A Band of Unbroke Horses
205 pages

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205 pages

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Ten-year old Matthew Stanford is kidnapped by three Civil War deserters who quit a losing cause and head west . In the wake of a killing spree they leave ex-Army tracker JD Elder for dead. When Elder is nursed back to health by Matthew's mother and learns that her son was kidnapped by the men who attempted to kill him, the hunt is on.

Matthew quickly goes from being an overly protected preacher's son to a kid struggling for survival.

When Elder, the Confederates, and Matthew converge on a small Montana town, the results are cataclysmic for all of them—but, that's just the beginning of Matthew's heart-wrenching story.



Publié par
Date de parution 08 avril 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780578487212
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0012€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Irongate Books
PO Box 1860
Oakdale, CA 95361
A Band of Unbroke Horses
Copyright © Dale B. Jackson, 2019
ISBN 978-0-578-48720-5 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-0-578-48721-2 (Ebook)
Cover photo: © Kimerlee Curyl
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locals is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
Without limiting the rights under the copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This book is dedicated to my wife, Mary — and to Josh, Amy, Mateo, and Lucas, all of whose love inspires these words.
With special gratitude to Pat LoBrutto, whose literary vision, sense of character, and gift for storytelling make editing one of the most rewarding parts of this great adventure we call writing.
My dear child, I can have no fears for you, no doubt about your conduct or your heart, if, at your age, the gods are your companions.
—HOMER, The Odyssey
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Twenty-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Chapter Forty
Chapter Forty-One
Chapter Forty-Two
Chapter Forty-Three
Chapter Forty-Four
Chapter Forty-Five
Chapter Forty-Six
Chapter Forty-Seven
Chapter Forty-Eight
Chapter Forty-Nine
Chapter Fifty
Chapter Fifty-One
Chapter Fifty-Two
Chapter Fifty-Three
Chapter Fifty-Four
Chapter Fifty-Five
Chapter Fifty-Six
I n those final days of a war in which there was no glory and the taste for killing was long past, multitudes of drawn and wasted soldiers set forth upon the battered countryside, their shoulders rounded and their clothes reeking of blood. They stepped over corpses twisted and decaying and some stopped to pick at the spoils while others, dull and thoughtless, threw down their weapons and shuffled ahead.
They wandered alone and in pairs and in loose companies of varying numbers, all afoot, and oddly uniformed in tattered rags of gray and blue and many missing arms or feet or eyes. They bivouacked along the roadsides and in fields wherever darkness overtook them. At night they sat like mute beings wrought from nightmares, bent over small fires, unable to feed themselves and gazing out through hollow eyes.
Ten months before the Confederacy collapsed, field-commissioned Brevet General Ike Smith quit the army. He led the remnants of his battle-fatigued 12th Georgia regulars out of the Shenandoah Valley onto a rutted back road and summarily dismissed them.
“Boys,” said General Smith, addressing the assemblage from atop a gaunt and leggy mount. “By the power vested in me by the Army of these Confederate States of America, I dismiss you from further participation in this war, which I do hereby declare to be over.”
“Stand your posts,” commanded a handsome young officer wearing captain's bars upon his shoulders. “This war is not over and the general as no authority to dismiss you. You men will form up in marching ranks. Sergeant, bring the company to arms, now!”
The general turned his head, hacked, and spat and looked back at the handsome captain through eyes shot red from alcohol and road dust. He un-flapped his service revolver and discharged a round between the buttons of the captain's field coat. Dust coughed out from the hole the bullet made and blood ran freely from the wound beneath it. The captain sat upon his horse and stared a blank stare past the general. He sat there a long time before he pitched forward, then fell from his horse, dead at the feet of the men who looked on but did not move.
The general regarded the sergeant with a dark and somber gaze. The sergeant threw down his weapon and threw down his ammunition pack, and when he did so, the others did so as well.
