The Astonishing Journey of Teddy Bodain

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Dear Martha,

Today, the wagons ahead of us slowed and stopped, but we had no idea why. Travis Lark came galloping by, telling us that there was a peddler who wanted to show his wares. Captain Walsh said we could stop for a few minutes in case anyone wanted to make a purchase.

The man was dressed in fancy clothes, including a vest and top hat. His wagon was bright red and yellow, and it opened up on the side, like a little stage. We wondered, what in the world is this?

He said, “Folks, Dr. Xavier Zoren at your service. It is my pleasure to present to you an amazement, a wonder, a staggering demonstration that has confounded commoners and gentry alike.”

We gathered around.

Dr. Zoren continued. “My assistant, the lovely Flavia, will help me.”

A woman wearing a strange costume came from the side, pushing a large cage to the center of the tiny stage. The cage was covered with a green velvet cloth. She flipped the cloth back for us to see what was inside. A pitiful looking dog sat looking at us. He was so thin his ribs showed.

Dr. Zoren said in a loud voice, “Notice this unhealthy mongrel. Not one of you would want him in this condition.” He paused. “Fortunately, I have a regenerative syrup, a life-giving liquid, a restorative recipe, which will dramatically improve this animal’s condition, right before your very eyes.”

He held up a glass bottle containing a red liquid.

“Dr. Zoren’s Elixir of Life. This highly sought-out formula comes from the Rendini People of eastern Rambonia. Its medicinal powers are astounding.”

He poured some syrup in a big spoon and stuck it through the bars of the cage. The dog lapped it up hungrily. “See?” Dr. Zoren said. “This dog is eager to get well. He is weak, let me tell you. Even the sun hurts his sore eyes.”

His assistant, Flavia, flipped the green cloth back over the front of the cage, so the dog was hidden.

Dr. Zoren said, “My miracle cure, Elixir of Life, only takes a short while to work on small animals. It takes a few days on humans, but it will have the same healing effect on any one of you. It’s been known to cure rheumatism, arthritis, ringworm, sleeplessness, gout, headache, teething babies, and general malaise. It works on colic, dyspepsia, fungus, and—the swooning vapors.”

He snapped his fingers.

Flavia whipped the cover back, so we could see. The dog was fat and healthy! He held his head high, and his eyes were bright! We crowded forward. The dog was a beauty. He barked and wagged his tail.

Everyone gasped, including me. Folks started digging into their pockets to buy bottles of the syrup.

Dr. Zoren said, “They’re going like hotcakes, ladies and gents. Get yours while the getting’s good.” While he sold his elixir, Flavia pushed the cage off the stage, back into the wagon.

I took one last look at the beautiful dog, wishing he was mine.

A few minutes later, Dr. Zoren and his assistant were gone.

On our way back to the wagon, I said, “Pap, have you ever seen anything like that?”

He said, “I’ve seen a trickster in a monkey suit before.”

That made me mad. I said, “Didn’t you see how he healed the sick dog? Made him like new?”

Pap said, “Theodosia, some people will try any trick in the book to cheat you out of your money.”

Why does Pap have to be such a fuddy-duddy? Seeing is believing. Why can’t he believe?

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

We had school again today. Leave it to Miss Melman to come up with something fun.

She said, “This wagon train feels like one big family, doesn’t it?” We all agreed.

“I’ve been thinking,” she said. “We’re like a traveling town. We don’t have banks or libraries or stores or even a doctor. But we’ve got each other. Many people on this train have useful talents and abilities. I’ve written some names on slips of paper. I’d like each of you to draw a name.” She put the slips of paper in her straw hat and passed it around.

I drew Mrs. Carter’s name. Miss Melman said, “I’m going to ask you to interview the person whose name you drew. Find out their special gifts. Learn from them. When we meet together another time, we’ll teach each other what we’ve learned.”

I was so excited. I love stuff like that. Miss Melman said, “Take your sketchbooks with you. Record what you can. Make drawings. You can use your pictures when we share.”

