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Prairie's Children, Chapter 14
Submitted by Starla Anne on Tue, 05/27/2008 - 18:18
By Starla Anne Lowry
Setting up camp in the new wonderland, Ruth said, “I am scared out here in the open. It is not like the prairie – there are too may trees and bushes where things can hide.”
“Don’t tell me that my brave little wife is scared,” teased Josh.
“Now Josh, you know I’m not brave. I was as scared as a cat in everything I faced, but I had to stand firm to save lives. I am not anything special. I am a girl so I have the right to be scared!”
“Well, we have made it fine so far,” replied Josh. “We both sleep light and keep our guns close.”
Ruth replied, “We have saved a little bit of money. Couldn’t we find a house or a town to stay overnight?”
“Well, we will think about that tomorrow. Right now, we are here, so let’s get some shut-eye.”
They had entered Arkansas from the northwest, traveling through the Ozarks, which included the Boston Mountains with the Quachita Mountains to the south. The extremely rough terrain with its many creeks and rivers were very frightening. Ruth only hoped that Alabama would be better.
Traveling was difficult at times and the population scarce. However, they were treated very kindly in the homes of the mountain people. At first, the young couple was viewed with suspicion, but after learning their mission, was accepted with kindness. They never went hungry because they were always treated with southern style home cooking. Josh never felt good about accepting invitations to stay overnight, so each afternoon they moved on.
Ruth continued to be nervous about camping in the woods, but she decided that she was not going to be eaten by a bear or some other varmint if they kept the campfire going. Josh and she were experts at that, having camped on the prairie often. They learned that there weren’t as many bears as had existed in the past, but a few were still around.
Finally, they came to the Mississippi River. Seeking a ferry, they marveled at the huge riverboats traveling up and down the river.
“Oh, I would love to ride one of those things,” said Ruth, as she sat on the bank resting her horse and admiring the paddleboats as they leisurely made their way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.
“It would be nice, but I am sure it costs a pretty penny,” replied Josh. “Besides I don’t think they would be going toward Alabama.”
Finally locating a ferry, the couple learned that the Mississippi River was the state line between Arkansas and Mississippi.
“We have come a long way. Could you tell me how far it is to Alabama?” asked Ruth the first chance she got.
“Well, when you cross the State of Mississippi, you will be in Alabama,” was the answer from the ferry operator.
That brought little comfort. Ruth had hoped that they would be at their destination soon, but to have another state to cross – well, they just had to keep pushing on. They were fortunate to continually meet friendly families that always issued an invitation to dine at their tables. The men and boys were also kind enough to take care of their horses.
As they were bidding their farewells at a farmhouse near Greenwood, the lady of the household asked, “Do you have any coats?”
“Well, no – we just brought along the bare essentials,” replied Ruth. “It was warm when we left.”
“Girl, cold weather will be here before you know it and you will freeze if you are not dressed warmly enough.”
She rumbled through a large trunk and came up with two coats – one for Ruth and one for Josh. “Take these, dear. It is still a fur piece to Alabama and from the way the weather looks, you will need them.”
Ruth soon learned the woman knew what she was talking about – thunderstorms seem to come out of nowhere, followed by a drop in temperatures. Tired and wet, shelter was sought.
“I think I see a shed,” said Josh. “Maybe we can stay there until we get dried out at least.”
As they drew nearer, a log cabin was spotted. “Maybe we should ask first,” suggested Ruth.
An elderly gentleman answered the door and invited the couple to warm by the fire. The house had a fireplace that sufficiently heated the sparse single room cabin. In the corner another elderly person laid on the bed – a woman, which Ruth assumed to be the man’s wife.
“My wife is very sick and I am trying to make her as comfortable as I can,” stated the elderly man when he noticed Ruth looking toward the woman.
Ruth walked over and placed her hand on the woman’s forehead. “Why, she is burning up with fever.”
