This post first appeared at Cowboy Kisses, May 2017 by Heather Blanton
A simple question on the surface, I thought a quick Google would give me the answer. Turns out, a few females claim the honor. So after a little more serious digging, I came up with Mary Hallock Foote and her first novel, Led-Horse Claim: A Romance of a Mining Camp published in 1883.
Turns out, Mary was quite an interesting gal. Born in 1847 in New York to Quaker parents, she attended school at the very proper Female Collegiate Seminary in Poughkeepsie. Her gift for the creative arts convinced her father (clearly a forward-thinking man) to invest more in his daughter’s education. He sent her to Cooper School of Design for Women, and by her early twenties, Mary was a sought-after illustrator and designer for some of the most notable publishers in New York City. She loved her job. She loved the city. But she loved a man more.
In 1876, she married Arthur De Wint Foote, a young mining engineer whose career would take her deep into the wild-and-wooly Western frontier. Mary saw it all. From Deadwood to Leadville, from Idaho to Mexico.
Impressed, sometimes astonished, at the characters populating these rowdy mining towns, Mary wrote and illustrated dozens of articles for readers “back East.” She quickly gained the reputation for being one of the sharpest observers of, and most civilizing influences on, the bawdy mining, and ditch (irrigation) towns out west. According to an article in the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, “The Victorian gentlewoman traveled the American West dressed in hoop skirt and petticoats, insisting that her children be educated by an English nanny and fed by a Chinese cook, so that she could work on her illustrations and stories, without interruption.”
What this quote doesn’t tell you is that Mary didn’t have time to raise the children because she had to help put bread on the table. Her husband’s career as a surveyor and civil engineer was difficult, at best, due to his unswerving honesty. Apparently, fudging numbers was expected in the mining industry, but Arthur didn’t play along. Hence, the continual moves from one town to the next. But Mary wrote about it all and her short stories and serials gained in popularity. They were published alongside the likes of Rudyard Kipling. Her articles and observations of life in the Wild West were met with lavish reviews, especially by those who could recognize the ring of authenticity—because they lived it.
Mary’s stories leaned more toward Western romance, though, as opposed to Owen Wister-style shoot-outs and brawls. She wrote fifteen novels in all. However, her husband eventually landed a job managing a mine in California and as his salary increased, Mary’s hectic writing pace decreased. Her last book was published in 1919. She didn’t seem to miss writing.
Mary and Arthur were married for nearly sixty years. She, ever hardy and determined, lived until the ripe old age of 90. Unfortunately, while her life was long, her fame was not. It is nearly impossible to find the complete collection of Mary’s works now, even on Amazon. What a loss for the Western Romance genre.
I love old books and am always looking to read more. Please feel free to suggest some!
How did all this come about? It’s one crazy God-story!
I was on facebook private messaging with my assistant when I happened to see actor Matt Williams announce that he’d done well in an audition, got the part, and probably another one. I hopped over to just quickly congratulate him. He commented back that he’d like to get a part when one of my books was made into a movie. I said, “Well, it just so happens that I do have a script for A Lady in Defiance, but I haven’t done anything with it.”
Matt immediately private messaged me and asked me about this book. I told him to date it had sold over 50,000 copies and I did write a script for it, passed it around to a few professionals in the industry, but they wanted me to make some changes to it. I wasn’t averse to doing that, I just didn’t feel like working on the script. Really, I’m a novelist.
Matt said there was someone he wanted me to meet and even over the facebook messenger I could hear his excitement!
The next day Micah Lyons reached out to me and wanted to know all about my Defiance books. After a few days of back-and-forth, he made me an offer! And get this–in the course of our conversations, Micah mentioned that he’d seen A Lady in Defiance one day in a Books-a-Million and kept the story in the back of his head! Honestly, we both took that as a sign.
I suddenly realized I might be on the verge of a life-changing decision and reached out to some wonderful folks like Brian Bird and Bodie Thoene for some advice. They were kind enough to offer their thoughts. Like get an agent, don’t give Micah the option on all three books, etc. Then JD Dewitt of 5×5 Productions answered my inquiry and wanted to talk.
JD is precious. I love her to death. Her favorite genre is Westerns and she had already read A Lady in Defiance back in 2013! In short, she now represents me and helped hammer out the deal with Breath of Life Productions.
