Frontier General Store




With three people to split the driving of the team, the only time they stop is when the horses need to be fed, watered and rested. Barely any time at all. It is already dark when they make camp and barely light when they start again in the morning. Lucky is driving the team, Sarah is on her mare and Flo rides beside Lucky. "So how much money exactly did you make in that Saloon?" Curiosity finally gets the better of Florence.

"Started with five dollars."

"That's a week's worth of groceries!" Flo protests the waste.

"And ended up with fifty-five but it took me all the way to dawn. That last pot was a doozy. And that's when I found out about Quartermaines moving their herd. They evidently do it twice a year. Take the cattle up to the high range as soon as it's warm enough then bring them back down in three...four months. Keep the ones they're keeping and drive the rest to town to be sold."

"Fifty five dollars!" Flo shakes her head in disbelief. "That's three months worth of groceries. How can people..."

"No, that's enough money to fence our properties. Those miners aren't as good as they think they are... and they got money to burn. Just at the right time too." Lucky explains. "Gia's right. We really need to be trading with them. They're closer. And the only miners I saw were the ones out of the Quartermaine mining operation. The independents are up there keeping an eye on their claims. They've got the fever and won't leave until they are out of supplies all together."

Sarah pulls along side. "But that is something we have to worry about after the fence."

Lucky yahs to the horses again and gets them stepping lively.





Sunday in the valley. Zander is over at the Hardy's for a dinner of rabbit stew. Elizabeth savors a bite. "Some how this just tastes better knowing most of it came out of our garden, including the blasted rabbits."

Zander laughs. "If you want I'll cure the pelts for you. Then you can make it into a trim for one of your pairs of gloves or something and you'll have a trophy for being the mighty hunter."

"What a lovely idea, Zander." Audrey compliments. "I wonder how Sarah and the others did in town?" She worries. "I know they should be back soon. Should have started back by now."

"I can't wait until I get to go into town." Liz dreams. "It's been months"

"It's a good way to catch up on the news." Zander admits. "But I was very happy to get back to the valley and check on my place. I know that the Spencer's kept an eye on things and I appreciated that but I didn't like leaving things."

Audrey nods. "I felt exactly the same way. I know it took months for me and the girls to get to Charlestown where we had our own company. And yes, it was nice to catch up and see some unfamiliar faces but I was constantly wondering what was going on out here. And then with Gia right there, I swear I was picking up on her paranoia that everyone was trying to cheat us."

"They don't like the soddies, that's what they call us in town." Zander explains to Liz. "And their manners are based on the fact that they don't think that any of us are going to succeed. Why bother being truly friendly to someone that isn't going to be around for long?"

"I think that attitude will change after we successfully complete the winter."

"If they they think we're going to quit they've got another thing coming." Liz declares. "Maybe if we were by our lonesome they might have a point. But we're all pulling together out here. Mr. Taggart helped us with our roof. You've been helping us with our firewood. And as soon as Sarah gets back with those canning jars we're going to be putting up hundreds of quarts of vegetables to help us thru the winter and for trade."

"You two are ready for the winter... mentally ready for the winter." Zander comments. "It's a worry of mine. Since I've been talking to you and to Mr. Cassadine from up the valley. The only snow I've ever seen was that... dusting back in April. I can't imagine being snowed in for weeks on end. I just can't wrap my mind around it."

"You just have to have a project to work on." Audrey suggests. "There are always the animals to care for of course. And you're never really snowed in for long. Yes, in the summer the walk between the properties only takes a half hour or so. In the winter it might take hours to wade thru the snow just to get to your nearest neighbor. When you come for Sunday dinner in the winter you might plan on staying the night and heading back the next morning if it's bad. But it's all a matter of planning. That and staying dry."

Liz nods. "That's the most important thing, Zander. You have to stay dry. Warm too but particularly dry. If you get wet and stay wet then it's very easy to freeze. Granddad had a clinic in our house back in New York. Every winter there would be someone who lost toes to the cold, or the tips of their fingers because they got caught out in the cold and froze. And people when they get cold deep down to the core cold... it's like their brain freezes too. They just don't think right."

"Zander, I know you're waiting on putting in windows on your place until later in the season. And I hope I'm not overstepping in my worry, but I really think you need to have them in by the August shopping trip to town. It'll probably be hotter than... well it'll still hopefully be hot but starting in fall..." Audrey shakes her head. "There are some years I remember when we didn't have a frost until October and there are other years where we had snow to our knees in September. Waiting until September to put the windows in might be pushing your luck."

