Tag Archives: Catahoula Parish

The Last Day of Forever – Another Update and Excerpt

This is way more difficult that I ever thought. Proof #1 had issues that needed fixing, thus we had proof #2, and it had different issues, all my fault. Now we are on proof #3. I am making no predictions, but I think we are close—but then I have said that before.

Meanwhile, for those patiently waiting for me to get my act together, here is another excerpt from early in the book.


Cover B1I looked at Rachel, her face not more than three inches from mine as she held my hands to the floor beside my head. Her chest was heaving from the exertion, and there was a look of confusion on her face. “Very well, you have me pinned. What do you intend to do now?”

…I did not rightly know what I was going to do then. I looked at him, and he was smiling at me, so I did the first thing that came to mind. I kissed him right on the lips…

I was more than a little surprised when she kissed me. It was only a peck on the lips, but I was not expecting it. With speed and strength I am sure surprised her, I flipped her off my chest and rolled her onto her back. Before she knew what was happening, I sat astride her with her hands pinned to the floor.

Surprise showed plainly on her face. “So,” I said, “It’s a kiss you want from me. Perhaps you should have a real one.” She looked shocked then.

As I said that, I heard my mother’s footsteps on the stairs. Our roughhousing had brought her to investigate. “Ethan! Brandy!”

“Perhaps some other time,” I said as I stood and pulled Rachel to her feet. I turned to take my medicine just as my mother stepped up to the parlor door. Not knowing what to expect from an angry Analee, Rachel tried to hide behind my back.

“What is going on down here? It sounded like you and Brandy were tussling.”

“You called?” Brandy showed up then, her hair looking a mess. My mother noticed that right off. She gave Brandy a once over, then me, and drew her own conclusions.

“Rachel, you can come from behind Ethan. I know you’re there.” She peeked around me at Analee. Her expression was one of near terror as she stared big-eyed and gape-mouthed at my mother. She looked a mess; her hair was down and hanging in her face, and her blouse was pulled from her skirt. “You too?” said Analee with disgust in her voice.

“Yes, ma’am,” she stuttered. “But we didn’t break anything.”

“Ethan!” exclaimed my mother, and Brandy mimicked her behind her back. Analee spun. “I saw that, Brandy!” That did it! I was absolutely convinced right then she had eyes in the back of her head. Brandy looked contrite and more than a little surprised.

Analee turned her attention back to me. “Ethan, these are two young ladies…”

She paused and looked at them, first Brandy and then Rachel. “Rachel!” Poor Rachel jumped. “Pull your blouse down! Your bosoms are showing!”

That caused me to turn and look. Her blouse was pulled up, but I didn’t see any bosoms, just camisole. Rachel tugged her blouse down as she looked sheepishly at my mother.

Once more my mother turned her attention back to me. Her eyebrow went up and her hands were on her hips. That was a guaranteed, sure sign I was in trouble. “As I started to say, these are two young ladies, and you are a gentleman—or I thought you were. It is not proper for you to be tussling on the floor with them as if they were children. The three of you are a little old for that. And you know I never allow that in the house.”

By then Mammy had shown up with a stern expression on her face. She stood behind Analee and nodded her agreement to every word the mistress of the house said and punctuated the important points with a slap on Brandy’s backside. Brandy squealed, but I’m sure she didn’t feel a thing through all those petticoats.

Analee turned to Brandy. “Now, you get out to the kitchen and help your mother with supper.

“Ethan, you find yourself something to do—outside.”

“Rachel, if you want that gown fitted in time for the party, you best get yourself upstairs and let me help you with it now.”

The queen bee had spoken, and with a flourish, she spun and left the room.


Leave a comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Civil War, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever


It is such an ugly word, but one I was forced to deal with while writing The Last Day of Forever and the second half of the story in An Eternity of Four Years.

Cover B1I began this project over 20 years ago, and when I wrote the first draft of The Last Day of Forever, never for a moment did I really give much thought to the issue of slavery. But the writing process forced me to think about it.

The story concept began simply as one about the exploits of the Louisiana Tigers during the Civil War. Everything else was written around that and ultimately pointing to it in some way. That isn’t how it ended up. First, it morphed into a love story, and while I tried to keep the focus on Rachel and Ethan, dealing with the character’s relationships with the slaves gradually emerged as an important underlying theme that had to be developed better.

