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Into the Great Unknown: The Final Chapter

All Things Must Come to an End

I feel bad for the characters in this series of short stories. They deserved better by me. They really deserved a book, but I doubt that will happen.

Thanks for hanging with me on this journey. Joshua and Laura thank you as well.

Their new home is right around the next bend, so let’s watch and listen.

An unbeaten path!

An unbeaten path!

Fourteen Straight Days


Fourteen straight days of it.

Mud up to our knees. Trees blotting out what light there was. Brush and vines clinging to us, hindering us, making it damned near impossible to move forward, the trail blocked by fallen trees, our clothes soaked, no chance of drying them, all of us shivering, me feeling just horrible for putting my family through the ordeal, wondering if we could survive the trip, knowing we had to survive the trip, no way, after two-thousand miles, we were dying this close to the end.

The trail followed a river for awhile, raging black water, then the river was gone, small streams at times, more raging water, some overflowing their banks, the ground saturated, the sky pressing down, making it impossible to tell where sky began, a constant gray blanket, good God almighty, would the rain ever stop, please dear God, deliver my children to safety, and through it all Laura by my side, encouraging me, telling me we would make it, our children deserved a better life, she said, she just knew this was the right decision, she said, and when the log walls of the fort came into view it was Laura who first hollered in joy and Laura who first cried, so great was her relief.

Constantly crossing rivers and streams

Constantly crossing rivers and streams


William Tomie was his name, the manager of Fort Nisqually, a gentle man who welcomed us, told us he was expecting us, and apologized for the weather, as though it was his fault the rains were relentless.

“Your land isn’t far from here, folks, but you’re in no shape to head to it now. We have room for your families here at the fort. Please, be our guests for a few days, dry out and eat well. Once you are rested and in good spirits, you can go out to your new property and begin building a shelter for the winter. I can even spare a few men to go with you and help you in that endeavor. Now, if there is nothing else, my second-in-charge, Mister McAllister, will show you to your lodgings.”

I remember very little of that first night at Nisqually. The warmth of the fire, the satisfaction of a cooked meal, stew and venison, and the inviting cot sent me off to sleep shortly after we arrived. When we awoke ten hours later we found Tomie in the trading post store. There was all manner of pelts lining the walls of the post along with barrels of cooking necessities. Tomie assured us that everything we would need for the winter would be available to us.

“There’s still time to stock up on game before winter settles in, and you’ll find the local tribes friendly and willing to help. Fish are plentiful in these parts, and the Indians will show you how to smoke it so it keeps over winter. You’ll be fine, just fine, once we get those shelters built for your families. Good thing you got here when you did, though. Time is running out on the decent weather.”

I looked out the window of the post store at the incessant rain. I wondered what qualified as indecent weather.

“We appreciate the welcoming, Mister Tolmie,” I told him. “Your manner of kindness and gentility are unexpected, but we’re very grateful.”

“Think nothing of it, folks! We are all in this together, according to my way of thinking. We help you, you help us, and sooner, rather than later, this country will be conquered and fit for others to settle down in. Schools, churches, towns, that’s our goal and that, by God, is what we’ll have here on the Puget Sound. Will it be England’s land, or the United States? I don’t concern myself with those things, and neither should you. Out here in the wilderness, we are all from the same country.”

The new home

The new home

And so It Was

Three days later we were standing on our own land, six-hundred and forty-acres with two streams flowing through it, and a natural pasture on the northeast corner of it. We chose high ground for our cabin. Men from the fort helped us cut down fir trees, cut off the limbs, trim them down to twelve foot logs, and stack them one on top of the other, six high, for that first cabin. Within a week we had it built. It weren’t much to look at but it was dry and warm thanks to a cooking stove we purchased from the fort. By the end of the next week we had George’s cabin built on the property next to ours, and a road cleared from his cabin to ours.

The Indians were, in fact, friendly, eager to teach us how to smoke fish and gather roots and berries. I even shot my first deer, a fine buck. Days consisted of clearing land for planting the following spring, dawn to dusk, one tree after another, cut them down, buck them, and haul them away, back-breaking work for sure, and the blasted stumps, those were bastards, testing my patience and endurance, with God as my witness this country will test a man’s mettle and more often than not find him lacking.

