Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
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Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!

Amos 01 Mar 06 - 09:00 PM
Lonesome EJ 01 Mar 06 - 10:30 PM
MMario 02 Mar 06 - 09:28 AM
Amos 02 Mar 06 - 09:45 AM
JenEllen 02 Mar 06 - 11:49 AM
katlaughing 02 Mar 06 - 03:19 PM
JenEllen 02 Mar 06 - 04:11 PM
MMario 02 Mar 06 - 04:40 PM
Amos 02 Mar 06 - 06:28 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Mar 06 - 07:17 PM
Amos 02 Mar 06 - 08:31 PM
Little Hawk 02 Mar 06 - 09:36 PM
Lonesome EJ 02 Mar 06 - 10:23 PM
Little Hawk 02 Mar 06 - 10:39 PM
JenEllen 03 Mar 06 - 07:12 PM
JenEllen 03 Mar 06 - 07:15 PM
Amos 03 Mar 06 - 11:30 PM
Lonesome EJ 04 Mar 06 - 12:06 PM
Amos 04 Mar 06 - 05:22 PM
katlaughing 04 Mar 06 - 11:47 PM
Amos 05 Mar 06 - 11:31 AM
Amos 05 Mar 06 - 01:25 PM
Amos 05 Mar 06 - 04:45 PM
Peter T. 05 Mar 06 - 07:25 PM
Amos 05 Mar 06 - 07:47 PM
Lonesome EJ 05 Mar 06 - 08:21 PM
Amos 05 Mar 06 - 11:48 PM
Amos 06 Mar 06 - 08:23 PM
Alba 06 Mar 06 - 10:05 PM
katlaughing 06 Mar 06 - 10:10 PM
JenEllen 06 Mar 06 - 11:49 PM
JenEllen 06 Mar 06 - 11:54 PM
JenEllen 07 Mar 06 - 11:30 AM
JenEllen 07 Mar 06 - 11:32 AM
katlaughing 07 Mar 06 - 06:37 PM
Amos 07 Mar 06 - 07:05 PM
Amos 07 Mar 06 - 09:00 PM
Alba 07 Mar 06 - 11:13 PM
Lonesome EJ 08 Mar 06 - 12:26 AM
Alba 08 Mar 06 - 10:20 PM
Amos 08 Mar 06 - 10:46 PM
Amos 09 Mar 06 - 02:28 PM
JenEllen 10 Mar 06 - 12:59 AM
katlaughing 10 Mar 06 - 03:03 AM
Amos 10 Mar 06 - 09:54 AM
Alba 10 Mar 06 - 11:11 AM
JenEllen 10 Mar 06 - 04:25 PM
katlaughing 10 Mar 06 - 05:00 PM
katlaughing 12 Mar 06 - 10:56 AM
Amos 12 Mar 06 - 11:41 AM
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Subject: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 09:00 PM

Oh, when I left my Eastern home, a bachelor so gay
To try to win my way to wealth and fame,
I little thought I'd stoop so low
As burning crystal hay
In a little old sod shanty on the plain…."

Benjamin Huntington, and if you mean no ill will, well, call me Ben. My innocence or stupidity was perhaps a little less than the obdurate and ill-founded optimism expressed in that lively tune of hardship, but perhaps not by much.

When I fled from Boston, just a hair short of graduating from the esteemed halls of Harvard Law, I had nothing, you will understand. I had been scraping my way through school doing menial and hard labor each evening. I had an extraordinary opportunity to follow a path that would have led me to he most comfortable of lives, under the guiding sponsorship of the honorable Joseph Story, a leading light in our national history, and one of the best-known advocates of rational law then resident in Cambridge. Mister Story had treated me well, and his word had been a key part of my landing at Harvard at all, for although I had the wits required, I did not have the connections or the funds to buy them. He would check up on my progress from time to time and over an occasional dinner, regale me with tales of his own father, who had in fact been one of the now-infamous Indians participating in the Boston Tea Party, and who had fought for Independence under Washington. Or he would discuss his travails in fulfilling the demands of the Harvard board in exchange for the Dane professorship, or in writing his Constitutional theories into books of learning. So it was not Professor Story's fault, what happened thereafter. He was an extraordinarily busy man, balancing his duties as a Harvard Overseer and Fellow with his equally tasking commitments as a justice of the Nation's highest Court.

In spite of my great good fortune in learning so much of life from Mister Story, who was a Jeffersonian and a Democrat-Republic to his boot-soles, I was perhaps fated for some other kind of life. For as it turned out, as a result of several indiscretions of the tongue, and one of another part altogether, Cambridge was not large enough for my rising youthful spirits. I had invited the extreme disfavour of Graham Jordan, Esquire, a third-generation Tory if ever one lived on New England's soil, and a priggish and conceited man, but not without influence; and at the same time I had won extreme favour from his comely daughter, Susanna Bending Jordan, and in the confusion of this apparent good fortune had gotten carried quite away. In any case, let bygones be bygones; the upshot of that chapter in my life was that I was required to either relocate in haste, or face the possibility of being challenged to a mortal pistol match by both Susanna's father and her older brother, Bennington Jordan, a man of his father's stamp.

When I explained my predicament to Joseph Story on the last occasion I ever saw him, he was sympathetic; but he could offer no help, except ten silver dollars and a letter of introduction to a friend of his who had been of considerable influence in getting Missouri formed into Statehood not very long since, one Frederick Woodson Bates. He urged me to pack my belongings and make my way West, where, he said, the land would prove large enough for my growing temperament. And so, late in 1823, a lad of only eighteen years, I fled Harvard, Susanna, a battle of pistols and a possible suit for paternity, and made my way to Philadelphia by stage and from there, over several months and adventures to Saint Louis.

I finally did manage to get there, though, and found that Mister Bates was somewhat better known that I had appreciated, he having only lately been elected Governor of the young State of Missouri. And, as eventually became clear, there were lessons from Cambridge that it seems I had not fully learned.
    This is an edited thread, controlled by Amos. Feel free to post, but remember that Amos has the right to edit or edit out out posts that don't fit.
    -Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Mar 06 - 10:30 PM

Sitting by the fire that the Lakota hunters had built by the cliff face, Wolf Brother and I watched them finishing up all of the good portions of the white tail buck they had killed. Occasionally, they would toss a bone or a sinewy joint to the dogs, or to Wolf and I, or between the dogs and us, which was their favorite thing to do because Wolf would scamper after the meat on all fours, growling at the dogs and snapping at them. Returning with the scrap of venison, Wolf would usually smile at them and say something like "thanks heaps, you skunk-smelling bastards! Later on, when you fall asleep, I'll remove your livers and eat those too. Or maybe I'll feed them to your dogs, if you haven't taken them under your blankets with you for fornication." The Lakota would stare at him and laugh, but sort of an uncertain laugh, like they suspected what he was saying might be unacceptable.

Wolf and I had been captured while hunting the Great Bear Valley, what the white men called the Gallatin. We had been hunting with several other Nez Perce warriors, who had headed west hauling the meat with them. Wolf wanted to stay and had talked me into it, because there was a herd of wild horses in the valley, and Wolf said if we took some back we would be huge hits with the young women of the tribe, which in itself wasn't a bad idea. Wolf knew where they were likely to be found, and we scouted all those places.

Unfortunately, in a meadow by the river where we found very fresh pony droppings, we also ran into the Lakota hunting party who were also looking for the ponies. Wolf was all for fighting it out with them, but I just scampered up to them and told them in sign that Wolf knew how to find the ponies and that they shouldn't kill us until we had shown them. The Lakota are nasty but fair. They will generally scalp you, but let you go. In this case, they welcomed us to join them in the search.

Of course, Wolf and I didn't know any more about finding those ponies than the Sioux did. After awhile, the friendly camaraderie between us melted away and they began treating us like unwanted guests, then they took our weapons away. The leader, Hair-like-Bushes, also took from me some very valuable possessions that had been given to me by my Father, who had gotten them from William Clark himself. He tookmy Jefferson Medallion, my shaving mirror which I liked to wear over my heart, a metal-bladed axe, my tri-cornered hat, my red decorative sash, a pair of velvet riding trousers, and a strange hollow needle with a rubber bulb on the end which Clark said was for treatment of the humping disease that some of his men had picked up in St Charles Missouri. I used it for basting salmon with berry sauce. Hair-like-Bushes, who was indeed aptly named since the thick growth of coarse hair on his head was full of dead leaves, sticks and other matter, wore all of these prizes, possibly as a way of taunting me.

So Wolf and I found ourselves accompanying these warriors back over the Shining Mountains toward the great Mis-soo-ree river, and being tossed tidbits by their campfire. There were six of them, and Wolf and I didn't stand a chance of overpowering them ,although Wolf is one of those guys who will spend hours talking about a plan to lead them to a cliff and push them off, or take them to a deep water crossing and lead them in, then swim off downstream. My problem was I wanted my stuff back. Those things were trinkets, true, but back home they were my claim to fame. Plus they were my connection to that mythical place full of thousands of campfires, a great village with lodges built one above another, where food was plentiful, and so were beautiful women, and music filled the air every night...Saint Looie.

Clark had told my Dad all about it, and he had always wanted to go there. Now I was closer than he had ever gotten, so going east with these Lakota, except for being their slaves and being threatened with imminent death and so forth, was not completely a bad thing. Wolf and I would need to get away from these crude teepee-squatters, but I needed a way to make sure I got my stuff back in the process.
Wolf went on talking, the Lakota went on eating and laughing, and I went on thinking.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: MMario
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 09:28 AM

Eighteen miles south of St. Louis, the Meramec waters flow into the Mississippi - following the Meramec 30 miles past the Big River confluence, and another 25 miles past the east-flowing Barbeuse, one can paddle his laden canoe generally south-southwest until HUZZAH! turning into the Codeaway. Now, some spell it Cortois - but in my opinion that's just high fallutin nonsense. If you call it the Codeaway then that's the way you should spell it. All I know is, a few more miles eastwards up the Codeaway-Huzzah is the sod shanty where I can rest my feet, and my head.

All the newcomers passing through St. Louis have driven prices sky-high - I wasn't able to buy nearly the supplies I wanted - but as I spotted the line of Red Mulberries and Cottonwoods that marked the spring flowing past my shanty into the Codeaway I 'm comforted by the fact that my gardens are doing well - and there are always the mulberries, Heck - I've even got some hickory nuts up by the spring, and other berries. Between those and the fish - well things might get a bit boring at times, but the land is good to you if you're good to the land.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 09:45 AM

I reflected, as I balanced on the edge of the keelboat that took me across the Mississippi River to Saint Louis the afternoon I arrived, that it had only been some forty years since no-one had ever heard of Missouri, except for the river by that name and perhaps the dispersed and decimated tribes who bore the same identity. But it was plain from the number of keelboats, flatboats and pirogues working the two banks that this Missouri was now very much a place, not just a forgotten backwater of Upper Louisiana, as the French had kept it. And, beyond that, a place where much was going on, and anything might happen.

My saddlehorse shifted uncomfortably in the center stall, and the boat shivered and rocked slightly as the four oarsmen bucked the broad current and angled her across the wide water in the late afternoon sunlight. I had been told that Misters McKnight and Brady had recently added teamboats with amazing horse-driven treadmills driving paddlewheels to their ferry fleet, and these oar-driven keelboats would soon be obsolete and tendered for firewood. I wonder, sometimes, where the frenetic inventiveness of my restless species will lead us.

I lit one of my few remaining Boston cigarillos, and watched the far shore, and Saint Louis, draw closer.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 11:49 AM

The soldier standing next to her was a study in contradiction. Here he was at the same time, a county boy in the heart of the city, an only child who lived in the ranks of men, and despite his ramrod straight back, he was crumbling at the sight of the woman sitting on the chair beside him. He stood sentry at the General's door every day, and every day she came to sit here. Over time she seemed to shrink a little bit, but only just, however today she seemed full of new purpose.

When the doorknob rattled to signal the General's exit from his offices, the woman stood quickly and brushed her skirts. "General, how lovely to see you," she began.

"Dammit, Brennan." The General snarled at the soldier, "I told you to keep her out of the building."

"But sir.." the soldier stammered before he was cut off by the woman.

"Sir," the woman started, "I've come to ask if there has been any word on my brother?"

"You know I don't have anything to tell you. I haven't any new information at all."

"That's a shame," sighed the woman, "I have new information regarding a certain General and certain railroad magnate's wife. I thought we might be able to share, but if that's not possible…" and with this the woman turned to leave.

A string of profanity issued from the General's clenched teeth that served to darken the wallpaper a few shades before he grabbed the woman's arm and hustled her into his offices. Her skirts in a whirl, she found time to flash the soldier a quick wink and hint of a smile before the door crashed shut behind her. The young soldier chuckled to himself and once again took his position at the door.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 03:19 PM

Ella Forsythe had no use for men or the baggage that came with them. She'd been freed of such trappings when her useless and meek husband, James, had dropped dead whilst kneeling for prayer in church back in Virginia. She'd sold everything, lock, stock and barrel, but one mule and a few necessaries and headed off to Missouri.

