Tuesday 13 February 2024

Embark on a harrowing trek across the rugged American frontier in 1850.


A Grave Every Mile
(A Pioneer Western Adventure)
By David Fitz-Gerald

Publication Date: 24th December 2023
Publisher: David Fitz-Gerald
Page Length: 204 Pages
Genre: Western, Historical Fiction

Embark on a harrowing trek across the rugged American frontier in 1850. Your wagon awaits, and the untamed wilderness calls. This epic western adventure will test the mettle of even the bravest souls.

Dorcas Moon and her family set forth in search of opportunity and a brighter future. Yet, what awaits them is a relentless gauntlet of life-threatening challenges: miserable weather, ravenous insects, scorching sunburns, and unforgiving terrain. It's not merely a battle for survival but a test of their unity and sanity.

Amidst the chaos, Dorcas faces ceaseless trials: her husband's unending bickering, her daughter's descent into madness, and the ever-present danger of lethal rattlesnakes, intensifying the peril with each step. The specter of death looms large, with diseases spreading and the eerie howls of rabid wolves piercing the night. Will the haunting image of wolves desecrating a grave push Dorcas over the edge?

With each mile, the migration poses a haunting question: Who will endure the relentless quest to cross the continent, and who will leave their bones to rest beside the trail? The pathway is bordered by graves, a chilling reminder of the steep cost of dreams.

A Grave Every Mile marks the commencement of an unforgettable saga. Start reading Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail now to immerse yourself in an expedition where every decision carries the weight of life, death, and the pursuit of a brighter future along the Oregon Trail.


Lone Elm, April 16, 1850

The unrelenting rain makes everything invisible, and I am surprised when the wagon in front of us finally comes to a halt. The wagons have circled, and I didn’t even know we had reached our destination.

It is still pouring, and Larkin insists that the boys grease the axles. I plead with him to let the boys alone. “Climb in the wagon and rest. We need a break, Larkin.”

“No, Dorcas. It doesn’t matter how miserable or sick we are. We must take care of the wagon. I’ll get the wagon jack.” We share it between our five wagons, and since Stillman and Carter’s wagon has the lightest load, they carry it in their rig.

Like everything else today, the task is more challenging than usual. The wagon jack sinks and tilts in the mushy earth. The boys place thick saplings underneath the jack and crank the wagon up enough to remove the wheels. Though they must be tired, they take the jack and muddy saplings to Cobb and Jennie’s wagon and help them. Finally, Larkin and the boys return. I have nothing but hard biscuits, cold ham, and water for their supper. It is hard to cheer up a miserable family with cold food.

We’re eager to get out of the rain, whereas Rose and Dahlia Jane have spent all day in the wagon. They are impatient to get out, even though it is wet.

I walk with the girls a short distance from the wagon to answer the call of nature. It is enough of a challenge as a lady, even under the best of circumstances. Typically, we would pay more attention to who might be watching or where we might be in relation to other people. Instead, we hurry when we should be careful.

After the girls finish, I attempt a squat. At the worst possible moment, my feet slip. I fall backward, and my naked rump lands in thick, squishy mud. I am unspeakably soiled and miserable to my core. I grit my teeth, trying not to complain. I’ll have to go back to the wagon and get a towel.

Ten feet from the wagon stands a cross, fashioned out of tree branches, strapped together with twine where they join. A pile of earth and stones lay in front of the crude crucifix. The weathered sticks tilt slightly to the left. The dirt pile doesn’t look large enough to be an adult’s final resting place. I think of the poor traveling family that must have lost a child here. Perhaps it was last year. I say a quick prayer in my head and continue to the wagon. I turn to help Dahlia Jane up, and she’s missing. Rose is gone too.

Doubling back, I find them standing beside the grave, hand in hand. The hood on Rose’s raincoat rests on her back. Her head lolls forward, and her stringy wet hair dangles all about, obstructing the view of her face. I prod, “Come along, girls.”

Rose drops Dahlia Jane’s hand and waves me away without looking up. Rose sniffles as I rush the toddler away and lift her into the dry wagon. I rifle around, find a small towel, and shove it into the pocket of my skirt. Rose still stands beside the child’s grave. I drape my arm across her shoulder, and she twists away from me. “I’m sorry, Rose. I know it is awful to imagine such a tragedy.”

Larkin appears beside me with the boys.

Rose says, “Leave me alone,” turning her back to us.

I turn toward Larkin and gesture toward Rose with open hands, imploring him to do something.

Larkin says, “Let her be. She’ll learn to deal with the idea of death on her own. We all do, someday.”

