Beta Melissa - tho I changed it around since
Characters - All
Disclaimer - Other characters are not related to anyone I know living or dead - they just share a little bit with someone you might recognize and who I have no knowledge of their history. I just made this people up. The Seven I borrowed for this story, wish I did own them though.
The crack of the whip sounded over the quiet countryside as three huge wagons moved slowly thru the sagebrush and rocks. Eight oxen pulled the first wagon while two teams of ten oxen each pulled the following two heavy wagons. Four men walked back and forth beside the oxen teams, guiding them along the route. The animals strained as they moved the large heavy vehicles. The sagebrush sometimes reached out to snag in the wheels and slow the momentum, and the walking men would hurry to pull the brush out of the wheels. The whip snapped again over the broad backs and the oxen pulled a little harder. Dust rose as the draft animals moved through the dry countryside.
From high on a rocky point, the watcher looked through his spyglass. Other than a lone coyote and a hawk high above, nothing else moved in the area. He knew the wagons were headed for the stream that flowed almost a mile ahead of them. With a last long look, he moved to the black horse who stood below in the shade of a stunted tree and the rocks. Mounting he headed from the questionable cover and rode towards the wagons. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the movement of a black horse and rider paralleling him and knew Larabee was letting him take the lead. Another movement caught his eye and he spotted Ezra�s green jacket barely showing above some of the tall sagebrush on the other side of him.
It didn't take him very long to reach the three wagons. He nodded to the red-faced men walking alongside the huge steers. Several women peered out of the second wagon, and a couple of small faces let him know there was at least three children along.
"Mornin", Vin Tanner said as he nodded to the men and tipped his hat to the women who quickly moved out of sight.
"Are you one of those peacekeepers from Four Corners? We were told we�d have an escort to the town from the stream." The tallest man in a dusty, light colored shirt and pants said as he stepped to Peso�s side, pulling his hat off to show silver-black hair. Vin knew from his odd accent that he wasn't from anywhere near Four Corners or Mexico.
"Yep. We�re here now. Have ya had much trouble?"
"A little a few miles back. We were able to run them off. How far are we from the town? Oh, I�m Giuseppe Keebliar."
"That�s Chris Larabee, and comin� in is Ezra Standish, I'm Vin. We�re about 8 miles from town. The stream is almost a mile from here if you keep heading the way you�re goin'."
"Thank you. We are headed for the stream. We�ll have lunch and let our animals rest a bit before we continue. We would like to get to your town today." Giuseppe said as he signaled the wagons to keep moving.
The next hour passed slowly for the three peacekeepers. The oxen moved at a slower pace than a horse, and they had to keep reining in their mounts to keep abreast of the wagons. Behind the wagons
three more men walked, keeping the twelve loose oxen moving and from straying from the wagons.
Chris wrinkled his nose at the smell of the sweaty animals as his eyes looked over each ox for mistreatment and sores. They were all healthy looking animals, he could see nothing wrong with any of them. Ezra had his silk neckerchief tied around his face, covering his mouth and nose to try to keep dust and the smell of the sweaty animals out of his nose. Vin rode a bit ahead of the wagons, leading the way to the stream.
"Have you come far?" Chris asked Giuseppe who had fallen in step beside him.
"Ach, how far is far? We came from Italy four years ago. Lived in New York for two years, but decided to come west and set up our business. Too many people there. We don't care for all the bluster of such a large city."
"How long have you been traveling in this direction?" Ezra asked as he pulled his horse closer to Chris.
"We�ve been traveling now for five months. This is the longest we have gone without seeing a town. We met Judge Travis over two weeks ago and talked to him for some time. He told us about Four Corners, and we thought we might give it a try. So we came this way. Interesting country. Different landscape, and a lot hotter. Never know for sure what the weather is going to be as it changes quite fast. The storms are the worse though."
"Just be happy you are here before winter sets in." Chris stated.
"I have heard how bad they can be. We are happy it hasn�t been too cold yet, but we know it is coming soon."
Just then the oxen started to move faster and the walking men began trotting to keep up with the teams. Minutes later they came to the stream. The men halted the oxen under the few trees lining its banks. Vin had arrived before the wagons and had a camp fire going with a pot of coffee boiling.
