“No matter how long I’m gone, boy, don’t try to find me.” Dan Preston patted his son on the head and disappeared into the dark.
For several hours, Dylan heeded his father’s warning, keeping vigil over his bleeding, unconscious mother.
But as the storm that had washed their wagon into a gorge in the Colorado wilderness raged on, Dylan decided there was nothing he could do for Mary just sitting there.
So he set off into the blackness, tracing his father’s path as best he could.
After a couple uneasy miles, a misty figure swam into view just ahead, standing in the pass between two massive foothills.
Though he was wary of the stranger, Dylan was relieved at the prospect of rescue.
“Sir!” he called. “Sir, can you help us?”
Suddenly, the figure was right up on him. “Come on, Dylan,” Dan whispered in the night. “Help is coming. Let’s turn back.”
The Preston boys walked, wordless, to where Mary lay, and the father hugged his son.
Dan curled up on the ground next to Mary, draping an arm over her. Dylan watched his parents sleep for a few moments, then cuddled up on the other side of Mary.
Dylan’s eyes fluttered open as the morning sun winked at him through a pair of denim-clad legs.
“C’mon, Dylan. We need to get your mother into town.” The man stooped so Dylan could see his face, ruddy and pocked, decorated with a flowing gray mustache.
“Pa?” Dylan sat up and looked behind him, where Mary slept alone.
The man hung his head.
“Your pa ran into a bear out at the mountain pass last night, Dylan. He made it into town, told us about you.”
“Where is he?”
“He was hurt real bad, Dylan. There was nothing we could do.”