Coming in August
The second book of the Hank of Twin Rivers Series
Historically correct, this 1855 series takes readers into the exciting and dangerous life
of Hank Heaton and his journey from a shy twelve year old lad to a bronco busting, horse wrangler at eighteen.
Read the first chapter of Book Two here.
View From the Eagles Nest
Hank scratched at the mosquito bite on his elbow. He knew scratching just made it worse but it itched like the devil. He had scabs all up and down his arms. He would be glad when the first frost came to free the area of the pesky insects. It seemed they weren’t so thick in his perch in the top of the tall cottonwood tree, a place he called his eagle’s nest.
He thought about his birthday coming in September. Not that it mattered much. Birthdays were for little boys who had mothers to bake cakes for them, not for the likes of him. Sixteen years weren’t anything to celebrate anyway. Pa kept reminding him he was just a kid. “You’re still wet behind the ears.” seemed to be his favorite saying.
Lately though things were going good between him and Pa. It hadn’t always been that way. After Ma and his baby sister, Amanda, died of cholera Pa had turned cold and distant. Uncle Mac said it was because Pa sorrowed so. Hank handled his own sorrow by keeping Ma’s memory fresh in his mind. He touched the ring tied on the string around his neck, Ma’s wedding ring, the only thing he had to remember her by. He considered it his lucky piece.
The colors of the early sunset reflected in the waters of the merging Platte Rivers as they flowed eastward to the great Missouri. He wished he were an artist and could draw a picture of the fall colored leaves of maples, cottonwood, and willow trees that lined the steep cliff separating the settlement from the valley. He grinned at the thought. Pa wouldn’t approve of him spending time painting pictures. As it was, he complained about the time he spent in reading. It was only through Uncle Mac’s interference that Pa had allowed him to finish eighth grade back in Buck Creek.
The bawling of Hank’s pet cow, Clementine, sounded loud across the water. She and her newest calf grazed in the lower pasture between the rivers, swishing their tails to ward off flies. Trouble, her three year-old calf, now grown to be a fine bull, grazed nearby. Below on the river’s bank Uncle Mac fished for catfish or bullheads, whichever were biting. Hank hoped it was catfish. There was nothing better than Uncle Mac’s cornmeal coated fried catfish. “’Tis a meal fit for a king,” Uncle Mac bragged.
The Nebraska prairie, dotted with sagebrush, stretched above both sides of the valley as far as he could see. During the summer months, wagon trains rolled from sun up to sun down on trails deeply rutted by thousands of wagon wheels. The Mormon Trail on the north of the Platte valley, and the Oregon Trail on the south led to new land in far away places like Oregon and California. Hank often wondered what the travelers found in these places, free land for growing crops or the gold in California? Hank thanked his lucky stars that when Pa decided to leave Buck Creek he hadn’t headed to Oregon or California. All the land they needed was right here in Nebraska.
He looked at his town, the Twin Rivers settlement on the north bluff. Three years ago when they settled in the Platte Valley he had had the privilege of naming their new home where Pa and Pa’s partner, Major Grant Beams, decided to set up a trading post. With the two Platte Rivers merging together, ‘Twin Rivers’ came to his mind. “Good name, Sonny,” the Major had praised. Pa and Uncle Mac had agreed.
Wagon trains, following both trails, stopped for supplies, and Pa’s business grew. While he and Major Beams traveled back and forth to Council Bluffs to buy merchandise, Hank helped Uncle Mac plant the crops, take care of the animals, and harvest the trees from the land his uncle had claimed in the valley.
Late sunlight reflected from the new glass windows replacing the thin oiled paper in their sod house He and Uncle Mac had built this house when they first came to the Platte Valley. Uncle Mac called it the bachelor house since only men lived in it. The privy, a place where they could do their business in privacy, stood near the chicken coop.
The prairie town had grown from this sod house and a lean-to barn into a main street consisting of Pa’s store/warehouse, a livery station, a blacksmith, and the newest establishment, a barbershop/bath/shoe store. On his last trip to Omaha, Pa had brought back two Chinese brothers, Chung Lee and Chung Yao. Chung Lee was a barber and his brother a cobbler. They lived in a small room in the back of the shop.
He watched Uncle Mac’s friend, Johnny Kelly, ride into the livery station where he worked. Recently from Texas, Johnny had been one of those passing through who decided to stay. Pa put him to work managing the livery stable. With his ten-gallon hat, cowboy boots, and his gun holster tied to his right thigh, he looked like a real cowboy. Johnny was Hank’s hero, a true wrangler, said to be the best in the west at breaking broncos.
A voice interrupted his thoughts. “Hank are you up there?” Hank smiled at the sound of Becca Twiddle’s voice. Preacher Zeckariah Twiddle, his wife, and their nine children had been the first ones to settle near Twin Rivers. Their oldest child, Becca, became Hank’s special friend. He could tell her his thoughts that he would tell no one else, not even Uncle Mac.
