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Linn Keller, SASS 27332, BOLD 103

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Linn Keller, SASS 27332, BOLD 103 last won the day on October 27 2016

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About Linn Keller, SASS 27332, BOLD 103

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  • Birthday 03/31/1956

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    Firelands Peacemakers

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    Lorain County, Ohio
  • Interests
    History, calligraphy, any game that burns powder
    BOLD 103, Center Township Combat Pistol League
    Skywarn, ham radio, and no idea what I want to do when I grow up!

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  1. I understand it is routine to put a stainless steel tag in with cremains with the ID of the deceased, and the name of the mortuary. It's quite possible such an ID would be inserted into a coffin for earth burial. As far as re-reading books, oh yes! love that! -- generally find things I missed the first time(s) around! And yes again to McCaffrey, a blessing on her name!
  2. In my childhood I wanted to be a fireman, a STEAM!!! locomotive engineer, a cowboy and an astronaut. All at the same time. Now that my Medicare card is due to hit my mail box any day now, I've been town marshal, fire chief, gazed with wonder at steam tractors and what very few live steam locos I've been able to observe first hand, but the closest thing to space I got was coming (very involuntarily) off a step ladder. That brief moment of I-perceived-it-as-zero-gravity was not worth the abrupt deceleration of what pilots call an "Unplanned Descent!" As far as firing a .44 in interstellar space, I don't see me doing it, so can't offer intellectual comment on the subject. Just the not awake yet ramblings of a man who's smelling that coffee and realizing I should be pouring myself the first mug of the day instead of wasting screen space with not yet awake wanderings of an almost wakened mind!
  3. 120. STATEMENT "Sir?" "Yes, Jacob?" Jacob Keller, firstborn son of Old Pale Eyes, parked his '76 rifle in the rack and paced tiredly over to his father. The Sheriff waited patiently, as he always did: his son was his chief deputy, and his son as in the habit of reporting in when he returned from a special mission. "He won't trouble us again." The Sheriff nodded, slowly. "Good." Jacob sank tiredly into a withie-bottom chair, leaned the chair back until it hit timber, placed his Stetson in his lap and leaned his head back against the log wall. "Sir?" "Yes, Jacob?" "Sir, when you go out and just out and out kill a man, you'll more often than not come into the Silver Jewel and have Mr. Baxter draw you a glass of liquid blasting powder." The Sheriff's eyes were quiet as he regarded his son: the older man's pale eyes did not miss the fatigue graven into his son's features. It had been difficult, he knew; the contest had been desperate, he knew; the dead man was a known bad man, and the struggle had been desperate, and indeed the Sheriff's glance when his son first came through the door was sharp and penetrating -- quite frankly, he was looking for holes, cuts or blood, not necessarily in that order. "Yes," the Sheriff agreed quietly. "That is my habit." "I have no such wish," Jacob said slowly. "Then don't." Jacob's grin was quick -- there, and gone -- it was an old joke between them: when Jacob was a boy, he was discussing some schoolyard foolishness a classmate tried to goad him into, and Jacob declined -- I think it was swimming in the Z&W's elevated water tower -- and in discussing it later with his pale eyed father, Jacob said "I didn't want to, sir, so I didn't," and Linn gripped his son's shoulder with approval and said, "You are wise beyond your years, Jacob: more people should realize they'd be happier if they realized that." Jacob stopped and looked up at his Pa and Linn looked down at his son with that quiet smile he reserved for such moments and he said, "If you don't want to, don't." "Sir, I am a curious sort." Linn nodded. "You do nothing without purpose, sir. I have to wonder your purpose for going into the Silver Jewel and taking that long drink of rock blaster and then allowing as you sent another one to hell today." Linn leaned back a little -- cautiously, for his office chair tended to flip out from under him if he leaned back too far -- he looked at the wall, where it met the ceiling, considered. "Two reasons, Jacob," he said finally, and stopped. Jacob waited a long moment before prompting, "Yes, sir?" "One is guilt." "Guilt, sir?" Jacob brought his chair back to all four legs, setting the front legs down almost silently, and turning his head a little, as if to bring a good ear to bear. "That damned war, Jacob. That damned war haunts me yet." "Yes, sir." "Guilt, and I want to let the world know that I killed someone who deserved it." Jacob considered this for a minute, turning it over in his mind, rubbing his callused palms together, slowly, making a sandpapery whisper in the hushed interior of their little log fortress. "There is murder, Jacob. Lawmen can commit murder the same as the lawless. Then there is justice. When I announce that I'd sent another one to hell today, I let the world know that justice has been done, and that I am the hand of Justice that carried out the sentence. I don't give them any other particulars, but I let them know I am the hard hand of justice and when necessary I will stop the lawless." Jacob considered this for several long moments, nodded again. "Was this in the county, Jacob?" "No, sir, it was not." "Then it's not a county affair." "No, sir." "Is the jurisdictional authority aware?" "No, sir." "Was it justified?" "Yes, sir." "Good enough." Linn Keller leaned back in the saddle and ho'd his Apple-horse, and the bitless stallion ho'd, blinking sleepily, tail swinging at imaginary flies. Linn looked long at the