In the late 1870's, orphans Benjamin and Molly are finally old enough to strike out on their own. Leaving behind the life they knew in Dry Ridge, Kentucky, the siblings head for Texas, a new territory where Benjamin has been ordered to undergo advanced training for the Second United States Army Dragoons. But along the way, hardship strikes when one of the axles on their Conestoga wagon fails just outside of Marble Falls, Texas. Deciding to seek shelter for the night, the pair comes across an abandoned white rock house and agree to stay there until they can get on the road again.
Soon after, they meet Joe Eagle, a local Indian boy who saves Molly from a rattlesnake. The three quickly become friends, and Molly soon discovers that she has feelings for Joe. When the siblings decide to stay in Marble Falls and make enough money to buy the white rock house, Joe begins to wonder if Molly truly cares for him or if the white rock house is her only love.
As the distance grows between them, Molly and Joe must find a way to either put aside their feelings for each other or find a way to start a new life together at the white rock house.
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Molly's White Rock HouseA Young Adult Romance Novel
By Bobby Beddoe
Abbott PressCopyright © 2012 Bobby Beddoe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA mama sparrow was the only witness to the Conestoga wagon that pulled away on that warm July day in 1878. Molly and Benjamin looked back over their shoulders at the orphanage's sod house as final whiffs of smoke curled from the chimney. Molly continued to gaze at the only home she and her brother had ever known until it soon disappeared from view. She turned back around and smiled; they were on their way to Texas. Corporal Benjamin, Molly's brother who was now eighteen years old, had received transfer orders from Lieutenant Colonel W. W. Hughes's office, Headquarters Company of the Second United States Army Dragoons, to report at the Fort Mason Headquarters of the Frontier Forces, under Major J. E. Payne, for advanced training. At seventeen years old, Molly quit school so she and Benjamin could stay together.
She wore a tan riding skirt in brushed twill for the trip. Unacquainted with the rough wilderness to which they were headed, Molly had mixed feelings about the journey. However, Benjamin had his orders, and knowing that he could take care of both of them under even the most extreme circumstances, she felt safe traveling with him.
Benjamin was of medium height with a fair complexion, blue eyes like his sister's, and light curly hair—unlike his sister's, whose was auburn. He wore a blue uniform with narrow chevrons of a corporal on its sleeves. He had joined the army after dropping out of high school.
They had loaded their wagon to capacity with one-thousand pounds' worth of their worldly possessions. Just before starting out, Benjamin wrote on their old camelback trunk in white:
Benjamin and Molly Texas or bust July 1, 1878
They were somewhat surprised by how little progress they made the first day – only twenty miles – but by the second day, all that changed. They worked as a team, establishing the rhythm of the six horses, and made much better progress. On the morning of day three, Benjamin changed clothes, putting on his buckskins britches, weathered linen shirt, and a soiled, floppy felt hat for the remainder of the trip, saving his uniform for when he reported to Fort Mason for duty.
During the first two and a half weeks, they experienced no danger or major delays along the trail, in spite of having to ford several rivers.
After fording the first river, the Kentucky River, Molly noticed that water had seeped into the bed of the wagon. They pulled up on the west bank, and Benjamin reached in the toolbox and got a handful of tar. He slopped it over the leak, sealing the crack in the hickory board undercarriage. As the sun set on day twenty-one of their trip, they arrived at the border between Louisiana and Texas. They had made pretty good time.
After dawn the following morning, they crossed the Sabine River at Gains Ferry. The ferry was a wooden raft dragged to either side by men pulling along a rope that stretched from one bank to the other. When Benjamin and Molly drove their Conestoga off the ferry, they found themselves in Sabinetown, Texas, west of the Texas state line. As they plodded further into unknown territory, westward over the El Camino Real, it began to rain—not hard, but enough to expose a leak in the canvas cover. Benjamin reined the team to a halt and hopped down. He pulled a can of oil from the toolbox and rubbed the oil on the leaky spot in the canvas. That little maintenance job done, he climbed back onto the seat, and they continued on their way. It finally stopped raining around noon.