A Prayer of Thanks

We all gathered at the fort in early November for a meal of thanks. It was a rare day of sunshine, the air brittle with the fickle kiss of winter upon it. The local tribal leaders were present. All told we probably had thirty people at the meal, a grand occasion for sure, much laughter, long discussions about the upcoming winter, and plans for the spring. For one day we all forgot where we were, the sacrifices which had been made, the losses suffered, and found gratitude in the closeness of fellow survivors.

There was talk of a school opening the following summer. Several mills had been opened further north, and that prompted talk of starting regular shipments of lumber to San Francisco and other points south, but mostly we just enjoyed the company of each other and cemented bonds forged by commonality.

“It’s a hard land, Joshua,” Laura said at one point.

“It is that, wife, but not so hard as to defeat us.”

She looked around the large table at the strange gathering.

“This time last year we were with family enjoying a fine harvest on the farm, surrounded by love and comfort.”

I reached over, squeezed her hand, and smiled.

“It would seem, then, that not much has changed, Laura.”

Thanks so Much for Following Along

I have no frame of reference to help me understand what the early settlers went through to settle this land we now call the Pacific Northwest. The daily struggles to simply survive were monumental. Building a home without modern machinery is something I can’t fathom. Trusting in complete strangers for protection is something I find hard to grasp. Fear must have been a constant companion. Uncertainty and doubt were most definitely daily bedfellows.

Me? I get pissed when the cable goes out and I miss The Voice!

Thanks for joining Laura and Joshua on their journey!

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2020:

Thank you Will! High praise coming from you,and I'm honored.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2020:

I thank you Peggy! I enjoyed writing it, and it's gratifying to read your praise.

Blessings to you always!

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 22, 2020:

I agree with Missy. The entire story deserves to be elevated to Letterpile status. In any case, it's superb story and very readable. Well done, Billy!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2020:

I hate it when a good story is at an end. This could have been a continuing series like the Waltons. You are a fantastic storyteller!

As to "The Voice," it is one of my favorites on television also. Wishing you health and safety during this pandemic.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 20, 2018:

Missy, I've been with HP for quite a few years,and I have no clue how they make decisions like that. Logic doesn't seem to cloud their decisions at all.. LOL

Missy Smith from Florida on January 19, 2018:

Haha...I like "The Voice" too! Anyway, great story as always. I like the way it ended in a peaceful place of diversity.

I have to say though, I don't get HP not putting the whole series on Letterpile? That doesn't make any sense to me?

I tried to get my article about the show "Outlander" on the reel rundown, because I talked about the first two seasons, and was watching the third, but hadn't watched enough to give a good review to the third. However, they told me they wouldn't accept it there, because I didn't have other installments. Um, I can't very well write about another season until there is another season to write about, so it didn't make any common sense to me. If they said they would have published it there if I continued the reviews of upcoming seasons, that would have been an incentive for me to continue writing about it, but they didn't say that.

What I wonder about your story is; you have finished this story, so will Letterpile go back and add all the installments of it. I just don't get why they wouldn't?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 25, 2017:

Genna, welcome back! It's always nice having friends drop by on the holidays. Thank you for your kind words. I wish, for you, happiness and peace this holiday season. Drop by for coffee any old time you are in the neighborhood.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on November 24, 2017:

I just finished reading the final chapters, having been away from the hub for some time due to work.

Such wonderful writing...you really know how to take us into the journey with your characters. And the knowledge of the historical context, combined with the emotional challenges of the appealing characters, is just riveting. I kept thinking of the words you wrote, "the Lord taketh and giveth in equal measures" throughout this series." What our settlers had to endure is unimaginable, but you have brought their experiences (those of Laura and Joshua, and many others) and their memories closer to us in your story. That's quite a gift.

Each time I read a work by Bill Holland, I learn to be a better writer.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 23, 2017:

That's a big "if," my friend, but we can always hope. :)

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on November 22, 2017:


If you ever got to New Zealand, and into the 'back blocks' you'd see it in abundance!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 22, 2017:

I love that phrase, Lawrence. I'm afraid that kind of mentality is almost gone in this country, and I find that sad.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on November 21, 2017:


A great end to the story, as I was watching the video I remembered the city I now live in was founded in the 1860s by settlers out from Britain.

I think there's something about not just those who made the trek, but also their descendants that sets them apart.

Over here, we call it the 'Number 8 wire' mentality, basically someone who can make anything with a simple piece of number eight (fencing) wire!

A great story well told, thank you for the journey.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 27, 2017:

Thank you, Michael my friend, documented emigrant and cherished friend.

