Fiction: Grace Before Meals

“Young man, you lost the girl to drink, didn’t you?”

“No,” William replied, folding his arms before him. “You’re wrong. She’s not my girl.”

The missionary raised his hands. “All right, I believe you, but you see, I desperately need a mapmaker—a real artist to capture the flavor of the tribes and the landscape. I need a first class cartographer to illustrate the routes we’ll be exploring. Captain Bourke said you were the one, and I believe him.”

“You don’t even know my work.”

“There you’re wrong.” The missionary laughed and pulled three wrinkled sketches of women from his bag.

William wanted to vomit. His most disgusting work in the hands of a missionary!

“These belong to you, I assume, though you didn’t sign them.”

“Where did you get them?” William asked.

“Father Diaz. He says that a man came full of regret at the way his life turned out and gave over his worldly possessions to the church.”

William scratched his head. “That sort of thing sells here, sir. I was sort of desperate for cash.”

“We’re not in the army, William. No need to call me sir. Technically, these drawings show talent–and misplaced use of it. The captain says you’ve had it hard at times, but he vouches for your character.”

“Really?” William leaned in, hungrily. He’d made such a mess of things in the army.

“So will you come? We can’t pay much, but . . .”

“Come where?” William asked.

“I’m not sure yet, but you’ll be fed,” Kenyon said.

“I don’t know. I have to think . . .”

Kenyon took the last sip of his non-alcoholic drink. “But I’m afraid that when we travel, spirits—in the form of liquor—don’t follow. We need to present our best side in order to convert.”

William sighed. “It’s not for me, sir. My leg . . . I don’t have much time for God, and I won’t convert people.”

Mr. Kenyon laughed again. “I would never ask you to convert people. How could you? You don’t know the Lord. This is purely a practical thing. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s not a wealth of talent here. We have no money to attract established artists, and you seem to be at loose ends—though you’d have a difficult time leaving behind the drink.”

“Do you think I’m that weak?” William asked.

The missionary didn’t answer. He adjusted the sack on his back and walked toward the saloon door.

William stood with his arms crossed. He was weak and pathetic and hungry. “Sir . . .”

“Come along and let’s eat,” Mr. Kenyon said with a generous wave of his arm.

The missionary wiped food from the dirty table at Matilda’s with his bandana. “Crumbs bother me,” Mr. Kenyon said. He ordered for both of them in a Spanish dialect that pleased the older lady who served them.

William said, “I’m not good at language.”

“English or Spanish?” Mr. Kenyon teased.

William was serious. “Neither, I guess. I’m like my father.”

“I’m like my father, too. He was a missionary, and so am I.”

“Well, that’s an impressive thing,” William replied, tapping his fingers on the table.

“I don’t know, but sometimes it’s lonely, hard work. I’m away from family and friends most of the time. Thank you again for joining me.”

“Well, I have nothing better to do,” William replied, but felt he’d been too harsh. “I mean, thank you for inviting me. Can I ask—why do you do it? Probably the Indians will die off and good riddance to them—so what’s the point?”

“I said that my life can be hard at times, but I love it. The Indians won’t die off. They’re strong and interesting in their way. I’m blessed to be alive at a time when there is such potential for the Gospel to change their lives.”

“What if the Indians want things as they are?” William asked.

“Most people like what they know. It’s easier, isn’t it?” Mr. Kenyon replied.

William stretched his neck, waiting for the food. A young Mexican girl with soft eyes brought their plates. William grinned at her, and she giggled before leaving them.

Mr. Kenyon asked, “Shall I say something?” It was more of an announcement than a question.

“Go ahead. If you want to,” William replied, but was aghast when the missionary took his hand for prayer. He glanced around and back to Kenyon, who bent his head with eyes shut.

“But thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

William chuckled and turned to his food. “The only aroma I smell is of burnt beans and chilies.”

“Nourishment is from God.”

