Jump to content
SASS Wire Forum
Charlie MacNeil, SASS #48580

Firelands-The Beginning

Recommended Posts

Charlie MacNeil 9-23-08

 

Charlie stepped wearily down from his horse and dropped the reins near the water trough that stood by the corral so the animal could drink. It was amazing what a letdown the body went through when that kind of mass of adrenaline wore off. He felt like he'd gone ten rounds with the bear instead of pounding the bear with rifle and pistol rounds. He took off his hat, dunked his head in the trough, and came up spluttering. The water was cold enough to at least partially jar him out of the malaise he felt.

Charlie shook the water from his hair and face and slicked what remained of his hair back with his hand and put on his hat. He turned and leaned against the corral and watched the celebration at the house and was glad they were able to bring Cole back to his family.

"Dawg, you and your child there need a bath," Charlie said as the pair limped up to the trough and plunged their muzzles deep. The big dog's stub tail buzzed for a moment at the sound of his name. When the pair came up for air a few gallons of mountain spring water later they shook themselves and pale red droplets spattered the ground from their whiskers. Dawg licked his chops and came over to drop to his belly next to Charlie. Twain Dawg lay down alongside his sire. He wasn't sure what to do next so he decided to follow Dawg's lead.

Linn stepped down and led Hijo to the water. "I do believe we might need to find that pup a new name," he said with a smile as he looked down at the two big canines "He's earned the right to be his own dog."

"He ain't exactly a pup any more after that one, is he?" Charlie said drily. "I'd say he's a full-fledged dog, now."

Sarah and Angela came running up. "Dawg, you're a mess," Sarah scolded. "You too, Twain Dawg." She reached down to ruffle Twain Dawg's ears and drew her hand back like he had tried to bite her. "What is that stuff?" she asked. She pointed to the blood matting Twain Dawg's fur down and her eyes were bigger than usual.

Linn knelt down in front of the two girls. "That's bear blood," he said gently. "Dawg and Twain Dawg helped us save a man's life today."

"Bear blood?" Sarah asked. "Did Twain Dawg bite the bear?" She had seen the hide and heard the adults talking.

"Twain Dawg saved my life," Charlie said quietly. "Dawg too."

Sarah digested the two men's words for several minutes while Angela looked back and forth between her daddy and her friend. She somehow knew that now was the time to be quiet. "So Dawg and Twain Dawg are heroes, just like in the book Momma gave me, aren't they?" Sarah asked seriously.

"I reckon they are at that," Charlie said with a chuckle. "You think you might be able to round up some sort of reward for them?"

"I know just the thing," Sarah said. "Come on Angela." The two girls turned and ran toward the house just as fast as they'd come from it. Linn got to his feet with a sigh.

"Whew," he said. "We got through that one. I wasn't too sure how to explain it to them."

"Me neither," Charlie said. "And I ain't got the foggiest idea what Bonnie's gonna have to say about what we did tell 'em."

"I reckon it's too late to worry about it now," Linn said. He glanced pointedly at the house. Charlie followed his gaze and saw two small girls, one with a rag doll tucked under her arm, walking slowly toward the corrals and the two dogs. Each girl held a plate heaping with biscuits and gravy and was doing her level best not to spill any. Angela's face was a study in concentration and the tip of her pink tongue was stuck out of the corner of her mouth. The two at last got to the dogs and set a plate under each blood-flecked black muzzle. Both dogs licked their lips and dove into the food with a will. And Angela dove into her daddy's arms then turned back to watch the dogs eat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-25-08

 

I did just fine until Charlie allowed quietly as maybe we'd ought to go see if there was anything left on the table.
He'd been leaning, casual-like against the corral rail, like me, only he didn't have a double arm full of little girl hangin' onto him. Angela wasn't that big but I felt of a sudden like my strength had been poured out like water out of a boot.
"My bones are poured out like water," I quoted, and Charlie grunted, understanding in his eyes and a grin hiding just under the surface.
I didn't ask him but I reckon facin' up to that b'ar had an effect on him too.
He was doin' some better than me. He walked with a young man's step, light and springy. Maybe it was the good smell of beef and gravy, taters and pie that came our way.
I'm sure my walk was that of a wore out old man.
I sure felt it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-25-08

 

Duzy's ring caught the sun and flashed little shatters of sunlight on the side of the church.
Jacob and Annette stopped and looked at one another.
Her hand tightened on his arm and she nodded, and Jacob reached up and opened the door.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-25-08

 

"Ye great Irish oaf!" Daisy exclaimed, thrusting Little Sean into his sire's arms, "Ye've a chance t' do an honorable thing now, let's be about it!"
Sean blinked in honest surprise, absolutely at a loss to understand what his dear wife was talking about. He stood with his mouth open, at least until Little Sean laughed and stuck his hand in.
Daisy fairly ripped the apron off her, stopped in front of a mirror and gave her hair a quick touch.
"There! That'll do!" She marched briskly up to her mountain of a husband and, seizing his elbow, steered him neatly out of the kitchen. "Off we go, now, the stove is banked, the bread is cooling an' I can step out for a few!"
The Irish Brigade, only a few pulls into their freshly-drawn beer, stared in surprise as the diminutive Daisy herded their chieftain out the door.
The Welsh Irishman looked at the German Irishman.
The German Irishman looked at the English Irishman.
The English Irishman looked at the New York Irishman.
The New York Irishman said "I don't know, lads, but let's find out!"
Their mugs were set down and, as a man, they fell in and followed.

Parson Belden smiled a little. He'd known Jacob and Annette were an item -- well, the whole town knew -- but he also knew Annette had carefully kept herself chaste. His wife had befriended the orphan lass, and was in her confidence, and they discussed womanly things; she confided discreetly to her husband that though they had been tempted, they had not yielded: Parson Belden remembered what it was to be young, and appreciated the Scriptural admonition that it was better to marry than to burn, though he believed it referred less to infernal flames than it did the fires of lust: still, he was pleased the young couple were seeking the bension of a formal union.

Jacob's chest felt a little tight, and he felt a little guilty that he hadn't asked his folks to be here, but they were off on important business: besides, he reasoned, he was doing a good thing, a responsible thing, even if there were none to stand with him --
"Hold hard!" came the accented roar from the back of the church.
Parson Belden looked up as Jacob turned, his hand drawing back his unbuttoned coat a little, then relaxing.
Sean's great hand descended on Jacob's shoulder. "A man shouldn't be married wi'out witnesses, lad!" he said gently, if an avalanche can speak with gentleness: Daisy swept up beside Annette and gave her a knowing look.
Annette's cheeks flamed and she looked down, smiling.
"Thank you," she whispered.
The other four ranked in behind.
Little Sean reached up, squealing with delight, grasping at his father's villainously-curled mustache.
Parson Belden opened the worn book he didn't need, rested his fingers on the familiar passage, and began:
"Dearly Beloved ..."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Charlie MacNeil 9-25-08

 

Charlie grinned at Linn's words. "Bones poured out like water." That was about as apt a description as any he'd ever heard. That was why he'd leaned on the corral fence; he was afraid his legs would dump him in a heap by the watering trough. He stepped out toward the house briskly, hoping he could make a good show of it and knowing it was going to take a major effort. Sarah skipped alongside of him and Linn brought up the rear carrying Angela.

Charlie looked back over his shoulder. "You want me to carry her for a while, make sure you get there?"

