Thursday, October 15, 2015

Five Family Stories + One

The School Teacher

In a fit of rage over a minor matter, he stabbed a man to death but somehow found himself acquitted. Perhaps his prominent pioneer family turned the tide of public opinion. Perhaps it really was a matter of self-defense.
The family left Missouri and came to Texas in a covered wagon. My grandmother told me the saga of their journey when I was in fourth grade and needed to tell a pioneer story as part of a school program. I didn’t know the rest until a family member returned to Missouri and dug up old newspapers and records.
The real tragedy came about years later when the oldest son--who was old enough to be aware of the killing at the time it happened--got into an argument with his father and spat the word “murderer” in his face. He left home--either by choice or demand--and never returned. He fought in the Spanish-American War and lived out the rest of his life alone in California. I have the flag which draped his casket.
The Deaf Son
He was the third child and second son of his immediate family, born in 1886--he thought--and in a particular county in Texas, but he wasn’t sure. The hearing loss with which he was born worsened when a baseball bat struck him in the head around the age of 13. In school, the teacher made fun of him. He dropped out. When the post-WWI pandemic swept the country, it took the rest of his hearing at the age of 32. Nothing could be done. Not even a hearing aid could help. His father and brothers with whom he was in business found him an embarrassment and bought out his share of the general store they operated. So many injustices--they would indeed fill a book.

The Lost Love
He is only a picture kept throughout her life--the handsome young school teacher in gold-rimmed glasses and silk ‘puff’ tie. The dreaded scourge of tuberculosis sent him to a drier environment just after the turn of the 20th century. He never returned. She married someone else--at almost 30, a girl must marry. But the picture is evidence she never forgot.

A Family Lost
They left their home in the eastern part of Texas and started toward the western part where their oldest daughter lived with her growing brood. The Civil War had taken their oldest son, another son who survived the war and a daughter had married, but the remainder of the family--two sons and three daughters--started out. They reached their destination but very soon were laid to rest beneath hand-hewn stones--all but two of the girls. Some say they started too late in the year and developed pneumonia from the cold. Another says they contracted typhoid from an encounter with bad water. Five silent stones in a neat row once bordered with rocks. They’ll only live and speak again in a story.
The Refugee
At the end of the Civil War, he and others were released from the POW camp in Rock Island, Illinois, and started home--barefooted and not knowing what he would find. His Mississippi home lay in ruins, so he like so many others headed for greener pastures in Texas. In later years, he’d sit on the porch with his gun across his lap--no doubt waiting for  “the Yankees”.

The Survivor
He lay wounded as the two Yankee soldiers approached him and heard one of them say, “Don’t waste a bullet on the Reb. He’s going to die anyway.” But he didn’t. Rescued by a woman and her daughter, he made it home to Alabama. After his first wife died, he remarried and headed for Texas where he sired a large family and became a successful farmer.

These stories are the tip of the iceberg. As I’ve researched, I’ve turned up odd circumstances, blatant falsehoods, and strange events. I’ve asked more questions than I’ll ever find answers for. But each one is a budding story. Hopefully, I’ll write some of them.

If you were me. . .
Which story would you write? Weigh in for a free PDF of Book 1 in The Dreamland Series: Lethal Legacy in Dreamland.

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