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Firelands-The Beginning

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Linn Keller 1-1-14


Jacob looked across the table at his bride and said, "Dear heart, I am so glad for your cookin'!"
Annette was finally set down; she had an infant under her shawl, slung and nursing, and was finally able to turn her attention to her eggs: she looked up at Jacob and admitted, "I don't know whether to thank you or throw my plate at you."
Jacob laughed.
His wife had an armful of fussy infant; rather than set down and expect his woman to wait on him, he and Joseph fired the stove, laid the table, sliced up bacon, fried the eggs, even warmed sliced bread before throwing groceries on warmed plates.
"It is an awful lot more work than meets the eye," Jacob continued.
Annette nodded, looking down at their little one: a chubby pink arm escaped the enveloping shawl and waved happily about.
Joseph's head came up and his young eyes went to the window: he shot a delighted grin at his Pa and bolted from the table.
Annette looked up at the sound of sleigh-bells; Jacob rose, curious, and grinned as he heard his son's delighed "Hi, Aunt Sarah!" just before their front door slammed shut behind his departing backside.
Jacob went outside, shrugging into his coat, clapped Joseph's hat on his head before assuming his own broad brimmed skypiece.
"Well don't just stand there," Sarah said, mock-glaring at her brother, "help me down!"
"I can't reach," Joseph protested. "I'm too short!"
Sarah laughed, standing and turning: Jacob reached up and took her hand, steadying her as she stepped down: Joseph offered his own hand as soon as Sarah was in reach, and she took his hand as well.
"Thank you, gentlemen," she said with mock gravity, though neither missed the sparkle of delight in her light-blue eyes: "I have a basket to bring in," and Jacob reached over and swung the woven wicker out and down to his grinning son.
"I'll tend the sleigh," Jacob said quietly, and Sarah seized him in a quick, crushing hug, then held him at arm's length and looked long into his eyes, a half-smile, a secret, knowing smile on her face: then she turned, plucked up her skirts and swung like a brigantine under sail toward the front door.
Jacob chuckled and took the horse by the cheek-strap.
"Come on now," he murmured. "Let's get you inside," and drew horse and sleigh to the barn.
Annette smiled to see her visitor. "Oh, Sarah, do come in!" she exclaimed, then looked in distress at the half eaten breakfast: "Let me get you something," and Sarah swept around the table and pressed gloved hands gently around her sister in law's shoulders.
"You will do no such thing," she said quietly. "Sit you still. These men don't know a thing about fixing a meal."
"We do too!" Joseph protested.
"You," Sarah said, pointing a gloved finger at the distressed lad, "are a volunteer. Roll up your sleeves now."
Puzzled, Joseph did; he slid his red under-sleeves uncerimoniously up to his elbows as well.
"Now sit and finish your breakfast." Sarah plucked at her fingers, removing her gloves and slipping them daintily into her reticule. "Do you have enough to eat?"
Joseph managed to get a slippery forkful of fried egg into his mouth before nodding.
"Good. Clean your plate and you're helping me. Your father's plate?"
Joseph nodded.
Sarah picked it up, set it on the stove. "We'll just keep it warm," she murmured. "I hate cold eggs."
"We fried up bacon," Joseph offered.
"Good. Bacon puts hair on your chest."
Joseph stopped, drew the neck of his shirt out, tried to peek down at his breastbone.
Sarah came around behind him, pulled the shirt out, took a look.
"You need some more," she murmured, "but it'll come, just like your father."
"Pa said Grampa's coffee will put hair on your chest."
Annette shot a warning look at her son; Joseph's eyes were for his Aunt Sarah, who smiled and nodded and agreed, "Your Grampa's coffee will grow hair on a bald rock!" -- and Joseph resolved to sneak the coffee pot out of the Sheriff's office sometime and anoint one of the rocks at the edge of the board walk, for he'd never seen a rock grow hair.
Jacob kicked the snow off his boots and slapped the snow off his hat brim.
"Still coming down," he announced. "I'm glad you're here, Little Sis. This is sizin' up to be a good snowfall."
Sarah released Joseph's shoulders and stomped up to Jacob: shoving herself aggressively against him, she poked a stiff forefinger in his chest and snarled, "Who you callin' "little," little brother?"
Pale eyes glared into pale eyes; Jacob frowned, and so did Sarah; Jacob's jaw thrust forward, and so did Sarah; each slowly cocked a fist, turned their head a little, one eyebrow raised aggressively, until neither could keep a straight face any longer: they abandoned themselves to laughter and a hug.
"Sit down and eat," Sarah said finally. "Your plate's still warm."

