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Historical Fiction Western Christian

Trampled Dreams Part 2

(Second half of first chapter in my unpublished novel “A Brilliantly Scathing Life”)

As he rode away from Kendra Potter's wagon party the trail leader mulled over who masterminded that outfit. Surely, not that greenhorn who got himself thrown from his horse this morning. He wondered why anyone who had obviously put so much forethought into travel accommodations had overlooked common sense things like foot and head wear.

And why did her widow garb already look so tattered? He was pretty sure the shawl had been cut from the bottom of her dress because her dusty petticoat was much longer. You make do best you can out here. Guess she was a proud Southerner trying hard to still be proper.

That dandy husband of hers sure wanted you to believe he was so much better than you. Such a reckless stunt he was trying to pull rearing the horse up to spin around among so many strangers the beast wasn't used to. No wonder the horse panicked and threw him to his demise!

Yet he really couldn't judge her the same. The couple didn't even seem a suitable match. He had guessed that man to have been at least his own age of 27, maybe more. She barely looked marrying age. An arranged marriage maybe? A southern belle plucked out of her element? This clearly wasn't her idea to be walking across a continent. But, oh, how he would love to see that smile again! And that figure! A fine figure of a woman to be sure even at her young age!

Shame on him. She just lost her husband this morning he reminded himself. Still he was looking forward to spending a little time with her this evening and getting a better look at that extensive set-up they hauled. It wasn't just curiosity, he needed to know how well prepared they truly were. How much was just impractical fluff? He had seen that plenty of times. That was a lot to lift over mountains. Impressive overall but one little hick-up en-route and they could lose everything. Would they be able to manage after the loss of a man? That little brother of hers looked like a hard worker but was just a kid.

Kendra could breathe again after the wagon master left her space. How embarrassing falling into his arms like that! What was she reading in those nut-brown eyes of his looking her up and down as he was? Funny, she couldn't even think of his name.

She called to the youngster, Toby, “Come closer and we'll tie your mule and cart behind this wagon. It's nooning time and we need to catch up. Then you take my place leading this ox while I run hurry Theo and the big wagon along. Your dog can keep the flock in motion. Trail boss says we gotta stay ahead of that herd of livestock back there.”

She hurried toward the schooner and pulled herself up on the back tailgate. Theo's bulk was blocking 'Lena as she finished buttoning up her bodice. She tied the strings of her apron bib behind her neck to cover what still peeked out.

“So now you know some of our secrets, Baby Girl.” Theo couldn't help giving a big satisfied grin.

“I'll be sure to knock next time. But for now the other wagons are catching up for nooning and we are a little behind. Get out there and get the oxen moving. 'Lena what do we have for a quick, light lunch? And, oh, the wagon master is coming for supper. I bragged what a good cook you are. Gotta fix up something pleasing to him,” she recommended.

After the noon break Kendra slipped up to walk along side Theo leading the oxen pulling the Conestoga.

“Theo, I need to understand Pappy's overall plan. How much did he tell you about it? I know nothing yet we need to decide if we still try to go through with it. The brunt of the heavy stuff will fall on you. It's such a relief not to have to deal with Mister Leroy anymore but I sure miss Pappy!”

“So glad ta hear ya says dat. Lordy, fergive me, if'n Iz knows all 'long how ya felt maybe coulda done diff'ent.

"Soz all I knows fer sure is we packs alls we can inside dis here wagon. 'nuff furniture ta fill three rooms, maybe more, in house, most flat out an' need o' puttn' tageder.

“Den dey's dried fruit and vegetables ta feed, oh, maybe, five or six folks, ifn Tommy make it home 'fore we left, fer up ta near on a year, me tinks. Dey's seeds and plant starts fer good size garden an' first crop.

“Ya sees the animals an' chickns an' honey bees needin' fer orchardin'. Some grain feed fer animals but he figure a lot get off da land we go thru jut likes everyone doin'. 'munitions fer firearms and snares ta get game. All tuck in kegs an' bins built all over dem wagons.

