Beyond the Clearing —-Elaine Bonow
Beyond the Clearing
He took his stance, hands on waist, legs spread wide and breathed deeply before he picked up the heavy axe and faced the pile of wood.
The weather was starting to change and although he had already stockpiled some of his winter fuel supply another four cords needed to be split and stacked. He had chopped down the trees with the help of his brother Rich, clearing enough land to create a boundary of safety for the small cabin he built.
To Jim and Rich, the Oregon Territory was going to be a vast opportunity. The brothers made the trek with only what their horses could carry. Jim, the older of the brothers had made the decision to relocate two years ago and Rich the youngest of the eight joined his brother on the trail.
They made great strides on their quest and when they landed they staked a claim near where the railroad would eventually reach. Jim had a vision of becoming a wealthy man supplying lumber to the future of America’s westward surge.
Jim’s natural tendencies drove him relentlessly. He felt that he could do any thing that needed doing. His mind was quick and learning anything was easy for him. He could read and write eruditely and cipher like a machine. He could tend to the health needs of animals as well has humans including pulling teeth, removing a bullet and splinting a broken leg. He knew blacksmithery as well as wife midwifery. He was a farmer, a cheese maker and a brewer of fine beers and spirits. He was an expert tracker and nothing frightened him. He was uncommonly lucky and always found himself doing well in life. A loner by nature, he didn’t need company and at his age didn’t actively pursue women. He wanted to be married but had never found a woman with whom he could share his dreams and ambitions, until now.
While he was piling up his split wood he mused about finding Rebecca at the end of this journey. He felt that she had been waiting for him, saving herself for him by an unknown force.
Rebecca’s family had come west before she was born. She was half wild much like the territory but had been educated by traveling Jesuits. Jim knew he needed a wife in order to be successful and Rebecca was the next piece of the jigsaw that fit perfectly into his plans.
Winter was approaching and after a very productive late fall Jim was feeling very satisfied with his progress except for his brother Rich.
Richard had never been as driven as Jim and always seemed to be recovering from one mishap after the other. He was loose with his women, loose with his money and couldn’t control his association with strong whiskey.
The brothers got along fine on the road west but since settling down, Rich had gone his on own path by being a saloon rat, going so far as to become the bootlegger of choice for the town. This unique position put him in the very dangerous position of becoming a frontier gangster, something that grated on Jim’s nerves. He sensed that nothing good was going to come of this, nothing good at all. Jim had tried to reason with Rich but Rich loved his status with the locals and just laughed at his hard working brother.
The brothers had decided to separate their lives. Rich was riding over today to get the last of his belongings and his share of the money the brothers had used to move west.
Jim swung the heavy axe and under his deft handling the ground was soon littered with neat wedges that he would soon stack along the side of his freshly hewn cabin. Rebecca was also on her way bringing provisions to cook for his early supper.
Jim was usually alert to his surroundings. Today, however, he must have let his guard slip. The animal’s senses were greater than the little human creature that appeared to harness nature so easily.
The bear was determined to enjoy one more meal before hibernation and before him was a very tasty morsel, so easy to flay with her expert talons, so yielding, so tempting to separate the flesh and to crunch those small bones.
Jim’s back to her his arms raised, she rushed to her delicious supper in three giant sized bounds. Rich, just arriving into the clearing saw the bear grab his brother’s scalp; blood streamed down his contorted face. His horse sensing danger reared up and Rich holding onto the reins in his left hand was able to un-holster his Colt 45 and fired at the huge head of the raging grizzly. The horse bucked as Rich fired. He missed, the shot instead pierced Jim’s throat killing him instantly. The unrelenting bear, her paw firmly attached to the bleeding scalp, dragged the carcass into the trees beyond the clearing.