Silver Creek - G.L. Snodgrass

Chapter One

Northeast Nevada

1865

“Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust,” Rebecca Johnson whispered under her breath as she sprinkled dirt across the grave. My God, how had this happened? Who had killed him? And why? A thousand questions that she feared would never be answered.

Dropping to her knees, she cried into her hands as her body shook with ragged wails. No, this was impossible. She cried as she had never cried before. Not when her parents died of cholera - The Parkers had been there to hold onto. Not when Aunt Abigail succumbed to the fever. Even in his own grief, Uncle Tom had been there, a rock in a storm of rage.

But now, here. There was no one. She was alone.

Her shoulders shook as the tears flowed, refusing to stop. Her mind went to all the things she couldn’t do for him. The man who had raised her. The only person in this world who had ever stayed a part of her life.

He should be buried under a tree, she thought. Her uncle would have preferred that but the nearest tree was a good ten miles away. Instead, she had buried him on a hill overlooking the creek running through the ranch he carved out of the high desert. Maybe she should move one of her rose bushes up here. He’d always liked her roses.

Sniffling, she wiped away her tears and forced herself up. Crying wasn’t going to help. She grabbed the shovel and started down the slope to the ranch house. Not much more than a dugout but her home for these last eleven years. A log cabin with a sod roof. The timbers being brought in from the Ruby Mountains on the other side of the horizon.

Rebecca stood in the yard and slowly turned to inspect her surroundings. The northeast corner of Nevada was greener than the rest of the state but that wasn’t saying much. Silver Creek flowing down to the Humboldt made it livable but could she do it on her own? The cattle out on the range needed constant tending. The horses needed breaking, The corn and wheat required a man behind the plow. These and a thousand other things required a man’s strength.

How could a woman of nineteen even think of making a go of it?

But, deep inside was this fear of leaving. This was her home. She knew every nook and cranny along the creek. The bird’s songs had greeted her at every dawn. The pink and purple sunsets that sent her off to bed each night. Peaceful, even in this land, a bastion of calm. How could she leave it?

Once again, she went over the events of the last week in her mind. Could she have done something differently? Maybe, if she had stopped him from going into town. But why should she? He went in every month or so. But if she had gone with him? Maybe things would be different.

But the stock needed care, two days away was too long.

Her heart ached as she fought to stop from crying again. Two days had dragged into five. She had become so worried. This was not an easy land. So many things could kill a person.

On the sixth day, she could wait no longer. She’d saddled Homer, their mule, and started for town. She knew Uncle Tom. He wouldn’t have stayed away. It wasn’t in him.

It was three miles from the ranch when she found him. Dead, face down in the dirt next to the trail. A bullet through the back.

She bit the inside of her cheek to stop from crying as the memory flooded into her mind. Instead, she forced herself to take long slow breaths. She had been so shocked. So … filled with despair. He was her only family. The last person in her world.

Somehow, she had put aside the pain and fear and focused on doing what needed to be done. It had taken every iota of her strength to get him up and over Homer’s back. She had walked them back to the ranch in a daze. Confused, frightened, and unable to understand how her world had been turned upside down so quickly.

Now, here she was, alone, desperate to know what to do next.

Sighing to herself, she leaned the shovel against the cabin’s wall then started inside. She would need to pack some food. Make sure the chickens and their pig had enough water for a week. She needed to go to town and report what had happened. Sheriff

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