It was a bad dream. Coker Owen Ford knew that. Bonnie, his daughter, was bitten by a snake with a human head and carried deep into the middle of a dark pond. It was every father’s worst nightmare. Being helpless to do anything at a time when your child needs you the most. He woke up shouting.
The letter had agitated him. He instinctively knew it came from Bonnie. His dreams had confirmed his misgivings. Coker had urged his mules, Thunder Red, Switchback and Stranger onward without letup, almost riding them to the ground, his eyes rimmed with anxiety. It was a miracle that he was able to recover the cold sense of logic on time and allowed his mules to rest for the long journey ahead.
When he reached Fort Collins late in the afternoon, he decided that the first order of business was to find someone who could read the rest of the letter for him. He hurried to the town’s hardware store and was lucky enough to be pointed out to the local schoolteacher. Ms. Caton had graciously attended immediately to his request. The contents seemed to validate his worst fears. Bonnie had written:
My husband died four months ago very mysteriously. His sister and her husband have started court proceedings to take my boy and girl… I can’t hire a lawyer, so I am desperately afraid the judge will award my children to them because I am in such poor health… I have been ill for some time and although a doctor is giving me medicine, I seem to be getting weaker every day…Come take me and your grandchildren back to Misty Valley. – Excerpt from “Coker: A Mountain Man’s Story” by Wesley Arlin Brown
Bonnie’s aunt had forcibly taken and hidden her from Coker thirty years ago. All those years filled with longing and guilt for not doing enough to keep her daughter with him. This time, he will do whatever it takes to get them back to the sanctuary of the Misty Valley.