Tragedy at Iron Flats
Robert C. Waggoner
Copyright 2017 by Robert C. Waggoner
Tragedy at Iron Flats
Mr. Edwin Marsh, DDS and wife Anna were both staring out of a hotel window observing a heavy downpour scattering the citizens of St. Louis for cover. Women were holding their dresses up fighting a losing battle trying to keep them clean from all the mud and animal waste that was growing deeper by the minute. “This city is dirtier than London,” Anna exclaimed rather too loudly into Edwin’s ear.
“Just think how green the grass will be after we cross the Mississippi River going west,” Edwin said softly.
Anna loved him for his soft voice which always gave her comfort in stressful times like this. It was the beginning that haunted her with nightmares. After leaving port in Liverpool, the unpredictable weather hit the overcrowded ship entering the Atlantic. Like the majority of passengers migrating to New York City, she too leaned over the side of the ship heaving up a mostly empty stomach into the frothy black water. As second class passengers, they had the advantage over steerage passengers. They were relegated to the bowels of the ship in such fetid conditions that most were in shock at what they endured for the week long, or in some cases, a month long journey to the promised land.
By the time they entered the harbor in New York, the second leg of the journey was about to happen. Like cattle, they were ushered into a building for documentation. By the time she was asked so many redundant questions by a very rude officer, she almost lost it. Her soft spoken husband whispered in her ear: “Darling, remember your lofty position. Don’t lower yourself and grovel to these workers who are just trying to make a living like we hope for in a new country.”
Anna shut up, but if one was to inspect her inner lip and tongue, would find small wounds that took days to heal. Nutrition for substance was nowhere to be found on ship or land. She longed for back home where spring time brought forth fresh vegetables and warm bread with a cup of hot tea.
Anna turned from the window which had streams of muddy water riveting down the glass. She flopped down on the soft bed and silently cried tears of loneliness for back home. They left family and friends at the dock. There was not a dry eye anywhere seen onboard or dockside. Soon a horn blew and lines were cast severing the ties of home forever.
Edwin came over to the bed seeing the heaving of his wife back due to giant sobs emulating from the muffled covers. “Please don’t cry, my darling. We can’t go back because there’s nothing to go back to. If we have a future, it must be here in the New World. God will see to our needs after we’ve suffered so mightily on our sojourn. The road ahead is difficult and fraught with some danger from the natives who resent the invasion of white people like you and I. They say once we get to St. Louis, it’s just a few weeks until we reach our destination in the new city of Denver.”
Anna had heard this story many times and resented the fact she had to suffer her health and beauty for a life in the wilderness. She wondered if they would ever have afternoon tea again. She had faithfully packed their favorite tea, but tea tasted best with hot water in a tea cup. Her having no hot water or tea cups, made her sad all over again.
She felt Edwin’s hand rub her back and it felt good. He said, “Let’s spend some money for a hot bath, my dear. Maybe afterwards we can have a hot dinner as well. And as strange as it sounds, maybe a good night’s sleep in each other’s arms.”
Anna knew what he meant and she really was not in the mood for any kind of coupling, but she also realized he needed some relief. She rolled over and said, “Sounds good. Maybe that will refresh my attitude having a bath and a hot meal,” she said with a coy look signaling she heard what he said about the night’s sleep.
After Edwin arranged for a hot bath for his wife, he climbed the stairs to their third floor room. The stairs made creaking sounds as if the hotel was very old. He heard his uncle who was a carpenter say the squeaking sound came from the left over sawdust from the hurried construction. He wondered if that was really true.
Anna had her toiletries ready to go when he walked into their room. Edwin noticed she had shut the window to help close out the din of the busy street below. However, his sharp ears heard men yelling, horses neighing, screams from the drink houses and raucous laughter from the building next door that were rooms for the ladies of the night.
Anna said, “I’m ready. Where do I go, Edwin?”
“I’ll take you as there were some rowdy cowboys checking in at the desk. I’ve no idea why they are here so far east, but best be safe than sorry.”
Surprisingly, the bath and dinner were rather nice. Anna’s mood perked up and was actually enjoying the spirited conversation that was happening around her. Edwin was delighted and said so: ‘‘Honey, we must endure the hardship for the next few weeks and into the future. I’m counting on the citizens in Denver having some money derived from the gold that we hear about in that area. However, all people need their teeth fixed at one time or another. I have all my tools and stuff. I just need a small space and a barber chair which probably needs ordering from San Francisco.”
Anna looked around and saw their neighbors were all engaged in conversation. She whispered just loud enough for him to hear: ‘‘Where did you hide our money, dear?”
“In a false bottom of one of our bags. If the stage gets robbed, then I’ll give them about ten dollars. We need to dress like we’re very poor. Not like we are rich bankers or such professions, but regular laborers is what I hope we can portray.”
Anna smiled and said a silent prayer to her favorite angel. They continued eating in silence enjoying the hot food and loving the vegetables. After dinner they made their way upstairs to their room. It was still noisy as lots of immigrates and locals were celebrating life. Edwin stood at the window seeing people moving up and down the street. When they passed under a street light, a yellow cast with a dark shadow preceded them for short ways until they walked into darkness.
“Edwin, come to bed. I’m a little cold and need some warm arms around me,” said a slightly husky voice that he recognized as needing some loving. In a short while, Edwin was snoring softly and Anna stared at the dim light that came from a street light three stories below. For some reason, she felt that their loving making tonight would result in her becoming with child. She smiled and closed her eyes at the thought of become a mother at age twenty four.
It was not the street noise, nor a bad dream that woke the pilgrims the next morning. It was the bright sunlight pouring through the dirt streaked window casting a yellowish glow upon the frayed bed spread and its habitants under the covers. Anna’s mouth was as dry as the desert they were about to encounter. She said, raspy voiced, “I feel like I could sleep for a week, Edwin.”
