Tom's Corner


Tom Irons © 2015

Sam's Gift

By Tom Irons



Sam's Gift


       Sam's lanky body lay crumpled in a heap of blood-soaked Cabelas’ red flannel that was recently his most prized shirt. The pocket which held map, matches and insect repellent was gone, ripped away when his ribs were shattered. With one slate-gray eye, Sam could see, in the shafts of sunlight filtering down through the spruce branches, that his left arm, left leg, and ribs were bandaged. Tentatively exploring with his fingertips, he could tell that the bandages covering a major portion of his head were blood-soaked. The fact that his injuries were bandaged provided the usually competent wilderness guide a world of information. Pain washed through his wracked body like storm surf over a rocky beach. Eyeing the small lump of crescent shaped sleeping bag containing Morgan, Sam let his mind drift back to the start of this ill-fated trip.


       "Sam, I like you a lot, but I couldn't take a whole summer in Alaska." Morgan had rolled her gray-green eyes in mock terror and splayed her carefully manicured fingers to emphasize her definite rejection of the idea. Sam had watched her face, so full of animation, so alive. Her exaggerated use of hands was the source of a long-standing joke among their mutual friends. How perfectly lovely she was that night, he thought. Dark brown hair, with highlights of auburn, flowed and danced about her open laughing face. A simple ivory colored sheath dress clung to her every curve. Just prior to leaving her house, Sam had presented Morgan with an old, yet beautiful, hair comb made from carved mammoth ivory. The comb rested in a luxurious gather of hair and the color contrast was quite dramatic. He knew, together, they made a handsome couple. She so short, barely 5'4", next to his full 6 feet. His tailored gray suit provided the right contrast to her dress. He knew that people considered him handsome, but wherever they went as a couple, all eyes followed Morgan.


       "And I've told you that you'd love it. I'll take care of you. It's a wonderful life. Just trust me!" Exasperation flooded Sam's lean face and sparks flashed from his eyes as he moved his tall frame toward Morgan.


       “What about the bugs? I hate bugs. Why are you so insistent on this? You know I'm not Carol." Sam knew Morgan liked it when he stood close and talked with conviction. She had told him that the self-confidence he showed when working with the kids at the club was what initially had caught her attention.


        "Morgan, if you can see what I love about wilderness, you'll know me better. It's really who I am. Up in the mountains, I'm a different person. If you don't know, don't like, that person, we'll never have any chance of being a couple." Sam locked eyes with Morgan, willing her to understand. Softening his voice he said, "I know you are not Carol. But you are the first woman I've allowed myself to become attached to since her."


       Carol had understood. Carol had shared Sam's love of nature. Like Sam, she had been employed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the northern part of the state. In October, four years ago, while taking part in the annual moose count her plane had crashed, killing all on board, and killing her and Sam's plans for a Christmas wedding. After her death, Sam quit his job, moved to Tucson, and accepted a position as teen counselor with Vision Quest. To fill his evening and weekend hours he volunteered at Big Brothers/Big Sisters.


       Morgan was the only person Sam had talked to about Carol, their shattered hopes, and dreams. "It's time that I start getting back on track with my life. You remember how you got me to admit that I don't see myself being alone forever? Well, I've thought a lot about that and I've come to the conclusion that it's time to step out and take a few cautious chances. I'd like it if you would take a few with me."


       Thus Steven Andrew Miller, Sam, to friends and family, began to sell Morgan on the idea of a summer in the wilds of northern Alaska. It was true that over the past few months they had discovered shared interests like the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Organization where they had met. They both enjoyed the writings of Herman Wouk, Richard Bach, Studs Terkel, and Jean Aspen. Neither cared for bars or parties, preferring instead quiet walks and talking with friends. Their differences were the stumbling blocks in Sam's path. He loved and knew the wilderness, and had taken every possible opportunity to learn all that he could about survival, animals, and plants. Now he wanted to show Morgan that which he loved so dearly. He wanted her to experience standing on an unnamed mountain peak, surrounded by hundreds of nameless lakes, to gaze across a broad untouched valley full to the brim of animals, peace, serenity, and no other person except himself. Sam believed, with all his heart, that once Morgan experienced nature like this, she would always be able to bring forth the special feeling of being one with her God. Nothing was more spiritual, could hold more meaning, for Sam. Yet, he did harbor a secret doubt. Could an only child of wealthy upper class parents handle a summer such as this? Morgan was twenty-two, sheltered, happy with the comforts of civilization, secure in her world of college, friends, and money. Sam didn't know, but he was determined to find out.