I grew up in the South during a very uncomfortable period in our history. Racism was common, acceptable, and never given much thought. My father’s doctor’s office waiting room was initially separated “white” and “colored” by a wall and an aquarium. My family on my mother’s side owned slaves prior to and during the Civil War. I am not proud of all that, rather I state it simply as a fact I must live with and to give the reader a frame of reference for where I am coming from.

My first draft of the story presented the subject of slavery in a way that, in retrospect, was not honest. It was the Old South, white man’s view of the subject, and the slaves at Catahoula Plantation weren’t really mistreated but lived happy and productive lives leisurely picking cotton all day. But as I wrote the story, it became obvious that was not only dishonest, but it was wrong. As the attitudes of the main character, Ethan, and his issues with slavery began to more strongly emerge in the numerous rewrites, I was forced to face the uncomfortable truth that the issue of slavery had to be dealt with in a more honest manner.

Gradually, the story was changed to more accurately reflect the truth of the times, but I did not want it to become a story about slavery. It is really about Rachel and Ethan and how people and the world around them so profoundly affect their lives and their relationship to each other. The question became how to balance that.

Book 2 1It needed some stronger black characters dealing with the issues they faced during this time. That became Mammy, Old Zeke, his son Little Zeke, and Brandy in The Last Day of Forever, and Blue in An Eternity of Four Years. Brandy was the most interesting because of her plight, being mostly of white lineage yet still a slave. Her story brought the absurdity of the institution into sharp focus for me.

I felt Ethan’s issues with the peculiar institution needed a root source, so I added the opening scene in The Last Day of Forever of the killing of Cornelius the slave. Some of my beta readers found it disturbing. That was my intention, although it was not included just for shock value. It plays an important part in Ethan’s developing attitudes towards slavery, and it comes back into the story later with an explanation of what and why it happened to flesh out the story arcs of other characters. Not only did the event profoundly affect Ethan and Brandy, but it also helped to define Morgan’s character.

I also wanted the reader to understand how conflicted Ethan must have felt to hold views not commonly held by those around him. The story was written as if the events were being viewed through the eyes of Ethan and Rachel and told by them, thus one would naturally expect that perspective to be somewhat biased towards the prevailing attitudes of the times, and it is; intentionally so. In the beginning, slavery is simply a fact of life Ethan must live with and does so perhaps a bit too comfortably at first. But as the story progresses, he is compelled to face how he really feels, and he is forced by circumstances to act on his beliefs.

It takes Ethan almost nine years to come to a full realization of where he stands on the issue, but we are yet to see a full manifestation of that. That will come in Book 3 (working title: The Avenging Angel), which takes Rachel and Ethan into the period after the war known as Reconstruction. There, the two of them really come face-to-face with the racism of the times.

Where am I going with all this? I guess I want the reader to understand that although the story sometimes seems to treat slavery in a somewhat stereotypical manner, that is because Ethan is the main author, and he is telling the story in the context of the times and his own personal growth as a person.

It was also a journey for me to have to explore my own feelings on the subject and in considerably more detail than I had ever done before. I can no longer look at a cotton boll in quite the same way I did before I started this.

Leave a comment

Filed under An Eternity of Four Years, Catahoula Books, Civil War, Last Day of Forever

Proof Copies Have Arrived!


Last Day BooksI just received two proof copies of The Last Day of Forever. I want to tell you, it is an awesome feeling to hold a real live book in your hands with your name on it as the author!

These will be gone over carefully one last time before publishing. I already see some things I need to fix in the cover image and internal formatting, and I haven’t even begun reading it for errors.

I am thinking (hoping) this last step won’t take more than two weeks to get to hitting the “publish” button.

We are getting closer!


Filed under Catahoula Books, Last Day of Forever

Catahoula Curs Meet Mr. Fence

Way back in the eighties and nineties I raised Catahoula Curs. Started out with one female named Pawho. Bred her and got fifteen* puppies! I ended up keeping two puppies, one I intended to keep, because she was pick of the litter, a beautiful glass-eyed patched leopard I called Fanci. I got stuck with the other one, a brindle and spotted-up leopard male we named Caddo. Both turned out to be great dogs and very intelligent. I am convinced if I had spent more time with them, and knew what I was doing, I could have run Fanci in obedience trials. Caddo, on the other hand, was trainable, but he sometimes acted like a big duffus.

