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    • "We'll have to get on over to the dinning room them. Afraid it's liable to be a bit more like Kalispell than Frisco." He said. "But it'll be good food, just not what we've been used too. Will be up on the hill, for sure.  I was told this is the best hotel because it was a ways out across the river from town, and it was solid built."   "The wealth on the hill is such that all most everything around it is growing at a fast pace. You'll really see that when we visit the Capitol, Carson City. Supposedly discovered by Kit Carson and General John Freemont on their way to Sacramento in. At least Freemont named the river after him back in '43 or '44. Nothin' was there then."   "All that made me hungry too, let's go eat an then take us a walk across the river, or along it, which ever you want." @Bongo
    • That did not take long. Cookie rang the triangle and shouted his best but in the end he sent the kid to roust all but the closest to him. Rance joined young Wheeler in the line, a bit out of the wind, but mostly in it for the moment. It seemed calmer up by the wagon.   "That had ta be bad back there. The wind drivin' the dust an' the smell, but should this wind let up you'll be on flank, left flank, then right, then back to the drag. It'll be me, Dallas, an' Dixie. eatin' dust tomorrow. But at least we got hot grub, won't always be that'a way out here though, every trip is different."   And they moved up steadily. @Bongo
    • "Nothing to discuss? I am surprised, Jonah. Why, if we have time for breakfast, there will be much to discuss regarding the hospital as well as the start of the orphanage. Hopefully that the railroad will be completed, or close to it by then." She smiled brightly. "Things will be different by then."   "My hope is that we get through all of this without my fathers interference causing delays, or real problems with the builders. You know we could get well into October before the snow flies, but I'm not counting on that. The winter will stop construction until the thaw." She stated, but the smile was still there, "But it will be well underway!" @Bongo
    • "Pleased ta meet ya, Rance."  Justus gave the man a nod, then lined up with the others for grub.  Maybe he could get some sleep despite the wind.  He surely was tired enough, and until there was something that concerned him, he didn't need to be concerned.   First, though, a full belly!  As the line progressed, he he nodded to the kid who was the cook's help.  "Times like this, I bet yer glad ya don't have ta be on th' downwind end of a herd'a cows!"   @Flip
    • "It's good to know you'll have the best working on the project, you've come this far, you don't need to risk the quality with less than the best working on it."  Even though he had no doubt that the crew would be excellent, it was reassuring to know that the man hand picked for the job would actually be on site overseeing it.  That way, too, he'd be there if Leah needed to discuss anything with him, and Jonah had a good feeling that was going to happen!   He grinned and took a sip of coffee.  "Just think, this time next year it will all be over!  We'll have a fine hospital with the best equipment...and nothing to discuss over breakfast!"   @Flip  

Welcome Basket with Cattle


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The day had started off normally enough for the Redmond family. The weather was typical July warm but not scorching, it helped there was some cloud cover, and a light breeze also took the edge off the temperature. It was just another day of chores, getting this newly purchased homestead of theirs up and running was a lot of hard work. The general store had extended credit to Aurelian and better supplied now, they at least did not have to worry about the necessities so much and could concentrate on getting this place to turn them some profits. The previous owners had already planted a sizeable garden out behind the cabin, though in Clara's opinion they had not been diligent about keeping it properly weeded. That would be her job on this day while Aurelian and Wyatt went into the closest woodline to chop some trees for various uses from firewood to some possible fencing.

Clara had just about weeded half the garden by early afternoon and had stepped away to take a dipper of cool well water from the bucket and quench her thirst. Despite her sweating profusely, she had kept on her brown dress and also a wide-brimmed hat too, to keep off the direct rays of the sun. Hanging from a belt was a canvas sack, within was her father's 1851 Dragoon Colt. Aurelian had the more modern revolver with him, but given their past experience, he was not about to leave the girl, even for this short while, unarmed. It could be a cruel world, they knew it as well as any frontier folks.

That's when she heard some bovine bellowing in the back. Now they did have a single milk cow but she was in the shed at the time, it couldn't be her. Letting the dipper drop back into the bucket, Clara made a dash around the cabin to see what was going on. She stopped dead in her tracks when she spotted the problem. No milk cow, no these were range cattle, steers and no doubt from one of the two neighboring ranches that their property was sandwiched between or so her father had explained. And these big stupid beasts were now tramping onto the garden in their moronic wandering!

