Alias Smith and Jones Fun and Fanfiction
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Join date : 2013-08-24

Candlelit Empty
PostSubject: Candlelit   Candlelit EmptyFri Dec 01, 2017 4:55 am

Time for a new challenge. Your prompt for Decemeber is 

Candelit  advent wreath

Don't forget to comment on Novemeber's stories before moving on to December. Comments are the only thanks our writers get. 
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Posts : 1447
Join date : 2013-08-24
Location : Over the rainbow

Candlelit Empty
PostSubject: Re: Candlelit   Candlelit EmptySun Dec 03, 2017 3:31 pm

Alter Ego - Part eight

Heyes dropped to his knees and gathered her body in his arms as burning tears hit the back of his throat. She hung, limp in his arms like a broken doll as he hugged her to him. “No—"

He stared at her as visions of her face floated around his mind, laughing, living and challenging the world to take her on.

A tangible pain ached at his core as his heart cracked at the thought of what he had lost in this life before he’d had the chance to realize what he’d found. It was a soreness which began as a knot before it spread across his chest and stomach until every nerve in his body jangled. It was one he had felt before—too often. He hugged her to him, sucking in her scent as he stared in disbelief.

"We need to get help, Heyes."

"She's not breathing, Kid. She’s dead," he darted hopeless brown eyes to his cousin, blinking back tears as his anger surged to the fore. "Her horse! Violet shot her when she stole her horse. I’ll kill her, that evil  bitch—”

"She's in jail, Heyes, and she ain't worth hangin’ for. We’ll be there when they do. We’ll watch the law hang her thanks to the work Abi already did. It ain't worth you goin' down for murder too. She wouldn't want that."

He realized the Kid was right as he swallowed his helplessness. A part of his future had died with her. She was like him in a way; the good side of him, the positive, worthy, valuable member of society he could have become if things had turned out different or he had made better choices. It was too late now. Too late for almost everything.

Heyes dropped his head and nuzzled into her, his face red with her blood as his tears pooled before they tumbled down his cheeks, squeezed out by his futile attempts to blink them away.

The Kid stepped forward and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Stay with her, Heyes. I'll go. I’ll get someone."


The dark Pinkerton strode forward as his colleague delicately helped the Kid extricate Abigail's body from Heyes’ arms, his face and clothes stained with her blood. The man spoke softly with professional kindness, crouching to touch his arm. "My name’s Tom. Tom Bartlett. I used to be an army surgeon. I’m a doctor. Let me look after her. I’ll take real good care. She’s a good friend of mine too."

Heyes nodded mutely at him. Emotion swirled in the chocolate depths before he swallowed his caustic angst and handed her body over.

"Were they close?” The blond stranger whispered to the gunman as he looked at the darkness engulfing man before him.

"Not really. It's kinda complicated. Maybe? If she had lived? They kinda thought the same way. They were fond of each other. Real good friends."

The two men nodded in mutual understanding as Dr Bartlett laid her on the straw and stared to make the preliminary examinations to pronounce life formally extinct. He felt for a pulse, he pulled up her eyelids and looked into her dull, sightless eyes before he brought out a small mirror and held it under her nose.

He held it there for before his back stiffened and he examined it. "Bring that lamp over here."


He held the mirror to Abigail again before examining the surface in better light. "She's still alive."


"The mirror! The mirror misted over, faintly. It was so faint I wasn't even sure the first time. But I checked. She’s still breathing—just."

The whole atmosphere changed in an instant. The stables exploded into activity as Abigail was gathered into the doctor’s arms and carried over to the local doctor’s office.

They ran in a huddle. The doctor’s office was only a few doors away and the Kid reached it first and battered at the door with his fist.

"Can you save her?" Heyes asked, desperation lacing his voice.

 "She's lost a lot of blood. Maybe too much." He paused, irritated his foot thumping at the door was getting no response from inside. "Oh, for God’s sake man. Open this door!"

"Allow me?" Kid Curry took out his gun and shot the lock off, meeting the doctor’s surprised eyes with raised eyebrows.

They stormed in, the shot finally gaining the attention of the local doctor who appeared in a ratty dressing gown, reeking of whiskey. He held a guttering candle which cast deep shadows in every line and crease of his face. "What the hell?"

The men were in no mood to pander to him.

"She's had a shot to the head, a glancing wound but she’s been lying there, bleeding out for a long time. She needs a transfusion. Why didn’t you answer the door, man?"

The doctor gazed at Dr. Bartlett with eyes swirling with confusion and mad, frizzy grey hair surrounding his bald pate. "I was asleep. Transfusion? I've never done a transfusion."

Tom Bartlett looked at the man through narrowing eyes before glancing around at the equipment in the office in disdain. "Where’d you qualify?"


Tom’s eyes narrowed. "What university? Which doctor did you become a student under? How many years did you study?"

Tom’s brow lined at the lack of response and he barked out an order, betraying his army roots. "Mike, get him the hell outta here. He ain't qualified. He's a quack." He laid Abigail out on the couch and rolled up his sleeves. He grabbed the candle from the town doctor and used the candlelight to examine the room.   

Bartlett was an adherent of Joseph Lister’s new work in the prevention of infections which kept everything clean and as sterile as possible. "I need water, boiled, hard; to a rolling boil. And carbolic. Look in there, but knock every door until you find it. There's a pharmacist down the street, try there," he turned and yelled at Heyes. “Find bandages. Make them into a wad and put pressure on that wound.”

"Carbolic? I'm on it!" yelled the Kid, running into the darkness as Mike heaved huge stockpots out from a kitchen cupboard and put all the water he could find on to boil.

Dr Bartlett fixed Heyes with determined eyes. "She needs blood. It’s not always successful but it's all we got. I can give a pint. Can you?"

Heyes looked at her broken body on the table as he let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. "Blood?" This concept was new to him and the doubt flickered over his face.

"Yes. She’s lost a lot." Bartlett wrapped rubber tubing around his own upper arm, pumping his fist until the veins stood out. "We use our blood to replace hers. It’s our only hope. She’s nearly gone."

Heyes didn't hesitate for a second. "I'll give you as much as you need, Doc. Anything. Do me first."

“A pint. We can only take a pint.”


Tom Bartlett walked into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee, his face tired and drawn as he turned to the men sitting around the kitchen table. Heyes still looked grey and harrowed, but had washed her blood from his face at the Kid's urging.

"She's better. Her breathing is stronger and her pulse is regular. She has a long way to go yet and she ain't out of the woods but she has a chance. A small one, but it's still a chance. The bullet didn’t penetrate her skull. It hit the superficial temporal vein. She was knocked out and left to bleed out in the stable. God willing, she’ll pull through. She had defensive injuries on her hands and arms. I’m guessing she caught Violet sneaking off and they had a fight.”

He turned and leaned against the range, his face etched with weariness. "She's reacting well to the blood transfusion so far. It's a desperate act and it’s usually the last resort because most people die of them. We don't even know why." He sighed, "but we might have got lucky. A couple of soldiers had their lives saved that way in the war, but most died. I’ll have to keep an eye on her to see if it took. If she turns yellow and gets a fever there’ll be no hope. It’s given her the strength to have some fight so far."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"You're welcome, Mr. Heyes."

The Kid’s hand darted to his gun as the blond man smiled and he sat back and folded his arms. "We ain't idiots, Mr. Curry, and Abigail told us everything." His eyes drifted to the outlaw's gun. "Leave that. We’re all here for the same reason; to stop McCully and now, to save Abi. Relax. We ain’t interested in you two." He sat back and smiled at both of them. "Not this time. Tom would be dead now if it wasn't for you. He was sitting right in front of that window. Sure, McCully's gun had been tampered with by Abi, but he would have gotten his sister’s and used it. None of us knew about her. Dear God, we'd never have left Abi alone with her if we had. She's a treacherous witch. Who knows how many innocent people she's killed in cold blood to help her brother make a dirty living?"

The dark-haired doctor continued. “I saw something in you, right from the start. Real humanity, at the cabin and again at the stables with Abi. You saved my life so you get a chance. All anyone needs to know is bounty hunters who knew Abi stepped in to help then disappeared. Go. You gave her the best chance of life anyone could."

