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Published by Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio www.standardpub.com Copyright © 2007 by Kersten Hamilton All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in reviews, without the written permission of the publisher. Project editor: Lynn Lusby Pratt Cover art: Thompson Bros., LLC Cover and interior design: Advance Graphics Scripture quotations opening each chapter are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations in text are taken from the King James Version. ISBN 978-0-7847-1910-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hamilton, K. R. (Kersten R.) A freaky kind of courage / Kersten Hamilton. p. cm. (Caleb Pascal & the peculiar people ; #2) Summary: Happy to be in the care of the old clown Guillaume Pascal, orphaned Caleb tries, with God’s help, to adjust to his new life in the circus and become a useful member of the troupe despite Twin Nightshade’s plots to get rid of him and the camels he loves. ISBN 0-7847-1909-8 (perfect bound) [1. Orphans--Fiction.  2. Christian life--Fiction.  3. Circus--Fiction. 4. Camels--Fiction.  5. Friendship--Fiction.]     I. Title. PZ7.H1824Fre 2007 [Fic]--dc22 2006021966 13 12 11 10 09 08 07

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Dedication For Isaac, Psalm 91!

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Peculiar People? Peculiar People in the title of this series is what is known as a play on words. Today the word peculiar has the meaning of being strange. An odd or unusual thing or person is described as peculiar. But there’s an older meaning of the word peculiar too. The King James Version of the Bible (published in the year 1611) used peculiar in this older meaning. “The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure” (Psalm 135:4). Jesus “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us . . . and purify unto himself a peculiar people” (Titus 2:14). “Ye are a chosen generation . . . a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9). In these verses, people who follow the Lord are called “peculiar.” But it doesn’t mean they are strange. What does it mean? It means that the Lord’s people are his treasured possession, his very own, singled out to belong to him. In this series you’ll follow Caleb in his adventures with all kinds of people—people who are . . . well, peculiar!

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1887

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Chapter 1 You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. —Psalm 139:13-15 “Fourteen,” Caleb said. The steer was lying on its back along the railroad track, with all four hooves pointed at the sky. A buzzard sitting on the steer’s head lifted its wings as the train went by, but it didn’t leave its feast. “Fifteen,” Thad corrected. Tanni turned her face away. “Stop counting dead cows!” “Sorry,” Caleb said. “Pass the biscuits.” “Cattle,” Thad said, as he handed a crusty, brown biscuit to Caleb.  Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd9 9

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“What?” Tanni frowned at Thad. “Cows are females.” Sunlight flashed from Thad’s round spectacles. “Bulls are males. Steers have had their—” “You needn’t go on!” Tanni blushed. “Why do you always have to be so—” “Precise?” Thad offered. “Intelligent? Educated?” “Obnoxious.” Tanni’s chin tilted up. “You are familiar with the word? Those poor animals died of thirst and were tossed off a train. It’s not funny.” “They were on their way to a meat packing plant,” Thad pointed out, “not a vacation.” Caleb sighed. They were at it again. If someone had told him two months ago that he’d be sharing a picnic breakfast on top of a moving circus train with Thaddeus Stone the Mighty Midget and Tannakin Jones the Pig-Faced Girl, he would have laughed at them. If they’d told him that Thad and Tanni would be his best friends in the world, he would have thought they were crazy. But it was true, every word of it. The world was a crazy place. Caleb snatched a linen napkin as it started to blow away. Crazy, and a little bit windy too. Tannakin wouldn’t think of having a picnic without a tablecloth and napkins, even though it meant sitting on the cloth to keep it from blowing away—and the view was nothing but flat, Texas prairie and poor dead cattle that had been thrown off cattle trains. “Twin Nightshade wasn’t in his car last night,” Thad said, as he spread jam on half a biscuit. “How do you know?” Tanni asked. 10 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd10 10

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“I went looking for him, of course.” Caleb stopped spreading butter. “You went to Twin’s car at night?” “Unlike yourselves,” Thad said, “I am not superstitious about shrunken heads or mummies.” Caleb shook his head. Twin Nightshade’s fancy Pullman coach was a museum of the macabre, full of dead things. Mummies and shrunken heads weren’t the half of it. He had animals too. Their skins anyway, stuffed and staring with marble eyes. But it wasn’t the dead things that worried Caleb. Caleb grimaced at Tanni, trying to telegraph a message with his eyebrows: Don’t start in about God. Not now. Caleb could talk to Thad about the heavenly Papa when they were alone, but let Tanni mention anything about God, anything at all, and the fight was on. She grimaced back at Caleb and asked Thad, “Why were you looking for Twin?” “I have a business proposition for him.” Thad settled the top precisely on his biscuit sandwich. “I want to buy back my bones.” “I wish you’d never sold them to him,” Tanni said fiercely. “There’s something so . . . horrible about it all. You did think you were saving the camels though, and that counts for something.” Caleb smeared the butter, careful not to look at Thad. He was sure that Thad was blushing this time, and he wouldn’t want a witness. Twin Nightshade’s best friend had been kicked off the 11 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd11 11

