Heading West

Writing prompts: today the Ragtag Daily Prompt was FIXER-UPPER and I was able to work it in with another writing challenge, the one I gave to Judy Dykstra-Brown last night. You’re welcome to try it too, if you like. The goal is to Use at least three words in a poem or story.

Judy has already written her poem in response (Click here to read it) and now here’s mine. I hope you can bear with this long tale. 🙂

Original image created by DarkMoon Art for Pixabay

HEADING WEST

Sunshine and blue skies. A glorious day to start on an adventure!

One of the scouts stuffs a couple of flasks in his saddlebag as I pass. He nods when he sees me observing him. “Strictly for medicinal purposes, ma’am.” Then he has the nerve to wink at me. I don’t know about that fellow. Altogether too forward. Heaven knows what kind of women he’s associated with ’til now.

I smile to myself as I reached my wagon. What I have in my luggage is strictly for medicinal purposes also: two medical books. Father would never hear of me studying formally, but from these I’ve learned a lot about human anatomy.

The scout probably sees me as a frightfully brash thing, attaching myself to this train like I have. My family thinks I’m mad. You should have heard the gasps when I announced that I’d bought a covered wagon, hired young Clancy Fitzhugh to drive it, and was heading west to assist old Dr James in his practice.

My brother Charles sputtered and eyed me suspiciously. Did he think I’d robbed a bank? Or was stealing some of his inheritance? And my sisters-in-law! “Foolishness! Far too daring! Out there among gunfighters and thieves. No respectable woman would ever…” and on and on. They see me at thirty-one as a spinster for life. A lost penny that will obligingly roll along from house to house. Well, I refuse to be dependent on them for the rest of my life.

It cheered me very much this morning to receive a letter from my good friend Sally. Won’t I have things to tell her when I get the chance? She’ll be astounded.

I miss her so much! We were good friends all through school, after all. Then a year after we graduated a young man from England stopped in our town on his tour of the American Midwest. He courted her and won her heart, married her and carried her back to England. Now she writes such interesting letters about her life over there – so different from anything we know! In her last letter she sent along a picture of a hedgehog that her son drew. She told me her children think they’re cute and put out treats to lure them into the garden.

Something catches my eye, a glitter by the front wheel of my wagon. Someone has lost a penny – and I’ve found it! I snatch it up and examine it, feeling lighter of heart. Surely this is a good sign?

Isn’t it amazing how things happen right at the time you need them? If I hadn’t happened to catch Mother sliding a small hearthstone into place one day, I’d never have known about the money she was squirreling away. Someone else would have gotten that windfall if I hadn’t discovered her secret.

“Your father will no doubt leave everything to your brothers in his will, with instructions to look after us,” she explained. “And knowing how careful your brothers are with money, even if they’ll let us have a little house of our own I can see us having to give account for every dollar we spend. I want us to have some money of our own when that day comes.”

Mother was right. Father was generous to her, but he’d will everything to the boys. I can just hear him saying, “Why would women need money when they have family to look after them?”

I knew Mother was good at lacework and sold some from time to time; now she told me she was setting aside some of the housekeeping money. She was looking ahead, but didn’t foresee they’d die together. Their deaths happened when our horse spooked and upset their carriage; Mother died instantly; Father lived only a few days.

My parents’ dear friend Dr James made a special trip back for the funeral. Some years back, hearing about an acute need for doctors, he’d gone out West to a small mining town in Montana to set up a practice and we hadn’t seen him since. Chatting with them I could feel he was happy about what he was doing, even patching up gamblers and gunslingers. The day after my parents’ funeral I shared my own dream with him, knowing he’d understand.

Ever since we lost my sister Millie I’ve had a burning desire to help other women make it through childbirth. Could Millie have been saved if she’d had a more competent midwife assisting her? Who can say? But since the day we buried Millie and her newborn girl, I’ve studied and assisted one of the local midwives, with the dream of saving other women’s lives.

He commended me, said my services would be most welcome in their area, especially since one of the midwives there had such a rough time with her last delivery she may never assist him again. I should consider joining him there.

“I’m sure you can could get a room with Mrs. Greggs will take you on as a boarder. In fact, I’ll even pay for your board for the first few months if you’ll do nursing for me. Mrs Greggs is an older widow, quite a respectable woman who swears by ginger tea as a cure-all and feeds me gingersnaps every time I stop in.”

I had to wonder if he stopped in quite often…

Three weeks after the funeral Charles came over to announce, “We’ve decided to put the house up for sale. This property is too valuable for you to live here alone. But you needn’t worry; you can live with one of us. Or we can buy you a small cottage.” I can still see him standing there, a glass of iced tea in his hand, handing me such a bleak future, with not so much as a “by your leave.”

Oh, yes, they said they’d see I was cared for if I stayed here, but I know how that would go. The thought of being shuffled from one home to another, an obligation, an unpaid servant, underfoot too often. Or in a little fixer-upper cottage, dependent on them to do the repairs. Once he left I pulled Mother’s savings from the niche in the hearth and counted it, breathing a sigh of thanks for her foresight.

I’m striking out on my own, come what may. The wagon-master’s shouting and the teams are all shaking their reins impatiently. Time to head West!

