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It had rained on and off for the last three weeks. The normally dry
fields around Four Corners hadstarted to resemble small lakes. All the
farmers in the vicinity had wound up keeping their
livestock in the pastures close to their homes in order to keep a good eye on them.
Whenever there was a short spell of sun in between the rain showers,
the seven men hired to
protect the town made the journey to check on the farm families. It was during one of these trips
that a dramatic rescue happened.
It all started early that morning. The sun started shining bright for the first time in four days. At theBrighten farm, Mrs. Brighten sent her youngest children out to play. The three had been cooped upin the cabin with little to do. The two oldest children had been kept busy helping their father tendthe horses and cattle stabled in the barn. The extra animals had kept them preoccupied. On this daythe two children and their father had just left to go to Four Corners for feed.
Barry, Katie and little Melinda raced around the small field behind
their home. The ground was
covered with puddles and the three children were jumping from one to another. Mrs Brighten had been fully aware they would probably do this and so had dressed them accordingly in their oldest clothes. Before they had been allowed to leave they had been made to promise not to near the
Melinda held on to her small doll and watched her brother and sister. She was a mischievous littlegirl and right now she was contemplating how to tease her siblings. Barry and Katie's playing was taking them away from her so she decided to play hide and seek with them. Gripping her dolltightly she skipped away to the small group of trees edging the field, all the time looking over her shoulder at the other two.
Reaching the trees and giggling to herself, she slipped away unnoticed.
This was quite fun and
when she heard Barry and Katie start to call her name she continued on. Further and further she
went until suddenly she found herself standing on the bank of the river her mother had forbidden
them to go near. Melinda started to feel a little scared so she turned to go back the way she came. But the riverbank was wet and slippery and as she moved she lost her footing. Melinda slid into
the mud down the embankment and into the water.
Melinda was a competent swimmer from her age and so was immediately
able to get her head
above the water. But still she was only a small five-year-old so the water's current took her away with it. Luckily for Melinda the water's strength wasn't what it should have been after all the rain
that had fallen. Melinda paddled the water to a large branch also caught in the current. Grabbing on she wrapped her arms around it. The warm tears on her face mixed with the dirty river water.
Melinda gasped a few deep breaths and then started crying for her mother.
The branch floated down the river taking the little girl with it.
Buck and JD sat on their horses talking to Mrs. Brighten. The two had
already checked on three
farms and no problems had occurred recently. Mrs. Brighton liked the young man JD She thought
that his mother had obviously raised him right. She had met him a few times in town and he was
always polite and respectful.
As for Buck, she felt he needed some more manners. She had heard all
about his reputation with
women. As a mother of girls she was darn sure her eldest would have not contact with the
scoundrel. Though, even if she did have these personal feelings about Buck's character, she was
still grateful for the protection these two and their five comrades had brought to the area.
The three adults were discussing the recent rain when Barry and Katie
came running up. Mrs.
Brighten could tell by their faces that something was wrong. She also just then realized Melinda
wasn't with them.
" Where's your sister?' she cried at the two frightened youngsters.
" We don't know" Barry gasped between breaths. "We were playing
in the west field…." His
upper lip was trembling even though he was trying to be strong. " We…we…we then saw she
wasn't around. We called her but she didn't answer." Suddenly his emotions overcame the little
boy and he started crying.
" Help me." Mrs. Brighten pleaded of Buck and JD who had both dismounted and stood behind her listening to the sobbing boy's tale.
" JD. Go get Chris and Vin. They should be at the main road waiting for us. I'll start looking."
Hitting his horse into a gallop JD did a running leap onto its back
and raced off. Buck squatted
down in front of Barry and placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Can you show me, son, where you last saw your sister?" Buck asked softly.
"When the trembling boy nodded Buck picked him up and put him on the
grey's back. After an
encouraging smile to Mrs. Brighten he mounted himself.
" Don't worry ma’am. I'll find her." He put his arm around the
young man and rode off to search
Upstream from the Brighten farm the beaver dam that blocked the river
current was being looked
over by the three men. The held-back water had been getting higher and higher on the farmland.
Shaw and his sons were getting ready to destroy the dam to let the water escape.
Currently Joe Shaw had his lasso wrapped around an outcropping of branches
and was using the
power of his horse to try and pull them out. The branches moved slightly but not enough. All that
resulted was a larger stream of water rushing over the hole the Shaws’ had already made. The
water level down stream did start to rise a little bit.
“ Sam.” Dave Shaw called to his son. “ Go back to the farm and get a
couple sticks of dynamite.
This dam is going to need to be blown.”
Sam mounted his horse and trotted off to get the explosives. Dave and
Joe sat down to wait
knowing that Sam wouldn’t be long.
Buck and Barry rode away from the farmhouse calling Melinda’s name. Barry directed Buck to the field the children had been playing in.
