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garden railway...Chapter 18 in the Saga
The continuing Saga of the Toenail Ridge Shortline

Chapter 18: The Redcoats Are Coming!

Written September 6, 1998
Uploaded February 28,1999

In all the movies you ever saw, when a sheriff needs to open a locked trunk he reaches for his six-gun, pulls back the hammer, aims his weapon at the padlock, pulls the trigger and voila!, the trunk springs open to expose the secrets that will be revealed in next Saturday morning's episode.

Sheriff Dillon Matthews knew that he needed a certain amount of legal suppport before he blew the bejesus out of Old Harry's trunk so he grabbed one of the local kids and sent him off to find New Jersey Jack Lazyacre.
Nothing like a representative of the law present if you want clear, unbiased, honest, non-bigotted, deadly accurate reporting of events.

When Lazyacre finally put in an appearance, having had to get out of a game of poker in the saloon, (not an easy job when your opponent is a rough, burly miner and you have a large portion of his last three months poke in your pocket-book...), Dillon gave the attorney the relevant details and between them they carried the trunk out into the yard to do the deed.
Well, the kid that Matt had dispatched to fetch New Jersey Jack happened to be young Bart Clay, and if Bart had one failing apart from being a trouble-magnet, it was that he couldn't keep his mouth shut so that by the time the sheriff and the legal eagle had carried their burden out into the sunlight, the habitual crowd of onlookers that so distinguishes Selbyville society had arrived in large numbers and were patiently waiting to be entertained.

Speculation was rife re the contents of the trunk, ranging from Spanish doubloons to pearl-handled matched revolvers from back when Harry may have been a gun-slinger riding with the Adequate Six.(...insert Marlboro music here....)
Old Harry's cousin from Vancouver up in Washington had to show up, of course, the one who had come to claim his belongings. Turns out that he had some distant family connection to Michael Cotton's wife, so the General Store owner was at his side to lend moral support.
Cotton wasn't quite the outspoken little man that he used to be but was still capable of putting his oar in the water with very little provocation, usually at the most inopportune time.

Well, sheriff Dillon Matthews and Lazyacre placed that trunk on top of the old chopping block next to the woodpile and then, instructing his fellow denizens of the valley to stand well back (which of course, in line with every crowd everywhere, caused a mass exodus inwards [should that be 'inodus'?]) the lawman drew his weapon and took careful aim at the padlock hanging from the hasp on the front of the trunk.
Now a slug from a 45 calibre Colt is a fairly persuasive key so it only took the one ear-shattering report before that padlock dropped to the ground.
Dillon holstered his pistol and attempted to raise the lid.

Still locked, this time by its own built-in latch.

A second report from the revolver overcame that little impediment and finally the contents of Old Harry's trunk laid open to perusal.
The crowd surged forward, eager to grasp the first glimpse.
DIllon reached down and withdrew from the trunk a roll of parchment, tied with faded blue ribbon and bearing a wax seal in cracked and brittle red.
He handed it to New Jersey Jack Lazyacre while he examined the trunk again, satisfying himself and the onlookers that no gold, silver or pearl-handled matched six-guns lay in its depths.

Lazyacre, as we have seen, had a flair for the dramatic and had proved himself to be the consumate actor on his journey to the West over a decade before. So he didn't immediately tear the ribbon from the scroll, didn't immediately insert his pen-knife under the waxen seal, didn't immediately unroll and peruse the certificate that he held.
Instead, he turned and turned it in his hands, peering closely at the wax seal and finally stating, "This seal bears the imprint of His Royal Majesty King George of England, and it's dated 1799!"

He untied the faded blue ribbon and broke the seal, unrolling the parchment and then holding it up to catch the light.
His lips moved silently as he struggled with the Copperplate writing thereon, and then he paled and dropped his arms to his sides as he gazed sightlessly into the middle distance.

"Speak up, man, what does it say?" demanded Cotton.

"According to this document, and I do not doubt its authenticity, this whole area and the region now occupied by the states of Oregon and Washington, and the western part of our Northern neighbor, were gifted by the English Government to the family and heirs of Chief Blackfeather in exchange for cessation of hostilities, and any breech of this treaty by anyone will result in a declaration of war between those occupying this region and His Majesty's British Empire!"


You may recall from back when Dick Sexton left the valley in a rush following the burning of his applejack still that we mentioned that there hadn't been any Indians in this part of the world for years.
They had volunteered to be re-located, leaving their lush and verdant woods and forests and rivers to take up abode in desert reservations.
If the news of this piece of parchment ever got out,.... well it doesn't bear thinking about! And of course, with 90% of the population of Selbyville standing right there listening and absorbing this information, the likliehood that the revelation would stay in the area was...well...even Richardo Lamborgino wouldn't have placed a bet on that one, and he'd been known to wager that the sun wouldn't come up.

