Western Fiction posted November 15, 2020 Chapters:  ...17 18 -19- 20... 

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Jane finds where her greatest treasure lies

A chapter in the book The Spirit of the Wind

Home Where I Belong

by forestport12

As a young widow, Jane digs in to make her homestead a success and give her son a heritage. She remarries at the close of the civil war and the start of Indian wars.
"Where your heart is found, so also will be your treasure."

We shook the snow off the evergreens and made snowshoes from the pine branches. Snow showered me, finding every sliver of skin. Bundled with skis over our shoulders, Thad and I said our goodbye to Redhawk from where we crossed over the river from the old beaver dam.

We managed to get the horse drawn wagon of wood through the tall thin trees and into the open prairie. We both had to tug on the reins and lead the horses through the blowing and drifting snow. There were times the wind would ease and reveal an endless azure blue sky. My lips blistered and my eyes ached, but I imagined seeing my family, the cherub smile of my beautiful boy and then the handsome, rugged face of my husband. It was enough to keep slogging through the snow, where my heart led each step.

My legs became heavy as sandbags, as I churned through the snow. My heart beat heavy in my chest. The snow and ice needled my eyes, so I could hardly leave them open long enough to carve a path. Thad never once took his hands off the reins or his rifle until I fell forward and couldn't find my feet.

He plucked me straight up and carried me to the wagon where he tucked me in with several blankets. I squinted to see icicles dangling from his scarf and black beard. "I got this Miss, Jane."

He took hold of the horses and walked them through the rifts and rises until we could see the cabin as just a speck on the horizon. I must have dozed off when I opened my eyes to see a faint outline of the cabin and smoke rising. It was a sight for swollen eyes.

"Miss, Jane! Miss Jane!" Thad shouted.

I perked up and shouted over the wind. "I see my home, Thad." My heart raced inside until I thought it would burst.

Thad marched on with the team of horses. I would never doubt his friendship and loyalty. He'd left his duties and his wife behind on the ranch to see our family had enough woods, and then he was there ready to defend me with his life when it seemed the Indians were about to run us over out west. He clawed his way through each rise until at last the cabin stood with warm, glowing lights from the windows and the unmistakable smell of smoke. I reckoned they'd been reduced to burning some of the homemade furniture by now.

I blinked away until I saw my husband, Jake on the roof, waving his gloved hands. He slid down from the roof and charged toward me. He held Thad up straight from falling. I tumbled from the buckboard and dove into his arms. He hugged me and kissed me on the neck. He warmed me with his brush of his skin and beard.

Thad looked us up and down with a smile. Just then his wife tumbled from around the cabin, holding my son in her arms. "It looks like I get my Missus to warm me up."

Jake looked at Thad. "There's hot stew on stove. I was worried sick. We was ready start a search party."

I looked in Jake's stark blue eyes. "I got no more hankering to ever leave again without you."

"Where's Redhawk?"

"He's okay," I said. "He's helping a boy, a half breed like himself, trying to survive the winter by the river with his Indian grandfather."

We quartered the horses and then all stumbled into the warmth of the cabin. I never knew how much the fire burned inside me to be alive in the moment. I held my son and looked him in the eyes, hugged him to my beating heart. "This is our home. You are my only son. This land is your land. This land is my land." But as I said it, my thoughts ran back through the woods and over river, where land was a perilous fight to hold.

Jake took me under his wing and warmed me along with the fire. "The war between the states is near over, but a war between the union army and the Indians is looming."

I said nothing. I simply wanted to stare into the flames of the fireplace and allow his warmth to blanket me and give me a sense of peace on the prairie, if only for a season. I welcomed the winter storm. It meant we likely would be insulated and left alone from incursions.

Such was our life on the prairie. We were but a step between faith and fear, life and death. But we were free to own each step we took.

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