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 April 15 - Counting Chickens

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Join date : 2012-04-22
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PostSubject: April 15 - Counting Chickens   April 15 - Counting Chickens Icon_minitimeWed Apr 01, 2015 9:02 am

Has the spring sprung in your neck of the woods?
Has the grass riz?
Are you a-wondering where dem boirdies is?
Have you heard the boird is on the wing?
Which is absoird!
I'm sure the wing is on the boird!

And so the cycle of the seasons turns.

[What's that Heyes? Get on with it? Sheesh - just 'cos you have to ride out for a half dozen hot foamy baths.]

Without further ado, let the eager itching of your fingers, and the ceaseless swirling of your creative brains, both be assuaged by turning their spare capacity to this month's topic.

Which is both tangentially Easter-orientated and open the usual non-singular interpretation.

[All right, Kid! Flaming Nora - talk about impatient!]

Counting Chickens....

Easteregg Easteregg Easteregg turkey

(We have no Easter chick icons??? The turkey is standing in.]

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ty pender

ty pender

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Join date : 2014-07-17

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PostSubject: Counting chickens...   April 15 - Counting Chickens Icon_minitimeWed Apr 01, 2015 6:00 pm

....before they're hatched. rubberducky
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Alias Alice

Posts : 186
Join date : 2013-04-03
Location : Yorkshire, UK

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PostSubject: Re: April 15 - Counting Chickens   April 15 - Counting Chickens Icon_minitimeMon Apr 06, 2015 1:49 am

“Got you!”

The farmer levelled the shotgun at the two boys, aged about sixteen and fourteen, lying sleeping in the hayloft of his great barn.  Two pairs of eyes opened and regarded him, at first sleepily, and then with growing alarm.

“They hang horse-thieves around here,” said the farmer grimly.  “If I had my way, they'd hang all thieves.  Including chicken-thieves.”

“We haven't stolen any chickens,” said the dark-eyed, older boy.

“Don't bother to lie!  I've counted my hens.  They're one short.  You've stolen it and eaten it.”

“No, we haven't!  And what if we had?  We've had nothing to eat for forty-eight hours.  We're both starving.  We've got a dollar and 16 cents between us.  I was going to leave that behind to pay for it when we went.”

The farmer, George McFarlane, smiled grimly.  “I knew you'd taken it!  And don't pretend you were going to pay!  I'm not stupid.”

The younger boy, sleepy-eyed, stood up.   George grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Oh no, you don't!  You're going nowhere til I say so.  If I say so.”

He pointed the shotgun directly at him alone.  The blond-haired boy blanched.  Instantly the dark boy was on his feet.  Before the farmer could stop him, he pushed the gun-barrel away from his friend, and stood between him and George.

“Leave him alone!  You touch him and I'll kill you!  He never pinched your damn chicken anyway!  It was me.”  He glared at the farmer.

In spite of himself, George was impressed.  He liked someone with courage.  And the boy's concern for his brother or friend was quite touching, in a way.  Involuntarily, he lowered the gun and released the younger one.  At this point, almost ironically, a sort of long-drawn out clucking squawk was heard, and a black hen stepped into view, pecking spasmodically at the floor of the hay-loft in search of stray grains or seeds.

“What's that?”  said George.

“It's a chicken,” said the dark boy expressionlessly.

“What's it doing here?”

“Same as me, I should think,” said Heyes, (for that's who it was).“Looking for something to eat.”

“I thought you ate it last night.”

“No.  We didn't get here until about one in the morning.  We were going to eat it, but we were both   too tired to pluck it and make a fire and cook it.  Catching it was bad enough.  We were dead on our feet.  We just went to sleep.”

He looked at George.  Jed suddenly swayed.  Heyes put out an arm to steady him.

“Hey!  You OK?”

“Yeah.  Just giddy for a moment.”

“What's wrong with him?” said George.

“He hasn't eaten for two days,” snapped the older boy.  “Haven't you been listening?”

George thought for a moment.  He'd taken a reluctant liking for these two stowaways in his barn.  And he was not an inhuman man.  It didn't seem right to him that young boys should be alone and hungry.

“Come with me,” he said.  “My wife may be able to find you something to eat before you go.”

