Friday, July 31, 2009

Busy with Nothing

Dear Lucy,

I read a poem a few days ago written by the late Master Sheng Yen, a Buddhist monk:

"Busy with nothing, growing old.

Within emptiness, weeping, laughing.

Intrinsically, there is no 'I'.

Life and death, thus cast aside."

I got caught on the "busy with nothing" part. It seems that I am usually unable to do that. Even when I think I am doing nothing, I find that I am busy. Sitting watching TV, I am often off in my thoughts. Reading, I can't concentrate. Sitting on the patio I am thinking about writing.

I do most things for others. I walk the dog mostly because she needs walking, not because I enjoy it. Or if I do something for myself, I feel guilty about it.

I have often scolded myself for the years that I didn't work when Anne and I first moved to Washington. But now, working on my new web site, I realize that while I wasn't working a paying job, I did do a ton of work writing.

I finished the first part of Contending for the Faith then. I wrote both of the other books that make up the three that are printed. I finished House of Cards and wrote the sequel. I pastored a church which included a weekly Bible study. That weekly Bible study included outlining what ended up to be nearly the whole New Testament. I wrote several short stories. I started the novel Gold Fever which is completely outlined and half written.

I found that, as my therapist told me, I don't give myself enough credit for what I do accomplish. So, pat on the back for me!

Yesterday, I realized what "busy with nothing" was. I took Lucy on my little scooter and we went to the lake. Not because she needed it, but because I wanted to do it. With no guilt, responsibility, the need to fulfill someone else's want or need, we just took a couple of hours and got busy with nothing.

I am sure there is more to that little line, and I am sure I will continue to ponder it and unravel it.

But right now, I am going to have a cup of coffee, and get busy with nothing.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heat Wave Hits Western Washington

Dear Lucy,
Finally, it looks like summer has arrived with a bang as we are in the middle of a heat wave here. Now, now, I know that those of my friends and family in the hotter states are laughing at my whining, but it hit a high of 97 degrees here yesterday.
We Western Washington folks for the most part, don't have air conditioning in our domiciles. We spend 11 1/2 months of the year in moderate temperatures and laugh at the thought of air conditioning most of the time.
Rain gear? We got it by the ton.
Cold weather jackets? Hardly ever even put away.
But air conditioning or sunglasses? You are joking. I haven't seen my sunglasses in two years. When I went on my trip I had to buy a new pair. They will certainly be lost before the end of summer.
So, we are buying fans or going to our storage units to get them out of moth-balls, digging out the shorts, searching for last year's sun screen we only used once, and sweating.
I can't complain really. In a couple of months it will be getting cold again, and raining, and the days will get shorter and the nights longer, and I will try and remember the time last summer I complained about the heat and swore I would put the sunglasses where I can find them next time.


Monday, July 27, 2009

A New Web Page!

Dear Lucy,
So, I have decided to start a web page with my writing on it. I hope I can keep it up. For those interested, it has the entire Gold Fever as it stands on it and will be updated as I work on it. Also, I will be posting short stories old and new as well as two other Novels written some time ago.
It will take time to get all this on there.
The web page taken from that old anti-drug commercial that shows the egg being fried and says this is your brain on drugs.
This web site is my brain on words. And so the name.
The address is:


How Guns Play with Boys

Dear Lucy,
Read a thought provoking article of a study done in 2006.

"In this ingenious study, 30 male college students were told they were going to take part in a taste sensitivity test using Frank's Red Hot Sauce. Participants were tested individually. Each gave a saliva sample, then half the men were asked to play with a pellet gun while the control group played the children's game Mouse Trap. Afterward, both groups provided another saliva sample. Then were given a cup of water with a single drop of hot sauce in it--they were told the drink had been prepared by the previous study subject--and they were asked to taste and rate the taste on a scale provided. The men were then left alone to prepare a new drink for the next subject by placing as much hot sauce as they wanted in a cup of water. They were told that neither the experimenter nor the next subject would know who made the mix.
The results: the saliva samples showed significant increases in testosterone in the men who had played with the guns compared to those who'd played the children's game. In addition, the high-testosterone men added more hot sauce to the water than those subjects who'd played Mouse Trap. In fact, the higher the testosterone level, the more hot sauce they poured in. These results were so stunning that the researchers examined whether aggressive hot sauce use diminished once testosterone levels were controlled. It did."