Linn started to snap a reply then he saw the expression on Charlie's face and knew he was being razzed just a bit. He put his hand to his brow with a sigh. "You may have to carry us both," he said with exaggerated care in his voice. "I believe I'm coming down with the vapors!"

Charlie stopped and turned to look at Linn as seriously as he could. "I ain't sure I can carry you both, but I'll do my best." Then he began to laugh. Hard. But suddenly the laughter turned into something else and he felt himself shaking. He didn't realize that his face had turned ghost white. Linn's hand descended on his shoulder.

"I know how you feel my friend," Linn said quietly. "It isn't often a man comes that close to dying at the hands of something he has no control over."

As suddenly as it came the feeling was gone. Charlie straightened and said, "That was a damn big bear, wasn't it?" He looked Linn in the eye and said almost inaudibly, "I'm acting like a little girl here, ain't I? I've never felt anything quite like this before."

"No, I'd say you're acting human," Linn said just as softly. "Any man who says he's never been scared of dying is either a liar or he's never done anything. And you've got a lot to live for." Linn gave him a grin. "And you're right, that was a damn big bear."

Angela placed a finger on Linn's lips. "Daddy!" she exclaimed then shook her finger in front of Linn's face.

"Yes, dear," the big man said tenderly and gave his daughter a kiss. He looked at Charlie. "Enough of this serious stuff. Let's eat!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Box 9-25-08

 

We all got washed up and in the kitchen there was a spread on the table that was fit for a barn raising crew. Cole was at the head of the table surrounded by kids. The ladies had taken a door loose and done a sturdy job of propping it up at the other end of the table to accommodate the added place settings. Thanks were given and it looked like dogs on a bear, only this time the bear didn't have a chance. It was quiet around the table aside from the clatter of silverware. Esther and Bonnie served up refills of tea and vanilla coffee. Sarah, Angela and a couple of the smaller children were at a makeshift kiddie table nearby. Inge wanted to help with the serving but Esther insisted she sit and enjoy a special meal with her whole family. I could see that it was a rare treat for her to be served. It was truly a happy occasion. What could be better than this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-26-08

 

Jacob held both his bride's hands and regarded her bright and sparkling eyes with something between solemnity and utter panic. He reckoned this was probably normal for a man getting married and he was glad he was wearing his good suit for the trouser legs hid what he was sure were his knees coming within an ace of banging together like a loose wagon axle on a washboard road.
He listened carefully to Parson Belden's carefully spoken words, as if hearing them for the very first time in his life, and he realized just how big a step he was taking.
He'd known before, but somehow now it seemed pretty near ... enormous!
"...until death do you part?" Parson Belden asked.
Jacob squared his shoulders, brought his head back very erect and looked from his bride to the Parson.
"To all of these things," he said in a firm and clear voice, "yes, sir, I do!"
The same questions, or nearly so, were propounded to Annette: her answer, in a softer voice, was a simple, "I do."
The ring was one he'd saved for a very long time.
He'd taken it off his dead mother's hand, on that terrible and far-gone day when he said goodbye to her, and to home, and became more of an orphan than he'd ever thought possible.
Ma would like this, he thought. Ma would like her!
The ring was just the right size. He'd surreptitiously slickered Annette into trying a few rings, here and there, and had carefully noted which fit her finger; he'd sent the ring to be sized, and it had come back exactly the right diameter, and now he threaded it on her pale finger, surprised at how his hand seemed to have a fine but annoying tremor.
Annette saw a strong and confident young man before her who showed no sign of nervousness or doubt: she did not even notice his fine tremor of nervousness as she thrilled to the feel of the gold band slipping onto her finger, declaring to the world that she was now a married woman!
Jacob repeated the words of the ring-vow, and took his bride in his arms: she pressed herself into him and with a kiss, finalized the contract.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-26-08

 

The Daine boys had put together a Deacon's bench outside the front door of the cabin and it looked like a good place to park my carcass.
I'm kind of like an old b'ar myself: I get my belly full and I get warm, and I want to take a nap.
The Daine boys still lacked none for energy. They were talking with Cole about his crop, his stock, how he'd little time to do as he'd like, between working for the mine and working his little spread, but how he managed somehow.
Me, I tilted my hat down over my eyes and worked the bend out of my lower back so it didn't ache quite so much.
Twain Dawg was laying over in the shade with Dawg, who every now and again would give his progeny's healing shoulder a careful lick.
I felt a little hand pitty-pat on my knee.
"Daddy?" Angela said in her quiet, little-girl voice. "You 'wake?"
I pushed my hat brim up with one finger and smiled.
Angela put an uncertain finger to her chin and giggled.
I reached for her and fetched her up on my lap.
She cuddled up against me and I slid my hat back down where it had been.
I don't reckon it took me long to fall asleep.
I know Angela was asleep almost instantly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-26-08

 

Jackson Cooper was halfway across the street when Tom Landers came stomping out of the Jewel with each hand fisted into the scruff of a miner's shirt. One of the fellows was holding his belly and looked to be gasping for breath and the other one was holding his head. Both were making an effort to keep up with the former Sheriff's brisk pace.
Jackson Cooper knew from the past Sheriff's walk that his dander was up and he was making an effort to control his temper.
Jackson Cooper accepted custody of the pair in mid-street, his big hands replacing Tom Landers', and he bodily picked the two up and carried them as easily as a man carries a suitcase in each hand: the four of them disappeared into the little log fortress that was the Sheriff's office, and after the miscreants were secured in a cell -- separate cells, that is, for the two of them had disagreed significantly on some matter, requiring old Tom's intervention -- the two lawmen sat down in the office and talked it over.
The day had been just a little cool: enough so that morning, Jackson Cooper had fired the stove, and boiled up some coffee: now, with the stove still warm, the coffee was at a good drinking temperature.
Landers tasted his and made a face.
"Not as good as the Jewel's, is it?" Jackson Cooper chuckled, taking a sip of his and grimacing in turn.
"Lacks something," Landers said politely, thinking that it lacked nothing that diluting with some water wouldn't cure ... like maybe twenty gallons or so.
"It is potent," Jackson Cooper agreed. "Floated a mule shoe this mornin' and it's been gatherin' strength ever since."
"You'd ought to take it for a walk on a chain leash," Landers suggested, setting his tin cup on the corner of the desk.
Jackson Cooper hooked a thumb back toward the cells. "What's the charge?"
"Disorderly conduct, public intoxication, assault. Assault on a law enforcement officer." Landers smiled wryly. "Is there a statute for aggravated stupidity?"
"I wish!" Jackson Cooper pulled open the upper right hand drawer, peered into the wooden cavity. "Now how does he keep this so nice and neat?" he murmured. "Mine at home looks like a rat's nest!"
"Don't worry about that," Landers suggested. "He'll be back soon enough. Let him take care of the paper work."
Jackson Cooper slid the drawer shut with a sigh. "You talked me right into it."
"Hell, once those two sober up, you might just let 'em go."
Jackson Cooper grunted. "Assault on a lawman, no. Let 'em beat on one another all day long but I won't abide by them takin' a swing at you."
Tom Landers chuckled. "I would've had my hands full," he admitted, "only Tilly come out from behind Mr. Baxter's bar with a bung starter and belted the one a good one. I got one good punch into the other one's belly and it was over."
Jackson Cooper nodded. It was not the first time the bung starting maul had come in handy for more than tapping a keg.
"Say, did you see Jacob and Annette over at the church?"
"No, I missed 'em, why?"
Tom Landers rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Did I not know better, I'd think they were gettin' married!"
Jackson Cooper blinked and brought his chair upright. "Let's go see!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-30-08

