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Trouble Comes to Stone Creek

Calico Mary

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Saul tended to my arm, removing the bullet, and finally setting the bone, only after making sure there was nothing within my reach.  I cursed up a blue streak and only stopped when he gave me astern look and said he would not splint or bandage me until I settled down.  Once he finished he took the time to check my hand and fingers for full function.  Other than a little pain when making a fist, the rest of the arm felt fine.


"Flint, you'll need that kept still for at least 4 weeks.  Stay off that horse too, I don't care how good a rider you are, a fall and you could lose than arm."


I looked at Saul. "A few things Saul., first thank you.  You've been an asset to this town and a friend to all here.  What you did for Doc and Sarah Jane and myself will not be forgotten. Now secondly,  I'll listen to your advice.  It's good advice, but I'm more likely to fall getting out of bed than I am when on a horse. And finally, Call me Mark or J. Mark or even Colonel, but if I hear 'Flint" I'm inclined to turn and shoot.  This is the first town where people that weren't out to shoot me insisted on calling me 'Flint' every time I turn around."


He chuckled  "Okay . . . Mark. What are you going to do for the next month?"


I looked at him "Reconnaissance"


He frowned, "You think there is more trouble on the way?"  I nodded "There always is, but I'm thinking of something else, something a bit more productive.  Maybe a place for a horse ranch.  Thunder has earned the right to be put out to Stud.  Need water and grass, more than we have around here. I'm thinking of heading south down to Chile and buying some land.  I saw it once years ago, south of Concepcion.  Spectacular!  Heard the fighting with the natives there is all but done. You ever see a volcano Saul?"




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Some men were released from jail, with the understanding they were to never show their faces in Stone Creek again. After seeing Doc Ward take down the big man in their midst, most seemed inclined to agree to the terms. Others were held for trial, once the circuit judge made a trip to the area. Several would be taken later by Yuma and Cat on warrants from elsewhere. Matthias Gardner asked to speak directly to Sheriff Cody and Doc Ward regarding his situation when given the option of leaving. "I do intend to leave eventually, Sheriff, but with your permission, I would like to stay for a short period." Cody glanced to Doc, then back, asking "Why would that be?" Gardner smiled, "For a beginning, I would like to see Deputy Ward's livery to completion. I feel it is somewhat my family's responsibility to see to it, and I do despise stopping short of a goal." Cody sat back in his chair, looking at the man. "And..." Letting out a small laugh, Gardner continued, "And I am afraid we haven't seen the last of my brother. As I mentioned, he doesn't take to failure well. I believe it was Tacitus who stated 'he who fights and runs away, may turn and fight another day.' I am concerned about that other day. I would be here to attempt to stop him, or if not, to pick up the pieces when he fails, as I have no doubt he will. This town has too much... I'm not sure of how to say... communal strength." Doc Ward interrupted, asking "Where would you stay?" Matthias responded, "Sheriff Cody has impounded my personal effects pending my leave. I have sufficient funds to stay at the hotel for a few weeks. He could release necessary funds if he doesn't trust me. Or, with his permission, I could stay at my brother's place, and wait for him there."


Cody thought for a moment then replied, "I will release all of your items, so long as you agree to stay at the hotel, and stay in town unless you leave for good. Any trips outside of town will be cleared by me or by Doc. If you leave town without clearing the trip and return, you will be subject to the same treatment as the men employed by your brother. I believe staying at your brother's home is a bad idea for a multitude of reasons." Smiling and giving a very slight bow, Matthias replied "As you wish, Sheriff. I find that agreeable if you do." Cody stood and extended his hand, which Matthias took, looking Cody in the eye as he shook, then extending his hand to Doc Ward as well. Cody unlocked a cabinet and pulled the man's wallet, pocket watch and other items and handed them over to him. Counting the money, Matthias looked up at the two lawmen. "In many jurisdictions, there would have been a notable decrease in the money left. I salute your honesty. I shall be at the hotel if I am needed." With that, Matthias left the office.


A couple of hours later, when Slim and Charlie arrived for their shift, both Doc and Cody were glad to see them arrive, as their arrival meant that, barring an emergency, both were not due back in the office for another 48 hours. Taking his hat, Doc looked around and said "Gentlemen, I take my leave. I have a beautiful woman awaiting my arrival." Slim groaned and replied in his drawl, "Unless she's come to her senses, you mean." Doc chuckled "There is that," then closed the door behind him and headed for the sorrel.


After caring for the horse, Doc walked into his house, the exhaustion of recent events leaving him feeling drained and lethargic. Sarah Jane waited just inside the door for him, her hair down in a braid behind her. As she reached to hug him, Doc smiled and held his hand out, and began stripping off his coat and shirt, still spotted with blood from breaking the man's nose at the jail. Dropping them on the floor, Doc reached and pulled his wife close, and held her. After minutes holding her, Sarah Jane pulled away. "I've drawn you a bath, why don't you go relax and enjoy." Taking a deep breath, Doc replied, "I think I can stay awake for that."


Afterward, Doc quietly walked into the parlor, watching Sarah Jane sitting in an overstuffed chair, unaware of his presence. She sat in a nightgown and robe, her braided hair hanging down over her left shoulder, round spectacles perched on her nose as she read a book by the light of the lamp she had purchased. Doc leaned against the doorframe and watched her for several minutes, before fatigue got the better of him and he asked "Mrs. Ward, are you ready for bed?" Lifting her head in surprise, Sarah Jane smiled and closed her book, setting it aside before standing. "I thought you would never ask, Mr. Ward." Dousing the lamp, Sarah Jane walked to Doc, reaching her hand for his, and walking hand-in-hand to the bedroom.


Climbing into bed, Sarah Jane slid close to press her body to her husband's, a long leg bent over him and her head on his arm. Whispering, Sarah Jane said "Thank you, my love." Turning his head, Doc looked into her eyes in the dim light coming through the window. "For what?" Sarah Jane sighed, "For rescuing me. For seeing me as worth rescuing, and worth defending." Hugging her close, Doc whispered back, "You are quite welcome, but it is I who should be thanking you for saving me." Lifting her head from Doc's arm, Sarah Jane asked, "Save you? Save you how?" Kissing her, Doc replied, "You've made me want to live again. Not just go through the motions of life, but to live and enjoy life. You have no idea how you've saved me. Thank you, my darling." Her voice quavering with emotion, Sarah Jane whispered back, "You are more than welcome." She then pressed close to her husband, kissing him, before both slid off to sleep.

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I swam through my dreams, relaxed, warm ...

There was distant talk of church mice, and of getting a cat, I recall hearing the same note on a piano, then another, repeated several times, and I relaxed a little more, sank deep into slumber's lake.

I dreamed of a cat -- of a round, orange kitten, curled up on my belly, tiny and cute and furry, a ball of pick-me-up-and-pet-me, and I felt my soul smile, for dreams are funny things and my body was still back in the Parsonage and my soul was ... well, wherever we go when we dream.

I woke, gradually, slowly, feeling warmth and weight on my belly, and the dream-kitten purred and closed its eyes, and I woke up a little more, wondering why a ball of orange fluff the size of my fist weighed so much, and I opened my eyes.

It wasn't a kitten.

I was looking at the discapproving scowl of a full-grown orange cat with one normal ear and one ear half chewed off, a cat with a sneer for a smile and a snarl for a purr, a cat that glared at me as if everything was my fault, and when I slid my arm out from under the quilt and raised it to caress this newcomer to my hacienda, the cat shrank a little and opened its fanged mouth, hissed and then snarled, and did not stop snarling as I caressed its head and ran my hand slowly down its back.

Now I can speak some Spanish and I know enough German to get in trouble, and I can kind of murder my way through Latin, but cats have their own language.

In spite of this disparity in tongues, I could tell the cat was calling me every illegal, immoral, disreputable, despicable thing it could think of.

"Hello, cat," I said softly, and the cat replied with a hateful "Mrrowwrrowwrroww" that sounded like it was gargling gravel.

The door opened and Anna Mae smiled in from the doorway, an empty basket in her hand, and she jumped back a little as something orange and furry streaked past her to get outside.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, and I blinked and stood, gripping the quilt and then folding it:  I would take it outside and shake it well, hang it in the sun.

"Is that ... do we ..."

Anna Mae looked after the departing feline.

"It's a cat," I admitted, "and I have no idea where it came from."

"Oh," she said again, looking after wherever it went, then she blinked and came on in.  "I suppose ... there are mice, I know ..."

I nodded.


As usual, my sermon the following Sunday did not go at all like I'd planned.

I'd intended to use the parable about two sons:  one was told by his father to tend a task, and the son told his father to go climb a tree, but after this youthful rebellion, went and tended the detail:  the father, rebuffed by one son, summoned the other and gave him the same assignment:  the second son said "Yes sir, right away," and instead went off chasing women, fishing and drinking strong liquor and probably cheating at poker, though we don't find that in Scripture.

I'd intended to pose the question, "Which son was obedient to the Father, the one who said no but did it, or the son who said yes and didn't?"

That, at least, is what I'd planned.

Now about the time I got all squared away behind the pulpit, after the hymn was sung and I intoned the opening prayer, after everyone got settled back in their seat and I opened my Scripture and took me a good deep breath, I saw movement from the right -- I turned my head -- and that cat was walking the altar rail like he owned the place.

Or maybe it was a she, I hadn't got a chance to examine too closely.

That cat came padding across and I bent over and picked him up and he -- no, I took a look, she -- yowled and invited me to come a little closer, and I raised my eyebrows and said "Hello, cat!"

Now that is not at all how you start a sermon, and I looked out at the assembled and raised an eyebrow.

"Cat," I said, "do you think you could catch some mice for me?"

Cat dug at me with her hind claws, yowling in that rough-edged voice like she was gargling rifle balls or something.

"Now Cat," said I, "we've church mice and they fouled the piano. I need them taken care of, how about it?"

Cat twisted and hissed and called me unkind names, so I set her down and she turned and glared at me, then she turned her hind quarters toward me, shoved her bottle-brushy tail straight in the air and h'isted her nose in the air and marched off, stopped, jumped up on the altar rail:  she turned, glared at me, washed her paw and washed her face and jumped down behind the piano.

I turned and shook my head.

"It's so hard to get good help these days," I said, spreading my hands helplessly and returning to my station behind the pulpit.

