Silver and Gold – short story in A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe anthology by Kaye Spencer #westernromance #holidayanthology
My contribution to the Prairie Rose Publications’ western romance Christmas collection, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe, is Silver and Gold. This story is set in South Park, Colorado in 1881. South Park is a grassland valley of about 1,000 square miles nestled at the foot of some of Colorado’s 13ers and 14ers (mountain peaks 13,000 or 14,000 feet in elevation). Placer gold was discovered in South Park in 1859, which brought a ‘rush’ to the area. Just over the Mosquito Mountain Range to the west, Horace Tabor discovered silver in 1878 in Leadville.The largest town in South Park is Fairplay (current population roughly 600). From Denver, it is about 90 miles to Fairplay.
On a side note, Fairplay is my favorite place. Although I live a good seven hours away on the eastern Colorado plains, I do manage to visit Fairplay every few years. Fairplay is home to the South Park Museum, which is an open-air museum of a collection of 19th century mining camp buildings in South Park that were ‘saved’ through historical preservation efforts.
Back to the story…
At it’s heart, Silver and Gold is a story about coming to terms with your own disappointments and heartaches through helping others when their needs are greater than yours.
Bad luck and wrong turns make up the greater part of ex-con Joe Halden’s past. When he learns he has a five-year-old son Joe knows he can do something right by giving the boy a decent home. But the only way he can save him is to employ the trade that landed him in prison—explosives expert. Sydney Allard’s heart is hardened against the townspeople she blames for her husband’s death. When a fire destroys the town near Christmas, Sydney wants to continue harboring her hatred, but her conscience won’t let her.
Two strangers share a journey of self-discovery. In this season of SILVER AND GOLD, the hurts of the past can lead to love if they open their hearts and give their trust to each other.
[the town mayor is talking]
“When the messenger rode in with news of the fire, we asked about the snow up there. He said they’ve had the usual, but so far, nothing substantial. That means we have to go now—and get right back. I’ve arranged to have the supplies we wired from Denver unloaded at the Como depot instead of waiting for them to reach Fairplay. That way, we can just haul them back to Como and up to Boreas Valley.”
Syd couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “Then hire freighters in Como! No one from here would need go at all.”
“We considered that, but we decided we had enough to donate amongst us, that we’d load up at the town hall in the morning and be on the road to Como by noon. We’ve rounded up a few buckboards and horses, but they aren’t draft animals. The buckboards can’t be loaded with much, or the horses will never pull the weight up the mountain. It’ll take twice as long, too.” He turned his hat in his hands as he thought it over. “I suppose if it comes to that, those of us who go can carry the supplies on our backs if the horses can’t make it all the way. We’ll just pray the lot of us don’t get caught in a storm before we can come down off that mountain and make it back here.”
Syd set her mouth in a hard frown. He was hitting below the belt, and he knew it. It was a tactic she’d known him to use with great effectiveness to get donations and cooperation from townspeople for any project the town council proposed or undertook.
“We’d appreciate the use of your mules and freight wagon. If you’ll drive the wagon, I’ll personally accompany you, or Claude and I will take the team. We know you’re more than capable, but if we had our druthers, we’d rather you stayed here and let us handle it.” He paused, almost turned to go, when an afterthought stopped him.
“You weren’t living here when Fairplay rebuilt from the fire of seventy-three, so you didn’t experience watching your life’s work and the memories you’d made destroyed right before your eyes. It’s a hard thing to start over from nothing with nothing. Shared tragedy brings people together. Forgiveness heals. Syd, all I ask is that you look into your heart for the compassion I know is still there. You may think it died with Newly and Lars, but it didn’t. It’s just been a little shy about showing itself. Well, goodnight. If I don’t see you before Sunday, Merry Christmas.”
When the door closed behind Barney, Syd excused herself and went to the kitchen on the pretext of fetching the coffee pot. It was the awkward silence and the questioning expressions she had to get away from. Barney’s words stung, and she couldn’t deny their truth. The protective barricade she’d erected around her heart on the rock-sturdy hate foundation built teardrop-by-falling-teardrop crumbled. Until moments ago, she’d reveled in the righteous blame she’d assigned to the faceless, nameless people in Boreas Valley. They’d earned every ounce of her animosity. But now…she felt her heartache and grief playing out like a gold mine stripped of its riches. Her greatest fear was once she relinquished her hold on her sorrow and anger, loneliness would rush in to take its place.
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