YEEE-HAW, Charlotte Somerville won the signed copy of HOME FIRES and the ribbon bookmark!! Thanks to everyone who stopped by and kept Cookie company while I was at my booksigning!
Sorry, I didn’t get a Christmas story written this year, but the characters in my current project are the jealous types and didn’t give me time to think of anyone else. That and Cookie invited the whole clan up for Christmas and we’ve been busy cleanin’ up the camp and gatherin’ the festive grub. Fact is, Cookie’s out beatin’ the blankets as we speak.
Don’t look at me like that ya ol’ rawhide, get to beatin’, there’s buttons to be put on the gingerbread men when you’re done with that.
As I was saying, while working on different projects, I’ve been sidetracked more than once by one of my favorite parts of research…looking through old newspapers. Thought it might be entertaining (not as entertaining as watchin’ Cookie swearin’ as he beats blankets and decorates sugar cookies) to share a few of the Yuletide traditions and fun articles I’ve found thumbing through the Sheridan papers of yesteryear.
Personally, I love digging through these treasure troves of information. Newspapers used to cover everything from world events, local gatherings, who’s visiting who, whose cow was found in whose pasture.
At the turn of the Century, the Sheridan Inn offered its annual Christmas dinner a menu including. According to the Sheridan Post the Inn would be serving dinner from 5-7 with a menu of:
Oysters, caviar, young pig with apple sauce, goose stuffed with chestnuts, Belgian Hare, Venison. For those with discriminating tastes: Opossum, braised, with Sweet Potatoes. After your opossum you can indulge in green apple, mince, lemon-meringue pie, or English plum pudding with hard or brandy sauce. (I’d like the brandy to wash down the opossum, thank you.)
Coffeen’s store offered a wide selection of dolls, drums, toy stoves, whistles, swords, books as well as candy and nuts for the young’uns Christmas joys in 1900. We all know where good St. Nick was doing his shopping that year.
Of course, romance is always a welcome story during the Christmas season. The wedding of Angus Beaton of Manderson, Wyoming and Miss Catherine McBeth of Torrindon, Rosehire, Scotland, reported in 1909 saw a ten year romance find a happily ever after (or at least I like to think so):
“Bride Comes from Scotland to Marry”
“Eight years ago Beaton came to America to seek his fortune and his sweetheart agreed to wait until he should send for her. Beaton settled in Wyoming and is now fairly well-to-do. Miss Beaton came from Scotland unaccompanied and arrived a few days before the wedding, being interim the guest of Mrs. Rogers of this place.”
The same edition of the Daily Enterprise advertised bobsled rides to the Beckton dance. Couples who could afford a dollar, per couple, could dash through the snow to the little community just outside Sheridan for an evening of dancing, refreshments and maybe their own romance.
Some years saw Christmas take on a new meaning in Sheridan. In 1917, as the shadow of the Great War oozed over the United States, Sheridanites prepared with pleas for Peace and Good Will. Combating the doom, papers announced traditional celebrations would continue.
Instead of advertisements filled with special goodies Sheridan stores announced gift giving would take the form of useful things to wear and keep with toys still going to the youngsters. Only, many stores were not joyfully filling full-page ads with all the games and toys.
A new face appeared in the papers. The Red Cross declared a huge success to their Christmas fund drive. The funds would go towards a vast number of programs including: “hospital distributing service sends supplies to 3425 French military hospitals and preparing immense stores of emergency supplies for our own army. ..Operating six canteens for use of French soldiers… and children’s refuge and hospital at a point in the war zone.”
In the midst of scaling back on giving and digging deeper for charity, the people of Sheridan and the surrounding area did indeed find time to celebrate the peace they still enjoyed. Churches announced musical programs, masses and special programs for children and adults.
Individuals and social groups opened their homes and community centers for dances and socials.
“The guests at the Foster House are entertaining their friends at a very enjoyable dancing parting this evening. The rooms are festive with holiday decorations, excellent music has been engaged and the good spirits co-incident with the season will make the occasion memorable for its pleasure…”
“Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Brooks were hosts Thursday evening to a company of friends, entertainment taking the form of a musicale. Dancing and the serving of light refreshments concluded the evening.”
Still the message Christmas 1917 was summed up in the following letter in the Sheridan Post.
“Therefore at this Yuletide, which may be the last in which we all gather about the old fireside, we put from us temporarily all thought of things abhorrent and enjoy in American fashion the pleasures of family and reunions, feasting and gift giving, mindful of a supreme power and grateful to the same for having postponed for so long a time (of) evil days that may be in store for us. In the midst of national peril and with what hope we can summon for brighter things, we wish the people of our country the happiest Christmas possible to them.”
What a transformation occurred the very next year in the December 24, 1918 edition. Despite the flu epidemic and the resulting cancellation of a few children’s programs, reading the articles and advertisements one feel the relief, hope and excitement of a country witnessing the end of war and praying they won’t see it again.
As always the Post gave a running account of the movements of Sheridan County residents and visitors crossing the county’s borders.
“Hon. A.M. Halbert and family left Tuesday for a holiday visit to their former home in Missouri.”
“Mrs. Silas Cotey of Wheatland is visiting her sister, Mrs. John Winterling. She will remain several weeks.”
Traditional Christmas programs resumed, but as stated in an announcement: “On earth, peace”, takes on a deeper meaning than ever before and the feeling of “Good will toward men,” is universal.
Churches celebrated the birth of Christ with special programs and “Christmas trees and treats for the little kiddies.” Also promised, were festive Christmas trees lighting the windows of Sheridan.