Now I'd gotten into my sermon and I'd gotten to the point where the first son said no but he did, and the second son said yes but he didn't, and Miz Loreli was at the piano and she jumped back and yelped in surprise, then shook her skirts briskly and stepped back, tripped, fell into Sheriff Cody's lap:  he seized her about the waist, and if it's possible to seize a woman in a gentlemanly manner, he did:  something yellow and fast moving bored in under her petticoats, and as Miz Loreli kicked her legs up out of the way, that cat came strutting out of her petticoats, jumped up on the altar rail, padded over to me and stopped, glaring at me, and I am satisfied it would've called me illegal, immoral and fattening at the very least, but it had a mouthful of dead mouse.

Never in my life have I seen a sermon so plainly illustrated.

I appreciated the lesson, but I am sure Miz Loreli could have done without the experience.

I do recall Sheriff Cody's ears were very, very red.

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Saul looked at me "A volcano? No I haven't."  I described the Lake district and the natural beauty of the area, uncut pristine forests, beautiful mountains and lakes and the aforementioned volcano."  He smiled "When I was a young man I might have gone looking for such a paradise. Now as an older man I know that it is only paradise when you look at it.  Living it is far more demanding."


"You are a wise man Saul-but demanding is what I need, inactivity leads to rust and, my armor has been tarnished for a long time.  It might be best to go do something about it."


He shrugged his shoulders "You know your own mind, or what's left of it."




Mark showed up in after Church service a few weeks later, donating a large sum of money to the church to establish both an orphanage and to feed the poor. To the Town he donated his property and then he rode to the coast and took a boat to Chile.  He searched, scouted and surveyed for nearly three months before admitting that Saul's advice was right.  Months later he would complete his journey back to the United States.  He never returned to Stone Creek.  Matthias Gardner's case was dismissed for lack of evidence when Mark did not return to testify. For the remainder of his time, He would be involved in one adventure or another, finally passing at 103.  He was buried at sea.

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Life continues, that is a given. Life goes on, and it did in Stone Creek. The town slowly returned to normal. The people went about their daily lives, and tried to put the recent events behind them. The town itself changed as buildings went up. The livery stable was completed, a little larger than the one that was burned. Stagecoaches became more frequent going East and West, as did mail delivery, keeping Doc busy enough that he kept Mary on part time, so he could continue working as a deputy. A library went up near the school, and an orphanage near the church, both were among the first of their kind in the territory that anyone knew about. The library slowly filled with books, thanks to Lazarus Longshot and his friends. In addition to the large ranches of the area keeping the town busy, travelers going east and west toward bigger towns stopped at the hotel run by the Polks, would enjoy a meal there or at Clara's cafe, and some shopping at shops in town. The town of Stone Creek was ideally situated to remain small, yet vital.


Zeb Gardner and his group were all but forgotten, except by Sheriff Cody, Doc Ward and his brother, Matthias. They were little talked about, except behind the doors of the sheriff's office. The jail itself was emptied eventually, with men tried, some sent to the territorial prison, others sent packing with a warning to never return. Rye Miles and his fellow rangers got back to the job of seeking out rustlers and other criminals, with Rye stopping in as often as time allowed to report any word he might have about Gardner or the others, which wasn't much. Sometimes he would bring along Yuma and Cat, much to the delight of Sheriff Cody and Doc Ward, as they were usually willing to give the men a couple of days off. Doc and Sheriff Cody always made sure that Whiskey Business knew that on the night afterward, the three rangers' tab was on them.


Saul VanHoose passed away quietly in his sleep one night, after spending a full day at the land office, then an evening completing the building of furniture for the orphanage. The entire town turned out for his funeral. Much to the surprise of everyone in town, Saul, who had lived quite frugally, had kept a substantial amount of money hidden, some tucked away at his home, and even more at the bank. He had left a will, leaving a third to the church, "for the purchase of a tower bell and other such improvements as deemed necessary." Another third he left to the orphanage, and the final third he left to "my cousin, Benjamin Ward, and his wife, Sarah Jane Ward, who was like a daughter to me herself." Also to the surprise of many, Saul left his tools and other items to Matthias Gardner, who had worked with him in rebuilding the livery, and building other buildings. When Doc was asked how old Saul was for a marker, Doc shrugged. "He was old enough to know my grandfather as a child, and my grandfather fought in the Revolution, and died long before I was born."


As he had worked closely with Saul, Matthias Gardner approached Sheriff Cody and other prominent figures in the town to request permission to locate in the town, taking over Saul's work at the land office, and continuing as a carpenter as needed. Despite being distrusted due to his relationship to Zeb Gardner, Matthias had worked to become a productive member of the town. A man of varied interests, Matthias could talk horses with Doc Ward, even teaching him some about breeding and animal husbandry. A devout Lutheran, he could talk about the Bible with Pastor Keller. His carpentry skills were exceptional, rivaling those of Saul VanHoose or Pastor Keller, and he had a knack for designing buildings as well. Talking to Sheriff Cody, Pastor Keller and others after Saul VanHoose's service, Matthias said "I could go back east to Philadelphia or New York, where my family is in business, or I could even go to Europe where my family has land holdings and business of their own. However, I like it here, and I enjoy working with my hands. While I know I will never be fully trusted or accepted while my brother lurks, I believe I've done enough to at least be trusted as one who can be called upon in time of need, and to be called 'friend' by most. I have no interest in business. While lucrative, it bores me, and I enjoy the work I've done here, and the people of the community. I would happily pay a fair price for Saul's home." After a very brief discussion, it was agreed that Gardner has become a productive and stable citizen of Stone Creek, one whose skills were more than just helpful to the community.


Anna Mae Keller slowly grew rounder with pregnancy, but positively glowed, a smile on her face constantly. As she neared the end of her pregnancy, plans were made for the birth to occur at the parsonage, with Miss Lorelei and Calamity Kris acting as midwives, and Sarah Jane and Miss Whiskey being present to help as needed. For his part, Pastor Keller did an admirable job of hiding the nervousness he felt at his wife's impending labor and at the thought of becoming a father. He crafted a crib and other furniture and did his best to make sure everything was ready. The preacher was amusing to his wife and friends in his impatience and his worry about details and what might have been forgotten. When his wife gripped his hand one evening and said, "Husband, I believe you need to go get Lorelei and Kris," Pastor Keller was outwardly calm and collected. He couldn't remember ever being so close to panic on the inside, though.

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I raised Anna Mae's knuckles to my lips and kissed them, and I murmured, "My Lady, I shall," and then I gave her hand a protective squeeze between mine, before releasing hers and taking one step back.

Old habits come to the fore in times of stress.

I stood upright, raised my chin and executed a crisp military about-face:  I took one long step, picked up my coat and spun it about my shoulders, shrugged once and buttoned two buttons:  I picked up my hat, settled it on my freshly barbered thatch, and looked in the mirror to make sure my necktie was properly knotted.

Behind me, in the mirror, Anna Mae was watching, and she had a look of amusement, which I pretended not to notice.

I swallowed something dry in my throat and executed a right-face, paced for the door:  I stopped, looked around through the glass, my hand slipping into my coat, momentarily gripping the Smith & Wesson:  satisfied, I opened the door, stepped out:  my bootheels clattered down the four steps and I looked round about, then strode boldly for the street.

My pace was regular, my stride measured, I could have been in uniform on the parade-ground:  my spine was erect, my chin up, my moments smooth, practiced, and underneath all this I had a genuine case of the clanks.

I can join a corner, fit pegs and dadoes, I can craft cabinets and I put together a fine crib for the child we would have:  I can speak well before groups, I am a fair hand with a rifle and I still can't ride a horse.

In my young life I have been shot, stabbed, cut, run into, run over and a traveling evangelist tried to save my corroded soul the night after my mustering-out, but right now, now as I raised my knuckles and hammered a quick rat-tat, tat, on Miz Loreli's door, I was nervous as a whore in church.

I pushed the door open and Miz Loreli smiled at me and I opened my mouth to speak and no sound came out.

I stopped, surprised, blinked, harrumphed, and tried again.

I'd planned the words to say, I'd assembled the clever phrase and knew just how I wanted my voice pitched, and now that the woman looked at me and my teeth were parted to let the sound out, all I managed was, "It's time."

I honestly don't know where Calamity came from, but she was there with a basket and a brisk manner, she gave a whistle and a friendly hand took my arm and steered me into some shelter while she and Miz Loreli swept across the street with that purposeful stride women assume when one of their own is in need of her own.

I recall taking off my hat and setting it on my knee, and someone pressed a short, faceted glass of something shimmering and amber in my hand, and I took a sip, took another:  I nodded and set the empty shot glass down, picked up my hat, stood.

"I am needed," I said simply, and I would have ended up back in my own hacienda, save that Calamity and Loreli shooed me gently off the porch, and I kind of wandered over into the stable, where Ophelia came over, blinking and swinging her ears, and I ended up currying her down and scraping her hooves and brushing her mane and calling her a good girl, and Ophelia gave that death-rattle sound that meant she was absolutely enjoying herself, and I baited her half a peppermint stick, and finally I sat down on a saddle blanket folded for a pad on a bale of hay, and leaned back, and closed my eyes.

I didn't realize I'd gone to sleep until Ophelia stuck her neck out and gave that god-awful screaming whinney of hers and Calamity bent over and took both my hands and said "Get in here," and my eyes snapped open and I was on my feet and I blurted "Anna Mae?" and then I charged around her, fair to ran to the back porch, I cleared the stairs with one leap, seized the door, thrust it open --

A little pink fist stuck out from the blanket bundle on Anna Mae's bosom.

She was sitting up, sweat beading her forehead, her face flushed, her lips red: she looked up and God as my witness, never, NEVER!! have I seen a woman more beautiful!

I bent and kissed her, carefully, delicately:  she drew the blanket aside a little, and I could see an ugly, damp, pink something with fine red hair on its head, latched on for a meal, and Anna Mae looked up at me with those big gorgeous eyes and Miz Loreli laid a gentle hand on my shoulder.

"Say hello to your son," she said, and I couldn't help it.

I grinned like an idiot, then I rested my forehead on Anna Mae's shoulder and ran my arm around her and our son and I cried like a lost child.


