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Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

Firelands-The Beginning

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Linn Keller 7-30-07

 

 

The door opened easily on hand forged hinges.
"Sheriff?"
"Come on in." There was the sound of paper being shuffled, a desk drawer sliding shut.
I stepped into the cool interior of the sheriff's office. The walls were timber, heavy and well laid, and double-thick: whoever built this intended it as a young fort. The board floor was smooth and clean, the planks tightly fitted of seasoned wood.
The sheriff pretended to casually scan a handful of wanted posters. I knew his casual demeanor was a front. I'd used it myself.
"I'm new in town, Sheriff, but I'm afraid I've just caused some trouble."
"You have that, stranger, and I would have paid good money for that show you just put on across the street!" he declared stoutly. "That chiseler has needed a good come-uppance for a long time and I'm glad to see him get it!"
"Strikes me he'll not let this pass."
"Oh, no, he'll not. First he'll send some of his bully-boys after you, then he'll try and get you in court. He's the attorney here in town, so crooked they'll have to screw him in the ground when he dies." He tossed the wanted dodgers into a pile and leaned back in his chair. "What brings you to these parts?"
I stepped up and offered my hand. "Linn Keller. Thought to make a fresh start."
The sheriff took my hand. Each of us assessed the other's grip.
"You on the dodge?"
I grinned. "Not from the law."
"Oh?"
"Tell you what. I've not had supper. If you're inclined to eat and listen, I'm buying."
"Like the old preacher said," the sheriff said, "all donations cheerfully accepted!" He reached for his hat and said "I've got a good appetite, I'll warn ye ahead of time!"
"Makes two of us!"

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Duzy Wales 7-31-07

 

Duzy, Aunt Esther, Bonnie and Sarah were riding out to look at the house on the outskirts of town, when they saw Sheriff Landers motioning for the ladies to stop. The Sheriff removed his hat, and looking Duzy in the eyes, skipping the Good Morning’s and instead said, “Sorry Miss. Wales, but we need to talk as soon as you get the chance.” “Sure,” Sheriff Landers, Duzy answered, wondering about the worried look on his usually calm face, the lines around his brown eyes seeming to be more pronounced, and his solemn attitude. “Do we have time to ride out to Mr. Higgins’ place to see if it is suitable for our housing?” “Afraid not, Miss Wales, as the news I have may affect whether you decide on purchasing the property.” "Sarah, would you like to have one of those candy sticks at the mercantile?" "Yes," Miss Duzy, she said, as she licked her lips in anticipation. Duzy turned to Aunt Esther and Bonnie and all three were thinking the same thing, that somehow he had discovered Duzy’s part in Sarah’s step Dad’s death. "Aunt Esther, would you and Bonnie please take Sarah while I talk to the Sheriff,” Duzy stated smiling at the look still on Sarah’s face. Sheriff Landers helped Duzy down from the buggy and she followed him inside his office.

“Miss Wales, I may as well get to the point. I received a telegraph this morning informing me that you are to be removed from your position at the newspaper office. I am sorry, but it came from the owner himself and there is nothing I can do but follow his wishes.” Duzy was startled, “I am being fired, before I even get started, before the presses arrive, before my first article, and then she realized it didn’t have anything to do with how well she could handle the position, but that she was a woman!” “To be honest, Miss Wales, I did some checking around town and found that Duke Slade had already started the campaign against you, and Mr. Higgins fueled the fire by talking about you, causing more of the men in town to turn against you, who then sent complaints by wire to have you fired. I am truly sorry!” Duzy stood up, somewhat dazed and angered at the same time, with the Sheriff quickly standing also and walking around his desk to steady her. “Are you okay, Miss, Wales? “Yes, yes, I am fine, and please do not worry, as it is not your fault, she said, as thoughts of what she was going to do, or where she could go next to try to fulfill her dream, and what could she tell Bonnie and Sarah about where they would be living, and she could feel the beat of her heart coming faster, the blood pounding in her ears. “Please, Miss. Wales, Sheriff Landers said, I think you should sit down for a few minutes and get your bearings.”

It was at that moment that she realized he had been holding her while she had been standing lost in time and thought. Embarrassed, she looked at him and said, “Yes, you are right, I am sorry, I didn’t realize that you were…. “Shhhhh, it is okay. I never mind holding a beautiful young woman!” Sheriff Landers was thinking to himself that if he didn’t get her seated again, that he was going to kiss her, and knew that he would be taking advantage of her if he did, at that moment. He could see her eyes change as each thought had come into her mind and she felt so good in his arms. It had taken all his will power to let go of her.

Duzy composed herself and after convincing the Sheriff that she was indeed fine, he walked her outside, wishing he could help her, hoping that she didn’t leave Firelands, as the more he was around her, the more he loved the way she laughed, the fire inside of her that made her want to help everyone, her inner beauty, not to mention she was the prettiest woman he thought he had ever laid his eyes on.

Aunt Esther took one look at Duzy and knew something was terribly wrong; however, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the demise of Bert Graves. Instead, she looked as if her life had fallen apart, that her heart had taken its first break in her young life, as life will do. “Miss McKenna, would you please take Sarah for a walk and let me talk to my niece for a few minutes alone and then we will get back with you.” Sure, Miss. Wales, and please let me know if I can help in anyway.”

Duzy related the story to her Aunt as they rode just outside of town to the creek Duzy loved so well. Aunt Esther held Duzy for a few minutes, rubbing her back and the sides of her face, running her fingers through her hair, as she had when Duzy was a child, soothing her. Aunt Esther, always to the point, simply stated, “Do you know what you are going to do? “Not yet, but I will figure it out.” “The first thing I wish to do is get the four of us a place to stay. Now, let’s go look at that house! Aunt Esther said, “Are you sure, my dear?” “Yes, we cannot let this stop us from keeping our promise to Bonnie and Sarah.”

Mr. Higgins had repaired the house and it looked pretty with its fence, the flowers still in bloom, but with some much needed weeding. The inside was perfect with one larger bedroom that Bonnie and Sarah could share and two smaller ones that she and her Aunt would use. Aunt Esther looked at the cook stove and thought how nice it would be to prepare some meals, as she had before, oh stop it silly woman, don’t even relive it, she told herself.

Sarah was looking at it, like it was a large doll house, a memory of long ago, before her Mama had left her, before her real Daddy was gone and that was all it had taken to seal the deal.

Reverend Sopris was at the hotel lobby when they returned. Sometimes Duzy thought he must have wings, as he seemed to appear at the most unusual times. Mr. Higgins was wishing he would leave, thinking he could get much more for the house, as he didn’t think the women would know what it was actually worth, revealing how ignorant of women he really was. Aunt Esther made the deal, bringing him down quite a bit less than they were prepared to pay, as the Reverend looked on. Mr. Higgins eyes had actually darted back and forth between Aunt Esther and the Reverend; and, Aunt Esther used it to her advantage, making a mental note to thank the Reverend later. Thinking of what he had just did to her niece, she further stated, and that will include the buggy and horses, will it not, Mr. Higgins? Mr. Higgins went from one foot to the other, like he had been trapped and finally sputtered out, ye, yes, I will include those also, is insides filling with anger as he did.

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Kid Sopris 7-31-07

 

It was late in the day when Rev. Sopris got the telegram back from the US Marshals office in Kansas City. Seems ol Bert was wanted for murder back there, and there was a $7,500.00 reward. Based on the Rev. Affidavit, The US Marshall was sending a US Bank note redeemable for $7,500.00 to Sopris for the bounty.

Sopris thought "Hmmmm, I wonder if an aspiring Newspaper woman could use this money for a new venture?" Sopris took a stroll back toward the Hotel, where he shot a look at Higgins again, and once again the reflection in the shoulder holster temporarily blinded Higgins.

"Mr. Higgins, intuition tells me that you are up to something, and it's not good. I sure hope for your sake I'm wrong, I would hate to post your name at next Sunday's services". With that, Higgins felt faint, Higgins thought, "How does he know stuff?"

Sopris proceeded directly to Ms. Duzy's and Aunt Esther's room, with telegram in hand.

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Linn Keller 7-31-07

 

MMFFF! OWWW! OOOGGGHHH!
"Hold still, Duke, I'm almost done."
"OOOHHHH!! YRRR KLLNNNN MEEE!"
"There. Done. Bite down on that, gently, now."
"Mmmff. Oww. Whut nww?" the lawyer grunted through clenched jaw.
"Now you get on the steam train and go see a friend of mine, Doc Miller. He's a dentist. Here's his address." Doc Greenlees stuffed a card in the attorney's now-dusty coat. "Tell him anything you like, but do exactly as he tells you or you're likely to lose most of your teeth."
"I'll have that trail riding cowhand horsewhipped," Slade muttered. "I'll have him drug behind his own horse! I'll ... I'll sue!"
"Oh, Slade?" Doc said as the lawyer picked up his less-than-pristine bowler.
"Mm?"
"That'll be a dollar. Cash."
"Bill me."
Doc Greenlees kicked the door shut, his eyes cold. "You haven't paid your bill. You haven't paid your last four bills. No more bills, Slade. I can't trust you enough to bill you and I would not trust you as my attorney, so pay up!"
Slade fished in his vest pocket and threw the dollar to the floor. Face flaming, he snatched at the doorknob, slammed the door open and stomped out.
"Pleasure doing business," Doc called after him.
SLAM!
"Lucky the front glass didn't break," Doc sighed.



