January 29
by Bill Booth

Late afternoon. Walking home through dry broom grass and fresh, soft snow. Shotgun feels like a bar of lead. Everything as far as I can see looks like a black and white photograph, 95 percent white.  Bare, black trees stand like sentinels against a pale blue sky. Feet started hurting three hours ago. Now feel like blocks of wood. Will be painful when they thaw. Hope I don’t lose any toes. I am tired.

Old cabin’s dark outline is a welcome sight when it appears just before the sun reaches the western horizon. Home at last!

Wyomingwinters can be rough when temperatures dive below zero and winds howl across open fields and pastures. Temperature today peaked at eight above zero, and there is little wind. Only sound is that of crunching snow beneath my feet. It is cold!

I drop my game bag with two rabbits and a blue grouse outside the cabin door. Dressing them will have to wait until I warm up some. Old cabin’s insides glow warm and orange after a kerosene lantern is lit. Four pieces of wood lay stacked over hard, pine kindling in the stone fireplace. Soon there is a blazing fire. The pungent, sweet turpentine smell of lighter pine rises to my nose. Warmth creeps into the room.

I sit and remove my boots, force movement from stiff joints. Sheepskin slippers will soon warm numb toes. Burning sensations appear like a swarm of bees as circulation returns. Lack of judgment.

A bottle of Old Grandad rests on a shelf above the stove. Three fingers of amber liquid might suffice. I hold the delightful elixir in my mouth, savoring its sharp taste, its pleasant bouquet. Enjoying its warmth in my belly. After the second swallow, fierce tingling appears in my toes, then real pain begins.

Might need more whiskey. Bottle half empty.