Authors: Janette Oke
Love's Long Journey (Love Comes Softly #3)
This book is dedicated to you, the readers of
Love Comes Softly
Love's Enduring Promise,
with thanks for your kind words of encouragement.
JANETTE OKE was born in Champion, Alberta, during the depression years, to a Canadian prairie farmer and his wife. She is a graduate of Mountain View Bible College in Didsbury, Alberta, where she met her husband, Edward. They were married in May of 1957, and went on to pastor churches in Indiana as well as Calgary and Edmonton, Canada.
The Okes have three sons and one daughter and are enjoying the addition to the family of grandchildren. Edward and Janette have both been active in their local church, serving in various capacities as Sunday-school teachers and board members. They make their home in Didsbury, Alberta.
Table of Contents
1 The Journey Begins 11
2 Day's End 19
3 Another Day 24
4 Traveling Neighbors 29
5 Rebecca Clay 37
6 On the Trail 44
7 Tedious Journey 47
8 Rain 56
9 Delays 60
10 The Big River 64
11 On the Way Again 69
12 Town 72
13 Breaking Camp 78
14 Rebecca 81
15 A Tough Decision 86
16 Tettsford Junction 90
17 The Taylorsons 94
18 News 103
19 Sunday 109
20 Parting 112
21 Putting in Time 115
22 The New Baby 123
23 Travelin' On 126
24 The Ranch 130
25 Missie's New Home 133
26 Winter 137
27 Christmas 142
28 Setbacks 148
29 Missie's Garden 154
30 Summer 160
31 Maria 163
32 Willie's Return 167
33 Afternoon Tea 174
34 Looking to Another Winter 181
35 Special Sundays 188
36 Dreams 192
37 Nathan 195
38 Love Finds a Home 201
Imagine if you can the grief of family separation back in the days of the pioneers.
For weeks and months the entire family would have been in a fever-pitch of excitement and activity. Plans were made, clothing and bedding were sewn, crates and crocks were packed and supplies were purchased or prepared, sufficient for many months, or even years. Consider packing all that food, from coffee to flour, from lard to honey, from molasses to salt--pickled, salted, dried, canned. There were lamps and the fuel needed for them, grease for the wagons, repair parts for the harnesses, besides guns and gunpowder, tools, nails, rope, crocks, kettles, pots and pans, dishes, medicines, seeds, clothing, and material to make more when those wore out. Any furniture or equipment that the family could afford and find room for was packed in the wagons; a stove, sewing machine, bed, chairs, table--they all had to be taken along.
The packing was done carefully. Breakables were packed in sawdust and crated in handmade boxes. Many items needed to be protected against possible water damage, for there were rivers to be forded and rains to be endured. The crates would be unpacked at journey's end and disassembled; every board would be carefully hoarded for some future building project--a window frame, a stool, a small crib. The sawdust would be used sparingly to feed a fire, sprinkled lightly over the smoking buffalo chips.
The crocks and jars containing foods they had carried west would be re-used after they had yielded up their store.
Yes, it was a monumental task. The preparation for such a move must have taxed bodies and emotions to the limit.
But when the sorting and packing was finished, the wagons were loaded and the teams were hitched and ready to move out--what then?
Mothers and fathers bade their offspring farewell with the knowledge that they might be seeing them for the last time. There was almost no means of communication, should the need arise; from then on they would know next to nothing of their whereabouts or their well-being. Many families who stayed behind hoped that they would never hear--for only bad news was of sufficient import to be carried across the empty miles.
Wife followed husband, convinced that her rightful place was by his side regardless of the strong tug that pulled her to the home that she had known and loved. Danger, loneliness, and possible disaster awaited them in the new world that they were entering, but she went regardless.
I have often thought about those pioneer women. What it must have cost many of them to follow their men! To venture forth, leaving behind the things that represented security and safety; to birth their babies unattended; to nurse sick children with no medicines or doctors; to be mother, teacher, minister, physician, tailor and supermarket to a growing family; to support, without complaint, their men through floods, blizzards, sandstorms and droughts; to walk tall when there was little to wear, little to work with and even less to eat.
God bless them all--the women who courageously went forth with their men. And those who stood with tear-filled eyes and aching hearts and let them go. God bless their memory. And grant to us a measure of the strength, courage, love and determination that prompted them to do what they did.
The Journey Begins
Missie experimentally pushed back her bonnet and let the rays of the afternoon sun fall directly on her already too-warm head. She wasn't sure which was preferable--the loss of protection from the sun that the bonnet had provided or the shade from the wide brim that also kept the slight breeze from her face. It was hot! She comforted herself by reasoning that the worst of the day's heat was already past; surely it would begin to cool before long as the sun's rays waned.
Her first day on the trail had seemed extremely long. To Missie the excitement of the morning seemed already weeks past. But no, time insisted that it truly had been only at the dawning of this very day.
As she recalled the early events of the morning, Missie again felt a tingle go through her. She and Willie were really heading west! After all of the planning and dreaming, they were actually on the way. It still seemed a dream, yet Missie's weary, aching body verified that it was fact.