Pax vobiscum

Michael Milec on October 26, 2017:

Thank you Bill, master writer of the history- story, introducing to this "documented emigrant" the true spirit of self-sacrificial generation creating better life for their families as well building up the greatest country of the world history ever recorded. Joshua, Laura and George are mentioned names representing each and every individual of this journey alive or dead and I will cherish their memories as the real conquerors of the worst enemy the natures elements. Hooray or Hallelujah, good God is helping those who help themselves. Enriched and encouraged, for me this series will be living for long time in my imagination. Thank you my friend for your patience with me.

Blessings always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 17, 2017:

Thank you Tamara! I'm sorry the story had to end, but new projects await. No, I'm not leaving HP. This is my home away from home.


Tamara Yancosky from Uninhabited Regions on October 16, 2017:

Awwe, no...no endings:-( Miss the characters when the story has come to a close.

Bill, a great, big ‘Thank You’ for this dramatic and moving story that I have journeyed with, now, for a long, lovely while.

I wish to follow you on HP, my friend. I have a brand new Hubpage account. But, I still have all of my treasured comments from everyone saved in my email, (from my past HP account), along with their adjoining poems and writings in which the comments were so kindly written about.

My new project on HP has been Song Lyrics! They are so much fun since I do love music :-)

You are not leaving HP, are you?



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 04, 2017:

Me too, Lori! I loved the old Fort as a child, and my imagination always soared when I was there.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 04, 2017:

Thank you Larry! I am glad.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 04, 2017:

Zulma, I admit, I might gain a certain satisfaction from doing so. :)

Lori Colbo from United States on October 03, 2017:

I vividly remember playing in the wooden tower (or whatever you call it) at Fort Nisqally and how fun it was to imagine we were looking out for Indians. My parents practically had to climb up and haul us out when it was time to go home. Now you have to pay just to walk in the gate and you can't go up in the tower. But my heart quickens when I see it from the parking area and I'm transported back in time when I was a child playing there.

This was a wonderful series and I'm sad to see it end.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 03, 2017:

Have enjoyed this thoroughly.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on October 03, 2017:

On the one hand, thank you very kindly. That's nice to know.

On the other, you are a devil. You enjoy winding me up, don't you? Yes, I believe you do.

Enjoy the week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 02, 2017:

Thank you Nithya! I owed it to this family to deliver them safely to their new home.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 02, 2017:

Fine, Zulma, just for you....a new boy was born at Fort Nisqually....and he grew up to be . . .

I guess we'll just have to wait to find out. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 02, 2017:

Aww, thank you Venkatachari M! I'm so glad you enjoyed my story.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 02, 2017:

No problem, Mary! I would have had a revolt if I'd killed any of them off. Thanks for being with me on this trip.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 01, 2017:

A wonderful ending, survivors settled in a new place with prospects of a bright future ahead. Enjoyed following the journey, thank you.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on October 01, 2017:

Thank you for taking us on this journey. I'm so glad they made it. I know you're finished with this (for now;)), but could you tell us: Did Laura have a boy or a girl?

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on September 30, 2017:

A nice ending as expected by me (with utmost trust upon you).

It has been an exciting journey with so many hurdles and damages. But the ending is sweet. Your narrations have been very excellent. Enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing the complete story.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on September 30, 2017:

I knew I could trust you to get them there safe and sound.

An excellent story, with colorful characters and one heck of an adventure.

Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

Have a great weekend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 30, 2017:

Always hope, Rasma! Hope and love! Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 30, 2017:

It's amazing they made it this far, Linda! Thanks for supporting them.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on September 30, 2017:

A wonderful ending with a life full of hope for them to look forward to.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 29, 2017:

This is a lovely ending to your story, Bill. I know your characters still have some hard work ahead of them, but their future looks good.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

It was a long trip, Pop, and I appreciate you matching them step for step.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you Kari! I'm so glad you liked it.

breakfastpop on September 29, 2017:

They made it, and I am happy for them. Great story, billy!

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on September 29, 2017:

This sent shivers up my spine when Joshua said, "nothing much has changed". :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thanks indeed, Dora, and I'm very happy you are safe.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you RoadMonkey! I think they deserve a nice place to finally call home.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you Janine! Seeing McCartney live is worth some discomfort later. :) I'm jealous!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 29, 2017:

Great job, Bill, keeping us interested while you shared the struggle to survive in a previous time and place. This plus the memory of Irma make me join the settlers in giving thanks.

