What happens when a 2011 mentality meets 1800's reality.
The vortex wavered and throbbed like a pulsating heart. It bulged and eventually spat me out onto the ground like I was a piece of rancid meat. Then reduced to the size of a dime and with a pop disappeared.
Confused and throughly disoriented. I shook my head to see if I could clear the cobwebs that seemed to have formed in an instance. I was sitting in the middle of nowhere. Not a house, skyline nor even a fence to be seen.
I was next to an old dirt road that wore the ruts of wheels like battle scars. What the hell just happened? Where was I? If I remembered some of the things I had learned from camping with my parents, it looked like the road ran east to west. I could stand here and wait for a passing car but it didn't look like a car had been down this way in a long time. The ruts in the road looked like wagon tracks. I did the eeny meenie minie moe and decided to head west.
Looking around as I began to walk I saw the prairie grass gently waving as a breeze kissed the tops of the grass. There were groves of trees dotted across the landscape and the little rises of hill and dale. Not a single building, power pole or sign of habitation as far as I could see. Looking at the sun I took a wild guess and decided that it must be mid-morning and it was warm. The air was fresh and I couldn't detect even a whiff of pollution, there was no haze hanging like a shroud in the air. Wherever I was it was beautiful and it smelled good. I could see wild flowers scattered about through the grass bursting out of the green with a riot of yellows, blues, oranges and reds.
I kept walking until I realized I was beginning to get thirsty. The sun had risen higher approaching the high noon mark. I was going to have to find a source of water and leave this road. Shade wasn't going to be a problem I headed to the closest grove of trees, hoping that there was a stream or creek near it. As I approached the grove I could see rabbits frolicking in the shade of the trees and birds flitting from branch to branch. I heard the chirping of the crickets and the buzz of flying insects yet to be identified. A sound of gurgling, bubbling water came to my ears and I followed the sound to it's location. A small little creek with the clearest water I had ever seen. I knelt down and scooped up a handful of water, gingerly tasting it. It was sweet and pure and oh so cold. I stuck my face into the cold, clear water and let it cool me down then drank as much as I thought was good for me. I would have to find a way to carry some with me. Maybe someone had dropped a plastic bottle or a can that I could use.
I searched everywhere along the bank of the little creek not a shred of litter. No cans, bottles or even a piece of paper was to be found. Someone took excellent care of this place. Thinking back on my walk so far, I didn't remember seeing anything along the road or in the fields that even suggested that anyone had passed this way, except for the tracks on the road. Something just wasn't right! I just couldn't put my finger on it what that wrongness was.
I sat down under a tree and leaned back against the trunk. I am going to have to do some thinking here. There is nothing for me to use to carry water so i will just have to follow the creek. That takes care of the water problem but now for my next one. What am I going to eat. I remembered eating breakfast this morning but little pangs of hunger were beginning to surface so that was going to become a problem soon. I had seen the rabbits and birds but how to get them and what to do with them once i had them. No tools, no knife! I didn't even have anything in my .jeans pockets. I began an inventory of what I had with me. My sneakers with shoe laces, my socks, my jeans, my underwear, my t-shirt and sports bra. I didn't have anything else with me. Not a lot but then I had no idea I was going to find myself whisked from in front of my computer to wherever this was! Come to think of it how in the hell did it happen!
I leaned my head back and one other little piece of equipment became apparent as my ponytail crushed up against the bark. I had my ponytail holder. Surely there was something I could do with my shoe laces and ponytail holder! I just wasn't quite sure I knew what that was. The sound of the babbling creek and the breeze softly blowing began to make me drowsy. Maybe if I just rested for a while I would be able to think better. I closed my eyes and drifted off.
I awoke with a start. My eyes flew open and looked around me in consternation. It took me a minute to realize I was still leaning against a tree in a place I was totally unfamiliar with. I had no idea how I had gotten here or even where here was. The little creek was on my left and I remembered I was going to follow that but needed to look for something to eat. I wish I had paid more attention to my Dad when he was explaining to me how to find food if you were lost. I just thought is was too funny when there was a Burger King or McDonalds on every corner in town.