"He wasn't!" the Sheriff grinned.
"Oh yes he was! Naked as a jaybird and twice as stupid!"
"What did you do?"
"What could I do? He was getting so hot I was afeared he would catch fire, so I threw a bucket of water on him!"
The Sheriff threw his head back and laughed, a good healthy laugh that unwound most of the tension in his gut. When he finished wiping his eyes and managed to get his breath again he said, "And what did my indiscreet little brother Bert do when you threw that bucket of water on him?"
"Wellsir," I said, "after he come down out of the rafters --"
The Sheriff howled.
"-- I fired him on the spot!"
The Sheriff pounded the table with the flat of his callused hand, beyond laughter, making the approximate sound of a chicken laying a paving brick. When he could finally talk he took out a rather worn bandanna, wiped his eyes, wiped his face and the back of his neck, blew his nose and took a few good deep breaths. Then he started all over again.
I leaned back in my chair and savored the feeling of a full belly. A meal is so much better with good company and when I can tickle a man's funny bone, so much the better. I had not intended to amuse the Sheriff to this degree, but when he found I'd been town marshal back home, and I was the fellow who fired his little brother, well, he just had to hear the details.
"What about the girl?"
"Oh, she was ready to die," I said. "She didn't, of course, but I figured it only decent, since I fired him, I could at least give him a fast horse. Good thing, too. Her pappy had a fast horse."
"And that's why he went to San Francisco."
"Well, can't say as that's the reason, but it's why he left Chauncey."
We talked for a while longer, two old law dogs talking shop. He was kind enough to fill me in on some of the folks hereabouts, and I made several mental notes: who to see, who might present difficulties, where alliances might lie ... I dislike politics but they're a fact of life, and I learned long ago to read undercurrents and implications the same way I would read sign on a trail. They might not tell the whole story but they can point direction.
Finally the conversation turned to my encounter with Slade.
"No, he won't let that go -- thank you, Daisy," he smiled at the hash slinger as she set a slice of fresh pie in front of each of us. Good pie, too: she'd cut a pie in half, then in half again; each of us had a quarter of a fresh home made apple pie, and the crust was flaky -- something I hadn't had since before Connie died.
Connie.
For a long moment there was a big empty place in me.
The Sheriff noticed the change.
I shook my head. "You said he wouldn't let it go."
"No." The Sheriff forked in a bite and savored it the way I savored mine. "Oh, that's good!"
I grunted agreement and took another bite.
"Nope. He'll come after you by fair means or foul and he doesn't care which. He is a known cheat, he tries to buy influence at the state capitol -- but he's known as a back stabbing turncoat there, so they take his money and ignore him."
"Must have money to spend, then."
"Controlling interest in the railroad."
If I had been a cat, my ears would have swung forward. I made note of that.
"Fair means or foul. Go on."
"He'll hire men to either attack you, or swear falsely in court. He'll try and break you legally. Good thing you don't have a mortgage, he's related to the banker and has him completely buffaloed. He'd force the bank to foreclose on any pretense."
"Who's the banker?"
"Fellow named Carsey."
I stopped chewing.
"Dan Carsey?"
The same. You know him?"
"I shot two of his boys."
"Now that could cause problems."
"It was needful."
"Care to talk about it?"
"Back during the War. I'm not ashamed of much but I am ashamed of being in Sherman's March. His boys ..."
My voice tapered off and I looked out the window, seeing another time.
I saw them laughing and punching a woman.
I saw them tear her dress.
I saw them throw her down.
I saw the front sight of my Navy Colt come up.
I saw two gouts of fire.
I saw three others that helped them, dangling from nooses in the town square, before the full company in parade formation.
I saw myself, as if a spectator to my own action, walking my horse in front of the swinging bodies and announcing to my troops assembled that anyone who did any such thing as these had, with any woman, would be treated in the same manner.
The Sheriff listened quietly. "So you're the one."
"I'm the one."
"General Sherman wasn't happy with you."
"No, he wasn't."
"That was a long time ago."
"Yep."
"That's why you decked Slade."
"Nope."
"Why, then?"
I was quiet for a long moment. "I won't abide a man forcing himself on a woman. It ain't mannerly."
"We can't enforce manners."
"We can enforce the law."
"How's that?"
"Assault, for starters. Unlawful restraint. I don't doubt he was carrying a dainty little nickle plated something in his vest, add a count for armed assault."
"You're thinking like a lawman."
"Old habit."
"How would you like to be a deputy? I need a good man I can trust."
Daisy brought more coffee.
The Sheriff was silent while we savored coffee, good coffee, woman-made, not the stuff we drink on the trail. This would not float a mule shoe, but neither would it burn your belly out from the inside.
"I might not be making the best start, cold cocking the town's only lawyer."
"I got another one on the way."
"How's the pay?"
"Poor, like every other lawman's job."
I took another swig of coffee.
"I'll take it."

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Lady Leigh 7-31-07

 

As a girl of 10, Bonnie knew what it was like to hold and feel beautiful fabrics. Before the fire .... no! Bonnie didn't want to relive that right now! Changes were coming at her from all directions. "Need to take this in small steps," was she was thinking.

Holding the beautiful navy blue silk brocade in her hands was a luzury she had not been allowed for a long time. Wearing that gown on Sunday was a treat. Brushing her hands across it one more time, she remebered that Sunday morning. Who was she fooling? She heard the gasps ... then the silence ... then the whispers. Bruises were still evident on her face, and a pretty blue gown doesn't take away what people really see when they looked at her.

Rev Sopris' sermon was a timely one. "Just who is this man?" Bonnie wondered. "It's almost as if he is .... well ... not from here!" Bonnie remembered all of the words he had spoken, and each and every one was if he had some uncanny insight to the very soul of who ever he talked to. Stating that Sarah would carry Bonnie's last name was benevolent, and she hoped the people of Firelands would not hold any ill feeling toward Sarah as a result. For that matter, she would not want waggeling tongues to harm Duzy and Esther, either. They were good and gracious people! Had life not turned such an ugly twist, Bonnie would have been on the same social level as those two women .... a friendship with Duzy would have been expected and natural.

Nothing about Bonnies life these days was Expected or Natural!

Bonnie laid the navy gown aside and picked up the skirt and blouse Mrs. Higgins sent over. It was apparent that Mrs. Higgins gave these to Bonnie because she thought them plain and simple enough for a woman like Bonnie. Well, Mrs. Higgins didn't know Bonnie!

"You know Sarah? I can totally alter this skirt! I'll cut away all of this extra fabric and make a Vestie top to go with the blouse ... I think we will have enough extra fabric to make a little dress for your doll, too"

Bonnie started to laugh. If Mrs. Higgins wasn't such a large woman, Bonnie wouldn't be able to do such a thing.

At that point, Bonnie picked up a piece of paper and began sketching a design. "Oh this feels good to do this again! Thank you, Lord ... thank you!"

"When I'm done with this Sarah, lets you and I go to the Mercantile and pick up some trims." Three years ago Maude Stevens was a close friend of Bonnies Mother .... " Maybe when I step through that doorway, Mrs. Stevens will remember Mama, and see me as a young woman from before."

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Linn Keller 7-31-07

 

Gold chinked in the darkness, dribbling from one hand into another.
"You want him killed, Mr. Slade?"
Slade poured the half dozen coins from one hand to the other, savoring the moment.
"Not right away."
The two smiled wolfishly in the darkness. They were good at what they did, and they liked being good at it.
Slade paid them well for their services. He might be a cheat and a thief and so crooked he planted corkscrews for shade, but he paid well when revenge was the motive.
Silently, the three parted: Slade, toward his office; the other two, toward the Mercantile, for like anyone else, they needed supplies, and now they had money.

The Sheriff was leaning, hipshot, against one of the few trees in town, hidden by shadow and darkness, made invisible by stillness: the night had its own smell, its own sounds. He always liked the night, the coolness after day's heat.
Miz Bonnie and Sarah had just gone into the Mercantile. Bonnie was looking like she used to -- she'd lost ten years in appearance since Miz Duzy came to town, and it looked like she might be getting her feet back under her. She'd had a run of hard luck, he thought, but every run comes to an end, and maybe hers was turning around. He hoped so.
He had hated giving Miz Duzy the hard news brought by the telegram. Part of the job, he knew, but sometimes he hated the job. Hopefully the stream of bad luck was not shifting from Miz Bonnie to Miz Duzy. Luck's a funny thing, he reflected; his father played poker, and was good at it. He remembered how his father would deal four hands: one to the north, one to the south; one to the east, and one to the west. He would do this three times, to find which way the luck was running, and when he went to play a game, he'd sit in that seat, he'd sit where the luck was running, and he was consistent winners.
He blinked at the sound of boots on the boardwalk. He knew that pace, and watched as Linn strode into the Mercantile. He walked like a lawman, even after all these years; little things gave him away -- when he stopped, his back was to a wall, or to safety; he watched, he listened ... little things that only a law dog, or an outlaw, would notice.
The sheriff hadn't seen the other two who'd gone into the Mercantile just before he assumed his comfortable lean against the oak tree.
The Sheriff relaxed a little more. Quiet tonight. Just the way he liked it --
The heavy sound of a body hitting the floor claimed his attention. His nostrils flared, his weight on the balls of his feet, he knew the feeling; suddenly his aging body was light again, and he was strong, and he needed only a focus --
Two flashes lit up the Mercantile windows.
The Sheriff sprinted across the street toward the gunshots.

Sarah was happily ogling the candy sticks in the glass case as Miz Bonnie looked over the sewing notions. W.J., the proprietor, was at once delighted and concerned: he didn't usually have so many customers at one time, and this meant money in his pocket, but he didn't like the look of the two who were carefully inconspicuous, fingering this, looking at that, but buying nothing.
W.J. was especially uncomfortable when the two saw Linn, the new deputy, come in the door.
Linn was relaxed but watchful, closing the door quietly behind him and stepping to the side to get wood to his back. He regarded the pair in back quietly, sizing them up, then stepped up to the counter.
He thumped a buckskin sausage down and asked quietly, in just a trace of a Suth'n accent, "Where can I get this weighed?"
W.J. looked over Linn's shoulder.

