Tag: The Prairie Doctor’s Bride

Cabin Fever – Time to Dream & Plan

by Kathryn Albright

Cabin Fever anyone?

We have it so much better than the pioneers did in the Old West!
Although they had their share of quilting bees and sleigh rides,
I’m sure that by the middle of March they were dog-gone tired of the snow and slush and cold.

I can’t imagine that anyone in the southern states has to deal with such a thing
(except in the form of putting up with snowbirds who fly down from the north!)
but here in northern Illinois, cabin fever is a very real feeling!

All I can say is thank goodness for books, movies, and the internet!
(And my husband, board games, puzzles…)

This is me with cabin fever…well, not really.
I just loved the dress (and I wish I had her waist!)

But truthfully, I love the change of seasons.
The rest of the year, I am outside with all sorts of busyness,
but when the months of January through March happen,
suddenly I am tucked inside, cozy and content.
For some reason, being closed in by the cold weather,
I feel safe and cocooned and that is when my imagination takes wing and…

Magic Happens!

 

 

I dream up new stories…

I dream up the next big road trip I hope to take with my husband…

 

Last year’s epic trip to the Northwest!

We are thinking about Branson, Missouri for a new destination.
Have any of you been there? Any suggestions or advice?

 

 

I dream up the next landscaping renovation for my aging house…

We are putting in a patio that I designed after scouring Pinterest!
Thank goodness my sons live close enough to help with some of the heavy lifting!

 

This winter, I also started cooking lighter. I’ve had a few fails — such as making cauliflower buns for turkey burgers. Those simply fell apart 🙂 But I did come across one recipe my family loved and I thought I would share it here…

 

Chicken Taco Soup (for the crock pot)

Ingredients:
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 teaspoon taco seasoning mix
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 clove garlic, minced
13-14 oz raw chicken breasts – should yield 9 oz cooked
2 cups cabbage, chopped (May need more because of shrinkage)
2 oz shredded Mexican Cheese to garnish

Directions:
Combine chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, taco seasoning, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cabbage and chicken in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours. Shred chicken breasts in crock pot before serving. Pour soup into bowls and top with cheese.

Servings: 2

(I doubled this recipe for my family. It is just as tasty as leftovers.)

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What about you? Do you deal with cabin fever or are you snug and content where you live?

Here’s wishing everyone at Petticoats and Pistols

— readers and fillies alike —

a Warm, Happy Spring!

 

 

 

The Prairie Doctor’s Bride ~ An Excerpt

A look behind the book!

To create a scene, quite often authors draw on their life experiences and the emotions they felt at the time. That is how Katie O’Rourke’s “date” with Doctor Graham became a scene in The Prairie Doctor’s Bride.

When my husband took his first job as a school principal, he moved our family to a remote rural area in western Illinois. We rented a big, old farmhouse on a hill surrounded by fields of corn and wheat and woods, three miles from the town where he worked. The picture above is similar to the house, except the condition was much better! I enjoyed living in the country, but there was no hospital nearby for me to work in my profession as an obstetrical nurse. I took a position at the closest place ~ a nursing home. I didn’t last long. Those lovely elderly men and women reminded me too much of my grandparents — one of which had recently passed away. My emotions were frayed after only one day of working there.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Nelson Graham, the doctor in my latest sweet western romance, the Prairie Doctor’s Bride, is in need of a wife (and a nurse.) Growing up in the east, he attended a boarding school and then a university in Boston. He never had much contact with the “fairer” gender and so when he decides to take a wife in Oak Grove from among the mail-order brides that the town has procured, he is more than a bit out of his comfort zone.

He makes a list of attributes he expects in a wife, but he also wants to make sure she will work beside him as his nurse. He is not expecting a love-match. There wasn’t much love in his parent’s marriage and so he decides the best he can hope for is a help-mate.

He goes about meeting each mail-order bride and assessing them to see which one would work out for him the best. Needless to say, I had fun with this part!

The following is an excerpt of one such meeting ~ (Hint: Katie is not the heroine!)

