I’m so excited to welcome Ada Brownell, who tells the story she and her husband lived for sixty-six years in Following The Tracks. What a testimony to enduring love! Ada is giving away a copy of this book to one commenter, either e-book or print. So give us a taste, Ada.
By Ada Brownell
I thought I was going to retire. After all, I’d been writing for publication since my teens.
I was bored with retirement in a hurry, and still had things I wanted to do. When I told people about some of the adventures we had working for the Rio Grande Western Railroad, they asked, “Why haven’t you written that story?”
So, I made my way back to my desk.
Les asked me out when I was barely 15 and he was 19, already working as an agent–telegrapher for the railroad. Daddy would have chased him off, but he was my brother-in-law’s brother.
I wasn’t any ordinary 15-year-old kid. I’d been cleaning houses and taking care of children since I was in the sixth grade. Then I helped my aunt manage her small motel, even painting and updating rooms and the exterior.
When Les asked me for a date, he had about a half dozen girls chasing him because our church didn’t have many guys. I was the youth leader. Sometimes I sang solos during regular services, so I was noticed for more than my red hair and freckles.
I kept being surprised at Les’s determination to make me his wife. My older sister had been engaged at least three times, so when Les asked me to marry him, I thought, “That’s once.”
He sent me telegrams (he could send them free) that I picked up at Fruita’s railroad depot every week when he worked out of town. He wrote letters too.
We dated about a year and had a beautiful wedding in October, 1953. Then we began living all over Colorado’s majestic mountains, and even ventured into Utah, into the places where the D&RGW needed a telegrapher.
We spent our first anniversary at Pando, near the top of Tennessee Pass, and lived in a log cabin across from the depot.
In Avon we moved into agent’s quarters in the railroad station, but within reaching distance of the dispatcher’s phone, and could hear the click of the telegraph key’s sounder from the living room. The bay window where Les worked sat only about ten feet from the tracks.
In Malta, we lived in a railroad boxcar, with a lean-to mud-room and living room built on.
When we arrived in Thompson, Utah, only one house was up for rent—a dilapidated shack covered with wind-blown tar paper on one section, and rusty corrugated metal on the remainder. No bathroom. An ancient wood-burning cook stove sat in one end of the two-bedroom building. We used old stove for heat and cooked on our gas range.
My rich Uncle Bill, a builder, dropped by to see us there. I was mortified.
He looked around and grinned. “I could build a house like this for about fifty bucks. But when your kids grow up and want to borrow money, show them a picture of this and say, “We started out the hard way.”
We eventually bought a beautiful 50 X 10 mobile home and parked it on railroad land.
I started a Sunday school in Thompson—population 98, four bars, a uranium mill, an acid plant, a school, and no church. We had sixteen faithful kids, and on Easter, some parents.
We drove 38 miles to Moab to church on Sunday nights. Les worked on Sunday morning.
Later, we lived in two-mile-high Leadville, Colo., and one night our water froze. Les was bumped and working somewhere else, so I rushed out with a fake fur coat over my nightgown to thaw the pipes and got stuck out there because the door froze shut. I found out the next day the temperature had been 30-some degrees below zero.
We had many other “near disasters,” but when you’re following the tracks of Jesus, He’s always beside you.
Les worked for the railroad more than forty years. We moved twelve times the first three years, and since then chalked up more. God sent amazing people into our lives everywhere, and Jesus walked with us every step.
Amber Schamel visits us today with her non-fiction book about women of courage–sisters who made a difference during their time. I’ve recently become acquainted with the Grimke sisters through this book, and am reminded of how guidance comes to individuals. We meet certain people, discover similar interests and share our passions. Then we make choices about how much to become involved.
This was true of these pre-Civil War sisters reared on a Southern plantation. As they matured, no one would ever have guessed how their lives would proceed, and what consequences would resul from the decisions they made..
Over this Memorial Day weekend, we’re already mindful of many others who “did their bit” to alter an ugly side of history. Here’s to all of them!
Amber is giving away a free signed paperback (in the U.S.) to a commenter.
Doing what’s right is not without cost.
That was a concept that was difficult for me to grasp. As a little girl growing up, I latched onto the thought that if you did things right, if you followed the rules, life would be easier, and you wouldn’t have to pay the consequences. What I failed to realize is that there are often consequences of right actions too, and sometimes even a punishment. The women we’re talking about today certainly experienced this.
Sarah and Angelina Grimke were raised on a slave-holding cotton plantation in South Carolina. Despite her very southern upbringing, Sarah always knew something was wrong about the way her family’s farm operated on the backs of human beings. Her conflicting convictions caused dissention between her and the rest of her family. When Angelina was born, Sarah was a great influence on her, and she too saw the horror of slavery.
After the death of their father, the pair of sisters ended up in a Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania. They did not intend to become voices in the fight for racial equality and the end of slavery in America; actually, their public careers launched rather accidentally. Still, it was not without cost.
