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 July 2016 - Sour Grapes

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Calico

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PostSubject: July 2016 - Sour Grapes   Fri Jul 01, 2016 12:13 pm

Hello everyone...

This month I have simply taken a topic from...

The List
writing

It'd been on...

The List writing

for years now

So, for no particularly topical reason whatsoever, your challenge is:


Sour Grapes blimey


Let the humour, angst, plotting and missing scene slotting begin.
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Cal

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PostSubject: Sour Grapes   Tue Jul 05, 2016 7:15 am

I heard there’s good fly fishing in Sacramento? I used to go shooting and fishing with my brothers, so this is what came to mind when I read the challenge title:  Sour Grapes   

Imagine our handsome pair by a good fishing river….


---oooOOOooo---
Fly Fishing
---oooOOOooo---

“Catch anything Heyes?”

“Darn Chill is all…”

“Hah! Thought you said you’d be good at this.”

“I thought I would be.  Proper fishing, I can do …I never tried to fish with a fly before …Whoever thought of this must be twisted.  Fishing’s meant to be relaxing, quiet …give a man time to think …. not flick, flick, flick… takes all the fun out of doing nothing…”

“It’s fun when you get to reel in a big one.  They really put up a fight.”

“Hah! I thought you were gonna give up pulling …and just shoot the darn thing!”

“That wouldn’t have been very sporting now would it.  They call this a sport. I wish Angus would stop calling us gillies! I don’t even know what one of them is. These folks know more about fly fishing than we do anyway.  I think we’re just here to make sure they don’t go getting themselves lost.  Keep them safe from outlaws.”

“Stop asking him about the rivers …in England then …he told you he’s from ‘Scotchland’ …and a gillie’s just someone to carry the fish back to that fancy Hotel for them.  Shooting tomorrow.  That’s more our bag.”

“Our bag? …Heyes, we’ve spent too much time round these British tourists. We’re beginning to sound like them!”

“If you ever see me starting to look like them …wearing them plus four pants …shoot me.”

“Yeah …or one of them flapping hats…. What is a Ma Quis anyway? I keep thinking they’re saying Ma Kriss …remember her …she used to chase us with a rolling pin!”

“Well Ma Quis, is someone who pays us $30 a day to stop him getting lost or attacked by outlaws, while he tries killin’ things, in really weird ways, and calls it sport.”

“Well …any idea what beatin’ is?  ‘Cause he says we’ll be beatin’ tomorrow …and drivin’ onto the guns …whatever that is…”

“Its somethin’ he’s willin’ to pay us $30 a day, apiece fer Kid…”

“OK Heyes …but I think we should try and find out some more from that Watkins fella, before tomorrow …don’t sound right, us being behind whatever it is he wants drivin’ onto guns.  We don’t know if any of these Brits can even shoot straight.  Or what they gonna be shooting at …or with.”

“The Guvnor’s just asked us to keep his party happy and safe till they go home.  Gotta admit Kid, it ain’t hard on the back, and the food a great improvement on beans and jerky... “

“Well I ain’t eatin anything called ‘spotted dick’ …no matter how much of that …custard …they put on it!”

“Never thought I’d see the day you’d turn down food Kid. Think you got a case of sour grapes there.”

“A case of what?  Is that like that wine they made us drink? …Hey Heyes, what do you think our friend Ma Quis would say …if he knew who the Guvnor had sent to keep him safe from outlaws.”

“Yeah! Only he calls ‘em Road agents …or Highwaymen …”

“Road agents …sounds almost respectable, Heyes …like a Bannerman agent….”

JONES!

“I wish he wouldn’t just shout ‘Jones’ like that, the man has no manners at all.  Who does he think he is?”

“Someone …who’s willin’ to pay us $30 a day …”

“Ha-ha … ok, ok.”

“He can shout Smith at me all day long …Come on Kid… it’s not like they’re even our real names.”

“Sure Heyes…. Well come on …the Ma Quis requires our presence… and I think …that’s a gun in his hands …not a rolling pin.”

---oooOOOooo---
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ty pender

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PostSubject: Re: July 2016 - Sour Grapes   Tue Jul 05, 2016 10:03 pm

Sour Grapes
- used to refer to an attitude in which someone adopts a negative attitude to something because they cannot have it themselves.



'So, for no particularly topical reason whatsoever'


gotta get out of this business...

https://youtu.be/js4xgtEZxr0


that's a good deal...?


https://youtu.be/EJP1xiaCQB0


they gave me a left-handed gun...

https://youtu.be/U3WyqsPVkXY



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wheel


Last edited by ty pender on Sun Aug 07, 2016 8:45 pm; edited 3 times in total
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WichitaRed
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PostSubject: Sour Grapes Challenge: Blood on the Road, part three   Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:01 pm

Blood on the Road is a follow up story to Blood in the Sun. I had read, that some people were unable to find the first story, here it is https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11799057/1/Blood-in-the-Sun

This is the third chapter of Blood on the Road and subsequently, the third challenge I have submitted it under. I can say as of now, it has another chapter...which..gasp, I have decided to hold till August. Without further ado....I give you chapter three: Challenge Sour Grapes.


The farmsteads were still a distance off, but seeing their outlines on the horizon, Jed felt reassured. "See there, Han, we'll get help at the first place."

A grunt was all the reply Jed received, as Hannibal had become lost in the slow panic, he felt building in his midsection. Some ways back, he had hit a point where he wanted to give in and sink to the ground. But, instead he had been using the relentless beat of the throbbing pain to keep him moving.

Jed too was at the end of his limits. He was tired, like he had never felt before, his muscles seemed to be crying out for rest. Stubbornly, he bowed his head, placing one foot in front of another. Feeling Hannibal slipping, Jed once more, pulled his cousin's weight up and across his aching shoulders.

But this time, Hannibal gasped, his breathing sounding like a bellow with a hole in it, "let me down."

"Come on, Han, where's that share of Curry stubbornness you brag on."

"'Bout used up."

"Then you still got enough to keep going. Sides, it ain't much further."

"You've been saying that since we started out." Hannibal panted, digging his heels in. "I tell you, I'm done..." and, with a sideways jerk, he pulled free, falling to the dirt with a thud, before Jed could stop him.

"But... " Jed looked to the horizon, "I'm telling the truth this time, I can see a windmill and rooftops."
Hannibal stated flatly, "fine, you go on without me," pulling off his hat and dropping it in the ragged, roadside grass.

Jed's blue eyes followed the rotation of the windmill turning lazily against the colorless sky, then with a sigh took a seat. "You want some water?"

Hannibal's head was resting against his bent knees and his reply was a muffled, "don't want none."

Taking a long drink from their canteen, Jed's eyes squinched tight as he watched his cousin, who was drawn so tight and pale, his skin had a bluish cast. After a minute, he poked Hannibal in the leg, "I think you oughta take a drink."

Although, his words were still muffled, their hardness cut deep, "leave me alone, just let me be, Kid... damn."

Jed fiddled with the canteen a bit and exhaling, leaned in closer, "just take a drink."

Hannibal's head rose, he was almost nose to nose with his cousin. The dark brows pulled down tight over his narrowed eyes.

Jed's grin appeared, "Grandpa Curry, would say you look like you decided this was all sour grapes."

The left corner of Hannibal's mouth twisted into a sneer, his dimple grooving deeply into his cheek.

"Yup, sour grapes."
"You haven't an inkling of what you're talking about, Kid."

Jed's smile grew larger, "Then how about a drink?"

Glaring hard, Hannibal said each word low and separately, "leave me be."

Leaning away, Jed took another drink, before spinning the cap on the canteen, and setting it on the ground between them. His eyes strayed to the far off windmill and then to his cousin, who was back to resting his forehead against his knees. "How long you want to sit here?"

The silence between them was buffered by a softer version of the ragged breathing, Hannibal had been doing since they had stopped.

Drawing patterns in the dirt, Jed peeked at his older cousin, "Han?"

Hannibal answered, his tone sounded much kinder, almost pleading, "go on without me,"

Picking up a handful of pebbles, Jed said, "don't want to leave you here alone. You ain't in no shape to defend yourself."

Hannibal bit his lip, restraining his desire to blurt out, 'Frank's dead.' Only, because, he did not want to throw it in Jed's face, how he had killed a man. But, with Frank gone then so was the danger. Raising his head, Hannibal rested his chin atop his knee. Scrutinizing his younger cousin, he could see exhaustion hanging on him along with frustration as one rock after another bounced across the road. Exhaling, Hannibal's face softened,  'I forget, most days, despite how ornery and tough he is, Kid's still the little boy... ' sadness almost suffocated him, '...I had to lay on top of, to keep from running out into the gunfire that was cutting our Pa's down.'

