“Cynthia!” her mother called up the stairs as she shut her bedroom door.
“Coming Mother!” She walked quickly down the stairs and into the sitting room. Martha stood waiting for her with a smile on her face.
“Why Martha this is a surprise!”
“I thought maybe you would like to join me for a walk by the creek? These warm fall days won’t be here much longer. Plus” she said in a whisper, “I have a letter from Wells.”
“ Let me ask Mother if she can spare me.”
She walked to the kitchen where her mother stirred a pot over the stove where applesauce cooked. “Mother, is it okay if Martha and I take a walk by the creek?”
“Sure dear, enjoy the warm weather while we have it.”
“Thanks!” Cynthia gave her mother a kiss on the cheek and skipped out of the room.
Cynthia and Martha walked towards their favorite spot along the creek. It was a nice hidden spot where trees shaded the hot summer sun, and where the sun would warm the moss under the trees in the fall. It had tall bushes on either side which hid them from view. It was a great spot to sit and read letters from Martha’s brother. The October sun shone brightly today with an unusual warmth for this time of year in Michigan. Leaves crunched beneath their feet as they walked, and a bird sang a sweet song in a tree. A slightly cool breeze teased Cynthia’s hair reminding her winter wasn’t to far away.
The girls settled on the moss covered ground. A caterpillar with brown and black crawled by Cynthia’s feet, but she didn’t take notice of the wooly bear caterpillar this time, as she was eager to hear what was in the letter this time.
Martha pulled out an envelope and slowly took out the letter. As she read Cynthia closed her eyes and imagined what this California looked like. The way Oregon City was described she felt as if she were there looking at the fog lingering in the tall trees. After the letter was read twice, Martha put it carefully back into the envelope. The girls talked about what they thought California looked like and how fun it would be to go on such an adventure.
Time got away from Cynthia and Martha and suddenly Cynthia realized the sun had sunken low in the sky and supper time was not far off. Martha also had to go so they walked together for a little bit until Martha turned on the path headed to her own home. Cynthia took the path that led to her street, which led to home.
She loved days like today, where the smell of fall was in the air. She wondered what fall in California was like. Did they have the beautiful maples and oaks like they had here? With reds, oranges, yellows, and browns like a painting. She picked up a red maple leaf and twirled it with her fingers. Most of her friends from Ohio were getting married, having children and settling down. And here she was thinking of a far off place, and how grand of an adventure it would be to go there. She sighed and let the leaf drop to the ground. She saw their small white washed house with smoke lazily coming out of the chimney. She better hurry up before her mother got upset at her tardiness.
As she walked through the door smells of dinner and applesauce assailed her. She tied her crisp white apron on to protect her blue calico dress. As she stirred the simmering applesauce, her mother set the table. She set the applesauce aside to cool and to be canned for later, and helped bring the soup her mother had prepared for dinner to the table.
Charles and Edward, her brothers, sat down at the table. Her Father joined them a minute later, all cleaned up from his day of hard work. They sat down and her father gave the blessing over the food.
“Dear Heavenly Father, We thank you for this food you have provided, and the hands that have prepared it. Thank you for this time we have together as a family. I pray you bless this evening together. In Jesus name we pray these things, Amen.”
Bowls of steaming split pea soup were passed around along with warm yeast rolls, and apple pie for dessert. The men talked of work and what was happening in town. Cynthia half listened as she thought of riding on the prairie with Wells. She realized what she was thinking and blushed slightly. How silly of her, day dreaming about a man she had never met. She tried to focus on what her brother Charles was talking about. Something about the price of lumber.
When supper was finished, and the kitchen was cleaned up, the family gathered in the sitting room for their evening devotions. As her father read from a passage in Matthew, Cynthia knitted while her mother repaired one of her brothers trousers. After devotions her father sat back and read a paper from a neighboring town. Her brothers had gone off to the barn to finish their evening chores and milk Susie, their milk cow.
Cynthia couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer, so she said goodnight to her parents and climbed the stairs to her bedroom. As she readied herself for bed she saw her prayer journal sitting on the bed stand. The journal she hadn’t written in since late this summer. As she brushed her long auburn hair, she opened the journal and read her past entries. Prayer requests for friends, and for her future husband. She put her brush away and wrote down her prayer requests for the day. As the ink dried, she prayed for each one, and finally she prayed for Martha’s brother and Uncle, and safety on the journey to California.
