The Astonishing Journey of Teddy Bodain

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Dear Martha,

We are finally under way. It took some “doings” to get us off, but soon, Alabama will be behind us. Tomorrow, we will be camping in Florida, if all goes well. Everyone is talking about it. Florida!

At first light, Pap hitched up our new team of oxen. Their names are Jeb and January, and they are bigger than big. They wear a wooden yoke around their necks to keep them together as they pull the wagon. Pap says they’re gentle but as strong as ten giants. Now that we are loaded with supplies, I know that the weight would be too much for mules to pull. Pap is driving the wagon today. He wants to drive for a few days to make sure Jeb and January are settled in.

Since Pap is driving, he let Dylan ride “shotgun” in his new little seat. He loves it! And he’s safe because he can’t fall out. That left me and Mama free to set up our laundry. Before we left this morning, she helped me gather water from the spring in all six of our big buckets. That was a lot of hauling! She and I divided our dirty clothes into piles: dresses, underclothes, diapers, Pap’s shirts, and Pap’s overalls. We put the dirty clothes in the buckets and pushed them down under the water. Mama added soap shavings and hung each of the buckets from pegs on the outside of the wagon, three down one side, three down the other.

Then, she said, “Teddy, run back to the spring and gather an apron full of smooth rocks about the size of a hen’s egg.” When I came back she said, “Now, put five or six rocks in each bucket and all the rest in with your Pap’s overalls.”

I said, “What on earth for?” It seemed like so much craziness to me.

But Mama said, “See what happens when this wagon rocks back and forth and sloshes these buckets around all day. The sun will heat the water, the rocks will beat the clothes, and all we’ll have to do is rinse.”

Mama is a genius!

I read your second letter today. Yes, I would love for you to come visit me on our new land. Pap says he heard that the tracks will soon be finished for several trains to run down into Florida to some of the cities. We will be down below Lake Okeechobee, but maybe there will be a way to come fetch you.

We had school again today. Of course, all we could talk about was Florida. What kinds of animals will we see? Will the birds look different from birds in Mississippi and Alabama? Where is the ocean? How will we get fresh water? Do you think we might get eaten by alligators?

Miss Melman said, “The best way to get to know a new place is to study your surroundings and record your observations.” She brought out a parcel wrapped in brown paper and string. I had seen her carrying it in Dothan. “I have a gift for each of you.” Our eyes widened, and we looked at each other.

She untied the string and opened the wrapping. There was a stack of art sketchbooks and boxes of colored pencils. Great buckets of butterbeans! I’d heard about colored pencils, but I’d never seen any.

Miss Melman smiled. “Open your eyes. Look around you. Make discoveries. Study the sky and the trees. Scrutinize the land. Search out things that are new and intriguing. Record what you see, and the next time we meet, we’ll share your drawings and discuss them.”

We held our new sketchbooks. The covers are deep red, and Miss Melman has written our names in script. The paper is creamy white and much nicer than notebook paper. But the colored pencils are the best of all, the kind used by artists. Each box holds eight colors: red, yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, brown, and black. They are just too wonderful.

Miss Melman had a huge smile. “Welcome to Florida,” she said.

Wonder of wonders and Ethelbert Nevin!

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

I loved your letter! I read it three times. I am so happy to hear from you.

I’m sorry about Bernice. Did you bury her in the same little graveyard where we buried your other kitty? I know she was old, but I can’t remember if she was 12 or 13. Didn’t you tell me your parents already had her when you were born? She was the sweetest little thing. I remember when we would put Bernice in the baby carriage and bring her to our tea parties.

Last night, we all slept outside. It was a bright, starry night with no rain. We couldn’t sleep in the wagon because it was piled high with all the purchases we bought yesterday. Mama strung quilts on a line to make a curtain, so we would have some privacy. I had my own pallet next to Mama, Pap, and Dylan. I lay on my back and stared up at the dark sky and the bright stars. It took my breath away.

Pap said, “Teddy, can you show me the Big Dipper?”

I pointed right to it. Then, he said, “What about the North Star?” I had to search for that one. I know it’s bright, but it’s not the brightest object in the sky. It’s easy to mistake for other stars. I pointed to the one I hoped was the North Star.

