“That’s North, That’s Montana,” She Said.

In the early afternoon on Monday of the third week, Jordan Wilmerton rode up beside the wagon and said, “Well, Amanda, you are headed back to the States now.”

“The States are East, Mr. Wilmerton,” she grinned at him. “That’s North. That’s Montana.” Montana had been a destination now for nearly a month. Montana, and her brother’s stories of blue mountains rising like immense walls from valleys where rivers shone like silver in the sun. Blue mountains, white topped and sharp as fangs, Jimmy told them. Blue mountains that rose forever above the silver rivers and snagged at the eternal pale sky. It had been a constant lure to her; leading her on through the dust and monotony.

“Likely, your right rear wheel just now rolled ‘cross Monida Pass into Montana,” he said. “Next water you see is Beaverhead Crick, and it’s headed for Mr. Jefferson’s River.”

She did not believe him of course. This place was so little different from any other dusty, wind worn, sagebrush sweeps of land they had already passed through since Corinne. There were no blue mountains scouring the sky, only some gray rocks off to the west; and ahead of them only mounds of low brown hills like so many others; and further on a low dark ridge that seemed no more than a small woman’s hip under the empty sky.

It seemed such a fluke to her in later years that this was the point in her long journey, before she had even seen the Last Lost Valley and the mountains Jimmy had spoken of, when she knew she would never go back to the States, never see Ohio again except to visit. There had been something in this teamster’s saying that her right rear wheel had crossed a line that separated the waters of a continent that spoke to her. There was something in this that told her that she had crossed the first line of forever, crossed from a time of the girl she had been into whatever might be.

She flicked the reins on the rumps of the horses, eager to find whatever it was there was for her—even if the mountains were not blue and barely made a low hump under the white endless sky.

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