It’s a tall order, writing first person narrative through the eyes of a sixteen year-old boy.
Especially a boy who lives in 1885, in rural Texas. (I’m a city girl, myself).
Every word, (even curses, slang, terms of endearment) must be in 1880’s vernacular, and no ten-dollar words when a one-dollar word will do.
I keep having to think how boys talk! So few words! And a glance or a shrug can say so much…
Real places and events are the backdrop for John’s story—the family farm in Wrightsboro, the Los Angeles land rush of 1885, and the rail lines, then new, linking Texas with California, Chicago and points east.
Kansas City, where Texas herds were shipped by rail, and Chicago, where Bill Cody parades live cowboys, Indians and buffalo down crowded city streets.
The main characters are real people. To the extent possible, I’ve captured their true-life appearances and personalities, relying on photographs and personal writings for guidance on how these people thought and spoke.
Town names, some of which were different back then,local landmarks and weather… all as real as I can make it.
From a family elder, I got juicy details like the actual name and description of Eagle, John’s sooty-colored, homely horse. Hairy-Hooved, but smart and much beloved of our hero, John.
It’s hard writing what’s real. You have to study, study, study, till you can describe experiences you’ve never actually had, and sound like you’ve lived them.
Shoeing a horse, birthing a calf (omg, so incredibly messy and enough fluids to fill a bathtub and no I’m not kidding)…lassoing a bear and dragging it to death (you would not believe how hard that scene has been to write, and how many drafts it’s taken).
Every step of this takes longer than I think.
But this is not some flight of fictional fantasy, where I can make up a universe to suit my story. (Not that a fictional story would be easy. I’m just saying I don’t have the luxury of being able to depart from the known parameters of truth that form the scaffolding of this tale). Anyway, here I am, grinding through the truths of 130 years ago. Getting down to the gritty heart of the matter and trying to make it real.