Angry mobs of people opposing their views turned violent against them on more than one occasion. They received hate mail and threats. As if the persecution from the outside was not enough, the two sisters also took blows from those closest to them. Their family in South Carolina disowned them and threatened to have them arrested if they returned. Their Quaker community wasn’t any better. They were excommunicated from the fellowship, not because of their views, but because they vocalized their views.
Yet, after all this, they still continued to advocate for their right cause.
As we enter this season of Memorial Day, we remember the lives of many people who paid the price of a right cause. It is good to remember. It is right for us to muse and memorialize these lives. So please take time to do that. But I also challenge you to ask yourself a question. After looking at the inspiring lives of so many people who fought for the right regardless of the cost…what will I do? What is the righteous cause I was meant to fight for?
And once you find it, pray God gives you the courage to follow through.
The remarkable lives of twelve sisters who changed the course of history.
Historians paint pictures of amazing men and women who influenced the world, but seldom do we hear about sister duos that forever altered the course of history. Whether fighting together—or against each other—these twelve women set armies to flight, guarded homelands from invasion, transformed countries and religious systems, and begat nations. From mythical Athena and Artemis, to the English thrones of Mary & Elizabeth Tudor, the influence these women left behind is taken for granted. Join us on an inspirational journey through time as we explore the extraordinary lives of Sisters Who Changed History.
Amber Schamel is the author of Solve by Christmas, and the two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction. She writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. Her passions for travel, history, books and her Savior results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado as a very happy newlywed. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!
Welcome to Shannon McNear, who has spun a tale about a murderous duo that really lived and wreaked terror along the Wilderness Trail in the early days of the United States. Never heard of the “terrible Harpes?”
Neither had I, but Shannon’s historical research has brought them to life, including the demise of their reign of terror. She’s also offering a free signed copy of THE BLUE CLOAK to a fortunate commenter.
The Story Behind The Blue Cloak
If you believe “the good old days” were kinder and gentler than our modern era, think again. Human nature has always been fascinated with the dark or mysterious, and film and social media are but recent methods for feeding that curiosity. History is full of ghost stories and accounts of horrific crimes.
In the terrible Harpes, you get a bit of both—or at least, a level of demonic intimidation that feels a bit ghostly. And who are these Harpes? Micajah, also known as “Big” for his sheer size and “ugly,” threatening appearance, and Wiley, called “Little,” though his height was not insignificant, referred to themselves as brothers, but were most likely cousins. Their boyhood dominated by the American Revolution and sons of staunch Tories, they melted into the frontier for several years after the war, reportedly living with the Cherokee for a while before surfacing as part of “white” society sometime around 1797. They tried their hand at a semblance of ordinary life as settlers near Knoxville, Tennessee, but after accusations of livestock theft, they took their three women and went on the run for several months.
Yes, that’s three women, between two men. Their presence on the Wilderness Road in Kentucky in December 1798 is well documented, as is a string of murders laid at their feet. They spent time in jail but escaped before they could be tried, temporarily leaving their hapless women and newborn babies behind. The spring and summer of 1799 brought a veritable reign of terror across portions of Kentucky and Tennessee, where the men struck lone travelers and whole families alike, having no respect for either age or gender.
The craziest thing, however, was their effect even on mounted patrols whose sole purpose was to hunt them down. Several accounts were given of search parties coming unexpectedly face-to-face with the Harpes but suddenly losing their nerve and turning tail to run. I could understand it in the case of travelers who barely had a rifle or two between them, but—fully armed men, who were supposed to be mentally prepared for the job?
It didn’t help that in particularly rugged and remote terrain, the Harpes—men, women, and their babies—were skilled at vanishing into the wilderness like wraiths. With folk not knowing where they’d strike next, and only the most savvy trackers able to tell where they’d traveled, it’s probably no wonder that people were in mortal fear.
When researching this sliver of history for my most recent novel, The Blue Cloak(#5 of the True Colors crime series), I became convinced that the story of their pursuit and end was above all one of spiritual warfare, and that prayer must have played a crucial role in putting an end to their murder spree.
From 1797 to 1799, a pair of outlaws known as the terrible Harpes spread terror across the Kentucky and Tennessee frontier.
Rachel Taylor watched her best friend’s marriage turn to horror before the entire family disappears into the wilderness of Tennessee and Kentucky. Virginia native Benjamin Langford seeks the whereabouts of his missing cousin and uncovers a reign of terror all up and down the Wilderness Road. In their shared grief, the pair join the effort to bring the Harpes’ murder spree to an end and rescue Rachel’s friend from a criminal’s life.
About the author:
Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in the Deep South, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. As the author of four novellas and three full-length novels, with her first title, Defending Truthin A Pioneer Christmas Collection,honored as a 2014 RITA® finalist, her greatest joy is in being a military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of three, and grammie of three. She’s also a contributor to Colonial Quills and a member of ACFW and RWA, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. When not cooking, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies.
