Beth left her home and her parents at seventeen and moved to the country. It was her first spring in the canyon, and she thought there had never been such a beautiful day. The new green leaves on the cottonwoods by the creek looked fluorescent in the sun and the red canyon walls against the blue sky looked like a postcard. Through the window of her trailer, she saw several trees with flowers near the main house. Maybe it was an old orchard, but she couldn’t be sure. She didn’t know one tree from another, much less what a fruit tree looked like.
She was in love and had no doubt she’d made the right decision, in spite of what her parents said. Leaving them to live with Caleb and his family on the ranch had been like wiping the slate clean and starting over. Why she’d needed to start over at seventeen was another matter.
She dreaded telling her parents she was pregnant, but Caleb was excited about it. He’d started pestering her to move as soon as she broke the news. Her infatuation with Caleb began when she started high school, but he was a year ahead of her and seemed unattainable. She’d heard that Caleb brought sheep to the Sale Barn on Saturdays, so she started going there for lunch with her friend Gail. After many bowls of green chili stew, she finally caught his eye. Now that her dream had come true, she wanted to do all she could to make him happy.
Caleb’s parents, Isaac and Rebecca Tucker, had been kind to her since she’d arrived. Caleb was their oldest child at eighteen, and they had seven other children, so there hadn’t been many long conversations. In fact, there’d been no mention of the pregnancy yet. Food was not plentiful at their ranch, and she worried about the Tuckers having to feed yet another arrival.
Caleb and Beth lived in a rusted, white one-bedroom trailer across the way from the house. The Tucker house had been built a hundred years ago and didn’t look big enough to sleep seven children and two adults, but somehow, they made it work. The main room had two long tables that took up most of the space. When all the family came in for dinner at the end of the day, everyone grabbed a folding chair from the stack in the corner.
The Tucker family labored from sunup to sundown on the ranch, and most of the work was centered around the crops and the animals. There were water gates which controlled the roaring flow in the main ditch which then led to the cross ditches. A complicated system of lesser ditches followed, finally ending in hundreds of small rivulets providing water for the acres of grass and alfalfa. Much time was spent getting the water to flow the right way. Sometimes Caleb was out there with a shovel all day.
The younger children took care of the animals. There were chickens, goats, and sheep to feed, horses to grain, and cattle to hay. Two spotted pigs ran wild, and large birds called guinea hens flew from tree to tree. There were assorted cats and dogs; some with names and some just referred to by their color.
She tried to do her part. When she’d struggled to milk the cow, five kittens had gathered round. One of them climbed in the pail and got sprayed by the one small trickle she finally coaxed from the udder. The kitten licked its fur and waited for more, but Beth was unable to produce it with her small hands. Caleb said not to worry because milking was hard and there were plenty of easier chores. She was disappointed because she’d always wanted to milk a cow.
Beth had a lot to learn. She found that even the simplest chore like gathering the eggs could be difficult. One morning a hen had pecked her hand and drew blood when she tried to get the eggs from her nest. Beth could see from the steely look in the hen’s eyes that there was no moving her, so she went back to the trailer with only a few eggs to show for her labor. Caleb laughed, went back, picked up the squawking hen and found twenty eggs underneath her. He told Beth all about broody hens when they got back.
Her favorite dog was a Rottweiller-mix named Gus. He let the five kittens climb all over him and go to sleep on his back and across his shoulders. She’d taken a picture with her phone and sent it to her friend Gail in town.
Everyone she knew lived in Cortez, a town on the border of the Navajo Reservation, where Beth grew up. Beth and Caleb both went to Cortez High School, which was thirty miles from the Tucker ranch in McElmo Canyon. Cortez was a small town with two hunting stores across the street from each other and a few bars and pawn shops on the periphery. McElmo Canyon was right underneath the Ute Mountain and one of the oldest settled areas in the region.
Beth’s father was an archeologist, originally from Denver, who worked exploring the Native American ruins in McElmo Canyon, and her mother taught American history at the high school. Beth had grown up with discussions of ranchers, public lands, and Native Americans at the dinner table.
