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Sonora Wind
cover design © 2009 Ardy M. Scott.



Chapter Excerpt



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Sonora Wind
historical novel


Florence Byham Weinberg




Chapter One


"Father! Father Ygnacio! There's a crazy man in the church! He's going through your vestments! Come quick!"

Carlito, the most talented pupil among my Eudebe and Opata converts and the best Spanish speaker, garbled his speech with native words. The situation must be serious. I lifted the skirts of my black Jesuit robe and dashed up the hill toward the mission church, leaping half-picked rows of frijol beans, detouring around the straggling squash vines, leaving the field where I'd been helping my converts with the harvest. I tore through the church door and skidded to a stop, panting. Holding my breath between gasps, I listened. Sure enough, noises of rummaging came from the sacristy and a voice speaking. I rushed to the back of the church and flung open the door. Two paces away, amid fallen chasubles and stoles, stood a wild-eyed young man, bareheaded, his dark hair standing up in peaks. Medium height, thin to emaciation and hatchet-faced, he wore a ragged Jesuit robe, gray with dirt and dust, and was holding my best alb against his body as if trying it for size. He'd been at our last annual meeting, hadn't he?

"What do you think you're doing? I don't recall your name and don't appreciate your pawing through my vestments."

He drew himself up and turned with regal deliberation, as though I'd intruded on an audience with the pope. He sniffed, looking me up and down. "You don't look like a sybarite: tall, thin, hardened by manual labor, hawk-nosed, blond. German or Swiss, I'll bet. But you are a sybarite, Father. Just look at all this worldly finery! And don't try to tell me all this lace, these gold-trimmed satin stoles and chasubles are for the glory of God. This is worldly ostentation! You need to use your resources for your flock, not to glorify yourself!"

His rebuke tumbled out with utmost scorn and in excellent High German as if he could tell at a glance I would understand. In itself, that struck me as peculiar. We German Jesuits had learned, as soon as we arrived in Spain, that it was considered next to heretical to speak our native tongue. Whenever a Spanish brother caught us speaking it together, he would reprimand us. "ˇHabla cristiano! Speak Christian," which meant, of course, Spanish. I answered my madman in German, nonetheless.

"My name is Ignaz. Ignaz Pfefferkorn. My official name in the Company is Ygnacio. And yours?"

"Wolfgang Wegner. The Company calls me something else, but I've forgotten it. Rejected it. Wolfgang was what I was christened, and Wolfgang I am."

"And your mission, Pater Wegner?" I used his German title.

"I was sent to assist Bartolomé Saenz at Cuquiárachi Mission, among the Upper Pimas. He and I don't see eye to eye. He tells me he's a Basque from Salvatierra in Áraba Province. Studied in Pamplona--that's Navarre." He nodded, as if that opaque statement clarified his situation. "I walked out. I've been wandering a bit. Suppose I'll go back one of these days, if he'll have me. He may have denounced me already to the Provincial." His eyes found mine again. "And you? Where are you from? How long have you been here?"

Wolfgang must have taken too much sun and was off his head. I needed to get him out of my sacristy.

"Why don't you sit with me over a cup of tea? I'll answer all your questions and we can discuss worldly goods, missions and such. Does that tempt you?"

He dropped the alb and stepped toward me. "The offer of something wet, something to drink, tempts me mightily, but tea? What necessary item for your flock have you sacrificed to buy such a luxury?"

"Not bought, gathered. I tried drying and steeping mesquite leaves. They're not a bad tea substitute. Once I found that out, I gathered them young and tender and now have quite a store laid by. My flock didn't suffer on account of my 'tea'."

He cocked his head on one side, fixing me with his intense stare. "How did you know it wasn't poison?"

"My Indians taught me. If they're not the bitter kind, mesquite beans are edible at any stage. It stood to reason the leaves would be, too."

He followed me out of the church. I waved reassurance at Carlito, whose mop of straight hair and one wary eye appeared around the corner, then led Wolfgang to my house and into the kitchen. The house was cool, with its walls of sun-dried and plastered adobe brick. I laid shredded bark and sticks of wood on the coals I kept live, blew it all into flame and hung my sooty water pot on the hook above the fire.

"The water will heat in a few minutes. Meanwhile, sit and we'll talk."

"I'll sit when you've answered my questions. In case you forget, I wanted to know where you're from and how long you've been here."

"Ah! That's easy. I'm from Mannheim-am-Neckar. I landed in Veracruz in 1755 but didn't get started in mission work until the following year. I've been here ten years now."

