“Clara dear, can you go fetch me some water from the well please?” Asked Susan, Clara’s mother.
“Yes, Mama. Frankie asked if he could come with me is that alright? Replied Clara.
Susan said.“That’d be fine, just do hurry ‘cause I need that water for supper.”
“Yes, ma’am” Clara replied as she ran out the door holding onto Franklin’s hand.
It was a beautiful sunny day there in the prairie of Wyoming, hardly a cloud in sight. The two of them ran till their lungs felt like they would burst so they took a quick break at the nearby stream, it was wonderfully covered by the overhead oak trees. After sitting on the bank with their feet in the cool water for a couple minutes Clara remembered that her mother was waiting so she asked her little brother if he felt better.
“Sure do! I want’a hurry and geet ther’ so Mama can start supper! I am near starved!” He said while getting up and wiping the water off his legs with Clara’s dress. Then they continued till they reached the ol’ well. They filled up the cooking pot and started back to the house. When they arrived, they saw Lucretia and Annabel playing under the apple tree with their dolls.
“Whatch’a gals doin’ out here at chore time?” Clara said in quite a shock because they normally were obedient to their mama’s instructions.
Annabel stated with much pleasure, “Mama said that ‘cause we worked so hard on our schooling and got our chores done early, we got to have time to play with our new dolls till she called us in for supper.”
“And, I even finished washing all the dishes for mama so she wouldn't have to do them today!” Lucretia said in a boastful manner.
“Wow.” Frankie said while rolling his eyes.
“Oh Frankie, don’tcha dare be jealous” Annabel mocked.
Clara now becoming quite frustrated with her sibling's responses spoke in a tense manner saying, “That’s enough! Quite ya’llselves” Then realizing how loud she had just spoken, said in a humble manner “Please behave ya’llselves, is that too much to ask?”
After she had spoken she ran into the house and gave her mother the pot full of water.
“Sorry about the wait mama, I’has been trying to get them littlins’ to behave!” She said as she began to her room. After a quick pick up in her room, she laid on her bed and started writing in her journal, but when she heard a “knock-knock” at the door, Clara jumped up put down her inking pen and ran to the door while saying “I’ll get it!” When she opened the door it was the mailman, Henry, from the Pony Express. He handed her a letter with the name Emma Violet Perkins to Clara Leigh May. She thanked him, closed the door, and walked back to her room, thinking “I wonder who this Emma Perkins is?”
She opened it and then began reading.
I know you are probably wondering who the sender of this letter is! Well, my name is Emma Violet Perkins. I am sixteen years old. And strangely enough, we are related! Cousins to be precise! That probably comes as a shock to you, as it came to me. As your mother may have told you, there are fourteen children in the Oakley family. Your mother is one of the middle children, and my mother is a bit older. As our parents and their sibling grew older, they moved to different parts of the country, and I suppose haven't kept in contact much, or we would have been introduced sooner! Anyhow, when Uncle Edward came to visit recently, he recounted his tales of the “wild west” from several years ago, and he mentioned visiting Aunt Susan--your mother, his sister--in Wyoming and “the two little tan children”--his niece Clara, and nephew Thaddeus. I was very curious about you, having never known of you before. I questioned him more, and I found out you would be about my age by now. That is why I have decided to write to you, so we can possibly get to know one another as cousins better! So, I shall tell you a bit about myself, and my family.
We live in Huntsville, Illinois in a lovely house located on the outskirts of the city.
Besides my mother, Caroline, and my Papa, Stephen, there are four of us children. I am the eldest; then comes Walter, age 14; and the twins, Bridget and Blair, age 9, complete the family.
Besides my education, in my spare time I enjoy shopping, spending time with my friends, going to parties, reading, writing, and sketching.
I shall include a recent photograph of myself, and with that I suppose I shall conclude my letter and hope you will send a reply soon, if you receive this.
Your cousin, Emma Perkins
As soon as Clara finish reading this, she ran to the kitchen where her mother was boiling potatoes and said
“Mama! I didn’t know that you had a sister called Susan! One of her daughters wrote me! Her name is Emma Violet Perkins, have you heard of her?” She exclaimed giddily.