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Sarah Jane Ward grieved more than anyone in Stone Creek over the death of Saul VanHoose. He had done his best to look after her when she was working at The Junction, and had been a father figure, or grandfather, given his age, even after they both came to Stone Creek. He had worked to make sure she had input into the building of the library, and after it was built, would check in on her there as she learned the skill of being a librarian. He even took the time to teach her to play chess, and it was a small matter of pride for both Saul and Sarah Jane that once she learned, she could usually beat her husband at the game. Truth be told, it was also a matter of pride to Doc Ward as well. When Saul passed, Sarah Jane decided she wanted to memorialize him in some way. The orphanage had been named in honor of J. Mark Flint, so Sarah Jane suggested the library be named in Saul's honor. Saul had wanted a library in town nearly as much as Doc Ward, and could be found there in his spare time reading a book, or playing chess or teaching others to play.


After getting complete agreement from everyone in town, and the endorsement of Lazarus Longshot, who had donated the initial funds and books for the library, a wooden plaque was carved, shellacked, and placed over the door announcing it as the "SAUL VANHOOSE MEMORIAL LIBRARY." Doc Ward had suggested that it would be appropriate to put a chess king on either side of the writing, and when the plaque was raised, everyone agreed they set off the plaque perfectly. In the front corner of the library stood his chess set on a table with two chairs, available for anyone to enjoy.


Doc and Sarah Jane settled into married life, with Sarah Jane spending as much time as possible at the library, writing for advice on creating and running a library and attempting to get more books for readers, young and old. Doc split his time between the livery stable and the sheriff's office, finding time every day to have lunch with his wife. After many weeks of waiting, rings finally arrived for Doc and Sarah Jane. As soon as they arrived, Seamus and Kay delivered them to the couple themselves, and beamed as they slid the rings onto each others' fingers. Sarah Jane felt herself get giddy with excitement again, and Doc couldn't help smiling at his wife's girlish excitement. 


When word of the birth of a child reached Doc and Sarah Jane, Sarah Jane jumped up to go see what Anna Mae would need. Doc fought down the urge to go see and congratulate his friend, believing there would be time for that later, that Linn and Anna Mae would not want nor need everyone gathering to see them. Doc knew that Sarah Jane could be of help, but he asked her to wait, so he could write a quick letter of congratulations. Before sealing the envelope, Doc dropped a twenty dollar gold piece into the envelope, noting in the letter that it was "for your son's future." 

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I looked in the mirror and saw my wife and son looking at me.

I looked at the envelopes -- one from Doc Ward, and its more than generous cargo, and I looked at the other envelope with a silver dollar in it, and Miz Loreli's note, Belly Button Binder, and I recalled my Mama telling me she tied a silver shilling or whatever coin it was on my belly button when I was freshly hatched.

I smelled good things from my kitchen, where Sarah Jane was laboring, I listened to the other ladies, visiting with Anna Mae: I'd barely mentioned the need to do some washing and I thought the ladies responded by offering to beat me with the laundry tub.

An officer back in that damned War once told me the wise commander knows the time to withdraw, and faced with the determined unity of the ladies assembled, I determined it was the right time to admit a strategic defeat, but not until I thanked Miz Loreli for her kindness for that silver dollar belly button binder.

So many folks had done us both so many kindnesses.

I looked in the mirror again, and the reflection said, "That gives me my Sunday sermon:  it's time to say thank you."

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Calico sent a telegram to Rye about Keller and Anna Mae's news about a child. Rye sent a telegram to the bank in town. He had a small savings he had accumulated from odd jobs, tuning the piano and some money he had from his cattle herding days. He instructed the bank to put a $25.00 check in an envelope and deliver it to Pastor Linn and Anna Mae signed, "Good luck with your new family, Rye". 


Rye continued on as a Arizona Ranger, became a Sergeant and eventually moved on to be elected as Sheriff of Tucson. Rye had a long law enfocement career but never gave up tinkling the keys of a piano. He married a lovely mexican woman and eventually had 6 children with her. He always had a piano in the home and insisted his children take at least a year or two of lessons. His wife played the "guitarron mexicano" which was a large body guitar. His children also dabbled with that as well as Rye. His last job was as a prison guard in Yuma which he hated every minute of and retired after two years and worked part time as a Constable in Casa Grande Arizona.

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Lorelei married a young dentist, Roy Leslie, that came to Stone Creek because it was such a progressive and friendly town.  He was also very progressive in his thinking and thought it was great that Lorelei could shoot a rifle, shotgun, and pistols.  They often went target shooting on Saturdays and hunting together during hunting season.  The town allowed Lorelei to continue teaching after she married even though it was unheard of almost everywhere else.  Sarah Jane covered the school during Lorelei's two pregnancies which resulted in a girl, and a boy.  When the town was large enough for more than one school room, Lorelei became superintendent, but kept her hand in the teaching of all students.

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Doc Ward was sitting, reading when Sarah Jane came in. Putting the book down, Doc asked, "How did it go? How are they?" Giving Doc a big smile, she said "Everyone is good, although I think the preacher is somewhat out of sorts. He didn't seem to know what to do, but wanted to help somehow. Finally we just had to shoo him out. Poor man, he just wants to help, and is so used to being in control of things. But now he is better off just going somewhere and being the proud father." Doc laughed. "I'm confident I would be no different. Perhaps worse. There's something of a feeling of helplessness, I'm sure." Doc Ward shook his head at the thought, then lifted his head. "I'm sure that he will make a wonderful father, and Anna Mae just as wonderful a mother." Sarah Jane agreed, "Yes, I'm sure they will! I'm looking forward to watching them raise their son."

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Calamity Kris was buzzing around her shop.  Now that things have settled down, it was time to clean and spruce the place up.  She was looking at the windows and deciding what kinds of new decorations she would make as well as creating some more sample hats for her display case.  Some new fabrics would be arriving from the east coast soon and she could start on a couple of dress design ideas. 


While she was dusting her displays on the top shelf, a tall blond gentleman came through the door.  "Let me help you with that" he said.  He walked up and took the feather duster from her hand and dusted the top shelf with ease.  "Thank you kindly, sir", Calamity said shyly and blushing just a little.  "How may I help you?"  "I would like to be fitted for a pair of trousers" the gentleman said.  "I would be happy to help you with that", Calamity stated, breaking into a smile.  "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name, sir" asked Calamity.  "Uno Mas" the gentleman said, extending his hand.  "The pleasure is mine" as he gently kissed the back of Calamity's hand.  Calamity blushed just a little and scurried over to her stack of fabrics to show him what was available.  He was kind and gentle.  Very polite.  Not at all like her first husband.  Then the memories came flooding back. Calamity stood motionless for what seemed like an eternity. "Mam, are you OK?" he asked.  Calamity shook her head and returned to the present.  "I'm fine, sir.  Let's take a look at these fabrics".  They discussed his needs and what his plans were for the trousers. all the while Calamity watched him closely.  I haven't seen him in town before.  He must be passing through.  He's got to be married.  A man this handsome can't possibly be alone.  I'll bet he has a pretty wife and some fine children.  You're too old to be thinking marriage anyway.  You're better off remaining a spinster.  Finally, after the fabric had been chosen it came time for measurements.  "Where is your wife?" Calamity asked.  "I usually don't measure a man without his wife present."  Uno Mas chuckled "I don't have a wife".  Calamity must have had a surprised look on her face because he asked her "Why does that surprise you?"  "I um don't um know" Calamity stammered.  "I can get one of the gentlemen here in town for you" she asked.  He chuckled again.  "No that won't be necessary" he said. "I trust you and I promise not to spread any gossip around town about your measuring me without another person present."  Calamity expressed a sigh of relief and motioned towards the wooden box in the corner for him to stand on so she could measure.  Once the measurements were taken. she said "Your trousers should be ready in a couple of days. I have a couple of items I must finish ahead of you.  Why don't you come back on Thursday.  They should be ready then."  Uno Mas said "Thursday ii is.  I look forward to it" as he reached for her hand to kiss it.  Calamity blushed again and said thank you.  He elegantly strode for the door, tipped his hat and exited, gently closing the door behind him.  Who was that man, she wondered........

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Sarah Jane was at the library, when Calamity Kris and Miss Lorelei stopped in. Both of them were excited, and couldn't wait to share news. They sat at the writing desk that Sarah Jane used, and Calamity insisted that Lorelei go first with her news. As they leaned in together, she giggled like a school girl, trying to keep quiet, saying she'd had lunch with a man who had been passing through, and he invited her to dinner at the hotel. She explained that Clara's was busier than usual, and he had asked if he could sit with her. "His name is Roy, he's a dentist, and he is so nice! He is new to the west, and was surprised to find out I know how to shoot, and thinks it is a very good thing." Sarah Jane and Calamity both laughed, and Sarah Jane asked, "So, are you going to dinner with him? You said he invited you, but not whether you accepted!" Sitting up straight and laughing, Lorelei replied "Of course!"


Calamity Kris was clearly excited for her friend, but then started explaining how the man had come to her shop, tall, blonde and handsome. "I've never seen him before, he must be new in town also. He has a curious name. 'Uno Mas," but seems to be such a gentleman. Sweet, friendly, and just forward enough to seem interested and interesting without being rude. I hope he stays in town for awhile!"


As the three women sat and talked about life in their town, Sarah Jane got up to excuse herself several times and went out the back of the library. Finally, Calamity Kris asked "Are you alright, Sarah Jane?" Sarah Jane nodded as she patted her hair and ran her fingers through a few strands. "I've had an upset stomach off and on for a few days now. I'm not sure what is wrong. I'm sure it's nothing." Calamity Kris glanced at Lorelei and both women suppressed grins before Lorelei asked "Have you noticed any other problems?" Sarah Jane shrugged, "I've been a little more tired than usual it seems. Doc keeps asking me if I'm okay, or if anything is wrong." Calamity Kris leaned in and whispered, "Sarah Jane, are you pregnant?" Sarah Jane's eyes got large with surprise at the question, before shaking her head. "I would like nothing more, but I think I'm barren." Looking down at the table, she continued, "Doc and I have been married for almost a year, and before that... I mean..." Her cheeks went bright red as she says, "I never have been after all those times..." Lorelei and Calamity looked at their friend, "You had better rethink that. It sounds like you are!"


