Archive for the ‘Sunday Serial’ Category

Sunday Serial

More stream of conciousness Western just for the heck of it. Continuing from last week’s.

Do you think I should put all the entries in order on a page?

Feb 14th Saturday

Got word today that a family further upstream, the MacDonald’s got washed out completely while they were asleep. Ma, Pa, three little ones all gone. I hope it was quick. I hope they never knew.

Ma said that when people began to spread out over the range there were times when whole families died and no one know why. Sickness maybe, took the parents and the kids were left to starve. Or bad water or bad food would kill them all.

chimneyShe said she remembered coming on a little overgrown shack and when they looked inside there was the bones of a woman and two kids laid out neat and tidy on a bed and a man on the floor. She wondered if maybe he’d taken his own life when his family died but her Pa said no, because he’d been covered by a blanket too. There was nothing to show their names. It’s sad to think that maybe they had folks back east wondering why the letters had stopped.

The O’Connells are building in a different spot now. We’re going to take it in turns to help. Such a pity about that good stone chimney.

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Sunday Serial

Continuing my – oh lor’ I don’t know what to call it! Probably “a YA historical Western written in diary form” would be most accurate. The last bit was here and the Skidmore family were facing some horrible weather.


Feb 11th Wednesday

Looks like the storm blew out over night. Everything’s washed clean, even the hog pen, but the cows and ponies look sad and battered, poor things. The best of the saddle horses and the milk cows were in shelter, so they were luckier than the O’Connels.

The Aransa river rose high and backed up the creeks. There’s water everywhere this morning, though I suspect it’ll drain fast enough. But last night it rose far enough to undermine the bank and more water flooded across the O’Connels yard. The corner of their house got washed out and this morning the whole thing is leaning. It would have fallen right over if it wasn’t for their chimney. That’s solid river stone so at least they don’t have to build that again if they decide to build in the same place.

Pa says that’s the worst flood he’s seen since he’s been here so they might think it’s worth it. I wouldn’t because the rivers a different shape there now. Who knows what it’ll do next big storm?

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Sunday Serial

Time for another bit of Joe Skidmore’s diary – 1869, east Texas, small farmers under trying circumstances.

February 9th

I haven’t written for a few days because we’ve just been too damn busy. There’s been so much rain that everything’s waterlogged, and the roof began to leak right over Isaac’s bed. Isaac being Isaac said he needed to sleep in mine since he has to do a full days work whereas I can loaf around at home on account of my bum leg. I guess we got a bit loud because Pa came in and, for once, took my part. He hauled Isaac out by the ear and made him sleep on the rug by the fire. We put a bucket on the bed to catch the drips and the next day spent a lot of time trying to fix shingles over where the wet is getting in. It’s hard to work on a roof that’s slick with green, when the rain’s beating down and the wind’s like to blow you clear over the hog pen. But I only fell off once. Isaac fell off twice and the second time put a ding in his scalp that, Dad said, made him look like he’d been scalped.

The shingles are holding up, so far, but I fear it’s just a patch and when the good weather comes we’ll have to take off the leaky plank. It looks rotten to me. But right now there’s so much rain! We dug a little ditch to take the water away where it drips off the eves so it can run down to the creek, but the creek came to meet it. We’re high enough for it not to bother us too much but the O’Connells down stream have had to move out of the house because the creek was lapping at their step.

They had a bit of time and took their things up to the barn and put a tarp over it to keep the drips off. Pa says it’s their fault for being lazy and that they should have built higher and further away but I think it’s a pity. It can’t be nice to lose your home. Ma thinks so too and we cooked up some biscuits and a pot of beans to take over for them. Ma says that when they were new come to the area people shook their heads over where they built but nobody spoke up about it. Seems a bit unfair to laugh at them now.

The wind’s really howling tonight. Maybe if I’m not right for being a cowboy I could go to Corpus Christi and learn how to build boats. Things go on the way they are we might be needing an ark.

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Another snippet of a genuine old school YA western which, in the fullness of time, will have all the usual trappings and cliches plus the slightest tinge of M/M romance because why not?

This week, more of the cruel realities of life.

Feb 5th

A coyote got to the hens last night and killed two and injured one. He carried off the dead ones but the hurt one got up onto the roof of the pig pen.

She seemed okay at first but the coyote had ripped one of her wings clear off. I reckon it might have healed up but Ma reckoned it would be cruel to keep her. Pity because she was one of our best layers.

