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The Charm String Stories
By Florence Westover Bond
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Nick W. Bond
All right reserved.
Young Harvey Wilson was restless in the small Missouri town. For a number of years he watched parties of pioneers assemble, became outfitted, and start out over the Oregon Trail to California and Oregon Territory. The cowboys who drove the herds of livestock that followed the covered wagons fascinated Harvey. He longed to join a caravan.
Finally, one day, Harvey said to his wife, "Ada, it must be exciting to travel in a covered wagon. I wish we could make the journey across this vast land."
"Why?" Ada responded. "There's an uninhabited country at the end of the long trip. And from the reports we hear, there are many obstacles and uncertainties along the way. Anyway, you're a lawyer. How could you earn a living in a wilderness?"
"I could build up a law practice there as easily as I have here," responded her ambitious, but poorly informed husband.
"I'm not sure I could endure the hardships of so long a trip. And, I'd be reluctant to leave our comfortable home."
"We'd settle on a homestead in Washington Territory and build a fine home. It would be a new sort of life in a settlement where all our neighbors would be pioneers."
"I'd be afraid of the Indians of the far west. And I'm not sure I want Brad to grow up among them," continued Ada, searching for reasons to keep the family of three from embarking on a trip she knew her husband was determined to make.
"From what I've read, I understand the Indians in Washington Territory are now on reservations, for the most part. I don't think we'd have trouble from them."
"Well, maybe not," conceded Ada. "I guess the real reason I don't wish to go so far from here is that I don't want to be separated from Bob."
"We must not pay attention to a young fellow like your brother, Bob. He'll get along all right. And, anyway, you'll see him again. He'll follow us west someday," prophesied Harvey.
"I suppose he might. But what will we do with our property and your law practice?"
"We'll sell them. We wouldn't be able to start until the weather moderates in the spring. And then Brad will be five years old—old enough perhaps to remember the trip."
All winter Harvey studied the equipment they would need for the trip to the far west. He talked with other people who were also dreaming of going to the land of opportunity where homesteads could be acquired merely by staking a claim. He planned with the stores for the supplies they would need as he prepared for their trek over the Oregon Trail. He dreamed of the new life he and his family would have in the beautiful land he had heard so much about.
During the winter months Harvey sold their home and his law practice in Independence, Missouri. He and Ada bought the covered wagon and all the supplies needed for their journey. Five-year-old Brad was quite excited about the new wagon which was to be their home during the trip. He thought their new team of horses was the best he had ever seen.
Early in March all was in readiness for the trip over the Oregon Trail to Washington Territory. The Wilson's bade their many friends farewell. Then they joined a caravan of pioneers and were soon traveling among the creaking wagons slowly progressing toward the unknown adventures that lay ahead.
The long trip to Fort Vancouver, on the bank of the Columbia River, was extremely hazardous and dreary for the Wilson's. Ada was near exhaustion when the members of the caravan finally made camp at Fort Vancouver to rest for several days. After a few days spent securing new supplies and repairing equipment, the caravan split up. Each pioneer family went its own way, some north, some south, each intent on finding a suitable location for a new home.
Harvey and Ada decided to go to Puget Sound where they had heard there were settlements and many fine homestead sites. The family traveled north along the Cowlitz River, past the farms of the Hudson's Bay Company. Harvey's spirits rose as he viewed the abundant crops being harvested on those farms, only to sink in the mire of the often impassible road north of Cowlitz Landing. Mr. Jackson, one of the first pioneers to settle in the Territory of Washington, opened his home to the rain-soaked travelers. The Wilson's, like many pioneers before them, found the Jackson hospitality a source of refuge and inspiration.
That night, as Brad lay in a comfortable bed, he thought of the long trip he had taken from Independence. Actually, Brad did not remember much detail about the overland trip. After the excitement of the first few hours, most of the trip seemed tiresome. However, Brad remembered that his father and mother had to work hard each night making camp and cooking meals. He had work to do, too. He got water and wood and helped with the dishes and pans. He remembered how hard he found it to wake up early enough to be ready at daybreak to start each day's trip. He remembered seeing rocky peaks that looked like huge stone animals and seeing men kill animals for food. He remembered the stampeding buffalo and the cowboy who rode fast. The cowboy, followed by other riders, had succeeded in turning the stampeding animals away from the caravan of covered wagons. Brad also remembered some gypsies with whom his family traveled—especially the gypsy chief who rode horseback with his father.
One night they were camped near a lake where there were some big birds. The next morning, when Brad awakened, the gypsies were gone. He remembered his father said, "The gypsy chief, his tribe and most of the other members of our caravan have gone south to look for gold. How about riding with me today?" All that day, Brad rode astride the horse in front of his father.
That evening when Brad climbed into the covered wagon, he saw a little baby. The boy thought the birds brought the baby. His mother told him the baby was his new sister, Marie. From then on his mother seemed to have even more work to do. Snug in the soft, warm bed in the Jackson home, Brad stopped thinking about the long trip and was soon asleep.
