Here is a recent article featured in the Albuquerque Journal. You can read it here:
Dawson Cemetery: 'Beautiful reminder of those who came before.'
My latest novel is set in Dawson, New Mexico. Recently, they received a grant to do some work on the Dawson cemetery. Dawson was the site of two mining disasters. One in 1913 (the event my novel centers around) and one in 1923. It is heartwarming to see this place being renovated by good-hearted dedicated people. Dawsonites were always a close community and they hold reunions every other year even though the town was closed back in 1950.
Here is a recent article featured in the Albuquerque Journal. You can read it here:
Dawson Cemetery: 'Beautiful reminder of those who came before.'
Feeling old and out of date--living in the last century.
Tamara: Someone just called and said I was the only person she knew that kept checks in a drawer and mailed them to deposit. LOL I think that's hilarious actually. I really feel like an old lady now...
Kim: lol I know. People don't use checks anymore.
Tamara: But she says most people she knows use an app to deposit them via their phone. And we don’t use our phone that way.
Several hours later:
Tamara to Kim: Call the cell. lol
Tamara after talking to Kim: It's also good that I used the cell because we need to add minutes. Lol
#MindMorsels #KimandTamara #FridayFunny
Tamara: And remember balance...
Kim: I agree. This is a whole new world over here in Kim kingdom.
Tamara: LOL why?
Kim: I’m going to balance myself.
Tamara: Oh that's a great goal. Just remember that as your word. It's pretty simple—when you feel overwhelmed, just ask yourself what is not balanced and do whatever you need to tip the scales toward level.
Kim: Awww that’s awesome I love that.
#MindMorsels #KimandTamara @Kim Carmichael
Mind Morsels January 1, 2019
Kim: Yeah, and I’m always so whatever about starting the year maybe this is a sign to let it go.
Tamara: Yeah, I think for us it is a time to regroup and look at what we have accomplished, and to look at things to do differently (not resolutions) but some goal-oriented things.
I've been doing a lot of research over the years for my current novel, The Waiting Shadows, which takes place in 1913 New Mexico during the second deadliest US mine disaster.
Dawson was located in northern New Mexico, and not far from the Colorado/New Mexico border. During the time of the disaster October 22, 1913, the miners in Colorado were on strike and eventually in April, 1914, would lead to the Ludlow Massacre.
I've run across Mother Jones, an advocate of coal miners across the country, before, but have been especially intrigued with her appearance during the Colorado strike of 1913-1914. She was evidently taken into custody at one point, January 1914 because the military saw her as a threat. Doesn't she look dangerous?
She's a fascinating person and was dedicated to standing up for miners against the mining companies.
I would have loved to include her in my book, but my focus is on the disaster in New Mexico, not the miners strike in Colorado. But this is what happens to a writer of historical fiction--and I'm sure other writers as well. You find these interesting tidbits that just don't fit into your story, though you wish they did.
October 22, 1913 3:15 p.m.
A few seconds after the house rumbled at the force of an explosion, Elena Bianchi hoisted her screaming baby on her hip. Roberto, she screamed silently.
Berto, her oldest, came running into the house. “Mamma!”
Giulietta wept quietly. As the middle child and a girl, most of the time she was timid, allowing her brothers to have all the attention. Beside her, Angelo wailed. Elena’s mind shuddered with the echoes of the blast, but she must calm the children. Chaos reigned in her small kitchen at the rear of the four-room company house.
She set the baby in his chair. “Hush, Pietro. Silencio.” Her tone was quiet. If she fell apart, the children would be lost.
As if the seven-month-old understood, Pietro sniffled and stopped his piercing scream. Next, she took Angelo’s hand. At three, he had no idea of what just happened, but whenever any of the others cried, he made sure his wailing was the loudest.
“Mamma needs you to be a big boy. Look at Berto. See? He’s not crying.” While she wiped Angelo’s tears, she gave a grateful glance to Berto, her little six-year-old rock.
Angelo hiccupped, which interrupted his cries and Elena held her breath, but as soon as he looked over at four-year-old Giulietta’s quiet tears, the screeches continued, no softer than before.
Elena kissed his cheek. “Please, Angelo. Sh.” With her other hand she put an arm around her daughter. “I know you can stop crying.”
Giulietta’s big eyes rounded, and she nodded solemnly. “Si, Mamma.”
“Grazie.” Elena squeezed her hand. “See, Angelo? Giuli is being a big girl.” Finally, in a last effort to make her son stop, Elena turned away from him. He could not stand being ignored, and she counted on that to finish him.
Instead, she raised Pietro in her arms and took her daughter’s hand. She nodded at Berto. “Let’s go find your Papà.”
By the time they reached the door, Angelo was running behind them. “Wait for me, Mamma.”
Only then did she give him any acknowledgment. “Take your brother’s hand. We stay together.”
Her little family stepped into the street. During the rush to the mine entrance, she fought against crying out in panic. The Italian women from their section of Dawson moved as a group down the street to the edge of town, following the road to the Number Two mine. Their cries spread out over the streets in a shriek of horror and grief.
