Frontier General Store
Second week of June 1883
A day like every other day, rising with the chickens when the sun is barely breaking over the valley, quickly doing the chores-- feeding the stock, milking the cows, collecting eggs, breakfast, watering & working the gardens as there is no sign of rain in sight. Straight after breakfast, Marcus heads over to the woods up behind the Hardy's house about midway up their property. It would be a good starting place with easy access to both the front and back of the property. The experience of Monday and Tuesday putting up the front of the fence gives him a clue as to the task ahead. About how many trees would need to be felled.
Lucky and Lulu go down to the Hardy place as well straight after breakfast. Getting the spool of wire from where he'd dropped it the day before Lucky starts at the corner and anchors the wire carefully. Then he starts spooling it out making sure the wire is taunt at each post. Lulu comes along behind him and pounds a staple to the post anchoring the wire to the post. It's a big girl task and she takes it seriously. Lucky has decided to split the task into sections, working from corner to gate opening, then back for the middle strand of wire, then back again for the third. Once that is done they start running wire from the far side gate of the Hardy's to the nearside gate of the Taggart's.
Luke and his ax go up to the Cassadine place, having a second cup of coffee offered to him by Mrs. Lansbury at the back door. He takes a breather before getting started on the task. There is going to be work a plenty. "So how did a fine looking woman like yourself end up with this bunch?"
Mrs. Lansbury lifts a brow. "My husband worked for Master Stefan's father. I've known them, worked for them, all of their lives."
Luke whistles. "Child bride then. No clue what you were getting into." Luke finishes the last of his coffee. "Well whichever of the men folk get their butt in gear first send out to give me a hand. The coffee was much appreciated." He strolls off to the woods finding the spot where Zander and Nikolas had been felling trees before. He starts chopping trees and leaving them where they lay. Figuring he'd give them until noon and then he has projects he has to do on his own land. And if the Cassadines aren't out there giving him a hand by then well then he'd just start working on the backside of the fence and they'd be on their own. Neighborly only goes so far besides he's got gates to build.
Zander, after a breakfast of mush flavored with a bit of honey and a cup of coffee, starts in on his garden. Watering it carefully, plants got thirsty when they were on a growing spurt and watering alone could take him all the way up to his noon break. Not having much experience with canning he'd planted mostly crops that would go in a root cellar: carrots, potatoes, cabbages and the like. Course planting crops that would go in a root cellar had a certain implication to it... he needs a root cellar. The Hardy's would need one too. He could probably trade making them one for some of the veggies out of the their garden to supplement his own limited crops, figuring that a steady diet of potatoes, cabbages and carrots would get boring after a few months.
By the time the sun is directly overhead, Lucky and Lulu have made it to what will be the gate of the Spencer place. Lucky brushes a gloved hand over the top of Lulu's head. "You've done great, Princess."
Lulu looks up at her big brother worshipfully. "I like pounding things."
"Well I know you've been a big help." Lucky says honestly. "This running wire thing is a two person job cause it's important to have the wire tight... how could I have gotten it so tight, held the staple, and hammered it in too? I'd probably still be down at Miz Hardy's place if you hadn't been helping." Lucky exaggerates a bit on that one. "Why don't you run up to the house and see if Mom has the noon meal on. Cause I'm so hungry I'm about ready to go ask the Cassadines to shoot us another bear!"
Lulu runs giggling up to the house. "Mama, mama! Lucky wants to know if supper is ready? He's hungry enough to eat a bear!"
Laura wipes her hands on an ever present tea towel tucked in to the strings of her apron which rather than tying in a bow behind her, she'd brought to the front and neatly tied. "Well that's a good thing cause bear went into the soup! Get cleaned up. As soon as your hands are clean I'll start dishing up." She walks over to the wood stove and sticks her hand in the oven. It's the only way to know if it's hot enough. Nodding, she puts in two loaves of bread that she's had rising. That would be a side for dinner tonight. Luke arrives soon after Lucky and Lulu and pulls up a chair at the table. Bobbie starts dishing up the thick bear barley soup to help. Carly arrives with a jug filled with milk from the cold box down in the river. She pours glasses for everyone. Laura is the last one at the table and brings the biscuits to the table with her, passing them around.
