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 Dec 13 - Tradition

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Calico

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PostSubject: Dec 13 - Tradition   Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:59 pm

Well!! Who pinched the December Challenge???cattail 

Gremlins, huh?

Or was it grinches.

This time I will be keeping a firm paw on the topic to prevent the pesky critter escaping me once more!

Prepare for a touch of deja vu as the challenge is once more set as...



TRADITION


Let the creativity fest begin (again)

[And just possibly cue Fiddler on the Roof music]
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Maz

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 13 - Tradition   Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:25 pm

Tradition

Standing by the window, a mirror in his hand, Kid Curry studied his face and stroked his moustache. Not bad. He scratched at his beard. It hadn’t grown right. Too thin in places and the wrong darn colour and…“I’m not doin’ it!” Kid grumbled and sank down on the bed.

“We promised!” Heyes ran his fingers over his own, luxurious beard.

“I don’t care!” Kid folded his arms petulantly.

Heyes tried his patient voice. “Look, we’ve been over it several times…”

“I know how many times we’ve been over it! I know I had to grow this darn beard! I know what I hafta do, what I hafta say, what I hafta…” He shot Heyes a look. “I know!”

“So what’s the problem?” Heyes looked at himself in the mirror that stood on the chest of drawers. That was a fine looking beard he’d grown. He tugged at his vest to straighten it. He sure did look the part. Kid sighed heavily. Heyes looked at his partner’s reflection in the mirror. “You seemed keen enough before.”

“I know. It sounded exciting.”

“It is exciting.”

“Not anymore.”

“You’re just nervous.”

“Too right, I’m nervous!”

“Well, you shouldn’t be. I’m the one they’ll see first.”

“I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“And you think I have?”

“No, but you’re…Well, you’re the talker. This stuff comes more naturally to you.”
Heyes picked up a black jacket. “Come on. You’ll be fine.”

With another heavy sigh Kid stood up, took the jacket and shrugged it on. He looked down at his pants. They were too short. Darn things didn’t fit him properly. Sheesh, he looked ridiculous. He faced Heyes.

“I feel nekkid without my gun.”

“The mood you’re in it’s a good thing you don’t have it.”

“I wouldn’t shoot anyone.”

“You sure?” Heyes picked up his cap as Kid picked up a black hat. The blond man still looked miserable. “Now what?”

“I usually wear a brown hat.”

“Not today you don’t.” He rested a hand on Kid’s shoulder. “You know what to say?”

“Yeah.”

“So, you ready?”

Kid nodded and opened the door. “After you, Tevye.”

“Toda.”

Kid followed him into the corridor. “Where the heck is Anatevka anyway?”

By Mazel Tov McCoy
And how the heck did those darn cats know I thought of Fiddler too?

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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 13 - Tradition   Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:17 pm

This turned out to be part two of a story I posted on fanfiction.net. The link is below. But, I think you can read this without reading the earlier story.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9732168/1/On-a-Winter-s-Night

Cathleen O’Houlihan nearly dropped the iron skillet when she heard the breezeway door crash open.

“Jesus Mary and Joseph!”  She looked around quickly to make sure nobody had overheard her profane the Lord’s name. Thank goodness the girls weren’t back yet. Like all children, they seemed to have a special talent for catching adults saying words that little girls shouldn’t know. The last time they’d caught Cathleen uttering a mild curse, they’d found a way to tell the parish priest. That had led to a few extra Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s after confession, and a
promise to never, ever use the Lord’s name, except for worship. The promise was proving to be very hard to keep.

Cathleen put the heavy skillet back on the burner and straightened up to see who was causing all the commotion. She saw the Mrs. and her father, laughing and talking as they shrugged out of their heavy winter coats and hats in the breezeway. She lifted the coffee pot sitting on the back burner to check the weight. Yes, still half full. The Mrs. liked a generous pour of cream in her coffee, but her father, now he was a man’s man. He kept a bottle of Jameson’s whiskey hidden in a high cabinet over the sink. He’d be wanting a dose of that in his coffee. She took two cups out of the draining rack and prepared the drinks.

The kitchen door slammed open and Cathleen winced. It was hard enough to tell the girls to be careful about slamming doors, when the adults weren’t. She moved over to greet them with a mug in each hand.

“Sure, and you’ll be wanting some coffee to warm you, after traipsing all over the hinterland.”

“Bless you, Cathleen, you are an angel sent from heaven.” The Mrs. took the mug in her hands and held it, letting the warmth seep into her chilled fingers.

“And this is for you, Mr. Jones. Made just the way you like it.”

Thaddeus Jones’ face was ruddy with the cold. He wiped his nose with the back of one hand.

“Just the way I like it, Cathleen?” he asked.

There was something about the old man that always made Cathleen smile. Maybe it was the deep blue eyes and what she called “the map of Ireland on his face”. He was a handsome man still, in his 60’s; she thought, not for the first time, he must have been a real looker when he was young.

“Just so, Mr. Jones.” He flexed his cold fingers before he took the mug from her. The whiskey-scented steam curled in the air. Even though his nose was still stuffy, he could smell the rich fragrance of the Jameson’s. He took a careful sip of the hot liquid.

“Cathleen,” he said, “whatever Mrs. O’Connor pays you, it’s not enough. You are a gem.” Cathleen’s smile grew wider. She was being charmed, and she knew it, but she didn’t mind. He was such a sweet old gentleman.

“Oh Mr. Jones,” she said, “You say the kindest things.” Christine O’Connor flashed a quick glance at her father. If he had enough energy to be flirtatious, maybe he was feeling better.

“How was your hunting?” Cathleen asked.

“Wonderful. Daddy is still the best shot around.”

“You’re not so bad yourself, Christine,” he said. He pulled his daughter into a hug.

“Only because I had such a good teacher.” She gestured towards the breezeway behind her. “That’s why we have three geese for Christmas dinner!”

“Three!” Cathleen crossed herself. “You were only out for two hours!”

“Mr. Jones is a dead shot,” Christine explained. “Always has been. And he’s fast, too, faster than just about anybody.”

“When you’ve been a hunter for as long as I’ve been, it gets easier,” he said. “Besides, I had help.”

“That’s right!” Christine agreed. “It reminded me of the old days, when you took me out with you and Sam and JoJo. Remember how the neighbors were all upset that you were teaching a girl to shoot with the boys?”

“I couldn’t leave you behind, sweetheart,” he said. “then or now. Guess I’m greedy that way. I wanted my kids to be with me all the time.”

“We all loved it, Daddy, and we’ll do it again sometime. But now,” she said, glancing at Cathleen, “I’m guessing somebody wants us out of her kitchen, so she can finish making supper.”

“Yes, Mrs., if you would. Go warm up, and come back in, oh, half an hour. I’ll have Mr. O’Houlihan tend to the geese, so we can have them ready on Thursday.”

“I can do that,” Jones said. “I’m used to cleaning my own meat.”

“Uh-uh, Daddy. You’re retired now, remember?” He started to protest, but shushed when she held up one hand.

“I mean it, Daddy. You’ve worked so hard all your life. It’s your time to relax and let us take care of you.”

He stiffened, and Christine knew she’d made a mistake .

“I’m not crippled, you know. I’m old, not helpless.”

“I know that, Daddy.” The two women exchanged a quick look he didn’t notice. It said, “men and their fragile egos.” Christine’s voice was soothing.

“Mr. O’Houlihan takes pride in his work, Daddy. If you do his job, he’ll think that we don’t trust him. You don’t want that, do you?”

He sighed, defeated. “No. Of course not. Let him do it.”

Christine squeezed his hand. “Thanks, Daddy. I’m glad you understand.”

“Guess I’ll go sit in the parlor for a couple minutes, drink my coffee there,” he said. He nodded at them. “Ladies.” Both women held their breath until he left the room. They exhaled at the same time and laughed.

“He’s a fine man, your father is,” Cathleen said. “Not ready to take it easy.”

“He’s the best,” Christine agreed. “He’s having a hard time accepting that he can’t do everything he used to do. It took him two days to recover after he took the girls sledding last week.”

“I’ll delay supper a bit, then, shall I?”

“Yes, will you? He needs to rest, even if he doesn’t want to admit he’s not as strong as he used to be.”

“I’ve been married 20 years, Mrs. I know how men are.”

