Read an Excerpt
INTO THE PRAIRIE (Chapter 1)
April 20, 1810
Jonah Wilde rolled his eyes at his older brother's remark. "No crazier than our grandfather Noah. He never stayed long in one place either."
"And he ended up dying too young, just like our uncle Jeremiah did. Ma named me after him because the poor man didn't live long enough to leave any heirs."
"Grandpa was killed fighting in a war, and so was Uncle Jeremiah. This is different. All I'm doing is heading west. We've both heard plenty about the prairie land out there, wide-open land that can be farmed. I can claim all the land I want."
"You can't be serious, Jonah. Last I knew, most of it was promised to the Shawnee and Delaware, and that Shawnee leader they call Tecumseh is doing a damn good job of forming a confederacy of all the tribes against any American settlement west of the Ohio. And it looks like we're going to end up at war with the British again. You know how they will use Indians against Americans. You couldn't be heading west at a more dangerous time, Jonah, and with a wife and a son!"
Sadie Wilde glanced nervously at her husband. She knew Jonah was truly worried about her and little Paul, but he also had a dream, and he came from a long line of dreamers who'd risked their lives for what they believed in. "Surely a little farm out in the wilderness won't draw much attention," she spoke up in Jonah's defense.
"Yeah, Jeremiah, leave him alone." The words came from Jeremiah and Jonah's fifteen-year-old brother, Matthew.
"No one asked for your opinion," Jeremiah snapped.
Matthew made a face at Jeremiah, his soft blue eyes glittering with the desire to tease. "Who says you're always right?" he taunted.
Sadie considered the contrast between the fair-haired young man and Jeremiah, whose straight black hair and deep brown eyes betrayed the Indian blood he carried from his grandfather and great-grandfather, men who had greatly sacrificed in the building of their young country. Jonah was a grand mixture of white and Indian, with the same dark hair, only with more curl in it, and very blue eyes. His handsome looks still stirred womanly desires in her that had not changed with three years of marriage and a two-year-old son.
"All of you stop this." Jeremiah's wife, Regina, set an apple pie on the table. "I am tired of hearing you argue," she continued. "Maybe it's best that Jonah does leave. We certainly will have more peace and quiet around here." She glanced over at Sadie. "I'm sorry, Sadie, but this subject has been discussed to death."
"I agree," Sadie answered, glancing at her brother-in-law. "Jeremiah, if I am perfectly fine with this move and it makes Jonah happy, you might as well let us go with your blessings."
Jeremiah sat down beside the cooking fireplace in the main room of the Wilde family home, a fine wood and stone structure built by their father, Luke, who now lay buried beside his wife, Annie, who died when Matthew was born. Sadie knew the story about how the home had been burned by Indians and Loyalists during the Revolutionary War...how Luke and his brother Jeremiah had gone off to fight in that war, Jeremiah losing his life...how Luke came back here to the Ohio Valley to rebuild. He'd died, leaving this beautiful farm to Luke and Jeremiah, but now both men had families, and since Matthew also lived with them, the family was outgrowing the farm.
Jonah leaned back in the chair where he sat at the kitchen table. "You heard Sadie," he told Jeremiah.
Jeremiah scowled. "I need you to help with the farm."
"You have Matthew, and three kids of your own," Jonah answered. "Heck, young Mark is eleven years old, plenty big enough to handle a lot of chores. Ruth is eight and a wonderful help to her mother already, and little Luke begs you to give him things to do. This farm isn't big enough to feed all of us and still make a profit. We all know that. I have a wife and a son and with God's grace I'll have more children. The family has grown, Jeremiah, and this farm has always seemed more yours than mine. You were the firstborn. I want something that really feels like my own. And with Ohio already getting more and more settled and being a state now and under rules and taxes and--"
"Indiana is on its way to becoming a state, too," Jeremiah reminded him.
"That's a long way off," Jonah retorted. "By the time that happens, I intend to be one of its biggest landowners."
"The Shawnee might have something to say about that," Jeremiah reminded him, rubbing his eyes.
"We're going, Jeremiah. You can't stop this."
Jeremiah sounded a disgruntled chuckle. "No more than anyone could stop our grandfather Noah from getting mixed up in the French and Indian War, or our uncle Jeremiah from running headstrong into the Revolutionary War and nearly getting our father killed for it, let alone losing his own life."
He turned to look at Jonah, grinning in resignation. "No, I can't stop you, although if I had any sense I'd get you in a choke hold and drag you to a tree and tie you there." He turned away again. "We've heard how our grandmother Jess suffered after Grandpa died," he added. "And we know how our mother and father used to mourn Uncle Jeremiah. Now I suppose Regina and Matthew and I will end up mourning your death, maybe yours and Sadie's both."
