Series: The Whitcomb Discoveries
Current Status: Editing
An orphaned teen wants justice for his parents’ deaths but must move West with his greedy guardian where clashes between gold miners and Indians lead to the discovery of more than just Yosemite Valley.
An Inside Look at Yosemite Discovered
An Excerpt from Chapter One
Big Oak Flat, California Gold Country
April 10, 1849
Daniel woke to a room filled with smoke that stung his eyes, clawed his throat, and jumbled his thoughts. I’ve got to get Ma and Pa out of the house.
He threw off his blanket and scrambled off the cot. When his feet hit the floor, he stopped. This wasn’t Illinois. He wasn’t thirteen. And his parents weren’t upstairs. He was nearly seventeen, and his parents were dead. He was in the trading post run by his guardian, Jim Savage, in the California gold fields. For the past three nights, he and Savage’s clerks had slept inside the canvas-covered post because they’d heard rumors of a Yosemite Indian attack.
Squinting against the sun’s early rays that bled through the edges of the doorway, Daniel made out the hazy silhouette of Jim across the room.
“Everybody out. Grab your rifles.” Jim’s curt command cut through the smoke as he waved his men outside. “The Yosemites are here.”
Daniel yanked up his trousers over his long underwear and thumbed up his suspenders. “Anyone hurt? What’s on the fire?”
The stench of singed wool made him gag. He coughed to clear his lungs and grabbed his rifle. Jim’s Indian wives beat their blankets against small fires started by flaming tree limbs the Yosemites had tossed into the trading post.
The high-pitched cries of attacking braves iced Daniel’s blood. Two of Jim’s clerks, Banyon and Greeley, rushed past him to join Jim outside. Daniel followed and crouched next to them behind the iron-rimmed wheels of their transport wagon. Pops of gunfire echoed through the forest. Two other clerks, fifty feet ahead, poked their heads and rifles up from behind a large boulder and brought down four Yosemites.
Loin-clothed Indians slunk into the woods. Someone next to Daniel screamed. He turned and saw Banyon tug at the shaft of an arrow that pierced his shoulder.
“Greeley!" Jim shouted to the clerk next to him. “Take care of Banyon. Watch for Indians that might double back. Daniel, Cunningham, Lugo. Follow me.”
As Daniel inched forward with the others, he saw movement between the trees. Jim raised his rifle and fired. Branches swayed, leaves bent, but no Indian fell. Following Jim’s signal, Cunningham and Lugo moved off to the right. He and Jim slowly fanned left.
Ahead, a shrub shuddered. Daniel raised his rifle and crept closer. A family of quail burst from the bush and ran to the safety of another. He released a lung-full of air he didn’t know he’d inhaled.
“Over here,” Jim called out.
Daniel sprinted to his guardian’s side. Jim had his rifle trained on an Indian girl hiding in the underbrush beneath two pines.
“Get up.” Jim waved his rifle barrel higher.
A dark-haired girl peeked out from behind a bush. She gave Jim a stony stare but stayed behind the shrub.
Jim shouted again, this time in the Yokuts dialect.
The girl didn’t respond.
“She not understand,” came a soft voice next to Daniel. “She Yosemite.”
Daniel turned and saw the petite frame of Limik, a cousin of Jim’s wife, Homut, standing beside him.
Limik said something to the Yosemite girl. The girl yelled back from behind the bush.
Jim spun his head toward Limik. “What’d she say?”
Daniel caught his breath. Jim doesn’t know the Yosemite language? The man can’t even read or write, but he knows all the other Indian dialects around here. Why not the Yosemite’s?
Studying the ground, Limik pulled her blanket more firmly around her shoulders. “She say she the granddaughter of Chief Tenaya, leader of Yosemites. She not take orders from white man.”
Like a hawk eyeing his quarry, Jim glared at the Yosemite squaw. “Tell her I’ll shoot her in the leg if she doesn’t come out from behind that bush right now.”
Limik translated Jim’s order, but the girl stayed put.
Loud shrieks rose from deeper in the woods.
“I don’t have time for this.” Jim’s hawk-like stare shifted to Daniel. “Keep your eye on this squaw. Shoot her if she tries to run.”
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The pictured cover is a place-holder created from one of the photos I took during my trip to Yosemite last May. Since the book isn't published yet, an actual book cover hasn't been created. The same is true with my other two future book concepts, books 1 and 2 of my Warsaw Rising series.
When I visited CA in May, 2018 to do more research for Yosemite Discovered, I found the location of my historical person’s first trading post in Big Oak Flat. This is where the opening chapter takes place!
I also visited the Roberto Adobe in San Jose, CA (Willow Glen). This structure existed in San Jose when my fictional character, Daniel, passed through this town in 1849 to visit the historical person of Virginia Reed. In the storyline, Daniel met Virginia when they were on a wagon train heading West in 1846. They were both thirteen at the time. Virginia Reed’s family settled in San Jose and several streets are named after them, including Reed, Virginia, Martha, Margaret, and Keyes Street.
Be sure to check out my Pinterest images to see more of the research I discovered at the Roberto Adobe, as well as the Bay Area’s Heritage Park Museum. The Pinterest pages also include pictures from my research at the San Juan Bautista Mission, the Martin Luther King Jr. Library’s California Room, and the Bancroft Library on the Berkeley campus.