They’d left Liverpool full of hope. The journey across the Atlantic had been somewhat traumatic, mostly spent below decks while his wife was violently sick. The sea, it would seem, did not agree with her, or, rather, she did not agree with it. The child, his precious little princess, had been small then, and oblivious to the depravations of a third class Atlantic crossing. They were packed like meat into large, communal, windowless cabins, with nothing but the lurching of the ship through the waves to let them know that they continued to make progress across the vast, briny wastes. Only the hope of a new life in a new world kept their spirits up.
And what a new world it was that greeted them. At first his heart filled with despair upon arriving in New York. Grimy, dirty and filled with the Irish, he wondered if they wouldn’t have been better off back home. But no, he’d come here in search of the one thing he knew he could never find at home, freedom for him and his kin. With the last of their money he bought them a small wagon, loaded it with provisions and headed west. West to a new life, a life full of hope and happiness. A life where he would be free to be the master of his own destiny. His wife was just pleased to be off the ship, and while the wagon was small, she was happy to call it home for a while. The child seemed exhilarated by the wide open spaces which they travelled through. He looked at her and saw his future, this land was theirs and she would claim it all.
That hope now seemed like such a distant memory. The vastness of this land had turned from a thing of wonder, a bountiful opportunity to be seized upon, into a terrible curse. The hills rolled by one after another, never ending it seemed…and the horizon always stayed so far from their reach. They’d packed enough food for a month, but they’d been travelling for three. He was no hunter, he hadn’t even thought to buy a gun, and there’s only so much grass you can eat before your belly rebels.
The girl sat upon his knee, the sweet, round, plump, healthy child. She smiled at him, little understanding the solemn, harsh expression he and her mother both wore. They would eat well tonight, at least, and they could always have another child.