A famous philospher once said " Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."
The news had just about been digested by the crowd when one of the newer imports to the valley, a Minnesotan by the name of Grigor Pludensen, jutted out his lantern jaw and uttered those memorable words "No furrin king ain't gonna tell me whut ta do! They want my place, they gonna haveta come an' take it!"

Now the voice of reason would suggest that a little valley in the Northwest of the United States was no match for an Empire on which the sun wouldn't set for another 30 years.
But the voice of reason is quickly muted where the common man, rightly or wrongly, thinks his rights and possessions are being compromised.
So with the wisdom of the herd the people of Selbyville accepted a state of conflict with Great Britain.
Great Britain, for her part, continued unfazed and unaware, the Indian treaty having been forgotten 100 years before and all English presence in the area having been forcibly terminated in 1812.

As a flea may declare war on an elephant, the fleas may impress the bejesus out of each other with their fiery retoric and patriotic fervour but the elephant continues on its lumbering way, blissfully unaware of turmoil in the flanks.
And especially unaware if the flea happens to be on a different elephant entirely.

Now by the time the sheriff had inspected the general contents of Old Harry's shack and handed over to the Vancouver cousin most all of the stuff that didn't crumble to pieces when it was picked up, and entrusted that piece of special parchment to the reliable and trusted hands of the attorney, Lazyacre, the word had spread throughout the whole valley of the Toenail Ridge that those rotten furriners had given all of "OUR!" land to them rotten Indians and for darn tootin' they ain't takin' my holdin' frum me! Foot stamp with hands on hips.
And over in South Dakota those poor descendants of those original Indians eked out an existence on their reservation, blissfully unaware of the angst brewing against them for reasons that had been forgotten 100 years before.

Well, (this had to happen, didn't it) it just so happened that there happened to be a gentlemen of foreign extraction, in fact, now that the subject has been raised, of English extraction, who was participating in his private Grand Tour, who happened to have heard about this lovely little hidden valley, this Valhalla, at the end of the Rowel to Selbyville railway and never one to ignore a chance to view the sights this particular individual (did we mention that he was of English extraction, by pure coincidence, of course), took passage on the Portland and Great Eastern, de-training in Rowel and transfering with his portmanteau to the afternoon combine of the Toenail Ridge Shortline, the town of Selbyville his goal.

Now it happened that this was at time of the century between the Great Wars when Britain ruled not only the waves but also the economy of the world, so it was with a certain degree of aloofness that this English gentleman addressed himself to the Toenail Ridge conductor, one Richard Dresser, a fussy and tetchy man originally from the great port city of Tacoma in the State of Washington.

"Now see here, my man" started the foreign dandy," See to my bag and be quick about it!"


Richard Dresser was a fast thinker.

In a later age he would have probably been gainfully employed selling aluminum siding or running a games show.
Without a flicker of hesitation his shoulders drooped, his posture stooped, a foolish half-grin sidled onto his face and he said "Yes Sir! You not frum aroun' here, Sir?"
"Certainly not! I am a subject of His Majesty the king and am an English gentleman!"
"So you're not an American, sir?"
"Certainly not!!"
"Well," said Richard, dropping the portmanteau from a great height, "guess you can put your bag in the luggage rack yourself, then."
And with that he smiled the smile of the truly evil man and said "Ticket please. Nope, not that ticket, the special ticket needed for English furriners to travel on this here combine of the Toenail Ridge Shortline."

Now while this discourse was taking place the train was well away from the Rowel station on its way across the flat-lands before it reached the escarpment of the Toenail Ridge cliff itself.
There were a couple of whistle-stops along the way, used mostly in harvest season for the transfer of produce when the local farmer would flag down the train like some big city feller hailing a cab.
When the English fancy fellow couldn't produce a ticket to the satisfaction of the conductor, Dresser reached up and hauled on the leather cord that rang the bell in the engine cab to let Woody know that he needed to stop for passenger setdown.
With a sigh of steam and a squeal of worn old brake blocks #9 grumbled to a halt with its mixed freight and combine alongside the little shanty that bore the name of Fenster.
Fenster had once been the home of a burgeoning cheese industry but the production facilities had been moved to Selbyville years before and now the only thing the area boasted was cows and their byproducts in copious and aromatic quantities.
With due politeness the conductor informed the travelling gent that since he was not able to produce the correct ticket, and since he was not able to purchase one on the train, and since he wasn't an American, and since he was English, he was welcome to alight from the combine under his own steam.

Failing that he was welcome to just stand there while the conductor alighted him from the train instead, although, not knowing his own strength, he could not guarantee that the stranger would alight gently, in fact he may be glad that the ground broke his fall.

Now put yourself in the place of this poor chap from over the sea.

Met with antagonism, surliness, sarcasm, innuendo, he stood flabbergasted at this invitation. His mouth flapping under his drooping blond moustache, he was speechless before this suggestion of the grinning conductor.
He said "Well I never......" and if that bush hadn't slowed his egress he probably never would have again.
His bag landed in a merry tinkle at his side, the bell rang in the cab, the whistle blew three times and the daily mixed and combine lifted itself away from the unscheduled stop.