A blast of steamy heat hit Thaddeus Jones when he went into the parlor. The radiators were pumping warm air into the room. It felt real good, after crouching in the duck blind for a couple of hours. There was a big Queen Anne chair that the family was already calling “grandpa’s chair.” Part of him resented the way everyone seemed to think he was some sort of invalid. A bigger part was happy to claim the deep, comfortable chair that faced the lake. He settled in and looked out the window. The house’s location at the top of the bluff provided a clear view of Lake Michigan. White-capped waves were breaking on the beach far below. The slate blue waters in the distance merged with the clouds heavy with snow, so that he could barely tell where one began and the other ended. The University of Chicago was invisible on the western shore, where Christine’s husband taught and practiced medicine. Tomorrow Patrick and his parents and a few of his students would join the rest of the family here in Union Pier for the Christmas vacation. His heart thumped unevenly at the thought of that crowd descending on this place. Now that he was living in someone else’s house, instead of his own, he’d have to get used to being around all sorts of strangers.

He rested his head on the high back of the chair and thought about what would be happening right now in Montana, what his neighbors would be doing, what he would be doing were he still there. His heart jumped in an uneven rhthym. He put one hand on his chest, silently urging that damn ticker of his to settle down. If that fool thing hadn’t decided to start acting up, he’d still have his business, his home, everything he knew and loved out west. He’d given all that up, at the insistence of his children and son-in-law, and come to live in Michigan, where he would never be alone, “just in case”. He sighed, deeply. He was beginning to cherish these few minutes when he really was alone.

He jumped at a sudden noise. Damnation. He must have fallen asleep. He twisted around to look at the grandfather clock ticking in the corner. Had he missed supper? His stomach gurgled. Suddenly the door to the hallway flung open, and two little girls were upon him like an avalanche.

“Grandpa! Grandpa!” Little Katie jumped into his lap. “We went ice skating, Grandpa! I skated backwards and I never fell down even once!”

Annie was almost as excited. “We learned all sorts of new tricks, Grandpa! I learned to do a jump!”

“You two sound like champion ice skaters,” he said. “When do I get to see you perform?”

“The show’s not till New Year’s Eve, Grandpa,” Annie informed him.

“That gives me something to look forward to, then.”

“Will you go skating with us sometime, Grandpa?” Katie asked.

“Sure I will,” he said. “Just don’t ask me to skate. The only thing I can do on the ice is punch a hole through it for fishing.”

“The boys get to do that,” Annie complained, “but we never do. Grandma O’Connor says that’s not ladylike.”

“Did she say that?” Both girls nodded. “Does she know that I taught your mama how to fish and to hunt?” They nodded again.

“Grandma says ladies don’t fish or hunt,” Katie said.

“Did she say that to your mama?” he asked.

“Uh-huh.”

Knowing his daughter like he did, he could only hope she hadn’t gotten in too much trouble with her mother-in-law. “Then what happened?”

“They yelled a lot. Grandma said, any girl of hers was expected to act like a lady and know her place. And then Mama said, her pa – that’s you Grandpa,” Katie reminded him helpfully  - “taught her the same as he taught her brothers. And then Grandma said, that’s what happens when you grow up with no decent people in the wild west, but we’re civil people here, and ladies act like ladies, not like wild Indians.” She paused.

“What did your mama say?” He shouldn’t enjoy the thought of his Christine telling off that oh-so-proper lady, but he was glad that she had. No girl growing up in Montana with two older brothers could be anything but a tomboy, and he loved that she still stood up for herself. And for him, since he’d been the one to teach her such unladylike skills as shooting.

“That’s when Daddy came in, and he told them, will you two settle down? Mama said, I can only put up with so much in my own house. And Grandma, she stamped her foot, and she said ‘I know when I’m not welcome!’ And she went to pack her bags, and Daddy said, look what you did now, and Mama said, why are you taking her side? But then, I coughed, and they both saw us, and Daddy said, how long have you been here? And Mama said, you two go to your rooms right now. So we had to leave. I don’t know what happened after that.”

“Did your grandma O’Connor leave?” Katie shook her head.

“And she’s coming back here tomorrow?” Katie nodded this time.

“Her and Grandpa O’Connor and a whole lot of other people. It’s for Christmas.”

“Yeah, pumpkin, I know.” He gently pushed her off his lap. “I think it’s almost time for supper. Why don’t you two run and check on that? Let me know if it’s time to come in.”

Both girls scampered out, but, to his surprise, Annie turned around and came back to stand next to his chair. Her small face was serious.

“What is it, Annie? Is something the matter?” She put one hand on his arm.

“Grandpa? Can I tell you something and you’ll keep it secret?”

“Depends on what it is, Annie.” He saw her disappointment, and hurried to explain.

“If you told me something bad was happening, I would try to stop it.”

“Like what?”

“Well. . . “ he searched his mind for an example he could tell a ten-year-old. “If you told me you know someone was stealing, I would want to talk to him and try to stop him.”

“Oh. Because stealing is wrong.”

“Right. But not only because it’s wrong. Thieves don’t have happy lives, Annie. Once someone starts stealing, it’s hard to stop, and stealing can lead to all sorts of other bad things, things you can’t even imagine. Even if you told me to keep that a secret, I couldn’t do it. Do you understand? I couldn’t let somebody ruin his life.”

“Yes, Grandpa. I understand. But that’s not my secret.”

“You still want to tell it to me?”

She came closer and leaned forward to whisper in his ear.

“Sometimes I don’t like Grandma O’Connor.”

He whispered to her, “Why not?” Annie looked at the closed door. He spoke a little louder.

“It’s okay, Annie. No one can hear us. Most important, Katie can’t hear us. Why don’t you like your grandmother?” He really was curious, mainly because he wanted to know if Annie’s reasons for disliking the formidable Adelaide O’Connor were similar to his own.

“She always says I do everything wrong.”

“What could you do that’s so wrong?”

She began to cry. He wiped a tear away with his thumb.

“What did she say to you?” He tried to keep his voice calm, but he was disliking Mrs. O’Connor more than ever.

“She says I’m not ladylike.” To Annie’s surprise, he laughed and swung her into his lap.

“Thank goodness!” He gave her a big kiss on her cheek. “Your name may be O’Connor, but you’re a Jones through and through. The Jones women are strong. They can do just about as much as the men do. It’s the western tradition.”

“It is?”

“’Course it is! We’re westerners, Annie. We’re not afraid of our shadows. We go out and we face life, and most of all, we take care of ourselves and our families. You’re part of that tradition, the same as me and your uncles and your mama.”

“But I’m from Michigan, grandpa.”

“Western Michigan,” he said. She was beginning to smile.

“So. No more tears, alright?” She snuggled against his chest.

“I love you, Grandpa.”

“I love you, too, Annie. Even if you’re not ladylike.” She giggled. “Especially if you’re not ladylike.” She straightened up suddenly.

“Grandpa, you and Mama went hunting today.”

He saw right away where this was going, and he didn’t care.

“Sure did. Do you know that I taught her how to hunt and shoot a rifle, along with your uncles Sam and JoJo?”

“Would you teach me to shoot, Grandpa?”

He pretended to consider.

“Would you do everything I told you? Even if you didn’t like it? Even if it didn’t make sense to you at first? Even if I made you wear boy’s pants instead of a dress?”

Her eyes got big. “Really? Could I?”

“You’d have to. Can’t be tripping over skirts when you’re tracking deer.”

Suddenly, she went from excitement to a big frown.

“Now what?” he asked.

“Grandma won’t like it.”

“You let me deal with Grandma,” he said. “For now, this has got to be our secret, okay? It’s just between us. I can trust you, can’t I?”

“Yes Grandpa. But Grandma will be mad when she finds out.”

“I'll take care of her. If I have to, I’ll call her out.”

“Out where?”

“Never  mind,” he said. “It’s just an expression, something I used to say when I was young.” She mouthed a silent “oh.”

“So. Feeling better?” Annie nodded. “I’ll teach you to shoot, as long as you promise to do everything I tell you. A gun is not a toy.”

“When?”

Instead of answering, he held her face with both hands and touched his forehead to hers.

“You know what I want to do right now?” he asked.

“No, what?”

“Eat supper.” His stomach gurgled, and Annie laughed.

“Supper is very important to me,” he told her. “My old partner used to tease me about being hungry all the time. And you know what?”

“No, what?”

“He was right. I’m hungry all the time.” She giggled, as he’d intended.

“Go ask Cathleen if it’s time to eat. If it is, come back and get me. Okay?”

She dashed out the door. He heard her shouting as she ran, “Grandpa wants his supper!” That wasn’t exactly the message he’d wanted to deliver, but hey, if it produced a meal right quick, who was he to complain?

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LittleBluestem



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PostSubject: Re: Dec 13 - Tradition   Sun Dec 22, 2013 6:42 am

“I ain’t wearin’ no dress!”

The little boy threw the offending garment down on the floor with all his 6-year-old might and crossed his stick-thin arms obstinately across his small chest. His lower lip protruded stubbornly and a frown creased his forehead. Blue eyes flashed his anger, partly obscured by the golden curls in disarray from skinning the piece of clothing over his head.

