Category Archives: Research

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

WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Continue reading

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Filed under Excerpts, Historical Fiction, Hull House, Nostalgia

1900 A NEW CENTURY

My last post  was an excerpt from BY GRACE and told of Grace Pelham’s Christmas Eve in 1898, spent at a lavish NYC ball. It is a year later and Grace is now known as Glenda Pearson, housekeeper for the unfriendly Reverend Stans and his wife in Virginia City, Montana. She is on the run for her life with her nemesis Jeremy in hot pursuit.

Christmas and New Year’s came and went quietly in the Stans’ household. The Reverend held two extra, well-attended services and the ladies of the church set pine boughs about the sanctuary. Half a dozen children performed the Christmas story and reminded Glenda of her time at Hull House. She was not asked to assist, even though her artistic talents were known from her sketching walks about town.

Church members provided for the holiday feast. Glenda ate alone in the warm kitchen while the Stans ate in their room. If they exchanged gifts, Glenda didn’t know of any, nor did she buy anything for them. Her first month would soon draw to a close and she debated about remaining with the Stans. She knew Virginia City had no other employment to offer and a move to the boarding house would eat into her cash reserves. She couldn’t face another stagecoach ride in the dead of winter. Her book-safe, Robinson Caruso, held her money but, given the uncertainty of her future, she was reluctant to spend it on room and board. She would wait to see what salary the Stans offered now that her fare was more than repaid.

The new century arrived without fanfare. Gunshots sounded at midnight as snow began to fall. The blizzard arrived before noon, putting a damper on the town’s spirits. Doors remained closed, drapes were drawn against the cold and scarcely a body, human or animal, moved through the streets. It was two days before the storm slowed and a weak sun filtered through the clouds. Slowly, the town came to life.

***

I will be back in January…after traveling in the Yucatan

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Filed under Excerpts, Historical Fiction, New Year

THANKSGIVING, ARIZONA TERRITORY 1888

EXCERPT FROM ROSE OF SHARON

At noon on an unusually balmy Thanksgiving Day, the ranch yard was jumping with activity. Guests were arriving, but not Miss Jacks. Blake had delayed so long in inviting the teacher, she had accepted another invitation by the time he got up his courage to ask. Rose had something to say on the matter when she approached him as people gathered.

“I surely do wish you’d invited Miss Jacks. I think she’s sweet on you, too.”

Blake blushed in shades of pink below his tan. “Why do you say that?”

“You mean about wishing she’d come or that she’s sweet on you?”

“I don’t know, both, I guess.” He didn’t look at her, struggling to find something to distract them both.

“She watches out the window when you come to school and she asks about you.”  Rose answered with a big smile. “I just plain like her, and you do, too.”

“Better look to our guests,” he mumbled, even redder in the face.

The Tomlins, with their father and husband home from the sawmill up Carr Peak, accounted for six visitors and brought peach pies and “smashed” potatoes, as their three year old called them. The elderly Browns added home-canned green beans and cornbread to the table. Blake’s fresh caught wild turkey roasted in the yard pit with the children taking turns at rotating the bird on its spit. Venison steaks and ears of corn were added to the feast as they came off the grill.

“I think that turkey is about done, don’t you, Miz Brown?” Jim was quick to seek the experienced woman’s counsel.

She demurred, just briefly, and then spoke in a thick, lady-like southern accent. “I do believe you are right, my boy.” She prodded the leg of the bird and juices ran into a pan sitting in the fire for that purpose. “We will have us some fine gravy to go with the Tomlin’s taters. Please take that pan in the house and I’ll work it up.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I’ll do just that.”  Jim grinned and caught up the pan with a coarse cloth serving to protect his hands.

“Come along, Rose,” said Mrs. Brown. “Y’all can be of help and learn at the same time.” She put her arm around the child’s shoulder and Rose snuggled into her embrace.

“My mama made good gravy.”

“I’m sure she did, child. Ours will be different from your mama’s, but I think we will do alright.” They busied themselves with the drippings, flour and milk, whipping it to a frothy blend in a separate pot. “Did your mama ever use our desert sage in her gravy?”

“I don’t think so, Ma’am. .” She watched Mrs. Brown open a tiny cheesecloth bag to reveal a dusty gray matter and stir a small quantity into the gravy. “Maybe my grandma back in Texas used it.” She couldn’t remember for sure.

