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Continued from Cowboy Wisdom

In the small hours of morning the train slowed to a stop at a one room shack that served as a train station in Moorcoft. A small group of people clustered under a single gas lamp. Her companion stepped off the train and into the embrace of a heavy set older woman, while a pigtailed child bounced between a tall, thin cowboy and her brother—the soldier. The train had barely stopped before it slowly began to pick up speed again. Alone with her thoughts and her excitement, Yry was disappointed to find only her face reflected back in the window. The train rocked her back into a dreamy-dozy sleep.

She awoke as the train lurched to yet another stop. There was some commotion but no one in her car paid any attention. Eventually the train chugged back to life and crawled out of the nondescript wide spot along the tracks. A faint glow of blue edged the horizon and a few minutes later, wisps of tangerine streamed across the sky. The landscape had changed again. The train was steadily gaining elevation and the flat lands were punctuated by occasional rim rocks and high plateaus. The closer she got to her destination, the slower the train seemed to move. She was a fever of anticipation. Oddly enough it felt like she was coming home.

The train arrived in Sheridan half an hour late. George and Claire Cormack were waiting on the platform outside a tidy, two-story red brick building, early morning light casting a warm glow over the scene. After hearty introductions and greetings, George gathered her bags and led the way to the car. The “CX RANCH” brand tastefully emblazoned on the door of the Ford station wagon sparked a thrill of excitement.

The first stop was for breakfast at the many-gabled Sheridan Inn. Along with a musty smell of age, the hotel was filled with history of the west. A thin layer of dust covered roughly hewn wooden beams in the lobby. Indian woven-wool blankets adorned the walls and lay like throws on large, leather-covered furniture in the lobby. Several large oil paintings of western scenes, depicting cowboys and Indians hung on the walls, as well as black and white photographs of Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show, below which was a typed note bragging that the company used to lodge at the Inn when they passed through Sheridan.

Without prompting, the waitress filled three large mugs with black coffee. Yry was startled to discover pork chops and steak on the breakfast menu. Claire ordered a short stack with one egg over easy. Yry asked for toast and jam and a soft-boiled egg. The waitress looked over her notepad and fixed Yry with a hard stare. “We don’t do boiled eggs. Scrambled, over easy, over medium, or over hard.”

“Over easy will do,” stammered Yry.

“That’s not enough to keep a bird alive,” George boomed before he ordered biscuits and gravy, ham and three eggs over hard for himself. “Yry, you better have some bacon or ham with that measly little ol’ egg. We’re gonna be putting you to work right off the bat!”

Wide-eyed, she glanced at the waitress who was still staring at her like she came from mars. “Okay, please add bacon to my order. Thank you.”

She sipped the coffee and wondered if the waitress had forgotten something; it tasted like dirty hot water. She gaped as another waitress waddled out of the kitchen; a mound of huge platters of food crawled up her left arm.  On one of the plates towered a three-high stack of pancakes the size of flattened basketballs. Clutched in the woman’s right hand was a large carafe of syrup. Yry was beginning to feel unsettled.