1929. HERBERT HOOVER BEGINS his doomed presidency. The Great Depression looms. Legalized gamblers frolic in Las Vegas. Production of Ford Motor’s venerable Model T is a thing of the past. The Dust Bowl leaves havoc in its path. Gasoline sits at a staggering ten cents a gallon.
* * * * *
IT IS MAY OF THAT year in South Fork, Colorado, far from the hustle, bustle and chaos of the times. Spring carpets the landscape with brilliant shades in bloom. Wildflowers blanket meadows in an explosion of color. Lilac bushes perfume the spring breeze with sweetness irresistible to hummingbirds and bees. Butterflies flutter in and out of blossoms in search of the lingering scent in the air teasing their instincts.
An eagle soars on currents overhead, its cry echoing in the mountains and cliffs. Ice yields to the warming sun. Rivers and creeks swell. Drops of morning dew sparkle like diamonds.
Taking it all in was Nora Prien, who sat up against a rock beside a creek near her home at the base of Beaver Mountain, an area known by the locals as El Bosque, or The Forest. The majestic cliffs soaring above it were once a lookout for Native Americans.
Today, May 24th was Nora’s thirteenth birthday. Over the years of her young life, Nora had spent hours and hours at this creek where nature and thought were her only companions. At times, she had ice skated here with Christine, her older sister by a year plus. The thawing surface of the creek wore scars of their skating escapades.
But this was more than another birthday. This was a day of joy and apprehension. Soon she was to be a bride. Destiny had called her name. Next to her sat her favorite doll, its face worn and faded with time, its gaze seeming to hold secrets.
Suddenly, a single word broke the stillness.
The stern voice of her mother, Rebecca, pierced nature herself. Even the wildlife stood still as that voice barged into the serenity Nora found here. But today nature sensed something more, that the path of destiny was about to unfold. It was though nature celebrated fate at its birth.
But Nora heard nothing. She was deep in thought of the new adventure life was about to bestow upon her. The morning sun glistened through her dark, curly hair, newly trimmed for the big day ahead. Her olive complexion spoke of the German-Native American heritage she wore proudly. A beauty mark on the right side of the chin gave Nora her undeniable uniqueness. At thirteen she had blossomed into a young woman prepared for the fate that awaited her.
“Nora!” the voice boomed again. This time she heard it, quickly arose, took her doll by the arm and started back home.
At the top of the trail sat their house. A chrome bucket next to the water pump reflected the sun into Nora’s eyes when she walked by. The house was simple yet had an elegance all its own. A porch in front beckoned family and visitors. Hummingbirds feasted on succulent nectar of the blossoms found all around. There was a coop for chickens, a hutch for rabbits, a fenced enclosure for goats and lambs, a barn for horses. A wagon stood at the ready for logging.
The screen door creaked when she stepped into the kitchen that went the full length of the house. The aroma of ginger bread just out of the cast iron oven greeted her. Next to the ginger bread on the counter top sat trays of fresh cinnamon rolls.
"Child, where have you been? I’ve been screaming my fool head off!” Rebecca scolded.
"At the creek. I was just thinking." “You think too much. It’s time for breakfast. What’s with you and that darned creek?"
Many times Nora had questioned the anger, the resentment of Rebecca toward her. She could not understand it, nor ever would throughout her life. She could only question in silence.
At the breakfast table Nora sat with the family in prayer, another of Rebecca’s rules in the household. Religion came before chores or anything else.
At the head of the table sat her father, Rudolf, presiding over Rebecca, the boys William, Charles, Henry, Ernest and Ted, and the girls Nora and Christine.
Rudolf was a lumberjack, had been most of his life. Next to him sat Nora, his pride and glory, his world. Below the table top Nora was careful not to hit his stiffened leg caused by an injury suffered long ago. How she loved him.
Rudolf’s heart ached as he glanced at her. He hated the mere thought of his baby girl married off at such an early age. To him, she was a child in a woman’s body. Desperately he had fought against it only to find himself in confrontation with Rebecca’s domineering, harsh disposition. There were only two choices: her way or else.
Still, he had vowed to stay at Nora’s side no matter what. Some time ago Rebecca had promised Nora’s hand to a man she knew and admired. The wedding was set for the following month, June 19th. Tears filled his eyes. An aching tormented his heart.