Westward bound into a new life
|Rose, stretched her legs, while the wagon master, worked on the loosened wheel. It had been a rough ride, and they had just reached Nebraska territory. Her travels wouldn’t end until she reached Oregon.
Being a near spinster, Rose, a reasonably comely woman of age 23, decided to respond to a mail order bride, requests ad, in the Homesteader’s Journal placed by Jacob Hollister, a rancher describing himself as, “Healthy, strong man, with rugged features. Seeking a sturdy woman, under 25 years of age, to be my wife. She don’t need much beauty, but should be a good companion, and can cook decent meals, plus do regular woman’s chores.”
Rose knew her prospects were dwindling in the marriage proposal arena, at least in the Stockbridge area of Western Massachusetts. She was also tiring of working at the local inn and diner. There were more rude people there to serve up nasty comments, and how it was a shaming waste of womanhood the way she was becoming an old spinster, and all.
The Wagon master built a fire, because the sun was setting, and announced plans to wait out the night before fixing the wheel. The Sunset was dazzling. She had never seen so much sky in New England. She broke out of her trance, and settled over by the fire where he was preparing some strong, cowboy coffee to enjoy.
“Ma’am if you don’t mind me asking. What brings a pretty lady like you out to these godforsaken parts?”
“I’m to be wed. My fiance Jacob is a rancher in Oregon territory, and we have been corresponding in response to his advertisement for a wife, in the Homesteader’s Journal.”
“I figured as much. Women been traveling this route like crazy lately, lookin’ for a man to make her his bride. I guess they don’t have much prospects in that back East, hey? But that don’t matter, because out here in the high prairies, there ain’t many women around for those seeking riches in gold, rushing through, or them Chinese men working the rails, not to mention all them homesteaders wantin’ land and farming or ranching, either. So I guess you gals fill a real need. ”
“I’m considered too old for the civilized society men, being twenty-three and all. They pretty much choose women more refined, not ones waiting on tables and dish washing, if they’re from the cities. And the small group of farmers where I live, already have their families. This may be my only chance to settle down and raise my own family. The worst thing that could happen is that I do for him what I already do for men, cook, clean and listen to their wise cracks. But at least I’ll have my own real home and land where I can walk and take in the views and breathe.”
“You know, you’re not hard to look at. Seems you back East folks can’t tell society pretty from real honest beauty, inside and out from what I can tell.”
Rose could feel herself blush when he spoke those words. She felt a little sensation within her gut. It was something she wasn’t accustomed to feeling. She began asking something that should have been asked the day before, when she got into his wagon, after making the carriage transfer at the stop-over in Iowa. She needed the one taking the higher trail, to get to destination, and he was the available driver.
“My name is Rose. What is your name, sir?”
“Name’s Caleb. And you lovely Rose, are my last trip West in this broken down wagon. Yup,
I’ve finally earned me enough money to purchase that land I’ve driven past for fifteen years. I’m gonna be my own boss. I’ll have a good stretch of land and will have plenty of sheep to keep me in business.”
“Where are you settling, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Why just beyond the horizon over yonder. Ma’am. I am settling in this nice little spot, a bit north of Cheyenne, Wyoming.”
“Wyoming, it sounds nice. You paint a pretty picture in my mind. I think sheep would be much easier to manage than huge cattle herds. Unfortunately, I’m heading to a cattle ranch. I didn’t tell Jacob I am a bit afeared of those huge bovines, especially with those long horns, like the ones I saw in a poster. Took all my strength to reply to him that I would love being a cattle rancher’s wife and helping out all I can.”
Caleb’s blue eyes lit up in the light of the campfire. He smiled broadly and said, “You know Rose, I could use a good sturdy woman to help me shepherd that land. I don’t have any fine touches with what makes a home pretty for a lady, but I expect a lovely woman like you would know what to do, once I build our cabin.”
Rose’s heart leapt in her chest. Did he just say what she thought he said? She couldn’t believe what this handsome, rugged man was saying to her.
“Did you just say ‘build our cabin?”’
“Sure did, Rose. Hey, why not start this mail-order-bride, life, off with a woman I’ve already met and spent some time with? And, she is not bad to look at. In fact, Rose, you’ve got some real handsome features. I think we’d have a kid or two that won’t be ugly at all. So what do you think? Are you really sure about getting married to this Jacob stranger in Oregon? Or, would you follow me into that horizon and we can start a fine life together? Also, it would save me that long trip back from Oregon to Eastern Wyoming. You’d really be doing me a huge favor, ya know.”
Rose took in his huge smile, caught the gleam in his eyes, and believed the veracity of his words.
“Well, Caleb, if it would please you to keep me as your bride. I accept. I like what you have to offer, and for some reason, I care too much for you, to make you have to travel the extra distance, After all, our dream is just beyond ...”