the pluckin'. Maybe we oughtta move on it afore they change where they're grazin' 'em, an make it more difficult." Toole suggested. "We can take close to a hunderd head easy enough, they move 'em, thet might not be the way of it."   "'Scuse me men, but Toole here is on to something, and cattle is our other business. We've customers waiting up north." Case said, not happy at being interrupted, yet realizing that what he said was true. It was why they were there, and it was what the did. "So go on and make yourselves to home while I get this job situated."   "Oh sure thing, Case, an thanks for the offer. We appreciate it, 'mon boys." Shannon said, and with that they walked outside to find the other building Case was talking about.   "Alright Toole what did you have in mind?" Case asked.   "The place is just at the foothills where they have their cattle. Now any buildin's 'er maybe a mile, mile'n a half away. What we saw was just maybe four riders wit the cattle, may not hav'ta kill any of 'em. We just filter down through the trees and then rush 'em. Maybe eight 'er ten of us, circle the heard an' push 'em back the way we come which was the long way around , and shore they'll be tracks alomst all the way to the dry river bed, maybe  whot, two mile from the tree line. Hard ground to river bed, but they won't catch us, not seein's they're out numbered."   Case gave it some thought, but Toole had been plotting how they would steal a herd for quite a while, and he knew what he was doing. Besides, no County Sheriff, no problem!   "Pick your men, Toole and get it done." Case said, knowing if they got a hundred head, that would be enough to drive north, once the brands were altered.
    • Having a second thought, to bolster the findings he sent for Fairchild before he could leave for New Orleans, and in the vicinity of Elinor Steelgrave, that could be done at another time after this meeting with Elias himself.   It was like hedging his bet on the situation. He wanted Elias to meet the man who could explain what was in the file in detail, much better than he himself.  might be able to. Nothing like being prepared. Elias could be unpredictable when upset, if a man like Fairchild explaining what he had found could manage to keep Steelgrave manage-ably clam then the expense was worth it to all concerned.   He had to congratulate himself on the idea. It just might work!
    • List in hand, they made their way back to town and to the Anderson's Mercantile where they laid out their list of needs. John and Mary Agnes looked over the list and began adding prices, plus shipping where it was warranted.   "So, you're in the mining business Marshal?" John asked.   "We are." Alice replied with a wide proud smile on her face. Speed just looked at her.   "Amos here found a property to good to pass up, so I bought it myself." Speed said, "Actually two properties, the other on is off to the west, but this one is just north of the Evergreen Ranch a couple of miles."   "Ah that would be the Henshaw mine. Sad about his wife passing on so suddenly. Life can be hard out here, it was just too hard for Martha Henshaw, though she tried as hard as anyone could." Mary Agnes said. "Most all of what you have here we have in stock. Most all of this was on Henshaw's list as well, he just quit before he paid for it. I believe we can give you a good price on the machinery out back. Right John?"   "Yes we can, The fact is Speed I'll let you have it at our cost, plus the shipping expenses, of course. Be good to free up that room back there. Let me see here at my cost, yes, well, it looks to be just under three thousand dollars, without the things we have in stock that wasn't Henshaw's."   Fair enough John, and we appreciate it. Now, if you'll let me get up to the bank, we want to use their money until we get started, and then we'll settle up."   "Makes sense to me, it's what we did. Hated those monthly payments, but it worked for us." John agreed.   "We'll be back." Speed promised.

A Chance Encounter

Robert Cullen

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Originally published on Sat Dec 23rd, 2017 @ 12:28am


Robert didn't spend a lot of time in town, not because he didn't like the place but because he lived a few miles outside of the community and that was also where he spent most of his daylight hours panning for gold. Just once he had gotten a small amount of the precious stuff sifted from a creek bottom, but that gave him only enough money once he exchanged it to tide over his personal expenses for a few weeks. No, the idea was to strike it rich so there was nothing he could do but keep searching. On this day though, he had stopped in at the General Store to buy some more beans and salt pork. He had eyed the coffee but decided it was too expensive when he could drink water for free. Someday though. 

On his way back to where his mule, Abercrombie, was hitched up the young Irishman paused for a brief second to peek into the local saloon. It was so tempting to take what few coins he had left and buy himself a drink....just one drink. His father had drank himself to death, in the end, so liquor was not unknown to him naturally enough, and on occasion, he did imbibe, but fortunately, he was not an alcoholic and really didn't wish to go down that downward spiraling road.

"Hey, get outta the way or go on in, make up yer damn mind," came a harsh voice behind him.

Robert turned to see a man probably a good five-six years older than he wearing one of those blacksmith aprons with rolled-up shirt sleeves showing thick arms. He was dirty and sweating no doubt from engaging in some blacksmithing just prior to heading for this place. The man had a scraggly red beard, shorn red hair, hard eyes, and a few missing teeth in that big mouth of his. He was obviously in a bad mood.

"Beggin' me pardon," Robert excused himself in that Irish accent of his, granted he had lived most of his life in the states but around his family they'd still were greatly influenced by the parents who had spent a large part of their lives in the home country, Ireland.

