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“Please can I run ahead, Papa?” I asked, leaning out the side of the wagon carelessly, looking at my father sitting up in front with the reigns in his hands. “My legs are really stiff!”
He chuckled and smiled at my restlessness. I could never sit still for more than five minutes, and I was always looking for an adventure and a way to get away from anything predictable and boring. “All right, Abigail. Go on ahead,” Papa told me. “But be careful!”
“I will!” I assured him as I jumped from the wagon into the tall prairie grass; anything but careful. Mama and Papa kept telling me a million times a day to be cautious and look out for danger; for Indians, coyotes, snakes, and many other things. But I was never a wary type of girl; I felt safe as can be out there in the wild. The wilderness felt like home to me. So, therefore, I rarely listened to any of my parents’ warnings.
As I energetically ran ahead of the wagon, I heard my younger brother Johnnie whine inside it. “Why can’t I go with Abigail?” he protested to Mama.
“Just stay with me. You’ll tire out,” Mama told him.
I was NOT tired. I sprinted across the plains like an antelope. The wind was strong and refreshing, and I felt like I was flying with it as I ran. It blew the long grasses around wildly. Once I was quite far ahead, and the wagon was a small speck behind me, I sat down in the grass. It covered me entirely it was so tall. I hoped Mama and Papa would not fret when they lost sight of me. I laid down on my back and stared up at the enormous, expansive prairie sky. It went on forever, that grand sky. There was nothing around except blue, blue sky and wide, flat land. Nothing at all. No trees, no bushes. No buildings or railroads. I seemed to be enveloped by emptiness. But a good empty. A peaceful empty. I watched the sky. Not a cloud in sight; just bright blue and a blazing white sun. I closed my eyes and breathed in. Wonderful scents tingled my nose. I loved that smell; that prairie smell. A mix of crisp grass and fresh mud and wildflowers.
Eventually the wagon caught up to me. Johnnie excitedly climbed out and joined me in the grass. “Can I walk with you?” he asked.
“Of course,” I responded, taking his hand.
He pulled away. “Don’t hold my hand! I am not a BABY!” He was clearly offended.
I apologized and laughed.
“Stay with your brother,” Mama called to me from the wagon. “Don’t run ahead.”
“I won’t.” I stayed by the wagon’s side for another hour of walking. Johnnie tired out but he didn’t admit it. He wanted to be a big boy and walk as long as I did. He trekked along, struggling on his little legs to step over the high grass. The sun lowered in the sky and the bright blue sky faded. Papa decided we should stop and set up camp for the night.
After a supper of beans and buffalo meat, we washed up for bed. I sat out by the fire and watched it sizzle and crack. For the longest time I sat there, just enjoying the smell of wood smoke and the cool twilight air. When the fire went out, I still sat there. I wanted to sleep outside, under the beautiful night sky, but Mama and Papa would not let me because of potentially harmful animals that come out at night.
Mama poked her head out of the wagon and said, “Abigail, are you coming to bed?”
I nodded. “Soon.”
Mama retreated back inside. “Okay.”
I reposed on my back to look at the sky. It was so beautiful; a perfect, stereotypical night sky. Blue like pen ink with lots of stars. I studied the stars; some faint, some vibrant, some miniscule, some large. I didn’t know any of their names, but they were all amazing to see. All beautiful in their own way. I turned my head to the left and the right, at the sky that went on for miles and miles in both directions. The sky is a wonder to me. What IS sky? Can you touch it? How far away is it?
A comfortable breeze blew over my face. I sat up and smiled, still looking up to the immense blanket of night above me. I may not have known much about the sky, but it was still one of my best friends. It is always there, and always beautiful. And it always will be.
I stood up and walked to the wagon where my drowsy family waited as a very comforting feeling washed through me: I was not just under the exquisite night sky. I was under MY sky.