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Trail to Bliss

Trail to Bliss by Jeannine D. Van Eperen
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Harriet Goodspell is leading her two friends in prayer before supper when a man dressed in an orange clown suit stumbles into their campsite. He sports several days beard growth and looks as surprised to see them as they him.

Harriet plans to bring religion to the miners of Contention City in Arizona Territory. Back in St. Joseph, Missouri, where her father is a preacher, she read a newspaper accounting of the Godless western town, a town with no church and few women. Any decent woman fled the town leaving home and husband behind. Harriet (Hetty) determines that she will be the one to turn Contention City into a peaceful, Godfearing, civilized city.

Joshua Blaines Crandal is knocked on the head and kicked off of Jim Clamerty’s Circus and Medicine Show wagon and left to fend for himself in the middle of nowhere with Clamerty taking off with all Josh’s money, clothes, horse and saddle. Josh aims to settle the score, but wanders in the desert for several days before he stumbles into Miss Hetty’s campsite.

Harriet’s wagon has a broken wheel and fortunately the incident occurs by a small green spot in the Arizona wasteland. When Josh straggles in, she believes God has sent him to repair the wagon’s wheel. At first glance, he appears to be a poor excuse for a man. Josh finds Hetty to be an uppity, prim and prissy woman, but she is kind, feeding him when he knows the women’s supplies are low. He does his best to repair the wheel, but at first hasn’t the faintest idea how to go about it. He had been a banker in his father’s bank back in Savannah before he took off and let his wanderlust lead him west.

Harriet’s companions are Becky, whom Harriet had saved from Madam Fletcher’s Bawdy House, and Marilee, a plain but cheerful woman who left her Illinois home and took her belongings with her by wheelbarrow to St. Joseph, Missouri. Josh fixes the wheel using ingenuity he had not know he possesses, but before they are ready to set out again, a cavalry troop arrives, led by a handsome lieutenant. Just as Josh discovers there is more to Hetty than religion and primness, this Adonis appears. What chance does a man like Josh stand next to someone as attractive and nice as the lieutenant?

Awe-Struck Publishing; January 2005
199 pages; ISBN 9781587494888
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Trail to Bliss
Author: Jeannine D. Van Eperen
“Oh, dear, I’ve forgotten my manners, Mr. Crandal. My name is Harriet Goodspell, and my companions are Miss Marilee Dinwitty and Miss Rebecca Wannamaker. We’re traveling to Contention City to spread God’s word among the miners, farmers, and merchants there.” “Contention City? I just come from over that way. It’s a boomtown, all right, but there’s no place for you to stay. Mostly just a tent and shantytown. Couple of saloons and who—” He almost said whorehouses but caught himself just in time. Josh shook his head. “I don’t think you want to go there. It’s no place for three ladies.” Harriet smiled. “That’s exactly why we must go there. If someone doesn’t preach the gospel, what will become of the souls of those hard-working men? God will protect us, Mr. Crandal.” He couldn’t help but mutter, “Yeah, just like He protected you from a broken wheel.” “But He also sent you to fix it.” The woman’s lips were pressed in a firm, self-satisfied, prim line. “Listen, Miss Goodspell, I’m just a circus clown.” Josh shifted on his feet. He was hungry, he’d gladly work off his meal, but he knew nothing of mechanics. “I’m not sure I can fix your wagon’s wheel.” “I have faith in you, Mr. Crandal.” Harriet looked straight at him. “Why else would you have fallen unnoticed from the circus wagon if it were not God’s will?” “For the love of God,” he muttered under his breath. God had nothing to do with it. It was that tightwad, Jim Clamerty who pushed him off the wagon, who kept all of his clothes and worldly possessions, just because Josh wanted his pay. Jim Clamerty who invited him to a poker game, not even letting him change his costume. Jim Clamerty who high-tailed it out of Whiskey Ridge with his circus wagons and performers before the sheriff caught on to his crooked dealings. Josh kept these thoughts to himself, accepted his bowl of stew with thanks, and sat where Miss Harriet Goodspell indicated. Just when he was ready to dive into his grub, the woman began to pray. “Thank thee, Lord, for this food we have, and thank Thee for providing us with an escort and helper to fix our wagon. We trust in Thy wisdom, and accept our blessings with humility. Amen.” “Amen,” the others including Josh echoed. It took a few minutes before the meaning of Miss Goodspell’s words sunk in. Escort! Not me, Miss Prissy. Not on your life. Soon’s I get your wheel fixed I’m off to the nearest town. Anyplace but Contention City. Josh dug into his food. He was so hungry he didn’t spare much time for good manners, but ate steadily as the night deepened. The stew was tasty, seasoned well almost as good as something he’d have gotten in the hotel dining room back in Savannah.