Chapter 3 – The Ransack

Miles read on to the next page, where another passage was written:

March 24th, 1881

Papa made an announcement today. That we would be moving south, to Wood River. When we asked why, he said the ranch was going to be bankrupt because demand for cattle and beef had gone down. However, a gold mine was recently was found in Wood River and men were being hired all over to mine it out. So our family will head south in one week, except for Lydia and her family, who will remain here. Mama is sad to be leaving; she spent the whole day saying good-bye to her friends, her parents' graves, her garden, and the forest she used to play in as a little girl. But Papa promised that our family would get by in Wood River. Our ranch just hasn't been the same lately; people don't come by as much as they used to to buy our meat. Papa says that sooner or later we won't be able to provide for ourselves if we stay here. I know he is only thinking of the family but this ranch and its property has been in his family for three generations, he grew up on it, and I could tell that letting it go was probably the hardest thing he has ever done in his life. It is a sacrifice I will never forget. A sacrifice for the family, for me.

Lydia is sad that we have to go. She didn't cry when Papa told her but I could see in the her eyes that she would miss us terribly. I will miss her as well; I will miss her, Tom, Peter, and Joshua. I will miss the sound of my nephew's laughter as they run, the familiar faces of the townsfolk and my friends, the old barn that Lydia, Jim, and I used to play in, and the creek we used to swim in. I will even miss the old grey cat that walks by our house every evening. This land is the place of my birth, and it will forever be in my heart.

March 28th, 1881

We leave for Wood River in three days. Today Lydia pulled me aside while Mama was sorting clothes and said she had something she wanted me to have. She pulled out a silver locket out of her apron pocket. It is the one Aunt Eleanor gave her as a wedding gift, the one she said belonged to her mother. My sister put it around my neck and said it looked beautiful on me. When I asked why she was giving it to me, she said that she can't go to Wood River with me, but her locket can and this way there will be a part of her with me always. I love her so much and I held her tight, and told her that I will she was always be in my heart and she said that I would always be in hers as well. We may be apart but this locket I now wear is proof that our souls are one.

March 31st, 1881

Today we set out for Wood River. With one last hug and tearful farewell to my sister, her family, and our friends, our family set off toward the south. We sold the last of our meat, our cattle, and our land, which Papa seemed to regret bitterly. We are now on the road, heading for a new life in Wood River. Jim has started to complain and Mama is crying. If I wasn't taken by the beauty of the green land and the clear blue sky, I'd probably be crying, too. But I can't help but think of what will come, what exciting new wonders will be waiting for us in Wood River, even if it's nothing really special. I come to think of this move as an adventure, to a place where I have never been before. When I told Papa this, his face lit up and said this was probably the greatest adventure I would ever have. I have a feeling he is right.

June 4th , 1881

My life is in ruin, and it only happened in a few days. Just as my family and I were crossing the west plains, things took a turn for the worst. All hell broke out; men dressed in black came in riding horses and ran our coach right off the road. All I can remember is hearing Mama screaming and the sounds of angry men yelling, and the rest is just coming up blank. I woke up yesterday inside a tent with my arms and legs tied together. My dress is tattered and filthy, and I ache all over. It even hurts to write, in more ways than one. From inside of the tent, I watched as the familiar bodies of my parents and little brother being burned in a large fire. Tears welled up in my eyes as I smelled burning flesh and heard the sounds of the men who ransacked us making whooping sounds. One of them came inside my tent. He was filthy, had shaggy blond hair, and smelled of tobacco. He shot me a crooked smile full of yellow teeth.

"So yer awake, are yah?" he said. "Yer luck to not be gettin' burned out there, yah know?"

He cackled and slapped me on the behind. I tried to kick him but missed.

"Ya'll best behave yerself," he said. "Or else we is gonna leave ya hangin' on a tree in nothin' but your undergarments."

God help me, I am being held hostage by bandits. Why? Why, Lord? Why was I spared? My life was going so good and I have never done anything bad. Why am I being punished?

The bandits have untied me but they are watching me. They ransacked my family's coach and taken everything. I had to beg them to return my journal to me, which they did after they made me kiss their feet. I still cannot get the taste of mud out of my mouth. How vulgar. I can hear the sound of the men laughing loudly and empty ale bottles being dumped onto the ground. I don't how long this will last but I pray that I will make it out of here alive.