Category Archives: Fort Huachuca

Excerpt from HUACHUCA WOMAN

Going to Town for provisions was important to farmers, ranchers, and their workers whether town was near enough for a weekly trip  or so far that trips were seasonal. The Lazy L was far across the San Pedro River Valley so that in the early days, trips were rare. At sixteen, Josephine accompanies her father on a spring trip that widens her experience in several ways.

THE TRIP TO BISBEE 1893

Papa and me set out before light. It wasn’t so much the number of miles we had to go but the rough country we had to climb to get there. The road to Bisbee was pretty well laid out by 1893, but our house was set up in our canyon, about three miles off the main track leading north to the fort. From where we entered the road and turned east, the horses could just glide along in the ruts that the cavalry, banditos and ranchers laid ahead of us. Spring had everybody on the move, glad for the winter to be over and eager with the business of new livestock and new plantings. We joined up with Mr. Carlson and two of his boys toward the end of the first day. We camped out with them, up against a mess of tall stickery mesquite and had a good visit over a supper of beans and Mother’s tough old stewing hen. In the morning, we traveled on together.

A troop of Fort Huachuca Buffalo Soldiers caught up with us and stayed almost to Bisbee. The sergeant, with skin the color of black coffee, took Papa off to the side when we made a short stop to eat. The soldiers talked about raiders going back and forth to Mexico making more trouble than usual. Afterwards, Papa told me to roll my hair under his old hat and to loosen my shirt out of my pants, more manly like. I was already wearing the pants Mother and me usually wore when we did heavy chores around the place. A person can’t brand, help birth a calf or even plow the garden near so well if she’s wearing a skirt tho’ most women tried.

We’d gotten about halfway up over the Mule Mountains when the soldiers turned off toward the border. We waved them on and finished our ride into Bisbee at dusk. We could see cooking fires down in the ravine that sheltered the town and hear the shouts and music from the saloons in Brewery Gulch. It was as close as Papa meant to let me get to that part of town.

We put up at Mrs. Cragen’s boarding house where Papa usually stayed if he had one of us womenfolk along. If it was just him and Francisco, they’d camp out on the edge of town. I couldn’t hardly wait for daylight and the chance to see the town and the changes it had taken in the last year. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cragen fed us fried steak and canned asparagus, the only kind I tasted for lots of years, and her fresh baked bread. I was the only other female staying in the house so Mrs. Cragen took me into her bed and left Papa to share his with a drummer of men’s articles.

Morning was clear and sunny when I woke to find the bed empty. I could hear not so soft voices from the kitchen on the other side of the bedroom door.

“My boarders don’t much care what kind of problems keep you to home of a morning, Mrs. Hale.” Mrs. Cragen was put out for sure. “They want their breakfast and most want it early. Now, I don’t want to let you go, but I can’t be kept waiting again.”

“No, ma’am. I’ll not trouble you again,” said Mrs. Hale, midst a clatter of pots and pans.

I dressed quickly in my dingy old brown calico and headed for the outdoor conveniences. Passing through the kitchen, I looked for the mysterious Mrs. Hale and found no sign of her. Once outside, I nearly opened the privy door on a small, dark haired woman just coming out.

“Excuse me,” she said and pushed on by.

Her empty smile must have hurt for an ugly bruise stretched from eye to jaw. Whatever her problems at home, she seemed to have got the worst of it. Mother told me some men handle their women rough and I’d seen it some in travelers who stopped by our place. Wasn’t no way that’d happen to me without I’d be gone and the man regretting it.

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Filed under Arizona Territory, Excerpts, Fort Huachuca, Historical Fiction

HUACHUCA WOMAN…1952

HUACHUCA WOMAN started life as THE GRANNY JO STORIES and was work-shopped, critiqued, revised, edited, and advised about more times than I kept track of. Now, the book, much modified from those early efforts, is about to hit the market which is you, my followers and, I hope, many others. I am sharing an excerpt today from the first of the 1952 segments that are interspersed throughout the book as Josephine tells the old tales to two of her grandchildren.
Enjoy!

APRIL 1952

Early morning found Josephine Parthenia Lowell Judson Nichols moving stiffly across the kitchen, tea-cup in hand. Odors of oak and mesquite hung in the room. A thin braided rug covered a portion of the worn pine flooring, but couldn’t hide the years of wear and scarring. At the far end of the well-used room, pine-framed glass walls gave a panoramic view of the high desert, close in Huachuca Mountains and far-reaching sky. Rocking chairs sat in a half circle within the windowed alcove and it was to the easternmost rocker that the old woman headed.
She slipped into the rocker with its creaky protest and watched the sky lighten from pre-dawn lavender to a dusky rose. Rays of amber spread in slow motion into the desert moonscape. The promise of another dawn settled on her as muscles sculpted themselves to the contours of the oak rocker. A sigh fled her lips when Patches, the calico cat, leapt into her lap. Josephine set the tea-cup aside.
Wisps of whitened hair shadowed her face. A single braid, caught in a turquoise and silver clasp, reached to the waist of her faded dungarees. Rolled at the leg end and stiff from line drying, her pants gaped at the feminine waist they were never designed to fit. Curling leather boots stuck out below. A crisp new shirt of ruddy cabbage roses topped her outfit.
Josephine’s gentle strokes along Patches’ back soon took on intensity and such discomfort that the cat reached back, swatted her hand and flew from what had been a comfortable lap. He barely missed the much-mended wrist band from the Geronimo visit.
“Shoo, then, you ol’ varmint. Who needs you anyway?”
Frown lines ran across her forehead. She fingered the old band, then started her right hand thrumming on the arm of the rocker, beating out a wild drum roll. Josephine’s shoulders stiffened in a cramp as she fought against the conflicted feelings once again set in motion in the morning just past.