Zander nods seriously. "I'm taking your advice to heart, ma'am. I'm not planning on making the mistake of thinking I know what the... heck I'm doing with this winter thing."

"Sarah and I will probably be piecing together some quilt blocks. Doing some sewing to keep busy. And there will be things to do around the cabin. Things to make it more homey. Elizabeth, well I've set aside one of the fleeces. We'll be dying it the last thing probably in September. And she'll be able to work on knitting thru out the cold."

"Grandpa used to like to whittle. He was awful at it but he enjoyed it. That and catching up on his reading. He'd buy books all summer long and save them up for the winter." Liz suggests. "And the Spencer's well I figure that they'll be playing music. They played every night on the trip across."

"That and robbing the wagon master blind playing cards." Audrey says disapprovingly. She stands up as the meal is finished and starts clearing the plates away, setting a kettle of water on to boil for the wash water.

Liz grabs the stuff she needs for milking and starts to the corral to take care of the cow. Zander goes out with her but is distracted by the wood pile. Taking off his coat he picks up the axe and starts splitting the wood for stacking. Audrey and Liz had already sawed the trees felled for them by Marcus into woodstove lengths so it is just a matter of splitting it down to manageable pieces. The Hardy's had given him a lot to think about.





At the Taggart place, Marcus is sitting out on the front porch. It is his most recent addition to the cabin. Something that he'd added to remind his mom of home. They'd spent many a humid night back in Alabama sitting on the front porch to get out of the heat of their house, slapping at mosquitoes and watching the fireflies come out. Gia walks out of the cabin drying her hands on a towel and then sitting down next to Marcus. "Air is different here. It doesn't smell as rich."

"I think the word you're looking for is ripe." Marcus says wryly. "The air up here is clean." Marcus sees a fish hitting the surface of the river. "And the fish are jumping. I think I like it here."

"One of these days though you are going to have to go into town." Gia reminds. "You can't just be a hermit out here working the land."

"I'm not being a hermit. I just have things to do."

"I know what it is. You don't want to be going into town with any white women."

"Old habits die hard. Nuthin comes from mixin but trouble." Marcus reminds. "And things aren't that different here. If they were then the rooming house would have served you."

Gia snorts. "As if. The rooming house is business. Just business." Gia leans against Marcus. "We're going to have to go up to the mining camp soon."


"I doubt mama is going to find out what cabins are abandoned."


"Am I buggin' ya?"


Gia falls silent with a sigh. If Mama were here she'd find something for them to do. Maybe Marcus had the right idea. Together they just contemplate the river and watch the fish jump.





"I don't know what the hell your problem is but get over it! Your attitude would sour milk." Bobbie finally snarls in frustration at her daughter.

"Then tell Uncle Luke to get off my neck!" Carly snarls back. "I am so sick of his watching my every move! We're out in the middle of nowhere! Gawd! I will be so glad when Lucky gets back so Luke can have his little cowboy!"

"Carly, That is enough!"

"You asked!"

"Well remind me not to do that again!" Bobbie snaps.

Carly throws up her hands and stalks out of the cabin going down to the corral. The Holsteins and their calves are the only occupants. The draft horses are with Lucky. Luke had taken the other horse to go check on Zander's place. He could leave whenever he wanted no questions asked. But if she tried to get a couple of minutes of alone time, Luke was right there looking over her shoulder. And Jason had been no where around. Not even a sight of him in the distance. She kicks at the bottom railing of the corral.

Bobbie sticks her head out of the open window of the cabin. "Just go soak your head!"

Carly figures what the hell and strides off to the river. As soon as she gets there, she strips out of her clothes down to her chemise and jumps in. The water is still icy cold straight down from the mountains. Lulu had heard Bobbie tell Carly to go soak her head and makes a run for the river with Foster keeping pace. She takes her boots off but then jumps in the water clothes and all. "Oh Gees, Lulu!" Carly reaches over and grabs the baby by the collar reefing her to the surface. "Are you crazy?"

Lulu starts treading water with Carly's extra buoyancy. "I took my shoes off." She sputters spitting river water.

"Soaking wet your clothes weigh more than you do! You'll sink like a stone."

"But you're here..."

Carly peels Lulu out of her dress and flings it up on the rocks. Relieved of the weight, Lulu starts paddling with Foster. As soon as her lips start turning blue, Carly pulls Lulu out of the water over the youngster's protests. "You get up to the house and dry off." Carly orders. Lulu takes off at a run. Carly sighs and grabbing her clothes strings the dry over one shoulder and takes Lulu's over to the clothes line to dry. With a contortionist type move she manages to slide off her chemise under her dress and throws it on the line too. Then picking up both hers and Lulu's boots heads back to the house.






