Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Review: In Calamity's Wake by Natalee Caple

When I was a little girl, I learnt about the old West from watching movies like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and High Noon and movie stars like John Wayne.
In this version of the old West, there was little room for women. We were schoolmarms, saloon dancers and housewives. We were depicted as being fragile and ineffectual.
John Wayne's character tells his approximately nine year old son, something like, "You're the man of the house, now. Take care of the women folk." Then he rides away.


'After quarreling with one husband, Steer, who beat her, hit her in the lip with a rock and tried to stab her, she tried to get him arrested. When that didn't work, when he beat her again with the heel of his boot, she tied him to a mule and left him in a stable. She took his saddle and his horse and rode right out of marriage.' (p. 47)


'Elijah [her brother] and I joined General Custer as scouts at Fort Russell, Wyoming in 1870... I drew a reputation for getting myself and others safely out of many a close circumstance. I was considered the most daring rider and one of the best shots in Western country... I was the bearer of important dispatches and as the most reckless I was given the job of swimming the Platte River at Fort Fetterman, riding ninety miles to bring news back and forth.' (p. 253 - 269)

Fragile? Ineffectual? Not Martha Canary...not the woman they called, Calamity Jane.

What I learnt from watching these movies was that Aboriginals  were blood-thirty savages.
I watched as the chuck wagon  cut through the wild west. The passengers were unaware that Indians stocked them. I sat at the edge of my seat, chewing my nails because I knew what would happen when they caught up to the wagon. But, wait, cresting the hill... Is that... Is that the cavalry? Oh, thank goodness. Everything is going to be okay. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. 

But I didn't know the truth...
'The Indians, he said, were never savages but perhaps the Europeans were.' (p. 12)
'As retaliation for the loss of thirty white men, the army killed one hundred Lakota Sioux Brule.' (p. 8)
'I thought it no mistake that the Indian campaigns came on the heels of quashing secession. I knew that both sides the North and the South, were sick with what they had done and somehow that was driving them to do worse; shame is a great engine and the Indian wars were partly that engine running on leftover madness from the civil war... [I]t all comes down to us telling them to stay on a space of land and then finding something we wanted there and telling them to get off of it.' (p. 257 - 259)

Favourite quotes from In Calamity's Way...
'Loneliness had turned her empty rooms into storage for the phantom belongings of people she may or may not have ever known.' (p. 40)
'So many parts of being who we are start as fictions about belonging.' (p. 155)

I'd like to thank Natalee Caple for writing this book about a woman who was more than her legend.

the woman they called, Calamity Jane

and if you'd like to read about 'notable Canadian women' pioneers, I'd highly recommend the non-fiction book ...And Mighty Women Too
Work in progress:  Alone In Her Head
A novel in short stories
Sequel to A Long Way From Her
Word count:  49, 939 words

Though it looks like I'm nearing my goal, I've reached a tricky part of the story (emotionally draining) and whereas before the word count grew by leaps and bounds now growth is word by word. But I'm still enjoying the adventure--and will climb this mountain. 
Congratulations to friend of this blog, Manolis. 
He writes...

It is my pleasure to inform you know that my book “Nostos and Algos”, , 2012, translated by Lucia Gorea is ready for release in Romania by the Dellart publishers.

Needless to say, I’m on cloud nine.
Tomorrow meet the author of In Calamity's Wake Natalee Caple