       Now here they were and Sam knew the situation was bad. The odds were stacked against the two of them. But, worse yet was the knowledge that he would not live long enough to give much help to the woman he loved, the woman he had, in all honesty, forced this adventure on. He knew he would soon be leaving Morgan in a very challenging position, and that realization was tearing him apart. Tears of bitterness rolled slowly down Sam's face as he gave himself up to the numbing, blessed relief of unconsciousness





       "Woork! woork!" From his perch just across from Sam, the fat fluffy gray jay screeched his admonition to the silent forms stretched out on the ground. Sam awoke to see the northern mountains haloed in the soft pastels of the arctic midnight. Still the pain, the everlasting pain.







       "Sam?"
        Sunlight cast short crisp shadows about the makeshift camp. This time the name came with a crack in the middle, "Saa-Mmm." A plea. He recognized, could almost smell her fear. Searching her tear streaked face he saw hollow eye sockets supported by dark bags, jaw muscles clenching and releasing, and fear. Her fingers were twisting and untwisting as if they had a mind of their own. Morgan's very being cried out for assurance. "She's on the verge of breaking. If it's fight or flight, she will run until her heart just gives out. A soul this gentle," Sam thought, "should never have to experience terror such as this." Love, guilt, and pain flooded through him. Collecting himself, he put as much control, strength, and assurance in his voice as was humanly possible.


       “Hey, Princess.”
       "Oh, Sam. Wu-wu-what are we going to du-du-do?"
       "Remain calm." Taking her hand, Sam indicated that she should sit next to him. "Tell me. Are you hurt?"


       "No. But I'm scared, Sam. I managed to get all our stuff out of the river, but the canoe is so broken."


       "Okay. Tell me all you can about our situation."
        Her voice began to calm, words began to slow, as she tried to give Sam a comprehensive picture of the situation. The canoe was damaged but possibly still usable. He had been out for two fear-filled days and nights, frequently talking incoherently. While she related the happenings of the past two days, Sam let his one remaining eye rove over her. The dark red-brown hair that usually hung in thick rivulets down her back was now tangled, matted, and muddy. Her usually calm eyes darted erratically about, as if trying to keep time with her dancing fingers. "I've got almost everything dried out, even the sleeping bags. Sam, what are we going to do? I'm so afraid you're going to die. What will I do if you die?" Seeking to curb her rising hysteria, Sam focused on the main issue.


       "Princess, I may very well die." She lurched forward, toppling to the ground next to him while great sobs shook her body. Sam was aware of her small fragile form hunched against his as if to gain strength where strength no longer dwelt. "Princess, listen, if I do die, don't bother with burying the body. It'd be a waste of time and energy. Just follow the creek to the river and follow the river down to Saint James. Remember, water always flows down hill." His favorite answer to almost any challenge. Another crossed his mind. Water's wet, rocks are hard, and that's life. Not so strange for that to arise now, but he didn't give it voice. Could she do it? Could she actually cover all those miles of wilderness by herself? Silently Sam offered a prayer, asking that she find the necessary strength to survive.


       Thinking back, it was probably the baby moose that had saved them. The scene filled his head. The river was in spring flood, muddy, roiling, turbulent, fast. As if an observer to a stage play, Sam could see the silver tube that was their canoe flash into the bend. He had been momentarily elated, when the big wide-eyed cow moose and five-day-old calf appeared. Fully expecting the cow to turn and run, pleased that Morgan had the opportunity to share this sighting so soon into their trip, Sam was not prepared for the sudden rush of the cow. Her nostrils flared, a raw primal growl pulled from eons past, from the very depths of the earth, lent an unreal aura to the attack. With surprising speed the cow had run into and over the canoe. Using powerful lightning thrusts of her feet she slashed and rent everything that came in contact with them. As the canoe rolled, Sam had tucked his chin and pulled his knees up in hopes of allowing his lanky legs to clear the thwart. Morgan's scream was severed as her head and body disappeared beneath the chocolate waters. Not satisfied with simply dunking the vessel, the angry mother pressed her pursuit, repeatedly thrashing Sam with her hard cloven hooves. At a plea from the calf, the mother had dashed off down stream in order to help it gain shore. Together cow and calf quickly melted into the thick stand of willows. Slowly, Sam had become aware of the silence. No bird calls, no splashing of large animals, no more screams from Morgan. Not more than twenty feet from where Sam came to rest on a sand bar, the canoe wallowed, smashed and dismal in the backwater eddy. Sam had offered up a prayer of thanks for his obsession for following the rules of safety. Much of their equipment and food was still attached to the canoe by bungy and parachute cords. Just before he gave up to the spiraling suction of darkness and pain an image came to him. An image of Morgan, his "Little Princess", dragging herself along the shore toward him, limping, crying, wet.





