NOTE: Ghost Town-ing is a series of stories that follow Pat and Sherry (Fast Break) as they explore some of the places Jesse and Jennifer (the Sweetwater Saga) visited. Although these stories are connected, each episode stands by itself and you do not have to wait for the entire series to be completed. Nor is it necessary for you to read the Sweetwater Saga series and Fast Break to understand these stories but it is highly recommended.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
PART FIVE – NATIONAL BISON RANGE
by Mickey Minner
The Women’s’ Professional Basketball League’s team of investigators had finally arrived in Missoula to begin their Inquisition, as Pat called the matter. The three men and three women were charged with exposing how Pat had used her position as head coach of the Missoula Cougars to coerce players into her bed, namely one specific point guard who was now her lover and assistant coach.
The panel started their questioning with the players and other team personnel then their main witnesses and the objects of their investigation would be called before them. Until they were called to testify, Mac had forbidden Pat and Sherry from being anywhere near Cougar Arena where the inquiry was taking place. The team owner promised to call when the panel adjourned each day and fill the pair in on the day’s events.
Sherry was sitting on the leather couch watching Pat pace across the living room from the front door to the sliding glass door that led to their backyard and back again. As Pat again walked within reach, Sherry grabbed an arm pulling her lover down onto the couch beside her.
Pat fell heavily onto the leather cushion then looked at Sherry. “I’m driving you nuts,” she admitted sheepishly. “Three days of doing nothing but waiting is getting to me.
“No,” Sherry shook her head. “You’re doing exactly what I want to do but there isn’t enough room in here for both of us to pace.”
“Oh,” Pat smirked. “Sorry.”
“Now what?” Pat asked, knowing she’d be unable to remain on the couch for long because of the nervous energy built up inside her.
“Take me someplace. I feel like I’m ready to explode. And I don’t think the carpet can take much more.”
“Um, you mean?” Pat looked over her shoulder toward the hallway that led to their bedroom.
“Much as that is a delightful offer,” Sherry grinned. “I don’t think I could concentrate even on that.”
“Oh,” Pat turned back to Sherry. “What did you have in mind then?”
“I’m not sure,” Sherry slumped against Pat. “I know it’s a little late and it looks like it could rain at any moment,” Sherry said, her frustration with the week’s events clearly evident in both voice and posture. “Sweetheart, isn’t there someplace we could go where we could be outdoors? I feel like the walls are closing in on us. And, chances are, we won’t be called to testify this late in the day.” Unsure as to the panel’s plans for them, the pair had stayed close to home since the beginning of the Inquisition.
Pat looked at the clock sitting on the fireplace mantle. It was a couple hours past noon. Then she rolled her head to look out the sliding glass door. After several days of bright sunshine, the sky was heavy with grey/black clouds and it looked like they were prepared to drop their load of moisture at any minute. She rolled her head back, placing a tender kiss on Sherry’s brow. “I know just the place.”
“Really?” Sherry sat up to smile at the woman beside her.
“Grab your camera and a couple of rain jackets. I’ll make sure everything is locked up.”
“You’ve got it,” Sherry leaped to her feet, anxious to be doing something, anything, but waiting for a phone call. She reached down grabbing Pat’s outstretched arms and pulled her lover to her feet. “Anything else?”
“Don’t think so.”
After a quick kiss, the women separated to complete their named tasks.
“Please state your full name and status within the Cougar organization,” a man said. He was in his late fifty’s and looked as if he wanted to be anyplace but where he was which was listening to people vigorously defend Pat and Sherry for the third straight day.
“Mrs. Diane Sunndee. I play guard for the Cougars,” the player answered after taking the single seat opposite the panel.
Mac had intended for the panel to hold their sessions in the large conference room next to her office but there was too much interest in the proceedings. Paper and television press had arrived with the group from the league office and it became apparent that the conference room would not be big enough. Reluctantly, Mac had directed her staff to set up table and chairs on the arena floor so that the press was able to attend and witness the hearings.
“Thank you, Mrs. Sunndee,” the man nodded, writing a note on the paper in front of him.
“Call me Pete. I’m not used to answering to Mrs. Sunndee and I wouldn’t want you to think I’m ignoring you,” Pete said quite seriously, doing her best not to put her hands up in front of her face to block the extremely bright and harsh light coming off a dozen television cameras.
