Nora Take A Chance
The third second in a series of Montana Woman Homesteader Stories
By Mae Schick
“I am sixty-two years old…I am active yet and more active than most younger women, so please think of me as physically able to endure. I have the courage and determination, and I am sure if any other lone woman can do it, I can too.” – From Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s Own
Nora – The third in a series of Montana Woman Homesteader Short Stories By Mae Schick
Nora, a sixty-two year old homesteader, is in serious trouble. Nora has left the conventional life “back East” to live free on Montana’s open plains. But maybe this time she has bitten off more than she can chew. She is unlike the heroine in Mae Schick’s short story about Mirna, a rawboned farm girl who is fleeing an abuser. Nor is she a bright young woman like Sophie, who is sought after for her good looks. Nora is well-educated, and financially secure. But, she has traded stability, stimulating conversation, and ease of living for adventure. She chooses to homestead, and teaches primary school in Fergus County, Montana, where in spring flowers are bursting out of the winter hardened soil.
For some time Nora has been anxious about her difficult circumstances in Montana, her loneliness, and the growing effects of old age. She wavers between sticking it out, or selling up and moving back to Indiana to live with her beloved daughter, and a son-in-law with a soul “like cardboard”. She has been trying to convince her granddaughter to come out west to live with her.
As she rides alone toward Lewistown she talks to Maggie, her horse, in a “highfaluting” way to give herself some intellectual stimulation. Suddenly Maggie bucks her right into a crisis.
Nora desperately fights for her life in this suspenseful Montana woman homesteader tale.
Excerpt from Nora
“Oh my God, it hurts!” Sprawled in a gully because her mare kicked up its hindquarters and sent her flying through the air like a rag doll, Nora clenches her teeth. She stifles a scream and grips a clump of early spring grasses to distract herself from the pain. The tears streaming into her ear do no earthly good, she chides herself, and if she were not in such terrible pain, she would insist, as she does with her pupils in Lewistown, that she take deep breaths and settle down.
Maggie, her generally reliable horse, is nonchalant above her at the road’s edge, masticating fresh clumps of slender yellow-green grass, showing no remorse. “You despicable beast!” Nora cries out. She can see only the top of Maggie’s head. “Well, I’m still conscious. I could be dead.”
Despite the searing pain, she has a flash of belated empathy for the poor young lady over near Miles City who died when a horse kicked her in the head. She read about it in the Montana News just last week. Nausea is rising in her throat now from the blow, and she feels—and hopes—she is going to pass out, because the distress is agonizing. A bone protrudes just above her high-top shoes. If she doesn’t stay awake, perhaps no one will find her. As long as she is alert, she can cry out if she hears horses coming. She fears that the mare may wander off to better feeding grounds, where someone will spot the horse and empty saddle and start a search there, in the wrong place! Wiping her shoulder against her cheek, she dries the tears collecting in a puddle at her neck. This current predicament is just one too many. She is furious and wants to scream from both the torment and her anger. How will she manage now, trying to get about on a broken leg? That is, if they find her before it’s too late. There’s her teaching job and her homestead. Without her salary, she will not be able to pay to have her crops put in and harvested.
“You must stay awake! You are in a pickle barrel of trouble now, Nora.” Even through her moans, she reproaches herself for not preventing the accident. She blames it on her nonstop litany, the near-constant self-dialogue that first started during the winter when she had too little to keep her mind occupied beyond correcting school papers. If she had been paying attention, she would have spied the snake stretched out halfway across the road before Maggie did. The mare isn’t seeing any too well anymore.
The nausea is coming in waves, and she has to act quickly. She forces herself to sit up and pulls at the edges of her skirt. She tears strips of cloth to tie around the leg, one above and one below the break to stabilize it. She isn’t able to pull her boot off, so she wraps the second piece around it at the ankle. The nausea eases a bit. The blood is soaking into her skirt. If it were midsummer, she could use yarrow leaves—if some plants were nearby—to stop the oozing.
Only moments before, Nora had been nagging the horse, commanding her to lift her ancient hooves and get fired up. She had told her to stop dragging her tail and suggested that she pretend she was a young filly once again out for an adventure. Then she chuckled and said she would do the same.
They had been headed toward town and the schoolhouse. It was a fine day, and the wind was for once at peace with itself. She was staring off dreamily at the fresh green fields, mindful that she didn’t have to hold down the top of her bonnet to keep it from flying off. She noticed that the buttercups had popped out just since yesterday. Against the morning sun, their bold gold glittered like a pretty woman who, even when demure, does not go unnoticed. . . .
Nora Takes A Chance, Sophie Writes from Montana and Mirna: A Life of Her Own and my full-length novel Lila are all available in Kindle edition. Lila can also be ordered in PRINT edition for those who much prefer turning a book’s pages.