Alias Smith and Jones Fun and Fanfiction
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PostSubject: Leap   Leap EmptySat Feb 01, 2020 4:34 am

Time for a new challenge, and as it's a leap year, and February, what else can the topic be? So time to give us your best take on the topic 
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Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before continuing on to February as comments are the only thanks or writers get.
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WichitaRed

WichitaRed

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Join date : 2014-01-02

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PostSubject: Re: Leap   Leap EmptySun Feb 23, 2020 11:23 am

Challenge: Leap


Leap to Action
 
Having completed his task of scouting the town, Wheat Carlson turned his sorrel pony around the corner of the Cave Saloon. Swinging down, he threw his reins over the hitching post, from across the seat of his saddle, he studied the street crowded with buckboards, riders, and quick-stepping men.
 
Then, pulling his hat, he knocked it against his chaps, billows of dust drifting from him. Setting it back on at an angle, he ran a hand down his bushy mustache and stepped up on the walk.
 
A sandy-haired man leaning back in a chair, its front two legs hovering in the air, grinned at him. “Howdy, you plannin’ on headin’ in there?” He asked, nodding his head toward the Cave’s gaping open front door.
 
“Summer travelin’ is dry business.”
 
“You ain’t lookin’ for company is you?”
 
Wheat shook his head, “got enough pals already.”
 
“That’s good,” the man grinned again, mischief ripe in his face, “they all ain’t known to be the best company.”
 
“Ain’t nothing to me, I just aim to get out of the sun for a spell.”
 
“Your choice.”
 
Wheat’s face scrunched at the man, and hitching up his holster belt, he stepped into the Cave Saloon.
 
The place was bigger than it appeared on the outside, a person might even call it a shotgun alley rather than a shotgun house, as the building went back so deep. There was a curtained stage at the rear, empty rows of chairs before it, and a good herd of tables from there to where Wheat stood letting his eyes adjust. The dozen or more souls manning the tables turned curious gazes his way. About mid-way down the bar, running one length of the place, a bartender leaned on its counter.
 
Stepping over, Wheat hitched a boot on the brass rail, “Mister, I’d like a drink of rye.”
 
The Bartender responded as if Wheat had not said one word.
 
“I’d like a drink of rye,” Wheat said, a bit louder, hearing movement, he twisted his head to  peer behind him.
 
A couple of the saloon’s other patrons had shoved about, allowing themselves a better view, but none had done enough to set Wheat’s neck hairs to stand on end. Exhaling, he rapped a knuckle on the bar’s scarred surface, “Once more, I’d like a drink.”


The Bartender rolled his neck, and on straightening proved himself to be much like the saloon in that he was larger than he appeared at first glance. Strolling down, he spread his hands along the counter before Wheat and leaning out like dog against a chain, he snarled, “I cannot hear you, Stranger, cause I am not of a mind to get to know you.”
 
Wheat’s square jaw jutted forth, “What did you just say!?”
 
“You heard me, you damn saddle tramp, now get!”
 
Then Wheat did something that would become legend in the town of Kelton. Dryly saying, “Let’s get a bit more familiar,” he leaped forward, his calloused hand snagging the Bartender’s shirt front, and before the man knew it, he was jerked clean across the bar and was lying facedown on the sawdust-covered floor.
 
The Bartender sprung with a grunt, his left fist aimed at Wheat, stepping to the side Wheat nailed him with a quick, hard stabbing left that split the skin across his cheekbone sending him back to slam into the poker tables.
 
Cards, chips, whiskey shots, and men flew from the table. A lean, long-legged man rushed by Wheat and spun, grabbing his arms to hold him.
 
With a growl, Wheat raised a boot, raking a rowel spur down the man’s shin.
 
Yelping, the man fell back, ramming into another, the pair of them falling through the open door into the street.
 
In those few moments, the Bartender gained his feet, catching Wheat with a haymaker that knocked him to one knee. Rushing in, he kicked out.
 
Throwing himself back, Wheat watched the square leather toe brush past his shirt front. Rolling away, he scrambled up, only to once more bump into another patron wearing a loud, blue plaid shirt.
 
Plaid shirt’s fist doubled up, rearing back to slam Wheat, but ducking the blow and wrapping his arms about the man’s ribcage, Wheat slung him through the front door.  
 
