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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bold (emotionally) (08/30/07)

TITLE: The Silence of the Day
By Dee Yoder


Sara adjusted the apron covering her skirt and pushed the hair off her sweating forehead. The chickens scattered away from her advancing feet, their protesting squawks ringing in the still air. She spied a lone chick, scrawny and trembling. The other chickens had pushed it aside again, not allowing it to eat or drink for the second day. She scooped it into the palm of her hand and tucked it into her apron pocket, then continued scattering feed to the hungry birds.

After feeding the flock, she returned to the cool shade of the soddy. She searched out a thin piece of fabric and fluffed a meager bed in the corner near the window; then she removed the tiny creature from her pocket. She knelt and laid the bird on the pile. He fit perfectly on his fabric bed, and she watched him nestle in, the sun shining a warm ray across his pale, wispy feathers. She placed a small mound of grain and a saucer of water in front of him and waited for him to find his meal. He stirred; ate, drank, and then tucked his head into his downy feathers to sleep.

“…as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings…,”* Sarah whispered.

Her lonely voice reached only her own ears, and an ache grew in her chest to hear his voice again. Her eyes glazed over as she stared unseeing at the chick, and she daydreamed of a sweet reunion soon.

She grabbed the edge of the table, pulled herself upright, then reached for the tin pail by the door.

“Time to fetch the water,” she said to no one.

Her feet carried her down the worn path, along the edge of the untamed prairie, to the small stream that gurgled through the bluestem grass and over the horizon. The silence of the day overwhelmed her suddenly, and she began to cry. She dipped her pail into the stream, her motions robotic and tired, and all the while, her tears traced a path through the dust that was ever present on her cheeks.

Back and forth she trudged, the monotony of her chores pulling her through her long, lonely day.

“It’s time for supper,” she told the little chick, who was now perched at the edge of his makeshift bed.

The chick peeped loudly, and the sound hurt her ears. She lifted the baby bird and took him back to the flock. She watched closely to see that he was not injured before she left him alone in the coop.

Evening approached as she wandered to the nearest field to gaze hungrily at the empty expanse of grass and sky. The bottom of the sky was streaked with red, purple, and pink clouds, but the beauty of the sunset had long since lost its appeal. Her eyes scanned the distant waves of grass from left to right, then right to left, hoping, and praying that his familiar figure would appear. The view disappointed her once again. Her shoulders slumped, her heart tightened in her chest, and the silent tears returned.

After supper, she lit the lamp on the table and opened the worn Bible that lay in her lap. An hour passed quietly. Then two hours. At times, she read aloud, just to hear her own voice, but finally, she grew silent along with the sleeping prairie. The night threw its black cloak over the soddy, confining her to the circle of light cast from the lamp. The howling of the night animals began and she shivered. She lifted her eyes fearfully to the paper-paned window, but then forced her gaze downward again to the book in her lap.

“In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strenghtenedst me with strength in my soul.”**

As the night wore on, she dozed uncomfortably in her chair. She wouldn’t sleep alone in the bed while he was gone for supplies.

The sun of the hot, dry morning pulled her from sleep. She stretched, wiped her weary eyes, and stepped out to view the flat fields.

She held their future and their dreams in her hands. She dared not falter or fail. She subdued her fears, her loneliness, and her sadness as she waited for her husband’s return. They had two more years to occupy the land before it would finally belong to them.

She sighed, adjusted the apron covering her skirt, and went to feed the chickens. Another day had begun on the prairie.

Word Count: 749

*Luke 13:34 The Holy Bible, King James Version
**Psalms 138:3 The Holy Bible, King James Version

Author’s Note: The Homestead Act was a US Federal law that granted 160 acres of land in the developing American West to those age 21 or above who built a house, and lived continuously on the land for 5 years. To keep others from claiming their land, men were often forced to leave their families behind on the prairie, sometimes for weeks, while they traveled alone to distant towns for needed supplies. Many pioneer women endured these lonely and dangerous weeks to secure their family’s future.*** ***http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/Homestead_Act