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Linn Keller 1-1-14


Given enough snow, the stage could be slowed or stopped; it took considerably more snow to stop the Iron Horse, unless it built up and began to avalanche.
The Lady Esther was having little if any difficulty getting through the drifts; she came huffing easily into station, blowing pure-white clouds of condensation into the cold winter air.
It is an unfortunate reality that bad men as well as good avail themselves of transportation, and so it was today: two men with ill intent, knowing the train's schedule, disembarked and made their way to the Silver Jewel.
Jackson Cooper nodded pleasantly to the pair on his way out.
The two watched after him as the big town marshal made his way out the ornate double doors, then they each slid a coin to the smiling girl behind the bar and accepted a beer apiece.
They knew the ore train would be through in one hour; they knew the ore train usually drew a boxcar after the ore cars; they knew the ore train, heavily laden, would be moving slowly, until it made the break-over point a mile out of town.
They looked at the Regulator clock, they looked at their beers, and they looked to the front door.
"Just enough time," the one said quietly, and the other nodded.
They drained their heavy glass mugs and headed for the front door.
It wasn't until they were down the steps from the boardwalk that they saw the Sheriff.
His back was to the pair.

Angela looked at her Daddy with big and innocent eyes.
"But I like him!" she protested, distress in her voice and grief in her expression, and the Sheriff leaned his gold headed cane against the side of the building and bent over a little, the heels of his hands on his knees as he spoke quietly to his daughter: "He's a wild thing, Angela. He's a wolf, not a pet."
Angela ran her bottom lip out, then thought better of it and said in a small voice, "Okay, Daddy."
She turned a little, as if to speak to the wolf pup.
The wolf pup suddenly bristled and snarled, fangs bared: it went from cautious to attack in a tenth of a second or less.
The Sheriff spun, his good right hand full of Colt revolver.
He remembered seeing the blued steel finger of the revolver's barrel pointing toward the man on the right, he recalled seeing the front sight slicing up the man's body, he recalled the little dark spot that appeared on the man's coat, right before the black streak shot like a furry arrow past his arm.
There was another gunshot and the man on the left fell back screaming as the wolf pup grabbed his exposed wrist, right behind his nickle plated pistol, and the two went over backwards.
The first holdup coughed and dropped his revolver, alarm in his eyes and blood on his lips, and the Sheriff cocked his pistol and brought it back down level.
He needn't have bothered.
The first holdup sagged to his knees and then fell onto his face, unmoving.
The second fellow, on the other hand, was not just moving: he was rolling, he was screaming, he scrambled backwards until he ran the small of his back into the wooden boardwalk steps; he fell over, his voice shrill, as something black and fast moving shook his broken arm back and forth like a terrier worries a rat.
The Sheriff lowered his pistol's hammer and thrust it hard into its holster: he strode up to the wolf pup, ran one hand under its chest and the other seized the nape of its neck.
"OFF!" he barked.
Angela came scampering up and laid her hand on the pup's muzzle.
"LEGGO!" she shouted, and the wolf pup released, wiggling and snarling, making it plain he wanted to do nothing more than to grab hold of this enemy and rip into him again: he sounded like he was the size of a grown pony, and he looked like a furred-up, mad-as-hell black wolf, a red-eyed, bloody-jawed emissary of death.
Angela laid her hand fearlessly on the wolf pup's muzzle.
"Bad Wolf," she scolded. "Now stop that!"
"You got him?" the Sheriff asked.
"I got him, Daddy."
The Sheriff let the wolf pup go and Angela had her arm around the front of its chest, the other laid between its flattened-back ears.
"Come on now, Bad Wolf," she wheedled. "Come on now. Come on."