Her family hiked on the weekends, but Beth was disappointed they didn’t camp. They had a sheepdog briefly, named Dusty, who Beth loved when she was a child, but they weren’t able to housebreak him so they gave him away. She never felt her parents were totally comfortable with animals or with the outdoors.
When Beth first started dating Caleb, her mother made an appointment so she could discuss birth control with a doctor. Her mother even picked up the birth control pills from the pharmacy every month and left them in Beth’s room.
Beth punched them out and flushed them down the toilet since Caleb didn’t want her to use them. She was happy to go along. She figured that way she would have him forever.
Her parents shed lots of tears when she told them she was leaving. They were standing in the kitchen making breakfast when Beth finally had the courage to tell them she was moving. It took both of them by surprise.
Her mother, who was usually so calm and collected, said, “You’re crazy! You can’t possibly want to do that.”
Beth said, “I’m not crazy. I want to live with Caleb.”
Her father said, “Moving to the Tuckers is a terrible idea. They’re religious fanatics who barely eack out a living. If they didn’t have land, they’d have nothing.”
Her mother wept and her father tried to comfort her. Beth was surprised to see him crying too. He took off his glasses to wipe his eyes.
Eventually, her sad parents finally accepted the inevitable. They even volunteered to give her one of their old cars so she could come back and visit. She felt guilty driving away and wished she had a sibling so they’d have somebody else to worry about when she was gone.
After the move, Beth decided to limit her time with her best friend Gail to only their classes, because she didn’t want anyone to know she was pregnant. Gail asked lots of questions about Caleb and the Tuckers because of their reputation for being backwards and religious, but Beth was so stingy with information that she finally gave up. Gail even asked if she could come and visit the ranch, but Beth said she needed to get to know the Tuckers better first.
Gail and Beth had been best friends since grammar school. They both loved animals and dreamed of having farms when they grew up. Gail was excited to come with Beth to the Sale Barn on Saturdays because she loved to walk around the dirt stalls to look at the sheep and the cattle. They carefully chose the clothes they were going to wear ahead of time. They pulled on Wrangler jeans, wore Carhart shirts, and tried to act like they belonged.
It felt awful to have such a big secret, but Beth figured it was going to be easier for everybody if she kept the pregnancy to herself. That way, when her parents asked questions, Gail could be truthful when she said she didn’t know the answers.
Beth wondered when her parents were finally going to realize that she was living the life of their dreams. Why couldn’t they see that the Tuckers were American history? They had waist-high caves on their ranch where their ancestors hid from the Indians, eating grass and hunting prairie dogs for weeks at a time. And the Native American ruins that her father studied stretched out right behind their fences.
The Tuckers belonged to a religious sect called the Church of the Firstborn and didn’t believe in doctors or the modern world. All eight children had been delivered by their father Isaac at home. Actually, there’d been nine children. The last baby got stuck, and after Isaac pulled him out, he was only able to move his head. They tried hard to keep him alive at home, but he died after only one month. Rebecca spoke often about the loss.
Beth knew about the home delivery and baby’s death before she’d ever talked to Caleb. After the baby died, the news traveled fast from the Sale Barn. People felt it was a tragedy that didn’t have to happen, so it was common knowledge in no time.
Beth and Caleb hadn’t discussed where she was going to have the baby yet.
One morning, Beth was absentmindedly looking out the trailer window at Gus with the kittens on his back when she noticed one was missing. She went outside and looked for it everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. When she mentioned it to Caleb that afternoon, he said a coyote or a mountain lion had probably gotten it. Beth found that hard to believe since she thought the dog would have raised a ruckus if a mountain lion or coyote were inside the fence.
Over the course of a week, three more kittens went missing and she was distraught. She searched for them all over the farm and mentioned it to Caleb, but he didn’t seem too interested. Gus wasn’t too bothered either. The one remaining kitten seemed not to notice and continued to sleep on his back or in the crook of his leg.
