Strangers on the Plain Pt. 01


Dear Diary,

As this is the first day of the start of my new life, I thought it appropriate to start a new diary. This first entry will have to include a bit of the past, and I have a lot of time to get these thoughts in order, though the rumbling of the train is not doing any favors to my penmanship.

Today was the hottest day I’d ever felt in Washington DC as I boarded the train bound to cross the nation to my eventual destination of San Francisco. Clutched in my hand was my leather bag containing my letter of acceptance to teach school across the country, a few books to help ease the tedium of the long passage, and the tidy sum I had left from the parting gift my father gave me when he sent me on my way out the door because I refused to follow his wishes to marry the odious Jacob J. Johnson.

Ever since I was a little girl I have taken great measures to make my own way in a world determined to place women in an inferior position to men. ‘Triple J,’ as he demanded to be addressed, was the worst sort of pompous, arrogant and blustering men whose belly was wider around than he was tall and who constantly reeked of cheap tobacco. His method of courting left quite a bit to be desired as well, constantly leering at me and trying to catch glimpses of exposed skin when I would walk up stairs. The very thought of his stubby thick fingers ever getting to touch me sends shivers of repulsion through my body even to this day.

So it was with a rather heavy heart that when my father gave me the ultimatum of either accepting his proposal of marriage or leaving my family forever that I had to tell him that was leaving. I would prove that a single unmarried woman could indeed lead a fulfilling life in the exciting new land of America and after watching his heart break behind his eyes, he slowly nodded and turned his back.

Going upstairs to pack I felt like I was in a daze. The week had started on such a positive note when I got the letter asking me to come to San Francisco to be a teacher, and it was with such pride that I told my family the news. That must be what prompted the sow to suddenly propose in an effort to ‘entice’ me to stay. I got everything I thought I would need and by the time I had made my way to the front door I saw that my father was waiting there for me. He kissed me on the cheek, wished me well, and handed me money to help get me on my way. I could tell that he was disappointed in my decision, but he knew me well enough by now to know that I would not be deterred from my decision as certainly as I knew he would not relent in his ultimatum. I guess his stubborn streak was passed along to me.

I was not expecting to be going to San Francisco so far ahead of the start of the school year, as Spring was in full bloom and Summer had not yet fully begun, but it seemed that I had little choice in the matter. The porter took my bag and I stepped aboard. I did not look out the window to see if anyone was waving to me as I left. If any of my family had showed up, I would not have wanted them to see me cry, and if the sow had reared his ugly face I may have jumped off the train merely to punch him in the face.

Because Dad had given me more than enough to get by with until I could start getting paid at my teaching position I decided that privacy would be rather dear to me and so I bought passage in a private car at the very rear of the train. Because the long road was still not entirely free from danger the train was not packed to capacity as many still feared to make the journey, but it was the only real mode of transportation available to me, so I sat in my car and wondered if I had made the right decision. A quick survey of the car told me that the rest of the passengers favored a close proximity to the dining car above all else, so I was quite alone in my car at the tail end of the train.

The day is beautiful and I am determined to be strong of heart. Instead of mourning the life I have left behind, I shall embrace this start of a new chapter in my life. Once I have completed this entry I think I shall head up to the dining car for brunch, and spend the rest of the day reading Jules Verne.

9th May, 1869

-Note from the Author—

As the first few days of the journey were mostly irrelevant, they have been edited from this work in the interest of saving you from the rambling incoherencies of the panic attack I had when the realization that I was leaving home for the first time and had no real clue what I was going to do with myself. Suffice to say that looking back on it made me cringe.

(Recorded some days after the events of this day)

This being a record of the events of the morning of the 12th. As the light started to break across the sky that dawn, I rose out of bed and gazed out the window to catch a glimpse of the rising sun as had become my custom on this journey. I got much more of a sight than I had bargained for. Because of my position at the very rear of the train I may have been the first to see the line anadolu yakası escort of charging men on horseback using the sun to disguise their approach. But as soon as they neared, stealth no longer became a priority for the marauders as they whooped and fired their guns into the air. Faces started to appear at windows to see the commotion, then quickly ducked away in fear.

