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Prairie's Children, Chapter 12
Submitted by Starla Anne on Wed, 05/07/2008 - 11:36
By Starla Anne Lowry
During the first day of their journey, Josh and Ruth Ann did not experience anything considered unusual. They spent a lot of time discussing future plans and what route they might take to Alabama. Neither knew much about geography, but Josh had figured out they could go through Texas by going South, but that would cause them to travel through what was still consider by many to be exclusively Indian territory, although settlers had already began to put down roots there and Congress had passed laws to allow the action.
Ruth Ann finally determined that they could go through Arkansas. They both knew that, by going east, they would wind up in Missouri and Arkansas bordered with Missouri on the south.
The couple had learned to locate the sun at certain times of the day and, by using it, they could stay on a course although, being inexperienced, it was wobbly at times. However, they were a couple so much in love that nothing mattered except to stay on what they hoped was the correct trail.
That was their mistake.
The other mistake was that they had started on their journey late in the year and some clouds had begun to form in the northwestern skies.
"Looks like a storm coming up." Jake was the first to mention it.
"I don't know much about the weather, but they look like what my daddy used to refer to as snow clouds," answered Ruth Ann.
"Naw, don't think so. It is too early for snow."
"Well, I guess we need to look for some kind of shelter -- whether rain or snow," suggest Ruth Ann.
Continuing on their journey, they kept their eyes open for something -- anything. Finally, Josh noticed what looked to be an abandoned shack. "We can stop there until it is over," he said.
The shack was empty and apparently had been abandoned as they had expected. Josh was correct about the weather. Instead of snow, a strong thunderstorm made the shack a welcomed refuge -- for a moment.
The horses were placed in a small barn, which was more like a shed. Before they could unsaddle the horses, Ruth placed her hand on Josh's shoulder and said "Listen, I hear a roaring sound."
Before Josh could answer, the building began to shake and timbers began to close in upon them.
"Tornado!" Get under that table," shouted Ruth, pointing to a stand that had been constructed similar to something found in a blacksmith's shop.
The warning came too late. A falling beam struck Josh on the head knocking him to his knees as the roof was blown off and most of the building seemed to cave in. Ruth Ann had crawled under the table and could not see what was happening. She only knew that Josh was not under there with her.
In moments, it was over and, with quite a bit of effort removing the fallen timbers, Ruth Ann managed to crawl out only to see Josh's legs. Quickly she began to claw through the rough and splinted lumber. Placing her hand over her mouth as if to stifle a scream, a moment of shock was experienced when she uncovered enough boards to observe Josh lying unconscious on the dirt floor.
"Josh, Josh, speak to me -- Please!" cried Ruth Ann as she shook him.
There wasn't any response.
"I can't lose you -- I just can't!"
Thoughts raced through her mind. What should she do? 'Of course, she needed to bandage the wounds and stop the bleeding,' she told herself. With all her might, she ripped her shirt into strips and carefully wrapped Josh's head, arms, and any other place where she observed any bleeding injuries.
Water! She needed water to wash him. The canteens! Of course, there was water in the canteens! Clean water -- not something she would have to scoop up from the rainwater on the ground!
But, where were the horses? She looked all around and did not see them anywhere. Had they gotten away or did the tornado carry them away? She was confused. No horses, no clean water, no medical help -- and she knew nothing about head injuries. All she knew to do was pray -- exactly what her mother had always taught her: "When you are in a pickle and no way out, turn to the Lord."
"God," she began, "I am nothing much, but my Josh means everything to me. Without him, I don't know what to do. My momma told me to always look to you for help in times like this, so please -- please, do something -- or show me what to do."
She continued to pour her broken heart out in prayer -- with tears.
The rays of the sun came through the clouds as it often does after a storm and Ruth Ann saw a rainbow. With nothing else to hope for, she accepted that as a sign that the Lord had heard her.
Feeling that her heart was going to burst with sorrow and the tears blinding her ability to see, she laid her head on Josh's chest and continued to pray silently. Time passed ever so slowly and her words became fewer and fewer. Weary and broken hearted, she closed her eyes and began to drift off into sleep while whispering prayer, now coming in short phases as she fought to stay awake. Perhaps, her brain had taken more than it was able and was trying to shut down.
She awoke to the sounds of night. She felt the chill of the evening air and thought to herself, 'Got to cover Josh. I know he is cold.'