 

I felt something warm and heavy against the side of my leg and figured Twain Dawg came out to soak up some sun with us.
Charlie was snoring gently on my right, his hat tilted down at about the same angle, Dawg laid over on his side at his feet, making a sound somewhere between a rumble, a growl and a buzz saw with indigestion.
He sounded right content.
That Deacon's seat wasn't the softest settin' spot I've had but with a brother law dawg on one side and a little girl on my lap that smelled of scented soap and lavender water, with a full belly and a chance to relax a bit ... why, I felt pretty good.
It's not often I let myself relax to that degree, but I did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 9-30-08

 

Mr. Baxter filled the ladies in on what transpired, and Dr. Flint's quiet, cultured tones filled in the few gaps in his testimony: Cole was still just a bit wobbly but he'd had a good meal, and Dr. Flint had encouraged him to drink more water than he was used to, for his greatest concern was to restore the water lost in three days' worth of wandering about after that scoundrel belted him over the gourd.
They could only speculate on the exact sequence of events; it was possible, they concluded, that after Cole was cold cocked, the would-be wife stealer took the man's rifle, fired its single shot into the bear that came after the standing man instead of the comatose, but the bear killed his attacker before realizing its own foreleg was shattered at the shoulder, and limped off to try and heal.
Cole listened to all this, and looked around, his wife's hand warm and tight in his, and his eyes traveled from one child to another, to another, and finally back to Dr. Flint and Mr. Baxter.
He swallowed hard, as if his mouth were dry; he took a sip of water, another, and tried again to speak.
"Thank you," was all he could manage.

The Daine boys were slightly less sentimental. One elbowed another and said quietly, "You long tall hillbilly, pass me that last slice of pie!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Box 9-30-08

 

"Good thing we had those dogs with us. They sensed something was wrong before the bear jumped them. Then they kept him busy long enough for us to get ready for him. If he would have had two good forelegs, the dogs would have probably been goners. If we had been wandering around up there without them, we might have been goners. Once the bear got the dogs knocked down pretty good, he made a lunge for us. That's when the shooting started! Lucky he was stone dead when he fell onto Charlie and Twain Dawg. Then we had to use a horse to pull him off of them."
They were hanging on every word with mouths agape. Oh Lord, I'm going to have to repeat this a thousand times back at the Silver Jewel!
"From all that commotion outside I'm beginning to wonder if that bear didn't get up and follow us back down here!" I no sooner said that and all the women were on their feet with skillets, brooms, and a couple of derringers in their hands! They were ready to take him on!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-1-08

 

Bonnie's face was white and pinched as she gestured Sarah back: she moved with the grace of a dancer, the efficiency of a warrior, and the ferocity of a mother tiger defending her cubs.
Nobody quite saw where she drew it from, but her thumb was heavy on the stand-up spur of a Navy Colt as she swung for the doorway.
The cabin emptied in a moment and with a surprising lack of commotion or noise, the defenders forming a quick, defensive fan, facing out, weapons ready.
An incautious foot grazed Twain Dawg's wounded shoulder and he yipped a little, then growled, and Dawg's head came up, nostrils flared, fangs exposed and gleaming.
The world held its breath for a long moment.
Angela's arm was snug around Linn's neck, her cheek against his shoulder, sound asleep; Linn's arm was around his little girl, and as he drew in a breath, she rose, gently, as if in a skiff on a calm sea.
The brim of his hat vibrated a little as he snored in the breath.
Charlie, on the other hand, snored on the opposite stroke: it was as if they were two great engines, each a half-cycle off from the other: without the slow tenor ripsaw of Dawg's own glottal vibrations, and without the hollow confines of the cabin to magnify the sound, the effect was far less pronounced outdoors than in.
Everyone looked at everyone else.
Sarah folded her arms and tapped her foot in a fair imitation of her Mama.
Bonnie looked at Esther.
Esther looked at Bonnie.
Esther put fingers to her smiling lips in an attempt at keeping an undignified laugh from waking the weary warrior.
Sarah turned with sudden purpose, her skirts flaring with the sudden move, and she emerged from the cabin with a somewhat worse for wear cake of lye soap.
She looked at her Mama with a knowing gleam in her eye, and Bonnie plucked the cake from her daughter's fingers.
"Allow me," she said, slipping the Navy back into its hidden holster and bending to reach over Angela's curls.
Esther moved in, ready to catch the child, for she knew what the result would likely be, and neither were disappointed.
Bonnie expertly thrust the bitter lozenge between Linn's teeth.
Sarah's eyes went big and round and her own hands clapped to her mouth, for she herself had done something very similar, when she was smaller, and she remembered the moment well.
Linn came off the bench with all the grace of a bull hippo that had just been boarded across the bottom, and sounding much like unto said belted beast!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Box 10-1-08

 

I had to chuckle at the reaction from the ladies. I didn't see them get a wash basin but a cake of lye soap went out the door. All at once Linn was sputtering and gasping! "Now what brought that on?" The ladies were snickering as they came back in the door. They gave me a glance out of the corner of their eyes that made me uneasy. I said, "Suppose we ought to be thinking about getting back to town?" I figured it was safe to assume we might not run into any lye soap bushes along the way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Linn Keller 10-1-08

 

Twain Dawg jumped back, favoring his injured shoulder, a surprised look on his face.
Angela swung from her Daddy's neck by one arm, laughing with delight at the sudden ride her Daddy was giving her.
Charlie lazily lifted his hat brim with one finger, assessed the situation, smiled quietly, and restored the sheltering Stetson to its former position.
Dawg sighed, whuffed once and laid back down beside Charlie.
A cake of soap sailed through the air in a shining arc, propelled a truly amazing distance by the stifled exclamation that gave impetus to its flight.
Faces in general colored with laughter, and the tension of the day ran like water off a shingled roof off the semicircle of participants.

Some distance away, a blue eye peered through a tarnished brass spyglass, and a set of slightly yellowed teeth were bared in a chuckling grin.
Hiram could not hear them from this distance, but he'd seen all that transpired, and could pretty well gauge any comments that would be made in the next few moments.
Telescoping the spyglass and slipping it back into his possibles, he turned to his riding mule.
Together, they and the pack mule pointed their noses to the up hill, and they headed back for the high country.
At one point, where Hiram had a good view of the territory below, he saw Jacob's house, now far in the distance, and smiled.
That pretty young wife of his, he thought, was a right good cook.
"Yup, mule," he said quietly, and the mule yup'd, the Mountain Man's buck skins and homespun, and the mules' gray coats, quickly blended into the rocky terrain, and were gone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-1-08

 

I blinked to clear my watering eyes and realized my dear Esther was standing close, and her arms were around Angela.
I eased our little girl into her arms and looked around.
The horse trough looked accommodating. It was fed with a constant finger size stream of good cold spring water and so was constantly fresh, so I did not hesitate to shove my head right down in it and try and get that awful bitter taste off my tongue.
Didn't work all that well, least not at first, not until I fetched off my bandanna and used it to scrub off my tongue.
I shoved down in again and came up, spouting, then turned to regard the assembled, who were generally laughing too hard to meet my eye, or were turning guilty colors and turning away.
I couldn't help it.
They'd got me fair an' for sure, and I laughed with them, especially when Angela wiggled out of her Mama's arms and came paddling over to me and asked, "You gonna blow bobbles now Daddy?" -- which only seemed to feed the general mirth and merriment.
I could see Charlie grinning out from under his hat brim, and Dawg opened one eye, then closed it again.
He'd found a good spot for a snooze and saw no reason not to continue in that worthy endeavor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-2-08

