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Calico Mary

Dreams of the Golden Aspen Ranch

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When Doc Eells came in and told us the woman we had brought in was going to have a baby, I was a little shocked. From the way she had been acting, I was sure she was hurt or something, I couldn't understand why she had been crying out in pain. Doc insisted that he needed Sadie to come and help him, and wanted me to go as well. I wasn't too sure about that idea, but Cheyenne and his father exchanged glances, and then told me it go ahead and go. I didn't think I would be much help, but what did I know? Before Doc, Sadie, and I left though, Frank pulled a telegram from his pocket and handed it to Cheyenne, saying "I forgot to give you this last night, it arrived right before the storm. I don't understand the message, but figured you probably would." Cheyenne took it and looked at it, and then let me see it. It simply said "Black Dawg's brother is looking for you...be careful....Buick."

We just looked at each other, and then Cheyenne shook his head. "We'll worry about this later, you need to get going." The three of us left and hurried back to Doc's office as quickly as we could through the snow. As we approached, I could hear the woman screaming and I wondered what was wrong with her, but Doc and Sadie didn't seem to be worried...and I got the feeling there was something about this whole process that no one was telling me! Is that why Doc wanted me there? As we entered the building, we heard Skipper call out from the back room for Doc to hurry up, and he and Sadie quickly shed their coats and headed into the back. I wasn't in any hurry to join them, and I noticed the man was sitting on the floor by the fireplace just staring at the doorway to the back room. I saw that there was a pot of coffee sitting on the stove, so I poured two cups and handed one to the man. He took it, but made no attempt to communicate with me. Then the woman screamed again, and I knew there was no way in the world I was gonna go in there!

A few moments later, I heard the sound of a baby crying. Before too long, Skipper came out of the back room carrying the baby, wrapped in a soft blanket, and asked me if I could tell the man he had a strong, healthy son. I turned to the man, who had stood up when Skipper came in, and signed it to him, and I noticed that for a second he almost smiled. Then Skipper showed him the baby, and he started looking all serious again. She tried to hand the baby to him, but he refused, Skipper just nodded and took the baby into the back again. The man just kept staring through the doorway, but I couldn't get him to say anything, I don't think he really trusted us. A while later Doc came out and told me "I didn't think you of all people would lose your nerve like that, I figured you'd want to see what was going on. You may want to sit down honey, you're looking a little pale and shaky..."


Before I could reply, there was a knock at the door, it was Cheyenne and his father. Doc let them in, and told them that the baby was a boy, and mother and child were both fine. They just nodded, then sat down at the table with me and indicated that they wanted the man to join us. At first he didn't seem to want to, but finally sat down though it was obviously he wasn't real used to chairs. Frank started saying something to the man, I guess he knew some Shoshone, but Cheyenne and I couldn't follow the conversation. So while they were talking, Cheyenne leaned over and told me "We want to do what we can to help these two, but we can't let any trouble happen if the Shoshone chief won't accept what his daughter has done. The two of us are going to go up to the Shoshone reservation with this fella and the lawman as soon as the storm is over, and see if we can help work out some sort of compromise. The woman and her baby will have to stay here for a while, they can't travel yet anyway. You'll have to stay here too, I don't want you traveling in this weather, and besides someone has to be in charge while Father is gone."

"Me??? Are you crazy? I think that all that cold must have frozen your brain...." I told him, shaking my head. "It was actually Father's idea, but I do agree with him, you'll be fine. Bob and Hop Sing and some of the other men can help you. The men all know their jobs, so as long as nothing goes wrong the ranch basically runs itself on a day to day basis. You really shouldn't have to do much, and in any real emergency you can always send a telegram, it may take a while to reach us but hopefully you won't even have to worry about it. We have to try and do something about this situation, we feel bad for the couple but we can't let hostilities break out over this, there could be other innocent lives at stake."


Well, I couldn't argue with that, and I was really hoping that the men could help resolve this, the couple was obviously very much in love. It did get me wondering what my pa would have thought of Cheyenne, but I was sure that Pa wouldn't have objected any. Probably would have been thrilled to know that there was at least one man around crazy enough to put up with me! I didn't want Cheyenne to leave me, and I was more than a little concerned about Buick's telegram, but I knew my husband didn't have much choice. It was still a few more months before I was due, if he had to leave for a while this was the time to do it. Except for the part about the bad weather, but he explained that they could take the train for part of the journey, so it wasn't like they'd have to ride that far, and would be extra careful to keep an eye on the weather for that part of the trip when they did have to switch to horses. They were all capable of doing this, so there was no real reason for me to be selfish and ask Cheyenne not to go. Maybe he could help this couple....


But while he was gone I was gonna make sure to have a nice loooong talk with Sadie!

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Grizz was just finishing loading the mule when Cheyenne rode up. From the look on his face Grizz was sure he wasn't gonna like what Cheyenne had to say. All Grizz wasn't to do was get back to his own place, it weren't much, but it was his.

 

Cheyenne laid all the cards on the table, the reason the lawman was there, the baby, and Black Dawgs brother. The latter is what really got Grizz's attention. There was more than bad blood between them, if there was one man Grizz would like to see die very slowly, this was the man. And the feeling was mutual.

 

Cheyenne saw Grizz's eyes flash and nostrels flate at the mention of the name "I take it you know him?"

 

Grizz glared at him, his face turning bright red 'Hell yes I know him' Grizz growled in a low tone.

 

Cheyenne could tell there was a story to be told and history between the two, but given Grizz's reaction he knew better than to ask.

 

Cheyenne finally started to speak but Grizz cut him off with a raised hand. "you tell everyone in town I'm leaving, and don't be shy about it'

 

'But...' Cheyenne started, only to be cut off again.

 

'But I will be around' Grizz said, 'and I will see that snake die'

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The next few days were very busy, getting everything ready so that the men could leave for the Shoshone reservation as soon as the storm lifted. Frank had managed to find out the couple's names, the man was Yellow
Bear, the woman was Bluebird. Yellow Bear still didn't trust us, and it seemed like he trusted Cheyenne least of all. That didn't make much sense to me, until Cheyenne explained, "The Shoshone have always considered my mother's people to be enemies, I can understand how he might not believe that I do want to help." That made me
a little nervous, if the two tribes didn't get along, was my husband in any danger going to their reservation? He insisted that he'd be fine, and I wasn't to worry about it, but I couldn't help it. Cheyenne was also worried about me, he refused to leave until I had been thoroughly check out by Doc, to make sure I hadn't suffered any ill effects from the trip we'd had to take during the storm.

Doc assured him that I was fine, and told me that my backaches were in fact normal in my condition. He wasn't too concerned about it, but warned me to take it easy, the back problems were likely to get worse before they got better. He did ask me again if I was sure I wasn't farther along than I thought I was, but after the talk I'd had with Sadie about it I knew I couldn't be. I tried to follow his advice about taking it easy, but by bedtime every night I was still exhausted. I sure hoped they wouldn't need to be gone very long. Frank went over everything he thought I needed to know about the ranch, I was keeping my fingers crossed that nothing would go wrong. Cheyenne told me he'd spoken to Grizz about Black Dawg's brother, and how Grizz was going to go looking for the man. "If he's in the area, Grizz will find him, but all the same I don't want you going anywhere unless you are armed or with someone who is." I promised him I wouldn't, it wasn't likely I was going anywhere anyway!

The day came for Cheyenne and the others to leave, and I tried to convince him to let me go to Fort Collins to see them off at the train station. Doc had finally requested that I stop riding though, so Cheyenne wouldn't let me go, I had to say my goodbyes on the front porch. After the four riders had disappeared from sight, I wiped the tears from my cheeks and went back in the house, I had work to do. Frank was depending on me to keep things running, and I didn't dare let him down. The first few days, everything went smoothly, the men did know their jobs and did them well. The winds had caused a few fences to go down, I had the men concentrate on getting those fixed as soon as
possible. There was an awful lot of fence to be checked, and with the snow still on the ground it made it difficult for the horses, so the whole process did take a while.

On the fourth day after Cheyenne and Frank had left with the lawman and Yellow Bear, it was clear but still rather cold. Most of the men were still off fixing the fences, so after lunch I asked Little Flower to come to the barns with me, I wanted to check on the horses and see how they were doing. First we went to the barn where my autumn pony was, Little Flower really liked watching the foal that we had named for her. We stood there for a while watching mother and baby, then all of a sudden I smelled smoke, and much heavier than it should have been coming from the fireplace of the house or any of the other buildings. We went back outside, and I realized it was coming from the barn where my new Clydesdales were! I went running for that barn as quickly as I could, and Little Flower tried to follow me. I yelled at her "No! Go get Hop Sing!" but she didn't want to leave me. I stopped long enough to tell her, "Get Hop Sing, now! I'm gonna need help!" I wasn't sure she understood me, but she did turn around and run back to the house, hopefully my message had gotten through to her.

I made it to the Clydesdales' barn and pulled the door open, and saw that the back wall and part of the roof were in flames. A quick look around told me that no one else was in the area. The big horses were all in stalls close to the front of the barn, since there were only four at this point it had made more sense to keep them closer to the doors,
it was easier to feed and water them that way. All four horses were really panicking, they wanted to get away from the flames but couldn't get out of the stalls. I went inside and got the stalls open for all three mares easily enough, and it didn't take much to get them to run for safety once the stall gates were opened. The stallion was the one
farthest back, which put him closest to the flames, and he was starting to go nuts trying to get out. The fire was spreading like crazy, and I could barely see through all the smoke, and was starting to have trouble breathing. I made it to his stall, but then had trouble with the latch, just my luck it had to stick, and I lost several precious moments trying to get it open. But I couldn't just leave him to die like that, so I kept trying....


There...finally! I managed to lift the latch, and pull the gate open, and the stallion went shooting by me straight for the open door. By that time I was gasping for air, and knew I didn't have much time to get out myself, as the rear portion of the roof was already starting to collapse. I knew that the air would be better closer to the ground, but since I was wearing a dress I also knew that I'd never be able to crawl fast enough to get out in time, so I just tried to bend over as far as I could and head for the door. That was easier said than done with my belly as big as it was, and I was stumbling so much that I wasn't sure if I could make it. But I kept going, holding onto the stalls and working my way towards the front, couching so much I could barely stand, and finally was within a couple of steps of the doorway. Just when I thought I was going to get out though, I heard a loud cracking sound, then for a second felt something hit my head and everything went black!

What happened after that I didn't find out until much later. All I remember now of that time was vaguely hearing Sadie asking "Shouldn't we be sending for Mr. Culpepper and Cheyenne?" and Hop Sing answering her, "No, not yet, nothing he can do for her right now anyway...."





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I sat on the train drinking some red wine and eating cocoa roasted almonds, a favorite of mine, and wishing I was back at the cabin with Calico. I was afraid of what would happen while I was gone, and my father had put her in charge of the ranch, too boot. I think he was trying to change her luck or something, I knew the ranch could almost run itself with the men we had, but hadn't my father heard any of the stories I had told him about Calico's escapades. Maybe he was trying to build my confidence in her, I hoped it would work if that's what he was hoping for.

