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Western Short Story - The Quest, Chapter One.

Updated on August 21, 2011

The Quest

Chapter One

In the early morning hours, it was at least ten below zero outside the small cabin. Chancy Dolan poked his head out from under his blankets and gazed sourly at the cast iron stove where he had banked a good fire the night before. The chill in the room told him that the fire was all but out.

His Uncle Charlie and his father had founded the Rafter Double D, and as his father’s only child, he had inherited his father’s part of the ranch when he had died of consumption. But although he was half-owner, he still deferred to his Uncle Charlie, out of respect for the old man, and also out of love. He knew that love was mutual, so when his Uncle asked him to scout the high country for stray stock, he consented, although he was sure they had all descended to lower pastures by now. He was being tested for a manly attitude and accepting responsibilities, and he knew it.

He eyed the cold wood stove one more time, and then suddenly threw off the covers and dashed to the wood rack. Shivering in his long-johns and bare feet, he grabbed several slim chunks and turned to the stove. Grabbing some pine splints, he stirred the ashes and gathered the remaining hot coals into a pile. He laid the pine splints on top, and began to softly blow the coals into a red heat. He was soon rewarded with a small yellow flame, so he added additional kindling, and then a few larger chunks. Satisfied that the fire was set, he ran back to the warmth of his blankets and waited. Soon the fire was crackling, and some warmth returned to the tight cabin.

The stable was a well constructed lean-to attached to the rear of the cabin, and built around the stones of the chimney. If Chancy was warm, his horses were also warm. Both had hay in the feedbox, so Chancy burrowed deeper into his blankets. Just a few more minutes, he thought. Wait for the fire to warm the cabin.

Outside, the snow was two feet deep, with drifts three times that high. To the west, ominous gray clouds were building, promising more winter to come. Somewhere a wolf howled its complaints, and Chancy gathered his blankets closer. He would never admit it to Uncle Charlie, but he loved this lonely life. He had all a man could want…a snug, warm shelter, food, water, and several books on a shelf on the south wall. Chancy Dolan was content.

The cabin was situated on a bench, tucked in between two massive pines, and overlooking another stand on the downhill side of a small clearing. From there, the mountain sloped down to a hanging valley, some five hundred below, and a prime summer graze.

A few feet from the backside of the cabin was a sheer bluff, rising nearly a thousand feet, straight up, and above the tree line. Chancy had climbed up there once, and was awed by the rocky, barren desolation. There were a few stunted and gnarled pines clinging grimly to cracks in the granite, and several patches of primitive lichen. He found a weathered, but beautifully shaped stone ax head, and wondered about its ancient owner. He also found a spear head.

A small curl of steam issued from the spout of the coffeepot as Chancy dressed. He took a chunk of cured ham out of the larder and carved off two thick slices, laying them in the cast iron fry pan and setting it next to the coffeepot. He poured his first cup of coffee and walked to the window, where he unlatched the wooden cover and lifted it.

The morning was bright and the mountain air was crisp and clean. At this altitude, there was no dust or haze to dull the air and he could see for enormous distances. Normal air contamination makes faraway objects like mountains look blue and faded, allowing an observer to accurately judge distances, but here, distant objects barely faded at all in the clear air.

The cold air flowing in the open window nipped at the tip of his nose, and Chancy was about to close it when something moving on the valley floor far below caught his eye. At first, he thought it might be a beef he had missed, but it was far too small. As he watched, the small speck seemed to lurch through the deep snow and then stop again. At last, he decided that it was a man, and that he was in trouble. He sighed, and took the frying pan off the stove, reaching for his boots.

The horses were mountain bred, and eager to get out of the small stable. Chancy saddled both and then mounted the gray, who crow-hopped a few times to iron out the kinks and warm up. The black followed suit out of pure joy, and then both settled down. The gray snorted an apology to his rider, and they started down the slope.

Chapter Two


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    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, SWB! Read on, and let me know how you like the rest of the story.

    • swb78 profile image

      Scott Biddulph 

      6 years ago from Gainesville Georgia

      I loved your descriptiveness, you paint pictures with words. I`m hooked--next chapter please!

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Silva Hayes,

      Tell your husband that Louis L'Amour is also my favorite author, and that I have a complete collection.

      The nicest remark that anyone has ever made about my writing was to refer to me as "the new Louis L'Amour".

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 

      7 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      You're an excellent writer! I read all of the Quest and then my husband read it. Westerns are his favorite and Louis L'Amour is his favorite author. He was so impressed with your work and wants to come back and read everything else you've written.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi, Barbara!

      I've done this too, and it's very cold but also very invigorating to get a fire going in a freezing house! it's also fun to watch two guys, both pretending to be asleep so the other poor fool will get up and stoke the fire!


    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      I love your descriptions/all your work lets me walk with your characters!!

      the mountains sound like Montana! and oh my, no matter how well the fire was banked, it was nearly gone come morning! :) hubby would always be hopping one foot to the other getting the fire going again!!

      I am going to work on my descriptions!!

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, Maggie-May!

    • Maggie-May profile image

      Nadine M AuCoin 

      7 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

      I'm on the edge with this one--the imagery is so real and vivid...heading into Chapter two

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Suziecat!

      Glad you liked it.

    • suziecat7 profile image


      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I re-read the paragraph on lighting the fire in the stove. Your descriptions are so succinct you put the reader right there. I could almost feel the warmth from that stove. This should be a best seller. Rated up and awesome!