 

Jackson Cooper and Tom Landers shook Jacob's hand as he and his bride emerged from the church, followed by the red-shirted Irish Brigade: they each gave his lovely bride a fatherly embrace, and Tom Landers, his eyes bright with delight, apologized that he had no wedding gift for them.
Jacob laid his hand on his bride's, warm on his forearm, and said "I have treasure enough here," and Annette colored, or rather her cheeks positively flamed, for she'd flushed at the lawmens' greeting.
Jacob brought his buggy up to the mounting step, a block of shaped, finished stone strategically placed to help ladies step into their buggies; he helped his bride into the buggy, and hats and hands waved well wishes as the two trotted up the street, and toward home.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-3-08

 

The ladies were every bit as efficient with teardown as they had been with setup: one gift of the distaff, I'd come to appreciate, was efficiency: just as the wise lieutenant will stay out of the sergeant's way and let him actually run the company, so does the wise husband stay out of the ladies' way, and for the same reason.
Things get done faster, better, with less effort, in far less time.
Our buggy was much less laden for the trip back. Much of the supplies Esther and Bonnie had selected were edibles, wisely believing there may be a wounded or injured husband to tend: though this wasn't quite the case, the extra supplies were discreetly stacked and stashed in the cabin, and Inge and her eldest daughter were kept busy enough they had no time to consider the wealth with which their larder had been bestowed.
I did not know until later that Inge had thanked the ladies, quietly, in a private moment, and proudly tried to decline their charity: Esther fixed her with her startling emerald eyes and said impishly, "I missed your birthday last year. Take that for your birthday present," and Inge wisely acceded.
The drive back to town was less brisk. Angela insisted on riding with me, though a little less than halfway there she complained a little that she was tired, and so when our little caravan arrived in Firelands, she was sound asleep in my arms, lulled by Hijo del Sol's butter smooth gait, an inbred heritage from the Spanish horses known for their paso fino, their smooth gait.
Dawg rode in the wagon, as he had for the trip out, and Twain Dawg with him, and the two of them together were impressive to behold, for Dawg was the size of a young bear himself, and Twain Dawg was approaching his stature, though he was still outgrowing his gangly puppy-like structure.
A big structure, to be sure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Box 10-3-08

 

My horse rode pretty good on the way back. I'm glad I kept him. I need to get out and ride more often. It felt good to get outside for a while. Maybe I should go out to my claim more often. I stay so occupied at the Silver Jewel that I forget about roaming around the countryside. I make steady money there. I've never done that before. It ain't hard to make a friend there. Oh well, enough trail thoughts for now. A good bath and comfortable bed sounds good right now.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-3-08

 

That night, by the light of the Aladdin kerosene lamp, the Sheriff's pen scratched across the page of his journal, giving shape and form to his thoughts.
His official account was in the larger book, in the Sheriff's office. He'd noted down his account of events, as Inge had come to town to seek his -- the Sheriff's -- help.
His personal account was a bit more lengthy.
He thrust his bottom jaw out and took the end of his dip quill lightly between his teeth, thinking, remembering the roaring mountain of fur and muscle and a maw big enough to bite a horse in two, or so it seemed in that one bright moment when his Sharps came to shoulder and his world shrank to the size of a peep sight.
Esther's hands descended, warm and gentle, on his shoulders.
He jumped a little.
"Nearly done, dearest," he said quietly, thinking of little Angela, tucked in bed by his own hand, and no wish to disturb the child's good rest.
Esther tilted her head, looking at the other papers on his desk.
An invitation? she thought, frowning a little, and studying the half-sheet.
You are requested at my table for dinner, she read in the Sheriff's precise hand; the date was two days hence, the language was stiffly formal, as if issued from the office of a prince, potentate or peer of the realm.
It was addressed to Jacob.
Esther came around the high backed wooden chair and waited until her husband finished the last few lines on the page, and put the pen in the pen-holder, and leaned back with a tired sigh.
"My dear?" she asked, and her hand moved briefly to the invitation.
The Sheriff smiled and took her hand, kissed it. "Will this pose a hardship?" he asked in his gentle voice.
She blinked slowly, affectionately, reflecting that he had several voices: one hard and sharp as tempered steel, with which he could flay the hide off an object or a person who had caused him displeasure; one equally inflexible, but without the honed edge that could nearly bring blood ... then there were his gentler voices, voices he'd heard when soothing a frightened child, or a distraught woman, or a hard-grieving widower.
This voice was the one he reserved only for her.
Had she been a cat, she would have started to purr.
"I think having Jacob and Annette for dinner is a lovely idea," she said, smiling. "We should certainly recognize and celebrate their union."
Linn nodded. "I agree." He reached for an envelope protruding from a pigeonhole, and a thicker bundle of folded papers beside it, tied with a red ribbon. "This is deed to his land, and some adjacent acreage I just happened to own." He looked at his wife, trying hard to look innocent, and not quite succeeding.
"And this is one-eighth share in your railroad, and one-sixteenth of my gold interest."
Esther's expression was a mixture of pleasure and surprise. "My," she breathed, "you are making someone so young a wealthy man indeed!"
"Is it too much?" the Sheriff asked. He often asked with such frankness, for his wife had an excellent business head, and he frequently asked her opinion on important matters.
"Perhaps deed to the land," she said, "and will him the rest should we both precede him in death ... then on his first anniversary, the eighth interest, and on his second, the sixteenth."
Linn nodded, considering.
"And what of grandchildren?" Esther smiled again. "Perhaps you should save some for the young that will surely follow."
The Sheriff's chin came up. "Now there's an idea," he said thoughtfully.
"And of course we must have inheritance and dowry for Angela." Esther's expression was verging on mischievous.
"Dowry," Linn said slowly. His eyes widened and his expression was distressed. "She'll grow that fast?" -- then answering his own question, "She'll grow that fast!"
Esther nodded, looking at something far beyond the opposite wall.
Linn rubbed his eyes, stretched. "My dear, the bunk is going to feel really good tonight!" He reached an arm around her waist, drew her into him and onto his lap.
"Have I told you lately, Mrs. Keller, how much you mean to me?"
"No, Mr. Keller, you haven't, but I believe you're going to." She put her left arm around his neck, bending down until their lips met.
Her arm tightened a little around his neck and she gave a quick, surprised giggle as Linn picked her up, rolling her into him; his smile promised much, and he bore his bride up the broad staircase, and into their bedroom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Charlie MacNeil 10-3-08

 

Charlie stamped slowly up the stairs to his room. Damn, but he was tired. Even with the nap he'd taken he was exhausted. "I'm gettin' too old for this crap," Charlie muttered to himself. He took off his hat and scrubbed his fingers through his hair then put his hat back on.

Charlie reached for the door knob and it turned of its own accord. He stopped and stood there with his hand out, looking at the door in surprise and bafflement. The door swung open and Fannie stood there with one hand on her hip and the other on the door jamb. "I don't know whether to shake your hand or drag you kicking and screaming into the room," she said with a saucy smile.

