Nervously Emily and her children followed Sam into the barn. When Sam stopped out back of the barn he pointed down at the ground. Everyone looked down and no one said a word. All they could do was stare at the huge grizzly paw prints in the bloody dirt. They saw where their milking cow had been killed.
There was blood everywhere. Then they saw the trail the bear had made trying to pull the carcass out of the barn to the woods. Sam pointed to the hay loft above their heads. “You see that ladder Emily? That grizzly must weigh a good 1,000 pounds. No bear that size can climb the ladder and its paws can’t reach the loft, even if it stood up.
I’ll be safe I promise. Here’s my plan. You make me enough food to get me through late afternoon and the night. I’ll take two blankets with me to help keep me warm. When that bear comes back to feed on that cow again I’ll see him. With me in the loft he won’t be able to smell my scent. If he heads for the barn thinking he’s going to kill the horses I’ve got four shells plus one in the chamber to stop him.
I’ll make sure I have the rest of the box of shells with me just in case. If I can hit that bear anywhere but his head, he’ll either be dead or severely wounded. Anytime a grizzly attacks one farm Emily other ranchers and their livestock are at risk too. We don’t have a choice. This bear must be killed. I’m going stay out in this barn until I kill that bear. You just keep the children close to the cabin please,” Sam told his wife.
Emily wanted to argue. She wanted to change her husband’s mind but she knew what he said was true. She had each arm around her children and pulled them closer to her. She looked into his eyes and nodded in agreement. Then she told Tommy and Sarah to go back to the cabin so she could talk to their pa. As they ran towards the cabin Emily said what was on her mind.
“Darling, I know what you have to do has to be done but it doesn’t mean I’m not scared to death for you. I’ll bring you the blankets, your gloves and enough food until morning and a canteen too. I pray that bear comes back before dark. However if he should come back at night I’ll pray the skies stay clear and that the moonlight gives you a clear shot to kill it,” Emily said worriedly.
Quickly Emily turned around and walked back to the cabin. Sam called out to her to not forget the rest of his shells. She didn’t turn around but waved a hand to him so he knew she heard him. It seemed like a long time before he saw his wife come out of the cabin with blankets and food for him. Tommy was carrying a canteen for him and Sarah was carrying his box of shells. When they reached his side Sam asked her why Tommy and Sarah came down with her.
“Darling, a team of wild horses couldn’t these two young’uns from coming to hug you and tell you to be careful,” Emily said with a laugh. Sam smiled as she stepped aside and let them hug their pa as he knelt down on one knee. Sarah cried as she told her pa she didn’t want him to die. On his other side Tommy tried his best to be tough. As he wiped his nose he said, “You kill that grizzly pa. Don’t let him get you.”
After Sam hugged them both he stood up and kissed his wife. He did his best to reassure everyone he’d be okay. “I know you’re scared darling. Just stay inside the cabin and keep the kids close by. I’ll get that bear and we’ll all be just fine,” he said. Sam watched his family wave goodbye and head back to the cabin. As Emily turned her head and looked back at him she said, “These young’uns aren’t stepping foot out of our cabin again until you kill that damned bear darling.”
Sam waved goodbye and headed back into the barn with blankets, shells, canteen and food in his hands. He opened the barn door, walked inside and locked it behind him. Because the grizzly bear had broken down one of the rear doors to the barn Sam knew there was only one way into the barn. He walked his palomino and Betsy inside one of the storerooms he had built. He put feed inside and a five gallon bucket of water for each horse and locked the door.
Carefully he made three trips up the narrow ladder until everything he needed was in the hay loft. He planned to lie on the hay on top of a blanket like it was a bed. Then he’d cover up with the other blanket. He pushed open the loft door and looked out into the valley. He saw he had a clear view of the cow carcass. If the grizzly came for the cow during the day he would see it leaving the edge of the forest and heading for the carcass.
He double checked his rifle and made sure he had four cartridges in the magazine and one in the chamber. Then he spread out a blanket on top of the hay and lay down on the blanket. After spreading the other blanket across his back he spread out more rifle shells beside him if he needed to reload. Sam looked up and all he saw was blue sky. He was thankful he saw no clouds.
