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Grandfather thought would be his last day on the trail. It appeared to be a mere twenty miles from Walton to Jericho. What the map did not show was the rugged foothills of the Katskills. These mountains separated the Delaware Valley from the Susquehanna Valley.

 

The brambles were thick and the footing treacherous. There were slippery deposits of red clay.

 

“God had also neatly scattered hemlock swamps here and there” Grandfather often said when relating the story of his journey. “I barely covered ten miles on that sixth day of my trip. The rain came in torrents and my compass became foggy and hard to read. On a normal day I could climb a tall pine tree, take a compass reading of another tall landmark, and head for that. But on this day the weather was so foggy and rainy that I could not pick out distant landmarks.”

 

“For August,” Grandfather related, “it was a very cold night. The pine and hemlock boughs were full of water and I could not make a fit bed of them. I unrolled my dry pack and removed food from a waxed wrap. This I had kept tied to my saddle. The flax twine kept my rain wrap over the top for good measure. Everything remained dry. I wrapped myself with my waxed canvas rain cover. A hard biscuit and a few pieces of dried lamb kept my hunger away. I put my horse on a long rope so that he could feed on the few pieces of long grass that grew in the openings between the trees. He seemed to prefer the ferns that grew beneath the trees. I found a high spot without any rain puddles. I lay my second wrap on the ground, pulled my rain wrap tighter around me and lay down.”

 

Grandfather drew an oral picture of a terrifying night and we were not sure who contained the greater fear; him or his horse.

 

“The rain turned to a windy squall. It became very cold, with lightening and thunder. I remained fairly dry and so did the three or four field mice who joined me under my waxed cloak. The hazy thin light of early morning became my best acquaintance. It allowed me to escape the fearful screams of wildcats who lived in these surroundings. A sleepless night clouded my consciousness.”

 

He continued his story.

 

“It was a while before I recognized my peril. My horse was gone! A small piece of rope remained attached to the sapling on which he was tied. I called and hollered. All was in vain; my trip was for naught. I owned one less horse and a two week walk back to face my family and the Society of Friends.”

 

© wtomosky

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