"I ain't got the energy to kick or scream either one," Charlie told her with a tired smile.

"Good," Fannie said. "You'll die quietly."

"I've heard that one before," Charlie said. He reached out and wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her to him. "You don't happen to have a tub full of hot water in there, do you darlin'?"

"As a matter of fact I do," she said. "I was just about to get in it when I heard you coming up the stairs." When her words finally sank in, Charlie realized that the armful of woman he had was wearing a kimono and nothing else. "But I'll share," she finished.

"Perfect," Charlie said. He stepped into the room and kicked the door shut.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-8-08

 

Maude waved as the stage coach rattled away, with a whistle and a yell and an absolutely unnecessary double crack of the whip: she smiled at the young driver's high good spirits, remembering a slender young man who drove a stage, a long time ago, a man to whom she'd been happily married for many years.
Maude went back inside her Mercantile and began sorting mail onto the table she dedicated to that purpose. She was swift and efficient in separating out the letters; there were not many, only about a dozen or so, but she arranged them in neat rows so they could be quickly looked over and retrieved.
The Sheriff had been in about an hour before, and had asked her to place one more envelope with those on the mail table, and she had.
She knew, and he knew, that the stage dropping off mail was one thing guaranteed to bring people into the Mercantile. Unofficially, if you wanted word put out to the general populace, you left word at the Mercantile on mail day, and by sundown, why, the entire county would know whatever it was you wanted known.
Maude picked up the Sheriff's envelope and smiled again. The man has such lovely handwriting. And addressed to Jacob! she thought, her quick mind considering why a man might go to the trouble of writing a note to his son, when he and the son were actually on excellent terms, and the son lived not a day's ride hence.
The door opened and a schoolboy poked his head in. "Mail today, Miz Garrisson?" he piped, grinning a little-boy's grin, one front tooth missing, probably fallen out the day before.
Maude nodded, and the shining face was quickly withdrawn; she heard his feet, quick on the boardwalk, and his high, piping voice: "Mail's come! Mail's come!" -- as excited as if Santa himself had arrived, out of season but welcome nonetheless.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Box 10-8-08

 

Ahh... That bed never felt so good! Looks like the bar isn't any worse for wear. Think I'll be stepping a little lightly for a couple of days. Seems like that saddle didn't agree with me as well as I thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Box 10-15-08

 

Oh, what a fine morning. I decided to get an early start straightening up the bar. I don't know who ran it but it is in pretty good order. "Good morning, Daisy," as she set down a hot cup of vanilla coffee for me.
"Is everything OK?"
"Why, it looks I could leave for a week and the place would run itself."
"Oh, not on your life, you don't!"
I chuckled as she spun back toward the kitchen to check the fresh bread in the oven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-15-08

 

Jacob hadn't gotten away unscathed.
The local urchins had extorted their usual usury upon seeing him enter the Mercantile: a few sticks of penny candy later and the mendicants having been satisfied therewith, Jacob hefted the two envelopes, mixed expressions on his face.
He slipped them both in his coat and stepped back out onto the board walk, thinking.
The larger of the two envelopes -- hand folded of good rag paper, sealed with a familiar stamp on the red wax -- had him honestly worried.
He'd married quietly, without fanfare -- but without his parents. At the time, on a young man's impulse and the full conviction that he was Doing a Good Thing, he entered into his union joyfully and wholeheartedly and with absolutely no hesitation.
In the cold light of morning, so to speak, and after a few days spent with his bride, he was returned to town to resume his duties.
He wrote me a letter, Jacob thought.
Since I did not ask him, in person, to stand with me at my wedding ... has he fired me with a letter, instead of in person?
Would he teach me that kind of a lesson?

Jacob took out the envelope, turned it over.
Yes, he would, Jacob thought.
Meanness?
No.
To teach a lesson?
Yes.

Jacob took a deep breath: then, carefully tapping the contents to one end, he carefully, slowly, delicately, tore the other end of the envelope, and extracted the neatly-written half-sheet.
Maude watched discreetly, trying to read the young deputy's expression.
You don't have a good poker face, Maude thought with a smile, for Jacob's expression was one of utter surprise.
Maude's amusement went to concern almost immediately, for Jacob turned a shade to the pale, with the look of a man who'd just realized a trap door had opened beneath his feet.
He walked over to the Deacon's bench and sat down.
"He shoulda fired me," Jacob muttered, guilt weighting his belly like a ton of lead shot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-16-08

 

Esther drove back into town from the new roundhouse.
She’d just conducted an inspection tour of the building and shops, and was pleased with what she saw: already there was an engine in the shop, half disassembled, the massive cranes and jacks put to good use as the mine’s Baldwin engine was overhauled.
Not the mine’s Baldwin, she thought; when the mines tried to save some coin and scrimped on maintenance, turning a good engine into a bomb and killing several people in the process, the mines had been only too happy to contract with the Z&W for their transportation needs, surrendering all ownership and interest in track, right-of-way and rolling stock.
In one afternoon’s negotiation the Z&W had increased its trackage by half and a little more, its rolling stock doubled, and the mines threw in a brand new Baldwin freight engine for good measure.
In turn, Esther made sure the mine’s train ran as precisely on time as the Z&W’s passenger service.
The arrangement suited both parties very well indeed.
The mines provided the coarse gravel ballast that made their tracks the envy of larger railroads; steel rails, not iron, ensured a smoother ride, and a safer: iron tended to be brittle, and a rail shattering under the weight of a passing locomotive tended to be a very bad thing.
Esther had specified the ore cars be equipped with the same Westinghouse air brakes as the rest of her rolling stock. There had been protests from short-sighted souls who believed this would eliminate the brakemen’s jobs -- especially when she had all the couplers replaced with the new, safety couplers, instead of the link-and-pin couplers that tended to remove fingers, hands and sometimes lives. This did not prove to be the case: there were still brakemen, and they were still busy.
Now Esther smiled, for she’d spent a pleasant morning conversing with men who knew their trade; she’d asked several surprisingly intelligent questions, for it was still an era when women were not thought to be conversant in men’s professions.
She turned left at the fork, instead of going to the right and on into Firelands, and in less than a half hour she was at another site of industry.
A familiar, smiling face greeted her approach.
Esther had gone half on the new brick works. She was looking at the first phase of construction: the ground had been leveled with horse drawn slip scrapers, not only for the kilns, but also for a modest office building, and more room yet for stacks of wood, and piles of coal. A railroad spur ended here, both for delivering wood or coal, and for hauling away finished brick.
Sweating men, naked to the waist, fed the twin kilns; the fire was intense, almost white through the open doors of the domed furnaces. Their squat, square chimneys pointed to the heavens like accusing fingers, fingers that discharged a fast moving stream of smoke that rose almost straight in the air.
Esther set the brake on her carriage and accepted the proffered hand: even climbing out of the buggy, she was very evidently a Lady, and not a man there doubted her good breeding, simply by the way she carried herself.