Sarah Jane looked up, a mix of emotions on her face. "Do you think so? I just never expected it to be possible. I would love to have children with Doc, but I think I would be so disappointed if I let myself believe I am and I was wrong." Calamity and Lorelei each grasped one of Sarah Jane's hands, and Kris whispered, "Either way, you know we're here for you." Lorelei added, "Whether tears of sorrow or tears of joy, we're your friends." Sarah Jane started crying, saying through tears, "I keep crying for no reason. Oh, maybe I am, wouldn't that be wonderful? What do I tell Doc?" Lorelei whispered, "Nothing until you're sure. You don't want to get his hopes up until there's reason. Or cause him to panic for that matter." The women laughed at the thought, wondering if Doc would be anything like Pastor Keller had been.

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While Sarah Jane, Lorelei and Calamity were talking, Michigan Slim was in the sheriff's office, explaining what he'd seen while out hunting. "Looks like another herd went through, cutting across the back portion of the Hoover, I mean Gardner, place. Picked up a few stray head from Utah Bob's ranch. Maybe a hundred head would be my guess." Sheriff Cody frowned. "Just when I was used to things being quiet. Could you tell how long ago?" Slim shrugged, "I'd say too long to have a chance of catching them if they were headed for the border." Sheriff Cody nodded, and stared down at his desk as he thought. "I guess we'll have to have a couple of men ride out that way every couple of days. Maybe we'll get lucky. I'll have a word with Doc when he comes in, see if we can get something planned. You available if we do?" Slim nodded, "Yeah, Johnny can cover for me as bartender, and I can cover for him if he rides."


Doc Ward had been at the livery, checking in on Calico Mary and White Eagle, who would stop in to keep her company as she worked. Doc didn't mind him keeping her company, because he knew Mary would get her work done, and White Eagle seemed a nice person who genuinely liked Mary. He did remind her not to get too distracted, since she had her own place to think of. Afterward, Doc walked to the sheriff's office, and Cody filled him in on what Michigan Slim had seen. Sitting down, Doc thought about the information. "Could it be Gardner or members of his group returning? Did Slim notice whether there was any activity over at the house?" Cody shook his head. "No, he didn't go that direction. He was out hunting when he noticed the trail." Doc nodded thoughtfully, "If you are going to send riders out to check, you might want them to see what is going on in that direction as well. From a distance, to be safe." Cody chuckled, "Probably should. You might make a lawman yet."


When Sarah Jane closed up the library, she walked to the parsonage to check in on Anna Mae. Pastor Keller answered her knock with a smile, and despite looking a little tired, she could tell he was still the proud father and husband. Letting her know that Anna Mae was just putting the baby down to sleep, Keller offered her a seat in the parlor, while he quietly went to get his wife. Anna Mae came in and smiled at the sight of her friend, hugging her. After hinting to the preacher that they wanted to engage in "woman talk," he left to tend to his sermon for the upcoming Sunday.


After talking for a few minutes and making sure Anna Mae and the baby were doing well and that she didn't need anything, Sarah Jane got up the courage to ask Anna Mae if she had dealt with any morning sickness or mood swings. Not thinking anything of it at first, Anna Mae replied, "Not at first, when that old woman told me I was pregnant, I felt perfectly normal, but shortly after I started getting sick, sometimes for no reason, sometimes after eating. I would cry for no reason when nothing was happening, but there was so much that was, that I didn't have time..." As Sarah Jane sat listening intently, Anna Mae looked at her friend, cocking her head and asking, "Why do you ask? Sarah Jane Ward, do you think you're pregnant?" Blushing, Sarah Jane smiled and said, "I think I might be. You just described everything I've been dealing with, although I seem so tired at times too." Covering her mouth with her hand to keep from being loud and waking the baby, Anna Mae stood up and went to Sarah Jane and hugged her tight. "I think I might have been tired, but everyone was exhausted at that point! I hope you are! You will be such a good mother." Giggling, Anna Mae looked around, "Where is a mountain witch when she's needed?" Laughing at her friend's joke, Sarah Jane said "Calamity Kris and Lorelei were the ones who made me realize I might be. They know, but nobody else does, not even Doc. I don't want to tell him until I'm sure, so keep it our secret, please?" Anna Mae nodded and looked her friend in the eyes, "I promise!"

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I slid my arms under our sleeping son.
Once he went to sleep you could fire a cannon and he wouldn't wake, and that's a blessing, he slept most of the night, at least until he got wet, so we got more sleep than most new parents.
I picked him up and carried him to my desk, and I sat, slowly, carefully, marveling at this young life, this tiny soul, this living, breathing, perfect creature.

If ever I were to doubt God's creation, I realized, I need only look at my son's hands.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Even in the womb He knew me ...

I sat with my son sound asleep on my thighs, and I remembered lying on my belly in the dirt and the weeds, looking down the browned octagon barrel of a Sharps rifle.
I remember touching the front trigger, the deep concussion, the wobbling doughnut of blue smoke, the face falling back into the window, knowing that my action blew a hole in his sinful carcass big enough for the Devil to reach in and rip out his living soul.

I looked at my son, so small, so innocent, so helpless between my murderous hands.

Murderous? I thought.


Not murderous.

I knew -- with no doubt at all -- that all I'd done, was done was to protect him, and to protect my wife.

Had I not done as I had -- had we all not done as we all did --  the reavers would have come and destroyed all we hold dear.

I nodded, looking at my sleeping son, his fists up above his head, clenched a little, the tiny little fingernails absolutely perfect, his lips moving a little as if he were dreaming of a meal, and I suppressed a chuckle.

I shifted a little, feeling the holstered Smith at my side, and I knew what this Sunday's sermon would be.

The Beatitudes.

Too often preachers would pound the pulpit and threaten fire and brimstone, would thunder and rail against sinful behavior, telling people who knew good and well what they shouldn't do, that they shouldn't do it.

No, thought I, that won't do.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall have peace.

I nodded at my sleeping son, smiled as he threw his arms wide and yawned and chewed on a little dimpled fist:  I picked him up, held him against me, felt him cuddle into the side of my neck, heard the contented little sigh and knew he'd fallen asleep again.
I leaned back in my rocking chair and closed my eyes, content to hold my son, and I heard the whisper somewhere between my ears ...

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall have peace.

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Doc Ward was up early, planning on checking the horses at the livery before breakfast, then off to check things over at the Gardner place with Michigan Slim. Riding a new horse he had recently purchased, Doc returned home for breakfast with Sarah Jane before leaving. A chestnut gelding of good cutting stock, he had a white blaze and three white socks, was powerfully built, and was a good mover.


Sarah Jane looked close to tears as Doc ate breakfast, and didn't touch a bite of food. Looking concerned, Doc asked "What's wrong? I promise, we're just going to have a look around. If anything even smells like trouble, we'll head for home." Nodding, Sarah stared down at her plate, pushing the food around on her plate. "I'm sure you'll be fine. I'm simply... I don't know how to put it." Lifting her head and smiling at Doc, even though she looked as though tears might spill any moment, Sarah Jane said "Everything is fine. You go with Slim, and try to get back in time for dinner." Doc was clearly still concerned, and Sarah Jane gave her best stern look and said "Go." Doc knew from the look and tone that the matter was settled, and that arguing would not produce favorable results. For a moment, he wondered if men who weren't married to redheads dealt with the same consternation.


Riding out with Slim, Doc Ward, the two men did a slow circle around the Gardner place, they observed fresh tracks going to the house, and more leaving. Looking at Slim, Doc asked "Do you read this like I do?" Slim nodded, "Someone's been here, but likely gone now. Getting within sight of the house to observe it, the men dismounted and found comfortable spots where they had reasonable concealment. After sitting and watching for a couple of hours and seeing no activity, they moved on to check where Slim had previously spotted a trail of cattle.


Slim pointed out the trail to Doc. "Some of those look fresh. Not a lot of head, I'd guess three riders, done since I was last here." Following the trail along, they spotted where a quick fire had been made, and a confusion of tracks and other marks on the ground. Slim, being the better at reading sign, studied around for a bit, then told Doc, "Half dozen head, brought over from Utah Bob's place. Guessing they tossed 'em and threw a running iron to 'em to alter the brand." Doc paid strict attention as he listened, and looked where Slim was pointing, trying to learn from the man's skill. Finally Doc stopped, easing his weight in the saddle. "I'm guessing that they won't be coming back this way over the next few days, so we're good to head back to town." Glancing at his watch, Doc added "We should be able to make it by dinner."


Upon arriving back to town, Doc and Slim headed straight to the sheriff's office to explain what they had seen. Cody listened intently, picturing what his friends were describing in his mind. When they were finished, he sat thinking for a few moments, then said "We need to keep sending men out, never less than a pair, to keep an eye on things just as you have. I'll get word to the ranches that they're losing some cattle. I don't know what else we can do at the moment." Doc and Slim agreed. Slim spoke up, "I'm going to go wash some of the dust off, grab a bite to eat, and get over to Whiskey's and get to work." Doc nodded, "That sounds like a capital idea. I'll wash up, then check in at the library to see if Sarah Jane would like to go to Clara's for dinner before heading home. You know where to find me if you need me, Sheriff."

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When he opened the door to the library, Doc saw Sarah Jane bent over the writing desk she used, reading and taking notes as if studying. Looking around, Doc saw nobody else in the building. She looked up as she heard the door, and smiled to see her husband, and stood up to come to him, her step still quick and girlish, something Doc never tired of. Reaching up to take his hat off before he could, Sarah Jane put her arms over Doc's shoulders and looked at him, smiling. "You made it back in time for dinner!" Pulling her closer, Doc nodded, "I was thinking we could go over to Clara's for something, given the time." Sarah Jane's head tilted a little, and she gave a look as if contemplating. "I suppose we can do that, but I would like to talk to you first."


Remembering Sarah Jane's mood from the morning, and her moods for more than a few days, Doc's brow furrowed with worry. "My dearest, what is wrong? You haven't acting..." Doc searched for the best words, but could only come up with "Yourself." Pressed tightly to her husband, Sarah Jane pulled her head back slightly and looked Doc in the eyes and nodded slightly. "I know, and there's a reason for it, but I pray you won't think that it is something wrong." Doc listened intently as Sarah Jane took a deep breath, steeling herself for an unknown response before continuing. Her eyes searching Docs, she said simply "I'm pregnant."


