Category Archives: Catahoula Books

“Buffalo Woman” is LIVE!

It took a while, but we are finally there. Book 4 of the Catahoula Series, Buffalo Woman, is now live on Amazon. This is the fourth in the series and takes our heroes forward five years to 1872 and the tour of America by Grand Duke Alexei of Russia. Ethan and Angel get sucked into his vortex and head out West to go buffalo hunting and then New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

I have posted excerpts from the book here,  here, and here, and below is another. This one finds Angel demonstrating her skills with the sling to the Grand Duke’s party. Enjoy.

*****

Alexei then remembered Angel’s claim of her prowess with the sling and that he had previously requested a demonstration. “Miss Angelique, you told me you could hit a pigeon at thirty paces with your sling. Would you be so kind as to demonstrate the weapon of King David for us?” That was followed by a few shouts of encouragement I imagine meant to express doubt that she could do what she said.

I looked at her, and she was blushing. “You bragged and now you have to back it up.”

She stepped forward and bowed to the Grand Duke, then turned and did likewise to the gathered crowd. She stepped over to Clayton, and just as he was about to take a sip of whiskey from his tin cup, she snatched it from him. After sniffing its contents in an exaggerated manner, she pinched her nose and tossed the liquid into the fire, which flared with a bright flame burning off the alcohol.

As I watched her antics, I was beginning to think that she was quite the show person. I noticed that Buffalo Bill must have also thought so. He was watching her with arms crossed and a curious expression with half smile upon his lips.

Angel continued her show. She held the cup aloft for all to see, even tossed it into the air and caught it in a most theatrical manner. Holding the cup aloft, she marched over to the woodpile for the campfire and placed it upon the top log in such a manner that the open end of the cup would face her. In the exaggerated manner of an accomplished thespian, she gestured toward her cup target then stepped off thirty long paces as the crowd counted along with her. Everyone was thoroughly enjoying her show.

Very dramatically, she took her coat off and tossed it to me. With yet more drama, she withdrew her sling from her trouser’s pocket and stretched it out and held over her head for all to see that it was only two thongs and a leather piece to hold the projectile. The audience applauded. She then withdrew a .44 caliber lead ball from her pocket and pinched between forefinger and thumb, she held it aloft for her audience to examine.

Alexei stood to the side obviously much amused by her antics, and Cody was very clearly interested in what she was doing.

Angel carefully and deliberately placed the ball into the leather pouch of the sling and went to twirling it. I had watched her use her sling on many occasions, but I had never seen her twirl it the way she did that evening. While still facing the audience, she spun it on her right side, then on her left side, then alternating sides, then overhead. That spinning sling held her audience in its hypnotic grasp. As I said, she wasn’t even facing the target, it being on her left side some thirty paces away. Suddenly, she let out a Rebel yell, spun, and stepped toward the tin cup, letting fly the ball at her target, which promptly disappeared from the woodpile with a satisfying clang. Her audience cheered and applauded. Angel threw up her arms in victory. Cody was applauding enthusiastically while shaking his head in disbelief. Alexei stepped up to Angel and took her hand and held it aloft. She then curtsied like the finest lady-in-waiting in any European court. I reckon then that she had learned something in that expensive finishing school after all.

Buffalo Bill ordered the cup retrieved and brought to him for examination. He found a deep dent almost dead center in the bottom of the cup.

After receiving her accolades, she came over and stood beside me with a broad grin on her lips.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Never did it that way before.”

“And you attempted such before an audience?”

She looked up at me with the expression of a child caught in some mischief. “Too much champagne. I think maybe I’m a little drunk.”

*****

And Book 5 is already in the works…

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Catahoula Book 4

We are getting close. Book 4, Buffalo Woman, is out with the beta readers to look for problems. I am hoping for a release in May at the latest, but keep in mind I usually have to eat my estimated publication dates. Meanwhile, here is a short excerpt. This scene is out on the Great Plains of Nebraska in winter. Ethan and Angel are buffalo hunting with Grand Duke Alexei of Russia.

*****

We had not gone more than a couple of miles, and I spied about a hundred buffalo of to our right down on the plain of a wide shallow valley. Alexei had rejoined his group but also saw it and pointed to it. “Angelique, now is your chance,” he yelled.

Angel had, of course, taken notice and was looking at me with a pleading expression on her face. “Now, it’s your turn,” I said to her.

The rest of the party was having a good time laughing and drinking champagne when Angel and I broke off from the group and headed for the herd. We still had ample daylight to make a kill and get it skinned and the meat packed if we wasted no time. When he saw us galloping off after the buffalo, Alexei cheered us on and called a halt to the march to watch. He then called for binoculars to have a better view of the action out on the plain.

Angel was ahead of me some two lengths and driving her mount as hard as she could. We thundered down the gentle slope of the hill to the sound of pounding hooves and the rhythmic panting of our ponies. The herd stirred into motion at the sight of the two riders coming hard down on them. They broke into a loping gallop at first and then a hard run as we came up alongside of them. The thunderous sound of over 400 hooves pounding the earth into submission is truly awesome and sent shivers up my spine.

