For those who don’t know me or my work, I wrote for 20 years prior to first publication in 2005. You can get a little insight into me if you go to my web site, which I constructed myself, ugh, and keep up after a fashion, www.joycehendersonauthor.com That said, what comes to mind out of my long years of experience to talk about here? Family, I guess, and some of the stories behind why I write Historical Native American Westerns. My maternal great-grandparents migrated to Central Texas in 1900, from Tennessee and Georgia.
I don’t know much about my biological father’s relatives. Although, his family is rumored to have some Native American blood mixed in somewhere back in history, but I’ve never been able to pin down anything definitive in that regard. Mother escaped a bad marriage by hauling me out a window, literally, when I was three years old, and packing me off to Southern California where I grew up.
My roots are firmly planted in the 60-acres of rocky Texas soil my maternal great-grandparents farmed. Not having a lot of money, they couldn’t hire much help. So what did folks do in those days to get cheap labor to clear trees and stumps, dislodge those rocks, and build a house that stood until 1980?
In the case of my intrepid ancestors, William Lamar Yancy Bond and Bethany Ada Morgan Bond proceeded to grow their own farm workers—twelve youngin’s. I marveled at my great-grandma, who was in a wheelchair the last 25 years of her life because a broken foot wouldn’t heal (diabetes), and wondered how she managed to birth strapping children. She was all of 4′ 10 or 11″ and weighed maybe 90 pounds soaking wet.
On the other hand, my great-grandpa was a barrel-chested six-footer—and answered to that little squirt he married. Yessiree, he sure did! I think most women who migrated west were tough little ladies, or they never would have made the journey. So many survived and even flourished with few amenities, and most certainly fought the miseries of dirt, rain, biting wind and snow.
The Bonds built a three-room house, with outhouse, a small barn for the plow horse and milk cow, and a chicken pen right next to the barn. They had a few pigs, and the kids tended a small herd of cattle that was mostly raised for beef.
I don’t know how, or from whom they got to help them dig a well, maybe grandpa and the boys did it themselves. But water was piped into the side of the kitchen, and a hand pump was situated over a sink. Voila, indoor plumbing!
The third room in the house was like a barracks along the side of the kitchen and the room with the fireplace that served as the living room. In those days, grandma and her daughters made all their clothes and bedding. And that meant, a quilt frame was forever part of the main room, suspended from the ceiling with ropes, and could be lowered to accommodate the women sitting on either side to quilt. Woe be to the girl who failed to sew tiny, neat stitches in those quilts!
People of today think cigarettes are disgusting. Um, my great-grandma and my grandma both dipped snuff. Now there’s a disgusting habit! And you know, my great-grandma never owned a toothbrush. Eeww! It’s true. She used the burnt end of a wooden match stick to clean her teeth. I think she had every tooth in her head the day she died.
There was a narrow stream not too far from the house where the kids and grandpa, more often than not, bathed. Winter forced them all inside to the round tin tub that grandma used year-round.
They had one luxury, or what might be considered a luxury. A chiming wall clock hung just inside the front door. It was great-grandpa’s pride and joy, I guess. Interestingly, he died at, as I recall, 6:10 in the evening. The clock stopped at the precise moment of his death and never ran again.
You may now understand why I write about farm life. For me, the mid 1800’s to early 1900 hold a never-ending fascination and, specifically, my family’s history. How many of you have tales about your family history to tell?
From those who leave a comment, I will draw a name and send that person signed copies of my two 2005 releases, WALKS IN SHADOW and WRITTEN ON THE WIND, both now out of stock. A second name drawn will receive a signed copy of TO THE EDGE OF THE STARS.
Check back here to see who won, and then email firstname.lastname@example.org your address so I can send out the books right away.