Prairie's Children, Home in Alabama --- Chapter 4

 

Although this will end "Home in Alabama", the story has not ended.  It is planned to continue under the title, "Return to the West."  That is why I did not state that it is a final chapter.

 

 

                                    Prairie's Children

Home in Alabama

Chapter 4

 

 

 

The virus seemed to be spreading across the valley as more and more families were affected. Dr. Smith had his hands full, traveling from house to house, so Ruth's assistance would surely be welcomed (or she thought it would). She remembered the heartbreak suffered when her parents had passed away and, being a young girl, how she had to take the responsibility of burying her father and mother – no one around to help her or comfort her in her grief. It was something she was forced to face alone.

 

She remembered the sorrow and depression when she left the old home place to venture out into a world she knew nothing about – no family, no friends – no one to care. Her thoughts of sorrow turned to a weak smile as she thought about the Lord looking down from Heaven and with loving concern sending Josh, her husband, to furnish the love which she so much desired. Now, she had a baby – another gift from a loving God.

 

Ruth did not know the fate of Mrs. Hill, but at least Mr. Hill would not have to face his problems alone. He was up in age, as well as Mrs. Hill and, according to nature, they may not have many more years left on this earth. At least, if this was Mrs. Hill's time, Ruth would be there to supply what help she could. Well, maybe this was not a deadly virus and, if that was the case, Ruth could join Mr. and Mrs. Hill in celebrating life.

 

As expected, Mrs. Hill's fever was elevated again and Mr. Hill was beside himself, not knowing what to do. Ruth went to work immediately to lower Mrs. Hill's temperature and, although it took some time, was very successful.

 

What have you got in the house to eat?” asked Ruth.

 

Oh, some corn, potatoes, and beans and the things you'ns brought. Mattie hadn't been feeling well for quite some time, so she didn't 'put up' very much last year – wasn't able,” replied Mr. Hill referring to his wife by name. “Got some ham and bacon in the smokehouse, though."

 

Ruth didn't think Mrs. Hill needed ham and bacon right now, so she searched the cupboard, the flour sifter that was attached to the kitchen cabinet and found enough items for a soup, mostly the vegetables Lolus and she had brought.

 

Noticing that the food was barely touched, Ruth asked, “When did you eat last?”

 

With hesitation, Mr. Hill replied, “I don't feel like eating.”

 

She was certain that Mr. Hill had not prepared any meals for Mrs. Hill, either, since he had not partaken of food for himself .

 

Checking what would have been the wood pile revealed no stove wood, so Ruth, without comment or criticism, found some old lumber and with a dull axe obtained enough to start a fire. Luckily, there were a half dozen matches available.

 

Ruth checked the chicken house and found a few eggs, so she begin to fry some eggs and bacon for Mr. Hill and made a soup for Mrs. Hill. She also discovered a little coffee and with what little flour she found, she baked some biscuits, using water since milk was not available.

 

Setting a very late breakfast on the table, she commanded Mr. Hill to “sit down and eat” after which she began to feed Mrs. Hill small quantities of soup. Being semi-conscious, it was quite a chore to slowly get enough soup into Mrs. Hill to give her a little strength.

 

Ruth did not sleep much that night. She sat by the bedside of Mrs. Hill, occasionally glancing at her and feeling for a temperature. At times, Mrs. Hill breathed normally and other times, she would go for what seemed to be a full minute before she would take a breath. Each time Ruth expected Mrs. Hill's breath to be her last.

 

Ruth was doing all she knew to do to keep Mrs. Hill alive. At regular intervals, she would give her patient a tablespoon of the concoction she had prepared from whatever meager herbs and spices she could find. At home, her parents never used a physician, simply because there was not any for 60 miles or so and that was a long distance for a horse and carriage to transport a doctor for professional medical care.

Ruth had learned a lot. Some of ingredients could not be found on the prairie, but somehow the family had always obtained what was needed to compound their own home-made remedies.