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circus for beating the little camel Sheeba. Ever since then, Twin had been trying to have her killed. He wanted Sheeba dead and stuffed for his museum, for sure. But he was so spiteful, he’d tried to buy the other circus camel, Solomon, as well, to kill them both. It had looked like Twin was going to manage it too, until Thad had offered to sell him the one thing he wanted more than he wanted Sheeba dead: the bones of a midget for his horrible museum. Thad’s own bones. When Thad was dead, Twin would put his bones on display and march people past them at five cents a head. Tanni was right—it was horrible. But she was all wrong about why Thad had done it. He’d used the money to buy the camels, all right, but not for Sheeba’s sake. He’d done it because Tanni loved the camels, and Thad couldn’t stand to see her cry. “My point,” Thad said, “was that Twin wasn’t anywhere I could find him. Are you sure he’s on the train?” “He was in the dining car after we left Coffeeville,” Caleb said. “Unless he got off at a water stop, he’s here somewhere.” Caleb exchanged a look with Tannakin. “Next time you go looking for Twin,” Caleb suggested, “let us come with you.” “I can take care of myself, thank you.” Thad brushed crumbs from the fuzz he called his moustache. On his sixteenth birthday he had decided to grow it, and it was really filling in. Caleb could even see it—if Thad had soot on his face to give the pale fringe some color. “Twin Nightshade talks to demons.” Caleb knew Thad 12 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd12 12

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wasn’t going to like it even before he said it. Tanni gave him a surprised look, but the words were already out of his mouth, so he went on. “He calls them his angels, but they’re demons. No doubt about it. And they talk back.” Thad rolled his eyes. “This is 1887. The age of reason. Of science.” He punctuated his words with the butter knife. “Demons are not scientifically demonstrable. Can you weigh them? No. Measure them in any way? I hardly think so. Will you pass the butter, Tanni? And another biscuit. You know I always eat two.” “You eat one and a half, and leave the other half waste,” Tanni said, handing him the butter. “Demons are real. In the Bible—” Thad interrupted. “It says, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers.’ I’ve read that book too, remember? I’m not afraid of Twin Nightshade or his angels. I just want my bones back.” “Thaddeus Stone, have I ever told you a lie?” Tanni demanded. “No,” Thad admitted. “You are honest to a fault.” “Then why won’t you believe me?” “Because the evidence does not support your claim.” “What do you mean?” Caleb asked. “You believe that God is your heavenly Papa, who loves you.” “He loves all of us,” Tanni said. “Really? Look at me, Tanni.” Thad stood up. “I’m short. Three foot nine to be exact, at sixteen years old, and not expected to get any taller. I make my living by letting idiots 13 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd13 13

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gawk at me. I’m short, not stupid. What kind of loving God would have created . . . me?” “Maybe you’re just not as smart as you think you are.” Tanni stood up too. “Or are you saying that Caleb and I are stupid?” “I don’t think that’s what he’s saying,” Caleb began, but they both were ignoring him. “Look around you, Tanni!” Thad said. “Look at the suffering. What kind of God would have created this world?” “It wasn’t this way when he created it,” Caleb said. “Satan broke it. He broke us.” “Aaarrgh!” Thad grabbed his head. “You—the both of you—are driving me completely mad! I don’t understand how you can believe what you believe, Tanni. I do not understand it. Your own father sent you to the freak show. Your father! And yet you fall for the whole ‘heavenly Father’ thing. I’m . . . I’m going to go work on something I do understand.” Thad looked at the steam puffing from the locomotive, which was affectionately known as Clementine. He loved every logical, predictable, and thoroughly scientific gauge, dial, and boiler on the huge machine. Tanni was still angry. “What kind of God would have created a mind that could understand steam engines?” Tanni asked. “That could build steam engines? I may not be as smart as you are, Thaddeus Stone, but God is a whole lot smarter. Maybe that’s why you’re afraid of him.” “I’m not afraid of anything,” Thad fired back. “Thanks for the picnic. The calliope needs some work.” He climbed down 14 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd14 14

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the ladder and didn’t even look back before he disappeared. “Do you remember your father?” Tanni asked Caleb, as she picked up Thad’s plate. She was trying to hide the tears in her eyes. “No. I remember Miss Pratt’s orphan home. I went from there to Mr. Groeger’s leather goods shop.” Mr. Groeger had given him the scars that crisscrossed his back. Caleb used to have nightmares about the owner of the leather shop coming after him—a Mr. Groeger with lion’s claws and lion’s fangs, chasing him . . . chasing him . . . chasing him through the night. Catching him. Caleb shook off the shivers. That couldn’t happen, not anymore. His heavenly Papa—the Papa who’d seen him huddled and hurt in the dark of Mr. Groeger’s shed, who’d heard him when he asked for help—had sent Guillaume Pascal to rescue him. Guillaume was the only earthly papa Caleb had ever known. Tanni said, “We just need to keep praying for Thad. He doesn’t understand.” She managed a watery smile. “My father did send me to Daggett and Bartlebee’s. He didn’t want anyone knowing that his daughter was a . . . a pig-faced girl. But I miss him anyway. I miss my family.” Caleb tightened his fist around the napkin in his hand. What kind of people would throw Tanni away? “Why do you even think about them?” Caleb asked. “The circus is your family. It’s my family now too.” (pronounced GHEE-ome) 15 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd15 15

