During the terrible winter of 1886 to 1887, a young Montana cowboy spends all his money on a beautiful pair of handmade cowboy boots rather than saving some of it to buy a better coat and mittens. He tries to go south, where he hopes it will be warmer, but he freezes to death one night regardless. The next day, three other cowboys from Box Spring find his blue corpse in the snow, and one, known as Dirt Sheets, remarks that he wears the same size shoe as the frozen man. The boots are frozen on, so he cuts the dead man's legs off at the shin so that he can thaw them out later and thus make use of the boots himself.
The men keep moving, rounding up stray cattle, and decide to stop at a local man's home for the night. Old man Grice offers them a roof, some stew, and a lean-to for their horses to stay in. (His horses, meanwhile, sleep inside of the house to stay warm.) The men stay up late playing poker, and all the cowboys lose money to their host.
In the morning, Dirt Sheets wakes up earlier than everyone else and remembers that it is his mother's birthday. He will need to hurry to send her a telegraph because the office closes early, and so he checks his new boots to see if they are thawed out yet. They are, so he pops the dead feet out and tosses them in a corner with his old boots. He puts the new boots on, saddles up, and heads to the telegraph office.
When Grice wakes up, he makes coffee and starts breakfast before he sees one of his horses playing with one of the feet. He sees the other foot and realizes that he only has two guests asleep on the floor rather than the three that went to sleep there last night. Old man Grice starts screaming, yelling at the two sleepers, calling them "survivors" and telling them to wake up. He thinks that his...
(The entire section is 515 words.)