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Authors: Lauraine Snelling

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Religious, #Christian, #General

An Untamed Land

BOOK: An Untamed Land

Books by Lauraine Snelling


Golden Filly Collection One*

Golden Filly Collection Two*

High Hurdles Collection One*

High Hurdles Collection Two*


Daughter of Twin Oaks


Ruby • Pearl

Opal • Amethyst


A Promise for Ellie • Sophie’s Dilemma

A Touch of Grace • Rebecca’s Reward


A Measure of Mercy • No Distance Too Far

A Heart for Home


An Untamed Land • A New Day Rising

A Land to Call Home • The Reapers’ Song

Tender Mercies • Blessing in Disguise


A Dream to Follow • Believing the Dream

More Than a Dream


Valley of Dreams

5 books in each volume

Winner of the 1997 Angel Award

An Untamed Land
Copyright ©1996
Lauraine Snelling

Cover design by Jennifer Parker

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Ebook edition created 2011

ISBN 978-1-4412-0318-2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.



he men and women who left Norway to forge a new life in America were pioneers of deep courage and fortitude. Leaving behind everything they treasured, they faced innumerable hardships as they settled across the territories of the West. To those forefathers whose fearless valor tamed the harsh new land, I dedicate this book with gratitude and admiration. Since my heritage is Norwegian, I tell my ancestors’ story—a story of all those who ventured from their homelands to pursue their dreams in another country.

I give my love and appreciation to those pioneers who shaped us all.

LAURAINE SNELLING is an award-winning author of over 60 books, fiction and nonfiction, for adults and young adults. Her books have sold over 2 million copies. Besides writing books and articles, she teaches at writers’ conferences across the country. She and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons and make their home in California.



riting a book of this scope would be impossible without the assistance of many people: those who have compiled their own research, those who write their own family stories and histories, and all those who have a love of history and are willing to share it. I cannot list them all, but they are a part of this series, nonetheless.

I spent many hours in universities, historical societies, libraries, churches, and book stores researching the setting for this series—the Red River Valley. In addition, I spoke with numerous individuals in order to gain a better understanding of the people and conditions of this time in history. The books on farming and the history of the Red River farmers by Dr. Hiram Drache of Moorhead, Minnesota, were not only informational but interesting reading as well. He is a delightful person and a veritable fount of information. John Bye and his staff at North Dakota State University in Fargo, Sharon Horerson at Concordia Lutheran in Moorhead, and Sandy Slater, along with her assistant Dean Yates, at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks all provided me with valuable material from the universities’ regional study programs and from the collections of family histories. The textbook,
The History of North Dakota
, by Elwyne B. Robinson, made reading history delightful. Dan A. Aird guided us on a tour of Bonanzaville in Fargo that transported us back to the early days of this country. Robert J. Lommel at Stearns County Historical Society and Mark Peihl at Clay County added their colorful input, along with Frank Schiller, who loves to show off the collection at Minto, North Dakota, where the Walsh County Historical Museum is located.

Shirley L. Richter of the Fargo/Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau sent me packets of information, as did Sandy Dobmeier
in Grand Forks. Thanks to the tourism magazine of North Dakota, we spent two days at the Fort Ransom Sodbuster Day, which was a reenactment of early history. What fun we had, and what wonderful people we met. Theresa Johnson and her family demonstrated soap making, cooking in a spider in a fire pit, period dress, and shared all the books and information they’ve collected to make the reenactment accurate. John drove the most gorgeous team of mules, and he, along with other farmers, hitched up three across to show me what it took to pull that early machinery. Thanks to all you people for your love of old-time farming practices and your willingness to answer my myriad of questions. Mr. Carter of Carter Farms in Park Rapids, Minnesota, raised and trained a team of Ayrshire steers to pull his farm wagon. Talk about a huge, beautiful team of oxen! Ardenwood Farms in Newark, California, also conduct old-time farming days, and I was quickly reminded of the reason denim overalls were worn. Wheat spears easily poke through cotton knit shorts and tank tops, with itching success.

So many others added their bits of information. My uncle Gilbert, at ninety-five, remembers it all, if I can think of the right questions to prime his pump. Rod McIntosh of Colfax, Washington, explains well the finer points of plowing and other general farming tasks.

Friends and family help any writer keep sane and on track, and mine are no exception. Thanks to Pat Rushford and Ruby MacDonald for their critiquing skills and their abiding friendship. Thanks to my husband, Wayne, who is growing as a researcher while I continue to grow as a writer. All things work better when we are part of a good team.

No book would ever make it to print without editorial expertise. Sharon Madison not only read and reread the manuscript, she cheered me on when the going got tough, and when I was running out of pages and time. Sharon Asmus has an eye for detail that is amazing and the patience of a saint. My thanks to all the Bethany House Publishers staff who put this book together when I finally got it finished.