Angel was still ahead of me some two lengths and had already drawn the Sharps from its scabbard, having picked out an old bull along the right side and near the front of the herd as her trophy. I would rather she had selected one near the rear of the herd, but she was committed, and there was no turning back at that point. Like Alexei had experienced, her mount was not terribly interested in getting up close to the galloping buffalo, but she urged him on. She would get him within about four or five feet and bring the rifle to her shoulder while holding the reins in her teeth and managing the horse with her knees. As she was about to shoot, her pony pulled away and spoiled her shot.

I was close behind and slightly off to her side away from the buffalo. I kept looking back to be sure the tail end of the herd did not close in around us from behind. If they did and one of us should fall, he would be turned into a prairie pancake by the hooves of many massive buffalo running over him—or her.

She spurred her reluctant pony in closer once more and, with wide-eyed trepidation, he did move closer. And as before, just as she was about to shoot, his fear overcame her urging, and he reared and pulled away nearly throwing Angel. My heart went into my throat as Angel struggled to regain control and spur him to catch up with her buffalo.

This could not go on much longer. We were losing daylight. I saw only one solution. “Hang on! I’m coming!” I yelled as I urged my pony faster and caught up with Angel. As she forced her mount in closer, I pulled up against the other side of her and, using my horse, forced hers to move closer to the animals he was so fearful of. Protesting, he moved in tighter to the buffalo, but Angel and I were jammed against each other and riding full tilt beside a herd of panicked buffalo.

She was then within two or three feet of her selected bull, and we could both feel and smell their hot breath turned into steam as they huffed to expel and fill their lungs with another breath of life. “Take the shot!” I yelled.

Where she found the strength to do so with that heavy rifle I will never know, but managing the horse with the reins in her left hand, she threw the Sharps to her shoulder, cradled its fore end in her crook of her left elbow, and pointed the rifle at the big bull’s massive chest and pulled the trigger.

BAM!

 

 

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Joe-bert – Excerpt From Book 4

I have finished the first draft of Book 4 of the Catahoula series. Now for the rewrites… And then the editing… Meanwhile, I have here included a short excerpt from the book. This scene takes place in St. Louis when Ethan and Angel are checking into the hotel there. We see Ethan quick to be irritated by the clerk’s mispronunciation of his name and it draws out his sense of humor.

*****

I cleared my throat, and the clerk looked up. “Oh! May I help you, sir?”

“Yes. Name’s Joubert. I telegraphed for reservations three days ago.”

He pushed his glasses up his nose and went to shuffling another stack of papers. “Oh, here it is. Mr. Ethan Joe-bert,” he said reading my name off the reservation telegram.

“It is Joubert,” I replied, using the correct French pronunciation.

“Joe-bert,” he repeated, not even coming close.

“No, Joubert. Draw out the ‘J’ sound, and the second syllable sounds almost like ‘bear’, not ‘bert,’ except more tongue out front and an almost silent ‘t’ on the end. Try it.”

The clerk bravely tried to follow my instructions and failed with a hard sounding “Joe”. “No,” and I reached out and pinched his cheeks to pucker his mouth. “J-j-jou…like jew with a long ‘J.’”

Another hard “Joe” came out, but this one sounded more like it was uttered by a duck being strangled. Angel snickered behind my back. I looked around and glared at her. She pinched her mouth closed in an attempt to hide her amusement, but her laughing eyes gave her away. Turning back to my new friend, I repeated, “Joubert. Try it again.”

He failed once more. Angel couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst out laughing. “Give it up, Poppa.”

Resigned to my fate, I said to the clerk. “Very well, just call me Joe-bert.”

He was much relieved. “Oh, thank you very much, sir!”

I shrugged in resignation.

*****

The working title remains If Ever I Cease to Love for now. More on the book here.

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Catahoula Book 4

Maybe this long overdue post will motivate me to get this finished. Target date to publish Book 4 is winter 2018. This is from the first chapter. Our story has moved ahead five years from where we last left Rachel, Ethan, Thomas, and Angel beside the Red River with the charred remains of Catahoula Plantation smoldering behind them. The story is being written around the visit and tour of America by Grand Duke Alexei Romanoff of Russia. He traveled the US from November of 1871 through March of 1872. Among his stops were a buffalo hunt in Nebraska in January and Mardi Gras in New Orleans in March. That was the first year Rex paraded, and the Rex theme song, If Ever I Cease to Love, is associated with the Grand Duke. And that is also the working title of Book 4. Here follows a snip from Chapter One.

*****

4 January 1872

Boston, Massachusetts

Angelique LeBeuf Joubert was in trouble—serious trouble—trouble so serious that her father, that would be me, Ethan Joubert, had been summoned all the way from my home in Louisiana to her finishing school in Boston to deal with it. And I did not appreciate getting a telegram on Christmas Eve telling me my daughter was being expelled from her expensive finishing school, thus it was not a very pleasant Christmas at Catahoula Plantation that year. I departed for Boston three days after Christmas.

Anticipating my arrival that very morning, Angel had been ordered to pack her bags, and she knew what that meant. Her bags stacked on the floor beside her, she sat on the very uncomfortable wooden bench outside the headmistress’ office and contemplated her fate for nearly two hours before I arrived.