Silver Jewel, considering, then turned his stallion: he looked down the street, turned more and looked up: safe to cross, he walked his stallion over to the front of the Sheriff's Office, gave the reins a single wrap around the pipe hitch rail. The dispatcher looked up, smiled. "She's waiting on you," she said cheerfully, and Linn nodded, not at all surprised. The attack was faster than he'd expected, and he responded as he'd been trained: he hit the weapon-side shoulder, hard, seized the weapon-side wrist, his work-strong hand locking around it like an iron cuff: he'd practiced this very move for this very attack, and as he twisted, the attacker's arm trapped under his own, the attacker's elbow bent too far the wrong way and snapped: pain detonated the length of the criminal limb, releasing the weapon's handle as Linn seized the machete at its base. He stripped it out of its felonious grip, threw it: shining-edged steel spun slowly through the cold air as Linn raised his arm, drove the back of his elbow into the back of his attacker's skull, driving him face first into the dirt. Part of his mind realized he had a choice. He could stomp the base of his attacker's skull and kill him. He could kneedrop the attacker and break multiple ribs, collapse his lungs, kill him. Or he could let the system do its work. Linn drew his .44, eared the hammer back, faded back with his back to the timber wall: he looked left, looked right: he stepped forward, turned slowly in a full circle, satisfied himself he saw no further threat: he lowered the hammer, holstered. Linn pulled out his phone, pressed a button, dialed the Sheriff's cell, the one he never, ever called. Sheriff Willamina Keller was going over budget issues with the auditor when her cell phone vibrated. Frowning, she looked at the screen. The auditor saw her face go a little pale as she raised the phone. "Sheriff Keller." "Mother, do I recall you issued me a Special Deputy's commission two days ago?" "That is correct," she said, her words crisp, clipped: she seized a pen, slapped the note pad into place on her green blotter. "Officer assist, tango down, need squad, I'm not hurt." "Roger your tango down officer assist," she said quietly. "Location?" Her eyes raised and the Auditor felt something like an ice-dagger drive through his middle as her glacier pale eyes swung up to meet his. Willamina lowered the phone, stood, snatched the double barrel shotgun from the rack on the wall above and behind her. The auditor felt distinctly like he'd just been grazed by a Texas twister as the attractive woman with Marine-short hair, the woman in a tailored suit dress and heels, swung out of his office with a double twelve bore swinging from her white-knuckled grip. Linn and Willamina stood back a little as the scene was processed. Willamina looked up at the inconspicuous, but very effective, cameras -- one under this eave, one under that -- as Linn gave a flat, unemotional recitation of facts, Willamina listened without comment: they went through it twice more, with Linn demonstrating -- "Here. Stand here, you're me. He came at me from there" -- he pointed -- "just to the left of the fellow with the camera, I think he was waiting around the corner." "He was," Barrents grunted. "Read the tracks." Willamina turned hard and pale eyes to her son. "Go on." "Okay. You're me. He came like this" -- Linn stepped in with upraised arm, imaginary machete in hand. "Now. Trade me places, stand here. You're the attacker, come at me with the machete, dead slow." Willamina did and Linn stepped in, slow-motion demonstrating his counter, his hit, grip, trap, twist -- though he was careful to not over-stress his mother's elbow, which might tend to cause a misunderstanding. "I broke his elbow and stripped his weapon, threw it -- you see where it landed." "I see it." "He was bent over so I drove my knee in his gut and helped him to the ground." "Helped him to the ground," Willamina reflected. "Yes, ma'am. I used the back of my elbow." Chief Deputy Barrents looked from mother to son. "I see no problem here," he rumbled, and Willamina looked very directly at her pale eyed son. "Let's review the surveillance." "Yes, ma'am." Jacob Keller swung down from his Apple-horse's saddle, dropped the reins. Apple-horse snuffed at the frozen ground, experimentally nipped at the cold grass, raised his head, contemplated the horizon with the expression of an ascetic contemplating Eternity. Jacob stopped in front of a new grave, removed his hat, went to one knee and leaned forward, placing his palm flat on the cold, raw dirt. "I got him," he said quietly. "He won't hurt anyone ever again." Jacob rose, smelling sun-dried linens and soap and a trace of lilac, and he thought of his pale eyed sister, and what he'd say to her if she were here: he lifted his chin, looked at the high and shining mountain peaks. His bottom jaw thrust out and he took a long breath in through his nose, blew it out with puffed cheeks, turned, settled his Stetson on his head. He rubbed Apple-horse's jaw and said, "I wish I'd killed him a year ago. Mariellen would still be alive." Apple-horse lowered his head a little, bumming, and Jacob shaved off some molasses twist tobacker and held it out, flat palmed, a delicacy the stallion happily rubber-lipped. "Well, that ain't the only thing I regret," Jacob grunted, then shoved his boot in the stirrup and swung aboard, "likely it won't be the last. Let's go see what Annette's got for supper."
  4. Now that does it! I am rolling around on the floor, howling like a rabid moon worshipper, and my dogs are looking at me like I have a fish sticking out of my shirt pocket! Thank you, Fence Cutter, that's the best laugh I've had in a week!
  5. Standing up on my knees for you both! My brother in law is a survivor, he was treated in Charlotte. Good people there. Sister in law is from the Ohio River and then Columbus, when they moved to Charlotte area she was most amused by cold weather reactions.
