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 Jan 17 - Fragile

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Calico

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PostSubject: Jan 17 - Fragile   Sun Jan 01, 2017 1:19 am

Happy New Year one and all...

Welcome to 2017 - the tenth year of the Yellow bandanny challenge.

Now, I dunno if that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy or just a bit ...

You know

Old.


It must be one of the longest running 1970s TV series fan fiction monthly story challenges, Huh?

Thanks to one and all for playing over the years.   grouphug

Anyhoo

Without further ado - contemplate your first challenge of 2017.   Sharpen both your wits and your pencils  writing  to think about...

...And one or two of you may be feeling this, this morning if you've been partying



Fragile
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Cal

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PostSubject: Fragile   Sun Jan 01, 2017 3:23 am

I'm gonna jump straight in with some early outlaws material ....back when things were fragile... (And anyway, I need to redeem myself with a fully functioning, very much alive HH)... This one has never been posted anywhere else... and I think it fits the prompt rather well.

The Leap

Two sweaty horses danced at the edge of a deep ravine, their desperate riders searching the horizon for hope of escape from a seemingly tireless, tenacious posse.

“What?!? …You’ve got to be kidding me……HEYES…. There’s no way …. AW COME ON … You can’t mean it… I mean… IT CAN’T BE DONE!  That’s not possible. These are good horses… sure… well … were good horses… till we near run them to death… But that’s gotta be… I don’t know… at least…“

Jed Curry swung his arm expansively across the void, failing to calculate its width in his head.  He looked back over his shoulder, hardly able to believe what his partner, and older cousin had just suggested.  Then his partner’s actions cut him off, short.
 
“HEYES, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”

Hannibal Heyes was out of the saddle, flinging his possessions at the far side of the yawning chasm.  First his bedroll flew, then his rope, then his canteen.

“Lightening the load! Come on Kid …we don’t have too much time…”

“What?!? Are you crazy?!? We can’t jump that.  That’s… that’s… That’d be like suicide …A few pounds ain’t gonna make no difference… HAN ...HEYES! … WILL YOU JUST WAIT A MINUTE?!?”

Heyes had his saddle un-cinched and was swinging it to and fro, to get enough momentum to fling the heavy leather over the precipice.  Kid leapt from his own saddle, and grabbed at the flying stirrups to prevent the throw.

“This is crazy… you know this is crazy…”

Heyes glared into Kid’s face, shaking the saddle loose from Kid’s grip, and flinging it, with all his temper and strength, to the other side of the ravine.  He knew it was crazy; he just didn’t see they had a choice. Kid would see it too, but by then it may be too late.  The saddle landed heavily on the rim of the far side.  They both watched, with held breaths, as it slipped further towards the edge and came to rest, snagged on an out crop of rock, half hanging over the long drop.

Heyes snorted, satisfied it wouldn’t fall further.  Then he turned on his reticent cousin. Jed was as tall as him now, but whip thin.

“Alright Kid…. What do you want to do?  Wait here …and shoot it out? OR .. Give ourselves up …and may be …spend the rest of our lives in prison?  BUT I ASK YOU ... YOU GOTTA THINK… they’ll probably decide the bounty’s safer if they just shoot us … ‘cause dead men don’t escape so easy… I didn’t want to tell you this yet Kid …but there’s new dodgers out on us now… They say $2,000 dead or alive!”

“Why? We ain’t killed no one” shouted a shocked Kid, getting up in Heyes’ face like it was his fault.

Heyes pushed Kid away from him.

“Well we sure wave guns around like we mean to shoot someone, don’t you think, Kid … HUH?! Maybe the Law’s just assumed we already used them.  NOW COME ON.  We both know there’s only one way this ends…What you waitin’ fer? A bridge …to magically appear for us? …Or a path may be…. down there …to suddenly open up… and invite us for coffee!“

He pointed down the ravine, just feet away from his boots.
 
“YOU THINK I WANT TO MAKE THAT LEAP?!?”

Heyes turned away, gathering up the mare’s reins.

“BUT… but …there’s gotta be another way…” grunted Kid, more to himself than Heyes.

Kid looked confused and panicked.  He looked up and down the ridge.  This here was the narrowest point.  The ravine opened up wider, both ways.  He looked over the edge, and shook his head at the long drop onto sharp rocks.  Looked at the far side, which was higher than this side, and groaned. There didn’t seem to be no soft-landing place either.  He tried one last appeal to Heyes.

“It’s just not possible… They just can’t make that jump…” he said flinging an arm towards the horses, whose sides were wheezing like bellows.  

“There’s just HAS TO BE another way…”

Heyes took his bulging saddle bag off his shoulder and pushed it up on the chestnut mare’s neck. His eyes closed as he steeled up all his resolve, turning back to his reticent partner.

“Well there ain’t! …There ain’t, OK Kid… There’s only one way this plays out if we don’t jump …and I for one… am not getting shot dead… and I sure ain’t going to prison anytime soon neither… “

Heyes looked at Kid, stood with one gloved hand covering his mouth, trying hard to hold in the panic.  Kid had never looked so out of place, so young.  Not since they’d quit Soapy’s outfit and started robbing for themselves.  Heyes had gotten fed up of playing the monkey; he was sure he should be the organ grinder.  What with all that they’d seen and done, it was easy for Heyes to forget that his younger cousin was still just a very young man, nothing at all like the trail-hardened outlaw described on their wanted dodgers.

Kid didn’t deserve any of this.  None of it had been his idea. He was only here because Heyes had known, knew for certain, that he could open that safe, and then of course, he’d had to go and prove it to himself.  This was bigger than any of their previous raids.  There was more money in that bank than either of them had ever seen before.  

Heyes stroked the saddlebag of bank notes lovingly.  Well if he was gonna die, he was gonna die a rich man. He just had to get Kid mad enough at him, to follow him, first.

“I’m not saying YOU have to do this… YOU COULD TRY TELLING ‘EM YOU’RE YOUNGER THAN YOU ARE … YOU CERTAINLY LOOK IT! … TELL ‘EM I PUT YOU UP TO IT … THEY MIGHT EVEN BELIEVE YOU … I’m just sayin’ …I’m doing it…”

He spat the words into Kid’s face.
 
“I …worked hard planning that raid… I …worked hard opening that safe… and now… I … intend to work hard …spending my money… I would leave you half …but its not like you’ll get spend it …not if you’re in prison …or dead….”

He patted the mares neck, then grabbed some mane and jumped back on board, bare back.

“She can do this… I got a lot of faith in her …I know she can do it… and times getting short…”

Kid growled with disapproval and frustration, balling up his fists.  He looked back down the steep bank they’d climbed.  He knew for certain the dogged posse would be turning up here to follow them anytime soon.
 
Heyes was slowly walking the mare back away from the edge to get a run up.

“AGHHHH!” screamed Kid, at his infuriating cousin’s back.  Why did Heyes always have to be right!  

He untied his bed roll and flung it at the far side of the ravine to hit Heyes’, like a bizarre game of bar billiards.  The canteen went over next, then the rope and saddle bags.  The saddle fell to the floor, and Kid let out another huge feral scream as he launched it too, towards the far bank.

“AND YOU CAN’T COME UP WITH NO BETTER IDEA THAN THAT?!…” he shouted at Heyes’ back.  “You’re always tellin’ me how you’re some kind of genius …and all you can come up with is …suicide… THAT’S IT… THAT’S ALL YOU GOT… LET’S JUMP …A NEAR IMPOSSIBLE… THAT’S ALL YOU GOT!”

He smoothed the big blacks neck then flung himself onto the horse’s back, all the time muttering through clenched teeth.

“What’s the use of having a silver tongue or that big brain of yours …if you can’t come up with nothing better …than a blind leap of faith? … you’re sure she can do it … well that’s just dandy …coz I ain’t at all sure he can…”

He began walking the black towards Heyes.

Heyes, with his back to Kid, was staring intently back down the way they’d come, trying to judge how long he could give the horses to blow before that posse got back within rifle range.

“You could always try growing some wings…” he growled distractedly without turning his head.  

As soon as he’d seen Kid start flinging his possessions, he knew he’d won the argument, he also knew the best thing to do was now was ignore to Kid’s grumbling and let him get it out of his system.  A small cloud of dust below got his attention.

“They’re coming.”

Kid came along side Heyes, and followed the pointing finger to the dust cloud at the bottom of the climb.

“Humph!” he snorted, glaring at Heyes.

“We are going to be in range of their rifles in about five minutes… “said Heyes quietly.  “Well Kid …This is it …You been tellin’ me that horse could get you out of anything.  You ready to put that to the test?”

Heyes held Kid’s gaze for a second.  He saw the fear mixed with the resolve. He could see clearly that his younger cousin realised they’d run out of choices.

There was no choice at all.  

There was a deafening silence.  Each rider could only hear the pounding of their own heart in their ears.

Kid returned Heyes’ stare.  He could see plain as day his older cousin was scared and desperate, but he could also see Heyes’d decided to do this thing, and nothing was gonna stop him.

Slowly they wheeled the horse’s heads around to face the edge.

Kid stared back to Heyes for just a second more, then, from deep within his belly a wordless cry started to rise and broke loose.  He dug in his spurs and strapped the reins on the black’s neck, his lips setting in a feral snarl as the horse leapt to full gallop towards the rim.  Heyes sprang to life beside him, whooping up his mare and sending her plunging towards the precipice at the black’s side.

In just a few strides of dust and fury, the eerie silence returned, as the animals flew through the air in a desperate attempt to reach the far side.  

Kid’s eyes appeared to be shut, but Heyes glued his eyes open, watching in slow motion as the far bank slid underneath his mare’s front hooves and she sank almost to her knees on impact.  He twisted sideways and grabbed at the Blacks head behind him, barely snagging up a piece of thin leather of the horses’ bridle with his outstretched gloved fingers.  The mare’s momentum carried her forward climbing back up onto her feet, and the Black scrabbled his hind hooves behind him, just catching enough rock and ground to push himself up and onto the bank behind her.

Kid clung to the neck of his horse muttering every swear word he could think of into its mane.

“Of all the cock-eyed, ridiculous, half-brained…” was the gist of it.

Heyes was already on the ground, snatching up his belongings, throwing on the saddle.  There was no time to let Kid dwell on the near death experience.

“COME ON KID… MOVE!  NOW!” he barked. “We gotta clear outta here …They won’t follow …but that sure won’t stop them shooting at us!”

Kid fell off the black’s back and drunkenly mirrored his cousin, gathering all his Worldly possessions and attaching them back on the blessed animal that had just saved his life.  He was still muttering profanities, his head shaking, his eyes half closed, his hand’s shaking.  

Before he’d finished, Heyes was up on his mare again and already on the move towards the horizon.  A couple of distant rifle shots was all Kid needed to get him re-focussed, and rapidly on Heyes’ heels.

---oooOOOooo---
Later that evening

“How much money we got Heyes?” smiled a weary Jed Curry.

“You know money isn’t everything, Kid. There’s more to life than money” teased Heyes.  “Look at all this lovely nature we got all around us … The clouds up there …kissing the mountains so pretty…”

“How much!?” groaned a unbemused Kid. “Tell me again.”

“Four … thousand … nine … hundred … fifty-three … dollars …and … thirty-seven cents…” smiled Heyes.  “Sounds good, don’t it kid?”

“Sure does, Heyes … sure does… and it means we never have to rob another bank, do we? ...  That’s enough fer us to live on … fer ever, right Heyes? You were brilliant opening that safe… No more robbing … and no more leaps of faith! …right? I couldn’t do that again…” said Jed dreamily.

His eyes were closing in the saddle.

Heyes pulled up and stared back at him.

Time to make camp.
 
He dropped his head with a huge sigh, Kid wasn’t cut out for this kind of life.  He’d have to find him a place; somewhere with a job maybe.

Somewhere safe.

Heyes knew, with more certainty than even Kid himself, that Kid’s life had hung on the width of a pair of worn-out, old leather gloves that afternoon.  If he hadn’t of snagged up the black’s bridle and pulled when he did, that big horse would never have made it up that bank.

Kid would be gone.  

And for what? Just shy of five thousand dollars.

No.

It wasn’t worth it. The risks were too high.

What he needed to do was ...join a much bigger gang …of real outlaws, and go after the really big pots! …Mine pay rolls!... Silver and Gold bullion!

Heyes’ eyes danced with the possibilities.

But most importantly…
                   ….he’d be leaving Kid out of it.

---oooOOOooo---
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EleanorW

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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Mon Jan 02, 2017 11:02 am

I had a pretty heavy New Years Eve myself, so this seemed rather apt. sm

Fragile


Bright morning sunlight streaming in through the hotel room window woke Hannibal Heyes from slumber.  Opening his eyes, he hastily closed them again against the glare, becoming aware of the pounding in his head.

Groaning, he rolled over, turning his back to the window, and gingerly opened his eyes once more, squinting against the brightness in the room and the thumping pain in his head.

Presently he registered the empty bed adjoining to his own, memories of the previous night beginning to float into his head.

He and Kid had gone over to the saloon to join in the township’s New Year celebrations.  

The evening had begun pleasantly enough – a few drinks, a dalliance each with one of the saloon girls, followed, for Heyes, by a few games of poker, where he had swelled his wallet  quite considerably – but, as midnight approached, bringing yet another year of chasing their elusive amnesty, the Kid, fuelled by the drink he had consumed, began to turn maudlin and before long was questioning the likelihood of the amnesty ever being granted and whether it was worthwhile pursuing.

“I know it seems like the Governor is dragging his feet” Heyes told him “but Lom seems to have faith that he’ll honour his promise eventually, and if Lom has faith, so do I.”

“Lom doesn’t know if he’ll honour his promise any more than we do.” retorted the Kid. “Personally, I don’t  think he’s ever going to grant it. He’s just using it as a carrot, to keep us in line.”

Heyes had often had that thought himself, but all he said was “What choice do we have, Kid?  We can’t go back to our old life now.  We have to stick with it until we get an answer, one way or the other.”

“I don’t have to do anything.” The Kid snapped.  “In fact” he continued, picking up his drink and downing it in one gulp “I’m not going to carry on with this charade any longer.”  Banging his glass down on the bar he turned as though to walk away, but Heyes caught his arm.

“Kid, come on, this is the drink talking.  I know it’s been tough this past year, having to make a legal living after the lifestyle we used to have, but, we’re still here aren’t  we?  We’re not in jail, or dead.  We have our freedom, and, hopefully, before too long, we’ll have our identities back too and can have a normal life.  Surely that’s worth holding on for?”

“Can we ever have a ‘normal’ life, with our history?” the Kid countered.  “Even if we get the amnesty, our history will always be with us, and if something happened that they thought fitted in with what we used to do, they’d still accuse us, however long we might have been legally pardoned.” He shook his head.  “I’d rather live my life to the full now and end up being killed, rather than live in poverty for years until, if, the Governor decides he might honour his promise.  At least I will have ‘lived’ and not just spent years marking time.”

A sudden loud bang startled them and almost had the Kid pulling his gun.

“It’s just fireworks.” Heyes told him. “It’s midnight.  Come on, let’s go outside and watch.”

Taking the Kid’s arm, he pulled the reluctant Kid outside to join the crowd on the boardwalk watching the firework display.

It seemed like the whole town had turned out to enjoy the display, ooh-ing an aah-ing as the fireworks lit up the night sky.

As the last of the fireworks died away, Heyes turned to say “Happy New Year, Kid.”  only to find that he was nowhere to be seen.

Pushing through the slowly dispersing crowd, he searched around for Kid, but was unable to find him anywhere.

Eventually, he returned to their hotel room, hoping that he’d gone back there, but, as he opened the door, was only vaguely surprised to find the room empty.

He sat up well into the small hours, watching through the window for any sign of him, before finally lying down on the bed where he soon fell into a drunken sleep.



Yawning, Heyes sat up, putting his elbows on his knees and holding his aching head in his hands.  Eventually he got up and poured some water to sooth his parched throat.  Then, he splashed some water on his face and straightened his hair.  This done, he pondered on what to do next.  He had no idea where the Kid could have gone, or even if he had any intention of coming back.  He didn’t want to leave town just in case he did come back, but on the other hand, he couldn’t just sit around here all day doing nothing.  He contemplated going to the restaurant for some breakfast, but at the thought of food, his stomach turned over.

Presently, a thought occurred to him.  Putting on his hat, he headed up to the livery stable to see if the Kid’s horse had gone, surprised to find that it was still stabled there, along with his own.  That meant that wherever the Kid had gone, it couldn’t be too far away if he hadn’t taken his horse, and he knew he couldn’t have taken a train anywhere as none were running today.

This probably meant that the Kid had camped out of town somewhere.  The question was, where?

Heyes pondered the lay of the land around the town and decided that in the kid’s shoes, he would have opted to camp out where there were some trees, which would provide cover as well as some shelter against the elements.  Fortunately, the weather had been mild so far this winter, with little in the way or snow, but the Kid only had his sheepskin jacket for warmth and nothing with which to set up camp as all of their gear was in the hotel room, so even surrounded by trees, it wasn’t ideal to be camping out.

Having chosen what he thought was probably the likeliest location for camping outdoors, Heyes saddled his horse and set off in search of his friend.

He rode for some time, criss-crossing the area in search of tracks that might indicate the Kid had passed this way.

He was just about to give it up as a lost cause when he suddenly spotted some fir tree branches on the ground next to a group of young fir trees.  They neat way they were laid he didn’t think could have been achieved naturally and so, dismounting his horse, he carefully crept over and began to pull the branches aside.

His hunch proved accurate, when, as he pulled away a branch, he found the Kid, curled up on a bed of bracken and ferns, fast asleep.

Heyes eyed his friend, smiling to himself, before crouching down and shaking his shoulder.

“Kid!” he called.  “Kid, wake up!”

The Kid groaned, but didn’t open his eyes.

Heyes tried again, shaking his harder this time.

“Kid!  “Wake up!”

With another groan, the Kid slowly opened his eyes, squinting against the morning sunlight, before lifting his hand to cover his eyes.

“Oooh... my head...” he muttered....”

