Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Have any of you ever incorporated your family history into your writing? Do you like to read books that are based, however loosely, on factual happenings?

My mom was the oldest of eleven children. She knew everyone in our family and how they were related. Because she and my dad grew up together in a tiny little town in southeast Oklahoma (their high school had a graduating class of twelve), she also knew quite a lot about his side of the family as well.

But when I was younger, I was not interested in the stories she told me. It was only later, when I was grown and had children of my own, that I began to wonder and ask questions, and by that time, her memory had already begun to decline.

If you have ever read the book, The Education of Little Tree, (by Forrest Carter) or seen the HBO movie, this story might sound familiar. When Andrew Jackson decided that the Indians were to be assimilated into the white man’s world, he put lots of plans into action that would take years to snowball and evolve into what they eventually became—a truly shameful period in the US governmental policies and procedures. One of Jackson’s plans, besides Removal, that was carried through into subsequent presidencies, was the idea of assimilating Native American children in white homes to integrate them more completely. The Native American children were taken from their villages and given to willing white families (along with a tidy little government stipend for their troubles) to raise.

My great-great-great grandfather was one of these children. We don’t know his real name. It was changed when he was delivered to his new “family”, a Presbyterian minister and his wife. Their last name was Walls. So his name was changed to Walls, and he was given the first name, David. Forbidden to speak his language, he was forced to forget all the ways of his People, and dress in white man’s clothing, go to white school. But he was never going to be white, and his place in the world was divided so drastically that he could not fit in anywhere. Eventually, the Rev. Walls sent David to medical school in Missouri. When he returned to the small town where he’d been raised, he was a doctor who rode to his patients on horseback. Later, he married and had children, but it was not a happy union and his son, my great-great grandfather, became an alcoholic whose own children, in turn, left home as soon as they possibly could. My great grandmother, his daughter, married at 13. Her older sister left home one day and never returned. No one ever knew what became of her.

I’ve often thought of these children that were abducted by our cavalrymen, and taken away to their white “families”, forbidden everything familiar and forced to adopt everything new and different, even their speech and childhood games. Can you imagine it? To never be allowed to see your mother and father again. Siblings separated and “given” to different families, their heritage and connection with one another lost forever. How many tears must they have shed? And how lonely and separate they must have felt, how isolated, even into adulthood…so that most of them, I imagine, never were able to fit in anywhere in the world.

My story in the 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION, available through Victory Tales Press, is based loosely on what happened to my long-ago ancestor.

Dr. Shay Logan has just returned to Talihina, Indian Territory, from medical school in Missouri. Shay hopes to settle down and make a life for himself, but how? He doesn’t belong to either world, Anglo or Indian He's made the acquaintance of Katrina Whitworth at the July 4th town social, and the attraction is mutual from the very beginning. Shay begins to have hopes and dreams that may be out of the question…but Katrina seems to have stars in her eyes for him as well. Will she risk everything to be with him? Katrina makes a social blunder, and Shay follows her into the woods to apologize to her, but when they return, Katrina's drunken father humiliates her. To make matters worse, her former beau shows a side of himself she had not seen before. Can Katrina and Shay have a life together that they so badly want? Here’s an excerpt for you.

As his 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.”



Here's the link at Amazon:


  1. "One Magic Night" sounds like a very interesting story. I'm looking forward to reading this story and the other stories in the A 2011 Summer Collection book.
    I can't imagine a child being taken from their family and never seeing them again and having to live with strangers and call them your family.
    I believe that my great-grandfather was one these children too. When I did some genealogy research on my mom side of the family, I come to a dead end dealing with my grandfather's father side of the family. All I know is that my grandfather was either a full blooded American Indian or half American Indian.

  2. Terific concept, Cheryl. My own great grandmother's family somehow escaped removal by moving around Georgia and Alabama. Even though my father was only 1/4 Cherokee, he didn't want anyone to know for fear he would be ostracized. He never indicated on the forms I brought home from school that he was part Indian. I asked him why and he asked me if I wanted to be sent to live on a reservation. It's sad the original Americans have been so badly treated.

  3. Hi, Cheryl-- I didn't know "One Magic Night" was somewhat based on a family event. Very interesting story about your great-great-great grandfather, one I know happened many times over.
    I wondered why you chose Shay to be a physician. Now I know and can say it makes having read this story even better.
    Since my story is in 2011 Summer Collection, too, I also encourage readers to purchase it. (Mine is Addie and the Gunslinger.)

    I liked all the stories in this anthology. Rebecca did a good job collecting stories from different genres into one very nice book.
    Thanks for the story of your family--Celia

  4. Hi Becky,
    Do you have any idea what tribe he was from? We had always thought my G-G-G grandfather was Cherokee, but now I'm beginning to think perhaps he was Chickasaw or Choctaw instead. Oklahoma is the seat of the 5 Civilized Tribes, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole, as well as many other nations of Native Americans. Because he went back to what is considered the Chickasaw Nation for his final years and is buried in that area, it makes me believe that might be where he was from originally. If you will send me your e-mail addy. I might be able to help you in your search with where to find the roll books, etc. I'll be glad to help any way I can.