“That’s right,” Pap said. “It’s the tail of the Little Dipper. Did you know you can navigate by the North Star? The North Star stays fixed in the sky. When you are facing the North Star, east is to your right, south is to your back, west is to your left, and north is straight ahead.” I tried to memorize Pap’s words by saying them over and over in my mind.

Mama said, “Do you remember how I taught you to find your direction by day?”

I said, “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.”

Mama said, “That girl is a sponge. What did I tell you?”

Today was another busy day, full of chaos.

Mama and I went to church in Dothan. We brought Miss Emily’s baby with us to give Miss Emily a chance to make some purchases with her husband, Martin. That meant Mama and I both had a baby to hold during the service. There was a lot of wiggling going on, let me tell you.

Pap couldn’t go to church with us. He and Mr. Carter had to take everything out of our wagons, so they could reload them with all of our new purchases. One man can’t lift all those loads alone, so they helped each other. Pap arranged the boxes and barrels in the wagon and made a nice bed for Mama, me, and Dylan up on top of the boxes, so we’re no longer on the floor. It’s a thousand times better! He fit things in every nook and cranny, so things are out of the way but easy to get to if we need them. He also made a baby seat for Dylan and bolted it to the driver’s seat, next to where Mama and I sit when we drive the wagon. Now, Dylan can sit up front and not be in danger.

When Mama and I got back from church, we were shocked to see that Jester and Jingo were gone! In their place were two giant oxen. I said, “Pap! I didn’t get to say goodbye to Jester and Jingo.” I felt terribly sad at the thought of it.

Pap said, “They’ll have a good home, Teddy. The dentist that pulled Mama’s tooth yesterday bought them to plow his field. He has another mule and two horses. They’ll be in good company.”

Still, it made my heart hurt something awful. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I started bawling.

Mama said, “Sometimes, we just have to let go of things we love.”

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

I am exhausted! Every bone in my body is weary. Today has been an incredible, exciting day with lots of adventures, but the best thing is that I GOT YOUR LETTERS!!!!

Early this morning, when it was still dark, Pap took out our family’s money box. Some folks keep their money in Captain Walsh’s wagon in a strongbox, but not Pap. When he had our wagon built, he had them build in a secret compartment under the wagon. If you didn’t know about it, you would never guess it’s there. He and Mama went over their list a million times.

I took Dylan up to Miss Emily Carter’s wagon while he was still asleep. She slipped him into the pallet with Lucy and said, “He’ll be fine. Have a wonderful day.” Miss Emily is so nice.

Pap drove our wagon into Dothan and parked it at the livery stables for the day. When we make each of our purchases, they are delivered to our wagon at the livery, so we can haul them back to our campsite.

Our first stop was the general store. The store was big, but it was crowded with folks, both town folks from Dothan and folks from our wagon train. The best thing was that the post office was right there in the general store. I asked at the window if they had any mail for Theodosia Bodain, and the man said, “Yes, we do. Here are five letters from Salter’s Grove, Mississippi.” Great buckets of butterbeans! I was so happy I could have done backflips. I’m going to read one letter each day for the next five days!

At the general store, we bought supplies for our trip:

100 pounds of flour 50 pounds of cornmeal

50 pounds of salt 80 pounds of sugar

100 pounds of coffee 100 pounds of dried beans

40 pounds of salted bacon 8 pounds of oatmeal

25 pounds of dried beef 5 pounds of raisins

25 pounds of brown sugar 50 pound keg of pickles

5 pounds of pepper 50 pounds of dried apples

50 pounds of dried peaches linseed oil

1 keg of axle grease fresh vegetables

10 candles lamp oil

5 pounds of pretzels 5 pounds of peppermint sticks

1,000 toothpicks 2 gallons of vinegar

While we waited for our store goods to be delivered, we had other chores to tend to. Pap got a shave and a haircut at the barber shop. Mama had a tooth pulled at the dentist’s office. The cobbler put new soles on Pap’s boots. Mama bought a book of piano music, 50 different kinds of flower and vegetable seeds to plant in Florida, and some liniment for sore muscles. We bought clothes: underwear, stockings, aprons, overalls, work dresses, flannel shirts, suspenders, and baby clothes for Dylan (he is growing like a weed).