The morning was cold with a light snow falling when my hired carriage pulled up at the gate of her school. “Wait for me,” I told the driver, and he nodded his agreement. A doorman let me in after my knock and bade me follow him to the headmistress’s office down a long hallway. At the far end, I saw my daughter sitting on a bench and a pile of her luggage nearby. She rose to greet me, but I only gave her an angry nod for a greeting and marched directly into the headmistress’ office. I’m sure that hurt her, but my intention was to tell her she was in real trouble this time.

Mrs, Warton rose to greet me when I entered. “Mr. Joubert, I’m so sorry I had to disturb your Christmas, but…”

Not the least interested in her apologies, I held up my hand to stop her. “Just tell me what she did.” And she did just that—in great detail, reading from a list of offenses four pages long. I suppose she wanted to be sure she didn’t miss anything, thus she saw the need to write them all down for my benefit.

She never offered me a seat, but as she began reading page two of her litany of offenses, realizing this was going to take a while, I took one anyway, seating myself in a large chair across from her desk. Only briefly glancing up to be sure I was paying close attention and stopping periodically only to catch her breath, Mrs. Warton prattled on. And I listened—and got angrier.

About the middle of page three, one particular offense got my attention. “She what?” I yelled.

Mrs. Warton looked up and what I considered a bit of a sneer crossed her lips. She replied evenly, “Sir, I believe you heard me correctly.”

Angel heard me and jumped at the sound of my booming voice coming from the other side of the large oak door. “She must have gotten to the part about the toad,” she muttered to herself.

Mrs. Warton resumed reading from her list, and Angel sat outside listening to the muffled voices occasionally punctuated by an outburst from me. She eventually became somewhat distracted by the little dancing flecks of dust illuminated by the sun’s rays coming in through the window. That may seem odd, considering what was transpiring on the other side of the door, but she often took notice of things others took for granted and failed to notice. Such had become part of her very nature, survival tricks she had learned during those very dark times at the end of the War of Northern Aggression, that terrible time between losing her mother, father, and younger brother and finding a new home with her adopted parents, Rachel and me. Her interest in the dancing dust particles lasted only until the next outburst from on the other side of that door.

Then everything got quiet for her—ominously quiet.

The big oak door suddenly creaked open, and there I stood staring at her. Actually, “glaring” might be a better description. The perfect picture of chastised humility she lowered her head and slowly stood but never took her eyes off mine, which seemed to be cutting all the way down to her very core.

“Poppa…”

“Say nothing,” I replied sharply with a wave of my hand, as my glare became even sterner.

I’m dead! She thought.

I scooped up armloads of her bags and headed for the door. She didn’t move. I stopped and looked back at her. “You coming?”

“I’ve been expelled?”

“Something like that. Were you expecting otherwise?”

I turned abruptly and resumed my march for the front door of the school. She picked up her remaining bags and followed me outside. It was cold and she was thankful for that, hoping it might take some of the heat off my anger.

I stopped when we reached the gate. The waiting carriage was just outside with its driver huddled in his greatcoat and dozing up in the driver’s seat in spite of the light falling snow that collected on him outlining his form. She caught up with me and stopped, making sure she remained out of my easy striking distance. I had never struck her before, but she thought I just might be angry enough to do so this time.

I stood there with my back to her for a long while before I slowly turned to face her. I set her bags down, and with my lips pursed and my eyes tightly closed, as if looking at her was painful, I shook my head in an exaggerated fashion.

A slight chill ran through her body. Here it comes!

And I began, “You were constantly in trouble here. Your marks were awful. You never paid attention in any of your classes, except art. And you were constantly in trouble—oh wait, I already said that.”

“I liked art…”

I paused my rant and briefly looked skyward and took a deep breath, slowly letting it out. “Angel, did you really put a dead toad in Mrs. Warton’s soup?”

With a frown on her face, she shrugged innocently and looked to the side as if considering her answer. “Well, I figured she might enjoy frog. We do eat them back home.”

I fought back a smile and just barely succeeded. “The legs—we eat the legs, not the whole frog—entrails and all, much less one that has been dead since November.”

“Poppa, she’s mean as a snake…” she started to explain, but nothing she would have said beyond that could possibly have made any sense or helped her cause.

With my extended palm, I stopped her to resume my interrogation. “And when questioned about the toad, did you reply that if she didn’t want to eat it, you could suggest another place she could put it?”

She stuttered, “I-I know how that must sound, but I meant the garbage.”

“Bull shit!”

“Poppa, your language. I’m a lady and not accustomed to such talk.”

“Bull shit, again!” I said it loud enough that time that the hackney driver looked up from his slumber. “You needn’t pretend those words—or worse—have never crossed your lips!”

I had her there and she knew it. She took one step back and tried to change the subject. “Poppa, you know I really didn’t want to come here. Even Momma was against it, but you insisted. And you’re right. I’m not much of a lady, am I?”

No longer able to hold it back, I lost it then and burst out laughing as I took the two strides to her that separated us and grabbed her by the shoulders. For a long moment, I just looked at her and shook my head. I then pulled her to myself and swallowed her in a loving embrace. “Angel, what am I going to do with you?”

Relieved that I wasn’t going to kill her, she put her arms around me and hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me in years. “How about take me home where I belong?”