Yes, the fact that I had Catahoulas had something to do with the name of my books. That and the fact that my maternal grandmother was from that part of Catahoula Parish that became LaSalle Parish when it was split off in 1910.

Back to the dogs.

Caddo and Fanci 2Fanci was a tattletale. Whenever Caddo or the little mixed breed mutt, Spuds, that Heath brought home as a worm infested puppy did something Fanci didn’t agree with, like a five year old, she would come running to me and “tell on them.” She used barks and whimpers while trying to lead me to the offender. This usually involved escapes by one of the others, especially the smaller Spuds. “Bark, whine, bark!” (Translated, “Come quick, Spuds is out again!”)

I used that as an excuse to do my “what is it Lassie, Timmy fell down the well?” impression. Fanci would looked at me strangely, then start tattling again.

Spuds was a notorious escape artist, mostly by digging under the fence. He never went far, and after he had his romp, I would find him waiting at the gate to be let back in. Guess he forgot about the hole he dug under the fence? Since he weighed less than half that of the Catahoulas, his holes were too small for them. So, Fanci would come and tell on him, while the big duffus Caddo kind of danced around excitedly and agreed with Fanci. And I had to go find Spuds and fill the hole—again.

The Catahoulas eventually figured out they could join the Spuds Escape Parties by making his hole a lot bigger. They would range further. After a few of these round-ups, I got serious about this and bought an electric fence. I spent one whole Saturday stringing bailing wire suspended on PVC pipe insulators along the top and the bottom of the fence.

Since I was going to be shocking my dogs with it, I decided I should test it. DANG! That got my attention! Once the dogs “met” Mr. Fence, they got no closer than three feet from it after that. Me too, except when I was in a hurry and ran into the wire at head level by the gate. I would catch the wire right across my wire rim glasses and sparks would fly before my eyes! The dogs were probably thinking hope it hurt! A lot!

The problem with electric fencing is anything that touches it grounds it, effectively turning it off as long as the ground stays attached. At that time, we were fighting a troublesome vine that kept popping up all over the yard and attaching itself to the wire along the ground. The stuff was like Kudzoo, growing about a hundred feet a night. Maybe the electricity was stimulating growth? Somehow the dogs figured out that Mr. Fence wasn’t working any longer and tunneled under the fence and the wire. You should have seen that hole!

So, I had to go around the yard and remove that vine and anything else green that had grounded the fence. The three dogs stood around and watched with amused expressions. When finished, I figured the dogs needed to relearn that Mr. Fence bites, so I grabbed the nearest one, which happened to be Fanci, and dragged her over to the fence and touched it with her paw. She let out a yip, and everyone got the message.

That lasted until the vine came back. I swear those dogs knew that wire was grounded in less than 24 hours of the event and were under the fence immediately thereafter. So we lather, rinse, and repeat, but this time when I grabbed Fanci for a demonstration, she threw herself out and went completely limp like a child throwing a temper tantrum and bellowed like I was torturing her. Spuds and Caddo tucked tails and got scarce then. When I let go of Fanci, because I was laughing so hard, she decamped and watched me suspiciously from about 20 feet away. But they all got the message.

That lasted until the vine attached itself to the wire again, and we started the process all over. With Mr. Fence hot once more, I looked at Fanci, and with tail tucked, she started backing up, so I figured to use my dog whisperer psychology. With all three dogs intently watching, I went over to the fence and pretended to touch it. I jumped back and yelled shaking my hand like it hurt. It worked! All three dogs tucked tails and disappeared.

This became a ritual around the Casteix homestead. About every two weeks during the summer, the dogs escaped and I cleaned the fence and pretended to be shocked. Sometimes when I didn’t have time to clear the vine, I just did my shocked act, and they stayed away from Mr. Fence. Eventually, they must have figured out I was faking it. And under the fence and wire they went.

Lather, rinse, and repeat.

