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)

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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.

Books I’ve Known and Loved / Anything by Robert Utley

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The West was no simple place. Robert Utley gets that. Soldier/Indian relations varied depending on the Indian and the soldier. Pride, love and ego, not to mention military orders, pressure from the East and teenaged warriors run amok made for complications and tragedy. Utley writes about the West like no other.

Check out A Life Wild and Perilous and his great biography of Geronimo too.

http://www.robertutley.net/