Only a few pioneers had dared to enter this forbidden empire that lay before them—and when they did, it was at their own risk. The road wound snake-like around flat and soggy swampland for a good two miles. Then it turned into a somewhat straight trail through the thick, tall piney woods of Deep East Texas. They saw no other travelers the fifty miles between Sabinetown and the village of Nacogdoches. As for houses, there were none visible beyond the limits of Sabinetown. They did, however, see a few peaceful Caddo and Coushatta Indians that curiously watched their wagon until it was out of sight.
It was late evening when they arrived in Nacogdoches. Tired and hungry, they stopped at the Old Stone Fort Inn. There they both took a much-needed bath and then sat down at a table to eat jerky and a few hardtacks while they rested up before taking off again.
Upon leaving Nacogdoches, the moon was full, and the sky was clear. With plenty of moonlight, they elected to travel through the night. The hours passed slowly, with an eerie quiet along that stretch of their journey—except for the clanging of the pots and pans hanging off the sides of the wagon. They saw no human presence anywhere as they held firm and continued pushing their way steadily forward all through the night and on until late the next evening.
Pulling up alongside a limestone outcropping on the west side of the Neches River, they climbed down and then walked around, collecting a few scattered sticks with which to build a fire to bake beans and cornbread for their supper. After a good night's sleep, they were on their way again at daybreak.
This strange, new country told them they were far away from their old Kentucky stomping grounds. These thoughts weighed heavily on their minds, as they realized that they would probably never see their orphanage friends again.
Right after Molly was born, their parents were caught in Civil War crossfire just on the outskirts of Richmond, Kentucky. It was August 30, 1862, and both of their parents died. After the smoke had cleared, a Confederate officer found Molly and Benjamin huddled in their partially burned house. He carried the kids to a Catholic church in Richmond. A nun, Sister Myra Kay, took the children in and inquired about their parents, but the officer didn't know anything other than that their deaths were the result of collateral damage during the Battle for Richmond. The identity of his father and mother would never be known.
Sister Myra Kay later passed the kids to a remote relative of hers in Huntington, Ohio. That woman eventually placed the two in an orphanage because she became too ill to properly care for them any longer. They were orphans no one wanted. They bounced around from pillar to post until they were old enough to make it on their own. Benjamin took care of his sister the entire time, never allowing them to be separated.
Near the end of the third week, it was a clear, starry night. Molly woke up, and as they rode in silence, she edged over toward her brother and said, "Benjamin, is something bothering the horses?"
"Yeah, it's been that way for the past hour, ever since we left Crockett."
"What is it?" she asked.
"Maybe it's nothing," he murmured doubtfully.
They both scanned the horizon but saw nothing. The half-moon was just beginning to shed some light on the road ahead. Off to the side, Benjamin saw a set of eyes. He felt for his Navy Colt .44 revolver. "I think Red caught the scent of something wild the way he shied. Could be we're being followed by a cougar."
They watched the eyes moving slowly toward the wagon. The team of six horses suddenly started rearing and gave high-pitched whinnies, alerting the brother and sister of impending danger. Benjamin cocked his .44; the eyes were now within ten yards of the terrified team. Benjamin aimed, pulled the trigger, and the horrible death scream of the cougar was the big cat's last. The horses tried to make a break for freedom, but Benjamin yelled and yanked the lines with all his strength. He popped his whip twice, just above the heads of the two lead horses, Red and Preacher—louder than ever before—and managed to get the horses back in line and calmed down.
"Molly, are you all right?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she replied.
"Uh, would you like a cougar rug for the floor, just as a remembrance of this night?" he said, smiling.
"No! Thanks anyway, I don't need a rug to remind me of this night!"
"Okay, I'll take your word for it," Benjamin said. As he cracked his whip, the horses whinnied and threw back their ears and then galloped forward. They were on their way again. With the danger gone, calm was restored, and they cautiously forged ahead into the darkness.