I saw the shopkeeper's eyes widen and the metallic taste of fear was on my tongue as I crouched and turned. My hand was on the handle of my Navy Colt, but Miz Bonnie was just past the nearer of these two, so I slipped my grip back to the knife handle and pulled.
I knew how these things went. When someone goes to ground they come at you with their boots and this fellow did.
I drew the knife, point down, edge out, laid back along my forearm.
The boot came in.
I blocked with the edge of the knife.
The blade cut through pants leg, boot top and flesh, and stuck.
The other fellow started to swing the mattock handle. His lips were back and I saw how yellow his teeth were.
The Navy Colt was in my hand now and the front sight crossed the near fellow's belt buckle and fire squirted halfway from here to there and my thumb eared back that stand up hammer spur and the front sight crossed the other one's soft ribs and fire squirted out of the muzzle again and something belted me behind the ear and I began to fall, fall down a deep dark well, end over end over end...

The Sheriff burst through the door, revolver in hand, to see Bonnie swinging Sarah behind her, and the bald dome of W.J. just peeking over the counter. One fellow he'd seen loafing about town was quite dead: the .36 ball had cut a furrow through his shirt front and gone in under his chin, and come out the crown of his stained, disreputable hat. The other was coughing blood and clutching at his chest.
The Sheriff seized the survivor's shoulder. "Who sent you?" The fellow shook his head. The Sheriff shook him, hard. "WHO SENT YOU??"

The fellow took his hand away and the Sheriff knew he was not going to live. "You're gut shot, son. However much you got paid you won't live to spend it. Now tell me who sent you!"

"Slade," he gasped. "Paid good too."

The sheriff released his shoulder, stood. He turned to W.J.

"Well, don't just hide, man, run and get Doc Greenlees!"

Then he squatted beside his deputy, laid a hand on his chest. The heart beat was strong and regular, and he was breathing. The Sheriff frowned and looked more closely. There had been two shots, and these two would account for it. He picked up Linn's Navy Colt ... two shots fired.

"Sheriff? I seen it. They came at him when he was down. He couldn't get away."

Bonnie spoke. "He didn't shoot at first, Sheriff. I was in the way. If he'd have missed he might have hit me."

The Sheriff stepped back, away from the scene, and looked at it from a different angle. He frowned.

A knife?

He stepped up to the dead outlaw and looked more closely. The blade was stuck in his leg, but not stabbed in, it was a cut.

"He did it like this, Sheriff," Sarah said in her little-girl voice. The sound was so incongrous the Sheriff turned and looked. Sarah was squatting against the counter with the candy stick gripped like an icepick. "He held the knife like this and that man tried to kick him. And he had a stick too!" She popped the candy stick back in her mouth.

"She's right, Sheriff," Bonnie agreed. "He used his knife instead of his pistol. They both had mattock handles and I think one of them hit him."

She knelt beside him and turned his head, gently. There was a swelling lump behind his left ear.

Doc Greenlees came through the door. "What's this?" he asked in surprise.

The Sheriff said "Two patients for you, Doc. This one's alive, check on that one."

A brief examination. "Well, he's dead. And the other ... well, let's have a look at your man here. W.J., could you bring a lamp over here, please?" The doctor checked his patient's eyes, tapped him lightly beside the eye, felt his skull. "Good thing he's hard headed. Is he staying at the hotel?"

"Yep, far as I know."

"Well, let's get him over there. If he's alive come daybreak he'll likely be all right."

"Sheriff?" W. J. called. "He asked me to weigh this." He indicated the buckskin sausage on the counter. Thick as a man's wrist and half as long as his arm, it was sewn along one side, and a trickle of gold dust dribbled from the puckered end.

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Kid Sopris 7-31-07

 

With the noise of blazing guns, Rev. Sopris figured he might be needed. Entering the Mercantile he encountered the Sheriff and the Doc carrying Linn. Sheriff spoke hurriedly, "We left two for ya Reverend".

Sopris looked at both, the gut shot one was begging for mercy. Sopris looked at him, and at Sarah. "Sarah are you hurt?" asked Sopris. Sarah answered, ", "Thank you, No Reverend,", as polite as she could be.

The Gut shot murderer, spoke his last few breaths, "Don't let Slade get away with thisssssssss" Silence fell upon the dead man's lips. Sopris said a short prayer over the two dead men, and added, "Well, it probably won't do these two any good. I suspect they got some time in Purgatory comin". Sopris then arranged to have the undertaker remove the bodies, but asked the Undertaker to take full acoounting of the pocket contents of the two, for the Sheriff.

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William A.A. Wallace 7-31-07

 

 Bigfoot Wallace had noticed one thing about this small, bustling town...it was never boring! Seeing the good preacher, Sheriff and Doc go into the mercantile, he figured things must be well covered and he would just wait a bit before finding out just what happened. His trip to Texas had hit a bump in the road after meeting up with a few of the townsfolk and working on the new church building. Never being too much to meddle in other folks affairs unless needed, Wallace decided that he'd meet up with the preacher and find out the story once things settled down a bit.

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Lady Leigh 7-31-07

 

"Oh for crying out loud! Is that Mr Keller good luck or bad?" The only two times Bonnie had been around him, Slade was punched, and two men killed. Bonnie glanced quickly at Sarah to see how she was doing ... Sarah always seemed to do fine.

She reached over to turn his face ... nice face ...

"No," Bonnie thought again, "he's good luck."

"Dr.? Would you mind if I stopped by your office tomorrow to enquire as to how Mr Keller is doing? Under the circumstances it would not do any good to stop by the hotel ..." The Dr. kindly answered yes.

Then glancing at W.J. "If it isn't to much trouble, Mr Stevens, could you wrap these trims up? Best be getting Sarah out of here. Better include the candy, too." A candy stick will likely take on the appearance of a weapon for here on out. Kids! Poor W.J. was wite as a ghost ... though Bonnie didn't think it had a whole lot to do with the men lying on the floor. No, he was certainly struggling with the item in his hand. "Seems we all have sides to us that are mysterious" ... Herself, the Preacher, Mr. Keller ... the list was turning out to be a lengthy one.

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Linn Keller 7-31-07

 

The chestnut mare was one of the best horses I'd ever ridden. She did not run over the earth, she reached out and seized the earth beneath sharpened hooves and shoved it away behind her.
I leaned over her neck, standing up in the stirrups, whispering in her ear, "Run ... run ... run..."
Pain hazed my vision and I lost the reins. Grinding my teeth against the agony, I pressed my hands against her neck and willed her to greater speed.
She knew where to go, and how to get there, and she loved to run, and she was running, she was running ...
I felt her shiver beneath me, and she slowed; a shout, a shot, angry voices ...
The mare trotted, avoiding grasping hands that reached for her bridle, and stopped in front of the command tent.
I got my hands under me and blinked my eyes clear. My side hurt like homemade hell and something sticky was trying to glue my arm down.
I spied the bugler.
I drew a great lungful of air, with intent to profane the bugler into blowing assembly.
All that came out was a strangled, squeaking, "Damn!"
The earth spun around and caught me as I fell, and the ground was soft, and the bugler leaned over me, and I said "Blow assembly, damn you! They're upon us!"

"No, honey," Bonnie cautioned young Sarah. "Don't shake him. He's having a nightmare."
Bonnie looked away for a moment.
Sarah's eyes grew big as the agitated, dreaming lawman swore.
Sarah turned to the side table.
She picked up a bar of lye soap.
Turning, she neatly stuffed the bar of soap into the deputy's mouth.

Something bitter trickled down my throat. I gagged at the awful taste, rolling over on my side. An insane dwarf was inside my head with a sledge hammer trying to beat his way out.
I rolled out of bed and hit the floor.

"Sarah!" Bonnie's hands flew to her mouth. "Good Lord, what happened?"
Linn wobbled to his knees and pulled the cake of home made lye soap from between his teeth.
"Sarah!"
Sarah regarded Bonnie with wide, innocent eyes. "He said a bad word, Miz Bonnie. I had to wash his mouth out."

I held the bar of soap at arm's length. It took a long moment for my vision to clear, but my tooth prints were bright and distinct in the hand pressed cake.
I made a face and looked at Sarah, wondering if I'd heard right.
"Well, you said a bad word," Sarah said stoutly, crossing her arms and giving an emphatic nod.
My side ached, my head was killing me, my mouth was full of home made lye soap, and I was being scolded by a little girl.
When Doc Greenlees came in he probably thought I had lost my mind, for I was hugging the child and laughing like a damned fool, with big tears running down my face.

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Bloomin’ Yankee 7-31-07

 

Tha-whump, tha-whump, tha-whump. The fan turned with the beat of a slow heart and barely moved the thick wet air. "Why is it always so blasted hot?"

6 of spades, 2 of spades, 7 of diamonds, 5 of clubs, 7 of hearts, king of spades, queen of diamonds

Kings, queens, hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades. "A lot like life," thought Sugar. "from the top of the world to under the ground."

6 of spades on 7 of diamonds. King of spades to the empty space, queen of diamonds on the king.

Sugar slowly pulled her hand through the neat row of cards and brushed them from the table onto the rug. "Time to move on. I have done all I can do here."

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Kid Sopris 7-31-07

 

For some the darkness of the night holds fears, haunts and ghostly images. Mr. Slade, was no different. He was in great pain, and the elixir given to him by the doc, was not helping. The moon would cast images across his window shades, coupled with his insecurities and his wild imagination it wasn't long before he began to suspect someone was outside his house.

