No Resting Place: A Novel

No Resting Place: A Novel

by William Humphrey

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Overview

A Scottish-Cherokee boy accompanies his grandparents on the Trail of Tears in this “superb” novel by the New York Times–bestselling author of The Ordways (Time).
 
Twelve-year-old Amos Ferguson is a blond, blue-eyed boy of mixed Cherokee and Scottish heritage, the son of a physician and the grandson of a gentleman farmer. Despite wealth and education, however, the family has no recourse when a drifter forges a bill of sale to their plantation: Georgia state law forbids anyone with Native American blood from testifying in court.
 
Amos and his grandparents are relocated to a squalid internment camp and forced to join their tribe on a long and brutal march to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. Along the way, the doctor’s son tends to the sick as thousands perish from disease, starvation, and exhaustion. In the Republic of Texas, he bears witness to the doomed last stand of Chief Bowles and his band of Cherokee, who refuse to sacrifice the lands promised them by Sam Houston.
 
More than a century later, Amos’s great-great-grandson narrates the story of his ancestor’s harrowing journey and heroic survival, in “a novel every American should be required to read” that brings a shameful chapter of US history to life (Los Angeles Times). From the National Book Award–nominated author of Home from the Hill and Farther Off from Heaven, No Resting Place “is more than one boy's story; it is the story of a nation dispossessed and brought to its knees by the greed and power of another” (Library Journal).

This ebook features an illustrated biography of William Humphrey including rare photos form the author’s estate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504006323
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 02/17/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 250
Sales rank: 126,372
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

William Humphrey (1924–1997) was born in Clarksville, Texas. Neither of his parents went to school beyond the fifth grade, and during the height of the Great Depression his father hunted in the snake-infested swamplands of the Sulphur River to help feed the family. Humphrey left Clarksville at age thirteen and did not return for thirty-two years. By then he was the internationally acclaimed author of two extraordinary novels set in his hometown: Home from the Hill, a National Book Award finalist that became an MGM film starring Robert Mitchum, and its follow-up, The Ordways, which the New York Times called “exhilaratingly successful.” Eleven highly praised works of fiction and nonfiction followed, including Farther Off from Heaven, a memoir about Humphrey’s East Texas boyhood and his father’s tragic death in an automobile accident; The Spawning Run and My Moby Dick, two delightful accounts of the joys and travails of fly fishing; and No Resting Place, a novel about the forced removal of the Cherokee nation along the Trail of Tears.

A longtime professor of English and writing at Bard College and other schools, Humphrey was the recipient of awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters. 
William Humphrey (1924–1997) was born in Clarksville, Texas. Neither of his parents went to school beyond the fifth grade, and during the height of the Great Depression his father hunted in the snake-infested swamplands of the Sulphur River to help feed the family. Humphrey left Clarksville at age thirteen and did not return for thirty-two years. By then he was the internationally acclaimed author of two extraordinary novels set in his hometown: Home from the Hill, a National Book Award finalist that became an MGM film starring Robert Mitchum, and its follow-up, The Ordways, which the New York Times called “exhilaratingly successful.” Eleven highly praised works of fiction and nonfiction followed, including Farther Off from Heaven, a memoir about Humphrey’s East Texas boyhood and his father’s tragic death in an automobile accident; The Spawning Run and My Moby Dick, two delightful accounts of the joys and travails of fly fishing; and No Resting Place, a novel about the forced removal of the Cherokee nation along the Trail of Tears.

A longtime professor of English and writing at Bard College and other schools, Humphrey was the recipient of awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters. 

Read an Excerpt

No Resting Place

A Novel


By William Humphrey

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1989 William Humphrey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-0632-3


CHAPTER 1

Part One


"Victory is certain! Trust in God and fear not! And remember the Alamo! Remember the Alamo!"

The youngster playing the part of Sam Houston was going through the change of voice. Even in so short a speech his broke repeatedly. To the spectators this sounded like uncontrollable fervor and, rather than impairing the illusion, made that familiar exhortation to the troops all the more rousing. They had learned their Texas history in grammar school, had taken part as eighth-graders themselves in the San Jacinto Day pageant, had seen their sons and grandsons stage it like this annually, and had come insensibly to equate the state's childhood with their own and to think of its founders, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, as boys—as, indeed, they were: overgrown boys, bad boys, runaway boys, "G.T.T."—"Gone to Texas"—often just one step ahead of the law. Like the painted lead soldiers we played with as children, these diminutive figures in their small numbers fighting their miniature, make-believe battle seemed the linear equivalent of time long past. Their small size lent perspective into which those distant events, those early people had receded. History is heavily edited for schoolchildren and, for most of us, commencement puts an end to study. Thus we go through life with notions of our past which, for depth, complexity, subtlety of shading, rank with comic books. Texas history particularly lends itself to this: it is so farfetched that only a child could believe it. About to be reenacted now was the most improbable of the world's decisive battles. It had been the kid with nothing but his slingshot and God on his side against the giant Philistine. Nothing was ever more uncertain than victory on that twenty-first day of April, 1836. And yet it had been won so easily it seemed now like child's play.

