These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free.
By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
“C’mon, boys – pick it up, pick it up!”
James Cheek stared down at the four men behind him, each lugging their traps up the hill.
“C’mon!” he said again. “This rise is nothin’!”
“Nothin’ to you, maybe,” Roger Ayers said as struggled up the hill, “you ain’t carryin’ no traps!”
“Aye, he’s never carrying no traps!” Tom Freeharty said.
“Alright, alright...gimme that!” Cheek said as he stuck out his arm and grabbed hold of the sack of traps. That gave Roger a second to rest, but then he reached out and grabbed Tom’s sack. That continued on down the line, with Ed Rucker and Sam Hull passing up their sacks. Soon all five men were sitting on the hill, staring out, catching their breath.
“See,” James said a minute later, “I told you this was a plum spot.”
He cast his arm out to take in the scenery but needn’t have bothered. They were on a small hill that overlooked an indentation in the land that created a stretch of wetlands. Tall grasses and willow reeds shot up everywhere while the bushes were low and spaced close together.
Small trees stood here and there while a half mile or so away was a small crest as the land rose back up. It was clear that lots of offshoots of the Madison River shot through this area, one three miles south of Fort Three Forks. The men had found a good spot indeed, and were ready to start trapping it.
“I’ll take that section close to the opposite hillside with Sam and Ed,” Cheek said, looking out. “Tom, why don’t you and Roger head over to…”
He trailed off, and just after he’d turned about to look back in the direction from which they’d come.
“What is it?” Roger said as he started to turn about and look. His eyes went wide after he’d done so. “My God,” he said, scrambling to get to his feet from where he’d been resting, “Injuns!”
That got the others moving and soon the other three were on their feet.
“Damn – a dozen of ‘em at least,” Roger said as he brought his rifle up.
“Yeah, but at least we got the high ground,” Cheek said as he started to bring his rifle up too. He was distracted first, however, and looked over his shoulder. Tom, Ed and Sam were all running down the hillside, into the wetlands.
“Cowards,” he muttered under his breath.
Roger glanced back. His eyes went wide to see his companions deserting them, but the Blackfeet were drawing close…he had to concentrate. He turned back, got to it, raised the rifle back up to his forehead, took aim.
The rifle shot ripped into the grassy ground and threw up a splash. A few inches too low, Laughing Face thought as he charged out on horseback, tore through the wetland area and toward the two whites on the small hill.
Another shot came from the whites and this one struck one of the Wolves in the arm.
“Aaahhh!” Laughing Face heard the man yell out. He looked over and saw it was River Otter, now grasping his arm, blood already starting to appear between his fingers. Laughing Face frowned, looked back at the whites, and then let out a savage war cry.
The other Wolves and the scattered braves behind them all let out cries as well. They were close to the fort but still far enough away that they’d not be heard. Besides, the wind had a tendency to drown out all sounds from this direction. It was one of the first that that the Wolves had noticed when testing the area, checking its boundaries, testing the whites’ resolve. Now that knowledge was paying off.
The Wolves charged forward.
“Oh hell,” Cheek said as the Indians drew year. He’d missed with the two shots he’d fired but at least Roger had managed to hit one with one of his. Both men were in the process of reloading, though their fingers were getting a bit thick, their moments a little slow. Looking up every couple of seconds to see how close the Blackfeet were to them didn’t help matters. Now it looked like it was too late.
“Your knife!” Cheek shouted out, realizing he wasn’t going to get that last shot loaded. He threw the rifle down and began reaching for his belt knife. That’s when the first arrow slammed into his chest.