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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

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Posts posted by Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580


  1. Linn Keller 1-6-13

     

    Parson Belden waited until the last notes of the hymn faded before he raised his hands and announced in his orator's voice, "Be seated."
    The congregation settled into pews; there was the usual shuffling of feet, an occasional cough, and the Parson waited a few moments more.
    "I had a fine sermon prepared," the Parson said.
    "As a matter of fact I had such a sermon ready as would bring a stone statue to its knees at the altar rail, begging forgiveness for its sins."
    The Parson's upraised and wagging finger, his overly serious expression, his exaggerated tone of voice, brought several smiles and a few chuckles: they knew the man was up to something, and they were right.
    "My Mother, rest her soul," the Parson continued, "taught me that waste was a sin.
    "I try not to be a wasteful man, which is why there is no pie left."
    Laughter again, and the Parson looked at his flock with innocent eyes.
    "Now, now, I didn't want it to go bad, y'see, if it went stale we'd have to throw it out and that would be wasteful and waste is a sin, and ..."
    He blinked his eyes like a little schoolboy trying to get away with telling a whopper.
    The Parson sighed, shaking his head.
    "And if I stood up here and gave my full sermon and then the announcements to follow, it would be wasteful of your time and mine.
    "If waste is a sin and I try not to be a sinful man, let me therefore dispense with the sermon.
    "I intended to present about the Samaritan and the injured man, but the announcements present that sermon more clearly than I ever could.
    "Doctor Greenlees?"
    The mood changed immediately.
    The town's physician had never addressed the community in such a forum; this, they knew, was a serious matter.
    "There is a measles outbreak in Rabbitville," he said without preamble. "It's winter, it will spread slowly from one town to another but when it arrives it'll run through the town like wildfire."
    This was more talk than the good Doctor usually gave in a week's time; the man was not known to be so long winded.
    He had their attention.
    "I do not expect any great problems. It is not a deadly plague, it shouldn't sweep through like the Black Death. Hopefully the worst it will do is fever, maybe convulsions in the young, occasional deafness, that's about it. In the meantime, mothers, look at your young when they get their Saturday night bath. You know what to look for: a rash, fever, earache. Babies can get fussy and noisy. Look at the roof of their mouth, you're looking for white spots. If you see these, dunk them in a nice hot bath. If it's measles, they will pop right out."
    "What about school?" Daisy called, her hand upraised.
    Sarah stepped up beside the Doctor.
    "School will go on as usual," Sarah said. "If a child is infected, keep him home until he's over it. It will hit Rabbitville harder than it hits us." She looked up at Dr. Greenlees, as if afraid she'd just trodden upon his territory.
    "Miss McKenna is right," the Doctor nodded. "I don't foresee any great difficulty. These things happen. When it does, we'll handle it."
    Digger, sitting in the back row with his fine silk hat balanced on his lap, smiled a little.
    He used to have a shop in a poorer part of the country, but poor or not, when the pox came through, he had a double row of small coffins, and every one of them occupied.
    Business had been good.
    As much as Digger was a resident and a member of the community, he was also a businessman, and he made a mental note to have more of the smaller coffins on hand.

    Jacob was brushing the mare, soothing her with voice and with touch: he'd combed out her mane and her tail, dodged one kick and twisted from one bite, rapping her across the nose with the wooden back of the comb when she tried again.
    The mare ducked her head and looked surprised, especially when little Joseph shook his finger and declared, "You big meanie, stop that!"
    Jacob handed the curry to his boy, who proceeded to curry the mare's forelegs.
    She bent and snuffed loudly at Joseph, but never even offered to bite: she stood still for the lad's attentions, and Joseph did a fine job: Jacob watched closely as Joseph went back and started working on her hind legs as well.
    Jacob rubbed the mare's nose and murmured to her, called her a good girl and told her he was proud of her for behaving.
    Chances are good the mare didn't understand a word he said, but chances are equally good she understood his tone of voice.
    Annette looked up from wiping down the table, looked out the window to see Jacob leading the mare, with Little Joseph grinning in the saddle, his little boots thrust into the drawn-up, man-size doghouses.
    Joseph held the reins like his Pa showed him, one-handed, left hand just above the saddle horn and right hand on his thigh.
    Annette went back to wiping down the table.
    She looked back to see little Joseph riding the opposite direction, back toward the barn, with Jacob nowhere in sight.
    She looked back to her work, humming a little: she looked up in time to see Joseph, standing up in the stirrups, leaned over the mare's neck, yelling and grinning, and the mare was at a gallop, her nose thrust forward, and in that snapshot, that moment's visual impression, Annette was hard pressed to decide which was the happier, the grinning, yelling little boy, or the mare he rode.

    Jacob curled his lips and whistled and little Joseph laid the reins against her neck just like his Pa taught him, and the mare turned under him and gathered herself and thrust hard against the frozen ground, hooves thundering against the snow as she stretched out into an honest-to-God, run-like-hell gallop.
    Jacob threw his arms wide and little Joseph leaned back in his saddle and drew gently, gently back on the reins and the mare haunched back and skidded a little and came to a blowing stop just arm's length from the calm, unruffled Jacob, who reached up to caress her nose.
    The mare snapped at him and Jacob slapped her nose, gently, and scolded, "You big meanie, stop that," and she did.
    Jacob fed her a thick sliver of molasses cured tobacker from the flat of his palm and rubbed her ears and called her a good girl.
    He looked up at Joseph
    The lad's eyes were big and his cheeks and ears were red, and the lad had a grin on his face as broad as two counties in Texas.
    "Joseph, how'd you like it?"
    "Fine!" Joseph crowed, his exclamation puffing out in a happy breath-cloud.
    "That's my boy!" Jacob declared proudly: rubbing the mare's neck, he stepped back and raised his arms to pick Joseph out of the saddle.
    The mare swung her head around and neatly plucked the protruding bandana from Jacob's coat pocket, pulling it free and nodding briskly, waving the paisley flag in derisive triumph.


