Frontier General Store
Marcus and Gia work side by side in the tobacco; time really having no meaning just the shift of the sun across the sky. This is something they'd been doing together for as long as Gia can remember. When she was a little girl she'd had the task of picking the huge tobacco worms off of the plants and killing them. Tobacco had always been a cash crop. That and cotton of course. This far north the tobacco plants are smaller. "We're going to have to put more land to the tobacco next year to make up for the plants being so small." Gia tells Marcus not pausing in the task of cutting the plants at the base and putting it into the nearby cart. "There ain't gonna be much left over after you and Mr. Spencer get done with it."
"Yep." Marcus agrees not slowing in the task. He and Gia would be able to harvest the whole half acre in a day and then the next task would be hanging it to cure in the rafters of the barn. Gia was better at the hanging than he is. She is more limber and able to climb into the rafters balancing on beams while hanging the crop. "Just a bit left over to sell to the miners come spring."
"Mrs. Hardy said something about cold boxes. You know something to give the plants a head start. Probably could do that with the plugs that way they'd be more able to withstand the weather and be bigger come fall."
"That's an awful lot of boxes." Marcus counters. "Since you're already talking about doubling the amount of crop we put in. Can't be relying on one thing. Not planning on puttin' all my eggs in the tobacco basket. We'll never be able to compete with down south."
"Well course not." Gia shakes her head. "I wasn't saying that. Tobacco and the hogs. And Mama's cooking I guess too. I knew the mining camp would be gold. In more than one way. We have the advantage in the tobacco war 'cause we don't have the transportation costs."
"We can never let it be more than what it is, Gia. A little cash on the side. It can never be more important than the crops that will actually feed us or the animals. It's for the extras. Not the necessary."
Gia considers that for a few minutes then changes the subject. "How bad off is Zander?"
"When I saw him last he was out cold and in a splint from hip to ankle."
Gia winces. "It's bad then. What happens now? How is he going to manage?"
"He's gonna stay at Miz Audrey's until the splint comes off."
"What can we do to help?"
"Cassadine's are going to take care of his horses, the Spencer's his chickens. I figure we just have to make sure that they don't run out of provisions. They were already going to get a portion of one the hogs in return for the spice they were giving up to make sausage for all. He'll be more mobile on crutches when butchering comes around. Miz Audrey feels he'd be fine cept for winter coming on. Can't afford for him to slip and break the other one."
"I don't know what would have happened if it had been you, Marcus." Gia worries. "Mama and I couldn't have lifted you to take you to Mrs. Hardy."
"Probably built a house around me." Marcus gives her a sly grin.
"It would be easier!" Gia agrees with a laugh.
Lulu frees Mr. Zander's chickens from their travel cages and puts them down by the chicken coop with a pie plate of grain and another of water. She reaches over and pats one on the back. "Mr. Zander will feel better soon. Daddy says until then you're just visiting with our chickens. Daddy says if I treat you nice then he'll bring me more chickens come spring. And then I can make lots of dimes selling eggs to the miners."
"How are those chickens settling in, Lulu?" Laura comes out of the cabin.
"Just fine, Mama. I think they're making friends now. It'll probably be crowded in their coop though."
"They won't mind that at night when it's cold outside." Laura suggests. "Where is your father?"
"He said he had to go check on somethin' and would be back by dinner."
Laura sighs knowing her husband is out at the still. "I'm going to go over to the barn and help Carly and Aunt Bobbie with the corn."
"Don't go wandering off." Laura warns.
Lulu rolls her eyes. "I'm busy here. I wonder if Mr. Zander named them?"
"Somehow I don't think so." Laura shakes her head and goes off to the corncrib. The women were working on removing the dried grain from it's cob so that it can be ground into meal or given to the animals. The men are doing the same task... only over at the hunting camp.
