Hyde's Corner - Book I - No Man's Land begins in 1947, but quickly pulls the reader into a family's struggle for survival in the year 1876. Silas and Mathilda Burks leave what is left of their Civil War ravished home in Lawrence County, Tennessee to start a new life in Texas. They are pursuing a dream, one they thought impossible until a wandering uncle, dropping in on his nephew's hospitality, regales Silas with stories of the thousands of longhorn cattle, abandoned by the men who joined the Confederate cause. These longhorns have gone feral, but are free for the taking, if a man has the sand to go after them.
The period from early April, 1861 through April of 1865 was a dark, brutal time for our country and its population. The Civil War pitted brother against brother and father against son. Though vehemently against slavery, Silas kept his mouth shut. He and his family were spared due to Silas' talent for breeding and raising quality Tennessee mules. These animals supplied the Confederacy while their troops held Tennessee, but bolstered the Union forces as the Rebels retreated. The War left the Burks family with less than half their land, but their home intact. They had little money, but more importantly, the Johnny Rebs and Union forces left them with their lives.
Silas believed his uncle's tales of the wild cattle free to any man willing to risk life and limb in the trackless back country of Texas and Silas was one man willing to do just that for his family. Silas immediately began planning the trip southwest. He hoped, at this late date, March, 1876, there would be enough healthy stock left to start a small herd. Using their meager savings, Silas envisioned the purchase of one or two good breeding bulls. Thus, he would build a herd of quality stock and the family's dream would become a reality.
Traveling with a group of Texas cattle drovers, the Burks family discover a wondrous prairie grassland perfect for cattle ranching just before reaching the Texas border. The narrow strip of land, known as No Man's Land, is less than a hundred miles from their original destination. They settle here along The Little Santa Fe River in former Indian territory after purchasing the claim of a homesick Texas family. They begin to build their new life and soon find they are not totally alone. Three other ranchers hold claims that border the Burks claim on two sides. Friendships are made and alliances formed. A short time later newcomers arrive. Cedric Hyde and his family are English born merchants who have traveled from Boston with a plan to develop a small settlement and general provision store in the territory.
All is well for a time. A boy child is born to the Burks family and they name him Selmer Carson Burks. But vicious ambition, driven by blind greed, soon threaten the peace and serenity of the cattlemen and arriving farmers in the region. During this tumultuous time, Selmer Burks grows and learns quickly of the hard life he faces. At fourteen he is witness to the beginning of his family's decimation. First, his mother and older brothers sicken and die from complications of the Spanish Flu. Their lives are needlessly lost owing to the Burks family's ignorance of the arrival of a doctor in the new settlement of Hyde's Corner. This vital information is withheld from the Burks family by Jared Hyde. The younger Hyde's hatred of Silas Burks stems from the prominence Silas has earned in the territory. His standing on the local Vigilance Committee of the Cattlemen's Association proves another irritant that stands in the way of Hyde family ambitions. Silas has voiced his suspicions of the English expatriate's intentions. Ben Carson, original claim holder in No Man's Land, and well respected, has joined Silas in his wariness of the Hydes and their possible plans to control vast sections of No Man's Land.
A few short years later Selmer must stand by, helpless, as his crippled father insists on making a supply trip to Dodge City. Silas Burks disappears on that journey and Selmer, again, cannot prevent his older sister from her determination to find their father. She too disappears into the vast grasslands of the prairie. Selmer leaves the family ranch in the care of men he considers trustworthy and goes in search of his sister and father. Returning, after a more than a year of roaming, he finds most of his cattle missing and his home plundered and ransacked. Selmer is but nineteen, but a man full grown and trail hardened by the unforgiving prairie. Suffering from grief at the loss of his family, Selmer embarks on a suicidal plot of revenge against those he holds responsible. Before he can make a fatal mistake, a newspaper headline catches his eye, and with cunning beyond his years, he wins election as the first County Sheriff of the newly formed Sundowner County. Under the color of law, Selmer begins a savage campaign of revenge that spans thirty years. His vendetta of hate claims the life of his wife and is responsible for the rape, pregnancy and life threatening blood infection of his daughter, Laura Lee Burks.
An ambulance is hired to rush Laura Lee, Dr. Herman Beaman and Sheriff Burks to Oklahoma City's Municipal Hospital. Unfortunately, Laura Lee dies in childbirth, leaving Burks with her infant son. The Sheriff makes arrangements to transport the body of his daughter home for burial, but hate will claim it's pound of flesh and part of Selmer's sanity as well. On the drive home, the Sheriff of Sundowner County plans the murder of Dr. Herman Beaman and the bastard boy. Burks is sure the child is a product of the demonic Hyde seed. This evil, he believes, if not stopped, will go on to infect the last of his new found family, the Township of Hyde’s Corner and Sundowner County itself.