“That was your intention all along, wasn’t it?”

“Ummm, maybe… I miss you and Momma and Thomas. And I miss Catahoula. It’s my home. Perhaps you can never understand how important you have become to me?”

“You’re right, and I should have understood that especially considering what you went through as a child, losing your own parents and home. I’m sorry. You and your mother were right. This finishing school was not a good idea for you. Let’s go home.”

*****

Needless to say, they didn’t make it back to Catahoula as soon as they thought…

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UPDATE: The Avenging Angel Is Live!

B3 AA Cover Master1The Avenging Angel, Book Three of the Catahoula Chronicles Series is live. Meanwhile, here is a short excerpt from the book.

Set up: Ethan has been seeking revenge for three murders and has been harassing those responsible who also happen to be members of a recently formed secret organization, the Ku Klux Klan. What he is doing is dangerous, and he ends up getting shot. Wounded, he can’t go home because Rachel is unaware of his nightly activities, so he goes to the only other person he can trust.

*****

I heard a scream behind me and turned to look. One of my pursuers had hit a low hanging branch and was unhorsed. His companion stopped to help him but decided to take one last shot at me first.

The ball hit me in my left thigh just below the hip, but I could not stop to examine the extent of my wound and kept pressing hard until I came out on a road and turned south. Fearing some were pursuing, I pressed on until I was sure I was not being followed. I reined in Pepper and looked behind me and saw no one, nor did I hear any sounds of hooves. Assuming I had lost my pursuers, I turned Pepper to get more moonlight on my leg and found an entry wound but no exit. The ball was still inside—and had to come out. I couldn’t go back to Catahoula for help. I would be discovered. There was only one other place to go, so I tied a bandana around my wound to stem the flow of blood, pulled off my mask and hood and stuffed them in my haversack, and headed for Big Cypress.

The house was in complete darkness when I arrived at Big Cypress sometime around three in the morning. I knew Laura used the front bedroom on the right side and eased out of the saddle to gather a few pebbles from the drive. Not wishing to awaken the servants or her father, I tossed a pebble against her window. Nothing happened. I realized I still had old Zeke’s hat on and tossed it under the bushes beside the house. I was just about to toss another pebble at the window when I saw a face peering down at me—Laura.

“Ethan? What are you doing here?”

“I need help, Laura. I’ve been shot.”

“My goodness! I’ll be right down.”

“But don’t wake anyone, please.”

A few moments later, she appeared in her dressing gown at the front door and let me in. “You needn’t worry. Father is asleep in his bedroom. How bad is it?”

“Just bad enough I can’t go home like this.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Get the ball out and dress it.”

She helped me into the butler’s pantry in the back and lit a lamp. “Drop your trousers, then hop up on the table and let me have a look.”

I slipped my belt and loosed my fly to let my trousers down to my knees and painfully climbed onto the table.

“I’ll save you the embarrassment of making you remove your unmentionables.” With that she grabbed them by the bullet hole and ripped the leg open. “Hmmm, childhood, Virginia three years ago and now this? Seems like you are dropping your trousers for me a lot more than maybe you should, and yet we never…”

“That’s enough, Laura.”

“Just a little levity for the situation,” she replied as she wiped away the blood. “Nice clean hole. No fabric from the trousers or your drawers seems to be in the hole, so maybe you can avoid infection.”

She retrieved a bottle of brandy from the shelf and liberally doused a cloth with it. “This’ll burn a little, and you may want to take a few shots before I start probing for the ball.”

“You’ve done this before?”

“Kind of late to be asking that question, seeing as I have you on my operating table, so to speak. But to answer your question, yes I have—at least I watched the surgeons remove more than a few balls in that hospital in Richmond I found you in back in ‘63.”

I took a long pull of the brandy. “That seems like an eternity ago.”

“Yes it does,” she replied as she felt around the outside of the wound with her fingers. “You may be in luck and get to avoid my oh-so-delicate probing with my finger. The ball is right under the skin about two inches from the hole.”

I looked where she was pointing and did see a slight protrusion under the skin. “How’re you going to get it out?”

She pulled open a drawer in the server and retrieved a sharp knife and a stone. As she went to lapping the knife on the stone, she said, “Cut it out. I suggest you have another pull on that bottle.”

*****

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The Awakening

Book 2 1Excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years

In that September of 1862, the giddy victories of the year before had given way to the soul-numbing realities of a brutal and bloody war. Beginning with the Valley Campaign in the early spring and continuing all summer through to Sharpsburg, what had seemed glorious the year before became for all a dreaded experience that promised only more pain, suffering, and death. Those who believed this war would be over quickly came face-to-face with the sobering realization that it would likely go on for a long while and cost many more lives.

Thomas Paine once said of another war, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” When a man’s soul is tested by the worst of what life can throw at him, especially when he looks death in the face, he becomes contemplative of his mortality. Unnoticed by all but a very few, a change was taking place; an “awakening” was slowly spreading over the army. It would begin in the Army of Northern Virginia and eventually spread to all of the armies of the Confederacy. It would profoundly impact the lives of the many soldiers touched by it, and it would eventually be felt elsewhere in the nation long after the war ended.

