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Archive for October, 2020

Beyond The Horizon

Beyond the Horizon

Chapter 1:  The End of a Busy Day

Patrick Mayfield entered the house quietly. In cupped hands he held an injured meadowlark. He had discovered the bird lying in a crevice between two bales of hay in the stack of hay behind the barns to which he had gone for feed for the bull in the pen at the end of the loafing barn. The bird had tried to flutter up from the crevice when it had seen him, but it could not use one of its outstretched wings. Slowly Patrick bent down to get a closer look at the bird. It occurred to him that meadowlarks were seldom seen in this part of the Northwest of the country. “I’d love to hear you sing, little fellow,” he whispered. For a moment he wondered what he could do for the bird. It seemed to him the little creature looked at him with eyes pleading for help. “Emma,” he whispered. “Emma will know what to do with you.”

Slowly he reached into the crevice with both hands. He could feel the bird flapping its healthy wing and pecking at his fingers. When he withdrew the bird from the hay and had it securely in his hands, he made his way to the house speaking quietly to it to try to calm the little fellow. Taking his eyes from watching the bird in his hands Patrick saw Emma through the open door standing at the window. In his mind he could see a gentle smile gracing her attractive face. There had been times when he had seen tears there, but in recent years life had been good to them all. She did not turn to look who had entered the room. She knew only her husband entered the house quietly.

“Come have a look at our son, Patrick,” she said keeping her eyes glued to the kitchen window.

With big strides he crossed to where she stood. On the lawn at the back of the house he saw two boys wrestling. His son had his arms wrapped around the other’s head while that fellow had both his legs clamped around his son’s thighs. Patrick saw them twisting and turning trying to break free from each other’s hold to be able to stand up. He smiled watching them. “Looks like the boys are having fun and are enjoying some roughhousing,” he chuckled.

“Yes, they’re having fun. But they’re not boys any longer, Patrick. They’re young men. Your son is twenty, nearly twenty-one. His friend, Jesse, is a year older. I just wondered what will become of them, as I watched them greet each other. They have so little experience with all life throws at us from time to time.  Look at them.  They’re playing like a couple fourteen-year-old kids.”

“And I hope they’ll never quit playing.”

“I know you’re just itching to go out there to join them.”

Actually, I was thinking of getting a five-gallon pail of cold water and rinsing away the sweat they must be working up.”

“Your impossible Patrick. These two are at the gate through which they’ll go out into a big, unforgiving world, and they have had little real-life experience to prepare them.”   

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Brady finished high school at sixteen and his grade twelve marks were outstanding in a school loaded with tough teachers who demanded the best kids could give. A month ago he completed his degree in agriculture. He also took several courses in architecture and engineering while he worked toward his degree. He held down a part-time job all that time and paid for all his schooling himself. He’s done chores since he first started to walk. His rear end had become acquainted with my belt a couple times. And Jesse is almost done with his studies at the college. Not many kids from his village have stepped on a college campus. I’m sure he has ruffled a few of his people’s feathers too. I recall he had to face a bunch of hostile classmates in our town because he was a native boy. Stopping the bullying took Brady befriending him. He gave big Roman a bloody nose and set a few others straight before they left Jesse alone. Brady makes friends easily and Jesse can charm a gopher out of its hole on most days too. If you need to worry about any of our kids worry about our three girls. They’ve started to turn the heads of all the young punks in town.” He chuckled and said, “Maybe I should dust off and start wearing my gun belt again.”

“Yes, these two have done well as far as their schooling is concerned, and I’m proud of Brady and Jesse.  But they’re both second sons.  You know as well as I do our farm isn’t big enough to have both Berthold and Brady make their living here with us. Jesse will also have to venture into the world away from home. I know his mom is worried about him. He does carry a bit of a chip on his shoulders his mom told me. As far as the girls are concerned, I do worry about them. Our oldest will be eighteen soon. We’ve both taught them to be strong, to value themselves, to let no one take advantage of them, and to let the Lord guide them.”  She turned to look at Patrick and cried out, “What’re you holding in your hands?”

