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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

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Everything posted by Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

  1. Linn Keller 2-8-13 Bonnie watched, but did not interrupt, as Sarah and Levi held their conference. Sarah was in profile, as was Bonnie's husband. Sarah's expression was fluid, mobile: one moment, anxious and uncertain; another, and she was beautiful and smiling: her hands clasped his, and for a moment, Bonnie was grateful this was her daughter and not a rival, for Sarah was becoming an absolutely beautiful young woman ... the effect more pronounced for her gown, her coiffure, her ... Bonnie's eyes stung for a moment as she remembered a similar moment when she too was young and beautiful, back in the Carolinas, before a cotillion, when she too was anxious for the counsel -- or perhaps the assurance, the approval -- of her own Papa. There was a formal coming-out party, back on the plantation, and Bonnie leaned against the wall, remembering ... she had been the Belle of that particular Ball, and a remarkable night it was ... The Sheriff made his bed among a few rocks in the middle of a meadow; Cannonball grazed nearby, an alert picket and faithful sentry if ever there was one: he made no fire, for he wished to give the world no signal of his presence. While Jacob was knotting his necktie, the Sheriff was spreading coarse blankets; while Joseph's hair was being slicked down by motherly hands, the Sheriff pulled of his boots and lay on a hard mattress: and a pair of green eyes gazed through a window into the darkness, looking toward the shadows that blocked the stars, those granite sentinels where Esther knew her husband traveled that night, and she breathed a prayer for the lawman's safety. The Welsh Irishman frowned at his boots. They gleamed in the lamplight. The Welsh Irishman rubbed a restless hand over his cheeks. They were barbered and smooth, flawless ... he stared in the mirror at the stranger who stared back at him. He wore his only suit. It was well made and of good material, it was brushed and clean and quite presentable, and he wondered ... his stomach sank, as many a man's will, as he contemplated all that could go ill ... he wondered whether this daughter of wealth and privilege, whether this lovely creature of whom he dreamed and thought and wondered, and for whom he'd gone to the trouble of getting dressed up and got all clean and sweet-smelling ... might she reject him, a simple fireman, a working man with little to offer, and she with a great and fine house and fine horses and an inheritance! A big, meaty hand clapped down on his shoulder and Sean's voice, quiet in his ear, growled, "Lad, I know th' expression. 'Tis the same as my own the night I proposed to ma Daisy." He grasped the man's shoulders, turned him so the two faced one another squarely. "Ye are a good man an' ne'er doubt that. Ye are upright an' honest an' there's no better qualification than that." Sean grinned, his eyes bright: the rest of the Brigade came crowding into the bunkroom: all were presentable and clean, all were tonsured and barbered and fit to present to decent company: Llewellyn was the only one in a suit, by order of their big red-headed Chieftain, and Sean continued, squeezing Llewellyn's shoulders gently, "An' there's one thing more!" Llewellyn's eyebrow raised a little and Sean saw the grin start at the man's eyes. "Ye're one of a handful o' men, an' we here are all there is, who ha'e th' stones t' be FIREMEN!" The Brigade yelled affirmation behind him, thrusting fists into the air, turning to one another, nodding briskly. "No' a man i' this town is as much a MAN as are we!" Sean declared, his hand flat between Llewellyn's shoulder blades, guiding him away from the mirror: "Let us go forth, then, for th' quarry tonight is the heart of the fair maid!" The Brigade surged forward, grinning, pounding their fellow on the shoulders and on his back, yelling encouragement. Sean raised his hands and roared wordlessly, and the Brigade fell back, and the silence that followed was deafening. Sean glared for a full circle round about, then turned again to Llewellyn. "The ring?" he rumbled. Llewellyn reached into his off pocket, considering, then raised his chin, his jaw hard and set. "No," he said. Sean stopped, blinked. "Eh?" "I'll no' go like this." "Ye'll ... man, wha' are ye sayin'?" "This is no' me!" the Welshman yelled, his face reddening. "I'll no' fly under a false flag!" He turned and shoved between his fellows, heading for his bunk, tearing at his knotted cravat and muttering. "Out, lads," Sean said quietly, and the Brigade withdrew, gathering instead in the kitchen. The Welsh Irishman joined them in a very few minutes, wearing his newest, his best uniform. "NOW!" he shouted. "BY GOD, SAINT PATRICK AND SAINT FLORIAN, I'LL STAND BEFORE HER AS MESEL'!" The Brigade formed up and departed the firehouse, heading up the snow packed street to the Silver Jewel. "Lad," Sean rumbled as they walked, "th' ring?" Llewellyn patted his bib front, where a little bulge betrayed the presence of its small box. "Aye," he said, nodding.
  2. Charlie MacNeil 2-7-13 "We," Fannie declared tartly, "are going to be late!" "Not to worry, my love," her husband answered, chuckling. "We're a mere two miles from town, the horses are still fresh, it's a beautiful time of the day, and we have a standing reservation at the Jewel. Life is good." "That's easy for you to say," she went on. "You don't have nearly as many layers to install on your homely carcass as I do my own," she smiled primly, but there was a saucy gleam in her emerald eyes, "more shapely one." "And quite shapely it is, my dear," Charlie replied, urging the pair of roan geldings to a faster pace with a shake of the reins. "You know I'm always willing to assist you in such endeavors." "Your talents lie more in the direction of removal of layers than their addition, Sugar," Fannie laughed. "I'll just have to muddle through on my own." "The results are always spectacular either way, Darlin'," Charlie assured his shapely bride. The outskirts of Firelands hove into view, their outlines limned in gold by the rapidly setting sun. The couple's buckboard rolled smartly down the main street to the front porch of the Silver Jewel, where Charlie drew the team to halt, stepping down and offering his hand to Fannie. "You head on in, I'll bring your 'bags'," he glanced significantly at the small steamer trunk lashed down in the bed of the wagon, "then take the team to visit their Uncle Shorty while you get started with the transformation." He let his gaze glide the length of her curvaceous form. "Though I'm thinking there ain't much to transform." "You," Fannie said with a smile, "are a very bad man." She kissed him quickly then turned to take the stairs to the Jewel's broad veranda in measured, sinuous steps, knowing her tight trousers were catching the attention of not only her husband but every other warm-blooded male in the immediate vicinity. Charlie followed her progress keenly until she reached the top step before turning to begin loosening the lashings holding his bride's luggage in the wagon bed. His last thought as she disappeared through the Jewel's elegantly etched glass doors was I hate to see her go, but I love to watch her leave!. He chuckled as he lifted the trunk from the wagon bed and strode up the steps himself to set the trunk before the hotel's front desk.