That was when a blow hit Wheat splitting the inside of his cheek, blood spewing from his mouth, his hat rolling from his head, and the Bartender following up with two sharp jabs to his exposed ribs.
 
Wheezing for air, Wheat backed away, his legs tangling in his batwing chaps, he stumbled, just escaping the fist aimed for the soft of his neck.
 
With a roar to match the Bartender’s, Wheat leapt at the man. They fell to fighting toe-to-toe, their blows carrying them out onto the boardwalk before the Cave.
 
There were no niceties that rules would bring to a sanctioned ring fight, each man was out for blood. Only anytime, Wheat tried to step clear to grab a breath, one of the cheering swarming patrons of the Cave would punch and shove him back into play.
 
All about the Cave, folks had stopped to ogle, and when a group of riders came down the street, they did the same.  
 
Suddenly, Olly Joyce shouted, “Hells Bells, that’s Wheat they is all ganged up on.”
 
Kyle gulped, “That don’t seem quite fair at all.”
 
Even as he said this, the fighters rolled back inside the Cave, grunting shouts still being heard clearly out on the street.
 
“Bullshit!” was the only word that erupted from Lobo as he slammed his heels down, aiming his gelding for the boardwalk before the Cave.
 
Seeing him, the rest of the gang did the same. All except Heyes and Curry, who instead, took up a watchful guard position in the street, as the horses of five of their gang members leaped onto the boardwalk, in a bottleneck mess to plunge straight through the Cave’s wide-open door with Lobo leading the pack, his pistol firing flames into the dark interior.
 
Shifting in his saddle, Curry asked, “You think he scouted the town for the job, before he went in there?”
 
With a sigh, Heyes pushed his hat back on his head, “Doesn’t really matter, don’t think we’re going to be hanging about that long, and we sure won’t be returning to Kelton any time soon.”

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Wichita Red..."I'm not really a rebel, but I take chances. I have a good time and I live life the way I want to live it."
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RosieAnnieUSA

RosieAnnieUSA

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Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 101
Location : Chicago, Illinois, USA

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PostSubject: Leaps   Leap EmptyThu Feb 27, 2020 11:52 am

BARELY under 4,000 words, thanks to some judicious and possibly injudicious cutting. Hope you guys enjoy this.

--------------------------------
I’m an old man now. The events of my childhood seem as distant to my children and grandchildren as is the Norman Conquest. It’s remarkable to all of us, including me, that my memories are still so vivid, as clear as if I were watching them play out on the silver screen. 

This ranch will survive me. It comforts me to know that all the hard work put into it over the years, starting with my father, means it will stay in the family after I’m gone. It wasn’t always such a sure thing, though. We almost lost it in the first year. The kids think I’m exaggerating when I say this, of course. “Sure, Pa, you walked five miles uphill in a blizzard to school in the morning, and then you walked five miles uphill in another blizzard on the way home.” 

That’s why I’m writing this story now. I want all the family to know, even the family not born yet, what it was like for me, that first season on the ranch.

When my father bought this place in spring, 1882, the buildings were here – mostly. They were standing, but in serious need of repair. Only the cabin was in good shape. That’s how Pa was able to afford the purchase price. He didn’t make much money working on the railroads, but with a loan from his brother, he bought this ramshackle spread and we all moved in, my parents, grandmother, myself, and two younger sisters.  Pa planned to do all the construction and remodeling himself, with me at his side, learning from him as he worked, and doing simple tasks a boy could handle. While he worked, he always told me, “Bricks and mortar, son. We’re building ourselves a home and a new life,” and I always pointed out that we were working with wood. It was a joke between us. I loved working with him, but he was away more often than not, so I stepped up as man of the house. I was twelve.

Summer in northern Colorado is glorious, but short. We didn’t realize how short. In early October, I was out repairing the fences. It was hard, dirty work, but I didn’t mind. I was surrounded by women at home, and the cabin felt confining. Mother had migraines – a lot – so my sisters, Elizabeth (we called her Bitsy) and Mary did the women’s work, under my grandmother’s problematic supervision.
 
That morning started out beautiful – clear skies, abundant sunshine, soft breezes. It was the best of Colorado. By the time I sat down to eat my lunch, clouds were moving in. I remember shivering. The breeze turned into a chilly wind. I put on my jacket and scarf and went back to work. It was a surprise when the first snowflake landed on my gloved hand. I could hardly believe how quickly the weather changed.

