The last thing Jason Fury wants is to lead this wagon train west to California. Hell, he just wants to head back east, where a smart young man like himself has a real shot at a better life. But halfway across Oklahoma the wagon train is attacked by bloodthirsty Commanche, and Jedediah Fury¯the leader of the settlers, and Jason's father¯is counted among the dead. Before he knows it, Jason's leading the wagons into Arizona Territory, where the squabbling settlers decide to stop for good and start a town they'll name Fury in honor of Jedediah. It's going to be a hardscrabble life, what with the ruthless Apaches always on the attack and the harsh country they've chosen. Jason knows he can't just leave these defenseless pioneers to be slaughtered--among them a certain young lady he's taken a real shine to. . .
A Town Called Fury
One man. One town. One destiny.
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Kansas City, Missouri, 1865
Jedediah Fury put down his paintbrush and bucket of whitewash, struck a match on the sole of his dusty boot, then set it to his pipe. Puffing in the sweet smoke, he sat down on a bale of straw and looked out over his future; more like, what his future had been reduced to.
He saw a house in town, small compared to the one he'd left behind back East, but still neat and tidy; three good saddle geldings, enclosed by the corral fence he'd just finished whitewashing half of; a milk cow in the tiny barn that had come with the place; a handful of clucking, pecking hens; a few newly purchased stoats, presently rooting and quarreling in their pen; and his old short-bed Conestoga wagon, the one that had made so many trips from the East Coast to the Western Shore and back again.
He really ought to figure out just how many miles he'd put under those wheels, he thought.
Or maybe not. He wasn't exactly sure he wanted to know how much time — how much blood, sweat, tears, and effort — he'd put into guiding pilgrims into the wilderness over the past twenty years. Well, not much the last few. Of course, people had wanted to go west, be shown the way, but he'd been more than a little pre-occupied with the War. He'd given it his heart and his soul, not to mention two sons and a wife.
His only remaining boy, Jason, had almost caught up with him on the other side of the fence. Jason made the last few strokes with the paintbrush and then carefully opened the gate and let himself out, placing his brush and paint bucket alongside his father's. He didn't join his father, however. He went to the pump and began to wash his hands.
"Nice job, son," Jedediah said around his pipe.
"Yeah," Jason replied without looking up. "Looks good." He paused and took a long look down the fence. "Your side, too, Pa," he added, a bit grudgingly.
Jedediah chuckled softly. Everything was grudging with that boy. Although he reminded himself that Jason wasn't a boy any longer. Twenty wasn't a boy, was it? No, at twenty, Jedediah himself had been trapping beaver and wolf in the Colorado Territory with Wash Keough, fighting off grizzlies and the frigid weather and the temptation to take a squaw to wife. He had managed to win out over all of them.
Jedediah sighed. No, twenty was no boy.
"Jason, after you finish up there, could you hike over to the mercantile and pick up a few pounds of flour for your sister?" He relit his pipe, which had gone out.
Finally, Jason twisted his head around. He'd just splashed his face with water, and it was dripping. Jason's mother, Jane, had always said that Jeremy had all the enthusiasm of the three, Jonathon had all the sweetness, and Jason had the good looks that would lead him either to prison or the U.S. Senate.
She'd been right, Jedediah figured. Jeremy, their eldest, had been so damned eager to please his senior officer that he'd led his squadron on a suicide mission into the swamps of Georgia and had died right along with the rest of them, probably to the shrieks and cackles of Rebel yells. Jedediah figured that if Jason had been in his older brother's position, he would have told his commanding officer to take a long walk off a short pier.
As for his youngest, Jonathon, well, the boy had been too kindhearted for his own good, God bless him. One afternoon, he'd invited a party of travelers to come in for some of his Ma's good cooking. Which was nothing that he hadn't seen his pa do countless times before.
But what Jonathon didn't know that day was that the very fellows he'd invited into the parlor were the same four that had, not three hours before, held up a bank down in Maryland and shot two men. They killed the boy and his mother before leaving the house. Little Jenny survived, but only because she had the sense to run and hide out back, in the woods.
"Flour? What for?"
Jedediah was jerked back into the present. "Your sister's making dinner."
A look of long-suffering martyrdom spread over the boy's face. "Aw, Pa! Why'd you want to go and let her cook again? Last time —"
Jedediah cut his son off with a wave of his hand. "We all have our unfortunate accidents, Jason. Don't go mentioning it in front of Jenny."
"It hurts her feelings," Jedediah said, while throwing one of his you-know-better-than-to-ask-that looks.
It was wasted, though. Jason wasn't paying him any mind. His eyes were focused up toward the street, instead.