  6. Wore engineer boots clear through high school, early 70s. Mama told of weaving pink ribbon in Dad's logging boots he wore to school, soon as she did his, the other girls wove pink ribbons in their chief squeeze's laces as well. (BAAAA and the sheep fell right in line) Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya!
  7. I carried a similar slim little shooter as a lawman, it hid nicely behind the wallet. It was not my primary argument nor was it the secondary; it did what a Derringer did in period: it stayed out of the way very nicely. I carried it with the full knowledge that, as a wiser gun scribe than I once observed, "It makes a good branding iron. Somebody shot with one will need surgery within 48 hours or they'll die of infection."
  8. 119. ONE PRECISE SHOT It was no secret that the Sheriff's family participated in the Sheriff's office training. The community regarded it as somewhere between entertainment and demonstration when Willamina's daughters and her son, in their white karate ghis and white belts, bowed formally to their much larger and much more muscled counterparts, men who wore brown ghis with a six point star embroidered in yellow on the left breast. Willamina, in a white ghi with an embroidered star, supervised -- discreetly, of course, for she was at once Sheriff and mother, and her husband, the stout, red-cheeked, affable retired FBI agent in a dark blue karate uniform, generally stood beside her, watching closely and on occasion nodding absently. Her children learned throws, holds, kicks, punches; when they were of sufficient size and skill, Willamina allowed them to spar with the padded, red-man-clad opponents: her children grew up knowing tricks of leverage, knowing how to deliver a telling blow with fist, with elbow -- back or front -- with knees and feet and occasionally an impromptu hip-thrust -- his sneaky sister slammed him with her hip in an unexpected moment, knocking him awkwardly to the mat. He gained his feet, bowed: "Good hit," he acknowledged, then deflected her heel-kick and backed up a pace. His blood was up and he felt anger ignite in his belly and he knew that was the absolute worst time to respond -- thus the retreat -- his sister pressed the matter, and Linn felt his eyes grow cold and white and he felt the color drain from his face and he threw his thinking mind out the window and began fighting from his hara, his center. Willamina noticed the change. She started to shout a time-out, but Richard's hand on her shoulder stilled her voice before it could launch into her throat: they watched as Linn began fighting smoothly, naturally, fighting from the depths of his soul instead of from his active mind. Linn's sis sometimes bullied him, as sisters do: he once complained that there's nowhere you can hit her -- if you hit her face it'll bruise and I'll get the Board, he'd explained, and you can't hit 'em in the chest 'cause they're girls, and if you punch her in the gut she'll fold up and cry and God Himself can't save you then, and you can't smack their bottom or back hit 'em -- He'd been all of five years old when he made his doleful pronouncement, and it was all Willamina could do to keep a straight face; she and Richard agreed that formal martial arts training was a good idea, and so far it worked well. Even if Sis did slam her hip into his and knock him over. Linn was almost fencing -- catching a blow, deflecting it, slapping it aside: she tried a spinning back kick and he wasn't there, he was spinning as well and came in behind her leg, touched the back of her head, just enough to let her know she'd been touched, then fell back. She pressed her attack and Linn continued, deflecting and reaching out just enough to touch her -- cheekbone, shoulder, back of the thigh -- and finally she stopped, red-faced, arms stiff at her side and yelled "QUIT CHEATIN'!" and then ran off the mat, crying. "I'll go talk to him," Richard said quietly, and jogged on the balls of his feet, lightly, across the mat, gripped his son by the shoulders -- a light grip, and a grin, let the lad know he was not in trouble. "You could have decked her fourteen times that I counted," Richard said quietly. "Why didn't you punch back?" Linn closed his eyes, took a long breath, blew it out with a double downblock, a technique he used to dispel stress in such moments. "She was trying to make me mad," he said at length, opening his eyes slowly and smiling, just a little, at his father. "I didn't and that made her mad, and she defeated herself." Richard laughed and hugged his son, one-armed, walking them back over to Willamina. "Young Padwan already knows what it took me twenty years to learn!" he declared proudly, and Willamina winked, her smile peeking out at the corners of her eyes. The Sheriff also included her young in the Department's firearms qualification, and the deputies delighted in having them: it was not at all unusual to see small heads in big earmuffs strutting back to the rear tables with a silhouette target, casually laying it out as if it was something they'd done every day ... a target with tighter groups than most of the grown men, which probably had something to do with the range set up behind the house, and the fact that they also handloaded their own ammunition, cast, sized and lubed their own bullets, set up and tore down their own backstops: Willamina started them on .38 special revolvers, switching Linn from a clone of her own father's Victory model Smith that he'd started shooting years before. Of the children, Linn was the most natural shot, and he would practice with the department's snipers, using the department's sniper rifles: he went so far as to custom build a good, high grade bolt rifle, but not until after lengthy and surprisingly knowledgeable discussions with the snipers, with men he knew were varmint hunters, with competitors who'd