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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

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Everything posted by Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

  1. Rifles do fine. Shotguns do okay. Not great, but okay. Which is why I want to come up with a better way to hold them in.
  2. I think that would be the next logical step. With the pins cleaned it sounds like there's enough gunk in the bores to be an issue.
  3. I'm a Dewalt guy. Replaced some Ryobi stuff with DeWalt a long time ago and haven't looked back. I can afford Dewalt; can't really afford Milwaukee...
  4. What Sam said. Looks like the sour dock that we get around here in wet fields.
  5. The white cat is plumb cool! I love the white cat!
  6. Thanks! So far there's been no issues with weight distribution. I thought that there might be, especially with four guns on board. I put all four guns in it on our front walk and there was no sign of tipping. I think that might be because the forward deck and main box sit pretty close to the front wheel, the guns sit pretty much mainly over the rear axle and the rear box slants down between the rear wheels. Regarding the front wheel: originally the front wheel was set quite a bit further forward, I cut the front wheel frame rails loose and cut them off at the back of the wheel mount then welded the wheel mount directly to the main frame. This shortened the frame length by about 4 inches and made the whole thing more compact. All three tires were flat when I got it, so I Slimed them all and pumped them up. That was a month ago and they're still holding air so I guess that I got them sealed up. Something to remember if your base stroller has inflated/inflatable tires.
  7. My mom-in-law was born and raised in Oregon and she makes killer biscuits. And my ex stepdad's aunt in Missouri made the world's worst biscuits but nobody told her because they were afraid of her...
  8. Charlie MacNeil 11-20-12 "Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?" At the sound of the drawled words behind them, Sheriff and Deputy stopped in mid-stride to whirl as one, stepping apart in a practiced maneuver to spread the potential targets of any possible mayhem that might start. Charlie chuckled. "For whatever reason, it looks like you boys put the fear of God in that drummer or whatever he was," he added, indicating the fleeing reporter's backside as it disappeared into the general store. The Sheriff and Jacob relaxed a skosh when they recognized the source of the words. "A fella could get shot like that," Jacob commented drily. "Ain't my time yet," the ex-Marshal replied simply, stepping down from the saddle of the roan to stretch the kinks of miles of trail from his bones. "'What'd that feller do to get you gents all riled up, anyways?" "He laid hands on Sarah," Linn answered quietly. Charlie stiffened. "And he's still ambulatory?" "Yep. He's leavin' town on today's stage," Jacob answered. "Not unscathed, he ain't," Charlie growled. He led the roan and the two heavily-laden packhorses that trailed the young gelding to the rail in front of the sheriff's office, looped the bridle reins over the bar and turned toward the store. "I'll be back." "Charlie." "What?" "We've already discussed it with him, he's sorry, and he won't be back." "You two are too genteel sometimes. I ain't. Like I said, I'll be back." "Just make sure he can climb into that coach when it gets here, alright?" Charlie turned and gave the two lawmen a cold grin. "Even if I have to carry him there," he said then strode toward the general store. Jacob and the Sheriff exchanged glances of "What's a fella to do?" then turned toward the schoolhouse. Charlie strode hard-heeled into the general store, startling the one-armed storekeeper and the nattily-dressed but rumpled reporter. "Howdy, Charlie!" the storekeeper called, hoping to forestall the thunder clouds that he could see gathering on the ex-Marshal's brow. Unfortunately for the reporter, he was too late. Charlie's calloused hand came down on the tweed shoulder of the reporter's jacket to spin him around. "I want a word with you, my man," Charlie said quietly. The reporter tried to shrug off the contact, but to no avail. He tried for bravado. "And who might you be, sir?" "The schoolteacher's uncle. I understand you laid hands on her." Bravado evaporated like fog under a summer sun. "Er, uhm, that is to say, I, well..." "It would behoove you to shut your pie hole, my friend, before you dig yourself in deeper than you already are. I promised the Sheriff that you'd be on today's stage," he paused, listening to the jingle of the approaching stage. "He wanted you to climb on it under your own power. Personally, I have no qualms against dropping you in a heap on the floor of the coach." His fingers dug into the reporter's shoulder, causing that worthy to wince in pain. "And I don't care how many bones I break in the process. So you would do well to listen." He paused again, gauging the amount of time left before the stage's arrival. "You will, under no circumstances, ever come back to Firelands. You will, at every opportunity you may ever have in the future, do your best to discourage other members of your profession from coming to Firelands. Do I make myself clear?" The reporter nodded vigorously. "I can't hear your head rattle!" Charlie growled. "Speak up!" "Ye, ye, yes, s-s-sir," the reporter stammered. "Good. Now give me your hand," Charlie told him as the stage pulled up out front of the store and the passengers began to debark. The reporter extended his right hand. Charlie yanked hand and arm behind the man's back with his own right hand, grasped a handful of jacket collar with his left, shouted, "Gang way! Important passenger!" and ran the reporter through the door and headfirst into the closed coach door. "Dang! I figured that door would be open," he said without the slightest hint of contrition in his voice as he picked the now unconscious reporter up out of the street by the collar of his jacket. He opened the coach door, slung the unconscious man onto the coach floor and slammed the door behind the limp form. He turned and walked toward his horses, leaving several gaping stagecoach passengers behind on the storefront boardwalk.