"Remember the Alamo!" the Texans shouted, and one among them completed the battle cry, known to every member of the audience so early in life it might have been an ingredient of their mothers' milk: "Remember Goliad!"

They were mustered on the fifty-yard line of the junior high school playing field, in front of the grandstand. No two of them were costumed alike. Among them were buckskin breeches, high boots, woolen vests, coonskin caps, battered old felt hats too big for them, belonging to their fathers. Galluses held up their breeches, belts their bowie knives. Some had trouble keeping false mustaches in place. They brandished a variety of muskets and pistols. They puffed on corncob pipes, spat manfully.

Meanwhile, the uniformed Mexicans, secure in their superior numbers, smug from their recent victories and scorning to believe that their upstart foe would have the audacity to disturb them, were taking their siesta in the western end zone. They lay sprawled on the ground, slumped against the goalpost, seated with their backs supporting each other like bookends without books. They were the Texas stereotype of Mexican sloth, Mexican mañana. With such an image as this of our enemy, no wonder we grew up thinking that a handful of Texas boys had won us our independence! The boys' hair was longer now—a touch of authenticity that had been lacking in their grandfathers' time; otherwise it was all just as it had been when I took part in it. 1936, that was: the year of Texas's centennial of independence, and that San Jacinto Day pageant was the town's first. I was an eighth-grader then. Now on this, my first visit home since moving away, upon the death of my father, shortly after that, I found people who still remembered me for my part in that first pageant.

Sam Houston flourished his silvered wooden saber and spurred his Shetland pony. The fife and drum corps struck up that most unmartial of marching songs—the only tune the musicians that earlier day had known how to play together: "Won't you come to the bower I have shaded for you?" The Texas artillery, the two little mortars known as the Twin Sisters, brought up the rear as the Texans went on the attack.

The Alamo and Goliad were recent memories on that twenty-first of April, 1836, and going into battle with them, while meant as an incitement to vengeance, would have made it impossible not to fear. For although it would not be until years afterward that some orator would say, "Thermopylae had its messenger of defeat—the Alamo had none," it was understood by every member of that ragtag-and-bobtail little band of Texas volunteers at San Jacinto that should they lose the battle their fate at the hands of the heartless Mexican tyrant Santa Anna would be that of the 190 defenders of the Alamo, the 330 who had surrendered at Goliad: death to a man. Outnumbered, inexperienced, ill-equipped, they were also far from united in trust behind their commander—later authors of school textbooks to the contrary notwithstanding. This they never taught us in school, but many of the soldiers had gone home in disgust, the remainder had nearly mutinied against Houston's long Fabian retreat from the enemy, and in their ranks had rearisen all the doubts, all the innuendoes about him. He had proved himself brave in battle, but that was long ago; more recently he had fled from wagging tongues, unwilling or unable to defend his name against slander so gross it would have brought another man to the field of honor. He had resigned his governorship of Tennessee in disgrace, had renounced his American citizenship, and had gone off to the wilderness to sulk—to lead, some said, a life of squalor and debauchery. Which of his two violently contradictory sides to believe in? Was he the great man he had once seemed to be, or was he, as was whispered after the fiasco of his marriage, no man at all? Which was he, the friend and protégé of the President of the United States, once clearly destined for that highest of offices himself, or was he that riverboat gambler and drunken tavern brawler, ashamed of his comedown in the world and traveling under an assumed name? Man of vision and breadth of spirit, champion of the oppressed, or a scheming, ambitious, unscrupulous would-be dictator of a country of outcasts, fugitives and adventurers like himself? Most basic question of all: was he a white man or was he a red savage? On that he himself seemed undecided. Half hero, half ham: that he certainly was, and a boy with an immature voice seemed perfectly cast to play him, an army of a dozen adolescents seemed perfectly to represent the following that such a discredited man would be able to recruit for the foolhardy campaign now coming to its issue.

