Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)
TITLE: Finding Home
By Janice Cartwright
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Upon first awakening I look up to see at close range the arch of dusky canvas that forms both ceiling and walls of my home. Because in this region heat builds up quickly, we move out at daybreak. Some days I think we are like a slow creeping turtle with its house upon its back sure to arrive eventually at its destination. Other times I see us as a ship shorn of her sails, at the mercy of any change of tide, or none at all. Life on the trail west is a far cry from the settled comfort left behind at our Pennsylvania farmstead.
There are three of us that inhabit these quarters on creaky wheels: my husband Jeddah, who also acts as scout and hunter, my sweet little Sharon Rose, born the winter of the previous year, and me, Juliette Annabeth Edmonson. Sharon Rose will retain no memory of the stationary place where she was born and because to her home at this age means only two things: Momma and Papa, she seems content.
Game is scarce in these parts but Jeddah, with keen eye and steady hand, is a more than capable hunter. Not mighty in stature but in deed: my husband is a tough, no-nonsense man who would willingly give his life for any person in our company. From my seat beside our driver, I can see him astride his horse Brownie at the head of the train, looking back toward the stream of cattle and wagons stretched out behind him. His posture is familiar to me. The gaze will be watchful and sober, with a steely glint to the eye and a ready rifle resting against the saddle. Sharon Rose and I know the train’s lookout and provider has a tender side also, but his secret is safe with us.
It is early yet but heat is flexing its muscle when I feel Sharon Rose’s head grow heavy against my arm. I shift her gently and crawl with her back into the wagon bed, easing her limp body onto a pallet of quilts. I run my fingers through her damp curls and bend to kiss her forehead. Before clambering back up to the seat I take a moment to reach under the blanket that covers Mama’s dresser. The wood is satiny smooth and I picture it as centerpiece for the cabin Jeddah will build for us when we get to Oregon territory.
Just as I tug the covering back in place I hear a startling sound, a kind of snappy, whoosh-zing that causes me to jerk up. A spot of fiery light begins to glow and spread in the canvas wagon top above my head. And then another zing pops loose along with a ripping sound and another and then a clamor of gunshots, shrieks, and bawling cattle seems to come from all directions at once. Because everything happens so quickly I am not able to assess the moment, only react. My heart is pounding as I clutch my baby and scramble to the back of the wagon. My own screams are frozen in my throat as I feel my only home begin to lurch and sway and the scorch of burning wood and canvas assails my nostrils.
Sharon Rose’s cries are drowned by the tumult as I prepare to leap and then I see Jeddah in a cloud of Brownie’s dust galloping toward us; and my terror falls away from me.
As my husband raises his arms to receive our child God shows me in a burst of insight what home truly means. Beyond doubt it does not consist in snug farmhouses, or heirloom dressers, or even temporary shelter of a wagon bonnet. Just as Sharon Rose sensed all along, home consists of family, of Jeddah Edmonson and Juliette his wife, Sharon Rose their darling baby daughter, and the God who watches over us all. Whatever the immediate or distant future may hold, so long as we are together under His care, we are home.
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