  2. Linn Keller 1-5-12

     

    Jacob's head came up, his brows puzzling together.
    Annette placed her fork beside her plate and Jacob saw her hand go to the pocket in her dress, the one where she kept a holstered .44: she was all woman, a womanly and feminine creature who sang like an angel, played piano fit to bring tears to a man's eyes and bedded her husband with an enthusiasm in which Jacob rejoiced, but she was also a woman of remarkable good sense -- and she took her protective instincts seriously.
    Jacob made a quick gesture -- wait -- and little Joseph, big-eyed, blinked and held still in his seat, at least until he realized he still had some buttered bread in reach.
    Jacob went to the door, opened it; his father stood there with his hat in his hand.
    Jacob's heart fell about twenty feet.
    A lawman will remove his cover for one reason and one reason only, and Jacob tasted ashes when he saw his father held the reins of a familiar mare, the one with the upright crossed arrow.
    "Tie her off and come in," he said quietly, and his father dallied the reins around the hitch post by the front door: kicking snow from his boots, he came in and wiped his feet on the thick, coarse rug just inside the front door.
    "We're just settin' down to eat," Jacob said, taking his father's arm.
    His father nodded, misery in his eyes, and he swallowed.
    Annette rose at the Sheriff's entrance, her expression worried: she moved like a dancer, gathered plate and flatware, coffee cup and loaded on good meat and taters and set them down at the empty place beside Joseph.
    Joseph, as usual, was not in his seat: with a joyful "Gwampa!" he ran scampering across the floor, charging full tilt into old Granddad's leg, and Grampa, being a grandfather, reached down, seized his laughing grandson and swung him waaaay up in the air, spilling a little boy's happy laughter all over the kitchen.
    The Sheriff dropped little Joseph down to eye level, rubbed noses with him and said, "Have you been a good boy?"
    "No!" Joseph laughed, and the Sheriff slung him up in the air again, catching him across his arm, breaking him like a shotgun: "No? I'll have to beat your butt!"
    Joseph laughed and wiggled and the Sheriff slid him over his arm, grabbed his ankle: Joseph hung upside down and the Sheriff smacked the sole of Joseph's shoe, setting up a brisk rhythm as he chanted "I'm gonna beat'cher butt, beat'cher butt, beat'cher, buttcher beatcher ..." smack, smack, smack, the cadence slowing, little Joseph laughing almost hysterically.
    "Hey!" the Sheriff said, hoisting little Joseph up, stretching to bring the inverted lad back up to eye level. "That wasn't your butt! You fooled me!"
    "I fool you, Gwampa!" Joseph laughed, his face scarlet, and the Sheriff brought the lad back upright, held him bear hugged until the blood ran out of the lad's head and the dizzies passed, then he packed him over to his chair and eased him back down into his elevated, Joseph sized seat.
    Jacob was grinning like he always did; father and son alike rejoiced at the sound of a happy child's laughter, and even Annette was smiling quietly.
    The Sheriff sat at his place, stared at his plate.
    Jacob waited; Annette knew something was not right, but remained quiet.
    Little Joseph carefully speared a small bite with his fork, brought it with exaggerated precision to his mouth and only got a little dribble of juice down his chin.
    The Sheriff looked at his plate and then at his son.
    "Jacob," he said, "the mare is yours."
    "Yes, sir."
    "The widow Vess said Herb spoke of little Joseph riding her."
    "Yes, sir."
    "She said she's a lawman's horse and she'll come to you if you look like a lawman."
    "Yes, sir."
    "She said Herb told her little Joseph stuck to her like a tick on a coon dog."
    "Yes, sir."
    The Sheriff looked at little Joseph.
    "You don't look like a tick."
    Little Joseph's expression was solemn.
    "I'm a boy," he said.
    "I see," the Sheriff said with equal gravity. "You're not a tick?"
    Little Joseph shook his head.
    "You know what a tick is."
    Little Joseph looked suspiciously at the Sheriff.
    "It's what a clock does. Maybe you're a clock?"
    "No!" Little Joseph declared, laughing.
    The Sheriff frowned at the lad.
    "I do believe," he said, "you are correct."
    Little Joseph nodded.
    The Sheriff turned to his son.
    "Herb Vess is dead."
    His pronouncement was flat, unemotional.
    "Yes, sir."
    "His house caught fire and he went back in after his wife's little dog."
    Jacob's brows frowned together a little.
    "He didn't come out."
    Jacob closed his eyes, rested his forehead on his knuckles.
    "Oh, no," Annette murmured. "Sheriff, how can we help?"
    The Sheriff smiled sadly.
    "You can call me Linn, we're among friends."
    "You know I can't do that," Annette said in her soft voice, dropping her eyes and blushing.
    "They lost everything," the Sheriff said, his voice distant as his eyes.
    "Was Mrs. Vess hurt?"
    "A little. She'll be ... she'll heal."
    "How badly?"
    "Not badly. The backs of her hands, a spot on her cheek. Singed off some hair."
    Annette rose. "I have another set of dishes," she said, "and I've more cooking kettles than I need. How big a woman is she?"
    The Sheriff blinked, his thoughts elsewhere.
    "I'm sorry," he said, catching up quickly: "Bonnie and the ladies are sewing her wardrobe right now. I don't know as anyone is ... the plates ..."
    The Sheriff lowered his forehead onto his knuckles, identical to Jacob's earlier move, and Annette was again reminded powerfully of how much alike father and son were.
    Silence grew heavy and uncomfortable.
    "She came over this morning," the Sheriff said. "She still smelled like smoke. I put her up in the Jewel. Herb ..."
    His voice trailed off and he pushed his plate away, untouched.
    Jacob looked at Annette, his expression serious.
    His father was a man who loved to eat, and he knew it was a powerful statement of inner turmoil to taste nothing.
    Jacob got up, went to a cupboard, withdrew a bottle and two glasses: his father rose, and the men retired to Jacob's study.
    Annette heard the clink of glass, but little else; she knew the men talked for a bit, and she kept little Joseph from interrupting: finally she saw Jacob and the Sheriff head for the front door, and the door closed behind them: she saw Jacob leading the mare toward the barn, and she heard the Sheriff's Cannonball-horse retreating in the distance.
    Little Joseph climbed back into his chair, picked up his fork and stabbed at the dried-apple pie's flaky crust.
    "Mama?" he asked in his little-boy voice, and Annette looked up, her eyes big and dark.
    "Mama, how come Gwampa didn't come back in?"


  3. Linn Keller 1-4-13

     

    Sarah rode a circuitous route, coming up the alley beside Digger's funeral parlor and across the street, before turning down the slight grade and stopping before the little whitewashed schoolhouse.
    It was dark and it was still; it was cold, and fine crystal flakes, like the tiniest shards of a shattered mirror, danced and tilted in the air, almost too fine to see, save where they caught light from a lamp, or a window.
    Sarah looked long at the schoolhouse, remembering the children she taught, their eager faces, the look of discovery when she could fire a young imagination to a new realization, that precious, irreplaceable moment when a teacher sees the student understand a new concept.
    Sarah loved that moment.
    She knew what it felt like, this magic of learning something new, of learning something that suddenly made sense.
    She turned the black gelding, looking at the front of the funeral parlor, and in her mind's eye she saw those tiny coffins again, and closed her eyes, took a long breath.
    Sarah's jaw clenched, her eyes turning a shade of pale.
    There will be no trip to Rabbitville.
    It was just a test.
    A test!