  3. Linn Keller 2-7-13 A dance, a ball, a Cotillion, was always an Event: the men wore neckties and the ladies, fine gowns; faces were scrubbed, whiskers shaved, hair cut, boots polished: much fuss and bother was given over to Looking Just Right: a dance, whether a square dance at a barn raisin' or after a husking bee, or a more formal affair with musicians imported for the occasion, was a short reprieve from the labors of every day life. Men and women rode in or drove a surprising distance for these times. Chief among the jewels displayed were the young, single, marriageable ladies: chief among the attendees were the marriageable men, mostly young, but not all. The Irish Brigade, of course, was there, and among them, one nervous young man with his hair slicked down and carefully barbered, his face precisely shaved (by one of his fellows: his hands shook so that he feared nicking himself), his uniform clean, immaculate, new boots polished to a high shine ... and tucked safely behind his red wool bib front, a small box. The Sheriff rode unerringly through the evening and into the dark; both he and his red mare had eyes for the dark, and followed the path unerringly as it wound through the mountains. It would take him until sunup to get to the little ranch; it would not take long after that to transact his business. He had three sets of irons in his saddlebag and some piggin string besides: he hoped to leave with three prisoners, and no holes in them, but he was not a fool and knew better than to get his hopes up. Jacob frowned in the mirror. Little Joseph stood beside him and frowned as well. Jacob stroked his chin meditatively. Little Joseph stroked his own in imitation. Jacob looked down at his serious-faced son. "Joseph," he said, "I believe we need to shave." "Yes, sir," Little Joseph nodded solemnly. "Fetch up that chair and stand up here." Little Joseph seized the high back chair and pushed it over beside his Pa. Jacob stepped a little to the side. "Stand up here." Little Joseph climbed up on the chair, stood. Jacob spun lather in the shaving cup, looked at the mirror, looked at his son. "I can't do this face-on," he muttered, sliding the chair squarely in front of the mirror and standing behind Joseph. Little Joseph faced the mirror. Jacob situated his head just above Joseph's, took the shaving brush and proceeded to lather his little boy's face, then his own: one cheek on Joseph, one cheek of his own; the other cheek of Joseph, the other cheek of his own; Joseph's under-jaw, then his own; Joseph's chin, and finally his own. "We won't shave your mustache," Jacob said quietly, and little Joseph grinned, then resumed his stolid mien. Jacob turned and stropped his straight razor. "I stoned this a couple minutes ago," he said, "but I have to get the wire edge off." "Yes, sir." Jacob turned to the mirror, gave his cheek an experimental touch of the blade, leaned closer to the mirror and frowned. "Joseph," he said as his son frowned as well, "it's important to frown when you make your first stroke." He shaved another half inch of his own cheek and frowned to illustrate the point. Little Joseph positively glared at the mirror. "Just like that," Jacob nodded. "Now hold still. We need to get those whiskers off you." Little Joseph held absolutely, positively, stock still, not out of fear of a razor nick, but because it's what his Pa wanted, and he was determined to please his Pa. "The heels are higher than what you are used to," Bonnie murmured, "but you are so lovely wearing them!" Sarah laughed. "If they are so lovely," she smiled, her eyes mischevious, "why do we hide them under a dress?" Bonnie gave her daughter a knowing look and started to say something when they heard Levi pass by the closed door. Sarah turned quickly, her gown flowing as she turned: she did not so much walk, as float, to the door: Bonnie knew just how to fix her hair to compliment her face, she wore dangling little ear-bobs and a cameo, her little girl looked so grown-up -- and Sarah seized the door knob, pulled the door quickly open and was gone. Bonnie blinked, hairbrush in hand, then sighed and turned to her mirror, hoping Sarah's absence would not be too lengthy. Sarah skipped after Levi, seized his arm, fell in beside him. Levi stopped, turned: he blinked and regarded this lovely young lady suddenly on his arm: he bowed, raised her knuckles to his lips and murmured, "Forgive me, my dear, I do not believe we have been properly introduced." Sarah gave him a long look with dark eyes, deep eyes beneath long lashes: she took an uncertain breath and said in an uncertain voice, "I'm scared." Levi blinked, turned his head a little as if to bring a good ear to bear. "Eh?" "This way." Sarah tugged at his arm and the pair continued down the hall and into the parlor. "Levi," she said, "dance with me." Levi extended a hand, and Sarah took it: they moved, stepped, turned: Sarah was spun, paced out, paced back: they executed the several maneuvers associated with the various dance steps they expected to encounter, and not until Sarah had tried each one at least three times was she ready to nod and change the subject. "Now I need your advice," she said solemnly, her hand on his arm. "As I am able," Levi murmured. Sarah took a long breath, her lashes lowered; Levi saw her bite her bottom lip as she considered. "Levi," she said quietly, "I have faced up to and faced down large and angry people bearing a variety of weapons. I have been shot, stabbed, cut, run over and run into and I walked the drawbar of a runaway stage in my frillies." She looked up at the man and he saw her face was a little pale. "Levi, I knew what to do. Every time, I knew what was right. "Here ..." Levi saw her young bosom heave twice before she continued and he thought My God! she's feminine! -- and for a moment he felt the same mental imbalance that any father feels when he realizes his little girl isn't a little girl anymore. "What if I make a fool of myself?" Sarah worried aloud, her voice quiet. "What if I say something that ... what if he ... Mr. Llewellyn ..." She looked up at the tall agent, her hand tightening on his coat sleeve, squeezing the lean-muscled arm beneath with her gloved hand. "I'm scared," she whispered. I could have wired the jurisdictional county, the Sheriff thought. Cannonball moved easily at a fast walk; this was plenty fast for his purposes, it did not tire his mount at this altitude, and it gave them both plenty of time to assess the trail ahead. Cannonball's hooves were loud in the nighttime cold; her breath and the Sheriff's plumed out as they exhaled. I probably should have let him know I would be operating in his county. I don't want their interference. I know the old man and he knows me. No, better to handle it this way. "Now pull your mouth over like this. That stretches the skin." Little Joseph pursed his lips and twisted them 'way off to the side. Jacob carefully, gently, passed the razor's honed edge down his son's downy-fuzz cheek, scraping off lather and imagination but little else, then he wiped the lather on his towel and made an identical stroke down his own cheek. It was taking him well more than twice as long to shave, he knew, but he was enjoying himself, and he would get to the cotillion to serve as Sarah's escort -- or one of them -- in plenty of time. Annette watched from the doorway, leaning against the casing, smiling, for there is something precious about father and son in such a moment. Sarah waited until the moment was right. She eased stockinged feet out of her backless shoes, cat-footed into her Mama's room, opened the closet door: There, she thought, bending down: she slipped into another pair of shoes, fastened the instep straps, took a few experimental steps, twirled. Much better, she thought. Mama was right. A higher heel makes it easier to dance.
  4. Linn Keller 2-5-12 "I'll get changed," Sarah said, hanging her pointer from the screw eye in its handle end. "Yes," the Sheriff said. "I want you in that sky-blue gown, the one with a little lace at the sleeves and the neck." Sarah raised one eyebrow. "Very well," she said slowly. "I ... shall do so, of course." Jacob's eyes were half-lidded; the Sheriff could almost hear the gears turning between his son's ears. "Jacob." "Yes, sir?" "Jacob, did Mr. Llewellyn not say the cotillion was tonight?" "He did, sir." "And did he not ask my permission to escort Sarah to said cotillion?" "He did, sir." "And I believe my reply was in the affirmative." "It was, sir." The two looked at Sarah. "You have a rather important appointment," the Sheriff said quietly. Sarah glared at her father. "I am not a side of beef, to be auctioned off to the highest bidder," she said quietly, a dangerous edge to her voice, and the Sheriff felt his daughter's anger rise like heat radiating from a cast iron stove. "At ease," he said gently, raising a forestalling palm: "we cannot sweep down upon them, nor can we seize the guilty, until we know who they are." "Yes, sir," Jacob said, frowning a little, listening closely. The Sheriff carefully closed both the watch's covers. "I believe," he said, "this will be my ticket to the truth." "They may not wish to be taken," Sarah said, her voice tight: she reminded the Sheriff of a lean and hungry hound, ready to course after its quarry, needing only a word to loose it like a living arrow. "Of course the won't," the Sheriff said. "Which is why I am going alone." "What?" Jacob and Sarah blurted: they looked at each other, then both looked at the Sheriff and said in chorus, "I'm sorry, sir, I ... what?" "You both know I do nothing without planning," the Sheriff explained patiently, a half-smile tightening the corners of his eyes: "I need to plan, and I plan well in the saddle, and I shall ... go take a look at the ... situation. Once I am satisfied of the quarry, then the hunt begins." Sarah opened her mouth, then closed it. Jacob blinked, considering that a closed mouth utters no mistakes, and kept his in that wise. Sarah was not content to let well enough be. She walked up to her Papa, looking very much the proper young schoolmarm. "Papa," she said, "please stand up." The Sheriff looked at her, a wry smile on his face. "Are you going to kick me in the shin again?" "Only if you deserve it," she said tartly, and the Sheriff chuckled, for she sounded so much like her Mama when she said it. He stood. Sarah glared at him over her spectacles, her eyes bright. "I was wrong," she said, "and I apologize." The Sheriff looked down at the young woman before him and raised one eyebrow. "I am not a side of beef," Sarah continued, "and you did not auction me off. It was wrong of me to say that." The Sheriff nodded. "Yes," he agreed. "It was." Sarah raised an admonishing finger, thrust herself against her Papa, shaking her finger at his face. "If you go and get yourself killed," she said, her voice tight, "I -- I ... I'll never speak to you again!" The Sheriff tried hard not to laugh. Honest.
