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I didn't grow up knowing I wanted to be a writer, not really, but there were signs along the way that I heard the whisper of that desire. The first time when at ten I wrote my first,for publication, poem for the Weekly Reader. It was rejected. (Actually I'm a terrible poet.) But if I had not yet heard that whisper loud enough to act on it, I'm pretty sure I loved the idea of being a story teller.
My dad was a story teller and after he married my mother at 40 years of age and settled down in one place, packing horses for the Forest service in Montana, he wrote a book length story of his cowboy days, but he died before it could be published. His oral stories were tall tales and his children loved them.
My first visit to the library was as babe in my mother's arms and through her, I came to know the wonderful world of books and the beauty of poetry.
In my childhood, my dolls acted out stories and my other toys did the same. I once cut out of brown cloth a family of squirrels and played with them many days in a hollowed out stump of a long dead tree. Being a single piece of cloth with no stuffing at all, they flopped over this way and that as my hands directed them to act out the stories I made up for them.
I was sitting at a funeral when a woman came to me with her story. I was in my early thirties with four young children and did nothing more than write a few lines... maybe paragraphs, but I thought of her a lot and she lived within me for a long time. But nothing lasts forever they say, and she finally left me. But she did not take with her the desire that had begun to grow in her presence. The desire to write.
I took some correspondence courses in writing for children and wrote and sold a few short stories for children's magazines, but I wanted more. I was in my late forties when my first book , Trapped!, the story of a girl with the Donner Party, was published. Four more books of historical fiction for children followed and then I decided I wanted to write a western for adults and Ride a Shadowed Trail emerged from that desire. Urged by readers who wanted to know what happened next to the lead character, Josh Ryder, I wrote Crossed Trails, which came out in 2012, along with my children's book, Echoes of Kansas Past. I have a serial story for children currently running in some Kansas newspapers about a boy on the Orphan Train. This is the third year that the program, titled Newspapers in Education, has run one of my stories. In 2011, the story was about twins on a time travel adventure. I've since added ten more chapters and it is now the book mentioned above, Echoes of Kansas Past. Last year, the story was about a Kansas boy during WWII. I plan to add ten more chapters to that story and have it published in book form. I will do the same with this 2013 story in time, if all goes well.
So did I want to be a writer when I grew up? The answer must be yes, I just was slow getting grown up.
“Grandpa Andrews says to know how another person feels, you have to walk a mile in his moccasins,” Jack said. “And the time machine will let people do that,” Mollie said.
Travel back in time with fourth grade twins, Jack and Mollie, in this illustrated chapter book and meet those who are now part of Kansas history. Go with the twins as they travel through time and find themselves “walking in the moccasins of others.” Among their experiences: living as Kanza Indians in 1620, riding an orphan train where new parents await the children, hiding with other scared runaway slaves in a dark cellar and meeting Abraham Lincoln, witnessing discrimination as first grade classmates of Langston Hughes in a non-integrated school, arriving at Fort Riley where they meet Comanche, the famous horse of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, again becoming Indian children in the harsh early days of the Haskell University, and attending a dance where they hear the first ever rendition of the state song, “Home on the Range.”
When the twins were again aware of their surroundings, Jack was bent over coughing so hard he was nearly gagging. They were in front of a ramshackle old house set out on the prairie, a hot gusty wind swirling around them. Mollie saw that this time, Jack had on overalls and she wore a green print dress that fell just below her knees.
She gasped as an old man with long, flowing white hair stepped out of the house. Instinctively she patted her dress looking for pockets and her glasses. She had neither and felt a cold chill.
The urge to run swept over Mollie as the old man placed a hand under Jack's chin and lifted it to peer into his eyes. She thought of a picture in the Hansel and Gretel book she'd had as a little girl of the old witch, her bony finger under Hansel's chin, as she studied him to see if he was yet fat enough to eat.
"Come inside, boy," the old man finally said, "and I'll have you fixed up in no time."
As Mollie followed Jack and the old man inside the house, warnings she'd heard about such situations eechoed in her ear. Never go with strangers, or take candy, or in this case, medicine, and certainly don't go into their homes.
She shivered as the old man took a jar of dark brown liquid down from a shelf and pouring some in a cup, handed it to Jack.
Certain Jack had been poisoned when he sputtered and gasped for breath, Mollie felt helpless, angry, and scared. But those feelings eased as the old man said, a twinkle in his faded blue eyes, "I know, son. It tastes awful, but it'll fix you up in no time."
Now dismissing them, he said, "I have medicine outside cooking that I need to tend."
"Could we watch?" Jack said, paying no attention to Mollie's mouthed, "No!"
A School in Name Only
"Did you not understand?" The voice was harsh and Jack felt his face flush with both anger and embarrassment.