You can connect with Shannon on these social media links:
Welcome to Patrick Craig, whose writing has earned him a passel of fans. Here, he shares his passion for change in the publishing world. I agree with him–every character we create exhibits a spiritual side, even if it’s well-hidden. Some of the greatest books I’ve read would not qualify as “Christian fiction” these days, but they still had a powerful effect on my life.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Patrick, and readers, Patrick is giving away a signed paperback copy of this WWII novel–just leave a reply to the question he asks at the close of this article. (And there are more to come in this series.)
The Resurrection of Christian Fiction
Today I want to talk about my latest book, Far On The Ringing Plains, co-authored with Murray Pura, one of the best writers I have ever read or worked with. I also want to speak to the death of Christian Literary Fiction and its hoped-for resurrection—a resurrection that will only come if authors stop letting agents who tremble in their boots at the thought of one of their clients “Breaking the Brand” tell them what to write.
Murray and I are both former pastors who have been writing CBA (Christian Book Association) books for years. But we have grown weary of an industry dominated by easy- read books written for women, about women and by women.
Most of the fiction books on the shelves of Christian bookstores or the digital shelves of Amazon or B&N Christian books are what the industry calls “HEA” or “Happily-Ever-After” Romance. That includes Amish, Contemporary, Historical, Biblical, and all the other genres stuffed in under the category, “Christian Fiction.”
How did this happen? Back in the seventies the Christian Publishing Industry began grooming their readership to accept writing geared for women who wanted simpler reading fare… authors and readers fought it at the time but the policy prevailed and Christian Literary Fiction became a thing of the past. Male readers left in droves and so did female readers wanting more depth. We want them to return.
Murray and I want to see Christian Literature become what it once was, realistic, deep diving, gritty reading that plumbs the depths of the human experience. We have tried to do that in Far On The Ringing Plains, with the rough edge of combat and the rough edge of language, human passion, and flawed humanity. Just like the Bible, in all its roughness and realism and truthfulness about life. And we have tried to show the best of human nature triumphing over the worst. Christ is there in all his strength, but He’s not “prettified” or made into “the meek and mild Savior.” Instead you will see the God who overturned the tables of the moneylenders and drove them out of the temple with a whip.
Look back on the men and women who wrote from this position: Jane Austen, G.K. Chesterson, Jonathan Swift, John Bunyan, Madeleine L’Engle, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Dickens, and many more. We’re not claiming that we have achieved that yet in our own writing, but that’s where we want to go.
When do we stop preaching to the choir and get out into the world where the sinners hang out? If we are going to present the nitty gritty of our faith to a man or woman desperately looking for something to anchor themselves to, it’s not going to be found in a book where everything turns out peachy-keen just because the protagonists are Amish.
Enough, I say.
Give me some literature that will plunge me to the depths and raise me to the heights. Writing that will ring my bell with moment after moment, line after line, scene after scene that grabs me and shakes me and makes me feel like the author just walked over my grave.
I want the real deal when I read. And that’s what I’m going to continue to write. How about you?
Patrick E. Craig
About The Book:
ISLANDS: Far On The Ringing Plains INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS In the spirit of The Thin Red Line, Hacksaw Ridge, Flags of our Fathers and Pearl Harbor.
Realistic. Gritty. Gutsy. Without taking it too far, Craig and Pura take it far enough to bring war home to your heart, mind, and soul. The rough edge of combat is here. And the rough edge of language, human passion, and our flawed humanity. If you can handle the ruggedness and honesty of Saving Private Ryan, 1917 or Dunkirk, you can handle the power and authenticity of ISLANDS: Far on the Ringing Plains.
For the beauty and the honor is here too. Just like the Bible, in all its roughness and realism and truthfulness about life, reaching out for God is ever present in ISLANDS. So are hope and faith and self-sacrifice. Prayer. Christ. Courage. An indomitable spirit. And the best of human nature triumphing over the worst.
Bud Parmalee, Johnny Strange, Billy Martens—three men that had each other’s backs and the backs of every Marine in their company and platoon. All three were raised never to fight. All three saw no other choice but to enlist and try to make a difference. All three would never be the same again. Never. And neither would their world.
This is their story.
Patrick authored The Apple Creek Dreams series, The Paradise Chronicles, A Quilt For Jenna, The Road Home, Jenny’s Choice, The Amish Heiress, The Amish Princess, and The Mennonite Queen Visit Patrick’s Website at Http://www.patrickecraig.com and Amazon Author Page at http://tinyurl.com/megefh6
I’m so pleased to welcome science fiction and non-fiction author Bonnie Doran. Even though she had no desire to write her book, it will benefit many. She is offering a free copy to one commenter here (your choice, e-book or paper).
By Bonnie Doran
In 2014, I began a battle against melanoma with two surgeries, three different immunotherapy drugs, and a ton of side effects. My attention was on the cancer battle and not on writing.
During this time, I created a Facebook group to keep my friends informed of my treatment progress. A friend suggested I turn those posts into a devotional book.
I fought that. It was too personal. I’d written bunches of devotional pieces (sixty-seven to be exact) but didn’t want to do a book. I wanted to write sci-fi novels. At the time of my cancer, one novel was published, another was finished, and I was working on a sequel. I was notgoing to write a devotional book.
