In 1885, a terrible mistake turns a simple act of chivalry into murder, and forces two lovers to bear their children in a Montana wilderness.
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River City Books
Montana - 1885
On this Saturday afternoon, ten after two to be exact, Nathan Wolford was Big Larch’s most respected merchant. Mighty as a bull, easy as a lamb, he did not know that in a few heartbeats unleashed violence would change his life forever.
Unaware his actions in the next few minutes would rewrite his destiny; Nathan leisurely swept the floor in his general merchandise store. He carefully swept around Luke’s tail, between his legs, and around his head. To let a sleeping dog lie was just a common courtesy to Nathan’s way of thinking.
He had just loaded two gunnysacks of chicken feed on his shoulders when Little Benny, the town’s self-appointed news instigator, burst through the double screen doors. The doors banged loudly behind him. “Willy Strom is slander’n your lady friend, Nathan. He’s down at the Drywhistle braggin’ about taking his liberties with your feeancee. It’s a sight what he’s saying, I tell you.”
Little Benny’s news did not surprise Nathan, for he remembered the night before. Willy’s outrageous brags about Nellie Lee Wilson had filtered back to him after the square dance. He knew, and everybody knew, Willy was just beat’n his gums. Nellie Lee was pure as spring water. Nathan had laid awake half the night furious over what he’d heard. He was an easygoing man, he knew that, and he allowed Willy could’ve said anything he pleased about him and he would’ve shrugged it off as the babbling of a no-account, booze-soaked cowpuncher. But Nellie Lee was the girl he’d set his sights on, and no Willy Strom would sully her name while he was alive. He’d never sought a fight with any man, but how else do you shut up a loudmouth braggart?
Nathan dropped the gunnysacks of chicken feed and stalked toward the door with Benny trotting behind him like a puppy dog. Nathan’s boots clomping within inches of Luke’s head was ominous enough for Luke to open one eye. But he couldn’t muster the awful effort to keep it open, so it slowly closed again.
“Whatcha aiming to do, Nathan? You gonna whoop him ain’t ya Nathan?” Little Benny was never above suggesting an outcome to his liking.....
Nathan lowered the coffin into the grave, and then raised one end to scoop a handful of dirt underneath it to level it.
Nellie Lee laid her flowers on the lid. She looked to Nathan to say something, anything? It was his duty. He must say something.
Nathan felt the pressure of her request. After a bit he looked skyward and said, “I… I don’t understand, Lord.” He paused and repeated in almost a whisper, “I just don’t understand.” Then he picked up the shovel and threw in a shovel of dirt. It thumped with a hollow sound on the wooden coffin. “I don’t understand…”
A gentle breeze moved the swing beside them back and forth as Nathan’s shovel chulunked—shewwet, chulunk—shewwet, until the grave was full. Nellie Lee watched dry-eyed and twisted her apron into a tight knot.