*UPDATE: Ryan (in the picture above) reminded me she had fifteen puppies. Now where did I get nine?

1 Comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Family History

The Last Day of Forever – Update and Excerpt

We are getting closer. Just uploaded the files for the print version. That will need to be proofed and any corrections made. I would like to publish the digital version and the print version up at the same time. Digital is ready to go. Print is holding up the works.

Since you are so patient, here is another taste from The Last Day of Forever, Chapter 18 – Femme Fatale.

Cover B1CRed BlogThe second week we were in Baltimore, The Herndons put on a party to welcome their prodigal son home from school for the summer. In the Landon/Herndon fashion, it was indeed a grand soiree, which included the financial and political elite of Baltimore and Washington. The food was fabulous and in plentiful supply, and there was a fountain spouting streams of rum-spiked punch. As guests of honor, Miles and I were expected to turn out in our VMI uniforms. I had not seen so many handsome men and beautiful women so elegantly dressed in one place before. A full orchestra, not like the little five piece band at my birthday, was on hand for dancing.

The first time I saw her, I was standing beside that fountain of spirituous punch, engrossed in the mechanics which enabled it to spout the élixir de la vie, as it were. I had just about reconciled myself to the fact that I would have to peek under the tablecloth in order to discern its secrets when I heard my name called.

I looked up and saw a most lovely sight, Mademoiselle Aimee de Beauchamp, on Miles’ right arm as he made his way across the ballroom of Herndon Manor with her equally lovely and charming twin sister, Annette, on his left arm.

“Ethan, there you are! I’ve been looking all over for you. I have two most charming ladies I want you to meet.”

I must confess their beauty immediately enraptured me.

He introduced me in his broken French, “Mademoiselle Annette, Mademoiselle Aimee, this is Cadet Private Ethan Davis.”

I took the hint and responded in kind. “Enchanté, Mademoiselles,” I replied with a sweeping bow.

Both of the sisters immediately looked at each other as if they had finally found a home in the New World, someone who spoke their language. They curtsied and in unison said, “Parlé vous Francais, Monsieur?”

“Oui. Je suis la Louisiane.”

Their eyes lit up. “Un Creole?”


“They are the daughters of Monsieur de Beauchamp, a diplomat with the French embassy in Washington.” And according to Miles, they spoke not a word of English. “Are they not absolutely stunning? Aimee is mine, no, I think I prefer Annette,” said Miles in English.

They looked exactly alike, and their gowns were identical. Had I not kept track of which one was on which side of Miles, I would have easily mixed them up. I wondered how he could tell them apart or what difference it made. Both had dark hair and stunning blue eyes, reminding me of Rachel. They were on the petit side, not more than five feet four inches tall and slender of build.

“I think Mademoiselle Aimee would like to dance, Ethan, and I think you should ask her.” I took the hint, a proposal to which she readily agreed. Miles, of course, followed suit with her sister, and the four of us stepped onto the dance floor.

Mademoiselle Aimee proved to be even more enchanting than I had first thought. She was well educated, intelligent, and as poised as the most polished diplomat. Moreover, she had a sense of humor, which I found most refreshing, and a marvelous smile that made me want to make her laugh all the more. She wanted to know all there was to know about Louisiana and asked me endless questions about my home and my Creole heritage. We danced several dances until she appeared to be tiring, at which I suggested we retire from the floor for refreshments.

We met Miles and Annette at the mysterious fountain of spirituous elixir, and he suggested we take some fresh air. As we passed through the doorway to the patio, he said to me in English in hushed tones, “Keep Aimee occupied for me, so I can be alone with her sister. The two are almost inseparable.” With that he swept Annette away and out into the garden.

Aimee seemed not the least disturbed that her twin was gone off with Miles. We moved into the garden, and she took a seat on one of the garden benches there. She sipped her punch pensively for a moment, as I was somewhat at a loss for words, then she looked up and said in accented but grammatically perfect English, “It seems your friend Miles is quite fond of my sister.”

I looked at her askance. “You speak English?”

“Yes, I am the daughter of a diplomat. It is expected,” she replied with a wry smile.

“But Miles said you spoke no English.”

