A Love So Bold
by Anon Allsop
The story continues - Hope you enjoy!
From a great distance away, it had been lost in the clouds. The closer the wagons neared, it loomed over the treetops and could be seen for miles and miles around. "Mount Hood," Gideon whispered in awe.
"That's a huge hill, Pa!" Cade chirped as he looked on between his parents, "Are we going to have to cross it?"
"Oh dear, I hope not," Hanna sighed fearfully.
"No son, we will skirt the south end of it and move on from there." He glanced at the both of them, "Next big stop will be the Willamette Valley!"
Hannah's head was as if on a swivel, "Do you mean... we're almost done?"
He held out his hand, "Whoa there, we still have a ways to travel yet! But yeah, we’re almost there.”
They stopped the wagons and the pioneer families stood in awe, admiring the towering mountain that loomed before them. "Sure is a big one!" Charles sighed as he walked up beside Gideon.
"Sure is," he replied, and then pointed out the trail they would have to take to go around the great colossus. "It'll probably be in our sights for four or five days."
Hannah stood and held Emma; Cade was between them, all were completely amazed at the sheer beauty of what was before them. Arden moved to stand beside Hannah, in a reverent whisper she spoke, "How could any person not believe in a Creator after seeing such beauty?"
"It takes my breath away," Hannah softly answered.
Gideon laughed, "The way you women are whispering, a fella would think you was in church."
Hannah pointed to the snow-capped mountain and spoke slightly sarcastically to him, "Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?"
He nodded, and then glanced toward Hannah, "Yep, I'm happily married to her, too."
Hannah's face reddened, but she had to smile. Charles looked at the both of them and rolled his eyes, causing Arden to giggle.
From a distance they heard a shrill whistle, reminding Charles and Arden to begin walking back to their wagon. Gideon gently put his arm around Hannah. "Come on, honey, Vance is a-wanting us to keep moving."
"That was him who whistled?" Hannah said as she looked toward the front of all the wagons, Vance was mounted on his horse and waving his hat to proceed.
Cade was impressed, “Gosh, he’s a good whistler!”
He then tried to whistle like he had just heard, but all that came out was a lot of air and spit. "Keep trying, son, you'll figure out how to do it soon enough!" Hannah said laughing, and she placed her hand to the back of his head and directed him toward their wagon.
Gideon stood quietly behind their wagon and lifted Cade and then Rachel up and into it. He set them gently inside, and then carefully took Emma from Hannah and placed her into it as well. He walked with Hannah back to the front and held onto her elbow as she climbed the wheel up into the seat. As she settled in her place on the bench, he climbed up and moved past Hannah to take up the reins that had been wound around the brake handle.
"Here we go. Hold on," he said, more as a cautionary warning than an announcement. The wagon lurched forward suddenly and the jolt had recoiled through all of them because of the severe angle that they were now riding down.
"Ugh!" Cade voiced as he almost fell onto his side, but managed to keep both Emma and himself upright with the assistance of Rachel. A few odds and ends fell from within the wagon and onto the floor; the children began to giggle due to their continued bumping into each other.
Hannah gave up holding her hand onto her bonnet, and gripped an iron rail on the side of the seat and its back to prevent her from sliding out of it. Behind her Rachel and Cade were making silly sounds but with each bump, and laughing, it sounded more goat-like then human.
"I will be so happy once we're on level ground!" Hannah groaned.
"Ruts from earlier wagons and rocks... they sure will jar a body!" he said frowning as he fought both the mules and the trail.
As the trail finally leveled out, Hannah looked behind her at the mess inside their wagon. With a sigh she glanced from it to Gideon, "It's going to take all night to clean up that chaos back there."
"I figure that Vance will be stopping up here a ways, there isn't more than a couple hours of daylight left." Gideon forced a reassuring smile at his wife, "I can give you a hand straightening up."
"Thank you, I'd appreciate that." She smiled, pushing a fiery red lock of hair back under her bonnet. She looked toward the massive mountain, "Well, one thing is certain; we won't need to search too hard to find sticks to burn for our campfire."