The field artillery opened fire with satisfactory puffs of smoke and on this signal the infantry fell with vengeful glee upon their drowsy foe. From out of the grove of pecan trees bordering the playing field on the east, the Texas cavalry—seven horsemen strong today, originally just over fifty—came galloping to the fray. In that first, that centennial-year San Jacinto Day pageant, I was to have played the commander of the cavalry. However, I never got to—when the time came I no longer wanted to.

The Mexicans were routed, and comical in their flight, especially one caught with his pants down and trying to heist them as he fled, and another, a cowardly officer trying to disguise his rank and responsibility by pulling on a private's uniform over his own gaudy one with its absurdly broad epaulets. All over the field they were falling in exaggerated poses of well-deserved death. Cries of "Me no Alamo! Me no Goliad!" came from those who, on their knees and with supplicating hands, pleaded with their captors to spare their worthless lives.

Wounded in the leg, General Sam Houston was helped from his horse and propped against a goalpost. From there, oblivious to his pain, he directed the battle to its conclusion. As on that original twenty-first of April, it was all over in little more than a quarter of an hour. The Texans' losses were negligible, their victory decisive. The world had a new nation, wrested from tyranny, and it was a nonesuch: big, brash and boisterous, made of men each worth two of all lesser breeds. The ease with which its birth had been accomplished would fill it with lasting self-wonder—would be the origin of its tiresome self-assertiveness. To their successors its founders would seem men ten feet tall, even when impersonated by boys half that size.

The prisoners were rounded up and marched triumphantly to the post of command. The last straggler was flushed from hiding and brought in at gunpoint. Seeing him, the other prisoners all fell on their knees, removed their hats and exclaimed in awe, "El Presidente!" His shirt was torn open and, lo, there was that officer in disguise, none other than the loathsome Santa Anna himself, betrayed by his own imperiousness and by the sheepish simplicity of his subjects. As it did annually, the crowd roared with derision and delight.

That was the part I had finally taken in my hometown's first San Jacinto Day pageant: the part of Santa Anna, the archvillain of my state. The boy who had drawn it by lot positively refused to play it, and the teachers could not force him against his will to play so odious a part. All were grateful to me for solving the problem, and commended my patriotism and my self-sacrifice, when I volunteered for it. My teachers mistook my motive. A piece of intelligence about that old battle had just recently reached me. The way I felt now, I would have reversed its outcome if I could!

"Hang the rascal!" the Texans clamored, and one of them threw a rope with a noose over the goalpost arm. But canny old Sam Houston quieted them. He knew that Santa Anna was worth nothing to them dead. Alive, he would be hostage for the freedom they had just won for themselves.

The dead Mexicans all came to life and dusted themselves off and both armies marched to center field to accept the applause of the crowd. Then all together stood and, to the tune of "I've been working on the railroad," sang that odd, disquieting, oppressive, even vaguely menacing song that nine out of ten Texans think is their state anthem but is not:

The eyes of Texas are upon you
All the livelong day.
The eyes of Texas are upon you—
You cannot get away.

Do not think you can escape them,
From night till early in the morn':
The eyes of Texas are upon you
Till Gabriel blows his horn.


In my native state patriotism flourishes as does the prickly pear: evergreen and everywhere, however poor the soil, and just as thorny. The cactus may be made edible for the Texas cattle by singeing it with a flamethrower, but not even one of those things could smooth a Texan when, rubbed the wrong way, his patriotism bristles.

Born a Texan, one remains a Texan, no matter where life takes one; however, it is not necessary to be born there to be one. Texans may, like cuckoo birds, hatch in strange nests, then when fledged find their way to their own kind. Texas is not a state but a state of mind, and Texans existed before Texas did. They came to it at first, and they have come to it ever since, like Jews to the Promised Land. As Sam Houston said of himself, he was a Texan as soon as he had crossed Red River.

It was during that centennial year of 1936 that the chronic Texas patriotism turned acute and reached fever pitch. Indeed, one year was not time enough for it to run its course, be contained and subside. Both Dallas's Centennial Exposition and Fort Worth's rival Frontier Days were held over through 1937 by popular demand. I was taken with my class to both. We were reminded that ours was the only one of the states that had been an independent country all its own, and that before we were defeated southerners we had been victorious Texans.

