Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. vii-viii

The kernel of this novel came to me more than ten years ago, and I have been fortunate that friends, family members and colleagues have weathered the decade with me, continuing to offer advice and consolation as I conducted research and traveled throughout Texas to imagine my characters in the nineteenth century. Two informative primary sources that...

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1

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pp. 1-10

Everyone said he was lucky but I didn’t believe it. Not for a second. Jedidiah Jones wasn’t lucky; the angels of clemency had forsaken him but the devil, the dim-witted devil of injudicious earthly things, whispered in his ear that he was a good boy and Jed confused the imp on his shoulder for an angel. My cousin, half white, half Mexican and full fool, was lucky...

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2

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pp. 11-17

On the day I was born my father said I puckered my lips into an O and whistled into his face to greet him. He laughed, kissed my mother’s cheek and announced, “She’s mine all right.” Growing up, I had curly hair and a dimpled chin that resembled his and although my disposition was a child’s, I adopted his moods, laughing when he laughed, giving orders as...

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3

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pp. 18-21

On the eve of battle, I sat high up in the barn studying rain clouds through the hayloft doors. In my red leather-bound journal, I sketched scenes as if to document for myself what my memory would forget. Below in the courtyard, my father wandered over to my mother plucking feathers from a chicken whose neck she had twirled and wrung then chopped clean at...

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4

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pp. 22-28

“They came here often to see my girls, especially my meskin girls. Like you.” Miss Elsie pointed a finger at my mother and pulled at a bodice that pinched the skin underneath her breasts. I sat in the room and pretended to read hoping my mother would not send me away while she and Miss Elsie squabbled over men’s liberties, the...

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5

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pp. 29-37

I don’t regret not having stayed behind on the day marauders plundered our ranch. Regret is not enough. Regret only implies disappointment or remorse and what I bore after that day was more than any disappointment or remorse that might pursue me for years to come. I became hollow. Repeating the story even if only to myself inflicts emptiness so vast that I...

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6

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pp. 38-58

All night I crawled and cried on my bedroom fl oor like a gutless coward from the missing of Ifi and Rusty and when I thought about their murder, my skin ached and I shivered from fi erce desperation. Th e birth of the twins had lightened burdens on the farm and for a while my mother and father teased and laughed as they had when I was a kid. When Ifi and ...

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7

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pp. 38-50

All night I crawled and cried on my bedroom floor like a gutless coward from the missing of Ifi and Rusty and when I thought about their murder, my skin ached and I shivered from fierce desperation. The birth of the twins had lightened burdens on the farm and for a while my mother and father teased and laughed as they had when I was a kid. When Ifi and...

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8

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pp. 51-53

I rode into the next town incognito dressed up in my papi’s buckskin jacket to bulk up my body and his black gloves to cover my small hands. In his study, I had found a hat that belonged to my Tío Lorenzo and I wore it over my eyes to hide any expression that might reveal a feminine look but I was certain that I was far beyond any femininity with my cheek puffy...

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9

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pp. 54-66

For almost a month I crossed plains and prairies, entered towns and saloons in pursuit of Rove and his boys and thinking back I realize I was too young and too stupid to be afraid enough to stop my journey of vengeance. Oh, I was afraid, believe me, but not enough to keep me from doing what I was raw to get done. I was told more than once...

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10

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pp. 67-80

Trusting family when deceit is in their blood is as complicated as not trusting them because their blood is in your own. Jed’s deceptions were what I had come to expect and I decided, whether or not he intended, he had led his gambling buddies back to the stable. I was so sure about it that the reality of it became fresh on my skin and malice seeped up from my blood...

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11

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pp. 81-89

I had been riding for weeks when a fierce rainstorm forced me to stop and look for cover beneath a cypress tree on the bank of the San Jacinto River and as I scanned the surroundings I saw I was near the muddy battle- field where my father had died. The branches broke the vigor of the rain and droplets plummeted in a cascade plopping onto the ground before...

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12

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pp. 90-98

At dawn I poked around for my boots and when I reached for my saddlebag, it was gone. So was my father’s rifle. A cool breeze flapped and rustled the pages of my journal which was creased open to a page with scribbling that was not my own. It was Pete’s hand and all it said was “a faire trayde.” Peaches, dried meat and other foodstuffs were scattered on a...

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13

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pp. 99-106

Fugitives are plentiful on a frontier with nameless roads and settlements and I became as ghostly as any fugitive who did not want to be seen or heard but still yearned to live a life beyond contemptible existence. I became so unsure of myself that I no longer had a resolve that mattered. I took to wandering through towns without any cause except to run from...

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14

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pp. 107-117

At the first sight of daylight I snuck out of that stable. I rode Lágrimas along the river’s edge for miles trailing bends and curves as my head bobbed exhausted from the night’s talk. I reflected on Lucius and his ad- vice to go home but it was advice I could not abide. Revenge filled my body each time I thought back on that night those men did to me what I...