  9. Linn Keller 11-20-12 Sarah's voice was gentle as she guided the little girl's hand. "This," she murmured, "is the letter A. See how it's made: we start here" -- the chalk clicked against the framed slate -- "we draw it down and to the side, like this --" Chalk hissed on slate, little flakes falling away and collecting along the bottom of the frame. "Then we start here again, and bring it down, like this." The second leg of the A was made -- a little wobbly, perhaps, and Sarah hesitated for a moment, waiting for the child to recognize what they'd made together. "It still looks a little wobbly," Sarah mused after a moment. "Try running a brace across it ... here." Sarah's finger sketched a line on the smooth, grey slate; the little girl, tongue between her teeth, frowned and carefully, delicately drew the horizontal connecting the two legs. "There!" Sarah said, squeezing the child's shoulders a little: "you did it!" The door opened behind her; Sarah slipped the window-glass spectacles from her face, a quick, sleight-of-hand move, and replaced them with another pair plucked from some concealment about her bodice. "Excuse me," a voice said, "where might one find a rag doll?" "I believe the stove wants for some coal," Sarah said, straightening: she pushed the glasses up into place, turned, her hands folded properly before her. "You might find one in the toy box, yonder," she said pleasantly, gesturing toward the wooden chest with one hand, "though I would hardly think you the type." "I thought," the well-dressed stranger said, "that you might ... know ... someone of that name." Young Master Kolascinski, coal-scuttle in hand, marched industriously past the stranger and out the door, slamming it behind him. "Don't slam the door," Sarah called, then shook her head and sighed. "I'm sorry, sir," Sarah said, "I know every family in the county and every one of their children, but I don't know anyone of that name." "She's supposed to be ... a schoolteacher," the man persisted. "And ... deadly." Sarah smiled almost sadly, peering at the fellow through her thick lenses. "I'm afraid you have been sold the proverbial bill of goods," she said patiently. "Our regular schoolteacher was trampled and is not yet healed, and I am substituting." "Your regular teacher," the man repeated. "May I be so bold as to inquire, where I might find your regular teacher?" "You may not," Sarah said firmly. He took a step closer. "But I insist." Sarah raised her chin. "Children," she said sharply, "behind me, NOW, and to the front of the room!" Every child stood, scampering to the front of the room in what was obviously a practiced and pre-arranged move. "I am not a fighter, sirrah," Sarah said coldly, "and I am nearly blind, but by God! -- if you harm a one of these children, I shall have you before the bar of justice!" I picked up my hat and laid a quick hand on the Kolascinski boy's shoulder: "Well done, son, and thank you." I strode for the open door, my aches and pains set aside. Trouble just walked into the schoolhouse, and every schoolchild in Firelands was in there with it. So was my daughter. I don't run to a gunfight, but I walked fast: I tasted copper and blood sang in my ears and I could almost feel the flap of leathery wings as my old companion Death sailed out of the sky to land beside me. I took the three stairs in one stride and seized the doorknob. The stranger made a quick move toward Sarah's face. Sarah let out a little shriek and flinched back, then felt her face: the stranger had plucked the glasses from her face and fell back a pace, frowning. Sarah's eyes were wide and vacant and she looked suddenly pale, and helpless, and very, very young. The stranger held up the glasses, looked through them, blinking at their heavy distortion, just as the door opened behind him. Something hard grabbed his collar and the man came off his feet: he went from standing on his hind legs to flying through the air in an instant: arms spreading, he didn't have time to exclaim before he landed in the dirt, flat on his back, landing hard and banging his head on the packed ground. A tall, slender man with an iron-grey mustache and ice-pale eyes descended the stairs. He moved slowly, a man in no hurry, a man who knew he was going to have his quarry. The stranger started to scoot backward, clawing at the ground as the pale-eyed fellow reached down and seized him by the front of his coat. The stranger found himself hauled off the ground, hauled off his feet: winter-cold eyes burned into his own and the man with hard hands and a hard glare asked almost pleasantly, "Mister, where do you get off laying hands on my little girl?" "No, no, no," the fellow protested, "I was trying to find the Ragdoll, I'm a reporter, I work for the Intelligencer, I'm following a story --" The Sheriff carried the man across the street, picking up speed until he strode up onto the boardwalk and swung the man hard into the log face of the Sheriff's office. "I don't like strangers asking questions," the Sheriff said quietly. "I won't tolerate a stranger laying hands on anyone in my county. Am I plain enough or would you like me to explain myself?" "You, I, your daughter? -- I didn't know --" "It doesn't matter whose daughter she is," the Sheriff said. "You touched her. You came in without invite and you trespassed and you laid hands on my little girl." The Sheriff's face was pale, taut, utterly without color, the flesh stretched across hatched-sharp cheekbones: he let go of the man's lapel with his right hand, reached behind his own collar and pulled out a thin-bladed knife. "You appear to have shaved this morning," the Sheriff hissed, looking at the blade with wide, almost insane eyes. "A pity. This blade is shaving sharp." There was the sound of a horse approaching, a horse slowing: a familiar voice drawled, "Sheriff, I take it we have something?" "Sheriff?" the stranger squeaked, all thoughts of a successful sighting of tomorrow's sunrise fleeing before his racing thoughts. "I would like you to meet my Chief Deputy," the Sheriff said quietly. "He is also my oldest son, and older brother to the young woman you offended." Jacob froze as his foot hit the ground. He came around beside his father: just as tall, just as slender, just as hard-eyed and just as unforgiving around the eyes, he said "He did what?" in a flat, quiet monotone. "This fellow laid hands on your sister." Jacob reached behind his collar and drew out a slender bladed knife. "Has this man shaved today?" he asked conversationally. "He has." "A pity," Jacob grinned mirthlessly, the baring of his teeth as humorous as a Jolly Roger. There was the rapid patter of running feet, a little boy scampered up on the boardwalk, panting. "Sheriff," he said excitedly, "Miss Sarah would like her spectacles back. She said she is quite blind without them and the pair he took is the only pair she has." "Here," the man blurted, thrusting the eyeglasses out, freezing as two blades descended to his throat, stopping a bare quarter inch from life's pulse pressing against his skin. "No sudden moves," Jacob warned. "Sorry -- sorry -- sorry --" Jacob removed the spectacles from the fellow's trembling trip, handed them to the big-eyed schoolboy: he turned and sprinted back across the street, disappearing into the schoolhouse. The stranger's hand shook as he accepted the heavy glass of distilled corn: he tossed it back, two swallows and a breath, and accepted a refill. "You're not from around here," the Sheriff said conversationally, leaning back against his desk. Jacob slouched against the closed door, thumbs hooked in his gunbelt. "No. No. No. I'm with --" "With the Intelligencer, yes," the Sheriff interrupted, his voice rising. "I don't care if you are with the New York Gold Plated Steamboat and Gum Boot Annual, YOU DON'T WALK INTO TOWN AND START GRABBING SCHOOLTEACHERS, ESPECIALLY MY LITTLE GIRL!" The Sheriff seized the man again, snatched him out of his chair, held him against the wall. "Sir," Jacob offered, "let's not kill him just yet. Why don't we give him a fair trial before we hang him." The Sheriff released the man and let him drop the six inches to the floor: somehow the reporter kept his feet. "SIT!" the Sheriff barked, and the man dropped obediently into the chair he'd so recently vacated. "Now suppose you tell me, first, why you are in town." "I'm following a story," came the uncertain reply. "A story." He nodded. "Back East we heard about the Ragdoll and how she was killed but she came back and saved all those people from a fire in Denver --" "Then why aren't you in Denver?" "Because they never heard of anyone named Ragdoll. Just a schoolteacher who wanted to become a detective." "And you thought my daughter was a likely candidate." The man nodded. "Tell me what you found." The reporter sagged. "The Ragdoll is supposed to have the eyes of the eagle. She's supposed to be able to read a newspaper at twenty feet, fine print at fifteen. This --" he hesitated -- "your daughter -- is nearly blind." "Go on." "But she managed to mountaineer out of a burning building with two men hanging onto her --" "She didn't move well, did she?" Jacob interrupted. "Mister, she wears a leg brace to keep from collapsing. She's been crippled since birth and she can't walk fifty yards without crying with pain. By the time she's done teaching today she'll be so worn out I'll have to carry her out to the buggy and into the house once we get there." The Sheriff built on his son's foundation: Jacob knew the value of the power of suggestion, and he also knew the politician's trick of lying believably: if you are going to lie, tell one hell of a big lie: a small lie will not be believed, but a whopper will be swallowed, hook, line and sinker. "My daughter," the Sheriff said slowly, "will never bear children, which is why she is a schoolmarm at such a tender age. "She is also going blind. The doctors said she would be completely blind by now but she's beat the odds. How, I don't know. "But she was looking at me!" "She saw your silhouette against the lighter door." "The Intelligencer," Jacob said, unfolding a newspaper. "This one?" The reporter looked, nodded. "You left this over at the Jewel. I thought it might be yours. Readin' material is scarce hereabouts and had I not snatched this when I did -- I thought you left it by mistake and came to return it -- why, it would be worn out from being read so much come sundown." "I, um, please keep it," the reporter blurted. "Can I go now?" "Criminal trespass, molesting the Sheriff's daughter, scaring the blue hell out of the entire schoolhouse," the Sheriff said slowly. "Jacob, what does the Judge normally charge as far as fines for such an offense?" "Oh, at least forty dollars." "Forty dollars. I have that," the man stammered. "Per offense." The offender's face fell. "Or you can just get the hell out of my county and don't ever darken our doorstep again." The man shot to his feet like a cork out of deep water and he took a running step toward the front door. Jacob's fist shot out like a striking viper and yanked the man off his balance: pinning him against the door, he moved his nose an inch from the stranger's. "I think you're a liar," he said quietly. "Now suppose you tell me just why you wanted to meet the Ragdoll." "A story, a story, a story," the man stammered. Jacob leaned back, then thrust the man hard against the door, left handed, picking the fellow's elastic sided townie shoes a foot off the tight-fitted boards, and holding him hard against the heavy portal. "Let me put it this way," Jacob said. "Whoever you are after, never existed. Just a story made up to scare children, that's all. Next time you decide to trouble a woman in my county I'll carve my initials on your liver and pole your head on an aspen stake at the city limits for little boys to laugh at and throw rocks at." Jacob looked over at the Sheriff. "Sir?" he asked. "What time is the stage?" The Sheriff looked over at the Regulator clock. "Ought to be here any time." Jacob glared at the prisoner. "Mister," he said, "take my advice and go to the general store and buy yourself a ticket out of here. We keep two graves open for people we have to kill and they're nowhere near full yet." The fellows retreating footsteps were rapid, drumming a panicked tattoo on the board walk, as Jacob closed the door behind him. Father and son appraised each other. "Let's go make sure Sarah is all right." The Sheriff nodded.
