The Writer's Corner
Chapter 9 - The Search
Written by Michelle Palmer
The year 1863 blew in a few inches of snow but little more. By
mid-January, the weather was a little warmer as the temperatures
hovered right around freezing. School came back into session a
week late, and Abraham made sure Johnny returned to school.
Because of the cold weather Laura was usually ridden into town.
These days, Abraham was a bit overprotective of his family but
they had a rough year in 1862.
Samuel Gibbs did as promised and worked the ranch like he had
always done, though now the understanding was he was no longer
in charge. He had disappointed his family, and rightfully given
Scott the ability to make important decisions. Because of
Scott’s leg, the two hired hands and Samuel did most of the work
while Scott took care of chores in town and the books. Samuel
Gibbs occasionally took supper with the family, but for the most
part he kept himself isolated.
Abraham took it on himself to make sure things stayed in line at
the Gibbs house as well. He knew his father would have wanted it
that way. Though there was no blood relation between the Gibbs
and McCain family, the children of the two families had been
raised as if they were family. Abraham knew Scott was very
capable of running his family, but Scott had physical barriers
that limited his ability. On occasion, Abraham had to again give
the ranch hands a firm lecture and remind them that they were
very replaceable. This too, Scott could have handled but he
didn’t have the authoritative voice of a McCain, and he gladly
allowed Abraham the pleasure.
Johnny grumbled a bit about going to school and assured his
family that as soon as he turned sixteen he would be pursuing
other ambitions besides school. At the age of 14 he was biding
his time. The family knew, however, that he would indeed stick
to his word if at all possible. Until then, he was ordered to
stay in school.
One evening around the end of January, Abraham read President
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that had been published in
the newspaper. The families listened happily, and saw this as a
sure sign that perhaps the war would soon come to an end. There
had been no fighting recently and Margaret treasured the words
of Abraham Lincoln in her heart.
February was soon upon the families. The weather was still mild,
which was a relief to the McCain family. They nodded in
satisfaction as they watched their winter wheat continue to
grow. It would be a bumper crop come April.
Margaret occasionally heard from Lucas, but there was nothing
major going on with him. The winter had been pretty quiet and
peaceful. He expressed his desire to come home, of course, and
Margaret could read his home-sickness in his letters. She would
immediately write Lucas back, encouraging him to hold on until
the end. She prayed for him and kept his letters close by so she
could read them again and again.
As far as courting was concerned, Margaret was saving that time
for when Lucas returned. She had several gentlemen call on her,
each would be stopped at the door and grilled by her brother
Scott, but Margaret immediately let him know that she was
already spoken for. Most of the gentlemen were understanding,
but Margaret occasionally got a caller who insisted she
shouldn’t wait for a man to return from a war as deadly as the
Civil War. Though the words bothered her, she immediately
assured the caller that he could leave. She would stay hopeful
and believed in her heart that Lucas would indeed return and
One evening, Margaret sat down at her desk to write a letter.
“Oh, must you tonight!” Beth moaned loudly as she lay down to go
to sleep. “It’s awful late!”
Margaret smiled as she dipped her pin in the ink well. “Now, now
sis…Just because you and your latest beau broke up doesn’t give
you cause to talk like that. I’ll try to keep it short.”
“Yes, but…” Beth declared with a sigh as she fluffed her pillow
up and lay down. “You always toss and turn after writing a
letter to Luke. Did you get a letter from him again?”
“Yesterday.” Margaret picked up Lucas’s letter and smiled.
“Would you like to hear part of it?”
“Not all of it?” Beth grinned as she propped her head up with
“Well…” Margaret blushed. “I can read all of it…except for the
“Why?” Beth asked as her smile widened and her eyes grew big.
“Does it talk about kissing or marriage or something?”
Margaret rolled her eyes. “Do you want to hear it or not?”
“Alright…alright!” Beth sat up in bed and smiled. “I’m ready.
Margaret skimmed through the beginning again. She blushed at the
words Lucas had said:
My Dearest Margaret,
We’re a bit south, but still far enough North to feel the icy,
bitter cold and it seems we’ve had nothing but snowfall after
snowfall this winter. I sure wish I had someone to keep me warm.
I’m, of course, thinking of a beautiful brown-haired beauty
whose kisses taste like honey straight from the comb. Her eyes
look like sapphires. Her cheeks are probably a pretty rose color
around about now.
Oh, I shouldn’t write such things, but remembering our last
encounter with each other does seem to bring a smile to my face
and warmth to my body, which is something I really need right
now. My sweet Margaret…you’re 19 years old now. I wish I could
have been there to watch you blow out the candles on your
birthday cake. I reckon a fellow should come along and marry up
with you, but I do hope you can wait to get married until this
war is over. Wartime is not a good time for a gal like you to
marry up anyhow. Can you wait that long? This war could go on
for years, you know.
Oh, thank you for the blanket you made for me. It is nice and
warm in these winter months. We don’t get anything more than a
bedroll and sleeping with your blanket makes me feel so special.
The guys here have teased me quite a bit. Johnny explains to
them that I have a pretty good catch of a woman back home, and I
corrected him immediately. I told him that’s no way to talk
about someone as sweet as you…After all, you, my sweet gal, are
the best catch of the whole sea!
Seriously, though, things are pretty quiet. Every now and then
we get a few skirmishes, but nothing major. Oh, but I do have a
bit of good news. A couple weeks ago we had a few rebs try to
sneak up on us. Well, I spotted them and was able to get my men
to surround them. We took all six of them prisoner without
incident. The way I carried it out was so fascinating to the
Captain that he requested I become Sergeant. It is an increase
in pay and I’ll wear my sergeant stripes with pride. It does
mean I’ll have a bit more responsibility but it allows the time
to pass more quickly.
How is your family? I do hope you are coping alright. I worry
about you so much and hate the days when my mind isn’t occupied
with other things. During the snow storms, we stay huddled up in
our tents isolated from each other so we don’t get much chance
to talk. It leaves a man a lot of time to think. I’m hoping
winter has slowed down a bit.
Well, I love you Margaret; and the longer we stay apart the
longer I begin to realize that…I’ve always loved you. I suppose
those things are hard for a man to admit, but like I said, out
here a man has a lot of time to think and I want to make sure to
get my true thoughts out to you.
Take care of yourself. Give Laura a great big kiss for me. Tell
everyone I said hello and that I’m still holding in there.
“Mushy! That’s what it is!” Beth declared.
“Oh now, don’t play innocent with me!” Margaret declared. “I saw
you and Benny just the other day behind the General Store!”
“Whatever are you talking about?” Beth asked as she sat up
“Well, if you like I can remind you…when brother Scott’s
Beth gasped. “Don’t you dare!” Then she quieted her voice.
“Besides, Benny’s no good. He’s too forward.”
“Hmmm…” Margaret mumbled as she stared at the letter. “You think
President Lincoln’s proclamation means the war’s almost over?”
“What do I know about politics?” Beth asked. “I’m a refined
“I hope so…” Margaret shook her head. “Do you know that Lariat
Jones has ALREADY asked me to the sweetheart dance in April?”
“Are you going to go?” Beth asked then.
“I don’t know…I’m in love with Luke. I want to marry Luke, so I
don’t feel like going with anyone else.”
“Well…” Beth punched her pillow and lay down. “You have a few
months to think on that.” She yawned. “Goodnight.”
Margaret turned back to the desk and again dipped her pen in the
ink well. She looked toward the ceiling as she pondered on what
to write, then smiled and began writing.
My Dear Luke,
As I sit here in the darkness, I can’t help but to wonder if you
are staying warm enough. If it’s as cold as you say how are they
keeping you from getting sick? I hope you don’t contact
pneumonia again. That was a horrid time for us all.
I don’t suppose there are other women who come around. I suppose
it’s been months since you’ve seen a woman, huh? Do you ever get
to go into a town? Can you ever see families or do anything fun
in a town? Of course I suppose the towns you are close to are in
‘enemy’ territory, huh? So I suppose going into town could
indeed be dangerous unless you’ve been able to successfully
overtake that town.
There are several men here who have offered to keep me company
but I’ve turned them all down. Beth thinks I’m foolish. I told
her, though, that I’m waiting for a certain blond haired,
blue-eyed man to come back from the war. I’ve been waiting for
nine months now, and yes if I have to I can wait two more years.
Oh…but the mere thought of you being gone that long just
frightens me! Abraham read the Emancipation Proclamation to us
tonight. We were wondering if that could perhaps end the war.
