Continued from The Train

She woke abruptly at 5:30 to watch the first streaks of light brighten the landscape as it flew by. The land was flat now. In Chicago she changed trains. Miles of flat open land stretched out like an ocean. A huge bridge spanned the Mississippi River; a milestone that signaled that she was now officially in the West. Iowa was one big corn field. The train chugged steadily through miles and miles of open prairie headed ever onward toward the Rockies. While other passengers snoozed through the unending drabness of the scenery, Yry was enraptured by the vastness of it all. As far as the eye could see endless prairie reached toward an endless blue sky, broken only by the occasional farm or by sporadic puffs of clouds. She recalled stories she’d read about the Indians hunting buffalo. Now that she saw the immensity of the land firsthand, she marveled at the courage and resourcefulness of the pioneers in their wagon trains. Little seizures of grief pierced her heart occasionally, but overall she was buoyed by the realization of a dream come true.

She recognized her parent’s blatant maneuvering, and to be honest, she loved them for it. What better way to get over a rotten relationship than by a new adventure? She’d dreamed of going west ever since her wild romps in the woods of New Rochelle with Philip. Now with her life teetering on the edge of a dark abyss, the unexpected opportunity to live in Wyoming was the door to a new and better life, a lifeline to recover her broken heart and disheveled pride.

The train pulled into Lincoln, Nebraska late at night. Yry killed time and stretched her legs by strolling about the station as she waited for her next connection. The eastern horizon was beginning to take shape in the dawn sky when she boarded the next train and located an empty seat by the window. As the train pulled out, she kept her nose pressed to the glass like a dog drinking in the sights from an open car window.

Eventually she had to acknowledge the young soldier parked on the aisle seat beside her. The sight of his uniform jumbled her feelings. On the one hand, she violently opposed the war. But on the other hand, she recognized that this young man, like so many just like him, probably grasped at the glorious possibilities advertised by clever recruiters. My God, that sweet baby face barely needs a razor! She wondered how much he understood about the politics of war. He probably bought into the “duty and honor to country” bit hook, line, and sinker. He smiled shyly at her and fumbled with the ridiculous little cloth cap in his hand.

“Howdy, ma’am.”

“Hello,” she replied, determined to ignore his loneliness. For self-defense she pulled out a copy of My Life on the Range from her satchel. Her eyes danced between the text and the window, with quick furtive glances toward her seat partner.

After about an hour, the young man cleared his throat and leaned her way. “Excuse me, Ma’am, but I’m headin’ fer the dinin’ car fer breakfast. Could I bring ya sumthin?”

“Oh noooo, thanks…I have an apple here in my bag, … but thank you for offering.”

He tipped his head and rose to leave, “No problem, ya sure now? How bout some juice or coffee?”

“Well, yes, coffee sound nice. If it wouldn’t be any trouble. Thank you.”

He smiled broadly and strode off in the direction of the dining car and observation deck.