The next week, Caleb came in laughing and said, “I figured out what was going on with them kittens you’ve been worrying about. Gus has been eating them himself. I saw him chomp down the last one this morning on the way to the barn.”
Caleb was a big, handsome young man with his mother’s brown eyes and olive skin. That afternoon was the first time she’d seen his father in him; a hard, defiant man determined to be as tough as any Tucker who came before.
At the beginning of May, there was much discussion during the family dinner about going to ‘sheep camp’. From what Beth could gather, they needed to move the sheep up to the mountains where it was cooler in the summer and there would be more grass for grazing. Some of the Tucker family was going to herd the sheep up there on horseback, a trip of thirty miles that took several days. And some would go in the truck with the supplies and set up camp in the high meadows.
Beth was too nervous to ride a horse that far and had never herded anything in her life. She also figured it wouldn’t be safe with the pregnancy. She pretended to be just as excited as the rest of them and secretly wondered about where you went to the bathroom and where everyone would sleep.
The land in the Rockies where the Tuckers had their summer grazing rights had been the same for over fifty years. These were different from their ditch rights, which set down in writing how much water the ranch was allowed. Since water was sometimes scarce, it was a constant topic of conversation. The Tucker ditch rights took precedence over almost everyone else in the canyon since the family had lived in the same place for so long.
Every rancher was responsible for taking care of the fences on his summer grazing land, so his livestock stayed where they should. He was also responsible for maintaining his portion of the ditch, so the water flowed freely. Those who didn’t were bad-mouthed and threatened with guns.
Beth had figured out this much so far, but she often got confused during the heated conversations about who did what to whom.
She rode in the truck with Rebecca and three of the boys to the sheep camp. They towed a horse trailer full of supplies down endless dirt roads, each with a steeper bend than the one before, and finally arrived at a meadow near the top. It was covered in blue Columbine flower and red Indian Paintbrush, and the white aspens formed a wood of shimmering leaves on the far side. The simple cabin and fire pit were dwarfed by the towering Rockies behind them streaked with spring snow.
The first order of business was to check the fence before the animals got there. The bottom two strands of barbed wire needed to be tight because the sheep were notorious for escaping and getting into trouble. Isaac always said that sheep were born looking for a place to die.
Beth set off with confidence to check the fence, following it for a long distance until she found a strand of broken bottom wire. But how could she describe where it was located when she didn’t even know which direction she was facing or what field she was in? She wandered back to help Rebecca unpack the truck. She didn’t mention the broken fence because she figured someone else would find it.
She asked Rebecca, “Where’s the bathroom? Inside the cabin?”
“Come with me,” Rebecca said. They walked over to a tree that had a deep hole covered by a toilet seat behind it. “There are two of these. The other is over there,” she said and pointed to another small tree. “You can always find them because you’ll hear the flies in the daytime, and you can smell your way to them at night,” she laughed.
“And does everyone sleep in the cabin?” Beth asked. Her bathroom and bedroom in the trailer had changed in her mind from seeming sad to seeming luxurious.
“Oh no. No one does. There are way too many mice. They’d run over you all night long, not to mention the snakes. We sleep outside in sleeping bags this time of year, right near the fire, so we don’t get stomped on by a bear.”
In the late afternoon, the rest of the Tuckers rode in with the sheep. Ellie, the youngest at six, was excited because she had ridden in front of Caleb on his horse all the way for three whole days. When she gave Beth a kiss, Beth noticed that the scar on Ellie’s forehead, from falling off a horse last year, was red from the sun. Beth winced remembering the story of how Isaac made Ellie lie down on the kitchen table and stitched her up with a needle threaded with dental floss. Rebecca said Ellie was so brave she didn’t even cry.
Isaac told Rebecca that herding the sheep along the roads went pretty much as usual, with one of sheep getting injured on the way. He slit its throat, then Rebecca and her daughters did the butchering to cut it into smaller pieces. Isaac took the boys scouting for wild herbs, and they cooked the sheep with the herbs for supper over the fire. Beth had a hard time eating it after watching it die. She told herself that it was more honest than buying it from the grocery store, but she still had no appetite for the meat. She ate a few bites, put the rest in her napkin, and threw it out with the plate.