    Her fists closed on her thighs -- like her Papa, she knee-reined her gelding, sometimes riding him without even a bridle -- and she felt a moment's heat: she dismissed her anger, for it did her no good, and interfered with the reasoning faculties.
    A test!
    Have I not proven myself, time and again?
    Sarah tilted her head back, eyes still closed, feeling the light, cold sting of tiny little ice flakes on her face.
    Pride, a voice whispered.
    Your pride is stung.
    Sarah pushed the resentment from her, dismissing it as she had her anger.
    I wonder how fast the measles will get here, she thought, then turned the gelding, walked him down the street a bit further.
    A light was on in the hospital's window, and Sarah's eyes narrowed a little.
    I need, she thought, I ... I need some expert advice here.


  4. Linn Keller 1-2-13

     

    Sarah sat in front of her roll top desk and contemplated the black glass mirror that was her bedroom window.
    It was full dark out; there was a moon and snow, stars were bright in the sky above, but Sarah saw none of it.
    She saw eyes.
    Sarah saw eyes, bright and shining, playful and pouting, curious and angry and all shades between.
    Sarah saw her little sisters' eyes, alive, alive o! -- there, among the starry-decked firmament.
    Sarah thought of the man she was to find, and betray to the Judge: she was to meet the takedown team and brief them and then stand aside and let them make the collar.
    Part of Sarah wondered petulantly if the Judge had somehow lost faith in her ability to bring in a wanted criminal.
    The rest of Sarah swatted that voice aside, for she realized -- she realized, as she tasted bitter ashes in her mouth -- that Charlie had been right all along.
    She had been more than lucky.
    She had been purblind lucky, she had been overwhelmingly, unbelievably lucky.
    She'd brought in bad men, wanted men, violent men; she had ducked death, dodged crippling injuries, managed to cheat the odds -- somehow, she was not really sure how, but she had.
    Sarah was a schoolteacher, and before one can teach, one must learn, and one learns from listening: Sarah listened one evening to a gambler who was telling her about luck, and its fickle ways.
    "It's like a vein of gold in rotten quartz," he explained. "It'll look thick and rich and you can rake it in with both hands, but it can peter out to nothing with the next swing of the pick." His hands were idly shuffling cards, fanning the deck; he turned over the top card -- ten of clubs.
    "You can have a high card and bet money on the next."
    He turned another.
    Ace of diamonds.
    "And you might win, so you bet on the next one as well."
    He turned over a deuce.
    "And lose everything.
    "For all things there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heavens, and sometimes it's time to let go and walk away, because the luck just might not be there."
    Sarah sat very still, thinking of how her little sisters sounded, how they looked at her, how she delighted in their giggling curiosity, their little-girlish questions, how they held solemn-still when she brushed their hair and how they said they wanted to grow up to be as pretty as their Mama.
    Plague, Sarah thought.
    I had measles and survived, and chicken pox when it swarmed through.
    Her right hand drifted up and she explored a little wrinkled scar behind her right earlobe, where she'd curiously explored a single pock and pressed on its blister, bursting it: it scarred when it healed, and Sarah remembered the row of small coffins from the waves of childhood disease she'd seen.
    No.
    I will not bring death home to my family.

    Sarah's eyes were pale as she considered the closed wooden box, holding the detective's tools Jacob assembled for her birthday.
    The Judge asked me to help him.
    He called on me because I can disguise and I can find and I can get out.
    He asked my help.

    Sarah stood.
    "I believe I will have some tea," she said aloud.
    Sarah Lynn McKenna Rosenthal, fourteen years of age, looked at herself in the mirror: she turned a little, turned back, then shook her head sadly and headed for the door.
    She felt the need to talk with her Mama.

    "How long do you reckon she'll take?" the Sheriff asked, leaning back with a little grimace in the Judge's upholstered chair.
    "Oh, an hour, maybe," the Judge speculated. "Cigar?"
    The Sheriff raised a hand, smiling a little. "Never acquired the habit."
    "One of my only vices," the Judge chuckled. "At my age perhaps I should acquire more. God knows I've earned the privilege!"
    The Judge fixed the Sheriff with a bright gaze.
    "And what of you, Colonel? Or, Sheriff, these days. What are your vices, sir?"
    The Sheriff laughed.
    "I," he said quietly, picking up the long stemmed wineglass, "have profound fondnesses for good food, good drink, good company and little fuzzy puppies that wag their tails like miniature windmills in a storm." The Sheriff took an appreciative sip of the sangria, savoring its flavors, swallowing slowly.
    "If those are my vices, so be it, for I embrace them without apology."
    The Judge raised his glass to the Sheriff, saluting his agreement, and the two men drank.

    Bonnie listened carefully as Sarah spoke.
    Sarah laid her case out with the precision of an engineer striking a line with a T-square: her argument was reasoned, logical and sensible: her conclusion was obvious, sound and mature, and Bonnie agreed wholeheartedly with her daughter's decision before Sarah was finished with her little presentation.

    "Ah, that must be her," the Judge said, rising at the knock alarming at his door: he placed the wineglass on the sidetable, tugged his coat straight and walked to the portal, opening it wide.
    "My dear, welcome," he said, and the Sheriff rose as Sarah stepped inside.
    Sarah was wearing a two-tone green riding outfit, and a matching hat, and the Sheriff was taken at how much she looked like Bonnie: he blinked, then chided himself: They wear their hair the same, and this looks like Bonnie's dress and hat.
    "Your Honor," Sarah said without preamble, "I thank you for your confidence in me, sir, but I must decline to travel to Rabbitville."
    "I see," the Judge said, resisting an impulse to glance over at the Sheriff.
    "Will there be anything else, Your Honor?"
    "If I may," the Judge said gravely, "what ... prompted your decision?"
    Sarah's expression was not as confident now; she looked almost ... sad.
    "I have two reasons, sir ... three, actually, and ... an entire schoolhouse full."
    "I don't understand."
    "If I go to Rabbitville, sir," Sarah said, "I will infect myself with the Plague and bring it back with me. I don't like Death riding my coat tails. I have two sisters, Your Honor, who have never had measles; nor have most of my students.
    "I could find this man, Your Honor, but with orders to merely observe, I would bring death back with me like a miasma, with a chance the quarry might escape.
    "At best, Your Honor, one bad man is captured.
    "At worst, every child in Firelands dies, and I am the cause."
    The Judge blinked, nodded slowly: he turned and walked to his chair, his pace meditative, like an old man deep in thought.
    Finally he turned.
    "My dear," he said softly, "it is cold without: may I offer you wine?"
    "No, thank you, Your Honor," Sarah said sadly: "I do not refuse to share a drink, sir, but wine is ... a bit too much to my taste."
    The Sheriff leaned forward, eyes riveted on his daughter.
    "I do owe you an apology, you know," the Judge said.
    "Now it is I who do not understand," Sarah said carefully, her syllables crisply enunciated.
    "There is no felon to be found," the Judge said. "There is no group of hard-muscled detectives waiting in the wings to seize this scoundrel with hard hands. This was a test, my dear."
    "A test."
    "Yes."
    "It is all fiction, then."
    "Oh, no," the Judge said, shaking his head. "No -- regrettably, there is fact within the fiction. There is indeed a measles outbreak in Rabbitville."
    Sarah nodded.
    "This was a bit of ... manufacture ... to test your reasoning ability."
    "It was my idea," the Sheriff interrupted.
    Sarah's gaze snapped from the Judge to her father.
    She walked slowly toward the long, tall lawman, stood for several moments before him, studying his face.
    "Papa," she finally said, "I was undecided whether to kick you in the shin, or to tell you to go to hell.
    "The former and I could probably outrun you.
    "The latter and you would very likely turn me over your knee."
    "No," the Sheriff half-grinned. "His Honor has some good lye soap, and turnabout is fair play."
    Sarah's face turned very, very red, and she slowly raised a gloved hand to her brow.
    "I deserved that," she said finally.
    "Long time comin'."
    Sarah closed her eyes, tight, then opened them.
    "I must be going."
    She turned, and the Judge bowed her to the door: Sarah turned and smiled a little and said, "I think at this point I am supposed to say something terribly clever and rather biting, but my mind has gone blank."
    A moment later and the men heard the sound of receding hooves in the darkness.
    His Honor considered his old friends' thoughtful face.
    "Well, Colonel?" he asked at length. "What think you of your little girl now?"
    The Sheriff drained his wineglass, set the empty back on its stand.
    "I think she shows remarkable good sense," he replied.


