Since I am running behind in getting this thing published, I figured I had better get another excerpt out and give you a taste of the other end of the book. This excerpt is from Chapter 25. Our hero, Ethan, has finished school and is a newly commissioned second lieutenant assigned to the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He has just met his commanding officer and been assigned to Fort Fillmore along the Rio Grande in New Mexico Territory. Here, he is about to meet his senior NCO.
A sergeant with flaming red hair and a square jaw that looked like it was cut from granite was standing outside the door. A handlebar mustache of gigantic proportions, neatly waxed on the ends, dominated his face. He was tall, almost as tall as I am and thin and hard. He was also bowlegged, like he had spent his entire life in the saddle and might even been born there. His blue uniform was faded, and he wore his kepi at a jaunty angle, low across his eyes.
“You must be Sergeant Sullivan,” I said.
In a thick Irish brogue, he answered, “Aye, lad, and you must be my new shave tail … er … I mean Lieutenant Davis.” Without waiting for me to respond, he added, “Grab your kit, Lieutenant. The day isn’t a getting any cooler. I see ya brung yer own mount, nice gray ya have, sir. We’re ready to leave if you are, and I ‘spect you are. Come along, lad.” He turned and headed out the door, and I dutifully followed.
A wagon loaded with supplies and three mounted troopers looking as scared as I was trying not to look were waiting outside on the parade ground. “These boys are replacements. Ya gonna ride yer gray or in the wagon with me—Sir?” He said looking me up and down. That “sir” was added almost as an afterthought.
“The wagon with you. We have much to talk about.”
He nodded. “Aye, ‘spect we have. Climb aboard, Sir.” Before I was fully seated, he slapped reins to the mule team, and we were off. We picked up the Rio Grande and bounced along a trail beside it headed north by northwest.
Fort Fillmore was on the eastern edge of the Gadsden Purchase, a piece of land along the Mexican border purchased from Mexico a few years prior. The Butterfield Stage Line ran through there, it being the best route to California. The Butterfield line had been in operation for only a few years and was the first such service to California. It snaked out of Kansas southwest through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), then Texas to New Mexico Territory and on into southern California and Los Angeles. In 1860 all the country between Texas and southern California was called New Mexico Territory.
The three troopers trailed behind the wagon far enough back to stay out of its dust. I took out a cigar for myself and offered another to Sergeant Sullivan.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he said as he took the offered cigar and drew it under his nose. “And a fine one it tis.” He bit off the end, spit it out, and stuck the cigar in his mouth. From his pocket he retrieved a match and struck it on the wagon seat. “Light?” I lit my cigar from the offered match, then he lit his own. “I hear yer from Louisiana.”
“And yer not West Point?”
“Virginia Military Institute.”
He looked at me as if I had said something wrong. “Out here, ya may as well forget everything they taught ya.”
“I suspected as much. Tell me about New Mexico.”
“Its damn hot! And damn dusty! And if ya ain’t careful, damn dangerous! If the Injuns don’t worry ya none, ya can fret over the Mexican bandits, or the rattlers, or the Gilas, or the scorpions, or them rat-sized spiders they have out here.” He spit out a piece of tobacco. “Other than that it’s a grand place. And to think, I left Ireland for all this.” He looked at me with a wry grin. “Yes, I’m Irish. Dropped the O from me name so-as I would fit in better in my new country.”
As if I had not figured that out.