The pebbles all gone, Jed dusted off his hands, and with a quick swipe of his shirt sleeve under his nose, stood up.

Hannibal's brown eyes tracked his movement.

"All right, I'll go get help ... but you just recall later, leavin' you behind wasn't my idea."

Hannibal tilted his head back, his eyes filling with the somberness of a penitent, "I'll take this one all on me."

Jed's mouth twitched and he nodded. Before turning away, he looked back down the way they had come. Suddenly, he stiffened, leaning forward, his expression more focused, then a full-fledged, cheeky, smile erupted. "Someone's coming."  

They stayed motionless, watching the two horse surrey change from a child's toy to the magnificent rig drawing up alongside them.

The driver was a friendly faced man with eyes that sparkled with a merry charm. "Goodness, lads, it appears the worlds been downright unkind to you."

Dallying his team's leads, he removed a fawn color bowler, placing it on the seat, and stepped down. Road dust speckled his polished shoes as the red fringe on the surrey danced above his head; as if the rig was still jouncing down the road. Striding over to the pair of boys, he hitched his perfectly, ironed pants up and squatted, "I would say, you are in need of a good Samaritan."

Hannibal looked from the bright blue eyes before him, up to his cousin's blues, and back before shifting; to reveal the blood-crusted sling, securing his right arm to his chest. "Suppose, we are."

"Then let me, be the one, to show you this world still has kindness in it." The silver-haired man said with a wink, such a sincere, warmth coming from his expression it set Hannibal back.

Standing he, he patted Jed on the shoulder, "shall we load your pal up?" He asked, with a large smile, hooking a thumb toward his rig.

Hannibal stayed as he was, but he was studying the man. From his well-made suit, to the flower in his lapel, to the expensive rig. Running his tongue over his teeth, he cleared his throat. "What are you wanting from this?"

The would-be-rescuer, giggled and it came out in little short bursts of air, "Suspicious one, are you? Well, that be a good way to approach this life. Normally, I'd say you could owe me." He giggled again, looking from one rag-tag boy to the other, "but the pair of you don't look to be the type to take out credit vouchers."

The cousins shared a look, not a muscle moving in their faces.

The man grinned knowingly as he watched their silent conversation.

Then Hannibal held up his good arm and with some effort, the driver and Jed, loaded him into the surrey.

"Hang tight," their rescuer called out, flicking the lead lines hard.

When the horses lunged forward, an extended groan rolled from Hannibal.

"Sir, I don't mean to tell you how to handle your team," Jed's tongue flicked across his lower lip, his arms wrapped about his cousin who was lolling about like a half-filled feedbag. "Still, I think a slower pace might be more better."

"I think not, I have seen men two-days dead who had more rose to their cheeks than your friend. No, I would say haste is needed."

Hannibal's eyelids fluttered, quivering a few seconds then he slipped away, hanging heavy in Jed's arms; causing Jed to squawk, "can't you make 'em go any faster."

The leads snapped several more times, dust whirling away from the spinning yellow wheels like chaff in a high wind.


ASJ----ASJ---

The grizzled doctor rubbed a hand across his sweating brow, leaving behind a streak of blood. Bending closer, he glowered at the precise stitches he was creating; not liking how much blood the boy had lost in the past hour. Snipping the thread, he straightened, arching his back. As he did so, he cocked his head, his patient's face was so young it had not yet felt the edge of a razor. The dark eyes were moving behind the lids and he knew they would open soon. Just as they had, repeatedly, while he had rummaged about in the angry, gunshot wound.

Rinsing his hands in a basin, the doctor glanced to the blonde boy who had been staring out the window. “Hell, y'all ain't nothing but rags and bones, the both of you,” plucking a towel from the pile beside the basin, he dried his hands. His eyes drifting to the red water, he shook his head, “Your pal's lost too much blood, not sure what hopes I have for 'em."

Jed didn't know what he was supposed to say, so he only nodded. His lower lip was redder than a MacIntosh apple, from where he had been chewing on it; trying to ignore the sounds emitting from his cousin along with the smell of putrid flesh and blood that had overtaken the room, since the Doctor had picked up his knife.

"Like I said, before, can't be givin 'em any laudanum for the pain, figure if'n I drug 'em it will most likely outright kill 'em.”

Jed nodded, again.

But, a weak voice said, “It... don't hurt so... bad, Doc.”

Moving to the table, the Doctor, replied, "Well, hell, of course it don't." He laid a hand on Hannibal's forehead, continuing in a gruff, wizened tone, "fact is they never do, must be why everyone enjoys getting shot so much.” Not feeling any fever, he shoved both his hands into his pants pockets, throwing a hard-look Jed's direction. “What y'all been eating? His blood’s thinner than mountain air.”

Jed looked quick to the floor, muttering, "same as most folks."

Hannibal shifted, his stung pride making his voice sound stronger, "We make out all right."

“I can see that," the doctor replied gruffly, stepping to a door in the rear of the room, he opened it, revealing a clean kitchen and a plump Indian woman rolling out dough. "Zee, fry up a mess of calf liver, leave it 'bout half-raw. This here boy needs something, pumping in his veins right quick.” Looking to Jed, who had moved up to the table, the doctor shook his head. "Hellfire, fix up a double batch, the other one's paler than Zeus' mustache."

“I ain’t hungry, Sir.” Jed lied grudgingly, not sure how they were going to pay for all of this.

“Why of course you’re not, but indulge me."

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HannaHeyes

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PostSubject: Re: July 2016 - Sour Grapes   Thu Jul 14, 2016 10:34 am

A/N -- This was inspired by an actual experience I had once on a vacation...except there was no alcohol involved.

A Small Mistake

The ceiling looked fuzzy and appeared to be moving slowly in a circle as he lay on his back. Kid Curry blinked his bloodshot eyes a few times trying to focus on what he was looking at. Finally, after a few seconds, the couple of cracks on the ceiling came into focus. He groaned as he brought his hand up to rub his forehead. He sat up slowly on the bed and the room swam as he became partially upright. He leaned on his elbows for a moment or two then sat completely up. Apparently, he had slept in his clothes since he was still fully dressed, boots and all. His shirt was untucked and halfway unbuttoned, his jacket was in the floor, and his hat was nowhere to be seen. His head was pounding as he held it in his hands. "How much did you let me drink last night Heyes?"

He made his way over to the basin to wash his face. He splashed on some cold water and softly wiped it off. It was then he noticed the silence in the room. No movement, no soft snoring, nothing. Kid slowly raised his head to look over at the other bed. It was empty. "Heyes?" He looked around the small hotel room. The only thing he saw that belonged to his cousin were his saddlebags. Curry then realized his partner hadn't returned to their room the previous night.

Last night was mostly a blur. He remembered he and Heyes had went to the saloon to celebrate after arriving in Porterville and hearing from Lom that the amnesty had finally been approved. They must have celebrated pretty heavily. Curry tried as hard as he could to remember more. It seemed like he had left the saloon before Heyes. He could recall Heyes had found a lady friend to talk to. So, yes, he had returned to the hotel before his partner. But that was all his brain was willing to let him see. Next thing he knew he was waking up to a throbbing headache and a swirling ceiling.

Kid just wanted to lay back down but decided he needed to go find Heyes. Slowly, he stood up and stretched. He had yet to locate his hat. He checked the chairs, the dresser, under the bed, it wasn't to be found. He picked his jacket up off the floor and put it on. Then he stood in the middle of the room trying to think what he had done with his hat. As he scanned once more around the room, his eyes caught a glimpse of something brown under the pillow on his bed. He went and picked the pillow up and there was his hat, squashed. He had no idea what had possessed him to put his hat under his pillow. He pushed it back into shape and plopped it on his head.

Walking out of the hotel door, Curry squinted as sunlight attacked his eyes. He pulled his hat a little lower to shield his face from the blazing ball of fire in the sky and started toward the saloon.

oooooooooo

"Mornin' Mr. Jones! Little early for a drink ain't it? Thought you would have gotten enough of that last night." The bartender smiled as he wiped down the tables.

"You mind talkin' a little softer? My head's about to bust."

The bartender laughed. Curry cringed. "Ain't no wonder! I don't know what you and your partner were celebratin' last night, but you sure put away the alcohol."

