#85 Finding Christmas

Finding Christmas
Patty Wilkinson
(Some strong language, adult themes and violence...but not much!)

Many thanks to Jenny Prout for the lovely screen cap.

Chapter 1
The run up to Christmas was a busy and exciting time for most folk in Laramie. The Day itself was a time for ranchers to relax and take a step away from the often-backbreaking hard work and inclement weather; to spend a few hours in the good company of family and friends.
For the women folk the few weeks leading up to the special day were an especially busy time of preparation, baking, bringing in supplies, cleaning and of course making or buying gifts for their loved ones.
As for the children it was a time of unremitting excitement and much speculation as to what Santa would bring them that year. For even the lowliest of homes tried to provide a special present for the youngsters albeit often homemade by Pa in the barn. Many a rocking horse or doll’s house were fashioned, painted and wrapped in the dead of night, by candle light in the chilly barn.
As the days progressed preparations increased, with housewives getting short tempered in the heat of a busy kitchen, whilst over excited children were underfoot and made mischief. That was the signal for the menfolk to take themselves off on some pretext or other, returning later in the day when the children were abed and once more peace prevailed.
Two weeks before the big day, the Sherman spread was a hive of activity as well.Read More »


#84 The Language of Friendship

The Language of Friendship

By Patty Wilkinson

(Some violent scenes, strong language and adult themes)

Thank you to Michelle Butler for excellent screen cap

Chapter 1
Jess Harper was striding down Laramie Main Street whistling to himself; a happy smile on his handsome features. The sun was shining, he had money in his back pocket and he was on his way to see his girl Millie. All was right with the world.
He was so busy contemplating the next few hours of dancin’ and romancin’ with his gal he wasn’t looking where he was going and ran slap bang into a tall slender man just emerging from the mercantile.
Both ricocheted back and then their eyes met and Jess gave a gasp of shocked surprise.
“Pete... Pete Brown is that you?”
The other nodded smiling broadly, “Howdy Jess...I was coming over to visit with you tomorrow; didn’t expect to find you here.”
Jess studied the other and tried to keep the smile on his face, but Jeez Pete was a mess. He looked far and away older than his mid-thirties, his face haggard and almost grey...his body slender to the point of emaciation. Hell, the guy looked really sick.
But then Pete broke into his thoughts and slapping him on the back said, “Well aren’t you going to buy an old buddy a drink then huh?”
“Sure,” said Jess pulling himself together and returning the grin and the pair made their way on down the street to the saloon.
Once Jess had introduced Pete to Millie, they took their drinks to a quiet table to talk; Jess promising to see his girl a little later.
“She sure is a looker,” Pete said appreciatively. Taking a small sip of his beer he glanced over to where Millie was still serving at the bar, before her night off.
“So are you two heading out later huh?” he asked with a wink.
Jess nodded, “Yup...but never mind about all that. What are you doin’ way up here...and where is little Beth...she is with you?”
“Sure, she’s over at the hotel. She was kinda tired after the long journey and having an early night. Not so little now either Jess.”
Jess smiled. Gee Beth was such a sweet child he remembered.
“She must be what ten...eleven now?”
Pete shook his head, “Nope just turned thirteen and going to be a real stunner just like her Ma.”
Both men suddenly sobered at the memory of Pete’s beautiful wife Lizzy, gunned down in her prime.
Jess sat quietly for a moment casting his mind back to the tragic events of that day nearly eight years ago...Read More »


#83 The New Deputy

The New Deputy
Patty Wilkinson

Some violence, adult themes and strong language
Many thanks to Michelle Butler for the use of her excellent screen cap.

