Today, Flash Fiction Fridays begins a month-long celebration of the holidays. Enjoy.
A Blizzard in the Mojave, an Old West Christmas Story
By Travis Haselton
The night was cold. It was the first heavy snowfall anyone had seen in the Mojave Desert. He thought he had steered clear of this weather; it was rumored it was hotter here than in hell itself.
Zane Anderson had traveled to St. Thomas, Nevada, about two years after the Mormons left and went up to Utah on account of Nevada issuing a tax they didn't agree with. Settlers started claiming the buildings left behind as soon as they got word. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, they had all been grabbed up.
There wasn't much work this time of year, and he had no money, so he would head to Yellowstone. Ulysses S. Grant had declared it a national park the year before, and he knew they would have work.
As Zane started out of town with his slicker buttoned up real tight to combat the wind, he could see people staring at him, probably wondering what nut was out in a blizzard.
His heart sunk at the thought of spending Christmas on the trail. It was his first year so far from home, and he hoped he would at least meet a couple of people here to spend the time with.
Before he got too far out, Zane noticed a faint, flickering light up into the hills overlooking the Muddy River. As he rode closer, he saw a small, beaten up shack with a fire inside it. Not much of one, though.
He tied off his horse and stepped inside, noticing only a few pieces of creosote for fire. It wouldn't do. Even in this desert, one could die of cold. They had but one rabbit’s worth of meat. He needed the food, but not as much as them, so he dropped some of his venison he had gotten crossing Arizona.
The woman had two young children, one boy and girl. Couldn't be more than two years between them, and the oldest was not more than six. She was at the last of her energy. Her husband had gone up state in hopes of getting cattle to start their settlement with. Without a man in the house, they would not make it through the night.
Zane knew there would be some cottonwood where the Muddy River met the Colorado, so he rode hard to get there.There wasn't much for animals out, so he picked up some of the nourishing "Mormon Tea" plant. Dipping his canteen and his coffee pot into the river, he got plenty of water for the boil.
After about ten inches of snow and many stories of the trail and of his father’s Texas Ranger days, they finished off the venison and tea and said their goodbyes. He left, knowing even though he would be alone on the trail, he would be in the hearts of that family for the Christmas season.