It was dark, the clothing of the image was also dark, Slade was going out of his mind. He had heard the gun shots and he called out in the darkness the names of the men he had hired. The ghostly shadow listened, waited. Slade went outside with his revolver in his hand. Suddenly the cold steel was pressed against his head. 4 distinct clicks could be heard and counted. A whisper, faint but understandable echoed through his head. "Not tonight Slade, but your day is coming. Drop your gun". Clunk the Harrington and Richardson hit the dirt. "You have a date with destiny, which I will not deprive you of, nor the people you must face. It would be easy for me to terminate your life; Terminate with extreme prejudice. But alas someone else has that duty. By the way, the men you hired gave up your name, just before they died. I wouldn't try to leave town Mr. Slade. Oh and that banker, he has a destiny too...Tell ya what, why not make it a double or perhaps a triple"!

Suddenly, Slade's legs gave way and when he finally gathered the strength to stand and look about no one was around. Not even the ghostly image of night haunts.

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Lady Leigh 8-1-07

 

Laughing, "Oh I wish you could have seen it, Duzy and Esther! One minute Mr. Keller is sleeping, though fitfully dreaming, and the next minute he was sporting a bar of lye soap in his mouth!" Bonnie would have trouble going any further until she had the laughter and giggles under control.

Aunt Esther was having no dificulty laughing, and Bonnie was assuming she may be remembering the childhoods of nieces and nephews or something ...

"Then Sarah crossed her arms, and kind of stamped her foot. By this time Mr. Keller is awake, being scolded by a 6 year old, the Doctor walks in ......"

Laughter! Bonnie laughed! Aunt Esther sat there looking at her, knowing the healing power behind laughter.

Reaching over, she gently touched Bonnies arm and said, "let me tell you what Duzy did at about the same age."

"Aunt Esther! Don't!!!" Then Duzy broke down laughing, probably knowing which story she would be sharing.

Sarah was playing with her doll in another room. "Dolly? They are all crazy! But things are real good. Come on, let's see if we can get a cookie or something. They may not say no if they are so happy!"

Life was good ... "Lets make it better!" thought Aunt Esther.

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Duzy Wales 8-1-07

 

Duzy had much to think about as she, Aunt Esther and Bonnie laughed about Sarah's antics, as they worked to make the house a home. Bonnie had noticed that Duzy had grown quiet. “What are you going to do Duzy,” Bonnie finally said, as the fear of what had happened hit home, knowing first hand what the injustices against women could do to their happy new “family.”

“I do not know yet, Bonnie, as I haven’t had any restful sleep for trying to figure it out myself. I do have some savings, but I am not sure how long they will last without employment.” Duzy had laid awake thinking of Mr. Higgins and Duke Slade. She knew she wouldn’t go down without a fight, but what was she going to do?

The prejudices were not just here, in Firelands, in the West. She thought of the theaters back East, the ballrooms where she had danced, the grand parlors, with the men having a cigar and gambling, while leaving the ladies out, thinking they knew nothing of the political issues of the day. It seemed to be the same everywhere, but particularly bad for the women of the West. She had to find a way to help!

A premonition had come to her, or perhaps a dream, sometime during the night, of a place where the men and women of Firelands could come together, dine, dance, and enjoy a play by some of the traveling actors, or singers of the time. In her dream, there were tables for dining, a stage for performers, gaming tables, a bar made of mahogany, with a large mirror behind it, and a pretty staircase that let to the housing of those who worked there. It had been a place of entertainment, without the drunkenness, and the dirty rooms upstairs, like at Sam’s Place. No one was allowed upstairs, except the people who prepared and served the food, the bartender, the entertainers, and those who ran the gaming tables, where both men and women could play if they wished to take the chance. She had even dreamed of taking the entertainment outside, with horse races, or a venue for a Wild West show! Was she being crazy? Could she bring something like that to Firelands? It would help Firelands to grow and prosper and give employment to several people, herself included. She thought of Tilly and the other ladies trapped in situations that could do honest work, not having to rely on the likes of Sam to survive, as she would make sure that any of the women there who wanted to, could get out and make an honest living. Duzy was also thinking that with some major renovation, Mr. Higgins hotel could be turned into her new “dream,” with it already having a dining area, kitchen, and the rooms upstairs she would need for the workers. It would certainly serve him right if she could buy the place, perhaps under an assumed name. Would it be a place that Bonnie would want to work? Marie could even work there if she wanted, leaving Mr. Higgins to find work elsewhere. Duzy knew she was being revengeful in that line of thinking, or was it merely “poetic justice?” Perhaps, she could help more people in this way than by writing an article, by bringing in new ideas, and showing some of the men in Firelands that women could own businesses and run them, making a profit, donating some of the money to help build the new school and other good causes. She never doubted for a minute that she would find a way to write again; but, for now, it seemed as if this was the way she wanted to proceed and that it may have been meant to be.

And then, she thought of Reverend Sopris. What would he think of such an establishment? Would it go against what he was trying his best to stop in Firelands? Or, would it be a place he could visit, have a drink of sarsaparilla, or a shot of brandy, if he wished, and bring a lady on his arm to dine and dance with and enjoy a show. Duzy didn’t think these things were bad, in moderation, but how would he feel? She had begun to like the Reverend, so before she went any further with this idea, she needed to talk to him. She would also have to send a wire to her Papa, like it or not, to get the money for such a venture.

Aunt Esther was watching the wheels turning in Duzy’s head, her expressions ever changing and could only wonder what her niece had up her sleeve next.

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Linn Keller 8-1-07

 

"You think that's wise, Depitty?" the hostler asked.
"Not really," I admitted, "but I have it to do." I patted Sam's neck. "He give you any trouble?"
"Nah. Gentle." He grinned. "I did talk to him before I walked up behind him, though."
"Wise man," I smiled.
"How's your ribs?"
"No rain a-comin', if that's what you're askin'." I puzzled over the question. "Why would you ask about my ribs?"
"You're holdin' your arm like your ribs is hurt."
I had a good hold on the saddle skirt to keep Sam from swaying. I'd noticed he was a bit unsteady on his feet since I walked over here from the hotel. "Old war wound."
"I don't reckon I hafta ask about yer head."
"You're right." Sam quit swaying and the ground was decidedly less prone to wobble underfoot. "You don't."
I got one foot in the stirrup and usually have no trouble swinging up in the saddle. It was considerably more difficult but I got there, and once I got settled I had to clench my jaw against the unpleasantness that tried to come up from below.
"You a'right up there?"
"Yep," I lied. "Just fine."
Sam responded to a light touch, as he always did, and we headed down the alley. His gait, as always, was as rough as a velvet rug, but to my poor bruised gourd felt as smooth as sliding down a staircase on my backside.
We headed down the street at a slow trot. There was a cheery hail from one of the loafers in front of the saloon. "Hey Depitty! Et any good cakes o' soap lately?" There was laughter from the few others, and a couple more came out to watch the fun.
I reined Sam in and grinned at them. "Why, haven't you heard? Good lye soap is being served in the best restaurants in Europe!"
"Why, do tell?" the first fellow grinned, anticipating a bantering exchange.
"Why, not only is it considered a delicacy -- especially if deep fried with onions -- it's considered an elixr of health nowadays!" I assured them solemnly. "Why, it's good for anything from loose teeth to bad breath, it smooths out wrinkles, restores lost hair and rejuvenates a youthful appearance!" I took off my hat and ran a hand through my thinning scalp. "And face it, fellas, at my age I need all the help I can get!"
This was met with general laughter and back-slapping and I nudged Sam on his way. I knew I would be tried as a deputy -- every new lawman is -- and this was the first of the trials I anticipated.
I never anticipated getting a mouthful of lye soap, but then many things had happened in my lifetime I neither planned nor anticipated.
Sam and I stopped in front of the Sheriff's office.
It was considerably farther to the ground than I remembered.
Sam turned his head to look at me and grunted.
"Yeah, I know," I said, rubbing his ears. "I hadn't oughta be out of bed yet. Doc is gonna give me hell and so is the sheriff. Tell me something I don't know."
Sam sniffed at my middle and I pulled out a chaw of tobacco and fed him. His velvety lips tickled my palm as he delicately swept up every crumb.
I went to the door. "Sheriff?"
"You don't have to knock, you work here," came the response. I could hear the grin in his voice. "Well, you're alive."
The floor rolled underfoot and I seized the edge of the door to steady it.
"Whoa there! Sit yourself down!" Hard hands seized my arm and propelled me into a chair. I closed my eyes and held onto the seat bottom until it quit pitching.
"You're the color of wheat paste, you can't stand up straight and if I didn't know better I'd say you either tried a big wad of tobacker for the first time, you were on a wild drunk or you got belted with a mattock handle."
I gritted my teeth, not wanting to taste breakfast a second time. Swallowing hard, I said "Folks had to know I was back. If they think I'm hurt they'll be someone take advantage."
"You been hurt, son, and you better take things easy til you're healed."
I opened my eyes. The room was trying to rotate, slowly. I closed them again.
"Nobody's going to try nothin' til you're better. I'll see to that."
A thought came to me. "Say, did W.J. weigh out my gold?"
"No, he did not, he gave it to me like he was scared of it." There was a long pause. "Where'd you come by that much gold anyway?"
"Don't reckon anyone else knows about it?" I asked hopefully.
"I've heard no talk of it so far." There was a long pause. "You've got enough there to buy half of Texas."
I hazarded the opening of one eye. "Sheriff, I had a sergeant from Texas hooked up with us halfway across Georgia. To hear him tell it, all of Georgia would not make a good size ranch in Texas, and if the man's right I don't reckon I could buy more than two or three counties."
The Sheriff chuckled. "I've known some Texas men and to hear them tell it, you're right!" His voice grew serious. "I have to know. How'd you come by this much?"
I opened the other eye and turned my chair to face him. "I run across a pocket. Old river bed. All of that, every bit of it, was in that one deep pocket in the rock. I spent the better part of two months cleaning out that one pocket and allowed as that's enough wealth for any one man, and I left anything else upstream or down for someone else to find."
"Can you find the place again?"
"Don't have to. A month after I cleared out, someone else just upstream dry panned out some color and inside of a year the whole riverbed had been dug up and mined out."
The Sheriff grunted. "This much gold ... men would kill for this."
"That's why I'd like to turn it into coin."
"There's a mint in Denver, there's one in Frisco ... unless you want to sell it to the bank and have them exchange it for double eagles."
"Reckon that would do."
"You'll be a wealthy man."
I closed my eyes. The floor was beginning to ripple like waves on the ocean. "I was wealthy before that son of a horse thief belted me one."
"You just sit still there. Want some water?"
"I'd take some water."
I spent a couple hours sitting in the cool of his office. Sam stood, patient, hip-shot, content to sling his great tail and doze.
Must have dozed some myself. There was a gentle hand on my shoulder and Doc's voice: "You feelin' up to eatin'?"
I took a long breath and shifted in the chair. "Reckon so. You buyin'?"
"I'm buyin' nothin'. You been invited to supper."

