Authors: Ashley Olsen
A Settler’s Wife’s Dreams
A Trip To The City
SERIES READING ORDER:
A Trip To The City
Copyright © 2014 by Ashley Olsen
All Rights Reserved
Adult Reading Material
The material in this document is intended for mature audiences only. It contains adult situations and is inappropriate for readers under eighteen years of age
Copyright © 2014 by Ashley Olsen
All Rights Reserved
Lisa sat on a knoll, her knees tucked against her body, looking at everything yet seeing nothing, her thoughts eclipsed in her current dilemma. How? How did you start telling your husband that he might be the reason you didn’t have children?
Below her the great plains of Iowa stretched out for miles before the next ridge crested the skyline. For generations this prairie had held her people close to its bosom. It had fed them and it had protected them yet with the growing years, it seemed to grow harsher. Now it wasn’t strange to have floods in summer and drought in spring.
Looking at the oaks swaying gently in the afternoon breeze, cooled after crossing the nearby Des Moines river, it was hard to imagine that winter was coming soon. Soon this beautiful fall weather and her trips up this knoll. Lisa already dreaded the blizzards and frosts that would come with the cold weather turning everything into ice. Great funnels of wind would howl through the skies and the land leaving nothing but twisted trunks and the tatters of the houses it pulled up on its path of destruction. Would they survive its harshness or would they die with it?
Their tiny log cabin sat on the edge of the prairie surrounded by plowed farm land. From where she sat, Lisa could see her husband Frank hacking into timber with his axe by the front door. She could already imagine his muscles rippling with his efforts.
The sun bleached his thick brown hair to a sandy blonde. Sometimes Lisa wondered if spending so much time outside in the sun is what made Frank's eyes so blue, but deep down she knew that was a silly thing to wonder. Still, she wondered it anyway; sometimes aloud when she took Frank's hand in hers, feeling the calluses on his fingers, kissing the cuts and scrapes from running the plow on uneven ground. Frank's mouth always seemed curved in a smile, no matter how tired he was from working all day; his words to Lisa always kind, no matter how much mother nature might have frustrated him.
He straightened up, stretching to his full muscular height as he turned his gaze towards her. She gave him a small wave. He waved back before getting back to work
She should be down there, helping him. Homestead wives were supposed to work constantly; cook food, wash clothes, clean the house and care of their half a dozen screaming, toothless children. Lisa didn’t have any children to do any of that for, hence her current dilemma.
Her barrenness wasn’t something she and Frank ever spoke of. Lisa had never slept with anyone but Frank, so there was no way for her to tell if it there was something wrong with her womb or if it was Frank’s seed that was the problem. She also didn’t know how to talk to him about it. During their courtship, before they’d left the New England colonies, the story around town was that Frank had a hot temper and quick fists.
All it took was being bumped into on the street and he would erupt into a wrath so fiery everyone was afraid of him. He was a mean bar brawler who drank all night and woke up in an alley gutter, spitting blood, rubbing his head and wondering where his next meal was going to come from.
It was his loving widowed mother who had taken him to keep him from starving and his sisters had helped him clean up and get to work, but what had really done it was his Lisa. In all their years of marriage Lisa had yet to see this alleged temper. According to his sisters he’d changed as soon as he met her but there was no accounting for a man’s temper especially if confronted about his manhood, so Lisa kept her peace.
Lisa looked hard over the valley the shadow of clouds swept over. She didn't know what exactly Frank saw in her that was so great. She was just a regular person. Sometimes she even thought that she might be a little sub par. Her nose wasn't right like some of the other women that walked the streets of Boston. Her neck was not as elegant as some of the young working girls that prowled the saloons and hotels. Maybe it was infantile to expect to be perfect and maybe it vain to even think of such things; but Lisa thought of them nonetheless.
Surely Frank had thought of such things before asking for her hand in marriage. It had taken him months to save up the money, working in a printing press and delivery papers. He had to have compared her to the rest of the women around her before deciding that she was the one for him.
