BY: JACK SPROUSE
Their lives and love interrupted by tragic circumstances beyond their control, Jamie Cain and Abby Prentiss are forced to go their separate ways. Believing him to be dead, she begins a new life she never really wanted but pursues out of necessity and self-preservation. Rescued from death, he searches for her for fourteen years and, at the point of giving up hope of ever finding her, a miraculous encounter, with the daughter he didn’t know he had, brings her back into his life. But to what end? He has been searching for her half his life, while she has moved on. Is there any hope for their love at this late stage?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Dreams Once Dreamed by Jack Sprouse, Jamie Cain and Abby Prentiss are high school sweethearts who plan to marry as soon as they can. But a few months before the wedding, Jamie is in an auto accident and disappears. Fearing he is dead, Abby leaves town because she has discovered she is pregnant and can’t face the memories in Jamie’s hometown. But Jamie isn’t dead. He hit his head when his truck went over a cliff and has amnesia. Once his memory returns, he starts searching for Abby, but she left no forwarding address, and Jamie’s search stretches out to a long fourteen years. Imagine his surprise when he runs into his teenage daughter quite by chance.
A touching and heartwarming story of love too strong to forget, it will make you smile all the way through. A really good read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Dreams Once Dreamed is the story of two people who were meant to be together but were torn apart by circumstances beyond their control. When Jamie Cain meets Abby Prentiss in high school, it is love at first sight. They graduate and plan to marry, but fate intervenes. Four months before their wedding, Jamie, who is working for the state park service, rolls his truck and hits his head on a rock when he is thrown from the vehicle, giving himself a concussion and temporary amnesia. He is recused by an old hermit widow woman, who takes him to her home in the forest and nurses him back to health. He stay with her for six months, while the park rangers search for him and his family and Abby think he’s dead. Shortly after he disappears, Abby discovers she’s pregnant. She and her mother leave town and go to live with Abby’s aunt some two hundred miles away. When Jamie regains his memory, he immediately starts searching for Abby, but she is long gone. Fourteen long years later, on the point of giving up, he has a chance encounter with a young woman in a convenience store who claims to be his daughter.
Dreams Once Dreamed is the story of love, devotion, and courage in the face of challenging circumstances. It will break your heart and warm it at the same time.
The campfire was burning low. One of the five campers, who were sitting around warming themselves, was ordered by the others to retrieve some more fire wood, lest the fire go out and leave them in the dark and cold.
“Come on, Grady, it’s your turn,” one of them yelled. “Go get some more wood.”
“All right,” Grady Nichols said.
He struggled off into the edge of the woods where they had cut and stacked a pile of fire wood earlier. He soon returned with an armload and placed a couple of logs on the fading flames. Soon it was blazing again. It was October, and they were in the high country on West Spanish Peak, so it was essential that they keep the fire blazing all night long. When the others went to their sleeping bags, Grady Nichols was the only one who had not been drinking beer. Grady had agreed to stay awake to keep feeding the fire. He wrapped himself in a blanket and poured some hot coffee. He put his feet right up against the fire and leaned back in his chair. The other four men were sleeping soundly, a couple of them snoring loudly enough to raise the dead, Grady was thinking.
About an hour later, he heard some rustling noise over at the edge of the woods where they had hanged the deer, that Rod Miller shot that afternoon. Rod had field dressed it, with the intention of strapping it to his truck the next morning and taking it home. Grady went to investigate. He took his flashlight. On his side, he carried a thirty-eight revolver.
As he drew closer to the spot where the deer was hanging, Grady heard grunting and more rustling in the leaves and grass. He shined his flashlight in that direction, and it reflected two yellowish eyes that turned and looked back at him.
“Oh, shit!” Grady yelled and started to back up.
It was a large brown bear standing up on its hind legs. It looked to be five or maybe six feet tall, and it appeared to Grady to weigh at least four or five hundred pounds. The bear lost interest in the deer and started moving toward Grady. Grady tried to yell for help, but fear and the cold prevented him from making sufficient noise to alert his friends.
Grady retreated quickly, all the time trying to draw his pistol from the holster. He lost his footing, stumbled backward, and fell. Screaming as loudly as he could, he got back to his feet and tried to run but turned to see where the bear was. He fumbled with the flashlight and pointed it in the direction of the bear.
The bear made up the ground between itself and Grady, and just as he made one mighty swipe at the man, Grady, terror stricken, got his .38 in his hand and fired at the bear, striking him in the shoulder. The bear’s paw almost took the man’s head off, but the pistol shot, that sent the bullet into him, woke up the other men. Their shouts caused the bear to head off into the forest and up the mountain.
