Fate's Sense of Humor
The year was coming to a close. Snow covered the ground of the mountain and the trees were barren. We had traveled a short distance away from civilization and into the wild, the unknown. Most people back east could only picture the west being rugged and wild of what many considered the uninhabitable mountains. Wagons would not have been heading out with weather such as this either, but winter had come early. Settlers were getting sick, many had not prepared adequately. My father kept my mother and I in the wagon under quilts as much as he could. I was his youngest daughter for the time being since my mother was expecting another, a surprise to everyone.
I was glad to be on the trail though. My friends had not been very friendly as of late, at least not towards me. Spring, for them, had come early and their heads were in the clouds as they thought about their new suitors. There were many times that I felt left out and perhaps that was cause for my bitterness towards them. My father had dismissed my annoyed grumbles about it saying I shouldn’t push away suitors, that I should become more interested. I couldn’t see his point of view in the matter and my stubborn pride only made me feel he didn’t want to understand my point of view.
The wagon continued bouncing down the trail. The journey had taken longer than it would have in the spring, the snow obscuring the way. Now, as I lay in the covered wagon I felt an air leak somewhere. I uncovered myself, feeling it was my duty to correct the problem and tossed my side of the quilt over my sleeping mother. I opened and closed my hands a moment to keep the blood running through them and to hopefully get rid of the numbness. Despite the chill, I looked around before crawling carefully from one side of the small wagon, to the other to find the breeze. As I neared the back of the wagon where the cover was tied, I noticed the sound of flapping in the wind, just to find out that the cloth of the wagon was indeed loose. I pulled myself up off the floor, unable to feel my toes in my shoes and looked outside. Snow swirled around. I was surprised the wagon train was still moving in these conditions, but there was no time to think of that. I stepped toward the edge of the wagon in an attempt to grab the flap which was jerked around by the harsh wind. I reached out slowly, carefully stepping closer to the edge so that I could reach further out. Finally, I managed to grab the flap but the wind jerked it back out of my grasp. I growled and stepped closer determined to get hold of the fabric. Almost within reach, the wagon jostled from perhaps a large rock, and before I could regain my balance, I felt myself fall forward towards the ground outside the rolling wagon. I tried to grab anything I could, and I managed to get the flap as I screamed. The pace of the wagon was not fast, but on this mountain trail the side in which I hung was a steep hill in which the trees clung to the side with thick roots and there was no telling what was at the bottom, or even how far the bottom of the steep hill was. I hung in the air a moment, and my numb fingers’ grasp slipped slowly from the flap. It seemed like forever but it was only a few seconds before my grasp completely slipped and I fell to the ground.
The steep hill I feared seemed to be glad to have me as my body began to roll through the powdery snow, unable to grab hold of any of the trees to stop myself from going faster and faster. I screamed fearing for my life. Before I could stop myself, there was a sudden drop and I reached out for anything and at last managed to catch hold of a tree root that was growing out from the cliff . I clung to it desperately feeling dizzy, numb, and shivering. My skirts were soaked through from the snow. I closed my eyes a moment so I could at least clear my head before I adjusted my grip and tried to pull myself up, it was no use. I lacked the upper body strength. I looked down to see how far my drop was. I estimated about a good twelve foot drop, then concluded it was not high enough to kill me, but I could possibly break something. That would not help my situation any.
I sighed and attempted to pull myself up again then decided against doing it again since my arms were tiring and my strength was quickly leaving me. I looked around, my whole body was shaking from cold.
“Help!” I called out hoping that God would save me and this was in fact not my end. I felt anger build inside me. What had I done to deserve this? I sighed and sucked in a lungful of air, screaming as loud and shrill as I could, though it hurt my cold throat and only helped in making it sore and scratchy. I was sure someone would be able to hear me. My fingers hurt and I felt even more numb. I wondered if it was possible to freeze to the tree, I kind of hoped it was so that I wouldn’t have to worry about falling. My fingers were a deathly white and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer if I was not saved sometime soon.
“Hey,” I heard a voice say. I thought I was
hearing things, “Hello?”, came the voice again.
I looked down as best as I could at where the voice came from, and sure enough, a man stood there wrapped in a large coat and snow boots. He stared up at me but I couldn’t see his face due to a scarf he had wrapped around the lower half.
“Help.” I said in a low raspy voice caused from my scream. I tried to adjust my grip and cleared my throat.
“Let go!” He yelled to me
Let go? Why that was the craziest idea I had ever heard and I made sure he knew it “You’re insane!” I called back, a little louder so he could hear me, my irritation returning.
“I’ll catch you!”
The wind began blowing harder and I could feel my grip slipping. I felt like clothes on a laundry line and wondered if it would hurt if I broke something since I was already numb. I sighed, figured I had no other option, and I released the root.
I closed my eyes waiting for the impact, the pain. Instead I felt a thump, but not of the hard ground, it was two arms at first, then a thump and a “hmph” came from below me. I opened my eyes and quickly got to my feet. From where I had landed on the stranger and he was lying on the ground in the powdery snow. He peeled himself from the snow and quickly set to work of pulling off his first layer, a heavy coat, and putting it around my shoulders. I quickly accepted and snuggled into the warm coat which still had his body heat. My teeth were chattering and my knees were shaking, in fact, my whole body was shaking more than I had realized.
