Tales of Mandy, Part 3

“What do you want Mandy?” The girl that spoke was Aaron’s wife. She was fully aware that she had been second on his list of prospective brides, and also knew that the girl before her had been his first choice. “I said what do ya want!” Venom almost dripped from her lips.

“I came to speak with Mother Lawley.” God should I call her that or just “maw”. All of a sudden Mandy felt unsure of herself. “I need to speak with her in private.”

“Maw, don’t traffic with injuns and Aaron said you were not to be welcomed here.”

“But, I’m Rubin’s wife! I’m kin!”

“Rubin is dead! And ain’t no injun kin to the Lawley’s.”

“I’m carrying Rubin’s child! Maw! Your first grandchild!” She looked pass her enemy to the small woman behind her. Sarah Lawley seemed to reach for her, but almost instantly turned and went back inside.

“Your injun! Who knows who the father of your child is, if you are with child!” She turned and went back through the door. Damn, so now I’m injun and that makes me a trollop and a liar. A strong hand clasped her shoulder and spun her around.

“Get off my property! You are not welcome here or on any Lawley land! Push me and you won’t have the two weeks to vacate the cabin. Now leave my women folk alone! Get!” Aaron shoved her as he spoke.

Why? I’m not injun, my Dad was Irish! What do they want, why are they denying me. I am Rubin’s wife. Boy, when he gets home is he ever going to be mad. “You know Rubin is going to be blazing mad when he gets home!”

The laughter that followed chilled her very spine. ”Rubin is dead! I was with him when he died! He is never coming home! You’re crazy! Now get off my land!” Aaron pushed her toward the edge of the swept yard, the dogs nipped at her heals.

Am I crazy? No! I’m just a woman and he thinks he can push me around because of that, a woman, young and a half-breed. That’s the first time I ever thought of myself that way. God, Mandy are you in trouble, really big trouble. Talking to yourself and you know what folks say about those that do that. That’s the least of my worries, being crazy. At the moment being young, a woman, a breed and with child and alone is a lot worst than being crazy. Mandy took the shortest path through the woods to her cabin. Still she was almost dark getting there. The shadows were disappearing into the darkness as she opened the door and went inside. Mandy went to the hearth and took the lid off the stew pot, stirred the contents and filled a wooden bowl. The door swung open and four men in uniform came in.

“What do you mean?!” Mandy had had enough of men and their rude ways. She stood facing them with defiance blazing in her eyes.

“You Mandy, daughter of Ann Little Deer?” The older of the four questioned her.

“I’m Amanda McCarty Lawley, wife of Rubin Lawley, owner of this cabin and the land it stands on.”

“Captain,” it was Aaron Lawley that entered now and spoke. “Rubin Lawley was my brother, he is dead and as his next of kin this is my land. She is the breed known as Mandy.”

Two of the soldiers garbed her arms as she lunged for Aaron. She had had it! Rubin was not dead, this was his land and she was his wife!

“No! You are the lowest excuse for a person that ever lived! Rubin will kill you for this, if I don’t beat him to it!” Tears streamed down her face.

“You can take a bed roll with you.” The captain looked like he was not enjoying this at all.

“Where are you taking me?” Mandy turned to face the Captain.

“To the stockade. You’ll probably only be there a week or so before the journey starts to the territory. The government will give you a blanket and feed ya, so all you really need is your personal items.”

Mandy looked around the room, she went to her chest and from it took the blue linen dress she had been married in and the quilt that Aunt Kat had given them for Christmas. She rolled the dress up in the quilt and tied it with some hemp rope she had been braiding for Rubin. “What about my livestock?”

“The livestock belongs to Mr. Lawley. Indians can’t own any real property in the State of Georgia.” As they led her out Mandy felt as if the end of the world had come. As bad as she felt when they came back without Rubin, there had still been hope. Now she was being taken to a stockade, to be imprisoned and then forcefully moved from the only home she had ever known. She held her stomach as the child kicked her. Little one, we will be alright. Mandy would cry no more, neither would she ever forget the betrayal of her husband’s brother.