Sam knew how quickly the weather can change in the Rockies. He hoped the clouds and snow would stay away just long enough to let him kill the bear. He knew this wasn’t any ordinary grizzly. He wondered how many times he’d have to shoot it. He hoped he wouldn’t have to reload after five shots. He hoped that after the bear showed itself one of two scenarios would play out.
He hoped to get a perfect side headshot which would instantly kill the grizzly. He also hoped he could shoot the bear broadside three of four times and eventually kill it. Even if the bear ran off Sam believed he would bleed to death by morning. There was a third possibility though that Sam hated to consider. What if the grizzly didn’t come back that day?
How many days or nights would he have to stay up in the loft to kill the bear? But Sam shrugged off worrying it would be several days or nights. Why? Because there was eight hundred pounds of beef lying out in the pasture, a perfect banquet for a hungry bear. So Sam settled in for a long day and night of waiting and watching. Sam sat his pocket watch down on the blanket in front of him where he could see it.
Throughout the day he stared at the carcass and then the edge of the mountain. He saw a lone coyote come and feed for a short time. He also watched a large grey mountain lion rarely seen in the daytime come out of the forest and feed too for a short time before disappearing back into the forest. Hours passed and he thought about how worried his wife and children must be.
Before he knew it the sun was setting. He looked overhead and was relieved to see there were still no clouds. It was blue as could be. Suddenly he saw movement near the edge of the forest. What Sam saw took his breath away. Out into the open lumbered a huge grizzly. Sam immediately saw the large hump on its back. His black nose had to be four inches wide or more.
With each step the grizzly took he squashed the grass leaving foot prints behind. He headed straight for the carcass with confidence. He was the king of the woods and nothing dared challenge him. Sam knew that the only thing he could do from where he lay was wait and let the bear feed on the carcass. His massive head was too low to the ground to shoot him in the chest and a bullet to the head would just slide off.
The one thing Sam had in his favor was the element of surprise. Because he was in the loft the grizzly had no way of knowing he was about to be ambushed. As the bear settled down to feed on one of the hind quarters of the cow, darkness was making the daylight retreat. The grizzly was feeding at an angle that didn’t give Sam a clear kill shot. If Sam had to take a shot by moonlight the odds of killing him with one shot or several weren’t good.
Time and again Sam lined up his rifle sights but the angle he needed just wasn’t there. Just when he was about to lose all hope the grizzly stood up and shook his head with a belly heavy with meat. But instead of heading back into the forest or attempting to drag the carcass further towards the woods the bear made a critical mistake. The grizzly walked around the other side of the carcass and lay down beside it to continue feeding.
This gave Sam a perfect kill side shot anywhere on the right side of its body. Sam knew his heart was racing. He was cold as could be. He knew his hands holding the rifle were trembling. He had two possible shots and precious daylight was slipping away. He could go for a lung shot right behind the bear’s lower right shoulder. If he took that shot and wounded the grizzly he’d still be able to take off at a run and make it a few hundred feet before it collapsed and died.
He might shoot him again before he disappeared in the brush. But if his aim was too low the bullet would go under the bear or possibly just graze his belly. Sam couldn’t risk the grizzly running off at high speed. A moving target would be hard for him to attempt a second shot. The second option for Sam since the bear was positioned perfectly broadside was to aim for the bear’s right ear. That is the bear’s most vulnerable place on his head.
An ear shot would kill the grizzly instantly. Fear of having the bear slightly wounded and running wasn’t the outcome Sam wanted. In those last fleeting moments of daylight Sam decided and took aim at the bear’s ear. Emily had just set supper on the table for her children. After saying grace, they ate in silence with the look of worry written all over their faces. Suddenly they heard Sam fire his first shot.
The sound of the rifle was deafening. The shock of the rifle butt jerked Sam’s shoulder as he quickly reloaded. When Emily heard the rifle shot she instantly dropped her fork and jumped to her feet. She grabbed on to the edge of the table shaking the entire table. She tipped over all three glasses of water trying to stand up. She and her children all looked at each other and then Emily ran to the door.
Just as her hand touched the door handle Sam fired a second time. Then a third shot rang out before there was only silence. Emily had tears in her eyes and her children were both clinging to her dress. Tommy was trying to be strong as Sarah cried. Emily wanted to open the door and rush down to the barn but she knew better. She went to the window and stared down at the barn.