  5. Caroline,
    Many families escaped by not signing the Dawes Roll. I had other relatives in my family that could have signed up and gotten land, etc. that was offered, but wouldn't because they didn't want to be labeled as Indians. When my grandfather returned from medical school, he would not claim his Indian blood any more, either. But there was no getting around it--you could look at his children and grandchildren and see the Indian very strong in their characteristics. I don't think a picture of him exists.

  6. Celia,
    I just rolled in from WV about 2 hours ago. SO GLAD TO BE HOME! LOL Then I remembered I had this blog post up today, and ran right over to read the comments. It's hard when you are away from home and the computer service is so sketchy. Our iphones even had trouble there, at different places. Anyhow, I'm so glad you enjoyed the story of Katrina and Shay. Wish I knew more about him. My aunt that does the genealogy knows some things, but it differs from what Mom told me. So I wonder. Because my mom was the oldest of 11 kids, and my aunt is one of the youngest of the bunch. Everything she knows she has gotten from other relatives or records that she's had to try to piece together. My mom had a mind like a steel trap "back in the day" and she was old enough to remember a lot of the stuff my aunt never would have known. Anyhow, I can't wait to be able to have a chance to read A 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION! It looks like there are a ton of great stories in this anthology, and of course with a title like Addie and the Gunslinger for yours I KNOW it's got to be great. LOL All the others will, too, I know. Can't wait to dive into it.

  7. How amazing. I had never heard about the children being taken from the families and put into white homes. How unfortuate for them all. It's a wonderful tribute to your family member that you are able to share this in your story. Good luck with lots of sales, Cheryl.

  8. Hi Paisley,
    I know a lot of people haven't heard of that--it's not something that people even think of anymore, I'm sure--unless it's happened in your family or you've heard of it somewhere. It's pretty mind boggling, isn't it? How I wish I knew more about him and the family that adopted him! I've wondered so often if he had siblings and what became of them? How did his real parents cope with that? I don't know how a person could go on if one of their children was taken from them like that, much less ALL of them. Many times, the girls were sent to boarding schools, and then they also started doing that for the boys, too. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting! I hope the book sells well, too. This is a really good collection of stories.

  9. Absolutely fascinating, Cheryl. I don't believe I'd heard about this practice before, either, and how interesting to have had it occur in your own family!

    I think it's wonderful that your own family history spurred a story.

    And I more than understand about your mom's memory beginning to fail just as you wanted to learn more. I grew up on my father's stories of the depression era; he suffers from senile dementia now so all those stories that I thought I'd never want to hear again are gone. By the time we began to encourage him to write them down, they were already fading.

    Congratulations on the story, it sounds like a wonderful read!


  10. Hi Nic,
    I know, it's really sad--that old saying about youth is wasted on the young is so true, because I remember so well my mom trying to talk about when she was growing up and what they did and stories of my grandparents and even my great grandparents that she would talk about, but in my mind I was thinking "GOOD LORD. Do I have to hear this AGAIN?" As I got older, (into my teens) I was convinced that my mom had NEVER experienced the things I did as a teenager...UH, NO. Because my mom grew up in the Great Depression when there were things to be concerned about such as FOOD rather than what outfit to wear. She probably only had one or two outfits to pick from. We always encouraged her to write things down as we got old enough to realize what a treasure trove of stories she had to tell and appreciate them. She's always say, "SOMEDAY, I am going to write my life story." But my mom was such a perfectionist that SOMEDAY never came, because I'm sure she felt she would never be able to do it justice in her writing. Out of that whole family (she being the oldest of 11 kids) no one else writes--none of my cousins, aunts, uncles...so it's all lost. Nic, why don't YOU write a story based on some of your dad's tales? I think that would be really awesome! I'm so sorry to hear about his dementia. My mom lived in fear of that and of course, ended up with Altzheimer's. I'm thinking of you--it's not easy, I know.

  11. The story sounds really interesting. I like stories that have a touch of real people about them. The story has echos of 'Rabbit proof fence' about Australian Aobriginal children who were taken from their families be 'educated'. Having just got my hands on a kindle i will look to add the summer collection to my buying list.

  12. Hi Lynda,
    I don't know what gives people the idea that taking other people's children to "better" them is okay! That is just amazing to me. I'm so glad you came by. I'm giving away two copies of A 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION here in a couple of minutes, so you may end up winning one! Check back around 9:00 CST.

  13. Well, this was an easy drawing! Becky and Lynda were my two winners! If you all will send me your e-mail addresses, I will get your prizes to you ASAP! Thanks so much for coming by and commenting.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.