“Thank you, Mr. Eichenbaum,” she greeted the smiling man in the immaculate suit, and Eichenbaum bowed at the waist and kissed her knuckles.
Esther sighed. “You and my husband,” she said.
Eichenbaum looked almost disappointed; perhaps he’d thought he was the only man in the Territory with a gentleman’s manners.
“As you can see, Mrs. Keller,” Eichenbaum said, making a sweeping gesture, Derby hat in hand, “we have both kilns in operation already. There is more demand for bricks than we realized, and we shall have to contract for more wood and more coal!”
“The coal mines are able to meet our demands,” Esther said gently, “and our Swedish neighbor assures us he can provide all the wood we need.”
“If it’s only one man cutting wood, Mrs. Keller,” Eichenbaum replied, “he’ll need twelve arms and six axes!”
Esther laughed and snapped her fan open. “I believe he has sons, Mr. Eichenbaum. Energetic young men are often the source of a great deal of good work!”
Eichenbaum’s hands were talking before his throat found voice again. “Mrs. Keller, with your permission, we will be donating bricks enough to build Firelands a new brick fire house!”
“My, that sounds generous,” Esther blinked. “Is this a wise decision, to give away our product so soon after start-up?”
Eichenbaum rubbed his hands together. “Oh, yes, ma’am! We will establish that we have a good product -- that we can produce in bulk -- and what better advertisement than to erect a civic structure? People will see that tall, fine building and think “I would like a brick house,” or business, or barn, and they will inquire the source of their brick.
“I believe we have a profitable business here, madam!”
“I have no doubt of it, Mr. Eichenbaum,” Esther said confidently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-16-08

 

“You received my invitation.”
The Sheriff’s quiet voice, suddenly at Jacob’s elbow, startled the young man.
To his credit, he only flinched a little: a lesser man would have levitated from the Deacon’s bench like a scalded cat.
“Yes, sir,” Jacob said, surprised to find his voice steady.
The Sheriff eased his long, tall frame down beside his son, and they sat in silence for a time, soaking in the morning sun.
“Chilly this morning,” Linn said, looking lazily up the street. Mists rose from the field at the edge of town, where the sun kissed the weeds, turning the rising fog-fingers orange.
“Chilly,” Jacob agreed.
Silence again.
Several long moments passed, then:
“Was there any mail for me?”
“No, sir.”
“Hm.” The Sheriff shifted a little, easing his back a bit. “Just as well.”
“Sir?”
“That dirty faced little fellow who left here with two sticks of candy would spoil his dinner twice over if there had been another letter.”
Jacob chuckled. “Yes, sir.”
A stray dog trotted down the street, turned down toward the livery.
“I will expect you to dress for dinner.”
It was not a request.
“Yes, sir.” Something cold grasped his stomach with iron claws.
“You will bring your wife, of course.”
“Of course, sir.”
Jacob’s thoughts were fast, circling defensively, trying to shore up his crumbling confidence: He wants to show his control over me, he wants to summon me and then chew on me --

For shame! another thought countered: he’s your Pa, he’s never shamed you before!

He might shame my wife and I both --

Jacob considered momentarily that a father enjoys a wonderful freedom in conversing with his son, and he was welcome to ride Jacob like a rented horse, but if he intended to speak harshly to Annette …
Jacob felt rebellion for the first time in his young life.
If he speaks harshly to Annette, he will not be speaking as father to son: he will be speaking about another man’s wife, and there I will draw the line!
Terrible resolve settled coldly around Jacob’s heart.
His father had taught him the importance of faithfulness, of duty: together they had faced the evil that tried to murder their town; together they had faced large and angry men bearing a variety of weapons, sometimes in town, sometimes as they rode the county together, father and son, Sheriff and Deputy.
He will not speak so to my wife, Jacob thought, and a stone wall he’d long forgotten began building around his heart.
If he does, I will kill him. It will be my duty, for I am a husband.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-18-08

 

"My dear," Jacob breathed, "you are lovely!"
Annette turned, flaring her skirt slightly, and laughed: her selection of gowns was quite small, but with judicious application of some ribbon here and a little alteration there, she managed to have a gown delightfully different from the last time she'd worn it for an occasion.
"Do you think they'll like it?" she asked, holding her hands out, and Jacob took both her hands in his, and kissed her carefully, delicately.
Where Annette's expression was mischevious, Jacob's was dark: he'd gone from surprise, to delight, to a moment of ... well, his expression was ... hungry, but he suppressed the thought.
He delighted in his young wife, as a virile young man will, but he wasn't entirely comfortable with the strength of his ... hunger.
Jacob took an exaggerated look at his lovely young bride, and drew her gently into him before kissing her properly. Annette molded herself against him, her fingers busy at the back of his neck, and his arms tightened posessively around her.
Conversation was suspended for a time in favor of a more personal communication.
"They had better like it," he said quietly. "You are beautiful, my dear!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-19-08

 

Judge Hostetler held court in the Municipal Building; there were a few cases, quickly disposed of, followed by an informal conference with several notables of town.
Plans for the new municipal building were discussed. Mr. Eichenbaum was present, with his offer to provide material for the new fire station, which then yielded to discussion of finding Masons with experience in the comparatively simple art of bricklaying. A committee was formed and delegated to inquiring of the mine, where a number of highly skilled Italian stonecutters had been employed, in addition to a cadre of Eastern European hard-rock miners.
Their meeting moved to its natural end and all repaired to the Silver Jewel for a noon meal, their decision in no small part influenced by the smell of Daisy's good cooking, the odor of fresh bread being among the odors beckoning all and sundry.
The Jewel enjoyed a steady clientele, many of them from the mine, hungry for a good woman-cooked meal. The ladies, too, were an attraction: though the bawdy-house was a fixture of Western towns in this era, and though there was one between the mine and town, there was none in town itself.
The Silver Jewel, when it was first built, was so known, and infamous, under its first owner, but after ownership changed hands, this ended, abruptly and absolutely. Other than a few misunderstandings and an unfortunate few rascals who attempted to be improprer with the ladies (who, by the way, were swiftly educated as to the error of their way), the Silver Jewel's clientele reverted immediately to the Western ideal of regarding women as creatures of grace, beauty, delicacy, gentility, and otherwise residing them upon a pedestal.
Among the ladies, after this change of administration, ownership and policy, the relief was immediate, profound and welcome. A few -- a very few -- had been inclined to continue their former line of work; individual initiative was tolerated, but when a business opened in the aforementioned location, halfway between town and the mine, these few were recruited.
The Silver Jewel reverted to what would prove for the better part of a century and more, its true calling: a place to dine, either well, or well indeed; a place to have a sociable drink, to try one's hand at cards, or the roulette wheel, or any of several forms of gambling; a place to lodge, for a night or a year, as one's pocketbook would tolerate.
The committee settled into the Jewel's dining room.
Mr. Baxter smiled.
Business was good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-19-08

 

The watch was a wedding gift, and Jacob smiled as he pressed the release, opening the hunter case.
Annette's portrait was inside the case.
Jacob smiled again and replaced the watch in his vest pocket.
Annette adjusted her shawl, for the evening was cool: lifting the reins, Jacob clucked to the gray, and his carriage moved soundlessly on well-greased hubs.
In spite of his misgivings, Jacob was looking forward to seeing his parents again.
Annette had the normal anxieties of a young bride, but she too was looking forward to this visit: she had none of the misgivings Jacob had anticipated upon receiving the formal invitation, regarding it instead as a social occasion.
The gray moved at an easy trot through the lengthening shadows.