  10. Linn Keller 11-20-12 Monday came, frosty and cold, and Sarah's breath steamed behind her as she drove into town. With Emma Cooper not yet returned, Sarah had the full responsibility of every student's learning, and she did not take that responsibility lightly: she'd listed every student, in her mind's eye she stood in front of the classroom and mentally assessed every student's progress, every student's needs: she even considered which students were best able to help their fellows, for, like her father the Sheriff, she well knew the value of recruiting from the Unorganized Militia, so to speak. Sarah handed her carriage and mare over to the good care of Shorty, who was more than pleased to tend this detail: it paid a little, every month, but the man would have done it for free, for who didn't like the attention of a pretty young woman, a woman with bright eyes and a quick smile and a kind word for everyone she met? The smallest Kolascinski boy was waiting for her at the steps and Sarah smiled again, for the lad had a grin, a look of anticipation, and she knew what he wanted: as a matter of fact, most all the students did, and though it was chilly out, the sun was bright, steaming frost off hitch rails and the boardwalks it touched, and the entire student body waited outside, restless, giggling, anticipating Miss Sarah, for like Miz Emma, Miss Sarah was fun and full of surprises. Sarah looked around, smiling, then turned and went into the schoolhouse. Young Master Kolascinski stood, arms folded, like a miniature guardian, in the middle of the steps: his duty was to bar entry from any who might attempt a premature ascent: none of the students truly appreciated the ludicrous nature of his appearance, but the few adults who observed, did. Sarah emerged from the flawless, white-painted double doors, three handbells held like a bouquet in front of her: her hair was in the schoolmarm's severe walnut on top of her head, transfixed by the ever-present, sharply-whittled pencil; her spectacles were run halfway down her nose, her mousy-grey schoolmarm dress properly and modestly styled and fitted: she descended to the second of three steps, as was her custom, and looked around. Sarah and Daciana practiced a variety of arts in the hidden confines of Daciana's circus-tent-sized barn: whether it was knife throwing, trick riding, acrobatics, tumbling, rope climbing or some of the more esoteric varieties of hand-to-hand combat, the two of them kept each other toned and practiced. Sarah was careful never to reveal these personal secrets to the public, for she well knew the value of surprise -- whether in a confrontation, or for entertainment. This morning's revelation was entertainment. The three cast-and-turned brass handbells gleamed, burnished like mirrors, the smooth walnut handles glowed, and Sarah looked over her ever-present schoolmarm spectacles, then raised her chin and asked her children, "Should we ring the bells?" "YES!" came the enthusiastic response from several young throats. Sarah dipped the three bells, then began tossing them into the air. Each bell floated in its arc, turning once, neatly; in an instant, Sarah was juggling the three with what appeared to be a practiced ease: young Master Kolascinski, nearly as tall as Sarah, stood one step below her, a fancied frown on his face, arms crossed, trying to look stern and not succeeding very well: finally he turned and, like the rest of the children, admired the quietly ringing brass waterfall, describing graceful golden arcs, contrasting against the unobtrusive grey of the schoolmarm's dress. The children laughed and squealed and a few clapped with delight; Sarah spun the bells for less than a minute, then caught one and tossed it to her assistant: the other two she caught by the handles, snapped them briskly back toward her shoulders, and once forward. "School is in session!" Sarah declared loudly, happily, and turned to open the doors as young humanity laughed and came up the stairs behind her. I sat down in my office chair. Court would not be for another several days, the jail was empty, I had no pending warrants or summonses: I opened the bottom drawer, took a long look at the bottle, then slid the drawer shut. I was warm enough, I didn't need any liquid fire to heat me from the inside out, and I wasn't hurting as badly as I had been, so I didn't need any liquid anesthetic. The stove cracked and popped as the fire built in its belly. I sat there and smiled, for I'd stopped Cannonball and watched Sarah juggle three brass bells. She had a soft smile about her when she did, like she was lost in the task, and the children were enthralled, entranced, and I could not help but smile inside when I remembered it. Sarah had a gift for reaching the young, a gift for teaching: Emma Cooper was worried, of course, because she was still laid up and healing, but she trained Sarah well, and by all accounts, Sarah was doing a fine job of running the tidy little whitewashed schoolhouse. I looked up as knuckled alarmed the door.