Florence sits down on her brand new porch taking a breather. She lifts her face to the sun. It was starting to get warm finally. Course it would be months before it would be warm by Alabama standards. But at least she didn't have to be over that hot stove to get the chill out of her bones. The children had never ate so well, couldn't get her away from the stove once it had been installed. She'd missed it the days they'd been on the road to and from the store. As soon as Marcus and Gia are done eating they come out to the porch too. Marcus sits by Flo and Gia indian style on the porch itself. "I've got about half enough trees down for the side piece." Marcus announces leaning in to rest his elbows on his knees. "It'll take the Hardy girls a time to get them cut into posts. Figured I'd install the firebox for the smokehouse. Before heading back over to check on them."
"You can barely see the wire." Gia looks off to the front of the property. "Just the posts. But that sucker is sharp." She holds up a punctured thumb as proof. "Unless those steers are real stupid they'll stay off it."
"Cows ain't bright, sugarplum." Marcus counters. "We're going to have to keep an eye out when they're going thru. Make sure no harm comes to that fence or Mama's garden."
"What did you find out in town, Mama?" Gia asks. Nikolas' news of the cattle drive had put everyone in a tizzy and this is the first time they'd gotten to sit down and have a chat on the little things.
"Well think I found some honest work to be doing when we go to town, Gia." Flo nods. "The rooming house is short on help. Their last girl got hired away by those rancher people... the Quartermaines. It's always something. They're getting hitched, hired for decent work elsewhere or..."
"Going to work in the saloon." Gia nods. "It's the best money a woman can make in Charlestown. Figured that out when I was selling them Miz Spencer's soaps."
"It's not honest work." Flo dismisses. "The rooming house on the other hand has more work than one woman can do and it's getting busier all the time with those miners coming in. More miners than homesteaders. Wouldn't surprise me if by the time we go back next month if there are twice the amount of saloons and another rooming house."
Gia's eyes get cagey. "And both rooming houses will need help and pay top dollar."
Flo nods her head. "I like Miz Scott just fine, but her mister is a pill. You also have to figure that the General Store is going to be jacking their prices up. If those miners don't have enough sense to be saving their money but instead gambling it away in the saloon you can bet that they are probably doing the same in the store. Not dickering for anything."
Gia frowns on that one. "We have to be dealing with the miners direct set up some kind of tinker's wagon. Getting their cash money before they ever get to town. And get what we need from other places."
"With no way of letting them know we're coming, won't make any money on the first trip or very little. Word of mouth will take care of the trips after that." Marcus muses
Flo nods. "I made sure those miners would be looking forward to my cooking. The word will go out."
Audrey has already gotten the supper dishes done. The bread is
baking for dinner, the beans had been soaking since morning. The girls had
gotten the watering done early on their way out to help Mr. Taggart leaving the
weeding to her. She and the girls had a talk over breakfast that morning. It
isn't enough for them to be pulling their weight in the family, they had to pull
their weight in the valley community too. Carly and Bobbie's words had hit home
the day before. That and seeing the way Carly'd been right there setting posts
with the men. It might not have been ladylike but the situation called for
setting that aside and just getting the job done. They couldn't rely on the
kindness of Zander or Mr. Taggart. They both had their own places to mind.
Liz had reminded her of them working together to break the sod for the gardens. They could do what needed to be done, they just needed to work smart about it. The Spencer's have an advantage what with there being six of them, even little Lulu was hard on the task of making things work with the back of her little hatchet pounding in the staples on the fencepost. If the Spencer's had been a more selfish sort, the rest of the families would have been in a world of hurt. Lucky had won the money that paid for the barbed wire and bought enough for the whole valley. He didn't have to do that. The pace the Spencer's are setting.... they could have had their own place already fenced but instead they were working for the whole little community. Mr. Taggart was the same. He wasn't one for talking, or even looking at a person directly, but he saw where he could be a help and did. It was an example to emulate.
"Gram, I'm going to take the sheep up to the pasture." Sarah interrupts Audrey's thoughts.
"We've cut and laid out all the poles. Lizzie says she's going to start digging the holes and setting the poles up. That way it won't take so long for Mr. Taggart. And if Lucky is doing wire tomorrow he'll have something to do. It'll be nice once the fence is done, even if it is ugly." Sarah tells Audrey. "Then all we'll have to do is mind the goat. It'll keep the sheep in so we won't have to watch them as close."
"Be back by dinner."
"Yes, ma'am." Sarah goes into the closed in pen where the goat is and leads him off to the higher pasture. The sheep follow right along with her. The lambs are starting to get big on the good grass of the higher pasture. After staking out the goat with plenty of room to forage, Sarah checks on the condition of each of the sheep. It was a habit with her. Some people didn't like sheep cause they had the reputation of just up and dropping dead. Audrey explained that wasn't the truth. It's just that sheep hide better any illness they might have, not giving a clue that they were feeling poorly until they keeled over. So it was up to them to be good Sheppard's to the flock and make sure it never comes to that.
