Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546253051
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Pages: 324
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

Cliff was born on December 5, 1941, two days before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was born in a small town of Columbia, Louisiana on the Ouachita River. His family moved to Woodsboro, Texas in 1949.
Cliffs dad worked for Standard Oil and Gas Co. and they moved all over Texas. While in Brownsville, Texas Cliff met the love of his life, Jacqueline Vickrey. They were married in 1960.
Cliff hired on with E. I. Du Pont in June of 1961 and worked for them 38 years. He worked mostly on the dock loading ships and barges.
Cliff and Jackie have lived in Nederland, Texas 55 years, they are active in Wesley United Methodist Church. Cliff says, You can always get a good cup of coffee at the church.
Cliff has always liked to tell stories and his favorite saying is Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. He was fortunate to meet one of his favorite authors, Elmer Kelton and his wife Anna, in Fredericksburg, Texas. He talked about the trip so much, everyone around him was reading Kelton. Elmer Kelton was a seven-time Spur award winner and a member of the Western Writers Hall of Fame.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

NEW BEGINNINGS

Rusty Jones sat in the wagon seat looking at the place of his birth. It had been his father and mother's first home. He looked at the places he had played when he was just a small boy. It almost brought tears to his eyes. Rusty was tired. He was tired of the heartache. He was tired of farming. Rusty was a tired farm boy.

Only a few days had passed since he had buried his father next to his mother. His mother had passed away just before Christmas, and his father had died of a broken heart the last day of February. To tell the truth, his heart was broken as well.

Rusty was tired, tired of working all year and not having enough money left after all the bills were paid to even celebrate. He remembered walking out of the bank and watching his dad count his money and shaking his head. He remembered his dad saying, "Boy, there's not enough here to buy your mother a new bonnet."

Rusty had loaded all the plows and tools that belonged to his father and what good things there were in the house. He had found an old trunk and filled it with the family Bible, a few pictures, and his mother's best quilt. He rolled his father's lamb skin apron and tucked it inside. He loaded it on the wagon along with her rocking chair.

Rusty headed out toward his Uncle Haydin's farm. His Uncle had several hundred acres and a nice farm house. He owned his land and, with his four sons, had done well. They had several mules and lots of horses and cows.

Rusty was going to head out west with no destination in mind. He was just going for a ride, find a place to sit down and rest and think.

At his Uncle's farm, he was met by several barking dogs and a friendly hand shake.

"Where are you headed Rusty?"

"Well, Uncle. I think I'll go for a little ride. Don't know as I'll ever come back."

"I can understand how you feel, but what are you going to do with the farm?"

"I told Mr. Brown at the bank I was going to turn all that over to you. He said to tell you to get with him soon, so he would know the spring planting had started. He's only interested in his part of the money."

"My oldest boy might want it, but we'll buy it, not share crop it."

"I brought all this and the wagon and mule. I'm going to keep the extra horse for a pack animal. If you can use it, it's all yours."

"Thanks, Rusty. Aunt Della will like the rocking chair."

"Dad and I put a new roof on the house last fall and broke out ten new acres before winter set in. The Bank don't know about that."

"Uncle, I'm going to get my sack out of the wagon and head out. I can't stand to see another tear from Aunt Della."

"Do you need some money? How are you fixed?"

"I have eight dollars."

"Here, take this ten-dollar gold piece. It will help."

"Thanks, Uncle. If I get short, I'll stop and work somewhere."

"Send us a letter from time to time, and there's always a place here for you. If you settle somewhere, let us know. We'll keep you in our prayers."

"Thanks Uncle."

Rusty rode away to the barking of his Uncle's yard dogs.

Riding across Alabama, seeing all the farms and farmers, just reminded him of all the work. Farming was great until the weather came along and wiped out all your work. Share cropping was the worst part. The only sharing was at the end when the farmer walked away with little to show for his labors.

