TITLE: A Heart's Journey - Chapter 8
By Michele Fleming
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August 28, 1863
The next morning they set out not long after sun up. The driver informed them they had only a couple of hours to go on their journey and Ana could not wait until it was over. She had decided not long into this part of the trip that she never wanted to ride another stagecoach again. A few more hours though and it would all be over, at least until they headed back home.
Lucy hated the stage more than everyone else did, so Ana did her best to keep her sister with games. They played “I’m Thinking of Something” and “Cupid’s Coming”, and she read to her from the Bible storybook. The diversion worked, and before she knew it, Thomas was pointing out the window at the town ahead. Finally, they had made it!
They pulled into Flint Creek about nine o’clock in the morning and headed straight for the stagecoach office. As soon as they pulled up to the platform in front, Ana spotted her. She felt the breath rush from her body as she stared straight into the eyes of a woman that could have been her mother, Jenna’s twin. It was as if she was looking into a mirror and getting a glimpse of the future.
Her dark green eyes sparkled in the morning light. Dark hair, pulled on top of her head had evidence of curls, like Ana and her mother’s, escaping and dancing in the breeze. Ana knew that she ran a ranch, so she decided that her attire was probably appropriate for such a life. It was just going to take some time getting use to seeing a woman dressed in breeches.
The door to the coach opened and Thomas escorted Ana, who was still in a daze, out onto the platform. She snapped out of it long enough to collect her sister, and then headed toward the woman waiting on them. Josie stood with her hand over her mouth as though she was trying to keep from crying, and as soon as Ana and Lucy stopped in front of her, she spoke.
“Oh, my…” was all she could manage.
Josie then wrapped her arms around the girls and all the worries that Ana had about meeting this woman, faded away.
“I’m so glad you’re finally here!” she cried.
They finished their embrace, and Josie stood looking at her nieces.
Finally, she turned to Lucy. “You are so pretty! You look so much like your father.”
Lucy smiled with pleasure over this and then Josie then turned to Ana.
“And you…,” she began, “are the spitting image of your mother.”
“I was going to say the same thing about you.” Ana told her causing them both to laugh.
As the laughter faded, Josie’s countenance grew serious.
“I’m so sorry about Liza. It had to be a horrible ordeal for the two of you. It breaks my heart that your father or I wasn’t there for you.”
“How did you know?” I asked.
“I received a telegram.” Ana looked to Thomas and he smiled.
“It was hard.” Ana began. “Liza would have wanted us to move past it all, so that is what we are trying to do. Besides, we weren’t alone.” She smiled with appreciation at Thomas.
“Well… who is this distinguished looking gentleman you have with you, anyway?” she asked.
“Aunt Josie,” Ana began the introduction, “this is Thomas Schneider. He works for the railroad and Papa hired him to bring us to you.”
“And we’ve decided to keep him!” Lucy announced and laughter filled the air from everyone.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” Thomas finally was able to say and finished with a tip of his hat.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.” She told him. “I bet all of you would appreciate a hot meal about now. My wagon is right over there. We will get all your things loaded and head on out to my place.”
“Uh, ma’am, could you direct me to a hotel or boarding house in town?” Thomas asked Josie.
“Well…,” he began, “I figured I’d go ahead and get settled myself.”
“That’s a good idea…but, you can do it at my place.” She told him. Thomas opened his mouth to protest but Josie stopped him short with a wave of her hand.
“I have plenty of room and I won’t take no for an answer. Besides, it’s the least I can do, after you taking time out of your life to bring my nieces all this way…but, most of all for helping them get through the events of the past few days.” Thomas stood hesitating, clearly uncomfortable with the idea.
“If it will make you feel better, you can stay in my guest house.” She said trying to convince him.
“You have two houses?” Lucy asked in amazement.
“It is actually the house I started out in here. As my ranching business grew, I built a new and bigger house on my property. I keep the old house up for moments like this.”