William dropped his fork on the plate. “Is that the way religious types talk all the time? Do you ever have normal talk or do you have to bring God into every little thing? It’s damned annoying—and off-putting, I might add. All those quotes from the Bible like you’re so smart and holy. If God didn’t pick such conceited men to preach His words He might get more followers. I think you’re a fake.” He considered leaving, but the food smelled so good. He sat for a few moments trying to come up with something to say. “Listen, I’m sorry about the joke.”

The missionary shrugged and continued eating. “Good stuff,” he said in between bites.

“Yes, it’s good,” William said as the hot food warmed his empty stomach.

Kenyon took a drink and said, “Missionaries are pretty ordinary, William. We talk about normal boring things, of course, but to be honest, I feel in a celebratory mood. A good meal, a new friend and finally a replacement for our last artist. For some, hearing Scripture is like a fork scratching china, but to me it’s poetry. I’m not much of a singer, but good words I can say. I am what I am. How people will judge me is of no consequence.”

With his mouth half full, William said, “I’m not really the person you’re looking for. Thanks for the meal, but . . .”

Kenyon unfolded the pieced together map William had made for Bourke. He passed it to William.

“William, here, you have a great gift. Whatever darkness you have in your heart, you made this. I’ve seen many a map, but none that captures the soul of its maker so beautifully. That map is a work of art. If you can put the world on paper like that, I can put up with your cynicism and less than stellar opinion of humankind—especially the religious types.”

William swallowed. “So you like the map? You think it’s all right?”

Kenyon gave him a sideways glance, wiping his forehead. “We have some supplies—paints and things—you can look at if you’re interested.”

“Um, what happened to the other fellow—the last artist?” William asked.

“He was killed,” the missionary said his eyes welling with tears.

PREVIOUS EPISODE

Fiction: Rough Riding

After getting nowhere with his prostitute friend, William agrees to escort Miss Peckham, the women’s rights crusader, to Fort Grant.

Evening call rang out and the musicians at the bandstand halted their concert as they did each day with a melancholy little tune to send the children, their caretakers and the soldiers to their quarters. After a day’s work in the heat, repairing roofs, training horses and cleaning the grounds the men looked forward to their evening meal, smoking and a game of bluff.

Thankful, pushing Mrs. Markham’s youngest two children in their stroller, made her way up the straight even path along officers’ row in a hurry, excited for the midweek hop tonight. Fahy had the evening off after many nights on the guard. Thankful knew he envied the small detachment of soldiers sent to investigate a government supply depot robbed—most likely by roughs fired from the rail company. It was a waste of the army’s time and resources as the thieves would be long since gone and the settlers never told their whereabouts. Most hated the government’s enforcers as much as they disliked the Indians and horse thieves, but Fahy longed for action.

“Evening, Miss Crenshaw!” a soldier said.

“Evening back, boys,” she replied with a grin to Lieutenants Olney and Davenport, smoking in their front yard.

“Won’t you stay for a small chat, miss? You’ve been neglecting us of late,” Davenport teased.

“She’s got wedding plans more important than old friends, I’m afraid,” Olney added, rambling up to the fence with treats for the children.

“No sweets for them, sir,” Thankful warned. “Mrs. Markham’ll be sore.”

“She shouldn’t have hired you then, Miss Crenshaw.”

“Oh, go on. You’re such a flirt, lieutenant.” Thankful laughed and lingered a second at the gate as Olney handed the toddlers the forbidden candy. Thankful shook her head and glanced up the parade grounds, hoping to catch sight of Fahy.

“Miss Crenshaw, he won’t be back yet—there was a small riot between a few of the privates cleaning the sinks. Fahy was still finishing his reports at the guardhouse—sit with us,” Davenport said.

Thankful giggled. “I never know if you lie or not, but tonight I’m in a big hurry—I’ll see you both at the hop, won’t I?”

“Course you will—though you had better not be so rude to dance only with your fiancé. It’s bad form. Mrs. Markham would have told you that by now, I think.”

Thankful blushed. “I’ve been warned—again and again—and I do have a bully time with you—but, well, Mr. Fahy—there’s no one so darned perfect as him.”