*****

In An Eternity of Four Years an entire chapter is dedicated to an event that took place in the Army of Northern Virginia during the war. Chapter 16 is titled “The Awakening” and focuses on two points. The first is the spiritual awakening that took place during the war and the beginning of Ethan’s spiritual recovery from his lapses in judgment and bouts of self-pity over losing Rachel.

As the above excerpt from Chapter 16 of An Eternity of Four Years suggests, the “sobering realization” of what the war was about (seeing the elephant), and when men “look death in the face,” they do indeed become “contemplative” of their mortality. Such a man then becomes much more open to the calling of God.

Both sides of the conflict experienced this awakening but in different ways. The North had many Catholics in its ranks and the intensity of the awakening was not as strong as in the southern armies, which had far more evangelical Protestant members. It is estimated that over 100,000 men came to Christ during this period in the South, while some 100,000 to 200,000 did so in the much larger northern army. That represents about 10% of all who served. Most of those new Christians who survived the war went home taking their new faith with them to become active members of local churches and evangelists for Christ. Thus what they experienced during the war was felt long after it by those they touched with the Gospel message.

I have already discussed how Major General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson was a great man of faith. So were many other southern leaders, including General Robert E. Lee. While Lincoln’s government did encourage spiritual matters in the military, even providing for chaplains in each regiment, the southern government was not as supportive until later in the war. People like Lee, Jackson, and Leonidus Polk, the “fighting bishop,” strongly encouraged the regiments to see to the spiritual needs of the soldiers.

Local churches back home were encouraged to send “spiritual men” to act as chaplains in the various regiments. Because of the awakening, there was a serious need for Bibles and New Testaments for the soldiers to read. The South didn’t have the resources to meet these printing needs, and the blockaded ports seriously limited their ability to import religious material from Europe. Local churches and Bible societies attempted to fill the gap and print religious tracts, especially those giving the Gospel. Even some northern Bible societies sent tracts south.

Chaplains and men referred to as “colporters”* would pass out what Bibles and tracts they could get, but they never had enough to meet the need. When the colporter showed up in camp, they would be swamped by the men clamoring for tracts. A simple tract on the Gospel would be cherished by the man who had it as if it were the most expensive Bible with gilded pages, reading it over and over until he memorized it.

B3 AA Cover Master1In The Avenging Angel, I introduced a new character who helps Ethan in his efforts against the Klan. He is known only as “Brother Samuel.” He was in the army with Ethan and seriously wounded at First Manassas. After that Brother Samuel became a colporter with the various regiments from Louisiana. He not only supplies Ethan with information he needs in his role as The Avenging Angel, but he also acts as Ethan’s spiritual conscience, sometimes gently chastising him for what he is doing—taking revenge on the murderers of his friends.

God often uses terrible human events to further the Gospel message and call people to Christ. The American Civil War was one such time when He spoke to men through their suffering. If only we would listen more.

*Also rendered colporteur from the French for a peddler of books, usually religious material such as Bibles and religious tracts.

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The Hog Hunt

Here is another scene from The Avenging Angel, Book Three of the series. In Book One, The Last Day of Forever, there is another hog hunting scene. This one takes place ten years after that one. They have just arrived on the scene where the Catahoula dogs have a hog cornered. Little Zeke has not been seen since The Last Day of Forever. Theo is a new character in The Avenging Angel.

*****

Catahoula Map

We dismounted, and I retrieved two short ropes from my saddlebags. “You flip and I sit? Or I flip and you sit?” I asked Little Zeke.

He looked down at that hog, which was one about medium size, less than two hundred pounds.

Before he could answer, Theo did. “I’ll flip, you two old men take it easy and sit.”

We both looked at the grinning Theo like he might have had two heads.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“That puny little piglet ain’t no match for me. I’ll flip.”

Zeke frowned. “You ever done this before?”

“Plenty. We gonna jawbone about it or shall we get to it before he hurts one of the dogs?”

I looked at Little Zeke with my face wrinkled in a frown. He shrugged and said, “The boy says he can do it. Let him have at it, I say.”

“Very well, Theo. The pleasure is yours.”

Theo bowed deeply. “Thank you. You have the ropes ready?”

I held them up. “At your service, sir.”

“Then let’s get after it.”

“You coming?” I asked my father.

Pernell threw a leg over the pommel of his saddle and leaned forward. “This looks like it could get interesting, and I’m too old to outrun a hog, besides it could get a bit crowded down there with all of us. I’ll watch from up here.”

I tipped my hat. “Have it your way, but you’ll miss all the fun.”

“I doubt that,” he muttered under his breath.

We made our way down the side of the low ridge to the bottom. The hog was more interested in the dogs, and we tried to approach him from his rear to keep him from taking any interest in us. That didn’t last long. With Theo leading, Zeke and I following close behind, we were within about fifteen feet of the hog, when he suddenly turned on the two dogs on his left side and spotted us. He kind of lost all interest in the dogs then and came after us with the dogs in hot pursuit.

It was time to find a tree.

Zeke went one way. I went another, and the hog stayed on Theo. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone run so fast as that boy did that morning. Theo rounded a tree and reversed course on the hog. It took the pig but a second to figure out what had happened and reverse course, himself. Theo lit out, but the hog was gaining.