"Well, my partner's why I'm here. He didn't come back to the hotel last night. Did he spend the night with Elaine?"

The bartender thought for a second. "No. If I remember right, he staggered out of here an hour or so after you left."

"Thanks." Kid could hear laughter as he stepped back out onto the boardwalk. He started on his way to check the cafe when he heard his name called. Looking around, he saw Lom coming out of the hotel.

"There you are. Follow me, I need to talk to you," Lom said as he reached him.

"I can't right now. I need to find Heyes. He didn't come back to the room last night."

Lom raised an eyebrow. "Like I said, follow me." He turned to walk to his office.

Kid swung him back around. "I'll come talk to you when I find Heyes, Lom." His tone said the conversation was over.

Lom brushed off Kid's hand. "Heyes is what I need to talk to you about. I know where he is. Now, come on." He turned once again to head to his office.

Kid's eyes widened. Even that hurt his head, but he didn't pay it any attention at the moment. "Well,... where's he at?"

Lom stopped. He sighed and rolling his eyes said, "He's in jail."

oooooooooo

Kid followed Lom into the sheriff's office and looked in the cell. Sure enough, there was his cousin lying on his stomach snoring softly, one arm hanging from the bunk, his jacket and hat still on. Curry was aghast. "Why in the world did you arrest him?"


Lom ignored the aggravation in Kid's voice. He was pouring two cups of coffee. "I'm sorry Kid. I didn't want to, but I had to."

"Why?!"

Lom motioned for him to come sit down in front of his desk. Curry complied and the sheriff handed him a cup of coffee. "Here. You look like you need this bad. I had to because a judge insisted on it and I believe he would've caused one heck of an uproar if I didn't."

"The judge here in Porterville?"

"No. He's from a town in Montana and he's staying in the hotel. Had Deputy Wilkins drag Heyes in here right before I was leaving to go home."

"From Montana?"

"Yeah. Remember that story you told me a while back about that Fred Philpott guy claiming to be you and almost getting hanged?"

"You mean it's THAT judge? He was pretty aggravated with us by the time that mess was straightened out. Said he never wanted to see us again. What exactly happened last night Lom?"

"Well, from piecing together the slurred story Heyes told and what the judge and Wilkins said,..."

ooooooooooo

The previous evening...

Heyes was nuzzling Elaine's neck when he was approached by his cousin. He looked up to see Curry standing with his head down slightly and his hand on his stomach.

"Hey...Joshua, I gotta go. Are you comin' with me or what?"

Heyes gave him a goofy grin. "Where're you goin'? The night's still young!"

Kid looked up at his partner with one arm around the saloon girl and the other holding an almost empty bottle of whiskey. "It's around mid...(hic)... night and I've drunk so much, I feel like I'm gonna throw it all back up."

"Throw up? You don't usually have any problem holding your liquor."

Kid put a hand on the bar to help steady himself. "I know. I think I ate too many of those eggs. They ain't settin' right with me. I'm goin' back to the hotel room."

Heyes was still smiling. "Okay. I'll be over a little later." With that, he slapped Kid on the shoulder which almost caused them both to lose their balance. Then he turned back to his lady friend. "Now, where were we?"

OOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Curry walked unsteadily out of the watering hole. He almost walked straight into Deputy Wilkins who was on his way to take over the night shift at the sheriff's office.

"Whoa there Mr. Jones."

"S...sorry."

"Where are you headed like this?"

Kid started to answer, but his stomach heaved and grabbing his mouth, he ran around the side of the saloon into the alley. Wilkins followed after the sound of retching had stopped. Kid had his hand on the side of the building to hold himself up. He looked up as Wilkins arrived.

Wilkins tried not to look at the amber liquid and egg pieces now lying in a puddle on the ground. "Mr. Jones, I can't let you run around town drunk like this."

Kid rubbed his arm across his mouth. "Don't worry Deputy. I was headed to the hotel."

Wilkins looked at Curry. "Well, I'll walk you over there."

Kid straightened up and started walking with Wilkins. He stumbled once and the deputy grabbed his arm to steady him. Slowly, they made their way across the street to the hotel. "You gonna be okay to get to your room on your own?" Wilkins asked turning loose of Curry's arm.

Kid started to nod his head, but thought better of it. "I'll be just fine." He went in and eventually made his way up the stairs and to the room. Wilkins watched from the lobby until Kid disappeared through the room door.

OOOOOOOOOO

About an hour later, Heyes staggered his way out of the saloon. He unsteadily made his way to the hotel. Once inside, he waved at the night clerk who was sitting behind the desk reading the newspaper. "Hi!" he called out.

The clerk quickly shushed him. "Not so loud! We got people trying to sleep here. Now, I'm going to ask you to leave before I go get the sheriff."

Heyes looked offended. "Excuse me, but I'm staying here. My room's right up there." He pointed up to the second floor.

It was the clerk's turn to look offended. "Well, may I suggest you get to your room and be quiet the rest of the night."

Heyes smirked at the clerk and slowly made his way up the stairs, only stumbling twice. When he arrived at the top, he stood still for a moment until the world stopped spinning. He then made his way to the third door down and knocked on it. "Hey K...Thaddeus. Open up, it's me," he called in what he thought was just a loud whisper. He waited, but there was no answer. He raised an eyebrow and called louder. "Thaddeus!" He banged on the door. Still no answer.

Inside the room, a small balding man had been jerked out of a peaceful sleep. He sat up in bed and looked at the door. He heard a voice and someone banging. He got up, put on his robe, grabbed a derringer from the nightstand, and walked over to the door.

Inside room number four, Curry was passed out, sound asleep.

"Alright. I'll just get in my own way." Heyes swayed as he reached inside his jacket and pulled out a lock pick. He had just bent dizzily over to insert the instrument, when the door swung open. He looked up into the barrel of a small gun.

"What are you doing out here at this hour banging on doors and yelling?!" the man grumpily demanded to know.

Heyes stood up and Judge Carter from Montana finally got a good look at the troublemaker. "YOU!"

"Huh?" Heyes was confused. "I'm sorry sir. It seems I am at the wrong place."

Judge Carter glared at him. "I would certainly say so! You caused me enough trouble back in Montana. Then I come to Wyoming, and you show up, STILL making trouble for me."

Heyes smiled as he partially recognized the upset man. "Really, I'm sorry. I'll just be going now." He turned to go, but the judge grabbed his arm, still pointing his weapon.

"Oooh no you don't! I'm going to do what I should've done last time...have you thrown in jail!"

Heyes was starting to get irate. "Now look. I just made a mistake and knocked on the wrong door. Last time I heard, that wasn't a criminal offense."

"No, but disturbing the peace is. And you're clearly intoxicated." The judge jerked on Heyes' arm almost making him fall. He pulled him in front and put the derringer in his back. "Now, MOVE."

Heyes reluctantly started down the hallway and down the stairs. "Now, there's no sense in this. I'll just go in my room and you won't hear a thing from me the rest of the night."

The judge ignored him as he herded him out the door. Deputy Wilkins was just down the boardwalk, starting his nightly rounds. The judge looked and saw him. "Sheriff! Come here. I've got you a prisoner."

Wilkins walked up to them. "It's deputy, not sheriff." He looked at Heyes. "What are you doing to Mr. Smith?"

"You know this miscreant? Well, it's what he was doing to me! Banging on my door and yelling in the hotel hallway. I want him locked up for disturbing the peace."

"This is just a big misunderstanding," Heyes said, trying his best to look innocent.

"You're not innocent of anything. Probably haven't been in your whole life," Judge Carter growled.

Heyes bit back a smile at the mostly true statement.

"Now I INSIST he be put behind bars!"

Wilkins truly looked sorry as he sighed. "Well, come on. Follow me." The deputy took hold of Heyes' arm from the judge and led the way to the sheriff's office.

Lom looked up from putting away paperwork for the night as the threesome noisily came through the door. Upon seeing Heyes, he sighed inwardly. "What's going on here?"

"Well Lom, it's like this...," Heyes started.

The judge broke in. "Sheriff, I'm Judge Carter from Montana. This heathen was disturbing the peace at the hotel and needs to be locked up!"

Lom kept looking at Heyes who smiled as innocently as he could in his current state of mind. "This true, Mr. Smith?"

"I just got mistaken on what room was ours. I didn't mean to wake up Satan here." He pointed a thumb at the judge.

