|Summary of Oxen for the Twin Sisters
As an old man Nehemiah is telling tales to his grandchildren. He describes the day his life changed when his father rode off to join the
Texian Army. The old man gets off the porch and goes to the very spot where he stood that day. Then he lets the grandchildren handle
one of his most prized possessions, a flintlock pistol given to him by his father as he is leaving. The children’s imaginations take them back
fifty years to see what their grandfather is describing.
Nehemiah’s journey begins when General Sam Houston stops at the young boy’s homeplace for supper and a night’s rest from traveling.
Not only does he befriend the general but also starts a close relationship with the general’s horse, Saracen. Each time the boy and horse
meet there seems to be a magical connection between the two.
The boy’s mother sends Nehemiah on a few days travel to take extra food and clothing to his father while the Texian Army is camped at
Gonzales. Nehemiah gets advice while traveling west that there is safety in numbers so he falls in with two frontier ruffians. He learns a hard
lesson about people when one of the scoundrels, a man everyone around called Uncle Abner, tries to take his belongings. Out of fear the
boy is forced to use violence to protect himself. The thief is not killed but his face is badly disfigured from a gunpowder burn. This creates a
lust for revenge in Uncle Abner and in the several times the two meet the old robber tries to get satisfaction.
Nehemiah is in the Texian Army camp the day news comes that the Alamo has fallen and the Mexican Army is advancing east. He witnesses
the panic and start of the Runaway Scrape. General Houston cannot spare any fighting men to warn towns so he sends Nehemiah on a
mission to spread the word as the boy returns home. Along the way Nehemiah falls into the grasp of Uncle Abner, and only quick thinking
saves him from certain death. Uncle Abner reconsiders his need for revenge and decides to sell the boy to traders once they reach the
When the trio get to the Brazos River crossing, it is clogged with refugees trying to cross the water at near flood stage. The delay of
crossing allows Nehemiah to make a spectacular escape from Uncle Abner and then gets home. He quickly loads the family ox cart, fearing
Uncle Abner will follow him there and kill his whole family. He drives his father’s yoke of oxen two days north and meets up with several
other refugee families headed to safety. Nehemiah leaves his mother, sister and little brother to continue on eastward while he returns
south along the Brazos to find the Texian Army.
The boy’s final instructions before he left his father at Gonzales was to bring his yoke of young oxen and borrow another yoke to meet the
army somewhere along the Brazos. When it is time for the Texian Army to cross the Brazos and head toward San Jacinto, Nehemiah has
the only yokes of fresh oxen able to pull the two cannons, named the Twin Sisters, toward the battle that changed Texas history forever.
Nehemiah and his oxen struggle through the mud and bogs of the wettest spring ever recorded to accomplish this feat.
One of Nehemiah’s close friends along the trail to San Jacinto is a seventeen-year-old girl that had recently emigrated from Germany.
Ottilie is so intrigued with the oxen she learns how to drive them before the army leaves the Brazos. While Nehemiah drives the borrowed
team, Ottilie drives Liberty and Justice as they pull the cannon east. The boy’s admiration for the stouthearted girl grows every step of the
hard journey. The possibilities of a future with the girl end suddenly right before the Battle of San Jacinto when she dies of cholera.
Nehemiah is a few miles north of San Jacinto helping refugees cross a river as the battle unfolds so he is not present during the action.
The next day he finds his old friend, Saracen, a causality of war and another friend, General Houston, wounded. Houston reflects on the
losses from his life in the past and gives the boy advice on how to cope with his broken heart.
As the story comes to a conclusion, Nehemiah takes his grandchildren on a grand adventure to revisit the battlefield of San Jacinto and the
place of so many memories.