She shifted on the hard, wooden boards of the bumping wagon
to gain what she hoped would be a more comfortable position. Willie turned to her, his hands on the reins still aware of every movement of the plodding team.
"Ya tirin'?" he asked, his eyes on her flushed face.
Missie smiled and pushed back some strands of damp hair. "A bit. 'Bout time for me to stretch my legs again, I reckon."
Willie nodded and turned back to the horses he was driving.
"I miss ya when
gone, but I sure won't deny ya none any relief that ya might be getting from a walk now an' then. Ya wantin' down now?"
"In a few minutes." Missie fell silent.
Willie stole an anxious sideways glance at her. She looked content enough.
"Sure's one bustlin', dusty way to travel, this wagon trainin',"
Missie commented. "Harness creakin', horses stompin', people shoutin'! Hadn't realized thet it would be so noisy-like." "I 'spect that it'll quieten some as we all get used to it." "Yeah, I reckon so."
Missie reached out to tuck a small hand under Willie's arm. She could feel his muscles tighten and ripple as they gave firm guidance to the team. His coarse cotton shirt was damp in many places and Missie noticed that he had undone a couple of buttons at the neck.
"Guess we sorta just brought our noise and bustle along with us," she said.
"Well, you know what it's been like at home for all these weeks that we've been a plannin', packin', cratin', loadin'-- seemed it would never end. An' the noise was really somethin'-- everybody talkin' at once, hammers poundin', an' barrels an' pans bangin'. It was a madhouse, that's what it was."
Willie laughed. "Was kinda, wasn't it?"
Willie again stole a glance at Missie and this time he could see a shadow cloud her bright blue eyes. He waited for a few moments. When Missie made no further comment, Willie spoke cautiously.
"Ya seem to be thinkin' awful deep-like."
Missie allowed a quiet sigh to escape from her and tightened her grip on Willie's arm. "Not deep--just thinkin' of home. It must seem awfully quiet there now. Awfully quiet. After all the days an' months of gettin' ready--" lost in thought, Missie didn't finish her sentence. Watching her preoccupation, Willie did not interrupt her reverie.
Missie thought of their two wagons crammed full. Never had she dreamed it possible to get so much into two wagons. Everything that they would be needing in the months ahead had been loaded into those wagons--and a fair number of things that they could very well have lived without if they had had to, Missie realized. She thought especially of the fancy dishes that her ma had purchased with some of her own egg money and insisted on packing in sawdust herself. "Someday you'll be glad thet ya made the room," Marty assured her; and Missie knew in her heart that someday she would indeed look at the dishes and ache with the sad joy that they brought to her soul.
A sense of sadness had overtaken Missie and she had no desire to have Willie read her mind. The thoughts of home and loved ones brought a sharp pain somewhere deep inside of her. If she wasn't careful she'd be in tears. She swallowed hard and forced a smile.
"Maybe I should get me in a little more walkin' now," she said briskly.
"I'll pull over right up there ahead at thet widenin' in the road," he promised.
"Have you noticed that we are already beyond the farms that we know?" Willie asked.
"Makes it seem more real-like. Like we really are a-goin' West." She shared the joy and excitement in Willie's voice, but at the same instance that now-familiar pain twisted within her. She was going West with Willie--but she was leaving behind all others that she loved. When would she see them again?
she see them again--ever? The tears pressed against the back of her eyes.
She was glad when Willie pulled the team over for a brief stop
so that she could climb down over the wagon wheel. The dust whirled up as Willie moved on again, and Missie stepped away a few paces and turned her back; she pulled her bonnet back up into position to keep the dust from settling on her hair. She waited until the wagons had passed her, then looked around for someone that she might have already met among the walkers that followed the teams. There didn't seem to be anyone that she recognized at hand, so Missie smiled at those closest to her and, without a word, took position in the group.
As she walked the dusty, rutted road, her body, though young and healthy, hurt all over. She wondered how the older ladies were able to keep going. She glanced about her at two women walking slightly to her right.
They look 'bout Mama's age,
Mama is well and strong an' can most times outwork me; still, I wouldn't want to see her have to put in such a day.
The women did look tired, and Missie's heart went out to them. Suddenly, relieved, Missie now remembered the words of the wagon master, Mr. Blake, when he had given them their orders that morning. At the time it had seemed foolishness to Missie to even consider a short day the first few days on the trail. Now she began to understand the wisdom in Mr. Blake's pronouncement. How glad she would be to stop.
Missie's thoughts returned to Willie. She wondered if he would welcome the early camp tonight or if his eagerness to reach their destination would make him want to push on.
Missie was proud of Willie, proud of his manly good looks-- his dark head of slightly curling hair, his deep brown eyes, his strong chin with its indentation akin to a dimple (though Willie would never allow her to call it such), his well-shaped nose that had been narrowly spared perfection by his fall from a tree when he was nine years old--these things were her Willie. So were the broad shoulders, the tall frame, the strong arms.
But when Missie thought of Willie, she pictured not only the man that others saw but his character that she had come to know so well. Willie who seemed to read her thoughts, who considered others first, who was flexible when dealing with others but steadfast when dealing with himself; this man who was strong and purposeful in his decisions--a mite stubborn, some felt, but