“I think it would be perfect!” Ana said looking to Thomas and hoping he would agree to it.
“I guess I could do that, if you’re sure you don’t mind.” He said to Josie.
“I’m the one that offered…so of course I don’t mind.” She said matter-of-factly. “It’s settled then--let’s get your things to the wagon.”
They paused long enough for Thomas to head into the telegraph office to get a message off to Father and then they were on their way.
The wagon ride to the ranch felt like it took no time at all. Ana spent the ride taking in as much of the beautiful territory as she could. Josie told them they referred to this part of Texas as “Hill Country”, and one could definitely tell why.
There were mountains and hills where Ana came from, but these hills seem to roll gently along, one right after another. The trees still were heavy with their summer foliage, wildflowers were scattered everywhere and a creek wound its way through it all. Ana assumed that this was Flint Creek. They rounded a bend and the most wonderful sight appeared! A field of delicate purple flowers stretched as far as the eye could see. Josie noticed Ana’s excitement and informed her they were lavender. She motioned for her to sniff the air. Ana did, and in doing so, was overtaken by the most wonderful and intoxicating scent. She pondered where she had smelled these flowers before and then noticed Josie was watching her.
“Something familiar?” she asked with a knowing smile on her face.
“Yes…” Then from out of nowhere, a memory from Ana’s past came drifting into her mind.
“Mother…she wore a perfume that smelled like this!”
Ana looked to Josie, and they shared the memory and a smile, but did not speak a word. Josie then turned her focus back to the road ahead and left Ana to her thoughts.
The jerking of the wagon brought Ana back to reality and she looked to see that they were heading through a large wooden gate. Two massive wood posts stood on either side with cast-iron arch stretching across to connect the two. From the middle of the arch hung the letter “K”, which Ana knew stood for “Keller”, Josie’s last name. Large corals holding some of the prettiest horses she had ever seen, lined both sides of the road.
As she watched the gracefulness of the animals, she imagined setting astride one of them, like a real cowgirl, riding across the lavender fields as fast as the horse would take her. Ana turned her attention to a couple of border collies as they came running out of the massive two-story barn and up to the wagon barking their greetings.
Each fought to be in the lead as they escorted the wagon right up to the front of the house. The house was two story with rock siding, and had a porch that extended the across the front. Rocking chairs scattered the porch along with two different swings. Two large oak trees, one of which had another swing hanging from it that Lucy was going to love, framed the house!
Behind the house and off to the side a bit, stood the barn. In front of it was a man shoeing a horse, and another was using a pitchfork to load hay into one of the stalls inside the barn. Ana also saw someone heading toward the back of the barn toward a bunkhouse.
Josie led them up onto the porch where two Indian men were waiting.
“Girls, I’d like you to meet, Howling Wolf and his son, Little Bear.” She introduced as the oldest tipped his hat and smiled.
“She likes using our Indian names whenever possible.” He said with a grin.
“Well those are your given names aren’t they?”
As the two exchanged teasing looks, Little Bear spoke. “Those are our given names, but folks around here call Pa, Joe and call me…”
“A pain.” His father said turning the teasing his way.
Ana liked these two already.
“Noah…you can call me Noah.” He said as he and his Pa traded playful punches to each other’s arms.
“These two are constantly going at it like this, so you should pay no never mind to them.” Josie said, giving her own playful swat to the both of them.
“Joe, Noah, I would like you both to meet my nieces. This, is Ana Grace and this little lady, is Lucy.” Both men tipped their hats then waited for the next introduction.
“This, gentleman, is Mr. Thomas Schneider. The girl’s father hired him to be their escort. He’s decided to stay with us for a while, so the guest house will need to be stocked.” The men exchanged handshakes as Thomas spoke.
“Please, all of you can call me Thomas.” He told them making sure to let Josie know he meant her as well.
Josie continued, “Joe has been my ranch manager for about fifteen years now. Noah helps out wherever he is needed, and right now he needs to gather your things from the wagon.”