“Mrs. Sunndee,” a woman on the panel said officiously. “The business before us is extremely important. I would thank you to keep that in mind.”
“It’s a witch hunt,” Pete snapped at the haughty woman. She had talked to her teammates after each had completed their time answering the panel’s questions and had been told to watch out for the woman who wasn’t happy with the way their testimony had supported Pat. “If you want me to respond to your ridiculous questions, address me as Pete. Mrs. Sunndee is my mother-in-law. Who, I might add, would be more than happy to come down here and tell you what she thinks about these proceedings.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” the older man smiled as snickers were heard coming from the reporters seated behind the panel in the first several rows of arena seats.
Pete looked at the nameplates on the table in front of the panel. “Thank you, Mr. Brantfelt.”
Brantfelt nodded then referred to the paper in front of him. “Pete,” he looked at the player, “we have a serious of questions we are asking each of the players and any other witnesses called to testify. Then each member of the panel will be allowed to ask you any questions that your testimony may evoke. Do you understand?”
“Do I get a chance to say what I think about all this?” Pete asked.
“No,” the supercilious woman snapped before Brantfelt could answer.
“We will entertain any comments you might have at the end of your testimony,” Brantfelt told Pete. “After all, we are here to listen to what everyone has to say,” he said directly to the woman sitting beside him.
“Thank you again, Mr. Brantfelt,” Pete glared at the woman who had obviously already made up her mind about the Cougar head coach.
The first several questions were rather generic. How long had she been with the Cougars? Did she consider Pat a friend or just her coach? Did she consider Sherry a friend? Pete answered each question with as few words as possible, giving yes and no answers whenever she could, so as not to say anything that a member of the panel could use against her friends.
Then the questions got more personal and for Pete, more ridiculous.
“Have you had occasion to notice if women unaffiliated with the Cougar organization approached Coach Calvin before or after games?”
“Could you clarify your question?”
“Answer the question,” the self-important woman again snapped at the player.
Pete looked at the woman’s nameplate. “Ms. Goodsend,” Pete addressed the woman with the attitude. “Yes, I have had occasion to see women approach Coach.”
“And what did Coach Calvin do on these occasions?” Brantfelt asked.
“That depends on what the women wanted,” Pete shrugged.
“Mrs. Sunndee, we will not tolerate you uncooperativeness.”
Pete held in a snicker as the woman struggled to get the ungainly word out. “I’m sorry, Ms. Goodsend, but you need to be more specific. We have reporters, fans, family members, friends, game officials, and groupies around before and after games. Many of them are women. Obviously, Coach responds to each of them differently depending on what they want and who they are.”
“Oh, let’s stop all this beating around the bush,” a man sitting at the other end of the table said. He had determined after the first day of testimony that the panel was wasting it’s time being in Missoula. “Pete, have you ever seen anyone approach Coach Calvin for sexual favors.”
Ms. Goodsend gasped in shock at Pete’s candid answer.
“Oh, give me a break,” Pete mocked the shocked woman. “Coach is a damn good looking woman and she’s in a position of power. Of course, she’s had women throw themselves at her.”
“Can you tell us how Coach Calvin responded to such advances?” Brantfelt asked, ignoring Ms. Goodsend’s look of indignation with Pete’s statement.
“She told them to get lost. And if they persisted, she’d call security and have them thrown out.”
“Have you ever witnessed Coach Calvin use her position to demand sexual favors from any player?” Brantfelt read from his page of questions.
“Okay,” Pete shook her head in disgust. “I’m not about to sit here and answer any more of your ludicrous questions. So let me just tell you what I know.” She glanced at Brantfelt who nodded in agreement. “I have NEVER, EVER seen Coach being anything but professional in her dealings with players, trainers, office employees, security officers, vendors or anyone else that works for the Cougars. I have NEVER, EVER seen Coach give the time of day to any of the floozies that throw themselves at her before, during and after our games. And I have NEVER, EVER seen Coach force herself on another human being, man or woman, player or not. Coach Calvin is one of the most decent, honest, ethical and principled woman I know and she would NEVER, EVER use her position as Coach to get someone to go to bed with her. Because she would never have to...”
“Thank you, Pete,” Brantfelt said. “I think we understand your position on this matter.”
