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The Last Winter
The sun crept its way along the tall white eastern mountains. The warming light reflected off of the fresh layer of snow that rested on the mountainside, glistening like a star in the early morning sky. The dim light sauntered across the quiet, gloomy land. Then the valley came to life as it was suffused with the early morning shine. The plants and animals emerged out of their slumber and were greeted by the warmth of the rising sun. A flock of geese flew overhead, squawking as they started their migration south to warmer weather.
The people arose and yawned, inhaling an awakening breath of fresh air. They stretched their stiff limbs and cracked their aching bones for they all slept on tough mattresses or the hard earth that lay beneath their feet. As the men, women, and children sprang out of their tents, a slight breeze swept through the land, destroying the last strands of life that barely connected the colorless leafs to the dark tree branches. A slight crack could be heard as the brittle lifeless leafs crashed into the cold earth. The people shivered from the chilling breeze and huddled together to keep warm. Everyone was still regaining consciousness after a long nights sleep. With their tired eyes, the families looked up into the sky, past the tall white mountains, and watched as the bright sunshine permeated the sky with an array of beautiful colors.
Now that the sun had risen, and the land and sky had been filled with light, the camping grounds where the families stayed could be clearly seen. Puddles of dirty water
were everywhere. Trash spread throughout the land, scraps of food and broken materials lay in heaping piles. Dirty worn-out tents and old rusty cars were packed in a small area. A few campfire sites here and there, filled with dark crumbled pieces of wood and bush
that had been used for the fire that charred the dead animals for dinner the night before. There was one old, poorly made outhouse near the edge of the camping grounds that reeked with the smell of several weeks worth of human feces. The camp was surrounded with dozens of trees and plants that rested in the thick mud with nothing to do but rot and die. In the thicket of the rotting trees and bushes were the homes of many small animals that sheltered them from larger animals. They hid until it was safe to wonder about during the night. Within the patch of dead land was a small murky stream where the people got their only source of reliable water. On the other side of the resting ground, across from the river was a dirt road that led into an old town two miles from the families. There was not much in the town, just a gas station, a small store, and a little diner.
As the father and children of one of the families awoke, the mother walked along the dirt road, into the small store to buy some coffee and bacon with the rest of the family’s money. Wood was gathered and the fires were started. In a short amount of time the smell of fresh coffee and greasy bacon filled the air. Everybody started to walk towards the sensational aroma that lingered throughout the camp; even a few little critters peaked out of their holes in the ground to see where the smell was coming from. After everyone had their fill of coffee, bacon, and biscuits, and all of the dishes were washed in the murky stream; the families left one after another to search for a new town and possibly even a job.
Hundreds of cars were on the road, all with the same goal: to find work and to find a safe place to sleep at night. With the start of winter, most work was out of season. Thousands of acres that were once filled with cotton ready to be picked are all dried up
and deserted. All of the orange trees that were once over flown with juicy, plump oranges and green leafs are now dark and empty. The California that was furnished with bright warming colors is gone and all that remains is a thin blanket of snow to bury what was once great, but now dead.
Day after day the families went through the same routine, get up early in the morning, eat breakfast, pack up the things, hit the road, and search for work until it’s night and then find somewhere to camp. This went on for weeks until one of two things happened; either the family got lucky and found work, or the family ran out of gas and money.
The weather was more intense than it was before; temperatures fell far from freezing, feet of snow enshrouded the land making travel close to impossible. Everything was covered with thick layers of white powder. The snow engulfed the shrubs and veiled the roads. The trees were painted white with snow. The tents and cars were buried; the suffering faces of the families were no longer seen. The people covered themselves with blankets and clothes, anything to stay warm. When those did not do the job, they huddled together to share each other’s warmth. Everyone shared the pain of hunger and cold. The children complained and restlessly sat in agony while their parents helplessly watched over them. The parents could not give their children any more food or warmth than what was already there, all they could do was to try and comfort the languished children with their soothing voices. Along with the dead land, the spirits of the families slowly
crumbled apart. The adults, with a smile on their pale faces, looked down at their children that lay on their laps, but the smile was just a mask, only there to cover up the deep sadness that they felt. The thought of the hurt family turned that painted smile into a trembling frown and uncontrollable tears.