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 Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?

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PostSubject: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Thu Jan 01, 2015 9:55 am

Okay, it's time to get those brains buzzing, and digits diligently doing - and here is your challenge should you chose to accept it (and I really hope you do!)

Parenthood.  What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?


Guntoot  Guntoot  



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HelenWest

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Sat Jan 03, 2015 12:47 am

Admin wrote:
Just taken  over at the Hole?  Oh, that'll fit this month's theme.   
I promise I hadn't seen the new theme when I wrote the following lines from Kid Curry to his wife as part of my cycle:
"Heyes and I took care of outlaws. How much harder can children be?"
HW
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Sat Jan 03, 2015 10:29 pm

LOL HW!  We've noticed before how great minds think alike.
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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:18 pm

I am afraid this is a very loose take on the prompt, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Nancy

 ~ ~ ~

"Nice aim," shouted the Kid to the boy as he watched a crow stop mid-flight and fall to the ground.

"Thanks, mister," grinned the boy, tucking his sling into his belt as he wheeled round to survey the two mounted men.

No more than ten, the boy was freckled, friendly and all legs and teeth.  "'S'part of my job.  I kill the birds if they eat the crops.  I'm a scarecrow!"  His pride was overwhelmingly disarming.

Heyes laughed along with the boy.  "Can you tell us where we can find Mr. Gibbs?"

"Sure, he's my Grandpa.  Follow me;  he'll need me to show you where everything is."  The boy turned and happily loped off towards the ranch.

The cousins shared a smile as Kid shouted to their new found friend, "What's your name?"

"Everyone calls me Gnat," the freckled face called over his shoulder.

"Gnat?" Heyes questioned.

"Sure," the boy momentarily paused and turned to face the men.  "Grandpa says it's 'cos I can sting like the very devil," he brandished his sling, "And I am as irritating as hell!"  At this the boy howled with good natured mirth relishing the amusement on the faces of the men.  Laughing again the rangy lad turned and jogged merrily off, resuming his course towards the house.

oooOOooo

Gnat had virtually dragged the men into the house then disappeared into another room.

"Mr. Gibbs?"  Heyes asked politely.  The older man was seated.

"Come in boys.  Take a seat, Gnat will be back in a moment with some coffee."

"He tells us he's your grandson."  Heyes took in the splinted leg and the crutches.  Ruddy and weather-beaten features were set above a powerful frame.  His work-worn features relaxed into a natural smile rather than a scowl.

Gibbs tapped his broken leg gently.  "Bad fall from a horse.  My own damn fault, I should have been paying more attention.  Still, no fool like an old fool!"

He shifted slightly to ease the itch that was gnawing at his leg.  "As you can see I am out of commission for a while and need someone to keep this place running.  Bill Riley told me you boys could help me out till I get back on my feet."

"Yes sir, Mr. Gibbs.  We've been in town for a couple of days and looking for work as we head west."

Gnat bustled in with a tray of coffee, placed it between the men and poured.  "I've put the stew on to warm slowly."  The Kid noted Gnat studying the boys, drinking in all the information he could.

"That's great, Gnat, could you fetch me my medicine?"

"Sure," the lad took off at speed two stairs at a time.

"He's a sweet kid.  Reminds me of my son at that age."  The older man gave a slight sigh.

"Your son not around?"  asked Heyes gently, guessing the answer.

With a resigned shake of the head Gibbs wrinkled his nose.  There was both grief and acceptance in his reply.  "No sadly.  Drowned.  Accident trying to rescue some cattle from a flood."

"Sorry for your loss," muttered the Kid.

"Well, the good Lord don't send us adversities we can't rise to.  He left me with Gnat."  The noise of footfalls and clattering resonated from upstairs.  "He's a force of nature."  An older version of Gnat's laugh erupted, heightening the family resemblance.

Gibbs suddenly turned serious.  "Your knuckles are bruised.  From what I hear there was a bar fight two nights ago.  I don't like brawlers."

Heyes paused and levelled serious brown eyes on his host...  "Mr. Gibbs, we were new in town.  Enjoying a quiet drink and looking for work.  A fight broke out, we kept out of it until we saw it was three against one.  Well that didn't seem fair to us, so we just evened up the number and made it a fair fight.  We broke it up."

Gnat appeared in a tornado of helpfulness.  "Here's your medicine, Grandpa.  You need a quilt or somethin'?"

Both Heyes and the Kid smiled indulgently.  The enthusiasm and the grin were infectious and they helped themselves to the proffered coffee.

oooOOooo

Gnat was in his element as he showed the men around, showing them every nook and cranny.  He chattered incessantly and even dragged them into the barn to introduce his new chums to a mangy looking heavily pregnant barn cat.  "This is Bathsheba.  Best mouser in the county!  She looks after the mice and I tackle the crows.  We're a team."  The cat rolled over, presenting her tummy for a rub and Gnat happily obliged.

Over the next couple of weeks Gnat was true to his nickname, constantly hovering around the boys as they worked.  His continual babble forming a background hum.

Where ever the men went their friendly, noisome little shadow followed, asking questions, sharing stories, pointing things out.

"Have you ever been to India?  I read a book and it says it's on the other side of the world...  I'm gonna go there when I grow up... The book talks about jewels as big as a babies head and snakes as long as a boat!  My teacher says she is gonna get me a map of the world...  Can you imagine that?  A map of the whole world!  I haven't even been to Denver and I hear that is gigantic!  I can show you where the snakes are here if you like.  They're not as big as a boat, but still beautiful.  They spooked my pony once, but we was faster and got away..."

And so it continued.  The Kid laughed at his cousin who was crumbling under the onslaught.  "Gnat is just the wrong side of friendly.  He's alright Heyes.  You need to let it wash over you."  Heyes glared at Kid, almost unable to believe that an infamous gunslinger was telling him to loosen up.

oooOOooo

A good meal had been had, and sipping whiskey they chatted companionably.  The smell of good cigars hung in the air.  Gibbs stretched his legs out in front of him, happy to have had the splint removed.

"Well boys, you did a swell job.  You'll find a small bonus in your packet as a thanks."

"That's real nice of you, Mr. Gibbs," Heyes raised his glass.

"You'll be more than welcome if you want to swing by here in the future."  More thanks were drunk, and the glasses refiled.  "I know Gnat will miss you both."

"He's a good boy," the Kid smiled.

"He definitely is.  I know he can be aggravatin' but that is 'cos he's a dreamer.  His father was a dreamer too, but he was a good hard worker, loyal and honest.  A good man."

"And Gnat's Mother?"  The Kid gently murmured.

"Oh, she was an angel.  She had this way with animals.  She could calm them with a whisper.  She loved my son and he loved her right back.  They made a good team."  Silence descended, punctuated only by the ticking of a clock.  "She was taken too soon.  Child-bed fever.  Still, at least they're together again.  Gnat's got the best of both in him."

After a while Heyes leaned in, "We only know him as Gnat.  What's his real name?"

"Ah, well, his mother was a parson's daughter.  Loved the bible, loved the bible names.  His given name is Jedidiah."

oooOOooo

Two days later the boys made their way west after saying their goodbyes.  Gnat had trailed along after them for a while, making them promise to visit, and if possible send him a map of the world when they reached a metropolis.  Heyes eventualy broke the silence.  "You ever thought about it Jed?   Settling down, marriage, family?"

"Well, the way I reckon it Heyes, is that we are going all out for this amnesty deal, right?"

"Yeah."

"Well, if we are putting all this effort into bein' respectable then that is part of the deal.  Marriage, family and so forth.  After all, that's what respectable folks do."

"True..." mused Heyes as the boys lapsed back into contemplative silence.

"Heyes..."

"What?"

"Let's make sure we get that amnesty."

_________________
Tomorrow  I will no longer be reckless or feckless.  I will do everything with both reck and feck!


Last edited by Nancy Whiskey on Thu Jan 15, 2015 5:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Keays

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:42 am

An oldie but a goodie.  Too focused on other things to write a new story though I'm sure it will be new to some of you. 





  Heyes left the main road into town and was flying at a full gallop across open country. Karma was feeling her oats and wanted to run so as soon as Heyes and turned her head towards freedom she had let loose with a small squeal of pleasure, gave Heyes a little buck just for the fun of it and then lit out full speed ahead for parts wherever.

  After three years of riding this mare Heyes had never gotten over the thrill of her full out gallop. He was relieved that Kid hadn’t pressed coming with him as he had really felt the need of some time alone—a telegram to Harry being just a convenient excuse. Now all the restlessness and worry that had been building up inside of him just slipped away and he laughed into the full force of the wind.


   Karma heard him laugh, and snorting herself, she flung her head in response. She loved it when her human let her go like this, just the two of them flying over the countryside together. Not to misunderstand her, she had become quite fond of Buck over the years and many a time it was his steadying presence that had helped to calm her nerves when unexpected things happened and they did seem to happen a lot in this new life of hers. But there were times when she found his patient understanding towards her and to all things around him just downright boring. Both man and horse had been in need of an adrenaline rush.

   Eventually, as Heyes felt Karma start to slow down on her own accord, he settled back into the saddle and slowly brought her down to an easy lope, then a trot and finally to a nice walk. Karma mouthed the bit a couple of times, then set out on a loose rein at a comfortable swinging gait, looking around and taking in the scenery. Heyes had no idea where they were in relationship to the ranch, but that didn’t matter right now. He got his bearings and casually made his way in the general direction of town thinking that he should at least send the telegram, since that was his excuse for leaving the ranch in the first place.

   Heyes was still worried, no doubt about it, but not the pent up stressful worry that had been building in him that morning. He hoped that by coming out here, just him and Karma that he could clear his mind and perhaps settle some of the nagging questions that had been taking hold.

   Watching Kid that first day with the Jordan’s when he was holding their new son had affected Heyes more than he had realized at the time. It had re-arisen in him some of the doubts that had settled onto him soon after they had applied for the amnesty. Until now he had just pushed back out of the way and hoped they would simply disappear. No such luck.

   That big question of what they were going to do with their lives if and when the amnesty came through still lingered. On the rare occasions when the subject would come up between them Curry would just laugh about it and proceed to list off a series of the most ridiculous and unlikely professions that two single men in their mid-thirty’s would ever consider doing.

   But Heyes knew, first and foremost, that Curry wanted a family. He wanted to put down roots, have a home and a life he could call his own, and coming to visit the Jordan’s had brought that yearning to the surface again. Over the last few days Kid had snatched moments here and there to help with the care of J.J., assisting whoever with the bathing and the dressing. Playing with him when he was awake and rocking him to sleep when playtime was over. And always, he looked happy doing it, content even, and Heyes would worry.

  Heyes didn’t think he could settle into that kind of life. He was hopeful, that one day he would find a woman who could put up with him well enough to consent to marry him. But children? A family life? He wasn’t so sure about that. He was consumed by a restlessness that he could not understand. Oh, he grew tired of the fugitive life for sure, always sleeping with one eye open, never knowing when a peaceful morning was going to blow up in his face, but two or three days in one place and he needed to get going again.


  The only thing that seemed to calm him enough to stay put for a longer period was a good book or a good poker game because then his mind was kept busy. Sometimes he felt it was his mind that was his biggest enemy. Sure his ego loved it when he could out maneuver a posse or effortlessly rule over a poker game just for the fun of it. His flashes of genius that would dazzle everyone around him into awed submission were like candy to his psyche. It was like an addiction that he needed to keep feeding in order to feel alive, to feel that he was actually worth something. Without his incredible mind he was no different from any other worn out ex-outlaw with nothing to show and nothing to offer.

  But he couldn’t turn the damn thing off! Constant impulses of information bombarding his senses, twisting and turning into schemes and plans and what if’s and why not’s. He’d learned how to settle his mind down to some degree at night so that usually he could at least sleep, but even that wasn’t a guarantee. How did Kid do it? Even in the middle of the day he could stretch out anywhere, pull his hat over his eyes and be asleep in minutes! And there would be Heyes up and pacing. Pace, pace pace. It drove Heyes nuts.

  It seemed that the only way he could relax at all was to keep moving or to keep his mind focused and calculating on something. So far, Kid had been happy to just follow along whenever Heyes got restless and had to hit the trail again, but what if Kid got married and settled down? Would that be the end of their partnership, their friendship? Heyes’ throat involuntarily tightened at the thought. Could he go on? Could he face a life without Jed by his side? He needed Jed’s calming influence, his quiet down to earth common sense, just as Karma had come to depend on Buck’s steadying support in times of stress.

  The possibility of Curry moving into another life, a life that Heyes could not emulate scared him more than death itself. So he simply chose not to think about it. Until they were sitting around the lunch table with the Jordan’s and Curry was sitting there holding a infant in his arms with a smile on his face that lit up the room.


  Heyes was stressing himself out again. No questions answered, no doubts relieved. So again, he pushed these thoughts out of his mind and decided to just enjoy his day out with his favorite girl. He pushed Karma up into an easy lope as they headed towards the town. Maybe he’d even be able to find a poker game.
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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:26 pm

“Hold on there, partner.”  Heyes tightened the burlap grain sack around the baby he held in his arms.  He wiped a tired hand across his sweaty face and let his eyes stray from the tiny, wizened face to the smoldering, overturned wagon a few hundred feet from where he sat.   The Kid was finishing piling rocks on a trio of freshly dug graves.  