At the hunting camp, Luke fusses
over the still making sure everything is up to snuff while Lucky strips more
corn from the cobs into a wash tub. Nothing would go to waste. The corn would be
used to make mash. The cobs used to fuel the fires and the spent mash would be
given to Taggart's hogs as a supplement although those suckers were starting to
get big on the forage in the woods and the scraps they were being given.
Actually the spent mash is being used as a trap now. With butchering time only
about a month away, Taggart wanted to capture the hogs and bring them back to
the pen at the homestead so he can fatten them up on real grain for the last
Course wrestling a 250 pound hog isn't exactly fun and even with the frequent contact at the trough in the woods hasn't made them human friendly. In the midst of everything else, they'd managed to put together a pen that was on the edge of the woods... midway between the smokehouse and the still. The pen is nice and shaded by the trees. A good compromise between running loose and the pen down at the Taggart's that they'd used for the sow when she'd been farrowing until the piglets had been weaned.
They'd had to put a fence up around the still too just as a precaution. Pigs are curious creatures and Lucky had figured they'd just as soon cut out the middle men and take the grain before it had gone thru the still. "So how bad is it with Zander?" Lucky asks his father once Luke is done with his examination and has stoked the fire of the still.
"He'll be staying at the Hardy's til Christmas."
"And he'll be married by New Year's poor sucker." Lucky grins.
Luke gives him a look. "Oh?"
"Figure when he moves back to the soddie he won't be alone. Sarah will move back with him. Those two are like this already." Lucky holds up two fingers close together. "Zander's probably figured to wait until Spring to make his move. After proving he could get thru the winter."
"Better chance to get thru the winter." Luke grins. "It's warmer and you don't have company dropping by all the time. What about you? You thinking on sparking Elizabeth?"
"Trying to get rid of me already, Dad?" Lucky says wryly.
"Hell no, Cowboy!" Luke denies. "I was just thinking about the property on the other side of the river. Looks like good pasture there. Wouldn't take much to rig a bridge over. More prone to flooding though from the look of it." He muses aloud.
"Don't get ahead of yourself, Dad. Let's just get thru this winter."
"Always got to be thinking, Cowboy." Luke counters. "We've been getting along fine with the neighbors we got. Don't figure we'll get that lucky again. Got to figure a way to lock up the other side of the valley."
"Well you could always back Carly getting her own place."
Luke snorts and shakes his head. "Might as well if she's going to be pinning her hopes on some cowpoke who will never be around anyway."
The first human casualty of the homesteading has occurred. Luckily not a fatality as we are rather fond of Mr. Smith. Nikolas discovered him after the accident where he came from his horse and ended with a broken leg. It is unusual. Zander is actually quite a good rider although not to Cassadine standards of course. His horse was "spooked". There are a number of things that might spook a horse but it is worth investigating to discover if there will be another casualty from the same cause.
"I'm sorry I'm late, Uncle. The conversation with Zander was rather... involved. Do we still have time to go out today?" Nikolas interrupts Stefan's thoughts.
"Of Course." Stefan answers. "Let me just finish this entry."
I have yet to tell Nikolas of my concern. I will broach it while we are out in the woods. Seeking the resting spots of the wild game we will soon hunt I have discovered is an excellent opportunity for honest conversation with little of society's polite lies. Stefan Cassadine Oct 3, 1883.
Stefan closes his journal and sets it aside. He puts on his heavy coat and reaches over the mantel for his rifle and Nikolas'. They stop at the rain barrels to fill their canteens and then start toward the woods on foot. The complexities of hunting are many. It wasn't enough to find the game but to also find it in an assessable spot so that the game could be brought out and down to the Taggart's and since the prey is elk...if they were to use horses there would still be an element of field stripping of the game. A horse might be able to carry out a deer whole but not an elk. Elk made the trip that much more challenging. If it were easy then everyone would be doing it. "How is Mr. Smith this day?"
"He finally agreed to give Mrs. Hardy a week."
"So they have postponed the battle."
