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Herb & Muncy Chapman
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Political controversy is not a new concept to Floridians. In 1838, long before chads and punch cards were ever heard of, Florida Territory Governor Call plans for a constitutional convention to bring Florida to statehood, and questions abound. Should the territory be divided into two states as some wish, or even three? Should the capitol be located in Pensacola, Tallahassee, or St. Augustine?
When Ace Dover is elected as one of 53 delegates to the convention in St. Joseph, he turns the operation of Three Springs Ranch over to his four sons. Will they be able to keep TSR afloat against the threat of outlaws, renegade Indians, and a scheming woman who has her sites set on the Dover fortune? Not if Grandma Godwin and her son Joel get their wish to “see Treff dead.” Can Captain Caleb be trusted to safely transport TSR cattle to Cuba? Just who is Noah LeBlanc, and what is his part in Amber-Jade’s devious plot to get her hands on the Dovers’ gold? Will Marvelous and her husband Hank O’Mara return to the TSR in time to help? These questions and more surround Ace and Amaly Dover as they struggle to keep their family safe in the wild and lawless Florida Territory.
Amber-Jade LeBlanc was born Eula Bell Scruggs on a small dirt farm about thirty miles north of St. Joseph in the panhandle of the Florida Territory. In 1836, on her sixteenth birthday, she stuffed her few belongings in a croker sack, dug up her money jar from beneath the stump of a red maple tree, and headed south, abandoning both her name and her life on the farm to search for a style of living she was certain she would find more desirable.
She waited until after dark to leave, but as she shuffled through the woods, she realized she needn't have waited-no one would follow her and try to bring her back home. Her absence would mean there were only nine mouths to feed instead of ten on the skimpy money Ma made at the Duck-In Café where she cooked for travelers going between coastal St. Joseph and Jackson County, up near the southwestern border of Georgia.
The only person who would miss Eula Bell was Daisy, her fourteen-year-old sister. Daisy would have to pick up the slack with the cooking, and the washing, and minding the younger kids, but at least she would have the narrow cot all to herself at night.
After listening to a cowhunter's tales about all the rich cotton farmers and cattle ranchers in Jackson County, Eula Bell almost decided to head north. But when that same dream-spinner began to talk about the folks of Jackson County, and how they were mostly family people who spent their time going to church meetings, Eula Bell figured a rollicking town like St. Joseph had much more to offer a girl of her exceptional talents.
She was not exactly certain how to get there, but the exciting tales she kept hearing about that place convinced her that St. Joseph was where a golden future awaited her. By traveling south, she knew she would eventually hit the coast, and from there she would find someone to direct her to St. Joseph-or maybe even take her there.
Eula Bell wasn't sure just how far she had walked, but her head began to ache, her legs grew tired, and she shivered from the cold night air. She dropped her croker sack on the ground, brushed a clear spot beneath a live oak tree, and piled enough sticks and branches to make a small fire. The cold December night made her thin clothes seem mighty poor. A fire would help a lot.
She pulled out the packet of phosphorus matches she had wheedled from Jimmy Joe behind the woodshed last week. A girl could get most anything she wanted from a boy if she was smart enough, and Eula Bell was plenty smart!
The flames from an established fire soon bathed her face with warm currents of air. Stretching her thin body on the cold ground, she laid her head on her sack. Even this, she thought, was better than lying cramped up against Daisy on the cot, smelling the wet flour-sack diapers that always stunk up the air in the one-room shack she had called home for sixteen years.
She breathed in the fresh air and listened to the night sounds-crickets and frogs and unidentified creatures that scuttled through the leaves. There would be no bears out at this time of the year, and nothing would bother her as long as she kept her fire alive.
She was just beginning to doze, dreaming of the exciting new life waiting for her in St. Joseph, when she was jerked to attention by the sound of dried leaves crackling in the darkness. Was it an animal? A panther, perhaps? She had no weapon except the fire. She selected a limb to ignite as a torch, but before she had time to push it into the flames, she realized the sounds were not made by a wild animal at all! The approaching steps were decidedly human! Visions of Indians flashed through her mind.
"Pa?" She recognized his voice at once. She had been wrong-they did want her back! They did care! Although she was determined to carry out her plans no matter how much they objected, her heart felt an unexpected surge of warmth. They cared!
But she was adamant. "I ain't goin' back, Pa. I done made up my mind."
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 328
Paper Weight (lb): 13.8
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