During the next three days Mrs. Wilson looked out the window frequently. "It looks as if it'll rain forever! What in the world are we going to do?" the bewildered, homeless, weary woman asked.
"I've been talking with Mr. Jackson. He says the road to Puget Sound will be impassible for some time after this storm. There are many miles of swampy land between here and the Sound. There are few roads in the Puget Sound area. Besides the Indians, most of the people now living there are loggers who came on lumber schooners to work in logging camps and mills. I'm afraid we're going to have to wait for more people to come west before I can start a law practice."
"What in the world will we do in this wilderness?" asked Ada. "I can't possibly go back over the Oregon Trail again!"
"You'll never have to do that. I've already had an offer from a fellow who wants to purchase our wagon and I've made arrangements with Jackson for you to remain here for a few days while I go north with two timber cruisers to a river valley where people already are living in cabin homes."
"Timber cruisers? What do you mean?"
"A timber cruiser is a representative of a lumber company. He estimates the value of timber to determine a fair price for an acreage of trees. The timber cruisers will help me locate a good homestead."
"Is there a town in that valley?" queried Ada.
"No. There's no town yet, but a very early pioneer built a blockhouse during the Indian wars. He and two other families live near the blockhouse, and there's a good trading post a short distance from their homesteads. Other pioneers are settling in the valleys. I expect to locate a claim very soon. Then I'll return to take you, the children, and the rest of our belongings to what I'm told is a beautiful river valley."
There was no road to the land on which Harvey filed homestead rights, but a river bordered the land, and an old Indian trail bordered the river.
"'You can get supplies from the trading post either way—by canoe or pack horse,' one of the timber cruisers told me."
Before returning to the Jackson home for his wife and children, Harvey established a temporary camp on his future home site.
Brad did not remember the trip to the river valley, but he remembered the first night they slept in the hollow cedar stump in which his father had built bunks. He remembered they kept clothes and other possessions in the hollow stump. He saw his father put a loaded gun over the opening on one side of the stump.
"You must not touch that gun," cautioned his father. Brad knew guns killed animals for food. He watched his father put meat in bags. The bags of meat were hung on the limb of a tree for safe keeping.
During the following years, Harvey and Ada labored to establish a home in a wilderness of trees. Although the years were lonely ones of extreme deprivation, noticeable accomplishment with each new year was very satisfying. A house and barn were built. As time passed, more and more land was readied for the plow. Fruit trees and berry vines began to bear fruit. The children grew sturdy and strong in the out-of-door life.
One evening in late winter as they sat by the fireside, Ada remarked to her husband, "Harvey, it just doesn't seem possible we've lived on this land almost five years. How quickly the time has passed!"
"When fall arrives we will have proved up on our claim and all this land will be ours!" was Harvey's proud response.
The cabin Harvey erected was much like the Jackson home—one room with an attic above. A fireplace of clay and stones furnished heat. Pitchy knots, thrown upon the fire, lighted the room during the evening hours. The cabin had two small windows. The door was made up of two parts: the upper part was left open for light and air; the lower part was locked on the inside much of the time to keep Indians from entering unannounced.
All furniture in early pioneer homes was hand-hewn from cedar logs. In one corner of the Wilson cabin, there was a bunk covered with a colorful patchwork quilt. A table, with a bench on each side, stood in the middle of the cabin. There were two bearskin rugs, one in front of the bunk, the other in front of a handmade couch. Pillows for the couch were stuffed with feathers from ducks and geese. As many flocks of birds flew south from arctic regions each fall to warmer climates, feathers and meat were easily available to the good marksman. A leather trunk, brought across the plains in the covered wagon, held wedding presents of linen, silver and other treasures.
In the earliest pioneer homes, food was cooked over the coals of the fireplace, but Ada was more fortunate than most pioneer women. Harvey purchased the first cook stove that was for sale at the trading post. He carried the stove on his back through the woods, over the eight miles of narrow, winding Indian trail, for no pack horse was available. When Ada saw the stove, her eyes filled with tears, and she fell upon the couch and wept, sobbing with happiness.
Two springs of water gushed out of the bank at the rear of their home. A wooden trough carried water from one of the springs to a barrel near the cabin door. In front of the other spring stood a small log structure called the spring house. Three sides of the building were made of logs. The fourth side was the bank, from which the water spouted. A little creek ran through the middle of the building. The floor on either side of the creek consisted of flat stones. Food stored in the spring house kept cool and fresh for a number of days.
There were so many activities around their pioneer home that Brad and Marie were tired when a day ended. They were glad to climb the ladder into the attic. They liked their attic bedroom where they could lay in their bunks under the eaves and listen to the sound of the rain beating on the shake roof and to the murmur of the wind in the treetops. When a storm came, they could hear the wildness of the rushing wind and the crashing sound of falling timber.