An hour later, everyone had been fed a filling lunch by the four women . They were quick and efficient in getting the lunch prepared and served. The three children played and ran around, but stayed back from the strangers.
Once everything had been cleaned up, the women and children disappeared into the wagon once more. The three peacekeepers barely had time to thank them for the meal.
All of the oxen were watered and managed to graze for a short time along the stream before they were hitched to the heavy wagons. In a short time the wagons were crossing the stream and heading to town.
It was almost dark, when the wagons rolled down the main street of Four Corners. Having found out which of the abandoned buildings the newcomers were going to, Vin pointed it out to the walking men when they got close to it. The first wagon's oxen teams were unhooked and led to a corral in back. The three peacekeepers were joined by their four friends and helped to quickly empty the last two high wagons. The newcomers and peacekeepers worked together effortlessly. In one of the upper rooms the children were put on pallets and a short time later were asleep. Once unloaded, the two wagons were moved to the back of the building, and the oxen were cared for. The first wagon would stay in the street until they were ready for its contents with one of the men on guard duty.
Early the next morning, the townspeople breakfasted to the noise of pounding coming from the building where the Italians worked. During the day, people would pause outside the open door or peer into the empty room through the large front windows. Not sure what the men were doing, they wandered away for a few hours before returning to see the progress. The people did notice that the old chimney was reinforced and repaired and several new walls were put up. A long counter was being built along one of the walls.
The next day arrived, and the activity around the wagon brought the peacekeepers out early to watch. Vin and Josiah had offered to help and were put to work packing things into the building and placing them where the women directed. They all stood in shock when the last item in the wagon was uncovered. The heavy tarp was pulled away and folded. A huge odd cone shaped oven almost six feet high stood in the tall wagon.
Giuseppe looked around at the watching crowd and then called out, "Could we have a little more help here? This is very heavy." Chris led the way, with the rest of the seven behind him. Together ten men wrestled the oven off the wagon. Before long, the oven, sliding on boards was moved inside. Under the guidance of Giuseppe, the oven was placed onto the platform he and his men constructed the night before by the chimney.
Once everything was set, Giuseppe thanked each of the helpers with a promise of small gifts for them the next day. He noted their names before they left. He smiled and invited the seven peacekeepers to stay as the other men left the building. The seven found chairs around the large room, and one of the women served them lemonade or coffee.
Sipping his lemonade, Vin eyed the odd oven sitting on the platform. Earlier one of the men had built a fire in. A well made chimney was attached to the older, repaired one that stuck out of the side of the building. It extending above the roof line. There was no smell of smoke in the room. It drew the smoke away perfectly.
"What is this huge, oven, I think it is, for? What do you do that you�d need something this big?" Buck asked, accepting a cup of coffee from the woman.
Giuseppe grinned at his partners who shot smiles at the peacekeepers. "We are bakers. Three of us are brothers, Petro, and Vita," the two men nodded to the seven. "Our wives Allegra, Ersilia, Donata, and Noemi," the women nodded before leaving for the other room. "You have met our men, Noemi is married to our cousin Dante. The others are single cousin's, but two are our close friends who came with us."
He glanced at all the men around the room before he continued. "Our cousin, two of our wives, and we three brothers, make everything from cakes to cookies and pies. Anything made with dough we can, and will create. We have a special cookie we make and can�t keep in a store. It is from a secret recipe given down from one of our great grandparents. You will be treated to a special meal for not only helping us move in, but also for making the last of our journey safe." He smiled at his relatives and companions, and the peacekeepers. "We will be opening our bakery in the next day or two."
Vin and JD exchanged large smiles as they thought of all the sweets these men and women could make. The newcomers would be a great addition to the town. They licked their lips as a wonderful smell began to fill the room. Slapping hands together they laughed in glee.
"Think I died and went ta heaven!" Vin exclaimed, and JD grinned his agreement as the others laughed out loud.
Five of the men's thoughts turned to thinking their youngest would need to be watched. Closely. So they didn�t overeat and get sick eating all the baked goods from the new bakery at one time. Smiles crossed all of their faces as they glanced at each other. They were in accord with each other.
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