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Bob Taylor

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Francis, A North American Adventure
by Bob Taylor   

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Historical Fiction

Publisher:  Self Type: 


Copyright:  Jan 1 2006

Losely based on the real Journal of Francis Hollands, Francis, A North American Adventure is the story of two British immigrants in the mid nineteenth century, their journey to America and their differing experiences in this new land. Here is a short example of what you can expect to read.

Dakota Winter

John sat in the tiny makeshift saloon, sipping on a glass of whisky and watching snow whip past the window. The poorly made glass in the window distorted the view outside making the scene appear even more grim than it really was. It had been snowing nonstop for nearly two weeks and the temperatures we hovering far below freezing. There was no such amenity as a thermometer available at the Fort Randall, but it was common knowledge that anyone foolish enough to venture outside, with bare skin exposed to the cold, had only seconds before being frost bitten. Seven men had lost toes to the dreadful cold that gripped the fort, while doing chores outdoors, but to date none had actually succumbed to their injuries.

The credit for that fact, John was sure, belonged to the skills of man seated at the table with him. A man with grey, thinning hair, a bushy mustache and eyes that had seen many winters stared at him across the table. "Bad weather this," Doc Walker noted, draining his glass of whisky in one gulp. "Folks are gonna start dying if it doesnít let up soon."

"Do you really think itís that serious, Doc," asked John? " I havenít heard of anyone in too much distress yet. Nothing much worse than a frozen toe, or such."

"You donít spend all day in the infirmary," replied the doctor. "I see people every day who you never see. Keep it to yourself, but the stores are running low, John. I treated the Quartermaster yesterday for a nasty gash on his hand and he told me the truth. The salt pork is about gone as is the beef jerky. The bad weather has sent us so many rats that theyíre consuming more grain each day than the horses. Thatíll all be gone long before spring too.

"Thatís not all. Folks are getting sick. Theyíre malnourished from the lack of vegetables. The vermin and rot got the last of the potatoes and carrots a couple of weeks ago. Havenít you noticed that our meals have consisted of nothing but meat and bread lately?"

John hadnít. He had spent most of his time lately sitting right here, at this table, with a glass in his hand. He drank and played cards all day and most of the night. When no one wanted to play cards he just drank. When he was hungry he ate whatever was handy, or what was offered by someone. He spent much of his time teetering on a line somewhere between drunk and sober. A line that would be all too easy to cross. The whisky helped him forget how miserable he really was, here at Fort Randall. It dulled his memories of home, of his family and of the boyhood friend, who had accompanied him to this savage new land. It also gave the illusion of warmth, in that frozen, winter desert, as it burned its way down his throat. He sat now staring at his glass, letting the illusional warmth of the whisky wash over him. He took another sip. Ah. Thatís better, he thought.

The doctor was still talking, although John realized he hadnít been listening for some time. He was drawing very close to the aforementioned line. " . . . with them," said the doc, just as John tuned back in. "What do you think, John?"

"Uh, I guess youíre right," he finally answered, after a short pause, unsure with what he was agreeing.

"Then you want to go?"

Still not knowing what the doctor was talking about, but unwilling to admit he was half in the bag, John nodded in the affirmative. "Why not," he said?

"Well, because it could be extremely dangerous," answered Doc Walker. "Iím not goiní. Iíll tell you that much."

"Ok," said John. "I give up. What exactly are we talking about?"

"Why the hunting trip, of course. Havenít you been listening?"

"I have to confess," admitted John, "that I was slightly more interested in this glass than our conversation for a moment. I guess maybe Iíve had enough."

"Maybe you have," laughed the Doctor. "Let me start again from the beginning and this time try to focus.

"Some of the men have decided they should go out and do some hunting. One of the soldiers says he knows where to find a herd of buffalo, or elk or something. He saw them the last time he was out on patrol, before the storm hit. He seems to know about such things so everybodyís ready to follow him out into that white hell."

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