Dressed in James' old pants, shirt and heavy coat, she'd cut off her long-hair, put a hat down low over her eyes and practised lowering her voice enough to pass for a youngish man. She was glad to be rid of the social requirements of women. Her long hair was always dirty, coming loose from its braids or buns and made her look like a harridan. Now, sporting shaggy layers to the nape of her neck, she felt free; unencumbered and longing to flee civilisation as she'd known it.

Back in Virginia, when James was busy in town, she'd talked to travellers as they stopped by for water and a bite to eat. She questioned them about the routes west and determined she was going to Missouri, then points West, someday.

Now that James was dead, she never looked back. She now sat by a campfire, not far from St. Louis and watched as the fire burned the last of her dresses. "Eldon" Forsythe, late of Virginia, and a good hand at muleskinning, was born and ready to do business.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 04:11 PM

The threesome rode side-by-side behind the soldiers and group of wagons. As the slow pace of the horses lulled them into daydreams, their minds wandered to the events of the past few days.

The soldier on the left thought about how when he had first heard of this assignment he cursed the day he'd ever met Bill Brennan, but as the days wore on and the promise of excitement in Indian Territory got ever closer he silently thanked his friend for suggesting to the General that he come along.

The soldier on the right, Cpl. William M. Brennan, let his mind drift to the warm afternoon when he had gone to the barns to choose the horses for their travel. The smell of hay and horse teased his memory on the dusty trail and he slowly looked from animal to animal. The black gelding who had been snorting fire ever since they left the barn was perfect for his best friend, Jack. The roan with the strip down its nose had been his own personal favorite for a while, and when he saw the pretty little bay with the straight legs and promise of sure feet he knew it would be perfect for her.

Katherine McInnis sat on that pretty bay pony and shrugged her shoulders. The ride had been long, and was sure to be longer. Even if she dropped dead from exhaustion, she wasn't going to show it and curse her good fortune. She thought about the day the General had finally consented to speak to her, consent was too kind a word, and smiled to herself. He had pulled her into the office so quickly it was all she could do not to jump for joy. Finally she might get some answers.

"Miss McInnis, as I've told you before, our offices have heard nothing." began the General.

"But you do agree that Colonel Leavenworth left St. Louis?" she asked, and the General nodded his agreement. "The men of the 3rd Infantry with him?" Another nod. "My brother among those men?" A third and final nod. "Well then General, you can see my frustration at not having heard anything more. No letters, no mention whatsoever. I can see that you are getting your post," she waved to an assortment of maps and plans across the General's office, the least of which detailed something called a 'Permanent Military Indian Frontier' and carried on "what would you expect me to do?"

She had been amazed at her good fortune. After nearly an hour of heated argument, the General promised her escort as far as the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. It was the last point that she had heard from her brother, but it was a fair enough place to start.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: MMario
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 04:40 PM

up on the Cortois

The only trouble with living where there is elbow room - rather then in some built-up area the like of St. Louis is that sometimes you can't stop yourself thinking. Depite unloading the canoe, and treating myself to some flapjacks - (I'd picked up a sack of flour though the 20 lb sack cost more then the 50 lb keg of flour I'd bought last fall!! And they call this progress?) using some of the birch syrup I'd boiled down in january. The Birch is better then the red maple syrup I'd made - but it takes a lot more effort as well - and even the Birch syrup doesn't hold a candle to what my Pa used to make in the Green Mountains from Sugar maple sap. Still - at the price of sugar in St. Louis !!!!

but my brain kept working faster then my body or my jaws. And my conclusions are that that the American Fur Company can just go kiss my John Jacob Astor! the prices they;re paying aren't hardly worth packing the skins into town. Maybe I should take them downriver to New Orleans and sell them myself, instead of to the factor. Just maybe.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 06:28 PM

For the second time in my life, I looked to be heading for a decent existence, using my talents as one who had read law, and being willing and able to lawyer for a price. I was welcome as a satellite on occasion at the Governor's home, and was careful not to abuse the privilege. Nor did I fail in my manners to the many hangers-on and courtesans of both genders that inevitably cluster around the seat of power in a world as full of change as Missouri was at that time.

There were two things which contrived my downfall, after so auspicious a beginning on the frontier (well, I thought of it as the frontier, although Saint Joe was becoming known even then as the last outpost of our kind of CIvilization).

I suppose that means I should tell you what they were, or you will never understand how I came to follow the Missouri West in the bootprints of Clark. And I shall. But give me a brief moment to reflect on these strange turns, and let me mention, oddly enough that both of them hinged on the magic of women -- two women of different ages, different Color, different estate altogether.    And both as beautiful and loveable as Eve incarnate...and thereby hangs a piece of my tale.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 07:17 PM

The country was opening out from the mountains, rolling and dry like the Camas Prairie where my people would winter, and signs of the watanka were everywhere, whole valleys where the grass had been devoured, the land torn by their hooves, and our ponies picked their way through the mud and manure. We had crested a hill, and before us lay a great herd stretching to the horizon. The Lakota were chattering excitedly in their language, and I was pretty interested myself at the prospect of fresh buffalo haunch. The Sioux rode forward and began to point and plan, when I felt Wolf Brother kick my left leg with his moccasin. With his head, he made a jerking motion like "let's go." I glanced at the Lakota in time to see Hair turn his head quickly our way, then look back at the herd. I looked at Wolf, and shook my head no. He winked at me, turned his pony slowly, then started back down through the meadow.

He'd gone maybe 50 feet when Hair noticed what he was doing. For a few seconds, the Sioux just watched him, and I thought he was going to let him go. Hair looked at me and smiled, and he signed "you are afraid to go?" I just stared back. Then he pulled a spear from behind his blanket, balancing it in his hand, momentarily I was blinded as the sun caught my mirror hung from his neck. He said something in the Lakota language and the others turned to look at him, and then down the hill at Wolf.

"Run Brother!!" I shouted as loudly as I could, and Wolf broke into a gallop. My cry must have startled the watankas, and I could hear and feel the rumble of their hooves as the herd moved. Immediately the tall, thin warrior steered his pony behind me and held the blade of his knife to my throat.

Hair tossed his spear to one of the others, who led two more in a quick pursuit. He had a good start on them, but Wolf had no weapons and he was in their country. Hair said in Nez Perce "friend..dead." Then he spoke sharply to the tall one, who took his blade away. I was made to get off of my pony and trot behind them, one end of a leather trace around my wrists, the other tied to my pony which was led by Hair-like-Bushes. We started off in pursuit of the buffalo, me running my fastest. I knew that if I slowed them down, I was finished.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 08:31 PM

The first was an encounter I shall never forget with a young woman of astonishing mien, of deep but laughing eyes and a smile as wide as the Missouri River, who hailed from upstream, a place called Marthasville. Jemima Callaway had been invited to the Governor's house during one of her rare visits to Saint Louis, and I had been asked to fill out the seating arrangement, and I had obliged, to please the Governor's wife. The evening might have been a waste of my time as far as personal enjoyment is concerned, had things been otherwise. But Jemima Callaway was what I can only say was a transcendent experience. She laughed like the winds in distant pines, and her eyes missed nothing. She told me of her father, who had been most disgruntled when he was not accepted by the Army during the War with England that had occurred in 1812. He was most put out and could not believe their explanation that the problem was his age, which was only 78 at the time.

Her father had taken to making long treks up the Missouri, and Jemima regaled us with the conspiracies his many descendants had to resort to to ensure he was accompanied by someone a bit younger to watch over him, for he would go every Spring even when his eyes began to be too weak for hunting and his rheumatism suited him better for a rocking chair. He had, she insisted, had a fine cherrywood coffin made for him after his wife, Jemima's mother, had passed on, shortly after the British had been defeated without his aid, and he kept it in his attic and would occasionally have some of the boys bring it down so he could try it on for size.

She told me what he had told her about the far hills beyond Charette's Creek and out past Femme Osage, where one of his sons lived, the wild hills along the Missouri and the tributaries upstream from there, and of the amazing prices he used to get for his beaver pelts. She described him coming down into Saint Louis in his 70's steering a rickety flatboat, standing at the tiller like a man half his age, and she knew, although she was less than twenty when it happened, that he had come back with a fine load of furs. I asked her how she could tell, and she explained to me that the flatboat had had a small house built on the forward end of it, which meant for sure they were protecting a good cargo. She told me of their farm out by Teuque Creek, where Lewis and Clark had paid a call of honor before starting on their great trip upriver for President Jefferson, and the family's occasional retreats to Fort Boonesborugh, which Jemima said he had helped build and was in fact named after him. And about her husbamd Flanders Callaway, whom she had loved since she was four because he had helped her father rescue her when she was kidnapped from a canoe by Indians. Is it any wonder I was entranced with her lyrical voice and her wealth of tales? A woman who been kidnapped by Indians, had fought them off in battles at Fort Boone, and was still as beautiful as any morning?

I have forgotten many of the names and faces I strived to learn when I was first making my way in St Louis Society, but I have never forgotten Jemima, and the pictures she painted of life up the long river. But, I digress.

The visions Jemima passed to me from her father of life beyond the edges of civilization would not have moved me out of my comfortable path, building a practice of law in Saint Louis, had it not been for another beautiful woman from an entirely different part of the city, a woman of Color named Celeste, daughter of an Indian woman named Scyion, and the courage she showed me. And that, perhaps is another piece of the puzzle of why I am sleeping tonight under cottonowoods instead of muslin.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 09:36 PM

(May I just say, ladies and gents, very fine writing. I am curious how all the characters will fit in as it progresses. Carry on, chaps...)

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 10:23 PM can join in. Grab a helmet and get in the game!:>)

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Mar 06 - 10:39 PM

I would, but I don't think I can really concentrate on it properly at the moment...nor do I think my knowledge of the western genre is quite sharp enough to keep up with the rest of you. I'm content to just read and enjoy.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 03 Mar 06 - 07:12 PM

Bill was sitting in the glow of the fire as the rest of the party slept. He was a watcher, and a night owl, so this kind of duty came naturally to him. His only discomfort this night was in knowing that they would reach St. Louis soon, possibly even tomorrow, and his journey would come to an end.

There were rustlings coming from under one of the wagons and Bill squinted into the dark to see the preacher's dog turning itself around and lying back down. Bill always cringed a little bit when he heard noises coming from that particular wagon. It only meant trouble. The preacher had obviously taken his 'go forth and prospers' seriously because every one of the numerous females on this trip were either his spawn or blood relation and every one of them moony over Jack.

Well, every female but one. Katherine slept on the ground by the fire now. There were a pair of evenings early on when she'd taken up on the preacher's wife's offer of a feather tick in the wagon but it proved too much and too close for her in that sea of ribbons and hope chests. She found that she was tired enough now to sleep anywhere, and the ground would suit her well enough.

Jack was also camped close to the fire and Bill knew from past experience that Jack was a man who took his rest seriously. Boots off, toe poking out of his sock, and his head kicked back snoring to the stars, sleeping and fighting were about the only things he knew Jack to take seriously. He was equally good at both, but the remainder of his hours on earth were spent in orneriness that knew no bounds.

Jack was an easy man with the ladies and had naturally turned his attentions to Katherine. She had remained polite and focused—that was until the morning she had come around the wagon to find the preacher's dog wearing Bill's uniform shirt and cap, perched on the saddle of Bill's horse, with Jack standing below and giving the dog a full salute. It didn't help that Bill had chosen that moment to come around the other side of the wagon asking: "Where the blazes is my shirt?".

Katherine didn't laugh. She giggled. "Full schoolgirl giggle with a half-snort chaser" is what Jack would call it later. From that moment, the hunt was on. Jack'd done everything in his power –including several timely handstands---to try and elicit a second laugh. If Bill hadn't been so fond of his friend he'd have shot him. As this fondness did exist, the closest he could bring himself was to imagining smothering the snoring bastard in his sleep.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 03 Mar 06 - 07:15 PM

When the guide leading the preacher's wagon rode back to tell them that they would reach St. Louis by nightfall, Katherine felt the tiredness melting off her with every step her horse took. She also noticed that if her tiredness was going away, it seemed to be taking up residence with Corporal Brennan. She slowed her horse to walk beside his and almost got the courage to ask before Jack's pony came galloping back from the head of the line. When the cloud of dust settled, Jack pushed back his hat and grinned at her.

"St. Louey by suppertime, Kate. Just in time for a steak dinner, whiskey and a bathtub for two." Katherine felt herself start to chuckle again as she shook her head "no". She was finding it increasingly easier to laugh at Jack's antics but there was no way she was taking part in any of his shenanigans.

Jack wheeled his pony and galloped off, shouting "I still have hope for you Kate McInnis!" at the top of his crazy lungs, and the wagon full of preacher's daughters were hanging on every word.

When Katherine turned back to Corporal Brennan –why was it so hard to just say 'Bill'?—his face was hard and his jaw was set. Not the best of times to start a conversation, but Katherine plunged on:
"Corporal, I do thank you for all of your help." she started. When he simply nodded without looking at her, she figured her olive branch came too late. She was ready to kick her pony into a trot when he finally spoke.

"What are your plans when you get to St. Louis, then?"

She thought for a moment before answering: "Go to the Jefferson Barracks and start turning over rocks, I guess. My brother would have traveled between there and Ft. Leavenworth for his work. It was the last place that I'd gotten a letter from. I sent word when our parent's passed, but I don't even know if he got it. Here," she said, digging into her saddlebags and retrieving a tattered envelope that she then handed to him, " this is the last I hear. It is nothing ominous, which makes it all the odder to me that nothing followed it."