“I suspect you are right, my dear.” She tapped Rose’s hand gently. Jacob, Rose of Sharon’s twin, ran in and grabbed the pan back from the pair, yelling as he went, “It’s done. We can eat.” Rose carried the thickened and flavorful gravy out to the table while Mrs. Brown brought out her beans and the potatoes. Others scurried about pouring milk and coffee, placing utensils around the table, heading back into the cabin for last minute needs.

“Mr. Brown, sir, would you do us the honor of carving the turkey?” Blake asked. He handed the tools over to the older gent.

“Don’t mind if’n I do.” Though from somewhere in the south, his speech wasn’t as genteel as his wife’s and that caused some folks to wonder how they’d come together. But, in the custom of the west, it wasn’t something polite folks would ask. As far as their neighbors knew, they’d been in the area for more than thirty years and had no children or other family. They’d put in orchards of apples and walnuts early on and prospered in feeding the workmen and families of the San Pedro River Valley and its mining communities.

When the group settled at the table, Blake asked if one of the twins would recite the old Bobbie Burns grace after explaining its family history to those gathered. Jacob and Rose, seated on opposite sides of the table, nodded and spoke the grace in chorus as they’d practiced for a week.

“Some hae meat, and canna eat,

And some hae none that want it.

But we hae meat and we kin eat,

So, let the Lord be thankit.”

“Why, thank you, children. That was very nice,” said Mrs. Tomlin. “I’d like to learn it for our family to say.”

“It’s in old Scottish, my mama said, but I bet you could learn it.” Rose was proud to pass on her mother’s custom to one and all. She stated it line by line, with first Mrs. Tomlin repeating and then others joining in. Jacob’s grin spread ear to ear as the old refrain was echoed about the long table.

“It’s surely fitting for us this Thanksgiving for ‘we hae meat and we kin eat,’ just as it says.” Mr. Brown leaned over and kissed his wife which got all the young ones giggling.

“Mr. Brown, you surely do taste sweet as ever,” she said. Giggles gave way to pure laughter.

With bowls and dishes flying up and down the table, the meal was the richest feast many had seen in months. For the Welty twins, it was a little reminder of meals taken at their grandmother’s table back in Texas. Those memories were growing faint, especially as their new life filled in voids and emptiness with laughter, good stories and new friends. Later, around a campfire, the grownups talked while the children ran about in a game of hide and seek. The talk was quietly shared over coffee and a bit of brandy in some cups. The Tomlins and Browns expressed regrets for not getting to know the Welty parents before the raiders came and killed the parents while the children watched from nearby.

“I surely wish those young’uns had known where to come to us for help. That walk across the desert had to have been awful,” said Mrs. Tomlin. She was gently bouncing her newest child in her arms.

Jim spoke up. “Yes, ma’am, it was hard on them, but I don’t know if we’d have caught up to the murderers without Blake here recognizing them from the twins’ description.”

“The marauders were blabbing about what they did at that place in Bisbee, so somebody would have gone to check, I’m sure,” Blake answered.

Mr. Tomlin added, “Maybe so, but by the time the sheriff could do that, they’d have been long gone.”

“You got that right,” said Jim.

“The important thing is for them to grow up believing the Good Lord will keep watch over them from now on.” Mrs. Brown said this with an emphasis in her voice.

“Yes’m,” said Blake. He silently renewed his vow to protect them with his life, if need be. “And they need a mother,” Mrs. Brown added

                                                  Blake squirmed in discomfort and thought of Elise Jacks for the umpteenth time that day.

A quietness settled on the adults as the sun moved to the west and the shadows of the Huachucas descended into the canyon. Birds were twittering the last songs of the day just as the children drifted closer to the fire. One by one they sought its warmth. Three year old Benjy Tomlin climbed into his father’s lap while his two older sisters found comfort nearer to their mother and Mrs. Brown. Rose and Jacob squatted on the ground between Blake and Jim with Rose resting her head against Blake. He settled his arm on her shoulder.

One of the ladies started to hum the old hymn “Now the Day is Over.” Soon, everyone joined in, singing the words.

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Filed under Excerpts, Historical Fiction, Nostalgia

ON THE ROAD AGAIN III

Cruising across the choppy Juan de Fuca Strait was made more enjoyable with the appearance of whales, not quite surfacing in a blow but rolling along with us toward Vancouver Island. Back in Port Angeles we’d made reservations through “Bob” for The Gatsby Mansion B&B. The Mansion sits right on the Inner Harbour of Victoria, within walking distance of the ferry. My Blue Bonnet was loaded with lots of gear: our personal stuff, food and frig, and all the paraphernalia from the Women Writing the West raffle. No walking for us. Free parking is a rarity in town and with a great breakfast, we spent wisely here…even if a third floor walk-up.