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Give your husband a big howdy from me, and thank you for reading!

    • LABrashear profile image


      7 years ago from My Perfect Place, USA

      Amazing style! Your words transport the reader to that time and place. My husband ranched and I felt like I was back there. I read it out loud to him and he's hooked.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Pamela!

      I hope you enjoy my little effort.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I loved the description of the quiet and simple life of this man as it seemed I was right in the room watching. You write so realistically and I will look forward to chapter 2.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi marcoujor!

      By all means, read on! :-)

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      7 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Voted UP & ABI, Will-- a captivatingly, visual read that has me quite interested in the next installment, mar.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you bethperry!

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      7 years ago from Tennesee

      A great beginning you have here!

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Thank you, femmeflashpoint!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm loving this one as well! On to Part Two!

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Teylina!

      Read on.

    • Teylina profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh, I was so into the steam rising off the coffee, waiting for the second cup, relaxing, yet knowing something was going to happen-- love your writing, and in reality, this chptr 1 was exactly what I needed this am to get started. Love the horses--can feel them! -- as well as Chancy's pull of humanity against the warmth of that cabin. Such good writing; will get to #2 when can.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi b. Malin!

      I hope you enjoy the rest!

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi LT!

      And I envy your talent!

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      7 years ago

      I love the way you ease into your story slowly so the reader has time to enjoy and of course your descriptions are top notch Will. Look forward to reading more!

    • ltfawkes profile image


      7 years ago from NE Ohio

      You're awesome, Will.

      " . . . the gray, who crow-hopped a few times to iron out the kinks and warm up."

      Your detail and description knock me silly every time.


    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Sue and Sandwich! Thanks for reading!

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Hi Will...I need to move on (right quick) to the next part...wanted to stop and say "sweet". Voted Up and all the appropriate buttons.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great! I am on to the next chapter.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Hi Pop and Cardisa! Thanks for reading.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Another great story Will, I an anxiously awaiting chapter 2. I am already liking Chancy Dolan. I like the scene also with the snow and cabin. Never experienced know before but can imagine the scenery there.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      7 years ago

      I am looking forward to more. I have to tell you that I was completely engrossed in the story. I felt the crackling fire and I tasted the ham. You amaze me. Up and awesome.

    • WillStarr profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I usually like to answer individually, but I'm presently unable, so thank you all!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I read this in the middle of the night and forgot to leave a comment. This looks to be a good adventure. Good start for this story, waiting for more.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Ten below zero – I can only guess how cold that must be, as minus two or three is about the coldest I’ve ever experienced down here.

      Your descriptions are awesome, in particularly a sentence like this: “.... banked a good fire....”

      Perfect writing! Can’t wait to read chapter 2.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      7 years ago from United States

      Looking forward to the next chapter! Great start and use of descriptive words - feels like I am right there. You are the master! Voted up, up and away!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      So Will, out there is it friend or foe?

      I gotta know, I gotta know.

    • resspenser profile image

      Ronnie Sowell 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      I think this is a cool idea: a short story in chapters. Keeps us all guessing about where you are going- like King did with the original Green Mile. Bring on Chapter Two!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      What a great time. I am like Chancey. Give me a cozy cabin, firewood, food and books and I would stay all winter long. Alas, the world always intrudes. Somehow I feel Chancey's intrusion will turn his world around. I am eager to read more.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Fred damn near said "start pumping" butt I figured that would sound wrong on so many levels......hahaha

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Will: What Dusty said.

      My favorite line (although Chancy slapping across that floor in his bare feet gave me splinters just thinking about it) is,

      "The gray snorted an apology to his rider...."

      It's almost as much fun watching the excitement percolating in the Comments!

      Voted Up and Several.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      With Summer passing so fast your story is a reminder of things to come soon in the Midwest. Bare feet and cold floors sets a feel for the snowy setting. Am sure things are going to warm up one way or another.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      A great story Will and I will be sure to keep with you. I can't wait for Chapter 2 now.

      Take care


    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Will you got me primed! great start,dust

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Will, yet another fantastic first chapter from the masters pen. Hope that chapter 2 is ready as I am so looking forward to following the plot. Beautiful photo, kind of eerie though, not so much as a footstep.x

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Glad you've rattled those political cobwebs out of your head and back to writing

      something we love to read. Hurry with chapter 2 if you would be so kind.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      7 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Wow! Will another great story as you can see we are all waiting with bated breath.

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 

      7 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Great start is right, Will. Looking forward to chapter 2.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      7 years ago

      WillStarr, you paint a picture with your words alone that beats anything I have ever read. Please, please, don't go on vacation and leave us hanging on this one. I have to know who it is out there in the snow. I'm sure you already have a nice twist or two in mind, so bring it on my friend.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, great start, and its keeping me guessing, I could feel the cold, and smell the air! looking forward to chapter 2, cheers nelll

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I could feel that snow and the chill in the air. I have no guesses so I will just wait for chapter 2.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I can't wait for more. I think its a women Chancy will find.....a man can't be content without a women. lol

      Great story already.....

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      7 years ago

      Dear Will,

      Another great story to read by a very talented man..First chapter has captured me and I look forward to reading more..The descriptions of the cabin and the mountains around felt as if I was right there..loved it..I have already cooled off in this Texas heat just by reading this chapter..may have to read again..:)I wonder what or who is lurking in the woods?

      Thank you..Up all the way..



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