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“How did they ever carry on after that?” asked George.
Epinetus said “They just carried on as if nothing had occurred; except for the injured.”
“The Birdsalls and some of the livestock had a quick and meager meal of old biscuits that morning. Grandfather made a decision that the three blind sheep would be trussed with rope and would ride on the wagon. ‘Everyone else will walk today’ stated Grandfather. However, Grandmother Abashaby took Grandfather aside for a quiet and rather secretive conversation. When the discussion was finished Grandfather had tears in his eyes. He walked over to Uncle Henry and said ‘you will also ride the wagon today.’”
“Uncle Henry protested; ‘I am fine Father. I can walk.’”
“’You will ride and that is my decision. Is that clear?’ demanded Grandfather.”
“Uncle Henry shook his head ‘Yes’ and smiled a knowing ‘Thank you’ when he realized that Grandfather loved him. Uncle Henry perceived that Grandfather was embarrassed about not realizing how much pain his son had been in throughout the night.”
Epinetus’ eyes welled up with tears and he again fell silent. Once he gained his composure he was off again with his story.
“With the wounded loaded in the wagon the Birdsall family started the nine mile downhill trek. Almost immediately Grandfather saw the dangers. The draught animals were losing their footing in the mix of mud and snow. The wagon wheels tended to slide sideways in the brown pudding created by the horses and oxen.”
“Only a few miles were gained over the morning hours. The family stopped and had a meal of biscuits and jerky. The children gathered up as many wild ferns as they could and fed the sheep, horses and oxen. The chickens received a hand full of cracked corn and the piglets were fed a mash of bad wheat and snow.”
George lit up a cigarette and executed a few smoke rings without realizing that this artful act had become a habit.