The young drifter stepped aside, having decided he would not take a drink this day, mostly decided by this surly fellow's attitude. The man glared at him though instead of walking into the saloon.

"Oh lordy, have we got us yet another damn Irish in town? Whole country is overrun with you sorts," he snarled.

Robert had no idea why exactly all the hostility but on the other hand he had run into such before throughout his travels. Some folks seemed to have it in for the Irish in particular amongst all the immigrants. Maybe because there were so many of them? 

"I don' be livin' in town, but if I did, there would be no law agin' it, would there?" Robert was shorter and lighter than this fellow, but that didn't mean he was afraid of the man.

The redhead took that as a challenge, maybe it was too, "Don't you go jawing to me, you little bastard or I'll take you and stuff your Irish carcass in that there barrel."

He pointed a meaty finger to some empty barrel in the nearby alley then instantly followed that up with a one-handed push into Robert's chest.

"Tell me.....you take after the animals you work with, do ya? You sure do remind me of a jackass," Robert stood his ground but tensed for what he was quite certain would be the hothead's reaction.

Sure enough, it was on now, neither were about to back down.

"Step in that alley, Papist, and I will learn you a hard lesson in manners," the smith snapped.

"If you be insistin' then, let's do it," Robert flashed a defiant smirk then the two of them left the front of the saloon to end up facing each other in the alley.

The blacksmith threw off his apron and readied himself, "I'm gonna enjoy this."

Robert assumed a fighting stance, fists up in front of his face, "Is this a fight or a conversation...mate?"

For the moment neither of them noticed they had attracted an audience of one in the alleyway entrance.

Cecilia walked through the market, basket in hand. The manager of the general store had promised her the delivery of more spices today, and she didn't want to miss out. They had long since run out of cinnamon and nutmeg in their larder, and the sugar was dwindling as well. She had promised her Pa an applesauce cake to go with supper, and she wasn't about to disappoint her daddy.

The footpath boards echoed beneath her heeled boots as she followed the course toward the general store. She slowed her pace as she came upon the saloon, desperate to get a look inside. However, the sound of a scuffle nearby drew her attention instead. Quietly, Sissy peeked around the corner into the alleyway. 

Her eyes widened, and a gasp escaped her as she viewed the scene. "That ain't a fair fight!" she cried out before she could stop herself. She clapped her gloved hand over her mouth to stifle any further outbursts. The burly, tawny-haired man looked as if he might clobber the other once and that would be the end of him. 

She doubted either would pay her any mind as they both made ready to tear the other apart.

There was a startled female voice then, both mens' eyes swiveled to the alleyway entrance, and there was a well dressed young lady with a gloved hand over her mouth, no doubt shocked at this sight of conflict. Robert couldn't help but smile at her, even at this instant sighting he could see she was around his age and quite fetching to gaze upon too.

"Don' worry yerself none, miss, I'll be tryin' ta go easy on 'im," he declared.

That quip cost him though as the blacksmith's assistant took advantage of his opponent's distraction to land the first punch, a solid jab right to Robert's face. The young Irishman recoiled back and could already feel the blood coming from his nose. Seeking to press his advantage the other bigger man began throwing more punches. A few Robert blocked, especially an attempted haymaker to his face but a couple others hit him with brute force in the ribs and shoulders. Robert knew it was time to stop taking it and start dishing it out.

Of course, Cecilia was going to worry! The brute was going to maul the Irishman, and she couldn't do a thing to stop it. 

She shouted for the man to watch himself, but it was too late. The burly man landed a punch. 

"Stop it! Both of you!" she cried, stepping into the alleyway. Her hands had balled into fists so tight that she cracked the woven handle of her basket. 

Sissy stomped her foot indignantly as the men, the brutish one especially, refused to listen. It was with great frustration that she did the unthinkable. She chucked her basket straight at the large man's face and hit him square in the nose. 

"Wha?" the blacksmith's assistant wasn't hurt by the wicker basket, but it did serve a purpose as it was just enough distraction to give Robert the opening he was looking for and he did not miss his golden opportunity either. First, he lashed out with a hard jab into the man's face then followed up with a step forward and planted a completely unexpected knee right between his opponent's legs. Stunned and in pain, the man dropped to his knees his hands going down, way too late, to protect his aching groin. Robert wasn't quite finished yet though. Given his fighting experience, you keep on your opponent til it's clear cut he's down, and it's finished. He aimed a roundhouse right and connected with the fellow right in the side of his face. The man crumpled into the alley, down and out. The fight was over just like that.

Rubbing his knuckles from that punch, Robert paused to assess his opponent's condition, the guy was still breathing, thank the Lord. It was time to clear on out of the alley, but first, there was the young woman to address as he turned to face her.

"Sorry, miss...you hadda see that. Jus' wanna say I dinna start it is all," he wanted her to know, as he now wiped his still bleeding nostrils with the sleeve of his shirt, the blood had spattered over the front of his shirt too. But the nose didn't feel broken, so he figured he got off lucky.

"Nice throw," he added with a grin.

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