Makes one wonder if all them shoot 'em up computer games aren't raising up a new batch of warriors we could do without!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dear Lucy,
One of the toughest struggles I have been going through over the last five years, with Anne’s illness, our breakup, her death, Suzie’s son’s death and her subsequent arrival at my doorstep with a TV, $200.00 and a snoot-full of PTSD, is my faith in God.

As I question everything I have learned and taught to others as God’s desire that we have abundant life, I become fearful that I will lose my faith in God or that I will become so bitter toward God I will never recover. Surely, what I have been going through these past five years is not God’s idea of “abundant life’?

While reading a magazine called Spirituality and Health, I came across an answer to another traveler’s question about doubt:

“Belief, not doubt, is the enemy of faith, trapping you in a sacred ‘ism’ while
blinding you to the divine Is. Don’t erase doubt; embrace it.
Doubt, if it is allowed to ripen, strips you of certainty and awakens you to a compassionate curiosity rooted in a humble not-knowing that is the hallmark of mature faith.
Belief tries to shut curiosity down: no need to look at what is when you know
what is supposed to be. But faith thrives on curiosity, encouraging you to
embrace the unknown of the next moment without the baggage of the last moment.
So befriend your doubt, and give it free rein. Let certainty melt in the
fire of not-knowing, allow it to teach you how to live without certainty,
trusting in What Is, because there is nothing else.”

I had always been taught that as a Christian, my life was like a fishbowl; always being watched by Christians and non Christians to see if I will falter in my faith. Some preachers go on to say that Christians are the only Jesus they will ever see in this world.
That’s a heavy burden to carry.
So, gentle reader, as I fumble, fall, curse, waffle and question my faith in God and Jesus, be advised that I am not the poster-child for Christianity. The kind of Christianity that says everything is all right, can be explained by the Bible, or that has all the answers to life’s tough questions.
You are on your own to make your tough faith decisions, and that’s a load off my mind. :-)


Friday, July 24, 2009

Please don't Feed the Ego

Dear Lucy,
From "Words to Live By: A Daily guide to Leading and Exceptional Life" by Eknath Easwaran:

"Do not give the ego breakfast in bed; do not pack it a lunch; do not fix
its dinner; do not give it pocket money for buying snacks; do not even give it a
glass of water. Slowly, surely, the ego will lost weight, until one fine
day it will be nothing but a thin ghost of its former self."


