Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Love This Book!

Zola Bellis Sample had a beautiful way of writing. I’m still reading her book, Cherokee Strip Fever. Yes, I’m a little slow, but my romance group is in the middle of a unpublished writers contest, so time I might have been reading has been spent judging. (It’s nice to read a book that has all the commas in the right place!)

I’m all the way to page 53. (Not a speed reader.) On page 53, she mentions Chauncey Owens, who has a hotel in Tulsa. Chauncey Owens is the name of my grandmother’s brother-in-law who married her sister Lillis. Same man? I doubt it, since this is set in the late 1800’s, but it might be Grandmother’s BIL’s father. Cool, huh?

Chauncey was some guy, who started out renting sleeping spots in a tent, and ended up owning a rooming house (which sounded like a hotel) called The Tulsa House.

On this one page (53) she also tells about Doc Besser, who’d lost his wife. “He is blind and has three sons. Little fellers. They make out, but it’s rough.”

“Chart, you must try to to become homesick. Things are not gonna be like it was up north. It’s a wild country rich in Indian and outlaw legends. There’s all kinds of hideouts, buried treasures from train holdups and other robberies. Oklahoma weather is unpredictible. Temperatures can drop 20 to 30 degrees in no time. Cyclones skip across the country like a grasshopper flitting from one green cornstock to another. You’ll have to learn to watch the clouds,” Bill warned.

Wow. Just wow. How could a young woman get homesick with all that excitement waiting just outside her cabin? Outlaws? Indians? Buried treasure and train holdups? I think his words probably made her grin with anticipation.

And don’t you love the way he described tornadoes? “Cyclones skip across the country like a grasshopper flitting from one green cornstock to another.” 🙂

The way Charity answers him is beautiful. “I’ve heard Oklahoma has the most beautiful sunsets of all the states. Oklahoma skies can lift up tired spirits. Maybe they will inspire poetry and song . . . softer than softest cotton, whiter than whitest snow, brilliant in the twilight glow!” quoted Charity.

I have no idea who Charity quoted, but I love the sentiment.

They finally get to their cabin.

He grabbed her and they danced a jig there on the earthen floor. They were happy to be united after the long separation. Home or not home, they had each other. Charity saw, at a glance, he had done his best.

There was their table, sawed-off logs answered for chairs, a four lid cook stove presided over in the kitchen area; and best of all it had a fair sized oven. The stove pipe rose straight through the roof.

It did resemble a bachelor’s quarters; but she could soon remedy that. Plans had already started fermenting, calling for hand cut shelf paper to cover the crude open-faced cupboard nailed to the logs. Hooked or braided rags rugs and a curtain at the one wide window could help change the atmosphere.

Okay, I’ve thought it might have been fun to spend a week or two back in that time period, but how in the world would you keep a house dusted if the floor was made out of dirt? It’s hard enough with a wood floor. LOL! And imagine making all your own food.

When Charity and the children had traveled all day to get to the cabin, Charity has to get dinner. They don’t stop at Sonic for a burger on the way in. “Searching through the homemade larder, Charity found the corndodger.”

Corndodger? Like on True Grit?

I checked it out and from what I can tell it’s kind of like cornbread made in those pans that shape the cornbread into ovals. Sometimes it’s called cornpone or johnny cakes.

Here’s the recipe I found.

Corn Dodgers
2 cups corn meal

1 tsp salt

2 tsp fat

13/4  cup boiling water


  • Pour boiling water over all of the ingredients
  • Beat well.  When cool, form into cakes
  • Bake 30 minutes in hot oven, or Dutch Oven, until crisp

That and fresh milk, still warm from the cow, was dinner.

When dinner is ready, she goes outside to wait for her husband to get back from the barn.

Having prepared for the mere snack she drifted out the cabin door. There, stock-still in the center of a frontier clearing, she stood, slightly trembling, listening. All around rose tall trees towering over tangled passageways, shadowy and dark, where the wilderness folk walked trodden paths on four padded feet, ever cautious of their enemies. The shadowy forest extended down toward the banks of the Arkansas River. It lapped away in a continual murmur, ever nibbling away at the sandy-loam banks. It had decided again to return to its torrential channel.

*  *  *

Charity thought, “This day is closing. Never to return.” The trees stood silent, drawn close together. Their branches provided protection to the fowl of the air. The sun’s goodnight caress was diminished in the cool river atmosphere of the surrounding bottom lands. A humid, rich smell of earth odors penetrated her nostrils.

In a way it was so peaceful, quiet and touching. She whirled her long skirts with arms extended, suddenly standing at attention. For there, right in front of her eyes, was her very own small home, with the lamp throwing a yellow glow from the doorway.

Isn’t that beautiful? Those aren’t paragraphs you can skim your way through. You have to take your time, read them a word at a time and savor them. And sometimes go back and read them again.

I’m loving this book.