Frontier General Store
"Knee high by the fourth of July." Luke says to himself as
he walks thru the field of corn. "Looks like we're on track." Course the
families Independence Day would be the day they had more to sell than buy to
the store in town. There are already some buds on the stalks that would end up
being ears of corn tasseled and covered with silk come the long days of late
August. About half way there. He'd been extra fussy about the corn crop.
Making it his own special interest while Laura and Bobbie had been working the
dickens out of the kitchen garden. This field was not only going to be corn
for the animals, but also corn for his still.
The residents of the valley were about ready for another trip into town for reprovisioning. The Taggart's had already settled on Gia again. Stefan Cassadine was going and taking his carriage. He needed to hire a man to get things ready up at the Cassadine spread although things had changed a bit in the last couple of weeks. Zander said Nikolas hasn't been around his place as much but rather been taking a big interest in Mrs. Lansbury's garden and on chopping more wood for the winter. Zander plans on sending his shopping list with whichever of the Spencer women is going on to town along with some pelts he'd cured off his trap line and some beets to turn into cash money. Bobbie, Laura and Carly are down drawing straws for it now. Got to figure Elizabeth Webber is probably going to make the trip since Sarah and Audrey had already gone.
Next month everyone would be working on getting their root cellars in place. But this month is all about making sure nothing happened to the crops and getting the hay in. Lucky comes up on his father and hands him a scythe. "You ready to get to it, Dad?"
"Yeah, lets get some hay in. Your mom's elbow has been twitching."
"Rain bout three days out."
"Yep. Laura's elbow is never wrong. Got to get it down and under cover before the rain comes or we'll have to wait for it to dry again. Cassadine needs to get on the road too. Hopefully be in town before the rain starts." Putting the scythe to his shoulder, Lucky and Luke walk up to the pasture land up the hill behind the house.
Down at the house, Carly looks at the short straw in dismay rather than elation. "Look I don't even know why I was in this little drawing. One of you two go." Carly throws the straw aside.
Bobbie and Laura look at each other. Carly not wanting to go to the store? After months out here in the valley? Not wanting to know the news and see all the new things that had been brought in by the train? Not wanting to pick out some fabric for a new dress? "Bobbie, you go." Laura suggests.
"Are you sure?"
"I'll mind the garden while you're gone. And I know that Carly wants to stick around cause those chokeberries are about ripe."
"Right." Carly snatches that one up fast. "Have to get them in before the bears get hold of them. You go, Mama. And make a note of everything. You can fill us in when you get back. I'm going to go package up Aunt Laura's soaps for sale." Carly leaves the cabin before she can be questioned.
"I'll mention it to Lucky and keep an eye on things. She's up to something."
"Just make sure that Luke doesn't kill her or drive her off before I get back." Bobbie says grimly. "I have such a bad feeling about this."
"Why couldn't she be interested in Zander? He's a fine young man and so hardworking."
"Because he's a fine young man and so hardworking!" She covers her eyes with her hands. "Well Luke hasn't caught her yet and I think it's been working-- her taking Lulu with her."
"Yeah, she hasn't minded that at all... almost as if she knew that there was nothing she was doing to get caught at." Laura confides.
Bobbie's eyes narrow. "Cause her fella is up at the Quartermaine summer camp, perhaps?"
Laura changes the subject. "Lulu needs new boots but that can wait until next month; she can go barefoot until then if needed while the weather has been so decent-- she prefers that anyway. Luke is out of cigars and has been so long I'm sure he's getting on Mr. Taggart's last nerve."
"Right-- cigars for my brother and some tobacco for Mr. Taggart to pay him back."
"And Mrs. Taggart has it already all lined up for you to be able to camp by the Scott's rooming house and make some cash money making dinner for the guests the night you are in town unless you can make a better deal. Gia is convinced that the town is going to be plenty changed in just the month that we haven't been back. You might be able to pick up some more contracts."
"We didn't get that much fat to make soap this last month. We won't be getting a steady supply until Mr. Taggart starts butchering those hogs." Bobbie warns.
"I know. I'm already starting to save ashes for that. We're going to need a lot of lye when he starts butchering. But the soap doesn't go bad. With the fat from those ten hogs we'll be set thru the winter and for next spring when things are tight."