"Sorry," he said in English, but the word tasted bitter on his lips. Without thinking, wanting to be first to answer the teacher's question, the words of his people had come faster to his tongue. He gave the answer again using the English words they were supposed to speak at all times in this school.
The yellow button on the time machine had transformed the twins into Native Americans again, but this school did not make them feel like native anything.
Jack and Molie soon realized that these Indian kids had come to this school with the language, hairstyles, and culture of their people, but all of that was gone now. Here they were expected to adopt the ways of the white people. Even their hair had been cut off just above the shoulders; gone were the braids and other hairstyles he or she had probably come with, and even their Indians names were replaced with white ones. When he and Mollie were given their own names, Jack wondered if the time machine had somehow made it happen.
A boy whose name had been changed from Swift Arrow to Billy, told Jack that in this school the boys learned about farming, blacksmithing, and other jobs of the white man. The girls, he learned from Mollie, were taught to cook and sew and keep house like white women. They all had to learn English, which few, if any spoke at home.
They want to make us white," Billy said. He shook his head. "I don't want to be white."
Jack soon learned that this was the Haskell Indian School and as Billy said, the purpose of the school was to teach the Indian children to be like white children. They were absolutely forbidden to speak their own tongue and those who resisted were treated harshly. Some were locked up in a small jail, some spanked with a paddle board, or leather belt, and some sent to bed without supper. One boy said, about going without supper, "It is not such a punishment to not eat that gray mush they call food."
Amazon review by Mary Trimble. She also posted this review on her blog at http://www.MaryTrimbleBooks.com (see quick links on the right for easy access)
Crossed Trails (Whiskey Creek Press) by Eunice Boeve is a fast-paced, skillfully crafted and exciting western.
After trailing a herd of longhorns from Texas to Montana, Joshua Ryder is determined to settle near the Pacific Ocean, a place where no one would know his father was a violent outlaw and his mother a prostitute.
In the spring of 1877, Josh begins his journey west when he encounters a Nez Perce woman and her newborn baby. The woman is unresponsive and unable to care for her new-born on her own. He feels obligated to do what he can and takes them to Virginia City, Montana. Knowing the town will not welcome an Indian woman, he finds a home for them with an old washerwoman, Jesse, who has met with an accident and is unable to work. In order to pay the woman for board, Josh takes on whatever work he can find. Their lives are further complicated when a little Chinese girl joins the make-shift family.
As their lives become entwined, Josh’s intentions to move on become more distant. With all these complications, he can’t in good conscience leave. Adding to their hardships, the old woman becomes ill and Josh must hire someone to take care of her, the Nez Perce woman and her child, plus the little Chinese girl.
As much as he tries to avoid admitting it, Josh is smitten with Jolene, the young woman he hires to help. But a relationship is impossible. He won’t subject her to someone with his past. In any event, if she knew about his parents, she wouldn’t want anything to do with him.
Along comes Eli, the old woman’s worthless grandson, and their world turns from troubled to dangerous. Josh is framed for a murder. He could run from the law, probably successfully. Or he could stay and face his accusers. But can he hide from his past? In either case, he’s bound to lose those he’s come to love.
Crossed Trails is a sequel to Ride a Shadowed Trail, though each book stands alone. Boeve provides the reader with enough of the first story’s details to enhance the threads of the second. Boeve is a gifted storyteller and knowledgeable about the times and mannerisms of the era.
(Mary Trimble is the author of Tenderfoot, McClellan's Bluff, Rosemont, and most recently TUBOB: Two years in West Africa with the Peace Corps)
Eunice, I really did enjoy Ride a Shadowed Trail. It's been a while since I've read a traditional western but you certainly lived up to the best of those expectations. I also want to mention your understanding of an eight year old boy, ready to take on the management of his own life. Thank you, Jo
By N. Oswald
In this book, the character, Josh Ryder, unwinds the secrets of his past with twists and turns as fluid as the movements of a desert sidewinder. This story brings Texas and the west alive with accurate details and believable events that portray life during the days of wide-open spaces and long cattle drives. Life and death, love and heartbreak, mark Josh's journey to find his father and to avenge the death of his mother. The conclusion lassos and ties Josh's experiences. As he reflects on his past he makes conscious choices about his future and leads us to reflect on our own. The words of the character, Rosita, echo a main theme in this book: "Life, she gives and takes away and in both ways she changes our journey." Excellent Fiction.
By Tina Pool
Ride a Shadowed Trail is a fast-paced story of a young boy growing into manhood and the challenges he faces in frontier Texas. Ms. Boeve's characters are well-developed and you immediately feel a connection to them. Each turn of the page leaves the reader wanting more. Readers of western and non-western novels will love Ride a Shadowed Trail. It's universally appealing!