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Kid Sopris 8-2-07

 

Morning came; life was abundant and the stage from the East had just arrived. Rev. Sopris now fully dressed and his Colt neatly tucked in his Skeletal Shoulder Holster and Bible in hand headed toward the Wells Fargo Office.

He passed Mr. Slade and bid the man a good morning. Slade looked awful, swollen jaw, skin pale, eyes blood shot, man didn't look like he slept a wink a years. His appearance was disheveled and not becoming of a lawyer at all; but Sopris never did think to highly of Slade anyway. Slade seemed to be in a hurry, headed towards the bank, acted like he didn't want anyone to notice him.

Once at the Wells Fargo Office, Sopris signed for a heavy sealed leather pouch, it was locked and the Agent provided the key. Inside was not the Bank Note as promised from the US Marshall, but $7,500.00 cash and a smaller pouch with $200.00 in Gold Coin marked "For Sarah". A small letter was attached, it read:

Reverend,

"Please find enclosed the reward bounty as promised. Also please find the small pouch marked "for Sarah". The pouch was left behind when Bert left town with the little girl. Bert was wanted for the Killing of his wife. This was the only thing left behind in Sarah's' mother belongings."

Signed W.B. Hickok, U.S. Marshall

Sopris, departed the Express office and headed straight for the hotel to see Ms. Duzy, and the ladies. As he entered the hotel he spoke briefly to Higgins saying, "Morning, have you seen Slade, he looks awful, like he hasn't been sleeping? Say Mr. Higgins, you look a little peaked your own-self. Hope your health is going poorly on you. Never mind I know my way upstairs, Talk with you later, say hello to the Mrs." As Sopris ascended the stairs a smile was breaking out.

Knock, Knock, "Ms. Duzy"

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Lady Leigh 8-2-07

 

 Sarah ran to the door to see who was knocking ... "Hi Peacher Sopris! Guess what", and not waiting for him to reply, "we are moving into our new place today!!!"

He simply patted her on the head, and smiled at Bonnie and Aunt Esther. Duzy had just stepped out for a little errand, but was due back shortly.

"Please Rev., come in", Aunt Esther said as she came forward.

Bonnie not wanting to be intrusive with the Preachers visit, indicated she'd take Sarah and run along for a short period of time.

"Please, Ms Bonnie, I'd like you to stay. I picked up a couple of items which arrived on the stage this morning. One of them is for Sarah," and glancing at Esther he continued, " and this other is something Ms Wales and I have discussed already."

Perplexed, Bonnie took the small pouch he extended to her, and walked to the chair by the window, leaving the Preacher and Aunt Esther to talk privately.

Bonnie read:


"Please find enclosed the reward bounty as promised. Also please find the small pouch marked "for Sarah". The pouch was left behind when Bert left town with the little girl. Bert was wanted for the Killing of his wife. This was the only thing left behind in Sarah's' mother belongings."

" Oh my ...." Bonnie had suspected an unsavory end to Sarahs Ma, but never had the proof. But in her wildest imaginings, she never expected such a sum of money to be left to Sarah! What an incredible gift! Bonnie could not begin to imagin how Sarah's Mama could have kept a sum of $200 away from Bert Graves! "Very interesting, very unexpected, and very timely," Bonnie continued silently to herself.

Lately, Bonnie found herself fearing Sarah's Mother showing up and wisking the child away. As selfish as the thought was, it was always followed by guilt. Regardless of the thoughts, Bonnie never would have relished such an aweful demise to Sarah's Mama, but with this new information, Bonnie knew Sarah would be hers. What a gift of joy for Bonnie ... Bonnie prayed she could be a gift of joy to Sarah as well.

Sarah placed her hand lightly on Bonnie's knee, and Bonnie instictively ran her hand down the back of Sarah's head and the length of her hair. Then looking over to meet her eyes, "Do you know, my little Princess, how much you are truly loved."

"I most surely do! Bonnie? My ears are hearing Auntie inviting the Preacher over for dinner at the new house! Don't you wonder if I should ask Mr. Keller over too? That is if he doesn't say anything naughty?"

"You should tell your ears to mind their own business" Bonnie replyed with a smile on her face, "Let's find out what Auntie has in mind first, Ok? But if she says it is alright, then yes, you could invite Mr. Keller ... As long as you promise to not be talking about soap!"

Laughter was heard from the area of the window. Esther looked over to see Bonnie and Sarah in a loving embrace.

Rev. Sopris looked over and took notice that it seemed the most natural thing to witness.

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Linn Keller 8-2-07

 

"Got somethin' to show you," I said, testing the edge of my knife.
I'd placed the buckskin sausage in the brand new granite wash pan the boy had just fetched from the general store. The sheriff leaned over, interested. Who wouldn't be? A pile of gold dust, enough to fill your hat, about to split open and spill into the blue granite, bright, sparkling, promising wealth beyond measure ...
I split the seam carefully, cutting the stitching -- no sense to cut up a good skin -- gold dust spilled out, a little bit at first, then as the seam opened, there was a distinct metallic KLUNK as a lead cylinder fell out and laid on its golden bed.
The Sheriff looked up, surprised. His expression asked the question better than words could have.
I smiled. "I ain't quite so dumb as I look, Sheriff. No way in the world was I going to carry all my gold dust in one poke. This is what you call a bird dog." I picked up the lead and tapped the gold off it into the pan. "I already turned the dust into coin. Never did trust Yankee greenbacks, even if that's what we got paid in most times." I lifted out the lead, set it on his desk. "There's dust enough in here for any man, just not enough to buy up the Lone Star."
"You are just full of surprises."
"Disappointed?"
"Maybe a little bit ... but you're right, you're not quite as dumb as you look."
I looked at the handful of dust, bright in the blue granite pan. Yellow, bright yellow, like my little girl's hair.
Like her hair used to be.
I remembered how she looked, laughing, running in the sunlight, chasing a yellow-sulfur butterfly, never catching it but never stopping ...
"You still in there?"
I came back to the here and now with an effort. "Sorry, Sheriff." I rubbed my eyes. "Old memory."
"Kind of figured."
"That banker won't like me much. Could you have the fellow weigh this out and trade it for double eagles?"
"I can do that."
I looked up at his big Regulator clock. "Reckon I'd ought to go get cleaned up. If the ladies have invited me to supper I'd ought to look a little bit respectable."
"You got any coin on you?"
"Yep." I stood, carefully. The floor remained steady underfoot.
"You want this lead?"
"You want it?"
"I can always mold up some more bullets."
"Welcome to it."
I frowned. "Reckon the ladies would take a sack of Arbuckle's was I to take it to them?"
"Reckon they would."
I nodded. "Appreciate your hospitality."
"Any time."
I headed for the door. I wasn't as good as I wanted to be but I still had enough sense about me to stop and take a long look outside before stepping out the door.
I saw how the sheriff's eyes changed when I mentioned coffee. Might be nice to get him a bag of the stuff.

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Duzy Wales 8-3-07

 

Duzy had found the newspaper article that she wanted to show to Aunt Esther and Bonnie and was cluthing it in her hand when she stepped inside the lobby of the hotel. Lost in thought, she almost bumped into Reverend Sopris who was also holding an envelope in his hand. "I am so sorry, Reverend Sopris, I didn't mean to bump into you; however, I am happy to see you!" I would like to show you an article I have and ask your opinion of it." "It's nice to see you again, Miss Wales, as a matter of fact, I have something that you may be happy to see." "Well please, do you have the time to visit with us a few minutes?" Duzy asked. "Sure," was his reply and he noticed Duzy looking around the lobby and dining area of the hotel as they walked upstairs."

As they entered, Sarah came running and said, Miss Duzy, "the Reverend is coming to dinner at our new house tonight....and Mr. Keller too, if he won't say anymore bad words!" Duzy laughed as she picked her up and kissed her, knowing that she had did the right thing by letting Bonnie be her new Mama, and yet feeling a bond with Sarah that tugged at her heartstrings. "Well, that is wonderful news, Sarah! I am sure that Mr. Keller will watch his language around you from now on, but we must remember that he was not himself at the time." "I know, Miss Duzy, he was having a nightmare, I used to have nightmares too, but not anymore," she said happily.

After everyone was seated Duzy unfolded the newspaper article and surprised everyone by the new idea she had for Firelands.

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Kid Sopris 8-3-07

 

"Ms. Wales, I have an envelope for you as promised earlier. What you do with it is your business. I know you will use it wisely and within the perimeters of your experience and enthusiasm. Please take note though Ms. Wales; Fortunes are won and lost based on decisions and actions resulting from those decisions. My advice to you is to live your dream, embrace every ounce of that dream as though it was your last".

And with that Rev. Sopris hands the envelope containing the Bounty to Ms. Wales, stating, "I suppose I should dress and clean for supper, This shall be a truly blessed dinner. Until this evening ladies, I bid you good day".

That last thing Sopris heard as he exited the room was Ms. Wales apparently gasping for air.

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Duzy Wales 8-3-07

 

 Duzy was taken aback by the Reverend's response, as it seemed he thought she was making an unwise move. She had witnessed him doing the same thing to some of the people in his church, causing them to actually squirm in the pew!

Although Duzy would have loved to have his blessing, she still felt like it had been her "premonition" or "dream" that had brought her to this decision. Oh well, she thought, a preacher needs someone doing something he considers a "sin" to keep his job, and then almost gasped again at her own thought! What had gotten into her lately? She supposed it was coming from the aftermath of fighting so hard to live in a man's world!

She opened the envelope, looking inside, and gasped again! There was enough money there to open more than just one business, so if this one didn't work out, she would try something else.

"Bonnie, you haven't told me yet what you would really like to do. Do you or Aunt Esther have a dream of your own that we could use this money for, as well?"

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Lady Leigh 8-3-07

 

"Well ... yes ... I have a dream. I suppose we all do, don't we?"

"Yes, Bonnie! But if you could have the job ... profession .... doing anything, what would it be?"

All Bonnie could do was look at Duzy. Where was this line of conversation coming from? Bonnie was content to help Duzy with absolutely anything that needed done. She thought she made that perfectly clear .... but maybe she hadn't.

"Just exactly why are you asking Duzy? I mean, you have to admit, that is a question right out of the blue!"

Duzy proceeded to tell Bonnie and Aunt Esther her latest idea. SHe also told them of Rev. Sopris' statement in reply.

"Do you think he was against this business adventure? Or do you suppose he merely wants me to research some more?"

Aunt Esther was doing her usual silence routine ... no doubt contemplating very carefully before speaking her thoughts aloud. Bonnie liked that about her. Esther was wise and gave good councel ... set herself up as being a good example.

Duzy was looking at them expectingly, so Bonnie spoke first, "I don't know Duzy, but ... it is my opinion that you will want to establish good and stable ground work. Believe me ... you do NOT want to set yourself up with a tainted reputation due to the misunderstanding of what members in Fireland may say. I want you to do what makes you happy, but I want you to make sure it won't harm you ... reputaions, whether good or bad, tend to follow you for a long time, but it is the bad that get the most attention."

"I know, Bonnie, and I am not taking this adventure lightly. But you haven't answered my original question. What about you?"

Just like a child would do, Bonnie found herself looking at the ceiling. Her eyes meeting with, and folowing the ornate crown molding to a corner, then her eyes met back at Duzy's, "I want to design and sew. I want my hands to be in contact with fine fabrics. I want to get these designs out of my head, put on paper, and see them come to life. I want to create a good life for Sarah and myself, and I want to be happy doing it ... do you think that to .... humble?"

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Linn Keller 8-3-07

 

The man's name was Jones, but I called him Lightning, and he grinned like I'd just handed him a hundred dollars.
Lightning was kind enough to send the message I'd printed on the yellow form, and I paid him in coin, and a little something for him as well. He slipped the extra in his vest pocket and winked. "Want me to send a boy around with the reply?"
"Yes, thank you," I nodded. I turned. "One more thing."
"Eh?"
"Nobody hears any of this." I gave him a grin and a wink. Nothing like being included in a conspiracy to inspire loyalty, if only for a little while. What a feeling of good-fellowship doesn't cover, the promise of another coin just might.
Lightning turned to his key and began happily tapping out my message.

The sheriff had been kind enough to turn that little bit of gold dust into coin for me. The banker did not know from whence it came, and so was happy to oblige. I needed a few things.
After a bath -- with clean water -- I bought a new suit. They had one close enough to my size, not fitted as well as I would like, but it's been a long time since I had a woman judge what I was wearing. I paid an enterprising young lad to put a fine polish on my boots, decided my hat wouldn't look right with a brand-new hat, and bought a new one.
I hadn't spent money like this in a very long time.
I looked in the mirror, and a stranger looked back at me. "You look respectable," I murmured.
"Indeed you do," the dry-goods clerk agreed stoutly, "and could I interest you in a genuine silk necktie to go with that new shirt?"
I already had a tie, and a new collar, and decided well enough would do, and so declined his kind offer to spend even more money. Settling the new hat on my head, and smelling of moth balls, I squared up my bill and hesitated before going out the door.
One of the local ranch hands was in town, and as luck -- or ill luck -- would have it, nearly staggered into me as I crossed the threshold. He blinked, steadying himself against the door frame. "Hiya, Soapy!" he slurred. "Et any good soap lately?"
I patted his arm in good-fellowship and smiled. "Why, just this morning I had a good bait of it for breakfast. Good for the digestion! And" -- I patted his belly lightly -- "it prevents hangovers!"
"Yeah?"
"But you must take it in fine slivers with plenty of water," I cautioned, and taking advantage of the moment, left him to his alcoholic haze.
Sam sniffed curiously at my new suit but offered no objection.
I drew the reins loose from the hitch rail and swung into the saddle with considerable less difficulty than earlier. Tonight promised to be a pleasant evening.
Sam stepped out with his usual velvety gait.

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Duzy Wales 8-3-07

 

“Bonnie, too humble, whatever do you mean? It is a gift to make something from your hands with the vision to see it beforehand, to know how to change something, from the normal, to your own masterpiece. It is like any work of art! And with this money, we can make it happen for you. You can live your dream, just as you wished for me.” “Oh my!” Bonnie stated, thinking it had to be too good to be true.

Duzy turned to Aunt Esther and asked her again, “please what would your dream be?” Looking into the eyes of her beloved Aunt, she took her hands is hers and asked again, “anything dear Aunt, what would it be.” “First my dear, is to take care of you, as that is what I am here for, to protect you.” Your Papa asked me to do that, and of course, he knew there was no doubt that I would relish the adventure of traveling west with you! I want you to think more about this idea of yours, and then she looked at Duzy and stated; “I know how you go after what you want, sometimes heedless to the advice of others, just as you did when you became a journalist. I don’t want you to take what you have worked for too lightly or give up too easily. However, if this is what you decide to do, I would love to run the kitchen, as cooking is my passion, but it was something that wasn’t meant to be back”….and then she stopped, realizing she was saying too much, “back east.” “Oh Aunt Esther, you shall have your kitchen, as I knew this was meant to be. I just knew it! I will not let Duke Slade or Mr. Higgins take my dream away! I will show them that a woman can do anything she wants to do, just as Mama and Papa told me” And then, she remembered the first rule, “say your prayers,” and she flushed, thinking maybe she should repent for her thoughts about the Reverend and his “job.”

Sarah was sitting in the corner with a candy stick, using it in the air, like a knife with someone in front of her. “Who are you fighting Sarah?” Duzy asked. “No one in ticcalir,” Miss Duzy, “I’m just practicing my moves. Mr. Keller sure knows how to take care of himself. Why, I bet he isn’t afraid of anything! Reverend Sopris is a lot like him, don’t you think so?” Suddenly, Duzy laughed, “yes, dear Sarah, I think you are right.”

“Now, I think we should get out to the house and have a nice dinner fixed for the gentlemen!” Aunt Esther, “we will leave the decisions up to you and do as you ask us to for dinner tonight!” Duzy took Bonnie’s hand and asked, “Is that okay with you Bonnie?” “It surely is, Duzy!” With Aunt Esther’s help, we will make those two a meal they will not forget for a long time!”

As they were leaving the hotel, Duzy noticed Mr. Wallace was back in town. She walked over to him and said, “Good day! I thought you had left us.” “Been out doing some hunting, Miz. Duzy," he stated. “Well, how would you like to have dinner at our new home tonight, along with Reverend Sopris and Mr. Keller?,” After all, it had been Mr. Wallace who had been the first person to come to her aid that night…..even thought they had never been properly introduced! After giving him directions, Mr. Wallace said he would make it if he could, but if not, he would sure be happy to do it another time. “Say, could you use some of this fresh meat to go help with dinner?” “Thank you, this will help with our menu tremendously, Mr. Wallace, I hope you are there to have some of it. If not, stop by tomorrow and you can get your fill of leftovers!

Duzy then asked Bonnie, “Would you like to go get Miss. Tilly now? She can share my bedroom or I will sleep in front of the fireplace, you know how badly I have missed that! There isn’t any need for her to stay in that place another moment when we have been so blessed!”

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Duzy Wales 8-4-07

 

Bonnie looked at if she didn't know how to respond to Duzy! "Why did she care,?" she thought, about Tilly, herself or Sarah, for that matter. "Bonnie, if you had rather wait until after our dinner, I understand, as Tilly may be uncomfortable, but I know how much you care for her, so the choice is yours."

In the meantime, Aunt Esther was looking at the pheasant and venison that Mr. Wallace had provided, thinking of the meal that would soon be served.

She was happy for the first time in a long time, she realized. Almost feeling like she should have stopped Duzy in her tracks with this new idea of hers, she couldn't help but feel the excitement of running the restaurant that would be hers to manage. "Oh Pooh," she stated, knowing Duzy well enough to know that Duzy would do as she pleased, come "hell or high water," as some put it! She remembered back when she, herself, was young and hell bent on making a difference in the world, only.....it wasn't the time, she supposed, or had she given up too easily, as she had asked Duzy not to do?

