Wild Heart on the Prairie (A Prairie Heritage, Book 2)

of Contents

Pronunciation Guide

Part 1

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Part 2

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45


An Excerpt
Joy on This Mountain

A Prairie


Girls from
the Mountain


Christian and the Vampire

About the


Heart on the Prairie

Prairie Heritage, Book 2

Vikki Kestell

Available in Print Format


Brothers Jan (pronounced Yahn) and Karl Thoresen have left
their native land of Norway to bring their families to America—the land of freedom and hope. Like thousands of others, Jan and his wife Elli long
for the opportunity of a better life and future for their children.

After braving an ocean crossing and the arduous journey
west, they encounter a land so vast and wide that it defies mastery. Jan finds
that his struggles are not only with the land, but with a restless and
unmanageable heart. Will Jan find a way to overcome this wild land or will the
prairie master him?

Visit Vikki’s website,
or find her on

Wild Heart on the Prairie

© 2014 Vikki Kestell
All Rights Reserved


Quotations Taken From

King James Version (KJV)
Public Domain.

Faith-Filled Fiction

Division of Growing Up in God



Return to Chapter


Amalie...................... (Ah´-ma-lee)

Gjetost...................... (Yay-toost)

Jan............................ (Yahn)

Kjell.......................... (Chell

Sigrün....................... (Sig´-run)

Søren........................ (Soor´-ren)

Thoresen................... (Tor´-eh-sen)

Uli............................. (Yoo-lee)


The dialogue spoken in
this book contains occasional non-English words set in italics. Non-English
words set in italics may be
Riksmaal (Norwegian), German, or Swedish,
depending on the speaker. Some words
the same from one language to
another but are spelled differently, such as the English word “nay” which is spelled
in Riksmaal and
in Swedish and the English words “mama”
and “papa” which are spelled
in Riksmaal.



I dedicate this book to
two of its characters,
Amalie Thoresen
Fraulein Adeline Engel
who exemplify the many selfless women in the Body of Christ. These women live
their lives, not for themselves, but for the care and benefit of others—because
they love Jesus.

Lord, bless all women
such as these.


With each book I write, I value my proofreading team more
and more. I want to thank
Cheryl Adkins,
Greg McCann
, and
for the many hours of work poured into this manuscript. I also thank
you for our fellowship and shared learning! I simply cannot do this without

Original cover art courtesy of Dorthea Paulson
by Dorthea)
, a sister of my heart. Thank you, D!

To My Readers

This book is a work of fiction, what I term “faith-filled
fiction,” intended to demonstrate how people of God should and can respond to
difficult and dangerous situations with courage and conviction. The characters
and events that appear in this book are not based on any known persons or
historical facts; the challenges described are, however, very real, both
historically and contemporarily.

I give God all the glory.

Part 1

man who demonstrates
an exemplary Christian walk
begins his journey
in an exemplary manner.
Through the furnace and the fire
his life is tried, tempered, and purified.
It is only through
faithfulness to God in these times
a wild heart can be tamed.


Chapter 1
May, 1866

Jan Thoresen
, heedless of angry shouts,
clambered up the wall of crates stacked along the docks. When he reached the
top he stared at the crush of humanity surging below and beyond.

O Lord! I have never seen so many people in one place
he marveled,
or such buildings and ships!

He turned in a circle, trying to absorb the breathtaking
view: the docks of New York City, the thousands of rushing, clamoring people,
and the towering buildings. Their objective was one of the larger buildings—the
Castle Garden rotunda and immigrant landing depot of the United States.

Another angry bellow, one Jan recognized, roused him from
his reverie. He grinned and saluted his brother Karl, whose forbidding
expression was so familiar

Jan laughed with the sheer joy of the moment and stretched
out his arms to embrace it all.
We have arrived, Lord God!
He took a
deep breath and a last glimpse of the panorama before him.
Never again will
I see such a sight,
he realized.

Tearing his eyes from it, he climbed down the crates and leapt
the last six feet, landing next to Karl. Karl’s frown was matched by the
threatening scowls of two dock workers advancing on Jan.

As the men pushed their way through the crowd toward him,
Jan drew himself up—all six-foot-four-inches of rock-hard muscle. Karl shook
his head. As irate as he was with Jan, they were brothers after all. He turned
and stood shoulder to shoulder with Jan.

The longshoremen slowed a few yards away. Sensing the
crackling tension, the crowd pressed back, leaving space between the Thoresen
brothers and the enraged dock workers.

The longshoremen were no strangers to hard work and hard
living. They directed menacing glares toward the blonde giants. Jan and Karl, arms
folded, stared back, unfazed.

One of the dock workers—a bit wiser than his companion—thought
better of wading into a fist fight with the two behemoths. Perhaps they weren’t
as easily intimidated as most immigrants! He shrugged his shoulders. “Well, no
harm done after all,” he muttered. Placing a restraining hand on the other
man’s arm, he backed away and they melted into the crowd.

