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The Ghosts in Our Walls: History and Tales from the Haunted South

Kristen Twardowski

There are ghosts in the walls of old houses. They roam abandoned plantations. They float down the side streets of southern cities on sticky, sultry summer nights.

Tales from the Haunted South.jpgThat is what the dark tourism industry would have us believe at any rate. Dark tourism is travel that is steeped in suffering of one sort or another. In the American South, this industry overlaps with the ghost tourism industry in which people investigate potential hauntings. Historian Tiya Miles explores these ideas along with the historical memory of slavery in Tales from the Haunted South: Dark Tourism and Memories of Slavery from the Civil War Era.

In the book, Miles focuses on ghost tours to help understand how people reinterpret the Civil War era. The narrative follows her as she travels to places like Charleston, New Orleans, and Savannah as well as more rural plantations. Histories can often be dry texts, but Tales…

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Where the West Begins (SAGA FRIDAY)

linger-and-look-com
courtesy of LingerandLook.com
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins.
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
Where a man makes a friend without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.
by
Arthur Chapman

OLD WEST LEGENDS: GREAT PICS OF REENACTORS!

LEGENDS OF THE WEST

LEGENDS OF AMERICA PHOTO/PRINTS

DO YOU ENJOY WESTERN ROMANCE?

LOOKING AT THE WEST (Beautiful Photographs!)

The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.

This week I’m bringing you the West (where my characters sometimes escape to).

And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!

Happy Friday,

A

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Fiction: Lost Time

William Weldon ponders generational curses . . .

William, now at loose ends,  went to see if he’d gotten any mail. He opened a short letter from his father in the old soldier’s pathetic, shaky script.

Dear William,

We are all well here. Mother was very pleased to receive a kind letter from Captain Bourke dated some months ago, but it seems as though you have impressed Captain Markham and the others as we knew you would.

Please tell us when your sketches are published so we can look for them in the magazines. We would like to hear from you more, but we understand about your headaches and all the distractions of the West.

Enclosed is a small bit of money for you, I wish it could be more. Buy a little treat.

Affectionately your father,

John Weldon

His father had great timing—always too late. What was five dollars to him now? William didn’t feel at all guilty about sending his father nothing for Christmas. Being out west reminded him of the Christmas long ago, alone with his father, before his accident.

All of the soldiers had sparkling gold and silver pocket watches, and William wanted one desperately. His father had taken him hunting with the same old carbine he still carried, and they had gotten a big bird. It was probably John’s bullet that caught it, but he lied and insisted it was Willy’s. He hinted that William would get what he wanted for Christmas. Something made William turn spiteful. “All I want is Mother,” he had said.

His father got sicker and the watch never materialized. Later William realized that his father had traded it for opium.

William shoved the letter into his pocket and limped in his old, uneven and tattered shoes from home. His head burned in the sun. He found shelter in The Buckskin Saloon.

“Merry Christmas, Robinson,” William said and sat at the bar, sliding the five dollars towards the bartender. “This is some of what I owe you.”

The bartender gave him a once over. “Well, this is a holiday, if you’re payin.’ But it hardly covers the damage you done last night.”

“Damage?”

“Boyo, you really are soft in the head, ain’t you? I mean to say all the drinks you bought on credit—that’s the damage.”

“Credit?”

“Like always,” Robinson replied. “What will I get you now?”

“Now? Oh, just a ginger beer.”

The man raised his brows. “On the wagon?”

“Gosh, no. My stomach just pains me is all.”

“Gosh? Bill, if you didn’t amuse me, there’d be no fun. So when you sellin’ another picture so’s I can get some more spoondulicks from you? More than just a few dollars, I mean,” the bartender asked while passing him the small glass and nodding at another customer.

“Soon.”

Jay Haviland slapped William on the back. “Here’s just the man I wanted to see today. You were all horns and rattles last night. Is the girl sent back and all, do you know? Thought I saw the very same one with one of them high-falutin’ officers this morning. Boy howdy—it’s hot enough to wither a fence post, ain’t it?”

“Yes, it’s hot.” William finished his drink, remembering the first time he met Haviland.

WEARY OF RUNNING PREVIOUS EPISODE

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

Nor you, ye proud, impute to those the fault,
If memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where, through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

–Thomas Gray.

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Can Education Change The World? (or is it all in our heads?)

“I’ll keep having babies until they stop taking them away.”

Yes, that’s what a mentally challenged young woman told the social services workers outside family court. She’d lost five or six children to the system already. A talk on birth control would have made little difference.

I heard about this case from our foster daughter’s lawyer after I asked her if M could possibly get some baby pictures of herself that her mother “Tracy” used to have. The lawyer shook her head in sad disgust.

“I doubt Tracy would have kept the pictures. She’s never in one place for long, but when I see her at court next I’ll ask.”