Lisa didn't know what scared her more, thinking about the comparison being made, or thinking about it being a foregone conclusion. She sincerely hoped that Frank hadn't picked her simply because she had reciprocated his affection. As strange as it seemed, Lisa wanted to be picked after being compared to others. She wanted to be the one and only because she was the best, she didn't want to be the one simply because she was the only one.
Maybe if Frank had compared her to other woman, he would’ve discovered that something was wrong with her womb. Because surely there had to be something wrong with her, and not with Frank. Surely if Frank were to sleep with another woman they would produce a child. Lisa almost wanted it to happen; for Frank to sleep with someone else and have a child just so they could know that she was the one who was broken and not Frank.
Lisa hadn’t considered the other idea; being with another man to see if it Frank was the one who was broken inside. To do so would bring shame to both her and Frank but the thought itself made her blush with a certain kind of lust. The excitement came with knowing how taboo the idea was rather than a real desire to be with another man, because truthfully she did not want to be with another man. Lisa just wanted to know what was going on in her body, and in her life.
Right now Lisa felt like she had too much free time around the homestead. Everyday while her husband worked the fields or cleared the land she would venture far and wide exploring. Rarely did she wear a dress anymore, opting for homemade pants and shirts she'd stitched together out of canvas. Lisa would put her hair into a tight bun and set out into the unknown.
If Frank needed help, and Lisa always asked before she left, she would stay and help as much as she could. But she was too weak to help with many of the tasks that Frank had to do day to day. Occasionally she would help thresh grain or swing the scythe along side him, but those times were few and far between. Frank didn't seem to care that she left everyday to explore, sometimes not coming home until late at night and told her as much.
“I know that you've been fretting that maybe you don't help enough around here,” Frank said. “And let me tell you that isn't so. We don't have a bunch of little ones like the other homesteads. And you know what? Maybe that isn't such a bad thing. I don't mind doing less work out there, and I don't mind you heading out into the woods to explore if that is what makes you happy.”
“I know,” Lisa said, sitting down to a meal that Frank had prepared and put on the table as the sun sat outside, glaring red in its final plunge. She continued, “but some people would think it odd that I don't make the meals or wash the clothes or that I don't do more.”
“Well, this meal is hardtack so I'm not sure how much credit I can really take without being a blowhard. Also, I'm not concerned with what other people think!” Frank said. “I married you because I love you. I want a partner out here in this wilderness not a servant. I want someone to help make a life and share it with. You do plenty of things around here, so I'm not sure what you are talking about. You’re talking like you sit around like a bump on a log. Remember last week when you patched the roof? Or when you made the horses new harnesses?”
“Yes,” Lisa said quietly. Now that she thought of it she did do quite a few things around the homestead.
“Now I can't do any of those things,” Frank said. “Which means that we'd have had to go to town and pay some uppity tradesman to come out here and do what he damn well knows could be done by our own hands if he'd just tell us how.”
Lisa nodded in agreement.
“You know this as well as any,” Frank said gesturing to her across the table. “You read those books all the time. And I'm glad you do. You know things I don't know, things I will never know and it's important to know things. Knowing things, my Pa used to say, is what makes men rich. What gives them power. Men like me, well, we don't know. So men like me run the press to make papers they can't read. Men like me plow the lands to harvest and pay a debt they won't be able to clear in their lifetime because they let the bank sell them land that didn't belong to no one to begin with.”
Lisa sat quietly and listened. It was moments like these that made her love Frank.
“Who was it that found out that this here land didn't belong to no one?” Frank asked.
“I did,” Lisa said. Her voice could barely be heard above the wind blowing outside and shaking the roof.
“And how did you do it?” Frank said. “Did you do it be going up to those banking men and asking them if they was going to cheat your old man?”
“No,” Lisa said.
“Hell no,” Frank said. “You went and sent a letter off to people who know about such things out east and you asked them who exactly owned this land. It turned out that whoever built a house here and plowed the land here for ten years owned it. Didn't anyone need to pay for it to start the work neither.”