CampGilmer, the Stockade

Mandy set huddled in the corner of the small room she had been shoved into the night before. There were at least a dozen other people there, mostly women and children. It was hot and humid and the air in the crowded room was stale. The morning light began to filter through the holes in the badly chinked walls and she realized there were no windows and only one door. A child stirred in the growing light and whimpered. Mandy watched as the mother pulled the child to her breast to suckle. Others began to stir in the morning light and an old woman spoke to her in the tongue of her mother. Mandy recognized the words but could not remember the meaning. It had been a long time since she had heard the language of her mother spoken. The woman sitting next to the old woman spoke to her now, in English. “You are not of the People. Why are you here?”

“My mother was Ann

Little Deer, of the Deer Clan.”

“But you have hair the color of flames and your skin is white as the English China.”

“My father was white.” Mandy fought to hold in her anger at having to explain to these people her heritage.

The older woman spoke to the younger one who had been speaking with Mandy and gestured towards her.

“She wants to first say that she is known as ‘one who sees far’ and she says that for you she sees much. She says that you take a trail that has many forks and you will lose and find many things on this trail. Three of these things are very precious to you. One you have already lost but will find again, one you have lost and will replace with better and one you have yet to loose and will wait many winters to regain.”

“What is she talking about?” the anger rose as fast as the fear into Mandy’s heart.

“She says that in good time you will know of what she speaks; only now you need to know that you should watch the paths you walk and make sure that they lead to where you wish to be.” The young woman rose and went to the door of the room and opened it and went outside, Mandy followed her and was horrified at the scene in front of her. There were people sleeping on the ground and under small make shift tents with guards standing at the gates to the stockade. She realized at that moment that she would not be able to leave here on her own and she resolved to make the most of it.

The summer was hot dry and miserable. Food ran short and tempers even shorter. The People were not use to being confined and here they were not allowed to even leave the compound, much less hunt. Supplies were running short because of the drought that had set in the last of June. The only food available now, was the commodities that the government dealt out once a week, and they were getting smaller with each rationing. Some of the soldiers had taken to having their way with whatever women they fancied and a few of the women had found this a way to get food for their children. The commander of the post had strict rules against this but he was not always there. There were fights among The People and the guards and among themselves. Hardly a day went by without a death from at least one altercation. Old ones were taking to giving their food to the young, so they were now dying. One who sees far, had started handing her food to Mandy, when Mandy had refused she had fused at her and told the young woman, Osas, to tell her that she was saving the child and in doing that her future. The old woman grew frail but still held on, she managed to survive on the crumbs that the young woman forced on her from her own food. She would have none of the ration that she gave to Mandy though.

The Trail begins

Finally the word came; they would be loaded in wagons and begin the trip west. It was now October and it was still hot and dry with no glimpse of fall yet. Three weeks later the wagons left Gilmer, Mandy was in the fourth wagon with the 2 women and several children that were orphans. November saw them in northern Alabama on the Tennessee River road. The weather had changed from hot and dry to wet and cold in less than a week. Wagons were bogged down in the mud and all that were able had to get out and walk and help push the wagons out of the ruts. Mandy walked but her time to deliver was close at hand and the women watched her. Not quite sure that this white girl could deliver a child under these conditions. Just north of a small settlement called Muzzle Shoals,

Mandy began to have labor pains. Night found their camp under a huge oak tree, just beside a small church yard. The pastor’s wife heard that a child was being born and came out to offer her help.

She looked down at Mandy in surprise. There was no hiding the red hair. “Why you are white, child!”

“Not enough to keep my land in Georgia!” Mandy snapped back at her and immediately felt bad for it. “I’m sorry Mistress, but I am a half-breed and so I am here. My child though is white. Her father, my husband went on a hunting trip and never returned, so people saw a chance to take our land and be rid of me and our child.” Mandy fought hard to stifle the cry she felt building in her. She would not scream and carry on like she had seen women do in the settlement. She would do this with dignity if nothing else, for that was all she had left to give this child, dignity and love.