This display of what was intended to be manly refusal caused more than one of the hovering ladies to laugh indulgently. Several exchanged smiles and one was heard to murmur,

“Aww, isn’t he adorable?”

To make matters worse, one of his assailants was his own mother, that Judas! She at least had the decency to hide her smile as she bent down and retrieved the lacy white – dress, there really was no other name for it! Unless – could it be even worse? He was beginning to suspect the so-called costume they wanted him to wear was actually… a woman’s nightgown!

“Now, Jeddy,” his mother soothed “Don’t think of it as a dress. Think of it as a robe – a celestial robe.”

Oh, yeah, like that’s gonna make it alright, the boy thought darkly. He stared at his mother coldly,  injecting his gaze with all the steely disdain he could muster, as if he could impel her to back down out of the sheer force of his will. She only laughed gently and shook her head, smiling at him lovingly.

“Oh stop that you little silly!” she teased as she ruffled his hair. “You can’t intimidate me!”

Then his aunt spoke up, “Jed, dear, it’s what they wore back in those days. Han is wearing a robe, too.”

“He is?” Jed asked skeptically, hopefully.

This was the first sign that the stubborn façade just might be beginning to crack.

That’s when his mother hastily slipped the "robe" over his head. At the same time, his grandma approached, brandishing a halo fashioned from tinsel in her plump arms. Mrs. Brown, the preacher’s wife, was suddenly behind him attaching a large pair of wings, complete with white goose feathers, onto his thin shoulders.

Jed was surrounded. There was no way out. He accepted his fate stoically as his persecutors fluttered about him, cooing and fussing. He tried to ignore the feminine voices:

“Oh, you’ll be the most darling little angel there ever was.”

“Look at that cherubic face!”

“Those curls are such a waste on a boy.”

“He was born to play this part.”

“Sweetheart, let’s go over your lines once more.  ‘Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy.’ Come on, honey, now you say it.”

Between the fussing females, Jed spied a familiar figure entering the room.  

His mother spotted the newcomer as well and straightened up from her ministrations,

“Oh, look – here’s Hannibal! See, he’s wearing a robe, too. Just like you, Jeddy.”

Jed’s 8-year-old cousin sauntered up to him – saunter was really the only apt verb to describe the manner in which Han approached the unfortunate angel, grinning that huge Hannibal Heyes grin all the way.

Jed squinted skeptically as he looked Han up and down. Somehow his cousin’s costume did not at all resemble a dress. It was more like one of the illustrations straight out of the children’s Bible they had at Sunday School.  Masculine, in fact. And Jed had to admit, downright regal. Han was even sporting a golden crown upon his head, positioned at a somewhat rakish angle. Jed felt his cheeks burn. He knew he himself looked like a straight-up sissy, garbed as he was in the lacy white ladies’ nightie, the golden tinsel halo, and the goose-feather wings.

“Who you s’posed to be?” he muttered with a combination of disgust and envy.

Han practically preened as he answered proudly, “I’m a Wise Man, of course.”

Just then the preacher’s wife clapped her hands sharply and called out,

“Come now, children! Let’s take our places! Shepherds, over here! Where are my Wise Men? Mary, do you have your Baby Jesus? Angel? Angel! Now where did that angel get to?”

As Han hurried off to join the other two wise men, Mrs. Brown descended upon the unhappy little angel, placing her hand firmly upon his shoulder.

“Come on Jed,” she encouraged him. “The angel always begins the Pageant. It’s tradition.”
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Keays

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PostSubject: A Christmas Story   Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:59 pm

A Christmas Story


“How much money we got between us, Heyes?” Curry asked quietly from his bunk.

“None,” his partner answered, his deep voice echoing out from under his hat that was placed comfortably over his face. “The sheriff took it from us when we were arrested, remember?”

“Yeah, but we'll get it back when we leave,” the optimistic partner insisted.

“If we leave,” the pessimistic partner answered.

“He don't know who we are.”

“Yet.”

A few moments of contemplative silence.

“So how much money we got between us?”

“$1.28,” the information mumbled from under the hat.

“That's how much I had on me,” Kid pointed out. “How much do we have altogether?”

“$1.28.”

Silence.

“Oh.”

Silence again.

“Not really enough for a nice Christmas dinner with all the trimmin's, is it?”

“Nope.”

“But it is Christmas,” Kid stated. “If the sheriff is going to keep us in here over Christmas, ain't he kinda obligated to give us a Christmas dinner?”

Heavy sigh from under the hat.

“Donno Kid. Depends on the sheriff I suppose.”

“Yeah, but if he's married his wife would likely insist on it. You know how women are.”

Kid sat up and looked over at his partner who was still stretched out on his bunk, his black hat settled over his face.

“Is he married?” Kid asked.

“Who?”

“The sheriff!”

“I donno. Ask him.”

“Well that's kinda personal. I don't know if I'd feel right....”

The front door to the sheriff's office opened and the two prisoners instantly felt the rush of cold air and the chill of snow come wafting through the interior. Heyes sat up then as well and both men turned to the sheriff who was in the process of stamping snow off his boots and slapping his white enhanced hat against his thigh.

“Oh man, that sure is some blizzard we got coming down out there,” the lawman commented as he headed over to the stove to warm his hands. “You fella's should be thankin' me for arrestin' ya' last night. At least ya' got a roof over your heads.”

Heyes stood up and walked over to the bars. “Just how long do you intend to keep us here, Sheriff Donner?” he asked innocently. “I realize we were a bit rowdy last night, but it was just a little Christmas Eve celebrating, and them other fella's, why you let them go first light.”

Sheriff Donner poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down at his desk, facing his two guests.

“Yup,” he agreed to the truth of that. “but I know them other fellas and they all had homes to go to. Now you two are about as transient as they come. Damn, the amount of money you had between ya' you would have ended up freezing in an alley way. You're better off in here until this storm subsides.”

Heyes smiled winningly, knowing that he would have to lay the charm on thick to get this sheriff to release them.

“Yeah, but if you had just let us be, I had a really good hand there and we'd 'a had enough money for a hotel room.

Sheriff Donner snorted. “The way you had them other fellas riled up you wouldn't have made it to the hotel. They were fixin' to skin you alive.”

“Yeah, but....”

“Besides,” the sheriff continued. “Smith and Jones? I might'a been born at night, but not last night.”

“There's plenty of folks named Smith and Jones, Sheriff,” Kid offered the usual argument. “we just happen to be two of 'em.”

Heyes' smile deepened and he nodded, supporting his cousin's logic.

“That's true enough,” Sheriff Donner agreed. “But for the two of ya' to be ridin' together with no fixed address and barely enough money between ya' to keep ya' fed? That's too much of a coincidence.”

“But Sheriff...”

“Nope,” Donner shook his head. “I got a nice stack of wanted posters here and I've already started going through them. I don't know who ya' are, but I'm pretty damn sure you're wanted fer somethin' and I ain't lettin' you outa here until I've done some checking up.”

Heyes and Kid exchanged disappointed looks.

“What about our horses?” Heyes asked solemnly. “Are they being tended to?”

Sheriff Donner looked insulted. “Of course they're being tended to! I'm not gonna leave animals standing out in weather like this—besides the money ya' had on ya' will pay for their keep for a few days. As for your keep, well it is Christmas I suppose.”

“Are you married Sheriff?” the Kid asked.

“Yeah. Why?”

Jed grinned and sent his partner a 'I told ya' so' look. Heyes rolled his eyes.

“No reason,” Kid answered him. “just wonderin'.”

The front door burst open again and another draft of cold air and snow flurries accompanied the young woman who came bustling into the office. The sheriff was on his feet in an instant and bustled over to her to shut the door and help her brush the snow off her shoulders.

“Dagnabbit!” he complained. “Cupid Sinclair—what in the world are you doing out on a day like this?”

“I just had to come and get you Uncle Dashiell!” the young woman insisted. “Some of the older boys are out there throwing snowballs at the horses going by. There's going to be an accident—mark my word!”

“Dagnabbit!” the sheriff cursed again as he gathered up his coat. “What in tarnation is the matter with those boys? Just because it's Christmas...!”

The office door burst open again and a small boy tumbled into the room, quickly followed by a barrage of snowballs that hit with loud thumps and splats into the far wall. One hit the stove and began to sizzle and sputter, as steam vapour spread upwards and water drops dripped to the floor.

“Hey!” the sheriff yelled. “What's the big idea...?”

More snowballs came flying into the office, one hitting the sheriff on the arm and another splattering across his desk. Finally Miss Sinclair thought to close the door before more projectiles headed their way.

