Joseph: Of Rainbow Valley (Paperback)
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in the snow on the northwestern slopes of the mountains were clear and pronounced... easy to read. The tracks which had been left behind were so obvious that a child of ten could have easily understood the message which was so clearly portrayed in the shallow covering of snow. The tracks depicted a familiar yet nonetheless horrifying chain of events - vividly attesting to the fact that an abduction of women and young children had taken place. There was no other way to interpret the distinct message in the snow. On the southern and eastern sides of the mountains the midday fall sunshine and the slightly higher daily temperatures had eliminated all but a few scattered clusters of this early fall dusting of snow. But here, on the northwestern slopes, there was still a three-inch blanket of crusty snow remaining which would bear the explicit testimony of each and every creature which had passed through the area during the last two days. There were the tracks of deer and elk, squirrels, rabbits, and coyotes. Wolves had passed through here during the previous night as well... perhaps stalking a midnight meal. But the specific tracks which interested this peculiar man peering down from atop his horse, were the tracks left behind by the human travelers who had passed this way recently. The veteran solitary trapper who followed behind the tracks in the snow paused briefly, cleared his nostrils in the crisp noon-hour air, spat an ugly streak of brown tobacco juice on the carpet of white snow, and eased his horse ever so slowly forward... cautiously reading the signs left behind in the tracks, and always pausing to survey the awaiting landscape ahead of him. His eyes squinted nearly closed from the sun's glare on the white blanket of snow. The wind was in his favor, and his nostrils widened as he inhaled deeply and tested the morning air for any faint trace of man-scent emitting from the forest ahead of him. In tow behind him, he pulled four additional horses, two of which were ladened with his packs, and two without. The dark blue eyes which peered out from beneath the light-brown strands of his thick hair and the fuzzy brim of his badger-skin hat were cautious eyes, piercing eyes, intense eyes, and the message they saw in the snow ahead was written so clearly that the most unseasoned greenhorn could have seen what had happened from a quarter-mile away. Four Indians on horseback, most likely Blackfoot braves, had abducted two Indian women and two children, most likely Ree or possibly Pawnee... perhaps even Flathead... and were taking them back to their village more than sixty miles to the northwest as captives. The braves had been a part of a raiding party, venturing far away from their home venue and preying randomly upon smaller bands of unsuspecting victims. Only the Blackfoot or the Gros Ventres would have dared to venture this far on a raiding party, so the tracks of the abductors must surely have been made by one of these two tribes... so thought this enigmatic figure of a white man who traveled behind them. He stopped again - this time for the purpose of listening. The footsteps of his horses noisily crunched through the crusting of the snow as they walked, possibly masking the sound of distant noises, so he had to stop frequently to listen. For now, he heard nothing, and eased his horses forward again. Joseph Witherspoon, II was a trapper. His business goals lied in accumulating a bounty of firs. However, in this vast Rocky Mountain Wilderness his primary business was staying alive.