our return to the homestead, the first thing Sully and I and the children
noticed was how dry everything looked. I was surprised since Robert
E had promised to take care of things there during our absence, it wasn’t
like Robert E. not to keep his word. When Sully explained that there
hadn't been any rain the entire time we had been gone, I immediately
grew concerned about how we would manage. But Sully reassured me, pointing
out that, we could always carry up water from the creek if we needed
to. I must admit it felt good to have another adult to rely on, to not
be the only one that the children could look to for guidance. I had never
had to depend on anyone before, but I had grown to rely on Sully simply
to 'be there' when we needed him, and he had yet to let us down.
Besides the lack of water, I soon realized that there was one other thing that was ‘different’ upon my return to Colorado- my relationship with Sully had changed. We had pledged our love to each other in front of the entire town, and the children were not about to let us forget that! They immediately wanted to know if we were planning to marry. Until that moment, I believe neither Sully nor myself had really thought about what our acknowledging our feelings for one another would mean. Neither of us was ready for what the children were proposing but certainly things had changed- surely there was some middle ground? It was Matthew who announced that if we weren’t ready to marry then we would be ‘courting’. That certainly sounded far less frightening then marriage. We agreed, that was exactly what we would do- we would court.
Being courted by Byron Sully though was very different
from what I had been used to with David, my first fiance. For one
thing we had very different ideas of what 'courting' meant. For Sully,
'courting' meant touching and kissing, or as he put it' sparkin'.
For me, courting meant a time to 'talk' and get
to know each other, to bring each other gifts and find out what our
mutual likes and dislikes were, to see if we were compatable. Sully
wanted to know what came after that- if we decided that we were compatable. I couldn't tell him that was what I was so afraid of!
I had never felt that way with David. It wasn't that I was afraid
of Sully, I think I was more afraid of my own feelings when I was
with him. Sully stirred something very powerful in me, something
I wasn't sure I was ready for.
In the ensuing weeks, my concern about our differences
grew. Knowing that the cabin that the children and I were currently
living in had once been Sully's home with his first wife Abigail,
I had assumed that wherever he had been staying since then must
be another cabin or lodge of some sort- perhaps not a real house
but certainly something with walls at least! It came as quite a
shock therefore, when on one of our walks Sully pointed to a 'lean
to' in the forest and announced that this was where he lived. "This
is where you live? Here? I echoed in disbelief. I think he was a
bit hurt by my reaction, he was after all sharing his world with
me. I guess to this point I just hadn't realized how different
Sully's 'world' was from my own.
Thanksgiving was near and the lack of water had now become a crisis, so much so that the town had prevailed upon Horace to use his 'power' to find water underground. It seemed that the ability to locate water with the use of a divining rod had been passed down in the Bing family from generation to generation. As Loren put it, "If a 'Bing' can't find water, there isn't any water to be found." Matthew and I along with a good portion of the town, had watched in awe one day as Horace had reverently lifted his divining rod out of its case and had used it to guide him to a water source underground. It was almost comical watching the long line of townspeople follow behind as Horace led the way. When he stopped and announced that the men should ' dig here' everyone grew excited. I asked Sully who had just joined us if he believed that Horace had really found water. Sully simply remarked that even if he had, it wouldn't do much to solve the real problem. I asked him, " What would?" In response, he took me to see Cloud Dancing.
The Indians,Cloud Dancing explained, had learned how to adapt by cultivating crops that would grow even in the worst of droughts. I was elated, this was our answer then. I asked him if he would come back with me and teach the townspeople what they needed to learn to survive. Both Sully and Cloud Dancing were sceptical that the townspeople would be willing to listen. I assured them, that of course they would- they were hungry weren't they? I couldn't have been more wrong. Not only did Loren, Jake and the rest of the town refuse to listen to the Indians, Jake even went so far as to take the basket of food that Cloud Dancing had brought and overturn it. I was mortified and deeply ashamed at the way the Indian's offer to help had been received.
After that, things went from bad to worse. Hank announced he was leaving and encouraged all of us to do the same. My heart broke at the look of devestation on Horaces' face when Hank said that, for if Hank left Colorado Springs, he would take Myra with him. I pleaded with everyone to try and work together, I reminded them of the early settlers and how they had survived by helping each other,but I could see that they too were on the verge of following in Hank's footsteps. Even Dorothy, looked resigned as Loren led her away. Sully who until now had supported me in my attempts to reason with the townspeople now angrily urged me to just 'let them go. I was shocked, surely that couldn't be the answer. But Sully had had enough. Some people just can't change he insisted. Defiantly I shot back that I didn't believe that. "That's another thing we dont' agree on." he replied staring at me. Stung, I called after him, "Maybe we don't have enough in common." The moment I said that, I wanted to take it back, but it was too late. Sully turned around briefly and then walked away. I had never felt so alone in my entire life.
Over the next few days, I barely saw Sully.
Once when I saw him walk by as I stood outside the clinic, he looked
as if he were going to approach. I waited hopefully, but he simply
stared at me silently and continued on. Meanwhile Hank had left with
Myra to seek his fortune in Oregon and there seemed to be little doubt
that soon everyone might have to do the same. Loren and Jake however
had devised a plan to remain in town and in fact to prosper. I
should have known any scheme involving those two would involve money-
sure enough it did. They had quietly gone to find the 'hidden spring'
which they believed was the real reason the Indians had been able to
survive. They had returned announcing that they had water for anyone
who could 'afford it'. My charges that it was immoral to charge for
water in a time of drought had little effect. Perhaps, Sully
had been right- maybe some people really couldn't change.