Heyes chuckled to himself, waiting for the Kid to regain his senses.

Presently, the Kid moved his hand, and squinted up at his friend.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“The woods.” Heyes told him.

The Kid looked confused.  “Woods? What woods?”

“Outside of town.” Heyes told him.  “You don’t remember?”

The Kid shook his head and then wished he hadn’t as it felt like it was coming off his neck.

Slowly, he took in his surroundings.

“Why did we come here?” he asked presently.

“You. Not we.” Heyes told him.

The Kid struggled into a sitting position, holding his head in his hand.

“What are you talking about?” he grunted.

“You don’t remember what happened last night?” asked Heyes.

“I’m... not sure...”  The Kid got onto all fours and attempted to get to his feet, but sat back down again.  “I feel sick.” he added, before promptly throwing up.

“Better?” Heyes said, presently, as the Kid lay back down on the bracken, wiping his mouth.

The Kid nodded.  “How much did I have to drink?”

“A little too much.” smiled Heyes.  When the Kid made no comment, Heyes said “You don’t remember saying you were leaving?

The Kid looked puzzled.  “I did?”

Heyes nodded.  Getting to his feet, he went to his horse and retrieved his canteen, which he offered to the Kid.

“Thanks.” The Kid took it and took a swig.

Heyes recounted the events of the previous night, and of the Kid’s tirade about the Governor and his threats to leave and enjoy life.

The Kid shook his head.  “I am fed up of the Governor dragging his feet,“ he said presently. ”but... I guess that was the drink talking.”

“I hope it was.” said Heyes.  “I’m fed up of the Governor dragging his feet too, but I’m not going to quit until we get an answer one way or the other... and I don’t want to have to do it alone...”   He eyed the Kid questioningly.

“You’d never make it alone...” quipped the Kid. “Who’d back you up when your silver tongue lets you down?”

“When does my silver tongue ever let me down?” scoffed Heyes.

“Well, let me see... where shall I start? There was the time that--”

“OK, OK, maybe there has been the occasional time...”

“Occasional?” the Kid spoke over him.

They eyed each other momentarily before both bursting out laughing.

“Ooh, don’t make me laugh.” groaned the Kid, holding his aching head in his hands.

Heyes smiled.  “Look, our amnesty offer might be as fragile as your head is right now, but, your head will make a recovery... and whether we get the amnesty or not, we’ll make it too, somehow.  Trust me.”

The Kid looked into his friend’s smiling gaze.  He knew that Heyes was no more confident of their future than he was, but, somehow, the Kid had faith in his words.

“Sure we will,”  he replied  “although, getting through the rest of today is probably going to be more of a challenge even than that.”

“What you need is some hair of the dog.” smiled Heyes.

“I don’t think so.” the Kid groaned as he made an attempt to get to his feet, holding onto a tree trunk to keep his balance.

 “A nice big breakfast then?” suggested Heyes.

“Shut up!” growled the Kid, clamping a hand to his mouth as his stomach turned over at the thought.

Heyes laughed, moving to take the Kid’s arm and steady him as he lead him over to his horse and boosted him up into the saddle before climbing up behind him.

“Happy New Year, Kid.” he said, as he took the reins and steered the horse back towards town.

“Let’s hope so, Heyes.  Let’s hope so.”
++

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RosieAnnie

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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:28 am

I decided to use this month's challenge to write the next chapter of the unfinished "In Winter." If you'd like to catch up before reading this, here's the link.
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9732168/1/In-Winter

---------------------------------------------
Thaddeus woke up suddenly, instantly alert. What was that loud noise? Realization came to him swiftly – he was snoring. He snored whenever he fell asleep on his back, which was why he’d gotten into the habit of sleeping on his side when he was a boy, still at the Home for Waywards. The other boys had pushed him out of his bed when his snoring woke them, so he trained himself to sleep in a different position. Funny how those memories were so vivid, sixty years later. Everything and everyone he knew from that time was gone. All he had to show for 70-some years of life was a room in his daughter’s house far away from the landscape and people he loved.

He sat up and shook his head, trying to clear the dark thoughts. The clock on the ornate Victorian dresser showed almost 4:00pm. He’d slept for little more than an hour. He swung his feet to the floor, pausing while his traitorous heart caught up with the movement. When the rapid thumping slowed to a calmer rate, he pushed himself off the bed and, reaching for his crutches, stumbled into the adjacent bathroom to freshen up. He reminded himself that living in Chris and Pat’s house wasn’t so bad, when modern indoor plumbing went with it. It sure was a lot better than an outhouse in Montana.

When he emerged, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. His clothes looked like he had slept in them, which, of course, he had. Looking rumpled might reflect badly on Chris. He knew her in-laws thought he was a bad influence on the girls and maybe even on Pat. The old wolfish grin appeared on Thaddeus’ face as he remembered how Pat drank Thaddeus’ Irish Whiskey in an act of defiance. It was a childish thing to do, but he approved. Sometimes you had to let people know where you stood. Adelaide and Terrence and anyone else would just have to take him as he was, wrinkled shirt or no. He decided to take a look at the Christmas tree before the decorating began, and the girls were bouncing off the walls.

The sight that greeted Thaddeus at the parlor door made him stop and gape. The evergreen tree stood magnificently straight in its stand, the thick branches relaxing to their full length in the warm room and releasing a powerful pine scent.

“What do you think, Mr. Jones? Isn’t she a beauty?” Adam’s voice drew Thaddeus back to the present. Dan and Adam stood side by side, hands on hips, grinning like schoolboys.

“Boys,” Thaddeus breathed, “I think this might be the champion of all trees, and I seen a few evergreens in my time. You done a fine job, getting it set up like you did. Real fine.”

“I can’t wait to see what it looks like with the ornaments on it,” Adam said.

“It smells like Christmas, doesn’t it?” Dan asked.

“I don’t reckon that Christmas has a particular smell, but it sure does smell nice. Like being out in the woods.”

“Without the cold toes or the icicles going down your back,” Adam said. “It does need the decorations, though.”

“It does indeed,” Dan agreed. “Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor brought some ornaments with them. We were just going to get them.”

“You do that, boys. And check in with my daughter. There’s a few decorations I brung from home when I came here. She’ll know where they are.”

“Yes sir. We’ll be right back.”

Thaddeus swung himself over to inspect the tree. He shook the trunk gently, testing to see if it moved, but it stood strong in the metal base, straight and tall as if it was still out with its brethren in the Michigan woods.

“Is there something wrong with the tree?” He recognized the voice and took a brief instance to steel himself before he turned around to greet Adelaide. She stood just inside the room, clutching a book.

“No. Just making sure it’s solid in the base.”

She walked around next to him to look closer at the evergreen.

“It does look sturdy,” she said. “It had better, considering the amount of ornaments and garlands we have.”

“Unless someone’s planning to swing from the trees like that Tarzan we saw at the movies, it should do.”

“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, or Pat will have more bones to set.”

“You got a point. One cripple around the house is plenty.”

Adelaide looked at him sideways. “You’re not referring to yourself, are you?”

Thaddeus raised one crutch. “Don’t I fit the bill?”

“Nonsense. That’s temporary. You’ll be right as rain by Easter.”

“From your mouth to God’s ears,” he replied, earning a rare genuine smile from her. “I wish I was as strong as this here tree.”

“But for the crutches, you look fit as a fiddle, Thaddeus.”

“I don’t know, Adelaide,” he said, looking the tree up and down as if he was inspecting it. “Pat tells me my heart ain’t so good anymore. Him and Chris, they treat me like I’m as fragile as a one of them glass Christmas ornaments.” He glanced at her and was surprised to see her face softening into sympathy.

“My father used to tell me, old age isn’t for sissies. We were so young. . . he seemed fragile to us, yet he lived a long, full life.” She gave him an unexpected conspiratorial wink. “Sometimes young people don’t know as much as they think they do!”

“That’s true. I sure did some wrong things when I was young, and all the time, I thought I was doing right.”

“Did you?” She was quiet for a moment while they both looked at the bare evergreen, standing alone. “That reminds me, Thaddeus,” she said, getting back to business. “I hope you’ll satisfy my curiosity on something you mentioned earlier. How do you know Reverend Spencer? He doesn’t seem your type at all.”

“My type?”

“Yes. Oh, don’t look like that. You know what I mean.”

“No, Adelaide, I don’t. Maybe you better explain yourself.”

“He’s a minister. If I remember correctly, you’re not a regular churchgoer.”

“True enough. I haven’t been a churchgoer since they made us go when I was a boy. I guess that was enough for me.”

“So?”

“So?

“So how did you meet Reverend Spencer?”

He adjusted the crutches under his arms to stand straighter.

“I know your curiosity is killing you, Adelaide, but you’ll have to ask him for the story.”

“Thaddeus.” She paused. He looked at her curiously. “I already know the story.”

His eyes grew wide. “How? Did he tell you?”

“He told everybody.”

He shook his head in confusion. “What do you mean, he told everybody?”

“It’s in his auto-biography.” She offered him the book she’d been holding. “See for yourself.”

Thaddeus reluctantly took the book from her. He read the words on the cover out loud: “A Sinner’s Journey; Regaining My Faith, by Reverend Doctor A.H. Spencer.” He started flipping through the pages without really looking at them.

“I haven’t read the entire book yet. After you mentioned you knew him, I looked in the index to see if you were mentioned, and you certainly are.”

He closed the book and looked back at her.

“Why did you ask me how I met Rev. Spencer if you already knew?”

“I wanted to see what story you’d tell me.”

He held the book out to her. She didn’t take it.

“I got no story for you.”

“No, no. Keep it. You really should read what he says about you, since you’re going to see him shortly.”

“Alright. I will, if I find the time.”

“Well,” she said, straightening her shoulders. “I suppose if that’s the best you can do, that’s the best you can do. I only have one more question for you, and I truly hope you’ll answer me honestly.”

He looked at her straight on, not backing down from her steady gaze.

“You can ask.”

“What does it feel like to shoot someone?”

For an instant, he was grateful for the support of the crutches. That was the last thing he expected to come out of her mouth. A lifetime of hiding and lying served him now. His calm expression didn’t change, and his voice stayed steady and even.

“It feels awful.” Adelaide looked surprised. He wondered if she had expected him to make up some story or pretend he didn’t know what Spencer would say.

She took a deep breath.

“Thank you for not lying.” He had no answer for that. He’d been lying for fifty years. Even his name was a lie. He almost smiled when he thought of what this straight-laced, proper woman would say if she found out if she heard he was still wanted for bank and train robbery in Wyoming, and that the Jones name was total fiction. Having a relative committed to the Wyoming penitentiary would be disastrous for her social standing.

“Why are you smiling?” He hadn’t realized he was. He wiped one hand across his face, as if to physically remove the smile, but it didn’t help. He started to laugh.

“Is something funny?” Adelaide asked. She sounded annoyed.

“No, no, I guess not.” It was hard to put away his mental picture of how she’d look when she heard she was related to Kid Curry. That brought to mind other consequences – if his children learned he’d lied to them their whole lives, that their name wasn’t really theirs, he would lose them forever. The thought sobered him instantly.

“Are you going to read that?” she asked, pointing to the book he held loosely in his hands.

“Guess I better,” he replied. “Just to find out he ain’t stretching the truth. I might have to sue him, if he is.”

She looked at him expectantly. He had no idea what she wanted him to say, so he said nothing.

“Is that all you have to say?” she asked.

“I don’t know what you want me to say. I’ll look at the book. I’ll talk to Spencer when he’s here. Beyond that, I got nothing for you.”

“Nothing beyond a history of violence, which you don’t deny.”

“You’re awful innocent for someone your age,” he told her, his voice hardening. “If you think someone is violent, you don’t push him.” Her eyes widened, and she took an involuntary step back.

“Adam and Dan went to get the decorations you brung from Chicago,” he said, his voice softening. He had scared her, and he felt ashamed of himself. “Might be nice if you showed them where everything is.”

“Yes,” she said, recovering her upright manner. “Yes. Goodness knows, they could use the help. We do want everything to be correct, don’t we?”

“I don’t know about ‘correct’, Adelaide. Complete might be better. I heard you just about cleaned out Marshall Fields’ holiday department.”

She laughed, more at ease. “I think there were one or two garlands left after we finished there.”

“See you later then?” Somehow he put a hopeful note in his voice.

“Of course.” The smile she gave him wavered only a little. She ducked out the door without another word.

Thaddeus sagged on his crutches. He felt exhausted. He’d almost forgotten he still held Spencer’s book. He glanced around the room, noticing, as if almost for the first time, the plush arts and crafts couch against the wall. He maneuvered himself onto the couch, laying both crutches to one side, and letting himself settle into the deep leather cushions. His chest felt fine, but his broken leg was aching like the devil.

He returned his attention to the book. Flipping through the pages, he idly looked for his own name. There was supposed to be an index, but he didn’t have enough energy to look just now. He closed the book and held it on his lap, his folded hands resting on top. There was an ottoman a few feet away. It would feel good to rest his broken leg on that, but he’d have to get up and use the crutches to get there. He rested his head on the back of the couch. Better to just let it ache than to get up and move again. Although he’d just woken from a solid nap, the conversation with Adelaide had drained him.

It seemed like he had barely sat down to rest when he felt a gentle hand on his knee. He opened one eye without raising his head. Christine was standing over him, looking concerned.

“I thought you went to your room for a nap.”

“I did.” He pushed himself up into a sitting position. “Slept for about an hour. I guess it wasn’t enough.”

She sat down next to him on the couch.

“How do you feel?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” he complained. “Back in my day, nobody asked how anyone felt. People minded their own business.”

“Alright, alright! Don’t be so touchy.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Is it so wrong for me to care about you?”

“I’m fine.”

She tapped one finger on the book he still held on his lap.

“What are you reading?”

“Nothing.” He clutched the book tighter.

“Daddy. Come on.” She lifted his hand up and peered at the title. “Where’d you get this?”

“Adelaide.”

“Huh. Is it good reading?”

“She says so. Some parts, anyway.”

“What parts?”

He shrugged.

“Does he write about you?” He flashed a quick look at her. “What? You said you knew him.”

“Yeah, I did. I did know him. Met him in a little Texas town named West Bend. Then me and Joshua – my old partner, not your brother – rode with him on the stage far as Santa Fe. He was getting off there to go on to Taos, and me and Joshua were delivering a head to San Francisco.”

“A head!”

“Not a real head,” he hurried to reassure her. “It was a bust of Caesar, about so big by so big.” He gestured with both hands to describe the size.

She looked at him appraisingly. “How come I’ve never heard this story before?”

He shrugged again and looked away. Recognizing the signs of stubbornness, Christine decided to change the subject.
“Did you and Adelaide have an argument?”

“Why do you ask?” The look on her face was one he recognized. He’d seen it too many times in himself. She wasn’t going to let this one go.

“I saw her coming from here and going back up to her suite. She looked upset.”

“I can’t help how she feels, sweetheart.”

“You can help me, Daddy. How about the truth? Did you argue about this book? Or Rev. Spencer?”

“We had some words, but everything’s fine now.” Again, the look from Christine. He felt his resolve melting away. The first time she grabbed his fingers and held on, at all of four days old, he knew he would do anything for her. She probably knew that, too.

“She said she read about me in this book. I ain’t read it myself yet, but if what Spencer says is true, and him being a Reverend, it probably is, he’s writing about how I shot someone.”

“Shot him dead?” she asked, calmly.

“No! I shot him in the arm, that’s all. Leastwise, he was alive when we left town a couple hours later.”

“Did you get arrested?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “There was a sheriff in town, but all he did was kowtow to the man I shot. There was a range war going on, and we were trying to stay out of it, but we were waiting to pick up that head of Ceaser, except we didn’t know when it’d be there. I didn’t want to stop wearing my gun just because Briggs told me to. Even though Joshua went along with that and he thought I should too, I didn’t want to do it. You know me, sweetheart” – he reached over and clasped her hand – “I’m just a little stubborn about people telling me what to do.”

She laughed out loud. “’Just a little’ is the understatement of the century! Give me that thing.” He gave her the book.

“Is there an index?”

“Adelaide said so.”

She looked in the back pages. “Jones, Thaddeus, pp. 83, 85, 86. More than one page, huh? You did make an impression!”

“I was good with a gun back then. Better than Briggs, at least, which is what mattered then.”

“You’ve always been good with a gun. When you did trick shooting for Pat that time, he said he never saw anyone with such perfect hand-eye coordination. He was amazed. But why was Adelaide angry?”

“Because I shot someone. Because I’m violent. Because that makes me a bad influence, along with me breaking Prohibition laws and drinking whiskey and living here off of Pat’s money. All of that.”

“Oh Daddy,” She sighed.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean to make trouble for you.”

“There’s no trouble. You’re not a bad influence. Pat and I, the girls, even Kathleen and Tommy, we all like having you here, and we all want you to stay here. Period. End of story. But there’s one thing you have to do for me.”

“Name it.”

“I want to hear the story of Rev. Spencer and Texas. The whole thing. Okay?”

“You know I can’t turn you down. Alright.”

“Now,” she said, briskly, standing up, “I’m going to make sure the boys bring in everything for this incredible tree. I’ll get everyone, and we will have a decorating party before dinner. Agreed?”

“Yes.” She bent down and kissed his forehead.

“Prepare yourself! It’s going to get crazy here in a few minutes, once the girls arrive.”

“My kind of crazy. Love you, baby girl.”

“Love you, Daddy.”

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PostSubject: Destiny's Cycle: Part FIVE....fragile    Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:07 pm

Destiny's Cycle: Part FIVE.... fragile (look back in previous challenges for previous chapters)

Stepping from the train, Heyes rubbed at the scrabble of shadow darkening his jaw, “I can’t believe we’re back.”

“Could be worse.”

The dimple appeared, but the smile accompanying it was not friendly, and with a shake of his head Heyes strode briskly across the depot platform. Weaving through the other weary, returning travelers, he hit the station’s side door with an open palm and slammed up against the red wood door.

Behind him, he heard a choked laugh, “appears to be locked.”

When he drew back, he was wearing a sharp smile that was even less friendly than the earlier one, “thanks for the insight.”  