been to the legendary Camp Perry. By age seventeen he'd built four rifles, each one an improvement on the last, the newest build also being the most accurate. Willamina suspected he may have a reason for having an extremely accurate rifle, and she was more right than she knew. Barrents, her chief deputy, was built like a fire plug and just as cast-iron tough, and like most truly strong men, he could also move with an incredible stealth: he was not terribly tall, but he was broad, and anyone who cared to take a look would find his uniform shirt sleeve was, as Linn put it as a wee lad, "Plumb Full of Arm!" Willamina practiced his stealth, studying his moves, his walk: she was a natural dancer, and so it was little effort to learn to move with Navajo stealth, and when she slipped into a pair of moccasins and began stalking her son, she knew something was in the wind. He'd been glassing the pasture nearest the highway for the past four days, first studying with a set of good high grade binoculars, and then shooting waypoints with a laser rangefinder: he had printed out maps of this exact spot, a compass, a steady hand: she'd taken a look at the maps when he was at school, and she found lines and arrows, numbers she knew must be yardage, notations -- "Brush screen" and "Defilade here" and "Down angle four degrees." She read his precise print, done with a mechanical pencil: "Hostile fire from this line," and a red bar ran along the highway as it paralleled their line fence. She remembered this as she followed her son: she wore faded brown, a splotchy old ranch coat that blended easily into the countryside: she ghosted along behind, fading into a rock, a shadow, a brush when necessary. She watched him come to a place he'd marked on his map; she crouched, invisible in her stillness, watched as he took off his own coat, rolled it up, set it as a steady rest for the Mauser's hand checkered fore end. She saw him lift the bolt handle, withdraw the bolt, thumb in four shining hand loaded rounds -- she watched him push the bolt forward, rotate the handle slowly -- she watched him sag a little, proned out, knowing he was become one with the earth, and that he was prepared for something that might not be particularly polite. Willamina eased forward -- a step, another -- and Linn raised a pair of binoculars with his off hand. "Spot for me," he said, as if he knew she'd be there. Willamina made a face -- she'd got caught -- but she took the binoculars, raised them. "Vehicle stopping. Stand ready." Willamina raised the binoculars turned the right eyepiece just a little, not much -- and she froze as she saw an arm thrust out of the car window, a black pistol in its grip ... and the pistol was pointed into their pasture ... At our horses! she thought, suddenly remembering her twin brother Will's warning that two particular troublemakers had made it known they'd get back at Linn by shooting the horses. You can't kill someone for shooting horses, she thought, opening her mouth to protest, just as the '06 blasted its boat tailed payload into the high, thin air. The bullet traveled faster than the rifle's report, and she saw the pistol spin out of the outthrust grip, her mind registering that there'd been a shot before her son's -- but the would-be horsekiller had no warning, not until the pistol was slammed out of his hand. The car ran screaming from the scene, but not before Willamina took a very good look at its retreating backside. Linn looked at the ruined pistol, framed and mounted on the wall in the Sheriff's office lobby. "Nice," he said, nodding.
  9. 118. WE NEED TO TALK Sheriff Willamina Keller didn't have to look up from her breakfast coffee to know her son was coming down the stairs like a stove up old man. The stairs were twice as wide as standard, built in that wise by her several times great grandfather, a man who wished to carry his red-headed, green-eyed bride up them without banging her head nor knocking the shoes off her feet: as a result, moving furniture up or down the stairs did not involve the gymnastics usually associated with getting box springs, bed frames or mattresses up or down. At the moment, it was her teen-aged son who was moving his stove up carcass down the stairs, gripping the hand rail like he intended to crush it. She knew without looking that he reached up, gripped the door casing, that his head was hung a little, that his bottom jaw was thrust out: he did that when he was hurt, he'd done it ever since he was a little boy, trying not to show the pain, not to show he was hurt. "Pancakes, hot and fresh," she said. "I wanted to wait until you were here before I fried your eggs." "Bless you," he said softly, and she looked up, her eyes a light blue, the eyes of a mother looking at her son: as he watched, they turned pale again and he knew she was going to say those dreaded words. "We need to talk." "Yes, ma'am." He released the door casing and straightened: closing his eyes, he took a breath, then paced off on the left, shoulders back, moving as if he were just fine. He pulled his favorite mug from the cupboard, poured coffee, came around the table and sat down directly opposite his mother: he added milk to his coffee, then set the milk jug aside, left the coffee untouched. "Will I have an appetite when we're done talking?" he asked, still in that quiet voice. "You might not," she admitted. "You have my undivided." "I've punished you unjustly in the past." "We got past that, ma'am." His guarded tone told Willamina that her son's walls were up. "I have no intention of punishing you now." "Yes, ma'am." "Witness accounts and surveillance footage all agreed that you acted properly." "Yes, ma'am." "You were -- in my judgement -- not out of line speaking to me as you did when you told me if that gold bullet was so damned valuable, that I could damned well dig it out of the wall