'Braunhälter's Resolve'

By Phineas Redux


Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, Deputies and lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, find themselves on the outskirts of a life-changingly modern consumer experience.

Note:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.

Copyright:— copyright ©2024 Phineas Redux. All characters are wholly fictitious representations, and the overall local geography may be questionable, too.


Albert Braunhälter knew what he wanted in life; where he wanted it; and exactly how to go about getting it: the only problem being persuading other people that his ideas for changing local citizens' views of normal life would be beneficial and not a relapse into the Dark Ages. In pursuit of this fine result he had taken the stage of Red Flume's Gallion Theater, on Broadside Street, to give a lecture to his audience about his intentions, and the likely end results for them re convenience and bargain saving in the way of extraordinary prices—nobody believed him, of course, but most thought it would at least provide a fun evening's entertainment, at no cost, so the Theater stalls were packed on Wednesday, 7.30pm, this warm evening of August 187-.

Standing at the back of the auditorium, amongst the wavering shadows from the gas lamps, Henrietta Knappe, erstwhile bear hunter, now Deputy, and her lover Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, erstwhile—well, we'd better slide over that for the moment!—now Deputy too, along with her partner, were engrossed in an argument.

"He's jes' a nat'ral born carpet-bagger's all!" Sally giving her red cent's worth. "Gim'me great pleasure t'run him out'ta town with my boot in his ass, sure 'nuff!"

"A fine sentiment, sure!" Henrietta primarily having no grudge against this opinion. "But, all the same, suppose we got'ta give him the benefit o'the doubt—listen t'what he has ter say, sort'a thing."


On stage Braunhälter, thinking it high time, rose waving a hand to silence the usual undercurrent of noise created by hundreds of people muttering under their breaths to their neighbors thinking they weren't contributing to the overall noise making the echoes resound within the Theater.

"Ladies and gentlemen, and whoever else may be here tonight, welcome one and all. You're all welcome, and I thanks y'all fer bein' h'yar."

The echoes were once again brought into play as the audience enthusiastically applauded this fine and pleasant opening speech.

"So, why am I h'yar, annoyin' yer all when you could be sum'mer's else makin' play, ye asks? Waal, thet answer's easy, sure! What d'ya all do each mornin' when yer goes about town shoppin' fer those essentials—food, vegetables, meat, corn, milk, eggs, bacon n'beans? Why, y'hit various shops an' pays what the owners want, be it what it may, 'cause there ain't no others providin' sim'lar materials anywhar's else in the town, ain't thet the state o'play, folks?"

Another outbreak of agreement on the part of the public, re applause, rang out again.

"So wouldn't it be jes' peachy if'n ye could buy all yer comestibles—"

"Comes'bles?" From somewhere at the rear of the attentive audience. "What be they? Some kind'a corn or what?"

"Jes' food in gen'ral, pard, thet's all." Braunhälter beginning to realise the drawbacks of Public speaking. "But as I was sayin', thar's ways o'gettin' past storeowners' heavy prices; an' thet way is by havin' all yer com—er, food requirements under one roof, everyone, owners I means, helpin' out each other as a group. Thet way they kin buy what they wants in bulk, an' pass savin's on t'the customer. D'ye see?"

It was quickly apparent that the majority did not see, reclining in their seats in a state of unknowing if not outright disbelief.

"What yer mean, mister? Speak straight!" An anonymous spectator eager for clarity. "What's the difference o'ol' Joe Barkin, down t'his leather goods store, sellin' harness at five dollars, an' someone else sellin' below thet? How kin sich be done, an' what's Joe t'say about same, either?"

Feeling the audience, even if without knowing it, were coming close to the kernel of the matter Braunhälter stood straighter, flexing his wide shoulders under his dark grey suit.

"Market values is what it's all about, friend. Mister Barkin kin certin buy his wares from wholesalers' at their prices; he passin' on this cost by way of the prices he charges his customers. Wholesaler asks Barkin fer a suitable price, Barkin pays, but passes on this expense by way of hikin' his price on the stall fer the Public, y'see. Now what I inten—"

"Everybody does thet!" Another nameless interlocutor in the packed audience speaking up. "It's called salesmanship. Fella's got'ta make a profit, ain't he?"

"Ah! But does he?" Braunhälter leaping on this in an instant. "At least, so much of a profit. If someone else was to buy, say in bulk, much more in quantity than Barkin could ever afford, he'd get same from the wholesaler at a reduced cost fer so doin'. Then he could, the storeowner who'd did same, sell t'his customers at a reduced price thet'd still afford him a fair profit—everyone winnin' in the Faro game then, ye see!"

It was a point that needed some thinking over, and the audience—even in bulk themselves today, not great thinkers—took their time digesting the logic of what they had just heard. Some few inconsistencies popping up along the way of smooth rationale on the subject.

"Who'd be first t'indulge in throwin' away sich huge amounts o'dough as'd be necessary, though?" Another nameless philosopher making a serious point.