No one moved to aid the fallen officer, but one man caught up the reins of the captain's mount and lifted himself into the saddle. He wheeled the horse around and whipped it into a gallop with no direction and no plan other than to desert the war. No one moved, no one spoke, and they all stood mindlessly waiting for their orders and watching the lone horseman whip his mount ahead of the dust cloud that followed him as he shrunk from view.
The general holstered his revolver, and reached back and fetched a tarnished flask from his saddlebag. He uncorked it and tipped it back, then looked slowly at the tired and questioning eyes that stared up at him.
“Y'all are dismissed.”
They mumbled and shuffled about, but none of them did anything but wait.
General Smith disregarded them all and nodded to a thin and pale private, standing at his boot heel. The general slipped his left foot free of the saddle iron and extended the private his arm. Private Raymond Smith took the arm, hooked the toe of his worn-out military shoe in the stirrup and swung up behind his brother. The general nudged the horse forward and tipped up the flask.
A mile down the road Raymond turned to behold the ragged company of gray-coated foot soldiers in poor marching formation as they followed behind.
By midday, the leggy gelding had out-walked the infantrymen until only the halo of dust that hovered above the trailing company was visible in the shimmering heat of the road. The general pulled the horse up sharply.
“Get off,” said the general.
Raymond hesitated and the general struck the dull-witted private from the horse's back with a broad sweep of his thick arm and dropped him to the dirt. Raymond picked himself up and slapped the dust from his trousers with his hat.
“What did you do that for?” Raymond asked.
“Get yourself your own horse,” Ike said.
Ike touched the gelding with his heels and the horse stepped out with Raymond trotting alongside to keep up.
“Where am I supposed to get one?”
“That ain't my concern.”
“I got no money for no horse.”
“You got a rifle.”
“Well, I sure ain't trading off my rifle.”
“Then, Brother Raymond...you can walk.”
“Well, I ain't walking no more. I'll find me a horse.”
Ike took another pull from the flask and continued riding. He corked the flask and hacked, then pointed off into the lowering sun as the private trotted alongside.
“Yonder's one that'll suit ye,” Ike said, his voice raspy and airy.
Raymond shaded his eyes with his hand and squinted at a shirtless man clucking a big yellow plow horse in a freshly turned field. He looked back to Ike for approval, but Ike ignored the dolt and took to hacking again.
“Well, I’m done walking,” Raymond muttered as he left the road and crossed the field, stumbling across the furrows as he went.
Ike palmed the flask and watched the pantomime. Raymond circled the shirtless man and the big horse, then walked up to the man and doffed his hat. Raymond's mouth moved. The man stopped, talked with his hands briefly, shook his head, and then turned away from Raymond. Raymond stepped up and spun the sun-darkened man around by his arm. The man threw off the reins and struck the dolt a powerful blow to the head. Raymond went down. The man advanced on Raymond, seized him about the shoulders, and dragged him off twenty yards, then cast him off onto a newly turned furrow.
The man turned and strode back to the plow horse. Raymond recovered the rifle and leveled it at the man's sunburned back. White smoke and flame exited the barrel along with the ball that ripped through the farmer's spine. The man arched backwards and fell dead upon the freshly plowed earth.
Raymond caught up the horse, loosened the harness, and let it drop. He left the headstall in place, removed the collar and cut the reins to riding length, then mounted bareback and trotted to catch up to Ike, who urged his horse forward and ignored Raymond as he approached.
“I got me one,” Raymond said, as he gawked down at the general from his perch astraddle the Belgian.
“Put a pretty good knot on your head, didn't he?” Ike said as dust exploded beneath the footfalls of the horses, and the column of soldiers behind them disappeared forever.
That night Ike and Raymond slept without eating. The next morning they robbed a farmhouse and, by the following night, the slow-witted Raymond had shot and killed another man and traded him horses.
They rode as two distorted images warped in the heat that ascended from the scorched roadway in shimmering waves. Week by week their appearance worsened. Their clothes hung like filthy rags, an

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