The labor was not that long or hard for her, but as she held the tiny baby girl in her arms, she knew that it would not survive the cold wet trip ahead of them. She looked up at the white woman that was busy now sending her slave to get blankets and food for the children and realized what she had to do.

“Mistress, I want to thank you for your help. Not many have even noticed us as we passed on the road, much less offered us any kind of comfort, such as food and blankets. Do you have any children of your own?”

The tall blond woman looked at her with kindness and answered, “No. We were blessed with a girl child but she succumbed to the fever 3 years ago and the Lord has not seen fit to give us another child.” She looked at the small bundle that Mandy held close and smiled. “They are precious treasures; always hold her close to your heart.”

Mandy handed the baby to her, “I will always hold her in my heart, but I wish for you to take her and make her your own. If I take her with me, she will not survive. With you she has a chance and I think that you will do right by her. Her father is Rubin Lawley and I am known as Mandy. If when she is grown you will tell her at least that much about us, I will be satisfied that you have done right by her and us.”

The woman took the baby and held her close, tears poured down her face. “I will always hold her as a special gift from God, and I will when she is old enough tell her of the courageous young woman who loved her enough to leave her in my care.” She hugged Mandy with her free arm and cooed at the baby at the same time. “I have a girl who has just given birth that can wet nurse her, so she will not want for suckle. My name, by the way is Esther Higginbotham. If ever you need to find me, my father owns the Turman Plantation at the bend just below The Shoals. May God Bless you, Mandy Lawley and may you find peace and comfort where you are going” saying that, Esther turned and went back toward the house, at the other side of the small church. Mandy felt a great pain and at the same time peace. Her child would survive.

She laid back down in the wagon and pulled the blanket around her and slept.

Mandy had slept hard thru the night, worn out from giving birth. With the light of the morning she felt cold and empty and knew the emptiness was not just from hunger. Osas handed her a bowl of hot steaming porridge. “The parson’s wife sent over some porridge and a pitcher of milk. She is a kind lady, not like some that we have seen on this trail.” She turned to make sure that the Old One was eating. “Grandmother says that she feels much stronger now that the child is safe. You made the only decision that you could Mandy, she will be safe here.”

Tears came into Mandy’s eyes and she looked away quickly. She had to do this or the baby would not survive, she wasn’t even sure at the moment if any of them would. She would have to face this pain later; there was no time for it now.

Osas was speaking to her and she wasn’t even sure what she was saying or how long she had been talking. “… you will need to ride today at least; a woman should not have to walk after just giving birth. Grandmother said to tell you that she will make sure that the spirits know where to look for the little one. She will leave with her a blessing of the people. Now we must leave here.” Osas turned and climbed down from the wagon leaving Mandy with the old woman. As she sit with the blanket drawn around her close she ate the last of the hot food in her bowl and thought about what tomorrow would bring. The wagon lurched forward and she felt a sudden urge to jump out and run up the path to the parsonage but she knew that what she was doing was truly for the best. She could come back later. She would come back for her!

The River

Mid-December saw them camped on the banks of the big river waiting for the weather to break and the rafts to be built. It was cold and there was snow and ice on the ground now. Mandy and Osas set huddled around a small fire with the 3 children that were still in their wagon and Grandmother. All of them were in bad shape from the cold and the lack of food. Mandy was almost sure that the fever that had killed so many the week before was going to take at the very least the small boy they called ‘turtle’ and Grandmother. Both had been ill for four days and neither had shown any signs of recovery. The other child that had taken sick at the same time had already gotten pass the fever and was beginning to eat the broth that Osas had fixed for him. Grandmother had not even opened her eyes for 2 days and her fever was still burning, Turtle could not keep the broth down and his fever had not broken either. Mandy had seen others in the last two weeks with the same illness and only the ones that were very strong were surviving it.

