1. Adventure Awaits
"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure."
- William Feather
Clara shut her book with a slam as the wagon hit a slight bump in the road. She had asked for a splendorous adventure, but not one like this, not one that was basically her in a covered up Conestoga wagon reading this pointless book. However, she guessed it would not be that bad. A new life in Oregon would be splendid, but it wouldn't be the same as her life in Virginia, however, there's a new start to everything ain't there? She looked at the cover of her book and sighed.
The Anatomy of the Human Body
by William Cheselden
The young woman had read this book more than she could count, and she could count pretty high. Clara Robertson was highly intelligent for her age and for the time it was. At the age of twenty-two in the time of 1860, everyone in the town of Richmond, Virginia could say the was the most brilliant girl in the world. Not to mention to most prettiest as well, but her looks had nothing to do with her academics in being one of the first female doctors. She was the brightest of all her classmates, even all the men in her medical class at Harvard. She was the first woman to successfully pass the class, however her academics were cut short as the Robertson family decided to take the adventure of new life in the wild territories. She was leaving civilization, traveling through uncivilization, to head towards more civilization. There wasn't much of a barrier between them, the world here was not much of a savage place.
Along with her in traveling was her entire family, her father, mother, and brother who we will get to eventually, but also other family friends their families. Brad even decided to join them, which was not much a surprise was it since he is betrothed to Clara. There was nothing wrong about Brad that displeased Clara except for the fact that they were just good friends, or at least that's what she thought. Marriage was crammed down her throat just as being a doctor was, although she enjoyed medical studies and not studies of romance. She and Brad had grown up as childhood friends since their parents got along real lovely. They had grown a bond, but only a bond of friendship due to the fact Clara was more deep in her studies than romance.
Brad was a very masculine and tough guy, except it seemed like he could hardly hurt a fly. He was capable of crushing a man's skull if it came to that, but he pretended to give off a more innocent demeanor. He did that because Clara's parents were always searching for the perfect guy, and it seemed if Brad did not mature as he should, she would always be with someone else. Brad stepped up however and took the challenge of being someone he wasn't, just for the girl. You see, men will do anything they can in their power for a certain woman, that is if they certainly want her. Brad wanted her though, wanted her since the day they met at eight years old. The small blonde boy she once knew grew before her eyes and became a very smooth-talking Southern boy. He was not incredibly handsome, but he had some features that were quite appealing. If he was not involved with Clara, certainly most of the other women in Virginia would have grabbed a hold of him.
Brad's family was very sweet. They were certainly rich like Clara's, except they were more in the practice of slaves. His mother, Elizabeth Dawson, was a kind and loving mother, the one Clara wished she had. Elizabeth was an excellent cook as well. Her meat stew with carrots were heaven in a pot, and her homemade corn muffins were a sweet taste that lasted in your mouth for days. Her husband Rick was a great inventor, especially in weapons. That was mostly how their money was made, by blood spilling and chest gutting machines that could rip a person in half. Clara had always wondered if the Dawson family ever felt bad about creating weapons that destroyed entire armies, but they said they make the weapons, not shoot them.
"Boo!" a voice yelled, revealing himself from underneath a large brown blanket. Ah yes, we get to Charlie, the prankster of the entire family. The ten year old boy could do more damage to a town than a fire burning on oil. His crazy black hair was a mess, and his smile of accomplishment shined brightly as Clara had jumped ten feet in fright.
"Why you little bootless bum-bailey," Clara stomped her foot in annoyance and thought of hitting the worthless brat with the side of her book. But what would be accomplished in that? Only fake tears, angry parents, and possible confiscation of all her books which would not be worth her petty slap.
"Oh come on Clara O'hara," her younger brother joked, "it was just a small scare. You need to stop being such a wussy girl."
"Can't you see I am reading here?" she fumed as she pointed at the small, blue, leather-bound book.
"That was exactly why I scared you after you closed your book," he smiled and suddenly the wagon stopped. Clara and her brother had shifted at the momentum and then looked outside the wagon. The sky seemed to be setting, the magnificent blue was taking its rest as the smaller colors took its place only for a few minutes before the darkness could take over. She admired those bright pink and luscious orange colors because they were rare throughout a day. It was mostly blue, or black. Rarely it would have it's few moments to shine it's more vibrant colors. It was those rare things in life that Clara had enjoyed, like small adventures in an unknown forest, or even stealing a book for a day to read and then have to return later.