“ We were here and Melinda was playing over there the last time I saw
her” Barry pointed to the trees. Buck urged his horse over to them. Looking
down he saw the small imprint of the girl’s
shoes in the soft ground. Buck dismounted and helped Barry down. Leading the horse the two
followed the tracks through the trees until they came out onto the river’s side. Buck spotted
something that caused him to put his body between the item and the little boy’s searching eyes.
“ Barry. Go back to your mother and wait for JD to come back with the others. Tell them to come here. Can you do that for me?”
The boy nodded and took off running to deliver the message. Once
the boy was gone Buck
dropped the horse’s reins, and after grabbing a tree branch to help keep his balance, he stepped
down the slippery mud bank. Reaching down he grabbed what he had seen. In his hand he now held Melinda’s doll.
Climbing up the slope he collected his horse and remounted. Buck started
going down river fearful of what he would find.
JD, having ridden hard, didn’t take long to meet up with Chris and Vin.
They had just completed
their own farm checks. Reining his gelding to a halt he quickly explained the circumstances of the missing girl. With no hesitation the three raced to the Brighten homestead to help Buck.
Buck had only traveled a short distance when he heard the first whimpering
of the little girl.
Forcing his horse into a slow trot on the slippery ground he continued down the river. Around the bend the little girl came into his view.
The branch she was holding on to had now become tangled in other branches
and had come to a
halt in the middle of the river. The water poured around Melinda. Her face was white with fear
and Buck could see she was exhausted.
Looking over the situation Buck realized the water level was rising.
But it was still low enough
that he felt his horse could handle entering it. The gray was a strong sensible horse so Buck knew he could trust him but he also knew he had no option. He had to use the horse’s strength to rescue
Clucking and putting his heels to the horse’s side Buck made the gray
go down the embankment and into the water. The gray was reluctant to enter
the water but Buck’s driving effort forced him
forward. Buck loosened the reins to give the horse his head to assist him in keeping his balance.
The cold water came just below the horse’s belly once he started to get close to where Melinda
clung to the branches.
Melinda, having seen Buck, watched him get closer. She recognized him
from the town and she
knew that he would take her back to her mother who she terribly wanted right now. Because she
could also see behind Buck, she saw the other three men who rode up.
As there wasn’t anything they could immediately do to help Buck or Melinda,
Chris, Vin and JD
dismounted and stood watching with held breathes as the solid gray picked his way towards the
Arriving just slightly upstream from Melinda, Buck carefully dismounted. Holding onto the stirrup and the reins he steadied himself against the strengthening current. Once he had his balance Buck leaned over as far as he could.
His arm outstretched towards the girl he called to her. “ Grab my hand. Melinda.”
“ Please, darling. Just let go with one hand and reach out.”
Scared, Melinda shakily removed one white knuckled hand from the branch
and started raising it
towards Buck. Suddenly the branch lurched. With a squeal Melinda returned her grip to the branch which didn’t move again.
“ Come on. You can do it. Try again.”
Melinda took a deep breath and moved her hand off of the branch again. Straightening her arm she reached for Buck.
The three men on the bank stared unmoving, as it appeared she wouldn’t
be able to reach Buck’s
grasp. Buck realized this as well and praying for the calmness of his horse he let go of the reins
and only held on to the stirrup. The gray seemed to sense the need that was being requested of him. He moved slightly but not forward as another horse might have. Instead he shifted his body to the side.
This little movement and the length of span of the stirrup gave Buck
the edge he needed. Melinda’s tiny hand and wrist was engulfed in Buck’s
powerful grip and he pulled her small body into his arms.
When Sam had returned with the dynamite Dave and his sons had immediately
placed it along the beaver dam. Now standing back a safe distance they
set it off. With the structure of the dam greatly weakened the power
built up behind it took over. Angry water rushed through, sweeping branches
and logs along with anything else caught up in its wake.
With Melinda in his arms Buck struggled to his horse’s side. Grasping the little girl by her waist he placed her in the saddle.
“ Hold on” he encouraged her.
Buck knew they still weren’t out of danger. He had observed that the water now reached the gray’s belly and was visibly rising. Holding on to the pommel with one hand and the reins with the other he got the horse to turn around and start walking carefully towards the riverbank where his friends stood. Half way across Buck was just managing to keep his own footing without interfering with his horse when he heard the roar. Chris and Vin heard it at the same time.
Each of them realized what it was. Fear gripped Buck’s heart and Chris
yelled. Buck did the first
thing that came to his mind. Savagely he brought his hand down onto the gray’s hindquarters
causing the tired horse to lunge forward. Melinda managed to grip the pommel and stay on as the
horse rushed the short distance left and up the bank where JD grabbed it’s reins.
The sound that they heard was the rushing water. It suddenly came in
to view. Chris and Vin
watched in horror as the water crashed into Buck. JD’s view was blocked for a second by the gray and Melinda so he didn’t see immediately what happened.
With the water came the broken parts of the beaver dam. One of these large logs caught Buck at the back of his legs and swept his feet out from under him. For a brief moment he disappeared from the view of the others. Frantically they looked for him. JD called out as he saw Buck’s head appear already moving with the current.
