High Country Hero

Excerpt from High Country Hero, by Lynna Banning....

Russell's Landing, Oregon

     The instant Sage turned the corner onto Main Street, she saw the woman in purple calico barreling down the board sidewalk toward her. Oh, no. Not Mrs. Benbow. The plump seamstress was the biggest busybody in town.

     Sage stopped, smiled, and prepared to have her ears burned by the latest gossip.

     "Ain't seen it yet, have ya, honey?"

     "Seen what?"

     "Why, the newspaper, of course. The Willamette Valley Voice. My stars, that man has a tongue somewhere's between a rattlesnake and a grizzly bear."

     "Mr. Stryker, you mean?"

     "Who else?" Nelda Benbow's voice was sharp with gleeful outrage. "That man gets the whole town in an uproar every single Thursday. Mind you, I don't think he really believes half the things he publishes in that puffed-up rag of his, but the harm's done soon as the ink's dry. And the hurt," she added in a gentler tone. She sent Sage a pitying look.

     "Hurt," Sage echoed. "Who has Mr. Stryker crucified this time?"

     "Best you set down afore you read it, Sage dear." The older woman gave her a quick pat on the shoulder and sped on down the walkway toward Duquette's Mercantile.

     It? What "it"?

     Sage had troubles enough without worrying over who Mr. Stryker's latest victim was. Her neatly buttoned shoes carried her straight to the newspaper office.

     At her entrance, the editor rose to his feet. "Good morning, Miss West. Oh, I beg your pardon, Doctor West."      A thrill of pure pride shot through her. Dr. Sage West. It had taken her six grueling years, and she wanted everyone in town to celebrate her accomplishment. For the first time since its founding, Russell's Landing had a doctor.

     "Mr. Stryker." She smiled t the bony, stern-faced man who stood across the polished wood counter from her. She dug a five-cent piece from her reticule, dropped it on the counter and scanned the front page.

     "Article's on page three," the graying editor said in a dry voice. "My editorial's on page seven." He pocketed the coin.

     Sage flipped the paper open and buried her nose in the third page. The still-wet black ink smelled sharp and oily. Engrossed, she moved to the shop entrance, pushed the door open, and stepped out onto the boardwalk.

     "Dried up old maid!" she yelped. "So plain a man would have to be blind to... "

     What difference did it make what she looked like? She was a good doctor. She settled herself in a rocking chair in front of the mercantile and snapped open the newspaper.

     "Oh, for pity's sake!" Women should be wives and mothers...steadfast at the cradle, happy at the hearth...      "Cooks and nursemaids, is that it, Mr. Stryker? Laundresses and seamstresses and teachers, but not physicians?"

     Why not? She jumped to her feet, crumpled the sheets of newsprint into a ball and retraced her steps to the newspaper office as fast as her feet would move.