"Thar wouldn't be a first alone." Braunhälter hoping he was bringing clarity to a foggy subject. "We'd all combine in a group o'shop-owners, get t'gether under one roof, separate shops or stalls, o'course, an' buy as a whole, not indee-vid'ls. Thet bein' the core o'what I'm attemptin' t'get over t'ye all t'night."

Someone else in the audience wanted a clearer picture of the plan.

"Are ye sayin' everyone's sellin' everythin' under the roof o'one single huge shop? Thet'd jes' be a dog's-dinner, surely!"

"No-no!" Braunhälter by now beginning to sweat. "Separate shops, separate owners, under one roof, sure, but selling individually. Their only combined gambit bein' they buys t'gether in bulk, tharby forcin' the wholesalers ter sell t'them at lower prices than they's, the wholesalers, feel obliged ter if only t'a single shop-owner. D'ye see whar the savin's're com'in in thar, folks?"

This last given in a raw pleading tone; but several of the audience still less than convinced.

"This h'yar grift ever bin attempted by any other foo—thet is, entree-pree-noor a'fore, mister? If'n so, let's hear the gruesome details, by all means."

The history of Braunhälter's present attempt at dragging the modern day shopper into the latter half of the 19th century, even if still kicking and squealing as they were, had occupied the magnate's thoughts over several sweat-laden days a few months previously, and he had, happily for him, found some interesting dusty topics hiding in the old History archives.

"Waal, friend, far's thet goes, thar be some references, in the History books t'same, though decades ago. Any o'ye ever heerd o'the ol' authoress, Missus Fanny Trollope? She bein' the right an' true mother o'thet character, Anthony I believe's his name be, o'the same name who nowadays writes so charmingly o'religious folks back in ol' England?"

The said reference may well, as Braunhälter admitted, have been long ago, but memories were just as long.

"Ain't she the one who writ 'The Domestic Manners' o'us 'merikans; back aroun' 'thirty-two?"

"The same!" Braunhälter, replying stoutly to this further anonymous query from amongst the many, hoping he was getting somewhere. "And—"

"Read same! Didn't like it one dam' bit!" The anonymous littérateur determined to get his point across. "She sure bit in'ta us 'merikans sumthin' shockin' in thet book. Called us all kinds'a fools, incompetents, an' folks unaware an' unable t'see a good thing even if thrown in our faces. She went back t'England soon after, I fancies, an' bad cess t'her, too! If'n thet's the best ye can come up with as a bolster t'these h'yar fantasies o'yer's ye'd best think agin, stranger!"

The muted but still extensive amount of applause this generated showed, if nothing else, that several others around the anonymous critic had also read and still remembered this book by the invidious English authoress.

"Anyhow!" Braunhälter rapidly jumping ahead of his Historical foundations. "At the present day I still put forward the concept, of mutual agreement and help, as the best way to push prices of domestic comestibles down to a level where ord'nary folks can buy same without makin' paupers o'themselves. Surely thet's sumthin' thet needs thinkin' over some serious, folks. Gettin' through an ord'nary week's an expensive outlook t'day; goin' by my plan folks, you all h'yar t'night, might well be able t'get through a week an' save, oh, some sixty percent o'your usual outlay. Surely thet's all t'the gen'ral good!"

But the audience, anonymous as they were, still had significant questions to ask the embattled entrepreneur.

"Sixty percent o'what, mister? Give us a figure we kin unnerstan' fer our'sel's."

Sighing deeply, Braunhälter faced his foe once more; feeling more like Childe Harold than Childe Harold ever had himself.

"Say a leddy, lookin' after her family o'three kids an' a husband, pays, oh, ten dollars a week t'keep 'em functionin' in the physical sense in this golden corner o'Arizony! Why, by my way o'sellin' goods t'one an' all, she might well only part with, oh, three dollars fifty tops! Now, what's t'argue 'gainst thet, folks?"

The wholesale eruption of jeers, hoots, catcalls, and downright laughter in response gave Braunhälter as much of an idea of how well his lecture had gone over as he needed.

"Waal, folks, thar be leaflets, free o'charge at the foyer as ye leaves, thet may change yer minds on some details. Thanks fer listenin', an' meb'be I'll organise another lecture in a month or so t'get this show on the road, eh? Look's for'rard t'all yer responses, in a respec'ble way, in days ter come. Thank ye-thank ye!"


Walking back to the Sheriff's Office a few minutes later in the dusk Henrietta and Sally discussed the outcome of Braunhälter's lecture.

"Whar's he thinkin' o'puttin' on this show, o'multiple folks sellin' their wares under one roof? Which one roof, I asks?"

Sally shrugged listlessly at this query.

"Talkin' t'him a'fore his lecture earlier; seems he's got an eye on Stubbs' Warehouse, on the edge of town next the Wayland's Crossing trail."

"Place's bin empty these three yar past, surely?"

"Yeah, but still in good condition; made o'brick brought all the way from Phoenix."