 

The Gatsby was built in 1910 by the Gold-Rush-wealthy Pendray family and changed hands and function over the years. In 1997, the home was transformed into The Gatsby Mansion and, yes, it is named for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, THE GREAT GATSBY. How could two writers NOT stay here? Anne and the receptionist worried over my ability to manage the many stairs to our room. I managed by doing it only once a day and loved my Victorian dream home.

We were in Victoria to find and follow writer and painter Emily Carr (1871-1945,) a contemporary of Georgia O’Keefe, Frieda Kahlo and Grace Hudson. I first learned of Carr on a previous trip to the island and fancied writing a novel about her. Susan Vreeland beat me to it with THE FOREST LOVER.. We found her birthplace home and wandered its gardens where notes from Carr explain what was where in her day. The home is only open May to Sept. Still, in warm sunshine it was easy to picture her in childhood and later when her sisters tried to convince her to return; ultimately she did go home, but only after a life of near-poverty, doubts and traces of egomania and cantankerous mood swings.

At the Royal Museum of British Columbia, Anne and I found much of interest about the First Peoples, including examples of the totems Carr traveled far and wide to paint in hopes of preservation. A small glass case showed samples of her watercolors, pottery and artifacts. At the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, a room is devoted to Carr’s art with her quotes posted at each piece. Carr was a very complex woman and artist; I won’t try to tell you her story but hope you may look into her. Some think her writing surpassed her painting.

               

In Victoria, we wined and dined modestly, searched out Nanaimo Chocolates, found a quiet Provincial Park of Carr’s red cedars and marveled at our good luck in being there in glorious full color. Our final day put us in Sidney, heading for the ferry to Vancouver and home. We stopped in here because it is known as “BOOKTOWN” with eight to ten bookstores within easy reach. We found treasures, of course, including great bargains at a boutique shop; we indulged ourselves.

The ferry went smoothly over the waters and we were soon at the border crossing with a smiling border guard and his stern cohort. We handed over our passports and were grilled on why we went to Canada. These boyos together didn’t add up to my age, I’m sure. Asked about bringing in produce, Anne claimed  her apples from San Luis Obispo while I denied having anything. Toughy kept at me, wanted the back doors and trunk opened and continued to press about citrus and I kept denying. In plain sight in the backseat was the orange that had traveled from Santa Rosa and I’d forgotten I hadn’t eaten. It was Chilean! And confiscated. With threats of BIG fines. I hope it was dried out by the time he ate it.

Moving south, we revisited the Aurora Colony and caught the Quilt Show, voted our favorites, drank tea and moved on. Stopped overnight at Grant’s Pass for a quick dinner at the neighboring sports pub. Two hours later, we emerged full of all sorts of spirits after light dinners, heavier drinks, and two games of trivia with questions about who wore #42 in the NFL (?), what are baby bats called (pups,) in what state did the wild animal guy free his menagerie before killing himself?(Ohio)…you get the picture.

Our final day on the road had us speeding to Sacramento and separation. After thirteen days together, we have a stronger friendship built on shared experiences and memories. I am  glad for Anne’s company, thoughts and writing talk. It would have taken another week if I’d gone alone for I run out of stamina much sooner than she does; thank you Ms extra-ORDINARY APHRODITE. See her blog: Anneschoederauthor.blogspot.com.

As I write, I am in South Lake Tahoe where the days are mid-60s and the nights in the teens. To use as setting for a contemporary novella, I searched for a favorite old campground in the Crystal Basin area and think I found it. The steeply sloped, one-lane dirt road dropping off into wilderness didn’t faze me…until I was about half-way down. Thinking there’d be no one to know just where I was at, or able to hear my car crash, the bear roar or my pleas for help…I made a careful turn-about.

Arletta’s Travel Tip: Watch out for oranges, the new homeland security threat.

Rather than a question, I will leave you with a quote from St. Augustine:

 “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

 

10/27/2011

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Filed under Emily Carr, Research, Travel

TIME PASSES

I’ve only seen Midnight in Paris twice, so far. I’m not a fan of Woody Allen or of the theater where the film is showing. But, I broke my self-imposed boycotts
and went the first time, then had to go again. You surely know the plot, the romances, the historical characters, the incredible photography and costumes
and outstanding performances. No need to go into them here.

What I most loved was the message of time passing and our romantic view of what has come before us as we avoid, reject, or dangle in the present.