“Well, now you’ve gone and hurt our feelings, Miss Crenshaw,” Davenport laughed. “There’s never enough girls here and you hold out on us—that’s heartless and you know it!”

“I’ve never felt so in demand. I’m afraid you spoil me too much. I promise I’ll be better to you boys tonight,” she said pushing the stroller.

A crazed horse flew in past the guards. Thankful quickened her pace to the safety of the Markham house, but kept her eye on the action. She gasped as William shot his pony over the gate too. Thankful ran onto the parade grounds, leaving the children deserted under a cottonwood.

Fahy, with hands on hips, appeared from the guardhouse at the sound of alarm and watched as the crazed horse Miss Peckham flew in on raced by on the parade.

William dug his spurs into his poor little horse pushing it up on the sleeker, taller animal carrying Miss Peckham. He leaned hard into his stirrup, grabbed his horse’s mane with his left hand and took the bridle of the mad horse, distracting it just enough to slow it slightly.

The new cavalrymen learning the ropes shook their heads in admiration, yet despaired at ever riding like that. William, so clumsy on his feet, fleetly lunged at Miss Peckham’s horse, leaving Sophie in the dust. Miss Peckham clung to the horn of her saddle until William’s weight, at the animal’s neck, pulled it into submission with a sudden jerk which threw Miss Peckham off balance and to the ground. William gave one good hard pull on the reins, and slid off the foaming, wild-eyed horse, as the entire garrison watched.

The sunbaked children of the place cheered and rushed up around William, red faced and angry at having entered the fort in such an undignified way. Miss Peckham, on her feet and unhurt, dusted herself off as Fahy, Davenport and Olney, among others, ran up to her. Thankful hung back after taking hold of William’s horse.

“What’s the meaning of this, Weldon?” Fahy demanded. “You could have been shot. With the Apache back on the loose we’re expecting anything.”

“I didn’t mean for it to happen,” William began out of breath. He glanced at Thankful and wiped the sweat and dust from his face with his sleeve.

“What was your intention then, Bill? You could have killed the children on the parade playing,” Fahy lectured.

Miss Peckham came forward, took Fahy’s hand and shook it. The officer was taken aback. “Sir, I accept some responsibility. Everyone is over-reacting—but I’ve heard that about the army. I admit I was showing off on the road. Mr. Weldon thought I’d lost control and foolishly—though I appreciate the gesture—tried to slow my horse, only to send him faster over the gate. If let alone, I wouldn’t have made such an entrance.”

William’s face burned. Miss Peckham’s horse had endured a hard ride full of mixed signals and vexing shouts. William had tried his best to convince his new acquaintance of the horse’s strained patience, but she assured him she knew how to ride and did not appreciate his superior attitude.

A small, waterless streambed with shiny stone was all the excuse necessary for the horse to bolt. As the notes from the final melody of the army band floated out, the horse doubled and trebled its speed, much to William’s horror.

William understood the danger and disrespect shown to the guards when he ignored their calls and threats, but his mind had been on Miss Peckham’s life. And here she was, in front of the entire garrison and Thankful, showing him up.

“Hey, if that isn’t Misty,” Davenport said as he stepped forward to investigate the now quiet horse. “Yes, there’s the army brand—a bad job of disfiguring it someone’s done.”

“Does this animal belong to you, sir?” Miss Peckham demanded to know.

Davenport laughed.

“Miss, this critter belongs to the captain’s wife. The government says we needn’t post guards over the wives’ horses and see what happens? She was stolen some months back—maybe we should take you to the guardhouse.”

Fahy spoke with authority. “And where did you get this horse? Did Mr. Weldon, here, find it for you?”

“I found it for myself—we women can do those things, you know.”

“I see riding is another matter . . .” Fahy said under his breath.

Thankful came over now with William’s horse. “Here, William. That was a brave thing you did—whether your friend likes to say so or not.”

The entire garrison knew that William wore the feather for Thankful Crenshaw and that Lieutenant Fahy resented this childhood friend of his fiancée’s.