Then my literary agent called. He’d been unable to sell my second novel, and we parted ways. Suddenly that novel wasn’t my focus. I languished in the doldrums.
Well, maybe I could write a few pieces for The Upper Room, a devotional magazine I read daily. I followed their guidelines, wrote three devos, and sent them in.
They immediately rejected them.
Maybe I could find another agent. Nope.
Okay, so maybe I was in a holding pattern until inspiration hit. It was time to clean out my files.
That didn’t go well, either.
I tried to barge through so many locked doors that my shoulder still hurts.
Finally, I listened to God.
As difficult as it was, I read through my journal entries and typed out the sections about my treatment. Reliving all of that was painful.
At one point during that time, I started crying. I had lost so much as a result of cancer. That incident I suppose was cathartic, but it also became the basis for one of my devotionals. In fact, God reminded me of so many incidents during treatment that I ended up with more ideas than I could use.
With God’s help, I started writing the thing I’d sworn I wouldn’t write. I wouldn’t have thought of this, but God did. His plan went far beyond my cancer.
I believe this book will be a comfort to other patients because I’ve experienced God’s presence in the middle of my pain. I pray others will cling Him and to the hope He provides.
My devotional book, Cancer Warriors: 52 Devotions for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, released February 2020 from Illumify Media Global.
Bonnie Doran is a cancer survivor, a science fiction author, and contributor to numerous magazines. Her debut novel, Dark Biology, released in 2013. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband of thirty-seven years, John.
Within Golden Bandsis the sequel to my 2014 debut novel.It’s not necessary to read Land of My Dreams first, but I hope the reader wants to know what came before, because life sometimes interferes with our plans. This book went through three phases before I truly knew the story I was to write. Family matters and publisher changes stalled my efforts. I believe this is God’s time for this book. People who are pro-life must speak up. Within Golden Bands reveals one woman’s quest to build a family by adoption. Along the way, are others who cannot raise the children they bear, yet they choose life.
In some ways, Bonny MacDonell’s story is my own. She believed Kieran accepted her probable infertility before marriage. I suspected I had a problem. My husband and I discussed adoption before we married. Unlike Bonny and Kieran, I was the one who struggled. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to adopt. However, I wanted to bear a child when all of my friends were pregnant. My husband was ready for adoption long before I was.
Bonny and Kieran’s story is complicated by an elusive stalker. The unknown assailant attacks Kieran and leaves him in a remote part of their sheep farm on the banks of Loch Garry, Scotland. In his absence, Bonny experiences a devastating miscarriage. Throughout their struggle to discover God’s plan, their lives and farm are threatened. And oh, does Kieran grapple with accepting a child not of his own blood.
As they search for God’s will, they question and pray. At times, the battle seems too hard. They grow weary. As a newly married couple, their relationship is strained at times. When faith and love are not enough, where do you turn? I hope you’ll want to know Bonny and Kieran’s story. I believe they will capture your heart.
My fascination with historical books began at an early age. I loved reading and watching the Little House on the Prairie series. It captured my attention and seemed like such fun to live during that time period. I was hooked.
Of all my novels, I’ve only created one that was contemporary. That one has never seen a bookshelf, as it’s buried in my file cabinet. It’s a youth mystery I wrote when I was a young teenager. Back then I was reading a lot of Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. 🙂
There’s something about the 19th Century that still draws me in. It looks like a simpler life even though they had to work hard to eke out a living. Perhaps it’s the thought of fewer distractions that makes it so appealing.
My newest novel is set in Kansas in 1875.
I loved delving into the topic of mail-order brides. Here’s what the back cover for Taming Julia says:
In 1875, Kansas bachelor Drew Montgomery’s sole desire is to serve God, but his congregation’s ultimatum that he marry or leave, forces him to advertise for a wife by proxy.
Jules Walker strides into Drew’s life wearing breeches and toting a gun and saddle–more cowboy than bride. After years on the trail, she’s not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure Drew never discovers what she really is.
How about you? What genre is your favorite?
Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She’s been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichmentmagazine, her articles can be found online at: Crosswalk, Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio. She’s a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Timeblog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more at www.jodiewolfe.com.
As clearly as if in a waking dream, she saw herself married to Thomas, saw herself loving him with all of her heart and soul. Which, of course, was impossible. Painfully so. Quickly, she dropped her gaze, blocking his scrutiny. Surely her eyes would give away both her foolish feelings and her dirtiness.
He reached up with his fingertips and gently tilted her chin upward, forcing her to look him in the eye. “Forgive me, but … I need to see if that was just my imagination.”
She swallowed hard. Look away, Anna …
And now, a little more about this novel.
Wings Like a Dove by Camille Eide
Have you ever felt as if you didn’t belong?
