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Mercer's Manor

Mercer's Manor by Bobby Woodall
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Dan Mercer is an ex-Union officer trying to forge a new life for himself on Oklahoma’s untamed plains.
SynergEbooks; June 2002
234 pages; ISBN 9780744304756
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Title: Mercer's Manor
Author: Bobby Woodall
ONE Dark and ominous rain clouds were beginning to build in the western sky, illuminated by the ever increasing lightning streaking across the horizon. Lightning suddenly flashed. A few moments later, the sound of thunder reached his ears like the booming of heavy artillery shells. Like the waves of an angry tempest-tossed sea, the knee-high grass weaved on the prairie. It was early summer and storms were almost an everyday occurrence on the plains. The day was hot and the night was cold. The temperature was fast dropping, causing the breath of the rider and his mount to appear as smoke in the cold evening air. Rabbits scurried to their burrows, deer raced to the safety of the forests and the birds busily tucked their heads under their wings. Everything and everyone was getting ready for the approaching storm. The animals could sense when a storm was brewing. Leaves turned in the trees, which were bowing as if in obeisance to the lone horseman, their limbs lowering humbly. Dan Mercer, ex-union captain, galloped his horse furiously on the plains to beat the advancing storm. The former cavalry officer slapped the reins on the horse's withers and worked his heels into the side of the animal to urge more speed. He did not want to be caught on the open prairie. The brim of his campaign hat flattened against his forehead as the gold-colored tassels lay back against the crown. Wind assailed his face, whipping his long black hair around it. His salt and peeper handlebar mustache tickled his nose as the wind whipped the loose hairs into his nostrils. The officer held onto his horse, his muscular legs tightening on the animal's side. A bandana tugged at his neck, the ends slapping the side of his face. His buckskin jacket drew tightly against his chest. A holstered .44 Colt slapped at his hip. The flap on the holster was securely snapped closed. In the boot of the saddle rested a Henry .44 rifle in a ragged leather scabbard. The bowie knife at his waist was encased in a shabby leather sheath and strapped around his chest was a bandoleer full of cartridges for his rifle and pistol. A gleaming short saber tied to the front of the saddle helped to complete his armament. Hardtack and other foodstuffs were packed tightly in his war bag, along with paper cartridges for his pistol. His .44 Colt gun-cleaning material and two loaded cylinders were nestled safely in his saddlebags. These articles were tightly wrapped in an oilskin pouch to keep them protected from the elements. Bedroll, poncho and a short piece of tarpaulin were strapped to the back of his western-style saddle. A small cotton sack tied with leather thongs dangled from the left side, while a canteen hung from the right. The latter was held securely to the saddle's pommel by another leather thong. He looked not only like an itinerant traveler, which he was, but also like a wanderer. The cowboy spurred his chestnut gelding across the plains of the Indian Territory. The sky was getting as black as his mood and the wind was becoming more brisk. Brush and debris flew overhead and an occasional small animal would go whisking by in the airborne turbulence while small pieces of sagebrush were borne aloft in the tumultuous air. He skidded his horse to a halt on a small knoll, trying hard to remain in the saddle as the horse pranced about nervously in anticipation of the imminent storm. Gripping the reins in his teeth, he placed his right hand on his hat, while with the other hand he tightened his chinstrap more securely. He was barely able to see through the resulting dust brought up from the ground by the wind, for little dust devils obscured his vision. He tried to hold the reins in a steady hand. It seemed wherever there happened to be dust stirring, there were also small whirlwinds of dirt. Mercer surveyed his surroundings. Blue eyes topped by black bushy eyebrows took in the muddy Cimarron River as it churned to his right, inundating its banks to cover the low-lying land in the immediate area. Off in the distance to his left, he could barely make out the beginnings of the Wichita Mountains. In front of him was another expanse of plains followed by rolling hills. A blue haze covered the base of the mountains to his south. The mist made the mountains seem foreboding, yet as inviting as the arms of an alluring woman. I'd figured on making those mountains during the daylight hours. He struggled with his horse. Or at least by tomorrow. Mercer had left the hills separating Arkansas from the Indian Territory that morning. He was twenty-one today, the 21st day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1865. The war had been finished for a little more than two months. Getting released from that hellhole, Andersonville Prison, had been a good birthday present. I'm free!
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