"Is it? Thought it were jes' adobe?"



Back in the Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Donaldson being away over to Wayland's Crossing himself dealing with the after effects of a large rustling operation, they settled down with a pot of coffee to mull the business over.

"Think he has any chance o'pullin' customers in?" Sally frowning distrustfully as she considered the matter.

"Meb'be, meb'be not."

Sally shuffled her shoulders, giving her lover a catty glance.

"If'n ye cain't talk straight'n firm, whinny instead, dear!"

"Oh, come on, babe!" Henrietta pouting at this critical take on her answer. "Give a gal a chance!"

"Suppose he might make it work, fer a short month or so; cain't see it lastin' through Fall though."

"Yeah, likely."

At this point, providentially probably, the door to the street opened to allow a large man to enter. He was clad in a grey suit, brown shoes, small-rimmed Stetson hat, and had the girth of body and face showing him to be very nicely placed in the world, thank you very much.

"Hi'ya, Mister Groggan, what brings ye h'yar at this time o'night?" Henrietta doing the professional thing.

"Bin in the audience o'thet late lecture by Brannigan-or Blauworthy-or whatever the Hell his name be—"

"Braunhälter." Sally filling in the blanks for the man.

"Yeah, sure." Groggan taking little, if any, notice. "So, as I were sayin', I was thar, listenin' ter his grift, an' laughin' fir near t'bust my gut internal all the way, leddies!"

"Thet bad, eh?" Sally grinning in her turn.

"Dee-fin-itely!" Groggan nodding wisely as he accepted the hard chair pushed in his direction by Sally's boot. "Thankee! So, I thought I'd come along an' chew the fat awhile h'yar. What's he up ter, is what I wants ter know, leddies? 'cause, obvious, he must be up ter sumthin!"

"All on the straight an' narrer, far's we kin tell, Mister Groggan." Henrietta shrugging her shoulders.

"Don't see how!" Groggan unwilling to admit same. "Sellin' ord'nary vittals an' household goods at 'strodinary low prices, along'a this buyin' in bulk racket he wants ter set in motion? Bound ter sink with all hands, take my word fer sich."

"Ye thinks so?" Sally raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah! I mean, first thar's the vary idee of buyin anythin' in bulk. What d'ye do with the waste, after, is the main consarn."

"What waste?" Henrietta intrigued against her better judgment.

"Waal, me bein' in the raw vegetable trade, as ye both knows well," Groggan settling in for the duration comfortably on his hard chair. "Ceegar, leddies? Nah, suppose not. Mind if'n I indulge? Thanks—puff-puff-puffmmm, thet's better; so, whar was I; kind'a lost the sea-anchor o'my int'llec's somewhat."

"Waste vegetables."

"Oh-ah, sure." Groggan getting back on track. "Waal, ye see, what happens, in any business more nor less, is thet ye buys, but at the end o'the day, or financial period however long same might be fer an in-dee-vid'le, thar's al'lus something left over, thet didn't sell. Now, ye can hardly send it back ter yer wholesaler an' ask fer a refund—especially in my vegetable trade; him gettin' three barrel-loads o'rottin' turnips returned in the heat o'the day won't make him eternal grateful t'me, will it?"

Both Henrietta and Sally shrugged dismissively, as neither being interested or caring.

"So, what happens, ye asks?" He looking at his listeners enquiringly; and when no answer came carrying on bravely. "What happens, I'm h'yar t'tell ye both, is said waste an' obs'lete matter, whatever it be, is thrown out, is all!"

The Deputies considered this outcome for a few seconds, Sally replying for them both.

"So what? Who cares?"

Here Groggan felt himself to have reached the heart of the matter.

"Everyone in town, eventual!"

Henrietta tipped her hat to scratch her hairline, frowning at the storeowner meanwhile.

"How so?"

Groggan smiled, waving his cigar in the air for emphasis.

"Ye buys small, ye tip out small waste—no-one cares, as ye sez. Ye buys in bulk, ye tips out waste in bulk, relative t'the primary amount ye'd bought. It's the scieenteefic Rule, ye sees! Equal energy in opposite directions. Some o'they scientist've said as much in mighty knowledgeable Papers in scieenteefic magazines, y'see."

"Don't quite get yer drift." Sally frowning mightily. "Kin ye be a mite more speecific?"

"This fel'la, Brownboots, or whatever, sez he wants us all ter buy in bulk fer the good of all! Thet means, relative t'the amount o'the respondin' original bulk, o'whatever, thar'll be a equal relative amount o'waste, as by natur bound!" Groggan getting into his stride. "Ye cain't get away from same. Whar Mister Richards, over t'his meat shop'll throw out a few old steaks thet won't harass anyone, if'n bought in bulk he'll, they'll, whoever they be, will need'ta throw out a relative amount o'waste meat at the end o'the week or month. A veritable mountain o'rottin' meat, or vegetables, or bread, Thar'll need'ta be mountains o'same, spread all over town, wharever the storeowners feel they kin dump said refuse. Thar'll be mighty mountains, literal, of rubbish, slowly moulderin' in the sun an' heat. The rats'll have a field day. The Pied Piper'll have nuthin' on what Red Flume'll be able t'provide in thet line, leddies, take my word on it!"

