The February cold came seeping through the chinks in the walls of our wooden cabin on the Missouri plain. The snow was piling up outside as James and I sat warming ourselves by the fire, soaking the heat into our bones as if to take it to bed with us.
I knew something weighed heavy on James’ mind as he shifted often in his maple rocking chair, like a man unsettled.
“I need something new, Sarah,” he finally explained, “This farm isn’t making it. I’ve been hearing more and more about the Oregon Territory. The land is rich and the weather mild. Rivers are filled with fish, so much so they say you can walk across on their backs! Plenty of hunting and crops grow before your eyes.”
I studied his ardent face, and prepared myself for what I was sure would follow.
“I think we should go. Hugh and me have been talking and I think we could really make a go of it, “his voice rose excitedly as he moved to the edge of his seat. My heart sank a little.
“Are you sure it would be that much better?” I asked, my voice filled with trepidation. After all, it had been just 10 years ago that we had packed up and left our beloved Tennessee behind to move to Missouri, the newest frontier at the time.
James jumped from his chair and began to pace, the fire’s glow reddening his handsome features, his hazel eyes lit with the flames.
“Well, of course! I’ve been trying here for 6 years. Losing our first farm was bad enough, but now we are barely getting by with this share cropping.”
James knelt in front of me, taking my hands in his that were strong and weathered from years of working the fields, “We can do better than this Sarah. You deserve better, our children deserve better, and I know Oregon is the place to make it happen.”
I looked up at him.
“What does your Father think of all this?”
“Oh, you know him. He doesn’t have anything good to say. It wasn’t his idea so there can’t be any merit to it. I think he would just as soon have me stay here, not prospering, just so he can watch and feel superior, pointing out my mistakes.”
James rubbed his forehead, a worried gesture of his. I felt bad for bringing up Joseph Blakely with whom my husband’s relationship was less than harmonious. James shrugged it off, and continued to pace.
“Hugh and I have a greater plan than just farming. The government will give us 640 acres under the Donation Land Act. That’s for a married couple, so Hugh and Clarissa will get the same,” James was practically vibrating with the excitement of it all, “We would plat a town on part of our acreage, complete with a general store, a mill eventually, and even a newspaper one day.”
“My, James, is all that really possible?” I tried to hide the dismay I felt over these pie in the sky ideas.
James set down and turned to face me.
“Sarah, remember when we courting and we would take those long walks in the Tennessee hills,” his expression was solemn, “You told me then that you thought I could achieve anything I put my mind to. I need you to believe in me now like you did then.” His eyes practically pleaded with me.
I could see that he needed my confidence in him and his ideas as much as anything I had ever given him.
I sighed as I stood and stretched, my eyes taking in the glow of the embers in the fireplace. Glowing like the beginning of a dream that could take hold and blaze strong.
“James, you know that I support you and your dreams,” I moved close to him, “and I will be right by your side, cheering you on, louder than anyone.”
He rose to his feet and pulled me into his arms.
“I won’t let you down.” He kissed me gently.
I lay my head against his chest. I could feel his heart beating, loud and steady, even as mine fluttered with anxiety.
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