  5. Linn Keller 2-5-12 The Sheriff sat down on one of the backless benches, Jacob on another: Sarah drew out her high-backed chair, settled herself in it with a smoothing of skirts and a prim folding of hands. "Good Lord," Jacob said quietly, "she looks the part, don't she?" "Don't make her mad," the Sheriff warned. "She has a knuckle crackin' ruler and she knows how to use it." Sarah gave them a patient look over her round lens spectacles. The Sheriff leaned forward, elbows on his knees, twisting his lower back a little and frowning. "What do we know so far?" he asked rhetorically. Jacob stood, paced slowly to the blackboard: he picked up a lump of chalk, wrote quickly, his print regular and clear. Driver shot. Alive. Guard fell. Alive. Ambush -- He looked at Sarah. "Gobbler's Knob," she said. "Stands to reason," Jacob muttered, writing the name after the word ambush. Number? He looked at Sarah. "Three," she said, rising. Jacob wrote the number 3, put the chalk back in its trough, turned. "Report." Sarah walked slowly to the chalkboard, picking up a tapered hardwood pointer: tapping it twice against the edge of the chalkboard to punctuate that she was about to speak, she addressed the lawmen as if delivering a lecture. "Testimony from three children, three separate families. Three strangers were seen skulking at Gobbler's Knob" -- she turned a little, tapped the printed location with the black tip of her pointing stick -- "one holding the horses, one lookout and one laying wait. One shot fired, the stage whipped up and got away, the three swore terribly and believed the shot missed. The stage went west, they three went east, then south." The Sheriff's eyes never wavered from Sarah, who continued lecturing. "Children are curious and children are sneaky and children are competitive. Two of the three slithered close and listened as the trio debated their course of action. They were agreed that having shot at the driver, that pursuit would be swift, but as nobody was shot, pursuit would not last long and their getaway would be assured. "They are for the old trail south, their destination Rabbitville. "Apparently there was some discussion as to this destination. The measles seem to be likened to the plague and two were reluctant until their leader stated that nobody would come after them with death stalking the streets." Sarah smiled a little. "My words, not his. The witness quoted the speaker as saying nobody would come where people are a-dyin'. "The other two then asked why they should go if people are a-dyin', as they do not wish to die, and their leader laughed and said the measles are long gone but it leaves a bad reputation. "They three agreed, saddled up and rode off." Sarah reached into a hidden pocket, withdrew a watch on a length of fine chain, apparently broken from its fob. "They dropped this." She paced over to the Sheriff, handed him the watch. The Sheriff ran the fine-link chain through his fingers, looked at its end, turned the watch over, pressed the stem to open the covers front and back. He read inside the back cover, looked at something in the front cover, handed it to his son. "I know the family," he said quietly. "I know where they'll be."
  6. Somehow or other, I don't remember how, my wife became Yo Momma when talking to the kids about her...
  7. Linn Keller 2-4-12 Children in any age and in any land are ... children. Schoolchildren have a common trait: they are fast -- and never so fast as when school is dismissed. The Sheriff debated momentarily whether he should clap his hand to his head to keep his hair from being sucked from his thinning scalp, so sure was he that the rapid departure of young humanity would form a spinning slipstream that would strip his head absolutely bald. He looked over at Jacob, who had a good grip on his hat: apparently something of the kind occurred to the chief deputy as well. Sarah waved at the few who turned to pipe a departing "Bye, Miz Sarah!" -- then she drew the doors shut and folded her hands primly in her apron. "Jacob," the Sheriff said, "discovered the location." Sarah regarded her pale-eyed brother, frowned a little, turned and looked around the tidy little schoolhouse. Her bottom lip pressed up against her top teeth, then she said "Follow me," and headed for the front of the room. Jacob and his father looked at each other, then followed the self-assured young woman. Sarah bent, reached under her desk: she pulled out a stool, set it beside the desk and said "Now you two stand there. Just like that, thank you." Sarah stepped up on the stool, folded her hands again and nodded. "That's better," she said. "I was getting a crick in my neck, looking up at the both of you." She frowned at Jacob. "You're as tall as he is. Shouldn't you stop growing?" Jacob and the Sheriff looked at one another, surprised. "I may be in trouble," the Sheriff admitted, smiling a little: "I didn't hit my full growth until I was ... what, twenty five years old or so?" Sarah's mouth opened a little as she regarded Jacob with wide and appraising eyes. "You're ... six foot two now ... and you're ... oh, dear ..." "Never mind that," Jacob said impatiently, waving his hand: "what did you find?" "Location, description, identity, cohort, escape route and intended destination." "Eh?" "They're long gone." Jacob and the Sheriff exchanged a hard look; Sarah could not help but consider that not only were father and son equally broad of shoulder, lean of waist and of a like height -- they both bulged their jaw muscles the same when they were not terribly happy. Both men looked at Sarah and spoke with one voice: "Whither away?" Sarah waved her hands, stepped off the stool, thrust it back under her desk. "This, this, this is just too much," she declared, sounding almost like a clucking chicken -- an irritated clucking chicken -- "If little Joseph turns out like the two of you, God help us all!" "What?" Jacob asked, looking at his father with honest puzzlement; the Sheriff shrugged. "How much like the two of you am I?" Sarah asked, and Jacob smiled at the distress in her voice: he stopped the laugh that bubbled up in his soul as Sarah thrust a finger at his chin: "Don't," she warned. "Don't you dare laugh!" Jacob's ears turned red and he grinned and looked at his grinning father and he could not help himself. He laughed. Sarah's eyes went pale but her cheeks were red and she stiffened her arms at her side, her hands fisted and her shoulders drawn up; with an "Ooooohh!" of exasperation, she turned away, then turned back, shaking her Mommy-finger at her brother: "I told you not to laugh!' -- at which point Jacob laughed all the harder, leaning down a little, bracing palms on his knees, surrendering himself to an absolute attack of mirth. Sarah's lips peeled back and she cocked a fist and Jacob's hand shot out, his palm flat on her forehead, and Sarah swung, missing: her arm was too short to hit Jacob, but she tried -- a roundhouse right, a left, a right again, each punctuated by an angry grunt, and Jacob, his arm stiff, laughed all the harder: Sarah tried a kick, with a similar lack of success, and Jacob gave up, gathering his sister into his arms and throwing his head back, howling his mirth to the ceiling -- at least until her sharp little knuckles drove into his ribs. She didn't really hurt him, she certainly didn't cause any damage, because her anger was dissolving and dissolving fast under the solvent of his honest laughter. Jacob picked her up, pinning her arms to her sides, then he sat down and Sarah's feet hit the floor and she popped out of his grip like a cork out of deep water: she reached over into the corner and seized a broom, spinning it about its center of gravity, eyes pale, hair fairly a-bristle, and Jacob pointed at her and sagged, beyond all hope of laughter now, his mirth so powerful he could barely make a choking, gasping sound: his face was utterly red, he was crying he was laughing so hard, and he slid out of the seat and to the floor. The Sheriff was trying without much luck to hide his own mirth behind a scar-knuckled hand: Sarah glared at him, drove the end of the broom handle into the floor with a sharp, woody sound, and glared at the tall, skinny old lawman. Sarah glared at Jacob, then at the Sheriff, then at Jacob again, and then shook her finger at one and then the other. "Do you know" -- her voice was harsh -- "do either of you two know how hard it is not to LAUGH??" Sarah waited, her anger washing away like snow melt, smiling now at the two lawmen as they shared a good laugh, and the sound of father and son in agreeable mirth was good to hear. "I," Sarah said, "must have looked like an absolute fool." She looked at the broom, parked it back in the corner. "But a very pretty fool," the Sheriff offered, and this time Sarah laughed as well: she walked up to her Papa, laid a gentle hand on his breast, then hauled off and kicked him in the shin just as hard as she could. "OOWWW!!!" the Sheriff yelled, jumping back, and Jacob and Sarah laughed just as hard as the two men laughed a moment before. "Your turns is coming," Sarah warned, shaking her finger at Jacob. Sarah waited until the Sheriff quit hopping on one foot and Jacob quit sounding like a chicken laying a paving brick, before speaking further. "Now if you two think you can act like grown-ups instead of silly featherheads, we'll talk about the case at hand."
