Tag: Jeannie Watt

Jeannie’s January

Hi Everyone,

Well, 2018 started off for me in an interesting way. My husband and went to the dump and hit a stretch where the road had drifted. Someone had made it through, so we figured we could, too. We figured wrong, because we were driving the garbage hauling truck which doesn’t have very good tread on the tires. You know how it is when the back end of the rig gets sucked toward the ditch. It just keep moving that way. My husband and I are old hands at getting unstuck–snow, bogs, mud–we’ve done it all at least once. But this time we didn’t have a shovel, because again, we were in the garbage hauling truck. So I used what was on hand–a kitty litter bucket. I’ve got to tell you, it worked better than a shovel. I have it riding in the back seat of the garbage-hauling truck now just in case.

So that was the start of 2018. Since then I’ve turned in a book–my very first Heartwarming, Her Montana Cowboy, which comes out in August. I’m very excited to be writing for Heartwarming and this is a sweet continuation of my Montana Bull Riders series that I wrote for Harlequin Western. My voice has shifted a little and I like the new fun tone. I’m also in the process of finishing up Wedding at the Graff, which is another sweet romance. It releases March 1. I adore this cover.

We brought in the cows to weigh the calves and do some vet work. As you can see, after the big snow drift-kitty litter bucket adventure, we haven’t got much snow. The cows are back out in the field on winter pasture. The plus side of very little snow is that each day they’re on pasture, they’re not eating hay, which saves a lot of money. Plus my husband just had back surgery and isn’t in tractor shape yet, so this is working out well.

And lastly, my daughter got engaged. She’s getting married in November and we’re going dress shopping next month.

That’s my January wrap up. I’ll be writing some research posts in the future, and some excerpts from my books, but this seemed like a good time to just catch up. I hope everyone reading this is well. I’ll close with a photo of a beautiful Montana in January sunset.

Cheers!

Jeannie

 

Christmas on the Frontier

In 1849, California pioneer Catherine Haun wrote, “Although very tired of tent life many of us spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in our canvas houses. I do not remember ever having had happier holiday times. For Christmas we had grizzly bear steak for which we paid $2.50, one cabbage for $1.00 and oh horrors, some more dried apples! And for a Christmas present the Sacramento River rose very high and flooded the whole town!”

Now that’s a holiday to remember!

Celebrating Christmas wasn’t easy for those making their way in new territories, but upholding traditions was an important way of making these places feel like home. Often resources were limited and decorations consisted of whatever was handy—evergreen trimmings, berries, pictures clipped from magazines, popcorn garlands—and presents were often handmade, or ordered from catalogs, if mail service of that kind was available.

In Boise, Idaho, the community shared a tree in the 1860s and residents were invited to “communicate through it with their friends,” according to the Idaho Statesman. People could exchange gifts and there was a Christmas Eve party at the tree.

But what about those people who were truly in the wilderness on Christmas Day? Well, some of them couldn’t take time off from the important business of staying alive as this journal quote from fur trapper David Thompson attests:  “Christmas and News Years day came and passed. We could not honor them, the occupations of every day demanded our attentions; and time passed on, employed in hunting for a livelihood.”

Fort Clatsop

Lewis and Clark and spent several Christmases on the trail during their famous expedition. Christmas of 1804 was spent in Fort Mandan, North Dakota where the men were issued flour, dried apples and pepper to help celebrate the holiday. Clark wrote of this Christmas: “I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoons from the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 Cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some men went out to hunt & the Others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P, M, when the frolick ended.”

In 1806, the expedition was stranded at Fort Clatsop on the Pacific Coast. This was more of a gift giving occasion, according to Clark: “Our Diner to day Consisted of pore Elk boiled, Spoilt fish & Some roots, a bad Christmass diner. I recved a presnt of Capt L. of a fleece hosrie Shirt Draws and Socks—, a pr. mockersons of Whitehouse a Small Indian basket of Gutherich, two Dozen white weazils tails of the Indian woman, & Some black root of the Indians before their departure.”

That “Indian Woman” was Sacagawea.