Judge Carter gristled at the remark. "I also think he was going to break into my room. He was bent over looking at the lock when I opened the door! Now I absolutely INSIST that he be jailed or I'll just have to go to a higher power and have your job as well, Sheriff," Judge Carter grumbled.

Lom closed his eyes and sighed loudly. "Alright Wilkins, put him in the cell."

"But Lom...," Heyes started to protest as the barred door slammed shut on him.

"I'll take care of him Judge Carter. Just go back to the hotel and try to enjoy the rest of your night," Lom said.

"Enjoy the night...," the judge muttered sarcastically to himself as he left the sheriff's office.

"Wilkins, go finish your rounds so I can go home," Lom instructed. The deputy left the office leaving him alone with the inebriated ex-outlaw.

"Lom, come on. You're not going to really leave me in here are you?" Heyes asked holding on to the bars to steady himself.

"Sorry Heyes, but if that hateful old judge sees you at the hotel again, he's going to cause one more of a ruckus and you don't need that when you just got amnesty. We'll just wait until he leaves town and then let you out. Nobody will ever know except us. You want me to go over and tell Kid?"

"No. I couldn't get him to wake up. He's probably out cold."

"Well, I'll tell him first thing in the morning. Why don't you lay down. Sounds like you got alot to sleep off."

Heyes nodded and sat down on the bunk. Before long, he too was out cold.

OOOOOOOOOOOO

"And that's what happened," Lom finished.

Kid had drained two more cups off coffee while listening to the story. Heyes still hadn't stirred. "You gonna let him out now?"

"Not yet. There's a stagecoach leaving in about fifteen minutes. I'll go over and see if our friendly judge is on it. Maybe he was just passing through. You can stay here with Heyes."

"Alright. Thanks Lom." Kid found himself needing more coffee. He went to make another pot.

A few minutes later, there was a groan coming from the cell. Kid walked over to the bars. "Mornin'."

Heyes pushed himself up very slowly to a sitting position. "It sure isn't a good one." He held his head in both hands.

"I knew better than to leave you alone in the saloon last night," Kid smiled.

"Coffee," was all Heyes said.

"It'll be ready in a minute. Heard you ran into a friend of ours."

"He ain't no friend of mine."

Curry laughed. "Maybe we should take it easy on the drinkin' for a while."

Heyes raised his head and looked at his cousin with bloodshot brown eyes. "Now where's the fun in that?" he smiled.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, both nursing throbbing heads when Lom came back in the office. "Well Heyes, you got lucky. Judge Carter just left on the stage." He grabbed the cell keys and unlocked the door.

Heyes still sat there. He prepared to stand up. When he did, the world tilted again. He grabbed hold of a bar, then getting his balance, walked out of the cell and sat down in one of Lom's chairs. The coffee was hot enough by then and Curry handed him a cup.

"You two need to behave now," Lom lectured. "That amnesty hasn't been announced yet."

Heyes sipped his coffee. "Don't worry Lom. Think I'll stick to playing poker with just a beer or two for a little bit."

"Want to go get some breakfast?" Kid asked.

"If you feel even half as bad as I do, I don't know how you could think of food right now," Heyes said.

"I threw everything in me up last night. I'm hungry." Kid walked to the door. Heyes reluctantly followed.

"You're always hungry," Heyes muttered.

"What?" Kid asked.

"Nothing. See you later, Lom." The door shut behind the two hungover ex-outlaws.

Lom smiled as he watched them go.









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PostSubject: Re: July 2016 - Sour Grapes   Sun Jul 24, 2016 2:40 pm

Sour Grapes


Hannibal Heyes sat on a log with his hands holding up his bowed head.

Kid Curry quietly walked up to him. “It’s not your fault, Heyes.”

“How did you find me?” Heyes mumbled.

The Kid sat down next to his cousin. “I’ve known about this place for a while. Use it myself sometimes when I need to get away from the boys.”

The babbling brook meandering over rocks and a mountain bluebird sang nearby.

Heyes sighed. “I can’t believe Big Jim is gone! If only we had rushed in there and broke him out of jail…”

“We could’ve been captured or all of us killed instead of Big Jim goin’ away for seven years. That town was ready for the Devil’s Hole Gang to break him out and they weren’t gonna let it happen.”

“I shouldn’t have taken so long opening the safe. That’s why the posse was so close on our heels.”

Curry shook his head. “You opened it in only twenty minutes. Dynamiting the safe in that canyon would’ve gotten someone hurt.”

“It’s my fault, Kid. Should’ve turned back and rescued him from the posse right at the beginning.”

“Heyes, who piped the job? Big Jim. Who insisted on stoppin’ the train there? Big Jim. Who gave us all orders not to stop for no man – no one was worth bein’ captured or killed? Big Jim. We were followin’ his orders to continue to run.” Curry’s voice grew louder with each question. “Now as I see it, you can sit here and feel sorry for yourself that it’s your fault OR you can get yourself down there and start leadin’ that bunch of misfits. Heck, they’ll all be dead within a month if no one tells ‘em what to do.” The Kid stood up and brushed the loose bark and leaves from his pants. “What’ll it be?”

Heyes looked up at his kin. “What makes you think they’ll accept me as their leader?”

“Well, let me see…” Curry began to number off on his fingers while bringing up his points. “You were Big Jim’s right hand man, helped plan several successful and profitable jobs, and can open a safe without dynamite. You’re a natural leader. Heck, you’ve been bossy as long as I’ve known you. You even had the older boys at the home followin’ you.”

Heyes weakly smiled. “Yeah, I did.”

“So are you comin’ down there with me or not?”

Heyes stood up and stretched. “I’m coming.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“What makes you think we want a young whipper-snapper like you for our leader?” Mueller jeered. “I got more age and experience than you!”

“Old age and bad experience don’t make for a good leader,” Heyes replied back surrounded by the gang in the bunkhouse.

“Why you little…”

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Curry said quietly and deadly as he pushed off the wall, his hand hovering over his gun.

Mueller froze from drawing his gun and slowly crossed his hands in front of his chest. “I see, you’re gonna use Curry here to force your way as leader.”

“Don’t have to. The Kid is just making sure all is fair, aren’t you, Kid?”

“That’s right, Heyes.” Curry relaxed and leaned back against the wall.

“I’m not gonna force my way as leader. Either you want me or you don’t.” Heyes smiled and sat on the edge of the table. “Just remember who has been helping plan those success jobs so your pockets are lined with money. I worked beside Big Jim as his second in command – he had lots of faith in me and my abilities.”

“So what happened last time?” Kyle innocently asked. “Why did Big Jim get caught?”

“If you’ll remember, I was sick in bed so Big Jim piped this job himself…”

“You sure were sick!” Kyle agreed.

“Big Jim heard about the shipment and he decided where to stop the train. Maybe it was a trap? That posse sure was on us fast enough.”

Most of the gang nodded their heads.

“And Big Jim got caught because of one of his own rules – leave anyone behind to make sure you escape.”

“That is… was one of his rules,” Hank agreed.

“Now I’m not gonna be a dictator and force myself as the leader with Kid Curry’s gun.” Heyes nodded towards his partner. “We’ll decide democratically.”

Kyle furrowed his brow as he scratched his head. “How we decidin’?”

“We gonna vote on it,” Wheat explained impatiently.

“That’s right. Does everyone agree to vote for the new leader?” Heyes looked around the room and noted all nodding heads. “First thing we have to decide is who should run for leader.”

“I wanna run,” Mueller spoke up. “Sure not gonna be led by a youngster.”

Heyes glared at the man. “Okay, Mueller is in. Anyone else?”

“So who wants me to be their leader?” Wheat piped up. “I’ve been here the longest and know a thing or two about leadin’ a gang.”

“Wheat is in. Anyone else?”

“What about you, Heyes?” Doc asked.

“I’ll be running, too,” Heyes assured the oldest gang member. “Anyone else?”

The remaining members looked around and shook their heads.

“So next is the speeches…”

“Speeches?!” Wheat asked. “Why we need speeches?”

“So we can tell our ideas to the voters,” Heyes patiently answered.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Heyes. You’d talk us all to death! Everyone knows about us and our thoughts. We don’t need no stinkin’ speeches!” Wheat argued.

“That’s right!” Mueller added. “Your silver-tongue will hypnotize all of ‘em to vote for you.”