Jedediah followed his son's gaze to a small contingent of people marching up the graveled driveway. Could this mean a new trip to the wild country? He stood up and walked forward.
"Afternoon, folks!" he announced, in a voice that he hoped was authoritative, yet benign. "The Good Father" was the face he liked people to see, particularly people he was going to have to ferry across the wilderness.
"Don't get started yet," he heard Jason softly say behind him. "They might only be trying to get us to join the Baptist church."
And Jedediah thought, No, by God, twenty isn't yet a man, not when it's that flip and sarcastic....
The tall man at the front of the group came right up to him and stuck out his hand, taking Jedediah's and pumping it vigorously. "Mr. Fury, sir?" When Jedediah nodded in the affirmative, the man continued. "I'm the Reverend Milcher, Louis Milcher, that is, and this is my wife, Lavinia." The small, tired-looking woman next to Milcher curtsied timidly.
"Reverend," replied Jedediah with a nod. "Ma'am. Pleased to make your acquaintance." Jason had been right after all: They were trolling for new congregational members. Even though he was pretty certain he knew what was coming, he asked, "What can I do for you folks?"
"I have been voted spokesman for our group, Mr. Fury," Milcher went on. "We are only eight wagons and a small gather of livestock, but I am certain that we can attract a few more fellow pilgrims when it's known that we have procured the great Jedediah Fury as our wagon master!"
Surprised yet not surprised, Jedediah scratched at his chin. "Where you folks planning on ending up?" By the looks of them, they'd be lucky to make it across the Missouri River into Kansas.
"Why, California, sir!" said Milcher, as if everybody in the world could have only one possible destination.
"Whereabouts in California?"
"I plan to go to southern California," confided Milcher. "I have already purchased land there, in a place outside the town of Los Angeles. Have you heard of it?"
Jedediah had heard of it lots of times and been there a few, and frankly, he couldn't see why anybody outside of a rattler or a family of scorpions would want to live there.
But he asked, "Why don't you folks step on into the house?" and gestured toward the back porch. Over his shoulder, he called, "You go run that errand for your sister, Jason."
He heard Jason snort, but refrained from adding a word of castigation when the boy came immediately into sight, walking up the drive toward the street.
A few of the ladies actually gasped.
"Oh, my!" commented Mrs. Milcher, one hand to her rapidly coloring cheek. "What a handsome young man!"
"Thank you," said Jedediah as he led the party up the back steps, through the enclosed porch, and into the house. Since the age of fifteen, Jason had always had the same effect on females, whether he paid them any mind or not.
The Reverend Mr. Milcher had best reel his wife in — and fast — or this trip wouldn't be smooth or pleasant.
Jedediah swung open the door that led to the back hall and ushered the party inside, saying, "I reckon he's a good enough boy."
Try though he might, though, he couldn't keep some pride from seeping into his voice.
Jason walked the four blocks down into the beginning of the business district, and headed for the nearest dry-goods store. He wasn't any too fond of Missouri. Or Kansas City, for that matter. If he'd had his druthers, he'd have stayed back East and gone to college, the way his folks had always promised him he would.
But the War hadn't been their fault, after all — although he would have liked very much to blame them, or, at least, his father — and there was no money. Even the sale of their old family property had barely paid off their debts. He supposed he should be grateful that his father had an established trade of sorts to fall back on.
But Jason wasn't very grateful. All he could think of was those ivied halls that he'd never see, and the only thing he could feel was cheated and envious and hurt.
As he made his way along the street, he heard someone shout from down an alley, at his left. He stopped and looked, and there in the shadows, saw a fistfight in progress. One of the fellows in it was quite a bit smaller, and was suffering the brunt of it.
Never one to just mind his own business — as his father was fond of reminding him — Jason stepped into the alley's mouth and called to the punisher, "Hey, there, you! Let him go!" The bigger fellow, one hand on the smaller's collar, turned his head toward Jason. And smiled.
It was a very unwholesome smile.
"Get lost," he snarled, and slugged the smaller boy again. Neither of them was past twenty-one. The boy getting the worst of it seemed quite a bit younger.
The smaller boy lost consciousness and slipped to the ground. Still smiling, the victor turned to face Jason. "And just what business is it of yours, Mr. Fancy Pants?"
Don't let him tick you off, Jason told himself, but he felt himself pulling up and standing taller, all his muscles tensed and braced for the onslaught.
"Get out," Jason said. The boy on the ground was still breathing, at least. And conscious again. Jason added, "Go on home."
The bully's head — now outfitted with a scowl — twisted to the side, and he said, "Just who the hell do you think you are, anyhow?"
"I'm someone who doesn't like to see murder committed for no reason but sport."