* * *

The boys cleaned themselves up under the pump in the farm-yard while George went into the kitchen to explain to his wife.  Before they were quite finished, she had come into the yard with George, and with a little girl of about six years of age trotting behind them.  George introduced his wife to them as Elspeth.  Although she was draped discreetly in a voluminous shawl, it was clear that Elspeth was expecting a baby, and soon.  

George's plan had been to ask his wife to pack them a few things to eat to take with them, but, once she met the boys, Elspeth was having none of that.

“Come into the kitchen,” she said warmly.  “I'll cook you something.  You'll need something hot inside you.  I hear you were going to eat our Martha!  You'd have found her a tough old bird.  Not much picking on her!”

Heyes and Curry looked at each other and smiled.  They had not expected such a kind welcome.

The boys did full justice to the enormous breakfast Elspeth provided for them. As they ate, Janey, the little girl, watched them, round-eyed.  The farm was in an isolated spot, and Janey was unused to visitors. She was very curious about them.  

She felt slightly less shy of Jed, because he seemed a little less of a grown-up than the other boy.

“Were you really going to eat Martha?” she asked him eventually.

Jed smiled at her.  “Well, maybe,” he said.  “Haven't you ever eaten roast chicken?”

Janey nodded, looking at him without speaking.  “This is Millie,” she said suddenly, bringing a small red felt toy-cat out of the pocket of her pinafore.

“What a lovely cat!” said Jed, feeling slightly at a loss as to what he should say.  He was just as unused to talking to children as Janey was to talking to strangers, but Janey seemed satisfied with his reply.

Meanwhile, George was asking Heyes about the boys' plans.  Heyes didn't have much to tell him.

“I'm going to have a baby brother,”  Janey told Jed, confidentially.

“Well, that would be very nice,” he said, “but how do you know it won't be a baby sister?”

“Papa thinks it will be a baby brother.”

“Oh, does he?” said Elspeth looking over at her husband.  “What makes Papa think that?”

“I don't know,” he said.  “It's just that there are so many men in this family.  Don't forget I've got five brothers.  I think we're quite likely to have a boy.”

“Don't count your chickens before they're hatched!” said his wife, sharply.  “You've made it fairly clear a few times that you'd prefer a boy.”

“I wouldn't 'prefer' a boy!  It's just that he'd be a big help on the farm later, that's all.  Any farmer would say the same.  It doesn't mean I wouldn't like another girl!”

Elspeth sniffed, and stood up to clear the table.  She looked slightly mollified, but not pleased.

“We'll be glad to get whatever we're given!”

* * *

Later that morning, the boys, fed and rested, were getting ready to leave.  Janey had followed them around all morning, taking a great interest in whatever they did.  She particularly attached herself to Jed, to whom she seemed to have taken a real fancy.  It was nearly time for them to go when George came over to them.

“Can I have a word?” he asked diffidently.

The boys exchanged glances.  They weren't used to a quiet, mild tone from George.  He seemed very anxious about something.

“Go ahead.”

“I have a favour to ask,” he said.  “Several favours.  It's the baby.  Elspeth thinks it may be starting to come.  It's not supposed to come for another three weeks or so, and my sister wasn't going to come to stay until next week.  It would be a great help if someone could go and get her from the town today, and the doctor.   So that I can stop here with Elspeth.”

He looked at them, nervously. “And we'd be very grateful if one of you could keep an eye on Janey all day while I'm upstairs with her mother.”

“I'll go and get the doctor and your sister now,” said Heyes.  “And you can look after Janey, Jed.  She likes you.”

Jed had a sinking feeling.  “OK.” he said immediately.

“ Thank you!” said George, agitatedly, “It's very good of you to help us out.”  

He went immediately to tell Elspeth what the boys had agreed to do.   The boys could see that he needed to be doing something.

Janey slipped her hand into Jed's.  “Jed,” she said.  “Where do babies come from?”

Heyes grinned at him.

“Erm,” said Jed turning scarlet. “Well . . . well . . .   It's a bit difficult to explain.  Er . . . Let's start with how little chickens come out of eggs . . .”

Heyes gave a snort of laughter.