"Must be dinner!" Charlie quickly jumped out of the wagon, knocking his stolid sister out of the way. That kid always thought about food, even though he was as skinny as a twig. After breakfast, he'd ask what was for lunch, and after lunch he'd ask what was for dinner. After dinner, he'd ask for dessert, however now on this journey we have no dessert, which was fine because it stopped Charlie's complaining about that. Until sleep was to arrive, he'd just complain about going to bed.
"Excuse me ma'am but may I escort ya outside?" a hand was sticking out, and Clara left her invisible brain to see Brad there, his hair slicked back and his slight muscles under his button up shirt were the only thing really appealing.
"Where's my father?" Clara asked as she took his hand and he helped her out of the wagon, careful to watch out for mud, since last time it splattered all over Clara's new dress.
"He went with the hunting party this time with my father, he should be back soon with dinner. I haven't seen you since breakfast darling, what have ya been doing all day?" he asked me as he led me towards the center of our party gathering. Every Night the wagons were arranged in a circle, so that everyone around the small fire could be together. There were twenty wagons in total with us, meaning there was an estimate of eighty people in their journey. However, they were traveling with a much larger group, but separated into intervals. Around eight miles east, were another twenty wagons, and around eight miles west, were another group. In conclusion, they weren't alone, but yet to Clara it felt like that.
"I was just reading," Clara replied as she held her book tightly in the other hand not holding Brad's.
"Really Clara," Brad tried to explain, "Ya won't find much in those books. You need to grab a horse and ride in front of the wagons with me. There... out there, out here is the world! You say ya can view different worlds and people through books, and have exciting adventures, but you should look up and around to see all of that is in front of ya. How can ya say the world is in your books when ya just do not look up to view it?"
He had a point, but it was in a world where Clara could could imagine it her way, and see things the way she wants it to be seen. How can she explain that to someone who hates books? It seems like anyone who could possibly despise literature literally despises imagination, and anyone who despises that is a dull old man. Brad could be like that sometimes, but he was also full of surprises as well. Clara looked around finally at the short, yellow grass as it flowed with the slight wind and the small hills in the distance. To her, it seemed like a painting, one of those dull and unoriginal ones found in a painter's basement. The scenery around her was something that she just didn't appreciate, it was something could imagine in a second.
"Ya know, you've seemed to act differently since we have left," he observed, "Ain't this what you wanted? Ya know, an adventure where anything could happen?"
"Where's the danger Brad? I look around and see an empty land full of emptiness. Where's the dragons, the enchanting creatures that roam the earth looking for delicious humans to eat? Yes, I asked for an adventure, but not one like this, not one where it the only interesting thing happening was Old Bill ate some bad berries on the side of the road and got sick. There must be more than the dull life I am in."
"Clara, this is the wild. You should be careful for what ya wish for... we could be raided by 'dem redskins or even attacked by a herd of buffalo. An adventure is a matter of perspective, ya just need to open your eyes a dainty bit wider."
"Oh yes, a wild herd of buffalo is the exact adventure I had in mind. Indians, eh, what can they do anyways?" She asked.
"They could always eat you, damn savages can eat anything," he said, "but we shan't talk about it. Don't wanna make ya lose your appetite."
He sat there for a while, the rough bark of the pine tree rubbing against the thin fabric of his pants and the skin on his back. Angrily, he continued to carve into his bow, the thin and smooth piece of wood needed some extra decoration. All his life, Chayton was looking for some form of excitement and it seemed as his father has sent him on useless patrol assignments, his big brother was sent on dangerous missions with hunting and killing. So he just sat there, sticking a blade in the fine wood, hoping a beautiful masterpiece could come out of it.