“Come, Karl!” As though they hadn’t avoided a brawl their
first day in America, Jan shoved toward the line where he and Karl had left
their families. The lines, several of them, wended toward the immigration stations
at the entrance to the Garden.

Jan already missed the cleaner air he’d breathed atop the
heap of crates. T
he fumes of the
creosote-soaked timbers
their feet coupled with the rank odor of many
bodies enveloped them.

After a two-week ocean journey, from Christiana to Liverpool then Liverpool to New York, the Thoresens’ fellow shipmates were weak and weary. Sounds
of retching along the lines were not infrequent as disembarked families coped with
empty bellies, disorientation, and the anxiety of the coming inspections.

Jan, with Karl grumbling behind him, waved to his wife Elli.
She was relieved to see the two brothers returning and pointed them out to her
sister-in-law Amalie. The women were struggling to keep their places in line
and also keep children and baggage together.

Karl scowled but said nothing more about Jan’s impetuous climb
up the mountain of crates. They helped their wives gather and move their possessions
farther up the line and then settled down to wait until the line inched forward

Ach! This waiting is so hard, Lord!
Jan complained.
have energy to spare and no good thing to spend it on.

Jan reached around Karl and pinched his unsuspecting niece, Sigrün.
When the girl rounded in indignation, Jan was facing the other way, his hands
in the pockets of his homespun trousers. Four-year-old Sigrün’s eyes narrowed
as she glanced from her distracted father to her seemingly innocent uncle.

Jan winked at Elli, and she winked back.
Oh, it is good
to have a little humor to get us through this trial.

Jan’s thoughts returned to the upcoming medical inspections.
He knew his children, eight-year-old Søren and six-year-old Kristen, were strong
and healthy and that he and Elli presented no health problems.

But Karl, behind his neutral expression, was concerned about
little Sigrün. She had been coughing for days. In this line, a cough attracted
unwanted attention.

Lord, you have brought us so far. You will not fail us. I
trust you,
Jan prayed.

America’s War Between the States was over; now thousands of
Jan and Karl’s fellow Norwegians were immigrating every month, hoping America
would offer them a brighter future. Jan and Karl were no different—they, too,
sought a new life with better opportunities.

The lines moved forward in spurts as families passed through
registration stations, medical inspections, and into the spacious rotunda of
the Garden. Between 700 and 1,000 new arrivals would spend the night inside. American
officials who could read and speak their language would help them retrieve their
cargo from the ships and assist them on their way in the morning.

The Thoresens had traveled steerage class, a level below the
main deck of the ship. As steerage class passengers, they had spent most of the
crossing confined below in an open, shared cargo hold.

Like others in steerage, the Thoresens had cooked their
meals at designated times and slept together on wide, wooden berths. The berths
were temporary platforms knocked together for steerage passengers, easily
removed to accommodate a different sort of cargo on the ship’s return voyage.

Jan and Karl and their families had borne the uncomfortable crossing
well, but not all had. Some of their traveling companions had come aboard with not
much more than their tickets. They carried all they owned on their thin, bowed
backs. Their children, with eyes too big for their faces and shoulders too weak
for their rucksacks, were too weary to run and play with other shipboard children.

Watching these families, whose flight to America
was a last, desperate effort to avoid starvation, had saddened Jan. He and Elli
had discreetly shared their food when little ones with hungry eyes had wandered
near them at mealtime.

Jan thought of the money he and Karl had scrupulously saved
and brought with them, and he thought of their other belongings still in the
hold of the ship. The Thoresens would begin their new lives in this country
with more than most immigrants would.

Jan was proud of his family and proud of his heritage. He
and Karl were broad, thick, and hardened from a life of demanding work and good
food. Every Thoresen standing in line was hearty and well fed.

We come from good stock,
he reflected with pride.

It was obvious at a glance that Karl and Jan were brothers,
but there were also differences. Karl’s shaggy hair was light sand in color
while Jan’s was as white as ripe wheat. Karl’s body was a bit more compact than
Jan’s, too, and he spoke in a rich baritone; Jan was taller and his voice
deeper than Karl’s.

We will do well in America,
Jan assured himself
. This
cough of Sigrün’s will pass; it is nothing to worry about.

Jan saw Karl gesture with his chin. Amalie, Karl’s stout
wife, pulled a small jar of honey from her deep pockets and administered a
spoonful to Sigrün.

Søren and Kristen frowned. They longed for a taste of honey,
but the families would not eat until they passed the inspections and could sit
down together for a bite of bread, stale though it might be.

Kristen cleared her throat and managed to produce a raspy cough,
politely muffling it on her sleeve. Jan and Elli both bent stern looks on her,
although Jan had to swallow hard to keep from chuckling.

Ah, my little Kristen! You are the most beautiful thing I
have ever seen,
Jan rejoiced.
I will never stop being amazed that you
and your brother came from your mamma’s and my love.

