Tag: great plains

Get Ready to Remember How It Rained

It’s Almost Time to Remember How It Rained

January is coming and it’s almost time to . . . Remember How It Rained.

I’ve been hard at work to bring back Margaret Rose, Jack Hollingwood and Kuruk Sky Seeing to my readers, who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about Seven Kinds of Rain.

As a result, Seven Kinds of Rain‘s sequel is coming down the tracks, to be available for purchase January 27, 2017. Mark your calendar, please, for

Remember How It Rained, River Saga Book Two.

rhr-72dpi-front-cover-website

Remembering, where justice begins

Divided in childhood but children no more, Margaret Rose, Jack and Kuruk answer the echoes of childhood loves, memories and voices. Power is shifting in Darkwater Creek, old crimes cry out for justice and Nebraska’s deadliest floodwaters gather in the west.

Book Two of the River Saga, Remember How It Rained continues Seven Kinds of Rain’s voices of innocence, corruption, courage and justice on the Great Plains.

It sings of running away and coming home to find love, truth and justice in the places and people who won’t let you go.

If you haven’t yet read Seven Kinds of Rain, look for it here. At the time of this writing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble are offering crazy-good prices to set you up for the next book, if you or a friend aren’t ready. At these prices, Seven Kinds of Rain is a great Christmas gift, and with the sequel coming on so fast, the timing is right!

 

A New Kind of Rain

A Change in the Weather

You could say it’s a new kind of rain. Or seven kinds, to be clear.

Imagining, researching, crafting and editing. Three years of cultivating Seven Kinds of Rain are about to bear fruit. That’s a long time to wait for a crop, but so it goes with writing novels. Seven Kinds of Rain, River Saga Book One is available for purchase this Friday, July 1.

I’ve read about and walked through the environment and history of my beloved Nebraska and Kansas Republican River Valley. I’ve developed, challenged, and deepened my characters. The result? Seven Kinds of Rain is a story about the early 20th-Century Great Plains, about marginalized people who struggle to survive. It’s also about how, by reconsidering history, we can make the world a better place today.

http://klynwurth.net/book/seven-kinds-of-rain-river-saga-book-one/

What About that Bird? And Is That a Tornado?

Now, a little background for the cover design. The magpie represents not only actual birds who appear in the story, but also Magpie, a significant and powerful figure in Pawnee culture and legends. Magpie also becomes the nickname for a character, Margaret Rose. The window and wall where Magpie perches represent an inside view of the riverside treehouse where the three children gather. The storm clouds in the distance and the descending tornado signify the importance of rain and weather disasters in the characters’ interests, in the plot and in Great Plains history. As for the title, I’ll leave you to read the book to find out what that means. I can’t tell you everything!

Writing Brings Change

Since my first novel’s publication in 2013, I’ve become more deeply committed to this writing life. I’ve met people who’ve read The Darkwater Liar’s Account, and they’ve overwhelmed me with their love and support. I’ve made countless friends through Women Writing the West, strong writers who’ve improved my writing and galvanized my commitment to telling stories of the Great Plains and the American West. You can learn more about that here.

Available Now, for Your Imagination

Book marketing is harder than writing, and much less fun. The shameless self-promotion involved is embarrassing at times, and I’m no social media whiz. Yet, I’d like to invite you, gentle reader, to take a chance on my novel, Seven Kinds of Rain, River Saga Book One. And then, if you like it, recommend it to a friend or leave a brief review online (amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or Goodreads.). The number of words doesn’t matter…as in so many things, it’s just showing up that counts.

You can preorder Seven Kinds of Rain now online (CreateSpace, Amazon or Barnes and Noble), if you like to shop that way. It’s also available through Ingram’s bookstore distribution service, if you prefer to shop at your local bookstore on or after July 1, which I strongly encourage you to do. I love bookstores. I need bookstores, and so do you. So please spend money there whenever you can.

But Wait…There’s More Coming!

I hope you’ll read and enjoy Margaret Rose, Jack and Kuruk. They’ve become some of my favorite people, so much so that I had to give them another book to live in, along with more changes in the weather. You’ll read more about them in Seven Kinds of Rain‘s sequel, for now mysteriously subtitled Book Two of the River Saga. I’ll announce that novel’s full title later. I’m hard at work on the sequel’s rewrite (meaning the full story’s on paper, undergoing quality reconstruction.) I intend to publish River Saga Book Two in January of 2017, so you won’t have long to wait for more of the same characters you’ll come to know in Seven Kinds of Rain.