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Filed under Arizona Territory, Fort Huachuca, Historical Fiction

THE LIVES OF CHARACTERS

THE LIVES OF CHARACTERS

I am preparing HUACHUCA WOMAN for publication and have wandered about my files in amusement and consternation. Writers oft-times write the back stories of their characters and then seldom use these. They are intended to aid the author in understanding the motivations and impact of the character in the story. In HUACHUCA WOMAN, Jessamond is a minor character who shows up in the protagonist’s (Josephine’s) childhood, never to be heard from again, or will she be? As you read this worksheet please ask yourself this question:

Would you read about Jessamond as a main character in another book in the series?

BIOGRAPHY OF JESSAMOND LYDIA REYNOLDS

Jessamond was born on March 13, 1882 at Fort Dix, NJ to Lt. and Mrs. Philbin (Alice) Reynolds. She was their first child and destined to be their only daughter. Lt. Reynolds was a graduate of West Point and had served in the Army for six years before meeting Alice McKelvey at an officers ball. He came with another officer’s daughter only to be smitten with Alice. They married a short 5 months later when he was to be reassigned to the 10th Calvary then stationed at ______________.

Jessamond proved to be a healthy, robust child who weathered several childhood illnesses including a bout of scarlet (rheumatic?) fever that took the lives of her little brothers in 1882. The family is on the verge of reassignment when she meets Josephine Lowell in 1886. Capt. Reynolds moves ahead of his wife and daughter to the new post where he is killed in a freak accident…..

Alice Reynolds chooses to remain near Ft. Huachuca where her sons are buried. Her Army pension is supplemented by support from her wealthy father so that she and her child want for little. Alice is industrious and not content to remain idle; she has a need to exert control over the depression that on-going mourning threatens to gain on her. She decides to start a school on the base for the many Apache children living there whose fathers, uncles and grandfathers serve as Scouts. She wins the approval of the base commander, with some reluctance on his part.

Jessamond’s adventurous nature aligns her with these children and she sneaks into her mother’s class whenever the opportunity affords. More often than not she skips the white children’s school to sit outside the window of her mother’s class and often helps the children with their homework.
Her favored dress is a pair of her father’s old jodhpurs cut down to size, a dark cap that barely hides her face and laced boots that imitate the infantry men’s; her shirts are remnants of old blouses with their sleeves and collars cut off. She frustrates her mother and their housekeeper, Leila Mae, wife of a Buffalo Soldier.

Knowing that something must be done to tame her wayward daughter, Alice arranges for her to attend the same Eastern boarding school she herself attended; Grandfather McKelvey meets the train and is taken with his tomboy of a granddaughter. Jessa lasts less than a month before she is expelled in apparent disgrace. Grandfather returns with her to the west and admonishes his daughter to “allow the child to romp and run in the open spaces of the west,” saying she’s sure to calm in adolescence;” she doesn’t.

Despite her unruly ways, Jessa is an avaricious reader, absorbing books as a rabbit will carrots. She is known throughout the fort and town of Fry(check dates) for her unyielding curiosity and unending questions. By the time she is 15(1889), she knows how to shoe a horse(learned from the smithy,) dress a deer, beef or pig (the fort’s butcher,) mix medicines (the hospital doc and the town’s dentist, ) speak Apache, Spanish and read Latin(from varied “teachers” ) and decides to become a doctor.

With support from her mother and grandfather, off she goes to an Eastern medical school and returns(at 20, 1894) to SE AZ to pursue her career. She’ll deal with mining disasters, gunshot wounds, contagious diseases, flu epidemic of 1918(?) and assorted conditions.

What makes her tick/what motivates her? Loss, grief, intellect, determination, stamina.

What does she do? Opens sanatorium in the Huachucas, clinics in Bisbee and Tombstone.

Private life: love of rancher who rejects her; rededicates life to medicine; wooed by miner who courts her with teases, hostile exchanges and sexual tension only to give up in the face of her repetitive rejection….maybe he goes off to another mining venture and returns years later, 2 children in tow.

Issues: rejected/feared by Indians & men as a woman MD, ailing mother’s need for care, difficulty/frustration staying up with developments in medicine on this western outpost.

Please tell me what you think of Jessamond.

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Filed under Arizona Territory, Fort Huachuca, Historical Fiction, Pioneer Women Doctors, Research, Writing