Kristen smiled sheepishly, swished her skirts, and leaned
against her mother, resignation written in the slope of her shoulders. Elli sat
upon one of their suitcases, the rest of their bags piled near her.

“It will not be much longer,” Jan assured Kristen, caressing
her cheek with the back of his fingers. She looked up at him from under dark
blonde lashes.

You have your mamma’s eyes.
He shook his head in

Jan let out a deep breath. He winked at Søren, then reached
around Karl and tugged Sigrün’s braid. This time the girl was ready for him and
pounced. “I knew it was you,
!” she squealed, jumping up and down. Søren
and Kristen laughed heartily and Jan grinned.

Sigrün’s excited outburst ended in a spate of coughing. Karl
held her against his leg until she was able to catch her breath. He fixed his
disapproval on his brother.

“Jan,” he hissed. “Do not provoke this
of mine.
Sometimes you are worse than a child yourself.” He frowned. “Behave like an
adult, eh?” he added.

Jan, still grinning for Søren and Kristen’s sake, sauntered
out of line to see how far they had to go. Jan’s smile faded and he shook his

Ah, Karl!
Jan had been on the receiving end of his
and his
’s reprimands for as long as he could remember.

“You are too impulsive, Jan,” his father would declare in a
stern tone.

“That temper is going to get you in trouble, Jan,” his
brother would lecture.

“No one trusts a jokester,” his
would add.

“Be serious, Jan! Grow up!” Karl would reprimand, and Jan
would receive a disapproving frown.

The lectures and sibling rivalry had begun when Jan was a
boy. Karl, who was two years Jan’s senior, had sprouted up and into a man’s
body by the time he was fourteen years old! Jan, on the other hand, had been sickly
in his early teens and slow to get his growth.

Where Karl was taciturn, Jan was naturally good-humored like
his mother. When Karl had bragged on his size and ribbed Jan about his, Jan had
plagued his brother with practical jokes.

Their father had not helped. He needed a third man on their
farm and regularly told Jan he wished him to be more like Karl—steady,
dependable, able to do a man’s work. Jan had rebelled at the comparison and
provoked his brother further whenever possible.

Then came Jan’s seventeenth year. In six months he shot up six
inches! The following year he grew another five. His mother, amazed and
somewhat in awe, slipped extra food to him between meals, for Jan complained continually
of being hungry. Every few weeks the good woman was obliged to let down his
trousers or make him a new shirt.

By the time Jan was nineteen, he was an inch taller than his
brother and two inches broader in the chest. The competition between the
brothers grew fierce as they strived to outdo each other in whatever chore
their father assigned.

As Jan grew into a man, years of crop failures across Norway
kept him bound to his father’s small farm. He longed to escape the narrow life
of a second son, but opportunities to learn a different trade—one that would
allow him to branch out on his own and support a family—were scarce.

Besides, I am a farmer,
Jan knew.
It is in my blood
and in my bones.
Like every young farmer in Norway, he dreamed of having
his own farm, but land in Norway was scarce and grew more expensive each year. With
each year that passed, Jan grew more dissatisfied with his lot in life and more
resentful of living under his father’s and brother’s authority.

Even in this line today, Karl seemed to have forgotten that
Jan was a thirty-seven-year-old married man with children, when in fact Jan had
married and fathered a child before Karl had!

Of course, marrying before Karl had been a sore point.

The men of their district typically married between ages twenty-five
and thirty. Jan, at twenty-eight, had already waited three years to marry Elli
Mostrom—all because Karl had been slow to select a bride.

When Jan had first laid eyes on Elli she had been tall and
gangly, with a crown of honey-and-wheat colored hair and eyes as deep and blue as
a fjord. By age eighteen, Elli had lost her coltish charm; she had grown into a
poised, stately woman, the image of a Viking queen. Jan told his parents he
would wait no more—he was certain he would lose her if he waited another two

Karl was only beginning to court Amalie when Jan and Elli
married, and he had been disgruntled. Ten months later, just before Karl and
Amalie finally tied the knot, Elli had given birth to Søren. Karl had not been

That had been Karl’s fault for dragging out his courtship,
Jan told himself.
Now that we are in America, things are going to change. Once
I have my own land and my own home, our relationship will be better!

He smiled in relief as he looked down the line.
three families ahead of us!
Many of the families in line had been on the
ship with them. He walked forward, greeting the men and wishing them well.

Betta Harvath, a newborn in her arms and a toddler leaning
against her legs, sagged with fatigue. Their family was at the head of the
line, and her husband was presenting his papers to the official.

“We will be through this soon,” Jan encouraged her gently.

Ah, Lord,
he prayed,
I thank you that Elli is not
pregnant during this difficult journey. But when we finally have our land,
could you please send another little one? It has been a few years now since we
had a new baby.

He paused as the conversation between Per Harvath and the
official reached him.

“Did you come to America with any money?” the man asked in
passable Riksmaal. “We cannot have immigrants living on the streets, you know.”

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