It seemed a long time had passed since they’d come upon the scene of the vicious tragedy.  They’d been on their way to Fort Stanton, New Mexico, running late for one of the governor’s special jobs and trying to make up time by taking a little-used shortcut off the main trail.  They hadn’t been the only ones.  An unfortunate family had made the fatal decision to stray from a more populated trail to this route which ran through the Sacramento Mountains populated by banditos and disenfranchised Mescalero and Chiricahua Apaches who’d refused to stay on the new reservation.   




It was impossible to tell who had attacked the travelers and it would be up to the military to figure out who perpetrated such a hideous crime.  Heyes and the Kid were more concerned with seeing to it this child survived.  When they’d found the wagon it had appeared no one had survived, but a weak squalling had drawn them to the cluster of rocks casting the shade he now sat in.  They had found the poor woman sprawled on the far side.  She’d escaped the bloodshed that had taken her husband and daughter only to die giving birth to this little tyke.  Against all odds, the infant was alive and they aimed to see he stayed alive.




Heyes watched his exhausted partner plod towards him and he smiled.  The Kid had finally won a coin toss and, much to Heyes’ surprise, he’d chosen hard labor over handling a baby.   A soft gurgle drew his attention back to the child.  He shifted his arms slightly and lifted the baby to his heart.  His mother had told him it was soothing.  He could still see his little brother nestled in her arms as she sat in the rocker by the hearth; the memory both pleasurable and painful at the same time.




“You ready?”  Curry came to a halt.  He pulled his hat from his head and wiped his brow.  “I’d like to get goin’.”




Standing, Heyes held out his arms.  “Here, take him and sit a spell.  I’ll get the horses.”




The Kid shook his head.  “Naw, you keep him.  I’d probably drop him.”  His blue eyes gazed south.  “I reckon we can make the fort before nightfall if we get a move on.”




“We’ll have to take our time, Kid.  I don’t think this little fella is up to hard riding.”  Heyes smiled.  “I was thinking I could make a sling with another one of these sacks; carry him squaw-style.”




“Makes sense.  I’ll go grab one and the horses then we’ll get a move on.  Whoever did this could still be nearby.”  Curry turned and trudged away.




OOOOOOOOOO




“How’s he doin’?”  A pitiful cry answered the Kid.




“He’s waking up.  We need to stop and get some water in him,” said Heyes.




The trail had begun to climb again and they were in an area of dense Juniper and Pinyon Pine.  The tangled, scrubby trees would hide them well.  Curry pulled up in a clearing and dismounted.  Holding his horse with one rein he reached out and caught Heyes’ mare just below the bit and held her steady as his partner swung his right leg over the front of the saddle and slid to the ground with the child cradled safely in his arms.




“You’re lookin’ pretty comfortable with him, Heyes.  You sure you don’t have a passel of kids tucked away somewhere?”  teased Curry.




“None I know of; guess I come by it naturally.”  Heyes walked over and sat down cross-legged under a particularly shady snarl of branches.  The sun had climbed to its zenith and the day was growing hot.  “Hey, grab me my canteen, will ya?”




The Kid finished tying off the horses and lifted the canteen from around the saddle horn.  He sat down next to Heyes and passed it over.  “Can’t just pour water down his gullet, you know.  Here, take my bandana; it’s clean.”  He fished in his pocket for the square of calico cloth and drenched it with water.  “Put a corner in his mouth and give it a little bitty squeeze.  It’ll trickle water down into his mouth.”




Heyes took the cloth and the baby was soon suckling greedily at the dampened fabric.  “How’d you know to do that, Kid?”




“Saw my Pa do it once with an orphaned calf; worked just fine.”




Grinning, Heyes leaned back against the tree and closed his eyes.  “Funny the things you never even know you learned from your folks until you have reason to need ‘em.  Guess there was no call for you to remember until this little fella came along.”




Noting his partner’s wistful smile, the Kid said, “Don’t get attached to him, Heyes.  He ain’t ours.”




Angry brown eyes turned to him.  “I know!”




“Easy, partner, no need to get proddy.”




Relenting, Heyes relaxed.  “Sorry.”  He fell silent for a few minutes and then said, “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be a parent?  Or whether we’ll ever get the chance to find out?”




“Nope.”




“You’ve never thought about having a family?”  Heyes was amazed.  He’d always pegged the Kid as a potential family man.




“I don’t waste time thinkin’ ‘what-ifs’, Heyes, I’m too busy thinkin’ what now.  Seems like you might’ve given it a thought or two, though.”




“Yeah, and it’s never a pretty picture.”




“Why’d you say that?”




Shifting uncomfortably, Heyes saw the baby had fallen asleep again.  He tucked the crumpled bandana in his shirt pocket to stay clean for the next feeding and adjusted the small weight in his arms.  “What kind of parents do you think we’d be, Kid?”




“Good, I reckon.  After all, ridin’ herd on the Devil’s Hole gang couldn’t be too much different from child-rearin’.”  Curry chuckled at some of the absurd moments he’d had dealing with a bunch of knuckle-headed miscreants.




“I don’t know.”  Heyes wasn’t smiling.  He wore a pensive expression and the Kid waited to hear what was behind it.  It was a long time coming.  “Babies are easy.  You keep ‘em warm, keep ‘em full and love on them.  It’s when they’re older I worry about.”




“Heyes, you managed to keep order with the gang, I can’t imagine kids would be much harder.”




“I’m not talking about laying down the law to them.  What about setting an example?  I looked up to my pa and I know you did yours.  You think a kid would ever look up to us?”




“We ain’t so bad and we’re tryin’ real hard to be better.”




“It don’t matter, Kid.  The first time your kid asked you about what you did as a young man, what’re you gonna tell him?”




Curry didn’t say anything.  He stood up and looked down at the tableau before him.  The infant was obliviously sleeping in the arms of a notorious ex-outlaw.  “I ain’t talkin’ to you when you get like this, Heyes.”  The Kid walked over and used his floppy, brown hat to give the horses a swallow of the precious water.  A few minutes later, Heyes wandered over and handed him the babe while he remounted.  The Kid looked down at the peaceful countenance and understood just how far wrong his life had gone.  Handing the child up to Heyes, he mounted his own horse without a word.




OOOOOOOOOO




“Kid?”




“Huh?”




“What do you think’s gonna happen to him?”  




They could see the fort in the distance.  They’d be there before dark.




“I don’t know.  I reckon they’ll try to find the rest of his family.  Shouldn’t be too hard.”  Curry could feel the small, bloodstained family bible he’d rescued from the wreckage resting in his shirt pocket.  The name inscribed inside the front cover had read ‘Jonas K. Tripton’.




“What if he doesn’t have any more family?  What if he ends up in an orphanage?  What if he ends up like us?”




“That’s a lot of ‘what-ifs’,” laughed Curry.    




“I’m serious.  Look at him.”  Heyes peered down at the little pale blue eyes looking up at him, hearing him more than seeing him.  “He already trusts me.  How am I gonna hand him over to a bunch of strangers without knowing what’s gonna happen to him?”




Rolling his eyes, the Kid sighed, “No one knows what’s gonna happen with their kids.”




“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” said Heyes with little conviction. 




“Who knows, maybe he’ll grow up and be President of the United States,” offered the Kid.




“Or he could travel the world and become a famous explorer.”  Heyes stroked the baby’s satiny cheek.




“A doctor, he’ll be a doctor and save lots of folks’ lives.”




“Whatever he becomes, I guess we’ll have a small hand in it by saving him,” said Heyes.




Curry turned and smiled at his partner.  “I reckon I know what we’d tell our own kids.”




“What’s that?”




“We’ll tell ‘em we made mistakes, but we tried our best not to hurt anyone and we even saved a life or two when we could.”




Heyes grinned happily.  “I reckon we will, partner.”

_________________
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“The purpose of life isn’t to arrive at death in perfect condition but to slide into it sideways with your hair mussed, your clothes disheveled, a martini in one hand and chocolate in the other, shouting ‘Whooeee, what a ride!’”--Hunter S. Thompson
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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Fri Jan 23, 2015 1:10 am

Spoiler alert - This is from a chapter in my story Two Sheepskins and a Star which is the last (thus far) in a cycle: Not Again!, Hannibal Heyes Goes to New York, Two Degrees of Separation, and Two Degrees of Separation, Part II. Much has happened in the eight years since Curry and Heyes went straight.


Hannibal Heyes sat in a leather covered armchair across from the new warden’s desk at the Wyoming State Penitentiary. “Thank you for the tour, Warden Miller. You’ve made some good changes since my partner and I were here.”

The portly warden’s smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Heyes. I hope we’re on the right path, thanks to the testimony from you and Mr. Curry.”

Heyes nodded, trying to look casual and professional though his neck was sweating under his collar and tie in the summer heat. He had a hard time relaxing in a prison. “But I have some questions.”

The warden looked expectantly at the famous former inmate. “I’ll be happy to fill you in.”

“There was a youngster here when I was in – a fourteen-year-old boy named Mosley. I haven’t seen him today. How is he? He seemed like a bright boy who could do better than picking pockets if he got some guidance. In fact, he was teaching me things when he’d been inside only a few days more than I had.”

Heyes thought he saw a smile quickly hidden behind the warden’s ample mustache. “Before we get to that, what are your other questions?”

The former safe cracker didn’t conceal his annoyance. “Why did I have to come here? The deputy in Rawlins said they had a letter ordering me to report to the Penitentiary. I’m glad to see the reforms you’ve made, but being seen going to a prison could harm my chances to get a faculty post. What’s this about?”

The warden said solicitously, “I’m sorry the sheriff gave you that impression, Mr. Heyes. We had no intention of putting any pressure on you. Quite the contrary.”

The visiting former outlaw’s eyebrows rose. Why did the law care to stay on the good side of Hannibal Heyes? What favor did they want?

“On the subject of Marvin Mosley, I concur - the boy has promise,” said the Warden. “Indeed, he’s been released.”

Heyes grinned. “Released? That’s great! I hope he’ll get the chance to make something better of himself – but he’ll need help. He’s still a boy, and a head-strong one.”

“Yes, he needs better guidance than he’s had,” agreed the warden. His voice turned serious. “But he doesn’t have an upright family. No one knows who his father is. And his mother - we can’t even find her at the moment. I don’t think she’d be much of a help even if we did manage to locate her. She is, well, a prostitute. And an alcohol-addicted one at that. Not a good influence on the boy.”

“No,” said Heyes sadly. “So where is Mosley now?”

“In a home for troubled boys here in Laramie.”

“A home for waywards?” Heyes leapt furiously from his seat. “Jed Curry and I went wrong in a place like that!”

Warden Miller put up his hand. “Calm down, Mr. Heyes. This isn’t like the home that neglected you and Mr. Curry. The state keeps careful watch. Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland take good care of them.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it!” said the ex-inmate hotly, still standing with his eyes blazing. “An institution is no place for a boy – especially not one like Mosley.”

The warden watched the man opposite his desk closely as he replied. “He’s in a good place, but I agree that a boy needs a proper home and family. Especially a smart, but undisciplined boy like Marvin Mosley. And the Laramie Home for Boys won’t take on any boy past the age of fifteen. Marvin’s fifteenth birthday is coming up soon - on October 15th.”

“So where will he go then?” asked Heyes anxiously, now sitting down, but still on the edge of his chair
.
A line of tension appeared on the warden’s brow. “We need to find a responsible family to give him guidance and a good education. We’re working on it.”

The aspiring academic said in worried, “I’m glad to hear it, but I’ll be a sight gladder when I know where he’ll be. He needs guidance but also freedom, or he’ll just break loose again. I understand how that is. I’ve been there.”

“I imagine you have,” murmured the warden, looking down at some papers on his desk. “We’ll, that’s our concern. As to why we asked you . . .”

“Your concern? A prison? Do you really think you’re qualified to know what a spirited boy like that needs?” asked the former inmate fervently, reaching across the desk.

A light flashed in the warden’s eyes as he locked gazes with Heyes. “And you do know? A notorious outlaw, only recently released from prison? Who hasn’t had any parents since he was nine and who’s never raised a child? How would you know? And what concern of yours is Marvin Mosley anyway?”

“I worked beside him. I was put in solitary confinement on bread and water because I stopped a guard from beating him. I’m making Mosley my concern!” exclaimed Heyes, leaning forward in his chair.


“Have you ever cared for a teen-aged boy,” the warden’s voice was hard, “outside of a criminal gang?”

Heyes sounded chastened. “I know heading a criminal gang doesn’t sound like good experience, but I gave those guys rules. A lot of them were real young. I started at fifteen, myself. At the Devil’s Hole I made the rules clear and enforced them. I taught a fair number of the guys to read, write and do some math. I even told some of them to leave and make an honest living. None of them ever came back. I hope I understand better now what young guys need than I did back before I went straight. After all, I’ve been trained to teach college – including boys in their teens. I won an award for teaching.”

Warden Miller sat back in his chair. A sigh escaped him. “Very well. We are searching for a proper
guardian for Marvin Mosley. We asked him if he knew of any adult whom he would trust - whom he would respect and obey. He could think of only one such adult.”

“And who was that?” asked Heyes.

“You.”

Heyes sat in stunned silence. Finally he breathed, “Me?”

“Yes, you.”