  11. Linn Keller 11-19-12 I still ached. I didn't let that stop me. My hired man was good enough to saddle Cannonball and I thanked him for that kindness but I knew the day was a-comin' when I would have to saddle my own mount again. Up between my ears I knew I wasn't eighteen years old any more. The rest of me ... well, the rest of me was sayin' "You are just now learnin' that?" Still -- it felt good to get back into saddle leather -- Esther had a house full of little girls, all but the little boy and he was too young to know any better, otherwise I would have got him out of that sea of skirts and petticoats and got him out into man's territory. I took a long breath and felt something pop down along side my back bone and felt the better for it, so we turned our noses toward Firelands again, for I had a notion I'd best stop in at the Sheriff's office and take a look around. Tom Landers laughed as he looked at the glass front box. It was hand rubbed walnut and wide as a man's hand-span, and two spans long: inside was the dried, bleached, bare bone of a mule, and the brass plate tacked on the bottom read: JAWBONE OF AN ARSE, FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY, and the box was hung up where Tom Landers usually set of an evening. He'd been presented with -- so far -- a billy, a slung shot, a sap, a war club made of a wagon-spoke with a steel head shrunk on one end; he looked at all these and allowed as he would have to hire a boy to pack all of it around for him, and then Mr. Baxter took him by the arm and discreetly showed him the hidden panel he'd had installed at Tom Landers' parking spot, and Tom Landers laughed again. He proceeded to stack, stash, hang and arrange the various implements of un-gentle persuasion in his hidden cubby, there beside the padded stool he favored, under that jawbone with a little brass hammer dangling from a little brass chain. "I know my face was red," Bonnie continued, her voice low, her eyes bright: Sarah listened, rapt, her lips a little apart, leaned forward, clutching her Mama's gloved hands: she hung on every word, imagining the scene as Bonnie painted it. "Just he and I, alone," Bonnie continued, "and ... I had never ... he ..." Bonnie hesitated, her smile one of maidenly excitement -- "I'd never ... no man had ever ..." Sarah nodded, once, slowly, biting her own bottom lip. "I had never in my life felt in such a ..." Bonnie pulled her hands away, leaned back and took a long breath, collecting herself; she took a hesitant sip of tea, looked at the ceiling, blinking. "He, um, stopped when Mother walked in the room." Sarah's eyes were big and round -- huge, in fact -- her jaw fell open and her mouth was an O of dismay. Bonnie nodded. "My mother's face was red. "She had been ... listening." Sarah's hand drifted up to her mouth and she looked away, then looked back. Bonnie was looking almost sadly at something far away, something only she could see. "What did she do?" Sarah whispered. Bonnie blinked, her eyes bright. "It was the first time I had ever been ... alone ... with ... a man," Bonnie whispered. "I was young, and foolish, and my feelings overrode all sense." Bonnie blinked a few more times, then looked at her daughter and smiled, a secret smile shared only among women. "It was the first time a man ever recited poetry to me, Sarah," she whispered, "and my mother was crying, for she said it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever heard!" Sarah's hands never moved, her eyes never wavered, but she thought of the half-torn page in her bosom, hidden from the eyes of the world, a sheet of words tortured from an unwilling pen, and she knew she had to see the Welsh Irishman again. The Welsh Irishman stood back from the firehouse a little, a polished brass spyglass in hand. He was studying the roof of their firehouse, moving in measured, methodical rows, carefully assessing the health of the baked-clay roof tiles. He heard a horse approach; he paid no attention, for he was on task and concentrating on his work. Finally he lowered the spyglass, blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes. "How does she measure up?" the Sheriff asked quietly. "She's good," the Welsh Irishman nodded, then grinned, holding up the spyglass. "This is easier than a ladder," he admitted, almost ruefully. The Sheriff nodded. "Use-a the head and save-a the back," he intoned solemnly. "Y'know, a wise man said that not long ago," the Welsh Irishman said. "I see you survived after church," the Sheriff said drily. Llewellyn made a face like he'd bit into a green persimmon. "Sheriff," he said, "I don't know what t' make 'a' th' girl." The Sheriff nodded, slouching in the saddle. "She's an angel b'hind those eyes, she's lovely an' she's got a good level head, I'm thinkin' she's strong f'r child bearin', by all accounts she can handle books an' a budget ..." He looked up at the Sheriff. "I don't know ... I tried t' win her heart ..." "Can't do it all at once," the Sheriff smiled tiredly. "A woman's heart is slippery and hard to capture. Was I able to give some good sound advice I'd give it. "You are a good man, Llewellyn. I trust you --" The Sheriff's last words bit off as if he almost said too much. He looked down, then back up. "The faint heart ne'er gained the fair maid," he quoted, then winked: he lifted Cannonball's reins and the mare paced ahead as the Sheriff touched his hat brim. Llewellyn considered this, then raised the spyglass to his eye again and studied the firehouse roof once more.
  12. Linn Keller 11-18-12 It's my own fault for being long-winded, but I lost track of Sarah and the Welsh Irishman: I was busy talking and shaking hands and laughing and by the time I come up for air, why, they were gone, Levi and the Welsh Irishman were headed for the Jewel -- I think they were following Sarah and Bonnie but I'm not sure -- anyway, we ended up with the twins, to Angela's delight, and so we all piled in the buggy and headed home. I reckon I should not write in such a hurry. I meant we ended up with Levi and Bonnie's twins. Ours were still at the house. Esther didn't think it wise to bring them to church. I was of a mind to fetch 'em and have their formal naming ceremony and we had the names all picked out but Esther didn't feel right about it and there is no way in the cotton pickin' I was about to say no to my bride. I am a hard man and I have faced up to and faced down a number of large and angry folk bearing a variety of weapons, but when it comes to Esther's green eyes, why, I've got all the back bone of wheel bearing grease. "Annette?" "Hm?" Annette looked over at her tall, slender husband, smiling a little. Jacob looked over at how Annette's hand rested across her belly. It was something she did unconsciously, but every time she did, she smiled, and his own eyes tightened a little at the corners, the way they did when a smile was hiding behind his face, waiting to jump out like a flower coming to bloom of a sudden. "Do you recall I'd invested some in that stage company down near Taos?" Annette blinked, coming more to the here-and-now; she'd apparently been preoccupied with her own thoughts. "Oh. Yes. I remember now." Jacob grinned. "I sold every share I had in them. Every last one." Annette's face fell and she looked at Jacob with obvious dismay. "But, Jacob --" "And a good thing, too," Jacob continued, grinning. "I sold off and there were some fellows from back East just all on fire to invest in the West. "The boy run up to me when I hung back a little from going up the church steps." He drew a folded flimsy from his coat pocket, handed it to his wife. Annette read it, read it again, her mouth in a little O of surprise, and she handed it back. "I see," she said in a small voice. "That," Jacob declared, "is not the first time I have profited from listening to the Grand Old Man." Joseph looked curiously up at his Pa and Jacob looked down at his son. "Joseph," he said, rubbing his son's head, "I listened to my Pa and sold my shares for a profit. One week later the outfit went bust and out of business." Jacob winked at his boy and little Joseph tried to wink back but couldn't quite manage a true wink, but he did give two for the price of one, as it were. "Joseph, I listened to my Pa, I got out from under a money losin' proposition, I made a profit, and I reckon that's good." "Good!" Little Joseph declared, and Jacob and Annette both laughed. Sarah very carefully, very precisely poured a tiny drizzle of milk into her tea. "This," she said, "is me." Bonnie watched carefully, for she knew this was the time to listen carefully to her little girl. "This," Sarah said, picking up the shining silver spoon, "is how I feel." She dipped the spoon in the tea, gave it a quick half-turn, swirling the milk into a confused whirlpool, streaking round and round the cup: not completely dissolved, but torn, swirled, disorganized. Sarah very carefully, very precisely, placed the spoon down beside her napkin, aligning it most exactly with the napkin's folded margin, and Bonnie recognized the move: it was how the Sheriff placed his pen when he was interrupted: slow, careful, exact, precise and aligned. Bonnie's eyes rose to her daughter's. "Mother," Sarah said quietly, taking a long breath and letting it out, "when riding cross country, one navigates by known landmarks so one does not get lost." Sarah looked up at Bonnie. "Mother, I am riding across unfamiliar country and I don't know any of the landmarks. I'm getting lost, fast. How do I find my way?" Bonnie raised her chin a little, the trace of a smile on her lips: Sarah was struck by Bonnie's beauty, by her dignity, her composure. Bonnie reached across the intimate little table and took Sarah's gloved hand in her own gloved hand. "The first thing one does," Bonnie said quietly, "when in foreign territory, is seek out a native guide." Sarah nodded uncertainly. "Now that you've found one, let me guide you through this confusing time." Bonnie looked at her daughter with a combination of amusement and sadness. "Let me tell you ... let me tell you about my ..." Bonnie's face colored and she smiled a little more. "When I rode into that strange and foreign land, I was your age. Just thirteen. Unfortunately I was not as wise as you and thought I was a woman grown, overnight." Sarah's hand tightened on Bonnie's as she shook her head. "Nonononono," she murmured quietly. Bonnie laughed and wished she could touch her daughter's cheek. "In that," she admitted, "you are wiser than I was." "What was his name?" Sarah whispered, and Bonnie felt a tremor communicated through Sarah's tight-gripped fingers. "His name was Charles," Bonnie said softly, "and he was ... he was a bronze-chested god." This time her blush was absolutely furious, and Sarah's pupils dilated a little to see how her mother's complexion absolutely flamed scarlet.