  8. Linn Keller 2-4-13 The phrase "A woman's work is never done" was truer in the Firelands era than today: laundry was done by hand, unless you had one of those fancy Sears and Sawbuck machines, or prosperous enough to patronize the Chinese laundry: men, too, labored all day long, and children were expected to work from the time they were big enough to follow Ma or Pa around. It was a way of life, it was expected, it was accepted; still, there were moments ... Annette, for instance, found time enough from her constant labors to run out to the board fence and stare in amazement at their bull, contentedly walking about the pasture, with little Joseph astride his shoulders: the bull seemed content to have a passenger, and Joseph had a grin on his face that lit up the countryside like a cloudless sunrise. Annette watched this sight for a bit, until the bull spotted her and came trotting over for attention and a sweet roll; the big bovine closed his eyes with pleasure and grunted with contentment as Annette petted it and rubbed his ears and called him a fine, big fellow, like she did when he was a cute little bull calf -- "boocaffie," as little Joseph called him then -- and finally Annette reached up and pulled Joseph off, swinging him down and swatting his bottom gently with a, "Back to the house, young man, you have chores to do!" -- at which little Joseph said both, "Aawww, Maaaa," like any little boy, then he slipped behind her to pat the bull's neck: "Bye, Boocaffie!" and he slid neatly between the fence rails and scampered for the house. "How is he?" Jacob asked quietly. The Sheriff drew the sheet slowly, respectfully over the still form. Jacob, still standing in the doorway, hat in his hand, closed his eyes: Doc Greenlees saw Jacob's free hand close slowly into a fist. "If you mean the driver," Doc said quietly, "he's in the next room, asleep. This was a miner. Took a tamping rod through the gut." Jacob's eyes opened and he regarded the sheeted form, then the physician. "Steel rod?" he asked quietly. Doc Greenlees gestured; Jacob crossed the room, picked up the murderous implement: it was indeed steel, and likely threw a spark when the miner was tamping powder for the next underground shot. "They usually use wood," he said with a sigh. Doc nodded. "How about the shotgun guard?" "Hunt? He's awake, finally. The man thinks he murdered some girl, knocked her off the side of the stage." "If he remembers where the bushwhacker hid I'll be tickled." "Go in and ask him." It took until noon for a student to screw up the courage to sidle up to Miss Sarah and tug at her sleeve: their conference was in low voice, behind Miss Sarah's big desk. Emboldened, another waited impatiently, then took his turn at divulging what he'd heard. Sarah nodded, thanking each student in their turn: she waited another hour, hoping for more: getting none, she stepped to the window, the one with a little sun still slanting in it, and looked out. The Sheriff opened his office door, looked around the way he always did, stepped out, turning to pull the door shut. Sarah raised a little mirror, the kind women carry to make sure their hair is just so or their face paint is not smeared; she held it up, wiggled it a little, shooting a beam through the window, across the street, across her Papa's eyes as he turned. She lowered the mirror, waved delicately: the Sheriff raised his hat in acknowledgement, then crossed the street, heading for the schoolhouse. Jacob, coming out of the hospital, saw his Pa headed across the way. Jacob thrust his foot into the stirrup, swung easily into the saddle, kneed Apple-horse toward the older lawman with the lean waist and the iron-grey mustache.
  9. 13 grains of Titewad, same hull, wad, etc.
  10. As I said, this is for a cabin rifle rather than SASS. Thanks!
  11. After loading a few last night and playing with OAL, crimp, etc. I’ve pretty much decided to save the 185’s for ACP loads and get a different weight for the 45 Colt rifle loads. The 185’s cycled fine but I’m just not happy with the whole picture. Thanks again for all of your input, folks.
