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Western Short Story - The Quest, Chapter Two

Updated on August 21, 2011

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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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Barbara!

      That is an advantage!

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

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

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Staying with you on this one! bob

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • Maggie-May profile image

      Nadine M AuCoin 6 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 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Suzie!

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      On to chapter 3 - good stuff.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Eiddwen!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 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 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, marcoujor, and thanks for reading!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 6 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 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thanks, dahoglund!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

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

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, kirutaye!

    • kirutaye profile image

      kirutaye 6 years ago from London, UK

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

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

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

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 6 years ago from South Carolina

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

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Great, great. On to part three!

    • profile image

      Ghost32 6 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.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 6 years ago

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

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi all, and thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 6 years ago

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


    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 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.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 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

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 6 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!


    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

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

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

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

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Again, pardon the blanket reply.

      A big thank you to all!

    • profile image

      Diane 6 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.

    • profile image 6 years ago

      again, the story builds


    • profile image

      Nan Mynatt 6 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!

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 6 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      The intrigue is building, Will, good job.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 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.

    • profile image

      Becky 6 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.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

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

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      It's like watching a movie. Absolutely brilliant!

    • profile image

      6 years ago

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

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 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......

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 6 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great chapter two - waiting for three

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I will be awaiting chapter 3 :)

    • profile image

      marellen 6 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????