We were under attack.

Part of me wanted to hide under the seat. Part of me wanted to throw something at the closest marauder. But all I actually did do was look out my window with my jaw open at what was taking place. Most of the horsed men rode toward the engine, presumably to take control of the train. Some of the others headed toward the passenger cars and deftly leapt from the saddle to board the train and claim their prisoners. Then there was one man who was apart from the rest yet looked just as deadly.

He trailed the main pack of the marauders and was a tall striking figure. His clothes had seen hard wear and plenty of days in the saddle. His boots and vest were of a black leather, worn and faded. His skin was a rich nut brown, and he had the barest hint of crinkles at the corners of his eyes. I realized with a start that the reason I could see such detail on this man…was that he had rode right up to the window I was peering out of like a looby. Our eyes locked onto each other. His held what seemed to be frustration and anger. I’m sure mine held nothing but primal fear.

He was the one who broke contact first, looking up at the rest of the marauders, then back at me. I think I heard him swear, then he spurred his horse and leapt onto the gap between my car and the rest of the train. At that moment, I believed that my life was forfeit. Surely this bandit would charge back to find me, take what possessions I had, and if they were not enough, he would certainly take my life as well.

The next minutes of my life seemed to go by in a blur. As soon as the marauder leapt to the car, I found some small measure of self-preservation and quickly went and made sure my door was bolted shut and I drew the blinds over the window into my room. Then I squeezed myself into the corner and found myself doing something I had long abandoned, by saying a prayer for protection. I found it hard to tell the difference between the rhythmic pulsing of the wheels or the steady pounding of my heart in fear as seconds turned into a full minute. It was then that I felt a strange deceleration, and in my mind I could almost envision the marauders succeeding in taking the locomotive and that we were all being brought to a halt where who knows what manner of unpleasantness would be forced upon me. That I would be killed was unquestionable, but in what manner? Would I be spoiled and beaten before being left naked in the wilderness to die? Would I get slashed to ribbons with a sharp blade? Perhaps I would simply be shot and that would be the end of it.

I could tell that my car was slowing down, but something about it didn’t seem right. I chanced a peek out my window and saw the rest of the train going on ahead. That bandit had uncoupled my car! The reasons he might have done such a thing began racing unpleasantly through my mind as the car slowed and eventually came to a halt. I was watching the rest of the train fade into the distance when a horse’s brown face suddenly appeared in my window causing me to involuntarily give a small squeak of fear. It wasn’t long after that I heard a gentle knock at my door.

“I ain’t gonna hurt you. Go ahead and open up the door Miss.”

Those were not the words I expected to come from the other side of that door. Resolving to face whatever the next few minutes held in store for me with dignity, I smoothed my dress and walked over to the door. Arranging my hat and putting on my gloves I tried to affix a ‘stern teacher’ look on my face as I drew back the curtain and unbolted the door.

The door opened and a tall man entered into my room. He stood well over six feet tall, with dust on his black boots and his dark pants. His face was rugged, and I put his age at nearly 30. He had dark hair that he kept short and a dark moustache he kept long. He wore a somewhat battered black leather vest over a white shirt that also had seen better days. His shoulders were broad, and his skin the rich nut brown of a man of European descent who has spent most of his days under the sun instead of stuck indoors. He wore a gun belt and a black hat, but the gun was still in its holster instead of his hand. I took this as a good sign. I realized that I was gawping at the man, but then, I had every reason to be a bit out of sorts. He surprised me again by taking off his hat as we met eyes and stood sort of wringing it in his hands as he spoke again.