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This article has been read 1080 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/06/07
These are such powerful descriptions of a time when women truly needed to be bold. I love your mc. I see her caring, her tiredness, her frustration, her loneliness, and her determination. This is excellent writing.
Janice Cartwright09/07/07
I know that to covet is wrong, but how my heart longs to write something this beautiful! Your words are fitted so perfectly together they seem to take on life o their own and breathe. How this could possibly not take first place I can't imagine.
Patty Wysong09/07/07
wow. You really captured her feelings. The descriptions are great and I could see her fluffing up a bed for the chick and scanning the horizon. Good job! Hugs!
Joanne Sher 09/09/07
Your descriptions are VERY vivid and beautiful. You captured her sadness expertly.
Frank Creed09/09/07
Beautifully written. My grandmother lives in Arthur Illinois, the middle of Amish country. The best restaurants in town is called Yoder's, so I expected something like this before I even read it! :-) they say write what you know, and you do it well-- wonderful description.
Laurie Walker09/10/07
Simply beautiful. I'm still wondering how the little chick is doing :)
Debbie Roome 09/11/07
Lovely writing. Could picture the sunset as though I were there.
Sherrie Jackson09/11/07
Absolutely beautiful. Perfect pacing, and though I know this is bandied about a lot here, you really plopped me right in the middle of the setting. I was THERE. Excellent.

I wasn't too sure how this fit in with the topic until I read the additional notes at the end. Bold women indeed! Great job, Dee. It's a pleasure to read your work from week to week.
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/11/07
I agree--this is very beautiful. I had to think for a minute about the topic, but of course it fits! What a bold thing to strike out west, so alone.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/11/07
A story about a bold woman - I like it! At first, I'll admit, I thought she was thinking about her husband having died and that they would have a reunion in heaven soon. Then came the "aha!" moment. LOL
As others have mentioned, your writing is very picturesque. Nicely done!
Jan Ackerson 09/11/07
An ordinary writer would have written an ordinary story about a brave pioneer woman--you took it waaaaaaaaay out of the ordinary, just by the simple addition of one scrawny chicken--and your beautiful, serene writing.
Marilee Alvey09/11/07
Very talented writing here. Your descriptions are wonderful. I was out on the prairie, too. I felt the absence of the husband. Your piece was thick with it. Having a husband who travels alot, I know those emotions. You captured them beautifully and made me feel the heartache, pain and toughness of this prairie woman. Excellent writing!
Betty Castleberry09/11/07
I could picture the whole thing. Your MC's emotions came through loud and clear, and the descriptions were wonderful. Thank you for honoring these brave women, too. Big thumbs up.
RuthAnn Cornelson09/11/07
Love the descriptions. Reminds me of how good we have it today - neighbors close by, music and information to dull the silence. She had only the Lord.Maybe we could do with a little silence and just Him sometimes. I love historical fiction and this was great!
Catrina Bradley 09/11/07
OH! I want you to keep writing of this man and woman! I could read your beautiful words of the homesteaders on the prairie forever. When is the novel going to be finished?? :)
Sharlyn Guthrie09/11/07
I felt both her loneliness and her resolve. Beautiful
Beth LaBuff 09/11/07
I think you are exactly right about the lonliness. My grandmother's family homesteaded in Wyoming when she was a girl. Your story was fascinating.
Brenda Welc09/12/07
Were you there? Just asking because this was very vivid writing. You pulled me in and kept me there until the end and I felt all the emotions you poured into this story. Well done, Fantastic writing!
Loren T. Lowery09/12/07
Your writing puts the reader right there, experiencing everthing. There's a lot to like about this piece, but what drew my attention is they way, despite her own hardship, she "cared" for the small, struggling chick. If anything, this shows a tender heart. Great Job!
Pam Carlson-Hetland09/12/07
You write so very well. Indeed, this is a portrait befitting the topic of "bold". Absolutely excellent.
Julie Ruspoli09/13/07
Wonderful writing, now I know what it is like to live on a prairie. Great article Dee!
Jacquelyn Horne09/19/07
I love homestead stories and this is no exception. Thanks for sharing. Good writing. Wanted to read on.