She and Osas had not fallen ill yet. Osas had been pouring a foul smelling tea down her for two weeks now, but then she had been giving it to all of them in the wagon and only 3 of them had not taken ill. She pulled the blanket tighter around her and thought about the baby she had left and was for once glad that she had. There she had food and a roof over her head and she was warm and dry. Osas stirred the fire and looked at the child and old woman laying beside him. “We will bury them in the morning. They will not last the night. Grandmother had told me when we reached the river that she would not cross it. She also said to remind you that there will be forks in your trail, to be careful which one you take. She did tell me that you will returned to the hills before you die and that that will be many winters, more than she has seen even. She also said that you are not to sorrow over her leaving that it is the way of nature and not to worry about the child that she will be fine and you did the right thing. You are a brave woman to have had the heart to do what you did. She told me to tell you all of this after she had gone and to say that she is proud to have known you.” Osas rose and walked over to Grandmother and knelt beside her. She began the low chant that Mandy had heard so much in the last few days.

Mandy rose and walked away she could not face loosing another person that she had gotten close to. Was she never to be able to have friends? She walked down toward the river away from the circle of wagons. Suddenly a soldier was standing in front of her. “Where ya going?” he wasn’t much older than she was and as she thought that she wondered, how old am I? I feel ancient, but god! I’m only 15 years old.

“Just for a walk, there is death at our fire and I just had to get away from it, for a little while.” The wind blew a hard cold blast, almost ripping her blanket away from her as she spoke.

“Well, ya need to keep to your fire. Especially at night, to many vermin out here to grab ya. And some of them is the 2 legged kind. Come on and I’ll walk ya back or if ya just really want to, I’ll set down under a tree with ya and keep ya company for a little while. It’s too cold to stay long from a fire though.” He gestured to a stand of pines.

Mandy lead the way to the pines and wiped the snow from a log and sat down. “Thank you, sir, I am sorry to cause you any trouble. I just could not bear to be there when ‘Grandmother’ dies. It seems that all my life anyone I grow fond of is taken from me.”

“This trip has been hard. I don’t think that the General thought it was going to turn so cold so fast. Aren’t you the girl that was with child? I am sorry about your lost.” He seemed so sincere.

Mandy realized that he must think that her baby had died. Well it was best if all of them thought that. That way, she was safe. “Thank you for your kind words, she was just not strong enough to make it.” Mandy looked down and let a tear fall, she had not lied.

He sled an arm around her and patted her back as he stammered to find the words to console her. The last thing he wanted to contend with was a crying woman. “I am sorry. My name is Jefferson, Jefferson Nelson.”

“Amanda Lawley, you can call me Mandy.” She looked into his face and there in the moon light she almost felt alive again. Almost, felt hope. “I better be getting back to my fire now, Osas will think that I got lost.” She stood to leave and knew that he had sprung to his feet to offer her his hand.

“You must be freezing. Do you have enough fire wood at your camp? Enough blankets? Maybe I can come by tomorrow and help you gather some wood, you don’t have any men in your wagon do you?” He seemed almost too friendly now and instinct told Mandy to shy away from him, but then he was just trying to be helpful. The voice in the back of her head was saying they are only helpful when they want something. Be sure that you are ready to deal with that before you except his help. Yes, this was one of those forks that Grandmother had warned her about.

“No we have plenty of blankets and wood. Thank you for asking. If we do need anything I will come looking for you Mr. Nelson. Truly, I will.” She quickened her pace toward the fire and wished now that she had never left it.

“Jefferson or Jeff. You don’t have to call me Mr. Nelson, makes me sound as old as my paw. And I mean it Mandy. I will help if you need it. Just let me know.” He reached out and caught her by the shoulder and turned her to face him. “And there are no strings attached to it. I won’t expect anything in return.” He released her and she turned and walked back into her camp.

Osas sat beside the form that was the old woman. “Grandmother has gone to “the great mountain”. She always told me that for her it would be the best place, where she could walk again with her mother. She took the boy with her, he has a good guide. They are better now.” She turned and looked at Mandy and drew her blanket close about her. Mandy lay under the lean-to and tried to turn off the thoughts that were spinning in her head. The baby she had borne and given away, the children that were dying every day, every hour, the old woman that had died, the death that had hold of the wagon train, the young soldier that she was drawn to, the hunger that never was satisfied now and the cold, the deadly miserable cold. She pulled her blanket closer and waited for exhaustion to allow her the luxury of sleep.