I’m going to interview Mrs. Carter tomorrow. I’ve never interviewed anyone before, but I’m always asking questions, so I think it will be fun. Besides, Mrs. Carter is nice and is always helping folks.

Miss Melman read more of Tom Sawyer. He reminds me of Travis Lark, always funning around and into foolishment. He is an orphan, but he lives with his Aunt Polly, not in an orphanage, which is good because I’ve heard you would not want to have to live in an orphanage. Sometimes, the people who run the orphanage are mean and cruel. Remember the orphanage in Oliver Twist, when Miss Pedigrew read it to us?

Anyway, Tom’s cousin, Sid, is younger, and he is spoiled and mean. He tattles on Tom and always runs to tell Aunt Polly when Tom sneaks out of their bedroom window or skips school. Then, Tom gets in trouble with Aunt Polly, even though she loves him and wants him to turn out good.

I am waiting for Tom to play some sort of trick on Sid so that Sid gets into trouble, not Tom. Tom is smart, and I bet he’s going to think of something clever to play on Sid.

Today, while Miss Melman read aloud, she had a special treat, a peppermint stick, for each of us. I love peppermint sticks! We sucked on them and twisted them back and forth in our mouths so that after a while they had a sharp point. I saw Travis stick Jasper in the back of the neck with his point! See? I told you he is a lot like Tom Sawyer.

Jasper stuck Travis back, and soon we were all sticking each other with our candy points while Miss Melman kept reading away.

We thought she didn’t see us, but she said, “That’s all for today. Tomorrow’s chapter is called, ‘Tom and Huck stick each other with peppermint candy points.’”

We looked embarrassed. Miss Melman said, “I know you’re not paying attention to the story if you are busy poking each other with candy points.”

We felt bad. Miss Melman had bought the candy for us as a special treat. We had repaid her by cutting up while she was reading.

I have to stop writing now. Mama made a little pot of salty water. She wants me to brush it on each of the jerky strips while they are still hanging up. If she’s not looking, I might eat one.

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

Today, we are all tired. We had such a good time with the folks from the other wagon train. None of us got enough sleep last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about the dance, the feast, and the Kentucky kids we played with. I wish we could all travel together, but they are headed in a different direction.

Pap drove the wagon, and Dylan played with Lucy in Miss Emily’s wagon.

Mama said, “Let’s do something special. I know just the thing.”

You’ll never guess what it was. She taught me how to make jerky! I’ve eaten jerky before, but I had no idea how to make it.

First, she scraped off every bit of fat from a big chunk of venison Pap brought home. “Fat goes rancid quickly,” she said. “If you make it right, jerky will last for months.”

When the meat was scraped clean, which didn’t take long since deer meat doesn’t have much fat, we sliced it into long, thin strips. Then, we rubbed salt and pepper all over the strips. I covered the meat on both sides.

“Don’t skimp,” Mama said. “Salt adds lots of flavor.”

Now, it might sound strange, but next, we threaded a length of cotton thread in the end of each strip of meat, using a needle. We tied the two ends of the thread to make a loop. After every strip of meat had a loop, Mama stretched a cord on the outside of the wagon from the back to the front. We hung all of the little loops on it and let the venison strips hang free. When we finished, there they were, all in neat rows on either side of the wagon.

“Don’t we have to hang the strips over a smoky fire?” I asked.

“We’re not staying in one place long enough. We’re going to make this Florida sunshine work for us,” Mama said. “The heat from the sun will pull out all the moisture. In two days time, we’ll have jerky.”

I said, “Won’t it draw flies?”

Mama said, “Not with all the rocking this wagon does. Flies will want to land, but with all the bouncing around, they won’t be able to.”

We didn’t know Pap was listening. He called, “So if the wagon jerks it around, should we call it ‘jerking jerky’?”

We laughed. Mama said, “We should call it jumping, jerking jerky.”

