The Indian Wars: 5 Great Books About General George Crook

Since you all know I love history and writing historical fiction, I thought I’d share some lists of my favorite books by topic that I used when writing THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES. I hope research geeks will use these posts as a good place to start on the subjects I will feature and that readers of my fiction who have had their appetites whetted for the time period will enjoy the lists as well. Yes, I will put my own books on the lists — 😉

Happy reading and make sure to add your favorites on the subject in the comments below!

GENERAL GEORGE CROOK AUTOBIOGRAPHY

GENERAL CROOK AND THE WESTERN FRONTIER

ON THE BORDER WITH CROOK

WOLVES FOR BLUE SOLDIERS

THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD

Lake George: The Queen of American Lakes

“Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin… finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves… down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.”
— Thomas Jefferson, May 31, 1791

THOMAS JEFFERSON CURES HIS MIGRAINES WITH A TRIP TO LAKE GEORGE

HOW LAKE GEORGE INFLUENCED GEORGIA O’KEEFFE

THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL: LAKE GEORGE

LOVE AFFAIR WITH LAKE GEORGE

THE PERFECT VACATION

CGW445348

Lake George by John Casilear

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Fiction: Seeing With New Eyes

“This is my home. I’m happy here,” William said, but he needed a drink to wash down his words. He tried to glare at Buck, but felt unsteady and it hurt his head. William spotted his drawings in Buck’s hand. “I-I’m gonna send some drawings east when they’re finished—start working harder at that—so me and Ginny can live nicer …”

Buck looked at the papers. “Not these, I hope. They’re crap.”

William grabbed them and sifted through them. He scratched his head. “I’m out of practice.” William wiped his nose. “I’d give anything for a smoke.”

“I don’t smoke any longer,” Buck said.

“Yes, I’d forgotten—you’re God’s little friend now.”

“I’d like it if we could be friends.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” William said.

Buck turned to go. He shoved his hands in his pockets and felt a dollar coin he hadn’t realized he had. Maybe he could offer someone at the stable the dollar as a deposit for a ride back to the fort. His father would pay the balance. Buck took a step, then turned to William. “Listen, Willy, I have a dollar. Will you draw me my portrait?” he blundered. “I have no gift for Thankful’s wedding—it’s only a few days away.”

William laughed. “Why would she want a picture of you?”

“I don’t know, but it’s my only idea … will you?”

William rummaged around for a piece of paper and Buck wondered if he should just give him the dollar instead of putting William through any trouble, but Fred was making the most of it with Ginny on the other side of the quilt. Buck detected a small excitement from William though he did his best to hide it.

Without looking up once, William produced a quick, but accurate likeness of Buck—the old Buck—handsome, clean-edged and hard-eyed. He handed it to Buck. “Shit, William. How’d you do that?” The slight smirk, the confident eyes, everything was correct—and full of sneering superiority. “God forgive me. I’m just as bad as you make me out to be, William. I’m even worse. What a piece of shit I am and you’ve every right to hate me for all I’ve done to you. You never deserved any of it! You trusted me and you were kind,” Buck said. “It hurts me to see you here.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Buck. You’re not responsible for me.”

Buck gave William back the drawing. “I want you to draw me again. Not from memory. I need you to draw me as I am now—ugly and wretched.”

“No.” William said. Old images were easy, well-practiced in his mind, but the present remained unfocused through his bleary eyes.

“You must! And I promise never to bother you again.”

William scratched his jaw and grabbed the paper back. “So you want to see things for real.”  He turned the paper over and picked up his pencil.

This time William had to look at Buck—could not rely on anything from before to capture the rough skin and the wrinkled mass above Buck’s eye. Buck insisted that he remove his bandages. His misshapen cheekbone torn by the bullet William deserved and the botched cut at his throat remained scarlet and unhealed. William considered another drink, but met Buck’s gaze and it unnerved him. He dropped his pencil and picked it up again. His hand shook.

The drawing was not very good and it made William angry. He found that he had to study Buck longer than he wanted and that no matter how he tried he could not make Buck monstrous enough. “That’s it. It’s the best I can do. Now give me my money.”

Buck flipped over the coin, but William missed and had to crawl on the floor to find it. Buck studied the portrait. “Land sakes, Willy,” Buck said. “Is this how you really see me?”

“I’m afraid so,” William said scratching his head.