Bill unfolded the letter and read aloud:
"My dearest Mathilda Q. Drudgebottom,
I hope this letter finds you well recovered from your plague of facial sores and your beard and moustache returned to all of its former glory…"

Bill shot Katherine a glance and in that instance he knew how she'd been able to resist Jack for so long, she had a Jack of her own at home.
"That being said," he continued "this letter leaves me well and happy. The work is challenging as the maps I am given often bear little resemblance to the land I am surveying, but it is of little matter, dear sister, because I am out of the city and in the bosom of the country that the Lord saw fit to give us. I am in the process of designing a series of blazed areas and sentry mounds to serve as a containment for the savages. ( As to them, because I know you will ask, they are a simple bunch, but odd in the ways that you so often are, so I am sure that you would become the greatest of friends) I have set me sights far higher, sweet girl, and have recently dined with the Colonel himself. It is only now that I take my swollen belly, along with your last letter, to my bunk in order to digest them both completely. Good night and sweetest of dreams, dear sister.
Your brother, Emmet.

"Simple savages, huh?" ruminated Bill. "It'd be a wonder if he hasn't gotten himself killed." With that, Katherine snatched the letter out of his hand with a look that assured him it would be a cold day in hell before he got a giggle out of her. As he began to stammer an apology, Jack rode back to let them know they had finally reached St. Louis.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 03 Mar 06 - 11:30 PM

My office, such as it was, was small and befittingly humble, on the west side of Second Street between Market and Walnut, near where St. Louis College was striving to make a go of it; and it was on Market Street that I first saw her, in the early hours of a Tuesday morning that was, had I but known it, certain to change my life.

She carried a large basket, and I took her at first glance to be a slave, sent out to do some domestic buying for a wealthy white man. It was not an uncommon sight at that early hour, for the markets were that way. I was unlocking my office door as she approached, feeling rather pleased with the brass sign I had recently been able to afford showing my name and my service to the world. And she noticed it as well; I saw her take it in, and I remember thinking she must have gotten learning from somewhere, for it was plain she read it correctly; she took a look at me and seemed to make some sort of decision, the kind of moment that fates can hinge broadly on, yet it lasted only a split-second. That instant, when our glances met and locked, was the first time I fell into the eyes of Celeste.

She came, then, directly toward me, as I was opening the door, and said that she must speak to me at once.

I bade her come in, and had her sit on the plain but pleasant visitor's chair next to my desk.

"What is it you need, and... well, what is your name?"

She looked at me squarely with those soul-ringing eyes, and said, "I am Celeste." A trace of an accent, perhaps from further south in Louisiana, I thought. Fine high cheekbones, and lighter skin, perhaps a quadroon, and maybe in her early forties, strong-looking.

"And who do you belong to, Celeste?", I continued, assuming understandably enough that whatever she wanted of an attorney would be some piece of business of her owners' affairs.

She stood straight up and leaned over the desk, and rapped it with her knuckles so vehemently I was startled into alertness.

"I belong to NO one, save myself and my God!" The look in her eyes would have reformed a drunken man on the instant, and I was already sober.

"My apologies, ma'am. What is it I can help you with?"

"I am being held prisoner, and my child and grandchild are also. I want you to help me fix it."

And then she sat back down, and cried a few tears, for which I gave her my handkerchief. It was plain from her demeanor and her carriage that this was no ordinary woman of Color, whether slave or not, and equally clear she had a story of some burden. As my calendar was clear, I decided I would hear her story, feeling sure I could send her on her way if it turned out to be spurious. But somehow I sensed it was not.

"Tell me about it, Celeste."

And she turned those eyes toward me again, and for the second time I found myself falling into them; and she started her story.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 04 Mar 06 - 12:06 PM

The bison herd had moved only about an hour's ride across the prairie, a very good thing, because I could have trotted no further. When the Lakota stopped among some strewn boulders and scrub maples to gaze down at the watanka, I lay in the grass, gulping air. One of the Sioux dismounted and untied the tether from my raw wrists, pulling me to my feet. He walked with me to where Hair and the tall Lakota stood. Hair was pointing at an old partly-lame bull was grazing at the near edge of the herd, he signed that the other two would cut down and flank the bull, cutting him off from the others. The bull stood in a wash that led slightly downhill, narrowed, and ended in a rock bluff with a huge drop beyond. Just before the drop the chute ended, and the bull, if he were able to stop his huge bulk in time, might be able to steer along a path to his left. Hair-like-Bushes indicated that he and I would conceal ourselves there, using spears to keep him moving over the caprock, or to slay him if he stopped.

The two Lakota braves moved silently down the slope, while Hair and I moved toward the cliff. We moved at a run, and I was panting when we made it to the overhang. Hair quickly removed the water-skin from his back, giving me a long drink. He also took a piece of last night's deer meat from his parfleche and gave that to me. This wasn't kindness. Hair just realized I was weak and he would need my help if things went bad with the bison. For a moment, I looked out at the valley that lay beyond the cliff. Those blue mountains with their snow peaks lost in cloud would be the Big Horns. The distant winding snake of green vegetation would indicate the path of the Little Big Horn river. Few of my people had been this far east, had seen the Powder River country. This was the land fought over by the Lakota, the Cheyenne and the Crow. The distant herds of bison, looking from this point like otter pelts cast across the yellow-green prairie, made it clear that this was a land of great abundance.

I was startled from my reverie by the rumble of the herd moving again, and by the shouts of the two Lakota, and the thunder of something big moving down the ravine toward us.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 04 Mar 06 - 05:22 PM

"You say your mother was a free Indian woman? Taken by this Joseph Trion as a squaw?"

"Toyon," she corrected me. "He was a French trapper, and they are given to odd connections..."

"I'm sorry....Toyon? And he tried to enslave her even though she was Indian?"

"Yes. Even in upper Louisiana of that period, she was by rights free, as I understood it; but Tyon was a brutal man, and interested only in himself and his own desires. He sold my mother to Chevalier, a man who ran a trading post, and we were forced to abide there for many years."

"She could get no assistance from her own people?"

"They shunned her, for having become an intimate of a white man."

"And in that time you have had four children? And a grandchild?"

She smiled at the thought. "Edward, the little angel... My daughter Sophie's son. Born here in Saint Looie."

"So you came to Saint Louis?"

"The bastard Chevalier had it in mind to become a city fellow. Hauled us all over tarnation. Finally, he settled here in Saint Louis with whatever money he made from selling the trading post, and set up housekeeping for three years, with Madam Helen."

"And who is Madam Helen?"

"She was his wife. She is dead now."

She glanced at the clock on the wall, a second proud purchase I had made with the money from my first few cases by the Governor's grace, and she leapt to her feet. A look of alarm crossed her face.

"I cannot stay!! You must help me, you must!!"

"When can you come back, them, Celeste? I need to learn more before I can help you."

"I will be here Thursday morning aty the same time. Please, for little Edward's sake, and Sophie, and Antoine's sakes, you must!"

I told her I would see what I could do for her after we talked Thursday, and she fled down the street toward the market, her basket bouncing out behind her reflecting her hurried, frightened rhythm.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Mar 06 - 11:47 PM

"Whoa up there, Jacob," "Eldon" Forsythe hollered at her mule. Stopping by the side of the main road into St. Louis, she looked around at the busy sights; wagon trains coming in and going out; cattle being herded down by the river; children running along the sides with hoops, laughing and playing. Up a ways, she could see some buildings, a hotel or two, eateries, and stables. Gently kicking the sides of her mule, and clicking her tongue, she headed for the closest stable.

"Howdoo, Mister! What can I do fer ya?" an older man looked up at "Eldon" as she rode up to the hitching post.

"Why, I, er," Ella reminded herself to lower the tone of her voice. She went on gruffly, "I'd like to stable my mule here for a night or two, until I can get on with an outfit going West. Know anyone looking for a muleskinner? I can drive with the best!" She sat taller in the saddle and flexed her gloved hands on the reins.

"Well, now, you look a kind a puny fer gitting them ol' mules headed out and up over them mountains, young feller. Say, you kind a remind me of someone. Put some longer hair on you and you could be the spitting image of..."

"Nope, never met you in my life," she interrupted. "Now, how much to watch my mule? I want him fed and watered well, you understand? I'll rub him down, first. Oh, and do you recommend a hotel?" As she was talking, she threw her right leg back over the saddle and slid down to the ground. Taking off her hat, she shook the dust off it, then settled it back over her hair.

"That'll be, oh, hell, kid...wish I was young agin! Just settle up with me when you get ready to go, won't be mor'n two bits. And, listen here, go down the road about a mile, turn left and go on down to the Byway Tavern. Tell old Bill Rogerson, Joe Crawford sent you. If anyone knows who be looking fer drivers it'd be him."

"Why, thank you, Sir. I'll do that soon's I tend to Jacob, here."

Once in the stall, Ella unbuckled the cinch and slid the saddle and blanket off old Jacob, who blew out a long snort of appreciation. She grab a hunk of straw and rubbed the sweat off his back; checked his feet; then, gave him an affectionate pat. She whispered in his ear, "Thanks, old pal. Don't know what I'd do without you!"

Heading out of the stable, she remembered to swagger a bit, though a little stiff-legged as she'd seen her brothers do. Being small in the chest, she thought she just might pull it off. She silently scolded herself all the way to the Byway Tavern...Now, remember, your name is ELDON; you are a man and by gawd you are going to drive a mule team out West! You drove enough when you was married and before for your daddy. You can do this! If people looked at her a little strangely, it was that she muttered a bit; none seemed to notice a slight air of femininity, so hard did she stomp and shoulder through people along the walkways.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 11:31 AM

I was feeling restless, and if I were to face the truth, I had been, since the night I met Jemima at the Governor's. She had stirred my spirits, in ways I could not even identify; somehow the images of the long horizons along the river, the mountain passages and the streams north of Boone's Lick had awoken some vision in me. But my training, although I had learned to ride and to shoot as any young man must, had also left me with a moral stricture to bend to my last, do well and make my way amongst the civilized men and women of the world.

So I turned to my duties, scribing wills, composing petitions to the Court, overseeing petty claims of ventures gone well or ill, either kind causing divisive ill-feeling amongst partners who started them in high hope and bonhomie. Celeste entered my life unexpectedly, but the depth of her look and the clarity of her voice again awakened something in my, something that yearned for a more direct and honest way of living, less cluttered with penmanship and subtle phrases. Like Jemima, she had the free running waters of distant rivers echoing in her blood. But had events not turned as they did, it was an echo I never would have harkened to, being intent in fulfilling what it pleased me to conceive of as "duty" -- a treacherous and shallow rendition of a fine and noble word, I am sorry to say.

She appeared, as promised on Thursday morning, and not alone. She had with her a slender and stately woman, of similar light but distinct Color, willowy and tall, perhaps 28 years old at a guess, whom she introduced to me as her daughter Sophie. I found another chair for Sophie, and as I was handing her into it, I noticed she had indeed, unquestionably, inherited her fine features from her young mother, including the large dark and unfathomably deep eyes; but one of hers, I could not help but see, was bruised and swollen nearly shut.

"Forgive me if I seem forward, Sophie, but may I ask what happened to your face?"

"It was my master who struck me.", she replied softly. The words were not completely out of her lovely mouth when her mother flashed out, swift as summer lightning striking down sin.   

"He is no master of yours, Sophie, and you must never say he is!" Celeste's eyes were fierce, and her daughter flinched.

"Yes, momma. But he says...."

"Never mind what that man says! You know he is a scoundrel and a rascal and no good!! If it had not been for the chance arrival of that preacher last week, you would be swelling today with his child in you! Hush!"

Sophie hung her young head in dismay.

Celeste turned her attention to me, and I can understand, from the depth of fire in her eyes, why Sophie qualied.

"You see what I have to deal with, sir. This man, who claims he is the executor and legal authority of Madame Helen's estate, has chosen to insist that we -- my children, myself, and my grandchild -- are chattel of his estate!! Like Chevalier, rot his soul, before him!! And he uses force on us at will to keep us imprisoned and his lash, and will not let us free!"

"And who is this man, Celeste -- what is his name, and what does he do?"

It was then I saw Sophie had inherited more of her mother's sand than I would have believed up to that point. She straightened from her chair and leaned forward, interrupting her mother, and stared me in the eye, her bruised and battered face a vibrant and outraged witness.

"His name is Lefrenier Chouvin. He is devil's spawn and I wish he would rot in Hell."

I felt again the wind of far places and realer people, and the whisper of far waters, echoing in my mind as I looked at her. Bruised, downtrodden and young, she stood straighter and spoke more clearly than anyone I had met in the fine dining room of the Governor's mansion,. except perhaps for Jemima Boone Callaway; and somehow, the fire of her young courage and her mother's fierce demand converged like rivers with the echoes in my mind, and I saw plainly where I would place my support.

Thus it was, in the spring of 1825, that I accepted their case, and that, by necessity, pro bono publico. And although that moment's decision changed my life forever, I would do it again today for the fire in that battered face.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 01:25 PM

Two days later, a man I had helped in business papers when I had first started practice appeared in my office. He looked sleek, well-fed, and well-dressed, a far different picture than the lean and seedy fellow I had first seen two years earlier trying to get his wits around the intricacies of legal affairs.

