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Thread: Return to Sender - Chapter 14

  1. #1
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    Return to Sender - Chapter 14

    With all this extremely hot weather that has been assaulting most of the U.S., maybe this winter chapter arrives just in time.

    Chapter 14
    Following supper, Chance and Patrick had been bathed, warmed by the fire, and put to bed for the night. Mariska, Senta, and Dover sat around the table, drinking coffee from a pot that had just come off the fire. The conversation was sparse as they listened to the crackling of the fire inside the cabin, and the howling winds outside the cabin walls. For three days and nights, they had been held prisoner inside the cabin as they listened to the unrelenting blizzard winds roaring down through the mountain passes. Fortunately, they had not been caught unaware. The hard work they had all put in as they prepared for the arrival of winter, had paid off.
    At least twice each day during the storm, Dover had braved the elements to cross the yard to the stable to check on the horses and mules. Having seen his share of these high country storms, Dover had reacted immediately when the first sign of the storm came over the peaks. He tied a rope to the stable at one end, and secured the other end to the hitching post right in front of the cabin. When the blizzard hit full force, he was then able to find the stable despite being blinded by the wall of wind driven snow by holding onto the rope as he walked. Another rope was tied to the hitching post, and the other end tied around Dover's waist. If a falling tree broke the rope between the two buildings, the rope around his waist would enable him to get back to the cabin.
    "How are the animals holding up," Mariska inquired as she refilled Dover's cup.
    "Oh, in their own way, I suppose they are doing about as well as we are Ma'am."
    Mariska put her hands on her hips and shook her head as if frustrated. "Dover, I asked you back in Missouri. I'm asking again. Can you to stop calling me 'Ma'am'?
    "Yes Ma'am," he replied. "I'll do that. This is sure enough mighty fine coffee."
    Senta laughed. "He does the same thing to me. It's 'Ma'am' this, and 'Ma'am' that."
    Turning to face Senta, Dover replied. "Well Ma'am, I ain't knowed you all that long, so it just seems proper."
    "Well, in that case," Mariska jumped in. "We've known each other for several years. Long enough to be on a first name basis don't you think?"
    "Yes Ma'am. I reckon so.
    "Well then, why... Oh hell. Never mind." Mariska threw up her hands and let out a small laugh as she picked up the coffee pot and emptied it into Senta's cup. "Anybody want more coffee?," she asked.
    "I'll drink a little if someone else wants some," answered Senta.
    "Yes, uh..Mariska," replied Dover. "I do believe I'd like to have some more coffee. This storm may blow us clean into Kansas, and I don't want to go without my coffee."
    Senta laughed and looked at Mariska. "Well, how about that? He said it! We will have to be sure and tell Sean about that when he returns."
    "Dover," Mariska said as she filled the pot with water. "Where do you think Sean is about now? Do you think he has reached Boston yet? Could he be in Ireland?"
    Setting aside the knife that he had been sharpening, Dover replied. "Well, it's hard to say Ma'am. It's a long, long way, and so many things can happen to delay a man's travel. Right now, he could be anywhere from Kansas to Ireland." He stood up and walked over to the fireplace and added a log to the fire.
    "If he hasn't run into any long delays, there's a chance he could be in Boston or Ireland, but that's just a guess. Just think back at all the things you ran into on your way out here. But, Sean's a pretty smart man, and if anybody can pull this off, he's the one I'd put my money on." The sound of a large tree limb crashing to the ground interrupted Dover's train of thought. He stopped for a few seconds, then continued. "In the end, there is much we can not know, and it serves neither Sean, nor ourselves to sit and worry any more than necessary. Sean will return when he returns. Our jobs are to take care of things until he does."
    Both Mariska and Senta voiced their agreement with his premise. Then, they watched as he walked over to where his gear was kept, and began picking thru his stuff.
    "What are you doing Dover," asked Senta. "The animals have been taken care of. You can't be thinking of going out into that storm?
    He winked, and said. "The storm will be gone by morning. We have done well putting food up, but we never know when the next storm might come in, so I will go hunting in the morning and see if I can add to our supply of meat."
    Mariska poured his cup full of coffee and brought it over to him. "So, now in addition to all your other talents, you know how to predict the weather?"
    "There is much you do not know about me Mariska, Ma'am. Many years ago, a Cheyenne medicine man taught me many things about how to predict the weather. When I spent a winter with the Flathead tribe, a couple of years back, the women came to my tipi every day, asking me about what the weather would be like the next day. Sometimes, there would be a dozen or more lined up outside my tipi waiting to get their question answered."
    "Dover, were those women there to learn about the weather, or to hear you tell them how pretty they were, as they listened to you flirt with them?"
    "Ma'am, now that's an interesting question. It's possible that some of them were not as interested in the weather as they pretended to be. I do recall that most of them seemed to be young and unmarried."
    "Just as I thought," said Mariska with a smile. "And what did you do when an old married woman came asking about the weather?"
    After taking a sip of coffee, Dover sat the cup down. "Usually I'd tell them that I overheard their husband telling another warrior that if he caught her coming to my tent, that he would beat her. They never seemed to come back after that for some reason. Anyway, I will go hunting in the morning, so I'm going to call it a night." He handed his empty cup to Mariska, blew out the candle next to his blanket, and said, "Good night to you both."
    "Good night Dover," came their response in unison.