Bobbie firmly taps in the staple to the post and then walks with Lucky to the next post making sure that she stays clear of the barbs. Lulu had been kept back at the cabin with Laura to churn butter and do her lessons. "And the music?"
"Well they had this really great singer. Black gal named Dara. She needs a decent piano player but she's got the pipes of an angel." Lucky tightens down the wire holding it firm while Bobbie staples it down. "Thing you need to know about though... Jason Morgan."
"He knew who I was right off. Never met the man before but he knew me." Lucky spools off more wire. "He's the foreman on the Quartermaine spread. You know the place that butts up to the back of our place."
"One hand-- got to figure he warned us cause he knew someone from our place and that's good."
"On the other hand-- you have to figure he warned us cause he knows someone from our place and that's bad. Bad for Carly." Bobbie shakes her head. "My Gawd, Caroline, what have you done?! Lucky, Luke was checking up on her while you were in town. It was driving Carly nuts. But he never caught sight of anyone. He would have told me."
"Yeah, well maybe that was 'cause Morgan was in town keeping an eye on the Quartermaine hands who'd just gotten paid. The guy has a room set aside for him at the saloon. They were practically acting like he owned the place. I couldn't read him at the table at all. I'm figuring he wears his poker face all the time. The guy is ice cold, Aunt Bobbie, and trouble on two legs."
Bobbie raps in another staple and starts walking to the next post. "Is there any other kind with Carly?! But who am I to talk? It's something she inherited from me."
"I don't like it, Aunt Bobbie. It's one thing if he'd been coming around the front door and saying howdy do. But this whole meeting on the sly..." Lucky shakes his head. "It isn't treating Carly any better than the gals down in the saloon. I got nothing against them. Seemed to be good natured gals content in their lot but.... Hell it's treating her worse! At least they are making a living."
"If I wanted Carly whoring I would have stayed at Ruby's." Bobbie says grimly. "I always wanted better for my girl. I wanted her to have respect. To be able to hold her head up high rather than having people moving away from her as if she's unclean. To have to put up with mean sonsabitches like Brock in order to get by. Sure, the money is good but it doesn't last. It hurts, hurts down to the bone when someone ignores ya by day, insults ya by day and then comes sneaking around while his wife is putting his kids in bed."
"Maybe Carly needs to start teaching Lulu her foraging tricks." Lucky suggests. "Carly'd be on her best behavior around Lulu. But I really want to catch this guy. Let him know that he can either come calling or he can just keep his distance."
Bobbie nods. "If we're around before she takes off, I'll make sure."
"I'll do the same." They work in silence for awhile. "I might have the guy all wrong, Aunt Bobbie." Lucky tries to soften the situation.
"I've never gone wrong gauging a man by his actions rather than his words." Bobbie says grimly. "All I've ever ended up by with by listening to slick talk is tears and a world of hurt."
After putting in a few hours on chores around the place, and getting the firebox and chimney situated for the smokehouse, Marcus heads back over to the Hardy place. He doesn't stop at the house but instead heads straight for the woods not announcing himself to Elizabeth who is hard on the task of digging holes and setting the posts up in them. He sees from the little clearing that is getting bigger that the girls had made posts of all the trees he'd felled that morning. Figuring he'll give them a head start for the morning, Marcus picks up his ax. Knowing it will be sweaty work in the warmth of the afternoon, he strips off his shirt hanging it on a broke tree limb. Working bare chested is second nature to him. Clothes were hard to come by even before he'd gotten his growth back before The War. And now especially somebody his size. If he was always wearing his shirts while out in the field, Mom would spend every night mending. Doing a quick stretch to loosen up his muscles, Marcus looks around for the next likely tree. Then ax in hand he sets to work.
Elizabeth is about parallel to the small grove of trees when she hears the sound of the ax. Finishing the post she is working on, she goes into the woods being careful to not be on the falling end of a tree. Need to let Mr. Taggart know how much they appreciated his help, and let him know that if he brought his sledge hammer over in the morning that she'd given him a good number of posts to put the whammy on. As Elizabeth comes up behind Marcus she gasps in horror. "Oh my GOD! What happened to your back!" The words come out of her mouth before she can restrain them. And she wishes to heaven she could. Cause as soon as she does she realizes what a stupid thing it was to say. She knows the Taggarts are from Alabama. She knows Mr. Marcus is old enough to have seen before the war. Old enough to been beaten, been owned. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. I shouldn't have reminded... I'm sorry."