We also bought Miss Emily a pound of lemon drops for keeping Dylan while we were gone. She told Mama, “You didn’t need to get me a thing. He was a good boy and kept Lucy entertained. But lemon drops aremy favorite!”

Now, I’m going to read your first letter. I’ve saved it for the last thing I do today.

All I can say is, Ethelbert Nevin!

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

After a long day’s drive, we have arrived in Dothan, Alabama! It’s too dark to see much of anything, so I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

We had school today. Miss Melman played a game with us where we had to know our multiplication tables and quickly give the answers. I was a little embarrassed because I’m not as good at arithmetic as I am at spelling, grammar, and writing. But Minnie was a whiz! She knew every answer!

Miss Melman said, “Minerva, you knew every single multiplication answer correctly. Our entire class is going to walk back to my piano, and I will play a beautiful piece of music in your honor.” We all thought that was a terrific prize, although I was just a teensy bit jealous that it was Minnie and not me.

Travis Lark helped take the quilts and oilcloth off the piano, and the rest of us gathered just outside the back of the wagon. Minnie sat right near Miss Melman on a trunk that was being stored in the wagon.

Miss Melman said, “This is a very popular piano piece. It is called ‘Narcissus,’ which is also the name of a beautiful flower. The composer is Mr. Ethelbert Nevin.”

I have never heard of a man being named Ethelbert before!

Miss Melman said, “Children, Ethelbert Nevin wrote his first song for the piano at the age of 13, not much older than some of you. This shows that you can do excellent work, even as a child. Minerva, because you have done excellent work in the area of mathematics, I am playing this song in your honor.”

Well, it was about the most beautiful melody I’ve ever heard. Miss Melman is talented at playing the piano. I am happy that she is Mama’s piano teacher. Now, all day, I’ve been saying the name, Ethelbert Nevin, over and over in my mind. What a name! Don’t you think it is curious? I’m going to work on my multiplication tables, so maybe one day Miss Melman will play a special song for me.

Mama and Pap have been going over their list of things they will buy while we are in Dothan. We are all getting up early because Pap says there will be many chores to do over the next two days. When we work together, he says, “Many hands make light work.”

Miss Emily is staying here with her baby, Lucy, tomorrow, and she offered to keep Dylan for Mama, so we could all go into Dothan together and make our purchases. Mama’s face beamed! She usually has to take Dylan with her, and this will give Mama a chance to shop and make her purchases without worrying about a baby.

She said, “May I do a kindness for you in exchange? I am much obliged.”

But Miss Emily said, “Now, I’m just being neighborly. Every woman enjoys shopping without toting a baby around on her hip.”

Mama told me secretly that she will buy a present for Miss Emily. I am excited about helping Mama and Pap make their purchases. We will miss Dylan, but it will be nice to shop, just the three of us.

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

Tomorrow, we’ll be in Dothan, Alabama, the last stop before Florida. We’ll spend a few days in Dothan, so folks can buy supplies, trade in their mules, get haircuts, and so forth. I’m going to go straight to the post office to see if I have a letter from my best friend, Martha Lyndall!

Captain Walsh had a meeting with Pap and the other train pushers this morning. He said that we all should be on the lookout for rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes can grow as thick as a man’s arm, he said, and six feet long. They usually stay hidden under old logs or piles of pine needles, but after a heavy rain, they like to sun themselves. I hope no one stumbles onto a rattlesnake. Pap said if you come across one, the best thing to do is to back away. I don’t want to tangle with a rattlesnake!

I’ve been practicing my slingshot. Minnie and Hallie asked Travis to make them one, so now we each have our own slingshot. Travis points out targets along the way, and we practice hitting them. That is, Minnie and I practice. Hallie can’t use her broken arm for several more weeks, and you can’t use a slingshot one-handed!

Yesterday, Travis said, “Teddy, you’re getting pretty good with that thing. Have you shown your pap?” I want to get really good before I show Pap. Minnie’s just getting started. Sometimes, she lets the stone fall out before she releases the sling. Sometimes, I do that, too.

