A woman doctor from South Dakota by the name of Abbie Jarvis is one fascinating female. I’ll tell her whole story one day, I think, but today I wanted to share a funny little snippet of her life with you.
Dr. Jarvis often rode all over the country alone in her little doctor’s buggy. Late one afternoon, riding into the sun, she and her horse didn’t see a new barbed wire fence some plucky rancher had strung across the road. Horse, buggy and Dr. Jarvis hit the fence and went flying in separate directions. After shaking it off and assuring herself she wasn’t dying, she rounded up the horse and buggy and rode to the nearest point of light–a one-room, sod-roof cabin. A man answered the door and Dr. Jarvis explained the situation and that she needed to come in and rest.
The man seemed hesitant but allowed her to enter. After a while, however, Dr. Jarvis realized she was in no condition to motivate back to town in the dark. She told the lone farmer she’d need to stay the night.
He was astonished at her suggestion and reminded her that he was there all alone. Dr. Jarvis responded, “Well, I am not afraid of you if you are not afraid of me.”
Oh, my lands, as we say in the South. What moxie the woman had!
I got tickled the other day reading a book about pioneer women in South Dakota. Have you ever seen those videos of young tourists doing amazingly stupid things like taking selfies too close to the roaring waves or attempting to feed a buffalo at Yellowstone? Sometimes things go very wrong.
For a pioneer girl, Sadie wasn’t much smarter than some of our modern kiddoes. Back around 1880, she went for a walk on a hot summer day on her farm to pass some time and admire God’s handiwork. Not long into her stroll, she noticed a nice, plump cluster of grapes hanging over the stream. Simply too tempted to be smart, Sadie started making her way across the swift-moving water by stepping–sometimes streeeetching–from one large rock to the next.
Well, she got a little too intent on watching the current and had a spell of vertigo. Yep, fell headfirst into the water. Years later, she said she could still remember what the bottom of that stream looked like. However, before she even had a chance to panic, she found herself rising to the surface and then being pulled by the collar to the shore.
A tall, erect, young Indian boy wrangled her out of the water, snatched her to her feet, then grabbed her shoulders and proceeded to shake her violently. Before she could react to this new danger, the brave disappeared, slipping away into the shadowy forest.
She said for the rest of her life she often wondered what the purpose was of the shaking.
This comment has me thinking maybe Sadie was a bit of a dull bulb. Which could explain how she nearly drowned in the first place.
Well, here’s my best guess, hon, on what the brave who saved your life may have been thinking as he was rattling your brains: “Dumb, dumb, dumb girl. You could have drowned. For what? A handful of grapes? What were you thinking? Go back to your farm and plant something.”
I often get asked if any of my characters are based on an actual person. Sometimes, they are, sometimes they’re straight out of my imagination. I thought it would be fun to share with you today who I saw in my head when I was writing one of my favorite and most popular characters, Charles McIntyre.
Who can resist a man running from love because he knows it will be his undoing? Think John Wayne’s classic character of Quirt Evans in Angel and the Bad Man. Well, Charles McIntyre is my sexy Southern scallywag (now mostly redeemed), lord of Defiance and the main man in my Defiance books. His character was born when I watched the movie The Harvey Girls. The actor who played opposite superstar Judy Garland in this flick was the up-and-coming John Hodiak.
Hodiak was one of the first to play a saloon owner AND bad boy redeemed by a good woman. Ned Trent was the name. Selling whiskey and women was his game.
Keeping these archetype characters in the back of my mind, I fell in love later on with Eric McCormack’s looks and portrayal of Clayton Mosby, entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy in Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years. When I sat down to write the first Defiance book, A Lady in Defiance, these three characters and actors swirled in my head.
Eventually, of course, HBO released the graphic and gritty western Deadwood. The ruggedly handsome English actor Ian McShane played Al Swearengen, an entrepreneur, saloon owner, and bad boy with apparently no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I only watched one episode of Deadwood and that was a good three or four years after I’d finished ALID. The profanity, violence, and sex in this show went waaaay beyond my limits, so I can honestly say there is no direct link between my McIntyre and Swearengen.
