Two Old West Romances Take Root on the Double B Ranch
Journey Toward Home
Desperate to escape her life as a barely-tolerated poor relation, Judith Alder journeys west to live with her uncle, only to be abandoned along the Santa Fe Trail. Her only hope of survival is a motley crew of cowboys from the Double B Ranch. Can she trust God to lead her to a place she can finally call home?
Measure of a Man
Growing up on the Double B Ranch has given Lizzie Bradley ample opportunity to indulge her tomboy whims. At nineteen, Lizzie has yet to realize she’s on the threshold of womanhood—until two men via for her heart.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Journey Toward Home
Includes Bonus Story of The Measure of a Man
By Carol Cox
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 1999 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
It was unseasonably warm, and a muggy stillness hung over St. Joseph. I sat in the big wicker rocking chair on Aunt Phoebe's front porch and fanned myself. Aunt Phoebe sat facing me, bolt upright in her chair. Her iron-gray hair, pulled into its customary bun, was drawn so tight that I wondered for the thousandth time how she was able even to blink. She pursed her thin lips in disapproval.
"You're a foolish, ungrateful child, Judith. How you can disregard the kindness and generosity I've shown you these past ten years, I cannot imagine. Your mother would never have considered doing such a thing. It is obviously the bad blood you inherited from your father."
I clamped my own lips together to keep silent. We had been over this same ground endlessly in the last two weeks. It would be pointless and perhaps fatal to my plans to open another argument and antagonize my aunt further.
Aunt Phoebe had taken my father and me into her home after my mother died in the influenza epidemic when I was ten. At the time it seemed like the most natural thing in the world, given her autocratic personality and the need to "keep a firm hand" on my father, as she put it.
Papa had been a point of contention between us for years. Gentle, fun loving, and idealistic, his was the complete opposite of Aunt Phoebe's pragmatic nature. Her determination to have us share her large house owed more, I believed, to duty than to affection — an attempt, perhaps, to atone for her lapse in allowing her younger sister to marry him.
"I don't mean to seem ungrateful," I said, choosing my words with infinite care. "But in his letter, Uncle Matthew sounded as though he really needed me to come." I didn't mention how much I longed to go.
"Matthew!" She sniffed in contempt. "Your father's brother, through and through. A complete reprobate if ever I saw one! Whatever possessed him to write after all these years of silence, I will never know."
I didn't know what had prompted his letter either, but I blessed him for sending it. We had never had the opportunity to know one another well. He had left for the gold fields in 1859. I remember seeing him off, holding my father's hand and waving frantically at his wagon, lettered on the side with PIKE'S PEAK OR BUST. He had waved back jauntily, his merry voice booming out, "Come and join me when I get settled, Robert. We'll both make our fortunes!"
After that we received a few sporadic letters, each one from a different gold camp, until finally they stopped coming altogether. Then two weeks ago, another one arrived, a heaven-sent missive addressed to Miss Judith Alder. It read:
Word has reached me that my brother Robert has been dead these three years. I am now the proprietor of a trading post near Taos, New Mexico Territory. I can no longer share my good fortune with your father, but if you choose to join me, I can offer you a home and a share of my future profits. I could sure use your help, as I'm a poor hand at housekeeping and worse at dealing with figures. If you decide to come, anyone in Taos can tell you how to reach me.
Your loving uncle, Matthew
P. S. I cannot pay for your passage at present, but I am sure that in short order we can build a prosperous business.
My heart had soared as soon as I finished reading it. Here in my hands lay the possibility of escape from dependence on Aunt Phoebe. After opening her home to us, she had never allowed us to forget the debt we owed. I felt gratitude toward her for all she had done, but I yearned to shake off the status of poor relation.
I thought back to my father. He had rarely mentioned his brother in his later years, the time that stood out in my memory being during his final battle with the consumption that had claimed him.
"They tell me that a drier climate in the early stages might have helped," he said wistfully. "Perhaps I should have followed Matthew west, after all."
In that moment my mind was made up. I would follow my uncle in my father's stead. All that remained was to convince Aunt Phoebe.
I broached the subject as delicately as I could, but my caution didn't soften Aunt Phoebe's reaction one whit. She alternated between stony stares of disapproval and long tirades in which she took me to task for my ingratitude. I was tempted to answer her sharply, but I held my tongue. I had been left without a cent of my own, and if she refused to help me with the cost of my passage, my adventure would be over before it had begun.
"As I've told you," I said, trying not to let desperation show in my voice, "I promise I'll repay the money for my fare west just as soon as I've earned it in Uncle Matthew's trading post."
Her sharp eyes studied me for a long moment before she spoke. "I have made inquiries and have been informed that it is possible to make a comfortable income from such an enterprise. I am certain, though, that wastrel uncle of yours will squander every dime before you ever lay eyes on it."
I swallowed hard.
"However," she continued, "I can see that you are determined to go." Her eyes misted over. "Just like your mother, you are bent on following the Alder will-o'-the-wisp, probably to your ruin. But, foolish or not, I will not stand in your way."