 

I sure didn't have any idea of what we were getting ourselves in for with this trip to the Shoshone village, I understood what Yellow Bear was going through even though he wouldn't hardly look at me. He was going to have to get over this tribal distrust deal, besides most of the trouble came from the Shoshone's habit of stealing horses from the Cheyenne.

 

When we reached Fort Laramie we departed from the train, acquired horses to ride and an extra five horses to give as gifts to the chief, Running Bear. Pat, the lawman saw an old friend with a chuckwagon and hired him to come along with us, I think his name was Gabby and boy did it fit! Within two miles no one would rides within twenty feet of the wagon, except for Yellow Bear who couldn't understand a word Gabby was saying, but even he after a while decided riding beside me was better than listening to Gabby yak away.

 

I was pretty heavily armed, I was actually hoping Black Dawg's brother was following me, at least then I wouldn't have to worry about Calico as much that way. I tried to sign to Yellow Bear the story about Black Dawg, but I wasn't sure how much he understood my signing. My father was watching me struggle and finally told Yellow Bear the story as best he could. Yellow Bear pointed to my Sharps, pointed at me, my father said a big yes, and then Yellow Bear finally smiled, maybe we were finally getting somewhere.

 

About the time Pat told us we were nearing the village we could all feel the eyes that were watching us, it made me pretty nervous with all the talk of Black Dawg's brother but I tried not to show my concern as we drew nearer to the camp. The chief and his council met us at the edge of the village and he was not happy when we did not have his daughter with us. Pat tried to explain why she hadn't come with us but the chief didn't show much emotion until Pat told him that his daughter had had a boy, that brought a brief smile and an invitation to follow him into the village. We were an odd lot, a young lawman named Pat Garret, a bearded, wrinkled, crusty old man, Shoshone brave who had run off with the chief's daughter, a wealthy rancher and a half breed Cheyenne in buckskins with two rifles, two revolvers strapped to his waist, a pocket pistol stuffed in each moccasin and a large knife sheathed on his gunbelt.

 

As we sat around the fire, Pat introduced each of us to the chief, Running Bear had indeed heard of my father and his generosity to different tribes, that pleased him even though he was married to a Cheyenne. Pat took his time when he introduced me, I don't know where he had learned about some of my exploits so well, but as he would tell of shots I had made with the Sharps, going BOOM each time, the eyes of the chief and those sitting around the fire would open a little further. I just couldn't figure out where he had gotten all of his information from, and it was all correct!

 

Yellow Bear was made to sit about ten feet outside of the circle with two braves standing beside him, I had the feeling that we were going to have a tough job making sure he would stay alive.

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It was late morning on the following day before the pain finally woke me up. I tried opening my eyes, but the bright light was agonizing, and I quickly shut them again. I must have groaned or something, because all of a sudden Sadie was right beside me, and I heard her tell someone to go get the doctor. From the sounds of the footsteps it must have been Little Flower, who quickly disappeared into the hall. I tried to sit up, but my head hurt really bad and for some reason my right arm was heavily bandaged. Sadie tried to gently push me back down, telling me "No, don't try to sit up, you're not ready for that just yet!" I tried to insist on getting up...I couldn't stay in bed, I had a ranch to run...and horses to take care of....

"The horses, what happened to my horses?" I cried, I was starting to remember the fire, and how I had gone into the barn after them...

"Your horses are just fine," I heard Doc say as he came into the room, he must have been right next door. "Can't say the same about you! You just lay back down right this instant! You're going to stay in that bed, missy, if I have to chain you to it, and don't think I won't! You had a burning beam fall on you when the ceiling collapsed, you have a bit of a gash and a much bigger lump on your head, your back is all bruised and I think you may have cracked a rib. You also inhaled way too much smoke, and you have burns all along the right side of your body, minor ones on your leg but worse on your arm. You are officially confined to bed until I say otherwise!"


"But I can't stay in bed, I gotta take care of the ranch," I insisted, then a thought hit me and I started to panic... "What about the baby....is the baby ok?"

"As far as I can tell, the baby is fine, but I can't be 100% positive. All the more reason for you to listen to me, and behave yourself for once!" Doc informed me. Boy, did he know me a little too well by now or what? "Hop Sing, Bob, and I decided we weren't going to telegraph Mr. Culpepper and Cheyenne just yet, I'd rather not have to if it can be avoided. But you are going to have to take my advice about staying in bed for now, or I will send a rider into town to wire Fort Laramie and see if they can be found. I'll send Bob up to talk to you for a few minutes, you'll just have to trust him to handle things on the ranch. Hop Sing has the household under control, so don't worry about that."


Doc left the room, and I could hear Sadie moving around, then she told me she had drawn the curtains so it wouldn't be so bright. I tried opening my eyes again, and while it still hurt it wasn't as bad with the room a little darker. I did notice that Little Flower had come back in the room, she was sitting on the floor next to the door, just watching me. Bob came in the room a few minutes later and sat down in the chair next to the bed, telling me that the doc told him he had 5 minutes to talk to me, then I would need to rest.

"The horses are fine, and we have them moved into one of the other barns. The one that caught on fire is a total loss I'm afraid, but we did manage to keep the fire from spreading. Me and some of the other men had seen the smoke, and we were riding in as fast as we could. When we pulled up we noticed that the horses had gotten out, so we were just going to let it burn. As we were dismounting we heard the roof start to collapse, and decided to stay back. But Little Flower was trying to drag Hop Sing out to the barn, and kept pointing that way and yelling “Help Calico!”, so it wasn't hard to figure out how the horses got out. Karl and Blackjack went to the doorway and saw you lying there just inside the door with that beam on you. They managed to drag you out just in time before the rest of the building gave way, sure glad we didn't get there any later!”

Me too, and please tell both of them I said thanks. I guess Doc probably won't let me do it myself,” I grumbled, I was glad to have saved the horses but more than a little embarrassed that I'd put the two men in danger, having to save my hide like that. “Are you sure you can handle things? Doc ain't gonna let me get up, but maybe you can keep visiting me and let me know how things are going? I really don't want to let Frank down any more than I already have....”

Oh, I think Mr. Culpepper is going to be proud of you for saving those horses, but both he and Cheyenne probably won't be real happy that you risked yourself and the baby doing it!” I kinda already had figured that part out myself.... “But all us men are gonna do everything we can to keep things running, so don't worry about that. Doc already told me I could visit you twice a day, for about 10-15 minutes at a time, and let you know what's going on until you start feeling better. One more thing though, as we were riding up it looked as though there had been something stacked up against the back of that barn. It's a little hard to tell exactly, whatever it was burned up, but I think it may have been hay bales. There weren't any bales sitting there when we left, we sure wouldn't be storing hay up against the outside wall of the barn like that. I also smelled kerosene back there. I'm fairly positive that the fire was deliberately set.....”

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My father arose from the circle and walked over to where the extra horses were tied, loosed those five horses and brought them back to the circle presenting them as a gift to the chief. Knowing the affection that the Shoshone had for horses, especially free ones, this brought the expected smile from the chief.

 

As I watched the chief I felt a cold shiver go down my spine, then my spirit began to tremble within me to the point that I almost cried out in anguish. My fists quenched tightly, my jaws strained to close even tighter, my muscles all seem to cry out in agony until I noticed that the circle of men had become absolutely quiet and all their eyes were locked on me. My father drew near to me and asked me what was wrong, but all I could say was, something bad, something real bad. The village shaman saw how I was acting and told me that he too could feel the evil that I was feeling. All I could say was that I had to go, I had to go home, now.

 

My father quickly filled the chief in on the threat from Black Dawg's brother, the chief looked down and thought for a minute. When he lifted his head he called for Yellow Bear to join us and said, "if these men believed in you so much that they came here with you with so much at risk then I cannot turn you away. Go with them, help them with this matter and then return with your wife and child."

 

I don't think I had ever heard such music to my ears and within minutes we were on fresh horses pushing back to Fort Laramie as quickly as we could. We hadn't gone far when Gabby hollered at us to go on without him, he was going to return to the village and sell some of his goods to the Shoshone, I was in no mood to argue and waved to him as I asked my horse for more speed. It was nearly dark when we saw the fort off in the distance, a welcome sight indeed. A small troupe was sent out from the fort to welcome us in, and I'm sure to make sure of just who was riding towards the fort that hard.

 

The train to Fort Collins wouldn't be in until morning which would give us time to rest and telegraph ahead for any information about home. I didn't sleep that night, I felt like a mountain lion that had been caged, a cold, hungry, angry mountain lion being pushed into a gage. I couldn't eat or drink the whole night, but I just paced and when I knew I was keeping the others awake I went outside and after alerting the sentries I starting pacing outside, around the yard and then up on the catwalk surrounding the walls.

 

My soul nearly jumped for joy when I saw the eastern sky begin to lighten and then the sound of revillie brought me tears as I knew the train would soon be arriving. I asked the commander for permission to sight in my Sharps from the wall. When he saw how well I shot the Sharps a bell rang in the Captains head, "you the one that shot with Smith and McQueery a few months ago?" I told him, yes and after a few minutes he had decided to sent a telegram to Fort Collins telling them we were coming along with a group of his best sharpshooters and two of his best trackers. It didn't take long for the reply from Ft Collins to start tapping. They would have fresh horses, a supply wagon and seven more troopers to join us, and that they were sending a patrol to the ranch for a "well being check".

 

Yellow Bear's eyes were wide with amazement at the speed at which the troops moved that morning. Long before I heard the whistle of the train Yellow Bear bent down and put his ear to the earth, "hmmm, train, train." was all he said, but that was enough for me. I was going home, home to my Calico, and hell was coming with me, I just hoped that all was safe there and I was just being paranoid, BUT if something had happened to Calico someone would be entering Hell's gates, and soon......

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Bob came back later that night, and we talked some more about his theory that the fire was no accident. I made sure to insist that none of the men go anywhere alone or unarmed. He also told me he was arranging a rotating schedule of men to guard the barns, the big house, and the area where the married men lived in small houses with their wives and children. We didn't consider the bunkhouse where the single men lived to be a likely target, not with all the armed men already there. We talked about a few other minor things, then he left to get his dinner.

Sadie had brought me some soup earlier, I didn't feel much like eating anything else. My head hurt like crazy, and so did my arm. My leg wasn't so bad as long as I didn't move it too much. Although I didn't feel good, I was getting bored already, and couldn't help but wonder just how long Doc was gonna make me stay in bed. I wasn't much good at just laying around doing nothing. I started wishing that Cheyenne would come home, at least he could read to me or play his flute or something. But I knew what he was doing was important, not just for the couple we had rescued but for the whole area where the Shoshones lived, the last thing the army needed was one more tribe causing trouble. We'd heard enough news reports about the trouble brewing between the army and the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes to the north...