    The next morning, as Dover had predicted, the blizzard had left, leaving clear skies. Opening the door for all to see, he winked. "There you go. Anytime ya'll want to know anything about the weather, feel free to ask. No charge."
    After breakfast, Dover took care of the animals, then saddled up and headed out to try his luck at hunting. Chance and Patrick were at their mother's side as they watched Dover carefully pick his way through the snow drifts. His many years of experience in western living were paying off as he worked at reading the terrain, helping him to anticipate what lay beneath the deep snow.
    When they lost sight of him, they reluctantly returned to the cabin. As they were washing dishes and going through their normal morning cleaning routine, Senta asked. "Mariska, do you think he will have any luck hunting so soon after the storm?"
    "Oh, I don't know. It's hard to say. Dover's point about taking advantage of every opportunity to add to our food supply is a good one. However, knowing Dover, I suspect that his desire to get out of the house, and roam around a bit was just a really big factor in his decision to go hunting."


    Mariska's guess was accurate. After being stuck inside the cabin for three days and nights, Dover had been more than a little anxious to follow his life long pattern of roaming and exploring the countryside.
    The storm was gone, leaving behind clear skies and sunshine, but the appearance was deceiving It was cold. Bone cutting cold. He estimated it to be at least twenty below zero. Fortunately, there was almost a complete absence of wind.
    He rode slow and with great care. He needed to avoid hazards hidden beneath the snow, and, to conserve energy in himself and his mount. A man can survive extreme cold if he uses his head and doesn't exert himself to the point to where he begins to sweat. Left without some sort of cover to escape the cold, that sweat will often turn into a killer.
    Late that afternoon, a tired Dover rode up to the cabin and tied his horse to the hitching rail. The door flew open and Mariska and Senta stepped out, followed by the boys.
    "Good afternoon all," he said. "If one of you kind ladies would make some coffee, I'll take my horse to the stable. He's put in a good day's work, and deserves a good rub down, along with a bit of food and water."
    Senta stepped forward and untied his horse. "Mariska, if you will start the coffee, I'll take care of his horse."
    "Well now," Dover said with surprise. "Now how about this? A man could sure nuff get spoiled by treatment like this." After he removed his rifle, blanket roll and saddlebags from his horse, Senta led him off toward the stable, as Dover started for the door. Mariska was still standing there with a smile on her face. "What did you do with the meat you killed?"
    "Ma'am, I'm cold and tired. On top of that, I ain't seen a live animal all day. Now, I sure would appreciate it if you would get that coffee started."
    With an impish light in her eyes, she answered. "Of course, come right in Dover. Watch your step when you get inside the door. I wouldn't want you to trip over that dead Cougar. He was headed toward the stable about an hour ago. Senta killed him with one shot."
    Being still within hearing range, Senta turned and responded. "Dover, anytime you want to know anything about hunting wild animals, just let me know. No charge."
    With the laughter of both women filling his ears, Dover threw up his hands and entered the cabin without saying a word.
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  2. #2
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    Another interesting chapter

    I really like the illustration too. Look forward to more!

  3. #3
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    Hey Barney, the story cooled me down, have been working around the house and sat for a break as got so hot, enjoyed reading your story, so now back to the grind lol, thanks for the cooling break and great story

  4. #4
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    Once again Barnburner a great read and super painting. I love how you make the people so real and sometimes so amusing. Well done
    Sometimes...I remember better with my eyes closed

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  5. #5
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    Marilyn - Many thanks. I'm glad you are finding the book to be interesting.

    Pat - LOL.. As hot as it's been around here, simply a picture of cooler temps is a welcome relief. Thank you very much.

    Katie - Thank you so much. Mostly I just stumble around in the dark. I just try and write in a way that I would enjoy reading, while I hope there are a few others out there.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexandra View Post
    Great story Mike, and wonderfully illustrated!
    Very much appreciated Sandy. Thanks!
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  8. #8
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    I hope coguars are edible then. If they taste like cats they sure do and may be sold as rabbit meat ...LOL
    Considering the winter cold and weather they should have now time for in-house works, like tayloring new clothes, making baskets etc. I also hope they can play cards or chess to make the time pass faster, since there seems to be not much more to have fun in the hut, I guess. Just a pity not even a girl from the village decided to stay there too so as to be constantly informed about weather and kept warm by Dover. LOL
    Panta rei (everything flows)!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caesar View Post
    I hope coguars are edible then. If they taste like cats they sure do and may be sold as rabbit meat ...LOL
    Considering the winter cold and weather they should have now time for in-house works, like tayloring new clothes, making baskets etc. I also hope they can play cards or chess to make the time pass faster, since there seems to be not much more to have fun in the hut, I guess. Just a pity not even a girl from the village decided to stay there too so as to be constantly informed about weather and kept warm by Dover. LOL
    I've read that the old mountain men preferred Cougar meat over anything else.
    I'm not sure, but an old Arapaho medicine man told me that tribal legends say that Dover slipped away now and then and came to do the Arapaho village to visit a beautiful young maiden. Probably just wanted to update her on the latest weather forecast....
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  10. #10
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    I guess Dover wouldn't bear to face an unsuccesful hunting once more anyway ...
    Panta rei (everything flows)!

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