"Maybe we can throw in with the Blooms for supper tonight, I'm sure their wagon is as much a mess as ours is."
"That's a great idea; I'll ask Arden when we stop. Hannah placed her slender hands on her thighs, glancing back to see the children already beginning to put things back where they belonged, even though they were still moving.
Gideon also glanced back, then smiled at Hannah and whispered, "Those are two damn fine children, Hannah."
"Even Em is sitting quietly while they tidy up," she replied proudly.
"There's Vance," Gideon said as they approached the mounted rider.
"There's a nice meadow up ahead with a good stream that has clear ice cold water. We'll stop there for the night." He said as they passed, and then repeated it for the next wagon in line.
Finally the trail, which had been meandering through tall pines, rounded a great bend where it opened up into a quiet meadow. With their backdrop of the huge mountain and its snow-capped peak, Hannah drew in a breath. "Oh, it's so beautiful!"
Gideon worked to the edge and stopped near the small creek, set the break and stood up, high in the wagon. "I can't argue with you, Hannah...it's a beautiful sight."
He dropped to the ground and then turned back toward Hannah, helping her down. "Come on, young-uns, let’s get you out of the wagon too." As he was lowering them down he suggested they could help out by gathering up sticks and small limbs for their fire.
They took off in search, followed by Hannah calling out behind them, "Don't go too far, stay within sight of the camp." Both Cade and Rachel called over their shoulder, promising that they wouldn't wander off as they began to retrieve sticks.
Gideon handed Emma to Hannah and then moved toward the mules to unhitch them. He watched the beautiful redhead stand beside her powerful black thoroughbred once again, running her hand down his sleek neck and speaking to him softly.
"How's his wounds look?" he called out to her.
"Looks as though he’s mending nicely…" She leaned to inspect his wounds better. "Seems that he'll be okay. She smiled and moved Em close so she could touch Blackie's powerful flank.
Hannah walked toward the wagon and quickly changed Em, making sure that she was not exposed to the cold air for very long. As she was finishing up, Cade and Rachel returned for a second time to their camp.
Cade paused and watched Rachel place her sticks down. Then he turned to Hannah and asked, “Do you suppose that’ll be enough for the night?” His question surprised Hannah, not because he asked, but because he sounded so mature.
“It will be enough to get supper started, but we will need a lot more to warm ourselves by the fire.”
Rachel moved over and took Emma from her mother, “Do you think that Papa…Pa could play his fiddle for us tonight?”
Hannah shrugged, “It all depends on how fast we can get supper finished.” She carried her deep cast iron pot to the fire and pounded the rods into the ground so she could suspend it over the flame. As she worked, her mind thought to how Rachel had called Gideon “Papa”. Long ago she had told Hannah that she called her own father “Papa”.
The confusion she was likely feeling with how she wanted to act and react around Gideon and Hannah was obviously troubling the child. Sadly, it was one of those things that she would have to deal with on her own.
Gideon returned to the camp briefly but left again, this time leading Blackie over to his picket line. When he finally returned to the camp for the evening, supper was ready and the children were already eating.
He peered over Hannah’s shoulder as she was dishing him a tin, “I hope you’re hungry for rabbit stew?”
He laughed, “Always.” He took the plate and two biscuits from her, and then sat down on the ground near Cade. After pushing a couple of spoonfuls into his mouth, he nodded and pointed toward the tin with his spoon, “Sure is tasty, I like the potatoes cut up in there like you have.”
She stood and re-hung the lid back on the suspended pot, “That’s good, but savor them because it’s the last of that we have. We’re almost out of flour too…could be a couple of lean weeks before we get to where we can pick up more.” She hesitated as she was about to sit, “There will be another place that we can purchase more supplies…right?”
He shrugged, “I’m not sure, that is a question I’ll have to ask Vance about.” He pushed his biscuit into the natural broth, soaking what he could before eating it. “We’ll make do for the time being. We always have, we always will.”
