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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Spring (as in the season) (11/28/05)

TITLE: Ellie’s Hope
By Benjamin Stephens


Ellie was a bastion of hope when other mere mortals would have collapsed in the throes of an unreasoning mind. Chet had ventured from their mountain home in search of work. He had teamed up with a respected rancher and planned to bring her down from the mountain. An early winter storm had run rough shod over his plans.

The larder had been fully stocked before Chet’s departure and there was enough firewood to last many cold nights, but it was not enough. Ellie held back on meals and resorted to wrapping herself in quilts to stave off the chill.

When skies were blue and the winds ceased their angry howling, Ellie would venture into the nearby woods to gather fuel for the fire. She was also forced to learn to handle the carbine Chet left for her although she was getting weary of rabbit stew which generally held random bits of buckshot in the choicest pieces of meat. Ellie was learning by an inborn preservation instinct how to dress rabbit hide and she had pieced together a serviceable coat that provided warmth despite its vaguely unpleasant aroma.

Nights were spent on a variety of knitting endeavors. She kept busy as she planned for Chet’s return. Ellie was good at lofting prayers heavenward. She imagined angels winging the prayers to the presence of God. He would know what to do.

Ellie hadn’t seen her husband in almost six months. There was something she’d planned to tell him before he left, but then she hadn’t expected him to be gone so long.

A journal sat beside her rocking chair bearing the accounts of a woman with a sharp wit and a deep faith. In recent days it seemed the humor and trust were fading, but she had no choice, she must endure.

* * * * *

Chet had donned show shoes and the determination of a mule on more than one occasion, but the mountain would not let him pass. He spoke with men well acquainted with the mountain and they provided no reasonable hope of reaching Ellie.

Some rambled on about the stupidity of building so high in the Rocky Mountains. Being wrong held no comfort for Chet.

His mind wrestled with the unknown. These thoughts betrayed the panic he fought to confine. How could any good husband sit in a warm bunkhouse while his wife braved a mountain winter alone? Even mail was being held in Bent’s Fort waiting for spring to send winter into hasty retreat.

Chet may have died on the mountain trying to reach his bride but for the wisdom of his friend, Kit.

Nights were spent railing against the agony of helplessness. What good was a job if he could not take proper care of Ellie?

* * * * *

It had been an especially hard night for Ellie. She could do little more than rest. The flour was nearly gone and she hadn’t been able to claim a Snowshoe, Cottontail or Jack Rabbit in many days. If she was careful, the wood might last a couple of days. Maybe her strength would return.

She drifted off to sleep, her rabbit coat draped over her torso.

“Get up,” a voice spoke.

Who was talking?

“Your redemption draws near,” the voice answered.

How long had she been asleep?

She wrapped the coat and placed it carefully on the bed. There was a little flour and some lard left, so Ellie slowly worked at making a small loaf of bread to eat. The smell of the bread aroused her hunger and revived her senses.

Ellie opened the cabin door, looked at the beautiful mountains and wept. Spring had finally made its presence known. A few flowers dotted those areas claimed by the warming season. There was still plenty of snow, but for the first time in so very long Ellie saw the ground.

Ellie devoured the bread before resting again. She thanked God for the promise of spring.

Suddenly the door opened and she heard feet scraping on the floor. “Ellie,” Chet called.

She rose quietly from her bed and walked around the corner with eyes wide and tearing, “You came.”

The two collapsed in a deluge of raw emotion. Suddenly another sound pierced the air causing Chet to reach for his rifle. Ellie raced to the bedroom and picked up her coat. She uncovered the source of the noise and looked at her husband, “Chet, I’d like you to meet your daughter, Hope.”

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This article has been read 937 times
Member Comments
Member Date
terri tiffany12/06/05
This choked me up! Very nice story..I think you really made me feel for her situation. Nice job.
Venice Kichura12/06/05
wonderful story---I loved your descriptions!
Julianne Jones12/07/05
Lovely story. The title was extremely fitting and I liked that Ellie's Hope was both physical and spiritual. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 12/07/05
There is so much good about this pioneer story, that I hope you'll bear with a few suggestions: 1. In the 3rd sentence, the pronoun "her" seems to refer to the rancher, but I think you meant it to refer to Ellie. 2. Keep Ellie's secret from the reader, let us discover it when Chet did. You gave it away with "...something she'd planned to tell him..." 3.
Jan Ackerson 12/07/05
Sorry, I hit "return" too soon.

3. Word choice: Collapsed in a deluge of raw emotion. Either use "collapse" or "deluge", but not both; I don't think you'd collapse in a flood.

These are all thiny fixes, because I think this piece is just shy of perfect. Thanks a bunch.
Phyllis Inniss12/08/05
What a wonderful story and to end it with Hope was just perfect.
Cassie Memmer12/10/05
I liked this story. I guessed she was pregnant when I read about her not getting to tell Chet something. Nice ending. Good job of writing!
Beth Muehlhausen12/10/05
Nicely done - a gripper for sure!

I think the ending would have had more punch if the "clue" about the baby hadn't come earlier...and I love "punchy" endings!!!

There is depth here; this is heart-level stuff. You touch deep places in your reader - places having to do with survival, love, and HOPE.
Linda Germain 12/12/05
Loved it! What a great script this would make.