“Like hell you do,” Pete retorted, she was just warming up and wasn’t ready to let the panel off so easily. “You want to know my position on this ‘matter’? Well, let me tell you. You waltz into town planning to do your best to destroy the good reputation of one of the finest people I know. And why? Because that jackass,” she pointed to Pat’s chief accuser sitting off to the side of the panel’s table, “has had it in for Pat ever since she came into this league. Why? Because she’s gay, that’s why. Well if you plan to get rid of all the lesbians playing, coaching, and working in this league you might as well shut the doors on your fancy offices right now because I can guarantee that with them gone you won’t have enough people to suit up for games. Not to mention, you’ll have a hell of a lot less fans to watch and fewer officials to call the games. So if you want this league to continue you better get the hell over your small minded prejudices and quit listening to bigots like Michael Palmer.”
“Are you done?” Brantfelt calmly asked when Pete paused to catch her breath.
“No. Here are the rest of my answers to your asinine questions. Yes, Coach was in love with Sherry during the season. No, she never acted on her feelings. In fact, she did just the opposite. She told Sherry that they could never have a relationship as long as she was Coach and Sherry was a player. She even went so far as to avoid any contact with Sherry except on the basketball court. You can’t control who you fall in love with. Or when. But Coach handled it the best way she could without one or both of them resigning from the team. A solution that I know no one connecting with the Cougars would have welcomed. Now I’m done except for one more thing,” Pete said standing and glaring at the panel. “Take your witch hunt and get the hell out of Missoula.” That said, she turned and stormed across the floor to the corridor that would take her past the team’s locker room and to the exit out to the parking lot.
“This has been a fun week,” Brantfelt muttered as he wrote on his paper.
“You’re just going to let her go after what she said?” Ms. Goodsend asked, incredulously.
“You can’t be serious.”
“She said what she wanted and she managed to answer most of our questions.”
Mac, sitting several rows up on the opposite side of the arena, tried but failed to suppress a laugh. So far, everyone called before the panel had told them, in one way or another, the same thing as Pete. Only the veteran guard took it one notch higher, managing to effectively put a voice to the annoyance and indignation that all of them were feeling. “Remind me to add a little extra to Pete’s re-signing bonus,” she said to her assistant sitting beside her.
The young woman nodded as she again looked fretfully at the man sitting near the panel but far enough away so he wouldn’t be considered a part of it. She was glad Mac had chosen seats high enough up from the floor to be bathed in shadows since only the lights covering the center of the arena were being used.
“Send in the next player, please,” Brantfelt said to a young man sitting at the far end of the table. He watched as the aide trotting in the direction of the front of the arena where the day’s other witnesses were waiting.
“So where are you taking me?” Sherry asked as she walked into the garage where Pat was waiting for her, leaning against her pickup.
“First,” Pat smiled. “Give me a kiss.”
Sherry walked up to Pat, slipping her arms around Pat’s waist as she leaned close enough to press her lips against her lover’s. She took her time, nipping and sucking on the tender skin until she could wait no longer and slid her tongue between the lips that parted without hesitation.
“That was nice,” Pat smiled after their lips separated just enough for the women to breathe. “I love you,” she said, gazing into Sherry’s eyes.
“I love you too,” Sherry sighed, pressing her forehead against Pat’s.
“I want you to promise me something.”
“If I can,” Sherry tempered her answer. She thought she knew what Pat was going to ask and if she was right there was no way she would ever promise to do it.
“If Palmer is successful and the league decides to ban me,” Pat said quietly. “Promise you’ll stay on and play.”
“No,” Sherry sighed, her head moving slowly from side-to-side.
“You have a good career ahead of you, honey,” Pat laid her head on Sherry’s shoulder knowing she’d never change her lover’s mind and loving her for that. “Don’t throw it away because of what they do to me.”
Sherry placed her hand alongside Pat’s face, caressing the silky skin. “Basketball is no longer my priority, sweetheart. You are.”
“Hush. I’m not going to talk about this again,” Sherry said firmly. “I love you. I want to be with you. End of subject.” She lifted Pat’s head to look into her lover’s eyes. “Agreed?” she asked.
“If that’s the way you feel,” Pat smiled.
“That’s the way I feel.”
“You won’t be talked out of it?”
“You won’t change your mind?”
“Good,” Sherry grinned. “Now kiss me so we can get going.”
“Okay,” Pat laughed, pulling Sherry closer and kissing her long and hard. “I so much love you,” she said breathlessly several moments later.