I did it easy so she didn’t know, just a hurt hen sitting quiet in my arms one moment and a floppy bundle of feathers the next. But there was meat aplenty on her so Ma showed me the trick of frying chicken and we put the bones in the stock pot. We saved the feathers too. Ma says there’s almost enough for a pillow. So our poor grey hen may have died but the only bit that was wasted was the cluck.

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Sunday Serial

I’ve been very bad about updating this blog and this serial so I’m going to do a whole batch in one go so there will be at least something on a Sunday for a few weeks to come.

This serial takes the form of the diary entries of a young man called Joe Skidmore who lives in the eastern part of Texas in 1869. Joe has some problems and feels that life is passing him by. Later lefe will come and grab him by the scruff of the neck and he’ll go on an adventure but it’s early days now. Last time he was talking about chickens and his late sister.

Feb 2nd
I asked Ma about my sister again last night but she just went quiet and told me that she’d been very sweet and had loved me. But after we went to bed Isaac told me a bit more.
Jess was three years older than him and he’s five years older than me which means she’d have been nine. Jacob, who was thirteen then, was out with Pa, and Jess and Isaac were helping Ma pick berries. They’d left me on a blanket and the snake must’ve crawled on there to warm itself. Jess grabbed it to get it away from me. Just grabbed it with her bare hands and it turned and bit her good, then she dropped it and it bit me. Isaac says he don’t remember much about it, just that Ma cried.
Jess is buried up the hill a way, by Granpa and that’s where we will all lie one day.

February 4thbiscuits
I made biscuits again today and they were fine. Pa asked for seconds. Ma says leave it a week ’til we tell them. Then if they complain we can point out that nobody’s died.

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I sort of lost the plot for a while – too much to think about – but I’ll carry on with these posts of excerpts from the diary of a young lad living in the Eastern part of Texas in 1869.

The last bit was here where Joe decided he needed to be honest about himself as well as about everyone else.

Jan 28th [Thur]

I don’t think I’ll write every day. What would be the point? Got up ate grits, fed hogs, fed hens, saddled horses, waved Pa and Jacob and Isaac away. That’s every day. I’ll write things that I think are important, or funny, or I think people might want to know.
important, or funny, or I think people might want to know.

Like that we keep Dominie hens, or Old Grey hens some say. They are pale grey but each feather is striped with darker grey and if they sit still in a shadow the little critters are really hard to find. The cocks have bright red combs and the loudest crow to get us all up in the morning. We’d sleep all day if it weren’t for them.

Jan 29th [Fri]

Ma suggested a write a bit about me. So here goes. I’m Joseph Skidmore and I’m eighteen years old. I have brown hair and brown eyes and freckles. I went to school in Mr Dunlap’s parlour like all the other kids round here but I guess the learning stuck a bit more with me than it did with most. I had a sister once but she was killed by the same rattler that bit me and gave me this bum leg. Ma told me that the poison made my leg stop growing properly. I have to use a stick because walking far makes my back hurt, being all to one side and I can’t use stirrups so I can’t rope steers, or rope horses on foot. But I can ride and I drive the buckboard well. There are things I can do and if I’m somewhere where I’m going to stand still for a while I put a block down to put my short foot on that. I read and write better than anyone in the family but Ma and I wondered if I could get a job in town at the store or the undertakers, but the store keeper and the undertaker both have boys of their own. Ben, the undertaker’s son asked Pa if we could swap but Ben’s Pa wouldn’t have it. It’s a good business and Ben’s going to inherit. I don’t know what I’ll inherit. A third share of a ranch doesn’t seem like that much to look forward to to me. But I mustn’t be ungrateful. I could have ended up like my poor sister.

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Sunday Snippets

And here we go with the serial again. Time for a little bit of conflict.

Monday Jan 25th

Big gap there. On the 6th I caught Pa with my diary. He was reading the bit about the biscuits to Isaac and laughing and I lost my temper and tried to take it away from him. I’m not quite sure what happened, I must have tripped or something.

Ma made me apologise and I did but I said he shouldn’t have been reading it. It was private. I said if people were going to read it whenever they liked then I wouldn’t write it any more. Pa said I shouldn’t be so childish. Isaac asked what harm could it do. I said ‘what if I wrote something in there he wouldn’t like me to write?’ Pa was laughing and said I wouldn’t write anything about anyone I wouldn’t say to their face but I know Isaac took my meaning. I saw him kissing Sadie O’Connell and we both know Pa hates the O’Connells, says they are trash.