Whatever reaction she might have expected, it wasn't the reaction she received from the man she had grown to know as strong and confident. Sarah Jane was positive she could feel her husband's heart begin to pound, even above the pounding of her own. She would never admit it, but she was sure his knees weakened and she could have pushed him over with a feather as his hold on her tightened, the words sinking in. Then Doc grinned, his eyes widening, and he did something she had never heard from him, nor did she expect. He began babbling. "Pregnant? Are you sure? When... How... I mean... Are you alright? What should I..." Sarah Jane finally covered Doc's lips with two fingers to quiet him. "I'm fine, as far as I know. I wasn't sure, but the sickness, my moods, and now I've definitely missed my time. All we can do now is wait for time to pass, and do the best we can to be ready." Doc still felt giddy as the realization sunk in and he pulled his wife tight to him, and she could feel him trembling.


Pulling back after what seemed like an amazingly wonderful time of closeness, Doc looked at Sarah Jane and she said, "I was nervous about how you would respond, because we had never talked of children. I thought I was barren after all this time. I realize I had no reason to be nervous. I love you, Benjamin Ward, and I know you will be a wonderful father." Doc's face reddened as he smiled. "I certainly hope so, but I know I will have you to help guide me in the right direction, because you are an amazing woman and wife, and you will be an amazing mother." Doc could see the joy in Sarah Jane's face at his words and he added, "And I love you, too, Sarah Jane Ward."


After a few more minutes simply holding one another, Doc asked, "Would you still like to go to Clara's, or would you like to go to the hotel and celebrate the occasion?" Sarah Jane smiled, but gave a look. "What would Susanna Polk say if she were there?" Doc laughed to himself and shook his head slightly in amusement. "She's bound to figure it out eventually."

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My grip was firm, my brow was furrowed, my face stern and my blood was up.

Once more, hard, a swing, the impact, not quite solid:  the surface gave its muffled sound as I laid into it again, hitting for all I was worth.

I held back nothing.

It is truly amazing how much dirt and dust a rug will hold even when it looks clean, and I spent some good long time beating this one clean, moving to one side and then the other as the wind shifted so the dirt would carry from me instead of all over me.

I will freely admit women are wonderful creatures, and women can do things that men would never consider, and I watched my own dear Mama change a baby's diaper on her ironing board and on a table and a bed and I would be willing to swear she could stand a plank on its edge and change a child on its narrow edge.

I am not my Mama.

I know my luck.

I long held a dread, a fear, that when the day came when I would have to tend a wee one's butt napkin, I could lay it in the middle of a double wide bed and it would somehow, somehow! -- manage to roll off and hit the floor.

I know my luck.

That's why I play neither the pasteboards nor the ponies:  my luck is never spectacularly good, nor terrifically bad, it's just kind of consistently poor.

Given that realization, I determined the only safe way to change our son's diaper would be to lay him in the middle of a rug.

On the floor.

The middle of the floor.

He can't fall off the floor!

I hauled back and larruped into that rug again, my strokes strong and regular in the sunlight.

If I was going to lay our lad on a rug, I intended that rug would be clean!

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Chile had been a bust.  I was in Galveston a few months after my return to the states and as usual Galveston was not to my liking.  I was in the Sporting District gambling and drinking heavily.  A young outlaw was across the table bragging and his friend kept looking at him and telling him "Shut up and play cards Butch."  and play cards we did.  After Butch won a few too many hands I started watching and saw him using a device to feed himself some cards from up his sleeve.


Easing out one of my colts I pasted an easy smile upon my face.  As he tried to take one of the hidden cards I cocked it, the sound, loud enough to make everyone freeze.

"Young man, if you twitch I'll make sure it is the last thing you do."


He tried to laugh affably, "Listen Mister, I don't know what you think is going on, but I assure you you are mistaken."


His partner interrupted "Old man, your eyes must be bad, this is a straight up game."  My cards dropped and a derringer popped into my right hand and aimed at his face.


"My name is J. Mark Flint and I am an old man.  My vision is perfect and if any of you move a hand I'll kill every one of you.  Now Butch, I know who you are and I know the paper out on you and I could care less, but I will not be cheated. Take off your jacket and turn it inside out and do it real slowly.  Without averting my stare I continued to speak "And Kid, this thing has a hair trigger, so unless you want to drop the ball you'll sit real still."


Butch pulled his jacket off and turned it inside out, dropping the device in the process.


I chuckled. "Drop your gun belts and put all your money on the table."  They did as told . . . reluctantly.  I looked to the other players.


"Split it among the honest players and I'll see that these gentlemen leave quietly and I'll return shortly."


As they stepped through the doors I heard Fanny yelling not to hurt the, they were just boys and were good customers and I didn't listen to  the rest.


"Get on your horse and get out of town, your guns and money are forfeit.  If I see you again It'll be your lives."  They did as instructed and I never saw them again, though I heard they were in a shoot out a few years later in Bolivia.


I returned to the game and collected my money and my new to me guns and belts. "Anyone else want to start with a fresh deck?"


Agreement was swift and complete.

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After we were rescued from the Gardner place, Calico expected White Eagle to return to his people, but for some reason he hadn’t done so yet.  She had taken him home with her the first night, intending to give him a place to sleep and a good meal before he made his journey home.  He and Critter had hit it off almost immediately, White Eagle was only a year or two older than Calico was, and with Critter less than 2 years younger than his sister, they were all pretty close in age.  Both of them loved horses, and while Calico cooked dinner both of them had gone outside and given each other a demonstration of their abilities, Critter with his pistols and rifle, and White Eagle with some throwing knives and a bow and arrows.  By the time dinner was ready, they’d made an agreement to give each other lessons starting the next day.  By the end of the week, Calico had to interrupt their lessons long enough to have them build White Eagle his own cot, she felt too guilty having him sleep on the floor.  She’d already made him a mattress and pillow, and they had plenty of extra quilts.


As time went on, it started becoming obvious that he was in no big hurry to leave.  Calico had gone back to work for DocWard at the livery, Critter still had his job at Utah Bob’s place, and White Eagle was more than willing to help out on their farm, making their chores go a lot faster and easier.  He spent almost as much time with Evil as with his sister, they had become good friends.  About the only time anyone didn’t see the two young men together was when Evil went courting at Melinda’s house, and White Eagle took advantage of that to spend extra time with Calico.  She didn’t mind the company, it was nice having a friend her own age to talk to, but she did wonder sometimes just why he was hanging around.  It was clear that White Eagle missed his family and his own people, although the folks in Stone Creek had been wonderful about accepting him into the community.


One other thing he was able to help the siblings with was the streak of gold Calico had seen at the base of Badger Peak.  Pastor Keller had insisted that it was just fool’s gold, but Calico had seen plenty of that and what she had seen after the spring storm hadn’t been exactly the same.  The three young adults had gone back out there, after making sure no one else was in the area, and had taken a pick and some shovels.  They had uncovered enough to realize that the vein ran for quite a way just under the surface of the mountain, until it finally turned inward.  How far deep it went was impossible to tell, but Calico knew enough about gold to realize that there was quite a bit of it there, and it all belonged to her and Evil.  Strangely enough, it didn’t really matter to either of them, other than having their curiosity satisfied.  They’d never had much money, never had seen any real need to beyond taking care of basic needs, and besides, they both realized that they didn’t have the resources needed to do any real mining of the vein.  White Eagle cared even less, riches weren’t very high on the list of things his people felt were important in life.  He liked his new friends for the people they were, not because of the treasure sitting just below the surface of their property.


As time went on, the three settled into a routine, revolving around chores, jobs, and Evil going over to Melinda’s house just enough to let her know he was serious about her, but not enough to be considered improper.  Calico spent quite a few evenings working on a quilt for the Pastor and Anna Mae’s baby, and her gift was gratefully accepted by both when she presented it the day after their son was born, looking for an excuse to see the newest resident of Stone Creek.  It was about that time that the old feeling of someone watching her returned, but she never could catch sight of anyone.  After about a week of that, she confessed to Evil and White Eagle over dinner one night.  Evil said he’d been experiencing the same thing.  That’s when White Eagle told them, “the bad man that held us captive is back, I have not seen him but I know he’s out there.  If I manage to find him, I do not intend to show him any mercy.”


Gardner was back?  Of course it was a possibility, he hadn’t been captured yet, and nobody was sure where he’d gone.  The next time Calico went into town to work at the livery, she intended to go in early and stop and talk to Sheriff Cody about it.  Not that there was much he could do, but at least he should be aware of it.  Then White Eagle smiled, “That gives me even more reason to go into town with you, Calico, it is not safe for you to be riding alone.”  For some reason, that didn’t seem to bother him as much as it did Calico, but the look in White Eagle’s eyes as he looked at her just then didn’t bother her at all…maybe he wasn’t just staying to hang out with Critter…



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Matthias Gardner walked into the sheriff's office with an apprehensive look on his face. Sheriff Cody looked up, seeing his look and asked "Is everything alright, Matthias?" Gardner held up a letter glanced at it, then handed it to Cody. "My brother. It seems he has liquidated some of his stock in the family business. Has sold it to other family members for a considerable sum of money. He then departed the east coast by train, heading west. That was two weeks ago. I am concerned. I believe you should be alert, and I believe you should make others aware he may return to the area. Certainly Doc Ward should be informed."


Cody scowled, looking at the letter, pondering the implications. "Do you think he will come back to the area? Surely he knows he will be arrested on sight?" Matthias shrugged, "I simply do not know. He despises failure. Worse, he cannot tolerate being bested. His hatred for your deputy is intense, bordering on the insane, I believe. From the moment, he knocked him unconscious at the party, he would have wished him dead. I also believe that hatred may extend to you, as his friend and employer, although not as deeply. Fortunately for him, J. Mark Flint has left the area, because I believe my borther's hatred for him was likewise. Unfortunately, he was a good man to have at your side. I fear for the community, Sheriff."


After pausing a moment, Matthias added, "I would be less than honest if I said I don't also fear for myself." Cody looked up, puzzled. "For yourself? Why is that?" Matthias frowned. "I have worked hard to be accepted by the community. I fear that with him returning, suspicions may arise, and the gains and trust I have earned will vanish. I also fear that he may learn I planned to have him killed." Matthias smiled, "I don't believe that is a secret to you at this time. I hope I haven't just confessed to my crime, though." Cody gave a short laugh. "Technically... Yes. But with me rustling this letter in my hand, I can't say I heard anything." Matthias smiled, and gave a slight bow as he often did when he was thankful to someone. Cody handed the letter back to him, "I have someplace I need to be at the moment. Would you like to go tell Doc? I believe he said he was going to have dinner at Clara's with his wife. You might try to take him aside if you do." Matthias folded the letter neatly but kept it in hand. "I shall do that, Sheriff. Is there anything else you would like me to do?" Cody pursed his lips and let out his breath. "You might want to put on a six-gun if you have one." Frowning as he nodded, Matthias said, "I shall, after I speak with Doc."