Jackson Cooper frowned as he looked at the dead man.
"This one's Chris Rock," he said. "The other ... Rock usually runs with a fellow they called Eph."
"Short for Ephesus. He hated the name."
"Once the doc figures out whether he'll have to saw that hand off or not I reckon we can talk to him."
The Sheriff frowned, trying to resurrect the memory that was evading capture.
"Chris Rock," he said thoughtfully, then realization dawned in his eyes.
"They like to hit a bank at closin' time or near to it ... they ride in on the train ..."
"That's why we didn't see any horses."
"Townies," the Sheriff snorted. "You can tell by lookin' at 'em. I don't reckon they're Western men a'tall."
Jackson Cooper considered this.
"How do you reckon they figured to leave?"
The Sheriff lifted his head, listening.
"Ore train," he murmured. "Could they have caught ..."
"They have a box car on the end of the ore cars."
"Damned fools."
"Hey?" Jackson Cooper frowned, leaning forward a little.
"This high up," the Sheriff said, "an Easterner or a lowlander can't breathe so good."
"Ah," Jackson Cooper said as he realized what the Sheriff was driving at.
"The train slows a mile from here."
"And they would never make a mile in time."
"Mmm. Especially not with a couple sacks of loot to pack."

Angela was squatted by the back steps of the Silver Jewel.
She made no attempt to reach under, which was probably a good thing.
The wolf pup glared at her as it gobbled biscuits and gravy, then polished the plate rather thoroughly.
Angela sighed.
"You're not much of a doggie," she complained.
The wolf pup lifted its lips and growled.
"You have very bad manners," Angela scolded, shaking her finger at the curly black lupine.
The pup looked at her with gleaming black eyes, then came out from under the steps, and snuffed at her hand, then it thrust its head across her lap and growled.
Angela laid a hand gently on the ruff of its neck.
"Good puppy," she said quietly.

