22. January 2012 · Comments Off on A Literary Interview · Categories: Old West · Tags: , , ,

Some time ago for one of the author’s groups that I participated in, we each did a series of interviews with our own characters – in charater, of course. I picked out two of the secondary characters from To Truckee’s Trail, with the following results. I had quite forgotten about this post, until I was shuffling through some archives … and it is just as amusing now as it was then.

Elisha Stephens (ES) and Isaac Hitchcock  (IH) from To Truckee’s Trail

Celia H.: So, gentlemen –  thank you for taking a little time from your duties as wagon master and –  er – assistant trail guide to answer questions from The Independent Authors’ Guild about your experiences in taking a wagon train all the way to California.

ES: (inaudible mumble)

IH: (chuckling richly) Oh, missy, that ain’t no trouble at all, seein’ as I ain’t really no guide, no-how. I’m just along for the ride, with my fuss-budget daughter Izzy an’ her passel o’ young ones. Heading to Californy, they were, after m’ son-in-law. He been gone two year, now. Went to get hisself a homestead there, sent a letter sayin’ they were to come after. Me, I think he went to get some peace an’ quiet. Izzy, she’s the nagging sort!

Celia H: Yes, Mr. Hitchcock –  but if I may ask you both – why California? There was no trail to follow once past Ft. Hall in 1844. Neither of you, or your chief guide, Mr. Greenwood had even traveled that overland trail, before Why not Oregon, like all the other travelers that year?

ES: Nicer weather.

IH: Waaalll, as I said, Samuel Patterson, Izzy’s man, he was already there, had hisself a nice little rancho, an’ o’ course Izzy wouldn’t hear no different about taking a wagon and the passel o’ young-uns and going to join him. (Winking broadly)  And it ain’t exackly true that I never had been there, no sirreebob. I been there years before, came over with some fur-trapping friends o’ mine. But it was unofficial-like. We wasn’t supposed to be there, but the alcalde and the governor an them, they all looked the other way, like. Beautiful country it were then –  golden mustard on all them hills, and the hills and valleys so green and rich with critters –  you’d believe they walk up and almost beg to be made your dinner! (chuckles and slaps his knee) Missy, the stories I could tell you, folk wouldn’t believe!

ES: (inaudible mumble)

Celia H.: Captain Stephens, I didn’t quite hear that; did you have something to add?

ES: (slightly louder) Most don’t. Believe him.

Celia H.: And why would that be, Mr. Stephens?

ES:  Tells too many yarns. Exaggerates something turrible.

Celia H.: But surely Mr. Hitchcock’s experience was of value …

ES: Some entertaining, I’ll give him that.

Celia H: Would you care to explain?

ES: No.

IH: (Still chuckling) The Capn’ is a man of few words, missy, an’ them he values as if each one were worth six bits. The miracle is he was ever elected captain, back at the start in Council Bluffs.

ES: Doc Townsend’s idea.

IH: And the Doc’s doing, missy! Everyone thought he’d be the captain of the party, for sure, but he let out that he had enough to do with doctorin’, and didn’t want no truck with organizing the train and leading all us fine folk out into the wilderness.

ES: Sensible man.

Celia H.: I take that you are referring to your party co-leader, Doctor Townsend. Why do you say that, Captain Stephens?

ES: Knows his limits.

IH: Ah, but the Doctor, he’s a proper caution! He’s an eddicated man, no doubt. Took a whole box of books, all the way over the mountains. I tell you, missy –  everyone looked to the Doctor. Everyone’s good friend, trust in a pinch and in a hard place without a second thought. Did have a temper, though –  member, ‘Lisha, with old Derby and his campfire out on the plains, when you gave order for no fires to be lit after dark, for fear of the Sioux? Old Man Derby, he just kept lighting that fire, daring you an’ the Doc to put it out. Onliest time I saw the Doc near to losing his temper!

Celia H.: (waiting a moment and looking toward ES) Do you want to elaborate on that, Captain Stephens?

ES: No.

Celia H.: Very well then – if you each could tell me, in your opinion, what was the absolute, very worst part of the journey and the greatest challenge. Mr. Hitchcock?

IH: Oh, that would be the desert, missy. They call it the Forty-Mile Desert, but truth to tell, I think it’s something longer than that. All the way from the last water at the Sink –  Me, I’d place it at sixty miles an’more. We left at sundown, with everything that would hold water full to the brim, an’ the boys cut green rushes for the oxen. Everyone walked that could, all during the night, following the Cap’n an’ Ol’ Greenwood’s boy, riding ahead with lanterns, following the tracks that Cap’n Stephens an’ the Doc and Joe Foster made, when they went on long scout to find that river that the o’l Injun tol’ us of. A night and a day and another night, missy  –  can you imagine that? No water, no speck of green, no shade. Jes’ putting one foot in front of the other. Old Murphy, he told them old Irish stories to his children, just to keep them moving. The oxen – I dunno how they kept on, bawlin’ for water all that time, and nothing but what we had brung. We had to cut them loose when they smelled that water in the old Injun’s river, though. Otherwise they’d have wrecked the wagons, and then where would we have been, hey?

Celia H.: In a bit of a pickle, I should imagine. Captain Stephens, what did you see as the most challenging moment?

ES: Getting the wagons up the pass.

IH: Hah! Had to unload them, every last scrap – and haul them wagons straight up a cliff. Give me a surefooted mule anytime, missy – those critters can find a way you’d swear wasn’t fit fer anything but a cat!

Celia H.: (waiting a moment for more from Captain Stephens.) Did you want to elaborate, Captain Stephens?

 ES: No.

Celia H.: Well – thank the both of you for being so frank and forthcoming about your incredible journey! I think we’ve managed to use up all the time that we have…