Nikolas rides up on the Hardy place at a canter. His horse is lathered and laboring. "Mrs. Hardy!" he calls out getting her attention in the garden.

"Mr. Cassadine. Oh my Gosh! Is Sarah okay? What happened?"

Slowing the horse to a walk, Nikolas swings down. "Mrs. Taggart sent me ahead. The ranchers are planning on running their cattle to the summer range."


"Hundreds of head of cattle thru this valley."

"Oh!" Audrey realizes the significance. "But..." She looks at her garden.

"We have ten days." Nikolas says grimly. "The wagon is probably a day and a half behind me with barbed wire for fencing."

Liz having seen the horse coming up fast at a distance arrives breathlessly leading the goat and the sheep tagging along. "What happened?!"

"Liz, ride up to everyone's place and tell them Mr. Cassadine is back with important news."

"I can..."

"...take care of that horse before it falls down dead and you with it." Audrey takes hold of the goat's lead and takes Liz's tote. "Now Elizabeth." Liz takes off at a run to the corral and not bothering with a saddle swings up bareback using a stump to get a leg up. She takes off fast to the Taggart's. "Take care of your horse, Mr. Cassadine. I'm going to put on some coffee." Audrey leads the goat and sheep back to their pen and then goes in the cabin to get some flannel for Nikolas to rub the lathered horse down so it won't catch a chill.

Nik is still rubbing down the horse when Gia and Marcus show up riding tandem on their horse. "Is my mother alright?" Marcus demands.

"Mrs. Taggart is fine or was when I left them."

"Left them!"

"She wanted me to get back here as soon as possible."

"Mr. Taggart, I sent Liz to get everyone else in the valley. I'm sure Mr. Cassadine would rather tell his news just once." Audrey intervenes.

Marcus is barely mollified but takes a seat ready to wait this one out. It takes about another half an hour but Zander, Stefan and the Spencer's arrive at Audrey's with Liz. Gathered around the front of Audrey's cabin Nikolas explains the situation to them. There is a grim silence. Before Laura finally asks. "How can they get away with that?"

"It is evidently a western concept... free range. Anything that is not fenced is considered free for the cattle to range on."

"It would have been nice to know that one beforehand." Luke says dryly.

"It is something that is... understood. But it has been written into law here in Montana."

"I haven't even started haying." Zander shakes his head. "That's the one thing that is better on my property than y'all's. There is plenty of forage on my place... enough for my horses but for other livestock as well."

"There won't be after hundreds of head of cattle gets thru with it." Marcus counters. "Hell one of those big steers gets an itch and decides to scratch it against that soddie of yours and it's gonna come down."

"Who told you about this?" Bobbie asks Nikolas.

"It was a cowboy who was playing cards with Lucky."

"How'd he do?" Luke asks proudly.

"What was the cowboy's name?" Carly asks at the same time.

"Jason Morgan." Luke sees Carly's reaction to the name and his eyes narrow. "And Lucky did well enough at cards to buy enough barbed wire to fence in all the properties." Nikolas continues. "Mrs. Taggart sent me back early to give the people in the valley a... head start in whatever is involved in building a fence." Nikolas reaches into his pocket and grabs the map that Lucky had given him. Gia recognizes it as being one that she'd drawn after her first trip to the store. She also notices that Lucky had made a few X's back and away from the valley but she shoves that to the back of her mind to deal with the matter at hand. "Lucky believes the top priority is the fence line fronting the river. This is the way they'll drive the cattle so that they will constantly have access to water. Running the fence here first will protect the cabins and hopefully the gardens as well." Nik points out the line of the river.

Luke and Marcus step back, walking down to the river to contemplate the huge task ahead. Luke pulls out the last of his cigar that he'd been saving. Marcus his pipe. "I hate fences." Luke shakes his head.

"I hate losing anything of mine more." Marcus counters. "We both saw those big sumbitches when we were down at the rail yards. Zander's soddie would be the first to go but it wouldn't take them long to destroy everything that we've built here. And that would be just fine with those ranchers. Make it a for sure that we can't make it thru the winter."