The boy headed for a tree with a branch hanging about six feet off the ground, and the hog was but three or four feet behind him—and catching up. I figured Theo would grab that branch and swing up into the safety of the tree, but he did something I have never seen before. He did grab the branch, but, hanging by his hands, he swung up and over the branch as the hog passed under and slid to a stop, confused and looking for Theo.

Completing his orbit of the branch, the boy landed right behind the hog, and pretty as you please, he reached down and grabbed him by his hocks, lifted his rear end off the ground, and flipped him on his side.

I looked at Zeke, and he looked at me. Neither of us could believe what we had just seen.

Theo still holding the squealing hog by his hocks and keeping him down on its side. “You two old men just going to stand there, or are you goin’ to come an’ help me?”

“Comin’, boss,” I replied as we rushed over and sat down on the pig’s side, pinning it. I handed Theo the ropes, and he hogtied it.

Zeke and I stood, and Theo stepped back, and with his hands on his hips he looked at the subdued hog with a smile of triumph on his face. “And that, gentlemen, is how you flip a pig.”

Zeke looked at me and shook his head. “In all the times we chased hogs together, I ain’t never seen you do a trick like that.”

I put my arm around Theo’s shoulders and grinned at Zeke. “I taught him everything he knows.”

His brow wrinkled, Theo looked up at me. “Even in your prime, you couldn’t have done that.”

I playfully slapped him behind his head. “Hush, boy, or you’ll be sleeping with the pig tonight.”

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The Brave Rifles

Near the end of my book, The Last Day of Forever, I have my main character, Ethan, as a young second lieutenant in a unit called the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen out in New Mexico Territory. They did exist—and still do. Here are some highlights of what I discovered in my research for this portion of the book and this particular regiment.

3rd ACR copy

The Regiment of Mounted Riflemen was created as a very early version of a modern mechanized infantry regiment, in a manner of speaking, that is. They were mounted on horses and rode to the fight, but once there, they dismounted and generally fought on foot. They were also issued rifled muskets instead of the usual smooth bore muskets the infantry of that period carried (prior to 1861) or the much-hated Dragoon muskets carried by other mounted troops. The Dragoon muskets were inaccurate, and the ball was prone to rolling out of the barrel if the barrel was pointed downward. In my book, I have the Brave Rifles armed with Sharps carbines. I could not determine if they were actually so armed prior to the Civil War or not. Some mounted units were indeed armed with Sharps during the prewar period, so I took a little artistic license on that point.

The Sharps carbine was a breech-loading weapon (verses muzzle loading, which means it was loaded from the back or breech end instead of the muzzle end). This made reloading much faster and easier, especially on horseback. The cartridges of the early model Sharps were made of paper and contained powder and a bullet. The trigger guard/lever was swung down, dropping the breech block to expose the chamber for inserting the cartridge. Once loaded, the lever was returned to the closed position, and the breech block closed with a sharp edge clipping off the back of the paper and exposing the powder to the priming charge. A primer cap was inserted over the nipple. Pulling the trigger dropped the hammer on the primer, igniting it and in turn the powder charge. Being rifled, they were much more accurate and had longer effective ranges than the other smooth bore arms of that period. Later model Sharps used metallic cartridges that were fully self-contained; projectile, powder, and primer cap all in a brass case. The longer rifle versions of the Sharps became favorites of buffalo hunters. If you ever saw the movie Quigley Down Under with Tom Selleck, it was a Sharps rifle that Matthew Quigley used.

Sharps Model 1853 Military Rifle

1853 Military Sharps

The Regiment of Mounted Riflemen was formed in May of 1846. Under various names, it has seen action in all of America’s major conflicts since then, including The Mexican-American War, The Indian Wars, The Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and WWII, as well as service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was in the Mexican-American War in 1847 that the regiment got its nickname, “Brave Rifles,” and its motto, “Blood and Steel.” After several major engagements, the exhausted regiment was visited by General Winfield Scott. He had come to order the regiment to Churubsco for an even more difficult battle. He removed his hat, bowed low, and said: “Brave Rifles! Veterans! You have been baptized in fire and blood and have come out steel!” Even today members of the unit greet each other thusly: An enlisted trooper renders military courtesy to an officer by saluting and yelling out “Brave Rifles!” The officer will return the salute and reply just as loudly, “Veterans!”

The regiment is also thought to be the origin of “Gringo,” the modern Hispanic slang for an American. The regimental marching song, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is named “Green Grow the Rushes, Ho!” Legend has it the Mexicans slurred the “green grow” into “gringo.”

In 1848 the regiment returned to Jefferson Barracks, MO where it was originally formed, and in 1849 was sent on a grueling march all the way to Oregon Territory. Two years later, they returned to Jefferson Barracks and were officially designated as the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (previously without the “1st” designation) because the Army expected to raise two more such regiments. That never happened.

In 1851 the regiment was ordered to Texas, and in 1856, they moved further west into New Mexico Territory. (Ethan joins the regiment in 1860 and resigns in early 1861.) They had a very large territory to police and never enough troopers to do so.

With the advent of the Civil War, all mounted regiments were organized as cavalry, and the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen became the 3rd US Cavalry Regiment. They fought in the Civil War, mostly in the western theater, first in Texas and later in Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

In 1866 the Brave Rifles were ordered back to New Mexico Territory to campaign against the Indians.

