Adobe Moon, Wyatt Earp An American Odyssey Book 1
Adobe Moon, Mark Warren’s first book in a trilogy on Wyatt Earp is more than historical fiction. Though it is a period piece of the 19th century, it is a timeless story that relates to all of us. Adobe Moon was named a 2017 “Must Read” by Wild West Magazine.
Regardless of when or where a person lives in time, each of us is faced with a universal plight: How do we become a man or a woman? And how do we find our place in the world?
Do the times shape us? Yes, just as surely as the place and people around us. Family, especially. It has always been this way.
What if you wanted to run away from home to fight in a war . . . but you were too young? What if you were forced to labor over 80 acres of crops by an overbearing father who knew nothing about giving some slack to his sons? And, as a fourteen year old, after accruing the requisite calluses of farming, what aspirations might you consider for your vocation?
This is the story of such a boy who never quite finds all those answers. But because of his physicality, confidence, and a willingness to exercise deliberate courage, he does find his place in a life much admired by his peers. His name will always be spoken anytime that a conversation arises about justice vs. law and order . . . and how those American commodities do not always balance on the scales of a courtroom bench. His name was Wyatt Earp.
Earp was many things–farmer, freight hauler, stage driver, railroad wrangler, husband, constable, wood splitter, accused horse thief, brothel bouncer, buffalo hunter, gambler, and lawman–most of this in the “new” and raw land of America’s untapped West. The possibilities seemed endless for Wyatt, but he will be remembered in that last category . . . peace officer, a role he did not want. Instead, it would seem that history wanted it for him. He was that good at it.
Reviews for “Adobe Moon”
“It is plain Mark Warren knows Wyatt Earp’s story. He has researched it long enough, deep enough, and well enough to know it in ways that few others do. Adobe Moon is an absorbing read. Understated, direct, yet somehow reflective and even philosophical, it is easy to forget that this is a novel about an American legend. And that makes it all the more satisfying in the end. In the restless ramblings of the young Wyatt Earp, Warren found clues to the man Earp would be. I will be looking forward to the continuing odyssey of the very human Wyatt Earp he is revealing. For now, I have much to ponder as a result of reading Adobe Moon.” ~ Dr. Gary Roberts, Emeritus Professor of History, Abraham Baldwin College, author of Doc Holliday, the Life and Legend, Wiley and Sons, 2006.
“Warren stays close to history, adding the emotion and sensitivities that we can only wish we actually knew. This wonderfully written work makes readers feel almost as if they are sitting next to Wyatt on that brothel barge on the Illinois River, enjoying the treats of the time. Historical fiction can be a delight, and Warren delivers.” ~ Casey Tefertiller, author of Wyatt Earp, the Life Behind the Legend, Wiley and Sons, 1997, quoted from Wild West magazine, Oct. 2017
“Mark Warren captures the essence of Wyatt Earp’s formative years in this beautifully crafted narrative. Adobe Moon transports the reader to the early western frontier that shaped the legendary lawman’s character and delivers a rollicking tale – entertaining and truly informative.” ~ Peter Brand, author of The Story of Texas Jack Vermillion (2012)
“Mark Warren’s Wyatt Earp trilogy is a trip back in time. Part Gary Roberts, part Larry McMurtry, Mark brings Wyatt Earp to life in three richly detailed, well researched books. His exploration weaves a tale between a lesson in history and a masterpiece novel. These astonishing books are an absolute must for your library.” ~Eddie Lanham, Western Researcher and Historian
“Adobe Moon is no ordinary Western. This one is special. Many fictionalized versions of Wyatt Earp’s story have been written . . . most, however, are largely ignored by the historical community . . . (but this one) has proven to be the exception to the rule. Adobe Moon is an engrossing ride with Wyatt Earp. My only criticism is the next book (in the trilogy) isn’t out quick enough.” ~ Erik J. Wright, Author, Western Historian and Assistant Editor of The Tombstone Epitaph National Edition. Quoted from The Epitaph.
Mark Warren is the first writer to illuminate the Earp story from the inside. Adobe Moon and Born to the Badge show you why Wyatt Earp became a legend and what that legend was born out of. ~Allen Barra, author of Inventing Wyatt Earp, his Life and Many Legends.
Check out this Review From the “Historical Novel Society”
Read Chapter One here, now!