"You are too focused on the dark side of things, big brother," Jonah tried to joke.
"Yeah, well, with the struggle it's been to live here fighting Indians and the elements to hang on to this farm, that's pretty easy to do."
Jonah stood up, running a hand through the dark waves of hair that grew so fast it seemed Sadie was always cutting it. Her husband walked over to stand behind Jeremiah, reaching out and squeezing his brother's shoulders. "We'll be okay, Jeremiah. Lord knows I've fought off Indians before. The whole family has, even Sadie. The Wilde clan is good at those things. Besides, Grandpa and our uncle Jeremiah were both killed by white men, remember, both of them killed in different wars but both by British soldiers. I'm not worried about the Shawnee. In fact, that Tecumseh is all for peace, they say."
Jeremiah reached around and grasped one of Jonah's hands. "Maybe so; but don't forget things look bad between the United States and Britain again over this damn mess with France and Napoleon. God knows you could all die at the hands of the British instead of Indians."
"I could go to help protect Jonah and Sadie and little Paul," Matthew offered.
Jeremiah rose and walked toward the front door. "Kid, Jonah and I have raised you from the day our mother died giving birth to you. You're more like a son than a brother to me. I couldn't bear to watch you leave, too. Besides, I need at least one of you left here to help with the farm. And regardless of what Jonah said, this place is as much yours and his as it is mine. Pa would have wanted it that way." He glanced back at Jonah. "And it will be here when you give up and come back," he told the young man.
Jonah chuckled. "You know better."
Jeremiah watched him with sadness in his eyes. "This valley is home, Jonah."
"It is your home. And Indiana will be my home--mine and Sadie's. She's as much for going as I am."
"Sadie is crazy in love with you. She'd follow you into hell and you know it."
"She understands the potential," Jonah replied. "Think about it, Jeremiah! You know good and well that settlers are going to keep heading west. There was a time when this valley was inhabited only by Indians, and now it's full of settlers and farms and towns. This country can't help but keep growing westward, and people will need a place to stop and buy supplies. I intend to be one of the first out there and be the supplier. I'll be a rich man someday, you mark my word, and little Paul will be even richer. This is as much for him as for me."
Sadie thought what a wonderful father Jonah was, and she prayed he was making the right decision. Openly she fully supported him, but deep inside she had her moments of doubt, mostly at the thought of how lonely she would be away from the family. Leaving this farm, and her friends in nearby Willow Creek, would be the hardest thing she would probably ever do.
Jeremiah slowly nodded. "Your mind is made up. So be it. When will you go?"
"Soon as spring planting is done. I don't want to leave you high and dry for that. And that will give me time to stock up on what we'll need."
Jeremiah glanced at Sadie, who gave him a smile and a nod. "We'll be fine, Jeremiah," she told him, wanting to show as much confidence as possible.
Jeremiah turned to Matthew, giving him a commanding look. "There are chores to be finished, kid. Let's go."
He walked out and Matthew grumped. "Kid!" He stood up, looking at Jonah. "When will he see that I'm grown up?"
Jonah chuckled. "Well, I'm twenty-nine years old, and he still thinks he has to take care of me, if that tells you anything."
Matthew left, and Regina turned to Jonah. "Your mother told Jeremiah to always watch out for the both of you," she told Jonah. "She knew that you especially had the wandering blood of your uncle Jeremiah and your grandfather Noah."
"Well, Ma always was good at figuring people," Jonah told her. "And I guess she was right about me. I've put this off too long already, Regina. Now with Tecumseh opting for peace, I don't see why this isn't a good time to try for Indiana and all that rich prairie land. Besides, you know I'm right about this farm getting too small for all of us."
Regina glanced at Sadie, who noticed that in spite of only being thirty years old, her sister-in-law was showing gray hairs. That's what farm life could do to a woman, let alone living with a man whose last name was Wilde. She was only twenty-one herself, but she wondered if she, too, might gray prematurely.
"We'll all miss you so," Regina told her with sudden tears in her eyes. "Especially little Paul, although he'll look at this as quite an adventure, I'm sure."
"Adventure is probably putting it mildly," Sadie answered.
Jonah looked at her lovingly. "And you're the bravest, finest woman a man could ask for," he told her.
Sadie gave him a smile, walking to where he stood to lean up and kiss his cheek. So brave and determined he was, and such a good man, a caring, gentle husband. "Jeremiah was right," she told him. "I'd follow you anywhere. Maybe I'm not brave at all. Maybe I'm just crazy. I guess we'll find out, won't we?"
Jonah drew her close, hugging her tightly. "I'll take good care of you, Sadie. You know that."
There was such comfort and sureness in his arms that in that moment, all of her fears were gone. "I know."
INTO THE PRAIRIE Copyright 2004 by Rosanne Bittner