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09 March 2009 @ 03:58 pm

Heath would never know for sure what had prompted him to head to Bodie, he'd never worked a mine before, but, he was down to his last dollar and with winter coming on, ranches were letting hands go, not hiring. He'd seen the posters at several saloons now, the mine was hiring, no experience necessary, and if it kept a roof over his head, and food in his belly 'til Spring, he was willing to give it a try. Now, with his first day in the mine at hand, he was wondering if the decision had been the right one for him after all.

"Come on, Son, that ore's not gonna find it's way out of that vein on it's own." One of the older miners, slapped a hand on the young cowboy's shoulder as he passed him.

"The sky will be there when we come out, if we come out." As he caught the look of shock his words prompted, the man laughed.

"It's a joke, Son...come on, I'll show you what to do."

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 176
26 February 2009 @ 07:50 pm
Settlin' In

Chapter One

Four days he'd been on the Barkley Ranch. Four days he'd had to deal with the side glances, listen to the whispered gossip over his motivations for showing up. Four days he'd been subjected to conversations abruptly stopped when he entered a room, hateful glances hurled his way, and worse. In a way he'd welcomed the chance to ride out and repair fences, it didn't even matter that he'd be workin' alone, he'd been doin' that longer then he could remember.

Drawing up the horses, he brought the buckboard to a stop and climbed off the seat. The fence wasn't in good shape and from the looks of the damage it was not going to be a one day job like he'd been told. Well, if they thought he was goin' to tuck tail and run back whinin' like a kicked stray they had another thing comin' to 'em.

Yanking his gloves from his pocket, he pulled them on as he walked around to the back-end of the wagon. Wouldn't be the first night he'd spend out, likely wouldn't be the last, course, it'd have been nice if he'd have known he'd be stayin' out, if only so he could have tucked coffee and a pot in his saddlebags. Nothin' he hated more then startin' the mornin' without coffee.

Reaching for the bail of barbed-wire he hefted it out of the wagon and carried it over to the trampled section of fence before dropping it. Repeating the process, he unloaded the rest of his supplies before tackling the first challenge of tearing out what remained of the old fence.

It was well into mid-day when he heard the sound of a horse's approach, pausing with the shovel still in hand, he turned to see if he could make out the rider, and almost instinctively found his gun-hand fallin' to his holster. There was no tellin' what he might run into out here, and he wasn't about to take any chances. As the rider drew closer and he saw them more clearly his face broke into a smile and he immediately relaxed.

"Audra, what are you doin' way out here, the family know where you are?" Dropping the shovel he walked over to catch the bridle of her horse, so he could hold it steady as she dismounted.

"I heard what the Foreman did, sending you out here on your own, I thought you might be hungry." As her feet hit the ground she pulled two bags off from behind her saddle.

"I had a bite of jerky earlier, but, yeah, I could eat. Let me get my bedroll out of the buckboard so you're not settin' on bare ground." Taking her horse with him, he tied it off to the wagon before retrieving the bundle from beneath the wagon's seat. As he turned, he shouldn't have been surprised to find that Audra hadn't been content to stay put, and she had in fact followed him.

"Why don't you let me take those, we can go up the hill a bit, away from all the dirt." He marked the direction by pointing after taking the bags from her, and as Audra gave her nod of agreement matched his stride to hers for the walk.

"So, just who knows 'bout you comin' out here? Can't imagine Nick'd be too happy 'bout it."

To be continued...

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 563
They were comin' up on the end of the drive, and Heath found himself wonderin' 'bout his fate. Many of those who'd signed on were plannin' on takin' their pay and finally headin' home. Those plans had been the topic of almost every evenin' meal for the better part of the last few weeks and the youngest of the cowboys had finally had enough.

It wasn't that he wasn't interested in what they were goin' to be doing,' if anything it was just the opposite. In a way he felt a twinge of jealousy toward 'em, they all seemed to have so much to look forward to, something beyond just worryin' about how many meals they'd be eatin' on any given day, and whether they'd be sleepin' under a roof. They all seemed to have people who cared 'bout 'em, somewhere to really belong, and what did he have? Nothin'. Fact was, it finally reached the point where he'd heard it once too often and as the talk yet again drifted to the subject during the midday meal he'd abruptly interrupted them. He hardly noticed the glares that were tossed his way as he questioned why they were on the drive if they missed things so much. Sure, some scowled at his gripe, but for most, it was easy for them to laugh it off, he was young, he couldn't possibly understand. Then there were those rare few who figured nothin' was goin' to be hurt by taken' the time to try and explain why they were doing what they were doin'.