Marcus puts his shirt back on hurriedly. "What were you coming here to say, Miz Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth looks at him blankly for a moment trying to get her thoughts back together. "Oh. Just that... I dug the post holes, you know like Carly did for the Cassadines yesterday... I should have thought of it before... anyway I'm digging the holes." Elizabeth turns around and runs back to the fence line. She can barely see the sod beneath her feet thru the tears. How can anyone do that to someone, to another human being? How can anyone be so mean? Especially to someone as nice as Mr. Marcus who'd always been helpful and caring toward them? Elizabeth's fury over the past injury and her current stupidity, gives her strength and resolve. She wipes at her eyes impatiently and then grabs the shovel she'd left by the next post. With a sharp motion she stabs at the earth and uses her boot to drive the wedge in deeper.
Luke and Carly are working on the gates very much over Carly's protests. She'd won afterall why should she have to help build the damn things? But Bobbie is stringing wire with Lucky, Laura is working on dinner and supervising Lulu's lessons. That left her and Luke. "This isn't fair."
"Life isn't fair." Luke doesn't look up from what he's doing.
"Gia should be helping you... or Elizabeth or how about Mr. Taggart? I won."
"Marcus is working on the side piece. Elizabeth and Gia are probably being the man of the house while you, babydoll, have a man of the house. Hell you have two. So that means you get to help. It's your lot in life."
"I hate you."
"You're not my favorite person either." Luke hands Carly the planer. "I give you planks... give me back boards. But if it makes you feel any better, babydoll, we're doing our gate first." With a whistle he jaunts off to the river.
"You don't really hate Daddy, do you?" Lulu worries coming out from her hiding place.
"I thought you were supposed to be churning butter?" Carly isn't surprised by the little girl's appearance. Hell she'd ducked out of chores often enough when she was Lulu's age.
"I'm all done." Lulu makes a muscle. "I'm a big girl now. Mama hardly has to help me at all. Mama says my butter turns out sweeter than hers too."
Carly mutters... "Any butter you don't have to churn yourself is sweeter." Then she says loud enough for Lulu to hear. "Yeah, Mama used to tell me that one too. So if you're done with the churning what about your lessons?" Lulu tries to look innocent but only manages to look a little guiltier. "Lulu?"
"It's a nice day. I don't want to be stuck inside." Lulu's lower lip starts sticking out.
"You suck that lip back in before a bee lands on it." Carly warns and then sighs. "Okay fine. But you have to work on your letters anyway. Get a twig and start drawing them in the dirt. I'll call them out to you." Carly keeps on smoothing the rough plank shavings of wood curling off. It didn't have to be as good as making it smooth for furniture. There is nothing nastier than having to have a sliver pulled out of your-- anyway-- it just will have to be good enough.
Lulu comes back with a twig and squats down near a dirt patch. "I'm ready."
"Okay. Gimme an S..."
Bobbie and Lucky reach the far corner of the properties with the first strand of wire. The end is in sight. Just running two more sections of wire and they'd be done for the day. Lucky starts grinning at the thought. The work isn't particularly hard... if you don't mind walking all bent over to get the wire at the right height. After Bobbie pounds in the staple, Lucky sets down the spool and stretches his back out. Then his eyes go wide. "Oh son of a bitch."
Bobbie straightens. "What?"
"There is nothing. Nothing. Not a post laying out, not a hole dug, nothing. What the hell is going on?"
"Lucky, lets just finish stringing the rest of the wire." Bobbie tries to keep the peace.
Lucky follows his Aunt's direction but from the sideway glances she is giving him... he knows that she knows he is stewing. They finish hangin the wire in silence. Bobbie drives in the final staple and Lucky clips the wire leaving it right there. If things had been going right he'd be starting up the side the next day but it didn't look like that was going to be happening. Lucky stalks up to the woods, past the Cassadine place and finds the clearing where his father had felled trees. There is a couple of saw horses set up and the saw too. There is even a couple of posts along side but no sign of Cassadines. "Come on." Lucky stalks back to the Cassadine homestead.
"Lucky, please just wait until you've calmed down... there might be a reasonable explanation."
"Yeah, like they can't be bothered. Well fine. Dad asked them if they wanted in and they said they did. Doesn't mean we volunteered to fence their property for them. We could have gone up just as easy on Zander's place, easier since his place is flatter and more open. Hell we still can. It's not like they have gotten anything done." Lucky pounds on the door with a closed fist.