Miss Peckham, crossing her arms, looked around with a slightly veiled sneer and sighed, her eyes landing on Lieutenant Fahy. “I don’t know who you are . . .”

“Fahy, Lieutenant Fahy, miss.”

“Yes, well I’ve come to see my uncle’s friend—a Captain Markham—do you know him?” Miss Peckham asked.

“Of course I know him,” Fahy stated.

The enlisted men gawked at her as she lit a cigarette.

“I’m Miss Gertrude Peckham. I may as well introduce myself as I see manners west of the Mississippi are sadly lacking.”

“Pardon me, Miss Peckham. The excitement of your unusual entrance set things off wrong. This is my fiancée Miss Thankful Crenshaw,” Fahy said.

“Thankful? What a positively interesting name!”

Thankful with raised brows replied coolly, “And yours—I’ll say a prayer that you’ll be married soon.”

Miss Peckham smiled, with an indifferent nod. “I don’t believe in prayers or marriage, Miss Thankful Crenshaw.”

The gliding form of Mrs. Markham, coming to rescue her toddlers from wet diapers and too much sun, distracted Thankful. “Now my fish are fried,” she said, waving meekly to her employer.

Fahy sent Thankful a silent look of reproach over the abandoned babies and the unladylike comments directed at Miss Peckham. Thankful stuck out her tongue, and he softened.

William looked toward the gate—the only break in the pink desert landscape. He jumped on his horse and was about to say a last word when the poor old mare stumbled and collapsed beneath him. The small but pleasant pony had depended upon his kind and good judgment. William missed the hat he’d lost somewhere on the trip out.

Fahy sighed. “Sorry, old fellow. What would you have us do with her?”

William cleared his throat. “I don’t care.”

“How will you get back to town now, Willy?” Thankful asked.

“I’ll walk,” he said. Only a week ago two miners were killed on the road at dark not five miles away. William remembered his gun—left in his room. The day had started out with only the idea of a visit to Ginny.

“Weldon, don’t be a fool. You can’t walk it with that leg of yours,” Fahy said.

Miss Peckham pulled her jacket straight. “Oh, Mr. Weldon, you can take the coach, can’t you? If it’s about the money . . .”

“No, Miss Peckham.” William had forgotten their deal.

“We never did settle on a price, Mr. Weldon—how much do I owe you?”

William squirmed.  “No, I really don’t want any money, miss.”

“I insist. You said you were broke, and I said I’d pay you. A deal is a deal.”

William glanced at Thankful. “No, miss, there was no deal . . .”

“You offered to bring me out for a price—so what will you charge?”

Fahy laughed in disgust. “A new line of work for you, Bill?”

“Not quite, Fahy. It was foolish banter—not meant to be taken seriously,” William lied. He needed the money now more than ever to put toward a new horse.

Miss Peckham took coins from her bag. “Go on now, take your pay. This is as much as the coach would have charged, I suspect.” Everybody noted that she held out less than the going rate. “I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to leave such a showman as you behind,” she teased.

“Willy saved your life, Miss Peckham—for all the garrison to see!” Thankful said. “You’re a terrible rider!”

“Thankful, this is no way to behave,” Fahy lectured. “Bill Weldon is capable of defending himself if need be. The problem is how to send him off. The coach won’t chance a ride out after dark these days.”

Mrs. Markham walked up full of curiosity. “Good day to you. Lieutenant Fahy, off early from guard duty?” While the captain was away she took an active motherly interest in his men.

Fahy touched his hat. “Don’t worry, ma’am, I’m just here about this stolen animal—does he look familiar?”

Mrs. Markham had been more interested in the strange lady than the animal. “My! That’s Misty! Poor thing!” She touched the horse, and it whinnied and nuzzled her.

“He is a very impulsive animal, ma’am,” Miss Peckham noted.

“Really? I’ve never had anything but the quietest rides with him,” Mrs. Markham replied.

“But, Mrs. Markham, you’re an excellent rider,” Thankful said.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

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.”

