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Our laborious breathing was the only noise to be heard besides the crickets on that late summer evening. The rest of the wagon train was a mere quarter mile behind us, their dark bulk visible on the vast prairies for miles. Pa slowed the oxen a bit as we readied ourselves for the next sloping hill.
Montana. A breath of fresh air compared to New York, I supposed. I sorely missed the towering buildings and the constant hum of human activity, but this new silence of nature intrigued me. Every evening, I scribbled down new descriptions of everything in the small leather bound book Grandpa had given me before we left. The way the grass scraped against the rough woolen fabric of my dress, the way the sky seemed to kiss the rugged horizon, and the way my feet would thump pleasantly against the hard, fertile earth. Meaningless descriptions to some, but they were my world.
“You’re going to be a great writer when you grow up, Mallory, girl.” Grandpa snuck me his pipe so I could take a smoke while Grandmother’s back was turned. “You naughty Irishman.” She always scolded him. “Letting the sixteen year old girl sit up on your lap like that. Foolish! And for her to be smoking! Unladylike indeed! She’ll never get a husband!” Mama would laugh softly, Pa would kiss my cheek. If my betrothed treated me as Grandpa and Grandmother treated each other, I should never marry. What’s wrong with being free?
My younger brother, Alfred, clamored ahead of us, his large feet sending dirt into the air. He was hitting a growth spurt, we had noticed. Pa was proud as could be, Alfred being his only son and such.
“I want a house already…” Poppy whined, trudging behind the full wagon as it groaned up the hill.
“Don’t complain now, Poppy. We will have a home when your Pa decides where to put it.” Mama hushed her gently, tucking strands of yellow hair back under her bonnet as she held Poppy’s tiny hand. “Now, James. Darkness is almost upon us. Should we wait for the others?”
Pa grunted from the buckboard, lightly cracking the whip. “One more mile, dear.”
I looked up at the sky, marveling at the smear of colors that painted it like a never ending canvas. There were reds, oranges, blues, pinks and gold trimmed clouds lacing the heavens.
The wagon finally heaved itself over the hill, like an exhausted obese person. What met our eyes stunned our souls.
It was huge majestic mountains, mirrored by the calmest lake I had ever seen in my life. The mountains themselves stood out so clearly in the twilight sky, that they seemed unreal. Not of this world. A light dusting of pure white snow capped the peaks of the dark mountains. An ocean of grass separated us from the lake, though the lake itself seemed to melt into the mountain, clusters of dark green trees trailing up the sides.
Pa, mouth sagging openly, reins drooping in his hand. He finally rubbed his unshaven jaw as a single tear slipped past the crooked, smiling wrinkles in his face. We all scurried to stand around him, but still facing the scene in front of us.
“Poppy, here is our new home.” He laughed, leaping from the board and running a bit towards the lake. He dropped to his knees, the grass, brushing his broad shoulders as his hands rose towards the sky. Mama cried into her hands as Poppy bounced around. Alfred stood motionless until he grasped my hand.
Our long journey was over.