Clara reached for the hoe she had leaned against the back wall of the cabin and charged the big creatures, "Scoot! Get outta here! Go away!"

She had a mind to pull out the gun and shoot a few to teach them a lesson. But she wasn't quite sure that would be legal. Lucky for the steers.

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Shade guided his big smoky dun gelding along the trail toward Kalispell at a slow jog. Every now and then he would twist around in the saddle to make sure a large wicker basket tied precariously behind the saddle was still secure. He was less than thrilled about being given the task of delivering the welcome basket to the homesteader that Laura had met in town, but he was also too well-mannered to argue with the older woman when she set him on the task.

A short distance from where Lost Lake Trail intersected the main road to Kalispell, he spotted the trail that angled off in a northerly direction. It would have been a much shorter ride had Shade just cut across Thornton's Meadow and followed one of the game paths onto the Redmond farm. Considering that to be very rude, he opted for taking the long way around. It wasn't long before he came to a gate set into a fence across the trail. Leaning down, he caught the lever and sidestepped Lakota through it, making sure to close it behind him. The hinges creaked, and the gate seemed to sag a bit. He wondered if he should ask about sending some of the ranch's men over to help mend it.

The trail wound through the rolling meadow, and for a bit, Shade forgot about the onerous task he was on. The day was beautiful, and so was the landscape. As his horse topped a low rise, he spotted the farm and its main outbuildings. As he got closer, a commotion from the rear of the house caused him to slow Lakota to a walk and guide him around the side and to the back. He blinked at the scene of mild chaos. A girl of maybe fifteen years of age was attempting to drive several large, bad-tempered steers out of the garden. The cattle, accustomed to being herded by dogs or riders on horseback, were not cooperating. Shade almost physically moaned as one of the animals broke past where he sat his horse. The brand on its haunch was the distinctive LLbrokenH of Lost Lake Ranch.

"Hey!" Shade called to get her attention. At the same time, he pulled the ties loose on the welcome basket, grabbed it and leaned down from the saddle to drop it gently on the ground. This was followed by the canvas sack of items that Laura had sent along with the reusable basket. "Brandishing garden utensils won't get you anywhere." He backed Lakota up and pulled his lariat free of its loop.

clara.jpgAlready both spooked and angered by this bovine invasion of her lovely garden, the girl practically jumped when a man's voice (a stranger at that) barked out from behind her. Instantly Clara spun about to see some mounted cowpoke no doubt angry that she might actually scare his stupid cows! What was he doing? She couldn't quite tell what sort of equipment he might be dropping onto the ground but no matter, instantly the girl knew she had to spring into action to defend herself. She dropped the hoe at her feet as both hands went for the canvas sack on her hip.

Clumsily at first, she struggled to open it enough so she could stick her right inside and get a firm grasp on the heavy pistol within. Then she gave it a tug...got it caught for just a second before the long barreled Colt Dragoon emerged. The cowboy hadn't noticed yet as he was going for his lasso, no doubt he was planning on tossing that over her and dragging her around for his merriment just like that dime novel she had read last year where the villain seized the helpless young miss. Well, she wasn't helpless as this jasper would soon find out!

Holding the big gun in both hands now she raised it up and leveled it at the invader, then used her thumb to cock it, so it was ready to fire in case she really had to.

"Alright mister, you drop that rope and don't try anything foolish, or I will shoot you off that fine horse of yours!" she shouted, hoping her voice sounded as fierce as her pugnacious spirit.

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Shade tensed and let his hand holding the lariat drop although he did not drop the rope. He kept both hands well away from his guns, the six-gun on his hip and the Winchester 1873 in its saddle scabbard. Lakota continued to watch the bellowing cattle but was too well trained to move when his rider was not telegraphing signals with his hands or legs. However, his ears moved back and forth as he sought to catch all the noises in the area.

Still wary and not fool enough to assume that just because the girl was young that she had no idea how to use the gun in her hands, Shade nodded toward the milling cattle. "I'm from Lost Lake Ranch. That beef carries our brand. I'm going to get them out of your garden." And, he thought, providing I'm not shot, I'll be telling Laura Hale what she can do with her welcome baskets in the future. "Mrs. Hale asked me to stop by and bring some things for the Redmonds."

