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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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Spruce Production Division & the 4 L

A 4L Button I bought on eBay

           In 1917 the United States Army took over the production of lumber, just as it would  the operation of the railroads by December. Because of the draft, most lumberjacks were in the military, leaving foreigners and older men to man saw mills and logging camps.  Not enough men.  Soldiers with backgrounds in lumber were detailed to the Pacific Northwest to cut Sitka spruce for the manufacture of airplanes and ships.

Spruce Production Division soldiers.jpg
Division soldiers on a Sitka spruce stump

Brigadier General Brice P. Disque.jpg
Colonel Bryce Disque
    The officer in charge was Colonel Bryce Disque of the U.S. Signal Corps, His office was in Portland, Oregon. The main barracks were in Vancouver, Washington.

        Colonel Disque knew that strikes in the lumber industry would slow down the war effort and, on the advice of Carleton Parker, he ordered the eight-hour day for the lumber industry, higher pay, and better and cleaner conditions in camps. All of which were to go into effect on March 1, 1918. He also instituted a new union, the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (see button above), which was to include both laborers and management.

           He also was determined to wipe out the Wobbly influence in the woods and brought in newly trained Military Intelligence officers whom he sent out to logging camps as far away as north Idaho and western Montana where the white pine was being logged to snoop out radical elements and sign up the lumberjacks for the 4 L.

          In my novel, Marble Creek, it's Colonel Disque who has Lt. Robert Jamison, a former Pinkerton detective,  attached to the Spruce Division and then sends him undercover to locate Irish radical Malachi O'Neill, believed to be conspiring to transport guns from Butte to Ireland for a rebellion that would distract Great Britain from the war in Europe. While logging with O'Neill on Marble Creek, one of Disque's Military Intelligence officers shows up to sign up the men for the 4 L and deliver a message to Jamieson.

         Jamieson looked down the table at O’Neill.  What would he do?  The Irishman’s dark eyes had narrowed, but his elbows remained on the oilcloth as he shoveled food into his mouth.  His eyes lifted to Jamieson's and they shared a scowl.  Then O’Neill went back to his meat and potatoes.
            “I want you to know that your cook and his crew have already signed up.”  He turned toward the visible part of the kitchen.  “Step out here, men."
            Pork Grease Eddie strolled out carrying a cleaver, followed by the bull cook, Polite John, the pastry cook and the two flunkies. “Sign up boys,” Eddie called out. “I heard those who refused over at the Rutledge camp were visited by some Idaho State Guard troops and hauled off to St. Maries.  Don’t let the boss down.”
            Mouth full of pie, Jamieson looked around.  One by one, loggers in rubber-soled boots were rising and squeaking forward to exchange signed cards for 4L buttons.  When only a few were left at the tables, he followed suit, curious to see what the piece of brass looked like.
When he passed his card to Dean, the young lieutenant studied his name before peering into his bearded face and murmuring, “Got a message for you.”  Jamieson took a button and lifted it toward the hanging lantern overhead, tipping it as though trying to make out the embossing.  “Captain Dengel up in Spokane orders you to bring your man in.  He said he’ll personally get the information out of him.”
Jamieson fisted the badge and hissed, “I don’t take orders from Dengel.”  He strode away and paused at the door to see what O’Neill would do.  Goddamn, he wasn’t going to speed up this case to please Dengel, much less allow him to get his hands on O’Neill.  One thing he'd learned about being a detective is you have to find the rhythm of the case and fall in with it.  Patience.  It just takes patience to do it right.  Follow your hunch when you've got nothing else.

And a fine lumberjack song HERE