Nikolas answers the door moving like an old man. "Lucky, Miz Spencer. Is there a problem?"
"Hell yes there is a problem. Lets go for a little walk."
"I'll meet you back at the house, Aunt Bobbie."
"Later." Lucky stalks up the path and out where there would be a gate eventually and starts down walking along the river. "Like it? Looks good doesn't it? Nice and tight. Aunt Bobbie helped me with this section. I've been up since the crack of dawn stringing wire. Hell my little sister was up with me, nailing it down. You'll see her part of it once we get down to my place."
"Is there a purpose to this conversation?" Nikolas says stiffly.
"Sure. But you won't see it until we get to the far end of the valley. You're looking kinda pained. Muscles you haven't used before?"
"Yesterday was a strain." Nikolas admits.
"Yeah, I got that. Unaccustomed to any kinda work. Unaccustomed to real life." Lucky picks up the pace. There is a long silence past the Cassadine place, past Zander's, past the Spencer's, past the Taggart's. "Kinda puts you in the same boat as the Hardy's. I mean come on they're just a bunch of women. Townies." Lucky sneers even though he'd spent plenty of time living in cities himself. "Sure they might have had a garden back east. But I'm sure they hired someone to do the heavy lifting or had a man to do it for them. Widow and two girls. Kinda pitiful isn't it? When I saw them on that wagon train in St. Louis I figured them for the weak link in the chain. Taggart's a bruiser, it's the little things that will sneak up on him but he's got the heavy lifting down. Yep, figured that the Hardy's would be the first one to fold up their tent, pick up stakes and head back east." Lucky stops at the corner of the Hardy's property and looks up their side of the valley. "I don't think that anymore." Lucky walks off leaving Nikolas looking up the side of the valley.
This side of the valley is dotted with posts stretching up the side. In the distance he can see a young woman reaching down and picking up a post with both of her hands and hefting it into a hole she'd just finished. Then she shoulders the shovel and continues up the property on to the next one. "Mr. Cassadine, are you all right? Are your hands paining you?" Audrey asks curiously. The young man had been standing there for a long time just staring up the side of the property.
"I am fine, Mrs. Hardy. I was just investigating your progress on this side of the fence."
"I swear Elizabeth has taken it to heart. She was so mad at herself that you won the contest yesterday with Zander. She feels she should have been there... like Carly was. She and Gia thought that their job was done after they finished cross cutting the posts. And she knows, as do I, that Mr. Taggart has his own property to tend. He's already been so kind to us. It's really so admirable the way everyone has pulled together... thinking of everyone else in the valley. The way you brought back the news. The way Lucky thought to buy wire for the whole valley rather than just their place. It's really beginning to feel like a community with everyone pitching in."
"Yes, I see your point. I won't keep you any longer, Mrs. Hardy."
"You're welcome any time, Mr. Cassadine." Audrey waves and goes back up to her herb garden. The food garden is a chore. Her herb garden is her joy and already starting to give back with clippings that she'd bundled and hung from the rafters of the cabin.
Nikolas slowly starts walking back up the valley.
Two days later. Lucky looks up at the sun overhead and removes
his hat wiping sweat off of his brow before setting it back. Rain would be nice
about now. A good excuse to take a break, watch the rain barrels fill, play some
checkers with Lulu. He hadn't been up to the Cassadine place since the visit two
days ago but instead had concentrated on the Hardy side of the valley stringing
wire up the side to the back of the property. The homesteads aren't square but
rather deeper than they are wide.
And with the exception of the Cassadine place and the grove of trees between the Spencer's and the Taggart's spread... trees are pretty nonexistent. It's all open pasture. The posts for the back fence had to be carried a ways. Hell it felt like he'd barely been home for the last two days working on this damn fence. Elizabeth had helped him when he was on the backside of the Hardy place, Marcus at the Taggart's. Dad when he'd gotten to the Spencer's, Carly had pitched in on the backside of Zander's working with Zander and the Cassadines.
Zander had taken to going over to the Cassadines place after his chores and working on the fence there. After their late start the Cassadines had gotten the side piece done and were working on the back side as well setting posts to meet him in the middle. As soon as all the posts were down then he'd come back thru and stretch the wire. Tomorrow hopefully.
Bobbie rides up with a fresh supply of water. "Here you go. Might even still be cold from the river."
Lucky takes it gratefully swigging down the water and then wetting down a handkerchief and rubbing it against the sweat and grime on the back of his neck. "Thanks. I needed this. How long has it been since it rained?"