“Janey!” called her father from the farmhouse door.  “Come here a minute.  I think Mama will want to speak to you.”  Janey skipped off.

“What a pity she had to go!” said Heyes.  “I was looking forward to hearing what you were going to say next!”

“Why?  Don't you know where babies come from?  Want me to explain it to you too?”

“I think I've got it sussed,” said Heyes, moving towards the stables.  “She certainly put you on the spot, though!  'Little chickens and eggs!'  Which were you going to say came first, by the way?”  

“Oh, shut up!” said the scarlet-cheeked Jed, turning away.  He had a feeling that the day with Janey was going to be a very long day.  It was.

* * *

“Once upon a time there was a hen called Chicken Licken,” he began, as Heyes mounted up and rode away on his errand to the town.  George was upstairs with Elspeth.  Janey was sitting beside Jed on the settle, but after a little while she climbed up onto his lap.

* * *

Ten days later, the boys really were leaving.  The baby, a boy, had been born that first evening, but George had asked them to stay for a few days to help with the farm-work.  There had been a lot of discussion of a name for the newcomer.

Joshua's quite a nice name,” mused Heyes.  “Or  maybe Thaddeus,” said his cousin.

In the event, the baby was named George McFarlane, like his father.  Janey was so thrilled with her new baby brother that she did not really seem to mind that the boys had to go.

“We can't thank you enough for your help,”  said George  as he saw them off. “Thank God you decided to steal my chicken that night!  What would we have done without you?  Now, have you got everything you need?  What has Elspeth packed for your supper tonight?”

The boys sneaked a glance at each other.  “I think I'll let you guess.” said Heyes.
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PostSubject: Re: April 15 - Counting Chickens   April 15 - Counting Chickens Icon_minitimeSun Apr 12, 2015 12:16 am

Counting Chickens

“One, two, three…” Jed concentrated as he pointed and counted chickens. “Four, five, six… OH, stop movin’ around so! How can I count ya?”

The blond curly seven-year old sighed and started over. “One, two, three, four…”

A rooster pecked at his leg.

“OW!! Why’d you do that for?” He kicked at the offending bird and rubbed his leg.

“Jedediah, you’re supposed to be counting the chickens, not kicking them!” came a stern voice from the barn.

He twirled and saw his father leaning on the doorframe. He head bowed. “Yes, Pa.”

Jed watched his father retreat back into the barn. “Dang bird! You got me in trouble.” He looked down at the ocean of feathers surrounding him. “Now where was I? One, two, three, four, five… ten, eleven, twelve…” He scratched his head. “Did I already count you?”

The hen in question clucked and scurried away.

“One, two, three, four… Oh, it’s no use. They keep movin’ on me.” Jed sat down dejectedly in a corner of the coup.


Jed jumped up and looked around. His mother stood on the porch with her hand shielding her eyes. “Yes, Ma?”

“Are you through counting those chicken?”

“No, ma’am. They keep movin’ around and I lose track.”

“You better finish your chores, including counting those chickens, before you go off with your cousin.”

“Why do I have to count ‘em, Ma?”

“Because I told you to – I have my reasons.” She squinted. “Are those your clean pants?”

He looked down. Drat! “Sorry, I grabbed the wrong pair this mornin’.”

His mother frowned. “You’ll be needin’ them tonight so see you don’t get them too dirty.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He brushed the dirt from his pants.

“And put your hat on so your fair skin won’t burn.”

“But…” He stopped when he saw her scowl. “Yes, ma’am.” He picked up his brown floppy hat and hit it on his leg a few times to clean it.

“Now you’re getting your pants dirtier!” She turned to go back into the house. “Boys!”

Jed put the round brown felt hat with a black band on his head. “Now where was I? One, two, three, four, five, six… fourteen, fifteen, sixteen…”

Han came up behind, leaned against the fence and watched his younger cousin for a moment. “Whatcha doin’, Jed?”

“ARGH!!!” Jed stomped his foot and threw his hat on the ground.


“You made me lose count!”

“Why are you counting chickens anyways?”

“Cause my ma told me to – she has her reasons!”

“So hurry up so we can get going.” Han picked up the hat from getting pecked at by a curious hen and set it on his cousin’s head.