Rusty stopped riding somewhere near the Alabama and Mississippi line. He found a stand of pine trees and a good patch of grass. There was a little stream maybe three feet wide, just enough to wash in and water the horses.

Rusty slept all night and up into the day, before he took out his father's watch and saw it was one thirty. He chuckled to himself. He had never slept that late.

He washed his face in the stream and fixed himself a bite to eat. He dressed and walked out to his horses. "Time to ride. Come get yourselves some water before we go."

Along the way, he passed farms and saw farmers hard after planting. "Good luck," he thought.

He remembered the year his dad had planted all those watermelons. He and his dad had loaded the wagon with melons, and he had gone into town to sell them. Everywhere he looked was a kid with a wagon loaded with melons to sell. He left them behind the Methodist church next to the preacher's house.

Rusty rode on, stopping to talk when someone would talk. He rode a little way with two young boys who were headed to a small town. He bought a few supplies and rode on toward the Mississippi River.

Three days later, he made camp in a grove of trees, cooked a bite to eat and went to sleep. The next morning, the blast of a riverboat horn sat him straight up in his bedroll. It was so loud, he thought it was going to run him over.

That not being enough, sitting on a log across the fire from him, was a man.

"Sweet Jesus, where did you come from, and how long you been there?"

"Oh, I've been here about an hour. Saw your fire last night," he said while putting some wood on the fire.

"You got a name?"

"Some call me Riverboat Bill. Real name is Bill Morris. I was a riverboat captain for a while. I got tired of that. Where you headed?"

"I don't know, maybe Colorado."

"You're going to need a good pistol and a good rifle. The meanest of the mean go up there, and the women are the ugliest in the world. I think I'll stay right here."

"Good looking women here?"

"No, none at all. You got any coffee?"

"No, none at all."

Rusty pulled his boots on, got his hat, stood up, and stretched, just in time to see Riverboat Bill go through the trees.

* * *

Rusty started up river looking for a place to cross. About mid-morning, he found five wagons struggling to get across. He fell in with them, and by almost dark, they were across. He had never been so muddy, and his horse and pack animal were no better off.

He was at the river's edge trying to wash man and beast, when a tall slim fellow came up.

"We've been so busy I didn't get a chance to meet you. My name is J.L. Kelly."

Rusty stuck out his hand. "I'm Rusty Jones from Alabama. Good to meet you, Mr. Kelly."

"We can't thank you enough for the help, but we can sure feed you if you'll join us."

"I don't know when I last had a good supper, and I'll sure take you up on that invite."

"When you get through there, come on up and meet the rest of us." Kelly walked off toward the wagons.

Rusty walked his horses to a scrub of a tree and tied them off. Mr. Kelly and the others greeted him, and Mrs. Kelly filled a plate for him.

"Thank you, ma'am. That looks good."

Rusty was almost through when someone brought out an old fiddle and started to play. Before long, there was a harp and guitar. Some lady started to sing, and before long, the whole bunch were dancing.

Mr. Kelly came up to Rusty as everyone was drifting off to their spot and bed. "Rusty, just find you a place and roll out your bedroll. We'll have breakfast about daylight, and your welcome to eat with us."

"Thanks, Mr. Kelly. Where are you headed?"

"South Texas. Some call it The Valley. We are supposed to go to Fort Worth then go two days west and there is a road south. Where are you headed?"

"Well, I don't know. I got tired of farming. Mother and Dad died. I just went for a ride to clear my head, and here I am."

"I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have a crop to tend. That's all I have ever done."

"That's the way Dad was. I guess it's more their deaths than anything. It was just the three of us for twenty years, and now I'm all alone. Can't get over this grief."

"You're welcome to ride along with us, if you'd like."

"Wonder how Fort Worth is?" Rusty asked.

"A man told me to watch everything you own, and those you love. Sounds like a lawless bunch."

"Sure does. All I got for a weapon is this old shotgun. I'll just stay out of everyone's way." They both laughed.

