Book Excerpt: “Voices From the Land” by Jan Marquart

book excerpt

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Voices from the Land by Jan Marquart is a historical novel that tells the story of a small group of people and their incomparable ability to form a new town in the Southwest after President Lincoln freed the slaves in 1860. The story exposes the vicious hate of a lawless land juxtaposed against the generous compassion of the American people to attend to one another’s wounds. Despite the violence and mayhem in this vulnerable town, the indefatigable spirit of its inhabitants assures their survival.


Father had gotten well enough to guide a group of businessmen
across the country, even though Mama and I begged him to
stay. We had become used to having him around, and now it was
just me and Mama. I was scared. What if something happened to
Mama while Father was gone? What would I do?

Father said he would ask Wind Eagle to check in on us. Wind
Eagle said he would be glad to do it, and although that was some
help, it didn’t make me feel too much better. I didn’t let on though
because everyone told me I was the man of the family while Father
was away, and I wanted them to think I could handle problems,
but I worried most nights and got little sleep.

Father was right. The next time he came home was almost
three years later, and I had already gotten married. I would have
shown him my new baby girl, but my wife, Adelia was her name,
had died in childbirth. A day later, the baby died, but no one in
town knew why. Father was sad for me and Mama. We took him to
where we put their graves next to Grandmother and Grandfather.
Wind Eagle built a box big enough for the both of them. He
thought we should burn them together so their spirits would join
hands on their way to the Great Spirit. Instead, we buried them
together because as hard as I tried, I could never get used to the
thought of watching people I love be set on fire even though they
were dead.

I spent the next year in the woods grieving on the edge of
town returning only to see Mama and Father now and then
because Father gave up guiding at this point. He had taken to getting
so ill in California that he almost didn’t return. We thought
he had died and was just about to give up hope when he rode in
one day nearly collapsing off his horse when he got to the door.

Losing my wife and child was more than I could bear. I think
I was sixteen or seventeen, and everyone told me I was too young
to give up, but it was too late. I had given up.

Then one day, Wind Eagle, who was getting quite old to ride
so much, came for a visit. Mama and Father told them I spent
every day, all day in the woods sometimes not coming home for
weeks. They were worried and asked if Wind Eagle would talk
to me.

I was sitting under a tree looking up cursing the Lord for all
the pain I was going through. As loud as I could, I yelled, “I hate
you,” and I nearly screamed from fright when Wind Eagle stepped
in front of me and chanted something in his language. I was furious.
I stood up and the next thing I remember I was punching
old Wind Eagle in the chest and crying and talking nonsense. He
tried to hold me, tightening his grip while chanting the whole
time. The more he chanted, the more I became a wild animal.

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