“I’m tryin’ to, but they keep movin’ and I forget if I counted ‘em or not.” Jed turned and started counting again. “… fifteen, sixteen, seventeen…”

“You counted that one already,” Han commented.

“Dang it all!” Jed clamped his hand over his mouth and looked over by the house and barn. He sighed in relief when he didn’t see either parent come out to rebuke him.

Han tsked. “With that kind of language you could get your mouth washed out with soap.”

“I know that,” Jed grumbled. “But can you see my problem? Hard to keep track of what bird I’ve counted and which one I haven’t when they’re constantly movin’ around.”

“Got work smarter than harder.”

“How’d you do it?”

Han rested his chin over his thumb, his fist over his mouth as he pondered the situation. He looked around the chicken coup and yard. He bit his lower lip and then smiled.

Han walked around the Curry farm and picked up twine and a board, bringing them back to the coup.

“Whatcha got planned? You ain’t gonna hit the chickens, are you, ‘cause I already got yelled at for kickin’ one.”

“You kicked a chicken?”

“The dang…” Jed looked quickly around, again, towards the house and barn. “The stupid rooster bit me.”

Han slowly shook his head as he pulled out his pocket knife and cut the twine in two. He tied a piece of the string to both sides of the board. “There!”

“What that for?”

“Keeping the chickens separated so we can count them, of course.”

“Oh…” Jed said, not sounding convinced. “How?”

Han handed Jed a twine at one end of the board and he took the other. “We lift the board up and down behind the hens, counting them as we move them from one side of the board to the other.”

“Like this?” Jed moved the raised board behind a hen then lowered it, moving the bird to the other side.

“Yep, that’s one.” Han copied his cousin. “Two and three.”

“Four, five, six…”

The two boys continued herding the hens and roosters from one side of the board to the other while counting them.

Fifteen minutes later, there were five chickens on one side of the board and the rest on the other side.

“Finish counting them, Jed. There’s just five more left so we don’t need use the board anymore.”

“Forty-two, forty-three, forty-four, forty-five, and forty-six.” Jed looked at his older cousin for confirmation.

“Yep, you can tell your ma she has forty-six chickens.”

“Thanks, Han!” Jed ran into the house. “Ma, Ma, can I go with Han now?”

A voice came from in the house, “Did you finish counting the chickens?”

“Yep!” He came to a stop just outside the door. “There’s forty-six of them.”

“How many are roosters and how many are hens?” the mother asked as she continued to knead the bread.

“Huh? You didn’t tell me you needed to know that.”

“Well, I’m telling you now.” She added more flour to the table. “One you’ve counted that, you may go with Han.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Jed turned and walked slowly back to the coup.

“Hurry up! Let’s go!” Han encouraged him.

Jed kicked a stone and threw his hat on the ground. “I can’t. I gotta count hens and roosters.”

Han shrugged. “That’s not so bad.”

“Sure it is. We gotta start over.”

“No, we don’t,” Han informed him. “We know there’s forty-six birds, right?”


“So we just have to count the few roosters and subtract from the total number.”


“I’ll show you. Roosters are easy to count since there aren’t so many of them.” Han sat of the fence. “How many do you see?”

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten… There’s eleven of them.”

“Yep. That’s how many I counted, too,” Han confirmed. “Now how many hens are there?”

“I don’t know!” Jed exclaimed, frustrated.

“Sure you do.” Han jumped down from the fence and picked up a stick. He wrote “46” in the dirt with “11” below it. “You just have to subtract 11 from 46.” He handed the stick to Jed.

Jed took the sick. “Six minus one is… five.” He drew a number five.


“And four minus one is…” He wrote in the dirt. “Three.” Jed looked over to Han for confirmed.

The older boy nodded.

“So there’s eleven roosters and thirty-five hens.”

Han put his arm around his younger cousin. “That right! So go tell your ma so we can go to the creek.”

Jed ran up to the house porch. “Ma, there’s eleven roosters and… Han, how many hens did we say there was?”

Han rolled his eyes. “Thirty-five.”

“And thirty-five hens, ma. Can I go with Han now?”