"And make sure you take Gia with you to the stockyards." Audrey directs Elizabeth while she is helping her granddaughter pack bushels of carrots, radishes and greens for the trip to the store setting them by the gate. "If you both don't think it's a good deal then walk away. Either a good herding dog or a nanny goat. But we can get by without either. We have been so far."
"I know, Gram." Liz has been hearing this one for the last week as the trip got closer.
Sarah brings up the last of the cheese that they could spare up to the gate too. "You might be able to get more for the produce from Mrs. Scott at the rooming house. Or even from some of the folks down by the train station. And Zander's birthday is coming up. He doesn't think anyone knows. Maybe a mirror or something that he can use for shaving."
"I should take some of the gloves I've finished with me." Elizabeth muses.
"Maybe just sample pairs, Darling, to see if you can get some orders. It's so hot nobody is going to be thinking of woolens. Not for another month or more. In September everyone is going to be wanting a pair yesterday! But I think those will be a better seller when we go up to the mining camps. Canning jars. We need lots and lots of canning jars and sealing wax for the jars and for the cheese too. By the time you get back in a week we'll be putting them to use. As many as you can get."
"You're going to have such fun, Lizzie." Sarah tells her. "And you'll be able to take lots of orders for gloves from the miners at the rooming house. You should take a blank journal with you so you can get palm prints."
"Stay away from the saloon and anyplace you know I wouldn't go." Audrey reminds. "You stick with someone else from the valley at all times. Here comes Mr. Cassadine with his carriage!" Audrey realizes. Stefan pulls up even with the gate. Bobbie and Gia are already in the carriage. Stefan stops and assists the women in putting the bushel baskets in the back of the carriage and then finally assists Elizabeth up by Gia. Bobbie rides up front with him. There are no extra horses this time. All the horses remaining in the valley would be used for pulling wagons of hay down to the homesteads. "Take care of my girl, Mr. Cassadine."
"We will be back within a week, weather permitting." Stefan nods and then starts the carriage down the path to town.
"Where do you think you're going?" Nikolas asks his aunt coldly.
"I was invited by the Quartermaines for an extended visit. Now seems like a good time."
"I couldn't agree more. If you decide to stay beyond an extended visit have one of their people bring the horse back. In fact I'll go saddle the mare for you now." Nik stomps out of the house.
Natasha stares after her nephew. She adores him and things have not gotten better. She senses that Mrs. Lansbury has entered the room. "Please insure my nephew's well being in my absence."
"I will, ma'am." Mrs. Lansbury replies sorrowfully. She'd seen the chasm develop and couldn't think of anything to make things right. Natasha takes a last look around pulls on her gloves and adjusts her hat then walks out to the stables.
Nikolas is back barely five minutes later. "Looks like it is you and I, Mrs. Lansbury."
"You may have the day off."
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Day off. Go for a walk. Go down to the Hardy's or the Spencer's, or the Taggart's and have a pot of tea with the ladies."
"But sir... your dinner..."
"If you want to put something together for me..." Nikolas shrugs. "I'm going to go down to Zander's and help him with his haying. I'm not planning on being back before dark."
Bobbie looks over her shoulders to where the girls are sitting. They were much the same age. But really Gia got along better with Carly than the Hardy girls. Gia and Carly were both cagey and way older than their years working angles and such to make sure they came out on top. While Sarah and Elizabeth were getting their first taste of an unsheltered life. And even then, life in the valley is hard but the predators came on four legs normally not two. "Well what are we going to do to pass the time? Hmm? Three days we're gonna have to do something or we'll drive each other insane." There is no answer from the back. "Okay I'll start..." Bobbie clears her throat... "Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall... ninety nine bottle of beer..."
"Ms. Spencer, I scarcely think that is the proper song to be singing..." Stefan Cassadine says coolly.
"You got a better one? I'm taking requests."
Gia grins and shakes her head. It is going to be an interesting trip. She knows Bobbie knows the words to this one. She'd heard the Spencer's sing it while on the wagon train out. Gia starts the song really slow and dragging it out...
Frankie and Johnny were lovers,
O'Lawdy! How they could love,
Swore to be true to each other,
True as the stars above,
He was her man; he'd never do her wrong.