Shrugging, Curry jigged a thumb toward the front; where most of the other passengers were milling and mewing about.

Hitching his holster, his shoulders crowding up about his ears Heyes marched that way; ignoring the playful glint sparking across his cousin’s face, which flared into a full blown smile at the shuttered windows and a sign leaning against the station house’s front doors.


Whatever you want to ask.
We have no answer.
Come back tomorrow.


“We could stay ‘till Sunday.”

Squinted brown eyes slanted Curry’s direction, “we’re not staying ‘till Sunday. I have plans!”

Leaning closer, Curry muttered, “you could change ‘em.”

Heyes coolly appraised his partner and then he was moving again. Trotting down the steps, he paused at the street corner. He felt gaunt, smelled of stale sweat, and the skin across his shoulder’s pulled tight as he looked east and west at the lights of Wichita. ‘We shouldn’t be here. Can’t put it into words for Kid; just know we shouldn’t be here.’  

“Let’s get a room and see about dinner.”

Exhaling heavily, Heyes fell into step behind his partner, their boots clumping hollowly on the boardwalk, as they headed for the Delano district.

By the time they exited the Drover Hotel’s dining room the carnival that was Wichita’s night, was in full swing. Brass bands were competitively whooping it up, hack drivers yelling, side show blowhards calling for attention, dogs yelping, and of course, all the saloon doors were braced open; with gaily attired prairie nymphs dangling from their porches. Over all of it was the constant call of Keno numbers issuing from the gambling halls.

The bath, shave, change of clothes and full stomach had cured some of Heyes’ irritation. Now strolling amidst various men of the town, Texas cowboys, Mexican ranchman, Union soldiers, and even a few blanket wrapped Indians, he felt more at ease, and was enjoying the sights and sounds of the wild debauchery to be had.

A peacock green gloved hand landed upon Curry’s shoulder, “Why, Sugar, holds up.”

Looking over, he smiled at the well-rouged blonde batting her eyes at him, thinking, ‘not on my life, your old enough to be my Mother.’ But, keeping his thoughts to himself, Curry merely touched a finger to his hat brim and kept moving.

“Don’t be that way, Sugar. I could share secrets with you, you ain’t never thought of.”

Heyes half-turned at her words, wearing his wide, charmingly dimpled smile.

“Well, my, my. That offer goes double for you, Darling.” She chortled, opening her wrapper, revealing her ample, milky white breasts.

Swallowing hard, Heyes hastened his step, following his partner as he ducked around the corner.

A few doors down, they edged into a brightly lit dance hall and Curry elbowed Heyes, pointing to the bartender. “Look, its Joe from the Dove race.”

“You can’t seem to get them races off your mind.” Heyes stated, turning to look his pal straight in the face. “Can you?”

“Well, when will we ever see something like that again?”

“I agree, Kid. But there is more to life than carnal delights.”

Curry’s brows bunched tight, “what?!”

Heyes’ smile expanded.

“There are times, Heyes, I feel like flattening you, for no other reason than it would feel good.”

Leaning closer, Heyes’ expression carried a distinct twist of mischief, “is that so?”

“Yeah, but I tell myself it’d just make you harder to put up with.”

The smile broke into a laugh, “Yes. Yes, that it would.” Laughing harder, he threw an arm about Curry’s shoulders, “come on, let me, buy you a drink, maybe more.”

They were on their third beers, backs against the gleaming mahogany bar watching the high kicking gals on stage, couples swirling on the dance floor, faro dealers running games all of it seeming to keep time with the constant clatter of the Keno tumblers, the whirl of the roulette wheel and the steady patter of the poker tables.

“Know what, Heyes?”

“Hum.”

“You were right about one thing--”

Heyes turned unblinking eyes on his cousin, “only one?”

Curry quirked him a grin, “Wichita is a lively place.”

No sooner were these words out of his mouth than the boom of a gun cut through the room. A cancan gal screamed, clutched her middle, and collapsed to the floor, her tiered multi-colored skirt spraying out around her like a wilted flower.

In the sudden silence that filled the frozen room, the big-bore rifle, Joe snagged from under the bar sounded like a cannon when it went off.  

Near the front doors, a large man with long, curly red hair and an even longer beard staggered and Rowdy Joe’s place turned into the Battle of Gettysburg. Blue cordite smoke filled every inch, rolling out the front doors and shattered windows just as rapidly as the thunder of gunfire; when as suddenly as it began, it was over.

Amazed he had not caught any lead, Curry looked to his partner. Who like himself, had his pistol in his hand. But, Heyes’ left hand was still grasping what remained of his beer mug, Curry’s eyes opened wider, “damn, that was close.”

Looking down, Heyes inhaled, his tongue darted across his lower lip and he released his hold on the jagged, glass handle. “Let’s get out of here before the law shows up.”

This appeared to be the mindset of most everyone, for there was a bustling, groaning herd shoving their ways through the front doors; some even escaping through the shattered window panes.

The night air felt fresh and clean after the heat of Joe’s and down the street, Heyes pulled up. Placing his hands atop Curry’s shoulders, he smiled, exhaled, took a deep breath, and exhaled again. “You ever think how fragile life is Kid?”

“Not really, Heyes.” Kid looked around and frowned.

“What if that bullet had found me instead of my mug?”

Curry’s frown deepened, he could feel through and through, this was not a conversation he wanted to have.

“Hey, Old Man!”

Curry jerked about to find a gangly boy with meatless shoulders, standing not ten feet away. He recognized him as the same one, who had challenged him last Saturday, that Heyes had run off. Now he was calling him out, a pistol hung from his narrow hips that looked too big for him. Kid’s pupils shrank, the muscles about his blue eyes tightening.

“Been watchin’ for ya, Old Man.”

“Well, here, I am.”

“Kid, no!”

The words, “back off,” emerged from Curry’s throat as a deep growl. The gunfighter side of him knew this was it. There would be no false start this time; the boy had hunted him down for a purpose.  

Billy’s cheek twitched and so did his hand.

Curry did not feel himself go for his Colt. There were too many hours of practice behind the move. It had become a part of him, no different than taking a stride. All he knew was he had won the race, yet again. Not that he was really thinking that at the moment, those thoughts always came later, along with the knowledge that one day he would not win the race. But, for now he had.

An errant dart of flame blossomed from Billy’s pistol even as he jerked back, drifting toward the ground.

Stalking forward, Curry retrieved the large Navy revolver from the out flung hand, sticking it in his waistband. He saw his shot had destroyed Billy’s shoulder. The boy’s white, twisted face spoke of the unyielding pain wracking through him.

Several of Billy’s pals rushed in.

Curry swung about and their hands flew up, all of them yipping, how they didn’t want any trouble.

“Then get ‘em to a Doc before he bleeds to death.”

Furtively, they gathered up their pal, shuffling on down the street.  

Once they were well on their way, Curry holstered his Colt, raising his sharp blue eyes to his own pal.

Heyes was ashen white. Then like a tottering child, he stumbled, releasing a convulsive sigh, his hand fell from his chest revealing a spreading scarlet stain.

Curry’s mouth fell open. Sound, color, light spun away. Everything for him centered down on Heyes, who was falling. Falling backwards and Curry gasped, because in that moment, he could feel the rope that connected them pull so taunt, it felt near breaking. And, he knew Heyes was correct, life was fragile.




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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Sat Jan 14, 2017 9:50 pm



Coffee, always with the coffee.

She sighed, sunk deep in the bath, wishing a ghost would appear with a cup that had just enough milk in it to take the bitter edge off. That’s not how Heyes drank it, but that‘s OK. She wasn’t Heyes.

“Kid! Kid, how long are you going to be in there? The desk clerk’s wife brought up a dress for you. I’ll, uh, I’ll just put it right next to the door. I’m going to get some food down at the restaurant, so, uh, you’ll have all the privacy you need.”

She waited. Silence. She was too embarrassed to talk, but it was embarrassing to not talk either.

“If you feel like telling me your name, that would be great, just so I can stop calling you “kid.”

She thought, well, “lady” might be nice, but at fourteen maybe that is too much to wish for, even from Hannibal Heyes.

“OK, then, I’ll be back in about a half hour with some food.”

More silence, then footsteps walking away. She hesitated and decided to get out of the cooling bath. She put on the dress, buckled on her gun, towel-dried her hair, and started to braid it into the up-do that she preferred.

She heard the door open behind her and thought, well, that wasn’t near close to a half hour! As she turned, she heard a different voice say, startled, “Who the hell are you?” She drew her gun, only to find herself looking into the clear blue eyes of a man who had also drawn just as fast as when she saw him draw the first time.

They each took a moment to process the situation, he that he was staring down a young teen girl with a gunbelt on her hips, and she that she had just drawn on Kid Curry. But she knew who he was and knew he was no danger to her, so she put her gun away, gulped, and offered an explanation.

“I’m Lindsay. You’re Kid Curry. About an hour ago I saw the sheriff questioning Heyes, so I walked over and called Heyes my uncle. I said that we had come into town so he could help me get on the train to visit my grandmother. The sheriff looked pretty uncertain, and then I fell in the mud, so Heyes brought me here to get cleaned up and away from the sheriff, and he left to get food for us both, and I guess for you too, before I imagine you leave town as soon as possible. Ummm….” And she finally ran out of breath and the fragile courage that had held her up this far. But finally talking directly to KID CURRY, well, that does a number on a girl.

Kid looked at her in amazement, holstered his gun, and sat down. Asked her to sit down too. He looked hard at her, and said, “Why do you wear a gun? And over a DRESS?”

She laughed, finding some ease in that question. “Well, where else should I wear it, if I might need it? I usually wear it over my pants, tied down like you, but as I said, I fell in the mud, so I’m stuck with this. For now.”

Heyes walked in, grinned at Kid, and said, “I see you’ve met our mysterious friend.” Kid responded, “Lindsay?”

Heyes, surprised, turned to her. “Now why did you tell HIM your name?”

She actually giggled. “Well, he’s cuter! And he had a gun pulled on me.”

The men looked at each other, Kid with a smug shrug and Heyes with a groan.

Later that night, ten miles away and sitting in a boxcar, Heyes said, “We appreciate you sneaking away with us so the sheriff wouldn’t take it odd if he saw you in town alone tomorrow. But I gotta ask, why?”

She was quiet for a moment. What to say? She looked at Heyes’ steady, deep brown eyes, at Kid’s direct gaze. Waiting.

“I’m Lindsay Santana. Big Jim never acknowledged me, but he’s my father. He’d visit my mom at our cabin near the Hole sometimes until he went to prison. He taught me to wear a gun and shoot game. He taught me the secret way in and out of the Hole and told me I could safely ask you, Heyes, for help if he ever got caught and you didn’t. But I was too proud, and anyway, mom and I, we made it. But I used to sneak down and listen to you guys at night, talking and planning and playing poker. I pretended I was a boy so I could join you. I saw how you and Kid worked together, and I wanted a friend like that. I watched Kid practice, so I practiced shooting the same way. I watched how you’d manipulate the gang with your “silver tongue,” Heyes, and I’d try it out on my mom. When you boys decided to go for the amnesty and it was Wheat leading the gang, I quit going to the Hole.”

She looked down at her hands. “When my mom died last month, I buried her, and after moping around, I decided that I needed to go to town and get on with some sort of life. Maybe find out if Big Jim had ever gotten out of prison. And then I saw the sheriff confronting Heyes. Heyes! And Kid wasn’t around to help, so, I thought, what do I have to lose?”

The train suddenly started slowing. Kid went to the door and peeked out. Far up the tracks he could see lantern lights. “Posse?” Heyes asked quietly.

“Yeah. I guess that sheriff is following up on his hunch after all.”

Heyes turned to her. “Big Jim is in San Francisco. So is another friend of ours, Silky O’Sullivan. Just tell him we sent you.” He paused. “Thank you.”

Kid turned too. “Lindsay.” He was silent. Then, “Lindsay, you don’t have to shoot game in San Francisco. Leave the gun on the train.”

Both men grabbed their saddlebags, and they jumped.

Two hours later, over a cup of black coffee provided by a pissed-off sheriff, she rolled her eyes at him. “Of course I was on the train to see my grandmother, Mrs. O’Sullivan! I don’t have much money, only $1.20, so my uncle helped me hop the train. Then he hopped back off. Hannibal Heyes? Of course he’s not! Do I know where my uncle is? No, I’m supposed to be on that train! What do you expect me to do now? Go work upstairs in the saloon to earn money for a seat on the train? Are you going to help me hop on a boxcar? No? Then buy me a ticket, please.”

And five hours after that, she sat comfortably on an upholstered seat on the train to California.

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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Tue Jan 17, 2017 1:41 pm

I'm cac's daughter. I was helping her brainstorm ideas, and I wanted to write my own story with a similar setup and characters, and she thinks it's fun too :)

Fragile

Should I help them? I owe where I am today all to them.

~ 3 months earlier ~

"How do you know who we are?" Heyes asked.
"My name is Lindsay. My father was an outlaw. He stole many valuable things from certain rich people. My mother married him thinking that he would give up being an outlaw, but he lied. After my mother gave birth to me, she left. That was 14 years ago. Since then, my father died, and I have some of the things that he stole. I have never felt more fragile in my life. I don't want to live the life of an outlaw. I know who you are because my father worked with your gang on some occasions."
"So why did you come to us?" Kid said.
"Can you help me return all of the things my dad stole?"
"Look miss-
"We would be glad to help you."
"Heyes!"
"She is trying to do the right thing just like we are."
"The people we, I mean she, will return the items to might recognize us. We might get caught.”
"Kid, if we get this amnesty I want to do the right thing in my heart, and it would help repay all the damage we did to people that we stole from," Heyes said.
"So you will help me?"
"Lindsay, this is new territory for us. This is not the way we live. We would become as fragile as you are. We could mess up and make it even worse than it already is for you and us.”
"Kid, there is always a place to start."

~ Present day ~

They risked their lives for me, so why can't I help them?
"Excuse me, sheriff, this is not Heyes and Curry." Their amazement made this worth it.
"And why do you think that, miss, hmm?"
"If I knew that this was Kid and Heyes, I would want them to go to jail. They are dangerous, so if they were Kid and Heyes, why would I lie to a sheriff to set them free? You also don't have a picture of them, and I know that I don't either, but I know a different sheriff who could testify that these two are Smith and Jones."
"Well…"
"I wouldn't."
"I will let them go, but if I were you I would leave town."
"Thank you."

~ Later ~

"Why would you help us?" Kid said.
"Why wouldn't I?"
"I did not want to help you."
"But you did. I owe where I am now to you. You did the right thing, so I am just repaying you for being fragile with me."
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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:33 am

This one exceeds the word count, but it won't be polling so please forgive me for getting long-winded.

A slight noise broke Hannibal Heyes’ concentration and he looked up from where he crouched in front of a safe, his hand on the dial.  “What?”  Rocking back on his heels, Heyes gave his partner his full attention. It was gloomy in the closed bank, but he could see the frown lines etching the Kid’s face.  

Curry dropped the curtain he’d pulled to one side with the barrel of his Colt and shrugged, “Nothin’.”

“You saw something.  What was it?”  

“I thought I saw something, but there ain’t nothin’ there.”  Curry waved his pistol.  “Get to work, Heyes.  You got less than fifteen minutes to find the last number or I’m yankin’ you outta here.”

“So quit interrupting me,” snapped Heyes, turning back to his task.  He couldn’t explain how edgy he was because, if he did, the Kid would hustle him out the door with nothing to show for the weeks they’d spent setting up this job.  Everyone was in place and everything was going to plan, so why was he antsy?  He’d awoken this morning with a nervous knot in his stomach and he hadn’t been able to shake it.  Instead he’d gone about his business feigning a calmness he wasn’t experiencing.  What else could he do?  He couldn’t call the job off, not with the gang slavering for a big payday.  Being leader meant you led.  If he called a job on account of nerves, he’d never hear the end of it.  Wheat would make damned sure he didn’t.  He hadn’t been leader long and the older outlaw hadn’t forgiven him for being chosen over him.  Then he’d brought the Kid in as his partner and things had gone from bad to worse between him and Wheat.  The two men had achieved a fragile peace based on the success of the new leadership but if Heyes showed any signs of weakness the gang would turn on him and the Kid like a pack of rapid dogs.   With an effort he forced himself to stop worrying and concentrate on the combination.

The Kid pulled aside the heavy drape again.  Why couldn’t he stop checking the street?  It’s not like the gang wasn’t covering this town like a wet blanket.  He could see Wheat across the street having a smoke outside the saloon and keeping watch.  Kyle and Lom were waiting by the stockyards with their mounts.   Hank and Lobo were out of sight and Preacher was on the roof, so why couldn’t he settle down?  He glanced again at Heyes.  His partner’s dark eyes were closed and his ear was pressed to the cold steel while nimble fingers manipulated the dial. Heyes was totally focused on the job at hand, so why wasn’t he?  All his senses told him everything was fine, but he couldn’t relax.   He had the same keyed-up sensation that always came before a gunfight.  Like life had slipped his control and death was snapping at his heels—their heels.  He’d wanted to say something, but what could he say?  He had a feeling?  Heyes might listen but the gang would laugh at him.  He was their leader, he couldn’t show fear.  He dropped the curtain and walked to the back door to re-check the bolt was thrown.  

A gurgle of joy made Curry turn back and watch Heyes pull the lever on the door and swing it open.  He could see by the light of the tiny miner’s lamp on top of the safe Heyes’ visage change from glee to shock a second before a string of expletives dropped from his lips.

“What’s wrong?  Grab the money and let’s get out of here,” hissed Curry.

Angry brown eyes swung towards him.  “What’s wrong is there’s no money to grab.”

“What d’you mean no money?”

“You heard me.  No money, none. Zero.  Nada.”  

Hurrying over, Curry looked over Heyes’ shoulder and into the barren safe.  “Where’s the money?”

“How would I know where the money is?!”  Heyes stood up and blew out the lamp so Wheat would know to signal Kyle to bring up the horses.  Brown eyes met blue as both men cried, “It’s a trap!”  Shots erupted outside and the front window smashed into shards.  

