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 learned something today in my research into those feisty pioneer women that I just had to share. I knew that the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Last of the Mohicans was based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name. What I didn’t know was that the story of white girls kidnapped by Indians was based on the actual event experienced by Jemima Boone, who was rescued by her legendary father, Daniel.
The following short article is from a longer History.com article entitled 7 of the Gutsiest Women on the American Frontier. I’ve blogged about nearly all the women on the list but somehow missed Jemima. You should read the whole thing, it’s quite entertaining, but here’s my favorite part:
Rebecca Boone wasn’t the only formidable female in Daniel Boone’s family. His daughter Jemima earned her own spot in the history books on July 14, 1776. That’s when a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding group abducted Jemima, aged 14, along with two other girls while they floated in a canoe near their Kentucky settlement. Demonstrating their own knowledge of frontier ways, the quick-witted teens left trail markers as their captors took them away—bending branches, breaking off twigs and leaving behind leaves and berries.
Their rescue team, led by Daniel Boone himself, took just two days to follow the trail and retrieve the girls. The rescuers included Flanders Callaway, Samuel Henderson and Captain John Holder, each of whom later married one of the kidnapped girls. This event became such an integral part of frontier lore, author James Fenimore Cooper included it in his classic novel The Last of the Mohicans.
Ah, those ladies in defiance. How their legends live on.
The women who built this country did amazing things to make America a better place and rarely complained while they were doing it. They just rolled up their sleeves and jumped in. They didn’t whine or cry. They didn’t call themselves victims when they weren’t treated fairly. They just kept working at doing good for the country or their little corner of it. AOC and Omar could learn a thing or two from these gals. Case in point, meet Susie Anderson.
Born in Indiana in 1870, she moved with her family to Cripple Creek Colorado at the beginning of the town’s gold rush. Deciding she needed more of a challenge than the rough and rowdy mining town could provide, her father encouraged her to attend medical school. In 1893, she entered the University of Michigan medical school. Little did she know how difficult the journey to put two letters behind her name would be.
She graduated in ’97, but while in school, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The illness would plague her for the rest of her life. She returned to Cripple Creek and tended to the miners there for three years, but the pretty, petite doctor was jilted by her fiancé in 1900. That same year she suffered the loss of her little brother.
In need of a change, she relocated her practice to Denver. Surely, the bustling, modern city would provide a steady flow of patients. Not. Anderson nearly starved to death. Patients were very leery of a female doctor, especially when there were already several male doctors in town. Frustrated, she moved again, this time to Greely, and took work as a nurse. How frustrating that must have been for this gutsy, stubborn gal. Probably the stress had something to do with her TB flaring up. Sick and weak, Anderson moved to Fraser, Colorado to recuperate or die. She breathed not a word of her vocation.
But word got out, as it always does, and her health improved. I wonder if the two events are related? At any rate, the citizens of remote Fraser were delighted to have a doctor. They didn’t care if she was male, female, or a different species entirely. Everyone from lumberjacks to ranchers to pregnant wives came to see her. She occasionally even treated a sick horse.
In her career as a doctor, “Doc Susie” was paid with everything from firewood to food. Cash was an extreme rarity and her living conditions reflected that. Nearly destitute, sometime around 1915 or so she was appointed the Grand County Coroner and the regular paycheck helped ease some of her financial concerns.
She never owned a car but always found a way to visit her patients. Most often she walked, sometimes in hip-deep snow. Mostly, though, friends and family members of patients provided transportation. Anderson was not rich financially, but she earned an esteemed reputation as a fine rural doctor and diagnostician. Her life was not easy but I think that’s how she would have wanted it. She liked fighting for her accomplishments.
She conquered a frontier, both real and emotional, leaving behind a path for other women who dared to dream big. Anderson practiced in Fraser until 1956 then retired to an old folks home in Denver. She died four years later and was buried with her family in Cripple Creek.
Respect the lace.
Several thousand words into the story I lost ALL of it.
Well, I had my hands full with a baby. I shrugged and thought I would probably come back to the story one day. If it wasn’t dead and buried for good. Maybe God would resurrect it…Who knew?
Fast forward to 2007.
I took a job working for a vanity press doing author promotions. One day at a book signing, I was watching the author talk about his story and the thought came to me, “I can do this.” Meaning, write a book. I didn’t know anything about plot structure, character arcs, POVs, but I had to write. It felt almost like a compulsion.