"My partner and I are forever in your debt, Ben," he insisted. "Your wit in protecting our firm in its infancy from Astor's thugs in fancy dress has brought us great prosperity in spite of the American Fur Company's worst efforts to throttle us. We're selling pelts as far away as London, and will soon own half of Boston if fashions keep up this way!!"

"Well, Johann, I am delighted that my services to you proved of value", I replied, anxious to return to my case-load. "You are well-organized, which is, I understand, more than one can say for the Astor gang."

"Too true, too true!" he replied, reeking joviality. "And there is a small token of our appreciation for value delivered, in this case". He handed me a large parcel, of distinct weight, and waited like an anxious boy while I opened it. Inside was a large, flat, well-made cherrywood gun-case. I opened it to reveal the most beautiful pair of matched derringers I had ever seen, the best that Derringer's Philadelphia firm could offer, by the look of them. They had mother-of-pearl handles and fancy silver-plated chambers, intricately engraved with scrollwork, true works of art. I caught my breath.

"They are beautiful!", I told him. "But I cannot accept them. It would be improper."

"Nonsense, boy!!", he boomed. "You are too valuable to walk these streets without any protection. We insist that you accept them as a well-earned bonus. Enter them in your books, if you must, but take them you shall!".

What can I say? Such blandishments are often an ordinary part of doing business in the world, and I succumbed to the force of custom, and accepted the pistols. They were remarkable in that their cartridges were of the new center-fire variety, which had only begun to be seen in Saint Louis, and I felt quite proud of them. They had two barrels, over-and-under, also scrolled in the most delicate tracery. I promised Mister Buchet I would carry them with me when I "walked the streets", as he put it.

It occurred to me to find out what I could about the man who had so bruised poor Sophie's face, and I made a discrete enquiry with Mister Buchet if he knew anything about a man calling himself Lefrenier Chouvin.

"One of the worst in Saint Louis!! Fancies himself a sort of general of men, but the truth is, he is a bully, who keeps bullies around him. Makes his money strong-arming for businesses who stoop to that kind of thing, inciting mobs, twisting the arms of politicians, and so on. I think his men have done some dirty work for Astor's gang from time to time. Absolute blackguard -- I warn you to have nothing to do with him."

"I shall certainly take your advice, Sir. Fortunately, I have had no dealings with him, and shall plan to avoid any in the future. Thank you for the wisdom. And please thank your partner for me for this generous gift, which I am only accepting because you did a little arm-twisting of your own, sir!" He laughed.

When he left, I returned to composing a Petition on behalf of the beautiful Sophie and her fiery-spirited mother. They were in a dicey situation, and the Courts were not often sympathetic to claims of freedom in Coloreds in these parts; but it was the only avenue open for justice for my clents.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 04:45 PM

As a result of these various encounters, we filed Sophie's petition.

To the Honorable the Circuit Court of St Louis County The Petition[er] Celeste, for her self and children and grand Children, who are free persons of Color, Namely Sophie, Antoine, Paul and Auguste the daughter and sons of the said Celeste, and Edward and William the Children of Sophie, and the grand children of the said Celeste, Respectfully represents:

That in the life time of one Joseph [Toyon?] (who is now dead) who was an Inhabitant of the Town of St Louis in the late province of upper Louisianna Now State of Missouri, the said Joseph was possessed of a certain free Indian woman named Scypion, who is the mother of your Petitioner Celeste, and that the said Scypion was claimed by the said Joseph as a Slave, but without the least color of right or Justice, because, your Petitioner says, the said Scypion was an Indian woman and was free, according to the laws and usages of the Spanish government in upper Louisiana, and according to the laws of the United States, as your petitioner Celeste is informed and verily believes;

And your said Petitioner Celeste further represents, that she is the daughter of the said Scypion, and that the said Sophie, Antoine, Paul and Auguste are the children of your Petitioner Celeste, and that Edward & William are the children of the said Sophie, and the grand children of your Petitioner Celeste.

And your Petitioner Represents that they are claimed as slaves by the Representatives and heirs of Madam Helen Chevallier, Deceased, as slaves belonging to the Estate of the said Helen Chevallier, and by the Administrator of said Helen,

And your petitioner Celeste further represents that she is informed and believes, that Lefrenier Chouvin is the administrator of the said Helen.

And your petitioners Represent that they are actually held in slavery by the said Lefrenier Chouvin, deprived of their natural freedom, and are subjected entirely to his will and control.

Wherefore, your Petitioners Pray that they may be Permitted to bring their actions in this Court, against the said Lefrenier Chouvin administrator as aforesaid and against all or any of the heirs and legal Representatives of the said Helen Chevallier, for the recovery of their freedom thus unjustly with held from them, and that your Petitioners may be permitted to sue as poor perso[ns] and your petitioners will Ever Pray &c

[signed] Celeste for self & children

Teste: Benjaman A. Huntington, Attorney

I believe it was the kindest work and the best thing I had undertaken since I studied Law, and a looked with great anticipation for its positive effect on the Court. And as things turned out, although I was not disappointed in this respect, I suppose I am equally glad that I accepted the matched pistols.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Peter T.
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:25 PM

Lovely work.


Peter T.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 07:47 PM

Please join us if you can, Peter.


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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 08:21 PM

Sometimes, in the darkest part of the night, I still wake up and hear the sounds. The pounding of the hoofbeats so loud that you could barely hear the men shouting in pursuit, the rock kicked loose and rolling down the ravine clattering over the cap rock, the powerful snorts and gasps of the beast in its fear and effort. Looking in the direction of the chasm, sheer rock cut off our view of him as he came, but just before he emerged, I remember a cloud of dust and small stones raised by him and carried by a sudden wind that rushed through the ravine. That and the smell of him. I sang to my protector spirit, the Fish Hawk, to give me courage.

And then it was there, the eyes wide in fear, foam trailing from lips and nostrils. His eye stared into mine for a brief moment, and I shouted and Hair and I pushed our spear tips at him. He veered, but seeing or sensing the approaching brink, he locked his legs to stop, falling on his belly as he slid. Then time seemed to stop as he twisted, left foreleg off of the cliff edge, pulled back, stood, the dust in the air around him and us making him look like the grandfather spirit of the north...strong, majestic, noble. He coughed out a great breath, then we heard the others shouting as they approached through the ravine. He spun from them, snorted the air, then his head dropped low and he pawed the ground, and at once he charged Hair and me.

Hair shouted and hurled his spear, which lodged in the beast's shoulder. The Lakota then ran forward, grasping at the spear shaft as the creature sped toward me and escape. Dragging the butt of my spear backward, I felt it catch on a small boulder half-sunk in the earth. Now the bison raised forelegs and chest to crush me, and I leaned the spear toward him. His massive weight brought him down on it, as I rolled clear, and when I saw him writhing, belly on the ground, I knew that he had taken the length of it.

Still, he rose and swayed to his feet, the blood gushing to the ground beneath him. He stood facing the four of us, pawed the ground, then slumped down on his forelegs, rose again, his eyes unseeing. "Be still, now, Old One," I remember saying, and the two Lakota raised their spears for the death blow, but Hair stopped them. He walked forward, and quickly pulled his spear from the bull's shoulder as the creature staggered. This he brought to me, indicating that I deserved the honor of the kill.

I went to the bull, raised the spear and said a prayer for the animal's courageous spirit. Then he seemed to see me, and he bellowed so loudly we all staggered back from him. With a final expenditure of his strength he charged forward over the edge of the cliff. We ran to the brink in time to see him fall against the boulders and scree some 80 feet below us. The Sioux were speaking excitedly, and began to walk toward a narrow ravine that promised passage to the foot of the cliff. As they did, I saw the green leaves of the spirit plant just at the edge where the old bull had gone over.

"Thanks to you, Grandfather," I said softly, and I stuffed the leaves inside my shirt. Then I followed the Lakota braves down to the buffalo.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 05 Mar 06 - 11:48 PM

(Bravo, Maestro!!)

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 08:23 PM

Celeste's petition had been successful, and the hearing had been brief; the judge found no grounds for enslavement to be continued and declared both the women and their offspring legally and fairly free persons. I made sure to give each of them fair copies of the decree on the most durable parchment I could get. As I stood to take my leave after the rejoicing had settled down, Celeste caught up with me and turned me around to face her; and though she was small and wiry next to my lanky frame, she gave me a look that made me feel a child again.

"You have done me a great service, Mister Huntington. I will not forget you. When the time comes that you need succour, or help, from Celeste or any of her children, we will be there for you as you were for us. This is my vow to you."

And she fixed me with her eyes again, and again I felt myself falling into spaces I wotted little of.


I closed my office up that evening, a good hour before sunset. My fingers were stained with ink and my bones weary from thinking too long about legal matters, but I left with a feeling of accomplishment, of having done good work.

I thought I would reward myself by taking a turn and a sip at a tavern I knew. Interesting folk gathered there, with long tales of hunting and scouting, and I thought I would spend the evening rewarding myself at Yoacham's log-cabin in front of the fire, soaking up stories of lives I dreamed of, but had chosen not to lead. It was out near the town of Westport on the fringes of Saint Louis, at the near end of what was now being called the Santa Fe trail, and I saddled my beloved roan mare up with pleasure at the prospect.

There is a large and ancient tree by the tavern, and I stopped there before going in to answer a call of nature in its shadow, and finishing my business I started to lead Hera, my roan, named for her occasional goddess-like temper, to the hitching rail, when some movement in the woods from which I had recently emerged gave me pause. Looking toward my back trail I saw three disreputable-looking and mismatched gentlemen emerge from the shadows, swing off their mounts and tie them to   nearby saplings. One of them was almost as tall as I am,beefy and grim and paunchy; the second, exceeding round, and shorter by a foot, with long mustachios to his chin; the third one was lean and sallow looking, with a sour air to his visage.

"Thet must be whar he was goin', Leff. That tavern." It was the sallow thin man who spoke, and the others grunted in assent; then all three of them loosened up long-barrelled Colts they carried in their belts, and two of them spat.

"Goddamn nigger lover gonna learn a lesson, I guess." And they started striding toward Yoacham's log cabin, with sneers and swagger fueling them in mutual bravado. I had only a few seconds to think before they would see my roan, and me, as they cleared the large trunk of the ancient oak by which I stood.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Alba
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 10:05 PM

"Get yourselves prettied up. It's shapin to be a busy night ladies" shouted a man's voice from the end of the Hallway.

Dixie jumped slighty at the sound of the voice. It pulled her away from staring at the Lawyer's office across the street from the window of her room.
"Busy Night huh, when aint it" she whispered under her breath.

She stood in front of the dresser and lifted the nearly empty bottle of Rose Water. She removed the cork then replaced it thinking to herself "best save what's left of this for later" then pinching her cheeks with her fingers and running her hands through her long black hair, she opened her door and began walking down the hallway.
The smell grow stronger till she reached the top of the stairs...whiskey, cigars and sweat.

Annie Jean Mac Lauren had a plan. A plan that she had began to make a reality one year, three months and four days ago now, when she walked out of her drunken Father's shack near 'Little Dixie' that warm June morning.

When Mary Agnes Mc Lauren died in that shack giving birth to her 2nd Child, Annie not only lost her mother and a baby sister that day. She also lost any hope of what was left of her childhood.
At the age of 10 years old she went from being her father's daughter to being her drunkard of a Father's mistress of sorts and eventually the mistress of many of his drinking companions.

On her 16th birthday Annie begun to put her plan into action. If she was to be used like a whore then she was going to be paid for providing that service. So she left Frances James Mac Lauren in a drunken sleep on the cot by the dwindling fire and walked away from the shack forever.
She knew where she was going. The foul smelling men that passed through that shack had said it more then once. "your as purdy as them gals in the Byway Tavern in St Louis, only you don't cost nothing"

"Well I cost plenty now" thought Dixie La Fleur as she walked down the staircase of the Byway Tavern. "Well boys if your fixin to get a taste of Dixie tonight you is gonna have to dig deep into the pockets of them britches of yours" she said quietly to herself and with that Dixie swayed across to the bar. Annie Mac Lauren was long gone, reborn as Miss Dixie La Fleur and Miss La Fleur had an even better plan than Annie could ever have dreamt of.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 10:10 PM

Brava and welcome to the story, Dixie!!

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 11:49 PM

When they reached the city, Katherine, Bill and Jack bid their good-byes to the preacher and his congregation. They sat on their horses for a moment, quietly stunned by where they were and how far they'd come. Finally, Bill muttered, "All right then, lodging it is." and turned his horse to walk up the main thoroughfare of the bustling city.

Jack felt himself give a sigh of relief as the horses habitually turned to walk in line towards the boarding stable. When they reached the stable, Jack quickly dismounted and grabbed the leads of both his horse and Katherine's. She silently watched him lead the bay pony into the barn. As Jack put his horse into an empty stall, he overheard Bill giving Katherine directions to the hotel. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw Katherine bathed in sunlight. Her arms were crossed protectively over her chest, and she was squinting fiercely, but whether it was at the sun or at Bill, Jack couldn't be sure.

