Woman's work is such a lovely, tidy thing, what savage brute would I be to interrupt with my own trifling duties such as clearing brush, chopping down trees, killing buffalo, gutting buffalo, calming the tempers of desperate men, negotiating with savages who know no Christian honor and, oh yes, GUIDING THE WAY. No darling, you mustn’t interrupt your knitting. I would not be worthy of the food I killed earlier in the day if I did so much as ask you to unlace your corset but an inch or so and lend a goddamn hand.


No, I wouldn't dream of it! Survival is a man’s game, my pet! America marvels at the fortitude of the women who came West! Well, let me tell you that our dear lady pie-oh-neeeers were little more than spectators as they journeyed West. We men worked ourselves to the bone and the newspapermen dare to wonder at their endurance?


Well, if I had sat on my ass all the way to California, I cannot say I’d be so terribly surprised to have made it there alive, either!


Which brings me back to my point: while we men, upon our honor, largely spared you the terrors and backbreaking labor of our journey, you ladies spared us the courtesy of proper hygiene. Ladies, I do not blame you — there is so much you cannot help, it seems — but allow me to put it this way: I was not about marry any woman I had watched come West.


I need not further broach such matters of grooming that attend a 2,000 mile walk most of the way across a continent. It is not pleasant — most indelicate. Perhaps this is partly why I had no choice but to marry Charlotte. And never, never, Dear Reader, was there an easier choice to be made.


When I met her, I understood why all those ancient goddesses were never born by traditional means — like something in the barnyard round back. Charlotte Toler simply sprang forth from the Pacific Ocean. Imagine a strawberry blond, turquoise-eyed girl with a cursive profile and a quicksilver grin and a complexion whiter than the deserts I’d crossed to meet her; imagine that girl born in Yerba Buena! Her voice was an ocean breeze soughing through a Monterey cypress and her gaze wandered, even ambled, like so many branches zigzagging toward the sea, too languid and wise for any true direction.


I see her with the ocean spray in her lashes or the Sierra Nevadas at her back; I met her in the San Francisco fog and I suppose she’s returned there now…


[He pauses with a sharp breath, as though waking from this reverie.]