ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

IN PURSUIT OF A DREAM

There were a thousand reasons for Samuel not to go.

First among them was Victoria. She had still not recovered physically from the delivery of their first child, a boy they had named David. Nor had she recovered emotionally from little David's death just hours after he was born. The strong, sturdy, handsome woman Samuel had married was now gaunt and pale, and he feared that if he left her he would never see her again.

Then there was the home they had built on the Illinois prairie. True, it wasn't much of a home. It was barely more than a cabin. But they built it, log by excruciatingly heavy log, with their own hands and sweat, and they had furnished it with hand-made chairs, a hand-me-down bed and love. It was their first home, and it suited them solid, humble, functional. Here they planned to raise crops and children, and to live out their dream.

Together.

But somewhere along the way their dream changed. The great western frontier beckoned to them with its promise of land, prosperity and peace. The challenge was daunting, but the possibilities were endless. And so they made plans to move west soon after their little one was born. Samuel signed on as a hunter and guard for a company of pioneers heading west. Victoria would drive their wagon and care for the baby at the same time. It would be a long and difficult journey, but they were young and confident, and their dream lay before them.

But now . . . everything was different. Their baby lay under a wooden marker a stone's throw from the cabin. Victoria could barely raise her head to take nourishment there was no way she could handle the team of oxen they had obtained to pull the wagon. And Samuel couldn't drive the wagon he had responsibilities to the company. He had already taken money for the job that's how they had been able to afford the oxen and the supplies they needed.

"You have to go, Samuel," Victoria said softly.

He shook his head. "No. I can't leave you. Not like this."

She gave his hand a slight squeeze "slight" was all the strength she had.

"You've given these people your word," she said. "They're counting on you."

"But that doesn't mean anything compared to . . ."

"Don't," she said. "I know you better than that. Your word of honor means everything to you. It's one of the things I love about you. And I won't have you breaking it on my account."

"But Victoria . . ."

"Go," she said. "Do your duty. Find a place for us. And then you come back for me."

Reluctantly, Samuel did as Victoria instructed, but not before kneeling to commit her to God's care and keeping. As he rode away, he turned to look back at their cabin and saw his wife, slumped against the doorway, waving feebly. He carried that image in his mind across three months and three thousand miles. He fulfilled his duty to the wagon train and received 100 acres of fertile land for his efforts. He put in a few hearty crops, and then he started back for Victoria.

He made the trip back to Illinois in half the time it took them to go west. It was only as he drew near their cabin that he hesitated. He searched the horizon for signs of life. At last he saw it a wisp of smoke curling from the cabin chimney. He whipped his horse into a gallop. Soon he saw the cabin in all its tiny glory, and the figure of a woman in the doorway. But instead of waving feebly as she had when last she saw him, she gathered her skirts and ran full-speed toward him, watering the prairie with her tears while giving new birth to a dream.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.