Old_Bill_Cavalry_Mascot_Poster

In 1898 the Brave Rifles arrived in Tampa, FL for deployment to Cuba during the Spanish American War. The famous western artist, Fredrick Remington, was visiting the regiment’s camp. One of the regiment’s NCOs, Sergeant John Lannen, caught his attention as representing what Remington considered to the epitome of the American cavalryman, and he sketched him. The drawing eventually became known as “Old Bill.”

During World War I, the regiment deployed to Europe and saw only limited action, but during WWII, they traded in their horses for armored vehicles and were reorganized as the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, serving in Europe. It was troopers from Troop B, Reconnaissance Squadron of the 3rd ACR that were the first Americans to cross into Germany, albeit only a short excursion to prevent the Germans from blowing a vital bridge.

The Brave Rifles served in Iraq during Desert Storm. In 100 hours, they covered over 300 miles, rolling over three Iraqi divisions in the process. They also served in Bosnia and more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2011 they were renamed yet again as the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and traded in their heavy armor for lighter and faster Stryker armored vehicles. They are currently based at Fort Hood, Texas.

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Filed under Catahoula Books, Civil War, Firearms, History Lessons, Last Day of Forever

The Avenging Angel

I have been asked if I plan to write a third book in the Catahoula Series. I do and am working on it now.

It begins in July of 1866, a year after An Eternity of Four Years ends, and carries the reader into that period after the War Between the States called “Reconstruction.” In many respects, Reconstruction was as bad as the war was for the South. Racial tensions ran extremely high and often exploded into violence as the former “rulers” (the planters) attempted to regain some semblance of control over the shattered southern economy and their former servants (the freedmen). The antebellum system of authority was broken by the war and emancipation. In its place, a new system emerged that more resembled chaos. As one would expect, the planters didn’t take well to the change.

Some northern interests wanted the South severely punished for what they had done and saw Reconstruction as a chance to extract that punishment. Southern culture and traditions were turned upside down, and southerners struggled to deal with the changes while attempting to make a living (avoid starving), pay taxes on unproductive property, and rebuild the South.

Out of the chaos came organizations like the Klan and later The White League and the Knights of the White Camellia along with all the violence, mostly against African Americans, that was part of that.

The working title for Book 3 is The Avenging Angel (which is subject to change). It tells the story of Rachel and Ethan attempting to build their lives together in the middle of all this. Along with the familiar characters Ethan, Rachel, Analee, and Pernell, you will meet a few new ones, and see a couple of old ones come back into the story you have not seen since Book 1. Ever wonder what happened to Brandy and Zeke after they ran away?

It is a work in progress that I have only outlined and written a few chapters. A lot of research needs to be done, and story details remain to be worked out, written, and edited before it will be published. I hate date setting, because I am always wrong, but I hope to have it published by the summer of 2016. I will do the best I can, but don’t hold me to that.

Meanwhile, here is the opening scene from chapter 1 of The Avenging Angel to wet your whistle.

*****

From Rachel‘s Diary

28 July 1866

I knew, by the stern expression on my husband’s face, that he was nearing the limits of his patience. Listening to Mr. Waldo T. Pettigrew expound upon how he had been sent by Washington to repair the broken South and lead it from its wayward rebellious ways back into the Union fold. In his tone, you could hear the man’s utter contempt for people like us, southerners, whom he considered to be beneath his station, and that was not sitting well with Ethan.

Four years of war tends to change a man, and I knew it had affected my husband in ways I was yet to fully understand, but I was sure his tolerance level for carpetbaggers, like this one come to bring us the way, the truth, and the light of his enlightened existence, was much diminished.

“Can you swim?” Ethan asked him in a dry, matter-of-fact manner.

Upon hearing that, I frowned as I looked over the rail of the riverboat at the swirling, muddy waters of the Mississippi passing below. I knew exactly what he had in mind to do. “Ethan, please don’t.”

As this pompous ass pontificated on his considerable swimming ability, being as he was from the Atlantic Coast, Ethan noted my pleading expression punctuated by my arched eyebrow expressing my displeasure, a trick I learned from his mother. Thus admonished, he tipped his hat to Mr. Pettigrew and excused himself from his company.

I lingered for a moment when Pettigrew inquired of me, “Why did he suddenly leave? Did I say something that offended him?”

I smiled. “I believe he found your attitude toward the South offensive, as did I. And I would advise you to temper your speech during your stay in Louisiana—unless you fancy wearing tar and feathers.”

Mr. Pettigrew’s shocked expression indicated he clearly understood my meaning. “But—why did he ask if I could swim?”

“Because, you, sir, were about two seconds away from him grabbing you by the scruff of your skinny neck and the seat of your finely tailored trousers and tossing you overboard. You are not treading water right now, only because I asked him not to do it.”

His expression went blank as he took a deep breath and sighed before replying barely above a hoarse, stuttering whisper, “I–I lied. I can’t swim.”

I shrugged. “Then I just saved your life.”