"I think they will fight it a week at a time." Nikolas grins at his uncle.
"Inefficient but I'm sure it will save Zander his pride."
"I have no doubt that Mrs. Hardy will find an excellent and undeniable reason why she needs Zander to stay within the week. And if necessary another and another. Will Zander realize he is being manipulated?"
"Probably. If only in hindsight. There are few men who have been able to observe the machinations of the feminine mind the way we have, Nikolas."
"Exactly." Stefan holds up a hand to bring them to a halt and then examines the trail that they are on. Standing back up, he nods. "Let us continue on. I believe we are on the right path."
Sarah comes back from the
Taggart's place about dinner time. She'd taken Zander's pants over to Miz Flo
figuring that she'd spent so much time making clothes for Mr. Marcus that she she
might have a clue as to how to let out the leg of Zander's pants so it would fit
over his cast. Then stayed to help Miz Flo fashion a winter wool coat for Mr.
Marcus cut from an old blanket that had been foraged.
Miz Flo had used one of her son's old shirts as a pattern and then cut generously from the blanket wanting there to be plenty of room for layers of clothes underneath the coat. It would have been even faster with Gram's sewing machine but no use crying over that one. The sewing machine was somewhere between Charlestown and St Louis.
Course a proper suit tailored and hand sewed... or a proper coat lined could take days to make. This coat would be nothing like that. Not lined, not fancy just big and warm. Fact was it was salvage from Mr. Marcus' winter coat which was added to Zander's pant's leg.
"Gram, I'm home!" Sarah calls as she enters and then mentally kicks herself wondering if maybe she'd woke the patient.
"Was Florence able to help?"
"I think so." Sarah pulls the pants out of her tote bag. "I doubt it will start a new fashion but I think it will work and be warm too."
Audrey shakes her head as she sees it. "What on earth did you use?"
"An old blanket. I was very careful with the seams. Once Zander is healed it can be removed and the pants sewn up again with no waste."
"Did you say pants?" Zander comes out of the back alcove still dressed in the plaid dressing robe. He balances using one of Elizabeth's walking sticks. The sticks she takes with her out to the pasture to stake out the goat on.
Sarah's eyes go wide. "You're up!"
"After a fashion." Zander says wryly as he half hops over to chair by the table and collapses gracelessly.
"You're going to need real crutches." Audrey declares.
"I'll make them myself if I have to." Zander agrees. "Did someone say something about pants?"
"Here." Sarah hands him the pants. Zander examines them raising a brow when he sees the wool insert. She says defensively. "I think they'll fit over the cast now." Then she frowns. "But how can you put on pants if you can't bend your knee?"
"I'll figure out a way." Zander grins but then he shakes his head. "Tomorrow."
Stefan Cassadine steps out into the still dark morning. He draws a deep breath and the cold cuts his lungs reminding him of home. They would have snow soon. Maybe not an accumulation but the warning of the season to come. It was time. Time to be hunting. Time to put the runners on the carriage to convert it to a sleigh. Now those in the valley who'd distained the crazy Ruskies would see just how crazy they were. Stefan stretches his hands over his head bending one way and then the next. So he had been trained by a traveling monk from China. It had been ridiculed by his mother and brother but he found the exercises to be both calming and strengthening. Something precious when in the company of either. Stefan senses the presence of another behind him.
"It is time." Nikolas takes a deep breath and stretches as well.
Gia is the first one awake at the
Taggart place and doesn't know exactly what caused her to stir. She climbs
carefully from the bed she shares with her mother and steps outside. She shivers
in the morning air. Already it is colder than the coldest day in her memory back
in Alabama. Colder than the day it snowed when they first moved out to the
valley. How much colder could it get? Thank goodness they'd harvested the
tobacco already. No way could it have tolerated this chill even if the days
Picking up a bucket, Gia goes over to the rain barrel to bring water into the house to heat for the morning. She automatically tries to dunk the bucket into the barrel but is stopped by the coating of ice on the barrel. "Oh my." Picking up a stick she starts chipping at the ice finally breaking thru to the icy but still wet water below. She fills the bucket and brings it into the cabin. Setting it by the woodstove she starts stoking the fire bringing up the temperature in the cabin. Unable to put it off any longer she goes about her chores. This time with the knowledge that she is going to have to chip even more ice... this time to free up water for the animals.
