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Herb & Muncy Chapman
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In 1836, the action never stops for Ace Dover’s family at the Three Springs Ranch. Rustling and lawlessness prevail in the Florida Territory, and adopted son Treff Ballowe has his hands full trying to protect the TSR pastures. Putting Joel Godwin in the Fort Brooke stockade only intensifies his problems by fueling Grandma Godwin’s vow to “see Treff dead”.
The Dovers’ only daughter, feisty, redhead Marvelous, shows her spunk by delivering a neighbor’s baby, but can she save her new husband, Hank O’Mara, from the dreaded yellow fever that’s sweeping the Territory?
When Rusty’s horse returns with an empty saddle, the Dover family fears the worst. Can Rusty’s love for the Indian maiden who rescues him survive the merger of the two vastly separated cultures?
Captain Caleb’s paddlewheeler seems perfect for shipping TSR cattle to Cuba, but is the captain to be trusted?
These and many other questions haunt Ace Dover as he and Amaly and their children struggle to survive in the rugged Florida Territory.
Treff Ballowe had plenty to occupy his mind this balmy April morning as he sat on the wrap-around porch of the Leon Division headquarters building.
From inside, the smell of bacon and coffee drifted across the air, a sure sign that Hank Tomlinson, longtime cook at this southern division of the Three Springs Ranch, (TSR) would soon be calling him to join his cow hunters for breakfast.
Ordinarily, early morning was Treff’s favorite time of the day. He enjoyed watching deer nibbling brush near the oak hammock east of the house and listening to the birds as they began their daily ritual of song. It allowed him a period of peace and relaxation at the start of each new day.
But today his brow wrinkled with concern as he looked over the stretch of flatland leading to the piney woods beyond. He had heard nothing from Paul Billy in several days, and that could spell trouble. Billy was not only a valued employee of many years, but a close friend as well.
And it was this wise and patient Seminole who had taught Treff as a young boy to follow the secret Indian trails through the woods, and to track and hunt wild game like few white men could.
There was no doubt in his mind that Paul Billy could handle himself as well as any man, and better than most, but Treff would rest easier when his Indian friend returned to report on his most recent activities.
Almost as if in answer to his silent concern, Treff heard the haunting call of a brown owl float from the south woods, and listened to hear a second call before he responded in kind. For years, he and Paul Billy had used this secret signal to communicate with each other. Today especially, the call fell as a welcome sound on Treff’s ears.
“Better set up another place at the table, Hank,” he called through the open doorway. “Paul Billy will be joining us for breakfast.”
Turning his attention to the south, Treff kept an unwavering watch until he saw Paul Billy emerge from the woods and head toward the corral. Bypassing the steps, Treff dropped to the ground and strode across the yard to meet him.
By the time Treff reached the corral, Paul Billy had already unsaddled his horse and was scooping a generous portion of grain into his trough. Catching sight of Treff, the dark Seminole smiled broadly, and his black eyes sparkled as he stretched his hand to greet his employer.
“Good morning.” Paul Billy spoke in a low, easy voice as though he had only been out for a morning ride. “It is good to see you again.”
Treff slapped him across the shoulder with his free hand. “Better than just good! It’s a great relief! You’ve been gone so long, I was really beginning to worry about you. What happened? Where’ve you been? Did you run into some kind of trouble?”
Paul Billy chuckled at the barrage of questions. “Whoa, Treff! One thing at a time. Right now my biggest trouble is my stomach. It’s protesting an extended diet of jerky and water for the past few days. Is that bacon I smell?”
Treff could chuckle now too, knowing that whatever dangers Paul Billy had encountered, he had survived them all and safely returned to tell about them.
“Come on, then. Breakfast is waiting.” The two men matched stride as they walked toward the mess hall.
Over a plate heaped with bacon, grits, and eggs, Paul Billy began to fill Treff in on his week’s activities. “I’ve been tracking a group of horses for the past several days.”
Treff spread a slab of fresh butter over his biscuit, and licked at a drip before it landed on his clean shirt. “Where did they come from, Paul Billy?”
This is a very good story of a frontier family who work everyday to survive. I liked the vivid characters – good and bad, and the descriptions of the southern cities as they were back in the 1830’s.
The authors don’t take long to get right into the action, and the trail just stretches out from there!
Reviewed by: Kathy 4 Angels
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 418
Paper Weight (lb): 17.4
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