By: Travis Naughton

As the terrain turned from the dusty red barrens of the Indian Territories to the rolling verdant hills of northwest Arkansas, Blackjack and Jane welcomed the change in scenery. Having spent far too long riding in the relentless sun as they trekked from the treeless high plains of eastern Colorado, through the wide expanse of Kansas, and in and out of the scorching territories, the shade provided by the mighty oaks and shortleaf pines of Arkansas was appreciated by both the riders and their mounts.

“Ever been to Hot Springs?” Blackjack asked his companion.
“Can’t say that I have,” Jane said. “Didn’t the Union army burn it down?”
“That’s what the Confederates would have you believe. The truth is that guerrillas from both sides destroyed the town. But it’s made a nice comeback in the last few years.”
“Is that where we’re headed?” Jane asked.
“It is,” Blackjack said. “I haven’t been back since the war ended. I hear they rebuilt some of the bathhouses, and I don’t know about you, but my aching back is in dire need of a good, long soak.”
“That does sound divine,” Jane agreed. “How much farther is it you reckon?”
“I figure we’ve got at least another day or two in the saddle before we’ll get any relief. Let’s push ahead for another hour or so, and then set up camp for the night,” Blackjack said.

A while later, the companions stopped along a cold, spring-fed stream as the sun disappeared behind them. Blackjack and Jane led their horses down the bank to get a well-earned drink. There was also plenty of tall, green grass growing along the water line for them to graze. Next, Blackjack gathered wood and started a fire while Jane prepared supper. While in the Cherokee lands, they were able to stock up on supplies including dried venison, beans, corn meal, and salt. Jane proved once again that she was a talented and resourceful cook, getting the most out of whatever ingredients were available. Blackjack was grateful.

Read full chapter in this week’s Journal…