He grinned and lifted his hands for her to see better what he held in them. “I found this little rascal between two hay bales. Couldn’t fly away when it saw me, and I figured the family doc would know what to do with this creature.  You’ve fixed the aches of a Canada goose, an eagle’s wing, a cat’s paw, not to speak of the dogs and calves you helped.  I figured helping this little guy would be like shooting fish in a rain barrel for you. What do you think? Can we help our feathered friend?”

Speaking gently to the meadowlark Emma took it carefully from his hand. “Looks like a cat’s paw did a number on this wing. It’s not broken, but it’ll need time to heal. We’ll place it in the old bird cage, give it feed, water, time to heal and hope for the best.” She was about to ask Patrick to fetch the cage when the two young men burst laughing into the room. The meadowlark scared by the commotion tried to beat its wings and escape from Emma’s hands. She quickly covered it partially and drew it close to her. “Boys, boys, hold your horses,” she called to them in a hushed way. “We have a little creature here that’s hurt and frightened to death. You’re scaring it.”

Both charged toward her wanting a look at what was in Emma’s hand. Within seconds the young men stood over Emma’s hands and showered the frightened meadowlark with gentle words of affection much to its vocal complaints and apprehension. Emma finally put a stop to it. She told Patrick to bring the cage to the front room and walked from the kitchen. Brady motioned for Jesse to go and sit in the kitchen nook while he hurried to the fridge and snatched two cans of beverage from it. Half an hour later Emma and Patrick joined Brady and Jesse and answered their barrage of questions about the injured bird.

When they were satisfied with what they had heard, Brady called out, “Mom, Dad, guess what? Jesse is going into the wilderness to prove his manhood. It’s his tribe’s ancient custom for every brave to do this once a boy reaches a certain age, and he wants me to go with him.”

Patrick began to smile. He drummed his right hand’s finger on the tabletop and asked, “At what age do the braves of your tribe do this test of manhood, Jesse, and what are the rules you must follow to prove you’re a man?”

“Sixteen winters, Mr. Mayfield. You must have seen sixteen winters before you may go to test yourself. To do this test you must go from your village and travel beyond the horizon to a place far away from any settlement. There you must stay from one new moon to the next new moon. You can only take with you what your horse, and you can carry. There is one other requirement. That is, a brave must have proof, when he returns, that he has completed the encounter with nature. To do so he must bring back the pelt of a cougar.”

“But you are twenty-one, Jesse. Why didn’t you do this manhood test five year ago?”

The young man chuckled. He looked across the table first to Patrick and then to Emma. “I did it after my sixteenth winter and again after I graduated from high school.” His eyes shone with pleasure. “And after this time around I’ll probably do it again.”

“You failed the tests twice,” Brady asked with unbelief in his voice.

“No, my friend, I did not fail them. I find the land where no foot of man has left a mark and the waters which no brave has tasted keep calling me back again and again.”

Patrick reached his hand across to Jesse and poked it onto his chest. “You better enjoy this one then, my friend,” he said laughing. “You might find Spring Flower’s call will soon drown out all the shouts of the wild and will rob you of your wish for adventure.”

The grin on Jesse’s face grew wider. “Spring Flower is only seventeen. She must first learn all that her mother wishes to teach her. Her parents insist she finish the white man’s school and study for two years to be the nurse she wants to be. But one day I will take her to the most beautiful places beyond the horizon that I have seen, where like the fox I have marked off my territory.” Another grin spread across his face.

Emma smiled and said. “I applaud you and Spring Flower, Jesse. You are both wise. Your parents and your people will be proud of you. You will be a good example to many boys and girls in your village.”