“Court? Again?”

“Yes, she’s had two more kids in the last two years—both of them are already in the system,” the lawyer replied from behind the heaps of documents on her desk.

No one’s told M that not only does she have two sisters (adopted locally) and a stepbrother living with M’s scary father but also two new baby siblings—in the court system.

So I ask, “Is Tracy mentally deficient like the other woman you just told me about?”

The lawyer thinks a moment. “No, she’s just evil.”

I’m sort of shocked by her honest appraisal and inclusion of a moral take on the woman. Knowing M’s history I’d have to say the stuff that was done to her was evil.

What would phrenologists of the 19th century say? Phrenology is the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities.

Walt Whitman wrote in his 1870 sexual-eugenic essay Democratic Vistas that America’s youth lacked sexually. They were “puny, impudent, foppish, prematurely ripe, and characterized by an abnormal libidinousness and a diminished capacity for good motherhood.”

Whitman’s remedy: “crops of fine youth planted” to become America’s best breeders.*

As a gardener and foster parent of a girl with “delays”  I’m troubled by the analogy. How are we to be rid of the weeds that grow among the fine youth?

To be pro-life is a radical idea in the history of the world where weeds, misfits and mistakes are gotten rid of. Slavery, body parts for sale, war and thousands of cast off orphans are the consequences of the human proclivity to get rid of weak and uncomfortable things.

How often do we hear now from “civilized” and “compassionate” people that this or that leader should be assassinated?

We hear of new procedures that may one day eradicate unacceptable or messy human misfits—a pipe dream at best but chilling when taking into account the many ways we find fault with each other.

George Combe, the Scottish phrenologist in his The Application of Phrenology to the Present and Prospective Conditions of the United States (1840) had this to say: The enlightened classes “raise the mental condition of the people . . . which will enable them to understand the moral and political principles on which the welfare of nations is founded.”

Combe predicted “an uncontrolled development of the faculties of Acquisitiveness (greed), Self-Esteem (excessive self-confidence), and Love of Approbation (vanity), in which could destroy the Union.” If something wasn’t done. *

We mustn’t judge the Victorians too harshly when we find that many embraced the idea of social and moral uplift through education and selective breeding. If we are honest we will see ourselves in the historical mirror.

vaughts-practical-character-reader-1902-2Studying bumps on someone’s head may seem silly to us. Frat parties and pussy hats would probably have seemed “funny” to them. We judge our Victorian ancestors harshly for bringing “civilization” to “less civilized” people (but if we’re being honest not many of us want to live the Rousseau dream in a buggy forest with no air-conditioning (see the movie The Mission).

How much moral uplift has come from the public school system (or the Ivy League colleges—many of which were founded as Christian seminaries?).

How many less unwanted children have come into the world because of legal abortion?

Yes, I had to make the terrible choice to terminate a pregnancy (after seeing the baby’s perfect body on an ultrasound). My very flawed and very human doctor dismissed my concerns about a blood clot in my leg for weeks. A vascular surgeon saved my life at the very last minute, but the doctors refused me treatment until the baby was gone.

I hadn’t really wanted another child, but until this very day I suffer from a profound sense of loss. Funny how the heart works.

The 19th century perfectionist idea that we can, through science and education, bring heaven to earth was an illusion. It still is.

It’s easier to be rid of things, to divide the skull into seemingly rational sections that tell us our fate, to abort babies who have low IQs or the “gay gene.”

We must be careful in labeling someone we disagree with a fool or someone to be gotten rid of. We so rarely see the evil in ourselves and gladly kill the other for reminding us of our own weakness.

Judges 6:24 says: “The Lord is peace.”

What are we?

* From Pseudo-Science & Society in 19th Century America, Arthur Wrobel, Editor

** Pictures from VAUGHT’S PRACTICAL CHARACTER READER

In THE DEW THAT GOES EARLY AWAY Buck Crenshaw stumbles into a selective breeding program with mixed results.

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Family Saga Friday

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Courtesy Hollywood Spy

VICTORIA: THE CROWN AFTER BREXIT “Historical fiction is always about contemporary life.”

HOMEGOING by YAA GYASI: “Spanning two continents and nine generations, Yaa Gyasi unfolds a family saga that is by turns thrilling, heartbreaking and inspiring. This is no ordinary family but one divided by the vicissitudes of colonialism and slavery. While one branch of the family remains in Africa, the other is transported into slavery in the United States.”

SUNDOWN AT SUNRISE: The story of a popular young farmer who ax murders his wife and children.

The family saga chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families. The typical novel follows the generations of a family through a period of time to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multiple of perspectives.

Each Friday I’ll share a little on this genre (and sagas in general) & family history  (also, if anyone would like to share a piece of their own family saga, memoir or just plain old family memories let me know and we can work on posting it here).