and choke on it." "I don't believe I said all that, ma'am." His words were mild, his eyes half-lidded, but she had the impression of a boxer raising his gloves and drawing his elbows in close to his ribs. "No," she agreed, and sipped again at her coffee, taking the heavy ceramic mug two-handed, her elbows planted solidly on the table. "Not those exact words." She looked at her son with ... amusement? ... and smiled, just a little. "I would have said worse." "Yes, ma'am." "I see you replaced the round you fired." "Yes, ma'am. Loaded the same as the others." "Thank you." "Yes, ma'am." "Your revolver" -- Willamina's voice took just a hit of disappointment -- "I'm afraid it's in evidence until all appeals are exhausted." "That is standard procedure, I believe." "Yes, it is. You are welcome to one of mine." "Thank you, ma'am, I've an extra." Again that quiet smile. "I thought you might." Linn leaned forward a little planted his elbows on the table, clasped his hands and leaned his forehead on his knuckles, and Willamina felt as much as saw her son shiver. "The indictment, ma'am?" "The indictment." Willamina placed her hands flat on either side of her plate, straightened. "Again, witness accounts and the surveillance agreed that you did what was necessary, when it was necessary." "Yes, ma'am." "It's possible the deceased might have some family that'll try and squeeze a settlement out of you, but I hardly think someone with that criminal record can be called a Sunday School sort." "I suspected as much, ma'am, when I saw his neck tats." Willamina nodded. "Rap sheet long as your arm, and he was only two years older than you." She shook her head. "Damned drugs." "Yes, ma'am." "Moving right along." "Yes, ma'am." Linn looked very directly at his mother, knowing she was changing the direction of their discussion. "You hadn't spoken with Anna Mae since the shooting." "Not until yesterday, ma'am." "Let me tell you what you did right." Linn leaned forward a little more, clearly very interested in what his pale eyed mother had to say. "First of all, there could be no accusation of collusion or witness tampering, because Anna Mae could -- and did -- honestly testify that she'd not spoken to you since that day." Linn nodded, his eyes never leaving hers. "Second, you showed due respect to her mother by not speaking with her until after you asked her mother's permission to do so." Linn blinked, blinked again, looked away. "I," he began, then swallowed, leaned back, dropped his hands into his lap, looked back at his Mama. "Ma'am, Bill is long dead. I had no father to ask so I had to ask her mother." Willamina waited, knowing that in spite of her son's verbal hesitation, he was not done speaking. "It ... wouldn't be right," he said thoughtfully. "Her Mama might have thought me a red handed monster and I will not go against her Mama's wishes." "I know." Willamina tilted her head a little, smiled quietly. "She told me." Linn's left eyebrow tented up, just like his father's in such moments. "She ... offered no objection, ma'am," Linn said slowly, carefully, remembering the moment when Anna Mae's mother patted him gently on the chest and said, "Thank you for saving my daughter's life." "Now." Willamina "Just where did you get the replacement for my gold bullet?" "I cut up some gold coin I'd invested," he admitted. "You didn't have to do that." "Yes, ma'am, I did." "Thank you." Willamina took a sip of her cooling coffee, frowned. "Now how about you? That was an impressive bulldog yesterday, but you're not supposed to hit the ground quite that hard." "Yes, ma'am," he agreed. "My poor old carcass is agreeing with you on that one!" "You know that pancakes are good for aches and pains." Linn nodded. "As long as I don't have to stand up to get them, yes, ma'am." Willamina slid the stack over to her son, then the butter and the honey. "That is," she said, "if you have any appetite." "Thank you, ma'am." He did.
  10. Trust me to cause trouble! My maternal grandfather, rest his soul, was a moonshiner and a moonrunner. He also drove school bus and was janitor at our high school, both in his later years, and long after running moon (he taught me everything he knew -- hak-kaff! Har-rumph! I mean I listened politely to his tall tales!) When I write of the boiler room, I write of HIS boiler room: he'd hurt his back falling off a coal tipple at age sixteen, he had back pain for the rest of his life and worked anyway -- but when it got bad, he drafted my brother and I to work in his place. It was entirely unofficial and off the books -- teaching staff knew it, and expressed their gratitude and admiration -- we were tickled to do it, because we were helping Granddad! When I write of the Firelands high school, the mental image I have is the Consolidated I attended. I've stood on the back dock where Anna Mae came up on her toes to kiss her long tall boyfriend, and the field beyond is where Granddad saw a black panther, chased by dogs, run out into the field, look back, then flow like living India ink the rest of the way, up the bank and across the road, and up the side of the wooded ridge.
  11. When I read "Constitution class" I thought "Starship Enterprise" My mistake, my apologies!
  12. Please forgive the undignified howls in the distance, that's me laughing at having launched miscellaneous spring loaded parts into low Earth orbit! (Okay, so they were actually howls of anguish at the time!) My wife looked at me like I had a fish sticking out my shirt pocket when I painted the basement walls and floor white. I explained that bare concrete has just enough texture to render small parts of any kind, invisible. Paint it white and I can find those rascally interstellar probes! The advice on disassembling in a side-lying box, or a five gallon clear bag, bear merit, and as usual I benefit from someone else's post! My thanks to all!