I got to thinking. I’m a strange kind of tomboy. I like to play dolls with Minnie and Hallie, and I like to cook with Mama. On the other hand, I like driving the team, fishing, and using my slingshot. But then again, I like to go to musicals, like The Pirates of Penzance.

I asked Mama about it, and she said that I was a sponge and not to worry about it.

I said, “What do you mean by a sponge?”

Mama said, “You soak up knowledge everywhere you turn, Teddy. You are a most inquisitive girl.”   

Guess what? Miss Melman came over for a new cooking lesson today. The men had just shot a deer, so Pap brought home two pieces of venison, one for us and one for the Carters. Mama showed Miss Melman how to cut the meat into cubes, soak it in brine, and make a delicious stew.

Mama said, “Venison can be tough, so you have to soak it first to make it tender.”                                     

She showed Miss Melman how to set up the tripod over the fire and hang the pot just right, so it would come to a boil.

Mama said, “You want your pot to hang just over the flames, but you don’t want them licking up the side of the pot.” She saw how Miss Melman had hung the pot. “Cassie, you’ve got it just right. Your stew will cook but won’t burn. I do believe you are catching on right quick-like.”

While the stew was bubbling along, Mama and Miss Melman cut up potatoes, onions, carrots, and apples to add to the stew.

Miss Melman said, “Apples, Grace? I never would have thought to add apples.”

Mama said, “Just wait till you taste it. They add a hint of sweetness that is oh, so good.”

All the Carters joined us for supper. Mrs. Carter brought cornbread and cucumber salad. Miss Emily brought fresh water from the spring and boiled raisin pudding. We had a feast! Everyone complimented Miss Melman and Mama on the stew. Mama is a good teacher.

Love,

Teddy

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Dear Martha,

Good news! The sun is shining. Jumping jubilation! Everything had to dry out: our clothes, our canvas, even Pap’s feet. Captain Walsh stopped the train yesterday because we weren’t making progress in such a downpour anyway.

The wagon wheels were caked with mud. That made it too hard on the mules to pull the wagons. Martha, Mama did something that was a wonder. Pap’s feet were bothering him something awful. His boots were soaked through, and he’d been out in the driving rain trying to help folks settle their wagons in the downpour. Mama helped him get his boots off, but it was a chore. The leather was tight, and Pap’s feet were swollen. Mama put some thick mud in the bottom of the washtub and hauled it up in the wagon.

She smoothed the mud flat and put a folded newspaper on top of the mud. Then, she stacked small pieces of fat lighter wood we had stored in a box under the seat of the wagon and lit a fire. She fixed a place for Pap to sit, so his feet were up over the washtub. In no time, Pap’s feet were dry, and he was smiling.

He said, “My feet are dryer than seven acres of parched corn!”

Can you believe Mama made such a good fire right up in the wagon? I wish I was smart like her. Today, she’s drying Pap’s boots, so he’s wearing his old plowing boots. We’re on the move again. Early this morning every man, woman, and child helped scrape mud from the wagon wheels. We had to scrape it off and sling it to the side, so the next family wouldn’t drive through it again once we got going.

I haven’t been able to write since Sunday. It was just too crazy with all this rain. We were crowded into the wagon, day and night. We kept warm by huddling together. Since we had nothing else to do, we played checkers. Pap beat us every game! I lit one of my candle stubs and read Little Women. Mama and I already knew the story, of course, but Pap had never heard it before.

The lightning crackled something awful. That scared Baby Dylan, and we took turns holding him and playing little games to keep him entertained. I felt sorry for most folk’s mules and oxen. They had to stand out in the rain the entire time, but not Jester, Jingo, Gabriel, and Girlie. Pap strung a big oilcloth between our wagon and the Carters’ wagon in front of us. He propped it up with poles, so our animals could be out of the rain.

Pap slept in the wagon with us because it was far too wet for him to sleep under the wagon. Before he went to bed, Mama rubbed his feet with lard. I was supposed to be asleep, but when they thought I wasn’t listening, I heard Pap say, “Grace, I love you more than the moon is round.”

Mama said, “Oh, go on.”

Pap said, “I do. I can’t help it. I love you more than the stars are bright.”

Mama said, “Hush now. Teddy will hear.”

Pap said, “So what if she hears? I love you, and I hope you love me, too.”