“Rudolf Sinclair, what in the world are you up to?” his mother demanded to know.

“Weren't my fault, ma!” the young man insisted as he stood up and tried to brush the snow off his chest. “They ganged up on me!”

“So you run in to the sheriff's office?” Mrs. Sinclair asked incredulously. “Your uncle has more things to deal with than a silly snowball fight!”

Rudolf shrugged. “Yeah but they won't dare come in here,” he insisted logically. “What's the point of having a sheriff in the family if ya' can't use it to your advantage?”

“What!?”

“Don't worry about it, Cupid,” the sheriff assured his niece. “I'll take care of this. A simple snowball fight is one thing, but throwing them at the horses and people just going about their business, that's another. Especially on an awful day like this.”

The front door slammed open again and two rather irate townsmen stomped in, their faces red either with the cold or with anger, or both. Their eyes meant business though.
Then 'thump!' as a white projectile exploded on the back of one of the manly heads. The gentleman cursed as his hat was knocked off his head and dumped to the floor. The second man quickly closed the door just as two more thump thumps smashed against it.

“Those boys have lost all reason!” Dan Sier complained loudly as he picked up his hat and his friend brushed the snow from his shoulders. “You gotta get out there and put a stop to this nonsense. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean they should be able to get away with behaving like this.”

“I intend to Dan,” Donner assured him. “Just give me a minute to get my coat on will ya'?”

“Well, hurry up!” the second man snarked. “Those hellions are gonna start breaking shop windows before ya' know it!”

Sheriff Donner got himself organized and all three men made a concentrated rush out the door as two more snowballs flew in under the radar and skidded along the floor to smack up against the legs of the stove. The door slammed and the loud cursing diminished into the whirling distance.

“Who are you?” young Rudolf noticed the two men in the cell.

“I'm Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones.” Heyes introduced them.

The boy snorted, sending a stream of snot flying through the air. “No you're not!” he insisted as he wiped his nose. “Who ever heard of two people named Smith and Jones ridin' around together?”

“Rudy, now don't be rude!” his mother cajoled him as she grabbed his arm and started pulling him towards the door. “Besides, you shouldn't be talking to those men.”

“Why not?”

“Because they're bad men.”

“Why?”

“How should I know why?” his mother complained. “but if your uncle locked them up on Christmas day then they must be bad!”

Rudolf looked back at the two innocent expression meeting him half way. “Oh.”

Cupid Sinclair opened the front door once again and bracing herself against the swirling snow, forced herself and her son out into the elements. The door slammed shut and the two ex-outlaws once again found themselves alone.

“Well,” Heyes commented. “That was interesting.”

“Yeah.”

Heyes sent a speculative look to the door, then over to the pile of wanted posters still sitting on the desk.

“You think that sheriff is going to be kept busy for awhile?” he asked his partner.

“Probably,” Kid smiled. “If those boys are anything like we were, it could take him all afternoon to round 'em up.”

Heyes grinned. “Exactly what I was thinking.”

Heyes lifted his right foot up onto the edge of his cot and slipping a hand into his boot he pulled out his every handy lock pick, along with the accompanying hand file. Walking over to the cell door, he slipped his arm through the bars and inserting the pick into the lock he played around with the file until he got his bearings and then clicked the lock open.
Both men were grinning as they grabbed their hats and coats and while the Kid went to lock the front door, Heyes knelt down by the safe in order to get their hardware. Within thirty seconds Heyes had the safe open and grabbing both their holsters, they made a dash for the back door. Heyes opened it and they were instantly assaulted by strong winds and swirling snow. Both of them cringed back with arms up to protect themselves. Heyes slammed the door shut again.

“Geesh!” Curry complained. “I knew it was snowing, but....”

“Yeah,” Heyes agreed. “I think we need to re-think this.”

“Yeah, but if that sheriff is going to search through them wanted posters, you know he's gonna find us in there.”

“Hmmm.” Heyes pursed his lips and nodded, engaging in some serious thought. “But the horses are at the livery and it'll be hard to get them out without being spotted. On top of that, we don't have any money between us now—and I have to admit; I'm getting hungry.”

“Getting hungry?” Kid complained. “I've been smellin' turkey in my dreams.”

“Yeah,” his partner agreed. “C'mon, let's see if we can find our wanted posters and then stay for supper. Tomorrow's another day.”

Jed grinned. “Yeah.”

The two miscreants returned to the desk. Kid returned the holsters to the safe and swinging the door closed, spun the dial while Heyes started sifting through the stack of posters. Kid stood up and looked down at the pile and whistled in disbelief.

“I find it hard to believe that there's that many crooks in Wyoming.”

“Most of these are penny-ante,” Heyes noticed. “Still, it's gonna take forever to get through them all.”

“Yeah, here give me half.”

Heyes nodded and splitting the pile in half he set a share down in front of his partner. But before he could get back to his own pile, Jed gave him a tap on the arm and nodded towards the bulletin board. Heyes followed his gesture and they both found themselves looking at their own wanted posters pinned to the wall.
They shared a quick look and dashed over to the wall to unpin the telltale descriptions. They grinned mischievously and were about to head back to their cell when Heyes took note of the now large empty space on the bulletin board.

“Just a minute,” he told the Kid as he handed him his own poster.

He stepped over to the desk again and picking up two wanted posters from the pile, he stacked the posters all together again and returned to the bulletin board. He pinned the two new posters up to replace theirs and cover up the obvious omissions. Heyes grinned in triumph while the Kid looked sceptical.

“Frank Blitzen?” he read in mock disgust. “Wanted for obscene behaviour and stealing from the Christmas orphan's fund'?”

“Yeah, well he can be you,” Heyes informed him.

Kid read over the second poster and smiled. “Yeah, okay Heyes,” he agreed. “Then you can be 'The 'Kansas Comet' Calhoun. Wanted for expectorating on women,' whatever that means—sounds disgusting, right up your alley. 'And petty theft.'”

Heyes frowned and looked from one poster to the other.

“Maybe we can find two others....”

Then two sets of eyes widen and locked onto each other as the handle on the front door began to rattle. The locked door refused to open and the handle began to shake and a soft thumping could be heard from the outside.

“Papa!” came a small muffled voice. “Papa, let me in!”

The small mittened hands continued to thump on the door as Heyes gathered up their hats and coats and the wanted posters and made a dash back to their cell. Kid waited until the child tried the door one more time and began thumping again, then unlocked the door and made his own dash back to the cell.

“It's open!” Heyes called out as the Kid quickly swung the cell door shut.

The visitor tried the handle again and this time the door slowly came open to reveal a small red cheeked cherub with big blue eyes on the verge of overflowing. Her pudgy face was adorned with long blond curls twinning their way out from under a snow powdered knitted hat to fall damply around a red scarf and snow covered shoulders. More snow was swirling in from the elements, making her look like a little fairy princess in a glass snow ball decoration. She stared over at the two 'prisoners' with a certain amount of accusation in her creased brow and pouting lips.

“The door was locked!” the little darling accused them.

“No it wasn't,” the Kid lied. “It was just stuck.”

“It was not!” she insisted. “You locked it!”

“Well, if we locked it, then how come you got it open?” Heyes asked logically.

“Well....you unlocked it!”

“How could we have done that from in here?” Kid asked her and he gave the cell door a rattling just to prove his point. “We're locked in ourselves.”

The child's brow creased even more but her chin jutted out stubbornly. “I donno,” she admitted. “but you unlocked it!”

“Ah, do you mind closing the door?” Heyes asked politely. “You're kinda heating up the outside.”

Her red little lips pursed even more but she did step into the office and close the door.

“Where's my daddy?” she demanded as the sniffles threatened to begin. “He said he was coming in here.”

“Well I'm sure I don't know,” Heyes informed her.

“But he said he was coming in here!” the lips started to tremble as a damp sleeve wiped across a running nose. “Where is he!? WHERE'S MY DADDY!”

Heyes cringed and looked to his partner for help. Kid rolled his eyes and smiled over at the bereaved child.

“There's been a number of people coming and going today,” he explained. “Why don't you tell us what your name is and then we can tell you if he was in here earlier, alright?”

“My papa says that I shouldn't talk to strangers,” she insisted.

“But you've already been talking to us,” Jed pointed out. “Besides, what harm can we do you, locked up in a jail cell?”

The child frowned as she thought about this.

“Well, I suppose it's alright,” she finally agreed. “My name is 'Pranny'.”

“Pranny?” came the unison query.

“Yes!” she insisted with a cross look. “Pran Sier! What's wrong with my name?”

“No nothin'!” Kid quickly assured her, not wanting a continuation of the tears or tantrum. “It's a very pretty name. It suits you.”