I remembered the spelling bee. I said, “We should call it jumping, jostling, jerking jerky.”

That tickled Pap. He said, “You win.”

Mama showed me a fold of white cloth. She said, “At night, we’ll cover the strips with cheesecloth to keep the bugs off. It will also keep off the morning dew. Tomorrow, we’ll salt the strips one more time.”

Mama is so smart. I hope I turn out like her.

So there we were, rolling along on our way to our new homestead, making the sun work for us to dry out our venison jerky.

It was a good day.

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

If you ever have a chance to go to a whoop-de-doo, don’t miss it. It was so much fun!

Yesterday, as soon as we found out we were going to have a whoop-de-doo with the other train, folks  went around to the other wagons to meet each other and find out where they were headed. This train came from Kentucky, and they’re headed to a place just 100 miles from here. Their journey is almost over. They had a drought in Kentucky, and the crops failed, so most of them want to try their hand at farming in the Florida wilderness.

Pap and the rest of the pushers from both trains called games for the children. We had sack races, a three-legged race (Minnie and I were together), a wheelbarrow race, drop the handkerchief, and a spelling bee, which was won by a Kentucky girl. Her word was CONSTERNATION. I had just gotten out with the word JOSTLING. Vexation! The Kentucky girl won a silver dollar.

The men played horseshoes, and the competition was fierce. The onlookers clapped and shouted with every toss. It was finally between Martin Carter and a man from the other train. Martin won!

The women cooked supper while the men fashioned tables out of whatever they could find in the wagons: sawhorses, lumber, doors, and a big store sign that said, “Farrier.” We piled the pots of food on the tables, and every family brought their own plates and spoons from their wagons.

Guess what? We met another family of Bodains! Pap and the other Mr. Bodain talked about their kin and tried to see if we are related by blood. Pap asked about his cousin, Daniel Bodain, who lives down near Micanopy, Florida, but they did not know of him. We decided that we must be related somehow, way far back in the Bodain family line. It was fun because the rest of the time we called each other “Cousin.”

After supper, folks hung their lanterns all around. The place was lit up as bright as day. The men cleared the tables, and Captain Walsh called for a fiddler. We ended up with three fiddlers, three mandolin players, two guitar players, two harmonica players, and two banjo players! There were even more musicians, but the women complained that there wouldn’t be anybody left to dance with. Everybody danced: children, women, men, and even the old folks. You didn’t even need a partner. You just got out in the circle and danced and danced. Pap and Mama danced with their cheeks together and their eyes closed. Miss Melman danced with Captain Walsh.

When the night was over, folks took the lanterns down and headed off for their wagons.

Today, we gathered again for a preaching service. Captain Walsh had one of the hired drivers drive the piano wagon out toward the middle of the circle. Folks from both trains gathered around the end of it and brought chairs, kegs, barrels, boxes, or whatever they had to sit on. They opened the canvas so the sound could come out, and Miss Melman played hymns. Mr. Carter led the singing. One of the men from the other train did the preaching. He preached the shortest sermon I’ve ever heard. I said, “Thank goodness!” a little too loud, and Mama pinched me, but I didn’t care. I bet she was glad it was short, too.

For the rest of the day, folks visited and helped each other. Kids played everywhere. Women spread quilts out for all the babies. The farrier from the other train looked at our horses and checked to see if they needed shoes. A barber cut folks’ hair. Mrs. Carter gave out her liniments and tinctures. Miss Melman wrote letters for folks. Pap and some other farmers talked about which crops would grow in Florida and which crops wouldn’t. Mama swapped recipes and looked at pattern books.

I showed some girls from the other train how to make a cat’s cradle. They showed me how to make a “button on a string” so that it spins. Travis and the boys played marbles and capture the flag.

We were all going twelve-ways-to-Sunday. What a day!

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

Today, we left at the crack of dawn. It was my first day to drive Jeb and January all by myself. Pap sat with me for a while, just to be sure I’d be alright, but I did fine.