  12. Thanks for your input, folks. I will definitely keep it all in mind as I'm sneaking up on this project.
  13. I use a Lee Factory Crimp die on all of my reloads. Thanks!
  14. Linn Keller 2-3-13 Sarah sat unsmiling in front of the Sheriff's house, rifle propped up on her thigh, silent in the light snowfall. Her black hat was dusted with fine, dry snow; snow lay across her shoulders and in the folds of her black coat, individual dry snow pellets slid down the junction of rifle barrel and magazine tube. The Sheriff stopped, then closed his front door behind him, walked out onto his front porch, his pace slow. Snowflake was as still as her rider, her rider was still as death itself, pale eyes regarded the mustachioed lawman from under the hat brim. "What," the Sheriff said quietly, "is your intention?" "There is work to be done," Sarah said, equally silently, the steel in her voice at odds with the beauty of her face. "Yes," the Sheriff agreed, "there is, and it will be tended." "Orders, sir?" The Sheriff walked down his front stairs ... one step, two, three. He looked up at his solemn, unsmiling daughter. "Change clothes," he said. "You'll look more like the schoolmarm in a dress." Sarah's cold eyes hardened. "Emma Cooper is home with her husband and you know that," the Sheriff continued. "You will need to run the schoolhouse until she's back." Sarah's gloved hand tightened around her rifle's fore end and the Sheriff saw her jaw muscles tighten: the cold-air pink in her cheeks stood out all the brighter as she paled, and somewhere in a realm unseen, the Sheriff's long-dead mother whispered a warning, War on the mountain, and Sarah threw a leg over and slid out of the saddle, free-falling several feet before landing easily, knees flexed: she spun, thrust the rifle in its scabbard, took a half dozen quick steps to catch up with the Sheriff. Sarah seized her father's coat sleeve, pulled hard, spinning him a quarter turn: her mouth was open a little, her teeth set, and the Sheriff saw the same cold fire in her eyes that he'd seen in his own, in unguarded moments, reflected momentarily in water or a mirror or a window pane. Sarah's hand seized the Sheriff's lapel. The Sheriff stopped, waiting, watching, knowing her mind was running as fast as her body was not: Sarah closed her eyes, took a long breath, shivered: she relaxed her grip, laying her black-gloved hand flat on her Papa's chest and whispered, "What the hell am I doing?" The Sheriff seized Sarah by her coat front: he grabbed her hard, twisted, picked her up, flexing lean muscled arms until Sarah's feet swung well free of the ground and her nose was level with his: he drew her in, their hat brims colliding: two Stetsons fell to the ground and the Sheriff stared hard and unblinking into the pale, hard and unblinking eyes of his little girl. The Sheriff kissed Sarah's lips, once, lightly, and whispered "I'll tell you what you're doing," and Sarah waited, feeling like cold lightning just seared down through her soul, feeling the life and the absolute power of the bare, delicate touch of father's lips to daughter's. "You," the Sheriff whispered, "are following," he paused, "your heart." He held her a few more moments, staring, then tossed her up a little, running an arm around her, then the other: he hugged her, hard, fiercely, and Sarah heard a groan from the man's throat, and felt him shiver. The Sheriff squatted, pulled Sarah over on his out-thrust thigh, and Sarah sat on her Daddy's lap, and her Daddy brushed a wisp of hair from her cheek. "You," he whispered, and she felt his hand tremble a little as his thumb caressed her cheekbone, "are so very much like me." He shook his head, blinking. "I could not see it in Jacob -- not at first -- but I can see it in you. "Sarah," he continued, his voice still at a whisper, "this snow just buried any sign we could hope to find for that bush whack. Dark last night and snow today, what tools do we use to discover the truth?" Sarah blinked, confused: it was frightening to feel her Papa's strength when he grabbed her, when he picked her up -- she knew he liked the tactic, to take the fight out of someone, there's something very unnerving about losing contact with the earth -- and he'd set her so easily, so effortlessly on his lap, as if she was a little girl -- and now his whisper was gentle, and she knew he was teaching a lesson in a classroom of one. Sarah blinked, considering. "We must discover that which has been covered." The Sheriff nodded. "A broom will be of little help." Again the nod. "What tools ..." Sarah's eyes tracked left, slowly, then right, then back to her Papa's eyes. "Knowledge," she said. "Discover. Uncover. Find." Her eyes were bright as realization dawned, and she nodded. "I'll cover the schoolhouse," she said. "If the children ... if anything touched any household I'll hear it. Children go everywhere and hear everything and see everything." The Sheriff nodded, his eyes smiling a little. "You will take care of the Jewel and elsewhere ... but I am the only one who could possibly listen at school." The Sheriff laid a strong hand on her gloved fist. "My dear Agent Rosenthal," he whispered, "you are the only individual suitable for the assignment. In this, you cannot be replaced. Do you accept the assignment?" Sarah pulled off her glove, caressed her Papa's clean shaven cheek, blinked. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I was wrong." The Sheriff straightened, picking Sarah up again, kissed her cheek and hugged her again, then he swung her up and carried her over to the porch steps. "No," he said. "You were not wrong." He lowered her black-booted feet to the middle step, held her by the shoulders and leaned his forehead against hers, looking into her darkening eyes. "You are a strong and capable young woman, and you are my blood, and I love you more than my own life. I see your heart and I see my own." He hugged her again, fiercely, the desperate embrace of a father realizing his little girl wasn't a little girl anymore ... that bright and terrible moment when the realization, the knowledge, resided no more behind his forehead, and the realization, the knowledge, migrated down into the man's heart. "Papa?" Sarah's voice was soft, that of a little girl, of his little girl. "Yes, Sarah?" "Papa, it's snowing in our hats." Cl-clang, cl-clang, cl-clang! Sarah stood on the top step, the bell firm in her grip, slinging its brassy tintinnabulations across the street, summoning the few laggards as they ran laughing through the snow: she looked properly prim, standing there, smiling and greeting each student by name. She looked up and smiled, for a man separated from the small group crossing the street toward the Silver Jewel and stopped, looking at her: he raised a hand and smiled shyly, and Sarah raised her hand and waved at the Welsh Irishman, and not even a swirl of wind-spun snowflakes could diminish the delight in each of their expressions. Sarah closed the door behind her, nodded approvingly as scarves and caps and coats were hung, as students made their way to their benches, as here and there one or two would huddle in front of a gas heater, spreading cold-pink fingers and shivering a little as they soaked in the welcome warmth of the hissing flames. Sarah held the bell like a scepter before her: she raised her chin and lifted her skirt and stepped out with her characteristic, businesslike gait, marched down the center aisle and placed the brass bell in its place on the shelf, the bent handle turned toward the left. Sarah returned to the center of the room, clapped her hands twice; quiet murmurs ceased, with only the occasional restless shuffle of young feet. "Class," Sarah said, her voice clear and distinct in the respectful hush, "you may have heard. Miz Emma's husband was hurt and so she is home taking care of him." She nodded a little at the end of her sentence, looking and sounding like the proper schoolmarm illustrating the use of a declarative sentence. "You may also have heard that the stage driver was shot. He is still in hospital and his shotgun guard was hurt as well." "And you saved the stage, Miss Sarah!" one of the Kolascinski boys piped, his seatmate elbowing him quickly into silence. "Theodoro," Sarah smiled, and the little boy grinned, revealing a new gap where a baby tooth had been the day before, "I helped a little but my brother did as well." She paused, looked closer. "Did you just lose a tooth?" "Naw," young Theodore complained. "Ma saw it was loose so she grabbed it an' yanked it out!" The lad that elbowed him looked at him, big-eyed. "Did it hurt?" he asked, and Sarah smiled a little, allowing the exchange for another moment before clapping her hands for attention. "We will begin with our morning prayer, and we will pray for the safety of the stage, the recovery of the driver and guard, the comfort of the passengers and for the souls of those who shot a good man, and we will pray for the recovery of Jackson Cooper and for the comfort of Miz Emma." Sarah looked her class over, nodded. "Robert. Please stand and lead us in the morning prayer."
  15. What I found interesting on our grocery shopping expedition last Sunday was that while I was waiting at the pickup to load my mom in law's groceries several couples came out of the store, put their groceries in the car and left. One of each couple was wearing a mask. If one of you is immune compromised, shouldn't both of you be wearing masks?
  16. 'Cause 185 and 250 are all I can find around here, and I don't want to pay shipping on that small an order. And I'd really like to not spend the money on a loading manual for a one off load experiment if I can keep from it. I guess I'm just cheap...
  17. I would like to load some 185 grain Hornady XTP hollow points for 45 Colt woods loads. These would be used mainly in a Uberti 73 rifle as a "fired once in a while load" as opposed to a steady diet thing (the 73 is a cabin gun). Hodgdon doesn't list 185 grain bullets of any kind in their reloading data for 45 Colt. I don't want to wreck the action of my rifle so I want appropriate loads, but I do like the performance of the XTP bullets. Can anyone help? I currently have Bullseye, Clays, 700-x, Unique and 231 on hand. Thanks!
