Saturday, August 21, 2010

Travels by the Rails III

The day had been a grueling struggle. Getting the wagons up on the flat had taken its toll on the people as well as the animals. It was late afternoon and the oxen and mules were working up a good lather. On the horizon they could see a couple of buildings and tents with smoke rising from the chimneys. They were getting close to the railroad stop.
At the railroad town there was usually a store for a few provisions. With the animals struggling, it was doubtful they could get much further. Evan rode on ahead to check things out. When he returned the wagons were on a flat spot and the oxen were dragging. Evan told them that there was a small pond nearby and they could get water there. It was only a couple of miles but they decided to set up camp there and spend the night and give the animals a rest.
One of the wagons could be emptied and the water barrels loaded up and taken by the mules to the pond to be filled with water. One of Evan’s brothers and a prospector took the wagon to the pond to fill the barrels.
Camp was set up and the search for buffalo chips and the evening fire. Evan had brought a small sack of coal from the railroad stop and that would make a good cook fire.
The water wagon returned and the oxen were watered and turned loose to graze and rest up for the journey tomorrow. Because of the mud they had only traveled about 10 miles for the day. Everybody was tired from slogging through the mud and pushing on the wagons to keep things going.
Stew and biscuits were on the fire and the coffee was perking. It was one of the quietest camps since they left. Hardly a word was said. The Canvas tarp was up to provide some relief from the sun and in the shade was most everybody.
Slowly to the west the sun edged on, supper was eaten and around the camp people sat quietly, occasional puff of smoke from a pipe. One of the prospectors went to the water wagon and dipped a bucket of water out, on toes he stealthy walked back to where his partner lay. The kids saw him and started giggling. A roar of a stuck pig rolled across the camp area. Right on top his partner went the full force of the water from the bucket. Hollering and sputtering, arms flailing he got to his feet, shaking his hat off. Then he understood what had happened, a gleam crossed his smile.
Across the wagon of water barrels he ran, grabbing a bucket, splash and after his partner he chased. There were squeals from the children and others grabbed buckets, the great water fight was on. Water was flying everywhere, wet shinny hair, soaking clothes, no one cared, it felt good and everybody was laughing.
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