Kate looked over her “cheaters”. As she had aged she had found a little bit of magnification to be a big help when dealing with small print. Especially on dark, winter days.
“Remind me, where is Buckley and why is the name familiar?” Kate said.
“Buckley is the other side of Cadillac” Janelle informed her. Before Ebola it would have been a quick, three-hour ride in a truck. That same trip after Ebola would take about fifteen days, weather permitting.
“I went up to Buckley for the steam show five-years-running” Janelle reminded Kate.
Kate put down the items she was working on and faced Janelle. “Hmmm. I think you need to get with Dmitri. He has a shortwave radio and he might not get somebody in Buckley but he can dictate it to somebody a whole lot closer than here.”
Janelle held up several other letters. “The same probably goes for these, too.”
Kate looked at the addresses. “The one to Dansville and the one to Leslie are ones I can get delivered. The others...well, Dmitri is your best bet.”
“What is the best way to approach Dmitri?” Janelle asked.
Later that day, Janelle found herself walking up Dmitri’s drive. She had a picnic basket with her.
Dmitri invited Janelle into the living room and asked “To what do I owe the honor, Mrs Chernovsky?”
“I have a favor to ask” Janelle said as she started pulling jars out of the basket. They were pint jars of her father’s fruit preserves: Blackberry, Plum and Black Current. There were also dried fruits pickled in Black Current flavored liquor, a delicacy that had never appealed to Janelle.
Dmitri’s eyes widened. “It must be some kind of favor if you are bringing me some of Rick Salazar’s personal stash of fruit preserves." Dmitri, it would appear, had a sweet-tooth.
“I have the names of some people who might have a line on where we can find a steam engine” Janelle said. “There isn’t enough time to send them letters or send somebody to talk to them personally. My mom said you might be able to help.”
“So, what are the names of these people and where do they live?” Dmitri asked.
Looking at the locations, Dmitri filled the air with “Tsk, tsk, tsk”
“Northern Michigan, mostly. Hard but not impossible.” Dmitri said.
“How are you going to get the engine if it is in Farwell or Buckley?” Dmitri asked.
“What I am hoping for is an engine that is closer” Janelle admitted.
“The steam-engine community is pretty tight-knit. Everybody knows everybody and they gossip like old ladies. If somebody saw a steam engine at a barn sale then everybody hears about it...even if the engine was not for sale” Janelle said.
“Kind of like a Facebook group, no?” Dmitri suggested.
“Well, I gotta admit, a lot of them did end up starting FB groups. It was a great way to stay in touch” Janelle said.
“Let me see what I can do. Come back in three days. This might take a while” Dmitri said.
No matter how badly you want to get home, you can only travel so far in twenty-four hours unless you are willing to kill your horse.
Since Steve, Sally and Walt were six-hundred miles from home, they had no intention of killing their horses.
The upside of retracing their steps was that they had left each host city on good terms and if it took them until after-dark to make their twenty-five miles it was not an issue. The previous town had informed the evening’s destination to expect visitors. A family had a warm place for the travelers to sleep and barn space and feed for the horses.
They did not need to make camp on the frozen ground. They did not need to founder in the snow or attempt to shovel snow off the grass to help the horses forage for feed.
The snow meant that the horses had to pull harder. The wagon went slower. The travel days were longer. The upside was that the feed was much higher quality than the winter-killed grass they had been eating on the way west.
Sally had come up with a system of folders. Every town on the way wanted to hand them letters to go east. Sally had a folder for every major town on road east. She asked the people mailing the letters to name the closest town and that is the folder it went into.
Sally made no promises to hand deliver the letters. She said they would be dropped off at the town’s most prominent merchant and it was up to him and the addressee to sort out all of the other details.