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Sunday, October 23, 2016

October on The Old Place

 Autumn can make you dizzy.

 With color.

 Our Bartlett pear tree leaves in colors between scarlet and crimson.

 Apples still clinging to golden branches.

 Our trail camera caught a buck and a little buck.  We decided to go for a walk on the place and, of course, Jamie and Claire came along.
Pepper, who had gone off, eventually followed our tracks and caught up. . .

 . . . when we reached the upper field.

 We walked to the end of the property where I took Jay's photo with Big Rock above.
 We saw a swarm of ladybugs on a pine trunk.
And toadstools.

 Claire had to rest because she's a mite overweight.
Leaves color the creek this time of year.
And a single apple makes its own art.
About a week ago, the elk began their winter migration out of the valley.  Where do they go, anyway?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Wild Plums, Cats and . . .

 We have a small grove of wild plum trees on the place, growing on the banks of our seasonal spring. The fruit is so sweet, we aren't the only ones desiring it.

Today when I tramped down to the spring to shake the plum tree, our cats Jamie and Claire came along.

They explored everything and Jamie climbed the plum tree.

The grass around the trees is tall, and plums easily hide. If I don't find them, the deer will later.

The cats explored until they needed a rest.  But what's this in the trail?

Note the apple chips in the pile of bear scat.  When Jay retrieved our trail camera, we saw this black bear under the plum trees. Autumn can be exciting up here in the Idaho hills.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Enter Goodreads Giveaway for a Paperback Copy of My Novel, The Wolf's Sun

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Wolf's Sun, Intrigue in 17th Century Brittany and Paris by Karen Charbonneau
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Marble Creek, The Novel & The Historic Site

  My novel, Marble Creek, is available on Amazon Kindle.   For now, I want to write about historic Marble Creek, itself, in Shoshone County, Idaho, about 48 miles up the St. Joe River from St. Maries.

Map of Marble Creek & St. Joe River circa 1917

Before the Milwaukee Road RR was constructed through the St. Joe Valley in 1909, the only access to Marble Creek was up the St. Joe River.  In the previous century Jesuit missionaries christened the river the Saint Joseph.  Less godly men came along to call it the St. Joe, or just the Joe.  The highest navigable river in the United States, steamboats came across Lake Coeur d'Alene to ply its gentle waters upstream to Saint Maries and to Ferrell, as far as these steamboats could go. 

The Georgie Oakes

The river's large tributary, Marble Creek, converges with the St. Joe fifteen miles above the head of navigation, where the swift water runs. At the turn of the 20th century, this creek, rapid and perilous in spring, spilled out of a mountainous drainage of eighty thousand coveted acres of virgin white pine, about to be opened for homesteading under the Timber and Stone Act.  Lumber companies, some freshly arrived from the upper Middle West, such at Rutledge in Coeur d'Alene, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser, and some home-grown, began harvesting the forests there.

Marble Creek in spring
 It was a place of conflict and danger.  There was a timber war in 1904.  This is what Forest Guard (early forest ranger) O. O. Lansdale wrote: 

"There was no law south of Wallace, the county seat, and the place was getting wild. . . . The killing in Marble Creek climaxed the last stand of some of the large lumber mill companies to get control of the cream of the white pine before the Forest Service cracked down on stone, timber and homesteading."

 Oral histories collected in Hardships and Happy Times and Swiftwater People by Bert and Marie Russell of Harrison, Idaho, inspired me to set part of my novel in a logging camp up Marble Creek. The old lumberjacks' reminiscences described so well the dangers of logging in the early days on Marble Creek. 

Marble Creek in July

Marble Creek looks peaceful now.  It's a recreation area.  Hard to imagine the logging of the teens and twenties of the 20th century.  But men died above it felling timber and in its rushing waters driving logs down the Marble. Here's a not very good photo (taken behind glass at the Marble Creek museum) of one of the splash dams that held back the creek and logs until it got up a head of water.

 And here are photos of its bones that you can see today.

When logging finally slowed on Marble Creek - it's never stopped - no one bothered to remove the steam donkey.  You can see that, too, if you drive up the Forest Service access road. It's a beautiful place to visit.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Butte Irish and World War I


The Richest Hill on Earth

      Butte, Montana, had the largest concentrated population of Irish west of New York City at the time my novel takes place. Hard rock miners. The Butte Irish were American patriots, many enlisting when the United States entered World War I in April, 1917, or  willingly going into uniform when they were drafted.  But some remained what Teddy Roosevelt termed "hyphenated Americans," with a strong loyalty to Ireland, struggling to free itself from Great Britain.  The Butte Irish had protested the draft, not wanting their sons to fight on the side of Great Britain.

               A few years before the war, under the guise of the Robert Emmett Literary Association, a faction of Butte Irish took advantage of the federal government's offer to give surplus Springfield rifles to hunting clubs. After acquiring their share, they formed Company A of the Irish Volunteers of America.  Even Father Michael Hannan, originally from Limerick and pastor of the miners' church, St. Mary's, went out on maneuvers with them as they prepared for the day when they'd return to Ireland to fight for its independence.

               So, when in the summer of 1917, the copper miners of Butte went out on strike for better working conditions and pay, the federal government imagined German and Wobbly influence, one in the same to government agents, stirring Butte's waters.  Federal troops were sent in to patrol its streets.

                In my unpublished manuscript, Marble Creek, in August, 1917, a week after Wobbly Frank Little is lynched in Butte, my character, Malachi O'Neill, arrives to offer his services to the Pearse-Connolly Club at Finlander Hall, where radical elements of Butte hang out. Its members have a plan to help Ireland, which they reveal to O'Neill.

          “Ireland can’t get guns from Germany with the war on.  She needs a new source.  We think we’ve found it.”  He spoke of the Canadian Ross rifle, how the mud in France jammed it so it wouldn't fire and a loose collar caused the bayonets to fall out during charges across no man’s land.  “The Canadian soldiers had enough of it.  They’re using Enfields now.  But it’s a good rifle at long-range, very accurate for snipers. The New York Guard is negotiating with the Canadian government now to buy surplus Rosses for training.  A man in that guard told a Pearce-Connolly member in New York, who sent word here.  Catch my drift, O’Neill?”
        He replied, “Mind, I'll be up and gone if ye tell me ye're plannin' to steal 'em from the New York Guard."
       "Ah, none of that. There's no shipping guns to Ireland from the east coast with all the ports being watched.  Every boat is searched twice - the Americans looking for German spies, the English hunting contraband shipped to Ireland.  The Royal Navy boards ships soon as they enter international waters.  If Canada has surplus guns for the New York Guard, we're betting they’ll have surplus for the Montana Guard to purchase.  We’ve got friends in the guard here willing to make up purchase orders for us.  We’ll bring the guns across the Canadian border, all legal like, but they won't be going to Helena and the guard armory.  We’ll bring 'em here, then transport 'em to the West Coast and contract a boat there.”

I just had to have this old Ross bayonet I purchased on eBay. It plays a part in my novel.
Plans are made.  

      More beer was poured and they toasted.  “To the harp of Ireland.  May it never lack for a string as long as there’s a gut in an Englishman.”  It had a satisfying ring.
And the song that remains with O'Neill through the rest of the story is HERE