Growing up, Anna lived through many upheavals and displacements and has never truly felt at home anywhere, but at least she always had her family. Home was wherever she and her mother and siblings were. But since her family has come to America, she has found this new country not as welcoming as she had been made to believe. This feeling intensifies when, turned out of her home, she finds herself in a place where Jews are despised. But this time, Anna is far from family and friends. She is wired for community, thriving best when part of a larger whole, but now, alone in this strange, hostile environment, she faces not only danger without, but also heartbreaking loneliness within.
Unwed and pregnant, adrift and alone, Anna finds not only solace and refuge among the rag tag family of orphans and their kind caretaker, but also champions. Thomas and the boys have taken a stand against the wave of bigotry in their community and refuse to be bullied. In their home, Anna may have found refuge and shelter against hate, but then again, she may have only landed in the eye of a storm. Finding out where she belongs in the world will have to wait. What she needs now is to protect herself, her unborn child, and this family she has grown to love… even though it means leaving her heart behind with these boys and the man who would do whatever it takes to raise them into men of faith, compassion, and honor. A man who longs for Anna in ways she is desperate to forget.
Anna faces hatred and danger, but her biggest fear is that she will never truly belong, never feel anchored again.
If you’ve moved a lot growing up or in life, what anchors you?
About the Book:
Can the invisible walls that separate people ever come down?
In 1933, Anna Leibowicz is convinced that the American dream that brought her Jewish family here from Poland is nothing but an illusion. Her father has vanished. Her dreams of college can’t make it past the sweat-shop door. And when she discovers to her shame and horror that she’s with child, her mother gives her little choice but to leave her family. Deciding her best course of action is to try to find her father, she strikes out . . . hoping against hope to somehow redeem them both.
When Anna stumbles upon a house full of orphan boys in rural Indiana who are in desperate need of a tutor, she agrees to postpone her journey. But she knows from the moment she meets their contemplative, deep-hearted caretaker, Thomas Chandler, that she doesn’t dare risk staying too long. She can’t afford to open her heart to them, to him. She can’t risk letting her secrets out.
All too soon, the townspeople realize she’s not like them and treat her with the same disdain they give the Sisters of Mercy — the nuns who help Thomas and the boys — and Samuel, the quiet colored boy Thomas has taken in. With the Klan presence in the town growing ever stronger and the danger to this family increasing the longer she stays, Anna is torn between fleeing to keep them safe . . . and staying to fight beside them.
About the Author:
Camille Eide is the award-winning author of inspirational fiction including The Memoir of Johnny Devine. She lives near the Oregon Cascades with her husband and is Mom, Grammy, and enjoys the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She also loves the liberating truth and wisdom of God’s word, and hopes that her stories will stir your heart, strengthen your faith, and encourage you on your journey.
Her other titles include:Savanna’s Gift(Christmas), Like There’s No Tomorrow, Like a Love Song, The Memoir of Johnny Devine, and The Healer(exclusive to newsletter subscribers).
Welcome to Donna Schlacter! We’re featuring a Spotlight on Double Jeopardy, her historical novel that releases TODAY. She’s sharing a segment for you to enjoy, and offering an e-book contest as well. I hope this release makes a big splash, Donna!
January 7th, 2020 is release day for my first traditionally-published full-length historical. Set in 1880, Becky Campbell leaves her wealthy New York lifestyle in search of her father, only to learn he was murdered in the small town of Silver Valley, Colorado. Unable to return to her mother in humiliation and defeat, she determines to fulfill her father’s dream—to make the Double Jeopardy profitable.
Zeke Graumann, a local rancher, is faced with a hard decision regarding his land and his dream. After several years of poor weather and low cattle prices, he will either have to take on a job to help pay his overhead expenses, or sell his land. He hires on with this Easterner for two reasons: he can’t turn his back on a damsel in distress. And he needs the money.
Becky isn’t certain Zeke is all he claims to be, and after a series of accidents at her mine, wonders if he isn’t behind it, trying to get her to sell out so he can take over.
Zeke finds many of Becky’s qualities admirable and fears he’s losing his heart to her charms, but also recognizes she was never cut out to be a rancher’s wife.
Can Becky overcome her mistrust of Zeke, find her father’s killer, and turn her mine into a profitable venture—before her mother arrives in town, thinking she’s coming for her daughter’s wedding? And will Zeke be forced to give up his dream and lose his land in order to win Becky’s heart?
Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for an ebook copy of Double Jeopardy.
1880 Silver Valley, Colorado
Dead. Dead as her dreams and her hopes.
Dead as a doornail, as her mother would say.
Just thinking about the woman drove a steel rod through Becky Campbell’s slumping back. Perched on a chair in the sheriff’s office, she drew a deep breath, lifted her shoulders, and raised her chin a notch. She would not be like the woman who birthed her. Pretty and pampered. A silly socialite finding nothing better to do with her days than tea with the mayor’s spinster daughter or bridge with the banker’s wife.
No, she’d much rather be like her father. Adventuresome. Charismatic. Always on the lookout for the next big thing.
Now her breath came in a shudder, and down went her shoulders again. She tied her fingers into knots before looking up at the grizzled lawman across the desk from her. “There’s no chance there’s been a mistake in identification, is there?”