As I mentioned, one of the things that some professionals recommended I NOT do was give Breath of Life the option on all three books. In case the first one sold, then I should have the ability, they argued, to maneuver for a better deal on books 2 and 3, maybe with a bigger producer. Honestly, that just didn’t feel right to me. Micah was the first producer to look at this project and want to commit immediately to a series, not just one movie. He said he couldn’t see it any other way. That was when I knew. The “up-and-comer” in Hollywood had to have his shot. If Breath of Life Productions and Micah can sell this project, then they deserve to handle all of it.
I’ve heard NOTHING but good things about Micah Lyons and have enjoyed my talks with him immensely. A Godly young man, he is living in a dark kingdom and taking the Light to it.
I say let’s take the good news to those living in Defiance! I hope you’ll pray for this project. We would all appreciate it very much.
Now, a question. Who would you like to see play Naomi Miller and Charles McIntyre? I vote Reese Witherspoon for Naomi, but I’m still deciding on Charles!
Feminism. Do you ever wonder how in the world America was built without those early pioneer women being told (incessantly) they were strong, brave, and didn’t need a man around? Golly, it’s a wonder we were able to help build a country.
In the last few days, I’ve heard a couple of Hollywood starlets berating Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty for being bad role models. Keira Knightley said her favorite Disney movie The Little Mermaid is not allowed entertainment for her 3-year-old. “I mean, the songs are great, but do not give your voice up for a man,” she told Ellen DeGeneres.
I think about the way our culture is working so hard to feminize men and make women masculine and it really ticks me off. Generally speaking, we’re smaller, daintier, physically weaker, more emotional–we’re VERY different from men. And that is our strength. Don’t denigrate it.
Meet a couple of my favorite heroines:
Sybil Ludington, raised in a genteel home with the usual simple expectations of her fairer sex, rode 40 miles in one night to warn the American militia the British were coming.
Another Revolutionary War heroine, Margaret Corbin followed her husband into battle, then took over his cannon when he was killed. Horribly wounded, she fired at the British until she passed out, but hers was the last cannon going.
Or let’s consider Sacagawea who crossed a continent, climbing mountains, shooting rapids, and trekking across remote country for thousands of miles, all while carrying a baby on her back.
And then there’s Susan McSween who, after the broad-daylight murder of her husband, fearlessly stood up to the lawless element in Lincoln, New Mexico and eventually became the state’s largest, most powerful rancher.
And I bet every one of these women had heard some version of Cinderella. In fact, unlike our culture today, women of the past were not expected to be anything but a princess! They weren’t shielded from their “limitations.” Yet, when it came down to brass tacks, when their feet hit the fire, when it all went sideways, our female ancestors stood up, shouldered the burden, and made a difference. Nobody had to tell them they were as smart, as strong, as courageous as a man. They certainly weren’t told they were better than a man, or that all men are bad. They weren’t insecure or threatened by men. They accepted the way things were and rose above it without whining, rioting, or turning their daughters into little self-centered, angry man-hating robots.
I think it was Ginger Rogers who said she could do everything Fred could do, only she did it backward and in high heels. But she liked her high heels and pretty, flowing gowns.
I like being a princess–which, frankly, is just code for being A Lady in Defiance of Expectations.
What about you? Are you proud to be a princess or am I waaaaay off base? Do you have a favorite Disney princess?
You either just LOVED it or downright DESPISED it.
Y’all are not divided on your opinions of my book A Promise in Defiance. If you are in the camp of “the ending was too tragic and it left me sad,” then you should read Daughter of Defiance, the spin-off story of one of the vilest, and yet, I think, most heart-wrenching characters I’ve ever written: Delilah Goodnight, the notorious madam of Defiance. Yes, she was a horrible person who caused the death of some good people.
But her story was far from over. And Daughter of Defiance had TWO endings!
If you haven’t read A Promise in Defiance or Daughter of Defiance, you might want to before you check out this ALTERNATE ending. THIS is the way I originally envisioned Daughter of Defiance winding up, but my editor said, among other criticisms, that I didn’t leave enough mystery for the next book. Sooooo, read or not. It’s up to you, but if you do, WARNING: SPOILER ALERT.
