Etown Experience: 1 of 6

She’d only been able to catch glimpses of the scenery as they’d travelled through the Cimarron River Canyon, but when Eliza stepped down from the Moreno Valley stagecoach, she saw that she was now truly in the mountains. She breathed a sigh of relief.

“Mademoiselle? May I assist you?” There was a Continental lilt to the man’s voice.

She smiled at him gratefully. “I am looking for Mr. Henri Lambert,” she said. “He is married to my good friend Mary.”

“You must be Miss Dawkins!” the man said. “I am Henri Lambert. Mollie will be so pleased that you have arrived. Welcome to Elizabethtown, New Mexico Territory!”

He said it with such pride, she thought with amusement. As if he’d built the place himself. She examined the street and its people as she followed him and her trunk. Etown was a ramshackle, bustling kind of gold-mining town. She liked it.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Fishing

Almost as soon as he woke that morning, he decided to go fishing. There were chores to do, sure, but the sky was slightly overcast and the breeze was light and cool on his skin when he stepped onto the cabin’s porch. Good fishing weather.

He let the chickens out of their pen and gathered the eggs, then cut himself some bread. The cow hadn’t calved yet, so there was no butter, but that was all right.

He collected his pole and headed to the river. As he settled onto his heels just below the beaver ponds, he heard the swoosh of wings overhead. He looked up. A bald eagle was settling itself onto a snag at the head of the pool. A heron stood in the water below, apparently ignoring both eagle and man.

“Why in tarnation would any man want to live in a town?” the man wondered.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Reprieve

“Please don’t shoot him, Papa.”

Gerald lowered the gun and looked down at the boy. “Coyote’ve been nipping at the elk all spring and they left tracks by that half-eaten calf up the hill.”

Andrew shook his head. “He didn’t kill that calf, Papa.”

Gerald frowned. “You know that for a fact?”

Andrew hesitated, then nodded. “I’ve been watching him. He lets me get mighty close. He’s not as skittish as the others.”

“You’ve been following that coyote around?”

The boy scuffed the muddy ground with his boot. “I was curious.” He lifted his head. “The calf was dead when he ate off it.”

Gerald shook his head. “You are something else,” he said. He scanned the valley. The coyote was still visible. It trotted purposefully across the far side of the grassy slope beyond the meandering creek. “We’d best head back,” he said. “They’ll be waiting dinner on us.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Winter Stop, Moreno Valley

There was no grass visible, covered as it was by three feet of snow. Clouds obscured the mountain peaks, meaning there’d be more snow in the night. The lower branches of the aspens had clearly felt the teeth of hungry deer and elk. There’d no doubt be wolves shadowing their flanks.

Old Pete cut branches for the two pack mules and created a feeding pile. They came eagerly to investigate.

What they left would clearly indicate the passing of a stranger, but he didn’t expect anyone was watching for him, anyhow. And by midday tomorrow the pile would be just another white-mounded windfall.

He added wood to the fire and pulled the buffalo robe tighter around his shoulders. He wished he had some coffee or Taos lightning. The snow-melt water was hot enough to warm him, but something with a kick in it would feel mighty handy right about now.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Decision Point

Three years after the Great Rebellion, Henry still drifted. There was nothing behind him in Georgia and nothing further west than San Francisco. Not that he wanted to go there. The California gold fields were played out.

But he needed to get out of Denver. A man could stand town life only so long and he’d been here three months. The Colorado gold fields were collapsing, anyway. Played out before he even got here.

“Been too late since the day I was born,” he muttered, putting his whiskey glass on the long wooden bar.

“I hear tell there’s gold in Elizabethtown,” the bartender said. He reached for Henry’s glass and began wiping it out. He knew Henry’s pockets were empty.

“Where’s Elizabethtown?”

“New Mexico Territory. Near Taos somewheres.”

Henry nodded and pushed himself away from the bar. “Elizabethtown,” he repeated as he hitched up his trousers. “Now there’s an idea.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Eagle Nest Lake Vacation – 15 of 15

“Well, this is goodby then,” Daniel said.

Katie nodded, looking out at Eagle Nest Lake. They were standing near the old Model T, waiting for her parents. Her father was talking to the lodge owner while her mother chatted with the desk clerk.

“I’ve really enjoyed our time together,” Daniel said, taking her hand.

She looked up at him. So tall and good-looking. So serious. In spite of herself, she said, “So have I.”

“Will you be back next summer?”

She grimaced. “Maybe sooner.”

“Really?” His fingers tightened on hers.

“My Dad wants to work here.”

“Do you think he will?”

Her parents appeared in the doorway. They were both beaming.

“Looks like it,” Katie said.

And then Daniel’s arms were around her and he was kissing her, hard, on the lips. He released her and she looked up at him, half-laughing.

“I’m so glad that you’re coming back,” he said.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Eagle Nest Lake Vacation – 14 of 15

“You’ll be leaving us soon enough,” Katie’s mother said. They were walking along the lakeshore north of Eagle Nest Lodge.

Katie tossed a stone in the water. “I want to finish high school where I started.”

“We wanted that, too. But it looks like your father’s job won’t last that long.”

“He could get something else.”

“Not there. He’s been looking.”

Katie tossed another stone. Her parents wanted to move here, of all places. Where there was nothing but lake and mountains and trees. Only a handful of people.

“You can stay here this winter and study at home, or board in Taos and attend high school there.”

She nodded reluctantly. Daniel would be in Taos. At least she would know one person there.

“I know you don’t like change,” her mother said. She reached to hug her, but Katie moved away.

“It’s not fair,” she insisted.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson