Story Homestead, Sweet, Homestead


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Thank you, big cats, at least the little big ones we have around here don't like loud noises. They don't like our dogs either...LOL


Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....
The Tiger is hungry, on the hunt and is wise....

Mark and the gang are waiting....

Thanks Pac for chapter....



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I'm down with my yearly bout of the flu. Yes I have had both flu shots. The first early one and the second 'senior' booster the middle of Jan. I still get it. Be back soon.

PS SSSSara, sorry to hear about your kneecap. You're on the prayer list!


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"It sure is taking a long time for this night to get over," Donny groused. He poured another half cup of coffee and grimaced at the taste. "This tastes like lye water, who made this?" he questioned Andy.

"Hush," Andy demanded, "Miss Phoebe is doin the best she can; I heard her say were prit near out of coffee. The ladies are tryin to do the best they can, but we're near out of food. It looks like watery beans and three times perked coffee as grub."

"How far behind the main group do you suppose we are?" Donny sounded pathetic and already feeling hunger pangs, as he faced the prospect of reduced grub. "I'm a growing boy, I need more food than I'm getting."

"Two days for sure, maybe a half day more. When Dad gets them moving, he tends to put the hustle on. Besides, you ain't the only one that needs more food. I see Mr. Seamus not eatin at all, soes the little kids can have food. So suck it up brother, it ain't gonna get any better until we can catch the rest of'm."

"Gag, but I'll keep my mouth shut," Donny promised, "no sense in opening it up, ain't nothin gonna get in there, anyways."

"See to it," Andy ordered.

The night finally gave way to day. Bruce made it through another night. Tricia was encouraged that he was still alive and in his coma. That was nature's way of protecting him against the rigors of traveling and helping his body to start healing.

Chuck and Jerry were up early, harnessing teams and fixing the small amount of oatmeal that was left, leaving it for the children.

"Andy, I want you and Donny to be our outriders, scouting ahead. If you spot any small game be sure and take it. We need any thing that you scare up." Chuck looked at the sleepy eyed boys that were bravely refusing their portions so the young kids had food. "Thanks guys," Chuck said in a undertone.

The wagons started away from the sheltering glade, hurrying toward the main group and the unknown whereabouts of the tiger. Bruce swung suspended in his hammock inside the wagon; tethers to either side of the walls keeping the cradle from turning over and dumping him out.

Seamus and Phoebe kept their teams moving smartly and Andy and Donny ranged ahead and finally spotted the rabbit. It was Donny that shot the hare, and that startled up two more.. Andy got one and Donny his second.

Andy took the rabbits back to Phoebe's wagon, and Calvin accepted them soberly. "I bein caring fer these. Thank you." Andy nodded and turned away to join Donny.


Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....

Thanks for the chapter....

Seems like food is the number one problem even considering the Tiger.... How much food can they grow before fall and winter arrive???? Hunting may be a problem....



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Mark stopped the wagons just shy of town in a small grove of trees. "Half of you may go into town, then the last half. We need security here at the wagons at all times. Seems like this is a decent town, but keep you're heads up and don't get into any situtation. Figure out between yourselves who goes first."

There was excited chatter among the clan. Finding a nice town had been something in scarce supply, and ladies took lists and husbands to be bodyguards. The free time spent window shopping was a stress releaser and great treat to journey weary women. It was a perk up, and stock up time for the men. Everyone had items in mind that they had left behind, used up and or anticipated needing.

When evening fell, all the clan felt better about themselves and their chances of homesteading with the additional supplies they had put away. A relief, plain and simple.

Mark got a Real Estate man to come out and talk to the clan. His talk gave assurance to the members that there was adequate land available for homesteading. "Everyone is leaving the immediate area. Last winter was long and hard, people got tired of battling the elements. I happen to have a cousin however that lives up along the Des Moines river, I'll send a letter of introduction and tell him to treat you folks real fine. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that he sells real estate, same as me. He hails outta Eddyville, if yer interested."

Mark nodded, inwardly chuckling, he expected no less from the eager man.

"We have some good farms around here, iffen you might be interested.. Good soils and some have decent houses," he cajoled.