The climate west of the Cascade Mountains was so mild, the Wilson's were able to work out-of-doors most of the winter. Harvey slashed underbrush, then pitted his strength against giant trees as he felled them. Axe, saw, wedge, maul, and shovel, the tools used to clear the land, were scarcely adequate for the task. Brad helped his father throw underbrush on fires built around the stumps of fallen trees. Each winter a new patch of land was made ready for crops. To lessen the hazard of fire, the land was cleared during the rainy winter when the forest was wet. The fires were continuously watched to guard against the wholesale spread of flames—flames that soon could demolish an entire forest, leaving wasteland where mighty trees once stood.
At times, some foods were scarce in those first years of building a home in a wild, isolated country. During part of one winter there was no milk because the cow went dry. Another winter, sugar and coffee had to be used sparingly. Ada ground corn in a coffee mill for muffins after her supply of flour was exhausted. Fortunately there was always plenty of fish, game, and edible roots.
Brad and Marie attended school in the cabin of a neighbor. Both children liked school and they liked the companionship of other pioneer children. They studied industriously to learn to read, write, and do numbers. Sport, their dog of uncertain lineage and otherwise constant companion, followed them each day along the trail that wound through a dense forest. He stopped at the edge of the clearing that surrounded the teacher's cabin, then ran home to return later to protect the two children on their trip homeward.
At last spring came. The grass between the blackened stumps of fallen trees turned green. Foot trails through the forest were dry. Marie sat by the window of the cabin, looking out. Sport lay on the bearskin rug on the floor nearby. "Papa and Brad are not in sight. I wish they'd get here," she said impatiently.
Her mother glanced out the window. "I don't think we'll have to wait much longer. It's only eight miles to the trading post. Now that spring is here the store'll have new supplies and the horses'll have heavy loads so they won't travel fast, but anyway they'll be here soon. It'll be wonderful to have plenty of flour, sugar, coffee, and bacon again. And there'll be some surprises for us. Anyway, I know your father'll bring the mail and we'll hear from home again. It's been so long since we've had any news."
"Can't we get ready for Papa and Brad while we wait? It'll make the time pass more quickly."
"A good idea! Let's start right now. You set the table while I get a pail of water. I'll make the biscuits just as soon as the flour arrives. Let's get out the silver set so it'll be like a party."
Marie took the silver set and a white cloth from the leather trunk. She made the table look especially attractive for the festive occasion.
"Aren't we going to the spring house for milk?" asked Marie.
"Yes, but don't let Sport out. He can't go into the spring house."
"He doesn't even try to go into the spring house. He just stands by the door and looks in," commented Marie, defending her pet.
"I know he does, but I don't like the wistful look in his eyes when I skim the cream from the pans of milk. He gets all the milk he should have at milking time. I think you'd better leave him in the house."
Marie enjoyed the trips to the spring house. She liked to watch the bubbling spring that fed the little creek that ran through the middle of the building. The shining tin pans on the shelves were full of milk covered with rich yellow cream. A churn stood on a huge flat stone. There was always buttermilk in the churn. On the shelf above the churn a wooden bowl held butter. Ada cut a generous slice of butter. She skimmed thick cream from a pan of milk for the cream pitcher. Filling a pail with buttermilk, she said, "Let's go back to the house now. Everything'll be ready when our travelers arrive. Why don't you watch for them? Surely they're close to home by now. You'll soon see them come 'round the bend."
Ada and Marie walked toward the house together. Marie stopped when she reached the old Indian trail that followed the river, while her mother went on to the house, opened the door, placed the milk and butter on a shelf, then went outside to pick a bouquet of flowers for the table. In less than fifteen minutes she had a lovely arrangement of buttercups and daises with ferns and wild grass. When she opened the door to enter the house, she saw the dog standing on his hind feet looking out the window.
"Oh, Sport. I forgot you were in the house. Where's Marie?" Sport wagged his tail.
Ada looked out the window. Marie had disappeared. "Go find Marie!" she commanded as she opened the door.
Sport bounded out, stopped, put his nose to the ground, then ran along the trail. Ada thought, "Marie'll probably see her father when she reaches the bend of the trail. Sport'll soon overtake her."
Excerpted from The Charm String Stories by Florence Westover Bond Copyright © 2012 by Nick W. Bond. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: Homesteading....................1
Chapter 2: A Difficult Decision....................17
Chapter 3: Berry Picking....................29
Chapter 4: The Sun and the Sea Gull....................36
Chapter 5: The Magic Cloak....................52
Chapter 6: Last of a Tribe....................62
Chapter 7: A Log Jam....................71
Chapter 8: The Lost Bull....................76
Chapter 9: His Highness....................84
Chapter 10: An Immigrant Train....................92
Chapter 11: The Picnic Basket....................106
Chapter 12: Sports....................114
Chapter 13: A Mystery....................123
Chapter 14: A Memorial....................135
Chapter 15: Tintype....................142
Chapter 16: The Wolf and the Sea Gull....................148