“Den o' course ya knows how the tents fold off sides ta makes dry livin'. Oh, an' dem hammocks 'neath ta keep ya warm off ground when ya sleep. Be a fierce comfort fer us.” Whew, he hadn't said so much at one time since forever!

“It is a marvel how you fit it all in. What about where he wanted to go? Is there land waiting for us somewhere?”

“West. Dat wha' he always say.”

“We are already west 'bout two months. Is it important to you and your family how far west we go? West is mighty big!”

“Free. He wan' us ta feel free. Live free. Jut like white men. He says.” Big Theo's eyes were glassy with tears.

“Oh, Theo, that's what I want for you, too.” Kendra paused while they both recomposed.

“'Course ya knows 'Lena still a hopn' Tommy be findn' us someday if he be lookin'.”

“Oo. That'll get harder, too, the farther we go. But Pappy probably told folks back home we would be heading to California. Time to get Toby to send out another of his pigeons, okay? Let them know how far we have gotten.”

“Hard ta say deys been gettin' da messages. Wez be waitn' so longs already looks like he neva be comin' back.” Theo rued.

“And I know that would break 'Lena's heart all the more.” She placed a hand on Theo's back as high up as she could reach toward his shoulder trying to comfort him. “We'll keep praying for him.”

She patted his iron-bending forearm a couple of times and assured, “You are comforting me a lot about our situation. Sounds like general provisions are well covered as long as we don't lose or squander it along the way.

“But there will be other expenses that come up not to mention eventual land purchase. Passage on this wagon train for instance. Men like the wagon master don't take on this responsibility for nothing. I don't even know if the fee has been paid. He could say it hasn't been even if it has. How am I to know whether or not to believe him?

“Do you know if Mister Leroy gave him anything? Did Pappy say anything about finances, you know, money?” Kendra was getting to the crux of her concerns. She hoped Mr. Leroy hadn't sabotaged everything.

“Well,” he scratched his scarcely bearded jawline as he thought it out, “withn all our extrys mights be we's able ta do little tradin' needs be. 'Course, yu uns pappy's gots his tailorin' tools and extry cloths packed up. Ya an' my 'Lena are good wit' a needle. Iz gots m' blacksmithin' tools an' do some carpentry ifn gots some wood.

“Ya sing as pretty as Iz ever heerd. Folks oughta pay to hear dat. Dat harpsicor' be drugs out an ya gives lessons if ya wanna. So don't ya worry ya pretty little head. We won't be starvin' long as Iz about. Psst, even got 'Lena extry talent!” He winked.

Well, that last part was not what she wanted to think about at all. “No, I don't want you making 'Lena do such as that anymore. She does it because she loves you and wants to make you happy. Now that I know more about being a woman, I don't believe she enjoys being used in that way.” She had an unpleasant flashback of seeing how men used 'Lena given the chance. “Can you understand what I mean? We all have a chance at a clean start.”

Theo hung down his head feeling like he let her down. “Iz only thinkin' how's she could hep out da babies, ya knows, like she did fer u uns when ya be born an' hat no mamma. She loves 'em babies an' since...”

“Oh, of course, of course.” She sighed. “She's been the only mamma I ever knew. And I love her so much.”

Memories of her and Tommy growing up together ran through her mind. He was only two years older than her and so fair of skin color people would mistake them for siblings.

“I know she looked out after a couple more back home through the years. Sorry, I didn't think of that. It'll all work out somehow.” She reassured with a smile. “After all, Pappy would say, 'Rome wasn't built in a day'.”

“Yep, him say, 'homewards buildin' away'.” Theo had misunderstood. Oh, well...

At least she would have some plans to offer the wagon master. She had no way of knowing without straight out asking him if anyone had even paid for their passage with his train. She hadn't a clue as to how much that might be or if she had the money to give him. He might lie to them or try to swindle them. Or he might dump them right where they are tonight.

