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The Four Winds by Hannah Kristin

The Four Winds by Hannah Kristin

Author:Hannah, Kristin
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: 2021-02-02T00:00:00+00:00


ELSA WOKE TO THE sounds of a new day: fires igniting, tent flaps being unzipped, cast-iron pans hitting cookstoves, children whining, babies crying, mothers chiding.

Life.

As if this were a normal community instead of the last stop for desperate people.

Careful not to disturb her children, she exited the tent and started a campfire and made coffee with the last of the water from their canteens.

Dozens of men, women, and children ambled across the field, toward the road. In the rising sun, they looked like stick people. At the same time, women walked toward the ditch and bent down for water, squatted on wooden planks that lay along the muddy shore.

“Elsa!”

Jean sat in front of her own tent, in a chair by a cookstove. She waved Elsa over.

Elsa poured two cups of coffee and carried them next door, offering Jean one.

“Thank you,” Jean said, wrapping her fingers around the cup. “I was just thinkin’ I should get up and pour myself a cup, but once I set down, I just stuck.”

“Did you sleep poorly?”

“Since 1931. You?”

Elsa smiled. “The same.”

People walked past them in a steady stream.

“They all heading out to look for work?” Elsa asked, checking her watch. It was a little past six.

“Yep. Newcomers. Jeb and the boys left at four and ain’t likely they’ll find anything. It’ll be better when they start weedin’ and thinnin’ the cotton. They’re plantin’ it now.”

“Oh.”

Jean pushed an apple crate toward Elsa. “Set a spell.”

“Where are they looking for work? I didn’t see many farmhouses . . .”

“It ain’t like back home. Around here the farms are big business, thousands and thousands of acres. The owners hardly step onto their land, let alone work it. They got the coppers and the government on their side, too. The state cares more about linin’ the growers’ pockets than takin’ care of the farmworkers.” She paused. “Where’s your husband?”

“He left us in Texas.”

“That’s happenin’ all over.”

“I can’t believe people live this way,” Elsa said, and immediately regretted her words when Jean looked away.

“Where can we go that’s better? Okies, they call us. Don’t matter where we’re from. Nobody’ll rent to us, but who can afford rent anyway? Maybe after cotton season you’ll have enough money to head out. We didn’t, though, not with four kids.”

“Maybe in Los Angeles—”

“We say that all the time, but who knows if it’s better there? At least here there’s pickin’ jobs.” She looked up. “You got enough money to waste it on gas going somewheres else?”

No.

Elsa couldn’t listen anymore. “I’d best go look for work. Will you keep an eye out on my children?”

“Course. And don’t forget to register with the state. Tonight I’ll introduce you around to the other women. Good luck to you, Elsa.”

“Thank you.”

After leaving Jean, Elsa carried two buckets full of fetid water from the ditch and boiled it in batches, then strained it through cloth.

She scrubbed her face and upper body as well as she could in the shadowy tent and washed her hair and put on a relatively clean cotton dress.



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