  13. My sentiments exactly. I own a pair of Crocs and they're plumb comfy, but chicken bucket shoes are just too weird for words...
  14. No french toast, that stuff's bad for ya. Skip that and just fry up some BACON!
  15. I found out that mine was expired when a friend of ours who works for the county saw it on a list and told my wife about it... We're on our own on our driver's licenses too...
  16. In Oregon, at least in my county, it's easy as long as you don't let it be expired for more than 30 days before you get it renewed (guess how I know that! ). If it's not expired you just go in, right them a check, they take yer pitcher, you sign the little pad and they send you a new one in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile you use your receipt as a temporary. If you let it expire, there's a few more hoops to jump through...
  17. Clamp system. I'm going to modify this some time this summer so that they take up less space. Not sure that I'm gonna do just yet. They are clamped to a piece of aluminum conduit bolted between the bars of the frame. The smaller box has my screwdriver set, extra ear plugs, snacks, spare shooting glasses, etc. in it. You can't tell it here but it's sitting in a half box that slants down toward the axle and is screwed to the frame. and to the front deck piece. My umbrella holder. PVC pipe Kind of hard to tell, but the rifles are tucked in between the front of the small box and the slat at the back of the bigger box. Shotguns are set cross-wise in opposite directions.
  18. Linn Keller 11-17-12 The Welsh Irishman, confused, stood and looked at the corner of the building where Sarah disappeared a moment ago. He didn't know whether to feel joy, fear, triumph, loss, success or failure: of all the things she could have said, absolutely nothing she said -- not one word -- was anything at all what he expected. He looked down at the half an apple in his hand, the half with a bite taken out of it. He looked back up toward the corner of the Jewel. Woodenly, slowly, he raised the half an apple and took another bite. Sarah did not care that she was in a fine Sunday gown. Sarah did not care that a lady did not run, that ladies did not run down the main street on Sunday morning with her skirts up and she did not care that ladies did not do anything in public that caused them to breathe hard. Sarah did not care that people were staring -- some smiling, some not -- as she skidded to a fast stop, clutching at Levi's arm to keep from falling. Sarah stopped, straightened, took a deep breath, and addressed her parents. "Please excuse me," she panted, controlling her breathing as she controlled herself. "Mr. Llewellyn is a complete gentleman, and I must return to him, lest he think he is about to be lynched." So saying, she turned and was gone like a shot, pelting hard for the corner of the Jewel, the corner where she'd come streaking around, pale eyed and hard faced. The Welsh Irishman looked up as something with ice-pale eyes and a pale, set face bore down upon him, her rich red gown rippling in the sunlight: the apple fell from his hand as he braced for impact, and impact it was, for Sarah slammed into him at speed, seizing him about the chest, and he found himself obliged to fall back three or four steps to keep from landing on his backside. Sarah clung to him, breathing hard: she'd controlled her breathing while in the public eye, but here, here she labored to satisfy her oxygen debt, and he held her as she gasped and panted and shivered, and he felt the conflicts of protectiveness, confusion and surprise at this ... this ... this confusing, delightful, unreadable, feminine, vigorous, surprising creature that was holding him, holding him tight, holding him like someone who did not want to ever, ever let go. Sarah looked up at him, mouth open, breathing hard, then she laid her head against his chest and started to laugh. "Mr. Llewellyn," she said finally, looking up at him, releasing her embrace about his torso and grasping his upper arms, "I must beg your forgiveness." "I forgive you," he whispered, shaking his head slowly, "I forgive you with all my heart!" -- he reached tentatively for her face, afraid to touch her, but she seized the back of his hand and pressed it against her face, and closed her eyes, and leaned her head into his palm. He felt her shiver. "Mr. Llewellyn," she said, swallowing, "I must guard my heart, for I can be prone to excess." "My dear," he said softly, "it is proper that a young lady guard her heart, for it is a gentle and precious --" "I am not gentle!" she hissed, drawing back, eyes pale and hard: "My name is Death, and I've sent men to HELL!" -- then she let go and stepped back, hands clapping to her mouth, eyes wide, and suddenly she looked like a scared girl, she looked like a confused girl alone for the first time with a man, a girl who just blurted out something so terribly STUPID that he would throw her aside and she would be shunned and she would die a lonely old maid -- The Welsh Irishman's brow knitted and he took two long steps forward and it was his turn to seize Sarah: he took her elbows and pulled her close and said tightly, "I know ye have, lass. Ye are a hard young woman an' ye've taken lives and I don't care!" Llewellyn's eyes were bright and fierce as he glared at the trembling young woman looking fearfully and hopefully up at him. "Ye are a walking contradiction. I canna' figure ye out. Ye are a mystery and a confusion and th' moment I think I'm makin' some sense o' ye -- why, ye change like weather on th' ocean!" "I'm sorry," Sarah whispered, dropping her eyes, then bowing her head. Llewellyn's fingers under her chin were gentle as he raised her face. "Don't you dare be sorry," he whispered. "Don't you dare." Sarah blinked, her eyes bright, and Llewellyn's heart, like men's hearts for centuries and millennia, hissed and shrank and dissolved, for the bright and unshed tears of a woman are a universal solvent, and rare is the heart that is proof against the strength of this mystical solution. "You," Llewellyn whispered, "are," and he bent his head a little, "perfect!" The Welsh Irishman went slowly to one knee. "Sarah McKenna, ye ha'e said ye are not ready," he said, his voice husky. "I learned a long time ago that women are wise creatures, an' I ha' profited by the listenin' to 'em, from time t' time. "In matters o' th' heart women are wiser than men. "If ye say ye are na ready, then I say when ye are, I'll be here, an' th' next time I take a knee, 'twill be wi' ma mother's ring in m'hand." Sarah's eyes were big, one hand was on her bodice: the Welsh Irishman held the other: her breath was coming fast now, she was trembling: gone were the pale, hard eyes, gone was the ice-hard glare: Sarah McKenna, for the first time in her young life, was feeling what it was to be a young woman, a normal young woman, and all the confusion, all the uncertainty, all the longing and propriety warring with desire hit her like Bay of Fundy tide, and she gave a little squeak and fumbled for her lace-edged kerchief. The Welsh Irishman stood and wrapped her in his arms, holding her, and laid his cheek over on top of her head. "What's going on back there?" Levi muttered, glaring at the corner of the building. "Nothing that hasn't happened since Eve took Adam by the nose and dragged him out of the Garden," Bonnie said mischievously. "That's what I'm afraid of," he growled. Bonnie's hand was properly on his arm, but more firm than would appear to the casual eye. "Levi, I trust her," Bonnie said. "If he is in the least bit improper, he will be ... disappointed." "He'd better not," Levi muttered, his hand closing into a fist. "What are they doing?" "Wannus to go look?" Polly offered, looking innocently up at her Papa. "No," Levi and Bonnie chorused, and Levi squatted and hugged the twins to him. "Girls," he said quietly, "when the time comes, promise me you won't go running behind a building with a strange man?" Polly and Opal nodded solemnly. "Is Sawwah in trouble?" "Are you going to spank her?" "Can I have her room?" "I want her room!" "You can have our room! I want her room!" "Ladies, ladies," Levi laughed, "it's far too early to discuss --" "Levi," Bonnie said. Levi stood, looked. Sarah, looking very proper, very ladylike, escorted by a gentleman in a red, bib-front shirt, came around the corner of the Jewel: the two walked with a dignified pace to Levi and Bonnie, and Sarah said, "Mother, Father, may I present Mr. Llewellyn, one of the Irish Brigade, and a gentleman." Levi and Llewellyn shook hands with a half-bow, and the Welsh Irishman took Bonnie's hand and kissed it in a most gentlemanly manner. "Mother, I believe Mr. Llewellyn did ask permission before walking with me," Sarah said, and Bonnie saw just a hint of mischief in her daughter's blue eyes: "it is such a lovely day for a walk, and it is traditional on Sunday, after church, for ..." Sarah opened her mouth and turned a little red, then she released Llewellyn's arm, seized Bonnie by the upper arm and muttered, "You need some tea. Come on." Llewellyn stared after the ladies as they steered a course for the Silver Jewel. "Is she always like this?" he asked slowly, his gaze big-eyed as he looked at Levi. "No," Levi sighed, shaking his head. "Sometimes she's worse." He clapped a hand on Llewellyn's shoulder. "I believe we should get better acquainted, and I understand Mr. Baxter has some beer left." The Welsh Irishman nodded, wondering if perhaps he didn't need something a bit stronger.