I started packing my tools, preparing for the long walk back to our cabin. As the occasional flurry turned into steady snowfall, I looked up and saw what I thought must be mirages. It couldn’t be two men on horseback. But it was. We hardly ever saw anyone way out north of Fort Collins. Were these men Indians? Outlaws? I desperately wished I had my father’s shotgun. 

They rode up to me. One had dark hair and wore a beat-up black hat with silver lightning bolts. The other was a young-looking man with curly blonde hair under a floppy brown hat with silver conchos.
“Are you alone out here?” The blonde man asked.

I looked around. “I don’t see anybody else,” I said, my rudeness an attempt to hide my apprehension. I didn’t fool him for a second.

“Storm’s moving in fast,” the dark one said. “You live nearby?” I nodded. “Time for you to head home. You don’t want to get caught in a white-out.”

I looked around and noticed the snowfall was getting heavier.

“We don’t want to caught outdoors either. We need to find somewhere to stay the night.” He looked up at the darkening sky. “At least the night. Maybe longer.”

“You think your folks will let us shelter in your barn?” the blonde man asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe.”

“You got a name?” 

He was leaning forward, arms crossed and resting on the pommel of his saddle. Somehow, he didn’t look dangerous to me. He looked kind.

“I’m Tom. Tom Hartley. My family owns this spread.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tom. I’m Joshua Smith,” the dark one said. “And that’s my partner, Thaddeus Jones. Let’s get more acquainted after we’re safe and warm indoors. Tie your tool kit to my saddle, and you can climb up and ride with Thaddeus. We’ll get to your place faster on horseback.”

“I hope you can guide us to your home in this blow,” Thaddeus said, as he pulled me up behind him. “This storm’s going to be a humdinger.”

By the time we reached the cabin about half an hour later, snow fell steadily. There was already at least two inches on the ground. Thaddeus and Joshua dropped me at the cabin door, and I directed them to the barn to settle their horses.

As soon as I got inside, Bitsy and Mary came running up to me, and they hugged me.

“We were worried about you,” Bitsy said. “It was so nice out, and then the snow started. We didn’t know what to do.”

“Where’s Ma?” I asked, stamping my feet on the threshold. It was warm inside. Grandma sat in her rocker, knitting. She didn’t seem to notice me.

“Laying down. She’s got another migraine.” Bitsy helped me take off my coat, and she hung it on a peg. “You want something hot to drink?”

I did. I knew Smith and Jones wouldn’t be in for a few minutes yet, so I went to tell Ma everything that had happened. When I saw she was sleeping, I decided to let her be, and left without disturbing her.

There was a knock on the door. Bitsy and Mary were startled. Grandma kept knitting. 

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I invited company over.” I opened the door, and Joshua and Thaddeus came in, stamping cold feet and sending snow to the floor. They put their saddlebags and bedrolls down. I introduced them to my sisters, who, although totally surprised and more than a little scared, responded politely.

“Is that your grandmother?” Joshua asked. I nodded. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” 

“I don’t know if it makes a difference if I do or not. She’s usually . . . well, Pa says she’s senile. She doesn’t always remember where she is. Sometimes she doesn’t even know us.”

“That’s no reason to be impolite,” Joshua said. He walked over to the rocker and bent over her.

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am. I’m Joshua Smith.” He extended his hand to shake hers. She seemed to wake up then. She put her knitting in her lap and looked up at him, and a big smile crossed her face.

“Matthew!” she said. “It’s really you! You never said you were getting leave.”

Thaddeus bent down to whisper to me. “Who’s Matthew?”

I whispered back. “Her son. He was in the Union Army. He never came back from the war.”

Joshua was quick, I’ll give him that. “I wanted to surprise you, Ma.”

She reached up and stroked his face. “You’re a good boy, Matthew.”

“Why don’t you show me what you’re making?” He knelt beside her rocker and gave Thaddeus a look I didn’t understand. 

“Where’s your Ma and Pa?” Thaddeus asked me.

“Ma gets migraines.” His look was questioning, so I explained. “She gets real bad headaches. She gets sick, and it hurts so much she can’t do much of anything except try to sleep. She’s sleeping now. Pa went to Fort Collins to work and get supplies for us. He’s supposed to be back any day.”