With each passing minute it got darker and darker. Slowly one of the barn doors swung open. She barely made out the silhouette of Sam holding his rifle walking towards the cabin waving. She ran to the door and rushed out of the cabin warning Tommy and Sarah to stay inside until she knew it was safe. It was all Emily could do not to trip and fall in her rush to reach her husband.
When Emily reached Sam she was trembling. He took her in his arms and held her tight as she kissed him repeatedly. Tommy and Sarah watched from the front porch. When they knew it was safe they rushed to their ma and pa. Sam couldn’t help but laugh with happiness at being greeted so wonderfully by his family. “I killed the bear Emily. I was so worried that the bear would run but I tried to aim straight and just held my breath. I killed it with the first shot!” he said excitedly.
Emily looked up into her husband’s eyes and asked why she heard three shots. “The other two shots were to make sure he was dead darling. Come morning we’ll all go down and look at him in the daylight,” Sam said. All the way back to the cabin, Emily, Tommy and Sarah shivered because they hadn’t grabbed their coats.
Once inside, Emily wiped up the water on the table and sat down a plate for Sam. Anxiously everyone wait to hear Sam tell them everything that happened. After the table was cleared and the dishes and pots were washed, Sam and Emily tucked their children into bed. After Tommy and Sarah had fallen asleep and Emily lay next to her husband she held him extra close to her.
Before Sam blew out the oil lamp she looked up into his eyes and whispered, “I don’t know what I would’ve done had you not been here. I was scared to death Sam. That bear might’ve eventually killed us all,” Emily said as she began to tremble. As she laid her head on his chest Sam did his best to reassure her everything was okay now. “I’ll spend a week teaching Tommy how to shoot that Winchester in case a coyote, wolf or cougar comes to our ranch,” Sam told his wife.
When morning came, Tommy and Sarah kept pestering Sam to go down to the pasture and see the bear. Emily put her foot down and said they all had to have breakfast first. When they headed down to the barn Sam told them to stay behind him about forty feet. He wanted to make sure everything was okay in case another animal was feeding on the cow carcass.
Once he saw it was safe he motioned for them to come to him. When they stood beside the dead grizzly even Sam was shocked to see how huge the bear really was. Sam skinned the bear and they all got in the buckboard. They headed for town with the bear skin. Sam stopped the buckboard outside the jail first and showed the bear skin to the sheriff. Next he stopped at Campbell’s General Store. Finally he stopped at the livery stable because Amos knew how to tan hides.
All Amos could do was stare and shake his head at the huge bear skin in the back of Sam’s buckboard. That week folks in town talked about the giant grizzly Sam killed out at his ranch. When they got back to their ranch Sam tied a rope to the cow carcass and used his horse to drag it farther from the barn. But it took both of their horses to drag the bear carcass away from their barn. Sam wanted coyotes, cougar, wolves, black bears and other grizzly’s to feed on the carcasses away from their ranch.
Two weeks later after the hide was tanned Sam took it over to Campbell’s. Dale offered him a hundred dollars to hang it on the wall of his store. By April spring was in full bloom in their valley. Sam and Emily sat in rocking chairs on their front porch looking at their ranch. “I’ve been thinking Emily. Thinking about how or what I can do to help make us some extra money. Maybe I can grow more vegetables or work for someone,” Sam said.
He looked at his wife and saw a look of concern and sadness come over her face. “Sam, please don’t take this wrong but we’re doing okay. We might not have a lot but we’re not doing without,” she told her husband. What she was trying to say to him was that she had grown accustomed to his presence every day and would miss him.
“I know what you mean Emily. I’m just trying to think of a way where I can make our life better. Maybe we can grow more vegetables and sell them in town or raise some cattle or hogs. We also could sell apples in town. You might make some of your beautiful quilts and sell them at the farmer’s market in the fall. We can use extra money,” he said.
Emily knew her husband was right. The next day Sam and Tommy stared at the four apple trees full of blossoms behind the cabin. Sam noticed the fifth tree appeared to have almost no blossoms on it as if it were all but dead. Sam pointed out to Tommy all the trees were the same size and the others were doing well. He had no explanation why the one tree had so few blossoms on it.