* * * * * * * * * *

The next afternoon he called on Katie O’Rourke. He’d heard good things about her from a few of his more gossipy patients. Miss O’Rourke had the start of lines near her pale blue eyes and a more generous girth than the other brides. He was immediately drawn to her pleasant smile and outgoing personality. He invited her to dine with him in the hotel’s restaurant.

“I’m surprised you asked for me, Dr. Graham. I imagined that you would be interested in a younger woman. After all, your first choice was Mara. She’s the youngest of us from the train.”

“There is something to be said for life experience in a good marriage, Miss O’Rourke. You and I are likely close to the same age and have far more in common.”

Rollie brought in two bowls of cabbage soup and two plates of scalloped ham and potatoes. He set them down before Nelson and Miss O’Rourke. “Hello, Doc. Ah…Miss Katie…I would appreciate your opinion on the meal.”

Nelson raised his brows. Miss Katie, was it? It wasn’t like Rollie to solicit anyone’s opinion, especially when it came to his wife’s cooking. Ever since Rollie married Sadie, he had said that she could do no wrong.

“Oh, Katie here is a fine cook,” Rollie said, catching Nelson’s expression. “She’s been teaching Sadie and me some secrets from her native Ireland. I wish she had been here for Saint Paddy’s Day.”
Across from him, Miss O’Rourke smiled. “You’re too kind, Mr. Austin. I’m sure this will be delicious.”

“Well, I’ll be waiting to hear your thoughts.” And with a quick rap on the table as goodbye, Rollie headed over to another table to speak with another couple.

She could cook! That was good news for Nelson’s purposes. He settled back to enjoy his meal, his opinion of Miss O’Rourke rising steadily.

“What is it you did before coming to Oak Grove?” he asked halfway through his soup.

“Ach. I suppose you might think that I was married before, seeing as how I’m older than the other brides, but I haven’t had the pleasure.”

“It was on my mind,” he admitted. “I find it refreshing that you don’t make excuses. Sensible.”

“Well…it is what it is, isn’t it?”

She took a bite of ham and potatoes before continuing, “Ye see, I took care of my parents. First my ma fell sick, and it became my duty to do the cooking and cleaning and tending to my sisters. Then, a year after she passed, my da had an accident on the river. He needed my help after that.”

“What about your sisters? Did they help?”

She shook her head. “They married off as fast as you can say Christopher Columbus. First Bridget and then Susan. I’m glad of it. They have bonny husbands and they are happy.”

Another mental check went down on the positive side his list. She thought of others before herself, and she’d cared for a sick mother and ailing father and hadn’t minded her duty. “Miss Katie,” he said. “The fact that someone hasn’t snatched you up bewilders me.”

A becoming blush rose up her apple cheeks. “It’s hoping I am that I’ll never have to care for another sickly person again, unless, of course it was my own. You see—I like to be out of doors and I’ve had so little chance to do that. A garden of my own to tend on my own little patch of land, and cooking what I grow. Could anything be better than that?”

Oh no. That didn’t sound like the life he had envisioned. “What about helping your husband?”

“I suppose it would depend on what he did. For instance, I do like animals you see. And as I said—growing things. Anything that is out of doors.”

“Well, what if he was a doctor?”

Her eyes widened. “Are you asking me for my hand?”

His heart nearly stopped. “No, no!” he said quickly. “Of course not. It’s much too soon.”

“Well, then, just what is it you are saying?”

“I’m obviously not doing a very good job of making myself clear. I meant to say, or to ask…” He was stumbling about like a fool! He took a deep breath and began again. He leaned forward. “I would expect my wife to work with me. In my office. Doing things such as a nurse would do.”

She snatched herself back from him as if burned. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I’ve done my duty as a daughter and I hope never to look on another hurt or dying man or woman in my life. It’s my heart, you see…”

“No. I don’t see,” he said perhaps a little too crossly. “You are experienced. You are obviously well suited for the type of work.”