And remember weekends are the perfect time to read family saga fiction!

Happy Friday,

A

legends-of-america-soiled-dove

Fiction: A Drunken Night

What happens when you mess with soiled doves . . .

“Bill Weldon, I’ve listened to your snoring long enough and my patience is all worn through. Even after the five dollars you gave me last night, you still owe me for ten hours.”

At first, in his fog, the voice sounded like his grandmother’s, but William sat up and realized his mistake. The woman, with sagging jowls and deep ruts across her forehead, sat in her pantaloons, legs wide apart with a Turkish cigarette dangling between her fingers.

William tried to remember how he’d paid for her services, wincing as he moved his sore leg over the edge of the bed.

“Bill, I hope you ain’t looking for no shoes. You musta lost em at bluff.”

“I couldn’t tell you,” William mumbled, pulling his trousers off the bed knob.

“So you still owe me for some hours,” the woman said. Her eyes were slits beneath their puffed and heavy lids and her mouth rested in a scowl of disappointment and skepticism.

“I bet I slept through most of it.” William checked his pockets. “I don’t know, Madeline, I’ll have to pay you back some other time, I guess.”

“Get out of my sight, Bill Weldon.”

William limped out the door and vomited. The loss of the expensive boots weighed on him now as he walked toward home.

“Willy!”

He froze on the dusty road as Lieutenant Fahy and Thankful strode over to him. William buttoned his shirt. The dirt, sweat and bodily fluids beneath it made him very uncomfortable now. His tongue caught in his sandpaper mouth.

“Oh, Willy! We’ve been searching for you for hours!” Thankful embraced him.

Fahy stared at William’s bootless and deformed foot.

“Willy, I’m all set to go and I need my money now,” Thankful said. “I left it in your room after you told me about the bandits in the desert. Please let me go fetch it.”

“I don’t know, Thankful, I . . .” William held his head.

The lieutenant glared at him.

“Thankful, just how much money did you leave in my room?” William thought of the whore and drinking . . .

Thankful leaned forward and whispered, “Over two hundred dollars!”

Both Fahy and William blanched.

“Please, God,” William prayed to himself, “don’t let me have lost all that money!”

“Bill, take us to your room this instant—please. The poor girl wants her money.” The lieutenant gave William a superior and knowing look.

William coughed and swallowed his spit before leading them back to his hovel, limping.

“Oh, Willy, you haven’t lost your boots?” Thankful asked. She gave him a tender look.

William opened his door. The lieutenant scanned the floor and bedding and the bits of William’s drawings. Thankful went to the wash basin and gasped. “Oh, Willy, you wouldn’t have taken the money—by accident–last night, would you? Did you find your hidden savings?”

The lieutenant scoffed. “Hidden savings? More like your father’s money!”

“I don’t even remember coming home,” William asserted.

“Do you remember moving my money at all?” Thankful asked, her face red and frightened.

William shook his head.

“Don’t tell us you took the money to the bluff tables!” the lieutenant exclaimed.

“He couldn’t lose that much at poker, could he, Mr. Fahy?” Thankful wrapped her arm in Fahy’s and it galled William.

“Anything is possible with your cousin. He has a knack for trouble, poor fellow.”

Fahy was so clean and self-possessed.

“Land sakes, Willy, try to remember!” Thankful said. “I can’t go home with no money to show for myself!”

“You shouldn’t have brought so much out here!” William said. “It was so dangerous and stupid!”

“Bill Weldon!” Fahy said. “How dare you lecture your cousin! You’ve really put her in a pickle. It’s well-known you owe half the whores in town and have high tabs at the dram shops. You should confess instead of hiding behind your supposed infirmities.”

William remembered Thankful’s words last evening—be good. He couldn’t defend himself against a night he didn’t remember.

“Shall we bring the sheriff in on this, Miss Crenshaw?”

“Merciful heavens, no!” Thankful replied. “I don’t want Willy in trouble. I know it’s not his fault. I shouldn’t have depended on him, it wasn’t fair.”

William wracked his brain for ways to help her. “What will you do now?”

Fahy replied, “Miss Crenshaw is welcome at the captain’s house for as long as she likes. She’s already Mrs. Markham’s pet after only one night. Some are just more suited for the military life.”

“I’m so sorry, William, that I put that much temptation in your hands,” Thankful said, wiping a tear from her eye. “I only wish you thought of me how I think of you.”

William couldn’t have spent all the money. “Thankful, I’ll come and see you tomorrow. Maybe I’ll think of something.”

“William, it’s all right. I’ll be well taken care of. Don’t trouble yourself,” Thankful replied, with an edge in her voice William had never heard before. “It’s my fault entirely.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE

**Featured Image: LEGENDS OF THE WEST

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, William Weldon and Thankful Crenshaw’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”