Bobbie looks over at the mountains. "It's been awhile. More than a week? A good soaking would be nice. I'm getting tired of hauling water. But the plants are getting a drink one way or another and they are loving the sun. Corn might even make knee high by the fourth of July."
"That'll make Dad happy."
Bobbie looks over to the Quartermaine spread along the other side of the posts. "Any sign of..."
"Nope. Figure we got to be done by Tuesday just to be on the safe side. Then it will be a matter of posting look outs."
"Where do the Quartermaine's live?"
Lucky shrugs and points off to the east. "Somewhere over there off one of the feeders into the river. They've been out here since before the Indian wars."
Bobbie grimaces at that. She'd read the horror stories in the papers back in New York. "No wonder they think everything out here is theirs. After all that."
Lulu jumps out of the wagon at the front of the property and carefully unhooks the new gate. Luke pulls the wagon through and turns to the right waiting for Lulu to climb back on the wagon after refastening the gate. It's a short trip to the Smith place. Luke stops the wagon where the gate will eventually go and pulls the horses to a halt. Going around to the back of the wagon he pulls out the gate, his arms straining under the weight, hefting it into place. Lulu climbs into the back of the wagon and grabs her daddy's tools. Then jumps down with the hinges and hammer. "Here you go, Daddy."
"Thanks Princess." Luke says absently. "What do you think?"
"I think Mr. Zander is gonna love it. Specially his name on it." Lulu runs her hand over the letters burned into the top board of the gate.
"Well that's all your doing." Luke replies. "You and Carly got real fancy there."
"Carly let me burn the letters on Mr. Zander's gate. I was really careful with the hot wire." Lulu explains. "She showed me how when we did our gate. I traced the letters onto the board cause she wanted me to practice my letters and then she burned them in. And she watched me real close when I did Mr. Zander's. Like I'd be dumb enough to get burned. If the wire will burn the gate it would be a big owie if I touched it without one of Mama's potholders. Daddy, it was red hot."
"Yep, you're my smart child. Only had to touch hot once to know to keep your distance." Luke picks up Lulu and bringing one hand to his mouth kisses her index finger and the tiny scar on it. Lulu giggles as his beard tickles. "Come on, princess, lets get this gate hung so we can get up to the Cassadine place. Lucky has been working those posts on the backside. Think we need to run some wire for him." Luke sets Lulu back down and plucks a pencil from behind his ear. He hands her the pencil. Luke hefts the gate into place where it would swing free. Lulu grabs one of the hinges and starting at the bottom traces the outline of the hinge on both the gate and the tall post. Then she brings the hinge up to about her shoulder height and traces it again. Getting out of the way Luke lays the gate on the ground and picks up his hammer. Lulu hands him the hinge and then a nail out of her apron pocket.
Marcus leans on the pen where the Mama pig is still suckling those piglets. They were getting fat and sassy. And Mama is getting impatient, standing up and moving away from the piglets trying to get them to eat the grain from out of the trough. "They're getting big enough to be leaving you alone."
If the mama pig could roll her eyes in agreement she would. Flo comes up behind Marcus. "Time to be taking that pig into the woods."
"Just thinking that." Marcus agrees. "Want to get things set up in the woods first though. Set up a trough out there to put grain out in. Keep mama there coming around and train the piggy's to do the same."
"Gia did good getting that sow."
"And she knows it. It was risky though. Could have lost all the piggy's on the way from there to here and the sow too."
"A risk that paid off handsomely."
Marcus shakes his head. "This day has to go down on the calendar. Florence Taggart approving of gambling."
"I didn't say that."
"Life is a gamble, Mama."
"Yes." Flo nods. "Which is why I don't see the purpose in wasting time on cards and the like. I've enough gambling in my real life." She turns and walks back to the house.
Sarah swallows the instinct to gag. And then swallows again
hard. "Good Gatsby. Good kitty." She finally blurts out praising the
half grown tortoiseshell cat. She'd never get used to this part. The cat purrs
and accepts the praise. "Why don't you go get me another one." <gag> The cat
picks up the half eaten mouse and carries it away. "Oh GOD that was
disgusting." The smart mice had moved out as soon as the kittens had moved in.
The stupid ones were soon the playthings of the growing kittens.
Hunters by nature, the cats had finished up the mice in the cabin and moved on to the yard and garden. They might not be able to take on a rabbit...yet... but they were hell on little digging creatures that nibbled on the produce. Sarah goes back to the process of making cheese. They'd settled into a routine where about a gallon of milk a week is made into cheese. It would save them money to not have to buy hard cheese from the general store. And it was easier to do a gallon at a time rather then the first five gallon batch that Gram and Liz had to do while she had gone into town.
