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Hangin Day

Book 1


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An Epic Texas Western Tale for Ages 7-10

A fun read-aloud for the whole family.

  • Age Range: 6 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 5
  • Series: Trouble In Texas
  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Language: English

Set in 1887 in the dusty Texas frontier, Silver Belle and Jeremiah have a mystery to solve! This western book for kids is a fun read-aloud for all ages!

For a personalized autographed copy call 806.655.4046.

Read Chapter 1 Now:

Chapter 1

 About the Hanging Trial of my Teacher

 Justice, Texas, June 1887

             The hanging trial of my teacher, Miss Libby, started at noon. I worked through the crowd that had gathered outside the two-story hotel. The inside looked packed, too. It’s not everyday a school teacher is accused of being a horse thief.

Miss Libby is the smartest, most sophisticated lady ever can be found in this rough and tumble town. My best friend Jeremiah even likes her. He doesn’t like much of nothing, most especially if it has to do with writing or reading.

Jeremiah poked me in the ribs with his finger. “Are you going in, Belle? Children may not be allowed.”

Silver Belle Stephens, that’s my name, because I was born on Christmas Eve. Most people call me Belle.

“Reckon so,” I said.

I’m eleven. That’s full-grown in my book and I’m taller than half the kids that go to my one-room school.

I squeezed through the mob and inched my way along the side of the building to an open window. Climbing on the sill, I eased inside the hotel lobby. Except it didn’t look like a friendly place for greeting travelers. The room had been rearranged into a place for conducting serious business with several men sitting at what used to be the check-in counter.

I heard a thud. A board squeaked. Jeremiah followed.

Sweat and rose water perfume overpowered my nose. The raised windows provided little air.

Jeremiah mumbled, “Stinks in here.”

I spun around and covered his mouth with a damp hand. “Hush, before we get thrown out.”

People bunched shoulder to shoulder on a collection of odd chairs. Settees and board benches blanketed the middle of the room. Others stood stiff and straight against the wall looking like the old maids at the holiday shindig. Behind the hotel’s tall check-in counter stood Mr. Conner, the town mayor, and Four-Gun Reynolds, a mail-order cowboy. The Randall County Anti-Horse Thief Committee was already in session.

More than anything I had hoped my father could have stayed and taken his place as the third member of the committee. But when Federal Marshal duties call, he has to go. He was appointed by the President of the U.S. of A. after all and he is steadfast to his job.

The lady sitting closest to me tapped my arm and pointed at the window. “Out,” she ordered.

I leaned in close to her ear. “I’m the marshal’s daughter.” With my father out-of-town, clearly it’s my duty to attend all public gatherings and give him a full report. I constantly had to remind these people of that fact. And besides, I had personal knowledge about these happenings. I had to stay.

Silently, I wormed in and around bustled skirts and store-bought clothes. I felt sure no one had even noticed our being there. Jeremiah’s voice broke the soft hissing of the crowd’s whispered voices. “Oh, pardon me, ma’am. Excuse me, sir.” So much for not being noticed I thought, as he bumped into my back.

Our teacher, Miss Libby, sat in a chair facing the room. Every blond curl lay in place and her blue wool dress pleated in perfect folds around her black boots. I studied her pale face. She looked like she might cry in one minute and spit fire the next.

Clara Percy, the biggest gossip in town, stood between the committee and Miss Libby. The bony old bat’s yammering hovered in the room. “There I sat on my porch, just like I do every evening. I had to keep an eye out for those Sheffield boys. They’ve been raiding my garden, and if I ever catch ‘em…”

“Please stick to the details of this case, Mrs. Percy,” Harland “Four-Gun” Reynolds said. “Tell us in your own words what you witnessed last night.”

As soon as any livestock is reported missing, the committee meets to gather the facts. The quicker they can pick up the trail the better.

Mrs. Percy stiffened her lanky frame and placed a skeletal hand at the starched collar of her shapeless black dress. She looked down her nose at the much shorter man. If she could stick to the subject at hand, it’d be a miracle. I figured we’d be here way past sundown for sure.

“I swore on oath to tell the truth, and I’m getting to it.” She cleared her throat. “Up the road, I heard the thunder of horse hooves. Then in a cloud of dust he thundered past my house.” She made a sweeping motion with her arm causing the mayor to duck his head. This was better than watching the traveling medicine show that came through town last month.

Jeremiah snickered. I glared at my best friend which caused him to giggle even louder. From the front of the room, the mayor glared at him, too.

“As the animal got closer, I could clearly see the rider. It was our town’s teacher.” Mrs. Percy pointed a bony finger at Miss Libby. “I saw her riding the streets of Justice at a most improper hour, and she looked like she was bawling her eyes out.”

“Did you get a good look at the horse, Mrs. Percy?” asked Mayor Conner.

“Of course I saw the beast,” she said. She peered at the mayor like he might be brainless. “It’s impossible to miss that good-for-nothing black devil.”

From the whispers around me, I learned that Mrs. Percy had been one of many eyewitnesses, all of them claiming to have seen Miss Libby gallop through town on Storm. The evidence was overwhelming.

Mayor Conner leaned closer and said, “Can you tell us who the owner is?”

“The horse belongs to Harland Reynolds,” she said, as she glared at Miss Libby and pointed to Four-Gun.

“Thank you, Mrs. Percy.” The mayor turned towards Miss Libby. “Now, dear, if you could tell us in your own words what happened last night. Do you know the location of the horse in question?”

At that moment I stopped breathing as the room froze waiting for her answer.

Miss Libby tilted a defiant chin and glared at the room, “I don’t know where the horse is.” She creased her brow and drew her lips into a pucker. For a minute I felt sorry for our mayor. When Miss Libby gets that look on her face, it usually means someone’s going to be standing at the chalkboard with their nose in a circle. I knew that look well.

“Where did you leave the horse?” He stepped closer and leaned towards her.

“As I’ve told you a hundred times before, I patted him on the neck and told him to go home. Then I went inside and up to my room.” Miss Libby dabbed her brow with a lacy handkerchief. “I left Storm in the front yard.”

Some people nodded their heads in agreement. Others frowned like they couldn’t believe a word she said.

Mayor Conner smacked a gavel on the wooden counter. Miss Libby jumped. “The committee will consider the evidence as presented here today,” he said.

The room burst into a frenzy of low chatter.

Mrs. Percy’s voice screeched above the noise, “The punishment for horse thievery is hanging.”

“You can’t hang the territory’s only school teacher,” someone shouted.

This entire trial made me mad all over. The people of Justice have a way of over-reacting to everything. Just like the time Jeremiah and I put a squirrel in the teacher’s desk. She was the one before Miss Libby. You’d have thought we’d set fire to the schoolhouse by the way that woman ran through town screaming. She ran straight to the train station soon after that and never looked back. We finally got us the smartest teacher ever and they want to hang her. I can’t figure these people out.

The two men at the front counter leaned towards each other, their heads bobbing as their mouths moved. Because of the noise, I could not hear a word of what they said.

I realized Miss Libby didn’t stand a chance. Witnesses claimed they had heard thundering hooves and had seen her ride by.

She was innocent. I knew it for a fact.

to be continued….