Sam decided to cut down the tree and use it for firewood later that year when he smoked ham or venison. He cautioned Tommy to stand back at a distance until the tree had fallen. He came back with an ax and began chopping. As the tree fell to the ground it broke into three pieces. As the tree broke apart, Sam and Tommy saw a pint size jar of gold coins break and scatter on the ground.
Both Sam and Tommy rushed to where the gold coins lay. They saw $50, $20 and $10 gold pieces plus six silver dollars too. Carefully they picked out the coins from the sharp pieces of glass and walked over to a flat piece of ground and sat down. They placed the coins in piles according to their value. Then they both stared at the piles. Sam counted fifteen hundred and thirty-six dollars.
Sam realized the coins had been hidden in the tree before Jess bought the ranch by the dates on the coins. He told his son he assumed the previous owner of the ranch must not have trusted the town’s bank. For the longest time both of them sat on the ground staring at the money or holding a shiny gold coin in their hand.
Sam asked Tommy if he knew who had owned their ranch before Jess bought it. But the boy shook his head no. ”Well Tommy let’s put these coins in my hat. I guess we better go inside and surprise your ma,” Sam said. Tommy’s eyes sparkled. He smiled from ear to ear and started to run towards the house. Suddenly Sam called out, “Tommy, wait!” He stopped and looked at his pa confused.
When Sam reached his side he said, “We can’t just go bursting through the door son. We need to tell your ma once we’ve got her sitting down, right?” he asked. Tommy was laughing as he nodded. “Now here’s the plan. We’ll go in, sit down at the table and ask your ma for a glass of water. When she brings the water we’ll ask her to sit down.
I’ll talk about me thinking of ways to help us get more money and I’ll tell her I found a way. Then I’ll take my hat out from under the table and set it out for her to see,” Sam told his son with a grin. “Pa, ma will plum faint I’ll bet you,” Tommy said. “Well I hope she won’t faint son,” Sam said as they both laughed. When they both walked into the cabin Emily’s back was to them and they quickly sat down at the table.
Emily turned around and said, “Hi. Did you two come in for a glass of water?” Sam and Tommy looked at each other and said, “Yes please.” Emily sensed something was up and came closer to the table. She studied the expressions on both of their faces, making her even more suspicious. “Alright, out with it you two. What have you been up too and don’t tell me nothing,” Emily said with a grin.
Tommy tried to sound innocent as he said, “Nothing momma. Pa just cut down one of the apple trees that were dead behind our cabin.” But she saw Tommy’s grin getting bigger and bigger. “Well!” she said to Tommy as she smiled back at him. “If you don’t tell me what secret you’re keeping from me, I swear I think you’re going to burst,” Emily said as she let out a laugh. Then she sat down on a chair.
Tommy looked at his pa and nodded. Sam lifted up his hat from under the table and spilled the gold and silver coins across the table. Emily looked down at all the money in disbelief. She put her hand to her mouth as she whispered, ”Oh my Lord!” Her eyes were as wide as Tommy’s grin as he shouted excitedly, “They were hid in a jar inside that old apple tree momma!”
As her hand picked up one, two and then several of the gold coins she cried out in disbelief, “These are fifty dollar gold pieces Sam! There must be hundreds of dollars here.” Sam nodded. “There’s more than that Emily. I counted fifteen hundred and thirty-six dollars. Who owned this place before you?” he asked his wife.
Emily was so shocked she could barely think as she looked at the gold coins in her hand. Slowly she looked up and said, “A man by the name of Dan Williams owned this place. The bank told me that he died of a heart attack and had no kin. I guess he didn’t believe it was safe to put his money in a bank because they get robbed. I guess he just hid his savings in that old tree.”
At that moment everyone’s eyes stared at the pile of gold on the table. “Are you sure that there’s that much money here Sam?” Emily asked in a trembling voice. “He’s sure momma. I watched pa count it twice,” Tommy said excitedly as he smiled up at Sam. The same thought was on everyone’s mind. But it was Sarah who said what everyone was thinking.
“Momma what we going do with all the money?” Sarah asked. Emily looked over at Sam and he said the only thing he could say, “Well we can’t give it back to the man who had this place before you. It wouldn’t be right to just give it to the bank since it was never their money to begin with. So the way I see it Jess bought this place and now you own it Emily. I figure this money now belongs to you.”