Maybe if the states mentioned think they may be held
responsible…Oh, I know I’m grasping but I want you home!
I am proud for you making Sergeant. As proud as I’d be of you
making Captain, I’d much rather have you home with me our
family. I worry, you know. Since Andy’s death, I worry about you
so much more. I just wish I could see you – even if it’s only
for a moment! I wish you could come home. I wish…
I know, I’m very lonely right now and that’s what has me talking
like I am. I DO try to keep my chin up and concentrate on other
things like…oh, can you believe the triplets are already seven
months old? And Peter’s expecting his first child…well, actually
Tiffany is but Peter is very, very nervous. I don’t think he was
quite prepared to become a father this early in his marriage.
The men are, of course, up to their teasing the newly expectant
Scott’s been calling on a girl. Her name’s Amanda. They are
talking about perhaps getting married next fall when things
settle down around here. Scott’s so busy keeping the ranch up.
He could never be a rancher…that was more Andy’s ambition…but
he’ll be happy keeping the books and hiring out for people to
run the ranch. Maybe someday, he says, Johnny will want the
ranch but I have my doubts. Johnny is a free spirit and I worry
about him. I’m afraid as soon as he’s old enough, he’ll leave us
and explore the world. He talks about doing that a lot, you
I better close. Some of the girls and I are going to be working
on care packages to send soldiers tomorrow. Yes, my sweet, that
includes you! I will PERSONLLY pack yours. Can you believe it’s
February already? Soon it’ll be planting time again. You best
get home so you can plant your potatoes!
I love you too.
Margaret slipped on her riding gloves the next morning as Scott
shook his finger at her. “I don’t like it!” he declared as he
began pacing. “It’s grown colder and I just don’t think you
should ride into town! I want to take you in the wagon!”
Margaret smiled. “I’ve some chores to do in town before the
women meet at the town hall, Scott. Besides, it’s been a while
since Golden has had exercise. I want to ride him.” She stepped
out onto the porch. “Look, there’s not a cloud in the sky,
Scott. I’ll be fine.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Really.”
Scott watched Margaret walk out to her waiting horse and mount
him. Johnny waved from the yard as she turned Golden and
galloped out of the yard.
Emily hurried into Abraham’s house and picked up one of the
triplets as Julie finished dressing. “Now, your mother will be
here to help with the children soon,” Julie was assuring her
husband as she gave him a kiss. “We’ll be in town until
mid-afternoon. I put a pot of beans on this morning and they
should be okay. Ma will stir and add water to them when
Abraham nodded at his sister before following Julie into the
bedroom. “I just have a bad feeling about this. I don’t think
today’s a good day…”
“Why?” Julie asked as she drew a hand around. “It’s a bit warmer
than it has been and a perfect day for us to do our chores in
town!” Julie took her scarf down and wrapped it over her head
before tying her hood on. “You just don’t want to be stuck here
with all four children! Your mother will be arriving soon.” She
turned to leave, but Abraham grabbed her elbow. Julie turned
back toward him. “Abe…if there’s a reason, just tell me.”
Abraham just stared at her for a moment. Then he bent down and
kissed her softly. “There’s not. I’ve just a feeling and I guess
that’s no reason.” He smiled. “Have a good time.”
Abraham watched Julie and Emily climb up into the wagon. Then
Julie clucked to the horses and started from the yard.
Clair Wheatley smiled at the items Margaret removed from the
box. “Is all that for the suffering soldiers?” she teased.
Ann Pritchard giggled as she stood behind her best friend. “I
think it’s for one suffering soldier in particular.” She held up
the long johns. “These for Luke?” She raised an eyebrow.
Margaret blushed as she took them from her teasing friend. “As a
matter of fact, they are! Luke lives in a tent. For crying out
loud, he’s no Indian…he’s not used to such primitive conditions
and needs to be properly dressed!”
“And uh…long johns are what you see as properly dressed?” Ann
“They go UNDER his uniform!” Margaret declared as she put a
second pair in the box.
“Oh. I see. And he’s like a red flag to a bull…with the red long
“He needs some color!” Margaret sighed as she put some wool
socks into the box. “All they wear are those blue uniforms. They
should be able to wear something besides blue all the time.
Besides, nobody should know what color they are.”
“Except his wife.” Claire folded her arms and shook her head.
“And unless they found a way to get married by mail, I don’t
think he has one of those!”
Emily giggled, but sobered as soon as she saw Margaret’s annoyed
expression. She put an arm around her friend. “Now ladies! Let’s
be nice to Margaret. After all, she and Luke are practically
engaged. I suppose she can buy his underwear for him if she
“Emily McCain!” Margaret gasped as her eyes grew wide. “This is
NOT underwear! It’s simply extra clothing to keep him warm!”
“Speaking of engagements…” Ann interrupted as she cleared her
throat. “I know a rancher who will be getting married soon.”
“Yes.” Margaret nodded as she added Lucas’s favorite candy to
her care package. “Scott said he and Amanda should be getting
married next fall. I suppose she’ll be moving in with us at the
“Oh…I didn’t know about that one.” Ann put a finger to her chin
and lifted her eyes skyward.
“Then who ARE you talking about?” Margaret suddenly asked.
“Hal Dodd, of course!” Ann declared with a roll of her eyes.
“Hal…” Claire shook her head. “You mean he’s marrying somebody
else? I thought…”
Margaret interrupted Claire with a squeal. “No, you silly goose!
She’s marrying him!” Margaret threw her arms around Ann. “Oh,
I’m so happy for you!”
“When?” Julie asked. “When’s the wedding?”
“Oh, probably sometime this spring.” Claire picked up a care
package and put it in the pile to be shipped out. “But the
honeymoon will be short.” She turned and lifted her eyebrows at
the group. “He’s joining the Union Army a week after we’re
“Oh no!” Emily breathed.
Ann shook her head. “I want him to. Andy was a wonderful young
man and what he did was brave. Hal’s been thinking about it for
awhile and finally decided to do it. The paper said they are
running low on men. The states are thinking about a mandatory
enlistment of some sort, so even though we aren’t in the states,
Hal still feels it’s his duty to help out. We talked it over
before deciding to get married.”
“I think it’s wonderful!” Emily declared. “In fact, maybe
Margaret and Luke should have done that!”
“Oh no!” Margaret declared as she shook her head. “When I marry
Luke, I’m not planning on letting him out of my sight for a long
“And she won’t need the red long johns to keep track of him
either!” Julie declared as the girls giggled. Margaret felt her
face grow warm.
It was already three o’clock when the ladies locked up the front
door. Margaret mounted her horse, stating she would ride
along-side the wagon a ways. Claire and Ann both climbed into
the back of the McCain wagon to be dropped off at home. The sun
disappeared behind some clouds as the wagon stopped by the
school and picked up Laura. The rest of the children ran from
the schoolyard. Emily clucked to the team and they started on
But suddenly, a fierce wind started blowing. “Oh my!” Emily
shouted above the wind. “It looks like a storm’s coming! We best
get home!” Emily called to the horses to move a little faster.
But within minutes, the snow was falling down so hard and the
wind was blowing so swiftly that nobody could see where they
were at. The horses whinnied loudly and refused to budge another
inch. The women climbed down from the wagon, but held tight to
it as they yelled at each other on what to do.
“It’s cold!” Julie shouted. “We’ve got to find shelter and
fast!” She held tight to Laura.
The humor from earlier had been blown away as the blizzard came
upon them. Emily yelled out that there was an old shack just
down the road. She knew the general direction the shack was in
by the way the wagon was pointed. The horses suddenly started
crying, however, as the wind picked up and they felt spooked.
“The horses can lead us home!” Clair suggested as they held onto
“No!” Margaret shook her head. Her horse was nowhere to be seen.
“They are too spooked! It’s too dangerous!”
“Are we gonna die!” Laura asked Julie as she shivered in her
Julie bent over and picked Laura up as the horses whinnied even
louder. They reared back on their feet and let out a piercing
cry. “We’ve got to get them loose from the wagon!” Julie
declared. “Then they may get to shelter!”
“I still think they can pull us!”
“No!” Julie shook her head. “The storms too bad! Let them go!”
She turned to Laura. “You just hold on to me! You’re not going
to die! I promise!” She sat Laura down, but Laura started
screaming. “You have to walk! If you keep walking, you won’t be
as cold! Let’s go.”