He rolled over and covered his eyes with his arm. “You and me both, my dear. I suppose we should get up and have some breakfast before shopping for some traveling clothes.”
“Yes, but first I need the comfort room.” Anna crawled out of bed, put her robe on and slippers. She walked to the door, opened it a crack, looked around to see if anyone was watching her, seeing no one, she quickly went down the hall to the community privy. She quickly did her toilet, washed her face and hands in fresh water, said a quick prayer to the person who had delivered the water and quick stepped back to the room.
Edwin followed suit and was soon back with a fresh look and hair combed. He said, “Let’s eat and do our business. Even after a nice dinner, I’m still hungry from the long voyage. I hope they have some pork and such things.”
Anna made no comment. Edwin opened the door and soon they were sitting next to the window watching the hustle and bustle of 1890 New York City.
An unsmiling waitress came up to the table and caustically asked, “What will you have this morning.”
Edwin looked up and smiled, softly saying, “Good morning. We’d like tea if it’s available if not coffee with sugar and milk will suffice.”
Looking down her long pointed nose, a loose strand of yellowish hair falling over one eye, replied, “I’ll see if we got some tea bags. What do you want to eat?”
Anna glared at the woman then looked around the nearly full room. It appeared that the waitress standing at their table was one of two in a very busy hotel restaurant. Anna’s glare turned to a face of pity and said, “It looks like you’re very busy. We’d both like some ham and eggs please. Also toast if you have bread.”
The waitress cracked a smile and said, “Yes, we’ve tons of bread and pork. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Anna watched her walk away with a slight limp of what was probably a pair of ill fitting shoes.
It was a pleasant surprise that Anna and Edwin had hot tea and a nice plate of ham and eggs. They ate heartily and left a tip for the hard working server.
An inquiry or two among a few citizens brought forth the location of a clothing store that ultimately fit the bill nicely. They decided in St. Louis they would have the stiff new clothes washed with bleach to fade the clothes making them appear old and worn.
Back at the hotel, they packed their new clothes and checked out to find the train station. The porter helped them load up and to tell the horse drawn carriage driver where this young couple wanted to go. A nod from the driver and a tender snap of the whip and off they went amid the heavy traffic of downtown New York City.
Both Anna and Edwin looked with interest at the people and all things that made up the city. Edwin saw window writing advertising a dentist and also signs advertising medical doctors as well. Anna notice nicely dressed women who obviously had rich husbands strolling with their backs to the streets window shopping. Edwin noticed smartly dressed men who were either lawyers, bankers or business men seeking riches of the New World.
The taxi driver paid no attention to the noisy or commotion around him. For him it was just another day trying to make a living with an ever increasing growth of taxis prowling the streets. Edwin saw a few electric taxis and marveled at what the world might look like in the future.
At the train station, the crowded area was a scene of wonder. Edwin and Anna both wondered how they would find the ticket office and eventually have to find their train. Edwin looked for help from a porter. Finally a black young man came up smiling. Edwin smiled in return and nodded to him. The porter disappeared and came back with a hand cart. In no time they were inside the bustling station. The porter said, “Have your wife stay here with the bags and follow me to the ticket office. Where are you going, sir?”
“St. Louis,” replied Edwin.
“I’ll lead the way and have a ticket agent who will help us without a long wait,” he said with a sparkling white toothy smile.
The porter was true to his word as a small tip in the right pocket helped Edwin and wife quickly proceed to the track where, by luck, the west bound train was waiting to load up its passengers and freight.
With the porter in the lead, Edwin right behind, Anna struggling to keep up the rapid pace, a line of immigrates were about to head west to their new home. With a generous tip, the porter loaded their belongings onboard and made sure they had good seats to travel the long distance to St. Louis.
Edwin said to Anna, “I think we made our first friend in the New World, Anna.”
“Yes, he seemed very nice, but did you notice that his shoes were practically worn out?”
Edwin lowered his head and felt sorry for the porter, but the smile and respect he showed was honestly given. He turned to watch the people hustling about looking anxiously at the trains praying the train would not leave without them. It was not long when the Pullman car they were in began filling up with fellow passengers.
The comfortable seats, much like overstuffed chairs, sat facing each other. Anna wondered why and then guessed it was because of the extremely long journeys, passengers would need the conversation with fellow passengers. Just when she finished her thought, a late middle age couple stood smiling down at Edwin and Anna. The man said, “We’re traveling to Chicago and would very much like to sit with you. Would that be permissible to you folks?”
Edwin said, “By all means, please join my wife and I. I’m Edwin Marsh and this is my wife Anna.”
By then Edwin had stood up facing the pudgy man. The new comer said, “I’m Craig Fellows and this is my wife, Arlene. It’s our pleasure to meet you folks.” Craig took his hat off revealing a shiny head devoid of even one hair.
Edwin sat down allowing room for the new folks to sit down. The train had yet to depart and the outside noise was rather annoying. Edwin noticed Craig had on a three piece suit with a gold chain connected to a watch. He guessed the man a banker by his rather stiff tone and demeanor.
Anna on the other hand took in her opposite that sat down with a rather unlady like plump as if she had been standing way to long and needed to remove her overweight body off her small feet.
Once settled in, Craig said, reaching for a cigar, “I work for a bank in Chicago. We’ve been to New York on business and now, thankfully, we’re retuning home. Might I ask where you folks are going?”
Edwin stared hard at Craig as the cigar reached his mouth. It would be over Edwin’s dead body that he and his wife would suffer the stench of a putrid cigar. Edwin said, “Before you light that cigar, Mr. Fellows, we’d prefer if you didn’t smoke it here. I think I saw at one end of the car a place to sit and smoke. Both my wife and I would sure appreciate it.”