His mother smiled and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, getting a little bit of flour on it. “Yes, you can go with Han now, but I want you back before dinner.”

“I will.”

“And don’t forget your hat!” she reminded him.

“I won’t!” Jed grabbed his hat and ran over to Han. “Come on! Let’s get outta here before ma or pa come up with another chore for me to do.”

Jed ran past Han as he ran to the creek.

“Hey, wait for me,” Han yelled as he followed after him.

"Do you ever get the feeling that nothing right is ever going to happen to us again?" - Kid Curry
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PostSubject: Re: April 15 - Counting Chickens   April 15 - Counting Chickens Icon_minitimeFri May 01, 2015 5:17 am

The Stage Ride

Content Larner’s eyes flew open as the stage hit a rut, her chin striking the frame of the window on which she rested her head. “Agh!” The single motion also pushed her bodily into the passenger to her left.

Indeed, the bump disarrayed all five passengers. Shrugging off the intrusion, the men helped steady the two women.

In the middle seat, Jed “Kid” Curry instinctively grabbed Content by the elbow, sheltering hers in the crook of his own. “Ma’am, are you okay?”

Recovering, she allowed herself the momentary attention. “Yes, thank you, Mr. Jones.” Another arm reached across Curry. “And you also, Mr. Smith.”

Hannibal Heyes grinned. “Lots of ruts on this road, but that was a big one.”

“Hmph! One would think age before youth!”

Miss Larner and Messrs. Smith and Jones regarded the speaker. Kid Curry soothed, “Sorry, I guess we just reacted. Are you all right, Mrs. Bellows? Mr. Bellows?”

The older woman sat up, her nose pointed away from those to her front. “A little banged up, I fear, but yes, quite fine. No thanks to you!”

The gentleman to her left stopped in mid-motion of replacing his derby. “Now, now, dear; no need to exaggerate. That side took the harder jolt. We’re fine.” He turned to those across from him. “Thank you for inquiring, Mr. Jones. And I must apologize for my wife. Lack of sleep while traveling leaves her impatient. I trust you’re all well and that will not happen again.”

Hannibal Heyes shared a cursory look with his partner before turning his attention to the older man. “Unfortunately, Mr. Bellows, we’ll be lucky if that’s the only one. I trust you don’t travel by stage often?”

Mrs. Bellows jumped in before her husband could answer. “No, we don’t! Only the finest carriages and private train cars will do, but my husband felt we must journey as everyone does, so here we are. Certainly, these common conveyances leave a lot to be desired!”

“Now, now, Harrette. There’s no need to offend anyone.”

“Wilkie, stop with the placating, please. If offense is taken, it’s the other party’s problem, none of mine. And I do not need anyone apologizing for me. Hmph!”

Wilkie Bellows pursed his lips, shaking his head and offering a silent apology to the others. The partners nodded; Miss Larner sat stone-faced.

An awkward moment passed before Hannibal Heyes spoke, dimples aglow. “Well, this trip has been quiet thus far. Perhaps we can put that interruption of the road behind us.”

“Yes, let’s start over.” Bellows offered his hand to Heyes. “Wilkie Burrows, of the New York Bellows, and my wife, Harrette. Nice to meet you all, as I suppose you say out these parts.” He chuckled. “Please do pardon if my language gets too formal. I’m afraid it’s what we’re used to.”

Heyes and Curry extended their hands in return. Heyes spoke. “Joshua Smith, and my partner, Thaddeus Jones, and I believe, Miss Larner. Nice to make your acquaintance.”

“Good, do let’s start fresh.” The older man smiled.

“Wilkie, really. That last town was not big enough, and I fear the next one will be the same – all dust and everything needing a coat of paint. There is no need to mince words with those who qualify as no better than hired help!”

Mr. Bellows’ brow knit. “Harrette, we’ve been through this.”

Their fellow passengers could only observe.

“Please forgive my wife. Things have changed a lot for us. I felt a change of scenery would do us both good.”

Heyes nodded. “The West is certainly a change from New York. But if Mrs. Bellows misses it too much, might I suggest San Francisco? I’m sure you’ll find it to your liking.”

“Hmph! How could you possibly know, Mr. Jones?”