She sat on a log beside Gideon, not far away Rachel was quietly playing with Emma. Hannah’s gaze panned across their camp, her eyes taking in each of them. They would make do for now; someday though, everything they desired would be theirs to have in this new land.
They finished eating in quiet; it was well after sunset, and Hannah was putting Emma to bed. Finally as Gideon was warming his fingers at the fire, Rachel slowly made her way beside him.
She stood quietly for several seconds before Gideon noticed her standing slightly behind him, without her asking he knew what she wanted. “What ya doing?” she asked.
Gideon smiled, “Just warming my fingers by the fire. You want to step in here too, I can move over a bit and give you room.”
Her hands were behind her back, she was in her coat slightly swaying, “Cold fingers, huh…”
He grinned, “Fairly cold.”
She crouched beside him and also held her hands above the fire, “I know what will warm your fingers up.”
“Not the fire?” he smiled broadly.
“No, not really…something better,” she quietly replied.
“What’s better than a warm fire?”
She looked down at the flames dancing along the wood, “You could play your fiddle for us, and I guess that should warm up your fingers.”
Gideon gave her a surprised look, “You know, that is a mighty good idea.” As he spoke, he looked toward the wagon, “I’m too clumsy and noisy to sneak into the wagon and get my fiddle. I’d probably wake Emma trying to get it out.”
She looked toward the wagon, “I’m as quiet as an Indian. I can get it for you.”
Gideon watched her walk to the wagon and slip in without a word; he glanced toward Cade who had been listening to their whole conversation. When their eyes met, the man smiled and winked at his son.
Cade smiled back, “Pa?”
Gideon replied as he watched Rachel carefully climbing from the wagon and returning with his violin case, “Yes, son, what is it?”
The boy sighed deeply, “I really like her.”
Gideon nodded, “I do too, son…I do too.”
There was a slight dusting of snow that greeted them the following morning; reluctantly Hannah crawled out from the warmth of their bed to begin breakfast. Gideon was already up, returning from the forest with an armload of wood.
“Oh bless you, Gideon; you have saved me so much time!” She caressed his back as he lowered the wood to build up their fire.
As he stood, he kissed Hannah and placed his arm around her, “How you feeling this morning?” She knew without words, that his concern was for her expectant condition.
She leaned into him, “Under the circumstances, I’m feeling pretty good.”
He dropped down and removed a couple of prairie twists from his pocket, tucking them into the sticks. “I’ll get this lit for you and then go on and fetch some water for coffee.” Striking a match he lit the twist, “Breakfast will have to be meager this morning, Vaughn wants to be heading out as soon as we can get ourselves around.”
Placing her diminutive hands on her hips, she frowned and tried to think of a breakfast alternative. “We’ve got some bread I made a couple of days back; I can warm it on the fire. I could even fry up some jowl bacon and we could make sandwiches.”
He smiled as he stood, “That’s the spirit.” He retrieved the coffee pot and a bucket from the wagon, “I suspect the children will be up in a bit. I think I’m hearing Emma stir.”
Hanna sighed, “I thought if I got up before the sun, I’d have a little moment of peace.” When she saw the smile on his face she tried to rephrase her comment. “It’s not that I don’t love them…I really do, more than you can imagine!”
Gideon held up his hand, a smile splayed on his face, “You don’t need to say any more, Love.” He kissed her and began to walk backward as he headed toward the tree line, “Besides, any person who is a parent would never fault you for wanting a moment for yourself.”
He turned around, and she watched him until he disappeared into the predawn darkness. She bent down to toss more sticks upon the fire, and then a noise behind her caused her to turn.
“Morning, Mother…” Rachel was directly behind her, “I heard you talking out here, and thought I would get up and help you.”
Hannah smiled at the youngster, gently caressing her soft face with her hand. “Thank you, Rachel.” It was the first time she could remember the girl calling her ‘Mother’. "I'll tell you what, if Em wakes up before I’m done here, could you see to her so I can get breakfast ready?" Hannah crouched down so she was face to face with Rachel.
