Lilian Heath. Such a demure name.
She was anything but.
In the 1880s, Lilian’s pa got her a job assisting Dr. Thomas Maghee, the physician
in the wide-open railroad town of Rawlins, WY. A petite little thing still in high school, Lilian was pretty fearless, but not stupid. She dressed like a man and carried a .32 when she went on calls late at night. She and the doc did everything from delivering babies to reconstruct a man’s face after his failed suicide attempt.
The nursing position set Lilian’s destiny. She graduated high school, and, with her father’s blessing and Dr. Maghee’s recommendation, headed off to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa. She was one of only three women in the class. After completing her training, she returned to Rawlins to practice medicine and was well-received … by the menfolk. The women in town were another story. Catty, and jealous, they whispered behind her back, accused her of being a know-it-all, a few even refused to pay Lilian for services rendered. Lilian’s mother Calista wasn’t thrilled with the vocation either, believing her daughter had over-stepped her bounds as a woman.
Maybe, but if a man lay dying of a gunshot wound 30 or 40 miles away, Lilian put on her big girl breeches and made the ride.
Clearly, being a trained female physician was a bad thing, because you could, you know, save lives.
Lilian met her husband, Louis Nelson, in Rawlins and they were married in 1898. He was a painter and a decorator. Go figure. Lilian practiced medicine for fifteen years and then quietly retired, though she kept her medical license current much, much longer than that.
Unfortunately, you can’t read any article about Lilian that doesn’t mention her “connection” to an outlaw. In 1881, while Lilian was still in high school and a candy-striper, for all intents, Big Nose George Parrot was lynched for murdering a deputy. When no one claimed the body, Doctor Maghee stepped up. Curious to see if the bandit’s brain was somehow deformed, he dissected the man’s head, in the name of science. Lilian assisted with the autopsy and was given Big Nose George’s skull cap as a souvenir. She kept it for years, using it for everything from a doorstop to a pipe holder.
Reporters loved to mention that story as if it was her greatest achievement.
My guess is, there were a few members of the press she would have liked to use as doorstops.
But she didn’t let the claws or the snipes get to her. Lilian never gave in, never backed down, never lost faith. I say thanks for paving the way!
If George Lucas can do it…
I just LOVE my novella To Love and to Honor: wounded cavalry soldier Joel Chapman is struggling to find his place in the world of able-bodied men when he meets pregnant and unwed Angela Fairbanks. The daughter of a cold and ruthless cattle baron, she is terrified her father will disown her when he learns of the baby. Joel, touched by Angela’s plight, brashly offers to pose as her husband for one day and then abandon her, thus restoring her honor.
But so much can happen in a day…
I had a lot of people ask me about one of the minor characters in the story. An Indian named Henry Long Feather. They wanted more of him.
Well, he did have a backstory, so I’ve decided to write it up and weave it into the story with Joel. In writing jargon, this would be called the B-story.
Henry, a middle-aged man from the Cheyenne tribe, is a realist when it comes to thinking Indians and Whites can live together in peace. To wit, they can’t. Whites are the conquerors and his people are disappearing under the plague of settlers. A white missionary woman, however, might be able to change his thinking.
I’ve always felt this book needed more story, but because of a deadline, I simply didn’t have time to write it. Then I thought, well, heck, if George Lucas can go in and monkey around with Star Wars, why can’t I add some meat to a story, too?
Now, if by chance you’ve bought To Love and to Honor and don’t want to pay to get the extended version, fear not. When I release this update, I’ll make it FREE for a few days so you can meet Henry Long Feather and the white missionary Laurie Wilcox without spending a dime.
And, say, if you’d like to be kept up-to-date on my projects, get free, exclusive excerpts, win stuff, and be included in some fascinating conversations, please subscribe to my newsletter.
Till next time,
Happy trails and God bless ya!
by Heather Frey
To Love and to Honor—Why a story about an amputee?
Last year I stumbled across a newspaper article about photographer Michael Stokes. He was snapping sexy pics of veterans who had lost limbs in combat. I was stunned both by the soldiers’ mind-blowing good looks, and the extent of their injuries.
The thought haunted me how these devastatingly handsome, rugged men were dealing with the scars, the prosthetics, the missing limbs. I thought also of evangelist Dave Roever. Horribly disfigured in Vietnam, he’d watched as a fellow soldier’s wife had taken one look at her gravely burned husband and walked out of the room. Fortunately, Dave’s wife had the opposite reaction and the two are still married to this day.
But based on the junk you see coming out of Hollywood, one would believe our culture values physical perfection far above inner beauty. It seems the shallow masses give a pass to monstrous inner ugliness if the package comes wrapped in a big bust or washboard abs.
I feel for the wounded vets in a society like this and wanted to write something for them—a story that clearly focuses on the real measure of a man—his heart and soul, not his number of fingers or toes.
I hope you enjoy it and all the other stories in the special collection It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas! ON SALE NOW or read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited! I’ve included an excerpt at the bottom!
If you are so inclined, you can read an article on Michael Stokes photography here— http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3165402/Photographer-captures-amputee-war-veterans-posing-naked-proudly-revealing-injuries-powerful-picture-series.html, but WARNING: adult content. Privates are covered… BARELY!
An excerpt from To Love and to Honor–
Someone knocked at the door. “Señor, Señora” a voice called. “We have the water for a bath.”
Joel’s bath. “Yes, come in.”
Four ranch hands, one right after the other, trailed into the room, each with a steaming bucket of water. In short order, the portable copper tub was full and they excused themselves.
Joel stared at the bath with a tight expression, as if he was afraid of it.
Slowly, Angela rose and crossed the room to stand in front of him. He looked up with an expression of surprise that quickly transformed to desire. Hope flickered in his deep, blue eyes. She knelt in front of him and gently laid a hand on his knee. “You need a bath.” She swallowed, and fought to control her breathing. “I’ll help you.”
His eyes widened. “You—you can’t.”
She reached for his boot heel and started tugging. “I’m the only one who can.” The boot came free and she reached for the other.
Joel clutched her hand. “No.”
She didn’t meet his gaze, but she could feel it, like a gentle touch on her cheek.
“I mean, I don’t want you to see…”
Was he afraid his wound, his missing limb, would be too grotesque for her? She couldn’t imagine anything about this man being repulsive. She gave him a slow, reassuring smile. “I don’t mind.”
She pushed his pant leg up above his knee and realized his boot had been sewn on to the prosthetic. She didn’t know what to do.
“It’s cinched around my thigh.” Joel’s voice sounded strained.