Bobbie grins. "Oh yeah, I like this one." She nods and fills in the second verse and the third.
Frankie and Johnny went walkin'
Johnny had on a new suit
Frankie spent one-hundred dollar notes
Just to make her man look cute
He was her man, he wouldn't do her no wrong
Frankie went down to the corner,
Stopped for a bucket of beer,
She said "O Mister Bartender,
Has my Johnny been here?
He was my man, but I think he's doing me wrong.
Elizabeth picks up the next verse lowering her voice as if a guy is singing...
"Now I ain't gonna tell no story,
Ain't gonna tell you no lie
Johnny was just here
With a gal named Nellie Bly!
He was your man but he's doing you wrong!"
"Is there a point to this tale?" Stefan sighs.
"We're getting there." Bobbie replies. "You should know this one, specially since you're raising a boy. Believe me Lucky knows the words to this tune."
Gia picks up the next verse.
Yeah, Frankie looked over the transom door
And there to her great surprise
There sat her lover man Johnny
Makin' love to Nellie Bly
He was her man, but he was doin' her wrong
Well, Frankie lifted up her kimono dress
And she drew out a forty-four
She shot once, twice, three times she shot him
right through that hardwood door
Yeah, she shot her man
but he been doin' her wrong
Elizabeth clutches her chest dramatically and fills in the next verse. Sagging half out of the carriage.
He said, "roll me over so careful ah
Roll me over so slow,
Oh roll me off to my left hand side,
Because your bullet hurt me so,
I was your man, but I been doin' you wrong."
Gia does the next verse all about Johnny's demise.
Bring out the rubber tired carriage
You gotta bring out your pony and trap
Yeah, they're gonna take Johnny,
And he ain't never coming back
He was her man
Oh, but he'd been doin' her wrong, so wrong
And then Bobbie finishes off the cautionary tale.
The last time I seen Frankie
She was a-sittin' in a dungeon cell
She would be there lonely,
With no one there to care
She shot her man, a-he'd been doin' her wrong
The story ain't got no moral, Lordy
But the story ain't got no end
The story only goes to show
That there ain't no damn good in men!
She shot her man, But he was doin' her wrong
"There isn't any good in men! That is the moral of the song! I scarcely think that is true." Stefan protests. It's going to be a long week if there is going to be a bashing of the male gender at every turn.
"Hmm girls, what do you think? What did you learn from that song?"
"Don't be spending 100 dollars on a suit? A hundred dollars will buy something that last a heck of lot longer than a suit of clothes." Gia says wryly.
"Never trust anyone named Nellie around your guy?" Elizabeth suggests.
"Don't shoot thru hardwood doors. You should always see what you're shooting at." Gia counters.
"You are a mercenary, bloodthirsty lot." Stefan shakes his head. "What about not going into bars?"
"Oh we already knew that one, Mr. Cassadine." Elizabeth counters.
"There is always the bit of advice that My Aunt Ruby gave me." Bobbie says grimly thinking of the situation back in the valley with Carly. "Why buy the cow when the milk is free?"
"Yoo hoo?! Mrs. Hardy?" Mrs. Lansbury calls out.
Audrey sticks her head out of the cabin. "Mrs. Lansbury? Well how are you?"
"Quite bewildered and you?"
"I was just given the day off. I have no idea what to do with myself."
"A day off. What a lovely concept. Come on in. I was just about to put the kettle on. The girls and I thought we were going to have a day off-- the day it rained, but the cattle coming thru cancelled that plan. Mr. Cassadine just left here about an hour ago, with Elizabeth, Gia and Miz Spencer." Audrey bustles around the small cabin getting out the teapot and measuring the tea. She fills the iron kettle and puts it on the woodstove. "Sarah is up with the sheep in the upper pasture until dinner time. I would appreciate the company."
Mrs. Lansbury takes a seat. She glances over and sees samples of Elizabeth's knitting and picks it up. "These are quite lovely. Yours?"
"No, those are Elizabeth's. She is really very handy with the needle... as long as they are knitting needles." Audrey laughs. "I keep her as far away as possible from sewing unless it is just to sew on a button and even then more than once she's not only sewn on a button but sewn it to her skirt!" Mrs. Lansbury laughs as Audrey intended. Audrey brings over the pot of tea and two cups on a tray and sets it on the table. Then she picks up a piece of mending that she'd had in the basket. They could visit but she was still going to be getting something done. "Since you have the day off. I guess this means that Nikolas' aunt is taking care of the household chores in your absence."
