Thursday, June 4, 2020

Quest: Home

Sally and Steve Straeder pushed their way north from Huntington, Indiana.

The both took shifts walking. During the morning, both Steve and Sally would take a half hour to walk. Then they would repeat after the break for lunch.

Because of the lack of seating, one of the three members of the expedition had been walking from Burlington, Iowa to Huntington, Indiana. Each member had walked the equivalent of eight miles a day.

Mindful of the lessons from Iowa, Steve and Sally didn’t just hop on the wagon and ride.

A happy colon needs fiber, it needs water and it needs exercise. Steve and Sally were not going to repeat the mistakes of the past. They were very willing to pay cash-money for apples or prunes or whole-wheat flour.

The snow got deeper after hitting the Michigan-Indiana line. The skies were cloudier and the nights were warmer. Fortunately, the couple had silver and were able to buy hay and corn for the horses. The snow was just too deep for them to scrape from a large enough of an area to ensure there was enough forage for the horses.

Sally and Steve dropped off letters from the Amish families in eastern Iowa. A couple of nights, they were able to sleep indoors.

As they headed north-northeast, they were mindful of the rails that they had been oblivious to on their trip south. The rail line they were following started in Port Huron near the base of Michigan’s “Thumb” and continued southwest where it intersected the east-west rail-line they had followed to Iowa.

That rail line passed through four, large cities: Flint, Michigan...Lansing, Michigan...Battle Creek, Michigan and Fort Wayne, Indiana before intersecting with the rails they had been following.

On a map, the rail line skirted the megalopolis of Detroit-Toledo and Chicago. If that line was reactivated, it would effectively connect 250 miles of Michigan and northern Indiana with the 650 mile stretch from Canton, Ohio to Osceola, Iowa.

What Steve and Sally were unaware of was an independent effort by Gary Baird.

Gary lived in southeastern Illinois and was an aficionado of old engines, steam power and trains. He had caught wind of the Canton-to-Osceola project and was cobbling together a spur that ran from Monticello, Indiana to Paducah, Kentucky. That spur was almost the mirror-image of the Port Huron-to-Huntington spur. It ran south until it hit the Ohio river, very close to the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

As the crow flies, Paducah is only five hundred miles from the Gulf of Mexico and Canton, Ohio is only three hundred miles from the north end of the Chesapeake Bay.

But travel by rail was in the distant future.

It felt like home as soon as they crossed Bellevue Highway and yet they still had eighteen miles to travel before they were home.

They had traveled three hours before they were passing the Wilder’s house. Dr Sam was not home. Not trusting the amulets filled with the vaccine to anything less than a person-to-person hand-off, Steve and Sally opted to keep them.

They did, however, drop off the buckets of frozen, black clay that Walt had dug in Iowa and had then the expedition had transported 600 miles. The contents were a mystery to them but they had not been commissioned to understand, but to make the journey and the delivery.

Another hour-and-a-half to make their way to their home. An hour to care for the horses and move the minimal amount of luggage from the wagon.

Steve started a fire. Sally surveyed the root cellar for dinner.

It was with great consternation that Sally noticed that several of her home canned goods had frozen in their absence and shattered the jars.

Dinner was a pauper's meal of oatmeal, a few raisins the rinds of some summer sausage and applesauce. It was enough. They had coasted into home with fumes in the tank.

After eating, they slept the deep, dreamless sleep of workers who have completed their task and have a clean conscience.

In the morning, they had visitors.


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