"Bobby, wait up!" Dana shrieked as she stumbled after her brother. The hot summer sun left her struggling for breath as she raced after the long-legged sixteen year old that she called her brother.
"Dana, you need to learn how to keep up!" Bobby shot back. Still, he stopped at waited for the twelve year old. When Dana finally caught up, he took her hand and practically dragged her the rest of the way.
"Stop!" she yelped, pulling back. He let her go. She stood, rubbing her arm. "What's so important that you gotta drag me out in the middle of town to show me?"
Bobby grinned now, enjoying his sister's ignorance. "Well, I'll tell you. But only if you can keep up!" He jumped forward, starting off again at a quick lope.
"Bobby," Dana whined. She sighed and started to run as well.
"It's here!" Bobby yelled as she trotted up, winded. He began to dig at the faded grass, throwing clumps of dirt back at Dana.
"Bobby, what are you doing?" Dana questioned.
"Remember that old story of how the people from Four Corners buried a time capsule here?" Dana nodded. "Well, I did some digging at Larabee High School. It seems that one of the townsfolk was bright enough to leave a record of where they buried it."
"Oh, yeah?" Dana countered. "Just who did? And where are the directions, anyway?"
"Here," he said, standing and pulling a photocopied piece of paper from his pocket. He handed it to her. "The preacher of the town, Josiah Sanchez, left the record of where to find it."
"We, the citizens of Four Corners, have this day, Eighteen hundred and seventy eight, buried a time capsule to our world. May someday the descendants of this town find our past and learn from it." Dana read out loud. She looked up. "So?"
"Turn it over."
Dana did. On the back, there was a crudely drawn map. It began at the jail and wound its way through the streets until it came to a point who knew where on the outskirts of the town. "That doesn't prove it's here," Dana said, skeptical.
"Oh, yeah? Well, missy, it also says, if you would care to read it, that the capsule is buried exactly twenty seven yards from the corner of the blacksmith's shop at a right angle. I did the geometry, genius. It's here!" He bent down and began digging again.
Dana grinned. "I'll help!" Bobby scooted over and allowed her room to dig. "I wonder if there's buried gold in it!"
"Not in a time capsule, Dana. You put mementos in a capsule, not gold. Photographs, letters, fliers, books, anything that reminds you of why you're doing it."
"Oh," Dana said. "So there could be photos of the town's first mayor or of how it looked before the railway came through?"
"Yeah," Bobby grunted. Suddenly, he stopped. "Hey," he said slowly, hitting upon an idea.
"What?" Dana asked excitedly.
"Remember that old framed photo in mom's room, you know, the one of the seven guys?"
"Yeah, she said they were the ‘Magnificent Seven.' That's what that dime novelist called them when he wrote their story."
"Dana, they're famous! They lived in Four Corners when this thing was put in the ground! What it they're stuff is in here?"
"Oh, wow, you're right!" Dana squealed. "Which one was our ancestor anyway?"
"Ezra Standish. Mom has a daguerreotype of him in the living room. Remember? Dad's ancestor is Vin Tanner. We don't have a picture of him, though."
"Yeah. Wow. Mom would freak!" Dana squealed.
"Think what this could do for our little town, too," Bobby reminded her, ever serious. "Why, we could national recognition here!"
"I thought we were already well known," Dana said. "After all, the Magnificent Seven actually lived here."
"No, the Magnificent Seven lived in Four Corners. They changed the name in 1919, during the war, to Sanderson, don't ask me why."
"Oh, yeah," Dana sighed, shaking her head. "Dummy."
"Yes, you are. Now help me dig!"
Dana grinned and together, they began to unearth more dirt. Finally, Dana's fingers scraped something hard. "Bobby! I found it!"
He scrambled over, dodging the six foot diameter they had created, digging for it. "It's in there pretty deep," he said, trying to pull it out. "We need shovels. C'mon, let's go!"
"Wait! What if Mr. Johnson sees us digging? Shouldn't one of us stay here and shoo him off?"
"It's the city's property, not his, but you're right. He snoops too much. I'll go get the shovels. I'll be right back."
Dana watched him run off. "I wonder what's inside," she whispered to herself, fingering the brass lock that barred her from the contents.