The Kid ran to the back door, his gun in his hand.  He threw open the bolt, yanked the thick door wide, but stopped short as a double-barreled shotgun jammed into his chest.  Heyes collided with him.

“You’re under arrest!” yelled the bushy-mustached man behind the gun.  “Fenster, get their guns.”  A deputy slipped around the sheriff and took their weapons before pulling Heyes’ arms back and cuffing him.  Another pair of cuffs secured Curry.

A stained smile spread across the sheriff’s face.   “Welcome to Desperation, Wyoming, gentlemen, I hope you enjoy your stay.”  Cackling laughter accompanied Heyes and Curry to jail.


oooOOOooo


A dust cloud hung over the group of riders clustered at the crossroads.  “What the hell happened back there?” yelled Wheat.  

“It was an ambush!  They was waitin’ fer us.”  Kyle wrapped his reins around his saddle horn and pulled up his canteen.  As he drank, streams of water trickled down his chin and dampened his shirt.

Lobo and Hank said nothing, still gasping for air.  

Preacher galloped up and slid to a stop.  “The sheriff got Heyes and the Kid!  I saw it.”

“Dammit!”  Wheat scowled at him.  “Where’s Lom?”

“I…I don’t know.  I thought he took off with you all.”

“He was a ways behind me when the shootin’ started,” said Kyle.

“So we’re down three men and we don’t have a dime to show for it.”  Lobo had finally found his voice and it was dripping with sarcasm.

As the ramifications sunk in, the men fell silent until Hank timidly asked, “Are we gonna go back for them, Wheat?  Big Jim always said you don’t leave men behind.  Heyes, too.”

“I know what they said!”  

“So?”

“Shut up, Hank, can’t you see Wheat’s comin’ up with a plan?  It’ll be a good one, too,” said Kyle, encouragingly.

Wheat was working on a plan, all right.  He was trying to figure how the heck he was going to get out of this one.


oooOOOooo


Lom Trevors’ eyes opened slowly.  His vision was blurred and his right side radiated a hot pain.  He groaned as he rose to consciousness.

“Please don’t move.  You’ve been hurt.”  A young woman floated into his view and leaned over to tuck a blanket around him.

“What happened?” he asked groggily.

“You were caught in the crossfire.  Some men were robbing the bank and there was a lot of shooting.  The sheriff said you were coming around a corner when a stray bullet hit you.”

“A stray bullet?”  Lom was pretty sure the bullet was meant for him.  At least it should’ve been but the nurse seemed to think he was an innocent bystander.

“I’m not surprised you don’t remember.  It’s not bad, just a graze really, but you fell off your horse and you must’ve been kicked by accident.”  She gently brushed a lock of hair from Lom’s head, exposing an ugly bruise.   “You were lucky you weren’t killed.”

“Yes, ma’am.  Did they catch the outlaws?”

“The sheriff has two of them over at the jail.  The rest got away, but he went after them with a posse.”  She saw the blood drain from his face and mistook it for fatigue.  “I’m so sorry I’ve kept you talking.  You rest, get your strength back.  The doctor will be in to see you when he’s finished with his other patients.”

Closing his eyes, Lom played possum until he heard the young woman leave.  When he was sure she was gone, he sat up and reached for his clothes neatly folded on a chair next to the bed.  His head was swimming but he had to get out of here.

A tap at the door stopped his dressing.  “Sir, may I come in?” asked an elderly voice.  The door opened a crack and a gray, bespectacled head peered around it.  “Oh good, you’re up.”  The doctor eased into the room, sliding the door shut behind him.  “My daughter told me you were awake but you shouldn’t be on your feet.  You had a nasty blow.”

Lom thought frantically, pulling on his shirt and buttoning it, before he opened his mouth.  “Yes sir, I did, but I need to get going.  Those two horses have to be delivered before noon tomorrow and I’ve a long ways to go yet.  Won’t get paid if I’m not on time.” He finished, buckling his belt and grabbed his hat.

“I understand young man, but I must warn you, you are risking your health by such rash actions.”  The older man frowned to emphasize his disapproval but Lom simply smiled at him.  “Very well then, I’ve done all I can.  Pay your bill on your way out.  You can pick up your horses at the livery.  Justin charges two bits a day even if they were only there an hour or two.”

“Fair enough.  Thanks, Doc, for everything.”  Lom hurriedly shook his hand and left.


oooOOOooo


“Nobody knows the trouble I see, nobody knows my sorrow…” sang Kid Curry in an off-key manner.  Heyes sat on the bunk across from him reading the local newspaper.  

“Hey, listen to this:  Old Mr. Peterson was found passed out again behind the Kelly house.  Mrs. Kelly said it’s the third time this month and she reckons he owes her two dollars rent for sleeping it off on her grandmother’s best quilt.  The judge agrees.”

“You two pipe down in there.  A body can’t think for all the yammering from you yahoots,” yelled the deputy from the other side of the barred door.

“Glory Hallelujah!  Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down. Oh yes, Lord.  Sometimes I’m almost in the ground.”  Curry’s voice increased in volume with each word and Heyes rattled the newspaper as loud as he could while trying to contain his mirth.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!”  The jangle of keys brought a hush to the two outlaws no amount of yelling would.  They both turned attentively to the door hoping for a chance to breakout, but Fenster stood in the threshold frowning at them.  “Think you’re funny, do you?  Well, the circuit judge’ll be here tomorrow, first Monday of the month, and then let’s see you laughing.  My bet is you two will be looking at five to ten for your little heist.”

“But we didn’t steal anything, Deputy,” said Heyes solemnly.  “What’re you charging us with, criminal trespass?”

“You a lawyer, Rembacker?  I hate lawyers.”  Fenster was scowling at them.  “You’ll be charged with attempted robbery, breaking and entering, and whatever else the sheriff can throw at your miserable hides to keep you locked up and outta good folks’ hair.  You got a complaint?  You can save it for the judge, I’m going on rounds and then I’m gonna have me a good meal.   You’d better be quiet by the time I get back.”

“Yes sir, Deputy, sir,” said the Kid earnestly.  He grinned at Heyes when the door slammed shut.  “I don’t think he likes us much.”

“There’s just no accounting for taste, is there?”

The front door to the office opened and shut and a silence fell over the jail.  Heyes counted to ten before he flipped over his bed and began working on loosening a spring.

“Ain’t no use, Heyes.  The wire’s too thick to break.  Too bad he found your lock picks.”

“Well, you can sit there doing nothing, but I’m gonna try to get us out of here because we both know Wheat won’t.”  The dark-haired man worked feverishly as his partner hummed gospel for the next half hour.  

“Psst.  Psst.”

“You hear that?” asked Curry.

“Hear what?”  Heyes stopped and listened.

“That hissin’ sound.”  

“Psst, Kid!  Heyes!”  Lom’s face appeared in the small, barred window of the cell.

“Lom! I knew you guys would come bust us out,” laughed Heyes, grabbing the bars and smiling at his friend.  The smile slipped from his face.  “You’re alone.  Where’s everybody?”

“I don’t know.  I got shot off my horse and woke up in the doc’s office a while ago.”

“Are you all right?” asked Curry.

“A little sore, but I’ll be fine.”

“Good, you get us outta here.  The deputy’s gone for a while.”  Heyes let go of the bars.

“I can’t.”

Curry stared at him coldly.  “Why not?”

“I don’t have any money to get the horses out of the livery.  I had to pay the doc.  Can you loan me a couple of dollars?”  Lom glanced over his shoulder but saw no one.

Heyes frantically patted his pockets.  “I don’t have any cash.  Fenster took my wallet and picks!  Kid, do you have any cash?”

“Not one red cent.”

“Nothing?  How could you ride around with nothing?”

“’Cause I like to spend it, Heyes.  Count me out, I’ve got zero dinero.”  He pulled out the lining of his pocket to make his point.

“Argh!”  Heyes ran the fingers of both hands through his hair.  “Lom, get the horses.  Steal ‘em if you have to!”

Lom frowned. “I ain’t doing that, Heyes.”

“Why not?!”  Heyes’ voice was getting squeaky like it did when he was upset.  He face looked a little red, too.  “You’re gonna let the Kid and me go to prison because you suddenly got a conscience?”

“No.”  Lom glared back at him.  “Horsethieving’s a hanging offense.”

Curry smirked.  “Only if you get caught.”

“They’re OUR horses,” roared Heyes.

“I ain’t stealing them.  I’ll think of something.  I’ll be back.” Lom disappeared.

Heyes righted his bunk and sank down onto it, his head in his hands.  “Why me, Kid? Why?”

“I don’t know, Heyes.  I guess you’re just lucky that way.”


oooOOOooo


“What d’you see, Wheat?” asked Kyle reaching for the eyeglass but the bigger man lifted it beyond his reach.  The two outlaw were on the roof of a barn on the outskirts of town.  They had split up with the rest of the gang hoping to confound the posse.  

“Can’t see much of anythin’.  It’s too dark.  You’ll have to go in real careful-like.”

“Me?!  How come I go?”

“Because I’m leader now and I say so.”

“You ain’t leader.  Heyes’ leader.” Kyle spat a gob of chew at Wheat’s boots.

“Heyes ain’t here so I’m leader and I’m telling you to go in there and find out if they’re locked up in jail.”

“Where else would they be?” grumbled Kyle.  

“Just go!”


oooOOOooo


Curry was lying on his cot with the newspaper spread over his face to shield him from the light.  Heyes was still worrying his bedsprings hoping to make a new lock pick.

“Psst.  Psst.”

Looking up from his task, Heyes frowned.  "Not again.”

The Kid pulled the newspaper off before getting up and walking to the window.  “Lom, that you?”

“Lom?  It’s me, Kyle,” said a familiar voice.

“Kyle?”  Heyes came over.  

“Wheat sent me in to see if you were locked up.”

“Where else would we be?”  The Kid was straining to try to see the diminutive outlaw but Kyle was standing right under the window out of sight.

“That’s what I said!”

“Kyle, you need to bust us out tonight.  The judge’ll be here tomorrow.”  Heyes was beginning to pace back and forth across the length of the cell.

“Tonight?  I don’t think Wheat’s come up with an idea yet.  Where’s Lom?”

Heyes stopped in his tracks.  “How would I know where he is?!”

“Ain’t no need to get proddy,”said Kyle.  

“Go find Lom.  Get the horses and get us the hell outta here!” ordered Curry.

“All righty, but it might be a spell.  It’s just me and Wheat.  The boys are keepin’ the posse real busy.”

“We don’t care how long it takes.  We ain’t goin’ anywhere.”  The Kid rolled his eyes at Heyes.  

“Can I use dynamite?”

“I don’t care how you do it just get it done!” snapped Curry.  Both incarcerated men heard the rustles as their compatriot scrambled away.

Heyes went back and sat on the Kid’s bunk, leaning back against the wall of bars.  “We might be real sorry you said that.”


oooOOOooo


Lom had gone back to the doctor’s office to explain his predicament.  With no money, he couldn’t make his deadline.  The elderly man took pity on the poor earnest cowpoke and gave him a dollar fifty discount on his services.  Hurrying back to the livery, Lom had paid the stableman as he was leaving for his evening meal.  Not wanting to miss his hot dinner, the man had left one door open and told him to saddle his own horses.

As Lom led Heyes’ horse out of his stall to join the other two tied up outside, a gun barrel pressed into his back.  “Hold it right there.  I’ll just be takin’ that horse.”  He recognized the voice behind the gun and spun around.  “You damned near gave me a heart attack!”

Kyle grinned back at him.  “Lom, don’t this beat all?  Heyes told me to find you and get the horses.”

“They’re out?”

“No, we gotta bust ‘em out.  C’mon, Wheat’s waitin’ fer us.”


oooOOOooo


“The deputy’s back,” whispered Wheat, peeking around the corner of the alleyway.  He could see the lawman through the plate glass window.  Fenster was pouring himself a mug of coffee.  He put the pot back on the woodstove burner, sat down at the large oak desk and turned to pick up a sheaf of papers resting on top of the office safe behind him.  “Damn, he’s lookin’ through wanted posters.”

“Don’t matter, we can still blow the back wall wide open,” said Kyle.

“We ain’t blowing nothing without warning Heyes and the Kid.  They’ll need to take cover or we could blow them to bits.”  Wheat scratched his chin considering how he’d feel about that.  

Lom stood up.  “I’ve got an idea…”


oooOOOooo  


The bell over the front door jangled loudly as Lom walked in.  Fenster looked up from his paperwork surprised to have a visitor at this hour.  His hand slipped off the desk and came to rest on his six-gun as he stared at the tall, mustached man.

“Howdy, Deputy.  I’m here to fill out a complaint,” said Lom in an abnormally loud voice.  He was hoping Heyes and the Kid could hear him through the barred door to the cells.  They could and they pressed against the bars, listening.

“At this hour?  Couldn’t it wait ‘til morning?”

“Well, no sir, it can’t.  I’ve got to be in Hartsville by 9 a.m.”

“You’re the cowpoke Doc patched up, ain’t you?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“You got hit in the head.  Is that why you’re yelling?”

“I ain’t yelling, why’re you whispering?”

Fenster smiled.  “Have a seat, Mr. ….”  He indicated a chair pushed in the corner.

“Walters.  Sam Walters.  If’n you don’t mind, I’ll stand.  Tired of the saddle if you know what I mean.”  

“Suit yourself, Mr. Walters.”  Fenster pulled out a fresh sheet paper and a pen from the middle drawer of the desk.  “All right, why don’t you give me your statement?”

“Well, it was like this.  I was riding along, minding my own business and next thing I know I wake up in the doc’s office with a lump on my head and a hole in my side.”

“You didn’t hear the shooting?”

“I ain’t heard much of anything since the winter of ’69.”  Lom raised his voice even louder.  “That’s when my little brother, KYLE, blew out the BACK WALL of our barn with some of Pappy’s DYNAMITE for clearing fields.  Pappy whipped him something fierce.  Ol’ Kyle was UNDER HIS BED for the rest of the week.”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other, and then hurried to carry Heyes’ cot to the far wall next to the Kid’s.  Without a sound, they slid under the cots in their cell and pressed their fingers into their ears.

“I’m not sure what I can do for you, sir.  These men were in our custody by the time the lead started flying.  Whoever shot you, it wasn’t them.”

Lom walked over and peered through the barred door at the cells.  He could see his bosses hunkered down under the bunks.  Crossing to the desk, he pounded a fist on the corner.  “Are you telling me, those two crooks can waltz into town and BLOW my whole schedule, not to mention get me shot, and you can’t do nothing?”

“No sir, I’m afraid I can’t.”  Fenster was scowling now, defensive at being put on the spot.

“Well, then, I guess that’s that.”  Lom straighten and smiled before hurrying towards the door.

Fenster stood up and followed him, ushering him out.  As he shut the front door on his odd visitor, the force of the explosion tipped over the oak desk and blew the barred door across the room where it landed at his feet.  The deputy stared down at it blankly, his ears muffled, and his mind dazed.  He swayed once, then twice, then fell face down on the floor.

oooOOOooo

“Tell us again, Lom!” cried Hank.

“I’ll bet that deputy’s ears are still ringin’,” laughed Lobo.

The gang was clustered around the bunkhouse table.  They’d lit a roaring fire in the woodstove and Heyes had brought out a couple of bottles of the good stuff to celebrate.  The only one not enjoying the moment was Wheat.  His brief stint at leader was a thing of the past and he had nothing to show for it.  Lom and Kyle had saved the day while he’d been left holding the horses.  Irritated and feeling left out, he came over to the table to grab a glass of whiskey.  “Don’t know why you’re all so happy.”

“We shook the posse and Lom and Kyle got Heyes and the Kid out, Wheat.  That’s something to celebrate,” said Preacher.

“Yeah?  And what do we have to show for it?  Nothing, that’s what!”  Wheat downed his drink and went back to his bunk to sulk.

Heyes grinned at the Kid and cleared his voice.  “Well, that ain’t altogether true…”  All eyes turned to him.  He picked up a saddlebag and tossed it onto the table.   Curry started unbuckling the straps while he continued, “So just where d’you think the sheriff put all that money he took from the bank for safekeeping?”  Eager smiles sprang to grimy faces and chuckles broke out.  “That’s right--he kept it in the big, beautiful safe in his office.”

With a laugh, the Kid pulled out bundles of bills and threw them on the table.  Cheers erupted.

Wheat sprang to his feet.  “That’s impossible!  You two weren’t in there long enough to crack that safe.”

The Kid grinned at him.  “Heyes didn’t need to crack it.  The sheriff had written the combo on the underside of his desk.  It was staring us in the face when we checked on the deputy.”  


oooOOOooo


It was long after midnight by the time the Kid and Heyes staggered out of the bunkhouse into the chill of the night and wove their way to the leader’s cabin.  

“Guess it’s all’s well that ends well, huh, Heyes?”  

“I don’t know, Kid.  I think I’m gonna have to have a talk with Lom about his honest streak.”

“Hey, he came through when we needed him.”  Heyes didn’t say anything for a while and Curry added, “C’mon, Heyes, that’s got to count for something.”

“It does, and I trust him, but it still worries me.”

The Kid threw an arm around his partner’s shoulder and squeezed him.  “Lighten up, Heyes.  Better we have Lom on the wrong side of the law with us so he’s not workin’ against us.”  Curry chuckled, “I mean what good would that do us?”

_________________
*****************

"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature." —Dave Barry
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Alias Alice



Posts : 186
Join date : 2013-04-02
Location : Yorkshire, UK

PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Wed Jan 25, 2017 8:13 am

Fragile

It was a bone-china cup, cream in colour, painted with a gold fleur-de-lys, a gold band around its rim, and a gold handle.  It took pride of place in Mrs Barton's glass-fronted cabinet.  Mrs Barton saw Thaddeus looking at it one day.

“You admiring my cup?”  she asked.

“Yes,” said the Kid.  “My mother had some cups that were a bit like it.  She loved them.  She thought they were too good to use, though.  Just special occasions”.

“I had the whole set of six cups once, and the saucers to match.  My grandma brought them with her when she came out from Europe, and she gave them to me when I got married.  But they couldn't survive eight children!  That's the last one left.”