"Post every six feet... eight feet max. Three strands of wire. And building the damn fence isn't going to be enough. We're going to have to be watching those ranchers every minute they are in the valley. Wouldn't put it past a one of them to cut a wire here or there." Luke nods. He walks down to the corner of Audrey's property down by the river and looks up the valley. Zander & Nikolas joins Marcus and Luke. Luke asks Nikolas. "You see a landmark that is the backside of your property, boy?"

Nikolas stiffens at the derisive nickname. But he looks up the valley. In the distance he sees what he is looking for. "That pine there-- the one with the hook at the top."

"You Cassadines haven't exactly been joiners on the doings in the valley. You in on this or do we start the fence at Zander's place?" Luke says flatly.

"We're in." Nik accepts the challenge.

Luke nods. "Then the race is on. You and Zander start at that end. Marcus and I will take this end. Meet you at the middle of my place. Loser gets to build all the gates. I want Lucky to be running wire the morning after he gets back from town." Luke crushes out the cigar leaving just a puff or two left on it for after dinner. He walks over to where the rest of the party is waiting. "It's decided. We're doing the front first. Zander and Nikolas are starting at the far end. Taggart and I will start here." Luke points to the earth.

"Gia and Elizabeth, it's the same as cutting the firewood. Luke and I will fell the trees. You cross cut them to post length-- bout your height no longer. And if you get bored then you can be getting the holes started six feet apart. Cassadine is gonna put a marker on the tree we'll be using as the far point." Taggart looks over at Nik to make sure he's got that piece. Nik nods.

"Come on, Mama." Carly starts tugging at Bobbie.


"We're going with Zander and that Cassadine fellow. No way in hell I'm going to let Uncle Luke win on this race."

"Honey, you don't even know what the stakes are."

"Other than getting the fence done? No, I don't know and I don't care. Uncle Luke isn't going to win."

Laura looks at Audrey. "It looks as if we're in charge of everything else."

"My husband always said an army was only as good as it's supply lines." They shake on it.

"What's everyone waiting on?" Luke demands. "Lets build a damn fence!"





Tuesday early afternoon. Sarah, Flo and Lucky make it back to the valley. They know that Nikolas got the news out as soon as they near the Hardy's place. At six foot intervals is a post laying on the ground. And the sounds of axes and saws is echoing thru the valley. Audrey sees them coming up to her corral with the wagon loaded down with supplies. "Lucky, your father says that half of the wire stays here and the other half goes up to the Cassadine place. They are planning on meeting in the middle... at your place. Flo, there is nobody at your place right now. Mr. Taggart and Gia are both working on the fence started right after morning chores." She gives Sarah a hug. Lucky comes around to the back of the wagon and starts off loading the Hardy's supplies and half of the barbed wire. "Sarah, go along with them and help them with the supplies for everyone else. I can take care of this." Audrey urges while indicating the pile of supplies laying on a tarp outside of her cabin.

At the Taggart place, Flo ohhs and ahhs over her brand new porch. Marcus and Gia had definitely been busy. A porch soon covered with the supplies from the store. The porch had allowed Lucky to pull right up to the house and pass things directly from the wagon to the porch. The extra chimney pieces, firebox for the smokehouse are also put on the porch. As soon as the Taggart order is off loaded, Flo gives them a wave and sends Sarah and Lucky on their way.

At the Spencer place, Lucky is greeted by Foster's barking and Lulu's hollering. Laura comes out of the cabin and wipes her hands on her apron. Lucky springs out of the wagon giving everyone hugs. "Everyone is hard at it I see."

"Your Dad wants you to be able to start stringing wire tomorrow. We didn't know when you were going to get in today." Laura gives her son another hug. "What did you bring me from the store?"

"Everything that was on your list." Lucky grins. "Don't worry, Mom, I didn't forget anything."

"Candy, Candy, Candy!" Lulu demands jumping up and down to get her brother's attention.

"I don't know. Have you been taking good care of those chickens while I was gone?"


Lucky reaches into his jacket pocket. "Here you go, Princess." He hands her a piece of penny candy. "Let me get all this stuff dropped off so we can head up to Zander's place."

At Zander's place, Sarah hitches her horse. "I'll put up Zander's stuff and take care of things here since he's up at the Cassadines."

Lucky nods. He knows that Zander spends every Sunday over at the Hardy's and figures he's sparking one of the girls. He makes it a little easier on Sarah by actually carrying the supplies into the house from the wagon. Once Lucky is gone, Sarah explores Zander's cabin figuring where everything goes and then starts putting away the supplies. Since Zander hasn't put in his windows yet and just has them covered with canvas... she makes sure all the barrels are tightly covered: the flour, sugar, corn meal, beans and coffee. As soon as the supplies are put up Sarah figure she might as well check on Zander's garden. Gram and Mrs. Spencer had things covered at their places, Mrs. Taggart was back to check on things there... if she didn't do it then Zander would be trying to water his garden in the dark.