The Red Cross’ column, the previous year filled with gloom, proclaimed a feast fit for the returning heroes. The train depot in Sheridan was turned into a dining hall.
“Returning soldier boys who fail to reach their homes but who are fortunate enough to pass through Sheridan during the holidays are not going to miss the good cheer of Christmas time. The Red Cross depot canteen workers are seeing to this and have provided such a feed as to almost make the boys cease to regret their absence from mother’s table. Roast turkey, roast chicken, cakes.”
Of all the articles and ads in the 1918 issue one seized my attention and touched my heart. Its message is simple, but in all the early 20th Century language and questionable grammar lies a joy for the season we all should strive to attain, and lessons we should put into actions. I didn’t change a thing. It’s exactly as it appeared in the Post almost a century ago, but it’s my message to you. Merry Christmas, y’all!
GOOD CHEER TO ALL THIS CHRISTMAS DAY by DeLos E. Brandon
“Christmas this year will be the best of all. We have won the war and that, in itself, is cause enough for rejoicing. The past year has been one of the most prosperous of all. America has maintained its name as the champion of freedom. The boys, victorious, are returning home. Some of them will arrive home in time for this wonderful day. Some homes will receive a letter that the son or husband will be home in the spring. Others, that are on their way now. O’…there are a million things one could mention!
And you are happy. You are trudging home late tonight, your arms loaded with bundles—presents for all. You haven’t overlooked a single one. And they, too, will be happy.
What a wonderful world this really is. Despite all the sufferings and hardships. Christmas comes at just the right time of the year. Should it come in summer, spring or fall, it would not, could not be appreciated as it is now. There is something in the spirit of Christmas, coming in the winter season, that endears it to the heart. In the tropics, this day of the year is never appreciated as it is in the northern climes.
Maybe it is the contrast between the cold, dreary outside and the warm hearth with the loving ones at home. Maybe it is—well, you know what I mean. There is an undefinable something that we have learned to love.
And, with all the happiness that will come to you, the many and varied presents, are you going to overlook the more unfortunate friends, neighbors, or acquaintances this year? Let’s not. Try and do something that will bring joy to some needy family or some lonesome person of whom you know. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and
A Merry, Merry Christmas to all!
Sheridan Post, Tuesday, December 24, 1918. Pgs 1-10
Sheridan Post, Tuesday, December 25, 1917. Pgs 1-8
Sheridan Post, Thursday, December 20, 1900, Pg 4
Sheridan Daily Enterprise, Friday, December 24, 1909, Pg 2
Thanks so much Alison and everyone else who stopped by Cookie’s fandango and wishing Tex lots of success!!!
Tex, may this be your first step down the trail to New York Times Bestseller!!!
See y’all round the campfire soon!
Sorry, we’re a bit late gettin’ this fandango started, but Cookie had to get the cake juuuust right…I swear sometimes that man can drive me to drink tainted water. Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout you Mr. Top Chef…Get on over there and start cuttin’ that dad-burned cake and let’s get this party started…
WHOOO-EEEEE, YEEEEE-HAW, AND RING THE DINNER BELL, HOOT AND HOLLER!! We’re celebratin’ like it’s Christmas round the campfire and that’s because the brand new publisher, Prairie Rose Publications has just released it’s brand spankin’ new Christmas anthology WISHING FOR A COWBOY (and let’s be serious who’d turn away a cowboy if ya found one under the tree). Eight beautiful, heartwarming, tear educing, perfect holiday stories by eight beautiful, heartwarming and bordering on perfect authors!!
ANNND as excited as we all are here round the campfire for all the wonderful authors and the new publishing house, our buttons are plumb bustin’ for Kathleen Rice Adams, aka Tex!!! YIPPEEEEE KI YAY!!! This is Kathleen’s big premiere, but it won’t be her last. I read her story PEACHES in the anthology and if your heart doesn’t grow three sizes too big after finishing it then I’ll send Cookie round to slap ya upside the head with the cast iron skillet ’cause you are guaranteed to fall in love with Whit, Ruth, the children and yes even those three busybodies! Seriously, one of the best Christmas stories I’ve read!!
I can’t wait to read the other offerings! Knowing Cheryl Pierson, Livia Washburn, Phyliss Miranda, Tracy Garrett, Sarah J. McNeal, Jacquie Rogers, and Tanya Hanson each will be a sweet treat for the season!
Here’s a sneak peek of all the stories in WISHING FOR A COWBOY! AND FOLKS TEX IS OFFERIN’ UP A FREE E-COPY OF THE ANTHOLOGY TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER!! YEP, IT’S A PARTY FOR HER AND SHE’S BRINGIN’ THE GIFT!! (Winner will be announced Sunday, November 3rd since Cookie held up the works…Don’t give me the skunk eye duffer, I told ya the first cake was fine…)
So, grab a hunk of cake (please just the cake not Cookie), a mug of Arbuckles and wish these fabulous authors and Prairie Rose all the best and smooth trails!! And Tex a big ol’ welcome to the ranks of published author and here’s to many, many, many more for everyone at Prairie Rose!!
“A Christmas Miracle” by Phyliss Miranda
“Outlaw’s Kiss” by Cheryl Pierson
“A Husband for Christmas” by Sarah J. McNeal
“Peaches” by Kathleen Rice Adams
“A Gift For Rhoda” by Jacquie Rogers
“Her Christmas Wish” by Tracy Garrett
“Covenant” by Tanya Hanson
“Charlie’s Pie” by Livia J. Washburn
HUGE CONGRATS GALS!!!