“I mean, God, I’m one hell of a mess, but there’s something … I’m no artist …” The drawing comforted Buck. He didn’t know why. The cuts, the wounds, the disfigurement were there, but so was something else. Something new or maybe just discovered. “William, you see it don’t you? No one else has, but maybe Father …”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” William replied.

“You see what God’s done for me,” Buck whispered.

His scars were ugly and William had to drink not to let his heart go out to Buck.

“Thank you for this, Willy.”

“It’s nothing,” William mumbled, but felt sorry suddenly at how things had turned out between them. If only Buck hadn’t been such a sneaky bastard.

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Fiction: Hooked Up

Buck followed, having nowhere else to go. He glanced around at the filth and total confusion of the tiny place divided by a soiled and torn old quilt. The walls moved with bugs in the flickering candlelight.

Fred grabbed at Ginny, who wore a threadbare wrapper. She had a wonderfully white and soft-looking body, Buck noticed as Fred unwrapped her, but old evidence of smallpox marred her face, making her ugly. As soon as Buck thought it he remembered his own disfigurement in shame.

“Where’s the money? Money comes first, child,” Ginny demanded even as Fred shoved his hand between her legs.

Unusual drawings sat piled upon a small footstool and Buck went to them. They were shaky and crass but familiar.

“I’ll give you an extra fifty cents if you put it in your mouth, girl,” Fred bargained while unbuttoning his trousers. “But wait, what’s that mark at your mouth? You’re not diseased or anything, are you?”

“I had the pox as a girl …”

Buck looked up from the pictures and for a moment caught Ginny’s eyes. “Fred, she must be just Thankful’s age.”

The girl stopped what she was doing and glanced back at Buck. “Thankful?”

“Yes, our sister.”

“Who the hell cares?” Fred asked. “Go back to work.” He grabbed Ginny by the hair and jerked her head. “I’m paying, he isn’t. Listen to me if you don’t want any trouble.”

“Fred!” Buck shouted, but his voice hardly carried.

Buck watched as a tear rolled down the girl’s cheek. How desperate she must be to do this for fifty cents! “Miss Ginny, even now, right this very minute, there’s someone who wants better for you,” Buck said.

“Shut up, Buck!” Fred shouted as something stirred behind the other side of the quilt.

Buck peeked around it. “Willy!”

The quilt hid the worst of the room’s mess. Empty bottles and crumpled papers littered the floor.

“William, it’s me, Buck Crenshaw.”

“I know who you are,” William mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you here?”

“Fred is—well, he’s with the girl.”

“My wife?” William asked, detached.

“I-I don’t know. I mean, I hope not. Not the girl on the other side?”

“Yes, so what? I wanted to do right by her … and she cares for me. Ginny doesn’t judge.”

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Featured Image: The Awakening of Conscience by William Holman Hunt

Fiction: Gaming

“I want to make money and visit with real whores. As the teamster said, life’s short.” Fred gulped his last drink and down the road they went.

Quiet, almost sweet, music played somewhere within the gaming hall.

“I’ll wait out here, Fred.”

“Oh, no you won’t! Don’t be such a prig. Play one hand,” Fred urged him.

Buck had just a small amount of money saved from pawning his things and planned on buying Thankful a household trinket for her wedding, but if she was moving home there would be no point, he reasoned. Buck didn’t mind cards but hesitated.

“Say, Buck, you might win some money for the poor. Look, whatever you win tonight, I’ll match it and we’ll do a good deed with it,” Fred suggested. He pushed Buck along and sauntered in with a big smile.

“Oh, damn, the apostle is here with a friend,” someone said through the smoky haze.

“He won’t be doing any talking, men. I can assure you of that. Now let us in on a hand and I’ll show you how it’s done.”

The men laughed at Fred’s bravado and made room when he flashed his money. Buck, more tentatively, placed his small savings on the table.

Fred whispered, “Here’s to the poor.” After a few lucky hands, Fred proceeded to lose everything they had, all but four dollars. “Oh, well. It’s only money,” he announced, throwing his cards on the table. “I have more at home anyhow!”

Buck stalked out. Fred soon followed. “Sakes alive, what a night! Those men are damned good card players. I’ll have to bone up this last year at school or I’ll be laughed out of the army!”

“Now what’ll we do, Fred? I’m tired.”

“A fellow in there says there’s a place down the road we could spend the night cheap,” Fred said.

“With four dollars?”

“Yep. Follow me, Apostle.” Fred whistled.

