Part 6: Stocking Up
The months crawled by slowly and Cyrus' descent into madness was deepening. He had decided to leave on July 4th, not because it would be the best season to trek across the country, but because of its symbolism and his own burning patriotism.
July 1st, 1848
The season was getting late and everyone with any sense who had intended to head for Oregon was gone. Cyrus paced nervously about his living room until his wife could stand it no longer.
Dear, why don't you head down to the general store and stock up a few days early? Maybe it'll take your mind off things.
He stared at his wife in a dumbfound stupor. He had been thinking about the trip non-stop but it never occurred to him he'd have to buy supplies. Turning without a word, Cyrus made for his coat and hat. He had a foot out the door when Susan continued:
...And do take Cyrus Jr. with you to the store to get a little time with you. He is your son, you know.
Cyrus groaned. He knew the other men in town made fun of him behind his back, especially the tall blacksmith who happened to be the only black man in town and who had once erupted in a fit of laughter just at the sight of him. Nevertheless, he headed out back where his son was diligently doing his chores.
C'mon, Waffles, we're going into town.
You mean it, paw? Oh boy, lemme grab my coat!
Off they went.
An overhead bell rang as Cyrus and his son entered the general store. Though he had been here hundreds of times, Matt the store clerk never remembered him. Matt had been born to a renown drunkard and Cyrus suspected he had borderline retardation. He noticed that Matt was wearing two right shoes.
Matt did not actually know that they were going to Oregon, this is simply what he said to every person that entered his store in the same way a normal person would say "Welcome to my store". Now that he thought about, Cyrus wondered if years of Matt's mindless blather had subconsciously convinced him that he did, in fact, want to go to Oregon. Maybe just to get away from Matt and everything he represented.
As Matt finished his usual spiel, Cyrus realized that he had left a few things off his list.
What about water? And medicine? We'll probably need blankets and lanterns. Do you have any books or games for entertainment?
Matt froze up, terrified. He stuttered, "So, so... you're going to Or, Oregon. I can fix you up with what you need..." he gestured nervously to his shop and continued, "a te, team of oxen to..."
Alright, great, I'll take eight oxen, some extra clothes, a shit-ton of bullets, some spare wagon parts, three thousand pounds of food...
Matt looked even more frazzled.
Um... ok, two thousand pounds of food and that magazine over there.
"WHICH MAGAZINE?" shouted Matt whirling about in place, with a louder tard-tone than usual.
That one. "Filthy Plowing Quarterly..."
"YOU WANT FILTHY PLOWING? Matt shrieked. "SORRY, FILTHY PLOWING ISN'T FOR SALE, IT'S MY DAD'S!" He grinned.
Cyrus knew Matt's dad had passed away ten years ago. He wondered if Matt knew. Waffles was giving him an odd look.
Forget it, let's just pay for this other stuff.
Ok, Mr. Neckebard, I'll go load up your wagon.
It was sound advice, incidentally, but it didn't even register to Cyrus who had heard Matt shout the same phrase every time he had left the store regardless of whether someone was about to cross the country or just picking up some extra milk.
The only thing left to do was wait. THREE MORE DAYS
Susan and the kids piled into the wagon and the oxen were strapped in up front. Cyrus bounced around tightening straps and securing luggage like a jittery schoolboy.
Independence Day in Independence, Missouri. What better way to start the first day of the rest of your life? Cyrus took one last look at the map he had gotten from Matt. It had no names of locations on it whatsoever and was virtually useless.
He sighed and coaxed his oxen up to speed.