Mark shook his head no, "any of our clan is free to settle where ever they find land that calls to them. If not, we will continue North; we do thank you for the information and clues as to what we will encounter. You've been very helpful, what did you say your name was?"

"Curley, Curley Johnson of Kirkville Reality Services."

There were a couple of snickers, Curley was bald as anyone could be. He looked up and grinned, rubbing his hand over his shiny plate. "Yeah well, there used to be a lot of hair up there."

In the sudden silence, as clan members tried hard to think of something to say, there was a cater-walling sound faintly carried to the camp. The wind was definitely drifting the sounds of bagpipes, more than one bagpipe, as a matter of record.

"Bagpipes?" Mark inquired,

"Yes, we have a large Scottish settlement here. Most of them have farms East of town and up the small valley."

"Really," Mark grinned. "We have more wagons coming and one of them is a very Scottish, bagpipe playing person. He might be interested."

"Well, he would probably fit right in, the whole lot of them are getting ready for some sort of celebration. They are going to eat Haggis, you know. Not me," Curley said very defiantly. "I don't eat stuff like that."

"Have you ever tasted Haggis?" Mark had a gleam in his eye, one that spoke of brewing mischief.

"NO! Are you aware of what that is?" Curley stuttered. "it's a sheep's stomach stuffed with Lord knows what. No way will I ever let that touch my lips"

"You might be missing something good," Mark prodded the man, only to see the violent shake of the real estate man's bald head. "No!"

"Oh well, it's your loss," Mark tossed off casually. "As I said, thank you for coming out to speak to us. You have a nice town here, we appreciate the opportunity to restock our supplies; but we will be leaving early in the morning. We are most anxious to find land and get settled before winter sets in."

"Yes, it is a narrow window you have to get settled. I'll leave a letter to my cousin stuck in the mail box next to my door. Goodnight," Curley smiled and turned to leave.



Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....
Thanks Pac for the chapter....

Seems like there will be a pull on Seamus's heart strings with all of the other Scots in the area around the town....



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"Oh say, perhaps you don't know, but you will be facing hills if you go straight North. From what I see, you don't have enough horsepower to pull the wagon setups that you have." Curley took his hat off and wiped his forehead on his upper arm.

"I hate to give you this kind of news, but you might as well know what your getting into. I would recommend nothing smaller than a six horse hitch on the main wagons and then four horse hitches on the smaller wagons."

"Thanks friend," Mark dismissed the town man and stood near the central fire and looked at the assembled group.

"Shoot me some suggestions folks; you all heard what he had to say. Right off hand I'd say we need at least thirty more horses." when Mark said the words aloud it sounded like a full born crisis in the making. "With Bruce's wagon and Seamus's, that would be another twelve," he added soberly.

"Thirty horses," the whispered sounds went around the circle, "why that's..." and minds went to calculating the cost of the additional horses.

Mark's mind went in a thousand places at once; the horses would strain the remaining money they had put aside for the journey. The money put back for buying property was sacrosanct, to be used for that purpose only.

Clora came from their wagon. "Mark, Seamus and Bruce are racing to catch us, I think we should wait for them to come. Tricia has operated on Bruce, and it's dicey if he is going to make it."

Mark nodded unhappily, "more delay," he complained under his breath. "A couple of days Clora, we are putting all of us in winter jeopardy by taking so long. When does the welfare of a couple of people eclipse the welfare of the rest?"

"Just a couple of days Mark, we need just a couple of days." Clora said softly and put her hand on Mark's arm.

"You know I could never resist anything you asked for," Mark growled and patted her hand..


Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....
Thanks Pac for the chapter....

"Just a couple of days Mark, we need just a couple of days." Clora said softly and put her hand on Mark's arm.

"You know I could never resist anything you asked for," Mark growled and patted her hand..
Yep, Mark knows who cooks and butters his bread....



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It was very interesting; when Mark and Milo got to the Scottish camp to look at the horses for sale. They stepped into the current dispute between clan Mackay from the North of Scotland; and the clan MacDonald from southern Scotland.

"Thieving, pilfering scoundrel's," the Mackays were thundering across a low brick wall. "Scum and stain on the bonny name of Scotland ye are. Yer the ones that pledged the wall was the divider and that yer sorry hides would honor it. Now we catch ya on our side thieving bread and vegetables. A insult we are not going to let go by."