“Come on up,” he called, “it’s cooler up here.” He watched her freckled face break through the thin leaf cover.
Pulling herself up on the branch beside Hank she pushed the stray wisps of red-blonde curls from her forehead. “I can’t stay long. If Papa finds me with you, he’ll tan my hide. I told him I was going to gather chokecherries.” She looked down at her bare feet perched on the branch below. “I wish he wasn’t so grumpy.”
“Maybe he will change. Pa did. I thought he hated me until I got the sunstroke. When he thought I was gonna die he changed.”
Becca shook her head. “Papa will never change. He thinks he’s God’s voice and everyone has to listen to him.” She sighed. “Did I tell you Mama is going to have another baby? She keeps having them, and I keep having to take care of them. I wish I’d been born a boy.”
“I’m glad you weren’t.” Hank teasingly tugged on her braid.
Embarrassed, Becca changed the subject. “The crickets sure are loud.”
“Uncle Mac says that the louder the crickets chirp the hotter it is. It must be near to one hundred degrees.”
“It’ll be cooling down now that September is almost here.” They sat in silence as the sun lowered in the sky. After a summer of little rain, the river flowed sluggishly around large sand bars. Below Uncle Mac threw out his line again whistling an Irish tune.
Becca looked out over the valley. “There are still a lot of dead trees along the river bank.”
Hank nodded. “The flood that came through two springs ago did that. It almost got me too.” He didn’t tell her how he had panicked and fell off Blaze, their horse, when he saw the large wall of water coming toward him. He still felt embarrassed thinking about it.
“How come this tree didn’t get torn down, I wonder.”
Hank grinned and winked at her. “Luck of the Irish, I guess.”
“I’m glad you share it with me. It is so peaceful here.”
“I know.” He reached over and took her hand. He felt peaceful here with her. She hadn’t always been peaceful, though. When they first met he took her for a boy. She was wearing overalls with her pigtails tucked up in an old straw hat. It was easier for her to wear her brother’s clothes since she had to drive one of the wagons her parents had brought from Missouri. That upset her, and she had shoved him down. After that, she had ignored him, even when he tried to make amends. But that first summer when she heard that he was sick from the heat she brought him some of her special chicken soup. From then on they had become best friends. Hank couldn’t imagine life without her.
Becca reached her foot to the branch below. “It’s getting late and I gotta pick those chokecherries and get back before Papa misses me. If he catches me with you, I won’t be the only one to be in trouble. He’ll blame Mama for not watching me closer.”
Hank frowned. “I don’t know why he hates me so. Maybe it‘s because he doesn’t like Uncle Mac. Uncle Mac doesn’t have much use for him either, and he isn’t shy about saying it. Will I see you later?”
“Maybe after Sunday meeting when Papa is off on one of his preaching trips you can come over. Ma likes you.” She slid her foot on the next branch and continued to climb down. Just as she stepped on the ground and picked up her basket, an unearthly moan sounded across the valley. Becca dropped the basket and scrambled back up the tree. “What was that?” she whispered.Becca dropped the basket and scrambled back up the tree. “What was that?” she whispered.
HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST HANK BOOK?
Why and how did Hank and his family get to Twin Rivers?
What dangers did he meet along the Oregon Trail? Who did he meet on the way to share the dangers on the Nebraska Prairie?
How did Hank meet Becca?
Twelve year old Hank's lack of self esteem makes him believe that Pa hates him. But what can he do about it? He can't make himself grow taller, and now that the cholera has weakened his leg and he finds himself limping, he feels even more inadequate. The disease took away his mother so he doesn't have her to comfort him .. to be "coddled" as Pa calls it. His only comfort is his pet cow, Clementine, and Ma's brother, Uncle Mac. Plagued by the Monster Goose, who nips his butt whenever it gets close to him, and his fear of Pa's disappointment on him, he hides in daydreaming and book reading. When Pa decides to homestead on land in western Nebraska, Hank rebels. Pa’s discipline is quick and painful and Hank has to obey. They follow the wild Platte River on the Oregon Trail crossing rattlesnake infested prairies, fording raging rivers, and eating dust while walking behind the slow wagon. He withstands the unpredictable mid-western weather of hailstorms, dust storms, an early blizzard and flash floods. Stampeding buffalo, murdering claim jumpers, unfriendly Indian Tribes forces him to face life on the wild frontierland.
GET IT NOW
You can get Hank of Twin Rivers; Book one, Journey of Change at these links.
E-book at Smashwords.com: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/336710
E-book at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E7NKYSY
Check out my Mid-Grade fantasy series.
Authors Amazon page. http://www.amazon.com/M.C.-Arvanitis/e/B007UJWLC4/