Grad students have nothing on fully grown Amish men who have been told by their wives to “get it done”.
Four days later, Walt was looking at over two-hundred pounds of pure clay the deep, velvety brown of chocolate syrup. The Amish had not been content to simply scrape up the dirt. The screened out the pebbles and washed out the sand. There was nothing to do, now, other than pour the water off the top of the clay as it continued to settle in the buckets.
Rather than wait for Steve and Sally to go to Ames and back, Walt decided to find where the rail line crossed the Mississippi and continue recording local prices.
He had a pretty good idea of had been on Sally’s list.
The Amish family he was staying with loaned him a horse and Sonny, one of the older sons to serve as a guide.
Ironically, it involved backtracking to Burlington and then heading west. Walt and Sonny made about 25 miles a day. The irony deepened when they made it to Ottumwa after three days of travel. Walt did not have the fruitcake and only regretted the fact in passing.
Rather than turning northwest to Des Moines, the state capital, Walt and Sonny continued west for three additional days. They turned around at Osceola figuring to just barely beat Steve and Sally back to the Amish of Sperry, Iowa.
Steve was loath to admit that leaving the rail was a mistake. They had to purchase supplies and were camping out rather than sleeping in heated houses. There was no shortage of abandoned houses and barns. Steve didn’t mind the barns so much. The houses still gave him the creeps since you never knew if they contained corpses.
The horses that had been thriving on twenty-five miles a day, high quality hay and five pounds of grain a day became testy when had to start scrounging for forage rather than have it placed in a manger in front of them. Steve bumped up the grain to seven pounds a day to compensate but the horses had no problems expressing their displeasure.
The weather had turned cold but no significant snow had fallen. Steve studied the western sky as intently as any sailor in hurricane season. It was only a matter of time before their luck changed for the worse.
As it was, each day seemed to be almost identical to the last. Wind, low scudding clouds, cold, never quite enough to eat or enough light to get everything done.