Saturday, August 08, 2015

Sample Saturday Returns

With one thing and another, I've been missing here for a few weeks. Now I'm back, and here's a scene from Book 1 of the Owen Family Saga, The Man from Shenandoah. Carl Owen has returned home after the close of fighting in the American Civil War, and is down at the creek fetching a couple of pails of water and washing up.

Carl had to use the creek because General Phil Sheridan's troops marched through the Shenandoah Valley and caused a bunch of destruction to the Owen family's farm, including wrecking the well.

As night fell, Carl shrugged his shoulders to rearrange the damp shirt, picked up the pails, and headed back to the house, guided by the lamplight from the kitchen window. Breeze on the shirt chilled him, and he walked a little faster. At the steps he re-scraped his boots, then opened the door and went inside.

“We’re just fixing to eat,” Julia called. She turned and saw the water buckets. “Thank you, son. You saved me a trip.”

Carl pulled up a chair to the table and joined Rod and Albert.

“It ain’t much, Carl, but it’ll keep you from blowing away.” Julia waved her hand toward the food. “We’re lucky to have greens. They popped up down by the crick, and I picked them late this afternoon. ‘Course, there’s corn pone, and we have milk, but there ain’t no real coffee, just roasted chicory.” She sighed as she sat at her place. “We’ll have real food again once we get a crop up.”

“That’s something we need to do some talking about,” Rod declared. “First, let’s give thanks for Carl’s safe return, and for this food we got.”

At the end of the grace, Carl glanced across the table at his father. There’d been something in his voice that foretold serious business. Rod must have felt his stare, for he looked up, his beard wrinkling as he chewed.

Rod swallowed. “Tell me how it looks south of here, son. What did Sheridan leave for the folks in the south end of the Valley? You came from Staunton, I reckon?” Rod took a bite of greens.

“He burnt or pulled down homes, barns, crops, orchards, ‘most everything, all the way to Staunton and beyond. It’s a famine time. A crow flying by would have to bring his own rations.” He paused to chew a piece of pone. “Ma, it’s a wonder to me the Yankees left our house alone when they came back through.”

“I had my good Sharps rifle, and I set right there in the doorway and wouldn’t budge none. After a while they left me be and went out back to burn the barn.”

“Marie could-a been killed,” Albert said, frowning. “Them dirty Yankees didn’t wait ‘til she was out of the barn to set it afire.” Albert’s eyes looked dark and fierce. “I wish I’d a been down here shooting me some Yankees instead of up in the hills with Clay and all them cows!”

“Likely they’d have shot you, Albert,” Carl said. “Praise God you was up there!”

Rod’s mouth tightened. “What about livestock, son? What did you see?”

“I reckon we’ve got more cattle than any five stock men down the Valley, Pa. Maybe five pigs, thin stuff; not more’n ten hens anywhere. I reckon Grant didn’t want no more supplies coming out of the Shenandoah. He meant for little Phil Sheridan to clean us out, and he did the job.”

“Lucky I was warned some,” Julia said, “or I wouldn’t have had time to send the boys off up the hill.”

Rod chewed his food slowly, his face looking thoughtful. “I reckon we’re eating about as well as Rand Hilbrands. The Yankees missed burning the store in Mount Jackson, so he still has food to put on his table.”

“What happened over to Chester Bates’ place, Pa?”

“He lost his barn, and the house is gutted out. They burned his fields bare. The Bates family is about wiped off the face of the earth, I’d say.”

“Are they all dead?”

“They’ve got their lives and little else.”

“That’s sure a pity.” Carl wiped his mouth with his hand. “They had the prettiest stone house I believe I’ve ever seen. Where are they living now?”

“Right on the place, in the old tool shed.”

“Hush, that’s a shame. There’s no finer man than Chester Bates, ‘cept for you and John Mosby, Pa.”

“Andy Campbell says his pa’s so mad about his place being wrecked, he wants to clear out and go someplace else,” Albert reported.

Rod Owen cleared his throat. “That’s just what I aim to do.”

Thanks for visiting. You can purchase The Man from Shenandoah in your chosen version from the vendors below.

The Man from Shenandoah: Book 1 - in print and ebook formats
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