white wolf - part 15

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They started talking and the sheriff was keen to know where John was from. John was rather famished so he said “well sheriff I’d love to stand here and talk to you but I’ve been on the trail for five days and I need a hot meal so you’re welcome to join me somewhere for lunch.” The sheriff agreed and they made their way over the road to the ‘best eatery in town.’ John told the town sheriff a bit about the Blackfoot attack on his ranch and his search for the raiding party. The sheriff’s eyes widened and he was genuinely surprised that John was seeking to extract retribution on the Blackfeet. “So John what makes you think you can find these Indians and how will you handle a large group of them?” asked the puzzled sheriff. “Sheriff I’ve had some experience dealing with Indians and I’m an excellent tracker plus I’ve got plenty of fire power in my new Winchester,” said John. They spoke some more and then the sheriff asked if John was the man many people were calling ‘White Wolf’. John nodded and the sheriff realised he was talking to a legend in the making if not a legend already. “You know Sheriff most of the stories you’ve heard are exaggerated, I can’t really turn into a wolf,” smiled John. They shared a few laughs and John found out the raiders had passed by recently because they were seen by a hunter, four days previously. Although the town hadn’t been threatened, a few isolated farms were ravaged by the Indians and John’s face suddenly changed and the sheriff noted his sad expression. John went on to briefly explain how his family were killed and that was the reason he wanted to find these so called warriors and take revenge.

Later on John went to see his old friend Meiling who welcomed him with open arms. He enjoyed the luxurious steam baths then let one of the old Chinese men massage his back and torso. Afterward he caught up with the beautiful hostess and told her about his family’s deaths. She was stunned by the news and very sympathetic then she asked John if he wanted her to help take his mind off the tragedy. John thanked Meiling for the kind offer but didn’t feel he was ready for something like that so he got up and left rather abruptly. That night he stayed in a room at the hotel and in the morning saw the sheriff to collect his guns, purchased a few sticks of dynamite from the store, sent a telegram to his parents and then left town to resume his search.

He picked up the trail and rode north east until he reached the start of the northern Rockies. The weather had cleared but the paths were still slippery and difficult so it was slow going. The temperatures at night dropped alarmingly and snow covered most of the peaks. The climb up through the narrow passes took its toll on his horse and Jewel as strong and tough as he was, still needed to be looked after as there was much distance to travel. John took his time and kept a careful watch for danger, he could easily stumble upon the Blackfeet without warning. Snowy was still able to catch rabbits and the occasional deer but John also used his bow if an opportunity presented itself. At night a small fire kept the worst of winter’s bitter chill out but one of the many hazards of travelling in this country at this time of year, was the cold. It was always cold no matter what time of the day but John’s hardened body and belligerent attitude made it bearable. There was no way he was going to stop the search yet so he simply pushed on, higher into the vast wilderness.

He’d lost the trail days ago but decided to keep heading in the same general direction. He kept a sharp eye out for tell tale smoke and sometimes left the horse tied and climbed up any suitable peaks just to scan the horizon for smoke. On the fourth day out from La Barge another storm hit with such speed and force, he was soaked to the skin before finding a large cave in the side of the mountain. The cave was big enough for Jewel to come inside which was very fortunate because this blizzard blew for days on end and the snow piled up outside, almost blocking the entrance. John had plenty of food but the lack of feed was becoming an issue for his appaloosa. The cave had obviously been used by the locals as there were many ancient camp fires and drawings on the walls. It also had the faint smell of a big cat possibly a mountain lion so John was on guard in case one suddenly appeared. Snowy would pick up the scent or sound of anyone or anything approaching the cave long before John did so that was a comforting thought.

It was worst at night not only was the cold dreadful but in his sleep John tossed and turned. His dreams were nightmares as he saw the dead bodies of his wife and children. Sometimes he would wake suddenly to the sound of someone screaming but then he realised it was the wind.  John cleared a hole at the opening of the cave and crawled out to face another morning. He broke the thick layer of ice and saw his reflection in a pool of water and the face that looked back was unshaven and haggard, it looked like a stranger. The face had a haunted look but the eyes he saw were cold, chilling and predatory.

The blizzard was over but the heavy falls of snow lay blanketing the entire landscape. At another time it would have been an awe inspiring sight but to John it meant a hard ride in his search for the Blackfeet camp. He travelled only a mile in the next two hours such was the terrain, combined with the deep snow drifts. He found a small patch of grass so let the stallion feed while he scanned the distance for any signs of smoke. From the peaks he saw a haze which might be smoke however it was located across a maze of hills and canyons. By day’s end they’d gone maybe another mile and at this rate it would take weeks to get there. The wolf stayed close by and John was thankful for that, it also gave him another way of seeing trouble before it arrived. The two of them had developed a unique understanding, a way of communicating without making sound. All they did was look at each other and John could sense the wolf’s mood and feelings. The flick of an ear, the slight movement of his head all told John something and he continuously looked towards Snowy trying to read any possible danger in the wolf’s body language.

Sometimes the sun didn’t shine for a whole day and to John time seemed to slow, it didn’t matter now what day it was or even what time of the day it might be. The two of them were the only things that mattered in their world, they helped each other and relied upon one another. At night the wolf and man lay so close together they felt the other breathing but the shared warmth was critical in their survival. John had lost track of the days since he’d left the town but he thought it was probably 10 days maybe 11. Every time he stopped John inspected the horse, carefully checking its hooves and legs and making sure it was well rested before moving on. It managed to find just enough grass or leaves to eat but there were times when John needed to clear the snow and expose any buried grass.

They were travelling slowly along a small stream when John sensed something, he quickly glanced at the wolf and saw Snowy stop and sniff the breeze. A chill wind was blowing towards them and the wolf’s body suddenly stiffened then moved with infinite care into some thick bushes. It was more than enough for John to take action and he came off the horse and secured the stallion to a branch and left him screened behind a stand of pine trees. He grabbed the rifle and bow and slowly moved higher up the slope going steadily forward at the same time. There were no sounds he could detect but he smelt a faint trace of wood smoke. Now John crawled along the snow wriggling along until he could see into the small open area ahead of him. His keen eyes soon picked out movement coming from behind a tree trunk. Patiently he waited to see who or what it was and he was rewarded when a man suddenly stood up and moved closer to the river. It was an Indian and the young warrior was fishing in the stream. John watched as he thrust a spear sharply into the water, spearing a fish and lifting it out of the stream. John continued to crawl towards the man but kept a constant vigilance for any others. Eventually he reached a spot which gave him a clear view into the clearing. There were 4 warriors sitting quietly around a small heap of glowing coals, each of them was roasting a fish over the embers. John waited to see if any more emerged from the brush but after 5 minutes it seemed no one else was nearby. He could hear the men speaking in hushed tones as they ate their meal. John could easily have shot all 4 men but he didn’t want the noise of rifle fire to alert anyone else of his presence so he closed to within bow range.

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