Duzy realized no one could be better to run the place than Aunt Esther, as she told each of them what to do, turning out a meal fit for royalty as she heard the first knock on the door.

She went to answer the door, wondering where Bonnie had gone as soon as the meal was almost finished, and if she would return with Tilly. She hoped she wasn't being too controlling....but that was her nature, if she didn't stop to think, and maybe even pray about it once in awhile.

She opened the door to the handsome Mr. Keller, with a bag of coffee in his hand, noticing that he had dressed in a suit and hat, possibly even bought for the occasion, as it looked new. "Welcome to our home," Mr. Keller, Duzy stated, with a smile that would melt burning coal, he thought as he looked around their new home. "You have made this house look lovely, Miz. Duzy," he stated. "Thank you," Mr. Keller, "Miz Bonnie, will be back shortly, she had an errand to run and hasn't returned yet." Mr. Keller could see the look of concern in Duzy's eyes, and winked, saying, "well if she isn't back soon, we shall find her."

He then turned to Aunt Esther and couldn't believe the table that was laid out before him! It looked like a dinner from a fancy hotel that he had visited long ago before....

Duzy turned to put the coffee on to boil and to add the last ingredients to the cake, when she heard another knock at the door.

This time the Reverend was at the door. Mr. Keller was busy talking to Aunt Esther and as Duzy opened the door, her breathe caught in her throat. She blushed as she looked at him, knowing that he thought she was being foolish, as he had make it plain that very morning! She looked into his blue eyes and saw a twinkle that she had never seen. Had he been challenging her to carry this new dream out to her best ability, while giving her advice as well? Would she ever understand this man? What was so unusual about him....it seemed as if they had known each other a lifetime, or in another lifetime, and yet didn't know each other at all? Forgetting her manners, for the moment, Duzy turned a brighter shade of red, and stepped aside to let him in the door, welcoming him into their home, taking the bouquet of cut wildflowers he had brought to put into a vase.

Duzy sure hoped Bonnie would get back soon, as she was beginning to really be concerned, knowing that Bonnie knew when the men should be arriving. Just at that moment, Sarah came running to greet everyone. "Isn't this fun," Sarah said, "just like I imagined when I pretended to have a tea party, using the glasses and bottles at Sam's"

Duzy, who had met President Rutherford Hayes, and thought she knew how to handle anything, was the one left not knowing what else to say at the moment. And then she wondered, had she put the vanilla in the coffee or cake, or both?

Just then, there was another knock at the door...

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Kid Sopris 8-4-07

 

Smells of the sweet and the wild are easily defined by the Reverend. Being a creature of both sides, the smell of the Ladies perfumes was only complemented by the honey baked pheasant, with the hint of parsley.
Adding to the delicious aroma of the aforementioned was what the Reverend detected as Belgian Style Venison Braise. The smell of cornbread and biscuits adorned the table.

Sopris took a moment to bless the house and all it's occupants as he allowed his eyes to wander. Mr. Keller and Rev. Sopris exchanged a hardy handshake and cheerfully greeted one another. Sopris complemented Aunt Esther on her menu choices and the beautiful arrangement set before them.

Rev. Sopris had noticed the glassy eye stare by Ms. Duzy, but their greeting was interrupted by the knock at the door.
Hmmm Sopris wondered who else may be coming ...

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Linn Keller 8-4-07

 

Sam had to duck a little to fit in the barn, but once inside there was head room enough. One stall had been mucked out and fresh straw applied. Sam chose the fresh straw, and I shook him out a bait of corn. Saddle and bridle went in their appointed places. I looked around. The barn would take a bit of work but nothing excessive, but not tonight.
No, not tonight.
The smells of good cooking reached even the barn, and even had I not an invitation, the odors alone would have drawn me to their door like a magnet.
I stepped up to the door, raised my knuckles to knock.
Something like fear came over me.
I had not set down to a good woman-cooked meal, with the women folks, for ... well, since ...
I remembered rubbing Connie's auburn hair between my fingers, there in the red sunrise, with the ground mist flowing around us, and the clouds banked up tall over the lake. The Yankee uniform scratched and the officer's saber swung awkwardly at my side.
Connie had been so proud of me. Dana was only a year old, sleepy and dozing against her mother's breast as I kissed them both goodbye.
I rode off to join my troops.
That was the last I saw Connie alive.
I returned home, gaunt, worn, a century older than when I'd left, straining for that first sight of home, of Connie, standing out with her hand shading her eyes, watching ...
Nobody was there.
A black wreath hung on the door.
The neighbor had been kind enough to watch Dana for the week between Connie's death, and my return. They had buried her in the church yard, with her family. I spent most of my mustering-out money to buy a tomb stone.
The next day the doctor told me Dana's funny rash was the small pox.
I shivered, took a long, shuddering breath. That was a long time ago, I told myself silently. That is past. Move on.
I took off my hat, turned it awkwardly around and around and around by the brim, then realized I hadn't brought the coffee with me. It was still in the barn with my saddlebags.
"Sam," I said, retrieving the Arbuckle's, "don't let me ruin this evening for the ladies. They've gone to good trouble to fix a nice dinner and I am so afraid I am going to say something that will spoil it for everyone."
Sam turned his head and just looked at me.
This time I did not hesitate: I stepped up to the door and gave it three distinct knocks.
Miz Duzy opened the door.
For a long moment I stood there, my mind absolutely blank.
The weight of the Arbuckle's in my hand reminded me that I should not be imitating a cigar store Indian. I honestly don't know what Miz Duzy said, just that, whatever it was, melted me into a puddle right there on the porch. She could have asked me to fetch her the White House and I would have done it.
I looked around as I stepped through the door. "You have made this house look lovely, Miz Duzy," I said, and I meant it. I had never been in it before, but had heard accounts of its previous rough appearance. The ladies had indeed made it a home, in the finest sense of the word.
"Miz Bonnie will be back shortly. She had an errand to run and hasn't returned yet."
I saw the look of concern in her eyes.
Women are hard creatures to read, but my gut told me she was genuinely worried over something. I winked reassuringly. "Well, if she isn't back soon, we shall find her."
Aunt Esther stepped up and extended her hand. I half-bowed and swept it up, kissing her knuckles like I'd done it my entire life. She blushed and dropped a curtsy as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Considering her naturally elegant bearing, it probably was.
Then I saw the table.
I had seen a similar layout, once before, and a lead weight dropped from my belly to my boot tops.
Connie and I had eaten at the fanciest hotel in Cleveland on our wedding day. We took the sidewheel paddleboat, and laughed, and talked, and planned our years together like newlyweds always do, and we took a carriage to the hotel, and our wedding supper was laid out with the same symmetrical perfection of silver and china and immaculately prepared dishes.
Reverend Sopris and I greeted one another and shook hands. I hadn't had much occasion to speak with the man, but something told me he was considerably deeper than a body would suspect. He would probably play quite a good game of poker.
Sarah came running over, legs scissoring briskly under her petticoats. "Mr. Keller!" she shouted, fairly jumping into me, just like Dana did when she saw me. Automatically I bent and scooped her up and spun her about, just like I used to with Dana, and Sarah laughed with delight, and for a moment the sun shone in my heart and all was well.

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Lady Leigh 8-5-07

 

"Tilly ... it will be fine! I promise you, it will be fine! Now hurry and put this on. I know I'll need to tack the hem of this skirt up, and I don't want to waste to much time. As soon as Sam is back I want to get this over with." And Bonnie continued to herself, "I want to get out of here as fast as I can."

A half hour earlier, Bonnie entered Sams Place through the back door and quietly climbed the back staircase in search for Tilly. In her arms she carried, what Bonnie hoped, would be a physical beginning to a new life, the altered hand me down clothes from Mrs. Higgins.

"Bonnie ... "

"Please, Tilly, don't worry about it so much ... Now let's just tie this ribbon in your hair ... let me look ...."

Tilly's blond hair and eyes looked lovely next to the green and gold remade gown. Tilly's hand went to the high neckline and subconsciously pulled at it a little, which made Bonnie laugh silently.

"You look lovely! I hope you realize that ... Now let's get going. Hand me that contract, will you? And let's get this over with! I don't EVER want to come back to this place again! My skin is crawling something firece!"

Ten minutes later, after a much heated debate between Bonnie and Sam, the two walked out the back door. Different as day and night ... Tilly a golden blond with lavendar blue eyes, and skin almost transluent. Skinny as a rail and shorter than Bonnie by a good 3 inches. Bonnie, tall, being 5 foot nine inches, was especially tall for a woman. Her auburn haired pulled back simply from an oval face healthy with a peachy color sprinkled and a touch of light colored freckles over her nose and cheak bones. Her laughing green eyes shown down on her friend with tenderness and understanding.

"Home, Tilly! It is a new beginning. Don't ever look over your shoulder at the past ... just keep your chin up and eyes wide open! I don't want us to miss a thing about what promices to be a wonderful future!"

"But why did Ms. Duzy do this fer me?" Tilly's hand held onto Bonnies with shaking nervousness. Poor thing was a bit drained of color, too.

"I stopped asking that same question, Tilly! I do not have the foggiest idea what makes those two women tick! You would think that would make you nervous and jumpy, but it doesn't, you'll see. Esther has the warmest eyes and demeaner, Tilly. One look at her and you just 'know' everything will be fine. And Duzy!! Goodness, but she moves a mile a minute, and her mind even faster! But she gives me a sense of hope, Tilly."

Hope .... hope ...

"But dinner, Bonnie? The Preacher will be there!" Panic was attacking Tilly with those words.

"I have NEVER met a Preacher like him before, Tlly! Believe me when I say, you will not be held in the judgement seat with him! Nor anyone else at the home!"