“Of course it suits me!” the sweet thing insisted. “Everybody says so...”

The office door once again flew open, bringing with it not only more wind and swirling snow, but two people and the enticing aroma of roasted turkey and stuffing. Kid instantly perked up and even Heyes grinned in hopeful anticipation. Sheriff Donner began to shake the snow off his coat and hat while the woman with him set the large picnic basket down on the desk and did the same for her own hat and cape. She turned to close the door and gasped in surprise.

“Why, little miss Pran Sier! What are you doing here?”

“Hello Mrs. Donner,” she answered politely. “I'm looking for my papa.”

“Your papa's gone home,” the sheriff informed the child. “Which is exactly where you should be. It's getting late.”

“But he said he was coming here!” the lips started to tremble again. “I can't find him!”

“Oh you poor dear,” Mrs. Donner consoled her as she draped an arm over her shoulders. “Come, come. I'll take you home.”

“I think the child's old enough to find her own way home Alicia!” the sheriff grumbled. “I'm hungry!”

“Oh don't be an old bear!” his wife prodded him. “It's getting dark out. You start getting the dinner set out...”

“Me?” the sheriff asked as a look of panic settled over his features. “But I don't...”

“Oh don't be so silly!” his wife chided him as the child smiled at him. “I won't be long. Besides it will give me the chance to give the Sier's our glad tidings and solicitude's.”

With that the woman and the child headed back outdoors to complete their journey, leaving the three men to organize the supper arrangements. Sheriff Donner looked lost and frustrated, then he growled and shook his head in defeat.

“Dagnam that woman!” he cursed. “I swear she's a vixen in disguise the way she twists me around her little finger!” He looked over at the prisoners and was met with two very hopeful grins. “I suppose you fellas are hungry?”

“Christmas dinner?” asked Heyes.

“Turkey and potato's,” asked Curry.

“Stuffing and gravy?”

“Yeah, and sweet meat pie for dessert too,” the sheriff grumbled as he began to unload the large, heavily laden basket. “The missus insists that if we have fellas locked up over Christmas than the only 'right' thing to do is to bring supper to the jailhouse so that we can share in our abundance with those less fortunate...or something like that. I swear word has gotten around cause every year we end up with somebody in here—it's becoming a blasted tradition!” He set out numerous plates that were weighed down with aromatic delights and began to unwrap them in preparation of serving. He looked up from his endeavours and eyed the two prisoners. “I suppose you'll be wantin' wine too?”

The ex-outlaws sent sparkling looks to one another and then grinned back at the sheriff. Heyes made doubly sure that their wanted posters were neatly stuffed under his mattress.



MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 13 - Tradition   Sat Dec 28, 2013 12:07 pm

“Hold on, Heyes, it’s just a few more miles,” said the Kid.  His frozen fingers held the reins to his partner’s sorrel gelding.  Curry could barely see the slumping form next to him.  The heavy snow storm had become a blizzard and the visibility was near zero.  


What had started out as an easy two-day’s ride to Tin Cup had turned into a nightmare.  They’d left Gunnison in clear skies.  Not a cloud on the horizon.  Pitkin had been reached in record time, and they’d hoped to overnight there, but the town was flooded with disgruntled railroad workers laboring on the construction of the new Alpine Tunnel.  Work on the tunnel had begun the previous January and had been scheduled to be completed within six months.  Numerous delays had the workers facing another rough winter and had soured the town’s mood.


A brief stop at the local saloon for a beer had been a mistake.  Four fights had broken out while the boys downed their suds and the sound of gunfire punctuated the brawls.  Before the sheriff had arrived, the Kid and Heyes had ducked out the back of the tattered tent building and retrieved their horses.


The papers they were delivering to the mine at Tin Cup had to arrive by the close of business the next day or they wouldn’t be paid.  It was Christmas Eve and the mine was shutting down until after the New Year.  They couldn’t afford to be stranded in the remote town without money.  The Kid was down to his last dollar and Heyes only had a few cents more rattling about in his pockets.  They needed this paycheck.  So instead of risking trouble in Pitkin, they’d chosen to climb the long, arduous route up Cumberland Pass as the clouds had begun to move in and a strong wind picked up, driving a chill through their heavy winter coats, and roughly swaying the firs and spruces lining the trail.


They’d stopped for the night just short of the summit.  It had been brutally cold and, this morning, they’d awakened to a light snow dusting their bedrolls.


The trail had become treacherous as the snow had begun to fall in earnest and it became covered by a coating of soft powder.  Hidden beneath the fresh snow, the newly moistened mud had turned slippery.  Heyes’ horse had lost its footing, gone down hard, and had rolled on him.  As the horse madly scrambled to its feet, the Kid had leapt off his own animal and hurried down the trail, half-sliding and falling in his haste to reach his partner.  Heyes had sat up quickly and cussed a blue streak.  He’d been clutching his sides by the time Curry reached him.  


The Kid had argued for stopping right then and there, but Heyes had stubbornly refused to give up on the job.  He had insisted he was fine and had demanded his partner’s help in mounting.  It had been a struggle.  The spooked, mud-caked horse had jumped away nervously several times before Heyes was able to pull himself painfully up and into his saddle.  That had been three hours ago.


Heyes was no longer cussing, and the only sounds he made were a hiss of labored breathing and an occasional groan.   Curry was worried, but they had to go on.  The snow drifting across the trail was several feet deep and the blizzard showed no sign of abating.  If they stopped now, they’d freeze to death in no time.


It’d be just their luck to die on Christmas Eve, thought the Kid.  He couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a normal holiday.  No, that wasn’t true, he could; he just didn’t want to.  When the Preacher had been with the gang, they’d attempted to observe Christmas.  Had even put up a tree a few times and read the scriptures, but outlaws don’t have much self-control and what would start out as a day of feasting and goodwill always devolved into a night of drunkenness, morose regret for the life they had chosen, and a dawn of remorse.  Heyes had given up on it years ago.  Now it was just a reminder of how far they had fallen.


OOOOOOOOOO


The Kid wiped the ice from his caked lashes and blinked several times as he rode into town.  Soft, diffused light from the buildings glowed through the heavy snow as the horses waded through deep powder that tickled their bellies.  Huge snowdrifts half-hid the sturdy log cabins sprinkled among the businesses that lined the street.  Great, thought the Kid, the whole town’s closed up tighter than a lady’s corset.  


Heyes moaned softly and the Kid turned to check on him.  He was hunched over his saddle horn clutching it tightly.  His face was covered with frost and his battered, black hat had been dyed white in the storm.  Pulling up, the Kid dismounted.  He had to get Heyes inside even if it meant barging in on some poor family’s celebrations.  He trudged to his partner’s side and reached up to help him down.  As Heyes half fell into his arms, he heard a voice muffled by the blizzard.


“Hello, there, let me help.”  A reddened, chapped face appeared out of the curtain of snow and hands reached out to steady him.  “What the hell are you two doing out in a storm like this?”


Curry turned to thank his helper and stopped short at the sight of the tin star pinned to the lawman’s chest.  He tried to hide his shock, but the man had seen him flinch and the Kid knew it.  “Much obliged, Marshal.  Uh, my partner took a bad spill coming off the summit.  I think he busted a few ribs.  Is there a doctor in town?”


“There is, but he ain’t here.  Doc took off this morning to visit his family in Taylor Park.  Here, let me take him.  Jail’s four doors down on the left; I’ll take him there.  There’s a corral and a lean-to out back; you can put your horses in there for the night.”


There wasn’t anything the Kid could do but nod.  He snatched up the horses’ reins and followed the marshal as he tugged Heyes through the snow.  


OOOOOOOOOO


Each of the two empty jail cells had two cots.  The marshal gently sat Heyes down on a cot in the first cell and propped a pillow behind his back.  “Hold on, son.  I’ll get you settled in a minute.”  He hurried into the next cell, pulling the thin, threadbare mattress off one of the cots, rolling it up, grabbing both pillows, and carrying it all back into Heyes’ cell.  He unrolled the mattress on top of the empty cot’s mattress making it thicker and softer.  


Fluffing up both pillows, he put them on the doubled-up mattresses before turning to help Heyes up.   The Kid plowed through the door, a swirl of snow following him in, as the marshal eased Heyes onto the cushioned bed.  “Easy now,” said the gentle marshal.


The Kid rushed into the cell to help and together they laid Heyes back.  He was barely conscious and shivering as his body began to warm.  Curry pulled the extra blankets from the other cells and piled them upon his partner.  


The marshal walked out of the cell as the Kid waited for the door to clang shut in his face.  Instead, the man went to the woodstove behind his oak desk and poured two cups of hot coffee from the pot resting atop it, and carried them back to the Kid.  “Here, this ought to take the chill off.”  He held out a cup.