  19. Linn Keller 11-16-12 Sarah reached up and twisted the apple a little: it came away in her hand and she said, "Your knife?" The Welsh Irishman blinked, surprised, then thrust his hand into a pocket and came up with a genuine Barlow: he opened the blade, gave it handle first. Sarah split the apple in half with one expert cut, twisted the two halves apart: she handed the knife back to him, then half the apple. "I know the man who planted this tree," she said. "I do too." Sarah looked sharply at the man. "Then you know I planted several more with him." Llewellyn gave her a curious look, frowning a little. "Turn this over," she said, "and look at its skin." Llewellyn turned the apple over, regarded its red skin. "Press on it a little, feel it, smell it. Does it appear ready?" Llewellyn raised an eyebrow, examined the apple, nodded. "Now look at its flesh. Smell it. Does it look ready?" The Welsh Irishman nodded, took a bite, chewing slowly. "Would I be wise to pick an apple that was not ready?" The Welsh Irishman's eyes narrowed slightly, very slightly: Sarah saw it, but only because she was looking for it. "No," he said. "No. It would not be wise." Sarah nodded. The Welsh Irishman wiped the blade on his pants leg, folded the knife, dropped it back into its pocket: Sarah took his arm and the two began walking slowly, heading generally along behind the Jewel. "You said you planted more trees," the Welsh Irishman reminded. Sarah smiled a little, her eyes busy: she looked at the Welshman, and the man's heart was ready to jump out of his chest and lay itself at her feet. "I planted a double row of them," she said, "at my Papa's house, along the creekbank. I spaced them out so I could ride between them, weaving in and out of them at a gallop." The Welsh Irishman smiled, nodding. "I ... I've never ridden," he admitted. Sarah's hand tightened on his arm. "Most people back East can't," she said. "Most people drive, but don't ride." She looked up at him. "I'm dangerous, you know." The Welsh Irishman stopped and turned to face her squarely. Sarah took both his hands in both hers. "You ... dangerous?" the Welsh Irishman asked, his voice soft: he did not sound skeptical so much as curious, the curiosity of a man who just couldn't put the term with the face before him. Sarah nodded. "Let's try something else." She pointed to the field beyond the livery. "Do you see that wheatfield?" "I do." "Wheat is cut when it is ripe, but not before." "That ... would stand to reason," Llewellyn said slowly. Sarah turned back to face the man, her hands tight on his. "Now I must ask you something." Serious-faced, he nodded, slowly: "Anything," he whispered. Sarah held up the torn, folded sheet. "May I read this?" Llewellyn nodded, swallowing. Sarah was watching him, judging the degree of color in his ears, the degree of pupillary dilation; she gauged his hands by their feel, their temperature, their response to her squeeze, her pull, the presence or absence of tremor. She backed up one step, carefully unfolded the sheet, pressed the torn margins together. She read the words, taking her time, then read them again, more slowly: the Welshman followed her lips as they half-whispered the words he'd written by the light of a beeswax candle, words he sought to force to his will, words that would not cooperate until at the very last. Sarah's eyes opened wide and the Welshman saw her eyes, bright beneath long, shining lashes, then she turned those shining eyes up toward him and it felt like a giant was squeezing him around the belly, squeezing the air out of him. Sarah folded the paper again, carefully, as if it were something precious. She slid it into a hidden pocket and raised her fingertips to her lips, blinking. "Do you know," she said behind gloved fingers, then she lowered her hand, "do you know ... nobody ... has ever ... nobody ever wrote me ... nobody ..." Sarah blinked, closed her mouth, opened it again, wet her lips uncertainly. "Nobody ever wrote me a poem before," she whispered, clutching his hand. Sarah threw her head back, taking a long, steadying breath, then looked the man in the eye. "The apple," she said, "was ripe and ready and it was time ... it was time to reach for its beauty, and partake of its bounty." Sarah swallowed and the man felt a tremor in her hands now. "Grain is not harvested until it too is ripe." Sarah looked into the man's eyes, then she jerked her hands free, her eyes wide, almost wild. The Welsh Irishman's eyes widened in response as his heart fell about twenty feet, so convinced was he that he'd just dashed any hopes of the fair maid's hand. Sarah thrust herself hard against him, reached up, seized his face between her hands: she pulled his head down and kissed him, awkwardly, but fiercely, the pushed his face away an inch, pressed her forehead against his. "I'm not ready yet," she whispered, then she released his face and snatched up her skirts and ran as hard as she could around the corner of the Jewel, and out of sight. The Welsh Irishman stood there, still feeling her lips on his, wondering if this is how a man felt when he stood in the middle of a Kansas cyclone. Sean looked up as the door banged open: he rose as Sarah, staggering a little, glared around the equipment bay, then charged him at a dead run. Sarah hit into Sean at full speed, seizing the man by the shirt front: his arms snapped shut around her and he was obliged to fall back a step to keep from being borne over backwards. Sarah shivered in his embrace, then she pulled back a little, looking up at the tall, muscled, red-headed Irish chieftain. She poked a stiff finger into his belly and she was not gentle about it. "YOU," she snapped, punctuating her word with a thrust of her digit, "TAKE" -- poke -- "CARE -- poke -- OF THAT MAN! -- poke, poke, poke -- then she looked around, stood up on a chair, snapped "Too high!" and looked around again: spying a bucket, she turned it over, stood up and found herself at an acceptable height. "I need to know," she hissed, her eyes pale, snapping, bright, "I need to know about Llewellyn. Do you trust him with your life?" "I do," a voice said, and the German Irishman came over, wiping his hands on a rag. "And I have. Are you after marryin' the man, then?" Sarah's glare would have split a boulder right down the middle. "Because if you're no' after marryin' him, I'd like a chance." Sarah's glare was cold: she hopped off the bucket, looked up at Sean, then at the German Irishman. "I," she snarled, "need to rip out some fence posts," and so saying, stomped for the still-open door. The New York Irishman drifted over to the two staring men. "Sean," he asked, "what in the hell just happened?" "I don't know, lad," the big Irishman admitted, "but I think we just had a thunderstorm." The New York Irishman crossed himself. "Do ye think he'll survive?" Sean and the German Irishman looked at one another, then at the New York Irishman. "I don't know, lad," he admitted. "I just don't know." He looked at the door, half-open and forgotten. "He might not."