The women and Laura started walking in the general direction.
Snow was piling up fast as they tried to find their way through
the blinding snow.
Abraham stepped from the barn when he heard the wind. Pitch
blackness was the only thing that met him. He lit a lantern and
started toward the house as fear clinched his heart. He knew
Emily, Julie, Laura, and Margaret were all out there and he knew
they had to be on their way home by now. The lantern did little
good as the blinding snow kept him from seeing his way. Abraham
tried to count his steps to the house but when he reached out,
he felt nothing but cold air. His feet were beginning to freeze
as he turned in another direction and tried to find his way.
“God, help me!” Abraham screamed into the wind. Just then he saw
a faint flickering of something and took two steps forward. He
bumped into the porch. Abraham felt his way around the front and
rejoiced when he was able to step up and open the door.
“Mother!” he cried as he shoved the door closed. “Mother,
they’re out there!”
Ruth hurried in and pushed Abraham down in a chair. She took his
boots off and shook her head as she started warming his feet.
“I’m sure they found shelter, Abe. I’m sure they did!”
“They were on their way home, Ma. Emily was going to pick Laura
up on their way home. They’re out there!” Abraham stood up from
the chair and slid his boots back on. “I’ve got to find them!
I’ve got to!”
“No!” Ruth grabbed his arm. “It took you a long time to find
your way from the barn. The storm started thirty minutes ago.
You can’t go out there.”
“Mother, my world is out there!” Abraham shouted desperately.
“My wife and sisters and…”
“Papa!” Charlie hurried to his Pa. “Where’s Mama?”
Abraham took his hat off and ran a hand through his hair. “I
have to go, Ma!”
“Abe, be sensible! You can’t see two inches in front of your
face. However will you find them? The storm’s too bad.”
“But Mother, you don’t understand!” Abraham shouted.
“I do!” Ruth declared as she laid a hand on his chest and spoke
in a calming voice. “Both of my daughters, my daughter-in-law,
and possibly my future daughter-in-law are all out there. I’m
frightened, but you CANNOT go out there. It would mean a sure
Abraham walked to the window and looked out, but he couldn’t see
a thing. “Four-thirty in the afternoon and it looks like
midnight…” Abraham grumbled as he banged the wall with his fist.
“God help me!”
Peter hurried to the door when the wind started up. The door
swung open and he shivered as the icy wind hit him in the face
like a thousand knives piercing his skin. “Tiffany, help me!” he
shouted. Tiffany dropped the spoon she was using to stir the
stew and hurried over to the door. Together, they shoved the
door closed. Peter’s eyes grew wide with fear as he slowly
lifted his head and looked at Tiffany.
“They’re out there!” he declared.
“Maybe not,” Tiffany tried to assure him. “Maybe they made it to
Abe’s before the storm hit. Or maybe they haven’t left town
“No.” Peter shook his head. “They left town. Emily had to pick
Laura up from school at 3:00. They’ve had little time to…”
Peter’s eyes grew wide. “What if…”
“We can’t think like that. We can’t!” Tiffany declared.
Peter started pacing the floor of the house as he ran a
frustrated hand through his hair. “Drat it!” he declared as he
hurried toward the door.
“What are you doing?” Tiffany suddenly cried out.
“I’m going to go out looking for them,” Peter answered.
“No! You mustn’t!” Tiffany shouted. “You can’t! You couldn’t see
your hand in front of your face. Going out there would be
“What do you want me to do?” Peter shouted in frustration as he
turned and glared at his wife. “Just sit in here where it’s nice
and warm while my family’s out there dying?”
Tiffany’s eyes filled with tears at the harshness in her
husband’s voice. “I’ve been learning stuff in church, Peter.”
She got on her knees. Peter hovered over her. She grabbed his
hand and pulled him down beside her. “When trials and
tribulations come up, one should pray.” She folded her hands and
cried out to God.
Jeremiah was carrying a stack of wood inside when he heard the
wind come across the prairie. He turned and watched the snow
start falling from the sky. Then he hurried inside. “It’s
starting to storm out there. Looks like a bad one.”
“Oh, I DO hope nobody’s out there in this!” Em declared as she
turned from frying the salt pork. “Some of the ladies were going
to go into town and work on care packages. They asked me to go
with them but I wasn’t feeling well.”
“I know.” Jeremiah walked over to the window and stuck his hands
in his back pockets. He twitched his mustache as he studied the
storm. “Well, it’s too stormy for anyone to go out. We’ve got a
blizzard on our hands.”
Em hurried forward. “A blizzard?” She walked up behind Jeremiah
and clasped her hands together. “Oh, I do hope they are
alright.” Jeremiah was quiet. “Honey, how long do you think
“Hard to tell,” Jeremiah answered. “I’ve seen them last as long
as a week before.”
“A week?” Em’s voice sounded alarmed. “Jeremiah, if it storms
for a week…”
Jeremiah nodded. “The animals will die unless it let’s up a bit
so I can get to the barn. This isn’t good for the animals,
that’s for sure!”
Scott and Johnny were out checking cattle when they noticed the
sky growing gray. “I hope Margaret’s on her way home,” Scott
said worriedly. “I think we better head on back there ourselves.
Looks like a storm’s coming in.”
“A storm?” Johnny gasped. “Oh no!”
They started racing toward the ranch, but were still quite a
ways away when the storm hit. The wind suddenly picked up and
the light disappeared. Scott grabbed tight to Johnny’s horses’
reign. “Stay close to me, boy!” Scott hollered above the wind.
“We’ve got to get home fast!”
The day had been warmer when they left, so they had on their
lighter coats instead of the heavy winter one’s. Scott was able
to get their horses to an old lean to that still sat on their
property, but that was by pure luck. “We’ll have to stay in
here!” Scott yelled as they opened the door and hurried inside.
“What about Margaret?” Johnny asked worriedly.
“There’s no way.” Scott’s voice was filled with worry. “I pray
to God she’s home because I can’t see anything. There’s no way
we can go out there looking for her! We were lucky to make it
“What if she’s still out there?” Johnny asked. “What if she’s by
Scott turned from the pot-bellied stove as he stared at his
brother in the darkness. Only a small lantern flame shone in the
darkness. “I pray to God she’s not. This is a bad storm,
Johnny…a blizzard…the worse one I’ve ever seen.”
Scott rubbed his leg as it grew colder. His leg had been given
him fits all day. That’s why he felt uneasy about sending
Margaret out that morning. Something had been wrong, but he
couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Then that afternoon when
the pain increased he knew what it was – his leg was telling him
a storm was coming and he’d failed to listen.
Up at the ranch house, Beth and Jennifer paced the floor
wondering where their family was. Would they ever see them
again? What was going on out there in that big, dark world?
“My feet are frozen!” Laura shouted above the wind. Everyone’s
feet were frozen, but they couldn’t stop. “Julie, my feet…”
“I know!” Julie shouted above the wind. She picked Laura up and
held onto her. “We’ve got to keep moving, Laura! We’ve got to!”
“How long will this last?” Laura shouted in her sister-in-law’s
“I don’t know!” Julie shouted as she carried Laura on down the
path. “I have no idea!”
The women walked side-by-side hoping they weren’t missing the
shelter they were looking for. One wrong turn could mean a
certain death for every one of them. “We’ve just GOT to keep
moving!” Margaret shouted to Laura from beside Julie. “We can’t
“I’m scared!” Laura started crying.
The women moved along the path slowly. “Do you have your lucky
dollar?” Margaret asked. “The one Lucas gave you?”
“Then you’ll be okay! And God’s right here beside us. He’ll show
us the way. Just pray.”
Julie slid Laura down and she grabbed Margaret’s hand as they
kept walking. But it was only a matter of minutes before frost
bite and death could overtake them.
Abraham paced the floor as he drank another cup of coffee. It
was now 6:30 in the morning. He slammed his cup down and hurried
to the window. “Maybe we can see well enough to go out now!” He
bundled up and grabbed the lantern from the table.
“Charlie go!” Charlie said as Abraham started to open the door.
“No son, you stay here.”
“Charlie go to Mama!” Charlie shouted.
“I said stay here!” Abraham turned and shouted as his little boy
in anger. Charlie turned and clung to Ruth. Abraham hurried out
the door and studied the storm. It had let up considerably. He
could wait no longer to find the women. “Ma! Ma!” Abraham
hurried back inside. “I think I can make it to the main house.
