Chapters 7–13

When 15-year-old Samantha, a Chinese-American girl living in Missouri in the mid-19th-century, finds herself on the wrong side of the law, she and her best friend embark on a journey westward, following the Oregon Trail.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. posse
    a temporary police force
    If a posse were chasing two dangerous fugitives, would they ask for supper before the apprehending?
  2. apprehend
    take into police custody
    If a posse were chasing two dangerous fugitives, would they ask for supper before the apprehending?
  3. flaxen
    pale yellowish to yellowish brown
    The last rider sizes me up from atop his horse, a sorrel with a flaxen mane and white socks.
  4. bluster
    a swaggering show of courage
    My voice sounds too high so I tune it to my lowest pitch and add bluster.
  5. bemused
    perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements
    Finally paying attention, the Mexican swaggers toward me like a Spanish bullfighter addressing a cow that has wandered into the arena: posture erect, nostrils flared, eyes bemused.
  6. withers
    the highest part of the back at the base of an animal's neck
    The Mexican rests an elbow on the gray horse’s withers, the silver rosettes trimming his black trousers and jacket winking at me in unison.
  7. slake
    satisfy, as thirst
    I drink from our canteen, but Andy pulls it away before I get a chance to slake my thirst.
  8. scrutiny
    a prolonged intense look
    I decide this West must not have recognized me after all. After his initial scrutiny, he barely casts me another glance, which gives me the chance to study him.
  9. prima donna
    a vain and temperamental person
    Peety lays a horse blanket on the poky yellow grass in front of Cay. Hitching his trousers, he carefully lowers himself onto it.
    “Oh, c’mon, prima donna, your pantaloons are already filthy,” says Cay.
  10. goad
    provoke as by constant criticism
    As he positions himself in front of the grinning Cay, I wonder at the power of a single word to goad males into doing things they don’t want to do to acquire things they don’t want to have.
  11. sham
    something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be
    “C’mon, Sammy,” says Andy, at least playing along with the sham. “Send him home.”
  12. dissonant
    lacking in harmony
    A chorus of yips starts up, coyotes celebrating a kill, but even worse than the coyotes is the wind. It started as a dry breeze, but now it pulls at me, sucking the moisture from my lips and eyes. It blows through the cedars in a dissonant chord that rises and falls like the wheezing of croupy lungs.
  13. mull
    reflect deeply on a subject
    “Well,” I say, still mulling over the story, which reminds me of Icarus, whose wings melted off when he flew too close to the sun.
  14. parable
    a short moral story
    “It’s a parable of caution. The story represents man’s struggle with others, nature, and ultimately himself, which is the hardest one of all. The prince didn’t understand he was fighting himself until it was too late.”
  15. wrangle
    herd and care for
    “Our wrangler's introducing your friend to the remuda,” says Cay.
    I yank on my boots. “
  16. nettle
    plant having stinging hairs that cause skin irritation
    With his mouth full, Cay answers, “A coosie is who cooks for you, a cayuse is the animal that carries you, and a caboose is what you should never wave over a stinging nettle.”
  17. demur
    politely refuse or take exception to
    My first reaction is to demur. I’ve been taught to never take the last piece for myself, which Chinese people consider very impolite.
  18. compliant
    disposed to act in accordance with someone's wishes
    “I know how to ride,” I say coolly. I don’t mention that my only steed was our compliant mule, Tsing Tsing, back in New York who only had two speeds: slow, and slower.
  19. wry
    humorously sarcastic or mocking
    A wry smile touches her lips. “You don’t say?”
  20. surly
    unfriendly and inclined toward anger or irritation
    “How many miles do you go a day?” I ask the grump at my back.
    “At this turtle pace, we’ll be lucky if we break fifteen,” he says in a surly voice.
  21. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    “What else can you do, Andito?” says Peety, scratching a red welt on his neck.
  22. sprawling
    spreading out in different directions
    Pawpaw trees with their dark leaves, big as my foot, shade the bank, linked by clumps of pussy willows and sprawling hazelnut.
  23. tamp
    press down tightly
    I tamp down my nerves and make my voice sound hale.
  24. hale
    exhibiting or restored to vigorous good health
    I tamp down my nerves and make my voice sound hale.
  25. poised
    marked by balance or equilibrium and readiness for action
    West pulls back his spear, poised to strike.
  26. revulsion
    intense aversion
    The fish leads me into the brown tangle, slimy and probably full of disgusting leeches. I glance back at Andy, revulsion pulling my face in different directions.
  27. vestige
    an indication that something has been present
    Then Peety peels off the long underwear and folds them into a neat pile, sweeping away the last vestiges of my composure.
  28. chafe
    become or make sore by or as if by rubbing
    “But now I wanna know, if they don’t wear unders, how they stop the chafing?”
  29. render
    show in, or as in, a picture
    West’s drawing is remarkably true to life, and full of motion, the muscles and sinew rendered in complicated hatch marks and shading. Only an artist could reproduce an animal so convincingly.
  30. aloofness
    a disposition to be distant and unsympathetic in manner
    Despite the vaquero’s initial aloofness, I find him to be the most warmhearted of the three boys, one eye always watching out for Andy or me as if we were part of the remuda.
  31. ingenious
    showing inventiveness and skill
    I run my hand along the center of the rough fabric and find more vent holes hidden in the seam. There’s even an opening underneath the collar.
    Ingenious,” I say.
    “What’s that mean?”
    “Very clever.”
    She snorts. “If I was real ingenious, I wouldn’t get back on that four-legged death trap.”
  32. rivulet
    a small stream
    We walk along the Little Blue, whose rivulets run in all directions like veins.
  33. ford
    cross a river where it's shallow
    But when we ford the river to follow the trail northwest, I’m simply thankful Andy and I don’t have to splash through the muddy water on our own.
  34. conservatory
    a schoolhouse with special facilities for fine arts
    I always dreamed about us returning to New York, opening up a music conservatory. I would teach violin, he would teach the other strings, like the cello and banjo, and we would get someone to do the woodwinds.
  35. bovine
    any of various wild or domestic cattle
    Pouring out from the forest before us are dozens, maybe hundreds of livestock, tearing down the trail at top speed. The bovines and equines lead the charge, trailed by goats and a few pigs.
  36. equine
    a hoofed mammal having slender legs and a flat coat
    Pouring out from the forest before us are dozens, maybe hundreds of livestock, tearing down the trail at top speed. The bovines and equines lead the charge, trailed by goats and a few pigs.
  37. din
    a loud, harsh, or strident noise
    The din of charging animals increases until they finally tear by under me, mooing and shrieking.
  38. fray
    a noisy fight
    Princesa enters the fray, tail and head held high. Approaching traffic slows her, but she continues to thread her way to Peety, still twenty feet ahead.
  39. lope
    run easily
    A longhorn charges from Andy’s left, its horned head waggling up and down with each loping stride.
  40. throng
    a large gathering of people
    I watch them move away from me until the throngs of animals swallow them up.
Created on June 3, 2020 (updated June 8, 2020)

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