“You so much better,” Sherry giggled, leaning in for a second equally passionate kiss. “Let’s go,” she started around the front of the pickup then stopped, turning back to Pat. “You want me to drive?”
“No, I’m good,” Pat smiled. “I’ll let you know though.”
“Okay,” Sherry nodded before continuing around the front of the truck to climb into the passenger seat.
“Besides,” Pat said, settling behind the steering wheel. “This way you can sightsee since it’ll be your first time to see where we’re going.” She reached up to the compartment above the sun visor and pressed the button on the garage door opener. “Ready?”
“You betcha,” Sherry grinned. “Let’s go.”
As the pickup crested Evaro Hill a half hour later, snow-capped mountains popped into view.
“Wow,” Sherry exclaimed, gazing at the sharp peaks.
“Those are the Mission Mountains. Some call them the Montana Alps.”
“I can see why. They’re beautiful.”
“Yes, they are, especially when they’re covered in snow.”
“So,” Sherry turned to look at Pat when the mountains disappeared behind a ridge of trees as they drove north. “Just exactly where are you taking me?”
“The National Bison Range. Thought you might want to see some of Jesse and Jennifer’s bison close up.”
“Really? I didn’t know there was a National Bison Range.”
“Let see if I can remember the history. I believe it was established in 1908 when close to twenty thousand acres were set aside to try and save what was left of the herds.”
“Why here in Montana?”
“After the herds were wiped out in the 1870s and 1880s, a Pend d’ Oreille Indian gathered some orphaned calves and brought them to the Flathead Valley to try to start a new herd. They roamed the valley until the Range was established.”
“I wonder if some of those calves were the same bison that Jesse and Jennifer saw when they visited Walks on the Wind’s hunting camp.”
“I suppose it’s possible.”
“Boy, that would be something, wouldn’t it? To see bison descended from the very ones Jesse and Jennifer saw living free.”
“More likely running for their lives so Walks on the Wind and Jesse couldn’t shoot them,” Pat snickered.
“That’s what I love about you, sweetheart,” Sherry smiled adoringly at Pat. “You are such a romantic,” she smirked.
“Why thank you,” Pat smirked back.
Pat saw the signs as soon as they drove through Arlee. “Looks like it’s going to take a little longer to get to the Range.”
“What’s wrong?” Sherry asked, looking down the highway.
“They’re doing construction on the road between here and Ravalli.”
“Seems every time we go somewhere we run into construction,” Sherry frowned, unhappy that Pat had been forced to slow the pickup to almost a crawl.
“Well, honey, you know what they say about Montana seasons?”
“We only have two. Winter and construction,” Pat laughed. “Better get used to it.”
After a stop to walk through the visitor center and read about the Range and the different animals they were likely to see during their visit, Pat and Sherry walked back to the parking lot.
“What’s that?” Sherry pointed to what appeared to be an odd assortment of tree branches piled at the end of the parking lot.
“Come on,” Pat grabbed Sherry’s hand and led her toward the pile. “Every year, after the deer and elk drop their antlers, they’re collected and added to this display. You’ve probably never seen deer and elk antlers up close, have you?”
“Not this close, no,” Sherry said, reaching out to touch the milk colored antlers. She gingerly lifted an antler, “these are heavy.”
“Makes you wonder how the poor elk can keep his head up doesn’t it?”
“Sure does. Their neck muscles must be huge.” Sherry let her fingers run along the length of one tine then over the ridges at the base of the antler. The antler was hard yet felt powdery at the same time. “They don’t feel like I expected them to.”
“What did you expect?”
“I don’t know, but not this,” Sherry grinned, self-consciously. “So where to now?”
“See that road?” Pat pointed to the west where a dirt road rose at a sharp angle as it cut across the end of a ridge. “That’s the Red Sleep Drive. It’ll take us all the way up to the highest point on the Range then back down the other side and around to the open plains before coming back here.”
“Where will the bison be?”
“We can see them anyplace along the way but most likely we’ll see them in the gullies as we start up the mountain or in the open valleys once we come down off of it.”
“Okay,” Sherry turned back for the pickup. “Let’s go. I can’t wait to see my first live bison.”
The third day of questioning was almost over and there had been little significant variation in the testimony from the witnesses. The panel members had decided to take a short break before questioning the last witness of the day.