When she turned quickly and walked away, Jack watched Bill enter the barn. Bill was a patient and dependable man, but Jack could tell this trip was wearing on him. "So what's the plan?" Jack asked, grinning at his friend.

"We get her to the barracks in the morning and have done with it." groused Bill. "I've had enough of this frustration to last a life time."

The pair made short work of bedding down the horses for the night. They gave the stable boy a few coins to make a hot mash for their horses and then walked down to the hotel. They secured their rooms and set about to cleaning up for their first real meal since setting out for St. Louis.

When Jack finished his washing up, he walked down the hall to Katherine's room. He knocked on the door and Katherine gave a simple "Enter." When he went into the room, he saw that Katherine had changed clothes and was now wearing the dress she'd been protecting in her bedroll for the trip, and her traveling dress had been given a rinse and was hung over a post of the bed to dry.

"You ready to get us some eats, Katey-girl?" he said, but Katherine took a moment before answering. She was pinning up her hair and staring out the window.

"Yes. That sounds lovely," she replied. "I'm sorry," she said, drawing her gaze away from the window, "I was just trying to figure out what to do next. Any ideas?"

"Well, according to Bill, we're hog-tying you and at dawn, throwing you from a galloping horse right onto the lap of the barracks commander."

"How genteel." she grimaced. "If I were to use one of your expressions, he's shaping up to be a real pain in the ass."

"Now hold it," countered Jack. "I've known Bill a long time and he's been nothing but an honest soldier. Did you ever think for a minute that the problem here might just be you? Neither of us is used to mollycoddling some woman across the country, and maybe I'm just better at hiding it than he is? Ain't neither of us fit to pass judgment on another man in our condition anyways. What do you say we get some grub in us and then we'll talk what to do next?" He then held her arm and escorted her from the room, narrowly missing a pair of uniformed soldiers in the hall, and closing the door behind him.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 06 Mar 06 - 11:54 PM

After the trio had put away more steak and potatoes than they would have thought was humanly possible, Jack uncorked the whiskey bottle with his teeth and poured three glasses. If this was going to be their last night in the presence of ol'Katey-girl , then he was set to make the most of it. He downed his whiskey in a single shot, and Katherine wasn't far behind him. She was matching him nearly glass for glass, while Bill looked on with a casual amusement. Jack noticed that Bill's glass was near-to-full and remain untouched, then his reason drifted off in a fog of whiskey fumes.

Katherine was certainly holding her own, but was in no way immune to the drink. Jack vaguely remembered thinking that perhaps she could just stay in St. Louis and become a showgirl. She could have feathers. Lots of feathers. Then her forehead clunked solidly on the table and Katherine McInnis was done for the night.

Jack stood quickly, albeit clumsily, and reached to help her. Bill growled slightly and waved his hand away. "Sit down. The only thing worse than the blind leading the blind, is the drunk leading the drunk." Bill grabbed Katherine roughly by the hair and the shoulder of her dress and somehow managed to hoist her over his shoulder. She was still humming a hiccupping 'too-rah-loo-rah' when he reached her room. The door was open, but Bill had his hands full and didn't notice. Jack was tripping up the hall behind him and leaned against the doorjamb for support while he watched Bill flop Katherine face-down across her bed.

Katherine was asleep before she hit the bed, so she didn't feel it when the letter hit her back. Bill started and quickly grabbed the paper and slid it back into his pocket. Jack remained oblivious to the entire incident, standing (leaning) sentry solely to make sure that Bill wasn't doing anything that he himself desperately wished to do. Bill quietly turned to his friend and said, "Time we were both off to our beds. Morning comes awful early."

Bill had seen the inebriated Jack off to his room before returning to his own. The entire incident was too close for comfort, and once he reached his room and closed the door behind him, he leaned against it and took the first full breath he'd had all night.

Seeing her come downstairs on Jack's arm sent a sharp pain through his belly. He cursed under his breath that it didn't have to be like this, but he knew it did. Then, seeing her smile and laugh at Jack's stupid stories. You'd think that would have been the final straw, but that came later. About a fifth of whiskey later. When he'd carried her up the stairs, warm and smelling of lavender water. He wanted nothing more that to stay in that room with her, to unpin her hair and cut the heart from anyone who tried to come in the door.

What happened instead was that Bill left her. The letter falling out of his pocket onto her back was like a bucket of cold water poured on top of any amorous fires his heart might contain. Jack might have thought that Bill's face was red from the exertion of carrying the woman's dead weight up the stairs, but Bill was red-faced from shame. It was all he could do to collect himself and leave.

Now in his room, with Jack tucked away for the night, Bill retrieved the letter from his pocket. He unfolded it and read it as he sat on the edge of his bed. Eventually, his head dropped and his shoulders bobbed rhythmically with what any man will tell you is NOT crying. If someone had been reading over his shoulder, they might have been able to make out the words "under no circumstances" and "at all costs" before Bill raised his head, blew out the lantern and fell back on his bed.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 11:30 AM

Katherine woke with the mother of all headaches. She was cramped and itchy from sleeping in her dress and shoes. Her mouth felt like her bay pony had spent the night in it and the stable boy had the night off.   She slowly pushed herself up onto her knees and steadied herself as the Earth's rotation caught up to her. She stood and straightened herself, and took her time about splashing the cold water on her face to wash up.

When she went downstairs, she was secretly pleased to see Jack in an equally miserable but fully deniable state of recovery. She thought about smiling, but at the risk of having her face slide off of her skull, she thought better of it. She quietly slid a chair close beside him and thanked him for seeing her upstairs the night before.

"You were still wearing your dress this morning, Katey-gal" he grinned "so you can't think it was me that took you. You want to be thanking anyone, thank Bill."

She decided at that moment that it wasn't an action worth thanking anyone for. That sentiment only grew when she saw Corporal Brennan come down the stairs. Even with his grim countenance she thought he was positively skipping, and Katherine wanted nothing more than to trip him.

"'Morning, folks." Bill said as he sat down. Jack and Katherine groaned in agreement. "I figure we'll get our horses and go see the barracks commander as early as possible. If anyone will know what direction to set you on, Miss McInnis, it'll be the Commander."

As they reached the Jefferson Barracks, Katherine was just beginning to think that the day might not be the worst of her life. Jack had been sweet at breakfast, filling her full of coffee and some snake-oil hangover cure that he pulled out of his boot. Her head was finally clearing and her horse wasn't walking too loudly anymore. The world seemed to be coming around to her way of thinking, and that suited her just fine. She took a special delight each time that Jack turned around to give her a secretive wink and Bill caught him doing it. The scowl was enough to power her for days.

As the haze of the night before left her eyes, Katherine marveled at the town and countryside. She could see in an instant why her brother fell in love with this country. It took her some time to get used to having spaces between things, but now she knew she could never go back to the coast. She was brought back to now by the presence of a soldier stepping from a guard shack. He moved so quickly that he spooked the horses.
"Your business, Corporal," he addressed Bill. Bill simply nodded back towards Katherine.

Katherine took the letter of introduction that the General had none-too-kindly given her and handed it to the soldier. He gave it the once-over of someone who can't read but has made a fair job of faking it for a while and then waved them through. It took them little time to find the base commander's office. The headquarters were perched on top of a bluff overlooking the river. Jack muttered to no one in particular that it would have been a lovely place for peace if it weren't for all the warring going on.

They didn't have to wait long to see the commander, Colonel Henry Atkinson. Jack's first impression was that the man was a fencepole with eyes, but he wasn't about to mess with officers. The Colonel waved them all inside his office, and after a cursory glance at the papers that Katherine had been holding as talisman the entire trip, sat on the corner of his desk. He had the look of a man who had faced the great desert of Nebraska and wasn't going to be swayed by two Corporals and a female. The silence in the room was palpable as Atkinson sized them all up. He made his measurement of them and turned his attentions to Bill.

"Corporal Brennan, what is the meaning of this?" to which Bill simply held up his hands in a gesture that made Katherine's heart fall.

"Sir," she started. Colonel Atkinson turned slowly towards her as if seeing her for the first time. Katherine undaunted, continued: "please let me explain." She quickly told him of her concern for her brother and her need to contact him by whatever means necessary. If he was stationed somewhere, she'd gladly travel to meet him. The Colonel's eyes unnerved her and she eventually ran out of steam and was left stammering like a fool.

The foolishness didn't go unnoticed by the Colonel. "Miss McInnis, the purpose of this installation is to train a nation's army, not to keep track of a surveyor for hire. Sometimes men go missing, sometimes men go savage themselves and think they can live in the harshest wilderness. I can't be responsible for them. You can damn that Calhoun and his 'expansible army', he left a lot of good Americans unprotected from the savages when he reduced our forces, and I'll be doubly damned if I'm going to spend valuable resources looking for a fool who took off on his own…"

"So you are saying that my brother took off on his own then? You know this?" Katherine sparked.

"I'm not saying anything, young lady," replied the Colonel "Now, I haven't the time for further interruption. You'll please show yourselves out." The Colonel rose from the desk and then sat staunchly behind it in silence until Jack grabbed Katherine's quivering arm and led her to the door. Bill made to follow but then the Colonel asked: "A word, Corporal Brennan?"

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 11:32 AM

Katherine left the Colonel's office on shaking legs. When they finally reached the grass in front of the building, Jack turned her towards himself and held her tightly. He tried to steady her and the only noises came from a few scattered birds and her rasping breath. As they stood ever so still, Jack could then hear a small group of soldiers approaching from the other side of the building. They joked among themselves about the sad group of soldiers and muleskinners who left with Bonneville on his latest expedition, and the murmuring they heard in the line about some Injun named Black Hawk who they thought might be trouble.

Katherine only heard the part about Bonneville, and clawed her way from Jack's arms to find the soldiers. She begged them to tell her more, and as she asked them questions, she told them about Emmet. One of the infantrymen thought he remembered him, but couldn't be certain as it had been some time. He did remember accompanying one of the barracks' surveyors on a trip to the lawyers in town. Maybe they could help her?

Katherine looked as if she could kiss the soldier's feet, and she gushed her thanks as the young man blushed his acceptance. When she turned back to Jack, she appeared almost reborn. At the very least her state was a far cry from the one that Bill was in as he walked down the steps to rejoin them. His jaw was set like it always was when he was thinking, and Jack took it as a sign that he was figuring out some way to make the Colonel change his mind. As they reclaimed their horses and headed back towards their hotel, Jack made numerous attempts to catch his friend's eye, but Bill was staring straight between his horse's ears and couldn't be distracted.

When they got back to the hotel, Katherine rushed in to the lobby to find out more about the lawyer that her young soldier spoke of. Jack stealthily watched Bill. Every time he started to talk, Bill made a move to cut him off. Finally when he shrugged off something about being tired and needing a rest, Jack watched him climb the stairs to their rooms. Something wasn't right.

Bill stretched out across his rented bed and gave in to thoughts of the morning. Even hung over, Katherine was the fairest woman he'd ever met. He found himself momentarily jealous of this Emmet, and wondered if anyone would miss him if he didn't write home one day. Certainly no one like Katherine, that was for sure. He wanted desperately to chuck it all in and tell her everything, but a soldier has his duty. His notice from the General still rested in his shirt pocket, and as he lay there he could almost feel the ink from that letter mixing with the words of Colonel Atkinson today-- slowly sinking through the fabric of his shirt and poisoning his heart. She can't know, she can't find out.

At the very moment when Bill was at his lowest, Katherine was receiving news that buoyed her heart. That there was a lawyer in town, a Benjamin Huntington, and that folks might very well have seen him having the occasional meal with her brother. It'd been some time, so memories were hazy, but Katherine was happy to have any news at all. She immediately left the desk and threw herself into Jack's happily surprised arms. When she planted a fierce and joyous kiss on his lips he pretty much resigned himself to following her to whatever laywer, in whatever town, in whatever country on this god forsaken earth she felt like going to.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 06:37 PM

There it stood, a two-storey clapboard building with garishly fashioned letters above the double doors,

Byway Tavern: Always on Your Way!
Spirits, Wine, Vittles & Women
Nightly Entertainment by World-Famous Musicians!

Eldon stood across the road and looked up at it. "Oh, lord," she thought, "what have I gotten myself into?" Hitching up her trousers, shaking the dust out of her hat and hair, once more, she wet her lips, took a deep breath and tried to casually saunter over to the Tavern. She wasn't a small gal, about five foot seven, good broad shoulders and hips, which she'd disguised as best she could with padding around her waist. Her shorn locks were a rusty blond colour and her eyes a hazel green.

Stepping up onto the boardwalk, she pushed open the Tavern door and stepped inside. What greeted her were the likes she'd never seen. It was all she could do to keep her jaw from dropping and her eyes from popping out of her head. There were "ladies" in outlandish and beautiful costumes, covering certain parts while revealing just enough to titillate. A piano player sat playing some loud and raucous tune while a couple of drunks danced around a small space of open floor.

Near the back of the downstairs room was an ornate staircase leading to a balcony with a railing and a hallway lined with doorways. Most of the doors were closed.

To her left was a long bar with men lined all up and down it, their backs turned to her, but their eyes watching in the huge mirror which the backbar framed.

Summoning all of the courage she had left, Eldon walked over to the end of the bar and hailed the bartender.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 07:05 PM

They came on, sneering and acting like bold and dangerous men, until I stepped out from behind the curve of the tree and asked them if it was me they were looking for?