  13. 117. GOTCHA! Sean was the big red headed Irish fire chief. Sean was the broad shouldered, blacksmith armed leader of the Irish Brigade, a man who could walk up to and pick up and walk off with about anything he damn well pleased, and on occasion did just that. Sean could beat any man bare knuckle, he'd even beat the pale eyed Sheriff the day he stepped off the steam train with his Irish Brigade and their new steam fire engine, and after the lawman shook his head and looked up from the ground and said "Well? Give up yet?" Sean seized the man's forearm, hauled him to his feet: they were of a like height, and so they stood with their arms around one another's shoulders and the Sheriff declared in a loud voice, "I CAN WHIP ANY MAN IN THIS COUNTY, AND THE FIRE CHIEF JUST WHIPPED ME! THIS MAN'S WORD IS LAW AND WHOSOEVER DON'T LIKE IT CAN ANSWER TO ME!" -- this marked the first occasion when the Irish Brigade invaded the Silver Jewel Saloon, and started a happy tradition of trying to drink the beer supply out of existence (they did only one time in more than a century, but that was a happy occasion indeed and we might talk about that some other time) Right now, though, well more than five years after his arrival in Firelands, Sean lay sprawled in the middle of their dirt street, shaking his head and fighting to get some air into his shocked lungs, and his opponent stood and stared at him, apparently not entirely sure quite what to do. You see, the entire contents of the Firelands schoolhouse was spilled out onto the street and ranked in a line behind him, including boys of varying ages, girls in flour sack dresses and ribbon bows in their hair, two schoolmarms and a truly HUGE, curly furred black dog that stood protectively in front of the smaller of the two women, and they were paying no attention at all to the Irish fire chief who'd just been knocked backside-over-tincup. No, they were watching that bull calf that put him down. Linn Keller, the Sheriff's oldest son, kept a carefully impassive face. One of his high school teachers spoke harshly about him, without looking at him and without addressing him directly, offering his pedantic opinion that the actions of the vigilante during the attempted drugstore robbery was unnecessary, that it put people at risk, that the action of killing someone who was bringing a gun to bear on an intended victim was exactly the wrong thing to do. Linn hadn't said a word, though his ears turned red, then positively scarlet, and finally a dark, metal-on-the-anvil shade: he felt the eyes of every one of his schoolmates on him, and when the bell rang and the class filed out, he alone remained behind. The teacher carefully uncomfortably avoided looking at the tall, slender student, until finally Linn stood, gathered his books, straightened and looked squarely at the man. He stepped toward the teacher, held out a single half-sheet of paper, on which were written words scribed thereon with a steel nib dip quill, good black India ink tracing a message he'd considered worth passing along, and this was the time. "This may be of use to you, sir," he said quietly as the teacher accepted the half-sheet: "Theodore Roosevelt. The Arena." Linn turned and paced silently out of the room, but not before he heard the paper being crumpled into a ball, and the little ringing sound as it was tossed in the trash can. Linn whistled for his Apple-horse as he came out the side door of the Firelands high school: he'd retrieved the saddle from the boiler room, where he and the janitor often sat, warmed by the two big horizontal boilers, laughing and telling lies and outrageous lies, not necessarily in that order: the janitor was old enough to be his grandfather, and he'd learned long ago that this wrinkled, skinny old man had just an awful lot of wisdom about him. Linn liked wisdom, and Linn listened much more than he talked, and the two of them spent many companionable hours in the boiler room, imparting and absorbing. The janitor knew about the shooting in the drugstore -- hell, everyone knew! -- but he'd never spoken of it, and for this, Linn was grateful, and when Linn came in after his saddle, somehow the old man knew words had been darted at this lean, pale eyed son of the pale eyed Sheriff, and the old man knew those words troubled his favorite visitor. He wisely held his counsel. Linn whistled up his Apple-horse, knowing there were eyes upon him: he knew those eyes glared, their faces were hostile, for the day before he'd been challenged by two upperclassmen in their hot rod cars: "Hey Sheriff, when you gonna get something with more horsepower?" and Linn looked at them and grinned: "You wanta race, Jack? Drugstore, first one there buys!" -- and so saying, he whipped his Apple-horse end-for-end and set off across the side field, across the creek and up the mountain trail. High school boys are vulnerable to a challenge, and these guys were: they left the parking lot under heavy throttle and loud exhaust, burning off a hundred miles' worth of tire tread getting out on the highway, just in time to run into the speed zone with two cruisers running radar. They finally showed up at the drug store; Linn and Apple-horse were long since arrived, and Linn was just finishing a vanilla cone: "Got tired of waiting," he grinned, and their reply was less than printable. This was the day after, and Linn was on his Apple-horse again, and hostile eyes glared at him from the street, and Linn didn't really care. There was a shout, a yell, a man's voice raised in profane anguish, and Linn heard trouble on four hooves: he looked right, over his shoulder -- no traffic coming -- he whistled, his legs tightening around Apple's barrel, and the stallion shot forward, hooves loud on the cold pavement, turning to gallop straight down the center line of the street. Linn stood in the stirrups, leaned out over the spotted stallion's neck, hands pressed flat against the base of the mane, his eyes and his mount's both locked on the cause of the alarm. Apple-horse slowed quickly, carefully, dancing a little to keep from skidding steel shod hooves on pavement (he'd made that mistake once before and never forgot!) -- Linn brought them around smartly and they gave chase as the bull calf charged by them with a bellow. Sheriff Willamina Keller looked out the glass door just in time to see the bull calf, the spotted horse and the child of her womb go streaking