Norway 1877


Gustaf Bjorklund waited patiently in his chair at the head of the oval oak table for the members of his family to take their seats so the discussion could begin. He stroked his gray beard with fingers coarsened and cracked by years of heavy labor in the frigid Norwegian winter air. One curling strand caught in an open crack and he felt the small twinge of pain.

However, that pain was minute compared to the heavy pain burdening his heart. But he would show neither.

“Far, you have blood running down your finger.” Roald, the second-eldest son, reached for a bit of cloth and handed it to his father.

“Uff da, what shall I do with you?” Bridget, Gustaf’s wife of thirty-five years, pressed her finger against the cut until it ceased to bleed. “You haven’t been using the goose grease, have you?”

With a quick frown that failed to penetrate Bridget’s armor of concern, Gustaf retrieved his hand from her grasp. “Enough,” he said.

From under bushy eyebrows, liberally sprinkled with gray, he slowly stared at each one seated around the table. Years before, when the children were young, they had quailed from such a look and ran quickly to do his bidding. Now, nearly all of them grown, they let their father wait as they finished their animated discussions and settled expectantly into their chairs, their mood of excitement irrepressible.

Were they so enamored with the adventures of going to the new land that they were all ready to leave Norway this very night? Gustaf shook his head at the thought. If and when they together made the
decision, it would be months, possibly even years, before the needed money could be gathered. That would be part of the discussion he expected would continue for some months yet. As if they hadn’t talked and argued and discussed over and over the move already—no thanks to the letters his younger brother sent home from Amerika. Perhaps he should have burned them when he had the opportunity, but what with the zealots for emigration canvassing the entire country, what chance did he have of keeping his family together here in the hills of Valdres?

Finally, silence fell upon the room, an expectant silence broken only by the snapping of the fire in the round, ceramic stove in the corner. Its windows glowed a cherry red from the heat of the fire crackling within.

Gustaf stared up at the carved shelf that followed the walls around the entire room and held his family’s heirlooms of kettle and plate. He’d built that shelf with his own hands during the cold nights of a winter long past, just as he had built every piece of oak and birch furniture in the house: the tables and chairs, the spinning wheel that sang in the corner, the dry-well sink, the open-fronted cupboards in the kitchen. He had taken great pleasure in putting his own stamp of craftmanship on this house and making it truly their home.

“We are ready.” Johann, oldest by two years and heir of the Bjorklund farm, touched his father’s hand to get his attention. It wasn’t like Far to be off in his thoughts like this. Johann shot a questioning look to his younger brother Roald.

Roald barely dipped his head, but the message was clear. Let them begin.

Gustaf flashed his eldest a look that left no doubt he was back in charge. “It is good of you to come together this day. I know you have all been talking much about the possibility of moving to the Dakota Territory of the United States of Amerika.” With one finger he traced the outline of the newspaper article centered in front of him on the oilcloth table covering. Beside it lay their prized copy of an Amerika book, the cover faded and bruised by the many who’d pored over its pages. The pause lengthened. “You must all understand it is not my wish for any of you to go. Would that we could all stay here in this country we love, that there were land available and work that you might make a good living like we did in days long gone.”

Had he failed them? Was it his fault that wages paid today would
scarcely feed one man, let alone a family? In this year of 1877 everything had become so costly: the food they could not produce themselves, little though that was, new tools, a cow to replace the one they’d had to butcher when she was so old she would no longer breed. When he looked up he saw that everyone was sitting with their gazes fixed on his face. Where had he been?
Oh, my God, my God. Is it your will my fine strong sons will cross the sea, and I will never see their faces again this side of eternity?

He squared his broad shoulders and took in a deep breath of air redolent with the precious cinnamon Bridget had used in the römmegrot, a flour and cream pudding, she’d made as a special treat. “Let us get on with this.” His voice gained strength with every word. “Would that I could give each of you a portion of this farm, but that is not to be. Our ten acres will not support five families, as you well know.”

“And in Dakota Territory, land is free for the taking.” Roald’s deep baritone rang with conviction. “I will go first and make a way for the others.”

By his side, Roald’s wife, Anna, tried to keep her gaze on her hands, but disobediently, both her eyes and her lips smiled up at him. She hugged Thorliff, their twenty-month-old son, closer to her breast, breathing in the sleepy sweet scent of him. They would do this for their children. All of this for their children. By the time they sailed for Amerika, Roald would have two fine sons to train up as his helpers. She guarded that secret deep within her, pushing away the traitorous possibility that the new seed growing within her might be a girl. Roald needed sons.

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