       Sam?"
       "Wwhuh."
       "You were talking. I couldn't understand what you were saying. You wanted something."


       "... Won’t help, tell ....tell....te."
       "Sam! You're not making sense. Please talk to me."
       "Dizzy...Hot...Water. Give me water."
       His body was burning with fever. He wanted to throw off the covers, covers that weren't there. A few token insects flew lethargically about; nothing like what it would be in a few short days.


       As Morgan placed a cup of water to his lips Sam gulped greedily.
       "No, Sam. Go slow." After the drink, she bathed the right side of his face with her bandanna. Her gentle, soothing touch spoke of the love she felt for him.


       "How you feeling?"
       ”Dizzy, kind of numb. Do we still have the medical kit?"
       "Yes, I've got all the things I could and brought them up here."


       "Get out the morphine and a syringe. We've got to kill some of the pain, so I can think straight. I need to give you directions." While Morgan searched through the med kit, he asked,"How long since the accident?"


       "Three days. Sam, I'm scared!"
       Sam's world floated and blurred. The searing pain of his splintered elbow brought him awake again.


       "Did you find the morph?"
       "Yes, I've had it here for a while. You dropped off to sleep again."
       Pain racked his body as he talked her through the steps for administering a shot. Five mgs in one cc should knock back the worst of the pain and still leave him capable of rational thought. It took some convincing to get her to pierce his skin and slowly push the plunger home but although her hands shook, she did the deed.


       "Have you eaten anything?"
       "Some soup. And I fixed a bowl of oatmeal this morning. Sam, should I try to get you into the tent? I put it up, but every time I tried to move you, you would moan and cry out, so I thought it best to leave you right here."


       "I'm fine where I am. Princess, I can't hold out much longer. I can feel my lungs filling up with blood. I guess one of the ribs poked it good.";


       "Sam, don't say that. We'll find a way. Someone will come along and help us!"
       "No, Morgan, no one will be coming along this river. We're the first ones to canoe through here in decades. That's why I picked it. So we would be alone, undisturbed." Her face, not unlike that of a child hearing that there is no Santa, visibly fell. Tears welled up and overflowed her haunted eyes. "Now listen to me and listen good. I won't have the time or strength to repeat myself."


       With the worst of the pain dulled by the drug, Sam was able to talk for over an hour. After he was through, Morgan asked questions, good questions he noted with pride. Maybe there was room for hope. Hope that she could ride the river back to civilization.


       Food was a big consideration. Two of the food bags had been lost but without him along the remaining two bags would go twice as far. After their talk had died down, Sam asked for another shot. This time he directed her to load the syringe with 10 mgs. Placing the used syringe aside, his "Little Princess", turned to him. He tasted the salt of her tears as she gently kissed his lips, then snuggled down beside him for what would be their last sleep together. Slowly, the sunlight faded to a rose colored glow, dimmed and then, for Sam, darkness fell as he softly, took his last breath on earth.







       "Hello Steven." The voice was melodious, yet strong.
       "My name's Sam."
       "No, your name is Steven, but we will call you Sam if you wish."
       Shimmering, pulsing light emanated out from behind the two robed figures. Their faces were hidden in the stark contrast between light and dark.


       "Who are you?"
               "Friends. We have come to welcome you. To show you the way. To help you make your transition.”


       "Transition?"
       "Yes, your journey into the next dimension."
       The nearer of the two figures held out his hand. The second
       one…....There was something strangely familiar about the second one. And then he knew. Knew that it was Carol. Carol who had suddenly been taken from him in that awful accident four long years ago. Rising to join the figures, Sam chanced to look down and saw the two bodies resting under the spruce. One twisted, broken. The other so vulnerable and childlike. Just for a moment he hesitated, then ever so faintly, whispered "Follow the river. Remember... water flows down hill." Then he turned and with his new friend and old lover started toward the light.