Curry smiled. “They got a point there, Heyes. I think we know enough about all of you to decide who we want as leader.” He stood up straight. “Think, though, that the candidates shouldn’t know who’s votin’ for or against them. A secret ballot. Some might hold it against the voter.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t feel comfortable votin’ for nobody if they was in the room watchin’,” Lobo said as he sat down at the table. “That happened in another gang I was in and the new leader eventually killed all who didn’t vote for him.”

“Okay, the three of us will go out, away from the bunkhouse, while you talk it over and decide amongst yourselves who will be the new leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang.” Heyes stood up and made for the door. “Let’s go, Wheat and Mueller.”

Wheat hitched up his pants and Mueller grabbed his hat as they followed Heyes out the door.

Curry watched the three men walk away from the bunkhouse before closing the door and turning back towards the gang. “We have an important decision to make here. A new leader will set the course of how successful we are as a gang and what our reputation will be.”

“Pffttt…We know who you’ll be votin’ for, Kid.” Lobo got up and poured a cup of coffee.

“Not necessarily. Me and Heyes have our differences.”

“You’re not votin’ for Heyes?” Kyle asked, incredulously.

“Didn’t say that, Kyle. My vote will be secret like the rest of them.”

“Well,” Doc started. “I don’t care for Mueller bein’ leader. He’s a hot-head.”

“That’s sure to get us into trouble.” Hank said. “’Member that job a few months ago when that fat banker wouldn’t do as he was told? He was ready to kill him until Big Jim stepped in.”

“Killings will get us hung and the posses won’t be givin’ up at all,” the reserved Cortes added quietly from his bunk.

“What about Wheat?” Curry asked as he sat on the edge of the table.

“I like Wheat!” Kyle said emphatically. “Why he’s like the big brother I never had.”

“Big brothers ain’t all they’re cracked up to be,” mumbled the youngest member of the gang, Billy Harper.

Joe Harper punched his younger brother’s arm. “Watch what you say, little brother.”

Billy winced. “Not you, Joe. You’re the bestest of big brothers.”

“That’s more like it,” Joe said with a smile. “Now I like Wheat and he keeps us from gettin’ too rowdy in the bunkhouse, but how is he with plannin’ jobs? Has he done it before?”

“I agree – Wheat might be able to lead, but what about comin’ up with jobs?” Doc poured himself a cup of coffee. “Anyone else?” as he offered up the pot.

“I’ll have some.” Jackson, one of the newer members, held up an empty cup. “Wheat does like to think he’s a leader.”

After a few moments of silence, the Kid asked, “What about Heyes?”

“Now Heyes, he’s good with plannin’ jobs,” Doc stated as he walked around the room filling cups.

“He don’t hold to violence,” Cortes added.

“He talks a lot.” Lobo held up his mug when Doc came near him.

“He sure does!” Curry chuckled and the others agreed.

“He opens safes by listenin’.” Kyle pouted. “Can’t use dynamite when he does that.”

“But is he a leader?” asked Hank as he looked over to the Kid.

“Well, I can tell you I’ve known Heyes a long time, since we were youngsters. Grew up on neighborin’ farms. He was hangin’ out and even leadin’ the play with the big kids when he was just in the primary grades. Everyone wanted to be his friend in school.” Curry smiled. “And he’s been bossin’ me most of my life.”

“But is he a good boss?” Hank questioned.

“What about you, Doc? You don’t wanna be leader? You’re doin’ a fine job now,” the Kid asked.

“Me, leader of this gang?” Doc laughed. “Heavens no! Who would want that job?”

“Just askin’,” Curry smiled.

More silence resulted in Doc stating, “I think we’re ready to vote. What do you think?”

“I’m ready.”

“Me, too.”

“It’s gonna be a secret, right? No one will know who I voted for?” asked Lobo.

“I can’t write so how we gonna do this?” asked Billy.

“Me neither,” Kyle said sympathetically.

“My readin’ ain’t so good either,” Cortes muttered.

Doc thought for a moment. “I’ll put my hat in the corner with some cards, dice and bullets. If you want Heyes for leader, but a card in the hat. If you want Wheat as leader, put a die in the hat. And if you want Mueller for leader, but a bullet in the hat.”

“I like that!” Kyle stated. “Heyes plays poker and Wheat likes craps and Mueller…well, he’s dangerous.”

“Good idea, Doc.” Curry stood and assisted Doc with getting the voting area ready.

Once the hat, cards, dice and bullets were in place, Doc turned. “Now no cheatin’ and votin’ for more than one. If there’s an extra card, die or bullet, we will be startin’ over again. And no watchin’ what others are doin’ in the corner.”

“And we all agree we’ll back up the leader with the most votes, right?” Curry asked.

“Yep.”

“Sure will.”

“Of course.”

The gang members took turns going to the corner and voting by putting the appropriate item in the hat for the person they wanted as leader. When everyone had a turn to vote, Doc brought the hat over to the table. He pulled out a card. “One for Heyes.” Another card. “Two for Heyes.” He pulled out a die. “One for Wheat.” He frowned as he pulled out a bullet and looked around the room. “One for Mueller,” he said begrudgingly. “Three for Heyes. Two for Wheat. Four for Heyes. Five for Heyes. And three for Wheat.” Doc looked up. “Look like Heyes is our new leader, boys!”

“Now I want everyone to agree that this was done democratically and fair.” The Kid looked around the room and saw affirmation. “Okay, I’ll go get the others so we can tell ‘em who we decided on. And no tellin’ them how many votes they got.”

Kid Curry opened the door and saw the three candidates around the well. “We’re done votin’. You can come in now.”

Mueller, Wheat and Heyes came into the bunkhouse.

“Well, who did you decide?” Mueller asked gruffly.

“The new leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang is…” Doc began.

“Heyes! It’s you, Heyes!” Kyle blurted out. Noticing Wheat scowl, he added, “But I voted for you, Wheat.”

“Kyle, you aren’t supposed to tell anyone how you voted!” Curry reprimanded.

“Sorry, Kid.”

Heyes looked very pleased. “I’m honored you chose me to be your new leader.”

“Well, I’m not!” Mueller hissed. “I’m not gonna follow some boy.”

“That’s who the gang voted for, Mueller. Either accept it or move on.” Kid Curry hooked his thumbs in his belt.

Mueller pushed his way over to his bunk, grabbed his saddle bags and began filling them with his belongings. “I’m be movin’ on. Didn’t want to lead this gang of misfits anyways.” Finished packing, he turned to Heyes. “Good luck… you’ll need it!”

Heyes smiled. “Don’t need your luck. I think the Devil’s Hole Gang is gonna be the luckiest and most profitable gang the West has ever seen.”

“Watch out banks and railroads!” cheered Jackson.

“Whatever! You can have this gang.” Mueller exited and slammed the door shut behind him.

Heyes went over to Wheat. “You gonna be okay with me as the leader or are you leaving, too?”

Wheat looked around the room. “Seems they chose you as leader. Do you want me to go?”

Heyes shook his head. “No, I was hoping you’d stay on. I can use a good man like you, Wheat.”

“Well, I try you out and see how I like you bein’ the leader.”

“Fair enough.” Heyes turned to the gang. “Let’s have a drink – to the success of the Devil’s Hole Gang!”

Curry smiled at his partner.





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PostSubject: Re: July 2016 - Sour Grapes   Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:40 am

I wrote this during my recent holiday amongst the vineyards of Bergerac! It is possible this is the beginning of a longer story ....


Sour Grapes

 

“Is there any jobs in there, Heyes?” the Kid asked, his teeth biting into his fifth slice of toast.

Heyes grunted. He held the broadsheet with both hands, his own breakfast in front of him, forgotten.

“Heyes?”

Heyes had been reading the newspaper for half an hour, supposedly looking for jobs. The Kid pulled the newspaper down and met the cold stare of Hannibal Heyes.

“There’s a lot to read,” Heyes growled and shook the Kid’s finger free of the paper.

“That don’t look like the job pages to me,” the Kid muttered and then pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Can I dip my toast in that egg you’re not eatin’?”

He smiled broadly.

The newspaper folded smartly and slapped down on the table, followed by a look. Heyes contemplated the breakfast in front of him, then sighed and pushed the plate away in the Kid’s direction.

“So what was so interesting in the paper?” the Kid asked, dipping his toast into the now liberated egg.

“I was reading ‘bout vinification.”

The Kid grunted. “An’ is that interestin’? Whatever it is.”

Heyes nodded. “Yeah. Vinification is winemaking, Kid.”

The Kid grunted again. “An’ that’s interestin’, how?”

