After a lunch of hardtack and jerky, Myrtle climbed into the back of the covered wagon,
stepping over the basket of buffalo dung she had collected that morning for the
evening’s fire. Her father climbed up front to drive the horses. “Are you ready, Myrtle?
The wagons are moving.”
“Yes, Pa.” She always rode inside the prairie schooner in the heat of the day. It saved
her face from burning in the hot sun and she could somewhat avoid the dust kicked up
by the horse’s hooves. “Sweat and dust,” she moaned, removing her bonnet from her
damp auburn hair. “But soon we’ll be in Oregon, Mama! The wagon master says just a
few more days. It’s a good thing too.”
Myrtle sat down beside the near empty food barrels which had been filled to the brim
when they’d left Independence, Missouri last March. But now, the sugar, coffee and
salt pork were all gone. “We have only a bit of flour and beans left, Mama. I’ll use the
remaining cornmeal tonight to make johnnycakes. It’ll be special because I’ve saved a
spoon of honey to sweeten them and there’s a few pickles left.
“The scouts are out looking for water, Mama. The barrels need filling again and the
horses need to graze and drink some good water. Everyone’s tired and the animals are
worn out. I’m worried about Papa; he’s terribly quiet. It’s been such a long hard
Myrtle picked up her most prized possession, a small polished walnut keepsake box.
She opened the little chest as she did most days, relishing its contents. “Oh, Mama.”
Myrtle looked at the treasures inside. She reached for the pieces of ribbon and lace
and examined them once again. It was all that was left of Mama’s wedding gown. All
the remnants of the beautiful dress had been used over the years. A piece here, one
there. Mama had even used part of the material to make Myrtle’s own dress and
ribbons for her hair to celebrate her baptism when she was twelve years old.
And there was Mama’s scissors along with the precious needles for sewing and
mending. Most evenings back home had found Mama sewing or patching up their
clothing and stockings. Myrtle remembered laughing at the stories Papa told as Mama
lovingly worked each stitch.
Myrtle gently picked up Mama’s brooch Grandpa Wally had given her on her wedding
day. Her mother wore it only on special occasions. It was beautiful with a large
emerald at its center surrounded by golden leaves on a black background. “I remember
the last time you wore this, Mama. We traveled to St. Louis to the doctors there at the
hospital. You were pallid, yet so beautiful.”
Myrtle fingered the old material of a bookmark her mother had stitched as a young girl.
“Mama, I used to love for you to read your bible to me while I traced the letters on this.
‘JESUS SAVES.’ I learned so much at your feet.”
She picked up the final thing in her treasure box. It was a piece of tissue paper folded
up tightly. The tears came again and this time she let them flow. “Oh, Mama.” When
spent, Myrtle laid the tissue paper back inside the box with all the other treasures,
closed the lid, and with care set the box aside.
She picked up her bible and began reading in the Psalms. They’d been sustenance for
her, especially this past year. “How my soul grieves, Mama. I miss you so.” Tears
came as always. Myrtle wiped them away and continued to read and pray. “Psalms
73:26 tells me, though ‘my flesh and heart faileth,’ You, God, are ‘the strength of my
heart, and my portion forever.’ Thank You for keeping Papa and me throughout the
difficult trip across these many miles, and through our journey of grief.”
A few days later the call began at the beginning of the wagon train. Oregon! “We’re
here, Myrtle! We’ve made it.”
Myrtle’s tired feet ran to the back of the wagon, climbed up and rushed to the keepsake
box. She opened it and gently laid each item to the side until she held the folded tissue
paper. She lovingly freed each fold, as the tears began to fall once more. When
uncovered, there rested the most precious memory of her mother. Auburn with a touch
of gray. She carassed the lock of her mother’s hair, “we made it to Oregon, Mama, we
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