“Be careful!” Ruth pleaded with her son. “Bring them all back to
“I’ll try!” Abraham looked at Charlie in his mother’s arms.
“I’ll bring Mama home.” He gave Charlie a small smile then
ruffled his hair. Then Abraham hurried down to the main farm.
“I have to go, Tiffany!” Peter shouted impatiently as he
buttoned up his coat. “I can’t just stay here when my family’s
out there somewhere!”
“What about me?” Tiffany asked as she hurried up to Peter. “I’m
your family too, aren’t I?”
“But you’re safe!” Peter shouted. “You aren’t going to freeze to
“I’m begging you!” Tiffany cried as she grasped Peter’s arm.
“I’m begging you not to go!”
Peter shook her hand off. “Stop it!” Peter turned and shouted at
her even louder. “Get a hold of yourself! My family’s out there!
They are my world!”
Tiffany’s mouth opened in surprise. “And what am I?”
Peter opened his mouth to answer, but then turned from her. He
grabbed his hat and headed toward the door. They had been
fighting all night. Tiffany had been patient at first, but she
had soon grown protective and possessive. He couldn’t handle
that right now. “I’ll be back.”
Suddenly, the door opened. Abraham hurried in half-frozen. “Are
“No,” Peter answered. “I was just heading to get you.”
“Let’s get Jeremiah then get started.”
“So that’s it!” Tiffany cried. “You’re just taking all the
men-folk and leaving us all widows and your children
“What?” Abraham stared at Peter.
“Never mind! Let’s go!” Peter grabbed the lantern from the table
and hurried out the door.
“Another cup of coffee?” Em asked. Jeremiah turned from the
window and raised his eyebrows. “I said another cup?”
“Oh…no.” Jeremiah turned back to stare out the window.
Emily sat down the coffee pot and walked up behind her husband.
She wrapped her arms around his waist. “You didn’t sleep all
night. You’re worried, aren’t you?”
Jeremiah scratched his mustache. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He patted
her hand at his middle. “I’d just feel better if…” He was
interrupted by a knock at the door. He hurried over and opened
it. “Abe, Peter!”
“The girls here?”
“The…” Jeremiah looked from one brother to the other. “No, of
course not! Aren’t they at home?”
“No. None of them are home!” Abraham answered. “Emily, Julie,
and Laura are all missing.”
“Maybe they’re in town.” Jeremiah grabbed his coat and started
slipping his feet into his boots while Em grabbed his gloves.
“Maybe they saw the storm clouds and found shelter in town.”
“Or at the school,” Em suggested.
“The school will be our first stop.” Abraham wrapped the scarf
back around his face. “We have to hurry!”
Jeremiah picked up the lantern and headed out the door. Em
hugged herself as the door closed behind them. She hurried to
her bedroom to pray.
The school was being turned into a hospital. The men filtered in
as the storm weakened a bit and waited for the Marshal to arrive
to give the orders. Two children – little girls – had been found
frozen to death by Hal Dodd as he rode into town. He knew his
fiancé was still out in the storm somewhere because she wasn’t
in town nor at home. “He’s dead,” the doctor announced from
behind him. Hal turned to hear a mother screaming over the
body of her son. “I’m sorry.”
“We’re wasting time!” One of the men shouted.
Just then, the door opened. The McCain brothers hurried inside.
They saw several children wrapped in blankets on make-shift cots
around the room. “Laura! Is Laura here?” Abraham shouted
Stanly Richards slowly turned from the blackboard. He shook his
head. “She left with the other children shortly before the storm
hit.” The blood drained from Abraham’s face. “I’m terribly
“How soon?” Jeremiah was the only one who could speak, and his
voice cracked at the end.
“It wasn’t long. Maybe…ten minutes. His sisters and some other
women stopped in a wagon to pick her up.”
“I believe Ann and Clair were with them as well,” Hal said as he
stepped forward. “We’re waiting for the Marshal to get here.”
As if on cue, the door opened and Marshal Williams walked in.
“They found the Johnson boy.” He looked from the McCain’s to the
rest of the men. “He’s dead.”
Abraham closed his eyes in regret. The odds of finding all of
them alive were looking slimmer and slimmer.
“Four…” Hal shook his head sadly. “That’s four children found
“Didn’t you know a storm was coming?” Abraham suddenly shouted
toward the teacher. “How could you let all the children go?”
“Abe, none of us knew!” Jeremiah declared. “Lay off.”
“I knew,” Abraham whispered suddenly. The other men turned and
looked at him. “I had a bad feeling. I asked Julie to let me
take her but…” Abraham shook his head. “If anything happens,
“It’s nobody’s fault! We had no way of knowing this would
happen!” Peter declared. “Instead of finding blame, let’s just
find the girls!”
“Alright. We’ll take the path they should have taken home. We’ll
have to search every house…every…every…” Abraham couldn’t bring
himself to say every snow drift, but he knew the chances of
finding them alive were very slim.
The door opened again. Samuel Gibbs stumbled inside. “I come to
help.” His voice slurred and his eyes were bloodshot.
“You’re drunk,” Marshal Williams declared. “We can’t use you.
You’re better off staying here…or even better…go back to town
and lock yourself in jail.”
“What the hell!” Abraham shouted as he clinched the front of
Samuel’s shirt and twisted hard. “What the hell are you doing
here???? Where’s your family??? You were out drinking when your
daughter is missing!” Abraham was angry. His face was pure red.
He gave Samuel a hard shove backwards. “Get out of my sight!”
Samuel straightened up and stared at Abraham. “Get out of here
Samuel turned and stumbled out the door. “He’s so drunk, he may
not find his way to shelter in the storm!” Jeremiah declared as
he started after Samuel.
“Let him fend for himself,” Abraham shouted as he grabbed
Jeremiah’s arm. “We’ve more important things to do.”
Everyone knew Abraham’s anger was justified, but they hated the
fact that Samuel was out there fighting for his life.
The men filled their lanterns with oil as the Marshal assigned
them to their section to search. The wind was beginning to pick
up again. “We’ve got to find every missing person before the
storm gets worse. The telegram yesterday said this storm could
last for days.” He shouted out the names of people who were
still missing. “Now…let’s get going!”
The men worked in pairs. The Sheriff wanted nobody to go out
alone. The three McCain brothers stayed together as they
searched for their loved ones. Before they left, one of the
local ranchers walked in. “Marshal, we found two more bodies.
“Where did you find them?” the Marshal asked as he stepped
toward the rancher.
“North of here about…oh…two miles.”
The McCain brothers gasped as they stared at each other. They
stood frozen in their steps. Finally, Abraham forced himself to
walk toward the back of the school. “Wh…wh…who?” he asked in a
shaky voice. He grabbed one of the school benches to steady
The rancher led Abraham outside. Abraham slowly walked over to
the wagon. “We can’t recognize their faces, but…” He lifted the
blanket. Abraham felt himself go sick as he closed his eyes and
turned around. “It’s not them.”
Relief flooded Peter and Jeremiah.
“Are you sure?” the Marshall asked.
“I’m sure.” Abraham nodded. “It’s nobody we know.” He quickly
walked back into the church and shook his head. “But let’s go
find the girls.”
They slowly walked down the path the girls would have taken.
Jeremiah was the first one to spot the abandoned wagon. “It’s
ours,” he declared as his heart sank. “The horses must have
spooked and they let them go to find shelter.”
“Then where are they?” Peter shouted above the storm. The
temperature was dropping and the storm was starting to pick up
again. “We won’t be able to stay out here very long! Not with
this storm picking up!”
The brothers walked. There was no telling what way the girls had
headed off toward. They had no idea where any of the women were.
“What way?” Jeremiah shouted as he held the lantern up to look
Abraham looked up toward the sky. They could only see shadows
now. “I need some clue!” He shouted in desperation to nobody in
Abraham felt someone brush up against him from behind. He turned
and shined the light. It was Scott. “Scott, they aren’t at your
house, are they?”
“Who?” Scott asked.
The wind picked up even more as Abraham shouted. “They’re all
missing! Clare and Anne are with them!”
Scott shook his head. “Johnny almost froze to death last night
when we took shelter in the lean to! I had trouble keeping him
warm. Ma’s tending to him now.”
“We found the wagon back there,” Abraham shouted. The four men
walked together. They turned their heads from side to side. This
was like looking for a needle in a haystack. As the wind picked
up, the light only shone inches in front of them. The snow began
falling in heavy sheets again.
“This way!” Peter suggested.
