My mother and I went into town the next day
leaving Mary with the others to protect what remained of our belongings. The little town of Centreville looked different in the daylight. It was loud and full of people. No one paid any attention to us giving us the ability to blend in and scope out every nook and cranny of the town.
As we wandered around, the town seemed strangely unaffected by the hardships we had escaped. The people were well-dressed and happy. Even though we had avoided most of the towns since we left home, we have met several people. Every person had told us stories on how their town had been affected by the stock market crash or in the same way we had by having their way of life and survival destroyed by the drought. These problems did not seem to exist here. They seem to be in a little bubble where nothing bad had happened.
None of the buildings were run-down, but rather seemed like they were recently new or renovated. Despite being a small town, there was no lack of successful businesses full of customers. I was amazed at how well-off this town was. I retraced my steps from the night before and led my mother down the alley I had lost their trail. We discovered a little tavern tucked at the end. As we looked around the tavern, we noticed a small barn attached. The thieves had disappeared inside quickly the night before because it was here we found our missing horses. By mid-day, we rode back to camp and discussed with the others how to get our horses back.
“We should go to the Sheriff,” my mother reasonably suggested. “Surely he would help us get our horses back.”
“Non-sense,” Mary said. “There is no way to prove they are ours. Even if we could, do you really think the sheriff would believe female strangers over men he has probably known since they were children?”
“What do you think we should do then?” I asked Mary.
Mary only had to think a moment before whispering, “Simple. We steal them back. If we wait until night like they did, we would be gone before they realized their stolen horses had been stolen from them. Besides Anna has a way with the beasts. They would probably follow her without much prompting or noise.”
I looked at her, dumbstruck. “You want me to commit a crime?” I said to her.
“You wouldn’t be committing a crime. They are our horses. We are simply retrieving them. We wouldn’t be hurting anyone except maybe the horse thieves themselves. I’m okay with that,” Mary responded.
The question was could I be okay with that? Finally, my mother broke the silence. “I don’t know Mary. I am not sure if I am comfortable with Anna going in there alone. What if something happens? I could never forgive myself. I will go.”
“Mother, you cannot go alone. At least let me go with you. It will be easier if there are more of us so we can just ride the horses out.”
“Then I am coming to,” my brother Harry said bursting in from behind the linen. “They stole three horses and if there are three of us, it will take us less time to get them out of town.”
“My brave children,” my mother said to us both. “Anna is grown, but Harry you are still a child. I cannot risk your life over some silly horses. Even if we need them to get to Chicago.”
“Mother please. I am fourteen now,” Harry replied. “I can help, and you haven’t let me help at all since father left. I am the man of the house now. Father said so. Let me come with you.”
My mother sighed and responded. “Okay. You are right. You are the man of the house now, and I am very proud of you. We leave at nightfall. Mary, you and Grace get everything together and ready to go. We will have to ride as soon as we return. We need to be out of the area before sunrise to stay safe. We will have to ride all night.”
And with that, we just went along with Mary’s plan before even thinking about the consequences.
To Be Continued…