"Sure, I can help you with Emma." She slowly returned to the wagon and quietly stood just outside, listening to every sound the infant made.
A small board was suspended over the back rests of two kitchen chairs, creating a make-shift table so Hannah could quickly slice the bread. As soon as she had finished, she began to flip the bacon in her skillet using a long fork.
The smell of the bacon cooking rousted Cade from his sleep; he yawned as he crawled down from the wagon, his hair in disarray. Rachel and he spoke quietly to each other for a minute and then she began to climb inside.
Hannah glanced up as he was walking to the fire, "Did you wake your sister?"
He shook his head and yawned, "No, she woke me up." He smiled and then laughed to himself, "Ma, do you know how she woke me up this morning?"
Hannah smiled after seeing his grin, "She was tossing her cloth doll at my face. She would hit my nose and giggle." He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to flatten it back down, "She did it about three hundred times before I woke enough to skedaddle!"
Hannah laughed and placed her hands upon her hips, "Three hundred times?"
He rocked back and forth uncomfortably, and then smiled. "Okay, well maybe it was about ten times."
"I thought so." She laughed and tussled his hair, and then she lightly swatted his bottom. "Get your morning duties out of the way. Your Pa says we'll be leaving soon."
It seemed even darker as they began their travel after breakfast that morning. Overcast gray skies hung low, and foretold of a cold rain or heavy wet snow to come. Behind them stretched Blackie and the remainder of the wagons, because it was the Shepherd’s turn to be the lead wagon. Gideon was quiet as their mules pulled them along slowly over the terrain; Hannah noticed and finally broke their silence.
"You seem awfully quiet." She spoke as she put up her bonnet, tying the ribbon under her chin. She adjusted the thick quilt over her lap, tucking it under her to keep out the chill.
His eyes lifted toward the mountain as he spoke, "We're fixin’ to be snowed on today, and I’m just hoping that it won't be too terrible." He bit at the end of his glove and wriggled his hand out. He put his index and thumb together and sort of closed his hand several times. "There's quite a bit of moisture in the air."
"Maybe it will just rain."
He sighed deeply as he worked his hand back into his glove, "I'm afraid rain would be worse... if it rains, it may freeze. It would make footing for the animals and folks on foot pretty precarious!"
Hannah quickly glanced back toward her big thoroughbred horse; a bad fall up here would doom any animal. She quickly closed her eyes, Gideon watched her until she opened them up again.
She replied, "I'm praying it'll be snow."
"Well, it looks as though you may have gotten your prayer answered. Look." He gestured with his head, she turned to watch great snowflakes the size of Indian Head pennies begin to fall.
Cade gleefully shouted, "Look Rach... it's snowin!" He was looking over his mother's shoulder at the snow; soon Rachel was peering over Gideon's.
"How much longer are we going to be close to the mountain?" Hannah finally asked.
"Too darned long..." He shook his head in frustration as the snow began to fall steadily. Nothing was said; the man and woman only exchanged a knowing glance.
Their dusting gradually morphed into a coating, and then became measurable. The entire time that Gideon was in the lead, he constantly glanced backward to see how far the last wagon was. Vaughn walked his horse beside the wagon, "What you keep looking for?"
Gideon sighed, "I've a bad feeling about this trail around the mountain." He glanced upward; Vaughn followed his gaze with his own. "I've heard tell of rocks coming loose, or snow that will completely trap a train in... some so bad, the folks had died."
Vaughn quickly caught his hat as it almost fell from looking upward, "You really think we'll have that much snow?"
Gideon shrugged, "We need to keep the wagons close, and one of them lagging behind too far might be cut off or lost if we do get into blizzard conditions."
Hannah watched Vaughn ponder on what Gideon had said; finally he excused himself and wheeled his horse toward the last few wagons. She studied her husband’s face for several seconds, "Do you really think we'll get snows like that?"
"I hope not, but being prepared might just save someone's life." He glanced toward her briefly, "You go on and get cuddled with the children. Keep them warm back there."
She smiled, "I'll be fine beside you..."