“Smith. My partner’s Jones.”

Harrette Bellows sighed. “Really … Smith, Jones – does it really matter? The Smiths and Jones I have known all colluded on things best left for the constable. Undesirables, all of them!”

“Now, dear …”

“Don’t ‘now, dear,’ me, Wilkie. Certainly there’s some common form of conversation you and these gentlemen …” she looked them over with a sneer, “… can find a meeting ground on while I try to resume my interrupted rest.”

Kid Curry offered lightly, “Ma’am, ruts a-plenty along here’ll probably interrupt any rest you try to get. Perhaps you and Miss Larner …”

“Hold your tongue, young man! Unlike my husband, I do not wish to cavort with the help!”

Content was not. “Now, wait a darn minute! I ain’t the help!”

Harrette looked straight at the young woman. “I rest my case.”

Wilkie once again, “My wife comes from a long line of lawyers. She has no patience …”

Heyes regarded him. “I see that.” He paused. “Mr. Bellows, you said things had changed for you?”

The older man sighed.

“Wilkie, this is not for strangers’ ears …”

Bellows addressed Heyes, ignoring his wife. “Yes, Mr. Smith. We were quite well off, but I’m afraid our fortunes, well … perhaps you might say we took a bath in the recent recession. I’ve wanted to see the West for a long time, and we had a trip planned, so here we are. But, our method of travel has been …”

Harrette interrupted, looking Heyes square in the eye. “Yes, Mr. Smith, our method of travel has suffered, immensely.” She turned to her husband. “And why is this anyone else’s business?”

“I’m just making conversation, dear.”

Kid Curry glanced at Content, who busied herself with the passing scenery. “Mr. Bellows, what did you do?”

“I was in banking, Mr. Jones. There were bank runs in two of our establishments, and they had to close. Our third is struggling to hang on.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Yes, it has been rough.” Bellows paused before proceeding. “Now, I invited scrutiny, but might I also ask you gentlemen how you make your livings?”

“Wilkie, can’t you see these two are drifters, and likely common ones at that. And the young woman … I won’t even guess.”

Miss Larner jumped from her seat at the insinuation, only to be caught by Curry. “Miss, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Oh, didn’t she?! She’s been pointing her eyes down her nose at me since we boarded.”

“Why, yes, I have, haven’t I? I wouldn’t call that dress anything anyone respectable would wear. Perhaps the last town was too small for you as well, dear? At least where the respectable ladies were concerned?”

“Harrette, enough!”

“Well, however would she explain that … that … dance hall costume? Were you asked to leave the last town, dear?”

“How dare you!”

Kid wrested Content’s purse from her before it became a missile and as gentlemanly as he could, forced her back in her seat. “Mrs. Bellows, if you weren’t a lady …”

Heyes interjected, “What Mr. Jones is trying to say … What we’ll both say, is you’re out of line, Mrs. Bellows.”

Harrette’s voice rose, “You’re the one out of line, Mr. Smith!”

The partners regarded Bellows. He threw up his hands.

Curry rolled his eyes. “Maybe both you ladies settle down and we’ll have a peaceful ride.”


Silence prevailed as all five passengers nodded off to sleep. At times, Heyes and Bellows busied themselves with a book.

Wilkie watched the passing scenery before addressing Heyes, the only one awake. “Mr. Smith, I hope it wasn’t too forward of me to ask how you and Mr. Jones made your livings. If you’ll allow the question, I’d be interested in knowing.”

Heyes placed his latest Mark Twain acquisition in his lap. The movement jerked Kid Curry awake. “No, Mr. Bellows, the question is fine. Like you, my partner and I were also in banking, and since the recession have found it difficult to make a living. Right now, you could say we’re messengers for the business interests of a retired army colonel.”

“Really? That sounds exciting.”

Curry added, “Kind of boring, really.”

Heyes glared at his partner. “But, it does pay the bills, right, Thaddeus?”

Kid sighed, “Yeah.” He closed his eyes.

Heyes again regarded the older man. “Mr. Bellows, it can be exciting, but like other things, becomes rote. I’m afraid my partner needs more excitement at times.”

Wilkie nodded. “Yes, like my wife, perhaps. Except she’s longing for what we can no longer afford. Life has changed drastically for us.”

