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ESCAPE




                     

          “The children and I might go to Philipsburg for a visit,” Mom said to Uncle Don the next time he stopped to see us.
          It had been two weeks since Dad’s funeral.  The house felt empty and lonely.  We were having a hard time adjusting, especially Mom.
          Montana is so far,” Uncle Don said skeptically.
          “I know it is, but I’ve got to get away.  There are friends I want to see again.  We had a good life there,” Mom said wistfully.
          My hopes stirred at the possibility of returning to Philipsburg.  I remembered the little town nestled in the mountains.
          “Sis, why don’t you visit April in Kansas?” Uncle Don suggested, “I know she would love to have you, and Gloria and Bronco would enjoy the farm.”
          “Well, I don’t know,” Mom hesitated.
          “You would be getting away for awhile and it wouldn’t be so far to go.  You would be with family,” Uncle Don persuaded.
          Mom called her sister long distance, and April’s invitation was, “Please come.”
          Two days later, we stood at the Albuquerque train depot preparing to board the Santa Fe Railway train.  Bronco and I stared in awe at the succession of railroad cars lined up behind the engine.
          “Where’s the caboose?” Bronco asked excitedly.
          “At the end,” I declared, with my big sister expertise.
          We hugged Grandma Underwood and Uncle Don and climbed the steel steps into the train.
The earth tones and rugged terrain of New Mexico sped by the large passenger windows in the morning hours.  At noon, the sun shone bright on the Colorado greenness and by mid afternoon, the locomotive, with its procession or railroad cars, wound through the Rocky Mountains.  Evening shadows were falling as the train made its passage across the plains of eastern Colorado and into Kansas.
          The locomotive slowed and came to a jugging halt in Goodland Kansas.  Four smiling faces greeted us as we disembarked from our iron transportation.
          Aunt April, Mom’s older sister by fourteen months, was a happy, talkative person who never stood still for long.  Uncle Ken did more smiling than talking, but when he did speak, his voice was in low volume.  Kim was their son, and he and Bronco were close to the same age.  Gayle, their daughter, was younger then Kim.  She had large brown eyes. 
          The paneled, brown station wagon hummed with laughter and voices, as Uncle Ken drove down the gravel country roads.
          Every light in the beige, brick farmhouse was on as we enjoyed the fellowship of family and good food.  Late that night, after we were tucked into bed, I snuggled deep in the covers and felt my first happiness in weeks.  I was glad we had come.
          Mornings were for early rising on the farm.  Aunt April was in the kitchen making coffee and breakfast.  Uncle Ken was in the barn doing his chores.   
           

             After breakfast, everyone piled into the station wagon.  Uncle Ken drove up the country road and parked next to a field full of animals.
          We gazed at large, brownish-black animals, and they stared back just as rudely.  They wore a hump on their backs, horns protruded through  coarse hair, that covered their heads, ran down their faces and throats, forming beards.
          “What are those?” asked Bronco, “They don’t look like cows.”
          Uncle Ken’s laugh was a low roar.  “No they aren’t cows, they are buffalo.”
          “Wow, I thought the Indians killed all of them,” I said genuinely impressed, “Do they belong to you?”
          “Yep, they sure do,” Uncle Ken said proudly, “there aren’t many of them left.  Herds use to roam this country, but they are a rare breed not.”
          Uncle Ken started the engine of the station wagon and we drove back to the farmhouse.  As soon as we pulled into the driveway, the boys bounded from the vehicle and ran to play.  They were soon lost in their own little world of toy cars and Tonka trucks.
           I headed for the newborn kittens; Aunt April had shown me. I had always loved cats, but I had never had one for a pet, because Dad hadn’t liked them.
   I laid my cheek against the kitten nestled in my arms; it felt soft and its little black nose was wet.
The morning flew by.  Aunt April called us to lunch. We sat around the table, four cousins chattering like magpies.  Everyone was enjoying the time together, except Mom.  Aunt April tried to draw her into the activity, but she remained quiet and aloof.  I had the feeling that she wished we hadn’t come.
On the third day of our visit, Aunt April said we might go to the swimming pool in town.  I entered the living room to ask when we were going.  Right away I could feel the tenseness.  Evidently, Mom had just announced that she was leaving.  Aunt April was upset.
‘Wanda you can’t leave.  You just got here,” April was saying.
“There’s no use in trying to change my mind.  We’re going back to Albuquerque!”
“But, you were going to stay for two weeks,” April pleaded.
“I thought I would feel better if I got away, but it hasn’t helped.  I just don’t want to stay any longer,” Mom said bluntly.
Mom would not relent.  There wasn’t a train leaving for Albuquerque until the next morning. We would be staying in a hotel.
Uncle Ken put our suitcases in the station wagon.  We hugged our Aunt and told our cousin’s goodbye.  I felt confused about leaving so soon.  I was angry with Mom for her sudden decision and sad because Aunt April was upset over us leaving.
The light from the hallway, shone through a window over the old wooden door in the hotel room.  I lay in the unfamiliar bed trying to make sense of it all. I could still see Aunt April, as she waved goodbye to us.  I missed Kim and Gayle and the farm.  I was upset at Mom.  Of all her sisters, April was the one Mom had sibling rivalry with.  She didn’t seem to care that she had hurt April.  I just couldn’t understand why Mom was doing this!
On the train the next morning, Mom sat next to the passenger window.  She turned toward me.
“We should have gone to Montana.”
I knew in my heart that Philipsburg wouldn’t have eased her pain anymore than Kansas, because Dad wasn’t there.
The locomotive jerked and began moving.  Slowly it pulled away from the Goodland depot and gained momentum as it traveled the Kansas Plains.  Late that evening we reentered the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.