Heyes said softly, “But we were together for just a couple of hours before they hauled me off in irons.”

“Yet I understand you had quite a talk,” noted the warden.

The ex-con nodded. “About three words at a time, under cover of the washing machine noise, so the guards wouldn’t beat us into silence. It was Mosley who taught me how to do that. But he couldn’t keep it up – he got too enthusiastic and let the guards hear him talking.”

Miller’s voice was low, but firm, not letting the man before him off the hook. “And in those brief phrases, he learned enough to admire you.”

Heyes snorted. “Only because I’m famous. He doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him. Not really.”

The warden commented critically, “Mr. Heyes, you’re backing off mighty rapidly from a boy you were breathing fire for a moment ago. Do you care or don’t you?”

Heyes couldn’t let that stand. “Of course I care! But he needs a stable home with plenty of space and enough money to get him food and clothes and all the stuff a boy needs. My wife and I live in a tiny apartment in New York City, barely scraping by. It’s no place for a boy. I’m ashamed to say it, but we live mostly on my wife’s income. I don’t have a regular job yet. I’m doing some part-time bookkeeping and looking for a position as a professor of mathematics. We want to have children of our own. There’s no way we can take him on. I can’t ask that of Beth – my wife. I have to say no.”

The warden said crisply, gathering up some papers on his desk and putting them aside, “Very well. We’ll find someone else. Thank you for caring even a little. Of course I don’t want to endanger your own rehabilitation by burdening you with that of another person.”

Heyes slumped in his chair. He sat silently for a moment. “Um, Warden, what else was it you wanted to see me about? That was so important that you sent letters to all the sheriffs in Wyoming?”

“We just discussed it, Mr. Heyes. Mr. Mosley’s future is that important to us, but if you can’t help . . .”

Heyes swallowed. “Warden Miller, can you wait until I ask my wife about it?”

The warden’s face lit up with hope. “Certainly, Mr. Heyes. But you were saying it wasn’t possible.”

Heyes nodded, biting his lip as he tried to figure this out. “All the problems are true. But if I can get a post as a professor, maybe out west, even in Wyoming, maybe we can do it. Or if I can get any honest job that would pay better than what I have. Beth – my wife – she needs to agree, of course. Could you give us any financial help? We have a lot of debts.”

The Warden looked thoughtful. “We might be able to manage a small allowance to help you at first, to get you started. Not much, but something.”

“How long do you want us to take Mosley? Until he turns eighteen?”

“Yes. And, of course, young men often need guidance after that.”

Heyes smiled, thinking of himself. “Of course. Are you looking for someone to formally adopt Mosley?”

The warden explained, patiently, “No – just to foster him. Now, if a husband and wife proved to be good guardians and decided to adopt him, and he was amenable, then the state would not stand in the way. But right now, he just needs a home and a family he can count on.”

The warden could see Heyes thinking about this as he said, “I see. I – Beth and I – we could try that.”

Warden Miller looked at the infamous former criminal in front of him with genuine concern in his warm brown eyes. “Mr. Heyes, I know this is asking a great deal when you and your wife are struggling. I don’t want to pressure you to do something you don’t want to do.”

Heyes replied, talking himself into something he could hardly have envisioned when he had walked through the prison doors earlier that morning. “I do want to do it. I’m telling deans that I want to educate western boys, to help my native part of the county. I mean it. Mosley is just the type of boy I hope I can help. He might listen to me when he’d ignore somebody who’s never faced the kinds of troubles he’s known. No two people are alike, I understand that. I’d to listen to him – not assume I know what’s in his head. But I was an orphan, like he almost is. After I lost my family, I said I didn’t want another family. But I think another family, the right family, if they’d come along in time, might have saved me. Maybe it’s the same for him. It’ll be hard for Mosely to trust another family. But if he’s willing to try, if he trusts me, and my wife, then just maybe. And Beth – she’s an orphan, too, you know – she wants children. And she loves me, with all my faults. I think she might say yes. If I can just get that job.”

The warden smiled cautiously as he extended his hand. “Mr. Heyes, thank you. This is something we can’t order you and Mrs. Heyes to do. Young Mosley said you’d come through, if I asked you the right way. I’m glad he was right. If you and your wife will consider it, that’s all I can ask.”

Heyes’ eyes looked distant as he thought ahead. “I’ll call my wife tonight.”

“Would you like to go and visit Marvin now?” volunteered Warden Miller.

“No. Not yet.”

The warden was surprised. “Why not?”

“When I see him, I have to be totally certain. If I’m not sure, he’ll pick up on that immediately. I’m a pretty decent conman – I guess you know that. But I can’t con that boy. I have to be completely honest with him. He’ll understand why I need to wait until I have a job – that’s a practical thing. But if I’m not totally committed, if I’m not sure of the woman who would a mother to him – that would destroy his trust.”

“I see. I’m glad you want to start honestly and go on that way. You’re right. God bless you, Mr. Heyes.”

 “I think you might have a little conman in you, too, Warden Miller. I know what Mosley meant by how you asked me. It had to look like it was my own decision. I’m as independent as he is. I’ll keep it in mind next time you try to convince me of something.” Heyes winked at the warden. “I’d better go – I’ve got things to do before that interview on Monday morning. There’s even more hanging on it now.”

In New York, Beth Heyes was putting on her apron, preparing to fix herself and lonely dinner, when she heard a knock on her apartment door. Through the door she heard her landlady call, “Mrs. Heyes, there’s a telephone call for you!”

Beth opened the door. “Mrs. Westmoreland, thank you. I’m so sorry you’ve been bothered by us once again.”

The kindly landlady said, “It’s no trouble. Your husband is on the phone. He sounds concerned.”


The two women hurried down the stairs. As had become their custom, Mrs. Westmoreland withdrew to her bedroom to give Beth privacy. “Heyes? What is it?” Beth said loudly into the mouth piece on Mrs. Westmoreland’s parlor table.

“Beth? How are you?” came Heyes’ voice, distorted by the primitive telephone.

“I’m fine, Heyes. How are you? Where are you?”

“I’m at the hotel in Laramie. I’ve got something to ask you.”

“What’s that, dear?”

“Beth, do you remember I told you about that boy I met in prison? Mosley?”

“Yes, I remember. He was in for picking pockets.”

“Yes. His first name is Marvin.”

“Marvin Mosley. An alliterative name like yours. That’s nice, but why did you call?”

“Um, Beth, they freed Mosely, but they put him in a home for wayward boys.”

“Oh, dear! That doesn’t sound like what he needs.”

“It isn’t. He needs a real home. And the place will throw him out when he turns 15.”

“When is that?” Beth was already worrying and calculating.

“October 15th – just three months away. They need to find a home for him. He never knew his father and they can’t find his mother. She isn’t a fit mother anyhow.”

“I see.”

“He said I’m the only one he trusts.”

“That makes sense, Heyes. You stood up to the guards and didn’t let them beat him. Maybe nobody ever stood up for him before. It must have meant a lot to him, for Hannibal Heyes to care that much.”

There was a long pause.

“Heyes, darling, you don’t have to be afraid to ask me. I understand. You want to take in Marvin Mosley.”

“Yes, I do. I keep telling deans and governors I want to help western boys who need teaching and guidance, and who might listen to me when they wouldn’t listen to someone from a privileged background. He’s just that kind of a boy. He’s very bright. I think he’s a good kid – just wild. Like I was. Would you think about it?”

“Do you think he really wants to try to do better? To go straight – like you did?

“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him. It could be hard for him. He’s used to being independent.”

“Like you were at that age.”

“Yes. Except he doesn’t have a cousin or anyone.”

“He needs parents.”

“Guardians. We wouldn’t have to adopt him.”

“Heyes, did you promise that we would take him?”

“No, honey. I said to the warden that I want to, if I can get a job, but only if you agree. I won’t go to see Mosley until you tell me how you feel. I don’t want to be someone else he can’t trust.”

“I understand, Heyes, darling. You know I want to be a mother.”

“But we want our own babies. A fifteen-year-old pickpocket isn’t what you signed on for.”

“Is a fifteen-year-old pickpocket that much worse than a thirty-two-year-old bank robber like you were when we met? Or the Devil’s Hole boys you taught to read and write?”

“I don’t know. I’ve only spent a couple of hours with him.”

“Enough to think you might want to love him for the rest of your life?”

“Yes.” There was no hesitation in Heyes’ voice. “I guess I’m a sucker for people who trust me.”

Beth took a deep breath. “If you want to be a father to this boy, then I want to be his mother.”

“I love you, Elizabeth Heyes.” Beth heard a catch in her husband’s voice.

“I love you. I’m sure I’ll love Marvin, too.”

“He might not think he wants to be loved, Beth.”

“He’ll figure it out.”

“Yeah, he will. Gosh, how I love you. Good-night.”

“Good-night, Heyes.” Beth Heyes hung up the phone and collapsed onto a blue velvet-covered love seat.

She took a deep breath and let it out. “What are we doing, Heyes?” she asked the empty air. Getting no answer, she went on, “Well, as long as we do it together.”

Heyes and Warden Miller rode to the Laramie Home for Boys early the next morning in a wagon with “Wyoming State Pen” stenciled on the side of it. “I’m sorry you have to be seen with those words,” said the warden.

“I just don’t want Mosley to be afraid of being hauled back to the Pen,” said Heyes.

“You’re already thinking like a father,” said Miller encouragingly.

The wagon pulled up on in front of big, rambling house on the edge of town. Heyes paused a moment before he knocked on the door. He could hear young voices on the other side. “You don’t really know Hannibal Heyes. That’s not him in the wagon.”

“I do so know him. That is him. We were in the Pen together. He told me all about the Devil’s Hole bunch.”

“Mr. Cleveland, Marvin’s lying!”

“Don’t call me that!”

The argument sounded very familiar to a boy named Hannibal. He knocked on the door. A lean man in a dusty suit opened the door. His blue eyes inspected the man before him. He asked warily, “Are you Hannibal Heyes?”

Heyes answered self-consciously, feeling the curious gazes of three boys on him. “Yes, sir. I’ve come to talk to Marvin Mosley. Are you Mr. Cleveland?”

“Yes. I run this place. Come in, please, Mr. Heyes, Warden.”

“Thank you,” said Heyes.

Heyes smiled at the dark, slender boy who was watching him. “How are you, Mosley?”

“Not so bad, Heyes,” said the dark little fourteen-year-old with a confident swagger. He glanced at the other boys, making sure they were impressed. Judging from their enormous eyes, they were.

“That’s Mr. Heyes,” said the famous man firmly, with a commanding gaze to match his voice, “If you want my wife and me to take you in, you’ll treat us with respect, please.”

Mosley’s eyes widened. He said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Heyes. And um, I’d like to introduce Clarence Peters and Jeb Harrison.” The manners sounded stiff and new, but the young jail bird was trying.

Heyes shook the hands of the two boys, who stood in silent awe. “I’m glad to meet you Clarence, Jeb. But may Mr. Mosley and I please talk privately?” asked Heyes.

“Of course,” said Mr. Cleveland. “The other boys and I can show the warden our garden and our barn.”

Soon Heyes and Mosley had the parlor to themselves. They sat side by side on a worn divan. Marvin whispered, “I didn’t think you’d really come. That you’d want me.”

“I do. But do you really want me? Are you sure you want to go straight? Really straight? To be a part of a family instead of going your own way like you have?”

Mosely stared at Heyes silently. Finally, he said, “Yeah,” but it sounded more like a question than an answer. Heyes hadn’t yet won his full trust, no matter what the boy had told the warden.

“What do you want to know about Mrs. Heyes and me and our home, before you decide?”

“Mrs. Heyes? You said you didn’t have a wife.” Mosley looked suspiciously at the man he had met in prison.

“I didn’t, then. Elizabeth Warren – my tutor – married me after the Kid and I got out.”

Heyes could see surprise in Mosley’s young face. The boy said, “Oh. Would I get to meet the Kid? Mr. Curry, I mean?”

The former outlaw watched his potential ward closely, “Sure. He’s my cousin – but how often I see him is gonna depend on where I wind up working.”

“Could I have a horse?”

Heyes chuckled. “A horse? What would you do with a horse in New York City? – even if we could afford one.”

“New York City? I thought you lived in Colorado.”

“No, my partner does. Beth and I rent a tiny apartment in Manhattan. We’re poor. I haven’t been able to find a good job since I got out of prison. People don’t trust an ex-outlaw.”

“I do,” said Mosley. “I mean – I’m one, too.”

“Thanks,” Heyes gave the boy a warm smile. “A lot of folks won’t hire me, being who I am. So my wife supports us, mostly. I’m trying to get a better job – maybe teaching college. It’ll be a while before I know if I’ve got the post here in Wyoming, or any of the other jobs I’m trying for. So I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while.”

This was a lot for Mosley to take in. His mouth made a surprised “o.” “Wow! You must be really smart.”

“I am. I think you are, too. You just have to learn to use it right. I hope that will be easier for you than it was for me.”

Mosley stared at Heyes in wonder. “You’d really take me in? Truly?”

“We will if that’s what you want. I can’t take you now, but I can come back when I have a good job.”

“Would you really come back for me, in October?”

“Sooner, if I can. Until then, I’ll write to you.”

Mosley studied the wooden floor. “I don’t read and write so good.”

“I’m glad you’re being honest with me – like I am with you. Are you working hard in school?”