~~~~~DAUGHTER OF DEFIANCE ALTERNATE ENDING~~~~~
Skirt flapping around her knees, whipping out behind her, Victoria galloped out of town, uncaring of the curious stares. Panic clawed at her throat. She couldn’t think of anything the girl at the hotel or Charlie or even Cooley had said that was a specific clue. Oh, God, lead me, please, she prayed. Don’t let anyone else die because of me.
She raced toward the end of town, past Boot Hill, out on to the vast, open prairie. A gray, angry sky overhead reflected her torment. Frustrated, confused, she slowed her horse from a gallop to a canter to a trot…finally to a standstill.
The wind whistled. Dry, amber grass danced and swayed around her. A few cottonwoods stood silently nearby, their shadows growing long in the late afternoon sun. She thought back to her early days here when innocence and youth fed her hopes and dreams. Places she and Logan had gone to…to be alone.
The memory of a favorite place surfaced.
Did the sod shanty still stand down by Crier’s Sink Hole? It was a fine hiding place. The moment she thought of it, she knew she had to go see it.
This was foolish, going in without any help, or even a gun. But she had to try. At least scout out the situation then return to town to find Earp or Toby or someone.
She turned the horse west and in only a matter of minutes reached the bottom of a long, low hill. She dismounted and tied the horse’s reins to the remains of an old wrought iron fence surrounding a grave. A tumbleweed blew into his rear legs and he nearly spooked free. Shushing him, Victoria tied him again, praying he didn’t jerk free from the decrepit thing. Satisfied he’d stay, she crept toward the crest of the hill.
The Kansas prairie, much like an ocean, hid secrets between these swells. Near the top of the rise, she laid down on her stomach and peered through the grass. Below figures moved about, some hovering over a fire, a few sitting back away from it. Wind rippled the water that filled the deep sinkhole. A man in dark clothes stood in the doorway of the dilapidated and collapsing sod house. A rush of sweet memories took Victoria back to seventeen, riding out here with Logan, kissing in that doorway beneath a fat harvest moon…swearing their eternal love.
Pain twisted in her heart. They both had lost so much. So much. She cleared her throat and tried to focus. Eleanor and GW sat by the fire. That was Charlie in the doorway. The two men who had accosted her at the newspaper—Oscar and Lawerence—were sitting on their bedrolls, watching their hostages.
From this distance, the win scattered their voices to the prairie. She’d have to get closer. Scanning the hillside below, she saw a rock outcropping—not big—barely larger than a horse, but it would do. She would wait till dark, slink down to it, and try to negotiate with them from there. If things fell apart, she had enough of a lead to get back to her horse and go for help. She scanned the hill behind her. At least, she was fairly sure she could make it.
It made more sense to go for help now. Victoria glanced at the darkening sky. Night fell quickly this late in the fall. How much time did she have to waste hunting Earp? None. In another hour she could slither her way down to the rock and be close enough to hear what’s going on. Then she could decide.
By nightfall, Victoria was lamenting her thin coat and wishing she’d grabbed her heavy wool frock. Flipping up the collar on the canvas jacket, she quietly slipped through the dry grass toward the rock outcropping. Only a few feet lower, yet the wind died here and she could hear the snapping fire, neighing horses, and Charlie’s voice.
“She’ll be along. Anytime now I suspect.”
“What makes you so sure she’ll find us?” Lawrence said.
Victoria crawled carefully down to the rock, aware sound was carrying easier now.
“The kids have known about this place since I was a boy,” Charlie said. “She probably came here. It’s where you go when you want to hide.”
“I say we go find her.” Oscar tilted his head back, taking a swig from a bottle. “You stay here, Charlie, and watch those two.”
Lawrence climbed to his feet, swaying a little as he did. “I like that idea. She’s probably—” a growling burp escaped him—“alone, moving around, trying to find them.”
“She won’t come for us,” Eleanor said, sounding anxious. “At least not alone. She’ll find Earp.”
“Or Toby,” GW added.
“Earp’s busy,” Charlie said. “He’s on a wild goose chase over toward Cimarron.”
Lawrence tilted his head. “That was a good idea. Why’d you do that? I thought you didn’t want no part in hunting Delilah.”