With tears in her eyes Emily reached over and took Sam’s hand and squeezed it tight. Proudly she told him, “This here money is ours Sam. The question bothering me something terrible is what are we going to do with all this money?” Sam nodded and said, “We have to go to town and put this gold in the bank sweetheart.” Emily scooped up the gold and silver coins and placed them in her purse.
Nervously Sarah asked her ma a question she was bursting to ask. “Momma? Before you put the last gold coin in your purse can I hold it? Please, please momma for just a minute?” she pleaded. Emily laughed at the way her daughter was pleading and she shook her head yes. “But for just a minute. We have to get this money to the bank,” Emily told her daughter. That minute felt like an hour as Sarah held a fifty dollar gold piece in her hand and watched it shimmer and sparkle.
As Sarah handed the coin back to her ma, Tommy came back into the room and handed Sarah her coat. When Sam came back into the cabin he told everyone the buckboard was outside. On the way to town Sam looked nervously around for any riders that might be coming their way. The last thing he wanted to see happen was for them to be robbed and possibly hurt. Ranch after ranch they passed. They made it all the way to town without seeing one rider.
When they reached the bank Sam pulled the buckboard to a stop and helped Emily down and both children jumped down excitedly. When they entered the Marble City State Bank Sam asked the bank teller at the window if they could speak to Mr. Delvin the bank president. In just a few moments Mr. Delvin’s office door opened. He greeted the family with a smile and wave.
“Congratulations folks! I heard you got married. I’m assuming you stopped by to sign some banking documents now that you’re wed, right Emily?” he asked. Emily looked up at Sam and he smiled as he watched his wife smile and nod. Mr. Delvin wondered what secret they were hiding. “We stopped by the bank to take care of some business Mr. Delvin. Can we talk to you in your office?” Emily asked. “Why sure folks, come on in,” he said.
When everyone was seated, Emily told Mr. Delvin she wanted to add Sam onto the deed to her ranch and that they had a deposit to make. “Well I can help you with both of those matters Mrs. Bates. Which one do you want to take care of first?” Mr. Delvin asked. Nervously Emily said, “Well, I guess I better deposit some money into our account first seeing how that’s what’s on my mind the most,” Emily said.
She reached into her purse and laid handfuls of gold and silver coins on the man’s desk. Over and over Emily placed coins on the desk until she laid the last gold coin down and smiled. “Mrs. Bates. I haven’t had anyone in town bring this much gold into the bank at one time before. How much do you recon you had in your purse?” he asked.
“Well not counting these two fifty dollar pieces we’d like to deposit fourteen hundred and thirty-six dollars. Just to let you know Mr. Delvin, Sam and I have counted the money twice before we came into town,” she told him. Mr. Delvin’s eyes were as big as apples as he separated and stacked the gold and silver coins in rows. After a few minutes checking and double checking his figures he looked first at Emily and then to Sam as he smiled.
”You figured right Mrs. Bates. My figure is fourteen hundred and thirty-six dollars too. If you don’t mind me asking you folks, how in tarnation did you come into so much money?” Mr. Delvin asked. Sam wanted Emily to tell Mr. Delvin how they came to finding all the money. But it was Emily who nudged Sam to speak up. “Well sir, Tommy and I were cutting down a dead apple tree out back of our cabin. When the tree fell it broke into three pieces.
The man who owned the ranch before Emily hallowed out a hole in the tree and hid all this money in a jar. The way we figure it, seeing how that man has passed on the money rightfully belongs to her now,” Sam said. Emily reached over and touched Sam’s arm and whispered, ”That money belongs to both of us now Sam, we’re married. The money belongs to us doesn’t it Mr. Delvin?” Emily asked with hesitation.
Mr. Delvin placed a finger to his chin and leaned back in his chair for a moment as he thought about the question before answering. “Seeing how you own the deed to that piece of land, including all the trees on it, rightfully that money is yours. Congratulations folks. Now let me get my teller in here and get this money deposited into your account. Then I’ll write you out a receipt,” Mr. Delvin said with a smile.
Then he shook Sam and Emily’s hands. After a bank teller came into the office, Mr. Delvin had him deposit the money sitting on his desk. Then he returned in a few minutes and handed Mr. Delvin the receipt. Mr. Delvin handed Sam the receipt. Once again he thanked the couple for making their deposit.