The other men were up now and came running, only to find their friend lying there dead. They didn’t panic but quickly wrapped his body in blankets and placed him in the back of their pickup truck. They then drove down the mountain to the small town of Cuchara, called for an ambulance and the state police. A trooper came and took their statements and then called the National Park Service to report on the bear.
“Gentlemen,” the trooper told them, “we need you to wait here. The Park Service is sending a marksman to go after the bear. He’ll want to talk to you about your location and get some details of what happened.” The men agreed to wait after the ambulance picked up their friend Grady to take him to Pueblo for processing.
“I told them to have their man meet you guys at the corner of Colorado Twelve and City Avenue. So, if you guys can just hang tight, they said he’d be here in about an hour.”
The bear that attacked Grady was brown in color, but it was a black bear. Black was a species, not a color. Many black bears were blond, cinnamon, or brown. Some of them were big enough to be mistaken for grizzlies, but there were few if any grizzlies in Southern Colorado.
The four men were noticeably shaken by the fate of their friend.
“One of us should have gone with him,” Rod Miller said.
“Hell, Rodney, we would have if he’d woken us up,” another one said. “Nobody even knew he was going out there.”
They all nodded in agreement.
“Still, I hate to think how his wife is going to take this,” Rod said.
It was about two hours before they heard a vehicle approaching from the south. They all turned to look and saw a National Park Services truck pulling into the street where they were waiting.
Out of the truck stepped a stern-looking man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties. He introduced himself as Jamie Cain. Cain looked to be about six feet tall and maybe a hundred-seventy-pounds. They all shook hands, and the man retrieved a notepad from his front seat. He took notes as the men began to describe their location and where they speculated that the bear had last been seen. It had happened in the middle of the night, so their information was sketchy at best, but the ranger seemed to be familiar with the area so he just nodded and thanked them.
“I’ll go see if I can find him before he hurts someone else,” the man said. Then he got back in his truck and left.
Cain drove back down Highway Twelve, the direction from which he’d come, to Cucharas Pass, and turned left on Route 364. This was a winding road that made a circuitous route up the West Peak. When he got to Cordova Pass, he spotted the deer the men had told him about. It was still hanging from the tree. There was a lot of blood on the ground about ten feet away from the deer, where the encounter had apparently taken place. A trail of blood leading off into the trees confirmed that the dead man had shot the bear, either right before or just as the bear hit him in the head.
Cain put on his heavier coat and retrieved his 308 Winchester from behind the seat, locked the truck, and began to follow the blood trail up the mountain. There were some signs that the bear was in distress. He had rolled over some brush and small trees and lost more blood. Cain was hoping he would find him already dead from bleeding out.
At this altitude, it was unlikely the bear would encounter any more campers or hunters, but Cain had to make sure.
About a mile above Echo Creek, Cain emerged from the tree line into a small meadow not far below the snow line. He could hear the roar of the wounded bear but couldn’t see it yet. The roar sounded like it was a hundred yards or so away from his location. He peered through his binoculars and finally located the bear on the other side of the meadow. It was sitting against a rock, obviously in a lot of pain, and bleeding out from what appeared to Cain to be a shoulder wound.
Cain lay down on the ground, placed his rifle down in front of him, and sighted it in on the bear’s head. His hand moved to the trigger guard, and his finger caressed the trigger gently. “Sorry, pal,” he said out loud. “It’s not your fault. Stupid men, stupid.”
The crack of the rifle resounded throughout the little meadow. The bear slumped over backward and lay still. Cain walked over to where it lay just to make sure. It was a magnificent creature, he was thinking, such a waste of a great animal. Then he hiked back to his truck and drove down the mountain. He told the hunters they could go get their deer and their camping equipment. Then he radioed his report to the field office in Pueblo.
Cain lived in a cabin he’d bought in Beulah valley along Highway 78 between Beulah, Colorado, and Pueblo. He was a private man and kept to himself, with few friends or acquaintances. He looked younger than his thirty-six years but only by a few years. He seemed to those people, who took the time to notice, to be carrying a heavy burden. Perhaps some tragedy had befallen him in the past, or he was troubled by a lost love or broken marriage.
He never talked about himself, so those who associated with him, on what might be considered a frequent basis, simply didn’t know much about him. Cain’s coworkers with the Park Service knew that he originally came from the Golden, Colorado, area and that his family was well off. Cain had been transferred from the Denver office in ninety-five to Pueblo, and he had been in that office since that time. He was an expert marksman and was the man they called on when that particular skill was needed.
Later that day, at his cabin, he brewed some coffee and sat down with a cup on the front deck, looking out over the mountains rising away from his property. His right hand held a picture frame, which contained a poem he had come across at an arts and crafts fair in Manitou Springs back in…1990? Maybe it was around that time. He couldn’t remember exactly when it was.
