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  • Susan Stoderl

Prairie Dust | Chapter 2, Excerpt 1 | A Historical Novel in Serial Form

Barb-wired fence on the prairie.
A Historical Novel Set in Colorado 1908

Jim was glad he had opted for the buggy last night. He had enjoyed giving the pretty junior clerk at the dry goods store a ride home from the square dance. The Model N Ford would have been too pretentious at a church social, he thought as he hurried out to his newest possession.

He had purchased the car on a whim in Denver. Since he had found nothing he liked locally, he had traveled to the city to see what top-notch breeding stock might be available. Jim also had no aversion to a nice dinner as a lone, handsome family man in the city. He was partial to a roast leg of lamb with mint sauce and a full Bordeaux. Something Flora refused to countenance. First, she was a tee-totaling Methodist, and lambs were for wool. Flora knew nothing about the Model N either—another item on the long list.

As he approached the iron mailbox at the turnoff to the main road, he saw old man Higgins had already been by in his square mail cart. Jim leaned down from the high car seat and reached into the “cursed” iron box.

To establish an official U.S. mail route, everyone had to agree to buy an official mailbox. But Old Henkelmann Sr. refused to pay a one-time payment of $2.50 for a “damn cur-sëd ugly iron contraption” when he had a beautiful mailbox hand-painted by his late wife. He held up the route for three months.

Henkelmann was right. The iron box was ugly and already rusting around the flag. Jim opened it to find a letter from Flora. Boldly written on the back: “Don’t open in front of the boys.” It was not one of her long, gossipy narratives. Short was personal. Personal was dangerous. Should he read it now, or go about his business?

The woman’s words were known only by the Lord and were likely not good. His gut fluttered in sync with the shaking auto.

© 2024, Susan Stoderl, All Rights Reserved.


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