Noah headed off the porch, but not before flashing a huge smile. He was tall and lanky and Ana figured him to be in his early to mid-twenties. His dark skin and hair were both typical of all the Indians that she had ever seen portrayed in paintings or picture books. He wore his hair long and had small braids on either side of his face.
Ana realized his father’s was fashioned the same way. Joe’s however had already grayed quite a bit. He was somewhat shorter than his son was, and a little more robust, but the family resemblance was definitely a strong one.
“Joe, could you please take Mr. Schneider and show him the guest house. Let him get settled, then head back up here and we will have an early lunch.”
“Yes ma’am.” Joe said, and then he and Thomas headed off the porch and toward the rear of the house.
Josie led the girls inside the house and began to show them around. They started in the sitting room where the interior décor was cheerful despite the rugged exterior. Pastels found in the window coverings and upholstery was a pleasant contrast to the clean white walls.
She led them into every other room, filling them in on the history of certain items. They made their way upstairs to a bedroom that she informed Lucy was hers and said Ana’s was across the hall.
Lucy’s room had a view of the rolling hills behind the house and Ana’s looked out toward the beautiful lavender fields in the front. Both rooms had windows on the end that looked gave a view of the corals and barn. Ana could not believe that they were able to have their own rooms.
“You girls would probably like to wash up and maybe change out of those gritty clothes, so I will leave you to it. Head on down to the kitchen when you’re ready.” She told us both, and then tears filled her eyes. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
They exchanged smiles and she made her leave. As she was exiting the room, Noah appeared carrying one of their trunks.
“Where would you like this?” he asked.
“Oh, at the end of the bed would be fine.” Ana told him. “Thank you, for bringing it up.”
“No problem.” He said then headed back out the door and down the stairs.
Ana locked the bedroom door and headed to the trunk for fresh clothes. Opening the trunk, she saw the gift that they had gotten for Josie.
“I had forgotten about this.” Ana said, pulling the package from its hiding place.
“Me too…let’s give it to her now!” Lucy exclaimed, grabbed her hand, and started tugging.
“Let’s clean up first. We can give it to her when we go down to eat.”
“Okay, let’s hurry!”
Ana quickly helped Lucy change into some clean clothes. She then took a stab at washing some of the grime off her face and hands. She finished by removing the braids from her sister’s hair giving it a good brushing and replacing the braids.
Lucy had dark blonde hair, to match Papa’s that reached all the way to small of her back. Papa had always refused to allow Liza to cut it, so to keep it somewhat tamed, they kept it in braids most of the time.
They stood in front of the mirror as Ana worked on Lucy’s hair. As she brushed, she became envious, as she did every time, at how easily her long straight hair was to manage. Her own was a mass of curls and always seemed to have a mind of its own.
As she was finishing up, she noticed that Lucy’s blue eyes, also like Papa’s, fixed on the end window where the sounds of the coral flowed into the room. Ana had a good feeling that her sister would become a regular fixture out there since she absolutely loved horses.
Lucy waited impatiently as Ana cleaned herself up and then they quickly headed down the stairs and toward the kitchen, a wonderful aroma leading the way.
Josie turned from her spot at the stove then looked to the gift that Lucy had insisted on carrying. Lucy walked toward her and held out the package.
“This is for you. I helped pick it out.”
“You did? Why thank you so much, but you didn’t have to get me a gift though.”
“We wanted to get you a little something to thank you for letting us come.” Ana told her.
“No thanks necessary.” She said as she took the gift, sat at the kitchen table, and began to open it.
She untied the ribbon, laid it to the side, and began to unfold the fabric. Once the fabric was gone, she removed the lid and pulled out the straw that was covering the treasure.
“Oh my…girls, this is the most beautiful piece that I have ever seen!”
“We’re glad you like it.” Ana told her, pleased with her reaction.
“You really shouldn’t have though.” She told us again.