Buck cursed under his breath but followed with hands shoved deep into his empty pockets.

They came upon a ruin of an adobe building with a sooty candle-lit window at the side and a falling-down, rotted door at the front. “What’s this place?” Buck’s stomach churned.

“It’s cozy in a way,” Fred said flashing a charming smile before knocking.

The door opened a crack with a loud creak and the sound of a smoker’s cough behind it. “What you want?”

“Mr. Beadle sent me this way. You open?” Fred asked.

“You got money?”

“‘Course.”

“It’s a dollar a poke—extra for anything else,” the woman said.

Buck pulled Fred back. “You can’t be serious, Fred. A dollar’s cheap even for here—this is disgusting. We can’t do this!”

“Cheap is good—it’s why I came out here tonight. I’m getting some western refreshment like it or not. You jinxed us at cards—at least give me this thrill.” Fred shoved Buck out of the way. “Let us in then, ma’am!”

The door opened, almost falling on them. The woman pushed it back in place. “My name’s Miss Ginny, sir. Come in.” Her doe eyes went to Buck lingering in the shadows. “Are you comin’ or ain’t you?”

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Fiction: Blood Brothers

“The night is running along and I want a good time—for your sake—to educate you. I can’t stand you leading such a morbid, saintly life,” Fred groaned.

Buck was disappointed at the stables. With most of the army out looking for Geronimo, the stable owner feared for his safety and ordered that no one be let in after dark so Buck had to stay out with Fred.

“I’ve dreamed of this night, Buck. In the dream I come into town on a white mount and with an officer’s jacket after slaughtering a pile of Indians.”

Buck laughed at Fred’s childish notions. Fred, happy to make his brother smile, threw his arm over Buck’s shoulder. “Point us in the right direction, my boy.”

“There is no right direction here, but there’s the Buckskin.”

“Bully!” Fred ran ahead. “Come on!”

Buck followed, dreading their entrance. Fred dragged him into the noisy saloon. “Don’t be yellow.”

“I’m not!”

Fred met each hard stare with an arrogant smirk and pushed to the bar. “Give everyone a drink on me,” Fred ordered and turned to the small crowd of roughs, soldiers, and miners. “Gentlemen, I’m here for my sister’s wedding and would like you all to share in my happiness. You soldiers probably know my brother, Buck.”

The group of soldiers turned away.

“Well, anyway, Buck may look bad, but he’s all right. Let the next two rounds prove it.”

The men brightened at the promise, but Buck whispered, “Fred, how much money have you?”

“Plenty. Now take a drink. Even Jesus drank wine—God, I can’t believe I’m saying that. Go on, drink up.”

Buck threw back the whiskey and swallowed hard. Before long Fred played the best of friends with two surprisingly well-educated miners and a few well-spoken soldiers. Fred had no tolerance for stupidity and froze out any less than adequate conversationalists with his haughty manners and large vocabulary. Buck fell into his old role as quiet observer, waiting for something to happen.

A miner kept glancing at Buck. Finally he asked, “What happened to your sidekick? Looks like he’s been through a meat grinder. Isn’t there any way you can cover yourself?”

“You dare talk about my brother that way? You lousy piece of shit! My brother here was shot by an Apache so you thieves can scrape riches from Indian land!” Fred replied.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize …”

“What? That you’re an ignorant son of a bitch?”

“Hey, you better calm down, mister. I’ve got a gun and I’ll use it,” the miner said.

Fred flashed his own weapon, resting it up against the man’s shining temple. “Try me, you little shit.”

“Fred, calm down,” Buck whispered.

“I am calm. No one’s going to get away with hurting you on my watch.”

“I’m not hurt. I’m fine.”

The man with the gun to his head fainted.

Fred shook his head. “What a jackass.” He kicked the man out of the way and ordered another drink for the soldiers, but they declined and soon excused themselves, dragging with them the humiliated miner.

“Bully,” Fred said. “This is just bully. See, Buck, see how it’s done? I’m teaching you valuable lessons.”

Buck sighed. “We should go.”

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Fiction: Provoking Talk

“Be on alert now, boys,” cautioned the teamster. “This is where the bandits cut my friend down not two weeks ago.”

“Be on alert,” Buck remembered. “Be on alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong.”  He took a deep breath. He must try to have faith. The huge, dark sky terrified him. If there was no God then what did he have? He couldn’t go back to his old life. Maybe everything was just luck and happenstance or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe everything came down to behavior, or it didn’t.