Craig’s hand slowly moved up to the cigar as Edwin noticed his cheeks turning slightly red with his bushy eyebrows lowering over his glaring eyes. He took a breath and said, “I’m not used to being asked to not do something I enjoy. It’s a long, long ride and I do enjoy my smoke.”
“Well, Mr. Fellows, I see there are other seats open why don’t you go sit somewhere else and leave us some clean air to breathe,” said a smiling Edwin.
Anna was looking at Arlene. Arlene met Anna’s eyes and with an almost imperceptible smile, showed her agreement about the foul smelling cigars.
Craig Fellows jumped up, resulting in Anna sucking in a sharp gasp of air and Craig said, “We’ll do that very thing. We don’t need a two week journey riding with silent passengers. Good day to you both.”
“I sure hope this confrontation doesn’t come back to haunt us, Anna,” Edwin said with a slight turn of his body to look out the window and to see Anna looking at him with the same thoughts.
“Let’s put it behind us and we might be fortunate to have some nice seat mates for the long trip ahead of us. Besides, we paid for the sleeping car and I plan on using it to take a long rest in. I’ve some letters to write and a couple books I brought from back home. Oh, here comes some more passengers,” Anna said making Edwin turn and look at a man and wife searching for a place to sit.
Edwin noticed they looked at Craig and quickly passed them by. The man stopped at where Edwin and Anna were sitting and with hat in hand said, “May we join you. My wife and I are new to America and really don’t know the customs of this fine country.”
“Please sit down and join us,” said Edwin rising quickly with a warm smile.
The couple sat down rather tentatively and when all were settled in Edwin introduced him and Anna. The newly arrived couple said, “I’m Bart Madzer and this is my wife, Beth. We’re from London and are traveling to the new city of Denver. My brother is already living there and we’ll join his family in the hardware business.”
“We too are from London and traveling to Denver. I’m a dentist and plan on opening up an office there. We just arrived in New York a few days ago. I’m happy to make your acquaintance. Anna will serve as my assistant as she did in London.”
Anna leaned up slightly and said, “Nice to meet you both. Beth what will you be doing in your new home and business, if I might be so bold as to ask.”
“I want a family soon as we get located. I want to be busy with raising a family. If I’m needed in the store, then I’ll help or do whatever is necessary for us to have a good life in the Americas.”
“I’m not positive, but I think I’m with child now. It’s just a feeling rather than any positive proof. I too am excited about our adventure. At least we speak the common language of English. I feel sorry for the immigrants that live in mixed company with others who have varied languages.”
They were interrupted by a railroad person dressed in all blue who said, “All visitors depart as the train will leave in five minutes. A paper boy will come by with news papers for sale if you so desire to read the news.”
He turned and left. Edwin glanced at Craig and wife seeing nobody with them. However, as he understood it, the car was fully booked. He wondered where the other passengers were.
Just then two passengers stepped on the train. The woman was talking a mile a minute and at a level that must have hurt the man’s ears who trailed her. Edwin heard her say, “Now where are we going to sit, George? Oh, here are two seats for us. She brushed by Craig without noticing him and plopped down with a flourish of exasperation. The air was filled with a sweet nauseas perfume that made Edwin’s nose tickle. He saw Craig take out his handkerchief and blow his nose. Edwin smiled and thought that the perfume might fight with the cigar for which one was the most offensive.
They all looked at each other and began to smile and chuckle at the uncouth woman when they continued to hear her tell her husband, “George, make sure our things are put in our room. I don’t want my toiletries’ broken or thrown around. I’ll wait here and see if I can get comfortable for the ride. God I hate being away from home. I realize now we should have brought my maid to help us when needed.”
Anna was staring at her and then she realized the woman was looking right at her smiling. Anna thought the woman was way too showing and at her age, around fifty, she guessed, was one over bearing show off. It appeared they were wealthy as she mentioned a maid, but looking at her husband, who walked by on his way to check on their luggage, he looked like a postal clerk and not a rich business man. But then, it was hard to guess what he really did for sure. It was later when Edwin talked to him and found out he was a bank teller manager in Chicago.
The train whistle blew and the train started to move ever so slowly. The boarding dock was still busy with porters and passengers walking quickly to other trains that were taking passengers to all parts of the country. Anna felt a little thrill to be one of those passengers beginning a new life. However, she was not that naive to realize that it would be a rough road to a new life that would be filled with both hardship and good times.
Edwin, with the forward motion of the train, they were really going to their destination with, so far, no real setbacks. He reached over and found Anna’s hand which was warm to the touch. He squeezed slightly and had a squeeze back. Even though they were young, he felt they had been together for a long time. Anna on the other hand was still getting use to being a wife and especially a wife in a foreign land. There was nothing familiar to her and all was like out of a science fiction book. She realized that life was never going to be the same and each day would bring forth new wonders.
The train station left behind, they saw residential areas that appeared similar to England. Kids were running alongside the train trying to catch the attention of passengers who just might toss a coin out the window. Later they passed through the industrial area where factories were spewing forth black smoke indicating that industrial work was creating both jobs and products that were for sale in a multitude of stores in the east.
Anna listened to the click clack of the train passing over the joints of the track. It was kind of soothing, she thought, as she laid her head back to enjoy the pleasant sound. For some reason, none of the passengers were talking. Apparently all were in their own world thinking about what the future might bring each and every one aboard the train.
It was logical to think that some would debark in the major cities along the way to St. Louis. Anna wondered how many would eventually go west for one reason or another. She also wondered how many regretted their decision to leave their homeland for the unknown. It was scary to think about it. There were two things essential to their lives: A shelter and sustenance to continue life. All of which took money to achieve those two ends.