At the Cassadine place, Lucky is kinda freaked to not really see anyone about. He goes up and knocks on the door. And older woman answers the door. "Yes, may I help you?"

"Mrs. Cassadine?"

"No, I am Mrs. Lansbury, the housekeeper. May I help you?"

"My name is Lucky Spencer. I have the supplies from town and some barbed wire my mom says is supposed to be dropped off here."

"Yes of course, Mr. Spencer. If you will bring the supplies around to the back door please. And the barbed wire needs to be delivered to that corner of the property. That is where Master Nikolas is working with Mr. Smith and I believe your aunt and cousin."

Lucky doesn't hear anything after the first sentence. "You have a back door?"

"Of course." Mrs. Lansbury keeps her face blank. "It's right around back."

"Right." Lucky swings up on the wagon and pulls it around to the back of the house and sure enough there is a back door with it's own little porch. Wonders never cease? The only time he'd seen a back door on a place was a public building: a store or saloon or something. He puts a shoulder to the supplies dropping then on the back porch and then heads out to the back corner of the property. "Somebody order some barbed wire?"

"Lucky!" Bobbie comes over and gives him a hug.

Carly stands off a bit. "I heard that some cowboy named Jason Morgan told you that the cattle was coming."

"Yeah, for some reason he seemed to recognize me right off." Lucky says wryly shaking his head at his cousin. He pulls Carly to the side. "We're going to talk, cuz."

"Nuthin to talk about." Carly denies. "You need any help with that barbed wire?"





As soon as Luke and Marcus figure there are enough trees felled they head back to Audrey's place. The girls have a smooth rhythm going and the guys leave them to it. They trade their axes for a shovel and a sledge hammer. Luke digs the holes and sets a post in it. Marcus comes behind him whamming it once with the sledge hammer and then kicks the dirt back into place around it and stomps it down.

"Now here is where you'll be wishing you had Caroline working with ya. Nobody can dig herself a hole like my niece especially when she's got a mad on and I swear she's been mad for a week." Luke sees that the girls had put up taller poles marking the space for the gate... wide enough for a wagon to drive up.

Gia and Liz go right by the guys with a cart filled with poles and pulled by the Taggart's horse. They'd already finished all the poles on the Hardy property and are working on the Taggart's. It was trial and error how many poles they'd need but now they have it figured and the cart is loaded with precisely the right amount and 2 taller gate poles. As soon as the poles are laid out they start back to the Hardy's to finish up their half of poles for the Spencer's place. Audrey is waiting for them with a snack and fresh cold water. They break only long enough to eat and then start again. Each take up their end of the cross cutting saw and begin to section the post width trees into post length. While one puts the post into the cart the other is positioning the tree on the wooden saw horses ready to go again.

Up at the Cassadine place, Carly starts muttering. "Too slow. Too damn slow. We're never going to beat Uncle Luke this way."

"Less bitching more sawing." Bobbie say not breaking her rhythm.

"I can bitch and saw at the same time." Carly counters.

"I've noticed."

"These Cassadine folk mean well but I swear it's just a matter of time before that Nikolas guy chops his own foot off. And that will be a nice mess."

Stefan overhears Carly's comment. "Excelling at manual labor has never been a goal for which the Cassadine have strived."

Carly snorts. "I noticed. Here take my spot on this."

"Excuse me?"

"Take my spot." Carly demands. She grabs Stefan and pulls him over to the saw horses. "Put on some gloves and try not to pass out from exhaustion before my mama." She says derisively of the fancy man.

"Caroline!" Bobbie protests her daughter's rudeness.

"I'm going to put out the posts we have so far and start digging the holes. As soon as Nikolas and Zander are done all they'll have to do is anchor the suckers down proper." Carly loads the last of the cut posts into Zander's carriage and starts down the path laying out posts every six feet.

"Your... daughter is abrasive." Stefan starts putting on his leather gloves to protect his hands.

"You'll ruin that jacket." Bobbie interrupts ignoring the comment about Carly. "You should take it off."

Stefan sheds his jacket laying it aside then puts the gloves on. He takes up one end of the saw. It takes them a few moments to get in a rhythm. Bobbie starts singing off a cadence that Stefan first finds distracting but then he sees the purpose and falls into the rhythm of her singing while trying to not internalize the bawdy lyrics.