“I will.” Marvin spoke very softly, but Heyes heard fresh conviction in those two words.

Heyes smiled warmly. “You be sure to do that. Mrs. Heyes and I like to teach students who work hard.”

“You do?” Mosley looked up with bright eyes. “Even pickpockets?”

“Even pickpockets. I was a bank robber, after all. She taught me to write again after a bounty hunter shot me in the head. For a while I couldn’t even talk. I was hard to teach. Beth can teach you, easy. Easily. See – I still have to work at speaking correctly. We can help you, like she helped me.”

Mosley paused. “My Ma’s gone. I never had a Pa.”

Heyes’ voice sounded hoarse, “You do now.”

HW
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Javabee

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Mon Jan 26, 2015 2:34 pm

Parenthood:  Ex-Outlaw Style


Five young boys stampeded across the porch and down the stairs, waking the two men from their much needed afternoon nap.  The brown haired man didn’t move a muscle. He and his partner had their lanky legs comfortably crossed, resting on the rails of the bunkhouse porch. The blond man slowly opened one blue eye and carefully scanned the territory.


“I think they’re gone.”  The Kid was hopeful.


“No they ain‘t.” Heyes knew better.


“A fella can dream, can’t he?” The blue eye closed.


“Dream a little quieter, why don‘t ya'.” 


They gradually fell back into a state of blissful grogginess. Their breathing slowed and they began to make the rhythmic sounds of sleep. A fly buzzed overhead and the wind picked up for just a moment, rustling the leaves in a nearby tree. In the distance a dog’s barking became an insistent braying, and gradually faded away.  If not for the approach of scampering feet and furtive whispering, they would've slept the lazy afternoon away, but it was not to be.


Heyes looked up in time to see the gang of boys run into a nearby shed.  He slowly pulled out two cigars, lit one, and took a long draw.


“They back?” The Kid still hadn't opened his eyes.


“Looks that way. Join me for a smoke?.”


“Don’t mind if I do.“ The Kid straightened up in his chair, lit the cigar his partner offered, and gestured towards the shed. “What's up?”


“Looks like the boys have made off with another of the Widow Johnson’s prize pies. They’re holed up, splittin’ the take. They think we can’t see ‘em.” Heyes took another big puff.


Kid peered at the shed and could see the boys moving through the slats of the boards. The whispering subsided, as their mouths became full of their ill gotten booty. “I thought she was keepin' her place locked up, after what happened last time.”


“Yeah. I reckon they got a hold a my lock picks and figured out how to use ‘em.”  Heyes couldn’t help but be secretly impressed, and flashed a dimple despite himself.


The Kid glanced at his partner with growing concern. “We just gonna sit here?”


“I think so. I think that’s the wisest idea. We’ve got a nice spot. This is our first day off, in I don’t know how long. It’s a warm, sunny day and I don’t see no reason to be disturbed.”


“That’s nice, Heyes. But I think you forgot somethin’.”


“What‘s that?”


“These are your sons. Ain’t it your job to teach ‘em that honesty’s the best policy, and crime don’t pay, and all that?”  


Heyes stopped puffing on his cigar and patiently studied his cousin. “Of course, Kid. Trust me on this one.  Sit back and enjoy your cigar.”


“Nope, not this time. If you ain’t takin' care a this, I will.” Heyes watched as the Kid started unfastening his belt buckle. “Now, don’t get proddy, but they’re gettin' a few licks from my belt, just like our folks would'a done to us.”


“You mean did to us. And look how well that turned out.” 


The Kid stared at his cousin in disbelief. “That was different, Heyes, and you know it.  After all we went through, ain’t you gonna make sure these young’ins…” 


The Kid was interrupted by the sound of a buggy approaching at break neck speed. It was the Widow Johnson, with her gray hair scattered and wearing an expression that would curdle fresh milk. The ties of the apron she was still wearing were flying behind her like steamers in the wind. She glared fiercely at the two men as she rode past. They both nodded politely and tipped their hats, as their eyes followed her progress up to the main house.


“She don’t look too happy, Heyes, it looks like trouble.”


“Like I said, relax. I got this under control.”


“That’s what I’m afraid of.” The Kid was unconvinced.


The visitor was soon rapping insistently at the door of the main house with her cane. Mrs. Hannibal Heyes opened the door.


“Mrs. Johnson, are you alright? You look positively distraught. Please, won’t you come in?”


“Come in?” The widow appeared shocked at the very idea. “Mrs. Heyes, this is not a social call. I wouldn’t enter that den of thieves if I was hog tied and thrown.” 


The younger woman appeared quite concerned. “My goodness, you mustn't upset yourself so. Please, take a seat here on the porch while I get you some lemonade. You must be parched.”


Mrs. Johnson plopped unceremoniously into the nearest porch chair and fanned herself frantically. Mrs. Heyes returned and handed her a glass. The older lady took a sip, and tried to compose herself.


“There, that’s much better. Now please, tell me how we can help you, my dear lady. My family and I will do everything in our power to assist with whatever’s troubling you.”


“It’s your family that’s the trouble, Mrs. Heyes,” snapped the unhappy widow.


Mrs. Heyes seemed oblivious to the older woman‘s accusing words. “Please, call me Susanna. You've been my closest neighbor for years, and it’s high time we used our given names, don’t you agree?”


“Humph! As I was saying, Mrs. Heyes, it’s your boys again. This time they took off with the pie I baked for tomorrow’s Fourth of July Baking Contest. I carefully selected every piece of fruit that went into that pie, and saved for weeks to get the finest ingredients. Now it’s..., it’s gone!”.  


“Oh my, what a dreadful loss. Here.” Mrs. Heyes sympathetically offered her handkerchief to the frantic old woman who grabbed it and patted her brow.


“Exactly, a dreadful loss, to a gang of ruffians with no respect for private property. Why, I bet they gulped it down like it was common fare. It was in my pie safe, with every door and window secured. I have no idea how they got in. This was breaking and entering to the highest degree, and this time I have a mind to call the sheriff.”


Their conversation could be clearly heard all the way across the barnyard. The boys in the shed didn’t move a muscle. The Kid closed his eyes and grimaced. Heyes continued to calmly puff his cigar.


“Sheriff? Oh no, my husband is going to be so disappointed.“  Mrs. Heyes began to wring her hands and pace across the porch.


“Your husband?  Your husband and his cousin are common criminals, and it’s quite clear to me that they are a dismal influence on your boys. The apples don’t fall far from the tree, I say.”


Mrs. Heyes pointedly ignored the insults. “My dear lady, there is no doubt the boys have done wrong. Rest assured they will be dealt with accordingly.” The clever young woman feigned a worried glance at her husband. “But worse that that, I'm afraid my husband will be overwrought at the loss of your pie. After all, your pies are his favorite food.”


“What?” The older lady was caught off guard with this revelation, and gazed at her in disbelief.


Mrs. Heyes stopped pacing to explain. “Oh yes. What he wouldn’t do for one of your pies. As a matter of fact, he has volunteered to serve on the judging committee at tomorrow’s contest in hopes of getting to taste one.” 


“He has?” Mrs. Johnson looked across the yard at the ex-outlaw with fresh eyes. 


Across the barnyard the Kid stopped puffing his cigar, gave Heyes an incredulous look and whispered, “You have?”


“I have now,” Heyes hissed, his cigar between his teeth.


Mrs. Heyes took a seat next to the older woman. “May I ask you something, dear lady?”


“Yes, of course.” The younger woman finally had Mrs. Johnson’s full attention.


“Was there any damage to your windows or doors?”


“No, but...”


“I see. Rest assured the boys didn’t mean you any harm, my dear. I'm afraid they must have heard their father raving about your mouth watering pies, and being small boys, couldn’t resist such a magnificent treat. I’m sure you already know there’s talk of your pies all over town.”


Mrs. Johnson stopped fanning. “There is?”


“Oh yes. Since we're such close neighbors, folks ask me about your pies all the time.”  Leaning in, Mrs. Heyes softened her voice, as if sharing a secret. “Why, just yesterday my husband and I were visiting with our close friend, the Mayor. He confided he's going to ask the winner of the contest to bake a pie to serve at his next dinner party. My husband advised him that you would likely be the winner, but now, with none of your pie to taste or judge…” Mrs. Heyes stood and recommenced her worrisome pacing. “I’m afraid the honor will go to someone else, not to mention the prize money!”


The full implication of the situation began to dawn upon the widow with increasing clarity. It was time for a change of tune. “My dear Susanna, I had no idea that your charming husband felt this way.”


“Oh yes, he will be so upset. If only there was only a way…”  Susanna stopped pacing and looked at Mrs. Johnson hopefully. “You wouldn’t happen to have any more of those premium ingredients, would you?”


“Well, yes, but...”


“I fear I may be asking too much, Mrs. Johnson, but would you…could you…?”


“My dear girl, there is no need to be so formal. Please, call me Emily. If I get started right away I think I can bake another pie before I lose daylight. You are certain that your delightful husband will be judging?”


“Oh yes, Emily. He is very influential, and is known for being quite persuasive. I‘m sure he thought you would win, my dear. I can‘t make any promises, but with him as a judge…”


Emily abruptly stood. “Then, there‘s no time to waste.”  She wagged a bony finger at the younger woman. “But mark my words, next time I will see the sheriff.”


“Believe me, Emily, there won’t be a next time. And please, come visit us again after you have won the contest. After all, you are our dearest, closest neighbor. It was such a pleasure to see you again.” 


This time the Widow Johnson rode by, beaming and nodding, as she smiled knowingly at the men. Once again they tipped their hats, and nodded dutifully in return. 


Under his breath the Kid muttered, “You goin' go along with this, Heyes?”


“I never question my wife when it comes to this sort'a thing, Kid. She’s in charge of security when it comes to the boys.”


“Well, I don’t know how she did it, but she sweet talked that old biddy into leavin’ happy and keepin’ the law out of it. You been givin’ her pointers on how to do a con?”


“Nope. She’s a mother, Kid. She comes by it natural like.”


The Kid thoughtfully took another puff of his cigar. “Still, I don’t think the boys ought’a get away with it, Heyes. Like I said, let me get my belt and…”


“Hang on, Kid. She ain’t done.”


The Kid looked back at Susanna, and the expression on her face said it all. The sweet demeanor she had used on the Widow Johnson had faded and was replaced with a look that would stampede a herd of buffalo.


“Uh oh,” whispered the Kid. “I never seen her like this.”


Stepping off the porch and into the yard, she called for her misbehaving brood with a tone to her voice that would’ve made the entire Devil‘s Hole Gang shake in their boots. “Harry, Hadley, Hotchkiss, Hank, and Hale, get out here this instant!”


The eerie sound of silence echoed around the barnyard. She caught the eye of her husband, who clearly nodded in the direction of the shed. Hiking up her skirts, she glided over to the small building. She could see little eyes peering out between the slats as she approached. Yanking the door open, she grabbed the closest two boys and escorted them into the yard. The other three hesitantly peeked out, as they tried to decide what to do.


“She’s got two of ‘em by the ears, Heyes, but she’s out numbered. Looks like the other three are gonna bolt.”  It did indeed look like the rest of the young gang was getting ready to make a run for it.


Heyes finally stood. “This is where I come in, Kid. I’ve got her back.”


Heyes took a step towards the edge of the bunkhouse porch and adopted the kind of intimidating stance that only an ex-outlaw leader could. Catching the attention of the boys, he sternly shook his head from side to side and bit his cigar, making no attempt to hide his displeasure. 


The Kid stepped up beside him, hands on his hips, ready to pull off his belt at a moments notice. “Say the word, Heyes, and I’ll tan their hides so quick they won’t even think of thievin’ again.” The young boys faces turned to ash and all thoughts of escape quickly evaporated.


Susanna efficiently lined up her offspring. Each of the brown haired boys had the remains of pie all over their dimpled faces and clothing. There would be no denying their guilt with such incriminating evidence at hand.


“So, it’s true,” said Susanna softly, disappointment written across her face. Five sets of big brown eyes blinked back tears at the thought of hurting their beloved Mama. 


“Hand them over,” she directed. The tallest of the boys, the one with two dimples, reluctantly reached into his overalls and slowly pulled out his father’s lock picks. Susanna dropped them deep into her big apron pocket.


Restrained fury returned to her face, and they all saw it roll in like thunder. “This will not stand, and you will not soon forget it. You will not attend the Fourth of July celebration tomorrow and neither will I, because I will be right here keeping watch as you work. Right now you will get the washboard, scrub your dirty clothes, clean up and go to bed early without supper. And that‘s just the beginning. When you’re ready for bed, you’ll face your father.”


They all glanced at their father who was still glaring at them in full outlaw stance. Their obviously displeased gun slinging uncle was still at his side. All five boys gulped in unison and turned nervously back to their Mama.


“Now, move!” She stamped her foot, and they all ran for the house at fast as their bare feet could carry them. After sharing a determined look with her husband, the indomitable Susanna Heyes followed them into the house.


As they sat back down, the Kid was deep in thought. “You’ve got yourself a fine wife there, partner. I’ve always loved and admired Susanna.”


Raising a brow, Heyes lowered his cigar, and looked questioningly at his cousin.


“In a sisterly sort a way, of course,“ the Kid reassured him. Heyes relaxed and his puffing recommenced.


