By Raji Singh
Influenced by Sophocles and Shakespeare, Golden often anthropomorphized characters. Two of his favorites were the sun, a distinctively British bloke, and his ‘lie-dy’, the moon. They became his camera, eye-in-the-sky narrators. They advanced the panorama of a story.
Contrary to many critics of his day, who claimed the cowboy writer probably got hold of a bad batch of peyote while on the trail, he was inspired mostly by his editor, half-brother, James Thaddeus ‘Blackjack’ Fiction who looked to ‘Poppy Sol’ and ‘Luny Mum’ for companionship during his orphan-foundling times.
I came across this communication ‘pigeon-mailed’ by Golden to Blackjack before the onset of the Civil War. Don’t know if it’s a draft for a proposed novel about his actual exploits as a freedom fighter, or a composite of many. I’ll find more about it I’m sure, as my archiving, archeo-apologizing continues. –
Raji Singh, author of, Tales of the Fiction House.
(As many of you know, I am Blackjack’s great-great grandson and I am resurrecting his company, the titan of 19th and early 20th century booksellers.)
GUN-RUNNING AT THE FICTION HOUSE PUBLISHING COMPANY
The buckboard bounces over the dusty Kansas road. The drover straightens his girdle, adjusts his bustle, and opens his parasol to protect fair hide from Poppy Sol’s caustic glare. He glares defiantly right back up at Sol.
‘E be what ‘e be, Poppy,’ Luny Mum, a vanilla pie-in-the-sky intercedes by winking from afar in the horizon.
‘Hhrmph! That ‘e, mayest be, Mum. Still, can’t help believen’ I can change the bloke around to my way a blinken’.’
The drover’s horse whinnies a warning – approaching rides and riders. The rattily-dressed, unshaven men are pro-slavers, known as border ruffians in mid 1800’s ‘Bleeding Kansas’.
“Thanks Gladiola, old girl, I’m on it.”
“Click.” Rifles cock.
The drover reaches into his calico dress and clutches the handle of the gun holstered in his corset. No worry about the oncoming 5 o’clock shadow that necessitates a quick straight razor shave, Rrrose Heather had taught him to apply his makeup so well even a perceptive groundhog wouldn’t notice a shadow ‘til around 8.
(…and, once again, my notoriously eccentric great-great granduncle, the author William, ‘Golden Boy’ Golden trots out his ‘Willamina’ persona, not for just another book, but also for the ‘cause’, – a free state amongst those enslaved.) – Raji
…Luny Mum wrinkles, worried. ‘What will become of our Golden Boy, Poppy Sol?’
Sol’s rays stroke her reassuringly. ‘Be just three of the blighters, Mum. ‘E’ll ‘andle em.’
The riders stride over to block Gladiola’s path.
“Whoa, old girl,” Golden Boy whispers.
“Hold on there Missy,” the ringleader barks. “Got some questions need answering. What’s youren name? Where you headin’?”
“Willamina. To church.”
“Don’t rightly remember ever seein’ you at service. I’d ‘member seein’ a pretty little thing like you.” He reaches down to pinch Golden’s chin. Golden leans, away from his reach.
His pard jokes. “You ain’t ever seen her there ‘cause you’ve never been there, Jake.
The other pard chuckles.
Jake dismounts, leans against the buckboard’s seat, and breathes deep. “Ooh, you sure smell sweet Miss Willamina. Wish we were trailen’ your scent steada’ stinkin’ abolitionists bringen’ in arms to kill off good southern immigrants doin’ their duty to keep slavery alive. Well darlin’, I hate to say it, but we can’t be too careful, so we gotta see what your haulin’.”
“Stinkin’ Jayhawkers,” Golden Boy nods and sympathizes as they pry the lids off the crates.
“Bibles!” says Jake. “Well ain’t that rich.” Jake and the pards fumble through some of the pages of the books so unfamiliar to them, and then Jake spits. “Go on, missy. Get about your way.”
They ride away, missing completely, beneath the crates false bottom, the stash of rifles supplied by Blackjack Fiction to Golden Boy to arm the Free Staters. (editor’s note – I added the names well over 100 years later – Blackjack and Golden Boy. Out of necessity, they kept secret their abolitionist activities.)
“Hii-yaa Gladiola.” The wagon rolls on.
‘Don’t look now Golden Boy, but one of em be riding back,’ Poppy Sol blinks.
Golden Boy tips his bonnet skyward. ‘Thank ye, Sol.’ He clutches his gun again.
Jake approaches as the pards wait just out of hearing range.
“What say, Miss Willamina, I accompany you to the picnic after church on Sunday.” With his sleeve, the suddenly shy slob smudges away nervous drool that waterfalls from the corner of his mouth. He stutters, briefly. “It-it’ll be a f-f-fine day for dumplins’ and pie.”
“Why, landsakes, Jake. Any girl be pleased as punch havin’ such a fine gentlemanly escort. Of course I will.”
He smiles crookedly then rides away.
“Stinkin’ border ruffians,” Golden Boy curses to Gladiola as he takes a shotgun from beneath his dress and takes bead on the pro-slave renegades.
‘Will ‘e blast ‘em to kingdom’s come, Sol?’
‘Won’t ‘e Mum?’
Mum waxes nostalgic. ‘Ye know, Sol, I say – NOT! No fair lass would pass a chance on a social occasion. I be sayin’ she’ll, um, he’ll, go with ‘ims.’ What better way to infiltrate that world of scalawags!’
Coming next: ‘LEATHER, WHIPS, AND GUN-RUNNING ON THE RANGE – WHERE THE ARMS ARE BOUND.’ (where often is heard, a tortured word, and the skies are cloudy all day.)
©2012 by Raji Singh