Outtakes #8 – A Place of Her Own

Returning to my Outtakes series, this post includes another scene slashed from the Oregon Trail chapter of A Place of Her Own, except that a few lines of it were salvaged for a scene that did make the cut. Although there’s some excitement here you may enjoy, I snipped this because I didn’t feel I had an adequate picture of the scene in my mind, and I still needed to trim more words to reach the target word count. This gave me 415. Clip…..

469.diorama oxen & wagonThe photo was taken at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker City, Oregon, one of the fine dioramas inside the center, which gives an authentic impression of that dusty trail.


Martha stumbled over the rocky road, Nora in one hand, Louisa in the other arm. The wagons jolted, wheels bumping over the rocks. Alkali dust covered everything. Garrett’s growing hair and beard looked white, matted with the white dust. He stopped the oxen and Martha stood where she was, covering her mouth in hopes of drawing clean air, but it didn’t work. Garrett poured water from his pouch onto a cloth, and wiped it over the noses of the oxen, cleaning off a little of the dust.

The animals nodded their massive heads, as if to thank him, and one nuzzled him a little. Old Bob loved to be stroked under his chin, and Garrett obliged for a moment. Zack raised his dust-smudged nose and snorted. He started forward, pushing past Garrett. The loose cattle caught whatever scent Zack smelled and moved ahead with the same urgency, passing Martha and the girls like a stream dividing around three stones.

She heard Garrett’s frantic voice. “Stop them! Don’t let them drink the water. It’s alkali. Stop them!”

“Come on,” Martha said to Nora, dragging her along.

The wagon held back the oxen from going faster than Martha on the rocky path, even with Nora in tow. She contemplated putting the children in the moving wagon, but what if the oxen tipped it over in their frenzy? Careful not to trip on a rock, she ran on. The loose cattle were all ahead now. Larry galloped up, then Newt, hooting and shouting, trying to turn them back. Martha worked her way around the outer edge until she was above the sickly looking water hole. She put the children on a big rock and climbed up after them. The cattle wouldn’t come up here, but she could yell at them from this high place.

She waved her arms and yelled as loud as she could, and the girls did the same, their high-pitched shrieks as loud as her shouts. Garrett was at the water, driving the poor creatures back. So thirsty. So desperate for water. But the alkali water could kill them in a matter of hours. The trail along here was littered with the bones of oxen and fresher dead beasts–along with discarded trunks and furniture . . . and another human grave.

A chill raked Martha despite the heat.

She yelled again, wanting to cry out her own despair, embracing the excuse, until finally the men turned the cattle and managed to move them on.