Henrietta and Sally looked across at each other, appalled.

"Rats, leddies," Groggan warming to his theme. "Smells enuff ter make yer gag; disease, even! Wouldn't be surprised none if'n dysentery or typhoid breaks out like snow in Winter! Health o'the whole entire population'll be affected, not fer the better, neither, mark my words"

"Jee-sus!" From Sally.

"Oh, My God!" From Henrietta.


Doctor Kincaid's Dispensary was an oasis of calm and curious throat-catching aromas on Tandwall Street; Henrietta and Sally walking in, taking their hats off as visiting an old friend, which was more or less the case. Dr. Kincaid was a cheerful thirtyish man in the best of health himself, which same managed to annoy an amazing percentage of his customers, but certainly implied the benefits of following whatever regime he might recommend for anyone, so all was alright in the end.

"Doc, howdy!" Sally nodding her welcome. "What in tarnation's thet God-awful greeny sort'a smell milling about in the air?"

"Ah, sorry, you've come at an awkward time," Kincaid embarrassed up to his thick eyebrows. "just mixing a new batch of Laudanum, tends t'make itself known t'one an' all, I allow."

"Oh-ah, so it is." Sally having personal experience of this drug over a longish period of time, what with one thing and another. "Got a problem fer ye."

"Oh, what'd thet be?"

"Waste!" Henrietta getting right down to the essentials. "Refuse, cesspit an' waste dumps. Middens in gen'ral, all told!"

"Oh!" Kincaid no clearer.

"Rubbish, waste food dumped all over town in mighty mountains of rottin' garbage!" Sally sketching it high and colourful. "What effect'd thet have on folks in gen'ral, over a longish period o'time, if carried on without resistance by anyone?"

"We thinkin', mainly, o'disease." Henrietta putting in her cent's worth.

Doctor Kincaid considered the problem with a furrowed brow.

"Well, over a period of time, say six month or more, such large amounts of, er, waste would inevitably result in various diseases breaking out. You're not talking about, ah, Human—no-no, of course. Well, dysentery for sure, likely typhus; then typhoid, of course. I'd expect examples of chronic sickness, belly rumbles, diarrhea; probable cholera in the long term, too. Fevers of various kinds. If allowed to take hold t'any serious level it'd mean a State-wide emergency, o'course. Someone'd have t'be held responsible in the end, too, without a doubt!"

The Deputies, having this worry at the back of their minds before entering the Dispensary, were not pleased to hear the same from another's tongue.

"Yeah-yeah, so we imagined." Henrietta shaking her head, worriedly.

"Life, Doc," Sally giving her opinion in a dire tone of woe. "Life is jes' a dam' mess from cradle t'grave, with nought-all but sordid annoyances a'tween them two markers!"


Back in the Sheriff's Office a Council of War was under way; Henrietta behind the desk, Sally on the visitor's chair.

"We could get the Town Council t'impose fines." Sally coming up with the first thing that crossed her mind.

"Thet'd be too little, too late." Henrietta seeing the catch in this plan. "By the time we needed fines everyone an' their gran'daughter'd be down with the dysentery at least a'ready; probably no-one fit t'order said fines, nor anyone fit ter pay same!"

"Yeah, see whar yer comin' from."

A dire silence enveloped the poky office for a significant time, before Henrietta gave of her best.

"It's all down t'this concep' o'throwin' garbage away everywhar. We got'ta nip thet in the bud. Have sum'mer's special whar all rubbish can be dumped; set afire, meb'be? Safely disposed of, anyhow."


"Out in the desert, in the middle o'nowhar." Henrietta thinking on her feet, although comfortably seated the while. "Miles from the boundaries of Red Flume, an' hopefully downwind, too!"

"Sounds a good plan; who's gon'na pay fer same? 'cause, o'course, it'll cost, y'know."

Henrietta frowned over this minor detail.

"Braunhälter, suppose. Or the whole gang o'whoever he gets t'join his outfit."

It was now Sally's turn to muse over the hidden alleyways of this convoluted enterprise.

"Don't think he's gon'na like thet; nor agree, neither. Why'd he have ter take on the cost, or the dam' trouble, o'movin' said garbage any length o'a journey ter get dumped? He'll ask fer town Ord'nances, Rules an' Reg'lations, Territory Laws—Hah!, might even demand Federal intervention! Could take yars, all the while folks across town're droppin' like flies in the streets!"

Henrietta had been thinking along differing lines.

"May not come t'that, after all. He might not get the backing he wants, whole thing may end in a bust."