  5. Linn Keller 1-1-13

     

    Four of the children in the orphanage were ill.
    Colds and sniffles tended to get passed around; the nuns did their best to keep the children healthy, but especially now -- now that winter's cold kept them inside much of the time, now that the children and the Sisters who cared for them were all living in such proximity, disease could and often did run with swift and contagious feet through their little community.
    Sister Sarah rocked a fussy baby, a child that should be nursing and wouldn't, a child red-faced and angry that hadn't slept for a night and a day, a child that was starting to fever.
    Sister Sarah looked up, blinked, and one of the nursing Sisters looked over at her and saw a light come on in her eyes.
    The nurse approached as Sister Sarah rose and carried the child over to the window, and opened the blanket, and tilted the child's head gently back, peering intently into the noisy, red little mouth.
    The nurse froze as Sister Sarah looked at her, alarmed.
    "Draw me hot water, enough for a good warm bath," she said in a low voice, and the nurse nodded once, turned quickly.
    When Sister Sarah lowered the baby into the warm bathwater, the nurse watched intently: Sister Sarah held the child's head with one hand, swishing the warm water, the almost-hot water, in constant circulation over the child's body.
    The nurse's eyes widened and she raised a hand to her mouth.
    "I saw white speckles on the roof of his mouth," Sister Sarah whispered, her throat tight.
    The nurse nodded as red speckles began popping out on the child's skin.
    The two looked at one another, then looked around as if expecting to see a bony reaper with scythe in hand, grinning and nodding at them as it began to harvest young lives like ripe wheat.
    The measles had returned.

    His Honor protested as Sarah placed the last slice of chocolate cake before him.
    "Your Honor," Sarah said, mischief in her eyes and teasing in her voice, "Mama taught me that waste is a sin, and I try not to be a sinful soul." She tilted her head a little. "For the sake of my soul, then?"
    His Honor picked up his fork and pretended reluctance.
    "For the sake of your soul," he said, and Sarah smiled, for she knew the Judge had a liking for chocolate cake.
    The twins were busy with their own efforts; Bonnie was showing them the basics of folding a pleat and hemming: canny businesswoman and successful fashion provider, she now sat cross-legged on the floor with two little girls, supervising their efforts with needle and thread and material, with the stated intent of making dresses for two cloth-and-china doll bodies that lay on the floor, staring at the ceiling with wide, painted eyes.
    Sarah sipped tea while the Judge consumed the last of the chocolate cake, waiting; she knew he would get around to his purpose soon enough, and in the meantime, she was content to delight her senses with fragrant, steaming oolong.

    The orphanage was a separate building from the monastery, but within the walled enclosure; Brother William emerged from its front door with a solemn expression and a folded cloth in his hands.
    He stopped at the flagpole before the orphanage, head bowed, then he attached a spring loaded clip to one corner of the cloth he held, raised it a little, attached a second, and hoist the dread standard.
    The flag was a simple yellow rectangle; the signal was borrowed from vessels at sea that found themselves overtaken with contagion, and its signal was read in standard maritime references of the day with one word:
    Plague.

    "It is a delicate matter," His Honor said. "The man is a deserter and wanted, not just by the Cavalry, but by several jurisdictions."
    "Including ours?"
    "Especially ours."
    "Description?"
    The Judge raised a hand.
    "My dear," he said gently, "I wish only to discover his whereabouts. You are better suited for this task. You can slip in, disguised, find what needs be and make good your escape."
    "If he's slick at all and anyone -- friend or stranger -- asks anything about him, he'll disappear," Sarah warned.
    "That's why I just want you to find him. I have a team that will apprehend him."
    Sarah contemplated the amber depths of her teacup.
    "Where was he last seen?"
    "Rabbitville. He's known to stay in a little boarding house near the cantina."
    "And you don't want me to apprehend him."
    "No."
    Sarah considered this, turning it over in her mind.
    School could proceed without her; she did not know just how long this task would take, but she did not believe it would require more than two days, maybe three at most.
    "Just find him and report back to you."
    "Yes."
    "Report by what means, telegraph?"
    "That will be fine."
    "It will have to be a coded message, then," Sarah said. "If he has a lookout who can read the clickies or maybe he's paid off the telegrapher --"
    "You could send that Aunt Sadie is ill, or well, or had a baby, or anything about Aunt Sadie. Then you head here and meet my team enroute."
    "I'll be taking a train for most of the distance. There is a single track between here and there so we won't pass one another. Should we plan to meet at a particular place or time?"
    "If you telegraph that Aunt Sadie is coming home, I will send the team on the next train out and you can meet them at the depot."
    "That will work."
    His Honor reached into his coat, brought out a folded newspaper.
    "Speaking of Rabbitville," he said, "I brought the latest edition. I get all the local papers, you know. Levi might like to read this."
    Sarah tilted her head a little. "May I?" she murmured, and His Honor handed her the paper.
    Sarah opened it a little, just enough to confirm what she'd surmised.
    The word PLAGUE, and under it, a sub-title containing the word "Orphanage."
    She looked back to His Honor, who was sadly contemplating his empty plate.
    "I'll bake another once I get back," Sarah promised. "Now let us have a description of the wanted party."