I got up and began to follow the little creek, maybe with luck I would find something as I walked. I came out from under the trees and into a little meadow. Looking around there was a tangle of brush and it looked like some type of berries hanging from it. I ran over and grabbed one. I looked at it and broke it in half. I remembered my Dad saying if you aren't sure if a berry is edible break it and put a little juice on your lip. If you break out in a rash or your lip goes numb don't eat it and if you can, stay away from anything red unless you know what it is. Thanks Dad! I rubbed a little of the juice on my lip and gathered a bunch and put them in all of my pockets. I went back and continued to follow my creek.
I looked at where the sun was and figured that between my nap and the walking I had done, it was mid-afternoon. I began to think about some shelter before night fell. I was walking up a small hill and figured that I would see what was on the other side and maybe with any luck at all I would find someone living close or at least passing by. If I don't find anyone I will look for some type of shelter. The idea of walking around at night in some place I didn't know was really unappealing.
When I reached the top of the hill I looked out onto a meadow. My heart was sinking until I spied what looked like a roof way out in the middle of the field. The grass was so high I couldn't see much at all except there seemed to be a chimney on the top of the roof. I almost skipped down the side of the hill. I could get to that place before dark and hopefully call my Dad and have him come get me. I don't know how I am going to explain to him how I got here but I would cross that bridge when I got there. The first thing to do is get to that house and find out where I am!
As I neared the house my hopes sank, it looked like it had been deserted for years. The windows had no glass, there was an antique water pump on one side of the house with an old horse trough in front of it. On the other side was a barn with one door gone and the other hanging askew. It was only staying up because of the bottom hinge and that didn't look too secure.There wasn't a telephone pole or even an electric pole anywhere that I could see. I called "Hello is anyone home?" Not a sound, not a movement. I walked up onto the porch and to the door and knocked. "Hello is anyone here?" Again not a sound. There wasn’t a door knob there was just a piece of wood that swiveled up or down with a piece of wood nailed to the frame to be used as a stop for the latch.
I walked in and looked at the desolate little house. It was all one room with a kitchen area in the far left corner, with a bench type counter. It had a wood burning cook stove and a single sink with no faucets. In the right corner there was an old bed frame that had a roped off area separating it from the rest of the room. They must have hung curtains across the rope to give it the feel of privacy. There was a three legged table and an old broken chair in what I guess was considered the dining area. It wasn't much but maybe I could scrounge around and find something to eat and maybe some tools. It was shelter, it wasn't the Marriott but it would do for tonight. I looked around in the kitchen area and found an old blunt knife with a broken handle. The old wood burning stove looked to be in good shape so I could gather some wood. If it got chilly at night here at least I wouldn’t be cold, and who knew maybe I could find something to use as a pot to cook in. A hot meal was sounding pretty good. Other than the stove there was an old sideboard, I opened the drawers and found an old basin. I took it out and set it on the top. I emptied my pockets of the berries.
I went out to the barn, avoiding the sagging door as I went in. It was cool and dim and I had to wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark. When I could finally see well enough to navigate around I began to search. The stalls were cleaned out and didn't look like any animal had been in them except for mice in a long time. In one corner way in the back I found an empty burlap bag. Now I had something I could use to gather more berries in, if that was all I could find to eat. I made my way up the rickety ladder into the hay loft. The hay was stacked in sheaves. There was an old quilt wadded up and stuffed into the farthest corner. It didn’t look too infested with critters, but I took it to the edge of the loft and shook it out as well as I could. Now I at least had something to cover up with if the night turned chilly. There wasn't much else in the barn to salvage so I started back to the house.
I looked at the side of the house and there was a cellar door. I set my bag and quilt on the ground and reached down to pull up the door. Cool air rushed out at me and the musty smell of air having been sealed up for years hit me in the nose. I looked down at the stairs, I gently placed one foot on the top step and tested the strength. Yeah I think it will hold me. I made my way down. I couldn't see much past the opening but I thought I had made the discovery of the day. Piled on shelves I could see jars and they had food in them. Luscious peaches, green beans and something that looked like pigs feet, I hesitated to grab those, but I did. With my arms full of jars of food I made my way back up the stairs. I have to find some kind of light to be able to go any deeper into the cellar.