"You want to what?" Ezra laughed, not thinking Mary was serious.
She shot him a look. "You heard me, Mr. Standish. I want to construct a time capsule. It will be a visual record for the later generations of this town as to what this town was, who lived here, and so on."
Ezra smiled. "Mrs. Travis, I do admire your determination. I even agree with you to some extent on the idea. However, the people of this town may not see it your way."
"Whatever do you mean?" she asked.
Ezra sighed. He cast a glance around the typing office where Mary had laid the finished article advertising the capsule. "Well, you see, these people don't really have a sense of nationalism yet. This town is fairly new and some people are just here to live. They don't want to get involved, they like their lives the way they are at the present. You do know what I'm referring to, ma'am?"
Mary nodded. They all remembered the cattle baron's nephew who had almost gotten away with murder because no one wanted to see justice done. "You're right, Mr. Standish. It was a silly idea." She walked over to the article and picked it up. "I should probably throw this away, then." She started to ball the article up, but Ezra's hand on hers stopped her.
"What I meant was you need to do something to get their spirits up. Talk to Chris, he can certainly wield his influence on some of the people around here. Before long, I'm sure this idea will work."
Mary smiled inwardly. *Perhaps Mr. Larabee would be of some help…* she mused. "Thank you, Mr. Standish. You've given me a lot to think about."
He quirked a grin. "You're very welcome." Then he tipped his hat and strode out of the door.
"Dana Tanner, what are you doing digging on city property?" Mr. Horace Johnson boomed at her as he reached her.
"None of your business," she snapped back. "You can't tell me what to do!"
"Oh, really. Young lady, I'll have you know that I can get you sent to jail for digging on city property. How would you like that?"
"I don't give a flip. Go away." Dana stuck her tongue out at the man, fully aware that nothing would happen to her. Her father was the sheriff of the county and he wouldn't arrest her for digging.
Johnson huffed but walked away, muttering under his breath. Dana released the breath she had been holding and sighed. "I really don't like him."
A moment later, Bobby charged back with the shovels. "Dad's on the way, Dana! He's just as excited about it as we are. C'mon, let's get started."
Dana picked up the shorter of the two shovels and began to dig. Working with Bobby, she had most of her side uncovered when he father's police car rolled up near them. Daniel Tanner stepped out of the vehicle and smiled at his two children. "Well, well, what have we here?"
"Come here, daddy!" Dana yelled, pointing to the ground. "We've found the time capsule!"
Daniel's face split into a wide grin. "We've been looking for that thing for years! How did you find it?"
Bobby broke in. "I found the directions in the library. Here," he thrust the paper into his father's hands and began digging as he studied it.
Daniel put it in his own pocket. "Son, I'm proud of you. Let's dig!" He picked up the third shovel and in no time, the rest of the hole was uncovered. "Bobby, it'll take some doing to get this out. On the count of three?" Bobby nodded and took one end while Daniel grabbed the other. "One, two, three!" Together, they pulled and the metal box came loose with a groan. They pulled it to the side and set it down on the ground.
"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's open it!" Dana said impatiently.
But Daniel shook his head. "We can't just yet. This is a historical find, one meant for the entire community. We have to treat this box with respect. It belonged the founding fathers of our town. We can't just break the lock."
Dana pouted. "I want to see what's in it."
"So do I, dear, but we have to wait until the town council gives a decision on when to open it. I promise, as soon as I hear anything, we will." He gave her a hug. "Now, let's get this thing into the car."
Mary approached Chris, who was sitting outside the saloon with Buck. They weren't doing anything, just sitting, resting in the welcome coolness of the evening.
"Mr. Larabee, may I have a word with you?" she asked politely.
Buck shot Chris a glance, but smiled and stood. He tipped his hat to Mary and said, "Ma'am, I'd best be getting on. Chris." Then he stepped off the sidewalk and crossed the street.
Chris watched him go for a moment, wondering what the conversation was about. "What is it, Mary?" he asked.
"I have been talking to Mr. Standish," she began.
*Oh, God,* Chris thought, *Not Ezra.*
"And he requested that I speak to you regarding an idea that I had recently. He refused to help me with it, but said that perhaps you could."