“Get out from under yer bedroll ya ol’ coot and get the coffee brewin’!”
Sorry, folks we’ll just havta get along with what’s left in the pot. We’re tellin’ ghost stories round the campfire today and ol’ Cookie’s shiverin’ in his boots.
Wyoming has her share of ghouls, ghosts, legends and lore that’s for sure. And here at the foot of the Bighorns we’re carving pumpkins and stockin’ up on candy for the little gobblins who will be knockin’ on our doors this Halloween. So, it’s a good time to share about those haunting voices carried on the Wyoming winds and the bumps in the night that send our heads under our pillows.
Here in Sheridan there are tales of Miss Kate Arnold still keeping watch over her beloved Sheridan Inn. Miss Kate arrived in Sheridan in the early 1900s and worked and lived at the inn until her death in the 1960s. She loved the Inn so much, she requested her ashes to be buried there and it’s said they were buried the wall of her room. Miss Kate is joined in her haunts by the son-in-law of Buffalo Bill Cody who took his life at the Inn after a series of business and personal failings. There is some speculation, however, that he didn’t take his life, but it was taken from him. These are joined by many other tales from beyond from Sheridan to Buffalo and everywhere in between. Today, I’d like to visit the in between at Lake DeSmet.
Lake DeSmet is named for Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet a Jesuit missionary priest to the Indians in the 1800s. The lake is a beautiful, tranquil body of water attracting fishermen and tourists. Pioneers, however, reported horses and dogs wouldn’t go near the lake and strange noises echoed across the water at night. Hidden under this gem of blue water are legends and secrets best left undisturbed…but we’re going to disturb them.
The low moans of a heart breaking it’s said belong to a Crow warrior, Little Moon. His band was camped along the lake, when Little Moon asked his sweetheart, Star Dust, to meet him at the edge of the water once the others went to sleep. Little Moon arrived at the spot before Star Dust. While he waited a mist hung over the lake and in the mist was the face of a beautiful girl, more beautiful than any girl he had ever seen.The vision beckoned Little Moon with a smile.
Hypnotized by the water enchantress, Little Moon viciously pushed Star Dust aside when she arrived and tried to put her arms around him. He turned back to the face in the mist to see it gone.
Star Dust cast herself into the water when repulsed by her lover. The next morning Star Dust’s body was found drowned by the red bluff north of the lake. Her father demanded revenge against Little Moon. The men of the band bound Little Moon to the rock and left him there to watch for his mysterious maiden.
Now, when the wind moans over the lake it’s said to be the faithless lover caller; the howls of a disloyal sweetheart. His spirit destined to wander around the shore looking for his maiden.
Another legend is that of one of the first Indian bands to camp near the lake. They tried to use the water for drinking and cooking, but found it to be bitter. Nothing in the area explained why the water would be acrid, so they believed its bitterness to be due to the presence of an evil spirit.
That night, terrifying sounds echoed around them and suddenly the lake was infested by great hordes of sea gulls. Throughout the night they soared and cried and swarmed. At dawn the gulls disbanded en masse and disappeared.
But the worst was yet to come. After breakfast the champion swimmer among the tribe ran to the lake’s edge, gave a happy whoop and plunged into the water. As the others watched he turned and opened his mouth as if to scream, his eyes widened in horror and he was sucked below the surface. They circled the lake, not daring to enter the water, but after a time when all was lost, they grabbed their belongings and fled the lake in terror.
Local ranchers and early pioneers reported a monster appearing from the mist and rising above the waters.Smetty, because every water monster needs a truly terrifying name, is a legendary creature thought to dwell in the subterranean caverns of Lake DeSmet. These caverns are speculated to be a faraway outlet from the Pacific Ocean.
Those who have seen Smetty report a monster 30 to 40 feet long with bony ridges along the back. His head is said to resemble that of a horse and rises from the water in a swimming motion. Others report a large alligator like creature and still others compare Smetty to the legendary Nessie of Loch Ness fame.
One rancher, whose home was near the lake, rose early and went into the fields. He heard a strange noise coming from the lake and turned to see a huge sea serpent rise from the water. It stayed only a second and then disappeared. His description of Smetty approached more of a dinosaur than any other.
Does a monster lurk under the waters of the lake? And does a Crow warrior still wail for his lost love? Well, guess you’ll just have to pitch a tent by the water and find out for yourself. (I’d bring a fishing pole with ya cause chances are better of catchin’ a trout)
“Now get out here Cookie! For Pete’s sake, we can hear your teeth chatterin’ clear over by the fire! And ya still need to get that ol’ tub filled for bobbin’ for apples!”
Guess we shouldn’t ‘ave set up camp so close to the Lake DeSmet. MwahaMwahahahaha…**dissolves into choking**
This story is for those 18 or older! If you are not 18, please wait a few years and then come on back! Thanks for abiding by the campfire rules!
NOTE: I’d like thank all of those who have read Jake and Ellie’s story! And a special thank you to those who have commented here or on Facebook. It’s always scary to send your “kids” out into the world, and it’s such an encouragement when they’re accepted and even praised.
I have been asked if this story will be published. The answer is…Yes, even if I have to do it myself. While writing this Ellie and Jake revealed a lot more to their story, so I will be expanding the tale and publishing it. When this will take place, I don’t know. But I’ll give you the details when they’re available. Hope you’ll want to learn more about these two and get in on more of their adventure!