“But I couldn’t bear to go through it again. Every person I tended would remind me of my ma or my da. I—couldn’t.” The last was said in a whisper as if she was remembering more than she wanted. Her eyes filled with tears. She stood. “I won’t be misleading you to think that I would.”

Others in the restaurant were watching the drama with growing interest. This was not how he anticipated the afternoon going. “Please, Miss O’Rourke. Sit down again. I would have you finish your meal.”

She stood there a moment, undecided.

“Believe me, I do understand. I’m disappointed, for myself, but I completely understand your position.” It was obviously too much for her gentle nature.

“Are we to be friends then?” she asked, her voice uncertain.

“That would suit me fine. A person can’t have too many friends.”

“To be sure,” she said, gave a relieved smile and slowly sat back down to finish eating.

* * * * * * * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt!

(I thought it fit well with Saint Patrick’s Day!)

Do you have a Saint Patrick’s Day tradition? Do you wear green?
To enter the giveaway, Let me know!
I will choose a winner tomorrow from among those who comment.

 

 

 

Raising her son alone, penniless Sylvia Marks has had enough of being the subject of town gossip. But when her son is seriously injured she’ll do anything to save him…even kidnap handsome Dr. Nelson Graham!

Nelson knows what he wants in a wife; she’s to be amiable, biddable and skilled in domestic chores. Gun-toting Sylvia Marks isn’t what he had in mind, but as the two are forced together he realizes she’s exactly what he needs!

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To find out more please visit my website at http://www.kathrynalbright.com

To purchase, or read more reviews…

 

 

Fact-Checking Historical Westerns

 

Fact-Checking Historical Westerns

I imagine that most of us read a historical romance for enjoyment first, and then some learning on the side about what life was like back in the day. It is fiction, after all, not a scholarly history book. However, words, items, and phrases that are untrue to the setting can pull the reader out of the story and possibly make them quit reading the book altogether. As an author, I feel I owe the past and my ancestors, the respect of portraying them as truthfully and authentically as I am able.

I just finished up the rough-draft of my next book and am in the middle of fact-checking to make sure that I have everything correct.To double-check the initial usage of words, I use my ancient Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary on my desk or I pull up Dictionary.com. I must make sure that the things my characters say and the items they use, actually existed in the time and setting of my historical romance. Thank goodness for the internet! It is so much easier today than when I first started my career as a writer. (The internet is always right…Right?) I do find though, that in this part of the writing process, I get sucked into checking out all sorts of strange, fascinating and downright weird tidbits that never make it into any of my stories.

The Rebel and the Lady

The Rebel and the Lady

When I first started writing westerns, I peppered my second book, The Rebel and the Lady (set at the Alamo) with Stetsons and blue jeans, only to find out upon fact-checking that those items didn’t exist in 1836. The John B. Stetson Hat Company started making the Stetson in Philadelphia in 1865, almost thirty years LATER! Arrrgh!

Denim pants were around, but were called “waist overalls” in 1873. They weren’t dubbed “jeans” until 1890.

Stetson Hat used in the Army

 

In the book I am currently writing, I recently made the correction about my hero hitching his thumbs on his belt loops. Although belts have been around for centuries in various forms, the kind we think of today, along with belt loops, began catching on with the general population slowly. They were on some Civil War uniforms, but wearing them really took off in 1922 when they were placed on Levi jeans. Before that, suspenders were the norm. (I kind of like the look of suspenders. How about you?)

Standard Civil War Infantry Waist Belt

I was sucked down the rabbit-hole again when I wondered if a small town like Oak Grove would have water-closets in each of their businesses along the main street. I mean…people lived on the second floor and had their business on the first floor. In a city like Chicago or New York there would be a sewer system. But what about a one-horse town like Oak Grove that is just starting out? Would each business have an outhouse behind it? Would there be any type of communal cistern? What about communal privies?

 

Not only is it items that I need to check the existence of, it is words and phrases. Although “fetch” has existed since before the 12th century, the use of it meaning someone attractive or pleasing to look at (fetching) wasn’t common usage until 1880 (according to some dictionaries.) My story is set in 1879 and my editor caught this one. I still insisted on its use though. It characterized one of my characters perfectly. And my thoughts are that people used it for awhile before the dictionary made it an official word. Just as “google” was used as a verb for searching the internet several years before it was admitted to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. (My! Has it been around that long already?)