“Why?” Abraham questioned, hoping Peter could see something they
“I don’t know! We have to start somewhere!”
Suddenly, Scott toppled over. Abraham bent over and lifted him.
“It’s not a good thing being out here with your lame leg!” he
said. “You’ll slow us down!”
“No!” Scott shouted over the wind. “It’s not my leg!” He shone
his lantern down on the ground. “I tripped over something. He
bent over and started wiping away the snow. Abraham bent down
beside Scott. He too could feel a hard lump. Something had been
Abraham’s heart raced as he turned his head. “Peter, Jeremiah,
bring your lights!” They all shone their lights as they
continued removing snow from the mass.
“It’s a horse!” Scott shouted. They removed more snow. The light
shone on the Gibbs brand. “It’s Golden.”
“How do you know?” Abraham asked. “It’s so dark out here!”
“It IS Golden!” Scott pointed to the brand. Abraham shone his
light down really close. He looked up at Scott as his eyes grew
frightened. “If Golden’s…”
“We can’t do anything for her now,” Abraham answered in a
grieved voice. “I just hope we can find them before it’s too
late.” Abraham stood up. “Come on. Let’s go!” He helped Scott to
his feet. “We’ll find them, Scott! We’ll find them all and bring
The men were growing cold, but they kept walking. Any trace of
anything dropped or any sign of the women had long vanished
under the deep snow. The snow was already two feet deep, and
their legs were growing cold. “We need to find shelter!” Peter
shouted. “We can hardly see and Scott…”
“I know!” Abraham agreed. Ahead they saw a house. The men
knocked on the door. Old man Smithy answered the door. He
dragged all four men inside. “Etta, get some hot water!” he
hollered as he started helping the men from their boots.
“Smithy…We have several women missing!” Abraham gasped as Smithy
rubbed life back into his feet.
Jeremiah and Peter closed their eyes as they leaned against the
wall. Smithy and Etta worked at rubbing their feet. Scott took
his boots off, but his feet weren’t too bad yet.
“Two came in late last night. They said they got separated from
the others.” Smithy announced as he rubbed at a pair of feet to
bring warmth to them.
“Two?” Abraham stood up. He cringed as feeling started returning
to his feet, making them sting. “Where?”
“One’s mighty sick. The other has mild frost bite. They’re in
there.” Smithy led Abraham toward a door. Two women lay on cots
in the bedroom. One was Ann Pritchard. The other was Claire.
Claire coughed as she turned and looked at Abraham. “I’m sorry!”
She cried. “We tried to find shelter, but we just kept wondering
around! Julie thought we should split up – that maybe if we went
separate ways one group would survive.” Claire put a hand to her
face. “They were getting pretty cold! Laura…she hadn’t spoken in
a while and Julie was carrying her. They were growing very
Abraham remained kneeled beside the bed but slowly turned and
looked at his brothers and Scott. Their eyes grew moist as they
lowered their heads. The room grew quiet as the men tried to
accept what was quickly becoming a reality.
“They’re still out there?” Jeremiah asked in a quiet tone. “Was
Margaret with them?”
Claire coughed again. Ann sniffed from her cot. “I’m sorry! We
shouldn’t have left the school, but…We didn’t think it was going
to be a blizzard.”
“Was Margaret with them?” Scott asked then.
Claire looked up into Abraham’s eyes. She started crying as she
nodded her head.
“Dear God!” Scott breathed. He put his hands to his face. “First
Andy and now…”
“No!” Abraham stood and rushed over to Scott. “We can’t think
like that! Do you hear me? We have to have faith that they’re
still alive somewhere. We HAVE to!”
The men grew quiet. An eerie, scary silence fell around the
room. They knew the chances of finding the remaining girls alive
were not good. This was the only house in the area. “Do you
have any idea…” Jeremiah started, but his voice died.
“We couldn’t see a thing! Not a single thing.” Claire sniffed as
tears fell from her eyes. “I’m afraid…Julie told us to try and
save ourselves. She said that if we made it to tell you…” Claire
stopped as she started sobbing.
Anne spoke up when Claire couldn’t go on. “Julie said to tell
you that she loves you, and to go on living and raise her
“She can’t be dead!” Abraham shouted. “Oh, Dear God please don’t
let them be dead!”
He stood and pushed past his brothers as he grabbed his wet
socks and started to put them back on. “What are you doing?”
Jeremiah asked suddenly.
“I’m going back out!”
“The storm has picked up! We couldn’t see a single thing right
now, Abe!” Peter declared. “I want to find them too, but we
can’t go out blind like this!”
“I have to find them! It’s my wife and sisters!” Abraham shouted
as he started toward the door.
“And they are my sisters!” Peter shouted as he put a restraining
hand on his brother’s arm. “We’re either too late or they’ve
found shelter. We have to wait!”
“No!” Abraham hurried toward the door. “NO!”
Jeremiah grabbed his other arm and helped Peter sit him on the
floor. “Look!” Peter shouted as he got right in his brother’s
face. “You have four children at home who will need you if our
worries come true! They can’t lose both parents!”
Abraham buried his head in his hands. “They can’t be dead…they
just can’t be dead!”
The four men sat in a huddle on the floor together. Jeremiah
started praying for their sisters while Smithy’s wife warmed up
some stew for the men. They ate in silence. Every few minutes,
they’d check to see if the storm had died down enough to go out.
In only hours, another night would be upon them and the chances
of finding the women in the storm would be impossible.
Two hours later, the storm died down considerably. Scott was
sent back to announce that Claire and Ann had been found. He
wanted to keep searching, but the McCain brothers managed to
convince him that he’d only slow them down. Scott finally
accepted that as true and hurried back to bring the town the
The brothers traveled on. They felt they were going around in
circles as they tried to find any form of shelter. “It must be
close to supper time now!” Peter shouted as the wind started to
pick up again. “We must find them soon!”
“I know. I…” Jeremiah stopped. “Wait! What’s that?” He pointed
The two brothers turned to see a shack that was nearly buried in
snow. “Of course! I forgot about this old shack!” The men ran
over and started digging the snow away. The found the door and
tried opening it as the wind again picked up some more. “It’s
frozen shut!” Abraham shouted. They began beating on the door
with no luck at first, but then the door started to give way.
The door opened. Abraham, Peter and Jeremiah stepped inside and
saw a small fire burning in the middle of the floor. “Abe!”
Julie jumped up but quickly crumpled to the floor. “OW!”
Abraham gasped. “Julie!” He dropped to his knees and picked her
up. Sitting on the floor, he cradled her on his lap as he cried.
“Julie! Oh, Julie!” He rocked her back and forth. “Thank God
you’re alive!” He kissed her softly. “Oh, thank you, God!” he
cried as he hugged her close to him. Julie was still in shock.
She couldn’t say a word.
Emily crawled over and hugged Jeremiah. She sobbed
uncontrollably as Jeremiah held her. “I thought we were going to
die!” Emily cried. “I thought…”
“Shhhh….” Jeremiah gently brushed her hair as he rocked her back
and forth. “You’re safe now. You’re safe.” Emily wept tears of
relief as Jeremiah continued to comfort her.
Peter bent down next to Laura who lay still. “You okay,
Laura cried. “My feet hurt! They hurt something AWFUL!”
Emily turned back toward Laura. “We’ve been rubbing them all
day. They were so numb this morning, but the color’s returned. I
think they’ll be okay.”
Abraham lowered the lamp to look at Julie’s feet. “Are yours
numb?” Julie shook her head. “They hurt?” She nodded.
“That’s a good sign,” Peter nodded. “Hurting means they are
still alive. You are all going to be okay.”
“Margaret…” Abraham suddenly shone his lantern around. “Where’s
Margaret?” Worry laid heavily in his voice.
Julie’s shock lifted as she suddenly started weeping and clung
to Abraham. “We lost her!” she cried. “She let go for just a
second – she was gone!”
“You mean she’s still out there?” Abraham asked. “She’s out in
“Oh Abe…” Julie swallowed as she clung to her husband. “We were
so scared! I was afraid…” Julie stopped for a moment as she
slowed her breathing. “I asked God to protect my babies. I told
Clare and Ann to tell them I…” She suddenly stopped. She lifted
from Abraham’s embrace. “They separated from us…”
“They’re safe.” Peter assured her. He took off his gloves and
looked around for something to burn. “As soon as the storm let’s
up we’ll get you to town.”