He slid open the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a pocket watch, a lapel pin, and a fountain pen, which he pushed across the desk to her. “He was pretty well-known around here. I’m really sorry, miss.”
Becky picked up the timepiece and flicked open the cover. Inside was a photograph of her family, taken about ten years earlier when she was a mere child of eight and Father stayed around long enough to sit still for the portrait. Her mother, petite and somber, and she, all ringlets and ribbons. She rubbed a finger across the engraving. To R. Love M. Always.
Yes, this was his.
And the lapel pin, a tiny silver basket designed to hold a sprig of baby’s breath or a miniature rosebud—a wedding gift from her mother twenty years before.
She looked up at the sheriff, tears blurring her vision. “And his ring?”
The lawman shook his head. “No ring. Not on his body or in his shack.”
“But he always wore it. Never took it off.”
He shrugged. “Maybe he lost it. Or sold it.”
“I doubt he’d do either. My mother gave it to him when I was born.”
She peered at him. Had he stolen her father’s ring?
Or maybe Sheriff Freemont was correct. Maybe something as important as her birth hadn’t meant much to her father. Maybe she didn’t either. Was that why he left?
Because surely his absences couldn’t be explained by any rift between her parents.
Although, what Matilda Applewhite saw in Robert Campbell—Robbie to his friends and family—Becky had never understood. Her mother, who ran in the same circles as the Rockefellers and the Astors, with presidents and admirals—yet much to the consternation of her family, chose a ne’er-do-well like Becky’s father.
Becky set the two items side by side on the scarred wooden desk, next to the fountain pen. The same one he’d used to write his letters to her. Signing them, Give your mother all my love too. Your devoted father. She needed no more information. No more proof.
Not what she hoped for when she left New York a month prior, against her mother’s wishes, with little else to direct her steps than a ticket to Silver Valley and her father’s last letter. Written a year before, but as full of life, promises, hopes, and wishes as ever.
She collected the only three material evidences of her father’s existence and dropped them into her reticule then stood. “Thank you for your time, Sheriff. I appreciate my father’s death must be a difficult business for you.”
He stood and dipped his head. “Yes, miss.”
“Do you know how he died?”
He cleared his throat, not meeting her gaze. “Still investigatin’, miss. Lots of things to look into.”
She bit back a groan. Unlike in the city, where manpower and resources seemed limitless, out here, there was just the sheriff and sometimes a deputy. “Thank you again. Please keep me updated.” She turned to leave. “Where is he buried?”
“Over by the church. Just ask the preacher. He can show you.”
Not like she was in any rush to see her father’s final resting place. She stepped outside and scanned the street. Surely the man who was more gypsy than family man would hate to think of his physical body buried beneath the dust of any one place.
A morose sense of humor invaded her. At least it was a way to get him to stay in one place longer than it took to eat a meal.
Sheriff Fremont joined her on the front step. “You’ll likely be returning home now, I ’spect.”
She looked up past his dimpled chin, his bushy mustache, his aquiline nose, into eyes as dark as coal. “No, sir. I have no plans to return.”
“What will you do?”
She blinked several times as she pondered the question, which was a very good one indeed. She’d not thought beyond the ache building in her bosom for the father she’d never see again. At least when he went off on yet another adventure, she had the unspoken promise of his return at some point, in the distant future. And always a letter. Or a postcard. Never many words on either, but confirmation he was alive and she was still important to him.
At least, important enough to sit a few minutes and pen a few words.
She stared at the dusty mining town. More tents than wooden structures. More mules than horses. More assay offices than churches.
Two men tumbled onto the boardwalk opposite her, rolled down the two steps to the street level, and lay prone in the dirt littered with horse apples. The barkeep, a barrel-chested man, his formerly white apron now stained beyond redemption and a dingy cloth slung over his arm, burst through the swinging doors. “And don’t come back here. We don’t need the likes of you in here bothering our customers.”
The man turned on his heel and disappeared back into the saloon. Within ten seconds, the tinny notes of a piano filtered to her ears.
The two in the street lay still.
Had he killed them?
A pack of boys ran from a nearby alley, grabbed a hat from one the men’s heads, and raced down the street, jabbering and hollering like their britches were on fire. Three mongrels loped after them, tongues lolling and tails held high.
She turned back to the sheriff. “Is there a decent boarding house in town?”
One eye squinted as he peered at her for a long moment before nodding slowly. “So, you’re going to stay?”
“I have no reason to return.”
She glanced at the two men in the street. One climbed to his feet, swaying unsteadily, while the other puked into the dust without even lifting his head. The acrid odor wafted across to her, and she wrinkled her nose, breathing through her mouth. Until the smell coated her tongue. Then she snapped her mouth shut.
Maybe this wasn’t the town for her …
No. She would never give her mother opportunity to say I told you so.
“Well, we got us a hotel above the saloon over yonder, and just about every drinking establishment in town rents out rooms, but I wouldn’t recommend those places. Mrs. Hicks over at number fourteen Front Street rents out a few rooms in her house. Tell her I sent you.”