The family sat around the fire in the moonlight after dinner and told stories about this trip up the mountain and all their memories from the trips before. Gus came and leaned against Beth’s legs. She patted his head, but it was hard to feel the same about him after he’d eaten all those kittens.
Caleb grabbed Beth’s hand and announced, “I want everybody in the family to know we’ll be adding another Tucker in just a few months. Beth’s pregnant!”
Various shouts of Congratulations! and Hooray! followed. And Samson, the brother closest in age, got up to shake Caleb’s hand. Beth smiled with relief. She knew it would be a different story when she finally told her parents.
Rebecca said, “This is a miracle. I was so sad when my baby Gene died after only one month in this world. A grandchild will be a blessing and will help heal our loss.”
During the summer Beth’s pregnancy got to the point where hiding it was no longer possible. It was her first summer without any air conditioning and an unusually hot one at that. She’d started wearing low cut jeans and peasant shirts, but no matter what she wore, her clothes stuck to her sweating stomach.
Gail sounded happy when Beth called and asked if she wanted to meet at the Dairy Queen for ice cream. It was a place where they used to hang out, and Beth was dying for ice cream.
Gail looked worried when Beth told her she was pregnant. “You’re not going to deliver out there are you?” she asked as she licked her cone.
“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet,” Beth said. She couldn’t believe how good the ice cream tasted. The freezers were so stuffed full of meat, there was no such thing as ice cream at the Tucker ranch.
“I watched my mother have Ben when I was little, and I still remember how painful it looked. At least in the hospital, you’d have medicine if you needed it. Caleb may want you to have the baby out there, but he’s not the one who has to do it. You are.”
“I’ll think about it,” Beth promised Gail and headed to her house to see her parents. The driveway and front garden looked so pretty and well-organized when she drove up. And the one-story, wood paneled house was spotlessly clean inside. It seemed so quiet and cool with the air conditioning instead of the noisy fans in the trailer. Her parents met her at the door with big hugs. She could tell they both noticed her stomach.
Her parents weren’t surprised when she told them, so it wasn’t as bad as she had expected. But when Beth admitted she hadn’t seen a doctor yet, they went ballistic.
“No way,” said her father, jumping up from the couch.
Her mother said, “Beth, pregnancy can be really dangerous if you don’t know what’s going on. You have to see a doctor. I don’t want you to take any chances.”
Beth said, “Everything feels fine to me.”
“But you don’t know for sure. In the old days, lots of women and babies died during birth without doctors. And I heard it took hours for Isaac to pull that last baby out. I can’t imagine how much pain Rebecca was in,” her mother said.
Her father said, “Honey, Isaac has no experience compared to a real doctor. You see what happened the last time—the baby died. You should get better medical treatment than a cow.”
Beth told her parents she would think about it just like she told Gail. She was being totally truthful because the baby’s delivery was all she’d been thinking about lately. She didn’t know how to tell Caleb she was too frightened to see what God had in store for her on the Tucker kitchen table, especially when, as far as she was concerned, there was good help right in town.
A month before she thought she might be due to deliver, Beth didn’t feel the baby move for an entire morning. She decided to drive the hospital to make sure everything was okay. She knew Caleb was out in the fields and wouldn’t miss her. Nor would anyone else around the ranch since she was so useless with most of the chores.
When Beth heard the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor, she couldn’t stop crying. The nurse ran down the list of routine questions and was alarmed that Beth didn’t have a doctor. When Beth said the words Church of the Firstborn, the nurse gave a nod of resignation and asked, “Would you mind having a doctor look things over? It would be a lot safer for both of you.”
Beth said that she’d be more than happy to have that happen, but she had to be home by five so no one would know about the visit. The nurse said she would do her best to find a doctor who could come right away.