Anna had bad dreams that her husband would not have enough patients to provide the necessary means to the end she so desired. And to further complicate the situation, what if she really was pregnant? It would be another mouth to feed and it would take her away her need to assist her husband while tending to the needs of their new born.
When Anna opened her eyes, they were in rural New York with a few farms here and there with dedicated farmers determined to make a living. Anna knew, from her upbringing that life for a farmer hinged upon the weather. Weather was never forecast with any real hope that most farmers needed. One day they needed rain and then later on they needed sunshine. Farming at best was a crap shoot, as her father used to say.
A warm feeling engulfed her witnessing the farms along the way. Farming was the industry that led the way to development. Without her family and other families to support the city folk, all would never have left the countryside to find the easier life in cities. However, those city workers found out that the same long days of toil were not much different that back home in the country with a shovel in their hands. Anna said a thank you for all the farmers who made the long trip to a new land to break ground on a new life. With a slight guilt trip, she realized all too clearly she was soon to rely on street markets and general stores to feed her ever growing family.
She turned to look at her husband who had nodded off with his head slumped over onto her shoulder. She saw his clauses free hands in his lap slightly intertwined. Every once in awhile, they would twitch as if he was picking on a patients tooth digging around to see if any calories were evident.
Anna looked at her own hands which showed slight signs of work. However, she really hoped she could soon get to a place where they could call home. She pictured a corner house within walking distance to her husband’s dental clinic. Their three kids were running around the house playing hide and seek in their three story house with a frontal porch for summer days of enjoyment. Her flower gardens sprayed a rainbow of colors bordering the walkway to the house and to the house itself. This was her dream.
What Anna did not know was Denver was a mile high from sea level. Summers were short and the other three seasons were a bit on the chilly side. Not to mention a ton of snow during the winter season. Consequently, the growing season was short, but after a while, residents accepted the climate because Denver was a growing city.
Anna came out of her dream as Edwin woke up with a start. His neck did a series of swivels as if he did not know where he was. Anna reached out and grabbed his hand to reassure he was safe and sound rocking back and forth on a train. “Where are we if you have any notion? How long have I been napping,” Edwin said rubbing his eyes and sitting up straight.
“I heard a passenger say about half way to Albany, its beautiful country, but scenery looks nice when the sun shines. I’m getting a little hungry. How about you?”
“Yes, I could do with something to eat and a cuppa. I wonder which way is the dining car that is supposed to be somewhere on this train. Have you seen a porter anywhere lately,” said Edwin looking around the seats and down the hall way.
“I think it’s that way,” said Bart pointing over his shoulder with his thumb behind him. I’ll go look and if so, will make a reservation for four if that’s alright with you?”
“Yes, indeed it is. We’d like that very much, wouldn’t we Anna?” Anna nodded and smiled at Beth who seemed rather shy.
Bart rose and turned walking towards the front of the train. They waited silently while he was gone. In a short while, he came back smiling. He leaned over and quietly said, “We can go anytime. It’s just one car ahead of us. It looks nice with white table clothes.” Bart stepped back to let the ladies out and after Edwin followed their wives, Bart brought up the rear.
Seated in the dining car, a pleasant waiter said what the lunch special for the day. “My name is Carl and I’m always here to wait on the passengers. We have beef stew and still warm bread. What would you like to drink?”
Edwin said, “I’d like tea and so would my wife. How about you Bart and Beth?”
“Same for us. I thought I could smell stew. Brings back memories. Now I’m really hungry,” Bart said laughing.
Anna saw a tear roll down Beth’s cheek. Like herself, she too missed family and life back in England. For some reason, she was thinking maybe life back home was really not that bad. Here, for example, was a contrast with back home. The people here were boisterous, rather rude and seemed to care for no one but themselves. Anna felt her eyes well up and no doubt she was homesick. Like a small child, she missed her mother most of all – not to mention her siblings. With her napkin she dabbed her eyes and tried to smile at Beth who was doing exactly the same thing.
Both Bart and Edwin noticed their wives feelings. First Edwin tried to lighten the mood with talk of the future. Bart said, “With the gold rush in Denver I’m sure lots of miners will need hardware to dig for the yellow rocks. I think we’ll be very busy and that means Beth will play an important part of the business. My family said that they plan on a wagon with hardware to help service the miners away from town. Not sure how that would work, but I think we can expect life to be satisfying.”
‘You’re right Bart,” said Edwin. “I’m sure there will be lots of toothaches that need fixing. With a baby coming, we’ll need to have many patients. Anna will be really busy with raising a family and helping out at my clinic. I think we can expect more of our friends and family to immigrate out west. Oh, here comes our stew. I see it steaming and sure hope the bread is fresh as well.”
Sadly, the familiar smell of the stew brought fresh tears to Anna’s eyes. It reminded her too much like back home in her mother’s kitchen. It was the cast iron pot on the wood stove, with steam roiling out top, spreading a delicious smell throughout the small house, which brought her to tears. She saw her mother standing at the sink with her usual clean apron on that was always freshly ironed. He hair up in a bun to not get in the way, made her mother look rather like a grandmother than a wife and mother at only forty years of age.
She heard a voice saying, “Anna, you’re not eating this nice stew. Like me, it brings back memories of home. However, my dear, we have to look forward and not back to make a new life for our family.”
Anna looked up at him with a weak smile and red eyes. Even her nose was a bit red, but no amount of makeup would hide the sorrow in her lovely face. She reached up and flicked back a few strands of light brown hair, then picked up her spoon. Beth had followed suit and it would prove later they were like sisters rather than just made friends. They were so much alike and in the days to follow, were seen chatting together with smiles and gestures to show their happiness.