The story of three sisters stranded in a lawless mining town roared back to life in my brain. I dove in and had the first draft finished in March of ‘08, mere weeks before the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
I honestly don’t even know who suggested I attend a writers conference. I’d never given it any thought and I’d never heard of this one. It was (and still is) held in Black Mountain, NC though, and I was up for any excuse to visit my mountains.
When I looked into it, I discovered that I could have a critique done on my first 30 pages by a seasoned professional writer, and even pitch the story to editors and agents! The possibilities were exciting and terrifying. I told my boys–five, eight, and forty-seven at the time–that I had no idea what to expect or even pray for. I just knew there was an adventure waiting.
I remember my eight-year-old said the most interesting thing then. He said, “It’s like that scene from Indiana Jones when he steps out into thin air. But there’s really a bridge there to catch him.”
Wow. That’s called a Leap of Faith. And what a picture of how God holds us up and leads us. Instantly I knew I was supposed to go to this conference.
It turned out to be a life-changing event.
More next time…
I may not be—no, wait, sorry—I definitely am not the highest selling author on Amazon but I bet I have some of the best God stories behind my stories.
Especially when it comes to the Defiance books which have now been optioned for a limited TV series!
On the road to Hollywood (because, yes, I believe Defiance will be on TV one day) I want to share with you some of the amazing ways God has continually moved this project along. Inch by inch. Year by year.
The Story that Wouldn’t Die. Literally.
Most of you don’t know that I started A Lady in Defiance only about a year after my sister passed away. A lot happened in that year. Namely, I had a baby. My first son, Whit, was born in 2000.
While he napped or wiggled happily on the floor, I started writing. The story of three sisters in the West was a flight of fancy that helped me deal with the loss of my sister and handle the stupefying fact I was a mother. To cope, some people jump in the tub with Calgon. I had to write. Just spill out thoughts and emotions, keep Suzy alive for a little while longer…
Several thousand words into the story, however, my computer died and I lost EVERYTHING…
So what happened next?
To get the rest of this story and hear about the many more amazing ways God has kept his hand on A Lady in Defiance, I cordially invite you to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a FREE story AND the rest of this one. I promise you’ll find encouragement for chasing your own dreams! Sign up today!
Going back through some old research notes, I stumbled across the story of an immigrant to America. An unsung heroine who came here to make America a better place and give something back…not just take and remake the country in the image of her old country.
The early immigrants to America, the ones who thrived here, were independent, strong-willed, stubborn, adventurous risk-takers. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted the freedom to make their own way.
Just this morning I read the story of Sarah Thal, a German-Jewish immigrant who came to America with her husband in 1880. The couple settled in North Dakota. Her first child was born in a cabin so full of cracks that a make-shift tent was made around her and the baby. They literally camped in front of the fireplace to keep warm. She watched prairie fires light up the distant sky on more than one occasion. She lost a baby because 10 feet of snow prevented her from getting to a doctor. This was Sarah’s existence. It never broke her. She didn’t let it turn her into a bitter old woman. She accepted her circumstances, praised God in the storm, and plowed on.
One year the German community decided to get together and celebrate the 4th of July. It was a 22-mile trip each way for the Thal’s to attend, but they were proud and eager to do so. As she wrote in a letter, “Each foreign colony celebrated in their own fashion, loyal to the traditions of the old land and faithful to those of the new. . . .”
Faithful to those of the new.
Unfortunately, stout bloodlines like Sarah’s are getting “watered down.” It’s a shame. American women were strong and resilient as a rule, fiercely independent, the toughest in the world. And she wanted to be an American. Therein lies the crux of the matter with the flood of illegals at our border.
Today, I think women like Sarah are the exception, which is why it’s important to remember them! Do you think I’m wrong? Speak your mind, politely, please.
I didn’t expect the research for A Lady in Defiance to break my heart.
If you have read my Defiance books, you know I’ve gone to great pains to bring the old west mining town of Defiance to life. Those “great pains” were hours of research. Admittedly, since I’m a history freak, I enjoyed most of it.
Some of it, not so much. Here’s what I didn’t enjoy: learning just how awful the lives of prostitutes in these lawless towns were.
While disease was the number one cause of death, the number two cause was customer violence. But get this: one report I read said that partner suicide was statistically valid. Meaning, the number of girls who made suicide pacts was not nominal. When life got so awful, so unbearable, many soiled doves agreed to end their lives together.
In Telluride at the height of the silver boom, there was one street in the red light district where the doors swung open and shut so fast it was nicknamed Popcorn Alley.
Think about that for a second.