He said, “Some folks are having trouble with their wagons with all the extra weight and supplies.” After he was sure I could handle the team, he rode off on Gabriel to keep an eye on the wagons and help folks shift their supplies if they needed it.

When I drive the wagon by myself, I feel proud that I know how to handle Jeb and January and follow the wagon ahead. I have to watch for ruts in the road or big rocks that might cause our oxen to stumble and fall.

This morning, Miss Emily invited Dylan over to play with Lucy, so Mama went to practice the piano. Miss Melman said Mama has real talent and encouraged her to practice whenever she can. I asked Mama if I could go back there and hear her play, but she said, “Not yet.” I begged her, but she said, “Don’t meddle.”

At first, I was kind of hurt because she wouldn’t let me come hear her play, but something exciting happened in the meantime, and I would have been sorry if I hadn’t been driving the wagon. Around noon, we met up with another wagon train.

I heard folks up ahead hollering, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I saw Pap and the rest of the pushers riding hard, up toward the front of the train, where Captain Walsh usually rides. Travis came flying back this way toward the wagons, shouting the news, “Wagon train! Captain says we’ll be stopping!” I pulled gently on the reins and called out, “Whoa, there, Jeb. Whoa, there, January.”

Another wagon train! We’ve passed folks in wagons, on horses, and on foot but never another whole caravan. We stopped for a while, so Captain Walsh could talk to their captain. They talked a long time. Then, Pap came galloping back on Gabriel, telling folks, “Move ahead slowly, follow to circle.”

By this time, Mama had come back from the piano wagon, but she was up ahead at Miss Emily’s wagon getting Dylan. As the other train passed us, folks waved, and we waved back. And there I was, Teddy Bodain, ten-year-old adventure girl, sitting on our high seat, driving a team of oxen to beat the band!

We made a big half-circle with our wagons, and the other train made a big half-circle with their wagons, so when we were finally stopped, there was a huge circle of wagons. Folks got down from their wagons and off their horses to stretch their legs.

Captain Walsh rode back to speak to us.

“Folks, I know their captain, Marcus Yoner. Good man. They’d like to camp near us for tonight and tomorrow. If you folks are of a mind, we’ll have a whoopde-doo tonight and a preaching service tomorrow. I was planning to stop for a day, anyway, so our teams can rest. We’ll leave Monday morning, sharp.”

Our mamas immediately began to discuss what dishes to make and what ingredients they would need. Mama and Mrs. Carter and Miss Melman and Miss Emily were talking up a storm.

Mrs. Carter said, “Grace, it won’t be a party if you don’t make your macaroni and cheese.”

Mama said, “Well, Cassie will have to help me. Emily, I hope you bring out a jar of your pickles.”

A whoop-de-doo! Goodness gracious and Ethelbert Nevin. We NEED a party!

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

Today, we had school again, and we finally shared our sketchbooks. It was so much fun looking at everyone’s drawings. Kids had drawn all sorts of things: Captain Walsh with his big hat, palm trees, new flowers we hadn’t seen before, and every kind of animal you can imagine. Everyone liked my picture of the scarlet king snake.

Jasper Lowe said, “You sure are a good artist. That snake gives me the willies.” We had to laugh.

That led to a discussion of snakes. Of course, we were all thinking of the snake that bit Miss Emily Carter two days before. The thought of it still gives me the creeps.

Miss Melman said, “I have some rattlesnake fangs. Would you like to see them?” Of course we all did, so she showed us an envelope that looked like it had something bumpy inside. She asked, “Who would like to be the one to open the envelope and show us what’s inside?”

We all raised our hands and said, “Me! Me!” but Jasper pushed right up to the front of all of us.

Miss Melman said, “Alright, Jasper. You may be the one.” She handed him the envelope. “But be very careful. Rattlesnake fangs can be dangerous.”

We crowded in real close so we could see. Jasper lifted the flap and opened the envelope, which was not glued shut.