Carly lays out as many posts as she has and then brings the carriage back to Bobbie and Stefan. She grabs a shovel and hurries to the line. Digging down just far enough to get the post to stand upright, she hefts the pole into place and moves on to the next one. By the time she gets to the last one, Zander is there with a carriage of more poles. He offers to change spots with her. Carly waves him off and keeps right on going. As long as there is another post laying six feet in front of her, she only looks up to check the position of the post in line with the rest, puts the post in and moves to the next.

After Zander drops off the load of posts he brings the carriage back to the Cassadine property and picks up a sledge hammer. He doesn't have Marcus heft so it takes whamming the post twice to get it sufficiently anchored. He kicks the dirt back into place around the base of the post and moves on to the next one. Nikolas come up on him. "What can I do to assist you?"

"Relieve Miz Spencer on her side of the saw." Zander grunts in mid wham. He stomps the dirt into place around the set post.

"These Spencer's are... interesting."

"They'll bet on anything, and they are competitive-- especially against each other." Zander grins pausing before moving on to the next post. "But that works for all of us. It's just like the railroad right here in the valley racing for the middle. I'm thinking we're going to be able to get this fence done in time and get back to our real lives."

Nikolas relieves Bobbie on her side of the saw. Bobbie doesn't move off though. She starts feeding the tree along the saw horses waiting for them to start on the next length then grabbing the cut post and putting it in the carriage, cutting down on the break/breathing time in-between the posts.

The sun is low in the sky as Carly nears the property edge of the Spencer homestead she can see her Uncle Luke on the other side and it gives her new strength. The sweat is dripping down the middle of her back and the back of her dress is already soaked. Nikolas had dropped off all the poles that would be needed to the middle of the Spencer property. She'd been falling off her pace until she saw Luke in the distance. Carly looks back. Zander is a ways behind her. Carly curses. Where the hell are the others?
She finishes the hole she is working on and stuffs a pole in it and practically runs to the next post. As she is digging the next hole she hears an irregular beat in the sledge hammer behind her. She looks back. "Yes!" Nikolas had gotten hold of another sledge hammer and had positioned himself about six posts in front of Zander and is pounding them in. He's slower than Zander and definitely more awkward but it's something. She can see on Uncle Luke's team that Luke is the one digging the holes and Mr. Taggart is pounding them in. Gia and Elizabeth are nowhere to be seen. As soon as she finishes the last hole she runs back to where Nikolas is pounding in a post. She urges him to the next and tromps down the dirt herself.

Zander has caught up to the spot where Nikolas had started. He tests the pole to see if there is any play in it and sees that it is secure so he moves up to where Nikolas is. He sees Luke and Marcus as well. "I'm going down to the end and working my way back."

Carly nods with a stomp. "We can get them. Come on guys!"

Zander shakes his head. He's about ready to drop. But what the hell. "You're crazy you know that? We have nine days to get this fence done."

"About nine days." Carly clarifies. "And a bunch of posts ain't a fence." She reminds.

Figuring that the day is about done and knowing that somehow that the front of the properties would be done tonight, Laura, Flo and Audrey are setting up the late supper at the Spencer place. A spread of pies, bread, beans, roast, trout, greens, biscuits and just about everything else they can think of is set out on the plank tables. Lulu is keeping Foster from helping himself to anything on the table.

The Cassadine team wins by a hair with Zander stomping the dirt back down just as Marcus is pounding the final post. Carly watches. "Yes! We win!" She does a little happy jig right there and sticks her tongue out at her Uncle.

"That's the front, niece." Luke looks up from where he is bent over to catch his breath. "There are four sides to a fence."

"Yeah, but you have to do the gates."

"I'm hungry." Luke denies her the satisfaction of the win by walking away to check out the spread the women had put together.

Carly goes to get in his face but Lucky comes up behind her and grabs her around the waist swinging her off her feet. "You won."

"He is such a pain." Carly protests.

"Get cleaned up. Mom has dinner ready. Everyone did a great job today. I'll be able to start stringing the wire in the morning." Lucky reminds her of the real purpose. He sets her back on her feet and gives her a little push in the direction of the cabin.

Stefan pulls up in the Cassadine carriage with Bobbie and Sarah who has been at Zander's place all this time, getting his chores done. Sarah's horse is hitched to the back of the carriage. Stefan comes around and assists them down from the carriage. Bobbie takes one look at her hands and excuses herself to go get cleaned up. Inside the cabin, Carly is pouring a kettle of heated water into a basin, she's unbuttoned her dress and pushed it down to her waist standing there in her chemise. "Do not go tell me to soak my head. Luke can just go soak his head in the river."

