Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FAMILY HISTORY--DO YOU USE IT IN YOUR WRITING? by CHERYL PIERSON


My mother was the oldest of eleven children. In her younger days when I was growing up, and on into my early adulthood, she reminded me of Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind—not in looks or mannerisms, but in the way that she knew the relationships between people--and not just in our family! Growing up in a small Oklahoma town, Mom knew the ins and outs of most every other family in that small community—but so did everyone else. That old saying about everyone knowing your business in a small town was so true…but what a legacy of stories she provided me with to write about!

MY MOM, EL WANDA STALLINGS MOSS, AND MY DAD, FREDERIC MOSS (NEWLYWEDS--1944)

A relative who hung his pocket watch up on the wall to “give it a rest” overnight. Another relative who, shunned by his prominent businessman father, (we don’t know why) rode a bicycle all over town selling condoms. What better way to embarrass him?
Then there were the sadder tales…the little boy who crawled under the porch and drank tree poison and died. All those many years later, my mother would get teary remembering how she and her 12-year-old best friend, Mary, attended the funeral.

The family who lost five of their six children—they’d gone out to pick berries and taken shelter under a big tree when a storm hit. Lightning struck the tree and killed many of them, but the oldest brother crawled to a farmhouse for help. In the end, he was the only survivor.

Another story that, in this time would be almost unbelievable is that of a little girl, six years old, who had appendicitis. The doctor would not operate unless the money was paid before the surgery. The girl’s father stood on the corner and begged for money – this would have been in the mid -1930’s, in Dustbowl Oklahoma…during the Depression. No one had any money to spare. I have a picture of that little girl with my aunt who was the same age—they were second cousins. It was the last picture made of her before she died.

So many stories my mom told about—with such description of the people, the places, the events…maybe that’s why I’m a writer now. But I know the happenings she told me about were a true-life depiction of actual events, and she had a great memory for detail most of her life.

Being the eldest of eleven siblings, she was all ears when the adults talked, of course. And she was old enough to remember many of the happenings herself. She told of watching them rush her grandfather into the house and put him on the kitchen table when he collapsed in the field—she and Mary were watching through a nearby window—they saw it all.

Going to Blue River was sometimes a Sunday social event in the summers—the men cooled off in the water while the women set out the food for a picnic. The children—none of whom could swim—were the older kids’ charges. Mom told of a time when one of her young cousins, Warren, went missing as they were all playing in the shallow water of a nearby clear creek running into the river. She felt something brush her leg and looked down—it was Warren, drifting by, his eyes open sightlessly as he stared up. She automatically reached down and grabbed him up out of the swift-moving current and yelled for help—and remembered nothing else about the rest of that day. Yes, he lived. But…why would so many parents think it was okay for their kids to play in water when none of them could swim?

It hit me after listening to her talk about her life and growing up in that small town that the older siblings seemed to have had no childhood of their own. Her earliest memory was of standing on a stool, washing dishes in a pan of water. She said she was about 3 or 4. By then, there were two younger sisters and another on the way.

A DRAWING MY MOTHER DID WHEN SHE WAS 17--SELF TAUGHT

I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it at the time, but Mom and Dad, having grown up together, knew all of the same people. They’d talk about who was related to whom, and who this one or that one had married, and what had become of them. I remember once in a great while, my dad would sit back and look at her with an odd look of appreciation on his face and a little half-smile and say, “Doris Lynn had an illegitimate baby? I never knew that!” Or some other “morsel” he’d somehow never heard.

Mom knew all the stories of the past, too. The tales of the relatives who had gone before and what they’d done—her great grandfather who had been “stolen” from his Indian village and given to a white Presbyterian minister to raise as part of the “assimilation efforts”…and how that had forever affected our family.


MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER, JOSIE WALLS MCLAIN MARTIN. SHE IS THE DAUGHTER OF MY GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER WHO WAS STOLEN FROM HIS HOME
SHE MARRIED AT 13.


Even the stories of my dad’s family—of his grandmother and grandfather coming “up from Texas” and stopping under the shade of a tree by a creek in Indian Territory long enough for her to give birth, then moving on after one day’s time.

MY DAD'S MOTHER, MARY, ON THE LEFT, WITH OLDER SISTERS MAUDE, GRACE AND BYRD

Mom knew so much—untimely deaths of family members, “early” births, family dreams and goals that came to fruition, changed, or never happened at all. Games played, meals cooked, weddings held…so much that I would have given anything to have written down—but was too young to realize how much it meant, at the time.

