The rain fell steadily on the rolling hills that stretched beneath the dark, overcast sky. A small group of people barely stood out in the huge expanse of Montana land. The four lone figures gathered around a small gravestone, set in the middle of a lonely cemetery. A town lay only a few yards away, if you could call it a town. This "town" had a grand total of three buildings, including: a livery, a small general store with an attached house where the owners lived, and two saloons. Today even the saloons were empty, the streets were empty of all inhabitants even animals where undercover today. The only lights in the town came from a window in the general store where a candle burned and a lantern held by one of the gatherers.

For such a minuscule town the cemetery held a great deal of graves. Fifteen markers stood, banded together against the living. Some where simply pieces of wood stuck in the ground, markers of an unknown passerby. Others where carefully carved out crosses, lovingly put in the ground, names had etched been etched in with tender hands.

Rebecca Lynn Howard

January 2 1857- January 4 1857

Tom Louis Michels

August 14 1834 – May 19 1854

Now the sixteenth was carefully being hammered into the ground, as the grave was filled.

Imogene Elizabeth Killeren Eld

May 9 1830 – April 2 1858

The small group huddled around the grave consisted of two men, a woman and a small child. The child clung to the womans hand. As the grave was filled by the men the woman turned and gently led the child towards the town. They neared the house adjoining the general store and went in. As the warmth enveloped them the storekeepers wife, for that was who the woman was, led the child to the kitchen table and started bustling about the kitchen. Standing on her tiptoes, to lift her short, heavy frame high enough to reach into the handmade cabinets she took out a plate of cookies.

Setting them, along with a glass of milk on the table in front of the child, she turned and set a pot of coffee on to heat up for the men when they came in. As she worked she talked over her shoulder.

"There now Ellen, you help yourself. Your Pa will be in soon." She clucked her tongue as she took off her bonnet and helped Ellen off with hers. "You poor child, loosing your mother at such a young age. This land sure is unforgiving, taking such young lives. . . your mama, our Becky." she sighed. "Well then dear, we won't think of that will we?" She shook her head mostly to herself, for Ellen was staring silently at the table, an uneaten cookie in her hand.

The short woman continued bustling around until she stopped and looked at the little girl. "Oh my, Ellen, dear would you like to take a rest? Yes dear of course you must be exhausted! Why don't we take you up to the loft and you can take a nice nap?"

The little girl nodded silently, little black curls fell over her rosy cheeks. She allowed the woman to help her up the latter and settle in a warm pile of heavy blankets in the cozy little loft.

The last thing she heard before she drifted off to sleep was the heavy footsteps that announced the men entering the house and then a distant voice say,

"Ellen is asleep in the loft Henry. You must stay the night as well, you can't go home in this weather. Ben can take care of everything at the farm. . . God rest Imogene's soul, such a good woman. . ."

The next morning Henry Eld and little Ellen headed back to their ranch. When they entered Ellen couldn't believe how much the absence of mother affected the house. Even at the young age of eight Ellen knew that her life would never be the same. So days went by and over time the pain of her mothers death lessened a little at a time, but there was always the feeling of a deep lose.

Slowly days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and finally two years had gone by since the death of Imogene Eld. The Ranch prospered and soon the cattle of Hope Ranch were searched for. The house grew and Henry was able to buy any thing he need for Ellen. They were happy, until Danielle came.