“I know. We are both old and know our days are not much longer on this earth – only I wish I could go first, but, if I did, who would see about Sara?”
“Get me some cold, wet rags. We have got to get this woman’s fever down,” kindly ordered Ruth. “Do you have medicines of any kind?”
“I got her some willow bark, but we don’t have any store-bought medicines,” answered the man.
“Got any garlic, olive oil, or potatoes?”
“Yes, we grew some garlic this past summer and have dug our potatoes. They are in the shed”
“How about vinegar?”
“Got some of that, too.”
“Well, get me some garlic and whatever oil or lard you have. We will have to use that instead of olive oil. Peel me some potatoes and get the vinegar.”
Josh stood there, confused. What was Ruth thinking?
Ruth must have noticed his confusion, so she spoke. “Cloths with garlic and olive oil placed on the feet, slices of potatoes placed on the head and stomach, and vinegar and warm water rubbed into the legs will sometimes reduce fever.”
“How do you know all that?” asked Josh.
Ruth smiled. “We did not have any store bought medicines, either – or a doctor.”
Ruth volunteered to sit with Sara through the night, carefully doing what she could to make Sara comfortable. Suddenly around midnight, the elderly woman opened her eyes.
“How do you feel?” enquired Ruth when she noticed Sara was awake.
“I need Ben,” she answered in a low, weak voice.
Assuming that her husband’s name was Ben, Ruth shook him lightly and said, “Sara wants to see you.”
Ben rubbed his yes, realized what Ruth had said, sat up from his bed, “Is she awake? Is she okay?”
“Go talk to her,” replied Ruth.
Ben leaned over this wife’s bed and kissed her. Sara looked at him and smiled. “Ben, it is time. The Lord is calling me home.”
“No, my dear. I cannot go on without you. You don’t know what you are saying.”
“Yes, I do. I can see two beautiful angels standing at the foot of my bed that have come for me. Just imagine, Ben – going home to be with Jesus! I will be waiting for you over there.” With that, she closed her eyes and was still.
“Don’t leave me, Sara! Please don’t leave!” cried Ben as he fell to his knees.
Ruth felt for a pulse and put her ear to Sara’s chest, but could not find a heartbeat and saw that Sara was not breathing. “She is gone, Ben. She is gone.”
“No, no – she can’t be. Please, Lord, don’t let it be so.”
Josh took Ben by the arm and raised him up, put his arm around Ben’s neck and said, “She loved you, Ben. Now, show your love for her and let’s build a suitable box to bury her.” Ben nodded.
By dawn, the men had constructed a rough coffin from scraps of lumber, lining it with material that Sara had planned to use to make some clothing. Ruth dressed Sara in the best dress she could find.
Josh prepared the grave alone. He did not think it wise to let Ben help. At the sun rose over the horizon, the three stood around the grave with Ruth reading John 3:16 from the family Bible.
Josh offered a short prayer, “Lord, in your wisdom, you know best. We don’t understand why these things happen. Ben loved his wife, so please make her comfortable in Heaven and, please, help Ben.”
Ben fell to his knees and prayed, “Lord, I cannot live without Sara. Please don’t leave me here alone. I will never make it. Please, take me, too.” After he prayed that simple prayer, he slumped over. Josh reached to raise him up, but jerked his hand back quickly.
“I think Ben is dead, too.”
As Josh and Ruth saddled their horses, they left behind one grave. Ben and Sara had lived together for years and died together. Josh thought it best to bury them together.
“Well, this is one time I was not a hero,” said Ruth as they rode away.
“I would not be too sure about that. If we had not been here, what would Ben have done? Could he have buried her? I believe God sent us here for a purpose and we fulfilled the job he had for us to do.”
As the couple rode east in the bright blazing sun, Ruth looked at the clouds. She could have sworn she saw Sara with outstretched arms as Ben drew near to her. She turned to Josh and said, “Yes, the Lord knew exactly what he was doing.”
--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