But to whom? Those things are important to the families and friends of the principal players, but now…there are few left who would remember or care. The small-town cemetery is filled with those who lived together, worshipped together and worked together. Friends and family who lived, laughed, loved, and made their way through life—leaning on one another in a way that is rare in today’s world.

So…I use those memories in the best way I can. In my writing. There is a piece of my mom’s remembrances in my own stories—probably every single one of them, in some way or another.

Authors, do you use long-ago memories from relatives in your tales? Readers, do these books and short stories we weave jog your own memories of things you’ve heard in the past from older relatives? What are some of the stories you recall?

Here's an excerpt from an "oldie but goodie", ONE MAGIC NIGHT. After learning the story of my gr gr grandfather and how he was kidnapped, I just had to give him a happy ending. In real life, his adoptive parents changed his name to David Walls. They sent him to medical school in Missouri--I don't know if he ever finished or not, but he came back to Indian Territory to practice medicine. Of course, he never fit in, either in the white world or the Indian. But in my make believe world, he did find happiness...


EXCERPT: FROM ONE MAGIC NIGHT:
As Whitworth’s hand started its descent, Katrina turned away. But Shay’s arm shot out, grasping Whitworth’s hand and holding it immobile.

“You will not.”

Three words, quietly spoken, but with a heat that could have melted iron, a force that could have toppled mountains.
Katrina’s father’s face contorted, his teeth bared, finally, as he tried to jerk away. He didn’t utter a word. He stared up into Shay Logan’s eyes that promised retribution, as the seconds ticked by. Finally, he lunged once more, trying to pull free, but Shay still held him locked in a grip of steel. Only when he released that grip was Whitworth freed.

“You presume too much, Doctor Logan, unless you are assuming the care and responsibility of my daughter.”

“Papa! Oh, please!” Katrina felt herself dissolving into a puddle of less than nothing beneath stares of the townspeople of Talihina. What had started as an exciting, beautiful evening had become an embarrassing nightmare. It was torture to think that she was the cause of it all. How she wished she had stayed home with Jeremy as she’d first planned, before Mrs. Howard had volunteered to keep him company.

Now, Papa was saying these things that she knew he would regret later. It was always this way when he drank too much. These accusations had gone beyond the pale of anything he’d ever said before. But Shay Logan wouldn’t realize that. He wouldn’t know that Papa would be sorry tomorrow.

Evidently, there was one thing Shay did recognize, though. She saw the very slight flare of his nostrils as he drew in the scent of alcohol on her father’s breath, and in that instant, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes.

“You’ve had too much to drink, Mr. Whitworth,” he said in an even tone. “I will overlook your behavior toward me because of that, but not toward your daughter. She has done nothing, yet you would strike her, and cause her shame.”

“She’s my daughter,” Whitworth replied sullenly.

“But not your property, Whitworth. Never that. You owe her an apology.”

“No, Shay, really—” Katrina began, then as her father whirled to look at her, she broke off, realizing her mistake. ‘Shay,’ she had called him. As if she had known him forever. As if she was entitled to use his given name freely. As if she were his betrothed.

“‘Shay’ is it, daughter? Not, ‘Dr. Logan’? Shay.” He spit the words out bitterly. He drew himself up, looking Shay in the face. “I’ll not be apologizing to her—or to you. And I’ll expect nothing less than a wedding before this week’s end. Do you understand me, Doctor?”

Shay had lost any patience he might have harbored. “You understand me, Whitworth. You will not dictate to me, or to your daughter on such matters of the heart. As I say, the alcohol has got you saying things you’re going to regret, and—”

“Threatening me, are you? Threatening me?”

“Truman.” Jack Thompson stepped out of the crowd and smoothly came to stand beside Katrina. “Let’s put this…unfortunate incident…behind us, shall we?” He confidently tucked Katrina’s hand around his arm. “I can see that the church auxiliary ladies have almost got everything set up for this wonderful Independence Day meal—” he frowned at Mrs. Beal, nodding at the picnic tables behind her. She jumped, motioning the other ladies to resume the preparation.

He gave a sweeping glance around the group of onlookers. “I, for one, am ready to eat! How about you all?”

Katrina was swept along at his side as he walked toward the tables, speaking to acquaintances and friends, laughing and…and seething with tense anger the entire time. She could feel it in his body, with every step he took and the tightness of his grip as he covered her hand with his. Katrina glanced back over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shay, but the crowd blocked her view.

“Smile, my dear,” Jack gritted into her ear. “I’m hoping we can still salvage your virtue, no matter what happened, really, between you and the good doctor. If I see him near you again, I’ll kill him.”