The Kid scowled. "You mean that?"

"I sure do. I’m not even sure we’d have checked the stables at all. If she wasn’t found until morning she would definitely have died. You didn't do this to stop McCully catching you. You cared about the lives he took. I can see that."

Heyes darted an anxious glance at the dark man who looked so similar to him in coloring, but had a Roman nose as opposed to Heyes’ smaller, pert version. "Doctor Bartlett, how will she be? If she lives? It’s a head injury. Will she be normal?" His eyes glittered with intensity, but the question was asked through a haze.

"The bullet only grazed her. I think she fought and that stopped it being fatal. It hit a major blood vessel near her temple, that's why she lost so much blood. She’ll have one hell of a headache but I doubt there'll be brain damage. It didn't penetrate the skull." He smiled. "There's nothing to be gained by you staying here. Her biggest danger now is infection and a reaction to the transfusion. That’s my job. Get yourselves to safety. More agents will be arriving tomorrow and they may not be as philosophical as us."

The blond Pinkerton smiled at them." She was always impressed by you two. Now we know why. The best advice I can give you is to get out of here while the going is good."

The doctor’s eyes glittered across the room at Heyes. "She's got a discerning eye, Mr. Heyes, and I have to say I share your excellent taste in women. Go—before we change our minds."

"Wait," Mike smiled at the Kid before he turned to the doctor. "I can't see why they couldn't leave after a night's rest. Can you, Tom?"

Tom Bartlett’s trained eyes glittered across at them, noting the men slipping into fatigue before he nodded. "I think it's a good idea."

”No, I think we should leave," the Kid’s voice was underscored with determination.

"Listen,” Tom insisted. “You saved my life. The least I can do is let you have a night's sleep. Go. Rest and you can look in on her in the morning before you go. I’m a fair man. Besides, it’s what she’d want me to do."


Heyes stared aimlessly ahead as they rode out into the bright expanse of the verdant valley. Mountains provided the rocky walls around the rich meadow, topped by a vault of jewel-blue sky. A spine of dotted clouds swept off into the far distance. It was a beautiful, bright clear day with a mellow touch of autumnal loam in the air and gentle breeze kissing the flesh with an ethereal balmy breath. The temperature was perfect; warm without any of the oppressive burning heat of recent days. Birds chattered and sang their little hearts out as they darted about catching insects and selecting only the juiciest berries and plumpest seeds before winter’s icy grasp shriveled and wizened nature’s bounty.

It was easy to be alive on a day like this—at least it was for most people. Not for Hannibal Heyes.

The Kid darted an anxious glance at his cousin. He’d barely said a word in the last twelve hours. He wanted to help, but he had his own problems. He had sworn to protect Abigail and he had stayed with the man he had thought was dangerous instead of guarding the victim. It was a stupid mistake and one he would regret to his dying day if she didn't pull through.

Guilt sat in his belly like a ball of lead but he tried to present as positive a front as he could to encourage the man who had been plunged into more emotional involvement than either of them had realized. It had snuck up on him, ambushing him totally and completely. One thing was sure, there was no denying the depth of his feelings for the woman he left behind in Everlasting.

"How you doin', Heyes?"

His answer was an indifferent shrug accompanied by an incomprehensible grunt.

"Look, she'll be fine. She was even stronger this mornin’. The doc said so."

Heyes shook his head. "It's too early to tell. He was being kind. That blood could still turn bad on her."

A flicker of a smile flickered over Kid Curry’s stony face satisfied Heyes had broken the silence at last. "It's Abi, Heyes. She's a fighter. If anyone can get through this it's her."

"Yeah? And how will we know? Can we contact her family or her friends? How about we wait for someone to write to us?"

The Kid paused, knowing he was right. The possibility of never knowing whether she was alive or dead weighed heavily on Heyes’ mind. "She'll let us know. She'll find a way."

"So if we don't hear? Is she dead or she can’t find us? How would we know?"

They continued in silence as he tried to find a way to put a positive spin on the situation. "If we don't hear it'll be because she'll have seen sense and gone home to her mother’s. She’ll surely quit this world after this. God knows I feel like walkin’ away and livin’ like a normal person. I’m sick to my stomach with this life. I wish I had a proper home to go to."

"Maybe she will, but maybe she won’t. She might never be the same again if she lives. She might be fit and happy. We’ll probably never know."

"She won't do that, Heyes. She’ll find a way."

He shook his head. "How? We found her by accident. Either way it's over. It’s all behind us. Part of her will always be dead because I’ll never see her again, no matter what."

"I know,” sighed the Kid. “I'm just tryin' to help you. There’s hope though and we need to credit her with the fight to see it through. Then you get on with your life because either way it’ll carry on for you. You can fight or go down. That’s all you got."

Heyes nodded. "I'm sorry. I’ll shake this off. It was the shock; thinking she was so safe at the boarding house. Everything she's done and it happens that way, just for a horse. There was no other reason. Violet didn’t know why she was really there. She was stealing a horse. It’s so pointless. You never know the minute."

"Nope, you don’t. But she'd want you to live life to the full until it does."

"I guess," he paused. "I feel so responsible. She was there to stop McCully killin’ us."

The Kid bit back the thoughts swirling around his mind. He wanted to talk more about how Heyes really felt and what had really happened between him and the woman he had known for such a short period of time; but he couldn’t find the words. Part of him knew the answers, and most of him didn’t want to face the possibility that Abigail provided a window on the world Heyes could have had if he’d had a better start in life. She rejected Heyes because he was a criminal, and the Kid felt responsible for being complicit in Heyes’ dishonest career. He’d never tried to turn him back on the right path. Heyes might have listened, but he’d run right along with him, egging him on every step of the way.

He had seen Heyes this morning, sitting on the bed staring at her blood on the shirt he had worn the night before. His eyes had been as black as midnight, as though recalling the nightmare could change things. He had hurriedly put it away when he realized the Kid was awake.

It hadn't hit him in the same way as Heyes. It wasn't even close. Had anything more happened between them or was it only a meeting of two mercurial and cunning minds? Kid Curry desperately wanted to break the silence to find out more. But he didn’t. It didn't feel right to intrude there. It felt too intimate.

He stared off into the distance, feeling impotent and powerless, little realizing his solid, ever reassuring presence was exactly what Heyes needed right now. The fog of bereavement was as debilitating for those trying to offer support as it was for the person in the eye of the storm.

Heyes kicked his heels into his horse and cantered off before the Kid urged his own horse forward to join him. They rode into one more day of many under acres of sky, and into one more day of wondering why they always chased the wrong prize.

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

Nebraska Wildfire

Posts : 151
Join date : 2016-12-10
Location : The Sonoran Desert

Candlelit Empty
PostSubject: Re: Candlelit   Candlelit EmptySun Dec 10, 2017 9:55 pm


“Git yourselves off this train, quick like, or we’ll all be blown to smithereens!”  The rough looking outlaw was pushing at the people in the railcar, while his partner was looking menacing, holding his gun casually in his folded arms.

Most of the passengers were doing their best to comply, but one younger couple was not moving as fast as expected.

“Move it!” they were ordered.  “Kyle ain’t one to spare the dynamite.”

“Please, my husband is not well,” the young woman in the nondescript gray traveling suit pleaded.  She herself was rather nondescript, with lank brown hair, and dull green eyes.

“Ain’t my problem, woman.”  Jenkins snarled, and pushed them towards the door.  “Heyes will be upset if’n you all ain’t off here soon!”

“Heyes ain’t gonna want you treatin’ them bad,” Carl countered, still having his gun handy, but trying to get around Jenkins to more gently guide them out.

“Ain’t got time for all this caterwauling.”  Jenkins pushed the frail young man off the steps of the train car, and he tumbled down the embankment.  The young woman’s eyes blazed and she turned on the outlaws, guns or not.

“Now, there was no call for that!”  Marie hurried down the steps before she could annoy them further, calling for her husband.

“Samuel?  Samuel, are you alright?”

As the young woman approached the spot where her husband had tumbled to the ground, she was barely aware of riders approaching.  Her primary concern with making certain her husband was unharmed.