The envelope let out a loud, “Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z!!!”

Jasper screamed at the top of his lungs and threw the envelope up in the air. We ALL screamed and jumped back. We were looking around at each other when we noticed Miss Melman had her hand over her mouth and was laughing so hard tears were coming down her cheeks.

“April fools!” she finally shouted. We stood there with our mouths open.

We had forgotten that today is April 1. Miss Melman got us good! We all started laughing.

Jasper asked, “How did you do that? What made that noise?”

Miss Melman said, “Jasper, I’m glad you’re such a good sport. My daddy used to play this trick on us when we were children. Here, let me show you how it works.” She showed us how she had used a paperclip and hooked it to a rubber band. Then, she had twisted the paperclip over and over until the rubber band was tight.

“The trick is to hold the paperclip, so it doesn’t untwist. Slip it down into a paper envelope. Then, hand the envelope to your unsuspecting victim—” We all turned to look at Jasper. He grinned.

“And the rest—is history,” she said. The best part is that she gave us each a paperclip, a rubber band, and an envelope, so we could play the same trick on our folks. I played it on Pap, and he laughed, but I know better than to try something like that with Mama. You do not want to get into playing practical jokes with my mama. One time, she swapped the sugar in the sugar bowl with salt. Yikes! And once, she sewed up the bottoms of all my bloomers. And last fall, she put on scarecrow clothes and scared the daylights out of Pap out in the field.

Mama always says, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” If I played the rattlesnake fangs joke on her, I might slip into bed some night and find a live frog!

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

I am getting better with my slingshot. I’ve been practicing with Travis and Minnie every chance I get. If we have time in the morning before roll-out, Travis sets up targets for us to shoot at. We see who can knock over the can or who can “hit the troll.”

Travis filled a burlap sack with some of the gray moss that grows in the trees here, and he painted a troll’s head on it. He props it up or hangs it from a tree branch. We take turns shooting, and before we shoot, we call, “Ear!” or “Chin!” or “Nose!” Then, we see who hits the target they said they were aiming for.

Pap was greasing our axles with axle grease, and I guess he was kind of watching us because later he said, “Teddy Girl, you’re getting pretty good with that slingshot.”

I said, “I want to help you put food on the table, Pap.”

Pap said, “You do?” He looked surprised.

I said, “Yes, sir.”

Pap said, “Teddy, are you prepared to shoot an animal? Watch him die?”

I hadn’t really thought about that part much.

I said, “Maybe.”

Pap nodded. “Well, we have to put meat on the table, that’s for sure. And I would welcome your company. But we don’t hunt for the fun of it. We hunt because we need to eat. That means something has to die.”

I said, “I know.”

But I didn’t know. I love animals. I didn’t know if I could kill one. I know we cook the squirrels and rabbits and deer Pap shoots. But now that I had shot my mouth off about putting food on the table, I didn’t know if I wanted to. That got me to thinking. I hope none of the boys shoot at animals just to wound or kill them for the fun of it. I hope they don’t shoot at songbirds. If they shoot a cardinal, it will break Mama’s heart. When she hears one sing, she closes her eyes and smiles.

Then, she says, “I hear a redbird. Teddy, it’s a cardinal. See how red he is? Look for his mate. She won’t be far behind.”

Pap said, “Why don’t you let me do the hunting for now, and you stick to the live animals.”

That’s one of the things I love about Pap. He’s always thinking of things like that. I’m glad he’s my pap because he’s easy to talk to, and he teaches me things about animals and about hunting.

That reminded me. I said, “What about a dog?”

Pap said, “What about a dog?”

I said, “I want one.”

Pap said, “I know.”

I said, “Do you think one will find me?”

Pap said, “I bet there’s one looking for a ten-year-old girl right this very minute.”

The thought of a dog filled me with happiness. Jumping jubilation! I hope Pap’s right.