That night I finally convinced Doc and Sadie that they didn't need to spend the whole night in my room. I knew that one or the other of them had been with me every minute since the men had brought me in the house, and they had to be getting tired. Before Cheyenne had left, we had managed to get Little Flower to stay in her own room, but after he left I had let her stay with me. She still wouldn't sleep on the bed, but I figured since she was going to be with me, if I needed help in the middle of the night I could always send her to fetch Sadie. The girl did surprise me though, after the other two had left she did gingerly climb up on the bed and gently laid down next to me. She put her hand on my tummy for a while, and I was rewarded with a big smile when she felt the baby move. Then she curled up and went to sleep, and it wasn't long before I drifted off to dreamland too. In my dream, I saw Cheyenne and nothing else but white all around him, and he was trying to say something to me but I couldn't hear him. All I could hear was the scream of an eagle, and I reached out to him but then he was gone. I woke up in the morning with tears still wet on my cheeks, I missed him so much!

The next morning, Bob came in for a while and said it looked like another storm was brewing, and as long as I had no objections he was going to keep all the men close by until he could see what the clouds were going to do. I was fine with that, I didn't want to send anyone out if another blizzard was going to hit. He left, then a little while later Doc came in with Hop Sing. “I need to change the dressings on your arm and leg, but first, there's some men here from the fort, and the Lieutenant wants to speak to you if you feel up to it.” I nodded, so Hop Sing went to show the Lieutenant up to my room, Doc wouldn't hear of me going downstairs to talk to him. The officer came in and sat down, and started explaining to me the reason for their visit.

“We got a telegram from Fort Laramie, I guess your husband was concerned that there may be some sort of trouble here....I already talked to your foreman, and he told me about the fire. He showed me around what was left of that barn, and I have to admit the whole thing is very suspicious. With your permission, I'd like to have my troopers take
a look around the rest of the ranch, see if we can find any signs of who may be responsible.”


While we were talking, I had heard the wind picking up outside, but before I could say anything to the Lieutenant, a big gust of wind went by the window. Little Flower went over and pulled the curtain back, and all any of us could see was snow swirling around outside, we couldn't even see the tree branches that I knew were only a few feet outside the window. I looked at the Lieutenant and told him “Maybe you and your men had better wait until you can actually see something, I'd hate for you to get lost out there in this stuff. Please tell Hop Sing that I said to make arrangements for you and your men to stay here until it's safe for you to leave, and for your horses as well. Don't worry, we have plenty of room for you, please make yourselves at home.”


The officer agreed, and went downstairs to find Hop Sing. Doc started changing my bandages, and I had to admit that wasn't a very pleasant experience. All the same, the tears flowing down my cheeks at that point were from loneliness, not pain. I missed Cheyenne so much, but at the same time I sure hoped he wouldn't be crazy enough to try and make it home during a storm like this...

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Grizz rode out of town at his normal care free pace, dragging his mule alongside. He made sure not to bother getting out of anyones way, not that he normally did, but the more that could remember seeing him leave the better. About five miles out of town he stopped at a creek to water the animals after being sure that no one was following him. Oh, there was someone back there, but far enough they wouldn't be able to see much more than the specks of the two animals.

 

After a all had satisfied their thirst from the cold mountain water, he skinned off his customary hides and pulled clean clothes and a duster from the packs on the mule. He took his rifles and saddle bags, but little else. He tied the hides to the saddle of his horse, grabbed with bridle on each side and looked into the horses eyes "go home." The horse tossed his head in the air as it to say 'no' but again Grizz said "go home" and then slapped the animal on the rear. The mule resisted a bit at first, but soon fell into pace with the riderless horse, with the lead rope on the saddle pulling him along when needed. It would take them the better part of two days to get there, and Grizz had no doubt they'd be waiting when he finally got back there himself.

 

Grizz watched for a moment to make sure the pair wouldn't turn back, but they kept on towards his cabin at a trot and soon disappeared from sight. Grizz collected the few things he'd unloaded from the animals and walked up stream a hundred yards or so before scrambling off thru the brush up a side draw.

 

The spare horse and supplies were right where he'd left them, the horse looking bored trying to find grass under the snow having eaten the last of the hay Grizz had left for it. Grizz quietly set to work, first cutting his hair and beard, and then shaving as best he could without a mirror, from the feel of it he'd done quite well, all he left was the mustache, which he colored with a bit of boot polish. It stunk but after you washed out the stink, the color stayed for a while. He pulled on the new hat from the stash of supplies, and saddled the horse and headed back for the Culpepper spread being careful to stick the forest and not be seen.

 

As he neared, he smelled smoke, too much smoke for the cook stoves, his instinct was to go charging in to help with whatever fire was burning, but he forced himself to stick to the forest shadow and watch. The burning hay was spreading fast to the barn when he saw two men melting back into the woods, from the direction they were heading, he had a good idea where their horses were so he moved slowly to where he could see. Sure enough, the horses were where he thought, along with another man who was waiting for them, Grizz couldn't be completely sure from that range with his crappy eyes, but it sure looked to be Black Dawg's brother.

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Grizz watched as the man waiting sent the others back towards the Culpepper place. Most likely to watch and see how many men were there, and who was among them. They would soon learn, if they didn't already know, that Cullpepper and Cheyenne were not around. After the two men left, Black Dawg's brother headed off in the other direction. Grizz followed and quietly dispatched the two with his knife, and then started tracking Black Dawg's brother. What was his name anyway? If he knew it, Grizz couldn't recall. Maybe that was part of what the man so angry and violent, few knew his own name, only that he was Black Dawg's brother.

 

Grizz followed carefully, making sure not to leave a trail of his own. Oh, cheyenne could have tracked him, maybe a few others, but most white men, and many Indians would have lost the trail and given up.

 

Grizz tracked the man to a box canyon a few miles away, it was heavily guarded, but the guards were stupid and lazy, arrogant in their numbers and Grizz had no problem slipping up to the rim of the canyon in the dwindling daylight. As the sun fell, the snow also began to fall. With those on lookout, Grizz counted 30 or so. Under the cover of night Grizz retraced his steps to where his horse was tied up and moved out of the area to plan his next move, and find someplace less cold to spend the night.

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We boarded the train with little fanfare, we pretty much took charge of one car ourselves. The clickity-clack of the rails lulled me into a fitful sleep. I was soaring as an eagle again, but this time there were crows all around harassing me, every time that I would send one plummeting to the ground another would swoop in to attack me. Finally I spotted a large raven that seem to be coordinating the attack, it was strange, he had the face of a dog. I tried to get to him but the harder I tried the more the crows would swoop in again.

 

I finally awoke to the smell of cooked peppers and onions in a fajita sauce with venison strips wrapped in a warm soft tortilla shell. My father asked me if I had been dreaming and said that everyone was getting a laugh watching me bob and weave while I was sleeping. I was glad they were enjoying their selves because it sure wasn't very funny to me. After eating six of the delicious wraps I got busy cleaning and inspecting my firearms. I had no clue what everyone else in the cars was doing, I was preparing for war. The last thing I cleaned was my knife, first I honed it till I could shave my arm with it, then I wiped it down with a slightly oily rag, then I drew blood from the palm of my hand with it. Right there I swore an oath to scalp whoever it was that was bringing the evil I had felt upon us and whether he was dead or alive, and in my heart I dearly wanted him to be alive to see my knife as it cut into his scalp.

 

We were two hours out from Ft Collins when the snow hit, seeing the blinding snow didn't help my disposition one bit. I started pacing up and back through the car, the only men that would dare look me in the eye were my father, Pat and Yellow Bear. Yellow Bear was going through his own ritual, and like me finishing with his knife drawing blood from the palm of his hand. But with the blood from his hand he smeared stripes across his forehead and down his cheeks. As our eyes would meet we would bother slightly nod to one another, I knew this man was my friend, a friend who would never forsake me or turn away from me.

 

The snow was whirling and blowing sideways as we pulled into Ft Collins. It was a good thing that the gate to the fort was only a hundred yards or so from the train station, if a patrol hadn't been waiting for us we would have had no clue which way the fort was in the god forsaken snowfall. Captain Baylor was waiting for us in the main room as we drudged in looking like snowmen. He told us that he hadn't heard from the patrol that he had sent out to the ranch, but he did have a report from a recon patrol that he had sent out aside from the one sent to the ranch. A large band of men were known to have ridden out near the old Miller ranch and was most likely holed up in one of the canyons there. I smiled briefly as I remembered catching and killing the cattle rustlers who had made the same mistake of holing up in those canyons.

 

The worst news however was that we would have to wait the storm out here at the fort. I decided to make use of the time by going into town to do my own asking around for any information that someone may have had about any unusual goings on lately. I didn't have much luck because most everyone was holed up in their homes waiting for the storm to pass over. I did find one drunk in the saloon bragging about how he was going to see the Culpepper ranch burn along with everyone in it.

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I nearly drew down on the drunk as he bragged about burning the ranch, but a strange calm came about my spirit, and instead starting walking towards the drunk as he leaned against the bar. Barkeep Casey's eyes were about as big as saucers as he watched me step closer to the braggart and as I stood face to face with the man Casey backed away as far as he could get from the two of us. Before the man knew what was happening my knife blade was at his throat nearly drawing blood. The man's eyes opened wide as the felt the cold steel pushing against his adams apple, and I hissed at him to not even budge an inch. Barkeep snuck up behind the man and relieved him of his pistol, but at my command left the man's knife in it's sheath.

 

I backed away from the man and told him he had a choice, to either start talking or to pull his knife and die. The man studied me for a few seconds and then very gingerly took his knife from its' sheath and dropped it to the floor. The man said that he'd never seen a white man survive a knife fight with an Indian before and wasn't about to try to be the first one now. Then he spilled his guts without me slicing open his stomach. Black Dawg's brother Red Dawg had thirty or so men sworn to avenge Black Dawg's death. The fool didn't have any more information than what I already had so I just lead him to the fort to be held there until it was all over. Just before I left him there though I pulled my knife and opened up a line across the top of his forehead just below his hair line and told him if I ever saw his face again I would finish what I had already started.

 

I left the man standing there in his own urine and joined the others in the mess hall. Captain Baylor laid out his plan of attack, but I had to interrupt him "I want Red Dawg alive, and I will lift his scalp when I am done with him and I will kill anyone who stands in way" I told them. It got pretty quiet as the Captain studied me for some time before nodding in approval, "a man's got to do what a man has to do" is all he said and then continued on with the plan. The only thing I heard was that we would leave at the last snowflake and that now one was to interfere with anything I was about to do. I was really beginning to like the captain, I was beginning to feel that he could look into a man's soul and decide what he needed to do, and I liked that.

 

Now, we just had to wait until this stinking storm passed by, all I could think was, "we don't need no stinking storm!"

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That afternoon Schoolmarm and Skipper stopped in for a while to see how I was doing. Doc had finally allowed me to sit up in bed, as long as I didn't get up, but with my arm all bandaged it was still to hard to do much of anything. Having someone to talk to did help with the boredom, and I was glad to see them. We talked about how Christmas was coming soon, and they told me about some of the traditions that were observed at the ranch. Christmas when I had been growing up hadn't been that big of a deal, we didn't really have any money for presents, and no place close by to buy anything anyway. Pa did always make sure we had a big turkey for dinner, and Ma would read from the Bible, but that was about it. I started thinking about what I could give Cheyenne, maybe if my arm healed enough I could make him some new shirts. Skipper said she'd be happy to make a trip to town to buy the material as soon as the storm was over.