After dinner all decided a long nap was in order. Besides all wanted to see what their sleeping accommodations looked like. Anna wanted to better organize her bags and dig out her bathroom essentials. Edwin said, as they entered, “Kind of cozy, but at least it’s a place we can stretch out in.” Both had learned to keep one hand and arm ready to the sometimes violent sway of the train to uneven tracks.
“I’m going to the toilet to freshen up. I feel really tired and full from a nice meal. I wonder, Edwin, what we’ll eat in Denver?”
“I suspect lots of beef or meat of some sort. I really don’t know about produce, but I suppose they have farms like we see along the way here,” said Edwin taking off his coat.
He lay down and closed his eyes as Anna walked out the door. She knew he would be snoring when she returned. There was one thing about her husband, he could sleep anywhere at any time.
Anna softly knocked on the restroom door. A soft knock came back telling her it was occupied. As she stepped back, she heard a family voice saying, “Anna is that you?”
It was Beth and when she replied that it was indeed Anna, the door opened to let her in. There really was not much room for two inside the small privy, but both women were on the slight side.
“Wow, I need to freshen up, Anna,” said Beth washing her face. Neither woman wore much make up. Each wore cheek blush and lipstick.
“Me too. I also need to relieve myself, if you don’t mind,” said Anna.
“No, go ahead. We’re friends now and hopefully for a long time. Do you really think you’re pregnant?”
“Of course I don’t know for sure, but it seemed that after we made love, I felt something like a joining of the two of us. I really don’t know much about the act of intercourse. My mother never told me much except after I had my first blood. She told me that when our monthly blood stopped we would have a baby growing inside us. What do you know about the reproduction process, Beth?”
“The same as you. I had blood on the ship and now I’m in the middle somewhere. I want to have a baby like you do. I’m going back to our sleeping room and tell my husband to make a baby. Besides sometimes I feel good about our coupling, but it never seems to last long enough,” said Beth as she combed her long wavy hair
Anna laughed and said, “Right now my husband is sleeping and to wake him is a big problem sometimes. It would be nice for the both of us to have our kids the same age. Not sure why, but it seems and feels right. I wish we’d get to Denver very soon. I’m really sick of traveling, aren’t you?”
“Yes, so tired and this swaying train make me a little woozy in the stomach. It’s too much like the boat ride we endured. Also, some of our fellow passengers make we a little scared. Especially that fat guy across from us. His perfume makes me sick to my stomach. Her perfume is not so bad, but with his bad breath it nauseates me.”
“I’m ready if you are, Anna. Let’s make a supper time around six?”
“Yes, I’ll inform Edwin. Well, see you then and thanks for the nice conversation. I’ve never had this kind of conversation with any other women before in my life. It feels good to share things with friends. See you soon.”
Bart was reading the bible when Beth came in. He looked up and said, “You look happy, my dear.”
“I am and mark your place in your book please. We have some important things to do to prepare for the future,” Beth said with a twinkle in her eye that Bart did not mistake the important work ahead of him.
Anna opened the door quietly so as not to waken Edwin. She undressed and it felt good to remove all the restricting dress women wore. She too lay down, but sleep eluded her. Her brain was running faster than the train was moving. She closed her eyes and thought about what her new home might look like. She dreamed of a two story home with at least three bedrooms for her intended big family. Her thoughts were practical, such as, heating their home. She had heard that Denver in the winter time was very cold and snowy. Also, if it was really cold then the water would freeze. How would they deal with that situation? It all seemed so challenging. Hard work was never an obstacle in her life. Her last thoughts were of her baby in her stomach as she drifted off to sleep listening to the clack clack of the swaying train.
Both Anna and Edwin were jolted awake by the train coming to a stop. Edwin said, “What happened and why are we stopped?”
Anna peeked out the window seeing the platform full of people walking in both directions. She saw a sign that said, ‘‘Albany’‘. “We’re in Albany, Edwin. It’s just after five pm by the clock hanging under the sign. I agreed to us having dinner at six pm with Beth and Bart. I think we should get prepared for supper.”
“Yes, that’s fine by me. I need the privy and when I’m finished, it’s your turn, unless that fat banker not in there smoking up the area,” Edwin said stretching his body to loosen up due to the inactivity of the last eight hours or so.
After a clean up to be dinner ready, the Marsh’s left to join Bart and Beth in the dining car. As they entered the dining car, they were surprised to see the car full of diners chatting away with others. Standing waiting was the cigar banker shifting from one foot to the other mumbling the inconvenience of having to wait for a table to open up. The banker totally ignored Edwin and Anna.
Edwin saw Bart give a wave and they excused their way around the pudgy banker and hurried down the aisle to their table. Behind them Edwin heard the banker yell, “Hey, we’re next. Where’re you going?
Edwin stopped and when he turned around he said, “We’re smart enough to make a reservation.” Anna poked him in the ribs with an elbow, but had a grin on her face to show her approval of a one up on the selfish banker.
After taking their seats, Bart said, “That guy is really a rude person. How does his wife put up with him?”
“I think it has all to do with money,” said Edwin placing his clothe napkin in his lap.
“If I ever act like that, you can punch me in the nose to bring me back to reality. Money is something we have to have to live these days. It’s a means to an end. Not meant to govern one’s life. I doubt if God intended that money should rule people’s lives, but this money thing might be the devils work,” said Bart looking across the table at Edwin and Anna who were polite enough to listen and not say anything.
“I can’t argue with anything you said, Bart. I think all of us came from families that taught us to live carrying for ourselves and family. My parents and I know Anna’s parents were frugal people, but visitors were always welcome at the dinner table. And more importantly, visitors whether invited or just stopping by were welcome.”