As she reached out to help her husband sit up, she did notice another pair of hands, encased in brown leather gloves, helping to steady him.  Marie looked up into dark eyes, echoing her concern.

“Is he alright, ma’am?”  The man crouched on the ground supporting Samuel’s back, while her husband regained his breath.

“He often has difficulty breathing,” she explained.  “Especially when there’s excitement.”  She looked into Samuel’s pale face, as the man in the gray coat and black hat continued to support him.  “Just inhale slowly, Samuel.”

Her husband did as she asked and nodded, “Yes, Marie.”  He slowly regained his breath.

Marie watched the color come back to his face, and smiled up at the man who had come to their aid.  It was then that she noticed he had a six-gun strapped to his thigh.

“It’s gonna blow!”  A slight man with stringy dark blonde hair and a well-used hat came running from the train.

“Come on.”  The man with the dark brown eyes helped her lift her husband and they half walked, half drug him behind a stand of rocks.  As the sound of an explosion built, both of them moved to cover Samuel from the blast.  The young woman ended up covered by a lean body in a dark gray coat, and held down by the hands in the brown leather gloves.

After the impact of the explosion passed, they both set Samuel back up against the rock, and all three caught their breath again.

“Heyes.”  A blonde man rode up, and looked down at them.  “Kyle has it open.”

The man in the gray coat nodded, and looked up at his partner.  “You’ll have to make certain they have it all gathered up and everyone’s ready to ride.”  He looked down to Samuel and his wife, and then back up with a thin line to his mouth.  “I gotta clean up another of Jenkins’ messes.”

The blonde simply nodded.  His curls swayed in the breeze as he turned towards the mail car.

The man took off his black hat, and brushed his dark hair out of his face before he replaced the hat on his head.

“My apologies to you, sir,” he nodded towards Samuel, and then towards his wife.  “Ma’am.”  He smiled at Marie, a brilliant smile that made her return a shy one.  Then his face turned dark.  “There wasn’t any reason for you to be treated so disrespectfully.  That’s something I’ll have to deal with, but later.”

He stood and touched his hat.  “Now it’s time for us to leave.  Hopefully you weren’t too disturbed.”

He turned back as he approached his horse.  “Have a good day folks.”  

Then they were gone.

Marie counted the few coins in her hand.  Would it be enough to get both Samuel’s medicine as well as enough food for the week?  She sighed.  If only he had not used so much of his salary to buy supplies for the Lakota again.

She did not really regret his decision.  She knew many on the reservation were in much worse condition than she and Samuel.  She just wished that the government had the foresight to provide enough for the natives, as well as their teachers.

She had just crossed the street on the way to the mercantile, when a large group of riders came into town, stirring dust into her face.  It was cold, as autumn was starting in earnest, but there was always dust. 
She coughed as they passed, and was turning into the store, when a face in the crowd jarred her memory.  She turned back and watched as they tied up in front of the saloon.  She did not want to stare, but she saw the gray coat and black hat that she remembered.  She closed her eyes for a moment, but then hurried into the store.

“Good day, Mrs. Williams,” Mert Childers called as she entered.  “What can I do for you today?”

She pulled up a smile for the shopkeeper.  He was always so kind to her, extending credit when they desperately needed it, when the money ran out before the month did.  She always paid it back, but it seemed that they required it more and more often.

“Just a few items, Mr. Childers.”  She had turned back towards the front window, looking for the few things she could afford, when she noticed more riders coming into town.  They drew her attention again, and she saw another face she knew, surrounded by blonde curls.

Mert Childers had come up behind her.  “Don’t mind them none, Mrs. Williams.  They come into town, to let off some steam, spend some money, and then leave a quick as they came.  Ain’t never heard that they bother anyone in town.  Just stay in the saloon and drink and, well, they shouldn’t bother you, being a proper woman and all.”

She nodded shortly, and smiled again at him.  “No, I don’t imagine they’re concerned with such as me.”  She forced her attention away, as most of the men went into the saloon.  She had noticed the two she knew talking briefly, before she turned away.

She had decided she could get by with just flour and the tincture of willow bark, when the door opened for another customer.  Since Mr. Childers was busy with someone else, she thought again about getting a small amount of coffee.  Samuel so enjoyed it.  Perhaps they could do with a bit less flour.  As she turned around an aisle, a frivolous embroidered handkerchief caught her eye.  It had a lovely violet on it, and a lace edge.  She touched it reverently, and smiled sadly, remembering how she treasured such things, when she and William were courting.  She had sold the one he had given her, when a Lakota child at their last post needed medicine.

"It's very pretty, isn't it?"  The deep voice she remembered was behind her.  She turned and looked into his brown eyes.

“Yes, it is.”  She waited for him to say something more, since he clearly remembered her as well as she remembered him.

“You goin’ to purchase it?”  He had obviously decided she was not going to run screaming out into the street that Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were in town.  She assumed that would not be a good idea, not with what looked like the entire Devil’s Hole gang in the saloon.

She smiled softly, but shook her head, holding up the bottle of medicine.  “No, there are much more practical things we need.”

“How is your husband doing?” he asked, seeming to be genuinely concerned.  “Samuel Williams, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” she nodded, wondering what if meant that Hannibal Heyes remembered her husband’s name.  “His breathing still bothers him.  It isn’t as bad as it was in Boston, but still the dust aggravates it.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Williams.  I’m hoping it wasn’t the result of anything that happened…the last time we met.”  Heyes smiled softly.

“No, just his chronic issues.”  She was certain that the leader of an outlaw gang had better things to do than discuss her husband’s health, but never having known one before, she could not say for certain.

“Well, thank you for your concern, Mr. …”

“Rembacker, ma’am.  Joshua Rembacker.”

“Thank you, Mr. Rembacker, but I must get back home with this medicine.”

“Of course.”  He swept his hat off his head.  “It was nice to see you again, Marie.  I wish your husband a speedy recovery.”

She smiled at him as she turned to go to the counter, before she realized he remembered her name too.

“Are you ready, Mrs. Williams?” Mert Childers asked her as she approached.  He had been watching the exchange between Marie and Heyes.  He had not been able to hear what had been discussed, but did not think men such as he was should be passing the time of day with a fine woman like Mrs. Williams.

“Yes, Mr. Childers.  “I’ll take this willow tincture.  Can you tell me how much five pounds of flour will be, and perhaps a half a pound of coffee?”

After Childers totaled up her order, she realized she did not have quite enough money.  She should have been embarrassed, but it was not the first time it had happened, and unfortunately would not be the last.

“I can put some of it on your account, ma’am,” he began.

She hesitated, trying to decide how she could decrease her order.  She sighed, the coffee probably should go.

“Sorry to interrupt,” the man in the black hat approached.  “You look like you’re still deciding, and I’m in a bit of a hurry.  Maybe this kind gentleman can get my order all packaged up and by then you’ll be ready.”  His beautiful smile came onto his face as he looked down at her.  “However, if you are ready…”  He paused.

“’No, Mr. … Rembacker.”  She returned his smile.  “That sounds like a wonderful idea.”  At least the man would not see her having to put the coffee on credit, if she did not change her order.

“Thank you, Mrs. Williams.”  His eyes sparkled at her.  He then turned towards the shopkeeper.  “I need this box of ammunition,” He placed a box of 45 caliber cartridges on the counter.  “Oh and can you package up two pounds of coffee, but in separate one pound bags.”  He smiled so widely his teeth shown.  “It fits better in the saddlebags that way.”  As Childers turned, he added, “Oh and five pounds of flour.”  He turned towards Marie again.  “My partner loves pancakes.”

He asked about the work she and her husband were doing with the native people as Childers packaged up his supplies.

“Can I trouble you for that bottle, Mrs. Williams.”  He smiled at her again, but she wasn’t certain what she saw in his eyes.  “My partner is always complaining about how he aches after a long ride.  You’d think we were almost thirty or something.”  When she hesitated, he continued.  “There’s another bottle on the shelf, isn’t there?”

She simply nodded as she handed him the willow bark, a bit bemused.

“Since I’m in such a hurry, and you know where to find this, I’ll just purchase this bottle.”  He captured her gaze.  “If you don’t mind.” 

“No, not at all, Mr. Rembacker.”