With the light of an almost full moon, she looked around for something. She was surprised to see a horse -- only one horse -- but one was as good as a hundred at the moment. She walked slowly toward the animal and took the reins. It was her horse. She found her blanket in her saddlebag and eased it over Josh's still body.
Was he dead? "Oh God, please let him be alive," she whispered. Watching his chest, she was sure she saw it rising, indicating that he was breathing. It was moving very slowly, but it was rising! She was positive! She placed her head on his chest and it seemed that she could hear a heart beat.
He was still unconscious and he needed help. She placed the horse close to Josh, put her arms under his shoulders and raised him to a seated position. She managed to get him to his feet enough so that he was leaning against the horse. Using all her reserve strength, she grabbed his legs and pushed him up on the horse as high as she could. Running around quickly to the other side of the horse, she pulled his arms so that his body lay equally across the horse. Taking a rope, she firmly tied him to the saddle so he would not fall off and began walking, leading the horse across the countryside through the night.
It seemed like she walked for hours, looking back often to see if Josh was still breathing and each time determining that he was -- or she hoped he was. Finally, she spotted a farmhouse and walked -- or rather, stumbled -- toward it. It seemed that every rock, every twig tried to trip her, but she kept pressing forward.
She reached the door, knocked, and an elderly woman opened it only to hear a weary Ruth Ann say, "My husband -- he is hurt..." Ruth Ann slumped to the floor, too exhausted to continue and everything went black.
Her nightmares consumed her. She saw demons seeking souls to carry away in death, and felt dark stormy clouds with a hellish tornado sweeping across the land, dragging Josh, her dearly beloved, away. Ruth reached for her husband, but her grasp fell short as he hurled further into an abyss.
She awoke with a start, screaming, her eyes filled with horror. Then the calming hand of a woman touched her and a gentle soft voice spoke, "It's all right, dear; it is all right."
"Josh! Where is he? Is he okay?" begged Ruth Ann.
"We got a doctor. He has a concussion and doesn't need to travel for awhile. You are welcome to stay here until he gets better," said the sweet voice.
Ruth Ann adjusted her eyes and saw that it was the little woman who had answered the door. The woman was smiling. "My name is Bertha," she said.
"Thank you. My name is Ruth and Josh is my husband. We haven't been married long. We were on our way to Alabama when the storm hit."
"Yes, it was a very bad storm. You are lucky that your husband is still alive with the injuries that he suffered," said Bertha.
"Well -- I prayed a lot," answered Ruth with a weak smile.
"Oh, that explains how he survived," said Bertha. "Prayer works."
"May I see Josh?"
"Certainly, he is right in the other room."
As Ruth walked to the other room, she noticed that there were only two bedrooms, so she asked the obvious question, "Where did you and your husband sleep?" She was assuming that Bertha was married.
"Oh, we made a pallet here in the floor," replied Bertha, pointed toward some quilts on the floor.
"I am so sorry. We took your bedroom."
"That is okay, hon. You needed the rooms more than we did. I did not put you together because of the nature of your husband's injuries. You may share his room with him from now on, if you wish."
Ruth stood at the foot of Josh's bed. "Sleepy head!" she remarked, smiling.
Josh stirred, opened his eyes, and said, "Well, I was told you were out of it, too." As he tried to raise his head, he remarked, "Oh my head", placing his hand on the bandage section.
"Now, you lay still. You are lucky to be alive," said Ruth.
"Yeah, I heard that you got me on a horse some way and brought me here and you were so tired that you passed out.?
"Oh, well you know me. The protector of the weak."
Bertha stood there smiling, having no idea what they were talking about. If she had known what a heroine that Ruth was reputed to be, she never displayed any sign.
"I hope you don't mind if we stay until Josh gets better. Besides, I need to go out and find his horse. It should be saddled and not to difficult to locate," said Ruth.
"Dear, you can stay as long as you want -- and as for your horse, I will send Sam out to look for it. You say that it would be saddled?"
"Yes, we did not have time to take off the saddles when the storm hit, so he should be looking like he lost a rider."
"Come on, let me fix you something to eat. Sam has had breakfast, but you haven't had anything for two days."
"Has it been that long?" asked Ruth as she followed Bertha to the kitchen.
--To be continued
All characters and places, except historical persons and places, are fictitious and any resemblance to other places or persons, living or dead, are coincidental.
Copyright 2008 by Starla Anne Lowry