GET IT HERE:
https://www.amazon.com/One-Magic-Night-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00I1MINT4/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1501215944&sr=8-8&keywords=one+magic+night

Monday, August 7, 2017

Getting the Facts to Show Through in Fiction


“The major problem is how John Willford evades U.S. Marshal Franks and his deputies for so long. He doesn’t do much to avoid them…A dedicated watch…would have nabbed him very early. It’s not adequately explained why the marshals are so incompetent that they can’t catch John Willford…”

Those words complete my evaluator’s list of problems with my resubmission of Fugitive Sheriff, prequel to Every Soul Is Free, in my intended three novels on the high mountain sheriffs Simms. The publisher invited me to resubmit if I could fix them.

Since the story is the sheriff’s struggle to hunt down his father’s killer while he is hunted for being a polygamist, “the major problem” is a shot to the heart.

“You don’t understand,” welled up as my first reaction.

Thousands of square miles housed a homogeneous community of co-religionists dedicated to protecting a small number of their own. Indeed, a small number of 19th Century Latter-Day Saints practiced polygamy. Only a fraction of them were arrested for their practice.

Having a quantitative bent that works a bit like a hammer with Mark Twain’s nail, I started trying to prove what I knew to be true. I worked through my proof and discovered the self-evident. The novelist’s tools are not numbers. The hunter being the hunted creates no compelling story if the reader does not feel, fear, and sense the reality lived by the hunted, even down to the reality that they never caught him. Yet, the need remained to prove what I knew to be true by instinct. Those facts needed to be pinned down, clear and explicit, to boil around in the creative process to help me evoke the reality Sheriff Simms lived.

Neither a historian nor one meaning to offend historians, for the novelist’s challenge alone is enough, I discovered a paucity of objective analysis and fact on this subject.

Polygamy in the 19th Century Latter-Day Saints Church (identifying itself as LDS with a gradual adoption of the pejorative, Mormon, until about 1880 by which time that identification became fully embraced, as I will use it from here on) was a practice of the Church leadership and the wealthy. For reasons secular as well as the beliefs of the Church, the leadership and the wealthy were (and are) a highly coincident group. This very visible elite group enabled and underscored the assertion that the fact of polygamy offended the moral sensibilities of the nation. The reality is that the “Americanization” of the Mormons came about as the result of the taking of property (including the disincorporation of the Church itself), not by the imprisonment of a vast number of polygamists.

From a novelist’s point of view, a seven-year reign of terror capped a twenty-eight-year siege that targeted few men and enjoyed little success. Before the howl of indignation drowns out this puny voice, the facts.

Size of Utah Territory

The vast land area claimed by the Territory of Deseret dwindled to an area in 1883 only slightly exceeding the state we now know. Using the current size, 84,899 square miles, Utah Territory would have ranked the 81st largest country in today’s list of 192. Of more precise interest to the story of the U.S. Marshals’ pursuit of Sheriff Simms, Summit County’s land area amounts to 95% the size of Delaware, 180% the size of Rhode Island. If you happen to be hunting, man or beast, in that vast area, remember they named it Summit County because it has 39 peaks over 12,000 feet. The Territory’s population then lived over 90% in the four contiguous counties in the valley (now 75%) and 3% lived in Summit County. (Now about 1% of the state.)

Population of the network

The exact population and demographics of Utah Territory resisted full discovery. The best I can do is fill in with estimates of what I cannot find. Search strings that turn up references to census records from the period, 1850-1890, result in search opportunities by name. Looking for statistics, not genealogy, I conclude census records may not have been abstracted until 1910. I found a cache of actual census records. Alas, the microfiche could not be deciphered and the data were not abstracted. I constructed the following table from hard sources and guesses:

Year H’holds Pop. M F LDS Non % Polyg
1847 4,000 3,980 20 0.5%
1850 11,380 6,046 5,334 11,323 57 0.5% 400
1860 40,273 20,255 20,018 39,870 403 1.0% 1,300
1870 86,336 44,121 42,215 84,609 1,727 2.0% 2,700
1880 20,864 143,963 74,509 69,454 129,539 14,424 10.02% 3,220
1883 25,815 178,121 92,081 86,040 145,784 32,337 18.15% 4,700

My point is not to claim authority, but to create data reliable enough to make observations about the dynamics of the Territory in 1883. However many U.S. Marshals (fifteen) and Deputy Marshals (ninety-one) served during the forty year period in question, they amounted to .1% (one-tenth of one percent) of the LDS population. Their probable allies, the non-LDS population, amounted to 10% of the total population. (I could not find a reliable breakout of deputy marshals, though I suspect the names I counted held six deputies and eighty-five special deputies. I know all the deputies were non-Mormon and I suspect the special deputies were all Jack Mormons or apostates for hire.)

