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By Donna Flood
Chapter 33 - Missouri Woman

“Missouri woman, come on up to the ranch Sunday after church?” Weldon asked Gwen.

“Ranch? What ranch?” Gwen looked surprised.

“Well, it isn’t really a ranch anymore, but I’m working on that. I need to take some things for storage.”

“Sure, I’ll go.” Gwen was agreeable.

“I’ll pick up some groceries to go with us.” Weldon told her.

“For a picnic?” Gwen wanted to know so she could take what they needed.

“No, everything is there.” Weldon explained.

Gwen knew nothing about their destination and had no idea of what he spoke but didn’t question him. How did this man know her feelings? It was like he read her mind. She was deeply heartsick over this marriage that was slipping through her fingers as surely as sand in a stream of water. Without a doubt, that part of her life was over. She wasn’t a shallow person and deep within her total being she knew. She understood the ultimate ending of . To get out of town, just for a short time, might give her the break she needed so she could think. Her husband said there was a part of him that would forever love her, but then Gwen wanted to know why he had just stopped trying with his whole self. Why couldn’t she hold him as completely as she once had. Her suspicions were not far from what must be the truth. The loss was much like death but even worse because they were both alive and walking around, only that part of them to make a unit was gone. A ride through the countryside would give her a short reprieve from carrying sadness on her back like an unwanted burden.

“I’m ready to get out of town for a day.” She told Weldon.

Sunday morning after church the car was loaded and they were on their way to the outbacks of Osage County where the sky was big enough to be a gauze upon any broken heart for healing. Over the winding highways they drove and then on to the roads of gravel so rough Weldon cut his speed to one half of that when they were on the paved highways.

The children were amazed to see how many rabbits there were in the pastures and along the road.

“Rabbits! Look at all the rabbits! Why all these rabbits?” The kids were amazed.

“I have a cousin who hunts the coyotes because they eat his calves and chickens. Every once in a while he is over ambitious about killing them off. When too many coyotes are gone there is no predator for the rabbits.

“What a grand place this is,” Gwen observed.

“This is my homeland where my grandfathers fought for a place to live.

The prairie is part of my life and when I die I want to rest up there by my mother.”

Weldon pointed out to the loneliest looking cemetery Gwen had ever seen just a short distance off the road.

“Prairie it is,” she observed. I’ve never seen so much grass and only grass all in one place.

The house they drove up to seemed to be an old woman who took a solid stance. She might be gray, a bit disheveled and alone but this had nothing to do with her unbending attitude as if to say, “I’m here, what is your business at my place?”

“Are you sure we can go inside?” Gwen must have felt something of the spirits who might have wanted to protect the place because she was uneasy about going into the house.

“Of course!” Weldon reassured her. “This is where I grew up. I own it, in partners with my Dad and Mariah.

“It’s so big,” Mariah was walking through the furnished rooms. “Who belongs to this furniture?”

This has always been here, ever since I can remember. Mom and Dad bought it in the 1920's. Some of it was a gift from Mother’s Uncle Louis Shoenela. The Osage were big people and they like robust living in every way from furnishing to all else.

“I have the groceries in the kitchen if you want to start supper for the kids.” Weldon led her into the vintage kitchen where he had set the paper sacks on the porcelain sink drainboard. Gwen began to make herself acquainted with this space.

“Everything is in place like someone has been living here.” She pulled down the bin which was full of flour.

“Dad sees to it, everything is always in order, but you will need to pull the spreads back. The linens on the beds get damp feeling with being made up.” Weldon was going back to the truck of his car where he
had his saddle and some other tack.

“Beds?” Gwen silently questioned. “Are we staying the night?”

Weldon switched on the televison and adjusted the rotor leading to the antenna on top of the house. The program and music flooding the room made the house come alive and suddenly was welcoming them.

Gwen stood in the door of the kitchen and gazed out across the space of dining and living room to where her children were tumbling on the carpet in front of the television.

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