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Linn Keller 1-4-14


The mare glowed a bright copper in the long rays of the early Colorado dawn.
It was cold and the mare's breath steamed out in great gusting plumes; her hooves whispered as they crushed frost-brittle grasses, the cold saddle leather squeaked a little as it always did; her black bridle and the hand-chased roses graven into the bridle's silver furniture were perfect accents to the dancing mare's healthy pelt.
She'd bucked herself out, giving the Sheriff a good wringing-out -- along with her spine -- and now, after shaking herself, she stepped out with a smooth and lively pace, pleased as punch and feeling good, the way a saddlehorse will on a chilly mountain morning.
The Sheriff looked to the horizon with pale blue eyes, leaning forward a little: a hand that, in its time, grasped weapons of various kinds, or tools, a hand that knew how to caress a lover or seize a malefactor, how to guide a child's hand in forming its first wobbly letters on paper, or how to double into a tight fist and do violence to someone who deserved it, now patted the mare's neck with affection.
The throat and lips that had screamed in full-voiced battle-rage, guiding troops in time of war, now whispered "Good girl" in soothing sibilants, puffing out on the Sheriff's orange-tinted breath-vapor.
The long red rays of the sun set treetops on fire, trees heavily furred with frost, even painted the breath-vapor of horse and rider: the Sheriff always did love the morning, and when possible would get out for a morning ride, unless duty or unforeseen circumstance dictated otherwise.
The Sheriff re-read a journal's page that morning, reading the words written in grief, speaking of the barkeep, an old and dear friend, who'd just crossed over into the Valley: though the Sheriff had been there and knew what it was like, he still wrote with the grief of a man bereft of someone he knew and trusted and befriended, for he was a man who did not give or take friendship lightly.
The Sheriff looked back at the solid house, built for a long tall lawman and his red-headed bride, a house that knew laughter and grief, joy and sorrow, in which children had been born, and in which souls had departed: the house knew children and grandchildren, gain and loss, a house that stood as solid as the mountains surrounding.
"Home," the Sheriff whispered into the morning stillness.
The Sheriff rode Cannonball in a slow circle, then with a nudge of knees, a shift of weight -- for the Sheriff rode without using a bit or reins -- they set a cross-country course, as near a straight line as they could, for the graveyard.
Cannonball leaned into an easy trot until she hit the downgrade, the the Sheriff leaned forward and pressed flat hands against the mare's neck.
"Go, girl!"
Cannonball didn't need to be told twice.
She gathered herself and launched herself down grade, toward the creek that split the little hollow: there was a still, soaring moment, a moment where they rode the wind, then with a hammer of hooves up the other side, a clatter of steel-shod across the hard roadbed, the Sheriff rode into the graveyard.
The Sheriff's six-point star gleamed in the morning sun, the Sheriff's engraved, yellowed-ivory handles glowed as only aged ivory can; the Sheriff rode back and forth a little, in the oldest section of the cemetery, until at last they stopped before a double stone.
It bore one name, across the top; on the left, beneath a triplet of carved roses, it said ESTHER, and beneath, "Beloved Wife."
On the right, LINN, and "Loving Husband."
The Sheriff smiled at the memory of comments entered into the journal, something to the effect that he'd had a discussion with his son Jacob on the matter: how he thought the stone ought to say "Old Geezer" or "Long Winded Storyteller" or something of the kind.
"It's odd, seeing your own name on a stone," the Sheriff whispered, staring at the deep-graven KELLER across the top of the stone.
There were other stones nearby: one, a tiny one, a lamb carved on top: time and weather reduced the lamb to an almost unrecognizable blob.
"I'll have that re-done," the Sheriff said aloud. "Maybe coat it with something so it won't melt."
The Sheriff stared with pale blue eyes at the stone, then considered a multiple of stones surrounding, reading the names and remembering.
"A lot of history here."
Cannonball blew and shook her head.
The Sheriff looked up at the sound of a train whistle in the distance, grinning and turning Cannonball with a knee.
"Come on, girl, she's back!"
Sheriff Willamina Keller looked down at her great-great-granddad's stone.
"I got your steam engine back," she shouted, delight in her voice and a grin on her face. "She's back from South America, I had her rebuilt and she's going to pull a tourist train!"
Sheriff Willamina Keller, wearing her Great-Granddad's six-pointed star and her Great-Granddad's twin Colts with the Masonic square-and-compasses graven into the antique ivory handles, shouted "YAAA! COME ON, GIRL, WE'VE GOT A TRAIN TO CATCH!"
Cannonball didn't need to be told twice.
The red mare, like her ancestress, born of fiery Mexican blood and crossed with the smooth-gaited Paso Fino of the conquistadores, launched herself like a ball from a field gun.
A white wolf, sitting beside a stone, watched the pair disappear before it, too, disappeared, dissolving into mist in the morning sun.

