(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “At the Jim Bridger,” Donner has just come out of the mountains after a week fishing with a woman identified only as “not his wife.” They are looking forward to eating a huge steak and a baked potato at the Jim Bridger Lodge’s end-of-season New Year’s Eve party. As the couple pulls into the parking lot of the lodge, Donner sees a familiar truck with a dog he recognizes in the back. He tells the woman that it is the dog from the story he has told her about saving a man from freezing; when they enter the lodge, he sees Rusty, the man from the story. Although he is not sure why, Donner feels differently about the woman from the way he did before they went on the fishing trip; he feels “ruined and hollow.”

In September of the previous year, on his annual fishing trip, Donner was trapped by a snowstorm in the Cascades and made a bad decision. It is now his favorite story. Seven months earlier, he told it to the woman who was not his wife, “and it was the story that kindled all of the rest.” The bad decision Donner made was to break camp in the afternoon during a steady snowfall instead of staying where he was and waiting for the storm to stop. That particular year, he felt a special pressure, for his fourteen-year-old son had run away. Donner soon knew that he had made a mistake because the snow was so heavy he could not see the trail. He stopped and built a large fire and took off all his clothes and hung them to dry. At this point, a...

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