The bully appeared taken aback and said nothing for a moment, giving Jason the time to notice the initials M.M. embroidered on one point of his collar, and that he also wore not one gun, which Jason had seen from the first, but two.
"Go on," Jason said in a voice he hoped was calm and self-assured. "Don't be stupid."
But it appeared that the fellow wasn't falling for it. Or perhaps, didn't notice. He shouted, "Stupid? Why, I'll —" as he suddenly ran toward Jason.
Jason sidestepped him at the last moment, and the bully's momentum took him out into the street and right into a mud puddle, which he promptly slipped and fell into. While he was cursing and picking himself up, Jason went to his victim and helped him to his feet.
The smaller boy stuttered, "Th-thank you. Be careful. That's Matt MacDonald!" He said it, Jason thought, like everybody should know that name and be afraid at its mention.
Well, he wasn't.
And the bully was bearing down on him again, although he was slightly impeded by the mud soaking his pants and shirt, and the fact that he'd stepped into a bucket and it was stuck on one foot. He'd also lost one gun.
His first wild swing caught Jason square in the chest and sent him tumbling backward, into a stack of crates. But Jason rolled and came up on his feet fast, confusing the bully — who was undoubtedly accustomed to weaker and smaller opponents — and clipped him in the side of the head. The clip was followed by a sharp uppercut that laid the bully out flat — with his foot still stuck in that bucket.
"Gosh," muttered the smaller boy, who had fled behind the rain barrel.
Jason successfully fought the urge to laugh. "Duck your head in that water," Jason said to him. "You've got blood on your face. You don't want to scare your folks."
The boy obeyed, and when he and Jason walked out of the alley, leaving a cowed Matt MacDonald behind, Jason said, "What's your name, kid?"
The boy scrubbed water and blood from his face with a sleeve. "Milcher. Thomas Milcher. And I'm not a kid," he added, rather proudly. "I'm fifteen."
Jason smiled. "Sorry. Your papa a reverend?"
Thomas's hands automatically balled into defensive fists. "Yeah, what about it?" "Stick close, then. I've gotta pick up something, then I'm going home. Your folks are there." He headed up the street again in search of a dry-goods store with young Thomas Milcher, a new acolyte, tagging at his heels.
Jedediah was satisfied with the group clustered about his big dining room table and packed into the corners of the room. Seven couples in all, they were a good start on a wagon train. The Reverend Milcher had done most of the talking, but Jedediah had been able to pick up a few things about the others.
Hamish MacDonald was looking to become a rancher. At least he had announced, at least three times, that he had a dozen cows, with calves at their sides, and a prime Hereford bullock and four nice Morgan mares, and was looking for land: He didn't care where, so long as there was good grazing. MacDonald, a widower, also had a boy, twenty, and a girl, sixteen.
Young Randall Nordstrom had no children, but his wife, Miranda, was a seamstress, and he had a wagonload of foodstuffs and yard goods and geegaws. They were planning on opening a store, with Miranda doing sewing and giving music lessons on the side.
There were two Morton families. Well, three. Ezekial and his wife, Eliza, had two grown daughters who were also traveling with them. Electa was single and twenty-seven. Europa was thirty, and was now Mrs. Milton Griggs — and Milton was a blacksmith and a wheelwright. They used up two wagons between them.
The other part of the Morton family was elderly Zachary Morton, a gunsmith, and his wife, Suzannah. They had no children, at least with them, and Jedediah had at first thought that they were too old to make the trip. However, the Reverend Milcher had managed to convince him otherwise. And Zachary looked fit for his age. He sat at the far end of the table, glowering from beneath his gray and beetling brows while he fiddled with his pipe.
Next came Salmon Kendall and his wife, Cordelia. They hailed from Massachusetts, and were farmers. While Salmon had no special skills or merchandise upon which the train could count, he looked to have a strong back and a solid purpose. They had two children: Salmon Jr., called Sammy, twelve, and Peony, called for some inexplicable reason Piny, aged ten.
The Milchers themselves, he supposed, offered spiritual aid. The reverend and his wife, Lavinia, had seven kids ranging from five to fifteen. The wife seemed to have a bit of a harpy's tongue, but he supposed all those children would keep her busy. At least, he hoped so.
Altogether, the five families (counting all the Mortons as one) accounted for eight long- and short-bed Conestoga wagons; nine saddle horses and four breeding stock; a couple dozen cattle, assorted hogs, goats, two dogs, and a cat named Chuckles, which belonged to the Milchers.
It was a fine start.
"Well?" said the Reverend Milcher.
"Six or eight additional wagons, anyway," replied Jedediah thoughtfully. He really wanted at least twenty in the group. To take fewer could be foolhardy. They had plenty of hostile territory to traverse.