Mac watched as the members of the panel stood and stretched their legs. Her gaze slowly found its way to Michael Palmer sitting smugly on the opposite side of the room. “Why don’t you call it a day and go home,” Mac told her assistant, rising out of her seat. After her assistant left, she casually walked down to the arena floor and strode over to where Palmer was standing alone.
“Enjoying yourself, Michael? Mac asked when she reached the man whose accusations had instigated the investigation into her head coach.
“It’s long overdue,” Palmer said, offhandedly.
“I suppose there’s no way to get you to back off of Pat?”
“Alright,” Mac smiled shrewdly at the man she wanted to pick up by the seat of the pants and toss across the room. “Don’t say I didn’t give you the opportunity.”
“You’ll know soon enough,” Mac said quietly then turned and walked away.
Palmer’s distrustful eyes followed Mac as she returned to her seat. It wasn’t the first time the Cougar owner had implied she had a way to stop his crusade against the disgusting Pat Calvin. He shuddered as he thought about the woman he was sure had forced more than one player into her bed. He again considered if there was a way for Mac to make good on her threats and again he couldn’t think of any possibilities. Satisfied he was safe he relaxed, ready to enjoy the questioning of the last witness.
“This was really an island once,” Sherry asked, slowly rotating a full 360 degrees as she tried to imagine how much water it would have taken to cover the surrounding valley to the height of where she and Pat were standing near the top of the highest point in the Range.
During the last ice age, ice dams blocked the rivers draining out of western Montana and northern Idaho. With no place to go, the waters backed up covering the mountain valleys as far east as Drummond, Montana. When the pressure of the lake water became too great for the ice dam, it would shatter releasing a flood of water over three hundred feet high rushing to the Pacific Ocean. This wall of water, an event that repeated several times, is responsible for carving the unique landscape of coulees and backwashes in eastern Washington and northern Oregon and for scraping clean the walls of the Columbia River gorge. The enormity of this natural phenomenon kept scientists from refusing to believe the physical evidence until the 1920s when aerial photographs made it impossible to keep denying.
“Lake Missoula,” Pat smiled. She had been just as amazed the first time she had read about the glacial lake. “Remember the shorelines I pointed out on Mounts Sentinel and Jumbo in town?”
“Yes but standing here really brings it into proportion. It was huge.”
“Sure was. Imagine what it must have been like when the ice dam broke and all the water rushed out. Then the ice would start to reform and back up the rivers and this would all fill up with water until the dam broke and it rushed out once again.”
“That must have been something to see.”
“Would have been pretty frightening if you ask me,” Pat looked out across the Mission Valley where she could see the peaks of mountains inside Glacier National Park almost one hundred miles to the north. “It’s really impossible to comprehend the amount of water that made up that lake.”
“Sure is,” Sherry stepped up next to Pat, wrapping her arms around her waist. “Where are the bison you promised me?” They had seen deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, numerous birds and ground squirrels but none of the large, shaggy hair creatures they had come to see.
“Down there,” Pat pointed down to a cluster of dark spots standing out against the green grasses of an open plain at the base of the mountain.
“How do you know those are bison and not just big rocks?”
“Well,” Pat wrapped her arms around Sherry and squeezed her tight. “For one, if they’re rocks, they’re moving,” she laughed. “And two, I’ve been here enough times to know what’s a rock and what isn’t.”
“How often have you been here?”
“I usually try to come up five or six times a year.”
“You must like it here.”
“I like to see the animals, especially the bison.”
“They sure don’t look very big from up here,” Sherry studied the dark spots moving below them.
“Wait until you see them up close. Some of the larger bulls are as big as the pickup.”
“Let’s go then,” Sherry pulled out of Pat’s embrace but kept hold of her hand, tugging her in the direction of the pickup parked on the other side of the dirt road.
“I think we’ve heard enough for today,” Brantfelt told the other members of the panel when the Cougar team trainer, Lizzie, walked away after testifying. “We have a few more witnesses to question before we call Ms. Gallagher. I suggest we leave all of them for tomorrow.”
“Agreed,” another member of the panel said, “although I don’t see the point of questioning any more witnesses.”
“We must question the ones tomorrow,” Goodsend exclaimed. “Two have made a special effort to come all the way from California to talk to us.”
