FROM DONNER - REED TRAGEDY by Ted Davidson
As the wind whipped falling snow around them, the snowshoers had
stopped on the deep, level snow, among the scattered trees in Onion
Valley. All of them-- exhausted, starving and discouraged-- were
huddled together as they argued their grim situation.
least we know the way! We should go back to the cabins!" Billy
sharply insisted to Eddy. Foster, Jay Fosdick and Dolan adamantly
declared their agreement with Billy.
That's insane! That's suicide!" Eddy cried.
right!" Sarah Foster interjected. "It's taken us nine
days atop the snow to get here. And we had food for six of those
half-starved now!" Sarah Fosdick exclaimed. "We couldn't
go back that far without food, and being so weak!"
must go forward, no matter what, get through or perish!" Eddy
We're lost!" Billy yelled.
right Pa!" Mary Graves countered. "The rest of you men
can go back if you want, but we're going forward!" The other
women loudly voiced their agreement with Mary.
all die of starvation!" Jay Fosdick predicted. His comment
stunned everyone into silence. All seemed to reflect on the ominous
may be true," Eddy finally said, "unless we find
What food?" Billy asked, unable to fathom what Eddy meant.
one spoke, but most seemed to be seriously considering Billy's question.
Some appeared to be ashamed of their thoughts.
think...uh..." Dolan finally said, quite hesitant to verbalize
his thoughts. "We should cast lots...to see...to see who should
die to furnish food for the others."
was shocked to actually hear what many of them had already thought.
second Dolan's suggestion," Eddy finally declared.
No! We can't do that!" Foster shouted. Several voiced their
agreement with Foster.
must agree before such a deed is done," Billy asserted.
we to slaughter and butcher a man, or even a woman, like an ox?"
Sarah Foster asked, unable to believe what was being proposed. All
seemed appalled by the thought.
let two of us, just men, each with a pistol, fight until one or
both are killed," Eddy finally suggested.
Foster mumbled, looking at Eddy and slowly shaking his head. "Uh...No."
this way a man would have a chance for his life. And if he lost,
would avoid being slaughtered like an animal," Eddy contended.
a manly way," Dolan declared as most seriously reflected on
You can't do that!" Sarah Fosdick yelled. She turned to Jay
and tenderly pleaded, "Oh Jay, I couldn't bear to have you..."
Sarah was overwrought with emotion, unable to continue. Eddy looked
around at their faces to see if anyone had some other suggestion.
we struggle on until someone dies?" Eddy finally asked. No
one answered, but their silence seemed to indicate agreement.
half hour later the fire flickered precariously on it's stilt-like
platform, its meager warmth fighting against the storm as the snowshoers
huddled even closer than before. Eddy was blankly staring at the
fire; Mary Graves was numbly staring at Eddy. He glanced up and
their dull eyes met.
nice merry Christmas this will be," Eddy bitterly remarked.
Mary, a touch of bitterness creeping into her eyes, nodded slightly
asleep, half-frozen and farther from the fire than most of the others,
roused himself, numbly looked at the fire, and got up. Half-asleep,
he awkwardly began to move closer to the fire.
he stumbled, fell toward the fire and knocked it off its precarious
base! As the fire hissed, the flames disappeared and darkness enveloped
everything; shouts, wails, moans and whimpers rose in a chorus against
the raging storm.
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