past: she opened her mouth to say something, realized the only thing she could utter would be less than ladylike, and instead turned and looked at her dispatcher. "Get Will on the radio," she said, her words clipped, efficient: "tell him we have a runaway on the main drag." Sharon looked up at her, nodded once, reached for the control panel, pressed two buttons and keyed her grey desk mike. Sean wrapped his arms around his middle and groaned. He'd intended to catch the bull calf by stepping to the side and snatching it around the neck, but the Satan's spawn threw his head and drove right into the fire chief's flat middle, knocking him off the ground and driving two week's worth of wind out of his lungs in the process. The bull calf stopped as the line of young humanity started waving arms, flapping skirts and yelling: confused, it looked around, looked for an escape, turned and started trotting for the open schoolhouse playground, and the terrain beyond. "Jimmy! Billy!" the diminutive schoolmarm in the mousy-grey dress barked, her eyes bright behind round-lenses spectacles: "You are our fastest runners! After it, keep it moving, don't let it stop in town! Once it get into open country, let it go! Bear Killer! With them!" Neither Jimmy nor Billy needed to be told twice: they were both noted runners, and delighted in this chance to chase after the bull calf, and steal that much more time from their lessons. The Bear Killer bounded after them, his leaps higher than usual, for he knew there was no threat here, just play, and The Bear Killer loved to play. Linn kicked free of his stirrups, planted a palm on the saddlehorn, the other palm on the back of the bottom hand: he shoved straight up, drew his legs under him, squatting on the saddle: Apple-horse had done this before, just never in town: he was used to pursuit of calves in open ground, where the terrain was far less regular: we don't know if horses laugh internally, but we do know the stallion found it easier to pursue the bull calf on the paved street. Linn leaned, launched, dove: he seized the bull calf, legs high in the air, then swung down, leveraging bovine, backside and a bull-calf's bawl into one rolling mass: once down, the bull calf grunted, thrashed, tried to get up. Linn still had it around the neck. The bull calf managed to get up, and Linn stood beside it, the hard hand of doom on the rambunctious beef's neck. The bull calf blinked, bawled again: Linn murmured to it, rubbed its neck: Apple-horse turned, came pacing back up to them, and Linn reached up, pulled his lariat free. "You know," he said, "this just ain't cheatin' fair." The bull calf leaned against Linn's hip, grunting with pleasure as Linn rubbed it behind the jaw. "You wanta walk with me, little fella?" Linn grinned. "Come on, Apple." He flipped the coiled lariat casually over his saddlehorn and walked casually right up the center line, bull calf on one side, spotted stallion on the other. "Sure an' I'd like t'turn that beast into m' supper!" Sean gasped as he got his feet under him, stood. A familiar voice scolded, "Sure an' if ye try't he'll put ye down again, mark m' word!" Sean turned, grinned. "Daisy m'dear!" he greeted his wife, who shook her wooden spoon at him and scolded "Sean, ye great Irish oaf, wha' d' ye think ye're doin' wallowin' about th' dirt like a common drunkard! I'd oughta take a rollin' pin to ye! An' allowin' yersel' t' be folded in th' middle like a pair of store bought trousers, an' by what? By a mere wee calf!" Sean laughed, seized his wife under the arms, snatched her off the ground, whirling her about: Daisy threw her head back and laughed, and Sean pressed her up at arm's length, brought her down and kissed her soundly, and suddenly his scolding Irish wife had no words to say: when the big Irishman came up for air, husband and wife looked into each other's eyes, each regretting quite honestly that they were standing in the middle of the street, for -- married though they were, aye, and with children -- their passion for one another continued unabated, and each felt the fires of passion in that moment. Daisy tucked her wooden spoon back along her arm and caressed her husband's cheek with her free hand: "Later, my love," she whispered, and Sean felt that delicious tickle deep in his passionate Irish belly. Of all the lovely lasses he'd known in his unbridled life, this green eyed Irish woman, this Daisy, was the one woman with whom he was absolutely, utterly, and most passionately, head over bootsoles in absolute, dizzying love. Anna Mae's hands went to her high belly as she felt that flutter again, that feeling of a maiden beholding her swain: she closed her eyes, bit her bottom lip, willed herself to stop feeling silly like that. She looked sidelong, almost ashamed, at her mother, looked down. "He hasn't even looked at you," Mona murmured. "And he won't, Mama. Ever since he ... the ..." Anna Mae frowned, her mind suddenly blank. "He won't look at me, Mama. He wanted to wait a few days and then ask your permission to continue seeing me." "Really!" Mona looked at her daughter in honest surprise, then at the young man with his furry entourage walking briskly up the main street. "I shall have to speak to his mother!" She turned her head, smiled: "and I shall do that right now!" Anna Mae followed her Mama as the older woman walked the half block to the Sheriff's office. Somehow neither were terribly surprised to find the Sheriff standing at the front door, apparently waiting for them. Sheriff Willamina Keller and Anna Mae's mama were in conference for a surprisingly short time: Anna Mae heard feminine laughter, she saw the Sheriff's office door open, she saw the pale eyed woman and her Mama share a look, then look at her, and share that look again, and Anna Mae's hands tightened until her trimmed nails pressed painfully into her palms. Chief of Police Will Keller had a gift, as did many men of his line: he could move with a surprising stealth, and he was near enough to two restless young men to hear their quiet conversation clearly. "I was going to jump him," the one admitted. "He owes me for that speeding ticket, damn him, he tricked me!" "He won't have a gun now," the other said. "Yeah, but I do. I could shoot that horse of his. That would hurt him." "Better than leggin' him. You can't be charged with attempted murder for shootin' a horse." Neither of them knew the dread