Salvador Dali

I had a birthday recently, always the start of my New Year. It would also have been our 46th anniversary if Jim had survived the last three years. My granddaughter started kindergarden.  Such is the way I have of measuring the time that passes. Landmarks,. Days on the calendar. Periods of
playing hermit. Shuttering my mind. Avoiding events, the telephone, leaving the house. Or speed-dialing along on full steam, participating fully, actively and
enthusiastically in what life brings and what I seek out.

Have you visited elderly friends as their minds retreated into yesterdays and the future held little or no promise? One friend was so delighted with the teenagers we’d brought along that she went to the piano in the dayroom and put it to use. She pounded out segments of songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s while the staff and other residents looked on in amazement. She’d lived there quite a while and no one had ever heard her play. For Bessie, time was now and she made the most of it.

It is too soon for me to withdraw from all that I love: family, writing, traveling, being with friends. As I write, today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A day of remembrance and judgment. And, I think, of hope. Time to take stock and look to the year ahead. What does it hold? What might I make of it?

I’ll start my new year with a road trip to Seattle for the Women Writing the West Conference. My traveling partner and writing friend, Anne, is coming along. We’re in the throes of planning the trip: what to see and do along the way, in Tacoma/Seattle and on to Victoria. There’s a stop in Battle Ground, Oregon for
tea with friends; the Richard Brautigan library in Vancouver, WA; the WA State Historical Museum in Tacoma; a great conference to attend; exploration of
Seattle’s underground and hills for nostalgia and research; and onto the ferry to Victoria in search of writer-artist Emily Carr, the totems and First
People’s culture.

Emily Carr: Kwakiutl House

Do you smell the adventure in the redwood and red cedar countryside, the grey skies and our sunny expectations? Do you feel the inspiration and joy about to settle on us? The opportunities to see old friends, make new ones and spin our dreams?  Without a doubt, it will be a time to store up remembrances, fill our senses with new energy.

I’ll journal and blog from the road.

How do you
celebrate your New Year?

What do you do
to mark your time and how it passes?

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Filed under Emily Carr, Family, Nostalgia, Opinion, Reflection, Writing

CREATIVITY AND COMMUNITY

I labored over a concept this past Labor Day when I turned to PBS and caught a repeat showing of Charlie Rose’s twelfth
episode regarding the Brain (10/28/2010.) It was a re-run that I’ve now played over a couple of times in my effort to grasp what the varied contributors had
to say.  Go to: http://www.CharlieRose.com

Rose did the series with Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist. The Round Table included Amy Tempkin,
curator of painting and sculpture at NY’s MOMA,painter Chuck Close, sculptor Richard Serra and neurologist and writer
Oliver Sacks.

The Charlie Rose Show tv show

Serra & Kandel

Tempkin

Tempkin pointed out that Close and Serra were at Yale together along with several other emerging artists who
subsequently moved to NYC where Serra’s “day job” was a small trucking firm at which he hired other artists, musicians, creators. At Yale, imitation of
previous generations of artists was part of working their way toward finding their intuitive creative work. Tempkin described the founding of community in which togetherness, rivalry, the desire to support one another, seeing others’ work and “talking and talking” as freeing the originality of work. A common
language evolved.

Rose & Close

Many aspects of creativity were spoken of: the little that is understood of brain biology’s role; how dyslexia, face
blindness and other compromises act on it; imitation as a route to finding one’s own expression; the role of emotion/sublimation with Sacks giving an
enlightening story on Melville, Hawthorne and Moby Dick.

Sacks (cap to protect his eyes)

I was struck by the idea of community and creativity and thought back to my own experiences with other writers. I find that a sense of unity with diversion, common ground and strong energy tends to evolve whenever two writers or more convene. Just as creative writing programs press writers to work in the style of an established writer, even to he point of simple copy typing, we read voraciously to study style, offer critiques, share information and talk, talk, talk.

As the panel noted, the days of isolation in the attic garret are long gone, if they ever truly were. Think of the Impressionists gathering at cafes, Bohemians in North Beach, etc. drinking and talking at all hours. It is in community that originality is freed to generate itself.  Mysteries abound. What motivates or drives the creativity juice. What compels one to communicate, to share even while/if narcissistic and self-involved? What determines the Eureka or Aha response?

My friend Janet Reihl (www.riehlife.com) describes creativity “…as a life force that runs through all of us” and takes hard work. As Chuck Close said,

“…inspiration is just for amateurs, the rest of us just show up for work.”

What does it
take for you to show up for work?

 

Where do you
find community and does it help the creative juices to flow?

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Filed under Opinion, Research, Writing