*I'm going to kill him, I'm going to kill him, I'm going to kill him,* Chris thought. "What was the idea?" he asked, smiling a little as he envisioned was to torture the resident town hustler.
"Well, I thought, perhaps, that the town could construct a time capsule. It's been done in Colorado Springs. The people there welcomed it," she finished quickly, not wanting to be interrupted.
Chris thought for a moment. "Well," he said slowly, "It is a different idea."
"But," Mary prompted.
"What could I do?" he finished lamely.
Mary grinned triumphantly. "Well, for starters, you could ask your friends to spread the word. Perhaps, soon, we could actually get this idea in working order." So saying, she spun on her heel and walked back to her store, head high.
Chris sat for a moment. He turned his head to the right toward the saloon. Ezra had just stepped out and was starting to walk his way. Chris got up, pasted a phony smile on his face and moved to intercept him.
Ezra saw him coming and stopped. "Yes, Mr. Larabee?" he asked warily.
Chris smiled wider. Ezra took a step back. "Ezra," he said. "Mary just came to see me. She said that you asked her to ask me about a time capsule?"
Ezra's eyes widened slightly. "She approached me with the subject. I suggested that she ask you about what to do. I'm not into organization."
Chris' eyes narrowed. "Thank you so much. Now I've been roped in to helping out in this little crusade! You're dead!" He stepped forward, fully intending to chase him down if necessary, but Ezra held up a hand and smiled.
"You can't kill me, Chris. All you had to do was say no." His grin broadened and he walked past a dumbfounded Chris.
"Son of a bitch," Chris muttered. He kept walking.
"Well, kids, it's official," Daniel Tanner boomed.
"When do we open it, dad?" Bobby asked.
"Tomorrow afternoon, three o'clock pm," Daniel smiled.
"Daniel, how many people supposedly buried their mementos in that capsule," Daniel's wife, Anne, asked him.
"Most everybody in the town," he responded. "The historians believe that as many as one hundred fifty items could be in that box."
"A hundred and fifty things?" Dana asked in awe. Her twelve year old mind thought of letters and gold pocket watches and jewels, lots of jewels.
"I doubt there were that many, though," Daniel went on. "Sanderson was a pretty small place back then."
"Four Corners, dad," Bobby corrected sternly.
"So it was," Daniel replied.
"Daniel," Anne began, "Will the families of the people receive what they put in there?"
"Yes," he said. "Any letter, photo, or other such item that is found in that box can be claimed by legitimate family members. Everything else will go to the city's library in the historical division and the museum downtown."
"Oh, I hope that my great-great-great grandfather left something in there," Anne said wistfully.
"You mean Ezra?" Daniel asked.
Anne smiled. "Yes. All I have of him is that daguerreotype in the living room. I want to know what he was like. I know he was a reformed gambler, but that's it. I want to know why he married Anne Porter. I want to know everything I can."
Daniel smiled. "I know the feeling. Vin Tanner. Now there was an ancestor I'm proud to have. I wish I had a single photo of him. Oh, that picture of all of them together is nice, but to have one by himself, well, that would mean a lot."
Bobby and Dana listened to them talk for awhile, but Dana grew bored and went to sit down on the bench outside their house. "What's wrong?" Bobby asked.
"I want to see what's inside that box," Dana sighed, absently twirling her fingers in the dirt.
Bobby nodded. "Me, too. But we'll find out tomorrow." Dana didn't reply. "What's really bothering you?"
"Well, if Ezra and Vin did leave stuff in that box, mom and dad will get it. What about us? Will we get anything?"
Bobby smiled a little. " ‘Fraid not, kiddo. Not until mom or dad bequeaths it to us in their wills."
"What's bequeath?" Dana asked.
"Gives, more or less," Bobby replied. He stood. "C'mon, let's go inside."
"So, Josiah," Nathan said as they and Vin were painting the walls of the church, "What are you going to put in it?"
"Oh, I guess I'll put a letter inside," he said noncommittally.
Nathan's eyebrows furrowed. "But that don't say much," he said. "Are you going to put a picture in it, or a book, or a watch?"
Josiah stopped his work for a moment, pausing to wipe the sweat from his brow. "Maybe a Bible," he said. "The one my father gave me during his missionary work."