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

We had a real scare today. Miss Emily Carter was gathering firewood and got bit by a coral snake! At least we thought it was a coral snake. It bit her on the hand when she reached into a pile of wood and dead leaves. She ran back to the wagons screaming, “Martin! Martin! I’ve been bit by a coral snake!”

Folks came running.

Emily’s mother, Mrs. Carter, immediately called out, “Fetch my tincture of purple coneflower, and be quick about it.” When she examined the puncture wounds on Emily’s hand, she asked, “Are you sure it was a coral snake?”

Emily said, “It was a small snake, black and red and yellow. Right over there in that pile of wood and leaves.”

While Mrs. Carter was applying the tincture of purple coneflower, Mr. Carter grabbed a shovel and started digging through the pile of leaves. He found the snake and scooped it up on the blade of the shovel.

“Is this the snake, Emily?”

Emily cried, “Yes!” I felt sorry for her, hearing her sobs.

Mrs. Carter took a good look. “You’ve been bit, alright, but not by a coral snake. Look carefully. This here is a scarlet king snake. See? The red and black stripes are right next to each other.”

Martin’s voice was shaky. “What are you talking about?”

Emily said, “Mama, am I going to die?”

Mrs. Carter said, “Not today, daughter!”

Martin asked, “She’ll be alright?”

By now, there was a whole group of us standing around watching. Mr. Carter said, “All is well, folks. Emily got bit by a snake, but it was a scarlet king snake. Painful, that’s all. Wasn’t a coral snake. A coral snake’s colored rings are red, yellow, and black. A scarlet king snake’s rings are red, black, and yellow. There’s a little poem every man, woman, and child should learn when it comes to coral snakes: Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, won’t harm Jack.”

Mrs. Carter poured more of the tincture of purple coneflower into the wound. “This will help with infection. You’ll be fine in a day or so.”

We kids asked Mr. Carter to show us the scarlet king snake up close. He held out the shovel. It was true! The red stripes were next to the black stripes.

I was itching to get to my sketchbook. I tried to memorize what a scarlet king snake looked like, so I could draw it later. Red, black, yellow, black. Small head, body about three feet long.

Travis Lark asked, “Are you going to kill it?”

Mr. Carter said, “Naw! He won’t hurt nothing. He mostly eats skinks.”

Travis said, “What is a skink?”

Mr. Carter said, “Son, that’s another lesson for another day.”

So you can see, Martha, if we have many other days like today, our trip through Florida won’t be boring.

Great buckets of butterbeans. A snakebite!

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

Today, Pap had me and Mama each take a turn driving, so he could see how we handle Jeb and January. It’s really not any harder than driving Jester and Jingo.

When I want the team to start, I say, “Git!” or “Git-up-there you, Jeb” or “Git-up-there you, January.” When I want them to stop, I pull the reins and say, “Whoa!” If we need to go left, I say, “Haw!” and if we need to turn right, I say, “Gee!”

We had school again today. I was hoping we’d share our drawings, but some of the kids weren’t ready yet, so we’ll have to show them next time. Vexation!

Miss Melman said, “Students, I think it is important that we learn some facts about the state that will become our new home.” She showed us a map of Florida and let us study it for a while.

Florida is a big state. It’s curious because it’s part of the United States, but it juts down, all by itself, at the lower right-hand corner. That makes it look like the rest of the United States is a cartoon bubble, and Florida is the part that points to the character’s mouth to let you know he’s talking, like in a comic strip in the newspaper.

Miss Melman said, “You can see that Florida is a peninsula. Can anyone tell us what a peninsula is?”

Jasper Lowe, Travis’s best friend, said, “It’s a long piece of land, attached to the mainland but jutting out into the sea.”

I knew that, but he got his hand up first.

Miss Melman said, “That’s right. Now, who can tell us when Florida became a state?”

Minnie said, “I know. March 3, 1845.” I didn’t know that one.

Miss Melman said, “Who can tell us how many years Florida has been a state?”

Travis was the first to raise his hand. “47 years.”