Chayton was anything but artistic, maybe in his more musical sense for drumming, but when it came to making things, he was stuck. He was not interested in a lot of things, but he enjoyed one thing: he enjoyed watching white people. No matter what it seemed they were doing, it had intrigued the Sioux warrior. He had grown up learning the English language after reading a book translated into the traditional Sioux language. Around ten years ago, Chayton remembers it like yesterday, a small group of explorers were looking for some water, but they were looking for big water. Anyways, he woke up one day to find them around his tent. They wore the most unusual clothing, one that covered most, if not all of their skin besides their head. They had guns too, big guns; he was always told to stay away from anyone who could bear such arms.
These men captivated him. The way they spoke, the way they dressed, and the way they had treated people. As the son of the chief, they were very intrigued with Chayton as well. They tried their best to communicate with them, and over their visit of one week, Chayton knew over two hundred words in the English language, and was continuing to know more. Unfortunately, some did not like those Englishmen, especially an unknown tribe of Native Americans who were following them for days. They raided at night, finding the whiteman's tents first, and slaughtered them. We prepared for war easily, but the cowards took their scalp prize and ran off. However, one of them managed to survive, only to find his brothers decapitated and motionless.
He had woken up due to the silent screams, and what he found devastated him. Blood was spilt that night as the Sioux Indians knew that the friendly men must be avenged. Chayton grabbed his small bow and dagger, ready to chase down the vicious monsters of his nightmares, however someone stopped him. His father told him he was too young, that what they were to do was beyond what he knew. Of course, Chayton was only thirteen, but, he had gone through the process of being a man, he should be able to go and help. It took a few more refusals before he gave up, sitting back on his blankets and crying. It was the first time he had ever cried, and it was the last, or so he thinks.
The lone survivor, the death walker, as they called him after that, he first went to Chayton after hearing the moans and sobs from the young Native American boy. Assuring the boy that the world was not going to end, that he would wake up and everything would be as it were, he told him something that would stay in his heart forever.
"You know," the American man scratched his small beard and slightly smiled at the kid, "at first, my men and I thought you were savages. We have heard many stories of the strong and mighty Sioux tribe, most probably not true. Now, we came to realize that you are the most simple and calm of creatures, that your way of life is so simple that it seems as if the world flows with you, or it flows within you. After what just happened, I cannot say that all Natives are savages, but I cannot say you are all peaceful either. In the future, there will be a time where you judge us, the White Men, and I want you to remember that every person is different. Do not judge by what one other did, but judge on how that person acts.
"A man may be savage and cruel, but a different man the next day could be kind and friendly. We view the world through the veil of our own eyes. You kiddo, have to believe that not all white men are like me, and not all Indians are like you, but everyone was created for a purpose. I see a strange future coming for you and your tribe, but as long as you trust yourself, what could go wrong?"
After those words, he had never saw that kind man again. He woke up, tear-stained faced and confused to find many objects and tools around his teepee. There was a small note in English on top of his learning book that said:
The other's would have wanted you to have these.
Inside the several leather bags left in his room included many things. One was filled with drawn maps, multiple notebooks (most blank) and writing utensils that the young men showed him how to use and write with. Another was filled with a strange circular looking glass, one that if you pulled, could stretch until you could see the horizon, miles away. It also contained multiple books in English, ones still Chayton would try to read, but he still did not understand most of the words. The last bag was full of small and unique looking knives. The one that fascinated him the most was the white ivory one with the carvings of some kind of war with a bunch of strange flags in the background.
That same knife is the one he was holding today, trying to carve his own bow with the jagged knife. His jaw was clenched, as he was trying his best to forget the pain of remembering them and fixed his thin mohawk hair, the center only hair and the rest bald. It was a symbol to him that he was a warrior, and also it was easier to scalp, if it ever came to that. Every time he looked at the learning guide to teach him English, he was reminded of them. He learned English (not all of it) because of them, and he even taught it to other members of the tribe, so in the future it was possible they could communicate with the new settlers. Putting the knife away in his small pant-pocket, he stood up, twisting the bow on his bare back and keeping his hands free, holding on to the thick trunk next to him.
He thought he had heard the faint sound of birds chirping, a familiar twa-too sound. Standing silently, he heard it quietly, except this time closer. Those weren't birds, but signals. Signals of humans. He turned to his left and saw his friend Enapay in the distance, his red body paint showing through the thickness of the forest. Chayton leaped to the branch on the far side of him, swinging around to access more trees. From treetop to treetop, he jumped on a branch next to his tribe brother and looked at him.