While they were there, Bluebird came in with her baby, and let me see him. He sure was cute, and I started to wonder what Cheyenne and my baby was going to look like. I couldn't really hold him, but Bluebird let Little Flower do it, and she was thrilled. She sat with him in her arms, humming to him, and she looked so sweet. I knew she would be a big help with our baby too, I think she missed being a big sister. Finally Sadie came in and asked all of the ladies to leave so that I could take a nap before dinner. By then my head was really hurting, so I was kinda glad to lay back down. Little Flower gave the baby back to his mother, but she stayed with me, sitting quietly in a chair while I slept.

After dinner I could tell that the storm wasn't getting any better, if anything it was worse. Bob came up to talk to me, and I could tell there was something on his mind, so I told him to spill it. “Well, as we were coming in to dinner, Karl thought he saw a couple of men out a ways from the buildings, but couldn't be sure. I know none of our men is that far away from the compound, so if there is someone out there it's strangers, and probably up to no good. If it was just someone lost and looking for shelter, they would have approached the house by now. Karl and Prairie Dawg and Blackjack all want to get a posse together to go after whoever it is....I told them it's your call.”

This was one of those decisions I had been hoping I wasn't going to have to make. Let our men go see if they could find whoever it is that was lurking around, and possibly get lost, or hurt, or even killed. Or insist they stay here, and make sure the compound was well guarded. If it wasn't for my “condition”, I knew what my choice would have been, I would have lead the dang posse! But I couldn't do that now, even if I hadn't been injured. Was it right for me to ask these men, most of whom had wives and/or children, to do something so dangerous when I could not join them? I didn't think so, but I also did not want them thinking me a coward either. I wondered what either Frank or Cheyenne would do, but that really wasn't much help to me now, neither of them were here.

I thought about it for a while, then finally said “If it wasn't for the storm, I'd send them off in a heartbeat. But with the weather this bad, I just don't think it's a smart idea. Visibility is almost non-existent, they would have a hard time finding anyone in this. And the snow makes for way too good of cover for someone setting up an ambush.....no, I think they need to stay put, but extra guards probably wouldn't be a bad idea!”

Bob smiled at me, and said “Good, I was hoping you would agree with me! We can certainly think about it again if the storm improves, but for now I want everyone to stay around here, we can defend ourselves well enough if we stay put. And I don't want to be risking my best men! See, I told Frank you'd do just fine!” He winked at me, then excused himself to go talk to the men again.

It was nice to hear him say so, but I had to admit to myself that I hadn't told him my biggest reason for turning down the posse idea. As bad as my luck always seemed to be, I felt like I'd probably get someone killed if I sent them out in this storm. Trouble seemed to follow me everywhere, and moving to the Culpepper ranch hadn't helped any. I was beginning to wonder if bad luck was going to follow me all my life....and I crossed my fingers that things would change before the baby arrived. Last thing a new born child needed was a mother with as many problems as I seemed to cause.

I fell asleep, dreaming of Cheyenne still standing just beyond my reach....

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Grizz hadn't made it far when the snow really started falling. He found a cluster of pine trees and made a crude shelter by cutting away the lowest boughs and weaving them with others to make a wind break. He pulled pine needles from the bases of several trees to make a nest and climbed in, it would have to do. One thing was sure, he missed his hides, and his beard. But if Red Dawg, yes, that was his name, Grizz cursed himself for not being about to remember it earlier, if Red Dawg saw him now he wouldn't recognize him, not at first anyway, and that would give him the edge that he needed.

 

With the snow, the band of outlaws wouldn't be moving from the safety of that canyon any time soon. Grizz drifted off to sleep as he tried to come up with a way to take care of that band, while keeping Red Dawg alive long enough to make him die slowly.

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Sometime during the night a rabbit made the mistake of exploring Grizz's den, grizz dispatched it quickly with his knife. Normally it would have made for a nice meal, but he had other plans for it. Before sun up Grizz bulled his way out of his den, several feet of snow had fallen weighting down the upper branches around it. It was tough going, but Grizz worked his way thru the trees to the top of the box canyon where a small stream ran in to the canyon. From there Grizz could see that the guards were no where in sight, either hunkered down or more likely in one of the assorted old buildings in the bottom of the canyon. There was smoke coming from several stove pipes.

 

griz filed his canteen and water skins, and then set them aside. He then cut open the rabbit, poking holes in the entrails. He then staked the carcass in the flowing water so it would slowly wash the contents of the animals bowels, stomach, and bladder down stream. Next he dropped his pants, and relieved himself in the creek, the cold air biting at his backside. With any luck the fouled water would be taking it's toll before the outlaws knew anything was amiss. He didn't like fouling good water, but with so many men down there, he needed any edge he could get.

 

Grizz made his way back to his shelter, covering his tracks as he went. Snow was still falling, but not as fast as before, and any trace that he'd been there would be gone by the time the sun came up.

 

Back in his shelter he pulled the coat and blankets tight, ate a little jerky and hard tack, had a few sips of the fresh water from the canteens, and drifted back to sleep.

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Later that day I watched as the Captain walked across the compound with a handful of papers, when a couple of pages got away from him they disappeared in the snow. He finally found them when the wind trapped them against a wall. I stood there stunned for a minute and then ran to the bunkhouse and pulled a white sheet from one of the beds. As I stepped outside I took my knife and slit a hole in the middle of it and slipped it over my head. Then as others watched I started walking away, I had only gone about 35 yards when all that they could see was my uncovered head.

 

I ran to the Captain's office and told him of my discovery and then expanded my idea to include covering the horses and then men head to toe with white. We would be all but invisible in the snow, especially at night. The Captain's eyes lit up and he called for his orderly and told him to have any white cloth gathered and brought to the mess hall, and every woman and child that knew how to sew.

 

In less than two hours the ladies and girls had sewn twenty five white outfits that would fit over a man and a hood to cover his head and face. They also had made covers for the horses and now all we had to do was to try them out.

 

My spirit soared with anticipation as I slipped one on and mounted my horse with it's white cover, I urged the horse toward the gate and as it opened I went throuh it and rode out until the men called out that I was gone from their sight. It was just over fifty yards, now all I had to do was to convince the others that it was time to leave.

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Yellow Bear, my father, and the lawman, Pat had decided the storm was going to wind down soon and were making plans on leaving that evening. Captain Baylor had gotten word we were readying our things and came to talk with us. When he heard our plans to arrive at the canyon we were sure Red Dawg and his gang we holed up in during the dark of the night we at least got his attention. With the snow on the ground we would be able to see movement easily, but with our white coverings we would be nigh unto invisible to the outlaws. Baylor wasn't real sure we should leave out before the storm had quit, but he decided the advantage of total surprise outweighed the danger of the storm. Besides there would be two supply wagons following behind as best as possible.

 

Twenty five off us left the fort out of the back gate, we wanted to be sure that no one in town would see us leave and be able to get word to Red Dawg. One thing that I did like was that a third wagon had been added to the group, it was painted a quick coat of white and hidden in the back of it was one of those fire breathing dragons, a Gatlin gun!

 

We had devised a plan to wipe out the whole gang with as little danger to any of the men possible. The wagon with the Gatlin gun would set up at the mouth of the canyon with five men, the rest of us would move into position in the dead of the night with our white outfits and wait for the Gatlin gun to open up with a short burst, just enough to awaken the outlaws and hopefully draw them out and provide easy pickings for the rest of us. Each of the troopers were armed with new Winchesters and at least one hundred rounds each. My father and I had our Sharps and were eager to use them again. Yellow Bear had only his bow, but I knew that he was going to be a nasty threat to the outlaws.

 

I wasn't sure what Red Dawg actually looked like, but I had a plan that I had hoped to use to call him out, we'd just have to see how things would play out if I would be able to release my vengeance on him. It was strange that I felt such hatred for him because I didn't really know if he had actually done anything, yet. But, I did know that he had made threats against my family and myself.

 

Just before we got to the canyon the snow started to let up and we could see two figures on horses making their way to the mouth of the canyon, and best yet it was evident that they had no idea what was lurking not far away blending in with the snow. We waited awhile for the men to advance on up into the canyon and then started up the edges of the canyon with Yellow Bear leading the way, he was able to take out two of the guards with his bow before they knew any threat was near.

 

We started dropping off men as we hit the head of the canyon and then circled the old buildings below from our perches on the canyon's heights. As we each got into position we hunkered down and waited for the Gatlin gun to open up. I had any eerie feeling though that someone else was nearby, Ol Grizz had shown up here the last time we were in this position, I wasn't sure but I was going to have to try to keep an eye on our backside.

 

It wasn't long before the fire breathing dragon opened it mouth, the groan of the mighty beast shook the snow from the trees and sent birds flying and animals scurrying, and it woke up any of the troopers that may have drifted off to sleep.

 

The outlaws threw open the doors of the buildings they were in but were smart enough not the venture outside, my own plan could now be put into play.

 

I hollered for Red Dawg and told him who I was and that I wanted him for myself, and then I waited for the evil hearted man to reply....

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As I stood there waiting for his reply a small voice told me to be smart, and then a picture of Calico and a pair of babies popped into my head. I knelt down and put a round into the chimney of the biggest building sending the bricks tumbling down onto the building. It wasn't long before smoke starting pouring out of the door of the house. About then I heard my father's Sharps open up and another chimney on another building came crashing down with the same result and as it did I heard Captain Baylor's order to "OPEN FIRE!"

 

I had said much earlier that "I was coming and hell was coming with me", well, for the men inside hell had arrived.

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From his vantage point at the top of the canyon, Grizz had seen the riders approaching, at first he thought it was just wind blown snow, but the movements were too regular, and the area they blocked the vision of told Grizz it was riders, wearing bed sheets from the looks of it.

 

Culpepper, Grizz muttered under his breath, only Cheyenne would have come up with a fool idea like that, and it was working wonderfully for those on the ground closer to the approaching riders.

 

Grizz had been at his vantage point since just before dawn, and had seen a steady flow of men running to the one and only outhouse, often they would squat out back as they couldn't wait. Grizz chuckled to himself, he'd been there before and he didn't envey them the discomfort. But that was just the beginning of what they would endure that day.

 

When the gattling gun opened up, Red Dawg was just heading for the outhouse, he took cover behind some rocks from the incoming fire, but that put him right into Grizz's line of fire. Grizz lined up his sharps and sent some lead into Red Dawgs back side. Grizz did his best to leave the man alive though, he wanted to make him squirm. With the report of that shot, some of the band turned to find where the shot had come from, and that left them open to the troopers rifles. But those that kept attention on the troopers were open game for Grizz, one by one they fell to his rifle.

 

When Grizz was able to turn his attention back to where Red Dawg had laid, he was gone, just a red and brown stain in the snow. He couldn't have gotten far, Red Dawg would never walk again, even if he lived thru the day, which Grizz was quite sure he wouldn't. He just hoped that he himself had the pleasure of dispatching him and not one of the troopers.