Heyes pulled out a twenty-dollar gold piece to pay for his order, and accepted the change.  He then shook his head.  “What was I thinkin’?  I only have room for one pound of coffee, and the shells.”  He turned to Marie, his eyes sparkled, and a sly grin covered his face.  “You’d do me a favor to take these other items.  Don’t have the time to bother with making Mr. Childers here give me a refund.”

“Oh, but I couldn’t…” Marie started, but he took up his coffee, ammunition, tipped his hat to her and walked out of the door.

She did not see any of the Devil’s Hole gang before they rode out of town the next day.  She figured they had spent their time at the saloon.

It was two months later, and the winter winds had started, when their funds were low, and Samuel had picked up a horrible sounding cough.  She knew she needed to save their existing money in case he needed to visit the doctor, but they were also out of flour.  Pancakes could make a little go a long way, but you had to have flour.

She had bundled up against cold breezes, and wearily trudged to the mercantile.  She took a deep breath before opening the door.  It invigorated her, with its crispness, now that the dust had settled.  Her pride had disappeared some time ago, but she knew it still was not the way she wanted to live.

She dredged up a smile for Mert Childers as she blew on her hands walking up to his counter.  How welcome something like tea or coffee would be to add to the hot water they had been drinking, but she could not ask him to put that on account.  Soon enough, she’d probably need more flour added.

“Good morning, Mrs. Williams.  What can I do for you today?”

“Perhaps a pound of flour, Mr. Childers,” she stated quietly.

“How about I package up more for you, like ten pounds, then you won’t have to come out in this cold soon again.”

She looked down, but then met his eyes again.  “I’m afraid it has to be on account again, Mr. Childers, so perhaps just the one pound.”

He smiled widely back at her.  “Well, I’d still suggest the ten pounds,” he paused.  “Especially since your account has a credit of twenty dollars.”

“What?” she was astounded.  “There must be some mistake.  Perhaps someone else’s account should have been credited?”

“No, Mrs. Williams, it is correct.”

Suddenly it came to her.  She remembered a twenty-dollar gold piece.

“Oh, but I can’t, Mr. Childers.”  She blushed slightly.  “It wouldn’t be proper.”

“What?  Leaving a twenty-dollar credit on your account without buying enough to use some?  I agree.”  He then took pity on her, and smiled softly.  “It ain’t the first account that he’s added money to.”

She looked up suddenly and met his eyes.

“Sometimes bad men can do good things,” he said softly, and then continued.  “So what is it that you all need?  I seem to recall that the mister likes his coffee, and you are partial to that chamomile tea.  They’d keep you warm, with winter coming.”

She nodded, her head spinning a bit.  Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry were desperate outlaws, weren’t they?  Not Robin Hoods?  She continued to think as Childers packaged up her order.

“Oh, and you must have forgotten this package the last time you were in.”  He reached back onto a shelf for an already wrapped piece, and handed it to her.

She looked at the flat box, wondering what it might be.  “I don’t seem to remember forgetting anything, Mr. Childers.”

“Well, it has your name on it, so it must be yours.”  He continued to hold it out to her, until she took it, and saw “Marie” written on it.  It did not look like the blockish script that Childers used.

She simply put it into her shopping basket along with the rest of the riches Mr. Childers had handed to her.

Later that night, she had settled Samuel in bed, warmed by a good meal and a cup of tea.  She put her shawl over her nightdress, and picked up a single taper, her face glowing in the flickering candlelight.  She took the thin package out with her and sat in the rocker by the warmth of the still glowing fire.

She ran her fingers over her name, written as it was.  The penmanship was not good, but it definitely said Marie.  She slowly unwrapped the parcel, and lifted the lid off of the box.

In it lay a handkerchief, embroidered with violets and lace.
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PostSubject: Re: Candlelit   Candlelit EmptyTue Dec 19, 2017 10:33 pm

The Letters 3

December 1861

Dear "Mister Claus", (if that is indeed your REAL name)

Are you real? I'm not saying I don't believe in you, but could you sign the paper  I leave with the cookies to make me believe you more? Or better yet, leave a picture of yourself. I know you must have one somewhere you can spare to insure a young boy's belief in you stays alive.

I mean, if you think about it, you DO defy logic beyond all reason. I turned ten this year and I started trying to figure out how you get to everybody's house in ONE night and have time to eat at each place. And then there's the stops you have to make at the outhouse. There's just no possible way I can see that you can do it.

Plus, there's the fruit incident I mentioned last year. I've noticed, on more than one occasion, that little things from the kitchen seem to end up in my stocking. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just MAYBE, you're just a made up story Ma and Pa tell me so I'll be good and THEY'RE the ones getting my presents. Otherwise, WHY would I keep getting more clothes than anything else? It can't be my behavior because I'm the perfect example of what a good boy is. I've always told you the reasons behind some of my questionable actions.

Now, on the off chance that I'm actually wrong for once and you DO exist, let's get down to business. There's been some...things...happen that look bad, but when I give the explanation for them, you'll see that my actions were warranted.

Alright, I did, on a couple of occasions, purposely scare the teacher...BUT...she had scared all of us FIRST by talking about the war that started this year. The little kids don't need to hear about that. So, yes, I walked in one morning, looked at our teacher, and with a serious look, said, "Good morning. I see my assassins have failed," and then sat down like normal while I stared at her. Well, you can count that one off because she told Ma, Ma told Pa, and Pa told me next time I pretend to threaten someone, he'd take me to talk to the sheriff to find out what happens when people do that. So that shouldn't count against me.

Now the second time, I was provoked by somebody so this incident is HIS fault, NOT mine. Henry bet me three pieces of candy that I couldn't get fireworks to go off in the teacher's desk drawer at exactly the time class started. I had to prove to him that I could. Matter of fact, you should be proud of how I did it. It WAS pretty ingenious. In case you've forgotten, let me tell you how I did it.

I borrowed one of Ma's pie pans, some matches, one of Pa's pocket knives, a bit of string from Ma's sewing stuff, a couple of my cousin Jed's brothers' fireworks, and got to the schoolhouse a little early that day. The window is easily opened with a small knife...or so I'd been told...  

Once inside, I cut a little piece of string, set it on fire, and timed it to see how fast it burned. Then I measured how much string I needed and tied one end to the fireworks. And, would you believe my luck?! The desk drawer had been left unlocked! So I put the pie pan in there, laid the fireworks with the string curled up in it, and five minutes before it was time for the teacher to open the schoolhouse, lit the other end of the long string, closed the drawer, and climbed back out the window and went around to the front like I'd been there the whole time.

One second after class started, BOOM! I thought the teacher was going to jump right out of her clothes! I looked at Henry and grinned and at lunchtime, I collected my rightfully earned three pieces of candy. So, that doesn't count because I was proving a point. Henry had to know I could do it.

And I'm sorry I told Jed one day when he was feeling down that, "When life hands you lemons, throw them at the people causing your problems." How was I supposed to know he'd take that literally and go on a lemon shooting spree at his brothers with a bunch of lemons Aunt Emma was saving to make lemonade with? He's a pretty good shot with that slingshot of his too, so he probably made a hit with every lemon.

Now, I miiight have convinced Lucy that rabbits can live in trees because their long ears enable them to fly. And she miiiight have went home and stuck her pet rabbit up in the top of the tree because she wanted to see it fly but it fell down and knocked her Ma out. Notice I said this 'might' have happened, which means that it might 'not' have too. Besides, I shouldn't be responsible for somebody doing something just because I told them an innocent story.

So, since it's obvious that I'm not on the naughty list because these things all were done with childhood innocence and have already been rectified, to stay in accordance with Christmas tradition, I formally request that these items be left under the tree: lots of money, lots of candy (that doesn't come from Ma's kitchen, and remember, I'll know), a new hat (make it a black one), and some age appropriate toys. I DO NOT need any more clothes. The ones I got are fine. So what if they're a little stained. If I get new ones, they'll just end up with stains too so there's really no reason for it.

Well, Ma is yelling at me to go to bed. Guess she seen my candle lit. Next time, I'll have to put something in front of it to hide the light. By the way, Ma could use a new corset. I was using her's yesterday to see if it would fit Jed's dog. Don't worry though, I put it back. She just might want a new one if she knew what her's had been dragged through.