"You hope!" Sally seeing the difficulty in this. "Bury yer head in the sand an' everythin'll turn out right! I don't think so; an' anyway, we got'ta do sumthin', it's our duty! We cain't wait on the Fates dealin' with his idee-otic idees as they needs dealin' with—we got'ta take a stand an' see the townsfolks' right. Stop the battle a'fore it commences, sort'a thing."

Henrietta sighed.

"Could we jes' straight run him out'ta town, like any other carpet-bagger?"

"Times is movin' on, leddy." Sally growling from the bottom of her heart. "Thet sort'a thing's frowned on by Authority nowadays. Wouldn't be surprised if'n we did we'd be faced with a lawsuit thet'd bankrupt us, if not fling us in the can fer good oursel's!"

Henrietta had started fiddling with a short length of old frayed saddle rein she kept in her pocket for just these kind of difficult mental enterprises.

"What if we jes' leave him alone; he starts this thing up, but in a small way thet doesn't inconvenience anyone, t'start with, anyhow? Let sleepin' dogs lie, d'ye see?"

Sally shook her head, unconvinced.

"Come t'the same in the end, dear. He'd get up an' get ahead, he bein' thet kind'a dam' guy. A'fore ye could spread yer cards on the table he'd be King of a mighty Corporation an' the streets'd be ful'la flotsam, jetsam, garbage, rubbish, an' midden-heaps three hunner feet high, givin'-off noxious aromas the folks in Phoenix could smell when the wind was in the right direction, Not ter mention, agin, the bodies in the streets!"

"Ah, sh-t!"


Next day, in cold mid-morning, Braunhälter had returned to the Sheriff's Office at the kind invitation of the Deputies; rather more of a command, actually.

"What? Ye sure must be jokin', leddies! Cough up hard earned cash fer disposin' of rubbish! Never heerd the like in all my yars. Rubbish is rubbish, so what? Cain't anyone dump sich anywhar, an' be dam'med t'the consequences. Whar be the problem?"

Having the multifarious problems associated with his enterprise explained, at great length, did nothing for his temper or attitude.

"All very well, leddies. I feels yer pain, I does, but it ain't got anythin' at all t'do with me, nor my plans fer the Great Enterprise. Sure, thar's likely t'be some slight amount o'unused wares thet need disposin' of, when necessary. But I don't see it as any more'n a slight increase in work fer the ord'nary nightwatch men as gen'ral clars sich things up from everyone's outhouses as a'ready allowed by the rules o'the town. An' I sure's Hell don't mean t'contribute a dam' Confederate red cent t'the enterprise, either, thank ye!"

The Deputies had figured this might be the entrepreneur's response so had spent valuable candlelight the night previous looking-up these very Rules and Regulations relating to the happy ongoing lives of the town and its citizens.

"Braunhälter, thar's some triflin' details, regardin' said Rules, we'd like t'ask yer." Henrietta preparing to fire her first broadside. "Ye got a permit fer workin' up a Business Proposal t'the Gen'ral Public in this h'yar town, by any chance?"

Braunhälter dug in the heavy packed gladstone he had brought with him, revealing a sheet of paper which he passed across the desk.

"H'yar! Be that what yer after?"

To Henrietta's annoyance it was, duly signed by those who mattered in the deal, too.

"What about a Guidance Description?" Sally coming in, like a frigate to a raging naval battle. "Yer got'ta place a annotated lay-out of what yer intends, in minute detail, with the Town Council at least one month a'fore ye plans ter set yer activitees in motion. Said description t'be filed, all reg'lar an' Bristol fashion, with the town Administrator with all necessary legal stamps an' accord'nances."

Another delve into the bottomless leather portfolio.

"H'yar be my receipt fer same, duly signed by Mayor, Administrator, an' countless clerks o'so many Departments I lost count halfway through!"

Henrietta tried again.

"What about Plannin' an' Buildin' Permissions? Ye cain't go about messin' with the interior o'Stubbs' Warehouse without permission."

"Warehouse's empty, bin empty these three yar past. Thet have any sort'a angle on anythin'?" Braunhälter eyeing his interrogators suspiciously.

"Still needs official permission." Henrietta sticking to her opinion. "Got'ta go by the Rules. Town Council sez sich is necessary, so thar ye be. Got a certificate? One fer changin' the interior, one fer changin' the use o'the buildin', one fer Health an' Safety; you wantin' ter have p'haps hunners o'folk in the place at the same time—safety issues thar, y'know."

Braunhälter sighed deeply, looked from one Deputy to the other, then had recourse to his gladstone yet again.

"H'yar—this, this, an', yeah, this too. Those OK, or d'ya wan'na glance over the certificate allowin' me ter buy the Warehouse, an' the land it sits on, outright. Also got a Fire Safety certificate, an' one allowin' some two hunner folks in the joint at the same time. Also got one, off my own bat, allowin' of internal toilets fer men an' women, no charge. Cain't say fairer than thet, sure! Here be the certificates."

Stonewalled by such unwanted efficiency at the very start the Deputies fell back on devious underhandedness, trying to trap the businessman with Railway shares and soap.