“I doubt you would find that kind of hospitality at Banker Chicago’s residence. I can see a long dining table with a place setting of two. I also can see servants standing around doing nothing but his bidding. Anyway, sorry about rambling on and on. What’s for dinner friends,” said Edwin.
“Our waiter said we had two choices, one was friend chicken and the other was chicken fried southern style. I asked about the southern style and he said: “All fried chicken is southern style as the cook is from the south.”“
Edwin laughed out loud making his close neighbors turn and see what was so funny. In fact all at their table were laughing. Anna schussed Edwin as best she could, but it did not do any good as he had to run the course of the best description of what was on the menu he had ever heard.
After dinner they all chose to retire to their respective quarters for the night. But not before making a reservation for breakfast the next morning.
Inside their sleeping room, Anna asked, “Ed, what do you really think our life will be living in a remote city that is gold crazy?”
“Well,” as he began undressing for bed, “as I understand it, prices of goods and services go up as supply is short and money is long. I read that in an economics book when I was at the university. So, we can expect higher than what we are used to in prices of all things, but we, in return, have to charge more due to that fact.’‘
With her nightdress on, Anna said, “My grandmother said that hard work never killed anybody. She was evidence of that example. I’m not afraid of hard work, but if I have a baby, not sure how that will work without any relatives around to help out when needed.”
With a big smile on his face, Edwin said, “Come here my lovely wife and let’s make sure you are with a baby. This is just in case the mating failed back in New York City.
Because each bed was a narrow single item, Anna gently laid on top of Edwin. She brushed back a few strands of dangling hair, lowered her face, closed her eyes and their lips met in pure love. They spent the night together on one single bed and that was just fine with both of them.
Many days passed by with the two couples becoming very close friends. In Chicago they clapped their hands when the banker left the train scowling back at Edwin. Edwin’s smile evaporated thinking that he hoped the slight to the banker did not come back to haunt him in the future.
However, the train quickly filled up as many passengers were destined for St. Louis where the jumping off point of most all adventures west took place. However, none of the passengers were as crass as the banker was. To Edwin it looked like half immigrants and half businessmen traveling to St. Louis. Edwin’s heart raced a little knowing they were close to their last leg of the journey west.
Sitting in their passengers seats, Edwin felt Anna’s hand grip his tightly. He realized she too was thinking along the same lines as was: the end of the line was coming closer and closer.
Anna realized that once they left St. Louis they would be leaving civilization as they knew it. A ride in a Stage coach was not very appealing to her. Another voice entered her head as she watched the landscape changed from city to rural farms just outside of Chicago, saying: ‘Be strong girl. Just because you wear a dress doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you set your mind to.’
“What are you thinking about,” Edwin asked. “You look very serious.”
“Nothing much. I’m just mentally preparing for our new life that will be here sooner rather than later. I’m a little frightened of the Indians who dislike us white people. I’m sorry we’ve taken over some of their land, but progress is a way of life for us. We fought long and hard against greedy land owners to rise above servitude. I feel this is the beginning of a whole new era of migration to a new land.”
“Let’s greet the new life with open arms and the mind set of doing what we have to make a living and raise our future family,” he said.
Their seat mates, Bart and Beth were listening with eager ears. All had discussed it before, but talking about it and experiencing it were two different things. All were a little apprehensive of the future, but that was a natural feeling for anybody facing a new life in the unknown.
Bart said, “Let’s take this time to make a list of stuff we might need to take with us. However, I’m sure that a weight limit is enforced on a stage coach. After we learn what that weight limit is, then we can make a plan. What we really don’t know is what the weather is like year in and year out. I’m sure our hardware store knows what is required to embrace any kinds of weather, but I would like to ask around for outside advice. “
“I’m with you and I’m sure if we talk to the stage line, they will have the best information available. In the meantime, let’s try and relax with our own thoughts as the miles go by,” said Edwin.
In St. Louis at the train station, Edwin, Anna and their two new friends, Bart and Beth stepped off the train onto the platform where a steady drizzle of rain greeted them. A porter saw a chance for a bit of money so he hurried to greet them. Edwin raised his hand and the porter flashed a big smile. Anna and Beth had umbrellas, but the two men had only their hats to protect their heads from the rain.
Edwin said, “We need a hotel and a ride to get there. What do you suggest?”
“Let me show you,” as he stacked up the bags onto a platform luggage cart. “I have a friend who will take you to a nice hotel that is clean with good food. My name is Sammy. If I am wrong about the hotel, come back and see my boss who will dock my pay.”
The taxi driver took all four to a hotel on Broadway. Broadway was the main street of St. Louis. The hotel sat on a corner which gave it a view, upon which side of the hotel you desired, a side street or the main avenue of the bustling city.
From the third floor window, Anna gazed out onto Broadway. The rain had increased the mud from all the traffic going back and forth in a busy city. She looked at her watch that was attached to her dress just above the left breast. It was two pm. Edwin was busy sorting through their luggage. He wanted to be ready when they decided to begin their westward bound trip.
Anna said, “I’m glad I’m not down there trying to cross the street. I see one lady turn around and dig her shoe out of the mud. It’d be best to take your shoes off and go barefoot crossing a street. This is worse than London when I was just a kid. I’m cold Ed. Why isn’t there any heat coming into our room?”
“We should have steam heat from what I was told. Let me run down and see what the hold is up on the heat.”
Anna flopped down on the bed covering up with the heavy blanket. In just a few minutes she was taking a nap. Edwin came through the door and saw his wife covered up. He slowly and quietly closed the door. Maybe it was time for a nap. He too lay down and an hour later both woke up at the same time. Edwin said, “They turn the heat on in the spring time at six pm.”
“I see and what if it snows out in the spring time?”