I got off the point, again. I haven’t been writing in my journal since then but Pa just fetched it out of the room I share with Isaac, gave it  me  and said I should write and he promised none of us would read it. Ma was standing behind him and she nodded so I guess she’d made him understand. Then he said something that made me think a bit. He said I should be honest, about myself as well as about other people and I haven’t been, Not completely. I looked at my first entry of the year and that’s not really true.

I don’t want to be a cowboy because I can’t be. I wouldn’t be able to do it because I’m not the man Pa and Jacob are or Isaac will be because I’m a cripple and am not strong enough. That’s a hard thing to write but it’s even harder to be.



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Sunday Snippets

Another bit of my, as yet, untitled YA western written all in diary entries. Since the next ones were a bit short I’ve posted two days worth.

Monday Jan 4th 1869

Pa says I have to do my chores first and then I can write my diary. He doesn’t understand that the thoughts in my head need to come out when I think them. I won’t remember what I wanted to say by the time it’s the evening, and then I have to sit with everyone else and Pa wants to know what I’ve written. But I’ve got private things to say here, things I might not want to share.
It’s still very cold at night and last night there was rain.

Tuesday Jan 5th

I’ve been coughing again so Pa said I could stay home and I asked Ma to teach me to cook. Jacob and Isaac said it was girls work but Ma shouted at them and said that she hasn’t got a girl and Pa said that when we go on the round up having someone along who can cook something that won’t kill us would be mighty handy. That is assuming I can learn.
Ma has a book she got from her Ma with recipes. She said I should write down the things I make in my journal so I can find them again. So today I made buttermilk biscuits. They were horrible and we fed them to the hens. When the hens wouldn’t eat them we fed them to the hogs.

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Sunday Snippets

Here’s the next bit of my western written as a series of diary entries [which will be m/m in the fullness of time].

Part 1 is here and here’s Part 2


Sunday Jan 3rd 1869
Pa thinks writing a diary is for women and sissies. I told him that James Buchanan wrote one and he said “women, sissies and Yankees” and sent me to feed the hogs.

We did the usual chores before church and after Jacob asked me to drive Mary over to see her Ma. Ma Lewis thinks diaries are good. She says I’ll be able to show my sons when I have them about what life was like here. I don’t think life will be much different – hogs and steers, mesquite and sagebrush – but she said she’d heard that the cities back east have lights all along the streets so you can see all night and they never have to stop work. I can’t see any fun in that but she makes good cookies.

Mary was sick on the way home because, she said, I drove the buckboard too fast over the bumps. Having babies makes girls sick. It also makes their ankles swell up. I guess I should be more grateful to Ma for having me. I guess.

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Continuing this little experiment – a western written as a series of diary entries.


Saturday Jan 2nd, 1869

I said yesterday this is the ass-end of Texas but I’ve reconsidered. That wasn’t quite fair. This is more like a pimple on the ass-end of Texas. A very big ass, very small pimple.

Pa and Granpa built the house on a slope not far from Aransa creek but high enough not to be caught by the floods. There were better places but Granpa’s brother got those for his family. He and Granpa had a flaming quarrel about a month before and they still weren’t talking so when great-uncle grabbed all the soft land north of the Aransa, Granpa crossed back over the creek and found this little patch to the south. There’s good grazing, plenty of timber and he dug a good well that don’t run dry even when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on your hat. It’s a nice place, though small in comparison with some of the others.

Our house is like all the others – logs chinked with moss and mud under a board roof with a dirt floor, but because we was close to the creek we keep a barrel of sand to spread over the dirt. I don’t remember the old house as it was, because by the time I came along Pa had built more rooms. We have three now. One for living, one for Pa and Ma and one where Isaac and I sleep.

In our big room Ma’s favourite thing is a iron stove Pa found by the creek when he was collecting strays. It was with other scraps, a broken chair, bits of cloth, and he reckoned it must have come from a wagon. Maybe they ditched it because the wagon was broke or too heavy. Ma says some poor woman must have cried her eyes out over leaving it. It’s odd to think of that woman as we warm by her stove at night and Ma makes our food and we’ll never know who she was and she’ll never know how her loss makes our lives so much better. Where she is I hope she’s happy.


More next week – incidentally I’m sort of making this up as I go along, as you do, and just dipping into the history books/google when it occurs to me, so apologies in advance for any horrible anachronisms.

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