  18. Linn Keller 2-2-13 The Sheriff and Jacob were in the stage's driver's seat, their horses tethered behind: Sarah rode not far ahead, all in black, on her black Snowflake: the big horse looked all the bigger for Sarah's small size, or maybe Sarah looked smaller for the horse's bulk: eighteen hands and more above the ground is a fine and elevated platform, and more times than one the Sheriff eyed the big black Frisian and mentally compared her to his old Sam-horse, realizing she had Sam by a margin ... and old Sam had been a sizable horse in his own right. The Sheriff drove, Jacob had shotgun in hand and another behind the seat, ready: Jacob's coat pockets held a handful of reloads apiece, but he well knew the value of a second, loaded gun, ready to hand. Both men rode alert: two pair of pale eyes regarded the territory, and Sarah's as well: she matched her pace to the team pulling the stage coach: their speed was somewhat less than their usual hard-out pace, but that didn't trouble the passengers any. After a holdup attempt, after the stage was runaway, after they realized their rescue was arrived horseback and with absolutely no idea just how this young pair was going to stop the runaway team, and after the Sheriff himself took the reins and his chief deputy climbed to the seat to ride shotgun -- after all this, the passengers offered no protest at being behind schedule. There was little if any chance the robbers would remain, after trying and not succeeding; they were right: they arrived at the way station without incident. The Sheriff had wired ahead; the stage line knew they would need a driver and a guard, that the Sheriff purposed to deliver the stage to the way station; they arrived, the team was turned into the corral, a fresh team stood ready, but with no driver yet, the passengers were offered the station's overnight accommodation. The three rode back, searching the potential ambush points; the passengers' testimony had been singularly ineffective: not a one of them was familiar with the route, none could give any significant landmark, referent or even estimate; their search on the way back, in the deepening dusk, was utterly fruitless: finally, surrendering to the reality that the light needed to see by, was pretty well gone, they headed back for Firelands. Sarah rode in silence; father and son discussed the potential ambuscades, spoke their observations when they examined each; Sarah's eyes were busy, but her mouth was closed, at least until they stopped at the last one just shy of the final turn that would let them see the Firelands gas lamps on the main street. The Sheriff turned his red mare and looked squarely at Sarah. The dusk did not hide the luminosity of his pale eyes, nor the single, summoning nod. Sarah walked Snowflake up to her father, stopping when their off stirrups were nearly touching. "You're finally taller than me," the Sheriff said, and Sarah -- close enough to lean out and touch him -- saw the smile in his eyes. "I'm sorry, sir," she said shortly. The Sheriff raised an eyebrow. "You're sorry?" "I'm not supposed to be taller than you." The Sheriff stifled a smile, looked away, looked back. "I would hear your thoughts." "We looked at where the ambuscade likely was, but the light is poor. We will see more come daylight. My thoughts are to see to the guard, if he is awake, the driver if he yet lives, and I worry about Emma Cooper." The Sheriff nodded. "Esther arranged supper to be taken to them." "Cold comfort," Sarah said, her voice hollow. "She's taking it out herself." "That will be a comfort, then. Emma ..." The Sheriff leaned over, took Sarah's hand gently in his. "I know. You should stop and see her. It's not far." "Yes, sir." "We'll see to the driver and the shotgun. You go on, see to Emma, then get a good night's rest." Sarah looked hard at her father, then nodded. He said that to Jacob when there was work to be done on the morrow. Sarah spoke to Snowflake, and the big black mare cantered down the road towards town. Sarah strode across the kitchen and put her hands firmly on Jackson Cooper's shoulders. "Sit," she commanded, and the Marshal sank back into his chair, and Emma could see the amusement in her husband's eyes. Sarah laid her fingers gently on his cheeks, turned his head a little, tilting her own as she studied his features: she laid the backs of her fingers against his forehead, nodded. Sarah put her knuckles on her hips and frowned at the Marshal. "You realize, don't you," she said quietly, "if you get yourself killed, I'll never speak to you again!" It took a moment for Jackson Cooper to realize just what she said, then another moment for how she said it, to sink in, then he chuckled a little, frowning and pressing his arm against his ribs before daring to chuckle a bit more. "Jackson Cooper," Sarah whispered, bending a little, one hand on his shoulder, the other on her own knee as she stooped, "we only have one of you. You are rare and you are special and I can't replace you." "Why, thank you," Jackson Cooper said, his face reddening: he ducked his head like a bashful schoolboy, and Sarah straightened, turned to Emma Cooper. "I need your advice," she whispered, then cleared her throat, her expression troubled. Jackson Cooper stood, then turned and headed toward the stairway. He'd had a busy day and the doc told him to take things easy for a while, and he did: he took the rest of the day easy, he even delegated cleaning the barn and throwing hay to a pair of lads from town: tomorrow, he figured, he'd be well enough to go back to tending his own livestock, but for now, why, the ladies wanted to talk, and it looked like a fine excuse to him, to go upstairs and stretch out in the bunk. Jackson Cooper got undressed without too much difficulty, and shrugged slowly into his flannel night shirt: his face was impassive as he threw back the bed covers and situated himself in the bunk, careful not to bump into his wife who wasn't there -- habit is a hard thing to break -- and as he settled into relaxation, the cat padded across the floor and launched herself onto his belly. Jackson Cooper's arms were out from under the covers yet and he caressed the striped grey cat, then slid one arm, then the other beneath quilts and sheets, and the cat curled up squarely on top of where that one rib had been broken, and it was the first time all day -- between her weight, and her warmth -- that his rib didn't hurt.