At that moment, Joe and Thomas entered through the back door
“Joe, look what the girls brought me! Isn’t it lovely?”
“Yes, it is at that.” He said taking in the glass piece.
Josie sat the candle and candlestick in the middle of the table with a promise to find a perfect place for it later. She then came over to Ana and Lucy and gave them both a huge hug. Going back to her soup on the stove, Ana caught her several times reaching up to wipe a stray tear.
They spent the meal filling each other in on their lives, then went for a walk around the ranch. Josie introduced them to several of the ranch hands. Then took them and showed them the guesthouse where Thomas would be staying. They walked past the bunkhouse where the ranch hands stayed, and then on to two tiny houses sitting back away from all the other buildings. A woman was sitting on the porch of one of the houses and Josie led them toward her.
“I want to introduce you to someone else.” She informed us.
“Hello, Josie.” The women greeted.
“Hello, I brought someone for you to meet.”
“Wonderful! I was hoping I would get to see them today.”
“Sarah, these are my nieces, Ana and Lucy.” She said with pride. “Girls, this is Sarah, she’s married to Joe, and of course is Noah’s mother.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Ana was amazed at how a person could look so much like both parents.
“It’s nice to meet you.” Lucy offered her greeting.
“It’s is my pleasure to finally get to meet the two of you. Your Aunt Josie has been on pins and needles ever since she heard you were coming. She also informed me of the tragedies that you faced while on your journey…I’m so very sorry.”
“Thank you.” Ana told her.
A younger Indian woman came out of the house carrying the most adorable baby Ana had ever seen.
“Elisabeth, these are Josie’s nieces, Ana and Lucy.” Sarah informed her.
“Hello.” She said. Ana and Lucy told her hello as Josie began to speak.
“She is married to Noah and that is their little boy, Isaiah. He’s the sweetest thing you’ll ever meet, I assure you.”
With that, Isaiah let out a squeal as if in agreement, causing all of them to laugh. Lucy walked up and started to play with him causing some laughs and giggles of his own.
“I can tell you two will be best of friends.” Elisabeth told Lucy. “He really likes you.”
“Yes, he does.” She said with a smile. “Can I come and play with him tomorrow?”
“You can come and play with Isaiah anytime,” His mother assured her, “as long as it’s okay with Ana and your Aunt Josie, of course.”
Lucy seemed fine with this and continued to play with the baby until Josie announced that it was time to be moving on.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, baby Isaiah.” She told him as she went bounding off the porch.
“Oh yeah!” she said as she reached the bottom step and spun back around to face the three people on the porch.
“What are your Indian names? Joe and Noah are Howling Wolf and Little bear. I figured you all had one, too.”
“Mine is, Dancing Winds.” Sarah began, “and Elisabeth’s is, Mourning Dove.”
“Isaiah’s is, Kicking Bear, because he sure did kick a lot before he was born!” He’s mother told her. Everyone laughed at this as they watched the wiggly little boy in his mother’s arms.
Josie took them on a horseback ride across the field of lavender to Flint Creek where she showed them the swimming hole. It was a calm pool, that she assured them would probably only come up to Lucy’s chest most places. The end of the pool closest to the woods however, was probably a little over Ana’s head.
“It is a good swimming hole…good for fishing, too.” Josie told them. “Joe formed it not long after I hired him. You two can come out here anytime as long as you inform me first.”
“I can’t wait!” Lucy said as she jumped up and down.
On the banks alongside the pool were a few big oak, maple and pine trees and one very large weeping willow with branches that hung out over the water. It gave the whole scene a very peaceful feeling. At the base of the willow tree was a huge rock with a flat surface.
From the rock, one would be able to take in the calming waters of the creek, the rolling hills, the vast lavender fields and the rustic beauty of the ranch. Ana knew that she would be spending a lot of time here, for it had instantly become her favorite spot.
Before Ana knew it, their first day in Flint Creek was ending. Even though she missed home, she was really beginning to look forward to what this place had in store for her.
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