“’Cos here in San Francisco we’re right on the edge of winemaking country.”

The Kid shrugged.

Heyes paused and his hand went to the paper again. “There was one job I thought might be worth a look.”

“Oh yeah?” The Kid was immediately suspicious of Heyes’ tone.

Heyes deliberately kept his features in neutral as he shook out the paper. He found the page he wanted and read:

“Security guards wanted. Must be capable and resourceful men. $10 dollars a day, board and lodging included. Maximum period of employment – two months. Apply Did-ya  La-land-e-oose, Vina Ranch, care of Five Springs Hotel, San Francisco, one day only March 10.”

“That’s today. Sounds perfect. What are we waiting for?” The Kid was already on his feet, the last remaining round of toast clamped between his teeth.

“Yeah, it does sound perfect,” Heyes agreed with a nod, looking up. He licked his lips. “There could be a problem,” he said, slowly.

The Kid sat quickly. “What sorta problem?”

“Well I dunno if there IS a problem. I jus’ said there could be.”

“Heyes,” the Kid growled, warningly. “Why COULD there be a problem?”

Heyes swallowed and reached for his pocket. “Remember Mark Hopkins Junior?”

The Kid looked blank until Heyes held up his pocket watch. The Kid’s mouth formed itself into an O.

“But he’s dead.”

“Yep but others of the Big Four aren’t. The man who placed this advertisement for instance. The Vina ranch is owned by Leland Stanford.”

The Kid considered for a moment. “Was he there that night?”

Heyes shook his head. “Nope. Not that night but Carlton Balfour played poker with Mark Hopkins Junior twice.” Heyes paused before continuing slowly. “The problem is Kid I can’t remember who was there the first time. I’ve a bad feeling …” He winced.

“Ah!” Now the Kid understood.

“I won’t know until I see him whether I’ve met him afore.”

“D’ya think he’s likely to remember you if you ain’t done up as Carlton Balfour?”

Heyes pulled a face. “I admit it’s unlikely. He must see hundreds of faces in his line of work and it would of been at least five years ago.”

“Too much of a risk to take this job?”

Heyes considered for a while. “Well we can’t stay here at Silky’s forever an’ it does say board and lodging.” Heyes shrugged. “Ya never know Kid, it might turn US down. But ya right. I look a whole lot different when I’m not done up as Carlton Balfour.”

The Kid shrugged. “Advertisement says apply to someone called Didya Lalando. We might not even run into Leland Stanford.”

“Nope.”

“What d’ya wanna do?”

Heyes considered. “Let’s go see this Didya fella. At least see what the job’s all about.” Heyes smiled with a nod.


 


Heyes and Curry joined a line of prospective security guards and spent the next two hours waiting.

Heyes shut his eyes, hid his face under his hat, stretched out his legs and folded his arms. He only moved when it was time to advance up a chair or two nearer the room where the interviews were taking place. Occasionally they heard muted gunfire. Startled the first time, the candidates were then informed they might be asked to demonstrate their shooting skills.

Predictably, the Kid fidgeted, paced, sighed and puffed at the delay. A glance round the room told him that none of their potential rivals were security guard material so why was the man inside even bothering with them?

At last, it was their turn. The man who showed them in addressed another man who sat behind the desk.

“Je vous presente Monsieur Didier Lalandeuse. Et vous Messieurs?”

Both boys looked blank, and then Heyes realised. “Joshua Smith. My partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

The man behind the desk stood up. “Bonjour Monsieur Smeeth, Monsieur Jones.” He held out his hand for shaking, which they did. “Assez-vous, s’il’vous plait.” More blank looks and the man irritably waved them down. In unison, the pair looked behind them and sat.

“I am the Chef de Vineyard at zee Vina Ranch.”

“Chef?” the Kid widened his eyes hopefully.

“Le Manager. My employer, Monsieur Stanford, ‘e owns the Vina Ranch. ‘E visit my region of France, Bordeaux some years ago and ‘e is determined to commence the production of zee wine ‘ere as soon as possible. So he ‘as engaged moi as Chef de Vineyard, and others from my country to ensure that wine production ‘ere is possible. Monsieur Stanford ‘as brought over, at great cost to ‘imself the necessary vines to grow ‘ere in California.” He paused. “Mai there is a problem. In America you ‘ave the Phylloxera. It is very bad for zee vine. Mai Monsieur Stanford ‘as an idea. He will … ‘ow you say? Graft the Bordeaux vine onto your American rootstock. In this way, ‘e ‘ope to rid ‘is vines of the Phylloxera. C’est un good plan, non?”

The Kid looked blank. Heyes on the other hand frowned.

“I’ve heard about Phylloxera. It’s affected vineyards all over the world.”

“That is correct, Monsieur Smeeth. In my country, it ‘as devastated the wine making an’ very leetle wine is made zere at zee moment. For a country like France, zis is a catastrophe! It is an assault on our way of life! Boff! An’ it started right here in America.” He shrugged. “Mai I forgive you. Do you know why?”

Two heads shook a no.

“In my opinion, ‘umble as it maybe, France should ‘ave zee competition in wine making to preserve its pre-eminence. Zay make zee wine in Italia and Espagne.” He gave a short chuckle. “Of poorer quality of course mai …” He shrugged and pulled a face. “Some people like it.” He thrust out his chin and looked astonished at the thought. “So zee competition can only come from zee New World. New Zealand and South America they try their best but … .” Gallic shrug. “Boff! I do not think zey can rival the French.” He shook a finger. “California is a different keetle of poisson.”

The Kid looked at Heyes, opened mouth. He had caught one word in four of the Frenchman’s speech so thick was his accent. He was hoping that Heyes with his finely tuned ear had dealt with it better. The way Heyes was pursing his lips thoughtfully suggested that he had.

“Mr …” He paused. How did he pronounce the man’s name without causing offence? “Sir this is all very interesting but what exactly is the job?”

“Ah! Monsieur Smeeth, a man like moi. I can see you like to get to the ‘eart of the matter. I ‘ave said already that Monsieur Stanford is experimenting with something to ‘opefully avoid the Phylloxera. Zee precious pairings need guarding. Zey are Monsieur Stanford’s enfants, oui? If this works then he will ‘ave discovered the answer to the Phylloxera problem an’ be the first to successfully grow fine Bordeaux wine right ‘ere in California on a commercial scale. I think you can see that zee enfants are very valuable, non?”

Heyes nodded in understanding. The Kid rolled his eyes.

“So the job is standing guard over the … on fonts … until they are big enough to have established themselves?”

“Oui! Exactement, Monsieur Smeeth, you ‘ave understood correctly. Already I can see that vous et moi will get along … ‘ow you say? Famously?”

Heyes grinned and nodded. “Oui, I mean yes, sir.”

The Frenchman stood up and held out his hand. “Please call me, Didier.” Heyes found his hand shaken enthusiastically. Heyes kept up the false smile but glanced at the Kid, who just rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“Does this mean we have the job?” Heyes asked, covertly clenching and unclenching his right hand to bring some life back into it.

“Zat is a good possibility, Monsieur Smeeth but first I would like to see zee shootings. I see zat you wear your firearms tied down. Like the famous American gunslingers I ‘ave read about. Come with moi and we test the shootings. If zat is in order then oui we can say you ‘ave zey jobs.”

He beckoned them over to an outside door that lead to a courtyard. At one end was a target. Several shots peppered the outer circles but none had hit the centre. Didier motioned at the target.

“You ‘ave zee three shots. Do you think you can hit zee target from ‘ere? Or would you like to move a leetle closer?”

Heyes sucked in a breath and waggled his head from side to side.

“Well that’s a fair distance, Didier,” he started doubtfully. A single gunshot interrupted him. Followed by the whirl of gun around a finger, then the whop as the gun returned to its holster. Both Heyes and Didier looked round at the Kid, standing with his arms folded.

“I hit the target,” the Kid, growled.

Both Heyes and Didier’s heads turned to look. Only Didier was surprised that there was now a hole in the dead centre. His hands went to his head in astonishment and he walked down to take a closer look, muttering furious and excitable French as he went.

Heyes grinned at the Kid, who pulled a face. He rolled his eyes again. He was beginning to think he had invented perpetual motion on the eye-rolling front.

“Are ya sure ‘bout this Heyes?” he asked, in a low voice. “An’ what in tarnation is an on font?”

Heyes shrugged. “It’s a job an’ it sounds real easy. How difficult can it be? Plants don’t up and run away do they?”