  19. Linn Keller 2-2-13 "It's no' often we'd need one," the Welsh Irishman admitted, "but 'twas no' handy t' carry th' mon so far. We took turns, aye, an' we got him there but ..." he hesitated, then continued, "Th' right tool f'r th' right job, Sean." Sean's expression was haunted, for he too know what it was to need the right tool, and not have it. "Aye, lad, ye're right," he admitted. "Sure an' we'll ha'e t' ha'e th' firehouse enlarged. We'll need a team dedicated to't ... an' manpower ... but 'twill be seen as extravagance an' waste." "Likely 'twill." "They'll ask ha'many times hae we needed an ambulance." "Aye." The Welsh Irishman's voice was gloomy. Sean sighed. "It'll take somethin' like th' coach turnin' o'er a mile 'r more fra' town." "Aye." Sean grasped the Welshman by the shoulders, squeezed gently. "Ye recall wha' Rogers told us?" Llewellyn grinned. "Aye," he said. "He said we canna' save th' world an' i' will grind our souls t' know it." Both men looked up, looked at the front door: there were three distinct knocks, delivered with some hard object, not with knuckles: both men moved, Llewellyn pausing to allow Sean a full stride, deferring to the man's rank as fire chief. Sean opened the door wide. "Come in, lass," he said, his voice steady: he stood aside, gestured her in, and Sarah came in and stopped and laid a hand on the big Irishman's embroidered Maltese cross at the center of his shirts' red bib front. Her eyes were big and her eyes were frightened, but her hand was steady as she lifted her chin and squeaked, "Might I see" -- she stopped, cleared her throat, swallowed, tried again. "Might I see Mr. Llewellyn?" The Welshman held station: Sarah asked the Chief, and it would be for the Chief to make reply: he was the authority and he was the law and he was the man in charge, and as Sarah asked of the Chief, it would be a breach of protocol for him to step forward unbidden. Sean looked down at the diminutive young lady, curling his forefinger under her chin, lifting her face to him -- his touch was gentle, fatherly -- and in the gentlest of voices, this fierce Irish war-chieftain said "Aye, lass," and only then did Llewellyn step forth. Sarah reached up and took Sean's hand, reached her hand out and took the Welsh Irishman's as well. "Did you see what happened?" she asked, and the men exchanged a look, for they'd gone only as far as the unconscious shotgun rider. "You don't know, then," she whispered, tightening her grip and dropping her head. "We know ye brought in the runaway stage, th' two of ye," Sean said, his expression puzzled. "More than that, no." Sarah nodded. "I just needed," she said, her breathing quick, shallow, "I just ... needed ... someplace to feel safe for a moment." Sarah closed her eyes, bit her bottom lip, trembling a little. Sean tilted his head a little toward the Welsh Irishman: he drew Sarah's hand closer to the Welshman, then extracted his strong, scarred paw from her grip, placed a gentle hand on her back and moved her closer as the Welsh Irishman opened his arms and Sarah shivered into them. "Hold me," she whispered, her voice trembling. "Hold me." The Sheriff listened without comment as Jacob gave a cold, factual account of what happened with the stage. The Sheriff's face was impassive as Jacob described his leap to the wheel horse's back: he was busy enough he did not know what-all his sister did, but he did not hesitate to give her full credit for making a dismount at speed to gain the stage, and then at peril of her own life, down to gather the dropped reins. The Sheriff already had what little information the passengers could give; none could see forward, most were clinging to the seat or the door frame, anything to give them support in the rocking, bouncing Concord coach. He considered his son's words for a full minute before making reply. "Jacob," he said, "your action -- no, your inaction -- saved lives." Jacob waited, knowing his father was putting words together before he spoke them. "Had you shot that horse -- you are right -- they would have piled up in a wreck." "Yes, sir." "Have you a statement from the shotgun guard?" "No, sir. He's still out cold." "The driver?" "Doc says he will live." The Sheriff's eyes smiled a little, though the smile did not extend to his face. "That's not all he said." "No, sir." "He made comparisons to buffalo hump, raw hide and whalebone." "He did, sir." "The man is predictable." "Yes, sir." There was a tap at the door: it was the light sound of feminine knuckles, and both men rose. Sarah came in, pale, looking almost like a scared little girl instead of the self-assured young woman they were used to seeing. "Jackson Cooper?" she asked. "Should I go out?" "He'll be fine," the Sheriff said in a deep, reassuring voice. Sarah gathered a handful of skirt, crushing it in her fists. "My report, sir," she said, her voice tight. The Sheriff nodded. "Report." Sarah closed her eyes, her hands clasped in her apron: she took a long breath and started at the beginning. Like Jacob, her account was factual, consecutive and without varnish: the simple declarative sentence is a powerful tool for communication and Sarah communicated powerfully: she described her leap and how the skirt fouled her effort, how she missed her intended mark and instead had to make a desperate grab for the driver's seat, catching the metal rail at its edge and feeling it bend under her weight: how she struggled to the seat, stood and shucked out of her dress and threw it into the wind, knowing if she lived, she could go after it, and if her effort was unsuccessful she would die and would have no further use for it: either way, she said with the barest hint of a smile, it was necessary to strip down to stop the stage. She paused before continuing and swayed a little, her stomach turning over as she remembered the view from the driver's seat, and how she fell through space for a year and a day before she landed: the Sheriff listened with the same impassive stillness to his daughter's account as he'd listened to his son's: when Sarah was finished, the Sheriff gestured to Jacob, summoning him over, and to Sarah, crooking her close with bent finger: he stood and put one arm around his pale eyed firstborn and one around his pale eyed second born and said, "I am pretty damned proud of the both of you." In an era where it was manly and correct to be stolid and undemonstrative, an era where people never smiled for portraits for a smile was seen as a sign of weakness, an era where Spartan stoicism was an ideal for the image of a manly man, Jacob and his father cheerfully tossed convention to the wind: arms around each other, the three squeezed and squeezed hard, and part of Sarah's mind whispered, I have wanted this for so very long! "I've been a townie all ma life," the Welshman muttered, seated on an overturned dynamite crate. "I willna keep her fra' her horses an' fer tha' she needs a ranch." "An' who's t' say ye'll no' take a likin' to an estate?" Sean challenged. The Welshman grinned and his grin was crooked, wry: "Aye," he admitted, "but who's got t' money f'r an estate?" Mr. Moulton blew out the lamp in his office. He'd worked late, taking care of one last land transfer. He smiled as he looked at the envelope, laid with the other documents, remembering its contents: You should have a proper wedding gift. Two hundred acres should be a good start. The house is tight, the barns strong and the land fertile. Timber and water and good graze, suitable for raising horses and children. Our blessings on your married union. It bore the signatures of both Sarah's fathers.
  20. Linn Keller 2-1-13 The horses weren't hurt. Matter of fact the horses were healthy, fed, rested and in a mood to run, especially after getting scared, startled and shot at, not necessarily in that order. The stage driver wasn't in quite as good a shape and the shotgun had his hands full trying to keep the driver set upright. He tried taking the reins and caught an elbow in the teeth for his trouble: the driver was hard headed and contrary, and shot through the guts or not, he was damned if he was going to give away control of his team, so the shotgun wedged the empty ten-bore under his knees and concentrated on keeping his irascible driver upright. They were headed toward Firelands, they were running at a gallop and the shotgun figured there was billy-damned he could do about it, so he hung onto the driver and gritted his teeth. Jacob saw the stage headed into town and he knew something wasn't right. He couldn't see the driver for the trees but that-there Concord was moving way the hell too fast for that road and for the turn coming up. Jacob had no need for reins nor knees, it seemed; he wished to be there, and Apple-horse came to very willing life under him, whipping around the hair pin turn and down the long grade toward the roadway. Sarah shaded her eyes with her flat hand, frowning; the stage was coming into town from the other end and coming fast. She'd got home, but instead of going inside, instead of reading to the twins and washing up and relaxing a little before supper, she was nervous, she was stirred up some, and she was of a mind to try to ride it off: after she rubbed down her black horse, she whistled up Snowflake and fooled with her some and got the saddle screwed down on her nice and snug. Sarah climbed up the rail fence and into the saddle: undignified, yes, but faster than leading Snowflake to a mounting block. Snowflake was anxious to be anywhere but where she was, yet she did not run off with her rider: Sarah held Snowflake to a nice easy pace, a gliding trot that covered ground rapidly but didn't exert her big Frisian to any degree. Sarah's weight shifted and Snowflake stopped, ears