by Jacquie Rogers
The first installment of the Muleskinners series, Judge Not, is now available. This is my first traditional western story and I hope you enjoy it. I really loved writing it, and four more stories are planned, the second installment will be released later this summer.
Judge Not was first printed in Wolf Creek, Book 6: Hell on the Prairie.
About Judge Not
Elsie Parry and her eight mules survived the war, but can they escape the wrath of the Danby Gang? She lived alone for five years after the Recent Unpleasantness and was overcome with happiness to be reunited with her father. Now, his fondest desire is to leave all the bad memories behind and see the Pacific Ocean, so she agreed to head west. All’s well until they approach Wolf Creek, where they’re set upon by the notorious gang of ex-Confederate guerrillas… intent on proving the war is not over, after all.
Elsie's had a rough time of it. In 1863, border ruffians abducted her brother, Zeb, along with the neighbor boy, Hank, from the family farm in Missouri. The next year, more came – she didn't know which side – and burned the farm to the ground. Elsie was given responsibility for eight draft mule foals and sent to live on a forested hill out of harm's way. She had little contact with the outside world, but her father visited infrequently.
She learned her mother had passed away, whether from sickness or hunger, Elsie didn't know, and neither did her father. In fact, he disappeared the last year of the war and Elsie thought he was dead, too, but imagine her elation to find him alive and relatively well five years later. Meantime, those eight mules were her only friends and she'd named them after the Greek gods in her mother's book. They have a good communication, and she's very protective of them. Her father was born with the gift of blarney, and he's a lot better at making deals than actually coming through with them. Still, he's her father and she loves him dearly – her only family other than the mules.
Muleskinners #1: Judge Not
by Jacquie Rogers
Copyright 2013 Jacquie Rogers
My pa wanted to see the Pacific Ocean. He’d flapped his lips all the way from Missouri to the middle of Kansas, and I reckoned by the time we did get to the ocean, I’d be ready to dunk him in it.
“One of the mules is lagging.”
“Hermes,” I hollered. “Quit sniffing that bush and get over here.” Sure, my mules were coddled, but they’d been my only company for a year during the war, and the six years since, my best friends. “You know you’re supposed to stay by the wagon.”
The mule sent me a guilty look and trotted to his spot by the rear wheel with the other three. I have eight mules, but a harness for only four, so four mules pulled half a day, then I traded them out.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to tie the spare mules to the wagon, Elsie?” My father, Obadiah Parry, had lost his wife, son, home, and thought he’d lost me and the mules in the war, but he’d run into me a few years back.
Believe me, the moment I saw that man was the happiest day of my life. His brown hair had grayed and he’d hunched over and slowed down considerable, but his blue eyes still had that sparkle – the one that let you know there very well could be a frog in the sugar bowl, so watch out. I wouldn’t call him a moocher, but he did let me do the working while he did the talking.
“Maybe, but I ain’t tying them up. They know their jobs.” Unlike Pa, who was more of a dreamer than a doer. The one dream he had that worked out was when he decided to start a draft mule business with a mammoth jack he’d won in a card game. He talked the local farmers who had quality draft horse mares into giving him one foal for every two breedings. The result was more than a dozen draft mule foals the next year, but then the war broke out.
Now his dream was to go to California. I had eight of the mules, the wagon, nowhere else to go, and I was happy to make up for lost time with my pa. He had the gift of gab and a hefty dollop of charm, which got me more than one well-paying freight job. We had a light load this time, though – supplies for the trip west. But we had to take a detour to Wolf Creek to pick up a wagon he’d won playing euchre last week.