The latch clicked on the barn door reverberating like the report of a gun in the empty ranch yard. Ellie followed Jake’s directions to the letter after they parted ways at a ranch just outside Buffalo. The day she set foot on her ranch she let the hired men go with a promise they’d be hired again just as soon as she could. But before they left she enlisted their help taking the majority of the horses to the far pasture. Only Warrego remained in the barn.
Then she waited and waited some more. For five days she remained sequestered. Fearing for her sanity she rode to town one day to find the newspapers and gossip ablaze with the Wilcox Train Robbery. No one got the story right, because no one included the theft of one horse and she and Jake’s involvement. For the first few days they didn’t even report correctly the bandits responsible for the loss of $30,000 in bank notes, cash and various items. At last, they settled on members of the Wild Bunch, but still debated on Butch’s role. She heaved deep breaths to keep from losing her lunch when one paper reported a posse of over a hundred men chased the outlaws. Jake’s words haunted her, “A posse of a hundred men, huh? That’s a lot for any man to outrun.”
Afraid every feature on her face proclaimed her guilt, Ellie returned to the ranch to find Butch, Sundance and Etta taking up residence. Outlaws or no she’d enjoyed having company, but there were hidden motives in their visit. She couldn’t weed it out of any of them, but deep down her gut, as Jake would say, told her they were there to guard her as well as hide out from the law. Who’d expect the new wife of the old sheriff and former Widow Reed of harboring the Wild Bunch?
Early that morning a young rider barreled through the gate. He spoke to Sundance and rode away, soon after her three guests departed still talking about the virtue of heading to South America. She took Warrego for a ride and checked the rest of the horses, but a long lonely day stretched before her.
Lifting her gaze to a distant hillside, she used the flat of her hand to shield her eyes from the sun and search the rolling landscape. “Where are you, Jake?”
A horse and rider emerged over a hill and for a flicker Ellie believed by some miracle Jake heard her and made his way home. The rider galloped closer and her legs turned to lead her heart keeping cadence with the thundering hooves. Owen Cline. Her gaze ran across the green hills searching for help, but nothing stirred even the long prairie grass remained straight and motionless in the still hot air. A daughter shouldn’t need rescued from her father, but Ellie sensed a rescue was going to be in order and it looked like she’d be saving herself.
She hadn’t backed down to Owen Cline in twenty-six years and today wasn’t going to be the day she started. And hell if he’d receive a smile and a greeting, she braced her feet and rested her hands on her hips as he reined in the huge roan he favored within centimeters of her, his first volley of intimidation.
The gelding’s hooves stirred a film of fine red dust, but Ellie refused to sneeze or brush at her riding skirt or blouse. She’d wear the dust for a hundred years before she gave the ogre on the beasts back the satisfaction of flicking one speck from her person.
He remained seated high in the saddle, but doffed his hat exposing a balding head where thick silver waves once rooted. Cline’s mouth thinned in the half smile half sneer he wore when addressing someone he considered his inferior.
She tipped her head back to meet his gaze, but didn’t budge from the spot she claimed. “What do you want?”
He swung down from the saddle and stood over her attempting to crowd her and force her to move, but Ellie locked her stance. His eyes shown as dark as Jake’s but there was no goodness shining in their depths and certainly no love just cold dead stone.
“Did you really think you could leave me, and then steal from me?”
“Nothing here is yours. Not me and not Warrego. Now get off my land.”
“And who is going to usher me off? You, daughter? Your lover who’s clearly had enough of you? Or maybe those criminals who cleared out hours ago after I sent the message I was on my way?”
Ellie’s mind twisted with questions. Maybe the three outlaws hadn’t been protecting her. She shook her head. Jake and the others couldn’t have been pretending the whole time. Another thought burrowed in, but her father had bought men before.
Her confusion gave her father an edge and his hand gripped her arm in a vice of pain as he propelled her to the house. “Then there’s the end of that. Now we’re going to go into that shack you call a house and get you packed up. Then we’re going to ride to Montana where you will marry the man I’ve chosen for you and Warrego will sire a breed of cow horse we can all make a tidy sum on.”
She jerked her arm only to have his grip tighten. She sucked air between her teeth at the shot of pain almost taking her to her knees. But she forced her voice to hide the pain. “Marry?”
“Did you think I’d kill you like I had Jim killed? No, Elsbeth Cline, you’re still worth something and I found a man willing to pay the price.”
Her arm was freed, but he gave her back a shove pushing her into the door. “And don’t even think of running, I have men guarding all routes.”
He might have men stationed around the ranch, but he couldn’t keep an eye on her all the way to Montana. She just robbed a train for goodness sakes, surely she could think of a way to escape on the trail North, and even if they made it she’d never marry her father’s lackey of month. He’d be forced to kill her or let her go either way she’d be free.
She twisted the knob and opened the door to the cabin. “My name is Ellie Avery.”
He raised a beefy hand and she braced for the slap.
“I wouldn’t let that hand fall, lest ya want me to cut it off and feed it to ya.”
Ellie’s eyes snapped open and she squeezed them shut and opened them again to make sure the image of Jake sitting at the kitchen table a cup of coffee in one hand and a Colt in the other was real. Like he’d been there all along he rested back in the chair and took a huge draw of coffee.
“You kill me and my men will…”
“Turn over in their graves. I took care of them with a little help from some friends. I’ve been tracking y’all for days knowin’ eventually you’d hightail it here when ya thought yer daughter was alone. Never trust an outlaw, Pa.”