The trail through Louisiana was uneventful. They camped at the Red River and was told where they could cross without quicksand being a bother. It took a day to get there and get across. Then, they went to Shreveport and bought some supplies.

Rusty gave Mrs. Kelly $3 to help with the supplies. He figured he had eaten that or more. The road on to Fort Worth was hardly a road at all but passable. A bad storm came up and caught them unprepared about half way there. They stood almost frozen watching a twister pass to the North of them.

A milk cow got loose, and Rusty took off after it. After a short chase, Rusty got hold of her rope and led her back.

Mr. Brown, the cow's owner, met him and took the lead rope. "Thanks, Rusty that saved me a long walk."

"Your quite welcome. Looks like she broke her rope."

"I'll plat it back together, and it'll be fine. Thanks again."

Fort Worth was not much to look at, mostly just a fort and the beginnings of a town, saloons, small store and livery. Most everyone was just standing around asking the same questions, but no one had answers.

Rusty and the five wagons found a place near the fort to park and set up camp. Rusty decided to look the town and fort over. There was not enough to buy in the store to be called a store, and the livery was quiet. He wandered down toward the saloon and to where most of the men were.

Rusty walked in the saloon, the first saloon he had ever been in. There was no bar just timbers across two barrels, a few tables and no piano. He walked back out to the porch and stood there thinking, "this town will never amount to much."

Rusty could see Mr. Kelly coming from the direction of the fort. "Rusty, I've been looking for you. The Captain of the fort is going to speak to travelers. Thought you might like to hear what he has to say."

"That would beat standing around this town listening to the same questions. Let's go."

"You a beer drinker?" Kelly asked.

"No, that's the first time I've ever been in a saloon. Never tasted beer or whiskey. How about you?"

"When I was young I drank a little, but not anymore. After I married, I really didn't have the money."

They made their way to where two soldiers had brought out a large box for the Captain to speak from. Shortly, the Captain showed up.

"Let me have your attention. I have some information for the people that are going north or west. We have information that the Indians are upset about something, and we would advise against going west. Now, for those going north, do not cross the Red River. I am told that a treaty has been signed to give that land to the Indians as a reservation. Are there any questions? You, there. Your question?"

"Captain, you didn't say anything about going south."

"All the patrols that went south have not returned. I have no report."

"You have a suggestion?" Another fellow asked.

"I have two. One, stay here at the fort until things calm down. Two, go back home. Go ahead and many of you will not live and may die a horrible death."

One man spoke up. "Sir, I came all the way from Ohio."

"Ohio is a nice place. Akron is my home." He stepped down from the big box and went back in the Fort.

Kelly, Rusty and the others in their wagon train started back to the wagons. "Any of you want to go back?" Mr. Kelly asked.

"No," came from them all. "But I sure would like to get some ground broke before winter. I think we all would."

"Let's plan to leave out at first light," Kelly said.

At first light, the wagons rolled out. Far off in the west, they could see lightning. The road west was the worst they had ever been on, and the farther they went it became a two-track trail.

Rusty road along in the rear. Mr. Kelly was always in the lead. About mid-day Rusty rode up to Mr. Kelly.

"You know anything about Indians?" Rusty asked.

"I've seen very few in my life time. Why?"

"Look yonder, over by those scrub trees."

"How long has he been there?" Kelly asked.

"I first saw him during that little sprinkle of rain we had, then he disappeared. Any special preparation we should make?" Rusty asked.

"No, not for one Indian. Have you seen any others?"

"Not until now. There are two more on the other side."

Mr. Kelly raised up in his saddle. "To tell the truth, they don't look threatening. Ride ahead to the top of that rise there and look around."

Rusty rode out ahead of the wagons. When he got to the top of the rise, to his surprise, there were five Indians blocking the road. To his left, he could see the start of a whole tribe crossing in front. There were women and kids and old people moving along.

Rusty rode back to where Mr. Kelly was and told him.

"Can we go to the top of the rise and stop? That way all can see."

