He hadn't slept. He didn't know what time it was but he could see the dawn's light shining through their small window. The snow hadn't gone away since the storm they had gotten several days ago. Piles of it rested on the windowsill and roof. Instead of that sight of bright white snow looking like the heavens laid it there themselves, it now seemed more like a demon, only adding on to their endless list of problems. They completely relied on those chickens for everything - all of their money, food - and now this cold cold snow was spreading a disease among them.
It wasn't all bad. At least the Sidneys hadn't left them, like everyone else. He wished he had gone with everyone else, but at this point it was far too late and their money was gone. However, the Sidneys helped them along the way, offering generosity whenever they could afford it. He owed them his life and then some.
He wished he had slept. He should have gotten up before dawn, but a feeling of despair and hopelessness washed over him. It doesn't matter when he gets up. It doesn't matter if he tends to the chickens right now. They can't keep going like this much longer without any money. He turned and looked at his wife. And then his child. So thin. He loved them so much, yet he can't even feed them. They would have died ages ago without the Sidneys. What a man he was.
He couldn't wrap around his head that they had been flourishing before the depression. Markets in town were regularly purchasing their eggs. But, when the stock markets crashed in October last year, people in town cut their expenses. They weren't buying as much food, especially not expensive dairy. The markets in town that they sold to were buying less and less eggs, and now the family was lucky to sell a bundle of eggs a week, if any. Two dollars a week was not enough to feed a family and a giant group of chickens.
He sighed and finally rose from the bed. Immediately, exhaustion set in. His head ached. He wanted to sit down but he forced himself to move forward. He grabbed his ragged coat and put it around him. He could feel the holes expose parts of him. It wasn't much to warm him, but it was all he had. He put on his hat and headed out the door with one last look at his wife and child.
It was bitter outside. There was no wind, just the low temperature that seemed to stick to your skin. The few trees that surrounded the barn and house were drooping from the snow that weighed them down. He trudged through it all to reach the barn. It was up to his shins. Snow somehow made its way through his pants and into his boots. Kansas, he thought, why did they stay?
With a sigh, he looked towards the barn. Their horse, Atlas, was still there. A knitted wool blanket covered her brown and white spotted body. She looked at him with nothing but the usual animal simplicity. The mare had no idea that everyone in the family counted on her for transportation after they were forced to sell their Model-T a few months ago.
He reached the barn door and forced it open. Ice had formed around it and it crumbled to the ground as the door was slid to the left. Inside, the chickens were all in their little coops. Melted snow dripped down from the roof. He looked up to see if there was a hole to be patched, but a large drop hit him in the eye. It was cold. He blinked it out of his now red eye and looked at the chickens. They made their noises and walked around, but a few didn't. Some lay on the ground, still. He walked over to the pen to get a closer look at the still ones, but he had an idea of what they looked like. One leg forward, one back, swollen wing, beak open. A quick glance told him that he was right. Two chickens lay in this position, dead. He needed to do something about this. The worst part is that he knew exactly what it was: Marek's disease, relatively common, but no vaccination is cheap.
He carried the chickens out of the barn by their feet and threw them into the ditch behind them. He went back into the barn to gather whatever eggs that were ready, and in an hour's time he was back in the house with a basketful of eggs. They had a lot this time.
Then, there was a loud crack outside. The sound of a gunshot. Then more, firing off quickly like an automatic weapon. He didn't wait to react before he ran to his room where his wife and child still remained. She was walking over to the baby as he came through the door.
"What was that?" she shouted over the sound of more gunshots.
"I don't know." he hesitated for a brief moment before coming to a decision, "I'm getting my gun. Just please, stay safe," he finished.
He opened the dresser door and grabbed his Colt Revolver. A thin coat of dust covered it from lack of use. He ran out of the room then out of the house, still unsure of what the gunshots were.
A car sped down the snow covered dirt road towards the barn. It was a very new and expensive car, a 1930 Bentley. It was a miracle that the ice didn't put them off of their fast track. Over by the barn, Atlas was kicking and rearing his head in panic at the car, and the knitted blanket around him fell to the ground. Three people sat in the front seats, two of them masked. Seeing who was in between the masked men just made him even more confused and concerned. It was Thomas Sidney, his mouth filled with a rag and his hands behind him. The masked man not driving had his head out the window, firing an automatic gun at something behind them. Looking farther down the snow road, you could see a sprinting horse along with someone on its back. Margaret Sidney followed the speeding car with the horse, with bullets flying past her but none even coming close.
He needed to help. Everything he'd seen pointed to this being a kidnapping. His mind raced as he stomped through the snow to get to Atlas, the horse, who was tied up to the barn. The revolver in his hand was already cold and stiff from being outside. The Bentley drove past him at a speed he'd never seen anything go, other than an animal. He caught eyes with Thomas and tried to give him the look that said don't worry, I'll save you.
He pulled himself onto the horse as Margaret's horse sprinted past. She didn't even look at him, her full focus was on the car. If only he hadn't sold his car earlier this year. Luckily, Atlas was the fastest horse he'd ever ridden and was conditioned to the gunshots.
They took off through the snow. He hadn't ridden bareback in a long time, and the horse took off quickly after he was kicked. He was almost thrown off but he held on with his thighs. After a few seconds he found his balance and was confident with his ability to stay on the horse.
At some point the firing stopped. He could see the speeding car and the horse behind it just about two hundred feet away under a tree and about to disappear over the short horizon. He held the revolver in his hand and kicked the horse to get them going faster. The cold air numbed his face as it blew past him. He squinted his eyes to keep the wind from drying them up but it continued to antagonize him.
He was closer now. He could see thomas through the back window of the car and Margaret riding right behind them. He could tell even from far away that she wasn't going to back down. What he couldn't tell was what she was going to do once she caught these people. Or what he would do, for that matter.
The weather was even worse when you were going nearly thirty miles per hour. The freezing air prickled at his skin and it felt as if tiny speckles of ice were forming on his forehead and cheeks. He made the mistake of opening his mouth and the wind punched him in the back of the throat. He coughed dryly into his sleeve to get the feeling out of his mouth but the cold temperature remained. Letting go with one hand almost had him thrown off the horse but he got his balance again. He was just behind Margaret now, and only about fifty feet ahead was Thomas and the kidnappers.
He pulled out his revolver and pointed it at the car. He couldn't keep it still over the galloping of Atlas and had to rethink. He could accidentally hit Thomas, and that's not what he wanted. He looked at Margaret. She was looking back at him with dried tears and something that looked like appreciation.
The first thing he heard was Atlas's neigh. He turned his head forward to see the Bentley sliding sideways on it's wheels, coming to a very quick stop. He didn't have time to do anything. Atlas stopped but didn't rear, throwing him off the horse. He felt his body be lifted off the horse's back and heard a gunshot. He felt the thud but never remembered it.