Hell, Shade thought, the garden utensil brandishing, gun-toting teenage may have already dispatched the Redmonds.

Just as she figured, those fourlegged vandals were some of his. He claimed he was going to take care of them too. She almost asked him why then did he allow them here in the first place, but he'd just lie anyhow. He also mentioned Mrs. Hale too. And even more, he knew their family name. That gave her pause, but she did not take her finger off of the trigger, though continuing to hold up the heavy horse pistol level was becoming a bit of a strain.

"So you say, mister! Hardly means it is the truth. After all, I could say I know President Grant but doesn't mean I actually do now," she pointed out with what she believed to be firm logic.

"Also we did not enter into any bargain or purchase with that woman," she also added, so he would realize she caught him outright in a baldfaced lie.

Shade practically snorted his derision at her logic. "Mrs. Hale is a good woman. You did not have to enter into a purchase agreement for her to send what she calls housewarming gifts." That was about as much explaining as Shade was inclined to do at the moment. "Now, you can take a look in the basket and the sack, but unless you plan on shooting me in the back, I'm gonna move that beef away from the back of your house and out to the meadow where I can pick 'em up on my way back to the LLR." Shade shifted his weight and gigged Lakota into a walk, planning on guiding him around the recalcitrant girl.

So it was a welcome basket? She had heard of those of course, not that the family had ever been on the receiving end of one but still. Her resolve was weakening, just maybe he wasn't actually the threat she had figured him for. Slowly she began to lower her pistol as she searched for the right words to say next. He was moving closer but intended on going right past her to begin round up the cattle or leastwise that the man's declared intentions. Her keen eyes studied the man's features as he came closer.

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Wait a minute! That face seemed sort of familiar, like she'd seen him or a close likeness anyhow previously? Then it hit her. He sure looked like a particular wanted poster she had once gazed at in some Dakota town they had been traveling through. The face on that poster belonged to a man wanted for armed robbery or murder or something of that ilk. Yes, that man would fetch reward money. Here her father was desperate for any money he could lay his hands on, and this could be the ticket right here in front of her!

"Hey, slow down, mister! I think I know you....I mean I've seen your face before......you're wanted by the law!"

Up went the pistol again as she took a few steps to keep abreast of him, she was close enough even a half blind person would fail to miss this point blank shot.

"You stop, or I'll shoot you, I mean it!" she assured him with deadly serious intent.

Shade had had about enough of the stray cattle, the girl, her gun and ferrying welcome baskets for a decidedly ungrateful recipient. He made as if to pull rein, but at the last minute, he launched himself in a dive off the horse. His body slammed into the girl's, his momentum carrying them both to the ground.

So it seemed like she had him pegged alright and also he was fixing to cooperate too, Clara relaxed ever so slightly. Big mistake! Suddenly it all happened before she could react, his adult-sized self hurled down upon her from above and hit her harder than she had ever been tackled before. Of course, her previous melee experience was her little brother's playful wrestling when she was younger. Down she went hard onto her back and butt, she lost the grip on the heavy Dragoon which clattered on the ground a few feet away, fortunately unfired.

Shade rolled to get his weight off the girl, trying to pin her flailing arms and kick the heavy pistol further away all at the same time. A couple of her blows managed to land, giving him a bit of a cuff to the head. He grunted, "Settle down, you little wildcat. I'm not gonna hurt you."

Clara was having none of it, flailing away with both fists as she tried to prevent him from pinning her arms because then she would be doomed. She also made one last appeal to reason, "Lemme go! If you surrender now, I promise you I will put in a good word to the law, and they might not hang you." Though she highly doubted, this one was a ruthless blackheart.

"Owww! Now, just stop it," Shade said, his eyes watering a bit where the girl had managed to land a blow to his nose. He was hampered by not wanting to hurt her and wanting to keep her hands away from his gun or the one she had dropped. Finally, he caught her wrists and pinned them firmly to the ground. "Quit, and I'll ease up...that's gotta hurt, and I don't like hurtin' little girls."