Buck’s life felt different since accepting Jesus—but how could he be sure it wasn’t just wishful thinking? Maybe the stories were fake. Maybe there were no real men named Paul, John, or Peter … but Paul—how could he write so passionately, so compellingly about a fake savior? And all of those centuries after, filled with lives changed and artwork created and, yes, the very hope and peace that came to Buck, a nobody, traveling in the gloomy Arizona desert. Without God, he’d fall into despair. All else seemed shallow and worthless compared to the promises he was just now reading about and beginning to understand. Forgetting himself, he whispered, “I am so thankful, God, that you made them all write it down.”

“What are you saying, Buck?” Fred asked.

“Do you believe in God at all?”

“What? Well, sure, I guess. Whatever you say,” Fred said, the whites of his eyes narrowing as if to prevent an annoying light from entering.

“The things we did together in the past … we’re forgiven.”

“Great. Now what’s the name of the infamous watering hole in town?”

“The Buckskin. We should go back and spend time with the family,” Buck suggested.

“Are you joking? I rode all the way out here with them fools. I need a damned break and a good lay.”

“Oh, Fred, come on. You said I’d be home early.”

“My God, it’s like you’re an old lady. Listen, I do want to hear about your God thing. I admit I don’t understand it. I don’t mean to be aggressive with you, but it’s been a long journey and the last few months of school were very hard on me, having to get everyone sorted out so you could have a chance at success in life. One night out will make all the difference. I need to make some changes too, and maybe, just maybe you’re the one to help.” Fred took a sip of whiskey. “It just occurred to me that this whole conversion thing … well it could be that God is working through you to get to me!”

“I don’t think so.” Buck grit his teeth. What if the one and only purpose for Buck’s conversion was to influence Fred? God was his sanctuary. Buck worried that Fred, if converted, would be a better Christian than he was.

“Buck, are you all right?”

“I’m just thinking.”

“Oh, hell, you do too much of that. Let life play out a little on its own. You’d be surprised at how much fun it can be.”

The teamster laughed. “Yer brother’s right there. Life only gets worse as you get old like me. I got three marriages to awful jezebels behind me—very unaccepting women, schemers in their thinkin’—so I came west and I had me some very nice times.”

“See, Buck, listen to the old saw.”

The man snapped his reins. “Yep. Well, I can’t get it up no more.”

Buck glanced at Fred with a smug smile.

george elbert burr“Yep, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was dead tomorra. I piss blood. Have done for a while now. Old age ain’t no picnic, so live it up while you can.”

“How old are you?” Buck asked.

“Thirty-eight.”

Buck took a deep breath. “Have you accepted Jesus into your heart?”

Fred punched Buck’s arm hard.

The man chuckled. “‘Course. Many times, but it ain’t done nothin’ fer me. I’m fine on my own.”

Buck cleared his throat. “Well, you need to make peace if you’re going to die.”

“Look, kid, I don’t know if I’m dyin.’ I was just makin’ talk. I ain’t wantin’ any preachin’.”

“It’s just that God will forgive your adulterous ways if you believe!” Buck said.

Fred punched him again.

Buck shoved him back, explaining, “But in Ezekiel it says if I don’t speak out to the wicked they’ll die for their sin, and I’ll be held accountable for their blood.”

“I don’t have to take this no more. Get out of my wagon! The both of you!” the teamster cursed them.

“But, sir!” Fred begged.

“No, get out with your ugly friend,” the teamster ranted. “You promised me no trouble!”

“Jesus isn’t trouble at all,” Buck said, but Fred dragged him from the wagon.

The teamster dashed off toward town, leaving the two in the dark.

“God damn it, Buck. You’re plumb loco! Now we’re in the goddamned middle of nowhere!”

“You shouldn’t keep using God’s name in vain …” Buck said.

“What? You’re crazy!” Fred went to slap Buck’s face, but Buck blocked him and took hold of his arm.

“I will never allow you to touch me again,” Buck said.

“Oh, what will you do about it?” Fred asked pulling his arm from Buck with a confident sneer.

“I’ll stop being your brother. I don’t need you anymore. I don’t need you!” Buck followed the moonlit trail to town. It was too late to turn back. A friend at the stables might let Buck sleep there.

Fred trotted beside him. “Come on, don’t be so hard. Of course we’ll always be brothers. And I guess you did us a favor. The teamster didn’t take his fare so there’s more money for us.”