“Monsieur Jones! C’est incroyable!”

Didier was returning with his arms open wide. Before the Kid could move, Didier had seized him by the shoulders and had planted a kiss on each cheek. Heyes grinned then sobered quickly when it was his turn for similar treatment.


“Monsieur Jones, Monsieur Smeeth, I am very ‘appy. I like very much you come and work for me.”

 


 

Two days later, having installed themselves in comfortable and well-equipped rooms, Didier was showing them around the Vina ranch.

Heyes looked around at the vineyard, one eye shut against the sun. “I didn’t think you were growing these new kinda vines here yet?”

Didier waggled a finger. “What you see ‘ere is only American vines. The grapes make wine, if you can call it zat and it ‘as some use for the cookings mai it is not so good for the drinking …” He chuckled and held a hand to the side of his face, conspiritously. “Unless you want to get drunk. Then …” He shuffled his shoulders. “It’s okay. Why waste a good bottle on zat, oui?”

Heyes smiled and nodded. The Kid rolled his eyes.

“Come I show you what we are doing.” Didier beckoned them into a large industrial building. Inside they stopped and looked around at the silent machinery. There was no one around.

“It is zee wrong time of year for zis part of the operation,” he said, in explanation. “Monsieur Stanford has invested a large … an’ I mean large amount of money to succeed. Over zere is where we first ferment zee wine.” He indicated the large empty vats. “We ‘ave zee pressing and after zat the wine is put into oak barrels where zee wine takes on zee oak aromas and tannins necessary for zee taste. Come, come.”

They boys followed him through into a large cellar, stacked floor to ceiling with oak barrels.

“The wine it stays ‘ere for several months. Depending on zee quality of the grape and zee type of wine we want to make.” He shrugged. “Discretion, Messieurs.  To decide when exactly zee right time to bottle is an art. Come, come.”

He led them into a further cellar, this time full of bottles stacked on racks. Both boys looked round open-mouthed. Neither of them had seen so many bottles in one place before.

“Would you like to try?”

Blank looks.

“Zee wine?”

Big grins and nods.

Didier turned and spoke in rapid French to a man who nodded and set off between the racks. He was soon back with a bottle and glasses. He uncorked the bottle and set it on an upturned barrel.

“So we go from zis …” Didier held up a bunch of black grapes. “ … to zis.” He indicated the bottle. “While we are waiting for zee breathing we visit the secret part of zee ranch.” Didier tapped his nose. “I show you where zee vines ‘ave been grafted.” He beckoned them towards a small door.

The Kid’s quick hand snaffled a few of the grapes. He pulled a face of disgust. “Ooh, these grapes are sour!”

Heyes grinned. “Wine making grapes aren’t as sweet as desert grapes, Mr Jones,” he said, knowledgeably.

Didier paused before the small door and sorted through a large collection of keys. “Boff! Je pense zis. Non! Zis one? Non! Merde!” Furious French muttering as Heyes swopped a grin with the Kid. Didier tried several more keys until finally one turned. “Ah! Zat one.”

Inside was a large greenhouse where rows and rows of small plants were growing.

“Behold! Zee enfants!” Didier said, dramatically.

Heyes leant forward and inspected the nearest. It was clear that the new growth of the plant was springing from an older root.

“Within zee next two months, when my viticulturist decides zee time is right, we will begin zee plantings of zee new vineyard. It will be … three, possibly four years before zee vines will grow grapes large enough to make zee wine. Until then it will all be about protecting and caring for zee enfants. Your jobs is to make sure that nothing an’ I mean nothing ‘appens be zee enfants until zee planting.”

Heyes suddenly looked suspicious. “Didier, I get the feeling that you are not telling us everything. Is there something you haven’t told us?”

Didier shrugged but looked a little embarrassed. “Mai oui perhaps zere is a leetle something I ‘aven’t told you,” he conceded. “Boff! It is only a leetle something.”

“Such as?” the Kid asked, sharply.

Didier shrugged. “There is a possibility, only a leetle possibility zat zee vines are stolen. Making zee wine is a very competitive ‘ere in California an’ Monsieur Stanford’s idea ‘as attracted great interest.”

“D’ya know something Didier?” Heyes asked, firmly, holding up a finger.

“Mai, non,” he shrugged. “I am simply cautious. I ‘ave my reputation Monsieur Smeeth. Monsieur Stanford ‘e ‘as put ‘is trust in moi an’ I do not want to let ‘im down, vous comprenez?”

Heyes looked around. He stood hands on hips and nodded, with a frown.

“Mr Stanford sure has invested a lot of money in all this.”

“Exactement!”

“Will it work?”

Didier shrugged. “Boff! I do not know. We, ‘ow you say, give it a go?”

Heyes smiled. “Yeah, Didier you’re giving it a go alright.” He saw the Kid edging back towards the door and knew what he had in mind. “Didier has that wine breathed enough yet?”

Didier grinned. “Mai, oui.”

Back in the bottle cellar, several more bottles were open and a jug of water stood ready with more glasses. Didier picked up one bottle and poured a little into three glasses.

“Zis wine is made from American grapes only.” He sniffed then swirled the red liquid around and held it up to the light. “In a fine wine, zee legs stay on the glass for a long time mai zis does not.”

“Legs?” the Kid whispered in Heyes’ ear.

Heyes flicked him away irritably, intent on what Didier was saying.

Didier took a sip, threw it about his mouth in a chewing fashion and then spat into a spittoon. He pulled a face. “C’est okay, je pense. You try an’ you will see what I mean.”

Heyes followed exactly what Didier did. “It’s um …”

“Sharp,” the Kid said, with a pained expression.

“Exactement, Monsieur Jones. That is why I say it is fit only for zee cookings. Clean zee palate and try this one.” Didier drank a glass of water before reaching for a different bottle.

The boys followed suit and were soon sampling the second bottle.

“Our rival zee Sunny Slope Winery is experimenting with zee grafting also. C’est better, oui?”

Both Heyes and Curry nodded, appreciatively.

“So Mr Stanford isn’t the only one doing the experimenting?” Heyes asked.

Didier shook his head. “Non, mai no one ‘ave the resources of Monsieur Stanford. But zis …”  Didier grinned proudly and poured three more glasses. “… is ‘ow wine should be. Messieurs, taste zis to be in ‘eaven!” The grin widened when he saw the astonished looks on their faces. “Zat is the wine of Bordeaux! Zis is what we are aiming for!”

to be continued .....








 






Author's Notes

In 1880, Leland Stanford went to France and paid visits to some of the great chateaux of Bordeaux. This experience ultimately led to his determination to become a great wine producer. In 1881, Stanford began buying large quantities of land in the Californian countries of Tehama and Butte, with the announced aim of growing wines that would rival the best of France. This became the Vina Ranch. In one year, he planted a thousand acres of new vines. He constructed a vast network of irrigation, fifty miles for the vineyards alone. A number of French winegrowers were brought over to for help and advice. No expense was spared.



However, the Vina Ranch never could have made fine table wines. It was too hot in the summer and the soil was richer than good wine grapes need. This didn’t become apparent until 1887 when after several harvests the wine produced was only of poor quality. Brandy later became the principal product.



The Vina Ranch is now part of Stanford University.



With regards Phylloxera, it first appeared in 1863. Supposedly spreading to Europe by cuttings of native American vines sent to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Kew Gardens. These cuttings carried a specific root louse that attacks and kills a vine’s roots and leaves. It spread like wildfire in Europe and had decimated most of European vineyards by the end of the 19th century.



As Phylloxera is indigenous to North America, the local varieties of vine have a natural resistance but make poor quality wine. The only practical solution was to graft Old World vines onto American rootstock, thus making the whole plant resistant to Phylloxera.



Whether Leland Stanford did this at the Vina Ranch, the author does not know. However, given how determined Stanford was to establish a major vineyard, the Phylloxera problem was one that had to solved. So it is extremely likely that he would have experimented in this way. 



When wine is swirled, the extent to which the wine sticks to the side of the glass is called the legs. Contrary to popular belief, the legs are no indictor of the quality of the wine but rather of the alcohol content. The thicker and slower the legs fall means the wine is higher in alcohol.

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PostSubject: Re: July 2016 - Sour Grapes   Sun Jul 31, 2016 5:10 pm

By Appointment to Her Majesty

“Heyes, it’s amazin’ these suits don’t wrinkle so much when we’re on the trail.”