Eliza Morton looked crestfallen. "Where on earth can we find as many as we already are, Ezekial?" Ezekial put an arm around his wife, comforting her. "I shouldn't think it will be too difficult, Eliza," he muttered. "After all, ain't Kansas City the great jumpin'-off place, darlin'?"
Over the next few weeks, the wagon train grew and grew. Jedediah found a group of six wagons to join up, and the Reverend Milcher found two, then five, then seven. Milcher's were mostly farmers, but within the ranks of Jedediah's recruits were some folks he considered quite useful.
Michael Morelli was a country doctor. Well, not the go-to-school kind, but he was close enough. He, his wife Olympia, and their young son Constantine and younger daughter Helen would journey complete with a traveling surgery — something that Jedediah knew, from hard experience, would come in handy.
In addition, he picked up Saul and Rachael Cohen, and their boys David, Jacob, and Abraham. The Cohens were Jews and he expected some trouble from the Reverend Milcher along the line, but he figured he'd put up with it. The Cohens planned to open a store once they got to California, and brought two wagons to the mix, one of which would be filled to the brim with stock for their new mercantile.
True, the Nordstroms were well stocked, too, but most of their stuff was yard goods and notions and the like, while the Cohens carried hardware and hand tools. If forced to choose, Jedediah would have rather had the Cohens along any day of the week.
The rest of his recruits were farmers or potential ranchers, although Seth Wheeler had done some smithing in his time, or so he said.
The best he could say for Milcher's new folks was that one of the women had been a nurse during the War.
But still, he was glad for the bodies and the wagons. He thought they had enough, now.
Excerpted from "A Town Called Fury"
Copyright © 2011 William W. Johnstone.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
BOOK ONE - A Town Called Fury,
BOOK TWO - Hard Country,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jedediah Fury is a legend on the wagon trail. He has led hundreds of travelers seeking a new life in the western frontier to their destination and in A Town Called Fury, he is called upon to the do the same again. Jedediah is hired by Rev. Milcher to guide his wagon train from Kansas City, Missouri to southern California where they mean to set up a town outside of Los Angeles. Joining him are his children, Jason, 20, and Jenny, 15. But like so much in the West, these journeys are never easy. Bigotry within the camp¿ stemming from the Reverend¿causes early trouble and when they reach Indian Territory, the wagon train is raided by the Comanche; many die including Jedidiah Fury and livestock is stolen as are three of the women¿Jenny Fury amongst them.Jason Fury takes the reigns of the wagon train and shows great leadership and courage in getting the pilgrims to their destination, despite all that has happened, but it¿s not easy. After the attack which stole his father from him, Jason has to battle torrential rains which flood creeks, broken axels and wheels, Indians, and a conspiring father/son team who would rather see themselves as leaders of the wagon trail. Not to mention wrestling with his own heart and the growing love he has for one girl¿should he leave her and go back East to attend college like he planned, or stay out West and begin a family?Overall, A Town Called Fury is fast-paced, highly satisfying, and is a lot like the ¿Oregon Trail¿ computer game come to life. Looking forward to the rest in the series.
Jedediah Fury is a legend on the wagon trail. He has led hundreds of travelers seeking a new life in the western frontier to their destination and in A Town Called Fury, he is called upon to the do the same again. Jedediah is hired by Rev. Milcher to guide his wagon train from Kansas City, Missouri to southern California where they mean to set up a town outside of Los Angeles. Joining him are his children, Jason, 20, and Jenny, 15. But like so much in the West, these journeys are never easy. Bigotry within the camp- stemming from the Reverend-causes early trouble and when they reach Indian Territory, the wagon train is raided by the Comanche; many die including Jedidiah Fury and livestock is stolen as are three of the women-Jenny Fury amongst them. Jason Fury takes the reigns of the wagon train and shows great leadership and courage in getting the pilgrims to their destination, despite all that has happened, but it's not easy. After the attack which stole his father from him, Jason has to battle torrential rains which flood creeks, broken axels and wheels, Indians, and a conspiring father/son team who would rather see themselves as leaders of the wagon trail. Not to mention wrestling with his own heart and the growing love he has for one girl-should he leave her and go back East to attend college like he planned, or stay out West and begin a family? Overall, A Town Called Fury is fast-paced, highly satisfying, and is a lot like the "Oregon Trail" computer game come to life. Looking forward to the rest in the series.
This book is only one of many westerns that (William W. Johnstone, J.A. Johnstone) have written that I have read. I enjoyed this book as I have all the others I have read and am collecting. I guess you could say it took me to a time when the west was being settled.