Zander sits on the edge of the bed
and contemplates the pants problem. Sarah had a point about how to get the pants
on over a straight leg. But there was no way he was a) going to spend the next
three months in a bathrobe or b) ask one of the women to help him dress as if he
was a babe. There had to be a way. Finally a possibility occurs to him.
He fastens his suspenders to the pants and then casts the pants out as if he is fishing hanging onto the end of the suspenders. With both legs extended he inches the pants back toward him using his toes, the only moveable part of his broken leg to inch under the fabric. Slowly he reels the pants in until they are up around his knees and then he bunches the fabric so it is clear of his feet and then taking a deep breath stands up. Or rather hops up being careful to balance so that if he falls it is back toward the bed rather than on his face. He pulls his pants on the rest of the way hitching the suspenders over his shoulders and then grinning at his success. One down. Now once he got his boot on... the next hurdle. Getting to the outhouse.
Luke throws back the covers of his bedroll out at the hunting camp with a yawn, stretch and scratch. Blurry eyed he checks on the still, tapping on copper tubing to check connections. He adds fuel to the fire to kick it up from the dying ashes. As soon as Lucky relieved him, he'd head back up to the homestead to crash out in a real bed until a semi- decent hour. The annoyed squeal of a pig has Luke swearing. Bed was going to be postponed. If he didn't miss his guess there would be a new resident in the pen on the edge of the woods. A nice, well pissed off right now, hog that would be sausage in a month. Hell. Maybe Flo had the coffee on.
"Mrs. Lansbury, I will be taking a package down to Mr. Smith at that Mrs. Hardy person's." Natasha announces. "Have the carriage brought around. And I'll need a suitable basket. Zander only speaks English correct?"
"He might speak a little Spanish or southern aboriginal dialects but he only reads English as far as I know. Master Stefan ordered the runners put on the carriage before he left. He believes there will be snow soon."
"That can surely wait until I get back. I doubt I'll be staying long." Natasha shrugs. She carefully selects some books from the library that she believes Zander will enjoy. "Nikolas should have brought Mr. Smith here instead of to that woman."
"I'm sure Mr. Smith wasn't in his right mind with the pain he was in, is probably still in." Mrs. Lansbury says wryly. "I'll be right back with a basket." Mrs. Lansbury backs out of the library and closes the door after her. After she is clear of the room she shakes her head. First things first she notifies Mr. Roscoe to have the carriage brought around and then finds a basket. She places a few oranges, a small tin of candied figs and a small bag of almonds in the basket. Delicacies that she knows wouldn't be found in the valley.
I hope you are already feeling better and are on the mend. Master Nikolas has gone hunting with his uncle. They won't be back until they are successful. It is their way. Please convey my apologies to Mrs. Hardy. Mrs. Lansbury.
Knowing Miss Natasha won't be opening the produce, Mrs. Lansbury rolls the paper tight on itself and slips it into the middle of the almonds. She fastens the bag down tightly winding the cord around the top. Then brings the basket into the library. "I took the liberty of adding a few of the things Mr. Zander likes: oranges, figs, almonds." Mrs. Lansbury lifts the packages as she calls out the items.
"Excellent, Mrs. Lansbury." Natasha looks around. "I know that we brought one of father's walking canes but I cannot recall where..."
Mrs. Lansbury nods. "The guest room. I'll go get it. It will be a while before Mr. Zander can use it but it will give him something to look forward to." She hurries out of the room and returns with a teak cane polished to high shine and then topped with an ivory handle carved in the shape of an eagle.