“Mandy, I’m going to kick your ass when I see you,” Mac grumbled under her breath. If there was anyone who could cause Pat trouble it would be her niece. She had heard nothing from Mandy since she left for Los Angeles with her lover Dawn Montgomery and had hoped the problematic girl would skip her requested appearance before the panel.
“We will question all those on our list,” Brantfelt told the panel members. “We are adjourned until tomorrow morning at nine.”
Mac waited for the television cameras to be shut down and the arena to empty before standing. She would call Pat and Sherry from her office where there would be no chance of her conversation being overheard. As she walked toward the front of the arena and the elevator that would carry her upstairs, a reporter for a national sports magazine approached her.
“Care to comment on the proceedings so far?” the woman asked.
“No,” Mac answered. She had given a statement to the press on the morning of the first day of testimony, making her position on Pat and Sherry quite clear and stating that she would not talk to the press again until after the panel had announced their decision. Anyone who knew Mac knew she was a woman of her word and few reporters had tried to get her to break her silence during the last few days.
“Can you tell me where Coach Calvin and Ms. Gallagher have been this week? It’s impossible to not notice they aren’t here. I would think they would be more than a little interested in what’s being said.”
Mac silently continued past the reporter, punching a button on the side of the elevator bay.
“Just a statement, Mac,” the reporter tried again. “Something to tell my readers what you’re thinking.”
The doors to the elevator car opened and Mac stepped inside. Reaching for the control panel, she pressed the button at the top of the column of buttons. Then she turned to look at the reporter for the first time. “What I’m thinking can’t be printed in your magazine,” Mac smiled as the doors closed, preventing any further comment.
Pat had parked the pickup as close to the side of the road as she could, driving off the dirt surface was not allowed inside the range to protect the fragile plants that made up the ground covering. She and Sherry were sitting on the dropped tailgate watching and listening to the bison grazing around them.
“I didn’t realize they made so much noise,” Sherry watched a young bull walk by almost close enough to reach out and touch it.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Pat smiled. “I like to listen to the grunts they make as they graze or meet one another.”
“You can literally hear their hoofs stomp the ground every time they take a step.”
“Well, honey, if you weighed half a ton, you’d probably make a stomping noise when you walked too.”
“They are big, aren’t they? From up there,” Sherry twisted to look up to where she and Pat had been standing when they first spotted the small herd. “They just looked like spots but down here, being right next to them, they are really huge. And so gentle.”
“Don’t let that easy going appearance fool you,” Pat warned. “If they want to, they can outrun a horse. And they are quick, so if one starts to even look like it’s heading our way, roll back into the bed as fast as you can.”
“Really?” Sherry looked at Pat, surprised by the firm warning. “I’ve seen pictures of people putting small children on the backs of bison in Yellowstone.”
“Those people are fools,” Pat frowned. “Just because they are in a park doesn’t mean the animals are tame. Bison are quick and mean when they want to be and they’re not afraid of anything, especially us. If they hook you with one of those horns, they can toss you quite a ways. And before you could pick yourself up they would be there ready to do a tap dance on your chest.”
“Okay, you’ve convinced me,” Sherry started to scoot back into the relative safety of the pickup’s bed.
“Hey,” Pat chuckled, reaching out and stopping Sherry from moving away from her. “The chances of them trying to hurt you are next to none as long as you respect them for what they are, wild animals. They’re most dangerous if they’re hurt or if they have young ones. Take your cue from them. They’ll warn you if they don’t want you around.”
“You sure?” Sherry asked nervously as another of the large beast ambled alongside the pickup. The muscle hump on the bull’s back easily visible above the sides of the bed.
“I’m sure,” Pat laughed.
For several minutes, the women sat in silence listening to the thuds as the heavy animals’ hoofs struck the hard ground.
“Now I understand what Charley was describing when he wrote about the ground shaking when the herds were moving. There are what? Thirty five or forty around us now,” Sherry asked looking around to do a mental count of the bison surrounding them. “They saw herds in the tens of thousands and larger. That must have been an amazing sight.”
“I’ve read stories about trains having to sit and wait for hours, and sometimes days, for a herd to cross the tracks. It’s unbelievable that so many bison were killed in such a short time.”
“What did that display in the visitor center show?” Sherry searched her memory for the information she’d read a few hours before. “Ten million bison were killed in the 1870s. And by the end of the century only twenty bison were known to exist. What a terrible waste.”