  6. Linn Keller 1-1-13

     

    Uncharacteristic for the era, the House of McKenna Dress Works was quiet: Bonnie gave her ladies the day off, an idea which they embraced rather happily; Bonnie knew it was a day of making no profit -- but she also knew the value of contented and loyal employees, and she took care of her people.
    It was cold out, not much above zero; Sarah bundled against the chill and waded through snow to the barn, tarrying in its warmer confines, listening to the contented sound of a couple cows chewing their cud: her oldest mare, aging and feeble and no longer put to work, leaned her head over for a pet and a whisper, and Sarah leaned her cheek against Butter's long nose, remembering earlier days when she was but a little girl, laughing and running through the pasture, Butter walking contentedly beside her, the horse's walking pace keeping easily with the little girl's happy scamper.
    Sarah slipped out the back door, looking around.
    She knew Snowflake was somewhere near; tracks the size of dishpans were pressed into the snow, and a pile of road apples looked fresh, though not steaming.
    It won't take long to cool off, she thought: frowning a little, curious, she picked up a stick and turned over the fresh pile.
    It steamed a little and Sarah nodded ever so slightly.
    I thought it was fresh, she thought, then she dropped the stick and turned to find she suddenly had a face full of very black fir, with one shining black eye high to the right.
    Sarah laughed and reached up to stroke the underside of Snowflake's jaw.
    "You thought you could sneak up on me," she whispered.
    Snowflake snuffed at Sarah's front, exploring for something edible.
    Sarah held out a small pile of tobacco shavings, slivered off some molasses plug, and Snowflake lipped it delicately off her flat palm.
    "Guess what," Sarah whispered again. "You did sneak up on me. I did not hear you at all."
    Sarah ran her arms around Snowflake's neck, or as far as she could, which was not far, given Sarah's diminutive build and Snowflake's sheer size.
    "I have to do some thinking," she whispered. "Let's go in where it's warm."
    Sarah seized the barn door, rolled it aside: steel wheels rumbled on the steel track overhead and Snowflake plodded obediently inside.
    Sarah stepped in after her big Frisian mare; one final look around, and she drew the door shut, cutting off the blazing-bright snow glare.

    His Honor Judge Donald Hostetler drew his carriage to a halt.
    He'd tended the duties of the Court that morning, hearing evidence and testimony, reading reports, swinging his gavel and uttering the wise pronouncements which are part and parcel of a jurist's duties: after this, after the Sheriff's routine invitation to his house for a meal and cigars and of course some of his excellent California brandy, His Honor thanked the lawman for his kind invitation and begged his indulgence for a few hours' absence.
    His Honor did indeed wish to avail himself of the Sheriff's hospitality.
    The Sheriff was an old friend and not given to political maneuvering; the Sheriff's wife was gracious and kind and in a way reminded him of his own dear wife, long dead now, and of course the Judge had a grandfatherly fondness for the Sheriff's big-eyed little Angela, who was rapidly outgrowing the appellation of "little."
    Judge Hostetler drew up in front of the new Rosenthal house, three stories of solid brick construction: his mare was received, his carriage led around and through the gate toward the barn, and after a few minutes of greeting and pleasant conversation, the Judge found himself chuckling as he knocked at the barn's side door.
    I have done many things in my young life, the greying, dignified old Judge thought, stubbing out his cigar on his boot-heel and spitting fragments of soggy leaf off his tongue: I've never knocked at a barn door to call on someone before.

    Sarah was arranging her thoughts as if marshaling a brigade of lead soldiers on a tabletop battlefield when the Judge's knuckles interrupted her concentration.
    Sarah looked up, looked over toward the door, blinking, then she went to the door and opened it carefully.
    His Honor the Judge removed his hat and bowed gracefully.
    "My dear," he greeted Sarah, "might I impose upon your time? I find I have need of your assistance."


  7. Linn Keller 12-31-12

     

    Sarah sat in front of her roll top desk and considered Jacob's birthday present to her.
    She'd flipped open the latch, swung the clamshell halves open: it was about four feet high, three and a half wide and two feet deep.
    It opened to reveal shelves and cubbies and drawers, with every square inch of space used for something, and used rather efficiently.
    Sarah opened it up and realized how heavy it must have actually been, when the men were packing it upstairs.
    She reached in and pulled out a set of handcuffs; behind these, a label, and a key on a peg.
    She hefted the irons, letting her eyes wander through the contents.
    Several sets of irons of various kinds, each with a carefully hand written label behind its hanging peg: Denver PD, San Francisco PD, New York Pattern, Chicago pattern, Tower manufacture.
    She hung the cuffs she held back on their peg, reached in, smiled a little as she withdrew a .44 revolver, a dandy little bulldog, just right to tuck here or there in her garments.
    Given the right holster sewn in place, of course, or slung or strapped or buckled.
    She considered the horse pistol, the cut-down double twelve-bore; it had a special grip instead of just a sawed off stock at the wrist.
    Good, Sarah thought.
    I don't want to tear the web of my hand like Papa Sheriff did.
    Sarah realized this would put more recoil through her wrist and made a mental note never, ever to fire it one-handed, but rather to grip it firmly with her off hand, pulling forward at the moment of kaboom.
    She sorted through two neatly-coiled hundred-foot lengths of black silk line, another ladder belt -- she stood, quickly wrapping it around her lean waist, buckling it tight and nodding with satisfaction -- then she replaced it as well and continued her inventory.
    She found an envelope, pretty much dead center, and in Jacob's careful script on the front, To my Little Sis.
    Sarah's right hand tightened into a fist and she thought I'll show you little, you long tall drink ... then she smiled and wished he was there so she could hug him.
    I wonder if I can still do this, she thought, and smiled, then she reached in and pulled out a set of leg irons and tightened them on her ankles: slipping the keys in her dress, in hidden little pockets invisible to the common eye, she withdrew a matching set of cuffs and worked her wrists into them behind her back.
    She knelt, closed her eyes, smiled a little, then opened her eyes and looked at the clock.
    Let's see how long it takes me, she thought.
    Four minutes later there was a tentative little tap at her door and the giggle of little sisters; the rattle of the doorknob, and two pair of bright and curious eyes peeked around the barely opened door.
    Sarah sat in her chair, smiling a little, putting something inside the Birthday Box: Polly and Opal giggled and asked, "What'cha got?"
    Sarah closed the box and flipped the latch.
    "Things to get in trouble with," she said. "Did you see the chocolate cake I made?"
    "Chocolate!" the twins chorused, looking at one another, then whirled and scampered out of the room.
    Sarah laughed quietly and stood, then looked again at the clock.
    She was badly out of practice.
    It took her two minutes to get out of cuffs and leg irons and get them put away.
    Sarah looked at Jacob's note, open on her desk.
    You are good at what you do, he had written.
    You have shown restraint where it was needed.
    You have kicked butt where it was required.
    Agent, you can ride with me any time, any where, and the day may come when I will need your help and your skills.
    PS, you are still my little sis.
    Jacob

    "I'll little sis you," she muttered, then looked toward her still-hanging-open door.
    "Chocolate cake," she murmured. "I hope there's some left."