Charlie straightened, stepped outside the doorway. “I guess it’s time to wrap all this up. Besides, it’s getting cold.” Without any warning, he drew his revolver and shot Lawrence in the head and before the man hit the ground, Charlie dropped Oscar. The fire from his barrel illuminated GW and Eleanor surging to their feet as Victoria screamed.
The echo of the shots and her shrill cry faded together, but all eyes turned up the hill to her. Misery writhed in Victoria’s chest. She pushed herself out from behind the rock. “Stop it!” Tears choked her voice. “For God’s sake, just stop it.” More death on account of me. Oh, God, am I cursed? Please stop all this. “Why did you do that?”
“Come down here and we’ll talk about it, Victoria.”
But Charlie said her name like it was a huge joke. Bitterness, rage, grief, strangled her. “So, this is about me. You lose someone in Defiance?”
“You could say that.”
“Run, Victoria,” Eleanor screamed, stepping forward. “Run.”
“Shut up, old woman,” Charlie cocked his revolver. “Or I’ll shoot you, too.”
“You do, and I’ll kill you,” GW said quietly, ominously.
Charlie snorted. “You saw how fast I killed Lawrence and Oscar.”
Victoria’s feet were rooted to the ground. GW’s comment seemed to rattle Charlie and he took a step back. “Get down here, Victoria. I’ll let these two walk away if you do. You leave for the sheriff and I’ll kill ’em both.”
Her knees buckled and she clutched the rock. She would trade herself, gladly. She deserved to be murdered, but how could she be sure he’d let GW and Eleanor go? Eleanor needed to live. She’d already been through so much.
“Victoriaaaa,” Charlie sang mockingly.
“Don’t listen to him,” GW yelled. “Get out of here. Find Earp.” He cast a quick glance at Charlie. “He’ll handle this miscreant.”
Victoria angrily brushed tears from her cheeks. “Tell me why you’re doing this? Why did you kill those two?”
“I don’t need ’em anymore.”
Victoria’s mind raced. Should she run? No, she knew how this had to play out. “Who are you?” she asked, miserable and heartsick. But, oddly, not afraid.
“I’m Charlie Smith. I’m one of the boys Logan used to run with. Long time ago. My brother took a bullet for him in Nebraska four years ago. A stagecoach robbery that went wrong ’cause Logan was drunker than a rat in a whiskey barrel.” The man cursed under his breath. “He disappeared after that. Thought I’d never catch up to him, then I got wind he was masquerading as a preacher,” he spat the word, “in Defiance. I showed up right after your two-bit drunk went and killed him. Or that’s the way the story’s told. But he aint’ dead. You know it. And I know it.”
“What?” Victoria couldn’t believe her ears, though the man sounded serious. “All this because you think Logan’s still a—?”
“Alive? I know he’s still alive.”
“Mister, you’re out of your mind.” Victoria took two steps toward them. “He died in my arms, in the middle of the street.” Her voice rose with hysteria. “He’s dead and he’s never coming back.”
Charlie shook his head. “You’re good but you ain’t convincing. I’ve heard the stories. He’s been working his way here. To you.”
“What are you talking about?” Could this get any more insane or absurdly cruel? “He’s dead,” she whispered barely loud enough for them all to hear. “He’s dead and I’d give any—” She broke off. “Stories? What stories?”
“I lucked out with Lawrence and Oscar there. They could track. They were tracking you. I figured if I found you, I’d eventually find Logan. Sure enough, about the time I realized you were here somewhere in Dodge, I saw the pattern. The stories added up.”
Victoria couldn’t stop her mind from spinning. She felt faint. “What stories?” she asked again. “What pattern? What are you talking about?”
Charlie paused, tilted his head. “A man in black popped up on the trail a few weeks back. Looking for a pretty girl maybe named Victoria. Maybe coming from Defiance. Quiet fella, kept his hat pulled down real low. Nobody got a look at him. One fella in Cheyenne Wells didn’t take to the questioning and our mystery man jerked his Colt on him. Folks said he was so fast, he made lightning look like molasses.”
Victoria felt her heart slow to a crawl. Her head swam. Logan? Alive? She’d sat beside him on his deathbed, held his his cold fingers in hers. It wasn’t possible…
Was it? God? Is Logan alive?