In A Lady in Defiance, there is a scene in which a soiled dove opens the Bible and learns how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of adultery. I literally cried writing that part. I cried over my character finding hope…and over all the real prostitutes who never did.
Today, I pray for all the innocents abducted and forced into this lifestyle. Seems we’ve come full circle. Or, more accurately, outdone ourselves. Today, human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms. It will surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years. Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.
A hundred years ago, the citizenry rose up and ran brothels out of business either by force or by electing politicians who fined such houses out of existence. Today, all we seem to want to do is tear down Confederate statutes and blame each other for slavery that happened a hundred-plus years ago.
Here’s a thought: let’s turn our energy to something more positive. Let’s deal with today’s modern problem of sex trafficking and slavery and save some of the men, women, and children who have been forced into this horrid lifestyle.
Just my politically incorrect two cents.
By the way, A Lady in Defiance is on sale right now for only .99 if you’d like to pick up a copy!
I did not want my precious readers to miss out on this very special promotion! Read on…
Searching for your next favorite
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She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.
Have you ever had something so horrific happen in your life you just couldn’t believe for an instant God would bring anything good out of the experience? When I read the true story of Juliet Watts I was profoundly impacted by how she not only survived her ordeal but lived a full, fruitful life. She was a survivor AND an overcomer. She is also the inspiration for the character in my novel Locket Full of Love (which is on sale today!).
In Locket, there is a ten-year gap from the opening to when we see Juliet again. I wrote a short story about her during this time and gave it away exclusively to my newsletter subscribers. Here is a sneak peek at Juliet’s Corset (the Short Story).
She lifted the lid on her trunk and sighed at the sight of her corset. Why did she keep that thing around? She picked it up, contemplating tossing it in the stove and burning it.
“My, that looks like it’s got a story behind it.” Sam, the grizzled, weathered bartender she’d met the day she found the saloon, stood in the doorway, her valise in his hand.
Juliet sucked on her cheek, the memories flashing through her mind as fast as lightning. “Saved the woman’s life who was wearing it.”
“No kidding?” Sam stepped in and set the valise on the bed, his pock-marked, gritty face alight with curiosity. He peered around Juliet for a better look. Not nearly as enamored with it as he appeared to be, she handed it to him.
The big man inspected the undergarment carefully, pausing over every tear, every rip, and especially the hole in the front. “Saved her life, eh?” After a moment, his hand stilled. “I remember hearing tell years ago of a woman the Comanches tried to…harm and the corset stopped an arrow.” He regarded Juliet with one raised brow and narrowed eyes. “I thought that was just another tall tale out of Texas. How’d you come by this?”
She almost offered a dismissive answer but gave in to his curiosity out of sheer weariness. “It was me. I was wearing that corset when the Comanche hit Rimfire. I survived. My husband did not.”
Sam’s expression melted into sympathy and he nodded. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
She plucked the corset from his hands and tossed it back into her trunk. “Yes. Thank you.”
With her back to Sam, she thought he might understand she was done discussing the past, but he didn’t leave. A moment later, he moved off to her left so he could see her profile. “Ain’t really any of my business, but the busiest saloon in town has a twelve foot stuffed grizzly on display. The owner shot it up in Montana territory. It brings in a lot of people to the Big Bear Saloon.”
Was he suggesting…? Juliet cut her eyes at him. “You think I should…?” What was he saying?
“I think a lot more men in this town would rather see the Iron Rose of Texas and the garment that saved her life.”
“The Iron—” The Iron Rose? She’d never heard the name. It both horrified and flattered her. After a moment’s thought, however, she decided she did not wish to perpetuate what it implied. “I don’t think I want that moniker.” She sat down on the bed. “I’m alive because I wore a corset they had no idea how to undo. I didn’t fight them off single-handedly in wild combat.” She swallowed against the knot forming in her throat. “I’m no Calamity Jane. I just got lucky.”
Sam scratched his chin thoughtfully, shoved his hands into pockets and nodded. “Seems to me, God was watching out for you.”
She clamped her jaws. She hated hearing that. People who said that didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat, choking back a scream caused by nightmares so real…
She sighed and stood up again, ready to end this conversation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said curtly. “I’ll see you downstairs in a bit.”
His face, wise, wrinkled, melted a little in obvious hurt and Juliet felt as if she’d kicked a dog. But she couldn’t talk about God…he was too cruel, too distant. If he was really a loving God, maybe one day he’d shove past her anger and show himself, but she wasn’t holding her breath.
