Western Short Story - The Quest, Chapter Two

Chapter Two

The distant figure was at least a mile away as the crow flies, and closer to two miles by the route Chancy would be taking to avoid the steep slides and the larger drifts. He skirted the tree line for several hundred yards and then turned down a worn, but snow buried cow path, that wound its way through the tall pines and down the slope. Long before cows were introduced, it had been a deer trail, and perhaps even a old trail in the days of the ancient one who owned the stone ax.

To the south and west, there was a thickening in the gray cloud cover, and it seemed somewhat darker. At this altitude, snow could come upon him with the speed and ferocity of a summer thunderstorm, and Chancy knew it. His saddlebags were packed with gear to build a shelter, and he had food to last a week if need be. The second horse’s bags also contained the necessaries, and a pair of snowshoes was strapped on each horse.

As he broke out of the lower tree line, he paused to rest the horses and pick out a path. The figure was closer now, but not moving. He appeared to be in the same place where he was last seen from the cabin. After a moment, Chancy mounted and moved on.

The trees had prevented deep drifts, but the bare valley floor was piled high here and there. The route Chancy chose was not too deep, but there were a couple of drifts that could not be avoided, and the first one was dead ahead. He dismounted, strapped on a pair of snowshoes, and grabbed a shovel.

It took over two hours to cross the twenty feet of high drifts. The horses fought and floundered, over and over, to the point of near exhaustion, and then Chancy let them blow. While they rested, he attacked the drift with a shovel, bringing down the higher walls. Then he mounted and let the horse plunge its way again, gaining a few more feet before floundering. He rode first one horse, then another. Gradually, they beat down a path, and at last they broke through.

The second drift was far easier, and Chancy led the way on his snowshoes, allowing the horses to beat their own path. An hour later, he was standing over the still figure.

He looked to be around thirty five, and although his coat and clothes were worn and threadbare, they were clean, and well cared for. His clean shaven face was flushed and red, and despite the cold, he felt almost hot to Chancy’s bare hand. He was either unconscious or delirious. Chancy was considering building a fire when the first few flakes of snow drifted out of the darkening skies and changed his mind.

He was getting ready to tie the stranger over the saddle when he groaned and opened his eyes.

“Can you sit a saddle? It will only be for half an hour or so. My cabin is right up the slope.” The man stared at him and nodded slowly, so Chancy helped him into the saddle. It took longer than he had reckoned, but an hour later, they were in the warmth of the cabin.

“I had taken the team and the rock sled out to gather up some wood from a pile I had cut earlier in the summer, when that storm hit. I never saw the like of it. One minute the team was a hundred feet away, and then I couldn’t see a foot in front of me. Next thing I knew, I had lost the team, wagon and all. I holed up for a time, and then tried walking out again, but I still couldn’t see, so I holed up and waited it out. When it finally cleared, I didn’t recognize anything, and I was lost, sure enough.”

He stopped and closed his eyes. Chancy had succeeded in getting a few spoonfuls of soup in him, but he was drifting in and out of consciousness. Sitting out a blizzard without shelter takes a lot out of a man, and in his weakened condition, Chancy figured he had picked up a fever.

The man’s name was Jacob Cross, and he was the squatter Uncle Charlie had mentioned a few months ago. He had built a cabin high up on the slopes, and tried to plant a crop on about forty acres of mountain meadow. Uncle Charlie had stopped up there and told him that the land was perfect for ranching, but had a poor soil, and was unfit for farming. Jacob Cross ruefully admitted that his crop was poor, but winter was coming on, so all he could do now was wait it out and move on in the spring.

Suddenly, Jacob Cross sat bolt upright, his face white and drawn.

“Bonnie! I forgot about Bonnie. She’s all alone. What have I done?”

“Who’s Bonnie? Is she at your cabin?”

Jacob Cross nodded weakly, started to speak, and then fainted dead away.

Outside, the flakes continued to fall, and the gray sky seemed to be lowering. Earlier, there had been no wind, but now it was beginning to freshen, and out of the northwest. It had all the signs of a building blizzard, and Jacob Cross’s cabin was at least five miles away.