But I will say this for McShane’s character: Swearengen was exactly the kind of soulless villain Charles McIntyre was based on. And the darker the soul, the more amazing the transformation when light touches it.
I adore those tough men brought to their knees by love. Charles McIntyre is my absolute hero. One reader called him swoon-worthy. I love that. He was unrepentantly cruel, selfish, violent but turned to jello in Naomi’s hands–because real love, both of a good woman and of a perfect Savior, cannot/will not leave a man unchanged.
Day 3 Friday
I got up early yet again (still on EST) and took a morning hike back up to Mt. Moriah. I went no further than the gift shop. I didn’t sneak past the gate which would have been ridiculously easy. Not because I’m a saint, either. I mean, really, for a $2 admission fee would it have been a big deal to walk among the headstones? I would have covered the donation later.
No, on the way up, I saw two deer or playing. Then at the gate, I realized how quiet the place was, how isolated. I was alone. No one knew where I was. Hmmm. Yeah, seemed the better part of valor to retreat. A mountain lion could drag me off and no one would ever find my body.
I shared my thoughts with the hotel clerk who had given me shorter directions to the cemetery. She gasped and said, “Yeah, I forgot to mention those.”
She forgot to mention the possibility of a mountain lion attacking me.
At least she gave me coffee. I will forgive her oversight.
Later in the day a bunch of us authors and our cadre climbed aboard some tour buses and totally did the tourist thing. We stopped outside Mt. Rushmore for a quick pic, then headed off to Big Thunder gold mine. It was damp and dark. Outside my sister Dawn and I panned for gold. The weather was perfect. I loved it and I even found a few flakes.
Next stop: the majestic Crazy Horse monument. I bought a dreamcatcher necklace there from a handsome Sioux whose mother made them for the museum. Dawn and I got so hung up shopping and looking at stuff in the museum, the bus nearly left without us! No kidding. Some of the other authors were upset with us. I am truly sorry.
For the last stop, we went to Prairie Berry Winery. They specialize in some oddly flavored wines. Nothing there pulled my trigger. Rutabaga wine or some such. Ick. A very nice winery, though. You should stop by.
Along the way, we made some friends and walked to dinner with them at some place I forget the name of. It was rustic in a roadhouse sort of way. We had a ball with our new friends Kari Trumbo, Mary Ann, Diane and her daughter Kim.
After dinner, Dawn and I turned in. Yeah, real party animals.
Day 2 Thursday
Deadwood at 6 in the morning. As quiet as the name would suggest. I walked around the main street and got some great shots.
It seemed the wild-and-wooly past was a little closer without the tourists and cars drowning it out. I gazed up at buildings that pioneers had looked at. I couldn’t help but wonder at the people who risked so much to build this little town.
We stayed in the Bullock Hotel and the little restaurant is just as historic as the rest of the building. Tin tiles in the ceiling. A huge fireplace in the room. A little saloon-style bar behind which the chef whipped up some simple but yummy breakfast items—and the biggest cinnamon roll I’ve ever seen in my life!
I realized that morning that I had no way to get photos from the memory stick in my camera to my Mac so after breakfast, Dawn and I drove over to Spearfish. A pretty big town—it has a Walmart! The drive over was gorgeous. The Black Hills of SD really are truly haunting, even a little mystical. While there, we had lunch at a lovely little coffee shop/café that seemed to serve a lot of college students. Turns out, Black Hills State is located there. I want to remember the veranda we sat on, the warm, dry air, the stunning blue sky and mountains in the distance. On the way into Spearfish, we saw a homeless guy sitting at an intersection. On the way out of town, we took him a sandwich and gave him a little money. Yeah, he might drink up the cash, but we gave to be a blessing and show Jesus. No judging.
Now, one of the interesting things about Deadwood is how it’s situated between two steep, mountain walls. And I do mean steep.
There are several old, Victorian homes up there. We were so curious to see them up close so Dawn and I ventured up there—I felt like I was back home in Western North Carolina! I mean we are talking narrow, twisty little roads. I don’t know how these people get around in the winter! But what a view!