I had four shots, and they had twelve or eighteen. But once you decide to play the hand that is dealt you, those kinds of calculations don't add much, I suppose. The sallow one in front was quick bringing his long barrel to bear, but I had the advantage of having seen him first. His bullet took six ounces of solid oak out of the tree by my head, and mine took the lobe of his left ear off. This caused him to bend directly into the line of my second shot, which caught him just above his bony nose. One derringer was empty. Two other guns were swinging toward me, and my third shot took the tall beefy man through the chest; and his first shot slammed the second derringer out of my hand harder than a mule-kick to the head. The round man with the mustachios was no fool; he knew he had me pinned, and he smiled as he raised his revolver toward my face.

Then his forehead opened up from behind like a summer rose in a spray of deep scarlet, and he fell flat on his face.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 09:00 PM

It was perhaps the unexpectedness of this moment of doom evaporating that left me stunned; I confess I gaped for a few seconds, hard put to appreciate what had happened. When I looked up, a shadow was emerging from the deepening shadows, a short man, plainly dressed, neatly shaven with a finely trimmed moustache and hair combed back under a slouch hat.

"I guess you an' me better have a little palaver, amigo." he said softly. I was surprised at the pitch of his voice. He was only about five and a half feet tall, and on closer inspection I saw his moustache was only recently possible; he could not have been over seventeen. But the gleam in his eye told me he was not someone to be trifled with, and would make a good man at your back should the need ever arise. As it just had, indeed, I thought, gradually coming to my sense of the present.

He was putting a new cartridge into his well-worn but obviously serviceable rifle when he spoke again.

"I would hate to think that I had chosen the wrong target in this little dust-up. You want to tell me why three men were trying to kill you?"

I pointed out the rapidly cooling form of Lefrenier Chouvin lying in a pool of his own blood a dozen yards away, and told him about me, the judge, and Celeste, and Sophie, in a brief form.

"Well, I feel much better, then," he said, smiling. "Seeing as how you and I are within the general boundaries of civilized territory, Mister Huntington, I would suggest you and I seek our refreshment elsewhere."

So we arranged the corpses of my three erstwhile hunters under some underbrush, where they would not attract undue attention. And as I dragged Lefrenier Chouvin's boots into the thickets, with the rest of him dragging behind, I could not but think of Sophie's battered face, and the fiery look that dwelt there.

"Perhaps we would be better situate sharing some talk in a tavern in town," my rescuer suggested. As we mounted our horses, he leaned over, as though he had decided something, and extended his hand.

"I'm Chris Carson," he said. "Saddler and harness maker, in a soon to be abandoned apprenticeship over by Boone Lick. You can call me Kit -- most of my friends do."

So we left Yoacham's log cabin, the great oak spreading outside it, and three dead men in the underbrush, and made our way back towards Saint Louis, the roaring din of inequity on the busy banks of the deep Mississippi and the wide Missouri.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Alba
Date: 07 Mar 06 - 11:13 PM

"Good evening Dixie, you look well" said the smartly attired man at the table in front of the bar.

"Good evening to you, Doctor Shepard." replied Dixie.

"On the hour of three tomorrow as usual ?"

"As always Doctor" said Dixie, who then smiled and walked to the Poker Table at the back of the room.
Her spot. A vantage position of sorts. From here Dixie could survey the entire nightly scene in the Tavern. The Door, the entire length of the Bar, each table and the men there seated, the other girls and she could always see Wilmot from where she stood.
Wilmot needed to be seen in her opinion. He was a mean bastard. Wilmot owned the Byway Tavern and that took a quick mind, a clear head for business and it would seem it also took a deep streak of cruelty into the bargain and he also 'owned' some of the Girls that worked the Byway but he did not own Dixie. No man did.

One of Wilmot's new girls came over and stood beside Dixie. She could see by the girl's eyes that Wilmot had given her a 'little something' to help her through the evening. That was how he kept some of 'his' girls. That was how he owned them. Not by buying them with cold hard cash but by making them need him more than the breath they drew.

Young as she was, flies didn't settle too long on Dixie. She was way old beyond her years. She knew things , she felt things. People didn't need to speak to her, hell they didn't need to do nuthin cept sit there and look at her and then she knew them,knew them inside and out.

"Scat, get yourself over by the piano there, this ain't your spot tonight or any other night, make sure you mind that" The girl stood a second and then as if she had suddenly just heard what had been said to her, she turned quickly and weaved her way through the tables till she reached the Piano.

Dixie's expression did not alter as she spoke to the girl or as the girl left. Dixie then looked straight at Wilmot, who was holding a bemused smile. She knew he would be watching to see what she would do and just as she thought, he was. He took a cigar from his waistcoat pocket, bit the end and spat it out then lit the cigar. Inhaling deeply, he put his hands behind his head and slowly drew his eyes away from Dixie still holding the bemused smile.
No man owned Dixie la Fleur.

"So" thought Dixie "best get to working". She just happened to be looking at the door as a young man came in, her eyes followed him till he got to the Bar.

At that an older man approached Dixie and after a brief exchange between them, she walked with the man to the stairs.
Glancing back towards the bar as she reached the start of the hallway towards her room, a thought passed her mind. "that young man don't look like he belongs in this place"

Then she turned her attention back to her Customer.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 12:26 AM

We didn't have a lot of difficulty pulling the old bull out of the rocks. Hitching the ponies up, we tugged the carcass free and down the slope to a narrow spring creek, where we gutted and skinned the bison. The tall Sioux, under orders from Hair-like-Bushes, brought the melon-sized liver to me in his bloody hands. I chopped up the liver with the heart and testicles of the animal, and placed the mess in an iron trade-pot with some water from the brook. The skull and hide were hung from the low branches of a cottonwood, and a fire built of aspen and maple branches. I signed to Hair that I would gather some herbs for the stew to be eaten with the buffalo, and he sent the tall man with me.

Wandering the bank of the creek, I found a small bear willow and sliced away a piece of the exposed root. I also found several purple star-flowers, and farther from the water, sage and wolftongue. A clump of bitter cherry yielded bark and leaves for the mixture. These herbs I washed in the creek and I prayed for blessing on them. As I chanted, I glanced at the Lakota, who was inspecting what appeared to be a wapiti trail through the brush. I used the opportunity to take the spirit plant leaves from my shirt and mix them with the other plants, and immediately I began to chop and mix the plants. Bringing this back to the camp in a basket, I placed everything in the bubbling pot.

The hump and shoulder of the buffalo were spitted and roasting over the fire, and Hair and the other man were boning the rest of the meat, cutting it in strips, and hanging it from a cottonwood branch that lay in the smoke above. I stirred the stew, and the aroma reached my nostrils, strong with the power of the liver and the bear-root, and I could not detect the spirit plant. I was certain they would not either.

The darkness descended, and the Sioux warriors sat on the windward side of the smoky fire, while I sat near the ponies. The smell of the meat roasting was almost overpowering, the hiss of the fat dripping into the fire and the snap of the maple sap bringing life to the little circle. From time to time they would slice bits of meat away, juggling them to keep from burning fingers, popping the meat into their mouths. Hair cut a long sizzling piece of meat, held it out to me, and motioned for me to approach. I sat with them, taking the strip of tender flesh in my fingers. Suddenly, Hair jumped up, took a spear from beside his blanket, and gestured with it, saying something in his language. The others smiled and glanced at me, and then Hair began to dance and to sing along with his dance. He danced up to the hide and skull which towered over him, lit by firelight. Then he staggered back, eyes big in abject terror as his two friends burst into uncontrolled laughter. Then Hair stopped, seemed to grow in height, thrust out his chest, and plunged the spear up into the bison's skin. The warriors stopped in their laughter, together saying "waaaa-hosh." Hair turned slowly to me, nodded his head, and said "wa-hosh."

As we devoured the meat, Hair picked up the cooled pot of stew, drank deeply of the broth, then ate a handful of the meat and vegetable mash. The other two followed suit, then handed the pot to me. I took it, drank, bowed, then took my seat in the darkness by the ponies where they wouldn't see me spit the mixture onto the ground. I had, against my own will, lost much of the hostility I felt toward them. It was the thought of Hair's words of killing my brother, the thought that Wolf might already lie dead, that relieved me of my guilt from poisoning them.

We had finished eating, and the tall Sioux and Hair were speaking animatedly, when the other Lakota cried out, struck with his fist at something unseen which seemed to be attacking him from out of the fire, scuttled backward in a panic into the branches of a willow. The other two stared at him in shock as he suddenly doubled up, vomiting violently. The tall Sioux stood to walk over to him, stumbled and fell, then slowly raised his head, his face quivering. Hair-like-Bushes sat very still, his eyes pinned to the skull and hide of the dead buffalo as he whispered something unintelligible.

As I gathered my things, it was clear that the spell of the Datura was in full sway. I could hear the rapid footfalls of the tall Sioux somewhere in the darkness as he sought to escape whatever demons pursued him. Hair was still transfixed by the adoration and terror inspired in him by the carcass, and offered no resistance as I took back the mirror, the medal, the sash and the other treasures he had stolen from me. The other Lakota was nowhere to be seen. I left them their ponies. It would be at least a day before they would be in any condition to pursue me. That is, if they didn't die. There was a always a danger in summoning the visions of the spirit plant, a danger that with the imps and demons Death too would come in his disguise. But I had tempered the plant with the wolftongue to bring on vomiting, for I didn't wish them dead.

My pony loaded with meat from the buffalo, I departed the camp of the enchanted Lakota at daybreak, following the spring creek down to where it met the Little Bighorn, then east and south toward the Wolf Mountains.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Alba
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 10:20 PM

"Man over there says he wants to talk to you Mr Wilmot". said Adam Henry, the Bartender, while turning his head towards the man.
"Tell him one hour in my Office and give him a drink" said Wilmot. "Yes Sir" replied Henry... "One drink only Henry" said Wilmot..."Yes Sir" and Adam Henry walked towards the waiting man.
Wilmot flung his now spent cigar on the floor and rubbed his boot over the butt. He got up and walked down towards a door to the left of the entrance of the Byway. As he passed an older woman sitting at a table near that door he leaned down and rested his arm on her chairback bending his head, then he said in a muffled voice "How the Girls doing?" The Woman tilted her head back till her mouth was at Wilmot's ear "twelve so far this evening Wilmot" she said quietly. Wilmot made no comment, he pulled himself up and headed for the Door, unlocked it and went inside his Office.

He had been expecting Jacobs to get in on Friday but he was two days early.
No matter thought Wilmot.
He went behind the desk and sat himself down. Opening the bottom drawer he pulled out a full bottle and a glass. Poured himself a whiskey and drank it back in one slug.
"La that is one piece of work" and the bemused smile returned to his face. How long has she been here now...over a Year" His mind drifted....

"I am looking for work and someone told me that you were the man to speak to?"

Standing in front of him was a tall, long black haired, kind of pretty girl with the most piercing eyes he had ever come across. Green, bright green. In fact so green and so piercing he had the feeling they were looking straight through him right into his Soul and might, just by the power of their stare, cause it to wither.

He collected himself quickly. "What kind of work are you figuring on doing."
"What kind of work do you have?" asked the girl.
"Well I'm in need of Kitchen help and I could be use another Roo...
The girl cut in,
"I ain't in the business of cleaning or cookin, I am in the business of Whoring." she said with a confidence that took him by surprise.
"Get out of here Girl. What would you know about pleasing a man." and Wilmot waved his hand as if to shoosh her away.
"I know more than you ever will." said the Girl and she turned away from Wilmot and started towards the door.
Wilmot let a gaffaw escape at her remark!
"Wait up there he widened his eyes in expectation of an answer
"Dixie La Fleur Sir"                                             
Again he laughed, "La Fleur it is then, and just where would you have learned your Business then Miss La Fleur?"
"Why in a bed of course Mr..?" the girl tilled her head to the side.
This time he laughed from his belly...she was quick he thought
"Wilmot, just Wilmot no Mister, no Sir, Wilmot" he paused as if thinking but really he already knew what he was about to say..
"Can't hurt to try you out. You need to get prettied up. One week should tell. Ill try you for one week. Then we will see if you know your Business well enough to stay. Your room is free. You get food from the kitchen and make sure you eat it there, go see about a dress at the store on North Street and tell them to bill me, you will of course pay me for the dress at the end of the week. Now I pay my gir.....