Hannibal Heyes raised a brow. “Yeah, you’d think we had magic saddlebags or something.” He smiled. “What’s amazing is the prices here in the big city for a room, bath, and the livery. Barely had any left over for the pressing. If Soapy can’t help us out …”

“Well, he’s never left us high and dry.” Jed “Kid” Curry fidgeted. “This suit is itchy. Could probably use a new one.”

“Not with seventy two cents between us.”

Both men glanced at each other in shared realization before taking in their surroundings. The stark contrast between their meager accommodations at a local boardinghouse and the drawing room of their friend’s San Francisco mansion was palpable: One could aspire to something grand, but that took sums to accomplish, and first they needed a job.

Their gaze landed on a cigar box, the mahogany carved in a decorative pattern. At another time they might have helped themselves to a stogie, knowing their friend and mentor would not mind; but now, knowing beggars could not be choosers, propriety seemed the best route. If Soapy had summoned them, perhaps they would, but they had gotten in touch with him.

“Boys, boys, so good to see you.” Soapy, a man of slight stature, greeted them warmly. “It has been a long time.”

Their reverie broken, the partners stood straight. Both extended their hands.

“It has,” Heyes replied. “We don’t get this way very often.”

They shook hands all around, and Soapy bade them sit. A houseboy appeared and offered cigars from the chest. When Soapy waved a no, the partners did as well.

“Boys, it’s not like you to refuse a cigar. Please, help yourselves. I’m just over a touch of indigestion, so none for me, but no need for you to do without.” Soapy motioned for them to partake, and they did. “And, Laszlo, I will join my friends in a sip of brandy, please.” The three exchanged pleasantries while the houseboy served and left the room.

Relaxed in his chair, Soapy crossed a leg and set his snifter aside. “So you boys are in need of a job, is that correct?” Before they could answer, he continued, “These are desperate times. I’m glad I’m retired, except to repay favors when necessary, of course.”

Heyes paused. “These are hard times. We haven’t had any luck getting work for two months. We were hoping you’d know of something.” He looked at his partner. “Kid can always shoot something, but he’s getting tired of rabbit and low on ammunition.” Curry rolled his eyes.

“You boys will never go hungry when I’m around. You will join me for supper this evening. In the meantime, I’ve been asking around since I got your wire, and you’re in luck. A restauranteur friend of mine needs specialized hunters. The work’s not too hard and pays well, things I know you boys prefer.” He smiled and withdrew a piece of paper from his vest pocket. “Here’s his name and address. He’s expecting you this afternoon.”

--000—

Alighting from the cab Laszlo had hailed for them, the partners stood in front of a grand entrance arrayed in classic but stylish architectural accoutrement. The large window to the left of the entrance bore two lines painted in gold lettering – Estelle’s, Frisco’s Fabulous Food Emporium.

As they approached, the doorman stopped them. “Sorry, gents, we’re closed until dinnertime.”

Kid Curry narrowed an eye. “Closed? What kind of restaurant closes in the middle of the day?”

Heyes quipped, “The fancy kind, Thaddeus.” Addressing the doorman, he wore his best smile. “Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones to see Mr. Applegate, at the behest of Mr. Soapy Saunders. I believe he’s expecting us.” Heyes handed him Soapy’s calling card.

“Ah, now why didn’t you say so sooner? Of course, of course. Anything for Mr. Soapy. Wait here.” He entered the restaurant, returning before Kid could complain again about the itchy suit. Holding the door open, he waved them in. “Mr. Applegate will have the pleasure of your company.”

Squinting as they entered, they marveled at the grandiosity of the establishment – leather-banqueted booths situated beneath individual chandeliers, all already set for dinner with starched white linens and the finest china and silver plate polished to a gleaming shine. Kid Curry whistled in amazement, and Heyes imagined a great gambling hall in the middle of it all.

A well-dressed man approached. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, I’m Ambrose Applegate. Soapy speaks highly of you. Please have a seat.” They shook hands and slid into the booth he indicated. “I will cut right to the chase. I’m in need of specialized hunters, and Soapy said you two fit the bill.”

“Well, yes, we have been employed as hunters,” Heyes answered. “Large cats mostly.”

Curry chimed in, “That’s right. I imagine you need lots of fresh game for this place.”

Applegate grinned. “Oh no, no, no, not that kind of hunting. No guns necessary.”

The partners glanced at each other in confusion.

“You see, I’m in need of morel hunters.”

“You mean, ethical?” Heyes asked.

“We do have scruples, Mr. Applegate. We don’t go shootin’ somethin’ just for fun. I mean, we hunt to eat.” Curry paused. “But wait, did I hear you right – no guns needed?”

“You heard right indeed, Mr. Jones. I need morels, the bigger and more abundant the better. You need baskets only, for gathering, and maybe a knife for the tough ones.”

“A knife? I don’t see how it’s more moral to slit their throats than to just shoot ‘em. Makes ‘em hard to catch.” Kid shook his head as he explained. “And a basket’s not a good trap; you need good, spring-loaded ones.”

Heyes’ face scrunched. “Mr. Applegate, my partner knows what he’s talking about. But what type of game do you mean, exactly? I don’t think you mentioned that.”

Applegate’s hands gestured to make his point. “Morels, Mr. Smith. As I said, I’m in need of morel hunters.”

“Morals?” Heyes and Curry asked in unison. Kid continued, “Mr. Applegate, like I said, we got scruples …”

The restauranteur laughed. “Oh no, not scruples … Morels …”

“Uh, scruples, morals … they’re the same thing.” Curry’s voice rose slightly. He paused and glanced at his partner. Heyes put a calming hand on his shoulder.

“Mr. Applegate, if I understand you right, you’re looking for moral hunters?” Heyes asked.

“Not moral. Morels.”

“Morals,” Heyes repeated.

“Yes, morels.”

Heyes opened his mouth but nothing came out.

“Fungi.”

“Fungi?” Heyes sighed.

“That’s correct.”

Both partners shrugged and shook their heads. Heyes spoke. “Soapy did say you needed specialized hunters. I’m sorry, but we’re not that specialized.”

“Have you ever picked berries, gentlemen?” Applegate asked.

Curry answered, “Sure, as kids, for ma’s pies, but …”

“Well, that’s all there is to it. A basket and a knife for the tough ones.”

“You want us to berry pick? A kid could do that.” Kid paused. “You don’t need us.”

“Oh, but I do. This is most definitely not a job for children, Mr. Jones. Around here, morels are found far in the woods and can be difficult to find. We need to keep up our standards and serve only the best.” Applegate paled and pursed his lips. “And the truth be told, gentlemen, I need a steady supply and will pay top dollar for them. They’re a cash crop and a delicacy …”

Heyes sighed. “That’s all well and good, Mr. Applegate, but we can’t hunt what we don’t know. I’m sorry.” With that, the partners started to slide out of the booth.

“Wait!” Applegate rose. “Give me just a minute.” He hurried to the back and returned with pencil and paper, drawing quickly. “There – a morel.”

Curry observed, “A tree? We have to climb a tree to find this critter?

“No, no.” Applegate drew again as he explained, “It’s a fungi, a morel. Sometimes wrongly pronounced ‘mor-relle.’ Um … a mushroom!”

“That’s a funny lookin’ mushroom,” Curry noted.

Understanding hit Heyes. “Wait, you want us to hunt … mushrooms?”

“Yes. Mushrooms.” Applegate sighed in glee. “But not just any mushroom. Only morels.”

Curry paraphrased. “A morel is a mushroom?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you say so?” Kid asked.

“I did. But now that we understand each other, that’s neither here nor there. Truth be told, an upstart restaurant has opened, and the owner is doing quite a business selling morels by Appointment to the Queen. And our business is suffering as a result. Sour grapes and all that, you know.”

Heyes’ eyes narrowed. “By Appointment to the Queen? I presume you mean Queen Victoria?”

“Indeed, Mr. Smith.”

“But how?” Heyes scratched his head. “Whether they came around the Horn or across the Atlantic and by train cross-country, they’d be rotten by the time they got here.”

“They’re dried in England before shipping. As long as they didn’t get wet, they’d be fine.”

Curry made a face. “They’d taste like leather.”

“Oh no, Mr. Jones. On the contrary, drying retains their delicate flavor and meaty texture. They are actually quite delicious. And the cachet of being by Appointment to the Queen just adds to their appeal. The only way I can compete with that is to find the best around here.”

Heyes added, “And that’s where we come in.”

Applegate smiled. “Yes, gentlemen. That is where you come in.”

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Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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