"Oh Aunt Phoebe!" I cried joyously.
"Just a moment," she snapped, and her eyes were once again hard and bright. "You may delude yourself if you choose, but I will not. You say you will repay the cost of your fare. Very well. I accept your intent, although I do not foresee that you will be able to earn enough in your uncle's care to have more than you need just to keep body and soul together. Nevertheless, I am prepared to finance this venture of yours."
She raised her hand warningly before I could interrupt. "But I refuse to throw away any more money than necessary on a fool's errand. I have looked into the various means of transportation to Taos. The railroad and stagecoach would be the fastest methods, but the fare is over two hundred dollars, far more than I am willing to spend."
I looked at her, puzzled. What on earth did she have in mind?
"I have, however, discovered a way for you to go that should suit us both." She gave me a wintery smile. "As you know, with the advent of the railroad, most of the travel west by wagon has ceased, at least those wagons starting from Independence. It is my understanding that most of those who use that method of travel go as far as possible on the train and outfit themselves at the terminus.
"But I would hardly send a young girl, no matter how headstrong, to choose someone suitable to travel with in that rough environment. Therefore, I have made arrangements for you to leave from here by wagon."
My head spun. A trip by covered wagon, taking weeks instead of days? Surely she wasn't serious! But a look at the grim set of her jaw assured me that she was.
Well, I considered, why not? Uncle Matthew had gone that way himself. It would be arduous, I was sure, but what better way of experiencing the country that was to be my new home than to see it at a slow wagon's pace, rather than whizzing by on a train? The more I thought about it, the more enthusiastic I became.
Aunt Phoebe was speaking again. " ... the Parkers, a family of good character, but without funds to make the journey by train. They will leave St. Joseph on Saturday, four days from now. They have agreed to take you along for a nominal fee and for your help in cooking or any other tasks that should arise. If your desire to go trailing off after your uncle is as great as you say it is, I'm sure you will be willing to employ whatever means necessary to get there."
"I'll do it," I told her, without hesitation. "And I will pay you back, every penny."
She might have thought this scheme would discourage me, for my quick acceptance seemed to surprise her; she had little to say after that. The days flew by as I made my preparations, considering what to take, what to leave, packing and repacking as I changed my mind. I decided in the end to take little besides my clothing, toilet articles, and my Bible. I was to have a roof over my head at journey's end, and surely Uncle Matthew would help me secure anything I might need after my arrival.
My trunk was packed and ready early Saturday morning. Aunt Phoebe refused to go with me to the Parkers' home, but did unbend enough to allow Peter, the handyman, to drive me there in the buggy.
At our parting, she surveyed me one last time. "When you've seen the folly of your ways, you may come home," she said, and went back into the house.
Peter and I drew up in front of a run-down house on the edge of town. A gaunt woman was supervising the loading of box after box into a covered wagon already laden with tools and furniture. I stepped down, surprised at my nervousness. "Mrs. Parker? I am Judith Alder."
Ignoring my outstretched hand, she said, "Let's see how much extra weight you've brought."
I signaled Peter to carry my trunk to the wagon. "Put it down!" she ordered. "Just as I thought. You've loaded up with so much finery you won't be leaving any room for us and the things we need."
She hauled an empty box, identical in size and shape to the others being loaded, over to my trunk. "You can take just as much as you can put in that, and no more. These crates will just fit inside the wagon, and I'll not have a big, fancy trunk cluttering things up. I've no doubt you'll all but eat us out of house and home on the trip, but there's no need to start out taking up more than your share of room. We might just as well understand each other from the first." And with that, she went back to bullying the men working at the wagon.
I stared at her retreating figure. So this was the woman of good character Aunt Phoebe had chosen! And we would be spending weeks in each other's company. I groaned inwardly, then squared my shoulders. Life with Aunt Phoebe had increased my immunity to intimidation. I could tolerate a few more weeks of the same if it helped me reach my goal.
Frantically, I transferred as much as I could to the rough box. Some of the clothes would have to be left behind. I picked up my Bible and bag containing my personal items. If I had to, I would carry those myself.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Miss Judith?" Peter frowned, concern in his eyes. "If you want to go back, I can have you home in no time."
I shook my head quickly, before my resolve weakened. "Thank you, but no. If you'll just take my trunk back, I'll be grateful." I gave him a smile that was meant to look confident and walked over to the wagon.
Mrs. Parker barely acknowledged my presence beyond nodding her head in my direction and informing her husband that I was "the girl." He looked me over and grunted. Evidently I had been weighed in the balance and found wanting. A boy who looked to be sixteen or seventeen jumped down lightly from the wagon and wiped his brow on his sleeve.
"I think that's it, Ma." He grinned.
Ma? It was hard to believe that this pleasant-looking youth could be the product of the two sullen individuals I had just met.
Seeing me, his grin broadened. "You must be Miss Alder. I'm Lanny Parker. I'm sure glad you're going to go with us. It'll be real good to have company."