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gold Fever

As the weeks went by, Sarah and Honorea Carter began to have a pleasant, if not a bit strained, friendship. While Honorea worked to be as pleasant as a spoiled rich girl could be, Sarah worked to make things as strained as a strong willed girl like she could be.
There was little time though for much of any real playing for the girls who, along with everyone else in the group, had to help unload and load the many wagons to hoist them up and over mountain ridges or pull and push them out of mud bogs.
Not a single day went by that a wagon didn’t break down, an animal get hurt or lamed, or a member of the company come down with Cholera. Life was tough on the long arduous journey.
Half way to Fort Kearny the company doctor died of Cholera, leaving the doctoring up to the women. Mostly up to Mary who had the best supplies of ointments and treatments, and whose expertise as a seamstress made her the logical surgeon.
“It’s just got to come off,” Mary said to Percy’s wife. Percy, a member of the company, had gashed his foot with a hatchet and in spite of Mary’s ministrations had developed gangrene. Mary had worried about this from the start knowing that Percy, who was a good 50 pounds over weight and had poor circulation wouldn’t take care of the wound properly. And so she began. Her first amputation of a human body part. And she had to have Sarah assist her.
“I don’t think I can do this Mother,” Sarah said as she watched Mary cleaning her knife by holding it over the fire.
“We don’t have a choice child,” Mary replied, her voice giving way to her worry. “If we don’t remove that foot, Percy will die.”
“But, we don’t know what we’re doing Mother,” Sarah pleaded softly, her face turning gray as she walked with her mother back into the tent where Percy lay moaning in pain and fever.
“All I know Sarah, is that we have to remove the bad part and then cauterize the wound. I will do the work, and the fellas will hold Percy down, I just need you to hand me the branding iron when I call for it.”
Percy let out a howl of pain as Mary poured whisky on his wound to sanitize it, and began cutting away the putrid green flesh. Mary unconsciously wrinkled her nose while two of the men holding Percy down, fainted, and a third man ran out of the tent trying not to puke as the stench continued to fill the already steamy, stuffy tent.
At Mary’s request, Sarah brought the red-hot branding iron in and handed it to her mother who deftly held it onto the now bleeding stump where Percy’s foot had once been. The heat of the iron coupled with the reeking burning flesh caused Percy to finally, mercifully, pass-out as the remaining assistants, choking and gagging, ran out of the tent leaving Mary and Sarah alone with their unconscious patient.
“That was the bravest thing I ever saw anyone do Mother,” Sarah said, suddenly seeing her mother in a different light.
“Oh, that’s not bravery darling, that’s fear,” Mary replied wiping the perspiration from her brow. “I just kept thinking about how I would feel if that had been your father lying there and me unable to help him. I would hope someone else would rise above the terror and help him. You see, fear can cause a body to do foolish things or honorable things.”
“And what you did was honorable?”
“I hope so. Just the same, it could have been foolish. I don’t know about cutting no foot off a man. All I know is that gangrene doesn’t stop growing ‘till it gets to the heart, so it had to go. The rest is in the hands of the Almighty.”
Just then, Percy started to moan and Mary got up to tend to him. “You should go get some sleep,” she said to Sarah, “I’ll watch him for a while.”
Percy survived the surgery and recovered enough to make it to Fort Kearny where he could get rest and hopefully join another group later. Mary and Sarah never heard what became of him and his wife thereafter, but Sarah learned a lesson that would follow her the rest of her life. A lesson about fear and bravery, and how if her mother could be that brave, so could she.

Elsie marked her stopping point in the diary and lay back in bed to go to sleep. She thought of Mary and how brave she had been (even if she did deny it was bravery), and how it so impressed Sarah.
It then occurred to her, in that twilight time just as the rational thoughts of the day give way to the dream state, that if her ancestor could reach down for some guts like that, surely, she could do her public speaking class.

Just Grinding through another Day

Dear Lucy,
As I sit here on my patio watching the sunset, I can't help but wonder how it is that I can be financially secure, not have to work right now, have lots of people in my life who love me, and still feel like I am just grinding through another day.

It's as if my brain has it in for me for it will not stop spinning the same CD (would have been record 25 years ago) round and round getting nowhere.

I love being gainfully employed and always have. But while being gainfully employed I resent not having the time to write, or meditate or just relax and watch the sunset or the dog play. Then, when I am not employed, I resent having too much time on my hands and being bored. I worry about when or where or how the next job will come when I need it. I wonder if God has planned this all along or if I am running amok and headlong into disaster.

Then I wonder what the hell I am doing on this crazy planet anyway and what difference does it make what I do, we are all gonna end up the same in the end. Dead.
Anne used to quote someone (I don't know who) saying, "We drop out of the womb and crawl across hostile territory toward the grave." Cheery eh? But essentially true.

So, I pull myself out of my funk and take Lucy for a walk and she romps and plays and acts silly and I forget for a while that the world is so complicated.