The words, phrases and items that I don’t catch when I fact-check are usually caught by the eagle-eye of my copy editor in London. She is hyper-critical and an amazing editor. It would be great to send in a completed manuscript and have it so “clean” that she can’t find any issues. So far, that day has not happened. ?

 

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The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, is my newest release.

Look for it at:

And visit me anytime on my website or Facebook!

 

Kathryn’s Winner!

Thank you to all who joined in the conversation yesterday!
I loved learning of the variety of books everyone was reading now for 2018.
I was surprised that no titles were repeated!

The winner of an autographed copy of my newest release is

Andrea Stephens!

Congratulations!

Andrea — please contact me at Kathryn at kathrynalbright dot com
so that I can get your book to you!

CATTLE DRIVES — On the Trail


Cattle Drives – On the Trail

(Research for The Oak Grove Series)

By Kathryn Albright

Oak Grove, Kansas, the fictional town and setting of the Oak Grove Series that I am writing with Laurie Robinson, is the end of the trail for the Texas cattle drives. The town grows and prospers with the cattle industry in the 1880s much like Dodge City, Ellsworth, and Abilene. With its stockyards and a train depot, I knew some of the inhabitants would have to have jobs that involved the cattle business.

 

Cattle Drives

The era of cattle drives in American history began at the end of the Civil War and lasted into the 1890s. Demand for beef in the big cities in the east as well as an abundance of cattle in Texas (five million!) created an opportunity for hard-working men. In Texas, a steer was worth about $3, whereas in Chicago, that same steer would fetch an average of $20, although demand would sometimes push its value to $40. Other reasons for moving the cattle north were to feed the miners in Colorado and California, or to stock ranches as far as Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming.

Some herds were as large as 3,000 cattle. Along with the cattle, extra horses were also included on the drive so that when one horse tired and needed to rest, another could be saddled and used. Cattle could stretch out for a mile on the trail and to manage the herd, cowboys had certain positions.

Cattle Drives

 

Duties of each Cowboy —

  • Point – Rode out in front and helped guide the herd.
  • Swing – Rode along the flanks of the herd to keep them gathered in.
  • Flank – Rode behind the Swing and performed the same job.
  • Drag – Rode behind the herd and kept stragglers from being lost or falling behind. A dusty job.
  • Wrangler – Took care of the remuda of extra horses. Lowest paid position.
  • Cook – Drove the chuck-wagon, cooked the meals. Next to the boss, he was the highest paid man on the drive.

These were not gentle milking cows! Longhorns were cantankerous and bad-tempered. The horns on a steer spread an average of five feet from tip to tip. Rounding up cattle, branding them to establish ownership, and getting them to head in one direction as a group was not without mishaps and sometimes dire consequences. Then there were the dangers along the trail.

Cattle Drives - Longhorn Steer

Range cattle were not smart. They got lost in gullies. They headed out into snowstorms rather than seeking shelter. They were easily spooked and alarmed. A flash of lightning, the boom of thunder, or even an odd odor could initiate a stampede where the herd would run for miles. The only way to stop a stampede was for the cowboys to get out in front of the herd and fire their pistols, wave their hats and yell in a effort to confuse and frighten the cattle into slowing and circling until they calmed down.  One wrong decision and in an instant a rider could be impaled on a horn or trampled to death under hooves. Stampedes were the chief threat and worry for a cowboy on a trail drive.

Another danger could occur at river crossings. Should a cow or steer panic, they could drown and take a cowboy down with them.

Then there were the predators. Rustlers—men who would steal the cattle and, although much less common, Indians on the reservations who attacked the drive. Animals such as the American Timber wolf, cougars, brown bears, and farther north…grizzly bears where also a threat. Rattlers and scorpions bothered the men. Although their bite or sting was not usually fatal to a healthy young man, it could still cause horrible pain. A smart cowboy checked their bedroll before bedding down at night, and in the morning, checked their shoes or boots before putting them on.