Elena refused to join them. She would save her tears, be strong for her children. If she didn’t give in to the fear, Roberto would find his way out of the mine, back to his family. Per favore, Dio. Keep Roberto safe. Bring him back to us. The mantra repeated over and over in her head as she shut out the other women. Roberto would be proud of her when he returned. Proud she didn’t fall apart, proud she took care of the children and proud she kept her faith. Her strong faith was both a blessing and a curse for Roberto, and had been since they were young. She remembered him appearing at her home late at night, calling her to go walk with him through their village. She had shaken her head and told him no, she was a good girl and besides it was time for her evening prayers. He had laughed so hard at that. “Your prayers have been answered already, Elena. I am here.”
She could still feel the warmth that heated her cheeks that night. At the time, she turned her face into the shadows so he would not see her blushing. If he saw, he would know his feelings for her were returned. She loved this boy. His generosity, his gentle soul had captured her heart, but his dreams had scared her.
When they walked after Mass on Sundays he spoke of faraway places. “I’m going to America. There is work and so much money you can’t hold it all in your pockets. Luigi sends money home to his family every month. If he can send so much money, there must be lots of it.”
“It’s so far away from our family.”
“Sì. It is far away, but maybe we can come visit,” he promised.
And yet in all the time she had been in America they hadn’t returned to Italy, not since Roberto brought her here as his pregnant bride nearly seven years ago. Always too little money, and her husband worked every day to care for their growing family.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m with you,” Roberto said. “We will have a healthy handsome son, like his papà.” He was always sure they would have a son, and God must never disappoint Roberto. Her husband would not stand for it. His stubborn nature aggravated her to no end most days, but this October afternoon it brought her hope. If anyone survived this terrible tragedy, Roberto would. He wouldn’t allow for anything else.
The thought gave her the strength to continue toward the mine. At the yawning gash in the rock which opened into the mine shaft, splintered wood was tossed about, thrown from its position as a brace for the tons of dirt and rock it had supported.
Several men hunched over coughing, their faces smeared with coal dust and dirt. Several had scorched clothes.
Elena listened to the women who arrived earlier.
“The flames shot out of the mine,” a woman she recognized from church said.
“Over a hundred feet, the men said,” another added, spreading her arms out wide.
Another moan went up from the women.
One man of the small group who had stumbled out of the mine stood up straight and walked into a waiting woman’s arms. A cheer went up from the crowd. The couple embraced, the woman kissing the man’s face all over. Elena hoped she might be so fortunate in the coming minutes. Yet, staring at the mine opening until her eyes filled with water and she was forced to blink didn’t make him appear. None of her silent prayers made him walk out into the sunlight.
Berto said, “Mamma, he will be all right. I know this.” His little face almost glowed in the afternoon light. So like his father, and yet he possessed an innocence of the child he was.
How her son could know anything was beyond her and the certainty of his belief was also out of her reach, but she held on to the thread of hope his words gave her. “Sî, my son. He will be. We must pray very hard.”
“Stay back.” A large man covered in coal dust held his arms out, blocking the women from approaching. All around them women screamed out for their husbands. The children cried for their papas and their uncles. The shrieks echoed against the mesa, competing with the clanging of equipment as the men set to digging through the earth.
After a while, the yelling and shouting quieted and they waited.
The baby in her arms rested his head on her shoulder and slumbered. Angelo and Giulietta wandered off to join other young ones who started a game of hopscotch. The children’s reaction to the tragedy seemed inappropriate, but her maternal intuition was grateful for their diversion. Elena wondered how much they understood, not that she understood any more than they might. When was it that adults became the people who knew everything? She studied the people around her, all speaking in different languages, the dread on their faces never left. No one had any understanding. The bosses all spoke in English. It took long moments for the translations into Italiano.
Never had she regretted the lack of language more than now when she needed to understand everything about what was happening. All these thoughts sidetracked her mind from the place it wanted to go. She wanted to delve deep into the earth to that place Roberto spent every day, but rarely spoke about, aside from telling her how much coal he transported via mule.
“You care more about the mule than me,” she teased him once.
He shook his head, smiling. “No, tesoro mio. The company prizes the mule above the men, but I know who I love most in all the world.”
Would his job as the mule driver keep him in a safer place than other miners?
Mrs. Serafine, who Elena knew from church, came up to her. Heavy with a child in her womb, Mrs. Serafine held one hand on her back for support. “Do you think we will know more before dark?” she asked in rapid Italian.
Elena didn’t answer. The question was pointless. They would know when they knew and not before. “There is nothing to be done, but wait.”
“How many men do you think are still down there?” asked another woman, but Elena couldn’t remember her name.
Elena shook her head.
“I heard two hundred, maybe more. What will I do if Anselmo is gone?” Mrs. Serafine asked.
Elena had no answer, and she would not guess about her own situation. “We must pray.”
“Why would God let this happen?” Mrs. Serafine ran a hand over her belly.
Again, there was no answer Elena could give that would not sound trite or blasphemous so she kept quiet.
Across the crowd, she saw a familiar face, Cassie Roundtree, the laundress. She stood apart from the huddle of people, worry etched on her face. Their gazes met, and Elena recognized the fears haunting the other woman. Cassie pressed her lips together and turned away.