“Fight the Good Fight”

Rye Regular

The Letter F takes its place and stands tall amongst all the other letters, for it starts many a great and noble word. The feisty F has proven itself quite useful for alliteration, too.

Some folks are FOOTLOOSE and FANCY FREE
Others talk of FREEDOM, FIDELITY, and FRATERNITY.
They rally round their FLAG and FIGHT what they consider to be the FORCES of oppression. (However, opinions on “oppression” differ.)

The Apostle Paul urged the followers of Christ to

Rye Regular

The flexibility of the letter F is also useful for this cute
little verse my mother-in-law liked to quote:
A flea and a fly were imprisoned one day in a flue.
Said the fly to the flea, “Let us fly!”
Said the flea to the fly, “Let us flee!”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

F can stand for FIRST. And this week I’ve seen some first-class spring signs:
the first butterfly
the first robin
the first meadowlark

But watch your step, because F can also begin:

Rye Regular

As in this poem I’ve called “FOLLY”

Fools are always rushing in
where another fool’s already been,
the path well trodden by the feet
that think temptation’s end is sweet.

Are You An Antipode?

Hello Dear Readers

Are you as amazed as I am how fast March went by? We’ve come into April and I see that various bloggers are doing daily prompts and writing challenges. There’s a National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMO. (You can see a list of participants HERE.) There’s also an A to Z writing challenge. I’m not sure if there’s an official word list, or you make up your own.

The idea of using a letter a day appeals to me, so I’ll make my start belatedly with the letter A and offer you two words, one useful and one intriguing.

Rye Regular

A delightful addition to a writer’s toolbox! They act like seasoning in writing; a sprinkle here and there brings out the flavour, inviting your senses to take part in the scene. “Snoopy did his happy dance” has much more flavour than “Snoopy danced.”

However, every now and then a reader meets a writer who’s a real AFICIONADO of ADJECTIVES, inclined to add them with a too-liberal hand. Writers need to think of ADJECTIVES as the FIBER in their sentences — and realize that modern readers aren’t beavers. Most of us aren’t willing to take the time to gnaw our way through high-fiber paragraphs. I’m inclined to toss a book after the first few pages if it takes too much chewing.

In the following example, see how using many adjectives slows the action down:

For the tenth time that evening Mother pulled the blue-flowered cotton curtain back and peered through the single-pane, white trimmed window that looked over the grass-bordered gravel road coming toward their home. She saw only the crimson sunset on the horizon, the coral-streaked clouds over-layered by a band of magenta rising into deeper purple. As the dusk settled she scanned the road but saw no sign of the old bay mare and the rough-hewn brown wagon in which Father went to town. With a worried frown she turned away, wiping her flushed, tear-stained cheek on the lacy linen handkerchief, a gift from her own grandma, that she always carried in her pocket. She went back to her tiny ten-by-ten-foot farm kitchen, shadowed now by the dimness of the sunset, and proceeded to deal with the cooling remains of the abundant meal she had so lovingly cooked.

Now, here’s the low-fiber version:
Mother pulled the curtain back and peered through the window for the tenth time that evening, seeing only the sunset on the horizon. No horse and buggy carrying Father home to them. She turned away, wiping her cheek and going back to the kitchen to deal with the food still sitting on the table.

Writing instructors these days are saying: “TAKE OUT all the adjectives and only put back in the ones that are necessary to clarify the picture.” Something to think about.

Rye Regular

This is an old Latin word I came across in my search for intrigue. Are you an ANTIPODE? Or would you call me one?

Whether you’re ANTIPODAL or not depends on which side of the world you’re standing on. According to one source, ANTIPODE literally means “people who have their feet opposite.” That is, people who live on the opposite side of the world so the soles of their feet are pointing in our direction. So as I see it, you Aussies are all antipodes.

By the mid-sixteenth century, the concept had morphed into “something or someone on the opposite side of the world/planet/moon.” Nowadays ANTIPODAL can also mean entirely, or diametrically opposed. These adjectives add a lot more punch than a simple “He’s opposed to your scheme.

The Naughty Mite

An Old-Fashioned Caution

A naughty termite eyed a house
and said, “I’ll make you fall
with a little chomping here and there.”
So it chose a sturdy wall.

The house was made of robust beams
“I’ve stood a century!
Could stand a hundred more,” it bragged,
“Built from the strongest tree.”

Yet the old house shuddered softly;
what a sprightly mite might do!
And wished someone would squash the thing
as it commenced to chew.

The insect chewed both day and night;
the onslaught seemed quite small
yet the termite had colossal dreams
of seeing this house fall.

He chomped with such a fervent haste,
carved tunnels all around,
’til weakened finally, the wall
cracked and came crashing down.

The house, deprived of its support,
groaned sadly, then it buckled
and as the roof on the garden fell
that wicked termite chuckled.

So might some petty jealousy
though minuscule to start,
bring down a home, split dearest friends,
or break a tender heart.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: ROBUST
Word of the Day Challenge: SPRIGHTLY
My response is this adaptation of “The Ant and the Rubber Tree Plant.” 🙂

Morning Bounty

Good morning everyone. The morning is sunny, but we’ve a chilly wind and a temp of -16C, so it’s a good day to stay inside and admire the sculptured snow banks.