“Any day,” Thaddeus repeated. He thought about that for a second, and then he looked over to Joshua, who gave him another look back. It seemed to me that they had a whole conversation without saying a word. Joshua stood up, kissed Grandma’s hand, and asked her if she’d like him to make some tea for her. She couldn’t stop smiling at him.

“Let’s talk for a minute,” Thaddeus said. He and Joshua and I moved over to the stove, and the girls followed silently. 

“You ever been in a Colorado snowstorm before, Tom?” he asked. I shook my head no, and the girls did the same.

“We’re from Indianapolis,” Bitsy told him. “We’ve seen snowstorms before.”

“Winter’s different here,” Joshua said. “In Colorado, you can get feet of snow in one day. And that’s what’s happening now.”

“But it’s only October!” Mary protested. “It’s too early.”

“Early for Indianapolis maybe,” Thaddeus said. “Perfect time for the first big storm in Colorado. The good thing is, it’ll probably melt next week. Once winter really sets in, you can have twenty feet of snow on the ground till May.”

The girls and I were silent while we digested this. I won’t lie to you; I was scared. Looking at the girls, I could tell they were scared, too, even though, at this point, we didn’t understand the implications. I think Thaddeus, especially, understood what we were feeling, because he was very gentle about explaining it to us.

“It means that we’re going to be spending a few days together here, getting to know each other. Your Pa won’t be able to get through; he’ll be staying in Fort Collins. Do you think you can put up with me and Joshua?”

“If you don’t mind snoring, that is,” Joshua added. “When Thaddeus snores, the walls shake.”

They were both smiling at us. I can’t tell you what it was about them, but I trusted them, and I felt safe with them. The girls were crying a little, but they were smiling, too, through their tears.

“Alright, then. We’ll talk with your Ma when she’s feeling better. Meanwhile, let’s check out your supplies and wood. We’ll need plenty wood to keep that stove going.”

“We got lots of supplies,” Mary put in. She was only eight years old, “cute as a button,” as my Pa said. “I’ll show you.” Thaddeus took her hand, and she led him over to what passed for our kitchen area.

“Want to show me the woodpile?” Joshua asked me. “We’ll need to bring some more in for the stove. Might as well do it now, before we have to wade through three feet of snow.”

He and I put our coats back on and went outside. The wind was howling. Snow seemed to fall sideways. We went around to the back, and we both loaded our arms with wood.

Back inside, he and I organized the logs into a neat pile before taking off our coats. He was smiling, making small talk, but something about his expression worried me. Thaddeus and Mary had made tea, and us men sat down at the table. Mary gave tea to Grandma, who accepted it politely, as if Mary was a stranger. Bitsy took tea into Ma’s room.

“You’re the man of the house right now, are you?” Thaddeus asked me. I just shrugged. I felt very young in the presence of these two capable men.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “Your supplies, your wood pile, are lower than they should be.” My feelings must have shown on my face, because he hurried to reassure me. “We’re not in trouble now. Joshua and me, we bought plenty food in Laramie before we headed south. There’s enough for a couple weeks. Not enough for the whole winter. Not enough stores, definitely not enough wood.”

“Pa’s coming back with supplies,” I protested. “We’ll be okay.”
 
“We’re good for now,” Joshua said. “But we need to have a serious talk with your parents. There’s an awful lot of work to be done here, more’n you can imagine. Colorado ain’t Indianapolis.”

“We’ll chop some more wood for you. If the weather breaks, we can hunt a deer, get you some meat that’ll last for a while. Can’t do much else until this blow passes.”

“I can chop the wood,” I told him. “I’m not a child.”

“No, you’re not. That’s why you need to stay inside and take care of the womenfolk. Think you can do that?”

Of course, I could. They got dressed to go out again, teasing each other, telling little jokes, and making us all laugh. Even Grandma seemed to understand. 

“Be careful, Matthew!” she called, as Joshua went out. “The Rebs are everywhere.”

“I will, Ma,” he answered. “I got Thaddeus here to watch my back.” And they went out.

“Are we safe, Tom?” Bitsy asked me.
 
“Of course, we are,” I said. “They’re helping us already, aren’t they?”

“What’s Ma going to say?”

“I don’t know.”

Almost as if on cue, Ma emerged, shakily, from her bedroom, followed by Mary. Bitsy jumped up.
“Ma! Are you feeling better?” Something stirred in Grandma. She put her knitting down and stood.
“What is wrong with you, Faith?” she asked. “Are you sick again?”

