Prairie's Children, Return to the West --- Chapter 4

 

Exhausted, Ruth collapsed at the edge of the tracks. In the distance, she could hear the whistle of a steam locomotive and realized a train would be passing by soon. She dragged her weary body further from the railroad. Although the thought had crossed her mind that death would be sweet, she did not have a desire to commit suicide, accidently or intentionally.

She had developed a fascination for trains, but now the puffing huge machine appeared to be a monster, ready to destroy anything in its path. Ruth watched with hate as it roared past, but much to her amazement, it began to slow down and eventually stop a few yards down the track. Strange!

 

 

Prairie’s Children

 Return to the West

Chapter 4

 

 By Starla Anne Lowry

 

 

 

 

Ruth discovered the difficulty of walking down a railroad in the darkness. Although there was only a half moon, it lit her path somewhat until clouds would slowly drift across the face of the lunar object. Broken hearted coupled with fatigue, she longed for daybreak or some sign of a house, hopefully occupied by friendly and concerned residents.

Her mind began to recall the renewed hope obtained through the prayers of the godly men in Birmingham, but now it seemed that devils had perched on her shoulder and were attempting to discredit her faith. Ruth’s mother had seemed to be a champion believer when it came to trusting God and Ruth wondered if doubt had ever crossed her mother’s mind. Whether or not it did, the faith of the young lady making her way through the darkness was severely tested.

Exhausted, Ruth collapsed at the edge of the tracks. In the distance, she could hear the whistle of a steam locomotive and realized a train would be passing by soon. She dragged her weary body further from the railroad. Although the thought had crossed her mind that death would be sweet, she did not have a desire to commit suicide, accidently or intentionally.

She had developed a fascination for trains, but now the puffing huge machine appeared to be a monster, ready to destroy anything in its path. Ruth watched with hate as it roared past, but much to her amazement, it began to slow down and eventually stop a few yards down the track. Strange!

She continued watching as a figure departed. It was a passenger train, but because of her disgust, Ruth had not recognized that fact. Maybe it stopped for her. Surely not -- particularly after the way she had been treated. Clouds that had overshadowed the moon had momentarily departed and could have revealed her lying beside the tracks. Ruth watch with curiosity as the figure came closer.

It was a clearly a woman, although not dressed in the elegant clothing of many traveling women of that era. She wore the modest dress of an ordinary housewife. As the lady came within normal hearing distance, she smiled and spoke.

“Hon, are you all right?”

“Well, as well as could be expected, considering I had to shoot my horse with a broken leg,” replied Ruth.

“I happened to glance out the window and thought I saw a body lying out here. I thought you were dead, but I had the train to stop anyway. My name is Phoebe Ann. My sisters call me Annie. What’s yours?”

“I am Ruth. Right now, I am on an important mission which would take too much time to talk about now.”

“Well, let’s get aboard the train,” suggested Annie. “If you don’t have money for a fare, maybe I can help on that.”

“Be mighty grateful, “ replied Ruth. “Am plumb tuckered out, but I have some money.”

“Good. Here, let me help you,” stated Annie as she helped Ruth to her feet.

With Ruth’s arm supported by Ann’s shoulder, the women slowly made their way to the train. Since Annie was only five feet in height, she struggled to keep her balance. The conductor, observing the difficulty, came forward to offer his assistance, too.

Glancing at the conductor, Annie said “Don’t worry about the fare. I will see to that.”

The conductor nodded his head.

Annie had a private compartment, so Ruth had an excellent chance to rest and regain her strength.

“Where are you from?” asked Annie when the couple were settled and able to rest.

Ruth replied, “Well, I was born and raised in Kansas, but my husband and I have moved to Alabama.”

“I was born in in Ohio, but have been traveling for awhile,” stated Annie. “Kinda resting right now after my accident not too long ago. Was in a train wreck and had to have some back surgery. Just now able to get around some, although I still have some trouble walking.”

“I never would have guessed, the way you supported me,” answered Ruth.

“I don’t think I could have gone very far until the conductor came out to help.”

The conductor stopped at the door. Looking at Ruth, he asked, “Now, how about my fare.”

“How much is it?” asked Ruth.

“Well --- Where are you going?”

Ruth thought for a moment and answered, “I don’t know. I don’t even know where I am now.”

The conductor shook his head. What kind of crazy woman did he pick up? “We are going to cross the Mississippi River soon on a ferry and we will be in central Louisiana, headed toward Tyler.”

“Okay, that will be find -- I guess,” answered Ruth as she handed the conductor the fare he required.

“So, you had enough money?” asked Annie. “Now, I am curious. What are you doing in this part of the country and how did the horse break his leg?”

Ruth began, starting with her rescue of her Aunt and capture of the criminals, carefully including all the events, including the kind preacher in Birmingham. She wiped tears from her eyes as she told about her intention of finding the kidnapers. Struggling with difficulty at times, her voice broken with tones of sadness and distress.

“And you have no idea of which direction they traveled?” asked Annie.

“I feel that this was ther first holdup and they are heading to the border. They came all the way to Alabama to commit their crime, thinking they would go back west and never get caught. Nobody would suspect where they came from.”

“How did you know they were from the West?”

“The way they talked -- the way they looked -- Oh, I don’t know how. I just know!”