Dawn brought the sound of people stirring around and the smell of the corn mush being cooked for the morning meal. Mandy walked over and sat by Osas as she stirred the mush and spooned it into bowls for them and the two children that were still with them. “We will have to bury them quickly this morning, the men have finished making the rafts and I heard when I went for the water that we will begin crossing the river by mid day.” Just as she handed her a bowl of corn mush, Jeff Nelson walked up.

“I came over to help ya bury your dead. We will be crossing the river in a little while. You don’t have a lot of time to get your stuff together and take care of the dead.” He gestured toward the two small bundles that lay under the wagon.

“We will bury them together. Mandy and I can do it.” Osas did not want his help and Mandy could feel the hostile tone in her voice.

“Well, maybe you can but the ground is frozen and it won’t be deep so you need to find some rocks to put on top of the grave. I will dig it for you. Don’t think the dead will mind. You go gather some rocks, enough to cover a good size grave.” He turned and took the shovel from the back of the wagon and walked toward the trees.

“Come on Osas, Lark. We need to get the rocks and then pack up the wagon.” Mandy walked toward the river where the biggest rocks could be found.

The burial was short and not very ceremonial, there were several of The People that had known Grandmother from before the beginning of this trek that came and saw her on her journey, mostly though death had become so common place that burials were not really noticed anymore.

The horses were kept in a common corral, with each wagon being allotted 2. Their own two were brought shortly after the burial. Osas and Mandy and Lark packed all of their belongings back into the wagon along with the sick child, Samuel. As they finished with the packing and began to harness the small horses to the wagon, Jefferson walked up to Osas, “The horses will have to be unhitched on the raft; you will need to hold them and try to calm them. The rafts are large enough for two wagons and horses and there will be two soldiers plus an oarsman. There’s some ice on the river but it’s not too bad. I’ll meet you at the river as soon as you are hitched up.” He turned and walked toward the river without so much as a look in Mandy’s direction. I read that wrong. I really did think that he was interested in me. I shouldn’t be thinking about such things, I’m a married woman. Mandy buckled the harness on to the wagon tongue and pushed the idea of the young man to the back of her mind.

At the river the horses were being unhitched from the wagons as soon as they had pulled them onto the rafts. On each raft there were two wagons and four horses and from twelve to fifteen people. The water was cold and icy with a swift current carrying it south with what looked like logs and small trees beings pushed along by the icy flows. Mandy turned to Jefferson Nelson standing beside her, “Do they think this is safe to cross here? The river is so wide and ...”

“It is as safe here as any where and the men took care in building the rafts. It will be alright. Just like a big boat, don’t worry.”

He took the lead rope from her and led the horses onto the raft and began to unhitch them. “Besides I’m going across with your raft so nothing can happen.” He flashed a big smile at her and walked back to the second team.

“He’s taken a shine to ya, Mandy. We should eat better for the rest of the trip.” Osas stood beside her now and even though her voice seemed to be light, her face looked dark and worried.

“Osas, you know that I won’t use him, not like that.”

“Quite little one, I didn’t mean it that way. I meant perhaps he could hunt for us. There should be small game on the other side of this river. I don’t like this river; it’s too wide and cold.” Osas seemed to shutter as she turned and walked back to check on the two children. Lark was a thin girl of about 7 years who had lost both of her parents when the illness first began, they had both been almost starved because they were giving most of their food to the four children they had. Of those four only Lark and the small boy of Samuel had survived.

Mandy took the reins from the soldier and stood petting the gelding closest to her. The river to her was frightening. She watched as the first two rafts left the shore, being poled out into the current and then the man on the tiller was struggling to guide them toward the far shore. Mandy held her breathe as one tipped when a log was pushed under it by the swift current and ice, but it slid off the obstacle and went on down stream and toward the shore.

