Nick StolterLee Anne Wonnacott / History & Fiction / Western / Thrillers & Crime
The Nick Stolter Story
Lee Anne Wonnacott
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Copyright 2015 by Lee Anne Wonnacott
Discover other books by Lee Anne Wonnacott
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Adult Reading Material
This tale began as a one short story as told to me as a child.
I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
The moon created odd shadows in the divots around the covered yard. The old cottonwood groaned under the weight of the heavy snow. Stolter pointed up at a shooting star streaking through the inky night twinkled with thousands of diamonds.
“I’ve still got fifty dollars left of my dad’s money. I was hoping to use part of that when the girls got married and started their own families.” Marianna pulled the heavy blanket around herself as she leaned up against Nick in the darkness.
Stolter gave a quick kiss to her temple. “Marianna, the ride’ll only be a week, ten days at the most I’ll be gone. I’ll bring home five hundred and that will see us through the rest of the year. You save your dad’s money,” said Nick. His arm pulled his wife closer to him savoring her warmth.
In the distance, wood cracked, and with a whoosh of falling limbs snow disturbed the stillness. The chilled March air lay like a nearly frozen blanket over the land.
He felt Marianna arch her back and twist her body in his arms. “We can hold out til June, Nick. You’ll deliver those head to Santa Fe and we’ll be back on our feet again.” Nick could feel her dark eyes on him. Married seventeen years and she still looked at him as if the answer was written on his face. Stolter turned his eyes towards the barn and saw the faint yellowish glow from the lantern. A couple hundred miles and a few cold nights on the ground was the answer to his worries.
“Ginger has saved my life twice, honey. I owe him to ride with him this time. All I have to do is ride along and make sure nobody runs off with the herd. We’ve done this sort of work before and we had been good at running horses,” Stolter said. “Plus, the work means a good payday for our family.”
Nick Stolter and Ginger Whelihan had made the Springfield to Dodge stagecoach run so many times they had become a named fixture on the route. Along the way, were graves of the men who had thought they were quicker, smarter and more cunning than Stolter and Whelihan. Stolter knew that the lean, powerful man sat smoking in the darkness of the barn loft, watching them talk on the house porch.
“Kelly is working well with those two fillies. That young black colt has been very watchful when she works in the corral, so he might be next. Honey, she’s good with them. She has the instinct. We have to encourage that.” Stolter spoke into Marianna’s ear. His oldest daughter had a natural feel for training the feisty young horses.
This man had grown up around high-spirited cutting horses. His family had prized breeding lines, the body type and the temperament. His father had given him five Quarter horse mares, and from those Stolter had bred two national champions.
At the Denver rodeo after winning the cutting horse competition. Stolter met the young Miss Marianna Richardson and her stern father, Glen who had come looking for agile horses. A trickle of nervous sweat slid down his spine as Stolter discussed his vision for the future. He remembered the flashing grin the young beauty had for his discreet wink. Stolter had made a good impression.
She shook her head. “I don’t understand how riding a herd of horses is worth five hundred dollars. By the way he talked, there is something else along with the horses here.” Stolter heard the doubt in her words.
“Honey, those horses are in a bad place. North of Phoenix up in the mountains in a secluded valley. The fall feed was plentiful, but now they’ll be clawing through the snow to find food and there won’t be any. I’d be almost sure that wolves have started preying on the older and weaker horses, too. I’m used to the snow and mountains and so is Ginger. We can do this. We have to do this,” Stolter said.
For seventeen years, the married couple had been through rough times and good times and had always come out better and stronger than before. Personal tragedies and death, celebrations and the birth of their children and success as a reputable breeder had helped make the couple durable and resilient. But now, several sales had fallen through, and two of the best mares died from unknown causes leaving the family scrambling for cash.
Marianna’s breath was visible in the dark, cold air. “Lola wouldn’t even shake his hand. I’ve never seen her back away from someone like that, even if he was a stranger to her. I don’t know what makes her do that,” she said. Whelihan was a tall, wide shouldered man with an easy way of moving. Somebody she always associated with trouble. He was sure of himself without the bold swagger.
“She’ll be alright. That little girl sees and feels things that you and I don’t understand, honey. Last week, she helped find a den of foxes up on the ridge below that granite outcropping. I would have ridden right on past the hole but she said they were there.” Stolter shook his head with a laugh. The lantern light was gone from the barn window.
“I don’t like moving horses in the snow, but if this herd stays where they are at, the horses will die. I love the animals too much to ever let that happen, honey. There’s a chance I could bring home new breeding stock, too. And adding to the herd is important. Once we get them into Phoenix we can sort through them and sell off the ones we don’t need.”
The first half of March had brought mild wind and rain storms. The family had been cooped up inside the house because of the weather and they had been bumping in to each other and had frayed nerves. Now, the night air felt frigid and foreboding.