“Thanks, Marshal…?” said the Kid, taking the coffee.


“Rivers, Harry Rivers.  You can call me Harry,” said the genial man.  


“I’m Thaddeus Jones.  My partner there is Joshua Smith.”


The lawman surprised the Kid by laughing, “Smith and Jones, huh?”


Trying to stay nonchalant, Curry smiled, “Yep, Smith and Jones.”


“Well, Jones, you and your partner can wait out the storm here.  I reckon it ought to let up in a day or so.”


“I’m grateful, Harry,” said the Kid.  The marshal sat down on the bunk opposite from Heyes as he sank carefully next to Heyes.  


“So what brings you and Mr. Smith to Tin Cup?”


“We’re delivering some papers to the mine from a lawyer fella down in Gunnison.”


“That so?  What lawyer?”


“A Mr. Winkoop.”


“I know Art Winkoop.  Good man,” said Harry, blowing on his coffee, but watching the Kid over the rim of his mug.


The Kid wondered how long it would take for Harry to check his story.  Not long, he bet.  He stood.  “I reckon I ought to get the job done.  Mine’s closing tonight, right?” he asked.


“Yes, son, it is.  Tell you what.  I was on my way out there myself.  I can drop off those letters for you,” said Harry.  He’d like to take a look at those papers just to make sure that Mr. Jones wasn’t lying to him.


Curry knew he’d look at the papers, but he didn’t hesitate at all. “Sure, Harry, that’d be right nice of you.”  He pulled an envelope from his jacket pocket and held it out.  It would be far worse to leave Heyes here with the marshal while he was half out of his head with the cold.  It was a known fact that his partner was likely to blab in that condition.


“No trouble, son,” said Harry, tucking the envelope into his own coat and standing up.  “I’ll send someone around with some food for you.  I ought to be back in an hour or so.  Help yourself to the coffee if you’d like.”  He wasn’t worried about leaving these two loose around town.  His gut told him these men weren’t dangerous and he relied heavily on instinct.  Besides, where would they go on a night like this?


“Thank you,” said the Kid.


OOOOOOOOOO


Curry had just fallen asleep in the marshal’s chair with his feet propped up on the desk.  His heavy sheepskin coat was draped over the back of the chair and the odor of wet hide permeated the small jail.  He’d wrestled Heyes out of his gray jacket, wet boots, and pants before retreating exhausted to the warmth of the woodstove.  The wind was still howling through the eaves of the building and he hadn’t envied the marshal his trip to the mining office.


The sound of the door opening aroused him and he dropped his feet from the desk.  A small, gray-haired woman stepped into the office, brushing the snow off her buffalo-hide coat.  A floppy old Stetson drooped on her head failing to conceal the wide grin on her face.


“Hey there, sonny, Harry said you could use some vittles.”  She held up a small Dutch oven, bustled over to the desk, and plunked it down in front of the Kid.  Digging into her pocket, she pulled out a bandana filled with warm biscuits.  “Damn, boy, you look like hell.  Are you daft or something wanderin’ around in a blizzard?”


“No, ma’am…”


“I’m Gladys, who are you?”  She held out a wizened, arthritic claw.  The Kid took it gently and smiled.  She was hard not to smile at.  


“Thaddeus Jones; pleased to meet you, Gladys.”


“So Harry said your partner got hisself busted up; I ain’t no doc, but I’ve bound a few ribs in my time.  Is he awake?”


“No, ma’am…”  A soft moan belied his statement, and the covers over Heyes started to flop about.


“I’m awake,” said a deep, sleepy voice.  Gladys followed the sound to the lumpy form lying in the cell as the Kid got up and trailed after her.


“Well, sit your butt up, boy, and I’ll get you fixed up in no time,” said Gladys, yanking back the covers as Heyes tried desperately to hang onto them.  She smiled into the wide brown eyes staring up at her, outraged.  “Come on now, good-lookin’, don’t be shy.  You ain’t got nothin’ I ain’t seen before; though I’ve seen more.”  


Heyes blushed, beet red, pulled the covers back up over his long johns, and frowned when his partner chuckled.  “Hey, I’m cold!” he growled.


She helped Heyes up gently until he sat on the edge of the cot, his feet dangling above the floor because of the second mattress.  Looking over her shoulder, she snapped at the Kid.  “Don’t hover over me, son, fetch me that coffee pot.”


“Yes, ma’am,” said the Kid.


Turning her attention back to Heyes, she gently unbuttoned his shirt knowing he would be too sore to raise his arms if his ribs were busted.  He sat there passively, too tired and too sore to resist.  She whistled at the heavy purplish bruising that covered his chest.  “Aww, you bunged yourself up right proper now, haven’t you?  But nothin' seems broken.  What’s your name, son?”


“Joshua.”


“Joshua what?”


“Joshua Smith.”


Gladys cackled harshly, “You two don’t have a lick of imagination, do you?!”


The Kid heard her as he walked into the cell and stood over them, holding the hot coffee.


“Thaddeus, put that down and fetch me some towels.  I think Harry has some in the back room,” she ordered.  He put the coffee on the rough table between the two beds and hurried away.  


“You,” she said to Heyes, “stop squirmin’!”


“Yes, ma’am,” said Heyes, passively watching as she pulled out a small jar from her hairy coat.  She unscrewed the lid and laughed again as he wrinkled his nose.  


“It smells bad, but it works real good,” she assured him.  Heyes tried to cringe away, but she liberally slathered him with the unguent.   Finished, she buttoned up his shirt, and left him sitting on the cot unable to avoid the pungent aroma.  His stomach lurched at the smell, but he could already feel a strange, tingling sensation spreading across his chest.


“What is that you smeared on me?” he asked.


“That’s my secret recipe.  Learnt it from an old chinee fellow who passed through these parts a few years back.”


“What’s in it?” asked Heyes.


“If’n I told you what’s in it, it wouldn’t be a secret, now would it?” she snorted.  “Never you mind.”  She pulled out a small bindle from her other pocket and put it on the table.  She could hear Thaddeus banging around in the back room and chuckled at his curses.  Grabbing one of the two tin cups resting on the table, she filled it halfway with coffee.  Her gnarled finger stirred the concoction while she blew on it until satisfied it was cool.  She held it to Heyes’ lips.  


He pulled away from it.  “What’s this?”


“You’re just full of questions, ain’t you?  It’s plain old white willow bark and a little sleepin’ powder.  She pressed it on him again.  “Now, drink it all down fast like.”


Heyes did.  


“Good boy.”  With infinite gentleness, she eased him down and covered him with the blankets, tucking them in carefully.  She brushed his forehead, sweeping back the hair, and smiled.  “You get some sleep now, Joshua.  You’ll feel better in the morning.  Who knows, if’n you been good,” she chuckled, “Santa might just bring you something.”  She sat next to him and held his hand as he drifted off.


He was asleep when the Kid came back.  


“I couldn’t find any towels.  Are you sure they’re there?” said the Kid doubtfully.


Gladys stood up and smiled, “I don’t need any towels, son, I just hated you hoverin' over me while I took care of your friend here.  Now, c’mon, let’s get out of here and let him sleep.”  She shooed the Kid through the cell door.  “You sit down and eat.  There’s enough stew for tomorrow, too.  I reckon you can set it on the stove to stay warm.   I’d best be goin’ now; I’ve got a passel of kids to feed.  Don’t you worry about your partner none; he’ll be right as rain in no time.  Merry Christmas.”  She waved good-bye as she hurried through the door before he could respond.


The Kid sat down at the desk and lifted the lid on the pot.  The stew tasted as good as it smelled and he ate eagerly.   He’d just put the leftover stew on the stove, leaned back in the chair, and wiped his mouth with one of the unused towels as the marshal came in.


“I see Gladys made it over here,” said Harry, knocking the snow off his hat and putting it back on his head.


“Yes, she did,” grinned the Kid.  


Harry dropped an envelope on the desk.  “Here’s your pay.  There’s a little extra, too.  I made sure the manager knew what it cost you to make the delivery.”


“Thanks, Harry.  Want some stew?” asked the Kid, gesturing to the pot.


“Nope, I ain’t staying.  It’s Christmas Eve and I’m spending it with my missus,” said Harry, his tone less friendly and more businesslike.  “Now, I’ve got a little tradition going here.  I make it a point to have my cells cleared out of prisoners by Christmas.  I don’t hold with locking a man up on the Lord’s birthday and that’s my day to spend with my family.  You’re on your own tomorrow.  I won’t feel the same come the day after.  Understood?”


The Kid gulped and nodded, “Yes sir.  Can you give our thanks to Gladys?”