For us schoolchildren that year it was hard to believe that Texas had begun in 1836; to us it seemed more as though it had stopped then, for the study of that annus mirabilis all but preempted the curriculum and turned back the clock. With school out, on Saturdays, in vacant lots all over town, the Battle of the Alamo was refought weekly, and the following day, in Sunday school, there was a deliberate confounding of that exodus led by Moses of Egypt with the one of Moses Austin, and of Sam Houston at San Jacinto with Joshua at Jericho. In every home, whatnot shelves accumulated commemorative plates and miniature plaster busts of Texas revolutionary heroes. The winds of bombast, seldom still, blew over the land as incessantly as the dust storms.

To this epidemic of patriotism my father was immune and from all the hoopla he stood aloof, Texan born and bred though he was, with roots reaching back to the state's, or rather the republic's, beginnings. This was not a newfound streak of contrariness in him; Father always stood aloof from anything civic-minded, public-spirited, communal. He was an outsider—indeed, it is not too much to say that he was an outlaw. Texas, as we were reminded everywhere we looked that year, had lived under six flags; grandson of a Confederate veteran, and thoroughly unreconstructed, my ornery father would have sworn allegiance to any of those six flags indifferently, not caring what its regulations were, because he interposed the right to abide only by those that did not inconvenience him. As most regulations did inconvenience my father, he was what has since come to be known as an internal emigré, living in a country all his own, where he was a law unto himself. Which may be another way of saying that he was your true Texan, your Ur-Texan, a throwback to those rambunctious firstcomers whom we schoolchildren that year were studying about—in much expurgated accounts.

As part of the celebrations, our town, like most others throughout the state, planned its first San Jacinto Day pageant. Soldiers for the two sides would be levied from the boys of the junior high school. Our mothers would tailor and sew our uniforms, if we were to be Mexicans, or more motley costumes for us Texas irregulars.

Without a trace of real interest in my answer, my father asked me which I was going to be, a Texan or a Mexican.

As none of us boys wanted to be a Mexican, yet some of us—indeed, most of us, in order to reflect the original odds—had to be, we had drawn lots. I had been the second luckiest in the draw, after only the Sam Houston himself. I was not only to be one of the vastly outnumbered Texans, I was to be one of the two heroes of the battle, the man with the most resonant name in the annals of the state, none other than Mirabeau (My-ra-bo in the Texan pronunciation) Buonaparte Lamar. A lowly private only the day before the battle, Lamar had so distinguished himself in that day's inconclusive skirmish with the enemy that Houston elevated him on the spot to the rank of colonel and put him in command of the cavalry, the first rise in that meteoric career which in just three more years would make him the second President of the Republic, succeeding Houston himself.

"That sorry rascal!" my father exploded. "Like hell you are!"

It was not the blasphemy against one of our state's great men that made this so astonishing to me. What was astonishing was that my father should have an opinion of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, that he had ever even heard of him, beyond, perhaps, knowing that the county adjoining ours to the west was named after him. My father's knowledge of history was that of a man taken out of school after only four grades and put to work on the family farm. When I say "history" I mean Texas history, for that was the kind we were taught in school—two solid years of it, to one year, later on, for the remainder of the union; but we did not begin the study of it until the fifth grade, the level my father never reached. What he knew of history he had picked up from me as I brought it home piecemeal from school, and in that he had shown no more than a fatherly interest. In fact, of all my subjects history was the one that interested him the least. Not from me had he gotten his unaccountable prejudice against Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar.

"No son of mine is going to play-act that devil!"

And thereupon my father, who lacked book learning but who had history in his blood, told me of an episode from out of the earliest years of our state not known to my teachers, and which if they had known, they would have found unsuitable, especially in that glorious centennial year, for transmission to us schoolchildren.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from No Resting Place by William Humphrey. Copyright © 1989 William Humphrey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Resting Place: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, the late William Humphrey, and Open Road Media. Thank you, for sharing your work with me. Originally published in 1989. Thank you, Open Road, for bringing this back to life. This deeply researched novel based on the inclusion of 12 year old Amos Ferguson in the Trail of Tears as narrated by his great-great-grandson, Amos Smith IV, over a hundred years later is astonishing. We travel the trail with a 12 - 15 year old Amos Ferguson and the (non-Cherokee) Reverend Mackenzie who travelled with them, as the months pass and their numbers dwindle to almost half in the wake of cholera, typhus, whooping cough, and smallpox, and plague, through the death of the only doctor and the guiding light of 0f Reverend Mackenzie, his lady wife, we watch these strong hearted people advance in baby steps to meet their fate in Indian Territory. The Ferguson's join other family in Texas, across the Red River, only to have to make the pilgrimage back to Oklahoma 20 years later after betrayal by the Republic of Texas. This is an excellent and informative read. All history buffs and Texans should read it! pub date Feb 17, 2015