She hadn't had time to get to know anyone else traveling along with them she could trust to ask about the trail master. She wasn't sure how to read him after their brief encounter this morning other than the business end mattered to him. She would have to remember to let him do the talking first.

“You are the best, Theo. I'll stop worrying so much as long as I have you to watch over us. And I wanted to thank you for saying something nice over the grave this morning. It was nicer than I would have said. After everything he had done did you mean that part about him being welcomed by Jesus in His heaven?”

“Wells, Iz knows he be a fierce sinner, but dat's same as alls us be. Dem last couple o' days me tinks he be 'raslin' wit dat ole Adam man in 'im. Him wantin' some peace inside hisself. 'Lena says he asks her hows to get some o' dat fergiveness he heerd us talkin' 'bout. 'member when read Toby Easter story? She says just asks Jesus.” He shrugged. “Maybe he did? Onlys fer da Lord ta knows fer sure.”

“Well, I'll be! Maybe he was redeemable! Anyway, I'll be up in the wagon looking over some of Mr. Leroy's things for a while. And I'll try to find some of Pappy's things. Have you looked in the box wagon thru his stuff? If I get time I need to do that before we meet with Master...??, hey, do you remember his name?”

“Nope. Don' knows ever says ta me.” Theo was scratching his head.

“Hmm, me either. I'll be out to switch with 'Lena soon so she can get started on supper. Thanks so much for your help.”

“Now's be time wez call upon da Good Lor' fer some o' dat dere hep.”

“You're so right. Ashamed it has taken me this long to remember that.”

They bowed their heads together as he spoke, “Now, Lord, wez sorry sometime wez fergets Ya be right dere waitin' fer us ta ask fer Yo hep whens ever wez come up 'gainst tings like dese here problems wez be facin'. Wells, wez figure Ya knows already all's wez need an' Ya gots it all a waitin' fer us. So's wez a askin' now.

“Guide us wit Yo almighty han' fer all these 'cisions wez be makin'. An' look afta our Tommy fer us 'cause wez can't. In Yo dear Son's name wez a prayn'. And also watch afta dat rascal, Leroy, ifn he come ta see Ya, 'im bein' Yo son, too.”

“Amen.” They chimed. She squeezed his hand then wiggled her fingers in a wave as she dropped back to the rear opening of the big wagon and climbed up.

The volunteer burial detail had bundled Leroy's belongings he had on him into his shirt and deposited it on her lap this morning. She had tossed it on top of the mattress when she crawled inside the wagon not wanting to think about it then. She retrieved it now and searched through everything hoping for a pocket full of gold she supposed.

A few loose coins but no jackpot. An interesting looking tiny fire arm with a small pouch of gun powder and some loose balls that must be ammo. That's an eye opener, but not totally unexpected out of someone like him! A couple of business cards with curling edges reading “Le-Roy Potter” “Courier of Fine Goods”. Something looked odd. She took a card to the back opening for better light. For sure! The first 't' in Potter had been doctored from an 'l'. His name was Polter! That's a real eye opener! Grandpa's eyes in poor light would never have caught that!

She grabbed the carpetbag he had brought into her boudoir upon their joining the train yesterday and dumped it out. Nothing but some clothes and some toiletries. Remembering she might have to sell or use this stuff for trade she started neatly folding them back into the bag.

Wait. In one trouser pocket was an envelope that held their hastily scribbled marriage certificate. Now there's a keepsake! Names were hard to read. She was under duress and he was lying. But it was something she better hang on to just in case. Of what? Who knew?

Well, maybe she could at least fashion one of his blousy, white silky shirts into a better bodice for herself before this evening. She was embarrassed when her shawl fell open exposing all of her to the unsuspecting wagon master. What he must think of her!

She was much younger when some of her wardrobe had been carefully packed. This one had been folded in sheets and smoothed out under the mattress along with most of her fancier frocks. When Grandpa suddenly died she needed to find her only black dress. The one she wore three, no nearly four, years ago when her father passed. Unfortunately, the bodice had gotten way too tight on her because of her developing womanhood.

