West (Chapter Five, page 1 of 28)

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I didn't catch my breath until I left the house. The sun dispelled the lingering unease from upstairs, and I took a moment to admire the sleek black carriage waiting for me.

Nell had the reins, and I slid onto the bench seat beside her. She deftly drove the two-person buggy away from the house and into the prairielands. Waist high grasses bowed and rustled in an early fall breeze. They stretched as far as I could see, meeting the blue sky dotted with clouds in the distance. Hills rolled gently, sometimes hiding surprises I discovered when we crested them. Fluffy white sheep and cattle appeared over two peaks, one of which was tended by John's ranch hands.

Rather than be impatient by our relatively slow speed, I found myself immersed in admiring landscape unlike any I had ever seen.

"It's so peaceful," I murmured. "What is that?" I pointed to the six-foot stake with a red flag on its tip at the top of one hill.

"It marks the edge of the savages' land. Your grandfather owned two thousand acres in this territory, before the government decided to resettle the Indians out here. Your father marked the edges with flags," Nell replied. "The red men cross the border to reach the road, and they allow your father's herds to graze on their land in exchange. They share several large ponds."

"He gets along well with them," I commented. "Is it like this everywhere?"

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