       Morgan's sleep was fitful. Danger, endless running and stark terror laced her dreams. Hunger finally pulled her up from the ravages of sleep.


       Wishing not to disturb Sam, she carefully lifted the edge of the open sleeping bag, which was draped over both of them. It was when she gently repositioned the bag, that she saw the color of Sam's face. Gray, waxen, slack. His one remaining eye was partly open, glazed and unseeing. A scream welled up from deep inside of her as she lurched backward.


        Pale lips stretched taunt with agony; Morgan slowly crawled on hands and knees toward the inert mound. Suppressing the burning knot of nausea rising in her stomach, she slowly reached one shaking hand out to gently touch Sam's cheek. His skin was cool and firm under her fingers. Morgan could not tell if the slight damp feeling came from Sam's skin or hers. Having never seen, let alone touched, a dead person, Morgan still knew beyond any doubt that she was now totally and irreversibly alone. Numbly she searched for a direction, a task, anything to do. Presently her eyes fell upon the cold remains of the previous night's fire. Grabbing at this simple chore, like a sinking person grabs at a buoy, Morgan moved quickly about the scattered camp, bringing the fire back to life, locating the blue porcelain coffee pot, and filling it with the dirt laden water from the river.


       Clasping a cup of tea in both hands and squatting near the snapping fire Morgan closed her mind to the present situation and brought forth memories of Sam. She recalled how Sam had stepped forward the night of the big fight at a Vision Quest party, and dealt with Jamie, the angry teen who trusted no one. Jamie strove to rule by intimidation and force. He only respected strength and with the least hint of weakness would force his will on anyone and everyone. Morgan had watched, enthralled, as Sam had parted Jamie from the ugly switchblade, simply by holding out his hand and saying softly, "You can trust me, Jamie. Give me the flick. You know I won't allow fighting on my turf." And Jamie did know and did give over the knife. Afterwards, Sam had stood by Jamie, keeping his promise of trust by talking with the prosecutor and judge, and keeping Jamie out of jail.


       Morgan recalled how Sam refused to judge people by their opinions. "Opinions aren't worth diddly.” Sam would say with that lopsided grin. Why could that silly grin always make everything fall into perspective? Morgan recalled her own embarrassment when Sam told her the story of how Amy, Sam's younger sister, had notified his family that she had entered puberty. She was twelve the evening she had walked stark naked into the living room where Sam and his parents were watching TV and proudly said, "Look everyone, public hair!" It was a favorite story of Sam's family; One that showed their acceptance of the real things in life. And Morgan remembered how Sam had sent her a yellow rose every day for eleven days in a row. Each rose came with a sonnet but lacked the name of the sender. With the twelfth rose came an invitation to 'join one Steven Andrew Miller for dinner' at her most favorite restaurant of all, Whitney's.


       Day and night stumbled and bumped into each other as Morgan alternately crouched near the fire or curled herself tightly into a ball and slept. Meals were minimal, consisting mostly of weak coffee, soup, or over-cooked oatmeal.


       Three days after Sam's death Morgan finally roused herself from the numbing lethargy. Locating powdered eggs, flour for cakes, and the evaporated whole milk, which Sam had been so pleased to find in Fairbanks, she commenced to make a real meal.


       While forcing down the gluey pancakes, she determined that it was time to bury Sam. The thought of simply leaving his body to the animals was unbearable. She had not approached his body again after the first shock of discovery. Summoning every last ounce of inner strength and will power, Morgan stepped over to the inert form. Bending down she lifted the corner of the sleeping bag that still covered Sam. From under the disturbed bag wafted a most wretched and rotting smell. Movement of their cover had disturbed large blue-green blowflies, fat white maggots, and numerous small unidentifiable insects. Dropping the bag as one drops a hot spit; Morgan pivoted, bent at the waist, and lost her entire breakfast with one tremendous expulsion. Stumbling blindly to the water's edge, she dropped to her knees, thrust her head below the freezing water, and furiously scrubbed her face with both hands. Again and again she plunged her head below the surface, coming up only long enough to grab a hasty breath. Finally, with fingers, ears, and scalp aching and burning from the extreme cold, she crawled from the shallows on to the gravel bar and wept.