"All this takes a mite o'energy an' time." Sally speaking in a low wheedling tone while sneering under her breath at the man in front of her; an action only she had perfected to the full. "Ye know, Mister, a little oilin' h'yar, a little oilin' thar! Wouldn't take much ter oil the wheels so's yer could get along with yer work no bother at all. What d'ya say?"

Braunhälter merely sat back smiling comfortably, taking a cigar from his jacket pocket which he commenced to light with no prior request of the ladies present.


"Thet's better! As ter underhand payouts, amateur expences, or downright bribes, leddies! Leddies, you disappoint me entire! Thet not bein' my way at all. If thar be hard times ahead, I shall face 'em with all the forthright attention, energy an' dare I say, bravery, with which I have faced Life in gen'ral these forty-two yars past. I am determined, it is my abs'lute resolve in fact, to see this thing through to the bitter end, come what may! Leddies, I bid ye both a fond farewell, hopin' ter see yer both at the Grand Openin' Event in about three month, or any local Law Court ter face yer lawsuits as whatever! Leddies!"

With which speech he rose, turned, and exited the office like a King his throne chamber; leaving his subjects cursing behind him.

"G-d'd-m!" From Henrietta.

"Dam' Mississippi pirate!" From Sally.


Sheriff Donaldson, on his return from Wayland's Crossing, was to say the least irate as a prairie buffalo.

"Every dam' time I leaves the precincts o'this h'yar dam' town I al'lus returns t'some new outrage or pendin' disaster! How yer does it a'tween y'both I don't know, but it's beginnin' ter itch sumthin' awful."

"Thet ain't no-ways fair, Charlie!" Sally responding with verve and outright anger. "T'ain't our fault; it's all this dam' Pennsylvania fraudster's doin'! We've tried, but what kin we do? We tried every dam' trick in the book, but they've all washed off his hide like-like-like, whatever!"

"Thet ain't no help, young 'un!" Henrietta feeling the heat herself.

"Got anythin' better, ducks?" Sally giving as good as she got.

"Ladies, decorum, if'n ye pleases! Remember yer places in this h'yar town!" Donaldson spreading determination like butter on bread. "So, this Braunhälter guy's done the dirty on ye, eh?"

"Not so much as thet, jes' spun Regulations an' Rules round us like a Mexican lariat's all!" Sally putting it succinctly.

"Yeah, jes' so!" Donaldson thinking on his feet. "Whar's Braunhälter right now?"

"Gone t'Phoenix, fer business purposes he didn't share with us." Sally growling again. "Won't be back till the end o'the week."

"Jes' fine, give's us all the time needed." Donaldson now in complete command. "Ye say he hired the Gallion fer his lec'ter?"

"Yeah, got a full house; think folks are mullin' over his suggestions mighty deep an' hard." Henrietta giving this news with a dark frown.

"Excellent!" Donaldson on top of the whole situation. "He hired the Theater—we kin do likewise!"

"Why so?" Sally in the dark.

"Because I want's the townsfolk t'know the reasons why I thinks Braunhälter's plan is a dead mule a'fore it gits off'n the ground's all."

"An' kin ye deliver on thet proposal, Charlie?" Sally hardly convinced.

"Yip!" Donaldson grinning like a leopard faced with a blind rabbit. "Thar's more'n one way o'skinnin' a mule, yer knows!"


"Leddies, an' Gentlemen, howdy an' thanks fer comin'." Donaldson, if nothing else, knew how to address a large body of townsfolk, he having had experience in doing so these eleven years past. "Folks, what we're dealin' with h'yar, re this idee of Mister Braunhälter's, is a conundrum inside a mystery inside a enigma, is all."

Faced with this convoluted phrase the audience, as packed a one as previously, sat back mystified—intellectual capacity not being a major feature of Red Flume at this early period in its illustrious history.

"So, folks, what I want to discuss this evenin' is mighty connected with said enterprise—this folly, I may surely call same, of pilin' everyone an' their gran'father's, under one roof an' pushin' cheap food an' goods in the Public's faces, same bein' you-all here t'night!"

A quiet disturbance began to make itself felt throughout the theater as everyone began to wonder if they were indeed in the throes of being taken advantage of by Braunhälter, they all knowing Donaldson for the straight guy he in fact was.

Over the next few minutes Donaldson laid out, clearly and precisely, the deficits associated with buying food and goods in bulk, and the dire results to be looked for in the way of waste, lost profits, debt, and degradation for the rest of the township when the inevitable diseases broke out wholesale. Not to mention, as he also made plain, the fact this particular business enterprise, as it stood now by way of Braunhälter's intentions, could only end in disaster and failure for everyone concerned; their investments fading into nothing like the morning mist with no chance of retrieval. He went into great detail over the complex Regulations that every single shop-owner would need to abide by, and pay for the relevant certificates and allowances, even though operating as a Group. The actual costs involved in paying for bulk stock, the greater expence involved in stock which went off quickly, and the losses involved in the inevitable waste left over at the end of a listless selling period. Then he set forth the legal fees involved in taking said waste, no matter how little or much—and there would be an awful excess of the latter, he made plain—to designated dumping sites to be disposed of by the Town Council under proper health regulations, all paid for by the shop-owners themselves, not Braunhälter. This last having a great effect on the owners who had been provisionally pondering the thought of joining the businessman's enterprise.