“In those days a man could pick up, head out West, and start a new life . . . choose any name he wanted. But the man who made his mark in the history books is probably one who stayed true to who he was . . . no matter what he called himself.” ~ Harte Canaday, from Last of the Pistoleers
Summer, 1862: Earp farm, Pella Township, Iowa
In the dark pre-dawn quiet he lay facing the window by his bed and stared at the stars hanging in the western sky. They floated over the land like the dust of jewels strewn across black water. These stars had become the milestones that marked his coming passage, and he gazed at them this one last time for the sake of preserving a memory, he supposed. One last view through the windowglass of his youth. Today he would be gone, to become a part of the larger world that waited for him. First the war in the East. Then, surviving that, he would journey west toward the promise of opportunity. It was all out there, he knew. Whatever enterprise a man was bold enough to reach for, the West would afford him a place to try.
Were anyone to ask him why he must fight, he might only say something about duty–a topic he deemed too personal to reduce to words. Once that duty was met, he would have earned his right on the frontier. He knew that the ragged boundary of the country was creeping steadily westward, like a charred line of black smoldering across a sheet of paper, and he needed to stay ahead of that flame.
It could not be said that he dreamed of places, for he was not the type to dream. But he planned his course with a deliberation uncommon to one his age. If one of those bright points of light out in the night sky was his lodestar, pulling him, he had not singled it out. He needed no such talisman. It was the pull that mattered.
Carrying the bundle of clothes he had rolled inside the wool blanket, Wyatt, in his stockinged feet, picked his way across the groaning floorboards through the dark house. His boots stood just inside the kitchen door, and he sat to tug them on. Through the east windows the stars were thinning. Now they burned like the campfires of a vast and distant army fallen into deep slumber before the coming battle. Already he felt closer to the war.
He listened to the night sounds of the house–his father’s rough snore coming from the back room, the hollow tick of the cherrywood clock in the hallway, the faint seep of air sucking through the vents of the woodstove. Outside, somewhere to the east, a coyote called a single sliding note, and it was that sound to which he connected, if only for its claim on autonomy.
Stepping outside onto the stoop he inhaled the coolness of late summer. It was too dark to see the cornfield–eighty acres that he had been working since he had been old enough to sink a hoe into this Iowa dirt–but he could smell it. The stalks were heavy with the coming harvest, and already he felt lighter for being done with it all.
Inside the tack room he lighted a lantern and stuffed the blanket-bundle behind the heavy sacks of grain, and then he spread loose hay at the edges. Standing back to appraise his work, he imagined his father in the barn later–old Nicholas gathering up his blanket, saddle, and bridle for the ride into town. Satisfied with his cache, Wyatt stepped out to the stalls, hung the lantern, and doled out grain to each of the feed troughs. The horses nickered and nodded their big heads, some blowing air on his hands as he worked. He spoke to them quietly, letting the tone of parting soften his voice.
If only he could have saddled the Thoroughbred without delay, headed south to Ottumwa, and be done with this morning of tiptoes and secrets. But that was not his plan. He might be a wayward son, but he was no thief.
When he walked back to the house, the oil lamp was glowing inside the kitchen window. He kicked his boots together and pulled them off before opening the door. The sizzle of bacon had salted the air in the room, and his mother bustled about the kitchen as if she had never slept.
“Well, you’re up early,” she said, glancing up from her busy hands.
“Fed the horses.”
He watched her sprinkle flour on the kneading board. She had never failed to provide a
savory meal–whether sick or nursing an ailing neighbor or broken from the loss of a child. Wyatt had never seen defeat show in her face.
“Makin’ biscuits, Ma?”
She looked at him as she leaned her weight onto stiffened arms and worked the dough in a rolling motion with the heels of her hands. Her lips parted, but she made no sound, as though she could not speak and labor at the same time.
“I could eat a coupl’a extras if you don’t care,” he added.
Her gaze ran the length of him, from wheat-straw hair to the recently darned socks. “You are gettin’ to be tall as your father.” She turned her back to him, and her shoulders hunched as she leaned into the dough. He watched her until she straightened from her work.
“We’re all beholden to you, Ma.”
Now she turned to face him squarely, her pasty hands splayed across the sides of her apron. “Well, aren’t you full of surprises this mornin’,” she said, wearing her crooked half smile. She lowered her eyebrows and canted her head as though trying to look at him from a new angle. “You want to eat something? I’ll have the biscuits ready soon.”
He ate at the sideboard, taking the servings as she prepared them. Outside the formality of the dining room and his father’s presence, they talked comfortably, Wyatt following any subject she was inclined to broach. He could see she was starved for conversation, the kind he supposed a woman needed on a daily basis. When she turned her back to him as she prattled, he wrapped two biscuits in a cloth napkin and stuffed the package inside his shirt.