       When the tears finally ended, Morgan sat up. Wrapping both arms around her knees and laying her cheek on her arms, she let the water's movement mesmerize her. The torrent had diminished greatly over the past few days and now more resembled a fast flowing creek, its water clearing, just like Sam had said it would.


       The heat of the sun lent strength where there was weakness; hope, where there was despair. Remaining on the gravel bar until shadows from across the creek accompanied a chill breeze from up the valley, Morgan recalled the instructions Sam had given her. She wasn't sure that she could do all that he had told her to, but it was clear that she could no longer remain here in the vicinity of the horrible repulsive thing that used to be Sam.


       "First the canoe." The brittle crack of her voice startled Morgan. It was the first words she had spoken out loud in days. Close inspection revealed that the canoe was still water tight. Morgan suspected that the large dents and bent thwart might reduce stability but she knew that she had little to lose in giving it a try.


        Morgan spent the rest of the day collecting, sorting and packing the equipment and supplies. Wishing to depart the area as soon as possible, she discarded many items.


       Keep it simple." Sam had said. "Light travel makes for fast travel."
       Sam had also said, "Stability will be tricky. Keep the heavy packs low for greater balance and remember to offset your weight."


       By the time the canoe was packed and ready to travel, Morgan was exhausted. Only the manic desire to distance herself from the body allowed her to press on. When it came time to push the laden canoe into the current Morgan realized, with a lurch in her stomach, that it rested firmly on solid ground. She had failed to remember to continually advance it into the water as she loaded it. "Shit and damnation! Shit! Shit! Shit!" Alternately swearing and kicking, sobbing and pleading, Morgan managed to free the obstinate vessel and pull it into the grasping current.


       Placing her paddle next to the canoe on the water's surface, Morgan took a deep breath, grasped the far gunnel, and with a movement so graceful that it brought a momentary feeling of pride, she stepped into the craft and sat. Reaching down for the paddle her hand met only the cold surface of the water. Quickly her eyes searched the area and there it was, just moving into the bend, fifty yards down stream, full in the current, and speeding forever out of her world. Flinging one leg out of the canoe and bracing a hand on each gunnel, Morgan thrust herself out of the canoe, which was already picking up speed of its own. Standing in water up to her crotch she strained against the current's relentless pull until the canoe was safely grounded. "Damn, damn, damn! How could I be so stupid!"


       It took Morgan ten minutes to free the one remaining paddle from its storage place up under the aft thwart. "Thank you Sam, for thinking of this. I promise, no more mistakes." Casting off once again, Morgan managed to embark on her first solo voyage without further difficulty.


       Less than two miles down stream, she guided her shaky craft to shore, bumping and scraping over rocks in the shallows. She knew that the distance traveled was less important than the lessons learned. "I can do this." She said, with more hope than conviction. "The worst may be ahead, but I don't have to deal with that now."


       "One mile at a time." Sam had said. Now she could understand it more. Exhaustion was fast overtaking Morgan as she set up camp, prepared a hasty meal, and collapsed in the tent. The last thought to pass through her mind, before sleep over took her, was that if she failed to get out of this situation, her parents would be shattered. Morgan slept long and hard that night. It was the first real rest she'd had since the accident.







       "CHIT...CHIT....CHIT." The sprightly little tree squirrel yelled and ranted at Morgan through the tent netting. Sitting up, she reached for the Deet. Thank goodness this had not been lost in the accident. Just like clockwork, as Sam had predicted, the mosquitoes had risen in force on June 10th. Morgan hated to use the awful poison on her skin, but she hated the bugs more. Already her skin, that was recently so soft and smooth, had become dry, cracked, and sore.


       Addressing the little chatterbox Morgan said, "Today's the day. I can't put it off any longer." The squirrel said nothing, but he did flick his tail to show that her words were heard.


       She'd stalled long enough, she knew. Yet the challenge of directing the mangled canoe out of the creek current and into the stronger, faster current of the river, without an upset, had caused her to remain in camp yesterday. Sam had warned her of the 'shear', the point where two currents first collide.


