Side Trip via Agnes
I am feeling rather homesick for Kansas right now, as this journey is more arduous than I had thought. I believe darling Agnes sensed my mood, because she used her unicorn powers to fly us magically to the Tallgrass Prairie of my home state. One moment we were on the road to Duwamish, the next, we touched down at Spring Hill Ranch. Agnes set to grazing on the rich prairie grass, and I took a rejuvenating solitary walk on the prairie. I walked for miles, my eyes resting on the gently dramatic contours of the unspoiled prairie. A few miles into my hike, I turned, looking 360° to see nothing but prairie—not a person, not a structure—and only a few large and noble cottonwood trees.
As I reached a small oasis of water, signaled by a clustered stand of cottonwood giants, the breeze picked up. A perfect place to stop for a snack, I though, and settled myself on a huge dead log. The wind continued to rise, and the cottonwood leaves made a rushing sound like a river in flood. I was perfectly relaxed, staring off into the distance, when a figure appeared on the horizon. Striding purposefully toward me, I noted that she had on a long dark gown and was carrying a bucket. She stepped into the grove and bent to her task—filling the bucket from the nearby spring. I watched her, noticing the stark gray hair pulled back into a bun, the white apron, the high-button shoes, the stern features focused on her labor. I spoke.
“Hello, how are you today?” She did not respond, merely completed her task, turned, and strode past me, slightly bent to counterbalance the weight of the water-filled bucket. She disappeared over the hill. I was astonished. I expected the historical re-enactors they had at this place to be a bit friendlier. But, shrugging it off, I filled my bottle from the spring and walked on. In three hours time I was back at the stone barn, finding things in a bit of an uproar because apparently Madame Eclectica and her wagon had apparated behind me, and she was now causing quite a bit of chaos in the cistern and spring house, throwing off her robes and insisting on a bath. Those Prairie rangers, farm boys all, had never seen such a woman. They were fairly bewitched, leaving a couple of female rangers to tend to the gift shop and exhibits, which I browsed while Eclectica sorted them out. I was nearly ready to leave, when I spied a book, “Prairie Women:True Lives of Women on the Frontier,” about prairie women in Kansas. The woman on the cover, standing chest deep in Big Bluestem, toddler on her hip, circa 1860, was the woman I had seen at the springs. A shiver ran through me.
I purchased the book and left. I collected Eclectica and had a word with Agnes, who spirited us all back into Lemuria, where we touched down at Duwamish Bay. I sipped from my prairie spring water as I flipped through the book. Periodically, I gazed at the cover, where the face of Emmeline Chase stared out at me, shy, proud, hardworking, beautiful. She died at forty, my own age. Once again, I shivered. I kissed Agnes goodbye, and complimented her on her mastery of unicorn-power and now relatively infrequent spells of hysterics, and set off with Eclectica in tow to the Ferry House.