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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Cochrane

Cheyenne Showdown Released Nov. 22 - Sneak peak


Crossing the river

The buckskin and the two pack horses waded most of the way across the Yellowstone. Near the south shore the bottom fell away and they had to swim, plunging Thorn Marshall into the icy water. His body spasmed and his lungs locked, then he gasped and clutched the saddle horn as the powerful horses churned through the flood.

On the south bank the horses grazed and rested, while the warm May sun dried Thorn's clothes. Last fall, the deepest water barely touched the bottom of his saddle strings. He felt torn..., uncertain. Maybe Mowatt was right and he needed to wait.


Elly Courted

A short while later, Brunson stepped onto the porch. "It's Thorn," he shouted back into the building, a toothy smile splitting his face. "Good to see you, young man. It's been awhile."

Thorn smiled back. "Seemed like every time I wanted to come, Rufus had a more pressing need." Both men laughed.

"Looks like you got wet," Brunson said. "You should have come down and let me bring you over. I'll probably pull the ferry later this week, then there'll be no crossing 'til spring runoff's done."

Malaise gnawed the back of Thorn's mind. He looked down at his boots. "Figured I better get supplies, before that happens."

After tending to his horses, Thorn entered the trading post. The scent of fresh baked bread filled the room. His mouth watered. "Smells good. You're a lucky man."

Brunson's wife breezed into the store from the private rooms in the back. "He is a lucky man," she said, smiling. "Take your coffee out on the porch, it's a beautiful day. I'll bring out fresh bread."

As the men sat waiting for the steaming brew to cool, a small cloud passed in front of the sun. A distinct chill in the air sent a shiver down Thorn's spine. Across the valley near a small grove of trees, crows took to the air cawing angrily. "Must be something dead," Thorn said.

"It's an elk," Brunson said. "Wolves took down the old herd bull. I always left him. Just liked watching him; he was something to see. I suppose age and winter finally weakened him. Now the crows and coyotes are picking over all that's left."

Both men stared into their coffees, until the sun burst back out and Brunson's daughter Abby breezed onto the porch. She carried a tray filled with thick slices of warm bread, slathered in butter and Saskatoon berry preserves. She looked from her father to Thorn and beyond.

"It's only me," Thorn said.

"Mamma told me you were here. It's good to see you. It's time you came to visit," she said, with a warm, genuine smile that made the day even brighter.

For a brief moment, Thorn pushed down his thoughts of Elly and thought only of his friends here in Montana. "Ruf wanted to come, but Mowatt insisted I get out for a day. He said I was getting cabin fever. He can be a bit of a bully you know," Thorn said with a chuckle.

I'm glad you came," Abby said, tugging on Thorn's sleeve and gracing him with more of her lovely smile.


Two hours later, Thorn packed bacon and beans into the panniers he would hang from the pack saddles. He hoisted first one, then the other, ensuring each weighed the same. The last thing he needed was a sore backed pack horse.

"Wish you'd stay the night," Abby said. "It's lonely around here this time of year."

The offer was tempting, but he said, "I need to get back. Lot's to do before I head to Cheyenne."

"When are you going?"

"I wanted to go now, but Mowatt says it's too early."

"He's right," Brunson said, overhearing the conversation, as he stepped back onto the porch with the last of Thorn's merchandise.

"Look there!" Abby said, pointing. "John and Caleb."

Across the valley, four big black Percheron mules leaned back, easing a heavy freight wagon down the draw and across the side hill.

"Now we'll have plenty of stock until after the thaw," she continued.

"Where they coming from?" Thorn asked.

"Cheyenne," Brunson replied.

Thorn's heart leaped. "I thought it was too early for the trail," he said, watching the teamsters guide the big mules across and down the steep hill.

"Is," Brunson replied.

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