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The Silence of the Day
by Dee Yoder
Sara adjusted the apron covering her skirt and pushed the hair off her sweating forehead. The chickens scattered away from her advancing feet; their protesting squawks rang in the still air. She spied a lone chick, scrawny and trembling. The other chickens had pushed it aside again, not allowing it to eat or drink for the second day. She scooped it into the palm of her hand, and tucked it into her apron pocket, then continued scattering feed to the hungry birds.
After feeding the flock, she returned to the cool shade of the Soddy. She searched out a thin piece of fabric and fluffed a meager bed in the corner near the window, then removed the tiny creature from her pocket. She knelt and laid the bird on the pile. He fit perfectly on his fabric bed, and she watched him nestle in, the sun shining a warm ray across his pale, wispy feathers. She placed a small mound of grain and a saucer of water in front of him, and waited for him to find his meal. He stirred; ate, drank, and then tucked his head into his downy feathers to sleep.
“…as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings…,”* Sarah whispered.
Her lonely voice reached only her own ears, and an ache grew in her chest to hear his voice again. Her eyes glazed over as she stared unseeing at the chick, and she daydreamed of a sweet reunion soon.
She grabbed the edge of the table, pulled herself upright, then reached for the tin pail by the door.
“Time to fetch the water,” she said to no one.
Her feet carried her down the worn path, along the edge of the untamed prairie, to the small stream that gurgled through the bluestem grass and over the horizon. The silence of the day overwhelmed her suddenly, and she began to cry. She dipped her pail into the stream, her motions robotic and tired, and all the while her tears traced a path through the dust that was ever present on her cheeks.
Back and forth she trudged, the monotony of her chores pulling her through her long, lonely day.
“It’s time for supper,” she told the little chick, who was now perched at the edge of his makeshift bed.
The chick peeped loudly and the sound hurt her ears. She lifted the baby bird, and took him back to the flock. She watched closely to see that he was not injured before she left him alone in the coop.
Evening approached as she wandered to the nearest field to gaze hungrily at the empty expanse of grass and sky. The bottom of the sky was streaked with red, purple, and pink clouds but the beauty of the sunset had long since lost its appeal. Her eyes scanned the distant waves of grass from left to right, then right to left, hoping, and praying that his familiar figure would appear. The view disappointed her, once again. Her shoulders slumped, her heart tightened in her chest, and the silent tears returned.
After supper, she lit the lamp on the table, and opened the worn Bible that lay in her lap. An hour passed quietly. Then two hours. At times, she read aloud, just to hear her own voice, but finally, she grew silent along with the sleeping prairie. The night threw its black cloak over the Soddy, confining her to the circle of light cast from the lamp. The howling of the night animals began and she shivered. She lifted her eyes fearfully to the paper-paned window, but then forced her gaze downward again to the book in her lap.
“…the Lord will preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth…”**
As the night wore on, she dozed uncomfortably in her chair. She wouldn’t sleep alone in the bed while he was gone for supplies.
The sun of the hot, dry morning pulled her from sleep. She stretched, wiped her weary eyes, and stepped out to view the flat fields.
She held their future and their dreams in her hands. She dared not falter, or fail. She subdued her fears, her loneliness, and her sadness as she waited for her husband’s return. They had two more years to occupy the land before it would finally belong to them. She sighed, adjusted the apron covering her skirt, and went to feed the chickens. Another day had begun on the prairie.
*Luke 13:34 The Holy Bible, King James Version
**Psalms 121:8 The Holy Bible, King James Version
Author’s Note: The Homestead Act was a US Federal law that granted 160 acres of land in the developing American West to those age 21 or above who built a house, and lived continuously on the land for 5 years. To keep others from claiming their land, men were often forced to leave their families behind on the prairie, sometimes for weeks, while they traveled alone to distant towns for needed supplies. Many pioneer women endured these lonely and dangerous weeks to secure their family’s future. http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/Homestead_Act