"Yes, this will do fine." Glancing around the room, Natasha grabs a throw off the back of one of the high back chairs. She covers the basket with it. "The carriage?"
"I'll check on that, ma'am."
Elizabeth stuffs the small pocket of muslin with unspun fleece she'd combed from one of the sheep that morning while up in the pasture. Packing it tight using one of her knitting needles to spread it out and get it to the furthest point. When she is sure she has as much as she can fit in she folds the muslin over and tacks it to the underside of the form. She might not be able to sew worth a damn but she had been paying attention to Gramps when he'd been whittling the winters away. Course Gramps would have sanded and polished the crutches until they were free of splinters. It might take him a full winter to finish a pair. "Don't think Zander can be waiting the winter, Gramps." Elizabeth looks to the heavens where she's sure Steve Hardy is playing checkers with the saints and keeping an eye on her. "So I covered the parts that would be giving him slivers." Standing up, Elizabeth tucks the crutches under her arms but that doesn't work at all well seeing as how she can't tuck them under her arm and still have her feet on the ground. "Yep. And if they are too long even for Zander I can always trim them off at the bottom. Better too long than too short. Can't add back on, right Gramps?"
Whistling for Riley, Elizabeth starts back down from the pasture with the crutches over her shoulder, knowing that the sheep and goats will be fine without her for as long as it takes her to drop off the crutches. When she arrives at the homestead. Zander is sitting on the porch with his leg stretched out in front of him and doing his best to work on a pair of crutches without much success. "Oh dang." Elizabeth shakes her head. "Well if you've got those then I don't guess you'll be needing these." She holds out the crutches.
"How... when..." Zander looks at her in amazement.
"Got to remember, my gramps was a doctor. I've seen more than one pair of crutches. They aren't as nice as what he could have made. Try them out? Might need to shorten the length some."
Zander tucks the arm pieces into his pits and rests his weight on the handle. Slowly he uses the crutches to walk the length of the porch and then with increasing confidence down the three stairs. "I'm mobile. I'm not hopping. They're perfect! Thank you." Reaching out with one hand he gives Elizabeth a quick hug and a kiss on the forehead.
Elizabeth flushes and starts backing away quickly. "Sure. Glad they work for you. I have to get back to the sheep now. Come on, Riley." Turning around Elizabeth breaks out into a run back to the upper pasture.
Sarah ducks back behind the corner of the house having seen everything. She takes a moment to compose herself. And then she sees they have a visitor coming up the path. It's the Cassadine Carriage but it isn't Mr. Cassadine or Nikolas. What was she doing here?!
Natasha pulls the carriage up to the cabin and sets the brake. Zander holds a hand out to her putting more weight on one crutch than the other, assisting her from the carriage. "Miz Natasha, I'm surprised to see you."
"Alexander, darling, how could I hear of your injury and not come." Natasha looks him over from head to toe. "From Nikolas' reports I did not expect to find you standing."
"Wish I could say he was exaggerating but until a moment ago standing was a serious hurdle. Mrs. Hardy's granddaughter just brought me these. I'm feelin' better already."
"Excellent! But lets get you seated before you overdo." She reaches into the carriage and brings out the basket and cane. Together they walk up the plank porch steps. Zander waits until Miz Natasha is seated before sitting down next to her. Something about this woman just demanded manners no matter what your condition. Mrs. Hardy had it too but in a more common sense way. "I brought you some books I thought you might enjoy, one of my father's walking canes. Oh and Mrs. Lansbury sent along some treats to tempt your appetite." Natasha adds as an afterthought.
"Please relay my appreciation." Zander nods. He reaches for the books knowing that they are Miz Natasha's pride and joy. "Twain, Thoreau, Longfellow, Poe. You've brought me a bit of everything."
"I didn't know for sure what you would like."
