“Julian! Come get in the wagon, we are setting off to Independence,” Ma said to me as she placed the last of our things into the large covered wagon. My father was finishing fastening the oxen to the yoke. We were headed to Independence Missouri to start on the Oregon Trail. My father decided it was best to move out west where there are no people and there is lots of farmable land. In Independence we were meeting up with family friends that we traveled to our new home with. Ma knows one of the families from her childhood, and same with Papa and the other family. My siblings and I have never met these people, but Ma and Papa said they are wonderful.
My sister, Lydia helped me up into the back of the wagon where I settled down next to our dog, Scout, for the four hour trip from where we were. Next to me, Lydia was braiding ten year old Eliza Jane’s long chestnut hair. Us four kids sat in silence as the wagon rattled down the dirt road. Papa and Ma were up front in the driving bench whispering to each other, the shaking of the wagon making their voices lost to us. My little brother, Henry, rested his head on my lap to sleep after we had been in the wagon for twenty minutes. The rattles were comforting, as I too am lulled to sleep by them.
Soon, I was woken by loud cheering and Lydia slapping my side.
“Jules, we are in Independence, we are with the other families now, Ma wants you to come meet everyone,” she told me as put out her hand to help me up. We jumped down from the back of the wagon and I walked as slowly as Lydia would let me. I don’t particularly like people, or crowds either.
“Ah! Julian! Come! These are my friends Sokanon and Chogan, I have known Soka since we were little girls!” my mother explained. “They have a son your age, why don’t you go find him?” she asked me. I nodded and went to go back to sit in the wagon. I was not going to find some boy who most likely I would hate. When I got there, Eliza Jane was laying on her back with her legs up against the canvas wall. She turned her head from the book she was holding over her face and glared at me.
“Aren't there kids your age? ” She asked, obviously annoyed. I nodded, going to sit down next to her.
“Aren’t there kids your age too?” I taunted her. She glared and went back to reading her book. Moments later, Lydia comes back to the wagon with another girl and a boy. They were both tall, with matching vivid ginger hair and sparkling blue eyes.
“Jules, these are the ones my age, they are so nice! This is Rose and that is Billy,” she said as she gestured over to the two people standing on the ground behind the wagon with her. I grunted in response and she sighed, walking away muttering something about how stubborn and introverted I was. As Lydia left, Ma walked up to the wagon with people.
“Eliza Jane, Julian, come down here,” she called. I nodded and snatched the book out of my sister’s hands. She stared daggers into me as I helped her hop off the wagon, then jumped off myself. With Ma, there was a tall, tanned, native boy with curling black hair down to his shoulders. He had piercing dark eyes and a mischievous but serious look to him. I found myself letting my gaze linger on his lean, tanned body and blushed. He noticed and looked to the ground.
“These are Mingan and Huritt, they are Soka’s sons, they are your ages. Get to know each other and be nice! You will be traveling together for the foreseeable future!” she yelled as she walked back to where her friend was laughing.
“I’m Julian,” I said to him.
“I’m aware,” he said cooly in response. The younger boy next to him stood up straight when he noticed Eliza Jane, attempting to make himself look older than he probably was.
“I’m Eliza Jane, nice to meet you, Huritt! Would you like to see the daisy chain I made?” she asked the young boy. He nodded and she took his hand, taking him to our wagon. I looked back to the older of the two boys and wished I could touch his luxuriously curly, silky hair. Instead I complimented him, hoping that would get him to leave me alone.
“I like your hair,” I told him, shifting my feet awkwardly. He glanced up from where he had been looking to the ground and scanned my body with his eyes. He looked as if he wanted to run, which would have been nice. I had no desire to spend time with anyone.
“I like your…you’re pretty in general,” he mumbled. He immediately started looking at the ground, yet again, and shuffling his feet. I could feel the color rise in my face and I imagined I was bright red. I heard footsteps running up behind me and braced myself as Lydia threw herself onto my back. I let out a small grunt as I shook a bit to get her off, but she just gripped my shoulders harder. Behind her were the twins, Daisy and Bob or whatever. All I knew was that the girl had a flower name.
“I’m Lydia, this idiot’s sister,” she said to the boy with her typical energy, pointing at me. She got off of my back and started her typical energetic hand gestures and bouncing. I swear the girl acted as if she had drunk ten cups of black coffee, even though Ma and Papa always put more milk than coffee in hers because only God knows she needs the energy.
“I found the twins again, this is Billy and Rose, they’re the Clancy’s kids, Ma and Pa’s friends,” she pointed at the boy and then at the girl. Billy had dark brown hair, lighter than the other boy whose name I forgot, but darker than Eliza Jane’s. Overall, he was very girlish, with long eyelashes, soft features and a small body. I noticed the indian boy looking at him too and turned my head back to talk to Lydia.
“This is Mingan, he has a brother, Eliza Jane went to show him her daisy chains,” I told Lydia and her two friends.
“Hello, boys and girls, do you have room for one more? This is Scotty, he’s very shy,” Ma said, leading a boy with big goofy ears and a brown mop of hair.
“Of course, Ma, we’re very polite young people, isn’t that right, guys?” Lydia exclaimed. She wrapped her arm around Rose's shoulders, the ginger haired girl who looked very nervous and antsy.
“Yes, we are,” Rose said, doing a small curtsy, to which Billy and I scoffed. Ma ruffled the new boy’s hair and left him with us,
“Hi, Scotty, how old are you?” Lydia asked, stepping towards the shy boy.
“Sixteen, seventeen in November, what about you guys? Are you all siblings?” Scotty had a high voice for a boy and had a harsh voice crack in the midst of his sentence.
“I’m Billy, that’s my twin, Rose,” Rose said as she ruffled her brother’s hair, inducing a confused look from Scotty
“Ouch! You bagel sandwich!” Billy taunted and shoved her into Lydia, who caught her and wrapped her arms around Rose’s shoulders from behind and rested her chin on the shorter girl’s shoulder. Everyone laughed including Mingan, who smiled slightly for the first time.
“I’m Lydia, I’m seventeen and that’s my brother, Julian, he’s sixteen,” Lydia added, looking towards Mingan to say something. “I’m Mingan, I’m sixteen but turning seventeen in September,” he explained. He wasn’t much older than me then.
A shorter boy came over and turned to Billy and Rose, gesturing to Scotty and the girl behind him.
“I see you’ve met Scotty, this is Delores, his sister and I’m Miles, nice to meet y’all,” Miles introduced himself. “I see you two are already best of friends,” he chuckled at Rose and Lydia’s position. Lyds took her arms from Rose’s shoulders and came around the side of her, pulling her close.
“Yes, Sir, I’ve always wanted an older sister,” she told him. That was true, she had always wanted an older sibling. She hated being the oldest, having to behave and ‘set a good example’. She did neither of those things, actually the opposite of them, always getting into trouble and pulling tricks on the rest of us in the house.
Everyone smiled at that and began talking over each other, chatting to different people about everything, from where we came from and where we wanted to go, to gossip about wagon seven, apparently they were all the way from Britain, at least that’s what Lyds claimed. Whether that was true or not will be found out in the future, but a man waved at us. “Boys and girls, I don’t mean to interrupt this very important conversation but your mothers are calling y’all for lunch,” a man with platinum blond hair came up to us, I assumed he was the newly wedded man with no children that Ma had mentioned. “Oh, can’t we eat all together outside?” Lydia asked, the man looked terrified
“O-Oh, well you should go ask your mother,” he suggested with a stutter.