Shaking his head and sighing, Chancy Dolan moved his skillet with the two slices of ham back to the top of the hot wood stove. If a man was going out in weather like this, he should at least do it on a full stomach.

Chapter Three

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Comments 42 comments

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marellen 5 years ago

Will, you are making this real interesting and can't wait for more. Poor Chancy out in the snow again to risk his life. What will happen????

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I will be awaiting chapter 3 :)

writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

Great chapter two - waiting for three

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

The poor guy's mom must have had foresight when she named him. He sure takes a lot of chances. Now to see just who sweet Bonny is......

5 years ago

Reminds me a bit of Raymond Carver, for whom the great Pacific Northwest was such a feature in his writings.

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

It's like watching a movie. Absolutely brilliant!

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, this is getting really interesting! Can't wait for chapter 3.

Becky 5 years ago

Glad to see a Will Starr original. I had begun to think you had gone to just political writing. This is a good story, I am enjoying it.

drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Now we have to wait to be introduced to Bonny. Is she Jacob's sweet wife? His adorable little daughter? His pet Malemute? Or his cantankerous mother-in-law? Only Will knows.

SubRon7 profile image

SubRon7 5 years ago from eastern North Dakota

The intrigue is building, Will, good job.

Nan Mynatt 5 years ago

Good writing about the snow and severe winters, really sounds true and you live in sunny Phoenix AZ. I live in the cold,cold country!

quester.ltd profile image

quester.ltd 5 years ago

again, the story builds


Diane 5 years ago

Was so great to have chapter 2 already. I do hope this is going to be a long read with many chapters to come.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Again, pardon the blanket reply.

A big thank you to all!

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Will you've gone from twister to cliff hanger, good job, keep it up!dust

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I'm hooked. I thought I'd have to wait for another installment, not realizing it was already here. Up and awesome.

aguasilver profile image

aguasilver 5 years ago from Malaga, Spain

Get the links in Will, from one to two and vice versa...

I can almost feel the freeze and I'm sitting in aircon with 30 degrees outside!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

If that had been England, the drifts would have been 6 inches high, yet the country would have shut down.

Mebbe the stranger is waiting for him to leave the cabin!? Bob

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

Oh God, I sure hope Bonny's alright. What a save, he would surely would have frozen to death if Chancy hadn't found him. Awaiting chapter 3.

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Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Great reading for this Sunday morning..this Chancy is a good man..hope Bonny is alright..off to three..have to get my coffee and get comfortable..know this is going to be good..


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi all, and thanks for reading!

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Sueswan 5 years ago

Looking forward to chapter 3 and finding out about Bonny. Great writing Will.

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Ghost32 5 years ago

Good to see you've not been sitting still while I was away, Will.

Voted Up and a bunch--in a hurry, so I can go read the next installment.

Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

Great, great. On to part three!

resspenser profile image

resspenser 5 years ago from South Carolina

You say "Thanks for reading" and we say "Thanks for writing"!

ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Will...again...Up and awesome.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

I'm grateful for all the responses! Thank you all.

kirutaye profile image

kirutaye 5 years ago from London, UK

Hi Will, I'm really enjoying this new story. Off the read the rest.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, kirutaye!

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I'm a bit behind here but still with you.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, dahoglund!

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

"Irene" is helping me catch up today on my overdue reading, and I headed to this wonderful book first!

Voted UP & ABI, loving this, Will!

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, marcoujor, and thanks for reading!

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

I am a little behind Will, but also catching up.

I can't wait to move on to Chapter 3.

great read and I vote up.

Take care


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Eiddwen!

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

On to chapter 3 - good stuff.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you, Suzie!

Maggie-May profile image

Maggie-May 5 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

You are so very clever Will, you know how to draw in your readers and how to keep us wanting more to read,..bravo..great story so far...I'll be around to read more later...

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Maggie-May, and I'm glad you're enjoying it!

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

Staying with you on this one! bob

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 5 years ago from Tucson, Az

the good thing about coming in late/like me/ is there are more chapters to read right away :) cool!!

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Hi, Barbara!

That is an advantage!

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