"What kind of men?" he nudged Enapay and looked up at the top of the tree. If he wanted to see these men, he would only have to climb up another twenty feet or so.
"White," his friend said. Chayton's heart got excited. They had seen white men of course, even after the incident, but none ever visited or did anything worth of them visiting. But every time they were to spy on them, it was a closer opportunity to meet another group of people. Without replying back, he clenched his fingers in the rough bark and climbed up the tree. His hands turned red and burned, but they burned with anticipation as the rough bark scraped against his pure chocolate skin. As soon as he reached the top and could look below in the valley, he saw a small herd of buffalo, not really rare in the Dakota's.
Taking out the circular looking glass, he poked his right eye in, and behind the buffalo herd, waited a few white men behind a small hill. They seemed to be contemplating on which ones to kill, wasn't a hard decision. Go with the smallest one, less work.
"What do you see!?" his friend shouted from below.
"Everything," Chayton replied, smiling as he shut the glass back in its shape.
"What does that mean?" he could hear his friend puzzled at his response.
"Tell Kangee and Ohanzee to watch the men, then follow where their camp is. I will talk to my father about this and ask if I could keep an eye on them till they leave our territory," he looked around the golden plains and then turned to see the sunset. Those colors sickened him, they were colors to signal the day was over, and night was coming; but with night, came monsters. He turned back towards the humans at the sound of a stampede. They obviously decided to strike the gigantic creatures, and it did not take long for the first buffalo to fall.
Chayton had heard those sounds before: guns. The first brown mountain fell, and along with another loud shot, BAM, another fell. He sat there for a moment still, wondering why two buffalo were sacrificed. One of those could feed a tribe of a hundred for at least a week, at most two... so why did they shoot two? The answer was quite simple, though it took him some time to figure it out. It was for the game, the sport. Chayton had seen these men get easily entertained by games and fun, obviously they found a great pleasure in hunting. From the pleading of his friend, he climbed down slowly until his vision on the men was no more. As they both reached the crunchy ground, they headed west towards the mountains, back home with some news.
Clara and her family waited at least a good hour until the return of the hunting party. She stood up as she heard the sound of approaching hooves and saw seven horses riding towards them. Charlie ran past the circular barrier of wagons as he went to greet his father with a big hug. Colin Robertson, the second biggest lawyer America had ever heard of (John Adams was obviously the first). Colin, Clara's father, loved the law more than anything. His law came before his family, friends, his life. Law was his life. Unfortunately stubbornness seemed to run in the family, both sides. Clara knew that it was a curse and blessing combined, but most saw it a curse except the Robertson family.
"Clara," her father, also known as The Man With the Intimidating Mustache, looked at his young daughter and smiled, "I am glad to see ya made it out of the wagon today. Charlotte and I thought you would not even come out for dinner, surprised you got your head out of that book of yours." Ah, so now we learn the mother's name was Charlotte, if you haven't noticed a familiar pattern, you'll eventually figure it out later.
"Oh you know, hunger got the best of me," Clara smiled, those dashing white and perfect teeth shining. She was the perfect daughter, and according to Brad, the perfect wife (even though they weren't married yet). Her youth seemed like it would last her her entire lifetime. Those adorable light brown curls spiraled like an Italian staircase and her hazel eyes looked like the a rushing dust storm carrying a few foliage with it.
"Well, we got supper, but unfortunately we couldn't carry all of it back. I hope you are in the mood for buffalo," he patted his daughter's shoulder and dragged Charlie back towards the fire. Now the sun was almost depleted as it finished it's cycle for the day. It was getting cooler, and Clara's fancy dress was not very acceptable to mother nature tonight. She turned towards the fire where everyone was heading. Brad had brought out his small guitar, as usual, and she saw next to him on the grass, holding his sturdy hand.
Finally it seemed like her mother would wake from her beauty sleep, but she certainly would not wake up like that. Clara knew she would probably wake up cranky and self-centered as usual, just her mother trying to get through another boring twenty-four hours of traveling. However she didn't say anything as she climbed out of her wagon, in fact she had a slight smile on her face as Colin kissed her forehead. As the fathers were preparing the meat, getting ready to cook it under the starry sky, Brad started playing a small lovely tune, the strings making a joyful sound of music.