First light was blooming in the eastern sky when Wyatt stepped up on the old gnarled root at the blackjack oak. He took a final look at the field of corn spread before him. How often had he perched like this, balanced by the hoe–a tripod of man and tool set up at a distance to take a bearing? He had always wondered why the vast Iowa sky could not dwarf the field of green, reduce it to a size that seemed manageable. From the oak he could see the work’s beginning but never the end. Once inside the interminable rows of stalks there would be a sense of neither. Only a blistered present, hard on a calloused past: chop, sweat, itch, breathe the dust, and swat the flies. And keep on.
The sun floated up through the trees now, breaking into a mosaic of burning red shards and then washing out the sky from its initial burnished gold to a dingy blue-gray. Morgan came from the barn, dragging a hoe that was half again his height. His sleepy eyes were half-hidden under the shock of hair fallen over his forehead, hair the same summer-gold tint as Wyatt’s. He stopped next to the oak, shaded his eyes with his slender hand, and searched the fields alongside his older brother.
“What’re you lookin’ at?” he said, now squinting up at the side of Wyatt’s face.
Wyatt shook his head and stared at the broad expanse of green. It wasn’t just the size of the job . . . but keeping a rein on his two younger brothers. Their part was to lighten his load, but a day had seldom passed that they weren’t fighting or wandering off. He looked at Morgan now, trying to see in the boy the man who would have to take over the farm work after this day.
He had told Morgan that he was joining the army, and Morg had held the secret close, as a brother should. Wyatt almost told him now that this was the day. All summer the secret had whispered inside him like a wind whistling through the cracks of a hastily built house. Yesterday it had been a gale in his ear. But now, on the day of his departure, a calm settled over him, and he decided to take no chances. He could wait.
“You need your hat,” Wyatt said. “Where’s Warren?”
“He’s coming. Can’t find one of his boots. Pa’s lecturin’ him.”
Wyatt remembered when his father had toiled in a field, before the old man had refused to soil his hands with such work. Old Nick had conceived other ways of turning a dollar–a convenient credo of politics that milked a town of its coffers through the sleight of hand of the law and city governance. Mulling over his father’s methods of subsistence, Wyatt felt all the more certain about leaving. He was done soiling his hands, too.
“Go on back to the barn, Morg, and let the horses out.” He pointed to the southwest corner of the cornfield. “I’ll meet you yonder where we let off yesterday.”
“Can I ride Salem back to the house to get my hat?”
“Just don’t run ’im. It’s too early. Here . . . give me that hoe, so you don’t poke his eye.”
Watching his little brother–wide awake now–dash off through the dew-wet grass, Wyatt wondered if he himself had ever displayed such fervor for manual labor. He remembered wanting to prove himself to his father, that was for certain, just as he remembered the futility of that effort.
“An’ get Warren movin’!” he called out to Morg’s back.
Wyatt returned his gaze to the drooping green blades of corn clicking against one another in the constant boil of the prairie wind. From where he stood, the corn appeared immaculate, reflecting the early morning light in metallic glints–a mirage that would flatten under the arching path of the sun.
Some men could see glory in farming. His father always claimed to be one. Wyatt could not. He doubled his leathered hands over the pair of rounded hickory handles, trying to take some measure of his own worth as weighed against Virgil, James, and Newton. For months now, his older brothers had been at the war, and every morning when he walked toward the suffocating green of the cornfield, he imagined what they awoke to: the smell of gun oil; chicory coffee brewing over a campfire; the throat-bite taste of cannon smoke drifting through the trees; maybe some blood dried into a cloth scab on their blue uniforms. And yet here he was, the corn crop stretched out before him thicker than any army ever force-marched across a battlefield. Straight and green and wax-bright, the field rippled in the wind like a prostrate flag. He was certain there was no glory in it.
With the country at war with itself, Wyatt’s elevated status to oldest brother had covered more than dominion over the fields and his younger brothers; it included stewardship of the horses, which was no small part of the bargain. Whenever he could, Wyatt put himself in the company of these animals, assigning the more menial tasks to Morgan and Warren. He gave the most attention to the Thoroughbred, which was, aside from the land, the Earps’ most valuable asset. Twice he had entered the stud in the town races and earned winnings. He patted the wad of bills in his pocket now, confident that it would sustain him until he could draw a soldier’s pay.
Buoyed by the secret that had pulled him so early from sleep, he shouldered the tools and walked toward the field this one last time. When he stepped into the road that separated the house from the field, he turned to the steady cadence of a horse at a trot. A high-wheeled buggy with a flat, black canopy rattled along the road, approaching from the north. Wyatt leveled the hoes across both shoulders behind his neck, draped outstretched arms over the helves, and waited.