Harry smiled again, “Will do.  Miz Tydings is a gem, ain’t she?” he said as he opened the door and went out.


“That she is,” said the Kid softly, getting up to join his partner in the cozy jail cell.


Author’s Note:  In the 1880 census, Tin Cup, a mining town at an elevation of 10,157 feet, had a population of 1,495.  Harry Rivers was the Town Marshal until 1882 when he was killed in a gunfight.  His replacement, Andy Jameson, was shot to death in 1883.

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Last edited by InsideOutlaw on Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:07 am; edited 3 times in total
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Remuda

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 13 - Tradition   Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:40 pm

With thanks and apologies to Bret Harte


The Message
"Been a bit o' time since the baby was born, but he's no babe no more, nosiree!  All growed up is he.  That's right, I tell ya, all growed up."

"Baby?"

The grizzled old man looked askance at the younger.  "Yesiree, he ain't no babe no more.  Young man, you ain't gonna tell me no different."

"Old man, we ain't ..."

"That's what I said, you ain't gonna tell me nothin' o' that."

Hannibal Heyes shared a glance with his partner.  Kid Curry's brow furrowed.

"Look, we're only here to deliver a message, not to argue anything with you, Mr. ...?"

The visage below thick eyebrows skeptically eyed the pair.  "Message?  Ya know the name!  Now what have ya to say?  Speak up!"

Blue eyes narrowed.  "Told ya already.  We're here to deliver a message to a Mr. Thorne.  Are you him?"

"That might be me.  Who's askin'?"  

Heyes sidestepped a saliva bomb aimed at his boot -- unsuccessfully.  He looked downward in disgust.  His partner raised a brow, barely stifling a grin.

"Now no need for that, Mr. ... whoever you are.  The name's Smith.  This here's my partner, Jones.  We're here to deliver a message to a Noel O. Thorne.  Are you him?"

"Told ya, young fella, might be, might not be.  How'd ya happen on me?"

"Like we told you, the sender told us where to find you -- well, one of a few places you might be.  The first couple didn't pan out, but here you are."

The old man stood, his stooped shoulders still massive despite his lack of height.  "Who'd've wanted to get in touch with Ol' Oakie here?  No one'd wanna bother with me."

His harsh tone set two pairs of ex-outlaw eyes questioning.

"No one needs to know 'bout me, nosiree!  You two'd best take your business somewheres else."  He turned.

"Wait!  Mr. ... Oakie, is it?  Like we told ya, we're not tryin' to bother ya; just tryin' to deliver a message is all."  Kid's tone was conciliatory.  "You take it and sign for it -- that's all we want.  We'll be glad to leave ya alone."

The old man faced them.  "That's all ya be wantin', just like ya just said?"

"That's right."

"Who'n's the message from?"

Heyes sighed, "Same as before, Thomas Christmas."

"Ol' Tom!?  Now why didn't ya say so?  Now there was a babe if there ever was one ..."

"Um, you told us."  Heyes' tone lacked patience.

"Yeah, he's all grown up, huh?"  Curry chimed in.

Oakie smiled.  "Damned tootin'!  And a wonder babe he was, survivin' in the cold there without his mama.  She delivered him herself.  Miracle he was.  We named him for the day.  She didn't last the night."

"And you ..."

"And we all kinda raised him up, right as rain.  Imagine, a baby and a bunch'a cussin' miners in a camp up the mountains -- Californy, ya know?"

"Well, Mr. Oakie ..."

The old man fixed stern eyes on Curry.  "Boy, didn' yer mama learn ya no manners?  It ain't polite to interrupt!  That's what we learned Ol' Tom.  Right as rain he growed up, too.  Did I tell ya that?"

Two ex-outlaws nodded.  Heyes started, "Now, Oakie, are you ..."

"So I told ya that.  That's good.  Now, ya see, we took turns takin' care o' the babe.  Bein' 'round him kinda cleaned us all up; kinda made us better men, I s'pose.  Cain't have no babe growin' up the likes o' the way we was, nosiree."  

Spittle found Curry's boot this time.  He smirked at Heyes, but stayed silent.

"Nope, we's all become better men 'cause of a babe.  Who'd'a thought?  And we seen him raised up good.  Well, I mean, the men, they came and went, but I stayed longer 'cause o' him, so I's more a pa to him 'cause we shared a birthday, and my own ma named me for it.  Noel Oakes Thorne -- yep, that's me."  He stood matter-of-factly before them.  "Each Christmas we spent celebratin' three birthdays -- me, the boy, and Jesus.  Well, none o' us was church-goin' men or nothin', but in our own way mebbe we ... well, on one day we put aside our diggin' and did a lil' observin' the right way 'cause o' the boy -- glad tidin's and all that.  Sort of a tradition, ya know?  We tried to do right by him."

Curry nodded.  "Yes, sir."

Heyes pulled a pencil from his pocket.  "Now, Mr. Thorne -- Oakie -- if you'll just ..."

"And he growed up all fine, despite it all.  He had the whole camp to call pa, but nary a ma.  That went lackin'."

"Umm, Oakie?"

"That's what I'm known as, boy.  What can I do fer ya?"

The partners did their best to be patient.  Heyes offered the pencil.  "If you'd just sign here, we'll hand over the message and be on our way."

"Message?  What message?"

Curry's brow furrowed yet again.  "The one we're tryin' to deliver to ya."

The old man's countenance grizzled.  "Now who'd wanna be in touch with the likes o' me after all these years?"

The partners' eyes met.  Heyes spoke, "Ol' Tom's a rich man now in San Francisco.  He knows someone we know and hired us to deliver this message.  We can give it to you once you sign for it.  It's Christmas Day, and from what you said, maybe a happy birthday is in order, for you and him."

Oakie's brows raised.  His countenance lit up.  "Did I hear ya right, young fella?  It's Christmas?  Today?  Time just goes by with nary a sign in this old shack, and town ain't no different."

Heyes nodded.  "That's right."

"Ol' Tom?"

"Uh huh."

"A rich fella?"

Kid chimed in.  "Yep.  Said he would've come himself but for some business and not knowin' just where to find ya."

"What's on the paper?  Never could read real good."

Heyes indicated the message and opened it when met with a nod from the old man.  He read,

"Dear Pa Oakie,

At this time of year, my thoughts turn to you and all the other men from the camp.  I am sorry I have not kept in touch as I should have through the years; however, I have made discreet inquiry through mutual acquaintances and have heard you are well and living in one of several places (said acquaintances could not be sure who was whom of the many men who raised me).  

I hope you do not think it forward of me to contact you after so much time.  It has been too long but you in particular are never far from my thoughts.  When the bearers of this message find you, I should like to visit, if you will allow it, and hope you will return with me to San Francisco to live with me here.  Please give it some thought.  I shall contact you forthwith, hopefully in time to celebrate our mutual birthday together.

Fondly and with much affection,

Your son,

Thomas Christmas"

Heyes' voice trailed off.  He regarded the old man.  Oakie stood mesmerized, a tear trailing down his cheek.  His voice broke a little as he spoke, "The boy wants to return for me?  He's made a good life for hisself.  There's no place for me in it."

Kid smiled.  "Oakie, sounds like he wants to take care of you like you did for him."

Heyes handed him the pencil.  "Yep, a gift, just in time for Christmas.  Now, Oakie, if you'll just sign right here, we'll wire him that we found you and he can get started on his trip here."

The old man looked at them.  Pencil in hand, he made his mark where Heyes indicated.  "Now, did I tell you two'n 'bout that babe we found on Christmas Day so many year'n ago ..."

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PostSubject: Re: Dec 13 - Tradition   Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:56 pm

The New Year's Eve party is beginning, but I had to finish my challenge.  Please excuse the errors.
 
 
Hannibal Heyes chewed on the end of a cigar as he picked up his newest dealt hand of cards.  Several men at the table were good at poker and made for a more challenging game for the former outlaw leader.  Cards were thrown down and dealt while chips were tossed in the center of a growing pile.
 
“Call.”
 
The men left in the game showed their cards and the newcomer’s dimple deepened as he raked in the large pot of money.
 
One of the men pulled out his pocket watch and groaned as he looked at the time.  “It’s after ten!  My wife is gonna kill me!”
 
“After ten?!  Dang, I should have been home hours ago!”
 
“I’m gonna get the silent treatment for a month or two for not being home earlier.”
 
“With your wife, that might be a blessing!”
 
Quickly, most of the men pocketed the money in front of them and hurried to leave.
 
“Night, Joe,” one waved to the bartender on his way out the door.  “Merry Christmas!”
 
Heyes glanced around the room looking for his partner as he asked the two cowboys left if they wanted to continue playing.
 
“Nah, I think I’ll use what I have left and go upstairs with one of the gals,” one replied.
 