After he had finished his degree in agriculture Brady had planned to work for a year or two and devote more time to the study of architecture or engineering. Over the years he had saved much of the money he had earned. When the time was right he wanted to look for a parcel of land to farm, but the picture Jesse had painted for him of the month in the autumn and spring he had spent beyond the horizon far away from family, friends and all humanity had infected him with the desire to know if he could survive in the wilderness for a month with only those things he and his horse could carry. Looking at his mother and father he groped for words and finally said, “I have decided to go with Jesse instead of looking for another job right away. My job with Henry Walker repairing Mr. Northam’s barn will be done in a week or so.” He looked at his parents waiting for them to tell him their reasons why he should instead follow the goals he had set for himself which he had shared with them a month earlier.

When he only saw them nodding, lightly he said, “Berthold will be back in two weeks. Then Dad won’t need my help any longer. Jesse tells me the next new moon happens eight days after that. Once more he looked from one parent to the other expecting them to speak of their objections. He saw his mother smiling at him. His father’s fingers drumming on the table told him he was thinking of a way to suggest to him to rethink his decision. Brady stared at his father and asked, “Dad?”

Patrick looked his son in the eye and slowly began to speak. “Brady, your mother and I have tried to give you kids roots, wings and the ability to recognize which roads are good roads to travel along and which are bad ones. “If you think this monthlong journey into the wilderness is one of those good roads, then travel it and enjoy it. I only wish there had been a Jesse in my youth who had invited me to do this kind of thing with him. Life is precious but will soon have many responsibilities and make demands on you. It’ll make it impossible for you to think you can take a whole month to go exploring and ride beyond the horizon to dream under the stars.”

Brady breathed a sigh of relief. Knowing he would not disappoint his parents meant much to him. Before he said anything in reply, the door burst open and four teenage girls swept into the room shouting greetings to them all and dropping their school backpacks onto the floor. Brittany, the Mayfield’s oldest daughter, had hooked her arm around Spring Flower’s arm and pulled her to the table. “Mom can Spring Flower stay with us tonight?” she asked. “The two of us with Brooklyn and Barbara want to rehearse our parts in the play our drama teacher is putting on. She can stay with me in my room.”

Once Emma had inquired if their friend’s parents had given their okay, and she had seen the girls nod, she said, “Spring Flower is welcome to stay. All four of you can peel the potatoes sitting on the counter and put them on the stove before you start to practice your play. The roast will be done in forty minutes. I’ll make the salad and we’ll eat in an hour.

“Have you unhitched the horses and fed them in the stable?” Patrick wanted to know.

“We have, Dad,” Brooklyn replied. We pushed the carriage under cover too. It looks like we might get rain tonight.”

With that the girls swarmed around the boys. They wanted to know why Jesse was there and if he would stay for the night too. Brady had to tell them about the doe and the fawn he had seen early that morning while he had fetched the milk cows from the pasture to the barn so he and their father could milk then. They carried on peppering the boys with questions until Emma finally told them to get busy peeling the potatoes.

After dinner, once the dishes were done and all eight of them had visited and teased each other for half an hour, Jesse and Brady left to go to Jesse’s village where they wanted to spend the night and plan their escape into the wild, as the girls had jokingly put it. The girls also soon left. They scurried downstairs to practice their parts in the play in which they had leading roles and to do their homework after that. Once they were alone Emma and Patrick decided to sit close to each other on the chesterfield. She took a book with her, a story written by Emily Bronte. Patrick had wanted to read the newspaper he had picked up in town earlier that afternoon. He was finally able to let his eyes look over the front page and the latest market prices for farmed goods. But before they opened the book and the paper they cuddled for several minutes. Only the ticking of the grandfather clock on the far side of the living room was heard in the house. Two dogs lay sleeping on the porch at the front door. Even the coyotes in the field that often roamed noisily in the pasture were silent that hour of the evening.

Chapter 2:  Leaving Home

The day after Berthold had returned home Brady and Jesse left the village with the morning still young. At dawn they had packed and loaded the items they had planned to take with them on the horses. They had gathered each item before they had gone to sleep the previous night. With the first rays of the sun they bid Jesse’s parents goodbye. Jesse went to spend a few minutes with Spring Flower while Brady checked their gear. Then, excited to be off, they set out. Their plan was to reach the town of Hunter’s Crossing at nightfall, a ride fifty-eight miles away. Although Jesse had wanted to go further, Brady had reminded him the next full moon was still nearly a week away and it was best to take care of the horses from the beginning. 