If you’re interested in learning more about Christmas in the Old West, check out Christmas in the Old West: A Historical Scrapbook, by Sam Travers. The information in this blog was adapted from that book.

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Very Merry Christmas! I’ve loved spending 2017 with you, and look forward to 2018!

Jeannie

The Bull Rider’s Plan

I have a new release this month–my last Harlequin Western Romance, which makes me a little sad. I love writing these light romances and I particularly loved writing this one. It involves a twin. The responsible twin. I thought I’d have more fun writing the wild child twin–Tyler in A Bull Rider to Depend On–but Jess turned out to be just as much fun. The trick was to give him a spunky little heroine. A little sister type who’d tried to tag along back in the day, and who once again wants to tag along to his rodeos to escape a tense situation at home. Emma turns Jess’s well-ordered life upside down, and creates some mayhem in her own at the same time.

Jess agrees to let Emma come along as a driver, but he fully expects to regret that decision. Here’s an excerpt:

Emma swerved the truck to miss a pothole, then glanced over to see if she’d disturbed Jess. He was out, dark eyelashes fanned over the tanned skin above his cheekbones. Her heart bumped a little. He really was good-looking. Maybe it was because she hadn’t been around him in well over a year that he seemed different. Or maybe she was looking at him differently. Whatever. She could kind of see what her friends saw—now that he was asleep and not telling her what she couldn’t do.

The road straightened out in front of her and traffic was light, so she chanced another glance, curious about why he seemed different. Maybe it was the fact that he’d matured and the angles of his face had become more chiseled, the hollows under his cheekbones more pronounced.

She eased her way around the only car in front of them for miles and then glanced back at Jess. His mouth, which she had to admit was a very fine mouth, was slightly open—and, a split second later, so were his eyes.

Em gave a start as her gaze slammed into his electric one.

“The road.” The words were clipped. Not very friendly.

She jerked her attention to the pavement—where’d it’d been one short second before she’d given in to temptation and went for that third look.

“I was just checking on you,” she said in a huffy voice.

“To see if I was breathing?”

“To see why you looked different.”

He frowned at her. “Different how?”

She kept both hands on the wheel, squeezing it more tightly than she needed to. “I don’t know. That was why I was looking.”

He sat up straighter.

“You can sleep, you know. It wasn’t as if I was staring dreamily at you rather than minding the road. You just happened to catch me midglance.”

“Ah.”

“And they were fast glances.” She demonstrated, exaggerating the speed of her head turns. “Like that.”

“Stop.”

She smiled a little and relaxed now that they were safely back in their roles, although she couldn’t say why the word safe had popped into her brain. “I think it’s because you’ve lost weight.”

She sensed that he’d gone still and risked his wrath by glancing over at him yet again. He wore a perplexed expression. “I don’t recall ever being particularly heavy.”

“In your face. You’ve lost the baby fat.”

He muttered something that sounded like a plea to a higher power, then slumped back into his seat. “I don’t know if I can sleep if you’re looking at me.”

“I won’t look. Promise.”

He let out a breath. Em fought with herself then glanced over. His eyes were still open.

“That was a trap,” she said as she focused on the road.

“That was a test.”

“I guess you’re going to have to get used to me staring at you when you sleep if you’re going to take advantage of having another driver along.”

He let out a long breath and closed his eyes once again—Em knew because she looked. “Just…keep it between the lines, okay?”

“I will,” she said in a resigned voice. “And maybe, for once, you can have some faith in me.”

Have a great day, everyone!

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Getting Ready for Winter + Free Book!

Hi everyone. I hope you’re having a great Wednesday! We’re having a beautiful fall here in Montana. Fall is my favorite season, and in northern Nevada, where I used to live, we didn’t get super long falls. It seemed to be hot, and then it was cold. Now there’s snow in the mountains and it looks like we’re getting closer to real winter.

Lots of Sand Hill Cranes.

The grain field next to my house has been cut and because of that, the Sand Hill Cranes, which come here to nest, are gathering in the stubble and feasting on grain and probably mice.

If you’ve never seen a Sand Hill Crane, they are fairly large birds, and they gather in this field by the thousands before their fall migration. I love watching them from my window.