“Me, too,” the other agreed.
 
Heyes gathered his winnings and went to the bar.  “Have you seen my friend – about my height and age but with curly blond hair and a brown hat?”
 
“Nope,” the bartender answered him as he cleaned glasses.  “Not in a while.  Can I get you anything?”
 
“I’ll take one of those.”  Heyes pointed to bottle of whiskey.  “But you saw him.”  
 
“Yep, I know who you’re talkin’ about.”
 
“Could he be upstairs with one of the gals?”
 
“Nope.  I keep tabs of who’s upstairs with my gals, in case there’s any trouble.”  The bartender brought the bottle over.  “That’ll be a dollar for the bottle.”
 
Heyes handed a silver coin to the man and took the bottle.  “Thanks.”
 
“Merry Christmas,” the bartender called out at as Heyes left the saloon.
 
“Christmas…”  Heyes looked up and down the quiet streets of the town.  “It’s already that time of the year?”  He heard singing from the church at the end of the street.  “I guess so.”
 
Heyes went into the motel and nodded his head as he touched his hat’s brim.  “Evening,” he said to the man at the desk as he headed to the stairs.
 
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Smith,” the clerk responded.
 
Heyes went up the stairs and to the door at the end of the hall.  He lightly tapped three times, paused, and tapped again before cautiously opening the door.  “Kid?”  He entered the dark room and lit a lantern.  “Don’t look like you were here, so where are you?”
 
Heyes locked the door and went back down the stairs.  “Excuse me, have you seen Mr. Jones this evening?” he asked the desk clerk.
 
“No, sir.  Last time I saw him was when he left with you earlier this evening.”  
 
Heyes tapped his fingers on the counter.  “Thanks,” he said absent-mindedly as he turned to leave.
 
Heyes blew warmth into his fingers as he stood in the middle of the street.  “Where are you?”  He thrust his hands deep into his pockets and walked to the other bar in town.  They had chosen not to go to that one earlier because of the unkempt appearance and unsavory-looking customers.  He entered and glanced around in the near empty bar, but didn’t see a familiar face.
 
“Well, as least you had sense not to go in there without me watching your back,” Heyes muttered as he left.
 
Heyes walked down the street.  The café was closed and dark, as was the mercantile and bath house.  A light shone out from the window and he gravitated towards it.  “You better not be in here,” he mumbled.  Leaning against the wall of the building, he did a quick look in the window and breathed a sigh of relief that the jail cells were empty.
 
“So where are you, Kid?” Heyes wondered aloud as he walked back into the street.  He turned to the church.  “No… can’t see you going in there.  A ride?  But the livery is closed and…”  Heyes walked pass the stable doors and saw the lock open.  
 
“Hmm…”  Heyes cautiously cracked the door open and peered inside.  A lantern was lit and placed on the ground near a figure with a saddle blanket on top of him.  Soft snores emitted from underneath a brown hat.  Heyes smiled and remembered…
 
~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~
 
“Jed… Jed, wake up!” came a persistent whisper followed by a shake.

A sleepy boy responded back, “What?”

“Get up!  Get your shoes and coat on!”

Jed sat up in the bed and rubbed his eyes.  “Why?  Where we goin’?”

“Out to the barn.”

“Why?” Jed asked as he slipped his shoes on.

“Remember what I told you I read about the animals at midnight on Christmas Eve?”

“Oh, yeah!”  A coat was quickly put on and a younger cousin eagerly followed his older one.

Han turned.  “Shh… we have to be quiet as a mouse so my folks don’t hear.”

Jed nodded and tiptoed out the door.

The boys ran to the barn and pulled open the door.

“It’s dark in there,” Jed commented.  “And it’s cold.”

“Come on,” Han encouraged.  “I’ll light the lantern and get down a blanket.”

Soon a lantern glowed and the boys were settled in between two saddle blankets.

“What time is it?” Jed yawned.

Han yawned back.  “About 11:30.”

“Okay.”

The next morning his pa woke them up and scolded them for spending the night in the barn.

 
~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~
 
Despite the scolding, spending the night in the barn and trying to stay up to hear the animals talk at midnight had become a little Christmas tradition.  Heck, even when in the home…
 
~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~
 
“Han… Han, wake up!”  Jed shook his older cousin awake.  It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Jed,” came a mumbled voice under a blanket.  “We can’t go to the stable.  Besides, animals don’t talk.”

“How do you know they don’t talk?  We’ve never made it up to midnight.  And if we can sneak into the kitchen at night, we can sneak into the stable,” Jed argued.  “Come on!  We always go to the barn tonight.”  The small voice cracked.  “Please!  We’re older and won’t fall asleep.”

“Fine!”  Han threw back the covers and sat up.  “If we get in trouble, it’s all your fault.”

Jed handed a coat to Han.  “Okay, but hurry!”

 
~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~
 
Heyes chuckled softly as he remembered they did fall asleep – always fell asleep – before midnight.  He pushed the door open and walked in, stopping when he heard the click of a gun.  “Just me.”
 
The Kid put down the gun and rubbed his eyes.  “I guess I fell asleep.”
 
“What are you doing out here?  You had me worried when I couldn’t find you.  I even checked in the jail.”
 
“Well, my horse seemed to be favoring his right hind leg so I thought I’d check on him.”
 
“This is the last place I checked, other than the church.  I thought the door would be locked.”
 
“It was.”
 
Heyes knitted his brow.  “Then how did you get in?”
 
“I picked the lock.”  Curry grinned at the puzzled look on his partner’s face.  “Heck, I watched you do it enough – it ain’t that hard.  Especially when you’re learnin’ from the best.”
 
Heyes smiled so his dimple deepened.  He came and sat down next to his partner.  “So, do you think we’ll stay up long enough tonight to hear ‘em talk?”
 
The Kid blushed and looked down.  “Hear who talk, Heyes?”
 
“The animals – I know that’s why you’re in here.  It kinda became a Christmas tradition with us sneaking into the barn to see if they’d talk.”
 
“Why did we start doin’ it?  I can’t remember.”
 
“I read a book about different Christmas beliefs around the world.  It wasn’t Ireland or England, but near there, if I remember right.  Something about when Jesus was born and the animals could talk for a while.  I told you about it and we wanted to hear what they would say.”  Heyes chuckled.  “Don’t know that we’ve ever made it up long enough to hear ‘em.”
 
Curry snorted.  “I was fallin’ asleep already.”
 
“Hey, it’s cold out here and late.  How about we go take advantage of that warm room and soft beds.”  Heyes got up and offered a hand to his partner.  “Unless you want to stay out here and wait for the animals to start talking.”
 
The Kid grabbed the hand and stood up.  “Nah.  Our horses would just complain about us runnin’ them to death when a posse is after us.”
 
“So you really picked the lock open, huh?”
 
“Yep – told you I paid attention and learned from you.”
 
The men opened the door and put the lock in place as the church bells began to ring.
 
“Must be midnight – Merry Christmas, Heyes.”
 
“Merry Christmas, Kid.”
 
The horses began to nickering and then two warbling voices were heard inside the barn, “Merry Christmas Heyes and Kid.”
 
Curry and Heyes looked at each other in shock.
 
“Heyes, did you hear that?”
 
“Nope, it couldn’t be.”  Heyes put his arm around his friend.  “We must be too tired.  Let’s go to bed.”
 
 
 

The Night The Animals Talked

In the frosty mountains and on the snowy fields of Norway, there is a legend that draws children to all kinds to stables and stalls throughout the country on each Christmas Eve night. They are hoping to hear a miracle. They are waiting to hear the animals talk.

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. This was no abandoned place, but was a working stable, filled with animals of all kinds. Into these humble surroundings, encircled by the innocent creatures of God, the Savior of man came into the world.

Now according to legend, at least, Christ's birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the new-born babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave voice to the animals and immediately they began to praise God for the miracle they had just seen. This went on for several minutes and, just before the entrance of the shepherds -- who had hurried to the stable because angels had told them the Christ had been born there -- the animals again fell silent. The only humans who had heard them were Mary, Joseph and, of course, the Christ child.

The legend of the talking animals persists to this day in Scandinavia. And every Christmas Eve, wide-eyed children creep into stables just before midnight to hear the animals praise God for the wondrous birth of His Son. Of course, adults scoff at this. "Old wives tales," they grump. "Those children should be home in bed, not out in the cold waiting for the family cow to preach a sermon."

But the children know -- or at least believe -- that animals really do praise God at midnight every Christmas Eve. And who of us -- those who believe in an all-powerful God -- can say that it really doesn't happen?

http://www.skywriting.net/inspirational/stories/the_night_the_animals_talked.html

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