I made two trips down to the cellar, getting arm loads of jars to bring up. I now had food, a quilt, and a burlap bag. I had food to eat along with the berries that had not damaged my lips. There was a little light left out side so I ran to the barn and gathered up as much hay as I could carry and brought it back to the house and began piling it into the old bed frame. I kept doing that till I had a pretty good bed stacked up and laid the quilt over it. Now I had food and a place to sleep, I would worry about finding my way home tomorrow, for now I was tired and hungry. I opened one of the jars of peaches and made a feast of them and my berries. With a full stomach and a weary body, I lay on my pile of hay. I didn’t think I would be able to sleep a wink with so many questions running through my mind, but the distress and exercise had taken it’s toll and i was asleep with in seconds.
I awoke the next morning with a crick in my neck and hay in my hair, but I had slept like a baby. The sun was streaming in the glassless windows and I could see the dust motes floating in the air. It had gotten chilly in the night and I had rolled up in the quilt like a caterpillar in a cocoon. I didn't think I was going to look like a butterfly unwinding myself from it but I needed to find some place to pee and I wanted a drink of water. My mouth was dry and I wanted to find something to use to clean my teeth. I grinned to myself as I weighed my chances of finding anything that could compare to my electric toothbrush. As I got up my leg muscles screamed at me, all the walking I had done yesterday had taken its toll. I was sore as hell. Maybe I should stick around here for a day and let my muscles ease up a little.
I went outside and walked around the house towards the back. There was a little building and I went cautiously to the door. It had the same latch as the door to the house. I opened it slowly hoping nothing came jumping out at me. It was the outhouse. Whew at least I wouldn't have to find a bush to squat behind. After looking around for something that I could use as toilet paper I grabbed a handful of grass and went inside to relieve myself.
I went to the antique pump to see if maybe it would work thinking that it was probably just for decoration, but it was worth a try. I grasped the handle and began to pump. I heard clanking and groaning, then a trickle of water began to run through the spout. I pumped harder, the trickle became a gush. At first the water was brown and nasty looking but the more I pumped the clearer it got, until I put my hand in and scooped a little out. It tasted like rusted pipes, but it was cold and wet. I went into the house and picked up the empty jar that had held peaches. I took it out and pumped till I got enough water to rinse out the jar..It was cold and clear now, it wasn't a Starbucks Latte but it was good.
While munching a sweet, spiced peach from another jar, I thought about the cellar and knew one of the first things I wanted was some type of light. I hadn't seen anything that resembled a flashlight or as it dawned on me anything that ran on electricity. If I found a lantern I would have to have the fuel and a match to light it. That was high on my list..fire..if I had fire I could cook something and at least have a little heat for night time. I dug in the jar and pulled out another peach, I can't eat peaches all the time, I thought. I licked the juice from my fingers. Well, time to go explore and see what I can come up with.
I went to the pump and pumped enough water to wash my hands, I stuck my face in the water and washed as well as I could. I have this wonderful coconut skin scrubber at home I use all the time, never thought I would miss a bar of soap! I used my finger and scrubbed my teeth, better than nothing. Now if I only had a brush for my hair, oh well, I have things to do and it doesn't help to dwell on what you don't have.
I had walked completely around the house and saw nothing worth investigating, I headed for the barn. I walked around the outside and found a storage box built right into the side of the barn. I lifted the lid and looked inside. It had held grain of some kind, maybe wheat, or oats. I don't know anything about grain, the closest I have come is my morning oatmeal by Quaker Oats. I went towards the back of the barn and there stood a shed. There were holes all through the front and slice marks on the door and the door jamb. I opened the door and looked inside. There was a harness hanging on one wall and some garden tools leaned in a corner. There were two lanterns hanging on pegs right by the door. I took them down and remembered watching a western movie and the hero picked up a lantern and shook it to see if there was any fuel in it. I shook one then the other, I thought the last one sounded like it might have something in it. Now if I only had a match.
