Excerpts from the lives of  Gerta and Tak

Gerta figured out early on that having friends was wonderful, but one should keep practicing one's spear-throwing.
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THE BROAD VISTAS  didn’t make her feel smaller, she realized, they made her feel bigger. Her imagination seemed to stretch as the horizons fell away. Her imagined future grew to match the size of the world around her, which was very big indeed....
THE HORSES pricked up their ears and the walkers stared at the windows of the passing train, but then their routines returned. The passage of the train left no mark on them. Gerta knew that would not be true for her. When she stepped down from a railroad car for the last time,  her life would be changed forever....

THE ANIMAL had loped into view shortly after dawn. Luckily, Gerta had seen it padding toward her. Tasseled grass brushed its belly, its long tail swung side to side. The mountain lion slowed to a walk as it reached the oak in which Gerta hid, moved around a tall patch of switchgrass, and stopped....

Tak favored radiant-orange swim trunks, 1958 Edsels, Whataburgers, and his dog Otis. That was before Emma came to town.
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I WAS UNEQUIVOCAL in my love of solving crimes. My zeal didn't rise to the level of passion, perhaps, but almost. Only discovering a garaged 1953 Studebaker coupe in restorable condition might satisfy me more than fingering a perpetrator....
"HE'S GOOD COMPANY?" her mother asked. "Did he attack you in your tent?"
"Twice," Emma said with a straight face. "I was going to talk to you about that later."
"Poor darling," her mother responded.
"I know," Emma said with a rueful expression.
"I meant Tak. He deserved better."
I smiled at that. I liked this woman. Emma smiled, too....
OPERATING IN PURE SURVIVAL MODE,  I threw my weight against him and the man fell backward, throwing the tire iron at me as he fell. I panted raggedly as I watched him regain his footing and stare at me. I stared back. Then he turned away and ran....