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WINDY CREEK

I

A COLORADO CLAIM

Whoever on a clear day climbs Pike's Peak may catch a bird's-eye view of the rain-belt rolling eastward from its foot: a grassy strip amid arid plains; a fertile spot in the alkaline desert, coaxed into verdure by rain-clouds that, swept from mountainheights by light and ever-moving winds, sometimes hover and dissolve themselves in showers.

Pregnant with a sense of profound isolation is this plain, its monotony broken alone by winding creeks, high hills, and steep descents, and ever-changing panoramas of light and shadow on the mountain-range lying to westward; even the long, irregular lines of telegraph poles, the whistle of the locomotive, and the rumble of the train bring

but an instant's unreal memory of the faroff, busy world.

From out of the east and the south and the north drift the settlers, file on quarter sections, run barbed wire around their lands, put up shanties, and so found homesteads for their families. Corn waves on the hill-sides. The lowlands are marked off in dull green potato-patches. At intervals of a few miles are the schoolhouses, within whose bare walls the children spell out their lessons, and their elders listen to doctrines variable and changing as the winds that sweep the prairies and wither the young corn and send on aimless, flying trips the unstable tumble-weed.

In early times one of the rain-belt's sandy water-courses, dry except in time of August floods, was known by the name of Windy Creek; and the settlement that emigration has scattered along its banks is to-day known by no other name. Here the winds blow almost incessantly. On the stillest days there is ever perceptible a gentle motion of the atmosphere. There is infinite variety in fitful breeze, mad whirlwind, tur

bulent gust, or steady gale. But the greater the altitude, the lighter the wind; never in the memory of the oldest inhabitant has even so light a structure as his hen-house been overturned, bluster the elements how they may.

To this lonely region, for three successive Septembers, came the Wood cousins: Ruth, invalided by a brief life-struggle too eagerly tried, sought a respite on her claim, and Hermia bore her company.

There could be no rude jostling here; on these broad homesteads there was a chance for the feeblest, there was room to expand in this pure air and sunshine. Here were virtues flourishing as the flowers of the field: hospitality, simple-heartedness, temperance, charity-far from the city's bane

ul breath, living close to the heart of nature, the country people must be both innocent and good.

A haven of refuge was the home-ranch, adjoining. With an old horse and wagon at their disposal, the country for miles around was theirs to explore. Housekeeping duties dwindled to a slight routine.

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