Looking Ahead to Future Projects
Jerrie Hurd is currently doing research for a series of novels that will feature a woman sheriff in a large rural county in the American West. One such county in Idaho is larger than the state of Massachusetts and has fewer than 60,000 residents. Sheriffs in these huge, underpopulated rural areas have all the problems of other law enforcement officials plus some problems unique to their jurisdictions such as modern-day cattle rustling, water theft, and grave robbing of prehistoric sites. They also have very limited manpower and budgets.
As part of her research, she flew with a sheriff who patrols by air. During the flight, they happened on some wealthy Japanese poachers hunting endangered big horn sheep. That resulted in a few moments of unexpected excitement.
The first two novels are titled Rainbow Horses and Spotted Spirit Dog. These two titles are complete as first drafts. The next novel Pink Snails and Green Men is outlined.
Opening Page of Rainbow Horses:
Sheriff Samantha Nielsen was driving along a narrow dirt road, listening to her dead husband’s music, playing over and over in her head, when, without warning, wild horses crashed through the brush onto the road in front of her. Her first thought was to wonder if her husband had been distracted like that—off on a wave of song—when he drove his car into a concrete barrier. Her second thought was that she might also die.
She swerved, barely missing a big gray—the stallion. With him were five or six duns and a spotted colt, or, maybe, two colts. She couldn’t be sure. The swerve sent her truck into a skid. Steering furiously, she fought to keep herself from going into the spring-swollen stream on her right and being swept down river. It didn’t help that on her left was a sheer rock wall. Even worse, the cliff’s uneven ridge created alternating patches of bright sunlight and deep shadow, both equally blinding. Most of the time, she had no idea how close she was to the edge of the water or anything else. Finally, the truck fishtailed and banged to a stop against a large rock.
The horses, unhurt, ran along the road ahead of her to where the stream widened. Then they splashed back into the water, churning up enough spray to sprinkle the sunshine with rainbow. That unexpected beauty took what breath she had left.
Local Indians believed that White Bead Woman, a goddess, made the horse. It was to be the medicine animal that completed the world. Knowing that, White Bead Woman took great care with her work. She used red stone for the heart, small cloud for the mane, and black cloud for the tail. She caught distant thunder for the hooves . . .
Sam shook her head. She couldn’t recall when she’d first heard that myth. Didn’t matter. Spin a story. Say a prayer. Sing a chant. Take what comfort you can. One moment you are on the rough road to somewhere. The next moment, wild horses jump in front of your truck. Or people die—her husband—without rhyme or reason.
She sat a moment longer, watching the horses. The bank on the other side of the stream was wider. As they ran, they fanned out and then, one by one, disappeared around a turn in the canyon. As if to confirm that he was still there, still with her somehow, her husband’s remembered music rose on a swell of percussion that hinted at horses’ hooves.
Nice touch, she thought.
The music wasn’t real. It was something only she heard, somewhere deep inside her head, but it was a comfort—a constant, always there. More like, always there because he wasn’t. She knew the first time she heard it that something had happened to him. Her immediate impulse was a wave of despair, but the music wouldn’t go there. The music was his. He had been the dreamer—the one who lived light, always laughing, never a care for tomorrow. She was the one who moved in with him to make sure his bills got paid. When she gave birth to their daughter, he asked her to marry him, an act so responsible, so completely out of character, she’d laughed, thinking he couldn’t be serious. She never trusted happiness. In one sense or another, she was always waiting for the crash.
This one wasn’t too bad. She assumed the throb in her head meant it was still attached. The fact that she could draw a deep breath, without pain, also seemed a good sign. His crash had left her in worse shape. If not for their daughter . . .. She paused to reshape that thought.
For their daughter’s sake, she’d figured out a new life. She was the Sheriff of Drinkwater County, Idaho. She’d been the sheriff for three years now—up for re-election soon. Hard to believe.
Opening Page of Spotted Spirit Dog:
She saw the bullet coming straight at her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she also saw a flurry of blackbirds. Ravens? Then something hit her knees. Hard. She fell sideways. Thankfully, her training kicked in. She rolled into the fall, hitting the ground with the back of her shoulder, minimizing the damage to her body. Simultaneously she drew her sidearm and quickly pulled herself up into a sitting position, knees tucked into her chest. She scooted sideways putting her patrol car between her and the shooter. Without thinking, she also grabbed the collar of the dog that had knocked her down.
Sheriff Samantha “Sam” Nielsen gives herself a moment to catch her breath while she listens for a second shot or any other sound that might tell her exactly where the shooter is. She hears nothing but the buzzing of a couple of mosquitos and the whisper of a slight breeze rustling the willow trees in front of her. A long moment later, a ping from her car’s engine makes her jump. The dog whimpers. She tightens her grip on its collar. More mosquitos, maybe a bee. The breeze again. Nothing else.
Dragging the dog with her, she slides sideways over uneven, slightly damp ground, stopping only when she was sure she’s sitting squarely behind her car’s engine block. She’s alone, no backup. Or, to be more precise, her backup was at least forty minutes away. She and her five deputies covered an area larger than the state of Massachusetts. They patrol deep canyons, wide salt flats, and seemingly endless stretches of sage and scrub brush, sometimes romantically called the “American Serengeti.” More like it was America’s forgotten place—Drinkwater County, Idaho.
She looks around, making another quick assessment of the situation, but mostly she listens. The engine block is the only part of her vehicle that can actually stop a bullet. Everything else might deflect it or slow it down, but not . . .
Stay focused, she tells herself. Listen!
If someone is working their way around hoping to take another shot, she’ll hear something. Given the dense scrub brush next to the refuge lakes, she can’t imagine the shooter making a move without also making a noise. The undergrowth next to the lakes was thick. Not even the best tracker could . . . just listen, keep listening, she tells herself
She hears nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. The buzzing of those pesky mosquitos continues. She notes the screech of a distant hawk and the steady breathing of the dog that has momentarily stopped struggling. She loosens her grip slightly. The dog turns its head and tries to lick her hand. Not her dog. Never saw it before it hit her knees and took her down.
Minutes later, she still doesn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. Come to think of it, she hasn’t seen anything out of the ordinary either—except that bullet and this dog.
Sam leans her back against her patrol car, feeling a growing soreness in the shoulder that hit the ground. Still listening, she draws several slow, deep breaths while she reminds herself that you never see the bullet that kills you. Seeing a bullet is a good thing. Means it missed you. Your brain can’t process what your eyes are seeing. Not that fast. By the time you know that it’s a bullet, it’s past being a danger. Her current danger is the next bullet, the one she doesn’t see.
While writing her current book, Hurd became fascinated by story—one of mankind’s oldest forms of communication. She is exploring the possibility of interviewing professional storytellers from various cultures about why they tell stories. What stories they tell. And what difference they think telling stories makes. This idea is still being formed and will likely change as it develops.
A tentative title: One Story, Two Story, Three Story, More