by guest blogger Delores Goodrick Beggs
One important use of markers was to issue an invitation to men and youths, wanderers passing by isolated ranches and homesteads, seeking work and/or fortunes of their own. These men ran the gamut from honest fortune-seekers to dangerous outlaws, and yet when folks needed assistance, as they often did, they were willing to chance strangers coming to their door.
One of the connections to my family, I’ll call her Ellie, was placed in this position when her siblings had left the isolated family homestead and her parents died, victims of one of the many disastrous diseases rampant in the area at that time.
Ellie had arrived in Southern Missouri as a child, with her family in a covered wagon. A wheel of the wagon hit a large rock while crossing a stream, throwing Ellie out of the wagon. She landed in the shallow water, striking her head on another rock, and was deaf after that. She also broke a foot, which healed distorted so she was unable to wear a regular shoe on the misshapen foot. She cut a slit in her shoes ever after to accommodate the healed bulge.
When Ellie’s parents died, she wore herself tired to the bone trying to keep the homestead going and became desperate for help – she couldn’t manage her father’s farm by herself, and town was too far away to be practical to visit except when she needed supplies. So she put a marker on the front gate.
The markers used in those days to invite persons to come assist the farmer consisted of a strip of old fabric tied to a gatepost to indicate a farmer was looking for assistance. A man looking for a fresh start or a youth looking to strike out on his own knew he would find a welcome at that place, food and a spot to rest, perhaps even wages before he got restless and moved on again. There was never any telling what kind of person might answer her marker. Ellie was lucky when a very nice gentleman showed up at her door asking for work. He stayed, they fell in love and eventually got married and had children of their own.
But not all cases of markers ended up so happily. In my coming December 21, 2012 release Substitute Lover:
“I’m forgetting you’re a town woman.” Jasper smiled again. “All we do is drive around and put one of these markers on gateposts. They’re signals that the folks that live there are looking for help, for workers.”
“Just fasten them to gateposts?” It was hard to believe. “What happens next?”
“Oh, travelers pass by, see the marker. They stop up at the house and offer to do a bit of work, help the folks out, in exchange for a meal.”
It appealed to her. She didn’t see any harm in it. In fact, it seemed to her it would help folks like he said, in particular those who had difficulty doing the physical work, like Garrity, like Theron’s father. Even smaller places boasting just a cow or two, a few chickens, and a neat garden plot still involved a large amount of physical work.
“Come on, Tennyson. For old time’s sake. Let’s do this last lark together,” he wheedled.
She bit her lip in indecision, and then made up her mind. “All right. We will do this one last thing, but I warn you, Jasper. After this, stay away from me.”
“If you say so.” He spread his hands wide and smiled again, making her wonder if he’d listened to her words at all. Jasper made arrangements to meet her later in the evening, and left at last, to her great relief. She turned away and hurried back to her store.
Home again at her store next day, the conversation with Jasper still bothered her, and she felt she should have just walked away from him when he first accosted her. Where had this wonderful insight been earlier when she needed it?
All of a sudden she felt uneasy. Jasper had proposed a lark and she’d refused. She’d felt quite sure of herself when she’d said no, and then he’d instead proposed helping people. It had made it all different, didn’t it? Helping people? She’d said yes, and last night she’d gone out with him in the wagon to help people.
A wave of uncertain urgency swept through her. She had to seek out Caleb. Now.
Place in the Heart Book Two: Substitute Lover, coming December 21, 2012
DBP Breaking Point Link: http://goo.gl/lH5NE
Amazon.com Link: http://goo.gl/DOo3E
Delores Goodrick Beggs is a prolific award-winning author in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, having started in high school when she would often awaken with a dream demanding to be captured on paper.
She turned her notes into her first stories, often writing during short-lived Kansas thunderstorms that barely thinned the sweltering heat of Pony Ring Ranch where her father raised horses and ponies. She wrote her first collection of fiction on a mountaintop in California while watching her part-Appaloosa mare assert mischievous independence in the exercise corral.
Watch for her next novel: Place in the Heart Book Two: Substitute Lover, coming late December, 2012 from www.DesertBreezePublishing.com, also available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other major e-book publishers.
Stop by and visit her web site at http://www.goodrickbeggs.wordpress.com
And buy her books from Desert Breeze Publishing at her author page.