Near town, in the Sheriff's house, Esther tilted her head and regarded the dining room table with a nod of satisfaction. The smell of cooking had been considered vulgar in the genteel South, she thought, but she'd personally delighted in slipping into the kitchens back in her ancestral plantation, helping out with the cooking, absorbing the delightful aromas, until she was summoned to dress for dinner.
Now, as Mistress of the Manor, she filled the house with the smell of her own good cooking whenever she pleased, and tonight she was pleased to have done just that.
She'd recruited two of the ladies from the Jewel to help her; together they'd given the spotless house an almost unnecessary cleaning: rugs had been hung out and beaten, the floor had been mopped, they had dusted, washed down, wiped off, all while happily chattering about the things women talk about, giggling and laughing with the easy freedom of women who know there are no men to hear them.
Now, as suppertime approached, nearly all was ready.
Wick-trimmed lamps with sparkling chimneys were lighted, the table was set, and Esther gave a final nod of satisfaction.
Outside, she heard the approach of hooves, and the sound of steel-rimmed tires on gravel.
The Sheriff stood, checked his watch, then looked at the clock on the mantle.
He smiled.
Jacob and Annette were on time, to the minute.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-19-08

 

Linn threw the door wide, as wide as his welcoming grin: Esther beside him in a new, emerald gown, a Bonnie Rosenthal creation, worn for the first time that night.
Jacob's quick eye saw the cameo at her throat, the cameo he'd bought her during his trip back East. He could not help but feel a lump in his throat.
She wore that for me, he thought, and the thought warmed him.
Annette's gloved hand was on his arm as they ascended the wide stairs onto the broad and generous front porch. Linn extended a welcoming hand, and Jacob took it: he looked closely at his father's face, wondering at the minor war within himself: he saw no sign of deception or duplicity, no hint of disapproval.
The tight-wound spring that was his stomach, began to unwind, just a little.
Esther gave Jacob a hug and a motherly kiss on the cheek, something he'd never recoiled from, not from the first day he met her: in the young lawman's mind, his mother was on a pedestal tall enough to give her nosebleed, and anything she wished to do, was fine with him, whether it was a pinch of the cheek, a maternal kiss, or to ruffle his hair -- the second of the three, though, was all Esther had ever done, at least in public.
Annette was a quick study, and had watched both Bonnie, and Duzy, and Esther, in moments of state occasion: she extended a hand to the Sheriff, who took her hand in his own and, raising it to his lips, kissed the back of her knuckles, a merry twinkle in his gold-flecked blue eyes.
Home was warm and welcoming that night. Their carriage and horse were tended by unseen hands; the Sheriff had invited his guests, and saw to their needs and their comfort, even to having their horse unharnessed, curried, its hooves cleaned and a bait of grain scooped out.
They four -- two gentlemen, their suits painfully clean, and two ladies, walking like queens of the blood royal, proceeded to the formally-set living room.
As if choreographed and rehearsed, the ladies turned in the same moment, their skirts flaring a little, and the men drew out chairs for their ladies: each gave the other a quick glance, and a smile was in the eyes of each of the men, father and son alike.
They scooted their ladies in a bit, and took their own seats.
Dinner was served in grand style. Jacob, like most skinny young men, had brought his appetite: Linn was known as a healthy eater, but Jacob's metabolism was that of a starving tapeworm: Esther, knowing this, had food enough for half again their number, and Jacob did full justice to good beef, this season's newly-dug potatoes, good homemade bread: there was corn and beans as well, and -- a first for Jacob -- there was a wine, rich and ruby in long-stemmed glasses, poured from a bottle without a label.
Jacob cautiously tasted the wine, and found it to his liking: caution spoke loudly as he realized he could like the blood of the grape a little too well, and he took but a sip before setting the fine glass down, and turning his attention to potatoes and gravy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-19-08

 

Dinner conversation was light and inoffensive; Esther inquired how their new house suited them, and Annette waxed eloquent in her delight: it was spacious, it was solid, she had a wonderful kitchen, a sitting-room, Jacob had a library, they had a barn and corral, and Jacob was steadily improving their property.
Linn inquired as to the workmanship, and Jacob assured him the corners were square, the walls plumb and the floors level, not realizing the significance of the question, nor that his answer would sound familiar to those building the stone structure. He described the spring he'd developed, digging it out and lining it with stones and even stone-lining the runoff stream that developed from what had been a standing seep.
Warming to the subject, he and Linn discussed haying and storing grain for winter, and Annette and Esther discussed canning and preserving; as bellies filled and dessert was served, and disposed of -- to Jacob's personal delight, for there was chocolate cake, which he absolutely loved -- plates were finally pushed back and forks laid down.
"Jacob," Linn said, "let us retire to the library."
The main spring in his stomach tightened three notches. Feeling like a man walking to the gallows, Jacob slid his chair back and stood, forced a smile for Annette, and followed his father into the book-lined, lamp-lit sanctum.
Linn gestured him to an upholstered and supremely comfortable chair, and drew the double doors shut. "The women be talking girl talk," he smiled, turning to a cupboard and removing two brandy balloons. "Cigar?"
"No, thank you, sir. I never took up the habit."
Linn chuckled. "You, my fine young man, are much wiser than most. I tried a cigar once and turned the color of green grass. My father thought it was quite entertaining to see his little boy in knee pants stagger out from behind the shed and heave up his guts." He poured a generous splash of brandy into each of the delicate glass goblets, handed one to Jacob.
"Jacob, let us talk."
Jacob's chest felt tight and his breath was coming quicker.
He's going to jump down my throat with both boots, he thought. Well, stand still for your beatin', you've earned it!
"You are now a married man."
"Yes, sir."
Linn swirled the brandy about in the balloon, taking a long and appreciative sniff. "I had this freighted in from San Frisco. I find it to my taste." He took a small sip, savored its aroma as it seared a path down the back of his throat.
"Jacob, you are a husband now, and a husband has responsibilities."
"Yes, sir." Jacob had not tasted his brandy: he shifted the balloon to his left hand and shifted forward in his chair.
Linn pretended not to notice, gesturing instead with a wave of his balloon, the reddish-amber liquid swirling in the globular glass. "A man alone must take care of himself, and how well or how poorly he does so affects only him."
"Yes, sir."
"When a man takes a wife and children, he gives hostages to Fortune." Linn took another sip of brandy. "I believe it was ... Bacon? Bacon, or Drake, who said that."
"I remember the phrase, sir."
Linn looked directly at his son. "Jacob, if a man's sole income is a deputy's pay, he'll have to be pretty darned frugal to meet expenses."
"Yes, sir."
"You have been very efficient in managing your money, and you have shown remarkable good sense in handling your funds and investing your funds."
"Thank you, sir." Jacob hazarded a small taste of the brandy, raised an eyebrow.
"Good?"
"Yes, sir."
Linn took another swallow of the distilled wine, walked over to his roll top desk. Setting the balloon down, he picked up two envelopes.
There was a tap at the door: the door opened, and Mr. Moulton leaned into the doorway.
"Mr. Moulton, right on time, as usual. Please come in."
Mr. Moulton came in and shook the men's hands. "I understand congratulations are in order," he smiled.
"Thank you, sir." Jacob had stood automatically when the door opened; awkwardly, he'd set his brandy balloon down on the table beside his chair.
Linn held up the envelope. "Mr. Moulton, would you care to do the honors?"
Mr. Moulton opened his satchel and extracted a heavy, cast-iron stamp Jacob recalled seeing in the man's office: the kind with a handle and a round, flat head, the kind used for embossing legal documents.
"Jacob," Linn said, opening the envelope and walking over to his son, "this transfers ownership of the property surrounding that which you already own. You now have a thousand acres over and above what you purchased, mineral rights are intact save for the gold vein, which I still own."
Jacob felt like the floor went out from under him. This was not what he had expected.
"Thank you, sir," he managed, swallowing hard.
Linn clapped a hand on his shoulder. "It's not often a man gets to see his son grow up and get married," he said softly, handing the papers to Mr. Moulton.
Mr. Moulton inked a stamp, affixed a cartouche to the last page; he asked Jacob for a signature, sprinkled the gleaming-wet ink with blotting sand, embossed the sheet.
Jacob vaguely remembered the man shaking his hand and congratulating him on his newly wed state.
"One thing more," Linn said, picking up another envelope after Mr. Moulton retired.
"Jacob, you have more of a start than most men my age and older, after a lifetime's work. I watched how you handled your affairs and you have a good level head on your shoulders. You are a man worthy of the name. You have married a lovely woman who has unfailingly conducted herself as a lady. She an educated woman, she is highly intelligent, and from all accounts she is not afraid of the hard work that is part and parcel of a married woman's life."
Jacob blinked.
This is not at all what he had been expecting.
Linn handed him the envelope. "This is a bank draft for ten thousand dollars in gold. You may withdraw it if you wish, or maintain it as an account with the bank; it is yours now, to do with as you see fit."
Jacob looked at the envelope. His mouth opened; it closed and he swallowed again.
"Thank you, sir," he said finally.
"Sit, sit," his father encouraged him, waving to a chair and picking up his own brandy balloon. "Now tell me, how is the hay on your high meadow? The crop was looking pretty good last I rode through there."
Jacob grinned.
Linn cocked an eyebrow. "This isn't what you were expecting, was it?"
"No, sir," Jacob admitted.
"I thought not." He nodded, leaning his head back. "I got called in front of General Sherman one time. Thought he was going to have me shot for insubordination. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night." His eyes were far away, his voice thick with memory.
"I manufactured all kinds of ideas on what would be said to me, and what I would say in return." His eyes tracked along the corner of the ceiling, following the trim strip at the top of the paneled wall. "None of it came about. I was sent to Washington instead, and commended for my actions."
"Yes, sir."
They sipped their brandy.
Jacob looked at the fire on the cast-iron hearth. The chimney was well laid and drafted very well indeed; the stone front fire place lacked any trace of soot staining.
Jacob looked directly at his father.
"Thank you, sir," he said.
"You're welcome, Jacob."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-20-08