We still had some time before check-in, so we made the trek to the cemetery. The day was warm, even by my Southern standards, and we took the stairs from the street which cuts the walk in half but doubles the difficulty. I thought my sister—who has asthma—was going to kill me. Mt. Moriah Cemetery is one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and historic graveyards I’ve ever visited. I mean, you don’t get to see “Killed by Indians” on too many tombstones. For a Western writer, that’s kind of a thrill.
The first event of the Wild Deadwoods Read program was a meet-and-greet. While I am not a huge social butterfly, I was pretty much ready to leave after we collected our lanyards and swag bag. But we did meet up with authors Kari Trumbo and Danica Favorite, two of my fellow authors from the Brides of Blessings series. Starting to run out of gas, Dawn and I split for dinner in the hotel and brought Kari with us. She’s really sweet and a great writer. You should check out her work!
And with that, we called it a night. In Deadwood. Love it!
Recently, I attended Wild Deadwood Reads, an author/reader expo of sorts in Deadwood, South Dakota. In all my travels out West, I’ve never been to this area. Wow, I thought, what a great opportunity. I’ll invite my sister to come along. We’ll meet some people, make new friends, see a part of the country I haven’t before. I can tell you, we had a spectacular time. I haven’t been on a plane in 20 years b/c I don’t like to fly. I had a small window of time here, though, so I bit the bullet. It was well worth the effort.
Thanks to terrorists, 2:30 comes early, but like a good citizen, I was at the airport TWO HOURS before my flight. By 4:20 I was through security and wondering about coffee. Not to mention, Why was I here so early again?
The plane left on time: 6:18. Yea. Unfortunately, we hit thunderstorms coming into St. Paul. Boo. I do not care to repeat that.
I made it to my gate with a few minutes to spare, but my sister Dawn was late. Like a movie, she came running down the concourse, red-faced, panting, on the verge of an asthma attack, catching the flight in the nick of time.
But bless her heart, she distracted me from the flight in a little tiny plain (tiny, by my standards) by showing me a catalog of gorgeous Western home decor.
Once we were on the ground and had our rental car, we headed for the metropolis of Rapid City. It was not what we expected. There weren’t many cowboys. Instead, we found a college town with what looked like a lot of metrosexuals and too-cool-for-school young hipsters. This is South Dakota? I thought, thus far disappointed.
We hit Walmart for a few things. Of course, who doesn’t need to swing into Walmart on every vacation? Oh, but then we went to Boot Barn! We don’t have one of these around me. I was in love. Western-style fashions everywhere! I bought a cute, red dress with a ragged hem and a beautiful leather belt with a turquoise and silver buckle. NOW we were ready to head up into the Black Hills.
No, wait, one last stop at Target for some water and off we went to Deadwood.
We stayed at the historic Bullock Hotel. It’s old and doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the hotel is gorgeous on the inside. It was built in 1896 by Seth Bullock, one of the first sheriffs in Deadwood. He came to be best friends with Teddy Roosevelt, too. Seth spared few expenses on his hotel. An ornate wooden staircase takes you from floor to floor. Lovely carpets greet your eye. A casino in the bottom has a few quaint museum pieces, and the restaurant with its huge fireplace and tin ceiling really brings home the atmosphere.
Dawn stayed in the Roosevelt suite which opened up to my room. We had our privacy but could talk back-and-forth if we wanted to. We had a great view of the historic main street and the haunted hotel across the way. The Bullock is supposed to be haunted, too, and I did half-wake during the night because I thought Dawn was using my bathroom. But she didn’t. Hmmmm.
Anyway, like giddy teenage girls at the mall, we shopped that night, from one end of town to the other. I bought a silver bracelet, a ring, and earrings. Dawn bought a beautiful leather purse and bracelet at Miss Kitty’s Mercantile. I love the name. And we picked up a few little things for the unfortunates back home.
We closed out the evening with dinner at the Deadwood Social Club, an atmospheric restaurant upstairs from the No. 10 Saloon–not THE No. 10 where HIckock was shot–that one burned. The new one sits on the foundation of the original, though.
So, there we were, over 900 miles from home and just tickled to death to be in Deadwood. No laundry. No kids. No fussy husbands. Happy as larks, we went back to our rooms and slept like babies. Well, except for that fuzzy moment when I seem to recall a visitor in my bathroom. Must have not bothered me too much.