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Authors: William W. Johnstone,J. A. Johnstone

Tags: #Fiction, #Westerns

A Big Sky Christmas

BOOK: A Big Sky Christmas
8.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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A B
IG
S
KY
C
HRISTMAS
W
ILLIAM
W. J
OHNSTONE
with J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKS
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
Title Page
P
ROLOGUE
C
HAPTER
O
NE
C
HAPTER
T
WO
C
HAPTER
T
HREE
C
HAPTER
F
OUR
C
HAPTER
F
IVE
C
HAPTER
S
IX
C
HAPTER
S
EVEN
C
HAPTER
E
IGHT
C
HAPTER
N
INE
C
HAPTER
T
EN
C
HAPTER
E
LEVEN
C
HAPTER
T
WELVE
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTEEN
C
HAPTER
F
OURTEEN
C
HAPTER
F
IFTEEN
C
HAPTER
S
IXTEEN
C
HAPTER
S
EVENTEEN
C
HAPTER
E
IGHTEEN
C
HAPTER
N
INETEEN
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-ONE
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-TWO
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-THREE
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-FOUR
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-FIVE
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-SIX
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-SEVEN
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-EIGHT
C
HAPTER
T
WENTY-NINE
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-ONE
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-TWO
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-THREE
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-FOUR
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-FIVE
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-SIX
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-SEVEN
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-EIGHT
C
HAPTER
T
HIRTY-NINE
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-ONE
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-TWO
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-THREE
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-FOUR
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-FIVE
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-SIX
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-SEVEN
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-EIGHT
C
HAPTER
F
ORTY-NINE
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-ONE
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-TWO
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-THREE
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-FOUR
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-FIVE
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-SIX
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-SEVEN
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-EIGHT
C
HAPTER
F
IFTY-NINE
C
HAPTER
S
IXTY
C
HAPTER
S
IXTY-ONE
C
HAPTER
S
IXTY-TWO
C
HAPTER
S
IXTY-THREE
E
PILOGUE
Copyright Page
P
ROLOGUE
Montana, 1947
 
The roar of gunshots seemed to hammer against the old man's ears. Alexander Cantrell couldn't hear well anymore. Time had taken its toll on him, as it does on everyone. But he could plainly hear—or at least thought he could—the dull boom of pistols going off and the ear-splitting crack of rifle fire. The smell of burned powder was strong in his nose.
Likewise his vision wasn't what it once had been, but that didn't stop his bleary eyes from making out the sight of dozens of Indians charging toward him, their faces painted for war and contorted with hate as they attacked, yelling and whooping at the top of their lungs. Some people might say he was imagining them, but at this moment, they were as real to him as they had ever been.
Behind them leaped giant flames, as if the old man were looking straight into the mouth of Hell itself. . . .
“Blast it,” the old woman standing beside him said. “Have you gone to sleep on your feet again?”
“What? No. No, I'm not asleep.” The old man shook his head and smiled at his sister Abigail. They were twins, and even at their advanced age, the resemblance between them was obvious. “Just remembering how things used to be.”
“Good memories, I hope.”
Alexander thought about the violence that had wracked this land and the blood that had been spilled. “Well, I don't know.”
But in a way she was right, he mused. There were plenty of good memories to go along with the bad. In the end, the good outweighed the bad. The violence was the price that had to be paid for the long, happy life that followed.
Brought back to the present by the exchange with Abigail, he looked around. They stood side by side at the top of a slight rise. The grassy slope in front of them led gently down into a broad, lush valley bordered by wooded hills on the far side. A crooked line of trees in the middle of the valley marked the meandering course of the stream that watered the range and made it such fine grazing land. There was no more beautiful place in all the world, the old man thought, than this vast ranch where he and his sister had spent much of their childhood.
About fifty yards down the slope was a level stretch of ground surrounded by a wrought iron fence. Inside the enclosed area, the grass was cut short and carefully tended. Here and there were bright spots of color where wildflowers had grown up and been left to bloom. The place had a serene beauty about it, surrounded as it was by rangeland and roofed by the huge, arching vault of the blue Montana sky.
Big sky country, they called it, and there was no truer description than that. The Montana sky was the biggest and bluest to be found anywhere, and the rich cobalt shade was made even more striking by the white clouds that sailed in it like ships. As a young man he had lain on grassy hills like this one and looked at the clouds and actually seen ships in them, and every other shape under the sun as well.
“There you go drifting off again,” Abigail said. “If you're not careful the young folks will start thinking you're a senile old man who ought to be stuck in a home somewhere.”
Alexander snorted. “I'd like to see 'em try.”
He was tall and spare, with crisp white hair under his Stetson and a white mustache that stood out in sharp contrast against his lean face that the elements had tanned permanently to the color of old saddle leather. He wore a Western-cut suit and boots and looked like he could still leap onto a horse and gallop across the rolling landscape.
He was just as glad he didn't have to, though. He knew it would hurt like blazes if he did.
The small, birdlike old woman beside him had white hair, too. When it was loose it hung down her back to her waist, but she wore it in long braids that were wound around her head. A stylish hat perched on those braids. She wore a wool dress and jacket that helped keep her warm, even though the day wasn't really cold. Old blood didn't flow as well as young.
Alexander glanced over his shoulder at the group of men, women, and children who were waiting a respectful distance away beside the dirt road that led to the ranch and the two big Packards that had brought all of them, his children and grandchildren in one vehicle and Abigail's in the other. He linked arms with his sister and said gruffly, “Come on, we might as well get this done.”
“You don't have to make it sound so much like a chore. I enjoy coming here to see Ma and Pa.”
“I do, too,” the old man admitted in a quiet voice. Soon enough, he would be coming and staying, like the others laid under the good Montana soil, their final resting places marked by weathered stone monuments.
Stiff-kneed, they started down the slope to the small private cemetery. The afternoon was achingly quiet, so quiet he could hear the faint rumble of trucks on the highway more than a mile in the distance. Overhead an airplane cut a trail through the sky.
The world had changed so much in the time that he'd been alive, the old man thought. Now you could hop in a car and drive clear across the country, and if you wanted to get where you were going even faster, you could get on an airplane and be at your destination in a matter of hours.
People didn't appreciate how lucky they were. It hadn't been like that when he was young, that was for sure. In those days, if you wanted to move across the country, you loaded your belongings in a covered wagon, hitched up a team of horses or mules or oxen, and set off on a journey that would take months. Months of hardship and danger . . .
Those journeys had been filled with courage and honor and love. Heroes strode through those days like warrior gods of ancient mythology, towering men who protected the weak and innocent, who stood up for what was right, who brought justice and peace to a lawless land with hard fists and fast guns.
BOOK: A Big Sky Christmas
8.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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