 

If Jackson Cooper had been a sailor, he might have likened himself to a great whale, sinking peacefully into the ocean of sleep: a dark, calm, silent ocean, buoying him as he descended from the realm of consciousness, welcoming him, encompassing him round about ...
"Jackson?"
The whale gathered itself.
A hand caressed his chest.
The whale thrust against dark waters with its massive tail, coming to surface.
Jackson Cooper opened one eye and smiled.
Emma, cuddled up against him as she always did, had a hand on his chest and an anxious look on her face.
Jackson Cooper took a long breath and rolled over on his side, gathering his wife in to him.
"Hmmmm?" he rumbled, nuzzling into her hair as he always did in such moments.
Emma sighed contentedly, safe in the strong and manly arms of her husband.
"Jackson?" she asked again
"Mmmmm?" Jackson Cooper replied, his hand caressing her back, curling lightly, scratching her back the way she loved.
Emma Cooper arched her back a little and purred, rolling over on her belly to allow Jackson Cooper access to all of her back.
Jackson Cooper opened his hand, rubbing her back now, gently, slowly, long strokes parallel to the spine. Sheriff's deputy he was, but he also tended his ranch, and calluses were as much a part of his hands as the wrinkles and creases beneath, and the calluses were just rough enough to make an ideal back scratcher.
Emma Cooper relaxed under his ministrations; soothed by his touch, comforted by his presence, warmed by his body's heat under the hand stitched quilt, Emma Cooper's whale submerged, slowly, into the dark ocean, and Jackson Cooper submerged with her.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-24-08

 

Jacob worked steadily, methodically, the scythe blade slicing cleanly through the hay, close enough to the ground to get all the stem he could, not so close as to cut into dirt and rocks. He stopped often to ply the scythe stone over the shining blade: in the distance, Annette smiled, listening to its tzing, tzang, tzing, tzang.
She knew Jacob was laboring to cut hay while the season was full: the grasses were tall and full of nutrients, old men with weather in their joints assured him he could get the hay cut, raked, stacked, dried and into the barn before the rains came.
Jacob wasted no time.
His was not the only scythe in the field; his was not the only brow beaded with honest labor's sweat; Annette's were not the only hands canning fruits, vegetables and meats against the winter to come.
Hay cut a day or two before, in one field, was forked over so it would dry on the bottom as well as the top; hay in another field, turned twice now and ready to be picked up, was forked into the slow moving wagon; wagons loaded were taken back to the barn, hay taken to the mow.
It was not an easy task, nor a small one, but sufficient hands had been recruited.
By day's end, Jacob saw about a third of the hay crop he intended to winter with, safely in his barn loft: there would be more to gather, of course, but the corn was ripe as well, and there were two more fields to be hayed off.
They would be cut, in turn, one a day: he'd planned the labor: cut one field on the first day; on the second day, cut a second field and rake the first into windrows; on the third day, cut a third field, rake the second, turn the first; and on the next day, load the first field, turn the second, rake the third and cut the fourth: and when they hay was taken care of, they moved, shoulder to shoulder, through the corn field: ripe, then dried on the stalk, it too would winter over well.
Half his force moved through, plucking corn from the stalks; the others followed, cutting the corn stalks and shocking them up. These would store where they were bound and did not need to be taken to the barn.
A shucking party was planned for the evening, with more hands coming in, ladies and children included, for a shuck-party was more party than work.
The marriageable would flirt, the married would steal a kiss, children would play Hi Spy and tag and hop scotch, hoops and mumblty-peg: stories would be told, stretched in inventive and incredible ways, and the Daine brothers brought their implements of music with them.
It promised to be a long but satisfying evening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Linn Keller 10-27-08

 

Steam-plumes hung in the air as we breathed.
I tilted my head back and looked into the heavens, and I don't believe I've seen lovelier.
The Milky Way cast a hazy, meandering stream across the zenith: did I not know better I might have stood, and stretched, and tried to collect a handful of pretties to give to my wife.
As it was, my beautiful bride sat cuddled up against me, and our little girl was asleep on my lap, laying up against my chest: I drove with my left arm out at a little bit of an awkward angle, but the robe covered our laps and the blanket drawn up over Angela and over my shoulder kept her warm.
It was chilly out in the open air. Frost was just starting to settle, and in the distance, yodel dogs sang to us, trading soloists from one peak to another.
Somewhere in the nearby timber, a hoot owl greeted us: Esther squeezed my arm and murmured, "I remember listening to owls when I was a little girl."
Angela's breathing was slow and regular, and she was as relaxed and limp as the ever present, and worse for wear, rag doll locked in the bend of her left elbow.
Our carriage was well sprung, as was the upholstered seat, the road was smooth, and we were going at no more than a good walk.
Angela slept as peacefully as if she were tucked into her own bed.
My wife beside me, our little girl asleep in my lap, the glow of good friends and family behind us ...
I was more than content.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.