"I like them all." Zander says honestly. "I haven't done that much reading... just the newspaper whenever I was in town. Honestly haven't had the time. Mrs. Hardy told me I need to lay up some books for the winter."
"Long winter nights are ideal for reading and other mental stimulation." Natasha agrees.
"I'll return these to you just as soon as I'm done. Maybe trade them for some others?"
Natasha nods. "I would enjoy discussing them with someone who appreciated the efforts of the authors. Stefan and Nikolas left this morning to go hunting." She changes the subject. "I am sure they will come to visit as soon as they have completed their task."
"We had some good spots picked." Zander shakes his head. "And I'd be with them if I hadn't...."
"Stefan is a firm believer in fate. I'm sure he'd say something about there being a reason this happened. A reason why you are meant to be here." Natasha frowns. "What I can't believe is that you are left unattended in your convalescence."
Zander shakes his head. "You literally missed Elizabeth by minutes bringing me these." He indicates the crutches. "Mrs. Hardy is down in the cold cellar taking inventory of supplies. It's nice down there. Nice and quiet. And Sarah is around here somewhere." Zander looks around. Sarah had been right around and it was actually strange for her to not be here by now. The only thing he could figure is she'd seen Miz Natasha and is staying away on purpose. Nikolas had told him that the two women hadn't gotten off on the right foot.
Audrey comes out of the root cellar with her journal and carefully shuts the door behind her not wanting to give vermin any chance to enter after all of her efforts to liming the walls and laying out the wormswort. She sees the carriage for the first time. "Oh dear." Then she puts on her company face as she walks up to the cabin. "Miss Cassadine isn't it?"
"And you're Mrs. Hardy. I'm... pleased to meet you although the circumstances are indeed unfortunate."
Her shoes and stockings are on the cart. Luckily the weather had warmed quickly with the weak northern sun. Gia balances easily on the cross timber of the barn. It would be impossible with the slick soles of her boots. She casts down a cord with a hook on the end to Flo below who fastens it into a bundle of tobacco leaves. Then hand over hand Gia pulls the tobacco up and hangs it on a nail. Inching down the beam, they repeat the process. By the time they're done every rafter of the barn would have leaves hanging to dry at spaced intervals to allow for proper air flow. "It was kinda weird to have Mr. Spencer show up here so early in the morning."
"Didn't mind abit considering he brought in one of the hogs. And Mr. Spencer surely doesn't mind the dregs of the coffee pot. I think he prefers them." Florence takes another bundle from the cart and hooks it. She doesn't tug on the cord not wanting to do anything that might jar Gia's balance but makes eye contact with her daughter and nods. Gia starts pulling up the bundle.
"One down, ten to go-- nine more piggy's and mama." Gia says wryly unfastening the cord and then hanging the bundle on a nail. "And considering the most anyone had ever seen is about six... I don't think we're going to get them all. I'm figuring that something else had them for dinner. Marcus should have tagged them individual like so we could have tracked each one not the total number." She drops the hooked end of the cord to her mother below.
"He'll know next year." Flo says calmly. "We'll get by. The smoking was planned on being three now and three later. That doesn't add up to ten, Gia." Flo fastens on a another bundle.
"Yeah, but that was planning on just doing the hogs. Not all the pigs we had cept for the sow. I was still hoping to get a boar and have him breed with the sow and the gilts. That way we'd have five litters of piggy's come spring."
"Girl, you are starting to talk about a powerful smell! And I don't figure there is enough woods to be running five litters of piggy's in there."
"We wouldn't have to wait until they were all the way to being hogs... we could take them to Charlestown when they weighed, I don't know, maybe sixty pounds. Let someone else finish them off. We go to the store once a month when the weather is decent. We could take some every month right up until this time next year. Or you could take them up to the Quartermaine mine and have a nice barbequed pig pullin'."
"Think you're getting ahead of yourself, Gia. Thinking about next year when you should be looking at right now."
"I can do both, Mama."
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