“I was, Mother,” Ma said, settling into a chair. “I feel better now. The tea revived me.” She frowned. “What’s that sound?”

“The wind, Ma. There’s a blizzard right now. It’s bad out.”

“No, it’s . . . it sounds like someone chopping wood.” Suddenly, she jumped up from her chair. “Is your father here?”

“No, Ma,” Bitsy said. “That’s Joshua and Thaddeus. They’re chopping wood for our stove.”

“Who?” 

“Joshua and Thaddeus. I was stranded out by the fences in the snow, and they found me and brought me home. Now they’re stranded, too, so I said they could stay until after the storm.” Yes, I embroidered the story a bit. 

“You let strangers into our home? What were you thinking? Wait until your father gets here.”

“Take a look outside, Ma. Pa won’t get here anytime soon. I’m lucky – we’re all lucky – those two found me, and they’re helping us. We’re all stranded here, now.”

“We’ll see about that.” When she went to open the door, a gust of wind slammed the door against the wall. Snow blew in, like an unwelcome guest. I had to help her shove the door closed again.

“I wish we never left home,” Mary said. We all turned to look at her, and she was standing still, tears running down her sweet face. “I want to go back to Indiana.”

Ma was leaning against the door. “Well, we can’t. Tom is right; we’re stranded here, but at least we’re together.”

“We aren’t together,” Mary said. She was crying harder. “Pa’s gone.”

Grandma got out of her rocker and went over to Mary. Grandma got down on her knees, and Mary flung her arms around Grandma’s neck and sobbed. The rest of us just stood and watched. I think we were all stunned that Grandma had a moment of clarity. You never knew when that would happen.

“Is anyone hungry?” Ma asked. “I know I am.” We all were hungry. She started to prepare food, with Bitsy helping. Grandma sat in her rocker again, with Mary in her lap. 

It was only about half an hour later when we heard someone kicking at the door. I rushed to open it. Both Joshua and Thaddeus had arms full of wood. Snow blew around them. They stumbled in, both shivering with the cold, coughing and sneezing. Even standing there, arms full of wood, melting snow dripping off their hats and coats, they noticed Ma.

“Sorry to make such a mess, Mrs. Hartley,” Thaddeus said. “It’s bad out there.”

My Ma was a proper lady, even when she was confronted by two male strangers in her own home.
“Tom was just telling me about you. Please don’t apologize when you’re helping us out.”

“Let’s get this settled, Thaddeus,” Joshua said, “Then we can introduce ourselves properly.”

I jumped up to help them. 

“That’s a lot,” I said. “You sure were busy.”

“We got one more load to bring in,” Joshua said. “Sorry, Mrs. Hartley. There’s no way to do this without trailing in snow and dirt.” Ma’s mouth opened and closed a couple times. I thought, she was all ready to be angry, and here they were, all polite and helpful.

They were back with another load of wood, both of them staggering under the weight. Bitsy closed the door behind them, and I helped them unload onto our wood pile. They hung their coats and hats on the wall pegs and pulled off their boots, while I added logs to the stove. By the time we all sat down at the table, the stove was belching waves of heat, and I could see the trail of snow they’d brought inside was melting and drying up.

“Bitsy, get some tea for our guests,” Ma said. 

“Thank you, Mrs. Hartley,” Joshua said, “but if you don’t mind, we’ve got coffee in our kits. I think we need something real strong to take the chill out.”

“Of course, if you prefer,” Ma said. “I’m afraid we’ve run out of coffee.”

“We got plenty, ma’am, if you’d like some too.”

And so, we sat together – Joshua and Thaddeus, me, and Ma. Grandma gently released Mary from her lap and walked over to join us, placing her hand on Joshua’s shoulder.

“Are you going to stay for a while, Matthew?” she asked. Ma’s eyes got big. Just like before, Joshua had a quick answer.

“Sure am. Can’t go nowhere in this storm.”

We sat down together, all the adults and me, and got to know each other, a little. I’d been nervous about how Ma would receive our guests, but they were charming and friendly, and I could tell she was feeling better. They told her how they were travelling from Laramie to Denver, and then on to Texas for the winter, and that they had jobs waiting for them with a rich Texan named McCreedy. 