Your sincerely, well-meaning friend, (or is it 'son'? I'm still thinking on that.)
Hannibal Heyes

Dear Mister Santa Claus,

Hi. This is Jed Curry. Remember, the one that wanted a shootin' iron last year? Well, I didn't get it. Did you forget or what? The other stuff was pretty good, but nothin' a man could shoot with. There's critters that need dealin' with around here.

Han reminded me AGAIN this year that I should explain to you anythin' that might be counted agin me, so, there's only one thing I can think of. There's this boy named James that sits in front of me in school and he's always tryin' to give me a hard time. Well, he went to sit down one day, and his chair moved right out from under him. He hit the floor and everybody laughed. Now, my boot was restin' on the chair at the time, but that's all I'm sayin'.

Except for this: I best be gettin' a shootin' iron this year or there WILL be consequences. (I learnt that big word from Han. Well, actually, I learnt it when I heard Han's Pa on to him over somethin' he said he was innocent of.)

Now, there was only two cookies left and I needed 'em and my sister's gingerbread made us all throw up, so I just left a potato under the tree. You can bake it when you get home.

Your friend, (as of now),

Come to the dark side...we have cookies Very Happy  safe
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PostSubject: Re: Candlelit   Candlelit EmptyThu Dec 21, 2017 11:12 am

Tiny Tintypes

The amiable lunch time poker game was breaking up as the town’s residents gathered what little remained of their money in preparation for a return to more respectable ways to earn a living.  The two remaining players sat back in their chairs and signaled for new beers. The black-hatted player started to stack his large pile of winnings while his blond friend watched an older man approach, the smaller but still substantial collection of coins and bills by his elbow remaining untouched for the moment.

Kid Curry quickly evaluated the appearance and demeanor of the man as he neared the table and filed the stranger as causing no immediate danger, threat to be determined. The man appeared to be in his mid to late fifties, casually dressed in good quality clothes, and with a pleasant friendly face, showing no signs of unwelcome recognition of the partners.

“Gentlemen, mind if I sit down?”

Heyes looked up from stuffing the bills and coins into his pocket and nodded. Curry pushed out a chair across from him with his foot and extended his left hand in a gesture of welcome. The stranger lowered himself into the chair and smiled genially at the two table companions.

“I’ve been watching the poker game for a while now.”

Heyes gazed sharpened almost imperceptibly. Kid maintained his blank neutral expression while he heightened the alertness of his senses.

“Is that so? Did you want to play?” Heyes questioned, keeping his voice light.

The stranger chuckled, “No, I just enjoyed watching good poker players. And you two seemed to be good poker players, honest ones, too. I thought we could have a nice conversation over a beer or a whiskey or two. It could be a good way for us to size each other up.”

Kid leaned forward, “Size each other up? That’s an odd thing to say to someone you’ve just met.”

“I met no offense, young fella. Let me explain. You not from around here, are you?”

“No, we’re just passing through on our way to Porterville, Wyoming. I’m Joshua Smith and my friend is Thaddeus Jones. We’re stopping every now and then, making a little money on our way.” Heyes replied cautiously.

“I may have a proposition for you.”

Brown eyes widened slightly in interest. “What kind of proposition?”

“We’re law-abiding citizens, and not interested in anything crooked or ow!” Kid stopped abruptly and glared at his partner, who was giving him a sweet smile of warning after kicking Kid’s shin under the table.

Their new drinking companion watched the exchange with interest. “Let me start over. My name is Frederick Gutekunst, please call me Fred. You may have seen my work or heard of me, although you look a might young to have been reading the newspapers during the war when I made a name for myself as a war photographer. After the war, I was commissioned to take pictures of the westward expansion and settlement, mostly either for the railroads or the Philadelphia Inquirer. I also made a good living doing portraiture. I’m retired now and moved out West to be near my son, although, I do keep my hand in the business every now and then.”

“That’s all very interesting, Fred, but what about the proposition.” Heyes wanted to get the conversation back on track.

“I’m getting to that, I need two honest, able-bodied, trustworthy-looking men to help me for a couple of weeks.”

Kid’s and Heyes’ eyes slid sideways to each other for a quick moment before returning to Fred. Curry shook his head before replying, “Thanks for the offer Fred, but me and Joshua have to be in Porterville by Christmas to spend the holiday with our friend, the Sherriff. Besides, we haven’t had the best of luck working for people we’ve met in a saloon or played poker with.” A series of unfortunate employment situations, starting with a poker game where the situation turned deadly afterwards as the live players dwindled, followed by Seth and ending with a bounty hunter armed with a Sharps rifle paraded past Curry’s mind’s eye.

“Wait a minute Thaddeus, let’s hear Fred out. Help with what?”

“In the late spring to mid-summer I travel around and set up my photographer’s stall at town fairs and I get a decent business in weddings and young lover’s portraits. For the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas I do tintypes. The tintypes are a big seller for family’s and children’s portraits and they make great Christmas mementos or gifts for far off relatives. They’re affordable for most folks, easy to upsell on the extras, like fancy paper sleeves, tiny gem portraits in tin Christmas ornaments or special tinted plates. I’ve already sent out the flyers and have a confirmed itinerary. My son was going to send two of his ranch hands to go with me but something came up. I need help to set up the booth at Christmas marts, holiday church bazars, and in the towns, I visit as well someone to help drum up business and general help with the supplies, wagon, and the team. The pay would be thirty dollars a week plus ten percent of gross sales, and I pay for room and board. What do you say boys? The job will end in time for you to make Porterville by Christmas.”

“Thirty dollars a piece?” Heyes clarified

“Well, no, how bout twenty dollars a piece and fifteen percent of gross sales,” countered Fred.

Heyes stuck his right hand out across the table. “You found yourself two helpers, Fred. Thaddeus, why don’t you get us another round while we finalize the arrangements.”

“Splendid, Splendid, this is good, you can tell a lot about people by how they play cards.” Fred beamed at the men in front of him, noticing the satisfied look on Joshua’s face and the contrasting look of consternation on Thaddeus face.
Rock Springs

The photographer and his temporary helpers could hear the congregation singing through the church hall walls as they completed their preparations. A large sign board advertising the photographer’s services and prices sat on an easel along one corner wall where Heyes was arranging a table display of samples of tintypes in the sizes and styles offered as well as photo display options. There were heavy embossed fancy picture sleeves, a collection of tin ornaments, which a gem-sized portrait could be inserted, and frames of various designs, sizes, and prices. Heyes was tasked with taking the orders and being the cashier. He would also handle the scheduling of private sessions at the customer’s home, during the few days that they would be in Rock Springs.

Thaddeus was busy setting up the stands that held the rolled backdrops and the selection of props and furniture that the customers could choose from to stage their tintype. He was in charge of keeping the supplies for Fred and Heyes stocked and helping where needed. He also handled the wagon and horses and arranged for their needs.

Fred mounted his regular tintype camera facing one wall and a twelve-lensed camera that could make a dozen 34-by-1-inch (19 mm × 25 mm) tiny "gem" portraits with one exposure facing the other wall of the corner. He would be exposing and fixing the photos. A locked trunk with danger stenciled on each of its sides sat nearby and cordoned off.  The trunk contained the necessary but deadly poisonous chemicals such as potassium cyanide that were required to fix the photograph. It was all three men’s responsibility to ensure no one tampered with the supplies.

The mass was over and families streamed into the hall, clutching flyers of the holiday merchants present at the Sunday Church Holiday Market. Soon the tintype corner had a nice line of customers, waiting for what was still a novelty and considered a special event.

Mineral Springs

“Samuel and Jacob, quiet down and smile for the man. Betsy, Rose keep your hands to yourself and don’t poke and push your brothers. Emily Ann, dear, don’t cry. Mamma’s right here. Children, please sit still, Mamma and Poppa want to send a nice picture to Grammy and Grandpappy. Sam, sit down!”
A harried woman was wringing her hands as she watched her brood of children fidgeting and pushing each other off the velvet bench stationed in front of a backdrop of a holiday decorated carved wood mantle and roaring fire in a large fireplace.

