I am sitting in Drakes Island, Maine, writing a short story I promised Western Fictioneers for the bi-annual anthology edited by Richard Prosch. It’s due August 1, and the anthology will be out in time for Christmas gifts. The 2020 anthology, Under Western Stars, carried my favorite short story. I hope this one can top it. If it comes in a close second, I will be happy.
Well, I’m not actually writing the short story, I am writing this blog, and with good reason. As I wrote about the four-year-old girl who collected buffalo chips in her apron and insisted on giving them personally to the Trail Captain, I marveled at how Ben Franklin’s discovery put to good use by some geeks in a garage could make it possible for me to sit here surrounded by good, fresh water (we have a house on a fresh water marsh near the not fresh water ocean) and yet live in 1849 on the trail between Kanesville, Iowa, and Sweetwater, Wyoming, where bullies steal water from the weak and leave them to cholera from the unsanitary water that is all they have left to drink.
I am sitting around the campfire with the other families in the company, and I watch that little girl walk in with determination and purpose. She drops her apron and the buffalo chips fall on the ground in front of the Trail Captain. Her job done, she looks up at him and says, “I think you should know there are bullies.” “Where?” asks the captain. “Right here. On the trail.”
“How do you know they are bullies?” asks the captain.
“Because they take the good water the constable gave the sick people in a barrel.”
“I’ll tell the Constable. He’ll take care of them.”
And her mother reaches into the bonfire and pulls out a lobster….oh, we’re back here in Maine again.
Maybe you’ll order the anthology when it’s ready and see what happens. I promise to tell you when it is available for pre-order.
Three trails in one. One trail became three, and settled the West. That little girl’s daughter married the Constable’s grandson. That little girl celebrated her 100th birthday on VE Day, the end of World War II in 1945.