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The Storekeeper: Short Frontier Tale
I don’ know what got our newspaper lady, Sarah, lookin’ to find a big story ‘bout the new store keep, a muleskinner, name of Gustaf Hanson. Sarah publishes the town weekly paper, the Carbon Creek Sentinel which she took it over after her uncle was kil’t. Give ‘er credit though, she can usually spot a story and she hangs on to it like a bulldog. Nice lookin’ gal, probably in her twenties. Most gals ‘rond these parts is married long ‘fore that age. If fen I was a bit younger, might try to court her meself. Anyway, the muleskinner had been hauling loads to and from our town for a couple years. Lately he got the notion to just haul supplies for his own self and open a store, kind of general stuff. Ya know groceries, hardware and what not. Ever thin’ has to be hauled in from the railroad which is a good days ride from here.
It would be normal for the paper to do a story on the new business opening, but Sarah’s instinct was for somthin’ bigger. The thing is this Hanson feller wants to start a general store. Figurin’ he knows merchandise, knows where to buy his supplies and is experienced at haulin’ them, he ought to make good. He leased a building, in a good spot, from me. What could go wrong?
Everythin’ it seems. Sarah has had to report some instances of theft or vandalism at his store every week lately. ‘Cause Hanson has to take trips Galestown where the railroad drops off his supplies. Accordin’ to Sarah, every time he is gone somthin’ happens.
Our newspaper lady ain’t about to sit back and wait for the story to come to her. Naw, that ain’t her style. She gits the paper to bed, as news folk call it, on Wednesday so as the town will get it early Thursday. Danged if Thursday morning she ain’t hitching up her team to go to Galestown where the railroad is. Buddy, the dog she inherited with the newspaper was probly a cross ‘tween a bunch a’ breeds. Kinda short, white, friendly and liked to ride with Sarah. She also rode with a Winchester rifle and a scattergun for protection. She been practicin’ some with it lately, too.
Sandy wanted to go along with her but she told him “absolutely not.” She seemed to think there might be some danger and because he was still a young boy she didn’t want him to take the risk. Sandy is a deaf boy who helps me tend my horses and is a part time apprentice on the paper. Truth be told, Sarah should know that Sandy wouldn’t miss out on the action.
Sarah made a point early on to get to know the folks on the papers in the nearby towns so as to pick up news and facts iffen she needed it. She, of coarse, traded off what she new that they could use. They warn’t really competin’ ‘cause they both got their own readers.
She did find that they was people who didn’t want Hanson to succeed. Cause Hanson had made deals with vendors to give him a break on price if he give ‘em larger orders and delivered his own stuff. That means both the other vendors and some muleskinners might stand to lose some business. But is it a big ‘nough amount to bother them a whole lot? Don’t seem likely. What then?
Sarah’s friends told her wagonloads of goods passed thru and around town at odd hours of the day. They were headed north of town. When she asked what was out that way she found there was a couple of ranches and an old dried up mining camp. The mines played out and the miners left. They was still some buildings standing, such as the mine office an’ maybe a few miner’s shacks.
Sandy is ‘bout as hardheaded as Sarah. He warn’t bout to be kept out of a story. Soon as I got back to my ranch I knew Sandy had took off. Both him and his also deaf dog were nowhere around. Also his favorite horse was gone. Nobody knew where he was. My bet is that he went to Galestown and would show up in the middle of whatever trouble occurred. Well, Sandy wouldn’t be Sandy if he didn’t have a strong mind of his own and a stubborn streak. Where he got his information, I don’t know. Bein’ deaf he was very good a picking up meaning from people’s gestures and the way they formed words with their lips when the talked. Folks is always giving out signals even when they doesn’t know it.
Hearing Sarah tell it, I gather she and Sandy were headed out to the old mine ‘bout the same time, only he got there a bit before she did.
The Mining town secret
When she got to the mining town Sarah saw a wagon filled with boxes outside an old building which were most likely a warehouse in the mining days. She took the Winchester rifle from the boot attached to the buggy seat and went to look ‘round. As soon as she got a bit closer she could see a U. S. gu’munt insignia on the boxes.
“Alright lady drop that rifle.” Sarah said she tossed it so it hit a plant and she hoped it would be easy to for her grab when she needed to. She turned to face the gunman and asked what was goin’ on there.
“Not much,” he told her. “ Me an some friends a jes’ storing some left over supplies.
“Drop your gun an’ leave the lady alone.” It was Sandy. ‘though he’s deaf he has larned to talk some. He had a shotgun, ‘parently the second gun on Sarah’s buggy. The gunman dropped his weapon.
Sarah saw another gunman move around the corner of the building and take a bead on Sandy. From what she tole me she jumped toward the bush whar her rifle was, fell to the ground and shot the guy trying to kill Sandy. She couldn’t hardly member doin’ it.
Sandy and Sarah with a bit of help from Sandy’s dog Spot rounded up the rest of the men. They had been stealing and smuggling Army supplies since the war. They were starting to smuggle other supplies as well. They thought iffin they drove Hanson out than the trains wouldn't stop in Galestown. They'd set up thar own store to sell the smuggled goods.Anyway, Sarah does seem to know when they is a good story to get. The store and storekeeper was it.