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This storm was worse than the first one had been, but it didn't last as long. The snow started to let up a little the next morning, and the wind wasn't blowing so hard. Bob had come up to my room to give me a report, nothing had really happened yet, for which we were both thankful. As we were talking, Hop Sing knocked at the door and asked to come in. “Rider coming, but on road to house, looks like might be soldier.” Bob went down to see if it was in fact someone from the fort, and if so find the Lieutenant. A little while later he came back with the Lieutenant, it was in fact a messenger from the fort, coming to find the patrol.

“Ma'am, your husband and father-in-law have been at the fort, but they left this morning with a bunch of troopers to try and locate Red Dawg and his men. We've been ordered to try and catch up with them, but Captain Baylor sent word that we should cover ourselves and our horses with white sheets if at all possible, harder for the outlaws to see us coming that way,” the Lieutenant told me.

“Bob, please see to it that these men have whatever they need, and get the hands and their wives to help with whatever needs to be done,” I told the foreman, but he just smiled. “Already doing it. Forgive me for not asking you first, but I figured you'd do just about anything for these men if it might help get Cheyenne home faster.” Well, I couldn't very well argue with that! The Lieutenant thanked me for my hospitality, then the two men left to help get the patrol ready to leave.


Although I couldn't go down to see off the patrol myself, I think pretty much everyone else on the ranch came up to the yard outside the main house to watch them leave. Well, everyone except Little Flower, she hadn't left my room except when necessary since I'd been injured. She was sitting quietly on the floor, playing with my old doll, when the door to my room opened. I had disobeyed orders to stay in bed long enough to go to the window, I wanted to try to see what was going on in the yard. I figured Doc and Sadie were probably going to be outside with everyone else, and I knew Little Flower wouldn't tell on me. I glanced over at the door, ready to explain why I had gotten up when I knew I wasn't supposed to, when I realized that the man standing there was not one of our people. It was a stranger, and not a friendly one from the looks of him!


“Who are you and what the heck are you doing here?” I demanded, and moved to grab one of my pistols, but they were on the dresser, halfway across the room, and the stranger grabbed me before I could get anywhere near them. “You're Mrs. Culpepper, ain't ya? Well, you is gonna go for a nice long ride with me...Red Dawg wants to meet you. Then when he's done with ya, maybe you and me might have us some fun too...” the man told me, with an evil grin on his face. He had a hold of my injured arm, and it hurt so bad it brought tears to my eyes. “Aww, are you scared of me?” he asked, “Good, you should be! Now you just be real quiet, and we're gonna sneak out the back while everyone else is busy out front, don't you try nothin' funny or you're gonna regret it!”

I was struggling to try and get away from him, but he had too good of a grip on my arm. Just then, Doc and Sadie came in, I hadn't heard their footsteps approaching and I don't think the stranger had either. He spun around and pulled me in front of him, then held his pistol against my head. “You two just back off and keep quiet, and maybe the lady don't get hurt, get it? Me and her are gonna leave now, and ain't neither of you gonna do anything to try and stop us now, are ya? Unless you really wanna see me blow her brains out...if she even has any!” the outlaw told them. I could tell Sadie was terrified, but Doc was just plain mad. I didn't know if he was armed or not, but even if he was I doubted he was going to do anything that might put me at risk. All the same, I didn't think he was just going to let this man take me and not do anything.

“Now, just wait a minute, let's talk about this first. I don't want to see anyone get hurt, but the chances of you getting out of here alive if you try and abduct Mrs. Culpepper are pretty slim,” Doc told the man. I was sure Doc realized he couldn't reason with the stranger, but was just stalling for time. He was right though, I could hear that the patrol had in fact left and everyone in the yard was starting to go about their business. The man may have been able to sneak in undetected before, sneaking back out the same way wasn't very likely. I think we all knew this wasn't going to end well, but that fact alone wasn't enough to convince the stranger to give up.

“You just back off now, or I ain't gonna have no choice but to shoot her, then I'm gonna shoot both of you too. Is that what you want? Go ahead, try me....I ain't got nothin' to lose...but you do!” the man snarled at Doc. Fortunately for all of us, the stranger seemed to have forgotten about Little Flower, he probably hadn't thought she'd be much of a threat. Before any of us realized what she was doing, she came up behind him and buried her knife up to the hilt in his back! Oh, I knew there was a reason I liked that girl so much!


Having a knife thrust into his back caused the stranger to loosen his grip on my arm, and he started falling forward. As he did, he lowered his pistol, but he still must have been able to keep his finger on the trigger. As he was falling, he did manage to fire, and I felt a searing pain in my leg, and for some reason it could no longer support my weight. I started falling too, but Doc managed to grab me pretty quickly, and then he and Sadie were practically lifting me back on the bed. Doc told Little Flower to go get Hop Sing and Bob, and then he and Sadie started frantically looking at my leg. All I could think was that finally the pain in my arm wasn't so bad any more...

Before I knew what was happening, my room was filled with people. Sadie quickly explained what had happened, and Bob ordered a couple of the others to get the stranger's body out of there. Doc was putting a lot of pressure on both sides of my leg, and boy that sure hurt! Doc then told me “The bullet went clear through the back of your calf, but I'm still going to have to clean the wound out. I'm afraid I can't really give you any laudanum though, so this is gonna hurt. I'm sorry, but I don't have much choice.” I just nodded, I trusted him to do what he thought was necessary. He slipped a shallow pan under my leg, then I felt him pour something on the wound. The pain got very intense for a few seconds, I thought I may have heard myself scream, but then everything went black.....

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I heard a large bore rifle open up from above us in the firs, I almost swung around to return the fire but before I could move my eyes from the buildings one of the men there was nearly cut in half. I wasn't sure who the rifleman was, but anyone who could shoot like that was welcome to the fray. Then I heard the Gatlin gun open up again, three short bursts and then the beast went silent again, someone must have tried to sneak out of the canyon, I was willing to bet that they hadn't gotten far.

 

The men below looked totally confused, we weren't getting much return fire, and they only time we got fire was when they could make out a muzzle flash from one of us. I started making my way down into the canyon, but not far down I felt a severe pain in my calf. I found a spot for cover, but to my amazement there was no wound, it wasn't a cramp, but it hurt like the dickens. I gathered myself up and continued down the canyon and as I looked around the men were doing the same. One thing I had found curious, Red Dawg's men had been making runs to the outhouse before the attack and for a couple unfortunate ones even during the battle.

 

I watched as several of the men below kept trying to make it to one of the wounded men the had found cover between two large boulders near the outhouse, that had to be Red Dawg hiding there. Why else would several of the men risk their lives for him if it wasn't their leader. He was rather convenient for us though, he would holler for help, one or two men would try to get to him, and either the rifleman above us would cut them in half or the troopers would spin them around with several well placed hits. I was content with nibbling at the man's feet with my Sharps, he couldn't return fire and every time I would take a chunk out of him he would cry for help. I could tell the rifleman above us must have been working his way down the hill too, his shots were becoming louder and the hits from his rifle were becoming more and more accurate.

 

A lull in the firing was starting to take place, with no breeze the smoke from our guns was filling the canyon, not to mention the smoke from the buildings with the collapsed chimneys. You could hear Red Dawg screaming for someone to help him, and through the dense smoke we could catch a sight of movement from the cabin followed by a gut wrenching scream. Yellow Bear must have gotten close enough to see and use his bow with deadly effect.

 

Then the fire breathing beast opened up again, but this time it was much closer, the troopers running it had managed to bring it up into the canyon and had opened up on the buildings. The beast disappeared in the smoke it was making, but the flames it was bellowing out of it's many mouths were still visible. The sound from it was like listening to two great grizzly boars fighting over a female to breed. The smoke over the buildings rose just enough for us to see the wood splintering from the buildings, the porch on the main building collapsed blocking the door and as the building caught fire you could hear the screams coming from the few men left inside of it.

 

Soon it was quiet again, I could see the our men, ghostly looking men in their white sheets coming down the canyon walls and then onto the flat and approaching what was left of the buildings. I found the spot where Red Dawg had been, but all there was now was a large blood trail leading to the sound of more gut wrenching screams. I followed the trail only a few yards before a found the source of the screams, I saw Yellow Bear watching a short round man standing over what must have been Red Dawg, holding a large Bowie knife to Red Dawg's forehead. I almost yelled for Ol Grizz to step aside that the evil man was mine, but a quick and complete calm came over me and as Ol Grizz turned to look at me with the look of a victorious grizzly boar, I just gave him a smile and a nod and with Yellow Bear returned to the rest of our men in the canyon. The screams continued for quite a while getting quieter and quieter until one last terrible one was heard. That SOB was entering the gates of hell and I was glad of it!

 

Pat went around identifying any outlaw he could and those with prices on their heads would be thrown into a wagon, the rest were thrown into the last building and then the building was set on fire, I'm sure those we disposed of were already in the fires of hell, their bodies might as well be too.

 

We left that place with the building still ablaze and as I turned to take one last satisfying look I saw Ol Grizz making his way up the canyon wall holding a red scalp in his hand, he must have felt my eyes on him because he turned towards me, held the scalp up high and hollered, "Thank you, now we're even!" I always had been sorry for making him dance that day, I guess I was forgiven, at least I hoped so!

 

We made as good as time as we could through the deep snow to the ranch, my it was a pretty sight to behold. As we neared I kept waiting to see Calico appear on the porch.......

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Grizz gifted Cheyenne the scalp, he had no use for it, Red Dawgs pistols however he kept, after all they weren't his at all, he'd gotten them from his brother, who had gotten them from..., Grizz shuddered not wanting to relive that memory from long ago.

 

Grizz was careful to warn the troopers not to drink the water, no sense them getting a case of the crapps too. With the run off from the snow and increased flow of water, it would be safe in a few days, but best not to chance it now. Cheyenne burst out laughing when Grizz told them what he'd done, stopping just long enough to utter 'you told them to eat crap and die!'

 

Grizz didn't want to accept Culpeppers offer to go back to the ranch, but he was spent, and low on grub, to try to make it to his cabin would have been foolish. And he was just too tired to be foolish at the moment. Maybe after some food, whiskey and a good smoke, if he stayed awake that long.

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As we rode into the compound I could smell burnt wood and an occasional wisp of smoke, the barn with the Clydesdales was nothing but a pile of burnt timbers. My heart sank as I knew that Calico would be brokenhearted by the disaster. I turned back towards the house to see Doc Eells coming out the door, but still no Calico. I wasn't liking the feelings that were welling up within me, where was Calico?!