“Sure wish she’d been around when we were in charge of the gang, Heyes. If we’d had wives like her, maybe things would a gone a lot smoother.”


Heyes pondered that for a moment and finally concluded, “Nah, no women allowed, remember?”


“Yeah.”


They comfortably settled in, stretching out their legs across the porch rail once more. Slowly but surely, their eyes closed and they began to doze. A fly buzzed over their heads and the leaves rustled in a nearby tree. A dog barked in the distance. Hannibal Heyes thought he was finally going to get his long awaited afternoon nap, but it was not to be. His cousin still had something on his mind.


“Heyes?”


“What now.”


“Could you talk to Susanna and have her get me in on that pie tastin‘ job, too?” 


Heyes sighed with annoyance. “Nope. When are you gonna stop yappin’ and go find your own wife, Kid?”


“After today?” The Kid opened one blue eye, and gazed in the direction the lovely Susanna had disappeared. “Soon, Heyes. Real soon.”

_________________
"If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning." Mae West
coffee 


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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:35 pm

Chili Con Carnage


Appraising brown eyes smiled at the bleary-eyed gunman.  “Sleep well?”


“Ya know I didn’t,” the Kid dropped into a chair.  “Is there any coffee?”


“Yeah, in the pot.”  


A grimace flickered over the fair man’s face.  “I guess I’ll make some more.”


“I just told you there was some in the pot.”


“Yeah, but that means you made it, considerin’ there’s nobody else here. “  The Kid hauled himself to his feet.  “I’ve had a bad night, I ain’t gonna make it a bad start to the day too.  Who was caterwaulin’ at the top of his voice like that?  I’ll kill him.”


“I think that was our employer’s son.  He’s got a liking for songs about girls from Nantucket.”  


“Yeah, but only ones of ‘great renown.’  Those words are burned into my memory after hearing them over and over,” the Kid lifted the pot, “and over.  What’s so special about Nantucket anyway?”    

“Probably good as Bristol City for rhyming; judging by the amount of mentions that got too.  He used to be a sailor, so he likes his songs salty.”  Heyes smiled as the contents of the coffee pot were tipped away.   “Mrs. Malone made the coffee.”


Pained blue eyes hooked his partner.  “Why didn’t you tell me before I poured it away?”


“Because you were rude about my coffee again.  I thought you could wait,” Heyes tossed back the rest of his drink, “but I’ll have some if you’re making it.”


“How come you’re so bright anyway?  You must have heard it too.”


“I don’t need as much sleep as you,” Heyes retorted with an irritating grin.  “I do my best thinking at night.”


“Yeah?  I did some pretty good thinking myself, and if I see that idiot before I get some rest I’ll be tempted to follow through on it.”


“Mrs. Malone doesn’t seem to have much control of her son,” Heyes reflected.


“It’s gotta be hard for an older woman to stand up to a sailor returned from the sea without a man to back her up,” a smile tugged at the gunman’s lips.  “Kinda like a young ‘un runnin’ an outlaw gang without a quick gun.”  Heyes glanced around nervously.  “Relax, nobody’s about.  There sure were some fun times back then.  Runnin’ the Hole could be like baptizin’ cats at times.  Bringin’ up children has got to be easier.”


“I dunno,” Heyes swung pensively back on his chair.  “Remember Lazarus?”


Blue eyes danced with memories.  “Do I?  A one-legged cook?  What were you thinkin’?”


“He came recommended and needed a job,” Heyes shrugged, “and we needed a cook real bad.”


“Yeah, well real bad is just what we got.  I remember the day we met him.  What was the name of that town?  Ah, yes.  Trickle...”


Heyes shook his head.  “Nah, that was the name of the sheriff.  Walter Trickle.  He was pretty useless.  That’s why we went there to kick back.  The town was called Crumbling Butte.”


“Yeah, how could I forget that?  We were in the bar weren’t we...?”


Five Years Earlier


“Heyes?  I met up with an ole pal.  I thought you’d like ta meet him.”  


Hannibal Heyes looked up at the twinkling, puppy-dog eyes and joyful jowls of his explosives man.  “Ya did, Kyle?”


“Yeah, you’ll like him.  Well, what’s left of him, anyways.”


“Huh?”  Heyes turned, his interest piqued.  “Left of him?”


“Yeah, he was an explosives man in the war, then he rode with a few outfits.  I met him when I was in the Carter gang out Utah way.”  Kyle turned and whistled through uneven teeth.  “Hey, Lazarus.  Git over here!”


The Kid grinned.  “Lazarus?”  


They all turned to observe the remains of the man who stomped up to them on a wooden leg; which from the fluted gouges and rich turns had obviously been retrieved from a good piece of furniture.  He raised  a right arm which ended in a hook.  “Howdy, fellas.”


“Lazarus?”  Heyes repeated.


“The real name’s plain old Bob.  Bob Terry.  I get called Lazarus on account of risin’ from the dead after an explosion; well most of me, anyways.”  He waved his right arm.  “It took my leg and my arm, but I survived.”


The outlaw leader nodded sympathetically towards the eye patch over his right eye.  “And that too?”


“No.  That was an itch.”


“Some kind of infection?” queried the Kid.


“Nah,” the right arm was raised again.  “It was my first day with the hook.”


There was a brief silence before laughter drifted through the tobacco smoke clouding the bar.  “We’s lookin’ for a cook, Heyes and Lazarus is great at it.  It’s what he’s been doin’ since he lost them bits.  He’s the best one-legged cook in the whole territory.  Real trustworthy too.  He’s never seen a law he wouldn’t break.  How about it?”


Heyes swung back on his chair.  “Why’d you leave your last outfit?”


“I didn’t.  Most of ‘em left me.”  The mobile features arranged themselves into a grin which revealed that many of his teeth were also casualties of a life of hard knocks.  “They got caught; and them that didn’t has gone south.  ‘Tweren’t my cookin’ that’s for sure.”


Heyes nodded.  “And before them?”


“The Thompsons,” Lazarus shrugged.  “I might have helped them get caught.  They ate an awful lot of boggy-top and biscuits.  That mighta slowed ‘em down a bit.”


The Kid settled back in his chair.  “You just cook?  You even done any outlawin’?”


“Sure have.  I used to be a dynamite man,” Lazarus shuffled on his Sheraton style prosthetic.  “I didn’t get this lot from choppin’ too fast, did I?  I had to learn a new skill.  I make the best chili this side of the Pecos.”


Heyes glanced at his cousin for a second opinion, but the warmth in the twinkling blue glint already confirmed his own thoughts.  “You got yourself a chance, Lazarus.  Wheat’s over at the store getting supplies.  Go and see if you want to add anything to the order.”


Kyle backslapped his old friend, ducking quickly to avoid a hooked return.  “C’mon, Lazarus.  Let’s git goin’.  Welcome to the Devil’s Hole Gang.  I can’t wait ta sink my teeth into your huckdummies again.  There ain’t nobody cooks ‘em like you.”


oooOOOooo


The Kid sat on the porch of the leader’s cabin, swinging back on his chair.  Life was dreary at the hole in the winter because it was too easy to follow tracks in the snow and a horse could stumble on ice.  It wasn’t worth the risk, so they stayed close to home and bided their time.  Things could get rambunctious as the boys got more and more bored, but life was surprisingly smooth at the moment.   Lazarus was a great cook; the gang would play poker in the evenings after a day of odd jobs.  They seemed to sleep late and live quietly for the moment.  So far so good, but it was only early January.  Men forced together in close proximity would soon get on each other’s nerves.  


Sharp blue eyes scanned the men heading out to relieve the guards, but there was something in the way they wove towards the end of the valley which made the gunman stand.  “Heyes!  Git out here.”


“What is it?”


The Kid nodded towards the relief guards.  “Trouble.”


The brown eyes narrowed.  “Huh?  At this time in the morning?”


“Looks like it.”


The outlaw leader strode decisively from the porch and headed straight for Kyle and Wheat closely followed by his cousin.  “Hi.”  


Kyle stopped and spread his hands in question.  “Are you angry at me, Kid?”


“Why should I be angry at you, Kyle?”


The rumpled outlaw drew aimless circles with his toe.  “No reason, Kid.  Just wondered is all.”    


The partners exchanged a glance before Heyes spoke again.  “How are you two feeling this morning?”


“I’m good,” Wheat twitched his moustache before wiping his nose on his sleeve.  “We’re just going to relieve the watch.”


Heyes frowned, noting the glazed eyes and slurred speech.  “Do you think you’re fit for it?”


“Sure, we’s dressed real warm,” Kyle grinned and patted his chest.  


“That ain’t what we’re talkin’ about,” the Kid cut in.


“Something’s not right.”  Heyes walked over to Wheat and sniffed before doing the same to Kyle.  He grimaced and tuned back to his partner.  “I think it could be due to alcohol.”


Kyle guffawed and punched his leader lightly on the shoulder.  “That’s alright, Heyes.   I’ll come back when you’re sober.”  


“No, Kyle.  You!”  Heyes turned and glared at Wheat.  “And you.  You’re swaying from side to side.  How many of me do you see?”


“There are always too many, that’s for damn sure,” Wheat muttered.  “I’m fine.”


“No you ain’t,” the Kid snapped.  “I saw you winding your way from the bunkhouse like a horse on ryegrass.  Where’d you get it?”


“Get what?”  Kyle’s’ contrived innocence only served to underscore his guilt.  “We ain’t done nothin’”


“Nothing?” Heyes barked.  “You’re completely roostered!  How can you guard the place like that?”


“I’m fine, Heyes,” the sun caught the beads of perspiration on Wheat’s ruddy face.                              


“You know I allow one bottle of whiskey a day for the bunkhouse because we can’t afford to be caught drunk,” Heyes barked.  “Unless you two necked it between you there’s been more booze around than I allow.  What’s going on?”


“It ain’t no more than prairie dew,” Kyle protested.  “It’s just somethin’ Lazarus cooked up from old ‘taters.”  


“Potatoes?” the Kid demanded.  


“Yeah,” Wheat nodded.  “It ain’t whiskey.  It’s just a few vegetables.  What harm can that do?”


“It can get you shot because you’re too drunk to defend the place,” growled the Kid.  “Has everyone been drinkin’ this stuff?”


“Not everyone,” Kyle replied.  “Lazarus ain’t givin’ it away and some is too mean to pay knowin’ that you give us whiskey for free.”  


“Good!  Come with me,” Heyes turned on his heel and headed down towards the bunkhouse.


“We get off with guard duty?” chirped Kyle.


“You ain’t got off with anythin’,” the Kid retorted.  “Once you sober up you’re gonna face the consequences.”


“T’ain’t fair” Wheat protested.  “All we did was drink some ‘tater juice.”


“Yah, got sozzled when you should be on duty,” the Kid glowered.  “You’ll be doing extra shifts to make up for it.”


“And no whiskey for a month!” Heyes added.


“Aw, but...”


“No arguments,” Heyes called over his shoulder.  “I’m beginning to see how Lazarus’ last gang got themselves caught.  I’m going to nip this in the bud.”


“Potatoes ain’t got buds,” snickered Kyle.


“Ya ever heard the sayin’, ‘when you’re in a hole stop diggin’’?” demanded the Kid.  


Wheat and Kyle trotted behind Heyes as he strode towards the cookhouse.  “Yah ever heard the sayin’ ‘sleep with one eye open’?” the larger outlaw muttered.


“Keep talkin’, Wheat,” growled the Kid, “you ain’t exactly burned your bridges, but you’re sure loosenin’ the bolts.”    



oooOOOooo


Lazarus plunged his hook into the barrel and pulled out the joint of brined beef.  He slapped it onto the table and lifted the knife in his left hand.  Heyes paused at the door to the cookhouse.  “Hi, Lazarus.  Got a minute?”


One grey eye fixed on the speaker.  “For you, Boss?  Always.”


“Good,” Heyes strolled in glancing around the building.  “I’ve come to see you about your moonshine.”


The knife was thrown into the table with a ‘tduff’ before it waved back and forth like a menacing metronome.  “Moonshine?”


The dark eyes never left the cook’s face.  “Yeah.  The gut warmer you’ve been making from potatoes.”  Heyes folded his arms.  “I’ve just found two men drunk on their turn on watch.  I can’t have that, Lazarus.  In fact, let me be clearer; I won’t have it. ”


“I didn’t mean no harm by it.  I just like to keep folks happy.  What’s wrong with celebratin’ Tuesday?  There ain’t nuthin’ else to do around here.”


Lazarus shrugged.  “There’s plenty to do around here.  There’s making sure nobody can surprise us for starters, then there’s general fixing up the place... we don’t have time in summer.”


“Yeah, but men get bored of an evenin’.  I like something full of the strong stuff.  So do they.”


“I’ll fetch Wheat.  He’s about as full of the strong stuff as a man can be and still remain upright.  This place isn’t about what you like.  How come you kept this secret from me?”


“T’weren’t a secret, Boss.  I just thought you might... disapprove.”  


“You knew he’d skin your hide,” growled the Kid from the doorway.  “How much were you sellin’ this stuff for?”


“Two bits a bottle.”


Heyes propped his hands on his hips.  “And how many have you sold?”  He watched the cook’s eyes drop to the floor as he ‘ummed’ and ‘ooh’d’ evasively.  “Out with it!”


