Eighty-three children are all alone in the Old West. Can they survive on their own?
Jason Walters peeks over the top of an overturned wagon just as an arrow hits it. “I know you are sixteen,” says Kenneth. “And that you want to help. But your sister and the other children need you more.”
Looking at Sarah Walterson shaking along with a lot of other children, Jason sees her cuddling with them in the back part of this wagon train that has been put in an overturned circle. He can also see a small forest right behind them.
“Normally, the woman would be with the children. But there are so many Indians they are needed here. If we don’t win, it will be up to you and your friends to protect them.”
Seeing several boys about his age starting to run toward the younger children, Jason sighs. “I want to stay and help. But it looks like my friends have gotten the same talk as I’m getting.” Without saying another word, Jason takes off toward Sarah and the others too.
Slowly, Jason and his four friends step out of the forest with a line of the younger children walking out behind them. As they come out, Jason and his friends are constantly looking all around them for any possible Indians. All they can see is what is left of their wagon train.
“I think it’s safe,” says Jason loud enough for everyone to hear him. “It doesn’t look like there are any Indians still here.”
Before Jason can say anything more the crying and weeping children start running toward their parents. Holding them tightly as they continue to grieve for them. Jason wipes some tears from Sarah. “It’s going to be okay.”
“How can you say that?” Sarah asks. “Our parents are dead too. We have no parents anymore.”
“We have each other,” answers Jason. “And I’m not just talking about you and me.”
Jason slowly looks at the other grieving children there. “None of us have any parents anymore. But we aren’t alone.”
“I know we are all still grieving over the loss of our parents,” says Jason in front of the other children. “We will always do that. But it has been two days since we buried them.”
“We need to move on,” continues Jason. “I don’t want to do it either. But we need to do it. The big question is what should we do now?”
A young girl raises her hand. “This isn’t school,” says Jason. “You don’t have to raise your hands. If you have something to say, just say it.”
Megan gets up. “What else can we do. We need to get to the nearest town.”
“That’s a stupid suggestion,” says Gregory. “We can’t do that. If we do, we will become orphans. And we all know what happens to orphans.”
“I disagree with Gregory,” says Jason. “Especially, about the orphans part. Your suggestion isn’t stupid. No suggestion is. But it’s not all that good either.”
Jason slowly looks at the others. “Unfortunately, the nearest town to us is around twenty-five miles away.”
“That isn’t true,” says Helen. “There is a town about ten miles from here. The one that our parents were heading for when they were killed.”
Helen gets up and raises her voice to be heard by everyone. “Just before the Indians attacked us, I overheard one of our parents say something about us only being about ten miles from where we were headed.”
“I think that we should go there,” says Jason. “Most of our wagons are still useable. And we still have most of our horses too.”
Jason slowly looks at the other children there. “I don’t know why, and I don’t care. But we also still have all of our food and supplies. We can live on them for months, maybe even years, before we need to decide what to do next.”
“If we decide to make that decision,” says Jason. “We may decide to stay there. Besides, it will be better protection for us when the Indians show up again.”
“Aren’t the Indians the reason why that town is deserted?” Amanda asks.
“No, it’s not. There used to be gold around here,” answers Gregory. “When the gold dried up, so did the town.”
Jason clears his throat to get everyone’s attention. “It’s not going to be easy. But I think this is where we should be heading for too.
“Another great meal Mary,” says Jason as he hands his plate and silverware to her. She puts it in a wheelbarrow with a lot of others. Just as she is doing this, she looks up at six men on horseback.
Jason gets up and walks over to them. “Can I help you?”
One of the outlaws’ smiles. “We have been following a bunch of kids for the last couple of days. This is going to be easier than I thought.”
“Easier to do what?” Jason asks.
“Don’t you recognize us,” the man asks? “You probably don’t since you are just kids.”
Another outlaw points at one of the kids. “Maybe one of them does. Aren’t you Richard’s boy?”
“Did you know you have the son of an Outlaw among you?” The first outlaw asks.
“I don’t know about everyone else,” answers Jason. “But I know who Thomas’ father was.”
Jason takes a pistol out of his holster. A lot of others point them at the Outlaws too. “My father was going to be the Sheriff of our new town. So, I guess that makes me the Sheriff now.”
“We also have several gunslingers, cowboys, and cowgirls,” continues Jason. “Not to mention a bounty hunter, several frontier persons, and homesteaders.”
“My father wanted a little bit of everyone in our new town. Including an Outlaw.”