 

Ruth had just dozed off at daybreak when she was awaken by an old rooster, his feet firmly clamped to a fence rail, crowing at full force. Ruth smiled. It sounded like he was crowing, “Somebody's coming h-e-r-e”. That is what her mother always told her. She hoped it would be Dr. Smith.

 

She checked Mr. Hill. He was snoring and making such comical noises that Ruth had to laugh. However, he was a very sound sleeper, so a bit of laughter did not disturb him one bit. So, the thing to do was prepare some breakfast. She fried Mr. Hill only one egg since there wasn't but a couple in the cupboard a huge with a piece of ham and some more “water” biscuits. The coffee was placed on the wood stove to perk and Ruth went out on the porch to get some fresh morning air and watch the sun come up. She had warmed the pan of soup that was left over from the night before for Mrs. Hill.

 

The day drug on with Ruth trying to get some soup in Mrs. Hill's empty stomach. She tried to clean the cabin a little, but Mr. Hill kept getting in the way. Oh well, he was getting old and was concerned about his wife, although he had not done anything to take care of her – not that he did not desire to – just that he did not have any idea of what to do.

 

A very weary young lady, Ruth had returned to the porch about noon and sat in an old rocking chair. Mr. Hill, probably feeling somewhat guilty, was quietly trying to find some stove wood for Ruth. Ruth looked down the road and thought she saw – it was – one of those horseless carriages coming around a curve. The first one that she saw scared the horses.

 

Here it came. Putt – putt – putt – parking in front of the house. Out came a man that clearly had been wearing a black suit, but his coat was hanging over the seat and his tie was missing. It had been awfully hot.

 

Hello, I am Dr. Smith. Heard we had a sick woman here,” the man reported. He stopped at the steps to the porch, pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped his brow. “Been pretty busy the last couple of day – well, over a week actually.”

 

“Dr. Smith, am I ever glad to see you,” replied Ruth. “I have been doing the best I can.”

 

And who are you?” asked Dr. Smith as he cocked his head a little over to the left.

 

Oh, I am sorry. I am Ruth Fortson, a neighbor. Kinda figured that Mr. Hill needed some help with Mrs. Hill and, when I got here, I saw that he did.”

 

Dr. Smith stamped his right foot on the first step to knock off some dust and proceeded up to the porch. “Well, I am glad to see that we still have some good neighbors. This thing has been going around and everyone is excited. It is not life threatening if the fever is under control.” He paused – then asked, “Where is she?”

 

Right in here, Dr. Smith. I think I got her fever down.”

 

Dr. Smith put down his black bag, took out his stethoscope and listen to the heart. “Okay for an old woman,” he said. Next he used a tongue depressor. “Throat is kinda raw. Temperature is only a little high, though. I think she will be all right in the next couple of days. You a nurse?”

 

No, sir. I took care of my mother until she died with the plague in Kansas.”

 

Yeah, I heard about that. A lot of people didn't make it. You going to stay with her?”

 

Well, I was planning on it unless something goes wrong at home. I just had a baby, so I worry a little about it.”

 

Breast feeding?”

 

Yes.”

 

Who is it with and what kind of milk is it getting?”

 

Well, Aunt Lolus has a cow.....”

 

Nope, you need to go home. The baby needs natural mother's milk. That is my philosophy. I will get somebody go stay with Mrs. Hill – only be for a couple of days.”

 

Well, Mr. Hill doesn't cook....”

 

That old buzzard. Okay, I will send someone who can cook. How is the grocery situation here?”

 

Not very good.”

 

 

Didn't think so. This couple is too old to see about themselves. I will personally see that they are taken care of. They took care of folks back when they were younger. They deserve good care.”

 

Dr. Smith put his hand to his chin in thought. “I know what to do. They have three daughters and two sons. Thy will be took care of. I will see to it or get the Klu Klux after them.”

 

The mention of the Klu Klux caused a chill to run up and down Ruth's spine. She had heard about them, but did not know if they really existed. She had also heard that men in high office in the southeast were members, even some sheriffs. However, she held her tongue – did not want to cause problems. Dr. Smith must be a member.