“You think…” Victoria could hardly speak. A maelstrom of emotions stormed in her soul. “You think this man in black is coming for me?”
“I knew once I had you, I’d get Logan. He’s coming for you like a moth to a flame.”
Victoria literally couldn’t fathom this insanity. Oh, hope sparked in her breast, but she knew what she’d seen. She couldn’t let hope catch fire. It would make her go crazy. “I’ll trade for Eleanor and GW, but you’re too late to get vengeance on Logan. Too late,” her voice faded.
“Get down here and we’ll talk or,” he cocked the pistol, “I start cutting baggage loose.”
“No, Victoria,” Eleanor cried.
“Get the marshal,” GW ordered.
No. Victoria couldn’t stand the thought of coming back to their bodies. Charlie was going to kill them if she didn’t play this his way. Probably would anyway. Oh, God, please, please keep them safe. But I should pay for my crimes.
She raised her hands into the air. “I’m coming down.” Everything in her knew Charlie was going to try to kill GW and Eleanor. He didn’t need them. In his sick, twisted mind he believed Victoria was the magnet for Logan. If only that could be true.
Regardless, she believed they all had one chance.
Victoria stumbled down through the tangle of buffalo grass to level ground. Charlie still held the gun on GW and Eleanor. Their only chance lay in a distraction. She prayed they would act when the opportunity arose.
Oh, God, I could get us all killed. Her steps faltered but something kept her feet moving. She came within twenty feet of Charlie and surveyed Eleanor’s and GW’s conditions. “Momma, are you all right?”
Her mother nodded and made a choked noise
“You shoulda run. Somebody has to survive this.”
“Yes.” A peace flooded over Victoria. She knew what she had to do and every muscle in her body readied for the charge. “Someone will.” She would take the bullet and Eleanor and GW would overpower Charlie.
It would be all right. Accounts would be settled. And for the first time in her life, the ugly face of death didn’t frighten her.
The message to move was shooting from her brain to her legs when a shot boomed over their heads from the darkness. Charlie stepped back, waved his gun around, but brought it back quickly to his hostages. Hope surged in Victoria. Earp? Was Earp out there in the grass and shadows?
“Who’s out there?” Charlie yelled, his eyes wildly searching the darkness. “I got hostages. I’ll drop ’em. Back off!”
The silence was deafening as it stretched out. After a moment, a quiet, velvety voice spoke. “No one dies here tonight.”
Victoria gasped. Her heart hammered so hard and fast she thought it might explode in her chest. Desperately, she searched the darkness. She must have misheard. Hope had filled her ears with what—who—she wanted to hear. But she couldn’t help herself. She had to ask. “Logan?”
She held her breath, waiting for an impossible answer.
“I’m here, Victoria.”
Joy ripped a sob from her. Overwhelmed, she collapsed to her knees, weeping with wonder and elation. “Alive. Oh, God, alive…”
Charlie’s eyes widened. “You didn’t—you really didn’t know?”
“Drop the gun,” Logan ordered.
Charlie debated. His gaze bounced back-and-forth between Victoria and his other two prisoners.
“Pull that trigger,” Logan said, “and you’ll be just as dead as your friends there.”
Charlie heaved a deep sigh. “Let me go, Logan. I’ll leave off. No more trackin’ ya.”
A hard thud emanated from the back of Charlie’s head and he abruptly slithered to the ground—revealing a tall, solidly-built man standing behind him, holding a gun. Firelight flickered in his ash blond hair and danced across a strong jaw. His hat threw the rest of his face into shadow but his stance, his presence was hauntingly, undeniably familiar.
Victoria’s whole body jolted as if she’d been struck by a lightning bolt. “Logan?” She could barely speak for the awe streaking through her soul. Forgetting to breathe, drowning in shock and joy, she launched to her feet and leaped into his arms, nearly knocking him over.
“Logan, Logan, Logan, I saw you die. I buried you.”
“Shhh.” He said, gently stroking her head and holstering his weapon. “There’s time for that later. I’m here now. I came for you.” His words pulled another sob from her and she wept on his chest. “Why don’t you get that gun there,” he said, apparently to GW. “Eleanor. It’s been a long time.”
“Yes.” Her voice was husky with emotion. “But you sure picked the right time to come back.”