“We like to spend winters down south,” Joshua explained. “We wintered in Wyoming once, and that convinced us to take this job in Texas.”

Ma explained how my Pa had bought the property, his plans, everything. 

“We both wanted a fresh start,” she said. “We sold everything we had in Indianapolis. We had to borrow from my brother to buy this place. We just jumped.”

“A leap of faith,” Thaddeus said. “Like it says in Corinthians in the Good Book: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

“Yes! I see you’re a Christian, Thaddeus.”

Even if the dim light, I could see Thaddeus blush. “I can’t rightly claim to be, Ma’am. I’m not a churchgoer.”

“We don’t go to church, out here in the wilds, but we’re still Christians,” Ma said. “I’m sure it’s the same for you.”

Thaddeus’ blush deepened. Joshua jumped in.

“Even those who take a leap, ma’am, usually look first. Me and Thaddeus got some concerns that you aren’t prepared for a long winter here. Your stores are mighty short, and it’ll take weeks to chop enough wood to last you through till May.”

“We have faith, Joshua, even if you don’t.”

“There’s another saying I’ve heard, not from the Bible, though,” Thaddeus said. “God helps those who helps themselves. Far as I understand it, we still got to do the work, even with God’s help.”

“Well. I’ll let you men work it out with my husband, when he gets here. Meantime, the girls and I should start thinking about dinner.”

And so, they stayed for dinner. And for breakfast, and supper, for the next week. They spread their bedrolls on the floor. The girls and I shared the loft, and Ma and Grandma shared the bedroom. We found different ways to pass the time. We played cards and checkers. We went outside in the cold and made snowmen and had snowball fights. We read stories out loud for each other, although, after Joshua started reading from his book of Edgar Allen Poe, Ma decided that was too scary for us children. We told stories. We sang songs. The women sewed and cooked, and we men chopped wood, tended to the horses, and went hunting for rabbits (successful) and deer (unsuccessful). Even though we rarely went further than the barn, it felt like a holiday to me. I loved being with men who seemed to know so much. They were like the big brothers I’d never had.

Thaddeus was right about the thaw. One week after they arrived, we awoke to warmer temperatures and the steady drip, drip, drip of melting snow and ice. The temperature was almost balmy. Ma started going out, she said to check on things, but really, I knew she was looking for Pa to arrive.

One early morning, I went out with Joshua and Thaddeus to hunt deer. When we returned in the afternoon, with a freshly-killed doe across the back of Joshua’s horse, I saw Pa’s gelding tied up at the cabin. I leaped off Thaddeus’ horse and ran in at top speed.

Pa must have arrived hours earlier, because everyone was so casual, doing daily, normal things. I flung myself on him, and he held me tight, stroking my hair. 

When Joshua and Thaddeus came in, I had calmed down. Pa stood up to shake hands with them, and they sat down with him. Pa told them how grateful he was they’d been around to help out his family, and they told him how grateful they were to be accepted and taken in during the storm. It was an easy, comfortable time. After they and my parents had swallowed what seemed like a gallon of coffee, I could tell the conversation was turning serious.

“Faith tell me that you don’t think we can survive winter here, as we are.”

I saw another silent conversation pass between the two. Joshua, who, as I’d learned, had a silver tongue, spoke up.

“Colorado winters aren’t harder and longer thank you think, sir; they’re harder and longer than you can imagine, being from Indiana. You have to figure you’ll be on your own, alone, for months, with no hope of leaving. You’d be wise to stay in Fort Collins over the winter and come back here in spring.”
My mother sucked in her breath. Even Pa looked worried.

“I recognize that you’ve got more experience than me,” Pa said, “but the truth is, we don’t have the funds. No, we have to make a go of it here.”

Money was always the final word in any argument. That seemed to be that.

The next day, Joshua and Thaddeus saddled up their horses and bid us a fond farewell, handing us their final can of coffee as a gift. Two days later, Ma went to spoon out coffee from that can. Mixed in with the coffee grounds were five $20 gold pieces. With that money, we were able to spend winter in Fort Collins. The following year, we returned, better prepared, and we never left.

We never stopped hoping we’d see Smith and Jones again, but we never did. But just in case we hosted their relatives at the dude ranch we set up here, we always give anyone named Smith or Jones one free night of lodging. Even now, in the middle of this Depression in the country, we’ll keep giving that discount. We’ll take care of their families, like they took care of us.
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