The dark-haired ex-outlaw leader half-smiled. “Yes, for us, too.” With the conversation seemingly ended for the moment, he picked up his book. Bellows noticed.

“Ah, Twain. Good fellow. That’s his latest, isn’t it?”

Heyes’ eyes met the older man’s. “You know Mark Twain?”

“Yes, yes; well, by acquaintance, anyway. Met him several times on his travels to New York. Good man. Wonderful writer. Of course, my wife would rather I stick to the Classics, but, Twain is a wonderful read. There’s serious reading and the more enjoyable. Ah, that reminds me …” He pulled something from his pocket. “Speaking of enjoyable, I picked these up recently.” He handed Heyes several dime novels, while also lowering his voice. “Of course, my wife doesn’t approve, but coming West, I just had to read up on the heroes and villains out here.”

Heyes perused the pile. “Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, Kid Curry and the Devil’s Hole Gang …”

“Huh?” Kid stirred, opening one eye.

“Nothing, Thad-de-us. Go back to sleep.”

They shared a look.

Curry grinned. “They left out that other fella.”

Bellows arched an eyebrow. “Other fellow?”

Heyes jumped in. “Yes, Hannibal Heyes was the leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang. At least that’s what I’ve always heard.” He paused. “But, of course you know, Mr. Bellows, these are just a writer’s wild imagination. You shouldn’t take them as gospel.”

“Yes, I know. But the romanticism of it all. The West, I mean. I admit to looking at it from a boy’s perspective, perhaps.”

Curry spoke. “Romanticism? I’ve heard of it but don’t know where it comes from.”

“Just someone’s fancy, Thaddeus.” Heyes turned to Bellows. “The West is a rough place. But then, it’s what we know. I’ve not been East, so can’t really say other than what I’ve heard; that it’s … civilized, maybe … in a way we’re not out here. Well, other than San Francisco, maybe. But even that has its rough spots were you wouldn’t want to walk.”

“Yes, I know all of that, Mr. Smith. Perhaps at times the little boy who had to grow up so fast when his father passed early on comes out from time to time, and he had a healthy appetite for flights of fancy. But that was more the age of mountain men and Indian scouts, westward expansion, than the grown up West of now.”

“It’s still growin’, Mr. Bellows. Plenty of space out here to wander and get lost when you have to.”

Heyes imperceptibly jabbed Kid in the ribs. They shared another look.

“Yes, what my partner means is …”

“Mr. Smith, it’s uncanny how you know what your partner means. Despite what you might see, my wife and I are also very much in tune, sometimes finishing each other’s sentences or explaining thoughts of the other. I’ll guess what your partner means is that when he wants to be alone, or hide out for some reason, the West has plenty of space to do so.”

Heyes sat poker-faced. “Maybe something like that …”

“And plenty of towns, big or small, to satisfy one’s need for civilization as well.”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Curry grinned. “That’s right, Mr. Bellows.”

Another look.

Heyes handed the dime novels back to Bellows, who flipped through them briefly before replacing them in his pocket. The movement, and another, smaller jolt, disturbed both his wife and Content.

“So, gentlemen, do you think banking is in your future again? You’re young enough to start over, while I’m not.”

Both partners answered, “No.” Heyes continued, “That’s behind us, Mr. Bellows. Besides working for the colonel, we consult in trains, mining, and other pursuits. I’m sure something more lucrative will come along.”

Curry rolled his eyes. This stage ride was long and leading his partner to get long-winded. He – they – certainly needed a break. He stretched. “Guess we’ll be comin’ to a waystation soon. We could all stretch our legs.”

“Indeed! Mr. Jones, that’s the first thing besides the mention of San Francisco that any of you has said that I can agree with!” Harrette Bellows noted. “So much for my husband’s boyish and foolish romanticism of this wasteland. A town both big and respectable enough is what we need.” She looked disdainfully at Content. “Of course, Jezebels and floozies can keep to that unrespectable side of town that Mr. Smith recommends not visiting. Wherever this God-forsaken coach is going, I’m sure we’ll find someplace to fit my expectations.”

Content smiled sweetly. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

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