Nathan cast him a glance. "Why?"
"Because it means something to me. Nathan, I doubt I'll leave this town, even if we all do split up. I like the people here. I guess I owe them something of myself." He bent down to get more whitewash on the brush. "I think I'll do that." He turned to Nathan. "What about you?"
"Well, that's what I was going to ask you about," Nathan began uncomfortably. "Slaves weren't allowed to learn how to read and write. I don't know how to write. I wanted to ask if you'd write my letter for me."
Josiah looked at him without surprise. "I figured you might ask me that."
"So will you?" Nathan prompted.
Josiah smiled. "Of course I will." He turned to Vin who had remained quiet throughout. "What about you?"
Vin shrugged. "I don't know."
"Well, Anne, I suppose the time has come to ask what you intend to place inside the ever publicized time capsule," Ezra said.
Anne glanced at him, hurriedly cleaning up from the night's constant parties. "I don't know," she said, slightly out of breath.
"Come now, you must have some idea," he argued.
She stopped. "Well, if I had it, I'd put my picture in there."
She shook her head. "Nope, just a picture." She returned to wiping the tables.
Ezra stood. "Stop, Anne." She did. "You mean to tell me that in all your life living here in this town that you don't even have a picture of yourself?"
She shrugged. "No, they're too expensive."
"Well, my dear, as my treat to you, I will buy you one just so you can place it inside the capsule with everyone else's."
She laughed. "Ezra, why would I need a picture taken of me? Just so I could look at it for two days only to have it go in a box?"
"Precisely. That's what money is for." He grinned at her. "Let's go."
"But I've got to finish cleaning up--!"
"Forget it! The night is young. The photographer quits at eight o'clock. Let's go!" He grabbed her hand and dragged her, without much resistance, laughing, out the saloon door.
"Say, Buck? What should I put in the capsule?" JD asked as he, Buck, and Chris stood waiting for a shave.
Buck laughed. "Why you asking me, boy? It's your choice."
JD shrugged. "I dunno. I just don't want to put something stupid in there. How about you, Chris?"
Chris shrugged. "A letter, I suppose. And my favorite book."
"Wait a minute, Chris," Buck said. "You read?"
Chris rolled his eyes. "Of course I read Buck. Just not that dime novel stuff that JD gets into."
JD shot him a look and Buck guffawed. "I read the classics. Like Alexandre Dumas. I'm particularly fond of ‘The Three Musketeers.' That's what I'm putting in it."
Buck nodded thoughtfully. "I suppose I could add my daddy's pocket watch to my share of the treasures."
JD grinned. "I thought you won that in a poker game."
"Not this one, boy. This is the gold one that my father bought on his honeymoon in New Orleans."
"Why would you put something so sentimental in a box that you'll never see again?" JD asked, confused.
"Because it shows the world that we had sentiments, JD," Buck said, his voice soft now. "I want people to know I cherished something."
JD shut up and glanced at Chris. Chris raised an eyebrow. JD shrugged. "I suppose I could put my family photo in it, the one with me and my ma."
"That would be real fine, son," Buck said. "Real fine."
"So there's nothing in any of he city records about what the townsfolk buried in the capsule?" Bobby asked, slightly disappointed.
Daniel shook his head. "Nothing. There probably was at one point, but the hall of records burned down in 1932. If it was there, it was lost in the fire."
Anne spoke up. "I read somewhere in an old newspaper that someone had buried a diamond that today would be worth almost ten thousand dollars!"
Daniel snorted. "That's rubbish. Those people couldn't afford diamonds! Unless, of course, it was your ancestor's mother. She could have conned someone out of it. But she didn't live there."
Anne grinned. "I'm sure, Daniel, that it was made up for publicity, no doubt. But isn't kind of neat to think that someone could have? I mean, no one knows what's in that box."
"Yeah, daddy, mommy's right," Dana spoke up from her seat at the table. "No one knows what's buried there. It could be anything!"
Daniel looked at her. "We shall see…"
"I, Mayor Julian Travis, do hereby declare this box as official town property. Let it be known that any unclaimed property will be turned over to the city in hopes that we can learn from the people of Sanderson's pasts and that we may better our future!"
