3123 CR 2407 Rusk, TX 75875
|WHERE THE PIRATES ARE|
(BLUE BONNET AWARD NOMINEE & Winner of FRIENDS OF AMERICAN WRITERS AWARD)
Read the excerpt below
HISTORICAL FICTION; Written in the spirit of TOM SAWYER, three friends and a dog search for pirate treasure in Galveston Bay during the days of the Texas Republic..
Reading Level 5th grade and up.
Published by Eakin Press
$10.95 paperback USA
The Texas Revolution had been over for more than six
years. Long before that all of the pirates had left the
coast, and now, even Indians were getting scarce. To Jeremiah Dundee, at the age
of twelve, it seemed that
Galveston was a dull place where adventures of any worth were impossible to
find. For if the books were right,
adventures were only found in far-off places like desert islands or jungles, and
certainly not in a bustling city.
Galveston was an island, but it was also a huge, growing city with some seven
streets, a bank, and so many
he had already lost count. Worst of all, there was even talk of building a
"Our fledgling republic must be peopled with the best
educated men so that this glorious star of the west
will not falter or grow dim in the distant dawns of time," the mayor had said
loudly in a speech around Christmas
time. Like most things the mayor said, Jeremiah did not understand a word of it.
When he had asked Uncle Moss Tatum what it meant, he
had been told, "Well, now, Jem my lad, it
means he's fixin' ta build a schoolhouse and keep ya troublesome carcass off
these here streets, he is."
"Won't matter none to me," Jem had answered, sticking
out his chin and squinting one eye. "Reckon I'll
be signin' on some ship, soon as one anchors that suits my fancy."
Uncle Moss had stared down at him from behind his gray,
bushy whiskers and bit on the stem of his pipe.
"Likely as not, ya probably will, seein' as how ya ain't got a lick of sense."
He shook his head and Jem watched a
few gray ashes drift down from Uncle Moss's pipe. "Ya can't see that just by
stayin' here, learnin' the trade of
makin' sails like I'm tryin' my dangest ta teach ya, why ya'd be a rich man
some day, 'stead of the ragamuffin
ya are now."
But, as the winter of 1842 became the spring of 1843,
the school remained only a dream in the mayor's mind,
and running off to sea remained only a dream to Jem. Spring brought warm,
southerly winds from the Gulf,
and fine sunshine. On a Saturday morning Jem skipped down the Strand and turned
toward the wharf at the end
of Water Street. If there was one place in all of Galveston he found worth
visiting, it was here among the ships. For
this was a true crossroads of the world. Galveston was a harbor where ships from
Europe, China, California, and
all the other fabled places where adventures could still be found, came to
anchor briefly before sailing on.
Jem wandered along the T-shaped wharf, dodging workers
carrying heavy burlap bags, nearly as big as
themselves. Boxes and crates with mysterious smells and strangely painted labels
were stacked here and there,
while others were being hoisted in cargo nets or loaded on carts and wagons.
Tall masts rose skyward, each
crossed with a varnished yard from which hung loosely furled tan canvas sails.
High on the topgallant yards of a
brig, seamen were at work removing a torn
sail, and below, the decks were being scrubbed. Sidestepping a
horse cart loaded with barrels, Jem ducked between a pair of tatooed seamen with
blue stocking caps and
beards. He watched them pass and took time to admire the long, wicked looking
knives they carried in their
A steam whistle echoed above the other noises and he
broke into a run, zipping neatly along the crowded
wharf. In front of him, black smoke was billowing skyward. Beneath it, he could
see the tall smokestacks of the
steamboat, Dayton. He ran like the wind now, his bare feet padding lightly on
the smooth planks of the wharf as
his shirttail flowed out behind him. The wharf opened up before him just as the
huge steamboat was taking in her
spring lines and backing out into the channel. White steam hissed from her
engine. Water splashed around the
blades other two-story high paddle wheels as they dipped in and out of the
water, moving her slowly in reverse.
Everyone knew the Dayton, fastest steam packet on the Texas coast. Two years
earlier she had beaten the Albert
Gallatin, down from Harrisburg, in a death race that saw the Gallatin explode
her boilers near Redfish Island. The
flames had been clearly visible from Galveston. Today, the Dayton would be
standing out for Aransas Pass,
nearly two days' run down the coast. He watched fascinated as the huge wheels
changed direction and she
began to move away. Swinging first toward the low sandbar called Pelican Spit,
she then headed east, around
Snake Point and into the open Gulf beyond. When nothing but her smokestacks were
visible, Jem finally turned
away and started slowly back toward Water Street.
Jem had always been a loner. His friends could be
counted on one hand with a couple of fingers left over.
There was Uncle Moss Tatum, who really was not his uncle, and Jeffery Reid,
Moss's partner in the sail making
loft. Jem lived there in a back room
overlooking the harbor. That room was the only home he remembered. Of his
early life, he could only guess and wonder.
"Ya come here on the brig Laura D, up from Campeche
with Captain Hutchinson," Moss had told him each
time he asked, even though the boy knew it all by heart. "Two days out, they was
runnin' 'round the west end of
Scorpion Reef when the lookout spied a bit of wreckage with you on it. Not more
than a babe ya was, clingin' to a
jib boom, and near dead. Ya had that locket there 'round your neck. They got ya
aboard and brung ya here. We
took ya in an give ya the name Dundee, cause the Laura D was named for a Lady
Dundee. And that is all we
know, 'cause they never found out what ship it was that wrecked on the reef."