"I take it we lost."

"No, we won." Carly sniffs. She reaches for a washcloth and starts wetting it down.

Her wince is obvious when her hands hit the water and draws Bobbie's attention. Bobbie comes over to the basin. "Let me see your hands." She demands quietly. Taking both of Carly's hands she turns them over and winces in sympathy. "Oh baby."

"They're not that bad." Carly counters. She reverses the hold so she can look at the palms of Bobbie's hands. "You've got the start of a few too."

"Oh I have calluses on calluses." Bobbie dismisses the row of blisters on her hands. "I'm just glad everyone is cooperating. A few months ago..."

"Well the Hardy's and the Cassadines had to cooperate with us. Do you think they could have gotten any kind of fence up without us?!" Carly retorts.

Audrey comes in to the cabin to get something for the table and overhears the last remarks. She is torn between leaving unnoticed but decides that wouldn't be fair. "You're absolutely right. If it had been just me and the girls..." She shakes her head. "I've been acting like we're all still back in New York with all the rules that go with living back there and I apologize. Out here we're all the same. We're... Soddies. It isn't and never was my place to judge you. I am truly sorry. Let me do what I can do now." She goes over to her tote that Sarah had fashioned out of an old flour bag. "I brought this along. I always bring this along whenever there are sharp objects involved." She opens up the tote and starts setting supplies on Laura's counter: witch hazel, iodine, tweezers, a magnifying glass, a soothing salve, and bandages. "Once you finish cleaning up, let me take a look at those hands." Audrey is not going to be denied.
As soon as Carly has taken her basin bath cleaning her hands and face, Audrey pulls her over to the better light and sits the reluctant girl down. She turns Carly's hands over and examines the row of blisters. A few have already popped. Audrey also finds the slivers that are already starting to rise. Audrey gets the tweezers out and pulls out the slivers, dosing the injuries with a bit of iodine, blowing on them to take the sting out. Soaking a cloth in witch hazel, she runs the cloth over the evidence of sunburn on Carly's face. She tsks. "You should have been wearing a bonnet."

"I can't see in those things. It's like a horse with blinders on." Carly dismisses.

Since Audrey has thought that too on more than one occasion she makes no comment. "Keep a close eye on these for any sign of swelling or infection. I'm not going to bandage them up... the air will do them good. But make sure you wear gloves until they heal up... to keep dirt out. My husband used to always say your skin is your best protection against getting sick. Any break in it is where illness can sneak in. You really should rest these give them a chance to heal."

Carly grins. "Not too likely. As Uncle Luke pointed out, a fence has four sides. We haven't even finished one side yet." Carly thanks Audrey and then leaves to go out to where everyone else is gathered.

Bobbie takes Carly's place on the stool next to Laura's kitchen counter. Audrey examines Bobbie's hands. Bobbie had paced herself better than Carly had and while there are a few blisters, they are in fairly good shape. "Your girl tore her hands up." Audrey shakes her head and reaches for her tweezers.

"Caroline did a man's work today." Bobbie counters. "She just puts her head down and goes when she sets her mind to something. Not even thinking about tomorrow. Just figuring on what she has to get done today. It's a blessing."

"And a curse." Audrey shakes her head.

"There are benefits." Bobbie smiles. "She's already learned the biggest part of a man is his pride. They'll never stop before a woman. Carly was setting the pace on the Cassadine side." Bobbie frowns. "I know you said no judging and all that but that is one interesting family." Bobbie shakes her head. "The only reason they're even part way set for the winter is 'cause they have a staff. But I didn't see their man out there helping us with that fence. Fact is I haven't seen him for weeks. And I didn't see hide nor hair of Nikolas' Aunt Natasha the whole time I was up there. If we hadn't seen her when we first came out to the valley, I'd think she was a figment of my imagination."

Audrey frowns. "Zander goes over there on occasion. I'll speak with him see if he thinks anything is wrong. She might be waiting for us to call on her."

"Then I hope she isn't holding her breath." Bobbie retorts. "Don't figure we'll have time to go a'calling until say... October?" Her hands checked out, Bobbie rises from the stool. She goes over to the wash basin and picking it up carries it outside and casts it out. Then bringing it back in refills it with water from the kettle. She puts more water on to boil. "I'll send the others in."