JAKE bit his tongue to keep from laughing at Ellie and Cline’s face. He set down the cup of coffee and lifted a leg onto the table relishing the only time Ellie would ever allow his boot to rest on her kitchen table. “This is my father-in-law ain’t it? Good thing I love Ellie like I do, cause it goes against my upbringin’ to marry down into a family like this.”
“Shut up, Pa.” He nodded toward his side. “Ellie get yer sweet backside over here by yer husband.”
Her eyes narrowed just long enough for him to see revenge in his near future, but damn this was fun. Ellie moved to stand beside him and he wrapped an arm around her waist tugging her into his side the gun in his other hand not moving a shake. “And Pa, take a chair while yer able.”
Ellie rested a hand on his shoulder choosing sides. “How long have you been here?”
He shifted settling Ellie on his lap. “Long enough to watch this bastard grab yer arm in a manner that might cost him his hand yet, and long enough to hear you claim my name.”
“Where have you been?”
He brushed a kiss on her neck. “Later darlin’, I’m gettin’ to know the in-laws.”
Cline’s eyes bulged in his red face. “I’ll have you arrested for horse thievery, both of you will swing from rope and I’ll pay to tie the knots around your necks.”
Jake released Ellie’s waist just long enough to fling the papers Sundance gave him before the robbery at the man he was itching to kill. “As fun as that all sounds, the State of Wyoming will be saving hemp. I know I was a sheriff for just a short time, but I don’t think Wyoming hangs a man for taking his horse off a train being robbed.”
“These are the papers…”
“Bill of sale to one Ben Kilpatrick, I believe the price was to set this all up so you could kidnap your daughter and get her up to Montana. You’ll see there Ben signed over ownership to Ellie, the price the look on your face right now. The woman with Ben that day was one Etta Place and the boy ya sent to announce your arrival today was hired by Butch Cassidy to tell ya he warned Kilpatrick not Longabaugh. Again, I must advise ya never to trust a man on the wrong side of the law.”
Ellie snatched the papers from her father’s hand. “These are what they passed along to you that morning?”
He gave a sharp nod. “That and information that the train car wouldn’t be guarded.”
A hand landed in a slap against his chest. “And you didn’t tell me?”
“Dammit, Ellie, you were so all fired into robbin’ a train I didn’t want to spoil it for ya.” Before she could explode in the way she was fixin’ to land into him Jake rushed on. “Plus we needed this asshole to believe his plan was succeedin’.”
“So it was all fake…And I was bait?”
If a look could melt a man Jake would be nothing but a puddle. “Can we focus on the problem before us, woman, and tear into each other later?”
She sat hard on his lap, and he choked on equal parts dread of the fight to come and pleasure that she parked her soft round behind on his lap not the chair next to him.
Jake turned all his focus on the bastard across from him. “So here’s how it’s all gonna end father-in-law. As much as I’d like to, I’m not gonna kill ya, cause your Ellie’s Pa, hard as that is to believe, and she’d hate me and worse herself if I did. But you’re gonna ride outta Wyoming, then you’re gonna pack up all your shit and head to the other side of the world. If some accident befalls my wife, or she succumbs to some mysterious ailment, I will track you down and kill you in the most painful way I know how. If I should die mysteriously, there are men ready to do the same. I’d advise you to pray to God everyday of your life that your daughter lives to the ripe old age of ninety-nine.”
Ellie pressed both of her palms on the table and leaned until she was almost nose to nose with the man who called himself her father though Jake couldn’t make out a resemblance at all. “Now get the hell out of our house and off our ranch.” Before he could blink she let loose a wad of spit hitting Owen Cline smack in the middle of his face.
“Shit, Ellie, ya really spit in face. Don’t know whether to feel disgust or pride, but pride is winning.”
Cline raised a hand, but Jake was faster bringing down the butt of his gun on the man’s other hand. The squeal of a pig was quieter. “Ya gotta learn to keep those hands to yourself. Now you can step into your saddle, or I can toss ya over it, but this reunion is over.” Jake tossed a hanky at the man’s face his stomach tossing at the wad of spit hanging from the man’s nose. “Get out!”
Jake had to give the man something he didn’t stumble over himself or run from the house. Instead he straightened and holding his broken hand in the other, he tossed each one a glare before turning on his heels and walking out the door.
Neither breathed until the thunder of hooves echoed a hasty retreat.
Ellie surprised him again, turning to the stove and dishing up a bowl of stew sitting it in front of him. “Do you think it’s really over?”
He shrugged and dug in, no use trying to figure out the fairer sex today. “Yep.”
She took the chair next to him instead of sitting across from him in the chair her father vacated. He wouldn’t be surprised to find that chair used as kindling in days to come. “He’s never given up this easy before.”
“Well this time he don’t have a choice. ‘Bout 10 miles up the road are a few men hired to see to it your Pa is packed up and shipped out.”
She nodded accepting his word. “So, we never really robbed a train?”
“Nope. Does it bother you?”
She sat back and closed her eyes as he watched her chest rise and fall in a great breath. She opened her eyes in slow measurements. “Not at all. These past days I’ve been walking on glass hoping it doesn’t break. Guess I wasn’t as cut out to be an outlaw as I thought. Are you staying?”
He smiled at the fifth change in direction she’d steered this conversation. “Not a force of nature that could move me. Now get yer sweet behind over here and give me a kiss.”
Her smile stretched her cheeks even as she pushed out of the chair and moved around the table. “I’ll let you get away with that one more time.”
She took her place back in his lap as her arms roped around his neck and she tugged his head down until their lips met. One taste and their kiss lit like fire touching kerosene. Jake kept it burning until she struggled against him needing air in her lungs. Grudgingly, he lifted his mouth from hers.