"So, ye see," Donaldson ending on a high note. "Most, purty much all in fact, of the expence of the project will fall on your shoulders, not Braunhälter's, wide as they may be. Each an' everyone o'ye will by necessity an' legal requirement need to buy or put in fer expensive certificates showin' yer has the needful integrity t'pursue whichever occy'pation ye follows, has the money ter back yer play over at least a year's openin', all necessary safety requirements in place, certificates fer disposin' of waste, of which thar'll be plenty, more'n ye kin possible imagination at this time, I assures ye all. An' final, insurance, to cover fire, theft, bad stock, customers wantin' thar money returned fer whatever reason, an a yarly cost fer yer place in the warehouse, operatin' as a Public shop. I estimates, if'n no-one's tol' ye a'fore this—includin' Braunhälter—ye each'll need at least two thousand dollars up front this first yar, an' a yarly outplay o'a further fifteen hundred dollars t'see ye right in all the forthcomin' yars in future. Sales or no sales; profit or debts enormous—all the same t'the legal entity thet'll be watchin' over each an' every one o'ye, like yer ol' Grandfather's from Puritan times long gone. An' don't look fer any mercy, or gettin' off easy; everyone failin' in their lawful costs or duties'll be legally pursued to the grave like soldiers in pursuit of a raidin' Sioux war party till thar's nuthin' left but a few feathers blowin' across the barren sand in the wind—an' thet's the honest truth, folks!"

There ensued a long silent pause while everyone digested this news, then all hell broke loose.

"Sounds like a straight-down grift t'me—a dam' carpet-baggin' bluff on Braunhälter's side!" An anonymous shout from the centre of the stalls.

"Yeah, he seems t'be hopin' t'rake in piles o'money like wildfire, while's we-all take on the debts an' worries o'the thing entire!" From someone else.

"Yeah, take our investments in his pocket, then skedaddle while we're left with the dam' consequences o'his dam' fool idee's!" Another past devotee seeing the light and closing dazzled eyes as a consequence.

"Looks like Charlie's final got through t'the id'yeets." Sally sighing in relief where she stood in the wings.

"Yeah, thankfully!" Henrietta just as satisfied.

"So, folks," Donaldson bringing the talk to a close. "jes' remember, if'n ye has any thoughts o'joinin' this flawed an' downright dangerous ploy o' Braunhälter's, thar's some hope o'makin' a dollar along the way—but it'll not be fer yars yet t'come, an' meanwhile the slow but certin back-up o'pollution, bills, debts, an' downright loss o'money'll see the majority o'ye in Court fer debts, in Prison fer same, or in yer graves from sheer worry an' fear remorseless. Braunhälter's made his offer, fair an' sqwar. I've jes' pointed out the problems associated with same, which he seems t'have glossed over. The choice's yourn, but I know which way I'd be turnin', sure. Thank ye all, an' goodnight!"


"What kin Braunhälter do, in his defence?" Henrietta, later that evening in the Sheriff's Office, taking note of whatever Donaldson's success might mean for them at a later date.

"Nuthin much." Donaldson relaxed behind his desk. "I'm pretty well advised of the Town Rules an' Reg'latins, havin' had experience with 'em these long yars past. Braunhälter may talk big, but he ain't got none but quicksand under his boots, believe me. No kind'a suit he could bring'd stand in Court fer more'n a minute an' a half whiles the lawyer expounded it, only fer the Judge ter laugh in his face an' throw the thing in the waste-paper bucket with a round curse."

"Glad t'hear same." Sally sighing in relief. "Takes a weight off, I got'ta say. Suppose we'll have'ta suffer the wrath an' despair of the defeated all the same! Don't knows how I'll keep from kickin' him out'ta the office as a consequence, mind ye!"

Donaldson smiled comfortably where he sat.

"Oh, I got the answer t'thet, Depity!"

Sally sat straight, knowing well her Sheriff's capacity for foul play when he thought such necessary.

"Don't much go fer yer tone, Sheriff!"

"Thet's as meb'be, but Wayland's Crossing's got a mite o'ranchers who're sittin' on their rumps awaitin' the arrival of a buggy-load of paperwork fer them t'sign in quadruple, each an' every one, regards o'these late rustlin' activeetees goin' on thar. Finds yer schedule's some empty t'morrer, Sal. So's yer here Deputed ter take said buggy, a gallon stone bottle o'ink an' thirty pens, an' go to it, leddy."

"Charlie, I hates yer from the soles o'yer boots t'the top o'yer bald head."

"I ain't bald." Donaldson allowing of the truth of this matter.