The shock of finding a Parker capable of such a lengthy statement rendered me speechless, but I was able to return his smile with enthusiasm. He might be glad of my company, but he had no idea how profoundly grateful I was for his. At least there would be one friendly face along the way.
The boxes were stowed, the mules hitched. Everything appeared to be set for our departure. I looked around, struck by the fact that I was leaving and how little it mattered to me. In my mind, St. Joseph had already ceased to be home.
Mr. Parker mounted to the driver's seat, his wife beside him. I put up my hands to catch hold of the sideboard and pull myself up and over the tailgate.
"What do you think you're doing?" Mrs. Parker's voice rasped. "You and Lanny will walk. We'll spare the mules as much as we can."
Lanny fell in beside me as I walked with my head bowed, trying to hide my mortification. "Don't mind Ma," he said. "She's got a sharp tongue, but a good heart."
Well hidden, I thought. But the friendly overture had its effect, and soon I was telling him about Uncle Matthew and my hopes for the future.
Mrs. Parker looked back. "Lanny! Come up here and walk by me."
He gave me an apologetic look and trotted off.
I plodded along by myself, staying off to one side to keep out of the dust. Think about Taos, I reminded myself. Just keep that thought before you for the next few weeks. This won't last forever.
Days later, I questioned that last thought. We had been on the trail for less than a week, but already it had given me a new perspective on eternity. Day followed day with tedious predictability. We awoke before daybreak, ate, and moved on with as little talk as possible. Mrs. Parker, holding steadfastly to her sullenness no matter how pleasant the circumstances, assigned Lanny and me to opposite sides of the wagon each morning, giving us little opportunity for conversation.
I didn't understand her motive for this until I overheard an exchange between her and her husband on our third morning out. I was busy packing the cooking utensils away inside when they stopped just outside, their voices clearly audible through the canvas.
"I never reckoned on making the girl walk all the way to New Mexico." Mr. Parker sounded troubled. "No reason she can't ride a bit. It'll give us a chance to stretch our legs."
"And who would be driving while she rides? Lanny? Can't you see he's got eyes for nothing else? You're a man. You know where that leads.
"We agreed to take her on," she continued, "but she'll keep to herself on the way. And, mind you, keep your own eyes where they belong!"
I pressed my fist against my mouth to stifle a cry of dismay and sat quietly until they moved away. Angry tears mingled with a desire to laugh. Never before had I been cast in the role of a Jezebel! Couldn't she understand that I only wanted human companionship?
Very well, I would walk every step of the way, if necessary. Only a few weeks to endure this, and then I would reach Taos and Uncle Matthew.CHAPTER 2
It was a great relief when we arrived at Council Grove and Mr. Parker announced that we would be staying there for a day or two. "There's three other wagons waiting here already and more expected," he said that night over supper. "We'll form a train and have just that much more protection the rest of the way."
The prospect of being around friendly, talking human beings was encouraging. The wagons clustered together a little way outside town on the banks of the Neosho River. Cordial-looking women approached as we cooked supper over our fire, but a few sharp words from Mrs. Parker soon sent them on their way, shaking their heads.
I started to speak, but Mrs. Parker's warning look made me hold my tongue. I gazed after them wistfully. It would have been refreshing to have had a good woman-to-woman talk. Maybe things would change once we got under way.
Two more wagons arrived during the next day, and the men from the six groups met together to elect a captain, choosing a self-assured man named Hudson. He had had experience with the trail ahead and made the announcement that we would leave the following morning.
I had hoped for more interaction with the others of the train — perhaps with women who, like myself, walked much of the time. But the Parkers discouraged contact and kept our wagon well to the rear of the train. So we made our way across the plains with the wagon train, yet not really a part of it.
The sheer size of this land was staggering. For mile upon mile, I saw a billowing sea of green everywhere I looked. The stems of the grasses reached to the horses' bellies, and many of the seed heads grew well above my eye level.
At Cow Creek we stepped out of that world and into another, as though we had crossed an invisible boundary line. Listening to Mr. Parker repeating what he had picked up from Mr. Hudson that day, I learned that we had come to the short-grass prairie.
The buffalo and grama grasses grew only inches tall, and instead of the waving softness of the tall grass, the land stretched out in a stark panorama as far as the eye could see.
Excerpted from Journey Toward Home by Carol Cox. Copyright © 1999 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsJourney Toward Home,
The Measure of a Man,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Journey Toward Home is two books in one you also get "measure of a man" the sequel of "Journey Toward Home". How are they you ask, well I am so glad you asked - thank you so much - these books are tender yet strong, poignant yet lackadaisical, fleeting yet at times a normal speed, adventurous yet calming and stable shocking yet knowing and faithful yet well faithless or seeking. It is a heartfelt story that the author wanted to tell a tale to us one that lasted a generation - the one thing that lasted a generation - and has lead the characters is ? yes you guessed HIM..........GOD..........with GOD they could do anything - these stories leave you wanting more - oh so much more. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher and NetGalley; all the opinions in this review are all my own.