Vol. 14


Just One Light

c. 1919; Broadus, Montana, USA"Just One Light" illustration, by Evan Yang: A man on horseback heads down a road as a blizzard deepens around him

Imagine your last hope being a dim light in the distance. In the winter of 1919 my great-great-grandpa Howard Clary was preparing for a 100-mile cattle drive on the Powder River in Broadus, Montana. Howard had just bought a cattle ranch and was getting ready to leave with six or seven other ranchers for his first cattle drive to the stockyards.1

Howard was thirty years old and about five feet, five inches tall. He had super-strong hands, and shoulders as broad as the Mississippi River. Howard’s wife, Mary Clary, was very worried that something might happen to Howard on the cattle drive since this was his first, so she took several precautions to make sure he was ready for the trip, including packing extra food, water, and supplies that would help him along the way. Little did Howard and Mary know that this particular cattle drive could be his last.

After successfully delivering the cattle to the stockyards, Howard and the other ranchers conquered the difficult task of breaking down camp, repacking the heavy goods, and resaddling their horses. The first fifty miles of the trip were cold, but the skies were clear and the temperature was normal for winter in Montana.

Once Howard and the other ranchers got to mile fifty, dark clouds started rolling in, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and Howard had a bad feeling that something terrible was coming. Howard knew it was too late to turn back, so the ranchers pushed on.

That’s when the first flurry fell down from the sky and onto Howard’s head. The snow accumulated by the second, and blizzard-like conditions soon arrived. Nervousness took over Howard, and all he wanted to do was to get everyone home to their families.

Howard’s small five-foot-five body made it harder for him to overcome the thirty miles left when the snow reached the horse’s thigh. The snow got taller, and Howard and the horse got deeper in it. With twenty-five miles left, the snow had gotten so deep that his horse couldn’t walk any longer, so Howard abandoned the horse to continue the trek. Howard thought he was going to be buried alive by the frigid Montana snow. He prayed and hoped for a miracle.

Suddenly a small, dim light appeared in the distance. Howard followed the light for miles. The snow whipped and whirled, but Howard thought that the light could lead him to safety. Eventually, Howard got so close to the light that he noticed that he had made it back to his cattle ranch on the Powder River in Broadus, Montana. He could almost feel the warmth from the light.

Mary had left an oil lamp on the porch in hopes that Howard would see it and follow it home. That’s exactly what Howard did — without realizing that the light had been burning on his own porch. Mary later realized that just one light had been the difference between life and death for Howard and the other ranchers.

Audrey Christian; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Evan Yang; Missouri, USA


1. A stockyard is an area with pens to confine animals shortly before they are transported, sold, or slaughtered.



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