Then there was her new husband who preferred she didn't wear black or anything much for that matter. In those days traveling as a lone wagon under his rule she never got to remedy the dress situation and had only managed the shawl solution recently.

People may wonder as a grieving wife why she's not entirely in black but drastic times call for drastic measures. If their wagon gets stranded without a train then no one else ever need know she was supposed to be a grieving widow.

She straightened the rest of the jostling room. A ball of paper was wedged between a couple of wooden chests holding up the mattress. She wrestled it out and smoothed it. She gasped as a flash of memory came to her. It was too much for her to deal with immediately so she folded it and slipped it into her drawer in the standing chest holding their everyday needs. But it added to a couple of concerns she may have to take up with... oh, what is his name?.

As she was ready to slip out she noticed Charger's saddlebags hanging near the back. Inside she found a change clothes and two ledgers. Maybe bank ledgers? The red one looked like one she once saw in her granddad's possession.

She considered herself an educated young woman. Her father and her grandfather had seen to that themselves. Looking at these foreign entries she realized how unimportant it had been to the men utmost in her life that she would ever have any reason to understand the basic concepts of anything to do with the mysterious world of finances. The exclusive man's world of finance! All she could tell was that some of the entries subtracted from the red book matched the numbers added in the blue book. She had a puzzle to solve and her future depended on the outcome.

April 27, 2023 16:37

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30 comments

22:24 May 03, 2023

Nice story

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Mary Bendickson
22:43 May 03, 2023

Thanks for reading, commenting and liking:) Just read yours,too.

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V. S. Rose
23:31 May 02, 2023

Nice finish to your first half of the chapter, and interesting start to your novel. A lot of questions and I really enjoyed being pulled into your Western world and this time period. It's hard to start fresh in a new place, there's always challenges. And I thought you did a good job of portraying them through your characters. Keep up the good work Mary :)

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Mary Bendickson
00:23 May 03, 2023

🙏 for the encouragement

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Martin Ross
13:33 May 02, 2023

You really do a great job of capturing the minor inconveniences and major struggles of uprooting and facing formidable challenges and an unknown future. By focusing initially on the trail “crew” from the trail leader to Theo, you’ve given the story a great deal of humanity and warmth. And the funereal and widow rituals are well-delineated and laced with the properly semi-staid emotions of the period. You’re continuing to build a wonderful historical human drama. Thanks!

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Mary Bendickson
16:07 May 02, 2023

Thank you for such encouraging comments.

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Richard E. Gower
14:38 May 01, 2023

Story is coming along nicely....look forward to seeing the next chapter.-:) Cheers! RG

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Mary Bendickson
14:55 May 01, 2023

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Maybe just glimpses from here on out 'til I get it published?

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Philip Ebuluofor
20:49 Apr 30, 2023

Fine work.

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Mary Bendickson
21:43 Apr 30, 2023

Thank you for liking and commenting on my story.

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Philip Ebuluofor
14:42 May 01, 2023

You are welcome.

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John Jones
14:14 Apr 30, 2023

Big fan of westerns and you made me feel like I was there. It always amazes me that people were able to load up a wagon and head out into the dangerous upknown

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Mary Bendickson
16:58 Apr 30, 2023

🙏 thanks for liking, comment and follow. Feel same about striking out into unknown.

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Laurel Hanson
20:59 Apr 28, 2023

I've always had a fascination for what it took for the people settling what for them was alien territory. Starting from scratch is way more complicated than many people think it is. I have to say, you've done a great job including the kinds of things people would have needed to plan on, right down to the bees. It's like playing Oregon Trail with my grandson. I second the person below. Love the title of the book.

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Mary Bendickson
21:23 Apr 28, 2023

Thank you for liking. I have been struggling with the title so am happy I have two votes of confidence.