I protest. “I’m sure that Rose has many questions. I think we need to talk about this.”

He responds, “This is not the time or place.”

Rose turns halfway back toward us. She says, “I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to be alone for a while.”

Nevertheless, I step forward. Larkin raises his voice. “Let her be, Dorcas.”

I want to shout back at him, but think better of it. I say, “Rose, honey. Let me know if you need me. I’m happy to listen if you want to talk.”

Rose squats in front of the child’s grave like she’s about to warm her hands near a campfire. I look at Larkin. I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. My child needs something, I’m powerless to help her, and I haven’t the slightest idea what’s bothering her. It has been this way ever since she turned twelve.

Larkin points to the wagon with his chin, again telling me to leave Rose here, alone in the rain. I say, “I’ll be along in a few minutes.” Thick fog swallows me as I walk away from camp. I will not feel clean until I have a proper bath. I picture myself squatting on the prairie as I clean myself the best I can with a small towel and pray for an end to the rain.

When I return to camp, I see Rose waltzing about near the child’s grave. She leans down and forward like she is dancing with an imaginary friend. I cover my mouth with my hand. I can’t help thinking that Rose is losing her mind, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Larkin says to ignore her. I know he’s wrong, but I can’t think of anything that will work, and every time I try, Rose pushes me further away. I back away toward the wagon and shiver, thinking of my poor child, obliviously dancing in the icy rain.

I climb into the back of the wagon, which was never intended to house a large family. We huddle inside, glad to be out of the rain, snuggling together under blankets.

It's hard to leave a child alone in the wilderness, exposed to the elements. I plead, “Larkin, Rose is out there, and I couldn’t get her to come in. I don’t know why she doesn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain. I think you should go get her.”

Larkin shakes his head in disagreement. In an even tone, he says, “I’m sure she will return soon. We can’t let her ride in the wagon all day, even during bad weather. She’ll come in when she gets cold enough. You can’t coddle the children all the time, Dorcas.”

Do all men say such things? I counter, “But Larkin, there’s something wrong with Rose, isn’t there? Can’t you see that?” I don’t want to say more with the other children listening.

Dismissively, he replies, “I’m sure it’s just a phase she’s going through. You mustn’t worry so.”

I pass out biscuits and dried apples. Dahlia Jane asks Larkin to read to her. Andrew scratches words onto lined paper. “I didn’t get to post the news today, Mama. I’ll have to post two issues tomorrow.”

Larkin is right. Rose climbs into the wagon, dries her wet hair with a towel, and changes into her second dress beneath the cover of a blanket. Without a word to anyone, she begins writing in her diary. It has never occurred to me to read her private thoughts, but now I wonder whether I should.

As pitch-black darkness envelopes us, the children put their books away, close their eyes, and sleep. There isn’t room for Larkin and me to stretch out, so we slump against each other and fall asleep slouched against our provisions. The corner of a wooden box presses into my back, and I can’t seem to wriggle away from it.

Sleep comes in brief installments. The night seems as long as the day. I’m startled by a loud knocking on the side of the wagon. A man’s voice shouts over the rain. “Larkin, it’s your turn to take watch.”

Larkin grumbles as he rises, puts on a raincoat, and disappears into the night. I feel sorry for him. Of all nights to have to stand watch. What can he see or prevent anyway? Then I feel guilty, enjoying the extra space, as I stretch my body, wedge between warm, sleeping children, and fall fast asleep.

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David Fitz-Gerald

David Fitz-Gerald writes westerns and historical fiction. He is the author of twelve books, including the brand-new series, Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail set in 1850. Dave is a multiple Laramie Award, first place, best in category winner; a Blue Ribbon Chanticleerian; a member of Western Writers of America; and a member of the Historical Novel Society.

Alpine landscapes and flashy horses always catch Dave’s eye and turn his head. He is also an Adirondack 46-er, which means that he has hiked to the summit of the range’s highest peaks. As a mountaineer, he’s happiest at an elevation of over four thousand feet above sea level.

Dave is a lifelong fan of western fiction, landscapes, movies, and music. It should be no surprise that Dave delights in placing memorable characters on treacherous trails, mountain tops, and on the backs of wild horses.

Connect with David:

#Pioneers #HistoricalWestern #WesternAdventure #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub



  1. Thank you for hosting David Fitz-Gerald today, with a fabulous extract from A Grave Every Mile!

    Take care,
    Cathie xx
    The Coffee Pot Book Club

  2. Thank you so much for featuring an excerpt from A Grave Every Mile on your blog, Mary Anne!


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx