BROTHERLY LOVE, 1 of 5: The Proposal

Herman bent carefully over the precious paper. “Dear Gertrude,” he wrote in German. “Pete and me are in Elizabethtown, New Mexico Territory. We are cutting timbers for the miners and making good money. I have enough for land and a house. The grass is good and summers are pleasant. I am sending the money for your passage. Please come soon.”

The young woman in the tiny Austrian village who received this letter considered it thoughtfully. She wasn’t sure she loved this man. His brother was more pleasant to talk to. But marrying him meant she could leave poverty behind.

Gertrude began her preparations, then wrote her own letter. “Dear Herman,” it said. “I begin my journey in twelve days. My uncle says to go to Denver, then send for you to collect me. I will write again when I arrive.”

Herman’s heart sang with joy when he read these words.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Beaver Tale – 4 of 4

“I ain’t gonna place a trap for that beaver, son.” Old Pete and the boy were resetting a garden fence post. Andrew held it steady as Old Pete shoveled dirt into the hole.

“Alma said you need a new hat.”

The old man chuckled. “Hat’s good fer another season or two.”

“But what then?”

“Somethin’ll turn up.”

“You said beaver tail was tasty.”

Old Pete leaned on his shovel. “Funny thing ’bout that. Only really tasted good when there was plenty to trap an’ the peltries were sellin’ high.” He began tamping down the dirt around the post with his foot. “You think this’ll be strong enough t’keep those elk out?”

“I hope so. Mama got pretty mad at them last spring. She was out here with the shot gun, but Papa said all she did was scare ’em. They’ll be back when they’re hungry enough.”

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Beaver Tale – 3 of 4

“Beaver tail is almighty tasty,” Old Pete observed as he sat on the front porch whittling a stick.

Andrew scowled. “Papa says it’s all fat and grease. Not good at all.”

“Fat tastes plenty good when you’ve been eatin’ venison and elk a long spell. Wild game’s almighty lean.”

“You been eatin’ here,” Andrew insisted. “We’ve got plenty o’ fat from the hogs.”

Andrew’s mother came out of the house. “The kindling box is empty,” she told him.

He rose obediantly and headed toward the woodpile.

“Are you still teasing him about trapping that beaver?” she asked Old Pete.

The old man grinned. “He’s a right rizable youngster, ain’t he?”

“Who admires you, although I can’t think why,” she said tartly. “He’s beginning to believe that men kill for the sheer pleasure of it.”

Old Pete grunted and tossed down his stick. “Think I’ll help with that kindling,” he said.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Beaver Tale – 2 of 4

“Old Pete ain’t gonna trap it, is he?” Andrew whispered. The two children were crouched on the edge of the beaver pond, peering at the yearling beaver feeding on the opposite bank.

“He says he needs a new hat, and beaver tail is mighty tasty,” Alma answered.

“He don’t need a new hat!” Andrew said loudly. There was a slapping sound on the water to their left, and the yearling turned and slid into the pond.

“I didn’t even see the other one,” Andrew said sorrowfully.

“Should of kept your voice down.” Alma stood up.

“How can you watch ’em like you do and not worry about Old Pete trapping ’em?”

She shrugged. “Everything dies. Mama says it’s all part of God’s plan.” She moved away, toward the rocky path that led up the Cimarron River toward home.

“Old Pete don’t need a new hat,” Andrew insisted as he followed.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Beaver Tale – 1 of 4

The yearling beaver was hungry, but when he tried to filch a piece of tender green shoot from his baby siblings, his mother hissed sharply. He moved toward the lodge’s diving hole, but his father blocked the way and chittered at him. He slunk to one side of the den and began grooming his fur with his right hind foot. The divided nail on his second toe made a kind of comb that simplified this process considerably.

There were three new kits this spring, which kept his parents busy. His father moved to help with the feeding, and the yearling saw his chance. He slid into the diving hole and out into the pond.

The sky was bright overhead. The beaver dived, but not before the old trapper on the bank nudged the young girl beside him. “See, I tol’ you that ole lodge was still occupied!” he said gleefully.

Copyright © 2015 Loretta Miles Tollefson

Icy Morning

At first, the girl thought it was snowing, the tiny flakes glinting in the early morning sun. Then she saw they were miniscule ice crystals, floating from the cabin’s cedar-shake roof and the long green needles of the ponderosas looming above it: sparkling flecks of ice drifting through the air like frozen sunlight. She held her breath for a long moment, taking it in.

Then her mother opened the heavy wood-plank cabin door behind her. “It’s freezing out there!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing? You’ll catch your death!” And the girl turned reluctantly toward the house.

Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson