The Astonishing Journey of Teddy Bodain

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

So many good things have happened to me in the last three days, I can hardly take it all in. When Mama came back from town this morning, she had a package for me. Inside were three pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser, two tablets of paper, a box of envelopes, and four candles. I almost fell over. Three pencils, all at once! What a windfall. She said, “It’s an early birthday present. You’ve always got your nose in a letter, writing with nubs of pencils, and trying to see by stubby little candles.” She put her hand under my chin and said, “I’m proud that you are a writer. Keep it up.” Great buckets of butterbeans! Mama is proud of me.

Yesterday, Mama made a johnny cake for our lunch. She made an extra one, and she asked me to take it to Miss Melman. It was her way of saying thank you for sharing her tickets. Then today, Miss Melman walked along with the train and caught up with our wagon. She gathered her skirts and climbed right up on the seat with Mama.

Mama smiled when she saw Miss Melman had come for a visit.

“I’m having to walk extra today because that johnny cake you made was so good, I ate every bite of it. Thank you kindly,” Miss Melman said.

I was feeding Dylan right behind them in the wagon, so I could hear their talk. I wanted to be out there so bad, but I knew I had better stay right where I was. Mama left all her friends behind in Mississippi. It was nice that Miss Melman had come to call.

Mama said, “We had the best time at the opera house. I thank you again for inviting us.”

Miss Melman said, “I’ve been thinking, Mrs. Bodain. I know you love music. Theodosia tells me you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano.”

Tarnation. I didn’t mean for her to go and tell Mama what I said.

But Mama said, “I’ve considered it, yes. But I never had a piano.”

Miss Melman said, “Well, I’ve come to suggest a trade. I hate to admit it, Mrs. Bodain, but I have no cooking experience to speak of. Somehow, I’ve gotten by with not cooking all of my life. I lived at home, where we had a cook, and then I attended college, where we took our meals in a cafeteria. I’ve lived in boarding houses, where the food was provided. But now that I’m going to live on my own in Florida....”

Mama said, “You’ll need to know how to cook.”

Miss Melman said, “It’s a bit embarrassing, I’m afraid. Would you teach me, Mrs. Bodain? Theodosia tells me you are a terrific cook. I can tell from the johnny cake you sent over that she’s right.”

Mama said. “That girl runs her mouth too much. But yes, I’ll teach you.”

Miss Melman sounded excited. “Then, I’ll teach you to play the piano.” Mama must have looked shocked, because Miss Melman said, “Yes, I will. You can learn on my piano in the last wagon. By the time we reach your new home in Florida, you’ll be able to play most hymns and a few solo pieces.”

Mama said, “Do you think so, Miss Melman?”

Miss Melman said, “I certainly do. And please call me Cassie.”

Mama said, “It would give me something to look forward to. I get so tired of sitting up here on this seat all day, bouncing around, following the wagon in front. Maybe Teddy—Theodosia—would watch Dylan for me while we have lessons.”

Martha, I couldn’t help myself. I shouted, “I WILL!”

Mama called, “Are you back there listening to our talk?” But she wasn’t mad. “We’ve got a trade,” she told Miss Melman. “And please call me Grace.”

I am so happy when a good thing happens for Mama.

Love,
Teddy

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

I wish you could have been with me for the performance of The Pirates of Penzance. The Grand Opera House was a sight. It had carved balconies, artistic silhouettes painted on the ceiling, gold-covered drama and comedy masks, velvet curtains, and plush, upholstered seats. It looked like something out of a picture postcard. I now know that the reason they call it “The Grand Opera House” is because it is very grand, indeed.

Miss Melman told us that the operetta would be funny, and she was not kidding.

We spent the afternoon laughing. I never knew what I’ve been missing.

The story is about a man, Frederick, who has grown up as an apprentice to a group of pirates. The pirates like to think that they are fierce, but they are really a bunch of marshmallows.

Frederick has to work for the pirates until he turns 21 years of age, which he has. He tries to leave their company, but at the last minute, just before he is to marry the beautiful Mabel, the pirates inform him that he was born on leap year, February 29th, and that he has only had five birthdays. That means that in their eyes, he is only five years old, not 21. But in the end, it all turns out well, and Frederick gets to marry Mabel.

We laughed at so many things during the performance, my sides hurt. The pirates acted crazy and swung out over the audience on ropes. One pirate winked at me and dropped a beautiful pink rose in my lap.

He was very handsome. I winked back, and Mama pinched me.

She whispered, “Don’t be fresh.”

Oh! Mama just doesn’t understand me sometimes. I was just getting into the spirit of the play.

The women’s costumes were made of the finest silks and satins in bright yellow, red, blue, coral, turquoise, and purple. They were exquisite and stylish. During the intermission, I heard Miss Melman and Mama discussing the styles and fabrics. I never knew Mama was interested in those kinds of things. Great day in the morning!

Another feature that was incredible was the orchestra. There were at least 25 musicians, all dressed in fine black evening clothes. I’ve heard Pap play the fiddle before, but this was nothing like that. During the second intermission, Miss Melman took me forward to look in the orchestra pit. She pointed out the cello, viola, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, French horn, flute, piccolo, and the kettle drums. There were others, but I forget what all they were. I’ve never seen so many instruments in one place.

The man who is the piano player came over to speak to Miss Melman.

He said, “I see you used your tickets. I’m glad to see you here.”

Miss Melman introduced me as her student. The piano player said, “Well, Theodosia, what do you think of our production of The Pirates of Penzance?”

I said, “I think it’s spectacular.”

He said, “Then, please come backstage after the performance and meet the cast.”

Mama was impressed that we were allowed to go backstage when the musical was over. I met the pirate who gave me the pink rose, the pirate who had winked at me. Mama was standing beside me.

He said, “I’m glad you brought your sister with you to meet the cast.”

Mama blushed! I bet she secretly likes handsome pirates, too.

I want to be a singer when I grow up and star in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. I will never forget this day for as long as I live. The only thing that would have made it better is if you had been there, too.

Love,
Teddy

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

Here’s the continuation of “Teddy Bodain’s Bodacious Trip into Meridian.” Ha ha! When we went to see the Grand Opera House on 5th Street, people were gathered all over, admiring the beautiful, red building. Mama wanted to read the poster that tells what opera or operetta would be presented that day. We went to the lobby to read the poster, and there was Miss Cassie Melman.

She said, “Why, hello, Mrs. Bodain. I’m so happy to see you!”

Mama looked surprised. She said, “Oh?”

Miss Melman acted like she was telling Mama a secret. “I just met the piano player of the opera house. I told him I, too, play the piano. He was kind enough to give me three tickets to today’s matinee. Three free tickets! Isn’t that wonderful?”

Mama didn’t act like it was wonderful. She said, kind of stiff-like, “How nice for you.”

Miss Melman said, “Do you know what’s playing?”

Mama said, “The poster says that today’s operetta is The Pirates of Penzance.”

Miss Melman clapped her hands. “Yes! I’ve always wanted to see it. I’m a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I saw The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore back in Charleston. They are just the happiest, most funny musicals.

The Pirates of Penzance is supposed to be their finest work.” Then, she said, “Would you please join me, Mrs. Bodain? We could go to the matinee performance together and use these tickets.”

Mama looked at Pap. He smiled. “I think that’s a fine idea.” Mama’s face was all sunshine. She said, “I would be delighted to attend with you, Miss Melman. How kind of you to ask.”

I’m ashamed to say it, but I thought I would die on the spot. I knew that Mama was going to ask me to watch Dylan, and I wouldn’t get to go. I tried not
to pout. I was happy for Mama but sad for me.

But dear Miss Melman said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Mrs. Bodain, would you permit Theodosia to join us? I have another ticket.

The three of us could go together.”

I didn’t beg, but my eyes were as big as saucers. I held my breath.

Mama looked toward Pap. She and I knew someone had to take care of Dylan. This was Pap’s special day, too.

We knew he would want to go to the hardware store and the livestock stockade.

Pap didn’t let us down. He said, “Why don’t I take this big ol’ boy with me, and we’ll go to the hardware store like men, while you hens go to the musical.” I wanted to dance for joy!

Mama said, “Theodosia, would you like to join us?” Great buckets of butterbeans! Mama called me Theodosia, right in front of Miss Melman.

I said, “Yes, Mama, thank you, and thank YOU, Miss Melman.” I acted ladylike, but in my mind, I was jumping up and down and doing cartwheels on the sidewalk.

The Pirates of Penzance was INCREDIBLE. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it.

We are leaving Meridian this morning. Mama reminded me that now would be a good time to post all your letters. She is going to town one last time. I unknotted my handkerchief and gave her a penny for each letter. Remember the pennies we saved?

Love,
Teddy

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

Goodness gracious and great buckets of butterbeans! How can I ever explain all about Meridian? It was astounding! I will try to describe everything, so you can experience it with me.

Trains from all over Mississippi and Atlanta and other places arrive here in Meridian many times each day, blowing their steam whistles. Clouds of white steam shoot up into the air. When the conductor shouts, “All aboard!” you better scamper on that train because it’s about to leave the station. We saw many travelers with fine trunks and stylish clothing.

Dylan sat on Pap’s shoulders and waved. A girl wearing a sailor dress handed him a red balloon. He clapped his hands and said, “Loon!”

I have never seen so many bicycles in one place. They are every color of the rainbow and finely made. We first started seeing them on the walk into town, but there are many of them on the streets of Meridian, too. Men, women, and children ride bicycles—whole families. We saw a pretty girl and her beau on a bicycle built for two. I’ve seen women ride side-saddle, but here, many of them straddle their bikes with one foot on each side. No kidding! Most of
the women who ride that way were wearing special bicycle bloomers. Not skirts—BLOOMERS! It was a funny sight.

Can you picture a bunch of women in their bloomers, riding bicycles? Pap said, “What next?”

“Very practical,” Mama said. “Why shouldn’t women wear split skirts or bloomers? One day, women might wear trousers, like men. Skirts and dresses aren’t always best for working or riding a horse or a bicycle.” I hope someday I get to ride a bicycle wearing bloomers. Will you do it, too?

When we arrived in downtown Meridian, Mama said, “Dalton, I’d like to have our photograph taken while we’re wearing our good clothes.”

I expected Pap to throw his hat down, but he said, “Grace, I’d be right proud to have a photograph.” Mama said, “Good. I don’t know when I’ve seen you look more handsome.” Pap said, “It’s not every day that I get to walk hand in hand down the streets of Meridian with a gal as pretty as you.”

Mama blushed!

We went to Mr. L.H. LeGrand’s Photographic Studio and had our picture taken. The photographer got under a black drape that hung from his enormous camera. We had to stand very still, and that is hard to do with an almost two-year-old baby. But Mr. LeGrand let Dylan keep his balloon for the picture, and he settled down.

I sat next to Pap, Dylan sat on Pap’s lap, and Mama stood behind Pap with her hand on his shoulder. Mama may not wear starched, white skirts like Miss Melman, but she was beautiful. When Mr. LeGrand took our photograph, he used flashing powder that flashed as bright as lightning. It startled us! We thought Dylan might cry, but he said, “Boom!”

We walked down Main Street and, Martha, there were more stores than you could shake a stick at. There were millinery stores with lovely new hats displayed in the windows. There were stores that sold clothing and sundries, drugstores, hardware stores, bookstores, butcher shops, a Christmas store, and a store that sold nothing but ice. The place where every woman wanted to go, however, was the Marks Rothenberg Department Store. It’s the biggest store you could ever imagine, with floors and floors of stuff for sale. Absolutely everything. We even bought a sit-down lunch and root beer mugs at their fountain.

But that’s not the best part! Wait till you hear this!

I’ll have to tell you tomorrow. Mama told me to blow out the candle. She’s told me twice, and she means business this time. Vexation!

Love,
Teddy

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

We are camped at Meridian, Mississippi. Today is the day! We are going into town as soon as Mama finishes putting up her hair and Pap shines his boots. Everyone is excited about seeing this grand town and all the sights. I’m about to jump out of my shoes if they don’t hurry up!

Mama and I spent last evening taking baths, washing our hair, and laying out our outfits. Mama set the washtub right beside our wagon on the far side. She hung quilts around it for privacy while I heated buckets of water over the campfire. Pap hauled more buckets of fresh water for rinsing.

It felt great to take a bath. The mules and wagons churn up a lot of dust each day, and it gets in our clothes and shoes and hair. The water felt warm and soothing. I used a cake of soap and a sponge and scrubbed away the layers of sweat and dust. Mama washed my hair, and I brushed it dry near the fire.

Mama has been saving our good clothes in case we stop somewhere special. Well, Meridian is about as special as it gets. I’m wearing my new blue dress with the white pinafore. I braided my hair and tied blue bows on the ends. I’m not the only excited one. We’re all in a tizzy! Last night, we were so excited about our trip into Meridian, we forgot to eat! Just before bedtime, Pap said, “Grace, did we forget to eat supper?”

Mama looked shocked. Then, she said, “Dalton Bodain, I do believe you are right!” and we had a good laugh about it. She gathered some cornbread left over from midday, and we ate cornbread with honey and drank some of Girlie’s milk. It was like having a picnic right here inside the wagon, just the four of us. It was just our family, having fun together.

Dylan said, “Tornbread.” Isn’t that cute? Tornbread. He says something new every day. He is so adorable in his outfit. He has a matching hat, and it makes him look like a little man. Pap is calling. It’s time to go into town. Martha, I wish you were going with me, but I’ll write every detail in my next letter.

Love,
Teddy

 

 
LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

Today is Saturday, but we are on the move, just like usual. The sky is as blue as a cornflower. Sometimes, Mama and I look at the clouds and try to say what the shapes look like. But not today. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
 
I spent most of today walking or riding with Pap. Mama was happy to sit up on the wagon seat by herself and let me play. The train moves slowly—the pace of mules walking—so I’m allowed to go anywhere I like, as long as I keep up and don’t lag behind the last wagon. I feel as free as a bird! For a while, Pap let me ride with him on Gabriel. As one of the men who “pushes” the train, Pap has to get up early and build a fire or stoke the coals from last night’s fire, so Mama or I can cook breakfast. Then, he wakes the families along the caravan and meets with Captain Walsh about the route for the day. They look at maps and decide how far we’ll go and where we’ll make camp for the night.
 
After that, when we shove off, Pap rides along beside the wagons and makes sure everything is in working order. That’s when he lets me ride with him. I sit right behind Pap on Gabe’s back and hold on to his waist. When I want to get down, I slide off the back end, over Gabe’s rump. The only bad part is I feel bowlegged for a while when I get down. Yep, that’s me: Bowlegged Teddy.
 
I walked for a while with Minnie Good and her sister, Hallie. They both have cornhusk dolls they made before the trip. I carried Veronica. Minnie thinks she is elegant. Hallie specially loves her hair. When I told them it was your very own real hair, cut by your mother and glued onto Veronica’s china head, they wanted to touch it to feel how real it is.
While we were walking, Travis Lark galloped up with big news. He’s one of the messenger boys. He rides his horse, Dixie, all up and down the train delivering messages to the pushers or taking notes to different families. He said Captain Walsh announced that tonight we will camp just outside of Meridian, and we’ll stay until Monday! Do you know what that means? We will get to see the biggest city in Mississippi! Minnie and Hallie and I talked all about it.
 
Meridian has a huge railway station, wide city streets with lots of stores, and a Grand Opera House. Emily Carter has been there and showed me a stack of postcards. Miss Emily is nice. She has some fashion catalogues, and she gave them to me, Minnie, and Hallie. We rip out pictures of people and glue them to cardboard. Then, we cut them out and cut stands for their feet, so they’ll stand up on their own. The next thing we do is cut out all sorts of clothes from the catalogue pages and leave little paper tabs on them when we cut them out. Then, we fold them over, like paper dolls. Minnie and Hallie and I LOVE cutting out our paper dolls, and we each have whole families of them. We have dozens and dozens of outfits for them, too.
 
Miss Emily said maybe later on she’ll teach me how to make my own real doll clothes for Veronica. I can already sew and mend, but I’ve never actually cut out doll clothes and sewn them up. That will be lots of fun. Then, I can make Veronica matching outfits to mine.
 
As soon as I found out we’re stopping at Meridian, I ran home to tell Mama. Of course, she lit up like a Christmas tree. Mama has always wanted to see Meridian. Who knows what all we will see and do?
Love,
Teddy
LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

We had school today. During the afternoon break, Miss Melman met with those of us who are 11 to 14 years old. I know what you’re thinking. My birthday isn’t until June, but it’s so close, she said I could join the older group.
 
Miss Melman reminds me of Miss Pedigrew at Salter’s Grove School. She tells wonderful stories. She’s originally from Charleston, South Carolina, and took piano lessons from the time she was a child. Martha, she has a piano on the wagon train! I know it seems hard to believe. Way, way back at the end of the train there are two extra wagons. Folks hired drivers and their wagons to take extra belongings and furniture to Florida. 
Miss Melman took us to the very end of the train and showed us her piano. She told us she tipped the men who loaded the wagon to put her piano in last by the back opening. That way, she can sit on the little stool and play it anytime she wants. When she’s not playing, she keeps it covered with three quilts and an oilcloth. It’s a deep red wood. Mahogany, she calls it. Mama would love to own a piano like that. She always wanted to learn to play. I guess that’s why she sings so much.
I told Mama about the piano. I thought she’d be happy about it, but she said, “What will Miss Cassie Melman do in Florida with a piano and starched, white skirts?” Then, for a while, she wouldn’t talk to anyone. I can’t figure her out sometimes.
 
Anyway, let me get back to the school part. Miss Melman will have school with several groups of kids each week. One of the men drives her wagon, and that frees her up to teach. Sometimes, we will meet during a rest period when we stop to let the animals rest. Sometimes, we will stop early, so we can have school for longer periods of time. The kids who don’t know their letters, or how to read very well, are in the beginner group. I’m in the intermediate group. Minnie Good is in my group, too. So is Travis Lark, the boy who beat me out of my marbles. They’re both 11. I’m the youngest, but I’m still the best reader. The only thing is, our teacher, Miss Melman, uses my real name, Theodosia, not Teddy. I told Mama. She said, “You tell Miss Fancy Pants she can call you Teddy like everyone else.” I had to grit my teeth when Mama said that. Why does Mama say things like that? Great buckets of butterbeans!
 
During our class, we reviewed the alphabet, the vowels, and consonants with hornbooks. Surprise! Miss Melman has a trunk full of BRAND NEW hornbooks because she is on her way to Florida to teach at The Sheridan School for Girls. Since they’re new, the horn coverings are very clear with no scratches or curled-up corners. Remember the ones at Salter’s Grove School? I still have a scar on my arm where a piece of old horn had curled away from the nail.
 
Anyway, Miss Melman said that she will read two books to us while we are on our journey: Alice in Wonderland, for the girls, and Tom Sawyer, for the boys.
I am so happy about that. It will make the trip go faster. After school was over, Travis and I played marbles again. I knuckled down as best as I could, but Travis won the lag and got to start. He picked off ten more of my marbles. I’m down to six. I lost my peewee and two of the cat’s eyes I won from your brother.
 
Vexation!
Love,
Teddy
 
LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

I lost my best shooter and 12 of my favorite marbles. Vexation!
 
That kid I told you about, Travis, showed me a thing or two about playing marbles. We played Ring Taw, and he was good! He said he’d give them back because this was the first time we’d played together, but I said, “No, we said ‘keepsies,’ and you won fair and square.” So my marble sock is half empty. I wasn’t too mad about it ’cause we had fun.
I’m planning to win them back, anyway.
 
Guess what? I counted the kids on the wagon train. There are 56 children from 24 families. That’s not counting the babies. Those are the kids who are at least three years old and older. I met another girl my age, Minnie Good.
 
Everyone likes her because she’s GOOD. Get it? I like her, too, but you will always be my best friend.
 
Martha, I have the best news to tell you. Miss Cassie Melman, six wagons back, is riding with the wagon train even though she’s a single lady. She was a teacher in Mississippi and has agreed to have school for us children several times a week, whenever we can. Isn’t that terrific?
 
I hope she has some good books. You know how I am with books. Miss Melman is pretty and wears her hair up under a straw hat. She also wears long, white, starched skirts. I think she looks so smart and stylish. I told Mama all about it, and she said, “Let’s see how long Miss Cassie Melman can keep those white, starched skirts clean.”
 
We’re starting school tomorrow afternoon. How in the world will we have school on a wagon train? I wonder. I forgot to tell you that we brought Girlie with us. You know Mama wouldn’t leave Mississippi without her. She’s tied to the back of our wagon on a loose line and walks along when we’re rolling. Mama milks her first thing each morning. I milk her at night. When we pass meadows of what Mama calls “good grass,” she tells me to run cut a basketful for Girlie. She says, “I don’t want her getting into milkweed or onion grass.” Mama puts the extra grass in a huge bag and hangs it from the side of the wagon. If we camp by a field of clover or good grass, Pap stakes Girlie out with the mules, and she can eat to her heart’s content. If not, Mama feeds her the sweet, dried grass from the bag. I think anyone who produces milk for an entire family deserves the best grass the Good Lord can provide, don’t you?
 
We made pancakes this morning for breakfast. I skimmed the cream from Girlie’s milk, poured it in a glass canning jar, added a pinch of salt, and shook it until it turned to butter. We’re camped right by a spring. The water’s cold, so I washed the ball of butter in the cold water to get the whey out. Mama said it was the best butter she’d ever tasted. I told Mama her pancakes were the best I’d ever tasted.
 
Pap said, “I have the two best cooks on the train.”
The candle has burned low and will soon go out. Mama saves the stubs for me, so I can write after she blows out the lantern. She is trying to save our oil until we get to Dothan. I melt the ends of the stubs and stick them together, so I have one tall candle. It’s not pretty, but it works.
 
I can hear Pap snoring. Mama and Dylan have been asleep for a while now.
I better get some shut-eye.
Love,
Teddy
 

 

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

This morning, as we were driving the wagon, Mama said, “Oh, look, Teddy! There’s a cardinal. See his bright red color? Seeing a redbird means good luck.”
 
Mama and her birds. She used to tell me that when the cardinals start singing, as the sun comes up, it sounds like they’re saying, “Good morning! Good morning!”
 
The people in the wagon in front of us are the Carters. They’re older than Pap and Mama. Their son and his wife, Emily, and their baby have the wagon in front of them. All the Carters shared supper together with us last night. The men built the fire and watered the teams. Mama and Mrs. Carter made black-eyed peas, ham, and cornbread. Emily and I bathed her baby and Dylan in a tub. Her baby, Lucy, is a year old. Even though Dylan is almost two, they had a good time together splashing in the water.
 
After we bathed the babies, we washed their diapers, rinsed them, and Emily helped me twist out all the water. You know how I hate that part. She strung a line between our wagons, and we hung the diapers out to dry overnight. I have to wash diapers every night, so Dylan will have fresh ones for the next day. Sometimes, Mama swaps chores with me. She lets me wash the supper dishes, and she does the diapers.
 
My favorite time of day is after supper when all the chores are done. We sit outside by the fire. We can see the fires of all the other families stretched along the train. We can hear folks playing the fiddle or the mandolin. Pap plays his harmonica sometimes. Mr. Carter, his son, Martin, and Pap talk about the trip and tell stories. Mama and Emily rock
their babies by the fire while Mrs. Carter bundles her healing herbs. I’m just supposed to listen. Mama says children should be seen and not heard. But even so, I like listening to the stories and watching the babies fall asleep.
 
At night, Mama and I sleep in the wagon with Baby Dylan between us. We have a soft pallet on the floor. Mama made it out of old blankets and goose down. I always put Veronica beside me on the pillow. I still can’t believe you gave her to me, Martha. She is the best going-away present ever, and she is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned.
 
I will keep her forever.
 
This afternoon, Mama used her paints to paint some little flowers along the back of our wagon. They’re bright and cheerful and make our wagon look different from anyone else’s. Mama is so smart. It’s still cold, especially after the sun goes down. I’m glad we have the featherbed to keep us warm. Pap sleeps outside under the wagon. I don’t know how he stands it. Mama heats big rocks in the campfire, and when they’re piping hot, she wraps them in felt. She tucks them in Pap’s sacking to keep his feet warm. Then, she covers him with several quilts on top of the sacking. Pap says he sleeps nice and cozy.
 
Pap and the other men sleeping under their wagons watch for rustlers and varmints. I wonder what we’ll have to watch for in Florida. Folks say Florida is a wilderness. Great buckets of butterbeans!
 
Oh, remember that kid who is from the wagon ten wagons ahead of us? He came by today, when we were rolling, and asked, “You play marbles?” I said, “Better than any boy!” It’s a good thing Mama didn’t hear me. He said, “Alright then. How about tomorrow?” Wait till I whup him good! I’ll show that kid who’s boss.
 
Love,
Teddy

 

LISTEN
Click the Play button to listen.

Sorry, flash is not available.

Dear Martha,

We left two weeks ago today, but so much has happened, it seems like we’ve been gone forever. I still can’t believe we are part of a wagon train. Everywhere I look are covered wagons, up front and behind. Did you ever dream I would be on a wagon train? That sounds like something we would read about in a dime novel!
 
I wish you and your family could have come with us. It’s different for you. Your pap owns his own land. Mama hated to leave Mississippi, but owning land means everything to her and Pap.
 
This is their chance. The worst part for me was leaving you. I’ll miss Mississippi, but—Florida! What will it be like? The chance to have a new adventure.
 
I had to get used to riding all day in the wagon. Mama and I ride on the wooden seat up behind Jester and Jingo. That’s right, the same mules Pap plowed the fields with. They
are the prettiest team on the train. Some folks already have their oxen, but most are driving mules. Pap said we’ll have to trade our mules in for oxen when we reach Dothan, Alabama.
 
I like being up high on the wagon seat. It’s incredible! You can see everything from up there. But the wagon bounces and lurches when one of the mules steps in a rut. I get sore after a while, especially on my sitting-down place. Ha ha!
 
You saw our wagon before we left Salter’s Grove, but that was before we covered it with the huge canvas. The first day out we stopped early, so Mama and I spread the canvas out on the grass and painted it with linseed oil. Linseed oil makes it waterproof. Pap stretched it up over the wooden stays, and he and Mama and I lashed it all around, as tight as a drum. Of course, the wagon is not as roomy as our cabin, but it will have to be our home for the journey.
 
Pap says he’s hoping we’ll be on our land in four months, even though it is 1,000 miles away. That sounds like the longest trip imaginable. We don’t have all our supplies yet. We’ll stop to buy everything when we cross Alabama and arrive in Dothan. Mama brought food from home to last till then. That way, the wagon is not so heavy for the mules to pull. Pap wants them to be in good shape, so he can get top dollar when he trades for oxen.
 
You would be so proud of Jester and Jingo, especially Jester. He’s so handsome. I know they’re the same old mules we had on the farm, but they look like royal horses when they pull this fine wagon. A boy my age, whose wagon is ahead of ours by about ten wagons, walked by yesterday. He yelled, “Them’s fine mules!” I shouted back, “The finest on this train!” Mama pinched me. She said the kids will think I’m stuck up if I talk like that. She is always trying to hush me.
 
Martha, how am I going to make it on this journey without you? I promise to write every day or as often as I can. Will you write me, too? For now, you can send your letters to: Miss Theodosia Bodain, C/O Postmaster, General Delivery, Dothan, Alabama.
 
It will be weeks till I get there, but I will look forward to hearing from you. Martha, you are my best friend forever!
 
Love,
Teddy