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The Buffalo Rock
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Excerpt 1

Grant was laying, head down hill, arms and legs askew. With every breath, a bright red froth of blood coated his lips in a darkening patina.
“Don’t move around too much, son,” Tom said.
Fearing that Grant would drown in his own blood, Tom gently dragged his limp body into a depression formed when a giant ponderosa had toppled, ripping the soil from the steep hillside.
“This here is the only level spot on this whole mountain…and this big root snag will be a nice wind break till I get back.”
Tom retrieved Grant’s crushed Stetson and then scraped together a pile of soft dry earth and pine needles. Lifting the young man’s upper body, he covered the mound with the hat and pushed it into place beneath Grant’s head.
“I made you a nice pillow outta that new hat yer so proud of.”
Tom glanced up at the clouds building over the mountains. He took off his coat and placed it over Grant’s chest to cut the chilled wind.
“Looks like we’re gonna get a little snow.”
Grant smiled a silent thank you.
“Now I don’t want you runnin’ off this time. You stay right here while I go get us some help. You hear?”
Grant smiled again, choking back a painful laugh at his friend’s attempted humor.
“I broke the President’s rifle!” Grant said.
“Hell, don’t worry about that right now.”
Tom placed the backs of his fingers against Grant’s forehead. A worried look knitted his brow.
“You’re gonna be fine. I’ll be back just as soon as I can.”
Grant listened to the cracking of brush and the crunching of pine needles as Tom disappeared down the steep slope.
Grant smiled through gritted teeth as a flood of pride sent a thrill of warmth through his body. He had faced danger and stood his ground. Even now, with the realization of the dire situation, he felt strangely unafraid. Tom had prevailed through worse situations than this.
With his good arm, Grant tucked Tom’s jacket tightly around his shoulders. The frigid wind brought involuntary shudders sending pain searing down his arm. He grimaced, imagining the jagged ends of broken ribs gnashing together. A painful cough racked his body. His head throbbed. I must have hit my head when I fell, he thought.
He attempted to occupy his mind, studying the quickly rising billows of cumulus clouds refracting the late afternoon sunlight. The ever-changing tower seemed to infuse the pigment, in varied hue and accent, of the earth, rock and vegetation below. Roiling over the white crowned peaks, the clouds appeared to adopt the shape of a knight with a couched lance on a white charger.
His mind aswirl in memories, Grant could again smell the honeysuckle and lilacs, which graced the heavy hot afternoon breeze in the backyard of his childhood home in Baltimore. He could hear the shrill, siren like buzz of cicadas fulfilling their annual ritual. He could once more feel the cool grass beneath his back. In his reverie, he lay with his fingers laced behind his head watching the clouds with Cousin Bernice, each in turn giving interpretation to the ephemeral white formations suspended in crystal blue.
Tom had been right, Grant thought, as nickel-sized snowflakes touched lightly on his face, bringing him back to reality. The moisture provided some relief as he ran his tongue over the dried blood that coated his wind-chapped lips.
Watching the tops of the ancient pine trees bow to the power of the incessant mountain winds he wondered what his family and friends would think when they heard of his adventures. Would they apprehend the profound transformation he had undergone in these few short months?
The snowflakes stopped as the moisture-laden cloud passed beyond the ridge, pushed by the increasing wind. The sun shone momentarily through breaks in the filmy overcast. Perhaps the weather is changing, Grant thought as the shivering slowly ceased. Closing his eyes, a warm red glow engulfed him as the afternoon light filtered through flickering eyelids. Drifting in semi-consciousness, he could hear again the conductor’s, “All aboard,” which had begun his odyssey.