Again he was interupted.
"I would like to pay for my own room and Board, clothing and so on and may I suggest 30 percent of my earnings to you would be a fair deal"
Wilmot laughed then became very serious...
"You realize Miss La Fleur that you didn't come here today to 'ask' me for a Job, you came here today to put a business proposal to me and that is an entirely different matter".
"If you say so.. but that does not change what I have just said or what I have in mind" said the Girl.
She won't last the week he thought. Then I will give her a job....oh yes I will give her a job alright, she should clean up well and could be a real good earner....
Wilmot chewed over his thoughts. Something about this girl was different, real different and it irked him that he could not figure what it was, still, she could be handled after the week was out.
Dixie never took her eyes off him. When he turned to look at her, that stare was fixed right at him and a feeling crept up his back. He felt a need to end the conversation now so she would leave.
"Settled then, you pay your room and Board, buy your own fancy stuff, make sure it shows what you got and you give me 50 percent of your takings this week".
"I said 30 percent Mr Wilmot."
"Let's not split hairs Miss la Fleur 50 percent."
"no more than 40 percent 'Mr' Wilmot"
"You have a deal Miss la Fleur, eh just one question, what age are you Dixie, I can call you Dixie?"
"You can call me what you please but did know one ever tell you that it is rude to enquire after a Ladies age 'Mr' Wilmot?"
"They did Dixie but you ain't a lady, you're a whore, so what age are you?".
She smiled and fixed that gaze on him again, completely unmoved by his last remark, "I am old enough 'Mr' Wilmot, old enough"
Dixie la Fleur gave a quick nod of her head and turned toward the door. "Good Day 'Mr' Wilmot"
"Be ready and downstairs by 5 on the clock tonight and tell Adam Henry behind the bar that I said he was to take you up to Room 9". Wilmot got up and turned away from Dixie and walked over to the window. A few seconds passed then he heard the door close and he turned around. The girl had left.

"La Fleur....she truly is a piece of work" He opened the whiskey Bottle again and poured another glass.
The door knocked and Adam Henry stuck his head around it.
"Should I send that man into you now Mr Wilmot?"
"Alright Henry, bring him in". Wilmot went into the drawer and brought out another glass.
"Jacobs your back sooner than I expected, good, close the door and have a drink, and tell me what I need to know"

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 08 Mar 06 - 10:46 PM

The evening had grown deeper by the time Kit and I emerged from the hinterlands and trotted down Market Street. Kit wasn't highly familiar with the streets of Saint Louis, which had grown a considerable amount since he last came in from Boone's Lick, so he let me lead, and by habit I headed back toward my office. On the other side of the street and at the far end of the block there was a tatterdemalion honkeytonk called the Byway, for reasons I can't even think to ask, and I was tired and shaken by my misdventures, so we succumbed to convenience and tied up there.

The place was well populated with ladies of misfortune, decked out in gawdy outfits, and a rinkytink piano player was trying to play "Willie Was a Wanton Wag" for a couple of loud and oafish riverboatmen.

I found a small table well to the rear, and a shapely but world-worn woman of about thirty brought us a bottle of redeye and a couple of glasses. The bartender staggered into "Rose of Lucerne", and his gaffes made even the louts along the bar grin; it was clear he had had more of the house red-eye than was musical.

I had sipped my way through about a quarter of my glass, reflecting on the reverberations of memory of the night's horrors, and listening to Kit's reminiscing, when he refilled his own for the second time. I was growing more quiet with the effect of the whiskey, and he was growing more talkative, which suited me all right.

"' wz born in Kaintuck," he said, "Madison county, but folks moved out to Boone Lick about immejitly. Had to work since Ah was nine, on account Dad died then. 'm still working, but I 'bout hed enough. This saddler and harness feller I am apprenticed to ain't worth snuff in a high wind, I guess, and I am gonner quit him." He cleared another quarter of his glass away without even noticing it. "I kin make do; I can hunt fer game, or horse-thieves, with anyone. Been told I'm one the best rifle shots in Upper Looziana. I mean, Mizzooruh..whatever they call it."

"I guess I can vouch for that, Kit. And there's a dead man out by that tavern could also."

"Et wasn't even fair, ye know? Less than seventy yards like that from where I was in the brush to where you wuz. But I didn't see much time to be sporting about it anyway."

"I appreciate you saw it that way. Guess I owe you a big favor."

"Hell, you'lda done the same if you coulda."

"Well, I'd like to think so. Surprising what you do when the moment is on you, isn't it."

I was feeling the fevered pinch of the whiskey in my veins, and knew my tongue was loosening; but the music was fairly fine despiite the loud voices drowning out the drunk piano player singing "The Lass That Loves a Sailor", and an undercurrent of lavender perfume, apprently wafting from the keen eyed and high-cheeked raven-headed beauty in the corner made the fuzziness comfortable.

"Nope," Kit jumped topics again with the agility of a man distinctly under the influence. "I'm gonna quit him. I can make my life in the mountains, where they still bring beaver down by the hundred weight every year and good pay. Er I can go out to Santa Fe, too. Hear stories 'bout the senoritas out there make you want to mount and ride."

"Hey!! You see that pretty girl -- she winked at me!!" I turned and noticed the raven-hair. She had a certain aura about her, a strong mind in a well-shaped body. But I had other worries on my mind.

"Kit, what do you think is likely to happen when those cadavers get found?"

"Hell, you could be in a mess o' pottage, as my mom useter say. I dunno. Likely someone in his gang knew who he was gonna foller tonight, even if no-one knew where you was going." I was surprised at his lucidity.

By ten that evening, the bottle was empty and I was half way through my second glass. Kit had sworn we were life long bosom friends and allies, no matter what, and the sense of that proposition seemed vividly clear to me as well, and we had to drink to it. Several times. He figgered I should come with him when he left town, and go to Santa Fe or become a mountain man. He was sure it was the most sensible plan yet conceived by the mind of man.

"How do you know you can make it in the mountains?", I challenged him. "Sure you can shoot, but there's wild tribes, wild animals, rough country white men have never seen out there?"

Kit straightened up, and looked at me grimly. He shook his finger under my nose, looking as imposing as it is possible for a short man to look.

"You mind what I say, Ben Huntington. You dunno what you are hitching yore wagon to. I live clean, I shoot clean, and I can handle any damn thing that comes along. You hear me? The world ain't heard the end of Kit Carson, now mark me."

And with that stern prediction, he left the table to see about taking the raven-haired beauty upstairs. I paid for the whiskey and staggered down the street, thinking to head for my office to catch a few winks. But, it was not a night made for comfort or retirement, evidently. For as I was unlocking the door, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen came running up to me out of the shadows of the warm St Louis spring evening, and insisted she should be let in.

So I let her in.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 09 Mar 06 - 02:28 PM

In a night of already ghostly and fuzzy memories, the fates had brought back yet another layer of mental images to worry my clouded mind. Across from me, an hour past my usual bedtime, sat an angel in a woman's garb, with the kind of radiance in her eyes that is usually reserved for great paintings of seraphim and the like. She stood about five foot six -- a pinch taller than my recent drinking companion, whose words were still rattling around in the back of my mind, as I tried to believe who she told me she was.

She resurrected a whole passel of fond memories of Emmett McInnis, a lithe and energetic man I had befriended a year or so before, who had come out from the East as a surveyor, reckless of danger and apparently heedless of his own scalp. He had had enough sense at least to make sure his affairs were well ordered, and he had delivered his records to me for safe-keeping just before he left the Saint Louis barracks under the command of Col Bonneville late last year. I had thought of Emmett often -- he was a kindred soul, adventurous, unafraid, but intelligent in a way which I found far too little of in the ordinary circles of life in Saint Louis, and we had enjoyed several fine dinners together, laughing and talking until late in the night.

"Of course, Miss McInnis, I remember your brother with great fondness; we were friends as well as associates, and I expect we still will be the next time he returns to town."

"Then you believe me??", she asked, somewhat startled.

"Emmett spoke of you often; I think next to the wide open skies and lands West of here, you were perhaps the fondest thing in his heart."

Her eyes moistenend, but her chin held firm.

"Do you have any notion of where he may have gone, Mister Huntington?"

I knew I was under her spell, because I noticed that I did not want her to address me as a "Mister"; something in her eyes told me that all I would ever need in my life would be to be close to her, as close as two souls could be; but it could have been the whiskey in my veins. And, too, there was a well formed soldier from the Barracks standing behind her as an escort. So I dug my left thumbnail into the flesh of my fingers hard enough to make me wince, and recovered my composure.

"He mentioned he was off on a surveying expedition to hills west of here, ma'a'm," I replied. "He gave me no more information."

Her deep and dazzling eyes fell briefly, giving me searing twinges of the heart. So I hastened to offer what comfort I could.

"He did, however, leave me some papers expressly instructing me that I should deliver them to you, should anything befall him. It would be within my discretion to decide, since you say he has been silent so much longer than normal, that current circumstances fulfill that criterion."

She looked at me in a way that could make a sober man trip over his own toes, and gave me a small, forlorn smile.

"Oh, please! Would you?"

So I brought out the small iron strongbox I used as a safe, and from it drew out the bundle of oaken papers bound in a small brown cross-tie of string, with my note under it indicating the owner's name and the date I had secured it for him.

I can only say that the light in her eyes, when I handed her those papers, was as precious and clear as a song from a herald angel with a whole chorus of harps joined in. It would have set my heart reeling, if it had not already been.

It was with the greatest reluctance that I saw her to the door, Emmett's papers clutched under her arm and her military escort following resignedly, a few paces behind her.

I locked up, my mind in a sea of wonder, recovered Hera from the rail outside The Byway, and wandered to my lonely domicile across town by the shores of the Missouri.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 12:59 AM

Jack could live a hundred years on top of the twenty-odd he had under his belt already and not one day of it could be stranger than the day he had today.

Granted, he already felt strange having to return to the land of military might by going to the Barracks. The only reason he'd ever joined up in the first place was to keep ol' Bill's head attached to his body. He'd always felt like a guardian angel of sorts for Bill, and he didn't have any grand plans for this life as it was, so why not the Infantry? Still, he had no regrets. He was strong enough to pull Bill out of the fire when he had to, and Bill was smart enough to keep him interested in what was around the bend. They had a fine friendship.

They never had a cross word between them until Katherine came along. He'd heard about her, sure. Every evening after guarding the General's door, Bill would come back to the barracks and recount the antics of this crazy woman who'd practically taken up residence outside the General's door. He'd heard all about how she'd cried, yelled, pouted and pounded the door for hours, all to be turned away by the General. Frankly, she sounded like a pain in the ass, and Jack was glad it was his friend who'd had to endure the torment.

Even when he saw her sitting on that bay pony, fresh and ready to travel, Jack kept his wits about him. Sure, she was a fine woman, but he had very clear memories of other fine women who had the devil in them: the Senator's daughter and her fondness for throwing crockery at a man's head, the opera singer and her pinking shears, the blacksmith's daughter and her long-handled shovel, every last one of them prepared to wipe him off the map. He could have fun with this one, sure, but he wasn't about to start poking a hornet's nest either. At least that's what he told himself after each night's solemn talk around the campfire. She was dead set on finding this brother of hers, and Jack kept reminding himself "Buzz buzz, pardner, buzz buzz".

That all held firm until he'd set that preacher's dog up and heard her laugh. He knew in an instant that she wasn't too far off from ol' Bill. Maybe she was just a good soul that'd taken a lot of hard knocks, and he was probably strong enough to pull her out of the fire too. He chuckled to himself when he thought about it now, because it was a greased track from that moment on--nothing cemeted it more than when she'd run up today and kissed him. He was sure she'd felt it too, that was until they actually starting looking for that lawyer feller that the soldiers told them about.

He'd been a love-sick fool all afternoon, he could see it now. He'd followed her all over town, thrilled every time she'd let him touch her arm, brush a hair from her face, or put his hand on the small of her back. He'd thought she had willingly consented, but he knew now she was oblivious. When they had just about exhausted their search for the night and were walking back to the hotel, she'd seen that Huntington and ran out into the street. He'd had to wait for several carriages to pass by, and by the time he'd crossed the street, she'd already run up to that lawyer feller and was looking at him with that hopeful face of hers that he'd thought was reserved for him alone.

He'd stood silent while she talked to that lawyer. He wasn't sure just what to make of the exchange, almost feeling like he should wait outside, but he'd be damned if he was giving her up that easily. When the lawyer gave her that bundle of papers, she'd walked right past him and out the door. He might as well have been a ghost. When they got back to the hotel she'd rushed off and mumbled some excuse about it being late and her wanting to go wash up and go to bed. He'd half-jokingly nudged her as they climbed the stairs and asked if she needed someone to wash her back, but Katherine grimaced and shut the door in his face.

He thought Bill might be better company, but when he knocked on his door, he'd got no answer. Fine. He'd just lay in his quiet bed and curse the ceiling until morning. It wouldn't be the first time, and probably wouldn't be the last.

He had that fire in his belly for a solid hour before he heard the knock on the door, but when he opened it up and saw Katherine, it became a distant memory. She had been crying, and hard from the looks of it. She had an armful of her brother's papers with her. When she looked up at him with teary eyes and hiccuping gasps of breath, all she'd had to say was "I need your help" and Jack let her in.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 03:03 AM

Eldon had recovered from her intial shock when first coming into the Byway. She'd kept her voice low and somewhat gruff; left her hat on, and ordered a shot of whiskey. Back home in Virginia, when she was growing up, she'd snuck off to her daddy's still a few times and tried a bit of white lightening. The whiskey served at the Byway seemed tame in comparison.

Even as scary was it was, pulling off this masquerade as a man, she thought to herself, gawd, it is so good to be shut of that pigheaded husband of mine and out on my own!

She'd been careful about glancing back at the woman climbing the stairs; the one who gave her a smouldering, lingering, half-smile look. She hoped no one noticed the slow crawl of a blush she'd felt on her cheeks.