“All right, hold on too your ponies, we’re pushing into the current.” Nelson’s voice boomed. Mandy turned to see the men back by the tiller pushing with long poles and other men on shore pushing them outward into the deeper water. A terrible fear gripped her and she clung fast to the horse next to her. She was terrified of the cold dark water that was now swirling around the raft and carrying them down stream and ever closer to the far shore and farther away from her home and child. A pile of brush swept pass them pushed by the current that seemed to move faster in places than it did in others. She noticed that as they reached the shore there was another stream joining the river from behind what now looked to be an island. A good seventy or so yards from the shore she saw what she had perhaps feared most, a large log, really a tree, complete with roots and branches, barreling down toward the raft. The tiller saw it at almost the same time and was struggling to turn the raft out of its path. Nelson was helping him and the other soldier was trying to help with the horses on the back, who were stomping and moving around. The tree hit on the right rear side of the raft picking it up and simply turning it over as if it had been a mattress on a bed. Wagons, horses, supplies and people all went into the icy dark waters of the Mississippi. Mandy fought to hold on to the horse, to anything. She was terrified of the water, she wasn’t a good swimmer and it was cold. The last thing she was aware off was something hitting her in the head, no pain, just the thought ‘oh, that must be the wagon’. Then nothing.

The Other Side

“Mother?” Mandy reached out to touch the woman standing before her and then realized that behind her was ‘Grandmother’ the woman she had helped bury only this morning. She looked beyond them now, where was Rubin, why was he not here? Why, where………….Suddenly she felt a sharp pain and wet and cold and someone slapping her on the face. “Mandy, Mandy!” She recognized the voice, it was Osas. “Mandy! Come on little one you are not going to die on me now! I don’t want to be alone.” Mandy began to come to, sputtering and coughing up river water, realizing that she was freezing to death.

“I’m so cold…” she was almost whining at this point.

“Ok, but I need for you to help me, I can’t carry you. We need to get away from the river and find a cave or something, then I can build a fire and we can get warm. Do you think you can make it?”

“I’ll try. Where are the others?” Mandy was shivering and her teeth were chattering as she struggled to stand and leaning on Osas they made their way into the woods and away from help.

“I don’t know if any of them made it. I found you as soon as I surfaced and dragged you to shore. I looked for the children but didn’t see them. The wagon and horses and part of the raft was swept on down stream, maybe they rode it out. I don’t know.” Mandy realized that Osas was struggling herself to stand and support the weight of both of them, so she pulled herself up and though her head and shoulder felt like they had been stomped on by a herd of ponies stood on her own and plunged forward into the woods.

They walked for what seemed like miles, but probably in reality was only a few hundred yards into the forest and came to a ravine. Looking around in the wall of the ravine, Osas found a small opening and motioned for Mandy to follow her into it. The two of them squeezed thru the small opening and found themselves in a small but comfortable size cavern. The crystals reflected enough light from the opening to give it a sense of twilight. Osas looked around on the floor of the cavern and in a few moments had found what she was searching for. A piece of flint. “I’ll be right back, we need some fire wood.” Osas slipped out of the opening again but this time as she left Mandy noticed that she was not putting much weight on her left leg. She returned in a few minutes with some twigs and an armload of firewood. Then taking her knife and the piece of flint she made a fire. Both of them huddled close to the fire. Trying to dry out and get warm again. Mandy slept a long troubled sleep, in and out of the dream of her mother and ‘grandmother’ and looking for Rubin to tell him that their child was safe.

A New Start

Mandy finally woke and felt sore but clear headed; she wondered how long she had slept. The fire was still burning but it looked as though it had been fed a few times and the stack of firewood by the door told her that Osas had been out again. Osas now was laying on the other side of the fire asleep. Mandy noticed that she had wrapped her leg with part of her dress and that she put splints on either side. Oh, no she was hurt worse than I was and she still saved me and did all of the work and let me sleep. Well from now on I will not let her do it all. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself and her too if needs be. And right now, I think food would be the best thing for both of us. Mandy stood and moved toward the opening.

“Where are you going?” Osas was propped up on her elbow.

“To find something to eat. There has to be some roots or something.”

“Be careful, I don’t know how far the wagons have gone from the river but they were camped only a little ways from us the last time I went out. I hide in the brush and heard them talking, all were lost on our raft; they think that you and I are dead. They lost two more rafts but not all of the people on them. They were regrouping and resting for a day before they moved on. I think that was two days ago, I’m not sure. I dressed my leg and fell into a deep sleep and have just now waken.”

“I’ll be careful. Don’t worry.” Mandy went through the opening and into a cold white land. It had snowed while they were asleep. She walked toward the river wishing she had more clothes or at least a blanket to wrap around her. Rabbit tracts, she followed them to a hole near a large oak tree. How could she kill a rabbit? She looked around for something to hit it with. A limb, a rock anything, then she noticed the sweet smell of honey. It was winter and cold, the bees would be hibernating or dead. There about fifteen or twenty feet off the ground in that popular tree was a hole that had to be the hive. Mandy pulled her skirt up and tied it then she begin to climb the tree. It had been ages since her tomboy years when she could skinny up a tree as fast as any one, but she could still do it. Ages? Only two years actually. A life time ago in a different world. She looked into the hole and grabbed a chunk of honey comb and pulled it out. It was dripping with sweet nourishing honey. This should be enough to get them back on their feet at least. Mandy backed down the tree and jumped the last few feet to the ground. Now to look around for some clothing or blankets or something. She walked south toward the river and found on the bank a body, Jeff Nelson. Well, he was dead and his clothing was not going to help him anymore. Mandy laid the honey down and proceeded to undress the soldier. First his coat and then his gun belt, good a revolver and he had some shot left in his pouch. The powder was wet but maybe they could dry it. Then she removed his shirt and pants and boots. She looked down at him and decided to cover him with something, rocks, logs anything. She dragged a bush over and put it on top of him and thought perhaps we should come back and bury him tomorrow but knew that they couldn’t. Alright, I have to get this back to the cave, to Osas. Wrapping the honey in his scarf and picking up the bundle she returned to the cave.

For the next two weeks Mandy and Osas stayed in the cave, venturing out only when they needed food or firewood. Both were mending in their own ways, physically and mentally. As the weather cleared, Mandy ventured farther from the cave each day in search of food. She had found a trunk washed up on the river bank downstream about a mile from the cave. There were some clothes and household odds and ends inside. With these they had been able to make life a little more livable. Osas had shown her how to make a snare with vines and they had been living on rabbit and other small creatures along with the nuts and honey and roots. Osas’s leg was mending fast now and Mandy knew that they would need to leave here before long. For with the warm weather there would be more crossing of the river and more people in this area. They had discussed the move and decided that the best course for them was to head south into Mexico and toward the Cherokee tribe that had moved there some twenty years before. Osas was old enough to remember and knew that she had relatives among them. They were free of the government and outside of the United States, the territory that they lived in was known as Texas and was still part of Mexico. Mandy remembered a couple of years before hearing of a man named Austin that was looking for settlers to go with him into this new territory. So Mandy and Osas had decided to go south away from the soldiers and the government that was trying to corral them into a land they did not know; into a territory that was unknown to both of them but which they both felt drawn to, for it held at less the promise of freedom.

“Mandy, I think that it is time we began now, while the snow is gone, it will return before long and I would rather be well south of here. I fear that if we stay here we will be found.” Osas was dressing in a pair of men’s pants that had been in the trunk. She had already put on a woolen shirt. When she was dressed she stood before Mandy in moccasins and trousers and heavy coat.

Mandy smiled and knew that she was looking at someone who was dressed as she herself, neither of them looked like women at the moment, but that was part of what they wanted. They had realized that women would be at a disadvantage on this trip. They both would pass for young boys setting out on an adventure into the unknown. “Well, I guess we will pass. You look like a young buck and I look like your younger brother, I hope. I did see a farm house the last time I went to the south, a couple of miles or so. Maybe we could get a horse or something from them.”

“Not unless you are going to steal it. We don’t have any thing to trade, remember. And I’m not sure that I am up to horse thieving yet. They hang them!” Osas was gathering the small store of goods they had accumulated in the last few weeks and tying them into a bundle.

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