Well, you learn something new everyday I guess. Today I learned all about mountain men and the fur trade back in the 1800s! This is Teresa’s latest writing prompt:
Your challenge today, should you accept it, is to explore your rugged side. Write your take on the Western subgenre of Mountain Man and see where it leads…or whatever/wherever the picture takes you.
Well, as I did not know anything about Mountain Men to be honest, so I had to read a bit about who they were and what they did. I have tried to put a little something together, with a few familiar characters.
Robin Granger was a company man. He had just started working for a large Fur Company. The Raw Trading Fur Company had paid for the cost of his gear. While he paid back his debt to the Fur Company he could only trade with them. The first chills had arrived in the mountains and Robin had been warned that winter could be brutal.
One night the temperature dropped so low he had to wrap himself up in the furs he had collected to try to keep the freezing draft out. Despite the extra layers, he lay awake shivering for hours as he looked up at the stars and thought of his pretty wife back in Oregon. Gradually sleep took over him and he drifted away.
The next thing Robin knew, somebody was shaking him forcefully. “Come on! Wake up, wake up!” an urgent voice was calling out.
Robin found it exhausting just to lift his eyelids. It took a few minutes for him to come round. A grizzly faced man looked down at him, shaking his shoulder. On seeing that he was finally awake, the stranger said to Robin, “I thought you were a goner. You new out here Friend?”
Robin nodded, “Seven months.”
“Started trapping in the spring hey? Fair weather trapper. Winter’s not a game Friend. We need to get you into a proper shelter.”
The stranger helped Robin onto his feet. The two men gathered up the furs. Robin’s limbs ached and his chest was tight. The stranger supported him as he stumbled. The stranger led the way through the Pass and towards a cave in the rock face. The embers of a fire were still glowing. It didn’t take long for the stranger to stir up the flames and soon Robin was able to thaw out in front of the warm glow.
The stranger introduced himself as Chris Ward, a free trapper who had made a tidy profit for himself through his exploits up in The Rocky mountains over the past few years. When he took the pelts he had acquired down to Missouri, he would sell them for the highest price he could, rather than having to trade with one company.
“There’s a lot of profit in fur. You need to pay off your debt as soon as possibly so you can be a free agent Friend. Where is home to you?”
“Home is just outside Pendleton, Oregon. I married just less than a year ago and set up a house not far from the Umatilla River.”
“I’m heading back up to Oregon myself. There’s a dame down there I was a-courting all summer, three years back. I’ve been saving up to go and ask her hand in marriage. Her father made it clear he would only consider a man with a steady income for his daughter. Well I’ve made a small fortune from free trading. So I am heading back there.”
“Well, you should come and stay with me and my wife. She’ll be so grateful to you for helping me out.”
“We can travel along the trail together if it suits you. I think I could do with the company and you need to be better prepared for winter up here in the Rockies. You could have frozen to death in your sleep out there.”
Robin thanked Chris. “Annabelle would have been devastated.”
Chris’s stirred the fire, “Annabelle? Who is Annabelle?”
“She’s my wife. Prettiest gal in all of Oregon. She is back waiting for me to return to Pendleton with my earnings from trapping this year. We needed money if we want to start a family, so I got myself into the fur trade.”
Chris stared at Robin, “Pendleton, you say. Your wife wouldn’t have been formerly a Miss Annabelle Riley, would she? Daughter of Captain George Riley?”
The question surprised Robin, “She certainly was. You must have met my wife!”
Chris stared down at the ground, “It’s been a while since I was up in Pendleton. Around three years. I remember Miss Annabelle Riley was the prettiest girl I’d ever laid eyes on.”
It was a whole month later when the two men finally arrived in the city of Pendleton. It had been a bitter winter and the two men were truly exhausted. Robin was excited to be reunited with his young wife. Whereas Chris was bracing himself for disappointment. But the feelings of both men intensified as Mrs Annabelle Grainger, greeted her astonished husband. “Annabelle! My golly!”
“I’m so glad you are home. Baby has been kicking so hard. Must be due any day now,” smiled Annabelle sweetly, “Who is the gentleman with you sugarplum?”
“This is Mr Christopher Ward, who saved my life when I was up in the mountains. I said he would be welcome in our home.”
As Annabelle’s approached Chris Ward to thank him, she began to recognise him. “Why! It’s been a while since you passed through Pendleton. I thought you were never coming back this way.”