I never wanted to head west. I would like that to be known. That grand idea came half-cocked from that husband of mine. He never was a smart one. If I had a penny for every feather headed thing that man has done I would venture to guess that I could give even the richest of men a run for their money. I had made a great protest of the sudden uprooting, but I was informed that I had a woman’s mind and it was no mind for business. Not that my words ever carried weight in any situation, business or not. When Harry got it in his head to do something he just went and done it. There was never no talkin to him about nothing. Once he heard word of gold there weren’t no direction other than west, no matter what you told him. I never wanted to head west, so it is with Harry that I lay blame for everything that happened along the way.
My youngest was the first to go. She was the smallest little thing you ever did see. After she had passed I cradled her in my arms for hours twirling her little blonde curls around my fingers. Nothing in this life has ever existed that was as soft and as pure as those curls. When I looked at her face I saw the future that she would not have and there was a relief in my soul knowing that she would not endure the same hardships as those who came before her. She was too sweet for this world. As hard as I try I cannot recall a time when she looked more at peace as she did then. I held her there close right up until Harry finally took her from me. We was told that she must have gotten into the medical supply and found herself a curious thirst. The bottle of laudanum was nearly empty. She was three.
Two days later my second child went backwards off the wagon as we was movin along. We wasn’t even goin all that fast. Those wheels just rolled right on over him like he wasn’t nothin more than a rock in the road. They crushed the very breath from his body and he died almost instantly. I often wonder what it must have felt like to have life squeezed out of you all at once like that instead of little by little as the days pass on. I found him fortunate, in a way, to break at the weight of a wheel instead of at the weight of the world. I imagine that one is much less painful than the other. I do not wish this world on any man, friend or foe.
I would say that it was my oldest boy who had been dealt the worst hand. He suffered for three days after that rattler up and bit him. Most folks said they aint never seen anyone hang on that long after a snake took to ‘em. He always was a stubborn child though so it did not surprise me when he made an attempt to push on through the vomit, and the sweat, and the labored breath. I done what I could to bring him comfort in his final hours, but I do not know if it amounted to anything at all. In the end he was in and out of wakefulness and left this world long before his body finally yielded to the poison. I buried three children in two weeks.
Harry took to drinkin much heavier after that. He always was a cork popper, but before then he, at the very least, seemed to be able to find it in himself to leave the bottle for after breakfast. It troubles me to say that I have it in good faith that his extra enthusiasm for the drink was more due to his new found freedom than anything else. I found it curious that a man who seemed to find liberty in the death of a child was so fond of making them. I always tried my hardest not to get pregnant, but as I said before what Harry wanted Harry got. It wasn’t until we was a week from the land that was to be our home that he fell ill. He squirmed about clenching his belly for days. I always told him that drinkin would be the death of him, but what did I know?
Out of everyone I buried along the way on this dusty trail I think it was my husband who I found the easiest to kill. Not easy in a practical sense, as his suffering required a great deal of clean up, but easy in a way that he made it easy to say goodbye. I found that it was not difficult to pour poison into his bottle when I looked down at it through a discolored eye. Now, shoving my youngest boy off the back of the wagon took a bit more nerve, but I was sure he would go instantly as I had seen other children perish in the same manner. My oldest was pure chance. I saw the snake before he did. He walked right on over there just cause I asked him to. He didn’t even see it coming. I did not know that it would be such a slow and painful death as I was under the impression that a snake bite was quick and sharp and took you in an instant. That I regret deeply. My baby girl was the hardest one for me, but I have told myself that it is for the best and I take great comfort in knowing that her last moments were somewhere in a dream and no longer existing in this waking nightmare. I do not know where I will go or what I will do now that they are gone. Maybe I will set fire to the wagons tonight.