“It is a little game my sister and I sometimes play. We told Miles what he wanted to hear.” Once more she flashed that arresting smile as she patted the bench beside her. “Please, have a seat.” Somewhat stunned, I took the offered seat. She saw my confusion. “You are offended, Ethan?”

“No, just a bit taken aback.”

She smiled. “I imagine Miles will be, as well, when he learns Annette understood every word he said.”

I then remembered Miles’ remarks as he conspired to get Annette away from her sister for who knows what in the garden. Fortunately for me, it was dimly lit around our bench, or she might have seen my red cheeks. Then it hit me; the sisters de Beauchamp were also conspiring.

I looked at her and chuckled. “Old Miles thinks he’s such a ladies man. Wait until he discovers he has been had by someone more clever than he.”

She giggled at that remark. “I do not know when she will tell him or even if she will.”

“Well, I won’t tell on her. It’ll be fun to see just how long she can fool him.” I looked into those blue eyes. “Why did you confess to me?”

“I thought it best our relationship start off on an honest note.”

Our relationship? I thought about what she said. It was possible to read all manner of meanings into it, but I decided I should simply take it at face value.


Filed under Catahoula Books, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever

The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 8

This excerpt is from about in the middle of the story, Chapter 16.

Cover B1CRed BlogAs we entered the photographer’s studio, a gentleman in his fifties greeted us. He was somewhat hunched over and wearing wire-rimmed glasses barely hanging on the end of his nose. His hair was disheveled and sticking out at odd angles from his head. “May I help you?”

“We would like our photographs taken. Can you do it today?”

“Yes, of course, a tintype? Step into my studio,” he said as he held the curtain back for us. “How would you like them, together or separate?”

“Together,” replied Rachel. “One must fit this locket, and the other this watch. Can you do that?”

“It will not be a problem,” he said as he ushered us over to the set. “Have a seat, sir,” he said to me as he adjusted the location of a chair that stood before his camera. Hold your cap in your hand beside you and up close to your body. Sit up straight.” He then clamped the back of my head in some device to help me hold perfectly still for the long exposure.

Behind the chair was a painted scene meant to convey the feeling of the outdoors and failed miserably to do so. A Doric column fern stand stood nearby with several books on top to serve as a prop.

“And you, Miss, stand beside him and place your hand on his shoulder thusly. A little closer. Very good! Now, you, sir, lift your cap a little higher. There, that’s fine.” He moved behind the camera and pulled a black cloth over his head. “Very good,” he muttered from under the hood.

“This isn’t what I had in mind,” said Rachel.

“Just what did you have in mind?” I asked being careful not to move my head, fearful that clamping device might somehow decapitate me.

“Something a bit more intimate.”

I immediately looked up at her, and the “guillotine” fell over onto the floor with a loud clatter. “Intimate?”

“Oh dear, you moved, sir,” said the photographer as he came out from under his hood.

Rachel removed her hand from my shoulder. “Sir, I would like a different pose.”

“Intimate?” I whispered to myself as all manner of “intimate” visions entered my head, none appropriate for the situation.

“What do you have in mind, Miss?”

She looked around and spied what she wanted against a wall. “I want to use that settee.”

“This is highly irregular,” he said as if confused.

“She wants the settee, sir,” I replied as I stood and moved the chair aside.

With the settee placed before the camera, Rachel took over direction of the photograph. “Have a seat, Ethan, over to one side.” She turned to the photographer. “All I want is from the waist up. Can you get it all in?”

He muttered to himself as he went under the black cloth once more. “All of it.”

“Very well,” she replied as she took her seat beside me. “Put your arms around me, Ethan.” I obeyed, and she leaned against my chest, her face beside mine. She then pulled my arms around her waist and pinned them against her with her own as she snuggled in more comfortably. “Don’t be afraid to squeeze me a little.” I pulled her tighter. “How is that, sir?” she asked the photographer.

“Highly irregular,” he muttered from under his black cloth as he adjusted his camera’s position slightly.

“Can you get it all?” asked Rachel.

“All of it, but highly irregular.”

“Good. This is what we want.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever

The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 7

Cover B1CRed BlogSince 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.”

“Catahoula Parish.”

“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.