"Miss Natasha has gone visiting the Quartermaines."
"The Quartermaines?! I've heard about them of course but I don't think I've ever seen one."
"The girl that was moving the cattle?"
"Granddaughter of the Quartermaines. Master Nikolas says her name is Emmie." Mrs. Lansbury discovers some yarn that needs to be rolled into a ball and automatically starts winding it.
"Well really." Audrey shakes her head. "How unusual. You know I believe she was wearing pants. And all alone with those men moving that cattle. How unusual. Things are certainly different out here."
Carly brings the wagon out to where Luke and Lucky are haying. They are out of swinging range of each other but cut a clear swath with each smooth stroke of their arms leaving the hay where it falls. It's hot dusty work but it has to be done when the hay is grown, the weather dry and before the hay turns brown. If they waited all the way to August then the hay wouldn't be sweet anymore and the livestock might eat it but it would be about as nourishing as eating the bark off a tree... maybe less so. Besides August was for corn anyway. "Make sure they know you're there so you don't get cut by one of those scythes." Carly tells Lulu. Lulu reaches down by her feet and grabs two canteens of water.
"Daddy, Lucky! Daddy, Lucky!" She goes running off to give them water.
Carly puts on the brake to the wagon and grabbing a rake starts raking the mowed hay into bundles that she tosses into the back of the wagon.
Over at the Taggart place, Marcus is doing the same thing. Getting the hay mowed down. Tomorrow he'd come back thru and put it all in the wagon and bring it down by the homestead. He's on his own on this one. With Gia gone to town, Florence will be busy with all the chores around the house that kept the place going.
Over at the Smith place, Nikolas and Zander take turns using the scythe to cut the hay: One cutting, one raking Nikolas' motions are awkward until he starts getting in the swing of things. By the time he was ready to do his own haying up on the Cassadine place he would have the skills needed. And Zander didn't seem to mind the company while Nikolas learns.
"Saw the irrigation you set up for Mrs. Lansbury. Nice."
"I'm working on a way to lever the barrels into the river and then directly to the garden." Nik replies with a pause at the end of each swing. "It would be easier if we were on the other side of the river. The slope is such that irrigation could be run directly off the river."
"And flood in the spring." Zander counters shaking his head. "You see how far Taggart built back from the river? He knows something you have to figure. Have you seen how much corn the Spencer's have planted? There is way more there than is needed to feed their chickens and themselves."
"Mr. Spencer has a still or is building one. According to Gia, they will be using the spent corn from the distillation process to feed the Taggart's hogs. And I believe use the cobs to fire Mr. Taggart's smokehouse."
"Nothing going to waste there. Um.. Nik?"
"Don't mention the still to anyone outside the valley. I don't know if Mr. Spencer has gotten the okay for a still. They tax liquor really heavy in these parts. Could end up screwing them over if you mention it to the wrong person."
"Ah." Nik nods and keeps walking and swing the scythe. After a bit he starts talking again. "How soon do you think that they will homestead out the properties across the river?"
"Not until next spring, I figure. Anyone trying to get started now... well they'd just be screwed. They'd have to buy everything from the store for winter. A cabin and a winter's wood is about all I figure they could accomplish. No hay for the critters. No garden for themselves. I figure it would be suicide or close enough. You and your aunt still feuding?"
"Cassadines are too civilized to do anything so mundane as feud." Nikolas counters wryly. "But my aunt decided that it would be a good time to have an extended visit with the Quartermaines. She has found one person out here she actually likes... Mrs. Lila Quartermaine."
"So is this Mrs. Quartermaine going to come calling down here in the valley?"
"Mrs. Quartermaine is confined to a wheelchair and doesn't leave her house. The family seems quite interesting. The Old Man as he is referred to has his fingers in as many projects as is possible. Diversifying his interests so to speak: ranching, mining... and I believe he owns a large piece of Charlestown. There was even talk in town of the deals he had cut with the railroad to make sure that it passed through town."
