By Karen Wills
In my novel River with No Bridge, Irish immigrant Nora Flanagan comes through joyful adventures as well as tragic misadventures from Boston to Montana. With nothing left to lose she makes a last brave journey into the wilderness of the North Fork of the Flathead River to homestead. Her inspiring companion in the venture is the Chinese man, Jim Li, whom she calls her “only friend.” This excerpt shows their first view of Flathead Lake. Enjoy.
After four hard days of travel, Jim pulled Wink and Cotton to a stop as they topped a ridge overlooking an astonishing body of sunlit blue water strewn with a few pine-covered islands. White peaks of the graceful Mission Mountains rose to its east.
“Flathead Lake,” Jim announced. “As big as a sea.”
“It shines as bright as one,” Nora said, standing to stretch and appreciate the glorious revelation. “Jim, you’ve guided us to a place stolen from paradise.”
We must take care,” Jim cautioned, “There may be spirits in such water.”
Nora laughed, then remembered his mother had drowned. Still, the land before them held such fruitful promise. In all America nothing could be more beautiful.
The horses descended to the lake and plodded past Lambert’s Landing where they would proceed by ferry the next day. Its few rough-hewn log buildings, a large one in the center, comprised the only settlement to be seen. They continued five more miles to the ranch where the man who played his fiddle at the Bond home lived with his Nez Perce wife and their daughter. He’d invited Jim and Nora to stay at his ranch when they came through,
“We’ll be comfortable here,” Jim said.
Wiry Dave Polson and his family welcomed them. Hosts and guests ate venison stew at a table outside as the mountaintops glowed pink with what Dave called alpenglow. They visited and watched the lake’s blue water tint to cherry, lavender, then indigo. Wrapped in her shawl, Nora sighed in surprising contentment. She helped with the dishes, then returned to stay outside with Jim for awhile after the Polsons excused themselves to tuck their shy daughter in. It felt comfortable for Nora and Jim to be alone now with no real need to sort out or analyze who and what they were, the pair of them.
Nora reminded herself there were worse traits than mystery.
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Lovely excerpt from a wonderful book. Nora’s description of her first view of Flathhead Lake, “……..a place stolen from paradise,” was exactly what Nathan and I thought the first time we rounded the curve and saw the Flathead in March, 1985.