Somehow, Heath figured a beer or a bottle of whiskey might make things go better, but, the drive was a dry one 'cept for when Cookie pulled the bottle out on Saturday night, so, settlin' for coffee he took to his heels to listen. What he learned was for many it came down to a matter of dignity, they had joined the war to fight for what they felt was right. When they'd gotten themselves imprisoned at Carterson, they'd had everythin' stripped from them, includin' their health, goin' home straight from there would have meant goin' back as shells of who they were. In their eyes there would have been no dignity in their returns if they had gone back under those terms. Under Johnny Rebs terms. By signin' on for the drive and collectin' their pay before headin home, things were completely different, now they were in charge. Heck, they were proud of the gains they'd made, not just physically, but, with their pay jinglin' in their pockets, they'd be able to add financially. Their work on the drive, gave them the means to feed their families, and build their futures, most importantly though it was goin' to let them do all that the Rebs in Carterson had tried to keep them from doin'. Course none of that mattered much to Heath, all he knew was once the drive was over he was goin' to be on his own again, and that meant he needed to figure out where he was headin' and what he was plannin' to do with himself, 'cause he sure wasn't ready to tuck tail and crawl back to Strawberry.

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 437
27 December 2008 @ 08:49 pm
I've decided to get a little more serious with this journal, so, in addition to Writers Muses, you'll now find responses to 100 Moods prompts.

001.Accomplished 002.Amused 003.Angry 004.Annoyed 005.Anxious
006.Apathetic 007.Aroused 008.Awake 009.Blank 010.Bored
011.Bouncy 012.Broken 013.Calm 014.Cheerful 015.Chipper
016.Cold 017.Confused 018.Content 019.Cranky 020.Crazy
021.Creative 022.Crushed 023.Curious 024.Cynical 025.Depressed
026.Determined 027.Devious 028.Disappointed 029.Ditzy 030.Drained
031.Ecstatic 032.Embarrassed 033.Enamored 034.Energetic 035.Enraged
036.Enthralled 037.Envious 038.Excited 039.Exhausted 040.Flirty
041.Frustrated 042.Giddy 043.Giggly 044.Gloomy 045.Good
046.Grateful 047.Grumpy 048.Guilty 049.Happy 050.Hopeful
051.Impressed 052.Indescribable 053.Indifferent 054.Intimidated 055.Jealous
056.Kinky 057.Lazy 058.Lethargic 059.Listless 060.Lonely
061.Loved 062.Melancholy 063.Mischievous 064.Moody 065.Morose
066.Naughty 067.Nervous 068.Nostalgic 069.Numb 070.Optimistic
071.Peaceful 072.Pensive 073.Pessimistic 074.Playful 075.Pleased
076.Predatory 077.Productive 078.Refreshed 079.Rejected 080.Relaxed
081.Relieved 082.Romantic 083.Restless 084.Sad 085.Satisfied
086.Sinful 087.Scared 088.Shocked 089.Sick 090.Silly
091.Stressed 092.Surprised 093.Sympathetic 094.Thankful 095.Thoughtful
096.Touched 097.Uncomfortable 098.Vulnerable 099.Weird 100.Worried
Victoria Barkley could not have been happier even though, for the last week, the house had been in a complete upheaval. For the first Christmas in several years, she'd had all of her children home. All of her children, the thought brought a smile to her face, and for not the first time. If someone had told her a year ago that she would learn that her husband had not only fathered a child by someone else, but, that she would welcome that child into her home and accept him as her own she'd have not only called them a liar, but likely had one of her sons run them off. How was it then, that neither of those things had happened, despite those being the very acts that Nick had wanted to do? What was it about this young man that had won them over so quickly?

From the very first time she had seen the young man there had been something about him that set him apart from the nameless cowhands that routinely showed up looking for work. Maybe it had to do with his signing on as simply a ranchhand on that first day instead of immediately demanding what so many others would claim was their birthright. He was of course entitled to exactly that, she wouldn't deny him that. Even though all she had was a single newspaper clipping his mother had tucked into her bible, and the memories of an old woman. There were little things though that she couldn't ignore, small similarities in his personality to Tom's, larger ones in his appearance that became all too evident when he was near Audra and Eugene. In many ways though he was so different from her children, and she couldn't help wondering if those were the result of all he'd been through as a child or due to experiences he'd encountered on his rush into manhood. In the few short months Heath had been with them, she'd begun noticing changes in him, but, there was so much more to him that was a mystery and she couldn't help wondering if those secrets would ever reveal themselves.

