Wynter and Thatcher are waiting for a story, so are you ready for one, too?
Okay, we all know the dogs are waiting for a treat, but you'd like a story anyway, wouldn't you?
This little tale stars the characters from my next book, and they really should stay quiet until I've actually written their story, don't you think? But they've been clambering for the spotlight for weeks, so just this once - since it's almost Thanksgiving - I'll let them have their way.
So grab a cup of coffee or tea, put your feet up, and let your imagination transport you back in time to Deadwood, Dakota Territory, November 1876.....
The Angel of Deadwood
Bunk Jones paused at the edge of the clearing to get his bearings. Ahead of him, one line of tracks marred the pristine snow of the mountain meadow. His tracks from this morning, when he was fresh with the hope of finding game for the children’s Thanksgiving dinner, were straight and sure. Tonight? He glanced behind him. At least the approaching dusk hid the telltale signs of his exhaustion.
He shifted the Sharps rifle to his left hand and started across the meadow. They wouldn’t starve. A fifty pound bag of beans ensured that. And if he had to….
Bunk shifted the Sharps back again.
If he had to, he could butcher one of the heifers.
But no man ate his breeding stock unless he had nothing else.
The deep snow, soft from the winter sun, clung to his snowshoes like spring gumbo. He veered right at the far end of the meadow, avoiding the nightmarish Deadwood Gulch. Even in the best weather, a man could break a leg trying to navigate between the digs along the creek, and with snow covering the scattered mines, you never knew when you might sink in past your hips.
Trudging along the ridge, Bunk searched through the possibilities of making tomorrow’s dinner special. Something to celebrate their first autumn in the Black Hills. Something to help the children forget the anniversary of the fire that killed their parents.
Would any of the stores in town have sweets? Not likely. Not with the gold the miners had to spend on anything and everything that caught their fancy.
Some beef from Slaughterhouse Gulch on the north side of the valley? Too dear. He had spent all his cash on the cattle for his ranch.
No, they would just have to make do with what they had.
Rounding Lexington Hill, Bunk stopped, drinking in the sight of the cabin nestled under the shadow of the rimrock. His claim had been scoured by the miners in ’75, and then ignored. But the acres of grass in the high mountain meadows rising up behind the cabin had been exactly what he was looking for. His gold was in the fifty bred heifers he had bought in Montana last summer. A future for his nieces and nephew.
His pace quickened at the sight of a sleigh in the yard. The MacFarlands had come. Did they know how important this day was for the children? Sarah might. Olivia would have told her teacher all about the fire.
The thought of her put new energy in his steps. He tore off the cumbersome snowshoes as soon as he reached the front porch and reached for the doorknob.
He swung the door open. James and Margaret, Sarah’s aunt and uncle, sat in the two chairs on either side of the fireplace, while Sarah leaned over a pot. Olivia and Charlie stood on either side of her, Olivia stirring something in the kettle that filled the cabin with a fruity, spicy scent.
“Uncle Bunk!” Five-year-old Lucy slid off of Margaret’s lap and ran to him, grabbing his leg. “Sarah is making tea. Berry tea!”
“Cranberry tea.” Olivia grinned at Bunk over her shoulder, the image of her mother in a nine-year-old body. She missed Jenny more than anyone, but the sadness haunting her eyes was gone today, her cheeks pink from stirring the tea.
Charlie, with all the energy an eight-year-old boy could muster, ran to Bunk and started pulling off his coat. “Wait until you smell it! And they brought turkey, too!”
Bunk glanced at James. The preacher smiled broadly. “Our folks back home remembered us with a missionary barrel. The cranberries are straight from Maine.” He shook his head as if still unable to believe the blessing, his eyes wet. “The Lord takes such good care of us.”
One arm around Lucy’s shoulders, Bunk caught Sarah’s eye, returning her smile. Cranberry tea and turkey to make this Thanksgiving special? Only one of the miracles that had happened since he first met Sarah MacFarland.
I hope you enjoyed the little glimpse into Bunk and Sarah's lives!
This Cranberry Tea is wonderful for Thanksgiving morning while you're waiting for the turkey to cook, or otherwise trying not to spoil your dinner!
And here's the recipe:
Sarah MacFarland's Cranberry Tea
1 pound fresh cranberries
2-3 sticks cinnamon
1 cup honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
Cook the cranberries in a dutch oven or stock pot in two quarts water until they pop. Literally. When they get hot enough, you'll hear them popping in your pot!
Let them cook for a few minutes, and then strain out the cranberries - either with a strainer, or pour the tea through a colander, reserving the juice. and then put the juice back into the pot.
Save the cranberries, though! You'll want to use them for cranberry relish on Thursday!
Put the cinnamon sticks in the juice, and let simmer for about ten minutes.
Add the honey, lemon juice, and an additional two quarts water. Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer.
You can remove the cinnamon sticks at any time, but Sarah likes to leave them in to get all the good flavor out!
Serve the tea hot, or refrigerate the leftovers and drink it cold. This is a great drink when you have a cold or the flu!