“Jesse, I agree the horses are in great shape and the terrain will not be difficult this day, but we need to make sure the stallions remain strong,” Brady said. “The terrain will get tough after we leave Hunter’s Crossing. Besides, it will be the last time for many days that we will see civilization, because you want to ride northwest into the wilderness from there.” For a few minutes longer they debated it. Then they agreed to stop near Hunter’s Crossing for the first night on their way to the horizon.

At Grand Creek, the nearest town, they made their first stop. They watered and fed the horses, ate fried porkchops and mashed potatoes at Ma Perkins’ diner, and stop to say hello to a few of their friends. They were well known in the town. Many people waved to them when they set out again and rode their horses on the grassy flats near the road. Only twice they stopped to rest the horses that morning. Every trail that shortened the distance to Hunter’s Crossing they took. It allowed them to arrive at the town before night fall.

The heat of the day had not yet lessened. Jesse looked up to the sky to gauge the time. He wiped his sweaty brow before he shielded his eyes. “Let’s leave the horses at Jim’s stable over there,” he said and pointed to a sign over an old building. “We’ll pay him a couple dollars, let him look after them, and you and I go and wipe away the memory of the past six hours and this heat with a draft. For more than thirty days after this we’ll be drinking nothing but water.” Neither of the two drank much coffee and a beer only occasionally on a hot day. Jesse’ idea sounded good to Brady. A few minutes later they entered Bulldog Brown’s saloon. 

They had not reached the bar when a voice reached them. “Well, well, well. Look who’s here. The featherless brave and the Indian lover.” Brady and Jesse looked toward the end of the bar to see Roman, their former classmate scowling and pointing at them. Two fellows near him grinned at his words. They looked to be with Roman.

“Hello Roman.  And a good day to you too,” Brady said and motioned to Jesse to go to the other end of the bar as far away as possible from their former classmate.

They had not gone far when they heard Roman shouting at them. “A good day indeed, men. A good day to settle a score, I say.” He swallowed the last third of his mug of beer, pounded the bar with the mug and motioned with his head for the two beside him to follow him. The room suddenly grew silent.

The bar keeper stopped filling the first mugs for the two newcomers. He turned and told Jesse and Brady to go outside if they didn’t want to have to pay for damages to his establishment. He had seen too many fights result in all kinds things, even furniture and mirrors being broken. To his young assistant he whispered, “Paul, go tell the Mountie there could be trouble at our place.” He picked up a shotgun from under the bar and pointed it at Roman and his buddies. “I’m gonna count to five,” he said. “If you three aren’t at the door then, you’ll feel some buckshot rip your pants.” The three had been bad news for him. Each day after they showed up, he had seen other customers come as far as the entrance. Seeing those three they turned and left, no doubt going to his competitor down the street.

Brady and Jesse didn’t need a second warning. They knew there was another saloon a block away and made their way down the street. They did not get far. Roman and his buddies were on their heels within a few seconds. Several of the patrons who had left the bar at the first hint of trouble also followed. Across the street the Mountie walked from his office.

“Darrel and Derek, watch me bust up that tall fellow by the side of that brave. He’s an Indian lover. Of all men in this country they’re the worst. I’m gonna show you how I deal with his kind of dirt.” He whispered something else to his cronies that Brady could not hear. 

He and Jesse stopped where they stood and turned around. “Look Roman, we didn’t come here looking for a fight. We’ll go down the street for a beer and you can go back to your mugs in there.” He pointed to the saloon they had just left. “What happened a few years ago is water under the bridge. Let’s forget about it. That way you won’t have to stop another nosebleed.” The moment he had said his last words he knew it was a poor choice of words. He watched Roman starting to run towards him with his buddies following close behind. He also spied a Mountie meandering across the street. The officer was a big man and looked to be in middle age. He seemed not to be in a hurry and looked relaxed.