  20. Linn Keller 11-15-12 Parson Belden grinned at me and I had to laugh, for this was the best general laugh we'd had together in a good long time, and all thanks to a little boy who was prone to shove his hands in his pockets and walk off whistling, trying hard to look innocent and almost succeeding. I saw Sarah standing close to the Welsh Irishman -- I blinked twice, rapidly, and Esther laid a gentle hand on my arm and I knew she was looking at the same thing as I. Sarah's expression was complex, mobile: one moment serious, assessing, another surprised, sympathetic; she looked up at me, then back at the Welshman, a square of folded paper like a fan held delicately before her lips: she seized his hand and I saw he was looking ... not upset ... disquieted? A lawman's eye picks up the unusual and it was unusual to see this man anything but confident, competent; he was one of the Brigade, after all -- they were, to a man and without exception, strong willed, strong backed, hard headed, wise cracking, laughing -- I looked over at Esther, shocked, and Esther looked at me with knowing and ... and with amusement ... in her emerald eyes: she leaned her lips up toward my ear and whispered, "I knew this was coming," and I looked at her with a feeling in my belly like the last train just went a-whistlin' past the station, leaving me in the dust wondering what just happened. I looked back at Sarah and the Welshman. She was walking as regal as the Queen toward her family, her hand on the Welsh Irishman's arm ... I saw the impress on the man's sleeve. Sarah had a good grip on his arm. She was taking him for a walk, and not the other way around. "Parson," Jacob said, "what do you think we ought to do with this rascal?" Jacob held little Joseph by one ankle: little Joseph hung upside down in his Papa's grip, red-faced, laughing, spilling little-boy giggles all over the floor, clean-scrubbed hands waving happily. "Oh, I don't know," Parson Belden said thoughtfull, considering the lad's inverted condition: "maybe you could have his Grampa beat his bottom." "Good!" little Joseph declared. Jacob swung his boy upright, perching the lad on his forearm and holding him with the other arm as the blood ran out of the boy's head, leaving him kind of dizzy: little Joseph gave a wobbly little "Woooooh," clutching desperately at his Pa's lapels, trying to keep the world from spinning. Annette stood, smiling at Daciana: Daciana's face was flushed with excitement as she drew a few sheets of paper from her reticule, showed them to Daciana: the two sat down together on the piano-bench, placing the papers on the music holder: Daciana's finger traced along the hand-drawn notes, whispering urgently, and Annette's fingers reached reflexively for piano-keys. Lightning folded his long tall frame back down into the front pew, smiling quietly. Like frontier folk of every era, worship was a community activity, a social outlet: Lightning didn't mind the social aspect, but he absolutely loved it when the ladies worked on their music: he heard one particular telegrapher's "fist" on occasion, and he knew the man to be a musician, from the precision and cadence of his clicks and cliclicks. Annette began playing, nodding her head slowly as she sight-read this new music, and her gentle notes filled the emptying church building with their soft beauty.
  21. Linn Keller 11-15-12 In the Victorian era, it was a paradox and a contradiction that while women in general were familiar with a variety of weapons, society expected them to be submissive and let their big, strong husbands protect them. The reality, of course, was demonstrated by a reporter on a New York trolley car who, with pad and pencil in hand, stood and asked how many of his fellows were armed. Almost to a man, everyone there produced a sidearm of some stripe, and even a woman drew a Navy Colt from a hidden recess, and in the condescending words of the reporter, "came forth like a little Man." Sarah McKenna sat with her mother and the twins; the ladies wore matching gowns and hats, they sat in a careful row, prim, proper, hands folded, feet flat on the floor (or swinging the way children will when they can't reach the floor), looking patiently toward the pulpit as the Parson stepped behind the podium. The Marshal and his wife were absent; Parson Belden made a mental note to go out to their house (his wife bade him take a pie and a couple loaves of bread, still warm and towel-wrapped) after services. The Irish Brigade, as well, were represented; two, and only two, remained at the firehouse: they two held their devotions together, and spoke to St. Florian, the patron saint of fire fighters, talking to him as if to an old friend, asking his prayers to the Almighty that they have no alarms while their fellows were in the local church. The Welsh Irishman sat still, absolutely still, and the New York Irishman knew this was not necessarily a good sign, for the man was a restless sort and had set up most of the night with foolscap paper and pen, running his fingers through his hair and attempting to command that which would not be commanded, trying to write what could not be written: at some time through the night he finally gave up and came to bed, and the New York Irishman fished one of the balled-up sheets from the trash can and discovered the man had been trying to write poetry: another, carefully un-wadded, and it was a man's desperate attempt to put his heart on paper. The man, the New York Irishman realized, was absolutely, positively, head over well buffed bootheels, tee-totally in smacked-between-the-eyes infatuation can't-think-of-anything-else love ... but too damned shy to take the lass by the hand and say so to her face. He carefully compressed the sheets back into the wadded balls of frustration they'd been and placed them in the trash can so they would make no noise and so betray his surveillance: now, this morning, as the two sat together in the pew, he noted his brother-at-arms looked straight ahead, very carefully not looking at anyone or any thing. The New York Irishman, however, was looking around the way he always did, smiling, nodding, and he looked over to the family McKenna. Bonnie Rosenthal, the mother, was looking at him, smiling, and he winked at her with a grin: there was something in the mother's expression that said she knew something, and the New York Irishman looked at the woman's lovely daughter sitting beside her, and the lamp lit over his head as he realized it was Sarah with whom Llewellyn was smitten. Only then did he put together the jibes traded between the German Irishman and the Welsh Irishman, the snarled contests the two held as to how tall the pillar they'd build, upon which to set this unnamed object of their devotion, how rich the palace, how fine the gowns, how utterly a Queen they would make her. The New York Irishman looked at his fellow, surprised, then back at Bonnie: she was now looking at her daughter with an appraising eye, then back to the firemen, and the New York Irishman looked back at her, then to his fellow. Parson Belden looked over at Annette, at the piano; she began the introduction to the first hymn and the Parson called the congregation to its feet, announcing which hymn would be sung, and in the moment's hush, when the congregation drew its collective breath, young Joseph declared, "Good!" The hymn had to wait a minute or so for everyone to stop laughing. When the hymn was finished, the Parson, as usual, said "Please be seated," and three voices chorused "Good!" At each step of the service -- let us pray, let us stand, please be seated, whatever it was -- more voices chorused "Good!" until finally at the end of the service, when Parson Belden raised his hand and bade them go in peace, every last throat declared "Good!" and the entire church shared a general laugh. The Welsh Irishman stood and the New York Irishman noticed the man was breathing quickly, nervously: as they filed out, they two swung into the side aisle instead of the center, and made better progress rearward than the folk retreating down the middle. By happy chance