Mrs Barton's husband was employing Thaddeus and his partner Joshua for a few months on his ranch.  He'd sent Thaddeus up to the ranch-house to chop and stack wood. Afterwards, Mrs Barton had invited him inside to warm himself at the fire and have a quick snack.  Thaddeus had found himself gazing at the familiar-looking cup, and Mrs Barton was quite glad to talk about it with someone who looked interested.  She took quite a shine to Thaddeus Jones after her short conversation with him, and she told her husband so.  So after that, Mr Barton  would send Thaddeus whenever a job needed doing around the ranch-house.  Thaddeus soon found himself cutting and storing the logs in the yard by the house again, or repairing its out-buildings, and, once, replacing tiles that had blown off the roof in a storm.  After each job, he was usually invited into the farm-kitchen.  Mrs Barton would make him coffee and a sandwich.

She noticed that he always looked at the cream and gold porcelaine cup on its shelf in the locked cabinet.

“You like that cup of mine, don't you,” she said one day.

“I do,” said Thaddeus.  It makes me think of home, and my own mother.”

“Where is your home?”  asked Mrs Barton.  “I never asked you.”

She was surprised that Thaddeus did not answer immediately.  So was he.  He had been asked this question often enough, and usually answered briefly and quickly.  This time, for some reason, he found he couldn't say anything straightaway.

“Nowhere,” he said at last.  “I mean, I haven't got a home.”

It was Mrs Barton's turn to be silent.

“I - I -I lost my family in the war.”  

Thaddeus was horrified to hear himself stammering.  A lump seemed to be constricting his throat.  

“Our farm was burned to the ground.”

“How dreadful for you,” said Mrs Barton quietly.  She looked at the scarlet-faced Thaddeus.

“I'm sorry, Mrs Barton.  I don't usually go on like this.”  His voice shook.  “It's the cup.  Somehow it just reminded me . . . ”  He broke off.

“ You don't have to explain,” said Mrs Barton gently.  “Let me get you a cup of coffee.”

She decided to unlock the cabinet and lift out the beautiful cup.  She took it over to the hob where a pot of coffee was always kept warming, and filled the cup up to its wide brim.

“Here, Thaddeus.  Take this.”  She thrust the cup towards him.

Thaddeus put out his hand to take the cup before he realised which cup was being used.

“Oh, no – not your precious cup - ” he said, withdrawing his hand at once.

“But I want you to use it. Here - ”  She continued to push the cup towards him.  Uncertainly he put out his hand, then pulled it back again.  For a moment neither of them had a firm grasp on the cup, which fell and was smashed in pieces on the stone-flagged floor.  

For a moment both of them stared at it, horror-struck.

“My cup!  My precious cup!”

Mrs Barton moved towards Thaddeus.  Her first impulse was to blame him for the smashed cup, but after one glance at his face, she instantly changed her mind.  She grasped his arm.

“Thaddeus!  It doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter!  It was only a cup!  It was always going to break some day.  I don't mind.  I really don't.”

Thaddeus said nothing.

She gave his arm a little shake.  “It doesn't matter!”

“I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.”  Thaddeus's voice was almost inaudible.  He was still looking at the floor.

“It was an accident.  It was just as much my fault as yours, “ said Mrs Barton, urgently.  “Forget about it.”

“I'm sorry.  And it was  - it reminded me – I remember - ”

Abruptly, Thaddeus  broke away from Mrs Barton's grasp and headed for the door.

***

His partner, Joshua aka Hannibal Heyes, thought Thaddeus was extremely and unusually silent as they went about their work that afternoon.

Eventually he said casually:  “Anything wrong?”

“No. Nothing.”

Joshua looked at him.

“Tell me,”  he said.

The Kid said nothing for a minute, then he said quietly:  “I broke Mrs Barton's cup.”

“What cup?”

“Her best cup.  The one she kept locked in the cabinet.  It was all that was left of a wedding-present.  I smashed it.”

“How did that happen?”

“I thought she was holding it.  She thought I was holding it.  So neither of us was really holding it properly.  Between us we dropped it, and it broke.”

“Sounds as if it was just as much her fault as yours.  But no-one was to blame really.  It was just one of those things.  An accident.”

The Kid said nothing.

“It's a shame, of course,” said Heyes.  “But it's not the end of the world, is it?  I'm surprised that you seem to mind so much. She must know you're sorry for your part in it.”

“I know,” said the Kid miserably.  “But it reminded me of my ma and how she liked nice china, and all that.”

“Oh,” said Heyes, understanding.  He put his arm around the Kid's shoulders.  “Try not to think about it too much.  After all, when all's said and done, it was only a cup.  Worse things happen.”

“They do,” said the Kid.  He didn't add: “That's the whole point.”  He was grateful for Heyes's sympathy.  Instead, he repeated:  “It was only a cup”.
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Cornelia May

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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Sat Jan 28, 2017 11:33 am

The slight vibration was enough to force Hannibal Heyes from a deep sleep. He turned on the lamp on the bedside table and looked at the time on his pocket watch. 11:40. He couldn't hear the steamer's engines anymore either and this worried him. He sat up and wondered if he should wake his sleeping wife; after her collapse before boarding in Southampton the doctor recommended that she get at least nine hours of sleep a night. Against his better judgment he gently shakes her shoulder.
"Lily, wake up and get dressed...warmly, something's not right...the engines have stopped," he said, still slightly groggy from sleep.

She turned over to face him, her blue eyes half open. "Heyes, it's nearly midnight, and you know what the doctor said I need rest," she paused. "Besides, we're the first to lay in this bed, in this first class cabin, on Titanic's maiden voyage...everything's fi-"

A knock on te cabin door interrupted her. She sat up as Heyes left the bedroom to answer the door. When the door was open the steward started speaking. "Sir, I request you and your wife dress quickly and put your life belts on, then get up to the boat deck. Dress warmly, it is quite cold out tonight; I suggest eveningwear with top hats and coats."

Heyes stood there shell-shocked for a moment before regaining his senses. "I felt a shutter, and some vibration; what's going on?" He asked.

"We've likely thrown a propeller blade, that's the shudder you felt."

Heyes had already put on his poker face, but he knew the steward was lying. To his credit he said nothing to the contrary. "Thank you. You best get on with your rounds." He went back into the bedroom and started getting dressed, putting on as many layers as he can.

Lily followed in suit putting on many layers of underclothes and petticoats with a heavy wool dress.
With in a matter of a few minutes Heyes collected all his and his wife's valuables and the few hundred dollars they had left over from their holiday in Europe and placed them in the interior breast pockets of his overcoat along with their passports and a signed order from the ship's chief medical officer. He then put on his oilskin coat before his life belt.

Lily, by this time, had also gotten her outer layers on. Though her only consisted of a duster, a tailored wool traveling coat, and a silk shawl. Heyes saw this and passed her his blue coat saying, "Here put this on, it may be worn thin, but the more layers you have on the less I'll worry about you catching your death."

She nodded putting the old coat on before her life belt. "Do we have everything we can carry? Our papers? A little money? The cameo broach my mother gave me before our wedding?"

"Yes, yes, all in the interior pockets of my over coat. Hold on a second, let me get that paper from the medical officer in a more accessible pocket," He gets the papaer and places it in the left exterior pocket of his oilskin. "Alright, let's get on up to the boat deck."

~<>~<>~<>~<>~

They found a life boat, number seven, boarding passengers on the starboard side of the floundering, supposedly, unsinkable ship.
As they made their way through the line the officer in charge of boarding the passengers was only letting women and children on. Lily gave her husband a worried look. Heyes looked down at his wife with a look saying, Everything will be alright, don't worry.

When Lily's turn to board came Heyes stepped beside her, making like he was going to board as well.

"Sir, step aside, we are only boarding the women and children at this time," the officer said.

"I am well aware of that, Officer...Murdoch, but I have here a signed document from the medical officer aboard this ship that in case of an emergency, such as sinking, I am to be allowed to board the life boat with my wife due to the fragile nature of her health at this time," he got the paper out of his pocket and handed it to the man.

Murdoch quickly looked the document over and recognized the signature at the bottom and handed it back. "I can't very well argue with the chief medical officer," he muttered, nodding his head.

~<>~<>~<>~<>~

Minutes seemed to drag on like hours while they were in the small wooden boat. Though she wasn't cold, Lily shivered in fear. Heyes felt her trembling beside him and wrapped his arm around her, hugging her close. The few other men did the same with their ladies.

The grand ship was starting to sink more quickly, the waterline being almost to the bridge. The faint sound of the string band could be heard as well as the panic that was starting to raise from the passengers who remained on board.

Suddenly the lights of the ship went out leaving launched lifeboats in darkness. The stern of the floundering vessel was now starting to lift from the water and there were screams from those unlucky enough unable to get a stong grip on anything on deck falling into the freezing water.

Around 2:30 the grand ship made her final plunge into the Atlantic, but not before breaking in half.

~<>~<>~<>~<>~

They arrived back to their ranch in Wyoming three days later than planned. Lily was suffering through a cold she had caught while a drift tin the lifeboat. Their daughter met them at the door.

"Oh thank God. Uncle Jed has been going crazy, threatening to go search the bottom of the ocean for you two," she said, relieved to see both her parents.

"Help your mother up to our bedroom, Cornelia; she needs rest." Heyes said, helping Lily into the house then hugging his daughter.

Cornelia nodded and helped her aging mother up to the bedroom. Kid came into the entry hall from the sitting room.

"Hey Kid," Heyes greeted.

"You and Lily worry me near to death and all you have to say is 'Hey'? Your mind must be getting fragile in your old age to think getting on that ship was a good idea." Kid accused.

"Nobody knew that the Titanic was going to sink. Honestly, I believed it was safer to stay on the ship until one of the first class steward nearly broke down our cabin door. Told me the ship threw a propeller blade...that's when I knew we had to quickly get on a lifeboat."

"Did it really break apart before actually sinking?"

Heyes simply nodded. "She too was fragile in her last moments..." he sighed as he took off his hat and coat, glad he'd left his black hat at the ranch, and hung them on the coat rack. "I'd rather not remember it, but I'll likely never forget that night."

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"The only thing in life you have to earn is love, everything else you can steal." ~Hannibal Heyes
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PostSubject: A Fragile Beginning   Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:57 pm

nm131
January 30, 2017

Fragile Beginning

Two silent men sat amid saddlebags, saddles, rifles and assorted personal belongs, starring out at the still snowy landscape of early spring as the near empty railroad car swayed rhythmically along the tracks towards Livingston, Montana. Each man lost in thought. It was unusual for the men to be this far north this early in the year. The last three years had seen them adopt a migratory route of drifting south for the winter months before heading back north once the weather turned warmer. The routine was becoming rote as hope and optimism retreated in the face of reality.

“What’s it say again?”

An exaggerated sigh preceded an even more exaggerated tone of patience from Hannibal Heyes as he slowly recited from memory, “Job and possible future. Important meeting Livingston Montana, March 3 at Livingston Grande Hotel. Meet you there, noon. Lom. It hasn’t changed in the last three weeks no matter how many times we’ve read it.”

“Possible future? You don’t think…?”

“No, the governor probably has, once again, a job that no one else wants or will do and if we do it, he’ll look favorably on you know what. Problem is they only ever look and then do nothing for three years now.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Job is gonna be dangerous, or dirty, or hard on the back, or all three, and on top of that we’ll be lucky if can collect our pay. But hey, our luck’s gotta change sometime.” Both men shared a forced smile before each returned to watching the world pass by through the grimy railroad window.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry strode across the lobby of The Livingston Grande Hotel to the reception area, simultaneously assessing their surroundings while juggling all their worldly possessions in their arms.

“Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, I’m glad to see you made it just in time,” boomed a familiar voice.

Dropping their belongings on the floor beside the large new desk, both ex-outlaws turned to their friend, Lom Tevors, who was coming towards them from a doorway of an adjacent room.

“Howdy Lom, are we checking in?” inquired Kid with a raised eyebrow and a genuine smile.  The middle-aged desk clerk and Heyes, each with a hand on the guest register, eyed the tall, dark-haired sheriff for his answer.  

“Yes, yes, go ahead and register and then we’ll go in. Everyone is waiting for you. The clerk can arrange for your things to be brought up to your room,” Lom replied with a hint of amused anticipation and no further information.

Registration completed, the partners were quickly ushered into a private dining room still largely clueless as to the purpose and participants of the meeting. Curry's nostrils flared as he caught the flavorful aromas of a considerable lunch and a well-stocked bar spread out on the expansive sideboard along the back wall of the room. A group of men who had been sipping drinks around the center dining table stood to greet the new guests.

“We will be right outside if you need us, Governor”, stated two security types as they reluctantly exited the dining room and closed the door behind them. Heyes and Curry stood stock still as they surveyed the room, eyes widening with recognition and some apprehension as their gaze passed over one or two familiar faces.

Lom performed the introduction of the room’s occupants. He gestured to the imposing tall gray-haired gentlemen with the impressive bushy gray mustache, “You know, of course, Governor Warren.” Warren subjected them to a penetrating stare as he moved to shake each partner’s hand with an air of annoyance. “Next is Philetus Norris, the superintendent of Yellowstone National Park.” A wiry built man with long graying hair and mustache gave a slow searching once over to the two ex-outlaws, nodded as if something positive was confirmed, smiled and stuck his hand out in greeting. Lom continued, “George Grinnell” as a man perhaps a half a dozen years older than Heyes with short cropped dark hair and large mustache gave a small bow from the far side of the dark wood table. The next to be introduced didn’t wait for Lom and bounded around the table with an exuberant shout, “Don’t worry Sherriff, No introduction needed since it hasn’t been that long since Joshua and Thaddeus worked for me getting my Elkhorn Ranch going in Dakota. A fine job! I was sorry to see them leave. Only it’s not really Joshua and Thaddeus, is it?” Theodore Roosevelt pumped first the blond’s then the dark-haired partner’s hand enthusiastically. Curry and Heyes only had a moment to share a rapid cautious glance that conveyed a great deal of hidden nervousness before the last older but still vigorous looking man was introduced as Harry Yount.

“Come everyone, help yourself to some fine food and drink, then sit down and we can discuss our proposition with Mr. Curry and Mr. Heyes,” Norris encouraged as he observed the ex-outlaws reaction.

Kid Curry’s right hand shot to rest on the butt of his ever-present Colt without conscious thought as Kid backed up a step, moving nearer the closed door, his left hand snagged the back of Heyes, coat, tugging slightly. Heyes' eyes narrowed and slid sideways to focus on Lom Tevors' still smiling face.  The congenial atmosphere suddenly became tense and uncertain.

“You know who we are,” Heyes stated neutrally as he didn’t see any way he could deny their identities at this point.

TR replied thoughtfully, “We all do now, I didn’t back in the Bandlands or when I thought of you two as perfect candidates for who we need at Yellowstone. I’ll admit though, I wasn’t as surprised as I might have been when I found out exactly who you both were, your characters and skills that you let show fit.”

Lom interrupted, “Boys, relax, eat, and listen to the offer of real jobs. You’re free to accept or reject the offer. Governor Warren and these gentlemen guarantee you will be able to walk out of this room, your situation unchanged if you turn the opportunity down. And if you accept, the terms might change your future for the better.”

Conversation during the meal was dominated by Theodore Roosevelt’s stories of Heyes and Curry as Smith and Jones. He told of adventures with Jones as wildlife guide and fellow hunter, poker with Smith, and general ranch life.  Appetites and thirsts were satiated as the topic turned to changes the landscape, wildlife, and western residents were recently undergoing with passionate views on the desired direction that were shared among all the diners.

Hannibal Heyes decided it was time to come to the point of the meeting, spurred on by a swift kick from under the table and a meaningful look by a worried partner. “Well, thank you for the meal, but you summoned us to Livingston for a reason, and it doesn’t appear to arrest us. Why are we here?”

Norris, Grinnell, Yount and Roosevelt collectively nodded as Warren scowled and Trevors sat back to contently watch.

Norris opened with “Before we detail our proposal, tell me gentlemen, how familiar are you with the Yellowstone area?”

“Pretty familiar, after all Devil’s Hole is not far from the eastern edge of the park lands?” answered Heyes making the statement sound like a question in an effort to elicit further information.

Harry Yount was opening a large map onto the cleared table as Norris continued, “Can you show me on the map and tell me about the land that you know?”

Kid rose slowly to his feet and perused the map, aligning the paper map with the map in his memory. “I know the area around Yellowstone Lake the best,” He laid his finger on the big blue area towards the lower right hand corner of the map then circled sections to the north and west of the lake. “In here, a man’s gotta be careful, know what to look for, what with all the sulfur springs, mud pots, hot springs and what do you call them water spouts, Heyes?”

“Geysers,” Heyes supplied.

Curry nodded. “Yep, geyesers, there’s a couple of impressive ones here and here.” His finger tapped the map then slid north along the Montana border. “This is a good area to lose a posse.” Heyes rolled his eyes as his partner continued, oblivious to Warren’s deepening scowl of displeasure and Lom’s smirk. “Lots of obsidian. The volcanic glass makes it very hard to track over and the stuff is sharp as hell. A posse usually decides we ain’t worth risking their lives or their horses to follow. And up by the Lamar river are the stone trees.” Kid once again looked towards Heyes.

“Petrified, Kid, it’s a petrified forest.”

“Yeah, the petrified forest and if one is willin’ to prospect there is some really pretty amethysts to be found.

Grinnell interrupted, “How do you feel about killing?”

Heyes and Curry stiffened noticeably. Heyes spoke firmly while meeting the eyes of each man around the table, “My partner and I don’t hold with killing. We are known for never shooting or killing anyone in all our jobs.”