At the end of the meal, Toby set his napkin on his empty plate and nodded across the table at GW. “I reckon I’ll go get that item you wanted me to, um get.” He should have prepared this better.
GW wiped gravy from his mustache. “I think now is appropriate.”
Ignoring the perplexed expressions from the others at the table, Toby hustled on outside and jogged over to the barn. Delilah waited quietly in her stall. She grumbled softly when he opened the gate and stepped inside with her.
“Let’s saddle you up, girl, and show ’em the new you.”
As he saddled her, he tried not to think about Victoria and Logan, but there was nothing else he could think about. He regretted not having had a chance with her, yet he understood things were as they should be. Victoria had never been meant for Toby. Seemed to him she wasn’t meant for anybody but Logan. When a man comes back from the dead to find a woman—well, there’s no topping that.
Understanding and acceptance didn’t make the situation any easier to bear, though.
“Ah, cowboy up,” he scolded, snugging the cinch. “I just want her to be happy, Lord.” Admitting it aloud seemed to lessen the pain. God was good. Toby would be all right.
He swung up into the saddle and trotted a trusting, surrendered Delilah over to the house. He pulled up in front and waited for GW to usher his guests outside. Momentarily, the door clicked and they all filed out on to the porch. Victoria’s face lit up when she realized the identity of the horse.
“You did it.” She clasped her hands over her chest and leaned into Logan. “He did it. He said he could make her a good horse.”
Toby took a deep breath, patted Delilah on the neck and dismounted. “Yeah, she’s a fine horse.” He pulled the reins over Delilah’s head and held them out. “And she’s yours.”
GW stepped up and dropped a hand on Victoria’s shoulder. “I want you to have her.”
Her chin quivering, Victoria shuffled down the steps and took the reins, but she lingered a moment on Toby. “Thank you.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged. “You two go together. Some things you have to let happen.” A puzzled dip formed in her brow, but Toby backed up a step to end the questioning. “Turns out she has a tender mouth. Guide her gently.”
A little smile lifted Victoria’s lips. “I will.”
You know, I write Christian Western Romance not only because the locations and century speak to me, but I LOVE the values espoused in CLASSIC Westerns. Men were men–strong, honest, hard-working, gentlemanly, and compassionate. I use that last word because I’m thinking of a couple of classics like Cheyenne Autumn and Broken Arrow. In these two films, the heroes see Native Americans as strong, proud, but, sadly, defeated. Regardless, they treat them with respect.
The US government and, arguably, the tribal governments, have done the American Indian no favors. By relegating reservations to remote areas, supplying the people with minimal handouts and then saddling them with an astonishing level of governmental mismanagement, these supposed “sovereign nations” have become Third-World nations within our own borders. (See below for just a few statistics…)
And then along comes Elizabeth Warren wrapping her white, office-seeking, ambition-clawing hands around the label Cherokee. Flaunts it. Waves it like a flag. Starting in 1986, she claimed her “minority status” and used it to make Harvard look like it was hiring women of color. She has also used the label to garner attention, support, and dollars from democratic voters.
But what has this Champion of the Cherokee done since being elected to the senate in 2013? NOTHING until 2018 when she co-sponsored two bills directly related to Native Americans. Gee, thanks, sister.
But she’s given lots of speeches to them.
My point is, Native Americans have been used enough in this country to further the blind ambitions of greedy politicians. And they won’t be used anymore, judging by the response yesterday from the Cherokee tribe to Warren’s claims. I think they’d like to invite her to play a game of Indian Stick Ball rather than claim her.
I’m sure she’d join in. Righter after she finishes a bowl of that traditional Cherokee dish, Pow Wow Chow.
Here are some disheartening facts: Native Americans have the lowest employment rate of any minority; on average, less than 50% of Native students graduate high school; more than 60% of the roads on the reservations are dirt or gravel; 1 in 10 Native American homes lack reliable or clean drinking water; only about 10% of Native homes have internet; the suicide rate for Native teens is 2.5 times the national average! I could go on and on.
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!
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.
Welcome to a sneak-peek of my newest release,
To Love and to Honor— Enjoy!
From Chapter 5:
A day later, Joel was strong enough to travel.