"Have to figure that would work for him. Give him a way to get his cattle to market, his ore to be processed." Zander sees the logic in it.
Nikolas wants to broach a subject but doesn't quite know how but decides what the heck. "Have you ever thought how much easier this would be on you if you were married? I mean look at the Spencer's. Because they are a family they are able to accomplish so much more."
"And need to-- because they have so many people to take care of." Zander counters but then he thinks about it. "Yeah, I've thought of it. I do want to have a family of my own. But I think it's important that I build something first. Have something to offer. It wouldn't be fair to bring someone out here, not right now."
"Was there someone for you back in Florida?"
"Married another guy." Zander says shortly.
"Yeah, well it got me thinking that things had better change. So when I read about the homesteading going on... I actually saw it rather than just going on to the next article in the paper. We're losing daylight here." Zander realizes. "Let's head back to the house."
Packing up their gear they head back to Zander's soddie. Inside covered and setting on the table is a cold supper and a note from Mrs. Lansbury.
Master Nikolas, I know you said I have the day off but I know that you and Mr. Zander will be needing this after a day in the fields. There is more down in his cold box but this should get you started. I took your counsel and have gone to visit Mrs. Hardy. Mrs. Lansbury.
Nik takes the cover off and there is fresh bread, and a large meat pie. Zander examines the bounty. "You know that woman is a saint right? If I were planning on marrying anytime soon it would be to her."
"She's old enough to be your mother, your grandmother." Nik laughs.
Zander takes a piece of the meat pie and pops it in his mouth. "Oh but she can cook. That woman can surely cook. You better keep an eye on her or some grizzled old cow poke is going to come around some night and steal her away." They take seats at Zander's small table and start digging into the repast that Mrs. Lansbury had provided.
The next morning down at the Taggart place, Flo had splurged on the breakfast serving up sausages, and since the chickens had been generous, three eggs with a big bowl of grits. Marcus is a big man and needs a good meal to start his day. "How soon you figure you'll have the haying done?" Florence looks out over the corral and the now empty pen. Marcus had taken the pigs out to the woods.
"This week. It'll be done by the time Gia gets back from town. A lot of it I'll bring down here but I'm going to leave stacks out in the fields too." Marcus nods.
"You're about done with the smokehouse." Florence compliments as she dishes up her own portion and takes a seat across from her son.
Mouth full, Marcus nods again. He knows the question is there. "Root cellar." He swallows. "You need to figure out where you want it."
"I'll consider it while I'm working in the garden."
Marcus chugs the mason jar of milk to wash down his breakfast and then takes his cup of coffee out on the porch. He reaches into his pocket for his pouch of tobacco and sees that it is almost gone. Sighing he stuffs it back in his pocket. The cigarette would wait for after the evening meal. "Mom, I'm going to go check on the tobacco plants and start hauling you up some water to get you started."
"Much appreciated!" Flo calls out from inside. She already has a kettle of water on the woodstove that she'd drawn earlier from the rainwater barrels. Once she is done with her own breakfast she starts in on the dishes. Once those are all put away she gets together the makings for bread. Normally today would be the day for laundry... specially since it looked to be a hot one. But laundry would just have to wait until Gia got back to help.
Sarah and Audrey work together to get the garden watered and then hitch the horse up to the cart. They bring along the goat and sheep to the upper pasture but once the goat is staked out and the sheep cropping grass they go over to where Sarah had been haying the day before while keeping a casual eye on the sheep. Sarah picks up the scythe out of the back of the cart and starts mowing down the grass. Audrey takes a rake and starts gathering the grass that Sarah had cut the day before piling it into the cart. "Two horses, one cow with calf..."
"Calf is getting pretty big."
"Goat, ram, two sheep with a lamb each."
"Lambs are getting big too." Sarah reminds glancing over at them.
"And we both suggested that Elizabeth get a nanny goat. We're going to be at this forever!"
"They don't eat that much really. Well the horses do. But other than that... the sheep kinda take care of themselves. I'm not saying that we shouldn't cut all this.... just that we only have to haul down to the house what we'll need for a couple of weeks. I mean we won't be snowed in for more than a couple of weeks at a time right? So if we have haystacks out here we can just bring the animals to them."