Lisa’s eyes started to water. None of the other homestead men that she knew talked to their wives like they were smart or like they were their equals. No! All the homestead men she knew talked down to their wives like children and treated them like objects. Only Frank offered her praise. Only Frank talked to his wife like she was something to be prized. Everyone else treated their women like servants and their children like slaves.
“So enough of this talk about how you don't do enough around here,” Frank said. “The only person talking as such is yourself. I aint never heard a whisper of this anywhere else, not in town and not down at the moon shine still five miles down the river where men sometimes gather to get shine. And if I'd heard it, I'd have knocked the lights right out of the man who'd said it, because it ain't true. Plenty of men do this work all by themselves, with no company and no one to talk to. Look how lucky I am, having someone to share the work with and talk to. Someone who is smarter than me and doesn't let the bankers pull the wool over my eyes.”
Frank took a sip of his drink before speaking again.
“That's the end of it,” he said. “I won't speak of it anymore.”
Lisa thought of that day and smiled as she turned away from the valley and walked back towards the cabin. She wanted to check on the horses and make sure that they didn't need any new shoes or anything like that. Frank checked on the horses frequently as well, but Lisa knew that checking on them again wouldn't hurt anything.
The horses were the most important thing they owned. Without them there wouldn't be any way to plow the field and getting to town would take a day and a night of walking. However, she couldn't shake the feeling that her place in the world was yet to be set. Even though Frank had made it clear that he didn't think that she was shirking any kind of duty or doing him any kind of disservice as a wife, she still felt like she had to justify what she did to someone. Lisa guessed since there was no one for miles around to justify her actions to she would just have to do it to herself.
They owned two horses, one named Zed and the other named Jeb. Zed was Lisa's horse and Jeb was Frank's. Neither was that good looking of a horse, but both were unusually muscular, strong and able to do the work of four horses. Lisa patted down Zed's flank, checked their feed and then checked their shoes. She knew that a bad horse shoe could do a lot of damage to a horse. It could put it out of commission for months while its hoof heeled.
For a lot of horses that would mean almost certain death. Farmers usually put down any animals that weren't contributing, or that were sick and needed time to mend. Most farmers just didn't have the resources to invest into anything that they weren't reasonably sure would give some kind of return. Lisa was almost certain that Frank wouldn't put Zed down instead of letting the horse heal, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Even though Frank put Lisa in high esteem it didn't mean he wouldn't make a tough call he felt was necessary for the sake of the homestead.
“Let me take a look at these back hooves,” Lisa said in a soothing voice.
Both of the horses had hearts that were kind, being animals that took special care of their masters, but Lisa knew that even the nicest of animals could lash out sometimes. Once she'd seen one of her older brothers get kicked in the chest when he yanked up a horses' hoof to inspect the shoe. He’d been lucky enough to live, thankfully, but Lisa wasn't taking any chances.
She lived far away from any kind of medical treatment, but Lisa hesitated to think of the old drunken doctors as actual medical treatment. Sure, they could probably save someone's life but at the end of the day, the reason they were out here, in the middle of nowhere, is that they'd been run out of the east coast for drinking or dipping into their medicine cabinets too heavily. Lisa didn't really trust them to work any magic on her body if it got broken. So with special care Lisa lifted up Zed's back hoof and inspected the nails in the shoe.
“What's this,” Lisa murmured to herself.
One of the nails looked a little loose. When Lisa gently tugged on the shoe it partly came off of the hoof. Very carefully, she pressed the shoe back into place until it felt snugly attached then headed to the cabin. She met Frank as she walked in.
“I just checked Zed's shoes and one of them is coming off,” Lisa said. “Good thing I did or something bad could have happened.”
“I meant to check on the horses hooves last month and it must have been pressed from my mind,” Frank said. “Well, I'm obliged you did it on your own, Lisa. It seems I'll forever be indebted to your initiative.”
As soon as the door to their small cabin closed behind them, Lisa felt herself being propelled toward the table. She already knew what was going to happen before it started. Frank was going to playfully pin her against the table, pull her pants down to her knees and have his way with her. Lisa didn't have time though, not today.