Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Traveling the Hard Way...

Pioneers had in tough in more ways than one...more so the women who didn't often ride in the wagon, but walked alongside or trailed behind.  Usually the Conestoga (a large wagon called often called a Prairie Schooner) was filled to the hilt with family belongings and stores enough for a long trip. In order to preserve the energy of the team, whether it be mules, oxen, or horses, anyone old enough to walk didn't do much riding. 

I can't imagine what life was like back in the old west during the 1800s, but I hope I've captured a little of it in White Heart, Lakota Spirit, where Grace and her family are following her father's wanderlust in his quest to find gold in the Black Hills.  The family is in for a big shock, and Grace's life is about to be changed forever.  Here's a scene from the first chapter:

Grace trudged along behind the wagon, struggling to keep up with her mother. Though the prairie grass grew knee-high in some places, the wheels found the dust hidden below and spiraled the powdery dirt into the air, covering her hair and skin. Her muscles quivered with fatigue.

The day stretched on as her father kept the family moving, in search of the right place to stop. The more exhausted she became, the more her thoughts turned to bitterness. Why did they have to leave their home? Was it this stupid thing called gold fever? She didn’t want to live in a wagon. She wanted her own soft bed back… and her own cozy home.

She smacked her dry lips and cursed the day her father announced the beginning of this horrible journey. He’d walked into the house, slapped his hat against his knee, displayed his usual heartwarming smile and said, “Pack up the wagon. I’ve got a plan that’ll make us rich.”

The anger she experienced then gripped her again. Grace had just gotten used to being in one place for any length of time. She’d actually found friends her own age and enjoyed their company. Now, surrounded by endless prairie, and glancing at her family, she realized how much she missed her classmates. Tears clouded her eyes.

The creaking wagon wheels, plodding hooves, and rustling grasses were the only sounds she heard. Pa guided them toward the distant mountains—the Black Hills, where precious ore supposedly ran in golden veins so thick the brightness rivaled the sunrise. Funny, from where she stood, they looked like any other mountains. Nothing more than granite peaks jutting from a sea of grass and dotted with trees and scrub brush.

Mama marched through the weeds ahead, her head held high and her shoulders squared against the growing wind. Where did she get her stamina? She seemed to be faring better than Grace.

Her mother’s admirable tenacity and devotion to Papa went without saying. Even when he uprooted the family, Mama never complained. If given the same opportunity, would Grace be such a follower, she wondered? Would she ever get a chance to find out? Suitable husbands didn’t pop up in the middle of nowhere. Being an old maid seemed her fate in life.

Her father drove the wagon while Kevin prodded their single cow along and kept her from straying. Grace smiled, thinking of her older brother’s silly jokes. He always seemed to find humor in everything, and even when times got tough, he made her laugh.

Recalling a few nights back when he’d donned Mama’s bonnet and danced a jig around the campfire to Papa’s fiddling, caused Grace’s gritty lips to lift in a smile. At twenty, Kevin should have a wife and be making his own plans, but with all the moving around, he hadn’t found a woman to share his life. Did it bother him? If so, he didn’t complain.

Lost in thought, Grace missed slamming into the back of the wagon by inches. She swerved out of the way. Her father had stopped the team to check the harnesses. She walked around front and stood next to him. “Papa, when are we going to stop for the night? My legs are tired.” Her words came out in a whine followed by a loud sigh.

He glanced at the surrounding terrain. “We’ve come a far piece today. Don’t reckon’ we’ll find any place much better than right here. Go gather up some kindlin’ for the fire.” The gaze in his eyes turned dreamy. “Just think, in a couple more days, we’ll stop for a good spell.”

The tag line for this book gives you a clue where it's heading.  "Caught between the world of red and white, how will Grace Cummings choose?  Interested?  Check it out on my author's page at Amazon.  You can even read a larger sample.

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