For those of you who are already ordering, reading and reviewing Seven Kinds of Rain, thank you for your interest and kind comments. I treasure you, my readers. I hope my writing will be some of your best summer reading.

With words of gratitude and love,

Kelly

A New Place, a New Story

k lyn wurth great plains and western fiction

Announcing a New Place

Thanks for visiting my blog. This is a where I write at length about the research, references  and influences that inform my writing. This blog is a peek behind the curtain, but there’s a new place, a new story…

Find Your Place in a Story™

There’s a new trademark, too, giving greater emphasis to what I hope for my readers, that they will find their special place and a more meaningful life in the stories I tell.

To learn more about the purpose and heart of my writing, and my commitment to writing about the Great Plains and American West, I invite you to visit my new web site:

http://www.klynwurth.net.

horseshoe from klynwurth.net

Go West, my readers, go West, and Find your Place in a Story

find your place in a story trademark K. Lyn Wurth

Nebraska, 1900: Where Are the Pawnee?

Sculpture near Naponee Nebraska

Driven From Home

In my upcoming novel, Seven Kinds of Rain, one of my main characters is Kuruk, a Kitkehahki Pawnee character born in Oklahoma around 1904. As a child, he runs away from different Indian schools to finally establish a tenuous existence in the heart of his ancestral homeland. Yet, in the early 1900s there were few, if any, Pawnee tribal members living in that part of Nebraska. For my writing, I set out, into libraries and on a trip through the Republican River Valley of Kansas and Nebraska to more deeply understand this change.

Looking back to Nebraska in 1900, where are the Pawnee?

For the following information, I draw heavily and cite page numbers from David Wishart’s powerful book, An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians. I encourage you to consult it for more information on the course of Indian tribal histories in Nebraska. It was one of my most useful resources for understanding the devastations of regional history, and gave me insight to the injustices visited on Plains Indian tribes in the 1800s and 1900s.

The Pawnee’s Chaui, Skiri and Kitkehahki bands traditionally inhabited much of the region the U.S. divided into Nebraska and Kansas.

Pawnee territory map

They made their homes, circular, domed riverbank earth lodges, and raised some crops, living off native plants and hunting native animals.

model of Pawnee earth lodge

model of Pawnee earth lodge at Pawnee Historical Museum

They seasonally migrated west for buffalo hunts, utilizing portable hide-covered dwellings.

Pawnee Family Summer Home

I learned about Kitkehahki Pawnee band plains life, as it flourished in the 1700s and early 1800s, at the Pawnee Indian Museum near Republic, Kansas, where I saw this and other Pawnee portraits by George Catlin.

George Catlin painting of Man Chief, a Kitkehahki (Republican) Pawnee

George Catlin painting of Man Chief, a Kitkehahki (Republican) Pawnee

A series of government-engineered cessions of Pawnee lands during the 1800s (most of which occurred against a backdrop of tribal starvation and decimation by disease) drove the Pawnee into smaller and smaller spaces. By 1844, the meager Pawnee annuities expired, and in 1848, they lost rights to all lands south of the Platte River. (Wishart, 66) By 1858, all four Nebraska Indian societies had sold the last of their tribal lands, apart from small reservations. (69) Neglect by reservation agencies, conflicts with White settlers, and repeated intertribal conflicts further weakened the Pawnee, making Nebraska reservation life near the Loup River at best unstable, and at worst, untenable. (132)

An 1857 treaty required all Pawnee children between the ages of seven and eighteen to attend school. (179) The continuity of Pawnee culture was even more completely disrupted, as was that off all Indian tribes, by the American government’s Indian School policies of the 19th and 20th Centuries. One such Indian Industrial School was located at Genoa, Nebraska, and while some Genoa and other Indian school students reported being pleased with their American education and acculturation, for many others, their separation from family and the attempts at assimilation they suffered were devastating, sending trauma down through generations of Native families.

Genoa Indian Industrial School

Genoa Indian Industrial School photo from usgennet.org

After the Kansas-Nebraska act, and by the 1870s, the Pawnee in Nebraska suffered from White settlement and theft of Pawnee land and resources, including timber, along the Loup and Platte rivers. By 1873-1875, the Pawnee were squeezed out and relocated to Oklahoma Indian Territory. (188)

Nebraska, 1900: Where are the Pawnee?