We put the cattle on the winter pasture, along with my two old horses–brothers who are 23 and 24 years old. The pasture is connect to the “crane field” and the cattle come in everyday to drink and soak up the sun before heading back out to the pasture to graze. 

Note all the cranes in the background. 🙂

The winter wood came today before daybreak. Essentially its a load of logs. The guy unloads them and them my husband and stepdad will “buzz” them or cut them into rounds. We hope this stack will last at least two winters. The cats love, love, love the logs because they have lots of little places to hide and to hunt.

And lastly, as the holidays approach, I’m pleased to announce that my book The Christmas Secret is free for a limited amount of time. I hope you’ll check it out!

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Wrangling the Rancher by Jeannie Watt

Hi everyone and Happy Wednesday! I’m thrilled to have a new release this month. My latest Harlequin Superromance has one of my favorite tropes–city girl, country guy. (Although I admit to also loving city guy, country girl.)  In the story, I have a down to earth guy who has worked for the family guest ranch long enough to be sick and tired of wealthy, privileged people. He finally makes an escape and leases a farm, only to have the granddaughter of the guy he leased from move in…and she just happens to be a privileged city girl–the bane of his existence.

Here’s an excerpt:

Cole was drinking coffee when he heard the sound of an engine. He glanced at the clock and frowned. Five thirty seemed too early for a social call…maybe the granddaughter had once again called law enforcement?

He set down his cup and went to the door. The car that pulled up was low slung and sexy. A thin coat of dust covered the silver finish, but it was obviously a car that had been well cared for. The woman climbing out of the driver’s side wasn’t that tall, but she was fit and sexy, with long blond hair pulled into a low ponytail. She perfectly matched the vehicle. She shaded her eyes when she caught sight of him standing on the porch watching her, then squared her shoulders and marched toward him.

The granddaughter. This should prove interesting.

Cole leaned against the newel post and waited. A guy didn’t spend eight years working on a guest ranch without learning to both read people and deal with them effectively. His read on this woman—simmering anger. Frustration. In need of a scapegoat for…something. No question as to whom that scapegoat might be.

“Hi,” he said when she hit the end of the broken-up walkway. “Want some coffee?”

Her brisk steps slowed. “You don’t know who I am.”

“I’m guessing that you’re Karl’s granddaughter.” He jerked his head toward the house. “I just made a fresh pot.” He ran his gaze over her. “You look like you could use a cup.”

Her bemused expression changed to something approaching a smirk. “Thanks.”

With a casual shrug, he opened the door. The woman hesitated, then preceded him into the house.

“It hasn’t changed much,” she said.

“Why would I change it?”

She shot him a look. “I guess that depends on why you’re here.”

He went into the kitchen and pulled a second mug down from the cupboard near the sink. “I’m here to farm. Why are you here?”

“I’m here to check on the welfare of my grandfather.”

“Then,” he asked in a reasonable voice before handing her the steaming cup, “why aren’t you in Dillon, where your grandfather is?”

Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. A woman used to playing her hand carefully. “That is where I’m going.”

“Just thought you’d stop by? Introduce yourself?” He set down his own coffee and held out a hand. “Cole Bryan.”

She returned his handshake. “Taylor Evans.”

“Nice to meet you, Taylor. And thanks for calling the deputies on me.”

“I didn’t have a lot of choice. My aunt wouldn’t answer her phone, you answered my grandfather’s phone and I was concerned.”

“Yet not concerned enough to keep closer tabs on your grandfather over the past several months.”

Her expression iced over. “There were circumstances at play there.” He lifted his eyebrows politely. “Private circumstances,” she said in a tone indicating that if he had any manners at all, he would stop the questions now.

He took a sip of coffee. If she thought cool superiority was going to make him remember his place, she had another think coming. Having worked with a master of the freeze strategy—his step-aunt and former boss, Miranda Bryan—she was going to have to do better than this.

“Are you satisfied now that all is well?”

He could tell the word no teetered on the edge of her lips, but she caught it before it fell. “I guess I don’t understand why you’re here in the house. My grandfather said he doesn’t think he’ll be in Dillon for all that long.”

