Fiction: A Man to Man Talk

William sat at the back of The Buckskin and read over the letter he’d received from Thankful at Fort Grant.

 

Dear William,

I am to be married to Lieutenant Fahy as soon as my parents come out. I would have wanted you to be here for my wedding, but I know you would hate being around the Crenshaws. I miss the old times terribly much. I hate being grown up, and I am sorry that we are not friends anymore.

I would love to invite you to the grand socials we will have and talk about Delacroix and Raphael and maybe about the music we both liked so very much. I wish I had your mother who let you paint and draw and loved you.

Do take care of yourself. It is so lonely thinking that you are only miles away and we no longer talk. I forgive you about the money. You will always be William to me, not Bill and I will always love you like a brother and friend.

Kindest regards,

Thankful Crenshaw

 

 

Why did Thankful make a point of telling him of her engagement? They had hardly spoken in the months since William left her at the post. William slipped the letter into his pocket and threw back a shot. The saloon door creaked open and, though the glare of the sun obscured the man, William’s heart quaked.

“I’m looking for my son, William W-Weldon . . .” John Weldon said, clearing his throat.

William hated the weakness in his father’s voice.

“Bill Weldon? Well, you’ve come to the right place,” the barman laughed and pointed back to where William sat, adjusting his sweat-stained collar.

The men in the place turned to watch John Weldon, with his walking stick, head toward the other cripple in the room.

“Papa.”

John Weldon rushed up, flush from the desert heat. He didn’t touch his son. No embrace; no handshake. “Oh, no, Willy . . . what’s become of you?” he asked, his voice hardened. “I wanted you to escape it.” He couldn’t meet his son’s hateful stare. “William, Mother has missed you. I’ve come to take you home.”

“What? I’m not going anywhere.” William crossed his arms, moving himself as far back against the wall in his seat as he could get. He looked around embarrassed.

John glanced around too and, whispering this time, said, “You’re wanted at home, son. Now don’t fight me on it.”

“Are you trying to be a strong father suddenly?” William asked, slurring his words.

John Weldon grabbed William by his suspenders–jerking him from his high chair and dragging him to the door before throwing him into the light. William stumbled to the sidewalk. Passersby took about the same notice they would a fly on a window sill.

“Oh, for God’s sake, Willy—give me your hand.”

William pulled himself to his feet and teetered till he caught hold of the building’s porch rail. “Papa, give yourself a rest.”

“We’re going to sober you up, son, and take the train back.”

“No! I’m not going back. You’ve come to humiliate me. Haven’t you done that enough?” William’s stomach roiled. He had no idea how long he’d been drinking—since yesterday? William wanted to crawl into bed and be left alone. He stumbled around the corner and up to his room with his father trailing. The sound of his father’s Grand Army of the Republic walking stick against the wooden path and then on the slippery sand grated on him.

William opened his door and took to bed. His head spun as his father, looking older than he had a few months ago, explored the tiny room, knocking things around with his stick as if afraid of coming up close. His arm trembled. William knew every muscle of those long arms. How many times had he seen his father clean a gun or pull a horse’s girth tighter in the old days? Strange things William remembered. “Papa, I’m sorry,” he began, but his old anger resurfaced. Why was he apologizing?

“W-William, I thought you’d be different from me. Why are you doing this to your mother?” Weldon asked.

“Papa, we’re nothing alike.”

“You’re a drunk, William. How will I tell Mother?”

“Do what you always do, Papa. Keep it a secret. Lie. I don’t care what you do.”

John Weldon scratched behind his ear. “William, Thankful told her father you spent all her money.”

“And you believe it, of course.”

“I don’t know . . . I used to do things . . . when the morphine . . .” John said.

“I don’t want to hear about that! I don’t take things! I have my own money!”

“Have you been getting the money I send?” his father asked.

“Yes, and I’ve bought a lovely ranch with it,” William replied.

“I know it isn’t much,” John Weldon said, “but with Grandmother nearly burning the house and with Lucy always needing new spectacles and . . .”

“Well, if you never work then . . .” William interrupted.

The old soldier stared at his bleached out son. “Willy, do you mean me or you?”

William tried sitting up but groaned and fell back on to his bed. “You take away every chance I have and think a lousy box of paints and five dollars now and again makes up for it all.”

“Is that all I’ve done for you over the years?” Weldon asked. “How is it you stand and walk today? It was me who helped you. You gave up with Mother and Doctor Crenshaw when they tried to help you.”

“You sat on a chair bleary-eyed as Mother did everything!” William said. “You made me sick.”

“No. I sat in the chair teaching you your lessons when Mother ran low on patience. I stayed home to help you. You begged me to,” Weldon replied. “I know I’ve made big mistakes.”