By the time Beth returned to the ranch at five, she’d had all the routine pregnancy bloodwork, an ultrasound, and a pelvic exam. She now knew lots of things that she hadn’t known before. She knew that the baby was healthy, that it was probably due on the date she’d figured, that it was a boy, and that his head was not at the bottom of her stomach as it should be, but he was in the flipped around breech position.
That night after dinner, Beth sat at the tiny kitchen table in the trailer peeling the loose strips of orange linoleum off the side and wondering what to say to Caleb. When she heard him come out of the bathroom, she said, “I need to tell you something.”
He came in and sat down, worried it was bad news.
She said, “Everything’s okay, but I went to the ER today because I was worried. The baby stopped moving and I panicked.”
“Why didn’t you come and get me?” he asked.
“It didn’t seem safe to walk that far if something was really wrong. I was so relieved when they said the baby looked healthy. It’s a boy.”
His eyes teared up.
“There’s one other thing,” she said, “The baby is bottom first and the doctor doesn’t think it’s safe for me to deliver at home.”
Caleb said, “The doctor was going to tell you it wasn’t safe whatever happened. That’s why we don’t see doctors in this family.”
“I know,” Beth said, “but while I was waiting, I called my mom. She and my dad agreed with the doctor, and they’re my family too.”
Caleb looked stunned. He said, “We have our babies at home around here.”
Beth said, “I’m sorry but I’ve made up my mind. I’m scheduled for a C-section next week,”
“Unlike those fancy doctors in town, my father can actually deliver a breech. He’s done it plenty of times with the sheep, and it’ll save you an operation,” Caleb said.
Beth stuck to her guns and won the argument around midnight.
Caleb was in the operating room for the delivery. Despite his previous objections, the scrubs, mask, and gloves really seemed to suit him. He watched the surgery with interest and was proud to help the pediatrician cut the umbilical cord to its proper length when the baby was in the bassinet.
The baby boy was beautiful, and they named him Daniel. He had Beth’s full mouth, Caleb’s dark hair, and eyes so dark they were almost black. Caleb was the only Tucker who was ever at the hospital, but Beth’s parents were there every day. It was the most time they’d ever spent with Caleb. The three of them were polite to each other but they didn’t have much to say.
Since the birth happened right before Thanksgiving, Beth decided to take the rest of the school year off and restart after the Christmas break. When she got back to the trailer from the hospital, she missed her mom’s help and everything the nurses did for her. It turned out she had no better luck getting milk out of her own breasts than she had with milking the cow.
When Rebecca saw little Daniel, she told Beth that she was astonished at how much he looked like Gene, the baby she lost. The Tucker family passed him through nine sets of arms when Beth brought him home.
Rebecca was disappointed when she found out Beth was bottle-feeding. And she was adamant that Beth use only natural remedies for pain, so she’d be sure to wake up when Daniel cried at night. Isaac found cause to mention that babies belonged in cribs, not in bed with their parents like he’d heard some lazy young people had them now.
Daniel was always hungry, so Beth trod back and forth to the kitchen all night to warm the bottle then feed him. Her incision hurt worse with every step, and she wondered if it was ever going to get better. Occasionally, she took Extra Strength Tylenol in defiance.
Since the baby didn’t have a fixed schedule, no one else did either. Beth’s catchup sleep often happened around the time Caleb woke up, so he started having breakfast with his family in the main house. The trailer refrigerator was almost empty since Beth wasn’t able to drive to town to get food. And Caleb was only interested in playing with Daniel and left all the work to her. She often wished he’d feel sorry for her and give her a hand, even if his old-fashioned religion said it was ‘women’s work’.
Rebecca was too busy to be able to help Beth in the trailer during the day, but she said that Beth could always bring the baby to their house when she was tired. Beth wanted to be as self-reliant as the rest of the Tuckers, so she didn’t ask for any help.
The trailer was poorly insulated, and the wind blew through it in the winter. One day when Beth was feeding Daniel, she looked up from their pile of blankets and saw a three-legged cat looking for food. She grabbed a piece of cheese and called to it from the door. It sprung up the steps and came right inside.