Cattle Drives Weather was also a danger. Freezing temperatures and blazing heat were both enemies to the herd and to the cowboys. Finding water along the trail was a matter of life and death. Traveling this way, a drive from San Antonio to Kansas would take about two months. No matter how careful the cowboys were, there was always a percentage of cattle that did not make it to the stockyards.

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In spite of the danger and the dust, I believe many cowboys enjoyed the camaraderie of driving cattle to the stockyards. Sleeping on the hard earth after a long day’ work, however, is not so appealing. I am thankful for my comfy bed!

What, in this season of Thanksgiving, are you thankful for?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of  Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!

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In the book that will be released in December — The Prairie Doctor’s Bride — a character has an accident along the trail, leaving behind unfinished business in Oak Grove. More on this in a future post…For now, Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, the first book in the Oak Grove Series, is available.

Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove

Kathryn Albright writes sweet historical Americana Romance.
Come visit !

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Making a List for the Perfect Wife…or Husband

 

Are you a list-maker?

Pen and InkA wonderful friend of mine, when she was young, made a list of qualities that she wanted in a husband. She wrote it on purple paper with purple ink (The color purple is kind of her thing. Her house is varying shades of lavender…along with her garden…her clothes…and her Christmas tree decorations.) She put the list away and forgot about it. It survived through many years and several of her moves.

A few years ago after she’d been happily married for more than fifteen years, she came across her list. Lo and behold, the man she married after meeting him on an internet dating site turned out to fulfill all the qualities she’d long ago written on her list. I thought that was pretty amazing. And I decided to use the same idea in my book that is coming out in late December.

As you may remember from some of my other posts on the Oak Grove Series, the Betterment Society of Oak Grove has been busy sponsoring mail-order brides for the many lonely bachelors in the area.

The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, takes place in the spring of 1879 in Kansas and the good doctor is in need of a nurse. Nelson Graham figures that by marrying a smart, resourceful woman, he’ll get both—a nurse and a wife. It’s a win/win situation, or so he thinks. The first train-load of women have come and married men in the town and he sees that they are all quite happy. So, with the second train-load of women, he is set to make a play for the perfect woman for him.

Here is an excerpt ~                      

Left to himself, Nelson considered the notes he’d made earlier that day and withdrew the paper from his vest pocket. It was a “wish list” of sorts. Likely, no woman would meet all his expectations, but perhaps it would help him stay on course as he considered each of them.

  • Amiable.
  • Biddable.
  • Able to take constructive criticism.
  • Skilled in the domestic chores: cooking, laundry, cleaning, sewing and gardening.
  • Willing to work by his side as his nurse.
  • Quiet. He didn’t want a woman who disrupted his research or his daily habits.
  • Willing to put another’s needs ahead of her own.

He’d added the last as a cautionary point, remembering his fiancé. He’d thought they were compatible in all things, but then suddenly she had broken off the engagement, unable to accept the numerous times he’d been called away to help someone who was ailing.

He wouldn’t let that happen again. What he needed was a practical woman as his wife. She didn’t need to be a raging beauty, but like any man, he wouldn’t mind if she was pleasant to look upon.

He tucked the paper back into his pocket and headed to his office. Now, all he had to do was interview the ladies, one at a time, and see which one came closest to fulfilling his wish list.

I hope you enjoyed that short passage. As for list-making, I think there are those that are prone to making lists and those who keep everything in their head. I tend to be someone who has a list for everything – shopping, daily chores, books I want to read, goals for the day, the month, the year and on and on. Then of course there is the infamous “bucket list!” Even though I don’t always meet the goals I set, they are at least in front of me (making me feel guilty!)

What about you? Are you someone who makes lists and if so—what are the things on it?
What type of qualities would you list for the perfect mate? 