“Three or four...”


“Bottles?” the Kid demanded.


Lazarus shook his head.  “Gallons...”


Gallons!?” exclaimed Heyes and Curry in unison.  “How long has this been going on?”


“Not long.  Just a few weeks...”


Heyes raised his hand and rubbed his face, beating down the instinct to smack the grinning cook in the mouth.  “So there are a couple of gallons of hooch somewhere, waiting for you to sell it on?”


“Nope.  I sold it already.”  Lazarus widened his one good eye innocently.  “I’m makin’ a new batch now.”


“Stay where you are.   Kid, come with me.  We got gallons of gut warmer to find before the boys neck it.”


oooOOOooo


Wheat rolled off his bunk with a snarl.  “This ain’t fair.  First yah send me back to the bunk house. Then you hunt me out of bed ta look under the mattress?  ‘The man’ says drinkin’s wrong and we all stop it?  ‘The man’ forbids it so we don't do it.  ‘The man’ tells us what to do and we all jump to it!  Is that how it is?  It’s like bein’ in jail.”


Kyle frowned.  “Who are all these fellas?”


“They’re me!” barked Heyes, rolling back the bedding


Kyle nodded.  “Is you seein’ double too, Wheat?”  


The Kid rolled his eyes.  “Where’s everyone else?”


Wheat smirked while Kyle suddenly recognized the endlessly fascinating qualities of the ceiling.  “Dunno, Heyes.  They’s all gone out.”


“You know what this means, Heyes,” the Kid snapped closed the trunk he’d just rifled through without finding any contraband.  “They’re out hidin’ the hooch all over the hole!”


Heyes raised his eyes to the heavens and muttered as though in prayer.  “Give me strength.  Dealing with this lot is like trying to tie a knot in fog.  No wonder they call this The Devil’s Hole.  If I died and went to hell it’d take me a week to realize it.  I’m starting to feel sorry for the staff at Valparaiso.  Do you think we were this bad, Kid?”


“Worse,” came the chuckled reply, “but at least we think like the gang.  Criminals ain’t complicated, Heyes.  They’re always workin’ at bein’ either lazy or selfish.  Right now they’re bein’ selfish.  We got hit them with lazy as a reward to get them to work as a team.”


“Yeah?  Well there’s a huge ‘A’ in this team, if you catch my meaning.  I’m going to start by cutting off the source.” Heyes kicked the door back against the wall with a clatter.  “Where does Lazarus keep his still?”    


oooOOOooo


“So where is it, Lazarus?”  Heyes’ eyes glittered dangerously.  “And don’t even try to sell me any stories about there being no permanent set-up.  You don’t turn around that amount of hooch in a day or two.”


Lazarus nodded.  “I put it somewhere folks don’t go very often.”


“Yeah?  Where’s that?” the Kid demanded.

       
“You know the hut at the end o’ the place?”  Lazarus watched his bosses closely.  “The one with all the tools and creosote and fixin’ up stuff...?”


Heyes nodded.  “It’s in there?”  


“Nope.  You go passed there, ain’t nobody goes near the work stuff.”  The cook pegged his way to the door on his wooden leg and pointed outside.  “Ya can’t set up a still inside.  You’ll burn the place down.  It’s real stinky too.  You go passed the buildin’s and down towards the river.”


“The gang go down to the river all the time,” Heyes replied.  “So do we.  Why hasn’t anyone seen anything?”


“Not that way, they don’t,” a grin twitched beneath the eye patch.  “They go the easy way.  Mine is up near the rocks, where the trees get thick.  Ain’t nobody goes there.”


The Kid propped his hands on his hips.  “Show us.”  


They followed the cook across the well-worn paths.  They went passed the bunkhouse, the corrals, the latrines, the barns and the various shacks; then through the long grass which snagged the man’s old table leg.  The Kid kicked out at a snaring shrub.  “There ain’t a path.  How did you get a still down here with your leg?”


Lazarus turned and tapped the side of his nose with a hook.  “Bit by bit.  It don’t come as a machine, you know.  It’s tubes an’ stuff.”


“But still...it’s gonna be hard with just one hand.”


“I gotta hook, Kid.  You stick it all in a bathtub and drag it behind by the handle.  I used my smarts.  I mighta lost lots o’ bits, but I ain’t lost my mind.  Not yet anyways...”


“What about your patience?”  Heyes muttered.  “I’m right out of it.”


“We’re here.”  Lazarus stopped and cast his hook in the direction of a thicket where vapors wafted through the natural cover of foliage.  


Heyes frowned.  “There’s steam?  You have to keep a fire burning?”


“Sure.  It’s perfectly safe.  I’ve been doin’ this for years.  I feed it every two hours.”  Lazarus limped forward.  As they turned the bend the still came into view; a copper and rubber contraction which puffed, chugged and huffed great clouds of billowing steam.  


The cook raised a log to throw it back under the copper, but a yell from Heyes caused him to catch himself.  “I didn’t bring you here to feed the thing.  I want it dismantled!”


The log slipped from Lazarus’ left hand, already caught by the momentum of his attempt to toss it on the fire.  It bounced off the nearest tree and into the galvanized bucket sitting under the dripping tap which collected the dripping, filtered alcohol.  It tipped over, the clear liquid spilling into the fire which sat under the tun containing the potato mash being boiled for the first stage of the distillation.  The fire flashed up in excited fingers of blue flame, licking the grass and the dry winter branches with alcoholic zeal as the cook let out a cry.  “It’s spreadin’ too fast.”  He took off his jacket and started beating out the flames around him, appealing to his bosses for help.  “It ain’t rained.  These things’ll explode if we don’t stop this.”


The Kid nodded and took out his gun, shooting in the air to attract attention.  “They’d better stop hidin’ all that booze and come runnin’!”  


Heyes grabbed the bucket from amongst the flames and kicked it over to the river to cool it down enough to grab it and start throwing buckets of water over the cracking and spluttering grass.  The vicious hiss coming from the cloud of steam turned to an alarming squeal which made everyone pause and stare at it in concern.


“It’s gonna blow!” bellowed Lazarus, turning to run.  “Git outta here!”


Heyes and Curry ran, but the old man’s disability seemed to hit both men at the same time, and they turned on their heels and sprinted back the way they'd come.  Lazarus was a good fifty yards behind then and was stomping towards them, but he wasn’t quick enough.


There was an ear-shattering boom and flashes of blue and yellow flame ripped through the air, lifting the recalcitrant chef off his feet and sending him into the river with an enormous belly flop and the Sheraton style wooden-leg flying through the air in the opposite direction.        

     
The Kid jumped into the water, wading through the thigh-deep flow until he flipped Lazarus right way up.  “Are you hurt?  Speak to me.”


“My leg...,” he moaned.  “My leg....”

                             
Alert blue eyes quickly scanned the remaining limb for injury but found nothing obviously wrong.  “Where?  Tell me.”


“My leg!”


The gunman dragged him ashore where Heyes helped to pull the soggy cook onto the riverbank.  “He says he hurt his leg.”


“It looks fine to me.”  Heyes took the ankle and gingerly manipulated it.  “How does that feel?”


“It feels fine!  I’m talking about my other leg.”


“Your stump?”  the Kid queried.


“No!  My wooden leg.”  Lazarus sat up and blinked his one good eye at them.  “Where’s it gone?”  


“Oh, that!”  Heyes dragged off his hat in frustration.  “I dunno.  “It went flying.  I was more worried about you than some dumb bit of furniture.”


“But it’s got all my money in it.  My life’s savin’s.”


“In your leg?”


“Sure,” Lazarus blinked at them.  “There’s a high criminal element around here.  I ain’t leavin’ it lyin’ around.”  


The Kid turned at the arrival of the gang, here at last to help.  “Where’ve you lot been?  Heyes fired a warnin’ shot ages ago.”


“We ain’t bloodhounds, Kid,” sniffed the Preacher.  We had to find ya first.”  He nodded towards the still burning bushes.  “The fireworks sure helped.”


“Yeah,” Kyle leaned against a nearby tree.  “What you been doing?  Ain’t nobody told ya that fightin’ fire with fire is just an expression?”  He stood upright again, the shifting weight made the tree waver and jiggle.  He jumped back as a heavy object tumbled from the branches above, clunking the half-drowned cook firmly on the noggin.


“I guess Lazarus found his leg,” muttered the Kid.  

   
“Yeah.  That’s the end of your moonshine, boys,” Heyes stood and glared at each of the gang in turn.  “Now get that fire put out and we’ll get Lazarus back to the bunkhouse.  Peacher!  Come with us to check him out...”


oooOOOooo


Five years later – Mrs. Malone’s Guesthouse.      


“Yeah,” Heyes sat back with a smile, “they were a wild gang to manage but they weren’t bad at heart.”


The Kid arched a cynical brow.  “Bad?  They were more crooked than a dog’s hind leg.  Lazarus got his carved leg back, but he only got half his money.”


“And we never did find all those bottles of moonshine,” chuckled Heyes.  “They hid them all over the place; in the rafters of buildings, under bushes, in holes.  I bet there are rabbits bumping their heads on them to this day.”


There were the sounds of voices drifting down from the floor above.


“Sounds like Mrs. Malone’s trying to get the sailor outta bed,” the Kid observed.”


The female voice rose an octave to mezzo soprano.  


“It sounds like he ain’t too pleased at the notion,” Heyes replied.      


There was the clunk of something heavy against a wooden object.  “Sounds like a boot bein’ thrown.”


Heyes nodded, his gaze sliding cautiously over to his cousin.  “Yup.”  Muffled shouting blared through the ceiling, escalating into a cacophony of anger.  “He sure doesn’t like to be wakened, does he?”


“Who does,” growled the Kid with feeling.


The battle continued overhead, still hard to distinguish, with only the music of the words discernible as the volume rose.  There was another whump as the partner of the first projectile was reunited with its partner which provoked a female scream.


“It’s not our fight, Kid,” Heyes warned the twitchy gunman.  “Ya don’t want to get in between family.”


There was a shattering smash which brought the Kid to his feet.  “That’s it,” he declared.  “I’ve had enough.  He kept me awake all night and now he’s throwing things at his Ma.  He needs a lesson, but at least your story told me what I need to do here.”


“It did?” Heyes queried.


“Yeah, I’m gonna rip his leg off and beat him over the head with it.”

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Remuda

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Age : 42

PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Sat Jan 31, 2015 3:30 am

Another dusted off oldie. Hope it fits the prompt well enough.

Deliveries

We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

“You ready?”

Snore …

“Thaddeus, wake up.  Time to go.”

“Huh?”

“Come on, let’s go.”

Jed “Kid” Curry yawned. He blinked at his partner in the bright sunlight of a picture perfect day, sat up straighter, sighed. “Another stage?   Seems the only thing we DO these days is ride stages. Too cramped up. Why can’t we just get a couple horses and ride?”

Hannibal Heyes raised an eyebrow. “We’re not going over that again.  Quit complaining.  I felt sorry for you and let you rest while I’ve been off delivering the message – even though that went against Colonel Harper’s orders. I’m the one who should be tired.  It took a while to find the guy, and I had to make excuses to him why there weren’t two of us. And now he has a reply for the Colonel, so let’s get it back to him.”

Kid stood, stretching and yawning mightily. “You’d think they could do all that messagin’ by telegraph. Seems a waste of time and money to have two men roamin’ all over this God-forsakin’ country doin’ nothin’ but sittin’ on uncomfortable stages and waitin’ room benches, and not sittin’ down to a proper meal or sleepin’ more than a few hours a night in whatever they call a bed in some relay station somewhere. It’s even more back-breakin’ than roundin’ up cows! I don’t think my backside can take too much more of this.”

“Or your disposition, I suppose! Glad you decided to come up for air!”

“Dispo … For air? What the heck are ya talkin’ about, Joshua?”

“Never mind.  As long as the Colonel’s paying us as good as he is, we’ll do what we have to do.”

“But it don’t make sense!”

“Maybe it don’t. But he’s paying, and whatever he wants done, as long as it’s on the right side of the law, we’re gonna do it.”

“I know …”

Hannibal Heyes clamped a hand on his partner’s shoulder. “So what’s really eating ya?”

Blue and brown eyes met. Curry sighed. “I don’t know. Two weeks of this … Guess it’s gettin’ to me. Why the TWO of us to deliver messages and small boxes?”

Heyes gave the blond man’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze and smiled. “We’ve been through that, too. Never know what those messages and small boxes might contain. Must be valuable enough if he’s insisting on both of us doing the job.”

Curry rolled his eyes. “I suppose. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if everything wasn’t so cramped. Pretty days, like a pretty girl's smile, and we’re just spendin’ them lookin’ out a window while we get bumped to kingdom come. This route has the worst roads! Couldn’t we take just one day off?”

“You know the answer to that, too. Until this job is ...”

“Done. I know.” Sigh. “Okay, I’m sorry. Was just dreamin’ how we used to raft down the river when we were kids.”

Heyes smiled. “That was fun.”

“Yeah. Free and easy. No cares in the world …”

“And now the weight of the world’s on your shoulders?”

“No, not exactly. But, somethin’… Feel like I need somethin’ different.”

“Well, yeah.” Heyes chuckled. “Somethin’ other than riding cramped stagecoaches and waiting around for replies between those two.”