Juliet had helped Hugh enough in their mercantile to understand the inventory management of a saloon. Not to mention, Sam was a great help. No, the hard part about running a saloon was managing the patrons. Bossy, arrogant, sometimes inebriated, expecting things from Juliet they had no business expecting.
Tired of the continual argument to protect her reputation, she pushed a beer across the bar and frowned at the grinning, hopeful sailor reaching for it. “I said no, James, and my no means exactly that.”
In his late twenties perhaps, tanned and weathered from life in the elements, he was man enough to understand her meaning. Yet, a devilish glee still played around his lips and she was wary. He was a River Rat, as these men called themselves. They ran the Missouri and the Mississippi aboard paddle wheelers and flatboats, only stepping ashore long enough to entertain themselves for an evening and then back to the water they went. They didn’t seem to have many rules and even fewer boundaries.
Well, Juliet was not here for his or any other Rat’s entertainment. “For the hundredth time,” she said slowly, “you can get beer or liquor here and that is all.”
James huffed, drummed his fingers on the mug of beer. The men on each side of him chuckled knowingly. Juliet had given them the same speech.
“Beer and liquor,” he repeated, his heavy Southern drawl drenching his words.
She gave him a slow, acquiescent dip of her chin.
“But see,” he leaned forward and lowered his voice, “you’re so pretty. I was thinking about you out on the wide water yesterday. I’ve got a silver eagle burning a hole in my pocket, just for you—”
“James,” Juliet snapped, losing her patience. “There are plenty of pretty girls down at the other end of the street.” Her raised voice drew the attention of several nearby patrons. A few smiled. A few did not. Hungry stares argued a consensus was growing Juliet should add herself to the list of drafts available in the Lost Sally. She moistened her lips and took a moment to calm down. “I think that beer is your last one here tonight.”
If you’d like to read the whole story, Juliet’s Corset, please subscribe to my newsletter and we’ll get it right out to you. For subscribing, you will ALSO get a free copy of A Lady in Defiance–the Lost Chapters. Readers really have enjoyed learning the backstory of my sisters before they left Carolina for Defiance.
I know most often I focus on ladies in defiance–women who do amazing things or survive incredible situations. However, I was having a conversation about how truth is stranger and often more incredible than fiction. To prove my point, I shared the story of the man who is the inspiration behind my character of Dent Hernandez in Hang Your Heart on Christmas. I thought you might find it interesting as well. Enjoy!
The legendary Elfego Baca is the inspiration for my hero.
Elfego’s father Francisco was a lawman, and, on occasion, he allowed his son to ride with him in pursuit of some pretty tough hombres. Francisco taught his son to shoot, to ride, to fight, and to wear the badge like a man of justice, not vengeance. He could not have foreseen how well the lessons would stick.
In 1884, nineteen-year-old Elfego learned that the rowdy cowhands from John Slaughter’s ranch were running roughshod over the mostly-Spanish community of Lower Frisco, NM. Raping, pillaging, the usual outlaw behavior. Outraged, Elfego somehow wrangled a badge (real, fake, the details are fuzzy) and headed off to clean up the town.
Not long after his arrival, he was alerted to the ungentlemanly behavior of one Charlie McCarty. Drunk and belligerent, McCarty was howling at the moon, firing his gun indiscriminately, and generally scaring the townsfolk silly. Baca arrested the cowhand straightaway.
As is always the case in these situations, things quickly spiraled out of control and Elfego Baca found himself hiding in a jacal (ha-cal – a flimsy structure-like a shack) and being shot at by between forty and eighty very annoyed cowboys. Hundreds of thousands of rounds were fired at him during a thirty-three-hour siege. Just the door to the one room, cedar-and-mud structure was hit nearly four hundred times!
Elfego survived unscathed.
He did, however, kill one cowboy, shoot one horse (which then fell on its rider and killed him), and wound several of his attackers.
When the siege was over, our young lawman still wasn’t done. He sent a letter to the cowboys who had tried to kill him. It read, “I have a warrant here for your arrest. Please come in by March 15 and give yourself up. If you don’t, I’ll know you intend to resist arrest, and I will feel justified in shooting you on sight when I come after you.”
Most of the men couldn’t surrender fast enough.
Elfego’s good fortune and startling bravado was the foundation of his legendary status. He lived a colorful, sometimes controversial, life as a lawman, attorney, politician, and hero. He left behind a statue and some tall tales. I thank him for being the inspiration behind Hang Your Heart on Christmas.
By the way, Hang Your Heart is not only .99 this week, I just released the AUDIO version as well. Soooo many ways to enjoy a great story!