Audrey pauses then throws another sheaf of hay into the back of the cart. "Darling, now that we are settled... I don't think we need both of the horses. Especially since everyone else in the valley has a wagon. All we need is our little cart to get things done around the property and one horse can pull that just fine."
"How is it going, Lulu?" Foster looks up from where he is laying on the bank of the river next to his young charge.
"They aren't biting, Mama, but I know where they're hiding. That shady spot right there." Lulu points to a snag in the middle of the river. "I'm going to catch me some trout."
"Baby, where is Carly? I thought you were working with her today."
"She said she had a major hankering for fresh trout and could I catch her some while she went exploring. She didn't want me with her when she checked on the berries cause what if there was a bear?"
"That's okay right, Mama? I can be fishing right?"
"That's fine, baby." Laura says absently already looking toward the back of the property. This was the first time that Carly had slipped Lulu. Maybe she just needed some quiet time. Lulu could be a trial sometimes when she got a head of steam and Carly had been very patient. Laura starts walking back toward the house. I hope that is all she needed. Carly, please don't be doing this.
Carly angles her head to the side and closes her eyes. Jason plants kisses along her neck brushing aside the strap of her chemise to bare her shoulder. Carly brings her hand up to the nape of Jason's neck and brings his mouth back to hers. She'd missed him so much first while he'd been gone into town and then while up at the summer pasture. She'd had a feeling in her gut that today he'd be back. Today she'd see him. And her gut hadn't steered her wrong. "I missed you."
"You missed this." Jason counters moving his hand up her leg and under her skirts.
"Oh yeah." Carly moans. "I missed that too." The only thing that they can focus on is each other. All senses involved: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and particularly touch.
But it is the hearing that does them in. Cause the next thing they actually hear is a the sound of the cocking of a pistol. Jason stiffens at the familiar sound and the feel of cold metal at the base of his skull. It takes Carly a second longer to put it together. She opens her eyes and sees the sun shadowed figure of her Uncle Luke. "Oh Gawd!"
"He ain't going to be helping you now, Baby girl." Luke says grimly. "Get dressed and get back to the house now." He orders.
Carly rolls away from under Jason and rises to her feet straightening her clothes as she does so. "No! I won't go. I won't let you hurt him." Jason keeps his moves slow and steady as he rises to his feet. He notices that Luke doesn't have any problem holding that pistol. His hands are rock steady with no signs of nerves at all. And that Luke never wavers his attention to Jason.
"Go back to the cabin, Caroline." Jason says softly.
"Go." Jason repeats not taking his eyes off of Luke.
"If you shoot him I'll never speak to you again!" Carly rages.
"I thought you'd be trying to discourage me from shooting the varmint. Why with an incentive like that I don't even have to be pissed at him and believe me I'm plenty pissed."
"Carly, go back to the cabin." Jason repeats again even more quietly. "Now." Carly grabs her basket and runs off back to the cabin. "This is between you and me; it's got nothing to do with her. It's all on me."
"I think I know better than that." Luke uncocks the gun and reholsters it. "I know my niece just fine. And I know you. I was you. Which is why I'm not going to kill you now where you stand. But I'm giving you fair warning. Come sneaking around my niece again... and I still won't kill ya but I will rip your balls off and feed them to you. Comprende?"
"I hear you." Jason had relaxed a minute amount at Luke putting away his big ole .44. Relaxed enough that his reflexes are slowed.
Luke sucker punches Jason in the gut doubling him over and then finishes the job with an upper cut to the jaw dropping the younger man on his ass. "Couldn't just let it go at that." Luke says sorrowfully as he rubs the sting out of his hand placing his boot at Jason's neck to hold him to the ground. "Figure you need a little incentive to know I mean what I say. So let me say it again. You come sniffing around my niece again... I'll turn you from a bull to a steer and then I'll let my sister loose on ya. Caroline ain't for the likes of you." Luke warns again. Luke lets up the pressure with his boot and then turns away knowing somehow that the cow poke wouldn't shoot him in the back.
Jason sits up in the grass working his jaw to make sure nothing is broken. He calls after Luke. "You think Carly will ever be satisfied with some soddie? He'd kill her, or her him before the first month of winter had passed. She ain't the settling sort."
Luke pauses in walking away hearing the truth of the cowpoke's words but then keeps on walking.
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