That’s a Long Row to Hoe

If you live in farmland, you’ve probably heard this phrase before. “A particularly difficult or problematic task, situation, or set of circumstances to contend with or confront.”

We have farmers in our family. The idea is not a new concept for us. We spent time with relatives this past weekend at a wedding in Lincoln, Nebraska. Douglas and Teresa, the farmers, headed home and got right back on the John Deere. The harvest is ready. Corn waits for no man.

Writing a book feels similar at times. The row ahead seems endless, and all you can focus on is what is right in front of you. The knowledge of everything that still awaits is daunting. But writing waits for no man. You dig in, put your head down, and work.

But finally, you’re finished. No more research. No more feedback from critique partners. No more editing. No more proofreading. You’ve finished the book, and you can sit back with a sigh of relief.

Sigh. That’s me today.

Accepted is done, uploaded, printed, and available for purchase. Today is book birthday number three in the San Antonio series.

If you like historical romance, you need this book. The probability is high you’ll learn a fact you didn’t learn at school. You’ll laugh and maybe cry. And you’ll see God’s love.

Need a little taste to be sure? Here are the first few pages. If you decide it’s for you, you can order here.

Now, sit back and dive in. Enjoy.

San Antonio, Texas – Spring, 1864

Chapter One

They wasted time with every moment they stood idle.

Jonathan Campbell squinted one eye and peered at the cloudless sky. Mr. Nelson, from the feed store in San Antonio, should be along directly. Jonathan had placed his order for corn and cotton seed back in March, and they were due to arrive today. He sucked his teeth, impatience building. The store owner’s offer to deliver surprised him, but he was glad enough to accept the help that saved him from making a trip to town. The urge to start made him antsy. Where was the man?

With one knee pressed into the damp ground, he stretched his tight back with a groan. Sweeping his hat from his head, he wiped his sleeve across his brow. The sun’s rays brought welcome warmth after a frigid February and a rainy March, and he had worked up a sweat. Long, straight furrows gave testament to the labor he and the two farmhands had completed so far. The week had been productive. Preparing the soil to receive seed, helping along the life cycle established by God, spoke to a spot deep in his soul.

He gave the wrench he gripped in his sweaty hand one last yank and glanced up at the young man, who waited for him to work his magic with the plow. The hired hand had phenomenal skills with horses, but mechanical things reduced him to fumble fingers. “Try now, Teddy. I think it’s ready to go.”

Teddy grinned. “Is there nothing you can’t fix?” He popped the reins against the back of the draft horse, urging him on with a click of his tongue. The animal’s enormous hooves dug into the ground, and the machine lurched into motion. The depth wheel rotated easily now, silver metal from the plowshare glinting in the sun.

A pleased smile broke across Jonathan’s face as the rich, brown earth appeared. God made Adam from the dust of the ground. If only creating came that easy for him. Unfortunately, his took nothing but good, honest, hard work. Ah, well. When God made him, he added an extra pinch of farmer. He loved this life.

He stood and tugged his hat back down, then dusted his hands together. Halfway across the field, Ernest drove a team of mules, working his half of the acreage. The older man worked too far away for Jonathan to see, but he imagined the wicked grin that probably crossed his face. Teddy’s delay gave Ernest a jump on their progress.

Neither helper said anything aloud, but the farmhands competed to see whose team would finish first. Each stood convinced his choice of work animal ranked superior to the other. Teddy had fidgeted, casting anxious glances toward the opposite side of the field as he waited for Jonathan to fix the broken plow.

Ernest preferred working with the lean mules. Teddy loved the big draft animal. Jonathan preferred the animal that cost the least to feed and care for. At present, the contest measured in at a draw. Both required shoes to protect against the stony sections of land, both required feed during the winter. But both pulled their weight. Neither pulled particularly at his heartstrings. They were animals. Property. They had a job to do. And right now, that job meant getting this pasture ready for planting.

“Jonathan.” Belle’s voice carried across the field. He turned with a smile to greet his little sister.

She tramped over the plowed furrows, stepping up and down between the rows of dirt. A hamper banged against her knee as she came his direction, fingers wrapped around the handle.

Jonathan met her halfway.

“What’ve you got? The way you’re lugging that basket around, it must weigh as much as you.”

“Ma’s seen the way y’all eat when you come for lunch at the house. She packed enough for an army, so far as I’m concerned. You’d never know there’s only three of you.”

Jonathan laughed as he reached for the food. He rubbed his hand over her head, callouses on his palm snagging against her smooth blonde hair, pulling strands from her tidy braids.

“Stop.” Belle yanked her head away with the injured tone only a thirteen-year-old could affect. She smoothed her hand against the braids, darting a quick glance toward Teddy.

“Whoa there, missy. Don’t bat those big blue eyes at the hired help.” Jonathan cocked a warning eyebrow at her.

Belle turned as red as a tomato. “What—?” She stammered to a halt. “You’re stupid.”

Jonathan moved to block her view of the strapping young man walking behind the Percheron. “We’ve got work to do. Thanks for lunch. Head on back and see if Ma needs your help.”