She finishes straining the watery fluid off of the curds into the old pillow case and twists it tight into a ball squeezing out even more fluid. Tying it off with a string she hangs the ball of cheese from a branch off the porch for gravity to do the rest before forming it into a mold. Wiping her hands, she joins her grandmother in the garden. "Bread on the rise, cheese in the tree and Gatsby caught another one. I think it's gotten to the point where he's going afield and bringing them back. Frankly if the mice are in the fields, I'd just as soon they stay there!"
Audrey laughs. "You have a point." She is still smiling and shaking her head as she continues harvesting from a row of carrots putting them into a basket by her side. Just enough for the next few days. Although with the way they were thriving they would probably be able to put in a whole new crop of carrots that would be ready closer to the fall.
Sarah takes another row and just weeds checking on the health of the plants and any evidence of pests. "The sheep are getting big. Don't think we can be calling them lambs much longer. Luckily the mama's are still taking care of them but they're cropping grass too."
"By fall we'll have five sheep rather than three sheep and two lambs." Audrey nods. "It means we'll have to put up a lot of hay for the winter. The ranchers have to have lots of land for their cattle but we can get by with our little herd of sheep on this 160 acres. We could probably have twice as many but I don't think one goat is going to keep them in check."
"You're talking about a dog." Sarah realizes.
"I'm getting critter happy, aren't I?" Audrey dismisses. "Not enough to have the horse, the cow and calf, five sheep, ten chickens and three cats. Now I'm thinking about a dog."
Sarah laughs. "Well I was thinking more along the lines of another goat. A nanny. But that could be 'cause I just finished making a batch of cheese."
"We are bad influences on each other." Audrey grins at her granddaughter. "You always have been. We should really consult Elizabeth before making any plans. She's the one that has been spending the most time with the sheep."
Sarah shrugs. "It gets her out from under women's work. Lizzie has never been one for the whole hearth thing. Even back in New York. In fact it was more obvious back there. Moving to Montana was the best thing that ever happened to her."
The following Wednesday, the sound of rain wakes Elizabeth. She snuggles under the covers and hugs her pillow just listening to the sound. It was an easy sound. Very easy. Other than milking and taking care of the critters it would be an easy day. The fence is finished. Weeding could wait until tomorrow. The sheep would probably be ticked about not going to the upper pasture but a day in the pen wouldn't hurt them. She sighs and closes her eyes careful to not wake Sarah next to her. As soon as Sarah was awake the whole house was going to be awake cause she is just too cheerful by half in the morning and noisy about it. Elizabeth hears a low rumble in the distance. "Thunder." She murmurs. Then her eyes pop open. That wasn't right. It wasn't raining like a thunderstorm. It was raining like rain. Easy, soaking. No thunder involved. Sarah rolls over in her sleep. Elizabeth gets out of bed climbing down in from the loft wrapping a knitted afghan around her for warmth. Going over to the door she opens it up and steps out seeing if she could hear... There it was again... it's not thunder. It's a potential catastrophe of a totally different kind. "Gram! Sarah! Wake up! The cattle drive is happening now! Gram! Sarah! Get up! Get Up!"
Sarah peeks down from the loft. "What?"
"You and Gram get dressed! You have to mind the fence. The cattle are coming." Liz pulls the afghan up over her head and shoulders.
"Where do you think you are going?"
"I have to warn the Taggart's!" Without another word Elizabeth takes off running toward the Taggart's cutting across the field that is the boundary of their properties.
"Lizzie!" Sarah calls after her. "What about your shoes?!" Elizabeth doesn't even slow down. "What about wearing something other than your night dress?!" She mutters. Sarah reaches for her dress and coat pulling on her boots and carefully but quickly lacing them.
Audrey is already braiding her hair and quickly spinning it into a bun anchored quickly with a pin and straightening her clothes. "Did I just hear what I thought I heard?"
"If you heard Lizzie hollering that the cattle are coming and taking off for the Taggart's without bothering to get dressed or even put her shoes on. Yeah, you heard what you though you heard. She shows up soaking wet in her nightclothes the Taggart's are going to think that the house is burning down or something." Sarah complains.
Elizabeth races up to the Taggart place and straight to the front door. She pounds on it with a rapid fist. Florence throws the door open and takes in the soaking wet, muddy feet and nightgown. "My land, child, what is going on? Are you alright? Did something happen to Miz Audrey or your sister?"