Clara struggled until the last second, but she found herself pinned to the ground. If he thought his tight grip might be hurting her the man had no idea of the sort of pain this girl had endured the last time she was attacked. A couple of last grunts and gasps to free herself failed miserably before she stopped then, glaring up at him as she took a few heavy breaths.

"I am NOT a little girl, mister," she wanted him to know then sighed, "I will stop." She hated that word 'quit', no sir, she didn't quit on anything.

"I'm gonna let you go, and we're gonna get to our feet," Shade said, still glaring a bit. He kept a good grip on her, as he climbed to his feet and pulled her up with him. Moving fast, he reached out to scoop up the Dragoon and tuck it in his belt. "Now, I ain't sayin' you didn't see a wanted poster on me. But I was cleared of those charges in Willow, Colorado."

He was dictating the terms now as he got up and pulled her up next to him, Clara did not resist as she had given her word. Her father had taught her it was very important in this world to keep your word when you give it. She watched as he deftly stole her pistol even as he tried to explain to her the circumstances of that poster. 

She huffed in derision at his story. "I hardly imagine no one but an idiot would admit his guilt and while I am certain you are quite the lout, you do not seem slow-witted," she replied, quite the concession actually, coming from someone like her.

Shade stepped carefully away from her and out of range, leaning down in a smooth motion to pick up his hat and replace it on his head. "Well, your opinion on my guilt or innocence ain't gonna lose me any sleep." He paused, "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Clara watched him pick up his hat then glanced at her own still on the ground as she responded to his question, "I am a good deal more sturdy than you appear to imagine me. So....no, you did not hurt me."

She crossed her arms then and threw in a comment, "A gentleman would pick up a lady's hat you know."

"A lady wouldn't try to shoot a man who was just payin' a neighborly call," Shade shot back at her. Still, he admired her grit so leaned down and picked up her hat, offering it to her.

"I could hardly be expected to believe such a story coming from a man whose cattle were trampling my garden and whose past had earned him a wanted poster for his misdeeds," Clara smirked, with her sharp tongue she actually enjoyed a good argument as she then waited for him to extend her hat. "Thank you," she had been taught her manners.

"You're welcome. Why not go see what Mrs. Hale sent you and I'll get the cattle out of your garden?" Shade offered with a smile. "Then, if you don't mind, I could use a drink of water. It's hot work wrangling a teenaged girl, even one as slight as you are."

Slight? Was he saying she was scrawny? Clara was rather touchy about her womanly frame or rather lack of thus far, she was sadly flat as a board but had her hopes for the future. Other than that thinly disguised insult of his, the man was willing to help with one big issue, removing those disgusting steers. Plus, indeed she was curious about what that Mrs. Hale had brought them....well, unless the man was lying, and there some big rattlesnake in there or something? She doubted it though.

"Very well, wrangle something other than a young lady, and I will allow you a drink from our well. Your fine horse too if you wish."

She could be nice............sometimes.

Shade risked turning his back on the girl, then turned around again, "Hey, tigress, what's your name?"

Tigress? Clara blinked. A second to consider though and she decided that really wasn't an insult though. As she plopped her hat back on, she answered, "Clara...Clara Redmond, daughter of Aurelian Redmond."

"Howdy, Miss Redmond," Shade tipped his hat to her and leaned down to pick up his lariat. Grabbing Lakota's reins, he grabbed the horn, gave a slight hop and pulled himself up, expertly sliding his foot into the stirrup. Coiling his rope, he held it by the loops, shaking them out just enough so he could use it to move the cows away. Lakota needed only a slight signal for him to go to work, pushing the recalcitrant creatures out and away from the Redmonds' house and garden. Once the steers were well away and actually meandering off into the meadow, Shade turned his horse and cantered back.

Clara watched him for a moment, it was quite amazing how the cattle responded to him and his well-trained horse. One thing he definitely hadn't been lying about, he was a ranch hand alright. Of course, that didn't mean he couldn't be an outlaw to boot. And a liar...of course. Still, there was enough doubt now that Clara's temper was cooling a bit. But her curiosity remained so she went over to the basket he had set onto the ground, kneeling she opened it. It was filled with lots of niceties from soap to food both dried and jarred. It had been a very nice thing for that Mrs. Hale to do and though the cowpoke might not agree, Clara was not an ungrateful person. He was riding back then, his mission accomplished and the cattle off in a nearby meadow. She took the basket by its handle and met him at the well. 