swinging, head turning. Sarah shaded her eyes with a flat palm, frowning. That stage is coming too fast, she thought, it's not slowing down ... Sarah saw Jacob pounding hard after the stage and she knew things were not good, things were not good a'tall. Snowflake reached out in a long-legged trot that moved smoothly into a rocking-horse gallop and Sarah leaned forward, standing in the stirrups. Daciana hummed a little tune as she led Buttercup into the arena again. She wanted to practice a showy move Sarah showed her, how at a run the rider could drop down, hit the ground flat footed and launch -- vault -- over the saddle, hit the ground again, swing up into the saddle. There was a very similar move used in trick riding, but it wasn't quite what Daciana saw Sarah use: Sarah's was a survival move, something to get the rider to one side of the horse, using it for cover from hostile attack. Daciana bounced once and spread her legs, rotating slowly in mid-air before landing neatly, delicately, in her gaudy, gilded, trick-rider's saddle. She'd opened the big double doors to get some air, in spite of the cold: the sun was over center and going down, it was a little chill, but Daciana's cloak was sufficient. The shotgun clawed for the reins, missed. Leather traces fell and dragged uselessly under the stage coach. The shotgun rider swore loudly, his belly tightening with fear, and he looked down at the hitch, wondering if he was still agile enough to leap from the driver's seat onto the wheel horse's back. Sarah drove for the approaching stage: it was just coming into the end of the main street on the up hill side of the Mercantile. Sarah brought Snowflake around broad side, dancing her, hoping the lead horses would see this big black obstruction and try to stop. Snowflake knew before Sarah that no such thing was happening. Snowflake spun, end-for-end, the rattling coach and its pale-faced passengers barely missing them: Jacob was past them just as fast, and Snowflake did not have to be told twice to give chase. Snowflake was fresh and the stage horses were almost fresh: they streaked past the church and the firehouse and the road swaged down narrow and Sarah knew she was going to have to do something even if it was wrong. "YAAHH!!" she screamed, palming the saddle horn and jumping straight up in the air and getting her feet under her, thrusting hard and realizing too late she was standing on part of her skirt. Timing off and disaster near, Sarah did the next best thing. She seized the metal rail beside the driver's leg and hung on. Jacob saw the reins were a-trail and he knew it would be fruitless to try for the reins: he too saw the road was narrowed ahead, where it went out of town and into the two wheel tracks, and like his sister, he jumped up onto his saddle and leaped for the middle horse's back. Unlike Sarah, he had neither skirts nor petticoats to get in the way: his jump was clean and square and he landed on the back of the horse, grabbing his legs around it like a set of pincers and leaning up to find the bit, the reins, to slow the horse, to start the team slowing. Daciana rode after the stage, curious, wondering what in the world was going on: she was content to canter Buttercup, for she knew her dear trick pony was neither fast, nor was she ready for a hard run at this high altitude. Still, she followed: the street ended, the road narrowed, and she wondered for a moment just how Sarah was going to get around the stage. Oh, she's going to jump, just like she showed me, Daciana thought. I wonder how she'll manage in a skirt -- "Oh dear God," the shotgun muttered: he thrust the Greener behind the seat, hauled hard on the driver: the unconscious man fell over across the seat and the shotgun swayed a little as he leaned down, reaching for Sarah's wrist. Sarah pulled herself up like she was chinning herself, toes digging at the side of the stage, scrambling for purchase: her left foot swung forward, found the edge of the dash board, about the time the shotgun reached down and grabbed Sarah between the shoulder blades. The coach swayed and the shotgun lost his balance, fell: his chest his Sarah's head and he fell and was gone. Sarah winced with pain, then hauled again and balanced, her weight on her hands, her hands at belt level: she swung her left leg forward again, rolled herself up onto the seat. She looked down at the trailing reins. Daciana saw Sarah standing -- she saw Sarah's hands moving, moving quickly, then her dress fell away in the slipstream and Sarah disappeared. Daciana's stomach fell and she watched the dress spin and whirl in the wind of the stage's passing. Jacob swore and pulled on the reins. Bit between his teeth, he thought. There's a turn up ahead. Got to slow 'em down. I hate to kill a horse. If I shoot it we might pile up in a wreck. He looked back over his shoulder just as Sarah made a flying dive off the driver's seat. Somehow the fact that she was down to her unmentionables did not surprise him. Sarah tended to do things like that sometimes. She looked to the side and down and slid off the side of the wheel horse, landing neatly on the draw bar: she got a good hold on the harness and bent down and found the reins, then, standing, began pulling, calling to the team as she did, calling them the same profane names the driver used, damning their rotted souls to hell and perdition and promising to send each of them to their own personal glue factory if they didn't start listening to her. Sarah balanced on four inches of smoothed hardwood, riding with knees bent, soaking up the jolts and the rocking like she'd done it all her life: she laid her tongue to language no lady would ever consider, the air fairly crackled with verbal sulfur -- and whether it was the screamed slander, the firm hand on their reins or what, the team slowed. Sarah got them slowed enough to make that hard left turn she knew was coming up; as they swung around the turn, she fell against the horse's flank, shoved herself back upright, brought the team down slower, then to a walk. The field was broad here and she knew it to be free of rocks, so she steered the team out into the field and described a big easy circle, walking the stage horses back to the road, and walked them back toward Firelands. Jacob turned around, grinning. Sarah looked up at her brother, her face pale, her pupils huge: she reined the team to a stop: "Ho, there, ho, now, ho, girls," and the team stopped, blowing, grateful for the rest. Jacob slid down, landed easily, walked back to the coach. He opened the door, looked inside: "Anyone hurt?" he asked casually, as if asking if anyone might have the time. Daciana rode up, Sarah's dress clutched to her belly. "She's up there," Jacob pointed, and Daciana and Buttercup went on forward. The coach stopped in front of the hospital. The shotgun guard was already within, the Irish Brigade having packed him back to town: when the stage and its pursuers came through town a-gallop, the Brigade knew all was not well, and followed, figuring the whole cob house was going to roll over on that hard turn. Sarah was dressed; she wasted no time getting herself decent, before anyone came out of the coach; several hands helped them get the wounded driver inside, and Daciana hung back and watched, big-eyed, as Sarah calmed the excited passengers, assured them that they would be taken care of, and got the lot of them up the street and into the Silver Jewel for a good meal -- and probably a stiff drink. When Sarah finally came out she was moving slow. Daciana rode up to her, slipped from the saddle, and Sarah embraced her, trembling. "Thank you," Sarah whispered. "For what?" Daciana asked, surprised. "For all that practice," Sarah replied, "for your kettlebells, for climbing the rope ... I needed all of that." "You are velcome," Daciana said gravely. The Sheriff brought a man through the hospital's front door, his hand hard at the nape of his neck, a good fist full of material bunched up in his grip. "DOC!" he yelled, his voice loud and harsh in the hospital's hush, "GOT A CUSTOMER!" Nurse Susan came through the surgery door like a carved figurine emerging from one of those fancy German clocks, the kind where a door opens and something whirrs out. "The Doctor is in surgery," she said tartly, "it seems a man has been shot and he's exploring the wound." "Well, I ain't hurt," the Sheriff muttered, "but this fella's not too good. He tried to bust a boulder with his face." "Did it work?" Jacob deadpanned. The Sheriff looked at his prisoner, then at Jacob. "It wasn't the boulder that come out in second place," he replied. Jacob nodded. "Now what is the stage doing outside? Looks like those horses have been run some." "The driver's inside," Jacob replied, jerking his head toward the surgery door, "and if the shotgun guard wakes up I'll find out where he got shot." Jacob looked closely at the prisoner. "What did this fella do?" The Sheriff's eyes were pale now, and hard as his voice. "He shot Jackson Cooper." Jacob's eyes went pale as well and he stepped squarely in front of the prisoner. "Mister," he said, his voice flat, "you just made your wife a widow. Jackson Cooper is a friend of mine." He looked at the Sheriff. "One broken rib, nothing worse. The man's got iron ribs. Doc said they are twice as thick as a normal man's and they over lay like shingles on a roof." Jacob looked at the prisoner again. "Don't worry, mister," he said, almost cheerfully. "Judge Hostetler will be in tomorrow to hear your case. We'll give you a fair trial before we hang you."
  21. That's good news, 'cause they aren't my guns so I don't really want to do any manicuring on them... Thanks!
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