Mrs. Serafine was talking again. “Ay, Dio, what about Anselmo?”
Elena gripped the baby tighter, refusing to let panic overtake her. “I must gather the children. They must eat. Berto, go get your brother and sister.” After so long, the baby got heavier by the minute. Her arms were stiff. Maybe if she went home, Roberto would open the door just about dark the way he always did.
The children returned. Angelo was whining. “I want to play.”
“It’s supper time.” She watched Giuli’s eyes get rounder as she took in the women who stood in small groups weeping, comforting one another in a time when consolation was not possible. How could her daughter understand the women’s grief? Did she wonder if one day, she might be in a similar position, waiting for her husband to return to her out of the darkness?
When Elena was little, her grandmother had spoken about a grandfather who died long before Elena was born. Grandmother waited for days and days, weeks went by and they had no news from Bezzecca and the war. Nothing. Finally, in September, they brought him home. It was too late. The gangrene had set into his bones. Grandmother did all she could with her teas and medicines, but nothing could help him. She waited in the candlelight, wiping the sweat off his fevered head. His moans grew weaker, and then with one final gasp he left her. Elena’s mother had been only two. Elena’s father died when a wagon ran over him. She was only five. One day he was there, the next he wasn’t. Was that the fate of all women, to wait in the shadows between life and death with only prayer and worry for her loved ones?
Why had she thought of that old memory of her grandmother, a scarf tied around her hair as she scrubbed the pots, talking about her long dead husband? Once more Elena shut her thoughts away. Nothing could interfere with the good thoughts she would think until Roberto came home. There could be no other ending.
I am pleased to announce that my current Work in Progress has been awarded First Place in the Master division of the Ink and Insights 2016 Writing Contest. As part of the contest I received excellent feedback from the judges, editors and agents which will help me make the story even better. You can read an excerpt over at their website: https://inkandinsights.com/master-novels-winners-page.php Click on Read a sample.
Three of the BB-36 USS Nevada sailors we hosted back in February took the honor flight to Pearl Harbor to take part in the 75th Commemoration of the Pearl Harbor attack. Though they were not on board USS Nevada during the attack (they joined her later), they are representing this great ship, the only ship to get underway during the attack.
On October 22, 1913 the second deadliest mining disaster in America happened in Dawson, New Mexico. This is the setting of the current novel I’m writing. I plan to finish the next draft (number 4 since first starting last November) this November for NanoWriMo-National Novel Writing Month.
The story centers around three women from different backgrounds. Abbie, a white woman from a wealthy Boston family is disowned by her family and comes west with the stable boy. Cassie, a black woman who dreams of singing on stage in Dallas Texas, but follows love to the coal town in New Mexico, and an Italian immigrant who leaves her family and country to join her husband working in the coal mines.
The tragedy brings the diverse women together the night of October 22-23, 1913. As they wait for news of who lives and who dies, they seek comfort in the similarity of their circumstances. To pass the time, they share their stories of their lives and struggles and forge bonds which are made in The Waiting Shadows.
Please check back for more news (exciting news) to come regarding this story.
Here is an excerpt:
Deep inside Stag Canyon Mine Number 2, the miner entered the darkness, his lamp flickering over the black coal veins. The clanging of shovels and picks from men working further down the tunnel reached him. The shot firer placed the powder in the hole. At a voice he turned, knocked his lamp askew against a timber, and the gas flame escaped. The hungry spark tasted the coal dust, found the flavor pleasing, and in an instant stretched out for more. It searched through the tunnels, greedily licking up every pocket of dust and gas, until finally the blast ricocheted off the walls, bringing down dirt and timber braces. The blaze traveled through the chambers, followed the shaft inhaling air and fumes. Hungry, it craved additional fuel. At last, in one final fury, the flames belched out of the entrance, shooting out a hundred feet. Timbers flew, expelled out of the opening as if some ancient god spat them out in anger.
Left in the voracious fire’s wake, the mine shuddered, rocked below and above.
The miner, whose lamp initiated the catastrophe, saw only a bright white-hot light. His eardrums collapsed under the force of the blast. Thrown against the timbers and covered with rock and dirt, he knew nothing more. Others nearby heard only the blast before being smothered underneath tons of earth.
A few dazed men, covered in blackened dust, stumbled out of the entrance, supporting one another. One scorched man, then another and another—they coughed, choked for air. Long seconds passed before a few others made their way to daylight. Fifteen climbed out of the mine before too many minutes passed.
Beneath the land more than two hundred and fifty remained buried. Souls from all parts of the globe: Italy, Greece, Ireland, Austria, Mexico, Slovenia, Bohemia, France, Hungary, Russia, Scotland, Croatia, Poland, and Americans—black and white.
It was a little after three in the afternoon on October 22, 1913.
Tamara Eaton is a "western woman." She lives in the southwest, and wide open spaces of the desert and prairie are often portrayed in her work--fiction and poetry. Her novel, Weeping Women Springs, is a speculative novel set during WWII in the desert of Arizona and is available on Amazon. When not writing she is usually editing the work of others.