  8. Linn Keller 12-30-12

     

    The rancher's name was Collins.
    John Collins, and his wife was not terribly unhappy to see him dead.
    She saw Jacob ride in with a badge on his chest and a serious look on his face.
    She knew who he was, and when she saw him come in riding, "stiff and upright" as she called it, she knew he was there on business.
    Collins smacked her across the face and told her to get back into the kitchen where she belonged, and her daughter stood in the kitchen doorway with her right hand hid, for she had a rolling pin in it, and the daughter told me she fully intended to bend that rock maple flattener over the old man's head, for his temper was generally manifested with the flat of his hand.
    When he stepped out the door with rifle in hand, the wife shut the door behind him and latched it tight.
    She looked up at me with defiant eyes.
    "When he stepped out on the porch with a rifle, I hoped your deputy would kill him." Her chin was up, her jaw was firm and her eyes fairly snapped.
    "I hoped your deputy would kill him so he would never, ever hit my girls again!"
    I took her hand and pushed up her sleeve, revealing purple bruising, right where a man would grab a woman's forearm if he was yanking her to him.
    I looked up at her.
    "Mrs. Collins," I said gently, "you are a widow and you no longer have a man to provide. Are you capable of running your ranch, or have you someone who can run it for you?"
    "We will manage," her daughter said quietly. "We will manage. We have good hands working for us and they are happier than we that Papa is dead."
    She fairly spat out the last word.
    I could not help but think how evil a man would have to be to earn that kind of hatred from a daughter.
    "My husband" -- Mrs. Collins' lip curled with distaste as she uttered the word -- "had a disease, a cancer. He was dying and he said he was not going to die slowly nor in pain like his own father died, whiskey-soaked, screaming and begging for it to stop.
    "I thought he was going to go shoot himself.
    "When he went out and shot at your deputy, and your deputy did not shoot him on the spot, I was afraid that he might ... my husband might survive.
    "I watched as he marched up to your deputy and raised his rifle.
    "He killed himself, Sheriff." Mrs. Collins had no trace of grief, no glitter of tears, no visible expression of remorse. "He killed himself just as surely as if he'd hanged himself in the haymow, only he used your deputy instead of a rope."
    I nodded.
    "Thank you for receiving me, Mrs. Collins," I said, "and thank you for your account of what happened. I've spoken with the ranch hands and every man's account supports your own, but yours gave me the last pieces I needed."
    "If I can be of service," I said after a moment, "please let me know."
    "We will, Sheriff," the oldest daughter said firmly.
    I looked past her, at the kitchen table.
    "Is that the rolling pin?" I asked. "The one you intended to part his hair?"
    She turned, her hand going to her lips: she turned back, reddening a little, but hard and defiant.
    "Yes. It is."
    "May I see it?"
    She spun, stiff, anger in her carriage: she snatched it from the table, bringing it up like a scepter, marched toward me with a determined step.
    "Thank you." I took the rolling pin by its middle, placed the lower handle -- the one she gripped hard enough to blanch her knuckles -- on my open, flat palm.
    I took it by the handle she'd had hold of, then I laid it down level, my left hand holding it at midpoint, and I pulled the handle out of the body with thumb and forefinger.
    Nothing held it in.
    "If you'd gone to crown him," I observed, "you would have swung this hard and it would have sailed over his head." I slipped the handle back into the roller and handed it to her.
    "Next time try something more reliable. A big knife might do."
    I turned and took a step toward the door, reached for my hat.
    Something brushed one of the thinning hairs on top of my balding scalp and I looked up in time to see the rolling pin sail a-past me and hit the door.
    I turned, caught the daughter's fist as it drove toward my nose.
    "I told you," I said quietly. "Use something reliable."
    I bent and picked up the rock maple rolling pin, handed it to her, touched my hat brim to the widow Collins, and left.


  9. Linn Keller 12-29-12

     

    "And this poor fellow," Digger said to his assistant, indicating the corpse on the preparation table, "hadn't laid down for near onto two year now. Slept settin' up, he did, couldn't breathe if he laid down."
    "I see."
    "I've got to go formulate the embalming fluid. Why don't you wait here and I'll be back here directly."
    "Yes, sir."
    Digger managed to keep a straight face as he left the room; instead of going in back and mixing his own preferred volume percentages of the components of his embalming fluid, he walked back with his usual lack of stealth and tiptoed back, waiting behind a heavy, red velvet curtain just outside the door of the preparation room.
    Experience told him it would not take long, and he was right.
    There was a slight groan, then the crash of a chair falling over backwards, the sound of a falling body: Digger came around the corner to see his panicked assistant tangled in the chair, kicking frantically to free himself, scrambling toward the door, looking fearfully back at the figure sitting upright on the preparation table and swaying just a little.
    Perhaps Dr. Greenlees could have articulated the physio-chemistry of what happened: how, with the abdominal muscles foreshortened from years of sitting upright and not lying down, how with no blood pumping through them, the lactic acid buildup caused the belly muscles to contract, and how, when the belly muscles contracted and pulled the corpse upright into a sitting position which crowded the diaphragm up, moving air past the vocal cords and eliciting a groan from the dead throat ... well, Dr. Greenlees might have been able to explain it, but all Digger knew was, chances were good the corpse would set up, and he was not above scaring the hell out of his assistant for a good laugh.
    He turned as the assistant went from a tangled scramble to galloping down the hall on all fours, then sort of launching up onto two legs and screaming in sheer terror as he clawed at the front doorknob, panic turning the simple act of opening a door into an impossibly complex task.
    Digger had no intention of embalming this particular corpse; the old man was tight fisted and wouldn't spend money if he had to, he had no family any more and nobody to pay the extra fee to have his mean old carcass pickled, and so Digger intended to plant him and let him rot.
    Before he did this, though, he had to stretch the body back out and then get it into a coffin.
    He wheeled the low platform up beside the table, the one with the cheap coffin on it; he rolled the deceased into the box, not bothering to move the body with anything resembling dignity or decorum: no, he rolled it over, landing it in the cheap, rough box, face down.
    He closed the lid -- or rather, picked up the lid and set it on top of the box, and proceeded to screw the lid down.
    The client would neither care nor complain that he was planted face down; no one else would say a word, either.
    His assistant would be back in due time, he knew, and when he did, they would take the box to the cemetery, where a hole waited.
    Digger looked over at the dead rancher, the one with a hole in his chest the size of his finger: he didn't know the story behind him, he did know the deceased -- well, he knew of him, he'd seen him around town a time or two -- him, yes, he would pickle him, there was supposed to be family involved, and Digger was confident he would get paid for the work.
    He smiled a little as he prepared the new corpse for embalming, wondering just how high he could jack his price without being told to go climb a tree.