Belle narrowed her eyes. “I don’t answer to you. Just ’cause Pa died doesn’t mean you get to boss everybody around.”

“That’s exactly what it means.” Jonathan held up a hand, a peace offering. “But my apologies.” He waggled his fingers toward the house. “Unless you plan to drive a plow, you’re in my way.”

Belle stuck out her tongue. Then, with a last glance toward Teddy, she whirled around, braids flying.

Jonathan chuckled as she stomped off. Indignation vibrated through every step.

Both teams turned the corner at the far end of the seventy-five-acre field and headed his way. He whistled to catch the men’s attention and swung the basket through the air. “Lunchtime, boys,” he hollered. A field this large took a while to prepare, and they were on a schedule. But they had to stop to refuel now and again.

By the time they reached him, he had the contents spread across the ground. Six sandwiches, made with thick pieces of homemade bread and a hefty slice of ham, came wrapped in a dishcloth. A glass jar held fermented sauerkraut Ma’d put up last fall. Jonathan shook out equal portions onto tin plates he found in the basket’s bottom. One jug held milk, and a second carried water from their well. A plate of cookies lay on the bottom of the basket, a sweet dessert to finish the meal. When the men joined him, Jonathan bowed his head and gave thanks for the food.

They sprawled on the grass, enjoying the chance to rest. Life burgeoned busily around them as spring woke the earth. Mockingbirds sang, trilling through their repertoire of borrowed tunes. Bees hummed over early spring wildflowers, gathering nectar and pollen as they went. A breeze ruffled Jonathan’s hair as he leaned back on one hand, chewing with contentment. He could spend the rest of his life taking care of this farm and be completely happy.

They wolfed down the meal, taking turns drinking from the jugs. Ernest smacked his lips over the sauerkraut. “Not as good as my mutter used to make, but this is gut.”

Jonathan cocked an eyebrow at the older German, grinning. “I’ll let Ma know she’s earned your stamp of approval.”

Teddy brushed crumbs from his mouth. “What’s next, boss?”

Jonathan flinched at the title. He wasn’t ready to fill his pa’s shoes.

The young man reached for a second cookie. “Are we gonna do an extra field of cotton this year after we get the corn in?”

“Yes. The seed arrives today. I want to turn the sod in that section on the other side of the creek. We’ll plant cotton there. Last time I visited Galveston, I saw cotton bales lined up from one end of the port to the other. Rumor has it the armies want to buy every bale they can find to make uniforms for the dad-blasted war, but Union soldiers are blockading the port. Corn will always be our money-maker, but cotton prices may go up this year.”

Ernest sighed. “Plowing a new field is such a beating. We could build anything under the sun with that sod. It’s tough as nails.” He glanced at the team of mules grazing nearby. “My boys’ll need an extra helping of feed tonight.”

Teddy snorted. “Benny’s strong enough to do it. And he won’t need no extra feed, neither.”

Ernest glowered. “I never said the mules couldn’t do it. But they’ll deserve a reward for good work.”

Jonathan stood, ending the argument before it started. “Back to work, fellas.”

Benny nickered, perked ears facing forward as he stared toward the farmhouse. Jonathan turned, following his gaze.

“Here we go.” He rubbed his hands together in pleased anticipation.

Mr. Nelson’s wagon rumbled down the drive. Jonathan walked to meet the man. Seed bags filled the wagon bed, piled in orderly rows.

He frowned. Lots and lots of rows. Maybe the man would make another stop after dropping off his part of the purchase.

Jonathan doffed his hat, extending his hand for a greeting. Mr. Nelson pumped it, well pleased to deliver his bounty.

“Afternoon, Mr. Nelson. You’re here just in time. I’m gonna start in behind these men and plant while they finish plowing. I think we can finish today.”

Mr. Nelson hitched his thumb over his shoulder toward the bed of the wagon. “You’re gonna need more land plowed if you plan to use all this. Had to deliver this one myself. Didn’t want to put the responsibility of carrying back such a large payment on one of the stock boys.” He gazed over the partially plowed section. “But another reason I offered to deliver the seed is so I could check out what betterments you must’ve done on the property. For sure, this little field ain’t gonna use the whole order. It’s a sight more’n what your pa ever ordered.”

Ernest and Teddy approached the wagon.

A sick feeling curdled in Jonathan’s stomach. He peered at Mr. Nelson, wanting to ask, but afraid of the answer. Had he ordered all that?

Is that enough of a taste to wet your whistle? If you’ve purchased books one and two (Protected and A Father’s Gift), I thank you. Your support means everything. If you haven’t, don’t worry. You can read each book as a standalone. But if you want to start at the beginning, Protected (eBook) is on sale for $1.99 until midnight tonight. Grab it while you can.

And thank you for encouraging me. You make that long row worth the effort, and I appreciate you.

6 Replies to “That’s a Long Row to Hoe”

  1. Historical romance is not a genre I typical choose to read. But I always make an exception with your books. That being said, I am going to re-read A Father’s Gift first and then jump into Accepted. I am so very proud of the success you have received in your adventure of story writing. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey.

  2. Paula, you have done a beautiful job in this work! Thank you for writing so descriptively. You have a very engaging and delightful style.

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