She wondered if one kitten had escaped after Gus had only eaten a back leg. The cat finished off two slices of cheese, settled itself in the blankets, and purred when she rubbed its ears. When Caleb got back from feeding the cows, she told him the cat would help get rid of some of the mice in the trailer. Caleb said, “That cat couldn’t catch a mouse if it tried.”
The cat caught so many mice during the day that Beth lined them up on paper towels to show Caleb when he got home. He said a three-legged cat should still be put down, and Beth was just wasting cat food. One of the reasons she loved Caleb was his quiet competence around animals. She hadn’t known it also included cruelty. The cat was gaining weight so fast Beth wondered if she might be pregnant. She pitied her if she was.
As soon as she could drive again, Beth took Daniel to town to spend a day with her mother. There was a fire in the wood stove, and the smell of coffee cake in the air made it feel like heaven. The kitchen seemed huge to her now compared with the one in the trailer. It had so many cabinets and full-size appliances. She sat down in her old chair and dug into the coffee cake at the big wooden table.
Her mother fussed over Daniel and encouraged Beth to take the day off. She spent most of the day in her room looking at old photographs and sleeping. She’d never noticed how comfortable her bed was before. She pulled the quilt up, snuggled down into her pillows, and was happy to have nothing else to do.
When Beth went back to school, Rebecca volunteered to take care of Daniel while she was away. Sitting in classes seemed hard at first because Beth missed both the baby and the cat and the naps they took together. Seeing Gail again cheered her up, but when Gail talked about things like football games and parties, it seemed like another world to Beth. She wondered, even more than before, what relevance school could possibly have to real life.
As time went on, Rebecca became more and more attached to Daniel and earnestly believed he was the reincarnation of little Gene. When Beth mentioned to Caleb that his mother’s belief seemed strange, he said, “Reincarnation is one of the main things we believe with our religion. Having faith in God’s healing and staying away from doctors is another. And we always give birth at home, no matter what.”
“I guess I failed you on the last two,” Beth said.
Caleb said, “We weren’t surprised since you weren’t raised as one of us.”
Getting the ditch ready to start irrigating the fields in the spring was such a big event that Beth took a few days off school in March to help. Everything was as beautiful as her first spring in the canyon. The same trees bloomed by the main house, and the sky was the same brilliant blue. She felt different though. Her childhood innocence was long gone, and she knew it would never come back.
As numerous as the Tuckers were, they still needed extra help for burning the ditches after the winter to get rid of any growth that might slow down the water. They needed enough men to form three crews: two men in front with propane torches to set the fires, a few behind them with equipment to stop any fire that got out of control, and a clean-up crew in the rear to remove all the burnt debris. The women were generally left to run messages back and forth since the work was so rough.
At the break of dawn, four Navajo men, who helped burn ditch for all the ranchers up and down the canyon, showed up. They tested the propane torches to make sure they had enough fuel and were working well. Caleb went out to get everyone else set up so they could finish before noon when the wind usually started blowing.
Beth left Daniel with Rebecca after his morning feed and joined them. She found Caleb and his brother Samson walking in the ditch to clear out the charred grasses, and she followed alongside them. There was hardly any wind that morning, so the crew advanced quickly with only a few stray fires to tamp out along the way.
Caleb said to Beth, “Will you go and tell Mama that we’ll be ready for lunch around noon? And let her know that the four Navajo want to stick around since they like her food.” The two Navajo on his crew turned around and gave him a thumbs up.
Beth walked quickly and was happy to feel useful. She was almost to the house when she heard the screams. She ran back to the field and saw Caleb thrashing on his back with convulsions. Samson was trying to hold him down and move any dangerous equipment out of the way.
“What happened!” she screamed.
“He just ate a bite of one of them wild carrots Daddy showed us growing up at sheep camp last time we were there.” Samson handed her the root.
One of the Navajo men looked at the root and said, “He’s going to die.”