“I’ll stop his two friends from getting at you,” Jesse said. He knew they would enter the fight as soon as they saw Roman take a few punches and lose the fight.

“You’re the one who’s going to nurse a nosebleed, Brady. There’s no Mr. Hadfield around to ban me from school and protect you from me getting even,” Roman snarled. He suddenly charged at Brady. The two fellows with him were going to run along with him, but Jesse quickly drew the rifle from the holster of Brady’s horse and let them know he would not hesitate to use it. They stopped quickly. Then slowly they backed a half dozen paces away from him and watched the fight.

Brady cast another quick glance at the Mountie. He saw he had stopped smiling in the crowd of onlookers. He wants to see this fight as much as the rest of them, Brady thought. He saw Roman charge at him. Quickly he ducked. Roman’s fist meant for his chin punched air above his head. Before Roman’s arm had stretched full out Brady hit him first in the stomach and then on his chin. “Back off, Roman,” he hissed. “I don’t want to have to hurt you again.”

“I’ll show you who’s gonna get hurt, Indian lover,” he snarled and dove at Brady, after shouting, “Come on boys let’s get him.” He had not seen Jesse threatening his buddies. 

Diving at Brady was a poor strategy to use against someone who was much faster in thought and action than he was. Brady brought up his knee before Roman’s head could connect with his stomach. The knee caught him flush on his forehead and nose. Slowly Roman picked himself up. He wobbled and looked around for his friends. Blood trickled from his nose. That’s when Brady smashed his fist hard on to his temple and dropped him to the ground. His legs twitched for a few seconds before he groaned and then remained lying still on the ground.

The crowd watching began to cheer. Some of the people called for Brady to pick him up and hit him again. Roman had long ago lost his welcome in town. When the people heard the Mountie telling them to go home, the onlookers moved on quickly. He pointed to Roman’s buddies. “You two take this pile of trouble across the street to my jail. Wait there for me. I have some advice for you two,” he said. He pointed to Jesse and told him to put his rifle away and added, “Before you shoot yourself in the foot, son.”

It surprised Brady to see how quickly Roman’s two buddies followed the Mountie’s demand and how fast the crowd dispersed. This officer obviously has a solid reputation in this town. I don’t want to get into his bad books, he thought.

A moment later the Mountie stopped in front of Brady. “My friend, you handled yourself well. I had wanted to teach this fellow a lesson or two myself a couple times. I’ll lock him up for a few days and then sent him packing. Meanwhile, you and your friend need to be on your way soon too. I want you two out of town in an hour. But right now, both of you come with me.” He turned without looking back. With powerful strides he walked across the street toward his office and the jail. 

Brady hesitated for a moment to let the officer’s words register. Then he said to Jesse, “We better go.” He followed the Mountie. Jesse walked along behind him. When they entered through the door over which a sign said RCMP, they heard the officer speaking to Roman’s two friends in a room behind the front office. Brady noted that the policeman spoke slowly but with authority.  

Brady heard him say, “You two should know better than to come into town and cause a disturbance. What will your fathers think when they hear I locked you up and charged you?  I’m going to give guys two choices. Go back to your families’ farms, help your fathers with the work and don’t let me see you in town for at least a month. Or join your buddy in his cell. I’ll charge you with a half dozen offenses. You’ll be looking at a nice stretch in jail.” It was hard for Brady to follow what he heard from that point on. Both men were speaking at the same time. In the background he could hear Roman complaining. A few minutes later Roman’s friends hustled from the room and ran out of the front door.