“I’m sure the manager changes the start up time to prevent any harm coming his way. I see some rough looking men in the lobby. I’m going to buy a hand gun just in case.”
“I’m scared of guns, Ed. Are you sure we need one,” said Anna holding one hand to her throat.
Bart said he was going to buy one. I think it might be a good idea. I shot a rifle before, but never a hand gun or pistol. My father told to point and shoot. If nothing else it might scare away some bad guys.”
“Or the bad guys shoot you for having a gun,” said a slightly angry Anna.
‘‘I think it’s the ‘better safe than sorry’ saying. However, let’s both think about it. I also saw in the lobby most rough looking customers packing a gun on their hips. The talk of stagecoach robberies and Indians attacking scares me being unarmed to fight back.” He said rolling over and taking his wife in his arms.
Whether it was the fear of losing her husband or just needing some hugs of love, they once again tried to ensure that a baby was coming. Afterwards, Edwin said, breathing hard, “I hope and pray we can reach Denver safely and set up house with the idea of raising a family.”
Anna was in a state of bliss and really did not want to talk right now. She felt the warm loving that had just transpired. She thought back on their wedding night and the fear of having intercourse terrified her. Later she admitted to her mother that it did hurt, but she could tell that in the future it might be more than just physical pleasure. This last one was testimony to her wish of the future loving. It did not take long to realize the vast difference between being satisfied between males and females. As the years passed, she wondered why God made the shocking difference between females and males reproducing.
The heat came on with a rattling of the pipes transferring steam to the radiators in their room. It was a slow process and took a long time to win the fight against the cold of their room.
After a nap, both felt refreshed and in need of some wholesome food. “Let’s let Bart and Beth rest and we’ll eat alone,” said Ed.
“Yes, we need a break from them for just a little while. As I understand it, we’ll be on the stagecoach for many days cooped up in a small space. I’m not looking forward to such accommodations.”
After a toilet stint they went downstairs to eat. According to the menu, meat and potatoes were the best choices. The vegetable was carrots and the drink was tea.
Both eat in pretty much silence wrapped up in their own thoughts. Anna thought the miserable part of the trip in the ship was the worst part. Now that they were about to embark on the last leg of their journey by stagecoach, she felt the dangerous part raising hackles every time she thought about it. She felt a real foreboding coming up. Ed, meanwhile, had similar thoughts and wished his wife would agree to a hand gun for him to carry.
For the most part, he felt like the end was near and that God would take care of his servants to their destination. He looked up and saw his wife looking at him. She smiled and said, “I want some desert. I saw pie on the menu. It might be the last time in quite awhile before we have the ability to eat homemade pie. If those biscuits are any judge of something tasty, then the pie should be a hit.”
Packed up and ready to go, the stage coach looked overloaded to Anna and Beth who both commented on the contents stacked on top and in the back end. Ed and Bart were talking about safety and that both were carrying pistols. Ed had snuck out and purchased a Webly Bull dog pocket pistol. It was a five shot 44 caliber pistol that was easy for a civilian to carry with him. Ed felt much more comfortable with the whole adventure across the plains.
“Get on board,” yelled the driver. His partner with the rifle climbed up to the driver’s seat. Inside was room for nine passengers, but in this case only eight sat inside with three stacked on top with the luggage. They were second class passengers with first class in the crowded interior.
Needless to say, the trip was most uncomfortable from beginning to end. Ed and Bart sat next to the windows while their wives were jammed in-between. Across from them sat two other couples. They were Mr. and Mrs. Abbot and Mr. and Mrs. Springtown. They too were from England.
Just as the introductions were made, a crack of the whip and a yell from the driver set the stage in motion. Mr. Abbot said, a little too loud, “Don’t fight the sway, but go with it. Fighting it will only wear yourself out. I heard that from a guy back at the stage office.”
Anna flashed back on her ride over with the ship swaying back and forth and then up and down making everyone seasick. The irony of the sway advice was there really was not any choice with people on either side of you pushing against you with the motion of the coach. What was worse, she later discovered, was the wheels of the coach following other tracks made in the mud and then hardening to make sudden lurches side to side.
At first she worried about needing a rest break to eliminate waste. Where and how often went through her delicate mind. However, she was not about to bring the subject up until it was necessary. Happily, the stops between for horse changing, solved the worry. She learned how to hold her breath and make her elimination breaks quickly. An outhouse was only changed when it was full.
She decided that the trip across the plains was primitive at the best of times. Also, as all the passengers were fairly miserable, very little conversation passed between any of the riders. Anna liked that part. The downside of the stops when food was served it really was not fit to eat, but there was little choice in the matter. Unfortunately it got worse the further they went from the large town of St. Louis.
At one stop, after around fifty miles, they stopped for about ten minutes to change teams and take a rest break. Anna and Beth ran to the outhouse and did their business. The men used the side of the building or wherever it was convenient. Anna asked Edwin when and where they might sleep for the night. Ed asked and found out sleep, other than in the coach, was had up the road near a nice river.
“I hope so. I’m worn out and we’ve only been on the trail for a half day. I’m ready to take a nap. I hate to complain, Edwin, but this is the worst time of my young life so far.”
“Me too, honey. They say when we reach Iron Flats it gets a lot better to travel on a good road. After Iron Flats it becomes a lot safer as well. Well, let’s show all how tough we are and not gripe too much,” said Edwin.
What he did not say was that if anything bad would happen, it would be just before Iron Flats. The coach had to pass between two large hills that were perfect for an ambush by bandits and or Indians. Ed would breathe a big sigh of relief when that part of the sojourn was over.
Because of the danger prior to the infamous Iron Flats, a station was there for one reason: to have fresh horses to be changed out. That and a fresh driver and a man riding shotgun risked their lives passing through the gulch.