And I find that before I know it, I have ground through another day.


What would your Epitaph say?

Dear Lucy,
I was reading a magazine this morning and came upon a small article where the epitaph of a woman who lived in 19th century New England said, "She attended well and faithfully to a few worthy tasks."

I though about what I would want mine to say and came up with this:
"She made alot of people laugh, a few people cry and no people wish that
they had never met her."

What would yours say?


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hate to admit it, but I shopped at Walmart!

Dear Lucy,
I hate Walmart. Not because it's a bad place to shop, but because of its politics and horrible business practices.
But while in Florida I bought a little camera there because I got tired of lugging my still/video camera around.
The camera I bought was a cheapy that took digital pictures. It didn't have anything fancy and it fit into my pocket.
It was a piece of crap. Half the pictures I took would not show up on my computer even directly from the card, so I returned it to the Walmart here in Bellingham.
They didn't want to take it back because of course, I didn't have all the parts. So, I ended up exchanging it for another, better and more expensive camera.
So, I sold out for a brief moment and shopped at the "Big Box Store".
I will loath myself later. Right now I have a new camera to play with!!


You Meet the Strangest People at the Dog Park

Dear Lucy,
Since Suzie's surgery I have been taking the dog to the local off-leash dog park every day. She has a great time howling and playing chase with any and every dog that comes by.
I, on the other hand, am often stuck chatting with weird dog owners.
This one woman in particular was one of those overly holistic people. She was skinny in an anorexic way with a whiny voice, and proceeded to tell me all the woes her German Shepherd had been going through.
Then it was on to her cat who when it got sick was taken to an Acupuncturist and had needles stuck in its nose!
Now, I have owned (been owned by really) several cats in my life. I have had to clip their claws and shove pills down their throats and I am here to tell you, they never appreciated any of it and had no apprehension in showing me.
I can't imagine a cat sitting still and allowing needles to be stuck in its nose or anywhere else for that matter.
So, while relating this story to Suzie at dinner I said rather emphatically, "Ain't no one ever gonna stick needles in my pussy!"
And then I watched her try mightily not to shoot food through her nose as she laughed at me.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Pre-Diabetes. HUH?

Dear Lucy,
So, before I ran--stark raving and mumbling to myself--away from home I had gone to my doctor and had some blood work done to check my cholesteral and such. The doctor said my cholesterol was fine but that by blood sugar was on the high end of normal.
She suggested that I start living like a diabetic now, and said to get my blood checked in August again.
I didn't think much about it until I went to the bookstore after getting home and found books on Pre-diabetes. HOLY COW!
I don't know what my numbers are, but those books certainly got my attention, and I am really trying to learn all about diabetes now.
Mom became an insulin dependent diabetic when she was in her late 50's and so my chances are very high.
Fortunately, I have lost a lot of wieght in the last year or so, and walk every day so I have that on my side, but being vegetarian and trying to do a diabetic diet on top of it has thrown me for a loop. As a vegetarian I ate a lot of rice and pasta with vegetables and more cheese for protien. Can't necessarily do that with high blood sugar.
So, I am back to step one with my diet. I have started eating meat again in an effort to cut back on carbs until I know more about what and how to do a low carb no meat diet.
I had gone Vegetarian after reading lots of Buddhist philosophy of non harming other sentient beings. That and what I had read about how big of a carbon footprint a meat based diet is.
Going vegetarian was easy for me (was hard on Anne though!), I cooked meat for everyone else and didn't eat it myself. I took the mind set that I was expanding my culinary tastes by eating meat substitutes and I did very well.
But carbs??? Not so easy to change. They hide in seemingly healthy things like fruit and vegies. I think they are in just about everything save celery!
Now along with being Chief Cook, Bottle Washer and Dog Walker, I am busy being crazy, morose, sober and carb-onless!


Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Dear Lucy,
Sorry I haven't written lately but I am busy in my temporary role as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.
Suzie had her surgery last Monday and is recovering nicely, but she still can't do much at home but rest. That leaves me with all the house work, cooking and dog walking right now along with my full time job of being crazy and generally morose.
Suzie was walking Lucy twice a day usually 3 miles at a pop so Lucy is used to lots of exercise. I, unfortunately developed a new hemorrhoid while lugging my backpack around on my trip, that is the size of Mount Rushmore and feels like walking with a bowling ball up my ass, so am unable to walk Lucy that far.
Fortunately, we have a big off leash dog park a few miles away and I have been taking her there in the morning and then walking her about 2 miles in the evening.
The hard part about cooking is not the actual cooking, it's figuring out what to make. I can live on spinach salad with "fake chicken" myself, but doesn't work well with Dad or Suzie.
Of course Suzie was married to a Mexican man for 27 years and cooked Mexican food. Dad can't eat Mexican food and I don't cook Mexican food well so she has been struggling with cravings for hot and spicy. I bought her a bottle of Tabasco sauce, but it isn't the same.
As far as bottle washing, I LOVE THE DISHWASHER! Need I say more?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gold Fever

Elsie walked down the hall of her high school toward her 6th period class--Public Speaking. She had to rush, her sandals clicking and clacking on the cement as she tried to beat the ring of the bell and a tardy slip. Her “quick” stop to the restroom to vomit, turned into a much longer trip of vomiting and crying.
She loathed even the thought of public speaking, and now she was having to take a class in it as part of the requirements of Freshmen. And her first speech was due today--right now.
As Elsie walked through the door, the bell rang and she grabbed the nearest desk to where she was standing. The room was filled to capacity, that of 35 students, every desk being taken and every face looking excited, or nervous.
The teacher, Mr. Blackburn, had been teaching forever by the look of sheer boredom on his face along with the red pressure marks of his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Probably a World War Two vet. Probably got through college on the GI bill that was so popular after the war. Now, he was just happy to be teaching for minimum pay, and raising his post-war baby-boomer family.
“Today as you all know,” he said with an air of propriety, “is speech day. I hope you all have come up with a startling new issue to argue before the class, for you have to speak for two minutes each.”
Mr. Blackburn took his seat with his clipboard and red pen, and began calling out victims. He had mixed the names up to keep the class at the ready. Elsie could feel her stomach clench each time a speaker finished and sat down.
Sean Carter, captain of the freshman football team and son of Sean Carter Sr., heir to the Carter Emporium, the biggest high-end department store in Union Square, was up and speaking on the unfairness of curfew the night before a big game. When he finished his two minutes, Mr. Blackburn clapped unenthusiastically.
“Leave it to Mr. Carter to argue something as inane as curfew for football players. Well Mr. Carter, you have underachieved again. Next,” Mr. Blackburn said looking over his glasses to his student list, “we will hear from Elsie.”
Elsie shuffled to the front of the class and stood behind the podium. Setting her notes up, she cleared her throat, looked out at the room full of people and froze. “I,” she hesitated and then coughed, “I think that compulsory public speaking class for girls is wrong.”
Mr. Blackburn looked up from his ledger at Elsie and raised an eyebrow.
“That is,” Elsie went on, wringing her hands and shifting her weight from one foot to the other, “it should be an elective like home economics or wood shop because most girls like me will never need to make a public speech. I mean, I plan on getting married and raising a family. What do I need public speaking for? It’s a man’s job to make speeches, like President Kennedy or Martin Luther King.”
Elsie shuffled her papers once again, cleared her throat, and looked at Mr. Blackburn who’s face was a violent red. “That’s all I have to say,” she said meekly and hurried back to her desk in the back of the room.
Mr. Blackburn had nothing to say in front of the class about Elsie’s speech, but he kept her after class for a teacher-student discussion.
“I just wanted to say that public speaking is wrong for me, Mr. Blackburn,” Elsie said hoping he wasn’t going to give her detention and get her into trouble with her mom and dad, “it’s wrong to make someone do something that’s going to make them wish they were dead.”
She knew she had done it now. Gave a World War Two vet an opportunity to pontificate about having to do something they don’t want to. And she was right. The talk went on for several minutes, Mr. Blackburn ending the sermon with the old, ‘you gotta reach down for some guts or you will get no where in this world’ line that he was known for.
Trouble was, Elsie didn’t know if she had any guts to reach down for. Or if she did, what she would do with them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bon Fire on the Beach!