On their allotted reservation lands in Oklahoma, the Pawnee and other Plains Indian tribes came together to embrace change, wrestling with the government for decades and adapting to survive legislated deprivations and broken promises. Some of the young people became outwardly modern, educated in White ways, even as their elders preserved traditions, as in this photo.

Pawnee father and son, 1912

Pawnee father and son, 1912

Long removed from their ancestral lands, the Pawnee have re-established a presence on their sacred land near the Loup River, an interesting development I’ll address in a later post. Both on and off the reservation, the Pawnee flourish and their population is on the rise. But in the early 1900s, a Pawnee character in Nebraska would seem to have been unlikely. Yet, from my authorial standpoint, one seemed necessary, to expose and explore the injustices of history.

So Kuruk Sky Seeing came to be. I hope I have done him some justice, by showing his dispossession, his fragility, and his tenacity in the place he insisted on calling home, against a world that insists he doesn’t belong off the reservation.

 

*All page numbers (in parentheses) refer to: Wishart, David J. An Unspeakable Sadness: the Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians. Lincoln, Neb.: U of Nebraska, 1994.

 

 

Race and Riots on the Great Plains

Omaha Will Brown Lynch Mob 1919

The Red Summer of 1919

Race and riots on the Great Plains were truths stranger than fiction in 1919.

In Seven Kinds of Rain, my upcoming novel, White settlers prosper in boomtown Darkwater Creek, Nebraska. For others—immigrants, African Americans and Native Americans—life in Darkwater Creek proved less than prosperous or peaceful. While explored in fiction, these racial complexities reflect Great Plains reality in the early 20th Century.

In the Red Summer of 1919, race riots led by White citizens inflamed 20 major American industrial cities, including Omaha, Nebraska. In Omaha, federal investigators and the press claimed the riots resulted from the influx of African American strikebreakers in 1917, who worked in the stockyards and meatpacking industries.

What you wouldn’t have seen spelled out in the newspapers in those days, but is mentioned in Seven Kinds of Rain, was the criminal political machine in Omaha led by Tom Dennison, and how, in cooperation with the Omaha Bee, it exploited labor strife and racial tensions for its own gain during that Red Summer. Dennison and his machine eventually elected “Cowboy” Jim Dahlman mayor of Omaha eight times, securing their interests and racially polarizing an entire city.

Tom Dennison

Political Boss Tom Dennison,
photo from NE State Historical Society

In 1910, Omaha had the third largest black population among the new western cities that had become destinations following Reconstruction. By 1920, the black population more than doubled to over 10,000, second only to Los Angeles with nearly 16,000. It was ahead of San Francisco, Oakland, Topeka, and Denver.1

Race and Riots on the Great Plains

 

Will Brown photo from NE State Historical Society

Will Brown
photo from NE State Historical Society

Racial discrimination in Omaha affected most immigrants and minorities, but emotions ran high against African Americans in the early 20th Century. When a young man, Willie Brown, was arrested for the rape of a white woman, Agnes Loebeck, in September, 1919, racial antagonism exploded. Thousands of angry whites, fueled by racism and a Dennison-inspired inflammatory press, first attempted to hang political reformer and Mayor Edward Smith (Tom Dennison’s opponent). Although the Mayor was saved, a courthouse siege and fire followed, with police officers, a newspaper reporter, and prisoners, including Willie Brown, trapped inside. The mob, demanding Willie Brown, fueled the courthouse fire with formaldehyde and gasoline until Willie Brown was surrendered. The mob lynched him and burned his body in the street, but unsatisfied with this, continued its violence until federal troops were called in to restore order. (This blog, US Slave, provides an interesting account of Omaha’s political situation, the riots, and more photos.)

Omaha Will Brown Lynch Mob 1919, Race and Riots on the Great Plains

Out of respect for Will Brown, his image has been cropped from this photo of the gloating lynch mob, who mug for the camera and watch as his body burns.

Eventually, 120 White citizens in Omaha were charged or indicted by a grand jury, with few prosecutions. All were eventually released without serving any imprisonment.

“After the Omaha riot, the Ku Klux Klan became established in 1921. Another racial riot took place in North Platte, Nebraska in 1929. There were also violent strikes in the Omaha meat packing industry in 1917 and 1921 and concerns about immigrants from Eastern Europe.