I didn't really see anything else that I thought I could use right at the moment so it was out and continue the circuit around the barn. As I started down the other side I noticed another box, I didn't think it would hold anything but better to check than to take a chance of missing something. I opened the lid and although I could tell at one time it too had held grain it was now full of various pots and pans. I had to jump up and balance myself on the edge of the box and reached down and started pulling up several pots, a tea kettle and a couple of frying pans. I saw a smaller pot down towards the bottom with a lid on it, I reached down to get it and almost fell in on top of it. As I scrambled to regain my balance I noticed it had a wire handle, when I was secure again on my perch, I reached down and grabbed the handle and brought the pot up. I took the lid off and not believing my luck there were two boxes of wooden matches stuck down inside it. I know if anyone had come by at that moment they would have thought I was crazy! I did a little dance swinging that pot over my head and singing "I found them I have discovered fire! "
The only other thing I wanted to do was find something to put over the windows so that I could at least keep a little heat in the house. I hadn't seen any glass anywhere, even broken glass. That was strange. I would have to think about this, but for the time being I was in good shape. I had a light and matches, I would be able to go into the cellar and I could start a fire in the old cook stove. Tonight I would be eating a hot meal. I took all of the pots and pans and set them by the horse trough to wash. I wanted to take my lantern and go down in the cellar and see what was there. I lit the wick and hurried to the entrance. I eased my way down the steps and as I placed my feet on the hard packed dirt at the bottom I saw that the shelf that held my food supply still had quite a few jars left. That made me feel a little easier, I would be able to pack up a few to take with me when I left. The room itself wasn't very big, maybe half the size of the little house above it. There was an old burlap bag full of shriveled potatoes, empty shelves across from my little stash of jars, but in the back was an old trunk. I made my way back to it and opened it up.
There laying on the top of what looked like clothes, quilts and sheets, was an album. I opened it up and there was a picture of two people, a man and a woman. They were standing in front of the little house above me. It was an old photo, one I think I remembered hearing called a cabinet photo. They were standing stiff and proper with the ladies hands clasped tightly in front of her. The man was standing with his hand resting on her shoulder and his other was bent with his thumb crooked in the little pocket of his vest. In the background I could see curtains hanging in the windows of the house. It still didn't have panes of glass in the windows. Maybe there never was any glass in the windows. How strange. How old was this place? The couple were dressed in styles I had seen in books my Mom had from the late 1800's. I was so confused. This photo should have crumbled from age, yet it looked like it might only be a few years old. I looked through the rest of the album and saw flowers that had been pressed and dried. There were scraps of cloth and lace. A scrap of paper with what looked like a recipe written in a small, precise hand. I put the album on a shelf and began taking the other items from the trunk. There was a dress similar to the one the lady was wearing in the photo. Tight bodice a full long skirt, long sleeves and what my Mom would have called a peter pan collar. It buttoned up the front all the way to the neck. I shook it out and held it up to me. I think it would fit me. Maybe I could wear this while I wash out my jeans and t-shirt. I dug down deeper and there lay the curtains that looked like the ones in the photo. I pulled them out and lay them on top of the album. There was another quilt and under the quilt was another dress. It had been wrapped in what looked like a sheet. As I unwrapped it I gasped. It was the most beautiful dress, white with little seed pearls sewn on the cuffs and around the bottom of the skirt. It had delicate lace that had been attached to the top of the dress making a collar. The top of the sleeves were full and gathered, what I think used to be called leg o' mutton sleeves. It was beautiful and so lovingly wrapped. I wrapped it back up and placed it back in the trunk where it belonged. Laying next to it were a camisole, a long slip, and the cutest pair of bloomers I had ever seen. I took these and added them to the pile on the album. There was a cambric shirt and some men’s trousers and a vest. I pulled these out and placed them with the other things.
I took my little stack of things and ran into the house. I stripped off my clothes and tried on all the under things then threw the dress over my head and shimmied my way in. I buttoned it up and twirled around the room. The skirt flared out and I giggled at how silly I must look in it, but oh what fun. I gathered my clothes and ran out to the horse trough. Pumping furiously, I filled the trough and washed the pots and pans as well as I could using some hay to scrub them, set them on the porch and added my clothes to the water. I scrubbed them as clean as possible. I would have to find some place to hang them till they dried. Maybe that shed has some rope or something I can use to string up for a clothes line. I ran to the shed and looked around till I remembered the harness hanging on the wall. The reins were long enough, they might stretch between the posts holding up the porch on the front of the house. I ran back to the house and got my old knife and cut the reins away from the harness, tied them to the post as tight as I could and draped my wet things over them.
