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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)

TITLE: Come Winter
~1st Place


A feisty north wind swept down through Eldorado Canyon and demanded obeisance from the feral prairie grasses, heavy with ripening heads. Ignoring the breeze, Laura Bradley gathered reddish pink plumes, brown seedpods, golden yarrow, and dark orange bittersweet.

From where she stood, she could see Jake had returned from the woods. An axe was slung over her brother’s shoulder, and his free hand gripped the harness of their mule, Obadiah. The sled was full.

Laura let the wind have its way with her hair while she took note of the telltale signs of the approaching winter. She lifted her chin. Won’t matter if you’re early, she thought. We’re ready.

The pantry bulged with jars of dried vegetables and canned fruits and preserves. Hams were curing in the smoke house. Venison jerky hung in strips from the rafters of the cabin. Now she had time to make her dried bouquets.

The wind lingered, and memories from a long-ago fall surfaced. She was thirteen then and had asked her mother why they gathered flowers in the fall, instead of in the summer when the blooms were prettier.

“Because these grasses and flowers last longer,” her mother had answered, “and I’m fond of them. They were part of my wedding bouquet.”

She thought her parents should have married in the summer and used roses, but her mother had smiled knowingly, “We only get to rest come winter. Getting married in the busy summer would leave no time for the joys of being together. Besides, I did have roses, two red ones that I had placed on the windowsill to dry. And I tied it all together with this....” She opened her keepsake box and took out a brown velvet ribbon.

Laura made her way to a Ponderosa pine and listened to the wind harass the fragrant branches overhead while she worked. Her thoughts drifted to the steamy days of three summers past. Scalded hands, endless bending and lifting, and an aching body made sleeping a miserable chore.

There had been no respite from the harvest then, no escaping the fruit flies or the heat. The canning continued until she felt she couldn’t go on. One evening she had wiped the sweat from her face with her apron and in a moment of frustration had shouted, “We can’t fit any more into the pantry! When are we ever going to stop?”

“God has blessed us with extra this year. I won’t let any of it go to waste.” Her mother’s gentle rebuke had left Laura in a quandary. She didn’t complain after that, but the resentment had remained.

Jake, only eleven then, had worked just as hard, cutting wood, hauling it and stacking it in the lean-to outside the back door. She could see that he was tired, but she knew he would have chopped off his hand before he would have grumbled about his blisters and sore muscles.

That same year, on a sunny September morning, Laura and Jake stayed behind while their parents rode away to help their neighbors, the Whitakers. Two days later, an unexpected blizzard descended from the Rocky Mountain peaks. Temperatures plummeted below zero. Their parents never returned.

Winter had come to stay, and with it loomed the harsh reality that she and her brother would have to survive on their own.

Every tearful trip to the pantry reminded Laura of the summer work she had despised, but she finally understood her mother’s wisdom in wanting to be prepared. Through the bitter cold months, she watched Jake mature into a young man. Without being told, he did the chores and kept the fireplace supplied with wood, just as Papa would have done. They missed their parents, but they were warm, and they had food.

When spring finally arrived, the Whitaker’s oldest son, Gil, found the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Bradley. His kindness in bringing them over and staying to help with the burial left a lasting impression on Laura. For the next two years, his frequent visits made preparing for winter a joy.

“Gil...” The north wind, now cranky and impatient, rudely interrupted Laura’s sigh. She shivered and turned her attention back to the unfinished arrangements. Two of them she wrapped with twine and lovingly draped over her parents’ grave markers under the pine tree. She picked up the remaining bouquet and returned to the cabin.

On the windowsill lay two red roses. Come winter, she would get out her mother’s brown velvet ribbon.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld03/13/08
I like how you wove a thread of tender love story in to the familiar preparing for winter theme.
Lyn Churchyard03/13/08
I could see it all happening and hear the wind through the pine trees (I love wind blowing through pine trees). Well written and great 'showing' throughout the story. Well done!
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/14/08
This beautifully descriptive story is masterful in every way. Awesome story telling.
Sally Hanan03/15/08
What a beautiful piece! I loved it, and I loved the way you wove past and present together.
Peter Stone03/17/08
Quite an engaging read. Sad but also encouraging that the children came to appreciate what they had come to learn throughout the tragedy and prelude.
Patty Wysong03/18/08
What a gentle, beautiful story. I loved how you wove all the details together and painted the picture. Wonderful.
Betty Castleberry03/20/08
This story is told in the way that only you can, Mid. The realistic, lovely descriptions put me right in the middle of it. I love the sense of history, too. Very, very well done.
Lori Othouse 03/20/08
Wow, what a beautiful story and the message so sweetly stated. Loved it!!
Dianne Janak03/20/08
Mid, congrats on your win! The story was absolutely beautiful, touching, teaching, and real. Those of us who have mild winters need to be reminded of the harshness of bitter snow storms and frozen ground. What a wonderful illustration of our topic.. well done AND a very deserving win!!
Mandy White03/20/08
Just Beautiful, Mid. Congratulations on a much deserved win!
Loren T. Lowery03/20/08
I loved the way you used your words to descibe this story. Almost like a lullaby. Good to see you back and congratulations on placing! Loren
Sara Harricharan 03/20/08
Oh you are SO good here! I love this piece, ***Congrats on your well-deserved EC!***
I really loved your descriptions here, especially how you took the wind and sort of turned it into a character of itself by giving it such personality. It was a little sad to know that her parents had died, but I loved the ending with the two roses on the windowsill and how she'd take her mother's velvet ribbon out, come winter. Awesome writing! ^_^
Debbie Wistrom03/20/08
Truly heart-warming entry. I enjoyed rading this. Thanks for coming back and blessing us.
Joanne Sher 03/20/08
Oh, Mid - no wonder you got first. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and wonderful and perfect for the topic. This truly, truly blessed me. Exquisite.
Sheri Gordon03/20/08
Congratulations, Mid, on your EC. This is absolutely outstanding. I love the way you describe the flowers, and the rest of the setting. You put the reader right in the middle of the story. Excellent example of the proverb. Way to go. Woo Hoo. Okay, I'm done now. :)
Mariane Holbrook 03/20/08
You. Are. The. Best.
I am taking this opportunity to face Indiana and genuflect. Just when I think you can't write any better, you do! I am vastly impressed and pray that through osmosis some of this writing genius will seep over into me. (Fat chance!)
Sandra Fischer 03/20/08
Mid - I loved this story - the images, Laura's characterization - all neatly tied up in a brown ribbon that changed to blue with your win! Bless you.
Rita Garcia03/20/08
Congrats Mid!! Wonderful story!
Chrissi Dunn03/21/08
Congratulations, Mid. Beautiful descriptions, and so on topic!
Donna Powers 03/21/08
Oh, Mid what a precious and wonderful story. This touched my heart and it was so well written. Congrats on a well-deserved win!
Kristen Hester03/22/08
This is breathtakingly beautiful! I loved each word. When you write, it's like looking at a materpiece painting. Such rich details. Very well deserved win. Blessings!
Catrina Bradley 03/24/08
I want to write like this when I grow up! :) Congrats, Mid, this entry was beautiful!
Jacquelyn Horne03/29/08
Loved this piece! Very well done. Congrats on the win.
Sharlyn Guthrie04/01/08
I love this story! Your descriptions are exquisite, and the ending is simply perfect. I've been SO busy, that I'm just now getting around to reading it, but I'm glad I took the time!