Ellie ran a cool palm over his cheek. “I missed you.”
He held her close. “Missed you, too.”
“You want me to tell ya or show ya?”
HOURS later, Ellie rested her head on Jake’s shoulder while she ran a hand over his chest in lazy circles. Evening was falling outside, but neither seemed inclined to get out of bed for food, water or anything else. She snuggled deeper into the warmth of his body thoroughly convinced the man missed her as much as she missed him.
“Why ninety-nine instead of one hundred?”
He combed his fingers through her hair. “What?”
“Why did you tell my father to pray I live to be ninety-nine instead of one hundred?”
He stopped running his fingers through her hair and draped his arm over her waist pulling her close. His chest rumbled in a deep chuckle.
“Well it’s like this, Ellie mine, I don’t figure on livin’ past one hunderd, and you’re a year younger than me. I figure your grief at my loss will be so great ya won’t last much longer after I’m gone.”
She smiled against his chest. “I think you’re correct, Jake Avery.”
He shifted sitting up against the headboard and bringing her with him. “Did you just agree with me, Ellie Avery?”
“Seems as though I have.”
“Well slather me in molasses and post me to an anthill, we might just make it another fifty years or so.”
Lifting the rough cotton sheet over her chest she forced a serious look. “I have a business proposal for you.”
His forehead wrinkled in dread. “Oh lord, why do I fear for the Bank of Sheridan?”
She poked his chest with a forefinger. “No, we are both officially retired from the outlaw life. I want you to marry me proper, we’ve long since passed standing in front of a preacher, but I’d like to see it legal in front of a Judge.”
“I have a feelin’ hookin’ my star to your wagon is gonna make train robbin’ look like tea on Sunday.”
“So you agree?”
“Haven’t denied you anything yet, don’t see the point in startin’ now. I’d be proud to see you as my wife legal and proper, but it won’t change how I feel about you.”
“And how is that?”
“Ya want me to show you or tell ya?”
She pressed against him her heart no longer empty but full and overflowing. “Both.”
Copyright @ 2013, by Kirsten Lynn (This is an original work of Kirsten Lynn any attempt to reprint part or all of this work is strictly prohibited)
This story is for those 18 or older! If you are not 18, please wait a few years and then come on back! Thanks for abiding by the campfire rules!
Keep readin’ after the story for a look at the real Wilcox Train Robbery!!
Whiskey shoved Ellie’s hand with his nose a not so subtle reminder her attention should be on him not staring at Jake deep in conversation with the four members of the Wild Bunch on this side of a small wooden bridge just past milepost number 609 near Wilcox Station. George Currie and Kid Curry stood vigil on the other side after placing dynamite under the bridge’s trestle. The juices in her stomach churned and threatened to eat through her insides at what she’d set into motion weeks ago when she strode into Jake’s office and requested his help.
The men stood just far enough away their voices drowned in the rain and in the pre-dawn light they stood as shadows indistinguishable except for one. Jake’s form angled her way before one of his forefingers jutted at the ground in what she recognized as his way of getting a point across in heated discussion and instructions.
She pulled her Stetson down to stave off the rain and turned up the collar of her slicker. Her hand received another impatient nudge. Longabaugh brought Whiskey down with the gang, but not a mount for her. She’d turned to question the oversight when they met the outlaws at a ranch friendly to the Wild Bunch in between Cheyenne and Medicine Bow. Jake informed her of his plan to ride the Brumby once they’d procured the animal. The big buckskin before her now was as demanding as the man who rode him. Her mouth curved in remembering just how demanding that man could be. They might have turned in early their nights in Cheyenne, but they had been short nights once she joined him on his bedroll.
Her gaze narrowed in on the group of shadows as the shadow she now recognized as Longabaugh handed something to Jake. Whatever it was Jake slipped it under his slicker, tipped his hat and started back to her. As he neared, he lifted his gaze to meet hers and a slow smile spread across his face. The familiar ache she felt anytime he was near reached bone deep.
Making a show of twisting and stretching his back he penned her between his arms and took Whiskey’s reins. “Don’t know ‘bout you Ellie darlin’, but next time there’s a choice between a hardwood floor and a feather bed I’m choosin’ the bed.”
Trapped between Jake’s solid chest and Whiskey’s nose, Ellie twisted between his arms and angled her neck so she met Jake’s gaze. A smile curved her mouth despite the serious business before them. After the first night without words they chose the bedroll the other nights, too. “My mattress was perfect. I slept like the dead.”
“Yeah, and I can’t say I minded bein’ your mattress either.”
This man loved her. Was willing to do anything for her, and she was risking his life in a scheme rife with circumstances leading to their death. A shiver shook her shoulder.
“No. What time is it?”
“’Bout ten after two. Won’t be long now.”
Ten after two o’clock on June 2, 1899, she’d been twenty-six for two hours. Instead, of the grand parties her mother used to throw for her birthday or even the special dinner in Sheridan Jim used to treat her to, she was standing in the rain in between Jake’s arms waiting to rob a train. Maybe she was the crazy widow he used to call her, she preferred this birthday to any other.
“What ya thinkin’?”
“Do you forgive me?”
He shifted bringing her closer into his chest and out of the rain. She inhaled the sweet scent of land being washed clean. “For this? Hell yeah, Ellie. You need this and I love you so I’m gonna help ya get it. And don’t go thinkin’ you’re gettin’ rid of me tonight. We’ve still got a trail or two to follow.”