***Image courtesy Columbia.edu

 

Fiction: Sobriety Lost

William pushed aside his glass, remembering the first time he took a drink.

When William and a few greenhorn privates, hanging together like newborn pups, had first visited town Haviland sauntered up.

“New to these parts, I see. Are you going to stand on the corner barking at a knot or do something with your freedom?”

William didn’t trust a man with sayings that made no sense—his mother told him not to.

Haviland leered at the pioneers with a mix of pity and scorn. “Look, boys, there’s a lot of bad types out here to take advantage of new recruits and the four of you standin’ here is advertisement enough that you’re wantin’ to be taken. You don’t know me from a wohaw, but my family built up this town and I’m like the hemp committee and the welcoming team all in one.”

One soldier whispered around, “What in heck is a wohaw?”

The others shook their heads at him like they knew.

“And a hemp committee—is there hemp growed out here in the desert?”

William spoke. “No, Baker, it’s the folks who do a lynching.”

“Oh, so there’s one bright spark! Course he’s smart enough not to sell his soul to the government—lying bastards,” Haviland said, and smacked William’s back.

William scratched his head with a small grin, but said, “We should go, boys.”

“You ain’t the boss of us, Bill Weldon. Everyone knows you ain’t clever!” one soldier replied.

“So, young lads, would you like an expert to show you town?” Haviland waved his arm all around him as if they were viewing a grand wonder of the world instead of a single street of false fronts and ne’er- do- wells.

They shrugged and gave each other tentative glances as they followed the shiny-looking Westerner with all the latest gear.

The tour started off with a short history of the settlement, tales about Indian fighting and then a look-see in the general store and the haberdashery. One of the boys plunked down his money for a big cowhand hat. The others laughed. Further along the short, dusty and exciting road Haviland noted, “Fellows, when a good carte-viste won’t do it for you and you want a real fuck, this is the place to go first. It’s a high-class place though and they’ll want cash. Cards are on the ground floor and the women on top (if that’s the way you like it).”

The boys eyed everything with enthusiasm, but William and one of the others, a Methodist preacher’s son, hung back.

“You don’t like women?” Haviland asked.

The preacher’s son replied, “Course I do, but my daddy raised me right and this ain’t nowhere near right. I’m leavin’ back for the post. Bill, you comin’?”

William liked the preacher’s son, but something, a memory, made him stay.

The soldier shuffled off. “Friendship over,” William mumbled.

The other soldiers laughed.

“Can we get a girl in broad daylight?”

“Course. If you have enough for it.”

The soldier took out his pay, minus the money spent on his ostentatious hat and Haviland shook his head. “No, this is high class, I tell you—go down to the bed bug hotel if you want a quick and easy cheap lay—no tellin’ what you’ll end up with.”

The men turned up their noses.

“Hmm . . . now, if you were to maybe win a hand at bluff . . . do you fellows play?” Haviland asked.

“Our captain says we shouldn’t,” the soldier, who had followed up until now in silence, said.

The last soldier with the big hat remained steadfast in his enthusiasm. “Come on, men, we’ll try our beginner’s luck. If I win big, we’ll all get a girl. Anyway, I’m damned good at cards—you’ll see.”

“Now watch your manners—you don’t want to wear your welcome right off,” Haviland warned, dusting off his hat at the door.

Two men inside the thick-aired room heavy with drapery and cheap art turned and stared. William’s gut burned. This parlor—the smell and feel of it—was so familiar and, in some small way, comforting. He couldn’t bring himself to leave though nothing good could come of staying.

The two soldiers took seats at the long, beat-up table. If this was high class what was low?

“You with the gimpy leg, are you playin’ or babysitting?”

“Neither, sir,” William replied.

The man stared at his manners.

“Are you in or not?”

“Not, sir.”

“Then, boy howdy, take yourself to that there settee. Your gangly self is makin’ me jittery. Where’d you drag him in from, Haviland?”

“He was part of the package deal,” Haviland replied.