"Is this an indication as to what we can expect Texas to be like from here on?" Molly queried.
"Well, how am I supposed to know? Really though, I think this is just an isolated incident. Hope so anyway!" he said.
"Oh, excuse me, sir, I thought you were the wagon master for this trip and knew everything," she teased, as she reclined back and closed her tired eyes.
Over the next few days, they crossed a treeless, grass-covered prairie that dipped and rolled toward the Colorado River. There were twisted mesquite trees and patches of scrubby brush, dotted with thorny shrubs, as far as the eyes could see. Only grazing buffalo broke the monotony of the landscape. When they reached the river, they turned and headed on a more westerly course on a little-traveled route that lead to Fort Mason, some fifty miles away.
Molly, with her eyes closed, swayed gently to the motion of the wagon. Benjamin, as he held the reins loosely in one hand, said, "Uh, Molly."
She roused herself, opening her eyes. "What?"
Chapter Two"The horses are jerking around like crazy!" Benjamin shouted, as he rattled the reins, whistled, and pulled hard to bring the wagon to a halt. "Whoa, whoa!" Red began straining against her harness, but it had little effect.
They gave each other a quizzical look, as the wagon came to a standstill on its own. Benjamin tossed the reins aside, jumped down from the driver's box, and circled the wagon, looking.
"What happened, Ben?" his sister shouted, still seated.
"Don't rightly know," he said as he bent his six-foot-two frame down and peered under the wagon.
"Uh, oh, looks like—" His voice stopped abruptly.
"Looks like what?" Molly asked, as she climbed down and noticed that the grease-covered rear axle was partially on the ground. She frowned. "Doesn't look like we're going anywhere anytime soon, does it?"
Benjamin grimaced. "Yeah, well, at least we made it this far without wagon problems. I think you're right, though; this is the end of the line. Fort Mason isn't far; I'll go ahead and un-harness the team. We can ride Red double and lead the other five to the fort."
While Benjamin examined the wagon, Molly gazed off into the distance. She noticed a house and placed her hand above her eyes to block out the bright sun for a clearer view. A large, white, block shaped, stone house with twin chimneys stood majestically in the distance.
"Hey, Ben, there's a big house yonder. Let's hike up there and see if anyone can help us get our wagon up and running," she suggested.
"I see it, Molly. Big house all right. Looks a little out of place for these parts compared to everything else we've seen so far, doesn't it?" He squinted against the bright glare of the sun.
"Yeah, so let's go see if anybody's home. What do you think?" she said impatiently.
"Okay. We can't do anything standing around here; that's for sure."
As they started walking the quarter-mile toward the white rock house, a white-tailed deer bounded just past the turn of the road in front of them and crossed the overgrown grass with wagon ruts. Birds flitted ahead, regrouping with soft calls after Molly and Benjamin passed them by.
At the house, the front door was wide open, as were several windows. The house appeared neglected and deserted. A front window was shattered, and Molly suggested it was probably by a confused bird of some sort. Nevertheless, Benjamin approached the veranda. "Halllooo the house!" he shouted. Then he stepped up to the threshold and shouted again, his voice echoing through the interior.
"Nobody home," Molly surmised.
"Vacant all right," he confirmed.
Temporally forgetting the reason they were at the house to begin with, they decided to do a little exploring since the place looked interesting and since it was obvious that the house had not been occupied for a while.
"What do you say we have a look around? You're not scared, are you?"
"I'm with you," she said.
Just before Molly stepped across the threshold, she paused for a moment, turned to one side and placed a hand on the outside wall, slowly brushing her hand over its fortress-like white rock siding. "I just love this old white rock," she said.