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Matthias had gone to Clara's, only to find Doc Ward hadn't been in. Stepping outside, he looked around. The street was mostly empty, as most people were  The windows of the library down the street seemed to be dark. Seeing Michigan Slim walking toward Miss Whiskey's Saloon, he stopped him to ask if he had seen Doc since their return. Pointing toward the hotel, Slim replied, "Yep, I saw Doc and Sarah Jane headed that way for dinner? Seemed like they wanted to celebrate something." Matthias gave Slim a nod, "Thank you, I shall see if I can locate him there."


Stepping into the street, Matthias quickened his pace to get to the hotel. As he was nearing the hotel, a man called from across the street, "Matthias Gardner?" Pausing and turning, Matthias replied, "Yes, may I be of assistance?" Drawing his revolver, the man said, "Zeb sends his regards," and opened fire. Putting four shots into Gardner, the man walked to him, to finish him off when Michigan Slim's voice echoed down the street, "Don't move or you're a dead man!" Spinning, the man snapped a shot in Slim's direction, only to have Slim return fire, five shots as quickly as he could thumb the hammer. The man sank to his knees, then fell face first into the dirt as Slim ran up to Matthias, as Doc Ward ran from the hotel, revolver in hand, and Sheriff Cody began running up the street from his office.


Sinking to his knees next to Matthias, Doc Ward began ripping his coat and shirt open as the man lay gasping for air, staring up at him. Between gasps for air, Matthias said "I'm afraid... It is useless... My friend..." Shaking his head as he stared into his eyes, Doc said "Don't talk like that. You fight to stay with me. I've seen men survive worse." Pressing his hand to one of the wounds that was bleeding, Doc looked around, "Someone get something to carry him to Doc Okie, and someone make sure he's up and sober." His breathing short and difficult, Matthias gripped Doc's other hand, pushing the letter into it. "Brother... Zeb... His man... shot me... Read it... Was coming to warn you..." Doc nodded as Sarah Jane ran up with napkins from the hotel. "OK. Just stay with me, Matthias. Keep breathing and stay awake. We need you in town. Your friends need you here. I need you here. Need you to build a crib. Stay with me man." Matthias looked up, nodding. "I'm trying. A crib... That means a baby... That is very fine... Friends... My friends... I can die happy... Surrounded by friends..." With those words, Matthias exhaled, took several short agonal breaths, and was gone.

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Lorelei and Roy were at the hotel having dinner when they heard the gunshots and saw Doc run outside.  "Excuse me, Roy. I need to find out what has happened."  With that she ran outside to find Doc and Sarah Jane standing over Matthias as he lay bleeding on the ground.  She immediately thought that the trouble in Stone Creek wasn't over yet, and that she would have to explain to Roy what had happened in the past and how she was involved. She wondered how he would take it when she explained what she and the other ladies had had to do to protect Stone Creek from Gardner and his men.  As she walked back into the hotel, tears started streaming down her face.  Matthias had become a good citizen of Stone Creek and many people would miss him and all the good things that he had done for Stone Creek.  In her heart, Lorelei knew his brother was the reason Matthias had been killed, and that just made her angry.  Was Gardner ever going to admit he had lost the battle with Stone Creek?  It certainly didn't look like it right now, and that made her so angry that the tears stopped and were replaced by a determination to do whatever was necessary to protect Stone Creek no matter if Roy understood or supported her.  


When she finally got back to the table, she started to explain all that had happened in the past with Gardner and what she had had to do to save Stone Creek.  If that ended this budding relationship, then so be it.  Surprisingly enough Roy comforted her and told her she was the strongest woman he had ever known besides his mother and that he was so proud of her.  He then asked what could he do to help since he planned to stay in Stone Creek and open a dental office here.



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Lorelei knew that Roy had hunted back at his home with both a rifle and shotgun, but learned he had never shot pistols so she made him promise to meet at the general store after school tomorrow and get a set of pistols so she could take him out to practice on Saturday.  They then stopped by the Sheriff's office to see what plans were being made to protect Stone Creek from Gardner and his men.  Lorelei knew Gardner hated Doc and probably had plans for someone to take him out just like they had taken out Matthias.  She couldn't let that happen especially now that Sarah Jane was expecting their first child.  Sheriff Cody informed them of the strange happenings going on at Gardner's old place and suggested that a meeting be held to set up watches for the town like they had done in the past.  Lorelei said she would get with Kris and Calico as soon as she could to set up a meeting to plan for the watches.  

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Doc Ward knelt next to the body of Matthias Gardner, looking and feeling defeated. Sarah Jane, fell to her knees and began weeping, the napkins she had run to get to staunch the flow of blood still in her hands. Other women of the town began crying openly at the sight. Miss Lorelei came quickly behind from the hotel, and after she realized Matthias was dead, started crying and turned to go beck into the hotel. From out of nowhere, a man's hand offered Calamity Kris a handkerchief as tears ran down her cheeks. Looking up, she saw the gentlemanly face of the man she knew as Uno Mas. 


Michigan Slim, who had been standing over the body of Gardner's murderer, gun hanging by his side and staring in disbelief, finally lifted his revolver and began reloading it. Sheriff Cody quietly walked among the people, asking them to go back to what they were doing. Sheriff Cody walked over to where Doc still knelt, shoulders slouched, hands supinated on his thighs, the letter given to him grasped in one hand, staring at Matthias Gardner's body. "Are you alright, Doc?" Shaking his head slowly, Doc muttered, almost to himself, "I tried. So help me I tried to save him. I tried, Matthias, I'm sorry."


Doc slowly got to his feet, pain and disbelief showing on his face as he looked at Cody. "He wasn't even armed. Could his brother really have ordered this?" Cody shook his head, "I don't know, but Matthias was coming to find you. He had received a letter from his family and had a bad feeling. Doc, you need to be careful. If he would have his own brother murdered, you have to be on the top of any list he has." Looking over at Michigan Slim, Cody asked, "Slim, what did you see?" Holstering his revolver, Slim walked over to the two men and said, "I was on my way to the Saloon, Matthias asked me where Doc was and I told him to check the hotel." Gesturing toward the man he had killed then across the street, Slim continued, "I heard him call for Matthias from over there. I'm guessing that bay is his horse. At any rate, Matthias turned, and being the way he was, asked how he could assist him. I couldn't quite make it out, but it sounded like he said 'Zeb sends his regards,' and he opened fire. He was going to stand over him and finish him off when I intervened. He spun to shoot, but his shot went wild. None of mine did."


Rolling the man over with a toe, Sheriff Cody looked down to see five shots, four centered over the heart, and one a couple of inches to the right. Taking a knee, Cody began patting the man's pockets. Feeling some coins, he pulled out $200 in gold coins. Checking further, he didn't find any way of identifying the dead man. Walking over to horse and checking  the saddlebags, Cody found nothing else helpful. Doc checked out the horse, looking for a brand or something. Pulling the saddle off, he looked for a name or initials, only to come up empty. "This is quite a horse," Doc said. "Not your run of the mill cow horse. No brand. No identification on the man. Professional?" Cody nodded in agreement, "That's my thinking. Take the horse over to the livery. I don't think anyone will be coming for it. Slim, if you could go get the undertaker. It looks like things may be taking another turn for the worse."


Doc paused. "If it's all the same, first I'll wait here with Matthias, and walk to the undertaker with him. Looks like this letter was written by a sister. I'll write a letter back to her, letting her know of her brother's passing. Then tomorrow we can check his place for anything that should be sent back east. We should let Pastor Keller know. He got along well with Matthias, and might want to prepare an eulogy."

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I'd gotten the second fork full of potatoes and gravy down when I heard gunshots.

I laid the fork down, very precisely beside my plate; I rose, reached for my hat and my rifle, one with each hand.

I was out on the porch, looking around, nostrils flared, my blood up, knowing something, something --

I stopped in a shadow, looking around, crouched, something inspired me to caution.

Shouts, running feet, a long silence:  I rose, eyes busy:  I was hunched over, ran quickly to the end of the parish house, looked around the corner, back, around back of the stable.

Was there a trespasser, the mule would let me know:  she looked at me like she was half-bored, half-hopeful.

I straightened.

It was in me to run to the sound of guns, but there were two bursts of fire, as if two were engaged in a pistol duel:  I did not get a count on the first flurry, but the second was five distinct, spaced shots, as if a man were firing very quickly but very deliberately, and if I were a betting man I'd bet it was Michigan Slim firing those five shots.

I knew the man to be steady and deadly and once, and once only, I'd seen him put lead into an opponent, firing with that exact cadence.

I hesitated.

Was I to run to the street, I would leave my wife, my child defenseless --

I looked back to the porch.

Anna Mae stood there with the double gun, her jaw set, her eyes narrowed a little:  not wide, scared, helpless, no, here was a woman more than willing to dispense however much justice she had to, that she might keep her baby and herself safe.

I straightened, sidestepped back to the porch, keeping my back to the clapboards.

"Inside," I said quietly, and Anna Mae backed into the house, and I behind her, and the muzzle of my rifle was the last part of us that went inside.

Not six minutes later there was a knock on the door.

I saw Michigan Slim's serious face and I opened the door:  "In, man," I said, and closed it after him:  he removed his Stetson, nodded to Anna Mae, still standing with a double handful of long barreled shotgun.  "Ma'am."

"Mr. Slim," she said.  "We heard gunshots.  Is all well?"

"No ma'am, it's not," Slim said, his voice flat, the voice of a man with a tight grip on his emotions' reins:  he turned and looked squarely at me.

"Pastor, Matthias was just murdered."



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Calamity Kris and Uno Mas walked back to Clara's where they had been having a quiet dinner.  Uno began to pepper Calamity with questions.  Who was this Mathias man?  Who would want him killed?  What trouble did Stone Creek have?  Calamity was measured in what she told Uno.  She wanted to be truthful with him but didn't want to run him off in the same breath.  He was a good man and would be quite an asset to Stone Creek. 