Mistakes? You were afraid to leave the house. You go out of your way to set me up for failure, and I stupidly go along,” William said. He swallowed hard, pulled himself up and opened the shuttered window to vomit. Someone below, who got the worst of it shouted up abuse. He turned back to his father wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

John Weldon’s once impressive posture now bent into a defeated curvature of the spine.

“Papa, why did you tell Thankful where I was? That was the worst thing you could have done.”

“I-I never thought she’d come to see you. I hoped you’d be flattered that a girl was asking after you. I saw the way you admired her back home . . . I hoped . . . remember that time when I got you the paints, and she helped me when I fell?”

“How could I forget?” William replied—though he’d forgotten a lot. “You set up these ridiculous hopes for me!  Thankful wanted to use me as an escape from her parents,” he said climbing back into bed. “If you’d have left things alone maybe I would have had a chance with Thankful . . . someday.”

“Someday?” Weldon laughed dismissively. “It looked like she wanted to be a part of your life now. D-did she give you that watch, son?” Weldon pointed to the exquisite little article opened on his side table.

“What? Do you think I stole it from her?”

“No.” Weldon said with a hint of doubt.

“I didn’t spend her money either. I know I wouldn’t,” William said, shielding his eyes from a shaft of light through the dirty window. “Oh, Papa, I don’t know what went wrong. I’m just so stupid. The money—Thankful came, and I was ashamed. I didn’t fit in the army and . . . I always lose my money. I told Thankful that, but she still trusted me. I don’t remember taking it.”

“B-but your drawings–they’re real good,” Weldon said.

“Who cares?” William cried. “I’m all by myself. How could a girl like Thankful, who’s smart, ever feel more than pity for me?”

His father looked at the dark walls and dirty windows in the charmless room so unlike William’s attic room back in Englewood with its sketches and small collections full of boyhood dreams and innocence. “You’re right, William, she couldn’t have feelings for you the way things stand now.” He picked up the broken little timepiece. “A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”

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.”

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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Books I’ve Known And Loved

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Don’t you just love finding musty old paperback treasures for fifty cents? The American Western Novel drew me in since its title has two of my favorite words in it–American and Western. Both words often get a bum rap and I tend to like anything that’s undervalued or misunderstood.

Yeah, our government sucks, but I have a lot of faith in the common man (and woman). Wake up people!

The western sometimes sucks, too. Yet within this lowly genre are a few treasures and a great amount of food for thought about life in general:

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Civilization and feminization–now this is interesting. Since we no longer as a culture value the feminine  what happens to civilization? We do value empowering women to compete more like men (or better yet oust men from power)–but the word feminine is equated with standing in the kitchen baking cookies (may I ask–aren’t chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven  deliciously civilizing things?).

Conventional feminine values vs. masculine ones? What’s this all about? Maybe it’s about the tension driving both survival and civilization–the hunting and the gathering, the building and the nesting. This tension is good (though at times it doesn’t feel like it). This tension is sexy and dynamic. Men want respect–women want love–books and lives hinge on these things. Okay, hang me for generalities, but old books about other books do this to one’s mind.

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Hey, you know that whole thing about needing two incomes to get by? People used to live with a lot less. By today’s standards most of us growing up in the 1970’s were poor.

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This section brings me to the present. Why does it feel like we’re sending troops to Africa– are involved in African politics– to possibly take their riches? Hmm. Americans enjoyed Westerns because we liked to believe there were white hats and black hats and we were the guys in white. This was a far distant time when the average Joe believed in moral absolutes. This is not to say that our impulses were always simple and good. Our ability to do what’s good is certainly not absolute.

Here’s why this book is great: It’s not a very angry historian’s or English professor’s rant about injustice. It’s actually refreshingly neutral. The author doesn’t suggest that masculine is better than feminine or that civilization is worse than primativism. It doesn’t give answers. That’s up to you and me.

FAVORITE PAGE:

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Books I’ve Known and Loved

My heart beats a little quicker for this extremely fun and informative gem, The Look of the Old West

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Lieutenant John Weldon in The House on Tenafly Road took his family to a western military outpost after the Civil War and this book helped make that possible. Scholarly research is a great thing but Foster Harris (whose writing style is so familiar you feel like you know him personally) brings the post-Civil War period alive with its mix of old and new, Confederate and Yankee, weapons and women.

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I love the idea that this book was written in 1955 and that Foster-Harris interviewed Civil War veterans and old cowboys. I imagine the wistful look the old men got in their eyes after such a fast paced and changing bunch of years.

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I loved this book so much I made William Weldon in my upcoming novel travel back west as a young man to do what young men did in the Wild West. Stay tuned.

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Hey, would you like a old western shirt? Check this out: http://vintrowear.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/get-your-old-west-on-real-cowboys-and-the-shirts-they-wore/

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.