When the train pulled into the Selbyville station, Richard Dresser left his post at a run, slamming through the door of the station, incidentally startling Joe Dempsey the station-master so much that he spilled half a glassful, burst straight through the main entrance and down the Main street to the General Store, where he announced to all and sundry standing around Michael Cotton's big pot-belly stove that "the English are here to claim the valley!"
Then in gasps as he struggled for breath he filled in the details, including his master stroke of marooning the advance party at the old Fenster stop to give the townsfolk some warning of the imminent invasion.

By chance that day (-it has been suggested that the Laws of Chance have different parameters in the valley of the Toenail Ridge, given the number of co-incidences and chances that occur. However, this is purely a co-incidence-) there were a considerable number of the town's important people present in the General Store.
The lawyer was there, the sheriff, the publican, the parson, the blacksmith, the yard-master, all had stopped in when word had gone around that that young widow woman over Rowel way had shipped in some of her fancy little cakes and there weren't too many people in the area who wouldn't cross the street to indulge themselves in some of her treats.

The news that Richard Dresser conveyed was received by those assembled with a variety of different reactions.
Foremost was the publican Chuck Parker. He slowly edged to the back of the throng, hoping that no-one would recall that he was originally from Yorkshire, which is nominally part of that Empire called Great Britain.
Then the parson Jeremiah Little rose to the extremes of his lanky height, jutted out his narrow chin, pursed his thin lips and uttered in stentorian tones "The Lord will guide us for our cause is just!"

One of the interesting things about religious belief is the total conviction of those afflicted that their cause is always right and their chosen Diety will agree with them regardless of mitigating circumstances.
This must be very hard on the relevant Diety on some occasions, when both opponents claim the same God-given right from the same God to beat the hell out of each other.
How does this particular Being choose which side to support? The belt buckles of the German soldiers in the Great War were emblazoned "Gott mit Uns" - God with us-, while their enemies fought under the banner of "In God we Trust" and "For God and King"!
The moral dilemma for the Almighty to decide which bunch of God-fearing believers most had the right to thump the bejesus out of the others!
It's just as well that gods are supposed to be omniscient because this one would teased the wisdom of Solomon.

Anyway, none of these deep philosophical musings impinged themselves on the consciousness of the denizens of Michael Cotton's General Store that afternoon as they responded to the holy and patriotic diatribe emanating from the parson. Their dander got up, their collective blood pressure elevated, their respiration quickened, their chests swelled with righteous indignation and they to a man resolved to thwart the invasion of furrin forces threatening to uproot them from their homes.
"Over my dead body!" and "Durn tooting'!" were some of the vehement oaths expressed that day.

A Council of War was rapidly convened, with New Jersey Jack Lazyacre as the presiding head and Sheriff Dillon Matthews and Ken Blunt his lieutenants. He immediately instructed his troops to go to their homes and prepare their weapons for immediate use.
He commandeered all the ammunition that Michael Cotton had in stock in his store, as well as any mining explosives in the vicinity.
He organized three shifts of men to stand watch over the few entrances to the valley of the Toenail Ridge.
He delegated Grant Alexander, the Selbyville rail yard foreman, to prepare the Toenail Ridge Shortline for attack and take-over attempts by hostile forces.
He sent a runner to find Dr. Bill Johnstone, with the message that that deliverer of the Healing Arts devote his attention to preparation of a battle hospital, with all neccessary bandages and mendicants that could be comandeered.
Finally, Lazyacre turned to the General Store-keeper and bad him order sufficient red velvet and gold brocade to furnish dress uniforms for the General and his deputies.
Fortunately, with the number of women resident in the Valley reporting their occupations as seamstress, there shouldn't be a problem in finding someone to make the uniforms. Shoot, on a good Saturday night there could be as many as a dozen seamstresses in Chuck Parker's saloon alone!

The excitement of the occasion ran around the valley of the Toenail Ridge like wildfire. As men prepared their weapons and defences, children forsook their traditional games of cowboys and Indians and chose sides in the new pursuit of good guys against the Red-coats.
Women hurried with their canning and preserving, making sure that ample supplies would be in reserve to supply their gallant troops when the battle was commenced.
The workers in the Selbyville yard of the Shortline fortified one of the old work cabooses with planks of oak and sheets of iron salvaged from a derelict tender, blanking off the windows except for slits sufficient to allow the egress of a rifle barrel.
An order was telegraphed through to the supplier in Rowel that another gondola of coal was needed ASAP, to hold in reserve in case of seige.

And all the time the sole and lone member of the opposing forces who was within a hundred miles of the valley was slowly tramping his way through the line-side underbrush and brambles, following the tracks to what he fervently hoped was safety, sanity and security in the little town at the end of the line.

Chapter 19 continues the Saga!

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