Mama didn’t say anything, so Pap said, “Well, do you?”

She still didn’t say anything, so Pap said again, “Well, DO YOU?”

I could hear Mama laughing real quiet. Then, she whispered, “Well, what woman wouldn’t love a man who keeps her milk cow out of the rain?”

Pap said, “Well, alright then.”

Great buckets of butterbeans! Mama and Pap sound like sweethearts.

Love,
Teddy

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Dear Martha,

It rained all day today. It was miserable traveling in the rain. Mama put an oilcloth over us to keep us dry as we drove the team. Jester and Jingo were soaked. The road is full of puddles and mud, so we had to go slowly. A muddy road can mean danger for animals who are pulling a heavy load.

Baby Dylan cried all day. Mama thinks he’s teething. I spent a long time rocking him and singing all his favorites. He loves for me to sing “The Little Green Frog Who Lives in the Bog.”

When I went to get one of his books down from the shelf, he saw Veronica. You can imagine what happened then. He cried, “Ronnie! Ronnie!” I didn’t want to, but I let him hold her while I rocked him, and he finally went to sleep.

While he was sleeping, I put Veronica back up on the shelf. I don’t want her to get wet and dirty on a day like this. I sat by Mama on the wagon seat. “Am I selfish because I don’t let Dylan play with Veronica?”

Mama said, “I think you’re trying to take care of something that is precious to you. That’s not being selfish. You’re good to your brother.” That made me feel a little better. I love Dylan to pieces, but a baby could ruin a doll.

Today is Sunday, but we couldn’t have preaching because it was too wet. Folks rode in the wagons instead of walking alongside. That made the train very slow because of the heavier load and because of the mud. At times, it seemed like we were hardly moving. Most of the time, folks get down and walk along. That makes the load lighter for those of us who have mules instead of oxen.

Mama and I were going out of our minds with boredom. We played games, naming all the birds we could think of and then all the different kinds of trees we could think of. We told riddles. Then, I got an idea. When Dylan was taking his nap, I got my copy of Little Women and read it aloud. Mama loved it.

She said, “I read Little Women when I was a girl, Teddy. Beth was always my favorite. She’s the one who played the piano so beautifully.” There we were, under an oilcloth, in the rain, driving a team of mules, headed for Florida. But as I read, we both felt like we were actually in the story. Have you read it, Martha? The story is about four sisters: Jo, Amy, Beth, and Meg. Their father is a chaplain during The War Between the States. Jo is my favorite character because she loves to write so much (but sometimes she has a bad temper), and she’s a tomboy and loves adventure, just like I do.

Now, I’m reading two books at once: Tom Sawyer, which Miss Melman is reading aloud to us, and Little Women, which I am reading aloud to Mama. So today wasn’t a total loss with all the rain. Mama and I have a book to share.

Another good thing is that we caught rainwater in buckets. Pap and all the men filled their canteens. You never know when we might not have a stream or a river or a spring to camp near. Water is precious. We collect it wherever we can. Rainwater is like gold.

I have still been thinking of getting a dog. A dog would be a good companion. But we’re on the move almost every day, driving from one place to the next.
How will a dog ever find me?

Love,
Teddy

Dear Martha,

Something terrible happened today. Hallie Good, Minnie’s little sister, had a terrible accident, something I just warned about in my last letter. 
 
Astonishing!
 
While the caravan was moving, she was sitting too near the back of their wagon and tumbled out to the ground. The fall broke her arm, and the wagon behind the Good’s wagon had to turn quickly to keep from running her over. Travis Lark rode to tell the pushers, and the whole train stopped. All the grownups came to look, even Captain Walsh.
 
Mama didn’t want me to go, but I said, “Mama, I have to go! It’s Hallie!” So she let me.
 
Hallie’s arm was broken bad. This part will be hard to read, Martha. Mrs. Carter, our neighbor, and her husband had to set Hallie’s arm. It was terribly painful. Hallie cried something awful. I wanted them to stop. They finally lined up her bones. That was a relief. Then, Mrs. Carter wrapped her arm with a long, rolled-up bandage. While she wrapped it, Mr. Carter heated a little pot of wax over the campfire. He used a paintbrush to paint Hallie’s arm bandage all over with a thick coat of wax. While the wax was still soft, Mrs. Carter put a long, smooth, wooden splint alongside Hallie’s arm.
 