Oh, she knew that look well; she'd used it herself when she was young and naive, thinking the best thing in the world would be to be married at fifteen, raise a family and keep a decent house. The family had never come in the three years she'd been with James Forsythe, despite his somewhat feeble and fumbling attempts. She'd found it easy enough to cow him into leaving her alone once she realised it was not the life she thought it would be. Though she thought she was in love with young Horace Stephenson, her father had insisted she marry the older James, a widower of some means. Well, daddy, thanks for that. At least I have enough to get me through for a while, from what James left me.

"Hey, barkeep!" she raised her voice. The man washing glasses, drying them and putting them up on the shelves behind him, looked over at Eldon. He slowly walked over and said, "What can I do for you, son?"

"I'm lookin' for a fellah named Bill Rogerson. D'ya know 'im?" she asked. "Joe Crawford, over a'the stable told me I might find 'im here."

(Aside: sorry, folks, I am still not up to speed. Should be better and have more time after the 15th. Have your way with Eldon, if you'd like. I'll try to stop in and keep her going as much as possible.)

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 09:54 AM

(I ain't havin' mah way with no gal dressed up as no guy, dang it....)

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Alba
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 11:11 AM

Dixie put the small Metal hinged Box back under the loose floorboard beneath the dresser, she hummed along with the piano tune that was playing and then quietly sang the words of the song to herself.

The hours I remember well,
When next to see doth move me,
The burning flames my heart doth tell,
Since first she own'd she lov'd me:
In search of some one fair and gay,
Several doth remind me.
I know my darling loves me well,
Tho' I left her behind me.

She ran her hands over the bed quilt and then walked towards the window.
She saw the Soldier first, silhouetted in the light coming out of the Lawyer's Office doorway and then she saw the Woman. "A lady out this late, must be real important Business to be calling on the Lawyer, interesting" she mused.

"Damn it all Casey, you will have them weeping in their Beer if you keep this up...and then they will stop thinking about Business and start thinking about their wives and then, I lose their cash" said Dixie aloud herself.
She quickly looked into the mirror and bared her teeth, rubbed her forefinger over them and then left her room and went walking down the hallway with a purpose about her.
She went straight over to the Piano player when she reached the bottom stair.
"Casey..they don't need no minding of the girls they left behind this early in the evening" she snapped
The Piano Player looked up from the keys and smiled.
"Sometimes I ain't playing for 'them' Dixie, sometimes I gets the urge to play for myself" he smiled again.
Dixie smiled back. She liked Casey.
"Well why don't you play something that doesn't make my Customers go Home to their wives early or worse get so drunk that they ain't even capable of thinking about taking themselves to bed never mind a me" she winked.
Casey winked back and gave Dixie a soft smile.
"Don't you like playing any happy tunes"...she laughed.
Dixie turned and walked over to towards the poker table. As she reached her spot Casey had began to play again.

Dixie put her hand to her forehead, smiling as if to say "now you've gone done it Casey". Some of the more worst for the whiskey sang along with the Piano, a few real drunks took to dancing,

Nearing the end of the Song the volume of the men's drunken singing increased,

Come all you British noblemen and listen unto me;
Our Frontiersman has proved to you America is free.
But tell your royal master when you return back home,
That out of thirty thousand men, but few of you returned.

Ever watchful Dixie saw the young man again who was now sitting at a Table with someone. She couldn't make out who he was talking to as the man had his back to her.
She looked at the clock to her right. Midnight, that would make it two of the morning.
Dixie knew the clock was always two hours shy of the correct time. A trick to make the Poker Players play longer but then the Poker players came to the 'Byway' to play Poker and paid time no heed.
"One last turn on the sheet" she thought then I am calling it quits tonight.

She saw the young man get up from the table and for a moment she thought he was about to leave but he walked to the bar. She watched him. Adam Henry was well on his way down the road of the drink tonight but then that was nothing new. Poor Adam. He figured he was in Heaven behind that Bar! If only he kept the few bits the customers let him keep from selling them whiskey instead of using it all to buy himself whiskey.
She caught the Young Man's eye and winked at him.
He blushed crimson and looked away.
Dixie laughed.
A muleskinner she thought....and then she saw the man he had been sitting with, Bill Rogerson. Seemed to her this young fella was a muleskinner looking for work.   Yip, Bill was the right Man to be talking to.
The young man took two drinks from the Bar and walked back to the table and all the while Dixie was watching him.
She played a game for her own amusement.
"I'll bet he looks at me again" she said to herself.." Look at me" she willed. The young man looked straight at her. She laughed and winked at him again and sure enough didn't he blush like a girl.

"Ah damn it all to hell. I have worked hard enough for the night taking one more is only greed and what I lose in not taking one more I have made in the little extra I was given this evening." thought Dixie
With that, she walked the length of the bar and over to the woman at the table next to Wilmot's Office.
"I'm done for the night Alice see you in the morning" said Dixie
"Night Dixie, busy tonight, five" said the woman.
"un huh" said Dixie with a wry smile.
" night then" said the woman.

Dixie made sure she walked passed the young man on her way towards the stairs.
As she drew closer she could see his face more clearly "No he don't fit here and I don't think he is even taking to shaving yet!" she thought.
As she reached the table where the young man and Bill Rogerson sat talking. "Evening Bill" she said. "Evening Dixie" replied Bill Rogerson. Dixie bent towards the young man and whispered in his ear..."Night then, maybe you will get to thinking about dropping by here again". She didn't wait to for a reply, she didn't want one. In fact she didn't even look at him after she spoke, she just walked towards the stairs feeling his eyes on her as she climbed them.

As she walked to her room she made a mental note to herself.
Thursday tomorrow. Doctor Shepard's at three.
Dixie yawned as she closed her door.
The sound of a key turning indicated her door was now locked.
Dixie was done for tonight.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: JenEllen
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 04:25 PM

When Katherine shut the door to her room and began to unwrap the package she'd gotten from Ben Huntington, she felt a slight twinge in her heart upon seeing her brother's familiar handwriting. She felt that finally she'd have some inclination, some clue to his whereabouts, but she was sadly mistaken.

Bill was dealing with his own disappointments that evening. He'd gone over to the whorehouse early, but not early enough. By the time he had finally downed enough whiskey to consider approaching the whore with the green eyes, he saw her climbing the stairs with another client. The alcohol in his veins was clearly running the show at this point, so Bill thought he'd just wait and see if the woman came back downstairs or if this client was an all-nighter. He never saw her again and no other woman, well, no one in this building, could keep his attention. He gathered his hat and coat and went back to the hotel only marginally under his own power. When he climbed the stairs at the hotel, he leaned for a moment on Katherine's door. His ear was pressed against the door and he thought for a moment he'd heard her crying. He knew the world was an unfair place, but it never seemed so much so as it did now. He pushed himself away from the door with a groan and locked himself in his room for the night.

Katherine never heard Bill at her door. She had spread Emmet's papers out first on her small table, then on her small bed, and eventually across the floor of her room. She read and re-read, analyzed, arranged in piles by date, and apparent content, but she just wasn't understanding why Emmet chose to leave all of this with Ben Huntington. It wasn't making any sense. She crumpled to the floor among all of Emmet's work and started to cry. The day was altogether too much for her. In her single-mindedness she'd been awful to Jack, and this was surely retribution from the heavens for her behavior. She tried her best to make sense of it all, but then gave in to reason. She gathered all of the papers and went to Jack.

She half-expected him to ignore her knock, or at least slam the door in her face, but Jack let her in. He took the papers from her arms and didn't give them a glance before he embraced her and her mumbled apology. She then told him of her confusion and only at that time did Jack turn his attention to Emmet's notes. She sat on the edge of the bed and watched him at the small table that was a twin to the one in her room. Jack appeared to be having the same difficulty as herself. She watched him shuffle the papers with some concentration, but then her eyelids grew heavy. She then curled on her side and watched him until she fell asleep.

Jack was intently reading Emmet's papers and never noticed Katherine drifting to sleep in his bunk. The brother's handwriting was clean enough, but it was the content that initially confused him. There were assortments of maps, notes and surveyors drawings and no one piece really spoke of any association to another until Jack noticed a small note in the corner of a re-drawn boundry line that simply stated 'no water?' That simple phrase started the wheels turning in Jack's head and it made perfect sense to him. He needed to test Bill, just to make sure of his reckoning, but as Jack climbed onto the small bed and draped his arm over the sleeping Katherine, he was mostly concerned with how to tell her that she was never going to see her brother alive again.

When the sun came through the window the next morning, it found Jack already awake and sitting on the edge of the bed. He stretched his arms toward the ceiling to get some of the feeling back into them, and then got up and began folding Emmet's papers. He tied them back together and stored them in his pack. It was then he saw to Katherine.
"C'mon, time to wake up," he whispered. She woke with a start and it was only Jack's instinct for self-preservation and his vast experience in devil-women that helped him dodge her swinging arms as she bolted upright. "Good lord, girl. It's only breakfast, not a battlefield. Give a man some warning" he grinned and placed his hands gently on her shoulders. "Go get cleaned up and we'll meet you down stairs."

Katherine scanned the room for evidence of Emmet's papers and Jack quickly said: "They're in a safe place. I just need to do a little research, but I think I have this one taken care of."

"You don't understand, Jack, I need those papers," she said. There was no way that Jack could keep them at this point and not tip his hand, so he retrieved them from his bag and gave them to her with strict instructions to put them some place safe and for just now, not to mention anything to Bill. Katherine looked puzzled, but she acquiesced. He saw her to her door, then went in search of Bill.

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Mar 06 - 05:00 PM

Rogerson was a grizzled, well experienced freighter with a well-developed sense about the people he hired on to haul goods out West. As he sat across the table from the young man calling himself "Eldon Forsythe" his sense was on all-points bulletin. Something about this young man didn't ring true, but he wasn't sure what it was about him. Of course, he could tell he was a young'un; hadn't even taken a razor to his cheeks and them as smooth looking as a baby's bum. Damn, what was it about this kid?

"So, as I was sayin', Mr. Rogerson, I've got a whole life's experience driving mules fer m'dad back home and I've got m'own mule with me. I've been waitin' m'whole life to be shut of si-vil-eye-za-shun and head for the West of this grand country. Can you help me out? I can match the best of 'em in makin' them mules pay heed!"

"Now, listen here, kid, er..Mr. Forsythe, I don't need no snot-nosed kid getting lost, losing my teams, or runnin' back home crying to mommy."

"But, Sir! I've been on my own for several years now! M' ma's dead and I'm tellin' ya, I know how to handle a mule team! You offend me, Sir!"

"Now, simmer down or I'll have ya thrown out faster'n yer behind can catch up to your head! You meet me tomorrow mornin' at, let's see, it's past midnight me at nine o'clock. That's in the mornin' mind. Go round the west corner of this block, down four blocks, and turn at Biron's Pharmacie. You'll see my place, Rogerson's Freight, about half-way down the block. Bring yer mule, too. If you can't drive, I might be able to help you out with a few dollars for it. I can always use another mule."

"My Jacob is not for sale, I assure you. I am not in a desperate way. Thank you, though. I shall be there at nine a.m. sharp. You'll see...I am one of the best!"

With that, young Forsythe pushed his chair back, held out his hand to shake on it with Rogerson. Rogerson grasped his hand and shook it hard to see if the kid would wince. To his credit he had strong hands and returned the squeeze without showing any signs of pain. Well, maybe the kid can do what he claims...

Eldon turned towards the doors and walked out of the saloon. Heading down the street, she made her way back to the stable. It being so late she'd decided she might as well bed down in the stall with Jacob. He was her only friend in the whole world, now, and had brought her much comfort over the past few weeks as she travelled to St. Louie. Silly ol', big ol' mule, anyway. Only good thing I ever got out of being married, besides the money. Besides, no sense in spending money on a room I'd only use for a few hours.

Turning into the stable, she quietly went along the stalls until she saw the big old long familiar nose of Jacob. He'd heard her and stuck it over the top rail.

"Hello, old friend. Don't mind spending one more night with me, do ya?" she whispered to him. She reached up and scratched him behind the ear. Climbing up and over the rails, she stood beside him for a minute to get her bearings in the dark. Jacob nibbled at her pocket for some tobacco, then, sensing no treats tonight, he turned away, back to munching on some hay.

Reaching over for her bedroll, she shook it out, then put it near the rails of the stall on a bed of fairly clean straw. As she settled into a comfortable position, her mind went back to the Byway and the woman who'd given her that look. Hoo-ee! I'll have to watch that one. Course, I'll probably never see her again. She'd see right through me, or maybe already has. Damn, she was beautiful. Never known anyone like that. Wonder if she's as filthy minded as my pa used to say about "loose" women? According to her pa, she and her brothers would burn in hell forever if they even thought about such women, let alone lay eyes on them. Of course, to her, he meant if she ever got any ideas about being one of them!

Drifting off to sleep, Eldon heard a soft snuffle from Jacob. Her mind began to drift into the airy realms of dreams with visions of raven-haired, green-eyed beauties. Her last conscious thought was I have to stop this! This is taking pretending to be a man too far!

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: katlaughing
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 10:56 AM

(turning the

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Subject: RE: Fiction: Shenandoah and Beaver!
From: Amos
Date: 12 Mar 06 - 11:41 AM

(Sorry...have been away, and trying to find out what the marshall's office is likely to do, if there is one.)

Back soon, kids!! Don't touch that dial!   Now, a word from out sponsor...

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