Smiling the officer walked from the backroom. “Now, what will I do with you two? My information is you two tried to avoid causing this little disturbance.” He asked them their names, why they were in town, how the confrontation with Roman started, where they called home and where they were going. After he had listened to them and was satisfied with what he had heard he said, “Okay, I’ll check out some of what you told me. If you were untruthful, I’ll come looking for you. Meanwhile, go and find that place beyond the horizon and prove what you’re made of.” He stopped speaking for a moment and looked from Brady to Jesse. “And next time you come into this town stop and see me before you decide to stop anywhere. One more thing. Let me know where the best fishing is when you drop-in next time.” He smiled at Brady and Jesse and told them they were free to go. 

They thanked the officer and turned quickly to leave. On the way out of the police station Brady noticed a wanted poster hanging on the wall of the front office among other announcements. The poster showed a sketch of a man called Cal Trost who had robbed a bank at Fort Fairview, a neighboring town. For a moment Brady imagined his own face on such a poster. It startled him. Acting on one bad decision is all it would take, he thought. Silently he thanked his parents for the values they had taught him and his siblings.

The Mountie walked out with them and told them to be careful. “It’s a good idea to leave an area where grizzlies feed, men. You’ll be crossing through some of their territories. By the way, that’s also true of the grizzlies among men.  Try not to forget that.”

“It looks like we’re not going to drink anything more here than water at Jim’s stable, Jesse. We better get our horses and leave town. When this Mountie talked to me, I thought he was going to lock me up too. I don’t want to give him a reason to change his mind.”

“You’re right Brady. We had planned to head into the backcountry from here. So, we’ll ride west for an hour and look for a good place to camp for the night.”

When they arrived at Jim’s stable, they saw a fellow they had seen at the back of the crowd. He paid Jim and thanked him for looking after his horse. When they walked into the stable Jim turned to them. “I’ve watered and fed your horses and checked for loose shoes, boys. You can go and get them. It looks like you’ve come from some ways. Are you still going far? These animals will need more rest before long. You’ll want to go no more than a few miles now.”

“We aim to head west toward Hidden Lake, Jim. We’ll make camp in an hour,” Jesse replied. “How are the trails in that direction?”

“Steep in places, but you’ll have no trouble following the trails. You boys heading to help fight the fire at Hidden Lake? I hear it’s now grown to thirty or forty acres. Everybody in town is worried a wind blowing up from the southwest could drive it this way.”

“No, we weren’t going there to fight a forest fire. We didn’t know there was a fire,” Jesse said.

“Well, you best not go in that direction if you’re not planning to help with the fire. If we get a stiff wind in the next couple of days that fire will grow and burn for a while.”

The fellow who had arrived at Jim’s stable ahead of them led his quarter horse from the stable. He had overheard what they had talked about with Jim. He stopped in front of Brady and Jesse. “I heard you telling Jim you wanted to head into the backcountry toward Hidden Lake. I suggest you ride on northward  instead for a bit more. Bridgetown is about twenty miles away. You can follow the Secord River for many miles into the backcountry from there. I’m Jack Miner. My ranch is an hour in that direction. You’re welcome to stay with me for the night. My wife and I don’t get much company now that the kids are all in college and some of our friends have moved away. From what I’ve seen, you guys are decent fellows. Your welcome to come with me and stay for the night.”

Brady offered his hand to Jack. “I’m Brady Mayfield and this is Jesse Hunt, Mr. Miner. You’re very kind. We wouldn’t want to impose on you. We don’t mind roughing it.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t be any trouble. My wife would be happy to be able to feed more than just me. She cooks like she did when some of the kids still were home. We eat leftovers a fair bit of the time. But suit yourself. There are plenty of spots to camp for the night along the way. We’d love to hear where you two call home though.”

Brady chuckled thinking about leftover meals and Jesse said, “Brady, we’re not going to have a homecooked meal for a while. I think Mr. Miner’s invitation is really tempting.”

“I think so too. We’ll accept, Mr. Miner, as long as we can help with whatever chores you’ll need to do once we get to your place.”

“Great! Let’s get going then. And do me a favor and call me Jack.”