William knew from the start that his friends would lose everything and they did. His parents had instilled in him a deep distrust of cards. When the soldiers rose from the table, beaten and demoralized, William tried not to appear too self-satisfied, but clutched his money even tighter in his pocket. A long, miserable hallway led from back to front. Light from the back door lit the kitchen and William stopped short. A young lady shot by and ran out back.

Haviland laughed, “What a wretch that one is—ugly as a one-eyed cat.”

“Pardon?” William turned to him.

“I bet you can get that one cheap—she’s from down the road, but wants to step up. There’s not a chance in hell.”

“I don’t want her!” William replied, horrified at the thought, but shaken, too. Something about her. . .

The soldiers snickered and Haviland slapped William’s back. “It’s been a rough time for you cubs—fleeced like sheep. I’ll treat you to some Shepherd’s Delight at The Buckskin—it’s the best whiskey for miles, I tell you.”

“My daddy back home, he makes the best. . .” the cowhand soldier said.

“Yes, yes.” Haviland dismissed the soldier’s small talk.

They followed the westerner, impressed and put-off by him at the same time.

“Bill, are you coming?”

“Sure.” But he had promised his mother. . .

The soldier wearing the tall hat whispered, “Bet he won’t take a drop—afraid of his own shadow—bet he’s scart he’ll tumble over on that crooked leg of his.”

“You ain’t one of them religious crazies, too?” Haviland asked.

“No, sir.” William followed the others into the saloon.

“Whiskey all around, Robinson.”

The bartender shook his head at the greenhorns.

William spoke. “I’ll just have, well, a lemonade, sir.”

Robinson didn’t bat an eye, just poured him a lemony drink and added something unfamiliar. William sipped it. The other’s threw back their whiskey and waited for more. They laughed at William so he finished his with a gulp.

William felt pressured to buy his friends a round. He had only brought his money along so he wouldn’t misplace it. The soldiers stared, bug-eyed, at William’s fund as he brought it from his pocket and laid it on the bar.

Haviland kept a close eye on him. After two drinks William no longer hurried to go and after five drinks the soldiers had to mind him and the money he left unattended. William relaxed and the soldiers liked him.

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.”

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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Ready to Wear Clothing

Looking pretty snazzy . . .
Looking pretty snazzy . . .

“In the 1800s, cowboys and other manual laborers wore what was called “ready-to-wear” — second-hand clothing that had been discarded by the higher classes.

With few exceptions (such as military uniforms), new clothing was not mass produced back then. If you wanted an outfit, you went to a tailor, who measured you and custom-made the shirt, suit, trousers, coat, or whatever. If you out-grew your duds or just got tired of them, you might sell them to a second-hand (or ready-to-wear) store, where they would be bought by folks who needed inexpensive clothes for work.

That’s why you’d often see cowhands riding the range wearing a suit coat or vest and dress pants (rather than jeans). Also, many veterans continued to wear parts of their former uniforms for work.

By the way, did you ever wonder why chimney sweeps usually wore top hats and tuxedos? Well, the fancier the clothes were, the harder they were to re-sell… and the lower the second-hand price. Chimney soot was tough on clothes, so a black tux at a rock-bottom price was just what the sweep needed!” Cowboy Bob

British Lady Takes on Montana and Wins

The happy, adventurous couple.
The happy, adventurous couple.

After taking in rich boarders (who often didn’t pay) and selling truckloads of vegetables Evelyn Jephson Cameron of England found a living taking pictures in Montana. After marrying her husband Ewen who her parents disapproved of they took their honeymoon in the West, 1889 and fell in love with the rough, majestic beauty of Montana and right then and there decided to relocate.

They bought a ranch with a simple three room cabin sitting on it and named it Eve Ranch. Ewen suffered doubts and wanted to go home to England when ranching turned out to be more expensive than they thought, but Evelyn was having none of it. She sent away for a camera. “She decided to wrestle with the intricacies of the dry plate glass negative, unwieldy, 5×7 Graflex camera.  She later purchased a No. 5 Kodet that was designed for 5 X 7 plates or film, as she liked the tonal quality of the plates.”