The house was quiet now, even Silas had retired to his room, and if not for the ticking of the grandfather clock there'd be no sound save her footsteps as she made her rounds. She considered this her time, it was a habit she'd started when the children were small, the time after Tom had fallen asleep, when she would rise to check on each one. It was a habit too many years in the making for her to break even now that they were grown, and truth be told, she doubted she'd sleep until she knew they were all safe in their beds. She'd learned so much about her children as they grew, but, often their sleep habits had opened up the door to their talking about those things they'd for whatever reason kept to themselves.

Making her rounds of the rooms, it was easy to look past their ages and see them simply as she'd always seen them. Entering Nick's room first, she automatically picked up the clothes he'd abandoned to the floor. He was her wild child, the one who had always been the easiest to anger, and not surprisingly the first to step up in defense of the others. As she reflected on her second son's traits, she found herself wondering how long it would take for him to fully accept Heath. It was a question she knew he too likely had no answer for, but it was conversation that she'd postponed long enough. As she straightened his covers her decision was finalized, it was a talk they would need to have before the week was over.

From Nick's room she went to Jarrod's, the eldest of her children, he had slipped into the role of father to the younger ones without her even asking. She wondered sometimes if he had resented the responsibility that had come with his decision, but if he had, it was something he'd never shown. Even now, with Heath, he had done what Tom likely would have done, he had accepted the young man, trusting his instinct, trusting his heart.

It was more difficult to predict how Eugene would react, he was still too young, too easily swayed by emotion. On any situation he could go either way, today he might stand with Nick, tomorrow with Jarrod, one day, he'd find his own way, like Heath seemed to have done. She eased the door closed on her youngest son's door and turned to her daughter's.

Audra, of all of her children, perhaps her daughter was the most challenging of them all. While she might look the part of the innocent female in need of protecting, there were times when she was as head-strong and as Nick. Audra, she and Heath would be almost the same age, within months at the very longest. So, while she was carrying her daughter, enjoying the doting attentions of her husband, of, the expectant father, his mother was left to face her pregnancy alone. Easing the door to her daughter's room closed, she hesitated outside the one they had given Heath, did she dare intrude on his privacy as she did her own children's?

The question needn't have been one she asked herself, for as she put her hand on the knob, the door swung open and she found the bed empty, the bed abandoned, as was the room.

"Heath?" She spoke his name quietly, as if he were hiding in the shadows and the sound of her voice would be enough to make him visible again. When her call was met with nothing but silence she stepped back into the hallway, closing the door behind her. Where would he have gone? If he were one of her children she'd at least have a clue where he might go if he couldn't sleep, but he wasn't hers, so, where did she start? Perhaps the better question was, what did she say to him if she found him?

The question was one that lingered as she made her way down the staircase and into the foyer. She could only imagine what was going through his head. What had he said? It had barely been a month since he'd buried his mother, how was he supposed to grieve her loss and face all of this at the same time? She was just in the process of deciding where to look next when she caught the drift of a shadow in the study, that had to be him.

"Heath?" She called his name as she moved to the doorway and stopped.

"Ma'am?" His voice was quiet, and had he not stepped closer as he answered, she was sure she would not have seen him.

"You can't sleep?" Were he one of hers she would have one right to him, but, she sensed that the better decision would be to allow him to make the first move.

"No, ma'am." He was within a few feet of her now, close enough that she could read the strain on his face.

"Heath, I know how difficult this must be for you, but, there's no hurry, you don't have to prove anything." Victoria studied the face of the young man in front of her. Would she ever be able to read him the way she read her own children?

"Tell that to Nick. He's not too set on this riding on one little newspaper clipping." Heath took a swallow from the glass he held, the glass she hadn't even noticed until just that moment.

"Heath, you listen to me, and you listen good, this is my house, and I decide who stays and who goes. If I say there's no hurry, there's no hurry. So, as far as I'm concerned, we've the rest of time to find out, haven't we?” The Barkley Matriarch locked her eyes on his until she received his answering nod.

"Good, now, it's late, I think I'm going to go to my room, will you walk me up?"

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 1357
12 December 2008 @ 02:08 am

He'd been out of Carterson prison for close to three months, and while the ranch work was hard, Heath was adjusting to both the work and the demanding hours as if he'd been born to it. Gone was the scrawny teen that had talked his way into a job he'd been barely qualified for. Three solid meals a day, and the physical demands were putting both weight and muscle onto his lanky frame. Because of his young age and inexperience, several of the older wranglers had taken him under their wing, and he often found that at day's end, when most of the hands were ready to relax or head for town one or another were willing to work with him on bettering himself.

