Choices: Chapter 10

old hand writing for journal
Chapter X
1836
The Republic of Texas

I woke up that first morning contemplating my next move in this new place. I didn’t know anything about the area. Was there a trading post, other settlers?  If there were others, they would most likely be along the river, probably further southwest. It was an uncertain time in the territory. The both of us traveling a distance on one horse was risky but we had no choice. We needed tools, basic supplies, a mule and a wagon. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 10

Choices: Chapter 9

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Chapter IX
A New Leaf
1836

I left Tennessee toward the middle of February, halfway thinking about following my old friend Crockett to Texas to see what was happening there. The Colonel had lost his appetite for Washington politics, according to a man who came into the shop one day saying he had read about it in a copy of the Alabama Watchman.  I suspect Davy simply tired of having his honor trampled by the likes of Andrew Jackson, and opted for more worthy pursuits. For whatever reason, most likely adventure, he went to Texas. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 9

Choices: Chapter 8

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Chapter VIII
Loose Ends
August, 1822

Upon my return, I noticed something peculiar in CB’s behavior.  He seemed preoccupied, on edge, not at all himself.  At first I thought it had to do with me personally, something I had done, or said. It nagged at me that he could be holding me accountable for the death of Louis, finding himself somehow caught in the middle, between the Friedel loss and my part in it. He had become close with the Friedel family, visiting their farm often, tending a full blown romance with Isabel.  Or, I surmised, perhaps he was simply ill at ease with me, not knowing how to address my loss.  He had expected me to return with my wife and baby, my family. It could be that my bereavement was more than he was sophisticated enough to process, not as acclimated in the white man’s ways as I had thought. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 8

Choices: Chapter 4

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Chapter IV
Things Change
Autumn, 1821

Crockett rode up one morning wanting to know if I’d be interested in doing some exploring, a little surveying in the territory northwest, almost halfway to the Mississippi, and thought I might want to look around there, perhaps laying claim to a homestead for myself. I had been splitting logs close to the boat’s mooring when he rode up behind me.  Everyone else was over at the Wilkes place.  I was glad it had worked out that way. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 4

Choices: Chapter 3

old hand writing for journal
Chapter III
Colonel Crockett
1820

We got married on June 30, 1820, on a Friday evening at the Wilkes’ house. The preacher came down from Pitts Burg Landing to perform the ceremony.  He was a Baptist, quite young, a red-faced Scotch-Irish fellow, another Wilkes’ relative.  Danny was not a religious man, as far as I knew. The subject never came up. I had been baptized at Christ’s Church in Montreal, but had never taken to the church life myself, having found it to be an inconvenience, as had my parents.  Mana and her family, on the other hand, were Baptists. Mrs. Wilkes belonged to The Primitive Baptist Church, but Mana must have taken after her father in that respect, for Homer rarely attended services.  Mrs. Wilkes spent a lot of time excusing their absences. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 3

Choices: Prologue and Chapter 1

old hand writing for journal

PROLOGUE and CHAPTER I
Journal
of
WILLIAM FEATHERSTONE
Born on July 13, 1801 in Canada, the son of an English foot soldier.
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I, William Featherstone, shakily ink my pen, early on this morning of the twenty-fifth day of February, in the year of eighteen hundred and eighty-eight, with mixed purpose and aged hand.  I pray the prudently written words about to be spilt upon this journal lying blank before me, can somehow bridge the chasm too long existing between the offspring of my daughter I left behind in Tennessee and my children in Texas, for my blood flows through all your veins. Perhaps the words to come will reveal as much to myself as to those of you who read them when I am gone.

Aware that my sun is sinking low and that I have reached the end of my worldly pursuits, I have a few regrets.  I have only one move left in me, that great mysterious exodus just over the horizon, so close now I expect I could reach it in a day or two, if I hurry.  But I am weary, and choose instead to drag my feet a bit, to bide my time.  I need to examine the choices I made in this life, ponder those I did not.  I spend much time lately wondering about the role Fate played in it all, and whether the choices I made were ever really my own.

Just as I am being drawn away, I feel compelled to record my existence on this planet, and to expose myself, the good and the bad — to you, all my offspring, wherever you are, desiring, of this I am certain, to know and perhaps vindicate your own history.