“Maybe your grandfather is lonely and would like a roommate.”

“My grandfather is not the roommate kind.”

“You sound certain.”

“I know him.”

“Yet you didn’t know he moved.”

Irritation flashed across her features. “Would you stop bringing that up?”

“Sorry.” He set down his cup and gripped the counter on each side of his hips. “Maybe if you told me why you’re here, I can help you out, and then you can continue on to Dillon.”

She smiled tightly. “Yes. What a great idea. I wanted to meet you.”

“Make sure I was on the up-and-up?”

“My grandfather always leased his land to the neighbor to farm. I understand the neighbor is still farming.”

“Are you suggesting that I might have persuaded him to lease to me instead?”

She gave a small shrug. “The thought crossed my mind.”

“I did.”

Her eyes widened, and it took her a few seconds to say, “How long have you known my grandfather?”

“He used to cowboy with my grandfather a long time ago.”

“Karl never was a cowboy.”

Cole said nothing. He wasn’t going to argue the point.

Her eyebrows drew together. “Not that I knew of anyway.”

A slight step back, which gave her a couple of points in his book. “I didn’t use any kind of coercion. I just…talked to him.”

“And ended up living in his house. Using his stuff.”

“I’m a smooth talker.” And since her suspicions—her attitude, really—was starting to tick him off, he saw no reason to mention that Karl had been concerned about the place being broken into during his absence. Having Cole living there solved a problem for both of them, but too much explaining was only going to give her more to latch onto. He glanced past Taylor to the teapot-shaped clock on the wall. “I also have to get to work.”

“You have a job?”

“Yes,” he said in his patient guest-ranch-manager voice. “I’m a farmer.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If you want to know more, please follow one of the following links:

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My Favorite Will Rogers-isms

Hello everyone! I’m having a really busy week–books due (as in plural) and family coming to visit. I’m excited to get the books done and even more excited to see my family!

Today I’m going to give you ten of my favorite Will Rogers quotes. Will Rogers was such an interesting guy–he was an actor, a vaudevillian, a humorist, a circus performer (his first job). He had a gift for making astute observations and presenting them in a way that did not offend. Quotes from Will invariably make me slow down, think, and smile.

So without further ado, here are my Will-isms:

1) Don’t squat with your spurs on.

2) Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

3) Never miss a good chance to shut up.

4) What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.

5) Always drink upstream from the herd.

6) Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.

7) Things ain’t what they used to be and never were.

8) If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering someone else’s dog dog around.

9) The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to just know.

10) There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Which quote speaks to you? Mine is the last. Every time I read it, I laugh.

Have a great Wednesday!

10 Favorite TV Westerns

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Many of us fell in love with westerns from watching them on television. I know I did. So when Jeannie and I teamed up for this Birthday Bash post, it was easy to collect our favorite TV westerns. We tried to find series that covered a wide range of decades, and since it was difficult to rank them by preference (they’re ALL fabulous!), we decided to list them by premiere date. I hope this takes you down memory lane and maybe even inspires some binge watching.

And speaking of binge watching . . . read to the bottom to see the giveaway Jeannie and I are sponsoring. Super fun!

10 Favorite TV Westerns

1. Maverick (1957-1962)

2. Wagon Train (1957-1965)

3. Rawhide (1959-1965)

4. Bonanza (1959-1973)

5. The Big Valley (1965-1969)

6. The Young Riders (1989-1992)

7. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998)

8. The Magnificent Seven (1998-2000)

9. Longmire (2012-2017)

10. The Pinkertons (2014-?)

 

Giveaway!!!

In honor of these wonderful westerns, Jeannie and I are giving away the first seasons of Rawhide and The Magnificent Seven on DVD as Birthday Bash party favors. WooHoo!!! Hunky cowboys coming your way.

Leave a comment about your favorite TV Western for a chance to win. We will draw two lucky winners, one for each DVD set.

May the commenting commence!

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giant birthday bash giveaway (separate from this daily giveaway). You can find all the details along with the entry form HERE.