Buck marched on.

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Fiction: Overshadowed

Fred’s expensive cigars, the way he shot, and the way he rode when taken out for a race impressed a few of the young officers. Though his cocksure attitude provoked the more experienced commissioned men and the privates who were the victims of his superior words and actions, he had a small coterie of loyal followers within a few hours.

Buck sat with his parents under the Markhams’ porch pretending not to notice the foolish men of the fort following Fred toward the house and their chatter about the little horse race Fred had just won.

“Say, Buckie, come here, will you?” Fred called at a safe distance.

Buck waved him off, but Margaret said, “Oh, Buck, be nice to Fred and see what he wants.”

Buck grumbled, but rose to his feet, dizzy in the heat. He walked out, hands in pockets, and Margaret called after him, “Stand up straight and stop slouching!”

The soldiers laughed. Fred shoved one of them.

“What do you want?” Buck asked.

“That’s no way to be with your brother! Listen, if you’re not too busy with Bible study maybe you’ll come with us tonight—to town—we’ll have a good frolic and no one need know. I understand that you want Father and Mama to think that you’ve reformed.”

The men exchanged amused grins.

“It’s nothing to do with reputation, Fred. You know I’m not much of a drinker …”

“Oh, go on! Have ginger beer for all I care. Just come.”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“What are you afraid of? Your newfound piety not holding up in town? How do you expect to test yourself if you stay in a cocoon? I knew this religion bunk was just that—bunk. Jesus Christ himself ate and drank with tax collectors and other low lives. But I guess your faith is weak.”

Buck shifted his weight. He hated the way his brother spoke to him, but he’d always been a part of Fred.

“Fine, I don’t mean to make light of your religion. I’m happy if it makes you happy—really I am. It’s just—well—I miss our good times.”

The other men laughed. Fred turned on them. “Shut up, you ass-licks, if you still want to come out on my tab.”

“Well, I’ll come just this once,” Buck said glancing toward the missionary tents.

“That’s it, boy! Enjoy life a little. There’s no harm in it. Just come for a small drink and I’ll hire a Mexican to drive you back. They tell me it’s hardly dangerous if you move fast enough—and you’re not scared. Are you?”

“No, I’m not.”

Fred chuckled. “I guess God will be your fortress. I’m serious—why do you look at me like that?”

Buck’s gut churned, but he ignored it. Maybe he could use this opportunity to share the gospel.

After taps when the last pink of the sky faded, and the air cooled just a trifle Fred came bustling into his brother’s tent, clean-shaven and hair slicked. “Buckie, the chap I hired out will be long gone if we don’t meet him now.”

“Fred, I …”

“I won’t hear of you staying in. I realize you’re a little shy with your face and all, but I’ll take care that no one so much as looks at you.” He flashed his tiny Derringer and glanced in the little mirror, happy with himself.

Buck, rolling his eyes, pulled his blouse over his head, and grabbed his jacket. They skulked through the shadows. Buck heard Thankful’s lovely singing voice, the deep, sad Irish voice of Fahy, and his mother playing the violin:

 

Of all the comrades that ere I had, they’re sorry for my going away,

And of all the sweethearts that ere I had, they wish me one more day to stay,

But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,

I will gently rise and I’ll softly call, “Goodnight and joy be with you all!”

 

Buck longed to join them for a quiet night, but Fred pushed him along in excitement.

A teamster with a wagon snoozed just outside near a sentry.

“Fred, where are the others?” Buck asked.

“Oh, I was bored with them after an hour, though I managed to bargain a few bottles for us to take on our drive. Looks like it’s just the two of us then.”

“Oh.” Buck’s heart sank. “There’s really nothing to do in town … just a disgusting brothel and a saloon full of …”

Fred grinned and took a long slug of cheap whiskey before leaping into the wagon and pulling Buck in beside him. Buck prayed that the night be cut short as he half listened to the driver and Fred exchange ridiculous sexual conquests.

“Fred, how is Miss Turner?” Buck asked.

“Oh, Rosie’s fine, I guess. But it’s nice to have a break from the inane conversations—if you can even call them conversations. She’s still pretty as a picture though, and her family’s got all the right military and government connections, which I intend to take full advantage of. Stick with me, Buckie, and see if I can’t get you something.”

Fred would probably be president one day. Suddenly Buck’s big ideas about missionary work seemed not only feeble but also impossible. What had Buck ever finished without depending on Fred? How would he ever catch up to Seth Kenyon? Even Kenyon wasn’t famous anyway.