I see we have a GENEROUS supply of writing prompts, a real BONANZA of words and scenes to choose from. The Crimson’s Creative Challenge has been posted, though I’m not sure where this will get us. Looks like a dead end street. 🙂 Rochelle has posted the Friday Fictioneers prompt and the stories are rolling in. (Pardon the pun. 😉 )

I don’t know if I’ll get any responses done, though; I’ve planned a “tidy and mend” day. I was going to announce our success when we finally completed our extremely difficult Flutterbies jigsaw puzzle. We actually finished it Sunday afternoon — didn’t take us until spring after all.

Now on to my next project. I’ve told you that I’ve gotten enthused about acrylic painting, so last week I bought some brushes and got a few tubes of good quality paint when we were in the city on Monday. Yesterday I dug out a canvas from my “someday bin.” Someday has arrived! My evening reading time will be replaced with my new “splotch and dab” hobby. (Impressionist pictures really appeal to me, and they are very splotch-and-dab.)

Last night via internet I watched a tutorial from Ian Harris in Australia showing how to paint a simple sea and sky scene, with “woives and “sproiy” in the water and “claouds” in the sky. (It was worth listening to just to hear his Aussie accent!) He says he has a foicebook poige where he sells his demo paintings, if anyone’s interested.

Anyway, attempting to follow his EXAMPLE on my own canvas last night, I discovered that painting decent-looking clouds and frothy waves is not as easy to execute as he makes it seem. 😦 He’s an encouraging instructor, though, reminding his listeners that we’re learning and won’t do it perfectly at first. So I’ll keep practicing my fleecy clouds. Actually, the finished product didn’t look bad at all from across the room.

After my painting efforts were done, I had to do a small load of wash, as I’d forgotten about an artist’s smock and painted a nice turquoise blue splotch on the front of my dress, and decorated the cuffs of my fleecy grey sweater. Lesson 1A. The tablecloth is plastic, so can be chucked once I get past the beginner stage. 🙂

Early this morning we had a wonderful “good news” text: our grandson, age 18, had a visit with our pastors and will be sharing his “new birth experience” — his conversion, or experience of accepting Jesus as Lord — with the congregation Sunday morning. Family members will be invited to hear it in person; the rest of the congregation via streaming.

A note of explanation:
Our church doesn’t accept as members everyone who pops in and wants to be one. There has to be evidence that they are truly walking in the way Jesus and the apostles taught. Anyone who wishes to join the church must share with the congregation how God called them and how they repented of their sins and committed themselves to his ways.

The congregation considers the evidence — the changes they see and the person’s faithfulness so far — and ask whatever questions they may have about this person’s Christian life to date. Then every member is asked to vote: do they believe this person has made a genuine commitment to Christ? If the evidence is accepted, the person is baptized.

And that’s the news from our house today. I hope you’re all having a good day. One blogger calls Wednesday “Hump day” because it’s in the middle of the week. To the settlers here on the prairie winter seemed really long, but we find it incredible just how fast these days are flying by — isolated or not.

A Fond Adieu

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is ADIEU
Word of the Day Challenge: DISAPPOINTED

Back at the beginning of Dec 2019 I became one of the prompt hosts for the Ragtag Daily Prompt effort. So I’ve done it for a year and two months, really enjoyed coming up with word as prompts, working with fellow RDP hosts, checking out all the responses, and leaving comments where I could. It’s been challenging, enjoyable, and I’ve “met” a number of other writers this way.

Now I’ve chosen the prompt word ADIEU because I’m handing the reins back to GGM, or “Gizzylaw,” the host I took over from. I’m ready to let it go and I hear she’s missed the interaction and is eager to get back at it.

My day was Sunday, and while we’re self-isolating most Sundays, I had time to read and comment on most of the responses. Now I’m looking ahead to the day when we’ll be interacting regularly with fellow church members and visiting in homes again on Sundays. I’m also giving this task to Gizzy because I have other things I should, and want, to do. I’m only disappointed that there aren’t more days in each week, so I could fit in everything I should and want to do!

I think all of you are likewise hoping that life and activities will soon return to normal. I hope we’re not disappointed when that day comes, learning that we must continue to be super-careful of germs & viruses. I commented to someone that I’d be glad when we can ditch these masks, and she replied that the sure have cut down on the number of colds and regular ‘flu’s being spread. True, but…we need smiles, too!

Anyway, when I first was accepted as one of the prompters, I was so enthused I made a long list of possible prompt words — and I’ve been adding to that list ever since. So I’ll be choosing one now and then and working it into a post, just for fun.

And of course there are various other writing prompts I may take part in. In addition to the Ragtag Daily Prompt and the Word of the Day (links above), there’s also Sheryl’s Your Daily Word, Fandango’s One-Word Challenge or The Sunday Whirl, where we’re given a number of words to work into a post, or Sammi’s weekend writing prompt. This weekend her word is BEGUILE and the word limit is 51.

And now, ADIEU for today. 🙂