Suzanna’s eyes narrowed and her lips tightened. “I did not come to this god forsaken valley to live in a cave,” she snapped. The toddler on her hip started fussing but Suzanna only shifted impatiently and continued to glare at her husband on the other side of the room. “You promised me glass windows. You also said you wanted to farm, that you were finished with trapping.”
Gerald gestured at the beaver pelts lying just inside the cabin door. “I was finding the means to buy glass,” he said mildly.
Suzanna turned away. “The money will just go to something else.” Alma fussed again and Suzanna bent to place her on the floor. “The mule will go lame or cougars will take down a couple more calves.”
“Don’t you ‘sweet’ me!” She straightened, hands on her hips. “I will not be sweet-talked out of this! You can’t expect me to live in a cabin with just shutters at the windows, sitting in the dark whenever it rains!”
“We have lamps.”
“It’s not the same and you know it!”
Alma had toddled to her father. She clung to his leg, looking up at him. “Papa stay home?” she asked. “Mama ang’y.” She shook her dark curly head. “Me don’ like Mama ang’y.”
Gerald and Suzanna stared at each other for a long moment. Then Gerald scooped Alma into his arms and Suzanna threw her hands in the air helplessly and crossed the room. She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I had no idea when you would return,” she said into his sleeve.
Copyright © 2016 Loretta Miles Tollefson
“I had me a little señorita once,” the old trapper said. “She was a real firecracker, that one. I never did learn Spanish real good and she could pull herself up all royal like and tighter’n a beaver trap all set to snap and not near as useful. She’d start spittin’ Spanish at me like some kinda wildcat and I didn’ know what she was sayin’ but I knew enough to let her be ’til she got over her fuss. She’d push her black hair away from her fire-flashin’ eyes and let out with ‘Es más feo que un dolor de estómago!’ and then she’d yell ‘Es más sabio que Salomón!’ I didn’t know a word o’ what she was sayin’ but I could tell from her tone that it was high time to skedaddle on outa there and go huntin’.”
The old man shook his head. “Guess I went huntin’ one too many times, ’cuz one day I come back with a nice big cougar pelt and she was done gone. Too bad. That was the prettiest skin I ever saw.”
He leaned forward. “What’s that you say? I was uglier’n a stomach ache and thought I was smarter’n King Solomon? That’s all she was sayin’? Here I was sure she was ready t’ take a knife t’ me or send her brother Sol t’ do it for her. An’ all she was doin’ was grumblin’? Hah! Well, if I’da known that I mighta stuck around more and tried lovin’ her back into some kinda reason. She sure sounded god awful unreasonable at the time.”
The old man sat back, clicked his tongue against his teeth, and shook his head. “Huh, ” he said. “You don’t say.”
Copyright © 2017 Loretta Miles Tollefson
The trapper studied the beaver pond carefully. The lodge lay to his left, a four foot high mound of mud and sticks surrounded landward by a thick stand of whip-like coyote willow. Water gurgled over the dam beyond it. Directly across the pond, on a small slick of mud, lay several short thin willow pieces, recently cut, carefully pealed.
The trapper slipped away from the pond and headed upstream, then waded into the icy water and back to the pond. He waded near the bank to within a few feet of the pealed sticks. He unslung the beaver trap from his shoulder and scraped at the bottom muck with his foot. He positioned the trap firmly in the mud, carefully set and baited it with castoreum, then retreated well upstream before climbing out. He headed back to camp to dry out. Now it was just a matter of time.
from Moreno Valley Sketches
“They call me One-Eyed Pete,” he told the girl. “Can you guess why?”
She examined his face. “’Cuz of what the bear did?”
He ran a gnarled finger over the left side of his face. “Nah, that’s just a scratch.” When he grinned, the scar twisted his smile into a grimace, but his right eye sparkled with mischief. “There’s more than one way of seein’.”
She gave him a puzzled frown.
“They also call me One Mind Pete.”
“We all have only one mind.”
“Most of us have half a dozen minds,” he told her. “Can’t decide which one to listen to at any one time.”
She giggled. “That’s true.”
“I’m pretty single-minded,” he said. “Makes me kinda stubborn.”
“But then you don’t have to decide,” the child pointed out. “You just know.”
“You sure are one smart cookie,” he said.
from Moreno Valley Sketches