They bravely crept in, noticing the coolness inside, which was quite a change from the hot and glaring outside. They stood reverently still on the flagstone-floor entrance for a moment and looked around as if they were entering the quietness of a church. Once inside, the dark interior seemed to fade away into half-light revealing massive cypress ceiling beams. From where they stood, they could see a room to their left behind a half-closed door. Molly inched her way over and pushed the door open. It was clearly the kitchen, complete with a long table with cedar benches on each side, and on the west wall was a large fireplace. Left of the fireplace was a pantry. Benjamin slowly opened the pantry the door, finding a Gandy oven and tripod, a roasting spit, a bellows, andirons, an ash scoop, and a sagebrush broom.
"Doesn't look like this house has been lived in for a while, does it, Ben?"
"Yeah, I think you have a point there, judging from all the dust on everything."
They walked to a room on the other end of the house. It was a bedroom and had a large fireplace flanked by two windows. On the north side of the bedroom was a ladder leading to a loft that could serve as a spare bedroom. A narrow army cot with rags pilled on it was visible in the dim light.
On the south side of the house was a wing add-on constructed of half-timber and half-rock, which must have been used as a second bedroom, as there was a two-tiered bunk bed complete with child's chamber pot under it on the floor. In one corner was a dusty oak washstand with a large water pitcher, embellished with paintings of wild bluebonnets, sitting in a matched bowl. A towel was draped over the washstand side rack. A wood-burning pot-belly stove stood square in the center of the room with its stovepipe running straight up through the ceiling and out. Beside the stove was a stack of stove-length mesquite, ready for use. There was a sofa under a window on one wall. A narrow staircase along the west wall led to the attic.
Molly walked over to the staircase and put her foot on the first step when she saw something. "Ben, look what I found. A little Indian papoose doll," she said, examining it.
"Put it down. It may belong to somebody."
"Somebody? Come on. Nobody lives here, Ben!"
"Hey, we'd better get out of here and tend to our team since there's nobody here to help us. Let's see what you and I can do to get our wagon fixed," Benjamin said, realizing that time was slipping away.
Just then, they heard approaching footsteps on the veranda.
Chapter ThreeBenjamin and Molly spun around toward the door just in time to see an old man entering. He held a shotgun by both hands, parallel to the floor, but off to one side.
Without thinking, Molly plopped the doll into a pocket instead of dropping it to the floor. Her face paled with fear. Benjamin's right hand dropped to his holster, his fingers relaxed.
For a long minute, there was silence.
"Are you looking for someone?" the old man said with a slight edge.
Molly found her voice. "Is this your house?"
"We were hoping to find someone here to help us get our Conestoga back on the road," she said.
"What's the matter with it?" he asked.
"It has a broken axle."
Benjamin guessed the man was in his sixties. He had yellow- stained teeth beneath the stylish moustache and was wearing dust- stained overhauls, a sweat-stained flannel shirt, and a brimmed hat covering his thinning gray hair.
He stared at them, lowering his shotgun slightly. "Broken axle, eh," he said, stroking his whiskered chin.
"Yes, sir. Would you happen to know where we could get another one?"
"Well, hate to tell you this, but I think you're pretty much out of luck. Nearest wagon place is on Sixth Street in Austin—Clark's Wagon and Blacksmith Shop."
"Damnation!" uttered Benjamin.
The old man measured the pair with his eyes and then gave a half-friendly smile. "Will Smith's the name. Who be you?" he said, extending a callused hand toward Benjamin, in greeting.
Benjamin grasped the old man's hand. "I'm Benjamin, and this is Molly. We just got in from Kentucky," he said as he placed an arm over his sister's shoulder.
Molly extended her hand. Smith clasped it and said, "Pleased to meet you, Mr. and Mrs.—"
"Oh, we're not married. She's my sister," Benjamin interrupted.
"Do you live near here, Mr. Smith?" Molly asked quickly.
"You can't see it from here, but my spread lies just beyond that rise there," he said as he pointed with a thumb over his shoulder. "That's quite a walk, too. I'm about give out. What do you say we drag up a chair and sit for a spell?"
Excerpted from Molly's White Rock House by Bobby Beddoe Copyright © 2012 by Bobby Beddoe. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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