Then, she wrapped it again with another long bandage, and Mr. Carter painted it again with the wet wax. Soon, Hallie’s arm was as snug as a bug in a rug.
 
Captain Walsh said, “You are a brave girl,” and gave her a silver dollar. She’s the only kid I know with a silver dollar. I hope she lets us look at it up close. I’ve never had a silver dollar of my own.
 
Now, Hallie has to wear a sling to keep her arm still. Mrs. Carter gave her a tincture to help with the pain. I hope I never break my arm, that’s for sure.
 
Pap rode up in the wagon with me this afternoon. Mama went to take her first piano lesson, and I had to watch Dylan. I can’t watch a baby who squirms all the time and drive the team, so Pap drove, and I held Dylan on my lap. I like it when Pap is driving our wagon. He whistles a lot and tells stories.
 
“Teddy,” he said, “what do you think of our trip so far?” I said, “I don’t know. It’s fun.”
 
Pap said, “I see you writing all the time. What are you writing?”
 
I told him about writing to you. He said, “When I was a boy, I don’t think I wrote a single letter. I didn’t have anyone to write to. We didn’t know our kinfolk. The only other Bodain I’d heard about was a cousin, Daniel Bodain, who lived near Micanopy, Florida. I would have liked to have known him.”
 
I like it when Pap tells me about our family.
 
“My father died when I was about your age. I had to grow up quick. Be a man. Help my mama like my father had.
 
I put new hinges on our cabin door. I learned to hunt and fish to put food on the table. I plowed the field and helped Mama bring in all the crops.”
 
“How did you learn to do all that?” I asked.
 
“Just by doing. You can learn anything if you need to.”
 
I told him about my slingshot. “That’s a handy skill to have. Are you any good?”
 
I said, “Not yet, but I’m practicing.” I want to get good at it. Maybe I can help Pap put food on the table.
 
Love,
Teddy
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Dear Martha,
We had fresh fish for breakfast this morning. I’ve never tasted anything so good.
 
Last evening, we camped by a river. Pap and I went fishing. He cut two bamboo
poles and strung them with line while I caught crickets. The fish were biting! As fast
as I could bait my hook, there was a bluegill on the line.
 
 
 
Pap said, “Teddy, if you know how to fish with next to nothing, you’ll never
go hungry. See how I cut these poles? Bamboo grows all over. You just have to
look for it growing near water. I keep a length of fishing line in my pocket, but you
can use string or thread or whatever you have handy. I’ve caught a fish on my boot
string before.”
 
I said, “And it wasn’t hard to catch crickets. I just swooped my hand through
the tall grass and looked for whatever tried to hop away.”
 
Pap said, “Most fish like to bite when the sun is just coming up or going down.
They get hungry, just like we do, and a cricket looks mighty good. You can use
anything for bait: worms, minnows, crickets.”
 
I said, “Did you fish when you were a boy?”
 
Pap said, “All the time. Me and my dog, Darby. He went everywhere I went.”
I thought about that. “I’d like to get a dog.”
 
Pap said, “That’s a fine idea.” I thought it was a fine idea, too. Why hadn’t
I thought of it before?
 
I said, “Where would I get a dog? We’re on the move all the time.”
 
Pap said, “At the right time, a dog will find you.”
 
We caught 13 bluegill. Pap strung them together by running the line through
their gills. He slipped the fish back down in the river to keep them alive and tied
the line to a big rock. I used a chalky rock to write BODAIN on the big rock, so folks
from the train would know they were our fish if they came to the same spot. Pap
went back early this morning to clean the fish with his knife.
 
“Always bury the heads and guts,” he said. “Never leave a mess behind.”
 
Now, this morning, I fried the fish over our campfire. Mama was feeding Dylan,
but she told me what to do. I dipped the fish in cornmeal and fried them in our big
black skillet in lard. When they were brown on one side, I turned them over on the
other side. I made a pot of grits, and that was our breakfast. Mama said I did as good
a job as any grown woman.
 