hand of the law was anywhere near until Will seized their heads and banged them together. Hard. Shorty leaned on his pitchfork and watched as a bull calf went trotting past his livery, followed by two little boys, yelling happily, then The Bear Killer, jaw open, tongue trailing happily: he followed them with his eyes, watching as the lads pursued the escaping bovine far further than was really necessarily, at least until the cl-clang, cl-clang, cl-clang of Miz Sarah's handbell called them back. Shorty laughed a little, then went back inside, back where his little stove was doing a fine job of warming his office: he remembered what it was to be young, and as he shook his head and reached for a bottle marked LINIMENT, he sighed "I remember what it was to be young," and then he uncorked the bottle and took a good tilt of something water clear and not over thirty days old. Sheriff Willamina Keller picked up the phone, smiled as she heard a familiar voice on the other end. "He did?" she asked. "Good. Thank you, Mona." Linn waited another day before approaching Anna Mae. Their classes kept them separated; they ran into one another as Linn was coming out of the boiler room with his saddle. Anna Mae didn't usually exit by the boiler room door, but she knew this was his habit: Linn rather suspected this was her motive, and as he'd almost run into her, he backed up a step, swept off his Stetson and said "Your pardon, my Lady," as he always did. Anna Mae leaned back against the crash bar, pushing open the door. "We need to talk," she said, and Linn's heart fell down about his boot tops: he followed her out onto the boiler room dock, set down his saddle, replaced the Stetson on his head and took a deep breath, steeling himself against the verbal misfortune that was sure to follow those dread words that they needed to talk. Anna Mae bounced on her toes, bit her bottom lip, looking down -- almost shyly -- before coming up and kissing Linn, quickly, impulsively: she caressed his cheek and whispered, "Thank you for saving my life," and then she took a half-step back, waiting. "I was afraid to talk to you," he whispered. "I was afraid you'd never speak to me again." "I couldn't until --" Linn looked away, looked back. "Until I asked your Mama's permission." "I know. She told me and I couldn't wait for you to talk to me so I talked to you first and it's all right and I was so scared -- " Linn stepped into her and very carefully, as if she were delicate bone china, wrapped his arms around her, held her, laid his cheek down on top of her head. "I was scared I was too late," he whispered. "I thought I was dead," she whispered back, seizing him around his ribs, squeezing desperately: "hold me, hold me, hold me --" Linn's arms tightened around her, at least until Apple-horse muttered something, and Linn raised his head to find his stallion regarding him with a solemn expression. Anna Mae felt his weight shift and his voice was hollow, with her ear pressed hard against his breastbone: "Oh, no, not again!" -- she let go and leaned back, and saw a bull calf come pacing up beside the stallion, a bull calf that looked at them and bawled, slashing its tail impatiently. Linn laughed quietly, leaned down, picked up his saddle. "Care to help me take this fella home?" he grinned. "Apple can carry two of us for that short trip." They rode in silence for a few minutes, then Linn said "I'd written you something, but I gave it to that teacher that doesn't like me much. Milstead." "Oh," Anna Mae said, and Linn could tell from her tone of voice she thought little of the man as well. "It was a quote from Teddy Roosevelt. Like to hear it?" "Mm-hmm." Anna Mae's arms tightened around his middle a little and she lifted her cheek from his back, listening, and as men in the saddle have done for centuries, Linn indulged in a recitation. "It is not the critic who counts," Linn recited, his voice clear, distinct in the cold air: he always had a good speaking voice and an excellent delivery, and Anna Mae listened to his words, knowing he'd chosen them carefully, perhaps prophetically, for she'd heard of the way Milstead treated him in class, and how he'd crumpled and discarded the half-sheet of careful script without even reading it. "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. "The credit is to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, comes short and who strives again and again; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows that in the end, who triumphs in high achievement, and at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails in daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Linn's gloved hand pressed on Anna Mae's interlaced fingers, a living seat belt around his taut middle. "I could not have lived with myself knowing your life was in danger and I'd done nothing." Apple-horse moved easily under them; Anna Mae was quiet for several long moments. Finally she raised her head, and Linn turned his head a little as if to bring a good ear to bear, to let her know he was listening. "I," she said huskily, "am very glad you dared greatly." The janitor looked out the heavy glass window at the lean waisted young man and the pretty girl behind him, riding double, a stray bull calf trotting happily along beside them. The old man grinned, nodded, as if to affirm that yes, the world is as it should be, and then he went back into the boiler room, looked up at a faded, framed portrait, a print made from a glass plate discovered under the stairs of what had been a photographer's studio here in Firelands, a studio that went out of business just over a century before. It was a portrait of the legendary Irish Brigade, and of the red-shirted firemen in the stiffly-posed portrait, one stood out. The janitor looked at the man, and remembered the tale, how a bull calf butted his many times great grandfather right in the belt buckle and folded him up like a pair of store bought trousers, and how his many times great grandmother laughed when this red headed Irishman with the red handlebar mustache picked her up and spun her around and laughed as he did.
  14. An acquaintance used a translation algorithm to take "Out of sight, out of mind" into Russian, then translate it back. Upon its return it said "Invisible and insane."
  15. Safe trip, enjoy yourself, looking forward to your after action report!
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