Abraham kissed Julie one last time before moving to Laura. He
took Laura from the floor and hugged her close. “I’m so glad
“I knew you’d find me!” Laura cried as she clung to him. “I knew
you’d find me!”
Peter and Jeremiah worked together to build a big fire. The
storm was again raging outside. Abraham kept Laura on his lap as
he sat down beside Julie. He drew her close and kissed her
again, but this time their kiss lingered. Laura laid her head
against his chest and was soon asleep. “My babies are okay,”
Abraham mumbled softly. He stroked Laura’s cheek as she slept
peacefully against his chest. Then he laid a soft kiss on
Julie’s forehead as she closed her eyes and slept against his
shoulder. “You are both okay.”
“Okay, let’s go.” Abraham finished buttoning up Laura’s coat
then pulled the coat around Julie tighter. He gently picked
Julie up in his arms as they started out. Peter picked Laura up.
The wind had died down considerably. A gentle snow was now
falling. It was already after dusk, but the lanterns lit their
way towards town. Laura announced that Julie had carried her
when her feet started hurting. Abraham admired the sacrifice his
wife had suffered for Laura. He knew Julie was in the condition
she was in because she had pushed ahead for Laura.
As they got close to the school, Scott ran up to the group.
“Margaret? Where’s Margaret?”
“I don’t know. She got separated from them,” Abraham answered.
“Let’s get these women out, then we’ll go look for her. How many
more are missing?”
“There’s only two,” Scott answered. “Two women. Margaret’s one
Lariat Jones walked up to the group. “We found one of the
missing women. She’s dead.”
The men all turned and stared at Lariat. “Who is it?”
Lariat looked at the group. “It’s not Margaret. She’s the only
“Let’s go then!” Abraham lowered Julie on a cot and told the
doctor she and Laura needed checked. Then he kissed her. “I love
“I love you too,” Julie smiled. “Abe…” Abraham froze. Their
faces were inches from each other. “Save her for Luke.”
Abraham nodded. “I will, honey. I’ll find her.” He turned and
hurried out with the other men.
It was that first night of the storm when the old man tripped
over a body laying on the ground. The skin was quite cool, but
he grabbed her hands and dragged her into his shack. The shack
was in the middle of the woods. But he enjoyed being so far away
from civilization. He didn’t like being around people. “Now, how
did you get way out here, little lady?” the man asked as he
realized it was a woman. He lit a lantern and shone it on her
face. She was unconscious, but breathing…barely. He quickly took
her out of her coat and lifted her onto the cot. Once he had her
covered, he removed her wet dress, but left her under things on,
and put more covers on top of her. “Sorry ta ‘barrass ya like
this, but ya have ta get warm!”
The old man put a big kettle of water on the stove. “My…my, but
ye close ta death, little lady!” He dipped the rag in some warm
water he already had and wiped her face gently. “Sure ‘er a
purty thing though…Yessiree!” The old man began rubbing one arm
and then the other. He did the same with the legs as he slowly
rubbed life back into her body. “Yes…don’t ye worry none at all,
little lady! I been near dead too but th’ good Lord brought me
right back, he did!”
After warming her, the old man positioned her to give her a good
steam. “Keep the lungs clear. That’s ‘portant, ya know! Don’t
want no raspy lungs!” He laid her back on the bed and covered
her up. “Now…ya sleep, little lady! Just sleep!”
Margaret smiled as she sat under the tree by the river. Lucas
got off his blackie and hurried over to her. He wore a giant
smile on his face as he sat down next to her and kissed her
softly. Their kiss deepened and she felt her arms grow warm. Her
legs grew warm. As he continued to kiss her, she felt warmth
crawl over every inch of her body. Finally, their lips parted
and Lucas laid a gentle hand against her cheek. “I do love you,
Margaret smiled as she felt warmth come over her like a cocoon
over a caterpillar. “And I love you, Luke.” She smiled as he
stared into her eyes and softly stroked her cheek.
“You stay alive, honey. I want to marry you when I come home.”
Lucas kissed her softly. “Stay alive…stay alive…That’s my
Love…Just stay alive.”
“Lucas…” she whispered softly, but his touch suddenly
disappeared. He became transparent and slowly began to fade
away. Margret lifted her hand out to him. “Luke…come back! Come
back, Luke! Come back…”
“Come back, Luke…Come back!” Margaret flung her head from side
to side. Her eyes suddenly opened and she saw an old man with a
thick beard and dirty clothes looking down over her. She gasped
and drew away from him as he smiled down at her. “Wh…who are
“Names’ Petey,” the old man answered. “Jest call me Pete. I
found ya…out in the snow!”
“The…” Margaret started to sit up but the room started to spin.
“The snow…my friends, they’re out there!”
“If they are ma’am…it’s too late to save them.”
“No!” Margaret tried to swallow as she lifted from her pillow.
“No! They are out there in the snow! You’ve got to…”
“Ma’am, I found you last night! You done been here a day and a
“Then my family’s worried,” Margaret declared. “Where am I?”
“Deep in the Ol’ injun woods!” Petey answered. “’Fraid yer folks
won’t find ya here!”
Margaret suddenly realized she had no clothes on. She drew the
blankets up around her. “My dress! Where…”
Petey stood up and got her dress for her. “I’m sorry, little
lady. You were so cold and wet. I had ta get ya dry!” He
chuckled at her innocence as he walked to the door. “I’s hafta
get some dry wood anyhow. Ya just get dressed then we’ll take ya
into town in a spell!”
Margaret was dressed in record time. After putting her boots and
coat on, she left with the old man toward town.
The four men walked through the darkness. The wind was almost
gone, but the snow was still falling. They were quickly losing
hope of ever finding Margaret alive. “Our lights are fading,”
Abraham announced. “We’ve got to turn back soon.”
“Wait!” Peter stopped the men. “What’s that?”
“What?” Jeremiah asked. Suddenly, two people came into their
“Margaret!” Scott cried out as he ran forward. He took her in
his arms. “Margaret!” He hugged her close. “Oh…Margaret!”
The McCain brothers hurried forward. Abraham hugged Margaret as
Scott went to thank the old hermit. “Thank God you’re okay!”
Abraham said softly as he hugged her. Then he pushed her away.
“Are you okay? You’re not hurt?”
“No. Petey here…he took good care of me. Said he gave me steam
to keep me from getting pneumonia and took off my wet
clothes…rubbed the life back into me…I was almost dead when he
found me, but I feel so good.” Margaret smiled. “Luke was there
too. He took good care of me.” She blushed as she remembered the
kiss he had given her the night before.
Abraham smiled as he helped her through the deep snow back
toward the school. When Margaret walked inside, she was greeted
by many friends. It was quiet a reunion for the women who had
gotten lost together. They clung to each other and cried.
Margaret was the last missing person in the blizzard, and
finding her meant the tragic storm was now over.
Everyone stayed at the school until the next morning. Sleighs
were brought in to transport the families to their homes. Mr.
Marvin loaded essentials from the General Store on the sleighs
and ordered the driver to stop at all the houses on their way to
make sure the families had plenty to eat. He wanted to give the
essentials to the families, and if there was anything more they
needed, the drivers were to come back immediately for the items,
free of charge.
Everyone was quiet as they rode home in the sleigh. Anne had
reunited with Hal, who had been seriously hurt during the
process. He had searched for her for hours before frostbite set
in. The doctor had to remove one of his toes. Hal Dodd was no
longer able to join the army, but he and Anne would still be
married that spring.
Claire Wheatley was kept in town. Her cough had grown worse and
the doctor didn’t think it was safe to move her quite yet.
Abraham stopped by her house to let her parents know. Then he
traveled on toward the Gibbs house.
Scott and Margaret stepped from the sleigh. “Thank you, Abe…for
everything.” Scott held out his hand to Abraham and shook it.
“Thank you.” Abraham turned and looked at his wife. “Let’s go
home.” Julie smiled as she reached out her hand to him. She
turned and waved to Margaret.
Margaret waved as the sleigh pulled away. “Come on. Let’s get
you inside, sis.”
But the door opened. “Margaret!” Johnny rushed out and threw his
arms around his sister. “You’re okay! We were so worried!”
“Johnny Gibbs, you get back in here!” Jennifer hollered from the
doorway. Then she stopped and threw a hand to her mouth.
“Margaret!” She lifted her skirt and ran out to her daughter.
“Oh, Margaret!” Mother and daughter embraced. Beth rushed from
the house and hugged Margaret as well.