“I reckon yer wondering why I done what I done back there. Well, I was hit up with some pretty hard times, so I joined up with Nacho and his little group atalar escort of banditos that you saw back there. Problem is, Nacho’s a prick, and when his pride gets all in a dander he does stupid things. He hit up the last train that came through, took a few prisoners and told Pacific Union to pay their ransom. They didn’t, so he ended up killing ’em all. Then he decides that to send a message, he’s gonna kill everyone on this train and leave the bodies as a witness that Nacho ain’t a man to be trifled with. He figures that the next time he’ll get his ransom money. I think more likely is he’ll just get himself hanged once the law comes looking for who done massacred all them folk. I weren’t happy about going along in the first place, and when I saw yer head peeking out the window I just had to do what I could. I couldn’t save everyone on that train…Nacho wants blood…but I ain’t gonna have any of it on my hands. So…that’s why I unhooked this car. Figured there’d be more than just you in here, but I guess if all I get to save is one person, it’s better than none.”

I tried to gather my wits about me. It was a long pause before I managed to stammer,

“W-w-well then, what do you propose to do now?”

“Well, I really hadn’t reckoned on much farther than this. I figured once I set the folks in this car loose they’d all get together and figure out a way back to town. Nashville ain’t too far from here. But now that I know it’s just you…well…shit. I ain’t got much idea what to do with you. Ya don’t look much like yer used to gettin places on foot.”

With that exchange I saw him look me over in much the same way I had when I first opened the door to him. He took in the fine embroidery and cost of my maroon dress, noted my lace gloves, and could see that my shoes were not scuffed or worn. Since his last utterance did not fully satisfy my question I kept as haughty and imperious a look on my face as I could manage. Since it seemed that my life was no longer in immediate peril, my heart started to ease its way down out of my throat. This was quite the unfortunate turn of events. Now my trip to San Francisco would be delayed. I would have had more than ample time to find suitable quarters and familiarize myself with the city before the next school term was set to start, but this delay would certainly cut that down considerably.

Then a new thought struck me. If this ‘Nacho’ character was intent on terrorizing the railway, then just getting on the next train heading West wasn’t something I was looking forward to doing. I would probably end up in the same spot, but without the providence of rescue. That’s when it finally struck me that this bandit had rescued me from what would have been certain death! And here I was scowling at him.

I managed to murmur, “Please, do come in and sit down.” I turned and sat on the bed while he sat across from me.

“Well then. This current set of circumstances does present us with several questions that need to be answered. Do you think this ‘Nacho’ character will notice the train is short, or that you have gone missing, or will he head back this way once he’s done…with what he’s going to do?”

“I doubt Nacho has any idea how many cars are supposed to be on that train. I also doubt he’ll notice I’m gone. At least for tonight. And getting back to his camp won’t take him back by these parts I wouldn’t think. So I think the best thing for it now is to settle in for today, then get going under cover of night. That way we can get some miles underneath us without being seen. I wouldn’t want anyone associating us with that carnage up the tracks.”

“WE can get some miles underneath us? Surely you don’t intend for me to travel with you?”

He raised an eyebrow at that.

“Do you know how to travel over rough terrain? Better still, do you even know how to start a fire?”

“Well certainly I do. Simply use a match.”

“And if you ain’t got no matches?”

“Well…I know that you can start a fire by using friction from two sticks.”


I was getting somewhat cross at this interminable questioning. Perhaps I didn’t know how to start a fire, but did this lout know how to do simple arithmetic? Could he cross-stitch? Could he even count to eleven without using his prick? But before I could come up with a reply that I felt was scathing enough, he continued.

“Listen, the way I figure it, I saved your life. That makes you my responsibility till I can get you where yer going. So where you headin?”

“I am bound for San Francisco, where I am expected to fill the post of schoolteacher

when term starts in the Fall.”

“Well then. What’s yer name?”

I hesitated. I wasn’t quite sure how this man had managed to get so much information from me already, but even though I was indebted to him I wasn’t sure he was worthy of my trust. Again, he was quick to notice my mind in the silence between us.

“Tell ya what. I’ll ataşehir escort call you Marm…like Schoolmarm. You can call me whatever you like. That way once yer all back in San Francisco you won’t have to worry about me coming to call for ya.”

He chuckled at his wit and settled back in his seat, crossing his legs in front of him and drawing his hat down below his eyes.

