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  1. (I thought I would try to start a new group effort story. Anyone is welcome to join in, the more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. Just be civil and try to keep it open for others to add their piece of the story) Doc Ward pulled the collar of the coat he wore up around his neck. The snow that started as flurries was growing heavier by the hour. It was very late in the season for snow, and as Doc looked up, he was worried. Looking around at the pack horse following along, Doc decided he needed to play it safe and start looking for someplace to hunker down. Moving into a wooded area along a hillside, Doc spotted what might be an ideal spot. An old tree had died and blown over in some recent wind, and left a tangle of roots and dirt higher than Doc’s six feet, creating a depression and protecting against the wind. Sliding off the large bay horse he rode, Doc walked back to the dun packhorse and pulled out the short double bit axe and pulled it from the leather sheath protecting the blade. Stripping the heavy coat he wore, Doc began clearing some of the roots, then began cutting limbs and heavier branches from the downed tree. Hearing the bay stamp a hoof, Doc paused to strip the horses of their tack, and picketed them where they could forage for food under the increasing snow. He then worked, using cordage and limbs to create more of a windbreak for them, to keep them close. Feeling the wind picking up, Doc knew the temperature was dropping, and he needed to get a fire started. Pulling the makings, Doc put some tinder together, struck a match, only to curse in frustration as the wind caught the budding flame, extinguishing it. Working his fingers against the growing cold, Doc more carefully shielded his next match, watched as the tinder slowly caught, and the flame began to grow. Slowly feeding the flames, Doc soon had a good blaze going, and let out a breath of relief. Once the fire was going steady, Doc pulled out his bedroll and put it down on some cut boughs for a bit of insulation. Doc worried about the night ahead, but knew he had no choice. In good weather, he was maybe six hours from the small town of East Fork and home. With this weather, Doc wasn’t sure he would make it tomorrow. He knew that a detour should get him to the ranch of Old Man Hammond and his sons by evening, but Doc wasn’t keen on that particular stop, because he didn’t trust them any more than he would a pack of wild dogs. This was especially true when Doc considered he had well over twenty thousand dollars nestled in his saddlebags. Eight thousand of it he owed the bank, and another five thousand belonged to friends. The rest of the money he intended to use to buy cattle, horses, and to build a better home for he and his wife, Abigail. Making coffee and some supper, Doc thought of what his wife was likely doing at this moment. He could picture her, looking out in the distance before closing the shutters against the storm, then making sure there was wood inside for the stove, with more close to the house. She would then be sitting to read before bed. The log house was snug, but small, and would handle the weather fine, as it had a couple of Wyoming winters now. He was sure Linn Keller, Tyrel Cody, or one of his other friends would be around by midday to check on her. Adding a large log to the fire with the hopes it would last the better part of the night, Doc settled back, thinking of his friends in town. Doc knew that Whiskey’s Saloon was probably emptying, and everyone was heading for home, if they weren’t there already. Crawling into his bedroll, Doc glanced over at the horses before pulling the wool blankets and canvas tight. Making sure his guns were within easy reach, Doc Ward closed his eyes and listened to the crackle and hiss of the fire, trusting to his horses to alert him as he started to doze.
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