Todd is a southern novel about family love, faith and endurance. In 1943, ten year old Todd Jansan lives with his family on a North Carolina tobacco farm. The Jansan’s neighbor, Horace Hammond is a cruel man who punishes his children by holding them over a well. The Jansans have to deal with his cruelty and with the mystery surrounding Todd’s uncle who is off at war.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired to write this book from memories of family stories. I've always wanted to write and one night, I had a vision of a young boy, around ten years old walking up a dirt road of a farm. Off in the background was an innocent looking water well. I knew immediately who the boy was and knew I had to write his family's story
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters introduce themselves to me. Sometimes I'll have a story all planned and a new character will appear, changing the whole story. I get inspiration from many sources, my family, people I've seen, people I read about and my imagination. Sometimes I'm not sure where they come from but I have some very interesting characters in my books.
It was Friday afternoon. We’d hoed the garden that morning and picked butterbeans after dinner. Clyde had gone to Brookville again. He told Daddy he needed new socks. I was sitting in our oak tree trying to figure out for myself what Clyde might be doing. I was having a hard time coming up with anything that could cause both Daddy’s suspicion and Clyde’s secretiveness. I was thinking about going inside when I heard Bob, “Hey Todd, want to ride Susie?”
I looked down to see him riding his cow, Susie, toward the tree. “Sure,” I called and climbed down. For as long as I could remember, Bob and I had been asking our parents for a horse. The answer was always the same—“Ride the mules.” But our mules could be stubborn, mean and unpredictable. A mule just wasn’t a horse. Neither was a cow. But Bob’s cow Susie was nice and gentle. She didn’t mind us riding her.
On this Friday afternoon we took turns riding her up and down the dirt path on our farm. After a while, Bob decided it would be fun to race. We took turns one of us riding Susie and the other running on foot. We did that for some time. When we rode back to the house on about the fifth or sixth time, we found Clyde getting out of the truck. He had a small package. He stared at us—Bob riding Susie and me standing beside them. “What’s that you’re riding, Bob?”
“My cow, Susie,” Bob answered.
“Thought that was a cow,” Clyde said.
“Oh, Clyde, you know it’s a cow,” I replied.
“Yeah, but it’s rare that you see someone riding a cow. People usually ride horses. Or mules.”
“We don’t want to ride a mule,” I told him.
Clyde went to the side door. As he started to go inside, he called, “Well, you’d never catch me riding a cow. Just as soon ride a hog.”
“Hogs are too close to the ground,” Bob called back. We decided to let Susie rest. We climbed the oak tree. Once settled, Bob told me Grandma Cal was still after him to help find her gun. He said he thought she was getting up at night to eat.
We heard the door open and Clyde call, “Hey, would you boys like to ride a real horse?”
“Sure,” we called back.
Clyde went back inside. Bob and I talked some more, then decided to ride Susie again. When we got back from the fourth ride, Clyde was standing in our yard with a horse. Not just any horse. Horace Hammond’s horse, Muley. Now Horace was not only known for being mean himself but he was also known for having the meanest horses.
He’d had several of them; all of them named Muley. He was known to beat them and give them whiskey sometimes instead of water.
“Clyde, that’s Muley!” I protested.
“Now, Todd, I talked to T.H.” He said this is a new Muley. They’ve only had him a few days. T.H. says he’s a pretty nice horse.
Bob spoke up, “You expect us to ride that horse?”
“Sure. Why not?” Clyde said, “At least then you can say you’ve rode a real horse.”
“If you think I’m riding that Hammond horse, you’re crazy,” Bob said and rode off on Susie as fast as she could take him.
Clyde was rubbing Muley. “Come on, Todd, looks like you’re gonna have all the fun.”
“Yeah,” I answered. My mouth was dry with fear. I didn’t really want to ride Muley. I stayed where I was—gazing at Muley—a big black giant of a horse.
“Come on, Todd, don’t be afraid. You can do it.”
I started walking to them. The closer I got, the bigger Muley got.
Soon Clyde was helping me on Muley. There I sit on Muley’s bare back with only a handful of mane to hold onto. Through no action of my own, Muley started to run. I didn’t know how to control him. I was terrified. I tried talking to him but it did no good. Soon, we had gone around the house. I could see Libby hanging the wash for Mama. Muley was going fast and I couldn’t stop him. When Libby saw us she yelled, “Get that horse out of here, Todd! Go on! Shoo!”
I couldn’t shoo! It was all I could do to stay on. Muley was headed right for the clothesline. “Todd! Todd! Did you hear me?” Libby shouted, “I said get that horse out of here. Now Todd! Now!”
I heard her but I was not in control of the situation. We hit the clothesline going fast. Everything went black. At first I wasn’t sure if I had gone blind or what. Then I realized I had something wrapped around my head. Lilly Jean must have come out because I could hear her, “Mommy! Mommy! Come and see what Todd did to your clothes. Come and see, Mommy!”
Libby was yelling, “Todd, Mama’s gonna kill you for getting all these clean clothes dirty!”
I didn’t think Mama had anything to worry about. Muley was taking care of killing me. Suddenly I was flying through the air in one great whoosh. I felt strangely peaceful; almost sleepy. It didn’t last long. I hit the ground hard, my left arm hitting the hardest. Soon Mama was there, taking Libby’s dress from around my head. “Todd, honey, are you alright?” she sounded worried.
I opened my eyes and sat up, “I think so. Where did Muley go?” “He headed straight for home,” Libby answered.
Daddy came from around the house. Looking at the fallen clothesline, the scattered clothes, and me sitting on the ground, he said, “What’s going on? Todd, what were you doing on Muley?”
Before I could answer, Clyde, who had been standing back watching, said, “Please James, don’t blame Todd. This is my fault.”
“Your fault?” Daddy asked him.
“Yeah. I got Muley for the boys to ride. They said they wanted to ride a real horse. I had no idea this would happen.”
Daddy sounded angry. “You got Muley for Todd to ride! Clyde, you can’t stand there and tell me that you don’t know the reputation of Horace’s horses. You can’t do that.”
“I know, James. But T.H. told me this Muley was a good horse. Believe me; I would never want to hurt Todd. I just wanted him to have a chance to ride a real horse instead of that cow. So I asked T.H. if I could borrow Muley for a while. He said sure.”
Daddy shook his head and knelt beside me. I wasn’t sure if he believed Clyde or not. But I did. Daddy gently lifted my left arm and felt it all over. It hurt terribly.
“Is it broken?” Mama asked.
“I’m not sure, honey,” Daddy answered. “I say we need to get him to Dr. Moore right away.”
Clyde walked closer. “James, I feel so guilty. Let me take him. Please.”
At first I thought Daddy was going to say no. But then he said, “Alright. But Clyde from now on, remember, I don’t trust the Hammonds. So stay away from them.”
“I’ll remember. Come on, Todd.” I followed Clyde to the truck. I got in with Clyde and soon we drove off. Clyde was silent. I didn’t know what to say so I was quiet also. That is I was quiet until we got to the crossroads by Preacher Joe’s store. Here at the crossroads instead of going straight like we should have, Clyde made a left turn.
“Clyde, this isn’t the way to Dr. Moore’s.”
“We ain’t going to Dr. Moore. We’re going somewhere else.”
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