“After the riot, the city of Omaha, previously a city in which ethnicities and races were mixed in many neighborhoods, became more segregated. Redlining and restrictive covenants began to be used in new neighborhoods, with African Americans restricted to owning property where they already lived in greatest number, in North Omaha. Although segregation has not been legally enforced for generations, a majority of Omaha’s black population still lives in North Omaha.”2

The value of diversity and the foundation of civil rights are ongoing lessons on the Great Plains, as they are in most of the world. But the early 20th Century was a bloody time for African Americans and other minorities in Nebraska, even outside the big cities. While lynching was a common form of vigilante “justice” in the early West, It’s reported that:

“. . . even in the West and Midwest, with far smaller non-white populations, lynching became increasingly racialized by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Latinos bore the brunt of mob vengeance in some western states such as California, while in others, such as Wyoming, Chinese and African Americans were disproportionately represented in the catalog of lynching victims when compared to their numbers in the overall population. Three Native Americans were among Judge Lynch’s ten victims in North Dakota. Kansas lynched eighteen African Americans from 1880 to 1920. Five black men and two Mexicans perished at the hands of Nebraska mobs from 1878 to 1919. The five African Americans represented about eight percent of the probable total of fifty-eight individuals dispatched by Nebraska lynch mobs between 1859 and 1919. During the same period, African Americans never exceeded one percent of the state’s population.”3

While I only scratch the surface of this aspect of Nebraska history, what seems important to remember is that racism had a firm hold on early 20th-Century Great Plains culture. Immigrants from Europe, Asia and Mexico, post-Restoration African Americans seeking work and prosperity, and Native Americans (both on and off reservations), faced resistance to their personhood and civil rights. In Seven Kinds of Rain, discrimination and violence against African Americans and Native Americans is not only mentioned, but pulses through the story.

As one born in Nebraska, and whose roots still tangle there, I write about these ongoing concerns with a heavy, and yet hopeful heart, that history may prove a valuable lesson, and not a recurring nightmare, as we find ourselves, and our way to mutual respect and peace, in this story.

Notes:

1 Taylor, Quintard. In Search of the Racial Frontier: African Americans in the American West. ‪W. W. Norton & Company, May 17, 1999. 416 pages. Ref pages 204-205.

2https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omaha_race_riot_of_1919

3 James E Potter, “‘Wearing the Hempen Neck-Tie’ : Lynching in Nebraska, 1858-1919,” Nebraska History 93 (2012): 138-153. View at: http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH2012Lynching.pdf

Photos of Will Brown and Tom Dennison originate from NE State Historical Society and Omaha.com.

Magpie as Pawnee Presence

As I revisited (in research and in travel) the Republican River Valley of The Darkwater Liar’s Account for my next novels, I sought to learn about people of all races who lived and died in that region. My research led to the Pawnee tribe, with its Skidi, Kitkehahki and Chaui bands, who historically and currently call Nebraska and Kansas their ancestral home. Learning invoked my respect, which encouraged further study and blessed encounters with two Pawnee tribal members, who helped me see how the Pawnee people and culture remain vital today. In all of this, I learned about Magpie as Pawnee presence.

Magpie was a significant animal and spiritual figure to the Pawnee, as evident in stories recorded by George Amos Dorsey (1868-1931). G.A. Dorsey was an American ethnographer of North American Indigenous people and an anthropologist for the Field Columbian Museum. He is both a helpful and troublesome character for me in terms of research, as he documented a great deal of Native folklore, even as he desecrated and plundered Native graves and regarded Indigenous people and customs as relics of dead civilizations. Yet, I had to appreciate that several of Dorsey’s Pawnee stories, recorded in his The Pawnee: Mythology, feature Magpie as recounted by specific, named members of the three Pawnee bands in the waning years of the 19th Century.

A few of the traditional stories tell how Magpie stood out from other birds as a helper to humans, an intercessor and actor who would guide the lost and bring healing. Even though I was once-removed from the first storytellers, reading Dorsey’s translation from the Caddoan Pawnee language, I felt a quaver of the old voices through the pages, across time. My world view is far from theirs, but I treasure their meaningful accounts of Magpie and the other powerful animals and characters in their tradition, such as Coyote and Bear. So much so, that I wove a few into my next two novels.

In my next post, I’ll talk about Magpie as a character in my writing, and how I received my own blessing from this bird. (And thanks to Nanette Day, a writer, editor, publishing consultant and friend, for this post’s key illustration, which she designed with a quote from one of my previous posts.)

