General Fiction posted February 24, 2018 Chapters:  ...20 21 -22- 


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The hope and dreams of the Prairie People shine through.

A chapter in the book Black Blizzard, White

After All is Said and Done

by charlene7190



Background
This book has taken me to places I didn't think I could go and led me down paths I never thought I'd take. I didn't write this book, it controlled me.
Others lost their lives in the blizzard. There had been a large group of duck hunters from other areas out in the weather. They stood no chance against a raging storm that blew their tents down, killed their fires and took their lives. Their families wanted them home and so with great difficulty the wooden caskets were transported by train to their final destinations.

The poor old town drunk, George was found out behind the Post Office huddled in a corner, a bottle in his hands. He had been waiting for someone to let him in as they were wont to do but there was nobody there that day so poor George froze to death doing what George always did.

And then there was Miss Merkle, the school teacher. She had gone to the school that day even though it was a holiday and school was not in session. She had some paperwork to do and decided to return home when the weather turned on her. She never made it home, her car missed the road and wound up in a ditch. She was loved by her students and devoted her life to them, no she gave her life to them, for them.

It was a hard task trying to dig graves in the cold, hard ground of South Dakota but many of the town's folks came together and with much sweat and, yes a little swearing they dug two graves for Clyde and Wilma right next to their baby brother Frederick. The day dawned cold but cloudless when they came together to say goodbye.

They were all there and had done a pot luck in the church basement. There was lots of food, lots of talk and lots of love. This community knew hardship, knew suffering so looked Mr. Death in the eye again and came together to protect their own. They formed an emotional barrier around the family.

Fred and Ethel stood by the two simple wooden caskets, Fred shaking his neighbor's hands, Ethel hugging each and every person in line that came out to say their farewells. Betty stood off from the group by herself numb with the thought she would never again see her pretty sister thumbing through the Ward's catalog marking everything she planned on getting or her oldest brother who always watched out for her even helping her with her chores. It was Clyde that always took care of Betty when she had an epileptic seizure. He would sit by her on the bed, get a washrag for her head and let her know she was Ok.

Johnny came over and sat quietly next to Betty until she acknowledged his presence.

"Hi Johnny, how are you?"

"I'm OK Betty. I want you to know something. It's just between you and me, OK?"

"Sure Johnny, what is it?"

"I really, really liked Wilma."

"Everybody did Johnny."

"No, I mean really liked her. I was going to dance with her on Saturday night and maybe I thought I'd ask her out. I wanted to get to know her. I wanted her to be my girl Betty." And with that he looked down at his hands which were shaking.

"I am so sorry Betty."

Betty took his hand and made him look at her.

"Wilma would have said yes Johnny. You were the cat's meow to her and you were all she ever talked about. Frankly, I got a little sick of hearing about you all the time. She thought you were too popular for her, you know all the girls in the county chasing you so she never said anything to you but I know she would have been so happy. I miss her Johnny."

And tears welled up in Betty's eyes.

Lloyd came over to the two and eyed Johnny with a little jealous suspicion. After all Lloyd knew his reputation in the county and considered him competition.

"Hey guys, what's up?"

Betty glanced up and quickly removed her hand from Johnny's.

"Hey Lloyd, come join us. We were just talking about Wilma about how much we miss her."

"Hey Johnny. " Lloyd squatted down in front of the two sitting on a bench.

Johnny fell silent for a moment contemplating what he was about to say.

"I joined the Navy and I got my papers. Going to see the world."

"Wow Johnny, that's great but why now? Don't you have school to finish?"

"Naw, I'll do that later. I just need to move on, find some adventure, some life out there. I know it's out there, I just need to make the first move. Betty can I write to you? I really don't have too many people I want to talk to but you and I have something in common. Would it be OK?"

"Sure Johnny, you write me and I will write you back ASAP. Promise!"

And Lloyd fumed. Betty was his girl---forever.
And with that Johnny was gone. Just as Wilma and Clyde had been in their lives but was pulled away, so was another of the South Dakota Prairie kids.

1941, THE NEXT YEAR

Dear Betty,

Sorry I didn't write you sooner. Boot camp was OK and now I'm ready to see the world.
And boy is there a lot to see! I was assigned to one heckofa ship and we were sent to, of all places Hawaii!!!! I can't believe my luck. The days are beautiful, the nights are even better. The only thing missing are more girls. Don't misunderstand me, the ones here are beautiful, just too many of us sailors. Haha

I did meet a girl the other night and, believe it or not Betty her name is Wilma. She's sweet and reminds me of our Wilma and I will try to send a picture when I can.

That's about all. Our days are busy but a little boring. Tonight is Saturday night and I've got it off so me and some buddies are heading to town. Maybe I'll see Wilma there. I have to be on board tomorrow, Sunday as this old tub needs a good cleaning. She is the Arizona and she's really a beautiful ship. Write when you can. I miss the prairie and all my friends. Tell everyone hello for me. Gotta go and get this in the mail.

Hope to see you in the summer.

Love,
Johnny

Dec. 6, 1941

P.S. tell Lloyd I said he needs to join. Haha"

There were so many conflicting reports in those first days after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan that day. Except for the declaration of war from the United States, nobody really knew what to think or what to expect. Betty never heard from Johnny again. He was killed when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and she never knew if he got to dance with that Wilma but Betty knew she would never dance again. It was too painful.

Just three days later Germany declared war on the United States so it was official. Lloyd came over as usual to take care of Scout. Scout was getting old and Lloyd didn't ride him anymore. Lloyd knew that one day he would have to do the kind thing for his best friend but for now, well for now. After all spring was on it's way and about to show off her moves with spectacular wild flowers. The rains had somewhat returned so it promised to be a good year. That meant crops again and this old prairie would show the world what it could do. Lloyd was in the barn when Betty came in. Oh, that barn!

"Hey Lloyd, what's up?"

"I got my draft notice Betty. I'm supposed to report in a few weeks for induction."

There was a great silence, an awkward silence then between the two because they both knew what was coming.

Lloyd cleared his throat, "Betty will you marry me? I mean before I go off to war."

The silence was deafening and then Betty spoke.

"Well I could do worse Lloyd Arthur. I just don't know though if I could put up with you."

"I'd be good to you Betty, I'd do good, honest and like I said I'm gonna buy you a nice home, a car, jewelry anything you want when I get back. I've always loved you Betty since we were kids, you know that. How about it? Will you?"

"OK then. I accept your proposal of marriage but we have to Ok it with my parents, I am only fifteen and I'm not sure what they will say. They really like you but we need their OK.
You may kiss me on the mouth Lloyd."

That was her first kiss this little spunky South Dakota girl and, although Lloyd had practiced on his own in front of a small, broken mirror, it was also his first real kiss.

Even though there was war in the air, it was a good time to be alive. Lloyd felt a new beginning. He was going to be a man now with a wife (hopefully) and responsibilities and a duty he felt to defend his homeland. That was huge for a seventeen year old soon to be eighteen.

Betty was going to be his bride and he knew she was perfect for him. Where he was more the dreamer, she was focused and down to earth. She would keep him grounded.

There would always be storms, but they didn't last and the sun always came out. Like those storms the suffering these people endured didn't last and the rewards were immeasurable. Like the sun, hope always rose.

Is this the end? Not hardly friends, not hardly but enough for now.


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