Edwin and Bart stood talking while their wives had a run to the outhouse. “Ed, I’m nervous as hell. Look how serious those guys are. The guy riding shotgun has checked his rifle three times now. The driver is also carrying a rifle. I think they are expecting trouble at the landmark, Iron Flats,” said Bart.
Edwin was studying the scene before him and also the weather. Like the supposed doom ahead of them, a darken day of heavy clouds indicated a rain was coming. He wondered if that was good or bad. Maybe good as the rain would make shooting much more difficult, but on the other hand, maybe the bad guys or Indians would make it more personal and hold the stage up.
Anna and Beth came up with deadly serious looks on their faces. Anna said, “What’s all the serious commotion going on about?”
“We presume that it’s better to be cautious than relaxed as we travel through some area that is known as a place for hold ups or Indian attacks. Let’s trust in God and pray we arrive in Denver healthy and happy,” said Edwin.
“Indians don’t believe in God, Edwin,” said Anna. Robbers either. This whole situation is very scary and I feel something bad is going to happen,” said Beth.
“Honey, me and Ed will protect you and Anna. I think we are prepared and ready to do what we have to. Besides if it was really too dangerous, the stage would not take a chance without the army protecting the travelers. Besides most of the Indians are quiet these days. Let’s think positive and we’ll be just fine,” said Bart as he saw the driver preparing for leaving.
It was early afternoon when they reached the place where something would happen or not. The clouds kept their promise of releasing the precious water they contained. Edwin had his hand in his pocket gripping his pistol tightly. He imagined the same with his new friend, Bart.
Suddenly the driver yelled and cracked a whip making the six horse team to increase the pace. Anna said later it was a ride from hell. The devil was making his presence known. Then to make matters worse, the first shots rang out.
Anna and Beth both screamed at the same time as a bullet slammed against the coach just behind them. There was an exchange of gunfire for a good two or three minutes when, for what reason, the passengers had no idea, the shots stopped. However, the coach was still moving full speed. Ed, on the opposite side of where the shots had come from, leaned out the window to see what was happening with the driver and his body guard. He looked hard, with Anna yelling for him to get back inside. He felt her pull on his trousers, but he realized maybe nobody was driving the coach.
From the looks of the terrain, if the coach continued at this pace, a wreck would surely occur. He had to regain control and with that in mind, to save his wife and new friends, he reached up and grabbed the railing holding the roof top baggage from falling off. With both hands on the railing, feet on the window, he drew himself up onto the roof of the coach. Where there were formally three passengers, the roof was empty save the luggage. He crawled forward and saw the driver slumped over and the guard was missing.
Somehow the reins were still in the drivers hands. More shots rang out and when Ed looked behind them, three men on horses were racing to catch the coach. Bart saw the scene behind them, he leaned out and even though the coach was rocking and reeling, he took aim and was surprised when one bandit fell off his horse. The other two were gaining on the coach.
Up on top, Edwin was holding the reins and had no idea what to do at this point. Bart leaned out again and fired until his pistol was empty. It did not help the accuracy as his wife was pounding and pulling him inside. Bart sat down and reloaded his pistol. He had just loaded it when one bandit pulled up alongside and pointed his pistol at Bart. It looked like it was the end of the line for Bart.
For reasons he could not explain, he took off his hat and sailed it out the window making the bandit shoot high. Bart took the opportunity to point and shoot the would be robbery off his horse. That left only one and Bart had no idea where he was.
Meanwhile, Ed stood up and saw the action on Bart’s side of the coach and then he saw two horses empty of riders. One rider was on the ground, but where was the other bad guy.
Edwin guessed right that the bad guy had climbed aboard at the rear of the coach. He was making his way to the front when Ed squeezed down where the feet of the driver rested. It was fortunate his was a small man. When he saw and heard the bandit yell, “Stop the horses.”
Edwin jumped up and both men fired their pistols at the same time. The bandit fell off the coach and Edwin took a bullet to the shoulder. He said later it felt like not too much pain because he was busy trying to stop the team from a runaway that would result in a big accident of some sort if he did not slow them down.
With all his might, he pulled on the reins and repeated what he had heard before that was to say: ‘Whoa – Whoa, you sunsabitches. Whatever he did worked as the team slowed down and when they came over the rise to Iron Flats, they came to a halt.
With a big sigh, Edwin wrapped the reins around the break handle. The driver was dead. He laid his head back and then felt the pain of the bullet lodged in his shoulder.
It’s not easy to get on or off a stagecoach driver’s seat even with two hands and arms. Suddenly Bart was beside him and Anna screaming, “Are you hurt, Edwin?”
“I’m fine, darling,” he yelled back. Bart helped him down as all the passengers were outside watching the proceedings. Biting his tongue, Edwin and with the help of Bart, finally reached the ground.
Mr. and Mrs. Abbot and Mr. and Mrs. Springtown were watching the scene when Mr. Abbot said, “I’m a doctor so let’s take a look at that wound, young feller.”
In Denver, the US Marshal met the stage. He had a big smile on his face when the passengers got off the stage. He asked them to come to his office and he had something to tell them. By then, Edwin’s arm still hurt a lot, but he felt good to be alive. They followed the marshal into his office and he had four chairs for the two couples to sit on. He said, “Please sit down and I’ve some news for you all.’
Needless to say, they were all wondering what was going on. Anna thought they were in trouble for shooting somebody and so did Beth. Bart felt that they had done nothing wrong. Edwin said, “Are we in some trouble marshal.”
He smiled and said, “Quite the opposite. It seems you wiped out the Norton gang. We’ve been after them for a long spell now. No, we are happy they are gone. The reward of three thousand dollars goes to you folks. That should go a long ways to make your new life here more rewarding.”