“Wyatt,” the driver called as he reined up, stopping the buggy right in his path. Doc Howell nodded at the pair of tools on Wyatt’s back. “Old Nick got you working twice the load today?” He had eyes that quickly engaged whomever he greeted, the wire-rimmed spectacles seeming to magnify his friendliness.
“I’ve not seen you since your little sister came down with the thrush.” The doctor tilted his head and squinted. “You’d be about what now . . . fifteen?”
“Just about,” Wyatt said.
The doctor lost his smile, but a curious probing fire held in his eye. “Well, I guess you grow up fast when you start running things.” He nodded to the long wall of corn flanked to his right and turned back to Wyatt, studying the length of him, hat to boots. “Son, you look hard as a bundle of axe handles bound up with baling wire. How tall are you getting to be?”
Wyatt looked at the field, uncomfortable with the idea of describing himself. “Most of six feet, I reckon.”
Wyatt tolerated the man’s pointless questions, knowing it to be the doctor’s habit for putting young patients at ease. The horse settled into its respite with a blow from its nostrils, and Doc Howell slackened the reins and propped his forearms on his knees.
“I sewed up that big Van den Newell boy last week,” he said, dropping his voice to a low, confiding tone. “Seems I’ve got you to thank for some business. Any more patients coming my way I might need to know about?” The doc’s eyebrows lifted high in pretended curiosity.
Wyatt’s expression did not change. “Reckon he’ll need to lay off my brothers.”
He felt an unexpected pang of guilt about abandoning his brothers today, but the feeling slipped away as quickly as it had come. They would have to learn how to deal with the Dutch bucks in the township. There would always be troublemakers to handle. Best learn it sooner than later.
The doctor straightened and smiled down the road. “Oh, I doubt that one’ll be bothering anyone for a while.” He gave Wyatt a look. “He knows who the scrapper in this town is.”
Wyatt looked off toward the trees where the road curved. “Be best if you don’t let on about that to my pa. He’s trying to earn some votes outta the Dutch farmers.”
Doc Howell’s laugh cut off Wyatt’s entreaty. “No need to worry about that, son.” He arched his eyebrows again, and this time his smile curled with a hint of mischief. “You should have heard Old Man Van den Newell light into his boy. He knows all about it . . . how you licked the tar out of his oldest . . . and how he needed the lickin’.” He saw the question in Wyatt’s eyes and laughed the kind of laugh meant to put a man at ease. “Van den Newell’s neighbor told him all about it . . . said you were not vicious . . . but businesslike . . . got the job done . . . quick.” He gestured with the knuckle of a bent finger, like he was knocking quietly on a door between them. “That’s good, Wyatt. You got none of that red blur that sucks so many young men into a blind
rage. That kind of anger feeds off its own tissue and generally is of no use to a man.”
Doc waited, his face open with anticipation, as if expecting some comment on this report. Looking off to the trees again Wyatt pulled in his lips, pressed his mouth into a tight line, and nodded.
“Still,” Wyatt said, then met the doctor’s eyes again, “it’ll go better if my pa don’t know.”
Nicholas, Wyatt knew, might punish Morgan and Warren for not fighting their own fight. He took in a deep breath through his nose and quietly purged it. Doc Howell frowned at his hands holding the reins. He shuffled the leather ribbons like he was rearranging a hand of playing cards. Two vertical lines creased into his skin above the spectacles.
“Old Nick can be a tough piece of meat in the stew, Wyatt, but you should know he’s proud of you. Said you were methodical and straight-ahead. Said he’d never seen you make the same mistake twice. Said you would never stand for being the fool.”
Wyatt considered the appraisal. “I don’t reckon any man wants that.”
Doc removed his spectacles and cleaned them with a white handkerchief. His face looked raw and naked without the lenses, like he had just awakened from a deep sleep.
“Couldn’t prove it by me, Wyatt. Not with what I’ve seen.” He hooked the spectacles around his ears again and lifted the reins.
The horse raised its head and perked up its ears. “Got to go see about a baby,” the doctor said, squinting. He pointed with the knuckle again. “You might think on being a doctor, Wyatt. There’re always going to be babies.” His eyebrows bobbed. “Busted lips, too, for that matter.” When he snapped the reins, horse and buggy picked up right away into the rhythm by which they had arrived.
Inside the rows of cornstalks Wyatt stationed his brothers on either side of him and began
the steady litany of slicing steel into earth, heaping mounds of dirt over the corn roots–a
rhythm redundant even before he began it. This had been his war. Two hours before school and three after. Sometimes all day, if the weather dictated it. Wyatt had always gone about it resigned and quiet, never speaking of it in any way. That was his father’s rule. Complaint was a weakness, Nicholas always said, and no Earp displayed weakness.
