The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill
When Prometheus Jones wins a horse with a raffle ticket he got from Pernie Boyd and LaRue Dill, he knows things won’t go smoothly. No way are those two rednecks going to let a black man, even a freeman from the day of his birth, keep that horse. So as soon as things get ugly, he jumps on the horse, pulls his cousin Omer up behind him, and heads off. They hook up with a cattle drive out of Texas heading for Deadwood, South Dakota. Prometheus is a fine hand with a horse and not so bad with a gun, and both skills prove useful as the trip north throws every twist and turn imaginable at the young cowpokes. School Library Journal writes, “Hemphill’s convincing vernacular narration and well-researched, hard-bitten details of life in the South and on the western range give this adventure story surprising depth.”
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Excerpt from The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones
We ain’t paying you any money,” LaRue says. “Didn’t you hear me, slave boy?”
I ain’t their slave boy. I ain’t never been their slave boy. I was born on the day Mr. Lincoln made his Proclamation, and I’ve been free since my first breath. Mr. Lincoln done won that war, and Colonel Dill done lost half his land and most all his gold money. But that don’t matter to me. The Dill boys still owe me four bits.
"He speaking for you?" I say over to Pernie Boyd.
Pernie Boyd looks up at me, uncertain. "Figured Miss Stoney would break your neck. I ain't got no silver," he says, stuffing his hands deep in his britches to hide his lying. "All I got is my lucky rabbit's foot, and I won't part with that."
But Pernie Boyd stares are Omer's rawhide sure enough and starts flapping his pockets, airing out his jitters. Pernie Boyd pulls the rabbit's foot out of his pocket and holds it up for Omer to see. "It's a good rabbit's foot too. Cut off the left hind leg during a full moon. Old man sold it to me said it's full of hoodoo magic. I'm safe as a baby." LaRue’s worrying with Miss Stoney’s bridle and don’t look up. Pernie Boyd hides the rabbit’s foot in his hand, then sneaks it back in his pocket. “Ain’t nothing but good come looking for me.”
He glances over at LaRue, then at the whip, then at me, then at the whip again and bites back his lip. Pernie Boyd was born yellow-dog fearful.
“I know!” His words come out all at once. “I got a jim-dandy idea! I got a raffle ticket you can have. Come from old man Levi. He’s offering a fine horse worth thirty dollars. It’s a beaut—black stallion with two strong hindquarters. Ticket’s not even cold; I bought it this morning for fifty cents.” Pernie Boyd shows me the stub, but he don’t let go of it.
Omer steps up behind me with a wild, colored-boy look on his face, and Pernie throws the raffle ticket into the dirt. “Take it! We don’t want it. We ain’t got no money. You touch us, and our daddy will have you both swinging on a rope.” He looks like he might cry.
The hounds sniff all over the ticket, but I kick them out of the way and take it up and look on the back. “When’s the drawing?” I ask.
Howdy, folks! (How's that for convincing vernacular narration?) Please answer the following question for a chance to win a copy of The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones: If you won a horse from Helen Hemphill, do you think she'd let you keep it? Why or why not? Explain your answer.
And if that's too much pressure, just pop in for an old-fashioned campfire chat with Helen!