Jem thought about it often. Not knowing his parents
bothered him some, even though Uncle Moss always told
him that it did not matter where somebody came from, just where they were going.
Often, when he was alone, he
would take off the locket and examine it over and over again. On the cover was a
bird, a falcon maybe, with tiny
jewels for eyes. Once, perhaps, it had been painted black, but now, only bits of
the paint remained over the gold.
In-side, there was nothing.
Jem's best friend was Raif, who was almost an orphan
too. Raif's father had come to Texas from Mexico
before the war and it was said that he fought alongside General Sam Houston at
the Battle of San Jacinto. After
the war he had become a fisherman, and one day he had sailed out into the Gulf
and never come back. Now Raifs
mother managed to make a modest living doing washing and sewing.
In many ways, the two boys were opposites. Raif loved
the city and had learned its ways. He could always
earn a few coins polishing boots in front of the barber-shop on Mechanic Street,
or carrying baggage for travelers
at the Galvez Hotel.
This morning, Jem found Raifa couple of blocks from the
waterfront. "Hey Jem, where are you going today, my
"Just around," Jem shrugged, shuffling his feet in the
"Yeah, me too. It's quiet today," Raif yawned.
"Let's go down to the old pirate fort!" Jem suggested
suddenly, his eyes lighting up with new interest. Raif
liked the idea also, and together they started off down thestreet toward the
island's east end.
Their destination was less than a mile away, sitting on
a little rise and surrounded by palm trees. Once, some
twenty years before, it had been the island fortress of the buccaneer or
pirate Jean Lafitte. He and six
hundred followers had been the island's first settlers. Now, all that was left
were scarred masonry walls,
nearly hidden beneath creeping vines and weeds. Wide stairs led up to the ruined
second floor which, so they had
been told, once held cannon.
The two boys stopped at the bottom of the vine covered
stairs and looked up at the place. It is quiet, Jem
thought, deathly quiet. A soft breeze rustled the palm leaves ever so slightly,
and lizards scurried from their
path as they moved cautiously up the stairs. Both of the boys had been here
dozens of times before, but the old
ruins always seemed eerie, just the same. Palm branches spilled over the upper
floor, making brushing noises in
the breeze. They reached the top and moved in silence across the smooth floor to
where another set of stairs descended from the floor's center.
These stairs were wooden. Each one creaked under the
boys' weight, and echoed loudly through the gloom as
they moved. Sunlight sneaked between the cracks in the boarded up first floor
windows, and cast weird, creeping shadows on the moss-covered walls. Spider webs
hung like nets across the doorways and in every corner. Jem
stopped to gaze up at the sagging ceiling where huge, rough-cut timbers still
supported the weight of the second floor. At one place, a few feet of rusty
chain dangled where once there had been a chandelier. Old folk said
this had been a mansion in Lafitte's time and French officers had come here
after the defeat of Napoleon. Lafitte
entertained them royally, and then they sailed north, up the Trinity River to
found a colony but it failed.
Jem could imagine the way the mansion must have looked.
Maison Rouge, Red House, Lafitte had named it.
The floors would have been polished wood, the walls hung with mirrors reflecting
the light of a hundred candles.
"Raif?" Jem asked quietly. "You ever feel pulled to a
place? Like somehow, even though it don't make no
sense, you were here once before."
"You been here lots of times," Raif answered him.
Jem frowned, knowing his friend was not under-standing.
"No, I mean like a long time ago. Maybe before
I was born or something."
Raif shrugged his shoulders. "Sometimes I think about
Mexico, and wonder what it would be like if my
people had stayed there. Then, I think I'm happy they came here." He looked at
Jem for a moment. "But you,
my friend, talk of stranger things."
"Come on," Jem said, changing the subject quickly,
"let's explore the cellar."
Even worse looking stairs spiraled down from the first floor, into the foul
smelling darkness below. Jem
and Raif were on the first steps when a noise from below stopped them in their
tracks. "What was that?" Raif
"Probably just a rat or something," Jem told him,
trying to sound unconcerned.
"Yeah, it's the or
something that's got me worried," Raif whispered again.
"Go on," Jem urged nervously, staying behind him as the
two boys started down into the darkness. Each step
creaked ominously, and they blinked their eyes, trying to adjust to the
darkness. They felt the stairway turning to
the right as they descended cautiously, one step at a time. Jem thought he heard
breathing. Then, just as they
reached the cellar floor, a light moved quickly from beneath the stairs. He
heard a deep growl, but not the
growl of an animal, the growl of a human!
The yellow light of a swinging lantern suddenly cast
ghostly shadows across a dark, unshaven face with a
hook nose. A long, jagged scar ran from somewhere beneath a filthy bandanna,
down to the snarling corner of a
mouth full of yellow teeth. The eyes were deep set, red and haunted. They seemed
to burn into him as the boys
stood spellbound, too frightened to run. Then, Jem saw the knife. The lantern
light reflected for a second off the
shining steel of its slender, curving blade as it flashed toward him.