Viewed in somewhat more dynamic terms, there were 10 people to warn a pursued cohab or polyg for every one (1) likely to tip a marshal. Of course, it bears acknowledging this was about money. An unknown number of (practicing) LDS were prepared to betray their brethren for money. Assuming these paid informants (I thought of using an inflammatory word, like Judases) were neither female nor children nor polygamous (not a perfect assumption, I grant), it is impossible to know how many were on the take. The Utah-born novelist in me, however, tells me that for every three of these informants, two took the U.S. Government money and either provided misinformation or told the target the marshals were on the way or both.

How widespread this offense to moral sensibility?

My perception from the scholarly treatises on polygamy I found is that the favored phrase is "polygamy was practiced by thousands." To my ear, that phrase creates the impression of very widespread predominance. I calculate that the outside number was 4,500 and the most likely number was under 4,000. I acknowledge that is in the thousands, but it does not strike me as so widespread as “by the thousands” means to imply.

The table creates a somewhat false sense of precision based on the authoritative data for every estimate, but what is surely true is that upwards of 3,000 polygamists had two wives, maybe 900 had three, and perhaps 600 had four or more. There is ample data about the ages of marriage, both female and male, and the number of children, none of it relevant to my story, and I surmise all driven by (and to my mind proving) the adage “polygamy as a doctrine provided an excuse for old men to marry young women.”

For purposes of my novel, what we see is that a mobile man with two wives proves a difficult target: he is one among four-and-half thousand, of whom fifteen hundred are much more visible and much less mobile.

1883 Total 15% 20%
Male HH in Utah 25,298
Male Mormon HH in Utah 22,764
Monogamous 19,349 18,211
Polygamous 3,415 4,553
2 Wives 68% 2,322 3,096
3 Wives 20% 683 911
4 + wives 12% 410 546

Of course, I know my data are off, but a confirmed Bayesian, I believe they are better than nothing.  (I am just trying to get at the “truth” for my novel, not compete in the historian’s world.) And, there is a double-edged sword: the lower the number of polygamists, the higher the percentage, below, shown to have been caught. Remember my exciting story is about not being caught!

The U.S. Marshals and the Courts

After the first one, 1850-1855, every U.S. Marshal appointed by the President of the United States for the Utah Territory, fourteen through 1896, was not LDS (non-Mormon, although for a few there is dispute over whether that equated to anti-Mormon.)

The Courts were a little more complicated, but the Federal judges were all non-Mormon. After the Edmunds Act of 1882, appointments to the Utah courts were controlled by the Utah Commission (not by election) and they were also non-Mormon.

Bringing the moral offenders to heel

In that forty-one-year period, from among the “thousands of polygamists” who possibly did number 4,500, nobody was arrested until 1884 and two marshals arrested everybody:

Year Total Grand Total
1884 3 3
1885 82 85
1886 60 145
1886 127 272
1887 245 517
1888 367 884
1889 161 1045

(1886 split shows the “productivity” of the most “successful” marshal.)

The relevance to my novel extends only through 1887, but for this blog one notes Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto that was to lead to Utah statehood was issued in 1890. After that the issue of polygamy, from a U.S. Marshal point of view, was moot. Apparently 1890, before the Manifesto, saw few or no arrests for cohabitation or polygamy, either because the LDS Church had already been disincorporated or because the newly appointed U.S. Marshal Parsons immediately involved himself in a series of charges and scandals mostly of a sexual nature.

The triumph of moral sensibility

The table above shows that the U.S. Marshal in place in 1887 and 1888 succeeded in arresting about 10% of the polygamous males available to arrest. In fact, the cumulative total amounted to 23% or more of the available men to arrest. While that falls far short of everyone or even half of everyone, this reign of terror was real and many families fled to Mexico. In my imagining, it must certainly have been an oppressive environment. Even the President of the Church went underground in the small town of Kaysville (where seventy-three years later I graduated from high school.) Nevertheless, a man’s and a family’s obligation was not to get caught. The U.S. Government knew that and only the power of the pocket book brought about the triumph of moral sensibility.

The Church was disincorporated. All of its property was escheated to the Federal Government, under the receivership of the U.S.. Marshal (for which he requested a fee of $25,000 and was awarded $10,000, $663,000/265,000 today.)

Capitulation led to compassion. The Church re-incorporated and ultimately Congress gave it back the property. Ultimately, polygamy stopped being practiced among the Mormon faithful.

Conclusion

The conclusion is the same as the introduction. This is fiction, not history. My obligation is to make the reader, in this case the all-important evaluator, sense both the harassment of the pursuer, the obligation not to be caught of the pursued, and the infinite possibility of evasion that created the environment in which my sheriff lived.


