April 8, 1892 - Day 32

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Dear Martha,

Our jerky is ready. I should say our DELICIOUS jerky is ready. I should say our SCRUMPTIOUS jerky is ready. I wish you could taste some right now.

The sun has been shining hot for two days straight, and the strips of meat have turned very dark. That means they’ve dried out properly. I helped Mama take them down and store them between layers of cheesecloth. Mmmm! I could eat every one.

I said, “May I have three pieces for Travis Lark?”

Mama said, “Travis Lark? What on earth for?”

I told her about the slingshot contest and winning my marbles back and his cat’s eye shooter.

Mama said, “Are you sweet on him?”

I practically screamed, “MAMA! Of course not. He’s just my friend.”

Mama said, “Well, alright then. You’re just being neighborly.”

We had school again today. Miss Melman said, “I hope your interviews are going well. I’m going to give you a few more days to work on them. Don’t forget to include some pictures in your sketchbooks.” I’m glad she gave us more time. I haven’t had much time to do my drawings. Life is so busy on a wagon train. Where does all the time go?

We settled in for Miss Melman to read several more chapters of Tom Sawyer. This time we were quiet and listened to every word. Tom Sawyer is such a good book. Miss Melman was just getting to the part about Tom and Becky Thatcher being sweet on each other. She liked him, but she pushed him off a bridge into the water.

I thought about Travis Lark. He’s a boy, and he’s my friend, but he’s not my boyfriend. I don’t know why Mama had to say that. I only wanted to give him the jerky because he was such a good sport about losing his marbles and his shooter. He would love our jerky.

I looked around for Travis, but to my surprise, he wasn’t there. I was wondering where in the world he could be when he rode up on Dixie, all huffy and out of breath.

He said, “Sorry I’m late, Miss Melman. A constable rode up a few minutes ago with his deputy and asked Captain Walsh if we had seen a Dr. Xavier Zoren, selling his Elixir of Life. He said Dr. Zoren swindled his townspeople out of their money. He had sold them bogus medicine. The constable’s wife gave the stuff to her pet kitty—and the cat got drunk.”

We burst out laughing. Miss Melman said, “Oh dear! I had my suspicions about Dr. Zoren. I studied my maps and the globe, and I’m afraid the country of Rambonia simply doesn’t exist.”

I said, “It doesn’t?”

Miss Melman said, “No, and I’ve never heard of the Rendini people, either. I think Dr. Zoren is a swindler, and I don’t think we’re the first group of people to fall for his scheme.”

Hallie said, “But why would he lie to us?”

Miss Melman looked thoughtful. “It’s sad to think about it, but there are dishonest people in this world. Instead of doing an honest day’s work, they would rather trick people out of their hard-earned money. In my book, that’s just not right.”

I remembered folks handing their dollars over, dollars that had been earned with hard work.

I felt sick with shame. I’d been so wrong about Pap.

Love,

Teddy