Day One Hundred Twelve
“Depends on what you consider trouble,” Nicholas said. “There’s the Taum Sauk mountain in your way, and to some, that would be trouble.”
“I understand mountains.”
“Well, then. . .”
“New Jerusalem,” Eva said. She turned to me with a serious look. “There’s a plateau town along your route, good farming country, used to be a nice community. But the pandemic hit them hard and the people who survived are a little weird. They credit the Christian God with their survival, and they think that they’re His chosen people and everyone else is damned.”
This put me in mind of the Singularians back home. “Are they dangerous?”
“Only if you’re in any kind of trouble,” Ruth said. “They seem to have never read the part in the Bible about the Good Samaritan, and you can bleed to death on the side of the road for all they care.”
“Very un-Christian,” Sharon sniffed, pouring herself another cup of chicory.
“Will they bother me for just passing through, or do I need to go around?”
This led to a spirited debate, and at the end I was no wiser than before. Maybe they would bother me, maybe not.
After I helped clean the breakfast dishes, I got my gear together. A few of the children neglected their chores to watch me strap my packs onto Flecha, and when I was ready to go, a group of women came out of the house with food for my journey. I tried to give them some silver coins, but they only laughed.
“We don’t want your money,” Sharon said.
“We honor the Mother Goddess, and the Christian God, when we’re kind to strangers,” Eva added.
Ruth threw her arms around me. “But most of all, we just like you.”
“I like you, too,” I said. “If Kentucky doesn’t work out for me. . .”
“Oh, absolutely! Come back—all new members have to be voted on, but I’d vote for you.”
I thanked everyone again and rode away into the morning, smiling to myself at these people’s obsession with voting on everything. They would’ve definitely been Unitas supporters in my country. “Free and fair elections.” How often had I heard and repeated that motto?
I spent the day traveling through some rough country, but it was beautiful.
In some places, water flowed in little streams, and the people who used these forests had thrown logs across so they could cross.
And in some places, it was clear that the region had once been more inhabited than it was now.
In all, it was a pleasant, happy day of traveling for me. I didn’t make very good time because of the quality of the road, which sometimes vanished to almost a footpath before broadening again to a wagon track. I found my way obstructed at times by rocks and tree branches, and at other times, the road was as clear as if someone had passed through only an hour before.
At mid-day, I picked a few salad greens and enjoyed them along with a couple of biscuits and a hard boiled egg. It felt good to know the land, and I picked some of the young leaves, twigs and roots of a birch tree to make tea later on. I also collected some birch bark for my tinderbox. Eva told me yesterday that birch bark will light even in the rain, and I want to test her assertion, but not too soon.
I spent the afternoon much as I had the morning, grateful beyond words to be strong and healthy, riding through a beautiful land with no schedule, no one telling me what to do, and no need to worry about where my food or water would come from. “It’s good to be alive, Flechita,” I said.
She didn’t answer, of course. But in the late afternoon, we came out onto a grassy plateau, and had Flecha been capable of speech, she would’ve certainly agreed that it was a wonderful thing to be alive in the world.
This was the area I had been warned of. So I let Flecha graze for a few minutes while I reviewed my options. Go forward and take my chances that I would be left in peace, or skirt the edges of this place? I considered the matter seriously and decided to go south and keep to the forest. Had I not been alone, I would’ve gone on through. But since I had no one to trade watches with, it was best to play it safe.
I built a shelter in the woods tonight, and ate again out of the pack of food I was given this morning, saving my other goods for later. I made another salad, and picked some clover and redbud for it. And I made birch tea, which has an interesting taste, sort of minty, but with an odd flavor to it that grows on you after awhile.
In all, it was a good day. I think I can be at the Mississippi River in three or four days. I’ve read a lot about it and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’ve read that it’s so big that in many places you can’t see the other side. It sounds amazing. After I see it, I’m going to write to Auntie and tell her all about it. She’s going to be so surprised when she finds out how far from home I am!
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