"I think that will be alright. They should come into view in another hundred yards or so. I'll ride back and tell the others." Rusty rode off.

"Ride up beside the wagon in front of you, and don't show any guns or fear. Just watch as they pass," Rusty told each wagon driver.

They watched as the Tribe moved by. From behind the wagons, came an Indian walking his horse slowly. A young girl, who had been picking wild flowers, walked out to him and handed him a bouquet. The Indian accepted the flowers and rode off at a gallop. Her mother ran out to retrieve her and get her back out of harm's way.

Little did that mother know, if those Indian kids and white kids could have been left alone, in a short time they would have been playing together like all kids do. It would take fifty years for that to come to pass.

On the afternoon of the second day, Mr. Kelly called the wagons to a halt. All the men gathered, and Mr. Kelly spoke to them. "Gentlemen, I think that is the big rock and the trail we have been looking for. From here, we turn south to the Rio Grande and on into The Valley."

They all went back to their wagons to tell their women.

Rusty rode up to Kelly. "I guess this is where I will leave you. I'm going on north and west."

"Rusty, you have been a great help to me and this wagon train. Mrs. Kelly has a sack of grub for you and good wishes I'm sure. If things up there don't work out, come South and find us. Kelly and Rusty rode back to the Kelly wagon. There were goodbyes all around, and Rusty rode away.

Rusty rode for a while, then looked back just in time to see the last wagon turn south.

Rusty could not get over how quiet it was. The lower part of the Great Staked Planes was in full bloom, and only the scissortail birds were moving. They would jump up, fly and sail for twenty yards, land and run as fast as they could. Their tail feathers spread to guide them as they sailed.

A mother coyote and cubs scampered away looking for lunch. Rusty rode along talking to his horses from time to time. In the distance, he could see a line of trees and brush. "Water," he thought. He moved in that direction.

There, in the middle of nowhere, was a stream six or seven feet wide and crystal clear. At first, it looked like he was the first to be there. Then, he saw the unshod horse prints.

Rusty found a place under a small tree and unsaddled his horse, took the pack off the pack horse and made a camp. Night came, and he rolled out his bedroll. Looking into the night sky, he was sure he could see every star in the sky.

The sun shining in his face woke him. There sitting on a pinto pony was a young Indian Brave. Rusty raised his hand and said, "welcome."

The brave acknowledged his sign and dismounted his horse. "You man who talks to horses?"

Rusty was stunned. No one had heard him talk to his horses. No one he had seen anyway.

Rusty said, "Come, we can eat and make coffee."

Rusty set about to build a small fire and make coffee. The Indian led his horse to the water and let him drink. Rusty had side meat on and coffee making. One thing he wanted was a Dutch oven, so he could make biscuits.

Rusty took out two cups and filled them with coffee. He handed one to the Indian and asked, "You take sugar?"

The Indian said in a question, "Sugar?"

Rusty opened the small sack of sugar and sprinkled a little in his own cup and took a sip. The Indian stuck out his cup and said, "Sand?"

Rusty put some in the Indian's coffee and motioned for him to drink. He drank and ran his tongue over his lips and said something Rusty couldn't understand.

After they had eaten, as Rusty was cleaning up, the Indian mounted his horse and said something again that Rusty couldn't understand. Rusty waved, and the Indian rode off.

It was the first encounter, one on one with an Indian, Rusty had ever had and different than he had expected.

Rusty began to see the Rocky Mountains in the far distance.

He rode up on something that caused him to stop and look around. It looked like a big rock had fallen from the sky and hit the ground. We would later find out that it was what is left of a volcano, dormant for many hundreds of years.

Rusty saw the windmill in the distance and what looked like a building. The closer he got, he could make out a corral and barn and a large stock tank.

He rode up to the windmill and dismounted. That's when he saw the sign 'This water is not free'. Wow, he had never had to pay for water. He let his horses drink, and he took some and washed his face, moved his horses to the shade of the windmill and started to the store.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Heart of Gold"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Clifford Kennedy.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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