Sunday Scribblings: A different time in history

A Prairie Life
Leaves, golden and spade-shaped, fell with the hubris of a light rain shower; he paused in his deliberations to watch the shower, leaves falling into his unkempt hair, swept up against his mud-caked boots.
Fall announced its intentions boldly, raking to nakedness the only tree for miles – the old cottonwood that stood at the bend in the creek – with a chilly breeze that carried on it the promise of frost.
He’d done much since he arrived on the prairie that spring, building a house of sod, a stable where the horse and cow could be contained – it opened onto his home’s 14-by-16-foot room that was lit with one oil lamp and the two window frames he’d brought West.
The pot-bellied stove would keep the house warm this winter, fueled by the buffalo chips and manure from his stock, as well as the stack of polished-white driftwood he’d scavenged from the creek. On the floor, under the thick carpets that once covered polished wooden parlor floors, was sand from the creek, tamped down and smoothed with a rake. He’d have the most level floor on the prairie, and smiled at his ingenuity.
He’d paid too much for the rough-sawed lumber for the roof, but made up for it by trading one of the rocking chairs for enough tar paper to keep the roof leak-proof. He’d relished the barter, feeling his oats, as it were, in coming out ahead, confident.
Where the plow had bit into the prairie to provide the bricks for his home, the fall stubble of a garden lay in fallow. Everything used, used up, or like the corn stalks, dried for kindling.
Even though it wasn’t proper, he pulled his shirt over his head, still buttoned, and readjusted the suspenders of the pants he’d have to again take needle and thread and adjust down. He ran dirty fingers across the chestnut-colored hair on his stomach, marveling at how the muscles twitched at his touch. There was no more of the fat of eastern living, just brown skin and the sinew of muscle.
He walked to the top of a small rise that marked his eastern windbreak and scanned the open prairie. He was a new man, a stronger man. No longer bed-stricken with consumption when his mother told him so, no longer taking orders from his father, his wife. He turned to the soddy and his heart swelled at what he was able to accomplish on his own, alone on the prairie.
Yet a single tear ran down his face. Not a product of the biting wind, but the for the memory he allowed himself every so often. He whispered a prayer that carried on the breeze.
A prayer that offered The Divine a thank you for the life he’d been given.
And a prayer for the memory of the wife and child, a quiet damnation of the scarlet fever that took their life.
And drove him into the Great Plains, alone and in pain.
And to this, his salvation, these 160-acres.
He crossed himself and bowed his head as the wind send another torrent of dried leaves that pelted his bare skin.
He never before had felt this alive.


Anonymous said...

Nice piece.... Hey, I'm changing to "Snarky Pants" this week over yonder, you know where. Then I'll pimp your profile.

- Wing Gal ;-)

Quin Browne said...

i knew this was the time and place you'd write about! so nicely done... i'm feeling it. in fact, i may have done okay with a good roof and a firm, level floor.

or not.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this.You so clearly belong there.

susan said...

You spin even a hard, labor-intensive existence poetic. Well done.

tumblewords said...

I so enjoyed this story - you write a fine tale!

Stan Ski said...

Such detail really took us there with you.

Sweet Repose said...

Funny what a few acres and determination will accomplish and perhaps a tear of joy and pride.