 

I dismounted a little clumily because of the sheets we were still wearing and bounded up the stairs to the porch, Doc grabbed my arm and stopped me before I could enter the house, "We've to talk" was all Doc said as we went into the house. Hop Sing handed me a tall glass of whiskey without looking me in the eye, I wasn't liking this at all! I looked Doc straight in the eye, "just where is Calico and is she ok? I blurted out. "Tell me now or so help me," I yelled at Doc, he interupted me quickly, "She's upstairs, she got konked on the head during the barn fire and burnt her arm and leg, but those injuries aren't that awfully bad, and" then he hesitated. "And?, AND WHAT?" I yelled again. "One of Red Dawg's men snuck in and tried to kidnap Calico, Little Flower killed him with her knife, but he managed to fire a shot, that hit Calico in the calf. She'll be ok, it was a through and through," Doc said.

 

I was done talking and listening and went bounding up the stairs to find my Calico, white sheets and all. I entered our room to find Calico sitting up in bed looking real groggy, but as she looked at me she let out a scream that would have awakened the dead. "NO, NO YOU CAN'T BE DEAD" she screamed again, "and why have you come back to haunt me?" she continued screaming.

 

I almost had to laugh as I pulled the sheets over my head, "I'm not dead Calico, and then I laid a kiss on her that she would remember for a long time.

When I got done, yep you guessed it, OUCH! she slugged me in the arm that Johnny had shot me in a few weeks ago.

 

Then I stepped back and tried to take count of Calico's maladies, bandaged calf, bandaged leg and arm from the burns and a big old goose egg on her head, and since I was out of her reach I laughed a little, "what on earth am I going to do with you?" I asked her. Then I stepped back to her and rubbed her belly, I swear it was getting bigger every day, "you've got to stick around to take care of our son" I told her with a laugh in my voice again.

 

I think she would have slugged me again if the last one hadn't hurt her so badly. This time she grabbed my collar and brought me down to her and returned the favor, "you just wait till I'm healed" she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

 

Doc came in and chased me out saying Calico needed to rest, but before I left the room I gave Little Flower a big hug and told her she had a family and a home with us forever, which brought a huge smile to her face.

 

Downstairs the men were either at the table or in the den eating everything Hop Sing made available to them. My father was getting a briefing from Korupt Karl on all that had gone on during our absense. My poor father would just shake his head side to side every time Karl would start on a new episode. I had Hop Sing bring me another drink and then I returned to Calico and sat there in the chair staring at her until I fell asleep.

 

I was once again soaring as an eagle, soaring with my mate high in the clouds, all was quiet, all was peaceful....

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When mention was made of the two dead Red Dawg men in the woods, Grizz held up his knife, a piece of steak still on it, moving around in circles like he was cutting something, "them two was of my doin, sounds like ah may have missed the others, sorry bout that" and he want back to eating on his second steak.

 

Grizz didn't pay attention to much of the conversation, but focused on filling his empty belly, the grub was good, the whiskey was fine, and in a few minutes he'd retire to the porch for a smoke and then get some sleep.

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The next morning a trooper from the fort arrived at the ranch with some interesting news, it seemed one of Red Dawg's men had escaped from the canyon and made it into town. He headed straight for the saloon and began to drink heavily until his tongue was thoroughly loosened. He started ranting about ghost riders coming down the canyon walls and a fire breathing dragon belching hot lead and smoke. They found the man latter that night with a gunshot through his brain, his hand still holding the revolver. Seems he thought he was going crazy, must have been a short trip.

 

We all had a good laugh and invited the trooper to join the rest of the patrol for breakfast....

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I was just starting to wake up when Cheyenne came in and scared the heck outta me. After I realized he was fine, I was glad to see him though, but didn't really get to talk to him before Doc chased him out of the room, insisting that I rest. I spent most of the rest of that day taking short naps on and off, and every time I woke up he was sitting right next to the bed, but we didn't really talk much. I think he was afraid Doc would chase him back out if he did. At bedtime though, we had a bit of a problem...Little Flower had gotten used to sleeping next to me, and didn't want to go back to her room. She finally agreed to let Cheyenne use the bed, but insisted on sleeping on the floor next to me. I had a feeling we were going to have to start all over with her.

After breakfast the next morning, Frank came to visit me, and I finally got the tongue-lashing I had been expecting the night before from Cheyenne. “What in the heck did you think you were doing, going into that burning barn like that? Are you really that crazy...you and my grandson are worth far more than a few horses! I'm starting to agree with Doc, we may need to chain you to this bed to keep you outta trouble for the next couple of months, since you can't seem to avoid it on your own!”

“I just couldn't let those horses die like that, and there was no one else around close enough to help! I didn't mean to get hurt, it's not my fault the roof caved in like that! And it certainly isn't my fault that outlaw managed to sneak in here and shoot me....can't blame me for that one!” I was almost in tears, I felt bad enough already, last thing I needed was anyone yelling at me for what had happened.

At that point Cheyenne entered the room, and I could tell he had heard his father yelling at me. He asked his father to join him in the hall, and although they shut the door behind them I could hear them arguing, I just couldn't understand what they were saying. A few minutes later Cheyenne came back in the room alone, and told me “Father isn't going to be bringing up the subject again, but he wants you to know he is concerned about you. He has asked that you please not do anything like that again....and Doc Eells is serious about you taking it easy the rest of your pregnancy. You don't have to spend all of it in bed, just until your injuries heal, but can you please TRY not to let any more bad stuff happen?”

“Well, I don't know how I'm gonna do that, considering I've never tried to make any of it happen, it just seems to all on it's own. I sure wouldn't mind if our lives weren't quite so “interesting' for a while...can we just concentrate on getting that new house built so we can be alone again? I know better than to think we're going to be moving back to the cabin anytime in the near future...”

“Well, if the weather doesn't improve, that house won't be going up any time soon, just be glad we have a good roof over our heads. For now, why don't you get some rest, and I'll be back in to see you in a little while,” he said, then he excused himself and shut the door.

Rest? That's all I had been doing, and I was tired of it. I was starting to get really, really bored, and no one seemed to care about that. Didn't they realize that resting all the time wasn't good for me either? I had to think of some way to convince my husband, father-in-law, and doctor to quit treating me like an invalid and let me do something useful again....and soon!

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When I heard my father almost yelling at Calico for going into the burning barn to save the horses I was furious, and I told him so when I got him out of Calico's room. I got him to realize that every man and woman on the ranch would have done the same thing, him included. I think he got so upset because my mother had done something very similar back before I was born that nearly cost her life also.

 

We needed our own place but the cabin was out of the question, our new house was at least a season away, but then I remembered Rye Miles saying he was wanting to head south to join the Arizona Rangers. His place on the ranch was small, but we would be alone and all I needed to do was to find out when he was going to leave. It didn't take long to find Rye, after all it was lunch time and I found him downstairs with a handful of cookies. He wasn't quite ready to leave yet, but a hundred dollars convinced him that Arizona was calling his name, now!

 

I bounded back up the stairs with the good news to tell Calico. She got a big smile on her face when she heard the news and then asked Little Flower to go fetch a whole list of things. She told me in no uncertain terms to close the doors and as I turned back to look at her when I had closed the door she had that twinkle in her eyes and was motioning me to her. I made sure the door was locked and, well, we were carefully busy for quite a while.

 

Late that afternoon we moved what things we had with us to Rye's old place, which was now our place. It was much like the cabin, only two rooms, one bedroom and then the main room, but we were alone, well, almost. With a little coaxing Little Flower knew we needed some privacy pretty often, at least for now anyway.

 

Calico's burns were healing really well with the help of my mother's salve, the bullet wound through her calf was a bit slower because it being a deep wound, but the salve was keeping the infections away. Her spirit was amazing as well, she was able to get out to see the horses, which always put her in a good mood, heck I hadn't been slugged since I had scared her so badly when she thought I was a ghost.

 

Something strange was happening though, once when I had both my hands on her belly, I felt a kick at the same time on both sides. I wasn't so sure about that, we would need to have a talk with Doc about what that could possibly mean.

 

We hired a new man not long after Rye left, Crossfire Brown and his wife. Seems that they had gotten tired of the heat of Florida and moved to the Colorado territory for the seasons. They sure weren't going to have a problem with heat here for a while.

 

Yellow Bear, his wife, and son stayed at the ranch for a couple weeks before heading back to their village, he invited me to go along with him, but I reminded him of what had happened the last time I left and he shook his head violently and let out a loud "NO, YOU STAY!" I did promise to visit with Calico and our child when the time was right and with that the three road off on their trek home.

 

I was keeping in close contact with Captain Baylor, I had grown fond of the gentleman soldier with his soft voice that commanded a deep respect from all who were serving with him at the fort. Seems that they continued to use the white sheets during the times of snow to great effect, he was planning on different variations as well when the weather would permit.

 

The thing though that made me the happiest was that Calico was happy, even in our small house with a teenage girl staying with us.

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I was thrilled when Cheyenne told me Rye was leaving and we could have his house. I knew we'd really miss him, but I was sure he'd make a great Ranger, and wished him well. It wasn't easy getting me moved, I couldn't put much weight on one leg, and getting down the stairs took a while, even with Cheyenne's help. But it was worth the effort, even though I had to lay down as soon as we got in the new house, I was hurting that bad. My injuries seemed to start healing a lot faster though, I think it really helped that Cheyenne let me get up and move around more, and even let me visit the horses. Moving around got my blood flowing better, and my muscles weren't so sore from not being used. I did try to not overdo it though, and Little Flower was a big help in that regard. Lu Sing had been giving her more cooking lessons, so I let her do most of that. I also was starting to teach her how to sew, but there were a few things I was working on that I kept a secret.


Christmas came before we knew it, along with another snow storm, but at least this one wasn't a blizzard. By then I was walking much better, but Cheyenne still surprised me with one of my Christmas presents, he'd gotten a little sleigh for us to go riding in when there was snow on the ground. It seemed kind of silly to use it to get to the main house, since we were so close, but he promised me a longer ride in it later. I had made new shirts for him and also worked up a nice new pair of buckskins for him, and I let Little Flower help me with putting some beadwork on it so that the gift would be from both of us. I also made some shirts for his father, and new dresses for Little Flower. Cheyenne gave me several books, including a Bible of my own. He gave Little Flower a new doll, but I let her keep my old one as well. Frank gave me a ring that matched the necklace he had given me for a wedding present. Hop and Lu Sing gave us a bunch of clothes for the baby, and I gave them a quilt made in Lu's favorite colors.

Dinner was a feast, and everyone on the ranch was there. Grizz had even decided to stay for a while, and he made us laugh all through dinner, spinning tale tales and telling jokes. I think he had decided that Lu Sing really could cook. We couldn't all fit in the dining room, I think we probably had people sitting in every room on the ground level to eat, but there was plenty of food to go around and we all had a wonderful time. The best thing that happened that day was that later in the afternoon a messenger came riding out from town with a telegram for me and Cheyenne. It was from Buick, and simply said “It is a girl...we are naming her Mary Elizabeth. Morning Star is fine but misses you.” I was so happy for them, and a little jealous. I wanted a daughter, but Cheyenne and his father were so positive I was going to have a boy...

