Plumas is a farm town a little over a hundred miles from here. Both my parents come from this area of Manitoba that is bordered on the north-east by Lake Manitoba, the west by the Riding Mountains, and the south by wide open prairie. It is an area rich in soil and for me rich in family history because this is where both my sets of grandparents homesteaded and raised their families in the early 1900's. Winter Wheat was created because of my love of this area and for the people who live in it. Every story I write, has a piece of this little corner of the world in it, because even though I am a city dweller - my heart remains in rural Manitoba.
So, with that in mind, you get to read on, and I get to drive for a couple of hours to spend the day where novels begin... Happy Saturday everyone.
Winter Wheat Chapter 2 cont'd.
Karl Wright stood on the small wooden platform of the train station, and looked down the empty expanse of railway tracks. The howling wind bit into the exposed flesh of his face, pinching it red and burning it with its intensity. Shrugging deeper into his heavy sheepskin coat, he wondered, not for the first time, what he thought he was doing, standing here waiting for a woman – a complete stranger, who would be moving into his home and into his children’s lives.
How had he ever let himself be talked into this dilemma, he now faced? A single man with two small children, accepting a young unmarried woman into his home even if it was to provide care for his children, was not what he considered an acceptable solution to his problem. It wasn’t right, this living with a woman who was not his wife. But what else could he do?
He would never marry again; he knew that with a certainty he could not explain. He never again wanted to feel the hurt and betrayal of rejection from one who had promised a lifetime of love. He stomped his numbing feet on the wooden planks below his boots. No, he didn’t need a woman in his life, but his children did, especially his little Anna Marie. She needed the gentleness of a woman’s touch, a soft voice and the comforting embrace that only a woman could give a child. Anna Marie had suffered his ignorant clumsy attempts at motherhood long enough. He would do this thing, if only for the sake of his little girl.
He watched as a small black speck appear on the horizon then grew slowly larger as it drew closer. Soon the object took on the shape of a small locomotive engine, the cowcatchers on the front of the locomotive resembling a lewd smile the closer the train came to view. Finally the engine pulled to a stop in front of the station. While he stood rooted to the platform he watched as the conductor lowered the steps and reached a hand up to assist the departing passenger.
A small woman lowered herself to the ground, spoke a few words to the man who had helped her, then stepped away from the train. She stood uncertainly clutching her valise tightly in her hands, and then turned her head in his direction. She was petite, far too small to be of much use on a farm, he could see that already. He couldn’t tell exactly, but he figured that beneath the bulky gray coat that she wore, was a slender, if not downright skinny woman.
She was moving toward him he realized with a start, and instead of greeting and welcoming her like he should have been doing he had been staring rudely and passing judgment.
He moved forward and met her halfway across the empty platform.
“Hello. I am to meet a Karl Wright; would you be him?” The biggest pair of blue eyes he had ever seen looked up at him with something akin to fear sweeping through them for just a moment.
“Yes, I’m him,” he pulled his hand out of his deep pocket, and offered it to her in greeting.
A relieved smile flashed briefly across her face. “I am Emilie Freiheit. I am very pleased to meet you, Karl.” her small hand met his and pumped vigorously. Surprisingly enough, there was real strength in her grip, he noted, as he released her hand.
His eyes scanned the platform then came to rest on the small trunk, which lay abandoned where the conductor had unceremoniously dumped it earlier. “Is this all you have, then?” He asked, nodding his head in the general direction of her belongings.
“Ja . . .Yes,”
“Well, then we should go. We have quite a ride yet until we get home!” He turned, scooped up the trunk placing it precariously across his left shoulder, then proceeded to walk away from her.
Martha had warned Emilie, that Karl could be abrupt at times. According to Martha he could be “down right rude”, so Emilie took no offence at his quick retreat. What she had not been warned about, was how young he appeared, or nearly how handsome a man he was. It was hard to determine the actual color of his hair, covered as it was by a heavy woolen cap, but she thought she noticed wisps of straw-colored hair sticking out at the collar of his jacket. His face, deeply tanned, held the firm tone of a younger man, but the lines about his mouth spoke of a man who frowned too much and laughed too little. In all her conversations with Martha, Emilie had imagined a much older man than the one who’s large, fit frame had already moved quite a distance away from her.
He stopped abruptly as if sensing she was not following behind him. With his face a grim mask he scolded, “Come now, it will soon be dark! We must get home!”
Emilie hastily grabbed her valise and with her booted feet sliding across the frozen ground, hurried after him. She stopped short, when she watched him lower her trunk into the box of a sturdy horse-drawn wagon. By the time she reached the wagon, Karl had already climbed up to the seat, and sat waiting for her to do the same.
She deposited her bag in the wagon beside the trunk that Karl had already placed there and approached the opening at the side of the wagon. The seat was higher than the level of her head. With as much dignity as she could muster she hitched her long skirt up her legs, and placed one boot-covered foot on the wagon. Almost immediately her other foot began to slide backwards along the icy ground. Quickly grabbing hold of the wagon seat, she pulled herself forward and up onto the narrow wooden seat. She landed with an unladylike plunge; half of her small body draped across the bench seat, the other half across her escort.
Large firm large hands gripped her shoulders and righted her, at the same time gently sliding her back down to the end of the seat away from him.
“I hope you have better boots than those things,” he grumbled as his eyes appraised her dainty leather boots with the spiked heels. “There is no place on the farm for boots such as those,” he nodded toward her favorite foot attire, his distaste for her lovely boots evident in his scathing look. Reaching back into the wagon bed he brought a heavy woolen blanket forward and handed it to her. “Here, cover yourself with this; the ride will be long and cold.”