Daniel stepped up to the mayor on the stage set up so that everyone could witness the box being opened. "Sheriff Tanner, would you do the honors?" Daniel took the crowbar and began to pull at the lock until it finally broke. The crowd immediately shut up, leaning forward, eager to see what was inside.
Daniel opened the box. Inside were letters, dozens of them, surrounded by framed photographs, books, maps, and any kind of oddity that was included.
"Wow," breathed Dana, staring at the inside.
They had spent three hours sorting through the box, giving certain items to family members of the citizens. Now, they had their belongings. As Daniel walked up to his family, he carried two letters, two photographs, and a small wooden box.
"Here's what's ours," he said. Anne took the letters from his hand.
"They're from Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish," she said, reading the faded ink on the outside covers.
"I wanna see, mommy!" Dana cried.
"You must be careful," Anne warned. "They'll break." Dana nodded seriously and held the letter from Ezra. Bobby took the other one. "You can read them out loud when we get home."
As soon as their car had pulled up to the house, they all rushed inside, eager to hear what had been written. Bobby held his letter, written by Vin, and opened it carefully, trying not to tear the thin, brittle paper. He started to read:
To whom it may concern,
I wrote this letter, not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. Four Corners is the first home I've had in a long time. The streets are quiet in the mornings, filled with people at noon, and full of laughter in the evening.
In my opinion, it's the people that make this town worth living in. Of course, there are the six men I work with, but then there are the others. Mrs. Potter, the widow, one of the strongest ladies I've ever met. She found the courage to keep working, to keep being a human being, after her husband's death. Mary Travis, the newspaper editor. She never gave up looking for the truth. I always admired her for her grit . She's one tough lady, one I doubt I'd have the courage to stand up to in a fight.
These people are who keep me here instead of riding hell bent for leather back to Tascosa to clear my name. They're the reason I stay here.
Since I'm not so good with words, I'll keep this short. May any who read this find comfort in knowing that we were all good people.
When Bobby was finished, he carefully folded the paper and placed it back inside the envelope. "Do you have a picture of him, dad?" he asked.
Daniel nodded, tears in his eyes. "Yes." He held it up. It showed a handsome man, aged around thirty, staring with clear eyes straight into the camera. His strong jaw reminded Bobby of his father. He smiled.
"Now for Ezra's," Anne said excitedly, handing the paper to Dana.
Dana stood and started to read her own, stumbling slightly over the unfamiliar words:
Dear citizens of the town,
I hope this letter finds you well and happy, content with your own life's works. To this box I add my own letter, clearing my conscience for future generations.
I will not relate my childhood, as it has no bearing on my decision to stay in this town. I came here, intending to leave straight-away for San Francisco, hoping to try my luck in a larger city. However, being thrown in the town's holding facility quickly dispelled the idea. I quickly learned that I was important to some people of the town. It was a strange feeling. I found that I liked it.
Over this past year, I have seen my share of people killed for no reason, and I have done my best to prevent such happenings. The result being that people now respect me. For the first time in my life, I'm appreciated. I think, now, that I'll stay here, at least for awhile. Perhaps one day I may even marry and settle down. But perhaps is a long while and I don't like to envision that far into the future. It's still a nice thought.
"Well, mom, what do you think?" Dana asked.
Anne had a funny look on her face. "Well I never would have pegged him for a criminal but I suppose there were all types back then. By the way, Daniel, who's picture is that?"
Daniel handed her the picture. "Oh, my," Anne started, entranced by the photo. It showed a lovely young woman in her mid twenties. She had dark hair, a gentle face and she was smiling to someone unseen from the camera's eye. "I wonder who she's smiling at?" Anne wondered.
Bobby and Dana grinned to each other. "Isn't it obvious, mom?" he asked.
She looked up, grinning at them. "I suppose it is." She stopped and stared, puzzled by the box that Daniel had left on the table. "And just who did this come from?" she asked.
Daniel shrugged. "The man at the front said it was ours, so I took it. I don't know what's in it."
Anne took hold of the small cedar box carefully. She opened the box cautiously, unsure of what lay inside. She gasped. The others crowded around. Inside lay a small scrap of paper. On it were written the words, in a totally different handwriting than what they had seen before: E.S. and A.P. Forever.
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