A few days later we got a longer letter from Buick and Morning Star. They told us everything that had been going on at the Golden Aspen, and it sounded like things were going really well for them. Jesse had proposed to the older of the Barrett girls, and was planning on a spring wedding. Pete was courting her sister, and it sounded like there may be another wedding there at some point. Morning Star had ended the letter by saying that she and Buick would love to come visit us around the time I was due, to let us see their new daughter and so that she could be with me when I delivered. I really liked the idea of having my best friend there with me, but I wasn't sure Cheyenne was crazy about the idea, I think he was still jealous of Buick. Cheyenne did say he would think about it, so all I could do was keep my fingers crossed that he'd say yes at some point before spring.

We were really enjoying ourselves in Rye's old house, it was wonderful having just the three of us there. We did spend a fair amount of time at the main house, and that made his father happy too. Our lives seemed to have finally settled down a bit, and the peace and quiet was wonderful. I just couldn't help but wonder sometimes though, just how long that was going to last....

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I fell in love with the new buckskins from Calico, especially the beadwork that was out of this world. Why it was so fancy the men on the ranch had gone to calling me Purdy Boy, I was sure that they were just jealous of the intricate many colored beadwork.

 

New Years eve was upon us in no time and was a beautiful clear day, a perfect day for a sleigh ride. I hooked up one of the Clydesdales and pulled up to our little house and called for Calico to come out. The smile on her face nearly blinded me, she turned back inside and grabbed her winter coat and hobbled out to join me in the sleigh and thanked me properly I must say.

 

I pulled the buffalo hide up on us and off we went through the snow, Samson the Clydesdale was in his glory running through the snow. I guided Samson toward the road that led to town so that he could run without fear of hitting any holes that populated the fields. We didn't have a care in the world for a while, and were enjoying it tremendously, until we saw a rider coming from town. It was Linn Keller a deputy from town with news of Water Lilly's escape. I glanced over a Calico and the big smile was nowhere to be seen and had been replaced with a scowl that would have frightened Satan himself! "You think she's heading this way?" Calico blurted out, "she better not if she knows what's good for her, that little #$$#^&%%.!"

 

Linn nearly fell off of his horse when Calico blurted that out, but then I couldn't blame either of them. I knew Calico hated Water Lilly, and I don't think Linn had ever heard a lady use that kind of langauge before. When Linn found his tongue he managed to answer her with, "Well, we don't know Ma'am, we're not sure how she escaped, much less where she may be headed."

 

I thanked Linn for the news and he was off back towards town, snow flying up from his horses hooves. Calico's scowl hadn't improved much, though I did my best to convince her that I sure didn't want to see the @#$^@%$ either. That helped a little and the kiss I gave her helped a little more. We turned Samson back towards the ranch and tried to enjoy the ride home, the sunset over the mountains was spectacular that evening and helped to erase the pain of the news of Water Lilly's escape. I was sure she wouldn't try to come to the ranch, even her parents wanted no part of her after the trouble she had caused.

 

Back at the ranch Grizz had almost everyone rolling on the ground in the snow around the bonfire. The stories he told were almost like you were there watching it happen yourself. I wondered how he would tell some of the escapades the Calico and I had gone through in the somewhat short time we had known each other. I bet he would have had a grand time telling about the first times I saw her at the water holes just standing there in all her glory stareing at me stareing at her.

 

Crossfire Brown took Samson and the sleigh and put them up for us as we took a seat at the fire, after listening to Grizz a while the smile was back on Calico's face and I was hoping I was seeing the glimmer in her eyes, that was always a good sign. Doc had warned me that the glimmer may go away sometime in the future, he just told me Calico would be the one that would know when, I didn't much care for the sound of that, but then I had had a hand in causing it. I was looking forward to having a son, maybe even two of them, or maybe a son and a daughter, two daughers? that was another issue....

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Grizz hadn't talked so much in many many years. It was good tell the tales of the old days, and honor those who had not survived by the telling. More than once several had suggested that he learn to read and write so he could write down the stories for future generations. The first time someone said it, he'd nearly pulled on the man who said it. They all assumed it was a sore subject, but eventually they'd forget and mention it again. After that first time, Grizz just laughed it off with comments about teaching grizzly bears to dance too.

 

Truth be told, he had seen grizzly bears dance, and he knew very well how to read and write, and well more than just the word or two that most figured he could. His dear momma, rest her soul, had seen to that.

 

There was an old line shack a few miles up in the canyons that Grizz had been staying at. It gave him time alone, and in that time, he had been writing, though he told no one. He took the stories he knew, as well as those told by those around him and put them to paper.

 

He was working on one now that he'd finish by the time the babies came, It would be a long time before they could read what was written on those pages, but when they did, they'd at least know how they came to be.

 

Grizz also spent that time at the line shack that winter working wood, something he hadn't done much of since his younger days. He'd started on a cradle, but when word that there were two babies, he'd been able to change the design so that each child would have it's own place. The long runners made it safe from tipping over, and also would allow someone to rock the cradle with their food sitting nearby.

 

After the last piece was put in place and sanded smooth, Grizz packed up what little he had there, and headed for the ranch. Pulling the cradle on a travouis made from branches and boughs, and covered with a blanket.

 

His plan was to leave the gifts of the cradle and story and a note and be on his way before anyone saw him. He'd been away from his own place too long. Not to mention that Red Dawg was not the only one who wanted him dead, and he didn't want that sort of trouble finding him here, not with babies on the way.

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For the next two months, everything was peacefully and relatively uneventful for a change. We did get a few more blizzards, but it didn't bother us. We didn't have to worry about supplies, and after the storms stopped we had plenty of opportunities to go sledding. Then we would come home and have dinner, and cuddle until we warmed up. After a while, cuddling was about all we could do, my belly was getting so big that anything else was too uncomfortable...I knew Cheyenne wasn't exactly happy about that, but he tried to be a good sport. After all, he knew it was just temporary....

He finally gave in and agreed to let Buick and Morning Star visit with their little girl, who they were calling Libby. It was arranged for them to come up about the second week of March, and stay about a month. Doc Eells was guessing I was due sometime around the end of March or beginning of April, though he did warn me that I could go into labor early. After the talk I'd had with Sadie, I wasn't really looking forward to THAT, but I was looking forward to not being pregnant anymore. It was getting so I could hardly move, but couldn't get comfortable even if I wasn't moving. It seemed to be taking so long...and I was ready to get the whole thing over with.


Grizz had left us a gift of a beautiful cradle he'd made himself, and some folded pieces of paper addressed to “Baby and Baby Culpepper”. I didn't try reading what was on them, I figured if he meant them to be for the babies we'd wait until they were actually born before finding out what was written for them. I sure wished I could have thanked him before he left, but all I could do was hope that he would come back to visit at some point. One person that I was glad hadn't shown up was Water Lilly, we had no idea what had become of her but at least she hadn't come around to cause more trouble. Occasionally I did have a nightmare or two about her, but those dreams didn't come to pass. I was thankful for that, as I was no longer in any shape to beat the tar outta her again, at least not yet.

Cheyenne went hunting a few times, and once even let Little Flower go with him, which she really enjoyed. They came back with some tall tale about seeing a huge man-like creature, but totally covered in fur, about 8 feet tall, that had stared at them from behind a tree for a while before moving quickly away. I figured they were just teasing me, even though they insisted it was true. Little Flower did seem to be more than a little frightened, so maybe they had been telling the truth, I couldn't tell. Cheyenne swore up and down that he wasn't making it up, and warned me not to ever go up into the mountains alone and unarmed. I had no intention of doing that anyway, story or no story!


Finally the day came for Buick and Morning Star to arrive, they were coming on the train since they were traveling with the baby, it was easier and faster than by horse. The doc wouldn't allow me to go into town to meet the train, so Cheyenne and Little Flower went to fetch them, and I waited at the main house for them. They would be staying there anyway, there certainly wasn't room in our little house for guests. Frank kept me company as I waited, and all he could talk about was how excited he was that his grandson would be there soon. I had long since given up trying to convince him that I could be having a girl, or even two. He was adamant, there would be a boy to carry on the Culpepper name...if anyone pressed the subject he would then insist that I would have to keep trying until I got it right!

As we sat on the porch and watched the wagon they were riding in approach, I noticed that my belly seemed to get a little tight for a few seconds, but then the feeling passed. I didn't think to much of it, I was much more interested in greeting my friends, it had been so long since we'd seen them. I gave Morning Star a huge hug, but Buick just barely gave me a quick kiss on the forehead and then backed off, and I was wondering if Cheyenne had anything to do with that. Then Morning Star insisted I hold my namesake, and I had to admit she was adorable. She looked just like her mother, except she had her father's eyes. She was going to be a beauty when she got a little older, I could tell. I just hoped that she wasn't as much trouble for her parents as the person she was named after!

After the greetings were over, Frank invited us all to go inside, Hop Sing had announced that lunch was ready. As we were walking in, I noticed my belly getting tight again. I started thinking that if that kept up I might want to talk to Doc or Sadie and find out what was going on....





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The winter months were really quiet, oh we had to haul hay out to the cattle, run fence lines, and do maintenance on the building and such, but a gun wasn't fired in anger in months, something for which I was surely grateful. I did manage to head out hunting a few times, the fresh meat was a bonus, the time alone out in the wilds was what I was usually after. The past three years had been pretty violent compared to the early years of my life and I was enjoying the solitude the mountains provided.

 

Little Flower had been begging to go out on a hunt with me and I finally consented to taking her along on a hunt up into the foothills. There was about six inches of fresh snow on the ground, not terribly cold, and the sky was clear and a deep blue. I didn't think it was the best day to hunt, but it was a good day for a ride and it was a chance to spend time with Little Flower. We had set up on a ridge that we could pretty well see all around us, and after a short while I saw movement and I could have sworn it was Ol Grizz making his way up the hill almost straight at us. I studied him for a bit and was thinking that Grizz was much shorter the last time I'd seen him and much rounder that now. Finally I realized that this wasn't Ol Grizz at all! This had to be the creature the Indians called Yeti, an illusive creature that was more fiction than fact, at least until now. About the time I figured out it wasn't Grizz the Yeti spotted us and froze behind a tree, peering out from the side of the tree trying to see what we were going to do. Poor Little Flower was ready to make a run for the horses and head for the ranch, but I was able to hold her by me and keep her quiet, not an easy job at all.

 

The Yeti stared at us for a few minutes then off back down the hill it went, wasting no time at all. I really wanted to follow it but Little Flower was in no mood to stick around so went got to our horses and returned to the ranch. Almost everyone thought we were crazy when we told them the story of seeing the Yeti, except for Korupt Karl and Crossfire Brown, both who had said they had seen the Yeti at one time or another. Crossfire though has seen one in Florida, stranger yet!

 

I wasn't real thrilled with Buick being back on the ranch, but I was looking forward to seeing Morning Star and their new baby. I tried to be cordial with Buick on the ride from the train to the ranch, but I'm sure he felt the tension between us as well. Morning Star's continence was radiant enough for the both of them though, and even I had to admit the baby was a cute little thing. After we had arrived back at the ranch we were all sitting around the den, Calico beside me with her hand on my thigh, when I though we was going to put her nails clean through my leg. Next I was waiting to be slugged, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong. That happened a couple more times and I finally had to lean over and quietly ask Calico what in the world was I doing wrong! She managed to smile and me and then looked down at her belly, I was thinking, "You're mad at me now, for that?"