"You fat old men," a young redhead yelled back; "you couldn't catch us on your side with a racing hound. The bread was moldy and the carrots and cabbage bitter as gall. Here, you can have them back," and cabbage and torn loaves of bread came flying towards the Mackays on their side.

The two side were so engrossed with trading insults and rocks that Mark and Milo walked right into the camps before they were noticed.

"You stop right there," one of the older Mackays ordered sternly. "State yer business, and if yer here for the MacDonalds, you have five seconds to get on the other side of the wall."

"I don't know who we are here to speak with. Curley Johnson told us that you have horses for sale. He didn't say which side had the best teams."

The prospects of making a sale had both sides pausing in their fussin and fighten.

"Welcome Sir, we have the finest of pulling teams," the grandfatherly man introduced himself as Rob Mackay. "Our teams are worked in all types of harness and pulling situations. They are gentle and mannerly, willing to work. We treat them well and sell our culls to the MacDonalds. Rob said with a sneer.

"They sneak their mares over to our stud to get these fine and fancy horses." The young redhead was interested in a sale as quickly as his nemesis. "I'm Gordon MacDonald, and I invite you to come inspect our teams. Husky, well trained, pulling fools they are for sure."

Mark introduced himself and Milo. "We have need of several teams and would be interested in buying those horses we find to our liking, ……. from both of you. We are making a bulk purchase, gentleman and expect fair prices." Mark was unsmiling but honest. "Show us your best horses," he requested.

Mark went with the Mackays and Milo went with the MacDonalds. Dividing the two warring clans, keeping one from casting eyes on the other's business, proved to be a sound decision.

Both Mark and Milo kept a running total of the teams they liked, as they had agreed to buy twenty horses apiece on the way up the valley. "Don't go over five hundred a team," Mark cautioned. "That'll send them into hysterics, but that's all the money we can spend to get the horses we need."

"That's pretty cheap for trained teams," Milo commented. "We may not be able to negotiate that low."

"From what I could get out of Curley, forty horses will take about all their teams; that ought to keep them too busy to be fussing at each other."

"We hope," Milo interjected, "we can only hope."


Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....

Thanks for the chapter....

Now horse trading under way for a total of 40 horses with Scots no less.... Interesting....



Has No Life - Lives on TB
Thank you, time for Seamus to straighten things out . I would think that the monetary system would be much cheaper in a new type world then this :)

Old Gray Mare

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Thanks PAC. Your stories usually give me something to think about and I look forward to the next installment.

Sounds more like the clan should forget the horses and get oxen. Oxen mostly lugged the wagons up and across the Rockies to the west coast not horses. On the flats horses are faster but, oxen are stronger.


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Seamus and Trish stopped their wagons the first night out, near the junction of the trail they were following. They had barely got stopped when Donny sang out, "riders and wagons coming up the opposite trail."

The small group tightened together and broke out the rifles. "Ah mon, just can't be too careful nowadays," Seamus drawled quietly, watching the approaching wagons. Heavily guarded by outriders, the lead rider trotted ahead and then broke into a canter when he spotted Seamus.

"Seamus, you old bagpipe playing son-of-a-gun, it's me,..Corbin." Corbin was yelling as he trotted up to the tightly gathered wagons.

Andy and Donny stared at the approaching man. "Hey, isn't that the guy that married Judy's mother?" Donny hissed to his brother in an undertone.

"Yeah," Andy's clipped reply was not friendly sounding, and he turned and walked to the other side of his horse; fiddling around with the off side cinch strap, pretending to be totally engrossed with the well worn leather.

Chuck and Jerry looked on the heavy freight wagons. "Hello Corbin," Chuck called out, "what are you doing up in this neck of the woods?"

"Freighting goods up to Kirkville, this is my job. How come you fellas are here all by your lonesome?" Corbin called back.

"Dr. Bruce got sick and Doc Tricia had to operate on him. Say, you need to be aware, there's a tiger loose between here and Kirkville. And how far away is Kirkville, anyway?" Donny hollered as Corbin reached the group.

Corbin shook his head like the words were incomprehensible. "What did you say was loose?"