“No, he can’t die! cried Beth, stuffing the root into her pocket. “Try to get him as close to the road as you can. I’m going to run and call an ambulance.”
The hospital said that it would take at least thirty minutes to get an ambulance there, since the ranch was twenty miles from town. Beth decided to take him instead. She jumped in her car and drove to where the road came closest to the field. Caleb’s convulsions were so violent that, in the struggle to get him over the barbed wire fence, everyone got cut up.
The noise from the backseat was unbearable. Caleb thrashed around and screamed out at times, and otherwise moaned like he was in terrible pain. Samson did his best to keep Caleb from hurting himself. “Stay here! Just keep living!” he cried. About halfway to the hospital, Caleb stopped making any sound at all.
Beth asked, “Is he okay? Is he better?”
There was no answer from the back seat.
“Is he okay?” she pleaded.
Samson sobbed, “I think he’s passed.”
Beth stopped the car. There was blood everywhere, Samson was crying, and Caleb was pale and totally still. She put her head on his chest and didn’t hear his heart beating, like she usually did at night before they went to sleep.
Samson said, “Please take him home. We don’t believe in doctors and they can’t save him now.”
She turned around and drove back to the farm.
When they got back, the whole family came running to the car and cried out in grief when they saw Caleb had died. They carefully lifted his body from the car and took him inside the main house.
No one paid much attention to Beth so she went inside the trailer. Still in shock, she did a quick search on her phone and identified the root as wild hemlock. It was so dangerous that you shouldn’t even touch it. Why would Isaac not have known that? How could he have told his sons it was an edible wild carrot when he had never eaten it? She threw it as far away as she could outside the back of the trailer and washed her hands.
Isaac called the men in the canyon to help him dig a grave and made a simple wooden coffin for the funeral the next day. Rebecca washed the body and dressed Caleb in his best clothes. Beth brought the clothes over to the house from the trailer, but she wasn’t able to help. She was so upset that she couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Caleb’s body another time, even though it might be the last. She cleaned the blood from the inside of her car instead.
She called her parents to let them know what happened. They wanted to come and get her immediately, but she was too exhausted. She told them that the funeral was tomorrow because the body needed to be buried within twenty-four hours in the ranch graveyard. She promised her mother she’d be okay, and she’d see them at the funeral after she got some sleep. But she couldn’t sleep.
Daniel stayed overnight with the Tuckers because Beth didn’t feel safe taking care of him. She knew it was better for everyone, but she’d never felt so alone. Nothing felt real without Caleb there. When she sat at the trailer kitchen table with its peeling linoleum, it felt like she was in the middle of nowhere. She wondered how she was going to go on with her life without him.
The next day everyone gathered at the lonely corner of the ranch where the Tuckers had always been buried. The older graves had engraved stones with simple names and dates. The more recent ones, like baby Gene, had only carved pieces of wood because stone had become too costly.
They lowered the wooden box carefully into the grave with ropes. The men in the Tucker family then covered it and packed the soil, while the rest of the family and friends sang Amazing Grace. Beth was too upset to sing so she stood in silence. She was surprised when she looked up and saw her parents joining in. Her mother was wearing a dress and her father had on a dark suit. They looked so out of place that it seemed strange they knew the words.
Isaac read a passage from the Bible, then Rebecca spoke.
“Caleb was such a special soul that I’m sure he’ll be reincarnated soon, and I hope I’ll be able to meet him again before I die. God gave me one miracle when he brought back my baby Gene as baby Daniel, and I give thanks every day when I see his angelic face. I know I shouldn’t be asking for so much, but this family has seen its share of tragedy and I know God has mercy. I pray to Jesus that we all see Caleb again before we leave this life. We will all miss him so much.”
Afterwards, her parents asked Beth if she’d like to come home for dinner and to spend the night. She went to the trailer to grab some clothes and hugged all the Tuckers before she drove away. She took the cat with her and left Daniel with Rebecca.
Despite her parents urging, she never went back.