In my last post, I showed how journaling becomes a writer’s tool. This time, I want to share how journaling finds a place in the content of my historical fiction. In this case the book manuscript is BY GRACE , the second book in The Huachuca Trilogy. Can you find the journaled material I’m referring to?
Characters: Sam, a trail guide in her 30’s; Glenda, 19, heroine on the run, real name Grace; Hiram, Orphan Train boy,6, adopted by Grace/Glenda
Setting: Idaho, 1900
They continued south, meandering over the prairie with its thin array of spring grasses, watching for access to waterways and shade. Sam gave them stern warnings that hard times awaited as they approached the lava beds. Before heading across the rocky and ankle-breaking terrain, they filled up every possible container with water. A burlap sack was wetted and then expanded to hold a goodly amount of water. Canteens, empty cans collected over the last few meals, pots, and feed sacks were all filled to insure the safety of the trio and their beasts. Hats and neck scarves were similarly soaked against the heat of the day.
Sam got them moving well before dawn. A weak moon shone down just enough to guide them. With Sam in the lead, the others followed with their reins loose to let the horses find safe stepping. The mules, Bruno and Sarry, were let to follow as they would. By now, Bruno was very attached to Sarry and tended to follow her actions. Sarry, for her part, was so accustomed to traveling with Sam that she never faltered from her path behind or alongside the woman.
“Now, I don’t want to have to shoot a horse or mule dead for a broke leg, so take it slow and easy. Don’t force any of ‘em to go one way or t’other. This lava is full of hidey-holes and is sharp as broken glass. If’n your horse goes down, jump clear to keep her from fallin’ on you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Glenda. She felt Hiram nod his assent into her back where he clutched tightly to her.
They pushed on for hours as the sun rose in the eastern sky and headed to its zenith. Radiant heat from the day before kept them warm in the cool of the very early morning. As soon as the sun climbed into the sky, the pumiced ground seemed to absorb and multiply in successive layers of heat that assaulted the senses. Warned ahead of time of the need to dress in layers and to keep as covered as possible, Glenda had made rough shirts for them all from the one gingham dress in her satchel. Removing their outerwear, their shirts of brightest white and yellow billowed around them and offered respite with a cooling effect. Hats dried quickly as did their lips and faces from the heat attack.
Mirages appeared as soon as it was light and haunted them in the long ride, always out of reach. Oddly, an occasional cactus or stray wildflower poked up from out of the harsh terrain, suggesting water somewhere below. The lava was crystalline black in some phases and a burnt red-orange in other areas. Several times, Sam called a halt, dismounted and checked the ground for crusty shelves that might collapse under their weight. Glenda was duly impressed by Sam’s expertise and knowledge of the vast country they had so far covered.
Mid-afternoon found them all panting, animals and humans alike. The relentless sun beat down and flashed back up at them in heavy curtains of undulating heat. Their eyes were dry and scratchy and no one had anything to say as their struggle continued. A brief stop had Glenda wetting Hiram down and tying him in front of her as he drowsed.
When Sam called a halt, Glenda was taken aback. “Are we to stay out here overnight?”
“Yup. Only we’ll be down there.” Sam pointed to a slim trail that led down to what appeared to be a cave.
As Glenda looked and listened, she thought she heard the gurgle of water. Shaking her head in disbelief, she followed Sam’s example and dismounted, bringing the sleepy Hiram down with her. The trail was short and soon brought them to the entrance of a huge cavern where shafts of light entered through funnel-like gaps overhead. The sound was stronger now and Glenda turned to Sam with a question on her face.
“It has hot and cold running water for that bath you been wanting,” said Sam. “’Course you might find the smell a bit strong. Them minerals are good for what ails you.”
Setting up camp proved a little unusual. Parts of the cave floor were studded with smelly bat guano. Finding a dry area and something to sweep it with was a challenge. Hiram was let off his usual wood hunting duty. The horses and mules welcomed the relief and soon were asleep. Sam filled their empty containers with the highly mineralized and smelly water, allowing it to cool overnight to offer succor the next day. Flurries of emerald green swallows flittered in and out of the cave.
Despite their great fatigue, all three were ready for the mineral baths soothing waters. Glenda was first in, with admonitions from Sam to be careful of drop offs and soft crusty flooring that might give way. Human footprints were evident in the sandy slope leading to the pool and remnants of animal bones, perhaps from a meal, lay scattered about.
“Hiram and Sam, come on in. The water is wonderful, so warm that it is taking my aches away.”
Tentatively, Hiram put a foot in, then another and sat down at the edge. He made his way to Glenda by inches until he was fully beside her.
“How does it stay so warm, Glenda?”
“Remember what I told you about the molten rock that exploded out of volcanoes to make the lava beds? Well, some of that magma still roils around down in the depths of the earth, warming the water, sometimes to boiling, and then sending it to the surface.”
“Is that lava gonna get us,” the frightened little boy asked.
“Mercy, no, love. I didn’t mean to scare you. The water has traveled from way, way down in the earth and, by letting some of the heat escape, it serves to cool things down. In some places, the water would be too hot for us to bathe in, I’m sure.”
It took until late in their third day before they were clear of the volcanic lands and back onto high desert. Sam promised that the Snake River would soon show itself and the town of American Falls would be a good place to gather more provisions.
* * *
A visit to Craters of the Moon National Monument resulted in a journal piece that ultimately wended its way into the novel. Our cave was much smaller than depicted and the water cooler. Green swallows were plentiful and fearless as they swooped in and out of the cave, nearly alighting on us.