EverySoulIsFree_Front-200.jpg
E-mail Edward Massey with comments, author of 2014 Gold Quill winner, Every Soul Is Free and Amazon ABNA 2009 Quarter-finalist, Telluride Promise.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

One-room Schoolhouses Blog #5

McGuffey Readers and a Quiz for You

By Julie A. Hanks, Ph.D. aka Jesse J Elliot

         Teachers and students in America went from scratching their letters and words in the dirt of a log/sod cabin to reading the classics in prescribed texts.  Educating our new nation went from makeshift cabins to actual classrooms, decorated with maps, ABCs, and children’s work. According to Ron Powers, a Pulitzer Prize author, “The McGuffey Readers effected the first mass-educated and mass-literate generation in the modern world.”
   With the Western communities becoming more established, desks
with built-in ink holders replaced crude benches or stools brought
from home. (These improvements were only in the public schools
for whites or the mission schools.) As the infrastructure of the
schools changed, so did the pedagogy, most notably in the addition of the McGuffey Readers.
         Children’s literature did not exist as a genre in the 19th Century. Except for Goody Two Shoes, written in the late 18th Century and republished in 1881 by John Newberry in London, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and adages made up the literature or oral literature for children.  (Note the very adult selections from the sixth level edition of the McGuffey Readers below in your quiz.) The hundreds of children books we have today with child-friendly illustrations were not available or affordable. A few illustrated children’s books were made in Europe for the very rich but were too expensive and certainly too unavailable in the American West.               
         Now, for the first time, Readers contained stories, poems, essays, and speeches that attempted to provide a graded scale of difficulty (as well as moral teaching). As the readers' efficiency progressed, so did the McGuffey Readers. Stories in the first book were pretty didactic and uninteresting, but by the second eclectic reader, the stories were written better, and their morals or lessons more digestible.  In fact, one of the stories, “The Leaf,” was an inspiring allegory illustrating the delicate balance between life and death. This story was so beautifully written that over a hundred years later, Leo Buscaglia wrote his own version—and published it as The Life of Freddie the Leaf.  Though the illustrations were lovely, I actually found the original version better written.
      Interestingly enough, the some schools still use the readers, especially home schools. Though the first reader is the weakest, the stories in the readers continue to improve.  Written and edited by William Holmes McGuffey, the text is still effective if used along with contemporary readers and modern learning materials.

QUIZ: Not all readers managed to make it through to the Sixth Reader, but here is a sample of writings from the McGuffey’s Sixth Eclectic Reader.  See how well you can do matching the correct authors to their works.  The correct answers follow these two mixed-up lists:


1. Song of the Greek Bard                                     A. Shakespeare

2. Lochinvar                                                          B. Shakespeare

3. Character of Columbus                                     C. William Hazlitt

4. Prince Henry & Falstaff                                    D. Washington Irving
                                                           
5. Political Tolerance                                            E. Horace Greeley

6. My Mother’s Picture                                          F. William Cowper

7. Labor                                                                 G. Washington Irving

8. Thanatopsis                                                       H. Thomas Jefferson

9. Indian Jugglers                                                  I. Sir Walter Scott

10. Death of Sampson                                            J. Bible

11. Antony over Caesar’s Dead Body                    K. Lord Byron

12. “He Giveth His Beloved Sheep”                     L. William Cullen Bryant

13. Death of Absalom                                            M. Milton

14. The Last Days of Herculaneum                       N. Homer

                                                                               O. Edwin Atherstone

                                                                               P. John Locke
                                                                                   
                                                                               Q. President Abraham Lincoln
                                                                                               
                                                                               R. Harriet Beecher Stowe




THE ANSWERS

1. Song of the Greek Bard                                                                A. Lord Byron

2. Lochinvar                                                                                      B. Sir Walter Scott

3. Character of Columbus                                                                 C. Washington Irving

4. Prince Henry & Falstaff                                                                D. Shakespeare

5. Political Tolerance                                                                         E. Thomas Jefferson

6. My Mother’s Picture                                                                      F. William Cowper

7. Labor                                                                                              G. Horace Greeley

8. Thanatopsis                                                                          H. William Cullen Bryant

9. Indian Jugglers                                                                               I. Wm Hazlitt

10. Death of Sampson                                                                        J. John Milton

11. Antony over Caesar’s Dead Body                                                K. Shakespeare

12. “He Giveth His Beloved Sheep”                                    L. Elizabeth B. Browning

13. The Last Days of Herculaneum                                             M. Edwin Atherton

14. Death of Absalom                                                                         N. Bible