The poem was called “In Dreams” and, as he gently rubbed his fingers over the glass covering the words, he withdrew deeper within himself and began to remember.
On the top of the poem, behind the glass, he had written a woman’s name, Abby.
Cain drove to the Pueblo office to file an official report on the bear incident and to get his assignments for the coming week.
“What’s your take on those hunters who had the encounter with that bear, Jamie?” the captain asked him.
“Inexperienced, Chief,” Jamie responded. “They had a deer, field dressed and hanging up, just begging for some bear or mountain lion to come along and claim it. I think they were probably drunk.”
“Well, it’s a hell of a shame for a man to die like that just for being ignorant.”
“And a bear, too.”
“You’re right. The bear was just doing what comes naturally. Anyway, thank you for taking him out. He might have killed someone else if you hadn’t done it.”
“No, he was dying when I found him,” Jamie replied. “I just put him out of his misery.”
“You did good.”
“So, what do you have for me, next?” Jamie asked him.
“I need you to run up to The Springs and help them out. They’ve had a rash of unsafe campfires, and they could use your help tracking down some of the people doing it. We don’t know if it’s people deliberately trying to set the forest on fire or just idiots who don’t know how to make a safe campfire to grill hot dogs.”
Jamie turned into Benny’s convenience store, at Cimarron and Eighth Street in Colorado Springs, where he always stopped to get gas and a cup of coffee when he came through the city. He knew just about everyone who worked in the store and quite a few of the regular customers. The owner of the store, a man named Benny Morales, waited on him and ran his Park Service gas card to pay for the gas. “Coffee’s on me, Jamie,” he said.
“Oh, come on, Benny, you say that every time,” Jamie replied. “Let me pay for one every once in a while.”
“It don’t cost me much. I appreciate the gas business.”
Jamie shrugged. “Okay, well thanks again.”
The front door of the store opened, and a young girl with red hair that fell almost to her shoulders came in and approached the register. Jamie was about to leave but stopped when he saw her and started watching her. She looked familiar to him—a beautiful girl, looked to be about sixteen. She was well-built, but that was not what attracted his interest. It was her mannerisms that drew his attention.
“I’m going to need ten dollars of gas on pump six,” she told Benny.
He rang it up and, as she was paying him, she noticed Jamie staring at her and began to figit.
“I’m sorry, miss,” Jamie said, realizing that he made her nervous. “I didn’t mean to stare at you. It’s just that you remind me of someone I knew a long time ago.”
“Oh, that’s okay, sir,” she replied. “I’ve been told I look like Julia Roberts, but I don’t really believe it. Actually, I look like my mom.”
Jamie smiled, but his heart started beating much more rapidly when she said that.
Just then, another kid, who was not with her, but apparently knew her, yelled loudly, “Hey, Jamie!”
Both Jamie and the girl turned quickly, said, “Yeah!” at the same time, then turned to look at each other incredulously.
“Is your name Jamie?” the girl asked him.
“It is,” he said.
They both smiled and shook their heads in disbelief.
“Oh, my gosh, what are the odds on that?”
“Well, it’s a dual-purpose name,” he said. “I was named after my mother, but they had to call me James when we were together, so people would know which of us was which. But, yes, my name is Jamie.”
She stared blankly at him for a moment. “Oh, my God, how weird is this? I was named after my dad. I never knew him. I mean, he disappeared before I was born, vanished in the mountains. They never found him. But my mother loved him, so she named me after him. She never stopped loving him.”
Jamie was almost speechless. His chest was heaving, and his breathing became heavy. He was having trouble catching his breath. “Oh, my God, Abby, Abby?” Jamie uttered, to no one in particular, and grew dizzy.
He reached back to steady himself on the counter and knocked over a display rack that held sunglasses. The display fell to the floor, and Jamie fell with it. Benny hurried out from behind the register to see about him. The girl went to his other side and took his arm to help Benny get Jamie to his feet.
“Jamie,” Benny called to him, “are you okay, buddy?”
After a minute or two, Jamie seemed to be clear headed and, with Benny and the girl helping him, he got to his feet. “I’m okay, thank you,” he said.
“Here’s some water,” Benny said, handing him a cup.
Jamie took a sip and a deep breath, then he looked at the girl again. “What is your last name, miss?” he asked her after he regained his breathing.
She glanced at the name tag on his uniform that identified him as J Cain and started shaking and crying. “No, no, this can’t be,” she said, pushing away from him.
“It’s okay, miss, I’m all right, I’m all right, don’t worry, I’m okay,” he told her.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s your name tag. Your last name is Cain, sir, Jamie Cain was my dad’s name. I think you’re my dad.”
© 2018 by Jack Sprouse