The cold winter air crept through the thin glass window panes in the small remote cabin. Clementine shivered but continued staring outside. It’s so dreary and cold out there.
“Clementine, open the door!” a deep voice hollered from the outside.
Clementine pulled the curtain back then immediately jumped up and unbolted the door.
“Why didn’t you open the door sooner?” the tall husky man asked as he stepped through the doorway, thundering a load of wood onto the hearth.
“I’m sorry, Papa,” she replied helping him take off his coat. “I guess I was daydreaming.”
“That’s all you do these days,” he muttered, pouring a hot cup of coffee for himself.
“How long are we going to be here?” Clementine asked while setting the table for supper.
“Until we have enough money to move on,” he answered. “If we don’t get enough pelts this winter and next spring, I’m not sure what we’ll do next.”
“I know you don’t’ like it here, Clem, but it’s what we have to do right now. You’ll have to be strong.”
“Yes, Papa,” she responded, stirring a pot of stew they had been eating all week. Maybe I can dig up a few more potatoes and add to this.
She put her coat on and her gloves and unlatched the front door.
“I’ll be right back in, Papa,” she said.
He nodded. “Keep your eyes and ears open in case there are any more wolves or coyotes around.”
Clementine made her way along the dirt path to the vegetable garden—or what was left of it. Next to the garden gate she picked up the shovel, found the potato patch, and dug through the hard ground. It took a while but she had success—four potatoes. This will provide enough meals for us. She walked quickly back to the cabin.
The following morning Clementine’s pa was up early with his trapping gear ready.
“Clementine,” he told her, pulling the last strap on his backpack tight. “I may be gone for a week. You stay put.”
“I know, Papa, but I’m not a baby. I’m grown and can take care of myself.”
He picked up his rifle. “Just be sure you have ammunition in the gun if you need it, you hear?”
“Yes, Papa,” she said. “But what will I do while you’re gone?”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure something out. You’ve got your knitting, and you can darn some of my socks—I’ll need those when I get back. Now don’t you worry about me. I’ll be fine.” With that said he hugged her, opened the door, and walked out.
Clementine bolted the door and then watched him through the window until he was out of sight. She was all alone now: not another person within miles.
She made sure there were enough candles burning inside the cabin and plenty of logs for the fire. Sitting in the rocking chair, Clementine stared at the crackling fire, and eventually fell asleep. It wasn’t the thunder that woke her up but the howling sound from the woods close by. Startled, she grabbed for the gun, the same gun her pa had taught her to use when she was eight, six years ago. She peered out the window but it was too dark to see anything. The howling continued. Her eyes darted back and forth. What is it? Is it getting closer?
Clementine made sure the bolt on the front cabin door was secure and pulled a table in front of the door—just to be safe. Turning the rocking chair to face the door she sat with the gun in her lap, prepared for any intruder. She was glad her pa had taught her how to use a gun.
Thunder continued rumbling outside as the storm came with a vengeance. More wind, more rain, more lightning and thunder followed. Clementine hoped her pa was safe. She wrapped the shawl around her shoulders and then she heard it—the howling. Oh, no. It’s the coyotes again. I just wish they’d leave. They scare me.
It continued and then as if on cue, stopped. Oh, I wonder if they got a chicken out in the pen. Clementine didn’t move but when she heard the scratching at the front door, she jumped up, grabbed the gun that had fallen to the floor, and aimed it at the door.
“Don’t you come in here. I’ve got a gun!”
She heard more scratching and what sounded like a whimper. She was afraid to move, afraid to look out the window. She had heard stories about people doing that and then a coyote or bear would see them and attempt to come through the window. The whimpering and scratching continued. Cautiously Clementine walked over to the window, nearly tripping over her shawl that had fallen to the floor. Slowly she pulled the curtain back.
“Oh, my goodness,” Clementine exclaimed, quickly putting the gun down. She quickly removed the table and unbolted the front door. Slowly she opened it.
There lying against the door was a pregnant dog ready to give birth, its leg badly torn.
“You must have escaped from the coyotes,” she told the dog.
Clementine carefully carried the dog inside laying her on the shawl that had fallen to the floor when she jumped up from the rocking chair. She quickly went back and closed the front door and bolted it. She tended the animal’s leg, cleaning and binding the wound. Her unexpected visitor was exhausted and soon fell asleep. Clementine eventually nodded off in her rocking chair next to the dog. When the dog whimpered again, Clementine woke up. She reached over and patted the dog’s head, but she could tell the dog was in pain. Oh, my goodness. I think she’s going to have puppies right now.
She snuggled more blankets around the dog and stroked its head. She waited. Finally, the first little pup came out. She watched the mama dog break the sack and lick her baby from head to toe. The next puppy came and the next and then the last one. Clementine stared at the four tiny helpless creatures nestled next to their mama and the warmth of the hearth.
She didn’t know how this dog had found their cabin or why she had come, but she was glad. These new puppies and their mama needed her now. She needed them, and she hoped the mama dog liked stew.