Calamity began her story with telling about the history of Stone Creek.  How peaceful and quiet it was before Zeb Gardner came to town and started to cause trouble.  She followed with how things changed after he arrived.  She touched on some of the events that took place, without getting into a lot of detail.  Uno could see Calamity was getting angrier as she told the story.  He finally stopped her and asked if she would be OK.  Calamity took a deep breath and said she would be OK as soon as Zeb Gardner was dead and his henchmen were gone for good, including that wench Alice Slye.  By the time Calamity finished the story, she was trembling.  Uno could see the combination of pain and rage in her eyes, her hands gripping the sides of the table as though she would pick it up and throw it across the room at any moment.  Uno pried her right hand from the edge of the table and cradled it gently.  "How can I help the fine people of Stone Creek?" he asked.  Calamity looked surprised.  "I thought you were just passing through" she asked.  "The battles with Zeb Gardner happened over a period of time.  Will you be here long enough to help us?" she asked.  Uno patted her hand gently and said "I came to Stone Creek looking for a place to open a surveyors office.  This is exactly the place I would like to be and maybe put down some roots so yes I'll be here to help you."  Calamity must not have hidden her joy very well because Uno said "I see that answer makes you happy.  I hoped it would.  Now, what can I do to help you?"

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After going to the undertaker to see that Matthias Gardner's body was appropriately taken care of, Doc took the now ownerless horse and headed toward the livery stable, stopping first at the sheriff's office. Walking inside, Doc spotted Pastor Keller, sitting across from Sheriff Cody, and Michigan Slim, who was leaning against the wall off to one side. Doc could see a look of sadness and concern on the men's faces and could guess what their conversation had been. Glancing at Doc, Sheriff Cody spoke up, "I thought we had put this behind us, Doc. Thought Zeb Gardner was a bad memory. But I have no other explanation, do you?" Sitting down, Doc let out a deep breath. "No, I'm afraid not. The letter coming to warn him would be too much of a coincidence, otherwise."


Looking over at his friend, Keller asked, "Doc, what do you plan to do?" Holding his hands out, Doc shrugged, "What can I do? I need to live my life. I just need to be smart about it. Unfortunately, the stable ties me down some, puts me in a set pattern, as does my job here. "I'm not going to state it for a fact, but I believe Zeb Gardner won't hire me murdered like he did his brother." Seeing the looks of surprise and disbelief on his friends' faces, Doc continued, "At least, I believe he will want to be around, in sight." Michigan Slim, who was usually quiet and contemplative, spoke up in his soft spoken drawl, and for once wasn't laconic. "Sure. That makes sense. Doc not only marked him, but humiliated him. Doc killed men he hired. Doc was in his house calling for him. Most importantly, if Seamus tells the story true, even Doc's wife all but called him a coward when it comes to Doc. You're right Doc, he'll want to see you die, and if he can put the finishing touch on himself, he will." Doc nodded his agreement as Slim spoke, and the other two men listened thoughtfully. Kellers asked, "Are you willing to gamble your life on it?" Doc laughed, "I've never been much of a gambling man. I'm going to be very careful."


The men spoke about the precautions they all needed to take, given the turn of events, and the possibility that Zeb Gardner could harbor hatred for nearly anyone in town. Finally, Doc stood and put on his hat. "Gentlemen, I need to go. Sheriff, if you don't object, I'll write a letter to Matthias' family." Sheriff Cody gave a short nod of his head. "I've been worrying over what to write, I know you will do a fine job." As Doc turned to go, Slim spoke up again. "Doc? Something I need to ask." Doc turned and Slim continued, "Something you said out in the street. You said you needed Matthias to build you a crib. Something you're forgetting to tell your friends?" Doc smiled, and the elation that had been tempered by the recent death of his friend pushed back to the surface. "Sarah Jane and I were at the hotel celebrating. She told me she's pregnant just a couple of hours ago." Rising to their feet, Keller and Cody walked over to Doc, Slim right behind them, all talking at once. "Congratulations, Doc!" "Good to hear!" "We could use some good news around here!" Shaking hands, Doc got pulled back inside for awhile longer to talk about plans for the baby, for the future, and what would be needed."


Finally leaving, Doc rode his own horse, leading the other to the stable. Once there, he stripped the saddle and checked it over briefly, then turned it out into the pasture, watching it for a few minutes as he gathered his thoughts. Turning, he walked the distance to his own home, went inside, and kissed Sarah Jane, who had sat staring out the window watching for him to arrive. Smiling, but her face showing her concern, Sarah Jane said softly, "You need to promise me to be careful, my husband. I don't want to lose you. I'm counting on you being here to raise our child." Doc smiled at her, "I will be as careful as possible. I'm counting on being here to help you raise our child. Give me a few minutes, I have a task to do."


Going to his desk, Doc pulled out paper, pen and ink. "Dear Mathilde, It is my sad and unfortunate duty to inform you of the death of Matthias Gardner. I hope it provides you with some comfort to know he passed surrounded by friends, myself among them..."

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After finishing the letter, Doc Ward set it aside for the morning. He sat for a time, feeling as though he were forgetting something. Some task that needed to be done. Finally it dawned on him. J. Mark Flint. Doc had no idea as to his whereabouts, but it bothered him that he hadn't thought sooner that Flint should be warned. Doc knew Flint had kept a contact in Nashville, and suspected that if he were anywhere near a telegraph, he still did. "First thing in the morning," Doc spoke aloud to himself as he walked into the parlor where Sarah Jane sat. Looking up, she asked, "I beg your pardon, honey?" Looking at her, Doc said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I was thinking aloud. I need to see if I can get a telegram to J. Mark Flint first thing in the morning. I don't know where he is, but if he can be warned, I need to do so." Sarah Jane slowly nodded, her worry about her husband still written on her face.


Walking to where Sarah Jane sat, Doc took a knee, and reached for his wife's hand. Looking up at her, Doc studied her face as she looked down at him, her face showing her curiosity at what he was doing. Blue eyes that were full of life and always able to cheer him up, but seemed able to see into his heart. A nose that was long and prominent without being overly large for her face. Full lips, with a rough looking scar underneath, but were ready for a smile, or to open in laughter that lifted his spirits. The freckles splayed across her fair cheeks and nose, even over the scar that ran along her right cheek. Her full, long auburn hair, pulled into a braid laying down over the front of her shoulder and down. Doc felt he was looking at her for the first time, and for the thousandth so that he could trace her features in his mind. He wanted... needed... to see her, to picture her in his mind, so that her image was there with him. Doc couldn't explain to her, or to anyone else, that he didn't fear dying, but he feared things about dying. He feared not dying well, and he feared not being able to see her in his mind at the end.


Finally, Doc took a deep breath and spoke. "I can't predict what the future holds. I swear to you I will do my best to be careful, to be wise in my decisions about my safety, and to be alert to the dangers that might exist as a result of Zeb Gardner." Lowering his hand to her still flat stomach, Doc looked down, amazed at the thought of a child inside her. His child. "I want to be here with you, to raise our child, or children if we are so fortunate. I want to grow old with you, and enjoy the long years. But I want you to know, if the worst should befall, you've made my life worth living again, and made it complete again. I never thought those things would happen. I think it is also important for you to understand, I believe the man is insane. Or simply evil. Perhaps both. I would not put it past him to try to get to me through you. So I want your promise that you will recall everything we've talked about, and will work to keep yourself safe. The thought of going through life again with a hole in it is something I fear far more than death" Gripping Doc's hand with hers, she lifted her other hand to run long fingers through his hair, saying simply, "I promise."


Smiling, Doc leaned in, pressing his head to his wife's bosom, listening to the slow, muted beating of her heart and feeling the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. "I believe it is also important that we do our best to enjoy our lives. If we live in terror, and are unable to enjoy our lives and one another, then in his own way, Zeb Gardner has won." Sarah Jane put her arms around her husband, pulling him tighter against her. "You're right, but it is hard not to be afraid for you. When you have been out, going after those others, I trusted in you, your experience and abilities. But how can you predict or plan against someone doing what that evil man did to Matthias?" Pulling back, Doc looked up. "By being aware. Keeping as few patterns as possible. Being unpredictable. Being with others. And most of all, making it apparent that even if caught by surprise, it will not be a one-sided fight." Looking into her eyes, Doc asked his wife, "You're from the hills of Kentucky, have red hair, and probably have gaelic blood in your veins, so let me ask you. Have you had any premonitions? Anything causing you to fear for me?" Sarah Jane shook her head in response. Doc grinned, "Then I should be just fine." Rolling her eyes but smiling, Sarah Jane put both hands in Doc's hair and ran her fingers through it to muss it, then put her hands to his cheeks and leaned forward to kiss him.

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Rye continued with his rangering and occasionally stopped in Stone Creek to say howdy. He wound up in Tucson and met a beautiful Mexican lady named Rosa. The sheriff position was open and the sheriff they had was going to retire.  Jack Beauchamp, was the sheriff's deputy and decided to run for sheriff. He was well known in town but not always for good deeds. He was known to use the brothels a little too much and treated the ladies of the night pretty rough. He never showed up at church and always had a slight smell of liquor on his breath. People didn't care if he drank, heck everyone did but it was frowned on if he was on duty. Rosa helped Rye put together a campaign for sheriff. She had posters printed up and bragged to everyone about her man. She fell deeply for Rye and it kind of scared him. He had never been this involved with a lady before. She was beautiful with long black hair and the deepest dark brown eyes he'd ever seen. He was pretty much mesmerized by her.

As the campaign rolled along, Rye and Jack had words and not any civil. Jack was jealous of Rye. Who was he to come into a town that he's been the deputy sheriff of and run against him. Rye was an outsider. Jack hated Rye and as the campaign rolled on it became obvious to everyone. That turned people against Jack and besides Rye was an outgoing, friendly sort. He played piano some in the saloon and also played some guitar at a couple church services along with the piano player and choir. People were flabbergasted by him tuning the pianos in town. Rye soon became popular with most of the town.