Wells adjusted his position in the saddle. David regained his breath from the coughing fit that had overtaken him. “I think we should find somewhere to rest where you can get better. That cough has been getting worse.”
“You are right, I don’t feel so well.”
The look on Uncle Davids face was enough to send panic through Wells. What if something happened to Uncle David? He would be all alone in this wild west. He didn’t want to think on that, so he cleared his throat and urged his horse forward.
As the sun sunk lower in the sky, Uncle Davids sickness worsened. Soon they came upon several canvas tents. Wells was able to locate someone with a larger tent who could take care of Uncle David until he got better. His Uncle wanted him to continue on for the next 150 miles on his own. Wells hated to leave his Uncle there, but if they were going to get a claim before they were all sold, he needed to get there quickly.
Wells set out the next day alone. Not many 19 year old’s were out on the trail alone. This was the chance to become a man, and take on this journey himself. The road was lonely without Uncle David along. No one to talk to about home, no one to teach him about the types of birds or talk of their family’s history in Germany. A comforting thought was that his parents were praying for him. He left the praying to his Father though. His family had prayed his whole life, but he hadn’t really prayed himself.
With the official paper Well’s and his Uncles name on it stating they owned a claim, Wells placed it in a small metal tin he kept his valuables in and buried it in a safe place. It had been several weeks since he had left his Uncle to recover while he rode on towards their claim.
Clouds loomed above him as he got his simple dinner of hardtack and coffee prepared. Lightning stuck followed by a loud clap of thunder. Wells mare spooked and pulled her rope free from where he had her tied. More lighting followed by a downpour of rain prevented Wells from going after his horse, but securing his pack horse so she wouldn’t run off too.
Wells waited the storm out in his small shelter that kept him dry from the cold rain. The rain finally let up just before dawn. His mare was gone. She was probably roaming the hills for grass by now. With all he had been through with his horse though, he felt sadness that he wouldn’t see her again.
The horse that was left was his pack horse. He released the mare the enclosure of rope he had made so the horses could graze during the day. The mare gave out a whinny and another horse replied down the path that led to town. Wells looked to see if it was his missing horse, but the horse that came around the corner wasn’t her. It was his Uncle David riding in.
Wells greeted his uncle and helped him unload his things. As he told him all that had happened the past few weeks they ate a simple breakfast of dried meat. He was glad to see his uncle looking better. They talked of plans to build a small cabin for winter. As soon as they were done eating the two men got to work cutting trees for their cabin. The sooner they got the cabin up the sooner they could look for gold.
With the log house built, and the shake roof finally on, Wells and David looked at the 12×14 cabin they would call home. The door hung by wooden hinges, a chimney of sticks and stones, and a pole bunk filled with boughs from the western hemlock made this small place home for them. The work was hard, but the weather was mild. Wells never had to put a coat on all winter long.
Spring arrived with a flourish of birds and flowers. Food had gotten scarce in the Miller cabin. Wells went hunting with some of the other men who had claims near them. They rode up to ten miles to find meat and finally killed an elk. The next morning the clouds opened up and poured rain on the three men as they dragged the elk home through the mud. Wells was ever so grateful to see the small cabin. As the men divided the meat between them, his uncle came out and told them he had bought ten pounds of flour for one dollar a pound and a piece of beef from a pack train. That was all they would sell to one man.
Wells stuck a chunk of meat on a stick and stuck it in the fire. His Uncle was out working the claim. Hungry, and all alone Wells cried for the first time since coming west. He cried for the hard times they had gone through, he cried for the family he missed, and he cried out of thankfulness for the meat. As he ate the cooked meat, it seemed to be the sweetest piece of meat he had ever eaten. Wells took the Bible his father had given him and sat down by the fire. He opened it and soaked in the words that were so familiar, yet new to him. As he read John 3 the verses seamed to speak to him personally.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”
Wells for the first in his life realized what his father had been preaching all these years. He yearned to know God on a more personal level. He wept, but this time for his soul. He wept at the knowledge that God would send His son to die for him, a 20-year-old half starved in the middle of nowhere. Wells prayed, the first sincere prayer he had ever spoke, and his soul felt as if it was lifted. Like a weight had been taken off his back. He would never forget this night. The night where God had spoken to him.