“That’s good to know, but I didn’t mean…”

Norris spoke up, “George, before we get into game management, perhaps I should explain. Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry, we are here to offer you both employment in the Yellowstone National Park. There are two positions I need to fill and TR suggested Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith. I investigated those names, which eventually led me to Lom Trevors and Governor Warren. I’ve found out that you’re both intelligent, resourceful men and are quite capable of getting things done in challenging circumstances. Qualities that we are looking for. Heyes, you have a reputation for thorough and effective planning as well a silver tongue. TR tells us that Kid Curry, besides his reputation as the Fastest Gun in the West, knows when not to shoot and has a quiet authority about him. He also said, Mr. Curry, that you may not have been educated in the natural sciences but you’re a keen observer and a natural naturalist. Harry is the chief gamekeeper for Yellowstone, has been since the park’s inception with two gamekeepers under him. He’s getting older now and wants to move closer to his daughter, so we need to find a suitable replacement. I’ll let him explain.”

Harry directed his comments to Curry, “The job is called Chief Gamekeeper but we’re changing it to Chief Park Ranger, and Phil just convinced Congress to up the manpower to ten rangers plus the Chief. Generally, the job is gamekeeper, fire warden, park law enforcement, and guide. You’d be responsible for the protection and management of game, protection and management of all the people in the park, enforcing park rules and regulations to preserve the park as intended, as well guiding the occasional scientific survey team and supervising the park rangers.”

“You would be tasked to stop the wanton slaughter of animals, conduct population surveys and manage the populations accordingly. We want unauthorized users stopped, the railroads are felling trees and cutting ties, and ranches are grazing herds irresponsibly! You will submit reports to Phil, the superintendent, who will present them to Congress, among other places,” George Grinnell interjected with a fierce intensity at Kid, who was now paying strict attention.

“The job I’m thinking for you, Mr. Heyes, is more administrative.” Norris turned to face the inscrutable dark-haired ex outlaw.

“You can call me just Heyes.”

“Alright, Heyes, I need a someone to help me with planning as well as a good public relations, fund-raising man. Someone who can loosen the big donor’s wallets and win local communities’ support for Yellowstone’s conservation efforts. We need to plan for increased tourism, things like accommodations, facilities, itineraries, how to get people safely into and around the park. TR tells me you’re quite the storyteller and you can be very persuasive without seeming manipulative. I’m intrigued how, as thieves, you’ve managed to keep a significant feeling of public goodwill and also have managed to enlist support to help or at least not hinder your current quest. Yellowstone National Park is at its fragile beginning. It is important to show the public and the world that this idea can work so that there can be other national parks. It is important to us here, and those like us, and to future Americans that we have strong, capable men at the helm who are up to the challenge. In spite of you being an unorthodox pick we think you two will be an asset to Yellowstone.”

Heyes rubbed his chin and remarked nonchalantly, “All this is very interesting but I can’t see it working out with us still being wanted.”

Warren spoke for the first time. “The deal is you sign a three-year contract for $1,000 a year plus housing for each of you and we’ll thow in a  food allowance at Mommoth Hot Springs then I’ll sign your amnesty papers. Think of it this way - three years of government service, food, and housing or possibly twenty years of government service with not so nice bed and board. Your choice. You may even want to stay on after your three years are up at Yellowstone, won’t have a choice at the other place.”

The others in the room shifted uncomfortably at the way the governor worded the proposal even if was largely true.

Heyes and Kid spent a long moment is silent communion. Heyes leaned his elbows on the table. “Tell us more.”

Lom watched each partner closely and it was only because he knew the partners well that the he was sure the Yellowstone group had their men. He only had to sit back, sip the fine whiskey and listen to the ensuing conversation.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Kid turned his eyes from the star-studded sky, deeply inhaled the brisk air, and nodded. He knew his decision, all that was left was to see if Heyes reached the same conclusion, knowing it was both or neither of them. For good or ill, they were in this journey together.

Heyes turned from the window, having seen his best friend and partner return from his night walk. He smiled fondly, thinking Kid worked things out in his mind in two ways, cleaning his gun or doing something outside. Listening carefully, evaluating the men and their proposal, Heyes believe that Norris did do thorough research, and planned expertly for his audience. He could work for a man like that.

Tap. Tap. “Heyes it’s me.”

“Come on in, it’s open. What? We’re safe for the moment, we can walk around like a pair of Texas Rangers or it is going to be a Chief Park Ranger?”

“I’ll be honest, I’m tempted, more than tempted, the amnesty alone is worth it but all these years I’ve been wondering what I can do as an honest man, what I’d want to do. This job is going to be, at times, dangerous, dirty, and hard on the back and I’ll never get rich doing it. But it is something I think I can do, something I think I’d like to do. What’s more is that I think squeezin’ money out of the rich folks legally, persuadin’ people to cooperate with us and plannin’ for a future is using your talents for a worthwhile reason. What do you think?” Curry threw his hat on the dresser, his coat on the chair and sat on his bed across from Heyes, his blue eyes full of earnestness and for the first time in a long time real hope.

Heyes ran his long fingers through his disheveled dark hair and his face broke into a dimpled grin. “Kid, I never knew there was such a job as park gamekeeper or ranger, but if ever there was a job tailor made for you, this is it. Me, I’ll wait and see, I like a good challenge and I’ve got some ideas on how to win over the locals, make them think there’s something in it for them. We’re only obligated for three years and in the fourth they’ll see we’ve been the best people they could hire and raise the salary.  I think we should sign the contracts tomorrow and get our amnesty papers. Maybe the national park and our amnesty is a fragile beginning but we’re going to make a strong future.”

The two partners sat on opposite beds, grinning at each other as a new reality opened up. They wouldn’t be watching the world pass them by from grimy railroad car windows or running from it on the back of horse. They had their freedom, they had jobs, and they had a meaningful future.

2deer

Notes: I am claiming artistic license with the dates and timelines. I figured if ASJ, in canon, had continuity issues, I’m allowed a little leeway as well. This story is set in early 1885, in my mind the boys started their quest for amnesty about 1881 – 1882. The historical individuals named in the story were all involved with Yellowstone, just not all in 1885 at the same time.

The governors of Wyoming did, in fact, change frequently in the 1880s and several of the names are familiar from the series - John Hoyt (1878-1882), William Hale (1882-1885), Elliot Morgan (1885), Francis Warren (2/1885-11/1886), George Baxter (1886), Elliot Morgan (again 1886-1887), Thomas Moonlight (1887-1889), and Francis Warren (again 1889-1890). As an aside, Wyoming had a woman governor, Nellie Ross, as far back as 1925-1927.

On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed The Act of Dedication law that created Yellowstone National Park. The park’s first headquarters were built at Mammoth Hot Springs, WY. Later headquarters were located a short distance away, when the Army became responsible for park administration in 1891, to Fort Yellowstone, originally called Camp Sheridan. Yellowstone is the first national park in the US and is thought to be the first national park designated as such in the world. It is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. In the early years tourist came in by rail to Livingston, Montana and entered the park from the North via Gardiner, MT, using specially built wagons and coaches. Visitors averaged about 5,000 - 6,000 per year in the 1880s. The recorded attendance for Yellowstone National Park in 2016 was 4,257,178.

Phileteus W. Norris was the second Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. He earned a reputation as a visionary, and a good man for the position even with an extremely limited budget and resources. Norris constructed roads, built a park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs, hired the first “gamekeeper(s),”, which became the genesis of park rangers, and campaigned against irresponsible hunters and vandals. Much of the primitive road system he laid out remains as the Grand Loop Road. Through constant exploration, Norris also added immensely to geographical knowledge of the park. He worked to promote the park, tourism, and advocated for its needs. The early Yellowstone Park superintendents were:

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING-MONTANA-IDAHO
(Established 3/01/1872)

Nathaniel P. Langford, Supt. 5/10/1872 - 4/17/l877
Philetus W. Norris, Supt. 4/18/1977 - 3/31/l882
Patrick H. Conger, Supt. 4/01/1882 - 9/08/1884
Robert E. Carpenter, Supt. 9/09/1884 - 6/30/1885
David W. Wear, Supt. 7/01/1885 - 8/19/1886

In 1880, Harry Yount was appointed as a gamekeeper at a salary of $1,000 per year to control poaching and vandalism in the park. Yount had previously spent decades exploring the mountain country of present-day Wyoming, including the Grand Tetons, after joining F V. Hayden's Geological Survey in 1873. Yount is the first national park ranger, and Yount's Peak, at the head of the Yellowstone River, was named in his honor.

George Bird Grinnell was an anthropologist, historian, writer and naturalist.  He was prominent in movements to preserve wildlife and conservation in the American West, including Yellowstone. Grinnell helped spread awareness of the conservation of buffalo. In 1887, Grinnell was a founding member, with Theodore Roosevelt, of the Boone and Crockett Club, dedicated to the restoration of America's wildlands. Other founding members included General William Tecumseh Sherman and Gifford Pinchot. Grinnell also organized the first Audubon Society and was an organizer of the New York Zoological Society (which, among other pursuits, runs The Bronx Zoo). Grinnell was editor of Forest and Stream (later Field and Stream) magazine from 1876 to 1911.

The Boone and Crockett Club and its members were responsible for/had significant impact in the elimination of commercial market hunting, creation of the National Park and National Forest Services, National Wildlife Refuge system, wildlife reserves, and funding for conservation, all under what is known today as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

After George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt is the American President I admire most. There are several excellent biographies and books dealing with various aspects of TR’s life. One of which I just finished that focused on the conservation and naturalist interests of TR, which in part, provided the plot bunny for the story. TR started his own natural history museum in his home as a child aged 7. He entered Harvard University intending to pursue Natural History as a career before switching to law. He was a world-wide respected amateur ornithologist. The Elkhorn Ranch was established by Theodore Roosevelt on the banks of the Little Missouri River 35 miles north of Medora, North Dakota in the summer of 1884. The Elkhorn Ranch was Theodore Roosevelt's "main ranch", and his preferred ranch house because it was larger and more private than his Maltese Cross Ranch, established in 1883. TR didn’t actually tour Yellowstone until 1890. His Yellowstone visit was a fact-finding mission on behalf of the Boone and Crockett Club to probe into why Wyoming poachers, Montana lumberman, railway-tie cutters, and an “army of destruction” were being permitted to ignore the rules and regulations outlined in the 1872 law that deemed Yellowstone National Park a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of all the people as TR set about changing national attitudes towards wildlife and habitat conservation.

National Conservation actions (1901-1909) by President Theodore Roosevelt:

Creation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Antiquities Act of 1906
National Forests created or enlarged = 150 (examples Olympic, WA, Tahoe, CA, Sequoia, CA, Zuni, AZ)
Federal Bird Reservations = 51 (i.e. Pelican Island, FL, Yukon Delta, Alaska, Huron Islands, MI)
National Game Preserves = 4 ( i.e. Wichita Forest, OK, Grand Canyon, AZ, Nat Bison Range, Montana)
National Parks = 6 (i.e. Crater Lake, OR, Mesa Verde, CO, Dry Tortugas, FL, Wind Cave, S. Dakota)
National Monuments = 18 (i.e. Muir Woods, CA, Devils Tower, WY, National Bridges, UT)

References

Brinkley, D. (2009) The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. Harper Collins, New York, NY.

National Park Service (n.d.) Birth of a National Park: Yellowstone, Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/historyculture/yellowstoneestablishment.htm

Wikipedia various articles
Fragile
Kc and hh riding in sierras. Terrible wind storn knocking down huge sequoa tree. Birds nest survives with eggs intact. Mother bird twittering, kid notices looks for nest. Theme even the most permanent seeming natural things are fragile at times.
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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:26 am

I didn't really have time this month but I wanted to play. This is one of those ones that doesn't go anywhere I'm afraid. To set the scene, this takes place about eighteen months after the boys got their amnesty. Heyes is settled in Porterville and the Kid has gone to Boston.


Fragile

 

“Lom, I’ve asked you three times now when are you going to fix that back porch roof?”

Lom was relaxing in his favourite chair, feet up, reading the newspaper. Correction - sleeping behind the newspaper. He started up with much rustling.

“Wha’?” He frowned at his wife.

Janet came further into the room, her arms folded. “The back porch roof?”

Lom looked up at her blankly.

“You promised to fix it.”

“Did I?”

“Yes.” She looked down at him. “So?”

Lom growled. “You want me to do it now? Right now?” he snapped.

“Well you’re not doing anything at the moment are you?”

Lom opened his mouth to say he was doing something, and then closed it again. What was the point? She would only keep on at him. Might as well get it done and over with. He threw the paper aside. “I’m a sheriff, Janet, not a janitor!” he tossed over his shoulder as he stalked out.

“Not in this house you’re not,” Janet smiled to herself.

She went to the window and watched her irritated husband, disappear into the shed. He reappeared some minutes later with a ladder, a hammer and a box of nails. He was still muttering under his breath. She watched him lean the ladder against the back porch. She winced as the handle of the hammer rammed its way down the front of his pants. Then smiled in a satisfied way as nails were crammed into his mouth and the first few rungs of the ladder climbed. Only then did she turn away to attend to other things.

The afternoon became filled with the sound of furious banging as the shingles on the back porch roof were persuaded back into place. Then suddenly there was the sound of something slipping, a yell, then another more panicked cry, a heavy thud and then a groan. By the time, Janet and her children rushed out, Lom was struggling to sit up, holding his left leg, pain etched over his face.


“Better get the doc. Think I’ve busted my leg.”

 


 

Heyes bent over, to peer at the immobilised limb. Straightening up he sniffed. “I reckon that’s broke,” he said, deadpan.

“I know it’s broke! It feels like it’s broke! That’s ‘cos it is broke!” Lom snapped. “When ya quite finished, I didn’t ask ya here for ya medical advice!”

Heyes looked innocent. “No need to get proddy, Lom.” (Yea, finally managed to write that – feels good!) He couldn’t quite manage to keep the smirk off his face. “’Course me being in hardware, I coulda told you the proper way to use a ladder is …”

“Heyes,” Lom growled. He waved Heyes into a chair, furiously.

Heyes sat and set his features to serious. “What can I do, Lom?”

Lom sighed. “Looks like I’m gonna be outta action for a while.”

“Yeah, I reckon you will be,” Heyes agreed, nodding at the leg.

“I’m in kinda a fix, Heyes. I mean look who I’ve got as a deputy …” Heyes looked up. “Harker said he’d come outta retirement for the duration but him an’ … I mean him and Bart!” Heyes nodded. “They couldn’t catch a villain if they came an’ knocked on the jail house door!”

Heyes pursed his lips thoughtfully and nodded. He seemed to remember he and the Kid had done just that a few years back when they were still wanted. Heyes opened his mouth but then decided it wouldn’t be prudent to mention that right now.

“So …” Heyes’ head snapped up as realisation dawned.

“No! Now Lom you know I’d do anything to help … .” He started up. “But I’ve a wife an’ a little baby daughter … Not to mention a business to run!” Heyes began to pace. “Lom I appreciate your trust in me an’ all but I jus’ can’t. I mean I know nothing ‘bout the law. That is. From your side of the fence. No really …” Heyes came to rest with his back to Lom and stood hands on hips.

Lom had watched him, back and forth, with an amused look.

Heyes gave a deep sigh. “Alright.” He turned. “I’ll … what’s so funny?”

Lom chortled. “Ya think I was gonna ask ya to stand in as sheriff? Ha, Ha.”

Heyes was disgruntled now. “You mean you weren’t?”

“No,” Lom still chortled. “Ask Hannibal Heyes to be sheriff? Oh no, Ha, Ha, Owh!” He held his leg.”

“Ah.” Heyes didn’t know whether to be relieved or offended but he returned to his place, deliberately placing his hat on the sofa by the side of him. “So why am I here?”

Lom sobered. “Well I guess I need to find a decent lawman until this heals up. So … the Capitol are sending one. Be here day after tomorrow.” Lom looked at his friend. “Jus’ thought I oughta warn ya, the man they’re sending … well, he don’t like outlaws who rob banks. His brother was a teller. He was shot and killed in a robbery that went bad.”

“Oh.” Heyes understood. Now he was serious.  “Does he know I’m here?”

“Nope. I ain’t gonna tell him neither.” Lom paused. “But I reckon he’ll find out soon enough. This fella they’re sending … ya know him Heyes.”

“Who?”

Lom hesitated. “Jack Priestly.”

Heyes sucked air in sharply. Yes, he knew him. Priestly had been a sheriff in a town called Prelude. The Devil’s Hole Gang had robbed the bank, getting way with $35,000. Priestly had raised a posse and given the Gang a hard chase. To make matters worse, the day before, after piping the bank, Heyes had played poker with the man. He had won a considerable amount from the sheriff. Later, Priestly had realised just who the lucky poker player had been and had vowed to capture him. Preferably, dead rather than alive. So no there was no love lost there.

Heyes licked his lips and swallowed. “How d’you … I mean … I can avoid him for a while but … that could take months.” He motioned his hand at Lom’s leg.

“Yeah, I’m sorry Heyes. It’s outta my control.”

Heyes nodded. “I know.” He looked away thinking. “Perhaps … .” He looked back. “Perhaps if … I talk to him. Y’know first off. Try an’ reason with the man.” The silver tongue was winding up. “I’m not wanted anymore. He mustva got the letter ‘bout the amnesty same as you. It’s been five years since the Devil’s Hole Gang robbed the bank in Prelude … He can’t hold a grudge that long … can he?”

The look on Lom’s face told him, Priestly could.

Heyes groaned and rubbed a hand over his face.

“What do I tell Mary?” Oh Sheesh! he thought. He was working so hard at living a law abiding life and just when he thought he was winning, something like this happens. He didn’t want his secret to come out yet. Mary and her father, Lom and Janet, the Reverend who had married them. They all knew who he used to be of course but it was still too soon for the rest of the town to know his secret. In his long-term plan he had figured a few more years – five perhaps before his previous persona became common knowledge. Even then, he had planned to manage the disclosure carefully. He liked being Joshua Smith. He didn’t want to go back to being Hannibal Heyes.

“I’m sorry Heyes,” Lom said, quietly. He knew this was a blow and he had a lot of sympathy. Heyes was making himself a nice quiet life in Porterville. He was popular and he and Mary had a wide circle of friends. Ever since the clothes horse fiasco, Heyes had been managing The Hardware Store. Now after the previous owner had retired he was the proud owner, having persuaded the bank to back him with a mortgage. As the boss, Heyes now employed two young lads and the store was making money hand over fist. Lom knew that Heyes was considering standing for the Town Council next election time. He had no doubt that he would be a hardworking and useful addition to the town management. However, Lom was under no illusions that the revelation that Joshua Smith was really Hannibal Heyes would go well.