Pops at the Beach

Suzie. Either I caught the light just right or she was very holy today.

Lucy (my eyes were closed!)

Debbie, Suzie, and Jeri
Dear Lucy,

Had a great bon fire on the beach yesterday with Suzie, Dad, Debbie and her friend Jeri. Of course all the dogs were with us and the weather was great.

Suzie was introduced to Smores which she ate heartily. Dad got to get out of the apartment for awhile, Lucy met Jeri's dog and got to play with Debbie's dogs, and a good time was had by all.


Monday, July 6, 2009

I Loved New York!

Dear Lucy,

Getting on with my story of getting home, I had the option of going from Jacksonville Florida to DC or to New York city before heading to Chicago. Having done DC on the way to Jacksonville, I opted for NYC.

Unfortunately, because of the delay in Jacksonville, I had less time than expected in NYC. I ended up at Penn Station (most would figure Grand Central Station) in Manhattan. I only had a couple of hours lay-over and so I didn't even check my backpack in. I just wore it.

I have to say that I felt more comfortable walking around Manhattan than I did walking around Florida. I blended in (even with a backpack on my back) and everyone else was so busy they didn't even take a second look at me.

I walked to Times Square and looked at all the "pretty lights", tried not to just stare straight up at the tall buildings like some tourist out of hick-town, ate a hot dog from one of those sidewalk stands and walked back to the station. I had time then to sit on the steps of the post office across the street from the station and watch the people and listen to the taxis and the busses play duelling horns with each other.

I would love to go back and spend time there (though I am not big on "sight seeing") and just hang out and be a New Yorker for a while. Maybe some day.

Back on the train, we headed up the state and even through Utica New York, the birthplace of my first partner Cathy (who spells her name with a C but I still loved her!). The area was very beautiful, but what I could see of the town from the train looked very small and economically depressed. Lots of old brick buildings that looked like factories now unused.

After Utica, it was nearly dark and time to roll back up in my sleeping bag and get some shut-eye. Thank God this train was a bit warmer!
The picture is of me sitting on the steps of the post office. I call it, "Nose Hairs in New York". I think it has promise of becoming a Broadway play!


Back on the Wagon

Dear Lucy,

I haven't written lately and you can blame that on the weather. It is not often that we have sunny, hot weather before July 4th, and in fact, most July 4th's I have experienced here in Washington have been rainy.

But, today is cloudy again with a chance of rain for the next 4 days. Ah well.

Since coming home I have made the decision to get sober again. I "went out" 3 years ago after 15 years of sobriety.

It isn't so much that I am drinking too much. It is more that I am drinking for the wrong reasons and that I am afraid it is having an effect on my ability to get through all this grief.

So, I have been going to AA meetings again right now for the stability that they provide. It gives me a place to go every day if need be where being squirrely is the norm. Where being depressed, angry, unsettled, and just uncomfortable in my own skin is understood.

Taking this step brought with it many other steps. I am having to avoid those places and people who may trigger my drinking, and that is difficult to explain to friends. I am having to be really honest with my feelings and diligent to not just get on my usual track of stuffing my feelings, putting on a happy face and faking it just to make other people comfortable.

I am back to living, "One Day at a Time".


Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Love my Sleeping Bag

Dear Lucy,
So I haven't started to tell of my trip home from Florida.
I had Donna drop me off early as I was concerned about getting my bicycle on the train. Good thing I did.
Of course, I had to take the pedals off and turn the handle bars perpendicular to the bike and put it in a bike box, blah, blah, blah. It was fine as checked luggage from Jacksonville to Seattle, but because I then had to take a bus from Seattle to Bellingham, and it didn't have checked luggage, everyone at the train station started getting nervous.
After many phone calls they got it all straightened out and the bike was fine and all was well with the world.
The train was an hour and a half late getting in to the station.
Taking the train, I knew I would have to deal with it being late alot and have taken it in stride so far. The thing that bummed me out this time though was that this meant that my 3 hour layover in NYC would be cut short and I wanted to have time to walk to Central Park and see the John Lennon memorial. It didn't happen, but then that's another story.
I got on the train and they had the air conditioning on full-blast and it was blowing right at me.
I felt like Nanook of the North freezing to death in my shorts. I made my complaint but was told that they would have to turn the AC down on the whole car and looking around at the other people, I decided that I wasn't going to risk their wrath.
So I get my jeans out and proceed to the bathroom to change into them. It was like trying to change clothes on a roller coaster. You just can't beat that for cheap entertainment and the opportunity to brush up on those rusty ballet moves!
In the end, I had to break out my sleeping bag and cover up in it up to my head.
My sleeping bag gets the MVP (that's Most Valuable Player for those of you who don't watch baseball) for the trip. It was the one item that I almost didn't bring, and yet used the most.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gold Fever

The small family started out for California a year after Sarah’s father Jacob convinced his Uncle Vernon to lend him three thousand dollars. Uncle Vernon, a stodgy, life-long bachelor, had money stashed in his mattress, money he swore he would use come some rainy day. But Uncle Vernon didn’t like adventure as much as he liked his old stuffed chair and pipe tobacco, so he was willing to live his dream through Jacob, provided Jacob promised to write often and keep a journal.
So Jacob took that money and began purchasing supplies, while his wife Mary packed up what little they had left in the way of worldly goods after selling what they could and giving away what they couldn’t.
The one thing Mary couldn't give up was her Singer sewing machine. Mary loved to sew and had made all of Sarah’s dresses from the time she was a baby. She also mended the family clothes as well as taking in odd mending and even some tailoring jobs, mostly for Uncle Vernon who’s girth seemed always to be ahead of his clothing alterations.
Jacob scoured the town for buyers of his farming equipment, spending several months negotiating and trading for the supplies he would need for the journey. The tough part was knowing what supplies to get now and what to hold off on until they got their wagon in Independence.

