It's the spring of 1864, and times are hard in Washington County, Arkansas, especially for 13-year-old Travis Ford. He hasn't heard from his father, a sergeant in the 2nd Arkansas Cavarly, in months. His mother is struggling to make ends meet on the family farm near Poison Spring. All Travis wants to do is follow his passion -- to make up adventure stories. But the Civil War keeps getting in his way.
When Federal forces move into Washington County, including the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, Travis and his family are caught in the middle. All too soon, Travis will have to make a choice, between North and South, black and white, right and wrong, horror and humanity. Johnny D. Boggs brings to life the tragedy of an overlooked Civil War massacre, by telling the story through the eyes of a young boy watching his world unravel.
Booklist: "a moving coming-of-age story."
Historical Novels Review: "superb historical fiction, and highly recommended."
An Excerpt from Poison Spring
That was the year we had no food.
The cornfield Papa had cleared lay fallow, as it had for going on two years now. Oh, Mama had a little garden out behind our cabin, but this was the 1st of April, so we didn't know if anything we had planted would make it. Winter had been hard, and a late freeze had killed the blossoms on our apple trees.
Not that we were starving. Not yet, anyway. From last harvest, Mama had put away jars of preserves, and there were still some potatoes and carrots left in the root cellar that hadn't rotted.
Besides, we had Miss Mary Frederick for a neighbor, and Miss Mary had to be the richest woman in Ouachita County. She was always bringing us leftovers, plus cakes or cookies or pies. She'd bring us everything but coffee. Mama dearly loved coffee, but that was one product nobody was getting in Arkansas. Even if you could find it, you couldn't afford it. Well, maybe Miss Mary could have, but she said she never cared for the stuff.
The spring of '64 had been so wet, so miserable that when our baby brother Hugh had walked out into the old cornfield, he had sunk in mud up to his waist. When Edith and I had pulled him out, the thick goo had sucked off his shoes and socks. Baby Hugh hadn't minded one bit. That boy loved running around barefoot.
It seemed to be raining all the time, that spring. In fact, it was raining the evening when Uncle Willard paid us one of his visits.
Like Miss Mary, Papa's brother always brought us things, too. Not food, but money, which Mama always refused, although Uncle Willard would leave it when he rode back to Camden. At first, when we found some state script or gold coin left under the wash basin or stuck inside a coat pocket after he had gone, Mama would throw what Papa always called a "hissy fit" -- yelling and breathing hard and moving around, banging dishes, pulling her hair, doing everything except cussing. After two years, however, she had grown resigned to the fact Uncle Willard would leave money behind, and it would wind up in the church collection plate. Taking leftovers from Miss Mary was one thing, but Mama never would accept anything from Uncle Willard.
All of us Fords could be mighty stubborn, but none ever came close to matching Anna Louella Graham Ford's mule head.
Copyright 2014 by Johnny D. Boggs