Reining in, he dropped to the ground near the well. "If you promise to not try and shoot me again, I'll give you back your pistol," Shade told Clara as he availed himself of a dipper of water, enjoying its cool sweetness.

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The man was taking his promised drink from the bucket's dipper, and while he did so, he offered to return her pistol, long as she gave her word not to shoot him. Clara thought that an unnecessary condition but nodded, "I looked at the welcome basket, it is as you said it was. And you did chase those beasts away from the garden....though damage has been done....so you are quite safe from being shot by me. I am quite different than the bloodthirsty sort of outlaws you apparently hung about with."

"Also, I would like to point out that a gentleman caller would give a lady his name especially since he now knows hers," she pointed out solemnly.

Shade sputtered, nearly snorting the water he'd been swallowing. He hung the dipper back up and looked at the girl, torn between astonishment and amusement. "I'm Shade Thornton, owner and foreman of Lost Lake Ranch." Technically, he was only half-owner but did not want to set his little niece and nephew up for trouble. Right now, the fewer strangers knew about their situation, even teenaged ones, the better. "The LLR will reimburse you for the damage if you'll draw up an accounting of your losses."

Clara frowned when the man almost spit up the water, there was nothing wrong with the well water. 

"Shade? What kind of name is that?" her usual bluntness came out. As for the accounting, she would handle that part alright, she'd have to write up something very specific.

"The kind of name I was given by my mother," Shade retorted good-naturedly. Leaning a hip on the edge of the well's enclosure, Shade studied the girl for several moments, "Since our cattle caused the damage, I can come back in a couple of days and help put things to rights as much as possible." Shade nodded toward the sack laying next to the welcome basket, "We had to slaughter a heifer yesterday that broke its leg. Mrs. Hale sent you the haunch and the hide. It'll keep for a while in a spring house or smoked. I can get it started smokin' for you if you want me too, Miss Redmond."

Before Clara could reply to that her attention was distracted by the approach of a buckboard wagon with none other than her father and little brother on it, in the back was a load of freshly chopped wood. Aurelian, of course, had spotted his daughter and some cowboy standing there talking by the well. He could not help but wonder what that was all about. Wyatt no doubt felt the same.

"Who's that, Pa?"

"I do not know, son. We shall very soon find out I suppose," the man calmly replied.

"That is my father, Mr. Thornton, it may be a good idea to give me back my father's pistol now," Clara pointed out as the wagon closed on them.

"Or maybe I should just hold on to it and give it to your father," Shade replied, raising one eyebrow at the girl, a grin pulling at his lips. "After all, he's not tried to shoot me yet."

"You offered to give it to me but fine, go back on your word," the girl shrugged, "And if you mean to get me into trouble, I do not think that will happen."

"Hello!" Aurelian called out as he set the brake on the wagon then clambered off the vehicle, Wyatt beat him to it landing in one jump on his feet, his eyes riveted on the newcomer. 

He stepped toward Shade then, "Good day to you, sir. Do what do I owe the pleasure of this visit of yours?" It did not get by his notice about the Colt Dragoon in the man's possession, sure looked like his piece. He also exchanged a silent glance with his daughter and was relieved she did not seem neither alarmed nor afraid.

Shade straightened and gave the older man a respectful nod and tip of his hat. "Hello, sir. I'm Shade Thornton from the Lost Lake spread, your neighbor to the west. Mrs. Hale asked me to ferry a welcome basket over for you and your family." He paused and waved a hand toward the meadow beyond the house, "I'm afraid some of our cattle strayed onto your property. I've asked Miss Clara for an accounting of damages."

"Mr. Thornton," Aurelian nodded back, "They did huh? That'll happen I reckon."

He glanced at Clara again, wordless communication between them. Clara nodded affirming the man's version. Fair enough. 

"Mrs. Hale is a wonderful lady I must say, tell her thanks from us. Clara, we must write her a proper thank you note," he added.

"We meaning me," Clara commented dryly.