  10. Linn Keller 12-29-12

     

    Herb Vess rubbed his wayward mare's nose, murmuring quietly,his hands gentle.
    Annette smiled to see it.
    The mare with the upright crossed arrow came to Jacob like a puppy when he wore his badge out on his lapel, and Herb Vess, his Arizona Ranger's badge on his own coat, enjoyed the same greeting.
    He touched his hat brim to Annette, for his belly was full of bread and coffee and back strap meat and some pie and beans: he hadn't intended to eat, and he certainly hadn't intended to eat as much as he did, but Annette was not about to let a lawman leave without shoveling a meal into him and it had been a while since Herb had a good woman cooked meal, and ... well, hell, Annette was easy on the eyes and Little Joseph looked at the weather beaten lawman with big and admiring eyes, and what man doesn't like that too?
    He rode off with his mare in tow, intending to swing through Firelands and thank Jacob for recovering his stolen mare: the thief was captured and justice done, even if it was without benefit of a court, the horse thief's carcass stripped and donated to a gully and covered with rocks.
    Herb was straightforward when it came to justice.
    He rode down the mountain and across the tracks, along a stream and to the road and into Firelands: he could see a conference and a palaver and a powwow in front of the Sheriff's office, and it apparently involved something unpleasant, for there was a wagon, and some people, and Herb could see a younger version of his old friend the Sheriff standing there with a rifle in the cradle of his arm, and if he was not mistaken, that girl beside him was holding herself a little stiff, a little unnaturally, and that meant she had a long gun in the vertical drape of her skirt, likely held beside her leg.
    He rode up as the wagon was describing a big circle in the middle of the street: a sad-faced fellow with a silk topper and a black morning-coat stood in front of the funeral parlor and Herb deduced the wagon contained a client for the gravedigger.
    He rode up to the group; they turned to greet him, and Herb touched his hat brim to Sarah, surprised at how young she was.
    Normally a little girl like that didn't go around in public with a ... he looked closer, nodded ... with a double gun in hand.
    Herb made a mental note to find out more, because she was either a small built woman or a little girl dressed like a grown woman, but perfectly comfortable in that character: he discarded his mental note, letting it flutter away in the light breeze, satisfied that she was a slight built woman with a fair and unmarked complexion.
    "Jacob," he said without preamble, "thank you. Let me pay you what you paid for the mare."
    Jacob turned cold eyes to the Arizona ranger, then he smiled and his eyes thawed some.
    "Mr. Vess," he said, "I missed your birthday last year. Take that for your birthday present."
    "Oh, now, I can't do that," Herb protested. "You spent good money and you took care of her while I was a-huntin' her down!"
    "Tell you what," Jacob grinned, glancing over at his father. "Buy me a beer when I'm 99."
    Herb threw his head back and laughed.
    "Travelin' is hungry work," the Sheriff said. "Kin I stake you to a meal?"
    Herb leaned back and patted his flat belly.
    "Linn," he said, "Jacob's lovely wife filled me up full as a tick."
    Jacob grinned again, nodding. "She's good at that."
    Herb shifted his weight in the saddle, leaned forward a little, peering with an exaggerated care at Jacob's middle.
    "You sure about that, young man? The way she stuffed my gut, why, you'd ought to be fat as a banker!"
    Jacob lifted his hat. "Flattery," he said solemnly, "will get you everywhere!"
    "I'd best be pointin' myself for home," Herb sighed. "My darlin' wife will think the Amazons have kidnapped me!"
    Sarah watched the man depart, then she looked at the Sheriff.
    "How long has he been exposed to you?" she asked.
    The Sheriff gave her a puzzled look.
    "Oh, don't look at me like that," she scolded, smiling a little: "you're the only one I ever heard talk about the Amazons kidnapping you!"
    The Sheriff considered for a long moment, then laid a hand on his son's shoulder.
    "Jacob," he said, "was she not your sister she'd make a good wife."
    Jacob laid his hand on his father's shoulder.
    "For fair and for sure she would," he agreed, "but a man couldn't get away with anything a'tall with her around!"
    They both looked at Sarah, and Sarah turned an incredible shade of red: she looked down, then smiled and said softly, "I should put this away," and headed for the open door of the Sheriff's office.
    The Sheriff took a long breath.
    "Well, hell, let's get some paper work done," he said. "The decedent was a friend of mine until he brought up a rifle ag'in you."
    The Sheriff's eyes were suddenly hard and bright.
    "We are the only law in the territory, Jacob. Our word is law and our word must be law. If a man won't comply and he won't abide and if he fetches up a rifle, we have to show the world in general and him in particular that the wages of sin is death and we are the paymaster."
    "Yes, sir."
    The Sheriff's hand tightened slightly on his son's lean, bony shoulder.
    "I don't like killin'," he said softly, shaking his head. "It upsets my digestion."
    Jacob wisely said nothing.
    The killing troubled him none at all, and his digestion was just fine.


  11. Linn Keller 12-25-12

     

    "Choc'wit!" Polly and Opal exclaimed together.
    "Yes it is, and it's for later," Bonnie said in a properly motherly voice.
    "Oh," the twins said, stifling their disappointment: in an ideal world, chocolate cake would be the meal, especially today, on Christmas, when the world revolved around them.
    They'd been to church; the twins fidgeted in their pew like little girls will, trying to hide their impatience and almost succeeding; it took no more than a look from their Mama to still their wiggles, but not until they looked hopefully toward Sarah, and found no succor there.
    As usual, Sarah and Annette sang, a combined solo: each sang a stanza, then the other, the third stanza they sang together, with Daciana joining in the chorus: the very last verse was Daciana's, which she sang in her native Romanian.
    Her pure, flawlessly pitched notes had only just died out when the doors in the back of the church opened, and men filed in: they carried what appeared to be a bier, but ornately carved: six men there were, in the rough dress of miners, though they'd taken pains to brush their boots and patch their clothes: they advanced with the creche carried at shoulder height, on poles, their tread measured, almost silent.
    As they marched, they sang, their voices deep and well-matched.
    There is something powerful about men's voices joined in song, strong men united in rhythm and harmony, and Daciana's bottom lip wrinkled a little as she started to tear up, for she remembered the words, and she remembered the melody, and she remembered her dear grandfather's knee, and how safe she felt in that jolly Tyrolean's arms as he sang to his little granddaughter.
    Parson Belden sat on a low stool, beside the pulpit: he'd brought out a double-strung guitar from somewhere, and he too brought forth song, for Franz Gruber had written this Christmas hymn originally in German, and to accompany a guitar, for his organ's leather bellows were mouse-eaten that hard winter, and would not pump their organ.
    Daciana took a breath and tried to bring out the first note, but she was crying too hard: she sat down beside Annette, tears streaming down her face, as the half-dozen miners brought the ornate, hand-carved manger to the fore, and set it down, and withdrew to the sides, still singing.
    "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
    Alles schläft; einsam wacht
    Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
    Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
    Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
    Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

    Parson Belden's fingers followed their song expertly, delicately, weaving magic in the little church that snowy morning, and Daciana would tell her puzzled husband later that morning that her tears were good, she had not this happy been in a very long time.