Maybe it was his coming from nothing, but hard work didn't bother him, and so when it came his turn to take on the night watch he did so without complaint. Truth was, he didn't mind much about the job so far, and while most nights he was among the first to hit their bedroll, he equally understood the importance of keeping alert on watch. It was with the coming of first light that the herd came into view and he was on his feet quicker than he thought possible.

"Looks like we'll be gettin' more then beans for dinner tonight." Scooping up his rifle, Heath made a run for his horse. As he freed the reins from the tree that it was tied to, he grabbed ahold of the horn and swung into the saddle. With the rifle in one hand, and his reins in the other, he nudged his mount up as close to the edge of the rise as he could so he could estimate the size of the buffalo herd before heading back to camp.

Under any other circumstances Heath would have simply fired off a round to alert those in camp, however, if he did that now they'd risk not just a stampede of the buffalo herd, but, their own herd as well. Instead, as he neared the chuckwagon Heath released a sharp whistle.

"Buffalo!" Pulling tight on the reins, he whirled his horse around and headed back toward the herd as men began to scramble out of their bedrolls. As much as he wanted to head for the buffalo herd, Heath knew that unless there were men on the cattle, as soon as the shooting started they were going to either be dealing with a stampede or a mixing of the herds, and common sense said neither were going to be welcome. He'd no sooner started tightening up the herd then he heard the sound of approaching riders.

"Woah." He drew his horse up as they came up even with him.

"Good eye, kid." Cal gave Heath half a smile as he came up even with him. I want you to stay here with this herd, son, keep an eye on what Rolly and Tanner are doing, once the shootin' starts the cattle are goin' to spook, just keep 'em tight so they don't get away from you. Got it?" He pointed the two older men out to Heath so he knew exactly where they were as he spoke.

"Yes, sir." Heath gave the foreman a nod, and tried not to show his disappointment at not getting to be part of the buffalo hunt.

"Don't worry, there'll be other buffalo hunts, you'll get your turn, now let's ride." The words were barely out of his mouth when the first shot sounded and as predicted the herd took off, anything else that he might have wanted to say would have to wait, all that mattered now was keeping the herd from scattering. Heath nudged his bootheel into his horse's flank, the chase was on.

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
03 November 2008 @ 06:19 pm

His time in Carterson had changed him, the boy who had joined the army pretending to be the man his age had yet to entitle him to had died behind the Confederate prison's wire fence. Now that the war had ended and the prison had been emptied, Heath found himself lost. The truth was, he'd seen too much to return to Strawberry. How was he supposed to go back to a town hardly more noticeable then spit in the road after all he'd been through, after all he'd seen? He had to find something else, maybe in a few months, maybe six, maybe a year, he could write, tell his mother, Hannah, and Rachel where he was, but, he wasn't ready to endure their scrutiny just yet.

Hitching his pants up he set off toward the saloon, only to stop as he saw the newly posted leaflet tacked on a post by the General Store.

Cowhands Wanted...hiring now at the Hotel.

Maybe this was what he was looking for, it wasn't like he hadn't pulled his own weight before, he'd been doing that since he was old enough to hold a broom. True, maybe he wasn't looking that strong, but, he hadn't asked for his time in Carterson, and now, all he wanted was to be rid of the place. The decision made he stepped off the wooden sidewalk and headed across the street and toward the hotel.

That there was already a line of men outside waiting to interview, with most looking as bad if not worse then he did said much for the availability of locals for the drive. As he took his place at the end, it shouldn't have surprised him that his thoughts drifted to all he'd been through over the past several months, and it was only a nudge from the man behind him that alerted him as the next group of men were allowed inside.

If he was going to land one of the spots he was going need to do some serious sweet-talking, same as he had when he'd joined up for the army. Course, first he'd have to convince them that he was old enough to do all he was going to tell them he could do, and from there, well, he could prove he could hold his own if they'd only give him a chance. Then it was too late to think much more on it, as his attention was brought back to the line when they called the group of men that included him in for interviews.

Later he'd be left to wonder if in fact his age had worked in his favor as he noticed most if not all of those vying for the jobs seemed to have come straight from Carterson Prison to the town. None of those being hired on were in much better condition then he was, and some were much worse, their length of captivity and whatever war wounds they'd suffered proving to be just one more factor being weighed as the foreman contemplated who made the final cut.