Sally Scull – One Scary Woman

 

 

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday!  I have a bit of a guilty confession–I am fascinated by lady outlaws. Life was tough in the old west, and people did what they had to in order to survive. And some took things a step farther.

I don’t know what motivated Sally Scull , but over her lifetime she developed the reputation of being a female desperado. There are claims that she killed 30 men, including at least one of her husbands. She was also known as a horse and cattle thief, however, she was never arrested and never spent time in jail for her crimes.

Sally was born Sarah Jane Newman in Illinois in 1817. Her family moved to Texas in 1823 to become one of Stephen F. Austin’s original group of colonists. Sally’s mother, Rachel, was also a tough women. When a Native American intruder tried to come down the chimney, she lit her feather pillows on fire and smoked him out. When another intruder stuck his feet under the front door, she chopped off his toes.

Sally married Jesse Robinson, a  veteran of the first Texas Ranger Company when she was 16 years old. Jesse was twice her age and worked as a volunteer soldier and militia man. The marriage was a rocky one, and after 10 years, Jesse filed for divorce. Sally did not get custody of her children, a son and a daughter, however, she had a reputation as a fierce and loving mother.

Two weeks after her divorce, Sally married a gunsmith named George Scull. He died in 1849, allegedly by Sally’s hand. Although Sally married three more times before her death, she kept the name Scull, which was often spelled Skull–perhaps for effect. Legend has it that her name was used to frighten children of the day–“Behave or Sally Skull will get you.”

Her third husband, John Doyle, also allegedly met a violent end. According to the memoirs of  John ‘Rip’ Ford, “He heard the report of a pistol, raised his eyes, saw a man falling to the ground and a woman not far from him in the act of lowering a six-shooter. She was a noted character named Sally Scull. She was famed as a rough fighter, and prudent men did not willingly provoke her into a row. It was understood that she was justifiable in what she did on this occasion, having acted in self defense.” The man who fell was supposedly her husband.  Her fourth husband, Isaiah Wadkins either left the marriage peacefully…or was drowned by Sally in a barrel of whiskey. Tales differ.

Sally always wore a black bonnet, sometimes dressed as a man, and rode astride her horse instead of sidesaddle, as was appropriate for women of the day.  She was proficient with a bull whip, wore pistols at her waist, and was a deadly shot with both pistols and a rifle.  One visitor to Texas described her as “…Superbly mounted, wearing a black dress and sunbonnet, sitting as erect as a cavalry officer, with a six shooter hanging at her belt, complexion once fair but now swarthy from exposure to the sun and weather, with steel-blue eyes that seemed to penetrate the innermost recesses of the soul…”  there are reports of people witnessing her kill men in self-defense as she conducted her business of buying (or stealing) and selling horses and cattle. She carried her gold on a sack looped to her saddle horn, but no one was fool enough to try to steal it from her. Sally had a tough reputation.

When Union blockades kept the South from exporting cotton, or receiving needed supplies, Sally served the Confederacy by transporting cotton through Texas to Mexico, and then bringing contraband supplies back via this Cotton Road.

 

After the Civil War, Sally simply disappeared. There is no record of her death, and no grave.  One story is that she and her last husband, Christoph Horsdorff, a man 18 years her junior who was said to be without redeeming qualities, went for a ride. Christoph came back alone.  Another bit of lore says that she moved to West Texas and spent the remainder of her life living quietly. No one knows for certain.

 

Learning to Love the Camas Root

I grew up in the Palouse area of Idaho, close to the Camas Prairie, and when I was in the third grade, while we were studying the Nez Perce Indians, I ate a cookie made with camas root flour. I can taste it to this day–and not in a good way.  It might have been the cook, it might have been the camas root flour. I don’t know, but that cookie did not agree with me. Interestingly, Lewis and Clark had a similar experience.

Before I tell you about Lewis and Clark, let me give you some background on the camas root. The camas is a blue flowering plant. It’s really quite beautiful and although there are several Camas Prairies, my Camas Prairie is an area in north central Idaho where the Nez Perce gathered camas roots for thousands of years.

