Chapter I: Salt Draw
Lily Casey Smith
starts telling her life story in 1911
. The ten-year-old girl tells how she survived a flash flood. When she is about to bring the cows back in together with her seven-year-old sister Helen
and her nine-year-old brother Buster
she notices that the cows behave strangely. She quickly finds out the reason: there is another flash flood. In order to save themselves, the three children climb up a tree. Lily is worried that they might fall asleep and eventually fall down, so she makes her siblings stay awake all night by asking them about former presidents, state capitals and word definitions.
When they return home the next morning, their mother says that she
herself - and not Lily - saved the children by staying up all night praying. But Lily and her father think that it was not a guardian angel who saved them but Lily herself.
Lily’s life is a tough one, especially since her father Adam Casey
prefers coming up with crazy ideas over working. He buys peacocks, for example, in order to have the only peacock breed in the area - still, his idea isn't profitable. His primary occupation, however, is to train horses - breaking them in to be specific.
Lily then gives a synopsis of her father’s life story: in the past, he was being sent to prison even though he was innocent. After three years, he was released from prison and met Lily's mother Daisy Mae. After one year, Lily was born in an earth hole. Adam Casey is bad-tempered and not able to control himself. When he gets really angry, he often takes out his gun and shoots at things. Due to an accident with a horse in his childhood, he has a speech disorder and limps.
Daisy Mae Casey
, Lily’s mother, tends to be a rather superficial and posh person and is used to a certain amount of luxury since her father was a wealthy miner. Although their living conditions are very hard, Daisy Mae tries to be a lady. For instance, she never leaves the house without wearing her hat and her gloves. The only thing she really cares about is whether or not her daughter will marry the right husband. She refuses hard work and Lily’s father supports her since she is a lady.
At the age of 8
, Lily and her family are hit by another flash flood. This time, however, it is not only the Caseys who suffer damage from the flood, but also their neighbour, Mr. McClurg. After his house is destroyed, he returns to his hometown and the Caseys use the lumber his house was made of to build a house for themselves. Lily is at an age where she is supposed to visit a school and learn the basic things of everyday life. Yet, her father deems the closest school in Toyah as second-rate and that he is able to do a better job teaching his daughter. So he teaches her grammar, natural and social sciences.
At the age of 13
, Lily goes to school to earn her diploma in order to prove her good education. In fact, she has been educated by her father over the last few years.
Lily Casey Smith is a very tough person, having started to train horses at the age of only five
. Although she experiences many accidents due to horse riding, she is never disencouraged and would never listen to her mother who doesn't want her to go riding.
At the age of ten
, during a game of baseball, Lily is being hit by a baseball. At the hospital, it turns out that her appendix has been ruptured. Adam, who disapproves of playing, tells Lily not to risk her life again. Is she had the feeling to willingly risking her life, it should be for something bigger, for a higher Purpose.
At the end of the first chapter, Lily reports on the family’s move to New Mexico, following the destruction of the family’s house by a tornado. Thus, they decide to live on the ranch Lily’s father owns and which he had been renting out during their time in Salt Draw.