Jack pointed out interesting features of the countryside they passed. As they rode toward his ranch, he told them of the history of three old homesteads they saw now lying weathered and deserted. The time passed quickly. Once they had reached the top of another hill Jack stopped his horse and pointed down the valley. “That’s my place down there,” he said and smiled. Brady could not help but note that Jack was proud of what he had built in the valley below them.

After they had arrived and Jack had introduced them to Lucy, his wife, Jesse went with Jack to do the evening chores. Meanwhile, Brady picked up an ax and chopped wood at the woodpile lying near the horse barn. An hour later the four people enjoyed the meatloaf and mashed potatoes Mrs. Miner had made before they had arrived. She had cooked a bread pudding when she had learned the two young men would stay the night with them. During the meal while Brady and Jesse spoke of their family and friends, they learned that one of the Miner’s boys had played ball with Brady at the collage. Jack had also given them much information about the trail they would take in the morning along the Secord River that would lead them into the backcountry beyond the horizon.

“When I was younger, I’ve hunted in the part of the country around Bridgetown as far as Mystic Lake a couple days ride past the town,” Jack said. “It’s rugged country in places in there. Few people ever venture in that far, although the hunting was always great in that area. There is something about that lake that has always struck me as mysterious and threatening. I never remained near it for long, never made camp there.” He went on to describe the area around the lake. “There are sounds I heard there I could not identify and explain. I found fog could roll in at any time of the day unexpectedly. It brought with it a chilliness which seemed not of this world.

The two guests thanked the Miners when everyone was ready to turn in for the night and said goodbye. They told the couple they would leave at dawn and try not to wake them. But the Miners were up when Brady and Jesse came down from the rooms they had been given for the night. Mrs. Miner already had breakfast prepared and Jack sat in his easy chair smoking a pipe and drinking coffee.

The first sunrays touched the stable where the horses where kept when the men walked there to saddle them in preparation to leave. Brady observed his friend out of the corner of his eyes. It was clear to him Jesse was chomping at the bits in anticipation of heading into the wilderness this day. They had decided before going to sleep they would leave Bridgetown early in the afternoon and head toward Mystic Lake. In a few days their monthlong test would begin and they wanted to have an area selected by then where they would make their main camp. Twenty minutes later they thanked Lucy and Jack again for their hospitality and waved to them as they rode from the yard.

Late in the morning they arrived at Bridgetown, a clean town that had grown from a village to town status in the past ten years. At a diner called Klara’s Kitchen they ordered porkchops, the day’s feature dinner and ate a huge piece of warmed up apple pie with a liberal scoop of ice cream on top of it. While they ate, they went over the list of items they had packed to see if there was anything else they should try to take along. They found they had packed well before they had left home and decided they only needed to pick up a few more medical supplies and more salt. Jesse wanted to be on the way. Brady decided not to hold him back even though he had wanted to explore the town a little more. 

He liked what he could see of Bridgetown. The community was laid out with forethought. He could see two green spaces he guessed were parks. When they had entered the town, they had passed a large sports’ field. An ice rink for winter sports with covered areas for players and spectators stood on the opposite side of the road. The people they had met were friendly and were proud of their town. At the diner they had learned that a small hospital, a school, a sawmill and a rock quarry provided good jobs for the men and women of the town. 

Surrounding the town farms and ranches existed. Brady had thought to try to find out if any of them were for sale. His parents had always told the kids a piece of land of their own was worth more than money in the bank. From his childhood on to this day he wanted land he could call his own. For years he had determined to safe much of what he earned. For the last several years he had been zealous about it. In his early teen years, he had not only done chores at home, but had also done odd jobs for neighbors, friends, and the elderly in town. At fourteen and fifteen he had a three-hour job six days a week. He could have worked longer hours, but his parents had made sure he did not neglect his studies, and he had been unwilling to give up his time for sports and friends. His years at collage had always included a part time job. Now his bank account topped eight thousand dollar. He knew it was more than what most good half sections of land with buildings were worth. I’ll stop here on our way back and look around, he thought. He mounted his stallion and set out to catch up with Jesse who rode at a good pace far ahead of him.

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