"A tiger," Andy and Donny yelled at the same time. "We killed the lion," Donny interjected, "and the real crazy man that was the guy that trained them."

"We supposed you knew, with all the outriders you have." Jerry spoke up.

"No, this is just the usual way I travel. A show of force, a good deterrent to ambushes and holdups. Corbin shook hands with Seamus and tipped his hat to Phoebe, who came around the side of the wagon.

"Mr. Corbin," Phoebe replied happily, "good to see you. How is Miss Clara and Judy?"

"Doing well, happy and settling in. You know Clara, she organizing the whole place to her pleasure." Corbin laughed, and reached up to push his hat up on his head.

It didn't escape Phoebe's notice that Corbin didn't say how Judy was doing and Phoebe was sure the young girl was heartbroken, but let the omission pass.

What had been said was loud enough for Andy to hear, and once again he pretended indifference. No one asked about Judy and Corbin was quick enough to let the moment pass.

"We are about to camp for the night," Corbin explained, "we'll journey up to Kirkville with you tomorrow. The heavy laden freighters stopped just outside the Linderman party circle and the men went to unhitching the teams.

"I'll be right back," Corbin turned and gave a half wave to the men standing by the Linderman fire.

"Hey George, what in the line of extras do we have? Coffee, vegetables, meat?" The boss inquired of his jovial cook.

"Plenty Sir. Miss Clara insisted we bring double this time. I admit it was easier to just say yes and do it, rather than try and tell her it wasn't necessary." The time tested cook replied.

"Smart man George," Corbin clapped his cook on the back. "These are some of the people I left St. Louis with and here's where I met Miss Clara." Corbin explained and watched as George smiled.

"We waz wondering where you found your sweet lady, but nobody wanted to ask. I guess I might have to look over what's here, if I kin get as good a one as you did."

"Wait till we reach the full wagon train, you just might be interested," Corbin teased mysteriously, as he carried several packages back to Phoebe.

Phoebe started to shake her head no, and Corbin shook one of the packages. "It's coffee Phoebe, the men need it." he spoke low.

Phoebe took the package and gave the serious man a dignified "thank you. We were out of coffee and the men will enjoy this very much."

A lot of talk went back and forth around the fire, and most of it had to do with getting Bruce as far as Kirkville. Tricia swooped in to grab a bowl of stew and a cup of coffee, before retreating back to sit with Bruce.

"He looks like he's dead," Corbin remarked to Seamus, as he returned from looking in on Bruce.

"Mostly, boot it is keeping him from thrashing aboot and opening the stitches. We have nothing left to repair him." Seamus sighed hard. "Prayers, that's the only thing keeping the mon alive."

"We'll help you get to Kirkville, there's a short cut we can take and be there by tomorrow night." Corbin promised.


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Once during the night, faintly in the far off darkness, there was a tiger roar. Too slight for human ears to hear, it was noticed by Corbin's dog, who responded by growling low in a menacing way.

Corbin came awake instantly, placing a calming hand on the dog's head. "Dog, what is it?" he whispered. The non descript mutt stood up and turned to hear another far off roar. This time it was loud enough to faintly make out to the human ear.

"So there is a tiger," Corbin muttered to himself, "I thought they were joking, evidently not." The dog growled again. "Hush," he commanded, "I don't want to be attractin him in the night. You just save your bravado for the daylight." came the whispered advise.

Morning came and the camp was broken down in record time with the extra help. The day was hard traveling, no rest and the sounds of hardworking sweaty horses panting and drawing deeps breaths as the pulled harder than they had been worked before.

Once or twice there was an agonized groan from Bruce; and it made Tricia wince with sorrow to hear her husband in pain.

The way Corbin pushed the settlers and his own freighters was punishment to both humans and animals; but before late afternoon, the scrambled shapes of Kirkville were visible in the hazy distance.

Corbin was glad, he figured that Bruce was dying, and he wanted to be rid of the responsibility. If Clora was there, she would know they were coming and have things arranged. His own Clara seemed to have some of the same talents as Clora, he didn't understand it, but was content to let it be.

Clora indeed knew they were coming, and she walked into the general store to inspect the supplies and to see if there were any medical care items to be had.


Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....
Bruce and company are arriving and the tiger is not far behind....

Thanks Pac for the chapter....



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Up in the valley where the warring Scottish factions were craftily extolling the virtues of their respective horse teams to both Mark and Milo; the Linderman men couldn't see the approaching wagons.

A trumpet type horn sounded and the residents looked to the mouth of their valley and smiled.
"Ahh, the freight wagons are coming," said the old man MacDonald. "It's always a scramble to get our lists of necessary items down to the store ahead of the Mckays. The bloody buggers are apt to buy up everything, just to keep us from getting what we need." he nodded to the younger man by his side, and the man took off at a run for the cluster of houses.

"If you need to get to the store, we can come back later. We need the animals, and are waiting for the rest of our company before we travel on. So we will be here, your welcome to come down to our camp and let us know when you're ready to resume the negotiations." Mark offered, and the old man sighed in relief.

"Ahh mon, thank you, if you don't mind, it would be for the best." and both men headed away from the stout looking corrals and down toward the houses.

"The freighter brings as much as he can, but like everything, it's never enough." the old man had a dusty sounding cough.

"Come by," Mark suggested. "When our second group gets here, there is a doctor. I think you should get that cough attended too."

"It's no nevermind, I know the cause," the elder dismissed Mark's concern. "But thank you," he finished.

There was a commotion on the other side of the valley, as the Mackays discovered the MacDonalds were intending to make a run on the incoming goods. Mark motioned to Milo and he came over to walk together down to the camp.

"Actually, I'm happy that this happened, I'd like to get your impression on the quality of the teams that you saw," Mark looked to the left to see the distant specks of the incoming freight wagons. "I'm guessing it's a fierce competition between the two families to get to the goods, and I sure wouldn't want to get in anyone's way."

Bustling people went trotting by, ignoring the two strangers, as women and men streamed towards the general store.

Milo shook his head, grinning at his father. "I thought the teams I saw were good horseflesh, we hadn't got to the point of watching them work in harness, but so far they look good to me."

"Same here," Mark offered, "nice looking animals but I'd have to see them work before I plunked down any money." Reaching the bottom of the valley with their camp right in front of them, and the buildings of Kirkville off to the right; Mark spotted the familiar stature of his beloved Clora walking towards them with a full basket.

Milo angled off to return to camp and Mark waited for Clora. The day was already hot and sticky, clouds were gathering off to the northwest and turning dark. Mark stood, estimating the wind direction and the approximate path of the storm.

"It's building a storm," Clora gladly handed over the heavy woven basket of what looked like medical supplies for Mark to carry, as the two of them walked slowly back to camp.

"Bruce is still alive, Seamus and his band are coming in with the freight wagons. I didn't realize that was the business Corbin was in, but I am glad he runs a respectable business. I got such scrambled messages from him when his nephew was near, I wasn't sure if he was a honest and trustworthy person." Clora stopped when Mark halfway turned to watch the storm in the distance.

Mark was nodding, almost preoccupied as he kept a worried eye on the building thunderheads.

"I don't like the looks of that, and for sure we aren't in a very good location. There's no natural protection around here, no time to find any, so I guess we will have to ride it out where we are."

"We can alert the camp to button up and expect severe weather. I'll hurry and get some fresh coffee perked and then I have a surprise for your lunch," Clora teased, lightly slapping Mark's hand as he made to push the cotton material that was covering the contents of the basket.

"Nothing doing," Clora smiled, but pulled the basket away from Mark. "Just don't bring anyone home for lunch," she whispered mysteriously.

"Humm," was all Mark said and walked around camp to spread the word of the impending storm.

Mark wasn't the only one keeping a close eye on the weather. Corbin had the horses trotting in the heavy, sultry day. White lather dripped from the flanks and bits of the smartly moving teams, and the drivers were equally wet with sweat as they one by one noticed the danger in the sky.


Live Free & Die Free.... God Freedom Country....
Bruce and group making it to the clan just as a storm is blowing in....

What else could go wrong????

Just how far off is the hungry tiger....

Thanks Pac for the chapter....



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Clora and Tess were waiting when Trish drove in, moving her team into the protective circle.