For Heyes this was just one more reminder that his new life was still a fragile thing and liable to shatter in the blink of an eye. He had to find a way out of this. Rubbing his forehead as he thought, he had no idea how to do it. Simply no idea at all.
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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:30 pm

A Fragile Condition


CRACK!!!

The bolt of lightning met the majestic pine with a shower of sparks. The embers fell into a bed of dry needles at the base of the tree. A few went out, but others smoldered. All too soon a flame flickered and began licking at the needles. It grew in size becoming an uncontrollable forest fire.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Two lone drifters meandered through the aspens following no trail.

“Heyes?” Curry looked up and scanned the horizon.

“Yeah?”

“Do you smell somethin’?”

Heyes reined in his horse and sniffed. “I smell a lot of things. Can you be more specific?”

“I thought I smelled… never mind. I don’t smell it now.”

They rode a few more miles around a large rock formation. The horses began getting restless, prancing and bobbling their heads up and down.

“Whoa, boy! What is it?” Heyes patted his gelding’s neck.

“There’s that smell again!” The Kid stood up in the stirrups. “Do you see that!”

“Fire and it’s heading this way!”

“With this breeze, it’ll be here sooner than later!”

The partners turned their horses around and hurried from the area.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

An hour later, Heyes and Curry rode up a rising and looked around.

“That farm there is in the path of the fire if it don’t turn.” Heyes pointed to a small group of buildings. “They probably don’t even know it’s coming or that they’re in danger.”

“Let’s go warn them!” Kid Curry spurred his horse in the direction of the homestead.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The cabin door opened and a rifle barrel stuck out. “Who are you and what do you want?”

Heyes and the Kid slowly raised their hands and put on a friendly smile.

“We mean you no harm, ma’am.” Heyes tipped his hat with his hand in the air. “We’re here to warn you…”

“Warn me? What about?”

“The forest fire, ma’am.” Kid Curry nodded off towards the left. “Comin’ this way. If you come out, you can see the plume of smoke yourself.”

The barrel lowered and the door slowly opened. “You two stay inside, you hear?” Keeping the rifle in hand, a petite woman emerged, holding tight to a shawl around her shoulders. “I thought I smelled smoke earlier when the wind was blowing in the direction.” She came off the porch and scanned the sky. “Oh no!”

“Yes, ma’am, you have to get outta here. Is your husband nearby?” Curry asked as he slowly lowered his hands.

“No, he went to town one more time before… well, before the baby comes.” The woman lowered her shawl to reveal a very round belly.

“How close is town? We can go get him.” Heyes took in the farm, planning for an evacuation.

“A day or more out.”

“Then there’s no time.” Heyes sighed. “We’re just have to get you out of here, Mrs…”

“Mrs. Harris. Emily Harris.”

“I’m Joshua Smith and this here is my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

“Ma’am, you have young’uns in the house?”

“Two. Jonathan and Sarah, you can come out.”

A boy around six years old and a girl around four years old cautiously came out onto the porch. “Mama, what’s happenin’?”

“We’re going to meet your father in town.”

“We get to go to town?” Jonathan’s eyes lit up at the thought of an adventure.

“That’s right, but we have to hurry.” Emily looked towards the men for confirmation.

“Do you have a wagon? I see there’s two horses in the corral.” Heyes took stock of what needed to be done. “We just have to set the animals free to fend for themselves.”

“There’s a wagon inside the barn.”

“Good. Thaddeus, you hitch up the horses to the wagon and open the animal pens. Mrs. Harris, how about we pack up a few things for the trip.”

“Yes,” she said relieved that someone was taking charge. “Jonathan and Sarah, get your clothes together and two favorite toys. I’ll get some clothes for David and me.”

Heyes followed the family into the house. “I’ll round up some blankets and food for the trip, if that’s alright with you.”

“Thank you!” Emily responded as she retreated into a back room.

Half an hour later, Kid Curry came into the house. “It’s gettin’ closer – the sky’s hazy. The animals are set free and the wagon’s ready.”

“Good. I have blankets and food…”

“And we have clothes packed.”

“How about a mattress for the wagon?” The Kid looked at his friend. “With her fragile condition, it might help with the trip.”

“Good idea. Help me put it in so we can pack and leave.”

“Fragile condition…” Emily muttered.

The men loaded the mattress and bags into the wagon.

“Is there room for my rocking chair? It belonged to my grandmother,” Emily pleaded.

“Sure, we can make room for it,” Curry assured her as he carried it to the wagon.

“We have to go… there’s no more time,” Heyes warned.

Emily Harris looked around her home one last time and left.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heyes drove the team of horses pulling the wagon while Emily sat in the back hugging her children. Curry rode his horse behind while leading Heyes’ gelding. The air was getting thick as they hurried as fast as the wagon could go.

“Put a cloth up covering your face,” Heyes suggested as he pulled his bandana up. “It’ll make it easier to breathe.”

Emily Harris nodded and found items to tie around their faces.

“Joshua, I’m gonna ride up there to see where the fire’s headin’ and how far away it is. Need to tie your horse to the back.”

“Okay.” Heyes reined the horses in. “They could use a quick rest, but they’re anxious to get out of here, too.”

The Kid tied the gelding to the back and noted a grimace on Mrs. Harris’ face. “Ma’am, are you alright?”

“Sure. Think it’s just the bouncing around.” She reached for a canteen. “Do you two want some water?”

“Yes, mama,” came two replies.

Curry mounted his horse. “Keep goin’ and I’ll catch up with you.”

Heyes nodded and encouraged the horses into a trot.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Thaddeus, am I ever glad to see you!” Heyes exclaimed as the Kid rode up to the wagon.

“Why’d you stop? The horses needed a rest?”

“No. Uh, we have a problem.”

“It’s not a problem!” Emily’s voice came from in the wagon. “It’s a baby.”

“A baby?” Kid asked.

Heyes nodded. “She’s having the baby.”

“Now?”

“Now.”

Kid Curry took off his hat and ran his fingers through his matted hair. “What are we gonna do?”

“That depends on what you have to say about the fire.”

“Well, it’s by the house and appears to be headin’ south.”

“So not in our direction,” Heyes confirmed.

“Not unless the wind changes.”

“Which it could.”

“ARGH!!!”

The men looked towards the wagon.

“Heyes?”

“Don’t ask me!”

“Can I get some help here?” Emily cried out.

Heyes and Curry hurried to the wagon.

“Someone get Jonathan and Sarah out of here. Isn’t there a creek or something nearby?”

“Yep, over there. We can have them help us water the horses.”

“Well, one of you are gonna have to stay with me.”

Heyes and the Kid looked at each other.

“Flip?”

“Heads.”

The coin twirled in the air and a deft hand caught it. “It’s… heads?”

“I won?”

Heyes looked distraught and nodded.

Curry smiled. “I won! Come on, Jonathan and Sarah. Let’s go water the horses.” He lifted the scared children out of the wagon.

“I’m okay, children. I just need some time so you go with Mr. Jones and do as he says.”

“Yes, mama.”

Kid unbuckled the reins from the horses and led the four animals and two children down to the water.

“Mr. Smith!”

“Mrs. Harris, I’m not sure what I should do?”

“How about calling me Emily for starters.”

“Only if you call us Joshua and Thaddeus.”

“It’s a deal.” She gritted her teeth and held her breath. “You don’t have to do much. I do all the work.”

Heyes nodded nervously.

“It’s not like I haven’t done this before. AAAHHHH!!”

Heyes came up beside her. “Can I get you anything? Water?”

Emily nodded as she waited for the pain to subside.

Heyes took a cloth and wet it, gently wiping the sweat from her face.

Emily took some deep breaths. “It’s getting closer.” She took the canteen he offered. “Have you been to a birthing before?”

Heyes shook his head.

“Well, you’ve seen animals birth, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And can I assume you’ve been with a woman before?”

Heyes blushed.

Emily took a deep breath. “Here comes another pain. AAAHHHH!”

Heyes took her hand and allowed her to squeeze his through her contraction.

Several more deep breaths. “Joshua, I’m gonna have to ask you to see if you can see the baby coming.

“Now?”

Emily gritted her teeth and nodded as she pushed down.

Heyes let go of her hand and edged down by her legs. He took a deep breath and lift her skirt up.

“Just pull my drawers off and look!”

“Yes, ma’am.” Heyes reluctantly reached up and pulled the white cloth down while looking away.

“What do you see?”

Heyes held his breath and ventured a look. “I see… I see a little head of hair.”

“Good!” Emily pushed down more.

Heyes eyes widened as he watched the miracle of life unfold. “The head is out. Can you push a little more for the shoulders? There! Good, Em… OH, it’s here!” Heyes gathered the little one in his arms.

Emily panted and smiled. “Wrap the baby in a blanket.”

Heyes grabbed the nearest blanket and covered the baby.

Emily reached up. “What is it?”

“It’s a boy!” Heyes grinned as he handed the baby to the mother’s open arms. “A perfect little baby!”

Emily peered at her little one and slapped the back. A robust cry came from the blanket.

The Kid looked over by the wagon. “Jonathan and Sarah, I think you have a new baby brother or sister. Should we go see?”

“Yeah.” Jonathan ran. “I want a baby brother!”

Curry scooped up Sarah in his arm and hurried after him.

“I want a sister!” Sarah yelled after him.

Before they reached the wagon, the Kid held Jonathan. “Is it okay?” he questioned his partner.

Heyes looked down at Emily who nodded. “Sure.”

The Kid came over and put Sarah in the wagon. He reached down and helped Jonathan up the wagon wheel.

“What is it, mama?”

“You have a baby brother,” Emily answered weary.

“Everything okay? The Kid looked towards his friend.

“Perfect.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Several hours later, the wagon started down the road again with the family snuggled and resting in the back.

The Kid rode off and returned a little while later. “The fire is still headin’ south so we’re outta danger.”

“Good, then I can take it slower.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

That evening, they camped near a stream with a fire heating dinner and coffee. The four horses were hobbled by the water and eating the green grass.

Emily got up to stir the beans.

“What are you doin’?” the Kid asked. “You just rest there and we’ll take care of the dinner.”

“Well, thank you, but I can do things. I just had a baby.”

“Yeah, you just had a baby so rest.”

Emily smiled and sat in the rocking chair with her infant.

Curry dropped the spoon and his hand hovered over this gun.

“What is it?” Heyes asked.

“We have company.”

A man on a horse leading another came into the fire light. “Excuse me but… Emily?”

“David!”

“Papa… papa!”

“What are you… Our baby?”

Emily smiled as she handed the little one to her husband. “Another boy.”

“When? Why are you here?” David looked at the two men nervously and stepped in front of his family.

Heyes reached out his hand. “I’m Joshua Smith.”

“Thaddeus Jones.” Curry held out his hand, too.

David shook their hands. “David Harris. And I guess you already know my family?”

Emily put a hand on his arm. “There was a fire.”

“A fire?!”

“Joshua and Thaddeus saw a fire that was started by the thunderstorm heading in our direction and came to warn us.”

“When we realized you were gone,” Heyes continued. “We helped them evacuate.”

“Our ranch?”

“I know the fire was in the area, but not sure if it burned. It’s south of here now so we’re safe.” Kid Curry sat down and stirred the beans. “Dinner should be ready soon. Who’s hungry?”

“I am!” came two replies from Jonathan and Sarah.

“Can I offer you a cup of coffee?” Heyes asked David.

“Yes, please.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

After dinner, the family and former outlaws sat around the fire.

“Did you decide a name, Emily?” David asked as he rocked his son.

“I thought Christopher, after your father.”

“He’d be proud. When did little Christopher come?”

“While we were escaping.”

“While you were… Who helped deliver the baby?”

Heyes turned red. “I did.”

“Well, I thank you, again. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t been there.”

“Our pleasure.”


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Later in the evening, the Harris family slept in the wagon while Heyes and Curry leaned against their saddles near the fire.

“I can’t believe I won the toss. Don’t know that I could’ve done that.”

“I wasn’t sure I could either.”

“Weren’t you embarrassed?”

“Well, yeah, at first, but then… It was amazing, Thaddeus, watching a new life come into the world like that.”

“Maybe someday I’ll have to experience it.”

“One thing's for sure.”

“What’s that?”

“There’s nothing fragile about being pregnant or giving birth!”


_________________
h
"Do you ever get the feeling that nothing right is ever going to happen to us again?" - Kid Curry
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PostSubject: Uncontrollable Events   Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:52 pm

“Nature of life is fragile. Uncontrollable events happen all the time in life.” ― Kishore Bansal

Jed Curry was riding for fun. It was something he did from time to time, when he felt crazy for missing the days in the saddle. It was their ranch. And other than the occasional days work, Jed allowed himself as much enjoyment as possible.
He encouraged his quarter horse forward when he noticed a horse in the distance. The horse galloped in from seemingly nowhere, a man caught in the stirrup, dragging at the side of the horse. He swung his horse wide and jumped down.
The big brown horse looked like he was ready to bolt if he didn't find a friendly hand.
Jed reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a treat.
"Come 'ere, Big fella." Jed said, brandishing an apple, "You're in good company. Don't go running anymore." He looked to the horse's former rider, "Don't think it would be good for your friend there, either."
The horse stood still, his head down in anticipation of the green apple.
Jed approached the horse, apple first. The horse made no move to bolt when he brought it in nose reach.
The horse nudged his nose to the left, as if he were insisting Jed check on the man hanging on his side.
Jed disentangled the man from the stirrup and laid him down on the patch of clover.
He didn't look good. He had a sizable gash in his temple and cuts and bruises. Jed's hand hovered above the man's mouth and he felt the softest exhalation of air.
Jed laid him over the back of his horse, the man's horse following.
"Heyes! Heyes, send one of the boys for the doctor!"

###

"This boy is lucky," Doc Cooper said putting away his instruments, "Broken ribs, concussion, broken ankle..."
The Doctor put his hat on, "When he wakes up, he'll wish he hadn't."
He turned to the two ranch owners, "You two boys keep an eye on him and let me know if he wakes up."
They looked down at the man laid up in one of the guest beds.
"Were we ever that young, Kid?" Heyes asked wistfully.
"I was," Jed said, a smirk curling on his face, "I don't know that you ever were. What with your two whole years ahead of me."
Heyes ignored his cousin's jab, "By the time we were his age, we were already trying for amnesty. Trying to outrun every sheriff, marshal, bounty hunter..."
Jed gave his cousin a sideways glance. Heyes had been awfully reminiscent lately, a fact that had not gone unnoticed.
Jed put a hand on his shoulder, "But we got it, Heyes. We managed to stick it out. Clean slate, new start."
Heyes shook out of his reverie, smile on his face, "We did, didn't we?"
Heyes was trying to bluff his partner.
Heyes should have known better.
"I've got to balance the books, Kid." Heyes turned and left.
Jed turned to the injured young fella. He'd been in a room with an injured man often enough to know how to handle the situation. He could almost picture the figure in the bed as his partner in the old days...
"You've got to excuse Heyes," he said to the man, "He's getting too contemplative in his old age."
Jed racked his brains for something to talk about, "That's a clever horse you've got there, Son. Good animal." He said, "Been giving our boys a heap of trouble, wandering around the outside of the house, looking for you, I expect."
Jed's eyes wandered to the man's belongings and saw a holster and a fine piece of machinery. He inspected it. The gun had beautiful pearl engravings and the balance was just right.
He turned his attention to the belt, noting the tie,
"I hope you're not a gunslinger, Son," Jed said quietly, a tinge of emotion he couldn't pinpoint in his voice, "I'm a bit outta practice."
He hadn't tied down in years. Didn't need too. But he knew that anyone who did had a good reason for it.
He thought of the number of times his own quick reflexes with his six-gun got them out of trouble... And the equal amount it got them in trouble. Stop a fight, start a rumor. The rumor would get to the sheriff, the sheriff would look through the posters...
Jed smiled despite himself. Thinking what would have comforted Jed 'Kid' Curry, Jed pulled the gun from the belt and hung the belt on the bedpost above the man's head.
"There." He said, " At least that might make you a bit more comfortable.I'd leave the gun in it, but I don't want anyone in my house shot."
Jed heard the door slam open, "Mr. Curry, Sir! Gracie is about to drop her colt, you'd best..."
Jed was out the door before he could finish.

###

Heyes heard the groaning from his office. It was late and he wasn't sure how long his lamp had been burning, he didn't even remember lighting it.
He rubbed his eyes, seeing imaginary numbers float in and out of his vision. He stood and somehow found himself walking through the hallway, to the distressed voice.
The night was oppressively silent other than the mutterings of a fevered man, when Heyes found himself in the room.
He'd seen this scenario so many times before.
He stood, took the cloth from the man's head and swished it around in the basin, replacing it on his head, just from a force of habit.
A scene flashed in front of his eyes.
An 18-year-old boy with a bullet buried in his shoulder, a look saying he was afraid to die.
Heyes sat down and suddenly felt very old.
"The Kid has probably told you I'm getting 'too contemplative' in my old age.'" he said quietly.
Heyes smirked, "Goodness knows he tells me often enough..." Heyes looked at the man, "And yes, I know he talked to you. For some reason, whenever he'd get sick, even when we were kids, I couldn't shut up, I'd talk and talk until he was better. Guess I didn't want him to have to be all alone," he said.
Heyes passed a hand through his hair, "You remind me of us and..." Heyes went silent for a moment, "I can't make the Kid go through it again, not after 25 years..."