Clara like music, quiet or loud, music was music to her. She had enjoyed singing and had a wonderful voice, but when would a nurse or doctor have time to sing? Never. So, she resorted to music as a way to take a small break. Brad started singing however, and when he sang, he usually made up his own lyrics.
Oh, we have reached the black hills of Dakota,
And Clara likes them sorta'.
Wild beasts roam,
and the smell of Charlie's laundry is loathsome.
Buffalo is a great big beast,
and it's almost time to feast.
However, before this song takes an era,
I think I'll kiss my Clara.
He finished the slow, steady rhythm with a quick kiss on Clara's cheek. She was surprised the the song had to end so early, because it seemed to be going so well. However the men came back, putting the thick meat on a the pans above the soaring fire, and the meat began to sizzle, as it should. Everyone finished their small clapping as he had finished and put his guitar away to help his father. As of right then, Clara had nothing but food on her mind, and the idea of adventures were paused.
She sat on the edge of her and her brother's wagon, holding a thin rifle in her hand. Guns were something she grew up with, and she had no problem holding them or even shooting them. They were an adventure to her of course, one that had endless possibilities. Staring out into the darkness, the stars not doing their best to light the way, she saw a small orange light in the distance.
The word repeated in her head. Who's fire? It did not seem in the direction the other wagons were supposed to be, and the nearest small town was twenty miles west. This was more north, and Clara had the strangest feeling that it was something uncivilized. Native Americans? Savages? The words came up almost everyday as they traveled but they never bothered Clara. Once she saw a savage, she would have no problem shooting one straight between the eyes.
Now that would be an adventure.
However for now the world was quiet. No carriages going down the cobble-stoned streets every minute, no drunken chatter or children laughing. Just pure silence as everyone was either sleeping or around the fire, enjoying the fiery warmth it offered. The distant fire flickered, as if objects went around it, dancing. Well, that's just what she thought. It simply could have been anything. That fire could not even exist and just be a part of her imaginative hope that there was more out there to experience.
What was her future? Was it to be stuck as a doctor for the rest of her life in Oregon or the other future territories over there? Was it to escape this nightmare of marrying Brad and running away with another man? It seemed highly impossible, she laughed, what guy would run away with her, and what type of guy would ever make her run away? One she would love of course, but what was love in this place anymore? She literally just ran away from all the available bachelors of the United States of America to come here with her fiancé, a man she hardly loved. It seemed, that even though she wanted an adventure, all these things just made her life harder than easier. It seemed like what she wanted, were things she realized maybe she did not need.
Sometimes as people now saw this thing called industrialism, a way to make the world simpler and easier, it made everything else other than technology harder. Did sending letters now disappear due to a small telegraphic device? Did streets now become paved? And what was this idea of a railroad going through America? It just seemed like more work, work, work, only to make more money and make things "simpler". What happened to small enclosed communities where everyone got along and enjoyed everyone's company? Where did those times go?
They left with the age of technology.
Chayton sat on the edge of the cliff, swinging his right leg as he watched the small fire in the distance from the white people's camp. Chewing desperately into the green apple, he slightly smiled. He was wondering what kind of people they were, were they nice, or just people doing their best to avoid Indians? He wanted to see them, close up, so close he could see every detail of them. How their eyes looked, how their skin looked and felt, how their lips moved when they spoke. He wanted to see and know all those things.
"Chayton," Enapay asked, in the Sioux language of course, "we are to watch them tomorrow. Your father says that they will have to stay another day before moving on. So you and I will follow them."
This got Chayton really excited. Now he had a chance to talk to them and get closer. He wanted to connect with them.
"Of course we will not be able to communicate with them. Chief made it clear no contact shall be made unless necessary. You are forbidden to speak unless acknowledged to."
His heart sunk of course, "Sounds good."
"Come back and dance with us, you always miss out on nights like these," his friend nudged him into his shoulder with his knee.
"No," Chayton shook his head, "I'll just stay out here, enjoying the beautiful weather."
"More like enjoying the view," his friend laughed and walked back towards their own fire.
