Unlike Any Mother’s Story

Submitted for Contest #20 in response to: Write a story about a day in the life of a mother.... view prompt

Submitted on 12/20/2019

Categories: General

Selling the cow’s been difficult, she thought, but we had to have the money. Times are tough.

In August of 1877 in the Wyoming Territory, the Nez Perce Indians were at war with the U.S. Army, who pursued them. Some settlers were casualties of the conflict as the Indians retreated toward the Yellowstone area. It was not far from where the Campbell family had settled.

Maddie tried to nurse her infant daughter at her breast, but the milk was slow to come back. Maybe in a day or two, I’ll have enough again for Dorothy as she smiled down at the fussing infant in her arms.

The baby girl was an answer from God after Maddie bore four sons. Ned, her husband, said it was a blessing to have the boys to help work their farm. It was a large parcel of land that belonged to the Indians until recent years. Sons were useful.

Ned insisted his sons be named Mark, Luke, John, and Matthew, as found in the Bible. Ned was the religious one. Maddie’s background was a New England socialite that fell in love and followed her man’s dream west. Ned Campbell’s father was a preacher before he died back East.

“Oh, Mark,” she said to the oldest son, “please go check on the fence around the garden and make sure the critters can’t get in. I heard something out there last night.”

Maddie rocked a bit slower as Dorothy was quieting down in her arms, she spoke more softly. “And, Luke, go help your brother Matthew in the bedroom with his school work. I heard him making sounds like he can’t do those math problems.” She watched as Luke got up dutifully and went into the bedroom of the little cabin.

John walked in from outside, and she remembered him working on the corral fence today. Ned was out hunting small game with their only horse. Their crops were sparse this year due to dry weather, and things were not looking all that good for winter.

“That’s right, little one,” she cooed, as the baby was sucking and trying to get enough milk to satisfy her for now. “Just keep on. Mama will have more real soon,” she said, rocking even slower now that things were getting quiet.

John glanced at his baby sister as he passed on the way to the counter and a dipper full of water to quench his thirst. “It’s a hot one today in the sun,” John said, wiping his brow.

“I know, son, I’m glad for the breeze through our cabin, but it’s starting to warm up in here as well,” Maddie answered.

“I wish Paw woulda taken me hunting with him. I never get to go. Always one of my older brothers gets to go when he does take someone.”

“He’s hoping for larger game today,” Maddie said, increasing her rocking speed a bit. “That’s why he went alone. Our horse can just carry so much if he should get a deer today.”

John had just walked outside when Maddie heard Luke and Matthew arguing in the bedroom.

“Don’t be a dummy, Matthew, just do like I tell you and work the problem that way.”

Luke’s high pitched voice was more shrill, “I can’t do it. I don’t understand it at all. How can I learn how to solve the problems if I don’t understand?”

“I’ve told you a hundred times. Just write it out, so you do understand, and then start working to solve it,” and a slap was heard.

“Maaaa, he slapped me on the side of the head. I didn’t do anything.”

Maddie smiled a little, but then with a more serious look on her face, arose holding the baby to walk into the bedroom and try to soothe some feathers. It could be tough for a parent to teach math, but much more difficult for a less willing older brother.

Walking into the room, “Okay, boys, enough study time. I think it’s time to go outside and run off some energy and also help John work on the fence. You need some outside time.

Maddie was an old hand at being a drop of water on a dynamite fuse, putting out the fuse before there was an explosion. That’s what mothers do.

All the boys outside, the cabin was quiet again, and she resumed her seat in the old wooden rocking chair. As she rocked, she closed her eyes and tried to remember the births of all of her children over the years. Not all of them were born in the cabin under such primitive conditions, but she was thankful that all her babies had survived childbirth.

Ned was not educated at mid-wife duties, but when you have to help the birth of one of your children, and no adult is available for miles, he had learned what to do. He was proud that he had assisted the last three of his children into the world.

The sun was dipping towards mid-afternoon, and a wagon pulled by a team of husky horses peaked the hill from the canyon onto the flats of their farm. Maddie did not notice, not even as it drew closer, past the corral fence and finally to the front door, coming to a halt. The wagon had some empty wooden boxes in the back. The man carefully placed his Winchester rifle against the wooden seat and tilted his six-gun backward on his hip as he climbed down.

“Hey, Maddie. Maddie, are you in there?” No response, and all was quiet at a tomb. The man climbed the steps and knocked on the door. “Maddie, you in there?”

After no answer, he tried the door, and it opened. He glanced across the large room and saw Maddie in the rocking chair, rocking the baby at her breast.

“Oh, I’m sorry to come in while you are, eh, with the baby.”

Maddie showed no expression and seemed to be staring into space in front of her.

Speaking a bit louder, since Maddie seemed to be in a trance, “I’ve got some boxes to help you pack. The stage will be leaving to take you and the baby back east to your relatives, but we do need to pack and head to town before dark.”

Still nothing. Helping her up by the arm, she gradually rose, still staring straight ahead.

“Maddie, it know it’s been terribly hard on you since Ned and your boys wuz killed by the injuns a week ago on their way to town. But you got to leave now, This is no place for you to stay. You don’t even have a cow anymore for milk for you and the baby.”

She turned and looked at him as she finally seemed to hear what he was saying. She put the baby in the cradle and allowed the rancher to help her to the bedroom to pack.

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3 comments

John Carson
03:38 Dec 30, 2019

I was drawn in from the beginning and I did not see the end coming. Speaking just of the story I was impressed with its originality and imagery. Except for a few very minor wording issues-did they use the term Math in those days?-and That's what Mothers Do-should it be DID? A good story well told.

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Kyle Johnson
00:31 Dec 30, 2019

I like the story a lot once the husband and sons enter, though the material before that seemed somewhat irrelevant or not utilized as much as I was expecting. The history of the Indians fighting with settlers is a rich/loaded history to invoke and draw from. Really liked the twist at the end. The imagery throughout was well done.

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M.d. Smith
16:48 Dec 23, 2019

I'm curious to know if you saw the ending coming and if so, at what point?

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