The next day was frustrating. The day had turned hazy and the hills became good sized mountains that required them to find ways around them rather than crossing them. They had to turn back on their trail several times and there seemed to be no road anywhere. "Well, I think maybe we are lost," Mattie said dejectedly. Billy thought about his brothers' teasing before they left their camp, and said nothing but just kept moving his entourage through the woods.
Suddenly, a man on horseback came riding through the woods toward them. He stopped as soon as he saw the Mead's wagon and cattle. He seemed alarmed. "You folks realize where you are at and what danger you are in? There is a storm coming up that is liable to freeze to death your horses if they have to stay in the open." He paused a moment. "About four miles farther on is an old abandoned lumber camp that has a cabin and good shed for the horses. You had better make tracks for that and not stop until you get to it." With that, he turned his horse and rode away.
Billy and Mattie looked at each other in amazement. Where did he come from and where did he go? Mattie commented, "I don't know who that was but he made sense to me. It does seem a lot colder. I reckon we ought to do what he says and try to find that cabin."
Billy was dubious about the man because of the way he talked. He was afraid that he was a thug that might try to ambush them down the road. He kept his pistol ready just in case and they continued down the road.
A few miles ahead, they found the cabin and the shed. Sure enough, it was abandoned. Billy checked inside, then sent the boys to gather firewood. Mattie cautioned the boys, "Get as much as you can carry. It is getting cold and we may have a very cold night."
As soon as Billy could get the horses in the shed, he pulled up some brush and banked it to make a windbreak for the cattle. By pulling it around the end of the house, he made a pretty good shelter for them between the house and the brush. He tied down the covering on the wagon and brought in some supplies for supper and plenty of bedding and quilts. The wind came up and the temperature began to drop.
Fortunately, there was a good fireplace in the cabin. The boys had barely gotten the wood brought in when it began to snow. As night fell, it snowed harder. They put their bedrolls close to the fire and kept the fire going all night. By morning there was eighteen inches of snow on the ground!
"Lord a mercy!" Did you look outside?" Billy exclaimed. "I could hardly get to the horses this morning. The snow drifted back there and it is deep! Lucky I bought that corn for them before we left Ardmore ." He stomped the snow from his boots and Creight and Clarence rushed to the window to look outside. "Can we go outside to play in it?" they begged. Mattie took a quick look out the window and said, "You boys haven't even had breakfast yet. Wait 'til we eat and it gets warmer. For right now, I want you boys getting' your warmest clothes on. Dad brought in your heavy underwear from the wagon. Now, git dressed."
The snow began again and it was too cold for the boys to go outside. Allie and Worth got the younger boys distracted with a little rough housing; then began telling them some stories to keep them quiet. Mattie nursed baby Owen and then cleaned up the breakfast while Billy stoked the fire.
"Can you beat this? We are the luckiest people to have met that man who just came riding out of the woods. This shelter probably kept us from freezing to death in that cold." Billy lit his pipe and gazed into the warm fire. He decided the only thing to do was wait until it stopped snowing and then try to find his way on to Paul's Valley. "I wish we could find that man and thank him for what he done," he added.
It snowed off and on for a couple of days. Billy worried about the horses and cattle but they seemed all right. As long as they were all warm and fed, then there would be no need for concern. They would wait out the storm.
On the third day, they heard a wagon pass by! It didn't stop but kept going on passed them. Billy watched as they went on. The snow was still deep but he could see that they were able to drive their wagon through it. "I can go where any other man can," he said and began to hitch up the horses to the wagon. "Everyone dress warm because we are going to leave."
Mattie knew Billy was right to get them out of there because their food was running low. They followed the other wagon's tracks for awhile and then they seemed to play out and disappear. They began to wander around again, lost.
It began to snow and the day was coming to an end. Finally, they came to a lone cabin. It was a little shack and a man was the only resident. He didn't have a lot of food but he offered to share it with the family. They combined their food with his and had enough for an adequate meal for the family.
"John Schnieder's the name. I don't have room for the family in this cabin but I can let you stay behind my cabin out of the wind if you want." He hitched up his team and cut some logs for a fire. The boys gathered limbs from the trees after shaking off the snow. Mattie and Billy stretched the wagon sheet out over everyone as close to the fire as possible and they all huddled together for the night. The horses and cattle were close by.
The next morning, everyone was cold but made it through the night. Billy asked for directions to Paul's Valley from Schnieder and they took off again. The snow had stopped and had begun to harden, making it easier to drive on. They still got lost, having to cut back and forth around mountains but at last they began to see the land flattening out onto the plains again! Their journey would be easier and faster now.
As they came closer to Paul's Valley, they saw smoke coming out of the ground. Allie said, "Look, Dad! What is that?" He was a little alarmed. Billy pulled the horses to a stop and watched the smoke curling up from the ground. Mattie said, "I wonder if that is what Sarah described in her letter; the houses that were dug into the ground!"
As they came closer, they could see the dugout clearly. "This is what Grandfather told us about in his letter!" Allie exclaimed. They were pretty sure they were close to Paul's Valley when they saw several more of the dugouts. Billy stopped and inquired and sure enough, they were getting close. After another day, they finally came to the land that Billy recognized from the run he had made on the train.
They came to a dugout and asked if they could tell them where Paoli was. "It's just about four miles ahead. Stay on this road and you will see a Y in the road about two miles ahead. Take the right Y and it will get you to Paoli. The other road leads to Noble."
Within a couple of hours, they came to Paoli. There wasn't much there but at least there were a few businesses and some houses. Billy stopped at a general store and bought some food for the children who were pretty hungry by then.
"I'm looking for the Elisha Porter Gower family. They live around here somewhere. Can you tell me where they live?" Billy inquired. The store owner looked blank for a moment. Billy added, "Port Gower is my father-in-law."
The store owner's memory returned to him once he decided that Billy meant no harm to the Gowers. "Why sure! Mr. and Ms. Gower live on down the road about a half mile. Fine folks, the Gowers." Billy paid for the food and the family was on the final leg of their trip.
The Gowers were beside themselves with joy when they saw the Mead family drive up. There were lots of hugs all 'round and then the warmth of their new home and the stories of their adventure. At last, they were in Paoli.
[Author's Note] Worth Mead’s account in the OU Pioneer Project provided a detailed description of the snowstorm, the man who advised them to seek shelter, the abandoned logging camp and the Mead family being lost because of a lack of roads. Worth stated that their trip was to his grandfather’s home in Paoli and that they saw dugouts on the way. Elisha Porter Gower’s second wife was Sarah Catherine Gower (her maiden name) and despite the fact that she had the same name as one of Elisha’s biological daughters, they were not related except by marriage.