Winter’s Fire by Janice Miller

Another savage winter. Rustling and ranch grabbing. A collapsing cattle market. Ruthless conspirators who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. Treachery in high places. An ominous figure from the past. All these problems threaten to overwhelm young rancher Courtney McCannon and his pregnant wife, Caroline, in Colorado in the 1880s. This is a story of unshaken faith, unfailing love, and uncommon courage.

Winter’s Fire
by Janice Miller
October 1995

The year of 1886 was going to offer up as violent winter, all the animals and birds had sensed the change – some where moving to lower ground or had left for parts unknown. The ranch hands are at the tail end of the fall round up – moving the stock to winter range. McCannon’s wife of six years is expecting their second child, she seems out of sorts lately – acting peculiar. Caroline has always been level headed, but something is bothering her – she is having a hard time coping with it all. He will send for her mother to come stay until the babe is born. Courtney is reluctant to leave her, but he must go check on the herd – looking for strays. He rides alone deep into the mountains. As he and his horse Brownie crest the ridge, he lets his mind wonder to the lost beeves. He is use to losing a few, but the numbers had been increasing at an alarming rate lately. He tries to shake off the gut feeling of dread as he moves farther into the forest. He hears a cow bawling and goes to investigate.. The cow is tangled up in dead branches and rotting, fallen logs. How in the world did she manage to do this? In trying to untangle her, McCannon discovers the animal’s front legs are hog-tied with a rope. Rustlers – that is why he has been losing so much of his herd. As he bends down to lift the log something smacks into a tree ahead of him. Someone is shooting at him – he has left his rifle on Browning – all he has is his Colt sidearm. Whoever is hiding means to kill him.- this is why he has been so uneasy. McCannon manages to get the shooter squarely in his sites, but just can’t pull the trigger. His father had always told him ‘thou shall not kill’ no matter what. This is a mistake that he will soon regret. The shooter has his gun drawn and aimed directly at McCannon, but shoots Brownie instead – leaving McCannon a long way from home.

After walking for hours, he finally gets home. He takes a few of the ranch hands back to look for the missing beeves and to bury Brownie. Who is this person that wants McCannon dead? Could it be his old enemy Moses Skettering who owns the M-Slash-S Ranch. There has been bad blood between them for sometime. Skettering is always accusing Chief Yampawah and his braves of rustling his cattle. McCannon’s father had befriended the Mountain People and allowed the Indians to hunt on his land. Yampawah is a stubborn old Ute and it shows in his chiseled face. Yampawah is in trouble once again with the law.. He has shot a white man for harassing his squaws. McCannon tells Yampawah he will take the two men to Hahns Peak – to Judge Wilson – and justice will be served. Things don’t turn out as McCannon had anticipated. Judge Wilson is out of town leaving Wally Schell acting judge. McCannon doesn’t know this person and tries to appeal to Sheriff Finsand for help. Schell; of course, doesn’t believe a word the Chief or McCannon has to say and wanted the sheriff to arrest the chief, but the Sheriff declines. Schell will, however, hold the two suspected men, but lets them go as soon as McCannon and the Chief leave.

Things really start to heat up. McCannon continues to have trouble with Skettering and his hired guns. Once again someone is trying to kill him. Judge Wilson has learned some startling information about Skettering and his investors. The Utes are not getting their food supplies and are starving. If something is not done soon there could possibly be an uprising – another Meeker Massacre. Who is Skettering’s hire hand known as Ben Blue? What does McCannon’s father, ex- Major in the Civil War, have to do with Ben Blue?

While Courtney McCannon is fighting for his life, his family and his land, he comes to realize that even though the Bible states “thou shall not kill” – God did not call us to be cowards – we are soldiers in a mighty battle. He has not lost his immortal soul, but won something honorable and good and true.

Suggest you read the book to learn how Judge Wilson. McCannon and Chief Yampawah handle the situation. Does Skettering and his hire guns triumph in the end or does the Judge? What happens to Ben Blue and young Jimmy Hearne? Why does he want to kill McCannon? Who started the fire in McCannon’s home and will he rebuild the homestead?

Janice Miller is an excellent writer. She keeps you turning pages and trying to anticipate what will happen next. She clearly portrays the struggle of good and evil against a vivid backdrop of Colorado ranch land in the early 1880s where lawlessness and corrupt government officials were allowed to run rampant. She is the author of FINAL THUNDER and THE EYE OF THE OCTOPUS. Might want to check these out.

Highly recommended. You will thoroughly enjoy her brand of writing.

Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.