Sacred Bundles Our Children Carry

With permission, I drew this sketch of a sacred bundle on display at the Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site near Republic, Kansas. Because of the bundle’s ongoing sanctity to the Pawnee people, on-site photographs are prohibited. The bundle appears to be made of some sort of hide, and tied with ribbon-like bands. A long smoking pipe, fragments of arrows, a fork tipped with bone and small American flags adorn the outside. The pipe appears to be carved of stone, with a stem of wood. A Kansas Historical web site reports that this particular bundle was once x-rayed, and contains stuffed bird bundles, hawk bells, counting sticks and a leather strip decorated with glass beads.

Sacred bundles like this were integral to Pawnee medicine ceremonies. Only a woman could possess a bundle, which usually hung on the west wall of a home or above an altar, while only men could utilize it in ceremonies.

A sign near this bundle reports that it originated near Loup, Nebraska. A young Pawnee girl named Sadie carried it away on horseback from the famous battle at Massacre Canyon near Trenton, Nebraska, in 1873. On that day, a thousand Sioux surprised 350 Pawnee men, women and children on their summer buffalo hunt, and approximately seventy Pawnee were killed. This is recorded as the last major battle between two Indian tribes in U.S. history. Sadie’s father entrusted the bundle to her at the battle, binding it to her back. He died that day, without having an opportunity to explain its ritual use. Sadie kept it safe as her family’s spiritual legacy, and her daughter entrusted it to the Kansas State Historical Society.

As I consider this object, I think about the manual labor and arts of preparing the skins and the pipe. I consider the meaning, now obscure, assigned to the arrows, the fork and the pipe. Who decorated that leather strip with beads? What are its colors and designs? How did the men handle the counting sticks in their rituals? The bones in those bird bundles once bore feathers high above the earth, with bright eyes looking down on prairie grasses, earth lodges and the twisting Republican River.

Time and memory. Meaning and mystery. Tragedy and hope. So much human experience, rolled up in leather and tied with ribbons and flags. The hope of a family, a legacy caught up in a crisis. A sign of enduring faith for a struggling people, suspended behind glass for this writer to sketch and ponder. Among all of my questions, one endures.

If I had to send my child running for survival today, with only seconds to decide, what bundle of meaning would I thrust into those young hands, to inspire my future generations?

Learning Happened Here

Nine years ago this winter, newlyweds Dave and I stood in the middle of a relative’s field and decided to build a sort of nest here, a home on some land outside of town. Farmers in this area generally alternate between soybean and corn crops, and 2005 was a corn year on this particular Wurth property, so we stood in the softening brown rows of recently-harvested stubble and imagined a home. I still have an ear of corn that the combine missed that season. It’s propped in a corner of a downstairs windowsill, to remind me of what was here before me.

We weren’t the first builders on this site. A local historian, also a Wurth relative, told us that in the early Twentieth Century,  a one-room country school stood on this very corner. Constructed on every southeast square-mile corner down this main road, Amherst Township country schools, like most, had to be accessible for walking children.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for many things. One of them is that education has always been one of the first priorities for settlers on the Great Plains and the West, a legacy of which I am a happy beneficiary. In most homesteading communities, once shelter was erected for people and animals and crops were planted, even far-flung neighbors gathered to discuss their children’s education. Even before it was compulsory, education was a dream American settlers claimed for their children.

So, learning happened here, long before we built our dreams. Down in this ground, there may be chips of slate, rusting nails or broken toys. Maybe crumbling bits of a schoolhouse foundation and broken glass. Around where I sit at my desk, children gathered when a school bell rang, for study and play, reciting lessons, expanding their thoughts and becoming citizens of the wider world. A coal stove belched smoke and glowed to keep out the winter chill. Chalk dust hovered in the air and a water bucket with a dipper probably stood in the corner.  Books fell on the floor. Inkwells spilled. Feet scraped on hardwood floors. I wonder where the outhouse stood? There’s a thought. No wonder this soil is so fertile, and my flowers so bright every summer!

Considering the old school that stood on these corner acres, I’m even more grateful to live in this place. Thank you, children, for being an invisible but real part of my history. Thank you, teachers, for all you gave. You still provide joy, as I remember.

For those of us who take comfortable, well-equipped schools, computers and information for granted in this digital age, let’s put our energies into teaching our children what’s most important. Let’s teach them to be grateful for the people who were first in their places, and the richness of history that surrounds them.

Let’s teach them how to think and how to learn, before they leave our nest.