by Guest author, Arletta Dawdy
I am delighted and honored to be here with Sweethearts of the West and to acquaint you with my work and myself. I’ve enjoyed many a post here and learned much, especially about Texas!
My stories are set in Southeast Arizona Territory which I’ve studied extensively, visited weeks and months at a time. I’ve camped on top of windy Carr Peak in the Huachuca Mountains, plowed my way through Garden Canyon seeking the petroglyphs of Fort Huachuca and learned that Wah-chew-ca is not pronounced: Oaxaca! I know something of the trails, the canyons, and the wonders of a snowy spring day there and more about the museums, the San Pedro River and the towns of Tombstone and Bisbee.
When you read my books, you enter into a special place and time where the snake weed flourishes, the spring melt rushes and myriad hummingbirds mark a summer day.
My heroines tend to be very strong women who face major obstacles with determination, resourcefulness and courage. Josephine, the HUACHUCA WOMAN, is a businesswoman/rancher and tells her borderlands history in tales of her long life and the historic characters and events that populate it. BY GRACE briefly follows Grace’s life after she trains at the Tiffany Studio and is forced to flee west to escape a would-be killer and ends up in the Huachucas. But, it is an aspect of ROSE OF SHARON that I write of today.
Orphaned, lost and in need of family, Rose of Sharon finds hope only to lose it again with the mental illness of her new mother, an attempted murder, a painful inter-racial love affair and abandonment. Rose’s paranormal and writing gifts set her apart as she faces her life trials. Precocious in all aspects of her life, including in her love of White Buffalo Abraham Douglass, she struggles against all that would isolate her.
Daring to write of another culture or racial identity calls on the author to research carefully, mindful of gaps in history and accuracy, especially when going back to another era where documentation may be scant or prejudicial. I have done this in each of the three books of the trilogy and had the least pre-knowledge when it came to the Chiricahua Apaches. I wrote of Geronimo in the first book, studied the history of the white man’s intrusion into the area and its impact and followed them through the loss of their lands, culture, lives and transplant to the wretched environs of Floridian swamps.
White Buffalo, Aunty and a few others, I decided, would escape from the round-up at San Carlos reservation to the north and hide out in the land of Cochise in the Dragoons. While I didn’t find any historical evidence of Chiricahuas in the Huachucas, I exercised my literary license and placed them there.
In the following excerpt, Rose and White Buffalo meet when she discovers him sitting under the classroom window in 1890; she is 10 and he is about 14:
“So, what’s your name?” Rose finished her half-sandwich and dug the carrots out of her pail.
“Which name you want? I got at least three.”
“How come so many?” Rose handed him a couple of carrot sticks, but didn’t want to share her pie. Nobody, not even her real mama, made pie crust as sweet and crispy good as Mama Elise.
“I have my Apache name, my Nigra name and my white name. Can’t many men claim so much in their history, or girls either.” The boy looked around furtively, as if afraid for anyone to see them together.
“That’s true. I’m only white but I’m American with some Scot blood in me. Least I think so.”
“What is this ‘Scot’? Sure you don’t mean scout like they’s got at Fort Huachuca?”
“No, silly, the Scots come from across the seas a long, long time ago.”
“Maybe you’s Nigra, too. We come from across the sea.”
“Ain’t not and don’t you go sayin’ so or I won’t be your friend.” Rose’s dander was truly up now. “What’s your three-peoples name, anyway?”
“I’m White Buffalo Abraham Douglass. The Apache calls me White Buffalo. That’s what my mother’s family named me. My father was a light-colored Buffalo Soldier, part white. So, I’m named Abraham for that white president that freed the slaves. Douglass is for a famous darkie. My pa’s folks took that name when they was freed.”
“Were freed.” Rose corrected him.
“When he was, when they were. You got to talk right.”
“And I want to, but you are losing me,” the boy laughed quietly.
“You talk as if your father isn’t around anymore.” Rose wanted to go around the tree, the better to see just what this White Buffalo looked like.
“That’s the God’s honest truth…”
“Shame, don’t you be takin’ the Lord’s name in vain.” She stood up and started to walk around the tree, but thought better of it.
“What’s this lord?”
“Don’t you know nothing?” Rose stretched farther around the tree, but still couldn’t see him. She let out an annoyed “harrumph,” and re-settled on her side of the oak.
“I know how to trap a rabbit, hunt a deer, heal a wound, chase a Mex across the border…”
“Okay, okay. You know lots of stuff except about God, the Maker of all things.”
White Buffalo looked down at his Levi-clad legs, stuck one leg out for her to see and asked, “What’s the god that made these?”
“Now you’re just being ornery. I’m talkin’ about the God in heaven who watches over us.” She threw a dirt clod toward him.
“Hey!” he let out. They were both quiet for a short while. “Somethin’ you know that I don’t,” the boy said, “is to read and write.”
“I know you been sittin’ under the window of a morning, listening to our lessons.”
“Yeah, I heard that story about how Columbus discovered America. Funny thing is, us Indians been here forever so how come Columbus to discover what was already known?”
“It means the people in Europe didn’t know, I guess.” She paused to think about that. “What else you been learning?”
“Sums come easy. I look at the board when I can and work the numbers in the dirt pretty good. And I got the alphabet, but I dunno what to do with it. Maybe you can teach me?”
They both heard the bell sounding the end of recess. Rose stood and dusted the dirt from her dress and apron, gathered up her pail and notebook and, without a whisper to her new friend, ran back to class. She heard a crow squawk and wondered if it was White Buffalo.
The love affair between Rose and White Buffalo has no future; it is doomed from the start, reluctantly acknowledged by each, but in the process magic happens between them and a child is conceived. Nearly nine years later, White Buffalo sheds his Apache identity and heads to New Orleans, where he is hopeful of making a life for the two of them.
For Rose, it is another abandonment until Aunty comes to assist Rose in birthing Abigail Feather Welty in the Apache tradition. With Rose squatting on her knees, and holding onto a post, Aunty uses antelope sage bathing waters to massage the young mother as she chews salted bits of yucca to hurry the process along.
Rose of Sharon’s family continues to evolve.
Praise for Rose of Sharon: “…a delightful, wonderfully imagined prequel to Grapes of Wrath;” “Characters are born out of the fabric of their landscape;” “…brilliantly crafted descriptive passages.”
|Author Arletta Dawdy|
Arletta Dawdy lives and writes in Northern California but her heart is in the Old West, especially in the Arizona Territory of the late 19th century and early 20th. The Huachuca Trilogy is comprised of Huachuca Woman, By Grace and Rose of Sharon. All are available on Amazon.com, Kindle and by order from your favorite bookstore.
Also on Facebook and Twitter (ArlettaDawdy1)
SOURCES: Morris Edward Opler, An Apache Way of Life
H. Henrietta Stockel, Women of the Apache Nation,Chiricahua Apache Women and Children, and with Bobette Perrone and Victoria Krueger, Medicine Women, Curanderas, and Women Doctors