Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Garden of My Hopes

This week's writing prompt:
Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece - fiction or non-fiction - inspired by one or both of these statements. Word maximum is 600.

My wagon was the fifth in line in a long train of westward-bound women. We were all alike and yet so very different. We were all unmarried, either never married or widowed young. A few had children. And we were all willing to throw away our cautions and sense of propriety, and take our chances with frontier men who needed wives. We were all willing to defy our families to make a new start. I think we were all privately sure that this was our only hope for building the lives we wanted. Opportunities back home had dried up.

I stepped down from my wagon on the third day of July. Spring rains had been plentiful; the plains were green and vibrantly alive. A line of some forty men stood about. Each one was freshly scrubbed, hair slicked and a fearfully anxious look of hope in their eyes. They looked us over and I, for one, felt like I was a calf on the auction block: being sized up, evaluated for the strength of my form, for my ability to work... and to bear.

Mr. Jonas Hayes was our wagon master and he was responsible for the pairings. He knew the men, and he had become acquainted with the women. It wouldn't do to have a free-for-all, with men fighting over women and women running off with the wrong men.

So in the most unromantic of meetings, Mr. Hayes shook the hand of Mr. Jedidiah Crosley and led him to where I was standing. Before I had a chance to run or hide, which is what my instinct told me to do, we were headed north to Mr. Crosley's farm. My farm. Me. Mrs. Crosley. Love at first sight be damned because I didn't have the faintest clue what was going to happen next. All I could do was to trust that Mr. Hayes knew a good man from bad one, and that I hadn't made the most colossal mistake in the world.

Two hours later, with no words spoken and my insides feeling bruised from the jolting, rutted wagon road, a little house came into view. It stood strong and solid on the verdant prairie, like a protective mother with her hands on her hips. Fields of wheat, rye and oats stretched to follow the sun's path and the river sparkled in its lazy bed beyond. A square of black, rich, bottomland soil was waiting for me. It was five fenced acres near the house.

Jedidiah helped me down from the wagon seat. He looked full into my face, brown eyes shining, and finally found his voice.

"I've worked very hard on this place these last five years. I have good fields and ample water. This land will grow anything. I've fixed up a place for kitchen garden, and I built a stout house to keep warm. I thought I was building all that for me, but when I looked into your beautiful blue eyes, I knew I'd been building it for you all along." That day and many times after, when Jedidiah finally found his words, they took my breath away.

I planted my kitchen garden and the river made it bloom. We planted our crops and the water brought forth the bounty of the earth. Jedidiah and I grew our family on that patch of ground; the rains and the river kept us all growing. The things we grew together started the seed of a lasting love. That quiet, strong, gentle man who said those loving words to me on that July day? He watered that first seed of love with his patience and devotion.

The memory of my bleak life in the east dried up and blew away like the seeds of a dandelion. I put my heart and my hands into watering the life I wanted, and I grew a loving family, a treasure of a husband and a life of fruitful purpose.

Always, feel free to comment! Trish in AZ
Fiction, obviously. I'm pretty old, but I didn't come west in a wagon. My eyes aren't blue, and I've never lived on a farm.


  1. That was a beautiful story. I especially loved the line - It stood strong and solid on the verdant prairie, like a protective mother with her hands on her hips.
    Great job!

  2. This was a beautiful story-and for some reason I've got tears now. There is something so touching about a good man like Jedidiah-uneasy with words, but the soul of a poet.

    This was just excellent-and I'm your newest follower:)

  3. Very well written; full of tenderness and passion.

  4. I've often thought of those women who braved the trail west to start a new life with a man they've never met. You painted a picture of such mutual content and growth. LOVED it.

  5. I love the set up, the ride, the hope, the pairings, her happiness. Not that it matters for the quality of the story, I was just curious if women did make trips like that, for the purposes of marrying.

  6. Thank you very much! There were quite a few of those kinds of migrations of single women in a big group, with the singular intention of getting married to strangers. I am not sure if it was courage or desparation or a healthy mixture of both. I would love to be able to talk to one of those women today!