“Yes hun, I do know of her.” Her mother said softly.
“And look how purty she is! She looks like a wax doll!” Added Lucy when Clara showed her the picture of Emma.
“Mama, may I go write her now? I am aching to get my inking pen to paper!” Clara pleaded.
“Just as soon as the childrin’ are cleaned up and at their places for supper” Replied her mother.
Just as fast as a lightning bolt she ran down stairs and corralled the kids to the bathroom door as she ran inside and brought out wash rags for the each of them, “Here you go, now wash yourselves up fine and dandy then come and sit at the table. You hear?” She said while handing them their rags and running upstairs. After everyone was in place she dashed off to her room to start her reply to Emma.
I am greatly pleased to get to know you. I was unaware of the Oakley family’s size, or that my mother had that many siblings! We live in Lander, Wyoming. In a little shanty my father was building before he past away of pneumonia near five years ago. We are one hour away from any big towns, all we really have here in our little ‘town’ is a post office and goods store. I am fifteen years old and these are my siblings, Thaddeus - thirteen, Lucretia - eleven, Annabel - nine, Franklin - six, and Lucy - four. My mother is Susan Leigh Oakley as i am sure you already know. For my spare time I enjoy going into our little garden and smelling the flowers, talking to my milker cow Marla, riding on my brother, Thaddie’s, horse, and going to our goods store to see what new things the train has brought.Your picture is very purty, we don’t have enough money to get me a photograph of my face but, here is one that I have drawn myself. Do y’all have any animals? What is your favorite thing to bake on the weekends? Mine is apple pie, I get the apples from our ol’ apple tree and the honey from our bee hive. I hope to hear from you soon!
Clara L. May
After the load of writing her reply was off her chest she ran to her mother to ask if she could run to the post office to send it out.
“You may in the morning darlin’, it is going to get too dark to go out alone.”
“Please mama! I will take no more’n ten minutes!” She pleaded.
“Oh, all right but you better be quick about it or your food will get cold.” Her mother replied with a grin.
“Yes mama!” She said as she ran out the door. When she arrived at the post office she gave the man the envelope with the letter inside and had a stamp and address ready.
“That’d be twenty-five cents ma’am” The mailman said as she handed him the letter. Twenty-five cents?! That is near half of what i make in a week! She thought.
So she meekly asked “Is there any cheaper alternatives?”
The mailman replied “There is but it will reach it’s destination a week later than the twenty-five cent cost”
“And how much would the cheaper alternative cost me?” She enquired.
“Fifteen cents” He said smiling.
“Okay, that will be fine” She said while pulling out her money purse and trying to act mature.
“Here is your receipt ma’am, have a nice day.” The mailman said while handing her change and receipt.
“You too,” She said, and began running back home.
“Mama, I'm back! And I made it back before ten minutes, like promised,” She said when she arrived, looking down at her little golden pocket watch.
“Cock-a-doodle-do!” Exclaimed their rooster, ‘Ben’, first thing in the morning, waking everyone and everything on their ranch.
“Ahhhhhhh...I slept like a stone!” Yawned Clara as soon as she awoke. Today she would do all her chores, go tend to her milker cow, and do her nightly routine once again. Much was the same for the next twelve days during which Clara eagerly awaited her cousins response. Clara calculated when the earliest that she could get a letter back from Emma, and today was that day! So she eagerly awaited their mailman. When she heard a knock on the door she leaped to the door and opened it, only to her surprise, it was Miss Stovell, coming to drop off her mother’s book that she had borrowed. After she left and Clara returned to her room to finish up a picture she was going to put on her wall, she heard another knock and once again ran to the door to see if it was the mailman and to her delight it was! “Here you go sweetie, and it looks like there is a letter addressed to you!” He said with a smile. “Thank you so much Henry!” She said while closing the door. Emma’s letter was here! Even though it felt like FOREVER get here, it was here! She immediately opened it and read.
TO BE CONTINUED! - Davae O. McMillion & Glory Sirard