Snow Mountain Passage
James D. Houston
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James Reed is a proud, headstrong, yet devoted husband and father. As he and his family travel in the "Palace Car," a huge, specially built--and ultimately cumbersome--covered wagon, they thrill to new sights and cope with conflict and constant danger. Yet when a fight between Reed and another driver ends in death, Reed is exiled from the group and heads over the mountains alone. The fate of the other families, including Reed's wife and four children, is sealed when they set out across a new, untested route through the Sierra--their final mountain pass. Arriving at the foothills just as the snows start to fall, they are left stranded for months--starving, freezing, and battling to survive--while Reed journeys across northern California, trying desperately to find means and men for a rescue party.
An extraordinary tale of pride and redemption, Snow Mountain Passage is a brilliantly imagined and grippingly told story straight from American history.
Whole Breen clan. Patrick’s prayers had been answered, it seemed, and Virginia’s too. In our eyes these men were saints. Maybe they were the angels I’d been hearing in the dark, their voices floating toward me from beyond the mountains to the west. Maybe one of them was papa. I scanned their frosted eyes and craggy faces. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. I said, “Where’s papa?” my voice so tiny in the hubbub of sobs and hallelujahs mama didn’t hear me. Once they slung down their loads, it.
He says, “A vote was taken.” “You can’t take a vote,” Jim says, “without all council members present.” “Well,” says Uncle Billy, “this ain’t something we ever had to vote about before.” “What kind of vote, then?” After a silence Patrick Breen says, “You’ve cast a shadow over the wagon party, Reed.” “You don’t think there’s a shadow over my heart, too? I had no desire to kill Johnny.” “But you did!” Uncle Billy’s voice is shrill. “By God, you killed him in cold blood, and we aim to hang you.
Whole company, day and night. Maybe Keseberg thought he’d try to hang somebody else, and this time succeeded. Right now Jim would like to have that moment back, facing Keseberg with the weapons loaded. He should have shot him while he had the chance. Yes. If he had that moment back he would shoot Lewis Keseberg in the heart and gladly watch him die. This spurs him on—the thought that one day he will have another chance. He urges his panicky horse to drive forward, drive against the chest-high.
Parked down below. “Most everybody rode south with Colonel Fremont,” he says, “but some of us had to stay behind to protect the families.” Two weeks ago he joined the volunteer militia out of San Jose. This patrol of four is about to give up the search for a band of troops rumored to be forming in these mountains. Stock has been stolen, so they’ve heard, though whether by Californians or by Indians, it’s hard to say. Jim looks at the string of unsaddled horses. “So you found the animals but.
Gazing at him with amusement. In her eyes he saw a playful doubt. “Can there really be such a place? Do you think it’s possible?” “This Hastings is no fly-by-night. He’s a lawyer from Ohio. His book was published in Cincinnati.” She laughed like a child delighted by a nonsense rhyme. “People say outlandish things in books, James.” “But he has been there. He has been there twice. He led one of the first emigrant parties. He has visited all the principal towns. Think what it could mean! A place.