One night as Rye walked Rosa home from a nice dinner they had. Jack stopped him. He reeked of whiskey and staggered some. "You should just take that greaser lady with you and get out of town before something bad happens", said Jack. Rye scooted Rosa off to the side and cold cocked Jack without even saying a word. He staggered and got his balance and came after Rye. He was met with a kick in the shins and another good solid punch to the jaw. Rye grabbed him by the collar and punched him in the gut as hard as he could. Jack stumbled and fell over holding his stomach. Rye left him there and hurried Rosa to her house where she lived with her mother and father and two younger brothers. Rosa was shaken up and Rye said, "Don't worry darlin', I've been dealing with punks like this for as long as I can remember. Everything will be fine. He cupped her face in his hands and gave her a gentle kiss and she smiled and went in the house, as she was closing the door she blew him a kiss.

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Word travels fast.

The orphanage was not even built and we had our first two, a boy and a girl, both eight years old.

The boy's name was Kris, and he didn't submit to orphanhood:  he decided he wanted to stay close to me, and I think given a chance he'd have forge welded himself to me.

 Kris -- he pronounced his name with the barest shade of a trill, like he was flipping the K off his tongue -- was blond haired, blue eyed and fair skinned, freckles running almost a band across his face:  he was active, and I put his energies to use, and the two of us would muck stalls together, we'd split wood together or shape wood together, he was quick to learn and eager to learn -- I think it's more likely it wasn't an eagerness to learn, but rather the eagerness of a boy who'd found a man who would actually pay attention to him.

I've known a number of boys who didn't have a father, or didn't have a good one, and I recall one telling me that a bad Dad was better than no Dad.

I had a really good father, and this young fellow didn't have any.

Besides, few things flatter a grown man's heart any more than the careful attention of a boy.

Unless, of course, it's a pretty girl that hangs on your every word, but I don't really want to talk about that.

Anna Mae does that and I wish to content myself with the wife of my ... I can't say my youth, but I'm nowhere near old age.

I'm also wandering again.

I had to build my own  son's crib, so while Kris and I were at it, we built one for Doc and Sarah Jane.

Kris helped, and I showed him how to measure and mark and how to use a jig I whittled out to make sure the spacing was right, he watched as I used a hand drill and pegs, he listened closely as I told him how to glue the pegs in and they'd hold forever, and I had him glue the last half dozen and tap them into place -- "That's why we tried them for fit first," I explained, "they were a good snug fit and now with glue on 'em you seat 'em with one tap of the mallet -- go ahead -- just like that!"

I'll swear, Kris just plainly glowed at my words of praise.

I spoke no false praise, the lad was quick to learn and careful with his work, and I made sure he knew I approved of his work, and by the time we were done knocking the second crib together, why, he was walking on clouds all the way back to the house.

Kris came to us with a long German last name that got whittled down rather quickly, from Oppenheimermann to Opper, and that got corrupted to Copper, and Kris laughed and happily took to his new name, and so Copper he became to all and sundry.

The girl was named Kitty and her last name was Tivner, and she fell in beside Anna Mae like she belonged there, and when Kris and I went in at Anna Mae's summoning call, Kitty was industriously helping Anna Mae serve up supper.

The orphanage was not yet built, I reflected that night, after we sat in a circle and talked about the Scripture I'd just read, and Anna Mae and I talked about my thoughts that night, after our son was fed and changed and sound asleep between us.

Once the orphanage was built, I didn't want to banish Kris and Kitty to a new and mostly empty building.

Anna Mae agreed with me, and the next day Kris and I sat down and drew up plans, and then we started hammering stakes in the ground and stretching good hemp string from here to there, we used a measuring stick to lay out the planned expansion, and Kris was excited.

He was not only doing something with me -- I've found I could be fishing in a water pail and Kris would like it -- but this held a special meaning for him.

We were planning something he'd never experienced.

We were planning to build onto the Parish house, we were planning to expand the Parsonage, we were making room for our growing family.

Especially since it just grew faster than we'd ever thought possible.


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The election of Sheriff was taking place in the Old Stone church in the middle of town. Ballots were handed out to residents of the town. Most everyone knew everyone else and since there was no ID's, they kind of took your word for it as to whether you were a resident or not. Some of the folks on the outside of town were also allowed to vote. There was no county lines drawn as of yet so pretty much anyone that lived within a 20 mile radius voted. The election took place from 8:00am to 6:00pm. Rye and Rosa and her family went together to vote and then went to the Corral Cafe to have a nice lunch. Since Rye was not a resident he couldn't vote but no law stopped him from running for Sheriff especially since he was an Arizona Ranger. They all kidded him about voting for Beauchamp. After lunch they went home and Rye and Rosa went out for a long ride. Rosa rode with the best of them and sat side saddle as most women of that era did. Her side saddling did not hamper her riding ability in the least, she was very good and agile. They tied their horses up at a small clump of trees and sat down and relaxed. They talked about if Rye was elected, where would he live? Would Beauchamp seek revenge? They kissed some and Rosa decided it was maybe going to get a little out of hand and she got up much to Rye's surprise but he understood. Rye would not have been able to stop himself. He thought that it was a good thing one of them had some restraint. They mounted up and rode back to town.

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Calamity Kris called a meeting in the back of her shop for all the watch volunteers.  Uno Mas was in attendance as well.  Word of Mathias Gardner's murder had already spread through town.  People were on edge and wanted to know what was being done about it.  Calamity assured everyone Sheriff Cody was working on plans for a posse to arrest Zeb Gardner and  would make sure he was brought to justice.  In the mean time, he would like us to begin watches again.  Farmer Johnson jumped up and shouted "I lost a lot of planting time and crops because of these watches.  I can't do that again.  I have a family to feed and cattle to raise.  I NEED these crops."  Calamity nodded in agreement.  "I completely understand Mr. Johnson.  Please feel free to go back to your farm and your family.  I wish you the best."  Farmer Johnson grabbed his hat and stomped out of the store.  "If anyone else wishes to leave, you are welcome to do so." Calamity stated.  "I can't blame you for wanting to be with you families and homesteads.  This is a difficult task and it takes a lot of time away from home."  No one in the room rose.  "If you wish to speak with me in private, I will be available after the meeting"  Calamity stated.  From there on, plans were discussed on positions for the watches and the schedule.  We would begin the watches on Friday evening, allowing the volunteers time to get things situated in their respective homes.  After the meeting, Clara approached Calamity.  At the same time, Uno Mas was approaching but left a respectable distance to allow Calamity and Clara to chat.  Clara was worried.  The worry of the towns people really hurt her business.  She wasn't sure how long she would be able to keep the cafe open.  Calamity assured her "You were there for me when I needed help.  I will be there for you.  Sheriff Cody believes things will be over quickly but he wants to make sure we're all safe, especially Doc Ward.  Cody is sure Zeb will target Doc and wants to make sure he and Sarah Jane are protected."  Clara gasped and placed her hand over her mouth.  "Do you think Zeb Gardner will really try to harm them?" Clara exclaimed.  "Yes most certainly" Calamity stated.  "Most certainly".  Clara paled and said "I will do what I can to help".  "Thank you my dear friend, thank you" Calamity said grasping Clara's hand in hers and patting it gently. 


Uno Mas waited outside while Calamity closed up her shop.  As they walked away, Uno asked "Do you need any help with the watches?  I would like to help and it sounds like you could use some more people."  "I appreciate the help" Calamity said.  "We could use more people.  The towns folk are weary of this and I understand.  I wish it were over too.  Unfortunately, we have to keep everyone safe so we must do what we must do."  "Please let me take Farmer Johnson's watches on the bank roof" Uno asked.  "I'm pretty handy with a rifle.  I've hunted many a deer at long range."  Calamity agreed.  "Ok.  You can take Farmer Johnson's watches."  "Please be careful up there."  Uno assured her "I will be." 

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The stagecoach came through Stone Creek, stopping near the General Store to let off three passengers, before heading on to the livery stable for fresh horses. The passengers split, two going to Clara's, and one going to the Saloon. The man riding shotgun also climbed down and walked over to Clara's for a bite to eat, expecting to swap with the driver once the horses were exchanged. Then the driver could eat while he stayed with the stage. There wasn't a lot of money traveling on the stage, but enough to need to keep it under guard. The driver drove onto the livery and climbed down, stretching while Doc Ward began getting the tired team unharnessed and the fresh team hooked up.


Looking at Doc, the driver asked, "Rough town?" Looking over the back of a horse at him, Doc replied, "I'd say not. Some very good people living here, why?" "Don't recall ever seeing a liveryman go heeled," the driver responded. Doc nodded in understanding and spoke as he worked. "Ah, well, I'm also a deputy. We've also had some trouble off and on with an unsavory gent and his cohorts. We'd thought it had settled down, but it appears he may have had his brother murdered recently." The driver's face showed his surprise.  "You don't say? That's a hard man that'll kill his brother. Professional?" Doc nodded again, saying "Yes, but not professional enough. One of our other deputies was close enough to drop him. We know he has reason to dislike a few people in town, so everyone has decided to come together as a community, and push come to shove, put up a fight."


 Contemplating for a minute, the driver said, "We're carrying three passengers. One a salesman who is going on through. One a railroad man who is supposed to be meeting with someone here about railroad work in the area. The third, now... He isn't talkative at all. Only thing he said was he was going to be in town only briefly, to see a lawyer. Then made a wisecrack about the world needing less lawyers. This guy dislike a lawyer here in town?" Stopping and leaning against the stage. "Yes, but he's going to be disappointed. The lawyer left town sometime back. What's this guy look like?" The driver looked around, wondering if he'd said too much, but wanting to be helpful. "About your height. Lean, though. Wiry. Wears a black suit and hat. Revolver in a cross draw rig that you might miss if you weren't looking for it."


Finishing up hooking up the fresh team, Doc thanked the driver for the information before he drove the stage back toward the cafe. Doc then released the old team into the pasture before brushing the dirt off his clothes and saddling up his sorrel. Riding straight to the sheriff's office, Doc told Sheriff Cody everything the driver had said. Cody listened intently, then stood and grabbed his hat. "Keep an eye on things, I'll be back."

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I rode into Tuscon, and got a chuckle out of seeing Rye Miles name on the ballot for Sheriff.  Not that he wouldn't make a good one, rather that in so large a land, some people just kept popping up.  I took Thunder to the livery and grabbed my saddle bags and headed to the hotel.  Once I had a room, I headed to the barber shop for a haircut and a bath.  Once the trail dust was off my outside I went to the saloon and rinsed my insides thoroughly.

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