Mother and daughter shared a look of concern, when they first saw Trish. The formerly vibrant doctor was thin and drawn, huge dark circles under her eyes and slumped posture, looking like she was ancient.

The three of them vanished into the interior of the wagon, to sit and touch both doctors and pray.
"He will live Trish, a long recovery, but he will live." Clora said softly; bringing tears to Trish's eyes.

"Clora, Tess, thank you so much for your encouragement. I have never done anything so complex in a hospital with modern equipment, and to do a cancer removal without scopes and the other instruments available, …'s unbelievable. God guided me and my hands, Phoebe was the most wonderful nurse, I can't give her enough praise. Not only that, she rode herd on all the children and cooked all the meals. She is one fantastic lady." Trish sat with her hand on Bruce's arm.

Suddenly she laughed. "He twitched, when I said Phoebe. There, he did it again." and the wife in Trish was so relieved she almost sobbed outright in relief. "Oh Clora, please pray for Bruce, I have missed your unique connection and incredible prayer ability."

The women sat and prayed and soon the back door to the wagon eased open and Eddie and Tony silently crawled in and sat on either side of their mother, patting her arms in a purely Clora type movement.

Soon, Phoebe stuck her head in the door and said in a very loud voice, "Dr. Bruce, you had better be thinking about getting up off your keister, or I am going to have to start physical therapy right where you are." Then she gave an evil laugh, and the sound caused Bruch to twitch.

The four ladies laughed softly, and Eddie and Tony looked up in bewilderment. "Whatcha laughing for, Dad's still bad hurt." Eddie protested. "I don't think you guys are the least bit funny."

"Eddie, we are not laughing at Dad. He reacts every time Phoebe's name or her voice is heard. We are happy that he is beginning to respond, that is very good news for his recovery." Trish replied as she smoothed Bruce's hair off his forehead, and touched his cheek gently.

"Oh, you mean he's going to be able to talk soon? Cool, I want to ask him if I can have my knife back. He said a couple of days, when he took it away. It's really been an awful long time." Eddie had an audience and he really played up his 'poor lost knife' situtation. "When do you think Dad will tell me where he hid it?"

"When he gets ready," Trish spoke calmly, "If you did something to loose your knife, then that's a punishment you have to endure, until Dad is ready to give it back to you."

"Oh boy," Eddie miserably whispered. "That don't sound good to me. I'll probably be plumb growed up by that time."

"Could be," Trish agreed. "Maybe you'll be smarter, if you're older."

"Yes Ma," Eddie was glum.

Tony snickered, and Eddie reached out to thump him one. "Eddie," Trish said in a warning, "that's enough." Eddie stomped out and almost slammed the wagon door, but Phoebe held her hand out and stopped the snit.

"Eddie," Phoebe said sternly, "you get out there and find wood. We have a storm coming and I need to cook. Now hustle it." and she gave him a swat on the rear to reinforce her request.

It really didn't hurt and Eddie contemplated doing a wounded howl for sympathy, but one look at Phoebe's face changed his mind.

"Yes Ma'am," he said respectfully, and went to look for the wood.

Clora and Tess had their teeth clenched to keep from laughing, and Tess got into a coughing spate, from which she less than gracefully tried to recover.


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Andy and Donny were welcomed home by their adoring throng of young boys. "Tell us about the lion and the tiger," the chant was repeated and repeated. "Is it a really big one? How big was the lion? Didja hafta kill the man that owned them? We heard him once last night, it was really scary."

"It was not," Robbie protested hotly. "I wasn't scared, not one bit."

Of course, when Robbie announced he wasn't disturbed by the startling close roar, neither were TJ, Barry, and Eddie. "Well, I was;" Tony said aloud. "All the rest of you guys are faking."

"Hey guys," Donny hushed the quarrel. "You had better be scared. We saw what that tiger did to a horse, and was it ever a bloody sight. Killed a man also; tore one of his arms off to eat it."

That information silenced the group, each one looking out beyond the wagons to see if they could spot the man eating animal. "I don't suppose you'd better be talking about this in front of Lyric or the triplets. That would probably get us all in trouble; but you guys keep your heads up as you walk around. We can be sets of extra eyes and ears for the protection of everybody. You guys have slingshots and pocket knives?"