Jason cocks his pistol as he gets behind an overturned wagon. The others with weapons pointed at the Outlaws do the same thing. “What I am trying to say is that we don’t want to fight you. But we will.”
Suddenly, Jason stops the horse he’s riding at the front of this wagon train. Jason gets off his horse and faces the others when the other seven riding horses get off them and the seven wagons that stop too. Within a few minutes, all eighty-two children are facing Jason.
“It has taken us almost a month to get here. But we are here,” says Jason. “Our new home. At least it will be for a little bit.”
Jason points to the ghost town behind him. He continues pointing as he turns to see their new home. His jaw drops too. “Okay, I thought it was supposed to be better than this. But I’m sure it’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Besides, it’s better than living in our wagons like we have been doing for the last month.” Jason starts walking toward their new home.
After only a few steps Jason stops to look at the others. Who hasn’t stopped. “It’s either here or our wagons. I chose here. What about you?”
Dusting some dust off of a chair, Jason sits down. He sees a lot of the other children doing it too. Slowly, he starts looking around what is left of that saloon. Including the tables and chairs there. He stops looking when it gets to the door that has one shutter missing and the other one about halfway gone. It probably will be gone too by the time everyone else walks through it.
“I told you this place wasn’t as bad as it looks,” says Jason after everyone gets in there. Some are sitting. But most are standing around.
“True, it needs a lot of work to make it a town again,” continues Jason. “But I know we can do it.”
Jason slowly looks around at the other children. At their defeated looks and postures. “Our parents knew that it wasn’t going to be easy the first few months.”
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it too,” says Jason. “We still have all the supplies and equipment that they had. It may just take a little longer to do it because of our age. Then again, it may not take us as long for the same reason.”
“Right now, I think we need to get some sleep. “We can start fixing up this place tomorrow,” says Jason.
Jason smiles as he sits on the edge of the desk in the Sheriff’s Office staring at the four remaining Outlaws. “It took us almost six months to fix up this town.”
“Now all we need to do is figure out what we are going to do with you,” continues Jason. “After all, we can’t just turn you in for the rewards on your heads.”
One of the Outlaws turns and walks to their cell bars. “You’re not going to get any rewards because of us. You are just children. When are you going to quit pretending that you are adults?”
“We’re not pretending,” answers Jason. “This is a real town. And we are the citizens of it.”
“True, we may not have the technology that our parents had. But we hung around them as we were growing up. We can do anything they were doing.”
Jason's smile gets even bigger. “We have already proven that when you first showed up at our wagon train. There were six of you. Weren’t there?”
“Mitch and Bruce,” says Jason after he walks out of the Sherriff’s Office. “Keep your eyes on our prisoners. “I’m going to walk around our town to make sure there isn’t anything wrong.”
Without a word, Mitch and Bruce get out of their chairs leaning again the walls next to the door leading into the Sherriff’s Office. As they start to enter the office, Jason continues. “Then I’m heading for the houses, farms, and ranches that surround our town to see how they are doing,” says Jason. Suddenly, Jason stops walking as he looks up at the archway at the entrance into their town.
“That reminds me,” continues Jason. “Our new town needs a name. We can’t continue calling it Our New Town.”
As Jason starts walking around their town, he can’t stop looking at their entrance every so often. At least he does until he can’t see it anymore. Now he’s just nodding at the other children as he continues his walking. They nod back at him too.
Jason stops walking. He smiles. “YoungTown. That is the new name of our town.”
“Indians,” shouts Susan as she starts ringing the school bell next to her. “About twenty of them.”
By the time she climbs down from the upper edge of the archway, the other children are there. “We knew this was probably going to happen sooner or later,” says Jason.
Jason and about twenty-five other children take up positions on both sides of the archway. Some use the sides for cover. While others take up positions where Susan was. Jason and a few others are laying on their stomachs in the middle of the entrance.
Most of the Indians stop. Only one continues. He stops just before entering YoungTown. “Don’t shoot,” says Son of Chief Wild Bear. “We just want to talk.”
Son of Chief Wild Bear speaks up. “Our fathers were going to attack you. But when they saw who you were, they sent us instead.”
Jason and the others start pointing their weapons at the Indians again. “But we don’t want to kill you,” continues Son of Chief Wild Bear. “We want to join you.”
“We think what you are doing is great,” says Son of Chief Wild Bear. “Proving that not only adults can make a town a town.”
“True, when our fathers find out what we have done, they will probably attack you. But now you will have us to help you in that attack.”
The Word Count is 1,963