The Badger City Gang
Katherine Mason’s mother, promised by her family to a wealthy man, decided to put aside the one she adored, and follow her family’s wishes. She did not want to travel into the unknown West, there to be attacked by vicious savages. Instead of choosing love and potential danger, Mildred will marry the rich, cold man who will help her family prosperl.
But a week before her wedding her fiance, with her parents’ tacit approval, brutally rapes her. After all, she already belongs to him, body, and soul. Frantic and with nothing to lose, she turns to the man she loves, and can never have. She tells no one of this until her death bed when, after a life of living hell, she says that her eldest child’s father is not her husband.
This explains so much, as Katherine was nothing like her parents or siblings, being active and outgoing (to the point of wearing her brother’s clothes to race horses), for which she was repeatedly punished.
The man she’d called Father banishes Kate to the Bride Train, wanting her stain on the family’s honor to disappear forever. Katherine vows she will marry a man who accepts and loves her as she is, even though her sense of adventure and daring go beyond most men of her acquaintance.
The McInnes family was not without its own tragedies. With nothing to lose, in 1863 they headed into the Montana Territory gold rush to follow Dougal McInnes’ twin brother, Payton. Mary and Dougal bring their two sons, Zachary and Roy, and Mary’s orphan nephew, Dusty. The three boys loved it when Uncle Payton told exciting stories of robbing trains and helping the wealthy distribute their gold to others less fortunate. At first they didn’t realize he was telling the truth. Then they discovered he was no Robin Hood: he’d robbed, but had not distributed.
Two years later Dougal took his family to Texas, eager to escape Payton’s crimes as a road agent. But his identical twin followed them, with a posse further behind. Shots were fired, a man was killed. When the posse hauled Peyton’s head back as evidence for reward, the three young men left the McInnes ranch to work for a neighbor, Senor Garcia. He had married Louisa MacDougal of the MD Connected Ranch in Tanner’s Ford a few years earlier and could use a couple of big, strong ranch hands.
Walt Chamberlain, an old mountain man with long hair and beard, realized he would never have sons to take over his ranch. He wanted to find good men to leave his wealth to. He’d bankrolled Dougal McInnes years earlier, and had a good feeling for his boys. The opportunity came when Senor Garcia hired Zack McInnes to bring Sunbird MacDougal to Tanner’s Ford. She’s finally gained a daughter-in-law to take over feeding and cleaning up after her brute of a husband and his equally uncouth sons.
Walt hired Zach, sending word for Rusty and Roy to bring cattle north to fill his ranch. He organized a long-term loan by which the three McInnes men could eventually pay off the land and cattle, and become ranchers. Then the three McInnes men decided that winter was coming and they weren’t going to go through one without a wife. They set off to rob the Bride Train of a willing woman.
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