“You’ll want to get some shut-eye afore nightfall. We’re gonna do a lot of hard travel come tonight.”

And with that…he went silent.

I was stuck in a situation which I was not very fond of, being dependent upon a man to see to my needs. I had thus far in my life managed just fine to avoid becoming beholden to anyone. I mean, this was tantamount to kidnapping! While I certainly did not still want to be coupled to the train of death, the fact that this bandit saved me from that fate should not mean I am now his property to be casually dismissed with a wave of a hand when his Lordship decides to take a nap. I summoned up some courage and uttered, “I am not your property to be commanded about. I will be able to make my own way just fine.”

With that I stood and gathered my bag and started to place my books and this journal inside of it. I had just closed the clasp and was preparing to walk right out the door when I felt his rough hand take ahold of me by the wrist, stopping me dead in my tracks. I scowled down at him and waited to be released and was surprised again to see sadness in his eyes looking back up at me.

“You wouldn’t last two days out there alone. You have no food, water, shelter or matches, and you don’t have the skills to get those things before you die from not having them. So sit on down Marm and get some rest.”

He chuckled to himself and then continued, “And besides, if you WERE my ‘property’ you’d long since had that dress flung up over yer head and been down on all fours there.”

He nodded to the bed, and in my disgust I turned back and sat down there. How uncouth. I was already counting the minutes before I would be able to free myself from this lout and resume my travels unhindered. He leaned back again and disappeared under his hat. I sat there on the bed and fumed. Shortly later I could hear soft snoring from under the wide-brimmed beaverskin hat. How anyone could sleep in this kind of heat I certainly didn’t know. It wasn’t even mid-day yet and already I felt like I was baking alive. I went to open the window, only to discover that it was already open. There simply wasn’t a breeze. The sun was mercilessly beating down upon my poor little train car, and my fate rested in the hands of a sleepy and lecherous man who was an admitted ruffian and marauder! And this business about me being on all fours getting rutted like a wild animal! Where did he get off speaking to me in such a manner?

I was sweating profusely in my long sleeved, high-collared dress. I didn’t want to ruin my lace gloves, so I took them off and placed them in my bag. My hat soon followed, and I undid the top few buttons of my dress just to allow SOME sort of air to reach my body, lest I faint from heatstroke. I had a fan that I took out and made use of, fluttering it in my wrist to move some of the air over my face and neck. I sat back and looked over at my new companion, still resting at ease with booted feet crossed at the ankle, legs stretched out in front of him, arms folded across his chest, and his hat down around his eyes as he somehow managed to slumber in this stifling heat. I decided that I would try some of the observation techniques of one Sherlock Holmes to see what I could deduce about this man, and thus perhaps show him that I was more than just a damsel in distress that he could feel good about rescuing from the evil marauders…of which he was counted a member until this morning.

His hat provided few clues. Beaverskin dark hats were a dime a dozen in any city that boasted amenities like a haberdashery. His shirt was rather intriguing. I couldn’t see the label, but the material was not the rough cotton that most hard-hands wore. I couldn’t be certain, but I thought it might even be silk. It had certainly seen better days, but it looked to be mostly taken care of, and even crudely mended along one seam. There was even some embroidery along the shoulders that looked to be an ivy design. The black leather vest gave me no hints. I inspected his gun from where it sat in its holster, but I know little of the manufacture of firearms. It looked to me to be a standard sort of 6-shooter, but again, beyond that was beyond me.

The soft snoring continued as my inspection moved to his pants. These were dark and were somewhat dusty from his ride in, but fit well, if a bit snugly. I was starting to see what hints I might glean from his boots when, of their own accord, my eyes strayed to…well…a bulge. Apparently, this Bandit was having quite a good dream as he dazed in my train car. Now I am quite a knowledgeable woman on many subjects…but I must admit that I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the ways of desire and lust. I have had my fair share of vivid thoughts looking at the young men around me growing up; especially those times when engaged in labors and shirts were cast aside for comfort. I have had thorough mental explorations about what I might want a man to do to me one day…but that day had never come.

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