Kid smirked. “So it's gettin' to you, too?”

“Maybe.”

“Aw, come on, Joshua! Maybe what we’re needin’ is somethin’ different.”

“Different?”

“Yeah. Maybe a different kind of experience.”

Heyes’ brow furrowed. “An experience?  We had enough experiences minding a gang to last a lifetime.”

Kid’s eyes sparkled. “Somethin' I heard somewhere once – a real, honest-to-goodness, authentic experience. Somethin’ to break the monotony.”

“LAST CALL! ALL ABOARD!”

Heyes quickly grabbed two sets of saddlebags and bedrolls from the bench, thrusting one each into Curry’s arms. “Let’s go.  We can break the monotony another time.”

*****

The two ex-outlaws scrambled onto the stagecoach and took the bench facing backwards. Opposite them sat two women – one middle-aged and prim, the other younger and heavy with child. Heyes and Kid tipped their hats in introduction.

“Ma’am.”

“Ma’am.”

The older woman nodded with a brief smile, while the younger barely acknowledged them.

Heyes took the initiative. “Might as well get acquainted since we’ll be together a couple days. I’m Joshua Smith and this here’s my partner, Thaddeus Jones.”

The elder of the two females spoke pleasantly, acknowledging each in turn.  “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones. I am Miss Ellen Butler, and next to me is Mrs. Lorelei Stone.”

The younger woman turned to her fellow passengers. “That’s Mrs. JACKSON Stone.”

Miss Butler raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry. You told me to address you as Lorelei …”

“That’s quite all right, Ellen. It’s the two gentlemen to whom I want to impart the message.”

Heyes smiled and tipped his hat in the younger woman’s direction. “Mrs. Stone. And Lorelei is a beautiful name. Mr. Twain mentions it in his most recent book.”

Mrs. Stone softened momentarily. “Thank you, Mr. Smith. And is that so? Actually, my father is a professor of literature, and I was named after the poem.”

“Really? Mr. Twain just published the poem.”

The softness faded. “Mr. Twain did not WRITE the poem, Mr. Smith. Perhaps he translated it from the original German.”

“German? Well, I guess I won’t be reading that.”

Bluntly, “I’m sure you won’t.”

Heyes raised an eyebrow.

They rode in silence for a half hour or so before Mrs. Stone took a sharp intake of breath and put her hand on her abdomen.

Kid leaned forward. “Ma’am?”

Her eyes closed for a few seconds as she regulated her breathing.

“Are you all right, ma’am?”

Opening her eyes, she regarded the blond cowboy indignantly. “Quite. Thank you.”

Miss Butler spoke sternly. “Now, Lorelei, there is no need to be so brusque. Mr. Jones was just inquiring as to your comfort.”

The younger woman sighed. She addressed Kid, less abruptly. “Thank you, Mr. Jones, but I assure you there is no need to worry about me.”

“Ma’am, you sure are brave to be travelin’ in your condition.”

“Why, Mr. Jones, what condition is that? Women have babies all the time.”

Kid smiled sheepishly. “No offense, ma’am. Just thought you might want somethin’ more comfortable than a stagecoach ride at this time of your …”

“PREGNANCY, Mr. Jones?”

The blond ex-outlaw turned two shades of crimson. “I’m, I’m sorry, ma’am.”

“Mr. Jones, there is no need to apologize.”

“Ma’am, I … well, I …”

“No need to stammer, either, Mr. Jones … Just say what it is you want to say. You obviously think me stupid or at best unwise to be traveling when I should be in my confinement.”

Curry sighed. Perhaps it wasn’t the best of manners to ask a young lady about her – delicate condition. He could feel all eyes on him. Gulping, he glanced quickly at the ladies, then longer at Heyes before turning to the window.

Heyes spoke. “Mrs. Stone, my friend here was just trying to be polite.”

Miss Butler added, “Indeed!”

With pursed lips, Lorelei took in both for a few moments, as if mulling something over. She then regarded Kid. “Mr. Jones, thank you for your concern.”

The blond regarded her, nodded.

“I suppose I do owe you all an explanation. My husband is a cavalry officer. He was supposed to change posts to be closer to home, but his orders were changed at the last moment, and he is now assigned to Fort Keogh. I’m going to join him so we can be together when the baby comes.”

Heyes noted, “Mrs. Stone, that’s an awful long way to go at this time of …”

“I KNOW that, Mr. Smith. But the Army wouldn’t wait.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

They rode in slightly more companionable silence for the next several hours. All four busied themselves looking out the window and nodded off to sleep for varying lengths of time, their bodies used to a rough ride but jostled awake by a larger bump here, a crushing rut there. Finally, the coach stopped at a relay station and the travelers alighted and stretched. Heyes took the opportunity to remove a book from his saddlebags, and when underway on a smoother stretch of road, started to read to himself.
Mrs. Jackson Stone could not help herself. “Excuse me, Mr. Smith, but might I ask what it is in which you find yourself so absorbed?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s Mr. Twain’s latest book. He’s talking about his travels in Europe.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Miss Butler’s eyes sparkled. “Mr. Smith, perhaps we can prevail upon you to read out loud to help pass the time?”
Heyes grinned. “That’s a splendid idea, Miss Butler! If you ladies don’t mind me droning on? Mr. Jones is used to it.”
At that, the partners’ eyes met. Kid rolled his; Heyes chuckled.

“Not at all, Mr. Smith. I do believe it will be quite enjoyable.”

Heyes thumbed through the book. “All right. Let’s see … Ah, the poem we spoke of earlier …

‘An ancient legend of the Rhine
I cannot divine what it meaneth,
This haunting nameless pain:
A tale of the bygone ages
Keeps brooding through my brain:
The loveliest maiden is sitting
High-throned in yon blue air,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She combs her golden hair.
The doomed in his drifting shallop,
Is tranced with the sad sweet tone,
He sees not the yawing breakers,
He sees but the maid alone:
The faint air cools in the gloaming,
And peaceful flows the Rhine,
The thirty summits are drinking
The sunset’s flooding wine;
She combs with comb that is golden,
And sings a weird refrain
That steeps in a deadly enchantment
The listener’s ravished brain:
The pitiless billows engulf him!-
So perish sailor and bark;
And this, with her baleful singing,
Is the Lorelei’s gruesome work.’”*

Heyes finished and put down the volume. “Well, perhaps not the happiest poem …”

“Haunting, certainly,” Miss Butler critiqued.

“I’m sure it’s better in German,” Lorelei noted.

“German? Don't make much sense in English!” Kid sighed.

Heyes regarded the ladies. “I’m afraid my partner here doesn’t appreciate the classics.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, Mr. Smith. I’m sure Mr. Jones makes his own poetry in some way.” Lorelei set her eyes on Kid.
Sheepish once again, the blond cowboy ran a finger under his bandana and gulped. “Kinda warm in here, isn’t it, Joshua?”

“Just keep your hands out of the oven and you’ll be fine, Thaddeus,” Heyes advised.

Flushing yet again, Kid shot a look at Heyes before turning to the window.

A sudden lurch interrupted the uncomfortable silence. All four passengers registered surprise.

“Must have been some rut!”

“Indeed, Mr. Smith.” Miss Butler smoothed her recently disarrayed skirt.

“Ma’am, I …”

Heyes stopped in mid-sentence as another sudden jolt rocked the coach. All were thrown in a heap to the space between the seats. The partners helped the women back onto their bench. They were barely in place when another violent jerk, and another, and another, flipped the vehicle. It rolled for what seemed a long time. As quickly as it had started – it stopped.

*****

Kid Curry found himself on the ground, thrown clear of the debris. Grimacing as he slowly picked himself up, he looked around. The stagecoach surprisingly lay in one piece on its side thirty feet in front of him.

He limped to the driver, who lay sprawled face down. Rolling him over, Kid placed a hand on his chest and quickly examined him.
Next, he painfully strode to the coach. Moans emanated from it.

“Joshua? Ladies? You all right?”

“Ohh!  Ohh!”

Heyes responded, his voice tight. “I’m all right – I think.”

“Ohhh!”

“See to the ladies!”

“Ohhh!”

Kid peered inside. “Miss Butler?”

Her voice was steady, not quite hiding the pain, “Bruises, perhaps, and I think my arm is broken.  Lorelei?”

“Ohhh!”

“Mr. Jones, you’ll have to tend to Mrs. Stone.”

“Huh?!”

Heyes managed to pull himself through a window. “Argh!”

Kid eyed him quickly. “What is it?”

“My hand?”

“Right or left?”

“Left. Let’s get the women out. How’s the driver?”

“Ohh!”

“Alive. Over there.” Kid nodded in the other direction.

“Ohhh!”

Heyes tried to reassure Lorelei. “Hold on, Mrs. Stone, we’ll get ya out of here as soon as we can.”

Maneuvering the door, the partners pulled Miss Butler out. The older woman groaned as her fractured arm hit the ground hard. She quickly recovered and took charge.

“Gentlemen, please get her out. I think the baby is coming.”

“Ohhh!  Ohhh!”

Struggling for several long minutes, the men ignored their own injuries to pull the door off. With clearance, they finally extricated Mrs. Stone from the vehicle. Rummaging through Miss Butler’s trunk at her direction, Kid spread several dresses on the ground. With much effort, he and a one-handed Heyes managed to get the expectant woman on them. The blond ex-outlaw also set aside some petticoats and whatever other useful items he found.

The pregnant woman’s cries grew louder and more pleading. “Ohhh! Ohhh!  Help me!  PLEASE help me!!”

Miss Butler directed calmly. “Mr. Heyes, please see to the driver as best you can. Mr. Jones, stay here please with us. You’ll have to deliver the baby.”

“De-de-deliver a BABY?! A message, maybe ... But ... ma’am, I, I, I don’t know the …”

“I’ll walk you through it, Mr. Jones. You’re the only one of us with two hands that are unhurt.”

Heyes cupped Kid’s shoulder as he got up. “You can do this.”

Curry’s eyes widened. “Hey, Hey … I don’t …”

Heyes looked his partner square in the eye. He spoke reassuringly, “Calm down. You’ll do fine.”

Blue eyes locked on to brown. Kid took a deep breath.

Heyes squeezed his partner’s shoulder with his uninjured right hand. “Okay?”

Curry nodded.

Heyes went to tend to the driver.

Kid turned to the women.

“Now, Mr. Jones …”

*****

“I’ve said it already, but you were all very lucky. I’ve seen stage wrecks where there were no survivors.”

Four passengers regarded the sheriff. He and the doctor joined the others at Lorelei’s bedside in the medical office.

Her right arm in a splint and sling, Miss Butler spoke, “I’m sure we all appreciate that, Sheriff, and whether Providence or blind luck, we owe a lot to Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones here. Without them, we and the poor driver might not be here, or at least in the fairly good shape we’re in.”

Lorelei smiled at the swaddled, sleeping bundle cradled safely in her arms. “Yes, especially to Mr. Jones.”

Kid flushed slightly. “Aw, ma’am, my partner can tell ya I’m just good at followin’ directions. It was all Miss Butler’s doin’. If she hadn’t’ve talked me through it, I wouldn’t’ve known where to start.”

Heyes agreed. “Thaddeus is telling the truth, ma’am. But I have to admit that son of yours is probably the best thing ever to come of his taking orders – I mean, following directions – so well.”

The doctor chimed in. “Mr. Jones, you did a fine job. Couldn’t have done any better had I delivered that baby myself.”

Downright embarrassed at being the center of attention, Curry grimaced as he stood, limping to the bedside. “He’s a good lookin’ young fella. Sturdy, too. Too bad your husband couldn’t be there when he was born, like you wanted.”

The new mother sighed. “Yes, but under the circumstances, there wasn’t much we could do about that. He is on his way, though, and I want to thank you both, and Ellen. I’m sorry for the way I behaved early on. You just never know who you can trust.”

Kid smiled. “Don’t worry about it, ma’am. I’m just glad everything worked out all right.”

Lorelei regarded Kid. “We planned to name the baby after our fathers – James Philip. But now he’ll be James Philip Thaddeus Stone. We’ll tell him the story of the man who brought him into the world – his honorary uncle – when he’s able to understand.  ”

“Aw, ma’am, that’s quite an honor. Thank you.”

*****

Just as he finished checking out of the hotel, Hannibal Heyes looked up to see Kid Curry enter the lobby, limping less noticeably. His left hand bandaged, the dark-haired man struggled with his saddlebags and bedroll.

“Hold on, partner. I got those.”

“Thanks. What’d the Colonel say?”

“About what you’d expect. Get there as soon as we can. He’s anxious to get the message. Told him we’d be back on the stage later today.”

As they slowly left the hotel, Heyes chuckled. “No rest for the weary – or the injured – huh, Thaddeus? Might be nice to take a day or two off.”

Curry smiled. “Just had time off. Recuperatin’ time, maybe, but gotta get back to work while the job’s still there. When this one’s over, who knows where the next one’ll be.”

Heyes laughed. “Seems I’ve heard those words before! Enough excitement to last a few days, huh?”

Kid’s eyes widened in wonderment. “Aw, Heyes, it was real nerve-rackin’, but when I saw that baby’s head start to come out … It was just … I don’t know … It was …”

“That real authentic experience you wanted?”

Kid smiled, thoughtfully. “Didn’t think of it that way. Maybe …”

“Let’s go, Dr. Jones! Our coach awaits!” Heyes clapped Kid on the back.