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15

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pp. 118-123

It was July and rain fell on and off during our brief, afflicted voyage. The cargo ship sailed as stars vanished and the sun’s faint light shimmered on waves that lapped against the hull. Outside standing at the bow I breathed erratically, feeling somewhat troubled as I gazed at a horizon of a vast gray ocean blending with the sky. With Clara at my side, I strived...

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16

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pp. 124-131

Through sapphire fog and mist, the port of New Orleans hung above a murky ocean in a cloud puffy and fat like a satin curtain fluttering open. I’d never seen a sight so beautiful except for Clara. Down below, the streets were narrow and cobbled, lined with carriages elegant and profuse transporting women in fashion gowns and men in top hats and velvet...

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17

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pp. 132-137

I entered a fairy tale or paradise not my own replete with treasures, novelties and chattel, although those who crossed that threshold did not recognize their treasures as chattel necessarily. If they had, they would have had a conscience of sorts and men like this had no need for a conscience when the world lay before them, spread out like a platter of pastries, sweet to...

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18

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pp. 138-142

We abandoned the gambling house for fear of my being recognized by Jed because seeing him before I was prepared to see him did not fit in my plan—not that I really had one. Clara thought to take me back to her hotel room but I reminded her that her newly found friends were bound to search for her and so I hauled her to the only place I thought we would be...

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19

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pp. 143-150

Miss Celestine told me where to find Jed but before I journeyed out alone, “Why would he do that? Jedidiah Jones wouldn’t shoot his own cousin.” Back in our room, I stripped off the green dress and flung it to “Why not?” Clara picked up the dress and rubbed bloodstains that had “He can’t. We’re blood.” I watched her as she rubbed the dress...

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20

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pp. 151-162

Almost twelve hours passed and the drizzling rain and wet swamplands made me feel as hapless and foolish as my cousin had proclaimed and more than anything I was confused about my location, both geographic and of the psyche. I made camp near a swamp or bayou and I didn’t wake until early dawn when chigger bugs ate me alive and Lágrimas also...

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21

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pp. 163-168

The next part of my journey remains unforgivable to me and to those who would come to understand the gravity of the events that ensued. A rifle aimed at my back and the Colonel’s men somewhere behind me gave me pause and I reassessed the places I’d been wandering in and out of and decided I wanted to hide from the life I was leading and all I had become...

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22

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pp. 169-176

It was the bird chirping that steered me toward the tree. A brown wren chirped loud and troubled and there was no bliss in the twitter that was not a song but a warning or a call for help. The shrill reverberated through the canyon and led me down the river’s southeastern path where a grove of black oak trees crowded around the one red oak from which the shrill...

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23

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pp. 177-179

I rode into morning light and watched clouds flecked by rising sun turn from rose and orange to white wisps of strands like fingers signaling my way home. At noon, I dozed in my saddle but would not stop to rest. Patting the pocket of my jacket, I felt the crumpled document that bore my name and wondered if my mother would be pleased with my offering. In...

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24

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pp. 180-183

I could no longer explain even to myself the onus of all that had occurred on a journey I begged to be over but instead persisted as if to prove that something vast, yet inferior, was in charge of my destiny. I rolled Jedidiah’s body in my saddle blanket and tied the tube with a worn rope to the back of my saddle dragging the corpse behind me and Lágrimas. I didn’t...

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25

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pp. 184-188

“How long you been sittin here like this?” Miss Elsie rested her hands behind her back, one hand patting the other. Inside the jail cell, I hummed and rocked back and forth. I must have looked like a crazy creature. “Darlin, I’m talkin to you. I ain’t about to put up with this kind of craziness neither. Now, git on up from there and let’s get you fed. Your mama...

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26

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pp. 189-193

Mamá and Miss Elsie came into town to assist the lawyer who was to represent me at the trial. I thought it was unlikely that some stranger from the east could set me free from accusations true to those without a speck of wisdom that truth may be more than two-sided. What I had come to realize was that only two sides of things mattered in my homeland anymore...

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27

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pp. 194-201

Either he felt compassion for me or he was just plain happy to see me caged because when Walker returned to the jailhouse and I asked how he liked the adventures by Cervantes, he handed me my father’s book. “Too much foolishness,” he said. “I like a real story. None of that imaginary foolishness.” He squeezed the book between the bars. I took his gesture...

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28

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pp. 202-204

“You recognize envy when you see it?” Walker led me to the jail cell and locked me up. “What?” “Do you recognize envy? When you see it?” He hovered on the other side of the bars with his hands on his hips. “I know what you said, I just don’t take your meaning.” “Here’s the thing. Look on out at that spread of land. Well, what used...

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EPILOGUE

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pp. 205-206

The thing is, so many years have passed since the time of my cousin Je- didiah Jones and the circumstances that led those scavengers to accuse me of his murder, that I’ve let rest the disdain I carried in my heart for my less fortunate cousin. I am the lucky one now. Although I am exiled from my home, I am the lucky one. But you got to know this other thing about...