"You have the best penmanship," the father smiled.

Pulling the Dragoon from his belt, Shade offered it back to Clara. "This was dropped in the confusion," he added to Mr. Redmond. He would leave it up to the girl to tell her father what she wanted him to know. "I apologize for the trouble, Mr. Redmond."

Clara accepted it, of course, a bit of surprise showing on those youthful features of hers, "Thank you."

"Rather careless of you, child. Handling firearms is a serious business," Aurelian chided her but in a gentle tone. 

"Girls," Wyatt grinned, enjoying anything that might embarrass his know it all sister. 

Clara just forced a wan smile and inwardly seethed.

"Oh, Mr. Thornton, this is my son, Wyatt, he and I were chopping wood in the treeline out to the west," Aurelian introduced his youngest.

Wyatt was a happy go lucky boy and grins came easily to him, quite the opposite of his all too often dour older sister, "Howdy, mister. You sure got a nice horse. And is that one of those Winchester rifles too?" 

He pointed to the weapon sheathed next to the saddle. Wyatt had a boy's fascination with both horses and guns especially since he didn't own either.

"Hello, Wyatt," Shade said affably. "Right on both counts. The carbine is a Winchester 1873. You have a good eye for horses too. That's Lakota, one of the best stock horses I've ever owned. If you ride and it's okay with your father, you can trot him around the yard." He looked at Mr. Redmond with raised eyebrows, asking permission on the boy's behalf.

Wyatt looked excited as he glanced up at his father, but Aurelian shrugged, "Thank you for offering, kind of you, but I think I shall have to say 'no' at this time."

The boy looked crestfallen but knew enough than to argue with his father.

"Wyatt has been on a horse with me on occasion, but he does not really know how to ride yet. That day will come of course but right now I ....we simply cannot afford any injuries or accidents. And you know as well as I, Mr. Thornton, there are no guarantees once a person climbs aboard a horse. Even the best ones can get skittish or worse if something goes wrong," Aurelian explained.

"Sorry, tiger," Shade said to Wyatt. "Maybe next time I stop by."

Wyatt wasn't happy but took it like a man, "It's alright, mister."

He sincerely felt bad to have gotten the boy's hopes up. Shade gave a rueful mental shake of his head. Seemed he was putting his foot wrong with every member of this little family. He turned his attention back to the man. "I don't know what Laura sent in the basket, but there's a side of beef in the sack. Had to slaughter a heifer yesterday that broke her leg. Smoked or dried, it should last awhile."

"Oh, well, some more generosity. I appreciate it, we can certainly use the food, to be honest. God willing, come this time next year we shall be quite self-sufficient but in the meantime, starting over like this......well, it is certainly a challenge. One we will weather, isn't that right, children?" Aurelian declared.

Wyatt just nodded, still wishing for that horse ride, but Clara gave a confident, "Yes father."

"So your place then...what direction is it from here?" Aurelian asked.

"What little of our boundary butts up to your property line is slightly north and west. If you follow the road west past your gate, you come to our main gate," Shade answered. "Guess I better get those cows moving. I'll have some of our hands look for the break in the fence and get it mended. Sorry for the trouble."

"Ahh, I see," Aurelian nodded at his directions then waved his hand in dismissal, "No apology needed. We can't help where animals choose to wander. Thank you for coming to fetch them...and bringing us Mrs. Hale's kind gifts."

Aurelian had his pride, but he decided he wasn't going to turn down the man's offer to have the ranch fix the break in the fence, he had enough other things to do with this still new property.

Catching Lakota's reins, he led the horse a couple of feet away so that it wouldn't walk on anyone as he mounted. Grabbing the saddle horn, he pulled himself partway up and slipped his foot into the stirrup, settling easily into the saddle. "Miss Clara, I'll come back by for the accounting of damages in a day or two. If you folks need anything, please let us know."

"Yes, Mr. Thornton, I will have it ready, and it will be a fair accounting," Clara assured the man.

"Bye!" Wyatt smiled as he waved. 

Once the cowboy was out of hearing, Aurelian remarked, "Right nice fellow as is Mrs. Hale. Seems we have found ourselves some good neighbors."

Clara gave a shrug, "He's....................alright....I suppose."

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