Buck took a slug of the whiskey, but it so offended his senses he could not drink it and spit it over the wagon side. His military training and the enthusiasm he had always had for it seemed so far away before Fred had come out to visit, but now the idea that Fred always outshone him bothered him as it always had.

Buck’s excitement over the Bible in this moment was a vapor in the wind. The future oppressed him.

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Fiction: A Doctor’s Mistakes

Graham wiped his eyes. “That watch … the one I gave you … it was for Nathan—my younger brother first — during the war. You are the light of the world like a city on a mountain … Nathan was the light of my family. Something about him—we could all love him without embarrassment—he was soft and pampered. My brother Luce was the hero, but Nathan was the light.

“Seeing Fahy—my God! So many men just like him. I cut them apart—for their own good, but my stupid brother Luce! I was still so angry at him for taking my girl! And there he comes wandering into camp. He’d walked for miles! Thought I could keep his leg—thought I was a miracle worker. Did I tell you about the time he baled all the hay on three farms, saved a girl from drowning in the Hackensack, and won the turkey shoot all in one summer?”

Buck shook his head.

“Luce was a winner. He was a god to me and I was damned jealous. And there he was lying there on the table, his leg shattered, and he’s telling me no heroic measures—don’t take the leg. But it had to go! And I couldn’t find the bullet. I could barely stop the bleeding once it really got going. There was a bleeder, Buck. I found it and tied it shut.” Graham stared at Buck, but his eyes saw into an unknowable past. “When Luce woke up, he told me about a girl he had. Some other girl and Mai, his wife, home with his baby. That asshole had everything and screwed it all up.”

“We have a cousin?” Buck asked.

“Yes.” Graham mopped his forehead.

“So then what happened?”

“I was given time off—I was ordered to take some time. I left Luce at the hospital tent. Last I heard, Nate had taken ill—hadn’t made it into battle and I’d been glad—he was no soldier. I decided to go visit him, thinking he’d be with his unit, but he wasn’t. Nate left with a few other sick men to a makeshift hospital on a derelict farm. You should have seen the place. Flies—so many flies. And Nathan was dead.”

Buck stayed quiet.

“He died of dysentery. If I’d have got there sooner, I could have taken him from that God forsaken place. The surgeon in charge should have been hung for what he let those men go through. He said Nate helped the others till he got too weak himself. He handed me back the watch I’d given Nate for good luck. The watch I gave you.”

“I’m sorry, Father.”

“When I got back to camp, Luce gave me hell for not going to Nate as soon as I got word he’d fallen ill. We were fighting as I checked on the artery—the one I’d tied. I moved it only slightly, but something let go. I just couldn’t stop the blood and he just lay there looking at me and then he was gone. The other soldiers—they just looked at me like I was the worst sort of man.” Graham wiped his head again. “Buck, I wanted you to have a piece of me.”

“Father, it wasn’t your fault—about your brothers.”

“I’m sorry.” Graham ran his hand over his heart. “I lied when I said that only your mother wanted all of you. I did too. I wanted enough so if anything happened I wouldn’t lose all of you at once. Look at the unhappiness I bring into people’s lives. Look at your mother. Oh, look at you all!”

“But Father, it’s not up to you to make us happy. You did your best, I suppose. And you’re forgiven your mistakes if you have faith.”

Graham stared at his son. “I want to believe you. I’d like to have the assurance you suddenly have—but frankly your behavior frightens me.”

“Sometimes God’s hand in my life is very frightening,” Buck admitted. “I don’t know what He’s up to, but at times I feel—I don’t know—pulled into this perfect love beyond my comprehension. I can’t figure out how to say things yet. When I read the Bible now it’s as if I’ve stumbled upon long lost relatives and I’m happy.”

“So you like the saints?”

“I like all the imperfection. All the stumbling toward God. I like how God reaches first and knows our hearts and refines them if we let Him,” Buck said. “Father, it’s God’s hope that you’ll come when He calls.”

“I’m happy enough that you’ve softened your heart to me. Maybe that’s all I’m ready for.” Graham stood and patted Buck’s shoulder.

“I’ll keep praying for you, Father,” Buck promised.

Graham studied his son with suspicion, but Buck’s smile from beneath the tight bandage disarmed him.

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“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Featured Image: Home Sweet Home by Winslow Homer