"The cattle are coming. I heard them. They are about to enter the valley! I have to get home! I have to check the fence!" Elizabeth turns right around and races back to the Hardy property.
"Marcus! Gia!" Florence calls behind her into the cabin.
"I heard." Gia is already throwing on her clothes. "I'll go up to the Spencer's." She stomps into her boots and impatiently laces them up. "I'll be back as soon as I can." She takes off running thru the woods.
"I'll start walking the fence." Marcus hadn't bothered with a shirt but just grabs his hat and goes to the front.
"I'm going to put on a pot of coffee. Those children are going to need it getting soaking wet out there in the rain!" Florence mutters to herself. She gets the coffee started and then goes to dress herself.
Laura is the only person awake when Gia arrives and sees her coming out of the woods. "The cattle are coming."
Gia nods trying to get her breath. "Elizabeth just ran up to tell us. Don't know how far off." She gasps out.
Laura's face is grim. "I got it from here."
"Yes, ma'am." Gia hightails it back to her place thru the woods.
"Bobbie! Lucky! Everyone! The cattle are coming." There is a moment of silence and then the sound of everyone wide awake and moving. Lucky and Carly are the first ones down the ladder from the sleeping loft.
"Carly, take a horse and warn Zander and the Cassadines. Then you stay at Zander's. We're going to need at least two people on the properties to make sure that nothing happens to the fence. Zander can't manage it alone." Lucky directs Carly already reaching for his coat and hat to check the fence.
Carly grabs Luke's hat off a peg by the door before Laura can protests and runs out to the corral. No bareback today. She'd end up sliding right off of the horse as slick as it is. She towels the horse and throws the saddle up over it's back fastening down the girth tight and reaching for a bridle. Before Luke can get out to reclaim his hat she is already flying across the fields to Zander's place. She crouches low on the horse's neck blinded by the rain. But this horse loves the rain and the muck and goes even faster. Carly ends up having to make a circuit around Zander's soddie to slow the horse down. "Zander!" Carly hollers not dismounting. Zander's dog is barking and has been since she first arrived.
Zander comes to the door dressed in his long johns. "Annabelle hush! Where's the fire?"
"No fire. The cattle are on their way! I'm going to warn the Cassadines and be back to help you." Carly kicks the horse into gear and takes off for the Cassadine place. Once there she swings off the horse dropping the reins to the ground, she runs up the porch and starts pounding on the door.
"Really! There is a polite way to come calling and this is not it!" Mrs. Lansbury is protesting as she opens the front door.
"Tell Mr. Cassadine and Nikolas the cattle are coming. Hell they might already be at the Hardy place." Carly runs back to the horse and gathers up the reins. She grabs hold of the horn on the saddle and hops to get her foot in the stirrup hoisting herself back into the saddle. Then she wheels her mount around and races back to Zander's.
Stefan, always an early riser, come from his room. "Mrs. Lansbury, is someone here?"
"That Caroline Spencer was here. She says that the cattle are in the valley."
"I will wake Nikolas." Stefan nods.
Sarah stations herself at the corner of the property. She is wearing a broad brimmed hat to keep the rain out of her face and her long coat. She tucks her hands in her pockets to keep them dry. After Liz had left the sound had gotten so much louder. It was like the earth was moving under her feet. The sounds of the cattle bawling reaches her first. She gasps when she sees the size of the cattle wondering how the fence is going to hold up to something that size. These mammoth creatures are twice the size of their little milk cow! And she can tell by the look in their eye that a) they weren't friendly and b) they weren't happy about being moved. She is so caught up looking at the steers that the rider surprises her. "Miss." The cowboy tilts his hat but not by much he doesn't want water running down.
"How many of them are there?" Sarah asks in amazement.
"Ohmygawd." Sarah looks up the valley. They are like ants coming over the hill. She looks up the puny fence to her Grandmother who is standing by the gate. This has to work. She looks behind her to the garden. A garden that had really just started producing last week. If one just one of those steers got into the property they could destroy everything. The cowboy slaps his lasso against his leg. The cattle keep moving but Sarah isn't going to breath easy until all of them were out of the valley. She watches as more cattle than the path will bare try to push forward. With the cowboy on the fence side the cattle are running in the edge of the river churning up the water with their hooves. "The cold box." She whispers and blanches. The cold box is in the river but down by the gate. "Oh no."
Audrey has realized the same thing and also realizes that it is too late. There is nothing they can do. But wait... and hope.
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