For those who comment, you will be entered into a giveaway drawing for a copy of
Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove

Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove

Homesteading on the Prairie

 

Homesteading on the Prairie

By Kathryn Albright
Tales of Courage & Hope

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I have scurried down many rabbit holes in my research so that my books set in western Kansas are historically accurate. Rivers, native fish, agriculture, Native Americans, sod houses, native birds and wildlife, cattle drives and cattle breeding are a handful of these “holes.” The internet is a big help in fact-finding, but my-oh-my do I get lost at times and surface just before it is time to prepare supper for my family!

For my next book in the Oak Grove Series, I’ve had to do some research into homesteading on the prairie.

The early inhabitants of Oak Grove, a fictional town set along the Smoky Hill River, lived in tents made from the canvas of their prairie schooners, but with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad now established all the way to Denver (1878), the small town was growing and wooden structures were springing up as the train brought supplies from the east and wood from the Rocky Mountains. The town prospered with the nearby stockyards that shipped cattle (up from the drives in Texas) to the miners in Colorado and to Chicago.

Railroad land grant Kansas

Homestead Act of 1862

However, some who lived out of town on 160 acres of their own, were farmers who’d come west with nothing but a dream to take advantage of the government’s Homestead Act of 1862. Requirements to own a plot of land by this means included:

  1. Must be at least 21 years of age.
  2. Must be a citizen or an immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen.
  3. Must pay a filing fee (usually at the Land Office in the nearest town where it was also determined that no one else had claimed that particular parcel of land.)
  4. Must farm the land and live on it for five years before gaining the official deed to the property.
  5. Must build a home within six months. (Requirements in some states included the minimum dimensions of the home, one glass window, and also building a well.)

Homesteading on the Prairie

On the open prairie, it seemed that all weather was extreme. On arriving, many of the “sod busters” began by building a small dugout into the side of hill, just to escape the relentless wind, sun, snow and rain. Since there were no trees or large stones for construction material, the settlers would use their mules, oxen, or horses, and a special plow to cut rectangles of sod, 18” x 24” (weight = 50 pounds) to use as “bricks” for their home. These would be set so that the roots could grow and intermingle into the next row of sod, creating a very strong wall.

The base of a soddie was wide and the walls would then taper inward slightly to allow for settling. Most had a dirt floor, but later a puncheon or plank flooring might be used. On the inside, the walls would be plastered with mud to create a smooth appearance. Open windows were covered with oil cloth. A fireplace for cooking would take up one wall of the house.

The roof caused the most concern in the building process. Wooden poles, laid across the rim of the sod house, were then overlaid with bundles of brush. On top of the brush, more sod blocks were placed. Dirt clods dropping form the roof was a problem as well as other insects and an occasional snake. If the sod became too wet after a hard rain it could cave in. Every few years, depending on the severity of the weather, the roof would have to be replaced. Structures had one to three rooms and were surprisingly very snug and warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Homesteading on the Prairie

With all the difficulties they had to face, the years of too much or too little rain for their crops, less than 50 percent of homesteaders achieved the five-year requirement and acquired the deed to their land. Those who did not, went back home or traveled further west. Although most homesteaders consisted of a husband and wife and often children, a single woman or widow could also homestead and work to own the land. Once source reported that single and widowed women made up to 12 percent of the men and women homesteading in the Rocky Mountain area.

From 1862 to 1900 over 600,000 claims to homestead were filed. The Homestead Act ended in 1976 for the contiguous 48 states and in 1986 for Alaska.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Learning these facts helped me form the basis of my fictional character’s life on the prairie. I was worried that the land would not be hers after her husband died, but was gratified to know she could hold on to it and it would be there for her son, and her son’s son if he chose that same life. That is why she fights for it so fiercely. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, a western historical romance, won’t be available for a few more months, but it is available for pre-order here ~ [  Amazon  ]

* * * * * * * * * *

I doubt that I would have lasted six months living in a sod house! The bugs falling from the roof would have been too much for me! What, for you, would have been the most difficult part of life in a soddie?

Comment to be entered into a drawing to receive my latest release ~ Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!

Homesteading on the Prairie

 

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