Matching strides, they laughed as they headed to the stage depot.

__________________

*Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad. Published 1880. In the public domain in the U.S.

_________________
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. ~ Wyatt Earp
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Sat Jan 31, 2015 8:24 pm

Not being a motherly type, my take on the prompt is a little different.



The thunderstorm last night had been fierce, rain pelting down and lightning tearing the sky apart.  But it had finally managed to clear the atmosphere.  This morning the air felt fresh, not oppressive any longer, grass and trees looked newly laundered and a balmy breeze carried smells of grass, wood, moist earth, wildflowers and other less distinct aromas.

 

Hannibal Heyes leaned on the porch railing of the leader’s cabin in Devil’s Hole and enjoyed the morning sun, blue skies and the birdsong accompanied by the droning of insects… This morning was too beautiful to waste.

 

Decision made, he turned around, went back into the cabin and stuck his head into his partner’s room, instantly filling it with his baritone.  “Hey Kid. Are you awake yet?”

 

Some groaning grumble answered from under the blanket-covered lump on the bed, putting an impish smile on the outlaw leader’s face.  “It’s a beautiful morning.  You should really get up,” he boomed happily.

 

This time the blanket mound moved a little and the grumble sounded distinctly annoyed.  The smile only grew wider, bringing forth deep dimples.  “Alright, suit yourself, but don’t complain to me later.  I’ll go for a stroll, sleepyhead.”

 

Moments later, black hat on his head and gun belt around his hips – Devil’s Hole might be a safe haven for outlaws, but caution was a deeply ingrained habit – the brown-haired man stepped out on the porch once more.  Glancing around he decided to walk down the canyon towards the sentry post, combining pleasure with precaution.  Nobody in their right mind would have tried getting into the outlaw hideout during the storm, but he wanted to make sure a guard was now back on duty.

 

Heyes strolled down the path leading out of the compound towards the entry to Devil’s Hole, reveling in how good life could be.  He might be an outlaw with a price on his head, but how many law-abiding people had the time to just go for a pleasant long walk on a whim, simply to enjoy nature on a beautiful day?  How many of them had enough money to hurrah a town whenever the fancy took them?  How many had skills which paid so well?  And how many only had to work a few days every few months to lead a life of leisure the rest of the time?

 

All in all things had turned out pretty well for his partner and him. Nobody told them what to do or when to do it and the occasional spats with a recalcitrant gang member thinking they could do better only added spice to life.  Even on a bad day he usually could outthink and outtalk any of them and if they still didn’t get the point there was always his partner backing him up with his particular brand of arguments.  But generally, leading the most successful gang of outlaws seemed like child’s play.  Chuckling he added to this thought “And sometimes it’s nice to get away from the children for a spell.”

 

When he came to the point where the path dipped down closer to the stream the ground became muddy, so Heyes decided to leave the track and take the hidden footpath along the canyon wall for a while.  He had just entered the band of trees hiding the path, when he spotted a mass of feathers on the ground.  Some poor bird had become breakfast for some lucky hunter.

 

About twenty yards further on he noticed a sound he hadn’t heard before.  Out alone it always paid to be careful, so he stopped and listened if the sound would repeat.  Yes, there it was again.  A kind of faint squeaking.  Involuntarily he took a few steps trying to locate where the sound had originated.  It only took him moments to realize the source of the noise must be close to where half a tree had tumbled to the ground.

 

Watching out for further branches ready to drop down he stepped closer still until he found the squeaking animal.  It was a little bird, or rather a nestling, huddled in the only home it knew, which now hung only a yard above the ground, at an angle but still securely fastened to the branch which had toppled down to earth when lightning struck and split the tree.  It seemed a miracle that the small animal had managed to stay put – his siblings had obviously not been so lucky.  Three slightly larger nestlings lay close by on the ground, not showing any signs of life. And judging from the wing peeking out from under another thick branch, at least one of the parents had died too.

 

The image struck Heyes like an unexpected blow.  He swallowed several times, thinking back on the feathers he had found earlier.  There was no doubt in his mind that this little guy was all alone in the world now.  How could such tragedy have happened on such a beautiful day?  It just did not seem right.  His memory was about to go back to another beautiful day, too lovely to do chores, which had brought about tragedy, but he reined it in firmly.  No need to go back there!

 

Normally not sentimental about wild animals – he had hunted his share of game for the pot after all, and some critters had to die so others could live, this was the way of nature – he could not bring himself to walk away.  The little guy had lost everything except his life (yet), and still he had not given up, he still squeaked, chirped and called to get food, he stubbornly clung to life and his nest, determined to survive.  Having been the smallest, he was the most likely to die and yet here he was, the lone survivor.  He deserved a second chance.

 

Decision made, Heyes stepped closer and scooped the nestling up, almost getting bitten for his efforts.  “Hey little guy, better stop biting the hand that feeds you.  I need my fingers intact and they sure aren’t birdfeed!”

 

Wondering how to get the bird back, and where to house it in the cabin, he decided to take the nest as well.  After a short hesitation he switched the bird to one hand, took off his hat and placed the little orphan in it, talking softly while setting the impromptu bird bassinet on the ground at a safe distance.

 

“You’re gonna stay here, just for a little while.  Don’t worry and don’t make a mess, it’s my best hat!  I’m gonna get your bed for you, but I need both hands for that.  So, you just wait here a moment.”

 

Before working on the nest he quickly scooped up the three small pathetic bodies and placed them next to the wing he had spotted earlier. He told himself that it was just so he did not step on them, did not get his boots messy.  It had nothing to do with re-uniting a family, even if it was in death.  But he wasn’t sure if his silver tongue worked on himself.

 

Plucking the nest from its perch was harder than expected.  The outlaw had to admire the little builders who had managed to do all this work without hands or tools.  After cutting and breaking off some of the outer layer, he held his price in his hands, wondering at the soft, smooth interior.  Hearing another squeak from behind, he turned around and started chuckling.  The spunky current inhabitant of his beloved hat obviously did not share his attachment to the black felt.  It was trying hard to work his way up to the brim to escape the unfamiliar housing.

 

“You’re a proper little outlaw, only captured for ten minutes and already trying to escape.  You have to learn to plan better, my friend.  You need to have a means of transport and you need to remain quiet if you want to get away.” Kneeling down next to his hat he sat the nest down on the ground and lifted the hat so that the brim rested on the edge of the nest.  “It also pays to have friends helping you with an escape.  See, if I lift you a little bit you can climb up here, and what do you know?  There’s your nest, waiting for you.”  He followed action to his words, helping the little orphan along, making sure he would reach his home safely.  “Come on.  Just hop in, it’s your nest, you can trust me.  Figure you’ll be feeling better with something familiar around.  See?  That wasn’t so hard.”

 

Heyes couldn’t help feeling proud of the little fighter.  After a quick check of his hat – no mess inside – he put it back on his head. Then he scooped up nest and nestling and carefully making sure he didn’t drop either, he started walking back to the compound, not giving a single thought to the long-forgotten lookout post.

 

He had walked the hidden path often enough so he didn’t need to concentrate on it, instead he gave his full attention to the young bird in his care.  It looked ugly, with its too-large beak and feet, its too-small wings.  The skin was visible here and there between fuzzy baby feathers and spike-like adult feathers still growing in and the thin neck was almost completely bald.  Fully grown, he – somehow Heyes had started to think of “it” as “he” – would be a beautiful bird, sporting off-white and blue plumage, a crest, and a black ring framing the white-cheeked face, white spots and black bands giving the wings and tail their distinctive markings.

 

“Now, little one, what do you think I should call you?” rumbled his baritone soothingly over the crouched down nestling, “if I protect, feed and adopt you, you need a name.”

“It must be something fitting for you,” mused the outlaw leader, deep in thought, “not 'Birdy', 'Buddy'or 'Tweety', don’t worry.  What about 'Blue'? Little Mr. 'Blue Jay'. How do you like that?”

 

The orphaned blue jay looked up at warm chocolate eyes peering down at him and even though he was confused and scared, he was mostly hungry and so opened his beak to call for food.

 

A warm chuckling answered him.  “I see.  'Blue' it is.  And I think we need to do something about feeding you, am I right?”  A louder squeak answered the outlaw.  “Blue, I think we’ll get along just fine.”

 
Looking around for something to feed little Blue, Heyes noted once more the morning’s beauty, but it had taken on a new meaning now.  It wasn’t just something to enjoy and contemplate; it was something to be a part of, to grasp, to become one with.

_________________
"I can resist everything - except temptation"  Oscar Wilde
For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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EvaHanley

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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   Sun Feb 01, 2015 6:28 am

Younger, but not necessarily easier to handle


"Aaaargh ! I. AM. GOING. TO. KILL. HIM." The teenage girl slammed the drawer shut, her cheeks on fire and her dark eyes throwing daggers. She stomped out of the room and hurtled noisily down the stairs, scaring the tabby cat out of his favourite sleeping spot in the landing as she went by. The animal dashed upstairs with an outraged hiss, but the angry girl took no notice.


The boy had hardly the time to rise from the front steps when she burst out the entrance door. He tried to make a run for it, but she was quicker. And stronger. She knocked him over and straddled him, pinning him to the ground. "You give it back to me ! NOW !


oooOOooo


The racket pulled Heyes out of his notes. “Not again”, he sighed and warily lifted himself from his desk. The resigned demeanor however only lasted to the entrance door. Arriving on the porch he was harboring again the same intimidating look that had made many an outlaw recoil.   “Will you stop this!”, he barked. 


The two youngsters got up from the porch floor and stood in front of their father, keeping some safety distance between each other. The girl pulled some of the hair that was half-hiding her face back into her ponytail, lips pressed tight and eyes stormy. The boy stuck his hand in his pockets, trying unsuccessfully to iron out his air of mischief.


Can you tell me what this is all about?”  Heyes’ voice was even again. “Siblings fighting like cats and dogs? Isabel, you are no longer a baby. Is this a proper behaviour for a young lady?”  he eyed her sternly, but without missing the dimpled grin that broke on the boy’s face. 


That is not fair, Pa!”, the girl burst out with indignation. “You always find it is my fault, but he had it coming. He’s been pestering me all week to stop reading and follow him to the pond. While I was doing my chores today he stole my book. He never lets me read in peace, all he cares for is go fishing. I have no time to waste for babies of his kind.”


I know you are but what am I”, retorted the boy, losing his grin. “You think you’re all grown-up, with your high-falutin’ stories? I bet you think you’re a Sherlock Holmes with skirts too ?


Heyes swallowed the smile that was threatening to overwhelm his face and stared at his younger son. “Joshua ?” 


The boy squirmed. 


Did you take Bel’s book ?“


...


Did you ?”


oooOOooo


Fifteen years earlier


Cries, loud thumps and heavy laughter pulled Heyes out of his notes. Slamming his pencil on the vault blueprint he was perusing, he angrily lifted himself from his desk and rushed to the cabin’s entrance. The whole Devil's Hole gang was there, cheering, laughing and clapping to the noisy dogfight in the middle. Making his way through the general mirth he reached the clearing as the big, mustachioed man was about to crush his fist against the face of the smaller, straw-haired outlaw he was straddling. “Will you stop this!”, barked Heyes. 


The two men got up from the ground and stood in front of the outlaw leader, keeping some safety distance between each other. The bigger man recovered his hat and jammed it on his head, biting his mustache and clenching his fists. His adversary stuck his hand in his pockets and spit a mouthful of chew to the tramped dirt.


Can you tell me what this is all about?”  Heyes’ voice was even again, but his eyes were dark and deadly. “I can't have you fighting like cats and dogs in this outfit. Our security depends on this. Wheat, I thought I could rely on you in Kid's absence. Is this a proper behaviour for a deputy ?”  he eyed him sternly, but without missing the guilty look on the blond man's face.


"He had it coming", grumpled the bigger man. "He’s been pestering me all week with his traps down the stream. While I was tending to my horse  today he stole my carving knife. You give it back now”, he growled to his adversary, "or else ..."


You've been on this piece of wood forever”, whined the blond man. “Ain't noone can talk to you. You've even stopped playing pocker. You ain't fun no more Wheat !"


Heyes swallowed the smile that was threatening to overwhelm his face and directed the "look" at the younger outlaw. “Kyle ?” 


The man squirmed. 


Would you want me to take you off dynamite ?“, he smiled wolfishly.


oooOOooo


Back to the Heyes' household


Heyes slipped the returned book under his left arm and waved with his free hand in the direction of his study.  "It seems I'll have to put this book away, since it is causing so much dispute. And confine you to your room", he pointed at the boy, "to restore some peace in this household."


"But Pa !", Isabel moved swiftly next to the dejected boy. "If you do that, he won't be able to show me this nice, shady spot he discovered by the pond, as he promised me."


"Yes, and she won't be able to finish reading me that fantastic novel we started the other day", Joshua hastily added, holding a pleading hand out to his father.


Heyes seemed to ponder the plea. Both boy and girl let relieved smiles light their faces as he removed the book from under his arm and offered it to the extended hand.


"One more fire put out", he sighed as the youngsters hurried away thick as thieves. "Until the next one".
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PostSubject: Re: Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?   

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Parenthood. What's more challenging; raising children or running Devil's Hole?
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