As he worked Wyatt kept watch on the road. Morgan asked twice what he was looking at, but each time, Wyatt only prodded him back to the hoeing. The three brothers hacked at the soil in silence as the trees across the road filled with a chorus of morning birdsong.
Finally, when his father took the chestnut mare at a walk past the open row where they worked, Wyatt stopped, feeling the onset of his emancipation as keenly as if a heavy chain had dropped from around his neck into the soft earth. He watched for a time as Morgan and Warren flailed at the dirt like young soldiers issued weapons beyond their size or mastery. Warren looked up, his dark hair framing his face like a warning of his brooding nature. It was Warren, Wyatt knew, who could be the problem.
“Morg,” Wyatt said, “you’re in charge now.”
Morgan stopped working and straightened. “What do you mean?”
Warren stabbed his hoe into the dirt and stood in the pose of a challenge. Wyatt, setting his face like stone, held his eyes on Morgan.
“I’m goin’ today.”
Morgan swallowed hard. He drew the haft of the tool closer and pressed it to his chest, one fist stacked above the other, elbows splayed outward like folded wings.
Warren’s eyes jumped from Morgan to Wyatt. “Goin’ where?” he demanded. When he got no answer, his face flushed with anger.
Wyatt knelt and kept his voice both firm and gentle. “I ain’t no farmer, Warren.”
For once the youngest of the Earp brothers had nothing to say. He breathed through his teeth as he took in Wyatt’s meaning.
“Wyatt’s joinin’ up with the army,” Morgan announced. “Goin’ off to the war.”
Warren’s face creased like a twisted rag. “Well, I ain’t no damned farmer neither.”
Wyatt took a grip on the boy’s arm, but the shake he gave him was less a reprimand than a way to smooth out the boy’s quick temper. “It ain’t your time yet, so git that outta your head, you hear me?” Wyatt looked to Morg for help. “Keep on puttin’ in your day’s work, and when you’re asked about it, just say I took off for town. You ain’t gotta know why.”
Morgan nodded, but tears had begun to well in Warren’s eyes. Wyatt squeezed Warren’s arm again and stood. He offered his hand to Morgan. As they shook, Wyatt realized it was their first handshake that had not involved a wager.
“How’re you gonna sign up in town with Pa working at the recruitin’ office?” Morg asked.
“I ain’t going into Pella,” Wyatt said. “I’m headed to Ottumwa.”
Morg frowned. “How’ll you get there?”
“I’ll get there.”
“Well, when are you comin’ back?”
Wyatt looked off toward the east as though an answer waited for him there. “Once the war’s done, I reckon.” He stepped back from his brothers, and they watched him from a combined stillness he had never before witnessed. “I’ll try and write if I can get a hold o’ some paper.”
There was nothing more to be said. He turned and jogged for the barn for his bundle of clothes. The wind picked up and molded his shirt to his back, making him feel light, while all around him the downy seeds of prairie weeds lifted on the currents and trailed off ahead of him toward some untold destination to find their place of beginning.
END – Thanks for reading chapter one. I hope you enjoyed it.
Now available through your local Indie Bookstore, Amazon and Barnes & Noble!
Meet the Author
Mark Warren has been writing stories since he was a child growing up in Georgia. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Chemistry/Pre-med. Following undergraduate college work Mark pursued music composition and arrangement at Georgia State University, while performing original works in various concerts, scoring plays for The Academy Theater and having his suite The Once and Future King performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
At Medicine Bow, his school in the Southern Appalachians, he teaches nature classes and survival skills of the Cherokees. The National Wildlife Federation named him Georgia’s Conservation Educator of the Year in 1980. In 1998 Mark became the U.S. National Champion in whitewater canoeing, and in 1999 he won the World Championship Longbow title.
Mark has written extensively about nature for national and regional magazines, including: Guernica, Blue Ridge Highlander, North Georgia Journal, Georgia Backroads, Survivor’s Edge, Backwoodsman, Mother Earth News, Camping and Paddle Magazine.
Mark is a lifelong student of Native American History and Survival Skills, and Western History with a special focus on Wyatt Earp. He is a member of the Wild West History Association and Western Writers of America, and has presented as “Guest Historian” at some of the top western museums in the country including The Booth Western Art Museum, Tombstone Courthouse Museum, Arizona History Museum, Arizona Heritage Center, Old Cowtown Museum and Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
For speaking inquiries contact his publicist, Susan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-864-5928