&&&

Everything had fallen apart. It had all gone wrong.
The twenty-year-old leader of the Devil's Hole gang pushed his horse as the eighteen-year-old bounced limply behind him.
He had only taken his eyes off for a second.
The gang had got ambushed.
His partner stayed while Heyes tried to salvage his scheme.
He'd only stopped looking for a moment.
He glanced at the back door.
The same moment the six gun went off.
Heyes grabbed his partner's wrist and ran out to his horse and they piled on together.
Heyes didn't look anywhere but ahead again.
"Heyes..." He heard his partner say.
"Heyes..." He heard again, faintly.
Heyes pushed the horse.
"Han..." The Kid slumped behind him.
All Heyes had was his thoughts of worry and panic until he was safely in the Hole.
Until he found the gang staring at him.
"Where's the money, Heyes?"
"I don't have it, Biggs."
"We get ambushed, and you don't have it?"
Heyes lifted Kid off the horse and started off to the leader's cabin.
"What are you going to do about it, you..."
Heyes turned around and gave the group a withering glare.
"Not now."
The door slammed in the man's face.

###

Heyes laid his cousin down.
"Han...?" Heyes heard a weak voice ask.
"Kid! Are you okay?"
The Kid looked at him solemnly.
"You'll be fine. It didn't hit anything important." Heyes said, words spilling from his mouth like a waterfall, "I need to remove the bullet. Don't worry, I've seen Preacher do it for the boys, even Big Jim himself, I'll handle it, we'll patch you up and everything will be..."
Heyes' eyes landed on a pair of crystal blue ones. He could tell more looking at his cousin than anyone else on earth. Kid's shoulder hurt like hell, and so did his pride. The Kid had never realized how... Mortal gunfights would make him feel. They'd lost their folks, sure, but they hadn't been there to see it. Feel it. This was different.
Heyes could almost see the what ifs behind those eyes.
What if the sheriff had better aim?
What if his mistake had lost him his best friend?
They were playing a more dangerous game than the Kid had realized. And the Kid's realization was eating Heyes up. Heyes had wished this was something his cousin would never have to figure out.
Heyes fetched a bandana from a drawer.
"They weren't gonna aim for me, Jed."
Kid closed his eyes, steeling himself to the words.
"Every sheriff and lawman from here to Lawrence knows I can't draw or shoot worth a tin nickel. I think they're even talking about putting it on my posters..."
"You can draw well enough to get a gun out of someone's hand six feet in front of you."
Heyes froze. A plan had gone wrong, a gang of outlaws ready to hang him and now...
Heyes could feel his head aching.
"I turned around. What happened to you watching my back?" Heyes flinched from the venom in the last word, "Partner?"
Heyes whipped around and released all hidden emotions, "You're the fast draw, Kid! You should know better than turn your back on an armed man!"
Kid shouted back at him, "I thought I could trust you!"
Heyes knew it was the pain. Plain and simple. It was the guilt that was causing the argument, but he couldn't help his blood boiling at his hot-headed cousin.
"Maybe you shouldn't have! We've been separate for three years, Kid! Maybe I got used to not having a puppy nipping at my heels! I CAN'T WATCH YOU EVERY MINUTE! MAYBE I'M BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU!"
The sentence hung in the air. There was a deadly silence between the two of them. Heyes finally looked back into those eyes, all he saw was the stinging pain of betrayal. It was only then he noticed the sheen of sweat caked on his cousin, his heavy breathing slowing and those eyes drifting closed.
Heyes looked at his cousin in terror.
"PREACHER!"

###

Heyes took another swig from the bottle in his hand. Kid had a fever and Heyes had been seated in the corner near the Kid's bedside ever since.
Some of the boys came in asking as polite as a group of crooks could, if he had any plans or if they could just go rob a stage or somethin'.
A bottle of liquor was launched directly at their heads at full force, hitting the wall as they cleverly ducked.
Nobody came after that, except Preacher, because he was the only one who wasn't fool enough to bother Heyes about anything except fixing his cousin up.
"He'll be fine, Heyes," Preacher told him, trying to sound optimistic, "Be fixed up in no time."
Heyes barely heard him.

###

"I didn't mean it, Kid," he said late one night, "you're the only family I have left."
He wasn't sure how long he'd been there. All he knew was his cousin was still unconscious and still thought that Heyes wished he was gone.
"Hey," Heyes said, "you remember when we were kids and I'd tell you to go home? You were so damn stubborn, that no matter what we did, and you'd still follow me."
His smile bloomed, "And you'd shoot your slingshot at Old Man McMillian while he was chasing me out of his peaches. Even then you had my back." He said.
"Course, I always knew you were there. That's why I was always trailing behind, Trying to carry enough for both..."
Heyes trailed off, the memory dissolving.
Heyes leaned forward resting his arms on his knees,
"I'm sorry about this, Jed. I never wanted this to happen. Not any of it. I didn't want you to be an outlaw. I didn't want you to learn how to draw. I didn't want..."
His voice dried up, "When we lost our folks I had to grow up."
He stared at the floor, his voice hoarse and quiet, "I promised your Ma and Pa I would."
A hand passed through his hair, "It went wrong. Our lives have gone a little wrong."
He paused a moment, imagining what his cousin would say.
"Okay, a lot wrong! But Jed, you can't go. I know you miss them, but...if you left now, my life would be far too easy!Jedidiah Curry, you gotta come back."
Heyes looked up at the pale figure, "You and I have always been together. through thick and thin." He said, desperation in his voice, "There wouldn't be a Hannibal Heyes without a Kid Curry. There can't be."
His head dropped, his eyes closed tight, droplets falling to the floor.
"... And there won't be a Kid Curry if you don't be quiet and let a man get some rest."
Heyes' head whipped up.
"JED!"
Heyes threw himself to the bedside.
"Heyes... Am I okay...?" Kid asked, dazed.
Heyes smiled, "Yeah, Kid, you're okay. Preacher got the bullet out. You're fine."
"...Good. Did we have..." Kid looked at Heyes confusedly, then shook his head slightly, "Never mind."
Heyes frowned, " Get some rest, Kid."
Kid smiled weakly, "You too, Heyes, you look terrible."
Heyes sat back in his chair, alone with his relief. And guilt.

&&&

"... He never brought it up again."
Heyes slid a hand through his hair again.
"It's eaten me up ever since then. I can remember that night as clearly as the bank of Fort Worth, I don't know how I could have changed it. That plan..." Heyes threw his hands up, "I was trying to get us both out of there without getting killed!"
"Hell, I know that, Heyes!" Said a voice from the hall.
Heyes peeked around the doorframe, to see Jed Curry leaning against the wall.
"I was young. I was young and stupid." Jed said, " I didn't know how to rob a bank! I was eighteen! And you were only twenty, Heyes!"
Jed looked at his cousin.
"I was still convinced you could do anything, Heyes. Like I thought my Pa could do anything. That night was the second time that I realized that someone I admired could of died. Nothing was your fault, Heyes. I never brought it up because I thought you knew that."
He looked Heyes straight in the eyes.
"Hannibal," Heyes' face frowned automatically, "Nothing was your fault. I trust you. I've always trusted you. You are not the reason I was shot. After twenty-five years, it's time to move on."
Heyes looked at his cousin with the look of a man who has just had the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders.
"Thank you, Kid."
At that moment, there was a clunk from the bed.
Jed's first reaction was to grab at his gun, his hand looking for something that hadn't been there for years.
The man looked at Jed and Jed smiled at his own foolishness.
"Kid Curry?" The man said.
Jed laughed, "Yeah, Son," he said, "But I haven't been a 'Kid' for years, except to him."
"Hannibal Heyes?"
Heyes smirked, "That I am, who are you?"
"Don't look much like your posters."
Heyes and Kid traded a look.
"Why do you know our wanted posters?"
"It wasn't a choice." He said, "My father read wanted posters to put me to sleep." He winced, " Childhood for a Marshal's son."
Jed and Heyes' eyes widened.
"Who?" They said in tandem.
"Brisco County. Senior."
The two partners let out a breath.
"We never had much trouble with him."
"You wouldn't have. You never caused him much trouble either."
Suddenly, there was a disturbance in the window.
"Comet, we've talked about this. You stay in the stables when we are guests."
The horse whinnied.
"Well, thank you, I appreciate your worry, but, I'm fine. Now will you go back to the stables?"
The horse whinnied dismissively and left the window.
"Excuse Comet, I have to remind him he's a horse."
Heyes looked at Kid, "I'm going to get some sleep," he said, dismayed at the exchange, "I'm suddenly very tired."
Kid smiled at Heyes, "Good idea."

###

"Thanks for letting me heal up, Mr. Heyes, Mr. Curry," Brisco said, packing his saddlebags.
Jed smiled at Brisco, "We told you, Son, I'm Jed, he's Heyes," he said, "we also told you not to push yourself and you chosen to ignore that too."
"I've gotta catch-up to Bly's gang." He said, "But thank you for the offer. Again."
At that moment, the front door slammed open.
"Heyes!? Kid!?"
Kyle Murtry rushed in the room, "It's that horse again, Kid, you're th' only one what can get it to listen!"
###

All three of them laughed at the sight in the stables.
"Kid, will you get this animal offa me?!" Wheat said angrily.
Heyes smiled at him, "I don't know, Wheat. Seems like you've got things under control." Heyes said.
Comet was standing on the wriggling man's pants leg, the horse's nose buried in the crate of green apples. Brisco rushed forward to stop the horse.
Kid and Heyes looked at each other.
"Clever." Heyes said, "Maybe I should have traded you for a better horse. Brisco and Comet make good partners." Heyes laughed at the glare he received from his cousin.

_________________
"I don't understand it, but I do appreciate it." -Hannibal Heyes


Last edited by BraveheartSam on Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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Remuda

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Age : 42

PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Tue Jan 31, 2017 10:14 pm

Rattled


That night, time stood still, and our world stopped.

We had just arrived in town and didn’t know the sheriff. It looked like a nice enough place. I got a hotel room while my partner took the horses to the livery. After settling in, we decided to clean up before sampling what the town had to offer. The trail dust was thick and the bath house down the street. It’s almost like a baptism every time: the grime gives way to clean, in body and mind, and the spirit is lightened. We both seem to think clearer when we’re not carrying around a few extra pounds of dirt.

Being flush from our last delivery job for the Colonel, we dropped our trail clothes off with the laundress and headed to the café. I was feeling particularly generous for some reason, so the steak dinners were on me. I told Kid he could take care of the cigars and drinks later. We ate heartily, even took time for a nice bottle of wine. Foraged game over a campfire is fine for the trail, but in town we hope to leave the roughness behind. Civilization is about the finer things, the more gentle ways.

Speaking of gentle, after an unhurried supper, we moseyed over to the nearest watering hole. The establishment had an air of genteelness about it, or at least as much as a gambling hall and saloon could. The fairer sex seemed more carefree and not as hard as in some places we’ve come upon, almost like they had to meet certain requirements of respectability to work there. The ones who served us seemed pretty smart, and you’d think they’d have made a good living as schoolteachers and led a respectable life. It’s doubtful the more respectable ladies in town would consider these saloon creatures on a par with them, but they might one day if they met the right man. One who came over was able to discuss the finer points of poker with me and when prompted even gave us a rundown on the different dealers. This one I could be interested in – if the time ever came where I could consider settling down, that is.

So, after a bit of relaxation and watching the various tables, a couple of spots opened up at one table in particular. The players seemed friendly enough, and the dealer fair. Kid and me, well, we have an arrangement when we play the same game. We communicate silently between us, and no one’s ever the wiser. If he’s dealt what looks like a winning hand, he’ll let me know, and depending on mine, I’ll fold or let him know mine’s also got possibilities. But if both of us think we have what it takes to win, we’ll draw and see what the extra cards reveal. We also want to make sure no one suspects either of us, so we’ll take turns winning and losing and letting the other players win a few – but just a few, if I can help it.

We’re amiable sorts too, although some might have trouble with that notion. After all, even though we’re doing our damndest to stay out of trouble to get amnesty when the governor deems it politically expedient, we are wanted men. The bounties have swelled over time to $10,000 apiece, wanted dead or alive. The most successful outlaws in the history of the West, we’ve been called. Yes, I admit to being a genius and Kid is probably the fastest draw out there, but we’re still just men who want to go straight. Of course, Kid has to hide the fact that he’s as good as he is, often with reminding from me, so when he has to pull out a gun when others are around, Thaddeus Jones tries to be an okay shot, but nothing special. Truth be told, I’m no slouch either, but Joshua Smith rarely pulls a gun. Smith does the thinking, and the other fella follows along. Kid might tell it differently, though.

So back before I took off on that tangent, like I said, we were at this table, and the conversation flowed. We had a banker, a couple of ranchers, and the owner of the general store, all apparently successful and leading citizens of this town. We told them we were retired from the banking and railroad business and now served as security consultants. Well, it’s not exactly true, maybe, but not technically a lie, either.

The drinks flowed and play continued. Talk of business turned to more personal matters. One gent had just sent his son off to college back East, while another allowed how he hoped to win enough to augment the dowry for his daughter, who was due to marry the mayor in the next couple of weeks. Kid gave me that steely-eyed gaze of his when I began as to how my partner had once or twice found himself almost married to a mayor’s daughter himself.

At one point the sheriff came in and joined our game for a few hands. His interest in us as strangers in town waned with an introduction from another of the players, who gave him a brief rundown of our professions as if he’d known us for a long time, never mind the acquaintance being but of short duration. It obviously doesn’t hurt to play with the important men in town.

After the sheriff got up and left to continue his rounds, we played on for another hour or so, the same half dozen of us plus the dealer. Sure, we took a break here and there to stretch, refresh, and step out back to attend to business before continuing. We could get used to this kind of Saturday night. Maybe one day.

We finally agreed to play until midnight. It seemed fitting, given as to how the establishment had just sounded last call with a half hour to go. Five minutes later, though, the jovial atmosphere was disturbed by a disheveled young whelp followed by a lady of the night in her bloomers. From the looks and smell of them, they’d had way too much to drink and he had trouble holding his liquor. She nagged on about how he hadn’t paid her. Well, Lord knows Kid and me have spent enough time with enough ladies to know you pay up first and enjoy after. This one sounded like he’d wanted one on the house.

So, before anyone could react, the young whelp started a scene with one of the ranchers at our table. They got loud. The young’un reached in front of the gent and grabbed a handful of money and threw it at the girl. She yelled something and stomped out. Meanwhile, the rancher stood and said to the whelp as to how he should get home and they’d talk there. Things escalated, and the sheriff returned. Kid and I stayed as calm as we could, but I could see his right hand at the ready, just in case. Our eyes met and I willed him to stay calm. After all, the sheriff didn’t know us, had no beef with us, and had no reason to suspect us. But, wanted men always have to be on guard.

Just when the rancher had his whelp of a son calmed down and the man sat down to resume the game, the young’un pulled out a gun. He waved it around but a second in our direction before two shots were fired. Kid had his Colt in his hand, but rather than the steely gaze most fear, his eyes were wide in shock. And in the split second it took me and others to realize what had happened, mine were too.

The rancher who sat opposite me and two over from Kid lay forward on the table, a bullet in his back. The town doctor ran over and pronounced him dead. His own gun still in hand, the sheriff knelt over the whelp, a finger to his neck. He shook his head and sighed: his own aim had found its mark. However, spying my partner with gun in hand, the sheriff walked to him, motioning for the Colt. Kid handed it to him with mouth agape in confusion. Thinking it prudent to not give anyone any reason to suspect me, I left my hands in plain sight, although every fiber in me wanted to get the hell out of there.

The entire scene was unreal, to say the least. The confusion didn’t last long, though, because the sheriff smelled the barrel of Kid’s gun and handed it back to him. He did likewise with one other fella at the next table. Kid let out a breath and looked at me. We were, though, still in shock. Things being what they were, the sheriff ordered everyone out and the saloon closed.

We had trouble sleeping that night. The picture of the amiable rancher we’d played poker with for hours lying face down and shot in the back by his own son haunted us. What had caused the whelp to go off like that; whether there was some underlying, simmering something between them, we’ll never know. He’d had too much to drink, that was obvious. But that he pulled a gun on his own father and didn’t hesitate to shoot him in the back – that got to us. We, alleged hardened criminals who just happened in our heyday to give in to the larceny that stays mostly hidden in all of us, were shook to the core. Whether the drink made him do it or as some said, he really had zero regard for life, will remain a mystery.

Weary from too little sleep, we hauled ourselves down to the café the next morning for breakfast. The whole town felt different somehow. It was Sunday and most were in church. Sure, our folks had looked to the Good Book for comfort and made sure we were versed in it, too. But here, after years of ignoring how we were brought up, we were tempted to step inside as well.

Unable to shake what we had witnessed the night before, we rode out later that day. Through our whole outlaw past, we’d never seen anything like that. We’d had guns drawn on us, been shot at, tied up, in jail, and all that goes with thieving. All that, like it or not, went part and parcel with the lives we led. But that night, that was something once in a lifetime for us we never want to witness again.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Jan 17 - Fragile   Wed Feb 15, 2017 11:12 am

Oh boy.
I finally found time between work and being a new cat woman to write a story.
Pleased with myself I turned up all excited to post it only to discover I'd written one for the previous month's title!
It's only a short one leaving you to finish it for yourself but it does have naked outlaw flesh on show.

Fragile
By Maz McCoy
BANG! BANG! BANG!
A brown eye opened.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
A brow furrowed.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
A jaw muscle tensed.
BANG! BANG! “OW!”
A heavy sigh issued from beneath the bedclothes before a hand grabbed the sheets and threw them roughly to one side.
Hannibal Heyes swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up. His bare feet planted themselves on the cold wooden floorboards of the leader’s cabin. The world swirled around him. He closed his eyes, waiting for the room to settle. When he reopened them everything was back where it should be including two noteworthy empty bottles lying on the floor. Heyes groaned.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Heyes cussed and stood up. The room started to move again and his stomach gave a sickening flip. Barefoot, and clad only in his long johns, Heyes headed towards the door.

***
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Fully clothed (I know! How unfair is that?) Kid Curry sat on the edge of his bed, elbows on his knees, and head in his hands.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
He groaned.
BANG! BANG! “OW!”
Kid smiled and stood up, his hand resting automatically on the gun at his side. He grimaced as his ears did their best to meet somewhere in the middle of his head.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Kid gave the window, and whoever lay beyond it, a gunfighter’s glare and headed for the door.


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Obstacles are put in our way to see if we really want something or only thought we did: Edison
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