Filed under Catahoula Books, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever

The Last Day of Forever – Update

I had intended to have Catahoula Book 1 – The Last Day of Forever published by February 1. Obviously, that did not happen. Moving the business I manage into new office space took more of my time than I anticipated. SPAR, Inc. has been moved, although, we are not entirely unpacked yet. I have, however, been able to get back to the finishing touches on my two books.

We are getting close! I think it is time, as our teachers in school used to say, to “Put down your pencils and turn in your papers.”

At this point, I am afraid to give a date. The eBook version will likely be available before the paperback. Formatting that has proven to be a challenge, but it is almost done.

I apologize for the delay. I am working as fast as I can. Stand by…

Leave a comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Last Day of Forever

The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 6

Here is another excerpt from The Last Day of Forever.

. . .

Cover B1CRed BlogLaura and Rachel had spent the last few moments eyeing each other up like two tomcats about to scrap, but I could not imagine why. “Well now, Laura, I must apologize for not bringing Rachel by for a visit, but I have been terribly busy since we returned. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

I noticed Rachel rolled her eyes when I said that.

“That’s no excuse, Ethan. I’m not sure if I should forgive you just now.” Her expression turned instantly from a frown to a smile. “Rachel, we simply must spend some time together. I’m sure we’ll be good friends. Will you be at Catahoula for very long?”

“I’ll be making my home here. My mother passed away recently, and Ethan’s father has kindly agreed to take me into his home as one of the family.” With that Rachel smiled, but even I could see it was forced.

“Oh, I see. This arrangement is permanent?”


“I lost my own mother a few years ago, so I know how you must feel. Well, I’m sure we will get along just famously. Won’t we, Ethan?”

“Of course,” I replied, but it was becoming quite clear even to me that such would not likely be the case.

“And you’re Ethan’s cousin?” Laura asked with a nod of her head.

“No. We’re not related. I’m the ward of his father.”

Laura looked at me as she replied to Rachel. “I see . . . ” She took a deep breath then said, “Come along, Ethan. Let’s find our pew.” With that she fairly dragged me by the arm up the steps into the church.

My mother, Sarah, and Laura’s father were already seated at the far side of the pew, leaving room for the rest of us. I stood aside to allow Rachel and Laura to be seated. They each gestured for the other to go first, but neither moved to accept the offer. For a moment I was sure they would fight over who would be the more polite.

“Rachel!” snapped my mother in an assertive whisper.

Rachel gave in with a huff and sat beside Analee. Laura smiled in triumph and took a seat beside her. That left me on the end of the pew with Laura between Rachel and me.

“Ethan,” whispered Laura, “we have so much to talk about. I missed you terribly. And I am truly upset you have not called on me since you got back. You must make it up to me.”

I had not expected her to be as mad as she was, and I wondered why she had suddenly become so desirous of my company. Laura and I had been friends since we were kids. Lately, she had become somewhat possessive of me and had even mentioned marriage on more than one occasion. I never gave the subject much thought. My attentions were focused on school and gaining a commission in the Army. With Morgan’s help, I had been admitted to the Virginia Military Institute. With four years of school ahead, marriage was not an immediate concern.

Laura was a pretty girl with blond hair and blue eyes and was one of those rare women who grows lovelier with age. At seventeen she was attractive enough, but when I saw her three years later, she was strikingly beautiful.

After the services, Laura pulled me aside, and we walked by the cemetery and talked. I should say, Laura talked; I mostly listened. “Ethan, whatever am I to do when you leave for school? It’ll be so lonely around here. Will you write?”

“Of course . . . ”

“Every day? Every single day?”

“Well, I’m not su . . . ”

“This Rachel, where did she come from? What is she to you?”

“A friend of­­ . . . ”

“She is a strange little girl.”

“I expect she would scratch your eyes out, if you called her a little girl to her face.”

“That’s what she is.”

“You underestimate her.”

“You like her, don’t you?”

“She sort of grows on you.”

Laura put on her pouting face. “I think I’m jealous of her.”


“She has your attention. She is with you every day, and I see you only on Sunday. You might fall in love with her.”

“Laura, she is only fourteen years old.”