Fred sighed and looked around, searching for a person he didn’t see. “Thaddeus?” he called out.
“Joshua, have you seen Thaddeus?”

“Last I saw he was headed back over to the hotel to get me more bon-ton frames and tin angel ornaments. He should be back any minute.”

“Ma’am, perhaps the children will be happier if you sit in the middle and put the little Emily on your lap,” Fred offered a suggestion to move the session along and not keep the folks waiting too long in line.

“Oh no, I couldn’t. I’m not dressed properly to take my photograph. Besides, the picture is just supposed to be of the children.” The woman all but wailed in despair of ever getting the boys and girls in a proper pose all at once.

Kid strode into the town hall, carrying two boxes and spotted an ever-expanding line of mothers and children, entire families, and a smattering of couples waiting for the chance to have a holiday tintype taken. He gauged the length of the line, the ages of the kids waiting and thought to himself, he should have grabbed a quick snack when he was out as it looked as if dinner and a drink was some hours away.

“Thaddeus, great, you’re back. Give those to Joshua and hurry over here.” Fred turned to the distraught mother. “My assistant is very good with children. Don’t worry we’ll have a tintype in your hand in just a few minutes.”

A few flashy gun twirls followed by a firm request for the boys to stay put, a full-on Curry charming smile and a gallant repositioning of Betsy and Rose on the opposite end of the velvet bench, and a game of peek-a-boo, which had Emily Anne laughing in the middle, resulted in a happy and relieved customer with two tintypes instead of one. Heyes helped her choose a suitable embossed sleeve to send to the grandparents and a nice frame for her own home, at an additional cost, of course.

Clear Waters

The three Holiday photographers were following a farmer to their last appointment on the last night of the business venture. The next morning Heyes and Curry would resume their journey to spend the holidays with Lom and Fred would return to his son’s ranch. It was a profitable and uneventful few weeks for all of them.

Curry was driving the team the through the late afternoon snow flurries down the tree-lined lane leading to a neat, modest farm house and yard. There was garland wrapped around the porch posts, a wreath on the front door and lit candles in every window spilling out welcoming golden light.

“We’re here,” announced Lou, the farmer as he dismounted in front of the barn. “Let me take care of my horse while you unload your stuff on the porch and then I’ll introduce you. It’ll be a nice surprise for my lovely wife.”

Lou opened the door, inviting the group in. “Edith, I’m back from town and I have a surprise.”

Three little girls and one small boy came running from different directions and launched themselves at their father as his wife, a plain but pleasant-looking woman, came out of the kitchen, untying her apron with a warm smile on her face. The nondescript family dog barked at the strangers before flopping down on the hearth rug and silently watched the goings on.

Lou gave each of the children a hug and his wife an affectionate kiss on the cheek before introducing the guests.

“I saw the flyer for the photographs while I was in town but it’s their last day. Mr. Gutekunst and Mr. Smith said it was no problem they could come out to the farm as we’re just out of town. I thought since we never had a picture taken, it would be a nice to have one to look back on when we get old and to remember the past.” Lou explained to his wife as the children were excitingly looking at the cameras and equipment Mr. Jones was lugging into the house.

“But, we’re in our everyday clothes and my hair needs to be fixed and…” Edith started to protest
Lou drew his wife close and gave her a sideways hug, keeping his amused eyes on his progeny. “I don’t want one of those posed photos with everyone in their Sunday best. I want to be able to look back and remember the everyday good times with my family. You’re perfect the way you are and the kids never stay clean for long anyway. Now, where should we take the photo?”

Fred had the family arranged in a typical manner for them. Lou was in the wing chair, with a child on each knee, reading a book aloud. The older children lay on the floor with the family dog between them, listening to the story. And Edith sat on the sofa, knitting. It was a pleasant domestic tableau of a farm family relaxing by the fire.

The darkening night was still, the only sound was the horses clomping through the new fallen snow. Stars were blinking brilliantly in the heavens above, while ice crystals glistened in the moonlight. A barn owl hooted and caused Curry to glance back towards the well-kept farm they left behind. The house glowed with holiday candlelight, promising warmth and welcome. Kid stayed quietly gazing behind him for several long moments before he slowed and then finally stopped the horses.

 Heyes continued riding his own gelding for a time until he realized the wagon with his partner and the photographer had stopped.

Kid spoke for the first time since loading the wagon, “Fred, remember how you offered to take our pictures and Joshua and I said thanks but no thanks. We didn’t have anyone we wanted to send a picture to.”

“Yes, Thaddeus, I remember that conversation. Did you think of someone you’d like to give a tintype to?”

“Not exactly but I would like one. Is there enough light to take a picture of the farm we left from here?”

Fred looked thoughtful while he was gauging the light then nodded. “I could get a decent photo if I over exposed it. I certainly took pictures during the war in much worse conditions. You want me to take a photo of the family’s home from this spot, can I ask why? You don’t know them, do you?”

“No particular reason, it’s a nice picture, and no I never met the family before.”

Fred tilted his head up to look a Heyes questioningly, who shrugged back in bafflement. He didn’t understand his partner’s request either. “Okay, let me get set up and I’ll get you your tintype”


The night before reaching Porterville

Heyes was rummaging around in Kid’s saddle bags that were thrown haphazardly on the lone chair in a shabby hotel room, looking to borrow a clean pair of socks for the next day. Kid had already undressed and gotten into bed after a long day of riding followed by a long night of poker. He was halfway to sweet slumber when he became aware of Heyes steady scrutiny.

A blue eye cracked open to find his partner holding up the tintype of a modest farmhouse on a clear winter’s night. Heyes was alternating scrutinizing the tintype for hidden clues and staring at the Kid with contemplative annoyance. Kid closed his eye and feigned sleep, although he knew it was futile. Heyes hated mysteries and Curry’s request for the tintype several nights ago was a mystery. Kid had remained mute on the subject despite several gentle probes and teasing. Knowing Heyes like he did, Kid knew Heyes wasn’t going to let the matter go even though it was of no consequence to either one of them. Heyes just had to know why he wanted the photo.

“It’s a reminder. The tintype is a reminder.” Curry reluctantly admitted as he turned on his side and propped himself up on one elbow.

Heyes perked up, he knew he would wear the Kid down eventually. “Of what, we don’t even know that family?”

Curry scooted up in bed and returned Heyes curious study with practiced indifference. “No, not that family but families in general. Heyes, for that last couple of weeks we’ve been giving folks something that they can hold and look at to remind themselves of their families.”

“Yeah.” Heyes realized where the Kid’s mind was going and he dropped down into the sagging chair and suddenly wished he left well enough alone.

“Well, we have nothing left. Nothing to hold or to look at. Even my memories are hazy. Sometimes, when I think of our families, not that I do often, but sometimes I can’t picture their faces clearly. It was like I needed a reminder. That farmhouse kinda reminded me.”

“That farm didn’t look anything like your family’s or mine. We didn’t have a tree-lined lane. The porch was different…” Heyes’ mind skittered away from painful memories.

“It wasn’t the farm but the fact that the family was nothing special except to each other. The place and the people in had a sense of belonging. Did you see how happy everyone was when that farmer walked in the door just like he did every night? When I look at the tintype I don’t see that farm and family, I see a picture where I can remember the feeling of the past. Like candles lighting the way home and if I open the door than my family would be waiting. I can see their faces.”

Kid’s indifferent posture was degenerating into acute embarrassment and he braced himself for the inevitable teasing of his sentimentality. He looked up, waiting for his partner’s remarks, and was surprised to see empathy in those brown eyes.

Curry braved one more thought. “It’s not just a reminder of the past but a reminder of why we’re running and learning to live like honest citizens, well mostly honest. It’s a reminder of what a future could be. That I could have a home and family of my own, waiting just beyond that door.”

There was silence for a long moment as both men sat remembering and contemplating what may lie ahead. “Never thought you’d be happy with the relentless sameness and back-breaking labor of farming.” Heyes needed to break the melancholic nostalgia and he couldn’t resist a slight jab at his partner.

Kid smiled. “You got that right, but I was never gonna be a farmer anyway, being the fifth of six children and the youngest boy. You on the other hand are even less of farmer material than me even though you would have inherited the farm as an only child.”