In the end, his age had been key, hard work and three solid meals a day would put the lost weight and muscle back on him, and what he didn't know could be taught. In the foreman's eye, any inexperience was much better then undoing the mistakes of someone else's bad habits. By nightfall he had a fresh change of clothes and he'd been outfitted with not just a horse but a gun as well, he could smell the coffee steeping and a stew bubbling on the campfire and he had a clean bedroll all to himself. He had to wonder if things could get any better then that.

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 626
02 February 2008 @ 05:34 pm
Matt Bentell, I can't believe he was there in front of me after all those years. I swore I'd kill him if I ever laid eyes on him again, now he's right there in my own home, and I'm supposed to just walk away. How can I do that after all I went through? I lived in that hell he created, suffered the abuse at the hands of those under him, I saw friends die, I came close to it myself. I promised when I walked out of those gates, that I'd make him pay if I ever saw him again, now, here he is, and I'm supposed to walk away?

I know, I shouldn't have gone after him right there in the house, but, what else could I have done? It'd been years since I seen his face. Even with all that time havin' passed there was no denyin' who he was or what he done to those of us in that hellhole. I don't even know that I realized what I was doin' at first, I just saw him and all of that hate came floodin' back into me as if it'd had been only yesterday that I'd walked out those gates.

I 'spect I'll need to explain myself, tell them what it was like in Carterson Prison, and while I doubt Nick will listen, I know Victoria and Jarrod will. I suppose it'll mean too, that I'll have to listen to them defend him, listen to him defend himself, and that'll be even harder. I know it's been a lot of years, but, I don't know that I can change my thinkin' on the man even if he's served whatever time the government saw fit to give him for what he did. I just don't know if I have that in me. I just don't know.

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 309
Prompt based of the episode "The Guilt of Matt Bentell"
27 January 2008 @ 04:10 pm
I never had much growin' up, truth was, most times we barely had enough to get by. I think that was why I left Strawberry so young, there didn't really seem no reason to stay when there was nothin' there for me. Most of the early jobs I took were on ranches, size didn't matter much when you were ridin' herd, or busting bronc's, so it was work suited to one my age and size. By nightfall, most of the ranchhands fell into cardgames or they headed off into town on the weekends, figuring to spend what money they'd made on women and liquor, leaving me behind, alone with me thoughts.

I don't think I really minded being left out of things, except when my thoughts turned to what my life might have been if only he hadn't deserted us. I'd built my life around hatin' the man who fathered me even though we'd never met. I blamed him for all the hardship we'd gone through, all the hunger I'd known, all the hatred I'd seen and then there were the other nights, the nights when I wondered 'bout what if he hadn't deserted us.

I used to imagine how it would have been if he had married my mother and given me his name. How it would have been if we had been the ones to live in one of those big mansions up on the hill. How it would have been to go to bed with a full belly and not worry 'bout when or where the next meal was comin' from.

Truth is, I don't think I ever expected any of those things I imagined to come true, but then, course, at the time, I never knew who my father was either. In those early years I couldn't have known that it wasn't because of him things were the way they were.

It's funny how the years change things, and here I am now, living the life I once only imagined. Only thing is, it's not on account of my father that I'm where I am now, but instead it's on account of the woman he'd married instead of my mother. I don't think I could have ever imagined anyone like Victoria Barkley, you'd have to meet her yourself to believe she exists, and I count myself lucky for the day that happened to me.

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 403
14 January 2008 @ 04:17 pm
They were honorin' him with a statue, somethin' to tell everyone what a fine man he was. To them he was Tom Barkley the hero, well, tell that to my mother. That's right, you can't because she died dirt poor, the same way I was raised, all the while his other family was livin' all high and mighty in a big fancy house with plenty to eat and no cracks in the walls to let the cold in through. I know, I'm here with them now, but, it's my birthright, why shouldn't I be gittin' some of what's due me? Then, there was those special boots of his, the boots no one but me could wear, why was I the only one they fit? Not like I was plannin' on wearin' them at first, no matter what Nick said.

How was I to know that Victoria's goin' to Strawberry would change so much. You spend your life thinkin' one thing about your life, about who you are, where you come from, suddenly everything is cock-eyed. I always believed that Tom Barkley abandoned my mother, that he chose them over us, I never dreamed that he didn't know. Why would she have kept it a secret? If she would have told him. Her decision to keep her pregnancy and my birth a secret from him made us outsiders from everyone. If he had known things might have been different, but, I won't ever know that. How am I supposed to keep hatin' a man who didn't know about me? I guess that's why I wore his boots, even if we got back too late for the dedication of the statue, and I think for Victoria at least, that meant a whole lot more.

Muse: Heath Barkley
Fandom: The Big Valley
Words: 302