Life and Death on the Trail

“The guests formed a procession behind a fiddler and conducted Mr. and Mrs. Mootrey to the nuptial tent. A mile away they saw faint sparks moving by twos in another procession, torches lighting the dead boy’s body to its desert grave. A mile or so in the opposite direction still a third train was camped, and there at that same moment a dozen desert-worn women were ministering to one of their sisterhood who writhed and screamed under a dusty wagon cover. They did for her what centuries of old wives’ wisdom prescribed for those in travail, and in due time her child was born.”