One thing about being in a wagon train: you have to do everything, or as much
as you can, while the train is rolling or in the little time before we leave in the
morning or before the sun goes down when we stop to camp. In the morning, Mama
puts our clothes to soak in buckets of river water and hangs them on the side of the
wagon. Then, in the afternoon, she scrubs them on a board, rinses them, and hangs
them on a line Pap strings beside our wagon for the night.
 
It’s my job to redd up the wagon each day. Once we get rolling, I shake out our
featherbed and roll it up. I fold the blankets and Pap’s quilts. Then, I sweep the floor
and set up Dylan’s playpen. Mama and Pap made it before we left. It’s almost as big
as the center of the wagon. Dylan can play with his blocks and toys while we are on
the move. A wagon can be dangerous for a baby because the back is open, and he
might tumble out. Sometimes, Miss Emily invites Dylan over, and he and Lucy play
together in her playpen.
 
Dylan is getting so smart. He calls me “Taddy,” and he can name some of the
animals in my picture book. But one thing upsets me. He ALWAYS wants to play
with Veronica. When he sees me take her out, he screams, “Ronnie! Ronnie!” and
tries to reach her. She is too beautiful and delicate for a baby to play with.
 
Love,
Teddy

 

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Dear Martha,
We have been on the road for 25 days. We left on February 22nd. That means
we’ve traveled over 200 miles. I have never been so far from home before. Pap says
our journey will be 1,000 miles. Our next big stop is Dothan, where we will buy
most of our supplies.
 
Alabama is like one big pine forest. Everywhere you look are the tallest trees,
towering overhead like giants. We have passed a lot of farms. The people come out
to wave us on. I’m sure we make a curious sight, a train of big, covered wagons, and
people and animals walking along beside it. I feel like we are on a great adventure.
Folks must know we are homesteading, because sometimes they call out, “Where
you headed?”
 
Captain Walsh calls, “Florida!”
 
Then, they yell, “Good luck!” or “Don’t let the gators get you!”
 
One man shouted, “There’s rich land down that-a-ways.” I’m sure Pap was glad
to hear that.
 
We spotted a cardinal this morning. Mama said, “A redbird! Good morning,
Mr. Redbird!” She pointed to a brown bird who fluttered and landed on a bush near
the cardinal. “That’s his mate. See? She’s brown, but she sings just as sweetly.”
I hope we have cardinals in Florida, or Mama is going to be very disappointed.
 
Today, we had school again. We had a spelling bee. We did really well, so as a
reward, Miss Melman started reading Tom Sawyer. We flipped a coin to see whether
we would read Alice in Wonderland or Tom Sawyer first. Well, the coin was “heads,”
so we started with Tom Sawyer. I was secretly glad, even though Miss Melman chose
that book as the boys’ book. She read aloud to us for almost an hour. I can already
tell that it’s going to be the best book ever.
 
She read the part about Tom having to whitewash Aunt Polly’s fence as
punishment for skipping school. He tricked the rest of his friends into whitewashing
the fence for him. He acted like whitewashing was the best fun a kid could have.
When his friends came by to watch him work, he went on and on about how much
fun he was having. They actually paid him to let them take turns whitewashing
his aunt’s fence. When the fence was whitewashed (in record time!), Tom had a
pocketful of money. He was so clever.
 
We moaned when Miss Melman stopped reading and said, “That’s all for today.”
 
 
Guess what? Travis Lark is teaching me how to use a slingshot. I’ve never
owned one before, but Travis had an extra strip of rubber, and he cut a sling for me.
I still think he feels bad for taking my marbles. This afternoon we stopped to let the
animals drink at a wide stream. Travis told me to search for small, smooth stones to
use as ammunition. I filled my pockets with them. 
                                 
He cut a thin branch fork, shaped like the letter “y,” from a hickory tree growing near
the stream. He wound the strip of rubber around each of the forks of the “y.” Man, can
that thing shoot! Martha, hickory wood doesn’t bend much, so it makes a perfect
slingshot. I put a small stone in the center of the rubber sling, pulled it back, took aim,
and let her fly. I can shoot far! We practiced the rest of the afternoon, shooting at
targets along the way. I’m going to practice every day. I still don’t have any aim.
 
Love,
Teddy