The Mercury pulled into the station with a sigh of the brakes and a dramatic release of white steam. Again, Ned Billows joined the men on the platform in low hats and denim shirts and set to moving sacks, pallets, and barrels to and fro. It was here that the small crew -- the engineer, the fireman, and Ned Billows the brakeman -- took their lunch. It was also the first time the crew of the Mercury saw the gunmen of the armored car.
The Great Northern had left Grand Forks before the dry, yellow prairie was touched with the sun’s first light. By mid-day, the whistle was crying long and loud as the train chuffed out of the weathered Sioux Falls station, heading southbound towards Wichita across the dismal plain.
The horses slushed and slopped their way through the washed-out divots of the muddy trail. We were on our way beyond Harper’s Reach, the old, steep stone-faced mountain miles north of Fox Osage. In the distance, towards home, I saw bright lightning crackle to the ground. Still, I jumped at the clap of thunder that followed from the gray sky.
I listened to the sounds of the night. A mockingbird called through the brush, far off, maybe halfway across the lake. The cool wind rustled the tops of the trees and they whispered together. The ker-klack sound of the horses going down the trail past the lake was almost hypnotizing.