The water had knocked Buck semi-conscious and he didn’t really realize
what was happening.
Somehow as the current pulled him along his head remained above the water so he could breath,
though through gasping breaths.
Vin, being the most familiar with the ways that natures’ power worked,
jumped on his horse.
Forcing it into a canter that would have been considered reckless at any circumstances,
considering the slippery ground, he rode down stream to get ahead of Buck’s out of control body. Vin knew that Buck couldn’t hold out in that water for long. He also knew that he needed to get far enough ahead to prepare to stop him.
Amazingly Vin’s horse managed to cover the distance without faltering. After about half a mile the river took a sharp bend and this was where Vin was headed. There was a possibility that due to the amount of branches and logs in the water that they would get clogged up at this point. This might have an effect of slowing Buck down and Vin might be able to save him.
Arriving at the bend just enough ahead of Buck, Vin slid his horse to
a halt. Throwing the reins
over the horse’s head he pulled off the bridle. He would need this to throw to Buck to grab. Vin
silently prayed that Buck would be alert and not injured enough that he would be able to catch the leather.
On a fallen tree that reached out over the water Vin crawled out as
far as he could trust. Now he
just had to wait. He didn’t have long. Within seconds Buck’s body was visible. He was conscious and was struggling among the debris. Fortunately he was facing forward so somehow he managed to spot Vin and realize what to do.
As Buck moved closer Vin saw that the branches were getting caught up
together just like he had
hoped but he also saw that those same branches were hitting Buck’s already battered body. Nearer Buck drew. He attempted to swim in the direction of Vin but his efforts to just keep afloat were sapping his last bit of strength.
Wrapping the ends of the reins around his lower arm Vin got ready to
throw the bridle out. The
weight of the bit would aid in some accuracy. Giving the bridle a few swings he tossed it out over the water. His aim was right on target. The bridle landed directly in front of Buck who reached out and weakly but successfully grabbed it.
Knowing he didn’t have the strength left to just hold on, Buck thrust his arm through the bridle and twisted it around his arm. Just as he did this a log slammed into the back of his head knocking him out. The satisfaction Vin had felt at seeing Buck get hold of the leather turned to horror as he now struggled with his friend’s dead weight.
With his legs wrapped around the tree trunk to anchor him he slowly
raked in the water soaked
reins. Inch by inch Vin fought against the water’s hold to move Buck closer to him. But the nearer Buck got the more Vin felt his strength ebbing out of him.
Just as Vin was starting to wonder if he would have to actually let
go of the reins because he
couldn’t pull anymore Chris appeared. He had managed to get knee deep in the rough water by
keeping his body pressed up against the tree. He was close enough to Vin to be able to reach out
and grab the reins.
Together they got Buck to a spot where Chris was able to secure a hold
on his coat and pull him
towards the shore. Vin climbed down off the tree and both men took an arm and dragged Buck up
out of the water and on to solid ground.
Chris knelt beside his unmoving friend.
“ Buck?” he said worriedly; “ Come on Buck. Talk to me”
Getting no response and not knowing what else to do Chris slapped Buck across the face. This
caused Buck’s confused mind to become alert. Suddenly Buck rolled over on to his side and
started coughing and heaving, spitting out the river water that his lungs had pulled in.
Chris kept his hand on Buck’s shoulder until his friend had gained control over his body. Buck lay on the ground immobile for a few moments. Chris was starting to become concerned when Buck rolled over and with a big grin chuckled.
“ What a hell of a swim that was.”
“ Swim? You call that swimming? I’ll teach you what swimming really
is” JD’s relieved voice
could be heard behind them.
JD had met Mrs. Brighten when she had arrived at the river with the
buckboard. As she had
checked Melinda over JD had rushed after his friends with a sickening feeling in his stomach. He arrived just in time to hear Buck’s comments and couldn’t believe how relieved he was.
Mrs. Brighten also appeared driving the buckboard. Barry and Katie sat
in the back and little
Melinda was huddled within a warm blanket at her side. Before the horse had been brought to a
halt Melinda had seen Buck and, shucking off the blanket, climbed down and ran to him.
Buck was just starting to sit upright when the little girl flung herself
into his lap and wrapped her
arms around his neck. Once holding on she started to cry.
“ There, there, darling. You’re safe now.” was all Buck could think to say.
Mrs. Brighten walked up carrying the blanket that had covered Melinda.
She opened it up and
draped it around Buck’s wet shoulders. All the previous ideas she had had about this man’s
character had evaporated in the last few minutes. In her heart she now felt a deep gratitude for the gunslinger who had almost lost his life saving her baby girl.
Through a choked up throat the only words she could get out were ‘Thank You.” and she joined her daughter putting her arms around Buck.
Chris, Vin and JD watched this display of emotion from a few steps back. Chris chuckled and the other two looked at him wondering what was so funny. Looking back at them Chris explained.
“ It always seems that no matter what the circumstances, Buck always
gets the girl”
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