Shoving morose thoughts aside, Ellie patted the side of his slicker where he tucked whatever the Sundance Kid slipped him. She nodded toward the group of men now a few feet closer. “What did he give you?”
“I’ll tell ya later, ya meddlin’ woman.” He dropped a kiss on her lips then lifted his arms over her allowing her escape.
She didn’t hesitate. “With everything.”
Jake secured a white piece of material around the lower half of his face creating a mask and handed one to her. When she took the material he gripped her hand. “Stay close to me and do what I say when I say it. Don’t worry ‘bout what Sundance and the boys are up to you just keep your eyes on me.”
She squeezed his hand and gave a quick nod. Taking her hand back she fixed her mask to match Jake’s and the others. The smile forming at the realization the material was nothing more than a linen napkin faltered when she faced Jake. “If my father has many guards on Warrego, please don’t risk your life.”
“A little late for that, Ellie. Just concentrate on the job.”
“And on you?”
A train whistle screamed a shrill echo. There would be no turning back now.
“Thank you.” It was a small thing to say, but she put her heart and soul behind it.
“Don’t thank me, yet, darlin’. We still need to get your damn horse.”
Before she could snipe at him for being flip the high pitched squeal of iron meeting iron stopped her breath as two lights flashed from the other side of the bridge a warning the engineer would hopefully see as the bridge being washed out. In two long strides, Longabaugh, Logan, Carver, and Kilpatrick overtook her and Jake shielding them from view.
No one moved or it seemed breathed. Even the horses remained silent. A small flare signaled the dynamite under the trestle being ignited, but still the first locomotive of the Union Pacific Overland Flyer No. 1 stayed motionless. Longabaugh cursed as tension infiltrated the ranks. She almost cried when a screech pierced the silence and section one of the Flyer chugged forward. The last car of the section barely crossed the bridge when an explosion cut the night and illuminated Jake’s face. He gave a short nod and they fell into step behind the four outlaws. The click of rifles and pistols being cocked echoed with the slap of boots on mud.
Ellie’s mouth dropped in astonishment at the sight of the bridge; the second section of the Flyer was effectively cut off from the first and would offer no assistance. The first section trudged forward until it stopped and the passenger cars unhitched. None of the group wanted to molest the passengers it was the mail, express, and one stock car that held their interest.
Again the train trudged forward until her view was filled with shining wet black iron. Jake grabbed her hand and tugged her into the darkness and down the length of the engine as behind them the others issued orders for the clerks of the mail car to open up. Another dynamite blast sent her head sinking into the collar of her duster.
“Why?” She whispered.
“Guess the clerks didn’t open up, so the boys unlocked the door.” Jake whispered back.
They moved along the side of the train out of site, all attention focused on the six outlaws shouting orders to the engineer, fireman, and mail clerks. They reached the stock car and Jake pounded on a wood slat with the butt of his rifle. “Open up!”
Silence. Ellie was so sick of silence her fist connected with the wood before the butt of Jake’s rifle could again.
She emptied her lungs of air and frustration. “Open the hell up! That’s my damn horse!”
Another explosion shook the train. “Holy hell, what are they doin’? Open this goddamn door!” Jake bellowed and pulled out a stick of dynamite.
“We don’t need more…” Ellie swallowed her chastisement as wood sliding over metal drew their attention and the car door opened. A young man no older than fourteen stood before them his eyes so large the whites were the only part showing. In the shadows the frantic whinnies and cries of a frightened horse had her preparing to jump up into the car, but a large hand wrapped around her arm and held her steady.
“How many men in there?”
The boy shook and Ellie couldn’t blame him at the cold steel of Jake’s voice. She turned to make sure it was still her lover with her and not some monster from a child’s nightmare.
“Is there gear?”
“Saddle ‘im up.”
The boy flew back into the car to do his bidding.
JAKE hopped into the car and took a quick inventory confirming what the boy said and what he’d already learned from Kilpatrick. He lifted Ellie up after him. Their eyes adjusted to the dark just as the boy lit a lantern and heaved a saddle on Warrego’s back.
He stood watch as Ellie moved toward the half-wild animal cooing soft words. From what he could see, Jim had good taste in horseflesh. The muscled Brumby was stockier than Whiskey and if Jake didn’t miss his guess, in the lantern light, he would prove to be a blue dun in color. But right now Warrego wasn’t happy to be stuck in a box while those fools blasted the train to hell and Jake couldn’t blame him.
Narrowing his gaze he observed Ellie with the horse and the truth hit him brighter than the lantern cut through the dark train car. “Jim didn’t catch this horse, did he?”
Her head shook, but she didn’t turn from Warrego. “I didn’t say he did. I said he chased him over Australia. I caught him.”
A surge of insult and pride pounded through his blood. “Shit, ya coulda told me when I was spoutin’ off about handlin’ the wild horse. You ride him out.”
Jake let out a whistle and Whiskey appeared out of hiding. “You’re gonna have to jump him out.”
She stepped into the saddle like she was born to ride the Australian horse. “I can do it.”
“Didn’t doubt it.”
Ellie’s gaze traveled over the car. “There’s really no guards?”
The boy shook his head in an unnecessary answer.
“Count the stars lucky, Ellie, and we’ll worry ‘bout it later. Now let’s get to movin’.”
He stepped across Whiskey’s back and reined him over giving a low whistle when Ellie and Warrego flew through the open door of the train car. Just as the Brumby’s hooves touched the ground another blast came from the express car. The ground shifted as the sides and roof of the express car blew in every direction.
“Damn me to hell! Let’s get outta here before they blow us all sky high!”
