Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Powwow

The post for this month was to quote a passage of a vacation in one of one's books. This is from a short story I've been working on forever.   It's based a bit on truth, a bit of imagination. Maybe the truth is getting in the way.  Or not.
Buick Century
 June 29th, 1956
They latched onto Route 66 in Gallup, and seventeen-year-old Shelly ate her first authentic Mexican food at the counter in a little café along the dusty highway. A picky eater, she savored the taste of the spicy beef, the oozing melted cheese on the corn tortilla and the cooling lettuce-and- tomato garnish.
            Shelley’s dad drove the robin’s-egg-blue Buick Century, gobbling up the miles to Flagstaff. The Buick was Shelly’s favorite car ever. She pulled the Texaco map out of the glove box and stared at the cat’s cradle of intersecting red, blue and black lines. The Buick cruised along at eighty. They passed signs that the had entered the Petrified Forest. Her dad raced full-speed ahead and never braked for roadside attractions.
“Can’t we stop and look around?” she asked. “Maybe we could find a piece of petrified wood.”
“We got a late start. I want to get to Flagstaff and find a room.” 
“A few minutes won’t make any difference.”
He kept on driving.
They passed Navajo hogans—some little better than hovels. Many looked deserted but others had carts and even pickups parked outside and sometimes a mud oven in the baked-earth backyard. She never saw any Navajos.
            Shelly would not have agreed to keep her dad company on this trip from Eastern Colorado to Arizona, but this summer her friends were either working or out of town for weeks and she didn’t want to listen to her mother hound her to try just a little harder to get a “real” summer job.
Before them, the road was a black ribbon stretching over rises, past mesas and more hogans. They began passing a stream of pickups with Indian families jammed into the backs, the women arrayed in colorful dresses or even buckskin, their chests and arms loaded with silver and turquoise bracelets and necklaces. The pickups became even more numerous until the Buick was part of a gaudy parade heading toward Flagstaff.
Southwest Indian Jewelry
They drove past little covered wagons pulled by teams of horses or sometimes one lone horse, wagons brimful of Indian families in their finery. The horses walked by the side of the road, not on the highway. The women, with their impassive faces like weathered copper, were awash in turquoise and silver. Even the little kids, decked out in beads, feathers, and buckskin, wore silver.
 “Maybe there’s a Powwow,” her father said. “Now that would be something.”  
* * *
They pulled into blazing, bustling Flagstaff in the late afternoon, joining the crush of people. Banners strung over the streets and placards in all the windows announced the annual PowWow. Motels, preferred by her dad, all had No Vacancy signs, so they checked into the ancient-looking Hotel Monte Vista. A compact, darkly handsome young man who appeared to be a bellhop without a uniform flashed a smile at Shelly and introduced himself as Leroy. When he offered to carry her suitcase, her dad said, “Much obliged, but I’ll carry it,” grabbed both their bags and trundled them up the stairs.
So much for that possible flirtation
This trip was unlikely to advance any romantic possibilities, with more much obliged, but I’ll carry it moments with her father around all the time.
While she unpacked, her dad sat on his bed, lit a cigarette, and speculated that Leroy was a Basque. He said Basques were originally from Spain and herded sheep, like that explained everything. Shelly’s dad knew more stuff.

                                                * * *
The Pow Wow campground sprawled in a forest of tall Ponderosa pines next to the rodeo grounds. They parked and walked around, staring at everything. The smell of the pines reminded Shelly of hot afternoons in the Colorado mountains. She breathed deeply, filling her nose and lungs with the foresty fragrance. Her dad pointed at a hunk of raw meat suspended from a tree branch with flies buzzing around.
“Mutton,” he said. “I never took much to eating sheep.”
Shelly gasped at the ocean of turquoise and gleaming silver laid out on makeshift tables, on blankets, and every kind of rustic handmade display. Rings, bracelets, necklaces, even ornate squash blossom pieces, concha belts, bolo ties, every variety of adornment with the turquoise from palest blue to a deep sea-green.
More Indian Jewelry
Her dad ran his hand over some antique-looking jewelry. “Old pawn,” he said. “More valuable than new things.”
More stuff he knew about.
They walked from vendor to vendor, and Shelly couldn’t decide what to buy with her baby-sitting money. Further into the camp, the smoke from cooking fires teased her nose. Was it the fry bread her dad always talked about? Little kids scampered everywhere. In a wagon, a woman nursed a baby. Horses neighed or ate the sparse grass. In the distance, she heard drumming. She didn’t recall seeing so much . . . life, jumbled and noisy and smelly but somehow magnetic, pulling them into the Powwow.
“Make up your mind, kiddo.”  
Shelly  bought a silver Zuni ring, with turquoise stones arranged in the shape of a leaf, and a medallion on a thin silver chain, with a thunderbird mosaic of turquoise, bone, and coral. It looked lucky, better than a rabbit’s foot.

Photos is from an old Arizona Highways magazine

These bloggers will also publish vacation or travel writngs that have appeared in their stories.

Diane Bator
Marie Laval
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
J Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
A.J. Maguire
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Rhobin L Courtright

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Once and Future Books

 Once again, Rhobin has chosen a meaty topic.

My current book! I could write for days about it. I'm writing about something near to my heart, the Mennonite community in my mother's small hometown, a hamlet in Kansas.  Mom's dad was born into a Mennonite family in the 1880s. He was kicked out of the church as a young man for playing baseball on Sunday for money. He was a baseball fanatic all his life and at one time managed the championship 1928 Wheat League Team.

My grandmother was a descendant of settlers from Quebec in French Canada.  No longer Catholics, they were Baptists (long story).
Grandparents House

My novel is set in two periods, 1953 and 2019.  The protagonists are a present day woman (2019) and her grandmother (1953).  It is a murder mystery and just a couple days ago I figured out the who an how of the murderer.
63,000+ words and I didn't know these things.  Now I do.  Whew!  It's fun to write about 1953 with the language and culture so different.  It was definitely a different century.  My 1953 character is a Mennonite widow, a former missionary, a teacher, a painter, a quilter, a journal writer and now an amateur detective.  She amazes me  I'm nothing like her.
French-Baptist Cemetery

Her granddaughter  is a journalist who has lost her job and left her stalker boyfriend.  She has inherited her grandmother's house and is writing  a book about the Plains. Nothing like me, either, but I know them  well.
A couple  years ago I visited the county and the town and talked to everyone.  Something that surprised me a lot was how friendly and helpful everyone was.  It was humbling and also made me cry.

Santa Fe Railroad Crossing
The writing has been off and on as I deal with some difficult life and health situations.  I love my characters and  expect them to keep surprising me.

As  part of this adventure, I discovered the breed of tomatoes my grandfather grew in his garden. Sioux. They are now heirloom an have even been improved.  I found some plants and had them shipped from California.  Again, the woman running the nursery was so nice.  One of the tomatoes is ripening, like my story.  This is personal.      

Local college- everyone so helpful and kind 

I'm sure the other bloggers have interestings works in process.  Writers love to talk about their writing.
Take a look:

Skye Taylor
Marci Baun
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
A.J. Maguire
Victoria Chatham

Fiona McGier
Rhobin L Courtright