Chayton finished his apple to the core and then threw it down the cliff. After hearing the small splat, he looked back at the White Man's fire. He wondered if there was someone who could see their own fire, if someone was thinking about who they were, what they were doing.
He clenched his arm muscles slightly, maybe because he felt strange, and his way of coping with the weirdness was to try and fight it. But he couldn't fight it, couldn't resist it. His eyes locked onto the distant fire and did not cease looking upon it, the faint glow of orange and red attracted his eyes and it seemed as if all was quiet again. There were no sounds of chanting behind him, no poundings of the drums, not even the singing-insects could shatter this bridge between the camp and him.
He sensed danger from them, but also something different. His body felt sweaty, lightheaded, this strange feeling of light going through him. He had never felt this before and it all seemed foreign to him, but that didn't mean he disliked the feeling. It was rather bitter-sweet, a taste that was satisfying, but also repulsing at the same time. Suddenly the fire was put out, and he awoke from his strange trance, seeing nothing now but pitch black into the wilderness. He got up, knowing that there was no point now in watching things he couldn't see. Wiping the remaining apple juice on his pants, he walked past the ceremony and into his teepee where he would make his rest. He wanted to wake early for the journey ahead, he was still anxious to finally go.
However that other feeling seemed to still overpower his nerves.
Clara woke from her slumber at the sound of the fire being put out. She realized she had fallen asleep, leaning against the wagon with her shoulder. The rifle was on her feet, as she must of dropped it from her muscles relaxing. She picked it up and set it on the wagon. The world was quiet other than the soft wind, kissing the waving grass goodnight. She walked towards the now put out fire and saw her mother walking towards her wagon.
Clara hoped her mother did not hear her, but she did.
"Clara my dear, what are you still doing up?" her mother asked. The skinny Southern woman looked weak, even though most of the day she had rested. The grey roots of her hair were visible on the moonlight, though the rest of her dark black hair camouflaged in the nebulous night.
"I-I was just awoken by the dampening of the fire, that's all," the young daughter replied, cussing in her mind about having to speak with her mother.
"Are you alright?" she asked another question. Clara had heard that phrase many times. It was always about how she was doing, never really about how she was feeling. Never had her mother ever asked if she was happy, but maybe that was Clara's fault. Clara had the façade or impression of always being happy, but that was never true was it? There was a constant gap in her life that she wanted to fill. Clara had once saved Brad's life, that was how they had met. Brad had been stuck in a really high tree and was too scared to come down. Brave Clara had climbed the entire tree to help Brad down.
That feeling of accomplishment was wonderful, that she could feel good about herself doing something. Life was like that. The whole purpose of life was to feel that accomplishment, but forever. Clara wanted to wake up every morning with that feeling that she was wonderful, that something new would be accomplished or fulfilled. Her happiness would come from whatever could give her this feeling. Happiness is said to be where the heart it, even though it beated in her chest, her heart was not with her.
"Of course, just startled really," Clara nodded, trying her best to stay awake.
"You should ride your horse with father tomorrow, you know it would mean the world for him to stick that beautiful head of yours out of those books," her mother had touched her shoulder, probably to give a more sympathetic feeling that she should join father.
"I'll think about it. Today's weather was okay, but you never know what tomorrow may bring."
"That could be said about everything darling," her mother stood on her toes and kissed her "little girl" goodnight. After walking away, only the sound of crunching leaves and dirt revealing her mother's leaving, Clara walked back to her own wagon, realizing that maybe sleep was a good option. She had loved sleep, perhaps because it could skip an entire boring day and that it made her feel refreshed. Climbing into her wagon, she saw Charlie sleeping like a monkey in those awkward positions and she headed to her own bed.
Sitting down on it, she sat on a hard square shaped object. Bending over to grab the nuisance under her butt, she realized it was a book, more specifically, a journal. It was blank, and then she concluded it to be the journal she brought with her, to write down her adventures. She grabbed a small metal pen and started to write about today, not that it had many adventures or amazing things...
... but because she felt as if an adventure was on her way.
Finishing writing, she set the book next to her and tried to sleep. However, as she closed her eyes, she could feel the awareness of anticipation in her veins. Knowing the quickest way to get to tomorrow was to sleep, she closed her eyes, and began to dream.