I'm falling behind. I spent the weekend running around NE Oregon, SW Washington, and part of Idaho. Which I'll explain on Friday. ;)
Here is the first installment of a Christmas story I'll be posting on here every Monday until December. At which time the whole story will be available.
by Paty Jager
Pleasant Valley, OR
Where did all these people come from? Van Donovan slowed his team of horses to a sluggish walk. This wasn’t the cozy town he remembered. The buildings and streets expanded beyond the small valley. When he’d rode away from Pleasant Valley on a disastrous adventure at the age of fifteen, it had been a respectable farming and ranching community.
He stared at the stone buildings and bustling people. The snow-packed streets attested to more traffic than he remembered. Town folk laughed and patted one another on the backs. He smiled. His stomach had been in knots since his decision to return. Would they welcome a man who helped steal their money twelve years ago? He’d changed. In fact he’d changed the moment Sheriff Burke locked the cell door on him the day of the robbery. That click had snapped sense into him faster than fifteen years of his pa’s lectures.
Van snorted. Course his pa didn't even make the trip to Baker City to ask him why he'd been involved. When no one from his family set foot in the court room during his trial, Van knew he was on his own. No relying on the Donovan name to get him out of any more scrapes. He didn't blame his mother. She would have been there had she found a way to get around her stubborn, hard-ass husband.
A vacant building next to a saloon caught his attention. He tugged on the reins and stopped, staring at the dusty windows. This was the perfect spot to set up shop. Every man would walk by and see his wares. He rubbed his gloved hands together. His inventory of boots would get him through until orders started rolling in.
Going to prison at fifteen had been an eye opener, but he’d never regret becoming friends with an old German boot maker. He’d taught Van the trade and gave him a reason to show his face in his home town. Prove to his father he could amount to something without the help of the Donovan name.
He glanced at the tarp covering crates of tools and boots in the back of his wagon. He didn’t trust leaving it in the street while he went looking for the owner of the vacant building. Living with crooks and murderers for ten years had taught him to watch his back and his belongings. He scanned the street. Yep, the livery still sat at the end of the street. Beyond that a new train depot and tracks contrasted with the white world at the edge of town.
“Move on,” he urged the team, slapping their rumps with the leather traces. Pulling into the livery building, his worries eased seeing an old friend. Brett Johnson was one of the few people who visited before the sheriff hauled him off to prison.
Van jumped down from the wagon and strode toward his childhood pal.
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