"I got Apache friends who kin soon change thet aspect o'yer appearance," Sally scowling, taking no prisoners.

"Haw-Haw!" Donaldson taking this plangent offer as it was likely meant, he hoped.


Stubbs' so far abandoned Warehouse lay on the road heading for Wayland's Crossing so the next morning Sally had the pleasure of riding past the scene of the drama; a crowd of workers already surrounding the place and going at it hard inside judging by the noise and dust coming forth from the doors and windows. To one side the tall figure of the entrepreneur was easily visible and Sally couldn't stop herself from driving her buggy closer, to twist the dagger in the wound, metaphorically.

"Hi, Braunhälter!"

The man himself turned from deep conversation with one of the workers to face at least part of his Nemesis.

"What fer I kin do fer ye, Depity Nichols?"

"Looks mighty busy round h'yar."

"So I'd hope, lots o'work goin' on round puttin' new life in'ta this joint. But it'll show splendid when finished. Invites yer t'the Openin' Ceremony, say two months from now."

"Got many takers fer places in the ol' barn?"

Braunhälter was a trifle devious over this question, shrugging his shoulders innocently.

"Things o'this natur al'lus takes a while ter get ter their feet an' move on at a pace, ye realises. But my hopes is high an' sure."

"Figure Sheriff Donaldson has other idees about thet." Sally coming to the heart of her opposition. "had a heart to heart talk with the citizens over at the Gallion last night. Told 'em all what he thought o'your idee; didn't like it much, an' told everyone so, with extracts from the Town Regulations thet, final, put the last copper nail in the grift's coffin fer sure. Ye can dandy up thet ruin all's ye likes, but thar'll be none but one or two takes yer up on the likelihood o'makin' anythin' but a lifelong debt from it. See ya aroun', Braunhälter, or meb'be not! Giddy-up, hosses, giddy-up, thar!"

With which salute she headed her buggy back onto the trail proper, leaving Braunhälter behind, literally coughing in her dust cloud.


"What the hot Hell?"

Scene, the Sheriff's Office, present, Sheriff Donaldson, Deputy Henrietta Knappe and an irate entrepreneur.

"Jes' the fac's, Braunhälter, jes' the fac's; like Gradgrind." Donaldson quite at peace with his world and the township of Red Flume in particular. "Legal requirements, is all. Ye saw ter yer own, but failed ter mention ter yer future tenants thet they too needed same, as well as each by necessity payin' ye a yarly recompense fer workin' under yer roof. Sort'a unpolite o'ye, surely?"

"Humph! Merely ord'nary business policy, thet's all!" Braunhälter finally beginning to realise he was washed-up high in a shallow muddy creek without a paddle. "Thar's legal routes I kin still take, ye know!"

"Sure-sure; be my guest." Donaldson happy as a lark, at ease in his chair behind his desk looking over the latest batch of Wanted Posters. "Say, h'yar's Harvey Rosefield up fer bank robbery, two thousand dollars dead or alive! Waal, would yer believe it!"

"Sheriff, I do not mean to take this lying down, nos'sir!"

"As yer pleases, sir." Donaldson by now deep in scrutinizing the posters before him. "An' Long Face Andrews! Three thousand dollars, but must be took alive. Thet might be dam' difficult, seein' as his temp'rament equals, at best, a hungry grizzly with the toothache! Ho-hum!"

"Sheriff, are ye listenin' at all?"

"Nah, not really! Harry, ye takin' note of Mister Braunhälter's worries h'yar?"

"Must I?" Henrietta playing along with gusto.

"Yeah, got'ta keep reg'lar official records." Donaldson shuffling his posters with a pointed interest for them alone.

Henrietta made a valiant effort to appear in the least interested herself.

"OK, Mister Braunhälter, from the very beginnin', if'n ye pleases—name, age, occy'pation, what yer want o'Red Flume an' its citizens, whar be yer affidavits allowin' of yer legal position ter do same, an' have ye deposited at our local Bank the due deposit o'ten thousand dollars, jes' t'show yer willin' an' up ter the task yer describes? Also, what's the monthly output ye means ter lay aside pes'nal fer dealin' with the inevitable waste products yer scheme is certin t'accumulate in vast mountains o'garbage? In yer own time, but my pen nib's dryin' with every encroachin' second o'Time wasted!"

Braunhälter looked from one to the other, realised perfectly the position he was in, and gave up entire.

"G-d'd-m it!"

"Waal, thar ye be!" Henrietta calm as a clam on a seashore boulder.


"No doubt!" She having the best morning of her year so far.

"Oh, f-ck it!" Braunhälter turning on his heel, not forgetting to slam the door loudly in passing through it to the street beyond.

"Oh dear, he's gone an' left us? Be thet sad, or impolite or, possible, both?"

"Who cares?" From an uninterested, but deeply happy Sheriff.

"With ya thar, boss, with ya thar. Wonder when Sal'll get back?"

The End

Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.