“Thank you, Sheriff.” She took a couple of steps, her drawstring bag banging against her thigh. “I’ll also need directions to my father’s claim so I can get that transferred into my name. As his next of kin.”
“You’ll need to check with the Land and Assay Office, two doors up from the mercantile. But I don’t know what kind of a title he bought. Some can be transferred, but most who come out here can’t think past their next pay lode, so they don’t spend the money to buy that kind.”
She tipped her head. “You mean I might need to buy my own father’s property?”
He shrugged. “Not that I know much, but that’s what I’ve heard. I wish you luck, miss. You’ll need it if you plan to stay here.” He tipped his hat to her before closing his door.
Becky drew in a breath of the warm May afternoon then released it in a sigh. First the cost of the train ticket, then her meals and occasional hotel rooms along the way. And now this. Was there no end to the ways her dwindling cache of gold coins could disappear like snow in July?
First things first—a proper place to stay tonight. She picked up her carpetbag waiting on the bench outside the sheriff’s office and walked in the direction the lawman had indicated toward the home of Mrs. Hicks. Her heels beat a rhythm like a drum corps in a parade. She nodded to women and couples she passed but averted her eyes from the solitary men.
And there were many. Of all sizes and shapes, ages, and deportment. Several ogled her from the chairs they occupied outside the six—no, seven—saloons she passed, and that was only on her side of the street. A lone barber lounged in one of his three chairs, not a customer in sight, testifying to the fact that the men hereabouts were more interested in cards, booze, and loose women than in personal hygiene.
A fact she confirmed when one lout stood his ground and refused to let her pass. Cheap perfume, rotgut whiskey, and sweat mingled to create an odor that made her eyes water.
Another man stepped up behind the drunk. “Micky, are you troubling this young lady?”
Micky swayed in place, twisting the brim of his hat in gnarled fingers. “She one of your flock?”
“Doesn’t matter. Apologize and move on.”
The drunk tipped his hat to her in apology and stepped back against the building, allowing her to continue. The preacher, his collar white against the severe black suit, nodded, and she acknowledged his courtesy with a tiny smile. “Thank you. Reverend?”
The clergyman dipped his head. “Obermeyer, Pastor Obermeyer.”
She held out her hand. “I’m Becky Campbell.”
He blinked a couple of times then his brow raised. “Oh, you’re—”
“Yes. Robbie Campbell’s daughter.” She glanced over her shoulder. “The sheriff told me you could show me where my father is buried.”
He held her hand and sandwiched it between his own. “Please accept my condolences on your loss, Miss Campbell.”
“Thank you.” That now too-familiar ache swelled in her bosom. Would it never ease? “If I may call on you another time? I’m off to find lodging.”
He tipped his head to one side. “Oh, you’re staying?”
Why did everybody think that because her father was dead, she would leave?
Or was this wishful thinking on their part?
If so, why?
She nodded. “I am.”
He shook himself like a hound dog awakening from a nap. Had he stretched and yawned, she would not have been surprised. “Good. Good.” He pointed down the street. “The church is there. The parsonage is the tiny house behind. I’m in my study most days. Come any time.” He tipped his hat. “Perhaps I’ll see you in church tomorrow?”
“We shall see. Thank you for rescuing me from that horrible man.”
His shoulders slumped. “So many have too much time and money on their hands.” He quirked his chin toward the others walking along the street. “Many work all week then come into town and spend it on a Saturday, only to go back and repeat the same cycle next week.”
Sounded like a hopeless cycle. But what could she do about it? Nothing. If she wanted to make it on her own here, she had her work cut out to stay out of the poorhouse. She surely wouldn’t ask her rich-as-Midas mother for assistance. Maybe once she got on her feet … “Thank you again. Good day.”
She gripped her carpetbag and continued on her way, pleased that at least two men in this town—the sheriff and the parson—were raised by genteel women. She should count herself lucky she’d met both today. Having even one on her side might come in handy at some point. And having two—well, that was just downright serendipitous.
Three blocks through the business section, then a right for two blocks, and she soon found the house she sought. Narrow but well-kept flower gardens lined both sides of the walkway. She unlatched the gate, headed for the door, and knocked. Her gloved hands sweating, she longed for a cool drink of lemonade or sweet tea. As she raised her hand to knock again, the door swung open and a tall, thin woman of indeterminate age peered down at her.
Becky tossed her a smile and introduced herself. “The sheriff said you might have a room for rent?”
“I’m not certain. I plan to stay until I settle my father’s estate, at least. Possibly longer.”
The stern look on the woman’s face eased. “Sorry for your troubles. Four dollars a week including meals.” She peered past Becky. “And I only take respectable women. No children. No men. My name is Joan Hicks.”
While the amount seemed high, Becky had little choice. “My name is Becky Campbell.”
“Oh, you’d be—”
Becky sighed. Either her father was famous, or infamous. The former, she hoped. “Yes. His daughter. And yes, I’m staying in town until I get his claim sorted out.”