       Having made the decision, Morgan packed up the tent, food and equipment and set forth down stream. After the initial fear had worn off, she found that she got a great deal of satisfaction in the ability to float through a land untouched, untainted by human endeavors. The silence, so foreign and unknown to her, had become a friend. Bird calls and the sushing of the water were about all the sounds one could hear. There was the surprise of hearing the ponderous creaking of a raven's wings as he flew low through the trees and just above her head. Rounding a bend Morgan saw the larger river coming in from the left. Her view, low to the water, and foreshortened, caused the bigger body of water to appear small, but Sam, ever present in her thoughts, had warned her of that, too. "Never underestimate the size and power of water." That was one of his sayings, although sometimes it was "a snow flake" instead of water.


       'Well,' thought Morgan, 'don't underestimate the strength of Morgan Lowell!' With that thought firmly imbedded in her mind, she clamped tight her eyebrows, set her jaw, and taking a deep breath turned the canoe at a 45 degree angle to the rapidly approaching shear. Her heart leaped high up, clogging her throat as the canoe lurched precariously to port, but at the last moment, righted itself and Morgan knew immediately that she had won the first big hurdle of her down river journey. Relief and pride buffeted each other as Morgan's long held breath burst forth in a grand "whoosh."


        corridor of spruce trees lined each side of the fast flowing river. Through the trees Morgan could see mountains in every direction, mountains with no name. She knew that no one lived within this valley's rugged walls. Sam had said the nearest Gwich'in Indian village was at least 100 air miles to the south, or 200 river miles. The plan had been to spend a leisurely ten weeks following the river, exploring, hiking, fishing, and getting to know each other, this country and its secrets. Shortly after meeting Morgan Sam had shown her his prized possession, a tooth from a baby woolly mammoth, all five pounds of it. "Is it petrified?" she had asked, in awe.


       "No, it's too young, only about ten thousand years old. But it is mineralized. I found it on a sand bar on the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk." Handling it with reverence Sam told her about the mammoths found in this country that had been so quickly frozen that the flesh was, after all those eons, still edible. "Morgan, those rivers and mountains hold so many wonderful stories and treasures. Years ago, around 1900 to 1909, miners carrying huge packs walked all over the area seeking gold. They built little log huts, eight by ten feet, maybe five feet high, awful places to live. Mostly, they're gone now. Returned back to the earth like the men who built them. Before the miners, there were the natives. They knew how to live in this land. It wasn't an easy life, but it was rich with meaning. Wealth was measured in food and furs, children and laughter."


       "Do you know that when you talk of the natives your voice always gets soft and low?"
       "I guess I really look at them with respect. They knew how to exist in a challenging environment. "Morgan, the Arctic, with it's rivers and mountains, snows and cold, doesn't suffer fools, but it sure provides a place for a person to get to know himself or herself. The Arctic isn't out to get you, it doesn't get mad or strive to get even; it simply IS. And after we are long dead and gone it still will BE."


       "You make it sound like it's God or something."
       "Morgan, I believe God is all there is. There's nothing else but God. The Arctic simply lets me feel that closeness so much easier than a city does. I think of it as a grand gift from God, and I want you to know it, too."


       But it's so big, Sam. How can you think of traveling all those miles in a canoe?"
       "Like any journey, Morgan. You've heard the story. It all starts with the first step. And then you simply take one mile at a time."


       Recalling that remark, Morgan thought, 'Sam, you made it sound so simple.' With this also came the realization that she was tired. She had traveled many miles this day, along cutbanks, over gravel bars, past trees with their tops in the water and their roots still clinging to the eroding bank. Sam had called them 'sweepers' and had warned, "Stay clear of them."


       Time to start looking for a good place to camp tonight. What were the things Sam had listed as making up a good camp? Morgan searched her memory. Ease in landing, firm ground to stand on while unloading the canoe, flat dry ground above possible flood stage for the tent, a reasonable stand of trees, preferably spruce, and a good view of the area. Of course one always has to make concessions but the more of these elements one could find the more comfortable and safe she would be.


       Having never been where the sun simply swung around the sky in an elongated circle, Morgan took note of the subtle difference in light quality. "Learn your environment..." Sam had stressed, "and you will discover yourself." Until meeting Sam, Morgan had never considered the idea that she did not know herself. And with that thought, she smiled for the first time since spotting the cow and calf on the creek bank, squared her shoulders ever so slightly, and looked down stream for the next challenge waiting to present itself ...






The End


Tom Irons
Homer, Alaska



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