plains

Even the landscape was alien. There were no mountains to be seen, just endless stretches of gold, brown, and green. Off in the distance, small black specks darted against the horizon.

The strange spiky plants at my feet bit at my ankles. How they lived in ground dried in the long burning summer days was beyond me. Back home, plants without water grew brown and died. Here, they faded out and persisted.

I counted four trees in front of me. They were scattered on the plain by an indifferent wind, and none of the beckoned or could comfort me.

I heard the high pitch of a baby's wail, and then a second later, a long howl. I didn't like it here, much. A few weeks earlier, a few miles east, we had crossed a river and lost a mare in the process.

She was the dusky silver mare who had been born on my birthday, and she drowned of slippery rocks and a rapid river. She took foodpacks with her, and Mama's sewing kit, and Henry's ride into the west.

He sits with us, now, in the back, jostling along.

We stopped here at a small graveyard. It's the only human thing around. Piles of stones. A few wood markers. The remains of past travelling parties abandoned here: chicken bones, broken wheels, their loved ones.

They won't be back. No one will visit the gravestones, and line them up again, when little boys kick them out of alignment. There's no one to plant a rose at the headstone, and to sit and tell stories about the people who passed before.

They become one more thing sacrificed for greed of gold or adventure or of the new. We met a man under the scrub pines who had lost his family on their trip out, and he continued on, confident of finding another.

And he looked at Sarah.

We moved on that night, and I was grateful for that. But another man will come who will take her to live on a sandy hill to herd cattle. And we will live on a distant hill, and we will see no one but ourselves and the itinerant traveller.

The inspiration for this vignette was Kansas.