“Especially when you consider it was done to starve the Indians. And instead of harvesting the meat from the animals that were killed, only the hides and sometimes the tongues were sent back east. The rest was left to rot where the bison died.”
“So that’s what Charley meant when he said they would find piles of bones for many years after the bison were gone.”
“I believe so.”
“Well I’m glad Jesse and Jennifer did what they could to help their friends like Walks on the Wind.”
“Me too,” Pat smiled sadly, reaching behind her for her jacket at the sound of her cell phone ringing. “Must be Mac.”
“That all sounds pretty good,” Pat said after Mac finished her recap of the day’s events. “I would have loved to have seen Pete’s performance,” she laughed.
“It has been the highlight so far,” Mac chuckled.
“Somehow, I feel a ‘but’ coming,” Sherry frowned. Pat had placed her cell phone between them and switched it to speaker so they both could hear what Mac had to say. “What’s the bad news?”
“I’m not sure it’s necessarily bad,” Mac paused.
“Just tell us,” Pat said.
“Mandy is showing up to testify.”
“Great,” Pat groaned, a little too loudly for some of the closer bison whose raised their heads up and grunted in protest. “Sorry,” Pat shrugged at the offended animals.
“She could surprise us,” Mac offered.
“Have you heard from her?” Sherry asked.
“Not a word. But she’ll probably make contact tonight,” Mac answered. “She is seldom within reach of my wallet when she doesn’t have her hand out.”
“I hope you don’t give her anything,” Pat groused.
“Not since she left with Dawn. I figured Teresa can take care of her now,” Mac laughed at the expense of the Los Angeles team owner who had signed Dawn to a rather generous contract.
“Well there isn’t much we can do about Mandy, one way or another,” Sherry told both women.
“You’re right. You two enjoy the rest of your evening but stick close to home tomorrow. My guess is they’ll want to talk to you in the afternoon.”
“We will, Mac,” Pat said, picking up the phone. “Thanks for the update.”
“You’re welcome,” Mac said just before the phone went dead.
“Goodbye to you too,” Sherry said, pursing her lips together in thought.
“What?” Pat asked, placing the phone back into her jacket pocket.
“Doesn’t that bother you?”
“What? Mandy showing up? No, I sort of expected it.”
“No,” Sherry frowned. “That habit of Mac’s of hanging up without saying goodbye.”
“Oh, that,” Pat laughed laying back and stretching out an arm to wrap around Sherry’s waist to pull her down onto the surface of the pickup’s bed with her. “No, I got used to it a long time ago.”
“Well, I don’t like it,” Sherry smiled up at her lover beside her. “What is on your mind, Pat Calvin?”
“Nothing much,” Pat smiled. “I just felt like doing this,” she adjusted her position so she was partially on top of Sherry then bent down, pressing their lips together.
“I’m glad you did,” Sherry said moments later. “Anything else you feel like doing?” she asked, slipping her hand up behind Pat’s neck and gently pulling her back down.
“Yes,” Pat smiled just as their lips almost touched. “Eating,” she laughed, sitting up abruptly. “I’m starving.”
“Um, Pat?” Sherry gazed up at her lover. “Wasn’t there something else you wanted to do?”
“Like what?” Pat teased. “Oh, yes. Now that you mention it, there was something.”
“This,” Pat laughed, grabbing Sherry’s hand and yanking her upright. Before Sherry knew what was happening, Pat was kissing her passionately. “Now we need to get going, the rangers lock the gates at sunset,” she said after pulling away from her dazed lover. “Let’s go get something to eat. I know the perfect spot and it’s not too far from here.”
“You are such a brat,” Sherry grumbled, her lips twitching as she tried not to smile.
“But you still love me,” Pat grinned, helping Sherry to the ground. She closed the tailgate with a firm shove then led Sherry alongside the pickup to the cab.
“Yes, dear, I still love you,” Sherry said as she climbed into her seat. She waited for Pat to walk around to the driver’s side and climb in. “But I doubt if you see how much for some time,” she casually said as Pat started the engine.
“Who’s the brat now?” Pat snarled, playfully. “Besides, I bet I can change your mind.”
“That depends on how good dinner is and,” Sherry laughed, “how much you spend on it.”
“Then I have no worries,” Pat grinned. “I’ve got lots of credit cards.”
To be continued in the next episode of Ghost Town-ing
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Pat and Sherry visit in these stories
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