“Yup, unless ya want your share of the loot. They don’t need us muckin’ up their escape any more than we need the engineer givin’ our description to a posse.”
Jake shoved down the part of him that felt lower than snail slime at tucking tail and running before the job was done. He blustered at them for a good hour arguing over their decision to keep him and Ellie hidden from view and completely out of any stealing, but the horse. Sundance turned a deaf ear saying he and Butch wanted it this way…a wedding present he’d said along with the papers he’d handed over. Not that their motives were wholly altruistic, they expected the Union Pacific to pay them well for their benevolence.
Jake reined Whiskey North motioning for Ellie to do the same. They galloped away from the destroyed Union Flyer Number 1 both swiping the linens from their necks and letting them flop to the mud. The rain slapped him in the face cooling his skin and keeping them hidden in a gray dawn as they raced toward the first ranch on the relay up to Sheridan.
One more job to see through and then he’d toss his old life away just like that old white rag.
Copyright @ 2013, by Kirsten Lynn (This is an original work of Kirsten Lynn any attempt to reprint part or all of this work is strictly prohibited)
WHOO-EEE folks Jake and Ellie’s story is still goin’, but I wanted to enlighten y’all a bit about the true story of the Wilcox Train Robbery! What? Y’all thought for sure Ellie and her desire to seek revenge on her father and steal a horse was the reason behind all this hullabaloo? Well, you were wrong my friends. But don’t fret the real story is almost as good as mine.
In the pre-dawn hours of June 2, 1899, the Union Pacific Overland Flyer No. 1 was flagged down by two men with lanterns near milepost No. 609. The engineer, Jones, thought the wooden bridge might have washed out in the rain. The Flyer was divided into two sections each pulled by its own engine. Jones brought the first section to a screeching halt.
Two men, wearing masks, boarded the engine and ordered Jones and his fireman Dietrick to pull forward to the bridge and stop. The robbers had already planted dynamite under the trestle of the bridge and it was ignited. They ordered Jones to pull up again and “be quick about it.” Jones moved too slowly and one of the outlaws clubbed him with a gun butt.
The train just cleared the bridge when an explosion cut through the pre-dawn preventing the second section from following. The outlaws demanded Jones stop the train again. This time they disconnected the passenger cars since their interests lay in the mail and express cars. Jones and Dietrick then pulled the train forward where four more outlaws waited. The trainmen were herded to the mail car where clerks Robert Lawson and Burt Bruce were ordered to open up. There wasn’t an immediate response, so the outlaws blew open the door with more dynamite.
The mail car proved to be a disappointment, so the outlaws moved on to the express car and demanded E.C. Woodcock to open the door. Woodcock didn’t comply, and again the robbers resorted to dynamite. Dazed, Woodcock stumbled from the car and couldn’t supply the outlaws with the combination to the Pacific Express Co. safe. I bet you can guess what happened next…Yep, more dynamite. This time the thieves got carried away and not only blew open the safe, but succeeded in blowing out the sides and roof of the car.
Almost two hours after the robbery started, the six robbers gathered unsigned bank notes, cash, 19 scarf pins, 29 gold-plated cuff button pairs and four Elgin watches, all totaled an estimate of $30,000 was taken. However, in 1904 the Union Pacific claimed it lost more than $50,000, a portion of that in gold. The witnesses claimed the bandits escaped to the North toward the Hole-in-the-Wall.
Engineer Jones chugged his damaged train 12 miles to Medicine Bow where he sent a telegram reporting the robbery. No. 4, a specially outfitted train kept ready in Laramie containing cars for horses, equipment, food and men, sped to the scene. The posse train arrived at 9:00a.m. The posse included men from the Union Pacific’s own detective force, Burlington Railroad forces, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Governor DeForst Richards even dispatched Company C of the state militia. All told a posse of 100 men chased the outlaws.
While given many leads on possible train robbers the professionals focused on the six men of the Wild Bunch who played roles in my story. Butch, while believed to be the mastermind, denied taking part in the robbery for the reason he told Jake and Ellie. This being that due to the terms of his release from the penitentiary he wouldn’t go back on his word to never participate in any criminal activity within Wyoming’s borders. Posse members noticed an extra set of hoof prints joining the fleeing bandits; these were believed to belong to Butch’s horse.
In typical Wild Bunch fashion, relay points were set up on the escape route with many local ranchers lending a place to stay and a fresh horse as they bandits made their way North. The posse and Pinkertons remained weeks behind the criminals for at least a year before Wilcox money started showing up in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
February 28, 1900, Pinkertons tracked the money to the Lee farm in Dodson, home of Lonnie Logan’s aunt and uncle. Lonnie tried to escape and was shot.
George Currie was killed by Sheriff Jesse Tyler near Moab, Utah, April 1900. Tyler was later killed under suspicious circumstances. Many believed Harvey Logan avenged the death of his mentor.
Will Carver was killed in Sonora, Texas, April 2, 1901. He was resisting arrest for the murder of a pig farmer.
Harry Longabaugh, Etta Place and Robert LeRoy Parker headed for Argentina. It is believed Longabaugh and Parker died in a shootout in Bolivia, 1908.
Harvey Logan and Ben Kilpatrick were caught separately and jailed for passing stolen bank notes from a 1901 train robbery in Montana. Harvery was killed by a posse after escaping from prison. Kilpatrick was released from prison in 1911 and was shot holding up a train in Sanderson, Texas.
What happened to Jake and Ellie? Well you’ll just have to wait ‘til next week to find out.
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