April 14, 1892 - Day 38

Dear Martha,

We crossed the river today. I sat on the bank again with Minnie, Hallie, Jasper, and Travis, only today, I had Dylan with me. I had to watch him, so Mama could help make sure all our things on the wagon stayed tied down and weren’t damaged. After our wagon was locked in place on the ferry, Pap swam Jeb and January across the river. I was so proud. They swam over as pretty as you please and scrambled up the bank. Mama stayed with the wagon as it crossed on the ferry.

Minnie and Hallie held Veronica for me, so Dylan wouldn’t ruin her or get her dirty. I wasn’t about to leave her on the wagon. Captain Walsh said that, once in a while, the ferry might tip over if the load wasn’t balanced just right, and our belongings would all be swept down river.

While we were sitting on the bank, Travis asked, “Whose doll is that?” and pointed at Veronica.

I said, “Mine.”

He asked, “How did her hair get so real looking?”

I told him about how your mother used cuttings of your real hair to make Veronica’s hair.

He said, “Oh, Jasper, will you cut my hair, so I can glue it on some dumb doll?”

I said, “Hush up, Travis.”

And of course, he said, “Hush up, Travis,” in a girl’s voice.

He said, “And we can dress her in frilly clothes and have a tea party.”

I said, “Just remember that I whipped you in the slingshot competition.”

He said, “I taught you everything you know!”

I said, “I’m not sharing any more of my jerky with you!”

Before I could realize what was happening, Travis snatched Veronica from Hallie and ran down to the river. He held her over the water and said, “How would you like it if I dropped your precious doll baby in this river? Then, would you share your jerky? Huh? Huh?”

I screamed, “Stop! No!” I reached for Veronica. Travis tried to hold her up over his head, but she flew out of his hand and sailed into the river.

We both had the most astonished looks on our faces. I was furious! I screamed, “My baby! She’s in the river!”

Travis was in a panic. He shouted, “Jasper, help! I dropped her in the river.” He dived in and began searching. When he came up for air, he called to Jasper again, “Help me!” I’m sure Travis knew he had done something terrible.

I stood there frozen to the spot. I heard some adults start shouting. Folks came running from all directions. I heard Mama scream. I turned my head just in time to see her jump off the ferry into the water. She swam like her life depended on it. I thought, what on earth is she doing?

Captain Walsh shouted, “You men! Come help here!”

Mama staggered through the shallower water, her arms reaching out. She screamed, “Where is he? Where is he?” I had no idea what she was talking about. She looked more frightened than I had ever seen. She screamed, “Where is my baby? Where is my baby?”

I yelled, “Mama, Dylan’s right here with Minnie. Travis threw Veronica in the river!”

Mama’s face changed immediately. She found Dylan with her eyes, sitting on Minnie’s lap. She glared at me. “What were you screaming about? I thought the baby had drowned!” Mama burst into tears.

I said, “Travis threw Veronica in the river.”

Everyone standing there looked over at Travis. He held Veronica in his hands. She was dripping wet and most of her hair had come off.

Today was not a good day.