The camas root is really a bulb, and it’s higher in protein that some fish. The native peoples would dig the root with sticks or parts of antlers in the early summer months. The time varied depending on the altitude. After the harvest, the camas roots were cooked in earthen ovens. The roots that were not eaten were dried for later consumption. Dried camas root lasted for years. There are stories of travelers eating camas roots that were more than thirty years old.

It was very important to only harvest the blue camas bulbs, because the white camas bulbs, which are also nutritious, closely resembled another species of camas known as White Death. The White Death could be lethal if enough was consumed, so white camas plants were generally avoided.

 So what happened to Lewis and Clark?

When the explorers reached the Weippe Prairie in Idaho in September of 1805, they were essentially starving. The Nez Perce fed the men camas roots, which were described as “sweet and good to the taste”. They were also very high in fiber and very hard on the starving men’s digestive systems.  The men fell ill with vomiting, diarrhea and gas. Captain Clark wrote, “Capt Lewis Scercely able to ride on a jentle horse which was furnishd by the Chief. Several men So unwell that they were Compelled to lie on the Side of the road for Some time others obliged to be put on horses.” The sickness lasted over five days, during which time the less weak men took care of the sicker men while making five canoes to travel the Clearwater River. Those guys were tough.

Later it was discovered that fermented camas made a decent beer and the men felt friendlier toward the root. Eventually, their bodies adapted. The men came to like the camas root and took a large supply with them when then traveled down the Clearwater in October 1805.

In researching the camas, I’ve learned that the roasted bulbs taste similar to pumpkin and sweet potato, both of which I hated as a kid, and that, I believe, was the source of my issues with the root. I would try a camas flour cookie again, given the chance. And hopefully, like Lewis and Clark, I would come to appreciate this historically valuable food source.

Wedding Dresses in the Mid to Late 1800s

Hello everyone!  I hope you’re having a great Wednesday!

I was just asked by a dear friend to make her wedding dress, so I have wedding dresses on the brain. I’m making a classic white wedding dress, but white dresses have only been classic since the 1840s, when Queen Victoria wore a white court dress to marry Prince Albert. After the royal wedding, white became “the” bridal color for elite weddings on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, on the western frontier, practicality prevailed. Frontier brides-to-be did not have extensive wardrobes. It was not uncommon for a bride to be married in her best calico dress. Another option was to borrow a “good” dress from a family member. The borrowed dress was often well worn, but a step up from everyday calico.

If fabric was available and the bride was lucky enough to be able to sew a new dress for her wedding, she would have used that dress for multiple occasions throughout her life. She probably would have lent the dress to friends and relatives, and passed it  down to the next generation. The dress, for practical reasons, would not have been white.  Can you imagine trying to keep a white dress in suitable shape to wear on multiple occasions in a frontier environment? Many wedding dresses were brown, gray or black, but red and blue and gold were also popular colors.

Wedding dress 1863. Image courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society. Catalog # 1971.119.3/1-3

The dress on the left below is from the 1860s. I couldn’t find a date for the dress on the right, but it’s obviously late 1800s.

The dresses shown below were made for wealthier brides.  The red dress is from 1881. The gold dress is from 1884 and made of silk and cotton. The brown dress is from 1879, as is the rust dress next to it.

                         

After looking at these beautiful dresses, I kind of wish colored wedding dresses would come back into style. They’re so pretty and somehow seem more unique.

 

Do you like colored wedding dresses, or are you a fan of the now classic white dress?

A BAD BOY WITH A GOOD HEART 

Widow Skye Larkin will do anything to save her ranch, even if it means accepting help from bad-boy bull rider Tyler Hayward. But he and his penchant for partying are to blame for her late husband’s financial indiscretions, which got her into this mess. She might be attracted to the dark, dangerous cowboy, but putting her trust in another rodeo man is unthinkable. 

Ty knows he shouldn’t be surprised that Skye isn’t convinced he’s changed. He wants to prove that beneath the bravado, and no matter what happened on the circuit, he’s one of the good guys. Offering her a business partnership is just the first step. What will she do when he offers her his heart?

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