The Saga of Miles Forrest

Lucas and Molly met me at Foster’s store where I purchased supplies for the trek.  I was able to rent a pack mule from Clem Vexler who said it was a dependable animal.  It was about a week’s trip, but I could get supplies along the way if needed.  What I had to carry with me was something in case the weather turned bad which it could easily do this time of year.  
    I stopped by the telegraph office to talk with Stan one more time before heading out.  He had received more information.  The rails had been blown just north of Chama and about twenty miles west of Conejos.  The train itself had blown just east of Cumbres Pass.  
    We were making good time.  I resupplied food in Pagosa Springs, and went to see if there was an update.  Nothing else had been reported so we didn’t stay around town, though I was tempted to stay at a hotel there.  Molly was hanging in there good, but Lucas seemed tired.  It was probably due to his youth and the stress he was feeling about his sister.  It’s strange how the unknown plays on one’s mind.  If they made it through the explosion I wasn’t worried that Charlie couldn’t take care of the situation, for he was a capable man.  I was just praying that they were alive and had no serious injuries.  
    That night we camped just south of the Rio Blanco River.  I noticed during the day that the clouds were building up.  It was beginning to concern me that we might get one of those snows that come up from the south.  They were unusual, but when they did come they tended to dump plenty of snow.  We would come out of the timber above a little village called Chromo which I figured was about twelve miles from camp.
    Lucas had the fire going, so I put the coffeepot on to boil.  I didn’t get in the way of Molly fixing up supper.  While she was doing that I rigged up a tarp I had purchased in Durango for the evening.  It had been cold the past couple of nights, but clear.  Tonight I wasn’t so sure.  I sent Lucas out to gather plenty of firewood and told him to place it under a large blue spruce.
    How she does it, I don’t know.  We had stew, biscuits and she had hidden away some canned cherries with which she made some fried pies.  
    “They sure sound mournful,” stated Molly in regard to the sound of the coyotes.  “Makes me shiver.  Why did you put up the tarp tonight, Miles?”
    “Just bein’ careful,” I replied.
    “Snow?” she questioned with concerned.  “That’s why you had Lucas gather more wood.”
    “Not concerned with snow.  But it’s so still now; kinda like the calm before the storm.  What I don’t want to hit is a full-fledged blizzard.”
    The howling continued.  “Those coyotes,” she said with a chuckle.
    “Not coyotes this time–wolves,” I interjected.
    Lucas’ eyes widened and he exclaimed, “Wolves!”
    “We’ll be okay, don’t you be worryin’,” I assured him.
    He got up to look around, then timidly began to clean up the area.  “Why don’t you go gather some more wood, just in case it does come a good snow,” I urged.
    Looking at me, he hesitated.  He looked all around the camp, and then sputtered, “But there are wolves out there.”
    “Lucas,” said Molly sternly, “this is not like you.”
    I could see he felt shame, but also seemed genuinely scared.  “Let me finish my coffee and I’ll go with you.  We’ll see if there isn’t a tree down that we can pull to camp.”
    That seemed to satisfy him.  Reaching for my cup I said, “Did I ever tell you of my experiences with wolves?  It happened about six years ago, if I remember right.  Remind me, and I’ll tell you how they attacked me.”
    Well, that was the wrong thing to say.  “Attacked you?”
    “So, what about Marta and Charlie?” interjected Molly quickly changing the subject.
    I poured another cup of coffee, emptying the pot.  “I want to make another one to keep one warm during the night.  They’re alright,” I said assuredly.  “The Lord has His hands on them, but I’m sort of ashamed of myself.”
    “Miles,” she said with concern.
    “All I’ve done is think about Charlie and Marta.  What about others that were on the train?  Others that were maimed or killed because of…of Merker.”
    The snow began to fall as I thought of Merker…in the distance the howl of a wolf began.