Chapter 1
Mort Cory, Sheriff of Laramie and good friend to all at the Sherman Ranch, had been like a bear with the toothache for nigh on two weeks according to Jess Harper. He just didn’t know what had gotten into his friend.
He didn’t want to call at the saloon and sink the odd glass of refreshing beer, he didn’t want to eat his fill at Miss Molly’s eating house and he certainly didn’t want to pass the time of day with any of his old friends.
“I just can’t figure it,” said Jess as he buttered a biscuit at the breakfast table. “I thought maybe it was somthin ’ I’d done but I ran into Kate Munroe the other day and she said the same, he’s just turned real ornery.
“Maybe he’s sick,” suggested Daisy, the ranch housekeeper, ex-nurse and fount of all knowledge concerning folk and their strange little ways; as Jess described the human condition.
Slim Sherman the tall blond rancher got to his feet, ready to start the day’s work and said, “No, I don’t think so Daisy, he seems fit enough to me. Nope maybe he’s just feeling kind of er...frustrated, you know with Miss Kate refusing to wed him and all.”
The relationship Mort had with Kate Munroe was a complex one. With Kate spending most of the year up the Laramie Mountain; which she loved for the freedom and outdoors lifestyle. Here she had a platonic relationship with a distant cousin, Denver James and his sons, renowned moonshine makers. But she was also a huge part of Mort’s life and spent quality time with him too but refused to settle down. Jess had once said they broke the mold when Kate was born. A wise woman well versed in the art of Indian medicine, she was as tough as any man, able to out shoot, fish or drink most. But she still retained an allure that was irresistible to many men, even now in her more mature years.
“Well I aim to get to the bottom of it once and for all when I ride into town later,” Jess said with the light of battle in his deep blue eyes. “After all he’s a real good friend and if something is bothering him, we should try and help him out some huh?”
Ignoring Jess’s altruistic sentiments Slim glared at him, “Please tell me you’re not going to town again, garldarn it Jess that’s the third time this week!”
“Well we need stuff from the mercantile, don’t we Daisy?” He asked throwing her a hopeful glance.
“Do we dear?” she asked returning his look with one of kindly innocence.
“Sure, you remember, you said you were getting real low on cinnamon for the apple pies and.... er...”
But before Jess could continue Slim broke in, “Come on Jess just because its high summer and not too much work to do, that doesn’t mean you can go swanning off to town to spend all your day in Miss Millie’s bed....er company I mean...” he quickly corrected himself in deference to Daisy’s presence.
“I weren’t thinkin’ of even callin’ in on Millie,” Jess said looking the picture of self-righteous indignation. “Heck she’ll be way too busy working in the saloon, this weather its full all the dang time. Folk get a mighty strong thirst in this hot weather. Nope I’ll go to the mercantile, then call in on Mort and be home for the afternoon Stage, supper at the latest,” he amended.
“Sure you will,” drawled Slim winking at Daisy and recovering his temper some. After all, if a man couldn’t idle away the odd summer afternoon with his girl then what was the point in working fit to drop the rest of the year. Nope he’d just make darned sure he got to go visit with his girl, Lily, the following week.Read More »


#82 A Time of Atonement

A Time of Atonement
Patty Wilkinson
Many thanks to Cindy-Lou Penny Mussack for use of her screen cap)
(Some strong language, adult themes and violence)
(Atonement is the concept of a person taking action to correct previous wrongdoing on their part, either through direct action to undo the consequences of that act, equivalent action to do good for others, or some other expression of feelings of remorse.)

Part One
Chapter 1

Jess Harper lay on his back in the shade of an old cottonwood, chewing on a blade of grass and thinking about his girl Millie.
It was high summer. All the stock now grazing contentedly up on the higher ground and the fences had all been mended along with most of the harnesses. Even the outhouse had finally been painted at the request of Mrs Daisy Cooper.
Now Jess stretched languidly and rolled his head to look at where his pard Slim Sherman was snoring lightly beside him. Jess grinned and then wickedly dug the blond rancher in the ribs with his elbow, “Wake up Slim, time to make a move.”
“Uh...huh...wha...?” Slim said surfacing from a deep sleep.
Jess nodded to where the sun was slowly beginning to sink in the west, “Nearly supper time buddy, don’t wanna be late do ya? Miss Daisy was planning on Chicken and Dumplings tonight you know.”
Slim shook his head to try and wake up and said irritably, “Don’t you ever think of anything other than your stomach Jess?”
“Well sure I do,” Jess replied in mock annoyance, “I think of Millie...a lot if ya wanna know.”
“Uh, that’d be right, your belly and women.”
“Hey, not women Slim,” he said genuinely put out now. “That may have been true once, but it’s just Millie now, you know that.”
“I reckon that’s true,” Slim conceded, “and about time you settled down, the amount of wild oats you’ve dang well sown.”
Jess stood up and dusted himself down with his hat, “I uh...thought I might ride into town tomorrow, pick up supplies and um...maybe catch up with Millie,” he said hopefully.
Slim frowned, “I don’t think we need any supplies, do we?”
Jess narrowed his eyes and thought deeply for a minute or two, then, “Nails,” he said triumphantly, “we’re powerful low on nails Slim.”
“We are huh? So, what were you thinking of nailing then Jess?”
“Well I don’t know do I?” Jess replied hotly, “It could be real awkward iffen we’re caught without any though.”
Slim chuckled, “Nice try pard but I think your romancing is just going to have to wait until Saturday night, just like mine. Miss Daisy’s got a job for you tomorrow.”
Jess looked wary, “Huh, first I’ve heard of it. So, what does she want doing?”
“New shelves in the larder, says one is so darned wobbly she’s in danger of losing all the bottled goods and that includes peaches for those pies you’re so fond of Jess. I said you’d make it a priority.”
“Me, but why me...huh?”
“Because I’m going to be spending the day doing the end of month returns and you’ll be glad to know things are looking pretty good. The books are definitely back in the black.”
Jess grinned and slapped his partner on the back, before making for his horse.
They’d suffered some severe money problems earlier in the year, but now after a lot of hard work things were getting back on track. Gee it had been worth all that effort he’d put in breaking those dang mustangs he reflected. Now with the relief of solvency and the easy living of the summer ahead he figured they could both ease off and relax some. Maybe even find time for that fishing trip they’d been talking about he pondered.
Then he jumped athletically up into the saddle, “Come on, race ya back,” he yelled as he kneed Traveller off to a brisk canter, across the home pasture and into the yard.Read More »