Heyes had to admit to himself, the Kid had a point, he never saw himself as a farmer growing up and certainly not now. He chuckled quietly but then sobered as he caught Curry’s eyes.

“You know, Kid, unless we get our amnesty for Christmas there’s a good chance you’re gonna lose that tintype too, left in some hotel room or on a horse we’ve had to ditch.”

“I know that but at least I’ll have something to remind me for a little while and that will have to be enough.”
Notes: There is no tin in the tintype. It is a blackened iron sheet. A tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion.  Because the lacquered iron support was resilient and did not need drying, a tintype could be developed and fixed and handed to the customer only a few minutes after the picture had been taken.  A very underexposed negative image was produced in the emulsion. Its densest areas, corresponding to the lightest parts of the subject, appeared gray by reflected light. The areas with the least amount of silver, corresponding to the darkest areas of the subject, were essentially transparent and appeared black when seen against the dark background provided by the lacquer. The image as a whole therefore appeared to be a dull-toned positive. This ability to employ underexposed images allowed shorter exposure times to be used, a great advantage in portraiture.
To obtain as light-toned an image as possible, potassium cyanide, a very dangerous and powerful deadly poison, was normally employed as the photographic fixer. It was perhaps the most acutely hazardous of all the several highly toxic chemicals originally used in this and many other early photographic processes.

One unusual piece of tintype equipment was a twelve-lensed camera that could make a dozen 34-by-1-inch (19 mm × 25 mm) "gem" portraits with one exposure, developed in 1858. Portrait sizes ranged from gem-size to 11 in × 14 in (280 mm × 360 mm). From about 1865 to 1910, the most popular size, called "Bon-ton", ranged from 2 38 in × 3 12 in (60 mm × 89 mm) to 4 in × 5 34 in (100 mm × 150 mm).

Each tintype is usually a camera original, so the image is usually a mirror image, reversed left to right from reality. Sometimes the camera was fitted with a mirror or right-angle prism so that the end result would be right-reading.

The tintype photograph saw more uses and captured a wider variety of settings and subjects than any other photographic type. It’s like the elderly grandfather that saw everything. It was introduced while the daguerreotype was still popular, though its primary competition would have been the ambrotype. Brown or 'chocolate' plates as they were known were introduced in 1870. They have a distinct hue, though some may be subtle as there were three different tints available.

The tintype saw the Civil War come and go, documenting the individual soldier and horrific battle scenes. It captured scenes from the Wild West, as it was easy to produce by itinerant photographers working out of covered wagons.

It began losing artistic and commercial ground to higher quality albumen prints on paper in the mid-1860s, yet survived for well over another 40 years, living mostly as a carnival novelty. Carnival tintypes were popular throughout the 1890s. These usually show people in festive or posed settings, and may be in a colorful sleeve.


Frederick Gutekunst
Frederick Gutekunst (1831–1917) Leading, Pennsylvania photographer, Gutekunst opened two studios in Philadelphia in 1856. On July 9, the same day that Alexander Gardner's photographer’s days after the Battle of Gettysburg, the "Dean of American Photographers" produced a series seven plates of exquisite quality, including the first image of local hero John Burns.  A portrait of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant stirred national interest and helped set Gutekunst apart from his contemporaries.
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PostSubject: Re: Candlelit   Candlelit EmptyThu Dec 28, 2017 11:46 am

A bit of a prequel for the holiday season.

Snow drifted from the tall pine tree onto the men crouched beneath its branches.

“What’re we lookin’ for?”

Hannibal Heyes stared intently at the cabin at the far side of the small clearing.

“Not so loud, Kyle,” he whispered.

“Sorry” Kyle responded in a stage whisper. “What’re we lookin’ for?”


Kyle considered. He squinted at the cabin, trying to make out its outlines in the dark December evening.

“I didn’t see no one ‘cepting Kid and Wheat. There ain’t even smoke from the chimney, and it’s a mighty cold night.”

Heyes flicked a glance at him. “Definitely a good sign. Once those two make sure no one’s home, we’ll have a comfortable place to wait out this cold weather.” He waved one hand at the building. “’Course, comfort’s a relative term. It’s not the Brown Palace.”

A bird call sounded through the still air. Both men straightened up. Kid Curry walked into the clearing, waving at them, followed by the tall, slouching form of Wheat Carlsen.

“We got us a home, boys,” he called. “Kyle, there’s a stable out back. It ain’t much, but you and Wheat can settle the horses there while me and Heyes take in the bags and see about getting a fire started.”

“Make sure to build a big one,” Wheat muttered. “I might need me a whole bonfire ‘fore I can feel my fingers and toes again.”

He and Kyle led the horses towards the stable while Heyes and Curry, four heavy saddlebags slung over their shoulders, crossed to the cabin’s door. A simple leather thong strung around a nail seemed to be all that kept the door secured, but the door was stuck. Curry needed to shove it hard to open it. Once inside, both men stood on the threshold and looked around. With the door still hanging open behind them, feeble moonlight glinted off objects hanging on the rough plank walls.

“Are those candles?” Heyes asked.

“I think so. You still got some dry matches on you?”

“I got me some in my pocket. Give me a second.” Striking a match, he held it high so both men could survey the room. Sconces holding thick wax tapers hung at shoulder height around the room.

“No oil lamps, I guess. Candles will have to do. I’ll get them lit.” Soon, flickering candlelight reflected off the bright tin backings of the sconces, casting uneven light in the frigid room.

“Better than feeling around in the dark.” Curry pointed towards the stone fireplace. “Looks like someone laid in a good supply of firewood. Maybe even enough for Wheat’s bonfire.”

“Might still not be enough for me. All the best parts of me are just about froze solid.”

“Heyes, I may be your partner, but even partners don’t need to know everything about each other. I’ll get a fire started if you promise not to tell me what part gets warmed up when.”

“You got a deal.”

Both men placed the heavy saddlebags on a small table. While Curry built the fire, Heyes walked around the cabin, lifting containers off shelves, patting down the bedding on a cot and running his gloved hand over surfaces.

“Seems to be a fair amount of dust. I’d guess nobody’s been here for some time.”

“I don’t think he left all this stuff behind just in case some drifters like us came through.”

“I don’t think so either. Whoever he was, he was planning to come back. I’d lay even odds he won’t be coming here tonight to spend Christmas Eve. He’s probably hunkered down in some fancy hotel, eating hot food in a restaurant and sleeping on a feather bed.”

“Like any smart man would be. Like we should be.” Curry took a candle from one of the sconces to ignite the firewood. “Like we would be, if you weren’t so damn determined to show the world how smart you are.”

“Hey, I didn’t do nothing. Is it my fault if that sheriff don’t know a false trail when he sees one?”

Satisfied that the fire was catching, Curry stood up to face his friend.

“It’s your fault when you go too far and make that sheriff look like a fool in front of the people in his town. You didn’t need to do that.”

“If he looked like a fool, it’s because he acted like a fool. That ain’t my fault.”

“You pushed it too far, Heyes. That sheriff won’t ever forget us.”

“Who cares, Kid? Some small-town nobody from nowhere. You’re forgetting who we are.”

“Oh, I know who we are. We’re four men out in the middle of nowhere at Christmastime, squatting in some homesteader’s cabin and stealing his food.”

“We’ll leave him money to pay for whatever we use. Maybe even some extra. And look, Kid! This place really is stocked. I mean, look around! Lots of canned food, even the peaches you like. Lots of firewood. Even cups and dishes. We’re better off here instead of that hotel you were talking about.”

“Don’t try to change the subject, Heyes. That sheriff was no fool, but you made him look like one. A man like that, he don’t forget an insult.”

“You worry too much! And besides, it’s Christmas. He’s got better things to think about than us.”

“You keep telling yourself that. Me, I think he’ll going to remember us for –"

The door swung open with a crash. Carrying a mysterious bag, Wheat and Kyle stamped their feet, shaking snow loose from their boots.

“Close that door, boys! You’re letting out all the heat from that bonfire Kid just built.”

“You ain’t never gonna guess what we found back there!” Kyle said. “Not never!”

