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EXCERPT: The wintry night of New Year’s Eve 1899 was filled with excitement, hope, and wonder. The world was leaving the nineteenth century behind and entering the twentieth century, and no one could guess what wonders the new century offered.
Caleb Winston could care less. He was a heavyset man with a large, gray beard and mustache and long hair slicked back over his head. As he sat in his favorite office chair brought from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the newly built home in New York, he let out a sorrowful sigh.
“It’s time to retire,” Abigail, his wife of thirty-six years, and mother of his children reminded him for several years until he gave in. It was with a heavy, and sometimes resentful, heart that he turned over the operation of his sutler stores, convenience stores that served the soldiers in their far-flung forts, the local civilian population, and sometimes the Indians, to a long-time and trusted employee. He had two stores each in Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, and a pair of Indian trading posts in Wyoming and Arizona. He and Abigail packed up their home and moved east that summer; Abigail was ecstatic since their three children and their families lived within walking distance of the new home.
Yet, Caleb still missed the vast wildness of the west with its beautiful mountains, isolated valleys, full rivers and the prairies that extended to the edge of the world.
His resentment and unhappiness wasn’t only due to leaving a beloved life and world behind, but a realization that he was old. His health wasn’t the best and he sometimes felt his path in life was becoming narrower and darker, as if he was entering a deep sunless gorge that he would never leave. It was in such a mood that he argued with Abigail that afternoon and she fled the parlor in tears.
He was always a stubborn man and couldn’t bring himself to apologize, thus he retreated to his office, a remnant of his former life. From the parlor came the laughter and squeals of the grandchildren. Their children would be celebrating New Year’s, so he and Abigail fulfilled the timeless role of babysitting.
With another disgusted sigh he moved his office chair up to his maple and cherry rolltop desk…