“How are you?” Scott asked his little brother as he raised his
“Well, Ma said I’ll live but…my feet sure are sore.”
“Yes.” Jennifer smacked Johnny on his backside. “So get yourself
back in the house and soak them some more, young man!”
“Oh, Mama!” Johnny rolled his eyes as the family went inside and
closed the door.
It wasn’t until after they had lunch that Margaret told her
family of the ordeal. When she finished, she asked, “Did Golden
make it home?”
Scott lost his smile as he lowered his head. Margaret stared at
him. “She didn’t come back?”
“No, honey…” Scott took her hand. “I’m sorry. We found
“Dead?” Margaret swallowed hard as her eyes filled with tears.
“My horse is…dead?”
“Oh Scott, are you sure?” Jennifer asked as her eyes filled with
tears. “It couldn’t be a…mistake?”
“I’m sure.” Scott turned back to his sister. “I’m sorry,
sweetie. I know what she meant to you.”
Silence surrounded them as Margaret tried to accept the news.
She slowly lifted her hands to her face and shook her head as
she began sobbing. “Oh no…Poor Golden…” Margaret had that horse
since she was seven years old. It had been given to her for
Christmas. She had raised her from a colt.
“I’m so sorry.” Jennifer rubbed her hand up and down Margaret’s
back as Scott continued to hold her hand. “I know she was
“Luke helped me raise her, remember, Mama?” Jennifer nodded.
Margaret laid her head against Jennifer’s shoulder and cried.
“We can find you another horse,” Scott said, trying to console
her. “Come spring, we’ll find you another horse…a fine horse.”
“No.” Margaret answered quickly as she lifted her head from her
mother’s shoulder. “I don’t want another horse. I’ll ride
“Andy’s horse?” Scott looked toward his mother. She nodded
slightly. “Okay, honey. Until you’re ready for your own horse.”
“I should have listened to you. You told me…” Margaret started.
“I shouldn’t have ridden Golden like I did.”
“This isn’t your fault, Margaret. Storms like this are
unpredictable. We had no way of knowing.”
“But you had a feeling…didn’t you?” Margaret lifted her eyes to
Scott. “Your leg was telling you.”
“I didn’t realize it at the time either, honey.”
“The important thing is…” Beth laid a hand on her sister’s.
“…that you’re okay now. You’re alive.”
Margaret nodded as she allowed tears to slide down her cheeks.
She wrapped her arms around her mother and cried.
Abraham pulled the sleigh up to Jeremiah’s house. Jeremiah
jumped from the sleigh and waved to his family as the sleigh
pulled away. He hurried inside. Em turned from the stove. She
dropped the spoon and hurried to her husband. “Jeremiah!” She
threw her arms around him and covered his face in kisses. “Oh, I
was so terrified!” She cried softly as he held her. Then she
pulled away and took her face in her hands. “Are you okay?”
Jeremiah nodded as he kissed her. “Your sisters? Are they okay?”
“Everyone is just fine, honey. They are all just fine.” He
kissed her again. “How are you?”
“I’m much better now that you’re back!” Emily covered his face
in kisses again. “Oh, I was SO worried!”
Jeremiah welcomed her lips and returned her kiss more
passionately. “The animals?” he asked between kisses. “How are
“They are all fine. I just finished your chores for you.” She
pulled away from him. “Seems I’ve been doing the work of two
around here the last two days!”
“Well…honey…” Jeremiah kissed her sweetly. “What did you expect
me to do?”
“I expect you to make it up to me! It’s time I relax a bit!”
Jeremiah lifted his eyebrows. “What about the stew?”
“It’ll simmer for awhile,” Em answered with a mischievous grin.
“What will simmer?” Jeremiah asked then.
“Oh. Good.” Jeremiah picked her up in his arms and started for
the bedroom. “Because I think we need a nap!”
“Oh? Are you planning on going right off to sleep?” Em asked
“Oh no!” Jeremiah laid her on the bed. Soon they were making
love as the wind outside once again began to howl. The winter
was cold, but the bedroom of Jeremiah and Em McCain was nice and
toasty as Em welcomed Jeremiah back home. In time, they laid in
each other’s arms under the covers and allowed sleep to capture
them – sleep that had been absent for the last three days.
After leaving Jeremiah’s house, Abraham drove Julie home and
picked up his mother. Julie, of course, was very happy to see
her babies. Abraham hugged Charlie when he came running to him,
but announced he had to get the family down the hill.
The whole way home, Abraham could tell something was troubling
his youngest brother. Peter sat beside him on the sleigh as
they drove home. “You want to talk about it?” Abraham asked as
he looked at Peter.
Abraham chuckled knowingly as he pulled the sleigh up to the
house. The brothers stepped down and helped their mother and
sisters from the sleigh. They all walked inside, very tired.
“Come on, little brother. Help me unhitch these horses.”
Peter was quiet as he looked toward the house. He remembered
what he had left there earlier. “Gladly.”
“I take it something going on between you and Tiffany?” Abraham
worked at unhitching one of the horses as Peter worked on the
“We argued and I suppose, it’s her being pregnant.” Peter wanted
to say more but he didn’t.
“Are you…having second thoughts about marrying her?” Abraham
paused as Peter slowly lifted his head, genuinely concerned.
Peter nodded slightly. “I figured.”
“I shouldn’t have married her. I barely knew her and we weren’t
in love. We just…” Peter stopped as he started carrying the
harness to the pegs on the barn wall.
Abraham said nothing as he lit the lantern. After the horses
were in the stalls, he came to sit down beside his brother who
was staring off to the other side of the barn. “You married her
because you…uh…couldn’t wait?”
“Something like that.” Peter sighed. “And now she’s pregnant.”
“Something happened and you’re seeing a different side of her?”
Peter turned and looked at his brother. “She didn’t want me
going out to look for our family, said that I had to stay with
her. If I left, I’d make a widow of her…”
Abraham sighed as he rubbed his hands together. “Brother, she’s
trying to understand what being married is all about, same as
you. She was scared, and I imagine had Julie been home and I had
told her that I was going out in that blizzard - she might have
argued with me. But you two, you’ve only been married a short
time, she doesn’t realize how close this family really is.
Marriage isn’t just about showing affection toward a lady like
holding her hand, stealing a kiss when nobody’s around, holding
her as she falls asleep…those are sometimes hard for a man to
do, especially when you’re not in love with the woman yet. But a
woman…she needs those things. She needs to be held and hugged
and kissed. She needs to know that you’re going to be there for
her. She’s in love with you, Peter.” Peter wouldn’t look at him.
Abraham knew the feeling wasn’t mutual. “Look…I don’t want to
pressure you, but you made the choice of marrying her. Whether
it was in the church or at the Justice of the Peace, in God’s
eyes, you are husband and wife. And sometimes, you have to work
hard to keep the marriage alive.”
“But, now she’s pregnant…” Peter paused.
Abraham shook her head. “There are other ways of being intimate.
Tonight...talk to her. Hold her. Be honest with each other.
Being intimate can be something as simple as bearing your soul
to her, not just your body. Let your defenses down. Let her
inside your heart. Talk to her about our family, but you have to
instill that she’s a part of our family too. Let her know that,
had she been out there, you would have gone searching for her
too. Even against our wishes. She needs to know…and believe
Peter waited while Abraham left the barn. He had a lot to think
about. His feelings were all messed up. He hadn’t loved her, he
knew that now. And aside from that first night he hadn’t been
intimate with her. He wasn’t sure why…but then maybe he was.
Maybe he was waiting until the right moment, but his brother was
right. The fact was he was married, and though he didn’t love
her the way Abraham loved Julie, he knew that in time he would
grow to love her.
It was still mid-afternoon. Peter didn’t want to face his
family, not until he could be alone with Tiffany and talk to
her. So he waited. The sun went down and it grew later in the
He finally got the courage and walked into his home and to their
bedroom. Tiffany, already in bed for the night, turned on her
side, facing away from the door. Peter tried to be quiet as he
walked to - and sat down - on his side of their bed. First he
removed his boots. It didn’t take long for Peter to realize
Tiffany wasn’t sleeping.
He didn’t turn and look at her, but faced the wall as he spoke.
“Tiffany, I may not be the best husband in the world, but I am
devoted to my family. And you have to understand, this family
means a lot to me. But… Maybe I shouldn’t have rushed out,
without explaining things calmly; but then, I tend to react and
don’t think about the consequences until later.”