I had been so busy I hadn't noticed that the day was passing rapidly, and I was hungry. I hadn't eaten anything since the peaches this morning. I needed to gather some wood so that I could fire the old stove up. I was going to have a hot meal this evening. There were several trees and a little grove not far from the house. I went and got my saw and grabbed the burlap bag to put the wood in, and made my way to the grove. After an hour of sawing and gathering I had a pretty good sack of wood and kindling enough for cooking but not enough to keep me warm all night, I had the other quilt I had found so I would be okay for tonight. My muscles were still raging at me and I knew that tomorrow I would have a few more that would be angry with me, like my arms and my back.
By the time I had managed to start the fire, cook my meal of green beans and pigs feet, which weren't as bad as I thought they were going to be, I was exhausted. I took off my dress and draped it over the end of the bed stead, I pulled the broken chair over next to my make shift bed and put the lantern there so that I could sit and look through the album. As I turned the pages, the little scraps of keepsakes came to life. They told about this lovely lady beginning her life of being a wife and making a home. There was a letter tucked in one of the pages, it was a written declaration of love, but it was so formal and so old fashioned that it made me smile. It spoke of asking her father for her hand in marriage and that he would live his life trying to be a good husband and provider for her. It spoke of building a house for her and that he knew it was small right now but that he promised it would grow just like his love for her would grow through the years. I looked around at the little house and it brought a tear to my eyes. He had built this for her. It was small but it was built with love, and looking at it through new eyes made it cozy and comfortable. I closed the album and blew out the lantern. I laid on the bed and thought how wonderful it would be to find someone who would profess such a love for me. As I closed my eyes a vision of that loving man carrying his bride across the threshold into the house that love had built was dancing through my mind as I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke with the sun shooting beams through the windows and a light breeze blowing. I was so sore, I ached all over from my exertions of the last couple of days. I was going to have to force myself up and moving. There were things I just had to do today so that I could be ready to leave and find my way home. This had been fun, but I was beginning to feel grubby a hot shower and my lilac scented shampoo would have been very welcome right now. I crawled out of my warm hay pile every muscle protesting the move. I slipped on the dress and picked up the kettle, made my way to the pump and filled the kettle, splashed some water on my face and brushed back my hair with my fingers. Put a fire in the stove and set the kettle up on the range to heat up. I could at least get water warm enough to pour over my head and remove some dirt from my hair. I was busy looking at the windows, trying to decide how I was going to hang the curtains, when I heard the clopping of horses hooves and the rattle of a wagon. Running outside my mouth fell open and I gaped as the wagon rolled up in front of the house.
I stood there dumb struck as the man in the wagon asked if he could water the horses. My eyes were taking it in, but my brain wasn't processing what I was seeing. He was dressed in dark coarse pants with a muslin shirt and a floppy dark brown hat pulled low over his face. That was okay, but around his hips was a holster with a six gun sticking out of it! He nodded and again said "Ma'am if it ain't too much trouble, could I please water my horses and have a swaller or two for myself?"
"Oh, yes of course, please help yourself!" I said trying not to look like a moron.
"Do you mind if I ask you some questions while you are getting the water?" I asked.
"Ah Nope, guess I ain't got no problem with that. Whatcha wanna know little lady?"
"Where are we? What place is this? And not to sound impolite but are you dressed for a party? And where is your car?" I blurted the questions.
The man took off his hat and looked at me like he thought maybe I wasn't quite right in the head. "Well ma'am, we are in the great state of Texas about 20 miles southeast of Amarillo. I ain't goin to no shindig, these ain't my dancin duds and ma'am I don't reckon I know what a car is so don't rightly know where it might be."
"Could you please tell me what year is this?" the thought had hit me like a ton of bricks, and those bricks were sitting in my stomach.
"Well ma'am if I recolleck rightly it is April 21, 1889" he said with the look that said he now knew I was not in my right mind.