"Ha! I thought I heard a Rheinlander twang in your speech." He pulled out and settled on one of my chairs of peeled saplings and strips of rawhide, elbows on the primitive plank table. I set out two clay mugs and the teapot, fished a spoon from the covered basket on the trestle counter, and opened the old metal canister that held my mesquite tea leaves. I measured four spoonfuls into the pot and filled it with boiling water. My eccentric guest gave me a wild-eyed glance.

"Luther was right, of course."

I poured the tea. "What on earth are you getting at?"

He ran his hands through his wild hair, ruffling it further. "Faith, not works. You think we get to heaven on our own, by observing our rituals, working hard, doing good and such like. Pharisees! Luther knew that without the firmest faith--and most of all without God's grace--you get nowhere, no matter how hard you work. You and your ilk with your silks and prescribed liturgy, your teas and your fine decorations, you'll go to Hell anyway without the grace of God. Sola fide, Luther said. By faith alone. Alone!"

I looked at him in pity. Here was a man in deep crisis, a crisis that had driven him mad. I spoke gently. "My son, you're undergoing a severe trial of your own faith right now. Isn't it so?"

It seemed minutes before he raised his eyes, full of fury. "Who asked you to delve into the struggles of my soul? You hypocrite! You whited sepulcher!"

He leaped up, spilling his tea, and reached the door in two strides. "I'll try to make it at least part-way to Opodepe. Thank you for your hospitality." His last word dripped with sarcasm.



Sonora Wind Copyright © 2009. Florence Byham Weinberg. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.




Author Bio

Born in the high desert country of New Mexico, Florence loved exploring the wilderness on foot and horseback. Those grandiose landscapes formed her sensibility. Hidden pockets of unexpected greenery tucked away near springs in folds of barren mountainsides spoke to her of gentleness and beauty in an otherwise harsh world. She published her first poem in a children's magazine shortly after she learned to read at age four; wrote her first 'novel' at age six, entitled Ywain, King of All Cats. She illustrated the 'book' herself.

Before settling in San Antonio, Texas, she traveled extensively with her military family during World War II. With her husband, the brilliant scholar and teacher Kurt Weinberg, she worked and traveled in Canada, Germany, France, and Spain. After earning her PhD, she taught for twenty-two years at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, and for ten at Trinity University in San Antonio. She published four scholarly books, many articles and book reviews, doing research in the U.S. and abroad.

When, after retiring in 1999, she was freed from academe to devote herself to writing fiction, she produced ten novels, ranging from fantasy to historical romance and mystery. Seven are in print: one historical romance about the French Renaissance, published in France in French translation, two historical novels, one about the founding of San Antonio, the other about the second expedition up the Rio Grande in 1581, forty years after Coronado. In addition, she has published four historical mysteries, starring the eighteenth-century Jesuit missionary Fr. Ignaz (Ygnacio) Pfefferkorn, two set in the Sonora Desert, one in an ancient monastery in Spain, and the latest one, Unrest in Eden, the fourth volume of the Pfefferkorn mystery series, recounting events in Fr. Ignaz' life after his release from imprisonment in the Spanish monastery.

Her favorite animals are horses—an intense love affair over many years—and cats, her constant companions. She enjoys music, traveling, hiking, biking, gardening, riding and swimming.

TTB titles: Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross
Seven Cities of Mud
Sonora Moonlight
Sonora Wind
The Storks of La Caridad
Unrest in Eden

Author web site.







  Author News

Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Florence Byham Weinberg has been selected as a 2006 WILLA Literary Award finalist in the category of historical fiction. The WILLA Literary Awards are chosen by a distinguished panel of twenty-one professional librarians.

Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross by Florence Byham Weinberg has also been selected as the featured book for the Las Misiones Capital Campaign. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Apache Lance, Franciscan Cross will be donated to the restoration and preservation of San Antonio's five historical Franciscan missions (established between 1718 and 1731). For more information, or to make a donation, please visit

Seven Cities of Mud by Florence Byham Weinberg was an Award-Winning Finalist for the 2008 New Mexico Book Awards in the category of Best Historical Fiction.

Sonora Moonlight was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Literary Award in Historical Fiction for 2009.

Sonora Wind by Florence Weinberg was a winner in the 2010 New Mexico Book Awards in Historical Fiction and a finalist in the category of Mystery/Suspense and also was a finalist for the Next Generation Indy Book Award for 2010.








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