At the time I wrote this segment, I had never witnessed a home fire, so I tried to imagine what it would feel like to see someones home burned to the ground. Shortly after this, I was sitting in my living room one evening in late fall, there was already snow on the ground and I thought I could smell smoke. The odor kept getting stronger and stronger, so I checked out my house, then looked out the window. I couldn't even see across the street. I had heard some sirens, but had not paid much attention to them as we have a nursing home across the street and there are always emergency crews rushing there.
I could see people running down the street so I put my boots and coat on and followed. The fire was a block away, and yet the smoke was so thick I could scarcely breath. When I finally reached the scene, it was a three-story home ablaze. I can't even describe to you the emotions I felt as I watched the fire crews at work. Panic probably would best describe my reaction - and sorrow - deep deep sorrow.
If I were to rewrite this next scene now - I would embellish on Karl's emotions... but for now it remains as is.
Winter Wheat Chapter 8 begins...
Karl Wright stood in the small hut attached to his stone boat, the reins from his horses held lightly in his hand. His body was cold and tired from a long day of driving his team of horses and their heavy load of firewood along the rutted snow-packed county roads toward home. There was much more snow on the ground since he had left home eight days ago, much more than the mountain areas of the province had received, and considering how bad the roads were, he had actually made the journey back home in record time.
The closer he got to his farm, the more he longed to see his children and the woman who had occupied his thoughts for much of his time away. He had found her on his mind much too often during the days, and especially the long lonely nights that he had been away. He was not sure what his fascination for her meant, but he did know that it was unwelcome. He reminded himself over and over again that he did not want a woman in his life ever again, but then he’d remember a word or a look, her gentle smile as she tended the children, her feisty determination . . .
He wondered how Emilie had fared all alone with the children. Had she managed to keep the fires burning through the night; had she filled the house with smoke as the very first time she’d tried to light the stove? Had she comforted his small children when the howling north wind scared them awake in the middle of the night? Had she cuddled them in her bed - three scared lonely hearts huddled together, listening to the wind and the snow pelting at the windows, wondering at the futility of clawing an existence from this wild, sometimes untamed prairie?
He relaxed his tense shoulders, and took a deep cleansing breath. His good friend Frederich was keeping a watchful eye on his family and for that he was grateful. Neither Frederich nor his little wife Annie would let any harm come to his family, he knew that as well as he knew his own name.
He passed several farms on his way south to his own land. Four miles north of his place, he stopped when he saw the burned-out shell of a house standing where once a family’s home had been. He pulled the team to a stop and jumped out into the snow from his secluded spot inside the little caboose. The deep fresh snow made it difficult to reach the area where the house had once stood, but he didn’t need to get close to see that all had been lost in the fire.
Only one charred wall remained of the two-storied structure that used to be his neighbor’s home. The stone fireplace stood untouched in the middle of what used to be a living room, it was covered with thick black soot and tar. There was no furniture or household artifacts strewn about the yard as in the aftermaths of other fires he’d seen - No, this fire had burned hard and fast - no signs of rescue existed - no signs of life prevailed.
“Dear God . . .” Karl felt the bile rise up in his throat, and he hastily swallowed it back down. He looked up into the cloudy winter sky, as if that would give him a clue as to what had happened to the family that had lived here; but the skies remained silent, somber, sleeping.
He had known this family well, they had been his neighbors for eight years, and now, it appeared they were gone. He prayed that no one had lost their life in this horrible tragedy, but for some reason he was convinced that lives had been lost. His heart began to hammer in his chest, and suddenly he experienced an urgent desire to see his children and their housekeeper, and to reassure himself that they were indeed safe and alive.
With quickening steps he returned to his rig and climbed up into the protection of his hut. He picked up the reigns and gently urged the tired horses forward.
“Come on, girls, lets go; we need to get home and check on our family,” he called out to them, as they lumbered slowly forward. He urged them homeward, for the first time ever pushing his team harder and faster than they should have been pushed. He yelled out to them, and if he’d had a whip, he surely would have used it too - such was his urgency to see his home and the loved ones that lived within it.