Annie understood. There are certain things that a mother knows when her child is inolved. It has to be a God given gift -- given only to mothers. By her testimony, Annie felt that Ruth had a strong faith in her God and somehow had assurance He would lead her in the right direction.

The two women sat in silence for a few minutes, each with their own thoughts. Finally, Annie spoke first. “Where are you going from here? I mean --- you going on to Tyler, or what?

Ruth replied with a tone of sorrow in her voice, “I don’t know. I just don’t know. Maybe get off in Texas and see which way the wind blows.”

“Honey, do you want someone to go with you?” asked Annie. Pausing for just a moment, she added, ”I would be pleased to accompany you -- at least for awhile.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to put you out of your way. I will do something. I just don’t know what.”

“Oh, I was just going home. I don’t plan to get back with Bill anytime soon.”

Bill hadn’t been mentioned. Ruth looked at Annie for a moment, wondering whether to ask or not. Perhaps it was Annie’s husband, boy friend, or maybe just a friend..

“Who’s Bill?” she asked.

“Oh, I am sorry. William Cody, known as Buffalo Bill.”

“Oh, I never heard of Buffalo Bill.”

“Where have you been? Under a rock? Buffalo Bill has a wild west show. He thought people in the East would pay to see how the west was.'

She continued, "Let me introduce myself properly. My full name is Phoebe Anne Mozee, known professionly as Annie Oakley. I got the name ‘Oakley’ from ‘Oklahoma’. I helped Bill in his show. I can shoot a gun a little bit." Annie smiled at her last remark.

"Did you quit the show?" inquired Ruth.

“I am still recovering a little from the train accident, but I am well enough to travel. It will be a pleasure to travel with you if you want me to. I need to get out anyway. Be good for my recovery.”

“Oh, if it won’t put you out...”

“Not a bit, honey. Let’s get off the train as soon as we get into Texas and find some horses. If the ones who kidnaped your baby is headed toward the border, we need to go south. Have any idea where they may cross at?”

“I have no idea. The only thing I have pressed in my mind is how they look. I will never forget their faces. The only clue I have is two men and two women traveling with a young baby. I don’t know how far they could have gotten. All I know is they were in one of them horseless carriages.”

“Well, those things don’t go fast. Horses are much faster. I doubt them contraptions catching on for fast long distance travel,” answered Annie. “The problem is, can they find enough fuel or will they have to get some other kind of transportation? The first thing for us is to find some horses.”

The train began to slow down to stop to take on some water. Annie looked out the window and saw what appeared to be a small town.

“Let’s get off here,” she suggested, reaching for her luggage stored in a huge brown cloth bag. “It will be good to get into some trousers again. Besides, looks like you might need a bath and some clothing, too.”

“Oh, I have a couple of extra pair of pants,” replied Ruth as she picked what few belongings she had carried with her.

The two women exited the train and walked over to a livery stable and was met by a man who evidently shaved ocassionally, but his face had not seen a razor in a few days. He was chewing tobacco and his mouth and chin showed signs of it.

“We need some horses and we are not going to wrangle over the price and I know my horses,” piped Annie. The man looked at her small frame and wondered if the young lady knew as much as she claimed. Testing her knowledge, he walked over to an very old horse.

“Here is a nice buy -- only $75“ the man stated, patting the horse on the rump.

“Now, listen here -- I said I was not going to wrangle. That horse is too old and your price is too high. You are not going to cheat two sweet looking ladies. I want a good horse and your best price up front!” barked Annie.

“Sorry, that is the best I can do,” said the man.

“Listen, I am not going to steal a horse, but I intend to show you that I am not a tenderfoot.” Turning to Ruth, she asked ”Did you bring a gun?"

“Sure,” said Ruth as she retrieved her father's revolver from the items she had chosen for her trip.

“See that twig sticking up on that limb over there?” asked Annie in a sharp tone.

“That little ole thing? Sure. Whatcha gonna do -- a little gal like you gonna shoot that? I doubt you could hit the side of a barn.” The man was sure she was bluffing and would make some excuse when she missed it.

Annie did not aim. She pointed the six shooter at the twig and pull the trigger. She proved her point.

Turning toward the man, she said, “Now, I am not going to steal a horse, but I will give you your fair price for two good horses and I mean business.”

Annie knew her action was extreme and she could get in trouble, but she had sized up the man and perceived that knew when he was licked -- and she was correct. After a change of clothes and a bath for Ruth, the two women were riding southwest.

Looking around at the scenery, Ruth was astonished. “I have never been this far south in the west and never to Texas, but it looks like Alabama with all the trees and hills.”

“We will see the scenery change as we travel,” smiled Annie. “This is just the edge of Texas. Texas is a big state and you will see a big difference.”

Although born and raised on the Kansas prairie, Ruth realized she had a lot to learn about western geography.  As usual, her thoughts were on her baby. The women were moving quite a bit slower now, but had the kidnapers abandoned their slow moving transportation, too, and were also on a slower pace?  Ruth was determined that she was going to get her child back, even if she had to go to Mexico find it.

 

 

-- To be continued

The story continues on

http://www.fictioneer.org/content/prairies-children-return-west-chapter-5

 

 

Copyright 2010 by Starla Anne Lowry

 

Prairie's Children, Return to the West --- Chapter 4

WOW! meeting Annie was surely in God's Plan as she is one of the best known ladies of the era.

May Your Light Forever Shine

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