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Linn Keller 1-25-14


The Sheriff's son waited patiently as his father's pen moved methodically across good rag paper.
A newspaper, folded and forgotten, lay on a chair against the front wall; bold headlines screamed of war, the date was 1914, but neither man had any care for the state of the world.
The ache each man felt was too fresh.
Final entries had to be made before the book was closed, he knew; work was yet to be done, the young deputy knew, and he was standing ready to do the work, but he ached ... a deep, a bone-deep ache, far worse than any physical exertion.
The Sheriff's face was wooden as he wrote the final lines and let them dry, then he stood and closed the book, gently, almost reverently: his finger tips caressed the book's cover, then he took a black silk ribbon, wrapped around it longways, then crossways, tied it in a slip knot at the precise middle of the front cover: he opened the top right hand drawer and put it precisely where it always went, wiped the pen's leaf-shaped nib and set it away, then the bottle of good India ink, and closed the drawer easily, gently ...
He closed the drawer with respect.
Sheriff Jacob Keller looked at his tall, slender son, waiting at his side, his eyes quiet, tired-looking as a young man's eyes will be when the young man is in grief and trying to bear up under its crushing weight.
Like his father, Joseph would grieve in his own way, and at his own time: for now, there was work to be done, and like his father, and his grandfather before him, he shoved his feelings down into a long-neck bottle and stoved the cork down hard after it.
It took them some time to empty the Sheriff's office of its contents.
The tornado and the fire had damaged much of the structure's outside; the contents were mostly undamaged, and Jacob intended they should remain so.
He and Joseph knew of a mineshaft that underlay the town, a branch of the same shaft that collapsed under the boarding house some time ago: that branch was sealed off, but this one remained, and it was dry.
It took them some labor but they got the Sheriff's desk and office chair, their contents, even the pot belly stove, packed into that mineshaft: they'd brought in sheets of lead and some tools, they carefully crated, then sheathed, these memorabilia of his father's administration here, underground, safe in an inert, sealed container: his revolvers, his rifle, even his double gun: both Jacob and Joseph held Linn's ivory-handled Colts, one last time, remembering the man who'd worn them.
Father and son each pretended not to notice the other's face was wet.
Before they closed up the wooden crate, Jacob opened the bottom right hand desk drawer one last time, withdrew two heavy bottom glasses and the bottle of whiskey, handed them to Joseph; only then did the pair crate up and seal the desk, they set these last tokens aside, and they finished their task in silence: finally they withdrew from this dead end, carrying their tools and the bottle and the glasses, and at the first bend, they began work again, erecting a wooden wall, here where the ceiling was low enough they had to duck a little: they built it stout and wedged the corners tight, and by the light of their two kerosene lanterns, Jacob painted "DEAD END" and under that, "PLAYED OUT" -- the common means used in that mine to let future miners know that the gold strata ran elsewhere.
They were more than a mile underground; it took them a bit to walk out, and when they neared the mouth of the mine, Joseph asked, "Pa, what of the office?"
"I have another desk," Jacob replied, "and a chair. What's left we'll tear down and rebuild, but I want to rebuild in stone."
They stopped and looked around before emerging into daylight; they puffed out the flames, set the lanterns where they'd found them, in a little niche, whistled to their mounts.
Joseph hesitated before mounting, running gloved fingers over his gelding's brand. He rode a good looking Macneil cross, a short-coupled, tough-as-nails cross between an Appaloosa and a Mexican-blooded copper mare that hated men and outran anything this side of the Rio.
"I miss him, sir," Joseph said, his voice thickening.
Jacob nodded.
The two rode back into town, father and son, Sheriff and deputy: they rode in silence together, listening to the wind, to the distant scream of the ore train's whistle, they rode around town and in behind it and finally they made their way into the town's graveyard, and around a curving little roadway, and stopped at the raw earth of a fresh grave.
They dismounted, ground-reined their mounts.
The stone was broad and heavy and said KELLER in bold letters.
On one side, a carved triplet of roses, and over these, ESTHER, and in more delicate characters, "Beloved Wife."
On the other side, a Masonic arc-and-compasses, and the name LINN, and under that, "Beloved Husband."
There were fresh roses, four on each grave; the Sheriff and his son knew that Sarah and the girls had been there earlier that day.
Jacob uncorked the whiskey bottle.
Joseph held out two glasses.
Water-clear gurgled into the heavy-glass tumblers, two fingers' worth: Jacob turned and said in a loud voice, "Sir, we'd be pleased if you'd take a touch with us," and he poured a generous gurgle onto his father's grave.
The two men tilted up their glasses and drank.

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And that, loyal readers, is the original story of the town and people of Firelands as told by a variety of folks over a long space of time both modern and old. I hope that you have enjoyed our small efforts in presenting a town and a group of people who have been, and continue to be, near and dear to our hearts. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

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I am ,and have always  been an avid reader.Sci -fi and westerns are my favorite genres. The Firelands stories are some of the best written tales I have read,bar none.

I always look forward to the next installment and enjoy the time spent reading them.

I would like to offer my most sincere thanks to all those who made these stories available to us.


Choctaw Jack 

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Charlie, thank you for this.

Had you not saved and re-posted this, it would have been lost forever when Belle Alley went dark: my copy followed the buffalo when a lightning surge turned my laptop to scrap.

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