Jacob hired three spaces on a ferry heading out of Jefferson City Missouri right on the Missouri River, landing in Independence two days later, and the start of Indian territory. That’s when Jared Bartlett took ill with cholera and died right there on the boat. The group stopped off for a quick burial, Jacob wrote a letter to Bartlett’s wife, and left it at the post in Independence.
Jacob planned to stay in Independence for three days while he gathered supplies, but God’s will kept him and his family for nigh on a week waiting for the rain to abate and the trail to dry. In the meantime, he bought supplies, and packed and repacked the wagon.
Jacob sold several horses at home and used the money to buy four head of ox as he figured it would be stronger on the trail and easier to feed. He also purchased a small but sturdy wagon they call a “Prairie Schooner”, from Jed the local craftsman who had originally made it for a man named Thomas and his trek out west. Thomas never even made the start of his trek. Died of cholera before he even hitched up a mule.
He also bought a pick ax, and a rifle, neither of which seemed of much use to us in our little town, but came in real handy out in the wilderness. Jacob practiced with the rifle for two days trying to shoot a bottle from twenty yards and fared horribly.
Beyond that he had to purchase a shovel, tent, two lanterns, pants for Jacob made of flannel and coats made of canvas and waterproofed with linseed oil. In Mary’s medicine bag she brought hot drops, peppermint sauces, blister plasters, sticking salve, laudanum, and tincture of bobelia.
Barrels of flour, sacks of sugar, cornmeal, salt and coffee also laden the little wagon that is nothing more than a bed, a box of some 9 or ten feet long and four feet wide, some running gear made of well seasoned hickory, and a canvas top. It had no brakes (or springs), and so the men tied chains around the rear wheels to lock them up when riding down a slope.
Two fights broke out in the week Jacob, Mary and Sarah were in Independence, one of which left an opening in Providence Company for there little wagon. Seems, one Samuel decided to usurp leadership of the company due to his time spent in the army some years back. Shots were fired sometime near midnight, and Samuel fled his wagon and as much provision as he could stuff into it. Oh, and with a bullet hole in his thigh. Some expected they would run into him somewhere on the trail. Since Jacob had the money to repurchase the lost supplies, his family became the logical choice for Samuel’s replacement.
The second fight broke out two days later among the men of Wild Badger Company, a company which disintegrated completely when William, the leader, was shot dead in his wagon, apparently the result of a bad gambling debt in town. Without William to lead the company, those left would not go, not trusting his myopic second man.
Providence Company finally set off on April 16 of 1850, a bright sunny morning after what locals swore was the last of the heavy rains. The morning started out cool and moist, but soon gave into the sun’s rays, the heat causing the tent canopy’s to sweat and steam. Sage brush covered the entire area for many hundreds of miles, its pungent pollens tickling Sarah’s nose and causing her eyes to water furiously.
She warmed up to the excitement of the trip from the time the family began, being always the one who saw the fights break out first hand, the one ever on the alert to spot a new kind of bird or animal, and the one always ready to lead the other children into adventures in the group.
“We weren’t getting into no trouble,” Sarah said to her mother as Mary dragged her by the ear to their wagon, “we were just playing cowboys and Indians.”
“That’s not the kind of game you should be playing out here where there are real Indians Sarah, besides, it isn’t lady-like to be playing with all those boys.”
“Who wants to be lady-like? Those silly old girls of Mr. Carter’s are just spoiled babies who want to play afternoon tea. It’s boring.”
“Boring it may be,” Mary chided Sarah as they sat down to make supper, “but it’s safe.”
“Are we ever going to see any real Indians Mother? With their faces all painted up, and riding bare-back on their ponies?”
“Child, what an imagination you have. Let’s hope we don’t meet any of those savages. God knows what they would do to us.”
“Mother, why don’t we eat the food that the other people are eating?”
“Because you have seen Tiny, the cook, he’s filthy. And always drunk. I dare say, I am surprised he hasn’t caught his cook wagon on fire. Nearly fell into the fire this Sarah looked up from her work just in time to see Mr. and Mrs. Carter with their daughter Honorea heading their way. “I’ll go into the wagon and get the flour,” Sarah spurted out as she ran for the wagon.
“Evening,” Mary said rather more sternly than she would have liked.
“Evening,” replied Mr. Carter. “We have come to invite your lovely daughter Sarah over to help us celebrate Honorea’s birthday.”
Honorea promptly spotted Sarah peeking out from the tent and stuck her tongue out at her. Sarah promptly replied in like kind.
“It isn’t going to be anything outlandish, just a slice of cake and some songs,” Samuel Carter went on, his wife nodding her head in approval, “it’s just that, there aren’t any other girls her age to celebrate with you know.”
“Oh I understand Mr. Carter,” Mary said, as she turned to walk toward the wagon and get Sarah.
“I don’t want to go over there,” Sarah hissed to her mother from behind the wagon tarp, “They’re so stuffy.”
“I know they are a bit uppity Sarah, but they are our traveling companions. I think you should go. She’d be delighted,” Mary said a little to cheerily. “I’ll send her over presently.”
Sarah let out a very audible groan.