Sitting astride with friends.
Sitting astride with friends.

How many other 19th century women took photographs? How many other women bolstered their husbands’ confidence convincing them that they could make it? Why do modern day women scrapbook?

Evelyn is my new hero of the moment. I love her photos and admire her pluckiness. She was a Brit and she had a relaxed, friendly smile. She relished the idea that she was the first woman in Montana to ride astride a horse instead of side-saddle (I wonder though if little girls on the open plains and under the shadow of watchful big mountains didn’t sneak in rides astride all along).

Get on up, girls!
Get on up, girls!

Collection of Personal Photographs

Buffalo Dancing With Wolves–Human Ones of Every Stripe

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Cute little buffalo on a string. Yep, that’s pretty much where the early NYC based American Bison Society wanted them. Environmental historians say that the near extinction of the buffalo acted as impetus for the environmental movement in America, so that’s sort of good, right? Easterners, women especially, organized anti- animal cruelty leagues, but men organized for the buffalo–a symbol of wild masculinity–a masculinity that the comfortable Easterners viewed as diminishing in their circles. Westerners wanted the bison saved as a market animal to be bred with cattle. Even John Muir the naturalist considered it folly to mourn the loss of the wild buffalo herds.

You never know what you may get at a garage sale and this book was a real find though it’s left me a bit depressed.

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So here’s a few more things to ponder:

While always traders with more sedentary tribes, once the plains nomads began trading in buffalo hides it was impossible to prevent the accumulation of wealth and the competition for prestige from becoming an all out slaughter of the very thing most depended upon by the Indians. (Indians also helped wipe out the beaver populations for the same greed-based reasons, but they were not dependent on the beaver for food).

Darwinism played a cruel part in all of the slaughter. Euro-Americans bought the idea of survival of the fittest. They felt that it was inevitable that the buffalo would go extinct since the animal practically let itself be killed–it wasn’t fit to live. They believed that it was obvious that domesticated animals were more fit–as were white Americans when compared to the Indian.

Humanitarianism aroused for the slave before the Civil War began, in some liberal Eastern circles, to extend to the Indians. While we think as moderns that assimilation is tantamount to extinction this was not the thought of the late 1800’s. Assimilation offered Indians a way of becoming “fit” in the Darwinian sense. This way of looking at life also led to the eventual ideas and practices of eugenics.

In a sense the Biblical notion that every individual has worth and that a Christian should love his fellow man was corrupted and warped into a scientific approach to “helping” by tinkering or coercing populations to conform to a “superior” model. It’s why it’s not so shocking nowadays to question why a couple would decide to keep a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

I never knew what the buffalo skins were used for when sent East. I assumed wrongly that it was all wanton destruction for no reason. It turns out the hides were much in demand as belts used in industrial machinery–the tanning operations of the Adirondacks bought the skins on the cheap and proceeded to devastate the tannin rich trees of the East while polluting the rivers and making a good short term profit.

So do we all become Luddites who hate modernity? Do we wish that people of all colors and creeds weren’t so greedy? Do we eat salads and make our own clothes out of dog hair or, better yet, hemp? I like my leather boots.

Finally, for novel writing purposes I stumbled upon a profession I didn’t know existed. Thankful’s twin sister runs off with her husband to homestead, but ends up making money for survival on the bleak plains doing what so many poor whites and Indians did–collecting huge piles of bones scattered in macabre scenes all over the vast, sad land. The bones road East on the railroads to fertilizer companies making tons of money at the expense of the slaughter.

The notion the Europeans brought violence and greed into a pristine Utopia is false. Old skeletons of ancient people in the Americas give evidence of a tough life filled with violence and warfare. All people choose  love, hate, greed, promiscuity, generosity and faith. All are corrupted. If I were to leave it there or venture into a human engineering program of improvement I think in the end there would be no hope. People can help others but I don’t think they can improve them.

I have to believe that only God can bring about peace between the lion and the lamb, the wolf and the buffalo–and of course, humanity.