And to send word to Ruth of his whereabouts.
He tapped the pencil on the Western Union form, trying to determine how much to write. He believed it a safe assumption his wife did not care where he was so long as he was not in her presence.
His time away with the cavalry had changed Ruth. Her letters had grown colder, her thoughts more succinct. Coming home minus a limb had only served to deepen the divide between them.
What exactly was the state of their relationship now? Dead? Dying? How did one resuscitate a marriage in this condition? Prayer. Ask God for a miracle to revive their love?
He had prayed for revival, but without any passion behind the request. He knew he should care, be desperate to save their marriage. Yet, desperation had died with every brief, emotionless letter from her, every repulsed look she had revealed, and every touch from which she had recoiled. The guilt of his growing apathy weighed on him. He suspected Ruth had reasons for some guilt as well, but Joel had no proof. Without proof, suspicions were merely that—suspicions.
Finally, tired of debating, he wrote, Delayed in Evergreen, Wy. Will notify you when I proceed to South Dak. He pondered adding love, Joel. In the end, he didn’t and slid the paper over to the clerk.
The Bar FB sat in a long, flat valley, ringed with hills that alternated between open pastures thigh-high with brittle, fall grass, and deep, dark-green forests of Scotch and Blue spruces. White-faced Hereford cattle milled about everywhere.
Various log buildings such as the barn and bunkhouse surrounded the imposing main house at strategic distances. Surprising Joel, the home was a white-washed antebellum structure with a cupola on the top. From it, he imagined a man could sit up there and see the whole valley in any direction.
King of all he surveys, eh?
“You could still back out,” Angela said from beside him, hunching her shoulders and rubbing her arms. Joel assumed she was cold, but the action could have also just as easily expressed her fears at this homecoming.
He tapped the reins across the horses’ rear ends to maintain their speed. “Not much of an option right now.”
“You could drop me off and keep riding.”
A cowardly act he couldn’t fathom. He was here now and he was committed to the cause.
“You’re an honorable man, aren’t you, Captain Chapman?”
“I used to think so.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t like lying. Normally I wouldn’t have fallen into something like this. I believe almost any man can be reasoned with.” He cut his eyes at her. “You’ve made me believe your father may be the exception and this subterfuge is necessary. I hope I have not misjudged.”
She heaved a great sigh. “I understand your concern. Two seconds with my father, though, and you’ll understand mine.”
They rolled beneath the gate that proudly displayed the Bar FB encircled in barbed wire, and then into the main yard. A few ranch hands nodded and tipped their hats. One, a large fellow with a silvery-yellow beard, paused, allowed his smile to widen, and approached the buggy. Joel pulled it to a stop.
“Miss Angela.” The cowboy swiped his hat off. “What a surprise. Your father said you was back East in school. He didn’t say anything about you coming for a visit.”
“Howdy, Glenn, it’s nice to see you. I’ve missed your saucy jokes.”
The man blushed from his neck up, the color disappearing into his beard, then stole a quick glance at Joel. A glint of disapproval flashed across Glenn’s face but disappeared quickly.
“Oh.” Angela squared her shoulders. “Glenn, this is my husband, Joel Chapman. Joel, my father’s foreman, Glenn Leary.”
Joel reached across Angela and the two shook hands. Glenn was clearly shocked by the news, judging from his slack jaw. “Husband, huh? Yeah, your father didn’t mention that either.”
“I imagine there’s a lot he hasn’t mentioned about me since I left.”
The man pursed his lips as if acknowledging a secret. “Yeah, he hasn’t said too much since you’ve been gone.” He replaced the Stetson. “And he has been in one continual sour mood. Now that you’re back, maybe he’ll quit yellin’ so much.”
“Maybe.” She didn’t sound like she believed it. “We’ll see you soon.”
Angela touched Joel’s arm and he drove the rig up to the front of the house. “Well, here goes nothing.” Her voice wiggled and Joel wished he could give her a reassuring hug.
In lieu of that, he said, “I’ve faced a hundred screaming Indians, dodged a hailstorm of fiery arrows, and a blizzard of bullets. I’m not afraid of your father.” He smiled, hoping he had reassured her some.
Instead, her smile was pitying. “That doesn’t mean he can’t hurt you.”
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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.