Title: West from the Cradle
Author: Brigid Amos
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Clean Reads
Tag line: If the West doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.
About the book:
Travis Cooper was not meant to be a prospector. Small for his age, he has never been much help on the family farm in Missouri. How could he survive the journey west to take up such backbreaking work? But when he sees a copy of the California Star in the fall of 1848, everything changes. One shining word jumps off the page: GOLD! Now staying alive is a struggle. Keeping his partner from getting himself killed is even harder!
Travis bounded out of the house. He rubbed the two lead oxen on the jaw and muttered some nonsense to them. The animals’ eyes brightened in response, and they tried to nuzzle his face with their wet noses. “No, you don’t,” he giggled, jerking his head back and out of reach. “Just take care of my brother.”
Fighting back a smile, Jonas also found it necessary to blink back a few tears at the same time. “Do you wish you were going with us?” he asked his brother.
Travis sighed and said, “I wish I were going and staying at the same time.”
Mr. Hillerman arrived on his horse Starlight, so named because he was black with a star-shaped splash of white in the middle of his forehead. Even from a distance, Jonas could see the white splotch bobbing up and down, twinkling like a star on the horizon. The shopkeeper was dressed in a brown frock coat and a derby with a high crown, as if he were on his way to church, except he carried a rifle at his side.
“Morning all,” Hillerman called. “I see we’re all ready to hit the trail. Good work, Jonas. Quite efficient.”
“Won’t you stop a spell and have some breakfast?” Emily asked.
“I’ve already had my breakfast, thank you,” he answered. “But what about you, Jonas?”
“Oh, I just ate some of the hardtack. The part that got wet in the storm,” Jonas answered, feeling he had to explain why he was already dipping into the supplies.
“Is that all that got wet?” Hillerman asked with a look of concern.
“That’s all. Everything else is dry as a temperance meeting,” Waylon said.
“A credit to Emily’s handiwork,” Hillerman said. Turning to Jonas, he added, “Young man, it’s time for you to say your goodbyes.”
Jonas kissed his sister, hugged his little brother, and then held out his hand to his father, unsure of the gesture and wondering if more was expected in this case. Waylon took his son’s hand and held it steady for several moments.
“Jonas, wait here a moment. I have some money saved up I want to give you.”
“That’s all right, Waylon,” Hillerman said. “I plan to cover all the boy’s expenses.”
“Just the same, I’d like for him to carry a little cash of his own. I’ll just run upstairs and get it.” Waylon hurried into the house.
Moments later, they heard a loud thumping sound coming from inside. It was followed by a low moan. Hillerman dismounted as the three Cooper children stumbled over each other to get through the front door.
They found Waylon slumped against the wall at the bottom of the stairs, cradling his right forearm, his face racked with pain.
“It’s broken, I’m afraid,” Waylon said, breathing heavily.
“I’ll go for Doc Anderson,” Jonas said.
“No!” Waylon shouted, and then grimaced as a fresh current of pain flowed through him. “You two have a wagon train to meet in St. Joseph. Don’t worry about me. Travis can go for the doctor.”
“But Pa,” Jonas whispered, squatting down next to his father and leaning in close to his face, “what about after the doctor comes? Sure, maybe he can patch up that arm, but you ain’t going to be able to use it for a while. Who’s going to take care of the farm in the meantime?”
Emily, the only one clearheaded enough to notice her father was still sprawled on the floor in an undignified fashion, stepped forward to help him up. “Let’s talk about this in the kitchen,” she snapped. As she led her father toward the kitchen, she shot Jonas an accusing look.
This is all my fault, Jonas thought. I’m to blame, and I have to make up for it.
After they settled Waylon as comfortably as possible in a chair, Jonas said to Hillerman in a determined voice, “It looks like I won’t be going to California with you. I’ll be needed here at the farm. I’m sorry.”
Hillerman stood by with a stricken expression. Then he sighed and said, “If that’s the case, I won’t be going either. At least not this year.”
“I can take care of the farm,” Travis offered.
“No, you can’t,” Jonas answered. “Not on your own. You’re too small and weak. We all know it.”
After a few seconds of silence, Travis spoke up again. “Am I too small to go to California with Mr. Hillerman?” Everyone looked at him in shock. It was an idea no one had even considered.
Buy the book:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/west-from-the-cradle-brigid-amos/1126943650?ean=2940158732119
Brigid Amos’ young adult historical fiction has appeared in The MacGuffin, The Storyteller, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Words of Wisdom. Her first novel, A Fence Around Her, was published by Clean Reads in 2016. A produced playwright, she co-founded the Angels Playwriting Collective and serves on the boards of Angels Theatre Company and Women Writing the West. She is also an active member the Nebraska Writers Guild. Although Brigid left a nugget of her heart behind in the California Gold Country, most of it is in Lincoln, Nebraska where she currently lives with her husband.
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