My eyes, though dimmed, have seen all of what humanity has to offer, the best and the worst — the kindness of gentle folk and the brutality of the devil’s own.  I have known good fortune, terrible loss, hardship, and recovery.  Always recovery, for I am a man of strong will and resilience.  I come from good people, as well as I can remember, although I, myself, have not always behaved accordingly.  My greatest regret is my act of desertion, not of my country — no, for that I have no compunction — but the abandonment of my own, not once but twice, lies heavily on my heart.

My youthful quest for new adventure, shadowed later by a driven need to escape my own shameful past, drove me onward still, chasing that elusive ideal called freedom. Ill-conceived actions born out of anguish and fueled by rage set in motion deadly conflict and ruin. The bloody adversity left in my wake haunts me relentlessly, even after all these years.  I fear the consequences of my mistakes will revisit you, my descendants, long after I am gone.

Perhaps old age is affecting my sensibility, leaving me superstitious, irrational, but I implore you, heed this warning: be knowledgeable of the sins of your ancestor, lest history repeat itself.

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Chapter I
A Drummer Boy
1812

Continue reading Choices: Prologue and Chapter 1

Women and Children in Need

living in poverty
Photograph by Steve Liss

When my husband was a little boy, according to court documents, his mother, a widow, left him and his sister in the care of “vicious and immoral people, without proper food or sanitation.”  Due to her neglect, the county removed her youngest two children—my husband and his sister—from the residence and she lost all parental rights.  The older daughter, thirteen-years-old and pregnant, was sent to a state school for girls, where her baby was born and placed for adoption.  An older son, age sixteen, joined the army.  My husband and his sister were ultimately separated from each other.  When he was two and a half and she was five, they were adopted by different families.  They never saw their mother again. Continue reading Women and Children in Need

Verisimilitude: Sometimes a Four-Letter Word

creative-writingI know verisimilitude is a long word but it is the perfect word for what it means. Sometimes one word, and none other, will do. I came across the word, verisimilitude, for the very first time in a creative writing class. It had been scribbled in the margin of one of my short stories by the professor. “Good verisimilitude,” she had said. It happened to be a short story set during the Depression, with a lot of dialogue. The characters spoke in good ol’ rural East Texas vernacular.

Now, I know that lingo very well, in all its shades and off-colors. I was taught early on to write what I know, and apparently, the teaching stuck, for the particular jargon common to this area surfaces often in my writing. The East Texas culture seems to dominate the gene pool from which most of my bucolic (I have always wanted to use that word!) characters evolve. I know that a fictitious person, of any particular ethnicity, using uncharacteristic words, speech patterns, or body language, would finish me off before I even get started, discrediting me completely as a writer of true-to-life fiction.

I have to admit, the nature of the language and the acts of some of my characters, which is most definitely the case in my novel, The Velvet Bridge, often conflict with my own inhibitions. However, verisimilitude in my work must prevail. Any reflection of real life must portray events as vividly and believably as if the reader was actually witnessing them. Whether or not the reader approves of the reality being witnessed, or of the language being spoken, is a moot point. However, I have been subjected to some criticism, for the use of a few “bad” words, which sometimes a character insists upon using. I suspect this is a common problem among writers, one with which we must come to terms in our own way.

It has been said you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, and that is so true. Some things just cannot be prettied up and some characters absolutely refuse to speak and behave politely! The character says what she says, and he does what he does, pure and simple. As a character-driven writer, dedicated to verisimilitude by creating honest and mature fiction—work that is believable and true to itself—I will never censor my characters in order to appease my own hang-ups, or the folks back home.

On The Banks of Running Creek

running bridgeOn a Texas August day
Back in 1948,
Daddy took me for a ride.
How well I do remember there was no interstate,
Just a dusty county road,
One car wide.

Riding in the front seat,
All the windows down,
I sang along with the radio.
As the wind blew the music and the sweet gum scent around,
Daddy whistled softly,
Sweet and low.

On the banks of Running Creek,
We stopped by the bridge,
Free as the music and the wind.
Bending and swaying, we bowed to the breeze,
And Daddy took me gently
By the hand.

On the banks of Running Creek.
Me and Daddy danced,
In the middle of the dust and heat.
The woods gathered round us, ancient guardian trees,
And rustled with the rhythm
Of our feet.
Anita Stubbs