“Come on, before the blizzard gets any worse!” The man quickly shouted to me over the wind before turning around and heading away along the bottom of the cliff.
“Wait, what about my wagon train?” I exclaimed looking up towards the top of the cliff. Surely someone would be along soon to look for me. He stopped, came back towards me, and grabbed my hand, jerking me along.
“You can get back to them after.”
I wasn’t willing to give in so easily and I jerked away from him. “No, I can’t, they will wonder what happened!” I yelled feeling panic rise up in me. The next thing I knew he scooped me up in his arms cradling me. I kicked my legs in protest but he he held onto me as if I were a young child throwing a tantrum and wasn’t fazed one bit. I, on the other hand, was angry, cold, numb, and even a bit scared though I refused to acknowledge such a feeling.
“Stop squirming, would you rather freeze?” He snapped at me, obviously finally annoyed. I looked at him startled but quickly recovered my pride.
“Perhaps” I retorted angrily, yet the effect was lost due to my chattering teeth, and I finally settled uncomfortable. I crossed my arms to show him I was still not pleased with this situation.
I saw smoke before I actually saw the house, and the smoke from a chimney looked so inviting. Everything in my body was hurting, I felt numb yet my nerves were hurting. I tried to move my fingers and even they hurt unbearably. I knew where there was smoke, there was most likely fire. That was the instance when I forgot that I was going to a complete stranger’s house, in a completely strange place. I was thankful to see the house come into view once we cleared the trees.
A small cabin with a barn at its side was in a clearing that reached a couple miles all around it until meeting the surrounding tree line. We neared and I seemed to stare entranced until we were actually at the front door. The man managed to knock on the door even though I was still in his arms, shivering.
An older woman answered the door and she looked quite startled to see me before her. I couldn’t speak. I was freezing and my teeth were chattering. She opened the door wider to reveal a small room with the glow of a fire in which an older gentlemen sat, I couldn’t focus on either of them very well and I was carried inside with the door shut behind me. The older gentleman stood up from his rocker in which he had been smoking a pipe, and I was placed in the chair. I wrapped my arms around myself and scooted forward so I was closer to the flickering flames. The older woman pulled a quilt over my lap. Despite everything, the warmth was slow in entering through my cold skin and I hugged the blanket around my chin in hopes it would work faster.
It was quiet in the house. No one had bothered to speak or ask questions and I was oblivious to any movement going on as I tried to soak in the heat of the fire. After a moment, a warm mug was placed in my hands and I looked up at the slender woman. She had brown hair pulled up in a bun with faint white streaking it in various spots and gentle hazel eyes. She was looking at me with concern and I noted her simple wool dress. After a moment, I looked back at the hot liquid in my hand and took a sip of the hot coffee which I could feel slide down my throat and enter my stomach. The woman watched me as I swallowed and a kind smile came to her face.
“Feeling better?” She woman asked in a clear, kind, gentle voice.
I nodded my head. I was cold but I was being taken care of.
“What happened?” ,She asked turning her attention from me and looking at someone behind the rocker I was sitting in.
“I dunno, she was hangin by a root over the cliff.” I heard the familiar voice say as he walked around my chair so that he was standing to the side of the fire to warm himself. He was now out of his coats and other winter wrappings and I could see him clearly, he was a young man with shaggy, dark blond hair that seemed like he never cared to take a comb to it. He also had hazel eyes to match the woman who I assumed was his mother. His eyes were gentle, and sparkled in the firelight. He turned and knelt down with his back facing me. He began to warm his hands by the fire, before turning to slightly so I could get a profile view of him. He glanced at the woman and me.
“I…I….fell…f….f….from my…my wagon.” I forced out, but my teeth were still chattering and I couldn’t say it clearly. I noticed a smirk tug at the corner of the boy’s mouth and I felt anger rise up inside of my chest at that simple gesture.
“I hope they are not trying to travel in this weather!” the woman exclaimed looking back at who I assumed was her husband, unless someone new had joined us in the room.
“I n…need to g…get…b…b…back,” I stammered again looking pleadingly at the older woman.
“She would have frozen out there. Stubborn and talking ’bout nothin but her wagon train.” the boy snickered getting to his feet again and turning to face the room. He didn’t seem to care at all about my feelings. I felt myself become even angrier with this arrogant boy.
“D…don’t t…talk about m…me like t….that!” I snapped at him, unable to stop myself, but realizing any attempt to scold the young man turned into failure, and it made me embarrassed that I couldn’t keep my voice steady.
He turned to look at me now for the first time and had an amused smirk on his lips, which I didn’t like at all, as if this was all a joke to him. I didn’t like his way of joking around “O…o…okay” He mocked. I was horrified; I had never met someone of such ignorance.
“Buck!” His mother warned in a stern tone.
He looked at her sheepishly, “I’m just joking.”
Buck? I wondered to myself at what I considered a strange name.
I leaned back in the rocker and let my gaze go to the flames in front of me. I wouldn’t let this…Buck….get me in a foul mood. I needed to plan my next action in getting back to my parents. I wondered then how they were, if they were trapped in the blizzard or if they were safe. I kept in a sigh of distress and drowned out the sound of the others who had taken me into their home. I suppose they were alright people. I was safe wasn’t I? I would just have to wait out the storm.
My eyelids became heavy and I felt them drop. Despite me wanting to stay awake, the warmth lulled me into a peaceful sleep.