they came to the rear of the church, and the back door, at the same time as the Family Rosenthal, and the Welsh Irishman fell in behind the last of the Rosenthal girls. The New York Irishman and Parson Belden both noticed how nervous the red-shirted Llewellyn was, shaking the good preacher's hand and stammering, red-faced, before bolting out the door: the Parson and the New York Irishman shared a knowing look, and the New York Irishman descended the stairs rather more slowly than had his fellow. Bonnie leaned over and murmured something to Sarah: surprised, Sarah looked at her Mama, then turned and looked at Llewellyn, who was fumbling with something white, drawing it with trembling hand from the inside of his buttoned shirt's bib: it tore, and his distress was plain on his face, as if he'd just dropped a rare and very prized fragile china cup. He looked up, his eyes wide as Sarah laid a gentle hand on his. "Let me," she murmured. The Welsh Irishman was not a man easily shaken. He'd jumped from the hose tower into their safety-net, he'd rappelled off rooftops with only a braided line between himself and Eternity: he'd strode boldly into buildings from which sane and rational people were running as hard as they could, he'd walked into the Devil's parlor and shot him in the mouth with a squirt gun, he'd pulled the sizzling fuse from a bundle of powder sticks and carried limp and injured from burning buildings, and done so without hesitation and without a tremor: now, though, now that this angel with blue eyes stood before him, near enough to feel the breath from her nostrils, now that he saw her flawless cheek and lashes long enough to make into buggy whips, now that he saw her lips curl a little and curve into a smile, now that he heard the gentleness of her murmur -- and good God, she was touching him now, she undid one button and slid the folded paper free and fast up the button again -- He had to hold his breath, for he was getting light headed and his fingers were starting to tingle, and he was a bit dizzy: Sarah looked hard into his eyes, seized his hand, wrapped it over her arm: "Stay with me," she murmured, and he felt funny under the back of his scalp, his hand tightening on her sleeved forearm. He threw back his head, took a long breath: steadied now, he whispered, "I wrote this for you," for he trusted not his own voice, and Sarah pressed the folded paper to her lips: not a gesture of affection, but of assessment, for she was looking into his eyes, looking deep into his soul, searching the very reaches of his essence ... it was as if she were scanning his back bone, looking for any traces of yellow. "Can you walk?" she whispered from behind the paper, and he swallowed, and nodded. "Walk with me," she whispered again, and they turned, and she steered him toward her waiting family.
  22. Linn Keller 11-14-12 Little Joseph laughed and ran across the floor of the Sheriff's office, my hat on his heat, or rather my hat down around his ears: he was takin' three steps to the yard and more but he wasn't lettin' that stop him. Little Joseph grabbed the brim of my hat and hoist it up off his head at arm's length, looking with big and delighted eyes at the front door as someone banged on it and yelled "Hey Soapy! You in there?" "Hell no I ain't here an' come on in!" I yelled back, and Little Joseph laughed and shouted "Good!" I leaned over kind of careful and clapped my hands. "Come on over here, fella," I said gently, and Little Joseph grinned and charged for me, holding my hat at arm's length overhead, laughing, and I laughed too. The door opened and the hanger-on poked his head in and he looked around kind of suspiciously, then looked at me and frowned. "Ain't you supposed to be all crippled up?" I relieved Little Joseph of my skypiece and clapped it on my head, set my jaw teeth together and picked up my grandson: I fetched him up onto my leg and said "Well, now, if I was all crippled up I reckon I'd know it, wouldn't I?" The fellow whipped off his hat, slapping it against his leg and glared at me. "Now daggone it, Soapy," he declared, "when a man's told that you was run over by a hull herd of buffalo and two freight wagons right here on the main drag, right in front of God an' ever'one, I'd 'spect you'd have at least a black eye!" "Well, now," I said thoughtfully, rubbing my smooth-shaven jaw, "I do seem to recall somethin' about wearin' a set of wings, flutterin' from one cloud to another an' pluckin' at a three string harp there for a while." "There! I knowed it! Now what in the name of Sam's billy goat happened to ye?" "Well," I said thoughtfully, looking at my grinning grandson and his mouthful of teeth, "near as I kin tell I got shipped back here b'cause angels is supposed to sing an' the only songs that come to mind was dirty marchin' songs we used to sing back durin' that damned War." "Damned war," Little Joseph said, clear as a bell. "Don't be talkin' like that," I said sternly. "Your Aunt Sarah will stuff a cake of lye soap in my mouth for teachin' you such language!" "Good!" Little Joseph laughed. I looked up and shook my head. "I cain't get away with nothin'," I lamented, standing. My ribs sent a sternly worded telegram to the rest of me, expressing their distinct displeasure and I reckon I turned a shade or two of pale but I stood and picked up my grandson as I did so, and stood him on the desk. "Damned war," Little Joseph said proudly. "Joseph," I said, "I'm a-gonna have to beat your butt for that." I run my arm around his middle and bent him over and he wiggled and twisted and suddenly he was layin' on his back and I had my hand under his knee. I wound up my hand and shook my head and said "IIIII'm a-gonn beat your biscuits," and Little Joseph laughed, and I shook my head again and wound my hand back for the second time and said "IIIII'm a-gonna swat your fanny somethin' fierce," and Little Joseph laughed and looked over at the grinning hanger-on, and I proceeded to stick my hand out from under his knee and I smacked the back of that hand with the one I had drawed back, smack-smack-smack-, while declaring loudly, "I'm a-gonna beatcherbutt, beatcherbutt, beatcherbutt," and Little Joseph laughed and giggled and rolled back and forth on top of my desk and a good thing I had my arm run under his leg to keep him from fallin' off. Of a sudden I stopped in mid-smack and looked at the hand I'd been swatting, and I turned it over and over once more, peered closely at it and pointed at it -- "Joseph! How'd you do that? I thought I was beatin' your butt --" "No Gwampa, you beatin' yourself!" Little Joseph laughed, and hiccupped, and I picked him up and he grabbed my hat and set it on his head. "Well now," I said, "I reckon us poor sinners better git over to church then!" "Good!" Little Joseph said, and the hanger-on shook his head and said "Soapy, I jist don't know about you," and drifted on out the door. Little Joseph laughed when I stood him up on the hitch rail and bade him hold the porch post whilst I mounted, then I plucked him up and set him in front of me on the saddle, and Little Joseph laughed as we rode over across the street and down a little to our little whitewashed church. Several faces turned toward us, smiling, for the laughter of a happy child is a fine thing to hear of a morning. I dismounted and then run my arm behind Little Joseph and he slid over on my shoulder, and I carried him thusly up the steps and into the church, with him a-holdin' my Stetson at arm's length over his head. Parson Belden was a-greetin' us all as we came in the door, and Little Joseph clapped my skypiece on the Parson's scalp and declared, "Damned war!" Jacob laughed and grasped his little boy around the ribs and fetched him down off my shoulder, and I shook the Parson's hand and shook my head, laughing. "Parson," I said ruefully, "don't never teach a little boy to say somethin' he hadn't ought, because he'll say it in church!" The Parson and Jacob and I all laughed at that one, and Esther took my arm, and we headed on in for the Sunday service.
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