 

Calico finally whispered to me, "You better get Doc or Sadie, NOW!" I almost asked why, but then I felt her nails nearing my thighbone and figured I'd better go find one of them post haste!

 

I saw Sadie first, and as I told her what I was sent for her eyes got big, "Go get Doc, now!", and she was on her way to Calico. Doc had pretty much the same reaction, he left me just standing there rubbing my thigh. I was trying to figure out what the rush was all about!

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I was still standing there all alone, feeling sort of dumbfounded when I realized that we hadn't even thought of a single name, boy or girl, or if there were going to be two babies.

 

Shyannie, for a girl's name,,,hmmm maybe not. All of a sudden I became aware that I was standing there by myself while everyone else was with Calico, my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I came to grips with what was happening. Needless to say I ran, not walked back to the house see what was going on, Calico saw me come back, she smiled at me and said "I was wondering if you were gonna let me do this alone!" My face was red with embarrassment as I heard everyone laughing at me, oh well, wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it wasn't going to be the last.

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Ouch!! Dang it, that was starting to hurt! All through lunch and then again after we'd moved to the den, my belly kept getting tight every once in a while. At first it was just annoying, then it started to get painful, and happen more frequently. I was just a little confused, I wasn't sure what was going on, but after it started hurting all of a sudden I remembered the conversation I'd had with Sadie, when she explained what labor pains were. Is that what this was? Was it finally time? Up until now, I had been anxious to get this over with, now I wasn't so sure I was ready for it. Heck, Morning Star had just got here, and hadn't even had time to unpack yet....

I could feel the pain starting again, and quickly told Cheyenne to please get the doctor or Sadie, I needed one or both of them, pronto! He jumped up and ran off, everyone else just sat there and stared at me. Then Morning Star smiled, saying “We got here just in time, didn't we?” All I could do was nod, another pain was starting and I was busy trying to deal with that. Frank's eyes just about popped out of his head when he realized what was going on, Buick just sat there quietly, sipping his whiskey. He'd been through this with Morning Star not that long ago and knew that it would be a while before anything really happened.

 

Sadie came in, and started asking me questions about how long I'd been having the pains, how close together, and how long they were lasting. Then Doc Eells arrived, and Sadie told him that things were moving along rather quickly, considering this was my first time. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not! Another pain hit, and Doc told me to tell him when it was over, and started looking at his watch. Cheyenne came running back in just as it was over, and I smiled at him and said “I was wondering if you were gonna let me do this alone!” He shook his head, and looked down right terrified. But then Doc told us “Cheyenne needs to stay downstairs where he belongs, expectant fathers are nothing but trouble during childbirth, and I have enough to do tending to you. He can come up when it's over. Sadie, can you and Morning Star take her upstairs and help her change into a nightgown, I'll be up in a minute.” The two ladies started leading me towards the stairs, and I heard Doc tell Cheyenne “You just sit down and relax, have a drink and a cigar or something, she'll be fine.”

I wasn't real happy about that, not at all, and I could tell Cheyenne wasn't either. We had both assumed that he would be there with me when I gave birth, but now Doc decided to tell us he couldn't be? Rotten timing on his part, and I was furious, but just then another pain hit and I couldn't really say anything. I went upstairs to our old room, and Sadie helped me change, then get into bed. The pains were getting worse, and I was really starting to get scared. Just how bad was this going to get? I remembered when Bluebird had given birth, and now I understood why she had been screaming....I had a feeling I wasn't going to enjoy this!

I had no idea how much time passed, all I knew was that the pains kept getting worse, and closer together. Doc and Sadie didn't seem concerned, and Morning Star just kept smiling at me and talking to me about all sorts of stuff between the pains. I think she was trying to distract me so I wouldn't keep worrying about when the next one would hit. It worked for a while, but eventually the pains got so bad and so close together that I couldn't concentrate on what she was saying. Then a really really strong one hit me, and I heard myself screaming “CHEYENNE!” Next thing I knew he was right beside me, and he told the doc in no uncertain terms “I ain't leaving her, and you can't make me!” Doc Eells just rolled his eyes and shook his head, telling Cheyenne “If you end up passing out and hurting yourself, don't blame me! I'm a little too busy right now to throw you out anyway!”


The rest of it was just a blur, even when I tried to think about it later I really couldn't remember what happened. The first thing I did remember was Sadie telling us “It's a boy!” then Cheyenne leaned over and gently kissed my forehead. I tried to smile at him, but then the pain started again! Next thing I knew Doc was saying “And a girl too, one of each. Now I hope you're both happy!” Happy? I would have been ecstatic if I hadn't been so exhausted! But Cheyenne was grinning from ear to ear, and I could tell he was thrilled. It was only a little while before Sadie was handing Cheyenne a little blanket wrapped bundle, and Morning Star was handing me another one. Even as tired as I was, I was so happy to finally get to hold my daughter, and I knew Cheyenne felt the same about having his son in his arms for the first time.

A few minutes later the door opened up a couple of inches, and I noticed Little Flower peeking in. I motioned at her to come on in, and the look on her face when we showed her the babies was priceless. She had been helping to take care of Libby while Morning Star had been with me, but I could tell she was just as happy to be seeing her new “brother and sister”. Our son was fair, with blond hair and blue eyes, our daughter had darker skin and eyes, and black hair. It was kind of strange, how our son resembled me but our daughter looked like her father, but it really didn't matter, both Cheyenne and I were thrilled with how things had worked out. Doc assured us that both babies were perfectly healthy, and that's all that mattered.

Finally Sadie told Cheyenne “Why don't we take the babies down to show your father, and let Calico get some rest. I know Mr. Culpepper really would like to see his grandbabies.” I could tell Cheyenne didn't really want to leave me, but the idea of getting some rest sure sounded good to me! Before they left the room, I did ask him “How do you feel about naming our son after his grandfathers? I was thinking Mathew Franklin Culpepper would be a nice name. I'm not sure about our little girl though, we'll need to think of something...”

He just smiled and told me we'd talk about it some more after I got some rest, that there was no hurry. Everyone left the room, and I laid back to try and relax, after what just been through a good night's sleep sounded wonderful. Little did I know then just how long it was going to be before I got a good night's sleep again....

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Wow! was all I could say as I stood there holding my son for the first time and watching Calico hold our daughter in her arms. Just a short time ago you couldn't have gotten me to believe that I was going to be a father so soon. I had gone on my quest to find myself, I figured that I would be like an eagle soaring free for who knows how long, but as I looked at my family, I knew that my quest had been fulfilled in an entirely different way. My mother always did tell me "that the Lord works in mysterious ways." Three years ago I would have said that this was sure mysterious, but now, I was father and I was proud of it!

 

Little Flower and I took the babies downstairs for all to see, and anxious they were too, all of them lined up at the foot of the stairs waiting to see the new Culpeppers. Everyone had ideas of what we should name the little ones, I had always leaned toward an Indian name, such as Running Bear or such, but there were two things I had to consider, first that kind of name needed to be earned, and secondly, a proper name would make it much easier them out away from the ranch. Mathew Franklin Culpepper had a fine ring to it anyway, and Calico had done the hard work! I tried to think of a pretty name for our daughter, Caliope, Cora, Kate, dang it all, but I had no idea what to name a girl. I was figuring on leaving it up to Calico, like I said before, she had done all the work.

 

I could smell wonderful things being prepared in the kitchen, Hop Sing and Lu were going all out to make this a celebration. I knew that it was bitter sweet for them, I knew that they had expected Water Lilly and I to get together and have a family, but well, they had put all that behind them. I was curious about what had happened to Water Lilly since her escape, I was hoping the see would have gone to some place that no one new her and start over, but something kept telling me we hadn't seen the last of her.

 

I asked for a volunteer to go head out and try and find Ol Grizz and give him the news of the births and Blackwater Desperado stepped up and said he'd head out right after lunch.

 

Well, for now all was right with the world.

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That good night's sleep didn't last long, it was only about an hour before Sadie came and woke me up, telling me that little Mathew was hungry. I sure was glad she was there to help me, as I had no idea what I was doing, but before too long he was fed and had drifted off to sleep, and I wanted so much to join him. But it wasn't to be, as then Morning Star brought his little sister in, and she wanted fed too. I had a feeling I wasn't going to be getting much sleep anytime soon! As I was nursing my daughter, I started thinking about what to name her. I thought it would be nice to pick something from the Bible, so I asked Morning Star to get one for me from the library, as mine was in our little house. She brought it to me, and after I was finished with the baby I started looking through it for ideas. Before too long, I had come up with one I hoped Cheyenne would like, Sarah Rachel. It sure sounded pretty to me.

The next few days were very busy, there was a lot more to taking care of a baby than I had realized, and now I had two to deal with. I got a lot of help from everyone, which was nice, but I was a little frightened about going back to our house, and having to do everything myself. Having Little Flower around was turning out to be an even bigger blessing every day, as she loved nothing more than helping with the babies. She was such a sweetheart, and I started wondering if there was any way that Cheyenne and I could formally adopt her. We'd have to look into that, if and when we ever had time!

I recovered fairly quickly, although I did overhear Doc Eells one day telling Cheyenne that he'd have to “behave” himself a little while longer....how did that man know what we were both thinking? Oh well, I was still getting pretty tired by the time night came around, and I was only getting a few hours of sleep at a time...if I was lucky. Having the babies around was wonderful enough for now...other things could wait.

Not long before Buick and Morning Star were supposed to return to the Golden Aspen, Buick got a telegram from Jesse. Turns out that Pete didn't want to propose to his girl until he had some money to his name, so he had run off to Central City to seek his fortune. By that time most of the gold that was being found in Central City came from underground mines, there wasn't much left being panned in the nearby streams so he wasn't likely to have much luck, but was intent on trying. This was very upsetting to both Buick and Morning Star, and to myself as well. Mining towns were rough places, and Pete was on his own. We were all afraid he would get himself into more trouble than he could handle.

Buick asked Frank if Morning Star and little Libby could stay at the Culpepper ranch a while longer, while he went to Central City to see if he could locate Pete. Frank said “Of course, they're welcome to stay as long as necessary, but you aren't really going to go up there alone, are you? You'd be better off taking someone else along.” When he said that, I was scared to death that Cheyenne would volunteer to go, he knew how much Pete meant to me but I didn't want him leaving...not right now. I realized that was selfish of me, but I just couldn't help it. I needed him too, and so did the babies....

Before Cheyenne had the chance to say anything, Buick asked Frank “Is it ok if I ask Blackjack to go with me? I know he has work to do on the ranch, but I trust him to watch my back. With any luck, we won't be gone that long....”, to which Frank readily agreed. Turns out the two of them were becoming good friends, while I had been in labor and Sadie and Morning Star had been with me, their husbands had sat on the porch drinking and getting better acquainted. I was glad that Sadie didn't seem to mind the idea, and I hoped that two of them would be enough to find Pete, and that Cheyenne wouldn't decide to go with them....

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