Everyone answered yes, even Eddie, and everybody knew he didn't have his knife. Accusing eyes turned his way. "Yer fibbin," Robbie said low. "Lying will get you in a lot of trouble. "

"Hey," Eddie interrupted, "That's Mr. Seamus's wagon coming in, I bet Calvin, Punky and Max are with him, let's go see."

That maneuver got Eddie out of the hot seat for the moment, and he led the charge to find out if the next three boys were indeed in the wagon.

Andy and Donny smiled at each other and went to put their horses up. "Storm comin in," Andy observed. "I'm gonna put my saddle under the wagon and get my slicker out. I think I'll stay with my horse, in case he gets spooked."

"Good idea," Donny loosened his cinch and slipped the saddle off. Unlatching the saddle bag, he found his horse brush and went to grooming his sweaty gelding. The animal grazed, walking ahead slowly and Donny walked with him, brushing and praising the animal for his good performance.

Andy did the same, and when the boys were through with their horses, they went to help Seamus unhitch and brush his teams.

Seamus was quiet, until he heard the wailing of a far off bagpipe. Frozen to the spot, he was totally alert, listening. "Oh me ears, dinna I hear a set of pipes? There, I hear it again. Oh, tis heavens music to me ears."

Seamus had his head turned in the direction of the valley, standing still with his eyes closed, soaking in the strains mournfully splitting the air.

"There are two families up there, clan Mackay, and clan MacDonald; and we are looking to buy additional teams from them." Mark's voice intruded into Seamus's reverie. "Seamus, I hate to hurry you, since you just got here, but there is a fierce storm headed this way. We need to get you water, wood and get your food cooking, unless you want to do that in the rain."

"No," the thick brogue betrayed the extent of Seamus's emotion upon hearing familiar sounds of his homeland. "I'll be busy right away."

"We'll help," Andy and Donny went for the axes in the back of the smaller wagon. "Tell ya what," Andy bartered with Donny. "You cut wood and I'll put the canvas up on the smaller wagon so we can sleep without getting wet."

"Deal, hey Eddie and Robbie come help. TJ and Barry, you guys be our guards while we are out away from the wagons."

That saved Eddie's bacon; as he had forgotten about Phoebe's decree, and he worked diligently to make a good showing and save his hide from a scolding.

Abby had stacked plenty of wood under her wagon, and she and Millie supervised the triplets as the boys carried sticks as their contributions to the fire. It was slow going work, easier to do by themselves; but so necessary to instill good work habits in the littles.

Chuck and Jerry hauled wood, water and made sure the canvas was tight on Mark's wagons. Clora came from the hospital wagon and checked on the coffee. "Help yourselves," she invited, "it won't be long before the storm hits, the wind is picking up."

"Thanks," Jerry accepted for both of them, "we will as soon as we check with Toby and Milo and see if they need anything." Clora nodded and went to get a sweater. The day had been stifling hot, but the temperature had dropped considerably and the wind was blowing cold shivers along her arms.

The younger boys brought in armfuls of wood, then went to help Andy who was having trouble securing the canvas tight in the wind. "Thanks guys, I sure appreciate your help." Andy's quiet praise was so much like Mark's and it made the younger kids puff up with pride.

Corbin had pulled up to the back of the general store and eager hands helped unload the much needed supplies. The first and second wagons were unloaded and they had started on the third, when the wind picked up and the first raindrops spattered on the canvas.

"Double time guys, we're gonna get wet for sure. George, you pull out and get us some grub started. See those wagons in the circle, the first two are friends, you can use their fires." Corbin was keeping close track of the unloaded supplies. He didn't trust the shifty eyed nephew of the store keeper. There had been slight differences in the final count and the invoices, and he suspected the kid was pilfering the higher dollar items last time.

George wandered over to the Linderman camp and inquired politely about using the two fires to cook the stew in the amounts he needed. Tess and Millie both instantly agreed, and invited George to move his cook wagon close.

Tidy and concise in his actions, George got down to the business of cooking his men supper.
Just to be friendly, Millie stayed and chatted with the newcomer, all the while observing and vetting the cook to make sure he was doing the right thing.