Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

JULIA
Friday, April 26, 2019 by VICKIE MCDONOUGH

 

PLEASE WELCOME

VICKIE MCDONOUGH

TO

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY

 

 

 

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK: JULIA

Julia finished grooming her horse then climbed into the back of the wagon. What happened to Billy? He was supposed to unsaddle Pepper, groom her, and turn her lose in the remuda. “Pa, do you see Billy? I need him to take Pepper out to the herd.”

Pa released the center pair of oxen and shooed them off, then stepped back to unhook the wheelers. He lifted his head and looked in the wagon at her. “He ran off somewhere as soon as we stopped.”

“Well, I need his help.”

“Let me finish unharnessing the oxen, then I’ll find him.”

“He oughta be helping you.”

“I know.” Pa pursed his lips, which disappeared behind his blondish-gray mustache.

Julia peeked at the gray sky. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The storm was closer than when she’d first noticed it. She’d be lucky to get dinner ready before the bad weather blew in.

She scooped a quart of flour into her mixing bowl then secured the bag closed. She added several pinches of salt and dumped in a teaspoon of super carbonate of soda. After setting her bowl in the cast-iron skillet, she picked them up and waded through the crowded interior to the tailgate.

Lighting zig-zagged across the sky, and a loud boom reverberated through the air. Julia dropped the skillet, spilling flour all over their bedding and crates. Pepper squealed and pulled against the taut reins, the whites of her eyes showing.

Julia’s heart pounded at the nearness of the lightning strike. Had it hit someone’s wagon? The noise of rolling thunder grew nearer, but it sounded different.

“Stampede!” Pa yelled. “Get up here! Help me get these animals unhooked.”

Julia jumped to the ground, yanked off Pepper’s bridle, and slapped her rump. The surprised mare trotted into the circle of wagons. Julia tossed the bridle into the back of the wagon and rushed around the wagon. Her heart lurched. The whole remuda was charging toward them. A man on foot raced in front of them. He was close to the wagons, but she feared he wouldn’t make it to safety in time. Hurry.

“Julia!”

She fumbled to move the big chain, her hands shaking. She pushed herself to hurry. The direction the horses and cattle had taken would put them close to their wagon. Her fingers fumbled at a task she’d done many times.

Behind Pa, people raced in all directions, some screaming for their children. She needed to find Billy, but they had to free their oxen or the animals might be injured, or they could damage the wagon in their desperation to escape. One ox bellowed, and another stamped his hoof. Finally, after what seemed like hours, they freed the last pair. She pushed the closest one toward the inside of the circle. “Shoo! Go!”

The dumb beasts seemed to sense the urgency, because they lumbered off at a faster pace than normal, especially after a long day of pulling the wagon. She helped Pa toss the chain under the wagon then they each grabbed one end of the heavy yoke and turned the wagon’s falling tongue as far out of the way as possible.

“Get in the wagon, Julia. I’ve got to find Billy.”

She obeyed, only because it gave her a good vantage point in which to search for her little brother. She stood on the bench seat and scanned the circle of wagons. She cupped her hands around her mouth and hollered, “Billy!” Her frantic gaze raced around the wagons. They couldn’t lose Billy too. It would kill Pa and break her heart. Julia felt more a mother to her bother than a sister, since she’d been the one to raise him after Ma took sick and died when Billy was only eight.

There he was, safe on the bench of the Schuster’s wagon, next to Marina and Andreas. Her relief made her legs weak, but the danger wasn’t over. In spite of Pa’s dislike for the German families traveling with the wagon train, he climbed onto the Schuster’s seat and sat next to the youngsters, his worried gaze turned toward the stampede.

Several men raced out on horseback toward the stampede. If they could get around the crazed animals, perhaps they could turn them. Alan Russell and Bob Martin struggled to free their animals. A man whose name she didn’t know rushed over to help Mr. Martin. She’d heard that both men were raised in the city, and they’d had a difficult time on the  journey so far. Ruth Russell, a woman only a few years old than Julia, climbed down to help her husband. Their young son and daughter watched them from inside the wagon. Julia prayed they would finish in time. She glanced back at the stampeding animals. The horses ran in front of most of the cattle and mules, and they would be upon the wagons in seconds. The noise of hundreds of hooves was deafening.

The running man was close. Would he make it? His hat was pulled low, so she couldn’t see his face. “Help him, Lord.”

Julia shifted around, looking at the crazed herd. The man was almost to one of the wagons. Her stomach clenched when he lifted his head. It was Taylor Marshall! Julia stood on the bench seat to see him better and leaned to her right. Her wagon sat slightly further out than the one in front of theirs, giving her a clear view of him. “Run! Hurry!”

She heard a woman cry out, “Polly! Where’s Polly?”

Suddenly a little red-haired girl toddled into view outside the circle of wagons. Julia’s heart clenched. “Please, God, save her.”

ABOUT JULIA

The War Between the States may have ended, but prejudice is still strong among the families journeying together on a wagon train headed down the Santa Fe Trail.

Julia Scott is traveling to New Mexico with her father and younger brother. Her pa fought for the North in the war where her two older brothers lost their lives. Pa is looking for a fresh start in a new place, but Julia just wants him to be happy again.

Taylor Marshall, a Southerner who fought for the Confederates, is on his way to Colorado to raise horses. He’s attracted to Julia, but her father adamantly forbids them to talk to one another.

Circumstances continually throw Julia and Taylor together, and their attraction grows. Will forbidden romance bloom? Or will they go their separate ways when the trail splits?

Buylink: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NYTVY2M

ABOUT VICKIE MCDONOUGH

 

Vickie McDonough is the best-selling author of 50 books and novellas. Vickie loves writing romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best and the Inspirational Choice awards. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com

 

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VickieMcDonough

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vickiemcdonough

 Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/vickiemcdonough

 

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