A woman and two kids on a rawhide outfit somewhere in the Trans Pecos vastness that defied recall of civilization.
Her husband dead in a brutal war waged by a country turned against itself, she had the little ones to raise and the only home they'd ever known to protect.
Lonely and wild was the Texas frontier, a hard land that demanded everything and had but one gift in return -- choice. The choice to stay and take the hard times, to stand tall to the dangers that could take it away.
The choice to give in and give up. To leave the years of sweat and toil on land sanctified by the blood of birthing those who would follow.
Or the choice to say, "No. By God in Heaven, you may not have it. It is ours, bought and paid for with pain and pride. So take it if you will - you'll have only the dyin' to show that you tried."
The old cap and ball musket would challenge the sinew of many a man, but hers is the strength of having worked beside her mate, matching him stride for stride and sharing an equal load. In her hands the heavy old weapon does not waver.
At her feet her fourteen-year old daughter and twelve-year old son are busy helping Mama. The old musket will fire but once and need reloading, so the pistol is made ready. Powder must be poured and packed, lead balls rammed home and primer caps must be placed just so. It is tedious work and must be done hurriedly.
But, Mama has said, “Don't be afraid. I won't let them hurt you.” Their hands don't shake. They do their job.
The spirit of those who hung on at the Alamo runs hot in her blood. She, too, has drawn her line. Her face and eyes are aglow with determination, her heart sings with dignity.
And so she stands - and meets whatever challenges come against her - and stands again. From such steadfastness, such raw courage comes the survival of a people, the building of a state, the preservation of a way of life.
And freedom - the gift of a Prairie Widow.
--William M. Finklea