Peter listened to hear if Tiffany would say anything. She
She wasn’t going to make this easy for him…not that he deserved
for it to be easy…“Tiffany, I am growing to love you and…Dang
it! You’re my wife and had you been out there instead of Julie,
why I’d of gone against Abraham and the rest of my family to
search for you.”
Peter felt her turn her head toward him. “You would have?”
Tiffany quietly asked.
Peter turned his head around and looked into her eyes. “I’d have
fought any many who tried to restrain me from going after you,
but by the same token, I’d fight you to go after my family. And
that’s exactly what you made me do the other night.” Peter hung
his head. “I won’t apologize for leaving you alone, but I will
apologize for how I went about it. Abraham told me you probably
were reacting the way you did because you were scared of losing
“Oh, Peter, I was.” She sat up. “I guess I didn’t take time to
consider, had the situation been different, you’d of come after
me. I didn’t feel I was important enough to…” She paused as
Peter lifted his eyebrows at her.
“You are my wife.” Peter bent over and laid a hand on her cheek.
“Regardless of how we came to be joined together, it happened.
‘What God has joined together, let NO man put asunder…’ That’s
what the justice of the peace said that evening. Oh Tiffany…”
Peter sighed as he lowered his head. “I am growing to love you
but…you have to be patient with me.”
“I’m sorry I argued with you. I’m usually not that way,”
Tiffany spoke as tears fell down her face.
“Abraham said you could also be reacting the way you did,
because of your being pregnant.”
“That would answer a lot,” Tiffany stated as she looked to her
Peter crawled up onto the bed and wrapped his arm around his
wife’s shoulder, “I need you to understand, that I’d do anything
for my family, and my family includes you. Abraham told me that
it takes work to keep a marriage alive, that I needed to bear my
soul to you and let you know the real me.”
Tiffany reached over and grabbed Peter’s other hand and placed
it on her stomach. “You have to be pretty special if God blessed
us with a child on our wedding night.”
Peter lifted his hand from his wife’s stomach and placed it to
her chin, lovingly he pulled her face close to his as he leaned
towards her and gave her a gentle kiss. The kiss was returned
with even more depth.
“I am growing to love you too, Peter.” With an embarrassed look
on her face Tiffany stated as their lips parted, “Are you going
to take your brother’s advice? “ She reached forward and started
to unbutton the top button of her husband’s shirt.
“But you’re pregnant?!” Peter stated, a little shocked. He saw
the sincerity and the longing in his wife’s eyes, he finally
started to relax. “Guess Abraham knows what he’s talking about
when it comes to making a marriage work.”
“He should be the one to talk, he’s the father of triplets,”
Tiffany stated and could not keep a straight face. Before long,
Peter was laughing alongside his wife.
“If you’re up to being my wife tonight, I think I’d rather enjoy
being your husband tonight.” With that, Peter lowered her to the
bed as he kissed her passionately. Soon, they were under the
covers enjoying the warmth from each other’s bodies. Peter
enjoyed the loving caresses from his wife, and he gently
caressed her as their kisses intensified. He sensed she was
ready and they made love.
It had never felt like this before. The first time was out of a
desire of a man and a woman. This time, it was making love.
Their gentle words to each other had lit a flame in Peter’s
heart and that evening, he found himself falling deeply in love
with her. This made their love-making so much better. The night
grew later and later as their love-making went long into the
In time, Tiffany lay on Peter’s bare chest. She listened to his
heart beating before she finally whispered, “Thank you for
showing me that you really DO love me.” Then they opened their
hearts to each other. Neither husband nor wife got any sleep
that night as they quietly talked.
Abraham opened the door to Charlie’s bedroom again and tucked
the covers closer around him. He had watched with curiosity
earlier as Julie moved the triplets cradles into Charlie’s
bedroom. Now, she smiled as she took his hand and moved him out
the door, quietly closing the door behind them. “I take it you
think it’ll be warmer in there for the children?”
“No warmer than in our bedroom,” Julie answered as she started
toward the bedroom.
“Oh. Then why?” Abraham asked as he put his hands on his hips
and looked down at Julie.
“Well now…that’s an interesting question, Mr. McCain. You see…”
She unbuttoned the top button on his shirt as she smiled up at
him. “The boys are getting a bit old to be in our bedroom when
we need privacy.”
“Privacy? Whatever would happen in there to give us privacy?”
Julie just looked into his eyes as she slowly continued to
unbutton his shirt. Then she ran her hands up and down his bare
chest, finally drawing her hands behind his neck. She stood on
tippy toes and planted a long, steamy kiss on his lips. “Is that
a good enough answer, or do you need more?”
“Ohhhhhhh….Abraham smiled. “More…much, much more!”
Julie suddenly giggled like a school girl as she turned and ran
into the room. Abraham chased after her and pressed her down on
the bed. He intertwined his fingers with hers as he kissed her
hard on the mouth. Julie shivered as Abraham ran his hand up and
down the side of her body. He stared into her eyes and kissed
her on the tip of her nose. “I’m so glad you’re okay. Were you
Julie scooted up onto the pillow of the bed as Abraham lay on
his side next to her. He playfully began unbuttoning her dress
as she talked. “I was scared.” She smiled. “But my knight in
shining armor came and rescued me!”
“Yes…” he moved his eyebrows up and down rapidly. “So what’s my
Julie stood up and allowed her dress to fall to the floor.
Abraham grinned as they got under the covers. Their bodies
pressed against each other as their kisses turned more
passionate. Julie shivered at his touch as he began caressing
her. In time, she allowed her hands to caress him as well. Julie
moaned as his kisses deepened. Soon, they were lost in each
The wind howled outside as the couple made love. Julie enjoyed
being in her husband’s arms that night like she had many nights
before, except tonight was different. Only two nights ago she
thought she’d never feel this way again, yet tonight he was once
again revealing himself to her. Their love-making intensified.
Abraham silently thanked God he was able to save his wife. “I
love you,” he breathed as they made love.
“I love you!” Julie whispered passionately.
In time, they laid quietly in each other’s arms. Abraham gently
caressed her back as she lay against him. “You know…” Julie
mumbled. “If we aren’t careful we just may have another baby
“Hm…” Abraham chuckled. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told
“Oh? What’s that?”
Abraham chuckled as he whispered it in her ear. “Abraham McCain,
you didn’t!” Julie declared.
“Oh, but I did!” Abrahams chuckled. “I also told him it was one
of the risks he takes when he gets married.”
Julie chuckled. “Well…I suppose we could uh…refrain from certain
activities in the near future.”
“HUH?” Abraham gasped as he tickled her.
As if on cue, crying erupted from the bedroom. “Another
disadvantage to being married…” Abraham grumbled as he
begrudgingly let her go. “Interruptions!”
Julie giggled as she slipped into her robe. “I’ll be back.”
We’ve had ourselves quite an adventure already this year. You
see, some of us traveled into town to send off care packages,
which we did, by the way. I certainly help you like your care
package. Anyways, a blizzard came up as we were travelling home.
Claire, Anne, me, Emily, Julie, and Laura all got lost in the
blizzard, but we all managed to somehow find shelter. Laura,
Julie, and Ann all suffered from minor frost bite with no
permanent damage. I was rescued by an old man in Injun Woods. He
took me to his shack and nursed me. I slept for 24 hours, but
woke up feeling refreshed. I almost died. It is truly
frightening to think about.
All together, I think there were five children who died. School
had just let out and most of the children got caught in the
storm. I’m sorry to say that was a sad time. Two men and four
women also died. It’s been the most tragic event this town has
seen in a long, long time. I pray that is the worst tragic event
we ever see!
There was one more casualty. Golden died. I’m grieved over her
death. I mean, I’m thankful we all survived, but Golden was so
very special. I got her when I was only seven years old and you
helped me raise her. I’m so very sad. Scott said he’d help me
find another horse, but I don’t want another one. Not now, and
maybe not ever. Golden was such a good horse. The saddest part
of this whole thing is that Scott had a feeling I shouldn’t go
out. Now, we know how I always have feelings before something
tragic happens, and you’d think I would have learned but I
didn’t. I reckon I was being strong-willed (or stubborn, if you
will) and determined to take Golden for a ride. I feel so bad
for my choice, but I guess it’s like my Pa always used to say:
live and learn, that’s what mistakes are for.
I do hope you don’t get blizzards where you are at. I love you,
Lucas. Please take care.
The Years Before — A Spring
This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch