April 23rd, 1847:
A shriek jolts me awake. I sit up. The wail comes again, as loud as Rachel Elizabeth's new alarm clock. I know something is definitely wrong. "Emma Lou, come quickly!" a desperate husband, David, calls. I swiftly step to my brother-in-law and his wife Sarah's, aid. It is still dark out, but I can feel that it is morning.
"Little Samuel!" comes the despairing sob.
David consoles my sister as best he can; he must remain strong and calm to help Sarah through their son's recent death. Of course, Mama, Papa, and I are there for her as she goes through this. Samuel's death will, of course, have an effect on all of us. We dig a grave. We all know that it will be too shallow; there has been proof of this all along this stretch of the trail.
There are now seven of us. There's Mama, Rosie Cook; Papa, Dob Cook; my older sister, Sarah (now Baker), and her husband, David; Me, Emma Lou, of course; my 4-year-old brother Abraham; and the 18 month-year-old Joesph.
I am sad - even after six long months - to have left home. I wish to have my best friends, Rachel Elizabeth and Mary Phebe, traveling with me. How I miss little Willie and sweet May, the best cousins I could ever ask for. I cannot imagine life with all the people I love whom we had to leave behind. I do my best to calm myself as I knead the bread dough for today's meals, doing my best to make sure no tears fall into it.
Joseph is still trying to find "Baby Samuel," unaware of the grief the rest of us are going through. For dinner, we mostly have dried bread and bacon, which are leftovers from breakfast. After we finish eating, Abraham rambles on about... everything, as I try to keep him on task with washing dishes. Joseph is letting Sarah holding him, and I'm surprised to see a smile on her lips - although it's still a sad one. It still makes me sad to remember that little Samuel only lived for a couple weeks.
As we jerk along the endless bumps of the trail, I am lost in thought. This open-spaced makes me think fondly of the Kansas Territory; a place I still call home. But that makes me miss it even more. A couple years before we left we heard of travelers on their way to the Oregon Territory, like we are now. They stopped in Kansas Territory, however, because it was welcoming, and they preferred such a favorable place without having to travel for many more months. Their daughter, Mary Phebe, and I have been friends ever since. Yet here I am, two-and-a-half years later, leaving her behind.
Papa said we are going the Oregon Territory because of its prosperity land-wise. At least traveling there is a start of a new, exciting life.
We stop along the trail. I help with tonight's supper. It is leftovers from our early dinner, so we are really having left over leftovers. I shouldn't really complain, but it's hard not to get tired of six months eating the same things: hardtack, coffee, beans, and dried everything.
I am now collecting buffalo chips for the fire.
"Get the Bible before it's too dark," Mama calls. Reading the Bible is our way of studying outside of school.
"...So also you have sorrow now, But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you..." (John 16:22).
I am doing my best to accept what I have and to pray for my friends in my old life.
I do my best to care for little Joe. Abraham has been working alongside me with surpirsing patience for a four-year-old.
Mama starts singing "(Oh My Darling) Clementine" and picks up the fiddle. Sarah reaches for her harmonica as we stare at the sky and into the night. It is breathtaking. The sky is a rich, deep navy blue ink spilled over the entire earth by God. Strong stars shine through like brave, sparkling diamonds. We all continue to sing along to many songs. We laugh and dance. I love my family, and they are the best people to be sharing this journey with.
As I drift off, I worry about the perils that may come with the rest of our journey. We have survived the harshest winter months, yet more dangers and bumps along the road await. Then I remember Matthew 6:34:
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself..."
I am excited for tomorrow, and the rest of this trip. As I rest my eyes, I am drawn into tonight's dreams.