I was beginning to feel self-conscious because I hadn’t answered a single question yet.

Miss Melman said, “Ah—and who knows the name of the oldest settlement in the United States of America?”

I wasn’t going to let anyone out-do me. I blurted out, “St. Augustine,” before any other kid could steal the answer. Miss Melman didn’t scold me for not raising my hand, but she gave me a look.

“So you all do know something about your new home state,” she said. “Good. Here’s one more interesting tidbit to add to your knowledge: Florida is the only state that has two rivers with exactly the same name. Does anyone know the name of these rivers?”

No one answered, not even Minnie. Miss Melman said, “There is a Withlacoochee River in north central Florida and a Withlacoochee River in central Florida.”

I am learning about this strange wilderness we are traveling through. We’ve heard that some parts of Florida have cities, but most of the state is still undeveloped. I know one thing: it sure is big.

We have passed a number of swampy areas. Pap says alligators live in some of those swamps, and sometimes they come out on the bank to sleep in the sun. I believe him, but I haven’t seen one yet. I’ve got my sketchbook ready, though. I want to be the first kid to draw an alligator.

Love,

Teddy

 

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Dear Martha,

WE ARE IN FLORIDA!

When we stopped to set up camp, Captain Walsh called everyone together for a meeting. He said, “You are now standing on Florida soil.” He had to wait for us to stop cheering. “The caravan will stay together as planned, all the way to St. Augustine, Florida. Some folks will leave us there. Then, the rest of us will continue on down below Lake Okeechobee. I expect we’ll arrive sometime this summer.”

All of the Carters came over for supper last night, and Miss Melman joined us. She and Mama fixed chicken and dumplings. Mama took pity on her and said, “Cassie, you don’t have to kill the chicken this time, but watch what I do, so you’ll know how to do it next time.” Mama gave her an old apron to wear to cover up her pretty white skirt while she boiled the chicken and dropped in the dumplings.

The chicken and dumplings were delicious, by the way. While we were all eating around the fire, Miss Emily said, “Cassie, I have some lovely printed calico. Would you like me to make you a work dress or two, so you won’t ruin your pretty things?”

Miss Melman looked from Miss Emily to her mother, Mrs. Carter, and then to Mama, all the while noticing their skirts or dresses. They were all worn and faded. She said, “How foolish I am. Here I’ve come on a rugged journey, and I’m still dressing like I’m back in Jackson, teaching school. Yes, I would love some calico dresses.”

Miss Emily said, “I think we’re about the same size. I’ll give you one of mine to try on, and if it fits, I already have the patterns.”

Today, I started looking at our surroundings like Miss Melman asked us to. I saw hawks and eagles and even tiny hummingbirds. I made a sketch of some kind of white bird that has a big body, enormous wings, long twig-like legs, and a long, thin, curving neck. Its beak is yellow and comes to a sharp point. Pap doesn’t know what kind of bird it is, but he said, “It’s a beauty, though.”

We’ve passed a number of scruffy short trees that look like pointy bushes. The gigantic leaves look like fans. The bottom of the tree has wooden pieces jutting out this way and that. I sketched a few in my book, using the colored pencils. It’s so strange to see color come out when I draw across the page. It’s absolutely beautiful! Who would have ever thought we would have colored pencils? Miss Melman said we could blend the colors by rubbing them gently with the side of our finger. I tried rubbing them, and the colors smooth together and look very natural. I’m going to draw all the things I see on our journey. Maybe I’ll send you one in a letter.

I read your third letter today while Dylan was taking a nap in the wagon. I’m happy you have a special part in the spring play at school. I must confess that I am a LITTLE jealous about it! If I had stayed in Mississippi, I would probably be in it with you. Is the play one the older kids have done before, or is it a new play? Will there be singing and reciting? Sometimes, I miss going to our recitation class together. I still remember doing “Fireflies on Parade” and “Red, White, and Blue” together.

I can’t write anymore tonight. I’m falling asleep.

Love,

Teddy