The wrinkles around the landlady’s eyes deepened, and her mouth lifted in a smile. “Actually, my next question was if you want dinner tonight?”
“I would. Thank you. What time?”
“Dinner’s at five. Perhaps you’d like to see your room and freshen up.”
She was going to like this obviously kindly, no-nonsense woman. So unlike her own mother. “Thank you.”
The interior of the house was dark but cool, and Becky followed Mrs. Hicks up two flights of stairs to one of three doors that opened off the top landing. The landlady stood aside and held out her hand, palm up. “Payment due in advance. Pot roast for dinner.”
Becky dug the four coins from her reticule and handed them over. “Thank you.”
“No keys for any of the rooms. I got the right to inspect the room with an hour’s notice. No cooking or smoking in the rooms. Privy is out the back door.”
Becky swallowed back a lump of disappointment. She’d expected indoor plumbing, just as she enjoyed in New York, but the modern conveniences hadn’t made their way this far west.
Or at least, not to this house in Silver Valley.
She entered what would be her home for at least the next week, longer if she could figure out how to make her remaining money stretch further. She set her bag on a dressing table, and then she closed the door. When she sank onto the bed, the springs creaked beneath her weight. She sighed.
A pang of—of what? Homesickness? Missing her father? Wishing things were different?—caught her off guard, spreading through her like a flooding river, threatening to wash away all hope. So much for her dreams of prospecting with her father in the mountains of Colorado. Of catching up on all the years they’d missed.
Rather, that she had missed.
She doubted her father had lacked any adventures or excitement.
His life had been so different from her own.
She dumped the contents of her drawstring bag onto the bed and sorted through them. Sixty-three dollars which, along with the hundred or so in her carpetbag, should tide her over for a while. If she didn’t have to buy her father’s claim. If she didn’t have to pay top dollar for every single thing she needed.
Because if there was one thing still alive in her, it was the desire to understand her father. To understand what drove him to leave the comforts of home and travel to this remote place. Was it the lure of silver? Was he simply tired of his refined life? Of his wife?
Available at Amazon.com and fine booksellers in your area.
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.
I’m always grateful for new friends gathered during the year, and 2019 has brought me a written friend from Idaho. I’m so looking forward to getting to know her better during the new year, and am delighted to share her new historical novel with readers. Happily, I’ve read this story, and still think about its characters. If you enjoy historical fiction of this era, this book belongs on your reading list!
Jan is offering a free paperback copy of ALL MY GOOD-BYES to one commenter here. Now, she shares with us a little of her family history behind this novel.
I Wish I’d Known
It dawned on me the other day that I was born just 9 years after the end of WW2. This boggles my mind. As I have been researching for my latest release, set in those years, I had it set in my mind that the war was far removed from me. But the more we discover about our pasts, the more we realize how things that happen long ago effect who we are today.
If it had not been for certain circumstances of the war, I would not be here at all. I don’t mean to sound mysterious, okay maybe I do, but legacies were cut short for many of the men and women who fought and died then. World War II changed the course of history for families everywhere.
I had to research to find out how my life came to be, because my parents both were gone by the time I became interested in their stories. I never bothered to prod them about their experiences as they lived through the depression and the war. I took for granted that life had been as smooth as mine. I never realized there were so many secrets unspoken, so many unpleasant memories tucked down deep. By the time I felt the weight of the past calling me to write, it was too late to ask those close to me all the important questions.
This is now a sort of mission for me – to encourage folks to talk to their aging parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents. Some may still not want to explain their experiences, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Most of them have rich stories that should be written down and passed down to the next generation. How tragic that so many of these stories are being lost as the people of those war years die.
One thing I discovered as I pulled out family photos and documents is that most of them were not marked with names and dates. It would have been so much easier to put the puzzle pieces of my family together if those items had been identified. This is something each family can do when they are together for the holidays – catalog all those pictures of places and people.
As I finished up my historical series, I was so thankful for the treasures of knowledge I had gained. But I long for more. I want my children to know where they came from and the solid, courageous, and honorable heritage they can be proud of. I tell what I know, even when they look bored or roll their eyes.
But I’ve noticed one thing…the little ones are fascinated by the stories I tell.
Like me, my grown children may not be all that interested until it’s too late, but when I’m not around to tell them anymore, my books will be. This is why I must keep writing them. It’s my way to leave the story legacy of the family for the future.
I hope if you haven’t gleaned those experiences from your loved ones that you will take a few minutes to make a plan for the new year. Go through your closets and find the old albums and use them to start conversations with your elders. Or if you are the elder, initiate a reveal of those special memories.
My book All My Goodbyes is based on the life of my mother and I hope the parts I had to guess about are close to accurate. It is a work of fiction but with real life entwined, with a surprise at the end. I hope you will read it to inspire you to uncover your own legacy.
I would love for you to follow me on Facebook at Jan Cline author. Also, you can check out my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive a free short story. Jancline.net