She stopped and turned to face me. “And I think now it is you who underestimates her.” She sighed. “Come along, Ethan, my father is ready to leave. Perhaps you will be so kind as to give me a ride home, so I can spend some small amount of time with you?”

I helped my mother and Sarah into the carriage then turned my attention to a very sullen Rachel. I could not imagine what had come over her. I helped Laura up, and we hit another of those impasses like the one at the pew. My mother and Sarah had taken a seat in the rear of the landau. Rachel seated herself in the center of the front seat. “Move over a bit, Rachel,” said Laura with a smile.

“I thought you might like to sit on the side where you would be more comfortable,” replied Rachel as she gestured to the seat beside her.

“You may have that seat. I will be just fine in the middle next to Ethan.”

“Oh no. I insist. I wouldn’t want you to be uncomfortable. I am so much smaller than you. The middle won’t be a bother for me.”

I noticed a brief flash of anger on Laura’s face. “I insist,” she replied firmly. “This is your carriage . . . ”

I decided this had gone far enough. “I’ll sit in the middle! Push over Rachel, unless you want me in your lap.” Rachel slid over, Laura took the other outside seat, and I sat between them. I looked up at my mother and saw she was trying to hide what looked like a smile behind a handkerchief as she dabbed perspiration from her lip and pretended interest in the nearby cemetery. My sister stared off into the woods as if she was oblivious to what had just happened. Either she was indeed dazed and confused, not an unusual condition for her, or she had just felt the sharp point of my mother’s elbow in her ribs as warning not to interfere.

. . .

Leave a comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever

The Last Day of Forever – Excerpt 5

This excerpt if from The Last Day of Forever, and we find our characters in the middle of a hog hunt. The dogs in this scene are Catahoula Curs, now a recognized breed and the Official Louisiana State dog. Enjoy.

His eyes closed as he listened intently, Little Zeke focused on the sound of the dogs. “They moved off to our right and away.” After only ten minutes or so, the bugles turned to barks. “They’re on him, Massa Ethan. It’s another boar. I can tell by hiz grunts. And he’s a big one. They’re over by the swamp.”

The sound was coming from the general direction of where Rachel and I had seen Old Bull back in June. “There’s no catch pen over there. Old Zeke, bring the wagon around. You can pick up this one later. Let’s ride!”

I swung up into the saddle and jammed my heels into Pepper’s flanks, and he lunged into motion. Up the ridge we went and down the other side and across the creek once more. I pushed harder than before because of Zeke’s comment about it being a big hog. We came out of the woods and into another cotton field. I cut around, knowing Peyton and Morgan would have plenty to say about me trampling down cash crops had I crossed the field. Once around the field, we jumped another fence and entered the woods and down into a water-filled bottom. It was shallow and had a hard bottom, so I continued on through, it being the most direct route to the dogs.

We topped the next ridge, and my worst fears were realized. The dogs were on Old Bull, and he had one dog down already! Rachel topped the ridge right behind me and immediately recognized Old Bull. Morgan and Zeke were right behind her and looked down at the melee below.

“We got trouble!” exclaimed Zeke.

“Ethan, what are you going to do now?” asked Rachel.

I sighed, because I didn’t want to think about what I was going to have to do. The other times we got on Old Bull, there was a catch pen nearby, and we had fooled him into it twice. I knew that wouldn’t likely happen a third time, besides there was no catch pen near. I either had to shoot him or catch him by hand.

“Trouble, huh,” said Morgan.

“Big trouble,” I replied. “And we have a dog down already.”

“What are you going to do, Ethan?” asked Morgan.

Looking down at Old Bull, I blew a few times, as I steeled myself, then answered in a low voice, “Catch him.” I swung my leg over Pepper’s head and slid out of the saddle to the ground. After I handed the reins to Morgan, I pulled two short ropes from the saddle bag and tucked them under my belt behind my back, one on each side, then tossed two more to Zeke.

“Let the dogs tire him a bit before we go down there, Massa Ethan,” urged Zeke with apprehension in his voice.

Until Zeke said that, Rachel hadn’t realized what I meant by catching him. She looked at me incredulously. “You’re going to flip him like you did that sow, aren’t you? Ethan, are you crazy?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Catahoula Books, Excerpts, Last Day of Forever