He looked down, and then directly at her, "If the wagon shifts, it could throw you out... I'd die if you were to be injured or killed. Please, go in the back with Cade, Rachel and Emma."
There was something in his voice, something that caused her to nod. Silently she slipped into the back with the children. Piled under blankets, she read to them, but her eyes were constantly glancing up toward Gideon. Often her gaze took her past him to the outside of the wagon where the snow was beginning to fall even harder.
By noon the next day the storm had intensified. It combined with a swirling wind, and created a necessity for them to find a place where they could wait it out. That single day turned into three, forcing the train to form a circle with their wagons and turning their stock loose inside the center for protection. Even ten extra oxen that had been trailing the team were safely within the protective circle of the train.
Their rations during the storm were meager; biscuits and dried meat were all they had to eat. Whipping wind prevented them from building individual fires of any substance, however as a group, once they had a large fire started, it was maintained by everyone within the train.
Eyeing the flames as they were pushed by the storm, Gideon feared the wind would carry a spark toward one of the canvas covers of the wagons and start a hellacious fire that they would have no hope of putting out. Thankfully his fear never occurred, as the wind died down shortly after dark on that first night. The snow however, kept falling as the temperature dropped, piling deeper and deeper with each day that passed.
On the third day, after the storm had finally moved on, the wind began to pick up again. Even so, the small train began the task of digging themselves out. It was a strange storm due to the fierce wind, in places the ground was scrubbed bare of snow; in others were massive drifts, taller than a man's head.
On top of the strangeness, by morning of the fourth day, it had grown unseasonably warm; so much so that Gideon had forgone his jacket and was hitching the mules in just his long sleeved shirt. Hannah stood beside him as he was pulling the strapping tight.
"Do you think the trail will be difficult to navigate?" Hannah asked as she held Emma. "I heard Charles say that we will have to be on the lookout for an avalanche... is that true?"
He sighed and leaned against the lead mule, "I reckon anything is possible." He glanced toward her and smiled, "Don't fret, Hon; I'll see we get through."
She placed her small hand on his arm, "I know that, Gideon. You have been seeing to our needs for a long time!" She looked toward Mount Hood, "It's just that we're so near..."
He pulled her close and kissed her, and then tapped Emma's button nose. "We'll push through this as we always do. You'll see."
Her beautiful green eyes were twinkling as she looked at him; behind them both they heard Cade and Rachel playing and tossing snow at each other. Gideon gestured toward them with his head, "Go on, see to them before they end up hurting one another."
The following week was fraught with danger and exhaustion. As the train would move forward, one of the men would precede with his horse and shoot into the snow that was hanging over the edge of the mountain up ahead. This would cause it to cascade down the side of where it could hurt no one. Then they would return to the train, move forward, and do it all over again.
In spots, the men were forced to shovel through the larger drifts so they might pass. It was back-breaking and labor intensive. Often when a wagon or one of their stock animals would get too far off the trail, they were forced to dig them out as well.
To Hannah, it seemed that there was no such thing as falling to sleep, you were either awake or sound asleep. Every man and older boy among them was exhausted, but they were making headway. She could sense their position to the mountain began to change.
Later that night as Gideon crawled into the bed after seeing to their animals, he found her huddled under a thick blanket. He cuddled close to her as she adjusted the blanket over them both. He instantly began to yawn; Hannah quickly asked him a question that had been on her mind, wanting to get it in before he fell asleep. "We're starting to turn south, aren't we?"
He nodded as he yawned, “Sure, we’re turning south a bit.”
Hannah placed her head upon his chest, scooting into him to soak up his warmth. “It will be good to finally be where we’re going, won’t it?” She turned her head and looked toward him, but his eyes were closed and his breathing was regular.
She drew the blanket up over her face and closed her eyes as well. Now wasn’t the time for talking, it was the time to sleep. She knew it, but that didn’t make it any easier. As she felt her body falling into a dreamlike state, she allowed the release of sleep to claim her. As she had experienced countless times before, tomorrow would come soon enough, and with it bring another day.
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