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F.O. Morier
17:59 Apr 28, 2023

First of all: I loooooooooooooooooove the title! And wow! Looking foreward to your next story! Have a happy weekend ahaid! (it´s a long one here)

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Mary Bendickson
18:07 Apr 28, 2023

Thank you for the like, comment and follow!

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Ian James
00:15 Apr 28, 2023

Woohoo! This is what I've been waiting for! You nailed it with the prompt and the story flowed so smoothly. Can't wait for the next "episode"!

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Ian James
00:22 Apr 28, 2023

Okay, I gotta be honest. I had to read Theo's Western accent dialogue a couple times (or maybe even more) to really get what he was sayin'. Haha.

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Mary Bendickson
02:10 Apr 28, 2023

So glad you liked it 😊

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Jack Kimball
20:58 Apr 27, 2023

Well Mary, you've done it. Shamed me into knowing I'm a coward, too chicken to write a western. I'm a big fan though, and this reminds me of "Threads West" by Reid Lance Rosenthal (a National Book Award Winner) You've got some intriguing characters developing here in Lena and Thelma. Theo of course echos Huckleberry Finn. This also reminds me of "Hard Country" by Michael McGarrity. I just glanced to my dusty writer's shelf. Staring back at me forlorn and accusing were: - "The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s" by Marc McCutch...

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Mary Bendickson
22:07 Apr 27, 2023

Well, I am ashamed I must really be behind on reading cause I haven't enjoyed any of those. Thanks for the suggestions and I might have to take some time off and live at the library. I can't even explain where inspiration for this came from. My husband and I were driving and I started telling him a story. He thought I had just read it. I said I was just making it up. When I started writing it this is what came out and I can't even say if it is the same as I told him.

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Jack Kimball
23:20 Apr 27, 2023

“Trampled Dreams” appears to be a “Quest” plot, as they say. McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” (not the movie) is “Lord of the Rings”, but western. If you’re into historical fiction westerns, read the first page and you will never set the over 900 pages down.

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Mary Bendickson
23:27 Apr 27, 2023

Sounds like you have a western inside of you. Gotta go to the library now.

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Mary Bendickson
18:53 Aug 06, 2023

Don't know if I messaged you about this already but since you gave me such nice comments on this story I thought you may be pleased to know the first fifty pages of my unpublished novel represented here has made me a finalist in Killer Nashville The Claymore Award for best western category!

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Michał Przywara
20:44 Apr 27, 2023

Ah, the next part :) Previously there was a bit of a haze of shock, what with the sudden deaths and an uncertain future - and perhaps a moral conundrum where she didn't particularly feel mournful about her husband. (Though we find out now that perhaps he wasn't as bad as she initially thought, or perhaps at least had the capacity to change - too early to tell.) But in this part, the haze dissipates and she learns just how screwed over she is - and it's looking bad. She's lacking information, resources, and skills sadly. But she does realiz...

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Mary Bendickson
21:56 Apr 27, 2023

Thank you, Michal. So happy you find it intriguing. I am beginning to wonder if I did not fully develop my characters enough after reading your expectations:) Problems do arise but maybe I can still add more. Thanks for giving it a thumbs up.

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Amanda Lieser
19:40 May 10, 2023

Hi Mary! I happily saddled up and rode on over to part 2 after finishing part one. The point of view change was a bit surprising because I was really expecting the entire story to be in the point of you of the male protagonist but I think that you did a good job switching back over to our leading lady. I liked the way that you focused on dialogue in this piece and I thought that you did a great job of conveying your message, while also staying true to the thick, southern accent. I also thought it was interesting how you touched on the fact t...

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Mike Panasitti
18:56 May 08, 2023

It takes grit to write in a genre that has seen its fair share of interpretations. I don't ever recall a Western that begins with a journey out of the post-bellum South. Now I have been introduced to one. Nice work.

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Mary Bendickson
19:04 May 08, 2023

Why thank you, Mike. Guess I thought it was logical. Destruction of a way of life had to lead to a new start.

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