“A saloon with lots of whiskey and pretty girls?” Heyes guessed.

“We left that behind in Kingsburg, or maybe you plum forget that?” Wheat complained.

“Somethin’ better! A smokehouse! And this!” Kyle opened the bag, and Heyes and Curry peered inside.

“I don’t believe it!” Curry breathed. “Is that a ham?”

“Shore is! A whole salted ham. And there’s taters, too. We can have us a Christmas dinner!”

Curry put a companionable arm around his partner’s shoulders. “Heyes, I take back everything I said about the hotel. You’re right. This is better.”

“Only thing missin’ is some whiskey.” Wheat looked around the cabin appreciatively. The candlelight and burning logs in the fireplace cast a gentle light in the room. “Otherwise, looks as if we’re snug as bugs in the rug.”

“Unless you found a still out back next to that smokehouse, we’ll have to make do with the whiskey we brung,” Heyes said. “That ought to go well with this fine dinner we’re having.”

Both Wheat and Kyle stood up straight.

“We’s got some whiskey?” Kyle asked.

“We do indeed. And good stuff, too.” Heyes reached into his saddlebag and withdrew two objects wrapped in canvas. “I packed them real well so they’d survive the ride.”

“Heyes,” Kyle gushed, “You’s the best leader this gang ever done had.”

“Don’t know if I’d go that far.”

“Wheat. That’s enough.”

“I don’t mean nothing by it, Kid.”

“I know. Why don’t we get settled in? It looks like we’ll be staying awhile. But before we do, Kyle, take the cook pot outside and fill it with snow. Wheat can cut the potatoes, and boil them. We got some canned treats, too, so let’s unpack these bags and then have us a real fine dinner.”

“And whiskey afterwards,” Heyes added.

“Whoeee!” Kyle shouted. “Now that’s Christmas.”


The four men sat on the floor near the fireplace. Each was scraping his plate to get the last bit of dinner. Ham with canned peaches on top, boiled potatoes, beans, and hardtack were now a happy memory. Outside, they heard the wind whistling through the tall pines, but little cold air penetrated the cabin’s stout chinked walls.

Kyle wiped his plate with his fingers and licked them clean, smacking loudly.

“You know, boys, I don’t miss Kingsburg at all. Not a-tall.”

Wheat grunted. “I got to admit, I weren’t too happy leaving like we did, but this sure makes up for it. I don’t even mind spreading my bedroll on the floor, and that’s a fact.”

“That’s ‘cause ain’t no one watching us here like that sheriff did,” Kyle added. “He was a bad ‘un, he was.”

“A full belly makes everyone happy,” Heyes observed. “Now, who’s ready for a nightcap?”

“I didn’t bring no nightcap, Heyes. I only got what clothes I’m wearin’ and some clean socks.”

 “Nightcap’s another word for whiskey after dinner, Kyle,” Curry explained.

 Kyle brightened. “I do believe I’d like that.”

“I thought you might.” Heyes stood up and reached out to take the empty plates. He put them in the dry sink and took cups from the shelf above. He passed a cup to each man and then unwrapped a whiskey bottle from its canvas packaging.

 “What do you think of this, boys? Good enough for the Devil’s Hole Gang?”

 Wheat held out his cup to be filled. “Can’t be sure till we taste it, can we?”

 “No, guess not. It’s always wise to be cautious.” Heyes filled the glasses. Each men held his glass up in a salute to the others before drinking.

 Curry took a careful sip. “Not bad. Not bad at all.”

 "If’n you say so, Kid.” Wheat drained his glass in one swallow. “I’m ready for another.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a quick glance.

 “You mean to say, ‘Please, sir, I want some more,’” Heyes said.

 Whaddaya mean, I mean to say that?” Wheat protested. “I know what I mean, and I mean to have some more.”

 “Settle down! I was quoting someone famous.” Heyes refilled the cup. “Haven’t you ever heard of David Copperfield?” Thoughtful expressions showed on three faces. Suddenly, Wheat brightened.

 “He’s with the Cowboys, out of Tombstone.”

Kyle sat up straight. “No, Wheat, you got him mixed up with that feller runs Robbers Roost. Ain’t that the one you mean, Heyes?”

“Ah . . . no. David Copperfield is the name of a book. The main person in the book is named David Copperfield.”

 “Well, ain’t that a coincidence! The book and the person, them both havin’ the same name. Ain’t that somethin’, Wheat?”

 Wheat was looking down at the mug in his hands. “Yeah, that’s something alright.”

 “Just pour the whiskey, Heyes,” Curry told him. “We’re a bunch of crooks on the run, not a ladies’ book club.”

 “What was I thinking?” He held up the bottle. It was half-empty. “Anyone else need a refill?”

 “You need to ask? Another round, Heyes.”

 The men drank the second round more slowly. Each one felt the warm burn of the whiskey going down. Curry yawned.

 “I’m about ready to hit the hay, boys. It’s been a long day.”

 “Who gets the bed?” Wheat asked.

 Heyes looked over his shoulder at the cot tucked into the farthest corner.

 “Whoever can put up with the cold. Even if you drag it over here, it’s still farther from the fire than a bedroll on the floor.”

 “I don’t mind,” Kyle said. “I don’t feel the cold as much as you boys.”

 “It’s yours,” Heyes said.

 Wheat pushed himself to his feet. “I’m gonna step outside before settling down.”

 “You might take Kyle with you,” Curry suggested. At Wheat’s expression, Curry added, “There’s probably coyotes and wolves around. One man should keep watch while the other does . . . you know.”

 “Good idee.” Kyle got up. “The sooner we get’s this done, the sooner I can get some sleep.” The two men slouched into their heavy coats and stepped outside.

 “Not a bad Christmas Eve after all, is it, Kid?”

“I’ve seen worse.”

“You’ll see a better New Year’s. We can rest up here a couple days and then head out for a real town that does New Year’s right.”

 “Heyes, every once in a while, you have a good idea.”

“I do, don’t I?” Heyes poured himself a half-mug of the whiskey.
“Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. We got lucky tonight, finding this place. Otherwise we’d be sleeping in some lean-to, snuggled up way too close to Kyle and Wheat, trying not to freeze to death. And it’s all because you had to show off to that sheriff.”

“Not that again, Kid! Look, he’ll forget about us by New Year’s. He’s a small-town nobody. We’re somebodies.”

 “That’s why he’ll remember us. You may forget him, but I won’t.”

 “He’s lucky if the Devil’s Hole Gang remembers him,” Heyes argued. “But you’re wrong about me forgetting. I actually have a little something to remind me of him.” He got up and rummaged about in his saddlebag for a moment while Curry watched. When he sat down again, he held something in one closed fist.

 “Guess what I’ve got?”

 “What?” Curry felt his apprehension mounting.

 Heyes opened his fist to reveal a tin star. “Sheriff” was impressed on its surface.

 “You stole his badge?”

 “Yep. Nice little memento, don’t you think? Might come in handy someday.”

 “I can’t believe you did that.” Curry looked at his partner. The candlelight flicked shadows over Heyes’ smug expression.

 “You don’t know when to stop, do you, Heyes? You push and you push and you push. That sheriff will be looking out for us from now until doomsday.”

 “It don’t matter if he does or not. We’re the Devil’s Hole Gang.”

 “You keep saying that, and I keep telling you, that don’t matter. If we run into him again, we’ll be in a world of hurt. We’ll have to make a career out of avoiding him.”

 “Kid, calm down. What’re the odds we’ll run into him again? You’re taking this way too seriously.”

Curry shook his head slowly. He realized Heyes was just too full of himself to listen right now.
“You’re not taking this seriously enough. Wade Sawyer is a tough, smart sheriff. We got lucky this time. If we run into him again, he knows us on sight, and he’s got a powerful grudge.”

 “Like I said before, you worry too much. Let’s just enjoy ourselves while we’re here. And once we leave this place, we can go someplace warmer and spend some of that Kingsburg money that’s in our saddlebags.”

“Now you’re finally making some sense.” They raised their mugs and touched them together in a toast.

“Merry Christmas, Heyes. Here’s to our absent host. May he stay away until we’re ready to leave.”

“I’ll drink to that. Merry Christmas, Kid.”
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