 

If you will sit with her a little more, I will have somebody here by tomorrow,” said Dr. Smith has he put his instruments back in his black bag. “Meanwhile, here is some medicine for that fever and to make her feel better. Give it to her as needed. If that doesn't work, we will get into Sam's liquor.”

 

Dr. Smith winked at that last remark. Ruth didn't know that Mr. Hill had some of the best white lightening in the country.

 

Well, bye. And, thanks, for seeing about her. Nice to have Christian neighbors.” Dr. Smith placed his bag in his car, went to the front and turned the crank. The car started the first time.

 

Ruth stood there, watching him drive away. She had learned the first thing about real Christians. They help people when they are sick. Ruth realized what day it was – Sunday. She would ordinarily been in church today.

 

                                                   *******************************
 

 

The Oneonta jail was a single block building painted white consisting of three stories with one jailer on duty. The sheriff's office was in the courthouse, located about 150 feet from the jail.

 

Good morning,”

 

The jailer glanced up from his desk and saw a man and two women standing at the door. “What can I do for you?” he asked.

 

We are from the U.S. Marshall's office” stated the man as he flashed a badge, too quick for the jailer to get a good look. “We are here to pick up the two men who were arrested for holding up the bank. The government has decided to try them in federal court in Montgomery.”

 

Isn't that kind of unusual?” questioned the jailer.

 

Not really. We have already contacted the sheriff. He answered us by mail and we received this letter yesterday.” The man produced a letter that contained a signature similar to that of the sheriff.

 

The jailer read the letter, looked at the signature, and everything looked all right. “Okay, come with me and help me get them.”

 

The trio followed the jailer up the stairs, secured the prisoners, gave their farewells and departed.

The jailer went back to his work and did not notice the car or which direction the party went.

 

Good work, Bill,” said Jack, one of the prisoners as his handcuffs were unlocked. “That redneck jailer did not suspect a thing.”

 

You knew I was an expert at jail breaks,” smiled Bill. “Now, here is the plan. Susan and Charlene here will be your wives, so you will appear as normal married people. This time I will drive you to Birmingham, where you will travel to New Orleans. From there, you will work your way to Bisbee, Arizona, the best way you can.”

 

Wouldn't El Paso or someplace closer be better at crossing the border?' asked Bret, the other prisoner.

 

We have friends in Bisbee that will help you set up a new life in Mexico.”

 

"Our first time at robbing a bank, we get caught. Now, there will be wanted posters out on us everywhere", complained Jack. "If it wasn't for that, we would not have to leave the country."

 

It would be more like family if we had a child,” mentioned Susan.

 

I know just where we can find one,” answered Jack. “That hussy who captured us. I heard she just had one.  If it wasn't for her, we would be as free as a bird. I want to pay her back."

 

I would rather not mess with her again,” said Bret. “She is a wildcat, I hear.”

 

Don't worry. I think I know how to take care of that,” stated Susan. “Just get me there while Jack and Bret hide in the bushes.”

 

Following the instructions given by the Jack, Bill did not have any problem finding Grant and Lolus' home. Susan and Charlene knocked on the door, said a few words that Bill could not hear, went inside, and came out carrying the baby.

 

Easy as pie,” reported Susan. “The mother wasn't there, so we told the aunt that we were sent by the county to check out the baby because of the sickness going around. We looked at the baby and suggested that we carry the child to Oneonta to be seen by a doctor or nurse because she looked very sick. The aunt even thought that would be a good idea.”

 

The story was told to Jack and Brit as they headed toward Birmingham.

 

And the best part is that the mother is away tending to sick folks somewhere else and no telling when she will be back,” said Susan with a laugh.

 

 

_________________________________________________
 

 

  • To be continued with a new title, “Return to the West”

 

Copyright 2010 by Starla Anne Lowry

Prairie's Children, Home in Alabama, Chapter 4

Why, oh why do the bad guys want to tangle with Ruth? May Your Light Forever Shine

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