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Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, The Avenging Angel

Dispatches From The Front #8

After Action Report

We are home again and I am mostly recovered from the trip. We learned a lot; at least I did. I came away with a greater understanding of the American Civil War and how very difficult it was on those who fought it, especially the Confederates, who were not nearly as well supplied as the soldiers from the North—not that they had it easy-peasy either, but they were better equipped and supplied. Late in the war, many Confederates were shoeless and their uniforms were rags or a mixture of military and civilian clothing.

I also came away with a greater understanding of the brutality of the war and its staggering loss of life. For those who survived and returned home, it is hard to imagine most did not suffer from PTSD or “nostalgia” as they called it back then. I have seen no records on that, and likely they don’t even exist. I suspect it was the faith of many that precluded at least some of that. Which brings me to ….

I brought back only one souvenir, a book I purchased in the gift shop at the Gettysburg Battlefield, Christ in the Camp by J. Williams Jones, first published in 1886. Jones was a chaplain in the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV), and his book is about the Awakening or Great Revival that took place during the war, especially in the ANV. I devoted a whole chapter to this in An Eternity of Four Years (Chapter 16). Ethan was a man of faith, and also a man “fallen from grace” because of his loss of Rachel and the situation he found himself in (the war) that prevented his searching for her. That chapter was one of the moments he recovered his faith, at least for a while, and attempted to respond to God’s calling for him. It gives some details on this Great Awakening that took place.

Christ in the Camp is full of interesting stories from many soldiers of many denominations. I am barely through about 20% of the book and will be writing more about this in future posts. If these men in the book are examples of what Christianity is suppose to look like, then we are badly missing the mark today. Their faith pervaded everything they did. They lived what they believed. For example, General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s application of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 …pray without ceasing… was eye-opening for me. (I will explain that in a future post.) Today, we often just go through the motions of being spiritual.

Did they get everything right? No, because like us they were fallen men. They got slavery wrong, for one thing, and used Scripture to support their position. But keep in mind, not everyone then was an ardent Bible-reading/believing Christian that lived the Life of Christ through faith. Some were merely “Bible-thumpers” that used Scripture for their own ends. We sometimes have a tendency to read into Scripture what we want to see there, and I suspect a lot of that was happening in the South. It would be unfair to judge all Christians by those kinds of “Christians.”

One thing that has come out in what I have read so far is the issue of slavery is rarely if ever mentioned associated with the war. What they speak of in the many letters and comments is their desire to build a new nation free from a tyrannical government seeking to subject them through force and protect their homes and families from the invaders. For them, the fight was a “good fight.” Today, we look back and see that “good fight” tarnished by the issue of slavery, but that was not their perspective.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of Dispatches From The Front. I certainly enjoyed writing and experiencing them.

I will close with an excerpt from An Eternity of Four Years, Chapter 16 – The Awakening.

*****

Cornfield

The Cornfield

The long line of caissons and cannons, ambulances, supply wagons, and weary men crossed the Potomac and slowly plodding south away from the killing fields of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The army was both physically and mentally spent, incapable of taking the field again anytime soon. It needed to rest, to recover, rebuild and re-equip before it would again be an army.

In that September of 1862, the giddy victories of the year before had given way to the soul-numbing realities of a brutal and bloody war. Beginning with the Valley Campaign in the early spring and continuing all summer through to Sharpsburg, what had seemed glorious the year before became for all a dreaded experience that promised only more pain, suffering, and death. Those who believed this war would be over quickly came face-to-face with the sobering realization that it would likely go on for a long while and cost many more lives.

Thomas Paine once said of another war, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” When a man’s soul is tested by the worst of what life can throw at him, especially when he looks death in the face, he becomes contemplative of his mortality. Unnoticed by all but a very few, a change was taking place; an “awakening” was slowly spreading over the army. It would begin in the Army of Northern Virginia and eventually spread to all of the armies of the Confederacy. It would profoundly impact the lives of the many soldiers touched by it, and it would eventually be felt elsewhere in the nation long after the war ended.

I first became aware of its presence during our withdrawal from Maryland. I was dismounted and walking along with Blue as we led our weary mounts south. One of the Tigers from the 1st Louisiana, his face still blackened with gunpowder from biting off the ends of the paper cartridges to reload his musket, a bloody bandage around his head, shoeless, and his uniform in tatters, stepped out of the formation and approached us. “Beggin’ yer pardon, Captain, may I have a word with you?”

“Of course,” I replied. “How may I be of service?”

That is when I noticed he was weeping though he tried to hide it. “Sir, I understand you are a good man, a godly man who knows the Scriptures, an’ I need to ask ya something.”

“What is it?”

“I ain’t much for church-goin’. Preachers just seem to preach, but I‘ve seen the Lord in you. I seen you in that bloody-awful Cornfield, how you helped the wounded, protected them, and gave comfort to the survivors when we were driven back to Dunker Church. You weren’t ‘fraid a nuthin’. They was balls flying all around you, but you weren’t scart at all. But I was scart, plumb scart of dying and especially knowing I’m going to hell. An’ I don’t want to go there. I been through enough hell right here, and I reckon the one in the Bible has be a whole lot worse.” He paused to collect his thoughts. “Something happened to me in that Cornfield, and some of the boys said you were the man I need to speak to about it.”

*****

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Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Bible, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Dispatches, Excerpts