Gia and Elizabeth are already at the door. Carly had told them what Audrey is doing.

The guys had given a little attention to cleaning up for dinner, more sluicing off the worst of the sweat and dirt in the icy water of the river, before helping themselves to the dinner that has been prepared. Florence and Laura take charge of the table making sure that everyone is getting plenty. As soon as a couple of people finish eating they scrape the plates and wash them up for a couple of people to rotate in. Stefan had planned on picking up Nikolas and then excusing themselves to go back home but Florence puts a stop to that plan by loading up plates and waiting for them to dig in. Nikolas had already been subject to Flo's dictator style care on the trail and doesn't fight it.

Gia had told Carly that Nikolas has the map of the abandoned homesteads. Carly slides in next to Lucky. "You have to get that map back from Nikolas." She hisses in a low voice. "We might be busy with the fence now but eventually we're going to be salvaging those homesteads."

Lucky nods but keeps eating. "I'll take care of it." He glances up to the cabin and sees that Liz and Gia are coming out from being doctored by Mrs. Hardy. He finishes up his plate and brings it over to his mother. Zander had observed the same and matches Lucky's move. Laura cleans the plates and hands them back to Florence who refills them for the girls. Liz and Gia sit down to dinner. Zander walks up to the house with Lucky. Lucky grabs his guitar and leaves Zander to get doctored by Mrs. Hardy. Lucky takes his guitar back down to the clearing and gets comfortable on the grass. He starts playing all of Lulu's favorite tunes. She and Foster start dancing around staying out of Laura's hair just as Lucky had intended.

Nikolas and Stefan finish next. It was quite the amazing meal. Like nothing they'd had in Europe: hearty, savory and filling but not fancy. And the unfamiliar labor had made it all the more appealing. Observing what Lucky and Zander had done, they bring their plates over to Laura. "It was a delicious meal. The fish in particular was quite tasty." Stefan compliments.

"My daughter's contribution." Laura accepts the compliment and the plates with a nod. "Lulu is seldom denied when she puts her pole in the water."

"I will have to discover the secret of her success at another time."

Flo can tell they are getting ready to leave. They'd been getting ready to leave ever since they showed up. "First things first. Y'all head up to the house and have Mrs. Hardy look at those hands. She's been plucking splinters out of everyone. Go on now." She makes a shooing motion with her hand. Laura hands the cleaned plates to Florence who makes up plates for Sarah and Lulu and calls them to the table.

Nikolas automatically follows Mrs. Taggart's direction not waiting for Stefan's input. Stefan shrugs and follows Nikolas. It would be interesting to see the inside of the Spencer cabin. To see how the other half lived so to speak. Stepping, into the cabin, he can see they live... cozily. Six people in this small abode? The front of the cabin would have all the light from the sun with the windows and door. He realizes that the cabin is deeper than it appears from the front. Mrs. Hardy is just finishing up on Zander when the Cassadines enter the house. "The water is hot in the kettle." She smiles in their direction and indicates the wash basin.

Luke and Marcus have finished their dinner and seconds too and are starting to feel outnumbered by the women sitting down at the table. So they rise and bring their plates over to Laura. Laura tells her husband. "As soon as the Cassadines are finished getting cleaned up, you and Mr. Taggart should head up there too."

Luke shrugs and looks at Marcus. "Time for a smoke?"

"Sounds like a plan." Marcus pulls out his stash of tobacco. Luke is out of cigars so going down to the river they carefully roll their own cigarettes and light up. "Didn't think the Cassadines would beat us to your place."

"They had more people on their team." Luke dismisses. "And I told you, Caroline is a hole digging fool when she's got a head of steam. Looks like I'll be building some gates." He sighs. "We're going to have to be checking up on those Cassadine folks though, don't think they'll be moving quite so fast on putting up their side of the fence. Those Hardy girls, I figure if they have the trees downed for them will be able to make all the posts and lay them out on their side. That Elizabeth is a goer."

Marcus takes a drag on his cigarette and holds it briefly in his lungs before exhaling. "Figure I'd head over there after morning chores and watering and get them set for the day. If they get all the posts done tomorrow, I'll plant them the day after. Rain or shine the fence has to be done in a week. Just to be on the safe side."

Luke nods his agreement. "It'll probably take me that long to get the gates done. Everyone that isn't needed around the place. I'll send out to the fence. Don't figure that Zander is going to be able to do much being on his lonesome. Boy doesn't have enough hands for his place. Need to find him a woman to help out. Ain't natural him being on his own like that."


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