Home ....

Moments later, the two were standing at the front door. "Are you ready Tilly?" Tilly looked down at the green skirt, ran her hand down the bronze buttons on the vested bodice, and with one last little tug at the neckline, "Yes, Bonnie ... I am. But don't ya dare leave me by m'self with the Preacher! God almighty, don't leave me alone with anyone!"

Bonnie tuned the nob and entered first ... with tug, and she pulled Tilly in behind her, "Please everyone, make my friend welcome! This is Tilly Ashcroft."

Running with Dolly in her arms, Sarah sqeeled, "Tilly! Oh Tilly!"

Thank God for Sarah!

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Duzy Wales 8-5-07

 

Duzy was delighted to see Bonnie back and to see Tilly with her, she had worried about Bonnie's friend still living at Sam's Place. Duzy was counting on Bonnie and Tilly to tell her who she could trust to work at the new gambling hall, restaurant and saloon she was planning to have, along with Bonnie's new business plan. She wanted all the ladies who wanted to, in Firelands, to be working at something they enjoyed, and not being held to anything due to financial concerns. Duzy was beginning to think she may need an entire block of buildings to house the businesses forming in her mind.

Duzy walked over, knowing that Tilly was probably feeling uncomfortable, even after Sarah's delightful welcome, and hugged her as well, welcoming her to her new home and announcing to all there that Miz. Tilly would be living with them.

"It looks as if Mr. Wallace will not be able to dine with us this evening," Duzy stated, still hoping he would make it, "but we do have him to thank for the fresh meat on the table tonight!"

Now that Bonnie was back, Duzy was able to let go of her worry and turned to entertain their guests, smiling as she heard everyone greeting Miz. Tilly with welcoming arms and handshakes.

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Duzy Wales 8-5-07

 

Back at Sam's Place, Sam was discussing the latest news with Mr. Higgins. "That hussy is hell bent to brake me, first taking Bonnie and now Tilly!"

"She ain't been nothin but trouble since she got here, stupid woman, thinkin she could run a newspaper and stir things up here," Mr Higgins said, as he took another drink of whiskey.

"She best be careful, as I know some men in this town who would like to break that little filly in, herd em say so myself" Sam said, spitting his tobacco, missing the spittoon in the corner. "He smiled to himself, thinkin he may just be the man to do it, showing her she wernt no better than any of his wimin."

Sitting in the dark corner of the saloon, a man was listening to every word, thinking he would like to put a bullet between both of their eyes, his hand fingering his knife, but knowing it was best to sit back, listen and learn for now.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-5-07

 

The tired buckskin horse and its tired, dusty rider had drifted into town earlier in the day. The man's sweat-stained hat had a bullet hole in the crown and a rip in the brim and his canvas britches were dirty and faded, but the star on his vest gleamed in the late afternoon sunshine.

Charlie stepped down in front of the livery stable and eased the big horse's cinch. The horse sighed with relief and tugged on the reins, reaching for the brimful water trough that stood in the shade near the open barn door. "Alright, alright," Charlie said, "just a minute." He chuckled and reached to the small of his back with both hands and tried to rub some of the kinks out. He reached up and hung the reins on the horn of his slickfork saddle, and the buckskin moved to the trough and plunged his nose into the cool water.

Charlie hitched his holstered pistol to a more comfortable position on his hips and walked up to the open barn door. "Anybody home?" he called.

"Be right with ya," a voice answered. A small, crippled gent with a pitchfork in his hand came to the door. "What can I do for ya?" he asked in a high-pitched voice.

"I'd like to put my horse up for the night, if you've got room," Charlie said.

"Four bits for the night, and all the hay he can eat. My name's Shorty, by the bye," he said.

Charlie shook the offered hand and dug in the pocket of his vest for some coins. "He could use some corn too, if you've got some," he said. "He's come a long ways, and he's got a long ways to go."

"That'll be another two bits," Shorty said. "We gotta freight it in, so it comes dear."

Charlie handed over another coin, and reached for Buck's reins. "Is there a place a man could get a drink somewhere hereabouts?" he asked.

"Only place in town is Sam's," Shorty told him. He pointed down the street. "It ain't much, but it's got a bar. Female type company too, if a man's interested."

Charlie held up his left hand and the ring on his finger flashed gold in the late afternoon sunlight. "Just the drink'd be fine." He handed Buck's reins to Shorty and turned toward the saloon.

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Duzy Wales 8-5-07

 

Duzy couldn't help but notice the looks that Aunt Esther was giving Mr. Keller, in that way of hers, that if you didn't know her so well, you wouldn't notice at all! He didn't seem to mind staying close by as the evening progressed either, complimenting Aunt Esther on the meal and finding one thing after another that interested the both of them. Could it be, Duzy thought, that Aunt Esther might be charmed by his softly spoken, gentlemanly ways, not to mention how he and Sarah were getting along! He seemed to love children and to have a natural tendency toward noticing their needs.

Tilly was beginning to relax and enjoy the banter that was going on, sometimes with different conversations going on at the same time, with all those who had attended. The evening was turning out wonderfully!

Reverend Sopris was the quietest, and yet every bit the gentleman, also playing with Sarah and interjecting humor into the conversation, always
uplifting, and yet sometimes straight to the point leaving one to wonder if he had learned to give his advice in an abstract way...leaving one to ponder on what he had said and how and to whom it was meant for.

Bonnie seemed content, relaxing now that Tilly was able to start to feel relaxed as well.

Duzy was enjoying the evening and wondered what was yet to come, as the new friends continued to enjoy the meal and converse.

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Charlie MacNeil 8-5-07

 

Charlie stopped at the corner of the barn and waited a few seconds for the other half of the partnership to show up. "Water trough's around front, Dawg," he called softly. He heard a "woof" and smiled. A great black head peeked around the corner of the barn and Dawg's black eyes glinted at him. His big pink tongue lolled out in Dawg's version of a smile. Dawg's smile had been known to frighten strong men and make women fawn over him. It all depended on who Dawg was with.

"I'm going to the saloon, Dawg," Charlie said. "You can stay here with Buck or go with me, but I'm not sure they'll let you in." He smiled again. "You might want to stay here."

Dawg woofed again and padded toward the front of the barn. He was thirsty.

"What in the name of the Lord is that?" a voice suddenly exclaimed. Charlie whirled to see Shorty standing open-mouthed, staring at the great black mass in front of him.

"That's my partner," Charlie told him. "Dawg, this is our host." Dawg solemnly stepped forward and offered a paw. Shorty hesitated a moment then reached and "shook hands" with the big dog. "Don't worry, Shorty," Charlie said. "He generally doesn't eat livery stable operators. I'll bring him some dinner when I come back. He'll more than likely stay with Buck."

"Whatever you say, mister," Shorty mumbled then stumped back into the barn. Dawg went to the trough and took a long drink then turned and went into the barn. Charlie unpinned the badge from his vest, dropped it into his pocket, and headed on down to the saloon.

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Kid Sopris 8-5-07

 

As the evening wore on, Sopris surmized all that laid before him. The new home for Ms. Duzy, Esther, Bonnie, Tilly and Sarah seemed to bring the happiness to many that was once lost.

There is nothing like the brightness of a child's eyes, or the laughter contained therein to realize how special life really is. Sopris' mind would occasionally wander to times long ago; remembering.

A sober thought struck Sopris, he remembered seeing Mr. Wallace entering Sam's as he was departing town, and recalling their brief discussion following Sunday services last. The Rev. knew Mr. Wallace was not entering Sam's for Social endeavors but more for intelligence gathering of sorts. Sopris thought how ironic that this would couple with the Reverend thoughts that it was about time that the "Spirits of Darkness" pay visits to some deserving souls. Nothing like a fresh look and remind of things to come to get a sinners attention he thought.

Tonight was particularly dark as a crescent moon shown on partially through the Summer clouds blowing in from the Northwest. A gentle breeze would ruffle the leaves enough to silence the steps of a quiet walker. And if Sopris was correct on the activities of those needing visits they would have consumed enough alcohol by midnight to be ripe for the mind to suffer from delusions.

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Lady Leigh 8-5-07

 

Sitting at a table more beautiful than words, Bonnie glanced around at the people sitting around the table. People from different walks of life. Physically, each were unique. Sarah was chattering like a Magpie to anyone who would listen, but there was not a worry with that. Sarah was a delight. Her voice was sweet and animated, both at the same time. One couldn't help but listen to her prattle on and on. Duzy was excitedly telling about her new plans. Esther was attentive to Mr. Keller. Tilly was meek and quiet, but bless her heart, she was holding her own. Rev. Sopris smiled easily, and hung onto everyones words as if they really were important to him.

Bonnie looked up suddenly when someone across the table asked her a question. At first she thought it was her imagination ... guilt, loss, sorrow ... those emotions can trigger a mind to play tricks on a person ... can't they? Was someone asking her about where she came from? About her family?

Bonnie told a little of her story to Esther ... but was it really important for anyone to know anything? Was any of her life really anyones business? Was it a necessity in this life to bare ones soul in order to survive? Lord! Bonnie didn't understand most of her life herself! How could she possibly make these people understand if she couldn't? Chicago? Papa? Her step brother?

The months after Bonnie's Mama and Margaret died of Typhoid, and when the bank foreclosed on the boarding house, were a literal blur to Bonnie ... It took weeks ...maybe months before she came to any sense at all. Tilly was the one who helped Bonnie go through that horrible time removing laudanum from her system, and to this day, Bonnie didn't even remember beginning to take the opium poison.

A small portion of a poem by W. H. Auden came to Bonnies mind ...
"Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is always more than meets the eye."


Well, Bonnie thought ... there is definitly more than meets the eye!

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