    Jacob was out the night before, and he and Levi carried a wooden box upstairs to her room: about four feet square it was, but only a foot deep, held shut with a simple hook and eye: Jacob took Sarah's hands in his and he was grinning broad as a Texas township.
    "Little Sis," he started, and Sarah pulled a hand loose and cocked a fist: "Who you callin' little?"
    Jacob laughed again and reached over to knock a knuckle against the box.
    "Happy Birthday, Sis," he said, "but don't open it until tomorrow."
    Sarah pulled her other hand free and put her knuckles on her hips.
    "Do you think you can trust me not to peek?"
    Jacob was quiet for a long moment, then he pulled her into a tight, big-brotherly hug.
    Releasing her, his expression serious, he said "Yes. I believe I can."
    He reached into his coat and brought out a stiff brown envelope.
    "I thought you might like this."
    Sarah took the envelope, looked at Levi, then at Jacob.
    "You can open it. That's your Merry Christmas."
    "Oh."
    Sarah bent it to crack the seal in two and lifted the hand folded flap: she withdrew a pamphlet, her eyes widening.
    "Die Walküre!" she breathed.
    "I know you said something about wanting to see it," Jacob continued innocently.
    Sarah took a deep breath, seeing something well beyond Jacob's shoulder: she blinked, looked up at her big brother.
    "Thank you," she whispered.
    Jacob winked at her; he and Levi turned and headed for the door.
    Sarah looked at the wooden box.
    "Jacob?"
    Jacob stopped, turned to face Sarah.
    "Thank you for this." Her fingertips rested lightly on the wood container.

    True to her word, Sarah did not open it until the next day.

    The birthday cake was moved to the sideboard; impatient young eyes -- and older eyes, for Levi had a fondness for such tasties -- wandered in that direction rather often through the meal.


  12. Linn Keller 12-25-12

     

    "But it's too big for him!"
    "He'll grow into it."
    Angela hoisted the doll -- it was as tall as she -- and giggled happily, eyes shining.
    "And just what makes you think a rifle is the ideal Christmas present for a little boy who isn't even in pants yet?"
    "He'll get there."
    Esther sighed and shook her head.
    "What about yours?"
    "Mine?"
    "Open yours."
    Esther frowned, picked up the small rectangular package: untying the ribbon, she set it aside; the paper was carefully folded and she unfolded it just as carefully, revealing the flat box: she opened it, looked in: her eyes rounded, then she looked up at her husband, her mouth falling open a little.
    The Sheriff grinned.
    "I figured if I was getting you tickets to that new opera house I'd best get you a new necklace to go with it!"
    Esther made a little sound of delight and picked up the discreetly ornate necklace.
    Angela cocked her head and smiled. "Pretty!" she declared.
    "It'll look better on you," the Sheriff said softly, gathering his wife in his arms: "I do enjoy showing you off in public, Mrs. Keller."
    "You, sir," Esther said as the Sheriff's mustache, then his lips, interrupted her words, "are a cad and a flirt."
    Further comment was somewhat muffled; Esther molded herself bonelessly to him, surrendering to the delight of her husband's attention.
    When they came up for air, Angela was happily chatting with her new doll, and the maid came into the room to announce, "Breakfast is served."


  13.  

    55 minutes ago, Forty Rod SASS 3935 said:

    I ain't mad and I'm almost always insulted by something, usually know-nothing over paid celebrities insulting my intelligence and elected people who insult my self respect and value as a human being, not to mention people in everyday life who don't think like I do and refuse to admit that I am almost always right.

    Yeah,  Forty thought he was wrong once, turned out he was mistaken!  :D

     

    • Haha 2

  14. I've seen several responses to various gun cart threads recently saying how people don't like having their own guns pointed at them when they're pushing their gun cart. Maybe I'm just dense this morning, and I'll probably get flamed for asking, but what's the big deal? You know that your long guns are unloaded, the actions are open, and there's no way that they can possibly fire a shot without a great deal of human intervention. So why is everybody so worried about it? As I said, maybe I'm just dense this morning...

    • Like 4
    • Thanks 4

  15. 8 minutes ago, Snakebite said:

    Do you really expect anyone to believe that... without pictures, it didn't happen! ;)

    Looks like Tyrel beat me to the punch. Those pics were before Winter Range when I had ATV gun clamps on it. While I was at Winter Range I bought 4 Rugged Gear gun clamps and installed them. The take up a whole lot less room and keep the guns separated better.


  16. I used wood carts for years, then this winter my daughter in law was going to throw away her kids' jogging stroller, so I took it home. After stripping off all of the canvas like material, shortening the wheel base, building in a wood deck and adding a transportable wooden box and a set of Rugged Gear barrel clamps I don't think I'll ever go back to my wood cart. This one is too dang easy to move from one place to another. Loaded with four guns and ammo for same I can push it with one hand...


  17. Someone with more time on their hands than anybody should have has decided that eastern Oregon is not living up to their part of the "stay in the house" order. They've been tracking cell phone GPS or some such thing and have seen that folks out here are running around all over the place. What they're not realizing is that for a lot of people in this part of the world it's a 50 to 60 mile round trip just to get a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, so when you go to town you go to more than one place...

    • Like 1

  18. When we travel to different states, we try to find whiskeys, preferably either bourbons or ryes, that are bottled there. Fer instance: when my son lived in Wyoming, he was only about 30 miles from Kirby Creek Distillery, which produces a small batch bourbon called Wyoming Whiskey in a postage stamp sized town called Kirby, Wyoming. He now lives in Eureka, Nevada where they sell another small batch bourbon made relatively locally called Two Bitch. Gardiner and Livingston, Montana, when we were there last fall, had Neversweat Bourbon, bottled in Billings. There's also a small distillery in Madras, Oregon, near where my other son lives, that makes a killer  small batch rye. Stein Distillery in Joseph, Oregon also makes a pretty good rye, but I like the Madras one better.

     

    On our recent trip to Winter Range, we discovered Copper City Bourbon, which is distilled and bottled by AZ Distilling in Tempe from local grains. So far, as far as I'm concerned, it's a toss-up between Neversweat, from Billings, Montana and Copper City. both are mellow and smooth and quite tasty...

     

    Whatcha got in your area?

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