RoadMonkey on September 29, 2017:

I am glad they arrived safely. That's a beautiful place you have landed them in, two streams, natural pasture and high ground for the cabin. Great story.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on September 29, 2017:

Bill, I am not sure how I missed the conclusion to this yesterday. But can tell you it has been a doozy of a week here. Some good and some not so good. But the good, I think you would have enjoyed as much as I did as I finally saw Paul McCartney locally here in concert. Seriously, was worth the tiredness I have felt the rest of this week. But still enough of that and thank you for finishing up Joshua and Laura's story for us here. Also once again wishing you a lovely weekend ahead now :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you for sharing that, Shyron! Then you know what these people experienced to a small part.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you Jackie! I believe it is our job, as writers and storytellers, to keep history alive. I'm pretty sure you feel the same way.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you Flourish! If I ever become wealthy I'll have the time to make this a book. Until then, customers are calling.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2017:

Thank you very much, Maria! Now we move on to the Civil War.



Shyron E Shenko from Texas on September 28, 2017:

Bill, I lived in one of those log cabins, built by my great, great grandparents, I was told, the picture of the house is on my hub it looks like a postage stamp and the old woman was my great grandmother and the baby was my cousin. I heard stories about the hard times.

I have enjoyed the journey with Laura and Joshua.

Blessings my friend.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on September 28, 2017:

So true Bill, what it took for all those all over the US to settle this land. How amazing history is and may it never be wiped out for any reason.

Beautiful story, I loved it.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 28, 2017:

They made it! This was a nice wrap up. I really thought we were headed for a book but you did well by them.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 28, 2017:

Dear Bill,

This was a sweet and satisfying ending to a captivating story.

Congrats on your Hubbie and looking forward to seeing what your muse has in store for us next.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Awww, Sis, thank you! I have to write stories like this one once in a while just to prove to myself I can write a story that doesn't include mass murder. LOL I am blown away by the reception this story received. You are such a good sister!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Bill, thank you! I know this is a time period you, also, marvel at, and I appreciate your love of history.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Happy ending for our family, Eric! As much as I write about death, I just couldn't do it to this group.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Aww, thanks, Shannon! That's very nice of you to say and I am humbled.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Linda, I'll bow to your opinion on that. I think we see many instances of great kindness; I also see many images of looting after disasters. A little of both, I think, but I can live with your assessment.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Thank you very much, Louise!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 28, 2017:

Thank you Will! I appreciate that from a great writer such as yourself.

Suzie from Carson City on September 28, 2017:

I feel our journey with Laura, Joshua, their family and all the other wonderful characters you surrounded us with, Bill, was a complete success. I'm grateful to have gone the distance with them, shared their determination, fears and experiences along this historical trail. I felt so much; excitement, disappointment, grief and my inner strength grew each day.

You kept us moving, hoping, crying and persevering with every river, mountain and mile of terrain.

The final statement of this marvelous story, from Joshua to his beloved Laura as he held her hand....well, Bill, it's so powerful, it just blew me away and lifted my heart to the sky!

You are simply the Master, bro. Unbelievably awesome journey!.........Sis (Congrats on your Hubbie!!..:)

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on September 28, 2017:

What fun! The story, not the experience!! You tell it so well. That first segment blows me away. I could pick up the story here, and move forward, but those chapters you have written were impressive, to me. Thanks so much for sharing!!! ;-)

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 28, 2017:

Thanks for the series. I really enjoyed it. I helped build a log cabin way back when. It was quite an adventure.

You really wrapped it up nicely.

Shannon Henry from Texas on September 28, 2017:

I had to come see how this story ended so I've been watching for it. I absolutely love that you had the two families settle side by side, a symbol of how they supported one another on the trail. I am also sad for these characters since their story cannot be told in a full length novel. I particularly liked the way you pointed out things that typically are not thought about whenever the Oregon Trail is written about in story form.

Congratulations again on winning the Hubbie Award. I can't think of a more deserving winner. You are always kind and willing to help others improve, especially through encouragement. It's appreciated!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 28, 2017:

Bill, what a wonderful, hopeful ending to this story. However, I must disagree with your last paragraph. Trusting in complete strangers for protection is something we do every day; one look at what has occurred in the aftermath of hurricanes in the southeast is certainly a testament to that, to the kindness of strangers.

Louise Barraco from Ontario on September 28, 2017:

Such a great ending to the story and congrats on your win

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on September 28, 2017:

Congratulations on your win and continued success, Bill Holland!

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