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“Yeah?” Tanni wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Funny family you’ve got. Your older sister has a pig nose, and your big brother’s shorter than a six-year-old.” “Don’t forget my uncle the cannibal,” Caleb teased. “He’s not invited to very many potlucks with that kind of . . . appetite.” “He is too invited!” Tanni didn’t get the joke. “Karoom is a big softy.” Caleb shook his head. “Maybe to you. He’s still making up his mind about me. And Thad is only short on the outside. On the inside, he’s a giant. I’d be proud if he was my real brother.” Tannakin grew solemn. “He is a giant, isn’t he? On the inside, he’s some kind of wonderful, and he doesn’t even know it.” Caleb glanced sideways at her. Thad thought she was some kind of wonderful too. And she was the only one in the whole circus who didn’t know that. Thad appeared again, climbing up on top of the first freight car about halfway along the train. Tannakin winced as he jumped across the gap between the cars, making his way toward the flatcar that carried the calliope. “I wish he wouldn’t do that!” she said. “He’s just showing off, you know.” The whistle on the steam engine sounded twice, announcing that the next stop for coal and water was just ahead. They were still miles from the next town. But they’d been traveling all night, so this stop would last an hour or two—long enough to let the circus animals and performers 16 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd16 16

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off the train to stretch their legs. They gathered the remains of the picnic. Then Caleb swung his legs over to the ladder and said, “Let’s go.” He’d have to take care of the animals, and Tannakin loved to help with the animals. Maybe it would cheer her up. Tanni followed Caleb down the ladder at the end of the freaks’ car, across the metal walkway between the cars, and into the room he shared with his papa. Guillaume’s dog, Jock, jumped off the bed to greet her. Tanni scooped him up and tickled his mustard-yellow chin. “Hello, you handsome thing!” she said. Jock wiggled in delight. Caleb still thought Jock was the ugliest dog he’d ever seen. He had one brown eye and one blue eye, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the blue eye hadn’t been made of glass and meant for a human. It was never looking in the same direction as his brown dog eye, and sometimes it rolled completely up in his head, leaving the eyeball milky-white and hideous. His teeth stuck out in all directions. Grown men shuddered when Jock lifted his lip in a friendly smile. “Guillaume?” Tanni called. The room was empty. “He must be in with the animals,” Caleb said, just as the car started rocking gently from side to side. “That’s Babs,” he explained to Tanni. Babs the elephant had learned to stand in the middle of the car, facing the locomotive, and shuffle from foot to foot when she wanted attention. If she ever decided to shuffle too hard, she could rock the train car right off the tracks. Caleb jumped across the room and pulled open the door to the 17 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd17 17

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animals’ section of the car. Babs was shuffling from side to side. Babbette, her baby, was huddled against the wall. Guillaume was on his knees on the hay-strewn floor, his ear pressed against the baby’s belly. Thunder the pony and Nadine the goat watched from their stalls. “Papa, what—” Guillaume lifted his hand for silence. Caleb reached up and petted Babs’s trunk. She wrapped it around his arm and stopped rocking. Guillaume finally stood up. “Is something wrong with Babbette?” Caleb asked. “Yes.” The old man looked worried. “She does not sound right in the tummy.” “Is that bad?” Tanni looked worried too. Guillaume rubbed the bristly hair on top of the baby’s head. “I think Texas does not agree with her. It is very hot, and she does not drink enough.” Caleb thought of the dead cattle beside the tracks. The heat hadn’t agreed with them either. “In the wild places,” Guillaume said to Babbette, “you would wear mud, little one. And your mother would fan you with a leaf.” The baby elephant leaned against Guillaume and waved her ears. “Perhaps Thomas has some tonic in his kitchen,” Guillaume said. “For the stomachache.” The brakes hissed, and Jock wiggled out of Tanni’s arms and ran to the door, ready for a walk. “You go ask Thomas, Papa,” Caleb said. “We’ll make sure 18 Battle of Trickum County-sj.indd18 18

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all the animals get their walks in the fresh air.” “Bon, my son!” Guillaume said. “Good!” Tanni leaned down and put her arms around Babbette’s neck. “You’ll feel better as soon as you’re out in the fresh air,” she promised. “I’ll be right here with you until the door opens.”

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