Two people, from opposing sides of conflict, use their strong moral upbringing; their parents' guidance and teaching; their open minds & sacrificial courage; & their love for each other to defeat the prejudices of their day . . . the evils of their moment in time.
Aaron Jefferson and his best friend Josh face the challenges of life in the Old West when they leave their postwar Shenandoah Valley for the Great Plains in 1865. Unanticipated trouble changes their lives and plans, thus they unexpectedly continue on to the Southern Rocky Mountains. In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos in New Mexico they encounter: personal risk, love, clash of cultures, hardship, spiritual discovery, and what it means to sacrifice for others. Interaction between Native Americans and the two young men, who have decided to try their hand at life in the unspoiled West, brings new insight to them as they mature as individuals. The same can be said for the young Navajo woman who they meet, Jóhonaá, who is a refugee from the U.S. Government's internment of her people. The book references, but does not treat within the narrative, such events as the 300 mile Long Walk of the Navajo (a forced march under U.S. Army guard), Fort Sumner, and Bosque Redondo. The Diné, the Navajo, endured much and are as true an example of the abuse and wanton official eradication of Native American Indian culture as are the Cherokee and other Eastern nations who endured the longer Trail of Tears.
Newly married Aaron and his Navajo wife, Jóhonaá, leave the comfort of their home at Mission San Vicente in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to look for her two cousins who have been released from the reservation . . . concentration camp at Bosque Redondo in 1868. Unfortunately the two orphaned sisters cannot be found and may have been taken by slavers to be sold into prostitution. The search leads east into desolate and rugged West Texas, putting the searchers themselves at risk. Will Sunny (Jóhonaá) save them or share their fate. Will Aaron's and Sunny's life together, blending two American cultures, be a tragically short one. Ultimately multiple risks, both physical and legal must be faced and dealt with, as rugged and dangerous missions take place hundreds of miles apart in the Southern Rockies and on the Texas plains.
After suffering much during troubled times for the Navajo people in general and the group who befriended Aaron and Josh in particular, the survivors work to become reunited, rebuild the lives of the women whose world had been turned upside down, and seek happier futures. Several dear friends aid them in their efforts in the rugged, historical Old West. The dangers are not over and the dangerous men are not all gone; for the American West, in its rugged, raw days, was unfortunately occupied by many of society's less moral men, seeking only their own wealth and pleasure. Also, of course, the final goal of bringing the youngest of the group of women to the ranch on the Brazos means crossing dangerous Indian lands, wild regions occupied by some the harshest American natives, the Kiowa and Comanche, who were not necessarily friendly to the Navajo.
Still astride Spanish Silver, Sunny heard the rapid hoof beats; and, looking up, she knew. There was no time to saddle any horses, and she reached down for Nell’s hand saying firmly, “Come on.” Then to Sarah she yelled, “Stand tall little one Aaron will pick you up!” But just as Aaron approached from the fields and to her right, a Comanche warrior on horseback appeared from the trees on Sunny’s left; and, trying to snatch Nell, he dragged the woman to the ground from her perch behind Sunny on Silver.
Though Aaron wished his wife would reach down and hoist little Sarah up to her and ride on hard to the woods East of them, she reacted instinctively, skilled horsewoman that she was. Thus, before the warrior could pounce on Nell or make any other attack, Sunny turned Spanish Silver toward him and reared the spirited little appaloosa, knocking the man from his mount with her horse’s forelegs. Then Sunny swung from her trusted mount and holding the reins, dropped to the fallen Nell. She cradled her head, knowing the woman could not be moved yet, and drew her revolver.
The two main characters in the "Sunny of the Old Southwest" series deal with the dangers to homesteaders during the Red River War and later travel home to renew old ties. Home means the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for one and the dryer lands of the American Southwest for the other. It means memories and family and possible fence mending work as well. For there are those old friends and family that never quite understand or accept what we have done in life.
The year is 1902, and America has ventured into overseas imperialism during the War with Spain in 1898 and the Philippine American War that followed. Now, as the latter conflict winds to an end, the forces of history, an adventurous son, and noble deeds draw two ordinary yet unique Westerners into danger once again. Having long ago bravely ventured into a deeply loving marriage that was daring for their times and having been heroes to each other and to those around them, Sunny and Aaron Jefferson bring their unique abilities and courage to a different, beautifully exotic, and sometimes dangerous land. Through the mission of two American adventurers, this novel introduces the reader to the early moments of the complicated relationship between the people of the picturesque and sometimes troubled Philippine Islands and both official America and her people. It is a relationship that remains an enigma even now, 117 years later. Like the experience of the American conquest, endured in her small part of it by the Navajo woman, Jóhonaá (Sunny), it is a story of missed opportunities. But what of Aaron and Sunny Jefferson's voyage to America's new tropical colony? Their goal is always to do the right thing, and they do not miss opportunities.
In 1907, when her parents, brother, and Filipino sister-in-law return to the latter's homeland Philippines to take care of land and inheritance issues, 31 year old Sunny Kathleen Jefferson Rodriguez, a half Navajo widow of a Spanish American War veteran tags along. Lacking an anchor except for the family ranch her husband, who died in the fight for San Juan Heights in Cuba, would have been a part of had he lived, she follows them to the far Pacific islands. The marriage had been brief, the friendship since childhood, and he was the man she could not forget, not even in the ensuing eight years. Her only interests are the study of native peoples, her mother's Navajo culture, and her parents' frontier history. Saved from emotional oblivion perhaps only by family bonds and her deep Catholic faith, stunningly pretty, financially stable, but emotionally lost, she figures, "Why not the Philippines? I've nothing else to do and nowhere else to go."